Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year in Review, looking forward to 2009

Happy New Year's Eve to all. It's time for the requisite review of the past year, and looking into the crystal ball for 2009.

My 2008 from a fishing perspective was one of my best ever, on a few different levels. I caught fish in 2 more states in my quest for a fish in all 50 states (Oklahoma and Iowa), went on my first family extended fishing tri with my Dad, brother, and son (Shoal Lake in Ontario), and did my most exotic trip, and one of the best trips I've ever taken - Tropic Star Lodge in Panama. I got my hoped-for trophy roosterfish - estimated at 70-75 lbs, as well as my first billfish. I ended up catching 28 different species of fish this year. So, I have nothing to complain about, only experiences to be thankful for. Here's a few of my fish from 2008

Trophy roosterfish - 64", 70 lbs. +

Cubera Snapper!

My first billfish - a Pacific Sail

A nice Alabama largemouth

My son Joey with a chunky Ontario smallmouth

Mississippi River smallmouth

Colorado brookie on a hopper

For the coming year, I don't have anything as exotic as Panama planned. I'm hoping to go back to my favorite pike lodge in August - Blackmur's Athabasca Lodge in far northern Saskatchewan. I'd also like to get my son down to Alabama with me in the spring - terrific bass and brim fishing. As always, I'll try to get in more fly fishing for trout, but will probably struggle to do so - Illinois is just too far from any good trout fishing, except SW Wisconsin. I'd like to knock off another state or 2 on my list. I have a myriad of new crankbaits, and love to fish them, but rarely do - I'll try to utilize these baits more in 2009.

So - right now I'm looking forward to panfish when the ice breaks, big pike in summer, and whatever else comes my way. No matter what the outcome, it shouldn't be dull.

Best wishes to all of you in 2009


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tough day on the Delta, and a Merry Christmas to the WORLD!

Well, I got my last day of fishing in for 2008 . The week before Christmas, I braved a snowstorm here in Chicago (took 4-1/2 hours to drive the 50 miles to the airport - usually takes an hour), spent the majority of the afternoon/ evening watching delays and cancellations pop up on the flight status boards, finally got on a plane, and got to San Francisco Airport at 2 AM (original time to land was 8 PM). The next morning, I met Lennie and we were off for a day on the Delta.

A classic delta spot - water flows on the tidal changes from the channel to the pond and back

The Delta in question is the Sacramento River Delta, a vast series of creeks, sloughs, ponds, lakes and marsh grasses that eventually feeds into the San Francisco Bay. It's one of those places - like the mazes of mangroves in SW Florida - that would be nearly un-navigable without a GPS. I feel like I have a very good "inner compass", but I am lost on the Delta from minute we leave the marina until we return. It's Lennie's home waters, though, and since he's the Hummingbird rep, his boat is outfitted with all the good toys!

The Jigging Spoon we finally caught some fish on!

This area can get fairly cool in the winter, but rarely gets downright cold. Well, I brought Chicago's weather along with me , because it was freezing cold the day I was there. I wore 2 layers of Under Armour, one of them being Coldgear, a layer of fleece, a sweater, and a windproof jacket. Gloves, a full facemask, and a helmet when running the boat. Still froze. A constant wind kept us company, and the temp never got above 36. It had frozen the puddles the night before - pretty uncommon for this area. And, worst of all, it dropped the water temps to the low 40's. We were fishing for stripers that come up out of the Bay, and with the water temp as cold as it was, they simply didn't show themselves. We fished all day, I got 1 striper on a swimbait, and we finally found a group of fish on the electronics late in the day that allowed us to vertical jig spoons for them. Three schoolie stripers, a few short strikes, and 2 carp on the spoons rounded out the day. Yes, the carp HIT the spoons. I'd never gotten them on spoons before, but have caught them fairly often on jigs. I lost one big fish that we weren't sure was a carp or striper, estimated 20#. Since neither of us saw it, we decided it must have been a striper! (Poetic license being used, since I'm the blog writer. Actually, I don't care what it was - it pulled hard for the minute or so it was on).

Len's Carp on a jigging spoon

Our stripers from the Delta

For those not familiar with the Delta, it is absolutely filled with birds of all kinds. this is prime waterfowl season, and we saw a number of hunters. The air and trees / shrubs are full of raptors, too. Flocks of Sandhill Cranes are constantly on the move, and in the afternoon, uncountable numbers of Snow Geese were on the move from their feeding fields to the water. It's a truly astonishing place, even if I was freezing my butt off - did I mention it was cold?

So, we had a tough day of catching (a gross understatement) but, even with the trying conditions, it was another great day to be out. The only consolation came that evening, when Len called me to say he had talked to Bobby Barrack (the Dean of the Delta Guides) and Bobby had worked hard wit a client for 3 stripers. Some days, that's how it goes.

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and is looking forward to a wonderful 2009. All the economic doom-and-gloom aside, I can't wait to see what 2009 brings. It's the eternal optimist in me, I guess.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

100 species of fish caught - thanks Ben!

As you can see in my previous post, I tried to write down all the species of fish I've caught. I say "Tried", because I missed one. Ben from Madison asked I had ever caught a Lake Trout. Well, I've caught Lake Trout in Skaneateles Lake in NY, Lake Ontario, Athabasca Lake in Saskatchewan, and numerous lakes and rivers in south central Yukon. So - there it is - 100 species!!

Thanks for reminding me, Ben.