Archive for December 2011

I NEED A SLABMASTER   3 comments

Guide Kyle Schoenherr, yanks my big crappie from the dip net almost as soon as it is over the boat deck.  He stuffs it in a red plastic sleeve called a Slabmaster.  Once placed on the deck he inserts the needle part of a hypodermic syringe into a slot on the side near the pectoral fin.

 Seconds later it is time to weigh and check the length of the fish.  Weighing 2 pounds plus there is no doubt that it is a keeper on all counts.

 I am familiar with the problems of fish caught from deep down.  Many are jerked to the surface only to quickly die.  Mostly this happens on large bodies of water.  I have seen it happen on Lake Michigan with salmon and on Minnesota and South Dakota lakes with Walleye.

 This is my first exposure to using the technique on southern waters and with crappie in particular. 

The purpose of the procedure is to deflate the air bladder of the fish.  The sudden lifting of a fish from water, in this case 40 feet deep, to the surface causes the air bladder to inflate to the point where the fish suffers a physical exertion similar to the bends in humans.  By puncturing the air bladder the air inside is allow to escape and the fish suffers no physical damage.  It can safely be kept in a live well for weigh-in at a tournament or until released or cleaned at the end of the day.

 I am reminded of the saying that once a need is identified someone will find a solution.  In this cast the need appears to be to keep fish alive for tournament weigh-ins and release alive back into the water.  Along comes well known crappie tournament winner Ronnie Capps.

 Following exhaustive research and record keeping, Capps designed the Slabmaster.  Made of ABS plastic, the fish is placed in the sleeve to hold it in the proper position for the deflation of the air bladder.  While it is still held firmly in place, the length, weight, and age is determined from the data charts on the side of the Slabmaster.  All this is done in a minute or two with no detrimental effect on the fish.

 Slabmasters are sold in retail and catalog fishing tackle company locations.  It can be purchased online from BnM Pole Company (www.bnmpoles.com.)

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DOCK SHOOTING FOR COLD WATER CRAPPIE   10 comments

Midwest crappie angler Russ Bailey admires a “dock shot” crappie from Kinkaid Lake

Dock shooting is no crazy idea by a long shot.  No pun intended.  It is a technique for crappie anglers to get those small jigs and Road Runner lures into tight pockets near docks and boats.  It is a combination of finesse and special tackle that allows you to get back under the dock where fish seek refuge from the sun in summer.  In winter they go there to find warmer water. 

Back just before Christmas, I met with Russ Bailey of Midwest Crappie TV and a member of the BnM, TTI Blakemore and other fishing teams from the Crappie Masters tournament trail.  Russ is an accomplished dock shooter. 

Bailey uses the ultra-light rod from BnM Pole Company (www.bnmpoles.com) that is called “Sharpshooter.”  It is an ultra-light spinning rod designed specifically for the task.  Made of 100% graphite it is bendable but has a stiff backbone required for dock shooting.

 You find a comfortable stance then you point your rod at the spot where you think a fish is hiding.  You hold the lure in one hand and bend the rod down in an arc before letting go without snagging your fingers on the hook.  Sounds simple but it takes some practice and skill to master this technique. 

We leave the public boat ramp on Lake Kinkaidi n sunshine but temperatures only in the 40’s.  There is no wind so the day is not really uncomfortable.  Two other writers and a local guide accompany us to the marina area.

 Russ jockeys his boat into position just off a dock that houses a number of pontoon boats.  Moving into position he explains pontoon boats offer the chance of finding fish under each of the pontoon tubes.  The sun warms the aluminum faster than most other objects in the water.   “I have found different size fish under each of the tubes of the same boat,” says Bailey.  “One might have small fish and the other tube might have the big ones.” 

The metal of the tubes can warm the surrounding water by a degree or two.  Bailey finds that important in cold weather.  It is in cold weather that he looks for sunny areas.  “After a few casts to the pontoons,” explains Russ, “it is important to check the line for nicks from sliding across any sharp edges.” 

According to Russ cobwebs between a boat and the dock are often a give away of the lack of fishing pressure in the area.  He likes cobwebs because they mean no one has disturbed any fish that might be living back out of the weather. 

Docks are not the only place Russ uses this technique.  He finds that in warmer waters crappie will congregate under over hanging tree limbs.  Bailey will shoot the lure under the limbs to reach fish resting near the shore in cooler water.  Crappies always seek out water temperatures they find most comfortable. 

For more information about Bailey, his television program and guide service, check his website at www.midwestcrappie.com.

SOME TIPS FOR BOAT OWNERS TO CONSIDER   3 comments

The efficiency of a boat/motor package is dependant on a number of factors.  The following are some of the after market things that one should consider to assure the performance of a boat. 

Weight makes a boat work harder as it moves through the water.  The heavier the boat the slower it will move.  By leaving some of your gear at home, or in your tow vehicle you can cut down on the weight of the boat/motor package.  If fishing, it is not necessary to take all your rods and terminal tackle on every trip.  Plan ahead as to what you are going to fish for or do with the boat.  It also makes keeping the storage areas cleaner and less prone to mold and mildew problems. 

Motors, no matter how state of the art, need to be tuned from time to time.  This should include examination of the prop.  A poorly tuned or damaged prop reduces the engine efficiency when it comes to movement through the water. 

You can actually lose up to 5 mph in boat speed with a damaged prop.  If the boat travels 50mph with a new prop and only 45 mph with a damaged or out of pitch prop, that is a lost of 10 percent performance while using the same amount of fuel.

 Over the course of the boating year, a poorly tuned motor/boat package can prove to be costly in terms of fuel costs and wear on the engine.

 An oft missed aspect of boat maintenance is cleaning the hull.  Stuff builds up over the repeated presence in a body of water.  It has been described as being like a dull knife.  It just does not cut through the water as well when dirty. Slime on the hull slows the boat and increases fuel consumption.

 If a boat is equipped with adjustable trim tabs, as most bass and deck boats are, use them wisely.  They allow the boat to move through the water more efficiently.  Also the distribution of weight in the boat will affect the efficient performance of a boat.  A boat in trim, uses less fuel and subsequently costs less to use over the course of the season.

 When towing a boat, the tow vehicle uses fuel and costs more to operate from a fuel standpoint.  It also can affect the durability of the equipment.  The most efficient tailored vehicle is one covered with a boat canopy that makes it more streamlined as it passes through the air.  If the boat provides less wind resistance, it is less expensive to tow.  The fuel mileage of the tow vehicle is greater for a covered boat.

 Boats with pedestal seats should have the seats lowered and folded up to provide less resistance.  This is true either while being towed or moving across the water.  Additional wind resistance of a seat left in the upright, or at full height of the pedestal, causes the base of the pedestal to become loose more easily.  The pressure of the air will shorten the life the pedestal base mount.

 One of the lesser understood an aspect of boat motors is the propeller.  The key to selecting the right size is the engine rpm.  If the motor is running at its top rpm, at full throttle with a normal load, then the prop is the right size.  If it is not making it to the top then the prop is too small.  It the engine is over revving the prop could be too large.  Make sure you load the boat as you would in normal use before trying this test.

 Props come in a variety of metals and plastic.  Plastic is usually reserved for temporary use in case of an emergency.  Stainless steel is the most expensive and delivers the most speed.  Its thin blades reduce drag and they can be forged into different configurations to optimize performance.  That converts into better fuel mileage.

Posted 12/25/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Boats, Freshwater Fishing

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THINGS FOR BOAT BUYERS TO THINK ABOUT   3 comments

Thinking about buying a new boat this year?  Or maybe you are planning to buy your first boat.  Or maybe you are just dreaming.  Whatever the case, there are some basic questions that you should review before going to the dealer or to a boat show.

 The purchase of a boat for the average person is a big investment.  It is often second only to the purchase of a home for some people.  If you are going to get your money’s worth, be satisfied with the purchase and not going to waste the salesman’s time, then you need to do a little advance thinking.

 In speaking with some sales personnel I found they refer to knowing what a prospective customer wants as “qualifying” the customer.  .  They do not want to waste your time and theirs trying to sell you something you don’t really want.  In qualifying the customer, they ask questions to identify the person’s wants, desires and needs.  The following areas are among the ones they deem important.

 The first area to explore with the customer is how will the boat most often be used?   Is it to be used primarily as a fishing boat?  Or perhaps it is to entertain business clients or family.  Maybe one just wants something to ride around in and admire the scenery.  Maybe one wants to pull skiers or tubes in addition to whatever other purpose the boat is intended.

 Another consideration is the duration of trips with the boat and how many people will be on board.  Will they remain on board all the time or will they be getting in and out of the water?  The later is important since it is important that a ladder be available for getting in and out or the water with ease.

 In this time of concern about sunlight exposure and cancer, it is important to know if people will be on board for extended periods and will they need shelter from the sun.  Some boats have limited shelter while others can be purchased with ample protection form the sun’s burning rays.  Some boat owners like to have an area available for sun bathing.

 Will the boat be docked most of the time or will it need to be towed to whatever water is used?  If towing is to be done, it is important to know the towing capacity of the vehicle you use.  Ever consider towing a 40-foot cruiser with a Honda Civic?  It is not a match made in heaven.

 The last two considerations are related.  What kind of boat design are you looking for and at what price?  Be realistic.  Don’t expect to find a high end boat at a Jon boat price.  Believe it or not some people do this very thing.  Get informed as to what boats are selling for and what the various designs mean to your pocket book.

 A good relationship with a salesman is built on trust and mutual respect.  He is not looking to just sell you a boat and kick you out the door.  Most marine salesmen and women see you as a customer now and in the future when you are ready to trade up.  He is there to meet your needs and to establish you as a happy customer that will come back as well as refer others.

 Information is the key to making a satisfactory boat purchase.  Know your needs and what you hope to pay before ever going into the dealers.  Much of this information is available in magazines and books at the library or your local newsstands.  It also can be found on the Internet as all the manufacturers have websites and most dealers do as well.

Posted 12/21/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Boats

GETTING KIDS STARTED AT ICE FISHING   6 comments

Getting children involved in ice fishing is a challenging family experience as well as an opportunity to learn about nature.  But, safety and fun have to be given consideration. 

 Kids need plenty of opportunity to catch fish to make their first experience a memorable one.  Many families will go out ice fishing and if they are not catching fish the kids are soon off sledding or doing something else.  Kids love to feel that slight tug on a line or watch the flag of a tip-up spring to attention. There is something special in that anticipation.

 In order to be safe, it is important to wait for good cold weather over a long period of time.  Then it is time to take to the ice with an overturned bucket or ice fishing shanty.  Basically, a safe family sport, ice fishing accidents can happen due to inadequate information or poor judgment.

 According to Buddy Seiner of  South Dakota, a popular way of attracting and maintaining the interest of children is have communities put on small tournaments.  Local parks are good as they have small ponds that freeze over which contain panfish and small game fish.  It adds competition and children win prizes.

 “Taking them to a spot that is going to be productive the first time and teaching them what the fish are doing and how to catch these fish and how to rig up the line and doing all that stuff the first time, says Buddy, “They will have a lot of fun and want to do it again.”

 It is always a good idea for kids to wear a personal flotation device and not to fish alone.  Ice can vary in thickness from one location to another.  This is especially true near creek mouths, points, bridges and springs.  Ice is thinner anywhere there is current.

 Kids do have a short attention span.  “I saw a kid last year that was fishing with his dad who caught a couple of fish.”  “The kid left his pole and was just kicking the fish around on the ice,” explained Seiner.  “He was having fun but he was not having fun fishing.”

 It is a good idea to bring something along for the kids to do if the fish are not biting.  Video games (hand held) balls, etc.  They can do anything they want on the ice and it will not interfere with the fishing action of others.  It is not like warm weather fishing when kids start to play in the water or throw sticks and stones into it and scare away the fish. 

 Buddy recommends the use of underwater cameras.  A lot of people have them these days.  Seiner used one and was amazed to watch fish swim by and see how the fish reacted to the bait.  He even saw how they reacted to each other.  He found it really interesting. 

If you do not have a camera, then consider buying or renting a shanty for the day.  When enclosed, kids can actually view fish much like in an aquarium.  It gives them a chance to see how fish live as well as view how the bottom appears.

 Ice fishing rods are a perfect size for kids.  Everybody can do it.  Unlike in the summer time when you sometimes need a boat to get to the fish, everybody can get to these fish.

 The sport is a great opportunity to get kids involved in fishing because you can go out and find the fish and equipment is not expensive.  You can buy a rod for $15 and a couple jigs and some wax worms and then you have a day of fishing that does not break the family budget.  Vertically jigging gives the kids a chance to experience one on one contact with the fish.

 The main thing is getting them started.  You can get them a gift, like a Christmas present of a nice fishing rod to get them excited about it.  It is all about how you start it off.  Make it a learning experience for them.  They can read up on the fish before going out. 

 Clothing is important.  You need to focus on the feet and fingers in terms of getting cold.  If kids feet get cold or their hands get cold they are going to be miserable.  Steiner stresses the need for good boots, gloves and of course the coat and hat as really important.  “Make them look like a big puffball.”

 It is not just small children that enjoying ice fishing.  Seiner asserts that he sees more and more teenagers going out on their own.  He feels there has to be something fun about it or they would not be doing it.  The teens are out in groups of four or five guys and they go out, drill a few holes, sit there and have a good time.

 A lot of sports shows have ice fishing seminars that produce third party reinforcement to the kids.  Kids can learn techniques and have their questions answered by experts in the field.  They can talk to the pros that they have seen on TV. 

 Besides being a sure cure for the winter doldrums, ice fishing is a fun family experience that provides education as to how man fits into the over all scheme of nature.  And it adds some nice healthy fish for the table.

ADVICE FROM AN OUTDOOR SHOW ADDICT   2 comments

Going to the outdoor show is always a hoot.  It is a chance for to see what anglers from all over are buying.  It brings up visions of trips to be experienced and it is a learning experience.

 The key to maximizing knowledge from a boat show is preparation.  Having a game plan will allow you to learn with a minimum of exhaustion.  The place to begin is on the Internet.  All of the manufacturers of outdoor products have web pages.  So too do the sponsors of the show itself.

 Boat shows are composed of thousands of square feet of products, places to go, and other bits of knowledge.  Covering the entire show and still being able to focus on your favorite sport, takes effort.  Some shows are so large that one feels the need of a GPS just to get around.

 Once you have selected the show, check the ads that appear in newspapers, magazines, on radio and television for specific information as to when the show coming to town.  Look for the products and seminars that interest you.  If planning to make purchases, make a list of the items you are seeking.

 You can make two lists, one that you have to buy and the second of things you would like to examine.  Perhaps you will buy something from the second list and maybe you just want to see it.

 Week day traffic is lightest and exhibitors can spend more time with you.  Arrive early to allow maximum time to spend getting the information you seek.

 If you are with a group, make arrangements to meet at a specific location and time.  You may want to see different things or become separated.  Kids do not want to spend the same amount of time at a booth as an adult.  Wives want to see different things than do husbands.

 Once at the show, take time to look over the program that is usually passed out as you enter.  It often has a floor plan and list of the exhibitors.  A pen or highlighter marking pen can be used to mark the exhibits and seminars of major interest to you.  Make check marks beside the names of exhibitors who might stock the things you want to purchase.

 Make note of the time and location of seminars you want to attend.  Some shows announce the seminars as they are taking place, some do not.  Be sure you have a watch so that you do not miss your favorite speaker.  Make note on the program of any last minute substitute seminar speakers or exhibits.  Such changes are usually posted at the entrance to the show or at the seminar area.

 Take a cassette tape recorder to the seminar.  Most speakers have no problem with your taping their speech, but it is important to ask permission first.  Take notes in a spiral notebook.  You might even have some questions that you hope the speaker will answer, prepared in advance.  That way if he does not cover the subject, you can ask during the Q & A that usually is part of any seminar.

 Pay attention to what is being said and avoid side conversations with your companions.  If the subject is one in which you are intensely interested, sit near the front so that you can concentrate.  If you are only passively interested, sit in the back or on an aisle.  That way if you decide to leave during the presentation, you will disturb only a minimum number of other people.

 Wear comfortable shoes.  You will spend most of your time walking on concrete.  Hiking boots or a new pair of athletic shoes is a good idea as they provide support and cushioning for the feet.  Older athletic shoes are not a good idea as they lack the support necessary to cushion your feet.  They are like walking barefoot and can lead to foot problems as well as fatigue. 

If the outside weather is cold, then you need to do something with your coat.  Carrying it is a nuisance.  If the show provides a coat checking service, it is worth the cost.  If not, perhaps you might want to leave it in the vehicle.  A third alternative is to put it in a backpack. 

 Backpacks are also a good place for brochures that you pick up at the show.  You can acquire a considerable number of them in the course of visiting all the booths.  Although the weight of a brochure is not much, the weight of many brochures is a lot.  If you do not remember to bring your backpack, then look for a booth that is passing out plastic “shopping bags”.  Look around at the other people carrying bags and check for reinforced handles.  They are the ones you want.

 Another help is to take frequent breaks and examine what you have accumulated.  Sometimes it is stuff that you do not really want.  You can stop for a soft drink and a hot dog while culling your materials.  If after reading the brochure you still have some questions, go back to the booth and get answers.  It is easier than calling or writing from home later.

 Finally, check your notes.  Did you miss anything that you had intended to see?

 Attendance at sports shows is a great opportunity to gain the maximum benefit from your money.

WATCHING WILDLIFE IN WINTER   3 comments

A red fox dives for fleeing mice in field of brown grass.  An eagle soars overhead calling to its mate with a shrill scream.  A white-tailed deer browses on the edge of a thicket. Canadageese rest in the wetlands.  This is outdoor recreation at its wildest. 

Nature lovers can find all sorts of birds and animals to watch throughout the woods and fields.  Especially popular are the bird watching.  Hunters learn the habits of their quarry that will improve their success ratio next hunting season. 

A variety of vegetation and terrain attracts and holds numerous species of birds and mammals.  Birds are residents, migrants, or frequent visitors to your area. 

Watching wildlife does not take a lot of expensive gear.  Binoculars and some guide books are a good beginning.  Field guides assist in identification and help at home when reviewing ones notes from a day afield. 

When heading out, be sure to take a notebook.  Field notes should include the date, location, weather conditions and animal behavior, along with any unique observations. 

Beginners must learn to identify animals and birds by sight and sound.  Noting the color, shape and other outstanding observations make it easier to identify species. 

Familiarize yourself with animal behavior and favored habitats.  For example, deer tend to prefer thick cover until late in the day when they move out into fields to feed.

 Learn to recognize animal habitats.  This knowledge assists in identification and helps to eliminate species not associated with a specific habitat.

 Advanced wildlife watchers learn the calls and songs of mammals or birds.  This helps to identify those species which may be hidden in dense cover.  By familiarizing oneself with bird songs and mammal calls, one can chase down each sound until he discovers the source.

 The direct approach is not the best way to seek out wildlife.  Wild animals must always be wary of possible danger and when an intruder comes straight at them it usually signals a threat.  By acting disinterested while sneaking a glance now and then, you may be able to observe the unfolding drama of their activities.

 It is important to be patient and avoid direct attention to the animal encountered.  Appear disinterested.  Fiddle with vegetation, look away from the animal while moving slowly closer and you will be able to approach much closer than you would think.  Staring at an animal causes them fear and uneasiness.  Quick looks are much less obvious and less likely to make the animal nervous.

 Some animals such as ducks and geese can become very approachable due to constant association with human activity.  Other animals are so skittish that the first hint of the presence of humans sends them fleeing. 

Generally, however, the use of patience in observing wildlife works well.  It will result in closer views for you and less intimidation for the animal.  Watching wildlife can be challenging and educational.

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