Friday, May 29, 2009

Beauty Panfish Day at PX 5-24

Fourth day of my all out fishing onslaught and I saved one of my favorite places for last. PX provides great warm water action and I have modeled my pontooner exactly for these types of waters that allow hand propelled craft but may require some walking to reach. Setting up the boat takes a few extra minutes but worth the additional inflate time. Geared up with four rods and a tackle bag packed with tons of the creature plastics I hit the water.

The rock structure usually coughs up a fish or two. This is a great place to start and get that confidence boost or help develop an active lure pattern. I almost always put on a fish within a few casts here and that locks in a positive vibe for the rest of the day. Today was no different. Second or third cast off the rocks and BAM! A nice 15’er to get things going. A few more casts and I pick up my second fish. I factor in the two common factors of both catches. The senko was out and the grub was in. (Above: Here is a sample of some of the trouble I am having with the Kodak. Even with the flash covered with tape and the settings adjusted, the bad pictures still keep coming. Some of my best fish shots of 2009 have been destroyed because of this camera.)

One of the adaptations of my pontooner is the platform that allows me to stand up. This gives me a great vantage point to sight fish from the boat. Panfish will be attracted to the floating structure of my boat and I can pick of some of the better ones. Panfish are a serious compulsion of mine. When I get the chance at some better-sized ones I take it.

A lot of standard panfish presentations like baby minnow patterns and micro gubs are still too big to trick wary panfish here in Colorado. I prefer to use dry fly patterns or downsize my senkos to nail these pint-sized balls of fun.

After nailing a handful of these guys I can shift my focus back to bass. The shore guys were hovering over nesting fish like vultures. I watched one angler work the same nest for several hours until he finally landed that one fish. It was a decent male largemouth bass in the maybe 17’er range. Rather than try to trick the heavy pressured fish, I poked in and out of the deeper structure for less pressured, less finicky fish.

Wind was not a problem for most of the morning. But as the day wore on the wind would gust up and faced a steady breeze. I did my best to pick a line and drift while casting. Positioning the boat while standing can be tricky but I am getting better at it. Using the oars as rudders helps. Drifting with the wind will often provide a great trolling speed for creature bait presentations. Running the weightless grub and the jig-combo side by side it was hard to tell which lure was preferred in this bass taste test. It wasn’t constant action mind you but there was enough love to go around. Good numbers of bass but nothing in the OMG class.

Then I see the highlighted markings on a spread of fins that measured at least 10-inches. Once again my panfish addiction consumed me. The anchor was dropped and the two bass rigs were pulled in. The panfish setup was drawn and I jigged the bait like a mad-man. After a few missed strikes…BAM! This may be the fattest bluegill I have nailed in Colorado. Funny how I don’t take any stats whatsoever of fish these days unless its completely OMG. This gill is close.

(Above: Fatty Bluegill in full prespawn glory. Man I dig these fish!)

Late in the afternoon I roll off the back lake and onto the smaller lake closer to the parking area. This lake sports better population of smallmouth yet I don’t seem to get into them like I want too. The largemouth are also impressive if not finicky. After I have covered most of the lake or when pressure seems to crowd me on the back lake, it is worth the effort to port out and roll onto this spot.

It surprised me to get into a few largemouth right away as this lake can be a bit tough for me at times. Nothing in the 18’er class but it is good to see that my patterns are still getting hits. The weed-matte and moss are too heavy for the jigs. This is weedless presentation all the way. Even the spinnerbait was coming back choked with moss. But more often than not when I ran the simplest thing in my tackle bag…thunk, thunk, set the hook, Wham! Fish on. Another nice 16’er bass is landed and released. By this point I am casting more and taking no pictures unless it’s a damn good fish. I could feel myself getting frustrated with the 2-pounders and just plain disappointed when I landed a 3-pound fish.

Then I see a dark shadow approximately 20, maybe 24 inches cruising in some deeper water. Too slender to be a carp and a darker shade more typical of a bass than a carp, right? These are things my mind does out there to play tricks on me sometimes. Here I am thinking this is possibly a huge bass and casting first the grub, then the spinnerbait and then a few more casts with the grub as the dark object cruised around the cove. It turned into shallow water and I got a better look at it. One look at the forked tailfin and the large bubble-shaped head, my expectations sank.

“Catfish!?!” I muttered in the closing hours. “Man, I worked my ass off for nothing.”

The cove was pretty much worked by now. Chuckling from fatigue and sitting back down to row the pontoon boat my focus was on getting back to the southern shore and porting out. The riprap dam structure was getting some moderate pressure and time was running out. I could cover that area and maybe pull out one of those beauty elusive smallmouths…but was there enough gas in the tank or sunlight? The question was mute as three more guys piled onto the dam eliminating a substantial amount of open water for me to cover.

“Maybe I can hit a few spots by the tree cover.” I consoled myself.

Rowing the pontoon boat is something that is therapeutic to me for some reason. It sounds crazy but I could row this silly inflatable boat all day if there weren’t fish to catch and bills to pay. The distance between the west cove and the south shore was covered in mere minutes. Before porting out I decide to scout the tree cover on the south side. Right away I see two bass cruising. There wasn’t a nest in site but they were patrolling around a section of submerged trees structure. The structure has a group of congregating baitfish so I figure this is their feeding area. I run the grub near the structure hoping to mimic a nearby snack floating too far away from the cover. The bass move in closer to investigate. Then…out of nowhere…a saucer like flash appears out of the tree structure and charges the grub. No bump, no bite from the fish but it exposed itself.

“Holy @#%^ that’s a crappie.”

In an instant the grub rod was put back in the rod holder and the panfish rig was retrieved. First cast…WHAM! It was a slab o crappie. I absolutely dig panfish and think crappie are some of the coolest around. How crazy cool looking is this species of fish?

A smallmouth bass cruised in and out of the tree structure as well. Nailing one of these would have made it a 5 species day. I threw a few casts of standard garb but after a few minutes the fish vanished and I was eager to pack things in. Daylight was fading as was my energy. Another 10, maybe 12-hour day of fishing with no food or rest. Just some bottled water and a few packages of plastic baits. Putting the gear back into the truck was just about all I had left in the tank.

Note: A lot of the bass pictures were whitewashed out. Apparently my taping over the flash was not the solution that I had hoped. Still shopping around.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

No comments: