Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels to live bait

Fish Impacted by Hurricanes

Are Fish Impacted by Hurricanes?

Gray triggerfish tagged


Gray triggerfish tagged for research

From NOAA Fisheries
from The Fishing Wire

A new study indicates fish in deep water do experience the affects of storms

Hurricanes can and do wreak havoc on coastal marine ecosystems. They destroy coral reefs, mix up the water column, redistribute bottom sediments, and increase pollution via storm-water runoff.

Hurricanes can also cause fish to evacuate nearshore estuaries and coastal ocean environments towards deeper water. Nobody has studied whether storms influence fish in deeper water, but most people think they are mostly immune from storm effects.

Tagged gray triggerfish


Tagged gray triggerfish

In a recently published paper in Scientific Reports, researchers at the Beaufort Laboratory of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and a colleague at the Naval Postgraduate School show that fish occupying habitats as deep as 120 feet can also be strongly affected by hurricanes.

Researchers Nate Bacheler, Kyle Shertzer, Rob Cheshire, and Jamie MacMahan affixed transmitters to thirty gray triggerfish, a commercially and recreationally important oceanic fish species that associates with rocky reef habitats in the southeast United States. These fish were tracked in an area off North Carolina during September 2017 as two hurricanes, Jose and Maria, along the North Carolina coast.

What the researchers found was surprising, as each storm approached, most of the tracked gray triggerfish quickly evacuated the 120-foot deep study area in the direction of even deeper water, and those few fish that remained in the study area swam much faster than normal. After the passing of each storm, many of the tracked gray triggerfish returned to the study area within a couple of days and resumed normal swimming behavior.

Previous studies have indicated that falling barometric pressure, increased runoff, or a change in water temperature are primary cues that fish use to determine that storms are approaching. Here, gray triggerfish evacuated the study area 1–2 days in advance of hurricanes, long before any changes in barometric pressure or water temperature occurred. Instead, the researchers determined that, as surface waves increased in size from each approaching storm, energy from those large waves was transferred to the bottom, resulting in sloshing of water on the bottom. It appears as though the sloshing of bottom water, or the related fluctuating water pressure from sloshing, was the cue to which gray triggerfish responded. Only the waves from largest storms can transfer enough energy to cause sloshing in 120 feet deep of water.

We all know that storms can strongly influence the movements of organisms in estuaries and coastal oceans. This study shows that fish in deep, offshore oceans can be strongly affected by storms as well.

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew

When I first found this recipe for Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew it did not sound good. But since I had a bumper crop of yellow squash from the garden, lots of bell peppers that year, and a good supply of ground venison in the freezer, I tried it, and love it.

I have been making it for years and have adjusted my recipe Try it, you should like it! Its easy and quick.

I usually start in skillet then remember to put it in a pot for easier stirring.

Ingredients

4 or 5 yellow squash
large bell pepper
two 14.5 weight chopped tomatoes with chili peppers
a pound or so ground meat
bacon drippings
Tablespoon salt
half teaspoon black pepper

Ground Venison and Squash Skillet Stew ingredients


Brown ground meat in bacon drippings. Add sliced squash, chopped bell peppers, cans of tomatoes, salt and pepper.
simmer for 45 minutes.

Little Manatee River

Snook-Rich Little Manatee River (FL) to Get 7300-Acre Watershed Preserve
Vicki Parsons, Bay Soundings
from The Fishing Wire

With most of the shoreline along Tampa Bay either developed or restored, planners are looking upstream to protect tidal tributaries and provide higher ground for critical habitats as sea level rise continues to affect the region.

Lots of snook here


Miles of trails make much of the corridor easily accessible to hikers and much of the land is in its original state.
An important step in addressing that long-term trend is the development of a conceptual plan for nearly 7,400 publicly held acres in the Little Manatee River watershed, It is estimated to take at least 20 years and $30 million to complete the projects identified in the plan, said Brandt Henningsen, chief environmental scientist at the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s SWIM (Surface Water Improvement and Management) Program.

“The district and Hillsborough County have purchased the land over the past 30 years, and the Little Manatee River State Park makes it a nearly contiguous 30-mile corridor along the river so wildlife can transverse it as needed,” he said. “When completed, it will be a passive preserve area for hiking and kayaking – not ballfields or ATVs.”

The plan itself was a $200,000 initiative funded jointly by the district and the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund.

Much of the corridor remains in a relatively natural state, although other areas that had been converted to agricultural uses are covered in invasive species including cogongrass and guinea grass, as well as Brazilian pepper and hairy indigo. In some places, mosquito ditches drain land quickly rather than allowing water to slowing sink into the aquifer or naturally create low-salinity habitat. One location – the Willow Site – has become a popular, albeit illegal, spot for ATV enthusiasts who create ditches that drain to the river, increasing sedimentation and diminishing water quality.

To create the long-term plan, the district, county and Cardno assessed different parcels, dividing them into 10 sections ranging in size from 283 to 1,500 acres. Restoration plans are based on historical photos so that lands continue as close to their natural state as possible, Henningsen said. In some cases, the parcels can be restored to capture runoff from nearby agricultural fields, filtering nutrients before they get in the river.

Using a complex matrix that looks at water quality impact, groundwater impact, habitat value and enhancing regionally scarce communities, the district and county created a priority list based on average cost per restored or enhanced acre. The 1,423-acre Gully Branch Creek site was selected as the first phase of construction for an estimated cost of $5.9 million.

Although it is further from the bay than some other sites, it ranked well for its ability to improve water quality, improve groundwater discharge and establish a natural hydroperiod. It also ranked highly for easy site access, which will be a challenge at some of the sites, Henningsen said.

Within that section, the 444-acre Gully Branch upland restoration project is expected to be funded by SWFWMD in 2019. Formerly agricultural land, the site is now covered in cogongrass, considered to be one of the top ten worst weeds in the world. “The (SWFWMD) Governing Board has been very supportive of the SWIM Program and seen the value of these restoration projects,” Henningsen said.

Hillsborough County is responsible for most of the management and is participating in the restoration of multiple sites, adds Mary Barnwell, environmental lands management coordinator. “We’re already doing a lot of prescribed burning, exotics control and maintenance, including several recreational trails and trailheads that allow hikers back into the property.”

The Little Manatee River corridor is critically important over the long-term because it’s among the highest land in Hillsborough County with multiple bluffs overlooking the river. “We’re restoring both for the short term while also taking the long-term land use into consideration,” Barnwell said. “As sea level rise continues, we’ll need to create a west-to-east corridor that provides wildlife and plant communities room to move. We’ve seen them adapt to change in the past, but it was very gradual – now we’re looking at accelerated adaptation.”

The long-term plan for restoration of the Little Manatee River will function as a blueprint for habitats to accommodate a range of possible impacts from climate change. “This project is key to protecting some of our most vulnerable habitats, like juncus (black needle rush) marshes,” adds Maya Burke, science policy coordinator for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

By Vicki Parsons, Bay Soundings

Coral Reef Ecosystems

NOAA’s Vision for Thriving, Diverse, and Resilient Coral Reef Ecosystems
from The Fishing Wire

A healthy reef


A lively reef in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, Hawaii (Baker Island). Credit: Jeff Milisen.

NOAA has released a new Coral Reef Conservation Program Strategic Plan (PDF, 7.31 MB), which will guide the program’s future coral research, conservation, and restoration efforts from 2018 to 2040.

We all depend on coral reefs for something—from the air we breathe and some of the foods we eat to medical treatments. The nation’s coral reef resources also protect lives, livelihoods, and valuable coastal infrastructure. Today, many of our coral reefs have been severely damaged by a number of threats. There is still time to protect and restore these remarkable ecosystems, but we must act now.

The new Strategic Plan outlines a targeted framework to reduce the main threats to coral reefs ecosystems: 1) climate change; 2) fishing impacts; and 3) land-based sources of pollution. In addition to addressing these top three threats, the plan also recognizes coral reef restoration as an important new focus and the fourth “pillar” of the program.

By implementing strategies specific to each of these four “pillars,” the Coral Reef Conservation Program is working to restore and preserve corals; maintain ecosystem function; and improve coral habitat, water quality, and key coral reef fishery species in target areas by 2040.

SUMMARIZING THE STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CORAL REEF CONSERVATION PROGRAM

Coral reefs protect lives, livelihoods, and valuable coastal infrastructure, yet these ecosystems are under constant threat, regularly experiencing both chronic stress and episodes of severe damage. The strategic plan for NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program defines ways to reduce the three main threats to coral ecosystems—climate impacts, unsustainable fishing, and land-based sources of pollution—and incorporates a newly added programmatic focus, coral restoration. The four focus areas, or pillars, of the strategic plan are outlined below.

VISION Thriving, diverse, resilient coral reefs that sustain valuable ecosystem services for current and future generations.
Increase resilience to climate change Strategy 1. Support a resilience-based management approach
Improve fisheries’ sustainability Strategy 1. Provide data essential for coral reef fisheries management Strategy 2. Build capacity for coral reef fisheries management
Reduce land-based sources of pollution Strategy 1. Develop, coordinate, and implement watershed management plans Strategy 2. Build and sustain watershed management capacity at the local level
Restore viable coral populations Strategy 1. Improve coral recruitment habitat quality Strategy 2. Prevent avoidable losses of corals and their habitat Strategy 3. Enhance population resilience Strategy 4. Improve coral health and survival
A resilience-based management approach is guiding these investments, with measurable long-term conservation goals set for 2040. By implementing strategies specific to each pillar, the program is increasing the nation’s capacity to restore and preserve corals; maintain ecosystem function; and improve coral populations, coral recruitment habitat, water quality, and key coral reef fishery species.
Collaboration is critical. While the plan guides investments in the near term, it is ambitious and covers far more work than one program can achieve. To increase overall success, the plan identifies opportunities to create partnerships across the conservation community.

Read more about this effort on the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Progam’s Website or download new Strategic Plan Fact Sheet (PDF, 873.2 KB).

Winter Conditions Present Unique Challenges

Winter Conditions Present Unique Challenges for Fishery Management

By MDIFW Fisheries Biologist Kevin Dunham
from The Fishing Wire

Winter fisheries management is chilly


The fall of 2018 was a challenging one meteorologically for conducting some fishery management activities. After all, a large portion of fisheries biologists’ daily duties takes place outdoors (Yes!) and, somewhat perversely, most don’t mind working in adverse weather and actually find it “relaxing”. To a point.

Trap netting efforts in Maine this year, which began during the end of September, were fairly uneventful other than viciously windier than normal conditions on the water. Nothing we’d never dealt with during normal day to day working situations though. However, mid-November quickly turned abnormally snowy and cold and brought a few extra challenges to our annual Nesowadnehunk Lake trap netting operation.

Originally a planned four-day effort, in which the Enfield Hatchery crew would arrive on the fourth day to strip eggs from captured female brook trout to incubate and raise for future trout stocking efforts. There was a layer of half-inch shell ice when we launched our boat on the first day, but no ice in the areas we set the nets. Then things turned interesting. Overnight temperatures plummeted and a snow storm moved in, while launching the boat on the second day in even thicker ice with slush on top, our hopes of this being a four-day operation evaporated.

The day quickly turned into an icy, snowy scramble to capture enough brook trout before the air temperature again dropped enough to prevent the hatchery from successfully spawning them. Oh, and as an added incentive we really didn’t want the slush-ice, which now spread to one of our net locations, to freeze our nets in place! Providence was with us, we captured the bare minimum number of female brook trout we wanted for the number of eggs needed.

Despite the swirling snowstorm, temperatures held just above freezing and the crew from Enfield Hatchery was able to strip the eggs, though in less than ideal conditions lake-side. Getting one of the nets free from the slush-ice was a time-consuming, laborious task that was a new experience for all and will forever be linked in our minds to the 2018 Nesowadnehunk Lake trap netting operation.

The historically cold temperatures did not let up and created more challenges in late November. Fish stocking access was hindered throughout the region by unplowed logging roads and ice covered ponds. One pond in particular, Flatiron Pond in Cedar Lake Twp., was to be stocked with fall yearling brook trout but Mother Nature caught up with the hatchery’s busy stocking schedule. Deep snow covered every possible route in to the pond and Flatiron became inaccessible to the stocking truck.

In most circumstances we would have suspended stocking until next year, but this is the winter where we had planned to evaluate the stocking program and conduct aerial angler counts. Two opportunities that would not come around again for several years. We quickly hatched a plan to use snowmobiles and tag sleds to haul coolers full of brook trout to be released in the pond.

This was a first for us, using snowmobiles to stock fish. After breaking a trail from the closest plowed road to the pond we were ready to meet the stocking truck to load up with fish. Ironically, the bitterly cold November weather worked in our favor this time. Temperatures had been so cold all November that a covering of solid, seven-inch black ice had formed on Flatiron Pond and we were able to drive our snowmobiles onto the ice which saved us from having to hand-carry all the fish from shore. After cutting a sufficiently sized hole in the ice we stocked 220 brook trout which will provide a great ice angling opportunity this winter. Those are just a couple examples of challenging environmental conditions fisheries biologist sometimes encounter. I’m not complaining however, as a wise, retired fisheries biologist often said (usually during the worst of conditions) “we have the best job in the world”.

Match in Jigs and Tails

The Perfect Match in Jigs and Tails from Z-Man’s ElaZTech
from The Fishing
Wire

Catch bass on jigs


How the right jig & softbait combo can uplift your ElaZtech® game

Ladson, SC – Holmes and Watson. Jordan and Pippen. Lennon and McCartney . . .

When two complementary forces join talents, things like genius, championship performance and all-time awesome music inevitably follow. The power of the one-two punch extends to inanimate objects, as well, and certainly to fishing tackle. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s cool to Texas rig your favorite plastic worm on a treble hook. Nor does it explain why anglers can be so painfully picky about swimbait selection or choice in finesse worms, and yet impale said bait onto whatever jighead’s lying on the deck.

The job of any good jighead is to bring out the unique talents of baits that best match its design. Disparate jighead styles deliver softbaits at different speeds, actions and depths, each performing a singular, premeditated presentation. Collars and keeper configurations are made to match and pin certain baits firmly in place. Jig-hooks vary by anatomy: size, gap, throat, shank length, wire gauge and more; with justifiable reasons for each. While a mismatched jig and bait might still catch fish, a perfect pairing can stimulate an onslaught of bites.

“We recognized early on that because ElaZtech baits are different—softer, livelier, more buoyant and much more durable—than traditional PVC baits, designing a super-tuned rigging system would take fishing ElaZtech to a whole other level,” said Daniel Nussbaum, talented fisherman and president of Z-Man® Fishing. “Sure, you can rig your favorite ElaZtech bait onto a plain jane jighead. But to take full advantage of each bait’s action, longevity and fish-catching performance, grab the right jig for the job.”

Among fifteen unique Z-Man jigheads and over fifty ElaZtech softbaits, Nussbaum highlights four of his favorite perfect pairings. “A 3-inch MinnowZ on a 3/16-ounce Trout Eye jighead is a versatile player—it’s my ‘stranded on a desert island’ survival bait,” he divulges.

A jighead with an interesting backstory, the Trout Eye jig comes from South Carolina seatrout guru Ralph Phillips, who discovered a predator’s primal attraction to the unmistakable eyes of baitfish. The U.S.-made Trout Eye jig is poured with the largest 3D eyes possible, set into a flattened teardrop shape. Strategically placed to bring out subtle rolling action on paddletail baits like the MinnowZ, the jig’s forward eye position helps the whole lure slide through sparse grass with ease. Back-to-back conical keeper barbs secure ElaZtech and other softbaits tightly to the base of the jig’s collar, while a heavy-duty, 2/0 Mustad UltraPoint hook penetrates quickly, and won’t straighten under heavy loads.

“Think of the 3-inch MinnowZ as an aggressive paddletail,” notes Nussbaum. “When you rig it on a Trout Eye jig the whole body moves with a really sweet side-to-side roll, while the tail wags the dog; looks just like the panicked swim of a minnow and catches everything—seatrout, redfish, bass, snook, and more.”

First introduced to beat back Australia’s brutally strong gamefish, the HeadlockZ HD jighead is an amazing jig and a perfect match for Z-Man’s SwimmerZ— a super-soft, split-belly paddletail that’s produced world-record barramundi. “The SwimmerZ is one of my favorite paddletails for big redfish and largemouths,” says Nussbaum. “The 4-inch version teams up nicely with a 4/0-size HeadlockZ HD, while a 6-inch SwimmerZ on an 8/0 HeadlockZ is ideal for bull reds and stripers, and holds up to the teeth of big pike.”

Matching Z-Man’s tough-as-nails ElaZtech baits, the HeadlockZ HD boasts bulletproof jighead construction, built around a custom, heavy duty 3/0, 4/0, 6/0 or 8/0 Mustad UltraPoint hook (jig-weight is engraved in head for easy ID). Riding high on the hook-shank is an ingenious, split bait keeper. The design greatly eases rigging and prevents ElaZtech and other soft plastics from sliding off the jig collar.

Exceptionally balanced for use with larger, bulkier baits, the HeadlockZ’ 90-degree bullet head amplifies body roll, which produces accentuated tail-thump and vibration. “This combo represents one of Z-Man’s most underrated big fish baits, one you can tie on and catch fish with all day long.”

The definitive lure for Ned Rig-style fishing, casting a Finesse ShroomZ / Finesse TRD combo might be the smartest bass-catching decision you can make. Simple, unassuming and almost immune to fishing pressure, this little 2-3/4-inch finesse bait and refined mushroom-shaped jighead regularly boats over 50 per day for Ned Kehde and other skilled finesse fishers. Of course, the beauty of the bait is that less-experienced anglers also hook oodles of fish with it.

Kehde himself admits the key to success is a method he calls ‘no feel.’ “That means we cannot feel what the jig-and-softbait combo is doing or where it is during the retrieve,” says Kehde. This is largely attributed to Kehde’s preference for a light jighead, in the neighborhood of 1/16-ounce. Proving the combo’s astonishing versatility, Kehde and his friends have ascribed six different finesse retrieves, including the swim-glide-and-shake, hop-and-bounce and drag-and-deadstick, among others.

Creating the illusion of a single edible critter, the mushroom shaped Finesse ShroomZ head flows seamlessly into the nose of the sub-3-inch Finesse TRD. The unique head shape moves smoothly over the substrate, pivoting and activating the ElaZtech material with each interruption in the jig’s path. The jig’s minimally invasive “hangnail” keeper barb pins finesse baits like the TRD surprisingly tight to the jig; some anglers add a drop of superglue to the underside of the jighead for an even better bond.

A model of simplicity, the Finesse TRD itself glides seductively on the drop, tail shimmying just enough to speak of something alive. Imbued with custom salt content for a precise sink rate, anglers like Kehde often chose to increase buoyancy by stretching the bait and removing salt.

A rising star in swimbait circles, the 2-1/2- and 3-inch Slim SwimZ offers an intelligent design that gives it some interesting underwater moves. Rigged on a downsized NedlockZ HD jig, the finesse paddletail bait comes to life, even at slow retrieve speeds. Molded in lighter 1/5- to 1/15-ounce sizes, the NedlockZ HD sports an extra-heavy-duty hook that allow for heavier tackle and drag settings than Finesse ShroomZ jigheads. The jig’s innovative split keeper allows for effortless rigging, holding both ElaZtech and soft plastics firmly in place. The medium-length hook shank is a fine fit for the Slim SwimZ and other finesse baits.

“We crafted the Slim SwimZ with an inward-curved tail,” Nussbaum says. “The configuration lets you activate the bait at extra slow speeds. Or fish it fast for even more action. When you pull it, the tail scoops water, producing a high-velocity, high-action wiggle. We’re getting great feedback from folks catching big crappies, white bass and even walleyes. And when bass key on small forage, this compact combo scores big.”

About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech softbaits, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide. See more at www.zmanfishing.com.

About ElaZtech®: Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.

Top Crappie Lures for Winter

Three Top Crappie Lures for Winter

By Casey Kidder
Z-Man Pro Angler
from The Fishing Wire

Catch winter crappie like this one


Z-Man ElazTech Allures Big SlabZ

For the past ten winters, I’ve enjoyed finessing winter bass with the Ned Rig. It was amazing at how effective Z-Man ElazTech baits like the ZinkerZ and Finesse TRD are for alluring cold-water bass. As the winter of 2016 approached, I was excited to try something new. Even though Z-Man doesn’t have a dedicated line of crappie baits, I wanted to see if ElazTech baits were as effective on cold-water crappie as they are on cold-water bass. Spoiler alert: Crappie love them, too!

Midwest Winter Crappie Fishing
In a nutshell, winter Midwest crappie fishing is all about locating brushpiles in deep water with your electronics. Usually about 14-18 feet of water. Once the brush is located, vertical jigging with light line, jigs and soft plastics will entice crappie to bite. Water temperatures generally range from 34-38 degrees, and that is when crappie congregate in big schools around brushpiles, feeding periodically on schools of shad that meander by.

Bait Size Matters
In my region, crappie will bite a fairly large bait, even in winter. A 2.5 to 3 inch bait closely matches our shad size, so I selected a trio of baits in that size range. I’ll tell you more about those below. Throughout the year and until ice-up, these bigger baits caught bigger average crappie, and sometimes MORE crappie than small traditional crappie tubes and grubs. The reasoning is simple. Crappie are sight feeders, which is why you see so many color options in crappie baits. But size can also be used to get their attention. I kept my color selection pretty simple. Just to see how big of bait they would hit, I even fished a Z-Man Diesel MinnowZ, which is a 4″ swimbait! Yep, they ate it.

Top Three Crappie Baits

Slim SwimZ

When I first dropped this 2.5 inch swimbait in the water, I was amazed at the action! The unique, curved paddletail flat comes to life when it touches water. You really have to see it to appreciate it. Being a swimbait, this bait is traditionally fished with a straight retrieve, and you can bet I’ll be fishing it this way come spring when the crappie move to shallow water. For winter fishing, I found this bait was tremendously effective vertically jigged as well. Most crappie anglers use straight tail and tube-type baits for vertical fishing. These baits require small twitches to impart action. The Slim SwimZ is effective with these twitches as well, but you can catch many crappie by simply raising or dropping your rod tip slowly 1-2 feet. The tail does all the work, and it adds a whole new way to present your lure. It’s also something the crappie haven’t seen much of before! My top colors this winter were Electric Chicken, Space Guppy, and Pearl. Jighead: 1/15, 1/10 or 1/5 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

MinnowZ

Some days crappie really respond to a bigger profile, and that’s when switching to the MinnowZ filled the livewell. This is a 3-inch swimbait with a much larger profile than the Slim SwimZ. As I mentioned before, I even caught fish on the Diesel MinnowZ, a 4-inch version of the MinnowZ, so it just goes to show that size matters even to crappie!
The MinnowZ also fishes well vertically or with a swimming retrieve. You’ll want to use a heavier jighead for this bigger bait. The 1/6 ounce Finesse ShroomZ works very well.
The MinnowZ comes in an array of natural and bright saltwater color patterns that are also appealing to crappie. My favorites were similar to the Slim SwimZ: electric chicken, pearl, space guppy, and chartreuse/silver.
Jighead: 1/6 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

