Archive for the ‘Small Lke Fishing’ Tag

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.

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.

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.

FALL FISHING   Leave a comment

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As the colors of fall become apparent and temperatures cool, the challenges to anglers also change. Early daytime temperatures can vary considerably from morning to evening.  Cool mists appear as colder air moves across the water whose temperatures lag behind those over the land.

Some species of fish gorge on the forage base in preparation for a winter when they eat less often. Threadfin shad begin to ball up and many start to die, as they are unable to adapt to colder weather.  Other forage moves into shallow water found near shore, in buck brush and the backs of coves.

Anglers often find larger fish in the fall. They have feasted on forage species all summer.  In the southern Illinois lakes they have been active almost all year munching on shad and other forage.  Anglers often find that they are catching fewer fish but the ones they find are often larger than they found last spring.

As an example, with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, bass leave the shallows to suspend some 6 to 12-feet down in the water column. They move back to the shallows in search of food but are more comfortable away from there.  Crankbaits and spinners in the natural colors of crawfish and shad produce better results than the plastics the bass angler has been using all summer.  Baits with gold and copper hues work well in stained water.  In clear water blue, silver or white lures are better.

As fishing for warm water fish like bass and crappies slows late in the month look for action to pick up for walleye and muskies. The latter like colder temperature zones in the water column.  September seems to be a transition month for fish and the anglers who pursue them.

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