Keep Some Small Bass To Eat

Harvest of lots of small bass can mean more “slot” fish in the future in some overpopulated lakes like Arkansas’ Lake Brewer and others.

from The Fishing Wire

PLUMMERVILLE — A winning weight of 10 fish for just over 10 pounds would have most bass-fishing tournament directors contemplating a permanent blacklisting of the lake from their schedule, but Jared Pridmore, director of the Lake Brewer Bass Club and owner of JP Custom Baits in Arkansas, was nothing but smiles when he saw the results of his “Tiny Fish Tournament” in April.

The only thing that made him happier than the low weight was the sight of the fish-filled cooler where participants turned in their fish instead of releasing them to the water. 

Lake Brewer is the main drinking water supply for about 20,000 people in Conway County as well as another 60,000 people in and around the City of Conway in Faulkner County. It was constructed in 1983 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and maintenance of the lake was turned over to the Conway Corporation the year it was built.

In addition to providing water for nearby residents, the 1,166-acre reservoir has proven to be a fantastic fishery, even being featured in an episode of Major League Fishing a few years ago. 

“Brewer is a great lake, and about five years ago, you needed to have at least five fish for 20 pounds to have a chance of placing in a tournament there, but it’s getting full of small fish,” Pridmore said.

“Word got out that it was hot, and between fishing pressure and the tons of small fish, you don’t see nearly as many fish over the lake’s slot limit.”

The “slot limit” Pridmore refers to is a special regulation placed on some lakes where bass of a certain size must be released immediately back to the water to protect them from harvest. In Brewer’s case, any largemouth bass between 13 and 16 inches long cannot be kept for eating or weigh-ins to be released later, but fish under 13 inches and over 16 inches can be kept. 

According to Matt Schroeder, fisheries biologist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Mayflower office, slot limits are intended to help produce and maintain good fish populations, but can have a negative effect if some harvest isn’t practiced.

“Lakes that have good growth and produce consistently good spawns are typical candidates for slot limits,” Schroeder said. “You’re wanting to protect your best spawning year classes of fish, while allowing harvest above and below that to thin out some of the competition for food. Your most abundant year-class of fish is going to be the youngest fish, so harvesting them lets the fish in the protected slot get more food and grow to larger sizes.”

But Schroeder warns that if no one is harvesting the small fish, the slot limit becomes ineffective and the lake may see slower growth from too many mouths to feed. 

“You’ve essentially created a minimum length limit at that point, and lakes with good recruitment and good growth can actually see a decline in production of large fish when that happens,” Schroeder said. “We want people catching and keeping the fish under the slot limit if it’s going to work.”

Pridmore, and Lake Brewer Bass Club president Lynn Hensley say they want to do what they can to help bring bigger fish back to the lake.

“You catch a ton of those small fish in here right now,” Hensley said. “And you’re not going to get big fish if all the food is going to those small ones.”

The April tiny fish tournament had some major differences from standard fishing tournaments:
Anglers could weigh in up to 10 largemouth bass per boat that were under the 13- to 16-inch slot limit. All largemouth bass weighed that were under the slot were put in a cooler for any of the anglers to take home and enjoy as long as they didn’t go over any possession limits. Even with the catch-and-keep rules in place, tournament directors still released a few fish.

“We let every team weigh in one fish that was over the slot limit in a separate big-fish contest, so anyone who caught a big one today would still get to enjoy a shot at a prize,” said Lynn Hensley, club president.

“We released all fish over the slot back to the water. We also released any Kentucky bass because they aren’t included in the slot limit regulations.”

Overall, the tournament was a success, and many of the anglers still had the same competitive spirit at weigh-in, although social distancing protocols in April prevented any large crowds at the weigh-in table. At the end of the day, the team of Luci and Chris Johnson from Prairie Grove took the title with 10 fish weighing a less than massive 10.35 pounds. 

“We had 22 teams show up to fish, which isn’t bad considering the social distancing that we all have to work through,” Pridmore said. “We even had folks like [the Johnsons] who drive down from Northwest Arkansas to join in the fun. We pulled a little over 100 fish under the slot limit from the lake.”

While 100 fish being removed isn’t likely to influence the growth rates of fish in a lake as large and fertile as Brewer, Ben Batten, AGFC chief of fisheries, says it’s more about promoting the principle that keeping fish is OK, and even needed in some cases.

“There are a lot more bass swimming in that lake than most anglers realize,” Batten said. “We don’t manage these lakes for fish to die of old age. Bass are a renewable resource, and we manage the lakes so people can enjoy fishing for them. Some people don’t want to keep any fish, and that’s fine, but others do want to catch and keep, and that’s totally fine, too. We set limits to make sure the resource remains and we factor harvest into that decision.”

How To Catch November Reds, Trout and Flounder in Mobile

November Mobile Reds, Trout and Flounder

with Captain Dan Kolenich

    “November is one of the two best months of the year for catching reds, trout and flounder in Mobile,” Captain Dan Kolenich said. As the water cools and freshwater starts flushing out the bay, shrimp move toward the ocean and you can catch all three species. The shrimp are mature and as big as they get, so they are even more attractive food in November. Only in May, with the shrimp are moving in and the fish are following them, is as good.

    Captain Dan moved to the Mobile area in 1979 and fell in love with the fishing, learning how to catch reds, trout and flounder in the bay as well as all the species available in the area.  He started guiding 18 years ago, and has also fished some of the professional redfish tournament series like the Inshore Fishing Association (IFA) Redfish Tour and the Oberto Redfish Cup.  They do not fish Alabama waters so raveling to different areas like Florida and Louisiana in those tournaments helped him learn to find even more fish in Mobile.

    Until a few years ago most of his guide trips were with clients that wanted to catch fish on spinning tackle, with one or two fly fishing trips per year.  But now 60 to 70 percent of his trips are fly fishing trips and he is able to help fly fishermen catch trout and reds, with the occasional flounder, in the bay and rivers.

    Although he sometimes uses live bait like pogies, bull minnows and shrimp, he prefers artificals.  His favorites for spinning tackle are High Tide plastic shrimp and minnows on their B52 jigs and he sometimes makes them into spinnerbaits by adding a Hildebrant blade on a wire.  Those baits are soft and flexible but hold up well, allowing you to catch many fish on one bait before you have to change.

    He also casts a Mirror Lure 32 M lure as well as their Top Dog Jr. topwater plug. As the shrimp become scarce the fish feed more on baitfish that these plugs, as well as the soft minnow lures, imitate.

    “When you start catching freshwater drum where you had been catching trout and reds a few days earlier, its time to move further out,” Captain Dan said.  Starting somewhere around Thanksgiving and lasting until Christmas, the water cools and fresh water flushes saltwater out of the bay and fishing becomes difficult for desired species.  But until that happens, fishing is excellent, and you can follow the bait and fish as they move further out.

    Early this month start fishing about five miles upstream of the causeways and by the end of the month you should be fishing within a mile of the causeways. Start up the Tensaw and Raft Rivers around Gravine Island and work down those rivers as the fish move out.  The Blakeley River is another good place to try.  Later in the month concentrate on the Spanish and Apalachee Rivers.

    The pilings on the causeways that cross the bay are also good, with some fish around them all month, but they get better later as fish in the rivers move down and join resident “piling” fish.

    Early in the month you can catch trout around shallow wood cover up the rivers and reds over grass beds on high tide.  An east wind will often push an additional foot of water into the bay, making the shallow bite better.  For shallow water, plugs work well since you can keep them over the cover. Birds feeding back in bays and sloughs are a good sign the fish have pushed bait into those places and are active in them.

    For trout, find logs and trash on the bottom in two to three feet of water and work the Top Dog Jr over them.  Their C-Eye Suspending Twitch Bait will suspend 12 to 18 inches deep, allowing you to work it over the cover.  Trout seek water in the 70 to 80-degree range, so look for those temperatures for the best fishing.

    For reds, work those same baits over the grass beds in shallow water three to five feet deep.  Sometimes you can see reds feeding in the shallow water or the mud stirred up by them. They are in these areas feeding on crabs and minnows. Cast far enough ahead of feeding fish that you don’t spook them and start working it when they get close to it.

    As the tide moves out it pulls water, bait and fish out to deeper water near the channels. In the rivers the bottom slopes off in a shelf out to one to 10 feet deep then flattens out to about 12 to 14 deep before falling into the channels.  Captain Dan says about one-third of the river will be this creek bottom at the 12 to 14 feet deep and that is the depth trout and reds hold and feed.

    That is a lot of water to cover but Captain Dan says it is easy to find the fish since lines of boats will be drift fishing around them, and you can join them.  Go up current to the head of the line, put out your lines and drift through the fish.  When you stop getting bites reel in, crank up and go back to the head of the line to start another drift.

    This is the accepted method of fishing in the crowd. Captain Dan warns that you should not anchor when you catch a fish, it lessens your chance of catching more fish and, worse, it messes up everyone else fishing the correct way, drifting through them.  The only anchored boats are going to be fishermen that really don’t know how to catch the fish.

    Until Thanksgiving a good day trout fishing will produce 30 to 40 keeper size fish.  After Thanksgiving you may catch only four or five, but they will all be gator trout, over 20 inches long.

    For both trout and reds a High Tide shrimp or minnow behind a jig head work well.  Both will hit them when drifted near the bottom.  Vary the weight of your jig head depending on your drift speed, starting with a three sixteenths head, to keep your bait near the bottom. A red head High Tide jig head is Captain Dan’s go-to color. You can use live bait, but Captain Dan prefers artificials for ease of fishing as well as reducing costs.

    Reds like a bait right on the bottom and this is when Captain Dan likes to put a spinner over his jig.  It gives you more depth control as well as attracting fish to the bait.  Try to keep it within a foot of the bottom.

    Flounder also feed in the rivers this time of year and will hit jigs, but they tend to hold on points where rivers and creeks come together.  They sit on the bottom and feed, not really moving around much. You can catch them by drifting and casting to the points along your drift, but a good tactic for flounder is to anchor next to a point and cast up current on it.

    Use a jig and let it sink and work it with the current just over the bottom.  When a flounder hits there is no doubt, according to Captain Dan. When they take a jig it is a hard hit and they tend to hook themselves.

Bull minnows are also good for flounder and you can catch them “Carolina Rig” style, with the hook on a two-foot leader behind a sinker.  Cast or drift this rig on points and drag the sinker along the bottom, adjusting the weight of it with the current so it stays on the bottom.

Don’t “set the hook” hard on a trout, just tighten up and raise your rod tip. A hard hook set can tear the hook out of their mouth.  A red will hit hard and run and set the hook itself but you do not want to jerk your rod tip since their rubbery mouth can tear.

For all three species Captain Dan uses a seven-foot medium action Falcon rod with a Okuma spinning reel.  The rod’s light tip helps keep from tearing the hook out of the soft mouth of trout but is strong enough to hook the rubbery mouth of a red, and it has enough backbone to fight them efficiently. 

The reel has an extremely smooth drag, important when fighting a red on the ten-pound test line he uses.  He does tie a 12 to 18-inch 17-pound fluorocarbon leader on his main line, which is either Power Pro braid or monofilament. The leader helps since there are a lot of things to abrade your line.  

Although red’s mouths are tougher than trout’s, they are soft and the rod action and light line, as well as a smooth drag, are all very important to keep from losing hooked fish.

Captain Dan an Orvis endorsed fishing guide.  He uses nine-foot, eight weigh rod and says you need a fast sinking “depth charge” line to get down to the fish.  He drifts with a Clouser minnow fly and it needs to be fished at the 12 to 14-foot depth where the trout and reds are feeding.  You can cast the same bait for flounder but it, too, must be near the bottom for them.

