Category Archives: How To

Historic Fly Pattern

A Single Historic Fly Pattern that Catches Everything
By Denis Dunderdale, North Central Regional Educator, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission
from the Fishing Wire

MOUNTAIN HOME — Talk about fish recipes normally revolves around cornmeal, batter or blackened seasoning, but for fly-fishing aficionados like Denis Dunderdale, the word recipe refers to the insect imitations he cooks up at his fly-tying bench to fool fish into biting. Here’s some sage advice from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s regional educator in the Mountain Home area.

If you ask 10 fly-fishermen to tell you their 10 favorite flies, assuming that you trust them to tell the truth, you are likely to get some interesting answers. Certainly, most will include a few common fly patterns. The wooly bugger, the Clouser minnow, and, perhaps, the Adams will be included in most anglers’ lists of favorites, but a few favorite concoctions will be specific to the angler’s preferences or favorite fishing location.

The only true answer to what fly is best is — IT DEPENDS. It depends on where you’re fishing. It depends on what species you’re pursuing. It depends on the weather, lighting, water clarity, and a host of other variables. It’s no wonder fly shops have rows of bins of flies – hundreds, if not thousands of variations. Countless volumes of books discuss various approaches one might take to deceive a fish into believing the fuzzy morsel on the end of your line is some form of delectable delight. Do you need that many different fly patterns and sizes to catch fish with a fly? Of course not. So why are there choices so vast?

I have tried many of them, from simple farm pond flies for bream, to dry flies for trout, to heavily weighted crawfish for smallies. I’ve fished in the open salt water, as well as the surf, for stripers in the Atlantic and many other forms of fly fishing. I’m not unique, either. Most who have been at it for a while can make the same, or at least similar, claims.

I live in Cotter, Arkansas, with access to some of the best trout fishing in the world, as well as some of the finest smallmouth fishing opportunities to be found anywhere. That fact is, I simply love to fly fish using traditional, sometimes historical flies, tackle and techniques. So, when it’s just me, and I get the conditions I most prefer – wading in gently flowing current, I will, no doubt, be using a “North Country soft-hackled” fly. North Country refers to the “North Country of England” — the land of the pattern’s origin (we think). There they also are called “spiders.”

This is a type of fly, not so much a pattern, and goes back centuries, to the days of Dame Juliana Berners, the author of “A Treatise on Fishing With an Angle” written in 1496. The Scots and Yorkshiremen have been using them for centuries. As for soft hackle patterns, the “Partridge and Orange” is one of my favorites. There are many other patterns, as well.- “Green and Partridge”, “Sulphur and Partridge“ – you get the idea. My affection for this fly is grounded in several factors. They are very easy to tie. They’re inexpensive (Scotland and Yorkshire are known for their frugality), and they work. Tying one cannot be simpler. Because I usually fish this near the surface of the water, I most frequently tie these flies as follows: Use a light, dry-fly hook, of a relatively small size — say a “Tiemco 102Y” in size 17. Wrap the hook shank with orange thread or floss (a purist will use gossamer silk), and put just a few – about two and a half wraps of hackle from the saddle feathers of a game bird, usually partridge, woodcock, grouse, or starling. The Hungarian partridge is the most common, and probably the most traditional. The key is not to get too generous with the number of turns of hackle — just a few wisps. That pretty much does it. No fancy wings, no tricky dubbing, not even a tail. Some will add a bit more to the fly, such as a turn, or two of peacock hurl, right behind the hackle. That will keep the hackle barbules splayed out and make it a bit easier fish as a dry fly. Others may add a bead for weight, in order to fish closer to the bottom, or to get the fly lower in faster water.

As for presentation, your options are wide open, which is another reason I like this fly so much. Drift this in a “dry style,” floating on the surface in a drag-free fashion thanks to a dab of flotant. You can also pop it just under the surface, and drift it as an emerger, also drag-free. Here you would grease the leader to within about 6 inches of the fly with the flotant. You don’t have to see the fly. You know approximately where it is, and you watch for the swirl of the strike. It takes a bit of practice but is very much worth the effort to develop this technique. It is, absolutely, my favorite way to fish for trout, a technique I learned from my friend Davy Wotton- a true master of traditional flies and fishing techniques. One of the easiest techniques is to simply cast the fly, about 30 to 40 yards, at a 45-degree angle, downstream, mend the line, and swing the fly, on a tight line, in the current. Expect to feel the sharp strike as the fly is directly below you, on what we call the “dangle.”

There are literally hundreds of variants of the “spider”, or North Country wet fly”. If you would like to read more about this magic fly, there are a few well-known sources. “The Soft Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles” and “Two Centuries of Soft Hacked Flies” both by Sylvester Nemes are good reads.

Recipe:
Hook: TMC 102Y, size 17
Body: Orange Silk
Thorax: Peacock Hurl (Optional)
Hackle: Brown Partridge

Springtime Largemouth

Jackpot Bassin’ for Springtime Largemouth
By Dr. Peter Brookes
from The Fishing Wire

March best month to catch bass


Photo: Shutterstock, via Virginia DGIF

Pssssst! Here’s a dirty little secret for you: If you want to catch your biggest largemouth bass of the year, this month—March—may be your best bet to net “basszilla.”

That may sound a bit odd, but, according to John Odenkirk, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) biologist, a lot of very big largemouth bass are caught this time of year as Mother Nature moves us from winter to spring.

As water temperatures increase, largemouth bass will shake off the cold and become increasingly active. In the pre-spawn, they’ll fatten up; while spawning, largemouth bass will become more aggressive, protecting against threats to their eggs.

As Virginians, we’re really blessed with some incredible largemouth bass fisheries right here in the state. Indeed, anglers are known to travel big distances from across our great land to throw a lure at an Old Dominion “lunker.”

If you didn’t already know from the number of largemouth bass fishing tournaments that take place there, Lake Anna is considered one of the top “bucketmouth” fisheries in Virginia.

One of the largest reservoirs in the state, Lake Anna is easily reachable from Northern Virginia, Fredericksburg, Richmond and Charlottesville. You just can’t argue with that sort of accessibility—or fishing.

And then, of course, there’s the powerful and plentiful Potomac River. It turns out that our beloved Potomac and its tidal creeks aren’t only an incredible fish factory, but one of the—if not the—top largemouth bass fisheries in the United States.

Nice.

The other awesome thing about these two water systems is that, as Odenkirk wisely pointed out to me, if the Potomac River is looking unfishable, Lake Anna may well be totally fishable or at least fishable in spots.

That means if we have a really rainy year like last year—which, I understand, was one for the record books—when the Potomac River is high and off-color, it’s likely, that as a reservoir, most parts of Lake Anna could be eagerly awaiting your fly, lure or bait.

The mid-lake region along Rose Valley, Ware Creek and the State Park along the outside edge of water willow beds can produce outstanding spring angling, Odenkirk told me.

In other words, while we all need to heed Mother Nature (e.g., thunderstorms, high water, etc.), there may be no good excuse for leaving your bass tackle box and rods at the back of the gear closet if the weather has been on the wet side.

Photo: Shutterstock, via Virginia DGIF

Of course, these fish are available in Virginia beyond the Potomac River and Lake Anna.

DGIF notes that Gaston, Buggs Island, Chickahominy, Chesdin, Smith Mountain, Prince, Briery Creek, Western Branch and Flannagan Lakes are all top-notch largemouth fisheries. For rivers, hit the Chickahominy (below Walkers Dam) and James (below the fall line).

According to DGIF, plastic worms and other plastic imitations, crankbaits, spinner baits, surface lures, jigs and other artificials, imitating minnows, crayfish, frogs, salamanders and nightcrawlers are good bets for the spin rodder.

Live bait options recommended by DGIF include jumbo shiners, small bluegills, minnows, crayfish, nightcrawlers and frogs. For the fly guys and gals, streamers and large poppers on the end of an 8-pound to 10-pound leader can be productive.

Nothing quite like the thrill of seeing a largemouth slam an artificial on the surface.

In terms of where to find largemouths this time of year, target horizontal and vertical structure (e.g., down wood and docks) and southern exposed flats near drop-offs late in the afternoon to bag these early season bass.

With an average weight of 2 – 4 pounds—with monsters tipping the scales at up to 10 pounds—there’s no question that the hard-fighting Micropterus salmoides is arguably America’s most popular freshwater game fish.

And, even better, this month would be an opportune time to bring a Virginia “bassquatch” to hand.

Dr. Peter Brookes is a DC foreign policy geek by day and a Virginia outdoor scribbler by night. Brookesoutdoors@gmail.com

Skinny Leaders for Fishing

The Real Skinny on Skinny Leaders for Fishing
from The Fishing Wire

Use a skinny leader


Photo courtesy of Heliconi
How Fishing with Fluorocarbon Leaders Can Up Your Odds

Louisville, KY – Here’s an unfortunate fact: a lot of fish are leader-shy. Especially fish that roam shallow, clear waters and are physiologically all eyeballs. Take for instance permit and bonefish, two saltwater fish that experts agree require the assistance of a quality fluorocarbon leader.

A new fluorocarbon leader option that’s designed to fool leader-shy fish and is catching the attention of anglers nationwide is Seaguar’s Gold Label. It is the thinnest and strongest leader Seaguar makes—18% thinner with 17% better knot and tensile strength compared to other Seaguar leader material.

One expert who is familiar with Gold Label and dealing with leader-shy fish is “The Kayak Fishing Show” host Jim Sammons. Now in its tenth year of production, Sammons’ travels have taken him to waters and fish around the world.

“I’ve been using Gold Label since it was first introduced and the beauty of it is it has a smaller diameter so I get action on lures and my bait can swim that much better. The smaller the line the less resistance that lure or live bait is going to have to deal with and swim more naturally. And obviously, the more natural something looks, the better your chances of getting bit. I fish all over the world and many of those places have crystal-clear water, especially in saltwater you tend to encounter that and you need every advantage you can get. My experience with Gold Label is it increases the number of bites you get because of its smaller diameter. Fluorocarbon is already difficult to see in the water but if you can give yourself any advantage at all, like making the diameter even smaller, it’s even better. So the benefits are two-fold: the line is going to be seen less and your baits and lures just swim more naturally. And, if you can do that, you just up your chances of getting on fish,” says Sammons.

Some of the examples of where the line has excelled for Sammons are fishing in both Belize and Louisiana.

“I used it as my leader in Belize where you’ve got bonefish and permit and super clear waters where the fish can be really spooky. It made a big difference in getting those bites. Even in water that looks dirty it could be crystal-clear down below the top layer, like fishing for redfish in Louisiana where you’re sight-fishing for the fish. Just having that bait move more naturally, for me, has made a huge difference. I use Seaguar 16-strand Threadlock Hollow Core Braid and make my own wind-on leaders, so rather than having a short, four-foot leader, I can have a leader that’s 20 feet long. So, having that much distance of fluorocarbon, and that narrow diameter, it’s just less resistance for that bait to have to pull and just that much more invisible,” adds Sammons.

“One situation where Gold Label really made a difference was in Louisiana fishing redfish in really skinny, skinny water. We were standing on top of our kayaks trying to sightfish – and not only redfish but black drum, and sheepshead, which are very finicky and tough to get to bite. Nobody else was getting bit, but I was still getting bit. Another situation was also fishing redfish in some fairly dirty water and a friend of mine told me I didn’t need a fluorocarbon leader because the water was so dirty. So I tied straight to my braid but just couldn’t get bit. You don’t necessarily think about dirty water having to have a fluoro leader but it can help immensely because a lot of times there’s clear water underneath that dirty water on top. I tied on a Gold Label leader and immediately, first cast, I caught a red and after that it was constantly fish on all morning. It made that much of a difference. For people who aren’t believers in fluorocarbon, they’re just wrong.

Another bonus to Gold Label is that it has very little memory, which has made a huge difference for Sammons. “It’s all very supple when you’re casting—especially on my fly rods—so the line just lays down on the water nicely. It’s just got all the qualities you want in a high-quality fluorocarbon. And when I’m using a baitcaster or spinning gear, being able to use the combination of the Seaguar Threadlock and making those long wind-on leaders out of Gold Label, it’s just amazing.” Sammons describes Gold Label as fluorocarbon with the abrasion resistance and strength of Blue Label but the softness of Seaguar’s Fluoro Premier. It’s currently available in five versatile pound test ratings, ranging from 15 lb test to 40 lb test, on 25 yard spools.

As mentioned, Sammons is the host of “The Kayak Fishing Show” on the World Fishing Network, a show whose premise is to travel the world and catch the biggest fish possible from kayaks while also casting a spotlight on the interesting people and cultural experiences along the way. He mentions how critical of a part the line actually plays in producing compelling TV content.

“When you’re shooting a show, you need those fish on camera and the best chance to land fish for the show. I’ve been using Seaguar forever for that very reason—it makes what I do much easier.”

He continues: “It’s so easy for me to promote a product that I believe in. And I’ve been using Seaguar since long before I had a TV show. It’s something I really believe in.”

For more information, call 502-883-6097, write Kureha America LLC, 4709 Allmond Ave., Suite 4C, Louisville, KY 40209, or visit us on the Web at www.seaguar.com or on Facebook.

Fine Tune Finesse Fishing

Fine Tune Finesse Fishing with Mark Zona
from the Fishing Wire

Catch bass finesse fishing


How Hi-Vis Braid Provides An Edge In Detecting Subtle Finesse Bites

A decade ago, anglers were especially wary of hi-vis braids, preferring camouflage lines to everything else. That’s changed significantly with the success of finesse presentations like the ubiquitous wacky rig, Neko rig, drop shotting, the Ned rig, and countless other fish-catching finesse approaches. For many, hi-vis braid has become an indispensable part of the finesse rig, a way to monitor bites by sight and feel that simply increases hooked and boated bass.

One angler who’s made the conversion to hi-vis braid is Mark Zona, bass expert and TV fishing program host.

“Here’s what’s funny to me. 10 to 15 years ago a lot of us laughed at hi-vis braid and said, ‘What on Earth do I need this for? I need camouflage!’ Well, that thinking has gone by the wayside with spinning reel finesse fishing applications. It’s critical to have a hi-vis braided line. There’s no stretch in braid, so number one, you have much better sensitivity for bites. Then you add the visual aspect with the lack of stretch and that high level of sensitivity and you’re just putting more odds in your corner to land more fish. From a novice all the way to a professional angler, we look for every edge we can get in bite detection. That’s what this whole game is. If you’re using a braid that’s hard to see or camouflaged with the water with a fluorocarbon leader and you’re struggling to see bites, what you’re doing is absolutely pointless. I now probably apply hi-vis braid and a fluorocarbon leader to 80% of my finesse applications, whether it’s a drop shot, shakey head, etc.,” says Zona.

Especially in deeper water, bite detection when fishing finesse presentations becomes critical. Zona knows this well, spending much of his time in what he calls “crazy deep water”—20, 30, 40, 50, all the way down to 60 feet of water, working the bottom with finesse baits.

“That’s how I shoot my shows. To me, a hi-vis line is imperative. Sure, when you’re fishing in two feet of water or less, you don’t need to detect your bite as much because it transmits way faster. But when you’re fishing in deeper water as I am—10 feet all the way down into the abyss or 40, 50, or 60 feet—you’re looking for every edge you can get. Now, when I’m fishing the majority of my finesse techniques – power shotting, Neko rigging, standard dropshots, small finesse baits—basically everything—that braided line becomes, even more important than my rod, really, for telegraphing bites.”

One of the techniques Zona utilizes frequently is called power shotting, which is basically a very heavy drop shot application with ½-ounce to ¾-ounce drop shot weights.

“That’s one of my approaches in 20, 30, 40 feet of water. When my bait is down there on a six or eight-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon leader, I can literally tell you when a fish breathes on the bait with that hi-vis braid’s combo of no-stretch sensitivity and sight detection.”

But the same applies for drop shotting in all depths, especially when fishing vertically. Even if you’re using a lighter 1/8- to ¼ ounce weight, the sensitivity and visual aspect of a line like Seaguar’s Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green and fluorocarbon leader just communicates bites faster than any other line combination can provide.

Another deep water finesse application that benefits from hi-vis braid is Zona’s use of a Neko rig, essentially a weighted finesse or stick worm. Same goes when he’s fishing a standard Wacky rig.

“One of the things I can tell you, a wacky rig or Neko rig is probably tied on in every single boat across the country, period. And that is one of many applications where Seaguar’s Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green has really made a difference. I shot a show recently where I got on a school of bass out deep where I was catching them on a Neko Rig and that line jumps on camera to where the viewer could watch at home and tell I just got a bite! It was that impressive,” says Zona.

He continues: “What’s amazing is how well the high-visibility of the Seaguar Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green emits a bite; it’s staggering. When you get a bite, the color green line jumps like the green in a traffic light for ‘go’ and you just can’t miss it.”

The Ned rig is another finesse presentation that benefits greatly from a line like Seaguar’s Hi-Vis Flash Green. It allows you to see when your bait is falling through the water column and you can watch when it stops and the bait hits the bottom. Then, as you put a little tension on the line, not only can you feel and see any subtle jerk or sideways motion you can now decipher bottom content. The combination of braid and fluorocarbon leader allows you to tell when that Ned rig bumps into rock or slides through weeds—which is pretty much impossible with an extruded line alone.

That is the common aspect in fine-tuning any of your finesse fishing game—the use of a fluorocarbon leader, whether you’re power shotting, drop shotting, fishing a shaky head, wacky rig, Neko rig, Ned rig, small vertical baits like light jigging spoons, etc. A high-quality six to eight-pound fluorocarbon leader is perfect for most applications and you can even get away with 10 given how narrow and clear quality fluorocarbon is. Eight to 10-pound fluorocarbon also gives you a lot more abrasion resistance.

Whether you’re using a fluorocarbon like AbrazX or Tatsu it’s important you tie a good knot like a double-uni (aka uni-to-uni), cinch the knot tight and trim the tag ends closely to make movement through the end rod guide easier and necessitate longer casts, which are already 50% or so longer than using monofilament or fluorocarbon sans braid. The diameter is so narrow that there’s little resistance in the guides when you cast it, as well as how smoothly it winds off the spool. And with regards to tying line-to-leader knots like the double-uni, one trick that makes doing so much easier is wetting the end line of the braid, so it has some weight.

In terms of leader length, the higher you’re marking the fish in the water column on your sonar, the longer the fluorocarbon leader should be because you want to keep the braid out of their visual range. If bass are one or two feet off the bottom, they’re going to move down and eat stuff off the bottom, but you should have the knot and braid tied to a length that exceeds where they’re sitting. 24-inches or longer is a good place to start.

Back to the benefits of hi-vis braid, spooling your spinning reel with a high-visibility line like Seaguar’s Hi-Vis Flash Green also allows you to downsize the action of your rod, making it possible to use something with a little bit softer tip without losing any sensitivity. In fact, combine that rod sensitivity with what the line does and you can literally feel a fish breathe on your bait. The no-stretch characteristic of the hi-vis braid picks also up so much of the hookset that a high-quality rod like a St. Croix in the moderate to moderate fast action is a great match for finesse applications. This combination also delivers more visual information of what your bait is doing, with the line transmitting the wiggle, wobble, and other nuances of how your bait is performing under water, which is then telegraphed through the slightly softer spinning rod tip.

Like Zona, more anglers are turning to the use of hi-vis braid to fine tune their finesse fishing game—and for good reason. The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s a switch that not only makes sense in the bass realm but finesse fishing for all manner of fish—panfish, trout, walleye, striped bass, and just about any other freshwater and saltwater species you can think of. The recommendation? Give it a shot this season—you’ll be glad you did.

Fishing Lake Allatoona with Carter Koza

Carter with Allatoona largeamouth and spot


Bass are biting, if you do the right thing. A couple of trips in the past week proved my point that some people can catch bass, even on the worse possible conditions. On days I think they are just not biting because of one of my excuses for not catching fish, some are catching fish.

For years folks called Lake Allatoona “The Dead Sea!” After a trip a week ago, I won’t ever call it that again. I had a great trip with Carter Koza and his father Jamie Koza, owner of The Dugout, getting information for my February Georgia Outdoor News Magazine https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaOutdoorNews/ Map of the Month article.

Carter caught nine keepers in half day fishing, from 7:30 to 12:30, including a two-pound largemouth and two spots about three pounds each. All hit a Spro Rock Crawler 50 on rocks, the pattern for the article. It was what I consider the worst weather conditions possible for catching fish, first day of a strong cold front. Bright sunny skies. Windy, but that is usually a good thing. The water was very stained, but Carter said that makes for the best winter fishing at Allatoona – cold muddy water is a good thing there!

Carter is a sophomore in high school. Younger fishermen like him amaze me with their skills and knowledge. Cater had a great mentor in his father, and he learned well. He explained patterns, what the bass were doing and eating, and why he chose the bait he used, as well as any pro. His knowledge is better than mine even though I have been tournament fishing for almost 50 years!!

I would like to fish Allatoona more often, but its location up I-75 north of Atlanta means ridiculous traffic, especially pulling a boat. I avoid going inside I-285 whenever possible. Traffic is bad on I-285, but there are fewer bad merging places. The absolutely worse place, unless there is a wreck, is coming south on I-75 where it merges with I-85. I hate pulling a boat through there anytime since you have to change several lanes fairly fast to avoid exit only lanes, and with thick traffic it is dangerous with a boat.

What is Barotrauma?

Try this Simple Solution for Barotrauma in Fish

E. Weeks, South Carolina DNR
from The Fishing Wire

Pressure Release for Barotrauma


Two descending devices – https://youtu.be/agu22ruqX4gdevices (in center): a pressure-activated SeaQualizer and a lower-tech descender (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

Recently on the blog we looked at a few misconceptions surrounding barotrauma, which occurs when fish reeled in from deep waters experience injuries due to the rapid change in pressure. Barotrauma, which can range from invisible injuries to bloated organs, can kill fish both directly and indirectly, as when they’re unable to escape predators such as sharks or barracudas.

There’s increasing consensus that descending devices are the best way to address this issue, giving released reef fish the greatest odds of survival.

Descending devices can range from the low-tech and DIY (a simple hook or basket set-up with a weight attached) to more expensive, commercially developed tools. But all serve the same purpose: to return fish to a safe depth where they can recover from any ill effects of barotrauma. The use of all descending devices follows the same basic procedure:

Angler reels in a fish from >30 feet of water and may or may not observe signs of barotrauma in the fish.

After deciding to release fish, angler works quickly to dehook the animal.

Angler attaches descending device to fish (either through the hole made by hook, by attaching to lip, or by placing fish in a basket).

Using a hand reel or heavy-duty rod, angler lowers fish back into the depths from which it was caught.

Angler triggers the release mechanism, freeing the descending device from the fish so it can re-acclimate to its environment.

In 2015, the FishAmerica Foundation began working with anglers in the Gulf of Mexico to improve the survival of fish caught in deep waters (such as red snapper) and learn more about the potential for widespread use of descending devices. By asking over 1,100 anglers to test Seaqualizer descending devices, the project ‘saved’ an estimated 3,000-9,000 red snapper that, based on previous research, would otherwise have died due to their barotrauma injuries.

Based on their early success in the Gulf, the FishSmart project has now expanded to look at the impacts of using descending devices by offshore anglers in the South Atlantic. That’s how the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) came to be a partner on this project.

An Opportunity to Try This Yourself Right now, SCDNR is recruiting volunteer anglers who regularly fish for species such as snapper, grouper, or red drum in deep waters. If you’re an offshore angler who cares about improving the survival of reef fish, consider taking part in this program. Anglers who participate in the program will be provided with educational materials and tools for decreasing barotrauma effects, and will be asked to complete two brief surveys over the coming year about how often they used descending devices, how they worked, and whether they have any recommendations for improvement on provided information.If you’re interested in helping conserve deepwater fish by participating in this program, please contact SCDNR’s Morgan Hart at HartM@dnr.sc.gov.

Catch and Release Fishing

To Keep or To Release?
From the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
from the Fishing Wire

Releasing Trout


If you’re fishing in a catch-and-release-only water body, the decision has been made for you; all fish must be released promptly. But otherwise, you can decide which legally harvestable fish to keep for consumption, which to release, and how to conduct either activity. Many fishing regulations are designed to improve fish growth and size quality, and they are only successful if fish are harvested by anglers. A lack of harvest can cause fish to stunt and not grow. Either way, it’s your job to bring a humane approach to the table. If you decide to release your catch, the following tips will help result in a successful release.

How to safely catch and release

By carefully following these simple instructions, you can release your fish unharmed. If you enjoyed catching your fish, so will the next angler!

Time is of the essence. Play and release the fish as quickly and carefully as possible. An exhausted fish may be too weak to recover. Do not overplay your fish.
Keep the fish in the water. Minimize or eliminate the time your fish is out of the water. As little as 30 seconds of air exposure can cause delayed mortality of released trout, and in the winter months the fish may be subject to a quick freeze.

Wet your hands when handling the fish. Dry hands can remove the layer of slime that protects the fish from fungi, bacteria, and parasites.

Photograph responsibly. Photo sessions can be stressful for a fish. Prepare for the photo with your fish safely under the water surface, and only lift the fish out of the water for 5 second intervals or less. Try to get the shot (within reason), but return your fish to the water for a rest between attempts.

Be gentle. Keep your fingers away from the gills, don’t squeeze the fish, and never drag a fish onto the bank.

Choose the right landing net. Rubber nets are easier on fish than traditional twine nets.

Safely remove the hook with small pliers or a similar tool. If the hook is deeply embedded or in a sensitive area such as the gills or stomach, cut the leader close to the snout. Make an effort to use regular steel (bronzed) hooks to promote early disintegration. Avoid the use of stainless hooks. One way to release your fish quickly is to use barbless hooks. If barbed hooks are all you have, you can bend the barbs over or simply file them off.

Neutralize the pressure. The air bladders of togue (lake trout) often expand after being pulled up rapidly from deep water. If a togue’s belly appears expanded, release it from the hook first, then gently press your thumb along the stomach near the paired belly fins and move it forward a few times to release the air before releasing the fish.

Revive the fish. Hold the fish underwater in a swimming position until it can swim away (note: do not use this method if surface water temperatures are unusually warm).
Follow these simple basics and most of the fish you put back into the water will be there for you to try to catch next time.

Tying Good Knots

Good Knots are Key to Great Catches
By Ben Secrest, Accurate Fishing
from The Fishing Wire

Yellowfin Tuna


The right knots help land fish of a lifetime. This 256 lb. yellowfin is the perfect example for Team Accurate.

The attention to detail in daily life helps all of us moving forward to succeed in obstacles we face everyday. The whole adventure of fishing is based on some details that once summed up can lead to successfully landing or losing the fish of a lifetime.

One extremely important part of everyday fishing is being able to tie knots that will withstand the test of a gamefish during the heat of a lengthy battle. We wanted to show you some basic knots that will help you during your fishing adventures no matter if its at the lake, inshore along the coast or targeting larger gamefish offshore. Many of the knots are common in all fishing circles from super light line to heavy duty offshore fishing–they are proven. Here are some of the well known knots that you should become familiar with for your time on the water.

Clinch Knot


Clinch Knot is used to tie a hook, swivel, or lure onto your line. This clinch has been a staple knot among salt and freshwater anglers for years. This knot will work on monofilament or braided lines. When tying the knot make sure you cinch it tight using water or saliva to avoid any friction on the line. Tie the knot correctly and make sure you cinch it down by pulling securely on the running line. Once cinched then trim tag end.

Parlomor Knot


Palomar knot Palomar has been a very popular knot among fishermen for securing their line to a hook. Its a very easy knot to tie and extremely strong. This knot works very well with monofilament and braid. There are variations of this knot out there and all work well if tied properly. Again lubricating the mono line helps reduce friction and it is extremely important to cinch the knot and trim tag end after.

Uniknot


UniKnot is well proven in all circles as easy to tie and can be used with heavier test line. This knot has been a main stay of lots of anglers including myself. I use it to tie on hooks, lures, swivels, and pretty much anything that requires a sound knot. When using lighter line I double the line through the eye of the hook and then tie a uniknot which gives you more strength at the eye of the hook. The thing about a unknot is when it cinches down right it’s square on the hook. Very solid.

Loop Knot


Loop knot is a popular knot among the artificial plug fishermen where a loop on the lure will elicit more action in the lure during certain retrieves. These knots are good but the thing to remember if you are going to fight gamefish for any length of time is that the loose line of the loop on the eye of the bait will wear overtime and often break. Catch a couple fish and check it for any frays to make sure you are solid.

Surgeon Knot


Surgeons Knot is a double line knot for anglers looking for double the strength of their line or knots. It is also used to attach double line leaders. People use the bimini knot or the surgeons loop to attach leaders loop to loop. Very important to cinch it square or it will wear on itself.

Double Uniknot


Double Uniknot is one of the easy knots to tie and extremely reliable from two pound test to 100 lb. Its easy to tie and has a higher breaking strength versus others. This knot is used to tie leader onto your main line or to join two lines. It is a little bulkier going through the guides but is a proven performer for fishermen around the globe.

Albright Knot


Improved Albright Knot is another knot for connecting two lines, running line to leader, that works perfect with mono, floro, or braid. This is a strong knot and very compact so it travels through the guides easier. We have used this knot for years for tying 30lb mono and to 100 to 150 lb leader material for casting rigs for stripe marlin here on the west coast. Fairly easy knot to tie once you practice it but like any knot make sure it is cinched prior to trimming any tag lines. The braid to floro leader works like magic. Remember with braid take more wraps so the knot lays right.

Pena Knot


Tony Pena Knot works very well with mono to mono but it is the strongest of the knots we use for braid to mono/floro connections for poppers, surface lures, and baits for larger tunas. It is a very basic knot and probably the strongest we have used for leader to braid connection. With smaller lines we tie a 2 to 3 turn uni-knot for the overhand knot then ten up and ten back with the braid then through the loop. These knots push against each other when cinching and square up nicely. The knot goes through the guides well and is very easy to cast with minimal hang up in the guides. We have tied this knot exclusively for the last few years for our popper rigs with conventional gig with 65 or 80 lb braid to 100 or 130 lb floro leader. Very strong, dependable knot when tied correctly and fully cinched. Proven with the west coast tuna guys.

All these knots have good ratings among anglers. Whatever you have the most confidence in tie. I have been tying the same knots for years and I have changed a couple knots along the way. Key to any knot is tie it correctly and most important thing is lubricate your line, cinch your knot, then trim tag end. Never trim the tag end until you cinch your knot. The knot is the very base to be successful catching fish. To be good at anything, you need to practice what is involved. Its the same with tying knots. While watching TV practice your knots. Get them right and they will help you produce that fish of a lifetime

Team Accurate
By Ben Secrest|

Use the Right Fishing Line

The Right Fishing Line for Soft Plastics

Using the right fishing line will help you land fish


Your line is the crucial connection when using Carolina and Texas rigs

By David A. Rose
from The Fishing Wire

Every few years, one of the best bass-tournament pros in the nation sweeps the competition during a major derby, landing the largest limit of fish while rigging their favorite soft plastics in an innovative way. After that, what was once their secret technique suddenly becomes all the rage. The drop-shot rig, Neko rig and advances in wacky-rigging are just a few techniques that have come to the forefront during the past couple of decades after major tournament successes.

But when all is said and done, even after these fresh approaches have become widespread, two rigs still stand the test of time – both sticking out as must-use-when-all-else-is-failing techniques: the Carolina rig and the Texas rig.

Worms? Lizards? Tubes? Creature baits? It really doesn’t matter what your go-to bait is, as both Carolina and Texas rigs have been catching fish almost since soft plastics were first created.

But like any well-established technique (and I mean any,) the single most important connection between you and any fish is your line.

The Missing Link

Seaguar Pro Chris Zaldain is a 33-year-old Bassmaster Elite tournament angler from Laughlin, Nevada, who has taken top honors twice in Bassmaster Elite events, as well numerous top 20 finishes. This carries his winnings over the half-million-dollar mark since his start only 8 years ago.

“There’s no doubt, line is the most crucial link when using both Carolina and Texas rigs,” says the Seaguar pro. “I have been using Seaguar fluorocarbon since the early 2000’s, well before I wore their logo on my jersey [2010], and I’m here to tell you, I have literally spooled many, many miles of it on my reels since I started fishing.

“Seaguar fishing lines have helped me fool fish in the clear-water lakes I fished growing up, and it was InvizX that was my choice from the very day I started. And InvizX is still is a line I trust today because it’s super soft and allows me to cast any lure with ease. And I’ve never had a knot I’ve tied with it unravel.”

Everything’s Bigger When Texas-Rigging…Maybe

One of the most weedless/snagless methods of delivering a lure to a lunker is the Texas rig. Zaldain uses 1/4- to 3/8-ounce weights, pegging them to his hook and soft plastic with a bobber stop on 15-pound-test InvizX.

“That particular pound-test isn’t too light for most applications and hook-sets; yet, it’s not so heavy that it hinders the action of your bait,” Zaldain states. “And 15-pound test Seaguar InvizX is as strong as other manufacture’s 20-pound test, but with a smaller overall line diameter. And the thinner a line is, the more bites you’ll get.

“It boils down to the fact that the thinner the line, the more naturally a bait moves in the water. It just moves more like the real thing…period.”

Zaldain is never nervous about using InvizX for his Texas-rigged offerings for near-shore shallow-water fish, even amongst submerged trees or along steep, rocky bluffs; the line’s suppleness allows it to snake through limbs and around shale with ease. Moreover, it has plenty of abrasion resistance to pull even the heftiest largemouth from structure without worrying about getting nicked up and breaking off.

Also, InvizX fluorocarbon has less stretch than monofilament, which allows Zaldain to feel a strike the moment it occurs. This means he’s able to set the hook and pull a fish out of its snag-infested haunt before it even knows it being bit back.

Cover Me, I’m Going in… Carolina-Style

Along thick-and-gnarly structure in deep water is where Zaldain tends to employ the Carolina rig—which was devised to separate the weight from your offering so that the latter has a natural, horizontal free-swimming movement verses the more precise bottom-bouncing motion of a Texas-rigged bait.

“My line of choice with long-leader Carolina rig applications is Seaguar AbrazX because of its extreme abrasion resistance,” Zaldain states.

If structure isn’t extremely dense, Zaldain still uses 15-pound-test – rarely anything lighter. When the bass are utilizing extremely-thick cover, conversely, he will boost his leader to 20-pound test.

Complementing the lower stretch and sensitivity of fluorocarbon, Zaldain prefers what he calls “old-school” lead bullet-style weights over tungsten. With the former, he claims, he can feel what’s on bottom much better.

Telegraphed through the lead weight, line and then rod, he can sense the difference between gravel verses rock, for example, which lets him know when to lift his Carolina-rigged offering up and out of a snag. Zaldain starts with a 3/4-ounce bullet or egg-sinker weight above his bead and swivel, and then adjusts his rig from there.

Lessons Learned

Without a doubt, your line is the only link between you and any fish, whether you’re using the newest technique to hit the tournament trail or the most tried and true rigs ever created, like Texas and Carolina rigs.

Overall, use the lightest line you can get away with, but have different rods spooled with diverse pound test and toughness (abrasion resistance); because where you find fish may change with every cast.

Ice Fishing How-to from North Dakota DFG

Ice Fishing How-to from North Dakota DFG
by Ty Stockton, North Dakota DFG
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing in North Dakota has never been better. The state boasts 22 species of game fish and 449 bodies of water where anglers can wet a line.

Quite a few of those fishing holes are relatively new. Since the early 1990s, when a long drought ended and a wet cycle began, previously dry lakes filled, and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department stocked many of these new waters with fish.

“At least 50 of those new lakes are producing good walleye,” said Greg Power, Game and Fish Department fisheries division chief.

A strange thing happens when a new lake is formed. Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader, said the technical term for the fertility of a new body of water is “trophic upsurge.”

Walleye grow fat on this food in North Dakota


With a menu of scuds, fathead minnows and other prey, walleyes stocked in North Dakota’s new prairie lakes grow rapidly.

“It’s an explosion of nutrients, insects and resources fish thrive on,” he said. “When you flood vegetation or soil that had been dry, the nutrients are released into the water. Insects feed on these nutrients, and minnows – mostly fathead minnows in North Dakota – eat the insects, and this provides a fantastic food source for predatory fish, like walleyes.”

Because of this trophic upsurge, walleyes stocked in these new prairie lakes grow rapidly. Game and Fish fisheries biologists compile data on walleyes throughout the state, including growth rates. They’ve found that the average walleye in traditional waters, such as Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe or Lake Tschida, is 6 inches long at the end of the first growing season; 10 inches after two growing seasons; 14 inches after three seasons; and 16 inches after four seasons.

By contrast, walleyes in the nutrient-rich new prairie lakes, such as Sibley (Kidder County), Lehr WMA (McIntosh County), Kraft (Sargent County) and Twin Lakes (LaMoure County), are 9 inches at the end of the first season; 14 inches after two seasons; 16 inches after three seasons; and 18 inches after four seasons.

With walleyes growing faster in these new prairie waters, anglers have good opportunities to catch good-sized fish within a few years of the lakes being established. “Our strategy is to stock the heck out of those waters,” Gangl said. “If there are enough minnows, sometimes you can’t put enough fish in them to get the fathead populations down enough to let the fish get hungry, so we stock those waters with as many fish as we can.”

This means there are potentially more good-sized walleyes in the lakes than the minnow populations will comfortably feed. This in turn means plenty of fish under the surface are hungry enough to take the bait offered to them by an enterprising angler. In short, it’s a recipe for a good bite.

The fish stocked in these lakes don’t grow to catchable-size right away?– and in fact, walleye aren’t stocked immediately after lakes flood. Once a lake is established, fisheries biologists evaluate its viability. Among the considerations are the length of time it will likely hold water, the number of minnows it holds, and whether it can be accessed by the public.

“We can stock a lake if we have good, legal public access,” said Paul Bailey, Department south central fisheries district supervisor. “It might be a section line or a road, but often we get easements from willing landowners.”

Even after all of that, walleye are not usually the first fish stocked.

“We stock perch first,” Bailey said. “Perch deposit their eggs on flooded vegetation, so they do well in those newly flooded lakes.”

The perch serve two purposes, Power said. They provide another game fish for anglers to target, and they become an intermediate food source for growing walleyes when the larger, predatory fish are released into the lakes.

Once the forage base is established, either through minnows that naturally occur in the waters or perch that are trapped and transported from other waters in the state, walleyes are stocked in the lakes. The walleyes come from the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, and they’re mostly stocked as 1- to 2-inch fingerlings, though a few waters receive nearly microscopic fry (the developmental stage immediately following the fish hatching from their eggs).

From there, managing the fishery is a balancing act. If a lake has too many minnows, they outcompete perch for forage, and perch numbers decline. Also, when minnows provide more than enough food for walleyes to eat, they are not as interested in taking an angler’s lure.

If walleye populations grow too quickly, fathead minnow numbers start to dwindle. That’s where anglers enter the management picture.

“Anglers help with the predator-prey cycle,” Gangl said. “If we don’t have enough anglers fishing a certain water, the walleye populations get too big, and they bring down the minnow populations. We need anglers to take some fish out of the lakes, so the minnow and walleye populations remain balanced.”

Winter is a great time to find some of those hungry walleyes, too. Some of the newer lakes lack boat ramps, so the only way to get out to the middle of those lakes is to get there on the frozen surface.

So check with your local bait store or online ice fishing forum to find where the big ones are biting. You’ll not only have a good chance to put some fryers in the pan, you’ll also help Game and Fish keep the predator-prey balance to ensure these waters continue to provide good fishing opportunities for years to come.

NORTH DAKOTA FISHING WATERS
YEAR NUMBER OF FISHABLE WATERS
1950 30
1963 150
1971 110
1980 139
1990 186
2000 208
2010 340
2012 365
2017 449

Forage and Other Factors
The Facebook post from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department says there are thousands of walleye in the lake you like to fish, so you grab your tackle and beat feet for the water. But when you get there, you try every lure in your tackle box, cast into 43 different likely spots, but you don’t get so much as a single bump on the end of your line.

What gives? Is this some sort of Candid Camera moment? Are you the butt of some cruel YouTube video, being laughed at as the most gullible angler in North Dakota?

Not at all. The netting surveys and other measures Game and Fish biologists use to monitor fisheries are good indicators of the numbers of fish below the surface. But the fact that there are a lot of fish in a lake doesn’t necessarily mean those fish will take an angler’s lure. There are a lot of factors that affect the bite.

“If the fish are well-fed from natural sources, they might not get into the bite,” said Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader. On the flip side, “if you have a great bite, it indicates a lack of natural forage.” That forage, for the most part, is fathead minnows.

But Gangl said other factors play into the bite, as well.

“Weather patterns play a part,” he said. “When you see fronts rolling in, the fish may bite – or they may stop biting. Weather plays a role, but it’s not necessarily consistent.” He said as weather changes, you may see a change in fish activity.

Another weather-related factor is water temperature. Certain species of fish are adapted for different water temperatures. Trout are cold-water fish, so the colder the water, the more active they become. Walleye are cool-water fish, so as the water temperature drops they may become more active to a certain temperature, then settle down as the temperature continues to drop.

“Early ice is usually popular,” Gangl said. “The water’s still cooling, but it hasn’t gotten as cold as it’s going to get. As the temperature drops, the fish’s metabolism slows, and after the ice has been on for a while, and the water is colder, you might get that midwinter lull in activity.”

Gangl said he’s been fishing and has seen lots of fish on his Vexilar, but none of those fish would take his lure. “Sometimes it just happens like that,” he said. “There are obviously a lot of fish down there, but none of them are interested in the bait. You might get one to bite from time to time, but it’s pretty slow. Then all of a sudden, it all changes, and you get the rest of your limit in an hour.”

Often, that sudden change hits near sunset, or the fish will bite early in the morning, then suddenly stop as the sun gets higher. Gangl said this could be because walleye are better adapted to hunting in the dark than their prey – fathead minnows – are to seeing danger in darker water.

“It’s a factor of efficiency,” he said. “Fish forage on what is optimum. They try to get the best food they can get with the least amount of energy expended.”

Every fish in every fishery is an individual, so there are no scientific standards for what triggers the bite. You can move to new holes if the fish aren’t biting where you are, and maybe you’ll find a few active fish somewhere else. Or you can sit still and keep fishing, waiting for the conditions to cause the fish to get hungry.

After all, it’s called “fishing,” and not “catching,” for a reason. Greg Power, Department fisheries division chief may have said it best: “Mother Nature’s pendulum does swing wildly and rapidly in North Dakota.”

The best bet is to be in the right place at the right time when that pendulum swings your way.