Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ho Hum Tuesday run

Not much to brag about on this run and the entry of this post will sound a bit “ramblish”. I have a habit of dumping the post on trips like this adding to the pile of untold fishing adventures. Sometimes I pour my heart and soul into a post where as other times it takes everything I have just to write something up. This is one of those times.

The fish get smaller and smaller every year in regards to northern pike at this location. The cold front that sat right on top of my Tuesday run might have slowed things down a little as well. Each year gets tougher and tougher to go back. A once great fishery has now become an “Ok” fishery with a few big fish left. For me it is just a way to get a yearly pike fix in and look in on this old friend.

The no wading rule until Memorial Day actually might have helped me actually. My lighter 6lb mono with the braided leader allowed me a few extra yards of distance. I caught a few fish but the action was nothing like what it used to be. This may in fact be a natural cycle of sorts as the predator fish have pretty much eaten themselves out of house and home. The more the pike decline, the more it allows for other species like bass and bluegill to take a stronger hold. Maybe then the pike will have a real chance to thrive without constant stockings that are a temporary fix at best.

Sorry for the jumbling of the camera on this one. Filming in one hand and holding the rod in the other is probably not the best way to go for getting pike footage. Just trying to jazz up this post as much as possible.

Oh and then there was this guy. Apparently disregarded all of the people telling him about the “no wading” policy. Two guys were yelling at him from shore while I was casting the heaviest gear in my bag.

“Knew I should have packed those 1/2oz spoons.” I muttered landing twenty feet or so away from Mr. Cowboy Wader who just kept casting as if no one was there.

Eventually someone found the number for the visitor center and called to report him. This was about the time Cowboy headed out and was walking swiftly down the dirt road. He seemed spooked as if nearly jumped by a gang of raccoons that are absolutely huge out here.

I had enough dejection and small pike for the day but still managed to cast again at a few usual spots on the way back. Not soon after rounding the large cove did I see a white truck racing along the dirt on the opposite side of the lake. Within minutes the truck reached our Cowboy friend and there seemed to be a lengthy discussion, possibly some paperwork was exchanged. Of all places to break the rules (and be so blatant about it) this situation was a case of “there is one in every crowd”.

The other lake “Mary” was a side note at best. I pulled two bass out of the cattails that were maybe 14’er inch class at best. Bad weather started kicking in turning the water to chop with a mix of light rain. Instead of grinding out the last few hours around the entire lake I concede to simply scrounging my casts around the docks. Jig combo pulled out a few bucketmouths but just like the big lake it is a far cry from what it was.

Managed to get to the truck and exit before the really bad weather hit. The storm actually fizzled out and ended up being harmless rain and drizzle. In hindsight I could have fished another hour or so with no problems. But tempting fate and Colorado weather is something I do too often. An extra hour might or might not have changed this post from “Ho-Hum” to “Oh Baby!”. This is one location where it could go either way and it only takes one fish.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bass found in Yampa River to be euthanized

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver announced last week that they will begin euthanizing nonnative smallmouth bass that they remove from the Yampa River in spring rather than transferring them to Elkhead Reservoir east of Craig.

Too many of the relocated bass are escaping over the dam spillway, they say, and returning to the Yampa, where they threaten endangered native fish including the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program has removed and relocated an estimated 6,000 bass as well as large numbers of northern pike from stretches of the Yampa downstream from Hayden since increasing those efforts in 2003, recovery program Nonnative Fish Coordinator Pat Martinez said in a news release.

Matt’s Rant: I am not a big fan of the trout only management for the Yampa River and most of the western slope. Due to the fact that so much of that water is beyond my travel range, my dog in this fight is limited as well as my voice. If a “trout and chub only” scene is what the general public of that area wants…I guess that is what they are going to get. I feel genuinely sorry for those on that side of the divide that have fought this battle and lost. This program mentions nothing about nonnative trout such as the rainbow, brown or brook.

Even though my thoughts are completely biased towards multispecies where habitat is prime for their existence…I greatly encourage this debate on my fishing blogilicious. What are your thoughts?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day of Wind

The first hour wasn’t too bad. The wind was around 7mph with a few gusts here and there. I plink two buckets right off the bat. One was from dink city but the second was a respectable 13’er maybe 14’er bass, pound and a half in the weight section. Things were looking ok.

Then the gusts got gustier and everything from dogs and dumpsters was getting tossed in an easterly direction. One belly boater headed to shore right away. Another decided to hang out for a few minutes before tucking behind the large island structure he was within flipping distance to. Shortly after another tuber joined him. Just me and the tooner with the whole lake now. All I have to do is row through constant 50mph winds. At this moment common sense abandons me.

“My rowing skills are invincible.” The voice in my head reassures myself falling back on years and years of amateur rowing prowess. “I can do this!”

Push the oars down, swing them around fast plunging the paddles deep into the water. Grit my teeth, plant my feet and power down on the oars with all my body can give. Take a deep breath and repeat the cycle over again. Then again. Again. Again Again. The whole time I am looking at the shoreline structure fading further and further away. In an effort to buy some time I toss my puny 10lb anchor into some submerged trees structure left long ago. The rope drops and catches in the branchwork. This will be my respite.

“Wait!…the shoreline is still moving.” My voice mutters in confusion.

My eyes look into the water and see the tree structure moving at about 7 knots with a huge cloud of sediment behind. I was dragging the tree structure across the bottom like a rake.

“Oh no.” It was all I could say. Scrambling for the rope I pulled the weight off the tree and resumed a casual coasting speed of 15 or 20 knots.

At this point there was little left to do but pick a line and drift to the best place I could find which was pretty much the shoreline on the other side of the lake. Any shoreline would have been better than the one the wind was pushing me towards. Trees covered the entire shoreline with wind tossed branches everywhere.

“This will be perfect for landing an inflatable device.” Cracked my voice working the oars enough to save me from the submerged tree trunk, then the large branch I didn’t see until the last minute and completely missed the one spot that could have provided decent portage.

Sometimes it is very tough to describe a Day of Wind without sounding like a scaredy-cat or overly exaggerate. In this case I am only exaggerating slightly and that is very rare. Maybe a video will help support my case.

My name is Matt and I'm a fishaholic.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tooner Area 51 update-win some lose some

Get to the storage unit and I see that criminals have gotten there first cleaning my unit of nearly all quick to pawn items such as the trolling motor, battery, fish finder, air compressor and my custom pulling cart for some reason. As soon as the feeling of violation fades I quickly realize things could have been much worse. They left the red tooner with custom mods as well as the comic book collection I started as a kid. This break in will set me back a little bit in regards to electronics but nothing I can’t overcome. The best part is that I was still able to roll out and hit some water that morning. But that is not what I wanted to talk about.

Introducing the Sport LT ODC from Creek Company
With the red tooner showing signs of wear and nearly 5 years long in the tooth, I decided to start shopping around for a backup or all out replacement (which means that I still can’t find\fix the tiny pin hole leak on the red one). Looking over the new models of tooners on the market now I chose the Sport LT for it’s lightweight construction and sale price of 199.00.

After a month or two of use I can say that the Sport LT is one of the best “kick-boats” on the market and should be classified as such. The Gunnison model is a perfect example of a “tiny tooner” with roughly 350-375lb payload. Kick boats are meant to be worn with waders and can accommodate the use of fins rather than oars. An actual tooner is larger and the oars or motor are more practical. The payload increases with the larger models ranging anywhere from 450lbs and beyond. Better classification is needed for pontoon boats across the board in my opinion. If such classification exists, please forgive my ignorance and post a link to that reference in the comments section. I would be forever in your debt.

Pontoons: 8’ in length, 16” in diameter, heavy duty 840 denier nylon outer covers with 30oz PVC coated bottom panels, 30 gauge PVC single chamber Bladders fitted with Boston Valves. Comes with oars, seat, frame, built in cargo pockets, a stripping apron…pretty much everything you see in the photo.

A quick breakdown on the basic stats:

Weight Capacity: 375lbs
Overall Weight: 50lbs
Overall Width: 54”
Overall Size: 96”x54”

The back section of the frame is fairly unique as it has a mesh top and a bar that is raised just behind the seat. This allows a lot of options for me in regards to tying off anchors or adding accessories that clamp on.

The main advantage of the Sport LT is the lightweight design. This thing is a feather compared to other models and about half the weight of my red tooner. The swivel seat option will be my next upgrade as well as a continued migration of my custom mods. The frame diameter is smaller than the red one so re-doing the clamps is taking some time.

If you can go the extra cabbage I would suggest the Kenai model that retails anywhere from 400 to 500 clams. Basspro link provided below. The Kenai is a true “get what you pay for” version with higher quality materials and construction. The seat is slightly raised and the frame design is a higher profile lifting you out of the water more than the Sport LT. The Kenai is slightly heavier then the Sport LT but both are very light for their size. Kenai version states a 350lb pound payload as well but just looking at the thing in the store I know that a person could push the threshold more than the Sport LT. Not saying that I dispute the 375lb rating of the Sport LT model…just stating that the Kenai appears more durable and would have slightly more payload.

Hope this information helps as well as explain why I haven’t been able to provide water temps lately. Good luck and good fishing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Photos from the field

Through my adventures photos are taken that never seem to make it into specific fish posts. To be honest, a lot of my fishing goes unseen or heard. Even though these pictures may not be ready for prime time fishing posts, I have found a way to fit them in an excerpt called “Photos from the field.”

Mushroom in the Mist

(Above: Mushrooms can be found all over Colorado and I wish that I would spend more time learning about all the different varieties both edible and non-edible. My plant identification skills are getting better but still terrible. However, I am pretty sure this one is inedible save for wood ants, beavers and a few termites.)

Frost Corner

(Above: Frosty weather can set in quickly overnight and leave a landscape of white for the morning creek commutes. Most of the road is good but slow down before you hit Frost Corner.)

Tracks of Godzilla?

(Above: I am the first to admit that I may suffer from an overactive imagination but this is not a typical animal track or bridge marking. Either some tagger decided to bring a sledgehammer rather than a few cans of spray paint or something really big has marked their territory.)

It only takes a few flakes…

(Above: Colorado will get one or two snowfalls through April yet for some reason people are still caught off guard by these spring storms. It only takes a few flakes to mess up a smooth ride and you see wreck after wreck.)

…and sometimes not even that.

(Above: Quick side window shot of one of those people that try to defy common sense and drive way too fast for the conditions. The roads were wet in spots and icy in other spots. Not the best day to be playing speed racer on the side roads.)

April has been mild in regards to weather except for the relentless wind. Still prepared for that one big snow dump we receive around this time of year. We could really use the extra moisture here on this side of the divide. As always this blog is fueled by your support. Thank you so much for your views, comments and rates.

Good luck and good fishing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Repeat on the Sho’ Bang

Just a quick photo post from a repeat shorebang adventure. Not a lot of fanfare on this one and hoping these pictures go mostly without notice. This is the time where bass can be pillaged, abused and lakes are literally stripped of too many big fish. I almost made the title of this post, “Move along folks…nothing to see here.”

(Above: 3lbs 11oz 18.5” in length.)

It is rare that I take stats of the fish I catch. A quick photo here and there is the real reward (it also helps with the shameless bragging). However this time of year I will take a few weights and measurements as bass both large and smallmouth will often display some of their best numbers. Due to extra time involved with this exercise the photos are reduced to one quick shot just to say I did.

(Above: 4lb 1oz. 19” length)

Creature baits were the ticket and more of what I expect for this time of year in Colorado. Dark colors were the only thing I tried and didn’t get any love on the crank or spinnerbait. Wind was not a factor from 8:15 AM to 8:30 AM. Hunkered down in one small cove most of the morning.

Mattsabasser note: This time of year is most crucial for bass. As the near their prespawn and spawning periods they become overly aggressive and territorial. This behavior can lead to their downfall if over harvest and bad handling occurs. Crimping barbs, and removing hooks carefully is key to keeping those fabulous bucket mouth lips pristine and not all mangled. Releasing the fish as quickly as possible should be understood and accepted practice to preserve the sport.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Amazing snakehead from Singapore-Anglers Outfitter

When it comes to apex predator fish the snakehead has created a lot of mystery and even terror in some regions. Here in North America the snakehead can be an absolute menace and displace or even wipe out native species. However there are regions where the snakehead is revered as a trophy fish of magnificent proportions.

Alvin Lim has captured some of the most amazing specimens of this species that I have ever seen which adds to my respect and awe. Generally the snakehead I have seen (on the Internet or TV of course) have been dark with no markings whatsoever. These examples are superb. I highly recommend checking these guys out.

Anglers Outfitter is a blog that I have followed for a while now and they constantly crank out pictures of some of the most exotic fish from their region and beyond.

I will toss out a few Wiki leaks for additional reference (really I am just being lazy).

Good luck and good fishing.

A good time to get cranking

(Above: This is a continuation of the earlier post. Normally I try not to shamelessly milk one trip for multiple posts but sometimes a double dip is worthwhile. In this case it may be prudent to cover one gear choice I talk very little about and that is the Rat-L trap style crankbait.)

When it comes to searching a lot of water it is hard to beat a lipless crankbait such as the Rat-L trap. They cast far, drop fast and rise up through the water column with a simple lift of the rod tip. Crankbaits are not my favorite lure this time of year especially when I am slinging gear from an inflatable device. But when it comes to searching a lot of open water in transition periods I find myself cranking.

This time of year the weather transitions from 70-degrees to blizzard and then gusty winds. This will cause the fish to transition from shallow and deep areas seemingly at a whim. Sure I will still hit the hot structure spots with jigs and soft plastics but more time is spent searching the fish out. Heavy winds limit some of my favorite choices such as the gorgeously skirted spinnerbait dressed with a soft plastic trailer just to look extra sluttish to the fish (honestly I thought about this option but could only cast it one direction in the heavy gusts).

For this trip I did a Mix-match the hatch using a color pattern that could cross over from bluegill, crawdad or even a shad. The black top, gray side and redish bottom might resemble one or all to a bass on a springtime feeding binge. Water was lightly stained so the lure choice was one of the darkest cranks in the box. (I only carry a few). The crankbait was matched up against the jig and a few other options beating them all at least 3 to 1.

As mentioned in the previous post, I like a 7’ medium\fast action rod for search baits and string everything up with as light of line as possible. The retrieve speed is slow with the occasional rod lift to bring the lure closer to the surface. Most of the bites came near the bottom so after a few fish my retrieve was modified from the standard rise and fall presentation.

(Above: Quick illustration from the Graphics Team that has been mostly absent of late. Maybe they are still upset over having Alan create my blog banner.)

Good luck and good fishing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Two Pond Payoff

Another Saturday roll out and once again conditions were cold and foggy. I fished for two hours with one fish before packing things up and rolling off to another spot. Normally I would be stubborn and grind things out just to prove a point. For some reason this pond felt “off” or maybe just colder than it should.

(Above: Hand o’ Bass and the only bite I could scrounge up. Not a smallmouth by the way. Just a baby bucketmouth held at a bad angle. “Back you go lil scrapper.”)

Load up and move out. Extra gear equals extra pain but in this case you have to dance with whom you brought. So I have no choice but to strap down the green machine and haul everything to spot number two. Fog is lifting with the sun finally showing up around 10AM. Water is less stained at the Plan B but by now the wind is really kicking up. Grabbing the oars and power through the heavy chop my lips let out a sarcastic grovel.

“Been rowing every time I head out for the last few weeks…what’s another day?”

Thankfully there are a few steep ledges and a tree line or two that I can use for shelter. Hopefully the fish are thinking the same thing. Second cast in and the bait is mugged by a healthy bass.

(Above: Healthy bucket hitting the jig off the incline shelf. Big bite that felt like the 11AM Express.)

I’m running two presentations this time of year on two different setups. One rod is a 7’ medium\fast action working either spinnerbaits the modified cranks. The other rod is a 6’-6” medium\heavy action for the jig presentations. Both are generally tied with 6lb mono just to give the gear poindexters something to nitpick about. Both the jig and crank would pick up fish in each section that I moved to. The fish didn’t seem to be that picky as long as you brought something to them. A slow flutter motion close to or on the bottom was used most of the time.

By 2PM I had worked most of the shelter points as the sun cooked up the gusts even more. The last spot to hit was a small cove at the end of the steep ledge. There was enough time to run a few casts and let the wind push me back to the shoreline. First toss in and I snag the crankbait on something solid. The line doesn’t move and I think the lure is hung up on a log or rock below the water’s surface. Then everything goes nuts. The drag rings out as water boils in front of me. Fear, panic and sheer jubilation swell in my chest all at the same time. Loosen the drag, play the fish a little and I manage to grab the lip.

(Above: Two point deduction for the too far forward hold on this fish. Guestimate at 19-inches and a skosh under 4lbs. I’ll toss the scale on some really big fish before the season is out.)

The venue change made all the difference and it is amazing how one location can vary so much to the other depending on the day. This is one case where the two-pond hop locked me into some better fish saving the day.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Inside ColoradoCasters: “Mean Mugging”…explained

“Matt, why don’t you smile when you catch fish?” This is question number 3 or 4 in my most frequently asked questions pile. Viewers, co-workers and even family mention my grimaced looks that appear in most of my fish photos. Honestly I don’t actually try to look overly intense or even angry in my photos. This happens for a few reasons that I will now detail for no reason other than answer to milk a filler post and re-hash a few photos that help support my case.

(Above: For the record my face does wear a smile occasionally but feel that I look a bit silly when I do. In this picture I am more or less smirking because the camera slipped at an angle a half second before the picture was snapped. “Finally get a decent a pike and the camera nearly @#$$% falls in the water.”)

1. Most of my focus is on putting the fish in the best possible position for the photo and praying the fin slapper doesn’t freak out which happens far more than I like. There is very little focus spent on how I look in the photo. So typically the fish will look great but I will look terrible.

2. Getting the fish back healthy is always lingering in my thoughts while handling fish for pictures or just removing the hook. A lot of the time I actually try to hold my breath during the photo op as the fish has to do the same (more accurately the fish is choking).

(Above: One of my not so mean mugging shots where I look completely ridiculous. These are the moments where I am talking to the camera operator and come across as a complete goober.)

3. Sometimes there are problems and I have had to let the fish go without any shot at all. Batteries die, electronics fail and sometimes I have to explain how the camera works to a friendly passerby. As a result I think my face has now become a very serious stare waiting for the camera to go “click”.

(Above:  Set the camera and two seconds before the picture is snapped I hear a rustling in some wood debris a few yards away. A large raccoon crawls out and starts eyeballing my fish. So many things can ruin a fish picture opportunity.)

4. How much trouble is this photo going to cause and can I crop those trees out? This one may sound a little paranoid but fishing in Colorado is so serious that a number of people count trees, rocks and will literally pick the spot from your photo. Post a big fish up on the forums with just a few twigs and three guys will say, “Oh I remember that spot! Man I am going to fish there tomorrow!” Then I go back a week a later and the once empty parking lot is full of water slappers elbow to elbow. You would be surprised how good these waterhounds are…including myself. This is where the shameless bragging can really backfire on a metro angler.

(Above: Every spot is taken unless you want to squeeze in between some people and hope they don’t get upset. Competition and public pressure can get thick for the Metro\Front Range especially when the word gets out about a hot spot.)

5. Fishing is serious business for me so even with a big fish in the hands my mind is thinking there might be another fish close by. My photo ops take too much time away from fishing as it is which leads to a bit of anxiety when taking the pictures.

For these reasons and maybe even a few more my fish holding sour face mug will usually come across as a bit cantankerous or even angry. Once again I will stress that my not so warming expressions on my face is due more to intense focus than anything else. Hopefully this edition of Inside ColoradoCasters clears away some of the confusion and mystery that sometimes revolves around this Mattsabasser…admittedly I am often misunderstood.

Good luck and good fishing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Underwater craw footage

Late March I am out on the Q and getting my clocked clean by wind and anyone with a trolling motor. Water levels are very low which has caused some of the deeper structure points to be exposed. A few large crawdads were posturing for position on a small island hovering below a few inches of water. One of the crawdads had lost a claw as well as a few legs on the same side. Still determined this crayfish was looking to face off with other mini-lobsters on the island shelf.

Winds were gusting over 30mph at times making filming very difficult. I also have to remind myself that this camera magnifies so my subject appears a lot closer than it looks when filming. I will really have to work harder on my video footage this year.

Good luck and good fishing.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Buckets on the Shorebang

(Above: Spring bucketmouth bass caught from an urban pond where no boats are allowed.)

As much as I enjoy being on the water a lot can still be said for the shore game especially as we roll into prespawn bucketmouth mode. The Denver metro area has a number of small ponds that offer great fishing for shorebangers in a “no boats allowed” situation. Aquatic vegetation is still in winter mode making those smaller ponds a great grab-n-cast right now. Weed free water also allows for more variety in lure choice. Search baits like spinnerbaits, Rat-L traps and crankbaits are good options as long as you run them slower than you would in summer.

To find the fish look for the shoreline that collects the most heat. It also helps if there is deep water in the vicinity. Fish tend to harbor near their traditional spawn areas and shift from deeper water to shallow water periodically to feed. The additional heat sparks their metabolism which helps add a boost to the early season bass fishing action.

In this case I hucked a blue salamander on a 3/8oz Carolina rig weight towards the rock structure on the north side of the lake. Snow has retreated from this edge several weeks ago while the south side still has some icy crust in spots. This is an obvious indicator that is where the active fish will most likely be. Normally I go light with an 1\8oz weight for finesse but needed the extra ounces to reach the far shoreline guarded by the “wildlife habitat” sings.

Warm sides of the lake will vary greatly depending on the landscape and contours of the water you are fishing. The sun does not hang directly overhead in Colorado, more of an angle, which allows shading of the water more so on the south side. Generally you would think the south side to be the warmest as it is closer to the sun’s warming rays. But if there is a high ground ledge or tall treeline there will be a cooling affect. Rocks and bare ground will absorb heat if exposed to direct sunlight. This in turn will have a warming affect and where I will focus first.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.