Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Weather and Bass Fishing Heating Up

Weather has been downright cold for most of March and April, but it is just now starting to heat up! Despite the unusually cold spring, the diehards have been out catching very large bass!!

Chad Fargher (the local fishing guru) has been out twice to HighRise Lake at the Giant Goose Ranch and both times out he caught monster bass! Here is a pic of the first from April 9th:

Here is a pic of his second Hawg from April 15th. This fish was big and thick!

Chef Todd was fishing with Chad and helped him land the beast:

Chef also got on the board with a respectable bass of his own:

It seems like everything is just about a month behind this spring. Mushrooms were about done this time last year, and they havent even begun yet this year! I think its gonna happen soon though if the 10 day forecast holds true!

Last weekend we had our Open House out at the Goose Ranch and about 300 people came out and toured the property and went over the plans for our vision for the place! I was thrilled with the turnout and the feedback!! Thanks to all who came out!

So anyhow if you've been reading the last few blog posts lately, you've obviously read alot about the Goose Ranch.... well, I dont really know what to say or write otherwise, because a good portion of our time and thoughts and experiments and sweat and daydreams are now spent out at the Ranch. Everything that we have experienced and learned up to this point is being put to use in creating and managing the ultimate family fishing, hunting, camping, and outdoor recreation area.

So far we have had over 250 families sign up to join us in creating perhaps the greatest family outdoor adventure ever! We knew the demand for family opportunities for spending time together outside was great, but we never anticipated this much support and for things to move quite this fast. I encourage you if you haven't already to read our mission statement and explore our website, go on the aerial tour and come on out for a real tour.

Our maximum capacity is 500 families and I am kinda thinking that at this pace we just may get there in this just our first year!! The natural resources at the ranch are second to none, our management plans for the lakes are cutting edge, the amenities and infrastructure is under construction and the best part of the whole deal is that me and my brothers and our staff do all the hard work. You and your family just come on out and enjoy a world class property. The ranch is 828 acres with 52 lakes and ponds!

I guess while I am rolling along about the goose ranch, another thing really cool is that our neighbors to the west are WeeMaTuk Golf Course. We will be adding all kinds of amenities to the goose ranch like a big swimming pool, beach, stable, big garden, shooting range, pavilions, hiking trails, etc for the people that dont like to fish all the time, but having a golf course next door is a pretty sweet amenity to have as well.

Not to mention the location in relation to Canton's amenities cant be beat either! Just 4 miles to all the conveniences, restaurants and businesses in town!! And only 1.5 miles from the Canton airport!

Also one last cool thing to note is that we are creating a cabins only section where folks can have their own little private lake front log cabin instead of having to have a camper to enjoy the property. This has definitely been the highlight of the spring putting together this opportunity. We have sold 34 log cabin sites already before we even had the first log cabin model completed! Most of the log cabin sites are lakefront, but the premier ones on ski lake and spool lake are going the fastest.

So anyhow now we have the first model cabin completed and it is definitely the ultimate way to "camp"! Our base model is 14x24 cabin with a 10x14 loft and the pricing for these camping cabins starts at $22,900. The biggest cabin we will do is a 14x36 with 2 bedrooms and 2 lofts. The cabins are custom designed and then built on skids, but privately owned by you. The cabin lots are leased by the year and the lease fee includes water, septic, garbage, and membership to the whole property, but you have your own electric meter. Basically its just like a traditional seasonal campsite only with a camping cabin instead of an RV or Camper.

Here are some pictures of the model cabin while under construction and also during the open house last weekend. These cabins are portable and beyond awesome for not just the goose ranch, but any property:

These pics were during construction so forgive the mess, but gives you a good view:

Girls workin hard at the open house, with a view of the loft. Two beds are up in the loft:

Little peak of the bedroom and bathroom:

Kinda blurry pic of the kitchen:

Another blurry pic, but will also have to do:

Great room with wood burning stove:

Deck with bench seating out the back:

You can see our open house last weekend was busy!!

Definitely the "camping" cabin is the ultimate way to get your family out camping! We packed alot of stuff into that little cabin.... Also here is a pic of the newly renovated office, campstore, baitshop, bathrooms, and laundry room:

The Goose Ranch is not only where you will find us working in the future, but we will also be spending our summers "camping" and spending time with and teaching our kids about the outdoors here as well. This is only the beginning of basically a new chapter! If you havent already, come on out to check this place out. We also have a Goose Ranch Facebook Page where we put all the updates of stuff happenin and fish pictures, etc.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March is Usually Big Bass Time

Well, traditionally March is Big Bass Month. This year March was mainly still ice fishing month, but in the bottom of the ninth inning Chef Todd and Tim McCoy got out before April 1 and caught a handful of big bass out of the big lake at the Goose Ranch.

After they tangled with and observed lots of the newly stocked brook and rainbow trout swimming around the big lake slurping up bugs on the surface; Chef said that for the first time in his life he is now contemplating getting a flyrod! These brook trout are pretty now, but they will be super pretty with their fall spawning colors!!!

The trout serve a dual purpose in this 80' deep crystal clear 121 acre lake. First purpose is to create an awesome bonus cool water fishery for flyfisherman and folks looking to catch something different here in Central Illinois. The second purpose of these fish is to help grow state record largemouth bass. Yep, I went and said it. We are gunning for not only the state record, but for the Midwests only viable population of double digit bass. We will be stocking 5000 8-10" trout every spring and fall into this lake.... It doesnt take an 8 lb bass very many trout snackers to turn into a monster!!

Anyhow even though March was a bust for bass fishing, it looks like April and even May are going to be on FIRE... I really won't get a chance to get out fishing at all in April, so hopefully yall will send some pics of some big prespawn girls to help get me through this month! I actually have a shot at fishing in April on April 21 up on Lake Erie. I will be working for Mark1sportfishing  electrofishing and setting up a fish plan for their private lake right on the banks of Erie and if time allows we are gonna try to head out and catch a few walleye for dinner!

There arent many cracks in the schedule until then to get out fishing for me, but if you do go out fishing, fish just a bit slower than usual. The water temps are still cold and the fish will eat, but they wont chase too far to get your bait. Get it in front of them and keep it there as long as possible.

If for some reason you arent fishing on Saturday, April 12th come on out to the goose ranch for our open house. My brothers and I would love to show you around the ranch and talk about the plans for the place. The ranch is exactly 1.5 miles west of the Canton Prison, just turn left onto goose ranch road and drive on in!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Winter Fish Kills 101

If you know people with lakes and ponds around Central Illinois, then odds are you know people who have had some fish die following this long, cold, snowy winter... I have been investigating fish kills pretty much daily for the last couple weeks.

Anyhow here is a summary of what goes wrong in the winter and also some answers to frequently asked fish kill questions.

When snow sits on the ice, it blocks the sunlight from getting into the pond. Without sunlight, there can be no life. When the sun is blocked for extended periods of time, the plants and algaes which normally give off oxygen, actually start dieing and using up oxygen.

Typically in winter fish kills the biggest fish in the ponds die first because they require more oxygen. Also not all areas of the ponds (especially irregular shapes) have the same oxygen content throughout. There can be some dead zones and some live zones in ponds.

Fish species that utilize the lower half of the water column usually also die first. Small fish less than 4" and crappies especially usually dont die unless the oxygen depletion gets real bad. Turtles and Dead Frogs are also a sign of a pretty bad fish kill.

Not all dead fish float!!! Sometimes they float for a day, sometimes 2 days, sometimes a couple weeks, and sometimes not at all or sometimes not till weeks later... I would investigate daily once ice comes off. Its actually pretty easy to miss a big fish kill.

Ways to prevent winter fish kill are to shovel snow off the pond in strips, drill lots of ice fishing holes every day, or get a lake bottom aeration system! With aeration systems we run them all summer long and that makes for a much healthier pond going into winter. Healthy ponds have much happier fish all winter long. I typically dont run aeration systems in the winter, but when snow builds up like this year, we turn them on during warmer days to open up the shallower areas of the pond.

I dont like to run aeration in deep water in the winter time. Ice is actually a good insulator for the pond. Its the snow thats the culprit. The water in the deepest part of the pond is 39 degrees and I dont like to push that nice warm water up to the surface and expose it to negative temperatures. That actually super cools the water. Winter aeration we run typically in the shallower portion of the pond.

I dont like for fish to just survive, I have found the key to growing really big fish is to have them thrive 365 days per year. Aeration systems really are the key to keeping fish happy in ponds during the heat of the summer and the snow of the winter.. Happy stress free fish grow into really big fish and create happy anglers.

A big mistake people make when restocking winter killed ponds is they restock large amounts of small fish... well let me tell you that is a big mistake. Typically the ponds are already full of those small sized fish and you need bigger fish to keep them in check or you will end up with a very out of balance fishery... Usually I stock back 10-15 adult bass per acre and 100-150 bigger bluegill per acre and thats it!

Fishing the next few years following a winter kill can be phenomenal or can be terrible, all depends on if you get the pond stocked back with the right sized and amount of fish to keep everything in balance! I can tell you that the biggest fish we shock every year are usually from ponds that had fish kills 3-4 years prior.

Anyhow hope that information helps answer some questions for some folks. I have been traveling alot the past month helping lake and pond owners across the midwest learn the secrets to growing big fish. Last week I was in Jessup, Iowa; Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska; Rockport, Missouri; and today was in Alpha, IL.

Every place I go to, I try to learn something from. Anyhow I really think that over the next couple years these private bodies of water that we are "experimenting and learning from and sharing information with" are going to be producing fish that normally have been unthinkable to be able to produce in smaller bodies of water. In my opinion we have only just scratched the surface of possibilities with pond and fish management!

If there is one key phrase to remember in regards to growing big fish its this: Happy 365! If you can figure out how to keep your fish happy 365 days per year with no stress and lots of food to eat you will grow trophy fish....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring is Trying To Spring!!

Despite the unseasonably cool weather, March has been quite the adventure! This is the first quiet hour I have had in the last 3 weeks. Here is a little recap of whats been happenin:

March 7-8th Horse Fair:
Mae and Noah did vaulting performances in Springfield. They did great and had a blast!

March 11th Last Ice Fishing Trip:
The last ice fishing trip of the season was on my birthday on March 11th. We caught some BIG fish and had a blast enjoying some relatively warm weather!

Last Ice Fish of The Year!!

For my birthday I got these morel mushrooms made out of deer antler. They are beyond cool, super gifts for the outdoorsman... call Chris at 309-368-2307 to order stuff made out of antler:

March 14-16th Cedar Falls, Iowa:
Then headed up to northern Illinois and installed an aeration system and then headed over to Cedar Falls, Iowa to speak at the Eastern Iowa Sportshow for 3 days. I did a couple seminars each day about aeration and pond management and secrets to growing trophy fish! They had an allstar lineup of speakers:

Drake and my father in law came along with me for the sport show adventure... we introduced Drake to Dr. Pepper. He became a man on this trip, was good for him to get out in the real world. (Dont Tell Mom)....

March 18-19th Southern Illinois Purina Stores:
So then got back Sunday evening and headed out Tuesday morning to install a big aeration system down in Southern Illinois and then speak at some Purina Mills Dealer stores for a couple evenings over near St. Louis. This time my helper was actually Brook!! She even helped with the aeration install.

On the way to speak at the Country Home Depot in Greenville, we stopped into the Crosley Juke Box distribution center in Brownstown to say hello to good clients Fred and Connie!

Then after the meeting it was 9 pm and Brook realized I still hadnt booked a hotel for the night. You see I usually just wing it and always end up finding a place to stay somewhere. In a few minutes and thanks to I was able to book a $280 room at the Westin in St. Louis for just $68! Here was our view:

Then the next day Brook spent at the Home Goods store near Kirkwood, Missouri and I spent the day talking on the phone and lining up the next road trip at the end of the month. We finished up the road trip speaking at Prairietown Feed Service before heading home that night.

This winter was really hard on fish in the midwest. As the ice is coming off, I have been bombarded with calls and emails about newly discovered fish kills in lakes and ponds. Its time for folks with lakes and ponds to start learning more about aeration sytems and pond management!

Oh yeah, speaking of fish, we just stocked a whole truckload of brown trout at the ski lake out at the goose ranch!!

Make sure to check out the 2014 InFisherman Panfish Guide! We have a cool article about growing and catching hybrid sunfish!

March 21-22nd Giant Goose Camp Store Renovation
So then the last couple days I have spent at the goose ranch renovating the old building and turning it into a super cool Camp Store, Office, Laundry Room, and Bath House...

By Saturday evening we had the whole new roof on and the inside completely gutted:

The guys have been rockin and rollin working around the clock out at the goose ranch getting ready for this upcoming season! We are transforming this place into the gem of not only Fulton County, but the entire midwest! There will be no equal when it comes to the fishery and overall family outdoor recreation opportunities!

Special thanks to Davey, Jeff, Marty, Norm, Karin, and many others for helping out with the office renovation project!! Anyone interested in volunteering the next two weekends, come on out on Saturdays!

Vern has been trapping lots of critters out there too:

For anyone interested in learning more about the goose ranch, definitely check out the new website at and plan on attending our open house on Saturday, April 12th!