Monthly Archives: February 2018

Early Spring At Lanier

Right on time, sandhill cranes showed up a few weeks ago, headed back north on their annual migration. This is a sure sign spring is not far away. Even more significant, daffodils in my yard started blooming last week, offering a small splash of bright yellow against all the browns and grays of lingering winter.

Thursday morning there was a strange bright light in the sky for a few minutes at my house, something not seen in days. Rainy, cloudy days seem the norm in February this year and many more are in the weather guessers forecast. Sometimes, although uncomfortable, it makes fishing and catching better.

Water in lakes is warming slowly. Sun on the water warms it faster so it has been slow. Longer days have made bass and other fish start moving more shallow, thinking about spawning. But cold nights are keeping them from getting in a hurry.

I went to Lanier a week ago last Thursday and fished one day in wind and bright sun and two days in the rain. It was interesting, and I spent a lot of time looking for bait and bass but was not successful. I was hoping to find a school of bass or a pattern that would help me in the Flint River Bass Club tournament last Sunday but did not.

In our February tournament six of us braved a rainy day to cast for eight hours. We landed only seven keepers longer than the required 14 inches on Lanier, and they weighed about 15 pounds. There were no limits and two fishermen didn’t have a keeper.

Jack “Zero” Ridgeway didn’t live up to his name, winning with three fish weighing 5.40 pounds. My one largemouth, the only one caught, weighing 4.85 pounds was good for second and big fish. Niles Murray was third with two at 3.24 pounds and Alex Gober placed fourth with one weighing 1.48 pounds.

Sometimes little things come together to make a difference. After fishing Friday without a bite I had dinner with Jim Farmer and his wife. He asked if I had tried the very back of coves where muddy water was running in from all the rain.

A few years ago I did an article with Ryan Coleman on Lanier after a lot of rain. He took me to the back of a creek where muddy water was running in and we caught some nice fish on spinnerbaits.

I really did not think much of those two things since I was expecting to catch big spotted bass on main lake rocky points.

Saturday, I again fished and looked at places where I expected spots to be feeding, and think I had one bite. That was a calm day with no wind, and wind usually helps make spots feed. When Sunday morning had wind, I was ready to fish a spinnerbait all day on rocky points.

I started on a rocky point where I won two club tournaments last November but never got a bite in 90 minutes of casting. While fishing another point nearby I kept hearing a noise like running water and spotted a small waterfall in a ditch. All the rain made water flow down the steep rocky bank and gurgle muddily into the lake, staining the whole ditch.

All the memories came back so I went to it and cast my spinnerbait all around it. When I cast right to the base of the small waterfall in about a foot of water a fish thumped my bait hard and I set the hook. I thought I had hooked a keeper bass about 20 feet from the boat, but when I set the hook it almost pulled me out of the boat.

The fish fought hard, especially with the short amount of line out, and I just knew I would lose it, especially after seeing how big it was. But I was able to net the fish and stop shaking after about ten minutes.

For the next three hours I rode around looking for more places where water was running into the lake and fished every one I found, but never got another bite. I had gone back to the place I caught the fish after about an hour to try it again, but the water flow had slowed to a trickle.

For the last three hours of the tournament I again tried deep, rocky points and banks and got one bite but did not hook it. I think it was a crappie or bream based on the way it hit, and I was fishing a jig and pig with the tips of the trailer tail dipped in chartreuse JJs Magic. Every fish in the lake will hit at the wiggling tails of a trailer like that.

The Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our tournament yesterday at West Point. I’m sure I spent hours fishing backs of pockets with muddy water. As I write this I wonder if they will be there!

Florida’s Forage Fish

New Program Shines Spotlight on Florida’s Forage Fish
By Brett Fitzgerald
Snook and Gamefish Foundation
from The Fishing Wire

Pinfish or trout?

If you have ever been grouper fishing, I know this has happened to you: You feel the thump of a bite, reel down and next thing you know the fish has “rocked you up” and before you can react, your line goes slack. Fish – and tackle – gone. More times than not the tackle failure takes place at the connections, such as the knot connecting the leader to swivel.

Like me, I am sure you have also lost a gator trout, a big snook, or a tarpon because of knot failure. Or maybe the knot was OK, but it was chopped off by a misguided kingfish or Spanish mackerel.

Here’s my point: Our tackle is only as strong as its connections. Healthy marine fisheries depend upon strong linkages in the food web too.

Take for example the lowly pinfish. They need healthy seagrass flats to provide them with food and cover. This important species of forage fish give back to seagrasses by cleaning and pruning the plants, which helps keep the meadow growing and healthy. (Small pinfish eat shrimp, as any angler knows, but at about 4 inches and larger they mostly convert to being herbivores.) They are also an essential food resource for a variety of predators that depend upon the pinfish’s ability to turn phytoplankton, algae and seagrass blades into high-octane fatty acids.

Ecologists have a handle on the basic linkages of such “trophic” connections, and I bet most anglers have an intuitive understanding of this too. But even though we grasp the importance of forage fish like pinfish, there is not a thorough enough understanding of how or why their populations change over time. Drawing back the curtain on the life history dynamics of forage fish is key to help us prevent the types of trophic “break-offs” that could have devastating impacts on our fisheries.

The good news is we’re on our way to gathering this kind of information. Last year the Florida Forage Fish Research Program (FFFRP) – a collaboration between the Florida Forage Fish Coalition, Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), and academic institutions –funded two student-led research fellowships and is currently raising funds for additional fellowships in 2018 and beyond. This work will shed some interesting and important light on forage fish populations and their impacts on predators, with the added benefit of supporting the next generation of fisheries scientists.

Eyeing Pinfish Research

Terry Tomalin, the late Tampa Times outdoors editor, once suggested to a friend that “Gut Content Analysis” would make a great name for a punk band. FWRI’s Fish Biology “Gut Lab” rocks at identifying partially digested forage items found in the stomachs of the predator species we target. For example, a 2006 study conducted by the Florida Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) showed that forage fish account for 40% of a snook’s diet in the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, and pinfish make up half of that (20% overall). I know gator seatrout love ’em – it was a pinfish that landed my biggest to date (see above right).

But when it comes to where these critically important pinfish spawn and spend their lives, we have a lot to learn. We’re left to wonder whether pinfish offshore spawning that supplies the Eastern Gulf’s estuaries occurs in a few critical locations or whether spawning activities are spread out. We also don’t know whether pinfish from all of the Gulf estuaries move offshore to spawn at once, or whether they take turns. Fortunately, scientists from the University of South Florida (USF) plan to change that.

USF researchers awarded the first of two FFFRP fellowships in 2017 will use a new technique to discover the secret lives of pinfish. Such insight is gained not by following these fish around and watching what they eat, but rather by examining chemical markers stored in the fish’s tissues. By analyzing carbon and nitrogen isotopes stored in the core of pinfish eye lenses, USF scientists will gain insights about where they were spawned and spent the planktonic phase of their lives before settling into our coastal estuaries.

Foraging Arena Theory

We all know that habitat loss and fragmentation can reduce recruitment of juveniles into gamefish populations. But couldn’t limitations on prey availability also reduce recruitment of wildly popular species such as redfish?

For many years, FWRI collected data on forage abundance in Gulf estuaries. Now, the FFFRP fellowship program is funding a University of Florida researcher to evaluate trends for what they think are the ten most important forage sources for redfish and gag grouper. They will specifically try to identify any significant population changes in these key forage species, and determine what effect, if any, these fluctuations might have had on redfish and gag grouper populations. After all, we can’t adequately protect healthy populations of iconic species such as redfish and gag grouper, unless we understand such basic predator-prey relationships.

These promising fellowships will publish their results this year. In the meantime, the Florida Forage Fish Coalition is hopeful that the FFFRP can secure funding for many more fellowship projects in the future. This work will provide valuable scientific insight to the FWC as they work to maintain healthy forage, predator populations, and fisheries as outlined in the Florida Forage Fish Resolution passed in June 2015.

Visit to take the Florida Forage Fish Coalition pledge. You can donate to the Florida Forage Fish Research Program at

Editor’s Note: The Florida Forage Fish Coalition is a small yet diverse coalition of organizations who understand the critical importance of the baitfish that swim in Florida waters. Some coalition members contributed to information in this story. Please do take the time to visit the web page and take the pledge!

Image credits: Pinfsih in Hand image courtesy of Live Advantage Bait.

Bass Boats Have Come A Long Way In 44 Years

My first bass boat was a 1974 17-foot Arrowglass with a 70 horsepower two stroke Evinrude motor, foot controlled 12 volt trolling motor with about 40 pounds of thrust and a Lowrance flasher depthfinder on the console. It would run about 35 miles per hour top speed. It had an Anchormate on both ends, a winch that raised and lowered a ten-pound mushroom shaped anchor. There was on car battery that cranked the boat and ran everything on it.

The trailer was a single axle one with 12-inch tires. I carried a paper lake map with me that showed the basic outline of the lake. I did order a contour map of Clarks Hill, a 52-page book with pages two feet square, that showed depth contours in five-foot intervals. I put sections of it on the wall in my lake trailer.

The Arrowglass had a live well of sorts, that would fill about four inches deep with water to keep fish alive, but it did not work very well. The boat was top of the line at the time, and cost just under half my annual teacher’s salary when bought new.

When I joined the Sportsman Club that April I had the second biggest motor in the club, there was one 100 horsepower, and the second longest boat. Most boats were 14-foot Sing Fishers with 40 horsepower motors and stick steering.

Now I have a top of the line 2016 20-foot Skeeter with a 250 horsepower four stroke motor that will fly down the lake at over 75 miles per hour if I get in a hurry. The trolling motor is a foot controlled 36-volt 112 pound thrust one that will zip the boat along on high and hold it in any wind as long as the waves are not so high they lift the front of the boat get the motor out of the water. It requires four big deep cycle batteries to run everything.

There are two live wells that hold about 20 gallons of water. Pumps pull water from the lake to fill them and constantly put in fresh water. Other pumps recirculate the water, keeping it oxygenated, and with the pull of a valve will pump the water out of them to drain then faster than just opening the plug, which can be done remotely.

On the back are two Power Pole shallow water anchors. With a push of a button I can extend or retract poles that go down eight feet deep to hold the boat in one place. There are two Humminbird Helix 10 depthfinders on the front and two more on the console, each with 10-inch screens. The trailer is a dual axle with 14-inch tires. It cost almost 20 times as much as my first boat, even though I bought it used. Although my salary had gone up a bit before I retired, the used boat cost almost a full year’s pay.

The change in deptfinders is unreal. My old Lowrance had a light that spun around a dial marked in depth numbers and flashed when its sonar pulse hit something. Thats why they were called “flashers.” The bottom showed as a constant bright line and anything above the bottom, like a fish or brush, flashed at its depth.

My Helix 10s are like TV screens. Just the electronics on my new boat sell for more than three times the total cost of my first boat. They are networked together and can be divided into windows and all four will show everything that shows up on any of them. A GPS map shows bottom contours of the lake with great detail and I can highlight a depth.

If I want to fish from 5 to 10 feet deep I can highlight it in red and keep my boat just outside it to fish that depth consistently. I can also see shallow spots to avoid as I run down the lake and put in waypoints to exactly mark a brush pile or anything else I want to go back to.

The depthfinder part is an LCD that shows a moving picture of whatever is below the boat, in color. It will show in detail brush, stumps and fish. The down and side scan paint a picture that looks like a photo, with brush, stumps and rocks looking just like they would look if you were able to see them. Fish show up as small white dots.

Even more amazing on the front is a 360 Scan transducer. The image it produces looks like a radar screen with a line going around a circle picture. It scans all around the boat, showing rocks, brush and fish ahead, to the sides and even behind the boat. I have mine set on 60 feet, so I see everything within that distance of the boat.

My first boat was a tri hull that was stable while fishing but pounded through waves and jarred you if the water was rough. My new boat is stable while fishing but will cut through two to three-foot waves with little bouncing. It is three feet longer and much heavier, which helps a lot.

Do I need all the stuff I now have? No. Do I like having it? Yes. Do all the advancements help me catch more fish? Maybe. After all the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

Ice Fishing Underwater Angling Lessons

Underwater Angling Lessons

Top Ice Fishing Tips Via the Camera Lens

By Ted Pilgrim
from The Fishing Wire

Use a camera for ice fishing

A singular theme runs through the game of sight-fishing. It’s the visual see-stalk-cast and hang-on-to-your-rod sequence that anglers can’t get enough of; why fly fishers cherish above all else drifting dry flies for trout; why inshore anglers can’t sleep the night before an adventure on the shallow bonefish flats; why muskie hunters happily take a beating for twelve hours straight for the mere chance at one big fish . . .

Pure, adrenaline-laced, heart-pounding fun!

Believe it or not, the same motivation fuels the pursuit of crappies, walleyes or other species through a hole in a frozen lake — especially when one views the action via underwater camera lens. The rush of tension that occurs each time you watch a fish stalk your bait can turn excitement into addiction. Big bonuses result, too. Like learning new and fascinating fish behaviors, or discovering what your lure, line and retrieve really look like underwater, having witnessed the aquatic drama with your own two eyes.

“Panfish” Phil Laube is a Minnesota based angling adventurer who rarely ventures forth without his underwater camera. Laube’s especially enthusiastic about employing an Aqua-Vu to study his presentation and how fish react to it. If sight-fishing via camera lens happens to be super exciting, he doesn’t exactly mind that either.

“For a lot of anglers, fishing with a camera has become the main reason they don’t mind braving the winter elements,” Laube admits. “It’s like, if you remove the visual element of stalking big tarpon or redfish on the shallow flats, it’s still technically fishing, just not nearly as much fun.”

Intrepid ice angler “Panfish” Phil Laube says underwater spy-work skyrockets his fishing confidence.

Laube says that while he always totes his sonar unit for missions on ice, he also brings the camera, and deploys the optics whenever he can. “There are things you simply can’t experience or learn about what’s happening without seeing the real-world underwater landscape.”

In terms of essential and interesting discoveries, Laube offers the following aquatic observations:

(1) Confidence – “The camera has really improved my ability as a fisherman, especially in terms of coaxing fish to bite. It’s all about visualization and confidence. After seeing fish repeatedly respond favorably or negatively toward different lures and actions, you become much more certain of what’s happening below — even when you’re not using a camera. You can accurately picture what everything looks like, which allows me to predict fish response in some cases. Visualization yields confidence.”

(2) Interpreting Sonar – “There’s no better way to learn what your sonar unit is showing you than to put a camera down there at the same time. I promise you’ll discover you’ve been wrong about certain signals and about the way fish truly approach your lure. A lot of anglers think, for example, fish always ‘rise up’ to bite because of the way signals are shown on sonar, relative to the transducer. This isn’t often the case. Fish on sharp drop-offs is another one. If you’re set up on a sharp break — particularly with big rocks there to obstruct the transducer signal — your sonar may not show fish close to the bottom at all.

“The other big thing is species ID. Based on watching fish on the camera, you can learn what a crappie looks like on sonar versus a sunfish, or walleye versus pike. For example, sunfish often approach a lure slowly, deliberately, while crappies often chase and move more rapidly.”

High definition underwater cameras reveal amazing underwater details that immediately translate to more fish on the ice.

(1) Line Truths – “Fish reject spinning jigs and lures, every time. I use Frabill Straightline reels to reduce spin, but they don’t completely eliminate it. You need to keep the bait moving and vibrating with rapid, wrist-shaking movements, almost non-stop. I run 3- or 4-pound test for panfish most of the time. Fish generally aren’t line-shy. But it’s important to match line to lure weight. Too heavy of line makes lures spin more. In deep water, bites can be undetectable. So, you want a heavier lure hanging below a coil-free line. Coils reduce sensitivity. The new co-polymer and fluorocarbon ice lines are awesome — slick, straight, and largely memory-free. By the way, fluorocarbon isn’t as invisible as you think.

(2) Ace-in-the Hole Spots – “Time and again, the Aqua-Vu has shown me the great attracting power of tall, standing vegetation — or other vertical cover — for attracting crappies, sunfish and largemouth bass. Pike, too. Clumps or small clusters of beanstalk-like cabbage are particularly appealing. If you find these, you’ll find fish nearby the majority of the time. Same deal with sunken trees, brushpiles and cribs. The camera is often the only way to spot fish in the dense cover, plus reveal how they’re relating to it.”

(3) Lure Selection – “Used to be the first thing I did when a fish rejected my lure was to switch color. I’ve learned through the lens that the first adjustment is to downsize or up-size to the next smaller or larger version of the lure you’re using. Adjust your jigging cadence, too. Slow down. Color can be important, though it’s not usually nearly so critical as other factors.

“Finally, watch how fish are biting your lure. If you’re missing fish, could be they’re biting the jighead and missing the hook. Or, they’re simply nipping the tail of the plastic. Downsizing both jig and plastic can be the ticket. I’ve got one super-secret panfish jig that’s armed with hooks on both sides of the jighead. Stings every fish that bites.”

Laube laughs, though he’s actually serious when he says, “Remember, the camera never lies.”

Blooming Idiots Go Fishing

It never fails. Every year as soon as we have a couple of warm days in late winter, the idiots of spring bloom. People who have not thought about fishing since las spring suddenly decide to go catch fish, and do things that are either inconsiderate or stupid, or both.

Trying to put a boat in at a popular ramp is a joke. In our club tournaments we can launch ten boats in a few minutes and get out of the way. We know better than to back down to the ramp, block others from it and spend 20 minutes unloading stuff from the truck taking straps and hooks off the boat and trying to get everything ready. That is done in the parking lot well away from the ramp.

And most of us can back a trailer into the water efficiently, not having to pull up and back up a dozen times to finally get it in. A double ramp is just that, room for two boats to launch at the same time. The line down the middle is there to divide the ramp, not to aim at and straddle!

At the Sportsman Club tournament two weeks ago, I pulled up at Dennis Station ramp on Lake Sinclair at 7:00 AM just as it got light. Two club members were already there, trying to maneuver their trailers around a truck that was sitting right in the middle of the area used to back up to the ramp, with lights on, motor running and boat on trailer not many feet from the water.

They got their boats launched and parked their trucks and came over to pay their entry fees. One said there was a guy sitting in the running truck. We did not know whether he was asleep, passed out or dead.

I was nervous about knocking on his window to see but one brave club member did so. The guy woke, pulled up into the parking lot out of the way, sat there a few more minutes then drove off without getting out of his truck. I still have no idea what he was doing, but he was sitting there for at least 30 minutes while I was there. Maybe he fished all night while enjoying adult beverages and could not make it any further!

If you head to the lake this year be considerate. Get your boat loaded and stuff ready to go out while in the parking lot. Try to back into the water, launch your boat and get out of the way. Don’t be a blooming idiot this year!

Independent Study of Gulf Red Snapper

Independent Study of Gulf Red Snapper Population Announced
from The Fishing Wire

Studying red snapper

A team of university and government scientists, selected by an expert review panel convened by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, will conduct an independent study to estimate the number of red snapper in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

“American communities across the Gulf of Mexico depend on their access to, as well as the long term sustainability of, red snapper,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “I look forward to the insights this project will provide as we study and manage this valuable resource.”

The research team, made up of 21 scientists from 12 institutions of higher learning, a state agency and a federal agency, was awarded $9.5 million in federal funds for the project through a competitive research grant process. With matching funds from the universities, the project will total $12 million.

“We’ve assembled some of the best red snapper scientists for this study,” said Greg Stunz, the project leader and a professor at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. “The team members assembled through this process are ready to address this challenging research question. There are lots of constituents who want an independent abundance estimate that will be anxiously awaiting our findings.”

Recreational anglers and commercial fishermen will be invited to play a key role in collecting data by tagging fish, reporting tags and working directly with scientists onboard their vessels.

“The local knowledge fishermen bring to this process is very valuable and meaningfully informs our study,” Stunz said.

Some stakeholder groups have expressed concerns that there are more red snapper in the Gulf than currently accounted for in the stock assessment. The team of scientists on this project will spend two years studying the issue.

In 2016, Congress directed the National Sea Grant College Program and NOAA Fisheries to fund independent red snapper data collections, surveys and assessments, including the use of tagging and advanced sampling technologies. Sea Grant and NOAA Fisheries worked collaboratively to transfer federal funds to Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant offsite linkto administer the competitive research grant process and manage this independent abundance estimate.

“Today’s announcement is welcome news for all red snapper anglers in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. “As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, I was proud to author and secure federal funding to address the need for better data, which is a fundamental issue plaguing the fishery. The management of red snapper must be grounded in sound science if we want to provide fair access and more days on the water for our anglers. It is my hope that these independent scientists will be able to accurately determine the abundance of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico once and for all.”

“This research will be driven largely by university-based scientists with partners from state and federal agencies.” Stunz said. “This funding will allow us to do an abundance estimate using multiple sampling methods with a focus on advanced technologies and tagging for various habitat types.”

“I’m pleased to see that the independent estimate is moving forward and including the expertise of recreational fishermen,” said Rep. John Culberson of Texas. “I will continue to work with Texas fishermen and NOAA to address the inadequate access to red snapper.”

The project team will determine abundance and distribution of red snapper on artificial, natural and unknown bottom habitat across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists on the team include:

Greg Stunz, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi

Will Patterson, University of Florida

Sean P. Powers, University of South Alabama, Dauphin Island Sea Lab

James Cowan, Louisiana State University

Jay R. Rooker, Texas A&M University at Galveston

Robert Ahrens, University of Florida, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

Kevin Boswell, Florida International University

Matthew Campbell, NOAA Fisheries (non-compensated collaborator)

Matthew Catalano, Auburn University

Marcus Drymon, Mississippi State University

Brett Falterman, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

John Hoenig, College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Matthew Lauretta, NOAA Fisheries (non-compensated collaborator)

Robert Leaf, University of Southern Mississippi

Vincent Lecours, University of Florida

Steven Murawski, University of South Florida

David Portnoy, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Eric Saillant, University of Southern Mississippi

Lynne S. Stokes, Southern Methodist University

John Walter, NOAA Fisheries (non-compensated collaborator)

David Wells, Texas A&M University at Galveston

Fishing Lake Seminole with Buddha Baits

On Wednesday, January 31, I went to Lake Seminole and met Jason Smith to get information for the March Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month articles. Since Seminole is a border lake with parts of it in both Georgia and Alabama the article runs in both states.

Jason lives in Albany and fishes Seminole often. He is owner of Buddha Baits and makes and sells fishing tackle. He makes jigs, spinnerbaits, and worms, and also makes rods. He will start selling a line of reels this year and also has a branded fishing line.

Jason fished a local pot tournament on the Seminole Winter Trail at Seminole a couple of weeks ago and weighed in five bass weighing 24 pounds and did not get a check! Seminole has been on fire for big bass this winter, with five pounders common and many bigger fish.

Seminole is different from any lake in our area. It is very shallow, with miles of grass beds, sand bars and stump fields. The dam in in Florida on the Apalachicola River, just past the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers. It is so far south that bass often bed there in January, much sooner than lakes around here.

We started as the sun rose, fishing a deep creek channel bend. The cold winter has kept the bass deeper this year, but they are full of eggs and ready to move up and spawn. This creek bend was just off a point that leads back into a spawning flat, a classic setup for pre-spawn bass.

Jason caught a five pound plus largemouth on his Inseine Jig and I missed a bite on my jig. (note – I landed a 4.85 pound largemouth on one of Jason’s spinnerbaits at Lanier in my next club tournament) With a big bass in the livewell for pictures, we started running around the lake, marking spots for the March map and fishing some of them. It was still a few weeks early for the bass to be on these spawning areas, but they were nearby, and we caught several on grassbeds out from the spots we marked.

It was a cold day, especially when fishing in the wind or running down the lake at 60 mph. But sitting in the sun after the wind died was very warm. Warmer weather over the next few weeks will warm the water and move the bass to the places we marked.

Seminole is about four hours from Griffin, but the roads are good, with four lane most of the way. Bainbridge has good motels and restaurants. I stayed at the Days Inn and was impressed with the friendliness of the staff and how helpful they were, filling every request I made quickly and efficiently.

Plan a trip there in the next couple of months and you may catch a limit of five-pound bass, or one so big you want to have it mounted. Just be considerate of other fishermen.

Do’s and Dont’s for Ice Fishing

Top 10 Do’s and Dont’s for Ice Fishing
from The Fishing Wire

Plano, IL — Amidst the focus on jigging and mobility over recent years, some proven strategies have been lost in the icy shuffle. Like tip-up fishing, which has consistently produced fish and forced guys into head-to-head 50-yard dash sprints since day one. It’s forged (and compromised) friendships over the years, served as fun fish story fodder, and even sent a few unlucky lads to the E.R.

picture from The Fishing Wire

The Frabill Pro Thermal Insulated Round Tip-Up is the industry gold standard.

One guy who’s tops on tip-ups is Frabill pro Pat Kalmerton of Sheboygan, Wisconsin based Wolf Pack Adventures. The good-natured guide will be the first to tell you that tip-up fishing is a sure fire way to cover lots of water quickly and ice just about anything that swims.

But Kalmerton stresses that tip-up fishing — like any angling approach — requires attention to detail. Set-it-and-forget is not part of this badger’s program.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn tip-up secrets from seasoned anglers throughout the Midwest that would take years to figure out by trial and error,” says Kalmerton.

Thus, Like Cliff’s Notes for some class you snoozed through in high school, here’s Kalmerton’s Top 10 Tip-Up Dos and Don’ts to ace this winter semester’s tip-up test.

1) Heavy metal supersizing

Kalmerton says there’s a time and place for big hooks, but when in doubt, go smaller. In the case of walleye warfare, he sizes down to a #16 treble, usually opting for the extra flash of a gold Eagle Claw.

“I load the spool with 30-pound Frabill tip-up line and tie 8- to 10-feet of 8-pound fluorocarbon to a 25-pound InvisaSwivel. Make sure to tie the fluoro side first so you don’t have to run the whole tip-up through the Palomar loop! I slide one Owner glow bead up the fluoro and terminate the #16 gold treble with another Palomar. Then slide the bead down over the knot. I attach a split shot just heavy enough to keep the bait in a small strike window six to 10 inches above the hook and call it a day,” says Kalmerton.

For pike, he swaps out the 8-pound fluoro for 12-pound and sizes up to a #12 treble. “More often than not, 12-pound fluoro will handle any scissors beaks,” says Kalmerton.

When fishing 10-inch-plus suckers in trophy pike fisheries Kalmerton rigs 50-pound fluoro, five beads, a #6 Northland Real-Baitfish Image Colorado blade and clevis and a single 1/O hook tied with a snell knot.

“The thing I like about the snell knot is it pivots the hook when I really reef the hookset. I learned this from bass fishermen who fish punch baits — definitely ups hookset percentages.”

2) Not doing your homework

Kalmerton recommends studying LakeMaster GPS maps and PC software like Contour Elite ahead of time to surgically locate high-probability “spot-on-the-spot” locations.

“Take the time to study the body of water you’re going to fish and set out a gameplan,” says Kalmerton.

3) Setting up too close or too far from fish-holding structure

“One of the biggest reasons people get turned off to tip-ups is they spend all day in no-man’s land,” says Kalmerton. “Or setting tip-ups right on top of weeds, which can result in a tangled mess that fish will pass up 9 times out 10.”

He searches out ambush locations like green weeds, breaks, river currents, bottom transitions, and other structure where baitfish hide, instead of directly on top or too far away.

4) Fishing dead weeds

If you pull up your auger and the water’s full of plant matter that stinks, those are dying weeds. Baitfish and predators are drawn to vegetation that’s still producing oxygen, especially as winter progresses.

“Gotta get to the buffet with the freshest salad and best baitfish,” laughs Kalmerton.

5) Setting tip-ups too close together

Where you’re allowed more than one tip-up by law, fish different locations along any given structure, spreading them out as far as your state regs allow. Imagine the ice as a grid, and position your tip-ups out from your base location along a break at different depths.

6) Fishing too small of window in the water column

“A lot of anglers put a depth bomb on, come up six to eight inches for walleyes and two feet for pike,” says Kalmerton.

He suggests using your electronics to find the thermocline and baitfish to pinpoint where in the water column fish are feeding. For example, in late winter you may find that fish are up high, close to the ice, looking for water with more oxygen.

7) Mouse hunting with an elephant gun — and vice versa

Kalmerton chooses the right tip-up for your given species — or something versatile.

“The Frabill Dawg Bone can be used for both predators and panfish. For scouting panfish, simply adjust the shaft higher on the tip-up arm to release flag spring compression, which then results in sensitivity to very light bites. When hunting larger predators, just make sure you push that shaft back down.“

8) Tip-up neglect

“Walk around and make sure your tip-ups aren’t frozen in, there’s bait on your line, and it’s free of weeds,” says Kalmerton.

He adds that if you’re setting tip-ups for the evening “power hour,” think about using a Frabill Thermal to keep your holes ice-free.

9) Poor visibility

Kalmerton orients his tip-ups in the same direction, so at a mere glance he can see when one flag in a series trips. Like his fellow ice fishing authority, Steve Pennaz, Kalmerton loves the pre-lubed Frabill Artic Fire Rail tip-up for many situations. That said, when faced with deep snow on the hardwater, he’ll choose a Frabill wooden classic tip-up with a long spool arm to reach the hole and ride the flag above the snow. And for fishing in low visibility situations, he’ll affix a Frabill tip-up light to the flag shaft for easy detection.

10) Weak hooksets

Knowing when to set the hook on a fish — especially when you’re not sure when the tip-up flag tripped — can be difficult.

“Here’s the beauty of downsizing hooks. Most of the time the fish doesn’t spit the bait because it doesn’t feel the metal. As soon as I know the fish is running away from me and I feel weight, I reef on ‘em hard. Chances are you’re going to get a good gullet or corner-of-the-mouth hookset because that fish is committed to your bait!”

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report

Check out these weekly updated reports for selected lakes in Georgia and Alabama Lakes Fishing Report. If any guides or fishermen do weekly reports and would like them published on my site please contact me:

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 2/10/18

The lake is getting hot no doubt about it, this week I had one of the best days of the short
2018 season; the big fish are on the move and looking like big footballs. No there not
everywhere but there are schools of big fish loading up in 8 to 12 ft. of water and when you
find one it’s on!

The key as always when the fish group is to keep moving until you locate a school; when you
find them lock in your Spot Lock and game on! I fished several baits this week using some as
locaters by fishing slow and others for reaction bites both presentations produced using
different baits.

My first choice was a Tight-Line football jig working it around edges of
structure letting it entice with some stroking technique also. I also dropped a missile bait “48”
stick bait on a Whacky Rig; moved on to a few faster baits SPRO Aruka Shad and Picasso
Shock Waves moving them erratically around structure. The water was muddy in spots and
clear in spots, so I looked for mud lines to determine my stops.

Fishing is almost ready to break wide open; come fish with me no one will treat you better or
work harder to see you have a great day on the water. Don’t delay as the spring is getting
cluttered so let’s find your best available date. I have guides and days available to fish with
you! We fish with great sponsor products, Ranger Boats, Yamaha Motors, Vicious Line
Duckett rods and reels

Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service

Phone: 256 759 2270
Captain Mike Gerry

Cold Water Bass Fishing

I always thought bass fishing was a warm weather activity until I moved to Griffin and joined a bass club. The third tournament I fished was in January 1975. That day on Jackson was cold with rain and sleet. I caught only one bass but at weigh-in there were six weighing more than six pounds each. I was shocked!

Over the next few years I found out how good bass fishing in cold water could be. I landed my first two bass weighing more than eight pounds each in January tournaments on Jackson. And I learned how to jig a Little George at Clarks Hill to land dozens of bass a day.

On a Wednesday in early January I went to Logan Martin Lake near Birmingham to get information for my February Alabama Outdoor News article. It was cold, windy and cloudy but we caught fish. Logan Martin is on the Coosa River and is known for its big spotted bass. They bite better than largemouth in cold water, but we managed to land several largemouth as well as some spotted bass.

I should have caught more than I did. I was fishing a jig head worm and jig and pig while Tim Ward, a local expert, fished a chatterbait and crankbait. We landed bass on all four baits. But I stupidly broke my line setting the hook on one fish.

We were fishing rocky banks and points and I know to check my line often when bumping a bait over rocks. But my hands were so cold I did not, and paid the price in a lost fish. Another time I thought I was pulling my jig over a rock but, when it pulled back, I knew it was a bass. Again, I blame my lack of touch on cold hands.

Logan Martin is about 145 miles and three hours away but it is a fun lake to fish, even in the winter.