5:00am 7:00am 8:00am
1 Hour Texas Show
5:00am 6:00am 1:00pm 2:00pm 6:00pm
2 Hour National Show
The fourth Saturday in September each year is, as proclaimed by our esteemed leadership in Washington, D.C. back in 1972, National Hunting and Fishing Day. A day that celebrates several things. Not the least of which is...
NHF Day also celebrates...
We can blame a lot of things, not the least of which is technology advancement in the past 20 years...Instant entertainment right at our fingertips that has stolen a whole generation’s attention. Virtual whatever, replacing actual hands on skills from field to table. We can blame the usual suspects like lack of public hunting property, high cost of carrying out our hunting traditions (hunting trip related expenses rose 15% 2011-2016) and a shamefully high divorce rate. Yes all of these factors contribute to the decline and decay of wonderful heritage and tradition, but ultimately, we must horseshoe the pointing finger back around to ourselves. No matter how many dollars we spent at the DU banquet, or how many bass baits we bought last year, or contributions to great conservation efforts, if we didn’t spend at least one day taking and teaching someone new, we failed ourselves and drove a nail in the American hunters coffin.
I like the leadership that we now see from U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. He is part of our heritage; he gets it and he’s working to make things easier for the next bunch coming along. He's attacking the Obama administration’s senseless, science-less attack on lead ammunition by punching holes thru the regulations that prevent us all from accessing many of OUR public lands. OURS! We can sit comfortably in our warm deer camps, enjoying God's blessings, creation and protein (keeping it to ourselves and grinning in our self satisfying little bubble), or we can actually do something to impact our grandkid's hunting and fishing opportunities.
Spend the money! Guided trips, product, essentials to hunting and fishing. It keeps the wild places wild when you do. Teach someone! It won’t take long. They will love it. You will too, and hopefully you will instill in them the desire to teach others as they move down life’s road. Vote! Educate yourself responsibly, and let's “drain the swamp”, as a famous billionaire has said, of those that hate the fact that you and I follow God's plan to be the head of the animal kingdom.
Enjoy YOUR National Hunting and Fishing Day! We are still the strongest voice and best friend that the wild things and places in America will ever know.
*U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Survey Preliminary Findings
Se[tember 21, 2017
Work is a four letter word. It would be real easy to place the word work in the same category as other four letter words not fit to be uttered before decent folk. Work gets in the way of important stuff. Work forces us to think of pushing the lawn mower instead of pulling crappie from late summer brush piles. Work brings forth reluctant hours of computer screens instead of a view from a pop up blind, bow in hand. Work is something Tom Sawyer thought his way out of when it was time to paint the fence. Tom had the mighty Mississippi river in mind, thoughts of adventure and big catfish securely hooked on the business end of a stiff cane fishing pole. He, while working on the fence schemed up a plan, and his friends, none of which made a run at valedictorian I believe, did the white washing of the fence for him while he was off tending to rabbits and crappie and other important matters. Tom had convinced his friends that they would find no greater pleasure on that beautiful Saturday than he would have slapping a new coat of paint on the old fence. They believed him and asked if they could have some of that fun. You bet!
I think someone pulled this same stunt on my friend, Jim Zumbo, the famed outdoorsman many years ago. Jim is obsessed with cutting and stacking firewood. Listen to him talk about this out of control addiction, and you’ll see him beam like a kid holding a paper with a passing grade. Do they still use paper in school? He can tell you to the rick/cord/square footage or log exactly what he has stored up. You know that bar-b-que place that you pass all the time...the one with a small forest of cut wood stacked on the 3 acres in back...Jim's backyard right there.
Work many times involves long slow commutes through dense traffic and demented drivers that are real eager to display a one count with the free hand, instead of long slow drives down a two track road and rolling the combination lock in the headlights. Hondo Crouch is famous because he bought a little Texas hill country town and invited musician Jerry Jeff Walker and friends to come visit. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings sang about Hondo’s little Luckenbach, and the rest is history. Hondo talked those guitar pickers into white washing his fence. It was Hondo that coined the phrase, amongst many others, that “havin fun is hard work sometimes.” I think of that phrase often while filling and maintaining feeders, yoyo’ing the weeds to cut down the wind pics on the trail cameras, setting and anchoring blinds, cutting pickup sized drive thrus in the harsh vines that block all of humanity from that special spot back yonder, etc etc.
I guess most of us would make an even swap of work for a smooth rocker in a brushed up and shaded boathouse, dipping jigs for delicious fillets, but it just wouldn’t work. First reason is: The Good Lord is a big fan of work. He, Himself, created work, and then after Adam and Eve ate the bad apple that day at the farmer's market of all farmer's markets, God told us to get to work. It’s part of His plan, therefore no other plan will work, just won’t. Second reason is: We couldn’t afford the rocking chair, much less that nice boat house. So with that thought, I’ll shut down this laptop now at five am, fill the truck with tools and diesel and head for the pasture. I’ve got two full days of work ahead in prep for opening day. But, YOU will find no more pleasure on this beautiful day than I will! Join me?
Se[tember 15, 2017
I’m about to share one of the most fun recipes that you’ll ever come across! Proof? Okay, it requires that you go fishing...how’s that? It’s a cooler than normal August in Texas, but it's still August in Texas...Brutal heat that doesn’t really go away even at night. When I arise dark and early, I count is a blessing if the temp is below 80 and the humidity below 90. The heat and what to do about it is a standard part of every conversation. Well, here’s one of my favorite ways to battle the heat of a Texas summer. Ceviche!!!
Ceviche is a cold salad or salsa of sorts that includes any number of different ingredients, according to your personal taste, but one common denominator is FRESH fish or shellfish. Oh sure, you could visit the fish market and pick up some shrimp for your ceviche, but for less money, and in my opinion, equally great in taste when used in ceviche, sand bass or white bass or maybe they’re called silver bass where you come from, are delicious! Plus, you're way more likely to have a boat or a friend with a boat capable of catching up with some "sandies" than you are a shrimp boat so...let's go shopping...I mean, fishing!
Sand bass are plentiful in these United States, found in waters from Canada to the gulf coast, and catching them in the summer is an absolute blast! When we are in the mood for ceviche, as I am headed out to crappie fish or bass fish, I keep two rods ready and available for the sand bass. One is a small jigging spoon, the other a top water bait. During the hot summer months, sand bass will push huge schools of shad to the surface and gorge on them. This feeding frenzy will make the water appear to be boiling. When this happens, I drop the crappie stick and reach for the top water bait. Over the past few days that’s been a Whopper Plopper, but I’ve caught them on Zara Spooks, Buzz Baits etc. It is so much fun to watch the retrieve of a splashy top water bait as the sandies swipe at it. Sometimes they will hit the bait body, but not the hook and the lure will go airborne. Sometimes two fish will grab it at the same time. Sometimes it will go straight under on impact with the water. It's crazy!
These top water frenzies sometimes will last only a few seconds, sometimes 20 minutes. When the water stops boiling the fish are still there. Use your big motor to stay up with the moving pod of sandies and bait. When your screen is covered with bait, drop that spoon or slab directly down to the proper depth and vertically jig it up and down. My good friend, Omar Cotter with Luck O’ the Irish Guide Service in north Texas specializes in these fun to catch fish. He tells me that even when the top is boiling, he employs the jigging method, because the bigger fish are down deeper. Whatever floats your personal boat. In Texas, to keep a sand bass, the fish must be at least 10 inches
Five 10 inch sandies are required for this recipe. Once you have your fish, head for the grocery store. You’ll need:
Finely chop the vegetables and dump them in a mixing bowl. After filleting your fish, cut into small chunks, and add to vegetable mix. Add salt, more than you think you’ll need, but don’t go nuts. You can add more salt tomorrow when the ceviche is finished. For a little crunch, add sliced almonds. Cover contents with lime juice and stick it in the fridge, you’re done!
When you come back tomorrow, the first thing you’ll notice is that the fish has turned brilliantly white. Key indicator that your ceviche is ready. You’ve just cooked fish with chemistry! The acid in the lime served as your cooking element! Break out the chips and dip away the summer time blues. This is fun from catch to crunch for the entire family...Enjoy!!
August 10, 2017
Dad didn’t hunt. I never saw him shoot a gun. In fact, the only time that I ever saw him hold a gun was when he took me to Whites Auto in downtown Mineral Wells, Texas after school one day. I guess I was about 10, and he knew that I had a strong hunting bone! God put it in me. Dad didn’t teach me, and the 3 channels we pulled in with the TV antenna didn’t show much hunting activity. It had to be built into my genes when the good Lord formed me.
