Monthly Archives: November 2016

Dry Weather Affects Hunting and Fishing

What a difference a year makes. Last year it rained so much the first two weeks of November I didn’t go hunting. My back yard stayed about a foot deep in water for weeks. Lakes, and my ponds, were full and muddy from all the rain.

About this time last year when I finally got in the woods I could not cross the creek between my two ponds. It was full to the banks and flowing fast. Water was running over the upper pond dam. Friday I went down there and walked across it barely getting my boots muddy.

My lower pond is about three feet low, as expected. But the upper pond, the one that usually drops faster and further than the lower one, was full. And the water was a milky color. Not sure what is going on. I need to check the spring that feeds it and see if it caved in or something, making it flow faster and adding silt to the water.

There are lots of jokes about how dry it is but the drought is no joke. I didn’t even try to plant fall food plots for deer this year, and I think they all left my area. Other than acorns, there is nothing much for them to eat. And the acorns have quit falling.

Last year I had Austrian Winter Peas, clover and wheat greening my field. This year it is brown and crunchy. And several folks that spent a lot of money on seed and fertilizer in late summer say their food plots never came up, it was just too dry.

I checked to see if it was legal to put tubs of water out for the deer, and it is. But the deer don’t really need to come to the one I put out since nowhere on my land is further than a few hundred yards from a pond of creek.

I moved one of my climbing stands down to where I can see the trickle of water between the two ponds. That is the only place I have seen any sign of deer, but the tracks in the soft ground around the creek may have been there for a long time.

Sitting on the hillside overlooking the creek Friday morning I thought “why would a deer even be here?” There is some water, but there is lots more nearby. And the hillside has a couple of small privet hedge bushes on it and a little honeysuckle for them to eat, but other areas have a lot more of those two winter foods for them as well as one of their favorites, green briar.

I decided where I was hunting was like fishing on a flat, muddy bottom a long way from deeper water. There is nothing much to attract bass in a place like that and there is nothing on that hillside to attract them, either. I guess it is time to move to another area. I need to kill a couple of does for the freezer before the end of season.

Use Depthfinders and Underwater Cameras To Find Fish

High-Tech “Glass-Bottom” Fishing
Benefits of integrating today’s depthfinders and underwater cameras in open water

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

I was about 10 years old when I saw a TV program about a Florida tourist operation with glass-bottom boats. I can remember thinking: Wouldn’t that be cool? Even then, my goal was to catch more and bigger fish, and a transparent-floored boat seemed like a good way to learn more about fish location and behavior.

Now, decades later, my dream has come true. I’m fishing out of a glass-bottom boat… Okay, not literally, but outfitted with a unique combination of compatible electronics, my Ranger 620 allows me to see what’s going on below. What’s even better, the system is simple to use, but profound in what it reveals.

My system starts with a Garmin 7612xsv chartplotter/sonar combo. This unit, like many offered by Garmin, features a video input option that allows me to plug in and view Aqua-Vu Multi-Vu camera.

The pair works extremely well together. The 12-inch 1280 x 800 WXGA Garmin display shows what the camera captures in ultra-bright detail, even in full sunlight. It offers the option of full-screen video viewing, or I can split the screen to have video and sonar, video and mapping, etc., all with a push or two on the unit’s touch screen.

Historically, the weak links with underwater cameras has been the monitor quality, a necessity to keep overall cost down, and ease of use.

Although companies like Aqua-Vu are making better and brighter monitors, there are also options like the camera-only Aqua-Vu Multi-Vu that plugs directly into my 10-and 12-inch Garmin units and provides a stunningly clear, large viewing space.

With the press of a couple buttons on the touch screen Garmin menu, I can go from mapping to sonar (traditional sonar, ClearVü or SideVü) or any combination of the two. I also have the option of adding underwater video to the mix.

The ease of incorporating underwater viewing allows me to use the camera far more frequently. I now drop it overboard any time I’m curious, and within seconds get a look at what’s going on below the boat.

I use it often for fish species verification, a huge time saver, especially when filming TV shows, pre-fishing for tournaments, or when trying to put family and friends on fish. It also helped me become a much better interpreter of the highly-detailed CHIRP sonar readings I only dreamed about a few years ago.

It’s also incredibly fun.

Case Study #1: Smallies or Suckers?

I was on the Great Lakes chasing giant smallmouth when I pulled up on a big reef and scanned it my SideVü. It was loaded with fish! Knowing that smallmouths will move onto reefs in late fall, I was pumped especially after catching a four-pounder on my second cast.

I hooked another fish 15 minutes later and had the surprise of the trip. It was a big sucker and it had inhaled my jigging spoon! The next fish was also a sucker, as was the third, and yes, I was baffled! I had no idea that suckers will feed like aggressive predators.

Looking for answers, I finally lowered the Aqua-Vu down and quickly understood what was going on. The marks I was seeing on SideVü were not smallmouth, but suckers, and the reef was crawling with them.

We left.

Case Study #2: Walleye and Bass

Earlier this summer, I found a rock pile in 19 feet of water that was loaded with fish. I expected walleyes; but when I dropped the camera I discovered they were all deep-water largemouths. Later that same day, I found additional schools of fish I was convinced were crappies. Again, I dropped the camera and was proved wrong; they were big bluegills.

Another trip sticks out.

I was taping an episode of “Lake Commandos” on a lake that DNR survey data indicated had lots of largemouth, but very few smallmouth. So I was surprised when we landed several smallmouth along a weedline that should have held largies.

So I dropped the camera to the bottom and discovered a huge pile of boulders in the middle of the grass and it was filthy with smallmouth! This was information I couldn’t get from my sonar because thick weeds had overgrown the entire spot.

Vegetation Identification

Many natural lakes have progressively become more diverse in terms of vegetation types. Thousands across the country are now weed-choked with indigenous and invasive vegetation.

On many lakes, weedlines extend for hundreds or even thousands of yards. This makes breaking down the lake difficult and time-consuming, particularly when fish are relating to specific weed types.

On a recent “Lake Commandos” shoot with BASS touring pro Adrian Avena, the key to the entire big bass bite came down to finding cabbage, which was difficult as it was available only in small, random, isolated patches. As soon as we found a patch, however, we’d land two or three 4- to 6- pound bass on jigs tipped with Berkley Chigger Craws. But you could work 400-600 yards of a weedline between cabbage patches.

Sonar definition has really improved over the years, to the point that it is making it possible to breakdown some weed types with sonar. Milfoil, for example, looks different on screen than cabbage… if you know what to look for.

By running sonar side-by-side with video, I’ve learned to recognize how various weed types appear on sonar. The lessons continue, and it’s not full-proof, but I find myself able to find grass like coontail and cabbage that usually holds fish and avoid those that typically don’t.

This information is so valuable that I am now investing time simply to compare what I am seeing on sonar with the camera. In the process, I am becoming more efficient at finding fish.

One other thing about grass, and I am embarrassed to admit this: in some cases, particularly in areas with current, isolated patches of soft-stalked grass like milfoil, will lay horizontal to the bottom. On sonar, these areas can look like a school of four to five fish (and I thought they were).

Another lesson learned.

Bottom Hardness Identification

My sonar/camera system is also invaluable for confirming bottom composition and clarifying what my sonar is telling me. In many situations, with sonar alone, I was left wondering: Is that rock or thick coontail clumps on bottom. Hard bottom or soft? A bottom transition from one to the other? Now I understand what that looks like on sonar and can validate it 100% of the time with camera, which is critical. Bottom hardness transition areas are underwater super-highways for countless fish species.

Studying bottom composition has led to some interesting discoveries, too. I’ve spotted lost anchors, sunglasses, lures and rods on the bottom of lakes, as well a surprising number of golf balls.

Parting Thoughts

These days, I am dedicating more time to viewing because its making me a more productive fisherman. Oh, it’s fun to drop a camera and drift over cover and get a peak into the underwater world below. “Look, there’s a big smallmouth!”

But what the sonar/underwater combination reveals is much more than just fun… it’s also incredibly educational. I find myself dedicating days to leaving the rods in the locker and studying specific structure. Why is this specific spot holding fish? I’ll study spots for awhile, make mental notes, and drop waypoints, and this is putting more fish in the boat.

About Steve Pennaz
Steve Pennaz is a hall of fame angler who 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 on the water.

Fall River Bass

Fall River Bass
By Chip Leer, Fishing The WildSide
from The Fishing Wire

In rivers across the Midwest, smallmouth bass make a fall migration from their summer ranges to deep wintering holes in the main channel. Along the way, they stop at predictable places to rest and feed, offering savvy anglers some of the year’s best bass fishing.

One of my favorite fall fishing areas is the tip of a firm-bottomed, sandy bar bordered by softer substrate and vegetation such as wild rice. Depths of two to four feet are ideal.

I use a two-pronged attack to catch the most bass possible from each spot.

First, I cast a diving crankbait like a LiveTarget Threadfin Shad Magnum Crankbait ( tight to the weed edge and quickly crank it down, then slowly bounce it along bottom. Occasionally, I pause to throw slack in the line, which causes the lure to turn and often triggers a strike.

Casting crankbaits is a great way to pluck aggressive bass off the spot. After the initial flurry dies down, I toss a Carolina rig into the hot zone. My typical rig consists of a pegged sinker, 24-inch, 12-pound monofilament leader, 3/0 hook and either a creature body or Northland Fishing Tackle IMPULSE Fatty Tube (, rigged weedless. You can slowly drag the rig or let it rest in place, allowing the river’s current to activate the soft plastic.

I use 13 Fishing’s 7′-11″ Envy Black Crankenstein ( casting rod with 10-pound mono for crankbaits, and their medium-heavy 7′-1″ or 7′-4″ Omen Black ( casting rod with 30-pound Northland Bionic Braid ( mainline for Carolina rigs.

Bouncing from one high-percentage spot to the next with these two tactics is a great way to enjoy banner days for hard-fighting bronzebacks. The action often lasts deep into November, meaning there’s still time to get out and enjoy this exciting rite of fall.

Based in Walker, Minnesota, noted fishing authority and outdoor communicator Chip Leer operates Fishing the WildSide, which offers a full suite of promotional, product development and consultation services. For more information, call (218) 547-4714

Dangers of Deer Hunting

Do as I say, not as I do!

Every year I try to warn hunters to check their deer stands carefully before using them. You can get hurt in many ways, and deer stands account for the majority of hunting accidents every year.

A couple of weeks before season I checked all the bolts and nuts on my climbing stands, tested the plywood and canvass to make sure everything was strong, then hung them on the trees I usually hunt. I climbed up removing any new twigs that might be in my way and also made sure my shooting lanes were clear.

I then went to my tower stand and climbed it. The wind made it rock some so I went back down and made sure feet were tied down, and leveled them. I then went back up and checked for wasps, made sure the chair was in good shape and didn’t squeak when turned, and made sure I could still see the areas where I expected a deer to appear.

I went right by the box stand in the middle of my field several times but never stopped. I don’t hunt it until December, when deer are more likely to come to food plots after all acorns are gone, and where I expect to see does only.

The wind was so bad Saturday morning I decided to get in the box after all. When I got to it in the dark I shined my flashlight all around and spotted some old wasps nest. I cleared out spider webs with a stick and eased inside, checking under the chair and everywhere else I thought wasps might hide.

Wasps get off their nests and get in cracks in wood or under anything they can when it starts to get cold. They try to survive the winter that way. But on a warm day they will get active during the winter. I had a very bad experience many years ago that has made me paranoid about them.

Uncle Adron took me hunting when I was about 19 and told me to climb up in a tower stand on an old fire break. It was a fairly warm afternoon and I was almost sweating when I got to the top and settled in the chair.

There was carpet on the floor to dampen any sound. For some reason I moved a piece of it in the corner. There was a solid red mass slowly moving under it. I swear it looked like thousands of wasps!

I carefully lowered the carpet and didn’t move. No wasps came out from under it so I stayed put, too. I have no idea if a deer came by that afternoon since all my attention was on that carpet all afternoon!

Saturday morning as it got barely light enough to see there was something dark crawling on my thigh. I knew immediately it was a wasps and thumped off. When I turned on my flashlight to kill it there were about six crawling on the floor and walls. It was too cool for them to fly or move very fast. I killed all of them.

I kept checking as it got lighter and lighter and saw no more. But at about 9:00 I felt something crawling on the back of my neck. I knew it was a wasps and did not want to hit at it, but was afraid it would crawl down under my shirt.

When I tried to brush it off I could feel a very light sting. I killed it and stayed in the box another hour without seeing any more wasps. When I got home I ask Linda to check my neck. There was a small red spot she touched but it was not where I had felt the sting, it was right on the scar tissue from my surgery.

The next morning my neck was swollen in two places, the one where I felt the sting and the one on my scar. I guess there are no nerves in the scar tissue to let me feel the pain.

I have heard stories of folks being in stands way up trees on in towers when they woke up a snake. So far I have not had that problem. But I did almost have to heart attacks one morning while deer hunting.

My stand was on the far side of a clear cut that had grown up with weeds about knee high. I was walking across it before daylight with my 30-30 on my back, shining my flashlight on the ground to stay on the path. As I made a step a covey of quail flushed beside my foot.

I guess it was a good thing my gun was on my back or I probably would have emptied it at the unknown critter. It is unreal how much noise a covey of quail flushing from under your feet in the dark make! I stood there a few minutes and my heart finally returned almost to normal, and I realized it had been quail.

About ten steps later another covey of quail flushed. That almost did me in. I don’t know how long I stood still breathing deeply, trying to recover my wits. I was afraid to take another step in case I found another covey!

I finally made it to the tree and climbed it and settled down. I don’t think I saw a deer that day. I may have been shaking so hard the tree was trembling all morning, scaring the deer away.

Sometimes the most memorable things about a deer hunt have nothing to do with deer.

How To Catch Redfish

Redfish Bonanza
By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau
from The Fishing Wire

Venice Louisiana has to be one of the best if not the very best location in America for both inshore and off shore fishing! Factor in the ability to pursue inshore species all year long such as Redfish, Sheepshead or Tripletail and these three alone are enough to entice most anglers. However, inshore angling in Venice has many more species to offer within its shallow grassy contours, such as Speckled Trout, Flounder, Black Drum and even largemouth bass.

October can be primetime to target both larger Bull Reds as well as smaller more palatable Juvenile Redfish within the Mississippi Rivers backwater estuaries. Better know as the ‘Marsh’ these shallow water areas are filled with wildlife activity and spawning Redfish. (The Redfish spawn occurs from August into November.)

Cruising through the narrow channels framed by tall walls of canes sends flocks of various bird species to flight. Then without warning these narrow channels open up to backwater ponds ranging in size with varying depths of crystal clear water. Scanning the pond areas reveals thick clumps of vegetation scattered throughout the opening. Pockets and coves filled with matted grass intertwined with lily pad fields and stalks of cane beckoning anglers to cast in every direction.

The Venice tidal water environments comprise of twisting and turning salt marsh channel networks offering forage and predatory species an abundant assortment of mixed vegetation for shelter and ambush points alike. Schools of Mullet’s are endlessly on the move, leaping out of the water, while swimming full speed through the channels and around the backwater ponds.

If you have experienced the heart throbbing thrill of hard pulling striped bass making long never-ending runs, then you will surely enjoy battling Bull Redfish. Just when you think these Bull Reds are ready to come aboard they suddenly peel drag from your reel making long head thrashing runs over and over again. Patience is the key to success with Bull Reds!

Bull Redfish are normally 30 inches or longer and may range anywhere between 15 to 40 plus-pounds. While Bull Redfish normally are attracted to rocky jetties, outcroppings, manmade structures and oilrigs, during the winter months it is not uncommon for bulls to move near-shore or inshore. Juvenile Redfish (Under 30″.) mostly occupy inshore estuaries all within the ‘Marsh’, cruising sand bottoms and grassy areas feeding on oysters, crabs, shrimp, mullets, pinfish and mud minnows. However, these energetic bottom feeders have been known to inhale topwater baits.

I utilize the same tackle arsenal for either bull reds or juvenile redfish. Long rods are imperative for keeping pressure on redfish and your hooks pegged. Reels with larger spools holding more line eliminate being spooled, while the parabolic action of your rod absorbs the hard thrashing runs of a big bull red.

I prefer St. Croix IPC Avid Inshore 7’6″ medium heavy power fast action BC III graphite spinning rods, saddled with a Diawa 3000 Laguna spinning reel, spooled with Seaguar 40 lb. Smack Down Braided line. The vegetation within the marsh can be unforgiving to most lines braided line on the other hand has the ability to cut through most vegetation eliminating break-offs. (,

When it comes to preferred redfish baits, most seasoned anglers keep it simple. Plastic 3″- 4″- 5″ MinnowZ and DieZel MinnowZ impelled unto pointed jigheads such as the TroutEye and RedfishEye jigheads are most common. The pointed jighead allows your bait to come through vegetation and canes easily when pitched or flipped into pockets. Retrieve speed varies depending upon the activity level, at times a slow crawl with a sudden hop in your cadence triggers strikes.

The advantage of ZMan’s ElaZtech buoyant material to float up off the bottom when impelled unto ZMan’s Redfish Eye Jigheads, TT Lures HeadlockZ HD, Jig HeadZ, or Top Brass’s ‘Super Spike’ Jighead (, all make for the perfect natural presentation when chasing bottom-feeding Redfish.

A few other baits that produce well include; ChatterBait’s, Z-Man’s DieZel ChatterBait, DieZel Spins and one of my ‘now’ favorite hard baits Rat-L-Traps. More often than not all of these baits favor long cast to trigger reaction strikes, especially when sight fishing or when redfish blowup on schools of baitfish.

When it comes to eating redfish they are delicious! And, as with most edible fish there is a slot size that offers the best taste. Louisiana limits an angler to five-redfish per day, with a minimum length of 16 inches and only one of these five redfish may exceed 27 inches. Anglers anticipating a redfish dinner prefer redfish within the twenty to twenty-five inch lengths.

Anglers looking for an exciting excellent winter fishing trip would be wise to contact any of the following outstanding Professional Guide Services:

Captain Mike Frenette at or call Captain Mike @ 1.504.78.0924.
Captain Scott MacCalla at or call Captain Scott @ 1.321.795.9259

Best Bassin’

Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau