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Outdoorsmen and women are in a holding pattern right now. It’s mid-February and one of those "tweener" periods for much of the country. The cold fronts that rotate with the South winds make the fishing very unpredictable. The weather is still harsh in a lot of areas; in others, it’s just not comfortable enough to sit in the boat fighting the wind and catching little. It’s a great time of year to check your gear and set-ups for the approaching Spring. When the calendar starts to round the curve from winter to spring, it’ll all ramp back up...and quickly. When it does, I like to BE ready, not GET ready.
I spend a lot of garage time on the chilly windy days re-spooling reels for various applications: fluorocarbon for drop-shotting, clear water, deep cranking and other low line visibility needs, braid for the flippin and pitchin gear, and mono for most murky southern waters that I spend a great deal of time on. It's also time to check the tackle bags and reload terminal tackle needs: various hooks, sinkers, beads, rattles, bobber or weight stops, swivels and snaps, split rings, weights etc.
Finally, it’s time to reload on the baits that worked so well last year in those spots that you’ll visit again this year. I always make sure that I have a variety of soft plastics in watermelon with red flake for the closest (making it the most fished) bass lake to my home, June bug soft plastics for Florida waters, and small bait fish themed swim baits for my smallmouth trips up north, hard baits that were lost to deep water structure, overhead obstructions and shallow areas that I couldn’t reach with the boat. Hard baits with multiple treble hooks are predestined for loss. Snagged and stuck in an area that leads to broken line and with today's prices, broken hearts and wallets. What extremes would you go to to retrieve that $20 Whopper Plopper? For me, crank baits and golf balls are the same...I’ve never retired one from old age.
Top-water baits, hard swim baits, spinning and chatter baits...the list of off-season chores is truly endless but all part of the excitement. The first steps to landing that giant starts in the "tweener" time out in the garage. So, pour another hot cup of coffee, start undoing that big pile of treble hooked baits that have worked themselves into one big deadly ball and practice your pitching technique in tight quarters 'til it’s finally time to hook up to the boat. The Lord tells us to “Be anxious for nothing…” but it sure is tough just weeks before the shallow water spawn and gobbling long-beards!
February 17, 2018
It's not a place that I’d ever been, nor would even consider. Heck, this place would not interest or occupy my mind at all if it weren’t for a beautiful blonde headed grand girl. Ever heard of American Girl? It’s Barbie on mega growth hormone. Barbie had a doll house and a convertible; American Girl has it's own free standing two story building outside the Dallas Galleria filled with every race, lifestyle and interest doll that you can think up. There’s camping girl, astronaut girl, singer girl, skateboard girl, beach girl...hey, they even had a banjo pickin girl. It’s an amazing place. All of these before mentioned girls, have an endless line of accessories too. All very life-like, all greatly overpriced. It’s a place I can’t afford to go, but I do...I’ve got a beautiful blonde headed grand girl. I’m sure that somewhere in this doll house is a whole troop of vacuum girls that go around sucking up the money from glazed over grandpas like me. I was pleased though, when blondie chose camping gear for her American Girl.
When I stepped in the front door, my view was overwhelming. No, not wall to wall dolls, but the strongest voice in 2nd Amendment support on planet earth. Turns out that Wayne LaPierre has a granddaughter too. There was Wayne in his sweats and tenny shoes. A ball cap and wallet rounded out his attire. This is all that he and I would need on this day. Armed with credit cards and dressed in stuff that would allow us to keep up with the little darlings. Here we were, a guy that loves and understands that without Amendment 2, I would not have American Girl freedom. My trusted 270 would by now be an Obama plow share with Hillary riding guard to make sure I didn’t have any others laying around. And there’s the other guy, Executive VP of the NRA and my voice many times in cocktail conversations that I’m not invited to. We could have shared like-minded conversation that covered the hours of doll frenzy, but we had smaller fish to fry. Young’uns that need our nurturing and support now, so they’ll know how to do it later.
So, Wayne and I ooo’ed and awe’d and kept our eye rolling to a minimum. We watched joyfully as we overpaid for mini hairdos for the dolls which we had overpaid. Heck, if Wayne and I had hair enough to work with, we’d have had ours done too. There were overpriced tea parties with the dolls, constant trips from 1st floor to 2nd and then back down. There was laughter, and wide eyes. There were thank yous and hugs...there were happy little girls and grown men with names like papaw, gramps, big daddy and pops. There was, right before our eyes, every reason that our 2nd Amendment exists, and every reason it must stay iron clad strong! Neither Wayne nor I had to say it; we were both living it. Our girls were having a great time, and American Girl at that moment was one of the safest places on earth. Nice seein ya Wayne!
Are you a member of the NRA? If not...why not? Oh, I get it if you're scared of guns to the point that you think no one should possess them. I understand that. You’ve just never been around them. Know what? Chances are very high that if we went to the range together, you would not only change your opinion but have the time of your life. That’s a safe bet for me because I’ve seen it too many times already. As part of the Dallas Safari Club and Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation, I’ve had the great pleasure to assist at the annual S.A.F.E.T.Y event.
At these events, kids and one of their parents learn to shoot bow, pistol, shotgun, rifle and muzzle loader. I teach shotgun. At EVERY annual event, even though the shooting and teaching is intended for the kids, mom and dad get involved. They want to try it, and when they do...a new shooter is born. I’ve seen it first hand and heard the stories time and again. Folks that were scared of guns beforehand, purchasing them and kicking off a life-time of target shooting and or hunting afterwards. There are folks full of hatred on the far left that dream of a Stalin society or something that will never be good for the U.S. They know that we must be disarmed for their dreams to come true. There are folks to the right and folks in the middle. I’m convinced though that our founders were God-inspired in their formation of government and that grandpas that respect both God and government have and will continue to protect those precious young’uns with that 2nd Amendment right. They protect your foul mouth too lefty.
January 26, 2018
There’s something peaceful about a cold day at the lake. Alone on the boat with God. The quiet still of winter on a calm cloudy day. This is the same spot that frustrated me so much last summer with ski boats and jet skis buzzing within casting distance of me. I fought constantly to keep my boat from wake washing right on top of my hole. A good drop off that moves abruptly from 14 foot water to 21. This ridge holds bass and crappie year round, but in the hot summer time it’s a slam dunk! Position the boat back a bit from the drop. Throw a six inch watermelon and chartreuse Zoom worm or a Strike King Rage Craw in the same colors up in the fourteen foot water. Slowly work it to the edge, and pay attention while it drops. It might be a light tap or maybe your line just starts swimming off to the side. It might even just stop dropping before it should. This is where the old adage “setting the hook is free” comes in handy. When in doubt, set the hook! This is a proven hang out and travel area for bass positioning themselves to ambush shad. The massive balls of shad seem to be here year round as well. Colder weather usually means working the baits slower or even dead sticking, meaning no movement at all. Cast, sink sit. Colder water means slower moving fish. Give them time and be patient. Its easier to be patient now, all of the lake rocking summer activity has stopped for a few months, heck, most of the fishermen stop coming after the temps drop below 60 or so. There might be a sail boat or two slipping along and kayakers taking advantage of calmer water, but for the most part it’s just you and God’s watchful eye.
There goes my worm! The line is swimming sideways! After a hook set that Jimmy Houston would be proud of, I bring in a nice sized crappie. Crappie are insecure little buggers. They can’t stand alone time. Even when tending a spring time nest of eggs, there will more than likely be another nest close by. They enjoy each other’s company and are most times in large groups. Time to slip the bass rod back into the box and pull out the crappie pole! Easing up on the drop off I keep a close eye on my graph. I’m looking for the change in depth, and a stack of fish. Crappie will look like a Christmas tree on your graph, or maybe a tall stack, like a tree stump. Bass will be singular many times. Once I locate the school, I’ll toss a buoy out about 10 or 15 feet on the downwind side. I’ve marked my spot, noted the depth of the fish, and now I’ll just feed 'em crappie jigs until I can’t take it anymore.
If your water doesn’t freeze up in winter, it’s still a great time to get out on the lake. Take plenty of hot coffee or cocoa, dress right and by all means stay out of the water this time of year. Your catch survives better in the live well. The traffic is gone and there’s no one sitting on the special spot that multiple boats race to in the summer.
December 7, 2017
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
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
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