Friday, April 30, 2010

Victoria Fishing Club has some Monster Fish!

So Justin and I headed to a fishing club in Victoria, IL to electro shock 5 of their lakes. They have a total of 18 lakes on the property, but wanted to come up with good management plans for their main five.

These lakes ranged in size from 5 to 10 acres each and they all had super healthy populations of large pan and gamefish! Each of the lakes had its own unique characteristics, depths, water clarity, aquatic vegetation, and of course fish populations. For once in my life I really didnt have any drastic recommendations or suggestions for managing and maintaining a natural balanced fishery. Their lakes were not broke and didn't need major fixing. Just a bit of tweaking and direction. We are working on a gameplan that includes implementing some bonus walleye and a handful of northern pike as well as channeling future fish stockings to be a bit more efficient and effective. Check out some of these fish from electrofishing today:

These lakes produced lots of fish, members fish in them, catch fish, and take some home to eat. Some of the lakes had great crappie, some had great redear sunfish, some had good bluegill, a few had big catfish and a couple had some monster largemouth bass. There were sizes and numbers to please any angler (member).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dogwood Canyon Branson Missouri

So after jampacking the first 3 days of our trip with all sort of activities, we decided to head out to Dogwood Canyon on Sunday morning after a little church service at the lodge. We got to the canyon just in time for the 11 am tour on the tram. Dogwood Canyon is another one of Mr. Morris' masterpieces. It is a 2200 acre nature preserve that is full of springs, waterfalls, bridges, trails, animals, and of course rainbow trout. Everything at this place is just done right and is first class. Hiking, biking, walking trails and picnic areas are very well kept and scenic.

The tram is a 2 hour tour of the park hitting all the highlights like the wilderness chapel, big trout streams, caves, and of course the animals. The elk, bison, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and texas long horns were very impressive up close. They came right up to the tram (with a little food incentive of course) and you could literally reach out and touch them if you so desired.

The kids absolutely loved having these huge beasts within an arms length away. Very very cool. Here are some pics from our dogwood canyon adventure:

After the tram tour we had a picnic overlooking one of the trout streams. We brought lunches to eat, but the twenty dollar bill in pocket was gladly exchanged for a bison burger and smoked trout at the dogwood cafe. In all honesty I actually like regular cow burgers better than bison, but for some reason am a sucker for a bison burger whenever given the opportunity. Something about eating a buffalo burger that is just cool.

So we headed out of the canyon with full bellies and headed straight for the swimming pools at Big Cedar. (good thing it was a 30 minute drive eh?) After swimming we topped off the evening eating the rest of our fish and as much of the leftover food from the trip as possible. Then went to sleep in the fancy sheets for the last time. Monday morning we headed back towards real life.

Anyhow my computer broke down the first day of our trip. I think some kids (or possibly even Brook) might have got ahold of it and I wasnt able to get any of the work done I had planned on working on. If your reading this and expecting a lake report or email correspondence from me, please forgive me for the delay. I have everything stored on that laptop and feel kind of naked going into this next week without it. I am trying to figure out everything planned for this week without it, because my only calendar is in there! I stopped by Haas It in Tremont to drop off my laptop on my way back into town from the trip. Tom and co at Haas are the backbone of most all of my web work and are computer and website genius'. Currently it feels like losing that laptop is almost as crippling as losing an organ or appendage or something. Its just a weird helpless feeling.

Table Rock Lake Fishing and Branson Family Trip

Wednesday evening we loaded up 11 kids and 16 adults and headed down to Branson, Missouri for a mini 5 day family vacation. We stayed at The Cliffs at Long Creek Resort overlooking Table Rock Lake. Let me just say that Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops, and the Big Cedar Lodge know how to build and develop the best vacation properties in the United States. This is their newest project that is just 3 miles from the Big Cedar Lodge. Here are some pics of our 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 3500 square foot luxury houses we stayed in. Each house has a full theatre room in the basement, 7 large flat screen tv's, pool table, poker table, downstairs bar/kitchen, is completely furnished with all kinds of luxury furniture and decorations, and comes with its own boat slip on the lake as well. Basically nothing in this place could have been done any nicer, bigger, or better.

The story of this trip actually begins back in Sept of 2009 when I was down here at the Big Cedar Lodge teaching at the Pond Boss Convention with Justin. We were in charge of the hands on seining demonstration for the conference. Anyhow on our way home from the conference we stopped in at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield and happened to be in the right place at the right time. They had just opened up this new resort and were looking to fill it up with people this spring. Justin and I didn't come close to meeting the financial requirements to sign up for this promotional trip, but we were lucky we had my dad and older brother along.... They each signed up for the 5 day promotional trip and were abit apprehensive about doing so, but oh my goodness did that ever work out great! We hit the jackpot with this one.

These houses regularly cost about $1000 per night ($1500 or so during peak season) and here we are virtual white trash compared to regular guests who visit these sort of places, being treated like kings. They had free movie rentals, nintendo rentals, drinks, coffee, etc 24 hours per day. It was great (at least for this trip). I still envied the folks camping at the state parks I drove through. I would actually rather camp most of the time given the choice. Nothing beats a campsite overlooking some water, bathing out in nature, sleeping by a campfire with real wood, campsite hot chocolate, and preparing a huge campfire breakfast. But needless to say, experiencing this sort of luxury vacation is at least an experience to chalk off the list.

Let me just say we made the most of every minute of our visit here. We swam at the heated swimming pools and hot tubs nonstop, played shuffleboard, volleyball, pool, card games, and watched movies. Here are some pics of these amenities:

Anyhow we also got good discounts from the resort on many of the area attractions and even $100 Bass Pro gift cards. We went into Branson for the Noah's Ark Musical, Branson's Landing Shopping, Bass Pro Shops, Dogwood Canyon Adventure, and of course had to spend an afternoon fishing too! We rented two fishing boats from Cricket Creek Marina about 8 miles south of the resort, because I had a hunch the fish would be down in the shallow creek channels towards the bottom of the lake. I figured it was easier to drive a car 8 miles than drive the boats that far down. We actually were in Arkansas so we had to get Arkansas fishing licenses.

We get to the marina and had 7 fisherman with a 7 passenger fishing pontoon reserved, but when we got there the first thing the marina guys pointed out was the weight limit for the 7 passenger boat! We exceeded the weight limit with our first 5 guys, not counting gear!! Anyhow they had a nice fishing boat we ended up renting along with the pontoon. We got loaded up in the boats, the marina guy said folks were catching fish North, but I still wanted to head South. So we headed out South looking for fish in this 40,000 acre lake that averages about 50 feet deep. Let me just say I didn't really expect to catch many fish without a guide or any knowledge of this lake whatsoever, but was intrigued with giving er my best effort and figuring something out. The task of finding some fish became even a bit harder with a dead trolling motor battery, generic in the dash depth display and only 6 hours till the boats had to be back to the marina.

The first 3 hours of our trip, this is what we were able to bring in the boat by fishing around the obvious shoreline structures. We caught a handful of bait sized bluegills, a couple 10 inch smallmouth bass, and a 15 inch largemouth.

Anyhow we were getting somewhat discouraged (and rained upon every 30 minutes or so) and then we decided to start shaking things up a bit. In order to eat fish for dinner we needed to figure something out in a hurry. We started trolling around from point to point and focussing on offshore structures and contour changes. Thats when things started happening and fish started flopping on the bottom of our boats! The last 2 hours of our trip we caught tons of short smallmouth, largemouth, spotted bass, longear sunfish, bluegill and small crappie but we also caught the following huge crappie, nice walleye, and flathead catfish.

We had to have the boats back in at 7 pm, but if we could of stayed out for another 1.5 hours of fishing light we would have filled up our coolers completely with fish! Before we left the marina I found out that there was a $150 charge per hour for being late, which wouldnt have been too bad in a situation such as this, but the marina guy caught onto my inquiry pretty quick and said that along with the late fee the lake patrol would be out looking for us as well. Needless to say we were back in at 6:59.

So anyhow there was this guy fishing from the bank on a sandbar and I could see some fish flopping from his stringer. We eased up and started talking to him a bit and had to find out what he caught this monster flathead on. He said he caught it on a 10 inch piece of carp. He graciously allowed me to take a pic to document this beast. When he help up the fish the first time to show us, he had lots of veins and muscles bulging. When I help up the fish, you cant really see any veins or muscles bulging??? (just an extra layer of chin insulation) All I can figure is that I guess I just must be alot stronger than this muscular looking fella was?

Anyhow, here is the rest of the story from our Branson trip April 2010: Dogwood Canyon

Monday, April 19, 2010

Huge Smallmouth Bass and Nice Muskie

Monday evening I went out fishing with Cheff Todd and Mike Steffa. I was throwing a number 3 mepps with brown hair and caught this 21 inch smallmouth bass in 6 feet of water on the edge of a big drop off. It is our biggest smallmouth of the year and actually one of the biggest smallmouth bass I have ever caught.

Chef Todd and Mike Steffa were fishing with me and actually caught nothing in our little 45 minute mini fishing trip. It was great, normally I try my best to make sure the people I am fishing with catch fish, but on an occasion such as this and after 30 minutes of them not catching anything I almost was rooting for the total skunk. It was great.....Nate 13 bass, Chef and Steffa 0! I offered to let them both real a fish in, but they graciously deferred. (normally I dont write about this sort of thing, but I just had to put this one down into the archives).

Anyhow, Chef redeemed himself and his ugly pink lure with these muskie from Banner Marsh:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Electrofishing Has Begun!

This is the week I have been waiting for all winter long. Shocking lakes and ponds is my absolute favorite part of my job. We started the year off working out some kinks with our electrofishing boat on monday late afternoon at one of our clients lakes out near Middle Grove. We were installing his fountain, buglight, and fish feeder and needed to make sure the boat and gear was all working properly before our road trips South and West.

After 15 minutes of some minor repairs we had her working perfectly and drawing fish right up to the annodes. We only shocked for about 10 minutes, but dialed up this pair of nice bass among some other crappie and bluegill. As you can see in the pic these bass are working on getting back to their plump summer time weights and I need to get working on working off my winter time reserves. I guess that has to be the difference between being warm and cold blooded. Warm blooded creatures get fat in the winter and cold blooded creatures get fat in the summer. (I didnt learn that one in school, that would be one of those things you just learn by experience).

Then Tuesday I headed over past Astoria, past Vermont, past Table grove, and finally made it over to the city Industry. I have never heard of that city before, but there is some real nice land for sale over there. I met with Will Engelburt Peabody Coal's land specialist and one of my clients who was looking to purchase a very nice piece of property with a couple lakes on it. My mission was to make sure the dam's looked good and the lakes would be good for fishing with a feasible future building site.

The lakes definitely would be great fishing lakes, but the building site needs to be investigated a bit further. There is a tremendous watershed draining into those lakes and some signs of potential flooding could take place into really the only feasible building site on the property. An emergency spillway would need to be built before I would be comfortable building.

Anyhow on to much funner stuff. Wednsday morning at 5 am Justin and I headed down to Kinmundy, Il to shock 3 lakes for a client. This was the first of many Electrofishing surveys for this spring. The first lake was 17 acres and really awesome looking. Completely full of 13 inch bass, big bluegill, and big crappie. We are working on a plan that will grow those bass average up into the 15-17 inch range. They really arent too far away, but this is a scenario where time isnt going to make those fish bigger. Without changing up some of the limiting factors, those fish arent growing another inch.

Thursday I stayed much closer to home and went to a pond consultation in Germantown Hills. 1/2 acre spring fed pond in the backyard with no watershed or overflow. Water is coming in, but it aint going out (through an overflow pipe anyway). Really cool setup thats for sure. We put some lake dye in just to see how much water is transferring daily and how long it lasts in the pond. I want one of those ponds some day, just really cool with lots of potential. Water level doesnt fluctuate much and is obviously connected to a whole bunch of clean cool groundwater.

Friday we hit the motherload! We traveled over to northeast Missouri and electrofished a newly acquired 40 acre lake for a client. Oh my goodness did this guy ever hit the lottery with the purchase of this lake. Hands down the best crappie lake I have ever seen and the overall amount of fish in this lake is quite frankly overwhelming. In the first 10 minutes of electrofishing we filled our holding tank up completely with 14 inch crappie and 14 inch largemouth bass. The boys up front were filling their nets with 4-6 fish per scoop. It was unbelievable. Here are some pics from the first haul:

After weighing and measuring each of the fish, we already had enough data to prepare some real nice charts. That data is important to hold onto because relative weights tell the tale of the lake, and also are a great starting baseline reference point when implementing a management plan. Relative weight can be defined as a fish so long should weigh so much. A 14 inch bass should weigh 23 ounces. If it doesnt than something is very wrong or very right! Anyhow if it doesnt weigh 23 ounces than that fish is not currently growing any longer until it does.
After getting side tracked with that little relative weight science lesson, back to the survey at hand. Around this whole lake we kept electrofishing, but stopped scooping. There were so many fish everywhere that we seriously could have filled up a couple pick up truck loads.

We spent some time analyzing the water quality and surrounding habitat. We are currently devising a plan with many options that best suit Richards preferred management style, goals and budget for this lake for 2010. His goal is to protect the mammoth crappies, help build up the bluegill population, grow more 2-4 lb bass, and also introduce a few bonus species into the lake without messing everything up. All very attainable and well within his reach fairly quickly. He has many options and hopefully a big appetite for 12 inch crappies and 12 inch bass.
Can you imagine having to cull the small crappies at 12 inches long! I am not kidding when I say I have never in my life seen this many crappies of this caliber in the same day. 1000's of crappie over 12 inches and 100's of them over 14 inches. I was talking to him on the phone a couple days ago and he said he had been catching monster 13-15 inch crappies on a big pig n jig bass bait and I was just thinking something didnt quite add up too well. Many times fish stories that are too good to be true are, this one actually was not.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Drake Pics and Doctors Thoughts

I havent written anything about Drake for quite awhile, because he has just been a perfectly normal little boy for the last 4 weeks. He has been to lots of doctor visits and checkups and tests and such and has just been passing with flying colors. At home he has been eating and growing like a Herman and smiling and happy most of the time like his daddy of course. He is getting stronger and more aware of his surroundings every day. Visually you just would not think there is anything wrong with this perfect looking and acting baby.

Then today we went to the developmental specialist.....This is where our 4 week long fantasy didnt necessarily come to an end, but just simply turned back into reality. I guess subconsciously I have just been hoping for a fairy tale ending where we just put all this doctor stuff behind us and sail off into the normal rest of our lives.

Its 11:37 pm and now quiet enough at home and in my head for me just to sit back and think somewhat clearly. Everything that seemed so important again all of a sudden, really just isn't. The doctor today wants to get Drake started on developmental therapy ASAP. He is amazed at his progress from where he should be, but still very concerned. He also wants to know the extent of his hearing damage ASAP in order to get fitted with hearing aids by 4 to 6 months of age. Drake has had double ear infections and fluid built up, so they havent been able to get an accurated hearing test done yet. (at least we hope its not accurate yet).

We havent really picked up on the developmental hypotonia or whatever the name is that the doc called his development stuff, but we have always noticed that Drake really doesnt respond to noise. He sometimes will jump with a loud bang, but really doesnt respond to normal noise much at all. Movement and vibration he picks up on real good, but hearing not so much.

Today wasnt bad, but it was the hardest day we have had for awhile. Just a reality check, eye opener, reminder, or whatever you want to call it.