Monthly Archives: June 2017

Top Bass Lakes In The Nation

Mille Lacs Leaps To No. 1 of the top bass Lakes In The Nation
from Bass

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Minnesota’s state motto is “Star of the North,” which seems appropriate seeing Bassmaster Magazine has crowned the state’s second largest lake as the best bass fishery in the nation based on the recent release of the publication’s 100 Best Bass Lakes rankings.

Mille Lacs Lake, a 132,516-acre natural lake located 100 miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, soared to the No. 1 spot after months of research unveiled its unbelievable production of smallmouth bass. Mille Lacs was ranked No. 6 in the nation last year.

“This fishery really got our attention last September during the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship, when 94 limits of smallmouth were weighed in that topped the 20-pound mark,” explained Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall. “Had that been a four-day event, eventual winner Seth Feider may have topped the 100-pound mark with smallmouth, a feat that has never, ever happened before.”

But it takes more than one good event to push a fishery to the top of these rankings.

“After months of research and processing data from dozens of sources, we realized that the Angler of the Year event was hardly impressive production for the lake. Thirty-pound limits were weighed in during five team events last fall, including two limits breaking the 36-pound mark. Remember, these are limits of smallmouth. Just incredible,” Hall said.

This year, the rankings highlight the Top 12 fisheries in the nation regardless of location. The remaining lakes are ranked within one of four regions (Northeastern, Southeastern, Central and Western), so readers can easily identify the Top 25 lakes nearest them.

The Central division, which has been dominated by Toledo Bend Reservoir the past two years (it was the first fishery to be ranked No. 1 more than one time), experienced the biggest shakeup of the rankings. As Mille Lacs took over the No. 1 spot here, Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas also jumped ahead of Toledo Bend (which fell to No. 4 in the region). Lake Erie, fishing out of Buffalo, N.Y., took top honors in the Northeastern division (No. 7 nationally). California’s Clear Lake ended up the best in the West (No. 3 in the nation). As for the Southeastern division, North Carolina’s Shearon Harris Lake topped all other fisheries (No. 4 in the nation).

“There are a lot of surprises this year,” Hall admits. “Shearon Harris may be one of the biggest. But this lake produced two limits this year that topped 40 pounds. Can you imagine an 8-pound average?”

Other highlights include the comeback of Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, a former No. 1 lake on this list that faced a serious downturn two years ago. This smallmouth factory has climbed back to No. 9 in the nation. New Bullards Bar in California (No. 4 in the Western division) has produced several world-record class spotted bass in the past 12 months, including an 11.25-pounder. South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Lakes (Marion and Moultrie) are again producing near-30-pound limits, earning them the No. 8 spot in the nation and top spot in the Southeastern division.

As for bragging rights for the individual state with the most lakes making the Top 100, Texas wins by a long shot. The Lone Star State features 11 lakes that made the cut. California was a distant second, with a still-impressive showing of seven lakes being ranked in the Top 100.

Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes will be published in an 11-page section of the July/August issue of Bassmaster Magazine. The complete rankings will also be featured on

The Top 12 In The Nation
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota [132,516 acres]
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas [114,500 acres]
3. Clear Lake, California [43,785 acres]
4. Shearon Harris Lake, North Carolina [4,100 acres]
5. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California [1,153 square miles]
6. Lake Berryessa, California [20,700 acres]
7. Lake Erie, New York [30-mile radius from Buffalo]
8. Santee Cooper Lakes, Marion and Moultrie, South Carolina [110,000 acres and 60,000 acres, respectively]
9. Lake St. Clair, Michigan [430 square miles]
10. Falcon Lake, Texas [83,654 acres]
11. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York [50-mile stretch]
12. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee [36,240 acres]

Central Division
1. Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota
2. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas
3. Falcon Lake, Texas
4. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Texas/Louisiana [185,000 acres]
5. Lake Palestine, Texas [25,560 acres]
6. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin [4,945 acres]
7. Newton Lake, Illinois [1,775 acres]
8. Lake Ray Roberts, Texas [29,350 acres]
9. Lake Oahe, South Dakota/North Dakota [370,000 acres]
10. Lake Amistad, Texas [64,900 acres]
11. Lake Fork, Texas [27,690 acres]
12. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri [54,000 acres]
13. Caddo Lake, Texas/Louisiana [25,400 acres]
14. Squaw Creek Reservoir, Texas [3,275 acres]
15. Table Rock Lake, Missouri [43,100 acres]
16. Lake Texoma, Texas/Oklahoma [89,000 acres]
17. Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas [34,300 acres]
18. Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, Oklahoma [46,500 acres]
19. Lake Waco, Texas [8,465 acres]
20. Millwood Lake, Arkansas [29,500 acres]
21. Lake Bistineau, Louisiana [15,500 acres]
22. Lake Ouachita, Arkansas [40,324 acres]
23. Mississippi River Pools 4-10, Minnesota/Wisconsin [from Lake City past La Crosse]
24. Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas/Missouri [45,000 acres]
25. Okoboji Chain of Lakes, Iowa [12,687 acres]

Northeastern Division
1. Lake Erie, New York
2. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
3. Thousand Islands (St. Lawrence River), New York
4. Lake Erie, Ohio [30-mile radius of Sandusky]
5. Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont [490 square miles]
6. Saginaw Bay, Michigan [1,143 square miles]
7. Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan [32 miles long, 10 miles wide]
8. Burt/Mullett lakes, Michigan [17,120 acres and 16,630 acres, respectively]
9. Bays de Noc, Michigan [Escanaba to Little Summer Island]
10. Lake Charlevoix, Michigan [17,200 acres]
11. Cayuga Lake, New York [38 miles long, 3 1/2 miles wide]
12. Oneida Lake, New York [79.8 square miles]
13. China Lake, Maine [3,845 acres]
14. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia [20,600 acres]
15. Webber Pond, Maine [1,233 acres]
16. Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania [5.8 square miles]
17. Candlewood Lake, Connecticut [5,420 acres]
18. Great Pond, Maine [8,533 acres]
19. Lake Barkley, Kentucky [58,000 acres]
20. Kentucky Lake, Kentucky/Tennessee [160,309 acres]
21. Chautauqua Lake, New York [13,156 acres]
22. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky [65,530 acres]
23. Stonewall Jackson Lake, West Virginia [2,630 acres]
24. Upper Chesapeake Bay, Maryland [The entire bay is more than 64,000 square miles, but the best fishing is in the top one-third.]
25. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire [20 miles long, 9 miles wide]

Southeastern Division
1. Shearon Harris, North Carolina
2. Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina (Marion and Moultrie)
3. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
4. Lake Okeechobee, Florida [730 square miles]
5. Pickwick Lake, Alabama/Mississippi/Tennessee [43,100 acres]
6. Lake Murray, South Carolina [50,000 acres]
7. Lake Seminole, Georgia/Florida [37,500 acres]
8. Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee [39,000 acres]
9. Lake Guntersville, Alabama [69,000 acres]
10. Bay Springs Lake, Mississippi [6,700 acres]
11. Lake Tohopekaliga, Florida (plus Kissimmee Chain of Lakes) [22,700 acres]
12. Cherokee Lake, Tennessee [28,780 acres]
13. Lake Istokpoga, Florida [26,762 acres]
14. Cooper River, South Carolina [30-mile stretch below Lake Moultrie Dam]
15. Stick Marsh/Farm 13, Florida [6,500 acres]
16. Fontana Lake, North Carolina [10,230 acres]
17. Clarks Hill Lake, Georgia/South Carolina [71,000 acres]
18. Wilson Lake, Alabama [15,930 acres]
19. Kenansville Reservoir, Florida [2,500 acres]
20. Lake Wateree, South Carolina [13,250 acres]
21. Lake Hartwell, Georgia/South Carolina [56,000 acres]
22. Kerr Lake, North Carolina/Virginia [50,000 acres]
23. Logan Martin Lake, Alabama [15,263 acres]
24. Lake Lanier, Georgia [38,000 acres]
25. Davis Lake, Mississippi [200 acres]

Western Division
1. Clear Lake, California
2. Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California
3. Lake Berryessa, California
4. New Bullards Bar Reservoir, California [4,790 acres]
5. Saguaro Lake, Arizona [1,264 acres]
6. Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho [25,000 acres]
7. Diamond Valley Lake, California [4,500 acres]
8. Lake Havasu, Arizona/California [19,300 acres]
9. New Melones Lake, California [12,500 acres]
10. Apache Lake, Arizona [2,568 acres]
11. Dworshak Reservoir, Idaho [17,090 acres]
12. Columbia River, Oregon/Washington [191 miles from Portland to McNary Dam]
13. Siltcoos Lake, Oregon [3,164 acres]
14. Roosevelt Lake, Arizona [21,493 acres]
15. Potholes Reservoir, Washington [27,800 acres]
16. Sand Hollow Reservoir, Utah [1,322 acres]
17. Tenmile Lake, Oregon [1,626 acres]
18. Moses Lake, Washington [6,800 acres]
19. C.J. Strike Reservoir, Idaho [7,500 acres]
20. Lake Mohave, Nevada/Arizona [26,500 acres]
21. Brownlee Reservoir, Idaho/Oregon [15,000 acres]
22. Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona [108,335 acres]
23. Elephant Butte Reservoir, New Mexico [36,500 acres]
24. Lake Mead, Nevada/Arizona [158,080 acres]
25. Noxon Rapids Reservoir, Montana [7,700 acres]

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (, television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

One Second After and One Year After Books

In the last two weeks I have listened to two audio books. “One Second After” and its sequel “One Year After” by William R. Forstchen take place at a small North Carolina town near Ashville. The first starts with a normal day in small country town with life as normal. But suddenly every electrical device stops working.

Later you find that two of the countries that have been promising to destroy the US got their hands on enough technology to set off three Electro Magnetic Pulse bombs that cover the US and more that cover parts of Europe and Asia. Those bombs send out a strong burst something like a sunspot does and it burns out anything that uses electricity.

These doomsday books follow a retired Army Colonel that was teaching at the small local college as he and his neighbors try to survive. The author is very good with explaining the big things as well as the little details that would probably happen as civilization falls apart.

Other movies and books like these have made me want to become a survivalist, and if I was not so old I might make preparations. Other doomsday scenarios include nuclear war, epidemics, and invasion by aliens that totally disrupt out way of life. They do make you think about what would happen.

Within weeks, about half the population of the area in the book are dead. The first to go are those on life support at hospitals and nursing homes. Then the folks that depend on daily medication that is no longer available at your corner drug store. Since almost no vehicles run, out of shape people walking to find food and water or cutting wood for fires and trying to carry it home die of heart attacks. But the biggest threat to somewhat healthy people are that most deadly animal, other people.

Riots and looting start within the first day. Hording of food may give you something to eat, but it attracts hungry folks that will kill you for it. Then, when things get brought to a semblance of order, people start starving and dying of diseases like salmonella and other bacterial infections from lack of sewage processing plants. And the folks of the small town, who have tried to keep order and ration what little food they have so they can survive, have to fight off city folks by the thousands arrive wanting to “share” their scant provisions.

One thing surprised me. When folks realize their frozen and refrigerated meats, fresh fruits and vegetables are going to spoil they start gorging, eating all of it. The professor does try to salt some of his meat down with a bag of road salt he has stored for the winter.

I was amazed that no one thought of making jerky and pemmican. Those relatively simple processes will preserve meat and fresh berries for months to years.

