Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back on the Hard Water

Our 5 biggest bluegill weighed a combined 5 lbs- 14 oz!

Today was just a great day to be out on the hard water. The sun was shining bright and the air temperature was just about 40 degrees. I was back in my element: Ice Fishing! I headed out fishing today with my dad and his good friend Dave Obergfel.

The fish started out biting real light and relatively slow, and we had to work hard for our first few fish. The fish never did pick up to reach fast and furious status, but we did find some holes with fairly constant action. The bluegill were very shallow today, with most of our fish caught within 5 feet from the ice. Most ice fisherman would have been fishing below the fish today, but our vexilars would show us exactly where to keep our jigs!

Even though we had to work a little bit to get the fish to bite, we ended up catching some of our nicest bluegill and bass of the whole year! Dave really got things cooking today when he landed this 11-7/8" monster bluegill! Really an awesome fish.

About 5 minutes later I landed this 11-3/8" beautiful male bluegill! Although it wasn't quite as long as Dave's monster bluegill, it was about 3/4 of an inch taller.

Altogether we caught 35 bluegill over 8 inches and 6 bass about 1.75 lbs each in about 2 hours of ice fishing. It was just a real nice day, and after our trip I found out that it was Dave's birthday today.

Florida Keys Fishing Day 3

Day 3 of my Florida Keys fishing trip started even better than the previous two mornings. The sunrise was fantastic, the weather had warmed up quite a bit, and we were getting ready to go out and pretty much conquer the world! Everything was just falling into place almost better than could be scripted and we were busy making plans for taking our Swordfish to the taxidermist. Thats right, we were headed way offshore to search for Swordfish!

The Swordfish spend the daytime hours down on the bottom of the ocean in 1600 to 1800 feet of water. The technique to catch these fish was really pretty interesting. We used a fancy setup that included a breakaway 10 lb weight, a blinking strobe light, and a whole 16" squid. The electric rod and reel we were using cost more than most gently used cars!! There was over $1000 worth of line on the reel.

Anyhow it would take 8 minutes just to get the bait down to the bottom, we would let it sit there for about 40 minutes, and then it would take 12 minutes to reel it up to check the bait, and start the process all over again. This kind of fishing really could be quite amazing and just a good time out on the water, but not on this day! Here is a pic of a small swordfish that Mike caught just a couple days earlier: By the way, this was just a baby.

On this particular day, the flat calm sees weren't so flat calm out in the gulf stream. In fact, the 1-2 feet waves at the beach turned into 2-4's on the way out. Those waves didnt take long to reach 3-5 foot status, and the 3-5's quickly skipped the 4-6 foot range and turned directly into 6-8's with an occasional 10 footer! Despite the rough seas, we were able to somehow manage 6 full drops before we were physically unable to function any longer.

I have never been so terribly sick in my entire life! Sea sickness is a feeling that I cant even begin to describe how miserable it is. Eating bucketloads of fried chicken, crab claws, and lobster the day before also didnt help out my stomach much. Even from the very beginning of the trip, my stomach was a little uneasy. Once we decided to head back in, we were still over 2 hours away from land. Traveling back through the gulf stream with 10 foot waves was not very pleasant and seemed like an eternity.

I started out the morning at the top of the world, ready to conquer; and came back severely wounded with my tail between my legs!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Florida Keys Fishing Day 2

Oh my goodness! Day 2 of my Florida Keys fishing trip easily ranks on my top 5 best days ever fishing list.

The boat we were fishing on was a 42 foot commercial crab and lobster fishing boat. I wish I would have taken some pics of this boat, because it was just awesome! The back end was just wide open fishing space probably 15 feet wide and 25 feet long! John, Mike, Ryan P, Bob, Jimmy, Ryan, Larry, and the captain Raymond were my fishing partners today. We arrived at the boat dock at 5 am, loaded up on pinfish for bait and headed out to the gulf.

We had a 2 hour boat ride to get to the fishing zone! Not a cloud in the sky, 75 degrees, and the ocean was flat calm all day. Even without fishing a bit, I was having a good time just being out on the water hanging out! We started eating fried chicken about 10 am, gorged on lots of snacks and drank coolers full of various beverages! The fishing started out very slow, but no one really cared. We picked up a handful of bluefish, lane snappers, and blue runners at our first stop. Initially we were targeting cobia, but they were not around.

On our way to our second fishing spot we pulled up nest to a handful of Raymond's 6000 stone crab traps scattered out in the middle of nowheresville and pulled in some really nice stone crabs. It was really cool to see the process! Kind of like the deadliest catch tv show, only in the tropics.

We struck out completely at our second fishing spot. Didnt even drop a bait down, because we never could find the wreck, must of blown away in a storm??? We then drove about 5 miles further and hit a pretty good wreck that was holding quite a few fish. John and I were using cut pieces of bait and were catching some smaller sized lane snappers when Ryan hooked up with a goliath grouper using a live pinfish. It took him about 15 minutes to bring this giant up to the boat. We had to leave the fish in the water because they are a protected species. The fish we estimated at well over 110 lbs!!!

It didnt take John and I long to switch over to live pinfish for bait, but it was Ryan who hooked up with another GIANT fish just a few minutes later. This fish he fought for about 20 minutes before the hook finally pulled loose just about 15 feet below the boat. This goliath would have gone 200+ lbs. I landed a beautiful 20 lb black grouper at this spot before the fish quit biting and we moved on to another secret spot.

This next spot was about 5 miles further, and it was the motherload of all fishing spots! There were 3 different wrecks all within about 500 yards of each other and the grouper were stacked in thick! I was using 2 lb fish for bait and I caught a nice 30 lb grouper my first time down. My second drop I was using a 3 lb live fish for bait and I hooked into a goliath grouper of epic proportions!!! I was using a rod and reel so big that I could barely lift it up let alone fish with it. When this fish hit, it felt like I was using ultralight gear. I couldnt tighten the drag down tight enough to keep goliath from going straight down to his hole. After about a 2 minute battle he made it back down to the wreck and the cable I was using for fishing line eventually wore down and broke. Just feeling the strength of this fish was an unbelievable, unforgettable experience. Undoubtedly I will be back to tangle with a goliath!

We only needed to fish at this spot for about an hour to fill up the cooler with grouper from 20-30 lbs each. Ryan also landed a 70 lb goliath that felt like a midget compared to his first two. Captain Raymond said he only fishes this particular spot once per year. We could have sat there all day long catching huge fish, but its not smart or ethical to wipe out a spot and we didnt need to catch or keep any more fish. I saw on his gps screen that this spot was labeled "super wreck"

We had an awesome, relaxing and smooth 2.5 hour boat ride back to the dock for pictures and fish cleaning. Along the way back we were spotting schools of cobia basking in the sun, but didnt have any live bait left and on this particular day, nobody really cared!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Florida Keys Fishing Day 1

8 am Saturday morning and we are boarding the Best Bet II. It is a 35 foot really nice decked out fishing boat. I dont remember exactly what brand, but I think it was a Cabo?

We were going to search for some sailfish, but first needed to get some bait. We pulled up to a small reef and started chumming for ballyhoo. As the ballyhoo started showing up in large schools, there were some really nice yellow tail snapper, barracudas and other fairly large fish swimming around as well. I was chomping at the bit to get out some light tackle and start fishing away, but we were after sailfish and other prestigous fish of the Keys. I could have spent a solid week tormenting all of those reef fish near shore, but its not too often to get a chance to go out sportfishing!

A few throws of the cast net and we were headed off searching for what was supposed to look like big garbage bags floating near the surface. That is how Jason our guide described what the sailfish would look like basking in the sun. While we were driving around searching for the sailfish, we trolled 4 rods rigged with live ballyhoo and attached two of them to a kite. That was pretty cool to see. The fish rigged to the kite would skip on the surface and I passed the time daydreaming about a huge sailfish jumping up out of the water and swallowing one of those fish!

After 2 hours of sailfishing we decided it was time to put some meat in the box. We headed out a couple miles in search of some mutton snapper. We were not able to get our big baits down to the muttons, because the kingfish kept on biting us off on the way down, so we switched over to squid and started catching vermilion snappers- the muttons smaller cousin. Every time you would drop your rig down to the bottom you would immediately catch one, two, or even three vermilions. In about 40 minutes we landed a couple dozen vermilions and then headed out further in search of an amberjack.

When we got to the amberjack hole, I dropped my live pinfish down to the bottom and was hooked up with what seemed like a giant within 15 seconds. That 27 lb fish pulled harder than I could of imagined for its size. I was thrilled with the fish, but somewhat disappointed with how small he was when I finally got him up to the surface. By the way he was pulling, I figured I had hooked a whale or something!!! We spent the next hour dropping live pinfish down to the bottom and wrestling with dozens of amberjack. We landed 7 nice ones and lost 6 BIG ones. After fighting a big fish for a few minutes, sharks would grab them and brake our lines.

We then tried a couple other places for some African Pompano and searched around a bit for some more Sailfish before we decided to end the day at a reef loaded up with King Fish. We got to the King fish reef and started another chum line. It took about 5 minutes for the area to load up on baitfishand, and when it did we were reeling in nice King fish on light tackle two at a time.

About 4:15 pm we were back at the boat dock for pictures and fish cleaning. Jason started cleaning the fish and it took me about 2 whole minutes to find a knife and start helping him out. I dont think too many clients help him clean the fish, because he didnt really know what to say. We soon came up with a pretty good system and got the fish done real quick!

Florida Keys Intro

Just 13 days ago I was sitting in my office staring out the window at negative 12 degree weather outside when my phone was one of my good friends and client Mike. He was down in the Florida Keys and it was 89 degrees warmer down in Islamarado. Anyhow he was wondering if I was able to head down with a couple guys at the end of next week for a few days of fishing?????

Now I am sitting in Ft.Lauderdale airport waiting for my flight back to Midway. I have been without internet for a week and have quite a bit to catch up on. Instead of catching up on gobs of emails and voice mails, here I am at the airport for a couple hours sorting through pictures and updating blogs and various websites of my latest fishing adventure!

On the phone that cold day with Mike I played kind of cool, relaxed, interested and had to check my schedule......honestly though I was literally jumping up and down, my heart was beating excitedly and I had to somehow convince Brook into letting me head down there! The next phone call I had to make was the one I was pretty nervous about and naturally she didnt pick up the phone. About an hour went by before I was able to get ahold of Brook, and you can imagine how productive at work I was during that timespan..... islamarado, florida keys fishing reports, ft. lauderdale flights. I even spent several minutes trying to think of the best way to approach the upcoming phone call. I figured I could tell by the tone of her voice at 'hello' if this would be the right time or if I would just end up asking how the kids and her day was going.

Brook called back and was having a great day! Plan was moving forward and she was actually very receptive to the idea of me heading down to Florida for just a few days while she stayed back in frigid weather holding down the fort with Mae and Noah. The only problem was that I was supposed to return on Wednesday with the fishing group and Brook and I were suppossed to head to Wisconsin Dells with her family on Tuesday. That little detail took a few hours to get all worked out. Our final plan ended up having me fly out of Bloomington with John and Ryan and fly into Chicago early Tuesday. Then Brook, Star, Brett, and the kids would pick me up at Midway and head straight for the Dells indoor waterpark.

My flight from Bloomington was early Friday morning and after a few pit stops and a nice lunch, John, Ryan, and I made it down to Key Colony. We picked up 3 shopping carts full of beverages and snacks at the local Publix and then headed to the house. Here is a pic of the house we were staying in.

