Archive for May 2011

WORM FISHING TIPS   3 comments

The plastic worm is probably the most versatile type of artificial lure. You can work it in all types of conditions and anywhere you travel. It can be customized with a slip sinker. More importantly it is inexpensive. You can take $5 and buy some hooks, weights and worms that will take you along way. That same $5 might just get you a single crankbait.

Here are five tips for the worm angler. A sense of feel is the bottom line with worm fishing. To get the optimum feel, a graphite rod of 6 to 7 feet in length and in the medium to medium heavy class, is recommended. The heavy style rod helps in setting the hook since with a Texas rig the point must not only go through the fish’s jaw but also through the plastic worm.

In setting the hook drop your rod and take up any slack line. It is important to be on your toes as far as feeling the strike.

The worm can be rigged either Texas style or Carolina rigged. Both can be used with or without a weight. The lighter rig can be twitched in shallow water making the lure more lifelike.

In choosing line size let the conditions dictate your choice. Let water depth, clarity and the amount of cover that is around where the fish are located decide your choice of line. Normal line size for bass anglers is usually 14-pound test.

As for lure color selection one should stick to four or five basic colors. Use the same basics everywhere you fish. .

All too often people get caught up in color and shades. In low water conditions use a solid color that is dark. In water with a lot of clarity use worms that are a bit more transparent. The theory is that in clear water you will not get that vivid contrast that might spook fish. If the worm is somewhat transparent it does not project a distinct silhouette on the bottom to scare the fish.

A final tip is that you cannot fish a worm too slowly. When you think you are fishing slowly, slow down. When you fish slowly, you begin to feel things that you might miss with faster retrieves. If you get to the point where you cannot feel the worm then go to a little bit heavier weight. You should add just enough weight to be able to feel that worm.

When working a worm it is important to use short strokes of one to two feet at a time. This will attract the attention of less aggressive fish that would not move very far to strike a worm moving faster and farther.

Although best in summer, the worm can be fished all year around.

Advertisements

CATFISHING ON REND LAKE   Leave a comment

Rend Lake is an 18,900-acre impoundment about five hours south of Chicago on Interstate 57. The general configuration of the lake is a broad “Y.” The main tributaries are the Big Muddy River and Casey Fork.

The main dam impounds the main branch of the Big Muddy River and its tributaries. With some 162 miles of shoreline, the lake is 13 miles in length and three miles wide. Rend Lake is 35 feet with an average depth of 9.7 feet.

Rend Lake is a “catfish factory” for the angler. The average channel catfish is 1.75 pounds. Most will be in the 2/3 to 3 pound range. The overall population of channel catfish in this lake is very high. Large channel catfish caught by anglers in this lake run 10 to 12 pounds in weight. Data about the flathead population in the lake is limited but suggests that most of the flatheads will be in 1.5 pound to 10 pounds classes.

The entire area of the lake from Route 154 north is a good area to find catfish. It is a good idea to fish coves, areas with sticks up and other shallows. In late summer and early fall, catfish relate to structure. In spring and early summer the best action seems to come from stumps, weed beds and brush areas.

Line and pole anglers work the shoreline and the river channels for channel catfish. The sub-impoundment areas, usually very good in the spring, are dry in late summer and fall. Flathead fishermen tend to rely on jug fishing for taking their quarry. They anchor their jugs to shoreline wood with rubber bands made from truck inner tubes. Favorite bait for this kind of fishing is hand size bluegills.

Those line and pole anglers who do seek big flatheads fish suspended bluegills near the top of the water. Flatheads are not a bottom feeder and tend to feed above their location. No float is used for flathead fishing. The line is placed on free spool allowing the bluegill or a large shad to display an injured picture.

Some rod fishermen seeking flatheads suspend a minnow or bluegill 3 feet below a large float in water containing some current. Although they do take some fish the ones taken are smaller than those taken by other means.

Most line and pole anglers prefer a stiff 6 foot rod for both species of catfish. The line is usually 10 to 20 pounds test and tipped with a 1/0 hook. The sinker is tied about a foot above the hook on the main line. The sinker falls to the bottom and allows the bait to float just above it. Some anglers do tie the sinker with a drop line at the same location so that if snagged the sinker can be broken off and still not lose any fish.

The preferred baits, for channel catfish include: cheese (stink) baits, cut shad, shad guts, leeches, chicken livers and minnows.

Gun Creek in the northeast part of the lake is also good catfish habitat. It is protected and fish like protection. The main lake can get a strong north or south wind which makes it choppy. The fish are driven deep and they are difficult to locate. Because the fish like the protection from the wind these are the days to fish Gun Creek and other protected shelter areas.

Site specific information can be obtained from the Site Superintendent, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park at 618-629-2320. The Rend Lake Management Office/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is located at R.R. #3, Benton, IL 62812. Their phone number is 618-724-2493.

Marina facilities are available at Rend Lake Marina (618-724-7651) and the Rend Lake Resort (800-633-3341). The later also has overnight facilities on the water in Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park. Camping is available in the state park as well as a number of Corps operated campgrounds around the lake. There are also 25 boat launch areas around the lake.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has prepared a fishing booklet on the lake. It is available upon request at no fee. Contact the IDNR, Office of Public Information, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271 or any regional office of the Department through out the state. License and fishing regulations can be obtained at the same address. Just ask for the 2011 Illinois Fishing Information booklet. Lake maps are available in the booklets on the individual lakes and also in local bait shops.

CRUISING KENTUCKY – DAY 3   Leave a comment

Wind and drizzle threaten our first day on the water fishing for crappie. Cruising out of the marina at Eddy Creek Marina Resort guide Steve Freeman assures us that we will catch fish despite the conditions.

Accompanying us are Brian and Heather Brosdahl from Frabill, the manufacturer of a number of fishing related products. Their rain gear got a good test this morning and passed with flying colors. The Brosdahls are from northern Minnesota and the weather does not seem to faze them. We are all staying at Eddy Creek Marina as part of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers annual Spring Cast & Blast Event.

Once outside the marina we move into a bay that Steve knows well. Weather conditions have forced the crappie deep just as they do during the summer post-spawn.

Steve soon locates the stake bed he is seeking. We break out 12-foot crappie rods and tie on some one-inch tube jigs in bright colors. The water is stained due to the Ohio River backing up into the Cumberland River which forms Lake Barkley upstream from us.

Steve explains that locals have placed these deep water stake beds in 12 to 15 foot of water for just such an occasion as this. A local axe handle manufacturer donated the rejects from his factory for the purpose. Using a home made specially designed driver, the handles are driven into the bottom of the lake where they stick up like a forest beneath the water. They stick up about 3 feet off the bottom.

Crappies have difficulty finding structure when they move off shoreline structure and into deeper water. The result is they are attracted to the stake beds.

Using a fish locator anglers find the beds, mark them, and back off. We dropped our lines over the side down about 12 feet. Once on the bottom we raise them about 6 inches and jig the lures to give them action.

It is not long before the action begins. Heather and Steve have the best luck with Brian in third place and me far behind. We spend a few hours on the various stake beds with different results on each. All the beds are in 12 feet of water but they are in scattered locations.

The end result is a good morning with friends and a great crappie lunch at the restaurant in the resort.

Guide Steve Freeman can be reached at the resort or at 270-601-3353. The website for the resort/marina is http://www.eddycreek.com.

GARDEN HACKLE FOR DEVIL’S KITCHEN LAKE   1 comment

Steve Timzak, the former concessionaire at the Devil’s Kitchen Boat Dock introduced me to the garden hackle and its use on that lake. Both Steve and the boat dock are gone now but I am still using the garden hackle.

The combination of a small wire hook on 8-pound test line seems a bit strange. As drops down into the Devils Kitchen treetops I jiggle it slowly along the limbs. The bit of nightcrawler threaded on the small hook is called a “garden hackle.” It has become a combination of the techniques of small terminal tackle, like that preferred by fly fishermen, and the basics of panfish bait fishing.

Moving the worm vertically along the tree trunk attracts bluegills. No action. Then working it horizontally along the limbs in search of shellcrackers (redear sunfish) produces success!

Although the name Devils Kitchen Lake allegedly comes from the sulphur fumes experienced by construction workers during the building of the dam, the lake has more in common with heaven than hell.

Located 12 miles southwest of Marion in Williamson County, Devils Kitchen Lake is an 810-acre, clear water reservoir on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Because it is owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, there is no development on its shoreline except for a primitive campground on the north end. The rest of the shoreline is composed of steep, sloping cliffs that are wooded down to the water line.

Regardless of the many advances in lure and bait development, the “garden hackle” is my choice in this southern Illinois lake. It does not matter if one is using a fly rod, ultra light rod, standard casting rod, or a long crappie rod.

The garden hackle is a small wire hook with the piece of nightcrawler threaded onto it. The wire hook is used due to the amount of submerged wood in the lake. If the hook becomes imbedded in some wood, the strong line allows the angler to pull it straight and out of the tree. Once retrieved, the hook can be reshaped and a new crawler piece is re-threaded.

The trout, stocked into the lake each fall, will also go for the garden hackle. Suspended below a slip float, the bait can be allowed to fall to a depth of 15 to 20 feet where the trout tend to congregate in the hot weather of summer.

When the lake was originally flooded, most of the standing timber was allowed to remain. Some pathways were cut through it and today are the areas of choice for the boater wanting to get through without hanging up. But the trees are the place to go. Some are sticking up from the surface of the lake. Most of them lie somewhere beneath the surface. The tops of the submerged trees in the deep water appear to be hands reaching up to grasp the careless angler.
Anglers complain of getting hung up in the trees. But, with a little effort it is possible to get loose without much of a problem. It is just an annoyance. The trees are really the angler’s friend.

In general the water is clear with some vegetation in the form of coontail and pondweed. Because of the water clarity, it is possible to view the vegetation down to a depth of 10 or 12 feet.

In shallower waters, the redear sunfish feeds on the bottom. The depth of Devils Kitchen (up to 95 feet) has caused them to modify their feeding habits. The redear in this lake like to feed on the outspread tree limbs in depths of eight to 12 feet. They will sometimes be found feeding on the same tree as a bluegill. The gills like the vertical portion of the tree. Namely the trunk is their favorite area. The redear tend to stay with the outstretched limbs.

In some of the more shallow areas of the lake the redear will look for the hard bottom. If there are some weeds nearby, all the better. In these areas, one can cast the garden hackle and allow it to sink to the bottom. A split sinker will help but is not entirely necessary. Then jig the bait across the bottom and the wood as you retrieve it.

BASS FISHING AT NIGHT   1 comment

Bass fishing on a summer night can be relaxing, risky, cool and complex. It is a challenge. The hypnotic sound of the waves provides a respite from the heat of the day. Here are some tips for warm weather enjoyment of night fishing.

In summer fish tend to move into different levels of water as they seek a temperature range which is most comfortable to them and their forage. Usually they are found near the outside edges of shoreline vegetation or structure. Forage fish prefer a lack of sunlight which provides cooler comfort ranges. Bass prefer the same temperature ranges all summer until the water cools in the fall. As a result they become creatures of the night. Bass do not see well in low light conditions and rely on sound for locating bait fish.

Safety is vital in night fishing. It is important to study the state regulations of the lake where you plan to fish. A fishing guide friend of mine loves to tell the story of a near disaster he encountered while night fishing.

It was a warm summer evening at about midnight and he had been night fishing. Deciding to call it a night, he headed for the ramp. While traveling across the water he missed an anchored boat that was sitting in open water with the lights out. There was no moonlight or star light to allow my friend to see the angler. “I passed him just as he turned on his lights. I could have spit on him,” exclaims the guide. In most states sitting on open water at night with no navigational lights is illegal. It is also stupid.

Wearing a PFD (personal floatation device) at all times when night fishing is important for both boat and shore fishing. It is all too easy to fall in the water after tripping over a tackle box or cooler.

In addition to the previously mentioned grass along the shoreline, ledges are also productive for the same reasons. If these shoreline structures are not producing desired results, check your lake map. Look for places where creek channels join underwater river channels. Many fish are taken from offshore structure in the summer time. These are often in the middle of the lake but can also be reached from shore with a long cast. Using G.P.S. coordinates it is possible to pinpoint the spots to within a few feet. It is advisable to thoroughly fish all types of structure and cover.

Because of the need of bass to use sound in locating a meal lures employ sound are recommended for night fishing. It is wise to choose a lure according to the depth at which the bass are feeding. Darker color worms with the addition of a rattle are deadly on night feeding bass. Small rattles placed inside the plastic worm add the sound needed to attract feeding bass.

Rattling crank baits produce just what the doctor ordered for the same reasons as the rattle of the plastic worm. Spinnerbaits produce noise on their own. It is advisable to keep both of these lures off the bottom and just above any structure.

Surface baits that produce noise of splashing type will attract night feeding fish on that level. These include such lures as the Pop-R and buzz baits. It is a good idea to limit yourself to a few types and place them in a small tackle box.

A large selection of tackle is difficult to handle in the low light of night fishing. A small flashlight kept on top of the tackle box is a good idea. Since bass become alerted to lights from the surface it is best to limit the use of the light. Also it takes one a little time to get your eyes accustomed to the darkness after using a light. Bass will flee any area with bright light but they usually return in 20 minutes looking for the forage fish.

It is handy to have other flashlights and batteries placed in strategic locations. They should be available in case of an emergency.

Night fishing is a great way to catch fish and a very relaxing atmosphere. Pay attention to the level the fish are most active and adjust the depth of your bait to the most effective level. Experiment with your tackle and keep your surroundings organized for safe and efficient use.

Posted 05/18/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Freshwater Fishing

Tagged with , ,

ZIPVAC PROTECTS OUTDOOR GEAR   1 comment

I received the following information from Mike Walker, The Walker Agency. His cutting edge knowledge of the outdoor market and products has been a great deal of help to me over the years. It was he who turned me on a number of years ago to the ZipVac system for packaging fish and game. It seems that groceries are not the only thing this product protects.

Dust and rust are two of the biggest problems outdoor enthusiasts have after cleaning expensive firearms and other gear. ZipVac now offers a variety of vacuum packaging bags to help prevent damage to gear.

The King Fillet bag, which measures 14”x30”, can accommodate an AR-15 sporting rifle when broken down into two sections. Place the two cleaned sections of the rifle in the bag and use the rechargeable or manual evacuation pumps to extract rust-causing air and prevent dust and fuzz from settling on the parts, gumming the works. The same approach applies to compasses, handguns, knives, GPS units, fishing reels and the like. A variety of bag sizes ensures the right one is available for the best fit.

More tips on how to get the best use out of the ZipVac vacuum system check out their website at: zipvac.net. The ZipVac is available on line or at leading outdoor stores.

MAY AT MURPHYSBORO   Leave a comment

May is a time for the beauty of Lake Murphysboro to really come into it=s own. The trees bloom, the grass greens, and the fish spawn.

This small state owned lake just west of Carbondale, is a family kind of recreation area. Picnic tables scattered among the large trees are home to family picnics and to anglers seeking a respite from their time in search of bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, crappie and sunfish.

The lake is found within the grounds of Lake Murphysboro State Park and contains some 146 acres. The maximum depth is 32 feet with an average depth of 14 feet. There is some six miles of shoreline access for the angler.

In addition to the fishing action, the park also has camping for tents and RV=s, a 3-mile hiking trial and picnic areas with scenic views and wildlife to watch.

The bluegill action begins to pick up as they move from the waters just outside their bedding areas onto the beds. The beds can be seen all over the lake. Fish are caught just off the beds with crickets, mealworms and red wigglers (red worms.) The action is usually good all month unless there is a period of severe rainstorms that help to stir up the water and drive the fish deep.

In times of bad weather, the angler is well advised to turn to catfishing. The best bait for them seems to be nightcrawlers but cheese and dip baits will produce some fish. The catfish action tends to improve toward the end of the month even without storms.

Crappie action also varies with the weather. It is generally better fishing for crappie during the early part of the month but the action does continue all through this period. Crappie fishing is spotty at best toward the end of the month. Minnows and white curly-tail jigs are best when fished in about six feet of water.

Like bluegills, redear sunfish tend to provide better fishing in the early part of the month. Redear will eat mealworms, crickets and red wigglers in shallow water.

This brings us to largemouth bass. Although not known as a really great bass lake, Lake Murphysboro does have a good population of the fish. The fish tend to be smaller than can be found in other area lakes. The action for these members of the perch family also varies with the weather. Southern Illinois weather in the spring tends to be something of a crapshoot. Some days are marked with high pressure systems providing sunny skies. Others will be marked with one front after another moving through the area. Some of those fronts will provide severe weather and have been known to turn into tornados.

Early in the month the old reliable spinner bait is a good choice for largemouth. Plastic worms and a jig and pig combination can also be productive. Later one might try switching to crankbaits and Rapalas. The spring moss growth can make bank fishing more difficult late in the month.

If you do not mind getting hung up occasionally in the vegetation and brush, this is an excellent lake for shore fishing action with the kids. One can fish for a while and then turn to other family activities such as playing catch. Kids have short attention spans and it is a good idea to have non-fishing activities to turn to should the fishing slow down.

For site specific information contact the park office at: 618-684-2867 or check out their website at: http://www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/R5/MURPHYSB.HTM.

%d bloggers like this: