Wednesday, April 30, 2014

4/26/2014 Rocky Fork Lake Crappie

Saturday I decided to take a trip to Rocky Fork Lake to see how the crappie were biting. Typically this time of year the crappie fishing at Rocky Fork can be phenomenal. The wind was predicted to be in the 15-20mph range for a good part of the day so I knew I would need to seek shelter in coves. This wasn't a problem as this was exactly where I expected the crappie to be, in shallow coves preparing to spawn or already spawning. I decided I would target a fairly large cove with deep water near by. I was unsure if the crappie were still in a transition period between their deep winter holes and the shallow coves or if they were already spawning in those coves so I wanted to have the option to move deeper if needed.

After picking up some minnows I got on the water around 1pm and headed to the cove I wanted to fish. The water temperature was 63 degrees. I had two floats and a shallow crankbait tied on. I planned to use one minnow float and the crankbait as a search bait until I found fish. I started fishing in 2-3ft of water on the wind blown side of the cove. I would anchor for 10 minutes, throw out a minnow float, and cast my crankbait around. By my third anchor, I had arrived at the best looking spot yet as there was some decent submerged wood to fish around. It was slightly deeper at around 4-5ft. My float was set 2ft deep. I cast my float near the wood and began working the crankbait parallel to the bank. After a few casts of the crankbait I got my first crappie of the day and it was a 9" keeper. It was good to know that there was crappie in this cove because where there is one, there should be many more. Seconds later my float disapeared. I pulled up a very nice crappie and quickly lifted it into my Nucanoe. It was a 13.25" 1lb 2oz Fish Ohio size crappie. This was when I found out that my GoPro had died so I had to settle for selfies and timer pics with my point and shoot camera.
13.25" 1lb 2oz Crappie
I was thrilled as crappie over 13" have been hard to come by in my experience at Rocky Fork. I don't go to Rocky Fork for trophy crappie, but for the great population of 9-12" keeper size. I was keeping crappie and after some debate I decided to let this big girl go. She was full of eggs so it appeared the crappie were still in pre spawn mode. A few crankbait casts and a couple 9" keeper crappie on the minnow float later and I decided to switch to duel floats. Another 30 minutes went by and I had maybe 5 keeper crappie and had only caught one crappie that was under 9" and it was probably 8.9" at that. So size was very favorable for harvesting crappie. It wasn't a quick bite but every fish being keeper size kept my interest. Another 15 minutes went by without any bites when finally a float quickly submerged. I started reeling and slowly lifted the rod tip to feel something with a little weight behind it. I typically don't set hooks on crappie as it has proven less effective in my experience. After a short battle I pulled yet another trophy crappie in. I thought to myself, "man, this is bigger than the first one!". This one measured in at 14.75" and weighed 1lb 7oz, also full of eggs.
14.75" 1lb 7oz Crappie
14.75" 1lb 7oz Crappie
I failed to catch another fish for another 15 minutes at this spot so I decided to move on down the bank. For the majority of the day I did this, catching a couple keepers at most spots I anchored. Numbers weren't great but nearly every fish was between 9-11". By the time I made it to the mouth of the cove I had 14 keeper crappie and had only caught 3 that were under 9". I had only purchased 3 dozen minnows so at this point I was getting pretty low, I predicted I had no more than a dozen left. I decided to head out into the main lake to search for another cove that I thought was holding crappie. After I short trip out into the lake I discovered that nearly every cove had a boat in it no doubt doing the same that I was doing. So I quickly headed back to the cove I started in to reclaim my spot before somebody else took it.

I headed back to the spot where I caught the two trophy crappie. In an hour I managed to catch 2 more keepers before I ran out of minnows. At this point it was about an hour from sunset. I thought, "might as well extend a great day on the water as long as I can". So I tied on a 3" wobblehead worm paired with a 1/32oz jig head in hopes that I might catch a bass or even some more crappie. Wobbleheads have proven to be a very versatile bait, catching anything from bluegill to 4lb largemouth bass. After I few casts with the wobblehead I landed my first bass, a solid 12". I worked my way around to the mouth of the cove once again and continued on around the opposite side. I had not fished this side as it was not the wind blown side and I felt it was somewhat featureless. A couple casts in and I got my second 12" bass of the evening. These bass were very shallow in less than 2ft of water near the bank and running towards me when they took my bait. Another 30ft down the bank I hook into something decent, at least for the light crappie rod and reel I was using. I immediately seen a sizable bass leap into the air. After a couple drag ripping surges I landed the pig. It was a very healthy 17.25" 2lbs 11oz.
17.25" 2lb 11oz Largemouth Bass
17.25" 2lb 11oz Largemouth Bass
My technique for working the wobblehead is a few light twitches and then letting it sink to the bottom. Many times the bass will take the worm on the drop when you don't have tension on the line.

Another 30 ft down the bank I hook into another decent fish. I thought it was another bass but a little smaller than the last one. This one wasn't jumping and as it got close I seen that it was another big crappie. This one went 13.5" and 15oz.
13.5" 15oz Crappie
At this point it was getting too dark to see where I was casting and I had reached the back of the cove so I called it quits.

On the day I caught 3 Fish Ohio crappie and a respectable largemouth. A day I won't soon forget. I ended up harvesting 16 crappie.

On a side note I did some mushroom hunting with great success this week. It has become something of a tradition now to have an annual crappie and morel mushroom feast every year.
No less than 15 mushrooms in this picture including a cluster of 7.
200+ morel mushrooms

Friday, April 25, 2014

4/24/2014 Jigging the creek round 2

My focus lately has been largemouth bass fishing. After several trips in the past week, I have yet to find any quality largemouth. I've fished some lakes and ponds with only average 10-14" largemouth to show. For baits I've been switching between shallow crankbaits, jigs, and wobblehead worms. The crankbaits and wobblehead's have by far been the most productive while the jig has been struggling. Water temps on the lakes have been in the low 60's and wind blown sides have been more productive.

Thursday after work I decided to give the largemouth a break and head back to the creek to see if the smallmouth were still biting. They were hitting jig well last trip so that's what I intended to use. After two hours of tossing the jig it appeared the smallmouth bite had died. I managed to catch one small spotted bass in those two hours. I was thinking maybe the smallmouth had started spawning.

Near the end of my trip after the sun had set I was tossing the jig in some deeper slow moving water when I got a huge bite. First thought, huge smallmouth. After only seconds I knew that wasn't the case. This fish was giving me some serious head shakes and was sticking to the bottom. I was fairly certain I had hooked into a flathead catfish in the 5-10lb range. This fish was ripping out a very tight drag on my Abu Garcia Revo S. A minute later and I had the fish surfaced near the bank. It wasn't a flathead, not even a catfish at all. It was a very hard fighting freshwater drum. Seconds later I had the drum bank side. It went 6lbs 3oz and 23.5". Good enough for my second Fish Ohio trophy (22" for drum) of the year.
Freshwater Drum on Jig
6lb 3oz 23.5" Freshwater Drum
Soon after it was dark and I called it quits.

For those of you not familiar with the Fish Ohio program you can read about it here.

Achieving 4 Fish Ohio catches of different species earns you master angler status. This has been a goal for me every year for the past several years. I've done pretty well, earning the master angler pin every year since 2010.

Upon submitting my drum and crappie from earlier in the year I found that ODNR had completely redone the Fish Ohio web page with several improvments.

1. You can now query all Fish Ohio submissions since 2009 by location or species. This was very interesting to look up all trophy submissions on some of my favorite fishing waters
2. It now keeps track of all your submissions so you can go back and look at your own submissions easily.
3. You can now upload a picture of your catch which is added to your certificate which is a very nice touch.

So any Ohio angler not already participating in the Fish Ohio program, I highly recommend it. It's as easy as logging in and submitting your qualifying catch. At the end of the year they send you a unique pin for that year. As mentioned before, if you catch 4 different species of Fish Ohio qualifying fish, they also mail you a master angler pin which is just a golden version of the Fish Ohio pin that says master angler. Until next time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/13/2014 Creek Trip

Sunday the wind was forecast to be 20mph so I decided to avoid getting blown around in the NuCanoe an opted for some bank fishing or wade fishing rather. Based on online gauges the creek temperatures had been hitting the 60's for several days so I knew the smallmouth would be nearing or starting spawning.

Despite the strong winds it was a beautiful April day with temperatures nearing 80 degrees. I brought two rods with me. One with a 1/4oz black and red jig with a matching Berkley Powerbait 3" black red fleck Chigger Craw. Last year I used large jigs with 4" Chigger Craws for the longest time for smallmouth but ultimately decided to downsize to slightly smaller jigs and the 3" Chigger Craws as I felt I was missing too many bites. My other rod was my plan B which I had a Rebel Wee Craw tied on.

My favorite technique for creek smallmouth is dragging my jig. Why work your bait when you can let the rocks do all the work for you? And if your not fishing on the rocks, you should be. Just slowly reel your jig across the rocks letting it bounce through all the little crevices. Anywhere near a riffle is typically a good spot. If the water is barely flowing, it is usually not worth the time. The paint on your jig will take a beating using this technique but the reward is well worth it. Also, be sure to retie often as the the rocks also take their toll on your line.

My day started strong with a 13-14" 1lb 1oz smallmouth in the first 10 minutes. An hour later I found my second fish.
1lb 13oz Smallmouth
This smallmouth was very healthy, most likely full of eggs, weighing in at 1lb 13oz. I didn't have a measuring device on me but I would guess it in the 16" range.
Revived to lay her eggs.
Throughout the rest of the day I got several more bites but nothing I could hook. After catching two decent ones I wasn't about to switch to the wee craw to catch these nibblers. At dusk I called it quits satisfied with two quality creek smallmouth.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Muddy Water Bass Fishing

Saturday, April 5th, I went out searching for some largemouth bass. It had rained for several days prior so just about every lake and stream was muddy or flooded. I chose a lake that I had hoped was not effected much by the rains. Upon arrival at 10:30am, the water clarity was way worse than I had hoped. After a short debate with myself, I decided I was there so I might as well try. Water visibility was no more than 3 inches. I took a picture of my transducer arm to show how muddy the water was.

Immediately I started picking up tons of fish on my fish finder out in open water.

I had a green pumpkin jig and a shallow diving crankbait tied on so I began alternating between the two to see if anything I was seeing on the fish finder was biting. I knew that dark colored baits would be my best bet in the muddy water. After about 30 casts or so I had already had 2 bites on jig and 1 on the crankbait but no hookups. I then decided to change the jig and Berkley Chigger Crawl up to a jig n pig. I was hoping that the added scent of the Uncle Josh's Pork Frog would help the fish find my bait in the muddy water.
Jig n Pig
About 5 casts after switching to the jig n pig I finally hooked into a fish out in the open water. It felt like a decent bass but what I pulled up instead was a huge bullhead catfish. The bullhead went 15.25" and 1lb 13oz which was good enough for a new personal best.
15.25" 1lb 13oz Bullhead Catfish
15.25" 1lb 13oz Bullhead Catfish
It was good to knock the skunk off early but unfortunately this would be my first and last fish of the day.  Throughout the day I tried several different baits including, 3 different jig variations (green pumpkin, jig n pig, black red fleck), 3 different cranks (shallow, mid range, and deep), and a large black spinner bait with nothing to show for it. The jigs by far produced the most bites. Unsure if I was getting bites from smaller fish or if the fish just couldn't see my bait well enough to get it in their mouth. These bites could have also been from more bullhead catfish which were too small to fit the jig into their mouths. Catfish like the bullhead rely on their lateral line and scent to feed rather than their eyes such that the muddy water effects their ability to feed minimally if at all.

Throughout the day I also noted that the surface temperature ranged from 53 to 60 degrees and that I had caught the bullhead on the cold side of the lake. I tried to focus more time on the warmer side of the lake but it did not help. By 7:30pm I was ready to call it quits, happy that I had caught anything at all in the muddy water.