A Friday in March

Since Clinton has been so good to us the past few weeks JJ and I got done with work today about 1:30 and decided to spend some time at the other office. We left the house about 2 pm with 65 degree temps and nice light southerly winds, we pulled up to the ramp it was 55 with a 20 mph north wind gusting the 30… Not what weather.com was predicting…

So we tried to make the best of what we had, we spend the next hour and half driving all over every protected piece of water we could find until we finally found a little piece of brush in 20ft of water that had a few crappie on the deep edge of it. We spent the next 2 hours fighting the wind and grinding on them to put 9 keepers and 20 throw backs into the boat. Tough day all around but still good to get out.

~ Nick

JJ with 2 over 13

JJ with 2 over 13

What came off the smoker when we got home.

What came off the smoker when we got home.

Electronics Electronics Electronics

Thanks to our wonderful Kansas winter we are having this year our annual Glen Elder trip was delayed until the middle of March. With the ice just coming off the lake on Tuesday we wanted to do our best to hit the water as soon as we could knowing that the crappie would soon be leaving their winter time breaks and headed to staging areas to spawn, this is known by many as the dreaded March disappearing trick. Last year by this time the fish had disappeared on us and where almost impossible to find, so with ice out being so late we where a little worried we might run into that this year even with the water temperatures being in the mid 30’s. Let me tell why we were worried: over the last 10 years of serious crappie fishing and talking to KDWP biologists I have really come to believe that the annual crappie spawn has as much if not more to do with the sunlight angle as much as it has to do with the water temperature. Last year we had really warm water very early but no shallow crappie to show for it. They wait until their usual time and dates to head shallow even though we had unusually warm water temps.

With the above ideas in mind the outdoorsman crew, (Adam, Eric, Jeff and me) minus Benton who had been on a long work trip, decided to take a few vacation days and head west to fish Glen Elder (Lake Waconda) for a few days. During planning time Eric had a heck of an outing on Monday at Clinton and with weather prediction out west to be unfishable for most of the day with a red flag wind warning we decided to stop off at Clinton on our way out of town for a few hours. We got to the lake about 9 am to find it glass calm with very few boats on it and just waiting for us! It didn’t take us long to unload the boat and head out where Eric left off beating the fish on Monday, but a quick run around using our new Garmin Down and Side VU scan showed us the fish had vacated the area minus a couple of nice walleye we kept. We spent the 45 minutes running around Clinton looking for fish on about every ledge with brush we could find but they just where not there. We finally found one pile that had a small school of fish on it that produced about 20 fish in 15 minutes which was fun but now what. As we where headed back to the ramp we found a school of suspended fish in 30 foot of water just off the bottom, let’s try em! Bingo, we had scatter fish and a few nice sized schools provided steady to hot action for the next two hours. Those results netted us 43 keeper crappie and 2 keeper walleye with orange and chartreuse the best color. About noon I mention to the boys we had a long drive in front of us, which was meet with what the heck are you thinking wanting us to leave this type of action. Kicking and screaming I was able to drag the guys off the lake in time to clean our fish and the boat so we didn’t transport any zebra muscles to a new lake.

Clinton "Pre" Trip

Clinton “Pre” Trip

With a few uncertain glances we got to Glen Elder about 5 pm and checked into the Fins and Feathers lodge in Glen Elder City. Quickly after stowing our gear we drove the 5 minutes to the ramp to be greeted by normal Glen Elder weather, 20 mph south wind and 4 ft rollers.  Crap did we leave great fishing to fight the wind and this I am sure I heard more than once. Let’s just say my wanting to leave Clinton early was not winning me any favors. It being what it is, we headed to the protection of the south bank. I am not going to lie, after spending the next 45 minutes looking at as many protected brush piles and breaks as we could find and not finding a fish on them I was getting worried about having to swim back to the ramp. As a last resort we head to a shallow break that went from 15 to 26 ft of water and hoped for anything. What we saw was not aw inspiring but there where a few fish tucked right up where the channel break and the bottom met. Fine, let try it. After a few minutes it happened, I got a solid thump and up came a 14-inch crappie. Adam thought that was awesome, until he caught back-to-back 15+ inch fish. This being his first trip to Glen elder he was bouncing all over the boat. The next 2 hours didn’t produce any great stretches of tons of fish but it was a stead grind of crappie. We ended up catching 26 fish over 13 inches! Finally I felt better; I am not crazy for dragging these guys out there for no reason. About sunset we packed it in and headed to the dock and after getting the fish cleaned we settle in for the annual no holds bared game of pitch. This year had Jeff and I playing Adam and Eric, we ended up both winning one game before we just had to call it a night.

Glen Pig

Glen Pig

Eric with a Day 1 Hog

Eric with a Day 1 Hog

Pitch Anyone?

Pitch Anyone?

Friday morning brought more 20 mph wind out of the north and cool temperatures. There is not much to say here, we spent the whole morning driving up and down about every ledge, break and channel there was on the lake looking for fish and we didn’t find one! It had happened, they left the breaks and they left the brush.  Time to regroup, so we packed up the boat and headed back to the lodge for a quick nap and an incredible fish fry from those Clinton fish.

The afternoon found spirit lifted with everyone full of food, predictions of the wind calming down and our batteries and coolers recharged. Off we went with ta new plan on taking the info we remembered on the28 we caught on Friday and trying to replicate today. On our second stop as we where working the break we noticed a few fish in the middle of the water column out in the channel, Eric brought is jigs up to the exact level of the fish and thump, there was a 15 inch crappie hanging out there.  Eric caught 3 more like that over the next 10 minutes but it being early we still wanted to try and find more school fish with more numbers. Again we spent the next 2 hours driving and fishing break after break to no avail. On our next to last stop of the day we noticed the same things as earlier. In the middle of the channel there where scatter fishing 10 to 15 ft off the break in 20 to 25 ft of water. This time we stopped and backed up to the fish and we all brought our jigs up to him. Thump Adam got him, and then it clicked for me. They have left the breaks and are just cruising the channel right now, they’re scattered! We decided then and there to change our plan with the wind laying to dead calm, we spent the next two hours slowly working up the river channel stopping everything we saw a fish on our electronics suspended in the water column. With our high quality Garmin electronics we could see our jigs on our graph so every time we happened upon a fish we would stop, back up and everyone would raise their jig to be in the fishes zone. More times than not that would produce a big Glen Elder Crappie. Finally a pattern! I can say we ended up catching 22 keepers over 13 inches that evening with 2 kicker walleye with almost all of them coming on white and chartreuse. Not one fish that we caught was on accident, we spotted, targeted and worked each fish we caught. It didn’t produce the most number of fish we have ever had a on a fishing trip but it did produce a wealth of new knowledge and experience that none of us had expected. I have to say as we headed back to the dock, we all felt like we had accomplished something today. We earned every fish we caught today, we looked at what the lake was giving us and made something out of nothing. We finished off the night with our rubber match on the pitch table with Jeff and I coming out victorious, a bad day turned golden.

Target Acquired

Target Acquired

Dose Piggies

Dose Piggies

Does it ever get old?

Does it ever get old?

Saturday morning greeted us with no wind and high hopes. Mother Nature had other plans and by 9 am the SW wind at 25 was in full affect. We just couldn’t get a good hold on the fish in the wind so after only catching a few we decided to pack up and headed home.  As we where pulling out of Glen none of us really wanted this trip to end so a plan quickly came together. Remember those fish we caught at Clinton, lets go see if they are still there. We pulled up to the lake about 2:45 knowing we had to be off the water by 6 pm in time to make it home for dinner, which was a short time to put something together on a lake. We quickly put the boat in and headed out to where we had left the fish a few days before, but quickly found it empty again. Off we went using the electronics to check the breaks but as with Glen Elder the fish just where not there. So why won’t the same pattern we used at Glen work on Clinton? Quickly Adam pulled into the channel and started working our way up and down the middle of the channel until we found them. We spent the next 2 hours trying to follow schools of fish up and down the channel using our lines, down vu, side vu and every other trick in the book. The end result was another 44 keepers in a short period of time.

A Jeff Slab!

A Jeff Slab!

 

My view for the weekend

My view for the weekend

This trip yielded the usual good times and stories but what we learned about the transitional patterns of crappie no matter the water temps really will leave a lasting impression on us for years to come.

 

~Nick

Clinton – 3/10

Monday afternoon was the first opportunity I’ve had to get out on Clinton since the ice has melted and it was even T-shirt weather to boot.  I drug my bass fishin’ buddy, Matt W. along with me to experience some winter time crappie fishing.  I think he may be hooked after the day we had.  I went to the only GPS point I had marked on the main river channel, dropped a marker buoy and we proceeded to hammer them all afternoon.  They were biting so well, we could afford to be selective about the ones we kept and in just a few hours had our 40 fish limit of 12+” crappie.

A nice 14" Clinton Crappie!

A nice 14″ Clinton Crappie!

On top of that, the big white bass and wipers must have also been hungry and we landed quite a number of those too.  All of the fish were caught in the same vicinity and you never knew whether each bite was going to be a crappie, white bass, or wiper.

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A 5-gal bucket full of Crappie and two full of Whites & Wipers

A 5-gal bucket full of Crappie and two full of Whites & Wipers

This is a short post, but the trip will live long in the memory bank ranking as one of the best outings I’ve ever experienced!!!

~ Eric

LaCygne – 2/22/14

Saturday the 22nd provided a rare but welcome mild weather day with air temps in the mid-40’s and fairly low winds making it a perfect opportunity for a trip back to the bridge at La Cygne for some more crappie action.  Here are some sonar pictures for you using Garmin’s new DownVu imaging features:

DownVu image showing Crappie next to the bridge and baitfish in the channel below

More schools of baitfish

More schools of baitfish

Understanding Sonar:

Although the above images make the bridge appear to be arched – it is not.  The bridge is flat all the way across.  The reason it appears this way is explained here.  The sonar from the transducer emits sound waves in a cone shaped pattern and listens for return signals.  The electronics calculate the distance (or depth) based on the time of flight from when the echo pulse is transmitted and received back from an object underwater:

Sonar Diagram

The sonar is picking up return signals from the bridge at multiple different points within the cone.  The echo returns from the bridge at the outer edge of the cone have to travel farther, taking more time, than the echo returns from directly under the boat.  The electronics measures the time of flight from the boat to points A and C to be longer and therefore farther away (deeper) than the signal path to point B and back.  Therefore, the resulting image on the screen shows points A & C to be deeper than point B which represents the actual true depth; making the bridge appear arched instead of flat.  This is basically the same reason that fish echoes appear as arches when the boat is moving.  The fish arch on the screen is made of up multiple signals all measured at different distances as the boat passes by the fish.

Another successful outing!

Another successful outing!

~ Eric

La Cygne – 2/3/14

Mother Nature is about to dump a foot of snow on us and lock up everything with freezing temperatures so Jeff & I made a quick trip out to the only open water we could find.  The water temperature at La Cygne was only 35 F but at least it was open and not covered in ice!  The air temperatures were hovering in the upper 20’s which made fishing a bit difficult due to the water freezing up in the eyelets of the rods, but since the wind wasn’t blowing too hard today, it was manageable enough for a quick afternoon outing.

You can clearly see the crappie suspended around the bridge in the DownVu and SideVu images

You can clearly see the crappie suspended around the bridge in the DownVu and SideVu images

We found our crappie out around the submerged bridge, however the targeted area was pretty small and keeping the boat positioned over the precise spot was challenging.  If the wind were any stronger, I’m not sure we would have done nearly as well.  We fished tandem jigs and kept up a pretty good pace of catching up until dusk when the bite fell off, just like the temperature.   The schools of crappie were dominated by the 9-10” size and we estimated that we caught about 120 total fish to end up with 30 keepers, over 10”.  Catching crappie is a good way to stay warm in freezing conditions!

Jeff braving the elements with a smile!

Jeff braving the elements with a smile!

A La Cygne Double!

A La Cygne Double!

~ Eric

Groundhog Day

I don’t know about you but this winter seems much colder this year.  To top it off that vile rodent is now predicting another 6 more weeks of this.  I’m thinking that Feb 2nd should mark the annual opening of groundhog season.  Hopefully some our fellow hunters in Pennsylvania will exact some revenge for me this winter on this creature of gloom.  What’s an outdoorsman to do in these conditions?  Make the most of it and prepare for better times I guess…  So I dug out the jig making kit and got productive stocking my tackle box with another batch of homemade jig heads for the upcoming season.

Jig Making

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Jig hooks, mold, melting pot, and some freshly poured jigs.

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Jigs with the sprue removed.

Painted jigs ready for baking.

Painted jigs ready for baking.

The finished product.

The finished product.

 

Ready to Fish!!!

Ready to Fish!!!

Required items

  • Jig Hooks, various sizes
  • Lead
  • Jig Mold
  • Lead melting pot
  • Pliers
  • Paint (if desired)

Tips

Make sure the mold is hot before pouring jigs.  Otherwise the lead will cool too quickly and not fully fill in the cavities completely, particularly if your mold has small barbs to hold the jig body.  Pour a couple of trial batches into the mold without any hooks to get the mold heated up.  The lead can simply be put back into the pot for re-melting.  Once the mold is hot and you can see that the full jig cavities are being filled, you are ready to begin.

When removing the sprues (the excess lead from the jig head), I prefer not to use any cutting tools as this leaves pinch marks in the head.  I found it easier and quicker just to grasp the sprue with some pliers and gently wiggle the jig back and forth with your other hand until it breaks free from the casting, must like breaking a paper clip.  This seems to leave the final product with a minimum amount of scarring and no touch up or sanding required.

If you choose to paint your jig heads, I recommend the powder type paint available at most outdoor supply stores.  Once the jig head is heated (by torch, stove, heat gun, candle, etc.) just quickly dip it into the powder and remove.  If the jig is hot enough the paint will quickly melt to a nice gloss over the lead.  Baking the final product in the oven for 20 min at 350 F will cure the paint for a more durable finish.  Be sure to remove paint from the eyes before baking.  It is much more difficult to remove after the paint has cured.

~ Eric

Puppy in the Snow

AGAIN!

AGAIN!

After I got done cleaning off the driveway this morning I grabbed our new puppy Paige and ended up playing a little fetch with her goose wing in the snow. This pup has no quite in her and she is going to be a blast to watch grow up!

Here she left some serious skid marks in the snow going Full Throttle after her wing that buried int he snow!!!

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Dakota and Paige

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What do you mean we need go inside?

What???

What???

Solo Sunday

With my family in town today I didn’t know what my afternoon would look like, so today’s hunt was a spur of the moment trip. The choice today, should I crappie fish or should I go set up and hope for a late evening flock of afternoon geese at the pond.

Well, goose season is almost over so I might as well give it a go. I hit the pond about 3:45 and by 4 pm I had my spread set up and shortly their after an endless string of snow geese started showing up. With the sun shining off their wings they made for quite the sight. As the string kept going they kept pushing closer and closer until finally the flight path came right over the pond. Dakota and I waited until a group came over just at treetop and a little to low. I was able to shoot twice and pull a nice mature snow out the line of geese. Dakota was more than happy to do her part of the job running out on the ice and bring back her prize.

Her Prize

Her Prize

An Endless Line of Birds

An Endless Line of Birds

With sunset at 5:30 tonight and a cold front moving in at the exact same time (the temperatures here in KS went from 60 when I showed up to 42 when I left and a low of 5 tonight) the geese really started moving about 5 pm. My first look at a Canada goose tonight was when a group of 4 locked up over the field just to the east of me and started heading my way. When birds cup up you get the rush, oh ya, it’s ON! But this time they turned into the wind and landed in the corn field 150 yards away. No worries, I can just hope a group over shoots them and wants to hit the water. For the next 15 minutes I watched the show as Ducks, Canada Geese and Snow Geese all made a quick stop for dinner.

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As I was watching another group of geese work into the corn a pair of birds pulled off the flight path and started toward the decoys. They pulled a group of 6 with them and about 100 ducks. The pair came in and landed on the far side of the decoys on the ice but the 6 kept coming and tried to land right where they should, 15 yards in front of me. Somehow I missed my first shot but connected on the next two. What a way to end the week. 16 Canada’s (one banded, one Quill Lake goose) and a bonus snow!

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Dakota and Her Prizes

Mature Snow

Mature Snow

~Nick

Two Firsts for the Year

After breaking the losing streak last weekend, I had a feeling things had finally turned for the better for us for the 2013-14 waterfowl season. Truth be told it hasn’t been much fun this year, grinding on low numbers and things where getting almost stressful in the blind. When Saturday morning rolled around I just had a feeling something good was going to happen. Chip Vanhouden, Gary Mellard and Jason Surface joined me at one of my favorite honey holes in the NE corner of the state for a morning set.

The start of a great day!

The start of a great day!

As we pulled up in the morning we where all flabbergasted to see the pond had stayed open from the weekend before… Two nights this week had been in the single digits so to pull up and have almost a full acre of open water had to be a good sign right? We proceeded to put out a moderate sized decoy spread and hunker in for the morning, hoping for the best.

About 9:30 in the morning the first group of about 15 birds came over us, circled once and dumped right into the decoys! Thus the problems started here and developed into the theme for the day, the dog broke. Dakota knowing she didn’t have her shock collar on decided that once the first bird hit the water it was time to shoot, the only problem was most of the birds where still high… Gary didn’t shoot and the other three of us pulled three birds out of what should have been a 6 or 7 bird kill. Now they say in every gray cloud is a silver lining or in this case a silver bling lining. Dakota came trotting back with a big old Canada in her mouth that was banded. First one out of our blind this year!

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The next group worked much like the first and the sadly the same thing happened with Dakota taking an early start that caused a murder to be turn into one bird… Car time!! She didn’t like and it was my fault for not having her collar on her but she spent the next hour in time out up at the truck.

Shortly after Dakota got put in time out a nice 3 pack came in and two stayed with us. (Video below)

While cleaning these birds up off the ice we had a group of geese come over and try to land but as theme of the day goes, Gary’s pup Riley was out on the ice chasing a crippled goose. The birds cupped and tried to come in three times with Riley running after her bird but finally the birds gave up and headed on, that could have been 6 or 7 more easily. As Riley was finishing up her fetch a single goose came over the decoys at about 60 yards, knowing it wasn’t going look at us with the dog out I rose up and took a clean kill on a long shot. This day was turning into the day of what could have been.

As the morning wore on the snow geese kept flying over but the Canada’s seem to have stopped. As we where debating picking a group of 8 Canada’s dropped out of the snows and started working us. They took one look cupped their wings and came right into the kill hole. Guns blazed and in the end 7 of the 8 birds stayed. Including what we believe to be one of the rare Quill Lake geese. Chip got this amazing video of it all.

http://vimeo.com/85049761

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When the smoke cleared and the day was done we ended up with 14 geese for 4 guns, one band and what I believe to be a Quill Lake goose. Good Karma brought no ice and solid birds… One of our best days of the year.

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When we got home my new puppy Paige was more than excited to see all the birds and spend the next 20 minutes fetching her own goose wing that she proudly trotted around with.

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~Nick

A day on the Water with Brent Chapman

Contributor to the outdoorsman Travis Perret recently spent the day on the water fish and filming with Brent Chapman breaking in his new Boat!