FARM 13 / STICK MARSH FISHING REPORTS
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29 June 2017
STICK MARSH/FARM 13 ---- Let's get the unknowns out of the way first: The new area, directly east of the Marsh and Farm 13, is NOW rumored to open in September 17. Since it is 6, or more, years behind already, who really knows if that is a decent date. Personally, I doubt it. The problem, we are currently told, is that they have no usable boat ramp. I know they built a big one right off the current Stick Marsh access road. But, it appears they neglected to note in was placed at the end of a LONG canal that could (and apparently DID) clog up with floating water plants. Now, the plants have rotted, stacked deeper and made the ramp useless. That's the story I get, but I cannot say for sure it is true. The other ramp (yep, there were at least two planned) wound up being a victim of red tape and has never been built. Lots of finger-pointing going on there.Just about every day, there are airboats in the new area, spraying for water weeds and doing shocking fish counts. I suppose that is keeping someone in a job, anyway. Meanwhile, the local communities are losing a LOT of fisherman dollars due to Government inaction.
Back to the original impoundments: From November thru the end of May, we caught boatloads of big crappie. From my somewhat poor record files, we took (and release most of) 1500 fish. All came on jigs; no live bait was used at all. The cinnamon/chartreuse PERFECT Jig was always the best color, but the others worked, too. The spawn this year (so you can plan for 2018) was approximately 20 February - 20 May, with the peak around the last two weeks of March. Bluegill immediately followed the crappie in spawning and are just finishing now (end of June). If you like to bow/arrow fish, the big Tilapia (up to 18 lbs.) spawned in the shallows from mid-April until about 20 June. I saw a few still shallow today, but most have 'do their thing'. The bass spawn appears to have been good again this year. Lots of fry in the shallows. The grasses continue to grow back in a decent manner. Lots of eel grass and some milfoil-types in the shallow zones. However, the best producing areas have been the milfoil-types growing underwater and out of sight out in the open water of Farm 13. These areas have to be searched out with the sonar, with the GPS making them easy to find again. Most anglers only fish what they can see, so you can have this submerged grass all to yourself. Just find it (the hard part). Most ANY lure will then work. The Stick Marsh side remains the best-kept secret for us local anglers. It remains FULL of submerged timber, with little grass. Knowing where the old clumps of trees, large brush stands, and ocassional potholes are can mean GREAT fishing. A word to the wise: there are probably MORE bass on the Stick Marsh side of the impoundment than on the Farm 13 side. Bigger fish, too. A crank plug at 4-5 feet is a good choice (hint, hint).
16 Aug 2016
STICK MARSH----Here it is, a super HOT summer in 2016. Most anglers with any sense at all are under the air conditioner, rubbing the dog's ears, the wife, or such, and sippin' a cool one. But, the fishing sickness never really goes away, so once in awhile, we gotta go try it, right?
Well, here's what you want to know: Even with all the heat AND the rather warm water, the Stick Marsh bass will eat you up. AND, it's in the best way possible, too-- topwater!!! My experience shows that it doesn't have to be early or late in the day; just whenever you get up the courage to go. I have been fishing from around 7AM until generally 11 AM, or noon. Dodging a few showers, that is about the longest my old body will handle the heat. The action has been best in the south end of Farm 13 (of course), but about 100 yards out from any visible surface vegetation. Please note that there is grass underwater for a LONG way out (to the North) from where you can last see it and that's where the most fish seem to be. One other location that has worked well in the lower section of the Farm 13 West wall. It has LOTS of wood underwater, between the levee and the small submerged north/south ditch that parallels it. Three lure patterns do well, and I will list them in order of the best-producer first.
Take an unweighted SENKO-type soft bait and rig it weedless and weightless. Work it fast, but erratically, across the surface. Make it look like it's got a bad case of the shakes and jerks. Next, you can apply the same presentation techniques with a 6-inch Zoom worm, or most any other similar lure. The third methid applies a topwater chugger plug, such as a ChugBug or Rebel Pop-R. But, instead of a rapid, erratic retrieve, work the plug as S-L-O-W-L-Y as you can. Wait a LONG time between pops and jerks. Just let it still still for what seems like forever. The bigger bass seem to come this way, while the other two presentation account for numbers of fish.
The old tried-and-true pattern of a Texas-rigged worm on the canal levees will work some, but it's a slow way to fish unless you hit a school.
Finally, summer bass are ALWAYS following schools of gizzard shad around in the Marsh and Farm. Be alert and watch/listen for breaking bass chasing baitfish. The best time for this topwater activity seems to be when a light cop in on the water, so you have to stay alert.
15 May 2014
STICK MARSH---As a 'retired guide', I fish the easy way for easy fish. So, I have mostly concentrated on crappie, with ocassional forays off onto other species just for fun. In general, I have left the Florida bass alone. But, starting in early 2014, I decided there were enough decent bass catch reports to see if they had validity. I can say that the bass are making a fine rebound, but it is mostly confined to the south end of Farm 13. The grass is coming back well and is topping out near that south end. What a lot of anglers haven't noted is that the grass actually is spreading well out to the north edge of the old timer line. It is just underwater and most folks only fish what they can see!. The vast amounts of underwater grass are where the majority of the fish are, especially the large ones. During the spawn (late Dec. thru mid-Feb), some of the giants were in the southern shallows for obvious reasons. After the spawn, they simply went back to the normal holding and feeding spots. I expect the coming hot summer to expand the grass growth out to the levees of the old drainage/irrigation canals a bit and start to spread the fish out more. The better lures (which is really to say those that were adaptable to the current grass and wood remains) are the worm, small spinner baits, shallow crank plugs, and soft jerk baits. Starting now, topwater should start to work well just about anywhere the grass is underwater. The better location we found was C-3 to B-3, as found on our lake map on this web site. That area is just east of the Nursery proper. In the two days (5 hours total) we fished it in late April, we caught some 50 fish, with a number coming in at 6-8 lbs. There were a LOT of small fish, but also a LOT of good, solid fish. I looked over the Stick Marsh side of the impoundment and found fish, but no real grass growth to concentrate them. I know it has to be there (probably towards the west end), but maybe next Fall I will find it. There is a good chance the Governemnt may lower the water levels in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment for awhile to encourage the grass to grow faster.
GARCIA--The canal running north along highway 512 was still blocked at the spillway the last time I checked. The northern half has been sprayed with hyribicide so bad that I don't go there anymore. The south half is pretty good fishing, but it is tough to get past the vegetation blocks and shallow waters on the south end canal. 'You pays your nickle and takes your chances' the man says.
11 May 2013
STICK MARSH---Yeah, I know, it's a long time between fishing reports. Most of it is because I am no longer actively guiding, so I don't have those special adventures to pass on. However, I am still fishing a good bit and here is what you should know. There is fine bass fishing in the Farm 13 south end, back where the wood is. From December through February (core spawning time), the better fishing is where you can first see wood above water and all the way back to the south shore. After mid-February, look for the better fishing to move slight north to the northern edges of the wooded area. Some of the best is 100-200 yards north of the last timber you can still see breaking the surface. There is a LOT of wood underwater on that north side, plus a decent amount of grass is starting to come back out there. A Rat-L-Trap and a Rattlin- Rap will be the better lures, with soft jerk baits and big plastic worms next. I actually like to drag a 5/8th oz black jhiog, with a trailer on it, around in the wood. You get some BIG bass on that. Another excellent crank bait chice is a the middle-sized Big O in FireTiger color. It runs the right depth and will bounce off most of the wood well. Of course, dragging wild shiners around slowly is always good, but not for those with heart conditions. There's nothing quite like a shiner getting chased to the surface and blown up in the air 2-3 times!!!! Spinnerbaits will also work, once you find aggressive bass. We mentioned the grass coming back some, but it appears most of it is eel grass. Bass love that stuff and it is easily seen back in the shallow areas toward the south bank. It also won't hang up a lure very much. Bass like to bed around and in eel grass. Don't forget that. The Back 40 area (north of the boat ramp, turned some good bass in November through January. The best fish were out in the open water flat on the south side and Rat-L-Traps and soft jerk baits worked best. The grass is pretty sparse back there. But, if you can find a little growing, it is a magnet for the fish. Crappie were tough in the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 is past season. A lot came from the Back 40 area, while some were found spawning around the few reeds and floating vegetation in the SW corner of the Farm. We need a LOT of grass growth to help the crappie populations rebound.
GARCIA--The Saint Johns Water Management District has failed to clear the floating vegetation which plugs many of the waterways in Garcia. Many have been impassable since December. Plus, their vegetation spraying programs all but ruined the northern half of the reservoir this past season. While their charter saus to control 'migratory vegeation (that which the winds move around and that which blocks the water fow and boat traffic, The District has been spraying 'anything green' in the north half of poor Garcia. Reed stabds, whole lily pad fields, bank vegetation - that stuff never moves and impedes nothing. But, it was sprayed so badly that northern half of the reservoir was slimey, dirty and smelled bad. Fishing was poor. Ojn the other hand, the southern half was left alone, for the most part. Fishing was darn good. Probably, the fish from the north area moved south to be able to survive and increased the southern population. Worms were great and buzzing frogs tremendous. Soft jerk baits did well in areas where the vegetation was thin enough to use them. 'Pitching' with 'creature' baits was good in the real thick areas, with lots of big bass coming that way. It's hard fishing, but you just have to work at it. The rewards are great once you get the hang of it. Crappie did not work for me much in Garcia. I normally do most of that fishing in the northern half. But, as stated, that was a hosed-up area this past season. The 'borrow pit', normally a great section, was nothing but filthy water and slime. The northern canal going to Farm 13 was blocked most of the time and full of dead and ecaying vegetation. Once again, the banks even got sprayed with herbicide. So, get to fishing beccause you can do really good. Just find clean water work at it until it all comes together. Remember, in planning a trip to the Stick Marsg/Farm 13 impundment, that the water gets really dirty after a period of strong wind. That can shut the fishing off for a day or so while the water clears. Usually, it is a north wind that is the worse. Garcia, on the other hand, is not affected by the wind and it easy to fish even when the winds are 20-25 MPH. Finally, there are a number of guide 'wantabees' trying get your business in our area. Most have day jobs and are4 not full-time. For your own protection and to be assured they are current on the fishing conditions, always ask for their guide license number and proof of liability insurance.
19 January 2012
STICK MARSH---Bass are great in the south end of the Farm 13 section, back in the timber. Soft jerk baits, small swim baits, and even spinnerbaits are doing well. Lots of fish 3-4 lbs. Not many 10 and above, but a few. Crappie are great around areas of submerged grass, especially in the old submerged canals. Look for the grass in the canal using your depthfinder and then use the 1/16th oz PERFECT Jig (www.stickmarsh.com/crappie/) in most any color. I like chartreuse with either a blue or red tail. I had a client out last week and we caught over 50 nice crappie in 4 hours in the big east/west canal f Farm 13. The water is stained, but very fishable, and clearer back in the grassy shallows. If the winds blow hard after a front, give the water about 24 hours to settle and it will be fine again. Yesterday, Lou Daniels and I took a nice bunch of big crappie from the SE spillway basin of the Farm. The secret is to fish out in the deep open water over any grass you can find. It’s not time for crappie to spawn so don’t look for the around the shallow banks.
