Friday, June 25, 2010

How Fab is the Bait and Wait? A satirical look at a common fishing method.

Disclaimer: This excerpt is meant to be satirical and humorous writing exercise. Once the idea was given to me my brain exploded with possibilities. The minimal requirement I believe was set at 500 words…I may have gone over that a bit. Please do not take this too seriously. If you fish with live bait and may be a bit sensitive about the issue, please stop reading now.

Moes Salmon Eggs…

(Above: This spoof ad was released on a MAD Fishing Show episode a few years back. This writing exercise was to include something about salmon eggs. A picture is worth 1,000 words, eh? Intro with some humor-not too shabby.)

One Sunny Day…

So one sunny Saturday I am out there beating my brains out for fish. Ducking under branches, climbing over stumps and battling tree lines just to toss some hunk of plastic into that tasty secluded spot. Wham! A huge old fish hammers the hand poured lure and the battle is on. This is a big fish holding in a tough spot that few dare cast due to heavy cover. One mistake would spell disaster…I make three.

First mistake was swinging back on the hookset with too much force bringing the rod tip into the branchwork overhead. Second mistake was not taking the tackle bag off of my shoulder before casting and attempting to do that now with the big fish on the end of the line (I managed to get the tackle bag off but clearly the wrong time for this). Third mistake was stepping forward not realizing that a muskrat had managed to build himself a miniature version of the New York subway system under the very bank I was standing on. Stepping forward I set off a small avalanche as the seven feet of dirt shelf crumbles beneath my feet.

Woooooossssshhhh! I am falling almost in slow motion into the lake. My feet at first feel really light and then really wet along with my entire leg up to my knee on the left side. My right side managed somehow to fall deeper soaking up to the mid-thigh. The only saving grace was that my tackle bag still rested on the shoreline. Without even thinking I reached for the dangling shoulder strap to pull myself back on dry land. Slipped about a foot or so on the bottom lake surface just enough to pull my tackle bag into the drink with me.

“Sweet!” I laugh in absolute delirium. “Might as well just sink the whole #$%^ ship and leave her at the bottom now.”

Stumbling and fumbling I somehow manage to land the fish. It is a beaute! 18-inches and FAT! For a moment the entire universe is washed away and my mind is content holding this amazing credit to it’s species and then letting it go once again. No picture, no video, just a moment of bliss tucked into my treasure trove of fish-catch memories. Then an air bubble leaks from my shoe and goes up my pant leg reminding me that not all aquatic creatures are nearly as glorious as this bass. In fact they can be quite the opposite.

Scrambling out of the water and back to my feet I exclaim with every fiber of my being, “Why does this have to be so difficult?”

After hours of hardship and many big fish with many blissful moments I have covered the “back-nine” on one of my favorite local metro ponds and was heading back for the truck. Reaching the parking lot without some level of interrogation is difficult. Typically on the weekends there will be a small cadre of anglers lounging on the shoreline or just gearing up and ready to test the water. At least one or two of them will want to ask a few questions. I know what is coming and prepare myself for the verbal probing. If not so much for the few tiny rounds of splashes they saw in the distance but maybe more so for the real big splash where they might have actually seen me go in the water.

“Catch any fish?” The probe starts first from the second guy on the shoreline. He was a decent enough fellow but still a complete stranger to me. If I start getting all Loose Lips Larry with the info everyone on the shoreline will practically sprint to the back nine trampling the grass and thirty-foot cottonwood trees to dust.

“Ahhhh!” I try to say disappointed. “A few little ones.” (Which is a true statement if the fish were compared to say a ’69 Buick).

“Bass?” He slipped in a follow up question, which is often permitted in shoreline interrogation protocol after the first question.

“Yep…that’s what I’m going for.” Note the redirect on the follow up comment with my reply. Most of these guys are slinging for stocked trout and I think that tripped him up a little bit as he turned around and dismissed me from further questioning.

“Wut yoo yoozin’ ?” shoreline angler number five resumed the inquisition with much more fervor than the first and showing signs of mental instability sporting the heavy drool stained t-shirt with ‘Beer is Food’ hand written on the front.

“These things.” Now I am going completely Forrest Gump on ol Mongo here. I could tell by the look on his face that I needed more explanation to satisfy the question so I tossed out… “Jigs…J I G Z!” (Guess you had to be there.)

“Did you get wet?” From shoreline angler number eight. Now that was really a stupid question as my pants were still soaked and sloshing.

“Yes!” I say bluntly and a bit angered trying to fend off any more questioning. “How about you?” I say in defense looking at angler number eight hoping to shut him up right then and there.

He holds up half a stringer of stocked trout and with a large grin on his face he says, “An I am jest gettin’ started!”

“What the heck are you using?” I ask looking directly at his bait bucket and open glass jar spilled across the shoreline.

“Werms. Werms and samin eggz.” He says still grinning from ear to ear.

What could I say? The guy had been sitting there in his folding lawn chair for only a few hours and caught fish. Sure they were not bucket-sized largemouth bass and only about 12-inches or so but in his defense…he was pretty chill there with the beverage cooler and chair. I looked around and they all were pretty much setup, decked out or otherwise shorebanging the lake in laidback mode. These folks were relaxed! Here I am all stressed out looking for big fabulous fish. It made me ponder the aspect more and wonder…have I really looked at this from all the angles? Wouldn’t we all be so much better off just simply piling up on the shoreline by the parking lot and fishing with bait?

Now I know what you are thinking. “Matt, I am not going to give up my AFLO (artificial\fly or lure only) shorebang mode or even my belly boat with the heavy fins and waders to sit there with the snoring shore-lounging crowd.” But man I have seen this method produce fish, even big fish once in a while. All caught by a simple little worm or salmon egg on a hook tossed out for some fish to grab. These guys don’t factor in wind speed, water temperature, moon phase or even time of day. They can be lucky, random or simply in the right place at the right time and sitting in fish city. Looking back at the parking lot crowd it made my efforts seem a bit futile.

“Here I am busting my a## because I love to catch big fish.” I laugh stowing the gear into the truck and heading off to the next lake. “I must be an idiot! Now let’s go bushwack some more buckets.”

Now it begins…

So now it begins. My research into this whole “bait and wait” fishing situation and ask…am I just killing myself for nothing? I accumulated all of my observations of this technique and it brought me back to one of my first childhood angling experiences.

1974, some lake, summer. I’m about four or five and the family is camped out on a gorgeous scrap of sandy shoreline that is surrounded by houses now (as I was raised by wolves and drunken gypsies). A rod is cast out for us kids. The adults help out with casting and landing fish as necessary. This was how hippies and the less scrupulous “free-fish” back in the day. (Real fishing was something I had to teach myself later in life but we always picked up our trash.) Wham! A heavy hit comes on the rod designated for me. My uncle hands me the fishing rod launching me off my feet and straight into the drink. Reaching down he pulls me out from under two feet of water fishing rod still in my hands. He helps me land the fish and says; “I think the kid has a knack for this.” Turns out the fish was a carp, 30-inches long. Not my first fish but my first real big catch and I will remember it forever…and it was all done with worms. To this day I still think live bait holds a place when it comes to introducing people (especially little ones) into the sport of fishing.

Five minutes of research or a lifetime…you be the judge.

Historical flashbacks of kids fishing aside, here are a few things that I have also learned in my observations of many anglers partaking in the bait and wait scene of fishing. These are not required or even recommended mind you but seem to be somewhat common from my experience and go beyond the nuances of method (glob on, cast out and wait).

1. Fish close to the parking lot if you have a fishing license.
2. Fish far away from the parking lot if you do not have a fishing license.
3. Leave your bait containers on the shoreline when done. I don’t know why this practice is far too common but the bait containers on the shoreline generally support my case.
4. Beverages, food containers and other items look pretty cool going in but after that they become someone else’s problem.
5. Keeping a full limit is customary and legal in most areas. Going over the limit is only a problem if a ranger shows up.

That last paragraph may have been a bit harsh. These stereotypes are formed as a result of poor behavior from the smaller percentage. However the damage from that smaller percentage is enough to create a need for additional management to prevent live bait use at some locations (Gold medal waters for trout and one or two AFLO warmwater fisheries are examples where live bait use is prohibited). After fishing both for many years I dare say the extra management maintains better quality fishing overall. At least in my opinion it does. I like fishing with artificial lures for the challenge so this extra layer of management works for me.

AFLO-C&R is not for everyone.

AFLO and C&R management may work for me but might not work as well for others. It would be presumptuous and wrong for me to state that is how everyone should fish period. Admittedly my AFLO and C&R rants get misconstrued as some crazy basser trying to take over the world. When in reality I am merely trying to save the few tiny scraps of good metro water that are somewhat unmolested by the masses. Bait and take management is not an issue for so many lakes in Colorado that are large, difficult to fish well and have viable populations of fish. 11-Mile, Cherry Creek, Blue Mesa are just a few lakes where anglers only make a dent in most fish species’ populations overall. Smaller ponds and streams similar take pressure could be devastating. If it were up to me more lakes would be regulated as AFLO\C&R for the sheer sport of catching big fish. Not all of them mind you or even the majority of them…just more.

Bad news\Good News: Making these rules is not up to me and 110% of my e-mails get rejected in regards to getting more of the metro waters converted. The number of AFLO\C&R spots are much smaller in number than the bait and take. Add in surface acres of water…wow. The amount is so tiny. So I guess that is good or bad depending on your point of view.

CDOW: A balance of revenue and public opinion

When CDOW runs the numbers they know the majority of license holders are primarily bait and take anglers. So whom do they cater to for the most part? What would you do? Would the majority of your customer base be happy or would they call for your head on a post? (I might last three days as head of CDOW with my trophy pike and mack philosophies) The “greater good” for fishing has to accommodate bait and take to some degree. Where we make the call should be done water-by-water, town-by-town and done with the consent of the community, which is sort of how they do things now…sort of. Maybe part of the problem is that they haven’t heard your voice yet. Give it a shot. They do listen and even put up with my e-mails and phone calls to this agency or that parks and recreation office. Be courteous, to the point and tell them thanks once in a while. Without these folks I would have to run spinnerbaits in swimming pools and down at the aquarium as every scrap of real open water would be locked up by ditch companies or City Water supply.

“Oooooo…maybe run a big ol buzzbait across the tank at Basspro!”

Chronological dating of the worm containers: Another Mattsabasser fishing conspiracy of sorts.

Have you noticed that the color of the major western worm retailer has changed colors and style of the worm container? They did this for a number of reasons primarily because the blue color was fairly dark and attracted heat. The newer version is better ventilated as well keeping your Canadian style night crawlers and panfish style of worms fresher longer.

The way I see it is that they have chronologically dated the bait containers. Now I can tell the freshly deposited white containers from the blue ones that have probably been lying around for a few years. This may not seem like a big deal to most anglers but to me it says a lot. Approaching the water this is how I interpret the signs that can be seen.

1. Lots of blue and white containers mean that little cleanup has taken place. A bad sign for any fishing area. A good cleanup is recommended.
2. Only white containers mean that routine cleanup is likely taking place but current bait pressure exits. A bad sign for any fishing area. A good cleanup is recommended.
3. Only blue containers could mean that old bait pressure exists and a small cleanup would be prudent. Keep this spot secret or look for dead water signs.
4. No white or blue containers typically signify gold medal water or private property. Must fish *.
* All anglers must get appropriate permissions and property access before fishing. Do not fish private property for fear of arrest and gunshot wounds. Coloradocasters is barely responsible for my own angling. Please use caution.

In Closing…

I want to state once and for all that fishing with live bait is not nearly as bad of a practice as some may vilify in Colorado nor should it be my place to tell others how to fish. Really, this would not be such an issue if baiters would simply pick up the bait containers.

Good luck and good fishing.

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