Thursday, February 17, 2011

8 years paid off

well since my first trip to canada at the age of 12 my dad caught a massive 42 inch pike. i was in shock by the size and power of that fish. from then on ive been trying to get a 40" ive hit 39" 3 times but still no 40. today things changed. i met up with scott(river rat) dj and cyndie for a day of open water carp. it started off slow with nothing but an onslaught of tiny bluegill and one small largemouth. a little later things picked up with scott getting the first carp. i brought in a smaller one soon after. a little while later and a few heartbreaks from carp throwing hooks cyndie got a tap on her rod. she set the hook into a beautiful carp. her very first one. after the action died down for a bit i picked up dj's other rod that had a daredevil on it and started tossing casts around where he missed a fish earlier. on one cast i saw a bit of a shape in the water near the bait and yelled out to my friends that theres a musky right by me. the fish slowly cruised the drop off a few feet ahead of me. i brought the spoon past a few feet in front and there was suddenly a quick flash and my drag screamed. the fish hammered the spoon and took off down river. i chased it down the bank yelling for my net. i raised it up once to see it was a GIANT pike just to see it run back to the deep water again. a few more minutes of fighting it back to shore and she was in the net. we measured it and the fish was right at 40" a new personal best! and a goal ive been working very very hard for.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

a misunderstood beautiful fish

it is a shame to see many anglers not giving the bowfin the respect it deserves. Bowfin also known as mudfish, dogfish, grindle, grinnel, cypress trout, and blackfish is a fish that is a top predator and will attack almost any type of bait, it fights wildly once hooked and can sometimes exceed. 10 pounds. most of your typical bass and walleye guys will tell you bowfin are a trash fish or that they are an invasive species that eats all the eggs of desired sport fish. none of this is true. bowfin do not eat sport fish or eggs of fish. a study was done in north carolina where biologists examined the stomach contents of 200 bowfin from two rivers and found almost 70% of their diet consisted of crustaceans such as crayfish and grass shrimp. smaller species of typically less desirable fish such as american eel, creek chub, pirate perch and smaller bowfin made up another 27% of the diet. so only 3% of their diet consisted of "sport fish". Bowfin have tolerated bass since bass first appeared 12,000,000 years ago. If conditions favor one species over another, that species will dominate that local niche, but bowfin have not and will not "wipe out" those other fish.

Wiping out local populations usually requires an assist from people. A new dam, a golf course, or a shopping mall parking lot can cause more harm to fish populations than bowfin. Do you fish spawning beds? You are helping too - those opportunistic sunnies can decimate an egg clutch while you are playing the fish that was defending them.

range of bowfin(amia calva) in the U.S.
the other typical myth that they are an invasive species in the united states is not true. they are found commonly throughout the central and eastern united states and into canada. they are not introduced to any lakes and you are NOT supposed to kill them as some people may tell you. i've heard quite a few bowfishermen try to justify killing bowfin because they think they are introduced but there is no stocking of bowfin and no hatcheries for breeding bowfin exist. also I've read the regulations for all the states with bowfin populations and none require/request that bowfin be killed. They can be legally returned alive to the waters from which they were caught. Returning dead or dying fish to the water is prohibited in many states. One reason for this is that it is wanton waste, a second reason is to prevent the depletion of benthic (dissolved) oxygen caused by decaying flesh.

people who are not familiar with bowfin may mistake them for a similar invasive fish that is very destructive to our waters known as the "snakehead" to the untrained eye the two can be very hard to tell apart but if you know what to look for you can easily tell the difference.

if you are interested in targeting bowfin good places to look are larger rivers or creeks on warm days. bowfin are related to gar and have the same lung allowing them to gulp air. this means they can survive in water with very little oxygen. if you are in a location that holds bowfin for long enough chances are you will either spot fish close to shore or see them gulping air. typical bait for bowfin when i target them is medium sized shiners or chubs. night crawlers also work very well. they will also take spinners, soft plastics, crank baits and surface lures.

if you really want to have some fun with them you could try fly fishing for bowfin. typically a bait presented right to a fish will entice a strike. good bowfin flies resemble small fish and crustaceans.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

fly fishing suckers

fly fishing for suckers is a fairly new thing to many people. its certainly new to me, this being my first year of doing it. suckers are not as difficult to target with fly tackle as some may think. once you figure out the patterns to look for it can become fairly simple.

typically i fish suckers in the spring when they are spawning in the rivers and tributaries. around this time of year the rivers will all be packed full of them so locating fish wont be hard. you just need to know what fish to cast to.
i look for any deeper water with shallow fast water nearby. fish in slower water will be more vulnerable to flies. the suckers will usually hang around any current breaks in the deep pools and wait for food to drift down river. so shelves along a deep pool close to shore usually will hold the highest concentration of fish. the best way to get at these fish is to position yourself up current near the shallow water and drift baits down into the deep pool or behind bridge posts. the fish will usually be holding tight to the structures but will move off to grab baits so dont worry so much about being directly on top of them. especially in the spring when there are so many fish because if you drift past one and it shows no interest chances are there is another one behind it and so on and so on..

another place to look if your not locating fish in the deep pools is the shallows above riffles. typically small gravel bars or rocky spots 10 - 15 feet above a set of riffles will hold fish. this is usually where i look later in the year when the suckers are done spawning. they usually will be feeding over the tops of sandbars or underwater humps

flies that typically work for suckers will be small nymphs, wooly buggers, leeches, scuds, san juan worms and crayfish. personally ive done well with a small bead headed wooly bugger twitched on the bottom on very slow drifts. if you see fish that dont seem to react to your fly just keep trying till you figure out the right fly or right presentation for your body of water. the first time i tried targeting suckers with flies in my local creek it took me two hours of changing flies and trying different presentations before i started catching fish.

larger sucker species on fly tackle:
although uncommon some of our larger suckers (river,greater) will occasionally feed based on sight. the same tactics apply as to the other species but these fish will also be a bit more likely to take a larger fly presented to them. if you plan to target them look in the same areas as you would for other species of suckers for greaters but in the case of river redhorse you may want to look along sandbars of larger clear rivers. spending the time to walk the shore looking for feeding fish in the backwaters can pay off. they will usually be found feeding on the shallow sandbars and points. dont be discouraged if the fish doesnt take a bait on the first pitch to it. my largest river redhorse was caught on a clouser minnow fly and it took about a dozen casts twitched around it before it inhaled the bait.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


my latest obsession is a fish that stalks the current breaks on many of our large rivers. a fish that will devour a 6 pound carp whole, a fish that has no predators and will eat anything that fits in its gigantic mouth. they will break heavy line, snap rods and bust reels. i have witnessed one of these behemoths snap 60lb braid like it was nothing. a fish that you must target with large lively bait. even a 15 inch redhorse is not out of the question as bait for this creature. what kind of monster could i be speaking of? well i am referring to the flathead catfish. a fish that can grow over 70lbs here in minnesota. i encountered several including my very first this past year on the mississippi river.

these fish fight insanely hard, i have heard my heartland esox rod make some nasty crunching sounds while bringing in flathead cats.

if you plan on targeting these fish first you need to know what to look for, basically any current seem or break is what you need to look for. for example the walls to a lock or an area with fast current that has a dock or bridge pillar blocking the current off are great places to look. also the point in which two rivers meet or where changes in depth occur typically will hold catfish a good example of a depth change would be a point hump or gravel bar on the river the fish tend to position themselves down current of any of these structures and wait to ambush smaller fish as they move down river. ive had best luck in water anywhere from 15-25 feet deep

next need is to know when to look. flatheads usually turn on more in the evening. spend an hour or so catching bait before the sun goes down then around dusk head out to your spot.

the final and most important part to catching yourself a flathead catfish is knowing what tackle to use. there really is no such thing as overkill when it comes to flatheads. they are a fish that grows very large and with the right bait in the right spots it really is not difficult to get into some really heavy fish. i recomend at least 60lb braid, a baitcaster reel, a heavy or extra heavy rod 2-5 oz weights and large circle hooks. my prefered bait is always black bullhead although i have had luck on shad and creek chubs.

the reason for the bullhead is they last longer hooked up than most fish will. i hook my bullhead up right before the tail and they will stay nice and lively for hours hooked that way.

once your set up in a spot for flatheads all you need to do is set up the rods and wait, i set the clickers on after i cast out then set the rod on the ground and wait for it to start screaming. if you dont have a clicker then you can stake the rod into the ground and place a bell on the rodtip to indicate strikes. you will have to rely on sound once it gets later and you cant see the rods as well.the wait for a flathead to come across your bait can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. one tactic that works great for flatheads is camping out overnight at your spot. it helps if your fishing a border water where 2 lines are legal so you can either have 2 flathead setups out or one other rod set up for other species to help kill time between strikes on the flathead rod.

so if your crazy enough to sit out on the mosquito filled shorlines and wait hours at a time for a fish flatheads may be for you. they will be worth the patience once one is on the end of your line.

rocky mountain high

my family arrived in vail, colorado on july 31. it was the beginning of probably the best vacation i've ever been on.

the owners of the condo we were staying in told us that there was a good view of the mountains, and plenty of wildlife. but they failed to mention that this little gem was directly across the street

i tried really hard to get a wild trout on the fly. it didn't happen for a couple days. but one morning, after it rained, i found a little nightcrawler, i was to tempted to cheat, so i pinched off a small piece of the worm and put it on the fly. soon after, i got my first fish of the trip, a new species for me. A brook trout!

content, i went home and had breakfast.

i decided, sice i'm on vacation, i'll try catching as many fish as possible, so i brought out the ultra light.

the next night, after getting back from whitewater rafting, i got this rainbow, the only fish of the day
but on the very next cast
the next morning, my dads license started, we woke up early in the morning, i wanted my dad to get something so i let him fish for a while. after he lost a brown, i moved on to what became known as "the magical pool."

once again, it was a two fish day. this wasn't a vacation dedicated to fishing, but i got in as much as i could.

however, the net day, thursday, august 5, our last day in colorado, was dedicated to fishing.

again, my dad and i woke up early and i got this very strong, very pretty, and very fat brown

after breakfast, my family went for a walk, and i went fishing. i tried a different run under a small waterfall and i got, yet another, brookie

 on my next cast i felt something heavier, fish on!

i saw a different fish on the end of my line. "no friggin way" i thought to myself

but yes, it was. i could feel myself smiling as i brought the fish to hand. i was probably the most beautiful fish i've ever seen in my life, lifelister cutthroat trout!

when my dad heard that i got a cutthroat, he got about as happy as i was. so we headed out.

our destination was the eagle river. packed with browns. tons. it was like catching bluegills.

most were around this size

after an action packed day of trout fishing, we returned to gore creek. we fished the usual pools, and as i watched the sun slip away beneath the mountains, i got my last fish of the trip.

article written by, Ben Erb.