GARCIA--Water is clear and a bit high still. Crappie are where you find them, so hunt for them in and around grass. Once you catch just one, work the area well. Others will be nearby. Bass are great, if you will accept quantities over quality. I used a 1/8th oz Beetle Spin the other day and caught well over 40 in the grass flats on the northeast section. If you just MUST have big bass, go to large lures and thick, thick cover.
11 September 2011
The BEST news in awhile--- the grass is coming back in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh and is doing so rapidly. That means cover and nursery (food/safety) zones for the new spawns. Their survival rates should jump greatly, with LOTS of small fish in the next two years and many more decent catching fish in next three to five. In addition, more grass means cleaner water with higher oxygen levels, always pluses.
We always tried to reason why that grass would never grow back between the hurricanes of 2004 and as late as 2010. It just refused to grow, even though tons of grass residue from Garcia was constantly coming into the impoundment via the spillway and pump station. Now, an answer appears applicable. In the January - February period of 2010, our part of Florida experienced exceptionally cold temperatures. So cold, in fact, that hundreds of thousands of Tilapia and armored catfish (Orinoco Sailfin Catfish/Pterygoplicththys multiradiatus) died off. The waters were absolutely covered with them. Garcia and Kennansville Lake were also subject to massive kills of these invasive tropical fishes. While the armored catfish appears to eat mostly algae, the Tilapia eats primarily grass. So, it may well be that the huge population of Tilapia was simply eating all the new grass shoots as fast as they would immerge. Thus, the vegetation just never could get started back up. Who knows for sure, but it sounds reasonable. Regardless, the grass is back and the great fishing of yesteryear may well return. But, all that drift-fishing for crappie across the open water flats of the Farm is going to halt, big-time!!!
2 March 2011
As a follow-up on the 22 February report, below, I can now report that the crappie are in spawn in Garcia. Understand, that does mean you will find them everywhere. So, you will have to fish grass and reeds until you find a spawning group. Once that is accomplished, they are fairly easy to catch.
The wind was strong from the SSW on Monday, but it was just blocked enough that I could fish the canal going from Garcia to Farm 13. It was easy to catch a fish nearly every cast. BUT, first, you had to find a group and then concentrate on them. First off, if I got a strike (hook-up, or not), I immediately stopped and saturated the area with casts. Soon, I would get another strike. Then, I was able to gradually hone in on the exact location the group was holding (sort of a ‘sweet spot’ for that location). I also noted the following situations, which told me what the crappie were doing. The dark black males were in close to cover and aggressive, a sure sign that the spawn in imminent, or in progress. The females were nearly all out from the cover 6-8 feet. But, they were holding on some submerged grass out there. That submerged grass was the ‘sweet spot’ mentioned earlier. Another thing that said we were on a spawning area was the indication of an abundance of bluegill around the same place the females were holding, just waiting to get free meals from the crappie eggs. I don’t think fish are very smart, but it would appear those bluegill know that the female crappie are the egg-layers and not the males.
I have been using the 1/16th oz. cinnamon/chartreuse tail PERFECT Crappie jig and casting it on very light tackle and 6-lb. Fireline. I suggest the jig color is probably immaterial, in that spawning crappie are so aggressive in protecting the spawning area that they are not too particular. It just happens that the cinnamon/chartreuse tail jig always works for me, so it is the only one I usually have tied on.
Bass are spotty in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment. A few are being caught, but overall it is not too good. Even shiners have been slow. The key to the bass is to go into the wood on the south end of Farm 13 and fish slow and methodically. Once you find a group, work that area thoroughly. Their are a few still spawning, but water clarity generally precludes sight fishing on the impoundment. Garcia, however, is another story. This nearby cousin of the Farm 13/Stick Marsh is FULL of bass!! It's cup runnith over, so to speak. Anywhere you find grass, you can find bass. And, most any lure that is fishable in the cover will work. Most of the fish will run 12-15 inches, with a better one on ocassions. If it's ONLY BIG BASS you want, break out the heavy gear and go flipping into the heaviest cover you can find. There is plenty of that stuff and it gets to be a pain to fish that way. But, that is the best producer of big bass. Most local tournaments with anglers of a good skill level are consistantly won with 5-fish limts of 19-24 pounds. The big bass are in Garcia; you just have to fish where they are.
22 February 2011
Some of you can use this data now, while others have to wait a few more cold fronts.
Last week, I started looking for pre-spawn crappie. I found a few, but most were the small ones that go to the grass first. Later in the week, I found some good ones in the Garcia canal that parallels SR 512. However, they were off the banks and reeds and out in the open water. Then, last Friday, I found some good schools 3-6 feet out from the reeds in that same N/S canal.
Today, I went into the canal that leads from Garcia to the Farm 13 spillway. I suppose it is due to the current full moon that I found the male crappie in full black color right against the grass and reeds on the north side of that canal, just past the pump station. There were few females, which says the spawn there is not yet started. But, the males were aggressive and protective of their areas and right against the cover. I caught them well on a jig that I cast and retrieved. If you can control the boat, a long pole with a jig should also work.
I have had reports of crappie in the grass in Lakes Kissimmee and Poinsett (near Rockledge), so that just means the spawn is upon us. And, we can expect it to last through the first week of April.
9 April 2010
Here are a couple of things to put in your fishing schedule for next year: 1) The crappie started spawning 28-30 January of this year; 2) I found some late spawners still going strong on 7 April. In-between those dates, there were numerous instances where we found crappie spawning both in Garcia and in the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 impoundments. That says the spawning period this year was possibly close to 80-90 days long. Even with the cold weather in January and February, the fish still spawned (whether the eggs survived the cold water is another matter). In years past, the crappie have generally started the ritual in mid- February and finished up in early April. The crappie we caught in Garcia generally averaged 10 inches, although we did stumble on a few spawning groups of small 8-9 inchers. The larger fish all came from the high spots in the borrow pit and from the east/west portion of the canal going to the Farm 13 Spillway. Farm 13/Stick Marsh crappie were fewer in numbers, but were really good ones. Most ran 11-13 inches. The prime areas there were the SW corner (Nursery area) of farm 13 in the stumps, the spillway basin in the SE corner, and the north side of the canal in the ‘Back 40’ behind the ramp basin.
The bass also appear to have increased their spawning period. However, they seemed to have started on time (approximately early January) and extended the period out into mid-March. Normally, we have found the bass spawn completed in our area by mid-February. One thing that complicates ‘reading’ the bass spawn period in Garcia and Farm 13/Stick Marsh is the tilapia. That fish makes beds by digging out a hole approximately the size of a basketball in the side of ditches and along shorelines. Because the holes are very shallow and the bare dirt is highly visible, many easily mistake them for bass beds.
The bluegill and shellcrackers will be starting their reproduction rituals very soon. The stumps and any reed stands in Farm 13/Stick Marsh are prime areas. In Garcia, some of the best fishing for these types fish have been around the newly emerging grass in the borrow pit area of Garcia. However, I expect that canal leading to the Farm 13 spillway will be good. Concentrate on the north side. It drops quickly there and they like to get right up at the base of the vegetation.
Want to catch 100 fish a day and you don’t care what they are?? Then the speckled trout in the Intercoastal Waterway is your thing. My wife, Dot, really likes to do this because there is constant action. Leave the costly shrimp at the bait shop because everything small thing that swims will eat them off your hook. Instead, go to 6-10 pound test line, a 1/8th oz. jig head, and a bag of white 3-inch ‘Tripple Ripple’ grubs (from Bass Pro Shops; Item 21-216-282). That grub has the best swimming tail on the market and white is the only color you will need. Just swim the lure at a slow, constant speed over and around grass beds, docks and especially any good, sharp drop-off. The edges of dredged channels and any mangrove growth right on the edge of at least eight feet of water will work. We try to swim the lure parallel to and right over the drop-off edge. Remember, the minimum size limit is 15-inches.
Be sure look down the page just below for the map and write-up on the Farm 13/Stick Marsh expansion project. It is sure to be the greatest fishing hole in the World, when completed!!
21 March 2010
Roger Hayward, a top Stick Marsh guides reports That the bass fishing has really picked up recently. Roger indicated that both shiners and artificials were doing well. He also noted that a lot of good fish (4-8 pounds) were in the catches. That’s great news and we sure hope it’s a sign that the fishing may make a solid comeback.
One of the reasons for the improved fish activity may be the fact that the water has been flushed from the impoundment well, allowing the influx of much new, high-oxygenated water from Garcia Reservoir and the surrounding marshes. The spillway and three large culvert pipes down in the southeast corner of Farm 13 have been flowing nearly constantly for the past three weeks. All that incoming water comes from areas that are thick with grass, pads and other vegetation growth, greatly helping to bring neiutrants and oxygen levels up. Now, if we could just get grass to grow again the the impoundments, the World-class fishing of years past might return for sure4.
Crappie continue their spawn in the local area, with lots of good catches being made. Of course, with spawning crappie, finding a group of them is the hard part. The good part is that they don’t all spawn at once, so we will find isolated bunches all the way through early April. When crappie spawn, the big bluegills and shellcrackers move into the same areas to steal the crappie eggs and, later, the hatched fry. That has made for fantastic catches of those big bull-nosed panfish. I even found some good spawning crappie in Lake Washington (on the St. Johns River, adjacent to Melbourne/Palm Bay).
A major item of interest to everyone will be the forthcoming expansion of the Farm 13/Stick Marsh complex. 10,000 acreas of farmland, immediately east of the present impoundment, will be diked and flooded in two phases between now and 2016. The first phase, some 6000 acres is scheduled to be flooded this year (however, I believe it is behind schedule). The second phase will be completed over the next 6-7 years. See the text and the map, below. Note that the new areas are enclosed within the yellow borders. I could not identify which phase was which area.
24 February 2010
It’s basically the same old story for the once-magical Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment: the fishing is very poor (crappie and bass, both). There was a short spurt on crappie fishing a couple of weeks back when the Farm 13 crappie made their annual rush into the SE corner spillway basin looking for spawning grass. (We believe they can ‘smell/taste’ the grass in the Garcia canal and are looking to get through the spillway to it.) I have spoken with numerous local and visiting anglers who have tried to solve the puzzle of the terrible fishing in the place and none has yet to do so. The extended cold weather patterns, with their accompanying high winds, have made fishing tough and I am sure it also has an effect on the fish. Look for much improved fishing for all species as we come out of the winter season.
The best fishing locations have been adjacent Garcia Lake, which teems with bass and lots fine cover (grass, reeds, pads, minor structure features). There, the lures of choice have basically been soft plastics. But, one group from Maryland really did well using Chatterbaits. In addition, Rat-L-Trap type lures have been great during warming periods. Another location that has been really great in remote Kenansville Lake. With lots of grass and pads, the west side of the impoundment has done exceptionally well for bass. The really big fish are few and far between, but the 2-4 pounders are numerous. Due to the thickness of the vegetation in the shallow waters of Kenansville Lake, about the only lures useable are unweighted soft plastic and topwater frogs.
Personally, I have all but stopped my guide business. The way I look at it is that, if I can’t help you have a great fishing trip, I just tell you so and recommend another locale.
One good thing to come from all the unseasonably cold weather in Florida is that it has killed off millions of tilapia and armored catfish (Orinoco Sailfin Catfish/Pterygoplicththys multiradiatus) in our waters. We strongly suspect these fish, particularly the tilapia, consume game fish eggs and newly-hatched fry during the various spawns. This may well be one of the reasons for our lack of fish in lakes without grass cover enough to provide a safe nursery for the new hatchlings.
