Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Fish of 2012

With 2012 coming to a close here is what we thought were our best fish of the year.
3lb 15oz Largemouth Bass
3lb 6oz Largemouth Bass
3lb 5oz 17.25 inch Largmouth Bass
1lb 10oz Spotted Bass
1lb 10oz 14.5 inch Crappie
1lb 8oz 14.25 inch Crappie
1lb 4oz Crappie
1lb 5oz 14 inch Bullhead Catfish
11lb 15oz Channel Catfish
10lb 5oz Channel Catfish
Two 9lb 8oz Channel Catfish
37lb 1oz 43 inch Blue Catfish
20lb 4oz Blue Catfish
14lb 1oz 53 inch Longnose Gar
9lb 10oz 26 inch Freshwater Drum
27lb 13oz 35.5 inch Common Carp
2lb 6oz Skipjack Herring

Monday, December 24, 2012

Replacing Wheel Bearings

Last week I moved my boat and trailer into the garage to begin installing my new fish finder. I had noticed that when driving the wheel had been making a grinding noise, typical of a wheel bearing failing. After I finished installing the fish finder I took a minute to check the wheel bearings. Sure enough my driver side wheel had blown a bearing and damaged my race and axle.
Axel with part of bearing remaining.
Bearing Remnants.
I decided to go ahead and fix the problem while my mind was on it and while I had a free day, so I got in the car and drove to tractor supply. I picked up two packs of 1" bearings for $19.99 each. Each Bearing Kit contains 2 bearings, 2 races, a seal, and a cotter pin.

First I removed the races from the hub with a punch and hammer. I then hammered the new races into place, using an old bearing, a nut, and a bolt to drive the races into place.

I then packed the bearings with grease using a unique tool and a grease air gun. The bearing is placed in between the two funnels and then grease is shot into the bearing until the grease fills the crevices.

I then placed the bearings and seals in place and shot the hub full of grease. I then drove the boat to Rocky Fork Lake to test out my new fish finder, and to distribute the grease in the hub. When I got home I then shot some more grease into the hub to fill any spaces that were created while driving. Hopefully I can get a year or so out of the new bearings. Here's the directions that came with the bearing kit.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

This year, Sean and I exchanged Christmas gifts for the first time ever. I decided to get Sean a present for all the times he waited for me to get off work to go fishing and also any trips that I might have messed up in some way. It wasn't hard to think of the perfect gift, I knew Sean was wanting to upgrade his fish finder soon. So I took a trip to Bass Pro to do some Christmas shopping. After browsing over the fish finders one in particular caught my eye, the Humminbird 345c DI. I wanted to get one that had down imaging and the normal sonar. It appeared that only the Humminbird units had the ability to do both. The only thing I thought the 345c DI needed was a bigger screen. I asked the salesman if they had something similar with a bigger screen and unfortunately he said they were sold out of that unit. So I went ahead and told him I'd take the 345c DI, he went to the back of the store and came back with a 346c DI and said it was next years model for the same price making it even better.
Humminbird 346c DI
I surprised Sean with it this week and of course there was no way around it, he insisted on getting me something in return. Yesterday he came over bearing gifts. He said the gift was something that we had always considered doing. Upon opening the first gift I revealed a lead melting pot for making your own sinkers and jigs. He was right, a while back we had seriously considered buying supplies to make our own sinkers. The other gifts included a Do-It Mold for 1/32 through 5/8 roundhead jigs, 4 packs of Eagle Claw 570 jig hooks in sizes 4, 2, 1, and 2/0, and 4 containers of Pro-Tec jig paint in black, white, chartreuse, and light blue. I'm excited to try it out and there will definitely be some blog posts about it.
Jig making equipment
Thanks to all those who read our blog and have a merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ohio River, 12/15/2012

Saturday Amanda and I went out to the Ohio River once again to see if we could top our previous trip. This time around the river was on the way down, but still running around two and a half feet higher than normal pool. We put the boat in at Aberdeen and drove upstream to DP&L, we then tried to catch Skipjack and throw net Shad for bait. After two hours and several different anchors we had 8 large Skipjack, then we focused our efforts on obtaining Shad. We drove around looking for Shad schools in slack water areas, which didn't take long. We found a good school on a shallow point near the mouth of Little 3 Mile Creek, where the current of the creek butts up against the current of the Ohio River. With a good source of bait we began trolling around looking for any signs of fish on the fish finder. This trip we wanted to focus on fishing the river rather than targeting smaller waters such as Little 3 Mile Creek. We found a few fish in 30 feet of water east of Little 3 Mile Creek, after a few anchors we failed to bring any of them to the boat. We did notice a good deal of barge bites, but none of the fish were willing to fully commit and load the rods.

After several hours of watching nibbles, we decided to head back to Little 3 Mile Creek and see if we could find fish in the same spots that we had found them the week earlier. Sure enough, the fish hadn't moved to far. Amanda had the biggest fish of the day for the second trip in a row. She got lucky and found another decent channel in the exact same spot where she caught her 11lb 15oz  channel last Saturday. This time she had to settle for an 8lb 5oz channel cat. 

We ended up catching 10 Hybrid Stripers and 2 Channel Cats in 9 hours. We didn't find the numbers of fish that we did last week or the size of fish, but it still beats sitting at home.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bob the Bullhead Episode 5 - Pepperoni

One of the first random food Items I ever tried to feed Bob was a pepperoni. He seemed to enjoy them although not as much as live bait such as minnows and nightcrawlers. You can see in the video that he eats the pepperoni quickly but not quite as vigorously as the live baits from previous episodes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ohio River, 12/8/2012

Saturday Amanda and I decided to brave the rain and head back out to the Ohio River. The weekend before Rylan, Amanda, and I took the boat out and fished for an hour before Rylan came down with an illness and we decided to leave. Disappointed at the early departure, we planned another trip for the river this weekend.

Friday night Amanda and I got a half-dozen frozen skipjack off of our friend Nathan Dailey and prepared the boat before we went to bed. We got up at 6:30am, hooked the boat up, and departed for the Ohio River. We put the boat in at Aberdeen, Ohio around 8:30am. The river temperature was in the lower 50's and was running a foot higher than normal pool. We immediately drove the boat 3 miles upstream to the Dayton Power and Light hotwater discharge so we could avoid getting a shut out. Our plans were to catch a few quick hybrid striped bass just to say we caught something and then we planned to head out into the river to find some deep holes and target blue catfish. However we didn't quite get that far.

We anchored upstream of the first warm-water discharge and quickly caught a few hybrid stripers. We also got into a few small channel cats, the largest of which went just over 4 pounds. The rain continued to fall until 11am, at that time we decided to pull anchor and head out to the mouth of the discharge at the Ohio River to see if we could find some larger fish. On our way back we marked a hole created by a small feeder creek, which happened to have structure located in the core of it. We anchored 30 feet upstream and began tossing cut skipjack on the front side of the structure. Amanda took the left and I took the right. As soon as my second rod was set in the rod holder, my first rod went down. I quickly landed, un-hooked, and released the 3 pound channel cat. At this point Amanda's rod nearest to me had loaded, which looked to be significantly larger than my previous fish. I quickly got the net and locked the handle in place. I then followed her line across the water, waiting to see whether or not she had a nice hybrid striped bass or a decent cat. It surfaced 8-10 feet from the boat and to my surprise she had hooked a decent channel cat. I started inching the net toward the channel as she tried to guide it into the net. As I got half of the fish over the front rim of the net the hook popped out. At this point Amanda began screaming, "Get it, Get it." I quickly dropped the net, leaned further over the side of the boat, and to my surprise the fish had found its way into the bottom of the net. Something that doesn't happen very frequently, many fish have been lost inches away from the net. However this time luck was on our side.
11lb. 15oz Channel Cat Side View

11lb. 15oz. Channel Cat Top View

11lb. 15oz Channel Cat Release
The channel cat went 11 pounds and 15 ounces.
As we released her channel cat my only rod in the water had loaded, a few seconds later I boated another small channel. In literally less than 2 minutes we had boated almost 20 pounds of channel cats. We didn't waste much time getting our poles back into the water, and for good reason too. The bite was far from over. For the next 30 minutes we pulled in a fish nearly every 3 minutes. At one point I had both of my rods load less than 5 seconds apart, I chose the rod that looked like it had the largest fish on the other end and reeled it in first......not allowing Amanda a chance to ask if I wanted her to get the other I quickly brought the first fish to the net and began bringing the second one in.
2lb. 15oz Hybrid Striper, and a 6lb 12oz Channel Cat.
Of course neither of my fish were as large as Amanda's channel cat, but I was glad to have them. The Hybrid Striped Bass went 2lbs 15oz and the Channel went 6lbs 12oz. I also took the opportunity to do one of our first release pictures of a two different species at once. It didn't turn out the best, but it was worth a shot.
2lb. 15oz Hybrid Striper, and  6lb 12oz Channel Cat Dual Release
At this point we had ran through almost all of our bait, 6 skipjack, so we decided to tie on sabiki rigs and head out into the river and catch a few more skippies. We quickly landed 7 skipjack and went back up the creek. With light fading quick we managed a few more small channel cats, and a couple 2 pound hybrid stripers. All in all we had another successful trip, and we gave the crappie out at Rocky Fork Lake a little well needed break. Hopefully I can talk Amanda into fishing the river for blue cats next weekend, maybe without all the rain.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Points System Modification

In the past year crappie fishing has become a much more dominant part of our fishing than in the past. It all started with a desire to fish throughout winter and we knew crappie or panfish would be an easy target. So we fished through the winter and really grew to love crappie fishing. We continued to fish for crappie in the spring and found that crappie fishing during spawn can be very exciting. Now since many other species have slowed down drastically for the winter we are once again taking many crappie trips. In the past we never focused on crappie much because we always stopped fishing around November through February, excluding fishing at hot water discharges.

With all the crappie fishing we have done this year we have noticed that our fishing points system strongly favors crappie. You can find more information on our fishing points system here. So we have decided to make adjustments to crappie points starting next year. Currently crappie are 1 point a piece and white crappie are 5 points per half pound and black crappie are 4 points per half pound. Bass are also 1 point a piece and we tend to catch way more crappie than bass on average. So we have decided to decrease crappie to one half point a piece. Also we have discovered that a half pound crappie is somewhat common with over 10% of our catches being over one half pound. So we have decided to decrease half pound points to 3 points for the first half pound only on both white and black crappie. All additional weight increments will remain the same amount of points, IE a 1lb white crappie will still be 10 points (not 8 points as 5 points is still counted for the first half pound if it exceeds the next weight increment) plus the one half base point.

These changes should help to make our fishing logs more evenly distributed and also make the random crappie catches while bass fishing less of an impact on scoring.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Downsizing for the Coldwater Bite

Water temperatures in lakes are now falling into the mid to low 40's in Southern Ohio and many species of fish have began to move into deep main lake basins. Last year we took advantage of the mild winter and fished year round for panfish using small jigs manufactured for ice fishing purposes. One ice jig that I have grown particularly fond of are called moon jigs. They are shaped like a crescent and are painted with a florescent color that glows in low light conditions. These jigs are extremely small, ranging from dime sized all the way down to a quarter of a dime. Below shows three roundhead jigs 1/8oz (white), 1/16oz (pink), 1/32oz (black), and three moon jigs....which are not rated by weight.

We typically tip ice jigs with small pieces of nightcrawler or waxworms, and reserve the roundhead jigs for nose hooking live minnows. When live bait isn't available, or the bite is hot, we pair roundhead jigs with a wide variety of soft plastics. This spring we used a lot of tube baits on 1/16oz roundhead jigs, but lately I cant keep enough Bobby Garland swimbaits in my tacklebox.

One productive technique we use when the bite is slow is vertical jigging. We'll drop the jig to the bottom and then slowly bring the jig off of bottom, approximately 1 feet every 3 seconds. Stopping 5 or 6 seconds every now and then to entice a fish into biting. Once I get halfway up the water column I'll drop my bait back down and try again. If I get a nibble, I take note of how far I was off of bottom and I try to spend more time suspended in that range on the next drop. A half an hour without a bite is too long, so we typically move to a new spot, one that differs in depth typically 10 feet or so.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Uncle Buck's Fish Batter

Since I have been doing several fish fries lately, I've tried out several fish batter mixes. One such batter I've tried is Uncle Buck's Fish Batter Mix which can be found at Bass Pro Shops. There are several different types of the Uncle Buck's. Currently I have only tried two of the different types, one of which was by accident. The first type I tried was the Orginal Light 'n Krispy. This stuff was awesome, so good that next trip to Bass Pro I made a point to pick up some more. Unfortunately I didn't realize that I had got the Light 'n Krispy the first time and I bought just plain old original. When I opened the container at my next fish fry, to my disappointment, it wasn't the same mixture and I was confused but was hopeful that it was just as good. It wasn't bad, but nowhere near as good as the Light 'n Krispy. Later we determined that the first kind that we had tried was the Light 'n Krispy so I made sure to get this kind on the next trip. The differences between the containers is very subtle and this is what caused the the confusion. Here's a picture of both containers side by side.
Uncle Buck's Fish Batter Mix
The original batter is somewhat fine and bland in taste, don't get me wrong, it's good, just not as good as the Light n' Krispy. The Light n' Krispy on the other hand is much thicker and creates a thicker coating on the fish which cooks to a nice crisp. It's not only just thicker but it also has a much different taste which me and everybody else I know that has tried it love. Although the Light 'n Krispy does have one flaw. When applying it to the fish the batter eventually starts to get clumpy and you must use more. This causes the batter to be used much quicker than other less thick batters.

So for anybody looking to have a fish fry I would strongly recommend trying some of the Uncle Buck's Light n' Krispy Fish Batter Mix, this stuff is delicious. Just make sure you buy the right one and you will be eating good.
Fried Crappie with Uncle Buck's Light n' Krispy Fish Batter Mix

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Building a Fiberglass Outboard Cowl (Cover/Hood)

A couple weeks ago I bought a 2003 Mercury 9.9 horse power shallow drive outboard for my jon boat for $300. Link to 2003 Mercury Short Shaft 9.9hp Post. It was a great deal, but it was missing its hood, cover, or to be more technical its cowl. After an hour of scouring every craigslist ad within 200 miles, Ohio Game Fishing's Marketplace, and Google I quickly discovered that buying a used cover would be extremely unlikely. I then went to Mercury's website and began looking through their parts catalog, and to my surprise the entire assembly cost well over $275. I then began to brainstorm every possible option. A day or two later I was over at my parents house playing Call of Duty Black Ops 2 with my little brothers when Tom suggested that I make a fiberglass hood for it. He told me that he uses chicken wire to make molds and that it should be fairly easy to make.

A day later on my way home from work I stopped at AutoZone to grab some supplies. $97 later I had almost everything I needed......3 packs of 8 square foot of Fiberglass Matte, a gallon of Fiberglass Resin, a pack of 3 plastic spreaders, a can of black spray paint, a can of gloss, and 80 grit sandpaper.

I thought we had some chicken wire around the house, but I couldn't find it after hours of searching so I had to compromise. I built a frame around the motor with 18 gauge wire one strand at a time, and then taped each wire together. Below is the three strands of wire that create my frame.

Below is a picture of the wires taped together.

I then added some wires to the top of the motor for added support, and then finished taping the rest of the frame. I also cut out the area near the pull string and added a few L-shaped pieces of wire, to finish framing the motor.  After 5 hours of tinkering with wires and duct tape I had a frame that I was content with.

The next day we had our family Thanksgiving dinner so I knew that I'd have a few helping hands when I started the fiberglass. I took the frame and placed it on my motor stand and laid my first piece of fiberglass matte over the frame, leaving over an inch of space hanging over. I then mixed 8oz of fiberglass resin to 80 drops of fiberglass hardener and began coating the matte. I completed the first layer and let it dry so that I would have a solid foundation for the second and third matte. After it hardened I quickly sanded it with 80 grit sand paper and laid my second piece of matte. At this point I had a few of those helping hands, and I quickly got the second and third coat of fiberglass on.

I then trimmed the excess fiberglass and sanded some of the edges off. I then placed the hood onto the motor. Needless to say, at this point I was rather disappointed in the appearance.

My youngest brother suggested that I coat the hood in bondo in order to fill in the low places, since he is somewhat of a bondo expert, having hundreds of hours in body work on his car under his belt, I took his advice and got a gallon of bondo for $24 that night....bringing the grand total up to $111 and well over a dozen hours of work.

I sanded the fiberglass and knocked down the high spots as much as I could and began to add bondo to the low areas. I applied golf ball size chunks of bondo to each side, giving each side 3 to 4 minutes to dry before handling.

After coating each side, I waited an hour and sanded the bondo until I hit fiberglass. I then took a red permanent marker and marked the fiberglass spots (the areas that could not be sanded anymore) with O's, and the low spots with a '+'. As seen in the pictures below.
First Round of Bondo
Third Round of bondo.
After five coats of bondo and five rounds of sanding I had done as much as I was willing to do. I felt that at this point I had peaked, I would add coats of bondo in order to fill pin holes, and then I would sand and more pin holes would appear.

I then started the slow process of painting the hood. At first I was doing really well, painting a light coat at a time. However as I began to put the clear coat on the runs began. I then added a bolt for the rear factory latch on the motor and put the hood on the motor.
After Bondo.
After $111 and approximately 30 hours of work I had a redneck fiberglass outboard cowl/hood/cover. Maybe in a few weeks I'll get a few decals to cover up some of the imperfections, such as dimples, and runs.

Update: 12/23/2012:

I went to walmart and picked up some white vinyl stickers to add "Mercury" and "9.9" to the motor cover. I took painters tape and marked off 2" from the bottom of the cover, in order to keep the lettering straight. I then carefully added each letter.