Friday, May 28, 2010

Fatty Bass on the morning shorebang

As the weather improves it opens a window for grabbing a few casts before going to work. This is pretty much my only chance to get in some of that tasty morning shoreline on a weekday without seven-layer PTO approval. This morning I decided to dress down in jeans and hit some water before the Memorial Day Weekend madness begins.

In some Colorado lakes, the bass are still in spawn\prespawn mode so I want to express my great appreciation to everyone that is releasing those big buckets that are so susceptible to pillage at this time. I won’t go so far as to say that fishing for nesting fish is ethical or much of a sport and tread this discussion\debate lightly for many reasons. What I do stress is minimal handling and the release of those ultra aggressive bass around the nesting zones.

I will spare the two or three readers my 9-page tirade that covers the pros and cons of fishing for spawning fish of all species. Yes, I know this type of material makes my blogilicious come off as some fish hugging after school special. But I do love to catch big fatty bass and these fish do not become big over night. The big fish help balance out the system from overcrowding as well and just one more reason to toss the big fish back.

Oops, I am going on my tirade. Better get back to the shameless bragging. “Hey! Look at this fatty bass that I caught this morning!”

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wishing everyone a happy and SAFE Memorial Day Weekend

The first three-day weekend that starts off the summer recreation is upon us and I want to stress to everyone a word of caution. Roads and reservoirs could become very crowded this weekend. This could really up the stress and frustration factors of your holiday adventure. Alcohol consumption, heat and other elements may bring out some of the worst in human behavior. Keep this in mind while sharing your outdoor experience with others. Here are a few things that I would like to toss out in hopes they make your Memorial Day Weekend confrontation and hassle free.

1. Your favorite music selection and automobile hi-fi system may not be as admired by those around your campsite as much as you think. Be considerate and play those radios and CD players at modest level.

2. Avoid confrontations. There will be some fist-a-cuff occurrences out there in the campgrounds, state parks and even the roadways. Even though I butt heads and point out rules at my fishing destinations most of the year, my goal on the 3-day bashes is to simply keep my mouth shut. Violations are reported to authorities and they can deal with bubba and his ragingly drunk posse shooting firearms at midnight in the state park.

3. Assume everyone is drunk. Rather than trying to determine which vacationers are intoxicated and likely to use poor judgment, it is far easier to assume everyone is drunk and will eventually come close to burning down the entire forest. Making assumptions is generally misleading but will keep you on your guard near your campsite or on the road this weekend.

4. Bring your cell phone pre-programmed with agency numbers for backup. Operation game thief is your best bet when it comes to limit breakers and other types of bad behavior at your fishing spots. 1-877-COLO-OGT. It is also a great idea to plug in the phone number of managing agencies, local officials and even the marina where you are planning to be. These folks may be able to give you a hot tip in moments of desperation or at the very least come to your aid in time of emergency. Having the numbers plugged in makes it a quick call.

5. Know your limits and stay within them. I see a lot of people overdo things on these 3-day weekends and wind up spending most of it in the hospital. Hiking, swimming and even prolonged hours of fishing are extremely tough on a body that is severely dehydrated, malnourished and\or inebriated by large amounts of alcohol. Someone is going to push it too far and pay a heavy price this weekend. Don’t let that person be you.

Hopefully most of Colorado’s outdoor natural areas will suffer only a little damage from the public onslaught that occurs every Memorial Day. The fisheries that have been fairly untouched as of yet may look downright haggard afterwards. Trampled trails, broken tree lines and endless amounts of debris are a given. Shorelines covered with anglers and 3-days of full limits can really take a toll on the smaller metro ponds that I fish. Some places will look rode hard and put away wet. Like an old horse these places can only tolerate so much heavy use before they become lame. Hopefully folks will tread lighter, leave less trash and take less fish this Memorial Day weekend. But most of all I wish that everyone be cautious and safe this first 3-Day weekend bash of the summer.

Good Luck and Good Fishing!

Monster Buckets

May 1st, 6AM. The sun has risen an inch or two above the horizon and already greeting the water. At first Don and I ran into trouble getting the boat. Ominous front warnings a slight ripple on the water made the ranger concerned about letting us out on the water. The MAD Fishing show views any obstacle as a mere challenge and we instantly break into our “good cop-bad cop” routine.

“You know…” I say with much bravado. “I am an expert mariner.”

“Are you kidding me?” Don hammers in with the bad cop. “I probably have more ripples on my bedspread!”

“I am also a champion rower.” I added with a swab smile and a wink. (It was a girl ranger after all.)

“Half the lake is glass!” Don chided further.

“Sorry, fellas.” She spoke sweetly as if this was policy and her hands were tied. “Maybe if it calms down later in the day I can let you out.”

At this point our world was shattered. Forced to shorebang a heavily pressured lake as opposed to the boatage was a bitter pill to swallow. We paid the fee and went on our way to stake our claim to some well-trampled beach or point. Digging for one last chance I turned and gave her my best puppy dog eyed stare.

“If you do change your mind or the wind settles down…can you give us a call?” I said like some school kid just turned down for the prom. “My cell number is right there on the day pass.”

Maybe the puppy dog stare would have worked better if I took off my shades. We walked out of the small gate-office and down to the shoreline. Don was beyond upset. He cast out as far as he could and then spat with frustration. After 15 minutes my cell phone rang. We were already walking back to the dock. Boat was launched and the original game plan was put into play.

It takes a while to find the fish as they tend to move around on this +100 surface acre lake. Heading over to a different section we stop and fish an area of water that we had not fished before. Second cast out with the same jig combo that I was throwing for pike (barbless hook and all) and WHAM! The bait gets clobbered by something that feels like a small dump truck. The fish puts up a heavy fight and as soon as the head breaks water my lips mutter, “Hold on, Baby!”.

(Above: This is the first fish. A nice bass in the 20” range. I know, I know…I should be taping and weighing these brutes but you will just have to live with a picture. Catch and release!)

Get the first one back in the water and fix my jig setup. This is a jig combo presentation used to mimic a crawdad pattern of sorts. Brown and black was a no go after a few casts so I switch to black and blue. That was when I started getting clobbered! The jig was retied after the fish and thrown back out. We are working a slight incline and about 8-feet of water. Cast, cast, cast…WHAM! The bait gets clobbered by something that feels like a cross between a fish and a freight train. (Excuse the large vehicle references here folks but most of the bass in Colorado don’t rank the adjective power of a two-door Jetta let alone a Mack truck or locomotive. What I am trying to stress is that these fish are hitting hard and then running with vengeance.)

Land the second fish and I am ecstatic! These are the moments I live for when fishing for bass. Not too shabby for Colorado.

(Above: Second bucket with a super fat gut! Definitely one of my better fish holds. This fish is guestimated at only 19-inches in length but really close to 5lbs. People tend to think fish weigh more than they really do. In an effort not to injure the fish’ self esteem, I rarely weigh fish anymore.)

The bite seemed to be brief and once it died we searched for bites to no avail. The rest of the lake was scoured while baits were changed and worked until most have the tackle box had been soaked at least once or twice. In frustration we went back to the same spot where I had picked off the earlier two. Cast, cast, cast…nothing. As time and electric batteries wore on we eventually had to call it a day. Wind was actually gaining momentum so we turned the boat back in without a scratch. A good day. A good day indeed.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishahlic.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ColoradoCaster’s Hardcore Award – Jon and his “angler in training”

(Above: Jon and family hitting the water. I think that kid is eyeing my skirted jig combo on rod number 3.)

Hitting some water on the first good weather day that I have seen in months! Along comes one of the coolest things I have seen in a while. This is really getting the kid out and starting things early.

“As soon as he can hold a rod…” Jon said as we talked for a few minutes on the shoreline.

The kid didn’t say a peep one. Just soaking it all in and enjoying the outdoors. Where is the wife? She is doing some serious search casting in shorebang mode while Dad does the double duty with Jr. here.

The double duty as baby carrier and angling trainer all in one deserves the ColoradoCaster’s Hardcore Award for the Month of May.

Hardcore Award Disclaimer: Hardcore award winners are not eligible for any cash award, contest prize, monetary compensation, free lures, discounted lures, my fishing lures, free beer or other forms of compensation. I just made this up don’t take it too seriously. No apples were harmed in making the image you see here.

Bass on the Fly…what was I thinking?

If you fish in Colorado you will learn one thing at one point or another…”If you didn’t catch that fish on a fly rod, you didn’t really catch that fish.” I could throw custom made spinnerbaits and hand poured fantastic plastics landing all sorts of fish in size and species all day long only to have fly anglers remind me that I might as well have been using live bait. Recently I received a “fly rod dare vs. the same ol-same ol”. I responded and things just kind have spiraled from there.

Bigerrfish is a fly angler that I follow and occasionally comment on his blog. He does good work in both the photos and skill of his catch. One day I catch the same fish twice in one year and he “dares” me to try and catch one with a fly rod. I try to be clever and milk a nymph article out of the guy and WHAM! Next thing I know I find myself goaded into a “puff your chest out-I’m better than you” fish challenge. The dialogue went like so many conversations with a girl that I used to date. I would say, “Hey, how about a quiet night in and order some Chinese food?” Next thing you know I am forking over big bucks for nightclub dancing and dinner at Red Lobster.

My original plan was to get Don to tag along and film me while I attempt to tag a few bass with the long rod this summer. But 18 hours after driving 200 miles one-way for bass (another posts folks. I’ll try to get things caught up somehow) the last thing he wanted to do is watch me flounder with a fly rod. I am thinking that by June the bass will be slaughtering dragonflies and this would be a real hoot. Adding the fly rod to my arsenal at certain times would give me that extra element that I am looking for. However, I get back from a big trip and find Bigerrfish already starting to run with the contest landing some nice bass.

“Awwww @##$%^” I say throwing out an entire week’s worth of planning and ditch my Sunday agenda to save some face and try to keep up.

Sunday Morning…The pontooner is launched and I start setting up expectations. I set the fly rod up with a heavy beaded fly that is part woolly bugger and part nymph on a 4lb tippet that is shortened up quite a bit. This means about two, maybe even three feet was lopped off to sturdy things up. Hopefully the “bugger” would prove to be a feature creature pattern that would suit my game.

“Ok, Matt…just find the fish. Land three @#$% bass and then get on with your life.” I grumble loathing the situation that I put myself in. “On the tooner, this should be easy.”

There are no fish on the shoreline as the tooner floats across the water. This time of year I should be seeing nesting bass. These are not really the fish I want but would make a good backup plan if I struggled…but they weren’t there. My fly was a bit on the heavy side and dragging moss on every cast. I had no choice but to switch to a floating\batfish pattern in this streamer fly that I had gotten years ago for about 2 bucks. 2 bucks was a lot of money back then. More searching, more casting…nothing. In three hours I cover the lake and do not see a single fish. My thinking went into full desperation mode…almost panic.

“C’mon, Matt.” Yes, I talk to myself a lot when fishing. Taking a few deep breaths I let the early frustration dissolve from my mind. “What do you need to do?” The newfound relaxation sinks into my head and ideas start forming. “We need a new spot.”

Within minutes the tooner was loaded and on the truck. Pull into the parking area of the new spot and do a quick grab-n-go with the gear. Knowing the shorebang scene will limit me severely I start scouting for fish in the shallows.

“There’s one!” I see a big fatty female cruising the incline. “No time to set up the cast…just whip and shoot.”

I strip about 10 feet of line, check the leader and try to hurl a hail-Mary fly cast at the bass a mere 6-8 feet away…the fish took a slight turn and was moving further out. Cast, FLUB! I don’t even hit the water. The line snarled up in the weeds at my feet. I move out of the weeds, fix my mess, move down ahead of the fish and get ready for a second attempt. This time I have more room to “whip back, whip forward, whip back and present”…the fly lands a foot away from the fish. It’s a perfect yellow and white streamer with red eyes. It landed in a good spot perfectly on the water…with a billowing wad of heavy fly line right behind it. Really it was spaghetti with a streamer. The fish looked at the streamer and wondered how it would get at it through the mess. The fish swam off as I spent the next few moments increasing my cursing vocabulary by leaps and bounds.

“Ok, ‘goober’…you better try a few 10 and 2’s before we go much further.”

It was not going well. My face was getting red hot with frustration and sun. I see another fish cruising. I present and then start stripping line on a huge (for me anyway) 10-foot distance cast. The fish races for it. I hold my breath. Strip, strip, WHAM! I lift the rod tip, try to set the hook, have the fish on for maybe 2 seconds and then gone.

“Sonofa! #$%&* #$%* mudder #%^&* ducker!!!” pause for a moment “That was a big fish.” I cast out again quickly in hopes for a second strike and the streamer gets caught up in submerged tree structure. Even with the trimmed down tippet, it breaks off with one good tug. Ever just sit down on the shoreline and do nothing for a moment? These little cool down periods are lifesavers for me. The fog of sweat fades from my sunglasses and I dust myself off for another attempt.

“So help me if I lose one more fish…” My lips mutter going through my fly box of 6 or 7 flies that I never use. “Down to moths and…these POS PP’s.” (I love these things for crappie but they are not a respectable fly or bass.) @#$%^ me, this isn’t going well.”

Now I reach the north side of the lake and it’s fairly mossy. I see two fish circling in the moss about a foot or two from shore. The area has some brush that I can hide on while I flip the fly ahead of the moss with a quick roll cast. I watch the fly drop and sun sparkle off the metal blades as the sun hits. BOOM! A fish races out of the moss and tags the fly hard.

The cheated tippet will only hold about 6 or 8 pounds of pressure. Not enough to horse the head of a big fish like this on a dead run. All I can do is put tension on the line (I didn’t have any stripped out at the moment which was really nice) and pull the fish towards me when he stops running. The fish ran twice and I swore the whole time. This dance is far too delicate for my tastes. When it stopped for a moment in the water trying to shake off the fly, I gave the rod tip one lift and walked it back to shore quickly. This is where it gets strange. After hundreds upon hundreds of bass pictures…I forget everything and focus on getting quality shots of the bass with the fly in his mouth. The result is some of the worst fish pictures that I have ever taken. These pictures almost sicken me, as they offer no real quality to the fish. Clearly a case of “out of my game”.

(Above: First horrible pic. This is an awesome bass, +18’er and maybe 4lbs. I am so wrapped up in trying to maneuver the 9-foot rod in the brush to get a shot on time delay. FAIL!)

(Above: Same fish, second shot. This fish shows a bit of damage on the left side.)

(Above: This shot may be worth something because it has a fly rod in it. If this photo showed say a 250-dollar St. Croix spin rod and a 200-dollar Quantum reel...this shot would be worthless!!!.)

Catching one fish is a huge boost of confidence and fuel to keep me going. I still have a lot of lake to cover so things are looking up. Maybe I can nail two more fish quickly and forget all of this stumbling and fumbling. At least by now I am actually getting the casts out and stripping just right to get the blades spinning and twinkling in the sun. I am also putting the pieces of the puzzle together. On this lake I have fish in a certain behavior. I merely need to find the ones in cover close to shore and “plink” them out.

I see another fish holding close to cover surrounded by trees. Normally I would flip a jig at the base of the structure and have the fish out quickly. Reaching this spot by shore with the long rod at all would be difficult as there is only a slight gap in the branches in front of me but no window for even a roll cast behind me. My only chance to get this fish is to wade in. This I do and cast at the second fish. WHAM! The fish hits it on the third twinkle of the blade and I lift the rod. Wow…I actually set the hook! My heart stops as I grip the line on the pole and pull the head away from the structure and towards me. The fish is halfway to me and decided to run deep. I let go of the line and here my fly reel drag sing. My brain is struggling with what to do this whole time. My instincts want to clamp down hard and land this fish but my caution steps in and just lets the fish run. As soon as the fish burns out the first main surge it runs into the shoreline moss. That would have been a good play if I weren’t standing there with my hand ready for some bass lip grabbing.

I wade back out of the water at the edge of the tree line and fumble with the photo-op. If this is the first time viewing my blog…please review earlier posts. This is terrible compared to most of my shots.

(Above: This picture is a bit doctored, as I had to remove a lot of moss from the face to show the fly. You can barely #$%^& see the blade. This is another beautiful fish.)

I added the video for this one and even that is pretty lame. . Maybe I am off on this but shouldn’t that fly rod be a few feet shorter?

Video of second fish

Ok so here is where the whole day gets ugly and part of the reason I am writing this post fueled by sheer anger and frustration. I see a monster bass lurking in the wood structure. I flub a few casts and then finally get the PP Fly in the money zone. Sink, small strip, sink…nothing. There is very little sunlight so the twirling blade (the only redeeming quality of this fly by the way) is not spinning. Then the fly gets hooked up in some twigs.

“Oh Sweet Jeebus! Why am I even fishing with bugs!?!” I choke out in anger trying to pop the fly out with the wimp stick.

But the bass now gets interested. He sees the commotion and moves in. I relax the rod, the bug comes off the stick and out of the strike zone. I roll cast it right back where it started and it sinks slowly. Wham! The fish turned on a dime as a faint glint of sun must have hit the blade. I set the hook, mange the slack…everything is going exactly how I want it. Then SNAP! The big brute simply shook his head with force and snapped my tippet like it was tinsel on a Christmas tree. Horror, anger, confusion and disbelief jump on my psyche like two westbound train robbers on a frail hobo making his way back east. I sat down…took a deep breath before standing up once again.

Walk, walk, scout, scout. Now I am deliberately looking for nesting fish. My soul will not rest until I have landed the third bass. I have also decided at this juncture that there will be no panfish on the fly chapter of this story until much later in the summer when warmwater fly action is hot, hot, hot.

Last cove and it is guarded by a heavy tree line as well as a steep bank. With the spin gear I could search cast and cover many yards of water both horizontally and vertically. This is called search casting when all there is to see is blue water. Then I spot a shadow under a heavy log in what can only be described as a trash and moss filled cove. (hopefully I post the cleanup of that disaster soon after this) Once again I have no choice but to crawl down and wade in the muck to reach this fish with the long rod. Maybe some guys could sling a shot in there by letting out about 20-feet of line and then bending the rod back hard. I have seen guys do it on some FLV Highlights but my chances would be –135% if you factored in the 5mph wisp of a breeze. What did I do? I climbed down the bank and worked my casts parallel to the shoreline. Here things are a bit more open and I can build up some distance. After a few tries I landed a decent cast about 15 feet out (I may actually have to go back and measure that distance. If it’s 20-feet or even more, I will be stoked! Ha ha.)

Wham! No wait, that was a bump? Strip Wham! “There we go!”

Wading out I can get the vantage of less shoreline obstruction and in the case of this fish I have a lot more open water. The fish is a mere 3lb average and a lot easier to handle.

Video of third fish in rough terrain
(There was nowhere to put the camera so this is the best I could do. Even the video was a bit tough.)

“You had to throw that last line in there didn’t you, Matt.” I said walking out in dripping pants and wet shoes. “Maybe if I would have posted a pic of how dusty the fly rod was and told him that I didn’t plan on taking it to the car wash until June would have been better. Mentioning that Mattsabasser’s generally carry a total of maybe 10 or 12 flies would have set the expectations a little more realistic.

To amend any and all conceived wagers, debts or liabilities on both sides I will also complete the “wermin’ N salmon egg” article. Make no mistake this article will be 11 on the sarcastic chart and funny as hell. I intend to make this my best work yet… Deadline July 4th 2010.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Two year old Elli lands MN Muskie with a Barbie Pole

ST. FRANCIS, Minn. - A muskie, a two-year-old girl and a Barbie fishing pole combined for the greatest fishing story of the 2010 Minnesota walleye opener.

2-year-old Ella was fishing with her grandparents at Round Lake near Randall, Minnesota on Saturday when she reeled in the big one. Ella, who comes from a long line of anglers, had never caught a fish until Saturday.
She caught her first fish at Round Lake with the Barbie fishing pole.
Grandpa grabbed a net and soon they landed a 30-inch muskie weighing in at a little under 20 lbs -- a fish bigger than the fisherman who caught it. The Barbie fishing pole survived it all and little Ella was so excited, she said the first thing that came to her mind -- "I caught a shark."

Check out the full article at the link below.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The FISHmas that barely was

Each year I try to dial the Colorado bass spawn setting myself up with a week off from work right before the fish start spawning. This is an ultra aggressive period for bass and one of my favorite times of the year. I go so far as to call this week off my “FISHmas” and wait anxiously while putting forth much planning. Water temperatures, weather patterns, moon phases and other astrological charts fall into play of my mathematical fish formulations. Once I have contemplated all factors a week on the calendar is circled. Work release forms are signed in triplicate with seven-layer management approval and my FISHmas begins.

“This year will be perfect!” I exclaim nearly tasting the pending victory that would soon follow. “This year I will time things just right.”

I say this every year. Every year something happens to make me miss the mark by at least a week. In the world of fishing this could mean a lot. This year was no exception. As soon as FISHmas week started, a series of cold fronts parked right on top of me pushing the prime time from within my grasp. The temperature dropped nearly 30 degrees over a few days time with gusting winds of +30mph. Low temps are below freezing as opposed to 40 and 50 just a few days earlier. High temperatures flirt with high 50’s but that number is greatly deceiving. Most of the time I am going to be bearing through the 40-45 range with high winds. This literally knocked the fish out turning my mode from easy-slammin’ to “@#$% me!” The previous weekend I am nailing huge bass in a hungry mood. The following week the fish get more tight-lipped than Gandhi on a hunger strike.

Monday: I had to get the truck finally into the shop and then over to the DMV for new tags. Seconds lurched at first as I watched the sun coax even more crabapple blossoms open. There was a subtle breeze that failed to bend so much as a blade of grass outside as I left the shop, drove over to the DMV and grabbed number 64 from the little paper ticket machine that hasn’t been replaced since 1973.

“Number Thirty-Seven? Thirty Seven?!” A brightly orange haired lady yells over the broken intercom speaker. It’s been broke for years but we all still hear her. Why she uses the intercom microphone at all is a mystery.

Now I will spare you the unique characterization and serious mental inefficiencies of what I saw that day but rest assured NONE of these people should be allowed to drive any vehicle, anywhere at anytime. Sure these people looked normal enough but when presented with any question such as insurance, registration, emissions reports, driver’s license and even last name seem to make them freeze like a deer caught in headlights.

“Wha?” 37, 39, 42 and 51 exclaimed. “I need all of that?” or response B “ Oh, I just brought that little postcard thingy you guys sent me.” Then they would proceed to argue, dig through their purse blindly before rushing off to their vehicle in hopes they had actually kept any of that information there.

I took it all in stride thinking I had the whole week ahead of me. This was merely a minor obstacle and something that has been put off way too long. Another 15 days and I would be pulled over, pinned down, cuffed and stuffed for out of date tags. That is a fishing trip killer for sure so checking this off my list was more than worth the wait. Or so I thought. As the ground warmed the winds started to increase. Weather patterns changed right before my eyes. Temperature forecasts dropped and heavy winds kicked in. By the time I presented my registration, insurance and received my tags the wind kicked up quite a bit. I went to a quick stop-n-fish on the way home and stood at an angle while casting into the heavy gale. Saw two fish, caught one dink…furious!

Tuesday offered heavy winds from sunup to sundown. Early in the day wasn’t too bad, about 10-15mph was the average. By 11AM the water is wind is whipping and the water is white-capped. I fished until my eyes filled up with dirt and then drove home hoping tomorrow would fair better. Keeping a positive attitude is a must if an angler intends to fish long hours through the week in tough conditions with few bites. Switch up, size down, cast shallow and search deep, knocking on every fish door that I could find. Knock, knock, knock…nothing. [There really is a lot more to the Tuesday story but going to summarize the daily events.]

Wednesday came and the wind was more tolerable. I chose a place with consistency and a few big fish. At least now I was getting bites and landing fish. But they weren’t BIG fish. The tug was enough to lure me into that false hope of that big fatty hawg just waiting to be caught. Instead I would pull the fish off and second-guess my lure size, color and even the toothpaste I used on my haggard grill that morning.

(Above: This is likely a spawned out female. Just a day or two before and this fish would have been ultra fat.)

Thursday rolls in and I am starting to come unglued. My pep talks and crazy fish philosophies aren’t helping. Desperation isn’t the case so much as a feeling of futility. I can’t make the fish go into that happy bait-slamming mood. I have no choice but to hit the big fish spot in the tooner and battle for every scrap. Row, row, row, anchor and cast. Row, row, row, anchor and cast. The gusts were pushing the tooner too fast to drift fish. This was going to be a park and plink day for me and the tooner…not our best mode.

Finally dig up a bite, set the hook, and it feels like a sturdy fish. Bring it in and the fish turns out to be a stocky 16’er bass. Any other day and this would be a good fish. Today, at this moment, it is just another average bass. Toss it back and start slinging. Worked a few more surface acres before dark clouds rolled in overhead. Cast, cast, cast. Pull up anchor and head back to the boat landing.

(Above: Getting a little egregious with the forward hold on this fish to make it look more legit. But there is no passing a 16’er-wannabe 18’er bass off as a huge ol bucketmouth. This fish was caught later in the week when I realize that FISHmas Cards might be a little weak this year.)

It just gets worse from there folks. I am transitioning through spools on a daily basis. Wiping down rigs about every other day. To pour on the pain a buddy calls me from down south on Friday…”Dude, we are nailing crappies down here! Big Slabs!”

Saturday: Wake up at 5AM and go straight back down. Done in by body aches and fatigue I ended up sleeping nearly 18 hours. Sunday was Mother’s day and locked into a social thing…and of course to add to my torment, that was the warmest day of them all with darn near perfect conditions. That’s the way things roll for the Mattsabasser sometimes. Take a deep breath and plan for next weekend.

In closing…

My forearms are sore and my hands ache from a lot of casts in cold weather. My thumb still smarts from a photo op with a big fish caught during the previous weekend (That post is coming up. Folks are going to have to put up with a few of my blog posts being out of sync until I can get caught up.) Rowing in this wind doesn’t help matters much either. This is not the pain I am supposed to be complaining about after my FISHmas vacation. My fingers should be rubbed raw from lipping big fish. My shoulders should ache from setting the hook and battling monster after monster largemouth and my cheeks should hurt from grinning ear to ear. That was not to be. Now I will be in back peddle mode for the next few weeks trying to adjust. And I will adjust.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Focus on this weekend-Friday could be prime

Looks like another storm rolling through Wednesday that will bring moisture, cold and possibly snow. We are looking at a foot of snow total in the mountains with a good “dusting” in the foothills. At first glance this forecast might seem a bit disheartening. But take a look past Wednesday and factor in the moon phase. The 70-degree high temps could bounce things right back from the snowstorm with hungry fish. The new moon will appear on Friday and it is my opinion that this could make the fishing action explosive.

There are few times where I take all of my chips and place them on one weekend like this. Anytime a blogger sticks their neck and out and tries to predict fishing results it usually comes back to bite them in the a##.

This is the year we just might fill up water basins and get ahead of the water needs in this state for a change. It helps reverse a trend of serious water shortages in Colorado and literally saves some reservoirs from being drained to meet the ever increasing water demands of Colorado. In one breath I may curse this extended blizzard season this year but express deep thanks to nature with the next breath after.

Chubby bucket “Clyde”

(Above: Chubby bucketmouth bass that looks a bit like a fish caught earlier this year. I think I shall name this fish “Clyde”.)

There are a number of lakes along the Front Range that I frequent a few times a year. It is possible that I catch the same fish now and again. I may have caught this fish around Easter weekend. The upper portion of the jaw is thick and the fatness of the head seems fairly distinguishable. I think that I shall name this fish “Clyde” and hope that it sees just as many releases as it does catches. (The larger bass typically tend to be the females so the proper naming may actually need to be “Claudette”)

Link to post with picture from earlier this season. What do you think? Is this the same fish?

I caught a handful of other bass that day but didn’t recognize any of those fish. Can’t say that I was really trying too either. What is important to stress is practicing Catch and Release to help save the quality of sport fishing. It is very tempting for some people to keep a chubby fish like ol Clyde here. But to kill this fish is the same as killing the sport for everyone else. Catching this fish for the second time is like shaking hands with an old friend.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic!

Photos from the Field

Been hitting the water a lot lately now that things are warming up. I am officially taking myself off of blizzard watch but going to keep one eye out for snow storms, hail and anything else Colorado weather is going to throw at me this year. Typically I fish one or two days a week but now will be trying to use every scrap of free time to cast or re-spool. Here are a few shots from various trips over the last week or two.

(Above: American white pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos. This is a major fish eater and we are fortunate that these “fish-bellies on wings” are merely a seasonal visitor.)

Birds are a common sight when fishing and add that extra cool element to the whole outdoors experience. Every once in a while I will pester them for a picture with as little intrusion as possible. Pelicans will sometimes allow a close shot where as the Great Blue Heron tends to be more skittish.

(Above: Great Blue Heron ‘Ardea herodias’ in flight on a cloudy day. I have adjusted the saturation just a bit.)

My camera does not allow excellent quality on the zoom feature so those long distance bird shots and even smaller birds do not photograph as well. The good news is that I am more focused on the fishing and not so much the bird photography so there won’t be an endless stream of bird pictures on my blogilicious.

Herons, pelicans, cormorants and even seagulls can provide clues as to where the fish may be. Birds also have a way of fluttering out of the brush when you least expect them. This adds that extra layer of excitement and panic to those outdoor adventures.

(Above: Here’s a nice shot of a Great Blue Heron coasting into a landing spot. The sport mode can be tough to switch to on the fly so I just grab most of my shots on auto-focus.)

This year has been something else and my toughest yet. I have had to grab fish in between blizzards and fish through whatever comes my way. This is definitely a huge contrast to the previous years where Colorado was facing a 5-year drought. I can pretty much toss out last year’s catch\date information and start over. This all adds to the challenge and my frustration at times to be fishing sunshine and blue skies in 60 degree highs one day and then be freezing the tulips the very next day.

(Above: Grabbed this shot a day after fishing in May. Missed this storm by a mere 12 hours. 24 hours after this…I was FISHING!)

Once again I want to express my sincere thanks for all of those that visit, comment, follow and rate on my blogilicious. Please feel free to shoot me an e-mail with suggestions, how-do-you-do’s or things you don’t want to be seen by the masses.

Good luck and good fishing!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bellyboat Buckets

Pack up the belly boat, the waders, poles, load the tackle from the tackle bag into the belly boat and put it all into the truck. Drive down, pay the park fee, drive some more and park. Start setting it all up and realize that I forgot the @#$%^& crossbar to the belly boat again. I did this last year and swore it would never happen again. Why does “never” tend to fall on the Saturday that I am fishing?

“Get a stick, dumba##!” I chide myself for making the mistake and do the best with whatever can be found. Learning and adapting from my mistakes is starting to sound like a broken record in regards to my belly boating season this year.

Get in and the water is COLD! I am expecting the near 60-degree water that was present on a few larger ponds in the metro or even better. The water I was in now must have been straight runoff and a shade below 50. So, yeah, I am caught with the jewels in arctic water and only one layer of clothing in my neoprene waders. Had to fish for a while, port out for a while, fish for a while and pray for more sun as well as feeling in my toes.

Digging into the west side of what I call the “hot horseshoe” of this lake and things are a frigid no-go. Finally clearing out the last bit of the horseshoe and I get a bite that was hard like thunder. You know, one of those bites that you feel all the way to your toes. The fish put up a heavy fight in open water but was kind enough to race towards me, possibly thinking I was a large and odd-looking goose that would provide protection. One lift of the head and its bucket jaw was in my hand.

(Above: Finally a bucketmouth bass in the +20” OMG Class for 2010. No weight taken but estimate in the 5lb range. Honestly, the stats are not that important to me. Land the fish, get the pic, video and release…dunking half the camera in the water in the process. )

Get myself relaxed from the first fish and reset myself in the tuber about midway into a large cattail section. Casting into the cattails I am working my rig down any incline to the bottom of the lake itself. I search cast down a few yards and hook into another big fish. This one wants to pull away from me and tests the drag once, twice…and then run towards me.

“Same mistake your brother made.” I smirk while landing a second gorgeous bucket mouth.

(Above: This picture loses a point or two due to a poor angle. Honestly I am lucky to still have the new camera after dunking it halfway into the drink on the last fish. Belly boats leave little room for camera mishaps.)

The video of this fish turned out great and clips of both fish hope to make it into an upcoming highlight reel of The MAD Fishing Show’s 2010 season.

Cut across the lake to finish up the second half of the horseshoe. The wind favored this side less and was a bit rough going. You would have to cast hard and with confidence to get it where you wanted and half the time you spent digging gear out of the trees. Don missed a few bites here that could have been either a decent smallmouth or a baby loch ness monster. After five hours we couldn’t take the frigid water and wind anymore. Sometimes you can handle one without the other. I’m surprised we stayed in as long as we did. Making our way back where we started I reminded Don that our legs would still need the strength to get back to the trucks.

“Oh that’s right.” Don said with mild recollection. “I came in here with LEGS! Hadn’t felt them for so long that I forgot I still had them.”

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

More pontooner updates

There are times when I think that things may have gone a little overboard with the pontooner updates and then there are times when I say…”Why don’t I have TWO of these things!?!” Recent modifications have been put to the test and I have survived with pontooner intact. A few of these new additions have worked out better than expected where as some are going back to the drawing board. Here is an inside look at my “Tooner-Area 51”.

(Above: This is a shot of the “Franken-tooner” in modification mode at the storage unit. There are some tooner modifications that I don’t even want the neighbors to see.)

The Flat Deck was maxed out with outdoor carpet and sectionalized for easier transport. The carpet adds comfort and quiet on the metal frame as well as making the boards for all snuggly-wuggly in the pontoon frame compared to the wood. The added weight is less than a pound and the sectioned board allows a lot more flexibility in regards to mobility and storage compared to the long board.

Deep Anchor System passed its first mock up and trial run in near flawless fashion. The size of the spool is a bit obtuse for this craft but manages the anchor line far better than simply sprawling or coiling it on the deck. The temporary lashing works well enough for field-testing until I get some kind of an official bracket mounted. This anchor system will be used for waters where I might need to anchor in more than 30 feet depths. It could also make a good second anchor for better positioning. Still needs a few adjustments to withstand the Colorado’s high winds.

Ordered a new Rod Holder after finally giving up on my fabricated versions for now. The PVC versions looked too homemade even for my tastes. The Scotty spin rod holder looks more professional and can transfer from tooner to tuber with some slight adjustments. This product is only a 40-buck dig into the pocketbook. I may swap out the rod holder attachment with a different version that I have lying around.

Another minor improvement was finally abandoning the rope and tie down system used to secure the tooner onto the truck and going with plain old bungee cords that are sized perfectly. Now I am kicking myself for not doing this sooner. Makes this entire operation so much easier. And that is the goal with most of my tooner mods…make things easier and spend more time on the water rather than struggling with gear. So far so good and after four or five trips I have managed to show up to the water’s edge with the tooner boat still on the truck.

There are still a ton of ideas on the drawing board and the tooner will hopefully going through an even larger transformation once we get this inflatable water craft fully legit with registration, electric motor and battery all dialed in. Just getting lazy with tags and have everything else. Guess I just like rowing.

Good luck and good fishing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Crappie Slab saves the day

4/21/2010-This is a late blog post. I have fallen behind a bit but should catch up here in the next few posts.

Fishing a 40 surface acre pond recently for bass and catching a few fish here and there but nothing more than 13 or 14-inches. This trip was going to end up on the hard drive rather than on the blogilicious as it would just be a big yawn. Then I switch up from the heavy bass gear to a lighter setup and BAM! A crappie slab hits from out of nowhere.

(Above: This shot could used some better sunlight. The heavy cloud cover we have been having tends to lessen the magnificent colors in my shots.)

(Above: Video clip has been added to show more of the amazing brilliance of this fish.

Crappie are some of my favorite fish for their brilliant fin displacement and color pattern. They put up a decent battle for their size as well. The downfall of the crappie at times is the fact they are a very palatable freshwater fish. This leads to over harvesting at times. I once started a “Save the Crappie” campaign in Colorado but people kept showing up to the meetings with beer batter and tartar sauce.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Shadows and Phantoms…what is really in the water?

You see something in the water, a silhouette of a fish moving off in the distance. The shadow in the water is big, really big. This is either a state record bass or a small submarine. Pulse racing you cast with your heart all a flutter in vain as the dark shadow moves off.

“Damn that was a big fish. Why wouldn’t it hit?”

Chances are that this was not really a bass but instead a common or grass carp. Rather than being an aggressive predator fish and striking the lure, the phantom moves away. There is a way to help identify the fish type before going off into full panic-casting mode. Checking the shape of the tail will help greatly in regards to defining which species is which.

A good basic principle to remember is this:

Carp and catfish have a “V” shaped tail.

Bass have a tail with more of a flat edge when swimming in the water.

(Above: Here you can see the difference in tail shape. The “V” pattern of the carp’s tail is easy to distinguish even in murky water compared to the flat edge of a bass tail.)

As the water warms we will start seeing more shadows and phantoms in the water. In many cases we will see bass and carp sharing the same areas and giving bassers like me fits of euphoria at times and heartbreaking disappointment shortly after. Checking the tail saves me from practically jumping in the water for what I think is a 10lb bass.

More phantoms and in the water fish pictures…
When bass transition from their winter phase a few of the fish may need to ward off sickness. This sickness may be a result from injury, old age, and starvation and\or illness. Fish that get overplayed or mishandled late in the year may have to phase this period of recovery if they survive at all. These fish will be dark gray or black color and hover in the warm shallows while recuperating.

(Above: Recovering bass only inches from shore. These fish will be reluctant to bite and should be avoided. Give this fish a chance to rebound so it can see one more spring season.)

The fish are starting to move into various stages of prespawn across the state. Depending on the size, depth and overall temperature, the fish may be moving into nesting mode. The fits of cold weather may be bouncing things in and out of prime time. However I am finally taking myself off of blizzard watch and will be hitting the water in earnest. Sight fishing will be more of an option and I hope to mix my bassin’ game up with more shorebanging and sightfishing.

(Above: This scrappy 12’er is learning to ambush like a pro. Find the structure and you generally have found the fish.)

Hope this information helps distinguish the phantoms and fish shadows that you see in the water. Good luck and good fishing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A few more bass on the shorebang

4-19-2010-This one got away from me folks. Sorry for the delay.

Things are heating up and the bass are cruising. The males are coming into shallow water to nest and the females are lurking further out. At this time of year tend to target the females which are generally the larger fish and in prime form. But sometimes I can’t help but stop and educate a male bass here and there as I go. Better they fall prey to my gear as opposed to someone dead set on taking this prespawn fish home in a bucket. After a couple of “lessons” the fish will be more stubborn than a fat, lazy mule on a hot Sunday.

(Above: Male largemouth bass sporting fabulous green hues. This fish has a few years before it reaches lunker class but eager to nest early and shallow.)

“Sight-Fishing” from shore is a viable option late April\Early May but I just wasn’t seeing any fish other than a few males. I had to search cast with the fantastic plastics in hopes the larger fish would be out there. I looked for deeper channels and pools just outside the nesting areas. Cast, cast, walk, walk, cast, cast. Move to another spot, cast, cast, and then “bump”. A light thump on the line that felt more like a small pebble on the bottom as opposed to a fish of any sort. I lift the rod a bit to free the lure (1/4oz jig combo) and the rod bends over.

“@##%^” I should have known that was fish!” I scold myself while trying to plant a decent hookset on the fish. But it was difficult as the fish was now swimming right at me.

Crank the reel as fast as I can and the fish turns sharply taking a heavy stream of line from the drag. The fish gave a strong burst of energy and then seemed to stop in the water in an attempt to shake the hook. The tension on the line started to give way. My hands cranked down once again. This time I was able to keep the fish lined up with me and with a few tugs the fish was landed.

(Above: Gloriously fat bellied female bass with dark green shading. )

There are a lot of mixed ethics and opinions in regards to fishing the prespawn, the spawn and nesting fish. There are a lot of good reasons not to fish the spawn. Nesting fish are less sporty at times because their behavior is so predictable. I try to avoid nesting fish during the spawn and tend to target the prespawn fish more. The one rule I would stress is that releasing the fish as quickly as possible is crucial. The majority of bass will spawn if released quickly after being caught. Harassing nesting fish should not be done in my opinion. Cast, cast, cast, move on. Consider it a three strikes rule for nesting buckets.

More Mattsabasser Spawn Notes:

1. Black spots or areas on the bass’ lip are damage\healing of a previous hooking. You will find these fish stubborn and very slow to bite. Harassing these fish may force them to abandon the nest thus disrupting their spawn cycle. The male may nest elsewhere and may or may not be successful depending on time of season.

2. In many cases the same pair of largemouth bass will attempt to breed year after year if previously successful.

3. In many cases the same pair of largemouth bass will attempt to breed in the same spot year after year if previously successful.

4. Generally speaking, less than 15% of bass fry (young bass recently hatched from eggs) will survive to see their second year. This is mostly due to consumption or predation, even from bass.

5. Male bass generally guard the bass fry once hatched for a week to a month and even eat the fry selectively.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Matt vs. Snake: A video short

The video material is running through a few more edits but I wanted to get out this video short that I made. Matt vs. Wild is meant to be a slight parody showing me mucking it up with the wildlife. For some reason bull snakes are getting most of the footage (the last time I caught the snake) This video short will be placed at the end of the next Still Fishing episode that is soon to be released or whenever I get around to it.