Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let’s get to know…

How cool are fish? Each species is different and has biological differences that control so much about where they live and why. Knowing these facts will help dial in the location and patterns of the fish you seek to catch. Fish identification is just the start. Learning the biological aspects helps us catch and preserve this amazing natural creature. Please bear with me and my poindexter excerpts of “Let’s get to know…”.

Let’s get to know the Fathead Minnow

There are so many different fish species in Colorado but for some reason we as anglers tend to focus mainly on the sport fish. When you consider fish species of Colorado most automatically think of trout. Sure we have great trout but an ecosystem is only as good as the quality of its layers. Each organism has an affect good or bad and the result plays up the entire food the chain. Taking a look at the lower links gives me a better understanding of the whole chain. The fathead minnow is fairly common making this species a possible factor wherever I cast.

Pimephales promelas or better known as the fathead minnow is one of those fish species that gets very little or no fanfare whatsoever from the angling public. Most are unaware of its existence even though it thrives in so many states across the country. The natural territory for the fathead minnow ranges across most of the country and central Canada. This species is quite hardy and able to tolerate poor water quality conditions completely inhospitable to other species. Often used as a baitfish in ponds and lakes this species continues to distribute itself in watersheds, canals and more. The fathead minnow has recently made its way into the aquarium business through the discovery of a color morph in some breeding farms. This variety of the fathead minnow is marketed as a “rosy-red minnow” for fish tanks and ornamental ponds.

The fathead minnow is generally a dull gray color in appearance with a single dark stripe running down both sides of its body. A small spot or blotch of dark coloring is located on the front of the dorsal fin. Male fathead minnows will develop a large growth on the nape and also exhibit 16 white tubercles on the snout. The fathead minnow is not as thick in the body as a mosquito fish but look very similar in shallow water. A great pattern that mimics the fathead minnow is the Countdown Rapala in silver. When I see fathead minnows in the shallows this lure will almost always get a toss.
Fatheads eat primarily plant material but will consume some of the small creatures such as mosquito larvae. Not able to beat out the competition in a physical sense, the fathead minnow tends to thrive best where competition is substantially less. This relegates the fathead minnow to the bottom of the food chain in almost any viable habitat. What this fish species lacks in aggressive tactics it more than makes up for it in reproduction. Spawning occurs from mid spring to mid summer and eggs are deposited over submerged objects. Nests may contain up to 12,000 eggs with females spawning up to 12 times in a single season.

Low aggressive behavior, high reproduction rates make this fish species a prime candidate as a forage base in some waters as well as home aquarium use. Bait shops may also sell fathead minnows to anglers looking for a live bait presentation. It is crucial to the balance of all ecosystems that humans greatly limit the accidental and deliberate introduction of fathead minnows into natural areas. Private property owners should consult with local wildlife and biology experts prior to release to ensure all environmental factors have been considered. Besides, they probably have fathead minnows in there already and simply need to look harder.

Once again, thank you for putting up with me and these excerpts of “Let’s get to know…”


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Crappie on the shorebang

One of the things I love about this time of year is being able to sight-fish for bass in shorebang mode. For this I will go with weightless plastics on one rod and possibly jig combos or even baitfish patterns on a second rod this time of year. When there no bass to see I start search casting. Get a solid hit on a weightless grub that I think is a legit but not OMG bass. It has some spunk but you can tell it won’t pull anybody into the water. Pull the fish closer and see it is a crappie slab.

(Above: Serious forward grab on a near 15’er crappie inch. This one I actually measured at 14 ¾”-no weight. Quite possibly my biggest crappie via the shorebang mode.)

Even with the shameless forward grab the pictures don’t do this fish justice. Video tells more of the story. The new camera has a MOV format that is tripping up my converter for some reason. For now a raw footage post will have to suffice.

What seemed to work best was a weightless grub in the 4” variety. Green pumpkin with black flake really brought the attention resembling smaller fish and tadpoles that are fairly common menu items this time of year. Other baits thrown were the senko-matic and a few other lures that proved to be successful for bass mostly in the ho-hum size category. I did manage to pull one Clydish looking bucket that helped polish off the day.

(Above: Some shots are not the easiest to get. In this case I have one foot in the water and clinching the grassy slope with my buttocks. Releasing the fish both the me and the camera almost went into the drink as well.)

Bass fishing is in post spawn mode for me on a lot of lakes and some sluggishness to the action can be expected. Fish will still feed but may binge sporadically until forage sources start to increase in way of breeding shad and sunfish. My lure choice will move off of the creature baits and more towards baitfish patterns depending on the location. Frog patterns will get a tie on in the mossy areas. Fishing can become more consistent in June and July but for some it simply gets more frustrating. There is always shuffleboard.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rick Cables picked to run the show

(Above: New sheriff in town. Not having fished with the guy or met him in person I had to bum a picture from the DP article.)

Merging Colorado State Parks and The Division of Wildlife and balancing the books is not an easy task. Picking somewhat of an outsider to lead this endeavor is one way of ensuring as smooth of a transition as possible without a lot of contention or dissent. If they picked someone from one side or the other, most would have felt that there was some level of favoritism involved. I am going to be honest and say that I don’t know a lot about this Rick Cable guy other than he ran the Forest Service for his entire career and lives in Pueblo. One thing I do know is that he has virtually zero chance of making everyone happy in this situation.

“The greater good” is the mantra of the US Forest Service that embodies a philosophy to create an environment that is intended to be the best possible for all concerned. This also means a willing to sacrifice both man and nature in smaller instances to achieve goals. This is not my philosophy by the way but most likely what this merger needs-an administrator willing to put tough answers on the board making the situation viable for long term which is exactly what the Colorado State Parks was not.

State Parks received additional funding from the state and once that money was cut, the State Parks started going into the red. The Division of Wildlife receives funding almost exclusively through license purchase and game permits. Not having relied on additional funding this agency has managed their books to meet future revenue\cost projections. Not an easy task and most everyone has a gripe or two in regards to how things are done. The real test for Rick Cables is to merge both entities into one governing body that functions as best as it possibly can for Colorado. This task will not require a bonafide wildlife biologist so much as a good administrator and my hopes are that Cables comes with these skills more than anything. There is a lot at stake here so I hope greatly that Cables is indeed ready to tackle all of these issues with genuine concern. A lot of what I do in the future will be affected by these decisions.

It is easy to look in hindsight but Colorado State Parks should have always sought to be viable without the additional funding from the state (even though this funding is what started the State Park system). Had they embraced this mission from the onset, they would have had less of a hurdle to jump when the funding was dropped. It should also be said that we couldn’t simply expect the original CDOW budget absorb the shortfall in this situation, as it would drag those wildlife areas down as well. Trimming the cost of Colorado State Parks budget overall is key to the success of the new Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. At least that is my take. I also think Rick Cables would be happy to tackle anything else than that whole pine beetle situation. Mr. Cables...I am not looking for miracles here but setting the bar fairly high on the expectations.

Good luck...and let's hope this move results in the "greatest" fishing Colorado has ever seen. (things are good but they could be so much better)

The Denver Post does a fairly good write up on this and I will post the link below for your review.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday Sunfish

As soon as I saw the weather report on Monday I was in a panic. The turbulent weather had played havoc on my entire season but now laid a perfect scenario in front of me with 3 good weather days and one big front as opposed to all bad days and maybe an hour here and there where you weren’t feeling Mother Nature’s wrath at less than DEFCON 4 (depending on exactly where you were that minute). Not being able to take the entire time off of work the focus had to be set on where it would count most…the last day before the @#$% hit the fan. By Tuesday I was calling in favors and looking at a day off on Wednesday.