I have been working on crappie for the upcoming spawning period and have done pretty well. But, it too has been on and off, as goes the weather. On the full moon of the end of January, I found medium-sized crappie moving to the Garcia Lake’s grass edges starting four days before that full moon. By the day before the full moon peaked, the crappie were as thick as you’ll ever see them. It was easy to catch them virtually every cast. They stayed in the location about three days and then moved back out. One week later, we stumbled across another large contingent of small crappie moving into a large area of pads and grass. These were also easy to catch, as they get very protective of the spawning areas. The peak of the crappie spawn will come around the 28th of February, with the next full moon. From now until that event, there will be sporadic spawning going on. In fact, yesterday (23 Feb), I found a good bunch holding just off grass and pads in the Garcia canals. And, they were full of eggs. So, I think that next full moon period is going to be great. After the 28 February full moon, a strong crappie spawn will continue through March, with a few stragglers waiting until early April. The core period for the best fishing and larger crappie will be the first two weeks after that full moon. All that said, the hard part will still be finding them. Move fast and hit grass areas rapidly. If you don’t get bit quickly, move on. They crappie will be very aggressive and are going to strike at most anything that comes near. We have been primarily using the cinnamon, w/chartreuse tail, PERFECT Crappie Jig. But, most any small lure of most any color will work during the spawn. Live minnows will also do well. Just FIND the fish!!!
4 January 2010
Bass remain pretty slow in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment. The cold weather and winds haven’t helped much, either. Garcia, on the other hand, is good for bass, especially on shiners. The best way to present the shiners in around grass YOU CAN’T SEE (i.e., grass on high spots surrounded by deep water). Think borrow pit. The cold has done its seasonal job of putting the grass down off the surface, so it helps to know where to look. But, you can find the grass pretty easily, both with a depth finder and visually (it is only a foot under the surface in some areas). Work around until you find a location where you get two, or more, strikes quickly and then just stay there. The fish will come to you. It’s a bit like chumming. You can also do well on Garcia bass with a 1/8th oz Beetle Spin, a soft jerk bait, and a lightly-weighted 4-5 inch plastic worm. For big bass, rather than quantity, go with a 4-inch plastic ‘creature bait’, a 4/0 hook, heavy Fireline, and the dense cover in the northeast quadrant of the lake.
Bass are also doing well in West lake Toho, near St. Cloud and in big Lake Kissimmee, south of St. Cloud. Shines are good, but slow soft jerk baits and plastic worms also have been doing well. In cold weather always stay with dark colors!!!
Crappie have been ‘excellent’ in numbers, but only ‘good’ in size. The farm 13 crappie are very scattered, or thin, and only one in four will be ‘keeper’ size. So far, I seen no giant crappie from that impoundment. Garcia crappie were really easy to catch out drifting with minnows in the borrow pit for awhile. Then, that got rather slow. While most were ‘keepers’, the quantities started to drop way off. I moved into the canal that runs from Garcia to the Farm 13 spillway and did great on the PERFECT Crappie jig in the Lightnin’ Bug color, but the sizes were only 9-11 inches. The best location was along the vegetation of the north side of the canal. While using the jig, I also pulled minnows along out in the deeper water. On one trip, I had 25 canal crappie on the jig and NOT EVEN one strike on the minnows!!
Going back to the Garcia borrow pit, I was again shut out drifting the minnows in the deep water. So, I tried some variations. I’m not called ‘old lucky’ for nothing, and I found another way to catch the crappie. Right now I can do well on 10-12 inch fish up in that shallow grass on the high spots in the borrow pit. Find the high spots and anchor just off them in the deeper water. Put a couple of minnows under bobbers about 2-3 feet and float them at the edge of the grass line on the drop. At the same time, toss the jig up over the top of the grass, hold the rod tip high and swim the jig out slowly. Some days the jig will burn them up; other days, the minnows seem to do better. But, it works so don’t question why.
A final thing for you local anglers: I made a trip to big Lake Washington, right here in the Melbourne/Palm Bay area. The first of the St. Johns River lakes to be truly fishable, Lake Washington is a very large, shallow, clear body of water just north of State Road 192. As are nearly all bodies of water in Florida, Washington is full of crappie. The problem is finding the bigger ones. With such a huge expanse of open water, one simply must drift with minnows or jig/spinners until you go through a scvhool. This means you are working the odds that the fish you put a lure in front of will be large or small. However, the good news about Lake Washington is that you can catch a LOT of crappie, weeding out the small ones versus the 'keepers'. The best two areas I have found are the north end and the northeast section. Remain a quater mile from the shorelines in these areas and just drift the minnows at 4-5 feet. I found minnows drift out behind the boat under bobbers produced more crappie that the tight-lined poles I has mounted on the boat, itself. Washington is big and open, so winds will mess things up for small boats. Be sure to have a drift sock,
Click Here For Wind Socks, or two, if you plan to drift the lake.
Kids are always great to fish with, especially when they are just learning and are so excited. I got the following story and picture for one of my neighbors:
MAKIN' A MEMORY FOR MY GRAND-DAUGHTER.
Our son, Scott, was down from Spartanburg, SC for Christmas with his daughter Marianna (9). She had never been on my new boat and one of her wishes was to take a boat ride and go fishin'. So, three generations of fishermen were off to Lake Washington.
We got a late start, waiting on the weather to warm up a bit. On the lake around 2:00 PM. Ran straight to the dam. "Wow!!! This one goes fast!!!" She wouldn't drive but did steer for a few minutes while leaning from the center seat.
The bluegill weren't hitting crickets but a small bass fell prey to a rattle trap I was throwing above the dam while they tried the crickets. It hit a long way out - at least 100+ feet in open water. I hollered for Marianna as soon as it hit, she grabbed the rod and had a great time cranking it in. Like I said, it was open water so it couldn't wrap her around anything - perfect for a little girls very first Bass. Took her a couple minutes - the little guy had some bad Bass attitude. He was pulling hard enough that she had trouble holding the rod tip up. It ran left and right, dug deep a couple times and banged the rod against the dock railing. But it was hooked solid and we finally lifted it onto the dock and took time for pictures. She was afraid to hold it but I did get her to feel its sandpaper-like teeth and its scales before we released it unharmed.
There just isn't anything to compare with the squeals of a child over the biggest fish she had ever caught.
We were home before dark, tired but happy. All in all, a really fun day for all three of us. We all made a memory - after all, that's what grandpa’s are for, isn't it.
Hope you "made a memory" with your day,
19 December 2009
Before we do a new fishing report, let me share a young angler’s experience with you. Remember, “a man never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child”.
The photo, provided by ‘Papa Ron’, is Micah Heath Mathews Jr. fishing with his dad on Black Lake, south of Saline, La. They were fishing near a bridge on Hwy 9 .They kept 26 that day. Micah who is 7 is an avid fisherman and praises the Grey Ghost PERFECT Crappie Jig.
FARM 13/STICK MARSH
Fishing remains tough in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment. I have talked to approximately one dozen folks who regularly fish the place and nearly all stated that a 4-6 fish outing is doing well. Not one mentioned getting anything over seven pounds. The best lure: a Texas-rigged plastic worm. Second best: a Rat-L-Trap, or equivalent. The locations that produced were along the outer (northern) edge of the Farm 13 wood line and the submerged levees along the old irrigation/drainage ditches. Regarding the ditches, no one could say that the fish were related to shell beds, or not.
Likewise, I spoke with a number of crappie anglers, most of whom have fished the impoundment a lot. Basically, they have stopped fishing the Farm 13 area for crappie and have moved to either Garcia Reservoir, or some other location. I went to Farm 13 this past week and dragged minnow and jigs for 5 hours. I worked the northeast and north-central areas, keeping the minnows at 5-6 feet. Actually, I did catch about 25-30 crappie. But, only nine would ‘keep’ and none were the giants we used to catch. I also caught a dozen catfish while drifting the minnows, so that population seems OK.
I worked the submerged levees with the PERFECT Jig for awhile, but never found any crappie. I did, however, do well on bluegill. They were not those big copper-nosed giants, but they were OK and fun to catch.
Garcia is obviously still full of bass. The biggest problem with that fishing is that there are so many small bass vying for the lure/bait. With their sheer numbers, they simply seem to beat the larger fish to the offerings. You can drag shiners over the grass flats, or fish them still around areas of pads or reeds, and you will catch fish. The odds should give you a bass between four and five pounds during a day. If you are a hardcore flipper/pitcher, you can do much better on average size by taking a 4-inch craw (or, creature-style) soft plastic and working the very thickest cover you can find. (That’s about all you can fish in the really thick growth areas, except for maybe a weedless frog). A good location example is the entire east half of Garcia. A specific location is the northeastern corner of the impoundment, with the 100% coverage of pads fields and reed stands.Both areas nearly impenetrable vegetation, but they hold some giant bass (and giant mudfish, I might add!!) So, if it’s big bass you want, work the very thickest cover you can find.
Crappie in Garcia a quiet simple: just fish the open, deeper water. Crappie are an open water schooling fish (a ‘social’ critter). Unless it is related to pre-spawn or spawn, he will nearly always be schooled in open water. And, he will nearly always be 4-12 feet deep; the deeper his water, the deeper he will be. (sometimes, early and late in the day, you may find a few up close to vegetation, as well.) There are three places that meet this criteria in Garcia: 1) the canal coming from State Rd. 60 into the impoundment; the canal leading from Garcia over to the Farm 13 spillway; and, the borrow pit in the center of the impoundment. I caught them well in the borrow pit one day last week. They were 10-12 inches, thick across the back and actually had some eggs already formed. I only caught 2-3 small ones. A few days later, I tried it again and caught only half what I did on the first trip, plus 50% of those were small. But, that’s fishing. Others I spoke with indicated the same problem – fine fishing one day and hard fishing the next.
Garcia’s big bluegills are down near the bottom at 7-9 feet right off the high spots in the borrow pit. Of course, you must find the right place. But, they will eat crickets and red worms well. Rig them on a small hook and add a split shot about 10-12 inches up the line. Put the bait on the bottom and just let it lay still. Keep the line straight between you and the bait and you’ll see/feel the nibble and strike. If you like to use jigs, as I prefer, go with a 1/16th oz and work in as slow as you can, letting it fall along the sloping drop from the shallows to the deeper water. You can also use a foam-bodied spider lure with the rubber legs to do this, but you must add a small BB split shot up the line.
7 December 2009
We started up our 2009-2010 guide season on 1 November, hoping to take up with the same great fishing we finished up with last April. Boy, what a rude welcome Mother Nature gave us!! 14 straight days of 20-30 MPH winds just shut everything down. The waters dirtied up badly and it was another few days after the winds subsided until it cleared sufficiently.
Our first trip out was with Dave Culler and his old friend, Lance Herrin. I was somewhat apprehensive about the trip, since I had not had a chance to check the fishing conditions. I explained the prior weather events and that we might be taking the trip a little early, but it was the only time Lance could go. So, with a boat full of expensive shiners, we headed out onto the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment not knowing what we’d find.
And, what we found was absolutely nothing. The water was sufficiently clean, the winds were light and the weather was warm. In the seven hours we fished, I cannot say we even had a bass strike. In fact, we had one gar and one catfish roll at a shiner and that was all the action, all day. Totally devastating.
We later went to the impoundment and found the shell beds void of fish, as well as negative results out in the open water drifting for the big crappie. However, we went to Garcia Reservoir and did well on crappie with both minnows and jigs.
What you should know: Since the late 2004 hurricanes killed all the open water grass in the impoundment, the fishing has steadily gone downhill. We were able to compensate each successive year after that simply by knowing the water so intimately. I can still catch fish, but the quantities are not as high. But, somehow, I am lucky and catch a big bass (8 lbs +) most every trip. The Stick Marsh/Farm 13 crappie quantities sizes are also down, but Garcia is still good for 10-12 inch fish. Bluegills in Garcia remain tremendous.
Without grass, there is a lack of basic food chain and protective zones for the new spawns and the small baitfish. There is also a significant decrease in oxygen levels in the waters. Grass normally filters the water, knocking down suspended sediments and absorbing pollutants, such as pesticides and fertilizers inflowing from the surrounding farms and ranches. All this would appear to have a negative impact on water quality and habitat. There are still fish in the impoundment, but I think the populations are way down and the spawns have done poorly.
That’s my best shot at excuses for the poor fishing. So far, I have canceled four bass trips to the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment and I will not recommend the place until I see improvement. However, with people still fishing the place, I am sure someone will stumble upon a way to catch fish. I hope I am one of them.
On the positive side, crappie have been great in West Lake Toho and especially big Lake Kissimmee. Just find grass and drift minnows in the adjacent open water at 6-7 feet deep. Garcia Reservoir has been good for crappie and bass, both. The crappie can be found in the canal leading to the Farm 13 spillway, with some also coming from the borrow pit. The bass are around most any cover zones and will go for lightly-weighted worms and jerk baits. However, just remember that the fish average much smaller than the past Farm 13/Stick Marsh catches.
23 May 2009
Here we are back on our North Carolina mountaintop after an excellent fishing season in Florida. November 2008 – April 2009 on the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment provided lots of big fish and lots of great memories. I am so fortunate to be able to share the boat with so many fine anglers. This year, a good number of them brought their wives and/or young children along, which always makes for a great fishing trip.
Although we really looked hard for it, there appears to still be no grass returning to the fabled Florida impoundment. And, as has been the case for the past few years, the winds blew a lot and that lack of grass caused a lot of dirty, unfishable water. Although we took a lot of fishing parties out, weather and water conditions made for a continuous nightmare of re-scheduling and, in some cases, outright cancellations. .
A fine fish population appears to still be available in the impoundment, but not nearly the bountiful quantities there were before the lost the grass. If you could find clean water between the windy frontal conditions that blasted through, good catches of bass were still to be had at the south end of Farm 13. Something to tuck under the old fishin’ hat for future reference is that many of these catches came in the vicinity of the outer edges of the wood line (north boundary). There were days when you could get into the wood and do well. But, the most consistent locations were along that wood line. There is a small east/west ditch and its associated levee that separates the wooded zone from the start of the Farm 13 planting fields and that may have something to do with the bass locating in that wood line area. However, try as I might, I could not find any grass anywhere along the wood line. Plus, the small ditch is well silted in and a bit hard to see on the depthfinder.
We finished up our Florida season with some great giant bass in March and April, plus the giant bluegill rush came right on time in Garcia. Every year, those big bluegill seem to start bunching in late March and all of April in preparation for their spawn. All you have to do is toss the cinnamon, w/chartreuse tail, PERFECT Crappie jig at nearly any grass around the borrow pit in Garcia and hold on. They actually seem to fight each other for the little lure. .
In North Carolina, the smallmouths have about finished spawning and are now shallow on points and sloping gravel banks. They are very aggressive and love that soft sinking jerk bait (4-inch RIPPIN’ Stick in green pumpkin seems the best choice). The Kentucky (spotted) bass are in the midst of their spawn and the males really aggressive in guarding the beds. They seem to like wood over their heads when spawning, so the same 4-inch soft jerk bait or a floating worm tossed into the blowdowns or along a log will bring a quick response. Largemouths will spawn in the June timeframe, but are nearly always shallow in these deep, clear lakes. All the spring rains have refilled the lakes to the top and that has pushed a lot of wood and trash into the backs of many pockets. Flipping a big jig and craw into the junk will take them. The mountain crappie are starting to bunch in preparation for their June spawn, but are still deep. ‘Deep’ means 20-25 feet. What a pain. Finally, the yellow perch are finishing up their spawns and are easy to catch on the cinnamon/chartreuse PERFECT Crappie Jig and a 1/16th-ounce in-line spinner.
Plus, our new ‘HIGH VIZ’ jig, the HOT FLASH, has been catching just about everything during it’s test period. Trout and walleye have even found it to their liking.
Speaking of in-line spinners, it is a lure style that is really overlooked in the angling World. I have caught loads of smallmouths spotted bass , yellow perch and crappie on the in-line spinner. Aggressive fish with a perchance for something shiny love the thing. Saltwater speckled trout and red fish likewise will really go after in-line spinners. I am including a couple of pictures of basic in-line spinner styles. A nice thing is that the parts are all readily available (Jan’s Netcraft and Barlow’s are two tackle supply houses with ready supplies) and the lures are very easy to make yourself. It’s always fun to catch fish using your own creations. In fact, my wife, Dot, caught the biggest smallmouth of last year on an in-line spinner we made up just the night before!! .
As for the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment at present, the place is very low (3-4 feet!!) and dangerous to run a boat in. You really must be careful in the Stick Marsh side and in the south end of Farm 13. With the reduction in the water column, the fishing can be great. But, the submerged wood can also be very hazardous. In fact, I got a call today from a guy who knocked a hole in his hull and basically sunk his boat last weekend. Garcia is also low and the dense grass is fast rendering it impassable. The best fishing bets right now are Lake Kissimmee and West Lake Toho. You’ll find surface schooling action on both. .
Now we’ll take a look at the pictures and accounts of our final four guide trips in Florida:
30 March 2009
Don and Irina Ernst called and asked about our prediction of giant bluegill starting up in Garcia. I explained what seemed to be the annual cycle of those fish, plus the fact that crappie would still be in the same area for a short while. They said, “We’re from Missouri, SHOW US!!” After a couple of hours, I believe these two were fully convinced that we were not pulling their collective legs in the least. The cinnamon, w/chartreuse tail PERFECT Crappie jig was, as always with these fish, the ‘perfect’ lure for the job. I must say that Irina was simply a marvelous angler with the jig that day. She had the touch and really made it ‘talk’ to those fish. Along with the livewell full of huge bluegill, the pair also scored on a bunch of fine crappie.
2 April 2009
Our good friend, Vernon Grizzard, comes to fish our great fishin’ hole 3-4 times a year. Vernon is a special guy who simply loves to fish. He live on the ocean in West Palm Beach, has a house of a private lake in Georgia, and is building a cabin on a great trout river in Wyoming. You can bet that, wherever Vernon Grizzard is abiding, good water and great fishing will be nearby. This day out found the water dirty and the winds high. But, we pulled out that ‘ace in the hole’ we carry for just such days as that and went after them. We started out dragging a pair of big shiners behind the boat, but found the fishing somewhat slow. Then, as old fisherman’s luck would have it, both shiners got blown up at once. Vernon got to play ‘one-armed paper hanger’ with two simultaneous fish, but he got them both. Thinking two strikes at once might indicate a school of bass, we circled back and dropped anchor close to the original strike zone. Sure enough, we sat there and caught good solid four-pound fish for a couple of hours. Occasionally, a bigger fish stopped by to eat a shiner. But, most we right on the found pound mark. Really great fishing and great fun!!
14 April 2009
Our first college roommate, from too many years ago to count came down, made his annual trek down to catch a bass, or two. Every year that Tom has fished with us, he brings a whole pocketful of rabbit’s feet. And, this year, his lucky streak continued to hold out. While the quantities fell somewhat, the sizes of the fish were acceptable. His partner for this trip was Hank Boudreau, who had never dragged a shiner for a bass before. It appears he will probably do it again!!
17 April 2009
We had the privilege of sharing this day with the husband and wife couple, Champ and Charlotte Ethridge, from up around Macon, GA, way. Much earlier, when we scheduled the trip, the intent was to go strictly for big crappie. But, those fish seemed to go on a hunger strike after their spawn, not to mention the dirty water problems from the winds. So, I gave the pair a choice: we could cancel out, as I could not honestly guarantee a good crappie catch; or, we could go for a sure thing with the giant bluegill and shellcrackers in Garcia. I also added that we ‘might’ be able to get a few crappie mixed in with the ‘gills.
Well, fishermen just want to get their line pulled, so it was an obvious choice.
The wind was up and gave us a rough time, even for Garcia. But, the Ethridge crew really knew how to fish that jig. In fact, as I watched Champ, I’d swear he was ‘talking’ to those bluegill. He fished slowly and deliberately and just seemed to call the fish to the jig.
As we neared the latter part of the day, I mentioned that I knew one stretch of canal that might have some crappie. There are some grass beds down about 6 feet on the drop-off into the canal’s deeper water and I could sometimes make that work. Everyone was game for some good eating crappie, so off we went. Sure enough, we turned a dozen nice fish in about an hour and that really topped off the catch. Once again, we had to thank that cinnamon, w/chartreuse tail, jig, plus a lot of good old fisherman’s luck. It was a great trip and a great way to finish up our guide season!!.
27 March 2009
10-11 Feb 09
Our friend, Eric Paulson, bought along Allan Bartlett and Kevin Luke for a day of bass. This was another high-wind condition, with a lot of dirty water in the main lake. But, we gave it a try in the Back 40 area. It turned out to be a good move and we lucked onto some fine bass, with Eric and Kevin getting the giant fish.
18 Feb 09
This was the day Gary Atwell and I made the trip to the saltwater. As you can see by the pictures, it was somewhat exciting (30+ lb. Redfish and 7-8 lb. speckled trout). The hard part about Redfish is finding them. ‘Finding’ means you must ‘see’ them. That is a LOT harder than it sounds. They are constantly on the move. If they are in really shallow water, you can see them pushing a wake ahead of them. If the water is three, or more feet deep, you have to see the flash of their bodies. Gary used live shrimp and tossed them just ahead of the moving Redfish . I used a small white twister-tail jig for the trout.
24 Feb 09
Bill and Linda Campbell fished with us on a cold and windy day. Boy, we were bundled up all day!! Bill said that the ‘prime directive’ of the day was ‘Linda catches a big fish’. It was hard fishing, to say the least. We managed a decent number of both bass and crappie, but not the rate of our usual catches. As fate would have it (and Bill dictated), Linda caught a giant crappie and a giant bass. The crappie pushed 3-pounds, while the bass lacked 2-ounces being 9-pounds. And, the bass came as we were taking the rods in to call it a day. I mean that’s last-minute stuff. But, the shiner was wet to the last possible minute. Remember, dry shiners catch nothing.
27 Feb 09
Walt Hemming was on our schedule last year, but the weather caused us to cancel out. This year, it was marginal again, with dirty water and wind. But, we decided to try. Walt wanted a giant bass, so that was the direction we went. Sure enough, he got his giant old female largemouth!
4 Mar 09
After sitting out a week of bad weather and poor water quality, we got back out with our previous saltwater partner, Gary Atwell, and his buddy, Tommy. These two visit every winter and we usually do pretty well. This times was no exception, as Gary got a giant at eight pounds (+) and Tommy just caught a LOT of fish.
9 Mar 09
Every year, Stan Daniel and I do a multi-day trip with a bunch of old fishing buddies who come to Florida from a get-together. Frank Fagan, Dave Jurjevich, Dave Hennessey, Ron Procarione, Bill Butler, and Gary Arling are all good fishermen in there own right. And, that makes them a great trip for a guide to have. Lots of laughing, tall tails and other ‘good old boy’ stuff that makes for a good time for them guys. Past trips have always been with the weather was cold, windy, or a combination of the two. This year, however, the weather and conditions were perfect and we had a ball. Lots of big old bass and good times! In fact, there were two old sows right at 10-pounds and a half dozen in the 7-8 range!!
17 Mar 09
Mitch Bolin and Byron Erickson joined us for a day of chasing big old Momma bass. The weather was good and the fish cooperative. Mitch managed the big bass of the day, while Eric had the quantities. It was a fine trip with lots of action.
19 Mar 09
David Tidwell brought his son and brother to sample our bass fishing. The weather was fine and conditions great. But, for some reason known only to the Gods of Fishing, the bass were really inactive. Nothing had changed since our fine trip on the 17th with Mitch and Eric, except that the bass seemed to just toy with the shiners. We had a lot of strikes and surface blow-ups, which kept everyone excited all the time. But the catch rate was not all that great. I expect we only had 12-15 fish during the partial-day trip, which was well below average. However, David got his largest bass ever, a huge pre-spawn gal that weighed nearly nine pounds. From the picture, you can see the huge girth and belly on the bass.
26 Mar 09
David Pape and Mitch Roberts had originally signed on to chase giant crappie. However, I had to tell them that crappie had gotten slow for me. BUT, when I told them that I was dead-on and big bunch of giant bluegills, they were quick to accept the change. Like crappie, pre-spawn bluegills bunch up in big schools just outside a potential spawning area. In this case, it was 10-30 feet off the sides of grass beds in Garcia Reservoir. I knew exactly where these huge bluegills were, having located them two days before. The cinnamon, w/chartreuse tail, PERFECT Crappie Jig was all it took. However, the retrieve was a little different than the day I found these fish. I had used a slow and steady retrieve, whereas this day it took a pull-drop, pull-drop method. In the process of filling a cooler with the giant bluegill, the guys also managed 10-12 random crappie, too.
28 January 2009
Welcome in 2009 and usher out 2008!
The economy is in the pits, gasoline is going back up, the weather has been below freezing even in Florida (it was 33 degrees at the Stick Marsh ramp one morning!), the central and NE parts of the country seem to have traded weather conditions with Siberia, and my dogs got fleas.
On top of all that, the fishing in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh has taken a major nosedive. I am sure a good part of that has to do with the abnormally cold water conditions and all the wind-induced dirty water. In the past 30 days, we have taken out 12 trips and had to cancel 7 due to weather/water conditions. Of the 12 trips we did get out on, 4 were great, 2 were just acceptable, and 6 were poor. When the fishing started to fall off, it just went all at once. You really have to know the place well and work very hard to catch those bass. Even using shiners, it is hard. If you are lucky enough to get yourself on a school, or in an area where there is good spawning activity, you can catch fish. It is absolutely nothing like years past.
Even the crappie fishing is off by a good 50%. Those easy pickings we have had for so long in Farm 13 just abruptly fell off around the first of 2009. It may well be that the crappie schools are just being thinned down out in that open water. Yesterday and the day before that, I expect there were 40-50 boats spread across the north half of the farm, all drifting minnows for those big slabs. I checked with six of those boats back at the ramp and the most fish I found were 22 in a boat with three guys. And, some of those were not what I would call ‘keepers’. I am hoping it will get better when it warms back up. In late February, the crappie spawn will start and we should see them in the wood at the south end of the Farm.
You will find our guide service written up in feature articles of both the February and March issues of Field & Stream magazine. I must say that the interviews on which those articles were based were done some time back, when the fishing was a LOT better than it is today.
23 December 2008
10 December 2008
Terry Galberaith and Charles Ballah managed to schedules a good fishing day. The winds were up a little, but it was not so bad we had to reschedule the trip.
We ‘drifted’ the minnows with two drift socks deployed. That slowed us sufficiently to make it work. It was one of those days, though, where the winds pushed us enough that I had to add a little more weight to some of the minnow lines to keep them in that 6.5 to 7-foot strike zone.
Although they did not get as many crappie as was desired, they caught a decent number and had a lot of giants.
17 December 2008
Bud Dye and Gerald Hood originally scheduled their crappie trip with us for 12 November. But, due to the constant barrage of cold fronts and wind, we just kept rescheduling and rescheduling. Finally, after over a month of delays, we finally had a day that was fishable. The winds left us alone and the weather was warm and comfortable.
We tossed a bunch of minnows over the side and started drifting about for the slabs. Sure enough, we they caught some giant crappie that day. But, again, we could not catch them fast enough to wind up with two limits. It seemed like it was just ‘one here and one there’ fishing, with no schools ever being passed through.
19 December 2008
About a month ago (see the report for 23 November, below), we had the pleasure of sharing the boat with a golfing industry icon, Barney Adams (of Adams Golf; Google that name read about this remarkable business person and equipment inventor/designer). In his first trip with us, we had dirty water and wind. But, Barney got a big bass and a bunch of good solid fish.
This trip turned out to be a near repeat of the first, EXCEPT we had nice water and didn’t get blown away. We opted for shiners, in that the water was still pretty cold and the artificial bite was not up to par. We tried our first location, where Barney had caught his big bass on the earlier trip, but found no takers at all. The second spot was a sort of a ‘sometimes good, most times poor' location. But, three times in the past couple of months, I have found a somewhat ‘innovative’ way to approach the location. Sometimes, the fish are already there and you can just ‘let the good times roll’ immediately. On most occasions, though, you have to place the shiners very specifically and simply wait for the bass to move in. When they do come (and they always seem to), they will stay there so long as you continue to have shiners in the water. Plus, once you have caught 8-10 bass, you can generally be sure a big old gal will come along, too. It’s just the way the odds work out.
Anchoring the boat with the wind at the proper angle to allow the bait to stay on target, we set out a pair of shiners. It’s just a purely open water spot, but the shiners have got to be within a 20 foot circle, for some reason known only to the fish (someday, I will get to talk to a fish and I have a lot of questions to ask!!).
It was not long until the action started!! Just a couple of single bites at first. Then, it got a lot more rapid. In fact, on one occasion, Barney was reeling in a bass, when his second bobber deep-sixed. Being a nice guy, I shoved the other rod into his hands. Now, with a rod in each hand, the exasperated angler asked me how was he supposed to reel either one. I replied that I was just the guide and did not reel in fish. It’s a rule right there on my union card! Well, Barney clamped one rod between his knees and reeled fish #1 to the net. Then, the switched rods and reeled in #2. You know, two bass in the same net sure can make a tangled mess!! We continued to have bass chase the hapless shiners to the top and blow them up. Then, as usually guaranteed by the odds, Barney got that big old bass. Danged if it didn’t almost look like the same one he caught on the first outing. But, it a bit bigger and, besides, I mark them before we release them. You’d be surprised how many bass you catch a second and even third time. Catch-and-release definitely works.
21 December 2008
Ray Chadwick and John Stone are old fishing buddies who wanted to see if the Farm 13 crappie were ‘really that big’. They found out, too. This pair only had one rescheduled date due to wind/weather conditions, but it was sure close to two times. We studied the weather saw a big windy cold front coming in on Tuesday (22 December), but decided that the 21st (a Monday) should suffice. The intent was to go out all day and split the trip between bass and crappie.
I decided to go back to that open water location where I had successfully taken Barney Adams a couple of days earlier. The wind was from a slightly different direction than Adam’s day. So, we anchored at a different angle, but set the shiners in the same 20-foot circle. Boy, it didn’t take long for the bass to find Ray’s end of the boat. Bam, crash, bang – they ate his shiners. Finally, John got into the act, too. The only problem was that, because it was a split day, we did not have many shiners and eventually ran out. The pair never did catch a big bass off the spot, but most of them ran in the neighborhood of three pounds. We decided to take a photo on one small bass that took a shiner nearly as big as he was. I’m not sure that he could have eaten it, but he obviously had great expectations.
Once the shiners were gone, we ventured to the open waters of the north end of Farm 13 to search for crappie. The winds came and went and we sometimes used a drift sock, while other times we were able to work without it. The weather was beautiful. But, the fishing was very slow. Although all factors appeared nearly perfect, the crappie just did not come to the livewell in great numbers. They did catch some really big ones, but not even one limit total. It may be we just spent too much time with the bass and would have done better with more than just a few hours with the minnows. The size of the crappie, however, made the cooler look well populated. This day, there also seemed to be a lot of small crappie in the area.
29 November 2008
On Tuesday of this week, the winds finally died off a bit. On Wednesday, they moderated a bit more. Then, on Thursday, they basically became calm. The outlook is for great weather until late Sunday/early Monday, when a supposedly short-lived cold front and rain will pass through. It will be VERY windy for a day after that, but not the continuous blasts we’ve had all of November. However, I would not expect the water to be fishable until 4 or 5 December.
At least the waters are not taking as long to clean up as in past years. The crappie trips over the past two days have been good. And, there were numerous giants in the livewell, as you will see below.
We have delayed, or outright cancelled, a few trips due to water and wind. You will ALWAYS get an honest recommendation from us if the conditions are not right for a good trip. Then, you make the decision to go, or not. If I tell you that “I would not spend MY money to fish”, you can pretty well figure what I am telling you. Always query your guide beforehand about expected conditions so there are no unpleasant surprises.
About half our trips are bass and the other half crappie. Our great lucky streak against the bad weather has continued well, except for a hiccup last Monday. That was the worst day I have had in three years, with only three bass caught. However, the day before and the day after were good. With absolutely no changes in conditions or water, it is kind of hard to explain. It also holds that old saying, ’That’s why its called fishing and not catching’, up to the light for all to see.
Bass continue to be best if you will spring big bucks for wild shiners. At last count, they were $20 per dozen in Fellsmere and $18 at Palm Bay Fishing Outfitters. For crappie, our PERFECT Crappie Jig in cinnamon w/chartreuse tail is the most popular thing going. The local demand for it, and the Hot Momma color, has about exhausted our supply. The jig is best used in a casting mode over the submerged levees in Farm 13. If the water is too dirty for that to be effective, switch to live minnows and drift the open water in the north half of Farm 13. Put the minnows at 6.5 – 7 feet deep, with sufficient weight to hold them at a constant depth. You can also slow-troll the PERFECT Jig and Beetle Spins for the tasty panfish.
The latest issue of Outdoor Life (December/January, page 91) has its annual Fishing Awards listed. Ms. Beng Cato won the adult division for largemouth bass with a 10-lb. 4-oz. giant. Beng caught the bass fishing with us in December 2007. She and fiancee, Dave, came back last week to try the Stick Marsh again and, again, Beng got the big bass of the trip. It wasn’t a 10 lb. fish, but it was a good ‘un, as you’ll see below.
Speaking of magazines, I got a call from Mike Toth, Executive Editor at Field & Stream magazine last week. Apparently, we (and the PERFECT Crappie Jig) are being featured in an article in their February 2009 issue. I am not sure what it is, but is sure is fine flattery. He asked me for some pictures. I had never thought about the need for them before, but I never take pictures of myself, just the clients. So, I explained that and sent him some of your pictures from earlier trips. Watch and you may see your smiling face in a national publication.
18 & 20 November 2008
Beng Cato and her fiancee, Dave, fished with us last year, with Beng landing a huge 10 lb. 4 oz. pre-spawn bass. This year, they made a return visit with Dave’s Father, Joe. Joe had never caught any big bass, so we were scheduled to try for that. Plus, he is an avid bluegill fan. Regretfully, the high winds blew out any chances for bluegill on those hotspot levees and most everywhere else.
We were scheduled to fish for two days, but I suggested canceling the first one due to wind and poor water. The second day was a ‘must fish’ because they were scheduled to fly home.
So, we worked hard at finding a bit of decent water and hopefully some bass that did not mind the cold water temperatures. Persistence paid off and we managed a decent number. Joe got his largest bass ever and Beng, once again, got the big bass of the trip.
23 November 2008
If you play golf, you surely know the name ‘Adams Golf’, a World leader in golf club design and manufacture. Well, Barney Adams is the guy that started it all and he came to fish with us this day. Barney stated that his passion was always golf, but the business just made it ‘too much golf’. So, now, he prefers to fish a lot and leave the links to others. It was his only available day to fish and the winds and cold were right on us.
We started off in the protected basin at the southeast spillway in Farm 13. The steady north winds had, however, blown a LOT of that dirty water right into the basin. Barney only managed one bass at that location. It was the only bite he had and it was a big old sow. Talk about good luck.
From there, we went all the way back to the ramp area and the clean water in the ‘Back 40’. I have a place I found last year with a small ditch and some stumps under water. We decided to try it first and found it to be loaded with fish in the 3 – 3.5-pound range. It turned out to be a good day.
24 & 25 November 2008
John and Jimmy Allen area father and son team. Jimmy hasn’t fished much, so John wanted to get him out on the Stick Marsh, where he might catch some good fish.
Our first day out was the day after our fine trip with Barney Adams. It was a total bust!! We might have caught three fish all day. The wind blew and it was cold. But, we had done well 24 hours earlier, so what made this day so poor?? I suppose it is anyone’s guess.
The second day found the wind settling down a bit, so we had the chance at a shell bed hole on a high spot in Farm 13. Setting out shiners, we caught (or, lost) 10-12 fish. Jimmy got the big bass of the day there, which was his personal best ever. From there, we tried a few other spots with minimal success. Finally, the ‘Back 40’ gave up a few more.
We then decided to try crappie for awhile. The water was pretty dirty, but the guys managed some nice specks.
27 November 2008
Derrell Miller is an old friend who fishes with us whenever he is in town. This day, we went for the big crappie. With a couple of days of calm weather, we figured the water might have cleared and warmed a bit.
Sure enough, the water was much better and the weather in the low 70’s. We tried the jigs for a short while, with only bluegill to show for it. So, we dropped minnows over the side at 6.5 feet and began to drift the north section of Farm 13. When we managed to drift through an apparent school of crappie and catch a few, we marked the location on our trusty GPS and went around in circles through that general area.
Being Thanksgiving Day, we only got to fish a short period, as we were duly ordered to be back in time for turkey and dressing on time. In our three hours of dragging minnows, we had 13 keeper crappie, some giants, and tossed back a good number of dinks. It was pretty good fishing and says it will get even better as this abnormal cold spell and wind clears out.
29 November 2008
We closed out November’s schedule with Kevin Schroeder and his 8-year old son, Nick. Boy, was it an enjoyable trip. Sometimes, the really young kids can’t handle being cooped up in a boat all day. But, not Nick!! He loved every minute of jerking those giant crappie to the boat and he never lost a one of them. He’d grab that fiberglass pole and bring the fish to the next like a seasoned pro.
Having never caught crappie of any size, Kevin stated that he was amazed at how big the Stick Marsh crappie were. With one of them running a little over two pounds, I can understand his astonishment. That’s a BIG crappie anywhere!
The winds were up fairly strong, so we could not address the levees and their shellbeds with the PERFECT Crappie Jig. Plus, the water was still pretty poor, with clarity only down to 10 inches, or so. So, we headed to the northeast section of Farm 13. With the boat bobbing in the two-foot swells, we set out two drift socks to slow us down. Then, we attached our rod holders to the side of the big Blazer boat and dropped live minnows over the side.
The magic depth turned out to be seven feet. To keep the minnows down there, we used about ¾ - to 1 oz. of weight. The weights were placed 10 inches, or so, above the minnows, so the minnows could trail out behind and away from the weights.
We never did find an area with a strong concentration of fish, so most were caught one and two at a time. At one point, we did manage to hook up four or five strikes in a couple of minutes, but the rest of them were sporadic and scattered about. That made watching for strikes a bit tedious at times. However, after a couple of big crappie, Nick basically developed an eagle eye for a pole that bobbed out of rhythm. And, don't you just love Nick's pictures and those freckles?!
8 November 2008
Lou Daniels and I ventured out to see if the shell beds along the submerged levees of the Farm would yield some giant crappie and bluegills. Of course, the winds gave us a hard time, but we managed some really big fish of both types. Over the years, 'zillions' of big crappie and bluegills have been taken from the impoundment. And, still it continues. It is remarkable how many giant crappie and bluegills there still appear to be in that place. Wait until you see and read about Ron Bartley's trip yesterday (below). It just has to be one of the most fertile fisheries in the World. I don't know the right words to describe this fantastic fishery. Look at the picture of the bluegill in Lou's hand. It is so big, it stretches from his watchband to three inches past his fingertip. And, that is an AVERAGE bluegill from the impoundment.
The crappie were easy to catch, if you could beat the wind. Our big Blazer bass boat is a very heavy hunk of glass and Yamaha motor, so the wind really doesn't push us like a light aluminum, or small glass, boat. We managed to hold the boat sufficiently to get the jigs across the levee and affect a decent, slow retieve back across the shell beds on them. The key this day was to bounce the PERFECT Jig (cinnamon w/chartreuse tail) on the mussel shells as we came across. The giant-sized crappies we caught had bellies that looked like they had swallowed tennis balls. When we cleaned them, each had 2-4 three-inch grizzard shad in them. That tells you what feeding on the algae on those shell bodies.
11 November 2008
Bill Burton and Jerry Widmer are long-time friend who live a couple of hundred miles apart in Florida. So, they don't get together as often as they'd like. This time, both would be in our area, so they planned a fishing trip. We were lucky enough to be a part. Jerry got things started with a decent Stick Marsh bass off one of my 'secret holes'. It's so secret, that even I hadn't fished it for eight months!! But, the winds were up and I thought, "What the heck!? Might as well give it a shot; it's out of the wind!" The first shiner to hit the water got an immediate tremendous strike. I was about to render major thanks to the Big Guy Above, when a Mudfish of gigantic proportions came rocketing up to smile at us all. Too many teeth for me. Cut that puppy off!! Finally, I had two shiners in the water, one under a bobber and one in free-line status. Five minutes passed and Jerry's bobber just disappeared. None of us saw it go; it was just gone. Grabbing a rod, Jerry latched onto a good three pound fish. He latched onto a good number more as we sat on that hole. The problem was that, at his end of the boat, they never got any larger. He did have one that got off that looked like a double-digit bass, but you can never tell about the ones that get away.
Little Billy Burton, on the other hand, had the 'magic seat' this trip. Even though their shiners were usually no more than 15 feet apart, Bill always seemed to wind up with the larger bass. It happens that way a lot and I have never figured out why. Maybe it's what they have for breakfast that makes one person catch all the good fish and the other always gets the short end of the stick. Bill wound up with the giant bass of the day and a big smile on his face. But, everyone had fun and catching doubles helped it right along!!
I love this job (if you can call it a 'job'!!).
13 November 2008
Vernon Grizzard is one of my favorite people. I truly admire the man. We get to fish together maybe 4-5 times a year. Vernon is what you call a 'true gentleman and a scholar'. He is just 'fine folks'. Plus, he photographs like he should have always been on camera. You never guess Vernon's age (I sure didn't). But, if your guess is in the 70's, or less, you are way off. He calls me when the 'fishing itch' gets to him and I always tell him he is at the top of my list whenever he wants to go out. I have told him before, and I repeated it to him at the ramp after this trip, that he is what we all call a 'lucky charm'. The man has something about him that call fish. Every time we go out on the water, he just bombs those big bass (giant crappie on one trip). My opinion is that him being so blessed with skill and luck is why he catches so many big bass. All I have to do is bait hooks and net fish.
This trip out was no exception. Vernon was in fine form, save a bit of arthritis in a couple of fingers and knuckles. The first thing he did was land five fish from 3-5 pounds. Then, he boats the big bass of the day, an solid 8.2 lb. trophy. He simply said that he wanted to get a big bass in the boat early, in case a 12-pounder happened by later! For the next hour, Vernon just beats the dickens out of those 3-4 pound fish. I lost count at a dozen. Stan Daniel stopped by for a moment to chat and give us some left-over shiners. While he was there, we had a lot of strikes, but no fish were taken. Stan left and, suddenly, Vernon is onto a 7.5 pound fish. Maybe it wasn't Stan's day (but, he had already caught 22 by himself). Next thing that happens is an apparent school of bass come by and stops to chase our shiners. Vernon gets a 7-pound fish and some more 3-5-pound brusiers. Finally, knuckles swollen and hands hurting, Vernon calls it quits. He says he has enjoyed about as much fishing as he can stand. Me -- I think it remarkable that he handled some 70-80 pound of bass before tiring. I sure hope I am that good in later years.
14 Nov 2008
Ron Bartly has fished with us before. (See he and Marc Bergerman in a 14 December 2007 report in the diary archives.) He is a big-time angler and spends a lot of time on the water. He loves that crappie fishing. Keeping up with our reports on the great giant crappie and bluegills coming off the levee shellbeds, Ron called and booked a trip to see how that was done. We worked the levees for awhile, finding some fish there. In fact, Ron caught nearly all of the ones we took. But, the high winds did not let us control the boat nor present the lures well.
Being experienced fishermen, we had brought some live minnows as a back-up just in case that wind got tough. That proved a good move. We set out a number of drift poles and a couple of wind socks to slow us down. Our first drift found us in crappie, but they were small. After a bit, we opted to move to a high-percentage location on the east side of Farm 13. Here, we put the minnows down about seven feet, tossed out two wind socks and let the boat drift to the northeast with the wind. Suddenly, we had four or five giant crappie on the minnows. They were to big to swing into the boat, so we exercised the net a good bit. For the next 400-500 yards, we got a couple here and a couple there. Finally, we decided to go back to the first 'hot spot' (which Ron had dutifully marked on the GPS) and see if the crappie were still there. They were and we found that general area held a LOT of big fish. It gave us an area to concentrate our fishing and was very productive. I expect the fish there averaged a good 1.5 to 1.7 lbs.
East side of Farm 13, Glenn. Ya' hear now?!
2 November 2008
27 October 2008
Scott McGill and Warren Wilson are in the information technology field associated with the education community. Seems a though they were scheduled to attend a big seminar/exposition in Orlando this past week. Seems as though they came down a day early to sample the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 fishin’ hole. Seems as though they did well!!!
We were lucky for Scott and Warren’s fishing trip. The days before had been a little rainy, but the strong winds were what had me worried. However, this day. It all settled down to give us a beautiful fishing day outdoors. The winds laid down nicely, while the temperatures hovered in the mid-70‘s. It was had to order a better day. The only bad part was that the water was still somewhat dirty and cold from the rent front that had gone through. On top of that, yet another front was heading in within the next 24 hours. After thinking the situation over for a good long while, I decided we’d better see if we could find some decent water somewhere.
WE checked the wooded section in the south end of Farm 13, but is was pretty dirty. I think it might have produced some shiner bass as the afternoon sun warmed the water. But, close to an hour of fishing got use nothing. No bites, no activity. Heck, we looked around and could not see another sign of life – no gators, no buzzards, and no ospreys – nothing. So, we moved into the southeast corner spillway basin.
There was no water running, at all. Everything was as dead as out in the open water. But, we had a couple of those ‘different ways of fishing’ that location that we had learned over the years and decided to give them a try.
It took 30 minutes of shiner swimming before we got our first strike. But, after that first one, we managed to get a good number more. Soon, the guys had caught a pretty fair bunch of Stick Marsh bass to 6-pounds. We moved around to one other location in that basin and let the light wind put the shiners up into a corner of weedy vegetation. It was shallow and the vegetation was thin, but we aroused the interest of another half-dozen, fat bass.
When our basin luck ran out, we headed north, stopping at the pump station along the east side of Farm 13. It was running very lightly and all we got were catfish bites. Time to keep on the move.
With a couple of hours to go, we wound up on the north side of the boat ramp, in the fabled ‘Back 40’. At least the water was pretty clean back there. Looking around to be sure no spies were watching, we slipped into Stan Daniel’s famous ‘Mudfish Hole’. This terrible looking, shallow, mucky-bottomed, poor excuse for a fishing spot has somehow turned a LOT of big bass for both Stan and I. Even though it is actually a good big-bass producing location, I actually hate to take clients to the spot. It just looks so bad. When you drop an anchor in, the bottom comes up in a cloud of muck and mud cloud that takes 15 minutes to clear. Even the gators don’t go back into it, as I have NEVER seen one in there.
I explained the place to Scott and Warren and told them of the giant bass we had taken in there over the years. Scott looked a bit skeptical and he looked the trashy-looking place over. Warren, however, was 100% confident that I MUST know what I was doing, as he had already caught some nice fish and had a 6-pounder on top of the catch. What he didn’t know was that it had been six months, to the day, since I had fished that spot.
Setting up with the wind at our backs properly, we put the two anchors out. I was slow to get shiners in the water, explaining that I did not want to choke them on all the trash and slit that the anchors had stirred up. As the water began to clear up, I laid the shiners out along the vegetation line. We waited. Then, we waited some more. And, some more. I started telling the guys that sometimes the ‘Mudfish Hole’ could be slow to start (I sure hoped that was the problem!). We waited some more. Warren’s shiner got excited and swam hard to the right. I though he might have seem some eyes and a big mouth looking at him. Then, the sucker just went belly-up and died. No bite; just a dead shiner.
Scott’s shiner, all this time, was apparently on vacation. He just sorta laid back and enjoyed life. Every so often, he might more just enough that we knew he was alive. But, for the most part, he just enjoyed the sun and cool weather.
I dug a good shiner out of the well and started re-baiting Warren’s rig. Suddenly, Scott and I both realized his bobber was G-O-N-E. No sound, no splash, no chasing – it had just silently disappeared. Scott grabbed the rod, got out the slack and put a fine hook-set on what was to be his largest fish on the day.
At day’s end, we had released a good couple of dozen bass and had some nice heavyweights in the bunch. A good bit of it was attributable to a whole lot of luck and a terrible-looking place called the ‘Mudfish Hole’.
2 July 2008
Guides back in FL inform us that the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 impoundment is turning a few bass out near the center East/West ditch in the Farm. Mostly on worms and Traps near the levees. Some still comes, as always, down in the wood at the south end of the Marsh. There are a few really good days mixed in. Crappie and bluegill can still be found on, or adjacent to, the submerged levees in the Farm. Some good bass were taken recently on soft jerk baits in the Stick marsh side, vicinty of Twin Palms. But, there are no reports of breaking fish.
Garcia is doing well for small bass, with an occasional decent one thrown in at times. Small worms and topwaters (especially buzzing frogs) are good choices. The grass is really getting thick now, so crank plugs are hard to fish effectively. Crappie are in the depths of the borrow pits if you drift minnows at 6-7 feet.
North Carolina has been good to me so far. I have isolated crappie well. Plus, the smallmouth and spotted bass did well in May and June. We had an 8 lb. 2 oz largemouth from Hiawassie Res., which I was told was the largest reported in a couple of years (can’t quite believe that. It was an accident anyway. Make enough casts and one turns up sometimes.) Smallmouths have been easy to catch, but size has been terrible. We did have one close to 4 lbs. and another around 3.5 on our new smallmouth jig (it is made by our crappie jig manufacturer and looks like the PERFECT Jig, but weighs in at 1/4th oz. But, we don't have it on the web site yet. Gotta be sure the design and colors are right!) You make a zillion casts and you will eventually catch a decent one.
These pictures indicate what the smallmouth jig is starting to look like. We kept the hook eye back in the head for horizontal applications, such as swimming the jig through grass and rocks and vertical presentation on deep rockpiles. The tail is still made of feathers, like the crappie version, and the body is the same material. Overall, the jig is about three inches long. I have not been using any type trailer on it and that might help some.
If you have smallmouth colors to recommend, we would be interested. Just send an email. We did note the smallmouths like the browns and blacks, while spotted bass liked the bright chartreuse and the Gray Ghost colors.
Probably the biggest find has been giant yellow perch (ring perch to some). We went exploring in a small lake below Hiawassie Lake dam. That lake, Appalachia, is a short 5 miles stretch of water running to another small dam at the TN/ NC line. It is a neat place to fish and gets little pressure due to remoteness and the fact that it only has one small, poor ramp. We caught smallmouth and spotted bass our first time on it, but they were small fish. I am sure it has some big ones, though. The really great thing we noted was the tremendous yellow perch population. You can catch them just about anywhere, IF you stay 12-20 feet deep and locate grass on the bottom. There are a zillion small perch, but also some real barnburners (see the attached picture). We have found a couple of schools where the perch run one to 1.5 lbs. The IN-FISHERMAN staff tells me that those are good-sizes yellow perch. This is only the second time this old southern boy has run into those more-northern fish. For you that don’t know, the yellow perch is pretty close to being a walleye, with slightly different coloration and clear eyes. They eat just about as good, too.
If you are in the vicinity of yellow perch populations, here's a bit on how we found and caught them. First, since it is way after spawning and the start of summer, we went looking for a breakline with rocks and/or weeds. We found both in the upper river section of small Lake Appalachia, which is a 5-6 mile stretch below the big dam on Lake Hiawassie (Murphy, NC area). One location was 12-15 feet deep, which the other was 17-22 feet. We started out using the PERFECT Crappie Jig in cinnamon and chartreuse. Evetually we found brighter colors, like solid chartreuse and hot pink, produced better. We also used a cataba green one inch Beetle Spin body with good success. We used a 1/16 oz jig and added a BB split shot six inches up the line to help keep it down. Then, we just fished it with a slow and steady retrieve across the top of the grass. An interesting thing was that the larger yellow perch all spit up big crayfish remains, while the small ones had minnows and such (it appeared). To imitate a crayfish effectively, you would think it would be good to put the lure on the bottom and hop it some. But, the dense grass prohibited that. I got some feedback from Doug Stange at IN-FISHERMAN and Chris Terry, one of our readers, who said small pieces of crayfish tail on a jig worked well for yellow Perch. Doug also indicated that tube jigs are good, as the tail stands imitate crayfish legs to a degree.
Our main page fishing report still has over a year of stories and pictures, so take a look on down this page if you missed them. We had a great season from Nov 07 through Apr 08.
We have already started to book trips on the Farm 13/Stick Marsh for next season. So, if you have a firm date in mind, it is always good to get a reservation down early. I expect the fishing in FL will be fine. But, if it is not, I will be the first one to tell you to save your money!!
19 April 2008
This report will close out our active season on the Farm 13/Stick Marsh Impoundment until next fall. It has been a difficult season, to say the least. November and December were great, with lots of giant bass and crappie and other fish. Then, on 2 January 08, the first major cold front blasted through and the winds have whipped us badly ever since. The waters of our grand old impoundment have stayed muddy, or at least filthy dirty near continually. (If you ventured down to fish the place, you know exactly what I mean!!) There were more busted fishing trips than ever before. Most of us guides warned our clients in advance and wound up canceling a lot of trips. Others, with the customer’s full knowledge as to why, we shifted to Garcia Reservoir. Garcia did well for most of the time. The fish were smaller, but numerous. We usually managed at least one 5-6 pound fish each trip.
Here is what I think about the future of the Farm 13/Stick Marsh Impoundment. These are just my humble opinions.
Without submerged grass to filter and aerate the water, provide a nursery and safe haven for newly hatched spawn fry, and provide feeding zones for predator fish, I believe the impoundment will gradually go downhill and finally reach some level of sustainability for a certain size population of fish. The excellent trophy fishery, as we have always known it, will shrink dramatically, as the alligators catch the slower, clumsy large bass. The spawns will have a very high mortality rate, as the young-of-the-year fry will be easy for predators to catch. That means low future crops of game fish. The water quality will continue to deteriorate and the water may have significant algae bloom problems, with resultant fish kills. Who knows what else may be effected by the poor condition of the water. As an aside note, this past week I saw dozens of dead bluegill and shellcrackers and eight dead alligators in the impoundment. All in all, I personally think an old friend may die unless the hydrilla and milfoil grass start to root and thrive again.
14-16 April 2008
What a week and what a way to close out our Stick Marsh Guide Service fishing season!!!
Here comes the crew in from all over the country – six clients who come as a group each year for a get-together of old friends and some fishing fun. Frank Fagan, Dave Jurjevich, Dave Hennessey, Ron Procarione, Bill Butler, and Gary Arling take a number of trips together each year. This one was a repeat to try and finally fish the fabled Farm 13/Stick Marsh Impoundment. Last year, the weather blew them away and they spent their time on Garcia Reservoir.
This time was little exception, as the last cold front of the year came through as they were getting off the plane in Orlando. A 20 (+) degree temperature drop and winds gusting to 35 MPH. How unlucky can you get!!
But, they had the two luckiest guides I know – Stan Daniel and myself. This year, Stan and I have been fighting bad weather and muddy water most of the season. So, we had enough experience and ‘honey holes’ to try and make the Stick Marsh work for our gang of visiting fishermen. No Garcia this time; we were going for broke at the big pond!!
It was a tough nut to crack, too. Danged cold for Florida, especially in mid-April. And, those winds just howled. It was pretty miserable for two days, with the final day getting just a little better. But, no one gave in and quit. We adhered to the cardinal rule – ‘You can’t catch a bass with a dry shiner, so keep one wet at all times.’
Guess what? While we didn’t set the World on fire with quantities of bass, we once again pulled off those ‘minor miracles’ with some big bass! Yep, it’s always better to be lucky than good!!!What a fine way to finish up -- great company and some big bass!!
13 April 2008
7-8 April 2008
This two-day venture was a true ‘family affair’. The first day, we had Grandpa Dexter Martini, with his son, and his 10-year old grandson , Zach.
The ‘prime directive’ was, again, Zach catches fish. So, Zach was glad to oblige and crank them in. Zach informed me that these were the first bass he had every caught from a boat and the largest he had ever seen. He was ready to fish the second day, too. But, alas, that day was for Grandma Francis and Zach’s Mom, Gail McMillian.
