Archive for the ‘Fishing’ Tag

THE LEAN MEAN FISHING MACHINE   Leave a comment

When man first crossed over the Bering Strait and began to settle North America he brought with him the kayak. It was nothing more than animal skins stretched across a wooden frame.  The fragility of this craft no doubt cost some lives.  But it was portable and could portage ice pressure ridges.

The kayak is no longer a means of transporting people across arctic waters or down raging rivers. Anglers are turning to the kayak as a lean mean fishing machine.

The modern kayak is for all waters and particularly for the angler in search of quality fishing time. They come in a variety of lengths and widths and made of a variety of plastics, nylon and fiberglass.  Some are best for running fast river currents while others will stand the rigors of ocean travel.  The seating also can vary from one placed on the bottom of the hull to those with a mesh armchair like apparatus.

Kayaks will never replace the bass boat for travel and stability. But there are places where the fishing kayak reigns supreme.  This might come in backwater coves, bayous or a farm pond.   In other words they are great for “skinny water.”  Kayaks come in a variety of models with relatively low price tags that make them an affordable option for the crappie angler.

Tournament anglers are turning to kayak divisions in such events. They compete in their own divisions.

Modern kayakers have adapted many of the features of power boat angers to their crafts. There are mini-power pole units just like the normal size ones.  Water tight storage areas, live wells and pole racks can aid in the storage of tackle and rain gear.

Today’s kayak constructed of manmade materials is much safer. Some are even available in inflatable models.  Their crafts are more stable thanks to wider beams and built in floatation systems.  Topside water-tight compartments permit the stowing of gear and rod holders.  Additional gear can be attached using bungee cords.  For the angler there are kayaks with live wells and numerous racks for additional rods.  It is usually heavier than its predecessor and some even have carts that allow one to wheel the craft right up to the shoreline.

The inflatable kayak provides a “luggable” aspect to construction. Usually constructed of PVC-vinyl they have a reinforced underside.  They are ideal for quick trips after work.  Once the fishing trip is over, the inflatable can fold into an easy loading rolling travel bag with a high capacity hand pump or an optional powered one.

The addition of comfortable low profile chairs with mesh seating allow anglers to sit comfortably while fishing skinny water and gliding over brush, weeds, snags, laydowns and rocks. The ones have decks wide enough to allow for the fly anglers to stand up to cast while maintain stability.

Kayaks allow one to have access to bodies of water that hold fish, but do not have boat ramps such as a farm pond or a small creek. It also allows one to access waters beyond small openings in the reeds or that would otherwise require portaging over shallow riffles.  Skinny water is often over-looked by those who do not want to get weeds and junk in the props of their motorized craft.

In addition to the ease in preparation for a day on the water, they are relatively maintenance free and there is no fuel needed. They are easy to transport in the bed of a pick-up.  Anglers find that they end up going fishing more often even if it’s only for a couple of hours after work.

The lack of mechanical power limits the speed and range of the craft. If fish are not biting in one spot it may mean reloading the kayak and driving to the next honey hole.  Another limitation is they do not allow one to carry as much gear as would be the case with a larger craft.  Stability may become an issue.  You will never find one as stable as a bass boat.

Despite the practicality of the modern kayak, one still needs to consider safety precautions on the water. The PFD (life preserver) is mandatory on some waters but essential for all water.  It is important to go out with at least one other person for safety’s sake.  Kayakers need a certain level of physical conditioning and ability to swim with confidence.

It is also advisable to have clothing that dries quickly. A dry bag can be stored on board either in below deck compartments or on deck with the use of bungee cords.  The dry bag also doubles as a storage compartment for valuable electronics.

Regardless of its limitations, the kayak is a lean mean fishing machine.

FISHING BLADE BAITS   Leave a comment

SILVER BUDDY BLADE BAIT

A number of years ago sitting down with an elderly fellow, a dedicated fan of the Silver Buddy blade bait, provided an introduction to a wealth of information on the use of this casting spoon type of blade bait.

There are a number of similar spoons on the market but the old timer swore by the Silver Buddy. He explained that one can gain confidence in the lure by using it.

The versatility of the blade bait is apparent regardless of the time of year.  It is effective on schooled fish and yet works equally well seeking fish that are relating to structure.  A number of different species will attack this unusual looking lure.

Blade baits can be jigged vertically or cast out like a crankbait.  It can be used anywhere one would want to use a lipless crankbait and it can be slow rolled like a spinnerbait.  It can even rattle like a lipless crankbait.

If this bait is so perfect, why do not more anglers use it?  Probably because they just have never tried it or are not sure how it fish this contraption from the southern states.

When the water temperature is between 38 and 60 degrees, it seems that fish have a tough time catching heavier lures.  A high percentage of fish are foul-hooked outside the mouth.

Reasoning that you need a lighter slower sinking lure, makers of tackle came up with blade bait made of a zinc alloy that is lead free and still has a hook noise.

Lead tends to deaden noise of the hooks hitting the blade, but zinc produces a lot more sound.  The difference is the same as the difference between beating two sticks together and ringing a bell.  The lure also is lighter and flutters more on a slow fall.

Blade baits in general are a simple blade to work.  They are presented in three ways dabbled or vertical jigged, jigged beneath a slip bobber, or cast and retrieved.  The beauty of this lure is its versatility.  You can retrieve it quickly, allowing for the covering of more area.  That increases the odds of attracting a bass’s attention.  It also has a bait fish profile. Coupled with a lot of flash and a tight wiggle, it gives the appearance of a baitfish darting to escape.

Buzzed across the surface with a steady retrieve interrupted with a brief fall make true blades are deadly.  Casting and retrieving allows the angler to scour a weed line or the edge of structure.

By finessing the blade bait, the angler can lower the bait into the school or near structure, hop it up and follow it down with the rod tip.  Fish marked with sonar, are sitting ducks once you position the boat over them with a trolling motor.  Without a trolling motor, the angler can anchor upwind of the school and allow the boat to drift at the end of a long anchor rope until it is over the fish.

In dabbling you drop the blade into shallow sunken timber using a long jig pole or fly rod.  It is similar to jigging but the angler gives the lure considerably more action.  A flick of the wrist will give a lure a hopping action.

The slip bobber approach is tying single small blade bait beneath a slip bobber that adjusted to keep the lure just above weeds.  The angler casts the lure, lets the blade settle.  He then begins to jig it bringing the line through the bobber.  The lure then begins to vibrate.  This procedure works well around timber with 8-pound line.  You may use lighter line in open water depending upon the species sought.

Blade baits are particularly popular with anglers seeking white and hybrid‑white bass in some of the larger impoundments. Probe large schools of fish with the bait as the fish feed on shad during the fall.  Cast heavier lures beyond schooling fish and bring it back through them.

Because the lure does not land on top of the fish it will not spook them.  Begin with a steady retrieve through the schooling fish and then let it fall.  Usually the bigger fish are below the shad, and the falling bait gets down to their level.

Blade baits all have their place in the tackle box.  Each has its own vibration, shape and sound.  With a little practice and experimentation, one can find the one that is right for the situation at hand.  Why not give them a chance.

CRAPPIE FISHING ON OKMULGEE LAKE, OK   Leave a comment

The 40-mile drive south from the hotel in Tulsa to Okmulgee, OK makes causes one a little ambivalence about the success of a fishing excursion. Thunderstorms have been hitting the area for days causing flooding and stained water conditions.  But there may never be another chance to fish this area and to fish with pro angler Mike Taylor, a local resident.

MIKE TAYLOR

This lake and the surrounding area experienced a rather colorful past and now is a mecca for anglers.

Since the Civil War it has been the capital of the Creek Nation and in fact takes its name from the creek language. English the name is “boiling waters” after a spring and creek flowing through area.  Early settlers engaged in farming and coal mining.  In 1907, oil became the basis of the local economy.  It attracted light industry.  Today the business section is attractive to businesses in the construction, retail trades, health care, accommodations and food industries.

Fishing is important to this part of the state as economic and recreational assets for resident and visitor alike. The states many rivers and the reservoir lakes on them provide extensive fishing opportunities.  The few natural lakes are limited to oxbows and playa lakes which are dry much of the year.  Extensive stocking and management activities of the wildlife agency provide anglers with the chance to fish numerous species.

