Monday, April 30, 2012

Shoulda been here yesterday

Chasing fish and the primetime prespawn has been difficult at best this year for me. An early summer brought water temps up faster than normal leaving me scrambling to find water with active fish. Optimum success in prespawn requires good timing. Right place, right time can make all the difference in the world.

The water was clear and the morning weather left the surface smooth with high visibility. Quickly going into creature mode I start throwing the crawdad presentations with a senko rig as a backup plan. If I see fish shallow I can go to a lighter jig presentation on rod number three. With three rods and half the kitchen sink I work half the lake only to catch a few dinkers.

“What gives?” Questions and doubt start to creep into my chi. “They should be right here in front of me.”

Work the rest of the lake and change the creature presentation to a crankbait. I see one large fish but it tears off into the distance as soon as it hears the lure plop on the water’s surface ten yards away. A few more dinks come along on the senko setup as I round the corner to the last section of the lake.

Reaching the edge of the lake with the path leading back to the trailhead parking a passerby with son in tow asks me how the fishing action is for the day.

“Slightly worse than terrible.” I reply. “A few dinkers and I probably went through half the tackle box.” (which wasn’t really true but for me to have to change more than twice on a lake that I fish a lot is fairly rare).

The man offers his condolences and then pulls out his cell phone. He then proceeds to show me a picture of his son holding a 3lb smallmouth and then a few of him with one-hander shots of other fine bass specimens. At this point I am guessing he heard my teeth grinding in frustration and put the Iphone back in his pocket. We part ways and seconds later two anglers with gear in tow roll off one of the other lakes and our paths cross at the trail intersection.

“You get anything?” One of them asks.

“A few dinkers. You?”

“Nothing.” The man says shaking his head in lament. “But they were lighting it up yesterday. Huge smallies about every other cast. We can’t friggen buy a bite today.”

Sometimes that is how it goes with prespawn fishing, You either time things well or go home with only touching a few dink fish. Clearly one of those “Day late-dollar short” days. Dang nabbit!

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Striped bass caught at McIntosh lake a Colorado record

LONGMONT — A Longmont High School junior caught what appears to be a state-record-breaking striped bass at McIntosh Lake on Friday evening. He reeled in a fish that tipped the scales at 31 pounds, 8.4 ounces when weighed as a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer looked on.

"I just got lucky," 18-year-old Isaac Sprecher said. The bass measured 41 inches long and 26 inches in diameter.

Sprecher said he's a good fisherman, but "I didn't expect to catch anything like that" when — accompanied by his girlfriend, Longmont High sophomore Megan McGuire — he began casting from McIntosh's south shore about 5 p.m. on Friday.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Photos from the field

Through my adventures photos are taken that never seem to make it into specific fish posts. So much 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.”

Mountain Trails

(Above: Admittedly there are things I do other than fishing. One of them is hiking. It would be a complete tragedy to live in this beautiful state of Colorado and not see some of the areas that do not have fishing nearby. )

Two Snappers

(Above: If people knew what was really in the water, they would have a much different outlook. Sometimes it is the things that are most difficult to see that can be the most dangerous. Here are two very large snapping turtles hanging out in the spring sun…probably getting ready to make more snappers.)

Dirty Job-Clean Ride

(Above: If you are going to have one of those jobs that can get a little sticky, you can at least look good doing it. My guess is that back in the day this panel wagon was kept fairly busy. Times changed and now we only see this rig at the occasional car show.)

Monster of the “Crick”

(Above: I think I figured out why fishing has been so terrible on the “crick” lately. Or maybe I simply needed a few more cups of coffee. When this slip of water fishes well I call it a “creek”. When it fishes terrible I call it a “crick”.)

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Good luck and good fishing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Don hits it big

Don sent me a picture the other day of him sticking the landing on a big prespawn bass. This fish is guestimated around 20-inches in length and close to 5lbs (some folks on a few local fishing forums might claim this as an 8-pounder or something crazy like that). No official tape or weight as is the case with most of Don’s fish. I guess the good news is that if I can’t post up pictures of big fish, maybe I can milk a few great fish pictures from Don. Way to go, Don! Always good to see this guy putting the lip grab on a big fatty bass.

“Deep jiggin’. Brown and green pumpkin.” Was all I could get out of him.

Water is still holding on to 57 degrees at a lot of lakes. The weather is keeping prespawn action in a slightly bi-polar mode. Just when I think the bite is going to turn up, a cold front moves in and shuts things down on the one day I took off to fish. In absence of luck I will need to find more determination. This is the only thing can possibly bridge the gap between the lack of good timing and my feeble skills.

Good luck and good fishing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slow roll spinnerbait action!

Early spring roll out to the water and the electronics give me news that I can use right off the bat. Water temp is reading 57-degrees and the fish are hanging just off the bottom. These two clues may not solve the entire puzzle but it definitely points me in the right direction. With a slight breeze creating some mild chop on the water I decided to go with the spinnerbait and slow roll it.

The slow roll is just like it sounds. The bait is retrieved slowly so the blade and body more or less flutter along the bottom. In this case I am reeling in a bit faster to keep the bait moving a foot or so above the weed matte. Most folks think of the spinnerbait as a fast moving lure when in fact it is very successful bouncing across the bottom. When the weed matte is very thick I prefer to run it just above the weed line.

The color was white and black with silver and gold blades. Booyah Counter Strike in 3/8oz weight. I did not have to sexy this bait up with a grub combination or trailer hook. The skirt color, shiny blade and slow roll action brought a number of quality fish to the hand. This was a simple presentation that matched the day’s conditions very well. This is something I rarely pull off by the way. Usually I have to struggle and the way this year has been going…it is just good to see a few fish.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Thirsty already-preparing for the worst

Scarred by destructive wildfires and an arid March, Colorado needs a cold, wet shot of moisture. State water managers are begging for it. They are already eyeing dwindling snowpacks and wondering whether water restrictions should be clamped on the state's towns and cities as warm temperatures persist. "This always makes us nervous," said Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker.

Many reservoir levels are actually in better shape than they were in 2002 — Colorado's last significant drought year, Baker said. But Baker said he worries that a hot, dry 2012 would drain reservoirs and other water sources so much that not much could be left for 2013.

"It's really next year we are concerned about," he said. "We need the water — every little bit helps."

Denver Water gets about half of its supply from the Colorado River and half from the South Platte River, and snowpack levels in both basins are very low. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, both basins are at about half their typical averages for this time of year.

Officials have yet to implement mandatory water restrictions but could if Denver Water system reservoir levels drop.

Matt’s Rant: Apparently two biologists are wrong or extremely optimistic about future moisture levels for April. Conditions are very alarming for this early in the year. A rapid snowmelt and lack of spring moisture could set things up for a devastating summer. Fires, drained reservoirs and rivers that look more like a trickle will play havoc on this state come July. My only hope is that this will be one of the wettest spring and summer seasons on record. I am already preparing for the worst.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Albino hellifiknow

Wind was messing up my low valley bassin’ game so I decided to change things up and hit some mountain water. The mild winter and dry spring weather have opened up a few possibilities in the high country. Fished most of the day and missed a few nibbles. Then out of nowhere I get a solid fish bump. As the fish is battled closer and closer I see colors of white and yellow shimmering through the water. Land the fish and do a quick pic and go as fast as possible.

There are a few names for this type of fish. I refer to these fish as albinos because of the isolated genetic abnormality. Golden rainbow trout and palomino are the two most common from what I can find out from a few web searches. Golden trout is another species altogether. A more detailed answer is listed below with some of the history around how these fish came about.

In closing, I am still not sure how or why these fish are in this lake other than the fact someone put them there. Even though my numbers may never come up in some mega-lotto jackpot, I am lucky enough to catch one or two of these albino rainbows in my lifetime.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why not have “keep limits” for more sports other than fishing?

“You just let the fish go? I don’t see the point of all that effort if you don’t keep the fish you catch.”
This is a sentiment that I hear a lot in my sidebar fishing conversations in the work place or from the occasional passerby subjected to stories about my fishing exploits. I greatly exaggerate the size and even show them a few pictures only to hear them ask how the fish tasted. Folks will often look at me in bewilderment after hearing that the fish was released back to the water. For some it is unfathomable to consider the act of fishing satisfying enough all by itself. Without bringing the fish home to eat it is all just a waste of time. Then I show them a really good photo, maybe it was what I caught yesterday or best of the season so far.
“No way would I let something like that go. That fish would be dinner.”
My heart sinks as these words leave their lips of salivation. The fact this could possibly be a 10 or 20-year-old fish is of no consequence. Concerns regarding the health and quality of the sport overall have little or no bearing on why they are there. To them what matters is how many can they catch and do they taste good. Yet these same persons may participate in other sports where they get to take home very little at all.
The more I think about this the more it perplexes me and I wonder why other sports are viewed so differently. Take bowling for example. What if people started bagging up the rented shoes when they did well or made off with a few bowling pins if they got a strike? With little or nothing in the take home scene, why the heck is bowling so popular?  I don’t hear anyone at the local Bowlarama ever saying things like, “As soon as I nail that 7-10 split I am getting one of those bowling pins mounted!” or “I’ll be disappointed if I go through all of these frames and only have two or three shoes on my stringer. The limit here is four.” Why does fishing have to be so different?
I submit the sport of golf as another prime example. This can be an expensive sport with pricey equipment options and greens fees that are fairly steep compared to my annual fishing license. There is a bit of walking involved similar to my style of fishing and the setting is in the beautiful outdoors (even if a bit manicured). There are a lot of aspects of golf that are similar to fishing but once again there is very little take home outside the experience of the sport itself. Golfers don’t get to keep the cart. They don’t get to take a piece of the green or fairway with them when they leave…so why go through all of that pain and anguish simply to smack a little white ball around? At one point I actually posed this question to one of my co-workers who just so happened to be an avid golfer.
“I like golf because it is relaxing and fun. There doesn’t have to be anything more to it than that.”
“Why can’t fishing be the same way?” I asked.
“Probably because golf balls don’t taste as good as some fish do.”
Ok, he had me there but it didn’t make me feel any better. He also offered the notion that there are aspects of sports such as baseball and football that allow fans to keep one or two token remnants of the game for posterity. I argued that this percentage is very low and I would greatly welcome that same standard for a few crowded places that are fished routinely.
At the end of the conversation neither side seemed to sway their opinion. We simply had to agree to disagree. This is where I often leave most debates before folks view me as even more of a fishing-lunatic than they already do. Tomorrow will be another day on the water. If someone lands a big fish it will most likely end up on a stringer to be frozen and eaten later…maybe. My passion for fishing optimum typically falls on deaf ears. At times this mentality makes me want to start mounting bowling pins for wall trophies, removing patches of sod from golf courses and try to find the “take home” in other sports. If anyone asks what I am doing I will simply say…
“Just trying to make it worthwhile. I didn’t come here to go home empty handed."
Good luck and good fishing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stick the landing

Early morning gear up delayed by a few morning errands and two extra cups of coffee. Rush to the tooner storage and do the quick load up and double-check. Roll out and get halfway through Boulder before realizing that I have left the handcart behind. This is the trailer that is used for carrying the tooner to the water. With a few hundred yards from the parking area to the back lake I would have to divide the gear into several trips. Anxious to reach the water the trips were cut down to three as opposed to the usual four or even five. And there I was carrying the boards, the oars and crate of miscellaneous parts on the last trip. My fingers were in agony. They started to cramp and a few times the gear had to be readjusted in my grasp. Put it all together at the water’s edges and my arms are exhausted before even taking a cast.

Push off late in the morning and start looking for fish. This lake has several areas of identifiable structure in submerged trees, islands and the occasional shelf or two. Fearing afternoon wind, the attack was set to key points first and then search casting later in the day. Pull up to the first structure point and on the second or third cast get a heavy clobber on the jig\grub setup. The fish is heavy and gives several two really good tugs on the drag before submitting to the lip grab.

Move to the other side of the structure and I start throwing a fantastic plastics and swimbaits in search cast mode. At first I am getting nothing but weeds but then feel a small sturdy tap on the tube jig. The tap wasn’t enough to set the hook and a lift of the rod tip whispered that the fish had only thumped the bait but not picked it up. A second bump followed and my left arm stuck the landing on a good solid hookset for a change. In the shimmering water a flash of bronze caught my eye. The sporadic fight giving no quarter or slack mixed with the bronze meant one thing.

“Smallie. Hot damn.”

The area was worked for another hour and then I moved on with another largemouth in the fourteen-inch range. It was time to move to the east side of the lake and work the submerged trees and then the shelf before letting the wind push me back to the landing. Must have thrown for hours. Saw a few fish, missed a strike here and there along with dragging up a lot of weeds. I felt lost on the wrong side of town. My arms stopped and for several minutes I scanned the water.

The morning bite had faded several hours ago and I simply missed the shift change. Water temp was checking in at 56-57 degrees Fahrenheit. Air temp was mid 70’s and by now the wind was averaging 5-15mph. Water surface wore a mild chop and a light but steady current was present. I had positioned myself on the far side of the lake, pulled up the anchor and let the boat push me for some drift fishing. I had switched to a green\yellow spinnerbait and started fishing in search cast mode. Casting to the structure or running through open water, the bites didn’t want to happen. My mind started second-guessing everything.

“Am I running too fast or too slow? Is the bait too big? Do I smell bad?” The questions endlessly ran through my mind.

Just when the self doubt started to take over and I was nearly going to change back to the plastics, a faint bump is felt through the slack forming on the line. The lack of action made me a bit sloppy. I nearly missed this fish completely. Thankfully I was able to sneak in a hookset at the last minute and land another solid bass to finish the day.

Landing the fish and photo op cost me some time and the wind pushed me well past the island and nearly to the other side. Not wanting to give any ground up I had to fight the wind for nearly twenty minutes before reaching the spot where the fish had hit. Starting the run once again I threw a handful of casts in all directions. Each cast got harder to control as wind velocity increased. My arms were getting heavy from fatigue. Then one of my casts went haywire leaving me a small snarl of line near the reel face.

“Ahhhh there it is.” My lips babble conceding warning signs of breakdown.

Not only was my body starting to fail but so was the gear. The left side of the tooner was getting a bit saggy-sally from the leak I am still unable to fix. Rod number 2 was snarled with not enough time to fix. This was as good of time as any to bag the day and head out. Slowly drifting to shore my tired arms began lamenting the several trip gear haul without the handcart.

“Mudder Ducker!!!” I blurt out. “Starting the season out really rough with these trips. Always forgetting something.”

Water temps were hovering around 57-degrees. Fish are still deep and clinging to the bottom of the inclines.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.