Finesse TRD and cut-down ZinkerZ

Yes, the Ned rig works on crappie, too. To be honest, I haven’t had many days when this versatile little rig didn’t catch something. And I found it worked really well fishing brush piles for winter crappie.On days when the crappie wanted a subtler action, I switch to a FinesseTRD or a ZinkerZ cut in half. Rigged on a 1/15, 1/10 or 1/6 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ, this little bait has tremendous dead stick appeal. Use subtle twitches to entice bites, though many bites will occur while holding it dead still.
Colors like Coppertreuse, Pumpkin/Chartreuse Laminate and Bama Craw have vivid color and contrast that really appeals to big slabs. But don’t overlook the plain Pearl color with a chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ.
Jighead: 1/15, 1/10 or 1/5 chartreuse Finesse ShroomZ

I hope these tips help you think outside the box and harness the ElazTech magic for your winter crappie. Upsizing your presentation and utilizing small swimbaits for vertical presentations can really help fill your livewell with some big slabs. If you’re already a Ned rig convert, you know how effective it is on bass. Be sure to rig one up when crappie are your target, because they love it, too!

Alabama Surf Fishing

Alabama Surf Fishing Provides New Vocation
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Go early!


The early bird gets the whiting when it comes to surf fishing along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Photo by David Rainer

The pre-dawn light was sufficient for safe passage from the parking lot over a boardwalk to a beautiful stretch of beach on the Fort Morgan peninsula.

The early arrival guaranteed our party, led by guide Matt Isbell, would get to pick the spot where our surf-fishing adventure would have the best chance of success.

Isbell, better known as the Bama Beach Bum to all his YouTube followers, has developed a niche among fishing guides on the Alabama Gulf Coast. He has tried fishing from boats and piers, but he prefers the sandy beaches and surf where whiting and pompano roam.

The Wetumpka native moved to Gulf Shores for an insurance job, but his surf-fishing success led to a full-time guide business in March of this year.

“I started uploading YouTube videos in October last year and started guiding in December,” Isbell said. “I didn’t really plan on guiding. I started hosting online content just because I loved it, and I wanted to kind of see where it went.

“I had multiple people continually asking me to take them fishing. I did that initially. Then it got to be more and more to the point it was taking away from my regular job.”

Isbell decided to see if anyone would pay for his services. He learned there is a growing market for his kind of fishing.

“It kind of snowballed from there and really started picking up,” he said.

Isbell soon found out his guide business appeals to a wide variety of customers.

“Most of my clients are out-of-towners, a lot from the Midwest but from all over the country,” he said. “I’ve had a group from Guam that wanted to fish. They saw me on YouTube. Right now, I’m the only one uploading surf-fishing content to the internet, so that’s how some people find me.

“I get people of all ages and sizes, ethnicities, all the above.”

Isbell’s surf fishing started in earnest six years ago when he moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast.

“When I first started surf fishing, I was just trying to figure out what to do,” he said. “Like a lot of people in Alabama, I grew up bass and crappie fishing. When I came down here, I just tried to figure out the fishing. I fished a lot of different ways – from boats, piers, canals, wherever I could access the water.

“Then I started surf fishing and I fell in love with it. I just enjoyed being on the beach and being able to bring home dinner.”

Isbell has refined his surf-fishing techniques in the last six years. Although he has learned to judge the surf and which areas produce fish, it’s really not a technique that infrequent visitors should tackle. He said learning to read the beach takes time, that most people find it difficult to pick up on the nuances that might lead to better fishing unless a lot of time is spent on the beach.

“The biggest thing I tell people to do is to stagger your baits,” he said. “Make sure you cover a lot of water and try to locate the zone those fish are running in. Especially when you’re surf fishing, these fish are not hanging in one area like they do on a reef or pier or jetty. The fish in the surf are always moving, looking for food. But they are going to hang in a particular depth. That’s why you stagger your baits to try to find out what depth those fish are favoring. But it can change daily or week to week. You always have to recalibrate to find the fish.

“If you know how to look for cuts, holes and bars in the surf, that can help, but most people have a hard time with it. But anybody can get out there and put baits in different spots and figure it out using that system.”

Isbell said a dedicated surf angler will need a variety of tackle to target the species that happen to inhabit the surf at any given time because different fish come to the beaches at different times.

“What we’re targeting is going to determine what tackle we use,” he said. “But the most popular way is what we are doing, using pompano rigs with bits of shrimp and Fish Bites. We’ll use sand fleas (mole crabs) when they present themselves, and we can scoop them up (look for a sand flea rake at the local tackle shop). We had some really good colonies of sand fleas show up this year. It’s a great bait and it’s free.”

On our trip, Isbell used 10-foot surf rods with 4000- and 5000-series spinning reels spooled with 20-pound-test braided line. Of the five rigs we used during our outing, we had a drop-hook rig with the 2- to 3-ounce weight tied to the bottom on three rods, while the other two were rigged with cut bait hooked below the weight (Carolina rig) to try to catch a redfish or bluefish. He uses 1/0 to 2/0 circle hooks most of the time.

“You don’t have to use 10-foot rods, but you can still fish on rough days,” he said. “You can keep a 3- or 4-ounce lead out. I make my own pompano rigs. You can buy them with two or three drops. I prefer one-drop rigs. It’s more discreet and easier to manage.”

Isbell said probably his hardest job is teaching clients what to look for to indicate a bite. A rhythmic motion of the rod tip indicates wave action. A steady pull or erratic action means some species of fish is taking the bait.

Although our party, which included Jay Hirschberg and Wayne Carman, was fishing on a neap tide, we managed to reel in bluefish, whiting (sometimes called southern or Gulf kingfish), a rodeo-worthy ladyfish and the ubiquitous hardhead catfish to the beach. Isbell said the heat has caused the pompano to vacate the surf until the weather and water cools.

Cooler weather will also bring another desirable species close to the beach.

“We get a good run of bull redfish in the fall,” Isbell said. “We will use a lot of cut bait. I’m transitioning now to using cut bait on Carolina rigs. If I’m fishing for bull reds, I’ll move up to a 4/0 hook. They will hit pompano rigs, and that’s definitely worth doing because the pompano fishing is only going to improve as the weather cools.

“You can catch whiting all year, but it does get better in the winter. That is the main species we target when it gets cold. Whiting get bigger (pushing 2 pounds) and more plentiful in the winter months. Sometimes in the winter, we’ll get a run of what we call ‘big uglies,’ the big black drum. Those are a lot of fun to catch, too.”

For those who specifically target pompano in the surf, Isbell said the best fishing occurs in the spring.

Alabama Surf Fishing
“March, April and May – those are the three months to catch pompano,” he said. “That’s go time for pompano. You can still catch them in June and July, but it’s definitely better in the spring.”

Isbell said certain conditions provide an opportunity to catch speckled trout in the surf as well.

“We catch trout mainly in the summer months,” he said. “It’s usually after a big rain and fresh water moves the fish out to the beaches, looking for that higher salinity.”

Go to www.staybummy.com for information on booking trips with Isbell as well as links to his Facebook and YouTube pages. Because his guide service is shore-based, anglers who fish with Isbell are required to have a valid Alabama saltwater fishing license in their possession. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/licenses/saltwater-recreational-licenses for more information.

St. Croix Mojo Jig Series Tackle

Power Up for Bottom Brutes with St. Croix Mojo Jig Series Tackle

Bottom fishing success requires more than heavy gear

By Joe Balog
from The Fishing Wire

Big red on St Croix rod


What kind of fish breaks eighty-pound line?

I asked myself that question repeatedly as I rigged my bottom-fishing rod. For the third time in twenty minutes, I had my butt kicked by a fish that I falsely assumed would be no match for my heavy tackle. This was starting to get old.

A freshwater transplant, I had dipped my toe into the saltwater world after relocating to Florida and purchasing a beauty of a bay boat. Fish tacos and snapper ceviche were soon to be on the menu, or so I thought. Yet, after nearly a full day of fishing, all I had in the fish box was one small triggerfish.

Photo courtesy of St, Croix Rod
For the first time in several years, the waters off the East Coast of Florida were hosting a red snapper season, and I planned to get my share of the now plentiful fish. The problem was, I couldn’t get them in the boat.

Dejected, I went home a lot lighter on sinkers; but no less determined.

That evening, I went through my gear. Hooks were stout and sharp, offering no flex, and my line was the heaviest I could find. Sinkers, swivels, knots – everything terminal was flawless. Going one step further, I studied my rods and reels.

Previously, I upgraded to St. Croix’s Mojo Jig series (Conventional and Spinning) for this style of fishing, and paired them with heavy-duty reels. Remarkably stout despite their light weight, I was certain the Mojos could handle anything a snapper could throw their way. I later learned they could, if I knew how to use them.

The following day again found me on the snapper grounds, accompanied by my wife, Kim, and friends. The bite was on, and Kim quickly hooked up. Her drag screamed as a big fish surged for the bottom. Immediately upon reaching it, Kim’s line broke. Disappointment again filled the boat.

Upon inspection of the heavy line, I found it cleanly sliced in two, as if by a pair of shears. Then, it dawned on me.

