Category Archives: How To

What is Barotrauma?

Try this Simple Solution for Barotrauma in Fish

E. Weeks, South Carolina DNR
from The Fishing Wire

Pressure Release for Barotrauma


Two descending devices – https://youtu.be/agu22ruqX4gdevices (in center): a pressure-activated SeaQualizer and a lower-tech descender (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Recently on the blog we looked at a few misconceptions surrounding barotrauma, which occurs when fish reeled in from deep waters experience injuries due to the rapid change in pressure. Barotrauma, which can range from invisible injuries to bloated organs, can kill fish both directly and indirectly, as when they’re unable to escape predators such as sharks or barracudas.

There’s increasing consensus that descending devices are the best way to address this issue, giving released reef fish the greatest odds of survival.

Descending devices can range from the low-tech and DIY (a simple hook or basket set-up with a weight attached) to more expensive, commercially developed tools. But all serve the same purpose: to return fish to a safe depth where they can recover from any ill effects of barotrauma. The use of all descending devices follows the same basic procedure:

Angler reels in a fish from >30 feet of water and may or may not observe signs of barotrauma in the fish.

After deciding to release fish, angler works quickly to dehook the animal.

Angler attaches descending device to fish (either through the hole made by hook, by attaching to lip, or by placing fish in a basket).

Using a hand reel or heavy-duty rod, angler lowers fish back into the depths from which it was caught.

Angler triggers the release mechanism, freeing the descending device from the fish so it can re-acclimate to its environment.

In 2015, the FishAmerica Foundation began working with anglers in the Gulf of Mexico to improve the survival of fish caught in deep waters (such as red snapper) and learn more about the potential for widespread use of descending devices. By asking over 1,100 anglers to test Seaqualizer descending devices, the project ‘saved’ an estimated 3,000-9,000 red snapper that, based on previous research, would otherwise have died due to their barotrauma injuries.

Based on their early success in the Gulf, the FishSmart project has now expanded to look at the impacts of using descending devices by offshore anglers in the South Atlantic. That’s how the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) came to be a partner on this project.

An Opportunity to Try This Yourself Right now, SCDNR is recruiting volunteer anglers who regularly fish for species such as snapper, grouper, or red drum in deep waters. If you’re an offshore angler who cares about improving the survival of reef fish, consider taking part in this program. Anglers who participate in the program will be provided with educational materials and tools for decreasing barotrauma effects, and will be asked to complete two brief surveys over the coming year about how often they used descending devices, how they worked, and whether they have any recommendations for improvement on provided information.If you’re interested in helping conserve deepwater fish by participating in this program, please contact SCDNR’s Morgan Hart at HartM@dnr.sc.gov.

Catch and Release Fishing

To Keep or To Release?
From the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
from the Fishing Wire

Releasing Trout


If you’re fishing in a catch-and-release-only water body, the decision has been made for you; all fish must be released promptly. But otherwise, you can decide which legally harvestable fish to keep for consumption, which to release, and how to conduct either activity. Many fishing regulations are designed to improve fish growth and size quality, and they are only successful if fish are harvested by anglers. A lack of harvest can cause fish to stunt and not grow. Either way, it’s your job to bring a humane approach to the table. If you decide to release your catch, the following tips will help result in a successful release.

How to safely catch and release

By carefully following these simple instructions, you can release your fish unharmed. If you enjoyed catching your fish, so will the next angler!

Time is of the essence. Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible. An exhausted fish may be too weak to recover. Do not overplay your fish.
Keep the fish in the water. Minimize or eliminate the time your fish is out of the water. As little as 30 seconds of air exposure can cause delayed mortality of released trout, and in the winter months the fish may be subject to a quick freeze.

Wet your hands when handling the fish. Dry hands can remove the layer of slime that protects the fish from fungi, bacteria, and parasites.

Photograph responsibly. Photo sessions can be stressful for a fish. Prepare for the photo with your fish safely under the water surface, and only lift the fish out of the water for 5 second intervals or less. Try to get the shot (within reason), but return your fish to the water for a rest between attempts.

Be gentle. Keep your fingers away from the gills, don’t squeeze the fish, and never drag a fish onto the bank.

Choose the right landing net. Rubber nets are easier on fish than traditional twine nets.

Safely remove the hook with small pliers or a similar tool. If the hook is deeply embedded or in a sensitive area such as the gills or stomach, cut the leader close to the snout. Make an effort to use regular steel (bronzed) hooks to promote early disintegration. Avoid the use of stainless hooks. One way to release your fish quickly is to use barbless hooks. If barbed hooks are all you have, you can bend the barbs over or simply file them off.