Dad didn’t say anything on our way to Whites. He seldom said anything at all; he was a very quiet man. He had simple perfected. I sat next to him, full of nerves on the evening of my first date. I didn’t know what to say to a girl. I just knew she smelled good, and I had asked her out to dinner. “Dad, what do I talk to her about?” “Tell her about your dog” he immediately replied. I did, and it was the perfect thing to fill awkward quiet moments. He’d obviously made arrangements with the guys at the store, because when we walked in they immediately reached under the counter and pulled out a single shot Stevens 12 gauge and a few boxes of shells. I thought “WOW”! Dad bought himself a shotgun! Does this mean that maybe he’ll let me tag along on a hunt or two? Maybe even fetch his birds for him? It was a standout moment in my life, even before he turned and handed the treasure to me. I was beyond stunned, and happy!
Dad loved to fish, particularly for crappie. We didn’t have a boat, so sometimes the wait on the bank between bites was hours. I never got bored with it. I can still see him squatting, fishing pole in hand, bobber afloat, waiting. He taught me a lot about hunting without even knowing it. “Crappie like cover”, he said, “and edges”. Turns out all critters do, you and I are no exception. “They will likely be around shad or some other food”...same as deer, elk, bear, turkeys, me, all. The crappie hole was special to me, because most of the time it was just me and dad. That was my private time with him. I cherish it now, and miss him so.
I had broken the Stevens down and cleaned it several times before we actually had a chance to go shoot it, but after what seemed a lifetime, the day came. I still remember my first shot. A meadowlark in flight. I downed the song bird. Immediate remorse weighed heavy. I’d killed this lark for the wrong reason. I would not eat it. Dad watched in silence. I’ve never shot another non game bird.
He taught through living. I picked up some of it and wish I’d learned more. Thanks Dad for the time on the creek banks, the love of critters and creation, respect for others both 2 and 4 legged, and the great gift of time. I will hug his neck in heaven. He heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he believed it in his heart. He asked God to forgive him of his sin and save him. God did. That’s the greatest gift that a dad can give his son, even better than a brand new Stevens.
Happy Father's Day!
June 15, 2017
I’ve spent my fair share of nights sleeping in uncomfortable situations. Pickup beds, rotted out farm houses and dilapidated old travel trailers, and of course the cold hard ground. I can remember a deer hunt that was so cold and wet that my hunting partner and I zipped our sleeping bags together to fend off the frost bite. On another trip, I dumped the lump out of my pillow case. The lump was a field rat. I awoke one morning so stiff from the pickup bed I’d used for a mattress, that reaching down to tie my boots seemed impossible. I’d do it all again too!
Our passion for this hunting and fishing heritage that we live can lead to some tough places and times, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve also been spoiled with some fine lodging, dining and terrific hunting and fishing opportunities. Robin and I have spent the past week at one of the absolute finest resort hunt/fish destinations that I’ve ever, yes I used the ever word, visited. Joshua Creek Ranch has the credentials. Two Tridents from Beretta, ORVIS Endorsed, heck, George Strait even visits for a little wing shooting from time to time. Everything, and I mean every detail at JCR is tended too. Your mattress, your view, your meals, your linens, your lodging, your everything will be the finest offered. It’s flying first class, and it's good! This is our third trip to this wonderful ranch located about an hour northwest of San Antonio, Texas.
The same detail that’s woven into your lodge experience is applied to the habitat on this near 1,400 acre ranch as well...Two decades plus of back breaking work by the Kercheville family. Years of cedar removal, planting, pond building, etc have produced perfect habitat for the wildlife that love this place. IT'S LOW FENCE. The critters have a choice where they spend time browsing, loafing and raising babies. That’s the best testament to this conservation project-an endorsement from the wildlife on this free range ranch in the Texas Hill Country region.
I’m here to hunt my favorite protein-Axis deer. Axis are found free ranging in very few places across North America-Florida, Hawaii and here in the Hill Country of Texas primarily. They love it here; I guess the country is very similar to their original home in Sri Lanka. Everything about an Axis is good! They are beautiful critters with an orangish brown coat accented by snow white spots just like a whitetail fawn. God must have favored the Axis a little more than the whitetail, because He allows them to keep their spots for life. Axis are bigger than most whitetails too...Up to 250 pounds for the bigger bucks, or "bulls", your choice. They are more closely aligned to elk than whitetail deer. Typical males will grow three points on each side-main beam, a couple of impressive brow tines and secondary points about halfway up the main beam. Thirty inches and longer is considered trophy. They are gorgeous animals and fine, fine, fine dining! That’s 3 fines from the red neck that has consumed a lot of wild game. No wang, no wild taste, better than beef! Axis are a challenging hunt as well. They are spookier than whitetails. If you bang or booger something up in their neighborhood, you might as well move along. They did. Unlike the whitetail rut where single males cruise the country, axis stay in groups most all of the time. Lots of eyes to spot you. They will flock to feeders. If that is legal in your state, jump on it. One of the coolest reasons to hunt axis deer is non-typical hunting times. Axis are considered exotic game in Texas, and can be hunted year round. It's June, and it feels great to be in the deer blind!
My most regrettable miss with rifle came about five years ago right here on JCR. I had a nice 30 plus inch axis in my sights after three days of hard, HOT hunting...Shot right under his belly at 135 yards. The bullet made a cloud of dust, and I’ve watched him run off in my head over and over again...Again this week, three days of hard, not quite as hot hunting with no meat to show for the effort. There are probably 25 to 30 blind locations on this ranch. We have hunted daylight to dark most of the time and visited maybe 10-12 of those blinds. We have glassed a lot of Axis deer too. Several hundred I’d say, searching for the right buck. About 1:30 yesterday afternoon, we made a move to a blind that we’d not hunted yet on this trip. When we rounded the corner in the road, I knew instantly that this was the exact spot in my reoccurring nightmare miss. I had been here before in person and many more times in bad memory. We spotted a small herd of Axis back in the thick cedar brush and one of them was a hard horned buck. I was hunting with Billy Torkildson, JCR guide, who can take a 5 second look at an axis buck and tell you how long he is to within a half inch of antler.
At about 4pm, the herd made a move, and out he stepped. Five seconds of analysis, and Billy T said, “shoot him”. I was situated in the same blind, taking aim from the same window, with a 30 plus inch Axis standing about 30 yards behind the missed shot from five years ago. I put that old memory behind me and collected my breathing and focus. Does were milling about, and I had to hold my shot for a couple of minutes, waiting for them to clear. When the opportunity opened, I was ready, and he fell in his tracks. 30 inches on his right side, 31.5 on his left, heavy bodied and beautiful! The ghosts were gone. Billy T had no idea that I had missed from this exact location before, or that this was my birthday. When I finally had my hands on this magnificent animal, I shared the story with him. Back at the lodge, I would enjoy a hot shower, delicious pan seared Axis steaks prepared by Chef Holden and an incredible mattress for the first full eight hours of sleep in several days. This time though, the dream was different!
If you go...
Axis can shed, be hard horned or in velvet at any time of the year, however, late May to September are the most active rutting and hard horned times. Take plenty of gun. These animals are extremely tough, and probably bigger than the whitetails you’ve been hunting. My setup: Weatherby Vanguard in .270/Winchester ballistic silvertip 130 grain. If you normally hunt with something smaller (.243) I’d step up a bit. The 300’s are good choices. Dress cool! Talk to your outfitter before you go. Will you be stalking or blind hunting. Stalking these critters is very difficult since they run in herds. If you are still/blind hunting, shorts, t-shirts etc. Light, cool clothing. Stay in the blind. Yes, they are active at the most popular times, dawn and dusk, but, you will see them meandering mid-day as well. Patience has killed more critters than Tarzan. Range finder. Great tool. In the rolling terrain that Axis favor, depth can be deceptive. Naked eye would tell you that my shot would be 120-130 yards. The laser reported differently-169 yards. Depending on bullet rifle combo, that’s enough distance to affect trajectory.
June 9, 2017
I lost one of the best and most loyal friends I’ll ever have on this earth a little over a month ago. I didn’t write about it then because it was too raw. I never thought that I could mourn the loss of a dog so much, but I cried. I wailed. Bear’s talent was above that of most bird dogs. I am qualified to make that call, because I have had many hunting partners throughout the years and know what I speak of. I’ve had some slow learners, and many average students. I’ve also been blessed to partner with some dogs that would produce a little better than others in the wild bird fields and win a field trial here and there. BUT...I’ve only had one Bear.
His nose was impeccable. I remember a hunt when he was about two. He locked down hard on some West Texas scrub, and a rabbit flushed from under his nose. The guy that I was hunting with that day broke open his gun and laughed out loud. His dog was backing ol' Bear...again, by the way. While he was bad mouthing my little Brittany, I noticed that Bear hadn’t moved a muscle. Still rock-hard rigid. Eyes and snoot focused on the tangles ahead of him, smoking the pipe, as my writer friend Ray Sasser would say...taking in bird scent through the nose...venting through the mouth. You’ve seen your dogs do that. The covey of bobs scared my cynical friend when they flushed right up our britches' legs. I killed two and said nothing. Bear had done my talking.
Bear came from good stock. Directly out of Nolan Huffman’s Buddy (Nolan’s Last Bullet), and tracing back to Rick Smith's fine line. I’d always had pointers and setters which I still dearly love, but these guys were breeding "Brits" that would destroy the “shoe polisher” image. I noticed that these dogs were running big, running hard and running tough! I watched Buddy at a championship trial in Indiana retrieve a bird that had fallen on the far side of a goat wire fence. I wondered why in the world Nolan would shoot that bird, knowing that it would fall on the far side where his dog couldn’t reach it, and he could lose his retrieve score. Turns out, he knew that Buddy would find a way, somehow, to bring that bird to hand. And he did. He found a hole in the fence, just big enough to squeeze through, gather the bird, and squeeze back into the playing field. I decided that morning that I would have some of that in my kennel, and one year later at 5 weeks of age, I did. On day one, my wife Robin said the pup looked like a "little Baylor Bear", her alma mater. That’s how he got his name.
One of Bear's litter mates, Bull, and Bulls’ partner Nolan came to Texas to hunt with me back in 2005. It was a great year for the birds; they were thick and the coveys were big. Nolan and I turned the pair loose on the south end of a pasture and had the time of our lives watching them tear up the ground in bird finding fury. One would point, the other would back and vice versa all the way up to the north fence where we picked em up. When we did, the two brothers had pointed 26 coveys of bob white quail. Nolan told me, “That’s the best quail hunt I’ve ever been a part of.” Bear had the smarts too. He had become a big country pleasure. The little dog could roll! He eagerly covered big West Texas and Montana country and in a hurry. I took him to South Dakota for pheasants. We were hunting strips and shelter belts. He figured it out in short order and never hunted beyond 25-30 yards ahead of me. He worked pheasants that day like he’d done it his whole life, and these were the first ones he’d ever seen.
When the economy ate my job up in 2009, Bear went to work with me entertaining and teaching at various events and sporting goods dealers in the Dallas-Ft Worth area. He easily converted from the wide open spaces, to arena floors and huge tents. Everyone that met him at these events fell in love. The folks especially loved it when I would ask a kiddo to go hide Bear's Dokken dummy someplace. I would tell Bear to "hunt dead", and he’d climb through boats and expo booths, crowds and funnel cake vendors to find it and bring it back to me. I needed him to help me at that time, and he did. He wasn’t trying to be a showman, simply trying to please me, and in the process was indeed something to see. He even made it into a national Ad for Forti Flora with all of the Smith boys. Surgery had me on a walker for over a year, and I couldn’t take him hunting, or so I thought. I wondered if he would adapt to retrieving doves...he did. Sat by my side like a lab.
If I walked out of a door, he was lying beside it when I came back through. You could bet money on that. I start work many times at 3 or 4 am. There was no way to sneak out of the bedroom without him. Off to work with me he’d go. Every day. When friends and family betrayed trust, he didn’t. Not once. You know, you’ve been there too. His talent was great, his nose was unreal, his heart was bigger, and that’s what set him apart. I borrowed a line from Winnie the Pooh when I thanked God for giving me something I loved so much, that it hurt this bad to lose it. I hope that I haven’t bored you with my story. I hope that I have brought back fond remembrance of your “Bear”. Bear died just 3 weeks before his fifteenth birthday. I still cry.
