Slacking for Carp

The should be king of freshwater fish.
     So I must admit that lately I haven't exactly been following the plan.  I'm supposed to be bass fishing from my kayak.  This weekend is the River Bassin Trail Tournament stop in Madison, and I really should be putting in my time on the water.  I have been out and fishing, just not for what many believe to be Americas game fish.  I do enjoy catching bass, it's just that I enjoy chasing carp on the fly a lot more.  For those of you not in regular pursuit of the "golden bonefish" I can honestly say, you're missing out.  
     Carp are quickly becoming the freshwater fish of choice for many fly anglers.  These fish are smart, finicky, and can be found almost anywhere.  As an urban angler I can't think of a better fish species to chase.  If you think I'm talking crazy you're definitely not alone.  I hear about it all the time from other anglers, especially from the local troutists (trout+elitist).  Trash fish, garbage fish, rough fish, think of your derogatory comment and insert it here.  The funny thing is most of the trout anglers I know don't have the necessary angling skills required to catch one of these beautiful fish.  Carp will test you and many times they will send you home with your tail between your legs.
Jan's Carp Tickler Fly
     Still I find it puzzling that many fly anglers don't spend more time casting flies at the common carp.  For many trout anglers here in the driftless area the lowly carp is gonna be their best chance at catching a fish over 10 pounds.  Come to think of it, they will probably be the local bass fisherman's best chance at a 10 pound fish too.  Seriously, how many of you can lay claim to having caught a 10 pound trout in a creek.  Sure we catch them all over the Great Lakes in the fall, but for most of the year driftless anglers around here are forced to measure their trout in inches...not pounds.
The lovable face of Cyprinus carpio, fly provided by Orvis.
     Now that you're rolling the idea of catching a carp around in your head,  you might be thinking "What do I need to catch one of these things to shut this guy up?"  All you need is a 6-8 wt fly rod and a forward floating line.  You can pick your favorite brand, the carp don't care.  I like to use a size 0x-3x leader and adjust my tippet as dictated by the fish and water clarity.  As for flies damn near any will do.  Carp are notoriously opportunistic and will make the best out of whatever is available.  Insects, berries, clams, seeds, little fish (sculpins), they don't really seem to care what they are eating.  So once you figure out what they're munching on just find a fly in your collection that has a remote resemblance and tie it on.  Usually I find that flies that look like more than one food source are a sure bet.  If that doesn't work tie on a San Juan worm and cast it close.  Trust me there are lots of aquatic worms, the carp eat them all the time.
     So as the summer wears on here in the midwest and the water temps start to climb, keep an eye out for the common carp.  They can take the heat better than trout and are found in even more places than bass.  Whether you fish creeks, streams, rivers, ponds, or lakes, chances are you will have a carp close by.  They are ridiculously strong fighters and stupid amounts of fun to catch on fly rod.  If you want to give it a try sometime drop me a line.  I will be happy to be your guide as you enter the addictive world of fly fishing for carp.  Hell, I'll even help keep it a secret from your trout buddies if you decide you really like it.
In all seriousness I have nothing against trout.
     Tight Lines.



Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series Part 3

     Exiting the driveway at 2 am I was downing coffee and struggling to stay awake.  My truck was pointed towards Illinois and I was headed back to Ottawa for the third stop on the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series.  This event is the one I was looking forward to the most because I love chasing big catfish.  Online research prior to the event showed that the Fox River had large flathead and channel catfish so I brought along some of my favorite freshwater big game rods and an assortment of baits.  To say I was fired up would be an understatement, and my pulse started to quicken the closer I got to the marina.
The stand up bar makes a handy rod holder.
     As I unloaded my kayak some of the locals asked why I had such large rods with me.  I told them that I had read about the big cats in this river system and a few of them started to laugh.  I realized at this point that I was a little over gunned.  "Biggest catfish you'll find around the marina is maybe a two foot long channel cat," one of them said.  I was a bit dejected since my plan was to stay in the marina for this tournament stop.  It was stupid hot out and I had no interest in paddling or pedaling against the river current with a heat index of 106 degrees.  It was gonna be a miserable day on the river and I was more than content to just sit in one spot with my baits in the water.
Just sitting in a pool of sweat.
     For those of you who have never done it, catfishing from a kayak may just be the most boring thing you can do on the whole damn planet.  Seriously, I tried to think of something more boring and despite my best efforts I couldn't think of a single thing.  The only thing I could think of that is even remotely close would be attending a horse show, not competing, just sitting in the bleachers.  That was close, but even a horse show isn't as boring as fishing for catfish from a kayak.  Anyways while I was sitting in my little boat, anchored in place by the micro pole I noticed that my line was moving.  I reeled it in to check the bait, and sure enough the hook was empty.  My rods were to heavy to detect a light bite.  I baited up my hooks with some fresh night crawlers and casted my lines back out into the water, it was gonna be a long day.
See the umbrella/lifesaver?
     Once settled in I opened my umbrella for a little shade (if you don't carry one on your kayak you should) and sat back into my sweat soaked seat.  I looked out over the water at some of my fellow competitors and wondered what they were thinking.  Were they as miserable as I was?  Maybe they wished they had my umbrella?  Perhaps they were thinking about all the other things they could be doing right now?  Just then my rod started to bob up and down, finally a fish.  I grabbed the rod and pulled back to set the hook...nothing.  "Dammit!" I thought to myself, "Missed him."  I reeled the line back to the Slayer and to my surprise I had caught a catfish.  Wasn't anything to be proud of really, even my wife laughed at me when I sent her the picture.  Still it was a catfish and at this point in the game I was happy to have even a small fish on my hawg trough.
A very much appreciated if not tiny channel cat.
     I re-baited the hook and sent that poor little worm out to his death.  For a little while I didn't notice how hot it was.  I am always surprised by how quickly a little action can turn around an otherwise miserable day on the water.  We have all experienced it, that moment when you just want to pack it in for one reason or another and then you land a fish.  Suddenly you are having a great time and could stay out on the water all day.  All because some poor fish made a mistake and ended up on the end of your line.
Such a perfect little specimen.
     As the hours started to tick by I was getting a little anxious about my lack of fish.  Transitioning to fishing tournaments has been a reel struggle (see what I did there) for me this year and all I wanted was a good showing today.  While downing yet another bottle of water one of my rods went off and I quickly set the hook.  This one felt bigger and I was relived when it started to pull a bit of drag.  It was a little common carp, hands down my favorite freshwater fish.  I carefully unhooked the little beauty and released it into the water.  "Only I would be so happy to land a carp in a catfish tournament," I chuckled to myself.
     Finally, it was time to paddle in and drop off my camera.  I only had one fish and on him I hinged all my hopes of finally having a top 10 finish.  So far this year of tournament fishing has been a disappointment, accompanied by a monstrous learning curve.  Gathering at the top of the hill for some food and the ever popular award ceremony, I was shocked to hear that the big fish prize went to a 25 incher.  That's crazy when you think that most of the time here in Madison we don't even get the camera out unless they are over 30 inches.  Still I tip my hat to everybody that competed on that ridiculously hot day in Ottawa, Illinois.  A big thank you to all of the series sponsors and to Heritage Harbor Marina and Quest Motorsports for hosting the event.  Joshua Bennett ended up the tournament champion and took home $380.00 for his monumental effort.  If you don't believe his effort was monumental ask him about what it was like to have 12 invasive, jumping, bowel emptying, asian carp land in his kayak at the same time.  In hindsight, I must admit that I had a great time at this stop on the Great Lakes Kayak Fishing Tournament Series.  If you'd like to get in on the fun then join us September 12th in Manitowoc, WI as we chase King Salmon on Lake Michigan.  For more information on the tournament series, current standings, the rules and regulations, or to check out the event sponsors, follow the link here.  Until next time...
Congrats to Joshua for his big win on the Fox River.
     Tight Lines.

Mobility is Everything

     I see it all the time when wandering the banks here in Madison.  People that are trapped in one spot because of the sheer amount of gear that they carry.  I still haven't pinpointed the exact reasons shore anglers feel the need to bring along everything they own, but they do.  Sometimes I wonder if it's based on personal image?  Maybe they just want to show off all the gear they own?  It could even be that they really want a boat and they think that if they carry all of the stuff they would store on a boat, they're one step closer to boat ownership?  I'm not 100% sure why shore based anglers do it, but they normally do.  Let me give you an example.
That's a whole of gear to only fish one spot.
     While out chasing muskies last week I ran into this guy on the break wall.  The first thing I noticed was that he had a lot of gear.  Three rods, a huge musky tackle box, giant net, and at least 8 tackle trays.  Working my way down the wall I asked if he had any luck today.  He said, "Nope, been here for five hours and haven't seen a single fish."  I asked him were else he had tried and he said, "Just here, it's to hard to move all this stuff."  Even with his modified luggage cart it was still to difficult to move all his gear so he was trapped in one place.  I made a few more casts then started working my way up the shoreline towards the boat house.
Spiderwire Backpack
      Now you might be thinking, "Maybe you don't carry enough gear to properly chase muskies?"  Maybe I don't, I had 2 rods, top water baits, jerk baits, buck tails, and my Lucid Fishing Grips, release tools, and terminal tackle.  I also pack rain gear, snacks, and usually a soda or two.  I keep them all in my back pack and only carry what I need each day to cover the species I plan to chase.  It keeps me organized, hands free, and mobile.  Using the backpack helps me cover water by limiting what I can take with me.  Downsizing helps the shore bound angler cover large amounts of water.  Which in turn gets you the best chance of finding fish.  Don't believe me, look at the guys in the boats.  They use the engine and trolling motor to cover giant expanses of water, it gives them the best chance of finding the fish.  We're talking about any fish, not just the rare and finicky muskellunge. 
     Just because you have the ability to carry everything you own tackle wise, it doesn't mean you should.  Downsizing what you carry and making sure you have what you need for the fishing you plan to do that day will help you as a shore based angler.  I know I sound a little preachy, but this is probably the single most important thing I cover in my seminars.  Using some form of backpack or waist bag will allow you to cover water much more effectively, which will obviously help you find more fish.  Because as the title suggests mobility is everything, at least in shore fishing.
Hands Free Fishing Fun
     Tight Lines.


