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Frigid temperatures and thick ice can make walleye angling more of a challenge, but if you know how to approach them, you can take home a stringer full. Winter walleyes can be finicky and the bite can be light. The cardinal rule for catching winter walleyes is finesse. Walleyes will spook easily and their sense of caution makes them over sensitive to overhead noise and vibrations on the ice. A snowmobile passing by where an angler is catching fish can end the bite as easily as a cold-fingered fisherman dropping an ice awl. Make sure your tip-up reels runs smoothly so that walleyes won't feel any resistance when they pick up the bait. Using a lightly-hooked minnow with only a split-shot or two is a good rule of thumb. Try artificial baits like a Bay De Noc Swedish Pimple, a small Eppinger Cop-E-Cat or a Luhr Jensen Crippled Herring. Tip one of the hooks on your lure with a minnow or part of a minnow to make it even more tempting. Keep line in the 8- to 10-pound test range in the shallows. For deeper water graduate to a braided super line for greater sensitivity to a light bite.
One of my major objectives in life is the pursuit of secret fishing tricks, those kind that are not known by anybody, especially, my fishing peers. Each June I am involved in a trout tournament at Crowley Lake. The collective point for all the participants is Bishop California where most of us (200) stay at the Outdoorsman Motel.
After the first days fishing I was having dinner at one of the local restaurants and a Paiute Indian girl was my waitress. How did I know? I asked her! My best fishing buddy, Jed Welsh, is 91 years old , grew up in the eastern Sierras and is a very experienced trout fisherman. He once told me the Paiutes were hunting and fishing the Sierras before the white man and they knew every secret to catching trout. They never shared any secrets with the white man though, and they donıt to this day. But my Indian waitress confessed to me that ant eggs were automatic trout catchers and thatıs all she used for the local trout. I should have known better. The ants are those super big ones that come out on the forest floor during the morning and evening hours and disappear through the heat of the day. She said to take a shovel and turn over the ant nest. When the ants come hustling out of the pile carrying the eggs, grab them and collect the eggs. You guessed it, they bite and they bite with gusto. When you fought the ants to get a few eggs the next problem showed up. When I tried to put the ants on the hook it was virtually impossible to get them to stay on. It was much like trying to hook onto a droplet of wet mud. Yes! A retributive Paiute had taken me.
Later my old buddy told me how to hook those eggs onto the hook and how to avoid those painful bites. To avoid the bites you use a large matchbox container, the kind where the inside slides back and forth. With the box slid closed, cut 1/2 holes in each side. Place the box next to the turned over nest. The ants will frantically look for a shady spot for their eggs
and enter the box to deposit the eggs. When the box fills up with eggs you are ready to go fishing if you can get them on the hook. My old buddy Jed, paid a price to the Paiutes to gain the secret of eggs and hooking. Two old Paiutes sold him the secret by making him bite the pinchers off a Pine Beetle Grub, chew it up and swallow it. He confesses that it wasnıt bad at all. It tasted like a piece of Pine bark and besides it was certainly worth it.
When fishing in dirty water, (brown-tide or wind churned) fresh dead or live bait will produce better than artificials. In these conditions the fish will feed by smell rather than by sight. Natural bait produces the scent to attract the fish. If you insist on using artificials, then add a scent to them. Bunker oil is a good one to try. Chumming also will bring the fish to your offering. Anchor and chum with bunker or clam. Use fresh bait on the hook. You can catch any kind of fish that swims using this technique.
Soon now the spring crappie bite will arrive. It might come earlier before later with all this warm winter weather. Lets hope so, 'cause I'm raring to hit Lake Elsinore again. Last year, yours truly got into a hot bite with the crappie even though I was about a week late. The previous week they caught hundreds of crappie, let's amend that, some guys got hundreds....Those that knew what they were doing. The age old axiom you must follow is to use tackle that works for that particular fishing spot. My first trip was a bust because I insisted on using my traditional yellow and white mini jig. I caught a couple but that was all. After observing what the veterans were doing and using, I came prepared the next week and even though the spawn was over I landed 10 fish close to 2 lbs.
The Lake Elsinore crappie wanted large red and white or green and white jigs. But the answer was to present the bait correctly. The north end of Elsinore is a virtual jungle of tree tops and bushes mostly in the perfect depth of 8 feet deep. The guys that really got them used long 14-15 foot rods, I think they were the telescoping type. They manually pulled their boat around by grabbing the tree tops. They stopped periodically and plunked their jigs down the tree tops fishing the area completely in a circle. Once the bite stopped at each place they moved on another 20 yards or so. These guys absolutely "slayed" the crappie. I saw them catch and release 25 fish in a period of 30 minutes.
I went home with a plan for the next week. Yes, I was going back prepared. I tied up some jigs using the ice jig principle. You know, the jigs they use through the ice in the North. The jig hangs off the line parallel to the bottom and doesn't dangle with the hook bend down. They worked very well for the ten fish I caught and I didn't have a telescoping rod. This year I have one. If you are a fly tier this is the Lake Elsinore jig and how I did it.
1. Twist off about about 1/4 inch of a straight pin leaving a nub on the break point. This nub helps to hold the pin in position. Tie the pin onto the shank of #4,#6 or a #8 1x long, bent down eyed, hook. The pinhead should be at least 3/8- 1/2 inch in front of the hook eye.
2. Tie on weighted eyes after attaching the tinsel at the rear of the hook. Wrap in a crisscross manner tightly then soak it with head cement.
3. Crimp a small 1/4 inch long piece of strip lead a little behind the eyes, and attach the chenille just behind the eyes. Wind the thread to the nub.
4. Tie in marabou and finish just behind the eyes. Wrap the chenille to the nub. Wrap the thread to the eyes.
5. Wrap another chenille layer back to the eyes.
6. Wrap the tinsel in a rib pattern back to the eyes.
7. Whip finish and soak it with cement. If you use bait hook the worm (grub) and thread it up to the nub of the pin. Assuming that the worm or grub is about 1/2 inch long, the whole worm or grub should be impaled on the hook with no part hanging behind the hook bend. The idea is that it's only there to add a scent and not there to add action. Also if dangles behind the hook it obstructs the feather action.
8. Hanging position like ice fly's.
9. Different colors.
How many times have we all gone to our favorite body of water and used the same lures we have used for the past 20 years. It doesn't matter what species of fish you're after. Most anglers will say, “They still work”, I always catch fish on this lure. This is my bread and butter bait. I feel confident with this bait. When all else fails, I go to old reliable. I have some of my own. “You know what," they do still work. Are you catching the quantity of fish that you used to? Is the size of the fish getting smaller? I believe the fish are becoming smarter. This is especially true for the large fish that have been around for a while in a body of water that is fished heavily. They see the same thing day after day. The Big Hawgs, (over 10 pounds) become more aware of the bait. They become a lot harder to fool.
As with any bait, the presentation is the key. The plastic worm is my bread and butter bait. It will always catch fish. Once again, it is the presentation that is the key. You need to figure out what is working. Sometimes you need to Texas rig your worm and fish it very slowly. Other times the presentations needs to be fast. This is the same with the Carolina rig.
About a year ago there was a new technique introduced into the United States form Japan. The technique is called “Down Shooting”. You may ask, what is that? It is a very simple and effective technique for fishing the plastic worm. “Down shooting” has become very popular in Southern California and on the tournament trial. I heard about the technique and like most people was reluctant to give it a try. The old Texas and Carolina rig was working just fine. I was catching fish the way I always have. Every tournament that I participated in, I keep hearing the heavier limits were being taken on the “Down Shot” rig. I had the pleasure of watching a fellow tournament angler land a 11.75 pound bucket mouth 20 feet away from me on the “Down Shot” rig. It took me 3 tournaments before I give in and give it a shot. The next practice round both my son and partner Eric; gave it a try. I was amazed at the results. Not only did we catch a good quantity of fish, but also quality. The first time we had over 20 fish to 6.25 pounds. Lake Casitas is a very well known lake for big bass and experiences a lot of fishing pressures. The more we fished the “Down Shot” rig, the more confidence I became with the technique. We put a lot of quality fish in the boat. The next tournament we participated in, we used the “Down Shot” rig. It was great, our catch rate increased by 65% over the Texas and Carolina rig. Our big fish was over 6 pounds. The wining team and top 3 big fish where all taken on the “Down Shot” rig.
The “Down Shot” rig is very simple. It consist of a small wide gap worm hook attached to the main line with a palomar knot (hook facing up) and a bell sinker attached to the tail end under the hook. The size of the hook depends on the size of the plastic worm that you are using. For 3'' to 4'' worm I prefer a #1 Owner Rig N Hook or a #1 Gamakatsu wide gap. For the 5'' to 7'' worm I prefer the #1/0 Owner Rig N Hook or a #1/0 Gamakatsu wide gap. Make sure you do not use to large of a hook for it will hinder to movement of the worm. The weight of the bell sinker depends on the depth your fishing. For water depth up to 20 feet I prefer a 3/16 to 1/4 ounce and from 25 to 40 feet I prefer a 3/8 to 1/2 ounce. Set your bait up off the bottom 4'' to 6'' in the sticks and rocky areas. If you are fishing in the weeds set your bait just above the weed height. Shake your worm right through the weeds. My worm of choice for the “Down Shot” rig is the 4'' and 6'' Deadly Duo Plastic Worm. You can use both the straight or curly tail. The Deadly Duo brand is very soft and has great action when shaken. Try your own favorite worm.
The presentation is very simple. Make a cast the same as a Texas or Carolina rig. Let the sinker-hit bottom. Shake the “Down Shot “ rig up and down, pull the worm to towards you slowly. Lift your rod tip about 2 to 4 inches at a time. Use a steady shake. This is about the same motion as shaken a Texas rigged. What you will find is that the fish will either hammer the bait or you will just fell the line just load up. When you get bit, set the hook at once. If you fill your line load up set the hook. I can't tell you how many times I had a fish on and thought it was a stick or a rock. The more you use the “Down Shot “ rig , the more feel you will develop. When using the longer worm, you will find that some fish bite the worm in half. You will miss a few fish with the longer worm. With the smaller worm you will not miss as many fish. I have fished with both sizes and believe the longer worm has a lot more action and gets bit more often. The fish in the pictures where all taken on the 6'' worm. The largest fish went 8 pounds.
This is a great technique. Give it a try and you will be amazed at the results. Give it some time and don't give up to soon. As with every technique, you can add a little of your own special touch to suite your own stile of fishing. The “Down Shot” rig works great in Southern California. I would like to hear back on how it has worked for you. Send me a picture or two of your trophy.
Whole clams threaded on a hook will catch striped bass. Many tackle shops sell shucked whole skimmer clams for bait. The problem is however, when clams are frozen and then thawed, they become soft and are easily torn off the hook. I like to thaw the clams a day before fishing and mix them with a good helping of Kosher salt. The salt will toughen the tissue considerably making it very difficult for the fish to steal your bait. The salt does not seem to reduce the attractiveness of this bait. Any leftover salted clams can be refrozen and thawed again without seriously hurting the quality. I always have a couple of boxes of Kosher salt handy for this purpose or just for making up a brine solution for rinsing fillets. Some bait and tackle shops do carry salted shucked skimmer clams
The new braided fishing lines are truly modern miracles. "SpiderWire", "FireLine", "Magibraid Spectra" to name some have diameters so small that their line testing 20 LB breaking strength has the diameter of regular 6 LB test monofilament.
To most anglers the search for small fishing line is a prime objective. Small diameter lines allow their live bait to swim around more naturally and be less visible to their targets, yet afford the strength to pull them out of the structure.
But these lines have some drawbacks that anglers have to consider.
1. The line is so hard and sharp you must wear protective covering on your fingers to avoid line cuts. They cut without pain, until later when you discover them.
2. This line is capable of grooving the hardest of any rod guides. In fact most bill fishermen use only roller guides with the new line.
3. The line has been known to cut through anchor rope while attached to a swift running long range tuna.
4. Kinking is another problem. It's difficult to cast the line, and if you do, you cannot backlash. Any backlash will cause a kink that will severely weaken the line. Most anglers do not cast the line (in the ocean) unless they are very good.
5. Correct knot tying is important. In fact it's critical that only certain knots are used. Most fishermen add monofilament leaders to the new line and do so with an "Albright Knot". Even with an "Albright ", you must wind one inch of wrap back to the loop before pulling it tight. Normally, with mono you tie only 4-6 wraps before you snug it down.
6. Some anglers tie hooks directly to the new line. In this case most anglers use a "Palomar Knot" taking great care not to twist the knot during the wrap.
Even the expense of the line does not distract from its' usefulness. It is amazing in that it doesn't stretch, its' thin diameter cuts water drag and it is very durable.
Find a five gallon plastic bucket with a locking top. Drill 7/16 holes approximately every two inches in the walls, top and bottom. Place about 3 inches of golf ball size stones in the bucket for ballast. The eels really like to wiggle in between the rocks. Tie a line to the handle and suspend the bucket from a dock or your boat. Keep it down near the bottom where the water is cool. Don't worry about feeding them. Lots of little tasty creatures will drift in through the holes and provide them with snacks. I have kept eels this way for up to two months.
Remember how last winters halibut bite took all by surprise? I sure hope it repeats itself. Here is a couple of fishing tips that might help you to catch more and bigger flatties. This applies to when you are fishing from a boat.
1. Use as light of a running line as you can for the depth of the water or the application. For instance it takes heavier line to drag across the bottom in the wind or current because the bump and drag of the heavier sinker takes a toll on the knots. If the wind is really howling sometimes you need 6 ounce sinkers to keep the bait on the bottom. But if you anchor you can use 2 ounce sinkers in the same location, so the use of light lines can be utilized, if you want to do that. Heavier sinkers bouncing across the bottom is a popular approach used by most sportboat skippers and it is highly effective. The technique is called "Bounce- Balling". I prefer to anchor and drag my bait back, inching it along at a snails pace. I use tournament #12 pound running line tied to a three way swivel.
2. From the other two parts of the swivel a sinker line and a dropper hook are tied. The important thing about this rig is that you make each of the lines that hold the sinker and the hook the same length.(donıt ask me why) I like to make them about 24 in long. The line test of hook leader then can be adjusted to the conditions which is usually dependant on the bottom depth. In waters to 15 feet I like to use 8-10 pound test leaders. Many times I have used 4 pound test line off the swivel but the water is that shallow depth just behind the breaker line or up to a rock jetty. Remember also, that the longer the leader the less likely it will break. This set-up is the one that the hot anglers have used in Santa Monica Bay for years.
3. Hook size is extremely important, especially when the hook is dropped off on this kind of rig. Basically the hook should fit the bait. If the hook is too big it invariably turns around and sticks back into the bait burying the point so it canıt penetrate your halibutsı mouth. You have to adjust the size so that the very, very little hook bend can be seen coming out of the bait.
4. Last, use chrome torpedo sinkers. They are expensive but Iım convinced they make a difference.
If you troll for tuna on the near-shore grounds, in the area from 20 to 40 miles, make sure that you have some smaller lures in your trolling spread. Bonita, small tuna and dolphin like the smaller lures. One ounce feathers in red/white and cedar plugs are real hot. I fish them in the second and third wake behind the boat and troll at 8 knots. This combination has worked very well. I also troll a few big lures farther back and they have accounted for most of the bigger fish. However, if you don't troll the small stuff you will miss out on a lot of action.
The Bobber, - a fish bite detecting device, is really neat to have, but is it necessary?
The answer is, “Not in all Applications”. As the avid Ice Fisherman knows, fish bite detectors come in many shapes and is often un-noticeable. The device can be built right in to your fishing equipment and be virtually invisible to the untrained eye.
First we will start with the bobber. The bobber was invented in the last two hundred years. The first was a stick tied to the string the next was a piece of cork then came the plastic then finally the poly-foam. Of those previously mentioned, all are still in use today. Yes even the stick, though you wouldn't recognize it.
To name a few types;
Stick Bobber – long and slender with a rounded barrel or egg shape in the middle that if used with out weights will lie on its side, standing up on end when some thing has a hold of the line below. When used with weights, will stand up, zipping under the water when the bait has been taken. Not used for Ice Fishing can be if you isn't got nothing else.
Bubble usually clear plastic and is often used for its stealth, is not usually used for ice fishing, but can be in a pinch.
Slip Bobber is the most commonly used bobber among Ice Fishermen for its practicability, (Fast and easy to change depths) there is a large variety from spring loaded round (push button plastic) to wood or foam with the line passing through the center and held in place by a dowel. It is a good idea to match your weight to your bobber, you don't want your bobber floating at the bottom of the lake
Other bite detecting devices The ever popular thumb wiggle under the water method. Works well with pike. Unfortunately those gills, perch and crappie just cant get their mouths around it.
Flag most commonly used with the tip-up, maid from spring steal (or spring loaded in some cases) has a brightly colored patch of cloth/plastic that pops up requesting your attention.
Electronic Beeper Used on tip-ups at night to alert Ice Fishermen the possibility of a “fish-on.”
Ultra Sensitive Spring Tips These little devices made of spring steel, approximately 3-6 inches in length are attached to the pole. (Temp/Permanent) The line is beaded through the eyehole. (Can be placed above or below the tip eye) This sensitive little device will detect even lightest of bites, moving ever so slightly you can see the action.
Ultra Sensitive Pole Tips are built right in to the pole not requiring any other devices for visual bite detection.
The Noodle Pole is in it self, “the bite detector.” The pole will bend right over as with its name like a wet noodle.
Tip Down is actually a precision pole holder, balancing the pole at just right point so that when a fish bites the pole tip drops towards the hole exposing the handle for easy grabbing.
The Jingle Bell Used more for night and river fishing is not commonly used. Can be if you are not in to watching your pole.
My all time favorite fish bite detector is the “KID”screaming, “I got one! I got one!” alerting the whole lake that the fish just became active again!
Considering that one of the most important connections an angler has to a fish is his or her fishing line, starting off the season with last season’s line still on your reels is not a good idea. Whether your target is walleye, bass or panfish, fresh fishing line will ensure you get the best performance from your presentations, not to mention you'll be more apt to end the fishing trip with stories of great catches instead of tales of the "one that got away".
For you walleye anglers, most of the early season action is typically centered on jigging. This means your spinning tackle should get first priority. When it comes to lines for jigging, no-stretch “super lines” or braided lines are tough to beat. These lines feature thin diameter for their pound-test weight and great sensitivity, allowing you to feel every bite. If you are an angler that prefers monofilament style lines, stick with lines in the 6 or 8 pound test range. Monofilament offers a little more stretch for fighting big fish and are generally much less expensive than the braided varieties.
Pay close attention when spooling your reels making sure the line does not twist as it goes on the spool. To make sure you put the right amount of line on each reel, spool the line on until there's about an eighth of an inch of spool lip visible.
Don't start your fishing season off on the wrong foot. Spool up with fresh fishing line and be ready to land the big ones.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|