CRAFTING A NIGHT FISHING TRIP   Leave a comment

Night Bass 0001

Regardless of the species sought, catching fish at night takes some changes in tactics as well as special care for safety.  If you have the energy to stay up late you just might find some of the best angling of your life.

The first quarter moon phase seems to be a good time to go fishing.  There is something about this first night light that tells fish to feed, feed and feed.  Shy daytime fish seem to become awesome predators in the dimness of darkness.  Some anglers believe that warm water temperatures raise the fish’s metabolism requiring it to eat more.

Clear water conditions are a plus.  Water temperatures cool at night.  Fish are more active in warmer water but oxygen depletion in the hot water becomes a factor.  The dissolved oxygen levels peak toward the end of day, making fish more active.

The night makes forage fish more active.  The free-roaming bait fish move to the surface to feed on micro-organisms that seek the fading light.  The swarm of insects that emerge at night and rest on the surface also draws small fish.  This creates a smorgasbord for the predator species.  For the efficient predator fish the cooler water of nighttime is less stressful and food is easier to find.

Night feeding fish take just about any bait one can use during the day light hours.  However, fishing those baits can be a bit of a challenge.

During the day, one can see the underwater structure and weed beds.  At night one has to rely on feel to find those same locations.  The angler must try to imagine the shape and size of every piece of structure on the bottom by the way it feels when the lure strikes it.  Total concentration is important.

When one can tell the difference between a stump and brush, between weeds and wood, and exactly what size rocks the lure is hitting, he is a night fisherman.

Humps are good locations for night feeding bass and other predators.  These unconnected points are like submerged islands.  Ones close to deep water are prime locations.  Crankbaits and Carolina-rigged plastics work well on humps.  The best way to work them is from the top down.  If there is no action doing this, then position the boat on top of the hump and fish from the bottom up.

Night fishing is also slow fishing.  This means very slowly.  To most anglers, slow fishing is still faster than most of the pros fish crankbaits and spinner baits.  That is fast!  Most anglers try to set the hook the instant they feel a bite.  In night fishing patience is important.  Give the fish a chance to really grab hold and stretch the line.

Rhythm is also important.  The angler covers more water if he can forget the fancy twitch-and-jerk retrieves.  Make effective use of those fan casts to cover all areas around the boat.

Safety is vital in night fishing.  Get started before it gets dark.  This allows your eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Doctors report it takes about 15 minutes for eyes to adjust to dark after exposure to bright light.

Running and anchor lights are important.  They must be visible from 360-degrees unless docked.  Spotlights are not a must but they are helpful in navigation.  Wear a Personal Flotation Device (pfd).  Your sense of balance is impaired in the dark as is your vision.  It is easy to trip over a rod, tackle box or some other object in the boat and fall overboard.

To minimize risk take only 2 or 3 rods for the technique you plan to use.  Take only baits you will need for the trip.  Have both the rods and baits organized so you know where they are located.  Keep as few things as possible on the deck to minimize risk.

Predator fish are feeding machines.  They will feed whenever they can.  During the hot summer they are most comfortable at night.  Next to air conditioned lakes, night fishing is the only way to go during the apex of summer.  Give it a try.

 

PREVENT BOAT THEFT   Leave a comment

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Boats, trailers and related gear are susceptible to theft.  It can be as simple as tire theft from the trailer or as complicated as stealing an engine or boat.  The key to theft prevention is to make it so difficult that the thief goes elsewhere.  He is after all the kind of person that does not want to work for his money or else he would not be a thief.

The greatest threat to your property does not come from professionals but rather from the joker looking to pick up some quick cash.  He most likely works alone.

Ways to put off the casual thief all have similar elements.  Make visibility, time and noise work against him.  These simple measures do not cost a lot and in many ways they are simple common sense.

Begin by storing your boat and trailer in a rented space at a commercial storage facility or leave it in a locked garage.  If these two options are not available try to keep it out of sight.  Since most thieves are opportunists they will find other boats to steal if yours is not in sight.

When stored or otherwise not attached to your tow vehicle keep your boat and/or trailer with a lock on it that completely covers the coupler cavity.  It he cannot hitch up to it, it is not possible to tow it away.

Along the same line, it is important to disable the trailer completely.  Remove one or both wheels and raise the wheel less axles.  You can also thread a cable or chain through the wheel rims and around the axels.  Then lock the two ends together.

On the road never leave your trailered boat unguarded.  Not even for a fast coffee break or fuel stop.  No matter how deserted the location there is a chance of an opportunist thief spotting it.  He will take advantage of a chance to make a quick buck stealing your equipment.

When the trailer is attached to a tow vehicle it is important to lock the trailer coupler to the hitch ball.  You can tack weld the threads on the tip of the hitch ball bolt preventing the thief from removing the hitch ball and stealing the rig even with the hitch ball locked to the coupler.

Also tack weld the bolt threads that attach the coupler assembly to the trailer tongue.  It prevents anyone from removing bolts that attach the coupler assembly to the trailer tongue.

Check with your local marine supply store for locking mechanisms for boat compartments as well as to lock the motor to the gunnel.  If possible remove all tackle and other gear from the boat and store locked in your tow vehicle.  If staying overnight at a motel, park in a well-lighted area, preferably where security cameras are present.

These simple tasks make the risk of discovery too great for thieves.  It takes too much time, makes too much noise or risks someone seeing him.  The risk of discovery makes them leave and find someone who is not as careful down the road.

SOME SERIOUS TOW VEHICLE CONSIDERATIONS   Leave a comment

While shopping for a boat be sure to give serious consideration to your towing vehicle.

While shopping for a boat be sure to give serious consideration to your towing vehicle.

In purchasing a tow vehicle one needs to consider some other factors other than how big the truck is and how much weight it can pull.  There is more to towing a boat or RV than pulling it.

You need a vehicle than can handle the weight.

In purchasing a new tow vehicle one should look for features such as electronic stability control, antilock brakes and electronic brake force distribution.  These features can sense when a truck is hauling something or when it is not.  The braking dynamics of such a vehicle are different from when it is not towing or carrying a load.  They sense what is happening and make corrections faster than the driver.  They are great safety features and may prevent deaths due to driver error.

A major consideration in the purchase of a tow vehicle is the trailer weight, the weight of the gear stored in it, the weight of the passengers and the weight of the vehicle itself.

The combined weight that a truck can handle is called the gross combined weight rating and is stated on the inside panel of the truck driver’s side door.  It is the maximum amount of weight that the truck can safely handle.

Sound complicated.  You really need to sit down with someone who knows what they are doing to make sure your tow vehicle is going to be able to handle the larger boats and RVs.  There is a lot of information available on the Internet but it is always better to sit down face to face with someone who does this kind of thing every day.

Often that is a person from whom you bought the towing package.  They can sit down with you, map out how much the rig is going to end up weighing and how much you will need in a truck in terms of at least combined gross weight rating.

After the purchase it is vital that the driver perform the extra maintenance required of a vehicle used as a towing vehicle.  Check the vehicle maintenance book and look to the section on excessive use.  When you work a vehicle extra hard you need to have it serviced more often.

You probably will want the cooling system serviced a little more often.  You are also going to put a lot of stress on the transmission and other components. The transmission and drive train need servicing regularly and checked frequently.  The last thing you want is to have your transmission going out when you head up a hill.

The transmission takes the most wear and tear in towing.  Any sigh of transmission slip or maybe the fluid looks a little burned or worn need immediate attention.  It will keep your truck running longer.

These are a few of the considerations one should make in buying/operating a tow vehicle for use with a boat or recreational vehicle.  Think about it.

BOAT LAUNCHING WITH EASE   Leave a comment

Efficient launching of your boat gets you in and out of the water quickly and makes for more time enjoying your boating and fishing.

Efficient launching of your boat gets you in and out of the water quickly and makes for more time enjoying your boating and fishing.

 

At first glance, launching a boat from a trailer looks like a simple procedure.  But, anyone who has tried it knows full well that it takes some practice to back up to the ramp, drop the boat in the water and them scramble to get out of the way of the next guy.

There are three phases.  With practice you can easily master the pre-launch, launching and retrieving a boat but it does not come automatically.

Boat trailers come in a variety of configurations.  They do have some things in common.  There is a winch post and winch.  Most have fenders over the tires, and most have submergible taillights.  If the taillights are not submergible disconnect them prior to backing into the water and reconnect when taken out.

At the ramp, before you actually launch, it is a good idea to pull off to the side.  Transfer gear such as coolers, fishing tackle and safety equipment to the boat.  Make sure you have at least one Personal Floatation Device (PFD) for each person in the boat.  Later make sure everyone wears them.  Install and/or tighten drain plugs.  Check batteries.  If necessary hook up and pressurize fuel lines with a couple of pumps of the primer blub.

Next check the ramp itself.  Look at how steep it is and how deep the water.  Is the ramp slick or dry?  Is there a dock where you can tie up?  Or will you have to beach the boat after launching?

Returning to the boat, remove the tie downs.  Be sure to keep the bow winch line attached to the bow hook.  Make sure there is at least one docking line attached so that the boat is controllable once it is afloat.  Two lines are better as they afford better control over the boat once it is in the water.

Before launching, raise the motor so that the prop and lower unit will have ample clearance as you back down the ramp.

Phase two is the actual launch.  It is best to allow the most experienced person in your group to back the trailer down the ramp.  It can avoid damage to the boat and/or trailer from unseen obstacles.  On a multilane ramp, be sure to remain in your lane.

Backing up is easy if you just place one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and look in your mirrors.  Then as you back you move your hand (and the wheel) in the direction you want the trailer to travel.

Back down until the front of your trailer fender is even with the surface of the water.  On very flat ramps you may need to back it in further on steep ramps not so far.  The type of boat can also make a difference on how far you need to back into the water.

Once in position, set the parking brake on your vehicle.  Grasp the winch handle before you release the ratchet mechanism.  You may need to give the boat a push.  If it still will not move out into the water, then re-lock the winch and back up the trailer a little further.  Then repeat the procedure.

Some boaters can use the motor to power the boat off the trailer.  If you do so make sure there is enough clearance for the prop to clear the bottom of the water.  The intakes of the motor must be below the surface to avoid damage.

Once the boat is afloat tie it off to the dock.  Remove your vehicle and trailer to the parking area immediately.

The final phase is the retrieval of the boat at the end of the day.  It is common courtesy to tie your boat to the dock or circle on the water until your trailer is in place on the ramp.

As you drive your boat onto the trailer, be sure to center it.  Drive up to whining a few inches of the winch stand.  Attach the winch strap to the bow eye and take in any slack.  Tilt your outboard motor up and be sure the winch strap is secure before driving up the ramp.  Otherwise you might find your boat does not follow you up the ramp.

Once up the ramp pull back into the parking area so as to be out of the way of others.  Once there secure your tie downs and pull the drain plug.  Transfer gear back into your vehicle and dispose of accumulated trash in proper receptacles.  Secure any gear left in the boat to avoid not losing it on the road going home.

It is a good idea to stop at a car wash to pressure wash the boat and trailer on the way home or before another launch.  Invasive species and vegetation are a problem when boats are launched in more than one body of water.  Cleaning the hull will go a long way toward avoiding transfer from one lake to another.

 

SLIP BOBBERS AND CATFISH   Leave a comment

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My introduction to fishing came at the end of some black nylon line with a wine cork tied above a worm-baited hook. Between the two was tied a bolt. It was pretty rudimentary but functional.

The first time I saw that cork disappear beneath the surface it seemed this fishing stuff was pretty easy, Not!!!

Regardless of which title one applies to these little pieces of plastic or balsa wood, they are an essential tool or the ground pounder. For our purposes here they are bobbers.

