Sunday, April 26, 2009

Building a Floating Dock Pictures

Here are some construction pictures of a floating dock we built and installed for the Brakers and Lemans in Morton. We specialize in building floating docks and only use the best materials available!

We built the 16'x28' frame in 4- 8'x14' sections at our shop. Also on the top of the pile is our 8'x12' long gangway. We used 2x8 pressure treated framing lumber with heavy duty marine grade hardware.

Once the framing is complete, we load all the dock sections and premium dock floats onto our trailer and haul it out to the job site. Building the docks at our shop shaves tons of hours off of the dock building process.

When we get to the pond or lake, we strategically bolt the 8' sections together and use special hinges to attach the 14' sections and the gangway. Below are some pics of the corner hinges and gangway hinges.

Attaching the floats and the sections at the job is a breeze when we get all of the components laid out correctly!

Doesn't the water look inviting? We use our own mixtures of various colors of lake dyes to custom make each pond water look exactly the color the owner wants it to look! I have various shades of Blue, Green, and Black.

Our floating docks are very stable, heavy duty, and custom built to last a lifetime!

I will post the completion pictures once it quits raining. Seems like it has been raining the entire month of April!

I dug up a completed pic of this dock:

Jumbo Yellow Perch Pictures

Have been out monitoring the yellow perch over the last few weeks. They have been very aggressive and moving around alot since the ice has come off, and now have finished spawning in most of the area lakes and ponds.

Here is a picture of what perch eggs look like:

Here are some of our best Perch we have collected so far:

Electrofishing Pics from Larry's Pond

Saturday I headed north for an electrofishing survey for Larry Gerdes. He played basketball for the University of Illinois long before I was even born, and was wearing his Illini Cap when I pulled in Saturday morning. I am a big Illini fan myself and was excited to see a guy who has made his living in Atlanta, Georgia for the last 20 or 30 years still wearing the Orange and Blue!

Anyhow, Larry stocked his pond 7 years ago and stocked it with some fairly large fish to begin with! His pond is extremely fertile and overall fairly shallow, but it grows some really big fish for only being 2.5 acres. The water visibility was less than one foot due to all the rain we have been having, so it was tough to see the fish in the electric field, but we did manage to get quite a few real nice largemouth and catfish.

We tagged about 25 bass and a catfish, took some pictures, and hashed out a completely customized management plan for Larry's pond and fish. I always will customize a management plan based on the clients goals, budget, and timeframe. He wants to keep the vegetation down in his major recreational areas and wants to focus on growing big bass, but still wants to keep enough bass in the pond for all the grandkids to not get bored fishing as well.

Ravina on The Lakes

Wednesday I met with the staff at Ravina on The Lakes about keeping their lake beautiful for all of the weddings, receptions, and events out there this summer. I only live 2 miles from the facility, but had never been there. Anyhow, I was very impressed when I pulled in! That place is just awesome, it is tucked back in the woods and has some really cool facilities for big events, weddings, company picnics, family reunions, and such.

I know that most all of their weekends are completely booked for the summer, but I think they still have some weekdays and afternoons available. Also this year their lakes will match the rest of their facility and look incredible!

Ravina on The Lakes
5326 W Charter Oak Rd in Peoria, IL 61615
Phone: (309) 692-3530

Rodger's Smallmouth Pond

I met with Rodger Tuesday, and it was windy, cold, and rainy. He has a 5 acre pond stocked with Smallmouth Bass, Hybrid Bluegill, Bluegill, and Redear Sunfish. The smallmouth bass have been growing up to about 3 lbs which is very typical for ponds around central Illinois, but we have a plan set up to help turn those smallies into plumb footballs.

Smallmouth wont typically grow much larger than 3 lbs on a diet of bluegills, because their mouths do not allow them to eat big enough bluegills to grow any bigger. They can hunt down and eat fathead minnows, and 3 inch bluegills all day long, but will not be able to gain weight unless they eat bigger meals and dont have to excercise as much. If you had to run a mile every time you wanted to eat a small meal, you wouldnt gain much weight either.

Also I think the smallmouths in his pond are reproducing too fast and they are all competing for what limited food is available. Our plan is to tag and relocate all of the skinny smallmouths regardless of their lengths to make room and more available food for the big mommas! We are also going to be adding more appropriately sized forage for the smallies to eat. Golden Shiners and Yellow Perch are longer and more slender than bluegills, and are much easier for them to eat! We have some Jumbo Perch Broodstock coming in just a couple weeks!

Here is a pic of an average male smallie from the pond. It is a very nice fish, but could be much fatter!

Busiest Week Ever

This was perhaps one of the busiest weeks ever, and I actually think this is going to be the norm for the next 6 months, seeing as we havent even started our normal pond maintenance and applications yet.

Justin, Allen, Josh, and Lee spent the week building docks, a deck, installing a fountain, and shipping out products. Our online store sales of lake products are picking up almost at a rate too fast to keep up with, and seems like I cant get the boys out the door before 10 am. Last year Justin alone could get the shipments done everyday by 8 am. We are starting to get some big orders coming through as well. One gentleman from Louisianna purchased $6,000 worth of pvc fish structures!

Anyhow, I had my week already full with On-Site Consultations and Electrofishing Surveys, and had a couple of fishing practices with the Peoria Christian High School Bass Fishing Team during the evenings. Then friday was the Bass Fishing State Sectionals and our two teams did really well! Our first team was one fish short of reaching the podium, and our second team had 3 fish in the boat before most teams had their first fish. Once the wind picked up though, their pattern went dry and never landed another fish.

This week I met with Rodger Moon at his Trophy Smallmouth Bass Lake, Ravina on the Lakes about keeping their main lake looking like a million bucks for all the weddings and receptions this year, Ed Kirby about keeping algae under control in his backyard pond, Larry Gerdes for an electrofishing survey and complete management plan for his pond, and Joe Yobbka south of chicago about keeping his pond free of curly leaf and american pondweed. I am planning on writing about these pond visits, because some of these are pretty cool projects!

I currently have 3-5 On-Site Consultations or Electrofishing surveys lined up for every week for the whole summer, and that is in addition to everything else we have going on. I obviously wont be able to be in the office much this season, so I hired Marci Cox as our Office Manager. She is a bookkeeper/accountant extraordinaire and is whipping our office into shape faster than I could of ever imagined! Can you imagine stepping into an office that has been organized and managed by 2 outdoorsman for the last couple years! The biggest mistake we have made so far is not hiring Marci about 2 years ago.

Anyhow, it is Sunday afternoon, the Cubs are whooping up on the Cardinals, the Bulls are hanging in there with the Celtics, and I am just relaxing in the air conditioning for the rest of the night! Not too often you will ever catch me inside during a 75 degree afternoon in the middle of turkey season, mushroom season, and spawning season!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

High School Boys Bass Fishing Practice

Took the Peoria Christian High School Boys to the Fishing Park for a little tune up before the state sectional at Banner Marsh on Friday.

It was freezing cold and rainy, but on the water instruction and technique critiqueing was a must before the big day. I didnt think we would catch any fish, but we did manage about a dozen bass, 8 bluegill, and a HUGE rainbow trout.

Here I am showing the boys what it is going to take to win this tournament on friday. Just look at that beautiful black bass:

Jake and Keith did a great job catching everything but bass:

Did a Little Trout Fishing Over the Weekend

Spent Saturday working at our Lake in Norris, and took a little time off to take my Uncle Spark and 2nd cousins Eddie and Dr. Bobby Meister fishing.
They caught 2 walleye, 9 trout, and 7 largemouth bass fishing off of the dock. Just kicked back and had a great time! Blue Fox spinner turned out to be the hot bait for the day. Here is a pic of Bobby with his first trout of the day:

I took a few casts at some rising trout on the far end of the lake while working on the lake siphon system and landed a beautiful 3 lb rainbow trout! No pics though and no witnesses either.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Electrofishing Fish Pictures from Today

We got back from our aeration install in Southern Illinois with enough daylight to check on our morbidly obese fish in our 3 acre pond in Peoria, IL. These fish definitely need to get some exercise, I think we are making it way to easy for them to find their dinner. 

Check out the size of these 4 year old fish from a 3 acre pond! The Yellow Perch/Largemouth Bass combination is working much better than I had anticipated!

Vertex Aeration System Install in Southern Illinois

Went down to Mowequa, Illinois today with Justin to install a Vertex Air 3 XL aeration system and do some electrofishing on a 4 acre pond. We use the front cage of our electrofishing boat to very easily install the heavy weighted tubing and big XL diffusers. Everything went smooth and we were back in Peoria by 5 pm. We had enough daylight left to check our trapnets and do some electro shocking on our own pond in Peoria. Here are some pics of the Vertex Air 3 XL pond aeration system.

Look at how huge these diffusers are! This particular pond is 40 feet deep and we are completely turning over the water 1.21 times every day.

Here is a pic of our electrofishing boat! We use it to easily install the weighted tubing, and then we did some population analysis when we were done installing!
Our client down in Southern Illinois has started a fertilization program to help feed the yoy fish, reduce visibility in his gin clear water, and up his overall fish carrying capacity in this fairly infertile lake. He is really setting the pond up nice and will have the exact trophy bluegill/crappie fishery he is managing for.
Currently he is overloaded with 12 inch largemouth bass and typically I would recommend harvesting about 100 per acre for him, but his goal is not to grow big largemouth bass, he wants to grow big panfish! Lots of small hungry bass is a big key to growing LARGE panfish.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bottom Fishing Video from Orange Beach, Alabama

This fishing video is from my family vacation down in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We went bottom fishing offshore aboard the High Cotton and caught tons of amberjack, grouper, snapper, and triggerfish. That is some of the very best and fun fishing that I have ever done! I cant wait until our family vacation again next year, you can bet that we will be heading offshore again! Not only is the fishing unbelievable, but the boat has 2 bedrooms, bathrooms, a full kitchen, and even satellite TV!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Deep Sea Fishing Gulf Shores on the High Cotton!

We met at the boat at 6 am! My dad, Chad, Justin, Katy, Julie, Lee, Jared, Feddi, and myself! The forecast was calling for 3-5 footers off shore with the possibility of getting bigger as the day progressed. The High Cotton is a 55' beast, so we new we would be quite comfortable even with the waves. Our Captain Chris Garner and his first mate Shawn had everything rigged up and ready to roll when we pulled up! The live well was full of pinfish and bait box full of squid and northern mackerel.

We were heading out 50 miles on a 10 hour deep sea fishing trip! Our boat ride was 2.5 hours before we got to the bottom fishing grounds. First let me explain a little bit about deep sea fishing. The difference in going out on 6, 8, or 10 hour fishing trips is not really more fishing time, but actually more driving time. Sounds kind of like a waste of time and money, but actually you catch WAY more fish out away from everyone else. Most everyone typically goes on the 6 and 8 hour trips, so everyone is basically fishing the same spots as everyone else! When you drive the extra 20 miles or so offshore, you are fishing in water that doesn't get fished, and these fish are ready to EAT!

Chris made one big mistake, and that was to put us on the MOTHERLOAD at our very first spot. It wasn't even our main destination, but just a spot to try out en route to the live rocks. Anyhow everyone started dropping 2 hook rigs baited with mackeral chunks and pieces of squid. The standard procedure for the day was to drop your bait to the bottom, get a bite within about 20 seconds and real up either a fish or an empty hook! We never would know exactly what kind of fish we were reeling in (Shawn and Chris typically could tell just by how the rod was acting) but it was a mystery to us until we started to see "color" With 9 people fishing as hard and fast as possible, we were quickly filling up the cooler with triggerfish, lane snapper, white snapper, and grouper! Here is Feddi with an awesome Triggerfish!

While everyone was getting the fish "fired up" as Chris would say, he started marking some big boys on the graph, coming over to check out all the commotion. At his cue, Jared rigged up a live pinfish and sent it down about 45 feet below the boat. In a matter of 10 seconds, he was reeling in a 20 lb amberjack. Let me rephrase that, he was getting 'whooped' by a 20 lb amberjack on steroids! Those fish are definitely 'juiced up' becasue they pack a serious punch, you cant even comprehend a 20 lb fish fighting so hard!

Our standard procedure for this spot was to keep everyone rolling with the 2 hook rigs to keep the fish basically chummed up and active around the boat. Then we would send a live pinfish down on the big rod one at a time and the school of 20-30 lb amberjack would eat the bait within 20 seconds every time down! All 9 of us boated an amberjack at this first spot. We could only keep one amberjack per person, so we would throw the small 20 lbers back in, and keep the bigger 25 lbers! Once we all landed one, and we kept 6 of them (we didnt want to fill our whole 9 fish amberjack limit at our first spot, because the best amberjack water was yet to come) we stopped using up our pinfish and switched to a chartruese jig on the big rod.
The amberjack were not supposed to hit that jig as much as the pinfish, but feddi and I took turns pounding them on the jig while everyone else was loading up on triggers and snappers! Sitting here now typing up this, I look back and think what in the world was I thinking catching those fish for sport??? I have bruisers in my gut where I would stick the rod while fighting those fish, and my whole body kind of feels like I got hit by a train from battling those fish nonstop! At our first stop and just over one hour of fishing we boated 16 amberjacks and filled the 600 lb cooler half full with the snappers and triggerfish!

We then headed to several other spots and hit more of the same at each spot. Some of the spots would be loaded up with Red Snappers and when we would start pulling up the Red Snappers, we would move to new spots. Red Snappers are not in season yet, so we didnt want to catch them. After reeling in a handful of fish, your arms get so tired that you don't want to waste a 10 minute battle on a fish that cant go in the cooler! Naturally since the Reds were not in season and we were not targeting them, we ended up catching and landing several trophies.

About 11 am, we fired up the green egg grill that is mounted to the deck! For the rest of the day, we had amberjack and snapper cooking nonstop! I dont need, to but will say that eating freshly caught amberjack and snapper out of the ocean is the absolute freshest and best tasting you would ever EAT! Being hungry and 50 miles from the nearest other source of food, would make even a bass taste good, but that was as good as it gets!

About our third stop, Chad decided it was time to start trying for something HUGE! He put on about a one pound hunk of meat and sent it down to the bottom. After several misses, he finally got a grouper big enough to eat the bait.

At this point of the trip, our 600 lb cooler was pretty much full and our small army of 9 fisherman had dwindled down to just 5 dropping lines down at each spot. We were all hoping to catch something really big, but were basically too tired to reel it in if it did decide to bite! That reminds me of a little story about my dad. He is the most diehard fisherman in the world when it comes to catching tasty fish. At one point I looked over and he was just sitting there with his rod in the holder, hooks baited up and not in the water!!! I said to him what in the world are you doing? He looked at me with his little whooped puppy dog face and said: I dont think I can reel in another fish?

My dad did end up dropping down and reeling in several more fish before we started our 2.5 hour ride back to land. We rode in complete luxury watching satellite TV and just chilling in a living room furnised better than my whole house! I rode up on the second floor with Chris for part of the time, just catching up on whats been going down lately. Even the second floor is air conditioned on that boat and he has a satellite tv up there too!

We got back to to the dock about 4:30 pm. We took pics of the big fish on the High Cotton hanging board and took all of the snappers, triggers, and grouper directly to the fish cleaning station.

Shawn has been a commercial fisherman since the age of 12 and he immediately started chopping up those fish faster than you could imagine! By the time we were done with pics, he had a pile of meat that would have taken me hours to clean!

Even though Shawn was lightning fast, he still had 100's of lbs of fish to clean and we decided it would be best just to come back in the morning to pick up the cleaned and packaged meat. From home brought 2 big coolers to bring the fish home from our trip, but we are going to have to buy at least one, possibly two more just to get the fish back to our condo!!!

Since my first ever guided fishing trip with Chris 11 years ago, I have had the privilege of fishing all over the world. Through various mission trips, work trips, and family vacations I have been ocean fishing in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Mexico, Islamorada, Sarasota, Alaska, Canada, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and quite a few other locations. Anyhow what I am getting at is that although some of those places are unbelievable fishing locations, I have never been with a guide who equals the fishing knowledge, ability, determination, equipment and passion that Chris has. He is years behind pretty much everyone on his website stuff and the whole internet, but he just flat out knows how to work hard and catch some serious fish!

If your ever taking a family vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama or you want to schedule a fishing trip of a lifetime with your buddies, definitely get a hold of Chris and his crew at the High Cotton!

One last pic of his boat: