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Lunker City Fishing Specialties

Yesterday’s short trip

Was so tired from 3 consecutive days on the river that I chose sleep over writing a blog entry yesterday. So here it is, a day late.

Steve & I hit the water a day break again, knowing we had to be off by 11:30 for him to make his dental appointment. After two days of the bite kicking into gear as the tide turned to incoming, we weren’t really sure we should even try, since we’d be leaving almost 2 hours before the tide started to change.

A look at the change in the weather for today and tomorrow though, convinced us to take advantage of decent weather while we had it. And as it turned out, to call Tuesday’s weather decent is an understatement of massive proportions. It started off comfortable, and then got downright balmy. Cloudy all morning with zero wind and temps in the 40s. The sun was just coming out and the temperature shooting up as we headed back to the ramp.

The fishing was really good — at least for Steve. I’m not sure what I was doing wrong, but I got my ass whipped pretty bad from the other end of the boat. Steve ended up with 70, to my 44. No keeper for either of us today, so I never took a picture.


Today was not too unlike yesterday.

Started off a little colder and eventually got a little warmer than yesterday, and the wind didn’t blow quite as hard, although it did blow a lot harder than the 8 mph that was in the forecast. The water temp was a degree or so higher, and the fish were in pretty much the same areas we found them biting yesterday.

Like yesterday, we (read that as Steve) had a short activity period soon after first light, and then a slow bite until we figured out exactly what they seemed to respond best to today. Probably 65 to 70 of the 90-some-odd fish that Steve & I caught today came fishing the jig & plastic directly under the rod tip. Vertical jigging without the usual jigging motion. Mostly holding it still in the water column, except for the trick.

Trick?

Yeah. Something I’ve been doing in certain vertical fishing situations for more than 50 years. I’ll tell you more about this little bit of fish trickery in a bit. First, the rest of the boring details of today’s fishing.

As mentioned above, we caught in excess of 90 stripers between us today. I think the final tally was 95, and Steve beat me by 5, based on a 10 fish lead he built up before I ever got to set the hook on anything. We each got one keeper today. Mine was 29 inches. Not sure how big Steve’s was, because he invented his own trick and made it, along with his Boga Grip, disappear before swinging the fish over the side. From what I saw of the fish before Steve knocked it off while trying to catch the Boga that was sinking out of sight (and reach), I’d guess low thirties.

I also caught two white catfish. On consecutive casts. Haven’t caught a cat in the tidal Housy since Jim (Jimfish) Boyne and I caught four or five of them on jigging spoons one December Day in 2009 or thereabouts.

OK, back to that trick I was talking about.

The Trick.

When presenting a bait by dropping it straight down to fish you’ve spotted on the electronics. most people jiggle the rod tip up and down a bit, or go into a repetitive, lift-drop routine. But I like to get it right n their face and hold it there, as close to motionless as I can. Toward that end, I drop the bait all the way to bottom, and reel it up to the depth the fish are holding at, as seen on the depth finder. Most spinning reels in the 2000 to 3000 range take up just about 2 feet of line per turn of the reel handle. Some a little more, some a little less. But 2 feet per turn is close enough when all you’re doing is figuring out how many times to crank up from bottom to get your lure into the same depth range as the fish. They aren’t rocket scientists, after all.

Once your lure is at the right depth, just hold it there, with the rod tip low, in good hook setting position. Give it long enough to be seen and hopefully tempt a fish into biting it. You’ll need to experiment with how long to hold it there before employing the trick. It kind of depends on how inactive the fish are. Somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds is pretty typical.

No hit?

No problem.

Give the reel handle one sharp turn, bringing the lure almost instantaneously straight up a couple feet. The idea is to take the bait away from any fish that might have been eyeing it, and make that fish react. At least that’s what I like to imagine it does. The meal the fish was considering just darted away — but not so far as to be out of sight — and the fish charges after it and engulfs it. Like I said, that’s what I like to think is going on down there. I’m not a fish, and I don’t have an Aqua View or similar camera to actually witness what’s happening. What I do know is that an amazing number of my hits when employing this tactic come within a second or two of the lure jumping up a couple feet.

If you’re in a situation like we were today, where the fish are stacked 5 to 12 feet thick, if you don’t get hit right after the lure settles in at its new depth, give it another 10 or 15 seconds and repeat the trick  for the benefit of the fish that might be eyeing it since it popped into their zone of interest.

I first came up with the trick back in the sixties, when my brother and I used to night fish for kokanee salmon at East Twin Lake, using a kernel or two of corn on a single hook, weighted with only a large split shot a few inches above the hook. I believe that’s where I developed the sense of feel and hook set reaction that has served me so well every time I have fished a jig type lure to catch most anything that swims over the course of  the ensuing half century. It’s also where I developed the trick, as I noted very early on that many of the barely discernable bites I got (The kokes are plankton feeders and don’t eat the corn,  just mouth it for a split second and expel it.) came shortly after I changed the depth of my offering — particularly when I raised it in the water column — and the more quickly I moved it when doing so, the more likely I was to get bit almost as soon as it stopped moving. I’ve applied the same principal to crappie and both largemouth and smallmouth bass in fresh water, and to weakfish and fluke in salt water. And of course to stripers spending their winter in the tidal rivers.

Back in that striper world, casting the lure and retrieving it horizontally with lots of twitches, pauses and little spurts of speed, or letting it drift in the current for a swing bite is usually far more effective than dropping the lure straight down to the fish, even with the trick. But as you go through your presentation options to decode what it’s going to take to catch this particular bunch of fish, on this tide, under these conditions, you can’t rule out a vertical approach, and a vertical approach without at least trying the trick amounts to short changing yourself.

 

 


Seems like it’s been forever…

…since my last time out fishing. It’s only been eleven days, but really seems a lot longer than that. I haven’t missed that many consecutive days of fishing in  years, except when I was hospitalized for something or the river was locked in with ice for an extended period.

No ice this time, just bitter cold, high winds and a couple snow storms.

And no fishing.

Until today, anyway.

Steve and I launched in the cold and wind at first light. At least we thought it was windy when we launched. We’d find out later that the wind was only warming up.

We headed down river until we marked a semi-sizable bunch of fish. Steve caught the first one, I think on his 2nd cast. I got the next 4. Or maybe it was 5.  Doesn’t matter. They were all rats.  Steve’s next bite turned out to be our only keeper of the day, and the start of a mini-flurry of better quality fish.  We each caught a keeper in training on our next cast after Steve’s big one, and I hooked and lost a quality fish on my next cast. And then, as quickly as the flurry had started, it was over.

Soon, we were back to chasing around mobile schools of runts. The wind was picking up. Seemed like the air temp was dropping too, but that might have been our imaginations.

Speaking of temperatures, the water temp, which had been 40-plus ten days ago was 36 ~ 37 today. Hadn’t lost nearly as much as I had feared, but it’s still a long way frm the 46 we had on 3/19 a year ago.

SIGH.

With a slow bite and small fish, we decided it was time to do some exploring, looking for a faster bite.

Or bigger fish.

Better yet, both.

Put a lot of miles on Steve’s boat, and didn’t find anything  worthwhile. Ended up coming back to the fish we’d left a while earlier, and resigned ourselves to spending the last three hours or so of our available time (we had to be gone by one) trying to tempt as many bites out of those fish as we could. We had about 25 fish between us at that point.

The action continued slow. 1/4 oz jigheads with 4″ baits, finding bottom in 30 plus feet of water, then working it a slow as possible, with long pauses.

In the wind.

Tedious isn’t a strong enough word.

But with our fine tuned presentation, we managed to get our combined total up around 40 fish by the time the tide reached dead low about an hour-and-a-half later. Naturally we braced ourselves for the even slower fishing that usually shows up on the slack tide. But today, that was when the bite turned on! And it stayed on as the tide started to come in, too. By the time we stowed the tackle and headed for the trailer a little over an hour later, we had 86 between us.

Steve won the day with the only keeper, and he caught almost all his fish (including the big one) on his 1/4 oz head with a 4″ Albino Shad bait.  I had the numbers, boating 48 of our 86 fish total, and caught all my fish on Sexy Shiner Fin-S Fish, but caught fish on a 4″ on a 1/4 oz head, 5.75″ on a 1/2 oz head, and 7″ on a 3/4 oz head. The majority of my fish came on the half ounce, 5.75″ combo, and the biggest reason I got the big edge in numbers was switching to the half-ounce head and bigger bait so I could fish a bit faster once the fish weren’t demanding a bait that was barely moving and tiny any longer. Steve eventually made the switch, but by then it was too late.

Seemed to be a lot more shore fishermen braving the elements today than boaters. Saw about a dozen anglers fishing from the shore, and only two other boats, plus a couple kayaks, all of which didn’t come out until the last hour or so that we were on the water.

It was good great to get out again after the long layoff!


The winds were “variable” today.

When we launched Steve’s boat in the dark this morning, we knew the calm winds wouldn’t last, and we were glad to be getting out ahead of the wind. And we were glad we did, as we had a great flurry of big fish activity before a wind about twice as strong as the worst of the various weather services had predicted rolled in.

It was the kind of wind that sends kayakers back to the ramp and lesser men in powerboats looking for protected areas to fish. I figured we would be able to deal with it for an hour or tw, and if it hadn’t diminished by then, we’d be headed for the trailer. But after an hour, it laid down almost as calm as it had been in the dark, when we’d launched. At some point during the 7AM windstorm, it pretty much stopped raining. But we were to busy dealing with the wind to make note of it.

After that, the sun came out, disappeared again, it rained a bit, and finally, about 11, the wind started again, although nothing like it had been early. It built steadily over the next hour and a half or so until we called it a day, around noon-thirty.

We were glad we didn’t let the morning’s rain tempt us into a later start. We put the boat in at 5:30, and caught the last of the 3 keepers we actually boated, at 6:17. Add couple biggies that Steve lost plus a half-dozen keepers in training and quality sized schoolies, and the first hour on the water was worth getting up early and getting wet for. Then mix in how lousy the weather got after full daylight and how tough the bite was after the fat girls went got all stuck up and wanted nothing to do with us again, and that first hour just keeps looking better and better.

In contrast to having the river entirely to ourselves yesterday, today was a lot busier and more crowded with a handful of kayaks and a dozen or so boats out.

I caught my keepers and my near keepers on a 5.75″ Fin-S Fish (Sexy Shiner) on a ¾ oz Fin-S Head. Once the big fish action was over and we started actively courting schoolies, I switched to a half ounce head with the same bait, and caught a few on the ChandelieriouZ too, then finally got a few on the little 4″ Fin-S Fish on a ¼oz head that Steve had been using all morning and caught pretty much all his fish on.

Fish porn…

 


In the drizzle.

It’s Tuesday, so Steve & I hit the Housy this morning, despite what was predicted to be an all day, on and off rain.  It turned out to be more of a drizzle than a real rain, but there was a lot more on to the rain than there was off.

At least the wind didn’t blow too much.

This zebra encrusted branch hints at the likely reason for the lower Housy’s extreme water clarity of late.

The water has cleared up considerably since last week’s beautiful mud, making the fat girls a lot less foolhardy. This branch I hung my jig in and dragged up from the depths might offer a bit of insight into why the water in the lower Housy has gotten so clear in recent years.

Despite the last couple colder days and nights, the water temp is still holding in the upper thirties and hit forty-plus by noon-time. A few more degrees and we’ll be breaking out the topwater stuff again!

Finding fish was no problem. Big, thick schools of them all over the place. Finding fish that would bite was a bit more challenging. We found plenty of schools that either ignored our offerings completely or seemingly vanished as soon as we got onto them.

Most challenging of all, was finding big fish that would bite. They weren’t where we’ve been catching them of late, and we ended up covering a lot of water searching and checking for the fat girls. We did find some, and although we only boated two keepers, at 30 and 28 inches, quite a few of the 63 stripers we caught between us today were keepers in training — fish in the 25 to 27-plus inch range.

There was no doubt that Steve’s go-to 4″ bait on a ¼ oz head was the most productive technique of the day, numbers wise. Still, everything over 27 inches that came in the boat today bit a 5¾” Ayu Fin-S Fish on a ½ oz head. I’ll be sure to have a 4″ bait rigged on a light head next time out, but you can bet that I’ll be throwing the bigger bait on the heavier head more than I do the little one.