Here is a pic of the view from the house:

John, Mike, and Ryan have made some real good local friends down here over the years and they all stopped by that night to welcome us to the island and lay out our fishing plans for the next 3 days. They also brought quite a few pounds of jumbo stone crab claws for us to enjoy......believe me, I enjoyed them! For the next 3 days I gorged myself on as much of those claws as I could possibly eat- breakfast, lunch, and dinner........

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fished a new pond

On Saturday afternoon, I decided to get out for a quick trip to a small subdivision pond we stocked in May 2007. I have been feeding the fish quite a bit through the summer, and they are growing real fast! My fishing partners for this 1.5 hr trip were Chef Todd, Chef Kevin, and my dad.

The wind was blowing 15 to 20 mph and the temp was about 25 degrees. Overcast skies. Actually felt like a heat wave compared to the below zero temps all last week! I didnt know quite where the fish would be and what kind of mood they would be in since it had been one full week since my last fishing trip.

Kevin hooked into a 3 lb+ channel cat in his first two minutes of fishing, but that fish was too strong for the brand new line Chef Todd just put on Kevins new pole! About 5 minutes later, Kevin is battling another nice eatin' catfish, but this one proves to be too smart for the ice fishing veteran of just one previous trip.

It wasnt until Kevin had hooked, fought and lost 3 big boys that Chef Todd finally got a bite. He was only fishing 3.5 feet away from Kevin! To stick with the theme of the day, Chef graciously let that catfish get away. If you ask him about it, he did that voluntarily so Kevin wouldnt feel so bad!

Chef did redeem himself with this nice bass.

Anyhow, the bluegill were no where to be found at our first set of holes. It took me about 30 minutes and a dozen holes, before I finally found where the bluegills were hanging out. Once we found them, we caught about 25 nice ones before moving back to the catfish holes. We ended up hooking into 16 catfish altogether, and only landed 4 of them! We also caught 2 nice LMB to go along with 25 bluegill.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Boar Hunting Pics

Still havent been fishing yet this week, so I figured I could scrounge up some cool stuff from the past. In October 2007, I went Boar hunting in the mountains of Tennessee with 10 friends.
We had an absolute blast hanging out and shooting Russian Boars for 3 days. We got 8 boars in total. We brought one of the pigs back whole and roasted it for a Halloween bash! I had the rest of the meat ground into sausage and a few ham steaks. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pond Boss Magazine

Mae is awake now, but she needs to stay in bed until 7 am. She knows its getting close, and she also knows I am awake and keeps asking me questions that she knows will generate a response from me. Don't be fooled, 3 year olds are stinkin' geniusses... That doesnt look right, lets try genius'......genius's......I guess really smart would just be easier for me to write.

Anyhow sticking with my what I do when I am not fishing theme....... my absolute favorite website and magazine is Pond Boss

Pond Boss Magazine is a must have magazine for anyone who owns a pond or some land. I would also highly recommend the mag to every fisherman as well. Bob Lusk has assembled an amazing collection of outdoor writers. From the nations leading pond and lake managers, to the most famous wildlife bioligists and professors, all the way to coming soon in 2009........even yours truly! The Pond Boss magazine content is very easy to read, often times funny, yet VERY INFORMATIONAL. 

Here is some more grammatically correct information about the magazine:

At POND BOSS our magazine gives helpful
tips from the nation's leading pond
professionals. And we use plain English.
Learn how to clear a muddy pond. How to
put weight on your fish. How to prevent a
devastating fish-kill. Learn what fish should
be removed from your lake, and which ones
should stay. Find out what's new in the
world of private ponds and lakes.

The next aspect of Pond Boss, is the website. The Pond Boss website has a collection of books and videos about creating ponds, raising trophy fish, and treating aquatic vegetation. Thats all fine and dandy, but the real meat to the website is the Ask the Boss section. 
I will start with the official description and then put my twist on it:

Get Q&A with the top biologists and
fisheries consultants in North America…
Photos and illustrations of vegetation and
fish species…Free referral service…
Instructional handbooks…Do-It-Yourself
videos…Fish recipes…The latest in fisheries
management techniques.

At POND BOSS, we're the national clearing
house for fish and fisheries management.
What makes us so smart? Lake owners just
like you share their practical field

Now for my description of this section:
The Pond Boss website has basically been the foundation of my career in Lake Management. I have spent literally thousands of hours reading and researching every tidbit of information, and more importantly, hashing out ideas, experiments, and answering questions posted by fellow pondmeisters from across the nation. Regulars on the forum are the absolute smartest pond, water, vegetation, and fish experts in the world; and they will answer your personal pond, water, vegetation, or fish questions immediately (and for free). I regularly post pictures, experiments, answer questions, and philosophize on there as well. 

The last aspect of the Pond Boss conglomeration is the official Pond Boss Conference. This year it will be held in September at the Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, MO. There will be many pond topics and speakers; fishing celebrities; hands on seminars like electrofishing, fish cleaning, etc; fishing tournament; many lake product vendors; and lots of social time with the Who's Who in the world of ponds and fish.  I wont be speaking at this event, because I pretty much forget my name when put in front of people, but Justin and I will be there a few days before and after helping set up/take down, doing a bit of fishing, and just for lack of a better term- hanging out.

It is negative 13 degrees outside and it has been near zero all week. Anyhow I obviously havent been out fishing since Saturday, that is a 5 day break??? Oh well, Justin and I have been doing some serious office and warehouse organizing, that would basically never get done.

I guess since I dont have any fishing adventures to write about, I will write about some of my favorite fishing websites...... at least until Mae wakes up.

My friend from Nebraska, Bruce Condello is one of the worlds best at raising big bluegill. He goes through a rather intensive process of genetically selecting the biggest and best bluegill before stocking them in his ponds. In fact, his Condello strain bluegill are becoming some of the most sought after strain of bluegill in the United States. He recently started a fun website devoted to raising, catching, watching and learning about bluegill:

It is a collection of pics, videos, articles, and fun information uploaded by bluegill fisherman from across the nation. We have posted several big bluegill photos and ice fishing videos. Its lots of fun. If you get some time (and you obviously have loads of free time if your reading this blog.....hehe) you should check out his site. 

His website is gaining popularity real fast, was even mentioned in the latest issue of In-Fisherman magazine!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Graham's Big Bluegill

We had a small army out on the lake today. Jon Graham Sr's group of guys was a pleasure to spend the day with. I never did nail down all 5 guys names, because they were all calling each other by nicknames such as weezer, tater, ray....never mind, I think Ray was the guys real name. Anyhow they were a great group of guys! Also along for the trip was my dad and dad in law and Justin.

Here is an action shot of Weezer and Ray.

Also would just like to say a special thanks to Chef Todd for cooking perhaps the best shore lunch of the entire year. By 10 am I had already cleaned 35 boone and crockett bluegill and Chef Todd had them cooked to perfection at noon sharp. Not only did we feast of fresh fish, but he whipped up some cheesy bacon hash browns, homemade cole slaw, and grilled the trout from yesterday. Its 9 pm and I am still full!!! My only regret is not taking any pics of the feast.

Now on to the fishing report for the day. The fish started biting just a bit slow, and it took us a few holes before we got onto some active fish. When we did, the action was pretty consistent for about 2 hours. Bluegill were hitting a variety of jigs tipped with waxworms anywhere from 4 to 10 feet below the ice. We caught well over 135 bluegill between 8.25 and 10.25 inches. Also added about 8 bonus bass as well.

The wind was howling, and the temperature was dropping throughout the day. We moved to my dad's pond at 11 am and set up shop before heading into for lunch. Just a handful of medium bluegill hit before lunch, and I dont know what happened after lunch? I had to go shut down a pump at the fishing park so they boys were on their own. They were on a quest for the elusive Jumbo Perch. I have some HUGE Jumbos in my dads pond, but for some reason we havent been able to find them this year through the ice? Maybe they got a hold of one or two? I am anxious to find out!

Here are some nice 'gils that we caught: