Wednesday, August 12, 2009

BE Buckets


This post has taken a bit longer to put together and has fallen out of sync in the chronological order of things. Working a lot and fishing as much as I possibly can has caused a bit of a backlog in regards to material. Forgive me when I throw in random or late posts. Just trying to keep up with everything.

Date: Late June
Time: 8:00AM to a little after noonish
Air temp: 76-85 degrees
Water Temp: OMG for the LMB

The story begins…

The expectations were set really low. This place sees more traffic in the summer than the tollbooths off of C-470 at times. When I rolled up I saw the RV units stacked side by side but the lakes didn’t seem all that crowded. If you have ever been here to fish you know about the bait and dunk ponds to the north. You might or might not know about the pond to the south with the initials B.E. regulated as C&R/AFLO.

The truck is parked and the pontooner is loaded out of the truck for assembly at the water’s edge. Before I can even get my pontooner in the water I see the bluegill crowding in the shallows to spawn. My addiction to panfish started to build. It took a lot of concentration and focus to continue with the pontooner unload and setup (The toons were filled with air but the frame itself was not assembled.). Once the boat and gear was set up my interest could move towards the panfish. But when I reached for the panfish rod I saw a bass lurching in towards the bluegill. My reach moved four inches over and grabbed the rod with a jig combo instead. One flip cast, slow sink and WHAM! The lure didn’t have a chance to touch the bottom.

For once I did everything right and was able to keep the head of the fish from turning away from me. The fish tried to turn a few times and I was able to horse him back in my direction before he could position his body to make a full surge back into the deep. The distance between us was minimal and the battle itself was a quick one. Take a second for the photo op and release.

(Above: First cast fish. I haven't even got my boat in the water yet. If only every fishing trip started like this.)

Then I took the liberty to hammer a few dink panfish. The countless number of bluegill spawning in the shallows was too much temptation for me. It makes me smile to see so many of these snack sized morsels virtually forming an enormous buffet for larger fish. I caught and released a handful of these guys and always kept an eye out for some larger ones. Some of them had more brilliant color patterns than others.

(Above: This was one of the more brilliant colored panfish. I actually caught this fish later in the day and this a gratuitous photo placement.)

Ok so now I am in the pontooner looking around and trying to gauge the wind or lake current. Wind is often my primary factor when fishing the pontoon. It was mild and easy to keep boat direction and control. With wind out of the equation I start looking for clues. A lake this size may be referred to more of as a pond. You can see clearly from one side to the other. After one good look my options were many.

Making my move towards the south cove I start throwing search casts. First cast is shallow with a quick retrieve that slows as the water depth increases. As the lure vanished into the darkness of the deep water…WHAM! Another solid fish. My rod was doubled over and my hand loosened the drag another skosh. This one was pretty beefy and gave one, two good surges on the drag. But the fish had nowhere to go in the open water. Finally the fish had to concede to the land and grab. Perfect hook placement in the jaw that came out leaving a fine pinhole.

(Above: “Holy cow. I am just getting started here. Hope this action holds through the day or even the next few hours.)

The noon hour heat started pouring on. The heat really seemed to kick up the wind quite a bit. It would be slightly breezy or perfectly calm one minute and then get gusty and blustery. The pontoon is very susceptible to wind. It blows me around like a circus balloon at times. What made things worse was that the wind direction did not allow for a decent line to drift fish. I spent a lot of time readjusting for a cast and moving over a few prime spots in poor position. Wasted a lot of time dropping anchor, pulling up anchor. I spooked a few fish.

“Should have dropped anchor four feet over there instead of right here.”

My boat is turned 90 degrees with a crank of my left oar and I start heading for another spot. I throw out a cast and let the lure trail behind me as my arms and shoulders crank on the oars through the wind. The rod holder keeps the fishing rod in place. My eyes watch the tip of the rod as my pontoons rock with the waves.

Thunk! The rod tip twitches forward and then bounces back. My arms stop rowing and I reach for the rod. Thunk! Thunk! Wham! The rod was loaded before the fish came back for the second bite. Right at third bite I powered down. The fish was about thirty or forty feet out. It felt like a sturdy fish. The fight continued in open water and the fish chose to stay deep rather than breach. It tried to take refuge under the pontoon boat but that was a mistake. The fish ended up running right to me in the last 10 or 15 feet. Lip and release!

(Above: Lift up, get the shot, lower and release. Bad angle on this shot with the sun. This fish hit the bait of nowhere. Shallow fish, deep fish, it just didn’t seem to matter on this day.)

Visibility was great due to amazingly clear water. It made sight fishing a sheer pleasure. Several yards away I see a dark shadow cruising off the shoreline. The senko was slung out as that was what seemed to be getting most of the action. The lure splashed and started dropping. The fish turned and raced right at it. I felt the hit like a jolt. It was the most glorious moment of fishing when you trick a magnificent specimen into fiercely striking a lure. Then the fish leapt out of the water and came down with a splash.

“That’s a decent fish!” My teeth grit down as my heart starts pounding. Every single fish gets my heart pounding.

The fish tried to run deep and I managed to turn the head towards me. This is where I should have rolled my wrists and turned the fish to my left where I had better boat position. Instead it burst out of the water a second time and I struggled to keep slack maintained. The fish could easily toss the lure right here. The aeronautical display is amazing to watch but often comes with devastating results.

I held my breath cranking desperately on the reel handle. The fish went right into the muck. Instead of giving out some slack and hoping the fish reverses himself, I tighten up the line before cranking the oars twice to move forward. The boat went over the top of the fish and pulled it out the reverse direction like it was rehearsed or something. So easy. Often I lose fish when they dig down like that. But the fish was a real fighter and struggled for every inch to the boat. Even the lip grab was tough.

“Phew…son!” I did my best Bill Dance imitation as I landed the fish.
Luckily the park ranger was just coming around the corner as I landed the fish and willing to give me a hand with the photo op. Great shot!

(Above: beauty BE bucket even if a little bit on the skinny/post spawn side. Thanks to the Park Ranger for taking this shot.)

As the day wore on the bite seemed to fade. The heat and wind were taking a toll so I decided to head back to shore and call it a day. Cranking the pontooner one of the rubber oar fittings comes undone. This causes the oar to flip flop like crazy. I had to limp my way in like a lame duck and against some serious gale to boot. Just as I start building up momentum I see a large boil on the water about 10 feet from shore.

“Hello, Betty!” I bark letting the good oar drop and then placing the bad oar on the left pontoon.

My right hand grabs the rod with a simple 4” grub and fires a decent cast considering I am getting blown backwards about 15mph. The lure hits just past the boil. The rod tip is lifted quickly making the lure hop on the water rather than sinking. But the wind is creating a lot of turbulence and pulling the bait down. Instead of looking like a minnow or creature on top of the water it resembles something drowning or at the very least struggling in the current. This was one of those times were I feel like the presentation is 100% right or 100% wrong all at the same time. My hand stopped reeling and I just let the lure sink. WHAM! The line was tight as I felt the fish hit. Setting the hook was a synch. Landing the fish would be a different story.

The wind started to die down for a second and then came right back up again. I hadn’t had time to grab the oars since positioning the boat for the cast. The wind was pushing me across the lake. The adjacent shoreline was a distance but closing in. My head turned briefly to gauge the distance but then returned back to the fish.

“C’mon now. Make this easy and no one will get hurt.” I don’t know why I talk to these fish. They don’t listen to me at all.

This fish was “horsed” in a bit due to the shoreline closing in. My hand cupped the drag and I put far more force on the line than normal. The goal was to land the fish quickly, maybe take one shot or two and then release before I collided with the shore. The last part didn’t go as planned. The boat was directed with one oar into a “soft” spot on the shoreline as opposed to the Russian olive trees. I did land the fish but it could have cost me a pontoon or two.

(Above: Literally a last cast fish. Kind of a tricky shot with the flubbed up oar.)

The fish was released and I flapped the boat back to the other shoreline. The gear was broken down very slowly and put back into the pathfinder. Drank the last of the water and headed out. Honestly, I am nearly as tired from typing all this up and posting it, as I was that day when I drove out of there.

Once again, sorry for the late post. Good luck and good fishing.

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