Archive for the ‘Largemouth Bass’ Tag

FALL ACTION AT REND LAKE   Leave a comment

Fall comes later to southern Illinois.  But it is still a great time of the year.  The trees change colors weeks after the northern part of the state.  Chilly nights often give way to a hot clear sky during the day.  Fall is a study of contrasts for the hunter and angler.

The fishing for crappie is terrific on Rend Lake during fall.  Although the weather determines how long into the winter it continues, anglers willing to brave cooler temperatures continue throughout the fall.

Rend Lake is a reservoir located on Interstate 57 about 5 hours south of Chicago.  To get to the state park boat ramps exit at Highway 154 east and proceeds to the entrance of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.  Proceed north on the road.

The fourth quarter of the year in southern Illinois is a great combination time in the Rend Lake area.  There is archery deer season beginning the first of October and yet fishing action is still great.  By the third week in November the duck season begins and still the fishing continues.

Fishing into December is not unusual. But, the main focus is waterfowl hunting and the firearms deer seasons.  In early November hunters enjoy rabbit and quail hunting as the Upland Game seasons open.

The quail hunting is for wild birds. Rabbit hunting is with beagles. If you have never experienced the beagle hunt is it worth doing just to see those little dogs in action.  There is commotion everywhere.  It is just a fun thing to do.

Fall is actually a great time of the year for the outdoorsman. He can pretty well do it all.

A fisherman need not necessary to get out on the water as early as might be the case in the late summer. In the fall one can usually have breakfast and be on the water by about 8 o’clock in the morning.

Deer hunting can be on both public and private land. The ample public land available in southern Illinois provides many deer hunting opportunities.  Private land hunts are for quality deer hunting and clients enjoy some pretty spectacular results.

 

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A PRIMER FOR CRANKBAIT FISHING   Leave a comment

As we move into fall fishing the selection and use of a crankbait takes a little thought. Many find its use too complicated and limit their selection to just a few baits.

In the tackle stores one finds countless types and colors of this lure. The variations involve many colors and bills or varying sizes.

As far as what crankbait to run when the selection is dependent on the depth of the fish’s location in the water column. Bass might be in two feet or 22-feet of water.  If fish are shallow it calls for a lure that runs shallow.  If they are deep then one with a larger bill is required to the lure run deeper.

The shallow running crankbait is often preferable for fish that are not aggressive enough for a spinnerbait to be successful. The crankbait is good for these finicky fish.

Some people trim the bill of a crankbait to make it run shallower. Others just switch to one with a smaller bill.  The main requirement of crankbait fishing is that the bait runs straight.  It means that you are getting its maximum depth and best action.

There is one exception to this rule. One can detune a crankbait if fishing along a dock and you want the lure to run underneath it.  You can detune it to run to the side.  But for most situations you want the lure to run straight.

There is a physical toll on the angler when fishing with crankbaits. The deep diving crankbaits can wear one out.  In an effort to counter act this physical tool anglers will use a 7-foot cranking rod for deep diving baits and a 6-foot 6-inch one for the smaller baits as well as tight conditions.  A rod with a flexible tip also absorbs a lot of the pull during a retrieve.  With a really stiff rod that pulls is harder on the angler.

To polish crankbait fishing skills go to a lake that has good crankbait potential. Take everything out of the boat except the bait and equipment related to crankbait fishing.  It forces one to learn the techniques necessary if you do not have any alternative.  It forces you to figure out how to catch fish with a crankbait.

Crankbait fishing may not be the easiest pattern to learn. But, it is a great tool that is productive once you learn how to use it.

SUMMER ON THE OHIO RIVER   Leave a comment

The Ohio River has a long and varied history. It can be the mother of commerce or it might turn against civilization with floods beyond imaginations.  But to the angler it can lead to tributaries plump with a number of game species.

Nestled beneath a large bluff on the Ohio River, is the Golconda Marina, gateway to Smithland Pool.  The marina is the entrance to the some 23,000-acres of recreational water that is the river and its tributaries.

Unusually wet weather swells the normally placid looking main channel with high water.  It is not so much the volume of water that crimps the fishing in this region; it is the junk that washes downstream during the high water.  It can make navigation dangerous as huge cottonwoods floating down from areas to the northeast can damage a boat and snag fishing gear.

Smithland Pool refers to the section of the Ohio above the Smithland Lock and Dam at Hamletsburg.  The pool is more than 72 miles in length.  The shoreline, numerous islands and deep clean water attract thousands of anglers each year.  They prowl the shoreline in search of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky spotted bass, crappie, bluegill, walleye, sauger, striped bass, white bass and catfish.

Located in the town of Golconda, the marina offers overnight moorage, covered slips, boat rental, gas, diesel, shower facilities, mechanic service, and food.

Down river, the Smithland Lock and Dam is an exciting fishery of striped bass and hybrid striped bass.  These battlers are very challenging in the current of the river.  Anglers target these fish with big surface poppers, plastic jerkbaits and jigging spoons.  The fishing is best as the river is on the rise as well as when the water levels run about 35 feet.  Good locations for those looking for these scrappers are the heads of islands early in the morning and late in the evening. When the locks are open the stripers seek out the fast flowing water that washes bait fish through the dam.

Largemouth bass inhabit the river.  Generally the better bass action is in the feeder creeks just off the main river channel.  The brushy areas and stump fields of Lusk Creek are the most popular area for bass anglers.  The mouth of the creek is just a short distance from the marina and convenient to enter.  One just exits the marina cove and enters the first creek to the south.

The best summer fishing times are from dawn to about 9:00 a.m. and two hours before dusk until the light is gone.

During summer months, bass require a little finesse in lure presentation.  Slow roll spinnerbaits in standing timber of the old channel.  Following any rain, the creek tends to muddy up.  Then it is time to get out the salt craws.  Black, electric blue and chartreuse are the best colors.  Again it is good to fish the wood, any wood, which is just off the main channel.

Best known as a catfish factory, the Ohio has huge numbers of channels and blues.  Anglers present natural baits such as cut shad on the bottom near current breaks.  The best time to go catfishing seems to be when the water is rising or is at a high water mark.  The action seems to be best in about 10 to 18 feet of water and near the wing dams on the river.

For the bluegill anglers, the streams agree the best bet.  Good quality fish will take baits such as worms, pieces of shrimp, or crawfish.  Work the baits around the submerged tree tops and brush.

Crappie anglers jig with long poles back into the wood.  They “dip minnows” near the wood seeking big fish resting in the shade.  The key is to jig near visible cover.  The creeks have plenty to choose from.

Although the best known fishing locations are downstream from the marina, there are numerous feeder creeks to the upstream side.  In all the 51 miles stretch between Smithland Lock and Dam and the Saline River, there are 10 major and 12 minor streams entering the river from the Illinois side.  An additional 8 major streams and 5 minor ones enter the river from the Kentucky side.

FISHING TO AND FROM BOAT DOCKS   Leave a comment

 

 

With falls cooling waters the fishing around the relatively shallow areas of docks begins to pick up.

Most approaches to fishing boat docks focus on approaching from the open water. There is another kind of dock fishing, that of fishing from the dock.

Growing up in the 50’s we did all of our fishing from shore or a boat dock. Most of it was from boat docks on Clear Lake, a large spring fed body of water in north-central Iowa.

Dad knew some people who had summer cottages on the lake and would allow us to fish from their dock in the evening. When none of their docks was available there was always a commercial dock that charged a fee to fish from it.  It had a small restaurant that served great hot dogs and also sold nightcrawlers and minnows.  The last resort was one of the state or city docks available for free but often crowded with anglers.

The only real advantage of using the public docks was a chance to learn other people’s techniques for catching fish. It provided a youngster with a chance to see what worked and what did not.

The first rule I learned was that fish followed the edges of weed beds in search of forage fish that fed on the insects that called the weed home. Casting to the weeds sticking up out of the water would yield a bullhead or two.

From there is was a simple step to bobber fishing at about 18 inches deep in the more open water between the dock and the weeds. Stripers as we called them would take a minnow suspended below the bobber and give a thrilling bit of action.  These were actually small striped bass.

Blue gills and sunfish congregate around a specific dock piling and are easy to jig for by dropping a piece of worm on a hook. You just lower it down and bring it up.  Somewhere along the way a little sunny will grab hold.

Basic patterns came from experimentation and from old timers who would sit on the benches and tell a youngster how to catch fish.

Some of the fishing technique learned during those golden summer days was simple but often overlooked.

Most docks are private property. To gain access, one must get permission from the shoreline owner.  Not doing so is to trespass an offense that can result in a fine or worse.  A better choice is to find public docks or piers.  Many state parks have such facilities.

Choose a fishing location by observing the wind. Fish follow the forage blown toward shore.  Docks located on the downwind side of a body of water are a haven for forage fish and the larger predatory fish follow.

