Simple Spinners Fool Smart Summer Fish – “Andy Magic!”

  • Muskoka Lake Fishing Fun for walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass
  • Single-blade spinner rigs fool big and little fish…when presented in the “fish zone.”
  • How-to, what-to, when-to with expert angler, Andy Wilbur, sharing one of his secrets.
Andy Wilbur says, “There is a captivating charm and sort of bonding magic with the fish when you catch ’em on lures you make.”

By Forrest Fisher

You know, the older we get, the more we forget! I discovered this last week during a fun fishing trip with good friends to Muskoka Lake in our nearby north, about 100 miles above Toronto.

For many years now, about a dozen outdoor buddies have banded together to make this trip up north because there seems to be an uncommon mutual interest in the outdoors, in the peace and enjoyment of special fishing moments and evening round table campfires.

Add clear starlight skies after dark with an occasional streaking meteorite (a good luck shooting star), the northern lights on some nights, and never-ending conversations about guns, bows, new equipment, new outdoor seasons, and anything else that pertains to the outdoors…and you get it. All the ingredients of a great trip and lots of relaxing fun happen during these away-from-home sessions.

There was a new addition to the band of Muskoka fishing brothers this year. His name was Andy Wilbur. He lives in Central New York, and he had successful heart surgery just two weeks ago.

Understanding that, he wanted to make the trip anyway because he had always turned down previous invitations, and maybe, just maybe, this was a special year for a “big fish”. There is always that story-tale thought!

It turned out to be more than that for the big-hearted new guy. Andy readied his 17-foot Lund moored at the dock and walked up to where the group was still unpacking to ask, “Does anyone want to join me for a few first casts while I check out my boat?” A quick answer came from 12-year old Zack Buresch, “Can I go?”

So Zack and his dad, Karl, a marine infantry veteran, both jumped in the boat and off they went.

At Muskoka Lake, The Andy Wilbur magic spinner lure was a smaller size 1 Colorado blade, most were silver in color, but copper, gold and painted red/white spinner blades worked too.

About 30 minutes later, we could see the trio returning to the dock. We walked down to help Andy get the boat retied safely and to make sure he didn’t do anything silly after his hospital event. “How did you do?” asked Craig Sauers. “Any good?” Zack hopped vertically about 3 feet straight up and onto the dock, grinning, and said, “I caught my first walleye with Mister Andy!! Look, here it is!”

The fish was 23-inches long, golden yellow in color, a prize all by itself, but that was not all. There were two more on the stringer! The boys caught three beautiful walleye in 30 minutes on a waterway where walleye are known to exist but are rarely caught with any consistency.

After the excitement went into a brief rest mode, everyone wanted to know how, what, where, and all the details.

Chris Sauers asked, “Were you electric motor trolling Andy?”

“Nope, just casting from my anchored boat,” he answered with a whitebeard grin. “Andy just showed us some new magic boys,” Karl said, “I think you might want to see how Andy fishes!” Zack was still beaming.

Andy explained his new old trick for catching walleye here was just as simple as his open water boat. He used an unassuming spinner and worm rig with just a few beads and a single-snelled hook, threaded a half-nightcrawler onto that hook and then cast the line out. In front of the rig, a few split-shots that are heavy enough to take the rig down to the bottom in 20 feet of water or so. Then he simply reeled it back very slowly. Spinner flash, worm scent, color from the beads…..wham! Fish on!

One-fish luck can happen to anyone, but three fish in short order is a demonstration of something more than luck.

There it was, “Andy Magic.” Maybe this was why Andy finally made the trip this year. He had some unique fish-catching charm to share that would change how the “band of Muskoka brothers” fish for all time.

Young Zack Buresch, 12-years old, caught bass, northern pike and unforgettable fun memories at Muskoka Lake, all on the Andy magic homemade lures. 

Andy mentioned that he had brought his spinner parts just in case he needed to make some more. Needless to say, there was a spinner/worm rig-making seminar on the kitchen table in the cabin five minutes later. All 12 guys (a big place) were rigged up with at least one. Young Zack had a few extra!

Andy shared with everyone that there is nothing more special to him than watching a youngster hook his fish on a rig that he can tie. “There is captivating charm and bonding magic with the fish when you catch ’em on lures you make,” Andy says. His words hit an exclusive memory chord with me.

The whole experience took me back in a time warp to a time when my dad, who just recently passed away, showed me how to make fishing lures for the first time. A new lane was opened in my mind. This experience with Andy had opened up a direct link I forgot about when I was a kid, to a time when dad was passing on his local fishing lore.

When dad always taught us to save money because we didn’t have too much of that. He knew I loved to fish (he taught me), so he took me aside one day and brought a fishing lure components catalog to my side. The Herter’s catalog was my favorite (I still have a 1953 version), but Netcraft was a close second. With that, he shared the details of how to make a spinner and worm lure. Not a fancy spinner/worm rig like we use on open Lake Erie today, but a straightforward rig, like what Andy was using.

At Muskoka, the blades we used mainly were smaller size 1 Colorado blades, most were silver in color, but copper, gold and painted red/white spinner blades worked too. Just like dad taught me, Andy showed us to slip a clevis into the tiny hole located at one end of the blade first, then slip the line through the clevis, add four or five small beads and tie on a size 4 hook bait-keeper hook, where we threaded a small worm for bait.

Dad would say, “You just need to use enough beads so that when the beads are strung onto a leader, they take about as much space as the blade is long plus a little. That way, the blade doesn’t hit the hook where you put a small worm, and it will turn OK when you cast it out and reel it back.” Andy sounded just like dad. Then he would say, “You can use any color beads you want, but red or green always seem to work well.”

The “Band of Muskoka Fishing Brothers” share laughs and fresh-caught fish for dinner.

Andy said these very same words like it was 55 years ago, at least as I remember it all. Magical, mystical, extraordinary, the conversation brought all those things.

The trip was simply outstanding, the boys enjoyed moments to never forget, and a massive release of sharing went on. No boasting or bragging, that would not be the way for anyone in this humble group of likable outdoor friends. Just fish tales, simple humor, a few practical jokes, and a lot of fun in the outdoors. It doesn’t get any better! The Canadian beverages were pretty good too!

That wasn’t all. On the last night of the stay, another old friend joined us to fish. Young eight-year-old Alex Denz, joined Andy and Chris in the now-infamous “Andy walleye boat.” Alex hooked into a whopper 23-inch walleye on the simple rig as sunset turned to nightfall.

“Yes!” said Alex, “this is the best day of my life! I love walleye fishing, but I could never catch one! Now I caught one! Yes! Thank you, Mister Chris and Mister Andy!”

Fishing is so much fun! Congrats Alex! Andy presented Alex with the spinner rig with which he caught his first walleye. A wall-hang prize and treasure for the youngster!

The whole experience of “going back to simplicity” made me think about how things have changed here on Lake Erie. Tackle shops sell spinner and worm rigs now that feature photo-prism blades with unique beads that cost seven dollars these days! Wow! In a bad economy, some things never change, like the rising cost of lures. Not sure the high-priced spinner/worm lures work any better than existing Lake Erie models out there for half the price.

Nothing tastes so good as deep-fried, fresh caught walleye

However, one word to the wise. Even the half-cost models are complicated. What if we all went back to tying our own simple one-spinner blade rigs with a few beads and only one hook? The blade turns at about a half-mile per hour! Fish attractor? Yes. Right color? Yes, we can make them any color.

Right size? We’re going to find out!!

Do you know what I’m doing today? It’s time to get simple and see if these simple rigs, which can also be used effectively in a very slow drift, work up here for hard-to-catch Lake Erie walleye.

We finished the Muskoka trip with lots of walleye for our every other day fish fry up there. We caught walleye like never before in a lake where walleye are only caught once in a great while. There is a new old lure in Muskoka town today!

You might want to try it in Lake Erie and the Finger Lakes and other places too.

The “Andy magic rig” really works that well!

 

 

Zack and his dad with a pair of behemoth largemouth bass from fishing near the Muskoka Lake weedbeds.
40+ inches each of Muskoka Lake northern pike, a good catch for the Chris Sauers family on those good days.

Winter Fishing the Niagara River (NY)…Without Ice!

Mike Ziehm continued to use a No. 4 spinner to take nice steelhead like this one from shore in the Niagara Gorge.

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022
  • From Destination Niagara USA
  • Happy New Year!
Capt. John DeLorenzo of Niagara Falls caught some dandy steelhead while he tested the waters before running a trip this week.

As the fishing action starts to improve again in the Niagara River, remember that the walleye daily creel limit in the Lower Niagara River changes this time of year. Hopefully, recent winds will not muddy up the water too badly. In the meantime, it is important to remember that the daily creel limit on walleye changes after the first of the year to March 15 to help protect large females. The daily limit drops from 3 to 1 fish with a size limit of 18 inches.

In the lower river, steelhead and lake trout are both being caught in the lower river section below Niagara Falls – from the gorge to the Niagara Bar.

Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston reports lake trout action on the Niagara Bar has been good. Steelhead and brown trout have been hitting in and around Artpark.

For the boat guys, live bait like minnows and shiners are working well, along with Kwikfish and MagLips fished off three-way rigs. Shore guys are using spinners and jigs, as well as egg sacs and beads and fished under a float.

Capt. John DeLorenzo of Niagara Falls caught this lower Niagara River steelhead this week on a BnR soft bead.

Capt. John DeLorenzo of Niagara Falls sends word that even though the water is finally clearing, the steelhead fishing has still been a little picky — probably because the river is full of bait. He’s never seen so many birds feasting on minnows and large numbers of baby smelt. The best bait for him has been beads, but he recently switched to BnR soft beads in chartreuse, peach, orange and pink, very effective for him.

The Bar has been pretty good the past week with golden shiners. He has been catching mostly lakers, but a few nice brown trout have started to show up there, too. Hair jigs and blade baits have also been good to use.

In the upper Niagara River, Scott Gauld and his son Alex of Tonawanda had some banner days on smallmouth bass – one on New Year’s Eve. Using Ned rigs to take a pile of bass, all catch and release. Trout and walleye are still being caught at the Foot of Ferry Street on big minnows according to Lake Effect Bait and Tackle in Tonawanda.

Scott Gauld of Tonawanda and Nick Sanderson of Williamsville with a pair of Niagara River bass caught on New Year’s Eve!

Tributary action off Lake Ontario saw an uptick in fresh fish after recent rains. Trout are being caught, although fishing pressure has been limited. The coldest day of the winter so far was Monday, but it will be in the 40’s today, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen to the tributaries with rain and snow in the forecast.

This is the Ned rig that worked best on bass for Scott and Alex Gauld, as well as Nick Sanderson. This was a green pumpkin candy 3-inch Venom Salty Sling they were dead dragging on the bottom.

 

 

Stay safe out there!

Frank Campbell, Director, Outdoor Promotions

Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
We know that brighter days are ahead. Until then, let us be your destination of hope. Click here for our video message.

 

Saltwater Fishing Fun – Placida Harbor, Florida

Paddletail jigs with a wiggle and wobble catch fish in Placida Harbor.

  • Fishing Islands and Embayments in Southwest Florida
  • Speckled Trout, Snook and Snapper…Catching Fish
  • Topwater Plugs, Paddletail jigs and Lightweight Fishing Rods
Marty Poli with a healthy Placida Harbor Speckled Trout that was taken on a surface Mirrolure.

By Forrest Fisher

The morning radar was threatening possible rainstorms when my phone beeped. It was my friend Marty Poli, a retired master tradesman from New Jersey. “Hey Forrest, it’s a go! Just bring a rain jacket, we might get wet, but I’m in for at least a half-day if you’re good with the chance of getting a little wet.” It was still dark outside as I pulled back the curtains. It was a bit before sunrise. I answered, “Of course I’m in, let’s go!” My heart rate went up a bit. It’s always exciting to know you’re going fishing to a place where you might catch a 10-inch fish on one cast and a 30-pound fish on the next cast. Saltwater fishing is exciting!

I hurried through the shower and thought about what to put in the backpack, then grabbed two inshore fishing rods, a small cooler with bottled water, and I was out the door. As I reached the truck, I glanced up to see stars everywhere. The sunrise glow from the east had just started. Wondered who was running that weather radar station. It was a beautiful morning.

The Placida Harbor boat launch at Gasparilla Sound was deserted. Other fisher folks must have been watching that same radar. The sun was clearly above the horizon now, and the orange cast across the water was simply incredible.  I parked my truck and walked to the ramp to wait for Marty. A few minutes later, he was there. A 15-year old youngster hopped out of the truck too, “Good morning, sir!” Marty jumped in to share in the greeting. “This is Phillip Sokolov, a great young fisherman neighbor from the Chicago area. He is visiting his family folks down here. This kid is someone that might just show us up today, my friend.” We grinned and laughed.  Everyone was beaming with the morning sunshine glow. In about 2-minutes, we were off.

Marty knows Placida Harbor and Bull Bay islands area very well. He headed for a fishing area that catches a cross-current with the tide flow while watching the wind direction. The wave action and current mix create undulating bumps between the sandgrass and oyster beds in the sand bottom. Devilfish Key was just a short rock throw away. As the wind came up from the south, large bait schools of pilchards swimming near the surface became noticeable. Their surface riffles highlighted their location. You know what they say, find the bait, and you find the Fish.  The cormorants and feeding predator fish helped us to find the exact area to fish.

Johnson Sprite spoons in gold color are another good option for hooking up with many saltwater species at this time of year.
When we found the trout, they were hitting as they had never eaten before! Fun time.

Marty started out by tossing a Zara Spook saltwater version near one side of the bait riffles. It didn’t go 5-feet when something attacked from beneath. “Fish on!” Marty yelped. “Feels like a good one.” A moment later, Phillip hollered, “Fish on! I think it’s a trout.” Marty answered, “I don’t know what mine is, but it’s huge.” Phillip landed his Fish, a nice 16-inch speckled trout. Just then, Marty grimaced a bit, “Ugh, he’s gone. He tossed my hook. Darn!” Things got even better in the next 45 minutes as we caught 12-15 fish on assorted lures. Surface lures, spoons and plastic-tailed jigs. Color didn’t seem to matter.

We moved to Bull Bay next, inside Cayo Pelau, in 3 to 8 feet of water. We could see emerging seagrass and mudflats too. An excellent area of the bay structure that everyone looked for to find Fish. There were bait schools hereto. Marty used his electric bow motor to keep in position, then dropped his Talon pole anchor to hold on a good spot. Before we were set, Phillip had hooked and landed two trout. The kid was hot. Using a turquois-colored St. Croix Avid Inshore model fishing rod, a Daiwa Saltist Back Bay 30-series fishing reel with 15-pound Power-Pro braid and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, Phillip was catching 3-fish to each one that Marty or I had hooked up. “OK, so what’s the secret Phil? Is it a special bait your tossing?” Phil grinned, “Nope, it’s just a light line and leader with a 1/8 oz chartreuse-colored lead head.” I looked at it and mentioned that I couldn’t tell what color the head was. “Well, it had a color when I started!” He grinned. “I just thread a Z-man flapper tail with gold flecks in it – but it needs to be perfectly centered, and then cast it out and jiggle it once in a while as I reel it in. You know. I give it some action. They just seem to be wrecking it! I’ve used this lure before, and it has always worked. My uncle told me about it.”

Phil Sokolov fooled dozens of fish using his soft-touch fishing style and a plastic paddle tail lure attached to a lead head jig. cast out, jiggle, yank, reel, jiggle…the kid might be known as the “fish-whisperer” in future stories. 

Phil’s excitement and energy level were contagious. He is a meticulous angler for a youngster, tied good knots and didn’t mind sharing his fishing prowess with others. That makes him humble and unique in my book, especially during this day and age. Together, we might have brought about 75 fish to the boat in this morning of fishing fun. Phile probably hooked up with about 50 of those. With Speckled trout back on the keeper list again, Phil took home a meal for his family.

As we headed back into the boat harbor at Placida, our conversations covered everything from the weather to fishing gear to lunchtime just ahead. We had caught snook, trout, grouper, ladyfish, redfish, blowfish, lizard fish and other species.  In the middle of our angler talk, Phillip stood up and asked Marty if it was OK to cast a line as we approached the bay with the boat ramps. The kid had eyes on the Mangrove overgrowth on the shoreline. “There are no boats around, so sure, Phil, looks OK,” Marty said. Phil hooked and landed a nice snook on the first cast, then another and even one more before Marty returned with the trailer. He returned all the snook unharmed.

Some fishing days are just exceptional! This was one of those that reminds us that good fishing is always about friends and fun. Catching Fish adds to the fun, and we had lots of THAT fun on this short fishing day. Tight lines, everyone.

Lake Trout Limits on Lake Huron – No Monkeying Around!

Lake Trout tussle very well in Lake Huron near Alpena, Mi.

Bob Holzhei and first mate, Justin Grubaugh, admire the size of one of our lake trout.By Bob Holzhei

Lake Trout were targeted on this fishing trip and it wasn’t long before the first fish was boated. It was caught on a Monkey Fish lure. Then another and another until our limit was met! It was exciting! Gaylord, Michigan, was the selected Annual Conference site for the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW). Journalists, corporate members, and radio and television personalities from all across the United States are part of the trilogy that comprises the membership.

On this day, our morning departure from the Treetops Resort began at 8:00 A.M., arriving at the Alpena City Marina an hour later. Our boat was a 21-foot Voyager named Depth Charge with Captain Kevin Drummond.

We began fishing in his “honey hole,” in 110-120 feet of water, using 8 rigged fishing lines to cover the depth, which ranged from 30 feet to 120-foot depth. “I began fishing as a kid at 16 years old and only lived a block from the lake. Lake Huron has an amazing lake trout fishery, and I get pleasure from watching people catch fish,” stated Drummond.

The author strains as the 15-minute fun battle with another tenacious, large lake trout continues.

Also on board among my fishing partners was David Gladkowski, a staff writer with the National Turkey Federation and Brady Laudon, Assistant Director and Sales Manager for Visit Bemidji, Minnesota. Each year, three locations are chosen by AGLOW to present a conference bid, that is, to host a future conference.

“I’ve never done any fishing like that, being a South Carolina boy.

Of course, I’ll be back. I was thrilled! Gladkowski stated. This was also the first time Brady Loudon fished Lake Huron. “Our fishing party limited out on Lake Trout. I couldn’t believe how the honey holes produced so many fish,” added Laudon.

In addition, to a yearly conference, AGLOW – along with corporate sponsors – offers “Communicator Camps,” which consist of 6-10 outdoor journalists. Members apply for a spot and are selected by the tourism bureau. The Communicator Camps provide opportunities for CVB’s to gain additional exposure.

The excitement throughout the morning and afternoon continued, and soon, there were three lake trout in a battle to free themselves at the same time.

The anglers had to slow down the pace at bringing the fish in. The fishermen on our boat took turns landing the fish, allowing time to rest from the strenuous battles. Drummond spoke highly of the success with the Shimano Tekota reels and Talora Shimano rods. The reels spooled with a 20-pound test line, one item among the tools used to reach our limit of lake trout, a couple steelhead and a salmon.

“Lake Huron is also a world-class Atlantic Salmon fishery, perhaps the world’s largest landlocked Atlantic Salmon, and the finest angling,” according to Jim Johnson, a retired fisheries biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

According to Johnson, Lake Superior State University faculty and students have been stocking 20,000 to 35,000 Atlantic salmon in Lake Huron annually since the late 1980s.

Thanks to Captain Kevin Drummond and his first mate, Justin Grubaugh, on a boat named “Depth Charge” for a successful and unforgettable fishing day out of the port at Alpena, Michigan.

A significant difference between the Atlantic’s and Chinook salmon is that the Chinooks die after spawning. At the same time, the Atlantic’s can spawn multiple times and live longer. The Atlantic’s have been marked by removing the adipose fin and implanting a tiny coded wire tag in each fishes’ head. The tag provides information about the stocking date and location, which assists the DNR in measuring the stocking success. Anglers are asked to forward the heads to the area DNR office.

As we boated ashore, the rich memories of this fishing trip would resurface until I returned to fish with Drummond again!

For more information, contact: Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau 1-800-345-8621, www.gaylordmichigan.net and Alpena Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, 1-989 354-4181, www.info@visitalpena.com.

Wes Logan, Local Pro, Gets First Bassmaster Elite Series Victory At Neely Henry Lake

Wes Logan, of Springville, Ala., has won the 2021 Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake with a four-day total of 57 pounds, 9 ounces.  Photo by James Overstreet/B.A.S.S.

In Gadsden, Alabama — Wes Logan said memories came flooding back to him throughout the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake.  That’s bound to happen when you’ve fished a place since you were 5 years old.

Logan now has countless new reasons to think fondly of his home water after claiming the tournament title here on Championship Monday. The 26-year-old from Springville, only a 30-mile drive from the Gadsden City Boat Docks, caught a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 57 pounds, 9 ounces. He capped the competition with a 14-1 limit Monday, the third-heaviest of the day.

Logan earned $100,000 for the win, his first in 26 B.A.S.S. events.

The second-year Elite Series angler charged into the lead on Day 3 with a 16-15 bag that tied for the heaviest of the tournament. That made him the last man to weigh in Monday and the only one with a chance to knock Connecticut pro Paul Mueller from the hot seat.

Logan peeked silently at the scale while his bass were weighed. When his winning total flashed on screen, he let out a victorious yell and pumped his right fist over his head. Then he hugged Mueller and hoisted his first blue trophy for his home-based fans to see.

“I started tournament fishing with my dad when I was 5,” Logan said. “We’d come here, Logan Martin and Weiss … I went into practice trying to not put pressure on myself. I wanted to fish like I’d never seen the place before. I wanted to figure out a pattern.”

Having an open mind, even on water he knows so well, was critical this week. Neely Henry was a difficult read for most of the 98 anglers who started the tournament on Friday, postponed by a day because of heavy rains earlier in the week. The storms sent the water table rising and shot sediment throughout the lake. The Elites scrambled to find stable water, many relying on junk fishing to see which lures and techniques produced the best bites.

A trio of lures worked best for Logan — a 5/8-ounce Dirty Jigs Matt Herren flipping jig (black/blue skirt) with a Zoom Big Salty sapphire blue Chunk; a Dirty Jigs No Jack swim jig with a Zoom Super Speed Craw trailer; and a frog, which he used to fill his Day 3 limit.

Logan started the tournament strongly, putting 14-1 on the board Friday, good enough for ninth place. He caught 12-8 on Day 2, climbing to eighth and surviving the cut to 48. He made his move on Day 3 with the 16-5 haul, pointing to a pair of unusual catches as the turning point.

“I caught two bass under a bridge right by the Gadsden City Boat Docks on a crankbait,” he said “I’m not a crankbait fisherman. It was about 11:30, and I only had two keepers at the time. But I caught a 2 1/2 there, and then two casts later, I caught a 5 1/4. I only got one more bite that day.

“When you get that kind of bite when you’re not supposed to, that let me know I had a chance to win. Stuff like that just doesn’t happen all the time.”

Logan didn’t divulge specifics on the crankbait, other than to say it’s specially painted, similar to a black/chartreuse combo.

“I keep that one in my hand around here,” he said. “It’s a confidence thing.”

Logan planned to fish down-lake from the start, but low water in that area made him choose otherwise. Each of the 20 bass he weighed was caught between Cove Creek and Minnesota Bend — both only a 10-minute run from the Gadsden City Boat Docks.

Mueller, meanwhile, went straight for the lower end of Neely Henry and found success. He seized the lead after Day 2 and was in second place going into Day 4, trailing Logan by just more than a pound. Mueller caught the heaviest bass of the tournament Monday, a 6-6 largemouth, but his 13-13 closing weight wasn’t enough to overtake Logan.

“My pattern went away today and I knew that would be the deal,” Mueller said. “I had to fish new water. I was able to catch some fish, and I had a good day. I’m glad at the way this turned out. As short as the morning bite was, I could have been sitting in sixth or seventh right now.”

Mueller caught his best bass, including the 6-6, on a Deps Evoke 2.0 squarebill crankbait (chartreuse/brown back). He earned an additional $2,000 for having the Phoenix Boats Big Bass on Day 4 and overall.

Alabama native Gerald Swindle caught the second-heaviest bag on Day 4 (a 15-0 limit) and finished third with 54-2 overall.

Mueller took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and fourth-place finisher Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Logan earned $4,000 for winning while Christie claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

Minnesota pro Seth Feider finished 12th in the derby and didn’t qualify for Championship Monday, but he still left Gadsden with a commanding lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. His season total of 525 points gives him a 41-point cushion over Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., (484) with three tournaments remaining.

Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., is third with 464, followed by Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, with 462 and Christie with 457.

Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., is leading the Rookie of the Year standings with 372 points.

The City of Gadsden and the Greater Gadsden Area Tourism hosted the event.

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Bass Pro Shops, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Rapala

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partner: AFTCO

About B.A.S.S. – B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bassmaster Team Championship, Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk

Shipwreck Fishing in Southwest Florida – Red Grouper and Snapper Fun

Red Grouper fun in Southwest Florida. Rod, reels, rigs and how.

  • Fish: Red Grouper, Lane Snapper, Vermillion Snapper….30+ miles out
  • Rig: 200# test braid, 80# fluoro leader, 10-oz slip-sinker, 9/0 Gamakatsu Circle Hook
  • Bait: live shrimp, live sand perch, frozen squid, frozen ballyhoo
Nick Weaver with one of the healthy red grouper we landed while fishing not far from a sunken offshore shipwreck.

By Forrest Fisher

The hi-energy growl of the 400 Hp Mercury Verado coming out of the hole is a beautiful sound. As we departed the Placida boat launch, Nick Weaver brought the flared high-bow of his 26-ft Caymas (boat) up to plane quickly. We were soon skipping along at a humble 25 miles per hour in Lemon Bay and then made the turn west as we slid past Little Gasparilla Island into the Gulf of Mexico.

Controlled boat positioning is among primary keys to offshore bottom-fishing success.

It was a relatively calm day. The open seas forecast of one to three feet looked good as Nick moved the throttle forward and kicked the boat into high speed. I looked over to fishing partner, Marty Poli; he had a broad smile on his face as we both reversed our hats, rims to the rear. The boat came to cruising speed as Nick set the Raymarine electronics to autopilot for the destination 36 miles out: the Bayronto shipwreck. After surviving a U-boat torpedo attack in 1917, the 400-foot-long Bayronto ship went down during a hurricane while traveling to Tampa in 1918. In our modern times, more than 100 years later, the fuselage has become a fish-attracting magnet for anglers (and divers) that make the offshore trip. Forage and predators abound! Nick still had to consider the gently rolling swells that were about 200-feet apart on this calm day, so he slowed the boat down to 35 mph. Even at that, it didn’t take long to get there.

We all talked on the way out. Nick shared rig details, gear options and what we had for bait selections. Then he offered the fish plan to identify our goals.  We were going to first focus on the wreck for yellowtail snapper, after that, the bottom-feeding, reef-dwelling, red grouper. If time allowed, we would then target amberjack after that. We all grinned a bit as he said,” Why not? We have the whole day!”

The plan was to stop short of the wreck to catch live sand perch, known locally as squirrel fish, for bait. In 88 feet of water, Nick deployed the MinnKota Ulterra, and we zeroed in on the bottom for a bait school. Hitting anchor lock, the boat stopped and stabilized, maintaining our location. We delved into the bait well, where there was 18-dozen beautiful live shrimp (TNT Bait & Tackle, El Jobean, FL). Cutting the shrimp in half, we used lighter Penn rods equipped with open-face Penn Fiarce II 5000 series reels, 65# braid, 35# fluoro leader, 3 oz hot-pink hog ball (Captain Chappy).

After we caught some bait, along with some vermillion snapper, lane snapper, and other species like blowfish and remora, we moved onto the wreck. It was time to the Penn Battle II 6000 series rod and reel, 80# braid, 40# fluoro, 6 oz slip-sinker, 3/0 Gamakatsu circle hook (Fish’n Frank’s Bait and Tackle, Port Charlotte, FL).

On a sunny day without shore in sight, we enjoyed many fun moments of “Fish On!”

On the first drop, I had removed the shell from half-a-tail of shrimp – an old friend told me that the fish will eat that no-shell shrimp bait faster – from pure scent attraction. It hit bottom in short order. Not 5-seconds later, I held the rod in my hand when the rod tip dipped swiftly into the water from a vicious strike. I yelled, “Fish on!” The reel drag was pretty tight but was screaming. The fish was swimming so fast, going away in the opposite direction. It was a throbbing, bobbing action on the rod tip. My hands were wet from the shrimp and I was worried about the rod slipping away. I gripped the rod tighter as this fish was massive in strength. Nick hollered, “You got a big mangrove snapper! There might be amberjack here, you might have one of those.” A few moments later, the line snapped, my fish was gone. My heart was beating so fast! “Ugh,” I groaned. “I lost it.” Nick said, “Reel in Forrest, let’s see what she did.” The brand new Spectra braided line was sheared and was ragged at the breakpoint where the fish had apparently headed for the safety of the wreck on the bottom. “Whatever you had, it was huge,” Nick added.” We’ve got lots more hooks and sinkers, tie one on.” This was going to be a fun fishing day!

We moved from that spot to stop at three different places before finding what Nick called “live bottom.:

Here we discovered a rock-hard bottom (w/coral-like caves) surrounded by bottom growth all around the spot, and, of course, this was home for a large school of red grouper and various multiple snapper species.

After you locate a “live-bottom,” maybe the most challenging part of the fishing plan, enjoy the catching. Once you find such a spot, save the GPS location to your electronic memory.

We switched fishing rigs to level-wind Penn Fathom II line-counter reels (FTHII30LWLC) with matching Penn Carnage II rods (Fish’n Frank’s Bait & Tackle, Port Charlotte, FL). Our connection to the fish was not fragile. The reels were filled with 200# test braid, with a 10-ounce slip-sinker to a 200# swivel, then a 5-foot long 80# Yozuri fluorocarbon leader, all terminating to a 9/0 Gamakatsu circle hook. Nice rig. So powerful. We would discover that this rod-reel rig was such a powerful workhorse set up as we hooked and landed more than 50 fish in the next 3 hours.

A 10-ounce slip-sinker, 200# swivel, and a 9/0 Gamakatsu circle hook…that was the hot rig.

The target fish (red grouper) were big, were plentiful, and the best part, they were hungry. It didn’t take long before we ran out of our live bait perch, but Nick’s emergency backup planning paid off with his last-second find of frozen ballyhoo (10-12 inches) at the bait shop. These worked as good as our diminished supply of live sand perch.

We each kept our fish limits, and thanks to Nick’s knowledge and investment in an air bladder venting tool (www.oherofishing.com) and a descending device called a SeaQualizer (https://seaqualizer.com/product/seaqualizer-descending-device/), we also safely released everything else to live another day. With the fish we kept, Nick provided colored plastic tie-wraps to identify whose fish was theirs and make it easy to remove the harvested fish from the fish well – it saves the fingertips. Saltwater fish have big sharp teeth.

The venting tool allows the angler to simply expel the fish’s air bladder so it can swim back to the bottom. The SeaQualizer is equipped with a jaw clamp that connects to the fish and allows the fish to be securely descended and safely released at a predetermined depth of 50, 100 or 150 feet using a secondary fishing line rig with a heavyweight. All that without venting the air bladder. Conservation at its finest!

The venting tool was used to exhaust the bloated air bladders to allow the fish to swim back to bottom in the deep water.

As the sea winds began to change direction and kick up a bit, we decided to stow the Ulterra and head home for a fun time of fish-cleaning. We had a healthy supply of fish to fillet. Nothing can replace the fun (and sweat) of reeling in these hard-fighting red grouper. Our legal grouper limits of fish ran from 23 to 27 inches in size and were quite heavy.

Vermillion snapper, lane snapper and other species were among the catch.

The grouper fillet slabs were about two-inches thick, and my wife suggested we slice them in half to make grouper sandwiches. We vacuum-packed the slab harvest of grouper and snapper to keep them unspoiled for future delicacy meals.

The moral of this story is simple: Use adequate gear (rods/reels/line/MinnKota Ulterra) without disturbing the bottom.

After you locate a “live-bottom,” maybe the most challenging part of the fishing plan, enjoy the catching! Once you find such a spot, save the GPS location to your electronic memory. Tried and true deep holes are usually repeatable all year long. Some of the best spots are rocky, snag-filled and rough in structure content. Use new leaders and replace them often. Remember that fluorocarbon leaders are much more durable than braided line. Don’t believe that? Ask Josh Olive, charter captain and publisher of the weekly Sun-News Waterline Newspaper Magazine (https://www.yoursun.com/coastal/boatingandfishing/), to demonstrate. I was surprised too. We never stop learning.

Visit the brand new Fish’n Franks location (4425-D Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, FL, 33980, 941-625-3888, https://fishinfranks.com/) for advice and gear. Don’t forget to carry a sharp knife, pair of needle-nose pliers, hook-remover, sunscreen, sunglasses, a wide-brim hat and lots of bottled water. Dehydration is common on offshore trips.

One last note, Marty and I never stop learning from Nick Weaver. The deep waters we fished were probably never fished by anyone else ever before. Imagine that?! Nick has a passion for healthy water, healthy people, working hard, sharing knowledge and natural resource conservation. Let’s all never stop fighting for clean water. Might be good to start that all of us learn about and understand more about the outflow of Lake Okeechobee, maybe put it back to the way nature wanted it. The Everglades depend on it.  There’s so much more to know.  Visit Captains for Clean Water, please: https://captainsforcleanwater.org/.  We gotta save and restore our ecosystems.

Tight lines, everyone!

Marty Poli enjoys the red grouper fishing fun in Southwest Florida. 

Bass Bite Begins – Steelhead, Lake Trout and Browns offer Tough Bite in Lower Niagara River

Brendan Walsh of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River smallmouth on a jigging spoon.

  • Warm weather has encouraged anglers to visit waterways in boats and from shore.
  • Lack of rain and runoff have allowed extremely clear water conditions – it’s a tough bite on those days.
  • Lake trout, steelhead, brown trout and smallmouth bass have all been landed by fishermen, though. 
  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 24, 2021 from Destination Niagara USA
Andrew Bartlett of Lockport with a steelhead from the lower river he caught fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane. 

Unseasonably high temperatures have brought out the fishermen to the streams and on Lake Ontario. Some boats have started to work the waters in the main lake. Remember that if your boat is less than 21 foot in length, everyone on board should have a personal flotation device on (wearing it) until May 1.

Capt. Joe Oakes of Newfane reports he did well catching brown trout and lake trout out of Olcott last Sunday. The lake is warming up already, at 36 to 38 degrees. The brown trout fishing now is tough due to the lack of rainfall/runoff making the inside waters really clear according to Oakes. If possible, try and find some dirty water if looking for browns says Oakes. Best baits for browns are stickbaits and smaller spoons.

Capt. Joe Oakes of Newfane with an Olcott lake trout.

The lake trout action is extremely good right now between 50 and 100 feet. Any lure with some flash will work if fished towards the bottom. Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown reports he fished the lake on the Niagara Bar the last two days and did well. The brown bite is slow right now, though. A few bites early then it shuts off. The water is clear and cold, 36-37 degrees according to Yablonsky.  The laker bite between the green and red can on the Niagara Bar is good.  MagLips on 3-way rigs or trolling with spoons on riggers and divers has been working well. In the river, Yablonsky reports the bite is pretty much non-existent for boaters. With the fish spawning and the crystal-clear water conditions, the bite is tough.

In the streams, Jim Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott reports there is good trout action at Burt Dam, some fish are being caught off the piers in both, Wilson and Olcott.  Olcott harbor is producing steelhead and perch with minnows.

Despite clear conditions, Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls caught some dandy steelhead – like this one – in the lower Niagara River. He was using a homemade jig. 

In other tributaries, Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that the streams have been reduced to a very slow pick of scattered singles. There has been no rain or meaningful snow melt in 2 weeks. Warm weather and low, clear creek conditions have created full on spring conditions early this year. That could all change with a warm rain Friday. That should bring in more steelhead, as well as smallmouth bass.

Mark your calendars for the Niagara County Bullhead Tournament set for April 9-11, 2021. This is shore fishing only. Best 2 bullheads total weight wins the prizes. Weigh in on Sunday at the Wilson Conservation Club. For more info call Eric at 628-6078.

The LOTSA pen rearing project work party is at the Town of Newfane Marina at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 27.

The big news for next week is that the NYPA fishing platform, as well as the other NYPA fishing facilities (Reservoir and upper river at the Water Intakes) – they will open on April 1. They hope to have the elevator working, too, on the platform, but no guarantees.

Action has been slow in the lower Niagara River according to Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle.  The main reason is clear water.  The rain in the forecast for later this week should help.

Shore anglers are using spoons, spinners, and jigs. Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reports catching 3 steelhead on Sunday, all above the whirlpool.  All were taken on homemade white and silver jigs. Water was low and slow with at least 7 to 8 feet of visibility.

No reports on smelt yet. Brendan Walsh of Niagara Falls was in search of smallmouth bass and found some bass using a jigging spoon over the weekend in the lower.  Remember that for almost all locations around the state, it’s catch and release with artificial lures only…if you are targeting bass.

We know that brighter days are ahead. Until then, let us be your destination of hope. Click here for our video message.
Tom McKelvey of Long Island with a big Lake Ontario brown trout he caught fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown this week. 
Frank Campbell – Director, Outdoor Promotions
Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Sandbar Pompano at Sanibel…During Spring Break!

Sanibel Island sandbar Pompano. Shelley Crant Photo

  • The tide flow is key for picking WHEN to fish.
  • The place WHERE to fish can change from day-to-day. Newly formed sandbars and emerging weed flats hold both – baitfish and predators.
  • Fish often hold to the current boundaries- FIND them, find the feeding fish
Shelley Crant shares, “Fishing lightweight jigs with the right retrieve, the right place – that my husband seems to able to find on every trip, can result in tasty Pompano near Sanibel Island.” Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

There is nothing so fun as going fishing with friends when the fish are biting! When chilling inshore winter waters begin to transition to their annual warming trend in spring, coastal species of many saltwater varieties take note. On the incoming tide, it’s feeding time! 

Fishing near Sanibel Island and Fort Myers, a slow boat ride at low tide with polarized sunglasses will often reveal newly-formed grass flats and sandbars. Holding hotspots for baitfish and predator species know that. The island and beach areas are constantly changing with winter wind and the related current flow changes. As March begins, new grass is growing on the flats, and that draws even more baitfish.

We were rigged with lightweight jigs targeting Pompano on this day. Add a 7-ft medium-action spinning rod, 30-series open-face reel filled with 15-20 pound braid, and a short 3-ft length of 30-pound fluorocarbon leader – we were set for inshore fishing magic of any sort. The new YoZuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon leader has proven it is tough and abrasion resistant, and it’s essentially invisible to the fish. 

Heading out to fish, Dan said that there are several places where all boats are required to slow down to allow Manatee safe passage. There are so many more boats today than 30 years ago, it’s a good idea.” Forrest Fisher Photo

With the Sanibel Lighthouse in the near distance, our drift started in just 2-feet of water. We were within casting distance of small slots and caverned hollows in the sand where the water looked about 3-5 feet deep. The water was crystal clear.

Dan dropped the bow motor down and kept the boat angled. All four of us would have a primetime chance to cast alongside the depth break line and into the swift current edge occurring with the onrushing tide. We could hear beachgoers enjoying the clear water and warm sand in the far distance.  

Shelley took the first cast, and before the lure went 5-feet, she smiled and said, there’s a fish! Using a ¼ ounce silly jig with a little sparkle fly that Dan had added to the rig, we all watched as the rod bend seemed to dance to the music from the beach. A minute later, Shelley was smiling with an ear-to-ear grin as she brought aboard a 2-foot long Ladyfish. “Oops, guess they’re here too! They’re fun to catch!” She unhooked and released the fish that many consider an excellent baitfish for other saltwater species. 

All the fish we caught, like this beautiful speckled trout, were carefully handled and safely released alive and well. Forrest Fisher Photo

A minute or two later, Dan hooked a beautiful speckled trout of about 25-inches. We were releasing all the fish today, except for Pompano, the one legal species we had planned to keep for the day.

In the next hour, among the four of us, including my better half, Rose, we had caught 18 fish among five species, but no Pompano yet. A local expert, Dan whispered in his ever-humble voice that we might have to move out just a bit, but not too far – a few hundred yards or so, to find the Pomp’s. Finding a similar bottom area with subtle drop-offs that went from 4 to 7 feet along several sandbars, we started a new drift. In the next hour working that area, we caught another 20 fish. Among these were Spanish Mackerel, Jack Crevalle, Speckled Trout, Lizardfish, two different species of Blowfish, and, yes, Pompano. 

Dolphins – not a usual friend of anglers, seem to chase predator fish away as they feed on baitfish in the same areas we fished. Didn’t affect our catch rate! Forrest Fisher Photo
Jigs from 1/4 oz to 1/2oz were among our best artificial baits for the day. Forrest Fisher Photo

Dan was casting a ½ ounce chartreuse color jig, Rose was using a 3/8 ounce in solid pink, Shelley was tossing a ¼ ounce in pink/white, I had a two-tone chartreuse/white jig in the 3/8 ounce size. We all caught fish. Rose said, “I’ve never seen so many fish caught in such a short time! This is fun,” and grinning while she added a new whining joke-tone, “But now I’m getting sore arms.” We all laughed. Shelley said, “That means this has been a great trip!” Dan said, “Well, it’s almost noon, about time to head back. Is everybody up for one more pass?” Indeed, we were.

Shelley’s pink/white jig was the hot bait for the day, including for the Pompano. Her finesse method allowed the lure to sink slowly to the bottom of the deeper edge areas, then flipping her rod quickly upright about 1-foot or so, in vertical jig motion, then reeling in a few feet of line to let the jig drop again and repeating the action all the way to the boat.

The lightweight braid allowed for long-distance casting, and the heavy-duty leader allowed for surprising durability as we caught fish after fish. It was a blast!

Coated with choice of sour cream or mayonnaise, then covered with a mix of bread crumbs and spices, 4-minutes in the microwave is all that is necessary for a perfect, healthy, fish dinner. Forrest Fisher Photo

Inland waterway charter fishing trips are not expensive here in Lee County, Florida. We had used lightweight lures, fishing specifically for the sight-feeding Pompano. Still, we had also caught so many other species – that is a testament to the clean waters found here. On one drift, we were treated to watch surface-feeding Tarpon – that happened on two separate occasions with two different fish. It was amazing. Such big fish! Then on another pass, a 10-foot long Manatee came in, swimming right under and alongside the boat in the shallow water we were fishing. That was another thrill! 

There is nothing like a healthy ladyfish for a lady fisherwoman to add some fighting fun to the end of your fishing line! Forrest Fisher Photo

Fishing, sunshine, clear-clean water, giant Tarpon, Manatee, beach sounds of fun in the distance. Sound good? It was! If you’re looking for a place to stay, a guide to fish with, or a pristine beach to visit for the fun of finding the treasure of seashells and fossilized shark teeth, check this link: https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/order-travelers-guide, or call toll-free, 1-800-237-6444. Ask for their free guidebook. The pictures in it are amazing.

Invite yourself and your family to this party.

Carefully releasing fish we caught was part of our conservation-minded fishing trip. The future is in our hands. Forrest Fisher Photo

 

Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 10, 2021 – Fish are Biting

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught from shore using a homemade spinner.

  • Weather in warm-up mode, spring on the way.
  • Mag-Lips w/Kishel Scent is hot lure for steelhead drift fishing n Lower Niagara River.
  • Shore fishing on upswing too, w/sacs+beads under a float
Capt. Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston (left) and Kevin Kishel of East Aurora with another steelhead caught on a MagLip lathered with Kishel’s Fish Scent.

Air temperatures are scheduled to break the 60 mark today so being outdoors is a must. While it will be cooling back into the 40s by the weekend, spring is just around the corner. March 15 is the final day for walleye, pike, pickerel, and tiger musky action in the state, but there is still plenty of trout fishing to be had here – in both the tributaries and the Niagara River. Our tip of the week comes for Captains Ernie and Nick Calandrelli, who took Kevin Kishel of East Aurora out on Tuesday in the lower Niagara. The trio did very well on steelhead using Kishel’s Fish Scent on MagLip plugs, and fished off 3-way rigs. It really seemed to make a difference. Lower Niagara River trout action is picking back up again and best baits have been egg sacs or egg imitations, minnows or shiners and any kind of a body bait like a Kwikfish or a MagLip from boats, all fished off 3-way rigs. Water clarity is good.  Fish can be found through the river and the Stella drift was productive last weekend.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught this steelhead Tuesday in the lower Niagara River, casting a white hair jig from shore.

Shore guys can still catch some trout consistently by tossing spinners or jigs according to Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls, who caught some good fish in the gorge on Monday. Drifting sacs or beads under a float will also catch fish. Rzucidlo even caught a nice chunky 5-pound rainbow just above the upper rapids above Niagara Falls on a spinner on Tuesday.

For the Lake Ontario tributaries, the warm rain in the forecast for late Thursday could be what the fish doctor ordered to pull fresh fish into the streams. Some reports on the sly show that action has already been picking up on 18 Mile Creek and Burt Dam. Egg sacs and egg imitations are good baits to start, but jigs tipped with a wax worm will also work. Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that waters were cold Tuesday from ice melt. He will always make sure to fish his fly “low and slow” in these conditions.

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught from shore using a homemade spinner.

One sure sign of spring is the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association’s pen rearing project preparation. Assembly for the pens will take place at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott on March 27 starting at 9:30 a.m. Dress warm and bring your side cutters to clip zip ties. The work party is early this year because of an earlier Easter.

Frank Campbell, Director, Outdoor Promotions

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Extraordinary Fun Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

  • Fishing sunrise to noon, we caught 8 species of saltwater fish, and well over 150 fish total, as a 3-man group.
  • Captain Terry Heller, Fish-On Sportfishing Charters, was savvy, funny, and deadly serious about having fun – we laughed a lot out there! So good for our pandemic souls!
  • We experimented with Circle-hooks vs. J-hooks. The circle-hooks hooked and landed fish 80% more effectively…a lesson for all.
Vietnam Veteran, Randy Baugus, retired minister from Burlington, KY, with a hard-fighting Gag Grouper that was released to swim another day.

By Forrest Fisher

It was dark when I left the house in Port Charlotte, Florida. The stars were spectacular, gleaming brightly above, but there was a warm orange glow on the eastern horizon, the sun was about to rise, suggesting a nice, warm February day – a sunscreen day. A great winter day.

About 30 minutes later – it was 6:25 a.m., I joined the right-hand turn signal line to enter the Placida Boat Launch area, a state park-like zone with a boat launch, ice-filling station, and restroom facilities that can accommodate about 100 cars and boat trailers. There is a frozen bait and live bait tackle shop (Eldred’s Marina) right next door, wonderfully convenient for boaters and anglers heading for Gasparilla Island shore fishing spots.

Affable Captain Randy Heller, Fish-On Sportfishing Charters, with another  nice porgy we caught, a tasty fish for the table.

Not long later, I met my fishing guide for the day, Captain Terry Heller of Fish-On Charter Sport Fishing, an ever-friendly source of fishing knowledge. He made catching fish easy and fun and seemingly transparent – like you’ve had the necessary skills all along, even with newbies and veteran anglers alike – young and old, no matter. Onboard, I met 70-years-young Randy Baugus from Burlington, Kentucky, a minister and Vietnam veteran, and his brother-in-law, 78-year-old Gary Barnes, originally from Columbus, Ohio, but now a happy southwest Florida native who is enjoying his retirement years in the Sunshine State.

Captain Terry started up his nearly silent 225Hp Yamaha as the wide, spacious and sturdy 24-ft Polar (fiberglass boat) gently idled away from the dock. As we moved into Lemon Bay toward the Boca Grande Causeway Bridge, a bald eagle showed her head on one of the nearby island treetop nests. The tide was at a complete low as we came up to plane in the channel in Gasparilla Pass.

With Captain Terry using the navigational GPS map technology onboard, he marked safe passage for us. It wasn’t long before we were at 35 mph cruising speed on the way to secret offshore spots that Heller has identified over his years of local fishing here. About 20 minutes later, we slowed, shore was no longer visible, and after making a few circles into an area seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Heller dropped a marker buoy for boat position reference. Settling his electric motor into the water (with a 7-foot long shaft), he used blue-tooth technology to move away from the buoy toward one of three spots that we would eventually fish. All of them were within 200 yards of the brightly colored marker. “The marker is for letting others know that this is our fishing area for the moment. Other guys usually honor the courtesy of staying away from your fishing zone,” he said that with a half-smile.

Heller opened up two of his three live bait wells to show us that if we wanted to keep any fish, they could go in there and that he would let us know what fish was legal and what was not. “Now for the fun, guys!” He passed out a fully-rigged rod for each of us with a small bucket of cut-bait ready to rig. The rods were 7-ft long and were equipped with open-face Penn fishing reels. The 30-pound test braid mainline was attached to a 2-ounce egg sinker, then an 18-inch long leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a size 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook.

Randy Baugus with the second Remora that we caught that day, a nice 25 inch specimen. Remora usually are attached to the skin a shark. We released the fish to find a new shark buddy down below.

Heller is a happy sort of guy as he quipped, “Now guys, listen, you’re gonna catch a lot of fish out here, so if you get tired of reeling ’em in, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of beverages onboard, and you can rest up.” We all looked at each other and sort of rolled our eyes a bit. Randy said, “Sounds like your pretty confident Captain!” Gary said, “I wanna drop my line.” A moment later, Heller showed us how to slide the cut baits onto the hook. He rigged all the lines for us.

“The water is 48-feet deep here, guys, so it won’t take too long for your baits to reach the bottom. When they do, reel up two turns or so and watch closely for a bite. When you get one, start reeling to set the hook. One more thing, there is one rule on board here, for good luck, you gotta yell, FISH-ON! You all know that’s the name of my charter. It’s for a good reason.  Our adrenalin flow talks to the fish!”

About 10 seconds later, Randy hollered,” FISH-ON!” His rod enjoyed a healthy bend toward the water. A few moments later, Gary shouted, “FISH-ON!” Before both lines were not yet in the boat when I, too, shouted out the same. A 3-Fer! Half-giggling and laughing a bit, Captain Terry said, “Are we having fun yet?!” We all agreed.

We moved around to a few other fishing zones on the bottom. They were configured sort of like the moon surface with craters and high points, next to cavernous hollows a few feet deeper around the crater edges. “The fish come out of those little holes down there to test your baits. They’re always hungry out here in this secret place.”

Gary Barnes, originally from Columbus, OH, is now a Florida resident and enjoys fishing in his retirement years. He released this small grouper.

We moved to other spots a few times, and in each location, we caught at least 50 fish among the three of us.

The live wells were getting crowded with good-eating reef fish. These included Porgy, Squirrel Perch, and some Key West Grunts., some were nearly 2-pounds each. We also caught Blowfish, Remora, Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, and Spottail Snapper. My shoulders and arms were getting sore as Heller said, “C’mon guys, let’s reel up and go try one more spot where there might be some bigger snapper and grouper.

About 10-minutes later, we motored northward, we arrived about 1/2 mile from the 9-mile reef. The electric motor came down, and we were fishing. Wham! “FISH-ON! Randy hollered. A few seconds later, Gary screamed out too, then me. Four hours into our trip, it had been a fantastic day on the water. The sea was smooth, the water so clear, and the fish were definitely biting.

Our cut baits consisted of octopus, shrimp, squid, and sardines. All of these worked.  One of the cool things about fishing with Heller, his charter – Fish-On Sport Fishing, provides all the licenses, all the gear, and all the bait you need. Plus, you are welcome to keep your catch, and Heller will clean and fillet it for you. Maybe the most significant part not mentioned with “things provided” is Heller’s precision savvy about where to drop your line. That part is priceless!

Happiness is! Fishing dreams are made for days like this. I met new friends, caught lots of fish, laughed for about 5-hours! So fun. We released this small, hard-fighting grouper. Terry Heller Photo.

As we motored back to the Placida boat launch, it was 1:30 p.m., and the air temp was 87 degrees. A slight sunburn on all of our faces, I joked to Gary, “Pinch me, I think I miss shoveling my driveway back home in East Aurora, NY.” He groused back, “Yea, me too, NOT! I love it down here.”

Captain Heller asked us to follow him back to his nearby home, and he cleaned 81 keepers. It was probably about 1/3 of the number of fish we actually landed, as we had to release all the short gag grouper and red grouper. We had caught dozens of them—an excellent sign for the future of Florida fishing. We split ’em up, and there is only one or two choice words for the meal that followed later at my home. Scrumptious! Delicious!

There is nothing quite like a fresh caught fish fry! My better half does these up with four, egg and crushed crackers coked in olive oil…healthy!

I fell asleep that night with my ears ringing a bit. It was that tune from earlier in the day…”Fish On!” Can’t wait for the next time out. To fish with Captain Heller yourself, you can check schedules and open dates at: Fishing Booker.com 

One Man – His Fishing, His Family, His Favorite Boat

  • 64-year-old Polar Kraft Jon Boat looks and works even better now than it did in 1957!
  • Memories are one key to future fishing fun, make them with your family
  • Humble Pat Richardson has won 43 fishing tournaments, his story follows
Humble, but savvy angler and friend of the outdoors, Pat Richardson, is ready to cast a line from his age-old Polar Kraft Jon Boat. 

By David Gray

One thing can be said about the sport of fishing, it doesn’t take long for extraordinary memories to start. Pat Richardson, a fisherman from Louisiana, will be a young 80 years of age in April this year. Like many of us that enjoy a passion for fishing, he remembers his early start with squirming fish from a very young age.  His introduction to fishing came at age 5 when he participated in an annual family tradition.  Pat’s Dad fished, but it was his Mom who really got him started as a fisherman. “Mom liked to fish, and she always used a cane pole.” Every Good Friday, the family would gather at the Bayou with cane poles, lines, hooks, and worms.  The fishing fun started upon arrival, and after catching enough Bream, everyone headed for the traditional family fish fry.  Delicious.

While Pat has enough fond family fishing memories to fill volumes, he went ahead from those early years to make new ones.  Pat used his cane pole to fish until he was 14, that’s when he got his first store-bought sport rod.  It was a fly rod.  When asked why not a casting rod? Pat said, “Back then, casting reels and glass casting rods cost more.” The fly rods and reels were in his price range.  Pat noted that first fly rod is gone, but he still has that fly reel in the original box with a price tag that says $1.05.  The whole rig, 8-foot rod, reel, line, and tippets went for $7.50.  It was easy to catch Bream on the fly rod, but catching Bass on it was another thing.

It wasn’t long before some Fenwick casting rod blanks became available. A friend wrapped them up and Pat went in search of Bass with casting gear. The challenge, then, was that Bass were not as easy to catch as Bream.  So Pat began paying attention when and why he caught them on some trips and not on others.  With special consideration to details and conditions, he learned more.  The more fishing logic he acquired, the more Bass he caught.  Pat said, “Dad was a kind of fair weather fisherman, but when the bite was on, he liked to go, so I would take him.”

We were fishing in old wooden boats back then.  You know the type—paddle some, bail some, fish some – the whole day.

One day Dad surprised us by saying, “You boys (3 brothers) love to fish, and I am going to buy you a good boat. They are making boats out of metal now, and we are going to get one.”  Off they went to the Western Auto Store in Gonzales, La.  Dad negotiated for a new 14-foot Polar Kraft Bateau, a 12Hp Wizard outboard, 2 life-preservers, and a paddle.  All for $300 – the year was 1957. For those not blessed in the language of the Louisiana Bayou, a Bateau is a flat bottom Jon boat.

Following the initial clean-up and restoration process, the Polar Kraft Bateau (Jon Boat), is ready for paint and new gear.

That Polar Kraft Bateau served them well.  The boat helped Pat learn more about how to catch Bass.  Pat got quite good at catching Bass, so he decided to try fishing tournaments.  At first, they were “Fruit Jar” tournaments.  All the anglers gathered at the launch ramp Friday evening and put $10 in the fruit jar.  They launched, and the tournament weighed in at midnight. The winner got the jar.

Pat needed a boat upgrade to fish bigger tournaments so a bass boat with a 45hp outboard was purchased. The Polar Kraft Bateau was retired to the back of the backyard.  Pat won 43 open tournaments in the next 8-year period.  Pat also joined a Bass Club and took first in 11 tournaments and second or third in 7.  Pat said, “At one of those tournaments, I took first place, big Bass for the tournament and big Bass for the year.  Then the club switched all their tournaments to Sunday.  I never fish on Sunday, and the club knew that, so I guess it was a polite way to ask me to look for another club. I got my son, Patrick Wayne, fishing and at 14 he fished his first tournament with me.  I like fishing tournaments, but it was never about the money. It was the competition and camaraderie that made it fun for me.  Because it was fun, I kept entering open bass tournaments and did pretty well. Well enough that it caught the attention of some sponsors.  My last tournament rig had a 225HP motor. Quite different from the 12 HP Wizard on the Bateau from which I learned so much about Bass fishing.

One day I got to thinking about the Bateau.  We had caught thousands of fish, literally tons and tons of fish out of the Bateau.  Bream, Gar, Bass, and when not fishing, we used it for pleasure cruising.  The Bateau was a family heirloom, a part of our family, and I thought about it lying in the backyard with junk piled all over it.  So in 2019, I decided to pull this 60-year-old Polar Kraft out of the pile and see what shape it was in.

I took it to the welding shop and was sure it needed a new wood transom board.  I asked them to check the entire hull and fix everything and anything needed to get it back in the water.

When I went to pick it up, the shop said, “This was a well-built boat.  We only had to replace 3 rivets and tightened 6 others.” That was all it needed.  The 60-year-old Polar Kraft Bateau was ready to fish.

But Pat decided that was not enough.  He would totally upgrade up. “I decided I wanted to convert to bass boat style and dedicate it to Dad, who took us to buy it.  The family approved of the dedication idea to Dad. We added fishing decks, Bass Boat seats, a new 20Hp Merc 4-stroke electric start, Xi3 trolling motor, bilge pump, and a Lowrance sonar with map. My Dad’s name was Clyde, he died in 1976, so we all agreed to name the boat after him and to honor his US Navy military service. So we added Mr. Clyde and Pacific Theater 1944 and 1945 to the new paint scheme.

At 64-years young (old for a boat!), the famed childhood Polar Kraft Jon Boat is restored and ready for the water – the high hand rail is an aid for access and exit at the dock for Pat Richardson.

This 63-year-old Polar Kraft Bateau is not only seaworthy, but it was ready to help us catch thousands and thousands more fish. I added a hoop hand-rail to help me get in and out of the boat, at my age, when I’m at the dock.”

Pat added, “It is those fond old memories of family tradition and fishing competition that helps me share that love for squirming fish and free fun on the water with family and friends, and others. Remember this, if you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.”

Author Note: Special thanks to Kristen Monroe for details and interviews noted in this story.

Winter Contest Idea…to Increase Fish Line Recycling – $30,000 in CASH PRIZES!

  • $30,000 in cash prizes on the line for best solutions
Ever wonder what happens to the discarded fishing line you put inside this recycling tube? It’s not pretty, according to BoatUS Foundation. But maybe you have a solution.

Winter is annual maintenance time for many anglers. Re-spooling with new line is a must-do task. Ever thought about what happens once you dispose of the old line in a fishing line recycling tube?

It’s not pretty. Turning fishing line into new products is labor-intensive, requiring a series of workers to manually comb through, sort, clean, remove hooks and weights, and separate out miles of encrusted debris in entangled fishing line. So as you pile up a few reels of line to be recycled this winter, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is asking for your ideas on how to help grow the volume of line recycled each year.

Teaming up with fishing tackle company Berkley, the BoatUS Foundation’s Recast & Recycle Contest seeks out new ideas and improvements to the process, new ideas for recycled products, or technology breakthroughs for the current process that will increase the volume of line and soft baits that are recycled. Entry is simple – all you have to do is send a short video or one-page summary explaining your idea. Thirty thousand dollars in prize money is at stake for the three best ideas submitted through May 14, 2021.

“It’s great that anglers recycle,” said BoatUS Foundation Director of Outreach Alanna Keating. “Now we need to ask for help with scaling up recycling with a greater volume of line, whether it’s a time- and labor-saving process improvement or creating a new market to fully sustain recycling efforts.”

Judges will add weight to contest submissions that actually work, are practical, innovative, and have the potential to have a significant impact.

The first-place prize is $15,000, second place receives $10,000, and $5,000 will be awarded for third place. Contest submissions can address any part of the process (or multiple parts) of taking discarded fishing line and soft plastics from end of life to a new beginning. Professionals, amateurs and students alike are encouraged to apply, as are school teams and groups. Contest entries can be submitted with as little as a link to a video demonstration of the idea or a one-page graphic summary. Videos are limited to 4 minutes.

Contest rules and conditions, details on the current recycling process and videos on how various plastics and soft baits are recycled can be found at the Recast & Recycle website BoatUS.org/Contest.

2020 Renegade Bass Classic Championship, TEAMWORK and LURE SELECTION was key

  • Drop Shot Rigs with finesse soft plastics was the secret bait key
  • Scented tubes, high-floating drop-shot baits and creature critters were most effective
  • Tough weather dictated our fishing plan, the rigs we used, and boat-positioning tactics
Lenny Devos is a finesse fisherman – his new secret fishing baits have helped him and partner, Jeff Deslodges, win fishing contests all over the Canada and the USA. 

By David Gray

Lenny Devos is a fisherman’s fisherman.

He loves to fish. Fishing is his passion.

Lenny loves to talk about fishing and loves to think about fishing, and he loves to tournament fish. Lenny is very successful at it and, at my humble request, he is willing to share some secrets with us ordinary fishing folks that toss lines for bass.

We might all learn a few things from Lenny and his teammate. His tournament winning formula is simple: use the team approach.

It works and is easy to do. Lenny and his tournament partner, Jeff Desloges, are very competitive by nature. They complement each other as a team. Lenny says, “We make a great team, we think similarly, we like to fish the similarly, and we can often fish the same cover more effectively using different, but similar, tactics to figure out the fish.” Style, lure types, colors, size – all these things can make a difference. 

The Teamwork approach has produced three Renegade Bass Classic Championships, including their most recent win: the 2020 Renegade Bass Canadian Tour Championship.  

Winning the 2020 Championship did not come easy. Day 1 of the two-day Championship delivered good weather and a variety of patterns were identified. Lenny and Jeff weighed in 22.51 lbs for third place but were more than 3 lbs behind the first-place team of Scott Lecky and Steve Bean. They had weighed in an impressive 5 fish limit of 25.66 lbs. On the St. Lawrence River, where giant smallmouth limits are the rule, making up more than 3 lbs would be a challenge for Lenny and Jeff.   

Two happy anglers, Lenny Devos and Jeff Deslodges, add one more championship to their wining streak.  

On Day 2, the weather took a significant shift with a front produced heavy rain and very high winds. The combination made boat control challenging. Precision deep-water bait presentation was, therefore, also difficult to achieve. The 30 to 40 mph winds also increased the river current (speed) and added to boat control difficulty. The extreme weather change played havoc with the shallow water patterns learned on Day 1 and challenged the precise bait presentation needed for the deep-water bite. 

The “STH-Drifter” is only 2.75 inches long, and has proven deadly for finesse applications like drop-shot, jig head and the bottom hugging Flatty Jig (shown above). The drifter floats, is super-soft, salted and scented, so it moves freely off a drop-shot without having to shake it.  The “3D eyes” add to life-like appearance. 

Lenny and Jeff continued to throw the Netbait STH Finesse Series of soft baits, including the Crush Worms and STH Drifters (American Baitworks), that’s what worked on Day 1. But the heavy wind did not let up. Lenny said, “It was difficult to present our baits the way that the smallmouth wanted it.” Then teamwork kicked in. Lenny says, “Jeff and I know how each other fishes, so I concentrated on boat control to allow Jeff to focus on lure presentation.

That teamwork strategy paid off, and despite the adverse weather, we had a good day. Our Day 2 bag of 23.06 lbs gave us a tournament total of 45.57lbs, and our 3rd Renegade Bass Championship win. It took a team to win as precise bait presentation was the key.” 

The Finesse Series Tube are 40% body and 60% tail, to deliver a new undulating action, quite improved when compared to other tubes, as the slightest twitch of the rod allows a fully exposed hook in the tail section. The 60% feature allows you to trim your tail to match feeding activity. Results mean improved hook ups with hard-mouthed smallmouth bass.

Born and raised in Kingston, Ontario, Lenny loves his job as a Fire Fighter because part of the job is helping others when they need it. When he is on duty, he thinks about being a Firefighter, but Lenny thinks about fishing the rest of the time. Lenny says he is always thinking about lures, techniques, reading the water, and figuring out new lakes. Lenny was not born into a fishing family but remembered “the Day” he became a fisherman. Even though his Dad did not fish, Lenny had a driving urge to go fishing and kept asking Dad to take him.

So Dad got a crash course on how to fish from a friend, borrowed a rod and reel, and took Lenny, his 6-year-old son, fishing. Lenny recalls, “All we had was that one rod and reel, a bobber, a hook, and a worm.” That was all it took to unlock Lenny’s lifelong passion for fishing and his drive to compete in tournaments.  

Lenny credits his tournament fishing success to several things. One is planning by thinking about an upcoming tournament. We like to make a plan based on how far or close the lake is on either side of the spawn. 

Knowing that helps you target where the fish will be. Also, there is no substitute for time on the water, which is crucial for success. We use that time on the water to tell us where we will fish and what we will fish with. To quote Lenny, “A day on the water with nothing learned is a wasted day. I usually learn the most on the worst days, especially those days when you are marking fish or seeing fish, and nothing seems to be working.”

Another plus is a great tournament partner. Since Jeff and I fish the same way, we both contribute to tournament planning and strategy. Lenny started tournament fishing in 1990, and a lot of anglers are calling Lenny Devos the best bass jig fisherman in Ontario.  

Robert Greenberg, who owns the innovative American Baitworks company, and is himself an accomplished tournament angler, says Lenny could be called the “Best Bass Angler in Canada.” Quite a compliment to be called the best bass angler in a country where some say the national sport should be fishing!

Questions and Answers

Question:  What lures did you use to win the Renegade Bass Championship?

Lenny: On Day 1 we used STH (Set-The-Hook) Drifters, Finesse Tubes and the Net Bait Kickin-B Chunk off a drop-shot rig. On Day 2, after the weather change, we used Carolina Rigs with a fluorocarbon leader with the Net Beat Kickin-B Chunk. 

Question:  Lenny, what are your favorite “GO-TO” baits and techniques?

Lenny: For Smallmouth, I like to throw tubes with Green Pumpkin as a favorite color. For Largemouth, a Flipping Jig is my favorite.  

I use a stout rod, but with a more flexible tip than most guys flip with. The softer tip really helps with good hook sets. My favorite is the Halo 7’5″ KS-II Elite with 50 lb braid tied directly to the jig. I do not use a leader. I also enjoy throwing topwater frogs. The Scum Launch Frog is one of those baits that just catch fish. When conditions are right, it is hot.  

The new KSII ELITE is light, balanced and built with a custom two-finger reel seat that exposes a portion of the blank to heighten the transition of the bite to the hand. The handles are triple grade-A cork for greater comfort and sensitivity. 

Question:  What is your favorite body of water to fish?

Lenny: In Canada, my favorite is the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. In the US, I really like Stick Marsh in Florida.

Question:  What are you looking forward to in 2021?

Lenny: I always look forward to the start of the open water season and, of course, the first tournament of the year. I have been working with Freedom Tackle this year to develop several new bass jigs that work really well, and I’m excited about fishing the first production models in 2021.   

Question:  Do you have sponsors you can recommend?

Lenny: I have some sponsors that I am very proud to recommend as they do a great job taking care of customers. Hunters Bay Marine in North Bay, Ontario; Triton boats and Mercury motors; Ultra Tungsten Weights; Vigor Eyewear; American Baitworks Brands. 

 

 

Frog Fshing! Time for BIG Summer BASS

  • Summer is here, frogs are breakfast food for big bass
  • Not all frog lures are created equal, learn about differences below
  • Heavy frogs, light frogs – when to use each of these
Plastic frogs have come a long way as an angler bait and they catch fish, big bass, when the summer weeds seem unfishable. LiveTarget photo

By Forrest Fisher

Did you know that bullfrogs never sleep? Some say that’s why big bass never sleep either! With summer water temperatures following the countrywide heatwave this year, the weeds in our waterways are thick and matted. The result is shade for massive bass that wait in ambush for critters that share use of the matted weeds for ease of movement, including frogs, bugs, mice, and the like. So it makes sense that fishing with an artificial frog bait might be a good idea to catch some of the bass hiding in their new weed shadows. Truth is, the biggest bass seem to always be in those weedy shadows.

I discovered “frog fishing” with artificial surface frogs about 60 years ago. As a kid, at first, we baited real frogs, but after we ran out we would head home and try to find more. Into the early 60s, plastic frog lures were invented and we learned how to use them. It was much easier than trying to catch live frogs. Our light rods were flimsy for what was needed, that’s all we had, but the explosion of the fish making their way through the weeds to engulf our plastic frogs was exhilarating. So we used our flimsy rods anyway!

Fishing with fake frogs was noisy, even spooky fishing, but most of the time we lost the fish because of our gear. As we grew older into our teens, my brother and I transitioned to start fishing the frogs with short deep sea fishing rods and wide-spool, open-face fishing reels loaded with 40-pound test Gudebrod braided line tied direct. Those old plastic frogs were very basic and most were only hollow, air-entrapping, plastic caricatures of frogs that floated. They sank after a while.  Today, there are new “super frogs” out there, with many offering a popping action and you might say they are sophisticated frog lures. The new frogs are more durable and are “killer-effective,” the fish seem to love ’em.

Scum Frog designed the shape of the original Trophy Series with single focus to create Topwater Froggin’ perfection. Scum Frog Photo

Among the top choices in frogs, the age-old Scum Frog. At the Scum Frog factory (Southern Lure Co.), they do nothing but design and manufacture hollow-bodied frogs. They are among the originals in the industry and are among the true innovators in the design and development of frog fishing from way back when. They offer a painted trophy series that features 10 new hand-designed colors relying on a proprietary system that digitally patterns the frog color. The Scum Frog Painted Trophy Series is durable too, and was designed to give anglers all of the benefits of many high dollar frog baits at an unbeatable price (under $6). The Scum Frog displaces water, an excellent attractant quality, and is available in 1/2 and 5/8 ounce options (solid brass weights), so casting is easy. The new skirts are made from silicon, they float higher and accentuate the movement action of a live frog. DEADLY. Best yet, these Scum Frogs come with a pair of tough, sharp Owner Hooks perfectly fitted for big bass dentures.

Many pro anglers say that summertime bass yield to the white color frog more than any other. Why? The difference between oatmeal and hominy grits is what I think. Very little, but it seems to matter if you live down south, not sure why. Plus, white frogs allow the angler to see the bait a little better while working it. I like ‘em for visual identification of where they are.

Most frogs offer a two-hook design with extra strong hook points that cozy up to the collapsible plastic frog body, making them weedless. The only thing between you and the fish is your line and if you fish these in thick cover, you will need to check your line often. Use a good, modern, braided line and a positive knot with an extremely stiff rod that will allow you to haul the fish out of the thickest weed cover you might imagine. I like the 60-pound Gamma Torque braided line, you simply cannot break it. Other brands work too, but I think you could tow a tree with Gamma and it is thinner and slicker to cast than most others, this allows greater casting range. Visit: http://gammafishing.com/.

Another favorite is the “Signature Series” frog from LiveTarget Pro Angler and TV personality, Scott Martin. It features a hollow body frog popper that has become a favorite in the topwater tackle box for many anglers. The frog has a narrow profile with a cupped face that makes this bait unique when you walk it across the surface.

With either of these two frog brands – there are many more, the popper face creates a unique sound message below. “Hello, I’m food, c ‘mon, get me.” It offers a different sort of visual splash attractant message to join with that sound message.

I tried several colors over the years and while I like the white for ease of sight, the natural green frog colors seem to get the biggest hits, especially in heavy, super-thick cover. It is still a mystery how the fish can even see the bait in really thick summer weeds like we have this year.

The acid test for your frog gear? Here it is. Drop a 5-pound anchor in the thickest weeds you can find, then move your boat 30 feet away and see if you can rip that anchor up and out without breaking your line, your rod or the gears on your reel. That is your goal. This is tough fishing for really big bass, but that’s how I measure the gear. If you can’t put a rig together like that, go fish a frog anyway. It is unbelievable fun!

For the frog, don’t forget about frog size and frog weight. The thicker and heavier frogs are for working extra-thick matt and the lighter frogs are for thinner lily pad cover.

If the bass don’t wack it in the weeds themselves, they seem to panic and inhale the lure when the popping action occurs at the weed edge. They don’t want that easy meal to get away. To learn more, see additional color offerings or to buy the frogs described, please visit: https://americanbaitworks.com/pages/scum-frog and https://livetargetlures.com.

Have fun fishing!

The Last Cast

Time for One Last Cast

  • Sunrise, Sunset, Starshine…life-long breathtaking moments
  • Family, Fishing, Memories, Doctors…and Reality 
  • Radiation, Chemo…Time to Re-Rig 
A Morning Alone on the Lake

By Larry Whiteley

He was alone on the lake. The sunrise was breathtaking. He had seen lots of mornings but none this beautiful. His first cast landed near some bushes. He felt the thump and set the hook. The largemouth came out of the water, trying to shake the bait. It fought hard but soon tired. He gently lifted it from the water, smiled, and released it.

There would be many more fish to visit with that morning. One was the biggest smallmouth he had ever caught in all his years of fishing. The sunlight glistened off its bronze body. He managed to take a selfie of him and the fish. As he hit send on his smartphone, he smiled. A son texted back, “Nice one, Dad.” Another son replied, “Good fish, old man!” A grandson asked, “What did you catch it on?” His wife texted, “Are you doing okay, and how are you feeling?” He smiled and texted back each of them with only the words “I love you” and then went back to fishing.

The Thrill of Fishing

It suddenly occurred to him that he had not heard or seen another boat all morning. Kind of felt like he was fishing on his own private lake. He heard crows, ducks, and geese. He saw deer and turkey at the water’s edge. Birds were flittering around everywhere and singing their songs. A hummingbird even came buzzing by thinking he was a big flower. He said to himself, “Is this what heaven will be like for a fisherman like me?” He smiled again.

Sometimes even the blind squirrel finds the nut.

The afternoon sun was high and hot. He motored into a shaded cove and shut off the engine. The slight breeze felt good there in the shade. He tied the boat to a tree, sat back, and relaxed. Thoughts of the first fish he ever caught went through his mind. He saw the bobber, the worm, his cane pole. He felt the little perch squirming in his hand. The particular feeling, he had that day alone on that creek, was unlike any other. He was hooked. It was the first of many fish he would catch in his lifetime.

As he stretched out in the boat, he looked up at the sky and saw a cross formed by clouds and a jet stream. He grinned and said, thank you. More memories flooded his mind. He wished his Dad would have taken him fishing, but he didn’t. He thought of times he took his son’s fishing, recalling the look on their faces when they caught their first fish. He wished he hadn’t been so busy trying to make a living and would have taken his boys fishing more. But, they both grew up to be fishermen. They both became good husbands, fathers, and Godly men. Their kids became fishermen too. They had a dad that took them and a papaw too. There was no doubt in his mind that his grandkids would also take their kids fishing. He smiled once more and was proud. He hoped that more people would discover the magic of fishing and pass it on.

With the gentle rocking of the boat, his eyes got heavy. A nap came easy. It was a much-needed rest. The hospital visits and all the medicine had taken its toll. Late afternoon, he awoke to the screeching sounds of an eagle flying in the sky above him. It was out fishing too.

As he lay there watching the eagle, he wished he had more time left. He thought that he would go back to Canada fishing for walleye and pike with his son and grandson. Travel with his other son and grandson’s to the Northwood’s for those good-eating yellow perch. Going back to catch a snook or grouper in Tampa Bay or speckled trout at Gulf Shores would also be on his list. A limit of crappie, some trout fishing, or maybe catfishing would be good too. Grabbing a mess of suckers and frying them up on the river bank would really be fun, one more time. He even thought about going wade fishing in a creek or sitting on a farm pond, on the bank. Alaska salmon and halibut fishing were on his bucket list. So was fishing for redfish. It had never happened, and now there was not enough time.

It Was Like Heaven Was Opening

The sunset was beautiful in the western sky. The bats began their dance with the approaching darkness, it was feeding time. He listened to the owls and the whip-poor-wills as they started their nightly chorus. The smell of new-mown hay and someone’s campfire drifted through the air. He knew he should be heading home. His wife would be worried. In the gathering dusk, he wanted to fish just a little longer.

The doctor had told him the radiation and chemo was not working. This was his last time to fish. He was at peace with that because he knew where he was going. He had messed up his life at times. He had made mistakes. He had gotten his life straightened out and was walking the path he should have been all along. He wished he had more time to tell his wife and family he loved them and make more memories. He wished he had more time to say to others that no matter what they did wrong, they could still go where he was going.

A Reminder From Above

The boat roared to life, and he headed for his favorite fishing spot near the ramp to make another cast or maybe two. In the half-light, he cast toward the bank. The topwater bait gurgled across the surface. A massive bass slammed it, and the fight was on. When the battle was finally over, and he lifted it out of the water, it was bigger than the one earlier in the day. He removed the bait from its cavernous mouth, lowered it back into the water, and in the dim light, watched it swim away. He looked up into the night sky filled with millions of stars and, with a tear in his eye and a smile on his face, said, “thank you!”

“Just one more cast,” he told himself. The lure hits the water. A fish engulfs it. The battle begins and then suddenly stops. He’s snagged. The line snaps. “That’s okay,” he says to himself and smiles again. Too dark now to re-rig. It’s time to go home. He looked up at the night sky, and it looked as if heaven was opening. It was his last cast.

USA Veterans CATCH FUN and FISH at Lake Erie WALLEYE EVENT

  • Chautauqua County, NY – Veterans enjoyed this free event sponsored by WNY Heroes, Inc. – they caught fish and line-stretching fun departing from Chadwick Bay Marina/Clarion Hotel.
  • Chartreuse stickbaits (Yaleye Lure) and spinner/worm rigs (Eye-Fish Rigs) were the hot lures
  • Wind and waves did not deter volunteer charter captains from finding the walleye
As wind and waves whipped up the water surface, the walleye went on a big feed. I’m holding this 9-pounder up for a picture with Barb Erdt. Jim Klein Photo

By Forrest Fisher

As military veterans parked their cars and trucks in the limited spaces available near Chadwick Bay Marina, located in downtown Dunkirk, NY, Program Director Lynn Magistrale from WNY Heroes Inc. (www.wnyheroes.org) led the charge at sunrise registration activities on Friday, June 26, 2020. Magistrale was joined by event master-mind planners, Captain Jim Steel and his wife, Diane, in conjunction with their volunteer promotion of this event at Innovative Outdoors Tackle Shop HQ (https://innovative-outdoors.com/), along with other volunteer groups and professional resources to make this event unforgettable for military veterans that had registered with WNY Heroes, Inc.

Some 24 volunteer expert boat captains joined forces with WNY Heroes, Inc., to share walleye fun for military veterans that had served our country during any era. Forrest Fisher photo

Military veterans filled the boats of 24 volunteer fishing crews that shared their on-the-water fish-catching skills and expert watercraft leadership. The crews donated their time, gear and special services for this impressive extravaganza fishing event during this time of worldwide pandemic. All, just to say thanks to our military veterans. Hats off to all the volunteers.

With 18 walleye in the live well, we headed back to the dock and the fish-cleaning station. We had brought 22 fish to our lines during the morning trip, releasing the smaller fish. Forrest Fisher Photo

It was a privilege to meet retired US Navy Petty Officer 1st class, Barbara Erdt, and many other veterans. The fishing was absolutely great as we shared rod-exchanging maneuvers in fire-drill mode with exciting line-stretching moments for the next 3 hours, catching 22 walleye, keeping 18 for the freezer, while fishing aboard Eye-Fish Charters with Captain Jim Klein. I shared my experiences as a US Navy veteran with Barb, but I left after 4 years as a Petty Officer 2nd Class, serving during the Vietnam era on the flight deck aboard the USS Independence/CVA62, maintaining A6-Intruder fighter-bomber jets. Erdt had served during the era of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom from 1989-2004, then with the US Navy active reserve. We compared locker room stories and laughed about morning reveille at boot camp.

The new Eye-Fish THUMPER BLADE was among the hottest lures on board. Forrest Fisher Photo

 

 

 

 

One of the hot lures, the Yaleye commemorative lure designed for the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day tournament.

