CHOOSE DIFFERENT CRANKBAITS FOR DIFFERENT DEPTHS

KVD crankbaits

I pick the crankbaits I’m going to use by depth zones. My favorite 8-12 foot deep water crankbait is a Strike King Pro Model Series 5XD. There are many places that I fish where I find good cover, grass, rocks or some type of structure in that depth zone. Over the years, this crankbait has won multiple tournaments and a lot of money for me. This is the crankbait on which I first launched the Sexy Shad color. I always have one of these Series 5XD crankbaits tied on when I’m fishing the 8-12 foot depth zone.

Some of the best advice I could give any angler is to already have chosen the lures you will fish at each depth, and then you’ll be prepared once you learn the depth where the bass are holding that you’ll be fishing from your depth finder. For instance, when I fish water that’s deeper than 12 feet, one of the lures I will start with is the Strike King Pro Model 6XD, an extremely productive crankbait for offshore structure and especially for the hotter times of the year when the bass are holding in those deeper depth zones.

I like the Strike King Pro Model XD because it casts like a rocket taking off. This crankbait lets me make really long casts, and it gets down to that depth zone quickly. When the XD gets down into those deeper depths, it has an action that triggers bass to bite, allowing me to fish those deeper depth zones where most crankbaits won’t go. Although many anglers will choose a jig, a plastic worm or another quick-fall, hug-the-bottom type lure, I prefer to use this bigger crankbait in those depths. I know the bass that are down that deep probably haven’t seen as many deep-diving crankbaits as they have other lures.

By Kevin VanDam

SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDING: THE FISH “FOOD CHAIN” ON STEROIDS

fish under water
Largemouth bass will almost always choose the largest prey they can find. Usually that means “maximum energy for the minimum cost.”

 

If growing big bass is your goal, keep in mind that bass, for the most part, prefer the biggest live prey they can swallow, the bigger the better—and not necessarily the most abundant. That is unless they will end up expending more energy than they will take in. If it’s too difficult to catch the larger prey they’ll opt for a smaller target. The second thing to remember is that bass are not picky—they’ll eat just about anything you have in the lake including shad, bluegill, yellow perch, crappie, tilapia, catfish, crawfish and yes, even other bass.

There are numerous feeding theories out there, but what I’ve found over the years is that bass don’t care about our theories. They just want the right size food at the right time to grow into nice trophy bass that everyone, especially grandkids, loves to catch. So if you want to grow huge bass, you need a lot of forage fish.

Some of the best forage fish are bluegills. I once heard Bob Lusk, known as the “Pond Boss,” tell a group of lake owners, “Bluegill are the backbone of a good bass lake”—and I’ve always remembered that vital ingredient. Other common or regional names for bluegill include sunfish, bream, copperheads, perch and shell-cracker.

If your goal then is to have a lot of bluegill for the bass or to grow big bluegill—which are also a fantastic sport fish—then what do the bluegill eat? The answer is there are a lot of naturally occurring foods for bluegills in most ponds and lakes, including zooplankton, worms, insects, crayfish, minnows, and…fish feed. Bluegill love fish feed and will take to it quickly, so you can grow them large and fast by starting a supplemental feeding program.

WHAT IS SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDING?

fish feeder

So what does supplemental feeding mean? It’s supplementing your pond or lake’s existing food sources by adding fish feed on a regular basis. Research has shown that feeding will positively affect a pond or lake’s entire food chain by increasing the size of the forage fish and triggering those fish to spawn more frequently. As a result of feeding, you’ll have more, larger fish for the bass to eat.

The two most common types of fish feed include floating or sinking pellets, in varying sizes. Sinking pellets are useful in conditions with fast currents or windy conditions and also used to keep non-targeted animals like birds and waterfowl from reaching the food before your fish. The other big benefit of feeding your bluegill is that they’ll reproduce more frequently on a feeding program. In fact, studies have shown they’ll reproduce two to four times more often. Bluegill spawn in groups in April through October when the water temperature is above 70-degrees. The females lay between 2,000 and 60,000 eggs which hatch within 35 hours.

Why will bluegill grow bigger and faster on a feeding program? Because the feed nutrients go directly into fish production—here’s the formula: One and one-quarter pounds of feed will translate into one pound of fish. That means a 50-pound bag of feed will grow 40 pounds of fish! Take the cost of one bag of fish feed and divide that by 40 pounds and the cost to increase the size of the bluegill in the economical range between 25 and 50 cents per pound.

In a recent supplemental feeding case study conducted on a 32-acre lake in Georgia, bass fingerlings with a high forage base of bluegill grew to five pounds in 20 months. This was accomplished with a heavy feeding program using 13 automatic Texas Hunter fish feeders and a three-sixteenths-inch 32 percent protein pellet.

In another study in Illinois, “feed-trained” smallmouth bass on a 33-acre lake stocked in 2003 were fed 40 percent trout pellets using multiple feeders which grew a five-pound and 15-ounce bass—just eight ounces shy of the Illinois state record.

BENEFITS OF A SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDING PROGRAM

One of the indirect benefits of using fish feeders is that they create feeding “zones,” which makes fishing easier and more fun for the kids! Feeding on a daily routine makes catching fish easier because the fish remain in the area waiting for the feeder to go off.

Supplemental feeding has the extra benefit of supplying extra nutrients in the water, which means more water bugs and insects for the fish to eat. These bugs also attract birds and other wildlife flourishes. Predators like bass and walleye thrive in these environments and the food chain runs full-circle.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDING TIPS

Bluegills are undoubtedly one of the best food sources available to put weight on largemouth bass. They also work great to put smiles on kids!

One of the questions when using fish feeders is “how much should I feed?” That’s a great question—and the answer is, “it depends upon many details.” The types of fish you have, the quantity of each species, the water temperature and the size of the pond or lake all make a difference. We recommend consulting with your local fish, pond or lake management professional who knows the area and understands the conditions.

As a general rule, if you’re using a floating fish feed you want your fish consuming all of the feed within 10 minutes. If you still see feed floating after that time, you’re feeding too much. If they eat it all within a few minutes, you can probably increase the amount a bit and if you’re using a fish feeder, all you have to do is simply add another second or two to the feed event by the press of a button.

Another feeding tip I’ve heard from many of the professional lake managers we work with is to start with approximately two pounds of pellets per day, per acre of water. Some of the feeding tips that I’ve learned over the years include feed at the same times and places each day. Don’t feed if the water temperature is below 55 degrees or above 85 degrees and keep feeding once you begin. Choose the correct pellet size for the size of fish you have to ensure they can get their mouth around the pellet, and the feed you use should contain an absolute minimum of 25 percent or more protein.

While there are many benefits of feeding fish by hand, including being there to observe the fish, the drawbacks of handling the feed and being inconsistent with a feeding program usually create gaps in the feeding program. As a result, you don’t get the full benefits that an automatic feeder can provide. The feeder is going to feed at the programmed times, every day, rain or shine whether you’re there or not. Other benefits of automatic feeders are that the feed is dispensed in a 25-foot wide pie-shaped pattern up to 45 feet out into the water—this wide feed distribution gives more fish a chance to get to the feed. Since fish feeders feed at the same time and place every day, it’s easy to adjust your feed amounts. It’s a very reliable way to grow bigger fish faster.

Texas Hunter Products has been based in San Antonio, Texas since 1954. The company developed its first fish feeder in the early 1970s and currently produces a line of patented models for a variety of fish feeding applications across America. If you don’t have a local fish or lake management professional, call Texas Hunter Products at 800.969.3337 and we will help you find a resource close to you.

By Chris Blood | Originally published in GameKeepers: Farming for Wildlife Magazine.

FERTILIZING LAKES & PONDS DURING SUMMER: AVOIDING POTENTIAL PROBLEMS

pond growth

Of course you know that a good fertilization program begins in the spring. If you have waited until now to fertilize, you are not only late but you may be creating some potential problems for the proper management of your lake. Most lakes if left unmanaged during the spring will remain clear, promoting the growth of undesirable plants or pond weeds. Adding fertilizer at this stage will simply fuel the growth of these noxious plants, creating a real management problem. We will show you how to avoid other potential problems that may occur during the summer, but first let’s review some of the basics of fertilization.

Fisheries biologists and good lake managers view lake fertilization not as a single act but a planned program that begins during the spring when surface water temperatures stabilize in the mid-sixties and continues into the fall.  A proper fertilization program is the single-most cost-effective management tool available to the lake owner. An efficient fertilization program can more than triple the food production for a lake, greatly improving the growth and health of your fish. Increasing the fertility of your lake increases the basis of the food chain, usually measured as single-cell planktonic algae. The abundance of this type of algae in your lake is called a “bloom” and is often measured by how far below the surface you can see a white object.

Water quality can significantly influence the efficiency of a fertilization program and the majority of lakes throughout the southeastern United States would benefit from the addition of agricultural limestone. Notable exceptions are those lake constructed in “black belt” soils or areas of extensive limestone watersheds. A simple test can determine the alkalinity of your water and predict if your lake will benefit from the addition of agricultural limestone. Alkalinity is measured in parts per million (ppm) and if the value is below 20 ppm your fertilization program will benefit from the addition of agricultural limestone being spread evenly over the lake bottom. Although pH is a water quality parameter recognized by most lake owners, it is not a reliable predictor of the need for liming.

There are numerous types of fertilizers that have been used over the years to fertilize lakes. Each type has a preferred method of application. Granular fertilizers are among those that have been used since the late 1940s to increase lake fertility. 20-20-05, commonly known as “farm pond fertilizer,” has been recommended by County Extension Agents and State Wildlife and Fisheries personnel since the early 1950s. It still works like it did a half century ago, but it needs to be placed on a platform beneath the water at a rate of 50 pounds per surface acre. Liquid fertilizers, such as the 10-34-0 clear poly N, has been used successfully to fertilize lakes. It needs to be applied by mixing with water at a rate of 1 gallon per surface are. It is a heavy liquid, weighing 12 pounds per gallon, can be messy and difficult to transport in 5-gallon containers. There are new water-soluble concentrates that require from 5 to 7 pounds per surface acre to apply and do not have to be mixed with water. The best of these, in our experience, is Perfect Pond Plus,12-48-08, which is a complete fertilizer containing micro-nutrients. It dissolves immediately into the upper two feet of the water column and in lakes less than 5 acres, can be broadcast from one location. It is effective and easy to apply.

There are numerous precautions that should be taken during summer fertilization. Mid-July through mid-September is the peak of oxygen related fish kills, and you do not want to create an unsafe environment through over-fertilization. Many lake owners will pencil a certain day each month for fertilization, regardless of how their “bloom” looks. It is best to fertilize based on visibility or “bloom” rather than a certain day of the month. Measure the bloom with a secchi disc or a piece of white plastic on the end of a stick. During the heat of the summer, if the visibility is less than 24 inches, wait until the lake begins to clear before fertilizing again.

Each lake is different and may respond differently to fertilization during the heat of the summer. If your lake develops a heavy bloom following a normal fertilization application, try reducing by half the amount of fertilizer you apply. You do not want to create a bloom that is 16 inches or less. Heavy blooms are a recipe for oxygen-related fish kills during the heat of the summer. Over fertilization may also induce the development of toxic blue-green algae that looks like a bluish-green paint scum floating on the surface of your lake. Wind currents will often push this scum along a bank or cove, developing a very thick layer of alga that has a distinct pungent odor. Blue-green blooms emit a chemical that can be toxic to fish.

Heavy plankton blooms produce an abundance of oxygen during hot sunny days, but these tiny one-celled plants also use oxygen during the night and have an extremely high demand for oxygen during nighttime respiration. A few days of cloudy weather, which limits the sunlight (energy) required for photosynthesis, can result in excessive nighttime oxygen demand.  During low oxygen events, fish are often seen on the surface during the early morning gasping for air. Typically a fish kill ensues, with the largest fish dying first. Depending on the severity of the oxygen depletion, you may experience a complete kill or a partial kill with only adult fish dying.

Often when plankton begin to die, the oxygen demand immediately increases as these single-cell plants rapidly decay. This compounds the problem for your fish. As the plankters die, a change in pond color usually occurs. Your pond was a heavy green color one day and suddenly changes to a clear brown or even a milky color the next, a sign of a plankton die-off.

Don’t be your lake’s worst enemy by failing to observe the condition of your lake during the summer. Do not over fertilize and create conditions that increase the probability of summer fish kills. Consult with a qualified fisheries biologist about an aeration system for your lake or even managing your lake to prevent problems. Many reputable lake management companies, such as American Sport Fish, provide these service.

By Barry Smith

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO CATCH CATFISH

catfishing from a limb line

As most know, catfish are hard-fighting and delicious to eat. The equipment needed to catch catfish is inexpensive and everything you need for traditional pole fishing or any of the DIY methods listed below can be easily found at your local Walmart! In this article, we’ll cover the basics of catfishing and a few different fishing methods commonly used to put these delicious fish on your plate!

One thing to remember about catfishing, particularly in the summer, is that mosquitos and other biting critters are typically out in full force. Keep your skin covered and protected from both bugs and the sun. Check out the Mossy Oak Fishing Performance Apparel that includes insect repellant as well as protection of the face and neck.

CATFISH BASICS

Although more than 1,000 kinds of catfish are found all over the world, 26 species of catfish live in the United States, ranging in size from one inch to the largest said to be a 315-pounder caught in the Missouri River. The North American species have barbels (whiskers) on their faces that enable catfish to find food since catfish taste through their feelers as well as their entire bodies that have more than 100,000 food sensors on them. A catfish discovers food by fanning the bottom with its barbels and honing in on vibrations – catfish can detect high frequencies at 13,000 cycles per second – and following food scents.

What Do Catfish Eat?

Catfish eat most anything, including fish like gizzard and threadfin shad, miniature marshmallows, homemade soured-food cooked mixtures like pineapple and rice, dry dog food sunk in a burlap bag, wieners, chicken livers, soap, golden raisins, commercially-prepared catfish bait, suckers, mullet, freshwater mussels, hellgrammites, worms, leeches, frogs and any decaying matter. Some prefer to catch their own bait, but for some, packaged ‘stinky baits’ are a simple and convenient alternative.There are quite a few pre-packaged catfish baits on the market. CLICK HERE to view a solid collection of baits available online.

Catfish Species

Four main species of catfish live in North America: the bullhead, the channel, the flathead, and the blue. The bullhead is one of the most widely-distributed catfish, inhabiting most of the U.S. and southern Canada. The channel catfish originally was wide-ranged from southern Canada through the Great Lakes region and the central drainage systems of the U.S. south to Mexico, as well as parts of the Atlantic Coast and all the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Today channel catfish also have been introduced throughout other sections of the U.S.

Flathead catfish have been introduced across the U.S. in rivers and reservoirs and have their origin in the rivers of the Mississippi Valley – Missouri, Ohio, and Mississippi – south to Mexico. The blue catfish isn’t as abundant today as it was before the erection of power dams, but still, it’s distributed in large rivers from Minnesota and Ohio southward and in the Atlantic Coastal system, with a preference for clear, swift streams flowing over bottoms of bedrock, boulders, gravel and/or sand and are known to primarily bite ‘live baits.’

DIY CATFISHING TACTICS

Let’s take a look at some of the easiest and least-expensive do-it-yourself ways to catch catfish with materials you can find easily at your local Walmart. Be sure to check with your local fish and wildlife section of the state’s department of conservation where you plan to fish about any regulations on the tactics used to fish for catfish to make sure they’re legal.

Noodling

Noodling is a form of fishing where people catch fish with their hands. It is illegal in some states, so it is imperative to check the state’s fishing regulations prior to attempting this method. Noodling can prove to be a very action-packed experience that may also present some forms of risk. The strategy behind successful noodling is to locate a catfish hole in a lake, river or stream. The problem with catfish holes is what may be lurking inside of or around them at any given moment. Animals such as alligators, snapping turtles, beavers, snakes, have been known to bite noodlers as they blindly reach into a hole in search of a catfish. Another major risk to noodlers comes with the frequent requirement of having to dive for catfish. Noodlers have become entangled in underwater debris or have exhausted themselves as they fight with a deep-water catfish and drowned. If you choose to embark upon noodling, it is critical to go with a seasoned noodler and a party of people that may be able to help anyone in immediate need of life rescue in the water. Some choose to ‘noodle’ with their bare hands, others prefer gloves to prevent damage to skin.

Jugging/Jugging with Pool Noodles

jugging with noodles

Anglers catch catfish using a wide variety of techniques. One of the simplest and easiest ways to catch catfish is by a method referred to as “jugging” or “jug lining.”

Gary Harlan of Tishomingo, Mississippi, is a professional catfish guide at Pickwick Lake on the border of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, who fishes with noodles – round, styrofoam floats that children and adults both use when swimming in pools, rivers and/or lakes.

“Whether I’m fishing with youngsters or adults or a combination of both, I like to use the jugging method and catch catfish on noodles,” Harlan explains.

Noodles are productive devices to use for catfishing, too. Check out the swimming department at Walmart to find noodles or have them shipped directly to your door.

How to Rig a Jug for Catfish

There are several different methods for rigging jug lines. YouTube is a great resource to look for ideas on how to rig your own jug lines. The following steps are provided by Harlan instructing how to make your own catfishing juglines out of swimming noodles.

Step 1: Purchase the Right-Sized Noodles at Walmart

Harlan prefers the jumbo bright-colored noodles about 56-inches long, each of which will make 3 usable jugging noodles.

Step 2: Cut the Noodle Pieces to Length

Using a sharp knife, such as a fish fillet knife, cut each noodle into three sections, about 18-1/2 inches long, again giving you 3 usable jugging noodles.

Step 3: Mark each jugging noodle with your state’s required information

Using a black, big-tipped Sharpie marker, mark each jugging noodle with your contact information and any other pertinent information required by your local fish and wildlife department. Some states require your name and address while others may require more/less. The responsibility falls on anyone contributing to catching the fish to know what is required to legally pursue fish in each state.

Step 4: Rigging Jugging Noodles

Use a piece of 6 to 8-foot long stainless-steel wire, fold the wire in half, put a No. 1 to a No. 3 barrel swivel in the middle of the halved wire and twist the ends of the wire six to eight times to form a loop in the middle of the wire where the barrel swivel is attached. Then, sew the wire from inside the pool noodle to its outside, so that the wire is woven from one side of the noodle to the other side, much like lacing up a tennis shoe.

Once both ends of the wire come out the top of the noodle, twist the two ends together, leaving about 1 to 1-1/2 inches of twisted wire. Wrap the remaining wire around itself, forcing the tag end of the wire into the noodle and use pliers to tap the wire’s tag end deep into the noodle to make it lay flat on the noodle’s top.

Step 5: Attach Fishing Line

Attach 20 feet of 65-pound-test braided line to the barrel swivel at the bottom of the noodle. Then, attach snap swivels every 5 feet down the 20 feet of line. This will provide the options to fish from 5 feet to 20 feet deep by just adding a hook on the snap swivel at the water depth needing fished in.  Slide a 1/4- to a 1/2-ounce egg sinker on the bottom of the line and attach a No. 2/0 to No. 3/0 circle hook to catch eating-size catfish and up to a No 7/0 hook for larger catfish.

noodle instructions

“I like circle hooks because when the catfish takes the bait, the circle hook will catch that fish,” Harlan says. “Then I rarely, if ever, miss a catfish that takes my bait. Rigging this way, I can shorten my line to as little as 3 feet if I want to fish shallow water in the summertime at night, or make it as deep as 20 feet if I’m fishing during the daytime.”

Step 6: Baiting Jugging Noodles

The best bait to use when jugging for catfish is either freshly-caught cut shad or 3 to 4-inch shad minnows cut in half for bait. Another great option available at Walmart would be any type of catfish stink bait dough bait.

Just like there are several ways to skin a cat, there are just as many ways to catch a catfish. Tony Adams, a fishing guide at Alabama’s Lake Eufaula, catches an average of 200-400 pounds of catfish on jugs in a 4-hour trip.

He says, “During the hot summer months, I’ll run the lines coming from my jugs down to 40-60 feet deep. I’ll put out about 72, 20-ounce empty plastic sports drink and soft drink bottles for catfish. I’ll paint them orange, so I can spot them easily.”

These jugs will fit neatly into the racks that drink salesmen use to carry soft drinks into stores, and they’re stackable. Then the jugs don’t take up very much room in Adams’ boat. Adams likes to have 50-60 pound test line coming off his jugs and attaches either a No. 5/0 or a No. 6/0 stainless-steel circle hook to each, when fishing for catfish weighing 20+ pounds, or a No. 2/0 or a 3/0 hook to catch eating-size catfish.

Adams fills the insides of some of the jugs with foam. “A big catfish can pull a jug down so deep that the sides of the jugs will collapse,” Adams explains. “By spraying foam in the jugs, I solve that problem. The foam creates more flotation.”

Adams baits his hooks with cut skipjack (a hickory shad) and with cut mullet (a saltwater fish that has a lot of oil in it and puts-off a strong smell). On some of his jugs, Adams uses an egg sinker above a swivel with about 18 inches of leader line below the swivel going to the hook.

According to Adams, “The weight helps the bait reach the bottom faster, and the swivel prevents the cat from rolling up in the line. When there’s little or no current, on some of my jugs, I won’t use any lead, and I’ll only have a swivel to keep the cat from twisting the line. So, when the catfish picks-up my bait, the fish won’t feel any resistance on the line, until it gets the bait well into its mouth. I’ll also put about three turns of electrical tape around my jugs to have a place to put the points of my hooks when I take in my lines. Putting the points of the hooks under the electrical tape keeps the line on the jugs from unrolling and gives me a good place to store my hooks after I’ve finished fishing. I’ll have reflective tape on the bottoms of some of the jugs. Then when I fish at night, I’ll put out the jugs with the reflective tape to make finding them easier.”

Adams tends to put his jugs out in a straight line on the edge of a river or a creek channel. He explains that “When I put my jugs on the edge of a river channel, the wind either will blow the jugs on top of the river channel or out over the river channel. The catfish will relate to that river channel, especially in the hot summertime, as well as in the fall when they’ll often suspend over a river channel. The easiest way to determine if you’ve got a cat on a jug or not is to put your jugs out in a straight line. Then when you start running your jugs, if you see a jug off to the left or to the right of that line, you know you’ve either caught a cat, or a cat has taken your bait. Most of the time, if a jug isn’t in that straight line where you’ve put it, it will have a catfish on it.”

Adams uses a fairly stiff BnM pole with a large bass hook attached to the last eyelet on the pole to pick up his jugs quickly and play a catfish down. “Then I can get the catfish to the surface quicker and get it up to the side of the boat. If the cat is so big that I have to turn loose of the pole to keep from breaking it, the pole will float back to the surface before the jug does.”

FISHING LIMB LINES, SET POLES AND YO-YOS ON SMALL STREAMS AND LITTLE RIVERS CLOSE TO HOME

fishing limb lines

Some of the most overlooked, highly-productive areas to catch plenty of catfish are in the thousands of small streams and little rivers throughout the nation. You’ll often find these streams close to home or within easy driving distance. Some of these waters may be no more than 20 yards wide. The fisheries section of your state’s department of conservation usually can tell you the location of small streams and little rivers that may hold catfish.

You can pinpoint catfish hotspots, like current breaks and boulders that form eddy pools on their down-current sides, from the banks of these small waters. Cast a live redworm out to the eddy pool, and you’ll instantly hook a catfish.

Another successful technique for fishing small waters is to float them in a canoe or a flat-bottomed johnboat equipped with a depth finder. Use the depth finder to locate sharp bottom breaks and underwater boulders. Once you’ve pinpointed these places, anchor upstream, and let your bait wash into these regions where catfish will hold. These underwater catfish hot spots often go virtually unfished and generally will hold plenty of cats for the catching. Small boat anglers enjoy using the Humminbird Helix 7 G3 Fish Finder with its clear, sharp underwater views for seeing 200 feet to each side of the boat and the PiranhaMax 4 that features a narrow and a wide beam for great detail, helping you identify catfish, the structure and contours of the bottom under the water.

Limblining

netting catfish on limb line

If you’re fishing down small rivers and creeks, you can fish for catfish by setting out limblines and set poles, also called bush lines, along the bank. By tying a line of braided nylon twine with a circle hook or straight hook of your size and choice depending on the size of the fish you are targeting. Bait the hook and tie the nylon braid to a solid tree limb that’s overhanging the water, you can fish a large area with a small amount of tackle to improve your chances of catching catfish. Always be sure the limb you tie your line to is green and not brittle. Since a nice-sized catfish will put pressure on a limb, the branch should bend and not break under that pressure. Also, set your lines at different depths to determine where the fish are. A shaking bush usually means a fish dinner.

Landing a big catfish on a limb line is much like landing a cat on a jug. Don’t try to wrestle the catfish to the surface with the line. Often the catfish will dive and either break the line or jerk it off the limb. Instead, gently lead the catfish to the surface, and slip your net under it.

Set-Poling

Set poles are similar to limb lines, except a set pole is a small limb or a river cane that has been sharpened on its big end and then stuck into the soft earth of the bank and baited. Remember with this method to position the pole at about a 45-degree angle, so that when the catfish takes the bait, the pole will bend and not pull out from the bank, while awaiting your return to check it.

Yo-Yoing

Yo yo fishing reel

Billy Blakely, a fishing guide on Reelfoot Lake near Tiptonville, Tennessee, on the Mississippi River near the borders of Kentucky, Arkansas, and Missouri, names Yo-Yos, which you can buy at Walmart, as: “The best catfish-catching machines in the world. On an average 4-6 hour trip, in the daytime or at night, each Yo-Yo will produce about 1 1/2 pounds of catfish. Yo-Yo fishing will produce catfish on almost any lake, river or stream in the nation. You can fish Yo-Yos for catfish in the South when the temperature soars over 100 degrees or through the ice in the North in winter’s below-freezing temperatures.”

A Yo-Yo, an automatic fishing reel produced by Mechanical Fisher, consists of a stainless-steel spring enclosed in a sheet-metal frame. The small circular device has a line attached to the top end that you use to tie the Yo-Yo to a green limb of a tree hanging out over the water. The lower end of the Yo-Yo contains 20 feet of coiled trotline staging with a snap swivel on the end of the line. To fish with the Yo-Yo, attach a No. 2/0 hook to the snap swivel, and put a small piece of shot lead 6 to 8 inches up the line from the swivel.

As you pull out the line on the bottom end of the Yo-Yo, the stainless-steel spring will coil tighter and tighter. When you’ve pulled out the desired amount of line to fish the water depth you want, you engage a small wire trigger on the side of the reel. The trigger holds the reel in place, and the spring inside the reel is coiled tightly. When a catfish takes the bait, it trips the trigger, causing the spring to uncoil quickly, which sets the hook and keeps tension on the line. As the catfish swims away from the Yo-Yo, the stainless-steel spring becomes even more tightly. When the catfish quits swimming, the spring jerks the line, pulling the fish back under the tree.

If you fish with the Yo-Yo instead of the standard limb line, the Yo-Yo will:

  • set the hook with a quick jerk,
  • keep constant pressure on the hook, preventing the catfish from escaping,
  • add more pressure to the line the further the catfish swims away from the tree,
  • keep the line from getting tangled in underwater logs and limbs by pulling the catfish up and away from the bottom each time it runs,
  • play the fish as it runs from the tree and then pulls the catfish back to the tree and
  • pull the catfish’s head up out of the water or near the surface to let you know you have a fish on the line, day or night.

Although some fishermen just grab hold of the line and swing the cat in the boat, serious catfish anglers know they’ll lose far fewer cats by sliding a dip net under them and using the dip net to bring them into the boat.

Trotlining

Catching catfish with trotlines is very fun and a great way to provide family and friends with some of the best table fare there is. While many anglers have their go-to ways of catching catfish, there are several timeless tips and tricks out there that may lead to many more fish on your trotline than the next angler.

Building a trotline for catfishing can prove to be a relatively simple way to catch a large amount of catfish with minimal effort. The supplies required to build your own trotline can all be acquired at Walmart and are relatively affordable for the yield of catfish they can all provide. A list of trotline supplies can be found here.

When it comes to catching catfish on a trotline, your trotline will only be as attractive as the bait you put on each hook. It is important to know that different subspecies of catfish prefer different types of food. Knowing which subspecies of catfish you’re targeting will help you determine what type of bait to use on your trotline. Some subspecies of catfish prefer live bait, while others prefer lifeless bait.

To see the catfishing equipment available at Walmart, visit www.walmart.com/Fishing.

Courtesy of Mossy Oak

WHAT ABOUT THE BIRDS?

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Editor’s Note: Wildlife management and green field plantings don’t have to be a one trick pony. In many places, green fields and wildlife plantings primarily are established to provide food for deer and harvest opportunities for hunters. However, your green fields can be more than just deer magnets. You also can use a green-field management program to provide food and habitat for wild birds, including turkeys, other wild birds and game birds.

AustinD3_llGreen fields are primarily planted to provide food for wildlife for the fall, winter and early spring, and in many sections of the country, green fields are planted primarily for deer. But don’t forget to plant for the birds in the summer. To have food for turkeys, quail, pheasants and doves, you’ll have to plant for them. May and June are the ideal times to plant food and provide nesting habitat and cover for wild birds. Most plantings for wild birds require 60-90 days to mature – particularly a 90-day window of frost-free weather for growing millet, sorghum, sunflowers and Egyptian wheat for birds. The Mossy Oak BioLogic line of wildlife plantings offers WhistleBack, which includes several different types of millet, including pro, so millet, hybrid pearl millet and brown top millet. These kinds of millet create small seeds on big tall stems. Each seed head has hundreds of seed on it, and these seeds are the perfect size for young bird food. If you plant Whistleback in May and June, these plants will establish themselves through the summer and early fall. By the late fall, these plants will begin to brown up and shatter, and the seed heads will drop seeds to the ground naturally.

To increase the amount of seeds for your birds and help put more food on the ground to hold birds on your property through the winter months, mow small strips through these crops. This planting is extremely beneficial, if quail are on your property. To keep quail on your property in the tough winter months, plant WhistleBack with tall plants. When winter hits, and the snow breaks down some of these plants, they’ll provide excellent cover for ground-nesting birds like quail and pheasants to hold under. And, during the winter when finding food is tough for wild turkeys, these plants will bend over, the seed heads will get close to the ground, and wild turkeys can scratch through the snow and get the seeds. So, planting Whistleback along the edges of your green field is a productive way to provide cover for the deer to come through to reach green field plantings. Too, the seeds from WhistleBack can help feed quail, pheasant and late season doves as well as turkeys.

Courtesy of Mossy Oak

The $500,000 Fish

Most of us have caught a few fish in our lifetimes and some of us are extremely passionate about fishing.   But have you ever caught one fish that was worth $500,000?

Well on Monday, the sportfishing boat Wolverine caught a 588.9 lb. blue marlin as part of the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, NC.  Being the first fish over 500 lbs., the team of anglers was presented with a check for $531,250 at the weigh-in.  The tournament will continue the rest of the week as teams’ battle for the largest blue marlin and other prizes.

This is the 61st annual Big Rock tournament with over 180 teams participating and a total purse of 2.87 million.  The odds of winning the mega millions lottery are about 1 in 258 million – the odds of winning the Big Rock are 1 in 181 this year.  Now you can get a mega millions ticket for $1 – the cost to enter the Big Rock is about $20,000 in entry fees and another $20,000 in expenses.

The tournament is a great experience for anglers and spectators.  Some of the nicest and most amazing boats in the world will be fishing in this tournament.  Maybe half will be handmade custom boats and most of these will have been made right here in North Carolina.  The craftsmanship and sheer beauty of these boats are amazing to behold.

You can monitor the daily fishing activities on the Big Rock website and Facebook.  Catch a day that they are bringing a large blue marlin to the scales and it is a sight to see.  You can get a chance to experience one of the true monsters of the ocean – up close.  This is the kind of fish that people hook, but the fish is simply so powerful that they take all of your lines or simply break it off.  A fish that beats you.  This is the fish amazed by the likes of Ernest Hemingway.

Once you experience the atmosphere of the “weigh-in”, see the beauty of the boats, feel the spirit of competition and the fantastic fish – you may find yourself dreaming of a $500,000 fish.

By Charlie Britt

HOW TONY ADAMS CATCHES WARM WEATHER CRAPPIE

Tony Adams of Eufaula, Alabama, can produce a three-person limit of crappie on Lake Eufaula in less than 4 hours, and you can too by following his recommendations for crappie fishing on many crappie lakes across the country.

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I’m strictly a structure fisherman when I fish for crappie. I look for underwater trees and logs and places where the current has piled-up limbs, sticks and brush and find those spots on my Humminbird Helix 12 depth finder. The small dots on my screen are crappie. I can see where those crappie are holding, perhaps on the edge of an underwater creek channel where it runs into the main river channel. I’ll have the underwater trees where I’ve caught the most crappie tagged as waypoints.

I also build crappie-fishing reefs out of 5-gallon buckets. I cut river cane and put those canes in a bucket, leaving about 10-12 feet sticking out of and above the bucket. Then I mix up and pour concrete into each of the 5-gallon buckets. At the locations where I’ll put these artificial reefs, I’ll generally place three buckets in the same spot and about 25 in a general area, spread out about 3-5 feet apart. By building these buckets during the week, I can take the new buckets with me every time I go fishing and create a new reef. They’re easy to load and unload out of the boat, they stand up straight on the bottom, and I sink these buckets in 20 feet of water. This way, the cane stands up at 8-10 feet off the bottom, and that’s the depth where I catch most of my crappie all year long. I have 250-plus reefs placed in Lake Eufaula.

Tony Adams crappieI try to create these cane reefs and brush shelters along the underwater river ledges and creek ledges and in the mouths of creeks. I sink these in various depths of water, so that I can fish them at different times of the year. However, we catch most of our crappie the most consistently during the summer months here at Eufaula when the crappie are holding in deep waterand ganged-up on the artificial reefs I’ve created.

Generally my clients, friends and family vertical fish either minnows, jigs like those from Big Bite or small spoons around these brush shelters I’ve built. I’ll have three rod holders set up on the front of my boat and three on the back of the boat. Two of the rods are rigged for tight-line fishing, and one rod is rigged up with a slip bobber, but I don’t put the stopper in that slip bobber to hold the bait at a certain water depth. I let the line go through the bobber and use the bobber as a strike detector. If we’re fishing tight lines with live minnows, once a crappie takes a minnow, the bite may be so light that you can’t see it, if you have the stopper in the bobber. However, by not having the stopper in the bobber, then you can spot easily the line moving from one side to the other side of the bobber. That’s when you can set the hook and catch the crappie. I fish with one to two No. 4 size shot lead(s), depending on the wind, up the line, and a No. 6 wire crappie hook about 8-10 inches below the lead with 4-6-pound test line according to how thick the cover is where we’re fishing.

An important factor to remember when you’re looking for brush and crappie hot spots is to know where the transducer for your depth finder is located on your boat. Then you can position your boat properly to catch the crappie you see on your depth finder. On my boat, the transducer is on the back, right-hand side behind the driver’s seat. So, when I see structure or fish on my depth finder, I know that the crappie are just behind the boat. I’ll throw my buoy over my head toward the left side of my boat. That way the buoy lands away from the fish, and I know which side of the buoy to let our lines down to catch crappie.

Often each of my anglers will catch 50 or 60 crappie in a 2-4 hour trip. But we only keep the largest crappie we catch, and release the smaller ones.

By: Tony Adams

Reach out to Tony Adams on Facebook to learn more and see his fishing photos. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD ROAD SYSTEM

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When a landowner is looking to sell his or her land, the goal is to appeal to the right buyer and settle on an agreeable price. However, understanding the market for a piece of land isn’t always easy, and the steps that sellers take to improve their property may or may not increase the overall sale price.

On the other hand, the one improvement that typically contributes greatly to a property’s value is a good road system. The simple truth is that if a property is difficult to access or traverse, it will not be as appealing to potential buyers.

Multiple benefits
Nathan McCollum, qualifying broker at Mossy Oak Properties Southeast Land & Wildlife in Tuscumbia, Alabama, noted a well-designed road system is a matter of safety, cost efficiency and increased value.

“A well-designed road system will improve the overall price of the property (value added practice), improve hunting success, decrease sale time, decrease wear and tear on equipment, make the property safer and help with fire control,” said McCollum.

The more roads a property has, the easier it is for landowners and prospective buyers to move around. Roads can also double as fire breaks, reducing risk and liability during controlled burns or in the event of a wildfire. In addition, cars, trucks, ATVs and farming equipment won’t break down as much because they will be driving on quality roads rather than on rough trails.

In the case of selling land, landowners must take into consideration how buyers intend to use the property. For instance, some are interested in land for its recreational purposes while others are focused more on agricultural investments. In either case, a good road system can increase travel access and benefit multiple types of buyers.

“For recreational purposes, access to all points of the property are critical in getting a top price,” McCollum noted. “Recreational buyers like to have lots of roads, whether it be for hunting, ATV riding, walking, horse riding, etc. More roads give the landowner the ability to move around the property in a way that makes the property feel larger than it is.”

Knowing the value of the property upfront
When factoring in a road system, the key to making a sale is the layout of the land and how well potential buyers are able to inspect the land before they make a final purchasing decision.

“Buyers have to be able to see what they’re getting,” said McCollum. “Uncertainty in the purchase benefits no one. Timber investment buyers like to see fewer, but higher-quality roads that allow access to the property during wetter periods of the year. More roads equals fewer timbered acres.”

To ensure they are getting what they wish to pay for, buyers should be able to drive around the property first. This is only manageable if a good road system is in place beforehand. And by making an investment in designing new roads, landowners can effectively increase the value of their land, thus raising the listing price.

Avoiding problems with the sale
If a prospective buyer sees that roads on the property on not in working condition, then they may fear their equipment breaking down or the future costs of fixing up the roads themselves

Courtesy of Mossy Oak Properties

BASIC BOATING SAFETY AND RULES OF THE ROAD

Boating is one of the most enjoyable forms of spring and summer recreation, whether it be fishing, skiing, tubing or just cruising the waterways. Like any outdoor activity, it comes with its potential hazards, not the least of which is collision with another boat. You can go a long way toward avoiding that with a better understanding of the rules of the road.

LOOK OUT!

It’s not only a good idea, it is required for you to always be aware of your surroundings. Every vessel must maintain a proper look-out at all times. On smaller boats that’s typically the driver, but an even better scenario is to have an additional set of eyes looking around while the skipper focuses on what’s ahead. When towing people on water skis or tubes it is required to have a look-out in addition to the helmsman.

STAY IN CONTROL

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Just like cars, boats must maintain a safe speed, which is defined as one in which the vessel can take proper action to avoid collision, and be stopped in an appropriate distance if necessary. Conditions and situations – like the seas, wind, current, traffic density, maneuverability of the vessel and visibility – often determine what a safe speed is. Some areas, such as moorages, marinas and near beaches and swimming areas may have specific speed limits, usually 5 mph or no wake. 

COLLISION

Most of the rules are designed to keep you from crashing. In addition to paying attention, maintaining a safe speed and staying in control, you must also make use of every available means to avoid collision. And the rules make it pretty clear if you’re not sure. When in doubt, you must assume risk of collision exists. And you must take early and substantial action to avoid it. It’s really common sense, yet somehow collisions still occur. Fortunately, we have more rules to help clarify.

RIGHT OF WAY

When I learned the rules of the road (and I don’t know why they’re called rules of the “road” if you’re on the water), boats involved in a crossing or overtaking situation were referred to as the burdened vessel and the privileged vessels, which seems pretty clear. Under the International Collision Regulations (or COLREGS), passed in 1977, those became the give-way and stand-on vessels. A little more vague, but you get the idea. So who has the right of way? It depends on the situation, and the vessel.

Meeting (head to head) – This one is easy (unless you’re from Great Britain) because you pass the same way you would with a car, altering course slightly to starboard (right) if necessary so the vessels pass port (left) side to port side. When in doubt, show the other vessel your port side.

Crossing – This one is pretty easy too. The vessel to the starboard has the right of way. Just remember: “right is right.” If at all in doubt, assume the other vessel has the right of way and alter your course early and substantially to starboard – never to port – to avoid collision.

Often there are situations when it’s still not quite clear who has the right of way. For those, there is a pecking order, depending on the type of vessel. One way to remember it is with the mnemonic device: New Reels Catch Fish So Purchase Some Often. This is the pecking order, in descending order of privilege.

  • NUC – A vessel that through some exceptional circumstance is unable to maneuver or Not Under Command. The best example is a loss of power or other mechanical failure.
  • RAM – A vessel Restricted in its Ability to Maneuver due to the nature of its work, like dredging or surveying.
  • CBD – A vessel Constrained BDraft requires greater depth to clear bottom and must navigate in the deepest parts of the channel. This does not apply to sailboats.
  • Fishing Vessel – A vessel engaged in commercial fishing with nets, lines or trawls that restrict maneuverability. Does not include trolling. 
  • Sailboat – A vessel that is powered exclusively by sail. If using a motor it then becomes a power vessel.
  • Power Vessel – Any vessel propelled entirely or partially by machinery. 
  • Seaplanes – You shouldn’t have to worry about them but it’s good to know the obligation to give way is theirs.
  • Overtaking Vessel – In any situation if you wish to overtake and pass another vessel you may only do so if there is no risk of collision. 

Never assume other boaters know these rules. Unfortunately, most don’t.

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Remember, as the skipper you are responsible for the safety of everyone aboard your vessel. Even the worst day of fishing is still a good day, provided everyone returns safely to the dock or ramp. Boat safely and be courteous.

By Capt. Bob Humphrey


Bob Humphrey is a U.S.C.G. licensed captain and a registered Maine guide who has been transporting passengers in one way or another since his teens.
 

4 EASY WAYS TO AVOID TICKS

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Ticks seem to be everywhere when I go hunting. I encounter them in the woods, bushes, high grasses and leaf debris. They need heat and moisture to survive and can sense heat and carbon dioxide from a nearby host animal. There are 80 species of ticks in the United States, but only about a dozen are considered a health threat to humans. 

The ticks I encounter the most are the deer tick and the wood tick. The deer tick is the only one of the two that can transmit Lyme disease. The wood tick can transfer Rocky Mountain spotted fever in some areas of North America and is the most commonly found tick in the United States. These ticks hatch from eggs in spring and become nymphs during their first year of life.

Blacklegged ticks (commonly called deer ticks) are the only ticks that carry Lyme disease. And not all of these ticks carry the disease. The tick larva are the most likely to transfer Lyme disease during the late spring and summer, if they become infected with the disease from host animals (commonly mice) once they start consuming blood. The young deer ticks are so small they are hard to detect when they attach themselves to your body. An infected deer tick must bite you for at least 24 hours to pass on Lyme disease. 

Several other tick-borne diseases to be aware of in addition to Lyme disease include: Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, Colorado Tick Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, Powassan disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), STARI and Tularemia. These diseases are regionally based so are not all present across the entire United States. The types of ticks that spread diseases are: American dog tick, deer tick, brown dog tick, Gulf Coast tick, Lone Star tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and Western blacklegged tick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Lone Star tick is primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States. White-tailed deer are a major host of Lone Star ticks. These ticks are identified by a white spot in the middle of their backs. 

Ticks are spreading across the United States. The CDC has a lot of great information, including maps and printouts to help hunters.
Easy ways to avoid ticks:

  • Wear protective clothing with long sleeves shirts tucked in to your pants.
  • Tuck the ends of your pants into your socks or boots to help keep them from getting underneath your clothing.
  • Use Permethrin spray on your clothing.
  • Keep dirty hunting clothes in your laundry room or stored away.
  • Take a shower when you come indoors.

By: Tracy Schmidt