Sunday, February 26, 2012

Early Toonage

Frosty morning gear up in the dark and the voice in the back of my mind is wondering why am I loading up the tooner? This is February and lakes were frozen just a week or two ago. However I was really itching to take the new electronic fish lookie-lou device out for it’s first run. Really it was a simple replacement of the Hummingbird 110 lost in the semi-tragic storage break-in of 2011. This model can be easily transferred from pontoon to bellyboat and even some larger boats. It doesn’t have the greatest graphics or even sonar compared to a few high-end models but gives accurate depth and temperature. For me that is half the game and then some. After several moments and trips back and forth from truck to boat the tooner is finally ready for its first voyage of the year.
(Above: Guess I could have straightened up the anchor rope on the back of the tooner before taking the picture.)

Break a layer of surrounding shoreline ice and port in. Set the fish finder up and it clicks down from an inside truck temperature to 44-degrees. The display shows a gradual incline and then a steady depth of twenty feet. I do my best to follow this line around the lake occasionally stopping at structure points. Heavy baits searched the middle of the lake as where jigs and plastics worked the shallower water towards the shoreline. I expected to see fish on the sonar and get bites right away but this was not the case. It took nearly an hour before getting action of any kind.

Getting a few taps but no commitment on some of the larger plastics had me downsizing with some added weight. 4” senkos with a 1/8oz drop shot setup and a 3” grub on an 1/8oz jig head started attracting more attention. Even these smaller baits brought only timid hits that picked up the bait leaving nothing on the end of the hookset.

“Probably perch.” I tried to console myself while slow casting for smallmouth, crappie and possibly even largemouth bass. “Gotta be some larger fish around here willing to give it a go.”

Finally after moving to the east end of the lake I start getting larger thumps and even get one fish to hang on after the hook-set. The fish stays deep for a while offering only flashes of silver through the murky depths. Soon the realization came to me that this was not any of the species I was originally targeting. This was a trout, rainbow trout to be exact. A few of these stocker bows are fairly respectable in size and get active early in the year.

The fish comes closer with some coaxing of the reel and into the hands for a quick photo-op. Once in my hands it does a quick tail flip that splashes water on the camera lens. I don’t even hit the button and just let the fish go. It was a decent trout well worthy of the photo op. Sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.

A few more casts and the jig gets clobbered from right underneath me. Heavy struggle on the end initially makes me think this is a bass or even small catfish. Then once again I see the silver flashes through the water. Get it closer to the boat and the drag sings out for the first time in a long time. Eventually I get the fish to me and the photo op goes a lot smoother this time.
(Above: Not too shabby trout shot for the solo click and go. This trout has a scar line down the side possibly from last year? )

Moving along the east side of the lake it became apparent that this is where the fish were collecting. At least that could be said for the active trout. The fish finder didn’t exactly tell me where the fish were (to be honest it hardly blipped a fish) but at least it worked like it is supposed to. Getting things ready now helps me iron out the kinks before spring prime time.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Monday, February 20, 2012

First clean up of 2012

Sharing a lake with hunters may require additional tolerance and nerves of steel at times. Periodic shotgun blasts that send me diving to the ground are always fun but the shells left behind annoy me after a while. As part of my “Adopt a lake” philosophy I do my best to remove these shells on a somewhat annual basis. Due to this lake’s size it would be difficult to cover the entire shoreline in one day (while working in a few casts). Typically I pick one side or the other and that area gets a good scrubbing every other year or so. Each haul is about the same nearly filling a grocery bag with spent shells. This effort may seem tedious and unnecessary but in my view the cleanup is an ounce of prevention as much as it is cosmetic.

Sports-folks of all types can help serve each other by removing some of the visible blight we may leave behind. A little bit goes a long ways and helps keep our sporting rights in place. Hunting and other funds associated to non-fishing endeavors directly or indirectly help protect fish habitat thus creating a symbiotic relationship. If this lake lost funds from duck hunting others and myself might lose the privilege to fish here. Picking up a few shells now and again is my way of giving back. Breaking the cleanup into smaller sections keeps the chore from being a real back breaker. A lot of people ask what fishing can do for them. I would like more people to ask what they can do for fishing.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Warm water rematch

Looking for a rematch in regards to my bass action last week I found myself driving across the Front Range in search for viable water. A cold snap rolled through again making me shake my head wishing that I had planned a trout run somewhere else.

First pond was a no-go so my casting elbow and me moved down to another location. A few more casts and it looked like the day was sure to be a skunker. Then the fog seemed to break a bit as the midday sun started to power through. A few minutes before my afternoon cut-off time I get a thump on the bait solid enough to put a hook set on. Land the fish and put the lip-grab on a largemouth bass that looks a bit haggard. This fish has suffered some type of damage and survived to tell the tale.

(Above: This fish looks a bit rugged and thankful to make it through the winter. Didn’t spend much time with the photo op to minimize the overall stress of the experience. Hope to see you next year, buddy.)

This fish hit a 3” white grub on a 2” EWG hook rigged Carolina style with a 1/4oz sinker. A dropshot setup would have worked better but my dropshot weights must have been set to the side on a winter cleanup of my bass gear for some reason. Presentation was kept on the slower speeds and most of the day was spent cleaning moss of whatever I was throwing. The senkos and other fantastic plastics were put in the rotation as well.

My February fishing game has been really hurting this month. Weekend cold snaps are absolutely wrecking my warm water attempts. This month my shameless fish bragging is looking more like a run of apologies. The last few trips I have barely managed to C&R one skunk-beater fish and walked out with my bag of excuses.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Energy Farming in Colorado, a conservation-filler post

Agriculture is an important part of Colorado and farming has had to evolve in an effort to stay viable with the state’s ever changing needs. The farming of alternative energy is one of those evolutions gaining momentum across the state. The goal is to utilize the natural energy that exists all around us in many forms to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels. As more and more projects are developed we become more self-sufficient. We also help change supply and demand factors for the other types of energy we buy.

Solar Farming

Above: A sizeable pasture of photovoltaic panels grazing on sunrays to generate power. Many communities are establishing similar solar farms in a co-op scenario that absorbs the initial startup costs. The savings is then distributed evenly to all participants by a non-profit entity based in the community. Electric bills range 18-30 dollars where as across the street they pay 75-150 to some regional power conglomo.

Wind Farming

Above: This wind farm generates power for a small village that thinks like a metropolis. This area recently encountered 100mph wind gusts and they only had to run one pinwheel to keep the batteries red hot. In other cases the owner may have installed a more sophisticated transformer and meter that returns surplus energy back to the grid for profit. How sweet is that?

Hydro-Power Farming

Above: Did you know that The Big Thompson River generates power for Estes Park and other communities? Irrigation water flows through a series of tunnels and strategically located hydroelectric turbines that create a few hundred megawatts of power annually. These are hydropower projects on a much smaller scale than say a Glen Canyon Dam but less extreme to the natural waterway.

These are just some of the examples in regards to power farming. Admittedly these examples and others cover only a fraction of the state’s power needs. Fossil fuels still have the advantage of reliability without the sizeable startup costs. Coal burning generators still produce the lion’s share of electricity for Colorado’s overall power usage and most people still drive petrol based vehicles including me. However the landscape is changing and more power options are being brought to the table. Also factoring in the growing participation of ethanol and even bio-fuels made from sources such as used vegetable oil, you can say we have a farmer’s market of energy options in Colorado.

How does all of this apply to fishing?

This question has to come into play at some point for me to maintain any shoreline-cred as a fish blogger. The answers are subtle and obvious at the same time. The clean environment issue is the most obvious even though it feels like a losing battle to save this planet at times. Clean air means cleaner water when clouds form to drop the moisture that develops. We covered this in 1st grade science but a lot of people tend to forget this when profits are concerned. Substantially less water would be used as well as polluted if cleaner sources moved to the forefront. Plenty of room for improvement.

Another, possibly less obvious aspect is the possibility of flooding the market with alternative power that is farmed domestically. Cheaper energy costs and more local jobs is a win-win for any state and Colorado is reaping the benefits already. Colorado has some of the lowest energy costs in the West. Adding more energy jobs to the scene helps the economy stabilize but it just might ease up some of that extra water pressure that I am seeing during the week.

“Oh man. Did all of you guys take the same day off as me to fish?” I ask waiting for my turn at the tailwater casting section.

“Nope.” They reply in unison. “Out of work. Might as well fish.”

Acknowledgements, resources and places I went to get some of this information:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Desperate for warm water action

By the time February rolls around I am fairly desperate for some warm water action. Unfortunately winter’s icy grip still has a hold on most of my bass locations. For the sake of consistency my thoughts should be focused on trout. My plans should revolve around drilling hard water or chasing finslappers in the tail sections. But the heart wants what the heart wants and with signs of open water and a possible warm trend I set my weekend fishing sights for bass. Probably not one of my better ideas.

To make matters worse, this was another situation where the weather-heads set me up for failure. On Monday the weekend forecast called for a high of nearly 50-degrees. The ponds showed signed of open water and my head started to fill with dreams of bucketmouth and bronze bass. However, by Wednesday it looked severely worse and Saturday morning there was several inches of fresh snow on the ground. High temps were looking to be 30, maybe 35 degrees if I was lucky. The freezing weather complicated things greatly and left me with the struggle of finding any open bass water. 

After burning half a tank of gas and most of my windshield wiper fluid I finally reach a pond showing some open water. A quarter of the lake is open on the north side with a smaller slice of no-ice on the south side. Most of the exposed areas were shallow. This left me searching for any deep spots that might possibly provide access to fish. Thankfully the ice had receded past a few inclines and drop-offs.

The first spot that I stopped at was ideal with a short shallow section at my feet and a steady incline to deep water. At the base of the incline was rock structure that I had viewed a few years back when water was very shallow. The lure was tossed at the edge of the ice and dropped in the water without so much as a ripple. It sank slowly to the bottom where it lie motionless aside from the occasional “thump” noise I would make from tiny popping movements with the rod tip. After many moments of waiting one of the “thump” movements was met with significant resistance. This didn’t feel like a fish strike. More like a stick, rock or slow moving non-fish object. As I lifted the rod tip and gave the reel a few cranks the rock-stick-nofish thing came to life and I had realized a fish battle was on my hands.

The fish put up a sturdy fight considering there was little cover for it to use against me and well it is February. Largemouth bass take a little bit longer for their circulatory system to react in colder water compared to trout or other species more suited to cold temperatures. Northern strains that are introduced into Colorado do feed in winter but it is a slow motion lifestyle.

For this trip I relied on my 6’-6” medium\heavy rods on my usual 6lb mono. Pitching tube jigs and soft jerkbaits on a 3” EWG hook, weightless. The 5” shad assassin in white (Alewife) was what caught the scrapper. Dying minnow presentation, slow, slow, slow.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Weather Mistress…why do you taunt me so?

Tracking and predicting weather patterns as they make their way through Colorado cannot be an easy task. Things change at any moment and I know these 5-day forecasts are more of a guess than actually bonafide. Most of the time the talking heads get it close or within reason. Lately though it seems like the weather sources I use are purposely setting me up for weekends of peril!

It sounds far fetched but why would satellite photos and other evidence be presented for a perfectly docile five day pattern only to rip it away with reports of pending blizzards right before I leave? Sure I could understand a mistake or “freak weather disturbance” once in a while but we are talking the last three trips I have tried to peg down.

Monday looks crystal clear, pure bliss actually when I get the ball rolling. Warm trends like this in January and February don’t come often so it is best to take advantage of them. Before I can finish my first cup of coffee my e-mail lights up with one recognized sender and three notifications about Google changing their policies. (Whatever I did to Google to make them change their policies, I greatly apologize. Rest assured I have been notified.) A grandiose plan is put in to play as my mouth froths with anticipation over a triumphant second cup of coffee. Little did I realize that this was merely a trap…again.

Above: This is a slightly exaggerated report of what the forecast looked like

Mid-week rolls around and I make sure I have a fresh spool ready to go. But on the Wednesday double check the weather is looking a bit “iffy”. The good day sunshine weather signs had turned all gloomy Gus on me with a difference of thirty degrees on the temp side of things. Conditions were not impossible but they surely were making a slow downward spiral. Not quite bad enough for me to cancel plans but more or less prepared me for the worst…or so I thought.

Friday comes and all hell is breaking loose. It was snowing on the way into work and chain laws were required for heavy vehicles going through the major passes. This is when I have to do a serious gut check before walking out the door. Sometimes the trip gets called off and sometimes you just got for it. Currently I am 51% on that being the right decision for my planned trips. This is due to the fact the last trip turned out pretty well actually. That is the good news.

The bad news is that I am faced with the same scenario this weekend except conditions are even worse. A different venue but travel is still a great concern. The trip would take an hour in good conditions and very problematic in snowy conditions. Looking at the blizzard warnings and dramatic snow levels predicted to drop right smack dab on top of my fishing spot, it may be impossible to get there at all.

I may or may not go ahead with this trip but that is not my main concern. I am more worried about the nefarious plot of weather patterns and forecasters consistently setting me up on Monday with a blissful five-day only to see things so drastically different by Friday. They haven’t gotten every weekend wrong this year. Just the weekends I have a big fish trip planned. It is what it is (that phrase pretty much translates into “ahhhhh #$%^!”).

If I’m not fishing I am thinking about fishing.