Friday, August 31, 2012

Bob the Bullhead episode 4

It's been a while since I've done a Bob video, I've got many things I want to film Bob eating just haven't had the time. So I decided to see what I could find around the house. I found some old cheese and decided to give it a try. I've always herd of people using cheese for bait, mostly for trout. So I wondered if Bob would enjoy some moldy cheese.

Bob didn't seem to take much interest in the cheese, In fact he seemed repelled by it. Definitely not a good bait choice for bullheads and most likely all other catfish species. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fishing the Ohio River

Two weeks ago we started fishing the Ohio River exclusively, particularly the stretch of water downstream of Brush Creek near Manchester, Ohio. We have fished the Ohio River before with some success, but we typically fish proven spots that get fished quite a bit. This time around we decided to find new spots on new water.
After scoping out a 2 mile stretch of river we found that there were countless options to fish, including multiple barge mooring stations (and associated log jams), barges, an island, mouth of Brush Creek, power plant water discharge, etc. We have fished the river four times since last week and have had a shaky start.

Our first trip we ended up fishing the bank just downstream of Brush Creek struggling with only a few small fish to show for our efforts. On our second trip we ventured even further down the river and found a few better looking spots. We found the discharge from the Killen Power Plant and managed to catch a few skipjack herring. We then fished a set of tied off barges and caught a few small blues and a 5lb channel.

The third trip we hit the discharge and got our bait quickly and then fished a log jam at the head of a barge tie off. This was the first time we had fished this spot and Amanda got to fish the better looking spot, the shallow side of the snag, and caught the first shovelhead from the river, at 9lbs 4oz.
The fourth trip we hit the water discharge and got some bait, and ended up catching a few dinker channel cats. We then traveled even further and scoped out Brush Creek Island, but it seemed to be heavily fished, limb-lined, and trot-lined, so we decided not to fish it. Instead we decided to return to the same log jam that Amanda caught her shovelhead a couple nights earlier. Rylan was anchored closest to the bank, Amanda was in the middle, and I had to fish the deep water on the outside of the logjam.

About an hour after dark, I managed to catch a 3.5lb channel. I re baited and within five minutes my rod had loaded again. This time I managed a new personal best freshwater drum at 9lbs 10oz and 26". It happens to be my fourth Fish Ohio Trophy, and makes me a Master Angler for the third year in a row.
Shortly after I lost my hotspot and found a good snag three casts in a row. Rylan managed to catch a few channel cats on the bank. Around midnight we moved to the mouth of Brush Creek. Rylan had a couple of bites, and Amanda got her nightly fish while she was fast asleep. The channel went four and a half pounds. Needless to say, we had a rough start but things are starting to shape up. Hopefully in a couple weeks we can find some larger fish. When fishing large bodies of water like the Ohio River anythings possible.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Night the Barge Container Broke Free

Last December Amanda and I went fishing at a local warm water discharge on the Ohio River and we ended up catching a few channel cats and making a late night 911 call. We got set up around 11pm and fished til 4am. Around 2am I was getting cold and bored, so I decided to tie on a float and drift some shad over a shallow point. I reeled in one pole and started casting my float. A few drifts later I noticed some loud bangs coming from the barge containers that are typically tied down at the Dayton Power and Light Power Plant. I didn't think much of it, and I continued to cast. Moments later I got a bite on my float and I waited patiently for the fish to take off, but nothing. As my float stayed under the surface, light stick and all, I began to concentrate on the line at my reel for any signs of movement. I look up to find that all of the lights on the other side of the river had went off, or so I had thought. I turn my head lamp on and notice a wall of steel coming right at me, so I quickly yell to Amanda to get up. We both watch as the barge container drifts ashore and clips all of our lines, and drifts down stream slowly. I looked over to Amanda and asked her what I should do, who I should call. After a few seconds of debate I decided to call 911 and let them tell me what I should do. So for the first time in my life I dialed 911. I talked to the operator and told her what I thought had happened, "I believe a barge container has broke free and is now drifting unmanned down the Ohio River", or something like that. She assured me that she would have people working on it shortly. The first thing that occurred to me was that someone could be anchored catfishing downstream, and be caught totally by surprise, or worse the barge container makes it 3 miles down river to the Maysville bridge and collides with it.

A few moments later 3 small barges appear, at quite surprising speeds, and catch up to the container. An hour or so later, they had the container secured and were pulling it upstream. As far as I know no one was injured. Now all that is left of that night is a partially collapsed culvert that has been stuck at the mouth of the warm water discharge for several years. That night the water was a foot high, and in this picture the water was a foot low.....which typically covers all but part of the culvert.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

St. Croix Premier Spinning Rod Woes

At the end of July we took a trip to bass pro. I wanted to purchase a smaller spinning rod and reel for crappie fishing this winter but also something I could fish for bass with too. I intended on trying out braid with this setup. I wanted as much sensitivity as possible for light winter bites and braid would supply just that. I did my research and found some good candidates to examine in store beforehand. I ended up purchasing a Pflueger President 6900 (6925) spinning reel, a St. Croix Premier spinning rod (6' light power, fast action, PS60LF4), and some 15lb power pro spectra braid (4lb mono diameter).  I liked the president because it had a braid ready spool so I didn't have to worry about putting tape on the spool to prevent the braid from slipping. I also wanted to try a higher end rod because it seems I go through reels much quicker than rods so I thought id invest more in the rod.

Soon thereafter I took my new setup on its first trip. We went bluegill fishing at Rocky Fork Lake. Upon initial reaction the rod and reel felt great. Everything was smooth with the reel and the handle felt great. The rod was very light weight and had great sensitivity. I was immediately hooked on the braid. It gave fishing an entirely different feel without the stretch in the line. Setting hooks and feeling bites seemed easier. Fighting fish, even bluegill, was fun without the cushion that monofilament stretch provides. So all went well on the first day and I was pleased with my purchase.

A couple days later I took the new rod/reel out bass fishing at Rocky Fork Lake. About an hour into the trip I snagged on a submerged tree I was jigging. As we always do, I stuck my rod tip into the water and reeled the bait to my rod tip to pop it free of the snag. After a couple tugs the jig popped free and pulled my rod out of the water only to find the tip snapped on my new rod. This pretty much ruined my day of fishing and I found myself wondering if it was just bad luck or these rods really are that delicate.
Broken St. Croix Premier Spinning Rod
After reading the warranty information on the rod I found that it would cost $20 + whatever it cost me to ship it too them to get a replacement or repair. I didn't like the idea of spending another $40 to get a replacement when I would lack confidence in it. So I emailed St. Croix explaining my story and asked for a refund if possible, I even offered to ship the rod to them. They responded that they would waive the $20 fee and that I could purchase shipping for $10 through their FedEx partnership. This didn't sound so bad. I then got the idea to ask a local bait shop if they had any rod shipping tubes they would be willing to part with to eliminate the price of packaging. Sure enough, they did have a shipping rod tube that they gave to me for free. The next day I shipped the rod for a total price of $10.

About 10 days later, I received a new rod in the mail from St. Croix. I've used the new rod once and it performed well, I am hopeful that it was just bad luck. I've always herd good things about St. Croix rods and I hope they can live up to that name. At least I know their customer service is good.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marker Buoys and the Thermocline

A couple months ago we noticed the thermocline setting up in Rocky Fork Lake and Paint Creek Lake. The thermocline was visible on the fish finders at around 13-14 feet deep. We had some success fishing ledges/points where the bottom depth was near the thermocline. A few weeks ago we fished for catfish on a shallow point at Paint Creek Lake that was marked with shallow hazard buoys. We drove around watching the fish finder and noticed schooling fish around the 13' mark, right at the thermocline, and noticed the buoys were set in 12-13' of water. We anchored on the inside, shallow part, of the buoys and casted to the buoys. A few days later we went to Rocky Fork Lake and fished a ledge that dropped from 6 feet to 28 feet of water. We anchored shallow and casted to where we thought 13 feet deep was. We were guessing and hoping that we didn't cast deeper than 13 feet, below the thermocline.

A day or so later I had an idea to make home made buoys to mark the thermocline. I took a couple Gatorade bottles and tied 40lb Berkly Big Game Solar Green fishing line, cut to 14', to them. I then attached a 10oz pyramid sinker, a sinker slide, and another 10oz pyramid sinker to the bottle. I figured that I may need more than 10oz when fishing around recreational boaters. I then added aluminum foil, yellow electrical tape, and some reflective tape. I then measured how much line it took to make a complete wrap around the bottle, so I can make a good guess of depth even without a fish finder. 

We took the buoys out to Rocky Fork Lake and gave them a shot for the first time last week. We marked the ledge of a shallow point surrounded by 26-28 feet of water. It took about 5 minutes to find the exact areas we wanted to fish. The buoys showed up great, even in the daytime.  
The shallow side of the point.

The deeper part of the ledge.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

8/15 Bass Fishing

Yesterday, Sean and I took the boat out to do some bass and bluegill fishing. The recent cooler temperatures have made for some great fishing weather. Sean decided he would focus on the bluegill since he hasn't caught a trophy gill (9 inches) this year. I focused my efforts on largemouth. I started out tossing a roboworm on a 1/16 jig. Lately I've strayed away from texas rigging worms in favor of jigs. I just hook the plastic worm through the head leaving the hook point showing. With this rigging, I bounce the worm off bottom preferably around structure. You do snag more with this method but when boat fishing it's easy to retrieve a snagged lure. I quickly had success with the roboworm. I caught 5 largemouth in the first couple hours, the biggest right at a pound. Meanwhile, Sean was having success with the bluegill and I eventually joined him. Once sunset approached I switched back to bass fishing. I tied on a Strike King Pro Model crankbait in chartreuse sexy shad color that dives 2-5ft. After about 20 casts I hooked into a big one. After a short battle Sean netted it for me. The bass weighed 3lbs 6oz and measured 18.75 inches.
3lb 6oz 18.75 inch Largemouth Bass
3lb 6oz 18.75 inch Largemouth Bass
Released to fight another day.
I caught one more smaller bass on the crankbait and Sean caught one on a topwater bait before we decided to call it a day. It was good to finally get a nice bass on the year since we have done way more bass fishing this year than we have in the past.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Selective Harvest Pond Fishing

For the past few years I've wanted to try harvesting some fish from my pond to help promote growth rates. I've measured every bass caught since 2011 and the current average is about 10.5 inches. In the last seven year the biggest largemouth caught has been about 3lbs (~17-18 inches). The largest since 2011 has been a 16.25 inch. I would like to see that average increase to 12 inches with an occasional 21 inch trophy.

I haven't harvested any fish from the pond in many years. At one point I thought that if I didn't harvest the bass, they would grow larger given time. This is false statement. I have since learned that thinning out the smaller fish such that there is more food for the remaining population is key to growing trophies. I now believe that this is the primary reason why the ponds average bass size has been so low in recent years.

So Sunday I went to my pond with the intent to keep some bluegill to eat. Not only do you need to thin out the bass but the bluegill also. ODNR has great information on pond management posted on their website including selective harvest plans which can be found here. According to the trophy largemouth selective harvesting plan you should harvest about 300 5-7 inch bluegill, 3-5 15-20 inch largemouth, and 10 8-12 inch largemouth per acre to sustain a trophy largemouth fishery. Since my pond is about two thirds of an acre by my closest calculations, I plan to harvest 150-200 5-7 inch bluegill and 5-6 8-12 inch largemouth. Since a 15-20 inch largemouth is all but non existent in the pond I plan to release those. I'd also like to note that I wanted to wait until all fish were done spawning for the year to do any harvesting, that way the fish have already produced the maximum amount of minnows for the bigger fish to eat.

I fished for 5 hours using nightcrawler under a float set about 1-2ft deep exclusively. I ended up catching 70 bluegill and 5 largemouth on the day. Of the 70 bluegill I kept 32. Many of the bluegill were very skinny. I am unsure if this is due to an overpopulation. The average size for bluegill was about 6 inches with the largest being 8 inches.
32 Bluegill
It is a slow process filleting bluegill but it is worth it in the end as they are one of my favorite fish to eat. It was definitely a successful day of bluegill fishing but it will take several more trips to meet my 150-200 harvested bluegill goal.
Bluegill fillets

Friday, August 10, 2012

Snell Knot

The snell knot is the strongest knot I currently know although it is limited because it can only be used on hooks. It relies on the knot squeezing the hook shank thus it will not work with tackle such as swivels. The snell knot is so strong because it squeezes against a wider surface area and doesn't cut into itself like other knots that are tied onto the hook eye.

Typically we snell our hooks when catfishing with circle hooks. You can snell other types of hooks but I'm going to focus on circle hooks here. Not only is this knot super strong but it contributes to the hook setting of circle hooks. Circle hooks are designed to be tight lined, when a fish takes off with your bait the hook is rolled around the corner of the fishes mouth hooking the fish. Since the snell knot isn't tied to the eye, the line is instead passed through the eye. This helps the circle to roll even better because of the angle at which the line pulls on the hook. When you have a completed snell knot on a circle hook, try grabbing the hook as if your hand was the fishes mouth and try to pull the hook straight up. You will notice the hook will try to roll when coming out. This will still work with other knots, such as a palomar, but works best with the snell.

So I was doing some research on how other people snell hooks and I found that there are a wide variety of ways. After trying various methods I determined that most could be categorized into two categories, a small loop and a big loop method. Here's how to tie both methods.

First the small loop method. I like to start with at least 2ft of line, you can always shorten your leader if it ends up to long. Start by passing 6-8 inches of line through the eye of the hook along the shank, It's very important that you pass the line though away from the hook point. This gives the proper angle to the line that promotes circle hooks as mentioned before.

 Next make a small loop and pinch it against the hook shank.

With the tag end, make 6 to 8 wraps around the hook shank and line. Ensure that your wraps stay uniform by pinching them with your thumb. Finally bring the tag end through the small loop you created, either direction will work, and pull the main line tight. That's it, your done.
Now for the big loop method. I use 2ft or more of line for this method also. Start by passing an inch of line through the eye in the opposite direction as the small loop method.
Next form a big loop with the entire length of the leader and pinch it together on the shank.
If the line has memory like mine it will bunch up and that is fine.
Then take the loop on the eye side and wrap it around the shank and line 6 to 8 times.
Ensure the wraps are uniform and pinch them to the shank with your thumb. Finally, pull the line sticking through the eye all the way through until the knot tightens. Make sure you keep good pressure on the wraps with your thump until it is pulled all the way tight.
Of these two methods I prefer the big loop. I find it easier to form a perfect looking snell with this method. Also the small loop version can sometimes be very difficult to cut off your hook but this could be looked at as a good or bad thing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tackle box switch

The other day Rylan, Stephanie, Amanda, and I went to bass pro shops to get a few things. Mainly because Rylan wanted to pick up a new light spinning setup for crappie fishing in the winter. He wanted a high end rod because he noted that we hardly ever break rods, but reels tend to break every other year. He ended up getting a St. Croix light spinning rod for $100.

As I was driving up to bass pro I told Rylan that I was going to look at a few tackle boxes. I had looked at a nice Browning tackle box a few weeks earlier but I decided that I didn't want to spend $120 on a new one. However after a few more trips I grew tired of having to deal with switching boxes in and out of my old tackle box and digging around in cramped pockets for pliers and scales. When I bass fished I took out my sinker and hook boxes, and replaced them with my worm and swimbait boxes. After looking at the box in more detail I decided to purchase it.
New Browning tackle box.
I placed it beside my old tackle box to get an idea of how much space I had gained.
XPS and Browning Tackle Boxes
The Browning was slightly narrower but longer than the XPS tackle box. The Browning was almost twice as tall as the XPS.
I then took the boxes out of each of the tackle boxes. The Browning had 8 large boxes and the XPS had 6 small boxes and 4 large boxes. I felt that the smaller boxes were more space efficient, therefore I may actually lose space by making the switch. I also noticed that although the Browning had 8 boxes, it was a very tight fit. So I put one box to the side so I could put more things in the pockets and maybe throw a few things on top of the boxes.
Three hours later I had completed the switch and I had my boxes neatly organized and labeled. I even managed to get all of my bass baits, hooks, and sinkers in the same tackle box.
When I got things all together I put a few Stop Rust strips in each tackle box to reduce the amount of moisture trapped in my boxes, and save me hundreds of dollars in lures.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Identifying Spawning Channel Catfish

With the channel cat spawn coming to a close, I'd like to mention how you can identify if they are spawning by the fish itself. There are other methods to identify when the channel cats spawn such as water temperature or even the moon but I will save this for another post. In general, channel cat fishing is slower during spawning periods so determining if the fish are spawning can help you to better focus your efforts. Its important to note that channels don't all spawn at exactly the same time, even in the same body of water. During peak spawning periods we tend to focus on other species that are more productive at the given time. In southern Ohio we typically see the most spawning activity in late June.

Lets start by distinguishing the difference between a male and female channel cat. The the size of the males head is noticeably larger than that of a females. When looking at them from the top the males head is often the widest part of their body. It's a little bit harder to tell in the side angle pictures. The head size is the easiest way to determine the sex when looking back at old pictures.
Female Channel Catfish
Male Channel Catfish
Female Channel Catfish
Male Channel Catfish
Males are the easiest to identify while spawning. Their already large heads swell up and they turn a darker shade of grey/blue. The picture below shows a fine example of a spawning male channel catfish.
Spawning Male Channel Catfish
Notice the extremely swollen head and dark color. The female is harder to identify while spawning. They tend to be fatter because they are carrying eggs. I've also read that their genitalia appears to be red although these are not things you can reliably tell from typical pictures.

By no means are we experts at identifying the sex of channels or if they are spawning. These are just the guidelines that we use when identifying these traits ourselves. There are much more scientific methods with more exact results but for the angler we do not need to get this precise.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bait Casting Reels, Line Pawls

The other day Rylan, Amanda and I fished the Ohio River from 5:30am to 12:30pm. I initially tossed out two catfish rods just before daylight, two Abu Garcia 6500c3's paired with 7' medium heavy Shakespeare Ugly Stick Catfish Series rods. After a few casts I noticed that my level wind was getting caught on the right side of the reel. I had this happen before so I knew what the problem was. I quickly set the rod and reel aside and started re-tying my bass rod for bottom fishing.

As mentioned, I've had this problem before and I knew it was a line pawl issue. Line pawls are the pins that fit into the worm gear that cause the level wind mechanism on baitcasting reels to function. The line pawls are made from a softer metal than the worm gear so the line pawl wears out before the worm gear does. The line pawl moves vertically across the worm gear and it flips as it gets to the end of the worm gear, and then it repeats the process. Line pawls wear out when long hard casts are made, when reeling in heavy weights, and when the worm gear collects sand/dust.
Worn out line pawl on the left and new line pawl on the right.

Pictured above is two line pawls side by side, one used and one new.
Line pawl and worm gear.
Above is a picture of my old Abu Garcia 6500c3. The worm gear can be seen above the reel seat, and the line pawl fits into the cap on the worm gear. To replace the line pawl, remove the cap with a flathead screwdriver and pull the line pawl out with pliers, replace pawl and cap.
The next day I stopped by the local bait store and bought 2 line pawls for 6500's/6000s and 2 line pawls for my 7000's, so when this happens again I'll be prepared.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

7/28 Ohio River Trip

Saturday morning we decided to head out to the Ohio River to do some catfishing. We stuck with bank fishing this time around. Our small boats and motors have kept us hesitant to venture out on the river but I'm sure we will take that step soon. We didn't have any bait prepared so we were at the mercy of Walmart. We grabed some extra large cooked shrimp and some chicken liver. Cut skipjack, shad, and mooneye are our preferable baits. We arrived at 5:30am and quickly setup at our favorite bank spot. I put out one rod with shrimp and started casting crankbaits and grubs hoping for some bass, skipjack, or mooneye. Fish were splashing all over but we couldn't seem to entice anything to bite while casting artificial baits. After almost an hour Sean had a rod load up. He reeled in a 5lb Buffalo, a fish we don't often catch but occasionally at the river. Soon thereafter my shrimp rod loaded up and I reeled in a 6lb Buffalo.
6lb 6oz Buffalo
I continued casting artificial baits with no luck, Amanda and Sean both managed to catch some drum and a channel on plastic grubs. Eventually I gave up and put out a second shrimp rod. At about 7am the bite turned on. I started things off with what would be the biggest channel of the day, a 6lb 3oz 26 incher. Not a monster but just big enough to qualify in the Fish Ohio program. This was my forth species to qualify in the Fish Ohio program (Carp, Bluegill, Crappie, Channel) making me a master angler.
6lb 3oz 26 inch Channel Catfish
From then until about 11am the bite was hot. I definetly had the hot rod catching 5 more channels all in the 2-5lb range. Amanda got one channel around 2lbs and Sean was in the Buffalo school catching 2 more between 4 and 5lbs. I even had a 1lb 6oz smallmouth load my rod up.
1lb 6oz Smallmouth
We ended up catching four different species all on shrimp that morning (Channel, Drum, Buffalo, Smallmouth). This goes to show that shrimp can be a viable alternative when fresh cut bait is not available. I do like my odds of catching bigger fish with a nice size cut bait but we have caught some nice size blue cats on shrimp in the past.

Since we did so well with the shrimp I thought I'd share exactly how I like to rig it. My preference is large size cooked shrimp. This size fits a 6/0 circle hook well which is the typical hook I use for shrimp unless targeting smaller fish. We tried raw shrimp once and didn't like it as well so we have stuck with cooked. They were actually out of the large size at Walmart so we settled for extra large on this trip.
Extra Large Cooked Shrimp
The rig is a simple weight, swivel, leader, hook setup. For weight I prefere 3-4oz pyramid sinkers, the pyramids hold well on the sandy bottom we fish. With the extra large shrimp I like to pinch off the head such that I can form the shrimp to my hook better. The large shrimp tend to fit better without any modifications. Starting at the head of the shrimp I feed my hook through and out the tail such that the hook fits the shape of the shrimp.
Shrimp rigging