The pilings on the bridges are good places to cast a fly or jig for all three species.  Contrary to what seems to be intuitive, Captain Dan has found fish hold on the up current side of the pilings rather than in the eddy on the downstream side.  There may be some fish on the eddy side, but, much like dolphins riding the bow wave of a ship, fish hold in the upstream ‘dead zone” break better.

Hold your boat on the up current side of the piling and cast your Clouser minnow or jig up to the front of the piling rather than past it, and let your bait sink down in the dead zone there. Try letting the bait sink to different depths to see if the fish prefer a certain depth.  Live shrimp or minnows can be fished on the pilings in the same way.

Captain Dan encourages catch and release on all fish but he does not mind if you keep just enough for a fresh meal.  Releasing all or most of your catch helps insure the fishing will be good in the future.  The size restrictions on reds and trout has really helped the fishing, too.

There is a ten fish, 12-inch minimum size limit on flounder.  Trout also have a ten-fish creel limit and must be over 14 inches long.   There is a three-fish limit on reds and you can keep fish between 16 and 26 inches long, but only one over the 26-inch length.  Reds over 26 inches long are the brood stock and all should be released, and Captain Dan says they are really not very good to eat at that size, anyway.

More than the usual amount of rain in the fall can flush out the saltwater earlier and muddy up the rivers, make fishing more difficult. Strong winds can also create problems.  It helps to have an experienced guide to adapt to daily changes in conditions. 

When you find the kinds of places these fish feed, don’t get stuck fishing familiar places. Captain Dan says finding new, similar places is one of the thrills of fishing here, and there are a lot of them to explore.

All you need on a guided trip with Captain Dan is what you want to eat and drink to put in his ice chest, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, and clothing like a long sleeve shirt and rain gear.  He asks you to wear soft sole shoes.  Although he provides all tackle he says you are welcome to bring your favorite rods, reels and tackle to use.  You do not need a saltwater license when fishing with him but if you go into freshwater you do need a freshwater license.

Contact Captain Dan for a guided trip fly fishing or spinning tackle fishing, at 251-422-3474 or email him at info@captaindankolenich.com.  His website at captaindankolenich.com has fishing reports as well as more information on his trips.

Hooked!

What to do if you hook yourself
By Alex McCrickard, Virginia DWR
from The Fishing Wire

Have you ever had to end a great fishing trip early due to accidentally hooking yourself?

Safety should never be overlooked when spending time on the water fishing. Without a doubt, it’s essential to make sure you are dressing for the weather, checking river flows or lake conditions, keeping an eye on the radar and forecast, wearing a life jacket if you are on a boat, and staying hydrated. However, one of the more common accidental injuries that an angler can encounter is being hooked with a fly, lure, or hook. It’s essential to know when the injury can be handled on the water and when it’s time to go to the emergency room.

I have spent a considerable amount of time teaching novice fly anglers in my years as a fly fishing guide on Wyoming’s Upper North Platte River. From experience, I will say that one of the less enjoyable aspects of being a guide is getting impaled with your client’s fly as they are learning how to cast for the first time. I have been accidentally hooked many times, including having flies embedded in my leg, arm, back, and even nose. I am lucky and have never had to take a trip to the emergency room with any of these injuries. The technique outlined below can help you remove an impaled hook while on the water.Photo by Lynda Richardson/DWR

The technique for removing an impaled hook is actually quite simple. Start by cutting off a two- to three-foot long section of heavy monofilament, 15 or 20 lb. test line. If you’re fly fishing, 0x tippet will work fine.

Next, thread the monofilament between the shank of the hook and your skin, situating the loop of monofilament at the bend of the hook. Make sure you have at least 12” of monofilament on either side of the hook. With your thumb, press down on the shank of the hook until the shank is parallel to your skin. Once you have pushed down, quickly jerk the monofilament with your other hand in a motion parallel to the shank to remove the embedded hook. It’s a simple push-and-pull technique that is highly effective. I have performed this on myself many times, but it can certainly be beneficial to have a family member or friend assist you in the process, especially if you hooked yourself in the back or arm.The tips below can help you in the process as well as decipher when it’s essential to seek medical attention:

This technique is not recommended with treble hooks. 
Treble hooks on lures pose an entirely different situation and it’s best to seek medical attention if deeply impaled by two out of three treble hooks.

Consider pinching the barbs on your hooks before fishing, especially for beginners. A barbless hook is a lot easier to remove than a barbed hook.

Trust your gut—if you think you need medical attention, then it’s best to go to the emergency room. If you are hooked deeply in the neck or face, it is best to seek medical attention.

Larger and heavier hooks, especially saltwater hooks that are deeply impaled, might also require a trip to the emergency room.

Always wear a hat and polarized sunglasses when fishing on the water. Not only will sunglasses protect your eyes, but they also cut down against the glare and help you spot fish in the water.

Spread out and give yourself ample casting space when fishing together with friends and family.

Carry a first aid kit in your car when wade fishing or in your boat so you are ready when a situation arises.

See more strategies for removing embedded hooks, complete with diagrams.

Squirrel Season

 Squirrel season opens Saturday. 

    When I was young, I looked forward to this opening day with as much anticipation as any deer hunter waits for deer season now.  It was a highlight of my life until my late teen years.

    I got my first “real” gun for my eighth birthday. That used Remington semiautomatic .22 was the love of my life.  I followed a strict rule, I could not load the gun or take it from the house without an adult present.  I knew if I broke that rule, I would not see the gun for months, if not years.

    Since daddy didn’t have time to take me squirrel hunting, and I could not go with any of my friends, I was dying to go that fall.  I knew exactly when season opened and daddy told me we would go after dove ended and before quail season opened, but that seemed to be forever away.

    One afternoon I came home from school and got a snack of cold corn bread and catsup.  While eating it I saw a squirrel run up a big hickory tree across the road. Mama and daddy were not home. The only adult in the house was Gladys, the woman that helped mama around the house, with the chickens and raising me and my brother.

    I told her to come with me, got my rifle and loaded it, with her fussing the whole time. She followed me out the door and across the road.  The squirrel, being a squirrel, instantly ran to the top of the tree and hide on the back side of it.

    I eased around the tree and the squirrel went to the opposite side, as they do, but Glady’s fussing and movement made it move back into my sights. I was so excited I did not make a good shot, but it fell to the ground with the hole made by the long rifle bullet through its belly. 

    I grabbed it by the tail and knocked its head on the tree, killing it.  Then Gladys and I went back to the house, with her still fussing at me.

    When daddy got home he was little mad but proud of me killing my first squirrel.  He showed me how to clean it, the first I gutted and skinned of hundreds since then. And mama and Gladys cooked it that night for dinner.  It was old and tough, but they made it tender and delicious!

    Daddy was always busy with his job as principal of Dearing Elementary School and taking care of our 11,000 laying hens after work and on weekends.  He hunted every Saturday afternoon of dove and quail season and only rested on Sunday afternoon, after church and doing what had to be done daily with the chickens.  That was the only time I ever saw him slow down, relaxing in his recliner and sleeping through a baseball game on the radio or TV.

    But one afternoon he came home after school and said he would go squirrel hunting with me. I quickly grabbed my rifle and he took the .410, my second gun. We went into the woods across the street and hunted a bottom that ran down to Dearing Branch.

    I killed ten squirrels that afternoon, the only time I really remember getting my limit. But daddy never fired a shot. I realized later he made sure I was the one that got a shot when we saw one up a tree, moving around so the squirrel came to my side.

    I will never forget that afternoon.

    A few years ago I went to war against tree rats around my house. They gnawed into my garage and nested in the ceiling, dropping leaves, twigs and other stuff into my boat. If I saw one in the yard, I would grab a 12 gauge shotgun, step out on the deck and kill them. There was no sport or hunting involved.

    When he was alive, Rip would jump around and go to the door as soon as I picked up a gun. Now Cinnamon does the same thing. Both learned to look where I was looking up in the trees and run to the area. I’m not sure they knew what they were doing but they would drive the squirrel around to my side for a shot.

    Both loved to grab a fallen squirrel and shake it, breaking its back and killing it if not already dead. And both would bring the squirrel to me, even if reluctantly.

    I try to cook every one of them, using some of mama’s recipes for fried squirrel and gravy, squirrel stew and squirrel and dumplings. And I BBQ them, make squirrel and cream of chicken soup and several other methods.

    I wish every kid knew the joy of squirrel hunting and daddy going with them.

Where and How To Catch September Lanier Bass with Rob Jordan

September 2013 Lanier Bass

 with Rob Jordan

    Tired of summer doldrums fishing for bass in deep water and not catching much? There is light at the end of September, when water starts cooling and bass get more shallow and active on our lakes. But why wait several more weeks?  You can catch some big spots at Lanier right now.

    Lanier is a big lake at 40,000 acres and since it is just northeast of Atlanta it gets heavy pleasure boat traffic, especially on weekends. And it gets a lot of fishing pressure.  The lake is known for its big spotted bass that took advantage of the introduction of blueback herring.  Five pound spots are caught often and most tournaments are won on spotted bass, with five-fish limits weighing 15 pounds common.

    Rob Jordan grew up fishing Lanier and now lives in Swanee.  His cousin Jim Murray, Jr. got him started tournament fishing and taught him a lot about catching bass.  Rob also worked with Jim painting custom lures and Rob has a business making realistic looking baits.  He also guides on Lanier and fishes tournaments.  Next year Rob plans on fishing the FLW Everstart and BASS Opens.

    This year Rob fished the Savannah River BFL trail and is right on the qualifying point to fish the Regional at Lanier with one tournament to go.  He hopes to do well in the Regional on his home lake.

    Rob’s best five spots in a tournament on Lanier weighed 21.5 pounds. This summer he has had big fish in two night tournaments.  Two years ago he placed third in the Weekend Series on Lanier and was in the top ten in the BFL there that year.  He knows the lake and how to catch good spots.

    “Lanier is a fantastic lake but you have to understand the waters and when the bass bite to do well,” Rob said.  It is a unique lake and you won’t catch the big spots by fishing like you do on other lakes.

    “The biggest spots are hard to catch since they roam the lake, living in water 50 to 60 feet deep,” Rob told me.  Weather and moon phases are keys to figuring out the bite. And you have to fish in the right places to catch the quality spotted bass.

    September is a transition month for spots on Lanier and you can catch some really big fish, especially late in the month.  Last year Rob got a six pound, six ounce spot toward the end of September on a guide trip.  But you can catch quality fish starting right now.

      A wide variety of baits will catch spots on Lanier this month. Rob will have a drop shot worm and a shaky head worm ready for slower fishing.  When the bite is good he likes a swim bait or a top water plug. All these baits are fished in deep water, with his boat often sitting in 80 plus feet of water and fishing water that is 30 feet deep.

    Rob will try a variety of depths and lures until he finds where the bass are feeding, and that depth will usually be consistent all over the lower lake.  The key is a long point or hump that drops off into very deep water. Standing timber in the deep water and brush or rocks on the humps and points make those places much better.

    Rob took me to the following ten spots in early August and we caught fish on most of them.  They are good right now and will get even better as the month progresses.

    1.  N 34 10.029 – W 84 02.492 – Green channel marker 3SC in Shoal Creek sits on a rocky hump right by the channel.  There is also a danger marker on it and one small bush stuck out of the water when we were there.  The hump is right off an island, too.  It always holds bass, according to Rob, and it typical of the type place he fishes this month.

    There is brush all over and around it as well as the natural rocks to hold feeding fish. Rob says it is important to locate the brush piles and fish them, so ride it with your electronics and mark the brush. Good electronics will even show the fish in the brush and how they are setting up on it.

    Start on the upstream end and work the whole area, keeping your boat out in the channel.  Wind rippling the surface of the water is critical here and on other spots to make the fish active, and overcast days help, too.

    If there is some wind and some clouds try a big swim bait like the Bucca Bull Herring hard swim bait or a Zman Grass KickerZ over the brush. Topwater plugs like a big Spook or Sammy will draw the bass up to the top from the brush.

    If the water is slick or it is sunny Rob will fish a Zman StreakZ on a drop shot or a Big Bass Baits jig head with a worm on it in the brush.  It is important to get the baits right on the fish so work each brush pile carefully, especially if you see fish in or around it.

    2.  N 34 11.681 – W 83 03.607 – Run over to Young Deer Creek and right in the mouth of it on the left side going upstream marker 1YD sits on a hump with a danger marker and some bushes on top.  Again, it is right on the channel where deep water is very close to shallow water. 

    Your boat should be in about 100 feet of water and you want to fish brush around 30 feet deep. Rob says 30 foot deep water is usually a good depth in September but they may feed a little shallower later in the month. If you are not catching fish in the deeper brush, or if you see them in more shallow brush, try it.

    Rob says bass are caught here every day. There are a lot of brush piles and big rocks on the hump to cover.  Try all your baits around them.

    A big swim bait is Rob’s go-to bait if he wants quality fish. In a tournament where five bites from big fish is all you want, try the Bull Herring worked slowly over the brush.  Rob’s custom painted versions are best since the spots on Lanier see so many swim baits but all will catch bass.

    3.  N 34 11.766 – W 84 03.499 – Across the mouth of Young Deer Creek channel marker 2YD sits on a deep rocky point that is excellent.  Rob fishes the downstream end of the point where it runs out parallel to the channel.  You will be sitting in 70 to 100 feet of water when fishing the end of the point.

    First try the swimbaits and topwater. Always keep a topwater plug ready to cast immediately to surfacing fish.  We caught a couple the day we fished when they came up near us. They may not stay up long so be ready.  If the spots are consistently schooling on top but not staying long, Rob will stand in the front of the boat with a topwater bait ready to cast, waiting on them to come up again.

    4.  N 34 12.494 – W 84 01.432 – An island sits in the mouth of Six Mile Creek and marker 4SM sits just off it. The creek channel is on one side and the river channel on the other.  Rob says this is one of the best big spot holes on the lake and he caught a six pounder here. 

    There are stumps and brush piles on the point on the downstream side of the island where the big spots live. Rob says a big swim bait or topwater is the way to go here for the big ones.  Work both baits all around the point, concentrating on brush piles and stump beds you find with your electronics.

    Rob fishes both hard and soft swimbaits with a steady retrieve and keeps them near the surface is there is cloud cover or wind on the water.  When a fish hits he sets the hook with a sweep of his rod, not a hard set, and does not drop the rod tip. 

    If there is little wind or if the spots just don’t seem to eat the big bait, Rob will drop down to the smaller size Zman SwimmerZ soft swim bait.  He fishes the soft baits on a three sixteenths to three quarter ounce jig head depending on how the fish set up. The lighter head is better for running the bait shallow but the bigger head will allow you to fish it a little faster and deeper.

    5.  N 34 13.464 – W 84 01.406 – Further up Six Mile Creek it narrows way down right at channel marker 7SM.  There are several good humps and points in this area. The left side going upstream, between the last cove on that side to the point where the creek narrows way down, have the better ones.

    The danger marker on the left sits between two long points that are excellent. Sit out in 45 feet of water and cast up into 25 to 30 feet of water.  There are a couple of road beds, an old house foundation and brush piles on the points.  Fish them all.

    The pinch point where the creek narrows way down funnels fish into this area as they move up the creek in the fall. Rob says when the water temperature drops into the 70s it is like a switch turns on and the bass get into action chasing bait. Swim baits and topwater are even better when it cools down.

    6.  N 34 14.772 – W 83 56.843 – Run up the river to the mouth of Flat Creek. A big island sits in the mouth of it and red channel marker 26 is on a point where the river channel swings in toward it. Rob says bass live here year round and it is always good, but in September even more bass get on the point while moving into the creek.

    Sit out in 40 feet of water and cast up on the point with all your baits, starting shallow and working deeper. There are rocks and brush piles here that hold the fish. If you can’t find the brush with your electronics, drag a jig head worm along the bottom until you hit rocks or brush and work it.                                                                           

    7.  N 34 13.602 – W 83 55.772 – For a change of pace run into Mud Creek all the way to the narrow creek channel in the back.  Rob fishes docks back in places like this. Spots and some big largemouth can be found back around docks in creeks as the water cools.  Fish all the docks from the ones on the left past the big rocky point where it narrows down all the way around the creek.

    Try a one eighth to three sixteenths ounce jig head with a Zman finesse worm on it.  Fish all of each dock, from the deepest water in front of it to the back under the walkway.  The bass may be feeding anywhere around the docks. 

    The bass will be on the outside deeper docks early in the month but move further back as the water cools. Since the weather this summer has been fairly cool and the rain and cool weather in the middle of August kept the water temperatures down, they may move further back sooner this year.

    8.  N 34 13.967 – W 83 56.271 – Going out of Mud Creek Old Federal day use park with a boat ramp is on your left.  Past it a long point runs out toward the main lake and there is an island off the bank, with danger markers between it and the main point. 

    Stop about even with the island in Mud Creek and idle over the ridge that runs out on that side toward the Mud Creek channel.  This ridge runs way out and has rock and brush on it, and bass stack up on it all summer long. Even more move to it as they follow shad back into the creek in the fall.