Reach the water and conditions are beyond tasty. The air temp in the morning was a mild 55-degrees but climbing fast in the open sunlight. Water temps were guesstimated at mid-60’s in the shallows. Right away I see fish and lose sight of the game plan, which was to catch some fantastic sunfish and start casting at anything visible with fins. Early in the game I pull up a smallmouth scrapper.
(Above: Little red-eye bronze that put up a decent scrap for no good reason at all other than to take me away from my green sunfish hunt.)

The small smallmouth bass is released and I toss a few casts at some fish cruising. These fish were fairly selective and avoided anything my presentations. Not have the time to linger I quickly port out and move on to the second pond and start my search for sunfish. Within the hour I was spotting schools of sunfish but nothing above average in size. Most of the fish were bluegill and not the green sunfish that look especially spectacular this time of year. With some additional rowing and scouting I was able to dial in a few.
(Above: New camera and all but the 10.5” Green Sunfish(hybrid?) still looks a bit washed out. Honestly you would think these fish come from the Amazon or some exotic salt-water region. Through snow and ice these fish thrive in many waters.)

One of the ways a Mattsabasser deals with the bass post spawn is to fish for other species that are more active. Sunfish are moving into that mode right now as well as that whole summer time pattern is falling into swing. This is also a good time for me to fine tune the bass presentations as the fish get can afford to be more selective with so much forage around. Make a tweak here, change the color pattern there. Pick up the retrieval speed just a touch and WHAM! Post spawn bucket grabs and holds on.
(Above: Medium\heavy forward hold on a post spawn bucket mouth that shows a few signs of aging. Big head, dark colors and a dense body lead to me believe this fish has seen many summers. It is my wish that it sees many more.)

About halfway through the trip I get a gust of wind when trying to position the tooner  over a good spot. Cranking down on the oars I give the boat just enough forward momentum to compensate and keep me on the location. Wooosh! I hear a something going in the water directly behind me.

“Oh no.” I say knowing this sound is never a herald of good tidings.
Turn and see my blue milk crate in the water and all of the contents emptied. After some struggle I manage to retrieve the water bottles, life jacket, air pump and tooner gear bag. What was lost was the crate itself, the handle to the cart and the underwater camera that I had purchased last year with some amazing footage. Fishing for me does not come without its struggles, danger and perils.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Tuesday, June 14, 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.”

Rock Wilson

(Above: Walking the lake shore I spot some discoloration on a rock that brought back flashbacks of the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks and co-star volleyball named “Wilson”. This rock would make a good Colorado version of said companion in my opinion. Pausing for a moment and taking a sip of water I had a brief conversation with Rock Wilson before moving on. Yes…the summer heat does get to me sometimes.)

Momma and her llama

(Above: Good companions on the trail are harder to find than you might think and probably few have considered a llama. These are very interesting creatures with a lot of quality attributes. The title would have been a lot catchier if a goose made it into the shot. Llama, momma, goose…get it?)

Bad Eggs

(Above: This clutch of eggs has been abandoned by the mother or extremely late in the game and the mother is off feeding some where far, far away which is somewhat rare. Most goslings have hatched and several weeks old by now. My guess is something went wrong and these eggs went bad. This is one of the better looking nesting spots in the area proving that bad things do happen in good neighborhoods.)

Lawn Ornament

(Above: It seems that everyone with a big yard will have some type of lawn ornament or the other. Some folks in Colorado have oilrigs somewhere on the homestead turning them off or on depending on the price of barrel crude. Kind of like having a lawn ornament that helps pay the mortgage.)

Tracking Care Bears

(Above: I don’t claim to be an expert tracker or even a master identifier of prints in the wild. However I am sure that this print is too small to be that of an Ewok but quite possibly that of a baby Care Bear. Also leaving open the slight chance it could be that of a baby raccoon or other small animal.)

June has been blessed with much precipitation this year keeping everything blanketed with lush green colors. Before we know it everything could fade back into the dry browns of hot summer and then the gold of fall. Take a moment to soak in the lush green while it still lasts. Thank you so much for your views, rates and especially the amazing comments. This blog is fueled by your support.

Good luck and good fishing.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bluegill on the Backup Plan

Scouting some area north of my usual stomping grounds I check up on a few ponds that I fished a year ago. Upon arrival I can tell the recent storms have churned up the already stained water. To make matters worse, my waders decided to start letting water in on both sides. Had to pull the bellyboat out, switch clothes and check to make sure I didn’t soak the cell phone for the fourth or fifth time. Shorebang things for a moment while my head starts coming up with a Plan B.

Reach the Plan B spot somewhat late in the morning and see the bluegill are active. Looking several feet into the shallows the commotion was easily visible. Some fish are guarding nests, some fish are waiting to spawn and other fish are darting in and out to eat whatever they can. Upon seeing the active panfish my bass-chasing plan goes right out the window. Quick change up to the micro section and I find myself in Gill-Plink City.
A few of these gills were in the 7-8 inch range. I am sure there might be a few in the 9-10 inch class but wind, lack of boatage and the impending crowds left me with only a few shallow shoreline areas. Getting a first look at this location as well as a few quality panfish is still a good amount of bounty for a backup plan this late in the day. These locations are fairly close to a major city populace so crowd factor is always part of the equation. Now that I have a visual lay of the land my planning can go forward on a Plan A trip for this location. Thick schools of panfish generally mean healthy bass populations and worth another look someday.
Colorado has several species of sunfish. Identification between the various types can be difficult especially with frequent hybridization. Bluegill can be distinguished from other sunfish by the smaller mouths and the dark spot on the outside edge of the gill plate. Other sunfish may have smaller mouths as well but will have a red mark on the edge of the dark dot similar to the pumpkinseed sunfish below.

The gear can be anything micro hook size #10 to #6. Be cautious with smaller sized hooks and larger gills as they will inhale the smaller baits costing time in the removal or harming the fish. I will toss 1\8 to 1\16oz grubs and baby shad patterns ideally on 4lb line. Mainly geared up for bass I made due with the 6lb. This was one moment where I was kicking myself for not brining the long rod. Then we would be talking a complete gill slamfest. 
All in all the trip paid off on a few levels. Having actually brought some backup clothes for once really saved me. The morning outdoor strip down was not part of the plan but the only way to get back in the game. I scouted a few more areas well beyond my normal target range and still caught fish despite many setbacks. It always helps having a Plan B or even C in life as the landscape is forever changing.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Access to 2 Colorado rivers closed because of high water flow (Denver Post)

Officials closed access points owned by city or state parks to two Colorado rivers Tuesday, citing high water flow dangerous to swimmers and riverbank visitors.

Those access points at Cache la Poudre River near Fort Collins and the Yampa River near Hayden will reopen when water flow drops to a level more typical of this time of year, said Jon Haukaas, a water engineer for Fort Collins.

Haukaas said officials closed access to the Poudre River after a rescuer looking for a stranded swimmer was trapped by hidden debris in the river. He said this incident, coupled with high water flow, prompted officials to close access even to shorelines, where currents are surprisingly powerful.

Link to full article below:

Matt’s Rant: “Caution Required” is an understatement in regards to Colorado’s rivers and streams right now. High flowing water with poor clarity spells mayhem for those that may push their luck. In some cases you may not even be able to do that. Prudence says, “Know before you go”. So making a call after a few web-flow website checks may make all the difference.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Crappie slab out of nowhere

So I might do a little bit of fishing now and then. On this day the red tooner and I are in serious search mode for bass. Bad weather is finally lifting so the expectations are for big bucket mouths. At first I go big with skirted spinnerbaits that look downright sexy. No bites are found so the game is switched to searching deep and slow with fantastic plastics. No love there so the bait gets a color change-up and a downsize. This is a lot like putting a puzzle together with very few clues.

“Eventually I will get one of these fish to cough up some info.” I mumble to myself while rigging up a small baby bass fluke. “Probably a little early for this color pattern….eh. Give it a toss.”

Plink, plink, plink...dinker sized bass start coming out of woodwork. (Sometimes it takes a Mattsabasser a while to figure out what is the flavor of the day.) Each cast is met with a largemouth bass in the 10-12” category. Even though these fish are small it helps provide a few clues and some action. But as quickly as the bite seemed to start, it stopped and the action went back to zero.

“Maybe bring this up to a 5” baby bass…” The wheels in my head are still turning hoping to find the key while still casting the smaller fry pattern. “Maybe do it up in dropshot mode.”

Then seemingly out of nowhere I set the hook another bite. This feels slightly bigger than the others of the day but still well below a 5-pound pull. This fish will quite possibly be king of the dinker fish but still in dinker class. But as I pull the fish to the surface I see the dotted pattern and almost kite-like shape in the water.

“Hello, Mr. Slab!” I state with a bit of glee as panfish of this quality are an exception for me.

Put it back in the drink after the photo op and then switch up to the 4” baby bass and baitfish setups. The action seems to absolutely die and I am waiting on the bench for the love bus getting not so much as a honk or a wave. Wanting the big fish I continue to grind out the rest of the day with bigger baits.

After what seemed like several hours I finally get the heavy thump I have been waiting for. Set the hook and the fish starts its run before leaping out of the water once, then twice. It then races down under the boat. I was lucky enough to turn the head of the fish before it reached the anchor rope. From here I was able to keep the head aimed towards me and guided the lip to my hand.
Put the fish back and stop my pole from plopping into the water. Then the debate began in my mind whether the bucketmouth or the crappie would be the fish of the day.

“Crappie.” I acknowledged shortly after the gear up and heading home. “I might catch a few bass here and there but don’t see too many crappie slabs.”

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

After Work Trash Grab: Take Two

Picking up trash is an essential part of my fishing game plan but something that is tough to work into the schedule at times. This year I am way behind and scrambling to do both the cast as well as be a major player in the trash grab scene. The more I fish the urban side of things the more trash I see. It wears on me after a while and the places that used to treat me well get a good scrub.

4:45PM and I am looking to clock out, start the truck and hit some water. This was different than my usual after work cast grab. This would be an all out trash scrub scouring the shoreline for those oddments of refuse that was but one of the elements that had caused me to curse so badly on the last trip. Out of nowhere one of my seven bosses throws me that one last thing that could potentially take several hours to complete, which it does. This leaves me only a few hours of light before the sun slips behind the mountain divide trapping me in darkness.
“Looks like I only have time enough to cover the south edge and maybe trash cove.” I say reaching the lake and taking a look at the sun hanging just above the mountains.

The water level is still down and risen only slightly from the heavy rains. There is still a chance to remove a lot of junk that has been submerged keeping it out of reach. Most of the cans are rusted and full of mud. Wads and wads of fishing line pulled from rocks or wrapped around sticks were removed about every few yards. Broken glass was everywhere. It was the best I could do to pick up the large pieces (broken bottoms with the sharp edges pointing straight up) and what was nearby the small area of shatter.

Finally I reach Trash Cove. This is a small cove at the end of the lake that with wind and lake current collects a lot of debris. Cans and water bottles are fairly numerous along with tennis balls, tennis shoes and usually a dead animal of some kind. So much trash is submerged or buried in the moss that once you bend down to pick up one thing you see several more. Not exactly the serene setting you would like to see. The smell is just as bad sometimes if not a little worse.
The mud didn’t make the work any easier. This is the same place I did the mud bassin’ a few weeks past. When I first found the place back in 2005 the shoreline was a complete mess. Now I do a semi-yearly scrub and bag about 75% of a 33gal Hefty on the average. Some of this trash is left by wind. Another portion is due to juveniles. The rest is brought in from night traffic and accumulated over time.

The difference is many fold and may play out in ways that will never be seen. Less chemical particles from toxic containers and rusting metals is a good example. Not having the nearby homeowners tripping over trash and fishing line might quell the talks of closing this area to the public. At the very least the blight has been removed for now.

Good luck and good fishing

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chasing smallmouth to the end of the world

A few people at the office planned end of the world parties for Friday and Saturday. I sorted through my gear decided to hunt for some smallmouth. The largemouth bass fishing has been a lot like that Katy Perry song Hot and Cold something, something…no I am not going to sing it for you.

The last few days have been spent hitting this pond or that pond tracking all over the place for active fish. Saturday was starting out the same way. First place I come to and the fishing action is slightly worse than terrible. There are no fish to be seen and search casts come up empty. Most of my focus is for largemouth bass in prime prespawn form. But I will dance with whatever fish is the groove.

Not really tucked away are a few ponds that sport a mix of bass in both largemouth and smallmouth variety. No boating allowed so I have to do a bit of casting in shorebang in mode. Casting out the fantastic plastics the line gets a hit so hard that I nearly swallow my gum. After I get in a decent hookset the drag is loosened a bit for the sporadic tugs that followed. Land the fish and it is a beauty smallmouth. Pound for pound this one of my favorite species.

Do the photo op and search for more fish. None to be had. That was the only bite that I received all day. Sight-mode, search mode…neither option seemed to offer a glimmer of hope. Fantastic plastics gave way to crankbaits, a few spinnerbaits and then a few spoons to go far and deep. By 10AM the wind, my nemesis for 2011 it seems, showed up around noon turning the water into heavy chop. After 30 more minutes of casting I head out and dig the sand and light dirt out of my eyes while driving home. 

For smallmouth I typically use the same gear for largemouth but downsize it. 2-4” plastics that represent crawdad or baitfish patterns are my favorite but will drop down to 1\8oz jigs if things get desperate. But this is generally if I am targeting them exclusively. A lot of the time I catch smallmouth and even crappie when I am fishing for largemouth bass. The trick here is to bring the size down a smidgen to match the smaller mouth size. Smallies and crappies will go for a 3”-4” bait if they are aggressive. If I think there is a chance at either of these fish along with largemouth bass I might go with a 4” grub or stickbait to try for the best of both worlds.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The rank of slinger

Sling-er (noun) Definition: a person that slings things. (Not sure why I expected a little more from Webster’s but a simple answer is usually best understood.)

We all can agree that angling comes in many different forms and styles. Colorado has quite the population of fishing brethren whether it be the small stream fly casters, big lake boaters or the leisure shore lounging crowd. These differences do not make one of us better than the other. They are simply differences. Within each person lies the various measure of skill level or the manner of fishing ethics that are employed. Having said that I do feel as if there are different ranks. Like designated positions on a team they act with purpose to get the fishing job done.

One of the more serious anglers out there is the shoreline “slinger”. Casting is their forte’ whether it be precisely skipping lures under over hanging tree branches or long distance search cast mode. Scouring the shoreline they do not seek awards, trophies or even eat the fish they catch. They also don’t use words like relaxing or fun when re-telling their adventures of success and failure. A slinger has slung ten thousand casts ten thousand times re-spooling as often as necessary. For those anglers willing to fish the areas furthest from the parking lot I offer a salute and recognize the rank of slinger.

(Above: My version of a sports card for no-name anglers that fish with a level of intensity that rivals that of any tournament angler. Still working on the B-Side of this card with the graphics team. Ok, not really. These guys barely clock in anymore.)

Once again, one rank is no better than the other in the overall scope of the universe and fishing. They all catch fish on any given day or the other. The love of the outdoor experience and the dream of one more cast helps fuel our passion for the sport.

Good luck and good fishing.