Neutralize the pressure. The air bladders of togue (lake trout) often expand after being pulled up rapidly from deep water. If a togue’s belly appears expanded, release it from the hook first, then gently press your thumb along the stomach near the paired belly fins and move it forward a few times to release the air before releasing the fish.

Revive the fish. Hold the fish underwater in a swimming position until it can swim away (note: do not use this method if surface water temperatures are unusually warm).
Follow these simple basics and most of the fish you put back into the water will be there for you to try to catch next time.

Tying Good Knots

Good Knots are Key to Great Catches
By Ben Secrest, Accurate Fishing
from The Fishing Wire

Yellowfin Tuna


The right knots help land fish of a lifetime. This 256 lb. yellowfin is the perfect example for Team Accurate.

The attention to detail in daily life helps all of us moving forward to succeed in obstacles we face everyday. The whole adventure of fishing is based on some details that once summed up can lead to successfully landing or losing the fish of a lifetime.

One extremely important part of everyday fishing is being able to tie knots that will withstand the test of a gamefish during the heat of a lengthy battle. We wanted to show you some basic knots that will help you during your fishing adventures no matter if its at the lake, inshore along the coast or targeting larger gamefish offshore. Many of the knots are common in all fishing circles from super light line to heavy duty offshore fishing–they are proven. Here are some of the well known knots that you should become familiar with for your time on the water.

Clinch Knot


Clinch Knot is used to tie a hook, swivel, or lure onto your line. This clinch has been a staple knot among salt and freshwater anglers for years. This knot will work on monofilament or braided lines. When tying the knot make sure you cinch it tight using water or saliva to avoid any friction on the line. Tie the knot correctly and make sure you cinch it down by pulling securely on the running line. Once cinched then trim tag end.

Parlomor Knot


Palomar knot Palomar has been a very popular knot among fishermen for securing their line to a hook. Its a very easy knot to tie and extremely strong. This knot works very well with monofilament and braid. There are variations of this knot out there and all work well if tied properly. Again lubricating the mono line helps reduce friction and it is extremely important to cinch the knot and trim tag end after.

Uniknot


UniKnot is well proven in all circles as easy to tie and can be used with heavier test line. This knot has been a main stay of lots of anglers including myself. I use it to tie on hooks, lures, swivels, and pretty much anything that requires a sound knot. When using lighter line I double the line through the eye of the hook and then tie a uniknot which gives you more strength at the eye of the hook. The thing about a unknot is when it cinches down right it’s square on the hook. Very solid.

Loop Knot


Loop knot is a popular knot among the artificial plug fishermen where a loop on the lure will elicit more action in the lure during certain retrieves. These knots are good but the thing to remember if you are going to fight gamefish for any length of time is that the loose line of the loop on the eye of the bait will wear overtime and often break. Catch a couple fish and check it for any frays to make sure you are solid.

Surgeon Knot


Surgeons Knot is a double line knot for anglers looking for double the strength of their line or knots. It is also used to attach double line leaders. People use the bimini knot or the surgeons loop to attach leaders loop to loop. Very important to cinch it square or it will wear on itself.

Double Uniknot


Double Uniknot is one of the easy knots to tie and extremely reliable from two pound test to 100 lb. Its easy to tie and has a higher breaking strength versus others. This knot is used to tie leader onto your main line or to join two lines. It is a little bulkier going through the guides but is a proven performer for fishermen around the globe.

Albright Knot


Improved Albright Knot is another knot for connecting two lines, running line to leader, that works perfect with mono, floro, or braid. This is a strong knot and very compact so it travels through the guides easier. We have used this knot for years for tying 30lb mono and to 100 to 150 lb leader material for casting rigs for stripe marlin here on the west coast. Fairly easy knot to tie once you practice it but like any knot make sure it is cinched prior to trimming any tag lines. The braid to floro leader works like magic. Remember with braid take more wraps so the knot lays right.

Pena Knot


Tony Pena Knot works very well with mono to mono but it is the strongest of the knots we use for braid to mono/floro connections for poppers, surface lures, and baits for larger tunas. It is a very basic knot and probably the strongest we have used for leader to braid connection. With smaller lines we tie a 2 to 3 turn uni-knot for the overhand knot then ten up and ten back with the braid then through the loop. These knots push against each other when cinching and square up nicely. The knot goes through the guides well and is very easy to cast with minimal hang up in the guides. We have tied this knot exclusively for the last few years for our popper rigs with conventional gig with 65 or 80 lb braid to 100 or 130 lb floro leader. Very strong, dependable knot when tied correctly and fully cinched. Proven with the west coast tuna guys.