Thank You

     So this is the 200th post on ShoreboundHero.com.  I have struggled with what to write as a way to thank you to all of you who have helped me in this chapter of my life.  So with out a lot of words, I would like to thank you, all of you.

  • All 1,693 followers on Google+...Thank You
  • To the 3,496 friends on Facebook, and the 639 followers...Thank You
  • For the 1,272 Twitter followers who retweet my posts...Thank You
  • All 584 of the people tagging along on Instagram...Thank You
  • To those that have watched the 35,423 views on You Tube...Thank You
  • To everybody that has subscribed to the blog, read an article, attended a seminar, or listened to me at an expo...Thank You

     Thanks to everybody that has helped Shorebound Hero amass over 600,000 views across 4 social media platforms not counting this blog or Facebook.  This ride has been amazing and I want to thank my family, friends, and sponsors (find links to them on the left side of this blog) for believing in me and helping me chase this crazy dream of mine.  Shorebound Hero has a lot coming in the near future.  Sticker packs, clothing, videos, and of course shore fishing and kayak fishing tips and tricks.  The next few months should be a lot of fun, hope you're all able to come along for the ride.
     Tight Lines.

The King Magnet by Vibrations Tackle

     I will never forget my first king salmon encounter in my early twenties.  I was fly fishing in the Two Rivers area with a simple fly I made from a foam ball and some super glue.  When that fish grabbed my fly in those knee deep waters the fight that ensued changed my whole perspective on fishing.  It had so much power and jumped so high out of the water that I was literally exhausted and out of breath when I finally beached it on the shoreline.  That fish broke the 5 wt fly rod I was using and continued to fight with me all the way to the cooler.  That same kind of experience is what I was after the first time I booked a salmon charter for myself and some friends on Lake Michigan a few years ago.
     As we left the dock and headed to the open water outside the harbor walls I remember my initial confusion as the first mate on board let line after line out of the back of the boat into the water.  It was my first experience with trolling, something I had read about, but had never actually done.  When the first rod went off they quickly handed it to a buddy of mine and soon the bobbing and bucking rod tip went limp.  Always trying to learn when fishing, I asked the first mate what happened.  "They start to roll from being pulled along by the trolling boat" he said, "They use the weight of the lure to free themselves, it's a leverage game."  I knew immediately what he meant having had more than one musky get off my line because of the lure weight working against me.  I hadn't really given it much thought until I was at a fishing expo in Chicago last year.  That's where I first encountered an Echotail specifically designed to land king salmon.
     The lure was called the King Magnet, and it addressed the issues with trolling for king salmon simply.  For those of you that are not yet up to speed with the Echotail line of lures, here's a quick refresher.  The Echotail lure is an adjustable blade bait with an interchangeable tail.  Like other blade baits you have seen (owned) for years you can adjust how it runs and vibrates by attaching your line to one of 5 holes on the back of the lure.  Want less vibration and a more subtle presentation use the front hole, heavier vibration and a more aggressive presentation use the rear hole.  Unlike other blade baits it has a barbed bait keeper built into the back of the metal lure.  Now you can add a soft plastic tail to the blade bait.  Think about the possibilities for just a second, single tails, double tails, worms, scented plastics, creature baits, you're only limited by your imagination.  You can customize the Echotail indefinitely, it will change the way you fish for your favorite species.  Anyway, now that I have gotten off topic and started to ramble you're wondering. How did they deal with the salmon freeing spin when out trolling for kings?
     They added a barrel swivel and a bigger hook.  Well actually it was a little more complicated than that.  The boys over at Vibrations Tackle tested design after design and countless hook configurations.  Working with charter boat captains and local kayak anglers they created a series of go to colors meant to simulate alewives on the great lakes.  Next they bumped up the lures to a heavy 1 1/2 ounces to help them get down to the depths required to target off shore schools of big kings.  Then they manufactured the lures of out 18 gauge stainless steel so they would hold up to the abuse that trolling day in and day out can dish out.  Finally, they added the swivel so that salmon will roll free of the lure when hooked up resulting in fewer lost fish.  Like I said, simple...but GENIUS.  I included a picture of the King Magnet next to a standard Echotail so you can see the differences in lure design and compare them side by side.
     I for one am really excited about the 2015 fall king salmon season in Wisconsin.  It will be my first time to target these fish on the water instead of on the shoreline.  With the King Magnet lures swimming behind my kayak I'm sure it's gonna be a rod doubling, big fish wrangling, grip and grinning, good time on the water.  To get your own King Magnet trolling lures follow the link here.  To get trolling charts, how to videos, or to learn more about the Echotail line of lures, check them out at www.VibrationsTackle.com.
     Tight Lines.