May 26, 2017
As we move from school days to pool days, and cool mornings to hot days, it’s not too early to start thinking about fall. For bow hunters, you could be in the stand and packing meat out of the field in just 19 weeks. Dove hunters will be trying to down those fast darting doves in less time than that. Field trailers will start campaigning again in September too. It’s easy to hit the AC and not depart from it ‘til summers in the rear view, but if you use your time wisely and take advantage of the cooler parts of the morning and evening, you can keep your edge.
My friend and pro dog trainer Ronnie Smith and his training partner/wife Susanna Love, will start their day about 3am during the dog days of summer, and finish roading (exercising) dogs by 9am or so. By 9am in Big Cabin, Oklahoma in July, it’s HOT! Tom Dokken’s Kennel is in Minnesota, and he does the same thing. That kind of effort is what sets trainers like Tom and Ronnie apart from many others without that kind of drive.
A round of sporting clays once a week is a great way to keep your dove shooting on par. Keep plenty of water handy and walk the course for your legs, heart and lungs. The same goes for outdoor 3-D archery courses. My friend Joe Mussachio at Cinnamon Creek Archery in Ft Worth, Texas has several outdoor courses to keep you on your toes and ensuring the best shot that you can be in September. Swimming is great hot weather aerobics too. Take your dog along. He can’t sweat and any outdoor activity in the summertime requires that you at least keep his head wet and cool as possible.
Here’s to a great summer, and like the old song says…See You in September!
May 18, 2017
Now's the time for Bream!
We come here every spring, Robin, other family members, friends come and go throughout the 10 day stay. We drag boats, travel trailers, gear, dogs, stuff out the old wazoo. The 3 hour trek from Dallas/Fort Worth to Caddo Lake on the Texas-Louisiana border looks much like the opening to the Beverly Hillbilly’s. But it's worth it! The bream are bigger here on Caddo...Up to a pound and a half. Why get so excited about jerking a perch? Many reasons:
A little gas for the boat, lightweight spinning gear and a box of worms is all you need for everyone from the kiddos to the pappaws to have a great time and contribute to the family food supply. If you come…The first couple of weeks in May have always been good for us as we try to time out the bream spawn on Caddo. Johnsons Ranch Marina-Uncertain, Texas is over one hundred years old. Not only a rustic old fish camp, but well stocked with snacks, fishing supplies, guide services, boat fuel, breakfast and lunch items, fish cleaning station, fish cleaners!!! AND...a boat ramp.
Fish the shallows deep in the cypress breaks or islands. 2 ft of water or less. Hunt n peck til you find a bed, then load the boat. Accommodations are clean and comfortable at beautiful Caddo Lake State Park, just 5 miles from Johnsons Ranch Marina. RV hookups, and fully furnished cabins are available to rent. Walmart is just 15 miles up the road in Marshall. Last but not least, call me when you are headed out!
APRIL 21, 2017
(First Published May 2015)
I fried up some crappie a couple of nights ago along with fresh sliced tomatoes, some steamed squash and a few fried potatoes. That’s a meal that never diminishes in excellence. It is always better than I remember, and I remember that fried crappie is pretty dandy! Well, everything was wonderful except those dang tomatoes. The tomato industry should be ashamed of the product they lay out for us. It's kinda like modern day Nashville. They roll out a product that looks good, but is way short on the real reason you bought the product. Tomatoes are a whole nother story. Back to the crappie and how to land them in your grease.