All these knots have good ratings among anglers. Whatever you have the most confidence in tie. I have been tying the same knots for years and I have changed a couple knots along the way. Key to any knot is tie it correctly and most important thing is lubricate your line, cinch your knot, then trim tag end. Never trim the tag end until you cinch your knot. The knot is the very base to be successful catching fish. To be good at anything, you need to practice what is involved. Its the same with tying knots. While watching TV practice your knots. Get them right and they will help you produce that fish of a lifetime

Team Accurate
By Ben Secrest|

Use the Right Fishing Line

The Right Fishing Line for Soft Plastics

Using the right fishing line will help you land fish


Your line is the crucial connection when using Carolina and Texas rigs

By David A. Rose
from The Fishing Wire

Every few years, one of the best bass-tournament pros in the nation sweeps the competition during a major derby, landing the largest limit of fish while rigging their favorite soft plastics in an innovative way. After that, what was once their secret technique suddenly becomes all the rage. The drop-shot rig, Neko rig and advances in wacky-rigging are just a few techniques that have come to the forefront during the past couple of decades after major tournament successes.

But when all is said and done, even after these fresh approaches have become widespread, two rigs still stand the test of time – both sticking out as must-use-when-all-else-is-failing techniques: the Carolina rig and the Texas rig.

Worms? Lizards? Tubes? Creature baits? It really doesn’t matter what your go-to bait is, as both Carolina and Texas rigs have been catching fish almost since soft plastics were first created.

But like any well-established technique (and I mean any,) the single most important connection between you and any fish is your line.

The Missing Link

Seaguar Pro Chris Zaldain is a 33-year-old Bassmaster Elite tournament angler from Laughlin, Nevada, who has taken top honors twice in Bassmaster Elite events, as well numerous top 20 finishes. This carries his winnings over the half-million-dollar mark since his start only 8 years ago.

“There’s no doubt, line is the most crucial link when using both Carolina and Texas rigs,” says the Seaguar pro. “I have been using Seaguar fluorocarbon since the early 2000’s, well before I wore their logo on my jersey [2010], and I’m here to tell you, I have literally spooled many, many miles of it on my reels since I started fishing.

“Seaguar fishing lines have helped me fool fish in the clear-water lakes I fished growing up, and it was InvizX that was my choice from the very day I started. And InvizX is still is a line I trust today because it’s super soft and allows me to cast any lure with ease. And I’ve never had a knot I’ve tied with it unravel.”

Everything’s Bigger When Texas-Rigging…Maybe

One of the most weedless/snagless methods of delivering a lure to a lunker is the Texas rig. Zaldain uses 1/4- to 3/8-ounce weights, pegging them to his hook and soft plastic with a bobber stop on 15-pound-test InvizX.

“That particular pound-test isn’t too light for most applications and hook-sets; yet, it’s not so heavy that it hinders the action of your bait,” Zaldain states. “And 15-pound test Seaguar InvizX is as strong as other manufacture’s 20-pound test, but with a smaller overall line diameter. And the thinner a line is, the more bites you’ll get.

“It boils down to the fact that the thinner the line, the more naturally a bait moves in the water. It just moves more like the real thing…period.”

Zaldain is never nervous about using InvizX for his Texas-rigged offerings for near-shore shallow-water fish, even amongst submerged trees or along steep, rocky bluffs; the line’s suppleness allows it to snake through limbs and around shale with ease. Moreover, it has plenty of abrasion resistance to pull even the heftiest largemouth from structure without worrying about getting nicked up and breaking off.

Also, InvizX fluorocarbon has less stretch than monofilament, which allows Zaldain to feel a strike the moment it occurs. This means he’s able to set the hook and pull a fish out of its snag-infested haunt before it even knows it being bit back.

Cover Me, I’m Going in… Carolina-Style

Along thick-and-gnarly structure in deep water is where Zaldain tends to employ the Carolina rig—which was devised to separate the weight from your offering so that the latter has a natural, horizontal free-swimming movement verses the more precise bottom-bouncing motion of a Texas-rigged bait.

“My line of choice with long-leader Carolina rig applications is Seaguar AbrazX because of its extreme abrasion resistance,” Zaldain states.

If structure isn’t extremely dense, Zaldain still uses 15-pound-test – rarely anything lighter. When the bass are utilizing extremely-thick cover, conversely, he will boost his leader to 20-pound test.

