Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The local ponds are on fire!!

Well, at least they're on fire figuratively. There has been some stabilization of the recent weather, and the fish have been eating. I love this time of year - the fishing is really pretty good all day. Bluegills are drawn into the warmth of the shallow waters along with the bass. Low light finds active crappies. And, as I showed in an earlier post, one of my favorite ponds is stocked with rainbow trout, and they are shallow as well. You truly never know what you'll catch. But you're pretty much assured you'll get something. I fished over lunch yesterday and had a terrific time. Spent 40 minutes on the water. My go-to lure this time of year, as it always is in the early season, is a Cubby Mini Mite suspended under a weighted bobber. It was literally a fish per cast. Tally when I left - 21 'gills, 3 crappie, 2 largemouth, 3 walleye, and 1 BIG rainbow trout (around 20"). Perhaps the most memorable part of the lunch hour was when a pretty big largemouth took a big swipe at the bobber!

While I love to get the periodic "fish overload", it is absolutely the best time of the year to introduce new fishermen to the sport. I have a few people at work that I'm trying to get out over lunch. Also, one guy at work has a couple of girls - ages 7 and 10 - who really got hooked on fishing last summer. Pardon the bad pun. They'll have a ball for the next 2-3 weeks, or until the water heats up too much. I'll continue to fish ultralite with tiny baits for about a week, then switch over to topwaters and spinnerbaits for shallow prespawn largemouth. There will be a lull in the action after the spawn, and then the channel cats heat up along with the water temp.

Now is truly the time to Take a Kid Fishing. And don't just limit it to kids - take your neighbor who hasn't fished since he / she was a kid. Introducing - and re-introducing - fishing is the mission of Angler's Legacy. Read more about the Angler's Legacy at the following link. I took the Pledge year's ago - it's fulfilling for all parties involved.


By the way - in my haste to get outside and fish, I've been forgetting my camera. Sorry - no pictures. I'll take it along tomorrow and try to post a lunchtime photo essay. I've also been feeling rather philosophical about my recent forays to the ponds - I feel a rambling, bare-my-soul to the world post coming on in the near future.

Get outside and fish!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Local pond update 4-19-09

I haven't been out on the water as much as I'd like to be (are we ever??). but I have hit a few of the local ponds recently and have a few observations.

The weather continues to delay springtime conditions to our local, northern Illinois waters. Last week we had a string of beautiful 70 degree + days, but just as quickly, the rainy 50's are back. Nighttime lows have been really low. We need an above temp day with some warm rain to jump start the fishing here. The areas the fish ought to be - inflowing streams, shallow mud bottomed flats - have been hit or miss. Some days you get a few, othertimes - nothing. Yesterday I was out for an hour and got 4 small (12-13") largemouth and 2 nice crappies. No 'gills. The day before, I was at a favorite local pond where the largemouth stack up along the rocks in the spring. NOTHING! Not a hit. And this pond is loaded with bass to 4-1/2 pounds.

One thing I keep meaning to do, and keep forgetting, is to take along a thermometer and record water temps in my diary. I've been keeping a fishing diary of one form or another since 1984. Originally, when I was initially just fun fishing the Susquehanna River in PA, and later doing some guiding there, I recorded the river levels in the area I was fishing. After a few years of recordings, I could better gauge my potential for success based on these levels, or change plans and fish different sections of river based on the levels. I always recorded water temps when fly fishing for trout, but have fallen out the habit recently. I believe, based on the temp of the fish I've been catching, that the water temps are just lagging behind this year, and the fishing along with it.

BUT - when it finally breaks loose, it ought to be "lights-out". And I plan to be there for it!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Back from 'Bama

Well, our quick dash to Alabama for a little fishing has come and gone. My son and I got up at 4 AM on Thursday, got a flight to Birmingham, got down to the farm by noon. Fished afternoon and evening, and from 7:00 am - 11:00 am on Friday. Back to the airport, back home by 6 PM on Friday. Quite a few miles logged for 9 hours of fishing, but it's all worth it. (I fly almost every week for work, so the flight aspect of it doesn't phase me)

Weather was pretty dicey - high winds both days. Tough to control the boat. Also, temps dropped to the 20's the 2 nights before - BRUTALLY cold for southern Alabama. Fish were not very aggressive. Exactly what I was NOT hoping for. I was really hoping for some aggressive bites for Joey. He likes fishing, but doesn't have a lot of patience if the fish aren't biting pretty good. I'm still living down the build up I gave our trip to Canada last year - from Joey AND my brother and Dad. I picked out a great smallmouth lake, booked it for the perfect time, and the weather absolutely killed us. The lake was beautiful, accommodations good, and fishing was awful. I've done these trips a lot, so it didn't phase me, but they had never been on a trip to fish, and there was some disappointment over the results. Joey said a few times before this trip - "It better not be another Canada trip"

The ponds we were fishing are owned by a friend / business associate and are terrific - loaded with bass and brim. Some of the fish are are huge - bass over 13 pounds have been caught with some regularity (my best from here is 10-5) and brim are huge and plentiful, if somewhat difficult to locate certain times of the year. I figured something would bite for Joey.

The total recap for the 9 hours of bass fishing showed 24 largemouth landed by us. Joey also fished a pond where the brim flock to a dock, and he caught around 50 brim in an hour and a half over 2 days. I was more concerned with getting him in position than actually fishing, so while I fished constantly, it wasn't at my usual frenetic pace. The fish we got were mostly on big hard swim baits, and a few on smaller crankbaits. I believe 2 fell for spinnerbaits, and a few for Beetle Spins while prospecting for brim. So - quantities of fish were the least I have ever seen at this property.

BUT - the size was very good. I've been to this property 6 times before. The usual size of the fish is 2-4 pounds, with an occasional 5 or better. I've caught 2 over 7. On this trip, of the 24 bass we caught , at least half were 4 pounds or better - very nice sized LM. The baits of choice were Strike King's King Shad, Strike King Pure Poison, and Lucky Craft RC 2.5. The brim fell for Beetle Spins and 2" Munchie Grubs.

a 6 pound Alabama largemouth

5 pound largemouth

Naturally (and thankfully), Joey had the last laugh, and it couldn't have been choreographed better. We were on the brim dock, he was catching scads of brim, and I told him we needed to go in a few minutes to shower and drive back to the airport. He dropped his grub down and immediately had a bite. The rod bent, and it was obvious this as no brim. I figured it to be a nice 2-3# bass - a real test on an UL rod with 4# test! He fought it like a pro. I cautioned him that it wouldn't be his fault if the bass got back to the dock and wrapped around one of the wooden dock pilings, as they are apt to do. I knew he wouldn't be able to stop it if it did, and it would break off. I didn't want him to think he did something wrong. Well - the fishing gods smiled. the bass went under the dock, but came back out with a little pressure. I was able to lip it on the first opportunity, and Joey had his big bass. It measured 23" and was full of eggs. I didn't have a scale with me, but estimated it between 7 and 8 pounds. When I checked the "Weight Estimators" found online , I feel pretty confident that it was between 7-1/2 and 8 pounds. Our last fish, and his biggest ever (the second largest I've ever seen in person). You can't script them any better than that.

Joey's brim

Joey's big bass - betwen 7# and 8#

By the way - before anyone decides to throw a well deserved shot at my BRIGHTLY colored shirts, I found out years ago that they show up better in photos, and often the fish show up better, against the bright backgrounds. I DO have a lot of nice, muted greens and tans , too!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Trip Planning

I LOVE to plan fishing trips!

I am going to Alabama with my son in a week to fish a day and a half for largemouth and brim. We'll be fishing on four different 40 -75 acre ponds on the property of a business associate. These ponds can be some of the best fishing in the world - I've had people there who just got back from El Salto, and said the fishing was better in Alabama! My personal best largemouth - a shade over 10 pounds - came from here as well as my best brim. Even when it's tough, it's better than anywhere else I've ever been.

So - the usual game plan is 10" Culprit worms, Culprit Stingers, Lucky Craft LVRs and Staysee's, and spinnerbaits. The LVRs will be good for Joey because he's still not great at hooksetting and a lot of fish hook themselves on these baits. Same with spinnerbaits. Some fish may be on beds, but most should be off and chasing shad. SO - I need to experiment with some new baits. On my experiment agenda are Strike King King Shad, Strike King Wake Shad, and Strike King Shadilicious swimbaits. Also, Yamamoto saltwater swimbaits.

I've re-spooled my reels for this trip (Daiwa Viento, Abu Revo) and Joey's (Stradics) and figured out which rods to take. The tough part is the spinning rods for Joey. The few that I have that are good for jigging / worming - a Kistler Helium and St. Croix Legend Tourn - are really too fast for him. So, I'm going with a Rapala Longcast MH - a really great spinning rod with a soft enough tip to throw smaller baits but enough butt strength that he used it for pike in Canada LY (btw - these rods have been discontinued by Rapala a few years ago. If you ever run across a Rapala Longcast spinnig rod on sale, I'd advise you to buy it . I have 3 and love them all, even compared to rods that cost 3x as much) - and a Shimano Teramar inshore SW rod. I'll take a St. Croix Legend Tourn Carolina Rig rod and a MH Kistler Helium LTX. Of course, I'm sending the rods and the box of tackle ahead, so I don't need to check anything on the flight next week. That way, the trip can't be ruined by lost luggage / tackle.

So - I get to spend the next week falling asleep every night dreaming about big LM busting that Wake Shad as I pull it through a stump flat, and envisioning the face of my son as he says "Dad, I think I'm stuck. No - it's swimming" Can't wait.

[Just how much do I love the planning aspect of trips? Today, On April 3, it's 120 days before Andy and I are back at Athabasca going for monster pike again. We've been counting it down since January]

Alabama largemouth

Alabama brim