Going Fishin'

Going Fishin'
Red Sunset

Friday, December 18, 2015

El Nino Crappies

Wow!If you favor open water fishing over ice, you've got to love an El Nino weather pattern here in NW PA. Open water in late December! (Not so much love, however, if you are an ice angler.) The other day I joined longtime friends Dave Lefebre and Ernie Pate for crappie fishing at Pymatuning Lake. It was a tad crowded in Lefebre's Troller, but we would be fishing vertical so it all worked out. Dave's first several stops were spots he had caught walleyes prior to Thanksgiving. But two hours of pumping blade baits yielded only a few small perch. Moving to a deep point where Dave suspected crappies to be holding, we switched to tiny tubes and Garland Baby Shads on drop-shot rigs.Bites were sporadic. With only 1/2 dozen crappies in the livewell at 12:30, we kicked around the idea of quitting. Frankly, we were chilled from a strong wind and cooler than forecast temperatures. But Ernie wanted to hang out awhile longer. So each of us switched to different colors, randomly readjusted drop-shot leads and moved to the other side of the lake. Suddenly I was catching crappie after crappie on the deep hump. As soon as the others made adjustments to color and leader, our do-nothing presentation in 14 to 18 feet of water started paying off. However, the crappie schools were moving about and Dave had to keep up with them on with the bow depthfinder and trolling motor. And we had to keep changing colors as the sun crept lower in the horizon. By the time we left at 4:30, there were 52 keeper crappies (10" or better) in the livewell. Keeping only 1 out of 3 crappies caught, our total tally was close to 200 crappies plus small perch, sub-legal walleyes, bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, largemouth bass and one smallmouth bass. All because Ernie insisted we hang out awhile longer!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fall Crappies on Shenango

November - time to fish Shenango River Lake for crappies! Ken Smith considers Shenango Lake in northwestern Pennsylvania as his home water. He fishes the heck out of it in the spring, But with the arrival of the summer boating season about first of July, he rarely drops a line in the lake until after Labor Day. Early fall fishing is good, but what really excites him is late fall fishing when the crappies concentrate around deep brushpiles and river bank ledges. During this time of year Ken employs a down-line slow-troll strategy he refers to as Hang-Glidin', allowing him to hover right beside deep cover. His rods are 10-foot Richard Williams' Signature Crappie Wizard Rods from B'n'M Pole Company. Spinning reels are spool with 8-pound Gamma Panfish Line. Ken loop wraps a 1/2-ounce egg sinker on the line leaving an 18-inch leader. To that he ties a light jig with a soft plastic body -- usually a Bobby Garland Shad. And he always tips the jig with a white Berkley Crappie Nibble. After pinpointing cover in 14 to 17 feet of water on his sonar, Ken lowers his lines and very slowly trolls around the cover with his electric motor.

I recently spent the morning on Shenango with Ken. Our catch included 30-some black and white crappies (keeping only a dozen), along with white bass, bluegills and the occasional small largemouth bass. "Shenango has been slow to cool this year due to a warm fall. We are into the first week of November and the water temp is still in the upper 50s. The best fishing is yet to come," says Ken.

Monday, April 20, 2015

1st Smallmouth Bass of 2015

Darl's First Smallmouth of 2015
Spring of 2015 so far has not been the spring I envisioned all winter long. Usually I'm on the Allegheny by mid-March catching smallmouth bass. But a series of impediments delayed my fishing this year. But I finally got out for a few minutes on Sunday, April 19. Actually I was driving to Oil City to meet my wife for lunch. She was working the weekend at her office to catch up. So I threw in my G.Loomis 721 spinning rod and called Dale Black's cell phone as I headed down the highway. Sure enough, Dale and Chris Wolfgong were fishing on the River - both for their first time this year, too. "Got room for a third in boat," I asked. "Well, my trolling motor batteries are dead and we are fixing to pull out. But if you can be here shortly, I'll wait and we can make a drift or two to see if we can get you that first smallmouth of the season for that Facebook contest you are running."

Pulling into the parking lot, I grabbed my rod and camera case, and headed towards Dale's beached boat, passing Chris on his way to  his car. "We caught most of our fish on tubes today," says Dale. But I had a Galida's Grubz tied on the rod from last fall, and decided it would work just fine. Dale raced the boat upstream about one mile to a shoreline current break where the boat would sit in the slack water. I made my first cast into the Allegheny River of the 2015 to a current seam. I made two turns of the reel and a fish smacked it! Fighting the strong river bass to the side of the boat, we quickly netted it and measured it. It was 17-1/2 inches. "Well, I accomplished what I needed to do," I explain to Dale. "We can leave whenever you want to." Of course Dale had to fish a few minutes longer. In the next 10 minutes, we landed six smallies. Then we headed in.

So with my first cast into the Allegheny, I was able to conclude Darl's First Smallmouth of 2015 Contest. The winner of the bass lure pack is Gail Petersen of Meadville whose guess of 17-1/4 inches was the closest of all contest entries. Go fish!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Long Time Coming

Darl's First Two Crappies of 2015
I finally got out fishing in open water for the first time in 2015. It was a long time coming. There was a storage building cave in that wipe out both my fishing boats in early March,. And there was late-ice out, and the same day it went out I came down with a nasty bout of the flu. Finally recovered, I was ready to fish on April 18 - but no boat ready. So I called my buddy Jim McClave who had just moved to the Pymatuning and was anxious to fish in his boat. So we motored to a nearby cove, and dropped anchor by a couple stumps barely visible in the water. Five minutes and no fish, so we moved to a deadfall on the other side of the bay, and dropped anchor up wind of the tree. Jim was a bit apprehensive about getting snagged in the branches. But I figured the crappies would be in the branches, not outside the tree. On my second cast to the tree, I let the wind carry my bobber and minnow right up to edge of the branches. Fish on! It was a 12-1/2 inch black crappie. From then on it was easy. Cast almost to the branches and then let the wind carry the bobber and bait to the honey pocket. One crappie right after another. And except for the first one, all the others ran between 13 and 14 inches. Jim kept the first dozen crappies for a fish fry, and we released all the others we caught after that. By the way, that first crappie I caught earned Ron Burger a huge lure pack in Darl's First Crappie of 2015 Contest. (Details in a previous post at Going Fishin' blog)
Jim McClave scores with bobber & minnow

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Predict Fish Length and Possibly Win Big!

To celebrate the official launch this spring of www.BlackwolfeCommunications,com website and "Fishing with Darl Black Guide Service" as well as a new cover photo on this blog, we are having a contest! I will give away two impressive lure packs, each with a retail value of well over $50. (See photos) The winner of each lure pack will be based on the length in inches of the first Smallmouth Bass and first Crappie which Darl catches in NW PA after ice-out. The winner of each category (Smallmouth Bass and Crappie) will be drawn from the pool of entries which correctly guess the length of each species to the nearest 1/4 inch. The tie breaker will be the type of lure used by Darl to catch each species. Whoever is fishing with Darl at the time he catches each species will measure and photograph the fish. The contest is open to everyone and remains open until Darl catches his first Smallmouth Bass and first Crappie in NW PA. Now this is very important! You can ONLY ENTER your guess through the BlackwolfeCommunications.com website.Go to the website.Check out content on SmallmouthQuest Page and CrappieQuest Page for possible clues to the size of fish Darl usually catches at ice out and the possible lure he may use. Next press the "Contact US' button and enter the required information. In the body of the email message provide the following: (1) Your name; (2) Your guess in inches to the nearest 1/4 inch for both the first Smallmouth Bass and first Crappie which you predict Darl will land after ice out; (3) the lure you predict Darl will use for each species. Then Submit. Only guesses coming from the website are valid and only one entry per email address will be honored. Then sit back and wait on ice-out and Darl's initial open water outings - which will be recorded on this blog. Fish will be measured on a flat surface ruler device, measured to tip of tail (according to PA Fish & Boat Commission standards). There will only be one winner in the Smallmouth Bass category and one winner in the Crappie category, each randomly drawn from among those who correctly guess length and lure. The two winners will be notified through their email, and will be announced on "Fishing with Darl Black" Facebook Page.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Watching Ice Fishing TV

Watching Ice Fishing TV
Over the weekend, I joined Dave Lefebre and his buddy Brad on the ice at Presque Isle Bay. With air temps above freezing, I figured there would be good numbers of ice anglers out. But I was surprised just how many fishermen were sitting around  holes in the ice! There was no place to park when I arrived at the parking lot at the Chestnut Street Ramp. I looped around the lot twice until a vehicle left and I slid into the spot. Most of my time was spent watching the Mar
Brad with on-camera perch

cum Underwater Camera, snapping images of the screen when fish appeared near Dave's bait. Meanwhile Dave was watching on his Marcum Ice Sonar. Dave was able to see the fish on his flasher while I watched on the camera. I learned a lot about teasing fish under the ice into striking your bait -- which I will share on the Havalon Blog in the near future.
PIB Sunset

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Ice Fishing Gene

I believe fondness for ice fishing is a genetic trait among certain fishermen in the northern tier states. As many times as I  have tried ice fishing, I simply cannot get excited about pulling a mess of gear out on a frozen lake, drilling holes in the ice, then sitting around those holes trying to make a fish bite. Yes, I know ice fishing is a way of life during the winter in the most northern of the northern states, but I do not have that gene. Meanwhile the the majority of my friends in southern regions where lakes do not freeze cannot understand why anyone could go ice fishing. The one exception is noted outdoor writer Jeff Samsel of Georgia, who makes repeated trips to the frozen north each winter in order to ice fish. However, Jeff proves my point that enjoying ice fishing is a genetic trait - he was born in Minnesota!

Here in NW PA during a typical winter our waterways are frozen from about January 1 to around mid-March. So what do I do during those winter months? I go ice fishing! Everyone has some part of their job which they don't like but must do it regardless. I don't enjoy ice fishing, but I  must do it. That is why I look forward to Dave Lefebre's Erie Ice Camp.

"Isn't Dave Lefebre a professional bass angler on the national tournament tours?" someone asks. Yes he is. But next to chasing bass, his second most favorite activity is ice fishing. As a member of Rapala's Ice Force Pro-Staff, Dave has access to the latest equipment. When I play on the ice and need to come away with cutting edge material for stories, the best source of material each winter is Erie Ice Camp where a handful of outdoor media types gather to learn new tricks.

The first thing everyone does is strap on a pair of STABILicers (www.32north.com) in order to stay upright when walking on slick ice; without a doubt these are the most effective boot cleats I've ever used. Of course Dave dazzles everyone with the number of panfish he catches while using the futuristic Black Betty inline reel and the fantastic Tickle Stick. Dave says the new flat tip Tickle Stick renders spring bobbers obsolete. Check both out at www.13Fishing.com. On the end of 1-pound Suffix Ice Line, Dave has VMC Tungsten ice jigheads tipped with Trigger X soft plastic Nymphs and Wingdings. Intently watching the MarCum Sonar, Dave teases 'gills and perch off the bottom towards the jigs, setting the hook when the fish line and jig line merge. All these items may be found at www.Rapala.com under the Ice Force tab.

After photographing the action for couple hours in the open, I'm ready for a break. So I retire to the insulated Otter Pro XT1200 Shelter and watch a little TV - that being a MarCum Underwater Camera where I can observe fish move to jigged baits live on the screen. Now this is my kind of ice fishing!