Friday, November 28, 2014

Emiquon in August

Alan and I arrived at Emiquon by mid-afternoon on Saturday.  It was the Labor Day weekend. Our goal was simple. We wanted to catch bass.  We heard from several of Alan's tournament friends and DuPage Angler's own Soonerbass this body of water off the Illinois river has some fantastic bass fishing. That was enough to get three kayak anglers to drive two plus hours to fish what you can see in the photo below has a generous expanse of matting grass before you get to open water.  

This was our first day fishing the lake so as we unloaded our kayaks we discussed our game plan.  We decided to paddle out the narrow, deep channel at the boat launch to the edge of the weeds.  We figured by the time we got to the edge of the weeds we'd have a chance to figure out if we wanted to go right or left. We knew there were probably fish in either direction so we made our choice and started fishing.  

Both Alan and I had rods with frogs tied on.  We figured out quickly that the bluebird skies and the bright sunshine would kill any frog bite so we'd have to adapt and adjust.  Alan scored the first bass throwing his favorite soft plastic.  It's the bait that gave him his forum handle; a green Zoom Fluke.  The bass wasn't huge but it took the pressure off Alan.  Now I had to figure out what to fish and how to fish it.

I caught a few and Alan caught a few more but none of my bass were long enough to count for Kayak Wars points.  It was fun catching them mind you but I like most anglers end up wanting to catch something bigger.  We did catch a beautiful sunset.  I'll end the first day play-by-play with that.

Day number two we unloaded our yaks and got in the water around sunup.  Alan noticed something yesterday that was reinforced at the boat ramp today.  He noticed boats all heading to one end of the lake.  Well they might know something we didn't so we launched our kayaks and began to paddle like crazy after the boats.

We got to another big chunk of weeds.  It looked like anywhere there was water that wasn't 12 feet deep there were thick matted weeds.  Boats were fishing the weed edge but they couldn't go deeper into the mats without clogging up their motors.  Our kayaks could.  Did I mention Alan and I both had frogs tied on MH rods, high speed reels, braid what you'd want to use frog fishing.  Alan got the first points fish before I got the hang of the retrieve the bass wanted. It was explosive!  I paused the frog for a second in a hole in the weeds and the bass just SLAMMED it!

I love frog fishing! I do!  We had several hours of bass after bass smashing up through the mats.  My Live Target frog was taking a beating. Both Alan and I were giddy from the adrenaline.  

What worked here was simple, just cast the frog, rod parallel to the water start to reel.  For me three turns of the reel handle then, two, three stop........wait....SMASH!!! Wait to feel the weight of the fish then set the hook.  

Scott got in on the end of the topwater bite but his frog got nailed enough times for him to be excited about the fishing tomorrow.  The sun was setting on us as we paddled all the way back across the lake to the boat launch. 

We got something to eat and headed back to the hotel to pass out.  Day two was absolutely fantastic!  Big bass, beautiful surroundings, and sore arms from paddling our kayaks over the weeds.  It was a good kind of sore.

Day three the wind kept us in the hotel until mid morning.  It was blowing strong in gusts and spurts.  Paddling was hard but it would get harder; the wind was at our back as we paddled to yesterday's spots.

I managed more fish including this nice 4# largemouth caught on a Texas-rigged toad that I dropped into a hole in the weeds.  Fish were sparse but catchable today our final day.

Pretty soon we had to paddle back to the boat launch.  It was time to load up and drive home. Our three day totaled a bunch of bass.  I didn't keep count, I was just busy having fun catching. Scott and Alan both caught a ton too.  I'm guessing we'd all agree coming back to Emiquon is a real possibility.  

I'm sure as the ice starts to recede at the end of the ice season 2014-2015 our thoughts will turn to warmer fishing and our trip to Emiquon will come up.  I'd fish there again; it's a frog-fisherman's place to be!  It's very friendly to kayak fishermen and offers us spots to fish where the motorized boats can't reach.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My First Two Frog Fish!

Why didn't anybody tell me how electrifying, how adrenaline pumping, how downright addicting frog fishing is?  To be fair I have watched videos and seen the blowups where the bass just wants to wallop the frog into oblivion and it sure did look exciting but it's another thing entirely when it happens right when you think your frog lure should be in just the right spot...BLAM!!!!

She choked it!!

Her length and girth calculated to a tiny bit over 4#.  What I know is the adrenaline I had running through my veins had me giddy and excited.  I released this beauty, fixed my Koppers Live Target Hollow Body Frog and tried to make lightning strike twice.  It did!

She measured 4.33# on my Boga Grip and sealed the deal for me.  I have to build a frog-rod!  This is just too exciting a way to fish to not do it right!  Speaking of doing it right I wouldn't have landed the second fish if it wasn't for having the right line.  

I was throwing on my 7' MH casting rod with a Lew's Speed Spool 7.1x1 spooled with 30# Power Pro Slick braid joined by a Uni-to-Uni knot to 15# Seaguar Red Label Fluorocarbon. The fluoro probably isn't necessary for frogging but since I'm using my all around MH fast-tip casting rod I tie the leader on so I can throw swimbaits or cranks.

I have had these frog lures sitting in my tackle box for a few years.  I threw them a few times but never in the right conditions or with the correct level of patience to not jerk the frog at the first sign of the bass breaking the surface.  And bass DO break the surface.  They rocket up with the intention to slam the frog, stun it, and swallow it before it knew what hit it.  So I let them, I painfully waited for the bass to smash the frog, waited for the swell of water to recede, and waited to feel the weight of the bass before I crossed their eyes.

It's addictive!!  Will I do it again?  Absolutely!!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DuPage Angler - Lake Patterson Challenge

Early Sunday morning I load my kayak on my car, load my gear in my car and head to a parking lot in Aurora, IL to meet 14 who share my sickness; needus bassthumbis!  Actually, the parking lot was a meeting point to all check in for this month's DuPage Angler Challenge.

Roughly each month of the late spring and summer organizes tournament style challenges.  This challenge was held at Kane County Forest Preserve's Lake Patterson.

My kayak was in the water and I paddled across the lake to a spot I thought would produce.  After nothing bit my Arbogast Buzz Plug I decided to use a finesse plastic that is a favorite of mine; the 4" curly-tail worm.  The bass in the picture ate the 4" worm.  Unfortunately that bass wasn't large enough to count toward our team total.  Here are the rules for our friendly tournament:

Qualifying fish will be (3) largemouth at a minimum of 12 inches, (2) panfish at a minimum of 6 inches, and (1) bonus Carp at any length.  Total team length of these top 6 fish will dictate 1st - 3rd place.   Big fish pot will only count towards Bass! A picture needs to be taken of the length.  We will measure up to the nearest 1/4 inch but will not round up for a fish to if a bass is 11.8 inches...we will not round up to 12 for it to count.  Shore anglers and boaters need to have a camera and ruler or bump board to take pictures.  A picture of the entire fish and a picture of the final length are needed to count.  If you are having problems ask for help from your fellow anglers.
Live bait can be used for panfish and carp but not bass.  If a bass is caught using live bait it will not count toward your total inches.  Only one line can be in the water at any one time.
Fishing time will be from 6:30 AM to Noon.  Please be back in the parking lot for Patterson lake by 12:15 PM or you will lose 4 inches of your total.

So now you can see why my small bass didn't count. I was throwing a swim jig, not getting bit when I heard another angler hook up with two quick bass on a Z-Man chatter-bait. I have a bunch of those! I had success with chatter baits a few weeks ago.

Bam! A 14.25" bass hits my chatterbait! That'll count toward our inch total! I hope we get to cull him though. Time to release the bass and make another cast.

BAM! 14.75" A better bass and another one to count. I still hope we can cull!

Take a look at that chatterbait! This wasn't unique, EVERY bass CHOKED the bait! They really wanted to eat it!

Woot!!! A 15.25" bass! That will add to my teammate Titus' 15" bass to give us 30.25" with 2 fish. We can still use my 14.75" but I'd rather keep trying for bigger.

BOOM! There's my bite!!! The chatterbait scores a nice 17.5" largemouth! She weighs in at 3.25# on my Boga-Grip.

She's thick just like the other bass here. Well fed! Well fed on bluegills!

Speaking of bluegills my other teammate Steakified who had been fishing from shore scored two nice bluegills! That's additional inches for our total.

So our three bass plus two bluegills turned in 63.25" of fish. My 17.5" was big bass of the challenge and it was the tie-breaker as another team had 63.25" too. The big bass winner tipped the scales in my team's favor! We won!

After fishing a bunch of us returned to the parking lot we met in this morning to get a burger and beer at a local bar and grill. It was great to get to talk with and get to know new members and not new members that don't get out with the group too often.

We come from all walks of life, fish different ways, use different gear but all of us know that part of us needs to feel the tug and struggle of the fish on the end of our lines. We share that common trait and what better way to show it? We descend upon a 55 acre lake en masse' and work it from land and by boat to catch what the lake has to offer, take fish-pictures, then ease our fooled fishy friends back to the 55 acre lake to eat other fish, grow bigger, then bite my chatterbait next year!

What, it could happen!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

First Cast Five!

The 4th of July, Independence Day.  The day most Americans celebrate by cooking out, drinking a beer, and enjoying the company of friends. This year I had the pleasure of celebrating the fourth with my girlfriend Lupita, and my good friends Dave and Monique.

When Dave arrived and brought in his contributions to the day's cookout I noticed a container of nightcrawlers in his cooler.  When I asked he replied yeah, we've got our rods in the car.  I figured we could go fish after dinner.

I thought WOW, that's a great idea!  I've still got my rods at the house so I have one for Lupita. Now to see if she wants to fish.  Great!  So long as we let them go she'll give it a try!  Heck, I almost always catch and release.  Let's go fishing!!

We arrived at a nearby pond and Dave made the first cast near an outflow pipe where water was pouring into the pond.  His float went down.  I was showing Lupita how you make a worm-half without scissors when Dave hollers that he'll need a little help landing his fish.  I hurried over to find he had a NICE bass hooked.

Dave was fishing from the top of a spillway pipe and had no easy way to land his fish.  I leaned in from the bank and lipped Dave's fish.  It was 19 1/4" long and 13 1/2" around.  That calculates to 4.9#!  A first cast five for Dave!!

Pretty soon Lupita was calling out for assistance.  She'd been re-baiting her own hook after bluegills stole her worm and this time her hook found a lip!  Lupita caught her first fish!

It was a cute little bluegill!  I showed Lupita how to work the circle-hook out of the lip of the fish and she admired it's blue coloration and beautiful banding before releasing it back to the pond. Then she said something that did my heart good; I wanna do that again!

Pretty soon Lupita was baiting her own hook, making worm bits out of worms, casting an ultralight (which isn't the easiest type of rod to cast), and catching and releasing her own fish.  I actually got to bait up my line and catch a few fish while Lupita did her own thing catching pretty bluegills and letting them go.  That is until she cast near a line of reeds. Her float went down, she raised the rod tip and reeled in the slack hooking in her words "something heavy"!

It was indeed something heavy!  Certainly heavier than a bluegill! Lupita went from catching her first fish to having a multi-species day landing her first largemouth bass!  She lipped it like a trooper once I showed her how and was very interested in all the patterns and colors on a largemouth.  After a few photos she carefully set the bass into the water near shore and watched as in two flicks of the tail it was gone into the water.

Dave hollered to me that he'd landed a pretty nice bluegill.  He wasn't kidding!  What a beautiful specimen!  I'd love to have a bunch of bluegill that look like that in an aquarium.  I'm pretty sure that's not legal but boy would it be pretty!

Next Lupita hooks a nice sized slab of a bluegill!  I'd better get a worm in the water.

OH YEAH!!!  When you can lip a bluegill you know it's a biggie!!  This was the last fish we caught this evening.  The sun was going down, the mosquitoes were biting my girlfriend, and it was time to think about finding someplace to watch fireworks.

Sometimes a first cast fish is looked at as a curse on the trip.  Almost as if it was too easy and now no one will catch anything.  That wasn't the case however.  We had a great evening, caught fish, and had a fun evening with friends!  If Dave catching a big bass on the first cast helps all future fishing trips may he always catch a first cast five!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

DuPage Angler Kayak Cadre

Five of us arrived at different times this evening.  Several came after work. I picked up my fellow DuPage Angler Alan AKA Fluke after he had arrived home and we headed with our kayaks to new water. We were fishing the Fox Valley Park District's Lake Jericho in search of Kayak Wars sized bass.

We were on the water shortly after six PM.  The sun cast a golden hue across the lake.  The five of us that made the trip, Ted (SoonerBass), Scott (CrankinKing), Titus (Titus), Alan (Fluke), and me met in a corner of the lake that was sheltered from the breeze.  Fluke and I arrived in time to see Titus hook up with a nice bass on a plastic craw.

I stopped throwing a crankbait and tied on a craw. We all tied on craws. Flipping and casting the lures yielded a few small bass but nothing that compared to Titus'.  I decided to tie on a Strike King KVD Heavy Cover Bluegill Swimjig with a 4" Big Hammer swimbait trailer and paddle away from the group.

Soon I was rewarded by a better bass!

A fine largemouth, nice and thick with a full belly.  A nice largemouth but it only measured 15.25" so it didn't count for Kayak Wars Points.  While I was paddling around CrankinKing scored his first ever kayak bass!

The sun was going down as we made our way around the lake.  We were casting and catching a few but no one had Kayak Wars points yet.

I paddled near Fluke and CrankinKing and pointed at the sun indicating how much daylight we had left.  Fluke looked my direction and said "Just a few more casts".

BAM!  Fluke hooks up with a bass over 16" and proves it on a bump board before taking his own picture to submit to the Kayak Wars website.  Scoring 10 points for DuPageAngler2 on a nice chunk!

BAM!  I hook up throwing my swim-jig again!  This time it counts!  A 17" largemouth bumps my DupageAngler2 Kayak Wars team up another 10 points.

Mine was the last bass of the night. We paddled down the shore to the boat launch and loaded up in the dark.  The Facebook chat was buzzing with pictures and reports of our trip.  We will be back. We'll bring another group and fish for the giants that are rumored to be in the depths of Jericho.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cat on a Crank

Just a quickie post.  I stopped at a DuPage County Forest Preserve on my way to pick up kibble for my dogs.  I just took my casting rod, tied on a chartreuse square-bill crank bait, grabbed a pair of pliers, and walked to the water.  I was only going to throw the crank around for 20 minutes then go buy dog food.

I saw a decent bass jump so I cast to it.  Three winds, four, five...wobble, wobble, wobble-SPROING bends my rod.

I got 'em!!  I got isn't fighting like a largemouth. 

What I got was my first cat on a crank!  It ate all of the front treble hook and really surprised me!

I'm glad I stopped by and threw that crank around.  Releasing the fish after pictures I drove to buy dog food and headed home happy I got to go fishing and even happier I caught.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Open Water Success (finally!)

It's been too long since I last updated this blog.  It's not that I haven't been out fishing, it's that I haven't been catching much to speak of since ice out.  That changed Saturday for my friends Dave, Monique, and me.  Small pond bass finally got out of their spawn-induced slump and we had figured out what they wanted and how to catch them.

The first pond we stopped at has weeds just starting to form a shallow-water weed line.  Tall grass made casting challenging at times.  I threw a few crank baits early but nothing paid too much attention to them.  It was when I tied on a Z-Man Chatterbait in a bluegill color with a Crabby Bass Crawdaddy trailer I got some largemouth attention.

A nice chunk of a largemouth that hit my chatterbait around four feet from shore; near where a shelf drops off in the pond.  After releasing the bass I made the same cast and slow-reeled the chatterbait back toward the shore.  I was watching the fast-tip of my casting rod do a slow twitching motion in time with the vibrations of the chattering blade.  

My lure should be near shore so I should look down and slow my retrie.....Woah, there comes bass, slow way-down.  The skirt on the chatterbait flares, the claws on the Crabby Bass Crawdaddy flapped, the blade flashed gold, and a big mouth opened up and snatched my lure.

A longer bass and it may be a heavier one.  I didn't bring a scale or tape measure along to measure it.  I was just glad to catch it.  I would catch a few more bass here but fish eluded Dave and Monique.  We decided to hike our way back to the car and head down the road to another pond about the same size as this one.  

The shoreline was mowed and manicured at this pond.  Dave got out his first casting rod; a custom spiral wrapped casting rod with the same specs as the stick I was using today.  It was my way of welcoming him into using a baitcasting reel.  

He had a BPS Egg in bluegill color tied on and 10# Triline Mono spooled onto a Lew's Speedspool. His first cast with the new casting setup he sidearms the Egg in front of a bed of reeds.  I watched as the rod blank arched and loaded up with a bass on the other end of the line. 

A nice bass for his first of the year and the first using a style of reel he was just learning how to use.  Practice casting with rubber casting weights pays off in a day with only three overspins he had to pull out.   Much better than my first time out with casting gear to be sure.

Monique had been using a small paddle-tail swimbait in chartreuse rigged under a float.  I wasn't going to discourage her but I did gently suggest she lose the float and rig the swimbait on a jig-head and cast it.  Off she went to cast at the pond when Dave and I heard her yell.  "Hey, I think I got a fish!"  Soon came confirmation "Yeah, I got a fish!!!!?"

It turned out all she needed was some direction in what to do.  Once she got her thumb in the bass' mouth she learned the fish generally calms down and gives you time to work the hook back out it. She handled it like a pro after that.  When I joked she was in good company kissing fish and brought up Jimmy Houston she looked confused.  I'll have to send her some links of him kissing bass or Sugar-Boogers as he calls them.  

Dave scored the last fish of the day on a really cool and odd-looking little plug.  A Heddon Crazy Crawler.  

It was great to finally have a good day open water fishing.  We had ice late this year so spring schedules got all out of whack as far as spawning has been concerned.  It's got nature all out of whack trying to adjust.  One thing we all caught that we hadn't intended was something that's been out in force this year; ticks.  Each of us found at least two ticks on us.  We did examine ourselves after we got home but it took a second look to find all of the little buggers.

Do please be careful and check yourselves as you go out into nature! Lyme disease is nothing to mess with!  

As the summer comes and the bass move to more predictable spots I'll be getting out in my kayak more.  I want to spend more time this summer yakking rivers and new bodies of water.  If I catch you'll know because I'll write about it.  Since I started this blog my stats counter has passed 18,000 page views.  I'm geeked to get to 20K!  Thanks to all of you for reading about my fishing!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Harrier Lake - First Weekend of March

I usually fish with several members of DuPage Angler on any given weekend.  This weekend's fishing was discussed on a Facebook group starting last Monday.  All the active ice anglers have a Facebook group and we talk fishing, ice fishing, more fishing, and probably something about fishing too.  This week we decided by committee that we would be fishing Harrier Lake in the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.

I fished Harrier earlier this ice season.  I didn't have very good luck at all so I was a bit uneasy going back.  I only caught two bluegills last time I was there and I hadn't read many reports from the lake this season. Still a bunch of my fellow DA Ice-Heads want to go, I go.

Left to Right: SteeliePete, JC1Crappies, CrankinKing

Left to Right: BrimReaper, SteeliePete
I found some of my DA friends quickly enough as they were the large group on the ice as well as the only ones on the ice.   There were already holes drilled and fishing happening but very few fish had been caught.  I put the battery on my ION auger and started to make swiss cheese of the ice. drilled a tennis court sized grid of holes through 20+ inches of ice.  My flasher showed me my holes were above 10-15 feet of water but there wasn't much activity at all on the flasher's dial.  

I saw a concrete drain on the shore and drilled holes toward it hoping to find a hole, edge, weed edge, or something that could hold fish.  I flashed the holes and stopped when I found what I thought was an 11 foot deep spot with a foot and a half of weed growth on the bottom.  The thing was these weeds were moving!

I grabbed the custom ultra-light I made last season.  It had an orange colored Fiskas tungsten jig tied on the 2# test ice line.  Two red and two natural colored spikes were impaled on the jig's hook before it was dropped down to the moving "bottom".  This "bottom" came up to take a look at my jig!

That "bottom" was a perch!  Not much of a perch but it was a species I don't usually catch so I was excited to see it come up for a picture.  That and I beat the skunk with this perch so the pressure to catch fish was officially off!  I wonder if....

Yup!  More "bottom" perch bit my jig!

This fish hit my dead-stick rod.  It's a light-power rod I made that I set up with a slip-float, a split-shot, and a pink Custom Jigs and Spins Diamond Jig.  I managed to rig a dead-stick up between the perch I was catching and releasing. 

This was the chunkiest of the perch I'd catch today.  In all I caught 8-10 perch with no other species mixed in.  Today was totally a perch day.  I enjoyed that!  I enjoyed catching a species I don't see often in my area of northern Illinois.  I enjoyed besting my personal best perch with the one in the gloved-photo above.  (Still not huge but better than my first perch ever)

More than 20" of ice in March.  I'm wondering if we'll be able to fish on top of the water up to May?