Kevin Dahlke's Outdoors
New England Fishing and Hunting
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Small Pond Fishing for Big Bass
Many anglers travel to their favorite lake and often these are fairly large lakes, reservoirs or river systems. What anglers always seem to forget is that some very good fishing and also large fish can be caught near in your backyard.
Many people chuckle to themselves as they leave the driveway and see the local kids fishing in the local pond that is within 10 miles of their home. The only thing that they are missing is that there is a very good possibility that where they are going, they will probably catch smaller fish than that kid by the pond, and many hold the next state record.
With small water (pond) fishing there are a variety of ways that you can approach on how to fish it. If you are fortunate enough that the city or state has put a ramp in then you will be able to drop a bass boat in there. If you are not lucky to get that, then there are a few other options that you can use. There is the car top boat, johnboat, canoe or kayak. You can wade either with or without waders, and there are also float tubes. The float tube is very nice and an inexpensive way to get on the water. Trout fishermen have been using these for many years and are a great alternative.
If the pond that you are fishing isn’t big enough to get the bass rig in, don’t pass it up. A lot of these small waters are really overlooked by the bass fishermen. One evening, take a walk down to the local pond and talk with the kids fishing there and chances are they can tell you many stories of some big fish. Don’t be like most bass fishermen and think that you have to fish big waters to get big fish. These small waters will produce some very big fish.
One nice thing about these small waters is there is light fishing pressure and in most cases you can go to the landing at anytime. Another nice thing is that you can fish most of the pond in a few hours and don’t have to kill a whole day if you are on a time frame. These places are great locations for before or after work when you only have a small amount of time.
When the decision is finally made to fish small waters, there are a variety of ways to attack the water. First thing when getting on the water is to assess what fishing opportunities there are. Survey the shoreline and see if there are docks or wood (trees) in the water. Take a quick look at the development on the water, as this will tell you many things right away. Lastly, watch your electronics as you cruise around the lake. Establish if there are any humps, ditches, edges or if it is just a bowl shaped body of water. At the same time, try to establish the weed line and look for baitfish as well. Water quality is also a big factor as dark water means shallow fish and clear water means deeper fishing is to be had.
For the waters that have a dark, murky or muddy color, the fishing will more than likely be shallow. The weed lines will only go out to about six feet and may be more clumps of weeds rather than pronounced lines of weeds. Fish in this type of water typically are object orientated. Look for wood as this is the top structure that you can find and this is where the fish are going to be.
Stumps, lay downs and docks are the most common wood targets that you are looking for. These can be fished in a variety of ways and with a variety of baits. Docks can be flipped with jigs, worms or any other plastic baits. Spinnerbaits are a great bait to work down a dock and a great trick is to bend the arm of the bait, so that it runs underneath portions of the dock. Stumps and lay downs are best fished with plastics and jigs. This is where accuracy comes into its own, as you need to precisely place the bait in small areas around these pieces of structure. This is where all of the practice comes into play, as accuracy is everything. Start with the structure in the deeper water and work your way towards shore. Make as many flips as possible as the bait is only in the area for a short period, so if the fish doesn’t pick it up right away, jig it a few times and then flip it to the next target.
Clearer water, you will also fish in a similar way with the shoreline structure. But in most clear water there usually will be a pronounced weed line and areas that will have clumps of weeds and weed patches as well. Clear water will probably have you fishing deeper. Good tactics for this is jigs and plastics in the weed beds. By casting into these weedy areas, you can dig out some big fish that are buried in there.
Other techniques will include spinnerbaits, crankbaits and the rattletrap type baits. Spinnerbaits can be burned near the surface above the weeds, they can be brought right across the tops and tick the weeds this way. Also, slow rolling them on the face of the weed line where the bass are positioned to attack anything that is going by. The rattling baits should be ripped through the tops of the weeds and will attract some ferocious strikes. Lastly, crankbaits worked at a variety of depths around the weeds are very productive and should never be over looked. If you feel the bait snagging weeds on the retrieve, give it a pop to break it free and this usually attracts many strikes that wouldn’t occur by just using a steady retrieve. Use these techniques on sunken islands as well, since a number of fishermen don’t even know that these structures are even there.
After you have fished a few of the many small waters that are around you, you will wonder why you never tried them earlier. Don’t laugh anymore as you drive by these lakes or ponds, as they may and probably do hold the biggest fish that you will catch. They may not have the numbers that the larger lakes have, but the size will more than likely make up for it.
So give that local pond a try and if there is a kid sitting there fishing, try and take them out as well and when they catch one of these big fish you will be amazed at their reactions and gratitude that you took them out. Always remember that these fish may not grow quickly and if they are not returned to the water, the pond may not have any more fish for our kids to catch. Practice catch, photo and release so that future generations will have the same opportunities as we have. These waters are fragile and need our help to keep them going.
Lake Secrets in the Fall
As the fall season descends on the northern part of the country, many anglers start focusing their time and efforts in the woods chasing their favorite quarry. But for the anglers that are in the know, fall time is that time of year when the big fish bite and many lakes and ponds give up their hidden treasures.
We all know that after the lakes turnover the fish will start in on their feeding binges in preparation for the long winter months ahead. But for the angler that is always looking for that edge over the fish or other anglers, fall time is when to be on the water. What we are looking at is the fall time of year the lakes are usually at their lowest for water levels, and this is exposing those hidden secrets that an angler may never have known were there.
The lake levels in the fall are usually their lowest either from a dry summer or the lake associations are lowering the lake as a weed control method. By exploring your favorite body of water at this time, there are many things that an angler can look for and take note of. Some of these things are structure objects, holes, contour changes or at times when different things meet together.
As in many bodies of water, the levels may be down from 2 feet to as much as 10 feet lower than their normal level in the spring and summer. The water may be back from the original shoreline anywhere’s from a few feet to possibly 50 or more feet back. This is exposing much of the shoreline that was hidden from the angler’s eye and this is the areas that we are going to take a look at.
Objects of structure are things that are lying on the bottom or standing up off of the bottom. These may be things from rocks, wood, tires, blocks or anything that is sitting in the sand or mud that typically is under the water at normal times. By taking a look around and finding areas that have a mixture or combination of any of the listed items, these areas are fish magnets at normal water levels.
Finding a stump or tree standing or lying down, with some rocks around it, these are key examples that are going to attract fish. By making a note of where these spots are at, an angler can quickly find these areas when fishing these marked areas at normal water levels. The more things that come together in a particular area, the more fish that will be attracted to these areas as prey fish are using these areas as well.
As we are moving around the lake and checking out the exposed shoreline, another thing that begins to show themselves will be holes, or depressions, or change in the contours of the shoreline. As to referring to holes, these are depressions in the lake bottom that may be sporadically scattered around. Fish will position themselves in or very near to these and use them as an ambush spot. These features are hard to determine on electronics or hard to see by the eye if the water is to deep and by now looking at these during low water conditions, making a note to these will help when fishing at normal water levels.
Looking at the lake contour lines will reveal many new things to the angler as well. As you are looking at the lake imagine where the water line will be at full water level and this will give you a good idea as to the change that occurs in the water depth. Things that we are looking for are areas that deep water comes near the shoreline, big flats that may go out into the lake and any other erratic features that are either coming to shore or going out into the lake.
The main point that is trying to be conveyed in this article is that in the fall there are great opportunities at giving an angler the extra edge to catching fish. By taking a walk or leisure cruise on the boat around the lake a person is going to see many things that are on the bottom that more times than not are covered by water at most times.
By taking the time now and doing some exploring, there are many things that you are going to see. Don’t forget to bring your camera or video recorder with you and record this information that you are finding. Also may want to bring your GPS with you to mark places as well for future reference. Get out there and enjoy the fall weather and take a walk around your favorite lake and find some of those secrets that the lake has been hiding from you.
Water Column Basics
Fish will use all levels of the water column throughout the entire ice season and at any given time, they can be caught at any depth. Understanding this concept, definitely helps the angler capitalize on having more success out on the ice.
Many people think that the fish, in the winter, are hanging towards the bottom and then they tend to fish at those depths only. Without knowing that the fish could be at any level, they are eliminating a load of more productive water.
Understanding the fish that you are chasing, plays into fishing the water column at those required depths and that in turn produces a more productive day. Some of these fish will utilize the lower third of the column, while others will use the middle or upper third and this is what is meant by understanding the fish you are chasing.
Depending on the season, this is another factor that the fish will relate to the different water depths of the lake. Early ice, the fish tend to be in shallower waters and this allows you to cover more water and not have to deal with finding them in the greater depths.
Mid-season, fish tend to become more finicky as the ice thickens, snow depth on the ice is greater and this in turn lets less light through. Fish are in more of a roaming phase and this time of the season, is when they are really using the varying water column depths.
Good electronics help immensely when the fish are in this phase as they are moving and this entails you to keep on the move as well. You will notice when marking fish that they can be anywhere in the column and fishing these varying levels makes for a more productive day.
Late season, they tend to fall back to the shallower areas and start feeding more heavily once again. They can be cruising right under the ice and you may catch them with only a couple of feet of line out. When they are doing this, it is a lot of fun catching them as you set the hook they are already coming out of the hole.
When the fish are using the upper part of the water column, this is a time that sight fishing really comes into play. This allows you a visual at seeing how the fish are reacting to the bait and your presentation which allows you to gain valuable information that you can use at different locations.
Another key feature to what level the active fish are utilizing, understanding what levels the forage minnows are running. Many times we see clouds of bait on the flashers and by fishing in and around these, this becomes a productive pattern. A hard thing about finding these is that they are constantly on the move, try to keep on their path as this will also keep you on the fish.
The fish that are related to these, we have found that the larger fish in these schools tend to be below these clouds. The smaller sized fish are doing all of the work of attacking these minnows and as the dying ones float lower, these bigger fish are waiting for them to come down. So by fishing below these clouds, you are in the areas that may put a bigger fish onto your baits.
So as you can see, the fish will vary where they relate in the water column as we move through the different parts of the winter season. When they are in the roaming phase, out in the basins and flats, they are a bit easier to see on the electronics as they now stand out compared to when they are utilizing the shallower waters that may have some weed growth in them.
By understanding what your electronics are telling you, this allows you to keep your presentations at that right level and in the zones that the fish are using. When the fish are at these varying depths, they can be hard to catch, but utilizing some of these tools, will definitely help you catch more of these fish.
Rigging Plastic Baits to get more Bites
When we are fishing, there is always one type of bait, that for almost all fish, we will have tied onto our line. That bait is soft plastic lures, be it a worm, lizard, creature bait or whatever the shape, most anglers will have a plastic bait on one of their lines. If you are going to use this type of bait, you will need to rig it properly, so that it works the way it is suppose to.
The biggest problem people have with rigging these baits is that once rigged it has a kink or twist in it from wrong placement of the hook. If we don’t have the plastic bait rigged very straight, what happens when you are retrieving it, it spins and doesn’t look natural coming through the water. We are going to go through the steps in rigging plastic baits so that when you are done, the bait will hang straight and will fish and look very natural.
The first step is to lay down the bait and look at the natural shape
Then we will hold the bait in our fingers and thread the tip of the head onto the hook:
As we push the point of the hook through the head, we will then feed the bait up the hook towards the eye of the hook, so that the bait lock bend of the hook will hold it in position:
Now that the easy part is done, let’s look where we are going to insert the hook into the body of the bait. While laying the bait and hook on a flat surface, lets lay the hook point over the bait to get an idea as to where the hook will be going through the bait:
We now know where the path of the hook must go, so with remembering this, start threading the bait the same way that it was laying on the bait:
With the hook buried in the bait, pick up the hook from the eye end and let the bait hang naturally. By looking how the bait hangs, is there any kinks or turns in the bait or is it straight? If it isn’t straight, take the hook out again and keep trying until the bait hangs very straight:
By being able to accomplish this, we are creating our bait to come through the water in a very natural and enticing way so that we are not turning off the fish that approach it. If you are having trouble getting it straight, keep on practicing until you accomplish this and after doing it a number of times, it will come second nature and you won’t even think about it anymore.
Hopefully this information will come in handy and if there are any questions or other topics that you would like to see, please post that here and we will work on getting that information to you.
Fall Fishing Heating Up
Fall is definitely in the air and also when one looks out across the horizon, the changing of leaves and the brilliant colors reminds us that the cold months are ahead. But we don’t look at that right now and try and enjoy what we have today as those days will be long an we can’t wait for spring to get here.
Fall time fishing here in New England isn’t so much about the fish that we catch, but also the scenery that is laid out in front of us. Many of the northern states go through this same change of seasons but here in New England, it is something that we all look forward to.
Many folks hit the road and head north in search of their favorite place to enjoy the fall foliage or also many head into the woods in search of their favorite quarry. But there is a group that doesn’t so much do any of those things but instead makes their trek to their favorite pond or lake.
These folks know something that maybe the others are not aware of as in the fish know what is coming ahead in the coming months. Water temperatures are falling as each night passes with cooling air temperatures and windy cooler days as well. This triggers something off in the fish in our favorite lakes and ponds and for those that are willing to dress a little warmer and head to the waters, they will be very well rewarded.
Many fishers have hung up their fishing rods and are getting around to putting the boats away for the long winter ahead. But, these folks may be missing out on some of the best fishing of the season and you only need to adapt to the conditions a little differently. The fish knows this as well and they are going through these changes also and why not take advantage of this while we can.
Ice here in New England is still quite a ways away so that leaves plenty of empty lakes and ponds to those brave fishers that are willing to head out there. Many days are still fairly warm so it won’t feel like winter is coming but the fish have other things on their minds that may play into the fishers advantage.
A fish’s metabolism slows way down once the waters cool off and they know this as they go through this year after year. But some fishers may not know is that these fish need to feed and they need to feed big time to fatten themselves for those months of cold that they may not do much moving around in search of food.
So where should a fisher start to look? More times than not heading towards the shorelines will be a productive venture and these are going to be some of the warmer waters especially on those sunnier days. Later in the day can be more productive as well as opposed to the early morning trips that most are use to in the summer months.
What we find the most productive until the water gets very cool is that fishing with faster moving baits are more productive. Minnows are schooling up at this time of year and this is what fish are concentrating on and these schools don’t just lie around, they are constantly on the move and so are the bigger predator fish. By using faster moving baits we are able to cover vast amounts of water as well and search and find those actively feeding fish that are hunger and ready to grab anything that goes by.
Heading to shallower waters, fishing with faster moving baits and covering vast amounts of water on a given trip, will provide the fisher a great day on the water. In the fall they can be biting one day like crazy and then the next they are not but fall also throws many weather variations compared to any other season and this needs to be remembered.
If you are a fisher that fishes year round, there is nothing better than pulling up to the landing and there is not another soul to be seen. This gives you a feeling that the lake is yours and only yours and those fish are all waiting there for you to catch. Take advantage of the fall fishing season as the fish are hungry and the scenery couldn’t be any better.
CLAM Outdoors Pro Tackle Blade Spoon
Kevin Dahlke – CLAM Power Stick Pro staff
Clam Outdoors has come out with new bait for this fishing season and it is called the "Blade Spoon". The Blade Spoon is a bladed bait that is triangular in shape and comes with a treble hook. There are a variety of sizes that it comes in and those are 1/16, 1/8 and 1/4 oz sizes, as well as a variety of colors in 6 stunning color combinations.
Tying the Blade Spoon onto the line with a loop knot will give you a lot of extra action that you can make it dance with your rod tip. The action can be very subtle with just jiggling the rod slightly too actually working it very aggressively if that is what were needed.
The Blade Spoon can be tipped with a variety of baits as well, from live bait to adding a plastic imitation. Loading the hooks with some spikes will definitely be a great attracting for the large sunfish and the other option is using Maki Plastics in a variety of shapes and color patterns.One thing that we are noticing as we have been fishing with it a lot lately is that for sunfish it may be a bit better to switch the treble hook to a single Aberdeen hook. The smaller mouth of a sunfish makes the treble hook a bit cumbersome and also with the single Aberdeen, this will give the profile of the bait a much smaller package profile.
The Blade Spoon is a great bait to use as a search tool as you can get the bait down into the fish zone very quickly and at times this can be very important. Another great aspect of this bait is that when utilizing it with a Vexilar flasher, it shows itself very well and you are never guessing as to where your bait is in relation to the level that the fish are at.
With the variety of colors offered this allows the angler to switch and adapt to what the fish are looking for. As well as using the variety of Maki Plastics in a wide array of shapes and colors makes this bait combination one of the most deadly items that the ice angler can have in their arsenal this season when searching for the panfish of your choice.The Blade Spoon should be in all ice anglers tackle especially for those that like to keep on the move. That first drop that you do down a new hole is always the one that catches you the largest fish in that particular hole and by being able to get into the fish quickly this is the key to being in and on the fish in a consistent manner.
So if you were looking for a bait that will catch you fish consistently and we also will add that the fish should be of a larger size as well, the CLAM Blade Spoon is that bait. Check them out at Clam Outdoors and get yourself into more and larger fish. We at BWS OutDoors are going to be using this bait a lot this ice season and have been catching a variety of fish now before the ice sets in here in New England.
Fishing and Yakking
There is a period here in New England, and across the northern United States for that matter, that the boats are put away but there isn’t any ice yet. We sit and look at our favorite bodies of waters and wish for the days that we can wet a line once again. For thos e that continue their fishing throughout the winter months and not hang it up as some anglers do, don’t fret as there are still ways to enjoy catching a fish.
We winterize out bigger boats as the cold nights wreak havoc on our inboard and outboard motors especially with the lower units. Then there are the anglers that take to the ice once that is safe enough for one to walk on in search of the swimming quarry that lies below. This transition period can be short lived but it could also go on for a couple of months.
Here in New England early season ice can happen in the beginning of December, but that seems to be a rarity. It will take until almost February in certain years and this does get very frustrating to the ones that want to drill a hole and sit on the ice. But normally around Christmas time we are usually finally on the ice and this couldn’t be a happier day.
But until those days come what shall we do to wet a line if the water is not hard yet? What I have been doing the last few years is to pull out the kayak and put it to good use. There are many ponds around my area that I am not able to get my bigger boat into so this time of year is when I explore a number of these smaller ponds with my kayak. These smaller ponds are much less pressured as well and this time of year I like to concentrate on the pan fish species of fish as well.
I use a tandem kayak on my fishing trips as this gives me a little more room to stow my gear and spread things out a little better. How I fish out of the kayak is similar to how you fish while on the ice fishing. I like to use my flasher with the transducer hanging over the side as well as my ice fishing rod/reel combo. While watching the flasher I am vertical fishing the jig and watching for fish activity suspended off of the bottom just like you do while ice fishing.
By keeping your bait, rod and everything else near the side of the boat, this is preparing me for once the lakes ice over. I generally paddle around the area that I am fishing and watch the flasher for signs of fish activity. Once the screen is lit up then I will drop the anchor and try and hold my position over these fish. There is one drawback that I am experiencing with the anchoring and that is if there is wind, the wind will turn you around the anchor line and this in turn affects my presentation as I will move over the fish and miss those until I am brought back around.
You learn how to play the timing game and if it gets fairly windy out there you will need to add a little more weight to get the bait down there a little faster. I am using typical ice fishing jigs that are made for pan fish and these are micro hair jigs as well as micro plastic baits. No bobber is used as I have a spring bobber attached to the end of the rod and use that for bite detection.
I am fishing totally like I would be fishing out on the ice with the gear that I am using. Instead of casting and searching for fish the way you do in the summer months, I am vertical fishing just as you do in the winter months but in the kayak. By fishing this way you are able to watch the flasher and find the more active fish.
As I paddle around watching the screen, what I am looking for is fish that are suspended off of the bottom from 3 feet to 8-10 feet up off of the bottom. If you are able to find areas that the fish are doing this, these are active fish and will be a little easier to coax into biting. But there is no guarantee that they are going to jump all over your offering as there are many days that they are suspending but refuse to bite anything that you put down there.
This time of year you pretty much have the lake or pond all to yourself as those frigid cool days keeps the average person off of the water. But the fish that we are looking for are feeding because they know that as the water is cooling, winter is coming and they need to fatten up before that takes over. These solitude days that you are out there floating in the crisp cool air, allow you to sit and ponder your thoughts as well as see what is happening in the wildlife activities.
Other then getting some cold fingers, I really enjoy this time of year for fishing and also just paddling around my favorite pond. Fishing generally isn’t too bad and fish are caught on most outings, but there are days they are jumping into the boat as well as the other days that you really have to work at getting them to bite.
If you have a small craft, kayak, canoe, or jon boat, you owe it to yourself to dig it out of the snow and get to a local pond. I know that we still have some time here to take advantage of this and will definitely get out a few more times before the ice takes over. Nothing better than floating around trying to catch a fish instead of sitting on the couch and looking out the window. Get out there and enjoy these times as winter is coming and some anglers won’t come out till spring.
Downsizing to Dead Sticking
As January has wrapped up and February is underway, this is the time of year that starts getting tough for a number of anglers. The anglers that are consistently catching fish are in the know about what to do in the toughest time of the year. This time of year brings cold weather, snow and along with that comes the relentless onslaught of cold fronts pummeling areas that many of us ice fish.
The anglers that are taking on these tough times that are being presented consistently are using tactics and techniques that are putting the favor to the anglers that are in the know. What these anglers are doing is very simple and one thing that they are doing is they are downsizing their baits and also dead sticking their baits.
The fish at this time of year are facing barometric pressures that are high and rising at all times and what this is doing is putting the fish into a very finicky, dormant and not willing mood to chase our baits like they were earlier in the season. Since these fish are looking for much smaller baits this is where downsizing is going to come into its own.
By downsizing we are not talking about the usual 1/32 oz or even the 1/64 oz jigs that many anglers using but there are baits out there that are much smaller and these are the baits that we use on a consistent basis. The sizes we are using are 1/60, 1/80 and even 1/100 oz and these are very tiny baits that many anglers are not even taking a look at. These tiny jigs are called hair jigs and imitate the small fry that are hatching and are a main staple of the fish’s diets at this time of year.
By using these tiny jigs this is giving those fish a much smaller profile looking bait and one that isn’t doing a lot of movement. By tying these on with a loop knot they are able to hang freely and act much more natural in the water. We aren’t putting any livebait on these as the design and the content that these are made from is all that is needed.
Another aspect of downsizing baits that is sweeping the ice belt is the use of micro plastics. These are newer baits that anglers are using but are finding their ways onto many a hook across the ice belt. These plastic baits are put onto tiny lead head jigs in the same size that we talked about earlier.
That these tiny plastics baits are representing are the larva stages of many different insects that are hatching out of the lakes bottom. These come in many sizes, shapes and colors and all of them can be adapted to the mood of the fish on a given day. With their tiny tentacles and appendages these quiver and move freely in the water with the tiniest movement applied to them. If they seem to big for what the fish are wanting or looking for then all that is needed to be done is pinch a piece off of one and put that onto the hook.
There are also going to be times that no matter how small you go with baits the fish may still ignore your offering. When this is the case what we will employ is the dead sticking technique. This is exactly what it sounds like and that is leaving the bait just sit at the depth where the fish are hanging and see if this will get them to bite.
There has been many times that when we leave our bait sit and go and drill another set of holes in the ice, what we come back to is a load of fish hanging around our bait. Then all we do is give the bait a little action and this will generally excite the fish into biting. If not leave it sit a little longer and eventually these fish will come around.
Between now and when late ice comes if the angler employs either or both of these tactics, this should put more fish onto your line. Now is the time that will test the best of anglers and if you and they try a couple of these techniques this will make a better angler out of you. By changing between these techniques and offering the fish something a little different at all times, this will dramatically increase your odds and you will notice other anglers not catching fish like you are.
Spring Crappie in Wood
Most locations are now free of ice and depending on your area, the waters are warming and many anglers are biting at the bit as the temperatures haven’t warmed quite enough yet. There are places and structures in and around the water that can help quicken this process.
The last few years, we have been using a pattern that involves fishing the shorelines that have heavier overgrowth and also having harder access for getting to them. We are finding that these areas are becoming fish magnets as they can and will be a couple of degrees warmer and at times, that is all you need.
If you are fishing from a boat, these areas are very easy to get to and your only obstacle is making sure your casts don’t end up in the middle of the overgrowth. Fishing from shore is a bit more difficult but putting a bit of work will definitely pay off.
Many of these locations that I fish like this, we are not able to use a boat as they are town water supplies, so finding areas along the shoreline that offer a small opening in the brush is key for the best places the fish are using.
Since we are fishing from shore, we use a float and a Northland Tungsten Fire-Ball tipped with the Impulse Micro Plastics. Fishing near the shore, we only set the bait, maybe 12 inches under the float and this helps immensely when casting room is very limited.
Crappies in particular, are object oriented and when the wood overgrowth is hanging into the water, they typically will be suspended in and around these branches. Casting past these objects and reeling the presentation back slowly, this will give you an idea very quickly as to where and how they are relating to these.
You will know very quickly if the fish are relating to this area or not as it only takes a few casts in these small areas to see if the fish are there. If not, time to walk a little further and eventually they will finally show themselves and usually there are a good number of fish there as well.
Last week I was doing just that and there was only one location that I was able to find any actively biting crappies. Most of the shorelines have some depth to the water, but this area was a small cove that had a shallower flat out in front.
On this flat, the right side had a number of crappies and if you were to cast to the left side, there were numbers of sunfish waiting to bite. But on this given day, that shallow flat was the only area that they were relating to and after checking many areas, always ended up back there.
As the days go on and we get warmer weather moving in, these fish will start spreading out more along the shorelines and making the task of finding them a bit easier. By putting in a little work now, this definitely pays off in fish catching rewards and is something that one can keep in the back of their minds.
Fishing, What it Means
If one was to ask an angler what fishing means to them, they would probably get a different reason from each of those fishers. There are loads of reasons why we fish and when you sit down and think about it, every one of those reasons has a meaning and something behind them.
Over the years I have looked at fishing from all different angles and theory’s and they all had their time and place over my fishing career. What does this mean? I want to give you, the reader, an idea of what fishing has meant to me over the years and it does and will go from one side to the other.
Back in the early days of when you were a kid and you and a buddy jumped on your bikes and rode to the closest body of water to wet a line. There were days that many fish were caught and also days that you were lucky to see a fish, but every chance you would get you made that ride to try your hand at catching a fish.
Those days that were spent sitting on the shoreline casting a worm and bobber as far as you could, to try and beat your buddy with a bigger fish. You would brag to each other that your fish was bigger than theirs and seems that everyone caught huge fish by the time the end of the day came and then you had to make that ride home once again. These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and you wonder where these buddies of your childhood are today.
Then the days come when your father and grandfather would take you along in the 14 foot boat with the 5 hp motor on the back for a day on the lake. Panfish were always the species that was sought and many hours were spent anchored near some shallow weeds and casting a bobber out looking for fish. Dad and Grandpa were always telling you to stop making so much noise because the fish can hear you and that is scaring them away from biting your hook.
There were thousands of hours spent with the three of us on such a variety of different bodies of waters exploring and searching for those meals of fish. If it looked like rain we were not going to be caught out there and would head off as fast as that 5 hp would move us along. These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and one day you look forward to meeting with Grandpa once again to share those quality stories of yester years with each other.
Then the day came that you got your drivers license and you thought the fish better watch out now because I am coming to get you. You hook that 14 foot boat and 5 hp motor to your parents’ car that you borrowed and head to the lake that you think is going to produce those big fish for you. You fish like there is no tomorrow because you are living through your dreams of watching those guys on TV and what they are doing to help put fish in your boat.
Your mindset is not on catching panfish like your dad and grandpa had you catching all of your youth. You want to catch some of those big bass like they do on TV and you have all of the latest baits that you figure that will do that job for you. You cast and cast like there is no tomorrow and pound every target that you can find and are catching fish here and there and a smile is forming on your face.
After some time spent out on the water fishing the way that you want to fish, ideas are flying through your mind like “hey, I bet I could do this for a living like the big boys”. I felt that I could go to any body of water and catch fish after fish and there was no stopping me now. These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and you hope that these dreams come true one day and there wouldn’t be anything better than fishing for a living.
So you are at that point in your life and you are working a real job at this point and the temptations of fishing bass tournaments are on your mind all the time. You take that next step and buy yourself a bass boat and start looking at some tournament trails that look inviting for you to fish. You spend hours and days pre-fishing for these tournaments and looking for that one sweet spot that is going to make you famous and put you into the winners circle.
Many lakes are fished and many miles are traveled around a few states to compete at these levels. You are making friends from the competitors you fish against and are starting to make a name for yourself. But you are not finishing in the standings where you really want to be and this starts playing mind games with you each and everyday that you are on the water. You now are second guessing all of your moves and this dream that you want to fish for a living is starting to not look so good or promising.
Anytime that we start moving towards a passion of ours that we would like to turn into a career things seem to be not what they look like. Getting up in the wee hours of the mornings to get to the lake at dawn to start another practice day, isn’t as inviting anymore and seems to be a lot like work and the fun really isn’t there anymore. Do I really want to fish for a living as this is starting to feel more like work and not play. These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and I was fortunate and glad that I took my shot at tournament fishing and can say that I tried something that I wanted to.
Since I have that behind me now, my fishing is all about having fun and enjoying spending time out there on the water. I enjoy these days hooking my boat up to the truck and picking a lake to go fish at, and I don’t care, I do a little, if I catch a fish or not. My days on the water now are to get away from the rat race of being an adult, a husband and a father and using that time to clear my head and get myself back to reality.
I look forward to the days that I am able to get out and fish with some of my old friends and relive some of the old days that we had together. I also look forward to the days that I am able to take my dad out fishing, like he use to take me, as he doesn’t fish much anymore and we don’t get to fish together that often either. These are memories that you keep with you all your life and I try and keep them going forward as each year passes.
Now are the days that I am truly enjoying fishing as I have my own kids to take along and show them the art of fishing. My daughter is getting into those teenage years now so we don’t get out much together anymore, but over the last years we had spent many hours in the boat, just the two of us and those are the memories that I will be carrying with me as I go forward. Hopefully the day will come once again that she wants to try her hand at fishing again and I will be there ready and willing to do that for her.
Also now that my son is getting a little older he has been accompanying me on quite a few adventures as of late. This past winter he had really gotten himself excited and went on many ice fishing trips with me and for a six year old, he showed this old man how to catch some very nice fish. Just watching his excitement while he is watching the electronics and catching a fish is priceless in my book. He always looks forward to our fishing and if we haven’t been out for a while he starts bugging that we need to go once again.
These are memories that you keep with you all of your life and I treasure all of these and hope that they continue to be made for many years to come. It is funny how we come full circle in life and from what my father and grandfather had taught me out there on the water, I am teaching my kids the exact same things. Sure we now have much bigger boats, all of the fancy electronics, more baits than we will ever use and more fishing rods/reels that we know what to do with, but we seem to always come back to the basics in whatever we do.
Fishing these days has been much more enjoyable to me and means so much more to me these days as well. I really look forward to each trip that is made to the water and at the end of the day, fish or not, I know that I had a great day out there. Fishing is not work anymore but a favorite past time that I can spend many hours out there again. But if I only have an hour to fish, so be it, I was still able to do something at that moment that means so much to me. Fishing, what it means to me is time to reflect on life, get away from all of the hustle and bustle, and spend some quality time with family, my kids and friends new and old. Once again, there aren’t enough days that I get to fish again and this is telling me that my passion to fish is back stronger than ever…
Spring Panfish Tactics
As spring progresses forward, the crappies are wrapping up their ritual and coming right in behind them are the bluegill. The bluegill, inch for inch in size, is one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish with their side digging and unwillingness to giving up.
The sandy shorelines are starting to show the round disk shaped depressions where these fish are preparing to spawn. There may be areas that look like a land mine field went off with so many of these beds visible in the very shallow water.
If you want to catch some of these bigger gills, fish in water that is a little deeper than the shoreline, out to the 4-6 foot range. We find that the smaller fish are in the shallower water and by going out deeper past these fish, the larger sized breeders are out there, not as visible as the others, but they still have those colonies of numbers of beds.
Utilizing a Hard-Rock Mooska Jig with the Impulse Water Flea underneath a float, this allows you to cover vast amounts of water. The Mooska Jig is made from heavy weight tungsten, which allows the bait to quickly get back down to where the fish are actively feeding.
With the gills in this phase of the season, after making a cast out, you don’t have to leave the float sit still very long. Either slowly reeling the line back, or moving the float a foot or two at a time, this will keep your presentation moving and in front of the actively feeding fish while covering water and locating them as well.
After catching a number of fish from an area, they may get hook shy, so either changing the color of the jig or plastic trailer, will get them biting again. Otherwise, make a move looking for another pod of these fish and start enjoying some of these hard fighting fish once again.
Many different areas of the lake will have these fish grouped up and also, different areas will have them coming in to spawn at different times, extending your catching time. Get out there and enjoy this type of fishing and bring along a CHILD, there is no better opportunity at getting them hooked on fishing than right now during the spawn and also teaching them about releasing these breeders back into the water.
Late Ice, Kids and Mules
As spring is vastly approaching and warmer weather is coming more frequently, spending time on the ice fishing is so much more enjoyable at this time of year. The breezes are much warmer which makes sitting out on the open ice so much easier and enjoyable. The days of ice fishing without wearing a coat are here and this is something that most ice anglers always look forward to.
The days are getting longer and more sunlight is penetrating the waters of the lakes that we fish. The sun is much higher in the sky and very warm on the angler’s backs while time spent fishing on the ice. With spring coming, everything feels and looks like life is being reborn, but at the same time another season is coming to an end once again.
The late spring of the year brings along with it the best ice fishing of the season in regards to fish quantities but more importantly fish quality. This time of year the fish are thinking of one thing and that is the upcoming spawn. This time of the ice season is a great time and opportunity for getting kids out onto the ice as the frigid days of cold are gone and the fishes activity is picking up.
This late season ice is also a time that caution needs to be heeded as the ice is in the melting stages and shorelines are going to be eroding. Sunny shorelines are going to be opening up and becoming soft so getting onto the ice may entail some walking to find a good access point. Also once on the ice keeping an eye on the kids that were brought along is critical as well as we don’t want them to get near the areas that the ice is weakening and by causing a bad situation.
Getting around on the ice is much simpler for the adults as well as the kids since the snow has melted and left a good flat surface. This is allowing better sun penetration and the lakes weeds are going to be growing and they will be putting more oxygen into the water and this is an area that an angler should find as the fish are going to be congregating into these areas.
With spring and spawn vastly approaching this is prime time to getting kids onto the ice and trying their luck at ice fishing. Finding areas that have weedbeds are going to be areas that the baitfish is going to be in and as well as a bigger fish hangout. Fish are going to be at varying depths this time of year and by moving from shallow water to deeper water and watching your electronics and finding that magic depth will be fairly easy.
Setting up the kids is fairly simple and showing and explaining how to use a fishing rod/reel is fairly straight forward. Drill your two holes a foot or so apart and this way you and a child can use the same electronics to see what is going on down there. Vary your bait depth and their bait depth so that the two of you can cover two different water columns and when fish come through, that way one of you can adjust your bait and both of you have the opportunity at catching fish.
Micro baits are a good choice of baits from the tiny hair jigs to the micro plastics that are on the market. This time of year the forage these fish are looking for are still a tad on the small side and by matching the hatch, this allows the best catching opportunities. Changing the shape and color of your bait until the fish tell you what they want is the key and this will help you keep the kids attention on fishing.
If by chance the bite is a little slow let the kids play around some to kill some time until a new school of fish comes through. Another fun thing to bring along if you have one is an underwater camera and get that setup and watch the screen and see the excitement on their faces when either schools of fish swim through or when that occasional big fish swims through and watch how they want to fish once again.
This time of the season is when everyone has that opportunity and catching a mule, slab crappie. These big female crappies are feeding more regularly for the spawn and when you get into a school of these, there will be a lot of rippin’ lips as the angler is rearin’ back. Watching a kid fighting a mule crappie in the 13, 14 and up to 18 inch class is something to see and the excitement that comes along with it is second to none.
If the weather has been to cold, wet, windy or the timing was never right, take those kids out on these last nice days of the season. By getting them out at a younger age gets them use to the rigors of getting set up and fishing in a totally different fashion. But the late ice fishing also makes things easier as well compared to open water fishing and more people can ice fish at once as opposed to the open water season. Enjoy these last outings of this ice season and instill another great outdoor adventure into the youth while they are rippin’ lips and rearin’ mules.
Slow and Meticulous
Ever wonder how some fishers are always catching fish and others aren’t as fortunate. Those same fishers are the same ones that are catching some very nice quality fish and you wonder what they are doing that you aren’t. There is one technique that seems to produce better fish but may take some patience and practice time to get it down.
The “Slow and Meticulous” approach works very well for fishing deep water with structure and/or cover. By concentrating on these types of areas, these areas hold very good quality fish and possibly that trophy that you are looking for. The approach that is used will be with plastics but would work very well with jigs or any other bait that works the bottom contours.
The areas that are focused on are deep flats, underwater islands/humps or deep weeds and weed-lines. The main focus is that as long as there is a concentration of weeds to work, that is the main thing to look for. We work that bait through some of the thickest weeds that can be found. These types of areas can and will hold some very large fish and if you can work the bait through them, you will be putting the bait in front of some fish that may not have seen a bait in quite some time.
What are concentrated on are the weeds themselves and the scarcity as well as the thickness of them. The scarcity part of it would be the outer edges of the weed clumps not the inner thicker weeds. The edges have limited weeds growing as the light penetration is lesser or possibly the bottom content is of a different makeup. These lightly weeded areas hold baitfish and the predators are using the thicker parts of the weedy areas as their ambush spots. By scarcity we mean that there maybe only a few strands of weeds growing or possibly small patches of weeds growing that are not necessarily very tall in their growth. We can imagine looking at a grown man that is balding and the back of his head he has much more hair than the front part that has strands of hair here and there.
The thicker weeds that we will look for are the actual middle or anything that is inside of the outer weed-line. Many fishers will never put a lure into these thicker weeds as they are afraid that they may lose their bait, but don’t realize that they are missing out on numbers of fish and bigger fish at that. After you study weeds and weed-beds for a while you will start understanding what you are looking for and notice that many weed-beds have holes or pockets in them. These are the areas that this technique will really start to excel at as you are bringing the bait along; they fall into these hole or pockets and in front of a waiting fish looking for a quick meal.
Let us look into the “Slow and Meticulous” technique that works so well for us and whether you have sparse weeds or thick clumps; this has worked in any weed situation. To setup the rig, we generally use any type of plastic bait on a 3/0-4/0 hook size Texas rigged with a bullet sinker on the line. The bullet sinker size that is generally used is a 1/8 ounce weight unless it is very windy and then a 3/16 ounce is used. Anything heavier than that will sink too much into the weeds and be hung up more than not. Many fishers will not use such a light weight when fishing heavy weeds but time after time we are finding that these very light weights work very well for sneaking through the weeds. Never let “what you should be using” get in the way as any fisher out there knows that to catch better size fish, you need to do something a little different than everyone else.
There are two different ways that we will fish this setup and one is deep water into the weeds and the other is directly in the weeds. First, the deep water to the weeds approach. On a recent trip to Minnesota, the better quality fish were coming from doing this and what was done was to have the boat positioned on top of an underwater hump and cast the bait into deep water. After letting the bait hit the bottom, slowly move the bait only a foot or less at a time. It is known that bigger fish will not expend a lot of energy for a meal and will wait for it to come by them. By working this very slowly, it leaves the bait in their strike zone much longer and bigger fish will be caught.
As you are working the bait back towards the boat, the beginning part of the retrieve you will not feel any weeds. But as you start getting to the edge of the hump, you will start noticing that there are a few weeds there and now you really need to pay attention to what the line and rod are telling you. You will slowly and meticulously work the bait through the weeds and this action makes the bait look like a creature coming out of the depths and searching for food in the sparse weeds. As you work the bait over weed after weed you are putting the bait in front of fish that may not have seen bait a quite a long time. Work it very slowly through and over the weeds all the way back to the boat as these fish could be located anywhere on the hump.
The other area that we generally use this will be in shallow and deep weed flats that numerous anglers will avoid working bait through. As the boat is positioned over a weed patch or flat, cast the bait out and let it sink into the weeds, while watching the line at all times, a fish will strike a falling bait out of reflexes. By using the light weight the bait doesn’t sink too far into the weeds and sort of floats near the top of them. Once the bait stops falling, tighten the line and move it 6-12 inches at a time and then let it sit for a moment. Fish this way as slow as you can stand and that may still be to fast but patience is the key to catching fish by doing this.
As you are working the bait back, what is happening is that the bait is sitting towards the tops of the weeds. As you move it a bit, it may get hung a little in the weeds but with the light weight you have on the line this allows you to be able to pull a little and it comes free fairly easy compared to a heavy weight that gets clogged with weeds. As we keep working the bait through the weeds, there are holes or pockets in the weeds that once the bait hits one of these, it will fall either to the next level of weeds or to the bottom to a waiting fish. These pockets and holes may and will hold big fish that are waiting for food to fall into them.
As we continue to work the bait ever so meticulously through the weeds, this gives the fish an impression that food is crawling through there and makes for a easy meal for a bass lurking in the weeds. This presentation is painstakingly slow and many people just can’t fish this slow or get aggravated working bait through the thick weeds. But for those that can figure this out and employ this technique to their body of water, the rewards can be phenomenal.
If you are searching for something different to try and possibly catch some bigger fish, give this approach a try for yourself. We have been doing this for a number of years and has earned us some very good finishes in tournaments and has caught us some dandy fish while fun fishing. The main point that is being put forward is that you cannot fish slowly enough and you will need to get the “I can’t fish bait through those thick weeds” notions out of your head.
By fishing ever so slowly and also fishing some jungle of weed beds, you will notice after some time that it isn’t hard to do this and hopefully the quality of your catches will go up as well. You will be fishing areas that others may never fish and also your one cast will take as long to reel in as your buddy that has casted 4 times while your one. But your fish may and will be bigger than theirs and their quantity may be more but yours will be heavier at the end of the day. Key point is fish thick weeds as slowly as you can and pay attention to the feel of the line as you will get a feel as to what a weed feels like versus what a fish feels like.
Have you tried Carolina Rigging
The Carolina Rig is a setup that is used to find fish that are in deeper water, but, it can also be used in shallow water as well. I have been using it quite a bit the last couple seasons and I am finding that it works at any depth and if you get comfortable using it, it can be fished in almost any type of structure as well.
The rig is primarily used with soft plastic lures, but can also be adapted in using a wide variety of baits and live bait as well. The whole rig consists of a weight, swivel, couple of beads, a hook and whatever bait of your choice. Its main function is to explore deep structure but is being used in a variety of depths and structures as well.
The nice thing about this rig is that it can be fished slow, and fairly quickly as well. The speed of the retrieve is going to be determined by the fish that you are catching, and always vary your retrieve to see what is working. This can be fished in two feet of water as well as forty feet and all that you are going to do is change the size of the weight to accomplish this. One more aspect of this rig that we need to watch is the length of the leader that the hook/bait is tied to. Some days this leader needs to be short as you may be fishing weeds, but if the area is void of weeds, we would be able to use a long leader.
Let’s now take a look at the Carolina Rig piece by piece and how it is all put together. The first thing is the main fishing line that we are using and I normally fish with 10 or 12 pound test. There are going to be times that we break this line with a hook-set, but overall, it has proved itself as a good starting weight of line. The main thing that should always be done is you need to always check the line for knicks and if any are found retie the rig as those knicks are what is going to break on a hard hook-set.
The first component to go on the line will be a bullet weight. The size is going to be determined by the depth you are fishing. If you are fishing 2-10 foot depths, the ¼ ounce size is good for that. When we go to 10-20 foot depths, we will use a 3/8 ounce and 20-40 foot depths I find the ½ ounce works very well. As you go to the heavier weights, just pay attention as you are casting, as it will hurt getting hit by a ½ ounce weight.
After threading the weight on, next will be two glass faceted beads and usually one is clear and the other red. Normally the clear bead goes next to the weight and then the red bead after. The red bead is to add color to the rig and by using glass beads, when they hit together, they will make a clacking noise that sounds similar to that of a crawfish.
Now we are going to tie this end of the line onto a ball bearing swivel in the 30-50 pound rating range. Try and get the smallest swivel that you feel comfortable using and stick with the black colored ones as opposed to the silver or gold versions.
Now that most of the Carolina Rig is ready; weight, beads and swivel, we will look at the remainder of the rig. Now we will tie on a leader and typically we would use a line of lesser poundage than the main line. The reason for this is that by using lighter line, the bait we have on, will look more natural coming through the water. For sensitivity reasons, fluorocarbon is a good material choice of line to use for this as the sensitivity will allow you to feel the lightest of bites.
The leader length will vary from 18 inches up to 3 to 4 feet in length. Pending on where you are fishing this rig, dictates the length that we tie on. If we are fishing barren areas, lack of weeds, wood or rocks, we would use the longer leaders to give the most realistic bait action and we don’t have to worry about obstructions where we are fishing. But, if we are fishing areas that consist of weeds, wood or rocks, then we will use the shortest leader and this will keep the bait from snagging into the previous cover items. In reality, we really need to experiment with leader length and let the fish tell us what it is that they want.
The final component, that will finish this rig is the hook and usually use a 2/0 or 3/0 hook size in the EWG (extra wide gap) hook style. You can use the normal black colored hook and also experiment with the bleeding red colored hook as well. After using either color, you should be seeing which of these two the fish really are keying in on.
As for the plastic bait choices, there are no limits to this selection. Lizards, Creature Baits, Worms, Senkos and any other variation works and it comes down to whatever you feel the fish is going to want or what you are most confident in using. Make sure that you rig it weedless if you are fishing it around different types of cover.
The Carolina Rig is fished prominently on deep structure and this would be points, humps and deep weed flats. But don’t let that sway you from fishing it, as you can cover any water depth that you choose. This rig can be fished in as little as two feet of water all the way down to fifty feet of water. It can be fished slow and fast as well and experience is going to tell you what is best.
The way to move the Carolina Rig through the water is to use a side sweeping motion and setting the hook we should use this same motion as well. By using the side motion, this will keep the bait moving horizontally along the bottom as it is being brought back to the boat.
There are pre-made Carolina Ready Rigs that you can buy, then all you need to do is tie the line on and you are ready to go. Whatever version you use, try these out and you will see that you are able to cover a vast area and catch numbers of fish as well. This is one setup that you should have ready at all times as the places to fish this rig are endless.
Mastering the Mouse Retrieve
Charlie Robinton (Charlie Robinton is a fly fishing addict, who teaches people to tie flies and fly fish, ties his own flies and writes about all things fly fishing out of San Francisco.)
Looking to catch big fish? Maybe it’s time to use a big fly! Mouse-patterned retrieves are designed to resemble live mice and attract larger fish looking for a bigger meal! But it’s not just about casting the mouse and waiting – you need to have the mouse simulate what the real thing would look like in the water. It’s not just a fly – it’s a proven technique to catch yourself some big trout!
Camping Season is Here
Some may have already started their camping season, but others are just uncovering and getting the campers ready for the season ahead. So as we start getting ours ready, going to point out a few things to look at and do for having an enjoyable camping season.
We had jacked the camper off the ground and had blocks underneath so that was the first task before moving out of the backyard. Since we are working around the wheels, take a look at the tires tread as well as checking the air pressure, don’t forget to check the spare as well.
There are a number of things to take a look at on the outside of your camper and the roof is a big one that needs to be looked at on a regular basis. Looking for tears in the roof material as well as all of the areas that have caulking, this will ensure that leaks don’t form and can ruin the roof very quickly.
Check all of the windows for cracks in the glass and also the screens for keeping the bugs out of the camper. Any of the outside openings and ports should be cleaned of any bugs that may have built nests in them as well as mice over the winter season.
The awning plays an important function for shading on sunny days and keeping your things dry from the rain that may come through. Checking for tears in the awning is important as well as you want to catch them early before they get too far along.
Many have the battery boxes on the tongue of the camper and charging your battery before putting them into that box, ensures that you have power on that first trip. Typically in this area as well the propane tanks are mounted and making sure those are filled will keep your experience an enjoyable one.
There are many locations on the outside that have been sealed with caulking and these need to be check on a regular basis. Touching up or repairing areas that the caulking has let loose will keep damaging water from entering into the walls of the camper and those areas you can’t see until it’s too late.
The water heater was flushed last fall and the anodized rod/plug is left out so that there isn’t any water left in to freeze. This rod has to be installed back in before the water can be hooked up to the camper and also any water tank drain caps need to be put back on.
On the inside, making sure that none of the cushions have been attacked by the mice if they had gotten in, so that you don’t have any surprises down the road. I like plugging the camper in and running the fridge for a couple of days to make sure that is working properly.
Heater should be run and also the air conditioner as they have sat for many months and never know until you actually start using them. With the water hooked up, this allows you to check the water connections in the kitchen as well as the bathroom for nay leaks that may have to be fixed.
Everyone has their own checklist of things to check in their camper and these are the main ones I typically go through. When you are camping you want to enjoy the experience and would rather be playing then having to fix items while you are camping. Summer is here and hope you enjoy your camping season.
Ice Season Safety Equipment
Living here in New England this winter season we have had a very unusual fall/winter transition especially for anglers that like to get onto the ice in search of their quarry. We have had cold weather that would skim over the lakes and ponds and as the ice is firming up we would get a spell of warm weather that either would soften things or take away anything that was formed.
When the cold had finally settled in for a fair amount of time the ice was getting to be a couple inches of solid good ice. Then what happens is we get into our snow storm phase and that dumps up to 2 feet of the white stuff onto this good ice. In turn what this did was weigh down the minimal ice that was there and water comes on top to form slush and an insulating layer that is not what the ice angler wanted to see.
Then the typical New England weather of having spring days show up with rain, wind and 60 plus degree days. This was a good thing at the beginning as this had melted all of the snow that was on the ice but also softened the ice considerably so if you threw a stone out onto the ice if would go through. Along with this the shorelines have all opened up once again and access to the ice will be taking a number of days once again before any ice will be acceptable for walking onto.
Looks like there may have to be a road trip to the North Country for any type of chance at getting into any ice fishing at this time. Luckily the gas prices are at an all time low so this won’t be as hard on your pocket book for making those trips. For those that are able to get out onto early ice these are also possibly some dangerous times and caution should always be taken.
If you are unsure or nervous about venturing onto the safe ice, no ice is safe, and then it may be better to stay home and do other things. For those that are out there searching for fish there are a few items that you should make sure that you have along so that if the worst were to happen, you can either get yourself out of a bad situation or someone nearby will be able to assist you.
The things that we carry along for safety equipment should include a spud bar, PFD life preserver, rope, ice picks and also a floatation cushion. These items pack very well into any sled and should always be taken along so that you have access to them or someone that may be helping you can get access to them to help save your life. Water in the winter time is very cold and you only have a short period of time before hyperthermia sets in and you don’t have the ability to use your arms and legs to help get you out of a bad situation.
To start off the SPUD BAR is a very important piece of equipment and every angler should have with them especially early in the season. This looks similar to a spear but is a long bar with a chisel on one end. You hold the spud bar in your hand and hit the chisel end into the ice in front of you as you take each step. If you hit the ice and the chisel doesn’t go through, the ice is a little thicker there as opposed to when you hit the ice and the chisel goes through you better back up as you may fall through that area.
If you are hitting the ice and is looks fairly solid, take a moment to chisel a hole through the ice and check the thickness as you go along. This way you have an understanding as to the thickness and a gauge for you as you are walking along. This is very important as ice does not freeze uniformly and one spot you may have 4 inches and then ten feet away you may have only an inch or two. Springs in the lakes will do this as well and this is why using a spud bar is very important for traveling on the ice.
Many anglers don’t think about a PFD life preserver for their ice fishing adventures but should be packed in with your gear as a safety item. We use these in the summer for saving our lives if we were to fall into the water and why not in the winter. One thing when you break through the ice and are in the water is if you don’t get out fast, you will start losing the ability to use your arms and legs. By having a PFD preserver on and you are in the frigid water, this will at least keep you floating so someone can help you and find you out on the ice. This is always an item that should be brought along and many times is not.
We all have ropes in the trunks of our cars or the back of the pickup and why not grab them when heading out onto the ice. Many don’t think about a rope but this may be one of the most important pieces that should be packed into the ice sled. One thing that a rope is very useful for is throwing it out to an angler in distress and this allows you to stay away from the questionable spot. Having a hook or clip on the end is good as well as this way the person in the water can wrap the rope around their upper body and clip in the rope as opposed to trying to hold onto the rope as they are being pulled out.
A minimum of 20-25 feet should be the length and longer is always better. When rescuing a person in the water we don’t want to get to close to the edge where they broke in as the rescuer may break through as well. Always have a rope along and there is another piece that will go along with the rope and that is a boat seat cushion.
Some don’t think about it but when sitting in your ice house you may be sitting on one of those floatation cushions. These are not PFD’s but they float and will definitely be a huge help if trying to rescue someone. These usually have straps on them and will aid the person in the water for something to hold onto. Also with the rope, wrap the rope around the cushion and clip the end and snug it tight around the cushion. Now you will be able to throw this out to the distressed person and give them something that floats, to hang onto and also something with some weight for you to throw the rope out to them.
The final thing that is a must in any ice traveler’s arsenal is called ice picks. These are hand grip sized handles that have a pointed sharp pick end coming out of them. These are used after you would have broken through the ice and you are hanging onto the edge of the ice. These should be carried around your neck so they are easily accessed after falling through the ice and getting your bearings on what had just happened.
Place each ice pick into each hand with the pick point end down towards the ice. Hit each pick into the ice and using your arms try pulling yourself out of the water. Continue doing one hand at a time in front of the last and once you get your movement going forward, you will be able to pull yourself out onto the top of the ice and to safety. Never stand up when getting out of the water but instead roll away from the hole until you are once again on thicker and safer ice.
These are only a few items that every angler should carry along and don’t take up to much room in your sled. There are other items as well and everyone has different applications for using these and other items. Safety on the ice is number one and if nervousness is over whelming to you that may be a sign that you should stay clear of the ice. Ice is never safe and should always be ventured with caution in every step you take as it only takes one step to get into a dangerous situation.
Be very careful out there especially here in New England as the ice season of 2008-2009 is and has been off to a very rocky start. Once we get a good base down there will be plenty of time for fishing through the ice, but patience must be taken until we get to those days. Think safety at all times on and around the ice and always pay attention to others out there as well and you may not need help one day but there may be another out there that will. Have a safe ice season and come back and enjoy another next year.
Understanding Fly Rod Length, Weight, Action, And Construction
A fly rod is arguably the most important tool a fly fisherman owns. Modern fly rod designs vary greatly depending on the intended use, so it is important to understand the mechanics and basic design characteristics of fly rods when selecting between the different options available.
These days, manufacturers offer rods varying in length from as short as 6 feet to as long as 15 feet. In general, rods on either end of the length spectrum are meant for specific applications, while rods that fall in the center of the spectrum are more versatile. A 9-foot fly rod is considered standard length: with a 9-foot rod, an angler can cast effectively at most fishing distances and control the line on the water, making 9 feet a great choice for most anglers in common situations.
So why go shorter or longer? Shorter rods excel in casting accuracy and have greater leverage. Rods that are 6–8 feet are often sold in light weights for fishing small streams where casting room can be an issue. Also, some new heavyweight rod models are being manufactured in short lengths for casting big flies into tight spots and wrestling powerful fish out of their snaggy homes. These short, stout rods excel in targeting fish like largemouth bass, snook, and juvenile tarpon in areas where casting accuracy and leverage are important.
Rods longer than 9 feet offer the angler two distinct advantages: casting distance and line control. Rods in the category of 10–12 feet are becoming popular for anglers that specialize in nymph fishing for trout because the added length allows an angler to hold more line off the water, which aids in control and reduces unwanted drag. In addition to improving reach, more length helps with mending and line control, enabling an angler to present the fly effectively at greater distances. If distance is desired, a longer rod may be the perfect fit. Spey rods, or two-handed fly rods in the range of the 11–15 feet, are tailor made for casting and fishing at long distances. A two-handed rod in the hands of a skilled caster can easily deliver a fly at distances of 60 to more than 100 feet. Long, two-handed rods are popular for steelhead and salmon anglers who fish large rivers, and with beach anglers who need to cast far into the surf.
The spectrum of rod weights on the market today is almost as great as rod lengths, with models offered from as light as 0-weight to as heavy as 16. Almost every weight has a practical application, but fly anglers also have some general favorites. For example, the 9-foot, 5-weight is widely considered to be the most popular trout fishing fly rod in the world.
In general, fly rods of a certain weight are also manufactured in specific lengths to suit an intended purpose. A quick glance at the inventory at a local fly shop will show that most lightweight rods in the 0–3 weight range are manufactured in shorter lengths. This is because they are mostly used for small stream or pond fishing, where shorter length is an advantage and the fish are generally small. Rods in the 4–8 weight category can come in more varied lengths, and comprise the bulk of what most freshwater anglers need for targeting a variety of fish species. Weights 4, 5, and 6 are the most popular sizes for targeting trout, while heavier weights are used for targeting larger fish or casting large, heavy flies. Rods in the 9–16 weight category are generally only used for very large freshwater fish or saltwater applications, with the 12–16 weights being designed specifically for big game species such as tarpon, giant trevally, sailfish, and tuna.
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Late Season Ice Fishing
As the days get longer and the sun gets warmer, the ice fishing season is getting shorter with each day that passes. As we think back on the great season that we had, our thoughts are switching to the open water season. Don’t get too excited yet as the best Ice Fishing is still ahead.
The days of very cold weather while on the ice are getting less and less as the day’s pass. More days on the ice at this time of year, get more enjoyable as the temps are getting warmer. The days of those heavy parkas and many layers of clothing are fading away and there may be days that you will be on the ice in sweatshirts and t-shirts.
The late ice season puts the fish into more of a feeding mode as the light penetration is getting better, the shallow water areas are starting to warm a little more. Fish in general are fat with their spawn eggs and are getting into a feeding craze in preparation for the upcoming spawn. The activity under the ice is coming from new forms of life emerging and starting to appear and this is drawing the fish closer to shore.
This is the time of year that ice fishing in general gets to be more fun. The fish are coming out of their deep water doldrums; the weather is getting nicer allowing an angler to have more fun on the ice. This time of year is a great opportunity to get those KIDS out there and give their hand a try at ice fishing if the winter weather has been to cold and miserable for them.
Whenever going out onto the ice and particularly in the spring, it is a good idea to start checking the conditions of the ice. With the warming temps the shorelines are getting warmer and this is thawing the ice fairly quickly. Areas that have runoff coming in or feeder creeks may be dangerous at this time of year and should be avoided.
With the warming sun overhead, the bite should be very good and if you are not experiencing this within 5-10 minute, it is time to move. Spring is not the time to sit and wait for the fish to come to you but you need to be mobile and since it isn’t frigidly cold out, moving will be very simple. Move a little distance at a time and this can make all the difference in the world.
Also, change up on your bait selection as the minnow fry are changing sizes as they grow. Experimentation is a big part of making or breaking a good fishing day and by trying different things until you find what the fish wants, this could be the best days of fishing that you are going to experience all season.
This time of year you may be surprised as to what depth the active fish are being caught at. You may be in 10 feet of water but catching fish 2 feet under the ice is a common thing in the spring. This may also be a great time to have your KIDS looking down the hole as you fish as chances are they are going to be able to see the fish swimming around your bait and this can be exciting for them to watch.
As fishing in the spring is a lot of fun, there are a few dangers that are lurking out there on the ice as well. Number one concern is that the ice on the lake is never safe and precautions need to be taken at all times. We already talked about the shoreline ice eroding; a couple of other dangers are old unfrozen holes and areas that permanent ice houses have been moved off of.
Old holes in the spring are major hazards and if you are not cautious where you walk, can be harmful to you as well. With the warming of spring the old holes do not freeze over much anymore and actually grow in size. A 10 inch hole can grow to 12-24 inches in size in this warming trend. By stepping into these holes, your leg can be badly hurt or even broken on occasions. Always watch your KIDS out there as a KID can fall completely into one of these holes and go under the ice.
One other thing to watch out for is the placement of permanent ice houses. As anglers pull their houses off of the ice, these spots are creating hazards as well. What happens is that the sun heats up the house and actually melts the ice underneath it creating an area that may only have a few inches of ice in that spot. I have stopped my truck near spots like this and find out that there was a house nearby and was only 4 inches of ice in that spot. Where my truck was parked there was 14 inches or more but gets a little to close for comfort.
Spring is the time to have your KIDS out there fishing with you but remember that it maybe very messy on the ice. Always be prepared with extra clothing for them as they will probably be getting wet at some point and once they are wet, they will want to leave and make for a short day on the ice if you are not prepared. Let them be the one’s that decide what they want to do out there on the ice as this will make it more enjoyable for all of you.
With spring coming and thoughts of open water fishing starting to consume your thoughts, don’t miss out on a time of the ice season that is the best time of the year. Between catching some of the biggest fish of the winter, getting a suntan on the ice and enjoying quality time with friends and family fishing, don’t put that auger away just yet as this is the best of the best when it comes to late season ice fishing.
Crappies on the “Drop Shot”
Kevin Dahlke – BWS OutDoors
When you go fishing, there are always tactics that you employ regularly and you fall to those habits on a consistent basis. They always catch fish, but there are days as well that those tactics may not catch fish for you. Why not try something new or something reliable and put a twist on that tactic to offer the fish something that they are not use to seeing, while, in turn, giving you more hookups.
I came across the drop shot rig by mistake one day while fishing structure on a lake for largemouth bass. The bass had been using a sunken roadbed and I was following them while using a small 4 inch minnow plastic imitator on the drop shot rig. You knew when a bass would grab the bait as the weight was definitely there, but something else was trying to bite the bait as well.
It was time to slow things down and concentrate more on the bites that were happening and that is when the first crappie came into the boat. After seeing what was biting, the rest of the afternoon was a lot of fun while catching crappie after crappie and many of these fish were nice sized in the 12 inch plus range.
This is something new for me, as I don’t regularly fish using a drop shot rig, but I had not experienced having panfish going after my bigger plastic baits and now this is something that I do on a regular basis. This is allowing you the opportunity at catching more of a variety of fish species and also making for a much more fun day of fishing.
Typically, a drop shot rig is fished on spinning gear and 8 pound test line. There are specific hooks that are made for this and when tied to the line, they hang horizontally. You tie on the hook up the line, not at the end of the line like usual rigs, so there is a tag length of line hanging below the hook.
There are specific drop shot weights that have been designed for the drop shot and these have a metal clip that comes out of the weight and this is where you attach the line to. By varying the length of your tag line, you can have the distance between the weight and hook from as little as you want to a few feet apart of these two items.
The bottom content whether it be rocks, weeds or wood, this will dictate this length of the line and also once you figure out the level the fish are at, this will come into play as well. The drop shot works great in areas that the weeds are a foot tall and this will allow you to keep your bait right above the weeds and it will look like a bait that is swimming through and along the tops of the weeds.
The way to fish this presentation is to cast it out and let it fall to the bottom on a slack line. Once the weight settles on the bottom, snug up the line so that you can feel the weight but not to the point of moving it. The great thing about this is that you can jiggle your rod tip and with the weight on the bottom, the jiggling will transmit down the line into the bait and this will in turn making the bait dance in one position.
You can fish this very slowly and that is how we were able to catch the crappies as we were covering a very irregular bottom structure and if you hit certain areas, there were bites coming all of the time. The plastic bait was 4 inches long but these bigger crappie had no problem inhaling that.
The crappie typically use shallow waters for short periods of time in the spring but most of the time they roam the deeper sections of the lake at varying levels in the water column. By fishing with this technique, this allows you to fish in those particular zones that they are located at and also allows you to follow them in the deeper waters of the hot summer time, when they seem to become non-existent.
You can fish any of the baits that you typically use to catch crappie on and this in turn will allow you to keep your confidence in your bait selection if you are not use to fishing this way. Live bait, plastics and jigs all can be used and once you figure out what they want for that particular day, this will allow you to catch them throughout the open water season.
Make sure to fish with the lightest line that you can get away with as this will allow the bait presentation to act in a more natural fashion. To heavy of a line will hurt the action and in turn could also limit the number of bites that you are getting and that will make it harder for you to try this again. There is always a chance that you will catch other species of fish and in these deeper waters you may catch some nice sized ones at that.
This technique can be fished from shore out into the deep waters and that will be up to where you think the fish are staging at on that particular day. This is not just a shallow or deep way to fish, but a way to fish at a variety of depths and still be in the fish zone on any given day or lake.
Spring time this works great before the big females move to the shallows for their spawn which allows you to fish them outside of these shallow areas in the deeper staging waters. Summer time this works well as they have left the shallows and are now roaming the deeper basins. This will allow you to follow them throughout their migration during the open water season.
If you have fished the drop shot for bass, now you have another way to catch crappie as well. By trying different ways, the fish are not use to these types of tactics and in turn this may open up a whole new way of catching fish and also species that may be difficult at different times of the year. Just by downsizing a little, this will intrigue the crappie, and in the summer months you may be catching the biggest ones of the year as well.
Finesse or Not
With many more states starting to regulate the lead use in our fishing tackle, more time is spent finding these alternative material baits. There are a few flavors that are popping up lately these days, but the tried and true ones, that are leading the pack, are the Tungsten jigs.
These jigs come in a variety of sizes and colors and with Kenders Outdoors covering them, with their sizes of 3mm, 4mm and the larger 5mm. Having these three different sizes, this allows you to cover the spectrum from a very light, finicky to almost nonexistent bite to the fast and aggressive fishing action.
The color combinations are practically anything that you can think of and this allows you to adapt to whatever the fish are looking for at that given time. With the color spectrum, there is also the added glow feature built into a variety of these jigs as well, since you can get them in regular paint, glow paint and now the UV glow paint.
So between the three different sizes of the jigs and the wide array of colors to choose from, there should always be a combination for any fishing situation that you may face. By having a variety of these always with you, it is a matter of switching between them and keeping the action going, no matter how the conditions change throughout the day.
The 3mm jig is the smallest of the line and that comes with a #16 hook with the weight equivalent of 1/50th of an ounce. This tiny bait is typically used on those days that a major cold front passes through or maybe your fish are highly pressured.
By adding a small plastic trailer or even a grub, this bait will tantalize those negative fish into biting. By working it very slowly and methodically, and also the smaller profile, these fish may not be in an active feeding mode, but now you can entice them into taking something that they may not have with a bigger sized presentation.
If you are marking fish fairly consistently on your flasher, but they refuse to bite, this is when you would fish this jig and giving them a smaller profile usually is all it takes for them to commit. No need to over work the presentation as it works by barely having any motion and also acts as if it were a dying larva floating through the water column.
The 4mm jig is the middle size and that comes with a #14 hook and the weight equivalent is 1/32nd of an ounce. This middle sized jig is the best all-around jig for most conditions that you are faced with on a given day and by changing the jigs color or the plastic trailer and color, it is a hard combination to beat.
On most days when the fish may be feeding, this jig is the right average size that will attract all of the panfish species. If there was one size to pick from, this sized jig will get the call 90% of the time and usually always comes with good results pending on any major weather change.
By having a couple of rods tied with this sized jig in different colors, and also different plastic trailers, this will allow you to offering different presentations quickly and efficiently. With panfish, if you are seeing them on the flashers and the one rod doesn’t seem to get them to bite, quickly grab the other and that typically will be the time to set the hook.
The 5mm jig is the largest that comes with a #12 hook and the weight equivalent is 1/16th of an ounce. This size jig plays into a couple of scenarios that work on a consistent manor and when the fish are feeding fast and furious, this jig will weed out the smaller fish.
When the fish are aggressively feeding, throwing anything at them, they will devour that bait as soon as they see it. But with this bigger jig, this will eliminate a number of the smaller fish and attract the larger fish in the school, especially if you put a larger plastic trailer on it as well.
A couple of things that the tungsten jigs are good for is the density of the jig allows you to get the bait quickly back into the biting zone. With the denser volume, these jigs fall quicker through the water and get quicker to the fish, as if you wait too long getting the jig back to them, they have a tendency of moving off and then you have to search for them once again.
Another technique that works well is if the fish are relating closely to the bottom, you can take these jigs and let them hit the bottom, doing this a few times to create a silt cloud that will attract the fish to the area out of curiosity. Then once they feel that it is something edible, they either will slightly inhale the jig or totally slam it and it is FISH ON once again.
If you have been using lead all of your time fishing, might want to add another weapon to your arsenal and try some of the tungsten jigs. Every jig has its limits and liabilities, but having more options when going to the lake, puts you the angler, in a much better position of having more consistent fish catching outings.
Ice Fishing Comparison
Midwest vs New England
When growing up in the Midwest, one really gets accustomed to enjoying the outdoors in a certain fashion. When ice fishing, we are taught a certain way to fish or from watching others for so long we generally fish in that fashion. But when you move across the country and fish the same way that you have for so long, you notice that anglers use different techniques and tactics to catch the same fish, and every outing on the ice is another new adventure and the angler will gain more from those experiences.
This particular ice season, I was able to enjoy many days on the ice and at the same time was watching how the other anglers were fishing out there. There is definitely a difference in the way that anglers fish in different parts of the country. By watching, I was able to see and learn these differences and at the same time I was able to show a number of anglers the way that I am accustomed to fish.
One of the first things that I had noticed after moving to the New England area was that the fishing pressure is much less. With very close proximity to the ocean, there are higher numbers of anglers that target the saltwater species over the freshwater species. A comparison would be that in the Midwest, many bodies of water, you needed to be at the boat landing by dawn to get a parking spot. Here in New England, you can show up on most of the waters at any time of the day and still be able to get in unless you went to a landing that had a tournament going on.
So with fewer anglers chasing freshwater fish, the pressure on them is considerably less. This is an advantage to those anglers that are fishing these lakes and ponds as most of these fish are not lure shy as much as they may be in the Midwest. Don’t get me wrong, the popular lakes do get their fair share of pressure on a given weekend. The difference in New England is that a big body of water is around 600 acres, and there are some bigger, but many ponds that are fished are less than that in size. Many of the smaller ponds do not have a boat landing but you can still get a canoe, kayak or Jon boat into them.
The species of fish that are caught are just about the same between the Midwest and New England. Both areas have Panfish consisting of sunfish, crappies, perch and bass both large and smallmouth. As far as the significant differences, there are only a few areas in the New England area that supports any type of Walleye populations. Most of these are found in the Connecticut River system and some in the Merrimac River. The Pike are also not populated here as much either but there are loads of Pickerel, as opposed to Pike in the Midwest and no Pickerel there.
The ways that anglers fish in New England varies somewhat to the ways that I had learned in the Midwest. In the Midwest the majority of the time, fishing was done by jigging with some sort of a jigging pole. Tip-ups were also used but being able to use only 2 lines to fish with at the same time, the angler would have a tip-up out and jigging with the other line.
In Massachusetts we are allowed to use up to 5 lines per angler and a majority of the anglers from my observation will run a line of tip-ups for a variety of fish species. Anglers will setup the tip-ups and catch pickerel, bass, perch and crappies. Some anglers will use one line for jigging, but I haven’t noticed any great numbers of anglers doing this. When fishing I like to keep active so I drill a number of holes and keep moving from hole to hole jigging looking for fish.
As mentioned earlier, the fishing equipment is a majority of tip-ups and some jigging setups. Since the winters here in southern New England are much milder than the Midwest, many anglers will use a hand auger for drilling their holes. The ice this winter was 15 inches thick at the thickest that I had drilled. In MN, right now they are still looking at over 36 inches of ice and most winters this is a common thickness.
One piece of equipment that I have noticed this ice season that is not used much compared to the Midwest would be the flasher electronics, Vexilar. There were numerous occasions during the season where I would give demonstrations on the ice and these anglers were amazed at what the flasher was showing them. In the Midwest most if not all anglers are fishing with some sort of electronics to help in their fishing. The way that I fish with jigging from hole to hole, I am able to find a hole that has active fish in it quickly and this allows me more opportunities at catching those fish and not just sitting around waiting for them.
The differences are not that great but they are there and no matter how folks are fishing and using their techniques and tactics, the main thing is that they are catching fish and that is all that matters. Ice fishing is one sport that doesn’t require a lot of technical or high dollar equipment and this allows more folks to be able to enjoy being out on the ice. With milder winters here in New England, anglers are able to enjoy sitting out on the open ice as opposed to having some sort of shelter to get out of the weather.
The main thing that truly matters to anglers is that everyone that spends their time out on the ice enjoys being out there. Ice fishing is one sport that makes it easy for KIDS to get involved and if they get board of fishing, there are plenty of other things that they are able to do. If you were not able to get out on the ice and enjoy some of these types of fishing this past season, prepare yourself over the next six months and get out there and experience fishing through a hole in the ice.
Fall Panfish on Tungsten Baits
Fall fishing means water temperatures are dropping and the fish are going into a feeding mode in preparation for the upcoming winter. These fish are roaming and searching for available food and that is key for finding these feeding fish.
Once you have an area scoped out, bait presentation becomes key for being successful on the water and in turn, making for an enjoyable day. A bait combination that has been working well on catching these fall panfish is the NorthlandMitee Mouse Jig and Impulse Water Flea.
The Mitee Mouse is designed with over-sized eyes at the front and that key feature allows the fish to hone in to it easier. By adding the Impulse Water Flea to this jig, with all of the appendages, this is a very attractive bait presentation, with the eyes and a lot of movement from the tentacles.
There are a few ways that can be fished with this combination and the first is what is called “Tantalizing”. You can jig this with a variety of motions and if they are feeding fairly fast and heavy, then using a constant jigging motion, the strikes are fairly aggressive.
The other affect, when the fish are in more of a very finicky mood, is keeping this jig in the water column that the fish are using and jigging it with the slightest movement. Sometimes a very subtle constant motion, just enough so the appendages are barely moving. The other is with little movement and then a rest period, when you go to jig it again, be ready for some dead weight as typically you are not going to feel the strike in this mode.
Color combinations can be a critical factor as well, again depending on the fish’s mood. If they are heavily feeding, you can give them pretty much any color combination you want as they aren’t looking at it very much and just inhaling it. But when they are finicky, this can be a bit frustrating trying to find that right combination that makes them bite the jig.
Really comes down to trial and error and if you can see the fish schools on your electronics, keep changing the colors until they show you what they are looking for. But also in this mood, you may only catch a few fish and then the bite stops which means it is time to go back to the color spectrum and try this selection all over again.
A great feature for this jig is the density of the tungsten and with that it allows you to getting your bait back into the fish quickly. When these fish are in a feeding frenzy, the more your jig is out of the water, the more fish you are missing. The Mitee Mouse jig gets back to the level the fish are at quickly and also you have a lot of feel for this bait through your rod and that keeps you in tune with what the jig is doing.
There is another technique that attracts the fish’s attention and also at times, getting them to bite the bait and that is “Pounding the Ground”. Very simplistic is that you allow the jig to fall to the bottom, always on a tight line for those dropping bites, and while having a taught line, lift and let the bait hit the bottom. This is creating a disturbance in the silt, which in turn attracts the fish, as they come to investigate to see what creature is doing this.
This works especially well for those fish that are lying on the bottom and are a bit lethargic. Kind of a wake-up call and draws their attention to come and check it out and many times, they won’t attack the bait, but lightly suck it in so that when you go to repeat this step, there is dead weight on the line and quickly set the hook.
K-Drill Ice Auger System to Clam Outdoors Conversion Drill Plate
This past weekend, I was talking with a number of anglers on the ice about the combination of the K-Drill Auger and Clam Outdoors Conversion Drill Plate. The first thing that was noticed is the lightness of this combination, which doesn’t wear your arms out over the day.
Another question that was ask: “Can you mount the K-Drill directly to the Drill Plate?” and the short answer is no.
Ice Fishing Today and A.W.C. Distributing, where you can buy the K-Drill Auger and accessories, have an Adapter Kit specifically for putting the K-Drill Auger onto the Clam Drill Plate. It is easy to install and also gives you about 4 inches of extension to the height of the drill.
One thing that I did find when installing the Adapter Kit was, for ease of installation, was to taking a piece of sandpaper and smoothing out the two shafts as well as the interior of the Adapter itself. This makes the slip joints very easy to install and also for ease of taking back apart.
They also offer all of the components of the K-Drill on the website, so if there was an accidental mishap with the blades or the Auger’s flighting, you can easily change those out and be right back to ripping some more ice.
WADE RIGHT IN: A GUIDE TO CHOOSING THE RIGHT FISHING WADERS
A good pair of waders can be the difference between spending the day with boots full of mud or with dry toes. This article will offer answers to your questions about selecting the right waders to get the most out of your experience on the water.
Ice Fishing 101
Most of us ice anglers are seasoned veterans and know the basics on equipment and things that we use to make our day on the ice enjoyable. But there are numbers of folks that are just getting into ice fishing and this article is going to touch on the basics of the equipment that is used. This is by no means items that you have to have to enjoy ice fishing, but a general guide and some insight into the equipment that we ice anglers use.
We will start with a tool that allows us to drill a hole in the ice in which we fish through. There are two basic ice augers that are out there, power and hand. Power augers are faster and allow you to drill far more holes than a hand auger will, but there are a couple of things that folks may not like, weight and noise. The hand auger is nice for when there isn’t much ice yet and you want to be able to travel light as well. The key to the hand auger is keeping the blades sharp and with them being sharp, it will cut through the ice with ease, but once they start to dull, you will have to work at getting a hole drilled.
A spud bar is a steel rod with a piece of metal on the end shaped like a chisel. This is used to check the ice in the early and late season for thin ice. Using it similar to a chisel, you stick it into the ice ahead of you as you are walking to check the ice thickness. If it were to go through fairly easy, you will want to stop and assess the ice conditions as they are very thin ahead of you. Always remember that no ice is safe and if you are uncertain, either turn around and find another way around or you may want to leave that body of water.
The skimmer is a piece of equipment that looks kind of like a spoon with a lot of holes in it. After drill a hole, there will be left over ice that needs to be removed to allow you to be able to fish through it. The water at this time of year is very cold so using your hands would not be a good idea. Stick the skimmer into the slushy ice and scoop it out until the water in the hole is clean.
Though the flasher is not a necessary piece of equipment, it does help you out and tell you if there are fish in the area. Flashers are more widely used as opposed to liquid graphs. The graphs have a tendency to freeze under severe cold conditions that most of us face. The flasher will give you instant readings as well as what the bottom content is made of. With the right settings you are able to also see your jig on the screen, and this allows you to adjust your fishing to the level that the fish are at, by using a flasher, this will improve your fishing and is a vital piece of your ice fishing equipment.
One other piece of electronics is the underwater camera. This is not needed but will allow you to see what is down there playing with your bait. You maybe fishing over a pod of fish and they are not biting and after sending the camera down there you find out that they are all bullheads. The fun part of using a camera is watching how the fish are reacting to your bait, but don’t get too wrapped up into it and forget that you are there to fish. KIDS love watching the screen and seeing what is going on down there.
There are many types of tip-ups out on the market and the determination of which one that you would like to get comes down to cost and how you want to use it. If you are fishing in very cold climates most of the time, then the tip-up that covers the whole hole is the way to go. If you don’t have many problems with the hole freezing over, then the basic stick frame will do fine. Comes down to personal preference and over time, you will determine which one is best for you.
Rod/Reel versus Jiggle Stick
There are a few different variations as to what you are going to fish with. You can fish with something similar to what you use in the summer, rod and reel, but at a much smaller version that the rod may not be longer than 3 feet long. The fishing reel is the same reel that you would use doing summer fishing. The Rod/Reel combination you will want to match to the fish that you are fishing for, similar to how you match your summer gear.
The Jigglestick is a very simple piece of equipment, a basic rod with line wrapped around some stand offs in the handle. You won’t have a reel to reel the line in with, so when you hook a fish with this you bring in the line, hand over hand until the fish is out of the ice. This is a very simple and very inexpensive way to fish and the way that most of us start out in ice fishing with. Which ever method you decide to use, you need to remember that you will need to match it to the fish that you are fishing for.
The line as well needs to be matched to the fish sought after, and the lightest that you can get away with the better. Line in cold water tends to get stiffer than summer so going as light as possible is the best way to go. Plus the fish are a little more finicky as well and lighter line will catch you more fish, just have to play a big fish longer with the lighter line.
I am not going to get into the jigs you use much as there are so many out there that it can be over whelming. Match the size of the jig to the fish that you are seeking. Also look for jigs that are made with good hooks that hold a sharp point for catching fish. Colors of jigs is up to you and have a selection with you as the fish will only hit certain colors one day and the next they will hit any color. A good body jig will allow you to see it on your flasher and this is what you really need if you are using a flasher. Have a small box with a good assortment of jigs with you all the time and if you are not getting bites, just tie on another color and this may solve your problem.
If you are using a jiggle stick approach you will be able to get away with a bobber that fixes to your line. If you are using a rod/reel combo, then either a slip bobber or a spring bobber is what you want to use. The bobber selection is very good as well and the main thing is to get away with the smallest bobber that will hold up your jig and bait. To big of a bobber and you will not see the fish biting, and in the winter, the fish will bite very light most of the time. To get away from this problem is to install a spring bobber and these will allow you to detect the lightest bites that the others would never show you. Decide which one is best for you and use that.
The bait that we use is suited for the fish that we seek. If you are searching for bigger game fish then you will usually use sucker, shiners and fatheads for your bait of choice. As well as dead and frozen minnows that are available as well. For panfish, there is quite a selection as well, you can use minnows, wax worms, euro larva, and shrimp and there are probably a few others as well. Any bait shop will have a wide selection of livebait to choose from. There is another new approach surfacing and that is no livebait, and fishing with plastics instead. Catch-N also offers Bio-Bait which is a non livebait as well and very productive in the winter season as well as the summer.
Truly brave souls will fish without an ice fish house, but most of us opt to use one. They not only keep you warm with a little heater inside, but most days on the ice it is fairly windy and being in a ice house protects you from that wind. Take a look at the Otter Outdoors fish house as a good product to own. These houses are built onto a sled and are self contained to keep the size at a minimum and weight wise are not that heavy. Otter offers many sizes from the small for one person to the largest for handling a few people as well as plenty of room to move around in. These are all built on a sled for easy movement and setup and take down in 30 seconds. Nicest way to ice fish and being mobile that you are going to find.
Most ice anglers that are fishing out of a house will use a propane heater to heat their house. These are adjustable depending on how cold it is and if you use a 20# grill propane tank, will run for a very long time. One thing to keep in mind is always have some ventilation in the house to keep fresh air flowing through. Keep the heater away from the walls and any equipment that you have in the house. Especially watch your line when bringing a fish in.
The traditional 5 gallon bucket is a very important part of an ice fisherman’s arsenal. The bucket serves many purposes from carrying all of your fishing equipment, to being a seat, to holding the fish that you catch to bring home for dinner. Always seem to have a couple with as these are a very valuable piece of equipment.
Being mobile is the number one thing that an ice fisherman has to be. Fish are always on the move and an ice angler will need to be as well. A good sled will slide over the ice and snow with minimal effort and needs to be big enough to carry all of your equipment with you. A good sled is one piece that you don’t want to skimp on the price as you will have this for many years to come.
Hopefully this general guide will help some folks that are getting started into ice fishing for the first time and to understand some things about the equipment we use. As always, please introduce a KID to fishing as fishing will make them a better person as any video game or TV show never will.
Choosing The Right Type of Waders For You
There are several different wader designs available to anglers today, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the kind of fishing activity you are involved in or the type of water you fish most often in, you might prefer one over another. The most common types you will see in fly shops and tackle stores are hip waders, waist high waders or wading pants, and chest high waders.
Hip waders are typically the least expensive and most convenient type of wading system available. They are a dream for the casual fisherman who prefers to stay in shallower water and appreciates the convenience of having the boot and wader attached to one another. Basically, they are a pair of wading boots with a waterproof fabric upper section that reaches up to hip height, fastening to the belt. As long as you don’t need to wade very deep and aren’t relying on them for warmth, they are a great option.
Waist High Waders
Waist high waders work like a pair of waterproof pants, only differing from chest waders in that the waterproof material does not reach above the waist. The main advantage is that they are easier to put on and remove and help you stay cooler on hot, sunny days. This style of wader is preferred by anglers who mostly fish during warmer months or in hot climates.
Chest High Waders
By far the most common style of waders, chest highs are the most versatile and best all-around choice if you don’t mind spending the money. They can certainly be used for shallow wading and in warmer weather, but they also allow for deeper wading and provide anglers with the added weather protection needed for fishing in colder climates.
Review of Vexilar's Sonarphone T-Pod
For a few years now, I've been trying to figure out how to tell depth and temperature while on my inflatable pontoon. As I've gotten into experimenting with trolling from it using crankbaits or Lindy rigs, being able to tell the depth and the structure has always been an issue as there isn't a good way to put a full fledge sonar on it.
Added to that, is that most sonar, while less than before, are still fairly expensive with many costing more than my pontoon was. If I was vertical jigging, there wasn't a problem, as I bring along my Vexilar Flasher and simply put it on a pontoon and drop the transducer in and I've got instant readings right below me.
But trolling with an iceducer, doesn't work and upgrading to a regular transducer for it would cost more time and money to get it, then build something that would work on the frame of the pontoon. Enter Vexilar with a new and improved technology for fishermen like me.
I obtained the SonarPhone T-Pod from Vexilar to use this season. This is the unit I'd been waiting for to help me with identifying structure and depth and finding fish from shore or from my pontoon.
The SonarPhone series has been out for a few years now, but I decided to get one this year after getting some advice from fishing friends on it and how it could help me on the pontoon. So far all I can say is that it was worked great!
Once I connect my phone to it through the wi-fi signal the T-Pod puts out (doesn't use any data), I've got near instant access to a full fledge sonar reading without the sonar price right on my smart phone. I have used the T-Pod nearly every time I've been out this spring and summer and it has proved itself in every way for what I was looking for.
It is great for trolling and getting depth and structure readings and it is a good way to see if any fish are around if casting it from shore, though make sure you've got a good stout pole to cast it out with as it has a little weight to it.
I tied on some 20# braided line to it and attach it to one of the rings on the pontoon and it simply trolls directly behind it, giving me the information that I had been craving.
A great example of the T-Pod in action was on a recent trip to Angostura Reservoir here in the Black Hills. I used the bobber to give me depth and structure information as I was trolling along the shorelines looking for walleyes. Without it, I wouldn't have known the information that I needed to help pinpoint where the fish were at.
While I didn't catch any big fish, I did catch them nonetheless thanks to the T-Pod. If you don't own a big boat or own a kayak, float tube, or small pontoon, or even you are just a shore fishermen, be sure to give the SonarPhone T-Pod a shot. It can do so much to help you be more efficient and successful on the water.
Rattlin’ Some Slabs
We are well into the fall season and water temperatures are falling daily with the cooler nights and shorter daylight. Most places, the turnover should have happened and that phase of in between, when the fish don’t know how to bite, should be fading away and the feeding frenzy should start picking up again.
The fish are moving into locations that you should be able to find them come first ice, but since that isn’t here yet, might as well vertical jig for them on the open water. The Clam Outdoors, Rattlin Blade Spoon, is a bait that allows you to quickly be able to get that bait back to the feeding fish so that there aren’t any missed opportunities.
The original Blade Spoon, doesn’t have the rattle pod, but is still very effective, but by having the rattle pod, this adds that little extra that will put more fish on your line. With the wide array of colors to choose from as well as an endless selection of plastic trails and colors, combinations can be created for any fishing situation.
Between the non-rattle and rattle spoons, they both have their place in your tackle and also pending on the mood of the fish. When fish are non-aggressive, typically like using the non-rattle as this allows you to finesse them a little more into biting without the extra noise. When they are feeding heavily, I like the rattle version as with more noise, this attracts them quicker to the baits location and at times the bigger fish are looking for just that.
The shape and size, allows the bait to quickly get back down into the level that the active fish are at and also, these show up on the flasher screen very well so that you can see how the fish are reacting to your presentation.
There are a variety of ways to working this bait, the subtle approach of very lightly jigging the rod tip so that the blade sways side to side a bit, but also the plastic trailers appendages are able to vibrate from the motion. A more of a radical approach is to jig fairly quickly with a bit more of a longer stroke and this allows the bait to flash, make a heavier rattling noise and really gets the plastic trailer working.
One thing that we find a lot of times when fishing a school of crappies, the smaller fish in the school are towards the top and try and take the bait before the bigger fish have a chance. In a school like this, the bigger crappies tend to be towards the bottom of the school and by getting the bait into this area, this allows you a better chance at catching these better fish.
So that brings another technique that these larger fish like and that is pounding the ground. While keeping the line tight, so that you can feel any pickup from the fish, allow the bait to fall to the bottom and then pick it up and fall back to the bottom. What this does is that it creates a silt cloud that attracts the fish, out of their curiosity.
Since the bigger fish may be towards the bottom of the school, or out to the sides of the school, this commotion will draw them in and take the bait. You definitely at all times have to make sure that there is no slack in your line as that is the time that you are going to miss these fish.
There are a couple of ways that the fish take the bait and this feel through the fishing rod will make you more aware to them. When they are feeding fast and furious, they will inhale the bait at any time that you are working it and you will know it. The other is the more subtle bite that you don’t even know is there until you lift the bait to jig it and there is dead weight, which means set the hook.
After a few fish are caught or missed, you will quickly get the feeling that is needed to making the hookset percentages more in your favor. They will tell you if they want it badly or are just taking a look at it, so you need to be paying attention at all times for these signs.
Many people think that the Clam tackle is geared more towards the ice fishing scene, but many of us are using it year round. Especially now in the latter part of fall, we are catching them exactly how we would while on the ice, but only from a boat. Get out there and practice with the Rattlin Blade Spoon and by doing this now, you will be in tune with this bait and will be ready for icing some fish.
When the fall season comes along, it is always a guess as to what we are going to throw out there into the water to catch a fish. Fall can be a tough time to fish as well as there are fall days that no matter what you throw for a bait, fish just chow on whatever you are throwing them.
If you happen to hit a day that the fish are on fire and eating everything in sight, just throw what they want and catch as many fish as you can. But traditionally for fall time baits they consist of crankbaits and spinnerbaits and if you don’t feel liking casting and cranking all day, there is another alternative that may get overlooked and you will have in the boat at all times, the plastic bait.
Lets take a look at a few plastics that have worked well over the last handful of seasons and we are going to look at what BearPaw Hand Poured Baits has for these selections. We are going to take a look at five of their baits and give an idea of what can be done with these baits in your fall fishing.
Four of these are plastics baits which consist of the Hippie Stick, Lizard, Grizzly/Mega Jerk and the Load Toad. The fifth bait that BearPaw offers are the jig lineup that can be used with these and other of their plastics. So let’s start out by taking a look at their jig offerings.
The Spiked Football Jig has been known to catch a lot of fish across the country and is able to use multiple various plastic baits on this jig. The action for this jig comes when the bait is lying on the bottom and the angler moves the line a little, this will make the back part of the jig flip upward while the head stays in position. What this creates is a bait that looks like it is moving into a defense position similar to what a crawfish does to protect themselves.
These jigs can and will be fished primarily around structure that may have little weeds around it. Rocks and gravel areas are prime places to fish this jig as the crawfish lives and frequents these areas consistently and bass know this. But this may also be fished in weeds and just need to make the bait weed-less by hooking the plastic bait over the hook point. The same effects will occur as working the jig in the weeds and you may be fishing this jig where others are afraid to put their bait.
Let’s move onto a handful of the plastics that are fished regularly in the fall time when searching for bass. Next in line let’s look at the Hippie Stick which is a straight plastic bait similar to the Senko style bait. These are generally fished weightless with spinning gear and can be casted with great accuracy in and around docks and overhanging objects.
Skipping is a great technique that takes some practice but once you acquire the skills to do this, any overhanging object, dock, tree, boat lift or anything else for that matter where, the fish that live in these areas are not safe anymore. Skipping is done by casting sidearm and having the bait hit the top of the water which will launch the bait along the surface as far as the line will allow it to go. It is very similar to skipping a rock and if you are able to do that, a little practice with a fishing rod and you will have this mastered.
The Hippie Stick is good for working along the shoreline with any type of structure that you can find to cast the bait at. By being weightless, the bait falls naturally through the water column and with each movement of the bait, resembles an injured baitfish as it is brought back to the boat. This bait really works well when targeting feeding cruising fish along the bank that are looking for that easy meal and also lets you take your time in working it through heavy cover as well.
Moving on to a creature offering lets look at the Lizard plastic bait that can be fished a number of ways. The most productive way to fish the lizard is on the Carolina Rig and this can be fished at any depth and through any type of cover as well. One feature that is poured into each of these baits is the fact that there is a floatation aspect to these baits and with the Carolina Rig; the bait is actually hovering above the bottom when being worked through whatever is being fished.
Fishing with the Carolina Rig this can be fished in shallow water as well as deepwater and through heavy vegetation as well. This rig allows you to cover good portions of water somewhat quickly and this allows you to put the Lizard in front of as many fish as possible. The Lizard is a bigger bait and offers the fall feeding fish a better meal as they are looking to fatten themselves up for the long winter ahead and this bait definitely aids in that process.
Lizard plastic baits are known to produce numbers of fish in the spring around the fishes spawning time but are great fall producers as well. Bigger baits work very well in the fall time and should not be over looked at all. As the fall rains have been plaguing us here, these bigger creature baits are great possibilities as these fish are looking for these tasty morsels that are being washed into our local waters.
The next plastic bait that we will take a look at is the Grizzly/Mega Jerk bait that is an injured minnow soft jerkbait imitator. This bait when worked through the water imitates an injured or dying minnow that darts to the left and right as it is being worked. Fall is a time when minnows and baitfish start schooling together and moving around the lake in search of warmer water and food. Also, as these schools are moving around some of the baitfish are dying as well and this is what the bass are keying in on as they follow these schools around.
The Grizzly/Mega Jerk will be worked similar to the Hippie Stick, as it is casted towards objects and structure in the shallower water. Skipping this bait is another great way to get it into areas that are missed by many and are holding those better quality fish. This bait is fished weightless as well as weighted and fished in shallow and deep water as well.
Something that we have been experimenting with is fishing this bait on the Carolina rig in shallow water and has been very productive. This bait has that floatation feature in it as well as all of the baits and when fished behind the Carolina Rig, this gives an erratic motion of an injured baitfish. There have been some very nice fish caught with this technique as there aren’t many anglers fishing the Grizzly/Mega Jerk on a Carolina Rig.
The last bait that we will take a look at for “Fall Plastics” is the Load Toad which is a frog imitation. Bass are in love with the frog as this is a main staple in their diet and regularly available most of the season. This bait is fished weightless as well and worked on top of the water. As it is worked through the water the tail legs create good action and commotion which alerts the bass beneath that something is coming towards them.
Being this is a frog imitation, bass know what to expect when the fall season comes around. As the temperatures of fall start getting lower, frogs start their migration back to the lake shores. Frogs hibernate in the muddier lake bottoms and the predator fish know that they are coming and wait in anticipation for an easy meal. Other fish other than bass know this as well and when a fish explodes on the Load Toad, you could have almost anything on the line.
The Load Toad is great for fishing around lily pads in the fall as there is a tendency that these are growing in softer bottom areas that the frogs are looking for. Cast these bait up to shore and work it all the way through the surface vegetation and be ready at all times as you never know when the fish is going to hit. On those warmer fall days is a prime time to fish this as this shallow water is teaming with life. Topwater baits are always a lot of fun to fish and especially in the fall when they are hungry, hard fighting fish waiting below the surface.
Fall fishing can be feast or famine and I won’t tell you that it isn’t. There are going to be those days that you can’t get a bite if your life depended on it, but when you hit those days that the fish are on fire, you will definitely be thankful that you were out there fishing instead of watching football. These nice fall days are going by to fast and why not take advantage of these remaining days before the water turns hard.
You fish plastics all summer long and why not fish them throughout the fall as well. By trying some of these out on your next outing, you may have an upper edge compared to your fishing partner.
Crappies Can’t Resist/Northland Tackle Mimic Minnow Tuff Tube
When fall time rolls around, we as anglers start getting excited for the coming fall bite as these fish start preparing for the cold days ahead. Water temperatures are dropping and fish are moving from their summer locations to where there is more of an abundance of food migrating to.
Forage minnows at this time of year, are definitely getting to a bigger size and that in turn has the predator fish moving along with them. Shallow water bars with access to deep water very close, creates an area that these fish are able to push numbers of these minnows into, creating a situation for a feeding frenzy.
Once these areas have been found, either seeing the forage breaking on the surface or clouds appearing on the electronics, now is the time for matching that forage with a bait. The NEW, for spring of 2018, is the Northland Mimic Minnow Tuff Tube.
The Tuff Tube, is a new bait that imitates frantically moving baitfish that comes in 4 different sizes: 1.5”, 2.5”, 3.5” and 4.5” lengths with 12 color choices as well. The tubes body is made from sturdy silicone that holds up to repeated attacks from larger game fish but maintains an extremely soft and flexible feel for those finickiest of fish.
The Tuff Tube is pre-rigged with a tube jig and when fished along these deeper weed edge walls, you can add a split shot weight, 18 inches above the jig, to getting the bait down a bit quicker, especially the 1.5” size. When the bait is at the fish’s level, lightly jigging the rod tip, this will make the tail tentacles move freely, similar to that of the forage minnows they are feeding on.
These fish that were caught, were relating to that weed wall in 12 feet of water scattered on the outer edge weeds. In the morning, the bite was fairly aggressive and the fish were inhaling the Tuff Tube, but as afternoon came, the bite turned very light. Still caught good numbers, but never felt the hit and only was weight there when jigging the tube.
Mouse-pattern flies are meant to look like a small field mouse and behave like one in the water. A typical mouse fly designed for trout fishing will be 2-3 inches long and tied on a size 2-6 wide-gap hook. Mouse flies are most often tan, brown, or grey, just like the real thing. Many materials can be used to create mouse-pattern flies, but the most realistic flies are tied using deer hair because of its buoyancy and natural appearance. Keep in mind that mouse flies are meant to ride high on the surface of the water, so your pattern of choice should feature deer hair, foam, or other buoyant materials to help it float.
Many fly shops carry at least one mouse-pattern fly, but these flies are often designed for bass fishing and have a heavy monofilament weed guard looped over the hook to protect it from snags. This feature is helpful if you are fishing in weedy or brushy areas, but it is unnecessary for trout fishing and can hamper your ability to hook fish. You can easily remove the weed guard by cutting it off with nippers.
Even large trout have relatively small mouths for their body size, so hooking them on such a bulky fly can be a challenge. To get better hookups, some anglers have started tying their mouse flies with stinger hooks positioned farther back on the fly, toward the end of the tail. If you are getting strikes but having trouble connecting with fish, a stinger hook fly may be the answer.
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Catching fish while others are not, while ice fishing
Many anglers when you talk with them as they come off of the ice, the first question that always starts a conversation, how did you do? More times than not when fishing for pan-fish, the response comes back, they weren’t biting very well today. In reality, the fish were there and willing to bite if the right bait and presentation were presented to them.
This article is going to give some helpful tips and hints on how to locate, entice and catch these fish that do supposedly not want to bite. Fishing here in New England, and being from Minnesota, there are many tactics that we use there that are super productive here in New England and some of these just have not made it here to the angler.
To start, most if not all ponds and lakes here in New England have some sort of pan-fish in them. Not all species are found in these waters as some waters may only have sunfish, or maybe some have sunfish and perch and then there are others that have a good population of all the pan-fish, sunfish, perch, crappies and white perch which are the most commonly sought after pan-fish.
The techniques that we are going to be talking about work for any and all of the species and will be caught in the same hole as you are fishing. If there is one fish that you only want to target on a particular trip, then as you are catching the other types of fish, you will need to keep moving until you find an area that supports the fish that you are seeking.
The key piece of equipment that we like to use and never go to the ice without is a flasher type piece of electronics. There are a variety of manufacturers on the market these days, Vexilar, Humminbird, Marcum and others as well. They all do the same job of showing you fish and also showing you where and what your bait is doing around the fish and with that, which company you are more comfortable with using, that would be the choice for you.
Don’t get stuck into what a number of anglers do, and that is once they drill their holes and get setup, that is where they park themselves and they don’t move. To be successful in catching fish through the ice you will need to be mobile and follow the fish instead of being the one that sits and waits for the fish to come to them. Of course at certain times of the day you will sit in one spot because they are aggressively feeding, but to keep catching throughout your time out there you will need to be on the move.
What a typical day is for us is that we drill anywhere from 50 to 100 holes throughout an area and that allows you to cover many depth variations as well as different structure on the bottom. By having this many holes, you would be able to take your electronics and place it in the hole and if you see no activity, move on to the next. This way you are targeting active fish and not jigging a hole that has nothing hanging around.
Once you start finding those active holes, the next key feature that we use to catch fish is keeping the jig very small. In the cold water, fish have a tendency of biting much more finicky than the warmer waters and we have also seen that small baits produce so much better and fish size generally goes up with these smaller baits.
The jigs that we have been using this winter are the CLAM Pro Tackle Maggot Drop Jig that is made from Tungsten in the #10 hook 1/64 oz size. Here in New England we are not allowed to use lead so these tiny tungsten jigs work very well and show up on the electronics very well in deep water. By using a loop knot this will allow the jig to hang horizontally and look more natural in the water as well.
Another little trick that we have implemented this winter season is using the Euro Larvae colored worm live bait grubs. These need to be ordered online as we have not been able to find them here but after bringing them back from MN this winter, these little grubs have been a fantastic attractant to our jigs. These grubs come in a few different colors and the best combination we have been finding is a red and white or yellow hooked onto the jig.
To give you an idea as to how our presentation goes, once we find that active hole, we have our electronics setup and can see the red lines of where the fish are in the water column. Watching our jig on the screen dropping down to that location, keep the bait a bit above the red lines and start working the jig and you will see the active fish move up towards your presentation and the fish is on.
The main points that we are trying to get across here is don’t get stuck in one hole and keep moving to find those active holes with fish. Trust your electronics as these are your eyes to what is going on underneath the sheet of ice. Also, keeping your jigs very small and tipping them with bait, this will make your presentations much more attractive to even the finickiest fish that is down there.
Hopefully you can get a pointer or two out of this article and the next time that you are coming off of the ice and get ask that question, “How were they biting?”, with a grin you can say, pretty good today.
Mobility for Success
Ice fishing is one of those sports that don’t take a lot of equipment to be able to enjoy a day of fishing out on the ice. Only the bare basics are needed to get started and that entails an auger, scoop, electronic flasher, rod/reel combo and some baits. Compared to summer fishing, winter fishing allows you to carry everything with you in the car.
Ice fishing also makes it easier to take the kids along so that they can enjoy a productive day of fishing as well. If the fish are not biting very well they will be able to enjoy themselves out on the ice doing some ice skating, exploring or just playing in the snow. Ice fishing is a sport that the whole family can participate in and have a great day out in the outdoors.
If you are out to catch numbers of fish or a meal while you are out there, mobility is the name of the game to being successful. You may get lucky and drill those first holes over a school of fish but more chances than that you are going to have to keep on the move to stay on the fish. Ice fishing is similar to summer fishing where you don’t keep the boat in one place; you are always on the move.
Winter fishing is very similar to summer fishing as the fish are always relating to something and that is no different in the winter. If it is points, humps or certain weed lines, the fish are still using these features in the winter as well. If you have favorite places that you fish in the summer, these areas should be looked at first when you hit the ice.
Points are a prime area that an ice angler should concentrate on but there will still need to be some work to find the fish. The fish may be located on the top, down the side or even off the side in deeper water. This is where the mobility factor comes into play and being mobile and searching fish out will make for a successful day. Too many anglers drill a few holes and sit and wait for the fish to come to them and then wonder why they aren’t catching anything. By moving around the underwater point or other structure searching, fish will be found but some work will be involved in doing this.
Generally I will start on the deep side of the point and punch a number of holes searching for active fish. If after a number of holes and there isn’t any activity there start moving up the side of the point. As we move up the side the water is getting shallower and may come across a certain depth that the fish are relating to. If not move on top of the point in the shallow water and there may be weeds there as well that is attracting fish to the point top.
By varying the depths with a number of holes, we are able to work a variety of water column levels. By working these varying water columns this is giving us a better opportunity at success in finding fish. Some days drilling twelve holes may be enough to work an area but then there are days that sixty holes will be more of the norm to finding success.
Once all of these holes have been made then the fun part of fishing begins. Just like summer fishing when we are always on the move, having numbers of holes in varying depths opens many doors to a successful day. As we work shallow to deep and vice versus, a pattern will start to form and a depth will be found that the fish are relating to on that particular day.
Baits are the choice of the angler but the varying weather patterns and conditions are going to dictate where the fish are relating to the point. Pressure systems and cloud cover also play into fish positioning themselves around the location and by having many holes punched; this gives you an advantage on finding them quickly and efficiently. This adds to creating a successful day on the ice as opposed to fishing only a few holes and not being productive.
The name of the game for success on the ice is being mobile and searching varying depths. You do this in the summer while fishing from the boat, why not put a little work into it and do the same in the winter on the ice. Fish are always on the move and the angler that does the same will be the productive one out on the ice.
Mobility is the key to success and putting fish onto the ice. A normal day for me could entail fishing up to 60 holes and some of them more than others but as you fish them you find out which ones are the most productive. Don’t let a little hard work take away the opportunity to ice some fish and having a great day on the ice. Keep those ice blades sharp and get ready to catch some fish because being mobile will bring success.
After the Spawn
Many anglers have been catching fish in the shallow waters of the shorelines and have been doing fairly well at that. But now as spring is further along and fading into the past those shallow waters have warmed up considerably and these fish may be on the move.
Spring time fish are generally found along the shorelines doing their yearly spawning ritual and replenishing the lakes with new offspring for the years to come. After the spawn the females leave the shallows first and then the males will follow once the fry reach a certain size and don’t need the male’s protection any longer.
When both of these fish have vacated the shallows, this is the time that anglers struggle for a while trying to locate fish. These fish are still in the generally same area but are relating to different types of things at this time. They leave the shallows and head for deeper water and this can entail anything from the first weed line to different water depths.
Since the water is warming nicely, they will start moving towards their summer haunts and these areas are where you need to focus your energy in search of fish. Flats out from the spawning areas are great resting places as well as feeding areas as the fish still need to eat to survive.
Working these flats is a great way to locate some fish and the flats that have clumps of weeds on them with open sandy areas around them are great attraction areas to fish. What we are looking for are areas that the weed growth has started but doesn’t grow into a big area of continuous weeds. Pods of weeds are great ambush places for these fish to sit and rest waiting for an unexpected meal to come by.
Plastic baits are a good choice to working these areas and a few different techniques work very well. A Texas rigged plastic bait, a weightless plastic bait and also the Carolina rig works very well in this situation. For the Texas rig any type of plastic worm or creature bait will work very well as well for the weightless baits. The Carolina rig works very well with creature style baits and also some finesse plastics as well.
The waters are still a little cool so working these baits somewhat slowly works very well and also the slow presentation is something that these fish may not have see that often. Many anglers fish to fast and are missing a lot of bites because of this, but don’t get the wrong idea, there are still times when burning these baits produces better than anything else.
If these flats aren’t producing that well then it may be time to move to the next deeper feature. This can be a drop off, ditch, hump, or just about anything in deeper water. These areas may not be quite their summer haunt areas yet but are the in between “season” places. To many times anglers don’t like to fish deeper water but by changing your tactics a little, these may turn into your favorite places to fish.
Underwater points are a great place to search for fish and finding the tip of these underwater points can be very productive. “Just had that happen recently as the flats weren’t producing very well and decided to look at a nearby underwater point. The water at the tip was 11-12 feet deep and by working a Carolina rig around this point, put a few fish in the boat in a short period of time”.
If I wouldn’t have tried that there would have been only one fish caught on that outing as I went back to the flat and tried again later and nothing was there willing to bite. By trying these different areas you will learn some new waters as well as some new ways to fish different baits.
In general my type of fishing is mainly deep water and struggle some in the shallow spring time areas. But once the spawn is over and they start moving out, then the fishing season really kicks into gear for me.
Next time that you head out and are not finding the fish in the shallow waters, move out some and look for something that is a little different. Each year these fish use different areas or relate to the same areas a little differently and by using your electronics as your underwater eyes and search around these spots, this will put a lot more line tugging days on your side.
Spring is in the air
It is looking like the winter is finally wrapping up and hopefully the last couple of snow storms are the last. With the warming weather moving in the tulips and daffodils are poking through the ground looking for the sun. The robins are coming back in full swing as well as the ducks and geese are flying overhead daily.
With the warming days and ice melting, something is in the air starts to get the wildlife into a very active mode. One of the most noticeable things that an outdoorsman or nature lover notices is that the Turkey’s are getting very active and more noticeable in areas as you are driving around.
Spring is the time of year that the Turkey population gets geared up for the mating season. This time of year for anyone that watches or hunts for Turkey’s, will see some very spectacular show displays as the males are courting the hen Turkey. One is truly amazed at how beautiful and big a Tom Turkey looks in their full plumage and display.
As the male Turkey courts a number of the hens that he is traveling with, other males will try and move in to take their turn and these younger males are called Jakes. One way to tell the difference between a Tom and Jake Turkey is by looking at the feather clump that proudly sticks out of their chest while they are strutting and this is called their beard. A Jake Turkey’s beard will only be an inch or two long as opposed to a Tom Turkey that can be up to ten inches long.
You will also notice the beautiful colors on the male Turkey’s head and neck, from the very bright and colorful blues to the very brilliant and bright reds. As the male Turkey struts and displays himself, these colors get brighter as you are watching. The tail display is spectacular as well and is a big part of the courting ritual. The hen or female Turkey doesn’t have these brilliant colors for display, but is more natural colored. This allows the hens to be able to blend into the environment where they lay their eggs and have their chicks to protect them from predators.
As you are hiking through the woods and fields there are a few things that you can look for to see if Turkey’s are in your area. If you are in the field at the crack of dawn, hoot like an owl or caw like a crow and the Tom Turkey will return with a full gobble and this will reveal the trees that they are in. Another thing that you will see will be scratching on the ground where they are looking for bugs and other things to eat.
The Turkey uses two of their senses to help themselves survive in the wilderness. The first is their eyes; the eyes of a Turkey are some of the best in the wild kingdom. Their keen eyesight is what keeps them safe as they are foraging through the fields and woods. They are able to see and detect danger long before they are to close and are able to disappear into the surroundings to protect themselves.
The other attribute that helps them to survive from day to day is their hearing. Along with their eyesight, the hearing of a Turkey is very acute and allows them to also detect noises from great distances of possible danger approaching. Stalking or trying to get very close to a Turkey is fairly difficult with these two senses that are always working.
Many times while sitting in the woods next to a big tree, there have been times that a flock of Turkey’s are coming and something happens and they totally disappear. After reassessing what had happened the conclusion came that they had seen me blink my eyes and also move an elbow ever so slightly and that is all it takes. This flock of 15 or so Turkey’s at that point had vanished into thin air and left me with no clue as to the direction that they had gone.
Of the hunting opportunities I have had, I find that hunting Wild Turkey’s to be the most challenging of hunts. With the preparation of weeks before hand in the field locating areas that are frequented by them, to the excitement of setting up on opening morning in the darkness of a cool spring morning. Nothing more thrilling than giving out an owl hoot to see if they are in the area and to get the return of a full gobble through the quietness of morning, is one thing that really gets you fired up.
If you are fortunate enough to have the Wild Turkey in your area, take some time and learn a little about them and watch their habits. It is very interesting and you will see the beauty that these birds have and what and how they use their senses to survive through nature. Spring is the time of year that they are the most visible and by watching the field openings and edges of forests, this will give you that opportunity at seeing these great birds.
Icing Chubby Bass
Anglers in the winter months target many varieties of fish species that range from panfish, perch, sunfish and crappies to bigger game fish such as pickerel and bass. Here in New England running traps, tip-ups, for the bigger game fish is the norm, but those that want a little more variety should try jigging for bass.
There are a variety of different jigs on the market to target bass with from jigging spoons to jerk style baits. One of these baits, which have been working very well for us this ice season, is the Salmo Chubby Darter. These baits are used a lot in the Midwest for jigging up walleyes but have been working wonders here in New England for large and smallmouth bass.
The bass’s metabolism in the winter months slows down considerably but the need to feed is still there. By using livebait and traps you setup and then wait for the bass to come through to you. But jigging for bass allows you to keep on the move and find those bass that are more in the aggressive biting mood. These are the fish that are targeted and the fish that will make for a great day on the ice.
Location is one of the key factors in success and if you have favorite places that you fish in the summer, those areas are good starting points on the ice. Bass can be caught in shallow water as well as deep water and ranges in the 10 to 18 foot depths seem to be the most productive. Structure and baitfish are key points in finding active bass and having good electronics is also a key point to knowing what is going on below the ice.
Areas of concentration in searching for bass should be underwater points and where flats drop off into the deeper waters. Drilling many holes throughout these areas: with some on the shallow flats, to the downside slopes of the flats out towards the deeper waters as well as off of the deep sides of these flats into the deeper waters of the main lake. This will allow you to cover the whole area by moving from hole to hole in search of fish.
By having these holes you will be able to intersect the paths of these fish as they feed or move to the safety of deeper waters. As we get back to the bait of choice, the Chubby Darter, good electronics will pay big dividends in allowing you to see how the fish are relating to the Darter.
The Chubby Darter is a baitfish imitating hard bait that is worked to imitate a dying minnow. Many anglers will rip this bait upwards trying to entice a bite from the fish but we aren’t finding this technique to be working for us. Our presentation is much more subtle with the use of a limber tipped rod, lightly jigging the rod tip just to get minimal movement out of the bait.
By doing this subtle jigging, this makes the bait quiver like a dying minnow right before it dies. If you are watching the flasher and can’t entice them to bite, raise the bait up a little and then work it again to see what they will do. Some days colors may not matter on certain days but then there are other days that you will change through every color you have with you to make for a successful day.
To catch bass in the ice season, keeping on the move is essential as well as location is very important. Keeping a good color selection on hand will allow you to change your baits up and give them something different to look at. Then the very subtle presentation of the action is what will seal the deal in making the bass commit to this and making a very enjoyable day on the ice.
By putting the myth that bass are lethargic and not willing to bite in the winter months behind you and just getting out there and searching and catching them. By working the bait lightly and keeping on the move, bass will be caught and they are a lot of fun to catch on ice fishing gear. Some of the biggest fish can be caught during the winter months and is also one of the best times of the year to catch them.
Angling Summer Dog Days
We anglers always can’t wait until summer finally gets here because we keep telling our selves “then the fishing is going to get better”. Pending on which part of the country you reside, this particular spring into summer has been far from normal by any means.
Most places spring came in and never left with the cool air temperatures and many extra days of rain as well. The lakes and rivers water temperatures are far below normal as well with New England waters in mid July and barely over the 70 degree mark, which is almost 10 degrees off.
Fishing this season seemed to be focused around spring like conditions for a much longer time this fishing season. But now we are finally getting to the point that the fish have moved into their summer haunts and it seems like that may have happened over night. That is fine with this angler as now the deeper fish are finally there and time to search them out.
This time of year, many anglers dread because the fish are not as easily found as they are in the spring or fall. The air and water temps are rising and those conditions do make it harder for some anglers to locate fish. The bigger fish leave the shoreline shallows as the water is getting to warm and head off shore looking for cooler and more comfortable waters.
This time of year with fish seeking refuge off shore, this has anglers perplexed as to how are we going to locate and also catch these fish. If the waters are deeper than 5 feet or so, some anglers will still avoid looking for fish there, as they will still catch some fish shallow, but the bigger fish are out deeper.
This time of year the electronics in your boat come into play much more than they do in other times of the year. Finding the deep weed line is fairly critical as these are ambush locations that fish use fairly regular in their search for food. By watching the graphs that we have we are able to follow these weed lines and anywhere that it makes an abrupt turn or nook, these are key areas that the bigger fish in the area will occupy.
Also, if you can find areas in the weed line that have rock or wood there as well, these are fish magnets that will attract fish every year. Always look for something that is a little different and that is what is going to keep fish biting your baits. Don’t be afraid to venture out into deeper water as there are many areas that the fish haven’t seen bait and are willing to bite whatever comes by.
If you have an underwater camera, this is a great tool to have out there as well. This will allow you to take a look down there and see what are there and also what the fish are relating to. Having underwater eyes is fun to watch but is something that will definitely teach you as well as now you are in the fishes world and can see what they are doing.
Try exploring some deeper waters and you may surprise yourself in what you find and catch there. While you are reeling fish in you will see boat after boat going down the same shoreline not catching much and much smaller fish. You can then tell yourself, “that use to be me and now I am fishing for fish that are more than likely untouched and more willing to bite”.
Fishing, Years Gone By
Many of us anglers these days can look back from the days we were kids and smile from all of the memories that we have. Those days may not be able to be relived, but these days are the days that we will never forget as we grow older. From the many days of fishing with our school buddies to those many excursions with dad and gramps to the water.
There were many trips that our buddies would show up on their bikes with the fishing rod strapped to the bikes frame and the tackle box in their hand. Of course the closest lake was around five miles away but at those times we really didn’t care how far it was as we were going fishing.
After peddling for what seemed like an eternity, we could see the lake in the distance and knew that there were going to be fish caught when we got to our secret spot. This was our best place to fish and you always hoped that nobody beat you there. This place consisted of a culvert that went under the highway and the sunfish that lived in there were very nice sized fish.
The key to fishing here was to aim the cast to go into the culvert, but you had to cast as far as you could possibly cast. With the hook baited and the bobber set to the magic depth, you would eye up your target and get the angle just right and launch that cast as deep into that culvert as possible. As soon as the bobber hits the water, down it goes and the battle is on to get that trophy bluegill out of their deep dark homes.
The two of you would look at each other and start laughing hysterically at the size of these fish and how we were catching them. We weren’t in any type of backwater type of lake with the tranquility of the breeze blowing or the birds chirping. We were fishing next to a major road with cars zooming by us not more than ten feet behind the guard rail. As the afternoon would wear on you know that you had to be home for dinner and would strap everything back onto our bikes and off we would go back home after a very fun filled day.
Then the weekend would come and it was time to go visit grandma and grandpa for a couple of days. They really enjoyed having fresh fish for a meal and grandpa had a great spot that would give us plenty of opportunities at catching a few meals. Run out to the garden with a bucket in hand and a digging fork to dig up a bunch of worms for the days fishing trip. After digging up a few dozen worms, load the rest of the gear in the truck and head for this honey hole.
This was one of those areas that you hoped that someone doesn’t beat you there as it is another shoreline fishing spot. This area was a channel that came off of the main lake and wasn’t to deep but also had some weed growth in it as well. Staking out our spot we would get all setup and get ready for a fun filled day of catching fish.
Gramps would help you get your fishing rod and bait setup and would tell you to cast over to that spot over there. The bobber would hit the water and as soon as it would standup, down it would go. There was cast after cast that would play out the exact same way over and over again. The bucket was filling up very quickly between gramps, dad and me as the fish were biting like they were having their last meal.
Then there is that time when the bobber goes down and when you set the hook it doesn’t feel like a sunfish that is on the line. The fish is fighting and your mind is wondering as to what you have on the hook. Now gramps, dad and everyone else that is fishing there is watching you. Gramps is telling you how to fight this fish as we don’t want to lose it whatever it is.
As it comes to shore the bobber is getting closer but no one has seen the fish yet. A few feet away you are pulling the line in and there it is, the biggest dogfish that you have ever seen. What a great fight this fish gave you and there was no way that you were going to touch this fish as it was the ugliest thing that you have ever seen.
As the afternoon wore on, catching all of these fish seemed to get a little boring after a while and I would start searching for other creatures that were living there. This is when I came across a little painted turtle and asked Dad if I could keep this little guy. Went and got another bucket and filled it with water and now I had a new little friend. We had our fair share of fish and looking at our catch, we knew that it was going to be a long night of filleting fish and many meals were going to be frozen and also a fish fry was in store.
There are many memories that have been made over the years and many more that are still to be made. But these memories that are from my childhood seem to be the best by far since at those times things were so simple and there wasn’t much for complexity at those times as well.
Those early days of spending time with gramps are missed very much these days. Being the first grandchild of four, there was a much stronger bond between him and I and being we had such similar interests, we got along so well together and spent many days fishing and walking in the woods. These days of memories are never to be lost but they are very missed from time to time when grandpa comes to mind and I can relive those many trips together through all of my memories.
Flash of the Eye-Dropper
Fall is definitely upon us and with many warm days of late, there is that hint in the air that the cooler weather is finally coming. Hunting is in full swing, which has a number of anglers off the water, but for those that are still fishing, the late fall/pre-ice conditions are setting up nicely.
Turnover is complete, fish are schooling and they definitely have their feed bags on now getting ready for the long cold winter ahead. These days of fishing are definitely worth trying out some of that new ice tackle that you may have and also, giving yourself a feel for those baits before it is time to step foot onto the ice.
For targeting some of the larger panfish, spoon type baits that are tipped with a plastic, are a good combination. A bait that has been working well when fished in these schooling pods of crappie or bluegill is the Eye-Dropper Spoon.
The uniqueness is the flash that is given off when jigging this bait and this is attributed to the prisms that are in the colors of the spoon. The spoon is also weighted, this allows the bait to quickly getting back into the feeding zone, so that you are able to catch fish more quickly.
For drawing fish in from a distance, vertical jig with an erratic motion until you start seeing them on the electronics screen. Then start slowing down the motion, but keeping the rhythm the same as this drew them in and finesse them into biting the bait.
At this point, the plastic trailer starts becoming the key factor for sealing the deal and the enticing actions being worked with the rod tip will do this. So paying attention to how the fish are reacting on the electronics screen will show you if you need a finesse plastic trailer or something that is more radical.
By having the Eye-Dropper with some flash, this bait is another great option for when the fish are inside of the weeds. What is meant by this, is that instead of the fish cruising the weed edges or barren flats, they are actually swimming or stationary inside the stalks of the weeds, in a sense of burying themselves.
This is an area that many anglers miss out on as their flasher screen, when over weeds, is filled and they can’t see anything if there are fish present. Many electronics now have a low power feature that reduces the power being sent down and in turn allows you to be able to see through the weeds and actually pinpoint the fish and how they are reacting to your baits presentation.
This keeps you catching fish on those high pressured lakes or also when the weather changes are happening that is pushing the fish into these weeds. This does take some practice to understanding what you are looking at, but once you have that figured out, you just opened a whole new area for catching fish.
So with the Eye-Dropper, you are able to attract fish from a distance, then finesse them into biting. You are able to go into the weeds, where many others aren’t, and offer those fish this flash presentation which they are fairly un-pressured. With the blade being weighted, it allows you to quickly getting your bait back into the fish and this in turn keeps them in the area longer before they move on.
Getting Started in Bass Fishing
Today we will be discussing some topics on how to get started in bass fishing. Things that we will be covering today will be rod/reel combo, spincast versus spinning, basic terminal tackle that will be needed and some basic lures that will catch you fish. Then we will move into what lures to use at different times of the year, and then finally, we will look at locations to find bass and which lures to use in these situations.
As always, we need to be careful with the equipment we use and be very careful with the hooks, as they are very sharp. One last thing is, handling the fish you catch very gently, as we don’t want to harm them and we want them to go back to their home as they left it.
To start with, let’s take a look at the rod/reel combo that you will want to look at using. Chances are that a number of you may already have a setup, but we will cover this quickly.
Let’s take a look at the Spincast combo first. There are a number of different models and brands on the market, and Zebco puts out a very good combo with the Zebco Platinum 33. This combination is a great starting setup and the spincast reels are the easiest of all the reels to use. A couple features of this combo are that it comes filled with line and the rod breaks into 2 pieces that will allow you to put it into a backpack. It is a quality combo that doesn’t cost a lot of money and will last you a long time.
The other combo that you will see is the spinning reel combo. These will come the same way as the spincast combo, but are a little more difficult to use, until you get use to them. Spinning reels will give you better casting distance and allow you to cast lighter lures as well. The key to casting spinning gear is getting the relationship between the line and your finger as to when to release the line to make the cast. Once you get this action down, it will come as second nature and you won’t have to even think about it.
Think about what you want for a combo, get that combo and then it comes down to practice. A great way to practice is to tie on a casting plug and cast it in the backyard. Put a target out and practice casting to it from different distances and you will be amazed how good you get after doing some practice.
Now that we have the most important part of the equipment covered we will move onto the terminal tackle that we will need to get started. There are only a couple of key components to the terminal tackle that will be needed, hooks and weights. For the hooks I would stay with an EWG size 1, 1/0 or 2/0 for most applications starting out. For now, these sizes are more than adequate for the sizes of the soft plastics that we will be putting on them.
As for the weights, we will stay with a small assortment as well. Let’s use the 1/8 and ¼ ounce size, as these two weights will cover most situations that you will be fishing. If you are fishing from shore than we will be using the 1/8 ounce size or no weight at all and I will discuss this a little later. As for what the weight is made out of, try and get weights that are not made from lead, use brass or Ultra Steel as an alternative. There are more and more states that are not allowing you to use lead any more so we might as well try using these alternatives and this is helping the environment as well.
Now that we covered the basic terminal tackle, let’s take a look at some of the basic lures that you can use for your bass fishing. To go with the previous terminal tackle we can use 4 to 5 inch plastic worms or other plastic baits. These are a great all around bait and can be fished in and around anything. You can also fish these worms without a weight and catch many fish in the shallow water. Color selection usually is good in either black, junebug or a pumpkin/chartreuse pattern. These worms can be fished either in shallow or deep water, can be fished in the weeds and also around docks along the shoreline. This is a great bait that you can take wherever you fish and be able to use it in any type of cover that you come to as you are fishing and catch many fish with them.
The plastic worm is a slower type of bait to fish with and now let’s move onto some of the baits that we can fish at a faster pace, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwater. For the spinnerbaits we should look at the 1/8 and ¼ once size and for the colors stick with the all white or white/chartreuse combination.
This bait will allow you to fish it at any depth that you want. If you were to pick a bait to be your only choice, the spinnerbait would be it. We are able to fish this in any situation that you will be faced with. This bait can be fished fast, medium and slow and also as a topwater bait, allowing you to cover varying depths from topwater, to a few feet down to slowly along the bottom. It can be fished in a wide variety of structure and cover, such as wood, weeds, rocks and sandy areas. This is a very universal bait and a must have bait that every bass angler should have.
We will now look at some diving baits that are called crankbaits. These are a very fun bait to fish with and will catch some big fish as well. For this discussion we will concentrate on lipless crankbaits as they are able to be fished similar to the spinnerbait, in a variety of areas and cover.
The nice thing about lipless crankbaits is they draw a number of fish to them and also you are able to cover a lot of water with them. They can be fished from shore and from a boat and with the weight of these, at a ¼ ounce, you will be able to cast them very long distances. These baits are at their best if they are fished where weeds are present. Just reel the bait fast enough so that you can feel it hitting the weeds. If it gets hung up or stuck in some weeds, give it a good jerk and a lot of times, a fish will grab it at this time.
Some of the most exciting types of bass fishing will be when you are fishing with a topwater lure. Topwater lures float on the surface of the water and when you move it with your rod, it moves side to side looking like an injured minnow and this action will drive bass crazy. After casting it out, let it sit momentarily before moving it. Move it slowly so that it moves from side to side, and then let it sit for a moment. After sitting for a little while, move it again and continue this routine all the way back to the boat or shore. The exciting thing about topwater’s are, you never know when the fish is going to strike and when they do, it is the most exciting way to catch fish.
Now that we are set with our equipment and some basic tackle, we will begin discussing which of these lures work in which seasons of the year, spring, summer or fall. We will start with spring which will have different times for certain baits as where to look for the fish. Before the fish come into the shallows to spawn, they will be in the 8-15 foot range of water waiting for the shallows to warm up. To cover this depth range, try fishing the lipless crankbait or a weighted plastic worm. As the water warms and they move up to spawn in the shallow water, try a topwater, weightless worm, spinnerbait and a shallow running lipless crankbait. The lipless crankbait works very well at this time. Then finally after they leave the shallows and head back towards deeper water where they were before going shallow, try the same lures that you used before they moved into the shallow water.
After they have left the spawning shallow areas and moved out to their summer areas, let’s take a look at lure selections for this scenario. As the water starts to warm or get hot, the fish will move out to areas that are in deeper water. They will move to shallow water areas in the morning and evening to feed, and the earlier shallow lures will work for this. But during the day, they will be in deep water and these following lures will work for these fish. Summer is the prime time for the topwater baits that you have. If you are fishing deep weeds, the weighted plastic worms, spinnerbaits and the lipless crankbait are all good choices and should be used. Try all of your baits you have and when you start catching fish on a certain bait; you will know what they want for that day.
As fall starts approaching, bass will start their migration back towards the shallow water again to feed heavily again for the long winter ahead. The water is cooling and the baitfish are hanging along the shoreline where the water is warmer and more comfortable. The fish are looking for a fast meal and fishing the faster baits are going to produce many fish. Spinnerbaits reeled fast and slow will draw a number of strikes and always make some casts with these. The lipless crankbait will allow you to cover a lot of water and it will also catch you some very big fish. Plastic worms weighted and un-weighted will work very well as well and try and target objects in the water with the worms. Fall time can be some of the best fishing you will experience, but there will also be days that you won’t get a bite no matter what you try. Keep trying as hard as you can and you will be rewarded after all of your hard work.
As with any fishing, try some different lures where you wouldn’t normally fish them and you may be surprised in what you catch. This leads us to our last area and that will be where and what to look for on the water that will attract fish to certain areas. The structure that draws most bass will probably be in the shallow water and docks are the most visible targets to start at. Not all docks are the same and let’s take a look at the better docks to fish. A dock that is very close to the water is much better than one that is high off the water. Also, if there are boats tied to the docks or boat lifts on the sides of the docks, these are going to hold fish very well. Fishing with a weighted or weightless worm is going to be very effective here and catch numbers as well.
Now that we have looked at the most obvious piece of structure, lets take a look at some others. While fishing along the shoreline look for rocks or trees the have fallen into the water and these areas normally hold numbers of fish. Always fish all the way around the trees or brush in the water and using a weightless worm, weighted worm or the spinnerbait, cast into the shadows of the objects in the water. If you catch a good fish off of any of these, you can go back to them at another time and usually a fish of similar size will be there again. Always fish anything that looks like it shouldn’t be there and chances are there will be a fish there.
Let’s take a final look at an area to fish and that will be an area that looks like a field that consists of lily pads. Lily pads are like bass magnets and any lake that has these will also have fish there. These areas are good in the spring as well as the heat of the summer and also going into fall. Lily pads offer baitfish places to hide and a bass knows this and will also be there. There are plenty of places that bass will be able to ambush prey and with the overhead cover, gives them a feeling of security and a great place for you to fish. Spinnerbaits work very well on the outside edges and also any of the bigger open pockets in the pad field. But a weighted or weightless worm really shines here as you are able to cover the surface as well as in the roots of the pads. Always fish the pads whenever you see them as there are fish there.
Hopefully this will get you started on the road to becoming a bass fisher KID and this will give you some hints as to how to put fish into the boat. We have covered a lot over this discussion and hopefully I have showed you some things that will help you locate and catch fish. If there is an area that you are uncertain of, please post that here and I will be more than happy to get that information for you. We here at Catch-N KIDS are here for you to teach you whatever you need to know about the outdoors and all you need to do is ask.
Plastics, are They all the Same
When people think of bass fishing baits, there is always one that comes to mind in every angler's arsenal, the plastic bait. When walking into a tackle store and you stroll over to the section that has the wide array of plastic baits hanging there, an angler can be overwhelmed by all of the selections. This angler used to do that and never could decide which brand to go to and they would never have the bait that I would be looking for.
Since those days I have gotten away from the tackle store selections and to another bait manufacturer that I feel produce the best plastics for the money. This company is BearPaws Hand Poured Baits and I have been associated with them for the last few years and their plastic baits are the only ones that are fished in my boat. Do these baits produce more fish than other baits, they all have their time and place but what these baits offer is something different from the run of the mill plastic bait.
Most plastic baits are mass produced and the plastic material can be a little harder than I like. BearPaws Baits are all hand poured with the best plastic materials and when these are hand poured they are much softer to the touch. When a fish picks these baits up that softness alerts the fish that this feels lifelike and they will hold on longer for that hookset. Being these are hand poured there is a natural floatation in each bait that when rigged on a hook or jig, the tail will float up making the bait look as if they were feeding along the bottom similar to a baitfish.
Another feature that you won't find anywhere else is that these baits are also poured with the MegaStrike Formula, which is fortified in each of the bait’s produced and if you are familiar with fish attractants, MegaStrike is an advanced formula that was developed with the Amino Acids that fish look for in their prey. So with the hand poured and the MegaStrike in these baits, the fish that pick these up will hold onto these baits a little longer than normal plastic baits.
BearPaws Baits are offering a number of bait variations numbering around 30 variations to allow the angler to meet whatever situation or bait they are looking for. One other feature that is being offered these days as well is the bait's fall rate through the water column. There are three varieties that you can choose from: floating, slow fall and a faster fall rate. This is another advantage that you are not going to find on the over the counter baits. Color selection is second to none with over a 100 available and if the color that you are looking for is not there, let BearPaw know and they will developed that color you seek.
Aside from BearPaws Baits plastic selection they also offer a hook selection to match with their product list. Another new item that has come out is their Jighead Lineup that has the screw lock feature molded into the head to help secure your bait to the jig itself. These jigs are offered in a wide variety of colors as well and are a nice addition to the BearPaws Baits.
I have been using these for at least 3 seasons now and only fish with the BearPaws Baits. The softness, the wide array of styles, color selection second to none and an attractant embedded into each bait, BearPaws Baits have a bait for any and all anglers out there fishing in my opinion. You can check these baits out at www.bearpawshandpouredbaits.com and see for yourself.
Gearing up for Hard Water
Many anglers don’t look forward to when their open water season is coming to an end. This means that they need to put all of their fishing gear away for a number of months, and also getting the boat winterized and getting that ready for the long winter season ahead.
For those anglers that hang up their fishing when the water turns hard, they are the ones that are missing out on some of the best times to be on the water hard or soft. Hard wate r fishing in my eyes is much easier to get ready for as the equipment is more compact and easier to travel with.
Hard water fishing is much more exhilarating as the physical work that is involved is much more rewarding when fish location is achieved. The solitude of the frozen waters and the coolness of the cool crisp days really get an anglers blood pumping once the hard water season comes around.
The trips that are enjoyed the most are the ones that the ice is not as easy to get to as the adventure getting there is half of the fun. Dragging the house or sled full of gear through the fresh snow and woods is something that all anglers should experience at least once. Many anglers think that the weather is to cold but dressing in layers offsets that cold feeling, but one gets use to it the more that you go.
Getting up at the crack of dawn and stepping out into the frigid cool air, really gives the lungs a shock, but a good shock at that. The numbing of the fingers while drilling those holes through the ice makes most folks look and think that we may be a little strange. But as we enjoy our times out on the hard water, while others mock, there aren’t any other times to be on the water compared to the fishing of the hard water season.
I find that the hard water fishing allows me to have minimal equipment that I am able to carry all of it in a small sled. Equipment consists of an Auger, Skimmer, Flasher, Rods/Reels and some tackle pending the species you are seeking. I am able to keep all of my gear in the sled in the back of the truck, so that I am able to stop and fish at any time.
To get the full enjoyment of being out in the cold on the ice your clothing is one of the most important pieces of equipment. There are getting to be more and more companies coming out with ice fishing clothing that it is making it easier to stay on the ice much longer. There is a company that has come out with what they call Arctic Armor and is produced by “idi Gear”. There is a built in feature that if you were to fall through the ice, this suit will keep you afloat to allow you to get yourself out of the frigid water. I am looking at this suit and plan on purchasing this as our ice here in New England can be very unpredictable early and late in the season.
As for equipment in the auger stage, power or hand, the most important thing is to make sure that you are using sharp blades. Sharp blades will cut the ice so much easier and will be easier on the motor as well as your arms for the hand version. If the blades are not sharp it will take longer to cut the ice and you will have to work so much harder to get the holes drilled. Blades are inexpensive and pending on how much you use them, they should last you a season or more.
For the electronics a vital component is the battery and should be checked to see the condition and age of it. If it doesn’t seem to be holding a good charge, then it is time to replace it. If the battery isn’t functioning to what it is suppose to be doing, this will in turn affect the signal that the flasher is trying to get. There is nothing worse then being on the ice and the battery starts acting up as this could really put a damper on your day on the ice.
For rod/reel equipment the line is a vital component that should be replaced before the ice season even starts. Ice will do a lot of damage to the fishing line and if your reels still have last year’s line on them, make sure to change that out. A good lubing of the reels is always a good maintenance thing to do as the cold temperatures make the reels fish differently compared to the warm summer days.
These are a few of the key items that should always be looked at before the hard water season gets here. Ice fishing is not that complex of a sport and with a little hard work, good electronics and some determination to find fish; this can turn out to be the best time on the lake. I will never say that ice fishing is easy but there are days that you only have to drill a few holes and that is all that is needed. But then there are the other days when 60 holes are needed to locate fish.
This is where the determination comes into play and if you really want to get the fullest experience, you need to just get out there. Once you have been bitten by the ice fishing bug, there is no other season that compares to sitting out there on the hard water. When we get to this time of year, I know that I get very anxious for the upcoming hard water and you should be to.
Old Reliable...the JigWorm
One of the oldest techniques that catch numbers of fish is fading into memory. But the anglers that remember the jigworm know that it catches fish. The jigworm is probably the lure of choice when anglers start out fishing and it can be used with a wide variety of plastic and live-baits.
With live-bait, you can use any bait of choice and numbers of people will use the roundhead jig for this bait setup. The live-baits of choice will be minnow, leeches and crawlers and these combinations are deadly on a variety of different fish. If you use live-bait you may want to look into this, as it is very effective.
What we will concentrate on is the plastic jigworm combination. The jigworm is finesse approach to fishing and can be fished in different areas with different retrieves. We will look at some rigging techniques, types of retrieves and look at area’s that we would fish the jigworm in. if you haven’t fished the jigworm much lately or maybe not all, this will be another technique that you will want to have rigged at all times.
The two main ways of rigging the jigworm will be weedless and exposed hook. A wide array of plastic baits can be used for the jigworm, worms, lizards, grubs, creature baits or any others that are out there. Below are pictures of the weedless and exposed hook jigworm and the key to these riggings always comes to keeping the plastics as straight as possible. One other key is to use a jig with the minimal weight that you can get away with. 1/16 or 1/8 ounce are usually the norm with this approach, but if you are fishing deep water you may have to go to the ¼ ounce.
The way that a majority of people fish the jigworm would be to cast it out and let it sink to the bottom. Always pay attention to your line as a number of times the fish will hit the bait before it hits the bottom and you will see your line jump a little. Once the bait is on the bottom, you can jiggle the rod tip a little to get the bait to dance a little to try and entice a curious fish to hit.
Bringing it back to the boat try using short hops and pauses between each hop. If the fish are aggressive, they will hit it right away, but if not aggressive, you may have to let it sit for a period of time and also shake the rod tip a little as well. Always retrieve all the way back to the boat as a fish that is not in the feeding mood, may follow the bait all the way back and strike at the last minute.
Depending on if you are fishing in weeds or fairly barren bottom, this will determine if you fish with the jigworm weedless or exposed hook. Either of these areas is going to hold fish and fishing the weed edges is the top producer of the jigworm. I find that fishing a light weighted weedless jigworm in the thickest weeds produces numbers of fish and good sizes as well. These fish are not targeted by numbers of anglers and may be the ticket for you on those tough days.
Jigworms can be fished in all cover and structure and what this bait mimics is a baitfish feeding along the bottom. Weeds are the cover of choice but other cover areas are productive as well. Laydowns and stumps are areas that you can fish the jigworm very well through just make sure to use the weedless version. Rocks and gravel are areas to try as well and you may be able to use the exposed version in these areas.
Many people started fishing with the jigworm and as they acquired other skills along the way, they seem to forget about it. The jigworm is a technique that is going to produce fish when times get tough. You are also able to switch the plastic bait to something else fairly quickly and you are fishing once again. If you haven’t tried the jigworm or haven’t used it lately, tie one on and you may never take it off and forget about it again.
Understanding Modern Materials
Waders can be made of any waterproof material, from rubber to waxed canvas, but the most popular and common choices you will see are either neoprene or lightweight, breathable fabrics such as GoreTex. You may see other outdated materials on sale in discount bins or at thrift stores, but you are better off spending the money on more modern and durable materials.
Neoprene has been a top choice for wader materials since the 1970s and still has its following. Neoprene waders are lightweight, flexible, and – best of all – warm. For anglers who fish in cold weather, it’s hard to beat neoprene. They are also typically much less expensive than breathable waders. Neoprene comes in different thicknesses, from 2 mm up to 7 mm. The thicker the material, the warmer it will keep you. However, be aware that thicker neoprene is bulkier and less flexible. One disadvantage is that the material tends to degrade over time and become brittle, decreasing the useful life of the wader.
GoreTex, Toray, or other fabrics marketed as being waterproof and breathable are becoming the most popular option for fishing waders, and for good reason: they keep the water out while simultaneously allowing sweat and moisture to pass through. This attribute makes breathable waders extremely versatile. Like modern ski clothing, you can simply add or remove layers underneath to stay as warm or as cool as you like. You will often see breathable waders marketed in different thicknesses. However, with breathable waders, the thickness is measured in terms of layers and has more to do with the durability of the material than warmth. Five-layer Gore-Tex is thicker and more durable than three-layer, so it is important to take material thickness into account when selecting a pair of breathables. You will often see waders in this style with more layers on the lower legs and less layers on the chest since the lower portion of the wader is the most likely area subjected to wear and tear. It is also important to pay attention to the fabric itself, which is typically a heavy nylon. Higher end waders will be made of thick, heavy-duty nylon while cheap waders consist of paper-thin nylon that is prone to tearing.
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Early Morning Dock Bluegills
Middle of summer, the waters are getting very warm and this is having the fish moving and changing their locations throughout the day. For the fish size, finding the areas that the bigger fish are relating to is that key to the puzzle.
The smaller fish seem to relate to the shallower waters and can be seen as you are walking along the shorelines. But those bigger gills, what may they be relating to since we aren’t visually seeing them with some regularity.
One place that we are finding those fish is in, under and around the docks. Especially, first thing in the early morning before the sun comes up over them and also, before there is any activity to disturbing them and moving them away and back to the deeper waters.
One approach that has been working very well is fishing with the Northland Tungsten UV Fire-Ball Jig that is tipped with an Impulse Water Flea that is positioned 12-18 inches below a float. With the heavier tungsten jig, the bait gets back to the fish quickly and also, any little movement of the float, the jig moves as well keeping the bait moving and making it more visible to the local fish.
Target areas around the docks that have been working are inside corners, around any of the ladders or other things hanging in the water, slowly working the bait down the length of the dock and also there can be schools of these fish hanging off the ends away from the dock 5-10 feet away.
One nice thing about these bigger bluegill is that they will tell you very quickly if they are using a said dock, as they will bite fairly quickly after casting the bait out. After casting, letting the rings in the water dissipate, slowly retrieve your bait back until you find the spot that these fish are using.
Using light line, 3-4 pound test, and ultra-lite rods, those 8-10 inch gills will make the battle feel like you have hooked a monster. This is, kind of old school fishing, that we all grew up with and understanding when and why the fish use certain areas at certain times of the day, this will make your trip to the water that much more productive. Get up early and enjoy some good fishing before the hustle and bustle of the day gets started.
Prime Fall Time Fishing
Many anglers enjoy fishing throughout the summer months and one can’t blame them as the weather is so much more tolerable as opposed to either the spring or fall. But to those that put their boats and equipment away after the Labor Day weekend holiday; these anglers are the ones that are missing the best part of the year for catching quality fish.
As the temperatures are getting cooler with everyday that passes, this will take the temperature of the lake down with it as well. Taking the waters from around 80 degrees down into the low 60’s, this is like a trigger that is being pulled as the fish know that it is time to put the feed bag on and start putting some weight on them before the long winter ahead.
Many fish go into somewhat of a dormant stage in the northern part of the country throughout the winter months. So for them to be able to handle those long northern winters they need to put on more weight so that they will be able to draw from that as each day of the cold season passes. So to put on this extra weight that they will need, these fish are eating and chasing everything in sight.
For the angler that knows about this little tidbit, days on the water can be very fruitful as well and rewarding by putting up with a little cool temp. For the most part if you were to venture out onto the lake, you probably will be the only angler out there. When do you get the chance to fish and not have to worry if someone is on your spot or the water skiers are flying around the lake or the jet skiers are being a nuisance?
For the months of September, October, November and possibly part of December, I am able to fish open water and catch some very nice fish. Of course there are going to be days that I am out there and not get a bite no matter what I try, but that is part of fall fishing. But then there are other days that I am out there and the fish are on fire and big fish are biting very well and a possible trophy will hit your bait and that will make your day.
One thing that is nice about the fall fishing is that you don’t need to get up in the wee hours of the morning to get on the lake at sunrise. At least I find the fishing is better in the afternoon as the water warms a little from the sun if the sun is out. On those cloudy days that we see so frequently in the fall then it pretty much doesn’t matter what time of the day you are fishing.
The key for fall fishing to be successful is to find areas in the lake that offer green weeds that haven’t died off from the cooler water temps. Finding these areas is fairly critical and once these areas are found, there is a tendency that the fish are going to frequent these areas much more and also they are in schools more in the fall and this offers you more fish to catch.
Good ways to find these green weeds is to fish with either a crankbait or a spinnerbait and as long as you are hitting the weeds with these baits, the fish are going to grab them. Pay attention to the weeds that are stuck to these baits as this will give you an idea as to what fish are relating to so that when you are exploring other areas of the lake, you will know what the productive vegetation is.
The crankbait and spinnerbait are two of the top choices for fall fishing as these can be moved quickly through the water and also cover a lot of water as well. The name of the game in the fall is to cover as much water as possible and once you hit a school of fish, then slow down a little with these baits and cover that area very well as chances are you are going to catch a number of fish from that spot.
Fish in the fall are looking for big meals and by offering them big baits this is more than enticing for them to chase and eat. Fish these baits throughout all of the green weeds that you can find and keep on moving to be able to cover a lot of water as the fish are more concentrated in the fall. Make sure that you hit the weeds or actually crank these baits right through the weeds as these fish maybe stacked in there very thick.
Weedlines are some of the most productive areas to search and by watching your electronics, and using your trolling motor, just follow that weedline like you do a road that you are driving. Any time that you find an irregular feature in a weedline, make sure to concentrate on that area as these little differences makes a load of difference in catching fish or not catching fish.
There are weedlines that I fish that I know when I get to a certain spot there is a hook in the line or a turn and every time that I fish an area like this, you always catch a couple from there. When you understand what your electronics are telling you this makes you such a better angler and allows you to dissect the homes of these fish that are missed by many anglers that will go right on past these prime areas.
Another technique that I find fairly productive in the fall is fishing jigs in and around docks. Docks absorb heat from the sun on these cooling fall days and that gets transferred into the waters below. These waters that are a little warmer than surrounding waters attracts baitfish which in turn attracts predator fish as well. Jigs or weightless plastics are good choices for fishing around the remaining docks as the days go by more docks are taken out of the water for the winter months.
Make sure to fish a dock very thoroughly from as many different angles as you can possibly cast at that dock. Also work the dock all the way from the shore out to the end of the dock as the fish can be anywhere’s along that structure. Get a lot of practice at skipping the bait under the dock as there are also fish buried deep under the heaviest parts of a dock that should not be overlooked.
When moving from one dock to another dock there is that area in between docks that many anglers usually don’t fish. Most anglers turn the trolling motor on high and get over to the next dock before making the next cast. Be a little different and make some casts out into deeper water as fish in the fall can be spread out anywhere and you can’t catch a fish if the bait is not in the water.
The name of the game for fall fishing is finding green weeds and also fishing some of the remaining structure that is still in the lake. Keep those baits in the water at all times because you don’t know when that next bite is going to happen. Also, keep yourself on the move at all times until you find an area that you feel has a school of fish there.
Covering water is key to successful fall fishing and by using baits that cover a lot of water this will keep you in more action more days than not. Fall can and will be a tough time to fish certain days, but those days that you hit that jackpot, you will definitely be thankful that you are out there. Spring is the only other time of year to get these big fish on your hook and more times than not when you catch a fish, take a look at their belly as they probably have an engorged stomach from all of the baitfish they have already caught.
I enjoy fishing in the fall with no one else out there and I feel that the lake is mine. Many of my biggest fish have been caught in the fall and I definitely look forward to fall fishing. Sure you have to bundle up on those days when it is around the freezing temperatures, but when you feel that tug on the line, it feels like summer out there once again. If you haven’t experienced fall fishing, definitely make it a point this fall to get out there and catch some fish.
We still have quite sometime before the ice forms on our favorite lake, so why not wet a line, catch a trophy, and brag it up to your buddies that are at home watching the football game while you are rippin’ some lips.
Enjoy what Mother Nature has offered you and live life to the fullest. Enjoy the outdoors and make some memories as you never know what is in store for your life.
Deep Water Bassin, Carolina Style
Any bass angler out there knows that if they want to catch bass that they can go and pound the shoreline and put a decent limit together. By hitting wood, rocks and docks along the shoreline this will and does put fish in the boat and at certain times nice ones at that. But what if you would like to upgrade those sizes of fish to larger sized that may be a little more consistent than the bank runners.
Instead of facing the shoreline take a step back and turn around and tell me what you see. There is a vast amount of water out there and it is very intimidating to a number of anglers that their comments will be “where do I start”. Fishing deep water for bass isn’t really that much different if you sit down with a good map and plan out your attack and you will quickly find that it is very similar to what you were doing along the shoreline.
When fishing shoreline you are fishing targets along that shoreline and when you turn to deep water, it is very similar. We don’t just go out there into deep water and start casting at will but will concentrate on features and objects that we will locate with the maps and electronics that we have. Things that are concentrated on in deep water are humps, grass beds, ridges, or anything that is a little different that breaks up the bottom content either structurally or depth wise.
The depth of deep water means different things to every angler and body of water that you fish and this is what we consider deep water. Normally I fish depths from 8 to 12 feet of water and will fish sunken islands down to the 25 foot depths as well. There is a lake that I fish in central New Hampshire that is fished down to 40 feet of water in grassbeds in our search of smallmouth bass but this is a very clear lake as well.
Now that we have the deep water somewhat defined, the approach that we use the most often for fishing this deep water is using the Carolina rig. The Carolina rig allows me to cover vast amounts of water and by doing this it is also exposing my bait to more fish. The Carolina rig is a plastic bait technique that requires a few components to build this up. The components consist of a weight, followed by 2 glass beads, followed by a swivel tied to the line. Next we tie another piece of fishing line with a 3/0 to 4/0 hook tied to this tag end.
Main fishing line is usually 10-12 pound test with the tag leader of 8 pound test. The 8 pound test allows the bait to move more freely through the water and more natural looking. The length of the tag leader varies from 12-36 inches long and the bottom content dictates this length variety. Shorter leaders are better for working the bait through thicker weeds while longer leaders are great for sparse weeds or no weeds at all. Weight wise down to 20-25 feet of water use a ¼ oz sinker unless it is extremely windy then maybe a 5/16 oz. For 35 feet and more typically a ½ oz weight is sufficient and this in only needed to be able to get to those depths much more quickly and to keep you more in contact with your bait.
Now that the depths are covered as well as the technique, let’s take a look at the approach that works well for us. Typically anglers are afraid to throw the Carolina rig into weeds and that is the first thing that you will need to get away from. After you have fished in the weeds for a while you will understand how to work the rig through the weeds and also learn the differences in the feel between weeds and a fish biting. There may be times that you get hung up and lose some tackle but the fish that you are going to catch will definitely make up for that.
Once we have looked at our maps and found some promising looking areas, sunken islands, ridges, irregular bottom contours as well as different bottom content, weeds are what we are looking for in these areas. Not so much the thickest weeds that are there, but at times that is what we are looking for, but more of the edge and what is going on at the weed edge.
More of an explanation here: weeds only grow so deep and depending on how far the sunlight goes down determines how deep the weeds and edges are. The areas that I am looking for are where the thick weed edges end and from there out into the deeper waters. The tops of the structure areas will have thick weeds that if fished slowly with the Carolina rig you will be able to get through them. But where the heavy edges end, this is our high percentage area.
What we are talking about is that there is always a weed edge or front line and fish use these heavier weeds as ambush areas. But from this front edge out into deeper water the weeds themselves get thinner as the water gets deeper and bigger fish use this zone in their search for food. This is what is called a transition area and baitfish use transition areas all the time in their movements and feeding. The bigger dominant fish in the area know this as well and are positioned or are cruising this transition area ritually searching for prey. These transition areas will have smaller and sparser weeds here and you will definitely feel this with your bait as you are working it through.
So how do I get setup to fish this type of structure area from the boat? Typically find where the edge of a specific piece of structure is and where that drops off into the deeper surrounding water. Position the boat back more on top of the structure so that the sparse edges are out in front of you and not under you. Anchoring will help immensely if there is wind or also if you find an area that is holding numbers of fish.
With the boat positioned on top of a so called hump, cast your Carolina rig out into the deeper water. Let it fall to the bottom before doing anything else and then your concentration level will need to strengthen. Move the rig only about 6 inches at a time back towards the boat, as the slowness of fishing this is the key to your success. You probably won’t feel anything transmitted through your fishing rod at this point, but as you work the bait back towards the boat you will feel that first contact with those outer sparse weeds.
At this point you really need to start focusing on what your line and fishing rod are telling you and this will give you an idea as to how much sparse weeds are there and where the thicker weed edge is starting. Also be ready at all times as in this transition area the fish are cruising and will be picking your bait up at any time. What is happening here is that fish position themselves in these locations as they know that the prey are coming out of the deeper water to find food and cover.
After you have worked through that transition area you will still need to get the bait through the thicker weed edge and top as well. Slowly work your bait through these thicker weeds as well all the way back to the boat because until you get an idea as to how the fish are using these areas, a bite can come at any time. You will definitely start feeling and understanding the differences between weeds and a fish biting and won’t be long and the fish are going to be caught as well.
Many anglers are not going to be fishing these depths of waters and if you can get your confidence levels to work to your advantage in these situations, you have opened up a whole new area of fishing possibilities. This is a technique that I have been employing for a number of years and the size of the fish are much more to my liking. One thing though, is your numbers of fish will probably go down and if you like numbers this may not be for you. But if you don’t mind not getting the numbers but rather quality is more to your liking, then you definitely want to give this a try.
Once you have the feel for this approach, you will be able to take this into different areas of a particular body of water and search out similar type of structures there as well. Some of these remote deeper areas are very under fished as well as some of these fish may have never seen a bait in their life. The best structures and areas are going to harbor the biggest fish and after using this for a while, you will understand these areas and will be able to be more consistent in your size of fish caught going forward.
Choosing the Right Fly Fishing Outfit
Charlie Robinton (Charlie Robinton has loved fly fishing since he was 10 years old. He turned his passion for fishing and the outdoors into a career as a fly fishing writer and instructor.)
When choosing a new fly fishing setup, today’s angler is faced with a multitude of options, and the choices are enough to make a neophyte’s head spin. This article will explain the most important factors to consider when looking at different rods, reels, and fly lines, as well as how to match them together to create an outfit that meets each angler's specific needs.