Complementing the lower stretch and sensitivity of fluorocarbon, Zaldain prefers what he calls “old-school” lead bullet-style weights over tungsten. With the former, he claims, he can feel what’s on bottom much better.

Telegraphed through the lead weight, line and then rod, he can sense the difference between gravel verses rock, for example, which lets him know when to lift his Carolina-rigged offering up and out of a snag. Zaldain starts with a 3/4-ounce bullet or egg-sinker weight above his bead and swivel, and then adjusts his rig from there.

Lessons Learned

Without a doubt, your line is the only link between you and any fish, whether you’re using the newest technique to hit the tournament trail or the most tried and true rigs ever created, like Texas and Carolina rigs.

Overall, use the lightest line you can get away with, but have different rods spooled with diverse pound test and toughness (abrasion resistance); because where you find fish may change with every cast.

Ice Fishing How-to from North Dakota DFG

Ice Fishing How-to from North Dakota DFG
by Ty Stockton, North Dakota DFG
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing in North Dakota has never been better. The state boasts 22 species of game fish and 449 bodies of water where anglers can wet a line.

Quite a few of those fishing holes are relatively new. Since the early 1990s, when a long drought ended and a wet cycle began, previously dry lakes filled, and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department stocked many of these new waters with fish.

“At least 50 of those new lakes are producing good walleye,” said Greg Power, Game and Fish Department fisheries division chief.

A strange thing happens when a new lake is formed. Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader, said the technical term for the fertility of a new body of water is “trophic upsurge.”

Walleye grow fat on this food in North Dakota


With a menu of scuds, fathead minnows and other prey, walleyes stocked in North Dakota’s new prairie lakes grow rapidly.

“It’s an explosion of nutrients, insects and resources fish thrive on,” he said. “When you flood vegetation or soil that had been dry, the nutrients are released into the water. Insects feed on these nutrients, and minnows – mostly fathead minnows in North Dakota – eat the insects, and this provides a fantastic food source for predatory fish, like walleyes.”

Because of this trophic upsurge, walleyes stocked in these new prairie lakes grow rapidly. Game and Fish fisheries biologists compile data on walleyes throughout the state, including growth rates. They’ve found that the average walleye in traditional waters, such as Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe or Lake Tschida, is 6 inches long at the end of the first growing season; 10 inches after two growing seasons; 14 inches after three seasons; and 16 inches after four seasons.

By contrast, walleyes in the nutrient-rich new prairie lakes, such as Sibley (Kidder County), Lehr WMA (McIntosh County), Kraft (Sargent County) and Twin Lakes (LaMoure County), are 9 inches at the end of the first season; 14 inches after two seasons; 16 inches after three seasons; and 18 inches after four seasons.

With walleyes growing faster in these new prairie waters, anglers have good opportunities to catch good-sized fish within a few years of the lakes being established. “Our strategy is to stock the heck out of those waters,” Gangl said. “If there are enough minnows, sometimes you can’t put enough fish in them to get the fathead populations down enough to let the fish get hungry, so we stock those waters with as many fish as we can.”

This means there are potentially more good-sized walleyes in the lakes than the minnow populations will comfortably feed. This in turn means plenty of fish under the surface are hungry enough to take the bait offered to them by an enterprising angler. In short, it’s a recipe for a good bite.

The fish stocked in these lakes don’t grow to catchable-size right away?– and in fact, walleye aren’t stocked immediately after lakes flood. Once a lake is established, fisheries biologists evaluate its viability. Among the considerations are the length of time it will likely hold water, the number of minnows it holds, and whether it can be accessed by the public.

“We can stock a lake if we have good, legal public access,” said Paul Bailey, Department south central fisheries district supervisor. “It might be a section line or a road, but often we get easements from willing landowners.”

Even after all of that, walleye are not usually the first fish stocked.

“We stock perch first,” Bailey said. “Perch deposit their eggs on flooded vegetation, so they do well in those newly flooded lakes.”

The perch serve two purposes, Power said. They provide another game fish for anglers to target, and they become an intermediate food source for growing walleyes when the larger, predatory fish are released into the lakes.

Once the forage base is established, either through minnows that naturally occur in the waters or perch that are trapped and transported from other waters in the state, walleyes are stocked in the lakes. The walleyes come from the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, and they’re mostly stocked as 1- to 2-inch fingerlings, though a few waters receive nearly microscopic fry (the developmental stage immediately following the fish hatching from their eggs).

