Archive for the ‘Ponds’ Tag

CATCHING ILLINOIS CATCHABLE TROUT   Leave a comment

Each October, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocks rainbow trout into lakes around the state.  While they refer to this program as the catchable trout program, to some the term catchable does not apply.

While some anglers will quickly catch their limit, others will fish all day for a fish or two, perhaps none.  The highest percentage of fish taken comes on opening day.  All too soon anglers catch the most stupid fish.  Catching then becomes more challenging.

Trout taken early are the more aggressive feeders that have learned to muscle out the other guys.  They seem to take just about any bait presented leaving the more shy fish.

Trout react to temperature of their surroundings.  They move to locations within the lake that are most comfortable for them.  It could be a particular depth or a cove where the water temperature is ideal.

They prefer a temperature range of 56 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit.  When water temperature reaches the 80 degree or higher level, fish die.  Trout also prefer water with a pH in the range of 5.8 to 9.5 which is a range between acid and alkaline. Most southern Illinois lakes have a pH of 7.5.

Catchable trout are hatchery reared fish.  They grow up on a diet of trout pellets.  When released into a lake or pond they continue those hatchery feeding habits for a few days.  These adaptable little fish soon adopt the wild trout feeding habits and maintain them until caught by an angler.

This adaptability means that the angler must also adapt his patterns to continue to catch the fish.

Early on the trout will take spinners and marshmallows.  Even Velveeta cheese spread placed on a very small hook suspended about 18 inches beneath a small float.

After a few days, anglers must switch to live bait.  It is at this point that worm dunking becomes popular.  Rainbow trout have about 2,500 taste buds.  That compares with about 9,000 in humans.  Trout are one of least selective feeders.  However, they soon turn to only baits that contain tastes commonly found in living tissue.  They seek out live baits such as mealworms, red worms, maggots, minnows and nightcrawlers.

Pieces of nightcrawler on a number 10 hook are very effective.  About one third of a nightcrawler can be skewered onto the hook making the bait last longer.

Fresh from the hatchery fish tend to feed within the top foot or two from the surface.  Late season fish become bottom huggers.  Slip sinker rigs tipped with nightcrawler seem to be most productive.

In the late fall weather can also be an indication of fish location.  On a windy day, it is advisable to fish with the wind in your face.  Most of the catchable trout locations are lakes with relatively featureless bottoms.  Structure such as drop offs and points become the only thing to which the fish can relate.

On opening morning, these catchable lakes often have anglers standing elbow to elbow.  However, if you can wait a day or two, the lake you may find a more normal trout fishing opportunity.

For a list of waters open for the taking of catchable trout, contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources regional office near you or the site superintendent of a park listed in the Illinois Fishing Information booklet published by the IDNR.  The booklet is available wherever fishing licenses are available and on line at http://www.il.gov.us.

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FISHING WITH CANE POLES   Leave a comment

 

We often refer to the basics of fishing as a rod and reel and some terminal tackle. Yet there is nothing more “basic” than fishing with a cane pole.  To many it began a fishing career and a lifetime of fond memories.

Today’s fishing poles and rods come in a seemingly endless variety of lengths, materials and shapes. Yet, they all owe their beginnings to the cane pole.  Early anglers simply chopped down a bamboo or river cane stalk, tied a line to it containing a fishing hook baited with an insect or worm.

Back in the “stone age” when I was a youngster, my grandmother introduced me to the pleasures of fishing with a bamboo pole on a tailwater below the Mitchel Dam in northern Iowa. I was probably about 4 or 5 years of age.  We only caught one fish that day but it was a bass of about 6 or 7 pounds.  We did put it on the scale but I have forgotten just how much it weighed.

That summer I was allowed to fish with the bamboo pole at a creek on her farm and in the horse tank where she released some bullheads. It was a great summer.

Anglers can use a cane pole out of a boat, from shore, or from a dock. It works in rivers, streams, creeks, ponds and lakes.  Its limber nature allows one to notice the slightest jerk from a fish.

You can keep the short line tight with a couple of sinkers and when a fish nibbles, one just jerks straight up. Jerking quickly is best.  But, don’t try to rip their lips.

The angler with a cane pole has to contrive to catch fish within the limit of the poles’ reach. That reach is only the length of the pole and line, less the distance from the butt to the grip.  Without a float (bobber) this distance could be as much as 20 feet.  But, as the bait sinks, the distance gets less due to the bait swinging in a pendulum fashion back toward the angler.

Without a float, the angler can lower the pole until it is horizontal with the surface of the water. That will place the bait roughly 10-feet deep.

A cane pole requires an angler be stealthy when approaching fish due to the limit of their tackle. He must read shoreline water and know where to find fish.  The shoreline also tells them what kind of bottom to expect.  Different species of fish like different bottom structure.

Cane pole fishermen might look for short stretches of rocks and gravel. Or for largemouth he might pick the weedy shoreline in low places where black dirt and vegetation is visible and where areas off shore are over grown.  The vegetation might be lily pads, coontail, cattails and rushes.

Areas below bluffs would be perpendicular and go to a depth beyond reach. It is vital to find areas of modest depth reachable by this equipment.  It serves as home to forage fish upon which game fish can feed.

Use care to avoid spooking the fish in clear water situations.  Shallows containing lots of emergent vegetation or weed beds provide the angler some concealment and a better chance of getting closer to fish.

The kind of bait used or strength of line varies according to the angler’s preference and species he is seeking.

For some it is fun to return occasionally to cane pole fishing and meet the challenge it presents. Such anglers experience the peace and tranquility of a type of fishing many of us grew up experiencing.

 

FINDING POST-SPAWN CRAPPIE   Leave a comment

Southern Illinois lakes provide excellent crappie fishing during the pre-spawn and spawn. However, once the spawn is over, these tasty little critters seem to disappear.  Granted it is possible to find a few around tree stumps and other vegetation, but the numbers of fish just seem to decline after they finish the spawn.

On Crab Orchard Lake, you can pretty much go any where on the lake and catch crappie. Concentrate your efforts in the main lake, Grassy Bay and in the tributaries to the north of Route 13.  Fish anywhere there is rip rap, especially that along Route 13 where it crosses the lake on the north side.

On Lake of Egypt look to the shallow grass areas, points and small pockets as the water begins to warm. Early on it produces crappie because of the warming of the water from the power plant on the north end of the lake.  As the warm water filters down the lake, the fish also migrate along.

The fish follow the old creek channels and hold up on deep water stumps. They are often caught in 20 to 30 foot of water.  Many guys catch them out there year around.

Local anglers prefer 1/16th ounce jigs with a chartreuse head and red hooks. Other colors on the jigs are black/chartreuse, watermelon/chartreuse, red/chartreuse and Junebug/chartreuse.  Use the popular vertical pattern or cast to under water structure such as weeds and brush.  The later pattern is for those with a lack of patience.

With a heavier jig you tend to reel a little faster than with 1/16th ounce jigs. The idea is to reel slowly enough to stay in contact with the cover.  Crappie will not go down to get forage fish.  They prefer to look upward at all times and the angler who keeps his jig above them will be more successful.

Crappie move to deeper water and relate to the structure found there.   It can be submerged points, rocks, brush pile or ledges.  They find the depth of water that is most comfortable to maintain their desired body temperature.  Forage fish seek out water of their desired temperature.  Crappie usually congregate below them and move up to feed before returning to their comfort range.

Shallow water is where most anglers catch crappies, they move away to deep water structure in an effort to find their comfort zone. The forage fish they pursue for their livelihood seek out water that is comfortable for them.  Find the forage fish near the structure and the crappie should be below them.

 

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.

MAXIMIZE YOUR OUTDOOR SHOW DOLLARS   Leave a comment

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

The key to maximizing knowledge from a boat show is advance preparation.  A game plan will allow you to learn with a minimum of exhaustion.  Begin on the Internet.  Most all of the exhibitors web pages.  So too do the sponsors of the show itself.

Most 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 aspect of outdoor recreation takes effort.  Some shows are so large that one feels the need of a GPS just to get around.

Once you select 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.

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.  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 you usually receive as you enter.  It often has a floor plan and list of the exhibitors.  Use a pen or highlighter marking pen 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 while 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.  Look for such changes 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 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 accumulate.  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 a maximum benefit from your money.

 

ICE FISHING TIPS   2 comments

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Winter brings a different brand of fishing to many waterways. Here’s what to expect from this year’s hard-water season.

Ice fishing is basically a sport practiced in the northern half of the country due to weather conditions. The southern half does not reach sustainable temperatures to form enough ice to support ice fishing.

The northern areas sustain the sport from December to late February.

Hard water anglers get as much fun out of planning forays on the ice any other fishing. They begin by selecting an area.  If it is a forest preserve near home, obtain the stocking tallies from local websites.  That way you have an idea as to what species to expect.

It often becomes a family project to gather as much information about the proposed trip(s) on the ice. Anticipation is a large part of the fun for a family.  Do not just wander out on the ice.  Check on maps for structure and bowls in the water.  Again turn to the Internet.  Often a local park of governmental website will have topographical lake maps.

Also search Google Maps (www.google.com) for photos of the same body of water. By combining the information from both, you can plan fishing locations.   Look for sharp turns in the shoreline, weed edges and timber.  By recording the GPS coordinates for the waypoints you have 10 to 12 locations to begin the search for fish.

Punching a lot of holes seems to be a premise for kind of fishing

Many ice anglers use artificial lures almost exclusively. Some use natural bait only as a last resort.  By experimenting with different colors on various bodies of water they find that glow jigs with glow tails are best for crappies bass and bluegills.  Sometimes they get some success with an orange/red combination for bluegills.

When choosing a color experiment by using a glow jig with a different color tail. If all else fails go to a black jig head with a red tail on 1-pound line.

Post-season finds many picking several accessible lakes to explore as possible ice fishing locations for the next year. Check the maps and mark them with notes on breaklines and structure.  Successful anglers always fish structure.  They will fish on all sides and the top.  The larger fish seem to be on the outside edges of the structure while the smaller ones seem to go into it for concealment.

Due to the clarity of winter water, fish the water column from the top down two feet at a time. This is contrary to traditional ice fishing lore but it is successful for most ice fishermen.

If permitted in site specific regulations make use of electronic fish locaters and cameras in some of the location you like to fish. Fish locaters and cameras are very effective in locating structure in the clear water of deep lakes.

By keeping track of the stocking information on each lake during the year you gain an idea of species and numbers of fish.

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