Early Scouting for Bass

Early Scouting Prepares Bass Anglers For Cold Front Fallout

By David A. Brown

from The Fishing wire

“You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”

That memorable tune from South Pacific finds Tonkinese mother Bloody Mary counseling Lieutenant Joe Cable on the pursuit of true happiness with her daughter Liat. But you have to wonder how the lyrics might’ve varied had the scene taken place around some western hemisphere bass factory like Lake Ouachita, Guntersville or Toledo Bend, instead of overlooking Bali Ha’i.

Maybe something like:

“You gotta have a stump, if you don’t have a stump, how you gonna catch a bass post-front?”

Broadway aside, there’s undeniable logic in knowing the likely spots where bass will seek refuge in the harsh conditions on the backside of a cold front. Raymarine pro Stephen Browning knows well this game and, in his estimation, fishing after a cold front is generally the toughest scenario a bass angler will face.

Browning confronts this daunting scenario with a well-conceived game plan based on forethought and strategy. But first, let’s look at how the scene unfolds.

As a weather system approaches the area, winds increase, skies turn cloudy, rain becomes more likely and the falling barometer spurs intense feeding. As the front moves through, the action continues and fish act like they want to eat the motor off the transom.

Then the front passes and things get weird. Wind goes flat, temperature drops, high pressure pushes every streak of cloud from the sky and the dreaded “bluebird” conditions can have you wondering if someone stole all the fish overnight.

Actually, the fish didn’t go anywhere; they’ve just tucked in close to the nearest cover. Remember, the only way bass can shield their eyes from intense post-front sunlight is to utilize shadows. Similarly, the solid cover they seek radiates absorbed heat — a biggie for shivering fish.

(For clarity, some bass winter on deep offshore spots, but, as Browning notes, a good number remain in mid-depth ranges and even push surprisingly shallow to feed.)

KNOW WHERE TO GO

Browning’s adept at locating bass when starting from scratch, but he also knows that bites can be hard to coax in post-frontal conditions, so less time looking means more time earning those bites. Therefore, he likes to attack these tough times with a hit list.

“What really helps me more than anything for post-front fishing is relying on my Raymarine DownVision, SideVision and RealVision 3D sonar to identifying isolated pieces of cover,” Browning said. “That may be a stump, the tip of a laydown, a small brush pile, different size rock and subsurface transition areas. All those things are where I start looking to target where those fish should move to.

“The cold front is going to put those fish directly onto those targets. I think that is the key — identifying the target and making presentations to that specific target. If you have stable weather, you can catch them in a lot of different places this time of year, but once that cold front hits, I think there going to jump in there beside that stump; they’re going hang out in that little cluster of rocks; they’re going to bury up in that tree top. That’s where your electronics can really save the day.”

WHAT TO THROW

When the front is approaching or passing, Browning gets much of his work done with Live Target mid-range crankbaits, or the Golden Shiner lipless crankbait. Remember, this is the period when bass have the feed bag on, so covering water with reaction baits is the way to go. Spinnerbaits and Z-Man ChatterBaits also fit this plan.

Now, when the front passes and the fish put on their pouty face, Browning says it’s time to slow down, refer to the waypoints he’s marked on his Raymarine Axiom and turn to the targeted presentation plan.

“On these days, I’m throwing two different baits: I’m throwing a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce Jewel football jig and I’m throwing a ball head shaky head jig with a 4- to 7-inch finesse worm,” Browning said. “I would rather catch a fish on a football jig because I feel that fish is going to be a little better quality.

“But if I really think I’m around fish, but they’re not taking the (larger) jig, that’s when I fall back on the shaky head. It doesn’t put out a lot of vibration; it is a super finesse style of fishing, even during the winter time.”

As for football jig trailer selection, Browning offers this advice: “I use a Z-Man Turbo CrawZ during times when I think the fish are feeding actively. When the front comes through and the fish are less active, I’ll use the more subtle Z-Man Bat WingZ, which is the standard split tail trailer. I’ll trim my jig skirt up really tight and try to make it a really compact profile.”

Emergent stumps are easy to spot, but Stephen Browning relies on his Raymarine unit to show him the deeper structures that will harbor post-frontal bass.

MIND THE DETAILS

Yeah, we have a general outline of what to expect on every page of the calendar, but nature bristles with variables; many of which can determine how greatly a weather system impacts a bass fishery. Among them:

Seasonal Severity: Simple math. If you have a full bag of M&Ms and I take a quarter of them, you still have plenty. But if your candy bag is only half full and I take 25 percent, you’re not going to be happy with me.

Apply this to a cold front and it’s easy to see that a mild fall/winter can absorb event a stout cold front if air and water temperatures have remained moderate. It’s those years when fall sees early and significant temperature declines that see subsequent cold fronts seriously denting the bass fishing scene.

Frontal Intensity: Expounding on the previous thought, a front’s impact is largely measured by how much the temperature drops. There’s no one-size-fits-all cold front formula. Some are mere irritations, others straight-up game changers. Also, the amount of rain a front brings can become a temporary factor, as runoff will stain the areas with concentrated inflows.

After Hours: Daytime temperatures certainly matter, but overnight lows can be the real bite killers. Consider that the pace at which a morning’s action unfolds directly correlates to the temperature deficit the sun must overcome. Other words, if the pre-front water was, say, 55 degrees and it dropped to 50 between sundown and sunup; it wouldn’t take too long for the the next day to reach a temperature at which the fish might cooperate. However, when the night of a cold front’s passage delivers a double-digit decline, you can take your time at the launch ramp — it’s gonna be a slow start.

Ultimately, each year and each cold front shapes up a little differently. There’s only so much predictability you can count on; and often, you simply have to hit the water and make a firsthand evaluation.

Of course that’s always easier when you have a place to start — and maybe find your dream come true.

also: Why Does A Cold Front Affect Bass?

Cold Front Bass Fishing Tactics

Liberals Call For Gun Bans – So What Else Is Not New?

From 2017 – Its amazing how fast liberals change their mantra pushing their agenda to the latest crisis. They went from “Russia, Russia, Russia” to “Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico” to “Gun Ban, Gun Ban, Gun Ban” in record time.

    In response to the reprehensible murders in Las Vegas, the usual suspects have become completely unhinged. As usual, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, aka the Brady Bunch, sent out no less than four fund-raising emails within a few hours. They also called for passing new gun control laws that would have had no effect at all on the Las Vegas shooting even if they had been in effect and actually enforced.

    Nancy Sinatra, who used to sing better than she thinks now, tweeted that NRA members, like me and the other 5,000,000 in that civil right organization, should face a firing squad. Rejected politician Hillary Clinton showed that all she knows about guns is from movies when she condemned the effort to allow devices that somewhat lower the sound of a gun, called “silencers” by those that know nothing about guns, saying it was a dangerous idea.

    One insane madman did the shooting in Las Vegas. But all gun owners are condemned for his evil actions, and an inanimate object, the gun, is blamed.  

    The NRA has called for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabacco and Firearms to reexamine their approval of the “Bump Stock” device they approved under the Obama Administration. But the demand for bans on bigger magazines, semiautomatic guns and longer waiting periods, things that would have no effect, are common. The ultimate goal of those calling for “doing something” is to ban all guns.

    I was surprised at a CBS News commentator defining the difference between a “semiautomatic” gun and a fully “automatic” gun.  He proved that gun banners actually know the difference and have been lying all these year they have called everything from revolvers to single shot rifles “automatic” weapons.

    To paraphrase a quote, “its not the gun or law-abiding gun owners, its the evil in men’s souls” that result in horrible actions like this murderous rampage.

    I’m sure some law will be passed to do “something” as so many are demanding.  As usual, whatever is done will affect only people like me and you, those of us that follow the law and harm no one unless threatened. That is if I am not put before a firing squad for supporting the US constitution.

Sitting In A Foggy Deer Stand

 There is something special about sitting in a deer stand on a foggy, misty, rainy morning. The world seems muted, with few sounds other than the soft plop of water drops hitting leaves. A big whiteoak acorn ricocheting off a limb makes you jump from the sudden loud whack.

Nothing much moves, no leaves fluttering in the breeze, just the occasional one spiraling down after letting of its warm weather anchor.  Squirrels and birds seem to be hunkered down in the damp, too.

    Sitting there with water dripping, and cool, moist air all around can be uncomfortable. But the makeshift roof over your head you made from a black garbage bag and some broken limbs keep most of the water off.

A wad of paper towel keeps the water out of your scope. It is pointed up since your gun is hanging by its strap from a carefully placed nail in your tree so your hands can stay warm in pockets, but ready for slow action.

Any movement draws your attention immediately. Is it a deer or a brave waterproof squirrel or bird? You know deer don’t mind a little rain and water. Their hide with hollow hair sheds the moisture and keeps them warm.   

Will that big buck you saw on your trail camera all year during the day show up? Or will it continue to move only at night like it has done since the weeks before hunting season when folks checking stands and putting up new ones alerted it to coming danger.

Or maybe a tender young doe will wander by and become some of this year’s larder in your freezer. Some folks criticize you for hunting, but those same folks may go to the grocery store and buy meat that has gone thought no telling how many hands before getting to your table. You know exactly what has happened to the steak on your plate.

You love days like this whether you see a deer to shoot or not. It is part of your heritage and life. From the gun hanging beside you to the lucky cap on your head, your equipment goes back a long way. And you hope to pass it on when you are gone.

All the troubles of the world seem to lessen as you sit in nature. They may come flooding back as soon as you return to the “unreal” world, but for now you are at peace. You are happy just being here tuned in to the real world of nature.

Time seems to crawl, then go into fast forward when you spot something of interest. Is that flicker a deer tail? Ease your gun up slowly and check it out with our scope. It was just a leave twisting on a strand of spider web, but it got your attention and made your heart race.

No matter, you are here to shoot a deer but it really is not requires.  You are perfectly happy to go home empty handed again. Time to climb down and think about the next trip.

Wait – is that a deer…

The History of Sawfish In the US

By Tonya Wiley
from The Fishing Wire

Their odd appearance and awesome size made them a prized catch for recreational fishermen. Their unique elongated, blade-like snouts, studded with teeth on both sides, were often kept as trophies. Net fishermen on the other hand considered them a nuisance because of the damage they would cause to their gear.Two species of sawfish were once found in the U.S.: the largetooth sawfish, Pristis pristis, and the smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata. The largetooth sawfish was found throughout the Gulf of Mexico but was more common in western Gulf waters of Texas and Mexico. The smalltooth sawfish ranged from Texas to North Carolina and was most plentiful in the eastern Gulf waters of Florida. Both sawfish species were considered “abundant” and “common” in the early 1900’s.

Numerous postcards, photographs, and newspaper articles from that era bear the scene of fishermen hauling in countless sawfish to boats, docks, and beaches across the country.

Unfortunately, the largetooth sawfish has not been seen in the United States since the last confirmed record in 1961 in Texas. The smalltooth sawfish has fared better and still remains in U.S. waters, though at greatly reduced numbers and geographic range. Today the smalltooth sawfish is found predominately in southwest Florida, notably including Everglades National Park (ENP). The vast expanse of natural habitat within ENP, and limited fishing pressure, likely served as a refuge for sawfish as the population was under constant pressure.

What happened to these grand fish? What caused them to vanish from much of our coastal waters? The decline was due to a combination of three primary factors: (1) overfishing, (2) low reproductive potential, and (3) habitat loss.

Fishing mortality contributed significantly to the decline of sawfish in the U.S. Many sawfish caught recreationally were landed and displayed for photographs. Others were killed as anglers removed their saws for trophies. Commercial fishermen killed sawfish to save their gear, not wanting to cut their valuable nets to remove captured sawfish. And sawfish were over-exploited for a variety of other reasons. Their meat was used for food, their skin for leather, and their liver oil used in lamps and as a source of vitamin A. Their fins are valued for shark fin soup, their rostral teeth used as artificial spurs in cock-fighting, their cartilage ground-up for traditional medicines, and their saws sold as curios and ceremonial weapons.

The reproductive strategy of sawfish doesn’t help them withstand these threats. Sawfish bear live young, take many years to reach sexual maturity, and produce very few offspring per reproductive cycle. This doesn’t allow sawfish to replenish the population very quickly. This was especially problematic historically as they were being removed far more quickly than they were able to reproduce. And it’s why now it is crucial to keep fishing mortality low in order to recover this endangered species.

Born at about 2 feet in length, juvenile sawfish rely on very shallow, coastal and estuarine waters close to shore for ample food and safety from predators, such as sharks, during the first years of their life. However, these shallow coastal waters are the same areas that have been converted to waterfront development. Now much of the natural shoreline vegetation has been developed into seawalls, beaches, marinas, roads, canals, and docks. Therefore, the natural vegetation and shallow habitats previously used by sawfish as important protective nursery areas have been greatly reduced in quantity and all but eliminated in some areas.

Due to the dramatic decline of the sawfish populations the smalltooth sawfish was classified as Endangered in 2003, making it the first fully marine fish and first elasmobranch (sharks, skates, and rays) protected by the Endangered Species Act. The largetooth sawfish was listed as Endangered in 2011. Will sawfish in the United States recover?

Unfortunately, the largetooth sawfish is probably locally extinct and gone for good from U.S. waters. The smalltooth sawfish just might make a comeback; the population is already showing promising signs following protective measures.

One of the best methods of monitoring the population as it recovers is the use of public sawfish encounters. If you catch or see a sawfish take a quick photograph of it, estimate its size, note your location, and share the information with scientists. The details of your sightings or catches help to track recovery progress. You can share your information by calling 1-844-4-SAWFISH (1-844-472-9347) or emailing sawfish@myfwc.com. Information about historic catches or the location of any old sawfish saws is also appreciated.

Remember, due to their protected status it is illegal to target, harm, harass, or handle sawfish in any way. While it is technically illegal to catch a sawfish (except with a research permit or in a fishery where incidental take has been authorized) captures do occur while fishing for other species. Any sawfish caught while fishing must be released as quickly as possible. The number one rule to remember when handling and releasing a sawfish is to leave it in the water at all times. Do not lift it out of the water on to your boat or a pier, and do not drag it on shore.

Information on smalltooth sawfish recovery planning can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/smalltooth-sawfishTonya Wiley, President
Tonya@havenworth.org
941-201-2685
www.havenworth.org

Tax-deductible donations to help us continue our mission to promote the sustainable use and conservation of marine resources through research, outreach, and education can be made at https://www.oceanfdn.org/donate/havenworth-coastal-conservation

November Camping At Don Carter State Park and Fishing Lake Lanier

  Camping in November is an iffy proposition, as last week proved to me. I went to Don Carter State Park on Lake Lanier last Wednesday and came home Monday after fishing the Flint River Bass Club tournament on Sunday.

    Wednesday afternoon was nice enough driving to the north end of the lake and setting up my slide in pickup camper. I went back into town to meet a friend that lives on the lake, get some information from him, and eat some delicious fried scallops at the Atlanta Street Seafood Market.

    On the way back to the camper it started sprinkling rain a little. By the time I showered it was getting cold and the rain was steady but light. It lasted all night and all morning Thursday and I just could not make myself launch my boat and go fishing in the cold mess.

    When the rain stopped around 1:00 and my weather radar app showed no more heading toward me, I put in at the state park ramp and fished around that area way up the river. I never got my boat up on plane, just fished around the ramp since it was cold and windy.

The water had a stain to it and was a surprising 54 degrees, but the fish bit pretty good. In just under three hours I landed six largemouth and one spot and lost two more. All hit a crawfish colored Rapala DT6 on steep rocky banks back in small creeks. Two of the largemouth were about three pounds each.

It got colder Thursday night and I slept in Friday morning, getting to the ramp in Balus Creek about 30 minutes from the park around 11:00. The water was clear and 64 degrees, but warmer water did not help. By 4:00 I was disgusted, I had tried everything I could think to do and had hooked one small spotted bass on the crankbait. That was the only bite I got.

Saturday morning was similar and I started fishing down around Balus Creek just before noon.  When I quit at 4:00 I had not hooked a fish. I spent a lot of time riding and trying to fish baitfish and bass deep, but everything that looked good did not work.

Saturday night got cold. My camper has an electric rooftop heater but it is either wide open or off, there is no thermostat.  Even though it was 37 degrees I had to turn it off, it was stifling hot after 15 minutes. The small electric heater I carry kept the camper tolerable but not comfortable.

When I got up at the new too-early time to be at the ramp at 6:30 AM there was frost on my windshield. My truck thermometer read 32 at one point driving to the ramp in the dark. 

I ran to my favorite point when we took off at 7:00 AM but never got a bite. After fishing a couple more places I seriously considered making the 15-mile run back up the lake where I had caught the largemouth, but the cold made me want to stay where I was.

At 8:30 going to a deep point to try I noticed two big pine trees had fallen into the water down the bank from it. I thought the water was too shallow but decided to fish them anyway. My first cast with a shaky head worm produced a 15-inch keeper spot and I put I point the live well. I would not zero!

My very next cast to the same tree produced another keeper spot. As I put it in the livewell I got in too big a hurry to make another cast, stumbled and stepped on my net handle, breaking it. Just my luck, if I hooked a big fish I would be in trouble.

By the time I got back up front my boat had blown into the tree, messing it up. But I went to the next tree and on my second cast to it I caught another keeper! Three on four cast – my day was looking up.

As I eased around the deep point, trying to remember more trees nearby to fish, I saw four or five fish suspended 15 feet down over 45 feet of water on my Garmin Panoptix. When I cast my shaky head to them I watched them go to it as it sank. When they started swimming off was disappointed until I realized I couldn’t see my bait falling any more, set the hook and landed a 15-inch spot.

A few minutes later on the same point there were three fish cruising about five feet off bottom 25 feet deep. When I cast to them they went to my bait and followed it down. When it hit bottom I felt a tiny little tap and set the hook on another 15 inch spot. I had a surprising limit at 9:00!

 When I went to another bank with some blow down trees with a little wind on them, I caught my sixth keeper, then hooked a big fish. I thought it was a catfish but when I got it close to the boat I saw it was a big spot. Then I remembered my broke net!

It was a comedy for the next few minutes but somehow I landed the 4.07 pound spot.  Fishing that pattern the rest of the day produced only two more fish but I was thrilled with nine keeper spots.

At weigh-in my five weighed 11.88 pounds but got beat by Don Gober’s five at 11.96 pounds. Chuck Croft had two at 7.75 pounds for third and his 4.11 pound largemouth beat my 4.07 pound spot for big fish. Alex Gober had two weighing 3.35 pounds for fourth.

It hurt to be so close but I am thrilled to have what I had after my poor luck Friday and Saturday, and glad I did not make a long cold run.

Did Au Sable Trout Disappear?

Where have the Au Sable River trout gone?
from The Fishing Wire

Spring ushered into northern Michigan an unwelcomed guest in 2018…an extended winter with an unprecedented snowfall in April. When winter finally relented, and anglers were able to get out and enjoy fishing their favorite spots, the DNR Fisheries Division’s Northern Lake Huron Management Unit started getting phone calls from concerned anglers about their lack of success on the North Branch of the Au Sable River.

The unit receives “there are no fish in my lake” calls on a regular basis, and usually they are based on an angler’s couple of days of poor fishing. This year on the North Branch, however, staff were getting calls from professional trout fishing guides who had never complained about the fishing before. They told local staff they were experiencing extremely low catch rates and weren’t seeing the feeding activity they normally would during insect hatches.The North Branch was scheduled for Fisheries Division to conduct population estimates in the late summer at three different sites. However, with the number of anglers reporting startlingly low catch rates of trout, the division decided to conduct electrofishing spot checks on May 30.

To build on the strong partnership in the Au Sable River, Fisheries Division invited several of the guides who informed the department to come and help conduct the electrofishing efforts. The first round of electrofishing spot checks were at places that are surveyed regularly. Shortly after the survey started, it was readily apparent the trout population was down from levels normally seen in late summer.

“Most anglers understand that trout can move fairly large distances, usually seasonally, so making direct comparisons of the survey results occurring at different times of the year should be avoided,” said the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit manager, Dave Borgeson. “Regardless, the decline in the number of fish surveyed at the sites corroborated the angler reports so we decided to conduct four more spot checks at other locations on June 7, and got similar results.

“For some unknown reason, it became clear the trout population in the North Branch had declined from the previous year. There was a lot of head-scratching and hypothesis-sharing regarding the cause of the apparent decline, and some of the angler’s ideas centered on the possibility of mortality due to toxic substances introduced into the stream.

While trout populations can vary widely from year to year for a variety of reasons, Fisheries Division decided to notify the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality of the angler’s observations and the electrofishing results. A working group of concerned anglers, DEQ staff, and Fisheries Division employees Neal Godby and Borgeson teamed up to discuss the status of the stream and plan a strategy for additional information gathering in 2018.The DEQ planned to do some water chemistry work and conduct aquatic invertebrate sampling in the North Branch, Fisheries Division would conduct trout population estimates at three stations on the river, and the angling groups planned to do their annual quantitative aquatic invertebrate sampling as well as cooperate with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct a contaminant survey using lipid-based collection gear deployed in the stream.

The DEQ’s Water Resource Division conducted three P51 Habitat and Macroinvertebrate surveys in mid-June and found “All three sites surveyed in June 2018 scored excellent for both habitat and macroinvertebrates. All sites had excellent macroinvertebrate diversity with 37 taxa found at Dam Four, 32 at Twin Bridge Rd., and 31 at the Ford. Of these, 20 taxa at Dam Four, 18 taxa at Twin Bridges, and 15 taxa at the Ford were ephemeroptera, plecoptera, or tricoptera (EPT) taxa indicating excellent water quality.

“The USGS organic chemical sampling results are pending. Fisheries Division electrofishing surveys revealed:
At Twin Bridges the brook trout density and biomass were at the lowest recorded level in the past 30 years, and brown trout density and biomass levels were on par with the past two years.

At Eamon’s Landing the brook trout density was around the long-term average and biomass was on par with the past two years (but low compared with the long-term average).

At Dam 4 the brook trout density was well below average and biomass was at its lowest recorded level in the last 30 years. Brown trout density was about average, but the biomass was well below its average.

“So, what does all this mean?” asked Borgeson. “Do we know why the trout abundance in the North Branch declined substantially? It appears the aquatic invertebrate populations appear to be in good shape, and that non-trout species are in decent numbers. Because of that, contamination or an acute toxin event is not likely the cause. Additionally, trout species are still present albeit in relatively low numbers. So, what else could it be?

“Sometimes trout populations can be impacted by extreme water temperatures. Since the decline occurred after the DNR’s fall survey, and before this summer, warm temperatures do not appear to be the culprit. Last winter, while long, did not have too many of the extremely low temperatures that can greatly affect trout. So, temperature may not have been the primary force impacting the population in this case.

Also, the area of the North Branch was the recipient of some tremendous amounts of precipitation in the fall of 2017, and in the spring of 2018. Many long-time river residents and users reported they have never seen the North Branch so high, even out of its banks. It is known that high flows can impact trout populations, especially those occurring in the spring. Fisheries Division also surveyed some other streams that had markedly lower trout abundances. For example, division crews surveyed the West Branch of the Sturgeon River and they said it was very clear the trout population had declined since 2017. The department also had reports of another small, shallow tributary to the Sturgeon River that had a much lower trout population. A tributary to the Muskegon was surveyed and the population was down noticeably.

Maybe there was a regional phenomenon that affected certain types of streams disproportionately more than others? Could the high flows have been the primary culprit? We probably won’t know with an ironclad degree of certainty, but we can make some conclusions from this situation: It occurred between early fall 2017 and May 2018. It doesn’t appear to be a toxic event. The relatively large one-year reduction in trout abundance coincided with two extremely high flow events (last fall and this spring). Also, there appears to be enough numbers of young trout in the system that with decent overwinter survival the numbers of catchable fish should improve in the coming years.

“Overall, productivity in the North Branch has declined from the 1960’s and 1970’s, and the trout population reflects that decline,” explained Borgeson. “Perhaps this has to do with the long-term effects of the Clean Water Act. Those of us old timers remember the good ‘ol days when there were more brook trout in the stream. Maybe the rooted vegetation that used to be more abundant in the North Branch provided those young trout enough cover to survive better to older ages. When a trout population begins with more 1 and 2-year-old fish, then it usually ends up with more 2 and 3-year-old trout. In the past 30 years the stream’s trout population has varied around a new lower average biomass.

“This year on the North Branch of the Au Sable highlights the importance of having a suite of streams where status and trends surveys are conducted. They help put the trout population variability of one stream in a greater context. That is, are there regional trends in all sampled streams, in certain types of streams, or is there a stream that had a unique event occur?It also points to the importance of strong working relationships with local Fisheries Division staff, concerned anglers, and other agencies or groups that can bring resources to the table to solve complex problems. Maybe we won’t always have all the simple answers, but collectively we can learn together and that is better for making informed decisions on the resource. With that collective knowledge base, the DNR and its partners will be much better informed in the future, with a greater ability to parcel out those factors that combine to shape the trout populations in Michigan streams.

Georgia Fishing Opportunities

There are many Georgia fishing opportunities

While working on an article for Georgia Sportsman Magazine I found what I consider interesting information about our state. If you live in Georgia you have incredible fishing opportunities, more than I ever expected to find.

    Game fish are those the state places size and creel limits on to make sure they are not overfished.  Bass, bream, trout, some species of catfish, crappie and others are freshwater game fish in Georgia. Rough fish are those considered less than desirable so no limits are needed to protect them. Some rough fish in Georgia include carp, some catfish, gar, suckers, and many others. All those are just in freshwater, there are many more in salt water.

    In our state you can fish for ten freshwater game fish, 21 saltwater game fish and dozens of rough fish without creel limits. The Georgia DNR says there are about 325 species of freshwater fish and even more saltwater fish.  Your choices are huge. You could target a different species of fish every day of the year and never repeat yourself during the year.

Where can you fish in Georgia? There are ten Public Fishing Areas, 21 rivers, 32 reservoirs, 147 Wildlife Management Areas, many with ponds and creeks open to you, and countless streams, creeks and branches for freshwater fishing.  There are so many bays, rivers and creeks on the coast you can get lost forever.  You could fish a different body of water every day of the year and never fish the same place twice.

You can do like me and concentrate on bass. That way I don’t get too confused. But if you wanted to you could try to catch every freshwater game fish or every saltwater game fish. And you can stick with big lakes or find many hidden gems to fish all by yourself.

Tips for Finding Fall Crappie


Tips for locating and catching crappies in the waning weeks of autumn

By David A. Brown
from The Fishing Wire

Fall is feeding time for predators of every flavor, and crappies are in full-on gorging mode; keenly aware of winter’s lurking. Knowing this, Seaguar and Raymarine pro Troy Peterson knows that finding the food means finding crappies. The fish are mostly suspended this time of year, but dialing in the likely bait-holding areas helps him narrow the search.

“We have a pretty big river system with the Wolf River (Wisconsin) and all the minnows, shiners and other baitfish are up in the rivers, scattered amid the timber, in some of the deep holes and behind dock posts,” Peterson said. “So we’re basically driving up and down the river, looking for giant schools of baitfish. They’re typically in the wood, whether it be brush or dock posts and the crappie are typically right behind them.”

Beyond the river scenario, Peterson says he employs a similar strategy for crappie on lakes where crappie will be pursuing pods of baitfish that are making a seasonal movement out of the weed beds. Expanding in size, these baitfish will be holding over deeper flats. Raymarine and Seaguar pro Troy Peterson “It’s more of an afternoon bite,” Peterson says. “We’re just using the Raymarine DownVision to look for weed edges, brushpiles and cribs (artificial habitat features comprising a rectangular log frame dressed with brush and other accents). Crappies like to sit over wooded structure, making it easier to drive across lakes and reservoirs and make a grid to find out which cribs the fish are sitting on.”

As Peterson explains, local fishing clubs build these cribs to provide habitat in otherwise barren areas of the lakes. Typically weighted with cinder blocks, these fish attractors are dropped beyond the zone of natural cover. On many northern waters, a permit is required to introduce habitat, like cribs and brushpiles. Opposingly, on southern lakes and reservoirs, ardent anglers sink their own structure, refreshing productive brushpiles, as they erode over time. (There’s an Arkansas guide who has over 2,000 brushpiles marked on a single reservoir!)   Oftentimes, all you need is a bucket of minnows to clean up on fall crappies.

TECH TACTICS

With Raymarine Axiom Pro 12 and 9 units on his dash and an Axiom Pro 9 on the bow, Peterson lauds the crisp clarity of traditional 2D sonar and DownVision images. From a simple time-management perspective, this amazingly sharp detail allows him to immediately recognize what he’s seeing and respond accordingly. “Raymarine’s signals are so clear that when you get fish suspending over deep water, you can almost count the minnows in the bait school versus a giant blob or who knows what.” Peterson says. Also, Raymarine’s interaction with Navionics SonarLogging and SonarChart Live takes scouting to a new level. Particularly critical on previously unmapped waters, the ability to record and store what he graphs proves invaluable for open water pursuits, as well as ice fishing. “This allows me to grid out a lake and create my own maps,” Peterson says.

“I can find the deepest holes or the basin, I can find the sharp breaks, I can use SideVision to find and mark the cribs.” Peterson runs a Raymarine Axiom Pro 12 on the dash and Axiom Pro 9 on the bow. Marking weed edges, wood piles and rock structures before first ice provides key perspective that guides his decisions while he’s standing on the lake. Again, it’s time management, born of understanding.

“When we’re ice fishing, we don’t have the ability to scan, we have to just go and drill holes and you have to be right on top of spots,” Peterson said. “That’s the beauty of using the SonarChart Live feature.” For optimal imaging, Peterson offers these tips: “I’ve found that on certain types of water, you need to play with the settings a little more,” he says. “If you have murky water or really clear water, settings are a big deal. I’ll play with the contrast a lot to try and identify the types of species that are mixed in with the bait. “We have walleye, pike and bass mixed in with these bait pods. Once you get good at it, you can determine the actual species of fish by the soundings you’re getting. Darkening up the contrast and increasing the gain a little bit will give you better definition.”

TARGET ACQUIRED

Once Peterson locates the crappie-friendly structure, he takes a simple, yet undeniably effective approach to tempting the fish. Inspired by old-school cane poling, Peterson equips uses a telescoping 14- to 16-foot pole rigged with 8- to 10-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon to deploy a minnow on a No. 2 long shank Tru-Turn hook with a 1/4-ounce weight, all under a slip bobber. “On the river system, crappies tuck behind brushpiles and vertical structure like dock posts and stumps, staying out of the current and just sucking in anything that gets eddied back into where they’re hiding.

“There’s nothing more effective than cane poling and dropping your bait directly on top of them without worrying about casting to them or feeding the line back. You want to get your bait as close to that vertical structure because eddies suck whatever they’re eating to the back side of that structure.” As Peterson explains, the 1/4-ounce weight serves as an escort for his bait. Precision placement is the key ingredient, so he wants to know exactly where each bait goes. “I want it to drop perfectly straight down; I don’t want any whip or resistance in that line,” Peterson says. “I want to be able to suck that bait as tight to the structure as I can, especially when I’m fishing really thick brushpiles. When I see a pocket on the screen, it’s really important to drop down in there quickly and get the fish out.”

Now, if Peterson’s fishing more around docks in the river system, he switches to a tube or a craw tube presentation. Skipping or flipping works and he’ll match his jig head size to water flow. “When the current is strong, you want to get your bait down there, so we may use a 1/16- or a 1/8-ounce head,” Peterson said. “But in average current, a 1/32- to 1/16 is what I use.”

Successful southern reservoir crappie masters will mark a brushpile, throw a marker, quickly back off, and make long casts with light jigs. 1/16th ounce is a standard, shifting up with winds and down with a still surface. One particularly effective combination is a Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ jighead with a Z-Man ElaZtech Finesse ShadZ or Trick ShotZ. The inherent buoyancy of ElaZtech slows the fall, while the material’s durability stands up to fish after fish. If you prefer hardbaits, LIVETARGET’s lipless Golden Shiner Rattlebait is a proven crappie slayer. Cast over the brushpile, let the bait sink a couple seconds, and retrieve straight back to the boat. (A new, smaller Golden Shiner Rattlebait will be available soon, too.)

Crappies don’t leave the lakes, rivers and reservoirs in late fall. In fact, if you locate fish, there’ll likely be throngs of them. Look for wood structures on the edges of current and brushpiles positioned on points and breaks, and feed them live minnows, finesse jigs and miniature rattlebaits. You’ll be glad you did…

Fishing Lake Oconee in November

Saturday, November 13, 19 members of the Potato Creek Bassmaster’s fished our November tournament at Lake Oconee. After casting from 7:00 AM to 3:30 PM, we brought in 32 14-inch keeper largemouth weighing about 53 pounds. There were two limits and 8 members did not catch a fish.

Sam Smith won with five weighing 9.25 pounds and my five weighing 8.46 pounds placed second. Donnie Willis had three weighing 5.84 pounds for third, fourth went to Tom Tanner with three weighing 5.81 pounds and Mitchell Cardell had big fish with a 3.55 pounder.

The cold front that came through Friday made the fish hard to find and catch. I went over Wednesday and camped at Lawrence Shoals, a Georgia Power facility that has camping, picnicking, hiking trails and a boat ramp. All Georgia Power facilities are neat and clean and great places to use.

I went out Thursday to look around and check out some different places. After about three hours I had caught one on a DT 6 crankbait about five feet deep, another on a spinnerbait about foot deep and a third one 29 feet deep on a rockpile I spotted on my Garmin Panopitx. I marked it on my GPS to fish during the tournament. Deep fish often stay in one place for days where shallow fish move constantly.

That was no pattern so Friday I spent a lot of time casting a weightless Trick worm to grass and docks and caught three keepers, so I felt like I had a way to catch some fish in the tournament.

I also rode around a lot looking at my electronics, marking rock piles in deep water. Oconee has many huge boulders on the lower lake, many you can see up on the bank but even more underwater. I found several places that had fish on them but all I caught was a big crappie that hit a spoon.

Buddy Laster came over to fish with me and we ran to the dam in the cold air where I wanted to fish. I quickly caught a good keeper on a spinnerbait off some grass, but two hours later all we had caught were some short bass and one pickerel.

At 9:00 I cast a weightless Trick worm by a dock but my line went over the corner of it. When I felt a tap I set the hook and a keeper came flying over the dock but I managed to land it.

For the next five hours we tried a lot of things but had only throwbacks to show for our efforts. At about 2:00 I saw some fish around a boulder I had marked in 27 feet of water, dropped my spoon down and caught a three-pound flathead catfish. My next drop produced anther tap and I landed a keeper largemouth. Then the third drop produced a seven-pound flat head.

No more fish hit there so I went to a shallow grassbed and a good keeper hit my Trick worm. That gave me four with 45 minutes left to fish. At 3:00 I went out to the rocks where I had caught a keeper Thursday and filled my limit with a keeper that hit a shaky  head worm 29 feet deep.

That is “junk” fishing at its best!

Alternative Ned Rigs

____________________________

By Ted Pilgrim
from The Fishing Wire

Alternative Ned Rigs elevate your finesse game


The legendary Ned Kehde isn’t likely to utter the phrase that’s made him famous; the term for the rig that’s forever transformed the bass fishing landscape. Actually, the chances of Kehde going third-person like some Prima donna wide receiver are roughly the same as his odds of playing in the NFL. That’s just Ned being Ned: the fact the humble Hall of Fame angler would rather credit those other fathers of finesse—Chuck Woods, Guido Hibdon, Harold Ensley, etc.—than acknowledge his own momentous role in bass fishing’s backstory.


Such modesty can be misinterpreted, but in Kehde’s case simply underscores the exceptional skill with which he practices the method known more broadly as ‘Midwest Finesse.’ Friend and former NASCAR driver Terry Bevins says, “Ned’s one of the best finesse anglers in the country. Put him in the back of the boat with one of his finesse jigs, and he’s likely to whoop your butt.”

To hear Kehde tell it, the bass-catching power of his “little jig” is so great there’s simply no reason to change it. “In years past, we’ve experimented with just about every new rigging refinement you can think of.” notes Kehde. “In the shallow impoundments we fish, none have been so fruitful as an exposed-hook, mushroom-style jig dressed with half a ZinkerZ or other finesse worm. Day after day, season after season, it inveigles dozens and dozens and dozens of bass.”

The Ned-Miki

The ‘Ned-Miki Rig’ has scored big bags of largemouth, spotted and striped bass for pro angler and guide, Joey Nania

Interestingly, the same simple motivation to catch more bass has inspired anglers across America to create unique and individualized versions of the Ned Rig framework—both in retrieve and the way they fasten a finesse bait to a hook.Longtime Ned Rig fan Joey Nania, professional angler and Alabama based fishing guide, has devised a couple key mods to the presentation. Recently, he’s guided clients to loads of spotted, largemouth and striped bass, wielding a concoction he calls the Ned-Miki Rig.

“As bass fans know, the Damiki Rig has been a money presentation for enticing shad-focused bass suspended in 15 to 30 feet,” says Nania. “But you need a really well-balanced, 90-degree jighead and a compact shad-shaped bait to pull it off. Having fished the Z-Man NedlockZ HD jighead for a lot of my regular Ned Rig fishing, I realized this head would really shine for ‘video-game’ fishing—working individual bass on sonar, vertically, playing cat-and-mouse. It’s versatile enough that you can cast the bait to suspended fish, too, just letting it glide and pendulum as you work it back to the boat.

“The Ned-Miki Rig: NedlockZ HD jighead and StreakZ 3.75A 1/10- or 1/6-ounce NedlockZ HD, says Nania, melds perfectly with a Z-Man StreakZ 3.75, a bait he calls “one of the best small shad imitations ever. And because it’s made from ElaZtech, the bait’s super buoyant. When you pause and let the Ned-Miki soak, the bait maintains a natural horizontal posture. Similar fluke-style baits aren’t buoyant, making them ride tail-down, rather than hovering horizontal like a live shad.

“Northern anglers fish a similar method, keying on suspended or rock-hugging smallmouth bass. The Ned-Miki has even evolved into a superlative substitute for a dropshot rig, which isn’t quite so precise for big sluggish smallmouths hunkered down between boulders.”Watch the bait drop on the sonar screen until it’s about 1 foot above the fish’s head,” Nania explains. “Hold the bait still. When a bass begins to rise and chase, lift the bait to take it away. Sometimes, a bass will chase the Ned-Miki up 15 or 20 feet, absolutely crushing it on an intercept course. Other times, you have to entice them a little, using the bait’s super-soft, high-action tail to close the deal. Almost like a dropshot, but even more dead-on.

“All-Terrain NedGoing where no Ned Rig has gone before, Nania is ecstatic when he mentions another new finesse device. “What can I say about the Finesse BulletZ, man? This jighead is off-the-charts cool. Rig one with a Finesse TRDMinnowZ or TRD CrawZ and fish simply can’t tear it off. I’ve had the same bait on the same jighead for the past week, and dozens of bass later, it’s still going strong.

“Made to snake Ned Rig style ElaZtech baits through the thickest cover, the Finesse BulletZ sports a subtle bullet-shaped head and a slender keel weight molded precisely onto a custom, heavy-duty size 1 VMC EWG hook. “People look at this jig and wonder how the heck you rig a bait without tearing it. It’s funny because it’s actually a non-issue with ElaZtech, which is pretty much tear-proof. And once the bait’s in place, it’s there until you take it off.

“Goes without saying that the bait’s weedless,” says Nania. “But I’m also just discovering how well the little jig skips under docks,” he adds. “Regardless of the cover— rocks, brush, grass, manmade structures, etc.—this is one incredible jig-bait combo for finessing big bass in places you couldn’t previously throw a Ned Rig.”I like to rig a 1/10-ouncer with a TRD MinnowZ—Smelt and Hot Snakes are two of my favorite patterns—and skip it under docks. Rigging the same bait on a 1/6-ounce Finesse BulletZjig also shines for casting into deeper schools of bass.

“Nania notes how the jig’s keel weight makes the bait glide and slide horizontally, rather than nose-down. “It’s like some radical, improved version of the slider head, except this jig perfectly matches 2- to 4-inch finesse-style baits. And you can pull it right through the thickest brush piles with no problem at all.”From southern impoundments to northern lakes and rivers, the Finesse BulletZ jig may be at its best when rigged with Z-Man’s authentic mini-crayfish bait, the 2.5-inch TRD CrawZ.

“The TRD CrawZ is a subtle, unassuming little critter,” says professional angler Luke Clausen. “But rigged with the Finesse BulletZ jig, the bait rides in this freakishly lifelike, claws-up posture. Put it in the water and its buoyant little claws flap and wave, virtually taunting bass to bite—and they do,” Clausen laughs.

Ned-Neko Rig

Blurring boundaries between Ned-style and other finesse presentations, creative anglers have concocted what we’ll call the Ned-Neko Rig.

Coupling a Finesse TRDHula StickZ or other buoyant finesse bait with a Neko hook and Neko weight yields astonishing action, and an intriguing underwater posture.Hooking configurations depend on cover and bass activity level. The simplest is to Texas-rig your chosen finesse bait onto a #1 to 2/0 Neko style hook. Finish the Neko-Ned Rig by inserting a 1/32- to 1/8-ounce Neko weight into the bait’s tail-end, resulting in a compelling pogo-stick-action along bottom.

Also effective is a drag-and-deadstick retrieve, particularly in small, high-percentage zones.Or, you can get extra wacky (pun intended), and hook the worm right through the middle, leaving the Neko weight in the tail. The toughness of ElaZtech even eliminates the need for an O-ring; just a 1/0 Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap hook, your favorite TRD and another alluring look bass can’t say no to. Ned inspired. Ned approved.