From there, managing the fishery is a balancing act. If a lake has too many minnows, they outcompete perch for forage, and perch numbers decline. Also, when minnows provide more than enough food for walleyes to eat, they are not as interested in taking an angler’s lure.

If walleye populations grow too quickly, fathead minnow numbers start to dwindle. That’s where anglers enter the management picture.

“Anglers help with the predator-prey cycle,” Gangl said. “If we don’t have enough anglers fishing a certain water, the walleye populations get too big, and they bring down the minnow populations. We need anglers to take some fish out of the lakes, so the minnow and walleye populations remain balanced.”

Winter is a great time to find some of those hungry walleyes, too. Some of the newer lakes lack boat ramps, so the only way to get out to the middle of those lakes is to get there on the frozen surface.

So check with your local bait store or online ice fishing forum to find where the big ones are biting. You’ll not only have a good chance to put some fryers in the pan, you’ll also help Game and Fish keep the predator-prey balance to ensure these waters continue to provide good fishing opportunities for years to come.

NORTH DAKOTA FISHING WATERS
YEAR NUMBER OF FISHABLE WATERS
1950 30
1963 150
1971 110
1980 139
1990 186
2000 208
2010 340
2012 365
2017 449

Forage and Other Factors
The Facebook post from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department says there are thousands of walleye in the lake you like to fish, so you grab your tackle and beat feet for the water. But when you get there, you try every lure in your tackle box, cast into 43 different likely spots, but you don’t get so much as a single bump on the end of your line.

What gives? Is this some sort of Candid Camera moment? Are you the butt of some cruel YouTube video, being laughed at as the most gullible angler in North Dakota?

Not at all. The netting surveys and other measures Game and Fish biologists use to monitor fisheries are good indicators of the numbers of fish below the surface. But the fact that there are a lot of fish in a lake doesn’t necessarily mean those fish will take an angler’s lure. There are a lot of factors that affect the bite.

“If the fish are well-fed from natural sources, they might not get into the bite,” said Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader. On the flip side, “if you have a great bite, it indicates a lack of natural forage.” That forage, for the most part, is fathead minnows.

But Gangl said other factors play into the bite, as well.

“Weather patterns play a part,” he said. “When you see fronts rolling in, the fish may bite – or they may stop biting. Weather plays a role, but it’s not necessarily consistent.” He said as weather changes, you may see a change in fish activity.

Another weather-related factor is water temperature. Certain species of fish are adapted for different water temperatures. Trout are cold-water fish, so the colder the water, the more active they become. Walleye are cool-water fish, so as the water temperature drops they may become more active to a certain temperature, then settle down as the temperature continues to drop.

“Early ice is usually popular,” Gangl said. “The water’s still cooling, but it hasn’t gotten as cold as it’s going to get. As the temperature drops, the fish’s metabolism slows, and after the ice has been on for a while, and the water is colder, you might get that midwinter lull in activity.”

Gangl said he’s been fishing and has seen lots of fish on his Vexilar, but none of those fish would take his lure. “Sometimes it just happens like that,” he said. “There are obviously a lot of fish down there, but none of them are interested in the bait. You might get one to bite from time to time, but it’s pretty slow. Then all of a sudden, it all changes, and you get the rest of your limit in an hour.”

Often, that sudden change hits near sunset, or the fish will bite early in the morning, then suddenly stop as the sun gets higher. Gangl said this could be because walleye are better adapted to hunting in the dark than their prey – fathead minnows – are to seeing danger in darker water.

“It’s a factor of efficiency,” he said. “Fish forage on what is optimum. They try to get the best food they can get with the least amount of energy expended.”

Every fish in every fishery is an individual, so there are no scientific standards for what triggers the bite. You can move to new holes if the fish aren’t biting where you are, and maybe you’ll find a few active fish somewhere else. Or you can sit still and keep fishing, waiting for the conditions to cause the fish to get hungry.

After all, it’s called “fishing,” and not “catching,” for a reason. Greg Power, Department fisheries division chief may have said it best: “Mother Nature’s pendulum does swing wildly and rapidly in North Dakota.”

The best bet is to be in the right place at the right time when that pendulum swings your way.

Do’s and Dont’s for Ice Fishing

Top 10 Do’s and Dont’s for Ice Fishing
FRABILL’S PAT KALMERTON WROTE THE BOOK – AND KEEPS REWRITING IT – ON TIP-UPS
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!”

