Monthly Archives: June 2018

Top River Trips

Top River Trips on America’s Public Waters
From the U.S. Department of the Interior
from The Fishing Wire

Looking to hit the water? We’ve got you covered.

With approximately 3.6 million miles of streams — including 12,734 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers — the United States has some incredible stretches of water. They’re the perfect place for a quiet float trip, a heart-pumping whitewater adventure or the chance to catch a big one.

Whether it’s a day trip or overnight, below are some of the best river trips on America’s public waters to help you get started in your search for the perfect river adventure. Flow levels, weather and other factors can change the level of skill required to ply the waters or any other river segment. Check local conditions before venturing out. And for those who are unsure of their skills or who want to relax and let others do the planning, professional outfitters offer guided trips on many rivers.

So fasten your life jackets, grab your paddle and #FindYourWay on one of these awesome river trips!

Deschutes Wild and Scenic River

Deschutes Wild and Scenic River in Oregon
Type of river trip: Whitewater
Trip length: Day trip

Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

Located in central Oregon, the Deschutes Wild and Scenic River is a playground for outdoor recreation and a great place for your next whitewater trip. Thousands of people visit each year to enjoy its exciting whitewater, beautiful scenery and incredible fishing. The river offers a variety of opportunities for both day and overnight trips. A trip on the river will take you through a rimrock-lined canyon that ranges from 900-2,600 feet in depth. Within this canyon, you will experience an incredible geologic and cultural history, and a diverse community of fish, wildlife and vegetation. Be sure to add it to your bucket list today!

Beartrap Canyon Madison River

Beartrap Canyon Madison River in Montana
Type of river trip: Fishing-boating combo
Trip length: Day trip

Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.
One of four sections that make up Montana’s Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Bear Trap Canyon Wilderness is an ideal spot for a fishing and boating trip. The 6,347-acre area offers beautiful wilderness scenery — plus exciting whitewater rafting featuring the famous Class IV – V “Kitchen Sink” rapid. The Madison River is one of Montana’s most coveted fly-fishing destinations, as it’s one of the most productive streams in Montana for brown trout, rainbow trout and mountain whitefish. As you travel the river and cast your line, be sure to look up. The 1,500-foot cliffs that border the canyon provide a breathtaking backdrop.

Lab?y?r?i?nth Canyon on the lower Green River in Utah
Type of river trip: Flatwater
Trip length: Overnight

Labyrinth Canyon

Photo by Bureau of Land Management.
For a great flatwater trip, head to Labyrinth Canyon on the lower Green River. An easy stretch suitable for canoes kayaks and rafts of all types, Labyrinth Canyon can be enjoyed spring through fall with the most popular times between Easter and Labor Day. Here, you’ll float through Utah’s red-rock canyons, tracing the path of Major John Wesley Powell through 44 miles of this calm and scenic portion of the Green River. The Lab?y?r?i?nth Canyon section is perfect for a two-night trip, and if you want to float the longer stretch from Green River to Mineral Bottom, you can spend four days or more on the river. Word of warning: The area is remote and services and cell phone service are non-existent. You must be self-contained and self-reliant to deal with emergencies and plan to carry all your drinking water. And be sure to get a permit.

Gulkana Wild and Scenic River in Alaska
Type of river trip: Whitewater
Trip length: 3-day weekend

Photo by Jeremy Matlock, Bureau of Land Management.
Closely flanked by low, rolling hills with the Wrangell Mountains and Alaska Range in the background, the Gulkana Wild and Scenic River is perfect for those who are ready for an adventure. One of 208 river segments of the Wild and Scenic River system, the Gulkana offers excellent three to four day float trips through meandering waters with numerous riffles, and a short stretch of Class III rapids with convenient put-in and take out points at each end accessed from Alaska’s Richardson Highway. It is also one of the most popular sport fishing rivers in the state, providing rich habitat for rainbow trout, king and red salmon, and more. Along the way on your trip, you’ll see stunning views and a wide range of wildlife. There are more than 33 species of mammals and 59 species of birds known to live in the Gulkana River basin. Although by Alaska standards, this river offers convenient access, it flows through roadless areas and visitors must be self-reliant.

Gunnison Gorge on the Gunnison River in Colorado
Type of river trip: Fishing-boating combo
Trip length: Overnight

Gunnison Gorge

Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.
Just north of Montrose in west-central Colorado lies the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, a diverse landscape ranging from adobe badlands to rugged pinyon and juniper-covered slopes. At the heart of it is the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area with a spectacular black granite and red sandstone double canyon formed by the crystal-clear waters of the Gunnison River. Anglers come for the gold-medal trout waters, while skilled rafters, kayakers and whitewater canoeists come for a true wilderness whitewater float through the 3,000 foot deep canyon. Every float begins with a mile-long hike into the gorge. Outfitters offer guide and packing services.

Delaware Wild and Scenic River in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Type of river trip: Flatwater with riffles
Trip length: Day trip

Delaware Wild and Scenic River

Photo by Julia Bell, National Park Service.
Flowing along the Pennsylvania and New Jersey border, the Delaware Wild and Scenic River is a spectacular spot for a day-long kayaking or canoeing trip with options to extend to an overnight trip. Divided in three sections (the Upper, Middle and Lower Delaware), the river takes you along a tour of the region’s diverse habitats and history. Sheer cliffs rise 400 feet above the river with a desert-like ecosystem on the southern-facing side and flora and fauna usually found only in arctic-alpine climates on north-facing cliffs. From an historic viewpoint, the river is one of the most significant corridors in the nation. The corridor contains buildings used during Washington’s famous crossing, historic navigation canals, Native American and colonial era archaeological sites and mills.

North Fork of the American River in California
Type of river trip: Whitewater
Trip length: Overnight trip

North Fork

Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management
Arguably the most challenging and spectacular fork of the American is the North Fork, with its emerald green waters and huge granite boulders. Best known for its thrilling class IV and V whitewater, it was designated as one of the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers. This awe-inspiring river canyon offers a remote exhilarating experience for those up to the challenge. Hikers and fishing enthusiasts can choose from a number of trails to access the river canyon, most of them dropping steeply from the canyon rim down to the water. Bring your gold pan and you are likely to find some color. Walls tower 2,000-4,000 feet above the river, creating a majestic backdrop for cascading waterfalls, brightly colored wildflowers and the bright, clear water of the river itself. Looking for a more sublime experience? Head downstream where the American softens to a lazy stretch through an urban greenway — you won’t believe you are within the city limits of Sacramento as anglers cast for trout and salmon along cottonwood lined banks — or head up to the South Fork with its easy-access moderate rapids. This California gem truly offers something for everyone looking for an overnight trip.

North Platte River in Wyoming
Type of river trip: Fishing-boating combo
Trip length: Day trip

North Platte Rive

Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.
Mention Wyoming’s North Platte River to someone who’s fished there, and you’re guaranteed to get an earful of tales of the big browns, rainbows and cutthroats that they have fought on this legendary Wyoming stream. Even though they might not share their secret spots, this river offers plenty of public access points to the best fishing segments. The aptly named Miracle Mile and Grey Reef are just two popular segments — drift boats and shore anglers can both enjoy its waters. The numerous boat launches allow for a variety of trip lengths ranging from an hour or two to the entire day. The popular Bessemer Bend Recreation Site offers fishing, picnicking and interpretive displays discussing the significance of the site as a major crossing for the California, Oregon and Mormon Pioneer National Historic trails. Several public campgrounds are located along the corridor. The North Platte is a true gem of central Wyoming, and a top destination in the state for a fishing and boating trip.

Chattooga Wild and Scenic River in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia
Type of river trip: Whitewater
Trip length: Day trip

Chattooga Wild and Scenic River

Photo courtesy of Tim Palmer.
Flowing through three states and the Ellicott Rock Wilderness, the Chattooga is recognized as one of the Southeast’s premier whitewater rivers. It begins in mountainous North Carolina as small rivulets, nourished by springs and abundant rainfall. High on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains is the start of a 50-mile journey that ends at Lake Tugaloo between South Carolina and Georgia, dropping almost 1/2-mile in elevation. The Chattooga offers outstanding scenery, ranging from thundering falls and twisting rock-choked channels to narrow, cliff-enclosed deep pools. The setting is primitive — dense forests and undeveloped shorelines characterize the primitive nature of the area — so travelers have to rely on their own skills and strength.

Check out more awesome river trips on America’s Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Mom’s Cooking

I miss my mother’s cooking. Mom was a great cook. She baked cakes and pies for sale during my pre-teen years, and I always got to help. She taught me to measure dry and wet ingredients and how to mix both by hand and with an electric mixer. One of my favorite things about making cakes was that I always got to lick the bowls and beaters. Mom was nice enough to turn off the mixer before I licked the beaters most of the time.

I think that early training is why I love to cook now. I even enjoy going grocery shopping, something else I did with her on our weekly shopping trips to Augusta. We delivered eggs to Winn Dixie and A&P stores and did our shopping at them. We didn’t have to buy a lot since our farm supplied so many of our needs.

We had 11,000 laying hens so eggs were very plentiful, and milk came directly from our cows. A huge garden in the summer provided all kinds of vegetables including corn, tomatoes, okra, peppers, potatoes, string and butter beans, peas, rutabagas, turnips, onions, collard greens and asparagus. Fruit trees and vines gave us figs, pears, apples and scuppernongs.

Big pecan trees in the yard gave us all the nuts we wanted and lots to sell, too. And for a special treat we would labor to pick the meat from walnuts from a tree on the edge of the field.

Mom and dad spent hours picking vegetables and fruit and mom cooked and canned all summer. We had a huge pantry filled with jars of everything the garden and fruit trees provided. More went into the freezer.

Every summer dad could tell the exact day we should pull the corn and we would get up early that morning and fill the bed of the pickup with ears of golden corn. Back at the house we would shuck and silk it and mom would put up bag after bag of cut corn. I usually got to cut it with a tool I slid the ear down and a blade cut it off in to piles in a big bowl.

We found that we could blanch whole ears of shucked and silted corn, wrap each ear in tin foil and freeze it. It was almost as good during the winter as it had been fresh. Dad would fire up his fish cooker, fill the pot with water and blanch dozens of ears at one time.

Mom could turn fresh and frozen food into fantastic meals. Nothing was real fancy. Almost all vegetables were cooked with fatback and meat was baked or fried. We always had a bunch of frozen hens from our layers that had layed out, and we raised pigs for pork. We even raised a few calves for meat.

During hunting season there was always dove, quail, squirrels and rabbits to supplement our meat. And we always had fish in the freezer. There were no deer back then in our area but most of the red meat I eat now is venison.

Although I love to cook and don’t really think of it as work, I found out how much work it can be last week. I decided to cook a turkey on my Primo grill and make dressing, giblet gravy and green bean casserole to go with it.

Holidays meant piles of food for a week. Not only did we have baked hen and dressing, there was always ham, sausage, meat balls and all kinds of vegetables. And when we went to family’s houses we carried lots of food and everyone there brought their favorites. I especially loved Aunt Zelma’s deviled eggs.

My turkey turned out just right and my dressing, although edible, was nothing like mom’s. I never seem to get enough giblet gravy, so I made a huge pot, buying extra gizzards and hearts to go in it since that makes the gravy to me.

The gravy turned out good although it was my first try. But, although I had boiled five eggs the night before and got out the egg slicer, I forgot to put them in. The gravy was even better the next night when I heated it back up, added some more broth and the eggs.

Although I cooked only four dishes it was a lot of work, and I really appreciate the work mom did to make a dozen different things, all turning out perfect and right on time.

I still want certain things together since that was the way it was growing up. With baked ham I want string beans and potato salad. A Boston Butt demands turnip greens, rutabaga, peas, cut corn, tomatoes and corn bread. BBQ chicken is like ham, with those side dishes. Chicken fried cube venison is eaten with mashed potatoes and English peas. And pepper, onion and tomato venison steaks go with fried cabbage, rice and corn bread.

Mom could fry great chicken, as does my mother-in-law Marv, but I gave up after a few attempts years ago. Mine never turns out right. Since we had fried chicken every Sunday I miss it but get my fill at bass club meetings at Bryans Buffet. Its not mom’s but its not bad.

With everything but baking mom just cooked without measuring ingredients. I can’t do that. I need a recipe to follow for most things but do usually wing it a little, adding something or leaving out something depending on past experiences.

Linda is a great cook but since I enjoy it and she does not I do most of the cooking at my house. We hardly every go out to eat since I like my own cooking too much. But fried scallops are my favorite seafood and both Sixth Street Pier and Fishtales have good ones, so that is where we go for a treat.

Tomorrow is a feast day for many of us. I hope you have your favorite foods, cooked by you and loved ones, and enjoy it and the fellowship during this special time of year.

How To Make A Golf Course Useful

Former Texas Golf Course Becomes Nature Park That Detains Floodwater, Cleans Runoff
(seems to me this is a good way to Make A Golf Course Useful! Ronnie Garrison)

This is a good use of a golf course!

Editor’s Note: Today’s feature was sent to us from Texas A&M University. We’re going to guess this new park will grow some pretty outsized largemouths in a few years, besides it’s great contribution to flood control.
Paul Schattenberg
from The Fishing Wire

CLEAR LAKE – The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, working in collaboration with area residents, the Clear Lake City Water Authority, or CLCWA, and Exploration Green Conservancy, have been collaborating to transform an about-to-be paved golf course into a new kind of nature park that provides recreation while protecting thousands of homes from flooding such as that caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“We were involved in an innovative overhaul of a slated-for-development golf course in Clear Lake City, helping repurpose it into a green space with water detention areas and places for recreational activities,” said Dr. John Jacob, AgriLife Extension specialist with the recreation, park and tourism sciences department of Texas A&M University.

Jacob, a Houston resident, lived in a neighborhood near the golf course when it was sold to a developer in the early 2000s.

“Area residents were very concerned about the possibility of additional flooding resulting from the new development, and they were also worried about increased runoff pollution,” Jacob said. “We participated in a push-back effort against the removal of a green space that virtually everyone in the area wanted to keep.”

The CLCWA eventually condemned the property for flood impact reduction and asked for residents’ input on other uses of the old golf course that would be compatible with floodwater detention. An oversight committee was formed and Jacob was named co-chair.

“We formed citizen committees to explore aspects such as athletic and ball fields, walking trails, native vegetation, stormwater wetlands and other possibilities,” Jacob said. “Local residents were intensely involved in this process and were diligent in exploring the many options for use of this green space. Their contributions formed the basis for a master plan developed by SWA Group Houston.”

He said the resulting plan was for a new nature park, Exploration Green, designed to detain and slow floodwaters and clean the runoff from 95 percent of the storms that occur in the area. Additional provisions were added for a walking trail, lake, wetlands areas and other features.

Jacob said the 178-acre golf course ran alongside large drainage ditches constructed by the original developer, providing a perfect setting for accommodating additional floodwater detention volume.

“Almost as soon as the master plan was completed there was additional resident participation. An Exploration Green conservancy was formed to oversee all facilities over and above floodwater detention,” he said. “The first phase of Exploration Green was about 80 percent completed when Hurricane Harvey hit and the detention area held enough stormwater runoff that even houses that habitually flooded with 5-inch to 10-inch storms didn’t flood with the 45 or so inches that came with Harvey.”

AgriLife Extension continued to participate by leading the way in the design and integration of stormwater wetlands into the overall plan, he said.

“The Texas Community Watershed Partners program of Texas A&M AgriLife was instrumental in this effort,” he said. “Texas Community Watershed Partners provides education and outreach to local governments and citizens on the impacts of land use on watershed health and water quality. It operates on the land-grant model of integrated university research, education and extension to help make Texas’ coastal communities more sustainable and resilient.”

Additionally, AgriLife Extension is participating in a statewide effort to help Texans recover from Hurricane Harvey. Last September, Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp to coordinate state and local recovery efforts of the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas. Sharp then tasked employees of AgriLife Extension with serving as his local liaisons with the impacted communities, reporting on local recovery needs and providing a pipeline for information and recovery resources.

Dr. Monty Dozier, AgriLife Extension special assistant for Rebuild Texas, said the agency will continue to be involved in a variety of recovery efforts throughout the Rebuild Texas effort.

“AgriLife Extension personnel will continue to serve as liaisons between local jurisdictions and state and federal agencies in the most severely impacted counties,” he said. “And we will continue to help communities recover from Harvey and work to be more resilient for future events. Our involvement in the Exploration Green project will certainly help protect this community from flooding brought by future storms.”

Mary Carol Edwards, AgriLife Extension program specialist with Texas A&M’s Texas Community Watershed Partners, or TCWP, is a Houston native who grew up in the Clear Lake area and has been working on the stormwater wetlands portion of Exploration Green.

“This will be one of the largest stormwater wetlands initiatives ever undertaken by the TCWP, with nearly 40 acres of wetlands when all five phases of the initiative are completed,” she said.

According to the Clear Lake City Water Authority, the project’s five detention ponds are expected to help keep potentially 2,000 area homes from flooding through a collective water-holding capacity of a half-billion gallons, providing protection against a significant amount of rainfall and runoff.

Edwards also has been promoting the incorporation of constructed stormwater wetlands into urban drainage systems elsewhere along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Stormwater wetlands clean the stormwater that flows through them, including removing 99.99 percent of the nitrates that make their way into the runoff.

“Properly designed stormwater wetlands are beautiful and also attract a diversity of wildlife, including water and song birds,” she said.

For Exploration Green, Edwards develops planting plans and educational materials, leads a Texas Master Naturalist-based volunteer program, manages the wetland plant nursery and coordinates stormwater wetlands design and implementation with the Exploration Green Conservancy and other agencies involved in creating the park.

“Planting of the trees and wetlands in Phase 1 began in 2016, even while the detention pond was under construction,” she said. “As a result, about an acre of wetland is already approaching maturity and delighting visitors with displays of native water lilies and irises, and attracting wading birds and turtles.”

Edwards said an on-site wetland nursery supplies the aquatic plants for Exploration Green. The nursery has an approximately 30,000-plant capacity — enough to plant 5 acres at a time.

“ During weekly workdays, plus special workdays for students, native plants are collected and propagated in the nursery,” she explained. “Over 300 volunteers assisted in the 2018 spring wetland planting events, which created 1.25 acres of new wetland. Over a dozen organizations, from the Girl Scouts of America to the NASA Sustainability group, have participated in this effort.”

A 1.1 mile concrete hike-and-bike trail loops the lake in Phase 1 and is proving to be popular with area residents, Edwards said. Each of the five phases will be connected by trails, providing approximately 6 miles of off-road recreational trails through a natural environment.

Water quality studies, funded by a grant from the Texas General Land Office Coastal Management Program, will begin in October 2018 to monitor and document water quality changes provided by the stormwater wetlands. A groundbreaking for Phase 2 of the stormwater wetlands portion of the project is slated for May 2018. All phases of the project are expected to be completed in 2022.

“This is a great example of residents, water management agencies, and others working together to save an important green space for recreation and to do so in such a way that it serves a vital environmental purpose that also helps improve the quality of life within that community,” Jacob said. “Other flood-prone communities in the metropolitan Houston area have shown interest in implementing this type of project, and we have also had inquiries from other states.”

Georgia Bass Slam

How many kinds of bass have you caught? What are the differences between striped bass and black bass? How about the differences between largemouth and smallmouth bass? Some differences are very noticeable, others not so much. And scientifically, some of what we call bass in general are not related at all.

Georgia fisheries biologists classify ten different species of black bass in our state. Black bass species include largemouth, smallmouth, shoal and spotted bass that most of us are familiar with, but the others are very similar.

We also have Suwanee, Redeye, Chattahoochee, Tallapoosa, Altamaha and Bartram’s bass. To make it even more confusing, largemouth are divided into Florida largemouth and common largemouth and spotted bass are divided into Alabama and Kentucky spots.

The way scientists classify fish into genus and species is confusing, even to me. I taught life science for seven years way back in the 1970s so maybe it has been too long for it to make sense to me. Put simply, all in one species and interbreed, but those in the same genus usually can not.

All black bass are in the genus Micropterus but that genus also includes bluegill and other sunfish. White and strip bass are in the genus Morone, and they can be crossed to create the infertile hybrids that biologists stock in our lakes.

Hybrids, like mules that are a cross between a horse and a donkey, most hybrids are infertile and cannot reproduce. But many crosses between black bass species happen in the wild. Spots and largemouth do interbreed in Georgia and produce a hybrid offspring.

Of more interest to fishermen, Georgia has a “ Georgia Bass Slam” awards program. If you document catching five of the ten different species in one calendar year you get awards from the state. As their web site says, you get “a Personalized Certificate, Two passes to the Go Fish Education Center, Some fantastic and fun stickers (for vehicle windows/bumpers) to advertise your brag-worthy achievement, All successful submissions for the calendar year will go into a drawing for an annual grand prize, and Anglers will be recognized on the state website, at the Go Fish Education Center, and through a variety of social media platforms.”

There is good information about the different species of black bass and all other Georgia fish at It includes areas each can be caught and the state record. Rules for catching and entering your catches for the Bass Slam program are at

This is a fun program and four of the included species are within an easy drive of Griffin. We can catch largemouth and spots at Jackson, shoal bass in the Flint River and Altamaha bass are in the Ocmulgee River from the Jackson dam to Macon.

For redeye, the best place to catch one is Lake Hartwell. You can catch smallmouth in Blue Ridge Lake and below the Clarks Hill dam in the Savannah River where they have been stocked, and Bartram’s are in the Broad River above Clarks Hill.

All species of bass will hit a variety of baits, but some baits are better for certain ones. I caught spots, largemouth and redeye bass at Hartwell, all on a Carolina rigged Baby Brush Hog. I should have documented them as the rules require and would have been three-fifths of the way to meeting the requirements this year.

I caught a spot and several largemouth at Eufaula on a shaky head worm, but I don’t think they would have counted since I was on the Alabama side of the lake, in Alabama waters.

Many of the species are native to only small parts of Georgia but have been midnight stocked by bucket biologists in places they should not be. Stocking non-native fish often causes problems. Spotted bass are the worst. They are native only in the Tennessee River basin in far northwest Georgia but have been put in most of our lakes and rivers.

Spots are more aggressive than largemouth, spawn deeper so they are not affected as much by changing water levels during bedding, and often take over a lake, hurting the largemouth population. And they don’t get as big as largemouth. They are fun to catch but can really mess up a good largemouth fishery.

At Jackson, spots started showing up at our club weigh-ins in the early 1990s. Before that time, any tournament we had from October through March there usually produced at least one six pound largemouth. And often we had several big ones weighed in. In one tournament I had an eight-pound, four ounce bass and it was third biggest, two bigger eight pounders were weighed in. And in another my seven-pound, four ounce largemouth was fourth biggest. A seven-pound, twelve-ounce bass beat it as did two nine pounders!

I often say where there used to be 100 largemouth in an area weighing from one to eight pounds at Jackson, now there are 100 spots weighing one pound each. That is the kind of change stocking non-native species can cause.

Spots are even a worse problem at Blue Ridge Lake. Before spots were illegally introduced, it was common to catch several smallmouth on a trip there. Now you can fish for weeks without ever catching one, the spots have taken over from them.

If becoming a Georgia Bass Slam winner interests you, check out their web site for the rules, go fishing and get your rewards!

How Old Is That Fish

Using New Technology To Answer An Old Problem…How Old Is That Fish?

Salmon Scale

Figure 1. This is a scale from a 3-year-old landlocked salmon.

By Tyler Grant and Merry Gallagher, Maine DIFW Fisheries Biologists
from The Fishing Wire

One of the more important tasks for fisheries biologists when making management decisions is figuring out how old a fish is. In our last fisheries blog, we discussed how we age fish utilizing fin clips. In this blog, we will focus on two different methods that can be utitlized to age fish.

Fish can vary in age quite substantially from one species to the next. Some species can live to be many decades old whereas others may be fortunate to reach 3 or 4 years. Complicating the matter even further is growth rates of fish can vary tremendously from one waterbody to the next due to variation in environmental conditions and food supply. Comparing fish growth at different ages can give you a good idea of the overall productivity of the system, as well as the overall condition and density of the fish population. In an ideal growth situation like a fish hatchery, a one year old brook trout can reach 8-10″ inches long, while that same one year old fish in the wild may be less than two inches long due to the vastly different growth conditions experienced in the wild. For hatchery fish that have been marked or fin clipped, it is easy to determine a fish’s age because certain fin clips or marks signify a given year that fish was produced or stocked, but for wild fish, it becomes much harder.

Two otoliths

Figure 2. On the right is an otolith taken from a 14” white perch. On the left is an otolith taken from a 40” Northern Pike. Different species have very different sized and shaped otoliths.

For shorter lived species such as brook trout and landlocked salmon, a useful aging method is to age the fish by using it’s scales. Scales are easy to collect and can also be collected without having to kill the fish. Scales grow from the center out and lay down concentric rings like how a tree grows. Tight winter growth rings and wider summer growth rings give you a reasonably accurate method of aging some fishes. However, longer lived species like Lake Trout and Lake Whitefish present a problem. They can easily reach 20 years old and often can be much older and scale aging becomes less reliable for fish species that are slower growing and longer lived. For these fish species, a different method is needed.

Lab equipment for aging fish

Figure 3. The new age lab equipment.

On the right is a sectioning saw with a thin diamond blade for cutting sections of the otolith. On the left is a camera with a microscope lens and a very powerful light for reading and photographing the sectioned otolith. On the computer screen, you can see a sectioned otolith from a Northern Pike.
Otoliths are small bones located at the base of the skull or top of the spinal column in fish, and are commonly used for determining the ages of long lived fishes. Like scales, otoliths have annual growth rings that can be counted to give an estimated age of the fish. However, these bones must be extracted from a dead fish to be used for aging purposes.

Determining the age of a fish from an otolith is still a complicated procedure, and it requires specialized equipment to be done properly. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recently acquired the equipment necessary for a Fish Aging Lab that is now located at our Bangor, Maine office.

Lake Trout otolith

Figure 4. A Lake Trout otolith is visible embedded in an epoxy block. The otolith below has been sectioned already and a 0.8 mm slice was taken from the center.

Before the otolith can be sectioned, it must be suspended in a 2-part epoxy within a silicone mold. The epoxy holds the otolith steady so it can be thinly cut by the sectioning saw. This is the most important part. The otoliths are very small, and the first cut must be made precisely or an accurate age cannot be determined. Once the otolith is sliced, the 0.8 mm slice is glued to a microscope slide and sanded and polished to remove the saw marks.

Once the section is prepared, the otolith is magnified under the Aging Lab microscope and by counting the annually-produced rings the biologist can determine the age of the fish. This new technology is already being used to determine the ages of the Lake Trout that were collected in Sebago Lake as part of the Sebago Lake Region’s Summer Profundal Index Netting (SPIN) and it will continue to be a valuable tool for aging long lived fish species, estimating growth rates, and assisting Regional Biologists with valuable age and growth information for their priority populations.

S sectioned otolith

Figure 5. A sectioned otolith glued to a microscope slide and ready to be photographed. The fish number is engraved on the slide for identification purposes. This gives you an idea of the size of an otolith. This microscope slide is 3 inches long.

Lake Trout otoliths

Figure 6. Two prepared Lake Trout otoliths. The top fish was 12 inches long and was 4 years old. The bottom fish was 24 inches long and was 17 years old.

Tips on Fishing Topwaters

Tips on Fishing Topwaters from a Top Pro Angler

Cliff Crotchet and son

Cliff Crotchet and son. (Photo courtesy of Bassmaster.)

By David A. Rose
from The Fishing Wire

When I daydream about catching bass, my initial vision is of mist rising off a lake’s dead-calm surface, followed by the most primeval eruption as a big ol’ bucketmouth viciously attacks my topwater lure. And I’m guessing it’s a very similar image for most anyone that loves catching largemouth bass.

Without a doubt, the feeling of your heart skipping a beat results from an instant infusion of adrenalin, induced by the sudden surface assault. And while that feeling of exhilaration is the very reason so many anglers love catching bass that way, there is also a major problem when it happens… the impulsive quick hookset comes so naturally that we end up pulling the lure away from the fish’s face before it’s gobbled it up. It’s happened to all of us. But it doesn’t have to be as common of an occurrence.

Three primary factors influence your topwater success once a fish has committed: your chosen line, hooksetting technique, and rod in your hand.

Seaguar bass pro Cliff Crochet is known for his topwater proficiency. The Pierre Part, Louisiana, resident has been fishing the Bassmaster Elites and Opens for 9-plus years, with 104 tournaments under his belt. He’s won one, and has numerous top-10 and -20 finishes, earning him near a half-million in winnings. And he knows all too well the frustration of being too hurried to set the hook when a fish blows up on his bait.

“I’ve had the bad habit of setting the hook too quickly and aggressively in the past,” says the 35-year-old angler. “But it was learning to use the right line for the topwater situation that helped me land more fish with topwater baits.”

Generally, Crochet uses all three line types for topwater – braid, fluorocarbon and monofilament. And which line he chooses isn’t just dependent on the lure he’s using, but the situation in which that lure is being presented.

“Monofilament is the best line choice overall in open-water areas because of its stretch and how it floats rather than sinks,” Crochet claims. “The elasticity of the line allows the lure to hesitate just enough that the fish has a better chance of getting it in its mouth as soon as it strikes. So the line compensates for the mistakes I make if I set the hook to fast.”

Crochet’s go-to monofilament is Seaguar Rippin’ Premium Monofilament, with 20-pound test his first choice for waking, popping and chugging baits.

“The monofilament made today is nothing like the lines I used while growing up, some of which was stiff and brittle, while others stretched like a rubber band,” Crochet states. “Rippin’ is superior to any monofilament I have ever used. It’s super strong, yet, soft and thin in diameter; this means I can cast my topwater lure further, which is crucial in shallow water situations. And when my bait gets hit, it has just the right amount of stretch that the fish can suck it up right away.”

Wake me up

Running mere inches below the surface, some consider wake baits, ChatterBaits and gurgling spinnerbaits the descendants of topwater baits. Regardless, they, too, require specialized gear and techniques.

Crochet’s choice when going subsurface is a 7-to-1 reel spooled again with 20-pound Rippin’ Monofilament for open water or short weeds, but to the same pound test in Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon when fishing over thicker grass, stumps and rocks. The near-neutral buoyancy and low stretch of fluorocarbon allows you to swim your baits at the precise depth below the surface. Crochet says two inches off where you want your bait running is huge, and fluorocarbon can assist in precise bait placement.

Cliff’s notes

One of the biggest mistakes many anglers make when it comes to topwater fishing is thinking it’s a warm-water, early-morning or late-evening-only bite.

Crochet says no matter where you’re fishing, once the water reaches the mid-50’s bass will start looking to the surface for forage. You just may want to stick with lures that can be fished at a slower pace. And it’s during the spring period when the middle of the day can be the best surface bite as the water will be at its warmest.

Lures that are fished at a fast pace, however, such as buzzbaits, will get bit more once the water temperatures tickle the mid-60’s and above.

Lastly, Crochet says to let your fishing situation dictate what line to use. Monofilament in areas where you don’t have to worry about losing fish around structure; braid where getting fish up and out is necessary (just remember to pivot, lean back and keep reeling as a hook set); fluorocarbon for subsurface when a little extra “oomph” is needed, or, when the fish are being picky about how far under surface they want you lure to be presented.

May Eufaula Tournament

In the May Sportsman Club tournament last weekend at Eufaulaq, 13 members fished for 18 hours in two days to land 58 bass weighing about 126 pounds. Five of the keepers were spotted bass. There were eight five-fish limits and two members did not catch a fish.

I won with ten weighing 27.35 pounds and had a 4.30 pound largemouth for big fish. Raymond English placed second with ten weighing 24.64, his partner Kwong Yu had ten at 24.52 for third. Wayne Teal had nine weighing 18 pounds for fourth.

I got real lucky, spotting some birds feeding in grass along the shoreline at first light the first day. When I went there I was surprised to see gizzard shad spawning. I though it was too late for that.

In the two days I caught five bass early on frogs in the grass, then caught some on worms. Saturday, I had a good limit at 9:40, including two over four pounds each, and Sunday had my limit at 8:00 with two three pounders. So as the sun got up and hot I got under the bridge, staying somewhat cool and trying to catch a bass big enough to upgrade my limit.

I stayed under that bridge for more than nine of the 18 hours we fished and caught exactly four keepers. Two of them did help my weight, but it got kinda boring fishing the same place so long. But at least I was not out in the sun!