Going Fishin'

Going Fishin'
Red Sunset

Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Friends and Old Acquaintances on Winter Creeks

A 40-degree sunny day on Saturday, December 28 seemed perfect for Marilyn and I to go fishing for photos on a little road trip to winter fishing hotspots in our region. Our fist stop was a walleye hotspot at the outflow below Woodcock Dam where two anglers were casting the current seam. In our conversation with them, it turned out that I had taken pictures of one - John Moraski of Union City - at the same spot two years ago during the winter. The other - Brian Gerson of Pittsburgh - recognized my name and Marilyn's name from our articles in the PA Angler. Marilyn joined the two fishermen on the wall for a quick snapshot before we headed north.

Our next stop was "The Point" where Conneautee Creek joins French Creek near Cambridge Springs - a hotspot for winter musky. I walked down to talk with a fly-fisherman working a hand-tied oversize streamer for toothy critters. When I introduced myself, he says "I know you from sportsmen's meetings years ago, and I know your wife from her years on the Fish Commission. I'm Jim Simonelli of Girard." The name I certainly recalled the name even though it had been 20 years. When Marilyn joined us, it was like old home week as they caught up talking about steelhead issues.

Then it was off to 16 Mile Creek near North East in hopes of steelhead photos. We encountered two couples from St. Mary's just as the steelhead turned on in the pool they were fishing. I went to work with the camera, getting pictures which included Josh Odell's biggest fish of the day and his wife Ashley's first steelhead ever.

As action waned, Marilyn walked upstream to photograph an angler by the falls. As when approached, he stared at her for a moment and said, "I know you from photographs in the PA Angler. Aren't you Marilyn Black?" This was his 7th trip this year to the steelhead streams for avid PA Angler reader Mike Limerick of Punxsutawney.

Never know who you will meet on NW PA creeks!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hot Time on a Cold River

This past week I angled for smallmouth bass on the Allegheny River with my favorite fishing partner, my wife Marilyn. We really enjoy being on the water this time of year. Often when one of us mentions to someone that we are still fishing into November and December, they immediately ask 'what can you catch when the water is so cold?' I try to explain that 40-something degree water is prime for river smallmouth bass and walleye, but generally they give us a funny look. Well, here's the deal...

On this most recent outing, we actually fished only three hours, with the balance of the time spent running the river and doing fishing photography. We landed 30 smallmouth bass; all but one were between 15 inches and 20 inches. Each bass came on a Get Bit Bait tube, especially their Crawling Tube (see lure close-up). Tubes are fished slowly along rocky bottom in slower moving pools and eddies. Rod and line are also very critical elements in cold water. We use 6-pound Gamma Edge (fluorocarbon) line on incredibly sensitive G. Loomis 2-power GLX 6'10" spinning rods. The proof is in the pictures!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beating the Slump

Recently angling friend and renowned bass angler Rich Zaleski referred to "losing and finding his mojo" when experiencing a couple day dry spell of not catching bass. We've all been there - when the bites don't come as expected on familiar waters. Sure, we all  have outstanding days on the water, better than average, just okay and even below average days of catching - we all expect that. But when you cannot put a single desired bass species in the boat...well that was the slump I found myself in during recent weeks. It stared during a one-day trip to New York's Chautauqua Lake for smallmouth bass where Marilyn caught her largest walleye ever, but I could not muster a single bass. The next day at Kinzua Reservoir, Marilyn caught the only "photo fish" and I struck out. Then the following week I fished Conneaut Lake near my home where I normally come up with multiple 4- to 6-pound smallmouths in mid-October - but not a single smallie in two trips. There was talk of taking up golf. Fortunately things turned around this past week when Marilyn and I hit the Allegheny River after two days of cold rain. The river was rising and dingy, and water temperature dropped from the low 60s to the mid-50s. Now some fishermen might think these were unfavorable conditions, but for October it was just what the doctor ordered. Marilyn struck first with a couple brown beauties taken on a chartreuse-blade Terminator T-1 Spinnerbait. Then it was my turn with a Get Bit Crawling Tube with chartreuse-dyed tail - landing a 3-pounder and then back-to-back 4-pounders. the bite continued strong through early afternoon, providing us a most exciting day. Wow, it feels great to break a slump with brown bass like these!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Counting by Ten

This week I fished Presque Isle Bay with professional angler Dave Lefebre of Erie, PA. As many of you may know, Dave is a hot stick on the bass tour. When fishing for fun, it is impossible for anyone in the boat to keep up with him when bass are biting - especially when it comes to flipping weeds.  Dave is a fishing machine...he spots an opening, drops the jig in, shakes it once, detects a bite, sets the hook, hauls the bass in, unhooks it, releases it and tosses the jig back to the pocket as fast as I can focus and snap a picture. In a little under three hours we put 30 bass in the boat. I caught my customary 6 bass while Dave caught the other 24. If  you fish in a boat with Dave during a casual outing, the first thing you've got to understand is he only quits when a multiple of 10 bass has been reached. We were stuck at 28 bass for over 40 minutes before getting two to make 30 - at which point we could stop and do photography. The next day I was talking with Tom Ference who has fished with Dave on numerous occasions, and we reflected on Lefebre's insistence to hit a certain number before stopping. "If the bite is very good and the boat catch hits 80 bass, then Dave won't quit until 100 bass are caught," note Tom. "And whatever you do, don't let that 101st bass be caught 'cause Dave will insist you fish until dark to hit 120!" 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Full Moon Smallies

Although casting would be hampered by a dozen stitches in my right arm, my desire to get out smallmouth fishing during the rising full moon this past week overcame common sense.  Marilyn and I headed to s small USACE flood control lake near our home for a moonrise/sunset outing.  During the late summer we would usually fish this exceptionally clear-water lake with drop-shot baits in 10 to 18 feet, switching to topwater at dusk. 

But we arrived to find the reservoir higher than normal with water up to the shoreline grass, and visibility less than six inches - apparently the result of an algae bloom.  "Swim jig time" I said to Marilyn, but immediately followed it up with an unprintable expletive when I recalled the swim jig case was left behind.  With the only swim jig tied to the G. Loomis NRX 853C, Marilyn elected to fish topwater on another rod while I fished the incredibly lightweight NRX which allowed effortless casting with my injured arm. 

Upon landing my second smallmouth (after missing three), I suggested we share the swim jig rod.  Within a half dozen casts, Marilyn hooked a lunker bronzeback which measured 21 inches - with a guesstimate weight of 5 pounds.  At that point Dr. Marilyn decided my arm would be further injured if I was allowed to cast and fight fish.  So in the midst of the best summer smallmouth bite on Woodcock Lake, the balance of the evening I served as net man for Marilyn.  However, she figured I wasn't so incapacitated that I could not hold up a couple more of her fish for a  photo!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Some Days I Love My Job

Some days a plan comes together.  After six weeks of daily extreme storms followed by two weeks of extreme heat, I had fallen behind in shooting pictures needed for upcoming articles.  With deadlines approaching, I set up three photo shoots in one day.

Yesterday morning, I started out at Conneaut Lake at 6 AM with Steve Hughes to obtain photos of his weedline cranking technique for largemouth with a Bomber Fat Free Shad; these were needed for a website article.  Steve came through with fish and I was out of there before noon. 

At 1:00 PM, I met Pymatuning Lake crappie expert "Hooker" at Hill's Country Store and we proceeded to Bay 41 launch.  This shoot was for an article on depthfinder use for crappie fishing.  Out first stop on a stump-covered hump produced one crappie.  But Hooker came through at our second stop which yielded impressive sonar photos of deep cover and crappies - and plenty of fish on Bobby Garland Baby baits.

Then back to Conneaut Lake for a 5:00 meeting with Bryan Stuyvesant to obtain photos of  his drop shot technique for smallmouth bass, needed for a Cabela's Outfitter Journal Article.  We struggled but Bryan came through with a photo fish.  We also learned just how much white bass love umbrella rigs!

Thanks to rhree great anglers hitting home runs under pressure.  Gee, some days I love my job!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Heat Wave Breaks

Fishing in Northwest Pennsylvania this summer as been a challenge.  A funny shift in the jet stream has generated record rainfall and record heat in our area for the past month.  I attempted a couple trips to area lakes, but literally melted in the 95 degree temperatures and near 100% humidity within an hour. 

The heat wave finally broke yesterday, with temperatures dropping into the 80s.  So with a heavy overcast and misty rain last evening, Marilyn and I headed to Conneaut Lake hoping to connect with active smallmouth on top  - knowing that today we would be under high pressure.  But the smallies didn't get the news bulletin.  Actually, every species apparently had lockjaw.     

So I began probing the deeper edge of one of the mid-lake humps with my newly installed Garmin echoMAP 50.  When I spotted what appeared to be exposed rocks, baitfish school and some larger fish on the screen in about 17 feet of water, Marilyn cast a drop-shot rig and slowly dragged the sinker until she contacted rocks.  A little shake or two of the Lunker City Ribster Worm, and a she was connected to her first Conneaut Lake smallmouth of the summer!  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Place Out of Time

Marilyn and I pointed our Explorer south on I-79 recently to visit Britt and Leigh Stoudenmire in Pembroke, Virginia.  Britt and Leigh operate the New River Outdoor Company (www.newriveroutdoorco.com), offering canoe and kayak rentals, guided fishing trips and secluded cabin rentals.  I had first fished smallmouth with Britt in April 2010.  This time, Britt wanted to demonstrate the post-spawn bite on the New River and James River.

The New River is anything but new.  Britt explains that geologically, the New is the oldest continuous flowing river in the US, carving an unusual south-to-north path through the Appalachians from east side of the mountains to west side.  It's smooth stretches are interrupted with substantial solid rock rifts extending the width of the river creating foaming white water.  Jet boats run small sections, but inflatable self-draining rafts are required for long distance float trips.

Day One on the New started off with Marilyn catching a smallmouth on her first cast.  Bass in the 8 to 13-inch range came almost at will.  But boasting-size bass seemed to be holding back - except for Marilyn's magic bait.  Fishing a 3" black tube that had been tied on her river smallmouth rod since an outing in March, she caught not only smaller fish but all the respectable bass over 17 inches...until thunder ringing across the valley forced us to make for the take-out point with haste.

On Day Two, Britt and I took a page from Marilyn's playbook, with each of us tying on a black tube.  It was the right choice for me as I rallied somewhat from Day One using a new Get Bit Stream Tube on a 1/8-ounce head.  Britt switched often, between a tube, soft jerkbait and hard jerkbait.  Marilyn continued her run on large smallmouth with the same black tube which somehow she had not lost to snags the previous day, claiming it was the 6-pound Gamma Edge that saved her bait time and time again.
 Right after lunch, a major approaching storm front kicked bass into a feeding frenzy.  It was all I could do to keep up with the camera while Marilyn and Britt caught doubles.  Britt even caught two bass on one lure at the same time!  Bigger bass began chowing, too , with Britt and I finally each scoring smallmouth in the 19 inch range.  But we didn't want to leave the hot bite and paid the price with a good soaking before we reached the take out.

Next installment: The James River

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Three-day, Three-lake Crappie Fest

The 2013 PA Crappie Camp has been put to "bed" following a three day blitz by outdoor media and crappie pros from Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania on three Western Pennsylvania lakes - Pymatuning, Conneaut and Shenango.

This year's Crappie Camp can be compared to the nursery rhythm of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  On Day one, the weather was too cold. (We had snow flurries the two preceding days!) On Day Two it was too windy. (Did I mention squall lines with thunder and lightning?)  But on Day Three, the weather was just perfect. (Okay, at 80-degrees-plus, it was a tad too hot - but no one was going to complain!)

Yet given the unsettled and unseasonable weather, a Camp Hero came through each day. 

Russ Bailey
Bryan Stuyvesant
At Pymatuning, Russ "Calico" Bailey of Mid-West Crappie TV provided instruction on how to catch tight-lipped black crappies with a long pole and 1/48-oz. jig from shallow pad beds.

Over at Conneaut Lake, local angler Bryan "Crappie King" Stuyvesant proved it is possible to catch monster black crappies that had suspended off the weedbeds due to post-frontal conditions.

During Day Three on Shenango River Lake, Crappie Now publisher Dan "Spiderman" Dannenmueller pulled off a remarkable catch of closed-mouth black and white crappies from brushpiles in 12 to 15 feet of water by spider-rigging.

TJ Stallins, Vic Attardo and Dan Dannenmueller (seated)
Although faced with extreme weather conditions, specialized contributions by exceptional anglers helped make the 2013 PA Crappie Camp a story-gathering and photo-collecting success.  Watch for details on how it was done in future articles from media attendees Jeff Samsel, Vic Attardo, Bill Decoteau, Jeff Frischkorn, Larry Claypool, John Hayes, TJ Stallings and others.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Love/Hate Relationship with Raystown Lake, PA

I sometimes wonder why I leave the fantastic fishing opportunities so close to home in NW PA to occasionally travel to a mid-state lake that has a reputation of being very stingy in giving up fish.  Well, it's because I recall the Raystown Lake of the mid 1970s through the mid 1980s - a newly impounded 8,000-acre mountain lake that was producing awesome largemouth bass and striper fishing.  Marilyn and I made routine trips to Raystown to participate in bass tournaments, often staying for days at a time.  It was an exciting and productive fishery.  However by the 1990s, fishing had become very tough on this exceptionally deep, clearwater, weedless reservoir.  Sure, the locals who were able to fish every day would hit the brief seasonal bites for a particular species, but for someone traveling to the lake for a couple days, pickings were slim.  On some trips I fished with a bass pro or guide - but the story was always the same: You should have been here yesterday, or last week, or next week...  Yes, big fish were in the lake, but my timing was never right. 

I figured sooner or later my luck would have to change.  So when Raystown resident Mark McQuown, Garmin Marine Electronics Sales Rep for the region, called to say this week would be a good time to stop by to fish, I decided to go for it after talking Gamma Line president Dale Black into making the long drive with me.

Mark said there was no need for a sunrise start - thanks goodness - and the bite should get better as the day progressed.  We were fishing jerkbaits and weighted Flukes for smallmouth bass on abbreviated flats along steep shorelines.  The initial fish, a small lagemouth, didn't give me much hope that this day would be different than other trips.  I took Mark's picture with the catch in case it was the only fish!

But my mid-morning, the tide turned.  When we hit Mark's favorite smallmouth bank, strikes came as if a switch had been turned on.  There were hook-ups with nice smallmouths and largemouths on the first two passes.  Giving it a rest, we returned a short time later to find lake trout had moved onto the bank, and the action was so hectic we lost count of the lakers landed.  We fished another spot, providing my very first Raystown walleye and a huge yellow perch that would be envy of every Lake Erie anglers.  Returning to the magic bank, some stripers (which were suppose to be up the river) had now moved in!  When we quit, seven different species of fish had come to the net - according to Mark, a single day record for boat, including his first ever Raystown pickerel.

"We should make this an annual event in April," suggested Mark.  All I could do was shake my head yes, and smile!  I'm loving Raystown now!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fantastic Flats

This week I had the opportunity to join Gamma Line president Dale Black and Gamma pro staff member Pete Gluszek for a day on the Susquehanna Flats out of North East Maryland.  I had not fished the Flats since the early 1980s, when anglers would struggle all day to catch just a couple average size largemouth bass.  An extremely productive bass fishery in the 1960s, the Flats had fallen on hard times by the late 1970s due largely to loss of grassbeds on - what else - the shallow flats.  But today the grass is back, and so are the bass! 

Pete Gluszek, a founding partner in The Bass University educational fishing program, has been guiding on the Flats for several years.  He certainly knows the ins and outs of this massive tidal fishery.  When he met us at our hotel, Pete stated that bass would be in pre-spawn mode holding in protected grass beds, and that a modified Chatter Bait would likely be the ticket.  However, he had left his box of Chatter Baits at a recent seminar.  So before we hit the water, we had to hunt for Chatter Baits at a local store.  A stop at the local Wal Mart - supposedly recognized for catering to anglers - did not yield a single Chatter Bait.  Thanks goodness for Herb's Tackle Shop at 203 Main Street, North East.  They had just what we needed - and more!  I love stopping at local shops that have been around for years and years 'casue you never know what treasure you may find.

Once on the water, Pete commenced modifying each Chatter Bait with a new skirt and tail to make it resemble a bluegill.  Our first couple hours of fishing produced only one small largemouth.  But Pete said not to worry.  The tide had turned - literally - and he anticipated the action to pick up.  It did, slowly at first but then more intently.  Our last hour of fishing certainly made the trip, with a number of quality bass including one which we estimated to be pushing six pounds.  All bass but one came on Chatter Baits.  The exception was the lunker which struck Pete's custom-made shallow crankbait.

I'm look forward to another visit to the Flats, and I can say with certainty it will not be another quarter century before wetting a line down there!


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Keystone Cops on the Allegheny

It was 23 degrees when Marilyn and I launched our jet boat at Franklin on the Allegheny and started up river.  One of those "double fleece, storm suit and face protection days" of winter.  Only the date was April 6.  Spring is still missing in here in NW PA.

A brief stop at an eddy produced a walleye on a green-pumpkin Get Bit Crawling tube (a tube with whiskers).  The 'eye was perfect eating, but out of season.  Back in the water it went. 

Next wintertime spot, which had yielded smallmouths a couple weeks back, gave up the first bronzeback of the day on the Get Bit Tube from about 10 feet of water ...but not another morning fish.  Water temp was struggling to break 40 degrees (8 degrees warmer than two weeks ago), and I expected better results. We probed the usual sites as well as new areas in this big, deep pool looking for somewhat active smallmouths but only succeeded in loosing jigs.

Two hours later we returned to the rocky deep rocky point where we caught the first smallmouth, hoping the warming sun may have triggered some movement.  Casting at the same time, Marilyn went shallow and I directed my cast deeper on the point - with my line over her line.  Marilyn was immediately snagged in the rocks.  While she trying to snap her tube loose, I had a distinct 'tap' on my hair jig which I had resting on the bottom waiting for Marilyn to get free.  So I set the hook.

With lines crossed, we had the makings for a Keystone Cops calamity.  "Here, take my rod with the fish, and hand me your rod with the snagged line," was my solution.  Blame it on cold hands, but Marilyn reach the rod towards me letting go before I had a grip.  Into the river goes our favorite G.Loomis GLX 882 Bronzeback rod - the absolute best rod ever made for smallmouth jig fishing!

As I see it sink beside the boat, I stab at it with  my G.Loomis IMX 721 rod - which had the bass connected to it.  I manage to tilt up tip of the GLX and Marilyn plunges her hand into the icy river to grab it.  Rod saved!  (Thank goodness since Loomis no longer makes this model.)

Marilyn takes the IMX 721 and hands me the snagged GLX, which I quickly sling-shot loose from the rocks.  Next I grab the net for Marilyn as she battles the hefty 3-pound-plus bass which was still hooked on the IMX 721.  Thank goodness for 4-pound Gamma Edge!  Just another winter day on the river.

We landed a couple more smallies on hair without incident before Marilyn had to head to the office, and I went home to warm up.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Winter River Bite Continues

The never-ending winter continues in NW PA.  I had planned an Erie trip for smallmouths over the weekend, but I didn't get my boat rigged and ready in time.  So I hitched a ride on a river boat with Gamma Fishing president Dale Black and Gamma production manager Chris Wolfgong.  With water temperature not able to climb out of the 40s yet, Allegheny River smallmouths are still in deep wintering spots with little indication they are moving soon. 

The boat count for the day was 30 smallmouth landed, with the biggest going 19-3/4 inches taken by Chris.  Smallies were taken on coldwater finesse jigs and tubes - surprisingly hair jigs didn't get a bite.  My better fish came on a 3" Get Bit Baits Crawling Tube - my favorite winter tube.  The Clarion Crew (Steve Hughes, Duff Kerle and friend) were fishing nearby on the same section of river.  They tallied 36 smallies on tube jigs.
The Clarion Crew
Chris Wolfgong & Dale Black
Reports from anglers who went to Erie indicated the smallmouth were still in a deep sleep.  But the alarm clock should ring by the next warm up later this week.  If not blowing on Thursday, Erie here I come!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Where is Spring?

When I posted my first blog of 2013 back on March 10 with my first river smallmouth bass of the year, I didn't imagine it would be two weeks before I would get out fishing again.  But winter returned in a BIG way.  We have not seen a day of sunlight since March 11, but we have seen the snow and felt the cold.  Finally a day above freezing arrived on March 23, and Frank Malek called to say the river ramp had melted off enough to launch a boat.

On Frank's 3rd cast of the day to a wintering hole, he hooked and landed a nice smallmouth bass on one of his custom finesse jigs.  Our hopes of a spectacular day soared.  However, our expectations were soon dashed.  The 32 degree water (drop of 6 degrees from March 10) apparently could not get the bass motivated.  In four hours, only one small northern pike was added to the catch.

This morning - almost six inches of fresh wet snow on my boat.  I've had enough!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

First 2013 Smallmouth Bass

I've been out of touch with my Going Fishin' blog for some time, with most of my day to day fishing reporting going to the NW PA Fishing Report done on behalf of the PA Great Lakes Region tourism.  And I was sidelined during 2011 & 2012 from long-distance fishing trips due to injuries which took a long time to heal.  But with the start of a the 2013 open-water fishing season here in PA, I hope to stay current on the blog.

While all northwest Pennsylvania lakes remain ice covered, the ramps on the Allegheny River were clear of ice a week or so ago.  Saturday, March 9, was the first opportunity to get out.  Allowing the sun to warm things up a bit, I met Dale Black, president of Gamma Fishing, at the Oil City ramp at noon. River temperature was 36/37 degrees.  We checked a few deepwater wintering spots in the pool, but were fishless until Frank Malek called on his cell to say he had located a bunch of fish and to come on down.  Dale and I each 'broke the ice' with our first smallies of 2013.  We fished by Frank for awhile, and then went exploring to another downstream pool.

Dale and I ended the afternoon with 10 or 11 smallmouths, caught mostly on hair jigs.  We met up with Frank just as the sun was going down and air temps were dropping.  He proceeded to 'school' us on how to catch ice-out smallmouths with one fish after another - all taken on special hand-crafted jig.  His total for the day was 25 smallmouths!