Ahhhh, springtime! Spring is the absolute favorite time of year for most anglers. The various species move to the shallows to spawn and defend the nest against anything that comes within smacking range. You can load up a mess of keeper crappie this time of year, and they are accessible to anglers that don’t fish from a boat. I do fish from a boat, or at least use the vessel to get me in an area that I want to fish. The crappie will look for a hard surface for a spawning area. Hard clay or rocks maybe. The keys to look for are:
I employ several tactics in the springtime. If the fish are spawning on the rocks along a dam or bridge, I will place a float, or bobber about 6-8 inches above my jig, and as I drift or very slowly troll along the rocky bank, I allow the bobber to do the same thing. Very effective method. Another great way to sack em up is to look for shallow flats that are occupied by lots of button willows, or cattails, or stumps. PARK THE BOAT. It's too shallow to get into these flats with most boats anyway. Tie it off so it won't blow away and slip into your waders! Slowly, without disturbing too much water as you go, move from brush to brush to logs to other cover. A 9 to 12 foot lightweight jigging rod is recommended. This will keep you far enough from the fish to not spook them. Only allow about 6-8 inches on line with jig attached to dangle past the tip of the rod. With your free hand, pull the line and jig up snug to the rod tip so that there’s no slack. Ease along, much like a feeding heron does, and slip the tip of your rod at water level, deep into the cover. NEVER turn loose of the line in your free hand. Ease the jig down into the water and wait for the thump. When you feel it, pull the line with your line hand to set the hook and pull the fish up to the rod tip. Back him out of there quickly. Without constant control and contact with your line hand, you will be miserable, losing fish and tangled in brush all day. Stay in control of the line at all times. AND, check the last 2-3 feet of your line regularly. Your fishing in abrasive stuff and line wear occurs often. Re-tie, don’t break off that nice one.
I often see bank fishermen set up in a spot and stay there all day, which can be very productive if the fish favor that spot and the weather hasn’t moved them around or out. But how much more productive could you be with an inexpensive set of waders that help you cover a lot more water. Slip em on, slip out into the water, and slip up on some cover, then slip em into the cornmeal and grease.
A few thoughts:
The majority of crappie that you catch on spawning beds are males. They build the nest, mate with incoming females, then stay and guard the fry against predators. The females will be at the nest only long enough to lay her eggs and move back out. If there are hardwoods or stumps or other cover in nearby deeper water, don’t forget to check them regularly as well. That’s where the big girls are hanging out while not visiting the beds. You’ll more than likely catch your bigger fish here.
When? 62 degree or warmer water seems to be a key factor for the crappie spawn. A string of 60 degree or warmer nights (air temp) are a big deal too. When you have a string of 60 degree nights and a full moon in the forecast, mend the hole in the waders and string up new line on the long pole! Good fishing to you! Send me a picture or two of your success for the BBKO Braggin Board... and a basket full of home grown, vine ripened tomatoes!
MARCH 24, 2017
I'm back on open water now, and that’s comforting for a couple of reasons. Even though I was able to spend considerable time on ice for the first time in my life, I always had a nagging in the back of my mind with every step or scoot of the snowmobile that a sudden crack, pop and sink COULD happen. It didn’t. The ice was two feet thick and very safe. The second reason that I'm comfortable on the home lake is familiarity. Thousands of hours on these waters have me launching the boat without a specific game plan, nothing more than a targeted species in mind. I can launch, fire up the motor and head out without marking a boat ramp or even turning on the Garmin units until I'm near my starting point.
I do plan a return to the frozen country though. The people in Minnesota were so friendly, welcoming and enjoyable...the fishing was pretty darn good too. When drilling an eight inch hole to catch fish on a lake that's eighty miles long, you better know what's under there...could be a very long day of hit and miss without open water knowledge of what becomes rock hard ice late fall through winter. Woody Woods know where to set the auger to work. He’s been fishing Rainy Lake, Minnesota on the Canadian border for 45 years. He has fished so well that his peers put him in the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. That’s a big part of why I chose Woody as a fishing partner on this trip. His knowledge along with his easy going personality made him a slam dunk decision for me. His business is titled “Woody’s Fairly Reliable Guide Service”; his motto, “90% of our customers come back alive”.
When the engines of the snowmobiles die down, 8-10 miles up a frozen lake in late February, the silence...REAL silence starts to creep into your ears. No planes, highways or boat motors. Just a light breeze through the pines, that stretch from the thousands of islands that dot Rainy. The latest snowfall buffers the sound and it’s the perfect soundtrack for the incredible beauty that surrounds you. The only disturbance was a bald eagle that landed on the ice about 100 yards away in hopes of stealing one of our fish. He did too! Swooping in so close behind me that the flapping of his massive wings raised my eyebrows and spun my head around.
I've fished all of my life, from the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf, to freshwater from Florida to the Rockies. This was a totally new and exciting experience. I've never been anyplace more beautiful. Put it on your bucket list, plan it and follow through. Here are a couple of tips...
Before you go...
MARCH 10, 2017