Urban Fishing Tip: Net Handle Extension

20 feet of fish catching reach.
     Everybody knows that if I am out fishing, I land my fish with a Lucid Fishing Grip.  However when I am out on a harbor wall or fishing from an elevated position say 10 to 20 feet above the water I need a way to grab the fish.  This is the only time you will see me with a net in my hand.  Standard net handles are just to short to reach the surface of the water so a handle extension becomes required gear.  I have witnessed many ways that shorebound anglers extend the reach of their nets.  Crazy things from sections of rope, duct tape attached broom handles, to different sized pvc pipes sleeved and bolted together.  Then I saw a design that was easy to make, easy to use, and most of all easy to transport.  My friend and constant fishing partner came up with this system and when setup it increases the reach of the net by almost 12 feet.  
     First off you need a net, preferably one with a telescoping handle and big bag.  The more compact and easier to handle it is the better.  Second go to your favorite hardware store and get a 1 1/2 inch bolt and matching nut.  Third, pick yourself up a telescoping painters handle.  Buy a good one made of metal and preferably with a twist lock.  Then just follow these easy steps.
     Extend the net handle and drill a hole just big enough to slide the bolt through.  Then drill the same size hole through the end of the painters pole.  Make sure you leave enough room for 6-10 inches of handle overlap.  Now just slide the handles together and attach them with the bolt, it really is that simple.  With the handles fully extended you can safely reach down almost 20 feet. The fact that the net and painters pole are telescoping let you easily break them down for transport.
     Here's a few quick tips for using this net.  I have found that when you are getting ready to net the fish put the whole head of the net into the water.  It is easy for our depth perception to get a little wacky when staring over the side of the wall and I have witnessed more than one fish accidentally freed when the hooks get caught on the net without the fish all the way in it.  Also you want to use a net with a deep bag.  At that distance you can't really "shake and bake" a fish into the net so if you want to make sure the fish stays put you need a bag big enough to hold the entire fish.  When lifting the fish and net from the water you want to bring them up hand over hand.  With all the weight at the end of the handle a net can bend pretty easily so you don't want to try and lift the fish straight up and out.  Hand over hand, lifting vertically, will get the fish up and over the wall while saving your net.
     The great thing about this setup is that when you unbolt the painters pole your net still works like normal.  The hole in the handle causes no harm to the strength of the net.  Also since we are not drastically modifying the painters pole you can use it around the house in the off season to work on that "honey do list" you put off all summer.  Until next time...
     Tight Lines.


A Quick Trip for Big Brown Trout

     Everybody I have talked to lately is carrying on about how great the salmon run on Lake Michigan has been this year.  Now I am not much of a salmon guy, not that the fish aren't fun to catch they just don't get me fired up.  Brown trout on the other hand I love to catch and if the salmon are coming in then the browns are never far behind.   I have a very basic fishing mentality when it comes to shore fishing the Great Lakes.  Why waste time trying to chase them in open water during the summer, when they come right to shore in the fall.  With that in mind a buddy and I packed up our gear and headed north to Port Washington, WI.
     The fishing was noticeably slow as we headed down the harbor wall.  Lots of people were setup and waiting for their chance to hook into a salmon.  I rigged up my rod with the 3 way rig I outlined in a earlier post and poured myself a cup of coffee.  These are the kinds of mornings Wisconsin is famous for cool breezes, changing leaves, and big fish.  We watched multiple 30 pound kings get netted and hoisted up over the wall.  As we laughed and congratulated the guys and gals that landed these monsters I couldn't help but think of the giant browns that must be just below our feet.  Then suddenly a big trout broke the surface and we watched as it chased a school of bait fish.  That trout ate fish after fish from the school.  I have never witnessed this before and couldn't believe how fast a fish that size could maneuver.  I spend a lot of time chasing muskies and none of them have ever moved like that.  It got my heart racing and my adrenaline pumping.  While pointing out the brown trout chase to the other guys on the wall, I watched as my rod tip slowly started to load up.
     I heaved back on the rod and set the hook with authority, I always tell my clients that hook sets are free.  If you feel anything and I mean anything out of the ordinary PULL.  The fish took off immediately and I yelled out to the other guys on the wall that I was hooked up.  It peeled off drag and fought to get itself to the current break.  These bigger browns aren't stupid, they know from experience that if they can get in the current they can snap the 6 pound test line.  I feathered the spool with my hand and made constant directional  changes with the rod.  I have found that if you constantly change the direction your pulling on the fish they get confused and usually make mistakes.  This intern shortens the fight and gets more fish to the net.  After a few futile dives the fish gave in and my buddy Richard dropped down the net and we brought up the prize.
     The fishing in Wisconsin is phenomenal year round.  If you haven't tried fishing for brown trout and salmon on the Great Lakes you should definitely add it to your bucket list.  Beautiful scenery, big fish, and great stories.  Give me a call, I'd be happy to take you out.
     Tight Lines.

Urban Fishing Tip: Sliding Weights vs. Boat Traffic

Clip and Weight
     The other day while out catfishing I watched in horror as my braided line got picked up by a passing boat prop.  My spool was dumping line so fast that by the time I got to the rod I had been cut off and lost close to 100 yards of 80 pound braid.  Had I remembered this trick when I casted out I could have easily avoided the whole scenario.  This tip is most effective when fishing canals, rivers, lakes or surf that is plagued by passing boats.  It uses a second sliding weight to pin the line to the bottom of the waterway. Keeping your line off the surface, and out of harms way.  I made up this quick video to explain the concept a little better.
     Tight Lines.

Vibrations Tackle Free Contest Giveaway

     One of our supporters Vibrations Tackle is giving away 2 Limited Edition Fall Musky Jigging Kits.  All you have to do is register at http://muskie.outdoorsfirst.com/ (if your not a member already you should be), find the contest in the blogs section, type the comment "I want to win!", and post your favorite musky picture.  Contest ends 10/01/2014.  Winners will be picked at random.
www.vibrationstackle.com
     Tight Lines.

Chasing Channels

     We got started a little late tonight. My kids were having some friends over for a sleepover and I was moving kinda slow. I was feeling guilty about leaving my wife home all night with 5 high energy children just so I could go out and do a little catfishing.  As Richard pulled up to the house I suddenly realized that I wasn't packed up and ready to go.  We had planned this all week, but like usual I was running behind.  Rigging up the rods I said, "I don't think we can make it all the way to Lake Columbia and still catch bait before dark."  "OK" Richard said, he is one of those go with the flow guys.  I asked him if he would mind us chasing some urban catfish instead.  I knew of a nice little spot here in the middle of Madison that consistently produces channel cats in the 30+ inch range.  Richard agreed to try my plan and soon we were loading up my pickup and cruising down the road.
     We stopped at a local shop and bought a sucker to use as cut bait.  Stink bait makes me gag now (must be getting old) and the sun was dropping to fast to bobber fish for bluegills.  As we arrived at the spot I was relieved to see that nobody else was fishing the area.  It can be a pretty popular spot in Madison and if you arrive to late chances are you won't get to fish.  We setup our chairs, casted out some lines, and settled into the night.  It wasn't long before Richards rod tip started to look a little agitated.
     Now Richard hasn't caught a catfish since he was kid.  I think adrenaline may have taken over because he snatched up his rod and gave it a wide sweeping hookset...nothing.  We made eye contact and I could tell he thought he missed the fish.  I assured him that if they hit it once they'll usually come back.  He set the rod back down and sure enough that cat came back.  The line started to move ever so slightly and with it the reel started to sing that favorite tune of the cat fisherman, Click, Click, Click.  He picked up the rod and nothing.  "Maybe just hold the rod," I mentioned. I explained that catfish can be pretty damn quick when they grab a bait, so holding the rod would increase his response time.  Sitting in the dark telling stories and eating Doritos it didn't take to long and his line was screaming out of the reel.  He jumped up and heaved on the rod setting that hook like a pro.  It quickly doubled over and I knew that once again this spot was producing.  That cat gave Richard a "reel" workout (get it!), it charged towards the bank, dove into thick vegetation, and eventually snagged itself up on the rocks just feet from the shoreline.  Undeterred I instructed Richard to keep tension on the line while I clamored down the rocks in the darkness.  I reached out over the water feeling around for the catfish with my left hand.  I locked my Lucid Fishing Grips on to its jaw and swung it backwards free of the rocks.  I handed the fish off to Richard and quickly got the camera.  We had no interest in eating him so after a few photos he was released back into the depths.
     Richard was still shaking as he let the fish go.  He says fishing with me is always an adventure.  That really means a lot, I pride myself in the "pursuit of the trophy."  As luck would have it later that same night Richard hooked into a fish he had never seen before, but that's a story for another time.

     Tight Lines.

   
     

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur STX Round Reel Review

     For the past few seasons I have been exclusively using the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Winch for my day to day trophy fishing.  This is an excellent all around low profile reel.  This year with the addition of my snakehead rod I was in need of a durable reel that I could keep spooled with a smaller diameter line.  I keep 100 pound braided line on my Revo to fish for muskies, large catfish, and strong saltwater species.  Although it worked fine for bass (read overkill), I just couldn't get the casting distance I was after.  While doing my research I discovered this gem of a reel.
     The Abu Garcia Ambassadeur STX Round Reel is an update of the BCX series of baitcasters that was offered by Abu Garcia.  They are available in 2 sizes and in left or right hand retrieve.  It features a smooth 5 bearing system.  Four of the bearing are stainless steel to hold up to the riggers of fishing, and 1 roller bearing (anti-reverse) for consistent smooth casting and operation.  A 6 pin centrifugal brake for better casting control and a multi disc drag system for even pressure.  For me the most exciting updates to this reel are the recessed reel foot and sway back drag star and handle.  The recessed reel foot allows for a more compact feel in the hand since it places the reel closer to the rod blank.  Having the sway back drag star and handle make it more evenly balanced on the rod.  So that just leaves the big question of whether or not I like it?

     Well the short answer is so far so far good.  The reel performs as well any Abu Garcia reel I have owned.  I have used it to catch pike, muskies, and bass this season.  The drag is smooth and consistent with no hesitation and the recessed handle makes for a very comfortable "cockpit".  When I attached the power handle to the reel it didn't have the clumsy/slow feeling.  This is nice because I am constantly swapping reel handles depending on my target species.  The synchronized level wind keeps the line nice and tight on the spool and it doesn't appear to take away any casting distance.  However I do have a few little complaints.
     As I have fished with it over the last few months I have noticed that the side plate thumb screws have a habit of coming loose.  At least once a week I have to tighten them all back down or the reel flexes under load.  Also the reel seems to engage and disengage at random times.  Not all the time, but it happens enough to make me a little nervous.  I find that I click the spool button every once in awhile just to make sure that it is operating correctly.  Small things when you consider the reel as whole, but I thought they were worth mentioning.  So would I recommend the reel?
    The answer is yes and no.  If you are a new angler, on a tight budget, or are considering this reel as a backup, I wouldn't have any problems recommending it.  However, if this going to be your only reel or if this is intended to be your workhorse, I would save your money for one of the reels in the Revo line.  Still at less than $100 dollars it is a good budget or beginners reel.  It does what it is designed to do and it does it pretty well.  For more information about this reel or to purchase one of your own go to www.abugarcia.com.
     Tight Lines.

5 Quick Tips for Productive Fall Shore Fishing

     Well the days are growing shorter and the water is getting colder.  I thought a couple quick tips for fall shore fishing were in order.
  1. Throw a of stocking cap and a pair of gloves into the backpack.  Fall weather can be pretty unpredictable.  The days can start calm and sunny then can turn into cold and windy in a hurry.  A stocking cap and gloves might mean the difference between landing a trophy or landing in the hospital with hypothermia.  I prefer wool gloves since they still trap heat and stay warm even if wet.
  2. Afternoons are awesome.  With cold nights now becoming common, it takes a little longer for the water to warm in the shallows.  Afternoon fishing is normally the most productive time for bass and panfish since the water is the warmest just before the sun goes down.
  3. Slow your retrieval speed.  Since fish are cold blooded, as the water cools they start to move slower.  Slowing the retrieval speed allows the lure to stay in the strike zone a little bit longer.  Making a conscious effort to slow down has helped me consistently catch fall lunkers.
  4. UPSIZE your bait.  The forage species in your body of water are gonna be mature by the time fall hits.  The predators are looking to fatten up for winter and they want to do it as efficiently as possible.  Catching one large meal uses less energy than catching a bunch of smaller meals.  So play to their nature and toss them what they want.
  5. Stay Positive.  Fall fishing can be extremely frustrating.  Fish are migrating to their spring spawning grounds, lakes are turning over, and hook ups can be few and far between.  Having a positive mindset will keep you in the game longer, which inevitably leads to more fish.
     Keep these quick tips in mind as we head into fall.  Remember that one of the perks of fall fishing is that the fish are feeding heavily, which makes for some impressive catches.  Keep Warm, Slow Down, and Stay Positive.
     Tight Lines.

Share Your Passion

What a fashionable hat.
     How many times have you been talking about fishing and had somebody say, "I used to fish" or "that looks like fun, but I don't have the gear."  It happens to me quite a bit and recently I decided to do something about it.
     A friend and coworker of mine named Richard, who has listened to me carry on for years about the great fishing we have here in Madison finally accepted my invitation to get outside and catch some fish.  He has seen my photos, read my blog, and he even spent some time fishing when he was younger.  The only issue he had was a lack of gear and no local knowledge about where to fish.  I told him to get a fishing license and he could borrow some of my gear to get started.
     After a few trips around town, and relearning how to cast a line, he began catching fish.  The fish were small, but they were fun to catch on an ultralight rod.  Eventually he purchased a rod and was only borrowing my lures.  Soon to follow was a tackle box and then some lures of his own.
First Largemouth
Smallmouth
     Then it happened, as we walked along the shore one day he said, "How do I catch one of those big fish?"  He wanted a brag worthy fish, a fish he could show off.  I explained that most big fish were earned.  That he would need some heavier gear, some time to practice the fundamentals, and some dogged determination.  He set to work learning to use a baitcaster, figuring out the easiest way to fix the dreaded birds nests, and how to work the casting angles that allow shore fisherman to find the bigger fish.  He progressed right in front of my eyes.  He was getting better everyday and I knew that soon I would have to take him to one of my favorite spots.
     So when we made plans to meet up the other morning he swung over to my place and asked where we were gonna be fishing.  I told him that I thought we should head down to the break wall knowing that the weeds were finally getting established and that the fish would be in them.  After a few casts I had a nice musky come charging up through the weeds and swipe at my Hawg Spanker bucktail.  "What was that!" he said, "it chased that bait like a shark!"  I said, "this is a place were the big fish hide."  We continued to fish making our way up and down the break wall, each taking turns casting to the best spots.  Then suddenly he shouted, "I got something! and it's big!"
     I turned around and saw his rod bobbing up and down wildly as he fought the fish.  As I ran down the break wall to help him land it, I noticed how well he was fighting the fish.  That fish ran back and forth along the wall giving his pole a real workout.  The drag was screaming as it made lunge after lunge in an attempt to get free.  Finally hanging over the side of the break wall on my stomach the Lucid Fishing Grips hit their mark.  I pulled the fish up over the wall and we both watched as the lure dropped free from its massive mouth.  If it had made just one more run it would probably have been lost.  I handed him the fish and we fired off a few pictures.  He was smiling ear to ear as he released it unharmed and he proudly exclaimed that it was the biggest fish he had ever caught!
33inch Northern Pike.
     Catching a big fish is a life changing experience for a fisherman.  It's like joining an exclusive club, it is something to be rightly proud of.  When I got to work that night he was already showing off that pike and basking in the well deserved congratulations. I couldn't help but think of how this whole thing started with an invitation to go fishing.  It made me wonder how many of these opportunities I have missed over the years.  Getting new people into the sport is a great way to share your passion, to help justify all the hours we spend on the water.  As I headed out the door at the end of my shift I overheard a familiar conversation.  It was Richard inviting a coworker to come out for a day of fishing.  If you ever get the chance to share your passion with others be sure to take it.  You could be the spark that lights the fire.
     Tight Lines.
     


Hat(ch) Patch Review

     Every once in awhile I come across a product that I fall in love with, the Hat(ch) Patch is just such a product.  I wear a lot of hats, not just in life, but actual hats.  Being your average balding American male I have a ball cap on my head during at least 75% of my day.  Also as a company supported angler I wear many different hats to help promote my supporters brands and products.  These hats are given to me as gifts and I just don't feel comfortable destroying them. Digging hooks into the bill to dry my flies not only rips the fabric, but it also gives me a poor appearance makes me look homeless.
     The Hat(ch) Patch is a great little device from Nature Boy Designs that solves this problem by allowing me to dry flies on my hats without messing up the bill.  It is made out of a carbon fiber patterned plastic that not only looks great, but is contoured to fit your hat.  The bottom side has integrated clips to attach it to the bill and the top side features a low profile durable foam to keep your flies firmly in place and within easy reach.  It switches so easily from hat to hat that I sometimes wonder how I got along without one.
     Check them out at www.natureboydesigns.com.  You won't be disappointed in the Hat(ch) Patch, it does exactly what it's supposed to.
     Tight Lines.

Gander Mountain Guide Series Frontier Fly Rod Review

     I love a really nice fly rod, but sometimes the really nice rods cost a really nice bundle of cash.  While chasing carp this summer I broke 2 rods in 3 days and that kind of damage doesn't agree with the family budget.  I was in need of a new rod and my fishing funds were low.  I tried the normal channels of asking buddies and browsing craigslist, but I couldn't find a rod I could afford.  Then while killing time at Gander Mountain on a rainy day I found the Guide Series Frontier fly rod.
     The Guide Series Frontier is a 4 piece budget rod that is made in China.  It's a graphite rod which allows for decent sensitivity considering its low cost.  It has many nice features like an aluminum uplocking reel seat, alignment dots to aid in rod setup, and a full wells cork grip.  I especially like the oversized hook keeper and generous fighting butt.  The rod has a blue finish with light blue thread wrappings giving it a very clean look.  It even comes with a roll up canvas rod bag that fits nicely in it's zippered rod tube.
     The model I chose was the 7 weight.  Normally while casting for bass and carp I use an 8 weight rod.  Using a 7 weight allows me to overline the rod.  Overlining lets you load the rod easier which allows faster response and quicker speed for firing out a cast at crusing carp in a hurry.  Once I had it strung up I found that it balanced well with my 8 weight reel.  When I arrived at the pond I noticed that rod is a mid flex.  In the past all the fly rods I have used were tip flex so I had to adjust my timing and lift my back cast a little bit.  Nothing major, but worth mentioning if your considering this rod.  All in all it casts well and has plenty of backbone for muscling in an angry bass or marauding carp.  
     I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this rod to a beginning fly fisherman.  It would also serve as a good back up rod to the more experienced angler.  It doesn't seem to be on the website anymore, but every Gander Mountain store I have stopped into has them.  They retail for $100.00 as shown here, but I have seen them on sale for as low as $39.99.  So if your looking for an inexpensive fly rod with some very nice appointments, check out the Gander Mountain Guide Series Frontier fly rod.
     Tight Lines.
     

Why Do Fish Eat Worms?

     While waiting for school to start today my daughter noticed my fishing gear by the door and said, "Why do fish eat worms?"  I just kind of laughed it off and answered, "because their hungry."  I loaded up the gear in the truck, dropped her off at school, then headed to the lake.  A few casts into the morning, and my brain wouldn't stop replaying the question.  So why do fish eat worms?  Not just a couple fish, but almost every freshwater fish I can think of eats worms.  Bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, trout, pike, walleye, the list goes on and on.  Now I know the evolutionary basics about earthworms.  I also know that they are terrestrial, meaning they don't live in water on purpose.  Sure they might occasionally get washed into the water during a heavy storm or maybe dropped into the water by a clumsy bird, but that would mean that fish generally wouldn't have them as a prey item.  So why do fish eat worms?

     After a lot of thought I came up with 3 ideas.
  1. They come into regular contact with a similar prey item.
  2. Something about the worm attracts/triggers them to eat.
  3. Worms are simply delicious!
     The first idea is the question I most wanted an answer to.  Do they eat something regularly that's similar?  After some research I discovered that they do.  Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri is a relative of the earthworm.  They have many similar traits to their terrestrial cousins, but they also have a very distinct difference.  Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri lives in water, not on land.  They commonly inhabit freshwater streams, rivers, marshes, and lakes.  Turning over rocks or digging in the muddy bottom is usually all you need to do find these guys.  They are so plentiful that many times they are the most abundant animal in the water.
     To answer the second question, we need to look at a few ways fish find prey.  The most common is sight feeding.  When a worm is placed on a hook it wiggles, I would too.  A lot of fish in freshwater have very good eyesight.  Frantic wiggling looks like something trying to get away to a fish, that in turn triggers a predatory response.  The worm unknowingly screams I'm out here EAT ME.  Another common way fish find prey is through the use of their lateral line.  The lateral line is a sensory system that allows the fish to detect weak water motions and pressure gradients.  In layman terms, this series of cells lets the fish find food based on vibrations in the water.  They don't have to see it, they can feel that something is there.  So when Mr. Wiggles on the hook starts gyrating around, the water in turn moves, and that triggers the fish to bite.
     This brings up my third idea, worms are just plain delicious.  Ever tear a worm in two to bait a hook?  Notice anything? Like maybe they are all meat.  Sure they have a nervous system and digestive tract, but they don't have much else.  We all know that proteins are the easiest thing for most predators to digest.  We also know that most proteins taste good.  I have yet to find a steak I wasn't a fan of, and I believe fish are the same way.
     Hopefully this helps to answer the question.  I'm gonna have to thank my daughter for the inspiration behind this post.  I must admit that for all the times I have used them as bait, it never once occurred to me to ask why the fish eat them.  Kind of makes me wonder why some of my other baits work so well.  Do you have anything to add to this discussion?  Maybe a question you would like answered?  Leave a comment below.
     Tight Lines.

7 things in 200 days

     According to my fishing journal September 2nd will mark my 200th day on the water this year.  I looked up the actual number of days and it appears I have missed 44 days so far this season.  Not bad when you consider what my family has been through this summer.  Here is a quick list of the 7 things I am most proud of (fishing wise) in these first 244 days of 2014.
     First- I started working with another great company as a ProStaffer for Nauti Lures.
     Second- My Cub Scout fishing derby celebrated its 4th year.
     Third- Caught the second species of trout needed for my IGFA royal trout slam.
    Fourth- Spent some time legitimately learning how to fly fish.

     Fifth- Finally caught some species of fish that had been eluding me.
     Sixth- After breaking 3 rods this season, I have realized that I don't need high end gear to catch fish.
     Seventh- Learned how to better promote my blog and now have over 120,000 views across 5 platforms.
     All this makes for an exciting beginning to 2014.  I want to thank everybody for all the shares, likes, +1's, and word of mouth support you have given me.  Although I still don't know where all this going, I am thoroughly enjoying the ride.
     Tight Lines.