Going Fishin'

Going Fishin'
Red Sunset

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!