With a strong west wind of 12-14 mph at the morning take-off, we headed west about 15 miles and focused on 45 to 65 feet of water. While trolling an assortment of crankbaits and spinner/worm rigs, we enjoyed moments of 3-fish on at the same time on several occasions. The sizzling hot lure was a 2-hook Eye-Fish Firetiger (color) spinner/worm rig (https://www.eye-fish.com) and the commemorative Yaleye Mooneye fish lure (chartreuse w/faded blue rib color, www.yaleyefish.ca) from the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day fishing contest. Barb caught the biggest fish at 9.04 pounds, adding to the total number of really large and healthy walleye already swimming in the live well.

Wind and Waves – We fished from 8AM-11AM and headed back to port as the wind srated to peaked with 22 mph gusts. Forrest Fisher Photo

The presentation method was not complicated, but the boat location and speed was fine-tuned as the wind picked up pushing 24 mph gusts from the southwest. Klein said, ”We caught fish from both sides of the boat using four lines on the big boards and two riggers.

Running the downriggers near the bottom produced fish, but then popping them with the Eye-Fish spinner rigs caught fish too. Forrest Fisher photo

The boards were trailing the lures on 5-color leadcore with a 40-foot fluorocarbon leader and riggers with spinner/worm rigs set back 50 feet while deployed 35 to 55 feet down. The boat speed was 1.4 to 2.6 mph, walking the boat in and out from shore, northeast to southeast, then northwest to north east, as the boat was pushed laterally due east with the strong wind. We never even had time to put the diving planes in! Was a fun time!”

Captain Jim Klein (L) and retired USN 1st Class Petty Officer, Barb Erdt, enjoy the picture taking moment on the trip back to the dock. Forrest Fisher Photo

Barb Erdt said, “I can’t wait to tell my brother about this Lake Erie trip. He fishing quite a lot, but for some reason says walleye fishing is tough this year. Captain Jim made it look pretty easy, thank you Captain!” Erdt added, “I can’t wait to share these fish with my two kids and my two grandkids.”

Event master-mind and organizer, Captain Jim Steel said, “While we scaled down this event to about ¼ of what it usually is, due to the pandemic social distancing rules, we still had 24 boats out there today, including two out-of-state charter captains that volunteered their time for our relatively local Western NY event.

They stayed at the Clarion Hotel, paid for their own fuel and food, never asked for any expenses.” Captain Jim followed, “These two long-distance volunteers, like all of our other master-angler volunteers on the water, just said they wanted to be here to say thanks to those who served to provide the USA freedoms we enjoy each and every day.” Diane Steel added, “The NYSDEC provided free fish-cleaning services for the veterans today too, preparing more than 100 walleye to take home for their kitchen dinner meal. From the conservation side, the DEC biologists and technicians collected age and health data for their study and record books too.”

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation staff volunteered efforts to clean fish for the veterans. Forrest Fisher photo.

Besides a big resealable bag of fresh walleye fillets (they sell for $19.95/pound in Florida!), every veteran left with a red/white/blue fishing rod/reel outfit and a tasty box lunch for the trip back home.

The mission of WNY Heroes is to provide veterans and their families with access to essential services, including financial assistance and resources that help support their lives and sustain their dignity. To help support their life-saving services, WNY Heroes does rely on volunteers for many functions. To learn more about them check out www.wnyheroes.org.

For area accommodations, vacation lodging, charter fishing contacts and services and hotel information/discounts, visit www.tourchautauqua.com. 

 

Recreational Red Snapper Season open in Gulf State and Federal Waters

Photo courtesy of Brice Williamson

The recreational Red Snapper Season will opened on June 11 for Gulf state and federal waters, and will remain open through July 25, closing on July 26.

“I’m excited to announce the beginning of Florida’s recreational Red Snapper Season in state and federal Gulf waters beginning Thursday, June 11,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World and we are proud to welcome Floridians and visitors to participate in Red Snapper Season as our state moves forward with the safe re-opening of our economy.”

“Red Snapper Season is one of the most anticipated and exciting saltwater fishing seasons that contribute to Florida being the Fishing Capital of the World,” said Eric Sutton, FWC Executive Director. “The years of collaborative work with stakeholders and partners has resulted in a significant increase in the number of fishing days over the past few years, from just a few days to 45 red snapper fishing days in Gulf state and federal waters this year.”

For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit may also participate in the season but are limited to fishing for red snapper in Gulf state waters only.

If you plan to fish for red snapper in Gulf state or federal waters (excluding Monroe County) from a private recreational vessel, even if you are exempt from fishing license requirements, you must sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler or State Reef Fish Angler when signing up after July 1 (annual renewal required). The Gulf Reef Fish Angler designation will be expanded statewide and renamed State Reef Fish Angler starting July 1. To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” then “Gulf Reef Fish Survey” or “State Reef Fish Survey” under “Reef Fish” tab. Sign up at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

Gulf Reef Fish Anglers and State Reef Fish Anglers might receive a questionnaire in the mail regarding their reef fish trips as part of Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey and State Reef Fish Survey. These surveys were developed specifically to provide more robust data for management of red snapper and other important reef fish, and have allowed FWC the unprecedented opportunity to manage Gulf red snapper in state and federal waters. If you receive a survey in the mail, please respond whether you fished this season or not.

When catching red snapper and other deep-water fish, look out for symptoms of barotrauma (injuries caused by a change in pressure) such as the stomach coming out of the mouth, bloated belly, distended intestines and bulging eyes. When releasing fish with barotrauma, use a descending device or venting tool to help them survive and return to depth. Learn more about fish handling at MyFWC.com/FishHandling.

To learn more about the recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including season size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers,” which is under the “Regulations by Species – Reef Fish” tab.

The federal Gulf season for for-hire operations with federal reef fish permits is June 1 through Aug. 1.

Prized ‘Eyes – Lake Erie Walleye Count tops 100 MILLION!

  • Walleye Season open in New York State 
  • Lake Erie Walleye Population Exceeds 100 MILLION!

You don’t have to look far to find exciting walleye fishing opportunities in New York

Walleye are challenging to catch and delicious to eat, making them one of the most prized sportfish in New York. As the largest member of the perch family, adult walleye typically weigh 1-3 lbs., but they can get much larger. The state record is a remarkable 18 lb. 2 oz. giant caught from the St. Lawrence River in 2018. Walleye are found across the state and provide phenomenal fishing opportunities in select waters.

Walleye in New York

Historically, walleye only inhabited waters in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and Allegheny River watersheds in New York. Today, primarily due to stocking and other DEC management efforts, walleye occur in more than 140 waters from all of the major watersheds of the state. They thrive in large shallow lakes with gravel shoals and accessible tributaries, and in large, productive river systems. Walleye are a “coolwater” species, preferring cooler water than bass and sunfish, but warmer water than trout.

Walleye are named for their unique eyes that have a highly reflective layer of tissue. This gives them excellent vision at night and in turbid water, which enables them to feed (primarily on fish) in low light conditions, particularly at dawn and dusk. Walleye may suspend over deep water or move inshore or to other shallow-water habitats depending on the availability of preferred prey species at certain times of the year. Walleye spawn in early spring when water temperatures reach 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Adult fish tend to congregate in large numbers and spawn over cobble, gravel, or sand in rivers or windswept shallows in lakes. Spawning success can vary greatly year to year, which often results in one to a few year classes making up the majority of the population. Walleye that are 25 inches or larger are generally considered “trophies” in New York.

Management

In New York, stocking and regulations are the primary tools for managing the state’s walleye populations. DEC annually stocks walleye in about 40 waters across the state to establish, maintain, or restore fisheries. To support the stocking program, DEC collects approximately 300 million walleye eggs each spring at the Oneida Fish Hatchery on Oneida Lake, where they are then incubated and hatched. About 212 million of the newly hatched fry (only a few millimeters long) are stocked into a number of waters across the state. Additional fry are raised at the Oneida, Chautauqua, and South Otselic fish hatcheries for two months and stocked as fingerlings (2 inches long). There are typically 600,000 fingerlings stocked every year. Walleye typically take 3-4 years to reach 15 inches in length.

Since most anglers keep the legal-sized walleye they catch, fishing regulations are important for managing the state’s walleye populations. New York’s walleye season opens the first Saturday in May. The general statewide regulation for walleye is a 15-inch minimum length and a daily limit of 5 fish, with a closed season from March 16 through the Friday before the first Saturday in May to protect spawning fish. However, many waters have special regulations where length and daily limits vary. Additionally, some short stream reaches are closed to all fishing to protect significant spawning concentrations of walleye.

In a Class of Their Own

Quality walleye fishing opportunities can be found throughout New York, with three top destinations-Oneida Lake, Lake Erie, and Chautauqua Lake-projected to be exceptionally good in 2020 and beyond. Why?-Multiple strong year classes.

Year Class
A year class is made up of all the walleyes that were produced and survived in a single year. Walleye can live a long time (10 years or more) and a big year class can support good fishing for years. Multiple strong year classes in a population generally result in excellent fishing that is sustained over the long term.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie is considered the top walleye destination in western New York and is supported solely through natural reproduction. Walleye angler catch rates in the New York portion of the lake have been relatively high for the last decade and were at record levels in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The quality of the fishery is primarily due to the prolonged period of walleye spawning success in the lake, with large year-classes produced in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

The abundant walleye population affords additional harvest opportunity as Lake Erie is the only water in New York with a 6-fish limit. Overall good recruitment through recent years suggests adult walleye abundance and fishing quality will remain high for the next several years. There are even walleye from the exceptional 2003 year-class still hanging around, giving anglers a chance to catch trophy-sized walleye, with some exceeding 30 inches.

Oneida Lake

man holding up walleye from Lake Erie
Mike DiSarno with an impressive 25-inch walleye he caught from the Lower Niagara River. NYSDEC Photo

Oneida Lake is New York’s most popular walleye fishery, and according to Cornell University researchers who have studied the lake for over 60 years, the walleye population is on the rise. Currently estimated at approximately 1,000,000 fish, the adult walleye population is the largest it has been since the late 1980s due to strong year classes in 2010 and 2014. All indications are that there is another strong year class from 2016 that will push the walleye population up even higher. The abundant population has supported great walleye fishing over the last several years with angler catch rates indicative of a high-quality fishery. Fishing may even get better, as the 2019 targeted open water season catch rate was the highest seen in almost a decade and exceeded levels characteristic of an excellent fishery.

To help manage the fishery, more than 150 million walleye fry are annually stocked in the lake, and there is a reduced daily possession limit of 3 walleye per day.

Chautauqua Lake

Chautauqua Lake is a large, productive lake in western New York that provides a diverse mix of warm- and cool-water fishing opportunities, including for black bass, crappie, yellow perch, sunfish, and muskellunge. Despite the many options, anglers prefer walleye there, and for good reason. After a sharp decline during the early to mid-2000s, the walleye population has been steadily increasing since 2012 due to the implementation of a special fishing regulation (3 fish per day, 18-inch minimum length) and a walleye stocking program (2004-2015). Both the stocking program and special regulation were discontinued after two exceptional year classes were documented in 2014 and 2015. Recent survey results indicate that good recruitment of these year classes has created a highly abundant adult walleye population with an average size of 18 inches. There is also a good number of trophy-sized walleye in Chautauqua Lake, and angler reports of 30-inch plus walleye in the 8 to 10-pound range are not uncommon. The strong numbers of walleye in the lake combined with an overly abundant forage base suggest that the opportunity to catch a trophy walleye should only increase over the next decade. If this isn’t exciting enough, another very strong year class (2018), the second-highest on record, was found during a recent 2019 fall survey, suggesting that Chautauqua Lake should provide a high-quality walleye fishery for the next 7 to 10 years.

More information on New York’s many walleye fishing destinations here.

Find tips on fishing for walleye here.

 

Vermont Walleye READY-TO-WACK to Wack Worm Harnesses May 2, Opening Day

Vermont Walleye Season opens May 2, 2020

The Vermont walleye fishing season will open on Saturday, May 2, marking the return of some of the best walleye fishing in New England.

Revered by many as one of the best-tasting fish in freshwater, the walleye is Vermont’s official warmwater fish. The state offers excellent spring walleye fishing opportunities in several lakes and rivers across the state. Opportunities include Lake Champlain and its tributaries – the Missisquoi, Lamoille and Winooski rivers and Otter Creek. In the Northeast Kingdom, Salem Lake and Island Pond also have walleye populations that are on the rebound thanks to stocking by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

A trio of additional waters – Lake Carmi, Chittenden Reservoir and the Connecticut River, also offer quality walleye fishing.

Veteran walleye anglers employ a variety of techniques, but one of the simplest and most effective methods is to slowly troll a nightcrawler harness near the bottom. Most nightcrawler harnesses include a rotating blade ahead of two hooks, where the worm is secured. The blade produces a fish-attracting flash and vibration.

Shore-based anglers can catch walleyes on nightcrawlers or live minnows or by casting crankbaits or hard jerk baits. Walleyes are generally more active at night, so fishing in the dark is often more effective.

As a reminder to anglers, there is no open season on sauger, a close cousin to the walleye. Once abundant in southern Lake Champlain, sauger still appear there rarely. If caught while fishing for other fish, sauger must be immediately released.

Anglers can read about current fishing regulations in the 2020 VERMONT FISHING GUIDE & REGULATIONS available free from Vermont license agents. To purchase a fishing license or learn more about fishing in Vermont, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

Vermonters are encouraged to get outside to enjoy fishing provided they can do so while meeting social distancing and other guidelines. In addition, to the greatest extent possible, outdoor activities should take place as close to home as possible to minimize travel and potential risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Please use good judgment to keep yourself and others safe and reduce the spread of the coronavirus:

  • Refrain from carpooling. Drive to your fishing spots only with your immediate family members and only if everyone is feeling well.
  • When fishing from shore, keep a distance of at least six feet between you and your companions.
  • Don’t share fishing gear with others. Each angler should have their own fishing gear (rod and reels, bait, lures, towels, pliers, and other personal items).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean your gear well after using it.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after fishing.
  • For information about staying safe while enjoying outdoor activities, check here: https://vtfishandwildlife.com/outdoor-recreation-and-covid-19
  • For more info on COVID-19 and health guidelines, visit: https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/infectious-disease/2019-novel-coronavirus

Lurking in the Deep – Mysteries, Rocks, and at times – BIG FISH

You never know what that next cast to deep waters might bring!

  • The mystery and secrets of deep waters can offer a line-stretching surprise.
  • Fish “on the rise” can solve our doubt for the presence of fish – they are usually there.
  • A priceless reward can happen every now and then. Enjoy that moment!
You never know what may be lurking in the deep! During a small window in the winter weather, this giant rainbow provided the ultimate angler reward in a small, thawed creek mouth.

By Wade Robertson

The statement has been made that we know more about the galaxy than we do our Earth’s oceans. Though that statement may or may not be true, it does bring up some interesting points.

The water of any depth shrouds in mystery what lies there or lives there. The Challenger Deep, a spot in the Mariana Trench, is 36,070 feet deep, offering such crushing pressures so intense, it escapes our ability to truly comprehend. Yet, in this lightless world, life exists, some of it huge, mankind can only guess what unknown creatures flourish there. The fact is, we simply don’t know.

Even our areas lakes and streams are shrouded in mystery for fishermen. In fact, it’s the mystery of fishing that often makes it so intriguing. It’s hard for a trout fisherman to approach a great looking, deep hole in even the smallest streams without wondering just what lurks there, out of sight, in the swirling depths or beneath the tangled brush pile. Brown trout especially are shy and the bigger, smarter ones are especially difficult to catch. Rainbow trout, though foolish when small, can become just as shy and can survive in heavily fished streams with impunity. Lakes are vast and deeper, and who knows, for instance, how humungous the biggest muskellunge or pike is in the Kinzua Reservoir? I’m sure their length and girth would take our breath away if we could see these finned patriarchs, or even more exciting, catch one.

It’s frustrating to fish a good stretch of trout water without a hit. In the past I used to, in my arrogance, think there were very few fish in the stream. However, over the years I’ve been humbled when a fly hatch begins and the stream I believed barren suddenly filled with rising trout, 50 or more in a quarter-mile on the upper Genesee River. Now, when I fail to catch fish, I know there’s something I’m doing wrong or the trout simply aren’t feeding. Usually, I’m missing something.

Every now and then though, circumstances combine and you see or hook a fish you’ve dreamed about. Landing these leviathans is difficult and the old saying, the big ones get away, is only too true in so many cases. Not only do the larger fish have harder mouths, have more weight and have more frightening power, but their very size also causes many angler’s brains to turn into scrambled eggs, and they forget everything they’ve learned about fighting fish and simply panic.

An angler wants that huge fish so badly only one thought comes to mind, blocking all other common sense and reason. Get it in! Get it in the net, haul it on the beach, lift it over the bank! Of course, this sort of thinking, this reaction, usually has disastrous results. The line snaps or the hooks pull out or straighten. Big fish can turn your knees to jelly, your brain to mush and even make you tremble.

The raindrops came, February showers hard enough to melt snow and raise the creeks. One of those small weather windows where things warm up briefly and if you’re quick, you can get a day or 2 in fishing.

I awoke at six and despite being determined to fish the night before, the bed was exceedingly comfortable and warm. Did I really want to get up, dress, drive some distance and fish with the temperature in the low 30’s on the off chance the streams had risen enough to bring fish upstream? It took a while for me to finally decide to do so, you can’t catch anything lying in bed!

When I arrived at the pull-off, there were no signs of other fishermen in the snow. I walked about 200 yards to the stream and then to the biggest, deepest hole. If there were fish anywhere, it’d be here.

I started with a spinner, then switched to a small minnow bait. My hands were freezing already. A long cast angling downstream and a hit! I snapped the ultralight rod upward and gasped when a huge white belly showed, then thrashed violently, doubling my rod over. What in the world?!

Look for high suppleness in your fishing line, it is desirable, it allows for less memory and a more natural presentation with light and micro-light baits.

A wide silver and red side flashed, a giant rainbow! The fish was incredibly powerful and for over 10 minutes I could only hold on, lightening the drag and dreading those violent quick dashes that could effortlessly snap the 4-pound test line.

Next, the fish angled upstream until it drew abreast of me. I could see her clearly, she was huge. A powerful dash upstream toward a sunken tree. I raised the rod high and pulled upward. Surprisingly, she stopped, bulldogged deep and moved downstream again. After 20 minutes I was a nervous wreck, but she was tiring, finally. Then the torture of working her to the net. She’s at my boots, then flops wildly, thrashes, and she runs back out. Ten times this happens, my heart in my mouth, but things held and I never tried to stop her. Finally, I lead her into the net, the damaged rim cracks from her weight, she flops out and I desperately trap her against the bank with net and boots, frantically hook a finger under a gill and heave her up and onto the bank.

I simply stare, exhausted and unbelieving, what a rainbow! Was this a dream? No, it was real, there would be no waking up in disappointment. I was deliriously happy, couldn’t believe her size, and that I’d actually caught this prize. What a priceless gift from above. Thank you, thank you!

Niagara River/Lake Ontario Fish are NOT SOCIAL Distancing, THEY”RE ON THE BITE!

NIAGARA USA King Salmon bite BEGINS!

  • Shore fishing is VERY GOOD…spoons and spinners…bring a camera!
  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for April 8, 2020, from Destination Niagara USA
  • Boat fishing is good for Kings, Lakers, Steelhead, the Big Bass are just starting up
Stephanie Pierleoni of Newfane went fishing with her husband, Capt. Vince Pierleoni, out of Olcott this week and reeled in this king salmon.

Social distancing is critical when it comes to fishing, both onshore and in a boat.

COVID-19 continues to expand across the state and slowing that curve is important and we are moving forward. We are fortunate in that our boat launch ramps are still open, and we have plenty of shore fishing options available to us. Please stay safe out there and use your head to limit the spread.

With hatchery fish stocking taking place both in the Great Lakes waters and inland waters, please take note that there are special distinctions between both areas. The Great Lakes waters include lakes Erie and Ontario and the tributaries up to the first impassible barrier (such as a dam). Trout and salmon that are stocked as fingerlings and yearlings follow a certain protocol – put, grow and take. They are not meant to be taken immediately after they are stocked in places like the Wilson or Olcott harbors.

Nancy Colavecchia of Niagara Falls caught her biggest bass ever in the upper Niagara River this week.

For the Lake Ontario basin, the minimum size for browns, rainbows, and Pacific salmon is 15 inches in length. Some people have been catching and keeping trout well under that size close to shore. There are certainly more regulations than just these (such as new rules in the tributaries for brown trout (1 per person) and rainbow/steelhead (1 per person with a minimum size of 25 inches) and it’s important to know them before you head out.

The big news is that there have finally been reports of smelt being taken in the lower Niagara River. While Lewiston Landing (the sand docks) didn’t produce anything, they did get some at Artpark, to the south, and from docks to the north. The best time was after 11 p.m.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a dandy lower river brown trout he caught from shore using a No. 4 spinner.

Fishing in the lower river for trout continues to be good to very good depending on who you talk to. Steelhead, brown trout and lake trout are all being caught by anglers fishing from boat and shore. Water visibility is about 5-6 feet.  Spinners from shore are still producing trout in the gorge. Boaters are drifting minnows, egg sacs or running plugs like Kwikies or MagLips off three-way rigs. Bass are starting to turn on as the waters warm up both in the lower and upper rivers. It was around 45 degrees this week.  

Matt Tall of Wilson caught this 23-pound king salmon fishing with Capt. Tyler Morrison out of Wilson this week.

Some more exciting news is that the king salmon fishing has started to turn on in Lake Ontario.

Matt Tall of Wilson and Capt. Taz Morrison out of Wilson worked their lures in 30 to 80 feet of water to take some nice kings and lake trout. They caught kings to 25 pounds. Conditions change almost daily, says Tall, with things warming up so fast. They were running stickbaits and spoons mostly, working in 46 degrees surface temperature. The temperature doesn’t change much until you get out to 90 feet of water.

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls caught this big steelhead in the lower Niagara River this week from shore in the gorge area.

Lake trout are eating everything in sight. James DeGirolamo of Derby reports that they were fishing anywhere from 180 to 220 feet of water straight out from Olcott. They had meat rigs and spoons working, with trout and salmon hitting most everything, but spoons are the way to go.

Capt. Tyler Morrison of West End Charters shows off a 25-pound king salmon he caught this week out of Wilson.

Terry Swann of Wilson reports that bullheads are biting at the Wilson-Tuscarora Park boat launch and in the West Branch of 12-mile Creek. Worms and shrimp seem to be the bait of choice.

A few nice perch are showing up too. Pier action has been good for trout in both Wilson and Olcott. Spoons and spinners or live bait under a float work best.

Tributary action has slowed a bit and with the rains from last night and more is forecasted through Friday. It will probably muddy things up and create higher flows.

Stay safe out there.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
 

Born to Fish, a True Story

  • Do we have to go in Mom? Please, can I stay on the dock?
  • A reference book on North American Fish made me an 8-year-old “whizz-kid.” That was fun!
  • Fishing bonded me with my mom, dad and so many other family members, and their friends too, from a very young age.
At 3-years-old here, I learned to love fishing from my earliest days, before a medical condition took away some of my leg mobility. I never wanted to leave the dock! Still don’t.

By Wade Robertson

Mom and I were taking a ride last week. Elsie Robertson is 94 years old and still pretty sharp.

Somehow the subject of fishing came up – perhaps this is unavoidable if you talk to me for any length of time, and we were reminiscing about family vacations. I can just remember Mom dragging me off of the dock during a week-long vacation on Chautauqua Lake. I was fishing for sunfish, though I was barely old enough to hold a miniature pole. I’d been fishing since daylight, was being roasted by the sun and hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Mom feared I had sunstroke and knew I must be starving, but I resisted, almost violently, to being taken inside. Mom literally had to wrap me up in her arms and haul my kicking, writhing body inside, accompanied, of course, by my yells and crying protests.

Once food and drink were set in front of me, I realized I was, in fact, exceedingly hungry and had a headache from the blazing sun. I even fell asleep for my usual nap. Once I awoke, back out I went. There were fish out there and I was determined to find them.

Mom laughed at the memory and told me every time we drove by a stream, pond or lake, I’d always say the same thing; “Should-a brung my rod.” Mom would turn and rebuke me. “Should have brought your rod! How many times do I have to tell you that?”

I’d grin and smile, but habits are hard to break.

“Do you think I was born a fishing fanatic Mom?” I asked her.

Mom didn’t even hesitate before answering. “Yes”, she answered. The fascination had always been there, easily noticeable from my earliest years. Dad bought me a reference book on North American fish as soon as I could read and I pretty much memorized it in a week or two. That knowledge would come in handy in many surprising ways.

Soon after this, my grandfather and his cronies returned from an early fishing trip to Quebec. Jim McKittrick had caught a large fish on a spoon and no one knew what it was. Pop Hayes told his friends that his 8-year-old grandson would be able to identify the mystery fish, and they laughed at him. He insisted I could and upon their arrival home immediately called Mom. It was early on a Saturday. She smiled at me when she understood the situation and quickly drove me down to investigate. Mom had watched me sit for hours going through that fish field guide, page by page, totally engrossed.

When we arrived Pop stood confidently with his friends, his smoking pipe in hand, grinning. He fully expected me to recognize the unknown fish while his friends were just as confident that I couldn’t. How could an 8-year-old recognize a fish that none of them, the grown men, has ever seen either?

I jumped from the car and ran over to the waiting trucks filled with anticipation. I knew they’d have pike, bass and walleyes, maybe even a lake trout. The big chests were filled with fish and ice, covered with heavy canvass tarps in the truck beds.

Pop waved me to his side and savoring the moment introduced me to all his friends, most of whom I already knew. Pop, always the showman, loved to embellish any situation and this was too good an opportunity to miss. He elaborated on their trip and finally got around to describing how Jim hooked this large fish while trolling, and how well it fought.

By now, his impatient friends were barely able to restrain themselves. Could the kid identify the fish or not? There were some knowing smiles over Pop’s antics, but they knew him well and were attempting to be patient.

Having set the stage, Pop began filling his pipe. Jim snorted, threw his arms up and led me to his truck, pulling the heavy tarp off 1 of the chests and opening it. Inside, on top was a large-scaled, silver fish with a small head, a chub-like mouth and a large eye. The fish was around 30-inches long.

More than six decades later, the streams and lakes still beckon to my immediate focus. I learned to love the outdoors at a very early age and I extend extra efforts now to help youngsters and their families find a way to discover the fun of fishing.

Pop’s eye was fixed upon me and I saw a split-second shadow of concern flicker in them. His reputation was at stake here, he’d played the showman, trusting in my fascination with fish and the knowledge that I’d acquired. On occasion, I’d recited to him the many facts I’d learned about different species and quizzed him about his experiences. He was impressed with what I already knew, but had he overplayed his hand? I immediately felt the weight of that trust and his faith in me, we were both on the spot and the pressure was on. Did I know?

“What is it?” Jim asked, glancing first at Pop Hayes and then back at me.

Pop was standing there confidently, smoking his pipe, apparently without a care in the world. The others all involuntarily stepped forward staring intently. I certainly was anxious, but needlessly. I knew at a glance what it was. The fish looked exactly like the picture in the book, came from the waters the map showed it inhabited.

I looked proudly up and answered with surety. “That’s a huge whitefish, maybe a record!”

Pop burst out laughing! He was filled with pride and vindication, shaking my hand, patting me proudly. One or two men were skeptical and asked if I was positive. I described the large scales, small head, shape of the dorsal fin and mouth; further informing these fishermen that whitefish was excellent eating as well. They were noted for their white flakey fillets, not fishy at all. They were commercially netted in the spring and their smoked fillets were sold in many fish shops, a delicacy.

When I confidently challenged them to come inside the house and check the encyclopedia no one any longer doubted me.

Suddenly, I became the whizz-kid. Even more questions were asked of me, all of which I answered. Everyone was impressed. Grandad looked down on me beaming, and suddenly there was a special bond between us that never diminished. The story spread all over town and for months afterward, people would ask if I was the kid who knew so much about fish.

“Yes, sir. Yes, Mam.” I’d reply. It was flattering for a young boy to be so noticed.

Looking back I can’t help but wonder if that knowledge wasn’t born within me and the book simply refreshed what I already somehow knew before coming to earth. I honestly believe that may be true.

Keep Your Fishing Gear Tidy in a Boat (…and everwhere else)

Having your gear organized and in easy places to get to, it will be easy to find your net and net your next fish…without having to trip over everything.

By Jason Houser

I do not know if it has ever happened to you or not, but I have been accused, more than once, of having an unorganized fishing boat.

There was a time in my life that every time I headed to the water; I was unprepared for the day ahead. Sometimes, tackle would be left behind, the fishing net was buried under clutter in the bottom of the boat, and there were times I forgot gear, it was behind at the house. Not everyone reading this is as bad as I once was, but I bet everyone from time to time could have been more prepared.

Anglers are known to get tunnel vision, and the only thing they can think about is being on the water and catching fish. When this happens, they (we) are liable to get in too big of a hurry and forget things. This can cause what was going to be a good day of fishing to turn bad. In some cases, you might not even be able to fish, depending on what you left behind.

The good news is that it does not have to be that way. With a little time spent thinking ahead, you can tidy your boat up. Once completed, you will not have to worry if you have everything or not. With all your gear stowed away in an orderly manner in its place, you will have more productive time that you can use to spend fishing, not looking for the tackle.

The new Edge Series from Plano helps keep your tackle and gear organized.

It all begins by knowing what you will spend the day on the water fishing for. Different equipment will be required for spawning bass than what you would need for fall musky, or bluegill vs. catfish. Do not take tackle that you will not use. It will only be in the way, and cause clutter on the floor of the boat you do not need.

I fish for just about every fish that swims. I have a large tackle box full of nothing but bass fishing lures, plastic worms, hook, weights, spinners, and so on. I have a small box with assorted panfish hooks, weights, and bobbers. Another is ready for catfish, and still another ready for walleye and musky. You get the picture. This year to help keep my lures, terminal tackle, gear, and other items organized I have switched to the Edge Series tackle boxes from Plano. Besides keeping everything organized, they help prevent rust and they keep water out.

When I get ready to go fishing, all I have to do is grab the box I need and put it in the boat. Each box in the Edge Series can be identified easily with their EZ Label™ system for quick identification of contents.

When fishing, there is no other piece of equipment more important than the rod and reel combination. For that reason, it is necessary to have a rod holder or rack of some type in the boat, or in your man cave (or garage), to keep them from getting stepped on, as well as out of the way.

If you are boating, depending on the size of your boat rig, it might already have a rod holder or two.  Some larger boats come from the factory with rod boxes and rod holders. For those boats that do not, it is up to you to build a holder of some type or purchase a tubular rod holder. When choosing the location to put a Velcro or groove type rod holder, it needs to be out of the way and easy to get to.

Other equipment such as first aid kits, coolers, towels, rain gear, cameras, and the like, also need to be out of the way. Many boats come with plenty of storage compartments under the seats and on the deck. For those that do not, rubber totes are good to keep the clutter to a minimum, while still keeping those items protected and easy to get to.

With a little planning, all of your gear will be in your boat, easy to get to. So, the next time a big trout attacks your lure, you will be able to get to your landing net without having to move those other accumulating non-essential items. When you need thenet, you need the net. It might seem too simple, but a tidy boat makes for a better day of fishing.

From shore in a boat, don’t let an unorganized boat keep you from catching fish!

Snook on the Hook – Sanibel Island, Florida

  • Live bait, long semi-stiff rods, braided line, fluoro leaders and sharp 4/0 circle hooks
  • Add a teaspoon of courage, hold your breath, cast under mangrove trees
  • Fish with a friend as often as you can, it’s more than just fun!
Rich Perez (left) and son, Richie, enjoy a peaceful and fun-filled day catching snook and watching wildlife in Southwest Florida.

By Forrest Fisher

Hey dad, “Can you cast your line right under those mangrove trees near that little fallen log over there, the snook and redfish like those kinds of places.” Richie Perez was sharing his growing expertise on saltwater fishing with his retired dad, Rich Sr., near his home a short distance away from San Carlos Bay. The clear saltwater between Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach in Southwest Florida has been attracting forage and predator fish since the days of pirates.

“The tide is ebbing right now and as soon as we see the flow begin around the pilings of the boat docks and the overhanging mangrove trees, the fish seem to get instantly hungry. It happens so fast, it’s bang, bang, bang, fish-on. You’re gonna love it dad!”

Richie started his day right after sunrise, tossing a 10-foot diameter net to catch pinfish and pilchards for bait.

Richie had started his day at sunrise, tossing his large cast net to catch bait that included pinheads and pilchards, all between four to seven inches long, or so. I was excited to be with my Vietnam era Navy buddy, as Rich (Sr.) had invited me to join him and his son for a few hours of saltwater fishing fun. Like most winter days in southwest Florida, it was sunny, there was a gentle breeze and the water color was perfect, seemingly sounding the “breakfast bugle” for the fish and calling all sensible fishermen to get a line in the water. We had met Richie at his Caloosahatchee River boat dock about 10 a.m. The 42-year old youngster sounded confident, totally in-charge of providing a great day of fishing ahead. It was so good to be here.

As Richie hopped onto the dock, he hollered over, “Good morning gentlemen! Are you ready for some fishing?!” The promise in his voice was totally reassuring. “We’re gonna go fishing today for a few different types of fish, but we might catch quite a few snook, that ok?” Are you kidding me? Gotta love this kid. Richie continued, “Snook can grow really big, even to 40 inches, sometimes more, but we usually catch daytime Florida snook in the 20-30 inch range, sometimes redfish and speckled trout too. Sometimes other fish as well, they all fight so hard, it’s fun.” My heart was picking up speed.

Richie added, ”We have the right bait, my 7-foot rods with Penn 40 series open-face reels are filled with 30-pound Power-Pro braid – easy to cast, and 4-foot/40-pound fluorocarbon leaders. There’s a 4/0 hook on the end of the leader and we’ll use live pinfish for bait. They’re in the baitwell.” We left the dock and motored downstream toward Sanibel Island. Geez, this was exciting. The 24-foot Key West fiberglass boat with a 300HP Yamaha came up on plane very quickly, it didn’t take very long to get us there. I felt like I was sitting next to Ricky Clunn at the 2020 Bassmaster Classic in Alabama as the boat hit 50 mph heading down the channel. I had two hands on my hat!

Rich Sr. found fish and sometimes, a tall tree, as we tossed lines along the mangrove inlets of the canals near Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.

We started off fishing in the mangrove-lined canals near the Shell Point, a modernistic retirement community of popular condominiums for retirees. These are a semi-high rise, resort-style home that includes the option of assisted living and recreational life. I made a mental note to myself that I need to check that place out for my wife and I, getting old is something to think about, but not for long. As we approached, a dolphin was making a ruckus crashing the surface in the lead canal entranceway. Splash! Splash! Zoom, Turn, Zoom, Zoom. Splash! Splash! Slurp! Slurp! Incredible. We waited and watched as this astonishing sea mammal fed, swimming back and forth, thrashing the surface. I wondered if the dolphins were enjoying snook and trout and redfish for breakfast. Life is so big and so real in the ocean waters, perhaps like all else in wild nature, but it felt good to be here to see all this nature living their life in the sunshine. I’m from western New York. This stuff helps make a guy feel younger and baby-faced…mesmerized.

Snook, redfish and large sea trout all pounce on live bait under the mangroves, sometimes they hit it and run, only taking a small bite. The result is having the fun of talking out loud to a missed fish and laughing. We did a lot of that.
Richie caught snook after snook in one area of the bay where the tidal currents were gathering baitfish with the incoming flow.

Richie walked us through what to do with the rod/reel gear, how to bait to the hook, cast the rods, feather the spools, and the details of a double uni-knot, for the leader to braid union. The baitfish were lip-hooked sideways near their nose, then we cast out to the edge of the overhanging mangroves. When we started casting with those wide-gap 4/0 hooks and uneducated cast-control fingers, we caught a few tall critters. Some of those mangrove trees were 30-feet tall! Yeah, we laughed a lot, our casting skills helped keep Richie busy, though Rich and I were trying to be more careful. There were lots of trees. We crossed lines a few times, caught a few more trees and while it slowed us up a little, but each 20 to 30 footer gave another chance to offer condolences. Not sure we never stopped chuckling. “Mine was bigger. No, mine was bigger.” We were talking about trees. It went on all day. I felt like we were both 20 years old again.

Restarting old memories can be such a good thing. Toward the end of the fish day – five hours later, we had learned how to cast, thanks to the patience of Richie re-tying our leaders and hooks with a smile, ok…maybe it was a grin.

As the tide started to pick up, I realized that Richie had both of us elders on a training mission for prime time. This clever kid was amazing. We had actually become quite accurate as live bait casters. We started to catch plenty of fish. Fish on! Where’s the net? Got it. A nice snook. They’re a gorgeous looking fish. Five minutes later, fish on! I got the net. It went on like that for a while.

We had hooked snook, jacks, and redfish. Many more snook than other species, most were about 24-28 inches long, as Richie had thought they would be.

Hungry dolphins can be found in the canals and in the open waters of the bay that surround Sanibel and Pine Island. They’re fun to watch!

Everything we caught was carefully released without harm to grow again in support of a healthy fishery.

We had watched dolphins swim within 50 feet of us, huge manatees too, in the warming canals and natural tidal inlets near Shell Point.

We watched many forms of wildlife, including birds that included hundreds of beautiful white egrets, multiple pelican species, fish hawks, a majestic bald eagle perched high on a leafless tree on Picnic Island and many other species. The bright sunshine seemed to energize all forms of life here, us old guys too.

Any time that you can spend on or near the water is precious. Precious beyond description.

When you can do that with friends to reconnect with fun times from the past, make exciting new memories, fight with a few trees, laugh, land a few fish, laugh more, it is only then that you realize such moments are unforgettable and they may have added a few extra years for all of us.

That adrenalin laugh pump, you know, the anti-aging motor…gets turned on.

Laughing, joking, catching fish, it’s so good for the soul.

Southwest Florida in winter is an excellent place to start. My better half and I are going back very soon.

Beaches, Sun, Fish.

Get fishing with an old friend soon. It can be unforgettable. Wait a minute, let me write that down. Do you know what I mean?

 

 

What’s that Noise? Stay Safe on the Ice This Winter!

  • Talk to locals, bait shops, learn where the usual unsafe ice is located
  • Four inches of ice, minimum, for people and gear…not an ATV 
  • Simple Common Sense will usually prevent ice-fishing accidents
Safety should be first and foremost with fishermen. Do not venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 to 6 inches thick. Mike Wec Photo

By Jason Houser
Ice fishing is supposed to be a good time during the winter months while we wait for the first signs of the thaw to arrive. However, every year ice fishermen fall victim to thin ice and the danger of falling through, then not knowing measures to take if that worst-case scenario happens.

There are precautions an outdoorsman can take to prevent falling through weak ice. Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are on the ice, there is always the risk of getting wet in these sub-freezing waters that can quickly take one’s life, especially if they do not know what to do in case of that unintended emergency. This article is intended to help prevent accidents and what to do should one occur.
One of the biggest reasons for people going through the ice is that they get on hard water that is not thick enough to support them and their equipment. Four inches of clear ice is the bare minimum for a person to safely walk on. An ATV or snowmobile will take at least five inches of ice, and a vehicle will require eight inches, with twelve being better. A lot of things can factor into whether ice is safe or not, and these are only guidelines. Early and late in the season is often the most dangerous times to be on ice.

Each body of water has its known danger areas. If you are going to be on winter water that you are not familiar with, check with locals who know where the problem ice might be. They can provide a lot of valuable information.

Even though I stated what the thickness of ice should be when driving on it, try not to drive a highway vehicle on it if possible. If you must take a drive, keep the windows rolled down and your seat belt off. Remember that a car or truck can be replaced, so do not hesitate to leave it in a hurry if things go awry.

Safety should be first and foremost with fishermen. Do not venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 to 6 inches thick. This is the minimum thickness that will safely support a person and their gear. Keep in mind that snow weakens the stability of the ice. Do not test just one area of the ice and assume that it will be the same depth at all areas of the lake, reservoir or pond – it might not be.
Ice fishing accidents can quickly become deadly. Do not ice fish alone. Always have someone with you and let people back at the house know where you will be and when you expect to return. That way, if you do not return on time, they know exactly where to go and look for you.
Also, frostbite and hypothermia are concerns that ice fishermen must be aware of. You must be alert as to the amount of time you are on the ice and the weather conditions while you are fishing. Do not get overwhelmed with all the excitement and stay out too long.

Below are five more ice fishing safety recommendations:

  1. Wear a warm hat that covers your ears. In cold weather, 75 to 80 percent of heat loss from the body occurs from an uncovered head.
  2. Go with a partner and stay separated when going to and from fishing spots in case one of you falls through the ice.
  3. Carry a rope to throw if someone falls through the ice, go out to that person only as a last resort.
  4. Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.
  5. Do not leave children unsupervised.
Ice fishing is meant to be fun, not a dangerous situation. Mike Wec Photo

Ice fishing is meant to be an enjoyable time in the outdoors. Practice safety on the ice…always. The advice in this article will prevent many accidents from occurring, but the best danger prevention is simply common sense.

If something doesn’t look safe, stay away.

There will be plenty of opportunities to step out on the ice.

The “Fish Coach” shares HOW-to-CATCH Saltwater Sheepshead – a Winter Fishing Delicacy

  • Fish close to structure: bridges, piers, docks
  • Sight feeders: use live or frozen bait – shrimp, clam strips, fiddler crabs
  • Gear: Open-face reel, sturdy rod, braided line, fluorocarbon leader
Everyone would like to know how to fish better, it’s just that not every vacation place offers a Fish Coach service.

By Forrest Fisher

When winter anglers from all across the United States travel to southwest Florida, they find sun, sand, warmth, and one fish species that is in abundance: saltwater sheepshead. These “pretty fish” keep close to bridge abutments, boat docks, fishing piers and similar in-water structure along saltwater harbors and canals of the Gulf Coast, and other places.

The sheepshead arrive close to shore in good numbers as the waters chill with the season (mid-60 water temps), they feist on shrimp, clams, blue crabs and other crustacean forage forms. This fish species is usually hungry, though they can be finicky. Sheepshead are a delicacy for table fare and that makes them a favored target for winter retirees, visitors, and local anglers alike.

One local celebrity angler, Josh Olive, also known as the “Fish Coach,” often makes time in his busy schedule to teach others how to catch fish, where to go, what to do and how to do it, all the while courteously sharing necessary details for folks to understand pertinent conservation issues, size limits and local ecology concerns. This gentleman has a lifetime of stories and expertise to share and is the editor of a widely popular weekly fishing magazine of The Charlotte Sun-News called the “WaterLine.” This issue is published weekly on Thursdays and can be ordered from anywhere in the country, it is complete with fishing tips and chef recipes from the sea.

Josh Olive, the “Fish Coach,” provides finny details about the tasty Sheepshead at a recent fishing club seminar in Port Charlotte, FL.

During a recent visit to the retirement community of Kingsgate in Port Charlotte, FL, I had the pleasure to listen to a seminar and learn from Josh during a monthly meeting of the Kingsgate Fishing Club. Following a colorful introduction by Charter Captain Tom Marks, the humble and direct manner of Josh Olive held the attention of every visitor in attendance. If you are a winter visitor to the Port Charlotte (Florida) area you can meet and talk with Josh yourself on any Saturday night at Fish’n Frank’s Tackle Shop, where he joins the work crew. Here is a summary of what Josh shared with us.  Go get ’em!

Topic: Fishing for Saltwater Sheepshead – Where, When, What, How…with the Fish Coach – Josh Olive

Short description: The Sheepshead is a visual food hunter. They are bottom feeders to be found close to near-shore structure such as docks, piers, and bridge abutments, as well as land-related reefs up to about 40’ deep. Sheepshead have human-like teeth with incisors and molars and actually look like human teeth. That means they can cut your line without too much difficulty.

Not many folks can share it all like this, but seminar goers learned details of lure to line hookup, lure to bait tactics, when to fish, where to go and how to be successful.

Methods: Spinning rods, 7ft, medium w/30 series or 40 series ope-face Penn reels, or equivalent. Use bait, live or frozen, can use jigheads (1/4-3/8 oz depending on current flow strength), Poor Man’s Jig (Size 4 hook w/large bb-shot) or Porgy Rig (double dropper loop for one hook and one sinker, 1-3 oz).

Line: 10-20 lb braid (Power Pro) mainline and 25-30 lb fluorocarbon leader, though when water is very clear and fish are spooky with a high mid-day sun, downsize fluoro to 15 lb or so. Use TG knot or double Uni-knot from the leader to the mainline attachment. Braid color: no preference in reality, but to help angler sight, use a bright color green or yellow. Leader length: about 6 feet or so.

Above, the standard jig head to live shrimp rig commonly used for sheepshead fishing.

Baits: Shrimp (frozen pieces or live), clam bits, red wigglers (worms), fiddler crabs (a good option when fishing in a heavily fished area), and Berkeley Bish Bites (pink/white color, E-Z clam flavor or E-Z shrimp flavor, both work -cut to ½” pieces, put 3 on a bare hook or jig head).

The correct way to hook up a live fiddler crab, a tricky process, but they work to fool and catch saltwater sheepshead where there is heavy angler traffic. 

Specific Places to fish: In southwest Florida, the Venice Jetty may be the best place for shore fishing. Casperson State Park rock jetties are only just ok, at times, Peace River docks are good, not so good when going upriver to Navigator Bar area. To fish rock jetty areas, use a poor man’s jig head with a float set 2-4 feet above the bait. Offshore-nearshore reefs such as Cape Hayes and Trembley are also excellent.

Times of Day: Middle of the day seems best for Sheepshead fishing

Advice: Get away from lines and rigs with beads, swivels, hardware, is spooky to fish these days, too many anglers in short, spook the fish.

Edibility: Very good, delicacy. Crustacean and blue crab eaters are usually tasty fish to eat. Can fillet, though fillet method will leave lots of delicious meat on the carcass. Better to use whole fish and simply gut the fish, remove the gills, boil, remove the meat on a platter as in a restaurant platter style. Or use the meat and boiled water residue from this method to make chowder, fish soup or fish bouillon.

Two common methods to hook frozen shrimp tails with a plain hook, commonly used with the Poor Man’s Porgy Rig (double loop knot rig).

Rules/Reg’s: See syllabus, but in Port Charlotte County general area, the minimum size is 12 inches and 8/person/day, or if in a boat, 50 fish boat limit max for any number of persons.

Ranger Cup University – Opportunity for Collegiate Anglers

By Greg Duncan

Collegiate bass anglers will have more opportunity to cash in on tournament success in 2020 thanks to the continued support of Ranger Cup University. The contingency program, designed by Ranger Boats exclusively for college anglers, is free of charge and open to any college angler, regardless of the brand of boat they own.

To remain qualified in the program, anglers need only adhere to simple clothing and logo requirements while fishing select ACA-affiliated events. Additionally, Ranger has once again partnered with Gemini Custom Apparel, the industry’s leading tournament apparel provider, who will offer custom jersey pricing for as low as $48 for Ranger Cup University anglers.

For the 2020 season, each qualified event will feature a cash prize paid to the Ranger Cup University-qualified team/angler with the highest place of finish. A $1,000 cash prize will be paid at each of the select events below:

Texas Lunker Challenge presented by Mossy Oak Elements (Feb. 23, Sam Rayburn Reservoir)

Bass Pro Shops Big Bass Bash presented by Berkley (Mar. 14-15, Kentucky Lake)

ACA Summer Slam (Jun. 11-12, Lake Murray)

AFTCO Collegiate Bass Open (Oct. 10-11, Lake Dardanelle)

In addition to payouts at the above events, a $2,000 cash prize will be awarded to the highest finishing Ranger Cup-qualified team/angler at the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, taking place May 21-22 on Pickwick Lake.

Along with the cash prizes, the highest-finishing Ranger Cup University-qualified team/angler in each qualifying event above will also receive automatic entry into the Ranger Cup University Team of the Year Challenge. The made-for-TV fish off, which will air on Pursuit Channel, NBC Sports Network and WGN America during episodes of Americana Outdoors and Bass Pro Shops Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, will feature the five Ranger Cup University teams competing for the title of 2020 Ranger Cup University Team of the Year and a $3,000 cash prize, which can increase to $5,000 if the winning team or angler is a warranty-registered owner of a Ranger Boat.

For complete program guidelines and details on Ranger Cup University, including payout, clothing requirements and informational videos, go online to https://rangercup.com/includes/staticPages/RangerCupUniversity.cfm

About Ranger Boats: Headquartered in Flippin, Ark., Ranger Boats is the nation’s premier manufacturer of legendary fiberglass and aluminum fishing boats, with acclaimed models and series in the bass, multi-species, fish ‘n play, saltwater, waterfowl utility and pontoon boat segments. Founded in 1968 by Forrest L. Wood, Ranger Boats continues its commitment to building the highest-quality, strongest-performing boats on the water. For more information, go to RangerBoats.com.

Lake Istokpoga, Florida – Lake of Trophy Bass & Crappie

Lake Istokpoga fish report, Jan-Mar 2020:

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, bluegill (bream) and redear sunfish (shellcrackers) fishing has slowed, but fish can still be caught while fishing for black crappie (specks).

Specks (crappie) will be turning on with the cooler water temperatures in these next few months. Drift live Missouri minnows and grass shrimp in open water, or troll with Napier deer hair jigs and Hal flies for schooling fish. Find areas with sandy bottoms around bulrush and cattails, and fish a grass shrimp under a cork for spawning fish. Henderson’s Cove and the north end of the lake usually produces good numbers of specks on the outside edge of the pads and grasses near deeper water.

Lake Istokpoga is one of the best lakes in the state at a chance to get your hands on a fish of a lifetime.

As of November 2019, there have been a whopping 527 TrophyCatch submissions of bass larger than 8 pounds since the program was launched in October 2012!

A total of 441 fish have been entered into the Lunker Club (8-9.99 lb.), 84 into Trophy Club (10-12.99 lb.), and 2 into the Hall of Fame Club (13 pounds or more).

FWC Trophy Catch Logo

TrophyCatch Tracker – TrophyCatch is FWC’s citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger.

Remember, as part of the TrophyCatch program, these big bass have been released, so your trophy still swims in Lake Istokpoga. Largemouth Bass have also been tagged by Biologists on the lake. If you catch a tagged fish, remember to remove the tag and call the number provided. You will need it to collect your $100 reward!

Largemouth bass fishing can be tough during the early months of winter, with cold fronts slowing the fishing on a regular basis. Slow working baits like plastic worms in Junebug and red shad colors and suspending jerkbaits in shad colors can be beneficial during these colder months. Just remember, you must have patience while working these baits.

Live wild shiners typically produce better than artificial baits during this time of year.

Bass will begin to spawn in late January and will be moving into areas in and around bulrush (buggy whips) on the northern shoreline and the submerged vegetation in the channels south of Big Island and Bumblebee Island. Flipping these areas with soft plastics, weightless speed worms, and swimbaits will be the best bet during the spawning season. Fishing for bass between the cold fronts can be very productive.

Use caution when the wind blows on this shallow lake, it can get rough in a hurry! Tight lines!

More details about Lake Istopoga:

Highlands County

Istokpoga

Located five miles northeast of Lake Placid, Highlands County, this 27,692-acre lake has quality fishing for black crappie (specks) and one of the highest largemouth bass catch rates in the state. The best speck fishing occurs during winter months drifting over open water, particularly in the northeast and southwest corners. Predominant aquatic vegetation includes spatterdock (bonnets), bulrush (buggy whips), cattail, and pondweed (peppergrass). Kissimmee grass on the south end is particularly productive when there is flow into the Istokpoga Canal. This canal, located off County Highway 621, provides excellent largemouth bass fishing from the bank when the gates are open. Arbuckle and Josephine Creek mouths are also good areas when there is flow. The island areas and associated grass can hold bass any time of year and the deepest portion of the lake (10 ft) is in the southwest corner. Public boat ramps are located on the north, northeast, and southwest shorelines off of U.S. Route 98, Lake Boulevard off Cow House Road, and Highland Lake Drive off of County Route 621, respectively. There are also six fish camps/resorts on the lake with various accommodations. Anglers can wade fish off of the Cow House Road boat ramp.

For more information contact Henderson’s Fish Camp at 863-465-2101, or Cypress Isle RV Park & Marina at 863-465-5241.

Popular Species

Popular Sport Fish SpeciesFish graphics by Duane Raver, Jr.

More species information is available for:

Largemouth bass, Bluegill, Redear sunfishBlack crappie

FWC Trophy Catch Logo

TrophyCatch Tracker

TrophyCatch is FWC’s citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger. The following TrophyCatch bass have been submitted from Lake Istokpoga:

Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds): 441

Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds): 84

Hall of Fame (13+ pounds): 2

Trolling for Winter Crappie, Grenada Lake Style

  • Pontoon Boat crappie fishing offers spacious fun
  • Grenada Lake crappie are the biggest I have ever seen
  • Secret 20-foot long crappie rods are not imaginative, you should see the net!
Can you imagine fishing from a pontoon boat 24-feet long? The Model 824 Crappie Qwest Pontoon Boat has everything you need for fishing and more.

By Jason Houser

Are you looking for a big crappie? Well, look no further than the lake dubbed, “the home of three-pound crappie.”

Jordan Blair couldn’t be happier.

It might not have three-pound crappie hiding behind every submerged stump, but it holds its fair share of some big slabs. Not accustomed to catching crappie much over 12-inches in my home state of Illinois, the thought of catching trophy crappie was exciting. My wife, nephew, and mother were looking forward to this trip.

Our journey would be to Grenada, Mississippi to meet up with Jason Golding, owner of Grenada Lake Charters, who has decades of experience guiding clients to trophy crappie. Add-in state of the art, roomy, fishing pontoons from Angler Qwest, mouth-watering food and luxurious, yet cozy cabins, we knew we were about to embark on a fishing adventure that we would not soon forget.

Pulling up to the headquarters of Grenada Lake Charters, we found a spacious outdoor kitchen named the “Slab Shack,” it is equipped with all the amenities of a home kitchen, plus a fire pit. What more could you ask for? In no time, ribeye steaks and baked potatoes found the grill top that were soon on our plates along with fresh vegetables and bread. When you thought you had enough to eat, they brought out the homemade ice cream and pie. With full bellies, we planned out the next day’s schedule as we relaxed next to a warm fire. Soon after that, we retired for the night to a spacious “cabin” that I could have easily called home.

A grill full of perfectly-cooked ribeye steaks, does it get any better?

Having the opportunity to catch big crappie is one thing, but being able to do it in comfort is something different. Something else that was different was the act of trolling for crappies. Using 20-foot poles, we slowly maneuvered the pontoon through the stumps until a pole doubled over, raised the rod tip upward until the fish broke the water’s surface and was scooped up by an extra-long net. Admittedly, it took a little while to get used to not reeling when a fish took advantage of our minnows.

My wife, Lotte, holds up a pair of nice crappie caught while fishing with Grenada Lake Charters

Several times we had doubles and even triples. Not only that, but enough times that I lost count, the same angler was pulling in two crappies at once. Thankfully, the Model 824 Crappie Pontoon Boat by Angler Qwest provided enough room that we were able to stay out of each other’s way when things got a little hectic. Even I was able to make easy work of netting the fish. With a whopping 24-feet of pontoon boat length, it was pretty nice not having to trip over each other as we fought fish after fish.

If you have ever wanted to catch your limit of big crappie, Grenada Lake Charters are the people you need to contact They will work hard to get you on the fish. With fully exclusive packages, these trips are great for the entire family, a group of friends, or corporate events.

A warm fire on a cool autumn night was a great way to kick off the start to a great fishing trip with my family.

While this is the first time I had fished out of an Angler Qwest pontoon, I can’t say enough about these boats. I had never given any thought to fishing out of a pontoon, but have quickly become a believer in their many capabilities, even in rough water. With ample seating, plenty of storage, room to easily move about and a smooth ride, these boats are everything you need to fish or swim or picnic.  A great advantage to this boat is that they are built with the fisherman in mind, but they can be used for water skiing, entertaining, or doing absolutely nothing. These options might make it easier to convince your significant other to let you buy a “new pontoon boat for the family” without using the word “for fishing.”

Not only are crappie one of my favorite fish to eat, but the excitement of non-stop action has me already planning my next trip to Grenada Lake. And, after fishing from that Model 824 Crappie Pontoon Boat from Angler Qwest, I am doing a little more thinking about my next boat purchase.

For more info on those secretive 20-foot crappie poles, or to catch some whopper crappie just for the fun of it, give Grenada Lake Charter a holler at www.grenadalakecharters.com.  For more info about the Model 824 Crappie Pontoon Boat and other Angler Qwest Pontoons, visit www.anglerqwestpontoons.com.

The Slab Shack, the perfect outdoor kitchen.

TEKOTA-A, a Reel Winner on my boat

By Mike Schoonveld

When the new braided lines were introduced and became popular with saltwater anglers, reel-makers adapted. They quickly developed new models specifically for the new skinny line. These braid-crankers were scaled down in overall size, fitted with relatively massive drag systems, and engineered with super-high gear ratios. Physical size, strictly to increase line capacity, wasn’t needed. Six-hundred yards of braid will fit on a reel with only a 200 yard capacity for monofilament.

The Tekota-A has a gear ratio of 6.3:1 and picks up roughly 37 inches of line with each reel handle turn.

Just half-filling a reel with braid is a lousy option. A reel with a full spool of line may wind on 24 inches of line with each turn of the handle. The same reel with only a half-filled spool will wind on only 12 inches per handle revolution.

By the same token, a tough fighting fish pulling line off a reel at 10 feet per second, spins the spool against the drag mechanism twice as fast with a half-filled reel. A drag system that may handle 100 rpm’s may fail completely at 200.

Reels for the Great Lakes market didn’t adapt. Though the use of braid (or equally skinny wireline) has increased, almost all the braid and wireline guys continued to use the same reels they formerly spooled with mono. To make it work, they wound on enough mono to nearly fill the reel’s spool, then topped off the spool with braid or wire. The line under the braid or wire on top was filler used solely to insure a reasonable amount of line was retrieved with each turn of the handle and to make the drag work efficiently.

Anglers can work big fish or retrieve lengthy line sets back to the boat with greater comfort, less effort, which makes fishing more fun for everybody.

I don’t know if Shimano’s newly designed Tekota-A models are designed to specifically to bridge the gap between braid and mono, but they do, and quite nicely. Shimano Tekotas (the original model) are, in the opinion of many, the best Great Lakes trolling reel ever made. I have Shimano Tekotas on my boat, I’ve fished with them on other boats and have nary a complaint about them. So why change to the Takota-A?

The change isn’t just cosmetic between the old and new versions. Available (at this writing) in 500 and 600 sizes with the same line capacity as the “non-A” Tekota 500 and 600, that’s where the comparison ends. The originals had a gear ratio of 4.2:1. The “A-Team” has a gear ratio of 6.3:1. (Rough math comparison, with full spools, the A model winds on 37 inches of line, the original will retrieve 25 inches with each handle revolution.)

The drag on the original Tekota’s maxed out at 18 pounds; the Tekota-A torques down to 24 pounds. The increased power means the drag will perform better, more smooth, more reliable, no matter how tight it is set, no matter how full the spool.

My test reels (Tekota 500A’s in the line-counter version) have performed flawlessly for two seasons now. I spooled one with a 30-pound braided line, the other with 40-pound 19-Strand Torpedo Wire. I needed a bit of monofilament backing to bring 500 feet of wire and 200 yards of the braid to reach “full spool.” The reels were mounted on diver rods and used for diver trolling.

I formerly used Tekota 600’s for trolling divers with the same amount of braid or wire but needed more mono backing under the top to fill the reel to the right level. I needed the full spool diameter to give me an adequate line retrieval per crank. The high gear ratio on the Tekota A more than made up for the smaller diameter spool on the smaller 500-size reel. In use, the smaller 500A is noticeably lighter, the drag holds nicely against the pressure on the troll and slips smoothly when a big fish hits the lure. I ran each diver, at times, with as much as 200 feet of line out. I really appreciated the high speed retrieve when reeling in just the diver and lure – no fish – on the longer line sets.

Tekota lovers, if you are buying another reel, the Tekota-A are as good or better than the original Tekota’s, the “better” means you can easily get by with the smaller 500A if the line capacity suits your needs. There’s a reason the Shimano Tekota-A reels won Best of Show at the 2018 ICAST event and has been a winner on my boat for the past two seasons.

Adventures in the LAND of CHAUTAUQUA MUSKY…and Bass

Here is one nice musky I caught while fishing for smallmouth bass in Chautauqua Lake, what a nice surprise! Not that uncommon. Susan Creason Photo

By Rich Creason

My better half, Susie, and I have enjoyed numerous trips to the land of Chautauqua, an area located in the far western end of New York State, and about eight hours from our home in central Indiana. To get there, we leave home around five in the morning and arrive at our destination with time for an afternoon of fun to start our visit.

Chautauqua County in New York has a lot to offer anyone interested in the outdoors. Our favorite spot is Chautauqua Lake. It is 13,000 acres, being 17 miles long and about two miles wide with a depth of 78 feet. We have fished it on numerous occasions catching many panfish, walleye, smallmouth bass, and one musky. On one trip, we were fishing for musky. The weather wasn’t cooperating, being cold and windy, so we cut our fishing short. As always, I had a backup plan. We got our metal detectors out of the truck and spent several hours on the beach digging bottle caps, pull-tabs, and coins. No jewelry, but we will look again on our next trip.

One of many great smallmouths we caught while fishing Chautauqua Lake.

On another trip with a group of outdoor writers, I was fishing for smallmouth and we were using light tackle rigged with a four-pound test line. I was dragging some kind of rubber worm and had caught a dozen or so bass, all in the four to five-pound range. I had another hit and started reeling. I told the guide I had a good one on, maybe six or seven pounds.

With the light tackle, I had to be careful. When I finally got the fish to the boat, we looked down and it was a large musky. He saw the boat and immediately took off, taking most of my line with him. I slowly worked him (or her) back again, and the fish once again took off after seeing the boat.

On the 5th time, the fish was tiring and the guide grabbed the net. Unfortunately, the net was a small, one-handed thing, suitable for bass. He tried to net the musky, but only half would go in and the fish slipped out and ran again. The 6th time was a repeat. The fished slipped the net and slowly swam away. Finally, on the 7th return to the boat-side, the guide placed the net under the fish and flipped him in the boat.

Immediately, the lure flew out of his mouth. The guide said he saw the hook just barely in his mouth on the 4th or 5th visit to the boat, and he knew I would lose him if I tried to horse him to the boat. Fortunately, I have been catching muskies for over 40 years and have had some practice. Our guide picked up a measuring stick that was only 16 inches long and normally used for bass. I reached in my pocket, where I always carry a 39-inch tiny tape measure and got it out. That wasn’t long enough. The fish was 41 and a half inches — no way to weigh him.

My better half, Susie, as we enjoyed hiking through Panama Rocks

That same morning on Chautauqua Lake, two other writers caught muskies, both over 40 inches. One was fishing from a Hobie kayak, and a nearby pontoon came over and netted the fish for him. We all took pictures and released them. The musky season was not open yet.

On another trip to Chautauqua County, we were fishing the eastern end of Lake Erie, near Buffalo. The weather was expected to go downhill in a few hours, so the guide didn’t take us very far into the lake, but we immediately started catching some fine smallmouth bass. All were over four pounds. We could look west and see a storm heading our way, so the guide moved the boat back closer to shore. We continued fishing, catching, and moving closer toward shore. We finally decided to head in before the storm arrived. That was the best smallmouth fishing day I had ever had, even though it was a short one.

Many tributaries are available for fishing in Chautauqua County. Autumn and winter steelhead are numerous and are great fun to catch.

While I haven’t done any hunting in the county yet, turkey, deer, and bear are plentiful. Archery season for deer and bear is open there in October and runs through December, and while I am a bowhunter (for black bear), I won’t be able to go this year.

If you have extra time while after fishing or hunting, Chautauqua County has many attractions to help fill your visit. We have hiked Panama Rocks, a scenic park with million-year-old rocks that are 60 feet high, with trails running through them. This park is only 15 minutes from Chautauqua Lake. For more details, go to www.panamarocks.com.

We also spent a few days at Peek and Peak Mountain Adventures. This resort offers a treetop course with 69 obstacles, including cargo nets, ladders, ziplines (one 1400 feet long!), and eight different difficulty levels. Segway trails snake through the woods with instruction provided before heading out. Great amenities including pool, spa, and outstanding lodging can be found here and at www.pknpk.com.

Peek and Peak Resort Hotel Resort offers comfort and access to the adventure of the Chautauqua Outdoors, including zip-lines, enjoyable for all ages in many ways.

Double D.A.B. Riding Stables (www.doubledab.com) has been in business since 1982, local wineries and breweries attract many visitors, and roadside stands offer grapes from nearby vineyards in season. If you visit the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau website at www.tourchautauqua.com, you can find much more information about where to go and what to see.

The author may be reached at eyewrite4u@aol.com.

New Mepps Fish Killer: the Mepps Comet COMBO

  • Two Iconic Mepps Lures combine to become new deadly fish-catchin’ lure
  • 15 fish-catchin’ colors in Comet Sizes #1-#4
  • Mepps Comet Combos come packaged with 3 unrigged Mister Twister Curly Tails

By Nik Kolbeck

The Mepps Comet Combo combines the legendary Mepps spinner with the original Mister Twister Curly Tail Grub.

Mepps Comet Combos come packaged with 3 unrigged Mister Twister Curly Tails.

It’s perfect for hooking up with everything from trophy largemouth bass and northern pike to panfish and crappie.

The Comet Combo blade spins close to the body, which allows the spinner to easily fish the shallow to mid-depth areas on top of those tight areas above weeds and cover.

Rigged on a Mister Twister Keeper™ Hook, the Curly Tail Grub is weedless when you pitch it into the pads and walk it over logs, rocks, or any other submerged cover.

Comet Combos are available in 15 fish-catchin’ colors and come in sizes #1-#4.

To receive a current Mepps Master Catalog featuring the entire line-up of Mepps products, either visit our web site or call 800-637-7700. Mepps, 626 Center St., Antigo, WI 54409-2496

Sheldons’, Inc. • 626 Center St., Antigo, WI 54409 • Phone: 800-637-7700

Milwaukee’s Hidden Ice-Fishing Gem

  • Fun to catch fish through the ice in a new way: “FISH ON!”
  • Ever use the ice as a live well? Learn why. Catch, Care, Release.
  • Walking (running) on the ice to a raised Flag…an Adventure!
Bait down, lines, set, it wasn’t a long wait for a flag to rise, indicating a fish.

By Jason Houser

When you think of ice fishing for big trout, the last place you probably expect to drop a line in Milwaukee.  If you haven’t experienced fishing with the Milwaukee skyline as a backdrop, you are missing out.

Getting the call from Pat Kalmerton, owner of Wolf Pack Adventures, stating he had a cancellation for a couple of days was all I needed to hear. I dropped what I was doing and pointed the truck north from my home in southern Illinois. My wife Lotte was quick to start packing, and my nephew Jordan Blair quickly jumped on board too.

Arriving in Wisconsin, the cold temperatures and snow on the ground screamed ice fishing.  It was a restless night as we anticipated with hope what the following day would bring.

Jordan Blair holds a nice trout before releasing it.

Winding our way through the streets of Milwaukee, we could only hope our GPS was taking us to where we were supposed to be.  After a few stoplights, we spotted waves bashing against a rock wall.  Then there it was, the marina had ice, and ice shanties were visible in the distance.

Roe from previously caught and released fish tied in colored mesh cloth was the bait of choice.

Parking the truck, we made the short walk to the Wolf Pack crew that already had their Frabill shacks in place, and the heaters were putting out enough heat to stay comfortable from the brutal elements outside.  Tip-ups belonging to numerous anglers dotted the ice, all with the hopes of a flag-waving proudly to signal a bite in the near future.

With an explanation from Tyler Chisholm, Jordan Bradley, and Jerrad Kalmerton what to expect throughout the morning, we went to face Mother Nature to get our rigs baited.  Our bait was going to be one of two things: shrimp or eggs that were milked from previously caught and released trout.

Having our bait lowered to the proper depth, it was just a matter of waiting.  If you like to toss a football, there is no better time to do it than when you are waiting for a tip-up to spring to life. Or, maybe grilling a burger on a portable grill better suits your taste.  Within 30 minutes, shouts of “FISH ON” came from our guides.

As they ran to the flag, we southerners gingerly made our way to the hole.  Not wanting to lose the fish, they set the hook on a fish as they patiently waited for our safe arrival.  I’m sure a few jokes were made on our behalf, but at least we didn’t fall.

My nephew Jordan was first up to bat.  Having never ice fished before, he was anxious to pull a fish through the ice.  Jerrad and Tyler did a great job coaching him as he worked the big trout to the surface.  When they realized Jordan was a little too forceful with the fish, they got him to calm down.  After a few minutes of reeling and lifting, a glimmer of silver showed right below the hole in the ice.

A makeshift Livewell was chiseled into the ice.

It was easy to realize that this was a nice trout.  Within seconds, a nice Brown Trout emerged from the hole.  The fish was quickly taken to a live well that had been chiseled into the ice.  This would be done to allow us to get the fish in water and prevent the fins from freezing, a critical practice for catch and release intentions.  Then, it was a simple task to take some fun photos of the fish, as time allowed, before releasing it back into the chilly depths of the big lake.

The action continued for the next couple hours as we caught brown trout and steelhead.  By noon, we were ready to pull our lines to get someplace that was a little warmer.  The shack was heated, but with all the action we were having throughout the morning, a seemingly permanent chill invaded our bodies.  Our hands received the brute of the punishment from wanting to get first-hand instruction on baiting the hooks and holding big chilly fish.

Throughout the course of the day, we were able to witness eggs being harvested from big trout and then releasing the fish to be caught again sometime in the future. This practice is something I have never seen or even heard of before, but it is special. It is a sustainability practice. The care that was taken with the fish to ensure survival was something I will never forget. It was a great reminder that fishing isn’t about filling the freezer, but about enjoying the catch, keeping enough for a meal, and releasing the rest.

Wolf Pack Adventures is based out of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and offers ice fishing for other species, including whitefish, walleye, panfish, and more.  Fishing out of one of their many boats from spring through fall is another option for anglers looking to land walleye, trout, salmon, musky, and more.  And, if turkey hunting suits your fancy, they do that too.

With the City of Milwaukee in the background, the fishing was exceptional.

Fall Fishing for Bass, TIPs from the PROs

  • Fishing in the fall for bass provides primal competition to meet with nature and the biggest fish
  • Baits that trigger a strike are hard to find, but there is one key thing to know, read on
  • Lure balance, hook point quality, color, rate of wobble and wiggle, all are key

LIVETARGET David Walker Signature Tennessee Craw

By Forrest Fisher

Like it or not, winter weather is coming and for bass anglers in the know, that’s a good thing. The fish, all species really, stock up on protein and feed heavily right before the coldest weather arrives. One of my best friends, Russ Johnson, now a 90-year old student of precision speed trolling, offers key advice to catch the biggest fall bass. When the water temp hit the low 50s, he would dust off the frost on his boat and head for the lake with crankbaits that were perfectly tuned. His method? Speed troll them over sharp dropoffs to intimidate bass into striking, and it wasn’t just a strike, it was a SLAM-BAM-GOTCHA. A mega-strike. Big fish hit like that. It seems they wanna stop the boat and head the other way.

Running four lines, two on each side of the boat, one trailing 120 feet back, the other 145 feet back, and using lures that were designed to be crankbait hardware, he would achieve diving depths of 2.5X their rated profile. Lures that were advertised as “dives to 12 feet” would hit bottom in 30 feet or so. The new braided lines with their thin diameter make his method even more effective. The precision manufacture of LIVETARGET lures seem to gain even more than 2.5X when perfectly balanced and trolled. This makes the LIVETARGET lure even more effective for fall bass like no other method I know, but also makes them a “best lure choice” for daytime fall walleye that are also on the binge feed.

Johnson knew that fall weather can spread the bass out in many waterways, but in the Great Lakes, specifically Lake Erie, he would focus on structure dominant points to find schools of bass segregated by size. Some schools were comprised of 2-pounders, then 4-pounders, and so on. One day we caught limits of bass whoppers that all exceeded 5 pounds. These were smallmouth bass. While doing a video with In-Fisherman TV, Ron Lindner had shared with us that bass are domiciled to their home range on shoals and underwater structure, so we always released these big fish to live and spawn another day. Some of our whoppers some went over 6-pounds.  His favorite fall-time lure color? Tennessee Craw red or orange.

Johnson can get lures like the LIVETARGET Magnum Shad Baitball Crankbait, the 3-1/2 inch model, to hit bottom in 42 feet! He is a master lure tuner. I did not mention his trolling speed, but he is trolling quite fast, in fact beyond your imagination if you are a troller. That detail will remain his secret, but it one other reason why the lure tuning has to be perfect.  Most folks fishing the Seneca Shoal area near Hamburg, NY in eastern basin Lake Erie think he is leaving the area. It’s that fast. 

Other expert anglers know other methods that work well in fall too. Noted professional angler Stephen Browning, a seasoned veteran of the FLW Tour, MLF, and the Bassmaster Elite Series, has amassed similar knowledge of late-season bass behavior that can up any angler’s game right now. Aside from decades of experience on tournament trails, Browning’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management hasn’t hurt his ability to pick apart various waters and he has advice to share.

LIVETARGET bass pro, Stephen Browning

The first tip? Cover lots of water. And for Browning, that means crankbaits.

“For me, fall is all about chunk and winding and covering water, whether that’s main lake stuff or hitting the back of pockets, coves, and creeks. Crankbaits are definitely key in fall and into early winter,” says Browning.

For Browning, the biggest factor for finding fall bass to crank is water temperature. “I’m trying to search out water temperatures that are 70 degrees or less, because experience proves that’s the point at which fish get fired up for a super fall bite.”

Winning in the Wind

Secondly, he’s monitoring the wind. “Besides cooler water, I’m looking for spots where the wind is blowing a little bit. There’s still a lot of fish out on the main lake and not necessarily deep into the pockets. So, I’m going to look at the wind—see where it’s hitting the banks the best. Bass will utilize the wind to kind of break things up. You can burn down a pea gravel bank or a chunk rock bank and still have the ability to catch fish. And they aren’t always target oriented. In my opinion, they don’t like to hold tight to cover when the wind’s blowing, because it’s going to beat them around. So, I think they do more roaming in the wind—if it’s windy I’m going to chunk and wind,” says Browning.

LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt

For such windy scenarios and main lake fishing, Browning turns to the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt suspending jerkbait—specifically the RS91S, which is 3-5/8 inches long and dives three to four feet, typically in the (201) Silver/Blue pattern, although Browning has been experimenting with the host of new colors LIVETARGET now offers in this highly effective bait.

“It’s kind of a shallower-diving jerkbait, which I utilize for cranking points, rock outcrops, rip-rap, etc. when the wind is blowing. When fishing it, I’m looking for a little bit of visibility… not a lot of stain. I fish it a lot in main lake and main creek areas using the wind and water clarity as kind of a one-two punch. It’s definitely a go-to bait for these situations,” offers Browning.

Browning throws the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt on a 6’8” medium-heavy St. Croix Legend X casting rod, Lew’s 7.5:1 Pro TI baitcasting reel, and 10-pound Gamma fluorocarbon.

Another bait Browning utilizes for windy main lake and main creek scenarios is the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw. “It has a very aggressive action and deflects off of cover, so I can utilize it on steeper rocky banks and really cover a lot of water. In terms of color, it depends on the water clarity and temperature. If the water is stained, a lot of times I’ll use LIVETARGET’s Red (362) or Copper Root Beer (361). The latter has a really nice copper hue to it and kind of a whitish-style belly.

When the water temperature plummets into the 50s, Browning also reaches for the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw, especially in the Red (362) and Copper Root Beer (361) colors. “The HFC has an aggressive action but is not overpowering. It was designed to randomly dart left and right, mimicking a fleeing craw. In late fall when the water gets really cold it can be a fantastic bait for target fishing for the resident fish that live in the very back ends of creeks and pockets.”

LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-for-Center) Craw

Water Clarity and Target Cranking

Browning’s advice for those days when there isn’t much wind is to monitor water clarity. “On calmer days water clarity is a big factor. I’m going to go and try to find some stained water someplace within the fishery. The biggest thing about stained water is fish don’t tend to roam as much on you, and they’re going to be more target related—an outcrop of rocks, a laydown, a series of stumps, etc. that will give those fish a place to ambush their prey.”

On those calmer days, Browning will vacate the main lake and main creek areas he fishes when windy and concentrate on the back third of pockets where they have a tendency to flatten out. There, he looks for isolated cover.

 

“I’m looking for that isolated stump, maybe a log, lay-downs, isolated grass patches, or a lot of times people will put out crappie stakes. Especially when the water’s low, bass will utilize crappie stakes. One of the baits I like for target fishing in the back of pockets is the LIVETARGET David Walker Signature Tennessee Craw. I’ll crank it on 12- or 14-pound fluorocarbon and only get it down to six feet so I can bang it around, which is key to getting good target bites. I’ll make multiple casts to the isolated cover from various angles giving the fish the most opportunities to ambush my presentation. That’s really key—working cover from multiple angles and making sure you spend ample time on each spot,” offers Browning.

LIVETARGET Sunfish Crankbait

When target fishing, Browning is also a fan of the shallow-diving LIVETARGET Sunfish Crankbait—specifically the BG57M (bluegill pattern) and PS57M (pumpkinseed pattern). “The Sunfish Crankbait has a rounded bill, so it has a nice, tight wiggle to it. For me, especially when the water temperature gets cooler, it becomes another go-to bait for target fishing. I think it kind of gets overlooked by anglers who tend to concentrate on shad patterns, but bluegills are a major forage source in fall and year ‘round that bass will really home in on.”

Water clarity dictates whether Browning will choose the Pumpkinseed or Bluegill pattern, as well as the choice between LIVETARGET’s available matte and gloss finishes. “I use the Bluegill if the water is a bit clearer and the brighter Pumpkinseed in stained water. I like using the gloss finish if the sky is cloudy and the matte finish if it’s sunny. So, you’ve got two different colors and two different finishes for a variety of fishing situations.”

In terms of equipment for cranking the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw, David Walker Tennessee Craw, or Sunfish Crankbait, he sticks to the same set-up of a St. Croix 7’4” medium-heavy, moderate action Legend Glass rod, a Lew’s Custom Pro baitcasting reel with 8:1 gear ratio and either 12- or 14-pound Gamma Fluorocarbon line. “If I’m concentrating on shallow areas, I’m going to use the heavier line – but if I need the bait to get down six feet or more, I’m going to use the 12-pound line,” Browning adds.

Topwaters Too

When targeting the backs of pockets and creeks with grass, Browning urges anglers not to overlook the efficacy of employing a chunk-and-wind topwater routine.

“The LIVETARGET Commotion Shad is a hollow-body shad style topwater bait that has a Colorado blade on the back end. It’s a real player in the kind of broken-up grass you find way back in pocket flats. During the fall, adding this bait to the chunk-and-wind crankbait program can really pay off. It comes in a couple of sizes, but I like the 3-½ inch in Pearl Ghost (154) and Pearl Blue Shad (158). The spinner makes a gurgling sound when you retrieve it like you would a hollow body frog, and it’s great for working over grassy areas,” offers Browning.

LIVETARGET Commotion Shad

For gear, Browning throws the Commotion Shad on a 7’6” medium-heavy, moderate action St. Croix Legend X with a Lew’s Tournament reel geared 8.3:1, and 50-pound Gamma Torque braided line.

Parting Advice

While monitoring water temperature, wind conditions, water clarity, and the amount of visible sunlight are all huge factors for finding fall bass in main lakes and creeks as well as pockets and coves, Browning suggests anglers stay tuned to another of nature’s cues: bird behavior.

“Watch for the migration of shad, which have the tendency to move to the very back ends of the pockets in fall, but also know, as mentioned, that bass are feeding on bluegills and craws in lots of other locations. You can really eliminate a lot of water and fish more productively by keying in on bird behavior. They’re going to tell you where the baitfish are. Could be a Blue Heron sitting on the bank eating bluegills or picking around on crawfish, gulls, or all sorts of other birds either on the main lake or back farther in coves. Really pay attention to where the birds are. It’s definitely one of the small details that gets overlooked by a lot of anglers.”

Niagara Musky’s CHOMPING-UP Angler Lures

Gary Laidman of South Wales caught this 48-inch musky this week in the upper Niagara River fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island.

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing – Walleye, Brown Trout, Musky, Carp, Lake Trout, WOW
  • Destination Niagara USA is a vacation destination for fall fishing
  • One angler caught 4 Musky on the same trip!
  • Story includes Fishing Forecast for week of Oct. 30, 2019
Dan Ettipio of Clarence with a 40-inch Upper Niagara River fish he caught this week fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island.

Will it be a trick or treat for area fishing this week?

High winds over the weekend created turbid conditions for drifters and casters.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a NYPA platform carp caught on eggs.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls found some decent success off the NYPA fishing platform despite 2 feet of visibility, using eggs to take steelhead and carp; colorful jigs to take salmon and walleye over the weekend. There have been a few high water issues on the NYPA platform so be aware of that.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a lower river walleye caught on a jig off the NYPA platform.

Some fish are available along Artpark from shore, both steelhead and browns. Lake trout are also being caught, but lake trout season is closed. Spinners and eggs or egg imitations like beads are catching primarily trout. Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports bass are cooperating by Fort Niagara and big walleyes have been hitting along Artpark and Stella, as well as up in Devil’s Hole.

Ricardo Davila of Wheatfield with a lower Niagara River brown trout last week.

The water was clearing, but the next big wind event is set for the end of the week and will impact water conditions in the river. This could rile the water up again and affect the Niagara Musky Association’s Tim Wittek Memorial Tournament set for Sunday, Nov. 3. Musky action has been good in the upper river.

Jeff Pritchard of Lockport shows off a big musky, one of 4 he caught in the upper Niagara River, fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island on Saturday. He was drifting large shiners.

Jeff Pritchard from the Lockport area was fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island last Saturday and caught four muskies in one trip bottom bouncing with large shiners. That is an incredible day.

Ricardo Davila of Wheatfield with a lower Niagara River steelhead from last week.

Many of the tributaries flowing into Lake Ontario are murky, making for some tougher fishing. However, Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctor in Olcott reports that fish are being caught in places like 18 Mile Creek with egg sacs and beads at the top of the list for fish-catching. Reports of a fresh run of salmon moving into the creek were substantiated on Tuesday by Evarts and things were hopping at Fisherman’s Park where Burt Dam is located. Some days are better than others, though.

Lisa Cicciarelli of Lockport holds up her first-ever lake trout before it was released in the lower Niagara River. She was fishing with Capt. Arnie Jonathan of Lockport.

A few fish are being caught off the piers casting spoons, spinners or fishing eggs under a float. 12 Mile Creek (Olcott) was muddy, but as water levels drop and conditions clear, there should be some fish available.

There will be a special meeting with DEC to discuss the status of the Lake Ontario forage base on Nov. 13 at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara, 4487 Lake Avenue, Lockport starting at 6:30 p.m.

If you can’t make it, there will be an online presentative (or you can call in) on Nov. 14.

Check the DEC website out for more information at www.dec.ny.gov.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director
Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Florida Fun-to-Fish Programs Abound! Prizes and Awards too!

Allison Stattner is alady angler extraordinaire, the only anlger to land 50 saltwater fish species in this program.

In a fun-to-fish program designed for young and old, the Florida Saltwater Fish Life List consists of 70 species of saltwater fish. To participate, an angler must abide by the general FWC Saltwater Angler Recognition Program rules (see “General Angling Rules”).  The fish pictures shown here include photo’s of Allison Stattner, a lady angler known locally in Florida as “Reel Love,” the only member of the “50-FIsh Club” in Florida, quite an accomplishment!

Allison Stattner with a nice grouper to add to her Florida Saltwater Life List.

All Life List catches are eligible as long as they can be documented and have been caught in accordance with FWC rules. Anglers do not have to harvest their fish to be eligible and are encouraged to release catches alive.

All harvest of fish must comply with current regulations, available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing or by calling 850-487-0554. The Florida Saltwater Fish Life List publication lists the 70 species included in the program and allows anglers to record the species, date, size, and location of Life List fish caught.

Print your own Saltwater Fish Life List or request a printed Life List.

70 Species Included in the Saltwater Fish Life List Program

African pompano Bonefish Great barracuda Queen snapper Spanish mackerel
Almaco jack Bonnethead shark Greater amberjack Red drum Spinner shark
Atlantic sharpnose Bull shark Gulf flounder Red grouper Spotted seatrout
Banded rudderfish Cero Gulf kingfish (whiting) Red porgy Swordfish
Black drum Cobia Hardhead catfish Red snapper Tarpon
Black grouper Crevalle jack Hogfish Sailfish Tripletail
Black sea bass Cubera snapper Horse-eye jack Scamp Vermilion snapper
Blackfin snapper Dog snapper King mackerel Schoolmaster Wahoo
Blackfin tuna Dolphinfish Ladyfish Sheepshead Warsaw grouper
Blacknose shark Florida pompano Lane snapper Shortfin mako Weakfish
Blacktip shark Gafftopsail catfish Lesser amberjack Silk snapper White grunt
Blue marlin Gag Little tunny Snook White marlin
Blue runner Gray (mangrove) snapper Mutton snapper Southern flounder Yellowfin tuna
Bluefish Gray triggerfish Permit Southern kingfish (whiting) Yellowtail snapper

Saltwater Fish Life List Club Categories

  • 10 Fish Club: 10 total different Life List species caught to date
  • 30 Fish Club: 30 total different Life List species caught to date
  • 50 Fish Club: 50 total different Life List species caught to date
  • 70 Fish Club – Life List Master Angler: All 70 total Life List species caught to date

Submission Requirements for Life List Clubs

  • Photographs of the angler with each fish are required and may be used in various FWC publications as well as on MyFWC.com. Fish photographed should be supported horizontally using wet hands with no fingers in the fish’s gils or eyes. If not held, fish should be photographed in a rubber-coated, knotless landing net rather than lying on a dock, cooler or boat deck. Large fish should not be removed from the water or boated, as this can injure the fish.
  • Submissions that are incomplete or fail to provide full documentation of species required will result in disqualification.

Prizes for Saltwater Fish Life List Club Anglers

  • Each time an angler submits a valid application for a Saltwater Life List Fish Club, they will receive a certificate of accomplishment, various prizes, FWC saltwater publications and will become a member of the corresponding Life List Fish Club. Successful participants will also receive one raffle entry for each verified submission to the program.
  • To be eligible for prizes, anglers must comply with all rules for Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs and the Saltwater Fish Life List Program. Prizes typically arrive 4 to 8 weeks after approval (not submittal). All prizes are awarded pending availability. FWC reserves the right to deny any application for the Saltwater Fish Life List Program and to change recognition prizes at any time without notice.

Fishing with Johnnie Candle, Fishing Rods that Catch Fish

  • Fishing rod guides bend and don’t break
  • Hi-modulus sensitivity rod blanks from Scheel’s allowed for detecting the lightest of strikes
  • “Smart Boat” technics from Humminbird for total position control to target hotspots 

By Forrest Fisher

Walleye fishing legend, Johnnie Candle, suggested that we look at mid-river shoals on the Mississippi River near La Crosse, Wisconsin, and search the area with his new Humminbird sonar. We utilized the map to find such locations and he’s a walleye guy at heart, so we set up our rods accordingly.

In his Lund 21-foot, 10-inch fishing boat with a 350Hp Mercury Verado main-kicker, we arrived at our fishing destination in a few minutes. The ride was smooth as silk.

The Humminbird Helix 12 sonar (https://humminbird.johnsonoutdoors.com/fish-finders/helix/helix-12-chirp-mega-si-gps-g3n) showed “hooks” indicating lots of fish all around the edges of this 21-27 foot soft-bottom/gravel shoal area.

The Humminbird Helix allows the angler to mark the fish, then hit return to go back over the fish with the electric MinnKota motor.

Using a very sensitive Scheel’s “One Limited” medium-action fishing rod, the 6-foot,9-inch version, rigged with a Scheel’s 2500 series reel and 10-pound test Ultra -8 Fireline, we tied on vertical vibrating baits (Sonar, ¼ oz), Strike King Swim Tail Shiner jigs (1/4 oz) and Berkley power minnows(1/16 oz jig head/2-inch tail) to catch five species of fish in the next two hours of peaceful fishing fun (https://www.scheels.com/p/scheels-outfitters-one-limited-edition-spinning-rod/3340-ONEB.html). True relaxing fun.

Lots of Young-of-the-Year saugers that will eat a 4-inch Strike King jig show the fishing future looks bright here in La Crosse.

We released them all, including sauger, crappie, yellow perch, sheepshead, and largemouth bass. La Crosse, what a great place to fish! Mid-day, bright sun, clear sky, catching fish because we could find them with the right sonar and could sense their light bites with the right rod and line.

Yet, just a very short time ago, we had no clue what to fish for and where to go. We launched at the Black River Beach boat launch (https://www.explorelacrosse.com/), there was a $5 launch fee for non-residents. Look for the semi-hidden boat launch envelope station and be sure to use it, to avoid a $20 parking ticket. Don’t ask how I know.

Using the right gear makes for fun fishing in Wisconsin…and everywhere else.

For more about La Crosse, Wisconsin, visit https://www.explorelacrosse.com/.

 

 

 

 

Fall recreational red snapper season in Gulf starts this weekend

The red snapper season for private recreational anglers and state for-hire operations in the Gulf of Mexico will be open on the following Saturdays and Sundays: Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27.

Private recreational anglers may harvest red snapper in Gulf state and federal waters. However, state for-hire operations are limited to fishing for red snapper in Gulf state waters only.

These additional days would not be possible without the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. The Gulf Reef Fish Survey was developed specifically to provide more robust data for the management of red snapper and other important reef fish and has allowed FWC the unprecedented opportunity to manage Gulf red snapper in state and federal waters.

Planning to participate in the fall season? Don’t forget to continue the success of the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. All anglers fishing from private recreational vessels must sign up as Gulf Reef Fish Angler to target red snapper and several other reef fish in Gulf state and federal waters (excluding Monroe County), even if they are exempt from fishing license requirements. Sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler at no cost at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or by visiting any location you can purchase a license.

Gulf Reef Fish Anglers may receive a questionnaire in the mail regarding their reef fish trips as part of Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey. If you receive a survey, please respond whether you fished this season or not or whether you’ve submitted data via other methods such as the iAngler app mention below.

Anglers can also share catch information with FWC electronically using the Angler Action Foundation’s iAngler smartphone app. This app is available on your phone’s app store by searching for iAngler Gulf Red Snapper for private anglers or iAngler Gulf Red Snapper Charter if you are a charter operation. By using iAngler to log catches during the red snapper season and beyond, anglers can provide FWC researchers with valuable insights about their trips.

State for-hire operations must have State Gulf Reef Fish Charter on their license to target red snapper and other reef fish in Gulf state waters (excluding Monroe County). This can be done at no cost at a local tax collector’s office.

To learn more about the recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including season size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers,” which is under the “Regulations by Species – Reef Fish” tab.

The federal season for for-hire operations with federal reef fish permits was June 1 through Aug. 1.

 

On Lake Tenkiller, Australian Pro Jocumsen Scores Bassmaster Elite Series Victory

  • Used Humminbird 360, side imaging and mapping to break down fish-holding spots in lake
  • Caught his bass on a 3/4-ounce Molix football jig w/green pumpkin Strike King Rage Craw trailer
  • The win earns Jocumsen $100,000 cash
Queensland, Australia native Carl Jocumsen won the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah Bassmaster Elite at Lake Tenkiller with a total of 54 pounds, 15 ounces. Photo by Seigo Saito/B.A.S.S.

It was relentless determination and commitment to his game plan that paid off big for Carl Jocumsen, who turned in a catch of 19 pounds, 12 ounces on Championship Sunday (Sep. 22, 2019) to score a career-defining victory at the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah Bassmaster Elite at Lake Tenkiller in Tahlequah, OK.

His 4-day total weight of 54-15 was worth $100,000 and made a nice birthday gift for the Queensland, Australia angler, who turned 35 Sunday.

Jocumsen said his first Elite win — which is also the first by an Aussie — has been a lifelong dream.

“Since I was four years old, I’ve loved fishing and I’ve dreamed of the day I would do this,” Jocumsen said. “Today is that day. This is a lifetime of work; a lifetime of passion and love for this sport with every ounce of my body.”

Yesterday, after placing third and trailing leader Kyle Monti by 4-8, Jocumsen boldly stated that he believed he was on the fish to win. He predicted he needed five keepers to have a legitimate shot, and he blew away that expectation with a limit of 19-12 that ranked as the tournament’s heaviest single-day catch.

Jocumsen’s winning program stood out from much of the field, in that he committed his tournament to fishing offshore. Relying heavily on his electronics to break down the lake and identify the most promising spots, he targeted six different offshore drop-offs with brush and other cover.

Day 3 revealed a particularly productive piece of cover that delivered his final-round magic.

“I used my Humminbird 360, side imaging and mapping to break down this lake in two and a half days. I stayed out here from daylight until dark,” Jocumsen said. “Yesterday afternoon, I found this one tree off this island. It was late in the day and I caught one keeper. But I said, ‘I want to hit this early on the final day to see if they’re biting.’”

His intuition was spot-on, and Jocumsen experienced a phenomenal morning that saw him catch four quality largemouth by 8:30, including three in the span of approximately seven minutes. Jocumsen would suffer through a long dry spell before completing his five-fish limit, but the 4-pound smallmouth that sealed his fate gave Bassmaster LIVE viewers a look at pure bass fishing emotion.

“I’ve waited my life to catch that fish,” said a visibly emotional Jocumsen. “I had gone three hours without a bite and I said, ‘It can’t go down this way. I have to finish it.’ When I caught that smallmouth, the weight of the world came off my shoulders.”

Adding a 5-pound largemouth late in the day increased Jocumsen’s total and gave him a 3-pound, 10-ounce margin of victory.

Jocumsen, who will marry fiancee Kayla Palaniuk in two weeks, caught all of his bass on a 3/4-ounce Molix football jig with a green pumpkin Strike King Rage Craw trailer. He made a couple of brief visits to fish the bank, mostly to let his offshore sites rest, but did all of his heavy lifting offshore.

In second, Day 2 leader Chris Zaldain of Fort Worth, Texas, switched tactics Sunday and caught a limit of 14-7 to finish with 51-5. After focusing mostly on running shallow points for smallmouth the first three days, Zaldain spent the first half of the final day throwing a 1/2-ounce Santone wobblehead jig with a green pumpkin creature bait trailer.

“I caught two 16-inch-plus largemouth in the morning, and that kind of relaxed me to go fish all new water and search out those smallmouth,” he said.

Zaldain added three smallmouth to his final bag. He caught those with a Megabass Spark Shad swimbait on a 1/8-ounce Megabass Okashira Screw Head.

Cory Johnston of Cavan, Cananda, finished third with 48-6. For the first three days, he spent most of his time working covered boat docks with jigging spoons and a Neko rig. But today’s conditions kept the fish from positioning in predictable spots, so Johnston switched to his backup pattern.

“With the cloudy skies, the fish didn’t position on the boat slips like I needed them to, so I ended up cranking rock banks with squarebills,” Johnston said. “I caught one in a boat slip on the Neko rig and the rest came on squarebills.”

In the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Race, Scott Canterbury took the lead with 761 points. Canterbury finished 19th this week, but maintained a slim advantage in the points race, which will be decided next week at the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship on Lake St. Clair.

Zaldain follows closely in second with 752, while Johnston is third with 747. Stetson Blaylock of Benton, Ark., is fourth with 741 and Drew Cook of Midway, Fla., is fifth with 733.

Cook also leads the DICK’S Sporting Goods Rookie of the Year race.

2019 Bassmaster Elite at Lake Tenkiller Title Sponsor: Cherokee Casino Tahlequah
2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Abu Garcia, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Carhartt, Lowrance, Mossy Oak Fishing, T-H Marine, Academy Sports + Outdoors
2019 Cherokee Casino Tahlequah Bassmaster Elite At Lake Tenkiller Host: Cherokee Nation Entertainment, LLC

About Cherokee Nation Entertainment
Cherokee Nation Entertainment is the wholly-owned gaming, hospitality, retail, and tourism entity of the Cherokee Nation, the largest tribal government in the United States. The company currently operates Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa; nine Cherokee Casinos, including a horse racing track; three hotels; three golf courses; and other retail operations. For more information, visit www.cherokeecasino.com.

About B.A.S.S.
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 510,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2 and The Pursuit Channel), radio show (Bassmaster Radio), social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

Fall Fishing in La Crosse, Wisconsin: Binge-feeding time for Walleye, Bass, Catfish

  • Mississippi River pools offer multiple species
  • Fall weather excites fish toward binge feeding
  • Autumn colors provide an extra measure of goodness for visitors
 The Bassmaster Elite anglers visit area waters for exiting fishing fun. Photo – LaCrosse CVB

By Forrest Fisher

Near La Crosse, Wisconsin, the Upper Mississippi River spreads well beyond its main channel, a bonus for anglers.  Hundreds of tiny islands, channels, and deep pools offer a new home for many species of fish, perhaps more than any other temperate-climate river in the world. It’s a fishing paradise.

Walleye is king in these waters, but you can catch just about anything here, including sauger, northern pike, shovelhead sturgeon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, sunfish, bluegill, crappie, gar, channel catfish and blue catfish, just to name a few.

Interested in giant catfish? Click here: Here’s a great article about catfish in the area

The La Crosse River and Black River join the Mississippi near La Crosse and create a home to many of the same species. A few miles north of La Crosse, the Mississippi opens into the 8,000+ acre waterway named Lake Onalaska that features 7 boat landings and is chock-full of panfish, northern, and bass, and the area also offers myriad cold-water streams rife with brown, rainbow, and brook trout.

Kayaks and small boats provide access to hundreds of fishy waterways near La Crosse. Photo – LaCrosse CVB

Another popular lake fishery is Lake Neshonoc located in West Salem. It has a maximum depth of 11 feet. Visitors have access to the lake from public boat landings and a public beach. Fish include panfish, largemouth bass, northern pike and catfish. Check out the DNR’s Trout Stream Map for La Crosse County.

The La Crose area features several boat landings, marinas, and beaches, as well as fishing floats and piers, guides, and numerous outfitters. The Upper Mississippi USFW Refuge (United States Fish & Wildlife) has put together some fantastic maps of Pools 7 and 8 of the Mississippi River, with boat landings, walk-in access points and more.

Fall and Winter Action is Just Ahead

The cooling temperatures of fall bring wonderful color to the woodlands and bluffs. Fall also provides hungry fish and some of the best fishing of the year. Walleye begin to move again in the fall and while the fall walleye run tends to be less lively than in the spring, the fall run tends to provide steady action right up until freeze-over.

For a summary report on Mississippi River Pool 8 walleye sampling efforts that identify fish density and methods of assessment, visit this link provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – LaCrosse: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/documents/reports/LaCrosseMississippiRPool8_2018_2019WeSaAdultsSpring.pdf.

The first areas to catch the attention of ice anglers are the area’s many backwaters. As ice creeps out from the shores of Lake Onalaska, so do intrepid ice anglers looking for some of the best panfish catching of the year. As ice covers a wider area, ice anglers begin moving further out to deeper water in search of walleye, yellow perch, and northern pike.

You can find information regarding licensing, rules, and regulations at Wisconsin fishing regulations at the Department of Natural Resources website.

For a free visitors guide with additional accommodation and outdoor adventure information, click the picture.

How to Fish for Lake Erie Walleye from Dunkirk…Troll to find ’em, then Turn Around!

Watch Captain Jim Steel work his lines...learn from Jim, with Ken Perrotte taking pictures and videos, and who are fishing with Wade Robertson from Bradford, PA. Ken Perrotte Photo

  • Lures to use, boat speed, depth control

By Forrest Fisher

According to Ken Perrotte of Virginia, making the trek 8 hours north to visit Lake Erie to fish for walleye from Dunkirk Harbor, or from any of the three Cattaraugus Creek boat launch access sites, is more than worth it. Ken says, “There are so many walleye here, they say something like 42 to 45 million in Lake Erie right now, I want to share this worthwhile fishing news with everyone.” So Ken wrote a story for his hometown newspaper and also added the story to his personal outdoor website. The bottom line, this is really great info for somebody that wants to just learn about how to do, what to do, rigging, reeling, setting the hook, netting the fish, and where to go. The details in the 2 video’s in this story share so much info.

Go get ’em. Click the picture to visit Ken’s story and video’s. Enjoy!

Click the picture, visit the story and enjoy the two videos that Ken Perrotte is sharing with all. Ken Perrotte Photo

 

 

 

Proven USA-Made Fishing Baits That Work!

It's a Crock-O-Gator "Swamp Bug" in Pumpkin-Candy color...I call 'em "Swamp Things." Ugly, no idea what they look like to fish...but they work.

  • Big Bass and Small Bass….you know you need to jig “in the junk”
  • We do that with Soft Plastics, Jig Heads and Buzz Baits to Score
  • Where to find help with Colors, Sizes, and Choices that Work…see below 
A Weise Jig in this natural craw color is not a wise jig until you tie one on. These Crock-O-Gator Jigs are unique in design and workability.

By Forrest Fisher

If you’re like me, whenever I fish, the baits I use sort of need to have a history that tells me somehow, “I’m gonna catch fish with this bait.” Sometimes when nothing else works, we try an untested bait from our box and are surprised to hear those words in our mind, “There’s a Fish!”

We set the hook.

Pure satisfaction! Surprise too!

Of course, we need to afford what we fish too and at Crock-O-Gator, imagine that you can buy soft plastics for about 45 cents apiece. It’s true! Get a 10 pack of tubes for $4.25! Unreal. Not a 4-pack or 5-pack, but a 10-pack for under 5 bucks. I was hooked and so was the many bass, all released, that we tallied that morning. We were fishing for fun.

Above all that “gotta have” thinking, I like to use baits that have come from resources within the USA, when they work. Crock-O-Gator baits all come from the USA and guess what? Because they are so affordable, you can try them to see for yourself. Check out this video below. In the video below, veteran angler David Gray talks with Jim and Denise Dill on Lake of the Ozarks, he discovers how the company came to be and grew to what it offers today for anglers that like to fish for bass and catch bass, all with USA-made fishing products.

Click the picture below to learn more about Crock-O-Gator.

Jim Dill is a tournament angler that wins and helps others find fish and catch fish too, with his proven Crock-O-Gator products.

Jim Dill says, “We are an American-owned and operated company based at Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri. We bought the company in 2010, it was founded in 1984. Since we bought it, Crock-O-Gator has been steadily growing since. Our goal is to continue making and providing top quality baits at a fair price. All of our products go through extensive testing prior to marketing to ensure every feature of the bait is perfect. As anglers ourselves, we understand the importance of quality products to get the most of every fishing outing.”

To learn more about the simple, affordable, fish-catching products we have, visit https://crockogatorbaitcompany.com/.

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Fishing Buddies for All Time

By Brent Frazee

I was just a little guy when I learned the importance of having a fishing buddy.

Every time I would visit my grandparents’ home, I would head to their garage. I knew that’s where grandpa Eric would be, and his good friend Mel would be with him.

They had a Man Cave before the term even became popular. That’s where gramps kept his boat, along with his rods and reels, tackle boxes, nets and minnow buckets. There were faded pictures hanging on the wall, and the modest building just dripped with fishing nostalgia.

Gramps and Mel spent hours there, spinning yarns about their fishing trips, cleaning their catch for the day, or working on the boat to make sure it was ready for the next day.

They would hook up the boat and head out several days a week to Lake Delavan in Wisconsin, about an hour drive from their home in Rockford, Ill.

They would always return with a gunny sack full of fish, usually bullheads that others found somewhat undesirable. They routinely told me that the fish tasted much better than people gave them credit for, and they proved it.

They would hold huge fish fries for the neighborhood, complete with my grandma’s pies made from apples that grew in the back yard, and they took pride that their events got rave reviews.

I got to go with them a couple of times, and I marveled at how special their relationship was. They could have been the inspiration for the movie “Grumpy Old Men,” despite the fact that they predated the comedy classic by many years.

They were constantly griping at each other, but they didn’t do a very good job at disguising the bond they shared. They agreed on what part of the lake to fish, the type of bait or lures they would use, even which bar and grill to frequent.

I remember thinking, “I would like to have that kind of relationship someday.”

The years went by quickly, I became preoccupied with getting simply getting stories for The Kansas City Star, where I worked for 36 years, and I fished with a variety of characters. But I seldom fished with the same person many times, because I was always traveling to fish with different subjects.

Still, I developed friendships and established traditions that I largely overlooked until I slowed down in retirement and reflected on the good times.

Like the times I have spent with David Perkins, who I met when he owned the Kansas City Sportshow.

We started fishing together in the North Country in the early 1980s and we still carry on that tradition.

I remember when we fished in the Eelpout Festival, a huge ice-fishing event that centers on one of the Northland’s ugliest and most undesirable fish.

I can still picture the director of that festival coming up to Dave and insisting he try some of the eelpout nuggets that were featured in the concession stand. Dave resisted until the guy practically forced a couple of nuggets into his mouth. Dave chewed on it for a while, said how it tasted like chicken, and smiled at the guy who was feeding him. When the guy turned away, Dave spit out the nugget he had squirreled away in his cheek and almost gagged.

I’m still laughing.

We enjoyed great trips with famous fishermen such as Al and Ron Lindner, Ted Takasaki, Larry Dahlberg and the Griz (legendary Minnesota guide Ted Gryzinski). We caught huge smallmouth bass at lakes such as Mille Lacs and Rainy and big walleyes on the Mississippi River and the boundary waters.

We continued that tradition this year when I met up with Dave in his hometown of Eden Prairie, Minn., and we traveled to Hayward, Wis. There, we fished with one of our favorite guides, Fuzzy Shumway, and had several days of epic smallmouth-bass fishing.

But it’s more than just the catching. Dave and I act like a couple of kids in the boat, constantly joking with each other and carrying on. Sometimes, our guides don’t quite know what to make of our behavior, but we haven’t been kicked out of boat yet, so I guess that says something.

Dave isn’t alone in that regard, though.

  • I have also been fishing with Jim Divincen, the executive director of the Lake of the Ozarks Tri-County Lodging Association, since the 1980s. He invited me to a media event, and we immediately hit it off. We laugh about the characters we have fished with over the years, the big fish we have caught, and the times when cold-blooded Jim would show up in layers of clothing even on nice, warm spring days.

I always test Jim’s one-time utterance, “Anything for the media,” and ride him like a state-fair pony from the moment we step into the boat until we leave. All in good fun, of course.

One guide even said, “And you two are friends?”

Jim understands, though. At least I think he does. He is a great guy and someone I am proud to call a fishing buddy.

  • Jim Schroer was one of the first guys I fished with when I was hired at the Star. He owned J and J’s Bass Pro Shop in Kansas City, Kan., at the time and he wanted to welcome me to town. We caught a lot of fish that first trip, but I jokingly remind him it’s all been downhill ever since. Not really, but we’ve had our share of misadventures. I remember one time when he invited me to go fishing with him at Smithville Lake. I couldn’t go, but he called the next day and said, “Good thing you didn’t go. I sunk the boat.” A huge wind storm swept across the lake and waves swamped his craft. Jim got out OK and his boat was towed to shore. The bad thing for him: To this day, I won’t let him hear the end of it.

Of course, there have been other incidents Jim would like to forget. One day he was stepping into my boat, and the back end started to drift. He did the splits and almost fell into the water. His tub of lures flew into the lake and he landed in my boat on his back. As he struggled to get up, I reacted as any true fishing buddy went. I reached for my cell phone to snap a few pictures as he flailed like a turtle on its back, then I helped him up.

I could go on and on about other fishing buddies I have shared a boat with over the years. Sadly, some of them are gone now. But some still are very much a part of my life.

Occasionally, I fish alone and I enjoy the solitude.

Somehow, it’s just not the same.

ICAST Helps to Make Fishing More Fun

With the “Slow-Roll Shiner,” the Injected Core Technology (ICT) from LIVETARGET has produced the ideal paddletail swimbait, offering realistic action and appearance. The Inner-Core matches the appearance of a thin profiled Shiner, while the Exo-Skin generates a hard-thumping action that vibrates and moves the whole body. The result is a life-like lure that creates a subtle yet enticing rolling action.

A big benefit of being in the fishing business is attending the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST. Held in Orlando each summer, ICAST gives a preview of all the new fishing equipment, tackle, marine and outdoor products that fishermen everywhere are going to see very soon and want, perhaps, even sooner.

Of all the new, interesting and innovative products – there are many, my favorite is always the new fishing lures. Every year there are literally hundreds of new lures or variations to current lures. Some lures are futuristic, some are perfectly shaped and colored, some are changed in other ways – many of them have anglers dreaming of catching a fish with every cast. The new lures and variations are that convincing.

Not too many anglers can resist trying out these new lures. Every year I stock up on more than I should, but they all look so good and some turn out to be valuable additions to my tackle box. If you don’t try them, you will never know if they would work for you or not. Beside, trying them is part of the fun!

Last year, I stocked up with 18 of the new LIVETARGET swim baits. Most of them were in the larger sizes and had very different actions than what I would have thought. The old adage is, “Big fish like Big meals,” and that means…throw Big Baits. Sometimes that is true and sometimes it isn’t, but the LIVETARGET swim baits proved that adage true for me. When fishing them in farm ponds, it seemed that they attracted the larger bass time after time. A crank and drop retrieve was magic on most days.

The Ghost Tail Minnow has a unique tail design that creates action to emulate the movement of a small minnow while helping the bait track straight while swimming or in the current. Click the picture above to see a video on how to use this new bait.

This year at the ICAST show, LIVETARGET once again caught my “Angler Eye” with their innovative Injected Core Technology (ICT). I have not had a chance to test these just yet, but they just look like they are so good, I already have that magical feeling…that they will catch fish, especially the Slow Roll Shiner and Ghost Tail Minnow. While you never know until you get one to the water, I will be finding out very soon. Even the names of these lures are catchy!

David Gray, ShareTheOutdoors.com

Salmon and MORE SALMON…Bill Hilts reports from Niagara USA

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing is great right now
Doug Parker of Lockport holds up the 29 pound, 9-ounce king salmon caught on the Niagara Bar Monday to take over the lead in the Summer LOC Derby $10,000 Grand Prize.
6-year-old Ed Mort of Wilson shows off his prizes after catching the biggest bass in the Erie Canal Fishing Derby, a 5.66-pound largemouth!

The moss in the Niagara River is starting to subside according to reports from Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston. As a result, the walleye fishing is starting to pick up, especially on the Niagara Bar at the outlet (mouth) of the river. Worm harnesses have been the bait of choice using hammered copper blades with red beads. Bass action is also starting to pick up. Tube jigs are the lure that seems to be working best with what moss is left in the river, both above and below Niagara Falls. In the upper river, bass, walleye, and musky have been cooperating for some anglers. Add NED rigs, worm harnesses, and crayfish to the list of preferred baits and lures.

The Erie Canal Fishing Derby is officially over. Lots of winners.

One of the hot spots on Lake Ontario this week has been the Niagara Bar off the mouth of the river. Fishing 50 to 80 feet down over 90 to 200 feet of water was producing plenty of mature king salmon. John Van Hoff hit a 29-pound king on Sunday with flasher-fly on the Bar, one of many mature kings he caught the day after the LOTSA contests.

Bill Hilts, Jr. holds up the winning fish in the LOTSA King Salmon Tournament on July 20, a 27 lb. 7 oz. king salmon for the Salmonella team.

On Monday, it was Doug Parker of Lockport that caught a 29-pound, 9-ounce king on Niagara Bar to take over the lead for the Grand Prize in the Summer Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby, also with a flasher and fly.

Capt. Joe Gallo of Two Bulls Charters reports that he teamed up with Capt. Alan Sauerland for the LOTSA contests and they produced over 50 bites over two days of fishing. They fished in over 300 feet of water, a few miles west of their home port using flasher-fly and meat programs.

Jason and Mike Johannes of On The Rocks Charters out of Wilson show off the 31-1/2 pound king salmon they caught over the weekend. No, their customers were not registered in the derby

On Sunday they moved into shallower water in front of their home port and it paid off with a 17 for 24 king salmon day with a dozen salmon up to 25 pounds. Capt. Mike Johannes of On the Rocks had the catch of the week with a 31-1/2-pound salmon caught out of Wilson, but the customers didn’t get into the derby.

The LOC event ends on Sunday. Out of Olcott, Capt. Tim Sylvester of Tough Duty ran out to 300-plus feet of water to hit an early spoon bite on Tuesday. Magnum spoons off the riggers were the way to go, 50 to 80 feet beneath the surface. His best depth was 75 feet down.

In the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association’s Curt Meddaugh Contest on Friday, Hooked-Up led by Dustin Petersen of Indiana, Pennsylvania, took top honors when they weighed in 3 king salmon totaling nearly 68 pounds. For the Saturday big fish contest, Joe Yaeger of Amherst and his savvy Salmonella team weighed the big fish for the day, a 27 ½ pound Niagara Bar king salmon. Marty Polovick of Lockport and his 4 Poles Team won the 3-2-3 contest, the best 3 fish over 2 days, with over 80 pounds of salmon. He beat the runnerup, Kyle Hovak and the Mean Machine team by just .01 of a pound.

Joe Yaeger always catches giant King Salmon in Lake Ontario!

Next derby up on Lake Ontario is the Orleans County Rotary Derby set for August 3-18.

James Nix, Jr. of Amherst was the lucky angler as the 29th Annual Steve Harrington Memorial Erie Canal Fishing Derby comes to an official close. Nix, who was in the final drawing by virtue of his first-place win in the pike division, was selected at the awards ceremony last Sunday to receive the Grand Prize of a boat, motor, and trailer from Brobeil Marine in Buffalo.

James Nix, Jr. of Amherst won the Grand Prize in the Erie Canal Fishing Derby – a boat, motor, and trailer from Brobeil Marine in Buffalo. He caught an 11.81-pound northern pike and was selected through a random drawing at the awards ceremony last Sunday in Gasport. Lynn and Brandon Harrington were also in the photo below.

What made it even more exciting for him is that this was his first derby ever, encouraged to join by a previous grand prize winner, Keegan Walczak. Keegan was in that same drawing for the boat package this time around, too. However, it was Nix who came out on top. Rebecca Thering of Appleton won the Kids Division Grand Prize, a new kayak. Check out www.eriecanalderby.com for final results.

John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda caught this 29-pound king on the Niagara Bar last Sunday using a flasher and fly rig.

Bill Hilts, Jr.– Outdoor Promotions Director

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Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Deserving High School Angler Coach and U.S. Army Veteran, David Lowrie, grateful for Humminbird®and Minn Kota®Complete Boat Overhaul surprise at ICAST 2019

On July 12, 2019, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Desert Storm veteran and youth fishing mentor David Lowrie was surprised with a complete boat overhaul thanks to Minn Kota®, Humminbird® and the One-Boat Network™ Live overhaul at the American Sportfishing Association’s International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) on Thursday, July 11.

Lowrie is a veteran of the U.S. Army and has spent the last three years as the youth director for the Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation High School/Youth. The youth program was struggling three years ago with only 200 members until Lowrie took over and was able to make it one of the best youth programs in the country with over 1,400 young anglers. Lowrie serves as a high school boat captain and is passionate about putting kids on the water and helping them to become better anglers. He has also dedicated himself and his 2006 Skeeter bass boat to helping his son Hank pursue his bass tournament fishing dreams.

The overhaul took place in booth #217 at the ICAST show and included installations of a Minn Kota Ultrex® with Built-In MEGA Down Imaging™, Minn Kota on-board Precision charger, two Minn Kota Talons®, two Humminbird SOLIX® 15 CHIRP MEGA SI+ G2 units, Humminbird 360 and LakeMaster® mapping. In addition to these elements of the One-Boat Network, products from other ICAST exhibitors including Rigid Industries, TH Marine, Battle Born Batteries, JL Audio and more were also installed. The full unveil event can be viewed here.

“As professional anglers, we sometimes take for granted the amazing equipment and technology we get to use every day,” Zaldain said. “I was happy to be able to teach David how to use the One-Boat Network products and show him the advantage that a connected boat can provide to all anglers. David is a great guy, and I know he will take what he learned here today, and teach it to the youth in his local B.A.S.S. chapter ensuring the next generation of anglers gets to experience the very best products out there.”

For more information on Minn Kota and Humminbird visit MinnKotaMotors.com and Humminbird.com.

Other sponsors and partners in this program include Abu Garcia, Bass Mafia, Battle Born Batteries, BOSCH, JL Audio, Costa Sunglasses, Hot Foot, Hydrowave, JL Audio, Onyx, Rigid Industries, Simms, Tackle Titan, and TH Marine.
About Minn Kota® and Humminbird® – JOHNSON OUTDOORS FISHING is comprised of the Minn Kota®, Humminbird®, and Cannon® brands. Minn Kota is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric trolling motors, as well as a complete line of shallow water anchors, battery chargers and marine accessories. Humminbird is a leading global innovator and manufacturer of marine electronics products including fish finders, multifunction displays, autopilots, ice flashers, and premium cartography products. Cannon is the leader in controlled-depth fishing and includes a full line of downrigger products and accessories. Visit Minn Kota at www.minnkotamotors.com. Visit Humminbird at www.humminbird.com.
 
JOHNSON OUTDOORS is a leading global outdoor recreation company that inspires more people to experience the awe of the great outdoors with innovative, top-quality products. The company designs, manufactures and markets a portfolio of winning, consumer-preferred brands across four categories: Watercraft, Fishing, Diving, and Camping. Visit Johnson Outdoors at www.johnsonoutdoors.com.

Niagara Falls USA – Hot Fishing in the Forecast

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for July 11, 2019 from Destination Niagara USA
Denis Kreze of Fort Erie, Ontario, caught this huge 49.75-inch musky from the Upper Niagara River using a Venom Lures musky spinnerbait.

Moss is still an issue in the Niagara River, but fish are available to be caught if you can solve the moss problem. Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports some decent bass action the past week in the lower river, but you do have to work for them. Shoreline access is minimal in the lower river due to the high-water levels. Launch ramps are open at Lewiston and Fort Niagara for boaters. In the upper river, some nice muskies are being reported including a 49.75-inch fish reeled in by Denis Kreze of Fort Erie, Ontario. He was using a Venom Musky Spinnerbait. Mixed reports on bass and walleye due to the moss. Some bass were caught off the Bird Island Pier this week.

Young Carson Shiltz and his dad, Richard, hit Lake Ontario out of Olcott to reel in some nice kings this week fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni and the Thrillseeker boat.

The hard-northeast winds changed things up over the weekend. Out of Olcott, Capt. Tim Sylvester of Tough Duty and his first mate Blake Kowalski of Tonawanda headed out to 400 feet of water to find more stable conditions on Tuesday. It was a long line bite as he used meat rigs on 300 and 400-foot copper lines. You had to be patient. They caught kings up to 20 pounds and steelhead up to 10 pounds. The downrigger bites were up high at 35 to 50 feet.

Keegan Walczak of Amherst shows off a couple of Olcott kings he caught this week.

Things are starting to turn around after the weather cooperated this week. Some good catches were reported out of Wilson yesterday. Dave Scipione of Lewiston added a 25 pound, 1-ounce King from the Niagara Bar on Tuesday, so the fishing should be turning on just in time for the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association’s contests set for July 19 and 20.

The 19th is the free Curt Meddaugh Memorial Event for the best 3 fish and the King Salmon Tournament for biggest fish will be held July 20. Check out www.lotsa1.org for details. You must be a club member, but it only costs $10 to join.

Chris Walczak of Amherst with an Olcott king salmon from the holiday weekend.

In the Summer LOC Derby, there’s a new Grand Prize leader when Doug Higgs of Medina reeled in a 28 pound, 5-ounce king salmon out of Point Breeze. He was using cut bait. First place brown trout is a 16-pound, 9-ounce fish weighed in by Jim Sanford of Clifton Springs. Ed Klejdys of North Tonawanda is the top laker taker so far with a 24-pound, 4-ounce Niagara Bar fish. In the Steelhead Division, Steve Biernacki of Medina is setting the pace with a 14-1/2-pound fish he reeled in off Point Breeze. Check out loc.org for a current leaderboard. The derby ends on July 28th.

Anthony Henley of Buffalo caught this 22.39-pound carp to take over the early lead in the Erie Canal Fishing Derby. However, it didn’t last long in the top spot. The derby ends Sunday.

The 29th Annual Steve Harrington Memorial Erie Canal Fishing Derby is entering its final weekend, running through July 14 in Niagara, Erie and Orleans Counties. All of the fish species categories are up for grabs, but it will take a little work. In the bass division, Tyler Hillman of Lockport is in first place with a 4.92-pound fish. Sam Hillman from Lockport is the top walleye catcher at 7.04 pounds, and James Nix, Jr. of Tonawanda is setting pace in the pike division with an 11.81-pound fish. The biggest bullhead so far is a 1.58-pound fish reeled in by Michael Boncore of Buffalo. Biggest catfish is an 8.75-pound fish reeled in by Keegan Walczak of Amherst and Ron Robel of Wheatfield has the leading carp with a 24.88-pound fish. Rachel Izzo of Sanborn is leading the sheepshead category with a 10.91-pound fish. Check out www.eriecanalderby.com for details. The awards ceremony will be July 21 at 3 p.m. at the Gasport Fire Hall.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

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Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

GIANT Salmon and Carp….Lake Ontario High Water is NO PROBLEM

  • Bill Hilts Fishing Report & Forecast for Niagara USA…June 20, 2019

Capt. Hank Condes of Wilson (Blade Runner Charters), said it best as he spoke to a group of front line tourism folks this week in Wilson Harbor: “June isn’t the transition month that it used to be!” The push is on to let everyone know that Lake Ontario is open for business and that the fishing is great, even in June!

Lou Rivera of Kenmore, NY, with a 20-pound class King Salmon caught off Wilson Harbor in Lake Ontario this week while fishing with Capt. Alan Sauerland of Newfane.

Capt. Alan Sauerland (Instigator Charters) has been fishing 55 to 75 feet down over 160 feet of water straight out from his home port of Wilson Harbor.  Magnum spoons are the ticket with the best ones being Moonshine Geezer and Warrior pink-spoiler or green-spoiler patterns. They caught 25 salmon during this catch/release trip.

Jeremy Smith of Rochester (R) and his buddy Paul show off a couple of King Salmon they caught off Wilson Monday, fishing with Capt. Alan Sauerland (Instigator Charters).

Capt. Vince Pierleoni (Thrillseeker Charters) reports similar success out of Olcott Harbor, 60 to 80 feet down over 60 to 250 feet of water, also with Dreamweaver magnum and super slim spoons at the top of his list.

Joe Oakes of Wilson was fishing out of Olcott this week and wanted to try and get his 300 and 400-foot copper lines a bit deeper, so he put on a J-plug for the heck of it.  Yes, that plug took some hits too.

Next derby is the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby (LOTSA) that runs from June 29 to July 28. Check out www.LOC.org for details.  Grand prize is $10,000 for the biggest salmon and $32,000 in cash prizes overall.

The NYS Summer Classic Tournament is July 1-August 31 with a $10,000 Grand Prize.  Check out www.nyssummerclassic.com for details.  It should be mentioned that nearly every launch ramp in Niagara County is open.  At Fort Niagara, Wilson-Tuscarora, and Golden Hill State Parks, respectively, you should have at least two people launching the boat due to some higher water around the launch.  Bring along boots, too.  If you don’t want to get your feet wet, the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott Harbor has been able to adjust to keep the feet of boaters dry. The Town of Wilson launch is also a good one in the West Branch of 12-Mile Creek. Boat size there should be 20-feet or less.

Don’t forget that the 5 mph speed limit in Lake Ontario is within 1,000 feet of the shoreline.

In the Niagara River, the dreaded moss is slowly starting to arrive on the scene as the river hit the 60-degree mark this week. In the lower Niagara River, there was still some steelhead around. Bass and walleye were cooperating, giving a nice mixed bag to anglers.

Rich Pisa of Kenmore caught this 30-pound class grass carp from the Upper Niagara River.

Live bait, like minnows fished off three-way rigs, is a popular approach – but bouncing bottom with a Strike King Zero (cut down) has been working for bass up to 5-1/2 pounds this past week.

Justin Transky of East Aurora with a respectable upper Niagara River walleye he caught while fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island.
Parker Cinelli of Grand Island caught this tagged bass from the Beaver Island lagoon this week.

Swim baits and tubes will still work if the moss isn’t too bad. High water levels are making fishing tricky in the Devil’s Hole area and the NYPA fishing platform is underwater. The speed limit is still in effect along the NY shoreline so run the middle of the river and take it easy.

Upper river action for bass and walleye has also been decent, especially at the head of Strawberry Island. Worm harnesses, minnows, swimbaits, and tubes, all are good baits to use.

Make sure you mark your calendar for the Erie Canal Fishing Derby set for July 3-14.

Check out www.eriecanalderby.com for details.

Ethan Bronschidle of Newfane with a big carp he caught this week.

Also, next Saturday and Sunday, June 29-30, NYS will be offering up its free fishing weekend again.

The Olcott Kids Fishing Derby normally held June 29 has been canceled due to the high water around the docks.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Phone: 1-877 FALLS US / 716-282-8992 x. 303, fax: 716-285-0809
www.niagarafallsusa.com

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Lifetime Fishing Lessons 101: Lures…How to Pick ‘Em

When anglers fish with new lures, they try them for a reason. This angler used this lure for the first time, a Mister Twister Tri-Alive Plastic Nightcrawler, to catch several post-spawn bass like this one.

  • What lure should I buy?
  • What color, what size, what brand?

By Forrest Fisher

Catching many fish lately?

LiveTarget Lures has won many awards because their lures catch fish. The lures we use need to appeal to us anglers too, so we will choose to use them. Would you buy this one? Click for more.

No? Do you wonder why not?

Ask yourself this question, “Am I happy with my lures, baits, sizes, colors?”

If you’re not catching fish, then you know the answer to that question. As an outdoor writer that has fished with many of our country’s most successful pro anglers, I can share with you that these guys know the basics like not many others.

The bass pro’s know how to cast, which rods, reels too, line options and the last maybe the most important thing, which lures to use. Questions is, which lures are those and why?

I asked Rick Clunn this question during a big tournament on a reservoir near the University of Alabama many years back.

Rick said, “You gotta use the lures that you have the most confidence in.” Of course, I was not going to stop there, so I asked, “What is your favorite lure, Rick?”

Some say the RC Freak is Rick Clunn’s hottest lure, it dives when retrieved and comes in three models and many colors. Look good for you to try it out? Click for more.

He said, “Well, it changes from time to time, but the lures I use are the lures I like and the lures I like, I catch fish with. Sometimes you catch a fish on a lure you never thought would work, but you have it, so on a slow day, you try it. Surprised, you find it works. You keep a mental note. A “positive vib” for that lure. Your knowledge grows of when to use that lure, where, why, how to retrieve it. In the end, I only fish with the lures I believe work for me. The lures I like are the lures that catch fish because I honestly believe they will catch fish. My confidence grows.”

I replied, “So Rick, how do I tell a listener on my radio show which lures to buy, which lures to use, what colors and all that?” Rick looked up, smiled, then answered, “You might tell them to go to the tackle store and walk around. Talk the proprietor. Talk to the other guys in the store. Listen to them. Then go walk around by yourself keeping in mind what you learned. Then pick a lure or two that you like. It might be the color, size, whatever it is, that lure will probably catch you lots of fish. You had a start and rationale to believe in it. You will use that lure. Time in the water is a big thing. That’s how you tell them the straight story, hope that helps.”

To learn more about what lures Rick Clunn likes these days, visit: https://luck-e-strike.us/rcseries. It’ll help you develop a background for the passion Clunn shares with us by his own lure designs.

Three color worms, the 6 1/2″ Tri-Alive® Nightcrawler from Mister Twister is a straight tail worm that comes in 15, three-layer color combinations. Do you like the color? Remember, it needs to appeal to you too, for you to use it. Click for more.

Like many of you, I have a tackle box full of lures of all sorts. Probably, there are hundreds that I carry with me to fishing trips, but in truth, I only use about 5 or 6 of this myriad of lures in my carry-around collection. Why the others that probably tilt the scales at about 25 pounds? I tell myself I need to exercise too!

Lure form, lure function, and lure attraction – all make up that special tackle box we all carry around in our mind.

Some anglers say, “My tackle box talks to me.” If you have that kind of tackle box, you are already catching fish.

If not, listen to what Rick Clunn says. It was nearly 30 years ago that Rick Clunn shared that lure advice with me.

Guess what, for some reason, my tackle box talks to me these days.

The contents, at least some of the contents – the lures,  smile with whisper tracks of memories formed from hungry fish smacking my lures.

The trail of teeth mark impressions always seems to be in the form of a smile.

I release most of the fish I catch. Sometimes I think the fish might somehow know that.

Maybe in the cosmos of fish, they are talking back with me.

Hey, whatever works.

You know where to start.

KAYAK Bass Championship – May 28-31 in Cookeville, TN

Local resident Eric Jackson, a champion kayaker, USA Bass team captain, and president/CEO of Jackson Kayak.

  • Elite Kayak Anglers from Around the Globe to Attend First-of-Its-Kind Competition 
  • Cookeville, Tennessee selected to host the first-ever Pan-American Kayak Bass Championship May 28-31, 2019
Local resident Eric Jackson, a champion kayaker, USA Bass team captain, and president/CEO of Jackson Kayak.

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, along with USA Bass and Pan-American Sportfishing Federation, announced today that Cookeville will serve as home to the inaugural Pan-American Kayak Bass Championship, May 28 – 31, 2019.

The first-of-its-kind in the world, the four-day event will welcome more than 100 of the most elite kayak bass anglers from around the globe to Center Hill Lake. The exclusive competition is invitation only and is expected to include participants from Mexico, Panama, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, Canada, and more. More than forty Pan-American countries will be invited.

“Cookeville is a world-class destination and the perfect place to showcase our state’s warm hospitality and incredible natural resources, including the lakes, rivers and streams unique to our Upper Cumberland,” said Commissioner Mark Ezell, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “This is a tremendous win for Tennessee, and we know Putnam County will set a high standard for visitors who want to return year after year.”

In addition to being an inaugural Pan-American championship, officials with the Confederation Internationale de Peche Sportive (CIPS) will be in attendance to evaluate the potential for officially making kayak bass fishing a world championship level sport.

“Cookeville and Center Hill Lake quickly became the clear choice to host this historic event,” said Tony Forte, U.S. Angling founder and USA Bass president. “Kayak fishing is exploding worldwide and the Pan-American Sportfishing Federation felt it was time to make it an official sport.”

“This event is not just a launching point for Pan-American countries, but also in-line to become a world championship sport and push toward Olympic recognition. Our USA Bass team led by Captain Eric Jackson is looking forward to hosting kayak bass fishing’s best. We thank the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau for their support and hope to see plenty of fans at the event and following via various media outlets.”

The visitors’ bureau plans to leverage its strong partnerships with local outdoor enthusiasts, such as Jackson. As an Olympian, champion kayaker, and president/CEO of Jackson Kayak, partners such as this will offer an added advantage in hosting and supporting the logistics for this event.

Cookeville is no stranger to high level fishing attention, having hosted multiple internationally televised fishing shows on the Outdoor and Sportsman Channels and the World Fishing Network, e.g. Major League Fishing GEICO Select Series, Fishing University, and Kayak Bassin’ TV.

“We have been working for several months to recruit this big win for our community,” said Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development, Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau. “As we prepared the bid-proposal for this event, we knew Cookeville-Putnam County was a natural fit.”

“We have an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who want to compete on calm and bass-filled waters,” added Ledbetter. “Aside from the outstanding hospitality of our community, the value of our natural assets allows us to welcome anglers from all over the world.”

Participants are expected to arrive early for pre-fishing various area waters, e.g. Center Hill, Cordell Hull, Dale Hollow Lake, Caney Fork, Falling Water, and Calfkiller Rivers. They are also anticipated to stay and explore more local attractions, waterfalls, downtown life, etc. following the competition.

Other destinations considered for hosting privileges included Columbia, SC; Hot Springs, AR; and Branson, MO.

The media value for exposure during this event is anticipated to be immeasurable with several high-level outlets already showing interest in covering the competition, e.g. Pro Team Journal by Strike King, Outdoor Channel Strike King’s Fish Hard, and World Fishing Network.

The visitors’ bureau will be working with the Pan-Am event staff and area hospitality partners, as well as the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to ensure the championship is executed successfully.

About the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau: The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, a program of the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, serves as the designated destination marketing organization (DMO) for Putnam County and is funded by a portion of the Putnam County lodging tax, a tax paid by visitors’ and collected by local lodging partners such as hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc. Ranking at 17th of Tennessee’s 95 counties, the visitors’ bureau is tasked with inspiring travel and overnight stays in Putnam County. Primary marketing pillars in drive and fly markets include outdoors; fitness/sports; motorcycling; arts/culture; and culinary/crafts. Most recent U.S. Travel Association statistics note visitor spending in Putnam County generated $2.7 million in local tax revenue, providing a tax relief for local residents with a savings of $358.47 per household.  Explore more at VisitCookevilleTN.com.

For more information about the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, info@visitcookevilletn.com. 

Walleye Trolling Meets Durability and Effectiveness with Mepps®

  • Mepps Trolling Rig® and Crawler Harness…NEW

In eastern basin Lake Erie, most anglers are conventional. They troll with lead core line, deep diving stickbaits and custom made spinner/worm rigs. Who would have ever thought to try a Mepps combination through all the contention with standard convention?  Guess what? They not only work in the land of giant great Lakes walleye back here in the northeast, they work everywhere.

Walleye anglers understand the efficiency of trolling, allowing you to cover a lot of water and keep in contact with active fish. Not only is trolling one of the most productive methods for catching walleye, it’s known for producing BIG fish. But, it’s also known for rigs tied from monofilament which tangle, twist, wear out quickly and break, costing valuable fishing time, or worse, the fish of a lifetime.

The Mepps® Trolling Rig and Mepps® Crawler Harness are built tough from the highest quality components and can last for decades. The Mepps® Trolling Rig features: a heavy gauge, stainless, main shaft and an ultra-flexible, kink-resistant 20lb. braided, stainless steel cable with a stinger hook, fastened with a clever loop design instead of a knot, allowing quick and easy hook changes or replacement; a spiral-wound, stainless steel clevis, which allows quick and secure blade changes; an oversized, brightly-colored, floating body which produces a tantalizing, slow sink-rate; a multi-colored bucktail or tinsel dressed hook, adding flash, color and a larger profile; plus, a time-proven Mepps® Aglia® blade in silver, gold, copper or black. The Mepps® Trolling Rig comes in 2 sizes and 18 color combinations.

The Mepps® Crawler Harness shares the same features and durability of the Trolling Rig, minus the dressed hook and utilizes a Colorado blade, finished in a wide selection of colors and patterns. The Mepps® Crawler Harness comes in 2 sizes and 9 color combinations. Remember, all of the quick-change features built into both of these baits means blades, bodies, dressings and hooks can be mixed and matched to find the perfect combination for current conditions.

Mepps® is also proud to announce a new series of short, educational videos, demonstrating the many features of these unique baits, and loaded with tips on using them to catch more and bigger walleyes. The videos are available at http://www.youtube.com/meppsman1.

To see the entire lineup of Mepps® products, or receive a current Mepps® Tackle Catalog, visit our web site at www.mepps.com or call 800-237-9877.  Sheldons’ Inc., 626 Center St., Antigo, WI 54409-2496.

Bill Hilts Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast – May 2, 2019

Mark Davis of Big water Adventures TV is catching Lake Trout and King Salmon near Niagara Falls, NY.

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for May 2, 2019 from Destination Niagara USA
Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Wet Net Charters has had some great fishing stories to tell the past week, including this triple header on king salmon. Salmon fishing is hot!

We have a smelt report! One was caught this week in the lower Niagara River according to Mike Fox of Lewiston. He checks nearly every night and one night this week there was one that was netted, the first he’s seen. One fish. If smelt runs are based on water temperatures, it will still be a little while because ice is still coming down the river from Lake Erie. In the meantime, stop by the Lewiston Smelt Festival Friday night (May 3rd) at 5 p.m. in Academy Park.

Fishing in the river continues to be good for trout – steelhead, brown and lake trout – if you want to brave the ice floes. Shiners, minnows, egg sacs, Kwikfish and MagLips will all catch fish. There could be some walleye hanging around, too, for the opener on Saturday. While the big numbers aren’t there like Lake Erie, it’s a sleeper spot for big fish. Last year in the spring LOC Derby, the winning walleye came from these waters, caught by an angler trolling for salmon and trout on the Niagara Bar near the river mouth.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught this steelhead from shore in the lower Niagara River this week.

And speaking of the LOC Derby, remember that the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby is set for May 10-19 with a Grand Prize of $15,000 for the biggest salmon and a total prize structure of $45,000. Check out www.loc.org.

Finally, it looks like the lower Niagara River will be receiving its 75,000 salmon meant for the pen project in Youngstown on May 6. Due to cold water in the river due to extended ice in the system and the removal of the ice boom, DEC stocking trucks have been unable to bring salmon in from the Salmon River Fish Hatchery. The temperature difference between the trucks and the water that would be receiving the fish cannot be in excess of 10 degrees. If everything goes as planned, that will be on Monday. According to Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston, they need volunteers to help feed the fish for the next 3 weeks. If you would like to be part of the effort, contact Campbell directly at 716-523-0013. Thanks to these pens, anglers received the benefit of double the survival rate for stocked kings.

Mark Davis with Big Water Adventure arrived in Niagara Falls USA to participate in a Spring media event, something he’s been involved with for over 20 years. This was one of the first fish he caught, a huge Lake Ontario lake trout.

For Lake Ontario and tributaries, salmon fishing has been good to very good for trollers working the waters from Olcott to the Niagara Bar. Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown has had some banner days on big kings, fishing spoons and flasher-fly 50 to 75 feet down over 75 to 85 feet of water. Lake trout are also being caught.

Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Wet Net Charters has been doing well on brown trout, too. Getting the kids involved is important for the future of the sport.

Trolling the shoreline will still produce some brown trout using stickbaits according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott. Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott reported that a couple nice Atlantic salmon were caught off the piers in Olcott recently, casting stickbaits.

Many of the tributaries are high and stained right now according to Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters. He caught some nice trout and smallmouth bass this week using yellow wooly buggers.

Don’t forget about the Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament May 31 and June 1. Check out www.lakeontarioproam.net for details.

Ethan Bronschidle of Newfane , NY, has hit some big steelies in some of the Niagara County tributaries.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

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Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Atlantic Salmon catches, Lake Trout, Steelhead…Oh My! Bill Hilts Fishing News from Niagara Falls USA

Carson Shiltz of Lorain, Ohio caught this brown trout off Olcott fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane

  • Fish are Biting: Egg sacs, Kwickfish, MagLips, No.4 spinners/Spoons, Jigs…all working
  • Lewiston Smelt Festival coming up on May 3
  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast is from Destination Niagara USA
Matt Tall with a beautiful 13-pound Atlantic Salmon he caught off Wilson Harbor, NY this past week.

Monday of this week saw the New York Power Authority (NYPA) start the process of removing the ice boom at the head of the Niagara River in Buffalo, NY.  As of Thursday, there was still 3 or 4 percent of the lake ice to push through the system.

Lower Niagara River trout action continues to be decent. Artpark is still a good spot to be from boat and shore.

Steelhead are the top target using large emerald shiners according to Lisa Drabczyk at Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston. Boaters are averaging 8 to 10 fish per trip, that also includes the occasional brown trout and lake trout.

Mckayla Austin of Newfane shows off a lake trout double caught while fishing for salmon and trout in front of Olcott with Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane aboard the Thrillseeker.

Egg sacs will also work for trout. If you get the right wind direction, Kwikfish or MagLips off three-way rigs can work well. Shoreline casters will use No. 4 spinners, spoons or jigs. If you prefer using a float, use an egg sac or an egg imitation. Jigs will work, too.

No smelt yet, but boats are continuing to mark pods of bait on the bottom in the middle of the river. Cooler temperatures due to ice chunks coming down the river could be affecting the nightly runs.

The Lewiston Smelt Festival will be on May 3 if you want to check out the smelt fry provided by the Niagara River Anglers Association (NRAA), Tops Lewiston and the Niagara River Region Chamber. The action kicks off at 5 p.m. with live music, a smelt eating contest and more, all at Academy Park this year across from Tops.

In the Upper Niagara River, DEC’s Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) ran a sting out of Beaver Island State Park when several calls came through the violation hotline (1-844-DEC-ECOS) claiming illegal activity going on. ECO’s from Erie County hit the upper Niagara River at Beaver Island and managed to nab an illegal catch that resulted in numerous violations. Three guys were dipping emerald shiners with nets when they started catching perch, which is illegal to do. They ended up with 3,537 yellow perch, way over the limit of 50 per person. They also netted carp (187), rock bass (14), and sunfish (2).  If you see illegal activity going on, make the call. It works. Many of the fish were still alive due to the quick action of the officers and a large number were successfully released.

Carson Shiltz of Lorain, Ohio caught this brown trout off Olcott fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane.

Out in Lake Ontario, Capt. Joe Gallo of East Amherst fished in 65 to 70 foot of water on Easter morning in front of Wilson Harbor to fish for lake trout. The Two Bulls crew went 20 for 29 on lakers using glow flashers and blue/purple spoons.

Jim DeGirolamo of Derby hit 7 to 10 feet of water between Wilson and Olcott to catch browns and lake trout using 3-inch firetiger Renosky stickbaits.

Matt Tall of Wilson was using a stickbait off Wilson in 48 feet of water to take a beautiful 13-pound Atlantic salmon that was caught and released this week. There are still some steelhead and brown trout in the tributaries, but bass are slowly replacing them. Pier action has been spotty off Wilson and Olcott.

Remember the Lake Ontario Counties Spring Trout and Salmon Derby will be May 10-19 this year. Check out details at www.loc.org.

To branch out on the club’s “teaching fishing” philosophy, the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA) will be moving from the classroom to the lake to provide some hands-on experience for interested anglers who are members of the club. (Become a member at www.lotsa1.org for $10).

On June 9 out of Wilson, Capt. Joe Gallo of Two Bulls Sportfishing will take out six anglers (at a cost of $75 each) from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., showing off the daily routine of a charter captain from start to finish. The proceeds will benefit the club’s pen rearing project in Olcott. Call Gallo at 998-2296 to reserve your spot. Space is limited.

Jim and Conner from Rochester show off a double header on steelhead in the Lower Niagara River last weekend while fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown.
James Elliott of Toledo, Ohio caught this 16-plus pound lake trout fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni out of Olcott last weekend aboard the Thrillseeker.

 

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director
 
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Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

The NED Rig: One of the Most Effective Fishing Baits Ever…here is the story

  • Z-Man Project Z ProFileZ: Drew Reese
  • Finesse fishing godfather narrates rich history of the Ned Rig

Not a non-sense story tale. Not a fairy tale. This is the story of something you need to know as a fisherman that wants to catch more fish every day. After learning more about this, I went to Cabela’s in Cheektowaga, NY, and bought one pack of every Z-Man ElaZtech bait they had in stock. I also bought every size of Ned jig head that they had for good reason. Hook up the Z-Man tail and they never come off. They last forever. They are unbreakable in my experience. Lastly, they catch fish like nothing else I have ever used before. Not a tale, a fact, and I’m a simple fisherman.

The fishing world is awash with unsung heroes. From Ladson, South Carolina, last week, we learned so much more.

If you’re a fan of finesse fishing—or just an angling history buff—you owe it to yourself to learn about folks like Chuck Woods, Ned Kehde and Drew Reese.

Reese, who finished 7th at the very first Bassmaster Classic, worked for Bass Buster Lures, the company that developed classic finesse baits such as the Beetle and Beetle Spin. Years later, a fortuitous meeting of minds spawned a modern fishing revolution known today as the Ned Rig.

Drew Reese explains the story of fish-catching science and art that led to the NED Rig. Nearly 9 minutes of a great story-telling tale you need to hear. Youll catch more fish after this! 

A Z-Man Fishing TV exclusive, Project Z: ProFileZ takes you on the water with the folks who count on Z-Man Fishing Products daily as tournament anglers, guides, and industry professionals. Take a trip with us to our ProZ’ home waters to learn their stories and how they’ve ended up where they are today—as well as why they rely on Z-Man baits day-in and day-out.

In this episode, Drew Reese recounts the fascinating history behind the baits and the ElaZtech material that drive the Midwest finesse technique. “ElaZtech gives lures the angle that all lure companies have been trying to find since the early 1900s. To get a bait that didn’t lay flat on the bottom, but to rise up and to move like something truly alive.”

The Classic Z-Man Ned Rig: Finesse TRD and Finesse ShroomZ jighead

About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic Charleston, South Carolina based company, Z-Man Fishing Products has melded leading edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been among the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits and other lures. Creator of the Original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovators of 10X Tough ElaZtech softbaits, fast becoming the most coveted baits in fresh- and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest-growing lure brands worldwide.

About ElaZtech®: Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech material is remarkably soft, pliable, and 10X tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than other softbaits and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratings in the industry, resulting in anglers not having to waste time searching for a new bait when the fish are biting. This unique material is naturally buoyant, creating a more visible, lifelike, and attractive target to gamefish. Unlike most other soft plastic baits, ElaZtech contains no PVC, plastisol or phthalates, and is non-toxic.

 

Big Spring Fish “ON THE BITE” near Niagara Falls…Steelhead, Browns, Lakers & Bullheads Too!

Chris from Lancaster, Pa. had some fun in Lake Ontario off Olcott fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane. Here he shows off a lake trout.

  • Bill Hilts Fishing Forecast for Niagara Falls USA – Niagara County, NY
  • Fishing forecast for April 10, 2019 

The lake fishing out of Wilson and Olcott, NY is really starting to turn on. Brown trout have been hitting closer to the shoreline on stickbaits and spoons.

Michael Xu caught this big Niagara River steelhead fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls this week.

Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane was focused efforts in 10 to 14 feet of water around Olcott with Bay Rats and Live Targets off the planer boards. On the riggers it was Dreamweaver SS spoons producing some nice browns, but a mix of other species including an Atlantic were also caught. Lake trout are out a bit deeper. A few king salmon are starting to show up in the lake.

Eric from Lancaster, Pa. shows off an Olcott brown trout he reeled in fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni aboard the Thrillseeker.

Chris Kempf of Cheektowaga hit a nice one on Saturday, a fish he reeled in while fishing with Capt. Joe Gallo of Amherst. They were fishing a flasher-fly 70 feet down over 125 feet of water when the bruiser hit while fishing out of Wilson. He also caught lake trout in 100 to 130 feet of water on spoons and flasher-fly.

In the tributaries, the action has been consistent for steelhead and brown trout according to Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters.

Water quality in the creeks is pretty good.

The rain recently should help bring up water levels and add a lightly stain.

Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors reports decent pier action off Wilson and Olcott for browns. Bass are starting to hit, too.

Wilson has long been known for its excellent spring bullhead fishing.

Roy Letcher of Olcott reeled in the top prize for the Wilson Bullhead Contest last week. His two fish totaled 4.36 pounds.

However, after last weekend’s performance by Roy Letcher of Olcott and Jeff Herman of Newfane, Olcott Harbor might be vying for the bullhead title in Niagara County. The bullhead contest ran from 5 p.m. on Friday to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Letcher and Herman caught 350 bullheads and cleaned 200. The best weight of Letcher’s best 2 fish was 4.36 pounds. Red worms and night crawlers were the baits of choice.

There was a tie for second place between Brud Holly IV of Wilson and Jeff Budziszewski of Newfane with two-fish totals of 3.68 pounds each. Holly won the tie-breaker based on length of the fish. Brud was using crawlers and shrimp in Wilson-Tuscarora Park and Jeff was using the same baits in 12 Mile Creek. A total of 93 entries participated in this year’s contest, including 14 kids. Youth winner was Jace Greene of Newfane with a two fish total of 3.55 pounds. Runner-up was Olivia Lampman of Newfane with a two-fish total of 3.33 pounds.

Some ice chunks have been coming down through the river system, serving as obstacles in the upper and lower river sections.

Chris Kempf of Cheektowaga shows off his first king salmon of the year fishing out of Wilson with Capt. Joe Gallo of Two Bulls (right).

Lower river trout action has been a bit more difficult due to winds and clear conditions, although not as clear as previously according to Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle.

Minnows have been producing steelhead and browns in the river, as well as egg sacs. Cast spinners or jigs from shore.

Lance Chamberlain of Texas with a Niagara River steelhead, caught while fishing with Capt. Arnie Jonathan of Lockport.

No reports on smelt yet. The Lewiston Smelt Festival will be May 3 in Academy Park in Lewiston this year.

The ice boom is still in place since there was still over 400 square miles of ice in the lake as of Monday. It needs to be 250 square miles or less.

 

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director
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Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Legend of Jacques Cousteau Lives On from Port Sanibel Marina, Florida

  • Calypso’s Maiden Fishing Voyage – 106 miles from port in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Fishing Shark River, Outlet of the Florida Everglades
  • Four Roaring 350 Horsepower Mercury outboards
  • Shark On…the Adventure of a Lifetime!
Captain Ryan Kane with his new “Calypso,” a 42 foot long Renaissance Prowler with four 350 Hp Mercury Outboard engines. Ready for long-range fishing fun.  Shirley Holzhei Photo

By Bob Holzhei

“She was beautiful, gorgeous, erotic, and brand spanking new! Her curves and shape attracted the attention of fishermen everywhere and captured their hearts like falling in love for the first time. She was a virgin about to embark on her maiden voyage into the Gulf of Mexico ‘far beyond the sight of land,’ 106 miles from the dock at Sanibel Island Marina.

She was a mermaid in the water; I fell head over heels in love with her when I first saw her. As I boarded her, my heart rate increased in intensity. She took my breath away. A first touch, was followed by an embrace which led to anticipation in passion for the climax of the story! One never forgets falling in love for the first time.

“I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau as a kid, he’s a legend. His boat was named Calypso,” stated Captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct Fishing Charters.

“Cousteau was a French undersea explorer, researcher, photographer, and documentary host who invented diving and scuba devices, including the Aqua-Lung,” Kane added. “The television special – The World of Jacques – ran for nine seasons on ABC television network and had millions of followers. I had to name my new boat Calypso, it was only right.”

Calypso in Greek mythology was the daughter of the Titan god Atlas. Calypso symbolized forces that divert men from their goals, filled with intrigue and seduction. She was a nymph who fell in love with Odysseus after he was shipwrecked on her island of Ogygia. He refused to stay with her, so she detained him for seven years until Zeus ordered her to release him.

Captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct Fishing Charters is the best charter fishing captain in the state of Florida. We had fished with him before. My wife and I were invited to join Captain Ryan on the maiden voyage and it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Calypso is 42-feet long and has four 350 Mercury horsepower outboard engines mounted on her stern. Loaded and fueled, she weighs close to 14,000 pounds at the dock.

Matt Hatrick, first mate, played such an important role on board. A wealth of fishing knowledge too, he rigged the lines and baited our hooks with 12-15 inch long Spanish Mackerel and Mullet, and some lines with mullet, then became a momentary picture star holding up various fish for pictures. He was fun to be around.

12-15 inch long mullet and Spanish Mackerel were the primary shark bait that we fished off a bobber rig using current to deploy 200-300 feet from the boat. All the consumable baits on board come from Anderson’s Bait & Tackle in Fort Myers, FL. Dave Barus Photo

“I’m excited about this boat. It is in the forefront of boating technology. The forward angle and shape of her hull make the boat more gas efficient. I average 1 mile a gallon at a speed of 40 to 55 miles per hour, that’s pretty good for a boat this long and this heavy. It means comfort for all aboard and that why I bought a boat like this, for the clients,” added Kane.

The 42-foot tri-hull catamaran provided a smooth ride out to the fishing grounds, with one to three foot waves feeling almost non-existent.

Kane uses Dan James Custom rods and 60-pound line mounted on his Shimano reels. As we went fishing for sharks, he used size 8/0 Mustad hooks, strong and sharp.

Dave Barus (L) and Captain Ryan Kane with the Bull Shark that Barus caught. The shark was carefully released and swam away. One of several sharks we caught. Shirley Holzhei photo.

“Fish on!” Interrupted the conversation. The rod bent double! It was a big fish! It was fellow outdoor writer, Dave Barus with the next turn to reel a fish in. He was having trouble fighting the fish, the line ran out as the fish was so big, so strong and not about to give up in the first minute.

“Want to take a turn and fight the fish Bob?” Asked Barus.

“No, I’ve seen too many fish lost when transferring the rod to another person,” I replied.

Following the 26-minute fight, a large six-foot shark came to surface as it neared the boat, however it made a number of runs diving down deep into the Shark River in the direction of the Gulf waters and out of sight.

Finally, the brute was tiring. A rope was put on the tail to haul the Bull Shark aboard for pictures. The Bull Shark was 6 to 7 feet long, we estimated the weight at about 100 pounds.

The first “big fish” caught to date aboard Calypso was celebrated with a toast, with big-fish catcher Dave Barus popping the champagne cork and Captain Ryan Kane holding the glass, everyone shared – it was a special moment in time for all of us. Bob Holzhei Photo

Barus told me he was sore and tired after the Bull Shark was boated. I believed him.

It was a fantasy fishing trip out that was real, pinch me, in the Gulf of Mexico. I will relive this entire adventure long after we are back home to Michigan.

Anglers from all over the world come to Port Sanibel Marina, FL to fish with Captain Kane. I can verify, the fishing adventure of a lifetime awaits you. He can run 200 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico to where no fish has ever seen a hook, and back to the dock, all in less than a day fishing. Same day trophy fishing! This represents capability that no other charter fishing boats currently can offer from southwest Florida: time and distance, and unparalleled fishing fun.

For More information: Contact: www.southerninstinct.com or phone 239-896-2341. Accommodations: Lee County CVB/The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Island, www.fort-myers-sanibel.com, 1-800-237-6444.

Bassmaster Elite Series Returning to South Carolina’s Historic Lake Hartwell

ANDERSON, S.C. — After serving three times in the past 11 years as the host venue for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, Lake Hartwell is already firmly entrenched in professional bass fishing history.

Now it’s time to write the next chapter.

The Bassmaster Elite Series’ third stop of the 2019 season will be at the famed Lake Hartwell out of Anderson, South Carolina: April 4-7.  Photo by B.A.S.S.

The Bassmaster Elite at Lake Hartwell is scheduled for April 4-7 with daily takeoffs from Green Pond Landing and Event Center in Anderson at 7 a.m. ET and weigh-ins back at Green Pond Landing at 3:15 p.m. A field of 75 anglers will compete for a $100,000 first-place prize and valuable points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.

South Carolina pro Brandon Cobb, who lives just 50 minutes from the launch, believes the spawn could be in full swing by the time the tournament starts.

“This year we’ve had some warm weather, but we’ve had more cold nights than we’ve ever had,” said Cobb, a Clemson graduate who has been fishing Hartwell his whole life. “So the fish are a little behind from what they were the last few years.

“If the weather holds stable like the forecast says, I think it’s going to be mostly a spawn tournament. I don’t think every fish will be on bed, but there will be a lot of sight fish caught.”

Cobb said a bed-fishing tournament could be good for the entire field because all of Hartwell’s 56,000 surface acres offer perfect habitat for the bass spawn. Even anglers who haven’t fished the lake much in the past should be able to find good five-fish limits.

That’ll make for a great overall tournament, but it could eliminate the hometown advantage he was looking forward to during a rare week when he’ll get to fish an Elite Series event while sleeping nights in his own bed.

“Basically, my local advantage is gone if they’re on bed,” Cobb said. “A place like the St. Johns River in Florida has key spawning areas. But on Lake Hartwell, they spawn everywhere. In general, all of Lake Hartwell is the same water temperature — and when they come up, they come up everywhere.”

Normally, when a major tournament visits Hartwell, anglers spend much of their time chasing nomadic bass that are following the lake’s famed population of blueback herring. But that isn’t likely to be the case during this event.

“The one time of year when herring don’t play a major factor is during this spawn,” Cobb said. “That changes things a lot and really makes this tournament wide open.”

Cobb stopped short of saying the event will be a “junk fishing tournament” — which means anglers would be fishing a wide variety of tactics without any solid technique rising to the forefront. But he said it could certainly be an event where anglers find bass in a lot of different places and catch them on a lot of different baits.

“You could fish a different part of the lake every day and still catch them,” Cobb said. “Hartwell just has so much to offer. It’ll all depend on who consistently finds the biggest bags.”

Though he expects lots of 18- to 20-pound limits to be weighed, Cobb said he doesn’t expect the winning angler to reach that mark all four days.

“With the nature of the bedding fish on Hartwell, I would feel really good about averaging 17 pounds a day,” he said. “You may have one day where you catch 20 pounds and then another day when you don’t really find them.

“That 17-pound consistency will basically be the key.”

This is the third event on the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule. After the first two events on Florida’s St. Johns River and Georgia’s Lake Lanier, Canadian pro Chris Johnston leads the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 190 points, followed by Alabama angler Scott Canterbury (182) and Texas pro Lee Livesay (181).

A full field of 75 anglers will fish Thursday and Friday before the field is cut to the Top 35 for Saturday’s semifinal round. Only the Top 10 will advance to Championship Sunday for a chance at the coveted blue trophy and the six-figure paycheck.

On Saturday and Sunday at Green Pond Landing, the Elite Expo will offer interactive exhibits, merchandise sales, prizes and contests, food and beverage vendors and activities for children. Fans can also meet the Elites at Angler Alley on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. or participate in Elite Angler Clinics onstage at the same time. Saturday is also Military and First Responder Appreciation Day, and Sunday is B.A.S.S. Member Appreciation Day.

Visit Anderson is the host organization for the event; 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota; 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Abu Garcia, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Triton Boats, Yamaha;
2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, Carhartt, Lowrance, Mossy Oak Fishing, T-H Marine; 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Hartwell Host Sponsor: Visit Anderson

About B.A.S.S. – B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. With more than 510,000 members internationally, B.A.S.S. is not only home to the nation’s premier fishing tournament trails, but it also boasts the most expansive and comprehensive media network in the fishing industry. Its media include The Bassmasters on the ESPN networks, more than 130 hours of tournament programming on the Pursuit Channel, 250 hours of on-the-water streaming coverage on Bassmaster LIVE and 1 million monthly visitors to the flagship website on bass fishing – Bassmaster.com. B.A.S.S. also provides more than 4.4 million readers with the best in bass fishing coverage through Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times, and its radio and social media programs and events reach hundreds of thousands each month.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, culminating in the ultimate event on the biggest stage for competitive anglers, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The trail also includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, BassPro.com Bassmaster Open Series, and B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series, and the Bassmaster Team Championship.

New Age Fishing

  • What would Gramps Say?
Some fishermen prefer to go old-school when they set out on northern lakes and rivers.

By Brent Frazee

I wonder what Gramps would think.

Sixty years ago, things were pretty simple when we went fishing. He had a small aluminum boat, an old Johnson motor, an anchor, a few rods and reels, and a coffee can full of worms.

Gramps was our GPS and the anchor rope was our depth finder. Gramps had the rope knotted every two feet so he would know how deep the water was when he lowered the anchor.  He didn’t need an electronic depth-finder to tell him how deep he was fishing.

Nor did he need a $50,000 bass boat, a 250-horsepower motor, a trolling motor with almost as much power as the outboard Gramps used. Nor high-composite graphite rods that cost $200 and reels that have an even higher price tag.

Yeah, I can just see Gramps shaking his head now. He would have a hard time believing what fishing has become today.

Sometimes, I feel the same way. Today’s high-tech era has brought fishing to unbelievable heights.

The fish no longer are able to swim to depths undetected. “Spy” technology has allowed fishermen to track their prey wherever they go.

Sensitive rods allow fishermen to detect even the lightest strike. And reels with multiple ball bearings allow us to cast farther than ever before.

Meanwhile, costs soar and fishermen dole out money at unprecedented rates.

I always come back to the same question: What would Gramps think?

And I always add a question of my own: Is all this technology a good thing or a bad thing?

Please don’t think I am being judgmental. I too have been swept up in this high-tech craze.

I have outfitted my bass boat with a 100-pound thrust trolling motor (outboards are not allowed on the lake I live on), a Hummingbird Helix electronics unit with down scan, side scan, and GPS, and I have hundreds of dollars invested in my rods and reels. I have a few fishing lures that I paid $25 for (a Megabass suspending stickbait, for example), and I have more tubs of lures in my garage than some small tackle shops do.

But every once in a while, I wonder if I really need all of this modern equipment. I think back to simpler times when I seemingly caught just as many fish.

I doubt that Gramps would have been lured by some of this technology even if it were available. He prided himself in being able to figure out what the fish were doing at any given time.

“You have to think like a fish,” he used to joke with me.

And somehow, I wonder if we’ve lost some of that. Some fishermen have let machines take over, relying on electronics to do the job they once did.

Every year, there is one new big thing that captures the imagination –and the dollars – of fishermen. This year it is the LiveScope, put out by Garmin. It features scanning technology that shows moving images of the fish swimming under the boat. For example, fishermen can see how fish react when a lure bumps against flooded timber, what causes them to scatter, etc.

Crappie fishermen are especially excited about the new device, because they spend most of their time fishing vertically.

“It’s almost cheating,” one seminar speaker said this winter.

So what’s next? A machine that reels in the fish for us? Electronics that give fishermen an approximate size of the fish below? A way to will tell us when fish will bite and when they won’t?

The sky is the limit when it comes to fishing technology. But sometime I yearn for the old days, when fishing was considerably simpler – and less expensive.

I picture myself in Gramps’ boat, an orange life jacket around my head, catching fish on a simple worm and a bobber, and I think that life wasn’t so bad back in those days.

 

Lower Niagara River Anglers CATCHING BIG FISH

  • Bill Hilts Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for March 13, 2019 from Destination Niagara USA
Greg Schloerb of Amherst, NY, with a Lake Ontario tributary steelhead.

Action has picked back up again in the lower Niagara River according to Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston. Steelhead fishing was good in Devil’s Hole and along Artpark on pink egg sacs and Kwikfish. Some fish have also been caught on MagLips. There was no ice and water clarity was good, for now anyway. Best color of Kwikfish was gold.

Tim Thomas of Kenmore, NY, with a Lake Ontario tributary brown trout.

Some browns are still hitting downriver and walleye are still being caught. Emerald shiner fishing has been consistent off three-way rigs. Remember that walleye season closes in the state on Friday, March 15.

From shore in the gorge, be careful of the shelf ice. Artpark only had a foot or two, but more could be found further up into the gorge toward the Whirlpool.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls was using jigs and spinners from shore to catch steelhead. Others were using egg sacs in pink, purple and chartreuse.
If you can find some open water in the tributaries, you should be able to catch steelhead and the occasional brown trout. One area is 18 Mile Creek near Burt Dam but don’t be afraid to try some exploring in the smaller streams.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls was casting a jig off Artpark to take this lower river steelie.

Temperatures are getting close to 50 today and near 60 tomorrow and 50 on Friday so that could make a difference along the streams. Egg sacs, egg imitations and jigs fished under a float are all good approaches for this time of year.

Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston with a lower Niagara River steelhead.

We just received word from DEC that Oppenheim Park Pond will be stocked with 300 trout on April 11 at 10 a.m. and Hyde Park Lake and Gill Creek in Niagara Falls will be stocked on April 11 at 11 a.m. with over 2,500 trout.

The winners were announced for the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs Conservation Awards for 2018.  Check out the Buffalo News on March 14 for who they are.  The dinner is April 6 in Lockport at Cornell Cooperative Extension starting at 5:30 p.m.  Call Dave Whitt at 754-2133 for tickets or more information.

Mike Goostree of Cleveland, OH, with a 14-pound brown trout he caught in the lower river fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303, f: 716-285-0809
www.niagarafallsusa.com

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Opening Day Traditions, Memories for Life

  • Fishing, hunting, warm, cold – you gotta go!
  • Keeping young, no matter your age
  • Remembering my dad
In keeping with tradition, a crowd of fishermen showed up March 1 at Bennett Spring State Park for opening day of the Missouri trout season. Photo by Brent Frazee

By Brent Frazee

I have always been fascinated by the tradition involved in fishing and hunting.

Opening day of deer season.   Spending time with a lifelong friend or relative in a fishing boat.  Days in the field with an old bird dog   And the fishermen’s unofficial first day of spring, the Missouri trout opener.

They all elicit images of the romance in our outdoor sports that the anti’s could never understand.  It’s reminiscing about days with a friend or relative who is no longer with us, of an unforgettable day of fishing, of a big buck that showed up out of nowhere, of a day when the weather presented a formidable challenge.

We take memories of those days to our old age, thumbing through faded pictures of long-ago fishing trips or reminiscing about special moments long after we are no longer able to participate.

I’ll never forget the last time I talked to my dad before he passed away. “Do you remember Arnie?” he said in almost a whisper.

Arnie was our guide the first time my dad took me to Canada. I was just a little guy and I was thrilled that I would get to meet a real Indian.

Arnie was colorful, to say the least. He drove us to the boat ramp in a beat-up truck with a door that wouldn’t shut, a motor that coughed and sputtered, and seats that were so worn that the foam was showing.

Arnie guided us to the trip of a lifetime, showing us where to catch giant northern pike. My dad and I reminisced about those days often, especially when there was a lull in our conversation.

We didn’t talk about the little-league games my dad coached, the big-city vacations we took, the trips to our family farm or the many major-league games we went to.

We talked about special times together in a fishing boat.

I see how many other people bond the same way.  And I smile.

Photo by Brent Frazee

Tradition is a big part of who we are as fishermen and hunters.

In my world, nowhere is that more evident than at Bennett Spring State Park in south-central Missouri.

The park celebrated its 95th trout opener on March 1, most of them as a destination managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and stocked by the Department of Conservation.

Some fishermen will try to tell you that they have been to every one of them – but then, you know how fishermen like to stretch the truth.

Still, there are many who have been attending the opener for many years and wouldn’t miss one, no matter what.

Over the years, I have interviewed many of those proud old-timers and have taken delight in their stories.

Chet Snyder of Grandview, Mo., comes to mind. He is 85 and still makes sure he gets back to Bennett on opening day every year.

He has been fishing the opener for 63 years and he won’t let anything hold him back.

“We’ve driven on icy roads, through snow storms, in real cold weather, but we’ve always gotten there,” he said. “It’ something I won’t miss. It’s tradition.”

When I talked to him several years ago, his dedication to follow tradition was especially impressive. He suffered a seizure less than week before the opener and he was released from the hospital only days earlier.

He asked for the doctor’s OK to travel to Bennett for the opener, and he got it. His son did the driving and he was back on the water.

Snyder returned for this year’s opener with his sons Chuck and Curtis and his grandson Cody. He cast for a short time, but a problem with his balance kept him from going at it as hard as he once did. Still, he was there, and that’s all that mattered in his mind.

But Snyder certainly isn’t in a class by himself at Bennett. Walk into the park store and you’ll hear others talking about how long they have been coming to Bennett for the trout opener.

I suppose I have a streak of my own. I have been attending the Missouri trout opener since 1980 when I started working at The Kansas City Star—most of them at Bennett, but a few at Roaring River. Now that I’m retired, I still go back, using the trip as an excuse to do an article for one of the media outlets for which I freelance.

I enjoy talking to old friends, making new ones, and reminiscing about past openers.

It’s tradition, and I’m not ready to give that up.

Missouri State Record Brown Trout – CAUGHT and RELEASED ALIVE!

  • Hooked, Landed, Weighed, Transported, Released ALIVE!
  • Incredible True Story of a Passionate Sportsman and Friends
  • Lilley’s Landing Tournament Site is Home to New State Record Brown Trout at Lake Taneycomo

 

Paul Crews and friends with the new Missouri state record brown trout, 34 lbs – 10 oz, released alive back to Lake Taneycomo.  CLICK PICTURE FOR VIDEO. Ryan Miloshowski Photo      

An incredible true story of a memorial fishing tournament named after an honored friend, a new giant state record fish hooked under adverse conditions, landed, transported, weighed, transported, then released alive to swim away and fight another day.  

Because there are so many facets to this Lake Taneycomo trout saga, it’s hard to know where to begin.  The prime fact is that Paul Crews of Neosho, MO, landed the biggest brown trout Saturday that anyone has ever caught in the state of Missouri to date.  It was officially weighed by Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Biologist Shane Bush and documented at 34 lbs-10 oz. That beat the previous state record by a little more than six pounds, caught by Scott Sandusky of Arnold, MO, in November 2009, also on Lake Taneycomo.

Crews and partner, Jimmy Rayfield of Salem, MO, were fishing together in a trout tournament hosted by Lilleys’ Landing Resort & Marina on upper Lake Taneycomo.  It’s called the Vince Elfrink Memorial, named after Vince who was an avid sportsman, husband, father, and friend to many of the participants of the contest, including Crews and Rayfield. Vince passed away in 2011 of brain cancer at the age of 52.  And just so happens that the pair won last year’s tournament, sealed by a 21-inch brown trout Rayfield had caught.  The pair beat out 36 other teams to win this year’s event.

The day started out foggy and wet, but the afternoon brought out the sun and wind.  We all were watching for thunderstorms early, but anticipating the high winds forecast for later in the day that did arrive about 2 p.m..  Fishing in wind gusts up to 40 mph is not easy, especially tossing a small 1/8th ounce, sculpin-colored jig around.  Working a lure that small in high winds is tough, even with four-pound line, but feeling a bite is virtually impossible, unless it’s a huge fish, I guess.

Crews and Rayfield had had a good day up to the minute the big fish was hooked. They had been fishing down from Lilleys’ Landing most of the day but ventured up to the mouth of Fall Creek to make a drift, working their jigs along the east bank. Crews said they were in shallow water, able to see the bottom under their boat as they drifted. Table Rock Dam was releasing water at a rate of 6,850 cubic feet per second, generating two units at 3 p.m.  Even with the difficulty of the wind blowing his line, Crews still felt a “tap” and set the hook. That’s when the excitement started!

The fish came off the bank where it was hooked and ran toward the duo, swimming under their boat. Crews had to scramble his new rig, spinning it around so that his line didn’t catch the edge of the boat or trolling motor.  The trout stayed down almost the entire fight, so Crews didn’t really know what he had until the very end, but he knew it was big enough “to probably win the tournament” if he landed it.  Little did he know . . .

“Frank” eventually headed across the lake to the bluff bank, then switched back to the middle and eventually returned to the inside bank where docks dot the shore.  Yes, the fish has a name explained later in the story.  Frank then headed to places he’s probably familiar with — the docks. Crews said he swam under at least two docks. That heightened the high risk that the line might be cut on the dock itself or on the boats at the docks. Crews, a seasoned angler, kept his rod way down in the water to keep the line from rubbing on anything that would end his fight.

The giant brown trout named “Frank” was carefully handled, weighed by state officials and released alive back into Lake Taneycomo to live into the future. Ryan Miloshowski Photo

At one point, Crews said that Frank quit moving. He thought for sure Frank had wrapped his line around something and escaped, but Frank was just resting and a fish that big can do whatever he wants to do. Eventually he came out, tired and ready to give in. Rayfield worked the net over his head and the pair hoisted the fished into the boat. They were just above Short Creek when the fight ended.

Crews had just bought a new boat and this was its maiden voyage. Fortunately, the live well was just big enough to fit Frank in, but he filled every bit of it. Word got back to me that they were coming in with a huge fish, so we had everything ready to receive the package. Frank was immediately placed in a large, aerated tank on our dock to rest after his ordeal.

We determined right off the bat that we’d try to keep Frank alive regardless if he was a new record or not. Once he uprighted himself and was swimming around, we pulled him out and recorded a quick, unofficial weight of 33.4 pounds. He was easily a new Missouri state record. Now we had to come up with a plan to transport him to the hatchery to be officially weighed.

We filled a stock tank full of lake water and that’s where Frank rode, guarded by admirers in the back of my truck on the five-mile ride to the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery. Shane Bush was there with hatchery personnel, ready with their official scale to see if Frank made the record books or not. Everything was done quickly and carefully, pulling him out of the stock tank to the scale, verifying his weight at 34 lbs-10 oz, and then moving him to the aerated tank in Shane’s truck. We still had no pictures out of the water, just shaky videos, but the goal was to return him back in the lake as quickly as possible.

We caravaned down to the boat ramp access, less than a mile from the weigh-in site. Shane needed to get some official measurements before release: 38 inches long, 27-inch girth. He confirmed our observations that the adipose fin had been clipped, which identified Frank as a triploid brown trout. I’ll explain what that means later.

The sun was about to set over Table Rock Dam, so we hurried to the edge of the water to take a few pictures: Crews and Rayfield with the new Missouri state record brown trout. We slipped Frank into the water and Crews gently held him there until he swam out of his hand. We followed him a little ways downstream until he turned and swam close to the bank, holding his own in the swift water.  Frank dashed the record books, survived being fought, handled, trucked, weighed, trucked and photographed and back in Lake Tanneycomo before sundown. We hope he keeps growing and maybe, just maybe, give someone else a chance to catch a state record fish.

Crews lives with his best friend and wife, Rita, and their son Matthew in Neosho, Missouri. They own Crews Construction and specialize in wastewater treatment plant construction. He is an avid outdoorsman, but his home waters are the Spring and Neosho rivers as well as Grand Lake, so he rarely fishes for trout except in the annual tournament honoring his fishing buddy.

Frank’s story – we’ve always had trout hovering under our dock, feeding on pieces and parts of fish discarded from our fish cleaning facility. On occasion, there will be a big trout, either brown or rainbow, to stop by for a treat.  They move up and down the lake seeking out the best meal, never staying in one spot very long.

One day about three years ago, Duane Doty (dockhand and guide for Lilleys’ Landing) spotted a very large brown. He stood out from the other trout. He was a brute. Duane called him Frank. Shortly after Frank showed up, another brown trout showed up and he was much bigger! Duane changed Frank’s name to Frankie and called the new addition Frank. We have since videoed and photographed Frank many times when he has trolled by, so we have good records on him.

To sum up this incredible story, fishing in a memorial tournament named after his best friend, Paul Crews hooks a fish in extremely adverse conditions, fights a 34-pound fish on four-pound line for 20 minutes around docks, logs and boat traffic, then lands it using a small trout net. He fits it in his live well and keeps it alive while transporting it to be officially weighed, measured and photographed, then released back in the lake successfully to keep the story alive.

And Crews says, “Praise the Lord!”

Cockroach Bay: Daytime Saltwater Fishing Thrills near Tampa

  • Speckled Trout, Tarpon, Redfish, Snook, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, others
  • Lures or Live Bait, both work well
  • Lagoon or flats, there are fish in all places here
Trevor Brate with a nice, 19-inch Speckled Trout that fit the 16-20 inch slot limit, taken on a gold Johnson Sprite spoon.

By Forrest Fisher

New to Southwest Florida and only in the wintertime, there is so much to learn about where to fish and what to do. Rod strength, line test, reel size, lure and bait choices, where to fish, a mystery for anyone new to anywhere, but I had one advantage, my nephew, Jeff Liebler, who lives in Florida, had a close friend with a boat and a “best place” to go fishing for a half day: “Cockroach Bay is one of the best places to cast a line in southwest Florida,” said Trevor Brate. ”You could catch a tarpon, snook, redfish, speckled trout, flounder or any of dozens of other fish here too.”

At 25 years young, Brate is the youngest licensed construction contractor in Southwest Florida (A+ Yardscapes / (813) 642-7358), having passed all the exams and certifications, a smart kid, and it shows in his fishing prowess.  “I keep it simple, lures and simple live baits is all I do,” says Brate. “Keeping it simple allows you to become really skilled at simple efficiency and it catches fish, my grandpa taught me that.”

Launching the boat is a 2-man effort to keep the launch moving. The ramp is concrete and solid, though no dock is present.

We launched his 17-foot Grady White right at Cockroach Bay boat launch (near Ruskin, FL), a single ramp in a lagoon-like bay area with no dock – so it takes two to be efficient, one driving the truck to the water and the other in the boat, starting up and beaching the boat on the large sand beach next to the ramp. The parking line with boats and trailers begins at the ramp and goes for as long a way down the single lane road as you care to walk. Once in the water, the tide is a factor for water depth, see the charts, and fishing can begin right in the lagoon or outside the canal that leads to Cockroach Bay and Tampa Bay. In either area, be prepared to hook a fish.

Launched boats are beached after launching to load up and head out, there is no dock at the ramp.

Jeff and Trevor opted to leave the crowd at the ramp and head to the flats. The water was nearly crystal clear with a sight brownish tint and we arrived with an outgoing tide, soon to be a negative tide – it is wintertime, not a good thing by local fishing optimism. It didn’t matter, we were all there to enjoy a few hours of fishing. The cooler was filled with sandwiches and dehydration prevention liquids that had a low ABV rating, if you know the lingo. Electrolyte replacement is important!

Fish can be caught in the lagoon right near the ramp.

Not more than 5 minutes into fishing, the electric MinnKota bow motor moving us around between sand flats and emerging weedbed edges, Trevor yelped out, “There’s one!” His drag was singing a gentle scream tune, testing the 30 pound test braid with flourocarbon leader a bit. About a minute later, Trevor hoisted a silvery, thin-bodied fish with a deeply forked tail fin out of the water, a nice Jack Crevalle, grinning that grin of success, you know “the grin look,” as we looked on and reached for a camera. “Nice fish!” I quipped, “Spoon? I asked.” Trevor was casting a 2/5 oz. gold-plated Johnson Sprite with a red flicker tab on the tail treble hook. “You need that red flicker thing he said, it seems to make ‘em hit it.”

OK, reaching for my backpack with a limited supply of tackle goodies – hey, I’m new at this, I searched for anything gold with a red flicker thing. Nope, none in there. I stuck on a red/white Mirrolure, one of my favorites from way back when at home in New York.  Jeff too, searched out his tackle, nuthin similar. “Got any more of them ‘thar spoons Trevor buddy?” Jeff asked. Without looking, Trevor says, “Nope, just had one.” He was grinning. I saw that. Hey, what are friends for?

The kids let me catch one or two fish too, this one took almost two minutes to bring aboard. Fun times.

Jeff added a plastic tail to a jig and soon after, he was hooked up with a bonnet head shark! WOW! The 3-foot long shark fought so hard, testing Jeff’s 20-pound braid with several runs, but eventually coming to the boat. We released the shark too, though there are some good recipes for bonnet head steaks.

We were now about 15 minutes into the trip and it was already so exciting. I had casted about twice per minute, so 30 tries or so. I reached over to the live bait bucket where we had 5 dozen shrimp that I brought “just in case” the lures didn’t work. Some charters fish with nothing else, some charters fish with all lures, I just wanted to be prepared for the guys, as a guest of this friendship.

So I tied on a size 1 circle hook and weighted bobber, was just about done when Trevor shouted, “Fish on!” Again, his drag screamed and I stood up to get the net, this fish looked like a double rod bend species when I got wacked by the rod and fish coming aboard. “Schllaaaap!” The sound of a loaded fishing rod hitting me square in the shoulder with a fish on makes that sound. Trust me.  I was knocked on my butt, but stayed in the boat. We all laughed. Me too.

Jeff Liebler with a feisty Bonnethead Shark that tested his light tackle to the tune of a screaming drag.

The fish was a beautiful speckled trout, 19 inches of pure energy with soon to be white fillets. It met the 16 – 20 inch slot limit allowed to keep four per day.  Again, on the gold spoon. “Sure you don’t have any more of those spoons Trevor?” Jeff asked again. “Nope,” answered Trevor without looking. Again, the grin. Made me wonder twice now.

That was it, I hurried to hook up a live shrimp to the bobber rig. Slipping the hook right behind the stud above the shrimp’s nose for a secure locking point, I cast out to the edge of a weedbed I could see about 50 feet away. The bobber never had a chance to settle, the line just took off. “Fish On!” I could not believe the power of this fish. My 20-pound braid was wailing a James Taylor tune…Fire and Ice, I think. Indeed, I was dreaming. About a minute later, a 22-inch Pompano came aboard. These saltwater fish really fight well.

Over the next two hours we landed another 12 fish, puffer fish too, several speckled trout, others. These two kids opted to let the “old guy” take the fish home for a guest fish dinner. I didn’t argue.

Trevor Brate and Jeff Liebler, fishing buddies, share the half day of fishing fun before getting back to work.

In just three more weeks, all three of us would be part of a formal ceremony day in a formal uniform suit of the day, Jeff’s wedding! This was sort of a pre-bachelor party fish trip. Jeff and his bride are both outdoor-minded conservationists. I’m so happy for them both to be getting formal about being together for their future.

Fun? Oh my gosh, this was such a great adventure day!

6-1/2” Tri-Alive Nightcrawler – NEW Killer Plastic from Mister Twister

  • Slithering Action, new colors never seen before
  • Chunky, weighty, easy to cast
  • Tail seems to have buoyancy, making the worm totally new
Mister Twister Tri-color worm in Morning Dawn color, click to see the color palette.

By Forrest Fisher

Ever noticed that fish everywhere become familiar with seeing the same lure over and over? What worked last year simply is not working this year.  It’s frustrating, right?

Sometimes when a new lure hits the market…CHAZAM!

Fish on!

Why?

Not sure, but here is one new lure that does just that, the new Tri-Alive Nightcrawler from Mister Twister.

It’s a 6 ½-inch straight tail worm with a slender profile, soft feel for that “bite me and keep me” instinct attraction, and it seems when using these new worms, the tail-end floats a bit. That adds a flavor of newness and different action. This is especially intense for “used-to-it” fish, when using a stand-up style jig head (Shakey head).

Yep…Hang on!

You can hook it up as a regular Texas rig, Carolina rig, wacky rig or in any manner rig you think to try.

The worm has a different descent rate and when combined with the myriad assortment of  colors offered, there is fish attraction.

The worm has a slight, but not overwhelming internal glisten, and it has a gentle gliding movement during the cast and drop . True even during steady retrieve motions – like when fished with a vibrating jig head, the Z-man head or Ricky Clunn head.

All tasty options for hungry bass.

When cast to the same spot repeatedly, the worm is enough to drive bass wacky. Wacky rig, wacky bass, it all comes together. The bass are intimidated, striking the worm just because.

It comes in 15 different three-layer color combinations with unique colors to offer fish something new to see and eat. 

“All the colors in the Tri-Alive Nightcrawler lineup were custom made in combinations that have yet to be offered,” said General Manager of Mister Twister, Chuck Byrd. “The color contrast is a key to more fish whether in clear water or stained water.” Adding, What really sets this product apart from all others, besides the new color contrast is the very soft plastic formulation. “Very soft means much more action, slower fall and a more natural gliding action in the water.” 

“You know it’s a great worm when you can catch a four-pound, post-spawn bass in 10 feet of water with it,” says Twister Team Member Mike Cork. “Awesome new colors!” Super soft, yet durable. 

Fish the 6 ½-inch Tri-Alive Nightcrawler, testers say, “It’s exceptional even for walleye harness rigs.”

To visit the website for more info, click here. 

Clunn is Ageless, Magic Fishmaster, Wins at St. John’s River

  • Theme of the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series: “Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.”
  • Clunn, 72 years young,  wins with 34-14 on Final Day to total 98-14 for tourney!
  • Clunn’s Hot Lures: Luck-E-Strike Hail Mary(3/4-ounce), Luck-E-Strike Trickster Spinnerbait with a shellcracker-colored skirt and a Texas-rigged GatorTail worm.
Rick Clunn repeats at Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River with a 4-day total of 98 pounds-14-ounces. Photo by B.A.S.S./Seigo-Saito

Palatka, Fl. – Feb. 10, 2018: After becoming the oldest angler ever to win a Bassmaster Elite Series event in 2016 on the St. Johns River, Rick Clunn provided what has become one of the most famous quotes in professional bass fishing history when he said, “Never accept that all of your best moments are in your past.”

On Sunday, he walked it like he talks it. Clunn, who turned 72 in July, broke his own record for agelessness, winning the Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River with a four-day total of 98 pounds, 14 ounces. His amazing week was punctuated on Championship Sunday with a tournament-best limit of five bass that weighed 34-14.

It was the 16th career victory for Clunn, whose $100,000 first-place paycheck put him over $2.5 million in career earnings with B.A.S.S.

“I think this just reinforces what I said after I won here in 2016,” Clunn said. “A long time ago, I stopped paying attention to timelines. The terrible twos, the ugly teens, the midlife crisis, retirement time — I don’t pay any attention to any of that. “If you listen to everybody else, you’ll get premature notions about who you really are.” This week, there was no doubt about it. He was “Rick Clunn: Legend.”

The Ava, Mo., angler started modestly with a limit of 17-5 on Day 1. But he inched his way up the standings with 23-11 on Day 2 and then caught 23-0 on Day 3 to make Sunday’s Top 10 cut in eighth place with a three-day total of 64-0.

He joked after Saturday’s semifinal weigh-in that he might need a 10-pounder and a 12-pounder on Sunday to have any chance of winning. While he didn’t quite make those marks, he came close by weighing in two fish over 9 pounds, including a 9-14 that ranked as the biggest bass of the day.

His three key baits all week were a big lipless crankbait from Luck-E-Strike called a Hail Mary, a 3/4-ounce Luck-E-Strike Trickster Spinnerbait with a shellcracker-colored skirt and a Texas-rigged gatortail worm.

“I thought the bream pattern was important for the spinnerbait this week,” Clunn said. “The bass are bedding here, and I know how much the bass really don’t like the bream around their beds.”

The spinnerbait bite improved steadily throughout the week, thanks to a cold front that brought wind and cloud cover to the region. After catching bass on the deeper ends of boat docks in practice, Clunn said the fish had moved so shallow they were under the walkways of the docks by the weekend — and that made for a perfect spinnerbait situation.

In the event that he missed a strike on the spinnerbait, he would follow up quickly with the worm. That was the key to landing his biggest bass Sunday.

“That’s what won it for me today,” he said. “Early in the day, they were eating that spinnerbait really well. I caught a 6 1/2 on it and another one about 4. But then in the middle of the day, I missed three fish on it — and I could tell the third one was a really nice fish. “I went back with the worm, and it was the 9-14.” Even with all that he’s accomplished, Clunn admitted the two giant bass on Sunday got his blood pumping.

“I swung every fish into the boat today except those two 9s,” he said. “When you have to sit there and think about all of the possibilities and it takes forever to get them in the boat…it gets your heart moving.”

The two anglers closest in the standings to Clunn were first-year Canadian pro Chris Johnston with 95-2 and veteran Kentucky pro Mark Menendez with 95-1. Johnston said it was an honor to share the stage with Clunn.
“To lose to somebody that you watched fishing for the past 20 years — just to be on the same stage with him — it’s a privilege,” Johnston said. “If I was gonna see anyone else win, I would want it would be Rick. He earned it. He deserves it. He put his time in. “I can’t complain about second place at my first event.”

Canada’s Chris Johnston catches 28-13 and holds on to the lead going into Championship Sunday with a three-day total of 75-13. BASS Photo

Clunn said the question of when he’ll finally give up fishing is “a dirty question.” He’s looking forward to next week’s Toyota Bassmaster Elite at Lake Lanier in Georgia and has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

“A lot of stuff off the water is old to me,” Clunn said. “But when I go on the water, it’s brand new, just like it was when I started. I love it just as much as I ever have. “It’s an incredible thing to go out every single day and know that you’ve gotta figure them out. This amazing study of natural rhythms and how all things are connected — I can’t see myself ever getting tired of that.”

During a tournament when giant fish were weighed in all four days, the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the week was caught during Thursday’s opening round. The honor went to Virginia pro John Crews for the 11-2 largemouth he caught on Day 1.

Rookie pro and former college fishing champion Patrick Walters of South Carolina was fourth with 91-14, and Crews was fifth with 89-11.

When the Bassmaster Elite Series last visited the St. Johns River, three years ago, four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn (right) won with 81-15, including this one-day limit of 31-7. Helping him show off the catch are Trip Weldon (left), tournament director, and River Clunn. BASS Photo

The Elite anglers hit the St. Johns River fishery at its peak. The 75 anglers caught 158 five-bass limits and weighed in 893 bass totaling 2,927 pounds, 8 ounces of bass. With an average weight of 3 1/4 pounds and the largest weigh-in crowds in the history of St. Johns Bassmaster tournaments, the event more than lived up to the theme of the 2019 Elite Series: “Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.”

-2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
-2019 Bassmaster Elite Series at St. Johns River Title Sponsor: Power-Pole

-2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Abu Garcia, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Talon, Triton Boats, Yamaha
-2019 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, Carhartt, Lowrance, Mossy Oak Fishing, T-H Marine
-Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River Host Sponsor: Putnam County Chamber of Commerce

About B.A.S.S: B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. With more than 510,000 members internationally, B.A.S.S. is not only home to the nation’s premier fishing tournament trails, but it also boasts the most expansive and comprehensive media network in the fishing industry. Its media include The Bassmasters on the ESPN networks, more than 130 hours of tournament programming on the Pursuit Channel, 250 hours of on-the-water streaming coverage on Bassmaster LIVE and 1 million monthly visitors to the flagship website on bass fishing – Bassmaster.com. B.A.S.S. also provides more than 4.4 million readers with the best in bass fishing coverage through Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times, and its radio and social media programs and events reach hundreds of thousands each month.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, culminating in the ultimate event on the biggest stage for competitive anglers, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The trail also includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, BassPro.com Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series, and the Bassmaster Team Championship.

 

 

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico with Captain Ryan Kane

  • Fishing Fun, Seashells, Sightseeing and Dolphins near Port Sanibel, in Southwest Florida 
  • Bobbers, Shrimp, Speckled Trout and FEW SUPRISES made for a VERY RELAXING DAY
  • Screeching Drags, Fully-arched Rods, Tight Lines & Good Knots

By Bob Holzhei

Dolphins followed the boat, surfacing numerous times, as three 250 horsepower Yamaha engines powered the 36 foot Contender.  Shirley Holzhei Photo

The 36-foot Contender was impressive as we walked down the dock right after sunrise.  There were three 250 horsepower Yamaha outboards on the stern and we were met with a giant warm greeting from Captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct Fishing Charters.  The targeted species for the all-day charter included Kingfish, Mackerel, Barracuda and Cobia, according to Kane.

I had fished the Gulf of Mexico for the first time, years ago, as one of a dozen outdoor writers selected from the United States.  The group was chosen from the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers and included a writer from Outdoor Life Magazine in New York.

The opportunity to fish the ocean out of Port Sanibel, Florida, was exciting.  Fellow outdoor writer Dave Barus, his wife Rose and my wife Shirley, all joined up for the all-day charter fishing trip.  The trip had been cancelled twice due to high seas and on this day, the winds did the same, but we went anyway.  The seas started at two feet, but eventually rose and crested to five-foot levels, which resulted in pulling the lines and fishing the shelter between two islands closer to shore.

Our trip began with a slow troll out of Port Sanibel Marina and then the fun started, as Captain Kane increased our speed to 30 mph.  The three outboards roared, though they were just at half-throttle.  The scent of the ocean salt water, the memory of over-cresting waves and the spray from the wake slapping the boat was frozen in time.  As we arrived at the fishing grounds the lines were let out 90 feet behind the boat.

“I use 15 pound braid and 60 to 80-pound test fluorocarbon leader line spooled on the Shimano reels.  These are mounted on my Dan James Custom Rods that I use because of their ability to hold up under the challenge of big, bad, ocean fish,” stated Kane.

My wife, Shirley, landed a playful Bonnet-head Shark which was carefully released by conservation-minded, Captain Ryan Kane. Bob Holzhei photo

“The Dan James Custom Rods do exactly what they’re intended to do.  Other rods break under the pressure.  The Shimano reels are ergonomically correct and anglers have an easier time with these reels, they’re a step above other reels. The way the reel is made, the size of the handle and the ease of using it, is worth the cost,” added Kane.

Kane field tests several other Dan James Custom Rods that are in the prototype or development stage prior to these going into production.

The wind speed rose yet again to 35 mph and Captain Kane was forced to head for calmer waters.  We boated towards the safety of islands and dolphins surfaced, following us for the fun of jumping in the boat wake.  Time stopped again and I also became air-born, but unlike the dolphins, I would not reenter the ocean.  Rather, I would take flight on the never-ending memory of such an incredible experience. The dolphins were only three to four feet away!  Their eyes and expressions were talking to me.

Eventually, we stopped to fish in a sheltered and secret Captain Kane spot.  We caught speckled ocean trout and these have a slot limit between 15 and 20 inches under Florida fishing regulations.  In addition, Shirley caught a handsome Bonnet Head Shark and we released it unharmed.

“Fish on!” Rose Barus yelped from the front of the boat.

I grabbed the rod that was in a rod holder right next to me.  The drag was screaming!  This was a bigger fish as line screeched and shouted from the Shimano open-face reel.  I tightened the drag on the reel, but the fish was too green yet in its attempt to free itself from the hook.  After 15 minutes or so, my arms and shoulders tired and I asked Dave Barus to take over.  Barus moved from side to side of the boat as the fight continued bow to aft.

Outdoor buddy, Dave Barus, holds up a Stingray after the venomous stinger was removed, as I watch in the background. Shirley Holzhei Photo

Finally we saw the fish, it was not a fish!  It was a Stingray!  The 40-45-pound Stingray stretched over three feet in width.  When it first surfaced, I got my first look at it and it dove down deep again in an attempt to free itself.  It surfaced a number of times, going under the boat in an attempt to get loose.  Barus put his finger on the drag spool in order to add slightly more manual drag and keep the reel from burning up.  The spool holding the line was actually hot.  The battle lasted over 45 minutes before a gaff hook was carefully placed to bring the Stingray aboard where the venomous stinger was cut off by Captain Kane.  The captain provided us with instructions to place the stinger in an empty water bottle for now and then later, add bleach until the stinger turned white.  The venom would be neutralized then and safe to handle.  Another stinger would grow on the ray.

“Get over here Bob, and get in the picture,” stated Rose Barus.

Following some quick photos, the Stingray was released into the ocean and swam back into its natural habitat.

“Southern Instinct Charters offers a world-class fishing adventure off the waters of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.  Tarpon, Kingfish, Redfish, monster Snook, Wahoo, Tuna, Red Snapper, Cobia and sharks are additional species that Captain Kane will target at your request.  Inshore and offshore fishing adventures are offered, in addition to shelling and sightseeing trips.

The memory of the day-long fishing charter will live on forever in my mind and I will once again experience fishing the Gulf of Mexico in the future to escape the frigid Michigan winter for this warmer climate.

Fishing the Gulf of Mexico was the fishing adventure of a lifetime and I plan now to return again and again to re-live the permanent memory of this experience.  I will fish with Kane another year and it is no surprise to me that his open date list is short.

For anyone from across the country, if you seek the fun of a new big fish adventure, choose Southern Instinct Fishing Charters. It’ll be trip of a lifetime.

For additional information:  www.southerninstinct.com phone 239 896-2341 and Lee County CVB/The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Island www.fort-myers-sanibel.com 1 800 237-6444  

Fletcher Lake Lodge, Ontario – Back Home in Kansas City

  • If You’re Not Catching 100 Fish a Day, We’ll send a Guide with You
  • Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Musky
  • Fly-In Paradise in Ontario, Canada
Amid the hemlocks and Canadian morning silence, Fletcher Lake trophy pike are among regular catches.

By David Gray

Every January, Jeanne MacLean leaves the far north and makes a trek back to her home state of Missouri.  Jeanne says it is like “coming back home.”  She comes to visit friends and to set up a display in the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow for her Fletcher Lake Lodge.

Jeanne has many ties to Missouri. She was born and raised in Trenton, Missouri.  Her father, Fuzz LePage, was a career Missouri Highway Patrolman.  Few knew his real first name, everyone just called him Fuzz.  He had a love for law enforcement and when off duty, he had a love for flying.

When Jeanne was 14 and Fuzz had 20 plus years as a Highway Patrol Officer, Fuzz retired from active law enforcement and moved the family to Warroad, Minnesota.  Fuzz purchased a flight service business and began serving lodges, as well as anglers and hunters, flying customers and gear into remote Canadian locations.

One day on a return flight, Fuzz pulled back the throttle on his float plane, dropped into Fletcher Lake and taxied to the lodge dock. Fuzz wanted to meet the owners and thought he might pick up a new customer, offering them his flight services. In this part of Ontario, there are thousands of lakes, many of them gems, with Fletcher Lake being one of those diamond gems. The lodge owner informed Fuzz that his wife had recently passed away and he was going sell the lodge.

Fuzz made a quick return flight and told Jeanne, “Get a bank loan quick and buy Fletcher Lake Lodge.”

Jeanne did just that, buying the lodge in 1981.   The first part of the lodge was constructed in 1960.

Jeanne MacLean and her granddaughter ask, “Who’s ready for home-cooked breakfast?!”

Prior to the 1983 fishing season, a forest fire swept thru the region burning the camp and destroyed the lodge. Only one of the 14 structures, a guest cabin survived.  Considering the size of the rebuild task, it was amazing that their crew pitched in to rebuild the lodge and enough cabins to take care of all the incoming guests.

After High School, Jeanne worked for a year as secretary and then for a year at a Montana Elk hunting outfitter.  Then her dad called about buying Fletcher Lake Lodge.

Fletcher Lake Lodge is the longest continuous exhibitor in the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow.  She says working the show is much about getting to see friends and customers.  Almost all of the lodge guests rebook every year.

Watching folks stop at the Fletcher Lake Lodge booth in the sport show, it is obvious the customers are friends.  While interviewing Jeanne for this article, comments from customers were, “Absolutely the best walleye fishing” and “Magical fishing” and “Great fishing with wonderful lodge people” and much more.

Jeanne says her favorite day at the lodge is when the float plane arrives with new guests.  With a 90% plus rebook, the guests are all friends and each get a hug and give a hug when they get off the plane.  Nice way to start a fishing trip vacation!

Fletcher Lake is the only lodge on the lake. There are no roads to it. A short, but extremely scenic, 30 minute float plane ride from Kenora, Ontario, brings you to the lodge.

Two to five-pound Fletcher Lake smallmouth bass are fun to catch, especially when you can bring dozens to the boat in a day of peaceful fishing.

The lodge offers American Plan which is the most popular.  Breakfast and gourmet dinner is served in the lodge.  Lunch can be in the lodge, sandwiches packed for the day or the traditional shore lunch (PS – don’t ever miss a traditional shore lunch!).

There is absolutely nothing more delicious than a shore lunch cooked by one of the Fletcher Lake Lodge guides.

Fletcher Lake offers outstanding walleye, smallmouth and northern pike fishing.  It is Conservation fishing. You may keep only two fish a day for a dinner or shore lunch.  The lodge also has easy portages to a trophy lake and two musky lakes you can fish for the day.  The musky is said to be a fish of 10,000 casts, but Jeanne says at their musky lakes, “You won’t catch a 54-incher, but you will catch more musky in a day than you will believe.”  A rare and unique fishing experience only for guests of the lodge.  Most of the fishing is self-guiding, but Jeanne says if a boat with two anglers is not catching 100 fish a day, you are doing something wrong. We send out a guide to show places and how to catch them.

In 2018, three lady anglers (guests) were struggling a little on finding fish.  Jeanne sent them out with guides Shane and Kevin.  At the end of that day, total number of fish caught by the three ladies was 362.  Jeanne will not forget 362, as 362 was also Fuzz LePage’s Missouri Highway Patrol badge number. Now that’s pretty amazing.

Fletcher Lake Lodge has, along with other outfitters, teamed up with the Ontario Government to create a unique Trophy Waters program in the area.

Jeanne (left) shares dinner with guides, Kevin and Shane (back row), and 3 VERY HAPPY lady guests who caught 362 fish in one day!

Fletcher Lake Lodge is the only accommodation on Fletcher Lake and offers exceptional Canadian Fly-in fishing and hunting packages.  The remote location is only accessible by traditional Canadian bush planes and ensures exceptional fishing and hunting experiences.

Jeanne and Fletcher Lake Lodge can be reached in two ways: email and telephone. Their email address is: fish@fletcherlake.com and their phone contact is: Winter, 218-386-1538; Summer, 807-224-3400.

 

Great Fishing All Winter, Greater Niagara Fishing & Outdoor Expo is Just Ahead

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Report for Jan. 10, 2019 – from Destination Niagara USA
Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters with a Lake Ontario brown trout he caught last Tuesday (Jan. 8, 2019).

It’s hard to believe that the 6th Annual Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo is here already Jan. 18-20 at the Conference and Event center Niagara Falls. And it’s also hard to believe that it keeps getting bigger and better with even more education to teach Western New York anglers. If you are someone who enjoys fishing but would like to learn more about this popular outdoor pastime, this is the show for you. If you want to get started with fishing, look no further. Want tips on bass fishing? Four professional bass fishermen will be sharing their insight. Want to learn how to walleye fish? There are more than 20 seminars on different aspects of going after old marble eye. Some of the top experts in the country will be sharing their knowledge on fly fishing, salmon and trout fishing, tributary fishing, electronics, boat rigging, kayak fishing and more. All told there will be more than 200 seminars on fishing in quiet seminar rooms over the three days, plus over 170 booths of top quality fishing equipment and expertise. It can all be found at www.niagarafishingexpo.com. It’s $10 a day or $20 for the weekend. See you there!

Rich Pisa of Kenmore hit the Niagara River gorge for some steelies last week.

Winter has arrived back on the local scene and conditions are bit difficult with snow and cold temperatures. Thanks to some excessive wind, the Niagara River is turning off-color and may be tough to fish the next few days.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught this steelhead in the Niagara Gorge on Tuesday.

In the lower Niagara River, fishing from both boat and shore had been good for steelhead and brown trout, with the occasional lake trout and walleye.

Silver Kwikfish worked well on Tuesday, patterned with chartreuse or green, for drifters, along with egg sacs and minnows.

Shore anglers are using jigs or spinners. Hot colors have been pink, chartreuse and green. Lake trout were available on the Niagara Bar area in better numbers, when the wave action will allow you to access the lake. If this continues, the Fishing Expo could be the perfect escape to fine tune your programs in the waters of WNY. The seminar speakers have them all covered as far as species, tactics and locations.

Joshua Marshall (left) caught this walleye at the foot of Ferry Street this week in the upper Niagara River.

In the upper Niagara river, the foot of Ferry Street has been good for fishermen. Many have been doing well on walleye with the occasional lake trout and steelhead according to Joshua Marshall of Alden, involved with the WNY Walleye Fishing Facebook page. Baits have been mainly live minnows and crankbaits. Bite is up and down, but producing fish.  Jigs tipped with plastics will work, too.

Buffalo Joe Pavalonis took the early lead this week in the Rudd Division of the Capt. Bob’s Outdoors winter fishing contest by measuring in an 18-inch upper river fish at the Clarence store. He was using a crappie tube jig.

For Lake Ontario, tributary action has been fair to good for steelhead and brown trout according to Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters. Before the storm, he did well on Lake Ontario tributaries, but the water was clear. His bait options included olive and brown-colored streamers, not whites or brights. He was 12 for 12 on catching fish Tuesday, as he bounced to Lake Ontario streams, releasing all of his fish. Action should improve when we start seeing some snow melt and warmer temps.

Don’t forget the new “Birds on the Niagara” Festival set for Jan. 25 and 26. Check out www.buffaloaudubon.org for further details.

Chris Walczak of Amherst with a nice steelhead caught in a favorite Lake Ontario tributary.The Niagara River Anglers has their Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest on Feb. 2 in the lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario tributaries. Check out the NRAA Facebook page.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

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Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
 

President Trump Signs the Modern Fish Act

Most of the bill’s provisions were inspired by the Morris-Deal Commission Report, released in 2014. Many of the proposed improvements for federal saltwater fisheries management in the Morris-Deal Report had been debated for some time before then.All that’s to say: it’s been a long time coming.Congress has been operating with a high level of gridlock (look no further than the current government shutdown), and most experts expect things to get worse under a divided Congress for at least the next two years.

Assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery is key. Forrest Fisher Photo

For the recreational fishing community to achieve this legislative victory in these challenging political times speaks to the effectiveness of the coalition of organizations working on your behalf, the power of the sportfishing industry when it makes its voice heard and the increasing recognition among political leaders of recreational fishing’s importance to the nation.

ASA was proud to work with a united set of organizations to support the passage of the Modern Fish Act, including the Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, The Billfish Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Working together and advocating with the same message was instrumental to the bill’s success. The bill had some expected – and unexpected – detractors along the way but having the core of the recreational fishing community speaking with a unified voice allowed Members of Congress to not have to pick sides within our own community (as has sometimes been the case in the past). They knew the Modern Fish Act had the full backing of the true recreational fishing community.

Helping to make that point crystal clear for Members of Congress was the tremendous response from ASA’s members in advocating for the bill. From submitting supportive op-eds, to promoting Keep America Fishing action alerts, to calling or visiting congressional offices, ASA’s members stepped up in a big way and were critical to the bill’s passage.

It’s exciting to see that the sportfishing industry’s heightened involvement in government affairs does translate to more legislative and policy victories. Passage of the Modern Fish Act is just one of many government affairs accomplishments in which ASA was proud to engage over the past year. There’s no question that the economic and cultural importance of recreational fishing is increasingly being recognized by policymakers.

The Modern Fish Act isn’t going to overhaul the federal marine fisheries management system overnight. It’ll likely take several fishing seasons before the management and data collection improvements called for in the Act begin to better align fishing regulations with actual fish abundance and harvest, and with what anglers really want out of management.

It’s also important to note that not all the changes called for in earlier versions of the Modern Fish Act made it through in the final version. This was the unfortunate reality of needing unanimous approval of the U.S. Senate to clear the bill. Even though it’s big to us, in the grand scheme, bills such as the Modern Fish Act rarely receive floor time and therefore can only pass with unanimous approval.

ASA will continue working with Congress, NOAA Fisheries and the Regional Fishery Management Councils to ensure that the provisions of the Modern Fish Act are carried out, and other priorities of the recreational fishing community are advanced.

While we’ve accomplished a lot, there’s still much more work to be done. That said, let’s take a few moments to celebrate this win, especially at a time when wins are so hard to come by.

For details on House and Senate passage of the Modern Fish Act and additional industry perspectives, please visit http://www.sportfishingpolicy.com/media-room/u-s-house-passes-modern-fish-act/.

The Modern Fish Act will provide more stability and better access for anglers by:

  • Providing authority and direction to NOAA Fisheries to apply additional management tools more appropriate for recreational fishing, many of which are successfully implemented by state fisheries agencies (e.g., extraction rates, fishing mortality targets, harvest control rules, or traditional or cultural practices of native communities);
  • Improving recreational harvest data collection by requiring federal managers to explore other data sources that have tremendous potential to improve the accuracy and timeliness of harvest estimates, such as state-driven programs and electronic reporting (e.g., through smartphone apps);
  • Requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on the process of mixed-use fishery allocation review by the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils and report findings to Congress within one year of enactment of the Modern Fish Act, and
  • Requiring the National Academies of Sciences to complete a study and provide recommendations within two years of the enactment of the Modern Fish Act on limited access privilege programs (catch shares) including an assessment of the social, economic, and ecological effects of the program, considering each sector of a mixed-use fishery and related businesses, coastal communities, and the environment and an assessment of any impacts to stakeholders in a mixed-use fishery caused by a limited access privilege program. This study excludes the Pacific and North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Councils.

The coalition of groups supporting the Modern Fish Act includes American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, International Game Fish Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Recreational Fishing Alliance, The Billfish Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the sportfishing and boating industries as well as the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry and anglers a unified voice when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring economic, conservation and social values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 49 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through Keep America Fishing, our national angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate nearly $50 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for 800,000 people.

Christmas Week Fishing is Spectacular in Niagara Country!

Ray Richards hit Burt Dam and his this brown trout this week on a jig, not tipped with anything.

Many of the tributaries off Lake Ontario have been low and clear with the lack of precipitation. That said, there will be a significant rain event tonight that could bring up to an inch of rain. Today the high is 50 degrees but it will get cooler by the weekend. Ray Richards of Amherst has been hitting the tributaries several times a week, picking up browns and a few steelhead. When the water is stained, he will use a jig, normally tipped with a wax worm or a salted minnow. However, this week when he went out, he thought he forgot the waxies and still produced a big brown on his marabou jig. The rain should pull some fresh fish into the system and don’t forget about some of the smaller streams like 12 Mile in Wilson, Keg east of Olcott and 4 Mile in Porter.

Jeff Rioux caught this lower Niagara River steelie fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Thrillseeker.

For the lower Niagara River, the action has been good for most. Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls did well last weekend using swim baits to take bass and walleye, minnows and egg sacs to take steelhead and salmon.

Eddie Verost of Grand Island caught this walleye to celebrate his 16th birthday with his buddy Parker Cinelli, who was also celebrating his 16th birthday, too.
Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island caught this big northern pike fishing for walleye with a shiner.

Two Grand Island 16-year olds – Eddie Verost and Parker Cinelli – celebrated their birthday fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island (Parker’s dad) and hit the lower river last weekend. They did well on walleye and steelhead. MagLips worked for the steelhead, shiners worked for the walleye. Chris managed to catch a 36-inch pike on a shiner, too. Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports egg sacs and beads are also working to entice fish to hit off three-way rigs. For the Jan. 1 lake trout opener, try around the green buoy marker at the mouth.  They’ve been stacked up out there according to guys fishing for bass, walleye and browns.

If you are looking for a last minute gift item, consider a lifetime license (if you are a state resident). If you need a present for dad or grandpa and they are 70 or older, you can pick up a lifetime license for just $65 – hunting and fishing together! Also, a guided fishing trip from area charter captains is a great way to get the family out for some fun in the sun – river fishing or lake fishing! Check out https://www.niagarafallsusa.com/things-to-do/outdoor-adventure/fishing/charters/ … and don’t rule out a gift certificate from your local tackle shop, too.

Here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director 

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Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
 

Mepps / Mister Twister has a new Communications Guy

Mepps/Mister Twister has a new Communications Director.

The Mepps® Aglia® Flashabou combines the vibration and flash of a classic Mepps® Aglia® blade.

From Antigo, WI, Nik Kolbeck has joined Sheldons’ Inc. (Mepps and Mister Twister) as the new Communications Director. In this role Kolbeck will develop and oversee communications for Sheldons’ across its many platforms: print, online, retail, social media and mobile.

Kolbeck is a graduate of University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point where he studied Graphic Design in the Fine Arts Program. During his college years, Nik’s passion for fishing started to take off and has since become a family event with his father and brother and their beloved Border Collie, Abbi.

“My love of fishing has grown over the years, but I owe a lot of my admiration for the sport to my brother, Adam who taught me everything from what to use in certain conditions to the best practices for hooking up a fish and getting it into the boat. Family and fishing work hand-in-hand for me and there really is no better experience than hooking up with a big fish and sharing that experience with your family and friends.” Kolbeck grew up learning the ins-and-outs of fishing in central Wisconsin focusing on largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike and musky. He looks forward to expanding his fishing knowledge to other fish species that are caught throughout the United States.

  Since graduation, Kolbeck worked for Swiderski Equipment – an agriculture and construction equipment company with five locations throughout central Wisconsin. His duties included creating print, online and social media graphics, photography of equipment and keeping website information current and correct.
“Mepps and Mister Twister are two brands that I’ve used since I started fishing and I’ve never been disappointed with the results. The fact that I get to come here every day and talk fishing with all different types of fisherman is just icing on the cake for me.”

Company Overview: Sheldons’, Inc. started with the Mepps® brand in 1956 in the back of a small sports shop in Antigo, Wisconsin. It has since become one of the most important players in the fishing tackle industry. When all lure sizes, colors and hook configurations are taken into account, Mepps currently manufacturers more than 6,000 different Mepps spinners and spoons. In addition, Sheldons’, Inc. owns Mepps S.A. (Mepps France) and Mister Twister®, a premium soft plastics lure company and innovator of the Curly Tail® concept.

Sheldons’, Inc. • 626 Center St., Antigo, WI 54409 • Phone: 800-237-9877

Fishing 411 TV Show – Mark and Jake Romanack on the Lower Niagara River

Niagara Falls USA Fishing – from Destination Niagara USA…the FISHING REPORT for Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018

Mark Romanack with Fishing 411 TV Show hit the lower river this week and put a show together on brown trout with his son Jake and Capt. Frank Campbell.

After some muddy water slowed things up earlier in the week, anglers are catching fish again in the lower Niagara River. You never know what you are up against after a storm in Western New York. Winds, rain and snow can have an effect on water conditions, especially in the Niagara River. There is a difference, though, and fishermen and fisherwomen need to be cognizant of that difference between stained and dirty conditions.

Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls caught this brown trout on a MagLip plug fishing with the Fishing 411 TV Show that airs on the World Fishing Network.
Connor Cinelli of Grand Island caught this 8 pound lower Niagara River walleye using a Swedish pimple tipped with a minnow.

Mark and Jake Romanack of the Fishing 411 TV Show that appears on the World Fishing Network, visited town on Monday to put a show together on the lower Niagara River. The water was stained, but definitely fishable. Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls met up with them and they fished the afternoon using 3.0 MagLips in Double Trouble and Green Machine colors.

In 2 hours of actual fishing time they boated 9 browns on 9 hits, enough for a show. The next day the water was dirty. After 4 hours, not a single hit, but the crew was able to take some drone footage and film some tech tips before the headed back to Michigan.

As of today, the shore guys were already catching fish again according to Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston. Along Artpark, pink and chartreuse spinners are working for steelies, orange for the browns. Chartreuse egg sacs and beads are also producing for the shore guys, as well as the boat drifters. Shore casters are out-fishing the boat guys right now, but that will change a bit as the waters start to clear a bit more.

John Keeler and his son, Shawn, were fishing the lower Niagara River last weekend and they caught nice steelhead like these fishing with Capt. Jim Rores of Grand Island.
Shawn Keeler with a nice lower Niagara River steelie last weekend.

In the Niagara Musky Association John Henning Memorial Musky Contest last Sunday, Andrew Lacko of Kenmore took top honors with a 41-inch fish caught on a Bondy bait. It was the only fish caught for the event held in the lower Niagara River. Musky season continues in the lower river and Lake Ontario until Dec. 15. Lake trout season is now open on the Canadian side of the lower river, but closed until Jan. 1 on the New York side of the river.

For the Lake Ontario tributaries, weather conditions have not been the best with a mix of rain, snow, wind, warm and cold temperatures. Still, trout are being caught. Not too many anglers have been hitting the streams according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott, but for those that are making the effort to wet a line, they have been rewarded with some nice brown trout, a few steelhead and even some late salmon. Spikes and wax worms are the baits being talked about most, usually tipped on a small jig and fished under a float. Fishing your bait slow with the slightly cooler conditions could help increase your chances for a hook-up.

Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters reeled in some nice brown trout this week from a favorite Lake Ontario tributary.

Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters caught some impressive fish yesterday in a favorite Lake Ontario stream. You might have to do a little searching. When you find them, the rewards are great.

Christmas Yule:

  • The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association has its Christmas meeting on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara, 4487 Lake Avenue, Lockport. It’s a joint meeting with the county’s Fisheries Development Board.
  • The Niagara River Anglers will hold their Christmas meeting on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Sanborn Historical Society. Call Paul Jackson at 731-4780 for details.
  • The Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs will hold its Christmas meeting on Dec. 12 at the Hartland Conservationists Club, Orangeport Road, Gasport. Doors open at 5 p.m. Bring a dish to pass.

NOVEMBER MUSKY MADNESS! Niagara Falls USA

Niagara River Mucky Madness! Happening Now.

Musky, Brown Trout, Coho, Walleye, Bass…Fish-Catching Madness: Niagara Falls USA – Full Report, Nov. 21, 2018

Double on Musky! Brad and Virgil Mosiman were fishing with Capt. Ted Kessler of Grand Island on the upper Niagara River this week.

The place to be this week is the Niagara River both above and below Niagara Falls. The musky are on their usual hot fall bite.

In the Upper Niagara River, Capt. Ted Kessler was reporting some good musky action recently, including a double-header for two brothers – Virgil Mosiman of Kenai, , and his brother Brad from Warsaw, NY, with 47-inch and 38-inch ‘skies while fishing with Capt. Ted Kessler of Grand Island in the Upper Niagara River. The musky season closes on Nov. 30 in the upper river and Lake Erie, as well as the rest of the state, except for the Lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario.

Gary Hall of Niagara Falls with a nice lower Niagara River musky. The season is open until Dec. 15 in the lower river.

Gary Hall of Niagara Falls had a good day fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell on Monday and he was rewarded with a big musky on a MagLip lure in silver and chartreuse. The musky season is open until Dec. 15 in the Lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The Niagara Musky Association will be hosting the John Henning Memorial Musky Tournament on Dec. 2. Call Scott McKee at 225-3816. You must be a member to participate.

Ethan Bronschidle of Newfane caught this nice steelhead at Burt Dam.

Also at the top of the list the past week in the lower river has been the steelhead and brown trout. As of Monday, river conditions were near perfect according to Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island. Pink egg sacs were the ticket for steelhead in Devil’s Hole and along Artpark. Head down river for brown trout. Egg sacs were working on them as well.

Lake trout continue to be caught too, as part of incidental catch. Lake trout season is closed until the end of the year.

Dick Hill of Maryland caught this lower Niagara River steelhead this week.

One popular fishing spot will be closing for the winter on Nov. 30 at dusk – the NYPA fishing platform in the gorge, including the parking area and stairs. They’ll be shutting down for the season due to the winter conditions. This also includes the Upper Mountain Road access point for the reservoir.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls is still picking up a few fresh salmon and some walleyes at the NYPA fishing platform on spinners and jigs. Swimbaits work, too.

Action in the streams off Lake Ontario has slowed for browns and steelhead, as well as the occasional late king salmon. We’ve heard a few Coho’s being caught, too. Water has been slightly stained and conditions aren’t too bad, but fish have been finicky.

It’s a good bet that many people are hunting. There hasn’t been a lot of fishing pressure.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Bill Hilts, Jr., Outdoor Promotions Director

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303, f: 716-285-0809
www.niagarafallsusa.com

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Ice Fishing Tips to Start the Year

Buck Shot Rattle Spoons are a great Ice-Fishing Bait.

  • How to be Successful Ice Fishing
  • Fish are Shallow Early in Ice Year
  • Modern Sonar helps to Find & Hook Fish
  • Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon: 1/16 oz for Crappies/Perch, 1/8 or ¼ for Walleye
  • Visit “Fishing the Midwest” Television Show for more!

By Bob Jensen

John Peterson used a glowing spoon to get this walleye to bite.

There are a few concepts for ice-fishing that are really good starting points. If you’ll practice these concepts, with minor revisions every time out, you’ll be more successful on the ice this ice-fishing season.

In any type of fishing, you need to fish where the fish are. We keep on the fish a couple of different ways depending on how thick the ice is.

Early in the year, the ice is not as thick and the fish are often shallow. When fishing shallow, we’ll usually sit on a hole a little longer. Shallow water fish are often spookier than deep water fish because they’re so close to the angler. It works well to pop a few holes right away. Some anglers will drill three or four holes, others will make fifteen or twenty. Whatever you choose, get those holes drilled, then let things quiet down. When you’re fishing shallow water or on clear ice, if possible, drill your holes where snow covers the ice. The snow will muffle noise and will hide an angler’s movement. A little detail, but it can pay big dividends.

As the ice gets thicker, we have more options. We’ve been spending a lot of time lately fishing from a CORE ICE shelter. These are like campers with holes in the floor to fish through. They’re lightweight but extremely durable and great to fish from. We’ll fish inside awhile, maybe heat up some chili or soup, share some stories with our fishing partners, and do the other things that make ice-fishing such a social activity. You can certainly spend an entire day inside the shelter, but every now and then we like to get outside and do some on-foot exploring. We’ll drill holes out to maybe a quarter of a mile away. We’ll often find schools of fish roaming. In the waters that we fish the most, they’ll usually be perch, walleyes, or crappies. We’ll move from hole to hole, rarely spending more than two or three minutes per hole unless we see fish on the sonar. This is where sonar plays such an important role in our fishing success.

Core Ice Shelter

Modern sonar reveals so much below our hole in the ice. It will show fish, it will show the lure we’re using, and it also will show the fish’s reaction to that lure. If a fish comes in and eats your lure, great. But often, you’ll see a fish come in and just look. If you see a fish looking at your lure, hold it still and let it eat it.

If it doesn’t eat it, try giving the bait a quick jerk. Often, that will scare the fish away, but not always. If the quick jerk gets the fish to eat, you now know that that’s how they want it. But if it leaves, you’ve learned that a change in lure size or color is called for. Your lure got the fish’s attention, but it just wasn’t quite what it wanted. Sonar plays a major role in your ice-fishing success, and Vexilar is the leader in sonar for ice-fishing. They’re easy to use and will help you put more fish on the ice.

A Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon is an outstanding ice-fishing bait for a lot of fish. Go with the sixteenth ounce size for crappies or perch, eighth or quarter ounce for walleyes. Glow can be a big deal. The UV Buck-Shot Spoons rattle and glow, and at night or in stained water, those two features are a huge advantage.

Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon is an outstanding ice-fishing bait

As in any fishing, find the fish and give ‘em what they want. You’ll catch more fish and enjoy your fishing even more.

To see new and older episodes of Fishing the Midwest television, fishing articles and videos, visit fishingthemidwest.com.

Fishing Chautauqua County, NY – as an Outdoor Writer LOOKING TO LEARN

Wade Robertson with a nice walleyue whopper, one of 30 nice 'eyes hooked that day.

  • Lake Erie offers access to schools of giant walleye from May to October
  • Chautauqua Lake provides opportunity for Monster Musky, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, and Walleye
  • Local Wineries and Microbrew Houses provide after hour and weather options that are unforgettable
Rob Oram, Fred Dwaileebe and Don Staszyck (L to R) with some nice size Chautauqua Lake walleyes.

By Wayne Brewer

Chautauqua County is located in the southwest corner of New York State. Lake Erie is on its’ northern border and Chautauqua Lake is located in the center of the county. Both Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake are premier walleye lakes and also have excellent musky and bass fisheries.

Andrew Nixon, Director of the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, and Dave Barus, Fishing and Hunting Promotions Consultant for the Bureau invited me to participate in the Chautauqua Outdoor Media Fall Fish Camp. Dave organizes and hosts the fish camps. The goal of the Outdoor Media Camps is to introduce visiting outdoor media members to the fishing and hunting opportunities in Chautauqua County.

Our “Fish Camp” on Point Chautauqua at 6060 Orchard Road was a great campsite.

Although the camp focus is on fishing, there is a lengthy list of other activities to do such as deer hunting, winery tours, visits to state fishing access sites and hatcheries, hiking nature trails – like those offered at Panama Rocks Scenic Park, touring museums such as the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and sipping tasty beer at local micro-breweries. The 4-day camp is a great get away to fish, communicate with other outdoor writers to share ideas and enjoy some excellent homemade meals, all the while taking so much that Chautauqua County has to offer.

Our campsite was a private home located on Point Chautauqua, just off Route 430 at 6060 Orchard Road. It is a year-round heated two-story cottage with four bedrooms that could sleep nine or ten individuals. It has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, living room, two bathrooms, a screened porch and washer/dryer. The cottage is located one street from Chautauqua Lake and had a path down to the lake where there was a dock and an available 14-foot aluminum boat for our use. Anyone that wants to bring their own boat can launch it a few miles down Route 430 at Long Point State Park and maintain it on a mooring buoy near the dock. The cottage is available to rent and anyone interested can visit: www.chautauqualakerental.com or email to: kvtabor@yahoo.com.

Upon arrival at the camp I met our host, Dave Barus, and the other attendees. They were Jim Proffitt, an outdoor columnist from Ohio, Wade Robertson, an outdoor columnist from Pennsylvania and his guest from Olean, New York, Fred Dwaileebe. After “meeting and greeting” we decided to have dinner at Guppy’s Restaurant and Tavern a couple of miles down Route 430. The restaurant has a full menu that ranges from wings and pizza to burgers, soups and salads, along with nightly specials. I had a great platter of mussels steamed in garlic butter wine sauce and topped with fresh tomatoes. I highly recommend stopping in Guppy’s anytime you’re in the area.

The fishing itinerary for the first day had Jim Proffitt and Dave Barus fishing for walleyes on Chautauqua Lake with Chautauqua Bassmaster Don Staszyck. Wade Robertson and Fred fished for walleye on Lake Erie with Captain T.J. Yetzer (Reel Time Charters, 585-764-2006). I fished Chautauqua Lake for musky and walleye with Frank Shoenacker (Infinity Charters, 585-406-5764 or http//www.infinitycharters.com). Frank uses a 17-1/2 foot Lund when he guides on Chautauqua Lake, though he also guides on Lake Erie with a 25-foot Pro-Line.

After enjoying Dave Barus’ “hole in one eggs,” sausage, toast, home fries and hot coffee for breakfast, we all made our own box lunches for ourselves and guides before heading out.

Captain Frank Shoenacker (Infinity Charters) holding one of several healthy white perch we caught on jigging Rapala lures.

I met Frank at Long Point State Park Marina on Route 430, located just a few miles south of our camp. We trolled for musky on the north end of the lake at about 3.5 miles per hour. We used Shimano rods with Penn reels strung with 80-pound braided line, and tipped with a couple of feet of 80-pound fluorocarbon line. The lures we used included RW Smith homemade musky lures, perch-colored Wiley musky lures and very large green spoons with black dots. We trolled several areas where Frank had been having success catching muskies, but the big lunkers were not feeding as a cold front was heading in.

We then switched to some lighter tackle and drifted for walleye using one-ounce perch-colored mooneye shimmer minnows and Rapala jigging raps. We were marking all kinds of fish, but like the musky, the walleye were also suffering from lock jaw, however, the white perch kept us busy. Some of them were nice size, so we focused on catching them. Frank told me that, “You fish for what’s biting!” So we did and had a great day catching one white perch after the other, bringing a few dozen home for a great fish fry.

Frank and I talked about walleye fishing on Chautauqua Lake and he told me that he considered the best time of the year to catch walleye was mid-May to mid-June. That time of the year he trolls along the outside edge of the weeds along shore with a slip-sinker worm rig because the bait stays in the cover of the weeds. Then as the bait moves out into deeper water, the walleye follow. He then drifts and jigs for the walleye using jigs. His preferred jigging lure is a Rapala jigging rap.

Don Staszyck with a couple of the walleyes he, Jim Proffitt and Dave Barus caught.

When Frank and I returned to the marina, we met Don Staszyck, Dave and Jim. We discovered that Don had a couple of secret hot spots for walleye, as each of the three anglers had limited out with 15 walleye, though they had also released at least that many again. Wade and Fred had a great day on Lake Erie and had limited with 24 walleyes as well.

Lunch and dinner each day was provided by Dave Barus and most of the delectable meals (secret recipes) were prepared by his wife Rosalie. Our meals included venison chili, homemade potato salad, chicken Alfredo, walleye cheek chowder, Sahlen’s grilled hot dogs and Rosalie’s mouthwatering homemade apple pie. During and after dinner, our outdoor clan invited our guides to join us as we shared excellent wine from Johnson Estate Winery, Merritt Estate Winery and Liberty Vineyards, all of these just a few minutes away.

Mother Nature threw us a curve on the second day of the fish camp. Wade Robertson and I were to fish Lake Erie for bass and walleye with Captain Yetzer, but the lake had six to seven-foot waves. It was just too rough to fish, but this was not an issue because when Dave Barus plans these events, he always has backup plans and alternative activities lined up. Dave had made arrangements for us to fish Chautauqua Lake for bass with Chautauqua Bassmaster President, Mike Russo.

Mike Russo and Wade Robertson with a couple of smaller Chautauqua Lake bass. 

Mike checked out a few areas earlier that morning before he picked us up and caught a couple of bass. Not long after, we headed back to fish these areas, but the wind picked up and the lake became angry. We threw everything in the boat at the bass, including spinnerbaits, jigs, grubs, crankbaits and even live bait, but could not entice even one hit. The bass had shut down completely. We tried different locations all over the lake until we entered a small channel that Mike said had put tournament anglers on the winner’s podium. It looked and felt promising, but we had no luck catching bass.

Julie Szur showing us one of the flies she makes and uses on Chautauqua Creek streams.

Half way down the channel, where it widened out, Mike and Wade were tossing spinnerbaits when a “cloud” of nice sized yellow perch swarmed up chasing them. We immediately decided to fish for the perch. Mike and Wade used the minnows and I used a small white plastic grub below a bobber. We caught perch on practically every cast. Not all the perch were keepers, but Wade and I ended the day with about 70 fish.

That night Julie Szur, a local fly fishing consultant and guide on stream fishing tutoring, joined us for dinner and gave a very interesting presentation that included a discussion different fly varieties and various fly-fishing techniques. Julie is an extremely knowledgeable and accomplished stream fishing expert. View her website at: www.flyfishingjulieszur.com and contact Julie at flyfishjulie@gmail.com or call 716-481-6619.

The next day Lake Erie continued with high seas, so instead of fishing for walleyes, Dave, Jim, Wade and I met Julie at Chautauqua Creek to check out the steelhead fishing. Dave and I were photographers while Jim, Wade and Julie fished. The creek was low and clear with very few fish, but Julie did entice one fish to strike her speckled streamer.

Julie Szur with her dog “Brookie” and Wade Robertson fishing for steelhead in Chautauqua Creek near Westfield, NY.

The Chautauqua Fall Fish Camp was an exciting and unique experience. All of us caught a lot of fish even though the wind kept some us off Lake Erie. It’s terrific to fish in Chautauqua County because there are several bodies of water to and no matter the weather, the waterways support a variety of different species of fish. There are six lakes in the county and 50 miles of Lake Erie shore line. There is no place in the county more than a few miles from open water. So, if you cannot fish one lake, you can fish another. If one species of fish is not co-operating, there are always other species to fish and if you cannot fish, there are plenty of other activities in the county to enjoy and have a great time. I highly recommend putting Chautauqua County at the top of your “places-to-visit” list.

For more information go to: www/tourchautauqua.com or call at (716) 357-4569. Be sure to request a Chautauqua County Visitors Guide to use as a reference for planning your getaway to Chautauqua. To keep updated on news and events, sign up for the monthly e-newsletter. For day-to-day news, join in the conversation on the Chautauqua County Facebook.

You can also check out Visit Chautauqua, to receive a downloadable APP for helping plan your trip.

Niagara River / Lake Ontario Trib’s – Fishing is GOOD! Fishing Report for Niagara County, NY

Paul Carlone of Hamburg caught this lower river lake trout while he was fishing for steelhead.

  • Free Fishing Day in New York State: Nov. 11, 2018
  • Upper Niagara River Musky Fishing is Hot
  • Burt Dam has a Fresh Run of King Salmo
  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018
Danny Jankowiak of Buffalo took this steelhead in the lower Niagara River on a jig.

Make sure you mark Nov. 11 on your calendar. That’s now a “free fishing day” in New York State. No license is required and it’s a great opportunity to reach out and take a vet fishing. Remember you do have to abide by the NYS fishing regulations wherever you are going to wet a line.

Winds are continuing on the local front today which created a mess of the water conditions in the lower Niagara River. If the shore casters can locate a little clean water along the shoreline, you might have a chance at catching a trout. For sure, the land-bound fishermen will be fishing before the boaters in the lower Niagara River. 

Michael Cardmone with his brown trout caught from the NY Power Authority Fishing Pier.

Just prior to the winds, action in the lower river was good for trout. Steelhead were hitting MagLips and beads for boaters and shoreline anglers were tossing spoons, spinners, jigs, eggs or egg imitations to take fish. Along Artpark, steelhead are available, but the lake trout have been very aggressive. Remember that lake trout season is closed and fish should be released quickly and unharmed. Downriver, bass are still hitting swimbaits on a consistent basis.

Paul Carlone of Hamburg, New York, caught this lower Niagara River lake trout while he was fishing for steelhead.

In the upper Niagara River, the muskellunge fishing action the past week improved for Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island as he saw fish up to 51 inches come to his boat the last several days. The big one was caught by Ray Dietz of Youngstown. He also caught a 48-inch fish the same day.

In the Tim Wittek Memorial Catch and Release Musky Tournament run by the Niagara Musky Association last Sunday, first place when to Anthony Scime of Tonawanda with a 46-inch fish that was caught on a Red October Baits tube. Second place went to John Miller of Lackawanna with a 42-inch fish, also caught on a Red October Baits tube. Third place went to Hans Mann of Alden with a 35.5-inch musky and caught on a Red October Baits tube for a sweep of the winners. A total of 19 anglers competed in the “iron man” contest. Musky fishing will stop for now until the water can clear.

In Lake Ontario, water was high and stained in many of the streams but that didn’t stop people from trying to catch both salmon and trout according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctor’s in Olcott. There were plenty of fish around.

Gianni Etopio of Youngstown, New York, caught this salmon in a favorite Niagara County stream.

A fresh batch of silver kings came into Olcott and headed up to Burt Dam. Many of the smaller streams to the east and to the west are also holding fish because of the recent rains. We heard 12 Mile Creek had some fresh salmon in it. Egg sacs, beads, jigs tipped with wax worms or spikes were all catching salmon and trout. Bait or lure colors keep changing from day to day because of the unpredictable water conditions. Green and orange egg pattern flies have been taking some fish, too.

Pier action has been spotty. If you see any illegal fishing activity going on, please call the toll-free hotline at (844) DEC-ECOS and report it with as much information as possible. You can remain anonymous.

The regular big game season (whitetail deer and black bear) opens in the New York State Southern Zone next Saturday, Nov. 17.  It might not be a bad idea to wear an orange hat when you go fishing. Pressure on the streams will probably be less due to the opener.

Good luck out there and stay safe.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

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Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Sacred Water at Devils Lake: Legend of the Lake Monster

"Legends of Black Lake monsters supercede pictures and tales of monster walleye that exist here. Secrets are many," says Bob Holzhei, story writer.

  • Devils Lake, Part 2: Legend of the Lake Monster       
  • Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappie, lots of fish here
  • Lures and Baits of all sorts Catch Fish on Devils Lake
We caught lots of walleye every day we fished, usually between 50 and 100 each time, but there was always some mystery about that “Lake Monster Legend.” Forrest Fisher photo

By Bob Holzhei

Early European-Americans termed the lake “Bad Spirit Lake” because of high salinity water, making it unfit to drink.  With summer, mirages were often seen across the water and the lake was referred to as “Spirit Lake,” as reflected in the Spirit Lake Indian Tribe.

Published reports of a “Lake Monster” date as far back as 1894, while Native American legends go back much further about a Loch Ness serpent in Devil’s Lake.

It is said locally that the monster is not often seen, but here is what we saw on one day when we fished the lake.  Forrest Fisher photo

Whether fact or fiction, stories of the Devil’s Lake Monster have been reportedly sighted and recounted in many newspapers, including the New York Sun in 1984, the Bismarck Tribune in 1895 and the Wichita Beacon in 1904.

All descriptions of the serpent indicate it has alligator jaws and glaring red eyes, a tail stretching to 80 feet long and it usually appears at sunset during August.  The serpent moves slowly, often seen about a half mile from shore and reported to circle the lake twice a day.  A slimy green color, the serpent’s motion sends gentle surface waves along from head to tail with the wake visible as it pushes along.

Early accounts of the Devil’s Lake Monster may be sensationalized accounts reported in newspapers in order to draw tourists to the area. Whether fact or fiction, my camera did accompany me on a guided fishing trip to Devil’s Lake in August. Today I can attest that our guide did fish more than a half mile from the mainland shore. Hmmmm.

While we chuckled about the fabled monster chronicles, Devils Lake in North Dakota is an angler’s dream and is open to fishing all year long. Ice fishing is especially fun here with heated huts and the aroma of smoked sausage on the grill.

No matter the time of year, multiple species here keep every angler in action for most of the fishing day. Foot-long perch are common, walleye in all-sizes – from eaters to wall hangers are the usual resident and non-resident angler focus, northern pike ranging from 5 to 10 pounds are the largest predator fish, while white bass, panfish (crappie and bluegill) and trout, provide a variety of fishing opportunities at Devil’s Lake. It’s fun to fish here.

Baitcasting rigs are the norm here, as you never know how big that next walleye monster might be, that’s not a legend. Forrest Fisher photo

A variety of popular fishing strategies include slip bobber fishing, rigging, jigging, casting, trolling with crankbaits and enticing hungry fish with bottom-bouncers when the usual hot bite is off, which is not very often. We caught over 50 walleye each day of our fishing.

My friend and our guide on Devils Lake was Al Freidig, he shared secrets and how to catch fish in this vast waterway. Forrest Fisher photo

The Devil’s Lake Basin is the second largest body of water in North Dakota after Lake Sakakawea.  Once the lake reaches a high level of 1,458 feet, it flows into the Sheyenne and Red Rivers, though overflow occurred only twice in the last 4,000 years. Historically the area is the site of the Dakota people who relocated there as a result of The 1867 Treaty with the United States.

One of our favorite 3-way rig bottom-bouncing baits on Devils Lake, these worked very well.

The lake stretches over 380 square miles with an average maximum depth of about 47 feet. Lots of room for fish and fishermen, and the Devils Lake monster.

Hold onto your rod.  You never know, you could become a legendary friend.

For more info on where to stay or who to call for guide services, contact:  https://www.ndtourism.com/cities/devils-lake.

 

 

Musky, Bass, Brown Trout, Coho’s, King Salmon…ALL BITING NOW in Niagara County, NY

  • Tribs hold king salmon, brown trout and steelhead now
  • Egg sacs in chartreuse, orange or pink and nymphs, glo bugs, woolly buggers are HOT
  • Upper Niagara River musky fishing picks up with downturn in water temps
Ethan Bronschidle of Newfane caught his personal best brown trout over the weekend, a 14 pound Niagara County trophy.

Oct. 31, 2018 – Niagara Falls, USA: Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek continue to be good for king salmon, brown trout and steelhead according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott. Skein, egg sacs or egg imitations are the way to go. Maribou jigs and beads are also working.

Sandy Troutman of Butler, Pa. with her first King Salmon from Burt Dam.

Chartreuse, orange and pink egg sacs have been working, along with nymphs, glo bugs and woolly buggers in purples, browns and blacks. Peach and orange beads have been catching fish, too.

The Olcott and Wilson piers have been producing some pike and steelhead for casters using spoons and spinners. Water flow is still an issue in many of the smaller streams in the lake. When they do get water, it pulls fish in and many times those fish will be stranded in some of the deeper holes. If you notice any illegal activity, use your phone to call 844-DEC ECOS.

Anthony LaRosa of Lewiston with a NYPA fishing platform King Salmon.

Lower Niagara River fishing is switching from salmon to trout, and some lake trout are starting to move in. Remember lake trout season is closed right now. Shore fishing guru Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls has been tossing jigs and No. 4 spinners to take salmon, walleye, steelhead and lake trout (all released quickly and unharmed) off the New York Power Authority Fishing Platform. If we don’t see any snow and ice, expect the platform to remain open until Dec. 1 at least.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a Lower Niagara River lake trout caught from shore.

Rzucidlo has also done well in the gorge, especially along the Artpark trail. If you would prefer to target smallmouth bass, the bronzebacks have been on a fall feed and Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls reports that his hot bait was a Strike King Rage Swimmer producing fish up to almost 6 pounds. They were taken downriver and action was fast for the most part.

In the upper Niagara River (above Niagara Falls), Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island reports decent musky action as waters start to cool and fish move in to winter over.

Local angler Joe Soldaczewski caught this 49-inch muskellunge in the upper Niagara River Sunday while fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island.

This past week he caught fish up to 49 inches long using a three-way rig and a special set-up involving live bait. Timing is perfect for the Tim Wittek Memorial Catch and Release Musky Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 4. It is hosted by the Niagara Musky Association from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. You must be a club member to participate. Cost for tourney is $25. For more info call Scott McKee at 225-3816. The club’s month meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 6 at the Eldredge Club, 17 Broad Street, Tonawanda starting at 7 p.m. Five different members will talk about different fall musky fishing points. It should be a good one. As of Nov. 1, you are now required to wear a personal flotation device if you are on or in a water craft 21 feet in length or smaller. It’s a good idea anyway.

Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls shows off a 5-plus pound smallmouth from the lower Niagara River caught on a Strike King Rage Swimmer over the weekend.

Bill Hilts, Jr.- Outdoor Promotions Director

Destination Niagara USA; 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US; 1-716-282-8992 x. 303; f: 716-285-0809
www.niagarafallsusa.com

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Devil’s Lake, North Dakota – Part 1, Walleye Expectations Exceeded!

Mike Schoonveld caught our largest walleye of the day, but we hooked more than 75 fish, some nice perch too, in a half-day on the water. Imagine that.

  • Devils Lake is located in East-Central North Dakota – 1000 Shoreline Miles of Walleye Access
  • More than 100 Fishing Guides are Certified to provide Services on Devils Lake
  • Best Walleye Baits: Jigs, Crankbaits, Crawler Harnesses
Outdoor writer Dave Barus with the first walleye of the day.

By Bob Holzhei

There are 105 registered fishing guides who regularly host avid anglers to fish Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, many of them will find the fishing adventure of their lifetime. High expectations?  Not really, especially when a person considers there is steady fishing action success experienced throughout the year, including ice fishing. The 180,000 acres of Devils Lake provide more than 1,000 miles of shoreline.

Walleyes were targeted the first day of fishing on Devil’s Lake, however, there are northern pike, perch, crappie, panfish, trout and white bass among other popular angler species.