Archive for the ‘Sunfish’ Tag

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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