Many of the folks in this rural area know how to hunt and do have guns. They have some outdoor skills. But, without matches, it is amazing how many can’t even build a simple fire for boiling water and cooking game. And many of the ones that manage to build a fire burn their houses and themselves since they do not have a clue about safety with an open fire.

Game starts disappearing but too many, in my mind, do not consider a lot of sources of food. The squirrels the professor kills go to his two golden retrievers rather than to his family. Of course, pet dogs become a serious problem, in several ways, when dog food runs out.

The professor does kill a couple of possums, but they don’t have a clue how to cook them. And it takes weeks for them to realize songbirds are edible. It seems the only wild plants they know is edible are dandelions.

No consideration is given to other wildlife like bugs and grubs, although the book talks of people going into grill type restaurants and scraping grease traps for something to eat. The author does know a little about surviving like people did 200 years ago, about the level society degenerates to, but misses important points.

Bullets and guns become invaluable. In one place he says five .22 bullets will buy you a rabbit or squirrel, after they finally realize tree rats are edible by humans. And higher caliber rounds are horded for protection.

Few realize the value of good boots and clothes that protect you. Many are barefoot, especially those fleeing the cities, since their shoes wear out within a few days of walking. Bathing is almost non-existent since soap would quickly run out.

In the second book the small town has survived for two years and is somewhat stable since they were able to grow some food during the two summers between books. A few small farmers and the professor realize the importance of keeping some seeds for the next year as well as keeping some breeding stock of pigs, chickens and cows rather than eating them all.

But then a bigger threat arrives, in the form of “help” from the reforming US government. Of course some bureaucrats and politicians survived in well stocked bunkers near Washington, DC and some of our military assets from other places not affected by the EMP blasts, like the middle east and South Korea, make it home. And some of our navy ships survive and return.

The problem is many of those government type officials think they have power over everyone else and want to take from them, but have no clue what it takes to survive without confiscating others supplies. Tin pot “supervisors” that become little dictators when sent to places like Ashville to establish regional government are a scourge, almost destroying what the survivors have worked to establish.

These books are interesting and make you think of what could happen, and how important basic outdoor skills can be, even if they are depressing.

Big Catfish

Give CPR to Big Catfish
Today’s feature comes to us from Greg Wagner of Nebraska Game & Parks, on the importance of releasing large catfish to fight again, whether they’re caught in Nebraska or anywhere across the nation.

By Greg Wagner, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission
From The Fishing Wire

Did you see that? She released that big catfish back in the water! But, why? She should have taken that big fish home, cleaned it and ate it!

Why do some people get perplexed when they see someone release a massive, master angler-sized catfish? After all, catfish, especially larger ones, sure taste good, don’t they?

So why is it every time we see an angler report or post a mention or picture of a large catfish they have put back in the water, a spirited discussion, no scratch that, a huge dispute ensues over what is ethical?

So how do we move beyond flaming the angler who chooses to release a sizeable channel, blue or flathead catfish?

Allow me to inform you on why I am so passionate about and concerned with that whopper being taken home for the fryer.

First, let me say that I have never judged any licensed angler who has kept a large catfish to eat, and I won’t as long as that licensed angler is obeying the laws and regulations set forth by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

But, let’s go deeper into the issue of catching and releasing voluminous catfish family members.

Unlike other game fish, the growth of catfish is very slow. Actually, catfish are among the slowest growing freshwater fish in our part of the country.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department age and growth studies indicate that a 40-pound blue catfish could be 25 years old! A 30 inch blue catfish in Oklahoma and Missouri averages 10 to 12 pounds and is most likely around 14 years old! And, in Nebraska, Daryl Bauer of the Game and Parks Commission’s Fisheries Division adds that a 10 pound channel catfish is most likely dozens of years old!

So, it takes a while for catfish to reach trophy and spawning sizes with some not even surviving adulthood under ideal or normal conditions. Also, with catfish, larger specimens pass on physical traits and survival instincts to thousands of young. Essentially, proper catch and release fishing improves wild catfish populations by allowing more fish to remain and successfully reproduce in an aquatic ecosystem in greater numbers. Keep in mind that mature catfish can lay anywhere from 4,000 to 100,000 eggs in cavities, and breeding males can fertilize as many as nine spawns a season if the eggs are removed from the spawn site each time.

Furthermore, In-FishermanvMagazine’s Doug Stange, says statistical evidence suggests that once catfish attain a larger size they may continue grow exponentially by weight. One key, he says, to catching bigger catfish in any water body, is to limit the harvest of large fish, in favor of releasing them to be caught again and again. The practice of catch and release fishing provides an opportunity for increasing numbers of anglers to enjoy fishing and to successfully catch a memorable catfish.

Your blogger shows you a hefty channel catfish caught and then immediately released in a private sandpit lake in western Douglas County, NE. Photo by Rich Berggren/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
Catch and release fishing works but only if you learn to properly handle and care for big catfish.

Brad Durick, renown channel catfishing guide on the Red River of the North in North Dakota, and longtime Nebraska Game and Parks Fisheries Biologist, Daryl Bauer, both unequivocally agree.

Here are their eight things to remember when putting a lofty catfish back in the water to ensure the best chances for its survival:

Grab that rubber net. Unlike most fish species, catfish aren’t armed with skin-protecting scales. Instead, they have skin and secrete a viscous slimy substance that acts as an antiseptic. So for landing big catfish you need a knotless, rubber or rubber-coated net that won’t abrade their skin or remove their vital slime layer. A rubber-coated net with micro-mesh and a flat bottom panel is a optimum because it gently supports the fish without contorting its body in abnormal angles. Without a net, a large, wild catfish flopping on the boat floor, bank or dock is asking for trouble — broken equipment, sprained ankles and severely injured fish.

Wear rubber gloves. In the case of handling big catfish, a variety of rubber gloves specifically designed to make gripping fish easier without removing their slime, should be worn. They should always be wetted first, before grabbing a fish, in order to be minimally abrasive. Gloves also have the added bonus of protecting anglers from catfish spines, sandpaper-like teeth and even hooks!

No vertical holds! Fully support the weight of that big catfish fish with both hands and hold it horizontally. Keep hands away from gills and gill openings. Grip the narrow body section just below the tail with one hand and then basically cradle the fish’s head and shoulders with the other, avoiding pectoral and dorsal fins completely. If the fish decides to shake, you simply keep a firm grip on the tail and keep its head balanced until it calms down. It’s an safe, easy grip that just works.

Use good quality circle hooks. A huge part of proper catch and release for substantial catfish involves the use of circle hooks and and preferably higher quality, tournament grade circle hooks. Good circle hooks are a must for hooking catfish safely and securely. Employing tournament grade circle hooks, allows nearly all of big catfish to be hooked in the corner of the jaw. This allows for a quicker hook removal, causes less stress on the fish and shortens time that the fish has to be out of the water.

Carry long-handled needle nose pliers. Long-handled needle nose pliers let you to remove hooks with better control and limit your “hands on” contact with big catfish. Fish that are barely hooked or hooked in the lip can usually be freed with your hand, but it’s a good idea to always have a pair of long-handled needle nose pliers for those harder to reach hooks.

Take quick pics. Take a few quick Smartphone or iPhone pics (photos) of the big channel, blue or flathead catfish you landed to preserve the memory of that trophy catch, and then put the fish gently back in the water right away. Practice conservation, practice CPR — Catch, photo and release! Just think, next week, the large catfish you released could be the biggest catfish some other lucky angler ever caught!

Be prepared. Are your rubber gloves or rubber net and pliers within reach? Is your camera ready? Anything you can do to get that big catfish back in the water as soon as possible helps to improve the odds for survival. If you have everything you need handy you won’t have to keep the fish out of the water for very long.

Little, long and cut. Catch and release fishing for weighty cats works if three basic tactics are remembered and followed: Play the fish as little as possible, keep the fish in the water as long as possible and cut the line if the fish has swallowed the hook.

Good fishing!

“Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once” – Lee Wulff, Widely Acclaimed Fly Fisherman.


Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
Livebaits are key to a whole new category of spotted sea trout.

By Joe Balog
from The Fishing Wire

Park Falls, WI – One of the most prolific inshore species available to anglers on any coast, spotted sea trout come in two varieties: eaters and gators. Eater trout – those measuring in the fifteen-inch range – are extremely popular game fish, due to their affinity to gather in big schools and chase down numerous lures. Gator trout, however, are a whole different ballgame.

After moving to Florida a few years ago, I quickly realized that targeting big trout required an entirely different approach than chasing their younger family members. As I continue to fish and learn the ways of the trophies of the species, I’m amazed at how little information is readily available about this aspect of inshore fishing.

A case in point: most resources suggest moderate-sized artificial lures, like imitation shrimp, for sea trout of any size. Yet, on numerous occasions, I’ve had big gators run down and attempt to swallow smaller “keeper” trout while I’ve reeled them in. That, along with an affinity to pursue over-sized specimens of any fish specie, has pushed me in a direction of developing my own theories on inshore trout tactics.

Studies confirm my suspicion: as sea trout grow larger, their diets shift from small crustaceans to almost exclusively fish – the bigger the better. Mullet are a favorite, as are pinfish and croakers, so fishing tactics should follow this transition.

Livebaits have become preferred for targeting big fish, but not without challenges. First off, it’s important have good bait; this often includes many different species of baitfish, and collecting such requires a sizable time investment. Pinfish are readily available just about anywhere in most inshore waters – small ditches and channels are favorite hangouts – and can be caught using cane-pole tactics with small pieces of shrimp. Mullet require the use of a cast net in most circumstances; I’ve found a Fitec Super-Spreader net to be dramatically easier to throw than any other brand. Target mullet on the edges of sand flats, dropping into deeper water.

Once some big bait’s in the livewell, it’s time to find gator water. While it’s common to find schools of smaller trout in deeper channel areas adjacent to shallow flats, trophy trout seem to spend more time around subtle depressions and breaks than textbook areas. Perhaps these big fish are more solitary hunters than their smaller counterparts, which have a tendency to feed with the changing tides. In any case, if you’re catching large numbers of eaters, a change of areas is usually required to find gators.

Most of my fishing is done in super-skinny water along Florida’s east coast – heavily pressured areas with tough fish. Fishing these small, shallow areas requires a great deal of stealth and patience. Here, I’ve found my own freshwater tendencies to need adjustment. Whereas most run-and-gun bass fishing tactics serve a universal purpose in freshwater, inshore species often require a slower approach. For big trout, I move into an area as quietly as possible, put the Talon down, and wait.

As things settle down, it’s important to assess the area and pick out key spots where trout may be on the hunt. Flooded oyster bars or current-swept mangroves are always worth a shot, but don’t overlook inconspicuous areas. If an area or flat is relatively shallow throughout, with one washout or depression that’s just a foot deeper than everything else, that spot can be key, especially at low tide.

Before the first cast is made, it’s important to select proper tackle. Again, comparing to my freshwater roots, line and hook size should be greater than what’s considered routine. With a mainline of 20-pound braid, I attach a long leader of 25-pound test fluorocarbon – it’s my only hope against razor-sharp oyster bars – and tie on a 5/0 to 7/0 VMC circle hook that’s super strong. There’s no need for additional weight, but occasionally a small float helps keep track of a hard-swimming mullet.

Once silently anchored down on a potential hotspot, it’s important to lob the baits delicately toward the target. However, once a fish is hooked, any delicacy is immediately tossed aside, as big inshore fish don’t play nice. Here, the proper rod becomes key to the equation.

St Croix’s Mojo Inshore rods perfectly fit the bill for gator trout hunting. The rods themselves are workhorses, covered in a double layer of finishing cure and backed by a five-year warranty. But durability doesn’t come at the sacrifice of quality. Mojo Inshore models are built from SCII graphite, ensuring sensitivity and lightness in hand, and contain major hardcore components, including nearly indestructible, corrosion-proof guides and Fuji reel seats.

Longer models aid in casting, hooksets and moving big fish away from cover; the 7’6″ medium-heavy Mojo Inshore is perfect. Remember, when using circle hooks, it’s best to simply sweep the rod sideways on the hookset while reeling quickly. Then, the real fun begins.

Once your trophy trout is boat-side, be sure to handle it carefully. Warm summertime water temperatures leave these fish compromised after a fight, and many released trout actually die. For that reason, keep them in the water as long as possible, and rely on a conservation-style Frabill net to reduce removing a trout’s slime coat. Remember, there are two categories of trout; release the gators, and keep the eaters. Giant spotted trout are very rare and always females; to release them in a healthy state ensures a future of pursuits for us all.


About St. Croix Rod
St. Croix Rod is a family-owned and managed manufacturer of high-performance fishing rods headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin with a 68-year heritage of USA manufacturing. Utilizing proprietary technologies, St. Croix controls every step of the rod-making process, from conception and design to manufacturing and inspection, in two company-owned facilities. The company offers a complete line of premium, American-made fly, spinning and casting rods under their Legend Elite®, Legend® Xtreme, Legend Tournament®, Avid Series®, Premier®, Wild River®, Tidemaster®, Imperial® and other trademarks through a global distribution network of full-service fishing tackle dealers. The company’s mid-priced Triumph®, Mojo Bass/Musky/Inshore/Surf, Eyecon® and Rio Santo series rods are designed and engineered in Park Falls, Wisconsin and built in a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Fresnillo, Mexico. Founded in 1948 to manufacture jointed bamboo fishing poles for a Minneapolis hardware store chain, St. Croix has grown to become the largest manufacturer of fishing rods in North America.

Growing Up Wild In Georgia

I loved growing up wild in Georgia. Most of my happy memories are of things I did outdoors. Thank goodness video games and TV either did not exist or were so unimportant that they took very little of my time.

Many of those memories also involve wild critters. I was in a church group, the RAs, that went on camping trips every summer. One very memorable one was to a mill pond about 20 miles from Dearing. There were about ten of us kids from about ten to 14 years old, and several adult supervisors.

We put up our pup tents the afternoon we go there and went exploring. I wandered off by myself, not unusual for me, and walked along the creek below the mill pond dam, trying to catch anything that would bite my earthworm on small hook under a cork. I was in the edge of the water, for some reason I always had to wade, and looked down near my feet then jumped back to shore. There was something on the bottom I had never seen and it scared me.

That ugly mottled brown lizard shaped critter was about a foot long, with a big, wide head, long vertical flat tail and four legs. It also had what looked like red downy feathers around its neck. The thing was lying or standing in shallow clear water and not moving.

I picked up a stick and hit it and killed it. At that age it was not unusual to kill anything new, often to get a better look at it. When I gingerly picked it up its body was smooth and slimy. Taking it back to camp everyone gathered around and even the adults said they had never seen anything like it although most of them had spent most of their lives outdoors.

When I got home I went to my trusty Encyclopedia Britannica and finally found it. It was a type of salamander called a “Hellbender” and its range included some of Georgia, although more common further north. It was rare and I was sad I had killed it.

It was interesting to me when I started bass fishing a lot with artificial baits in the early 1970’s one of the most popular plugs was a “hellbender.” Another was the “waterdog,” which is another name for the hellbender salamander. Those were two of the early crankbaits and I have often wondered if they were named after the salamander. They are still available and are great for trolling.

Saturday night on the mill pond camping trip most of us were fishing near our camp right on the edge of the water. A “water moccasin” swam up to investigate and someone killed it. I’m sure it was some kind of harmless water snake but back then every snake that was near water was a dangerous, poisonous, deadly, kill-you-if-it-could, water moccasin, so it was kill or be killed.

I had my trusty pocket knife in my pocket, as did every other boy there. We would just as soon leave home without our pants as without our knives. Since I was always curious I decided to “dissect” the snake. When I cut it from head to tail, I found two surprising things.

First was a fish head. That told us why the snake was so close to us. Earlier we had cleaned some bream and thrown the heads and guts into the water, and the snake was after an easy meal. Even more surprising were the 17 yellow, marble size eggs in it. We were happy we had actually killed 18 snakes rather than just one.

After cutting the snake open I made another discovery. I threw the body on the fire, and found out how terrible a burning snake smells! The men in camp almost ran me out of camp for doing that.

A few years later I made another fire discovery. By then we had plastic milk jugs and when an empty one is put on a fire with the cap on it, it will often take off like a rocket. The air inside heats up and as soon as a tiny hole melts in the plastic it acts like a jet engine nozzle.

I discovered a painful critter when camping with my family at Clarks Hill Lake when I was about 15 years old. Daddy smoked back then. One day an hour after eating lunch I went into our big tent to change into my bathing suit. I put my hand down on the floor going in to the door and thought daddy had left a burning cigarette there.

I probably screamed and daddy came running. We got a flashlight and looked closely, and found I had put my hand down on a small brown scorpion. Although only 20 miles from our farm, where I had spent hundreds of hours exploring everything outside, I had never seen one.

For some reason they were rare in that area. But not here in Griffin. I find them every time I turn over a piece of wood in my yard, and have had them drop from the ceiling into my bed at night. I solved that problem by sealing the crack around the overhead light fixture. I now have to clean a few out of the globe on it every few months, but at least when they come from the attic along the wires they are trapped up there before they can join me in bed!

I did learn some useful things when out in the woods back then. I learned how to build a fire, patch up cuts, cook several kinds of food on an open fire to make them at least barely edible, and the importance of clearing rocks and sticks from the area you planned on putting your sleeping bag.

If you have a kid take them outside and let them learn about the real world!

Horse and Mule Trout Surveying

Fisheries Work by Horse and Mule Trout Surveying
Today’s feature on back-country trout surveying comes to us from Nebraska Game and Parks.
from The Fishing Wire

Sometimes, if you want to get where the fish are, you have to go where other people are not.

Casey Cary leads the packhorse with survey equipment along the south fork of Soldier Creek. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)
Such was the case for fisheries biologists in the Pine Ridge last week, as they recruited the help of a Game and Parks Commissioner, a Wyoming outfitter, and six four-legged friends to study one of Nebraska’s most remote public fishing areas.

With the help of horses and mules owned by Commissioner Rick Brandt of Roca and outfitter Casey Cary of Powell, Wyoming, fisheries staff members Al Hanson and Joe Rydell of Alliance administered a rare sampling of the south fork of Soldier Creek. The cold-water brook is one of three branches of the stream coursing through the Soldier Creek Wilderness Area before it merges to one and flows eastward to Fort Robinson State Park.

Similar to biologists throughout the state this spring, Hanson and Rydell have been persistently surveying fish populations, usually using trucks and motorboats to set and retrieve nets. The samplings help them make determinations about fisheries, such as populations, size and health of the various species swimming throughout the Panhandle. The Commission uses the information to make management decisions and advise anglers of the best fishing spots.

The biologists use a little different approach for cold-water streams, employing electroshocking equipment to stun fish, slowing them down just enough to be netted for study and then released. Many trout streams in Nebraska may be remote, but most of them are accessible by vehicle at least to some extent.

Brandt and Cary secure the load. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)
Because of wilderness area regulations, surveying the headwaters of Soldier Creek’s south fork is a little more challenging. Wilderness areas, each of which are managed by one of four federal land management agencies (in this case, the U.S. Forest Service), have special rules to limit negative impacts from humans and ensure their preservation. The rules allow for no mechanized vehicles, including bicycles, game carts or even trucks driven by fisheries biologists. Horses, however, are permitted, and, for this fisheries project, hooves would have to be involved.

The survey party of four, along with this writer-photographer, rode on the backs of Brandt and Cary’s horses and mules for the seven-mile round trip while a packhorse carried the survey equipment. Included in the panniers and strapped to the saddle were long-handled nets and the electroshocking backpack unit with its wands. The unit, which looks similar to a metal detector, sends a non-lethal charge through nearby surrounding water.

Because of his past ventures by mule, Brandt was in familiar territory as the crew made its way up the creek. The avid horseman who owns a Lincoln excavation company was selected to the Commission’s board last year with a reputation for supporting big game conservation efforts, most notably Nebraska’s bighorn sheep program. He is one of the founding members of the Nebraska Big Game Society, which has provided financial support for many of the Commission’s conservation efforts for wild sheep, elk and mule deer.

Commissioner Rick Brandt of Roca is an avid horseman who loves riding his mules in the Pine Ridge. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)
At least twice a year Brandt rides the northwestern Nebraska backcountry to catch sight of big rams and other Nebraska wildlife. During those trips, he often also takes a gander in the creeks to see what is swimming in their clear waters. This far up the creek, things are usually pretty quiet.

“I never see footprints up this far,” Brandt said, as he was pointing out some of the best spots for trout. “And I’ve seen some big fish up this way.”

Although a glitch in the backpack unit deterred Hanson and Rydell from surveying as much of the creek as they had planned, they were able to learn plenty.

“We found out what we wanted to know,” Hanson said. “We have some really quality brook trout up here. We also have some big browns and big creek chubs.”

In addition to nice fish, they saw some nice scenery in a landscape painted green with spring rains. With occasional sandstone cliffs, ponderosa pine trees and a variety of hardwoods towering above, the south fork meanders over a bed of stones with areas of shallow rapids between deeper slower-moving pools. It’s an advantageous situation if you’re a trout.

Al Hanson watches for stunned fish as Joe Rydell runs the electroshocking equipment. (NEBRASKAland/Justin Haag)
“This is some of our best rubble in the Pine Ridge,” Hanson said, as he watched fish dart through the clear water flowing over well-worn rocks at the creek’s headwaters.

Hanson, a longtime employee of the Commission and now fisheries supervisor for the northwest district, has familiarity with the upper third of the south fork, even if he does not get there as often as he would like to. He remembers using a horse and coolers to pack in fingerling brook trout to the upper end of the south fork in the 1980s and again in 1993. The latter stocking followed the flood of 1991, in which thunderstorm deluged the area with 12 inches of rain and was suspected to be detrimental for the brook trout population.

From last week’s observations, it appears the trout are naturally reproducing in the creek and doing well.

The upper end of the south fork of Soldier Creek may not be the easiest place to access, but few who have been there regret the journey – especially those who get there with the help of some hooves.

Georgia Fishing and Hunting License Fees Increase

Jim Berry called me last week to remind me that hunting and fishing license fees are increasing on July 1. The legislature passed these increases after having public hearings around the state and getting input from citizens and groups involved with hunting and fishing. There was little opposition to the increase from these sources.

The fees are small for what you get. You can hunt a full year for $15 now as opposed to $10 in the past, an annual increase of only five dollars. For fishing the increase is from $9 to $15, a six-dollar increase.

Other fees increased, also. One, the Hunter Information Permit, required of all hunting migratory birds like ducks and doves, was free in the past. You also had to buy a Waterfowl license if you hunted ducks or geese. That has been changed to a Migratory Bird License with a fee of five dollars, required of waterfowl and dove hunters.

The old Waterfowl license was $5.50 so, for duck hunters, that is a decrease, but it is a new fee for dove hunters. Landowners can get the license free for hunting on their land.

One of the biggest changes was the elimination of the free Senior Hunting and Fishing License. In the past, any Georgia resident 65 years old or older could get the license for free. It will now cost $7 for anyone who does not already have one on July 1. Lifetime license fees are increasing by quite a bit, too.

In addition to these fees you have to pay a service fee for getting the license, whether you do it yourself online or go to a store like Berry’s. By the way, don’t blame the folks at Berry’s or any other license supplier for the increase in fees – they have no control over it.

The increased fees collected are supposed to go to improving hunting and fishing opportunities and management in our state. If it really does go to those needs, it will be great. If the legislature dumps the money into the general fund and spends part of it on other things, they should be held accountable at election time.

One thing I long had a problem with in our system is the fee for hunters and fishermen using Wildlife Management Areas. The fee is not what bothered me. The fact hikers, bird watchers, horse and bike riders and others could use what hunters and fishermen paid for and they were not charged a fee. Everyone using the resource should be charged.

That changed five years ago. Now, anyone using a WMA for anything other than hunting or fishing is required to pay for a Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass. Hunters and fishermen with a Wildlife Management License can use the areas any time.

Even more irritating, every year some of those non-paying users often complained when hunting season starts. They claimed they could not use those areas during hunting season. As my younger friends say, DUH. Hunters and fishermen paid for those areas from the beginning, not just over the past five years, so shut your mouth.

Hunting is allowed on most areas only during a small part of the year. The great majority of days are open to anyone. But if you want to use the areas during hunting season, take up hunting!

The lakes were wild last weekend. Memorial Day is the traditional start of boating season nationwide. The waters will be very crowded over the next few months. If you don’t remember anything else about driving a boat, remember that you stay to the right of oncoming traffic, just like in a car!

Pontoon Boats Not Suited for Offshore Angling

Why Are Pontoon Boats Not Suited for Offshore Angling?
By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

I love pontoon boats. In fact, I’d have to say of all the boats I’ve owned (20-something at last count), the 22-foot pontoon was my favorite–just a truly comfortable multi-purpose rig that worked fine as a one-man (plus dog) fishboat on many foggy dawns, but could then be loaded up with a dozen family members on the weekends and function as a towboat, picnic barge and general muck-about.

And there are now larger pontoons, up to 12 feet wide and 30 feet long, that can handle some serious water. And there are lots of pontoons that, buckled up to a 300-hp outboard, can take you down the lake at 50 mph. There are even a few that accept twin V6 outboards for even higher speeds.

That said, one of the places that pontoons do not belong is 6 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, which is where the Coast Guard found a 24-footer half sunk with six anglers aboard this past week, west of Sarasota, Florida. Everyone got home safe thanks to the rescue team, but the outing could easily have had a much more unhappy ending.

Because of their design–two or three aluminum pontoons supporting a completely flat deck extending from bow to stern–pontoons can get in serious trouble in rough water. The air-filled pontoons give the boats buoyancy, and they can ride up and over waves up to maybe 3 feet tall, depending on their frequency–lots of sharp, steep 3-footers are not survivable in most pontoons, while long rollers can be ridden out.

But even the biggest pontoons have very little “freeboard” compared to the typical vee-hull boat or offshore catamaran. Many vee-hulls designed for regular offshore use have a forward depth over 40 inches, while the largest pontoons are usually under 24 inches from the deck to the waterline.

What’s more, pontoons do not have bilge pumps–if they get a hole in the compartments of the aluminum sponsons, that compartment can fill with water. The several sealed compartments in each pontoon will keep the boat afloat, but particularly if the hole is in a bow compartment–which is most likely because that’s the section of the boat that takes the brunt of the wave action as well as experiencing lots of wear and tear from grinding up on a gravel beach or bumping a dock–the boat may start to go “head down”, making her even less sea-worthy in rough water.

Pontoons seem impossibly stable in most conditions because of their widely-spread sponson design–they hardly lean to port and starboard at all, as do conventional vee-hulls. This tends to give users a sense of security that’s not really there when the boat gets in truly rough seas.

And when green water starts coming over the front deck, things can go south immediately; the boat becomes impossible to steer, drops off plane, and is likely to tilt to one side or the other as the water tries to get out.

I speak not from offshore experience in pontoons–I never took mine outside the inlet–but from wake-eating experience; on a couple of occasions I was careless enough to run head on into a steep, rolling wake of a big ICW-cruising yacht. In one case, the wave actually broke the windshield off the console and sent it into my lap. You’d think that would have been an adequate warning, but a couple years later I again stuck the nose and soaked everybody up front, though with no boat damage.

This same sort of steep roller is common in inlets everywhere, particularly where wind and tide oppose. And an inlet that’s a pussy cat on the way out, with wind and tide both heading seaward, can be a snarling monster on the way back when the tide is coming in and the wind is blowing hard against it, or vice versa. It’s no place for even experienced skippers in small boats–a weekend captain in a pontoon can get in deep trouble quickly.

In short, pontoons are lovely family boats on the lakes and rivers and most of the bays of America, but they clearly don’t belong offshore, even in temptingly calm weather.

NRA Lies

There is a lie being repeated by those either pushing an agenda or too lazy or uncaring to check the truth. One of the NRA lies is that the NRA did not allow firearms at their recent convention in Atlanta.

Anyone with the ability to search the internet can go to the NRA site and find the following policy statement:

“Firearms Policy for the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings: During the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits, lawfully carried firearms will be permitted in the Georgia World Congress Center and the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center in accordance with Georgia law. However, firearms are not allowed in the remainder of the CNN Center, including the food court and shops. When carrying your firearm, remember to follow all federal, state and local laws.”

A similar lie claims the NRA required all guns in the huge gun show at the convention be rendered inoperative by removing the firing pin. Even Snopes, a very liberal fact check site, says this is not true. It is just another lie perpetrated by the gun ban fanatics and their allies in the liberal press.

In reality, there were 15 acres of exhibits at the World Congress Center during the NRA convention, with thousands of guns in those exhibits. They were in working condition.

So, the only thing about firearms at the NRA convention from the NRA was to follow the law. Unlike criminals, NRA members and legal gun owners follow the law. Criminals do not. That is why gun control law are useless. They have no effect on those that will use firearms in ways that hurt other people.

A similar lie that regularly makes the rounds is that the NRA does not allow firearms in their headquarters building. Gun control fanatics that push an agenda repeat that lie trying to show how dangerous firearms are to us normal folks. But the NRA headquarters has exactly the same policy as the convention. Follow the law. If you can legally carry a gun in Virginia, you are welcome to carry it into NRA Headquarters.

If you have the facts on your side, you do not have to lie.

Plastics Transition for Walleyes

The Live-Bait to Plastics Transition for Walleyes
By Tony Roach
from The Fishing Wire

Perhaps the single quickest abandoned pattern in a walleye angler’s arsenal is the shallow jig bite, and I plead “guilty” to the above charge. Anglers that have six boxes with nothing but jigs in them for opener, forget what part of the garage they’re now in collecting dust. Early in the season, shiners are purchased not by the dozen or the scoop, but by the gallon, as the simple act of just threading one on the correct-sized jig will instill confidence throughout the north-country and beyond. One week later, anglers flee the shallow shorelines, developing weedlines, and near-shore rockpiles for the hope of greener pastures out deep, and more familiar, longer-lasting summer patterns. Rigging, slip-bobbering, pulling crankbaits, anything but jigs seem to get the nod as temperatures rise and fishing heats up. Yet, there’s plenty reason to keep those jigs around, and even tip them with minnows in the weeks after opener. What’s more, is that there are a number of developing shallow bites right now that keep jigs in play, just maybe with some different meat threaded onto the business end.

I asked famed guide Tony Roach what was getting him bit, and his response was simple. “Everyone sees me up shallow in 4 -8 feet of water. They think I’m bass fishing, but I’m whaling on walleyes right now with a simple jig and plastic combination.” Truly, there are strong segments of the walleye population in most lakes that never leave the shallows for the entirety of the year. That’s news for technical fishermen that use electronics to pick apart deep water structure and dissect off-shore features during this time of year. As the lake system ramps up biologically, fish need food, cover, and oxygen, with the greatest limiter being food. Developing weeds, especially cabbage, are magnets when interspersed with rock or other hard bottom. These locations always hold some bait, and typically always hold some walleyes throughout the season.

My experience has seen some good shallow bites going right now too, with the best being a river run in 5 – 7 foot of water. Current is the great equalizer, as high skies, bright sun, and no wind still translates into a great day when fishing current seams, eddies, and riffles in rivers. The same conditions that absolutely kill other patterns, especially in clear water natural lakes, don’t seem to hassle the river fish that are taking advantage of current that sweeps unsuspecting invertebrates, bait, and terrestrials downstream and into their gullets. Long-lining and leadcore staples that typically produce good numbers of fish during this time of year were poor in comparison. The bite ebbs and flows, with low-light periods still shining brightest, but moving water is a great savior to an otherwise weary day of walleye fishing.

In both scenarios, the classic pitch and run technique utilizing jigs and shiners were tweaked if only slightly. “As the water warms up, there’s a transition to where plastics become just-as, if not more effective than shiners or other minnows,” mentions Tony. “It’s something I see every year. As people move to the mud or mid-lake structure to rig, I simply switch to jigs with a Northland Impulse Smelt or Paddle Minnow to get these fish to chase a bit more,” explains Roach about his shallow techniques. Honed on the big waters of Mille Lacs, Leech, and Winnie, Roach is a big fan of this pattern, “Plastics allow me to fish more quickly, cast further without losing bait, and keep on a hot bite without pausing to re-bait.” Those valuable bite windows can be small and precious, especially in unfavorable conditions, so staying with the heavy part of the bite and not missing out on fish becomes crucial to making a decent day into a great one. Visual cues put off by paddle-tails, ringworms, and even minnow shaped flukes go well beyond your average minnow, especially in the colors and hues available. Nowadays, our choices for colors to pique a fish’s curiosity are nearly limitless, and often we can mimic forage that doesn’t even resemble our offering just by switching colors. For example, an orange jig and grub combination looks nothing like a rusty crayfish, but don’t tell that to Lake of the Woods walleyes that were coughing up blaze-orange crustacean parts all over the live well last summer. Those fish happily engaged that offering crawled near bottom on many of the rock reefs and points that we fished.

Plastics design has come a long way since varieties from days gone by. Color and flash give way to vibration, flicker, and quiver all throughout the very lifelike baits on the market today. The end-result is an attraction based not just on visual cues, but key components in the way a bait pulsates that trigger fish’s predatory instincts. As walleye’s lateral lines pick up these distinct tremors in the water column, I’m convinced that the heavy thumpers truly call in fish from a distance to warrant a close investigation at the very least.

Fishing a jig is a rewarding way to get bit, and offers a few more weeks of great near-shore fishing for walleyes. Just remember that as a lake’s “metabolism” gears up for the best fishing of the year, the bite becomes both more effective AND efficient when pairing those jigs with plastics.