NOAA Buoys Help Fishermen

NOAA Buoys Help Fishermen Strategize in Real Time
from The Fishing Wire

In this age of open data, a wealth of up-to-date and user-friendly information is just a few clicks away. But what does this digital revolution mean for U.S. fisheries? In the Chesapeake Bay, NOAAFisheries buoys help marine scientists, fishermen, and others to better manage, protect, and enjoy the Bay’s marine resources.

The 10 buoys in the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) use cell phone and internet technology to share real-time data about the Bay’s weather and water with the public. Many CBIBS users access data from this network of observation buoys through the website or the “NOAA Smart Buoys” free smartphone application available via Google Play and the App Store. These free apps make it easy for Bay users to select a buoy and get information on wind speed, water and air temperature, wave height, and water quality at their location.

A screenshot of the CBIBS app, showing water/air temperature, wind speed and direction, and more.

With these data, commercial and recreational fishermen can plan a safer day by knowing the conditions on the Bay before they leave harbor. CBIBS also offers fishing-friendly data not found in other apps. Past and current readings on barometric pressure, dissolved oxygen, sea nettle probability, salinity, and turbidity, or the level of the water’s murkiness, help anglers like Rich Dennison better prepare for trips and make strategic decisions while on the water.

“CBIBS is a go-to resource for me,” says Dennison, who is store manager at Tochterman’s Fishing Tackle in Baltimore, Maryland, and striped bass trolling enthusiast and teacher. “When I’m planning a fishing trip, I’ll look for patterns in CBIBS’ data history. Is the water temperature increasing? Is the salinity of the water on the rise? What is the level of dissolved oxygen?CBIBS is extremely useful for helping me decide what areas to target or avoid based on the fish’s typical behavior in these different conditions.”

CBIBS’ real-time data is valuable for marine scientists’ work as well. Having access to a well-maintained system with up-to-date information that CBIBS delivers means researchers can provide stakeholders more robust predictions of the Bay’s water quality. For example, John Jacobs, a researcher at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory—a NOAA National Ocean Service lab in Oxford, Maryland—is studying a certain species of Vibrio bacteria. The bacteria occurs naturally in our coastal waters but can also cause serious wound infections.

Working with state health officials and academia, Jacobs and his team have developed a predictive model based on water and weather conditions to better understand where in the Chesapeake Bay the Vibrio bacteria will occur. They use CBIBS data on the current conditions in the Bay to improve their forecasts. “CBIBS is an essential component of our modeling system and allows us to consistently maintain the accuracy of our predictions,” Jacobs noted. With all the time they spend on the water, fishermen will certainly benefit from this knowledge.

A safer Bay, thanks in part to CBIBS, can only mean good things for this highly valued regional resource. The commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia, which relies on the Chesapeake Bay as well as waters in the Atlantic, contributed $2.8 billion in sales and supported 22,950 jobs in 2014, while their recreational fishing created $551 million in income and supported 12,939 jobs.

To learn more about how these buoys work, check out an interactive graphic.

CBIBS is operated and maintained by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. To learn more about how others use CBIBS, and to see current conditions around the Chesapeake Bay, visit the CBIBS website.

Technology Helps Palaniuk

Technology Helps Palaniuk Earn B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Title

The young champion says he depends heavily on his Humminbird electronics and LakeMaster charts to find and catch bass all over the nation.

By Greg Arens
from The Fishing Wire

When a kid dreams of hitting the home run that wins the World Series, then grows up and actually does it, where is “up” from there?

The same question applies to Brandon Palaniuk in the world of professional bass fishing. As an 8-year old boy catching trout in his home state of Idaho, young Brandon had a very specific quest: To rise to highest ranks in B.A.S.S. and become the best-of-the-best.

At the 2017 AOY Championship on Lake Mille Lacs, Palaniuk achieved his boyhood dream. His 62+ pounds of Minnesota smallmouth secured him as the points leader to make Brandon the Toyota Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year.

So where is “up” from here? For Palaniuk, the answer is as simple as an answer can be. “My approach is still the same, in fact it’s strengthened, and that’s to fish the Elites a tournament at a time, a day at a time, a cast at a time, with the belief that I can win it.”

Concentrating his winning attitude down to each individual cast is what keeps Brandon Palaniuk focused on the moment. “You can’t win by blind casting. When I’m out there, it’s about locating bass that I KNOW are there, positioning my boat for a perfect presentation, and making a precise cast to trigger strikes from the fish I’ve targeted.”

Palaniuk taps technology to its fullest extent to execute this strategy. “It all starts by investigating my LakeMaster chart for the water we’re fishing, and identifying key structures,” he explains. “From there, my Humminbird HELIX 12 shows me if there are bass on the spots, how big they are, how they’re relating to the structure, everything. I won’t make a cast until I see the fish I want to catch.”

Brandon attributes MEGA Imaging for making it possible to target ideal structure, specific schools or even individual fish. His performance at Mille Lacs is a clear example of this. With MEGA Side Imaging and Humminbird 360 Imaging he was able to locate big boulders and see the quality and exact locations of fish using the boulders for cover. “I knew that on every cast I was putting the bait right in a smallmouth’s face.”

Palaniuk’s 2017 victory at Sam Rayburn is a another case study. “My HELIX 12s found brush piles that other guys drove right past with their sonar units. During practice I stacked up tons of waypoints on brush that held good fish, and during the tournament I was able to go back, see where the bass were on the piles, and smash them.”

After using technology to find fish, Palaniuk credits another technological innovation for helping him catch them. “Boat control is critical for picking a school apart after I find them, and the trolling motor I ran in 2017 was a huge part of my AOY success for the year.”

Brandon’s trolling motor is the Minn Kota Ultrex, and the control he references is the feature that virtually every bass angler is talking about: Spot-Lock. “Whether it was on Mille Lacs boulders or Sam Rayburn brush piles, hitting Spot-Lock to keep me automatically glued in one position was the key to making cast after cast to active bass.”

Spot-Lock allows Palaniuk to fight fish, land them and cull without having to operate the trolling motor to stay in position. “I almost felt sorry for the guys not running an Ultrex. I’d see them hook up and then get blown 100 yards off while they dealt with the fish. Then they’d have to fire up the big motor to get back to the waypoint. That’s a lot of time spent NOT fishing. Like I said, I almost felt sorry for them.”

Another way Ultrex helped Brandon control his boat toward an AOY victory was through power steering. “The ease of driving this Minn Kota is such a big contributor to efficient and productive fishing. First of all, that leg and muscle fatigue after a long day on the foot control is gone because you’re not fighting the motor anymore. You set it on a line and the prop torque doesn’t affect it and twist you off course. Even when navigating through heavy grass – it just chops right through and doesn’t fight the pedal. You combine that with the big power and fast turning response and nothing gives you more control in the thick stuff like an Ultrex.”

With AOY checked off his bucket list, Brandon is the first to admit that defending the title is his goal. To do so, he believes he’ll need to win at Lake Martin, Ala. in February. His game plan? Study the LakeMaster chart, find fish with his SOLIX 12s, stay on them with the Minn Kota Ultrex, and catch them one cast at a time.

What Are Wind Knots and How Can I Stop Them?

A Cure for Wind Knots
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

Microwave guides have been around for a few years but somehow I never got around to buying a rod built with them, even though I was a friend of Doug Hannon, the inventor. Doug, gone much too soon, is remembered as “The Bass Professor”, a name I saddled him with in a story in Outdoor Life Magazine nearly four decades ago. He came up with the weedless trolling motor prop, the Wave Spin reel and many other patented angling inventions.

The Microwave system includes a unique “guide within a guide” that funnels the broad loops from the spinning reel spool down to a small passage which Hannon said was key not only to casting distance, but also to reducing the “wind knots” that are a frequent problem in some open-faced spinning setups.

Don Morse, head rod builder for American Tackle, which sells the Microwave guides, is one of their chief advocates. It should be noted that American Tackle sells a wide variety of premium guides, so Morse has no particular ax to grind in pushing Microwaves.

“Line comes off a spinning reel in these huge loops on a cast, and those loops, we can see in high speed video, remain in the line and drag across the lower guides well up the rod on a conventional spinning rod,” says Morse. “The high-speed video shows that with the Microwave system, all that looping comes out on the first guide, and the line runs straight through the other guides and out the tip-top from there. It cuts drag, it cuts vibration, and it really makes for a much smoother, more accurate cast.”

Another consideration is the reduction of wind-knots, which under some conditions can drive anglers nuts. Particularly when throwing jerkbaits and topwaters, the constant slacking and then jerking of rod and line create an ideal situation for loops to form around the guides. Wind knots form when an extra loop of line comes off the lip of the spool ahead of the running line.

If the Microwave guide system can eliminate these knots, that alone would make them worth using on specialty rods dedicated to jerkbait and topwater fishing, for those anglers who prefer spinning gear to baitcasting.

I had an opportunity to test one of these rods recently, with 9 of the Microwave guides mounted on a 7’2″ Bushido Warrior graphite blank in medium power, medium-fast tip. I put in a couple of four-hour mornings working over the bass at Lake Guntersville, in northeast Alabama, with this rod mounted with a Shimano Symetre in the 2500 size loaded with 10-pound-test Power Pro, throwing an assortment of topwaters and jerkbaits between a half ounce and 3/4 ounce.

I got a wind knot on maybe the third cast of the first morning, realized I had too much line on the spool, cut off about 50 feet, and then went on to never see another wind knot in the two mornings of casting and jerking. I don’t normally get many wind knots because of habits I’ve had beaten into me by a lot of good anglers, including closing the bail manually, but I do get some–the Microwave guide setup appeared to be an improvement over the conventional rod I had been using for this duty. The casts were smooth and accurate, and the guides do a good job of bringing out the power of the blank in fighting fish. They’re also light enough to make a nice balance with the 2500-size reel on a Fuji handle.

The guide set is fairly pricey, $49.95 for 8 microguides, the Microwave main “funnel” guide and the tip top. This is in line with top-quality Fuji and other premium guides, but it definitely adds to the price of the finished rod. You generally won’t see Microwave guides on value-priced tackle–they’re usually coupled with top-shelf blank and handle. To learn more about these guides, visit www.americantackle.us.

What Is Metered Line Fishing?

The Advantages of Metered Line Fishing
By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

Before you go any further, it’s important that you know this about me … I miss opportunities. Often. Hey, I could have bought Amazon stock when it was a mere $71.0 a share, but held off…the other day it closed at $1,012.

Like I said, I am prone to miss great opportunities.

So, when Berkley came out with Metered FireLine I didn’t realize the true potential of the line.

It wasn’t that was ignorant of the FireLine’s performance characteristics—superb sensitivity, solid casting distance and good knot strength—after 20 years of using the line I was aware of them all and more.

But I totally underestimated the advantages of having the fused superbraid marked in 10-foot sections.

After putting the color-coded line through its paces in a variety of settings—both recreationally and in one-on-one competitions while filming Lake Commandos television—I’m convinced it offers anglers some very important benefits.

Available in 4- through 20-pound tests, Metered FireLine changes color every 10 feet, transitioning from blue, yellow, red and green to orange before repeating. By counting colors, you know exactly how far your bait is from the rod tip.

This information is important! It allows you to replicate productive letbacks, cast-lengths and depths. It also alerts you to depth changes that indicate structural sweet spots such as slight depressions in the bottom.

Metered line is perfect for trolling, whether you’re spider rigging slab crappies or pulling crankbaits for big-water walleyes. Without a line-counter reel or metered line, you really have no idea how much line is out, so you can’t reproduce distance with any real accuracy. Those are major problems, because letback plays a major role in determining lure running depth.

For example, a #7 Berkley Flicker Shad runs to 14 feet with 100 feet of 10/4 FireLine out versus just 12 feet with 70 feet of line. That’s a difference of 2 feet! Whether you’re trying to tick bottom or place your bait just above suspended fish, that extra depth is often the difference between getting bit and going home empty handed.

Metered FireLine makes it easy to experiment with length adjustments as needed, and reproduce productive letbacks again and again. You can also help others in the boat do the same.

Metering isn’t just for trolling. I was surprised at its impact on vertical jigging, especially in depths of 20 feet or more. By watching the line’s color change in relation to the surface or some point on the rod, I’m able to detect subtle depth changes that are easy to miss with traditional fishing line. It’s also much easier to tell when you have too much line out and your jig isn’t directly below the boat.

Shore anglers targeting special like salmon, carp, catfish and bass, also stand to benefit. If you’re getting bit with a certain amount of line out, the fish could be feeding along a specific current seam or unseen piece of micro-structure. The color changes of metered line allows you to duplicate that distance—and hit the strike zone—on every cast.

Metered FireLine has ice fishing applications, too.

Last winter, I took son Pierce and a few friends fishing for crappies. The fish were in 50 feet of water and we only had one sonar unit. Rather than bounce from hole to hole marking the boys’ jig depths, I set up all their rods the same and told them to let out four colors to target fish suspended at 40 feet. It worked like a charm.

I share this information because I want you to avoid making the same mistakes I made…like not giving Metered FireLine a shot when it first came out. After screwing up my opportunity with Amazon, you’d think I’d learn.

About Berkley

Berkley is one of the world’s leading fishing tackle companies. They achieved this by offering the broadest array of innovative solutions developed by anglers for anglers. At Berkley their goal is simple—to make fishing fun and help anglers everywhere to Catch More Fish!

About Steve Pennaz

Steve Pennaz excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns.