"The Dance" -- Fly Fishing the Gulf

Fly Fishing --- a well orchestrated dance between the fish and the fisherman.   Using the rod as the conductor’s baton, the fisherman rhythmically entices the fish.  Fly Fishing is more an art than sport.  You are hunting and luring the fish.  You are enticing the fish to eat.  Presentation is everything.  It takes patience and study, waiting for the perfect moment.   Yes, all this is true in sport fishing yet; the presentation in fly fishing takes harmony of balance, rhythm, and motion.

When we think of fly fishing, the first thing that comes to mind is Brad Pitt’s character in “A River Runs Through It.”  Standing in swift running freshwater streams, we watched the line dance through the air as he gracefully lured in the trout.

So… when we think about fly fishing, we see a cool mountain stream, surrounded by towering trees with trout jumping after bugs…Or maybe… let’s see…. How about South Padre Island.   REALLY?  You fly fish in saltwater?  Is that even possible?  Answer:  Yes.  It is not only possible it takes fishing for the Gulf’s inshore fish to another level.

South Padre Island has several professional fishing shops that carry fly fishing rigs and plenty of expertise.  Roy Lopez at Bass Pro Shops is one of these avid fly fishermen.  He has found a way to marry his love of fly fishing with his love of saltwater fishing.   I came into the White River Fly Shop specifically looking to get my husband started in a sport that he has wanted to do for years.  Here’s what I learned.

What are you fishing for off the shores of South Padre?

Tarpon have a natural migrating pattern from Florida and the Yucatan Peninsula.  Their arrival at South Padre is still a mystery.  They seem to follow the Gulf Coast.   The tide dictates feeding patterns and their location.   According to the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, the migrations take the tarpon up the eastern coast of the U.S. to at least the Chesapeake Bay, throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and southward to the Caribbean Sea.

 

Tarpon are fished for sport.  Roy says, “I wait all year for the tarpon to come back around in the annual migration.  I put the time in to find out their patterns and eating habits.  I have respect for the fish.  They travel from Florida and the Yucatan to get to Padre. “

 

But there is more than Tarpon off of South Padre’s shores.  Fishing Kingfish, Red Fish, Speckled Trout, Jack Crevalle, Spanish Mackerel and Bonita can all be found on the surf or jetties during ideal summer weather conditions. They can be found off the Gulf Coast year round.  Typically flashy, obnoxious flies in loud colors with a wire tippit can be used to entice these toothy fish to bite

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South Padre offers wading from the East Side sand flats to the West Side silt and estuaries.   Fishing from the rocks or in the water, we use different tools for different fish.  Consider the rig.

Roy generally ties his own flies, but has a few that he might use if needed.  The picture shows four of the possibilities.  A) Tarpon Toad –  Premier Tarpon Fly.   B)  Red Fish Toad – great fly for south Texas red fish and trout.  C)  Merkin Crab – another red fish fly typically used when red fish aren’t feeding, generally the fall months.  D)  Sea Ducer – fly that you would use in shallow water from 5 to 15 inches of water.  It has a real soft lay down. 

Rods:

9’ 8-weight rod typically with a stiff backbone to punch heavy flies through the wind (we have horrible prevailing south winds that don’t let up) for red fish, trout, flounder and any other species you’d find inshore. http://www.basspro.com/World-Wide-Sportsman-Gold-Cup-Fly-Rods/product/13082906212339/

9’ 10-weight rod with heavy backbone to punch flies for bigger fish from the beach or jetties – kings, Jacks, Spanish mackerel.

Inshore reel doesn’t necessarily have to be top dollar.  It needs a sealed drag system and is tolerable to the salt.  Roy suggests:  Lamson Konic/Guru and any of the Sage line-ups from the 1800 series to the 2200 series.  They retail anywhere from $150 to $185. http://www.basspro.com/Lamson-Konic-II-Fly-Reels/product/1209270507043/

http://www.basspro.com/Sage-2200-Series-Fly-Reel/product/1309110626206/

 

10-weight series – you are dealing with bigger fish.  You need a reel with stouter drag.  The Lamson offers the Konic/Guru 4 and Sage 2210 ranging anywhere from $150 to $250 for catching these bigger fish.

Your line in the inshore scene will typically consist of a weight forward floating line that can be matched to a rod.  The line is dictated by the rod or the casting preference of the fisherman.   Bass Pro Shops can typically fit the fisherman with an ideal rig to fit his/her preferences.  This is true for the 8-weight or the 10-weight.

Recently, Roy hooked a tarpon of about 5 feet/100+ pounds and watched it swim away after breaking the line.  With a smile, he remembered the “dance” and walked away satisfied.   Ok… maybe a little disappointed.

Can Freshwater Gear Catch Fish in Saltwater?

I am asked all the time can you use fresh water baits in saltwater? The answer is yes; however, only for some. In the world of inshore fishing some of the baits that are typically used for Largemouth Bass can indeed be used for Snook and Redfish.

Let’s start off with the most common and my favorite; swim baits. Most swim baits are meant to resemble certain bait fish and in most instances bait fish in freshwater will have similar characteristics to the ones found around the shorelines of Florida.

Another favorite of mine is the classic jerk bait. These hard baits have been around for years and most of them haven't even changed the design. Being as effective today as they were back then. They are definitely a good choice to use in both freshwater and saltwater.  My only advice with this is that you change out the hooks. Tarpon and bigger Snook have been known to straighten out hooks.

Another good bait to use is flukes. These baits are meant to resemble sick or injured fish in the water; basically an easy meal. When you rig these bait, weed less you can throw them into any thick cover without having to worry about getting hung up.

Almost all baits are meant to be appealing to several species of fish so if you ever have the opportunity to try a freshwater bait in saltwater go right ahead. You never know, your success could be hook set away.

New Sights, Smelts, and Experiences

Isn’t food just that?  A common experience, time shared with others, a memory that is tied forever to that food and the events and people which surrounded it?  All things social and familiar involve food (don’t they?)…on some level of course!  Dishes reappearing each year at the holiday’s or for the big game, making their way onto our plates during specific seasons and celebrations, and impressing on our memories the good times we had with those who helped prepare and/or share (…or maybe even catch!) said food…

A chocolate chip cookie (or even the warming aroma of it) can transport one immediately back to Grandma’s kitchen; the sight of a perfectly char grilled steak carrying your thoughts to a night grilling-out with friends in the back yard under a summer night sky; and maybe you’ll be stirred by something in…the plateful of hand-breaded deep fried smelt on your plate at Islamorada Fish Company!  Perhaps if you (or someone you know) were around for the days of “Smelting” on the great Lake Michigan, then it will prompt memories of those times or those people…

A short walk up and over the Dunes (albeit carrying such cargo that it didn’t exactly feel short), bonfires and groups of people lining the shore as far as you could see, “tall” tales amongst the fishermen abound, kids digging and playing in the sand knowing that a beach trip at night is something really special, a chill in the air laced with excitement for the fun to come.  Nets and lanterns, blankets and coolers, buckets and waders (first test of the year to be sure they aren’t leaking!)…and maybe a freshwater feast if the wind was right and your timing was too!

New experiences that we have with food can evoke great memories that we associate with them, and we can’t wait to hear your stories!  If it’s been some time since you had a smelt dinner, if there are good times to look back on and reminiscing to be done…come out and spend some time with us at Islamorada Fish Company inside your Portage Bass Pro Shops.

 

Got Smelt?  Yes, actually we do.

Tips & Tricks for Bow Fishing from the Pro’s

When shooting larger Carp, always have someone with another bow for a backup shot, or at least a gaff. Most large fish are lost at the boat. Connor Hankinson

Know your bow! Aiming low is a rule of thumb, but for longer shots you will need to compensate for the trajectory of your arrow (how far it drops). This is different for every bow. Jonah Powell - River Bottom Outdoors

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When shooting grass carp, aim behind the gills because there is a rock hard plate that covers their head, you have a much better chance of full penetration if you don't shoot this. Tyler Gerber -back country bow fishing

When you go bow fishing, take a friend or someone new to the sport. Your friend can back you up on a second shot if you miss or shoot the second fish. They love to travel together in schools. If you can't get your friend to go, take a person that is curious about the sport. It is a great way to make our sport grow and it is always more fun with others. - Dan Swearingin

You really can't aim low enough, especially if shooting in Deep waters. -- Austin Armstrong, Sand Lake MI

When shooting catfish, the best time is at night in between sunset till about one in the morning. -- Justin Dillon Lexington, SC

If you shoot a fish and it bleeds a lot go back to that spot later and there may be gar or bowfin that were attracted to the scent. - Austin Armstrong, Sand Lake, MI

Make sure you use the right point for the fish you're going after. This was a lesson I learned quickly when I lost a nice size Gar because I was using a Ray point. He spun and released the barbs. - Leo, S. Louisiana

I do a lot of shooting in deep water situations, and I have found that using an arrow point with barbs that fold down very close to the arrow shaft causes the arrow to move straighter in the water for those shots over a foot deep or so. - Brian

When shooting spawning carp, the Females are usually the larger in a small group and the males will chase her, shoot the largest in the group and don’t pull her out of the water. Let it settle down and your partners will shoot the rest of the remaining males because they won’t leave her. --Tyler

Don't bow fish on a very windy day. It’s almost impossible to see fish. - Rod

Do not over fish one spot; it will stay a good spot if you do not over fish it. - Rod

If legal in your area, chum with corn, bread, and dog food as much as possible to keep large amounts of carp in one area. - Rod

At night, walk along irrigation ditches with a spotlight. You'll be surprised at how many fish there are. - Rod

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Sometimes a fish can be just a slight discoloration in the water. - Austin, Sand Lake, MI

When fishing freshwater dogfish, just look for their fins. They do the wave. - Austin, Sand Lake, MI

When shooting anything from a boat make sure to use a gaff, easiest way i have found to get fish in the boat. ~ Zach Clausing WI

The best way to fish is at night time. You don't really have to worry about shadows and with a good spotlight you can find the fish more easily than they can find you. - Daniel Ballard

I have found that toward dusk or dawn you get a bad glare on the water and to help with the glare buy a nice pair of polarized sunglasses -- Aaron Black, Onsted MI

When bow fishing Southern Louisiana marshes, bring a big ice chest. --- Matt Weber, N.O., La

When bow fishing for big grass carp or anything big for that matter, DO NOT grab the line when the fish makes the first run. I learned that today....9 stitches going up my finger!!! - Michael

When bow fishing off of a dock or off of the bank, put some corn 3-4 feet out in the water and huge amounts of carp and buffalo will come. -- Chance Tuder

A tip for muddy water carp slayers: When going for buglemouths in mud-bottomed waters, keep a close eye for fins sticking out of the mud, as carp will often bury themselves in it when spooked, only to be revealed with a loud thrashing as you go by them in the boat. -- Andy "Carp Slayer" Waltman, Little Falls, MN

Learn How to make boilies, those carp baits used by carp fisherman. Drop them near a likely carp spot; they're great because most other fish ignore them. They are a carp magnet! - Bill Young

While shooting carp from the bank, move very slowly and look for the top outline of the fish in the water. It helps if you have polarized sunglasses. -Jared McCreary Durant

OK When fishing in deeper water for buffalo and you see the bubbles coming from the bottom where they are feeding. Try waiting for a minute or so before moving on, often he fish will feed for a few minutes and then rise and move over a few feet to a new place to feed. When they rise to move this will offer you a shot on them. Often times the bigger and faster the bubbles rise the bigger the fish will be. -- Mike Tubbs, Mississippi

Put a loaf of bread in a minnow trap and throw it within shooting distance. Tie it in place with a rope so it does not float off. Carp will come up and suck on the minnow trap allowing for an easy shot. (Put a rock in the bottom of the minnow trap so it does not roll around on the bottom) --- Chad

Look in shallow swamps connected to lakes about 5" to 10" of water with fallen trees and cattails I have found carp a month after ice out going to the shallows ---Aaron Black, MI

On hot days when you are not seeing any carp look under logs and brush piles. ----Luke, Minnesota

To get an easy shot on carp, put dog food in a metal minnow bucket (the ones with holes in the sides), and put it in the water. You can either let it drift or tie it to a tree or other cover sticking out of the water. The carp will come up and suck the dog food out of the bucket, allowing for an easy shot. ----Rusty Nace

We will drift from 50 or 60 yards out into the shallows, between two groups of carp while they are rolling. Some of them will get curious and move from one group to the other. Be patient, and watch both sides of the boat. If you miss a shot stay there and wait you will get another shot. I've shot at the same carp three times before connecting. - Jason

Often times when you shoot and miss a carp they will spook, but many times they make a circle and return to the same spot, as if curious as to what caused the commotion. If you do not disturb the shot arrow, your partner will get a shot at the same fish. They are on high alert then, so be ready for a fast shot. — Dick Bassetti

If carp are gathered in a submerged tree and you can't get a clear shot, then throw a few stones several feet away from the tree. Carp are curious and the bigger ones tend to investigate allowing an easier shot! — Timothy Fynn

When bow fishing in creeks or rivers, concentrate your efforts on deadfalls and other obstructions, as carp will consistently gather to feed on what builds up in front of the blockage. — John Alan Caddell

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When hunting carp in shallows, keep your shadow off the water. It will spook the fish. — Michael If you put the big fish on a stringer and let them swim alongside the boat, other fish will come and swim next to them, allowing for an easy shot.— Jeff Hogue, Omaha, Ne

When bow fishing for carp, you will usually find them in warm, shallow water around bushes, rocks and any other cover. — Joey

Look for carp in cattails at any time of the year. — Jeff, Stratford, WI

On Lake Michigan, carp will feed on seagull droppings. — Jeff, Stratford, WI

After shooting a large grass carp, don't put pressure on the line. They will sometimes stop after running a short distance, allowing you to get another arrow into it to ensure it doesn't get off. — Jeff, Stratford, WI

When shooting carp in rivers (from the bank) draw your bow before you get to the water allowing you to get a quick shot off before the carp spook off. — Morgan Longshore

After a successful hit on a carp, push the arrow down into the sand (or mud). With one hand on top of the arrow, dip the other hand into the water and grab the bottom of the arrow so your fish won't slide off! This only happened to me as a youngster!-live and learn. — Joe Roe

If you see a decent amount of carp holding in one spot, chances are they feed that area consistently. Even if they don't show themselves the minute you arrive, give it time. Hot spots and patience are the keys to successful bow fishing. — Dominic Coville

When wading for drum in creeks don't be afraid to chase a fish down, They tend to take off fast and slow down just as fast (unlike carp) making it possible to get in close for a shot. — Christian Goodpaster, Southern Indiana Bow fishing

Anytime bow fishing in shallow creeks look for pools; they may be only 3-5 inches deep in some cases, but these "holes" gather fish from shallower water and provide holding areas. — Christian Goodpaster, Southern Indiana Bow fishing

When shooting fish coming directly at you, shoot just below the mouth of the fish and you will hit just behind the head. — Michelle Moskala

When you think you’ve aimed low enough, aim lower and keep one sight pin on your bow for surfacing fish and turtles. .It’s a lot easier. --Wrightson, Christopher

I use a slightly modified quick shot whisker biscuit on my bow fishing rig. I coated the bottom bristles with a spray adhesive to stiffen them up. This allows for quicker shots because I don't have to worry about my arrow falling off. — Cody, Pinckneyville IL

Shoot a bit lower than where you want to hit, since water will make the fish seem higher than it is. — Josh De Guzman

If a fish is quartering towards you, wait for a broadside shot. — Thomas Aim low and let go!!!!!!! — Rick, Stevens Point, WI

When shooting off of large culverts, wait for the fish to get almost inside of the culvert and then shoot, giving you a perfect straight down shot. — Justin Marc Pelzer

Be careful on long shots in lily pads. Your arrow may skip on the lily pads. — Aaron Black

If you lose an arrow in a fish, keep your eyes peeled. My cousin and I lost 3 arrows one day and shot those 3 fish the next day and got our arrows back. — John VanDusen

When bow fishing from shore or boat, don't shoot the first fish you see. Learn the patterns that the fish are swimming if possible before sending that first arrow. Whether you score or miss, you will now know where to look for the next rising fish. Fish are very predictable. Once you find a hotspot, always a hotspot as long as they aren't disturbed. — Dan Swearingin

When fishing for gar, try using a container filled with blood to attract them where legal. -- Susan

When river fishing, look for gator gar in a deep hole by creek inlets.—Jeff, Stratford, WI

When you see a couple of big gar rolling throw four or five dead buffalo or carp around the anchored boat. Be quiet and still. The gar will mosey on up giving you an easy shot. If that does not work (which it will) throw some jug line out with a big chunk of buffalo on it about a foot deep from the jug anchor with a 1oz weight when the gar hooks on follow the gar and take as many shot as you like. Jay -- Palestine, TX

To have a more durable arrow, you can insert a fiberglass arrow into a 2213 aluminum shaft.—Tim, Georgetown, TX

If you lose an arrow in a creek or river bank or brush, come back when the water is low and get your arrow back. If you lose an arrow in the water, don't dive in after it unless it's your last one! It's not worth it, I know from experience. — Tyler Krukar

Keep a marker to throw if your arrow breaks off, it makes them much easier to find. — Kelby Scott

To get rid of the fish smell on your hands, take some toothpaste or a citrus soda like Mountain Dew and clean those smelly hands. It works great.—Tim, Georgetown, TX

When fishing with a trolling motor, set it as low as possible and drift into the school of fish, don't make any sudden movements and wear polarized sunglasses.—Scott

When shooting carp from a boat, make sure you put the plug in the back or it will sink, I speak from experience. —Scott

Q&A With Fly Expert Joe Mahler

I am interested in tying my own leaders for freshwater and light saltwater fly fishing. Is there an easy formula to follow for a range of line weights?

Alex B. Fort Myers, FL

 

There is. For most all of my fly fishing, I use the same simple formula. I call it the “50-25-25 leader. The name refers to the percentage of leader material with respect to diameter or strength. This leader is comprised of three parts- the Butt, the midsection and the tippet. The butt is the heaviest and will be 50% of the leader. For an eight foot leader, this section would be eight feet long.  The midsection will be 25% of the overall length, or two feet for our eight foot leader. Lastly, there is the tippet, the remaining 25%.

To determine how heavy to make the butt section, a good rule of thumb is to multiply the line weight times five. An example would be if you are using a weight forward #8, your butt material will be 40 pound test. If you ware using a six weight line, your butt material will be thirty pound test. From that point you can step the diameters down, but no more than a difference of ten pound test per connection. Here is an example for an eight foot, eight weight, twenty pound tippet leader:    4 ‘ 40lb.+ 2’ 30 lb. + 2’ 20lb.

If you would like to drop down to a smaller diameter line, you may simply add more sections to this basic leader formula.

 

 

About Joe Mahler

Joe Mahler is an author, illustrator and fly casting / fly tying instructor living in Fort Myers, Florida. Joe has spent his life fly fishing for anything with a “tug” and teaching others to do the same. His articles and illustrations appear regularly in Fly Fisherman Magazine and other national publications. Mahler’s “StrawBoss” fly pattern, for both fresh and salt water, is currently featured in the Orvis line-up in three color variations and has been featured in several magazine articles and most recently in Drew Chicone’s book “Feather Brain”. Joe is also the author and illustrator of “Essential Knots & Rigs for Trout” and “Essential Knots & Rigs for Salt Water” (Stackpole Books). You have seen Joe casting away in national television commercials for Bass Pro Shops, Tracker and Mako Boats.

Joe is currently a SAGE ambassador and member of the Dyna-King Professional Tying Team. When not fishing the crystal waters of Southwest Florida, he can be found teaching fly casting and tying to enthusiasts of all levels. Joe’s easy-going approach has made him a popular guest speaker at fishing clubs and sports shows. To learn more, visit www.joemahler.com

 

 

An Office with a Different View

Bass Pro Shops Altoona AquaristWe welcome Chris Schuehle as our new aquarist at Bass Pro Shops Altoona!  Chris is a 2012 Drake University Business graduate, which may sound like an interesting background for taking care of a giant aquarium in a big outdoor store.

However, Chris has been around aquariums since he was young. He started with freshwater and went into saltwater aquariums and still has a large reef tank at his parents in Minnesota. But his experience now is to learn the industrial side of things, from the giant pump room to the 33,000 aquarium in the main store and the 1,000 gallon aquarium in Uncle Buck's FishBowl and Grill.

Chris also has scuba experience, which is integral, of course, to maintaining the large aquarium. His scuba experience started after his freshman year in college, when he and friends worked as divers in Minnesota, diving to the bottom of  lakes to remove weeds. He has also been to the Keys diving several times.

He says the most interesting thing about his new position is the size of everything and learning so much more from the experts from other stores who have been training him.

"It's pretty amazing to think about all the goes into making it possible for one little kid to have so much fun running up to see the fish and then running off again!"

That's what it's all about at Bass Pro Shops.

The Most Productive Fly Ever?

A Box of ClousersIf you were stranded on an island surrounded by your choice of fresh or salt water, what one fly would you choose to have along with your favorite rod?  This is a question we often ask ourselves in the shop while surrounded by hundreds of flies that are meant to catch fish just about as well as they catch fishermen’s attention.  Each and every one was designed to produce, but many of them are so specific that put in the wrong conditions, they would be just about worthless except in catching a blind fish with no sense of what his natural prey should be.  What makes a good fly?  What makes a fly universally fishable?

Fishermen have asked the same questions since the first fly was attached to the end of a leader and the first fish was landed.  But even today we still haven’t decided what the end-all, be-all best fly to have on hand in most situations might be.  I know two would top my list after 17 years of throwing, and I’m sure there are more than a few folks that would agree with my choices.

The Clouser Minnow in all its iterations is probably the most productive fly overall ever created and we have Bob Clouser to thank for his ingenuity.  He developed the fly to fish for smallmouth bass in Pennsylvania without realizing that it would be a productive pattern on just about anything that swims in fresh or salt.  Thanks to Lefty Kreh, the Clouser Minnow became a legend overnight, and proved itself on the water for years to come.  I’ve landed more varied species on Clouser variants than any other fly in my box because I have faith, and it works.  Even though it doesn’t really imitate anything specific, it approximates just about everything when tied with the right materials and colors.

The Wooly Bugger is another fly that has gained a loyal freshwater following but did you know that it’s productive in saltwater as well, and there are plenty of flies loosely based on it?  The Crystal Schminnow we know and love bears a striking resemblance to a Crystal Bugger outfitted with mono eyes.  Regardless of what it looks like, it sure catches fish of varied types, especially snook along the beach.  Even a wooly bugger tied in the traditional manner will catch just about anything that swims if you use the appropriate hooks.

So to borrow a phrase spoken by Sean Connery in one of my favorite movies, “There can be only one!” Which would you choose if stranded on an island?  I know my box will contain a Clouser Minnow, or a Wooly Bugger because I know I'll be catching fish.  What color should it be?  That's a question for another day.

 

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando

A Simple Guide to Cold Water Fishing Tactics

     No doubt midwinter is the most challenging time to consistently catch fish . Often the coldest water temperatures are accompanied by dingy water and even cloudy days which further impinge on the fishes’ desire and ability to feed.  Ask any ‘old school’ fisherman and the answer will be “low and slow is the way to go.”

     Bottom bumping with Carolina rigged soft plastic ‘wavy tail’ worms (like Culprit, Zoom and Bass Pro) in freshwater or soft plastic ‘minnow tail’ bodies (by Fin-S, Zoom, Saltwater Assassin, and Offshore Angler) on a ¼ ounce jig head in salt and brackish water rivers and creeks is the normal pattern for cold water fishing in this area.  While that ‘low & slow’ adage is true much of the time in winter, there are days or even periods when the fish respond to prevailing environmental stimuli of sun and sustained  warm temperatures which affect their schooling and feeding behavior. After all, fish being ‘cold-blooded’ simply means they tend to take on the activity level of their surroundings. So when the water is cold (or ‘cooling off’) they tend to be less active than in times when the sun or air may warm the water even by a few degrees. The days are getting a little longer now and at our low latitude, the sun angle is high enough in the sky to occasionally ‘energize’ shallow waters, especially those that are clear and dark or containing vegetation.  

     These times may simply be an hour or two at the end of a sunny afternoon when the wind has died off and allowed the shallow end of a pond or lake or backwater oxbow (in fresh water) to get a few degrees warmer than the surrounding (deeper and dingier) waters. Or (in saltwater) similar warming occurs in small, shallow, protected bays especially if the water is clear and the bottom dark. The whole foodchain sparks to life during these episodes as the sun promotes activity at each level leading up to the fish, which are stimulated by the relative warming of the water and the availability of food. Gamefish may briefly move into shallower waters or rise up in the water column to follow their foodsource, providing a brief feeding frenzy or even a prolonged pre-spring ‘fling’ which savvy anglers have learned to capitalize upon.

     Mild winter evenings spent fishing the edges of shallow weed-lined freshwater lakes and ponds may provide an hour or two of ‘heart stopping’ bass action using a variety of topwater lures or dark colored frog imitations rigged weedless. Bass Pro has an extensive selection of plastic frog and toad lures well suited for this as well as the weedless double frog hooks.

     Similarly, in saltwater bays or brackish river bends at the end of a ‘warm’ winter day speckled trout often go on a feeding binge just before dark. This is a great time for majestic sunsets and sizzling topwater action using lures like Rapala Skitterwalk, Mirrolure Top Dog,  or Heddon Spook especially in the vicinity of mullet schools. The hours preceding an evening topwater bite can often be productively spent throwing or slow trolling suspending or sinking hard baits like Rapala X-Rap, Mirrolure Mirrodine, Glad Shad, Catch and TT series or the NEW Offshore Angler Red Eye Mullet .     

     Taking advantage of these winter ‘windows of opportunity’ is not only a great way to overcome a case ‘of cabin fever’, but will keep your tackle and fishing skills polished and just maybe get you a fresh fish dinner ;-)

 

David Thornton

January 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Fish Donation Month

Did You Know?NFWF
  • More Americans fish than play basketball (24.0 million) and football (8.9 million) combined.
  • The number of jobs supported by anglers could employ all attendees of the last seven Super Bowls – TWICE!
  • Fishing as a leisure-time activity ranks higher than playing golf, target shooting, hunting with firearms, backpacking and wilderness camping, baseball, mountain biking and skiing.

(Statistics from the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, 2nd Edition)

During February Bass Pro Shops sponsors the More Fish Donation Campaign. For a $2 donation, your name is entered for a chance to win a $500 Bass Pro Shops gift card. But what IS the More Fish campaign and how is your $2 helping?

The More Fish Campaign monies collected go towards the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.  This nationwide plan was established to protect, restore, and enhance our country's fisheries.  The plan was led by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies around the country, state offices, the Department of Commerce and over 700 federal, state, and non-governmental entities, including Bass Pro Shops. 

The plan established several partnerships around the country based on geographic location, key fish species, or aquatic life.  Iowa is effected by three of the partnerships: the Driftless Area Restoration Initiative, the Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership, and the Fishers and Farmers Partnership. These three groups have also come together with three of the other National Plan partnerships to create the Midwest Fish Habitat Partnership. 

Visit the links above and check out the Plan's and various Partnerships' goals, objectives, and some of the projects completed and in progress.

jumping bassStop in to Bass Pro Shops Altoona and make your $2 donation to help keep our streams, rivers, and habitat healthy for fish and keep our next generation fishing!

  •  More freshwater anglers prefer largemouth bass (52%), followed by panfish (28%).
  •  Most fishing tackle purchases include lures (46%), followed by terminal tackle (26%) then fishing line (24%).
(Statistics from the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, 2nd Edition)

More Fish $500 Gift Card Giveaway!

For the month of February, Bass Pro Shop will be accepting $2.00 donations for a chance to win a $500 gift card!  The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was created  in 1984 to protect and restore fish and wildlife and their habitats.  NFWF provides grants on a competitive basis to protect imperiled species, promote healthy oceans and waterways, improve wildlife habitat, advance sustainable fisheries and conserve water for wildlife and people. Birds, freshwater fish, marine and coastal ecosystems, wildlife and habitat are focal areas.

NFWF’s Congressional mandate is to connect government agencies, non-profit organizations, corporations and individuals to combine federal funds with private donations for effective, results-oriented conservation projects. Since its establishment in 1984 through 2011, NFWF has awarded over 11,600 grants leveraging $576 million in federal funds into more than $2 billion for conservation.

NFWF supports conservation efforts in all 50 states, U.S. territories and abroad. Grants are made through a competitive process and awarded to some of the nation’s largest environmental organizations, as well as some of the smallest. More Fish!

This is a excellent foundation and with the help of Bass Pro Shop you can win a $500 Gift Card!

New Fishing Products for 2014

Now is the time when the new 2014 arrivals are showing up in the store. The new items are reels like the Shimano Stradic CL4+,new Penn Conflicts, and new Offshore Angler reels to name a few. Also new rods are in stock like Seeker, Castaway, Abu Garcia and more but don't forget the current favorites like the Carbonlites. Also hitting shelves are new lures both salt and freshwater like the new baitball from Live Target and new frogs from Spro. The new items in the store are worth coming to take a look at in order to stay up on your fishing game.

Shimano Stradic Cl4+

 

The New Bait Ball by Live Target

 

Bait Ball by Live Target

 

 

-Garrett Farmer

Fishy Facts: Crappie

Crappie.

Ha-ha, classic. Never has there been a fish whose name can bring one to a giggle as quickly as the crappie. So in the light of having a good time and maybe even getting a chuckle in, I have chosen the crappie as the Fishy Fact fish of the month!

Crappies are a North American freshwater fish that are a part of the sunfish family. There are two different species of crappie, the black and the white. These two fish are extremely popular game-fish. They put up a good fight and taste great as well.

These fish are known by a number of names including: strawberry bass, calico bass, Oswego bass, speckled bass, speckled perch and paper mouths. They get the last name for how delicate their lips our. Many times, these can be ripped when hooked or being handled so be careful when handling for catch and release.

These fish tend to be more actively eating during dawn and dusk. Usually during the day they tend to stick to some kind of cover. Crappies eat a variety of food that includes smaller fish, insects, crustaceans and more. For this reason, anglers can use a variety of methods to catch them. Both artificial and live baits can be used effectively, so typically anglers bring a variety of baits. Because crappies are active during the winter they can also be caught during ice-fishing seasons.

There are two very popular ways to fish when targeting crappie. The first is called spider rigging. This is where anglers have several rods with varieties of baits hanging off the sides of the boats. All the poles look like legs so hence the term spider rigging. The baits are usually different colors, at different depths and such as one can never be sure what will get crappie to bite. Crappie tend to travel in schools, so when you catch one there are probably several more in the area. It is common at times to have several poles hooked up at the same time when spider rigging.

The second way is to fish at night under lights. There are specialty floating lights that one can toss onto the water. The light illuminates the water below which attracts the smallest members of the food chain. That attracts slightly larger members and so on until the crappie show up. There are sinking lights as well which can be set at specific depths when needed.

Both the white and black crappie looks extremely similar. The easiest way to tell the difference is from the patterning of the marks on their sides. The white crappies markings tend to look like vertical bars rather than scattered spots like on a black crappie. White crappie can also handle murky waters better than black crappie.

So here’s the tip of our rod to the characteristic crappie. You also make us smile while either catching you or just saying your name. Thanks for the laughs and providing us with the excuse to say “crappie day of fishing” and not be smacked in public.

As genial to a bartender is to a sheriff! Giddy-Up!!

Former Fishy Facts

Northern Pike

Rainbow Trout

Largemouth Bass

Peacock Bass

Walleye

Billfish

Dolphinfish

Fishy Facts: Northern Pike

Hmm… would you look at that? It appears to be Fishy Fact: 30. Which of course means it is time for another fishy fact. This month let us cover one of those toothy bad boys of freshwater: Northern Pike.

The northern pike is an apex predator in their ecosystem. The veracity with which they attack their prey makes them an awesome fighter when hooked. They also grow to relatively large size, which means the bigger the fish the bigger the fight.

The pike got their name due to the resemblance their structure has compared to the pole-weapon commonly used during the Medieval Period. This pointed structured helps them cut through water and they use impressive bursts of speed to run down their prey.

They are usually an olive green with some yellow and white along the belly. They also tend to have a number of dark spots on their bodies. They look a lot like the muskellunge, but have their differences. The northern pike has a number of sensory pores on their head and along the underside of their lower jaw.

Typical prey of the northern pike include: fish, leeches, insects, amphibians, small mammals and even birds. There are pictures of cute little ducklings swimming along as a hungry northern pike salivates below in the water. Pretty accurate, honestly. Northern pike tend to be solitary predators.

Along with being solitary they tend to stay in the same waters. Their homing sense is very strong, and will keep them in the same area for years. They tend to breed in the spring. In summer they stay closer to vegetation than when it is winter.

Typically fishermen will pitch assorted baits and lures in a semi-fast fashion to try and attract the bite from the northern pike. When I was in Canada it was common to switch to pitching for pike instead of jigging for walleye to break the boredom. If we didn’t feel like pitching, it went to trolling. Plugs, jerk baits, inline spinners, soft baits and spoons tend to be the most effective lures used for pike. Many like to use something with some shine that will glint in the water to attract any possible pike nearby. Ice fishing for these large predators is also popular, just be careful being in that close of proximity to something that strong with that many teeth.

Many fishermen will overlook pike as an edible catch. This is due to the high amount of bones in their long, slender bodies. This makes it very hard to get meat off the fish, which is why many do not spend the time cleaning them. If one were to take the time to learn a little trick for cleaning pike they would also learn just how delicious they are. Pike is a common fish consumed in Europe.

Now because pike are as strong and toothy as mentioned above, fishermen either are very careful when handling them or just club them. When I went fishing for them there were two rules, watch the teeth and don’t drop the net. I was able to follow the first rule but may have forgotten the second. In fact, the story of me is dropping the net right after Uncle Scot said not to is one of his favorites. It took us quite the time to get the fish out, but when we finally did it was worth the effort!

Nice, right? PS- Uncle Scot caught that, I just look too cool with my sideburns.

Pikes Picnickin’ with Prickly Pear Paws! Giddy-Up!!

Former Fishy Facts:

Rainbow Trout

Largemouth Bass

Peacock Bass

Walleye

Billfish

Bi-Weekly Bites: Appetizers

Ok, so maybe it’s been longer than just a couple weeks since my last Bi-Weekly Bite but its back! And to restart it, I figured I’d focus on the starting part of any meal… the appetizers. And let me tell you, those folks over at Islamorada Fish Company know what they are doing!

The first dish is one that I go Woo-Hoo over, which is ironic because it is the Wahoo! Actually it is the Smoked Wahoo Dip to be exact. This delicious dish is the perfect thing to prep one’s palate for a serenade of seafood at the Islamorada Fish Company. This is one of those times when having a fishy taste is exactly what you want. (Unlike when taking fish oil pills, which if you freeze will eliminate that taste.) Keep your knife, prison shank or whatever other pointed object you carry close as it will be a fight to get the last bit of this dip!

Not feeling the fish?! That’s ok, the Spinach and Artichoke Skillet will certainly delight the consumer. Warm melted cheese with what I would validate as a day’s worth of veggies (artichokes and spinach) served in a skillet?! Yes ma’am! (We all should know how I feel about skillets by now.) My best friend and I have been known to make a meal out of this alone.

And last but not least, looking to combine skillet presentation with a seafood flare? Look no further than the Flash Fried Crawfish Tails. Never had crawfish? Think of it like a tiny-freshwater lobster. It is absolutely delicious. And with a healthy dash of Cajun seasonings on these bad boys, you’ll be doing your best Swamp People impression in no time! “Chew ‘Em Uh-Lizabeth!” Get it? “Chew ‘Em” … like “Ch’oot ‘Em!” … eh, get a job.

Now is the perfect time to bring the whole family in as well! We all have those things known as in-laws/snowbirds that only come to visit because their homeland is frozen over, so why not treat them to something a little delicious and different?

Buckaroos Bringin’ Big Appetites! Giddy-Up!

Digested Bites:

Clam Strips

Grouper Sandwich

Mussels

Not So Fast! Preparing your fishing equipment for the off season: Part 2

Umpqua-Glide-Fly-Line-Dressing-KitBaitcast Line WinderNot So Fast! Part 2

Suggestions for preparing your fishing equipment for the off season.

by Captain Jim Barr- www.SkinnyWaterChartersRI.com- Bass Pro Shops, Foxboro, MA- Pro Staff- 10/23/13

 

Fly Lines and Backing:

Inspect your fly line backing closely. Dacron and Gel Spun backing is very durable however it can become damaged from exposure to the elements or if a fish takes you deep into structure during the fight and rubs the line against abrasive surfaces. If it is frayed in spots or simply has not been replaced for some time, replace it with fresh backing… it’s cheap insurance to prevent losing the fish of your life. In most cases 30 lb Dacron backing is perfectly adequate for saltwater fishing. (Use 20lb for freshwater). If you desire a thinner backing that will allow more line to be added to your large arbor spools, Gel Spun is a good choice, albeit a bit more pricey. In most cases, 200 yards of backing is plenty for stripers, bluefish, false albacore and bonito. For other faster and longer running fish, best to consult with an expert shop or guide who can advise what’s necessary. 

 

Inspect your fly line closely, particularly the first 30-40 feet, for cracks in the plastic coating. Repeated casting and exposure to salt, sand, and the sun’s UV rays will take a heavy toll on fly lines. If your line has cracks, it will likely be to the “head” section of the line and the line should be replaced.

(You may want to cut off the head section of the fly line and retain the running line portion for fashioning shooting head systems.)  If the fly line is undamaged clean it with warm soapy water and apply a dressing.  Regular cleaning and dressing of your fly lines is absolutely critical in preserving your investment.

 

Rather than rewinding your fly lines back onto the spools, coil the lines in large coils and secure the coils using pipe cleaner ties. Label large plastic re-sealable food bags with the specifics of each line (line type- floating, intermediate, fast sinking etc, and weight) and store the lines in a cool, dry location. Keep these lines stored until spring when you will wind them back onto the reel and spools using your line winder or by hand. Storing lines in large coils will mitigate line memory so that come spring you are not dealing with "slinky toy" coiled lines resulting from being tightly wound on your spools during the off season. I would also suggest that you discard all leaders/tippets tied to your fly lines and await the arrival of spring to replace them with fresh material.

 

Spinning and Baitcasting Lines:

As a fishing guide the lines on my spinning and baitcasting reels take a beating. I go back and forth between using monofilament and braid. Both have good and bad qualities. Monofilament is inexpensive and tangles less frequently than braided line. Mono’s primary downfall from my perspective is that it does not cast as far as braid and has too much stretch. Braided line permits very long distance casts, it’s strength to diameter ratio is a real plus, it does not stretch under load and it creates a super sensitive connection between the angler and the fish, however it is prone to easily developing wind knots and it is prohibitively expensive to replace each season. As for monofilament line maintenance, I simply replace it with fresh line on all reels after each season. As for braid, I replace it when I need to.

In both cases for removing old line from reels, I use empty line spools and attach them to a variable speed drill using a “MacGyver”-type bit or the line winder mentioned earlier in this article. On the spinning reels I secure the open bail with a hair tie to prevent it from accidentally tripping while the line is being rewound onto the waste spool or line winder. In both cases the use of a line winder for adding new line makes the job infinitely easier. Remember to recycle your lines to prevent injury to animals and the environment.

Baitcast Line Winder: http://www.basspro.com/Bass-Pro-Shops-XPS-Aluminum-Line-Winder-for-Baitcast-Reels/product/104172/

Spin casting line winder: http://www.basspro.com/Bass-Pro-Shops-XPS-Aluminum-Line-Winder-for-Spinning-Reels/product/20677/

Fishy Facts: Largemouth Bass

Ah yes, here we are with the one and only largemouth bass. A simple creature that has quickly become one of the most well known and identifiable fish species in the world. From being the main star of numerous fishing tournaments to being on the polo that I wear every day to work, the largemouth bass could be considered the King of Sport Fish Species in the United States.

Several states have even recognized the largemouth bass as the superstar that it is. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi have made the largemouth bass its state freshwater fish and good ol’ Tennessee made it the official sport fish of their state.

Now largemouth bass are a species of black bass, and just so happens to be the largest (not sure if they are also the mouthiest but I’d bet so). They are typically olive-green with dark a splotch that forms almost a stripe along the fish’s side. Now of course anyone who has caught these fish knows that they can come in all sorts of variations.

Luckily for them, largemouth bass are not considered the tastiest fish. This leads many to practice catch-and-release when going after them. This ensures populations will remain strong and little fish will grow into big fish for future generations to catch. But not all fishermen that practice catch-and-release know the proper way to do so. Did you know that holding a largemouth bass horizontally at a degree greater than 10 degrees is dangerous and typically deadly to the fish? That is why you will see many pro fishermen holding the fish vertically by the lower lip.

But why catch them if not to eat them? Well one can still appreciate an animal even if it is not paired with garlic mashed potatoes. Largemouth bass can be the apex predator in an ecosystem and put up a good fight. They are extremely fun to catch which is why many become addicted to catching them!

Largemouth bass will prey upon food sources that can be up to half their own size! They will consume crawfish, worms, shrimp, insects, smaller fish, frogs, lizards, snakes and salamanders. They have even been known the eat small water birds, mammals and baby alligators. Because of all this, largemouth bass can be caught on both artificial and live baits.

Because of their ferocity they can also be viewed as a nuisance and may destroy an entire body of water’s ecosystem if introduced in the wrong place. They are popularly stocked in ponds for public or private uses and must be well managed to ensure a healthy population.

                            

As mentioned earlier, they are the main stars of most professional fishing tournaments within the country. What was once a simple fishing trip has now evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. Bass fishing has revolutionized and changed almost every aspect of fishing, from boats to hooks. The two dominant fishing circuits belong to FLW and Bassmaster (organized by B.A.S.S.).

The second time I ever went fishing was the first time I caught something. It just happened to be four largemouth bass on my uncle’s farm pond in Arkansas (which by the way it is illegal to mispronounce the state’s name when in the state). Since then I have caught only two more in my entire fishing career. But with the help of the great people I work with, I am sure to blow that number up tremendously.

So tip of the rod to you oh mighty largemouth bass. May you swim straight, hit strong and forever be the only symbol I wear while in a green polo.

Fix One’s Flint While Fishing!! Giddy-Up!

Fellow Fishy Facts:

Peacock Bass

Rainbow Trout

Walleye

Fish Feeding Frenzy and The Fish Guy!

Meet Jason McCoy or what most people call him as  "The Fish Guy."  Jason is our biologist who takes care of all our fish in our 18,000 gallon  fish tank.  Jason knows fish.  He can answer just about any question you may have.  Jason has been with us since we opened in 2004.   With Jason comes his partner and who he calls his boss  "Jack".  Jack is half cairn terrier and half shih tzu.  Everyone of our associates welcome Jack each and every time he comes in.

Jason not only feeds our fish but is their crusader.  He takes care of them when they are sick.  He introduces new fish into the tank, as well as cares for fish who have been donated to us until they are ready to be put into the tank.   Jason also maintains our Utica store.  Jason takes care of  private companies, doctors offices, law offices, and more.

Jason does not just feed the fish, he also keeps the tank in good condition.  Every week he backwashes the tank's filter to clean it.  Jason puts on scuba gear and gets inside the tank to scrub and power wash the rocks and gravel.  He then vacuums to clear the debris.  Jason feeds our fish 10-12 meals a week.

The tank needs to be around 58 degrees and is filled with Auburn water.  The only chemical used is a chlorine neutralizer.

We do public feedings on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 12 noon.  Saturdays are the day we get up on the tank during the feedings  and talk a little about what Jason is doing and a little about the store.  Once he arrives, the fish just know its feeding time and they start moving around.  They eat the food immediately.  When a fish is not aggressive enought to eat,  Jason never forgets them. Jason puts a long narrow plastic tube in and drops food from the top of the tank and it comes out near those fish who dont fight for their dinner.  Jason uses both natural and artificial food.  A few examples of food are pellets, earth worms, crayfish, minnows and other small fish.

What fish do we currently have in the tank?  Well stop on by and see if you can find the following:

Large and Small Mouth Bass

Rock Bass

Blue Gill

Sun Fish

Black Crappie

Tiger Muskie

Brown Trout

Rainbow Trout

White Bass

Yellow Perch

Channel Catfish

Freshwater Drum

Common Carp

Every day is a fun exciting one at Bass Pro Shop.  So bring the family by and watch Jason do his magic.

 

Robin Piedmonte - Events Coordinator

fish guy

 

                                                                                

 

 

jasom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Surf Fishing Classes

Join Destin's Bass Pro Shops' staff at beautiful Henderson Beach State Park, across from the Destin WalMart for upcoming Fall Surf Fishing Classes!  All tackle, bait, and equipment will be provided and there is no charge for the classes. You bring your Saltwater Fishing License, sunscreen and water.  Admission to the Park is free when you pre-register. 

We have had these successful Surf Fishing Classes the past two Springs, but cooler weather brings another run of different species of fishes along our coastlines.  Learn the proper rigs and baits to use for Fall fishing!  Learn how to properly cast  a surf fishing rig and make the most of your fishing experience at one of our most beautiful State Parks!

Classes will be held from 8 am til Noon on Saturday, October 5th; Saturday, October 12th; Saturday, October 26th; and Saturday, November 2nd.

Please call our Customer Service Department at (850) 269-6200 to register.  Class size is limited to the first 10 callers.

For all of your saltwater, freshwater, or fly fishing needs or Licenses, check out our Fishing Departments at Destin's Bass Pro Shops.

Saltwater Drop Shot Rig Fishing

The drop shot rig has roots in the eastern U.S., dating back to the mid-70's and was first seen in "Fishing Facts" magazine.  In the 1990's, Japanese anglers resurrected the method for use on their highly pressured waters.  The Japanese refined the technique and it soon returned to the States.  In 1997, the drop shot rig was relatively unknown except to a few Southern California fishermen who had ties to Japanese manufacturers and pros.  The system worked extremely well, and those that knew about it did their best to keep it a secret.  Then, in winter 1999, two major tournaments were won using the drop shot rig - the B.A.S.S. Invitational at Lake Oroville, and the WON Bass Classic on Lake Cachuma.  The proverbial cat was out of the bag - way out!

While largely viewed as a fresh water tactic for finessing finicky bass or fishing in highly pressured waters, the drop shot rig is readily adaptable for presenting soft baits such as Berkeley Gulp or DOA's in our bays for redfish and speckled trout.  The presentation is different from using a jig or a popping cork in that the bait can be rigged to be held just above the weeds.  This will put the bait in full view of the fish we want to catch.  In addition, the weight being below the bait allows for anglers to feel the soft bites more easily.  But this is more of a rig to use when we have a good idea of where the fish are, rather than when we are searching water using a lure.

The basic rig resembles a standard dropper used in the ocean and for freshwater catfish, with one difference - there is no line (dropper) between the hook and the main line.  Tie a standard Polomar knot - start by going through the "hook-point" side of the eye, and leaving at least two extra feet of line on the tag end.  The extra line will be used to attach the sinker.  Once the Polomar is tied, take the tag end and thread it back through the "hook-point" side of the eye, again.  This last step forces the hook shaft to lie against the line, which aids hook setting.  Another option is the VMC Spinshot wide gap hook, which has a swivel through the eye of the hook, allowing the bait to move without twisting the line. 

Once the hook is in place, attach the weight.  Drop shot leads have an eyelet on the top that pinches the line, allowing the lead to pull off if snagged.  Choose one that is heavy enough to stay in contact with the bottom, but not too heavy.  In most situations, use a 1/8 to 5/16 ounce, but a 3/8 to 1/2 ounce can be used in extremely deep water or during windy situations.  I use 1/4 ounce normally or 3/8 ounce when the wind is up a little.  Experiment with the weight, as this rig will cast well, and increasing the weight slightly will let you cast further.  The "drop" (distance from hook to weight) can range from six inches to four feet, or more, depending upon how high the grass is relative to the bottom.  Remember, we want our bait just over the top of the grass we are fishing.  Another thing to consider is bottom composition.  Use a cylinder weight over grass, and save the round sinker for a rocky bottom as the round is more likely to snag.

I am just starting to experiment with this rig.  My first trip using the drop shot rig resulted in five specks in about half an hour.  After casting, take the slack out of the line and hold the rod at a 10 o'clock position.  After raising the rod tip slowly 2 or 3 times, reel up the slack to get a tight line again.  Fish this rig slowly.  This rig has a lot of versatility and I cannot wait to try variations of the drop shot rig.  I can see a lot of different ways to use this and to target different species.

Jim Martino

Fishy Facts: Walleye

Time to get back to the facts of life… or at least the fishy ones! This month’s will be going over one of my favorite fish to catch and eat: Walleye. Now look, there are a few ways to get a good and quick grasp on a new acquaintance by going over a few things. What is your favorite sport? Who is your current Hollywood crush? Where do you want to get a bite to eat? When did you realize that Jurassic Park is the greatest movie ever? How do you like your walleye prepared?

My future father-in-law and I went through a similar exchange and when it got to the walleye part we both realized we could probably deal with each other for the rest of time as we both love them fried. Good stuff.

Anyways, walleye are freshwater fish native to Canada and the northern United States. They have a number of different names in different areas, but the most common one I have heard is walleye pike. I’ll catch myself calling them this from time to time, even though I know that they are not part of the pike family. They get their name from their eyes. They point outward and somewhere some stinky fisherman probably said something like “It’s like their looking at the wall” and Bada-Boom you have a name!

Their eyes also play a crucial role in not just their name, but their habits. Their eyes are able to see extremely well in low-light conditions through the layering of their eyes. This means they will be more active at night and at low-light times when compared to other species. Many walleye fishermen know this and commonly set out around dusk and are out through most of the night. They tend to be deeper in the water, but this past season one fisherman was able to do well on the walleye tournament by fishing in the rivers. The walleye’s eyes are also well adapted to see through stained, rough or breaking waters.

Walleyes have a golden and olive coloration to them, and are very similar to their cousin the sauger. Scientists have successfully mixed these two species creating a saugeye. We used to have one at our big ol’ fish bowl, but unfortunately he is no longer with us. Sadder is the fact that I was told to turn off the deep fryer and put the batter back.

They can grow up to about 30 inches and weigh roughly 20 pounds. Because the fish are such a popular source of recreating and consuming, they are well regulated. Most states enact a quota or size limit to make sure we keep plenty of this guys swimming in our waters. Some states love their walleye so much that they even made them their state fish. (This would be Minnesota and South Dakota. Even Saskatchewan named the walleye their official fish.)

Walleye have been growing in popularity, with now even having their own fishing tournament circuit. The techniques used there are pioneering new ways to catch the fine fish. What was once considered a live bait or jig only fish are now being pulled in off of crank baits, spoons and several other rigs.

As mentioned several times, these fish are delicious. If you have never tried some, make a point to. The fish is extremely versatile and can be cooked in just about any form. The trip I took during high school is one of my most favorite memories. I was able to spend a good amount of time with great friends who really are family (best friend/ brother below) and catch dozens. The best part of the day was gathering for shore-lunch where that morning’s catch was fried up with potatoes.

So no matter how far out of your way you have to go to catch or consume one, make a point to. They are worth the trip. One bite, from either on the end of a line or off a fork, and you will be hooked. Guaranteed.

Four-eyed Walleyes! Giddy-Up!

Catch the other two Fishy Facts below:

Rainbow Trout

Peacock Bass