Bobbers come in basically two classes: fixed position and slip bobber. The wine cork of earlier fishing experiences is a classic example of the fixed position bobber. It holds the bait or lure in a set position. The disadvantage is that one can only set the depth at what will allow for casting. That distance is seldom more than the length of one’s rod. Anything longer becomes unwieldy to cast.

Slip bobbers are another situation. Allowing ease in casting, they also allow the bobber to slide up and down the line and stop at the position where you want to suspend the bait. You set the bobber stop so that the bait will be at or a little above the level you expect the fish to be holding.

With crappie, bluegill and sunfish this distance will be a little up off the bottom. One experiments as to how deep or shallow the bobber should be set. For channel catfish this is usually about 9 inches off the bottom. Flatheads and blue catfish it is just above where the fish suspend as they feed up from their positions.

Channel catfish in put and take lakes are often inclined to feed about 18 inches beneath the surface. This is because often they are accustomed to eating commercial pellets where they in the rearing ponds at the hatchery.

All bobbers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Generally smaller is better. On windy days a low profile bobber is less inclined to be move around by the wind and waves.

Ground pounders need to know the depth near shore and do not have the luxury of an electronic depth finder. A basic way of finding the bottom is through the use of the bobber.

If the bobber lies on its side, it is set too shallow. If it rides vertical then you are just touching bottom or close to it.

The typical slip bobber rig consists of a bobber stop on the line at the desired depth. It is a good idea to slide the knot slowly. Heat from the friction of sliding the line too quickly can damage the line and even cause it to break unexpectedly. If the stop fits too loosely, soak it in water. Most are made of thread that will absorb water and tighten on the line.

Next place a small plastic bead on the line and below the top. It will keep the bobber from slipping past the stop.

Tie a hook at the end of the line. The hook can be a bait hook, a jig or jig combo. About 12 to 18 inches above the hook or jig, place the desired amount of split shot needed to hold the bobber upright in the water. Place split shot on the line in order to make the smallest amount of the bobber showing above the surface. It makes the float less buoyant so that shy-biting fish won’t have to pull against the extra buoyancy. Raise or lower the stop on the line to make the hook or jig suspend at a desired depth.

Regardless of whether one uses the fixed position bobber or a slip bobber rig, bobber fishing is basic fishing. Used properly and with an understanding of its purpose, the bobber can greatly enhance a fisherman’s chances to catch fish.

HISTORY OF WATERFOWL DECOYS   Leave a comment

Modern decoys resemble live birds.

Modern decoys resemble live birds.

 

By Justin Sieverding

In 1918, Joel Barber began a new era of waterfowl decoys. Barber spent much of his life collecting and showcasing various decoys and even wrote a popular book on the subject 1934 titled, Wild Fowl Decoys. From here on the keystone component of waterfowl hunting becomes the decoy. It is also an authentic piece of Americana. So how did decoys come to be? Their history may go further back than you would expect!

Believe it or not Native Americans first put waterfowl decoys to use over 2000 years ago, possibly the Paiute Tribe of the Southwest. Evidence of these decoys was found in 1924 at the Lovelock Cave in Nevada. Here, archeologists found a cache of 11 waterfowl decoys that resembled the canvasback duck. The decoys cleverly crafted out of Tule reed are thought to have been used on the now dry Lake Humboldt. The practice of using decoys spread throughout tribes and caught the eye of early settlers in the 17th century.

With an abundance of waterfowl available throughout the “New World”, settlers began relying on decoys to improve their chances of luring in waterfowl. These decoys vary in style but were primarily carved out of wood and painted to mock the local waterfowl. Towards the 1800s, waterfowl became a staple food source for growing populations. “Market gunners” began to make their way to the scene by hunting vast amounts of waterfowl and commercially selling them to the public. These market gunners helped popularize the use of decoys and used huge punt guns to take out up to 100 waterfowl at once. Since this was a profitable market, decoys evolved into more efficient and realistic designs to help improve hunting.

