Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Electrofishing Season Has Begun!!

Electrofishing or as most people say it, shocking the pond season has begun! The absolute favorite part of my job is going to new places and finding out what fish are swimming beneath the surface! Always is exciting. Yesterday did not disappoint, we went to some awesome places, met some great new clients, and dialed up some BIG fish. Here is a picture at sunset of the last place we were at.

Justin and I pulled off a marathon of epic proportions. First thing in the morning we headed out at 5:30 am towards Chesterfield, IL. We arrived at 8:30 am and installed a Vertex Air Three aeration system and an AquaPro ADF 75 fish feeder for a 2.5 acre pond.

This pond we electrofished last fall and the owner is now implementing his new plan for killing watermeal while growing some giant bluegills and feed trained bass. We also dropped him off a years supply of fish food and all the materials needed for cleaning up the pond. Then at 11 am we headed down south yet again towards Norris City, IL. We arrived at 2:30 pm and electrofished a 5 acre pond. We dialed up bunches of fish, but most were 8 inch bluegills and 11.5 inch bass. We did get this one big momma though was the only bass over 12.5 inches: BIG FISH

These pond owners want to consistently grow bigger bass. Here is the whole crew checking out the fish:

The pond is severely lacking in bottom contour, structure, and cover. There was only one shelf and one tree limb in the lake and thats where a majority of the bass were hanging out. To grow big bass, you need to create places they can feed efficiently and just hang out without spending any energy the rest of the day. This lake the bass all had to be roamers to find a meal and that just takes up too much energy to gain weight. Also the lake was 35 years old and all the bass originated from the same family, inbred mutts was basically what they are.

We didnt find a bluegill less than 5 inches long in this lake. Bass need to eat 3-5 inch bluegill in order to grow, if you want big bass than you need to make the habitat that will produce oodles of small bluegills! Anyhow that is just the basics of what was going down, collectively we came up with a plan that will work for them for growing some bigger bass consistently. Then from there we headed a few miles down the road to this brand new 3 acre pond. This guy is building a paradise for fish and kids and I guess grown ups alike. Wow is this pond gonna be awesome! Check out this dock rope swing catapult contraption thing:

Ok this pond is gonna be a crappie/walleye pond. No bass and no bluegill. A management plan like this is intense and labor intensive, but this guy knows what he wants and now has a game plan (with a back up plan) and a back up, back up plan for getting what he wants. Forage will be growing all summer long as the pond continues to fill and then 500 crappies per acre will be stocked this fall. Walleyes will be stocked the following fall to clean up the next years baby crappies. Bojo bug lights will be installed to feed the crappies at night. He has a complete plan that works for his budget and management style. Next at 5:30 pm we headed over to Carmi, IL to electrofish a newly acquired 2 acre pond.

This little gem hasn't been managed or fished much over the years and WOW was it full of some awesome fish! About as good of a natural balance as I have seen in similar situations. We shocked up a handful of 3-4 lb and a 14 lb catfish, bass of all sizes, monster bluegills, a couple small walleyes (that had been stocked 4 days earlier) and pulled these big crappies out of the cage the owner caught and put them into 3 days earlier.

These guys want to produce lots of fish for eating. With a 2 acre pond, a natural balance isn't going to produce as many fish annually as these guys want to eat. I can tell, they are big dudes and they wanted to eat all the fish in the holding tank. I talked em into just eating the catfish for now and gave em a plan for producing 100's of pounds of meat every year!

At 8 pm we were back on the road headed for home. Five hours later I was in my own bed conked out. We were supposed to take 2 full days for this road trip, but a couple guys in Mt. Vernon canceled and we were able to reschedule everything on the fly and get er all done in one day. I am pretty excited for this season and especially anticipating the end of the snow and cold! The next few months are gonna be pretty exciting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mike Iacanelli Recap with Pics

Lets just start with the food eh? Chef Todd and Chef Kevin cooked all weekend. Their specialty was blueberry, bluecheese gourmet elk burgers! If you like blueberries, blue cheese, and elk than you loved their conoction. If you didnt like that stuff, surprisingly enough they convinced quite a few people into trying it out of curiosity sake and a good majority of those people will now be serving blueberry, bluecheese burgers at their cookout this summer. Let me know when you next attend or attempt a cookout with that combo!

Just want to say that Mike Iacanelli didnt eat his blueberry elk burger. Not that he probably didnt like it, he just actually is a pretty small guy. He didnt even taste it as far as I know. He was too busy speaking, talking, and signing autographs. I offered to sign a few autographs, but didnt have any takers for some reason? Mike however had a line that stretched through the whole 40,000 square foot store waiting to get his herbie hancock....

Here are some pictures of Mike's seminar. He used our trout pond for some demonstrations:

Here are some pictures of kids fishing in the trout pond. We had over 400 kids fishing in the pond over the weekend. Probably 75% of the kids on Saturday caught fish, but only about 40% of the kids on Sunday caught fish. The trout were worked over pretty good the first day.

Here is a pic of filling the pond from Thursday night.

At the end of the day Sunday, we were all pretty tired from standing around, talking, and eating all day long. Everyone helped take everything down and clean up which was much appreciated! I also want to give a shout out to the limestone high school bass fishing team!! They helped kids fish in the pond from sunup to sundown both days! Here they are draining the pond.

Here are some pictures of burning prairie grass last week. We do this on these fields every 2-3 years. On large properties we rotate fields so that we end up burning 1/3 of the grass every year. This helps create amazing year round habitat.

You definitely need to be careful when playing with fire. We start alot of back burns like this one below to help keep the fire from getting too large. Just use the wind to your advantage to start fires that will eventually put themselves out.

Its about 5:45 am on Monday morning. Justin and I headed down to Southern Illinois for a mini road trip. I am actually using his wireless card and typing while he is driving. Pretty cool! Anyhow our first stop is in Chesterfield, IL to install a Vertex Air 3 aeration system, fish feeder, and teach the property caretaker how to maintain the pond for the upcoming season. We are unloadin a years supply of fish food (500 lbs) and some herbicides and algaecides and bacteria to kill the watermeal, duckweed, and algae.

Then from there we head down to Norris City to electrofish a 5 acre lake that wants to grow bigger bass. Then we go a few miles down the road to consult for a brand new filling 3 acre lake that wants to focuse on an intensive plan to grow monster crappies. From there we head to a hotel near Harrisburg.

Tuesday we are electrofishing for a newly acquired 2 acre pond near Carmi to find out whats in there and come up with a gameplan for growing better crappies and walleye. Then we probably head for home or maybe make a stop through Brownstown to check on some clients if time and schedule allows.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Huge Fishing Sale, Portable Trout Pond, Mike Iacanelli

Hey guys, I just want to let you know that this Saturday and Sunday Presleys Outdoors in Bartonville is hosting a mega fishing sale to kick off the 2011 season! I will be down there both days helping people pick out the right gear and also we set up our portable trout pond inside the store for kids to come and fish!!

We stocked the pond with some catfish, bass, and a couple hundred big rainbow trout. For a $2 donation to the hooked on fishing park you can fish in the trophy pond, or a $10 donation you can actually take your trout home for dinner. Also we have 10 tagged fish in the pond that if you catch you win a brand new fishing rod and reel combo! Fun Stuff!!

Next, Mike Iacanelli, a pretty good bass fisherman and phenomenal speaker is coming in on Sunday and going to be signing autographs, sharing fishing stories, and at 11 am gonna give a seminar to 100's of kids from high school bass fishing teams from around the state. All are welcome to attend.

Ok, last thing, Chef Todd will be cooking Elk Burgers, Venison Hot Dogs, and other traditional grilled items both days! Stop on down for a gourmet bite to eat, grab some fishing gear 20% off, take the kids fishing in the pond, use the nice restroom facility in the store, talk to me or Mike about fish for a few minutes, bring your trout home for dinner, and wala you just made the most out of a 30 degree and windy weekend!

Leading up to this weekend has been pretty interesting. I did some consultations on some awesome fish projects, installed 1000' feet of new fence for a property line for a client in fairview, burned 100's of acres of prairie grasses, installed some fish feeders, and staked out a new hunting lodge we are building for a client.

I will take credit for all the work our guys did this week, but really Justin, Josh, Joel, Allen, and Ryan are ones who get all the work done. I am telling you that one thing that I have done good is assembled the best crew of workers on the planet. They are young, but each have their specialties and amazing unique abilities, and they all work extremely hard and long hours.

Justin is my brother and coowner of HB. He is our fix and rig up anything mechanic, engine guy, and run any type of equipment operator. Allen is our office manager/computer specialist, but he spent the last 3 summers spraying lakes and ponds with Justin. Josh is a professional bull rider and a carpenter, but everytime he breaks his ribs and liver and stuff we have him for a few months while he is recovering. Ryan is a land renovation and habitat specialist. Joel is a super athletic guy, but more if a pretty inside salesman as opposed to down and dirty redneck. He rides along with me for aeration installs, and helps out where needed. He has been a volunteer coordinator for the Childrens Home up in Leo, Indiana for the last 3 summers and will be coordinating the fishing park program for us this summer!!!

I figured it was time to introduce our crew. Like I said I get all the credit for all the work they do.

One last tidbit before I have to head out to Presleys. One of my consultations this week over near El Paso. A brand new one acre pond, 20 feet deep with currently no fish. The owner has a couple high school aged boys and a whole herd of high schoolers if you include his 2 or 3 daughters. They dont want to wait 3 years to be catching big fish, they want to make an instant bass fishing lake. In 3 years jimmy and johnny will be off to college.

For less than $2000 they will have an instant bass fishing lake by Memorial day with some awesome feed trained Arkansas Bass. These bass are the best genetic fish I have found on the planet (that work in our geographic area). We stock them at any size, but in this case at a 1.25 lb average with some in the 2 lb range and some in the 1/2 lb range. For $1000 worth of these bass, and $1000 worth of big catfish, hybrid bluegill, and regular bluegill these guys will have an instant fishing pond and will be catching 2-4 lb largemouth and 2-4 lb catfish by the end of the summer. They are going to feed the fish by hand for this summer to help em grow to their fullest potential.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My First Turkey Hunt in Iowa

Turkey season is rapidly approaching and I don't have any plans on hitting the timber before sunrise waiting for a gobbler to walk by. I do have a story though for those of you getting all pumped up for the upcoming turkey hunting season.

My first turkey hunt was in April or May of 2006 in Davis County, Iowa, I don't really remember exactly the date because I just didn't care enough about it. Back then we owned a 170 acre chunk of timber outside of Bloomfield that was completely chuck full of turkeys and by golly we were going to get tags that spring and bring home some spurs, beards, feathers, and meat.

So I usually always turn the channel when a turkey segment comes on TV, but I caught enough of them pieced together to know how to go out and kill a gobler. Especially on a piece of property where everywhere you turn around there is turkeys flushing.

So I get out to a spot that looked good about 1.5 hrs before light on opening day and sit on the ground leaned up against a tree. After a few fishing dreams and close encounters with whitetail deer virtually walking into me, it finally just barely starts to get light. And bam, all of a sudden the turkeys started gobbling like a heavenly choir competition. My goodness I had never heard such a melodious blood pumping racket.

So the gobbling continues for about 2 hours, getting softer and less frequent during that span. All the while I am sitting in obviously a deer path and having one of the most amazing deer hunts ever, but I never actually saw a turkey. Me being the genius I am remember that everytime I walk through the woods on this property I always scare turkeys and many of them are well within shooting distance, kinda like pheasant hunting.

So about 7:30 am the noise had stopped for awhile and I decide the birds are done working for the morning so its time to go find them. Plus I can't sit much longer than that anyways. So I get out of my hiding spot and start walking and low and behold I see two turkeys running away about 150 yards out. Ah you numbskull....

Anyhow I start walking around looking for turkeys and actually flushed one out of the edge of timber, but didn't shoot it cause it was a lady. After covering the property its time to head in about lunch and wait for the next morning hunt. I had a new place scoped out for the morning.

The next morning I didn't get out quite so early, but just early enough to get situated before the birds started gobbling. Same thing only this time I was a bit closer, but not close enough. I sat longer this time and had a decoy out. This time about 8 am I couldn't believe what was actually happening. I heard a little gobble down in the crick valley and it was getting closer.

A few minutes later and Jumbo comes strutting up the hill towards my lady! I didn't have a turkey call cause I didnt know how to use one or what to say even if I did know how to use it, but this big boy was coming up the hill anyways. Let me just say that this dude was no small youngin, he was the real deal, the king. I had seen this part on TV enough times to know that this dude was coming in and was going to put on a show so I decided just to watch for awhile.

At one point he had his neck straight up and was standing about 30 yards away, but I didnt even have a thought about a taking a shot. I was a purist just like everyone on TV and wanted to enjoy this moment forever. So anyways that turkey was still about 40 yards from getting to my decoy so I figured I would just sit back and watch and then about the time he gets ready to mate with the deke, thats when I will shoot him....

Ok, so when I figured I had about 10 more minutes left of watching this beast strut his stuff, I really only had about 10 seconds. Because before I knew it, I blinked for a split second and he was already half way down the hill with his tail tucked blazing a trail towards the timber. At that moment I knew I had been duped, not by the turkey, but by TV. TV hunting just isn't real life and it definitely didn't prepare me for what I learned on my own in those two days out in the field looking like a complete moran.

I didn't end up going back out for that last day of our turkey hunt. I just didn't feel like it. I have since learned quite a bit about turkey behaviour and proper turkey hunting tactics, but for some reason I just don't get fired up or even excited even a little bit about turkey hunting. Maybe things would be different had things gone just a bit different on that first turkey hunt, but for some reason turkeys with stuffing and gravy on thanksgiving get me more excited than do spring turkeys with spurs and beards.....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Filming Hook and Hunt TV Pond Series

Last week I went out to Bloomington to film the second segment in a pond series with Hook and Hunt TV. We basically are taking a 1/2 acre backyard pond and showing how to turn that little pond into a BIG fish producing factory. You will be amazed at how many and how big of fish we grow in this pond.

Here is the latest online clip hot off the press:

Here is the first one we filmed last fall:

The next segment we will be filming in about 2 weeks. It will be of installing the aeration system. We will talk in depth about exactly what the aeration system is and what it does for a pond.

Hey also I don't usually make requests like this, but if you could comment on the youtube videos either something funny, positive, or encouraging that would be much appreciated for several reasons. You don't even have to watch the whole video (it gets kinda long) to leave a comment.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Prescribed Burning and Tree Cutting

Wouldn't it just be sweet to build your house with this view of your very own freshly built pond?

Well, I am still a few hundred diapers, a bunch of school supplies, potentially a couple visits to the orthodontist, several trips to the emergency room, and countless other raising 3 children expenses away from being able to have such a cool backyard. I guess just working at such a cool place will have to do for the time being.

We spent a couple days this week staking out that new house and removing all the trees in the way of actually building it. There were several nice big walnut and oak trees that we cut up in 10 and 20 foot sections and hauled away to a buddies house for future milling. These first two pics are of Thursday morning and the last pic is of Thursday afternoon.

Justin and Josh finished cleaning up the lot and burning the trees today, and I went out to a consultation in Canton and then out to burn, talk strategy, and fish at Otter Creek. In Canton, I put together a game plan for growing big bluegills in a 29 acre lake, thinning out a bunch of 7 inch crappies in a 5 acre lake, and growing some monster bass in a 8 acre lake.

We burned some switchgrass today at Otter Creek. The time for burning is right now! We have a bunch of switchgrass, warm season grasses, and prairie fields to burn throughout Central Illinois yet in the next coming weeks. Here are some pics from today. Its amazing at how fast these fields burn! The fields are all set up and prepped properly to burn safely and efficiently.

Then we went out on the big lake looking for new spots to gps mark. We didn't fish too hard, but did take a few casts and were rewarded with a handful of nice bass and some small crappies.

Oh yeah heres a story from earlier in the day. I'm in Lewiston and the brakes on my truck decide to just stop working. Thank goodness it was at a spot where they weren't needed immediately and I coasted to the side of the road with the emergency break. A couple phone calls later and it turns out I was only 2 blocks from Lewiston Tire, Brakes, and Automotive. I dropped the truck off there and picked it up all fixed up with new brake lines on my way back home from Otter.

Its late, but I don't want to go to bed so you get some extra bonus thoughts from inside my crazy head. If I go to bed than tomorrow will be here and I am not looking forward to tomorrow one bit. In fact, tomorrow is about as bad as it gets. I have to go to a wedding and its at 1 pm! Who gets married on a spring saturday at 1 pm? Pretty much ruins the whole day for all your friends and family and other people obligated to attend. If your gonna make people come to your wedding at least have the decency to make it early in the morning or after sunset so your whole day isn't wasted........Ok so its not that bad, but its my blog and Sara and Tony don't read it. Even if they did, they are too googly eyed in love to even care about anything else happening in the world.

So my day is shot wearing nice clothes and being inside, but I do have a way out of the boring stuff. Drake just turned one year old and he can be very fussy (with maybe just a teeny tiny little and very humane safe prodding me and the boy are out wandering the halls)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crappie in Ponds

I have been doing many consultations for people wanting to make and maintain a trophy crappie pond. So many, in fact that I decided to write an in depth article about crappie ponds in the April issue of Heartland Outdoors Magazine. It is a must read for anyone wanting to learn about managing crappies in ponds. Here is a pic of Logan Sauder holding up a nice stringer of crappie he caught from his 6 acre pond last March.

Just recently I was down near Vandalia, Il coming up with a stocking and management plan for a brand new 1.5 acre pond with a 100% focus on growing, catching, and eating crappie. Creating a specialized outside the box fishery is my absolute favorite! I hate to say this, but I get very bored with the typical bass, bluegill, catfish pond and really look forward to helping folks raise 'the other' fish in ponds.

This spring we will be stocking our own brand new 1/2 acre pond with feed trained smallmouth bass and feed trained yellow perch! You will be hearing more about this project as it progresses. Also this spring we are stocking a dozen other brand new ponds with various combinations of hybrid striped bass, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, walleye, and crappies!

Anyhow on our way to Vandalia we stopped by Pana Wholesale Bait company to get the fathead minnows to start the food chain for the ultimate crappie pond. Here is a good look at them just before going into the pond:

There was about a 15 degree difference in water temps so we let them acclimate in the pond for about 25 minutes before releasing them.

Mrs. Armstrong had the honors of placing the first fish into the newly filled pond. And yes, we headed 3 hours south on Monday and it started getting colder the whole way down and it actually turned to snow for about an hour!

I'm not giving out anymore information on how to create the ultimate crappie pond here online. NCAA tournament is on in the background and its soon going to be the center of my attention. You will have to get a copy of the magazine and read the article for more info. Just call(309) 741-9790 or email jeff@heartlandoutdoors.com to get an April issue mailed to your door. I write how to articles monthly in the magazine about topics like Hybrid Striped Bass, Rainbow Trout, Ice Fishing, etc. None of those articles have been published online anywhere yet and probably won't be for quite awhile.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

QDMA Field Day at Otter Creek

Here is an opportunity that I am pretty excited about! Below is information about a field day the QDMA is putting on at Otter Creek Preserve. I have been asked to speak with Grant Woods at this event. If your reading this blog post and your interested in Deer or Fish or the great outdoors than you will want to make plans to come to this event! If your not interested in the great outdoors you might as well come along for the entertainment value of me speaking to a group of people.

Grant is perhaps the nations best speaker about all things whitetail deer and habitat. To have an opportunity to put on an event of this caliber with him is simply unbelievable! Here is the info, come on down. You will not be disappointed with the caliber of most of the speakers, the facility, or the caliber of this property overall! We will be touring hands on the many food plots, orchards, warm season grasses, timber, and of course the bodies of water! This event most likely will sell out so make sure to reserve your tickets.

Here are some aerial photos of the property we will be touring and learning hands on from:

Property Design Field Day --- July 9th, 2011 Dr. Grant Woods http://www.growingdeer.tv/ will be presenting at this full-day event, located at Otter Creek Preserve (NE of Astoria, IL.)

Event focus will be on Property Design, Food Plot Layout, Growing and Hunting Quality Deer. Special presentations by Nate Herman will cover; Incorporating Ponds, Lakes, and Wetlands Into Property Design.

This event will consist of indoor and outdoor seminars, with a field tour of this premier recreational property. A lunch will be provided with the cost of admission. Registration begins at 8:00am, and event will conclude at approximately 4:00pm.

Contact Chase Burns (309)368-0370, or Steve Hood (309)756-8350, to get your tickets today. Tickets are priced at $20 each, and are available now. All tickets must be purchased in advance, and seating is limited!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hooked On Fishing Fundraiser Dinner

I want to thank everyone who came to the Hooked On Fishing Park fundraising banquet on Saturday night!!! At 7 am on Saturday morning I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to not just throw together the finishing touches, but rather to throw together a majority of the event. Thank goodness my family was available all day Saturday from 7 am to 11 pm to bail me out!

Anyhow we had 285 awesome guests, super cool prizes, great food, and an amazing facility! We had the dinner at Metamora Fields Golf Course in Metamora, check out this place. I was too busy at the event to take pictures, so I just grabbed some from their facebook page:

The staff at Metamora Fields was first class and the facility is world class. They put on a feast of stuffed mushroom and hawaian meatball appetizers. Then I got up and entertained the crowd by butchering up pretty much all my words. Then Luke Luginbuhl got up to say the prayer for the meal and before that went into an impromptu speech with enough gushiness to make me turn red in front of everyone, but it was very nice nonetheless.

The food I wish so bad I had a picture of, but these words are just gonna have to paint the picture for you: First there were like 6 of those fancy roaster things full of like 3 different kinds of various vegetables (basically doctored up rabbit food). I didnt even bother looking in those, cause I loaded up on the real food- chicken cordon bleu, stuffed pork loin, and carved beef from a carving station with au jus and horseradish sauce. That new restaurant there is dynamite!
Then I got back up again in front of the crowd for some more entertainment (at my expense) and then I showed the crowd this video about the park on the big 12' screen:

Then Chris Brackett got up to explain about the silent auction guitars that he brought that were signed by Zac Brown. Then Jeremie Draper talked for a minute about the Sandblasted or blown glass sculpture things. Then we drew the raffle prizes!

Some dude won a Franchi Renaisance Over and Under 12 guage, another guy won an awesome Otter Creek fishing package, and three ladies won skin dimensions and grand prairie packages. Then we finished up the evening with the silent auction.

We had some awesome auction prizes like car care package from Bob Grimm Chevrolet, wood carved crappie, Presleys fishing gear package, Bass Pro fishing rods, Cabelas gift card and camping chairs, big bluegill fishing trip, Otter Creek fishing package, 150 acre deer/turkey hunting lease, Electrofishing survey, Catered event with Chef Todd, Maui Jim Sunglasses, lots of smaller items and days at the park! Special thanks to everyone who bid and won those packages!!!!

I don't have the actual numbers computed yet, but we raised way more money and support than I was even hoping for!!! This is shaping up to be an awesome year at the park! This is just the jumpstart we needed to kick off the year. Don't forget about us though, the amount of kids we are able to teach and seniors to host is endless, our funds and volunteers however are not. We still need your help this summer!

Also on another note, Jonn Graham hosted a flyfishing day at the park on Saturday also and raised over $400 while teaching the art of flyfishing. He will be available on a somewhat limited basis this summer to teach flyfishing, but nonetheless will be available to teach some groups interested in learning. Here are some pics from the day:

We have a volunteer/needs email list for the fishing park that we will send out an email to when we need volunteers or specific items for events this year. Anyone wanting to join that list please send an email to hookedonfishingpark@gmail.com. Don't worry your not committing your summer away by joining the list, just when an event falls on an opening in your schedule reply back and say you would love to help out on that day.