    Sit in about 40 feet of water and cast up on top of the ridge to 20 to 30 feet of water.  Try all your baits.  When using a drop shot in the brush Rob likes to pitch it ahead of the boat a little rather than fishing it straight under the boat. He will let the lead hit bottom, raise his rod tip to keep the bait up off the bottom and twitch it in one place, moving the lead very slowly as he works it around the brush.

    9.  N 34 13.447 – W 83 57.774 – Out off the end of the point with Old Federal Campground there is a big flat point with a danger marker off a small island with bushes on top.  There are brush piles all over it but Rob’s favorite area of this big point is downstream of the island and danger marker. 

    As in other places, start with topwater and swim baits over the brush piles you locate with your electronics, then try the dropshot and shaky head.  Rob likes a light one sidxteenths to one eight head, as light as conditions will allow, since the slow fall will often draw a strike.

    Rob lets the shaky head hit bottom then slowly drags it along with an occasional snap of the rod tip to make it wiggle and jump. Many people shake it in one place, as the name implies, but Rob moves it slowly along the bottom without constant shaking.

         10.  N 34 11.424 – W 83 58.442 – In Flowery Branch across from the Van Pugh ramp a long underwater point runs off the upstream side of the danger marker between the small island and the main point.  This point actually runs off Van Pugh park out to the island then on out toward the creek channel.

         Stay out on the creek end of the point and work it with all your baits.  Resident fish live here and more move in during the fall.  If you are fishing a tournament use big baits for a few quality bites. Use smaller topwater baits like the Sammy 100 early in the fall but go bigger later. For numbers the shaky head or drop shot will get more bites.

         All these places hold bass right now and will get better as the month progresses and the water gets cooler. Give them a try and you can find many more just like them.

         For a guide trip with Rod to see first hand how he fishes Lanier call him at 770-873-7135 and check his web site at http://robjordanfishing.com  Also check out his custom painted baits at http://www.xtremelurecreations.com

Keep Your Fish Fresh!!

From Alabama Gulf Seafood

from The Fishing Wire

Note – i always keep my fish on ice overnight before fileting them!
Ronnie

Ask anyone about their top priority when it comes to seafood and you’re likely to get the same answer: Freshness matters most.

But what about your own kitchen? When it comes to seafood caught or bought at markets and stored in your fridge or freezer, how can you make sure you’re cooking and eating it while it’s still fresh?

These are important questions to ask. After all, the freshness of your seafood isn’t just a health and safety precaution—freshness affects the flavor of your product as well as the nutritional value you’ll get from it.

Here are a few ways you can make sure you’re buying, storing, and cooking only fresh seafood in your own home.

Use Your Senses When Buying Product
It might be tough to eyeball a fish and know when it was caught if you didn’t land it yourself, but there are a number of ways you can check the available product at your local market to make sure it’s fresh.

For whole fish, make sure the eyes are clear and bulging, and look for bright red gills and shiny flesh. Make sure individual filets aren’t dark or dry around the edges, and watch out for green or yellow discoloration. Make sure the product is not dry or mushy. Avoid any product that smells fishy and not mild. Check the packaging to make sure it’s not torn open or above the frost line. And for peak freshness, make sure the product is being kept on a thick bed of unmelted ice.

As for blue crabs and oysters, make sure you’re buying this product live! Both of these species will spoil very quickly, so make sure the crabs are still moving and the oyster shells are still closed.

Ask Your Seafood Dealer About the Product
Many seafood dealers will identify their product by country, or state if it’s domestic. But if the product is unlabeled, you know what to do: Always ask, never settle.

Some seafood markets even work with traceability programs that can pinpoint when and where the product was caught, but don’t get too hung up on those details. Location matters, of course, but how the fish was caught and handled has more of an effect on the freshness than how long it’s been out of the water. In fact, fresh-caught fish need 12-24 hours before they can be cooked and eaten because of stiff muscles due to rigor mortis. Additionally, some smaller fishing boats will be gone for a few days at a time, and they may flash-freeze their catches (which isn’t actually a bad thing in terms of freshness).

Properly Refrigerate and Freeze Your Product
Once you’ve determined that you’re buying fresh product at your local market, it’s up to you to properly store it at home until it’s time to cook and eat.If you’ve picked up Gulf fish and shrimp, you’ve got about a 48-hour window to keep them in your refrigerator before they start to lose freshness. At that point, you’ll need to store them properly and keep them in the freezer until you’re almost ready to cook. (For tips on storing and stocking Alabama Gulf Seafood, check out our six tips for freezing your product.)

Remember, your filets and your shrimp will need time to dethaw before you can cook ‘em. Thaw your product overnight in the fridge, or if you’re short on time, run your product in cold water. (Don’t leave your product out to thaw at room temperature.)

Properly Store Your Deep Sea Catches
If you’re catching your own seafood to cook and eat, we salute you. We would also recommend properly storing those catches so you can keep them fresh.

As soon as you reel in a species worth eating, make sure you immediately transfer it to a cooler packed with ice. And if you’re able to, store that cooler in the shade to keep the ice from melting, and drain the melted ice periodically so the texture of the fish isn’t affected. You’ll want to fillet and clean your catches sooner rather than later as well; in fact, if you’ve got a vacuum sealer, bring it with you and clean and pack them at the docks, then ice them down for the trip home. (For tips on proper maintenance, check out our tips for freezing your deep-sea catches.)

And remember, if you catch a fish in the morning, make sure you give it at least 12 hours before you cook it so the muscles can relax. It’ll be just as fresh tomorrow if you store it properly!

I Love Water – and Clarks Hill Is My Heaven

I have always loved water. From Dearing Branch, where I could jump across most sections, to 72,000-acre Clarks Hill, everything from branches, ponds, rivers and lakes have drawn me. 

    Clarks Hill was my “heaven on earth,” from the earliest camping trip there with the RA church group to my many fishing trips there as an adult. I fished my first tournament there in April, 1974 and the Sportsman Club has been back every year since then, including this year.  When I found out the dam was started in 1950, my birthyear, I just knew it was built just for me!

    The RAs camped a couple of times a year at “The Cliffs,” a ditch that ran back a couple hundred feet from the lake.  The edges were ten feet above the water, and we could never touch bottom when swimming in it. After I got a depthfinder I found out it was about 18 feet deep.

    We would pitch our tents on the bank along the ditch, build fires and cook our meals. After dark we would put out our lines for catfish.  I will never forget the time I took a quart jar of chicken livers and gizzards and left it out in the sun.  I was sure the smell that almost made me sick would attract catfish, but apparently, they though it was as awful as I did.

    We boys would stay up as late as we could, but invariably we would go to sleep, only to awake to the adults still talking quietly by the fire, watching their rods.  And after waking it was time to fry bacon, scramble eggs and toast bread on the open fire.

    Daddy joined Raysville Boat Club when I was 16.  Five years earlier, Mr. Hugh took me water skiing for the first time and I fell in love with it.  About three years later Harold’s family bought a ski boat and I got to drive it. I will never forget the feeling freedom that went over me that day.

    When daddy joined the boat club, he also bought a 17-foot Larson with a 120 HP Mercruiser outdrive motor.  It was a great ski boat and I spend untold hours both driving it pulling skiers and behind it skiing. I got pretty good slaloming and even skiing on trick skis and foot skis. But as hard as I tried, I never could ski barefoot.

    We also fished from that boat for bass, crappie, catfish and bream.  Daddy and I ran baskets for a few years and kept our freezer full of fish. Then we discovered spring crappie fishing and I spent hundreds of hours in that boat with mama and daddy, pulling in fish after fish and filling out limits.

    Linda and I met on a blind date at a fraternity party and, although we didn’t really hit it off, I invited her to go to the lake with me and go skiing. She turned me down. But a few weeks later we happened to have dinner together and really clicked. I again asked her to go skiing and she accepted.

    We did ski that weekend, but we also fished some.  I think that is what convinced me she was the right one. It has worked out pretty good, our 49 anniversary is this month!

    At the end of our first year of marriage we spent the month of August at the trailer at the boat club.  I would get up early and go out in the Larson, trying to cast for bass but mostly trolling. I would come in for lunch, stay in the cool trailer until late afternoon then Linda would go out with me in the more comfortable afternoon.

    One day at lunch when my parents joined us, I said I wanted to catch a 12-pound bass to have mounted. Daddy kinda laughed and said if I did he would have it mounted for me.  Linda said how about her, and daddy said if you catch an eight pounder I will have it mounted.

I found a long, shallow point where I caught a three-pound bass on a Hellbender one morning, one of the only deep diving “plugs” back then.  We had no depthfinder but I could tell how the point came up shallow and then dropped off by the action of the plug bumping bottom.

That afternoon Linda went out with me. I was trolling a chrome Hellbender and Linda a blue one.  We went over the point and Linda’s rod bowed up. At first I thought she was hung, then a huge bass jumped.  It jumped three more times before she landed it.

On my hand-held scales it weighed eight pounds, ten ounces and we confirmed that at the marina!  When daddy saw it I am not sure who beamed more, Linda, him or me.  And daddy had it mounted, I am looking at it right now, hanging on the wall with that blue Hellbender in its mouth.

I still have not caught that 12 pounder!

I have so many more memories from Clarks Hill they almost overwhelm me when reminiscing.   

Great American Outdoors Act Going to the President

President Trump signed it after this was posted.
Jim Shepherd
from The Fishing Wire

“We’re pretty confident we easily have the votes,” one outdoor organization’s CEO told me, adding, “it’s curious that it’s mostly western Republicans who don’t like the LWCF. Gulf States members – again primarily R’s- don’t think they get enough of a local deal since the money comes from offshore oil and gas, the fiscal conservatives will all vote no.”

To me that conversation didn’t sound negative, but it was a realistic view of what should and did happen. Shortly after our conversation, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (310 to 107) to finally approve the Great American Outdoors Act.

Passage means that after ten years of work, President Trump’s signature is all that lies between the continued decline of our national public lands and the allocation of sufficient federal funds to repair most of the critically shaky infrastructure that supports those precious public lands.

Technically, H.R. 7092 “establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.”It also makes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanent. The net/net is that the National Park Service, the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education will get the funding for projects that have been deferred due to a shortage of funds.

As I’ve written before, it required ten years of legislative work by conservation groups, and represents a huge step toward taking care of our public lands going forward.In fact, I’ve learned that before some pretty strong lobbying President Trump was set to strip virtually all funding from the LWCF. That was before he met with conservation leaders and Congressional proponents.

They were successful in showing him the measure wasn’t just important, it was crucial.

In response, the President tweeted this on March 3: “I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks. When I sign it into law it will be HISTORIC for all our beautiful public lands.”He’s not the slightest bit disinclined to sign the bill. And that is one tweet that’s not any overstatement. Permanent funding means managers can finally create workable budgets, based on the assumption that the monies will be there.

In praising the passage, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said “In March, President Trump called on Congress to stop kicking the can down the road, fix the aging infrastructure at our national parks and permanently fund conservation projects through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He accomplished what previous Presidents have failed to do for decades, despite their lip service commitment to funding public land improvements.”

It is truly one of the most non-partisan measures to pass Congress in some time.

Last year, the National Park Service had 327 million visitors. They generated an economic impact estimated at $41 billion dollars. That supported 340,000 jobs. Granted, COVID-19 severely reduced visitation for the past few months, but as we all realize, the outdoors remains one of the safest options for everything from recreation to solitude.

Soon, the more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings that comprise our National Parks can get some much-needed repair, making them even more alluring -and safe- for visitors.

And as the National Park traffic increases, businesses nearby see increases in traffic as well. It’s an economic engine that benefits everyone.

But we all know being outside cures a lot of the problems with our insides, don’t we?

We’ll keep you posted.

Growing Up Wild On Dearing Branch

    Dearing Branch was one of the great joys of my youth.  From the fence on the north side of our farm where it entered to the pipe under Iron Hill Road where it left our property, it ran about three quarters of mile.

    I explored, played, hunted and fished the branch on our neighbor’s property on either side, too, but the section on our farm was my special heaven.  I knew every foot of it, from the shallow sandy area where we built a swimming hole to the deep cut bank with an overhanging stump where I caught bream.

    Near the north fence line, the ground was sandy and the branch wide and shallow. It narrowed to go between two trees, a perfect place for a dam. And we dammed it every summer, filling croker sacks with sand dug from the bottom and placed between the two trees and on either side of them. 

    By digging out a lot of sand and making a good dam, we created a swimming hole about chest deep on a ten-year-old.  We skinny dipped there on hot summer days, then stood around on the bank in the sun until we dried enough to put on our clothes. Shoes were not problem; we never wore them in the summer.

    The swimming hole lasted until the first good thunderstorm, when rushing water washed away our best efforts. One summer we got the bright idea that an old crosstie placed in front of the trees, then filled in with sandbags, would stop it from washing away.

    Three boys never labored as hard to do anything as we did dragging that crosstie a few hundred yards. Those things are heavy.  And it worked great, for a short time. Even though they are very heavy, we found out rushing water can turn a crosstie sideways and wash away the sandbags.

    I fished for many hours on the branch. I read outdoor magazines, and thought I could tie flies to catch branch fish like the folks I read about tied them to catch stream trout.

    My flies were tied on small bream hooks with mama’s sewing thread. I used chicken feathers, we had plenty.  But my creations looked nothing like what was in the magazine. They were way too big, bulky and a wadded mess.

    But when tied to a short length of fishing line on a stick from the branch bank, and dabbled on top of the water just right, a bream or what I called horny heads would hit them.  The horny heads were long and skinny, and had knots on their heads.

    When I say long, I mean three inches long. And bream were about the same size.  We knew there were small mud cats in the branch, we caught them by hand during dry summers when the branch dried up except for a few deep holes. Every fish in the area went to those holes, where they quickly used up so much oxygen the fish would swim on top and we could scoop them up.

    I hunted squirrels and rabbits up and down the branch, and one time jumped a duck.  I spent many hours the next few years trying to find another one without any success. I also hunted snipe and killed a couple. Yes, there really are such a bird and they are related to their northern cousins the woodcock.

    One winter the pool right at the Iron Hill Road pipe froze over, and I “ice skated” on its ten foot by ten-foot surface until I broke though.  Luckily, the water was only two feet deep, but my feet in my boots were freezing by the time I ran back to the house!

    Branches create great memories.

Old Lures Copied To Catch Bass

By Frank Sargeant, Editor

What’s old is new again with a couple of true classic lures reincarnated by PRADCO and released as part of the July virtual ICAST.

The Jitterbug from Arbogast, with the identifying metal cup on the nose, has been around since the early 1940’s, while the company says the equally odd-looking Heddon Slopenose originated in about 1902—it was the first commercially-produced lure developed by legendary lure designer James Heddon, according to the company.Of course the modern versions of the lures have some significant upgrades, including durable synthetic bodies, complex multi-coat paint-jobs and upgraded ultra-sharp treble hooks. But the original action and shape are still there in each.

The Slopenose is designed to perform as something between a popper and a stickbait. The weird-looking collar acts to catch water and make a satisfying splash when jerked, a plus for aggressive schooling bass, and it can be bobbed up and down in place to fool more cautious bass in flat water situations.

This is not a lure that pops easily like a Rebel Pop-R, however. It takes a bit of a touch, but with just a little practice it’s possible to make it dance in place while fluttering and splashing—the bass in my Alabama home lake loved it. Best action came from three short hard twitches, followed by a 10 second rest, then three more, etc.

This lure also looks like it has some serious saltwater possibilities for lunker trout and snook in the surf, and big redfish around the jetties–I’ll be trying that this fall if all goes well.

The new Jointed Jitterbug 2.0 not only has a wobbling jointed tail section, but also a large feathered treble as the tail hook. The thing comes across the surface much like a buzzbait, with a classic “bobbling” sound that identifies this iconic lure. However, the Jitterbug has the advantage of being a floater—you can stop and pop it in place now and then, adding to the attraction. The long feathered tail makes a sinuous aft wake behind—the thing looks a bit like a small water snake on the move.

The lure is offered in cool-looking crackle-paint patterns, and has an anodized aluminum headplate—the lure won’t corrode when used in brackish water.I note that keeping the lure bobbling requires positioning the rod tip just above water level—raise it up and the lure loses traction—and fish appeal. Otherwise, it’s a very easy lure to fish, good for the kids to learn topwater fishing. It doesn’t take the line control or the timing of a topwater twitchbait.

You can see more on both these PRADCO brands at www.lurenet.com.While we’re on a topwater roll, check out the new Choppo from Berkley.

This one also qualifies as a weird-looking lure, but it’s a modern invention.

The separate tail has an off-center fin or blade that rotates as the lure is cranked. This causes the whole tail section to rotate, creating a “plop-plop-plop” sound not unlike that produced by the Jitterbug, above, and with similar fish-attracting possibilities.The Choppo shape is more shad-like, so it works well around bass busting bait schools on top as well as over shallow grass and around shoreline cover. It comes in three sizes, with the 90 mm ½ ounce version a favorite for spotted bass and smallmouths, the larger 105 and 120 mm versions usually best for largemouths. The 120 is also a good wake bait for striped bass in cooler weather when the fish go shallow chasing shad.

All three sizes also can function as topwater jerkbaits, with plenty of splash when twitched along steadily. As with all topwaters, the action is brought out best with no-stretch braided line and a fast-action rod.

All of these lures have the new Berkley Fusion 19 trebles, some of the sharpest, “stickiest” hooks on the market. See more at www.berkley-fishing.com.