Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bad Day for My Partner, Funny Day for Me

All bad fishing days don't end with an angler filling his bass boat full of water like you see here. There are lots of other ways to finish on a sour note.

Consider, for example, the angler and his partner who were fishing a spring bass tournament. Their practice day hadn't gone very well, and now they were facing a miserably cold and windy day, which up to the midway point had left them totally scoreless. They had decided to run back toward the launch area, where the water was even rougher than what they just had been fishing.

In no time, both fellas were soaked and complaining about the conditions. Nevertheless, the angler on the front seat kept throwing a baby brush hog and suddenly hooked into about a 5-pounder. His partner jumped off the rear deck and netted it. Moments later, though, the fella on the bow turned around and found his partner about 4 inches from his face, staring at him. "What the heck are you doing?" asked the guy on the bow.

"I just about knocked myself out getting your fish," responded the partner.

Turns out this big guy (weighing about 260) missed the step between the seats and dove headfirst into the seat pedestal. The fella in the front seat still was laughing uncontrollably and looking back at his parnter when, bam, he hooked another bass, followed quickly by two more. In a period of about 10 minutes, the duo had gone from zero fish to four nice keepers in the livewell.

Figuring that things couldn't possibly get much more crazy than they had been thus far, the front-seater was sitting there, gazing at his hapless partner, when he saw him rise about 6 inches off the seat. Simultaneously, he heard a "whoosh!" sound. Seems the partner had sat on his Sospenders, causing them to inflate--and giving the front-seater yet something else to laugh about. What a day!

New Boat Ramp at Pungo Ferry Landing Park To Be Bigger and Better

Come late January or early February, when the new ramp is expected to open, boaters are in for a real treat.

As explained in an email from Susan Topping, Park District Supervisor, the new 42-foot 9-inch-long slab will accommodate boats ranging in size from 26 to 29 feet, or nearly double the size of craft the original setup could handle. (Don't know about the rest of you, but I can't help wondering how that increased length compares to the ramp at Munden Point Park. If anyone knows the answer, would you mind sharing with me?)

I'm also assured that the 24-7 hours of operation will continue, and everything still will be free to the public.

Those who have lived around here a while undoubtedly are more than a little familiar with the wind tides we have. We know the disastrous effects a strong northerly wind, especially a prolonged one, can have on the water level. With this new, longer ramp, however, accessibility should be enhanced dramatically. The way I see it, this is the biggest benefit of all.

As I was duly reminded, though, there are some concerns beyond the new ramp at Pungo Ferry that are worthy of everyone's consideration. For example, trash, including glass, is routinely strewn around the ramp and parking areas, especially during the summer months. Thus, there is the possibility of someone damaging your trailer by carelessness or downright intent. It also was revealed that the Virginia Beach PD regularly drives through the Pungo Ferry parking lot, issuing tickets for such things as no current trailer inspection, etc.

Another matter you need to be mindful of is the stretch of water you have to navigate once you leave the ramp area and make that hard left turn, leading to the North Landing. There are shallow spots in that stretch, along with some underwater obstructions. My partner and I found one of those obstructions during Day 1 of our Classic tournament this past October. It only amounted to a minor bump, but I made a mental note of its location: near the middle of the channel.

One final thing I was reminded of that I want to share in this setting is that a hole appears to have been created where the Munden Point ramp ends underwater as a result of anglers powering their boats onto drive-on trailers. The only time this hole ever seems to come into play is during extremely low-water conditions, when a few single-axle trailers have been known to back off the end of the ramp. Getting them back on the ramp proves to be a major chore. Twin-axle trailers, on the other hand, never seem to have a problem launching. However, it's in everyone's best interests to understand that, just because you get your boat off the trailer with no problem, you're not necessarily home free. Extremely low-water conditions can result in a bass boat grounding in the Munden Point channel leading out to the North Landing. I'm personally aware of two anglers who have suffered that fate and only overcame their situation, thanks to their trolling motors.

The smart boater is an informed boater, which is the reason I'm passing this info along. Be careful out there, and get back safe and sound.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Oh Please Bring Back My Boron to Me

Some recent Internet research turned up a story about an angler who, when he was much younger, lucked out by finding what was considered the holy grail of fishing tackle at the time--a boron rod at a ridiculously low price. He found the rod at a store that was about to go out of business.

"To this day," he said, "I am giddy over that purchase. Why shouldn't I be? I got a Rolls Royce for the price of a bicycle. Boron rods, at the time, were 'members only' jackets of the fishing world."

Best of all, that rod caught the angler a lot of fish. "Sometimes, I wondered if the rod was even crafted by human hands at all," he noted. "Perhaps it was left by aliens who were watching from afar, conducting a bizarre experiment to see how a bumbling human would react to their advanced technology. In retrospect, I wonder if it could have shot lasers or somehow transported fish out of the water into my waiting hands, if only I had been smart enough to figure out how to harness its full potential."

The angler truly cherished that rod as though it was his only child. He even polished off his fingerprints after every outing, and he never let anyone else touch it--until, that is, the day he met a girl whom he was crazy about. She, too, liked to fish, and he decided she was the only human on the planet worthy of sharing a trip that included his precious magical fishing wand. This was the perfect storm: The girl of his dreams, along with the rod of his dreams, on the same fishing trip. He wondered if the rod's powers and luck maybe would extend beyond the realm of fishing.

That special day started perfectly. They reeled in one big fish after another, admired each one briefly, then released it. In his delirium, though, the young angler did the unthinkable. He let the girl of his dreams use the boron rod, and she proceeded to catch a fish--the biggest one of her life, as it turned out. Wanting to celebrate the moment, she offered to go to a store and buy a couple of cold beverages. He stopped her, though, saying he wanted to pay for the drinks.

Laying down the boron rod, he took out his wallet, handed her some money, then smiled at her, as she got into the car, turned it around, and headed for the store. Too late, he realized what was about to happen. He only could watch, seemingly in slow motion, as she ran over his precious boron rod. "Noooooo!" he wailed pathetically...loud enough to be heard in the next county.

Not knowing what she had done and probably more than a little freaked out by hearing a grown man scream like that, she slammed the car in reverse and started backing toward him at the speed of sound--backing squarely over the boron rod a second time!

The young angler just fell to the ground beside the shattered rod...and dreams...lamenting this horrible, sadistic twist of fate. "Why couldn't she just have run over me instead?" he wondered. "It was all over. The mojo was gone. I just knew I never would catch another fish again. I never had felt such rage and betrayal.

"This woman deserved a fate worse than death. There was no choice. She HAD to be punished for committing this unspeakable act...so I married her. She has been paying for that rod for the last 25 years...and neither one of us could be happier about it."

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Frozen Rod Guides--Way Too Cool

Earlier today, I was out running some errands, and by the time I got home, I noticed some ice had formed around some of the sides of my heat pump, as well as on top of a big, green, neighborhood electrical box located in my backyard. Can't say why, but those sightings triggered a flashback to the days when I lived in northern Virginia and fished Lake Anna a lot. Many was the day I would spend nearly as much time chipping ice from my rod guides as I would actually fishing. Haven't experienced that annoying phenomenon down here in southern Virginia, but then, I usually stay home on really cold days now. It's not because I've gotten any smarter, but more accurately, I simply know I'm going to lose any battle I wage with Uncle Arthur. He (or more precisely, it) brings me to my knees faster than Dad did the first time he ever showed me how to "milk the mouse." 

One of the biggest concerns of wintertime fishing is ice. When water freezes in and on your equipment, it can cause a couple of problems. For starters, if your reel's worm gear gets iced, it can cause a backlash. The most common problem, though, is persistent icing in your rod guides.

In the words of three-time Elite Series champion Jason Christie, "As frustrating as all this is, I've never really figured out a way to completely eliminate icing. I've sprayed my guides with everything from WD-40 to silicone sprays and line conditioners. I tend to prefer the conditioners, but I think the best you can do is just minimize the icing."

Micro guides have become really big in the rod industry, and they can be helpful in various applications, but consider this: The smaller the guides the quicker they'll freeze up. Accordingly, Christie carries rods with standard-size guides when he knows he'll be fishing in freezing temperatures.

"They're the same length and power as my micro-guide rods," he said, "but they'll give me a little less trouble with icing. I still can fish with micro guides in cold weather, but if I know I'm going to be fishing freezing temperatures for three to four hours, I'll go with the standard guides."

Something else to keep in mind when fishing in cold weather is what baits you'll be using. When fishing a crankbait, for example, you're constantly dragging line through the guides and leaving water on them, so they freeze up faster. The same is true when you fish a swimbait. On the other hand, if you're throwing a jerkbait, you'll be twitching the rod constantly, which keeps water from settling in the guides and freezing.

Christie thinks some of the toughest winter fishing can be shallow waters of river systems like the Red and Arkansas Rivers. "They're tough," he said, "because the water is brutally cold, and a lot of times, it's off-colored. Also, it's hard to navigate the shallow fisheries because you're bundled up and fighting stumps. You still can catch fish, but it just makes it harder to get around."

One other concern Christie has in freezing temperatures is his boat hatches freezing shut when he's on the road. For that reason, he takes precautions to keep ice off the deck, starting with the fact he travels with a cover on his boat. If moisture gets on his deck, he dries it off as quickly as possible. He also props the hatch lids open a little at night.

"Just don't make the mistake I made once," he said. "I came out to my boat one winter morning and found my hatches frozen shut. I tried pouring hot water on the lid edges, and that helped a little, but the morning was so cold that the hot water actually froze, which doubled my problem."

Christie further pulls the drain plug after a cold day's fishing to let the water run out, then replaces the plug. "There's always a little trickle of water coming from the drain hole after you've gotten most of the water out," he explained, "and if you leave the plug out overnight, you might have a problem with ice forming in that drain hole.

"Winter's tough enough as it is," he concluded, "without making it any more difficult."

If you're interested, here's the link to a video that you may find helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oO-YHGkjaA.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Anything Can Happen on Any Given Day on the Water

I think most anglers would agree with that statement. One who I'm certain agrees is Zell Rowland.

"The king of topwater," as he's often dubbed, recalls an incident from back in the days when pros drew fellow pros to fish with during tournaments. He and the pro partner, whose name he had drawn, were preparing to fish an event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas out of Rowland's boat.

"I had a fancy Suburban, the kind with a small-screen TV and other amenities SUVs had back then," he said. "I had cut a deal to make rod straps for boats, and part of the deal was that I would get an enclosed boat trailer (similar to what you see in the above photo) to use for an entire season. Now this trailer was an interesting concept I liked a lot. Part of the roof hinged up, just like the trunk of a car. It kept your boat, motor and tackle dry all the time. The trailer also made it easy to keep your boat clean."

As Rowland explained, you backed this trailer down the ramp just like any other trailer. Recovery, though, was like driving your boat into a box. His partner only had seen one of the enclosed trailers a time or two thus far.

 After a good day on the water, Rowland just had pulled near the launch when his partner asked if he could drive the boat into the trailer to see how hard it was. Rowland gladly agreed and started opening the two back doors, as well as the little front door for reaching inside and tightening the boat winch. Then he backed the trailer into the water, and his partner drove the boat inside. While Rowland reached in and tightened the winch, his partner asked if he needed to crawl through the front hatch, but Rowland assured him that he could just stay seated until they had reached the tie-down area.

Rowland was starting back up the steep (80-degree angle) ramp when he suddenly heard a "pop" and felt the load lighten a lot. He looked into his rearview mirror to see the trailer rolling back down the ramp.

"It must have been moving 20 or 30 miles per hour when it hit the water," said Rowland. "The 'pop" had been my safety chain breaking. I've never had a time when I felt more helpless. This was a tandem-axle trailer, with four tires full of air. The walls of the trailer were insulated with foam, so when the trailer with the boat inside hit the water, the whole thing immediately floated 15 or 20 yards from the ramp. It continued to float farther away as I got out of the Suburban and ran to the water's edge."

While Rowland contemplated what to do, his partner still was in the trailer wondering why Rowland had stopped so suddenly and backed him into the water again. Finally, he poked his head over the side of the trailer. Realizing what had happened, his eyes got real big and he hollered that he was going to jump.

"Don't even think about it!" Rowland shouted back, as he fought the idea of his boat sitting on the bottom of Sam Rayburn. By this time, three or four guys had gathered nearby and were rolling in the dirt laughing.

"I didn't think it was funny," said Rowland. "That was my trailer, my boat and motor, my livelihood floating helplessly out there. How long it could stay afloat I had no idea."

Rowland eventually backed his truck down the ramp, then yelled for his partner to trim the motor down a little and drive the boat and trailer back toward him. With the help of those jolly guys on the bank, he slid the tongue back into the trailer. One of them had an extra pin, so before long, things were good to go.

As a result of that incident, Rowland decided he never would have an enclosed boat trailer of his own, and he made good on that vow, but not before another misadventure occurred. He was driving down the highway one day when he felt a bump, then glanced out the window to see a wheel rolling past his truck. His first thought was that the wheel had come off another car, but that was before he checked the sideview mirror and saw sparks coming from his trailer.

A year later, the enclosed trailer was gone, along with all the troubles it had caused him.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

If Not for Better Ratings, Then What?

As I watched the local TV weatherman last evening, I couldn't help thinking that the station must be going through some kind of ratings period. I say that because, for several days now, this guy has been talking about weather predictions 10 days or more out, whereas he usually just discusses weather projections for the next couple of days. And last night, he was using all kinds of lines, colors and you-name-it, hinting that we could be in for some dastardly (my word, not his) conditions for the next week and a half, perhaps even including some snow and/or mixed precipitation before all is said and done.

This morning, I decided to compare what he has been saying with what The Weather Channel is predicting, and about the only similarity I could find was in the temperatures we can expect the next 10 days or so. There are several occasions when our daily highs are supposed to top off in the 40s.  Granted, that's colder than I like to see on the high end, but that's what it was when I hit the water yesterday morning, and I didn't suffer while I waited for the thermometer to climb into the 50s. Just don't see why the weatherman is making a fuss.

However, I'll bet you there will be those "warm weather" bass fishermen who probably will run to get their boats winterized and tucked away, along with their rods and reels, until the spring thaw. It's not necessarily that they believe you can't catch fish when the mercury starts falling--most of 'em know better. Rather, it's just that they have a hard time believing the anticipated rewards justify the extra effort that will be required of them. After all, the reminders are everywhere about how the metabolism and, hence, the feeding mood of fish dwindles once the water temperature reaches the upper 40s.

This slowdown, however, won't make a bit of difference to a lot of anglers. Here are links to some examples that prove it.




Monday, December 4, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017

Monday, Dec. 4 (from Ken)...Having followed the weather forecast for several days and seeing predictions for windy conditions tomorrow, coupled with a chance of rain, I decided not to gamble and went to the river today. Fished West Neck from 8:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., catching a total of seven bass and losing two more that came unbuttoned on the way to the boat. Five of the bass today were dinks. The other two weighed in at 1-7 and 3-5. All of the fish fell for the same crankbait I've used the previous two outings. The one thing I found a bit puzzling today was the fact that the 3-5 had a bloody tail and other signs you would expect to see on a fish that just had spawned. Early December seems just a tad late to me for that kind of activity, but I suppose anything is possible. (UPDATE: I asked the local VDGIF fish biologist Chad Boyce about the possibility of that 3-5 being a spawning fish, and here is what he said: "Not only is it highly unlikely that a bass is spawning this time of year, but I would wager it is simply impossible. Bass cannot just decide to spawn and lay eggs. There must be a time for gonadal development and gonadal maturity prior to spawning.  I think sometimes people forget that water temperature is not the only que that triggers fish to spawn. Day length and light acuity is just as important as water temperature. I'd guess the fish you caught was simply on structure or habitat that caused it to rub its fins.") The only other fishermen I saw today were Dave and Rob, who also were fishing West Neck out of Dave's boat. They indicated they had found a few fish early this morning, but that as the day wore on, their bite seemed to go away.

Thursday, Dec. 7 (from Ron)...Been searching for the stripers, but odd hours have kept me from doing an update. This morning was eighth straight day at HRBT. All week, I've been catching the incoming tide, with very early morning launches (0200, 0300, 0400, etc.), then struggling through work. Most of my catches have been slot shorts, but a few keepers were in the mix. Got a nice 22- and 23-incher this morning, and they were healthy. Must have found a roving school as I caught five between 0550 and 0615, then it shut down with no taps for another hour. Going to be a long month, but I love the way they slam the lure and pull the drag. Due to the tides, will now shift back to evenings and catch up on some sleep!

Sunday, Dec. 10 (from Ron)...Tried Friday night with the sleet-like rain, cold and wind. North wind made for an easy enough transit, but around the bridge was unsafe in the kayak. I bailed after 10 minutes...before the hypothermia took hold. Sat was a complete wash. Went Sunday night, and the weather was better. Caught five with one little fat keeper. Sometimes they are fat with full bellies, but this little fella had seriously thick fillets for his size. Oh, and it was a bit chilly last night!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

154 Christmas Gift Ideas

While digging around the Internet this morning, checking out some info for a potential blog post, I happened upon the 2017 Bassmaster Christmas Gift Guide. If you're looking for some nice (and I don't mean dorky) gift ideas, this is the place to go. By just clicking on arrows at the bottom left corner of a photo like the one above, you will be taken through 154 fantastic fishing-gear ideas you can drop on your family and friends this holiday season. Here is the link to get you started: https://www.bassmaster.com/gear/slideshow/2017-bassmaster-christmas-gift-guide.

Monday, November 27, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017

Monday, Nov. 27 (from Ron)...Not enough time, tides and such didn't line up for HRBT, so opted for a short trip to Milldam from 3:30 'til dark this evening. Bass were active in Milldam. Caught a 1-11, 1-14 and seven dinks that were all 11 to 12 inches and just shy of a pound. Lost a really nice chain pickerel yakside. He had the XTS buried deep, and as he was thrashing around yakside, he severed my line and made off with my $2.84 XTS. He won, maybe. Hope he throws it. Caught bass on the XTS, Beetlespin and Pop R. Was a nice evening 'til the sun dipped below the trees, and the cold crept in. At least, it was glass-like calm. Surprisingly, no panfish.

Tuesday, Nov. 28 (from Ron)...Fished from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. Took two hours before I got a single tap, and then, as I was trolling an XTS back to the launch site, caught a 1-14 bass to avoid the skunk. Threw back out, and a few minutes later, caught a length-citation yellow perch. That was all. Really pretty evening out there, but the bite was very poor.

Wednesday, Nov. 29 (from Ken)...After about three weeks of being stranded ashore for various reasons, I finally managed to get back on the water today. Fished West Neck Creek from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., ending the day with a total of 10 bass, all caught on a square-billed crankbait. Seven of the fish were dinks, with the best three weighing in at 1-2, 1-3 and 4-9. The water was off-colored both above and below the bridge, which was a little disappointing after hearing a couple reports about how clear it had been late last week and throughout the weekend. The ticket to success today was to crank your lure as slow as possible, making sure to hit every piece of wood you found multiple times.

Wednesday, Nov. 29 (from Jim)...Ran into my friend, Jim B., today, who also was getting back on the water after a long absence. He ended the day with a total of three bass, including two dinks and the 1-9 pictured here. His fish also fell for a crankbait.

Thursday, Nov. 30 (from Ron)...Last week, the tidal coefficient was so low there was barely any current,  and the bite was so so. Went this morning with a very high coefficient from 0100 to 0400.  Almost unfishable due to current, and the chop was pretty scary. Had to stay "inside" and away from where the bite "should" have been. Did manage five, with one at 24.5 inches, a drag puller, Yum! Supermoon perigee is Sunday, and the coefficient will only increase for the next few days. Moon is right outside my window! The current makes it very difficult to get "near" the pylons, and those pylons will really bend a rod!!! Caught three of those.

Friday, Dec. 1 (from Ken)...I listened to the weather forecast before leaving the house this morning, so knew it was going to be breezy. Apparently, a lot of others heard the same forecast and just decided to sleep in, 'cause my van was the only vehicle in the parking lot when I launched, and it was the only one there when I recovered about 2:30. Never saw another boat all day long. All in all, I can't complain about the fishing. Used the same bait today that I used Wednesday and caught a total of two white perch and seven bass, the biggest of which only weighed 1-2, with only one more (a 14-ouncer) eclipsing the 12-inch mark. The fish in the photo, as well as most of the bass I boated today, took a treble in the tongue, and immediately went to bleeding when I unhooked 'em. They all swam away on their own power, though, as soon as I dropped them over the side. Armed with a thermos full of hot coffee and plenty of warm clothing, I managed the conditions today with only minor discomfort early this morning. I was quite comfortable when I quit. With the north wind, the water was going out steadily all day, but I knew there was plenty to last until I would be quitting. It still was above the crack when I came off the water.

Saturday, Dec. 2 (from Doc)...Went out today around 10:15. The water was low and cold.Winds were light, and the weather cooperated. There were two other boats on the water. Talked to a gentleman who said he caught six bass but was using minnows. I only boated one 13-incher. Lost three at the boat. Caught everything on a shallow crankbait.