Archive for the ‘Sunfish’ 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.

TIPS FOR FISHING ICE OUT CRAPPIES   2 comments

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As spring brings warmer water temperatures to the Land of Lincoln, crappies begin to move from deep water haunts toward their traditional spawning habitat. As they stage in the more shallow water, anglers seek them out.

Two waters can present different fishing challenges while also containing a prominent crappie fishery. One is a long stretch of water with rocky bluffs and deep water close to shore.  The other is shorter and much wider with a kind of bowl structure with great shoreline vegetation.

The challenge of fishing for pre-spawn crappies is mostly finding them. This involves knowing their seasonal movements.  The spawn dominates the habits of fish in spring.  Water clarity is a factor in finding fish.  Turbid water following flooding and low light penetration limits vegetation growth to shallow water.  In very clear, undisturbed water the fish remain deep.  As predators they seek preferred forage.  Knowing where the forage is located goes a long way in finding crappies.

Fishing for pre-spawn crappies requires stealth, patience, ability to read the water and a sound knowledge of the species.

Crappies feed according to changes in weather and barometric pressure. They cause the fish to move tight to cover and become inactive.  Successful anglers look for warmer water seeking out colored water, a windward shoreline, a dark soft bottom, shallow water, tributary streams and heat absorbing cover such as wood.

Early on in the month crappies will be in shallower water on dark, warm days and deeper on clear ones. High water is common.  Fish will often move up into the temporarily flooded vegetation.  It is advisable to check a variety of depth zones and not overlook checking odd locations.

Cold water crappies are not usually aggressive feeders. Fish slowly.  They will not chase bait or lure very far.  It is best to keep a lure right on their nose.

Jigs are the bread and butter of crappie lures. A good assortment of leadhead jigs in 1/16th to 1/64th ounce, in crappie colors or white, black and yellow are basic, but not the end all.  Other colors produce action, as feeding habits of the crappie can be finicky.   Couple them with tube bodies of the same colors.  For the natural bait aficionado jigs with minnows and wax worms are the ticket.

There are three basic methods to catch crappie: vertical jigging, dabbling, and casting/retrieving jigs.

Vertical jigging involves parking over a known crappie location and dropping a jig straight down into it.

A related technique is dabbling. This requires a long pole to drop the jig into pockets and holes in heavy brush or flooded cover.  Using a short section of line, move the jig from one spot to another.  It is jigged a bit and then pulled up and moved to another location.

Casting jigs involves casting up a shoreline and then retrieving it with a slow swimming motion. Speeding up or slowing down the retrieve varies the depth at which the jig travels.  Once fish are located at a specific depth, the angler concentrates on that depth.

It is important to stay within five feet of the desired level, as crappies tend to concentrate feeding activity to one depth. You need to keep the jig right among the crappies.  Larger fish are usually in a layer just under the smaller ones.

Often in cold water the fish will suspend off of the bottom. Anglers can drop a jig to the bottom, then crank or lift it back up.  Since crappies feed up due to the placement of their eyes, they will tell you what level they prefer their forage.  You can then concentrate your fishing at that level.

As with all fishing, it is important to keep an open mind, use the right equipment, fish slowly and try to keep your lure where there are fish.

 

FALL FISHING LOCATIONS IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS   Leave a comment

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Lake Glendale in Pope County tops the list for nice peaceful fall fishing locations in southeast Illinois. Pope County is one of the prettiest counties in the state during the fall color changes.  The lake is located in the Shawnee National Forest and is part of the Lake Glendale Recreation Area.  It is located three miles north of the junction of Illinois Routes 145 and 146 and about 25 miles south of Harrisburg via route 145.

The heavily forested area near the lake provides excellent campsites for the fall hunter/fisherman. Because the lake waters come from a heavily forested watershed, it is clean and clear.  This makes it popular with swimmers, boaters and picnickers.  Swimming is limited to the beach area only.

The lake itself is 80-acres with clean clear water and an abundance of vegetation that is home to some nice bluegills and channel catfish. The largemouth bass are present but only about 12 to 14-inches in length and below the 16-inch legal size limit for keepers.  Regular stocking the lake has resulted in a steadily improving fishery.

There is a boat ramp at the northeast side of the lake and a 10 horsepower limit on motors. Anglers can access the lake from a variety of locations along the shore.  Boat rentals are available.

For those wanting to fish additional waters, Sugar Creek Lake is located just west of Lake Glendale near Dixon Springs. The crappies, catfish and bass are good in Sugar Creek Lake.  Shore fishing is good and boating is allowed with electric motors.

Outdoorsmen fishing and camping at these two lakes can easily take advantage of the ample hunting lands of the Shawnee National Forest.  Deer, squirrel, quail and turkey are found there.

For the hunter/anglers who wants a quiet place to camp and participate in hunting or fishing activities these two locations are ideal. They are perfect for a day or several days cast and blast vacation.  For more information contact the Lake Glendale Recreation area at 618-949-3807 or the U.S. Forest Service at 618-658-2111.

KASI CATCHES CRAPPIES   Leave a comment

Kasi & Crappies

Speaking with Kyle Schoenherr the other day it was surprising to find that a significant number of his clients are novice anglers. Because of his reputation as one of the best crappie anglers in the country one might assume more experienced anglers might be his clients as they search for tips to polish their skills.

On further thought it is probably great that so many novice crappie anglers are entering the sport with an eye to learning it right from the beginning just as my pal Kasi is doing today.

As a rising young executive in business, Kasi McBride does not have a lot of spare time for the outdoor activities she so much enjoys. Most of the time she is involved in boating with friends and an occasional canoe trip down one of Missouri’s picturesque rivers.

Recently she was lamenting a desire to go crappie fishing. Kyle Schoenherr, who is one of the top professional crappie anglers in the country agreed to take the two of us for a short trip out on Kinkaid Lake near Murphysboro, IL.  The trip had to be short because Kasi could not get off work until 4:30 p.m. and the sun goes down about 8:15 p.m. this time of year.  Couple that with the fact that it is an hour drive from her work to the boat ramp.

Kyle operates All Seasons Guide Service (618-314-2967) and had another party booked for earlier in the day. As we start out he laments that the fishing bite was light today.

The heat seems to drive the fish down to cooler water and the bright sunlight has them staying under the milfoil. Kyle points out that the milfoil and other vegetation prevent his electronics from finding fish.  However he has waypoints marked on the electronics for structure such as boulders and tree stumps.

Kyle explains that the crappie like to relate to the stumps and other wood. In summer the weeds protect the fish from the bright sunlight and yet they still relate to the stumps.  In the post spawn period they leave the shallows for deeper water.

Kyle explains that he gets quite a few charters from novice anglers who, like Kasi, want to learn how. He says the main consideration is to keep the approach simple and uncomplicated.  It is important or the client to have fun.  Kasi is having a ball.

Kyle explains the rig for today is a simple slip bobber that suspends a lip hooked minnow a few feet below the weeds in this location. Long BnM poles are used to aid in dipping the rig into holes in the weed cover.

Kasi catches 7 crappie and two bass. But, the two bass are only about 3 inches in length.  I catch a couple of crappie including the largest of the trip.  Kyle out shined us both with an unknown number of fish.  There were just too many to count.

It is a great time to be on the lake. The temperatures are high with no wind but the boat ride from location to location is a pleasant way to spend a summer evening.  We must do this again one day.

ANGLER KNOW THY POND   1 comment

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If there were an eleventh commandment for fishermen perhaps it would be “Know Thy Pond.”

Most of us dream of our own private fishing pond. Some take action to build and stock one.  Ponds are good places to fish and if they are managed correctly can support more fish per acre than is in most other waters.

Ponds are a complex, interlocking chain of plants and animals. Food supplies are dependent upon on plant nutrients dissolved in the water.  These include minerals as well as organic matter.  Nutrients enter the water as dust carried by winds or with water runoff from surrounding areas.  Small aquatic plants consume them and grow.

As the plants grow and multiply they provide food for small fishes and crustaceans. These animals provide food for larger fishes.

In any given pond are found three reasons why the quality of fishing desired might not develop. The fish present may not be the right kind, size or population numbers.

Food availability determines how well both bass and panfish for example will flourish. Management of a bass pond is a delicate balance.  There is a limit to the number of fish a pond can produce and maintain.  The prey species may flourish to the point where they even compete with the predator species for the same food.

 

DEVILS KITCHEN BLUEGILLS   Leave a comment

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Clear water with shoreline weeds and an abundance of submerged wood makes for a blue gill factory. Devils Kitchen Lake is well known for its magnificent scenery and lack of fishing pressure.  As the water warms, anglers find this southern Illinois lake teaming with bluegills moving into the shallow coves at the south end.

By casting into the woody areas in about two or three feet of water fishermen find plenty of action. This member of the sunfish family is a sucker for crickets on a small wire hook.  Later on we have to plumb the water as deep as 18 feet.

The number three most popular fish in Illinois is the bluegill.  It is surpassed only by largemouth bass and channel catfish.  In fact the bluegill is the official state fish.

Bluegills do best in lakes or ponds containing clear water with some submerged vegetation. This lake has all that in abundance.

They prefer lakes with simple fish populations. Lakes with shad and carp populations tend to have small bluegill populations.  Devils Kitchen is basically a bass, shell cracker (redear sunfish), bluegill, crappie and trout lake.  Each of these species tends to move into their own habitat during the year and do not conflict with one another.

The closest competition is between the shell crackers (redear sunfish) and bluegills. They can be found in the same water but will be relating differently to the structure.  Bluegills relate to vertical structure and shell crackers to horizontal.

Early in the year, shell crackers will be feeding on the bottom of shallow coves. The bluegill will be slightly deeper and seeking food in the weeds or along vertical tree trunks.  Later, they can both be found on the same submerged tree.  Bluegills will relate to the vertical trunk and the shell cracker on the outstretched limbs.

Some good locations for early season gills are area “17″ in the southeast portion of the lake. Another is the Panther’s Den area at the south end of the lake.  It has tall bluffs and deep water.

This lake contains lots of bass. The hungry bass eat enough to control the numbers of bluegills.  With controlled numbers in place the forage is not over utilized.  The control of bluegill populations also means a population of healthy bluegills.

Due to the unusual water clarity light clear line is advisable. If using a float, one that is small and light is preferable to the traditional large bobber.  Lightweight wire hooks come in handy as they can be pulled loose from submerged wood.  It is important to periodically check the point of the hook as they dull or break from time to time.  The hooks should be the size appropriate to trout fishing, a number 10 or 12 hook works well.

Natural bait is best for bluegill fishing. Crickets or one inch piece of nightcrawler works well.

Bluegill fishing this time of year involves finding the beds. During the May and August spawns, Bluegills tend to give a kind of moderate effort at reproduction.  During the June and July spawns they make a strong effort.  The spawn in each of these months consists of those five days on either side of the full moon.

 

A good way to pattern the spawning beds before actually fishing them is to scour the shore making notes of the locations of beds in eight feet of water or deeper. The clarity of the water makes this a simple task.  It is best done between 9:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M.  Polarized sunglasses and a baseball style cap make seeing the beds easier on the eyes.

Once a half dozen beds are located, return to the first one and begin fishing it. As the fish move off a bed, move to the next one.  By the time all the beds have been fished it is okay to begin the cycle over again.

PLUCKY PRE-SPAWN CRAPPIES OF LAKE OF EGYPT   Leave a comment

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Lake of Egypt provides plenty of early season crappie action.

Located about 10 minutes south of Marion, IL, it provides challenges for the crappie angler.

Local anglers fish for crappie all year if there is no ice on the lake. A power cooling lake ice is somewhat of a rarity.  It is a matter of knowing what type of cover the fish relate to under specific weather conditions.

On Lake of Egypt, the water temperatures are warmer than other lakes in the area. It is a cooling lake for the power plant turbines.  The fish relate to structure but it is different structure than is usually found in crappie lakes.  The lake has a variety of structure and vegetation from creek channels, rip rap, fallen timber, stumps, roadbeds and weed flats.

This 2,300-acre lake has 93 miles of shoreline with a maximum depth of 52 feet and an average depth of 19 feet.

When the crappies of Lake of Egypt are deep, finding them can be very tough. Casting jigs tipped with minnows to the outer edge of the weed lines in search of crappie suspended there is the most popular pattern.  A favorite rig is to suspend a jig about 2 1/2-feet beneath a float.  Then mooch the jig back to the boat in deeper water.

The fish tend to relate to wood if they can find it in deeper water. Anglers find suspended fish over wood in 12 to 18-feet of water.  Locating wood is problematic.  The lake they are usually conceals it beneath the surface.

Egypt is a lake with many necks and coves. Points at the main lake coves often have brush and will hold fish in spring.  To stay on fish in deeper water you need electronics to stay on fish and to get a minnow down to the right depth.

Local anglers sometimes use light line, seldom exceeding 4-pounds test. They lose less tackle with the light line but catch more fish with 2 pound test.  Resident anglers like to cast Road Runners with re heads and white bodies in the 1/16th and 1/32nd sizes.  They also have good luck with hot pink jigs and occasionally fishing a minnow below a float on the weed lines.

A staple of crappie fishing, the jig and minnow combo is also popular on this lake. It can be cast to weed lines and jerked slowly back to the boat or dropped vertically into the crappie’s strike zone.

Water temperature effects the location of the fish. The power plant at the north end affects the water temperature of that portion of the lake.  A north wind will usually push the warmer water over the weed beds.

Most anglers begin their day on the lake at the discharge and work south. The warm water attracts bait fish and the crappies follow.  If the power plant is down, the fishing slows.  If the water temperature is in the 50’s the fish will be in a transition period.  If they are not yet in the weed lines one can look for rocky breaklines and woody areas on the east side of the lake.  Sunny coves on the north end of the lake are also a good place to look for fish.  The best fishing seems to come in the early morning and late afternoon.

When fish are deep the crappie rig of sinker on the line below two hooks can be deadly at locating the proper strike zone for feeding fish. On warmer days one can switch to a wood pattern.

In spring frontal systems pass through southern Illinois. They are full-fledged cold fronts that blast down from Canada to collide with moist warm air masses pushing up from the south.  This combination can cause severe thunderstorms and accompanying lightening.  Anglers need to pay attention to these conditions, as they can be deadly.

Fish are more “catchable” just prior to the passing of one of these cold fronts.

 

 

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