After noticing the wide use of waterfowl decoys, companies like Mason Factory and Peterson Dodge began producing an abundance of decoys at the end of the 19th century. These companies used cedar wood and vibrant lead-based paint to produce top of the line decoys.

With no formal regulations protecting the waterfowl, migratory patterns and populations became a point of concern. This led to the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. It brought an end to the “market gunner” era and established bag limits and hunting seasons to help protect the dwindling waterfowl populations. With so many decoys on the market, hunters and the general public began looking at the decoys not only as a piece of hunting equipment but also as piece of art. With the help of Joel Barber and various other collectors, we now view decoys as a brilliant piece of Americana. These decoys can be so collectable, that in one auction a single decoy brought 1.13 million dollars!

While decoys can be highly collectible, they still meet their initial intention of attracting overhead waterfowl. For the past 2000 years and counting, the waterfowl decoy has transformed tremendously.  But it has always had the goal of improving a hunter’s chances. Now with 21st century technology, decoys are made of canvas, plastic, and paint to deliver supreme realism and performance.

DOA Decoys (www.doadecoys.com) hand-crafts high-quality waterfowl decoys in Algona, IA. After spending months reviewing the art portfolios of some of the most renowned waterfowl carvers in North America, they stumbled upon not one but two world class, world champion carvers who would combine their unrivaled mastery of wildfowl carving to create the perfect line of gunning decoys.

NOTE:  Justin Sieverding has spent most of his life hunting waterfowl in South Dakota and throughout North America.  He has a true passion and vast experience in everything related to waterfowl hunting including decoy spreads, bird patterns, scouting and calling.

 

Four Kinds of Crappies   Leave a comment

Kyle with hybrid crappie weighing 2 plus pounds.

Kyle with hybrid crappie weighing 2 plus pounds.

 

From left to right.  Black Nose Crappie, True Black Crappie, Natural hybrid Black Crappie and True White Crappie.

From left to right. Black Nose Crappie, True Black Crappie, Natural Hybrid Black Crappie and True White Crappies

Although our quarry of choice today is the Black Crappie, the discussion soon turns to the four types of crappies here in southern Illinois on Kinkaid Lake.

As we pull out of the cove concealing Paul Ice Boat Ramp, Kyle explains that the really large “Black Crappie” of the lake is actually a hybrid.  The other species in the lake are Blacknose crappie, black crappie and white crappie.

Kyle Schoenherr is a professional crappie angler and local guide.  He has consulted with biologists about the hybrids and all seem to agree with his assessment of the genealogy of these big fish.

A number of Kyle’s clients have caught crappies over 2 pounds.  All of the big fish have certain traits in common.  He has shown images of the fish to biologists in KY and TN and they refer to them as Coosa River Hybrids.  Kyle has found similar fish in KY Lake and the Alabama River while fishing tournaments.

The hybrid fish resemble the white crappie generally except they have 7 or 8 spines in the dorsal fin and their color is reminiscent of the black crappie.  White crappies have 6 spines.  The hybrids have the speckled pattern on the sides but also have vertical bars which the whites do not display.

The fish grow quickly and have some of the habits of both the white and black crappie.  They appear to be a naturally produced hybrid and not one introduced to the lake.

An internet search finds that the first Hybrids came from Arkansas where they were the offspring of Blacknose crappie and the true white crappie.  Kinkaid has two populations of introduced Blacknose crappie.  One was introduced in September of 2010 and the other in August of 2012.

The literature maintains that hybrids appear naturally but are not common.  They have the physical appearance of one species and the spine count of the other.  The biggest crappies seem to be the hybrids.  The second generation fish will reproduce but do not grow fast and are highly susceptible to predation from largemouth bass and bluegill.  The first generation fish grow faster and weigh more than either the black crappie or white crappie.

So it is that we find four kinds of crappie.  We are catching Black Crappie, Blacknose Crappie, White Crappie and Hybrid Crappie.

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