After meeting at a local parking lot, we head for the boat ramp located near the spillway on 800-acre Lake Okmulgee. The weather continues to threaten but no rain fall as yet.

Mike explains that we will first fish some structure that often produces fish. If that is not satisfactory we will move to fishing boat docks.  The rigs we use are a standard pan fishing rig of two hooks usually fished straight down on light line.  This rig is popular with live bait but we rig them with small jigs and plastic bodies.

The upper jig body is a Bobby Garland SwimR in a monkey milk color. The lower hook is a black and white baby shad from the same company.  We begin by fishing about 10 to 15 feet deep.  Medium sized crappies take the lures almost instantly.  The all take only the upper jig.  A couple of larger fish bite, as does one really large one that gets off right at the boat.

Bobby Garland Monkey Milk Jig and Okmulgee lake Crappie

Mike explains that if fish are not biting to his satisfaction in a few minutes he likes to try another location. Moving to a nearby boat dock the action remains the same.  Mike decides to move to some structure off the end of a boat dock belonging to the client of his construction business.

It is a short trip to the location but the fishing is not very good there. The sky is darkening as Mike gets a telephone call from one of his pals, fishing for bass on Dripping Springs Lake, a few miles to the west of us.  He tells us that a big storm is heading this way and he is off to the ramp.

As a last ditch effort we head to the spillway area near the boat ramp. The spillway is an interesting structure constructed of blocks rather than poured concrete.  Built in the WPA days it is a rather imposing structure that is as sound as a dollar.

We fish the area briefly before the rain begins to fall. Then it is off to the ramp to load the boat and then into town for some great Mexican food.  A brief but very satisfactory crappie fishing trip comes to an end.

THE IN-BETWEEN SAND BASS OF FORT GIBSON LAKE IN OK   Leave a comment

White bass are traditionally a popular fishing species during the early spring spawning runs and the warm summer month’s jumps.  In the spring they take almost any offering at the end of a line.  In the summer one looks for the birds and bubbling water.  In the latter the white bass herd the shad up onto shallows attracting the birds.  The water seems to bubble with the shad breaking the surface in a vain attempt to evade the white bass chasing them from below.

Recently on a fishing excursion between these two seasons we found them staging in flooded trees and brush along points. Cruising out from the marina, the Sun Catcher by G3 provided a smooth trip across the waters of Fort Gibson Lake near Wagoner OK.  At the helm of this tri-toon pontoon craft is Chris Lindenberg, President of Gene Larew and Bobby Garland tackle companies.

Chris Lindenberg

The approximately 19,900-acre lake was partially flooded due to recent rainstorms in the area. We are in search of “sand bass” as the local refer to them.  Back home they are “white bass.”  The double Bimini top of the boat barely sneaks under the highway bridge before we move into a cove.

Fort Gibson Lake is the final of three lakes in the chain of waterways of the Lower Grand (Neosho) River system. It has about 225 surface acres that remain relatively stable except when the corps releases water from the two lakes upstream.  It is a system built by the Corps of Engineers for flood control and recreation.

The sky is clear and the temperature is about 80-degrees.

We troll along with three rods out and catch a few small fish before finding the submerged point with flooded trees sticking out of the surface. The lines are rigged with a Bobby Garland Mo’ Glo jig head with a Stroll’R body in pearl color.  The latter is a kind of translucent gray in color.  The jig head contains a florescent powder in the paint making is visible as far as 15 feet deep.

Once located this jig and tail began to produce action. The interesting thing about the body is the pad on the tail which produces action in the lure.  While trolling we can feel the vibration in the line.  The action of the bait entices fish to strike.

Nice “in-between” sand bass from Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma.

It is probable that in the stained water of this flooding the vibration of the jig tail in the surrounding water sends a signal to the fish’s lateral line and subsequently to the brain. It then aids the fish in locating the lure as a source of food or something aggravating.

Despite the poor water conditions, the camaraderie on this trip is great as is the entire experience was great.

REND LAKE SUMMER FISHING   Leave a comment

The big predator fish of Rend Lake provide plenty of angling action for those who plan their activities. District 19 Fisheries Manager for the IDNR describes the lake as “a catfish factory.”

In early May catfish, both Flathead and Channel, action begins to heat up as they move into the spawning mode. Just when it happens is dependent upon the water temperatures.  Warmer temperatures make the spawn begin earlier and it could begin in April.

On Rend Lake, once the catfishing begins it usually will continue all summer right into October and November.  It is at that point that the water begins to cool and the fish become less active.

Rend Lake has an abundance of Channel Catfish.  Well known fishing guide, Todd Gessner maintains that if one is fishing for channel catfish, most of the action will be with fish in the 1 to 1 2 pound size.  Occasionally you are going to catch fish in the 8 to 12 pound range.

Most of the catfishing anglers are hook and line fishermen who fish with nightcrawlers, cut bait, or dip baits. However, some anglers like to jug fish.  This consists of a short line attached to a plastic bottle (soda or milk) and a baited hook with a nightcrawler on the other end.  Jugs are tossed into the water and the anglers sit back to wait.  At some point one or more of the jugs will move about quickly in the still waters.  Often it will be in a different direction from the other jugs.  Then it is time to crank up the motor and go retrieve it.

On hotter days, Gessner recommends going out on the lake in a boat and drift fishing. He will use a throw net to catch shad for bait.  Todd can keep this up all summer long.  He finds these patterns very productive.

Most of the Flathead Catfish come from fishing jugs and trotlines. Occasionally one hears of a fish taken with rod and reel.  Gessner’s guide business does not get a great deal of call for Flathead fishing.

Another popular predator species in Rend Lake are the bass.  Most numerous are the Largemouth Bass but the lake does have Stripers as well.

The Striper fishery is dependent upon proper spawning conditions and water level of the lake. Some fish wash over the spillway.  There does seem to be an increased number of better fish found below the dam.

The fishing down there is basically shore fishing. The fast water comes over the dam and down the chute into a wide area where the water slows.  A good bet according to Todd is casting a small spinner bait or white twister tail to see just what you might catch.  It seems that just about every species found in the lake are in that small still water basin.

Consistently catching Stripers is a very iffy prospect. The fish need high water so that they can move into the river upstream of the sub-impoundment according to Mike Hooe.  Getting the right water level at the right time is not always possible.

Todd reports that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources did stock some 13-inch Stripers hoping to improve that fishery. It will be interesting to see if that leads to more anglers catching fish.

Largemouth Bass in Rend Lake in the 2 to 4 pound classes with a few 8-pound fish weighed in during bass tournaments.

As the summer heat begins fishing becomes very difficult during the day with temperatures in the 90-degree plus area. Gessner proclaims that his business slows down significantly and generally involves just the real hardcore anglers.  They divide up the day, go out for only about four hours in the morning from dawn to about 10 a.m., and then find some air conditioned place to wait out the heat.  About 4 o’clock they will return to the water until about 8 p.m.

Rend Lake is an excellent fishery with good water quality.  The vast expanse of the lake is broken up with brush and old timber in the northern reaches.  It is there that most of the fishing action seems to take place.  For more information about guide service and accommodations contact Todd Gessner on his cell phone at 618-513-0520.

WALLEYES ON THE CHAIN O LAKES   Leave a comment

SHORE FISHING ILLINOIS CHAIN-O-LAKES

About 50 miles northwest of Chicago a string of lakes connected by the Fox River flows south out of Wisconsin. Called the Chain O Lakes they are just off Illinois Route 173 and U.S. Route 12 near the communities of Antioch and Fox Lake.

This month is the prelude to the influx of recreational boaters and anglers that will take over the waterway for the summer beginning next month. Anglers enjoy great fishing.

Although most species are available in the various lakes of “The Chain” a special opportunity is available to bank fishermen during the month.

Walleye become active in the channels between the lakes and around bridges. Both the upper and lower sections of the chain always have current.  The current attracts baitfish, which in turn attract the walleye.  Any river bends have current and usually at least one deep hole.  Bridge pilings divert the water creating faster current flow.

Walleye are a popular quarry all year around but bank anglers are at a disadvantage to boat fishermen during most of the year. With current flow the walleye tend to move just off the current to wait out the baitfish caught in the current.

During the month of May, the fish are closer to the shore in the channels and around the bridges. Bank fishermen can park along the roadway and fish the areas around the bridges and in the channel by casting slip bobber rigs.  Beneath the bobber is suspended a jig and minnow combination that proves quite effective.

If you catch a fish remember the amount of current flow. When you move to another location seek one with a current of a similar speed.  The speed of the flow can vary from location to location depending upon the amount of rainfall and wind speed.

Boaters can launch at most or the resorts and motor over to the bridges or into the channels. Bouncing the jig and minnow without the bobber around the pilings works well for boaters.

Walleye fishing on the chain can be difficult. But, this spring fishing seems to be the best opportunity.

THE TROUT OF DEVILS KITCHEN   Leave a comment

For most practical purposes trout fishing’s best days are over for the summer. The state regulated program stocks trout in small inland lakes in April and October.  After a beginning flurry of action, the number of anglers declines in number.  The catch rate declines significantly.  A small residue population of the fish continues into the summer when the water usually gets too hot for them.

There is one significant exception to this experience.

An 810-acre lake near Marion, Illinois is a surprise trout fishery. Stocked each October with 7,000 to 12,000 rainbow trout, the fish are plenty wild and scattered by the following spring when the anglers venture forth.

Devil’s Kitchen Lake accessed is available via Interstate 57 exits 53 and 54 west. The lake is on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge just off Spillway Road.  Day use passes, directions, and site specific regulations are available at the refuge Visitor Center 2 miles south of Route 13 on Route 148.

Rainbows are torpedo shaped with a square tail. They have many small spots over the entire body and tail.  Rainbows have a white mouth and gums and sport 10 to 12 anal rays.

Trout are a cold water fish and in most downstate lakes, the water warms quickly in the spring. That makes for the potential of a quick die-off.  Due to the depth of Devils Kitchen Lake, the problem is not as severe.  It is over 90 feet deep near the dam area and the fish tend to congregate there on warm summer days.  In a lake situation, the rainbow trout acts a little differently than would be the case in a small stream.  For that reason it is advisable to do a little scouting of the water prior to wetting a line.

If fishing from shore or without the modern electronics available to some anglers with boats, a good topographical map is important. In either case fishermen search for shoreline structure.  Trout seem to be particularly susceptible to the suns rays.  To avoid the sun and predators they will often be in or near a sheltered area or deep water.  Most shore fishermen fish in the early morning or late evening during the summer months.  Water is cooler during those periods according to locals.

Devil’s Kitchen Lake has a number of ledges and drop offs. The map and electronics come in handy in locating such areas.  The area just to the south of the dam area has a number of such ledges.  They look like steps going from the shore into deep water.

During the summer the area just out from the dam attracts trout. They often will appear on a graph as a cloud of bait fish suspended at about 15 to 20 feet deep.  In the hot weather of a southern Illinois summer heats the surface water to a point where it is not comfortable for trout.  They will move down to about 20 feet depth where the water tends to be more comfortable for them.

Early in the morning and late in the evening, when the water tends to be cooler, the trout will come to the surface in search of bait fish and flying insects that land on the water to rest.

Rainbow trout are most comfortable in water that is 56 to 70 degrees F. Once the water gets to 79 and above, they leave that water in search of more comfortable environments during cooler weather.  As the water warms, they seek out deeper water which usually means the dam area at the north end of the lake.

The shad forage in the lake also like the cooler water. But they seem to be willing to go into warmer water to avoid the trout seeking to eat them.  In the cooler evening temperatures both predator and prey will rise to feed.  In the brushy areas at the north end of the lake, insects will come out.  The fish will seek to capture any hapless insect in that area.  Further south, there are some trees that attract trout.  Any area where there is runoff from the shore will also attract trout.  They hang out there in hopes of getting any terrestrial insects that wash into the lake by a summer rain.

Most trout take natural baits like mealworms, red worms, minnows or pieces of nightcrawler. You can usually cut the nightcrawler in thirds and threaded them onto the hook for best results.

There are no longer any facilities available in the form of boat rentals, bait and food services.

Bait, tackle and fishing licenses are available at Cooksey’s Bait Shop on the corner of Old Route 13 and Highway 148, just north of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. They are also available at the marina on Little Grassy Lake just south of Devil’s Kitchen Lake about two miles on Spillway Road.

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