I quickly grabbed my rod, cranked the drag down as tight as it would go, and dropped down a fresh pinfish. Handing it off the Kim, I could see an instant strike. “Let him have it a minute, then wind as hard as you can,” I instructed. “And, whatever you do, don’t let him get back to the bottom.”

Kim grunted under the strain of the heavy fish. Playing it like a pro, she pressed her tackle to the max. When the big fish surged, Kim pulled back twice as hard. I added a third hand for even more leverage. To our delight, the fifteen-pound red snapper soon surfaced, was quickly netted, and hit the fish box flopping.

Again inspecting the line, I found it as perfect as when I tied it. We were on to something.

For the remainder of the day, and throughout the weekend, we would boat nearly every red snapper we hooked from that point on. Ten, fifteen, even twenty-pound fish came over the gunnels at a regular rate.

Reflecting, my lack of saltwater experience was to blame for our initial break-offs. Sure, I’d fished around line-shredding structures in freshwater; docks and rocks, for example. But nothing could prepare me for the damage inflicted by a sharp ocean reef.

Photo courtesy of St. Croix Rod
When fishing such structures, it’s absolutely imperative to win the first twenty seconds of the fight. Grouper and snapper instinctively know that, when in trouble, their best chance is to get to the bottom. It’s incredible how hard even a moderate-sized ocean dweller can pull when compared to a freshwater fish; a life in heavy ocean currents adding to their stamina.

Since my inaugural trip, I’ve used the Mojo Jig series to wrestle some real brutes from the depths below. Like all St. Croix rods, technology is at the forefront in this series, as they’re built using Advanced Reinforcing Technology; a carbon fiber material that adds incredible strength to the rod by keeping it true to form under the heaviest strain.

I’ve found the conventional Mojo Jig models to be perfect (I can’t get away from my 5’8” extra-heavy no matter what I’m fishing for), but Kim prefers the spinning models. She finds that, with her size and body frame, she gets more leverage by having the rod under her forearm when horsing a strong fish.

In any case, mark my words: the first twenty seconds is the key. Remember that, and you’ll save a bundle on sinkers.

Rio Grande Cutthroat

Chasing the Rio Grande Cutthroat
Craig Springer
from The Fishing Wire

Beautiful cutthroat stream


From nearly anywhere in my Santa Fe County home, I have the most fortunate view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s where the Rockies start in New Mexico. As I write this, a towering anvil-headed September storm cloud turns the color of a watermelon above Santa Fe Baldy and Hamilton Mesa as the day melts into night.

The moisture wrung out of this moving painting strikes the mountain slopes, softened by pines and firs and spruce trees, and funnels through granite crevices as it pours downhill. The rain consolidates into rivulets and then into “ritos” with names like Azul, Padre and Valdes. These rills will soon beget the Pecos proper, but before they do, their waters stall in dark pools under the cooling shade of alder trees and become habitat for Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is named for the splash of crimson below its gills. In the spring of the year, the spawning males are awash in red over their head and chest. It’s stunning, as if they are soaked in blood.

Under these September clouds, the fish lie there in pools under the shadows of ponderosas that have fallen into the stream or on the edge of a boulder in an eddy where the water is slowed, waiting for a grasshopper or mayfly or a moth to flit too close to the water.

With a dart and roll, a bug becomes food. That is unless that bug is a look-alike, mere fur and feathers adorning on a tiny hook. A tug and a splash, and in a moment I can see my reflection on a trout’s shimmering flank and feel its cold muscles writhing in my wet hand as its slips back into the water with a parting flip of its spotted tail.

Outwitting cutthroat trout in the high country, especially with my children, is among my most favorite pastimes. Never do I feel more alive; I’m a participant in nature, not merely an observer. These tiny streams bordered by brush and boulder require stealth, concentration and resolve. The experience hones your senses and is head-clearing, like floss for your psyche.

It’s physically demanding, too. A friend of mine likened fishing cutthroat waters to doing yoga while casting. The cutthroat streams in the upper Pecos as elsewhere in northern New Mexico are typically small and not well visited. That is, you might be making your own trail over deadfall and boulders and through patches of wild raspberries, which are appropriately colored like a trout’s throat.

The trout don’t grow large in small waters, but still, when I catch a cutthroat I feel like a man who just found money. Rio Grande cutthroat trout live is pretty places and the Sangres are among the prettiest of mountains. Each fish is uniquely adorned with a constellation of spots that no other will have, lying on a background from a pallet of paint borrowed from a late-summer sunrise accessorized with last night’s left-over tattered clouds.

The Rio Grande cutthroat trout is the official state fish of New Mexico and holds the distinction of being the first trout documented in the New World. In 1541, as the Coronado’s entrada passed near Pecos, one chronicler noted “truchas” swimming about.