Night is a good time for catfish and walleye. Fishing from a dock at night can be a very pleasant experience.  The night time on a lake is one of peace and quiet.  It is a very relaxing environment.  Other good times for dock fishing are early morning and sunset.  Low light conditions cause fish to lower their alertness to danger.

The end of a dock is usually in the deepest water. But along its length are locations that attract certain species of fish, like the bluegill and sunfish.  They were in about 3 feet of water about half way down the dock.  They were there because no one looked for them there and they found food washed in from deeper water as well as shade from the sun.

Many docks have artificial and natural structure within casting distance. The secret is to find them and remember where they are for next time.  You find them by watching other anglers.  They will cast to their honey-hole locations.  If they cast to a certain spot more than once it is a sure tipoff that they have caught fish there on more than one occasion.

Being observant and paying attention to what others are saying pays off in dock fishing. One day while eating a hamburger in that restaurant at the commercial dock one guy was telling another that the best action he gets were catfish just off the 4th post on the dock.  He said he suspended a nightcrawler on a small hook about 18-inches under a bobber.  After the two of them had gone home, I moved to that location and did as the man said.  By the time dad came to pick me up, three 5 pound catfish were dancing on my stringer.  That spot would yield many more over the years.

There is no telling what was down there to attract those fish. Whatever it was produced fish for several years.

Over the dock fishing years a pattern in the use of tackle has developed. Use a casting rod to reach out away from the dock.  At the same time use another rod to drop a bobber and bait up close to the dock in hope of drawing a fish out from the shade under it.

Terminal tackle is simple. It consists of ultra light, but visible bobbers, a few different sizes of bait hooks, and bait, either minnows or nightcrawlers.  Cut the nightcrawlers into thirds to extend the amount of bait available.

REND LAKE AN ANGLERS DREAM IN SUMMER   Leave a comment

 

 

In the early days of the flooding of Rend Lake, following the building of the spillway, the bottom was relatively featureless. Construction crews piled much of the wood structure in a few areas, burned it or carted it away.

Later as coal exploration developed there were as many as 9 mines on the shore. Many dug under the lake to form mine shafts supported by construction called patterns.  Later as the mines ceased to produce they pulled the patterns and the bottom of the lake subsided forming an uneven bottom structure.  Fish of all species began to use that uneven bottom and the bass and crappie population exploded.

Probably one of the best known crappie lakes in southern Illinois is Rend Lake, a Corps of Engineers reservoir of 18,900-acres astride Interstate 57 in Franklin County.   For the past 3- years the lake has experienced high water in the spring during the crappie spawn.  This can be a blessing or a curse.  It creates lots of young smaller fish reducing the percentage of large fish in the population.  It does hold well for the future, as the significant numbers of crappie provides ample larger fish in the years ahead.

In the early days of the lake the Illinois state record black crappie came from here. The 4-pound 8-ounce record stood since 1976 until beaten in 2017 by a fish from Kinkaid Lake.

As word of the fantastic crappie fishery expanded people began to over harvest the fish. There was no limit in those days and anglers would fill coolers with fish to feed their families.  That had to change and did when a new biologist came to the area named Mike Hooe.  He was not a popular figure in the early days but today he is something of a hero.

The IDNR enacted length and creel limits in 2002 which continue to today producing a significant impact on the size structure and the population according to that D-19 Fisheries Manager, Mike Hooe. “Populations have improved dramatically and remain stable,” exclaims Mike.  The fish are in very good condition and fishing continues outstanding.  The thick fish are the kind anglers refer to as having “shoulders.”

Due to high water conditions the last 3 years in a row, there are more of the smaller fish than in years past. As a result the larger fish are beginning to represent a small proportion of the total fishery.   In future years those year classes will become the larger fish in the lake boding well for future crappie fishing.

The younger year class of which Mike speaks includes fish in the 6 to 8-inch class.   Crappies in the 10 to 12-inch class are abundant and average a half to over a pound in weight.  Creel limits on this lake are a total of 25 fish with not more than 10 fish exceeding 10-inches.

There are numerous fish attractors around the lake providing supplemental structure. Maps and GPS Coordinates are available online at http://www.mtvernon.com/newtourism/fishattractor/pdf.  The Corps and the IDNR received badly need funds in 2017 to add more.  Many local anglers and organizations placing their own fish locators supplemented these structures.  Mike Hooe recommends using electronics to locate any structure.

 

THE LEAN MEAN FISHING MACHINE   1 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   1 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.

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