Grandma Francis and Mom Gail probably had an interesting time discussing their day on the water with Zach when they got back to their hotel. Where Zach had caught big bass, Grandma and Mom had caught GIANT bass!!!
In fact Grandma Francis caught the big bass of the trip, a giant old sow that nearly pulled her out of the boat. But, Francis declined any help, put her feet against the side of the big Blazer boat and winched that bass right on in.
9-10 April 2008
My first roommate in college was Tom Massey. That was some zillion years ago. Back then, we fished whenever we could cut class and get away (which was pretty often). My last fishing trip this past week was Tom Massey. We didn’t have to cut any classes this time. Tom came down from South Carolina and brought his friend, Bob Drost. Bob was a big football star at the University of South Carolina, when Tom and I were playing baseball and golf at our school.
Our first day on the water was tough. Farm 13 was dirty and the fishing very poor in that area. We did slip into the spillway basin in the SE corner of the Farm and catch some big crappie on the PERFECT Jig. But, the bass were tough. Finally, we slipped into the ‘Back 40’ behind the boat ramp and managed some bass on shiners. Old Tom wound up with a big bass, too.
Our second day out proved fateful. We decided to approach the fish a lot different than the first day, targeting places we had not fished in awhile. Finding some water that was a bit cleaner than other locations, we also noted some new bottom variation on the depthfinder. It turned out to be a very small ditch, not more than 1.5 feet deep and maybe 2 feet wide. Being so small, it may have been hand-dug. But, the dirt from its excavation was piled to one side, making a small, but discernible, levee. On that levee, we found some small stumps and brush residue. A Rattin’ Rap (some that IN-FISHERMAN Senior Editor, Doug Stange, had provided at last year’s filming sessions) produced well ripped right across the top of the shallow levee and wood. The green pumpkin RIPPIN’ Stick also did great. Plus, the shiners produced well when trolled slowly along the small levee and when still-fished under bobbers just off the levee and the wood residue. In fact, the larger fish came on the shiners, with Bob getting the giant of the day. My GPS now knows exactly where that ditch and wood is, too!!
29 March 2008
11 March 2008
Dan Welch and his son, Brad, decided to take a shot at the local bass population. With the farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment being a total disaster at the time, we opted for Garcia Reservoir. Boy, the wind let us have it at about 30 MPH and it was tough fishing. They would come up on the shiners as we dragged them across the grass and were poor at chasing the bait when we anchored.
We managed to catch a few bass and, luckily, Dan got a really big old sow. Smiling like a 'possum, ain't he!!
25-26 March 2008
Keith Poole has two delightful young sons. Jackson is 10 and Aidan is 8. Neither has fished, so it was interesting to see how they reacted to a day on the water. Keith decided we should take each youngster out separately, for a half-day each.
On the first day, we had Jackson. He is the quiet one, pretty reserved and calm. Well, at least until he started to reel fish in. It didn’t matter what type fish it was. If we could get it to bite, he was ready to ‘get with the program'.
For his first time fishing, Jackson did great and was ready to go again.
The second day, we teamed up with Aidan. He was a typical 8-year old. Ready to go do something, no matter what it was. Once we started to catch bass on the shiners, Aidan got excited enough that he even wanted to be the ‘Shiner Captain’ and handle getting the shiners, too. Another thing that added to the building excitement was that the fish would get a little bigger with each new catch.
Once we got Aidan oriented to holding and cranking the big shiner rod, he proved that he could handle anything short of six-pounds. His Dad had to provide a little ‘rod’ support’ on that final fish of the day!!
28 March 2008
Ed Dozier and Tom Murdock make a trip south to go fishing every winter. Upper Maryland State gets a bit brisk at times, so they really look forward to the weather change. They sure hit it right this time. The temperature was in the mid-70’s, the skies clear and the winds stayed down nearly all day. The only problem was that the water in the south end of Farm 13 was still pretty dirty and the bass would not come to shiners. However, we did mange to find a few in the ‘Back 40’ area.
The good thing we found was that the crappie and big bluegill still hang out on the submerged levees of the Farm. The little PERFECT Crappie Jig again proved its worth and caught us a fine mess of crappie and a LOT of bluegill. Catfish even worked on us pretty good. Ed caught one of the giant crappie the impoundment is famous for, scaling in around 2-1/4 lbs. (estimated; our scale’s batteries went dead).
8 March 2008
Steve and Danny Ingram are old friends from the frozen north. Each year, they stop by to fish with us during their mid-season thaw-out vacation to Florida. Steve is a special guy who I admire greatly. He has a permanent disability that affects his right side, but he has shown that it will never stand in the way of anything he wants to do. Especially fishing. Every year, Steve gets a bigger bass. It started with a four-pound fish a couple of years ago. Then, a five-pounder the next year. This year, he again bested his personal best record. He put me on notice for a 10-pound fish next year. I'll bet he does it, too.
Our strategy was to get into the submerged timber at the south end of Farm 13 and toss RIPPIN’ Stick soft jerk baits. Danny is really a master with that lure and can seemingly get bit with it at will. Steve works the lure perfectly, too. But, Danny appeared to have the touch this day. After Steve caught the first RIPPIN’ Stick bass, Danny set off in a flurry of 6-8 fish. Steve continued to get one here and one there on a regular basis, but Danny seemed to always have a fish on. The problem was --- he couldn’t land the big bass!! My best estimate was that he lost an 8, a 7 and a pair in the 6-pound range right at the boat. Steve’s fish were all smaller, but he landed his.
While the Ingrams were tossing the RIPPIN’ Sticks, I decided to see if any crappie had made it to the wooded area. Taking the needle-nosed pliers, I closed the hook on a cinnamon and chartreuse PREFECT Crappie Jig and started tossing it around the boat. Immediately, I was getting hits. Most felt to be bluegills strike, short and hard. But, a few were solid ‘thumps’, followed by a slackness in the line. I figured it about impossible to toss that little jig into all that wood without staying hung up, but I sure got surprised. Opening the hook to the normal position, I proceeded to catch about 12-15 big crappie and a bunch of bluegill, while only getting hung 3-4 times. The water and wood are so shallow in that south end of the Farm that I was always able to get the jig back, too. These crappie were not clustered, nor did they appear overly aggressive. So, I assume they were not actively spawning yet. Most did have large egg masses, with some leaking a bit.
Having a couple of dozen shiners on-board to try for trophy bass, we moved over to what I call my ‘high percentage hole’, a cluster of submerged wood that forms a big log pile over a depression. The first three shiners into the water immediately turned good, solid bass. Then, it stopped. Moving around a bit, we managed a few more. Then, we got into another dead-space. I reminded the guys that shiner bites often come suddenly and when you least expect them. Sure enough, the quiet was broken as a big old gal came up chasing Steve’s hapless shiner. He grabbed the rod, as we waited for the bobber to go. After three heart-stopping blow-ups on the shiner, the big bass took her. It was a powerful fish, big-bodied and probably fresh off the spawn. I knew Steve wanted no assistance, so Danny and I stood back and just shouted encouragement. Steve literally wrestled the bass for about three minutes, gradually working her to the boat. I breathed a major sigh of relief when she was finally in the net. The cell phone rang. I told them I’d have to call back. Moments like that are what make guiding such a great profession.
26 February 2008
Planning to just see if I could locate spawning crappie down in that Farm 13 wood, I called John Dittmer to see if he wanted to go along. John is on our stand-by list for crappie and he was available. The winds cooperated and we were able to toss the jigs easily. Again, we did not get hung much. But, we also did not find any concentrations of crappie. We caught the scattered fish again and some bluegill. But, we did not find any spawners.
That night, the ‘flu princess’ stopped by and stomped on my head. And, I’ll bet all the crappie in the World spawned while I was laid up!!
7 February 2008
31 January 2008
With ‘iffy’ water conditions and the potential for high winds, we started Larry Lynch and Gary Whitaker out at the Stick Marsh for bass and crappie. We got some really giant crappie off the submerged levees, but not a lot of them.
When the winds failed to materialize and the weather appeared stable, we took shiners and moved into the south end of the Farm. Again, the quantity of fish was a disappointment, but the guys managed to stoke a couple of really great bass.
1 February 2008
The winds due on 31 January finally arrived the morning of 1 February. So, we opted to take Toby Cole, Floyd Layman, and a visiting friend of theirs to Garcia.
The wind really howled out of the south as we drifted shiners over grass. Small bass blasted the baitfish. But, it was slow activity and no big fish were caught. All were small.
Moving to the northwest canal, we decided to try for the finicky crappie. I had caught these fish recently, but it was tough slow fishing. You had to work that PERFECT Jig very slowly and just touch some underwater grass on the sloping side of the canal. Fishing what you can’t see if always tough. I think we managed 15-18, but they were just ‘eating sized’ fish and not big slabs like the Stick Marsh produces. With no fish of any size, we had no pictures.
4 February 2008
We checked the water in the Stick Marsh and Farm 13 the day before and it looked acceptable. So, we headed out with Mike Esposito and Bobby West to check the crappie and bass.
We managed some nice crappie until the winds blew us away. The PREFECT Jig on the levee tops was the key. But, the wide open waters of farm 13 get pretty rough when the winds blow hard.
Moving to the south end of the Farm, we set up with a few shiners and managed only a couple of fish. It was not good at all. Mike managed one big bass. But, it was poor fishing. There were some bass caught in and around the submerged timber on Rat-L-Traps that day. So, it appeared we needed to me moving around to find fish, rather than floating shiners in one place.
5 February 2008
Once again, we hosted Toby Cole, Floyd Layman, and a visiting friend. This time, the winds let us fish the Farm 13 levees for crappie. We did try drifting minnows for a short spell with zero results. But, the levees produced some giant slabs. Even with 10-15 MPH winds, we managed to keep the big BLAZER boat lined up with the submerged levee top. With everyone tossing the cinnamon and chartreuse PERFECT Jig, we put around 25 giants in the livewell, plus a bunch of big bluegills.
20 January 2008
Mike Durrett is a General Contractor and decided to treat some of his supervisory crew (Potts, Marek, and Adam) to a few days of fishing in Florida. We got them lined up with a place to stay at the Blue Cypress campground, so they could rent boats, cook fish and generally spend some warm days in Florida. On one of their days, they opted to fish with us. Stan Daniel again provided the second boat. The wind and rain forced us to Garcia again.
With the exception of Mike, the party was a little inexperienced at bass fishing. But, before the day was over, they had caught bass on the shiners, a spinnerbait and two styles of worms. Stan started it off with the first fish of the day dragging a shiner down. That bass weighed a good 5-lbs., really nice for Garcia.
Fishing with shiners usually levels the playing field among the experienced and inexperienced anglers. But, this day, Mike Durrett seemed to hold the edge, no matter what he fished with. Mike got two big Garcia bass on the shiners and a pretty good number of smaller ones on his Berkley GULP worms. His partner in my boat, Adam, had a nice one on a shiner, as well. Considered the killer weather, we had a fine day.
18 January 2008
Danny Morgan called at the last minute and we managed to work him into the fishing schedule. He came down from Staunton, VA, to attend a wedding in south Florida. But, he confided that he had considered it a great opportunity to get out of Skyline Drive’s cold winter weather and fish in warm Florida for a day.
In actuality, it was pretty warm last Friday. A major cold front was due in 48 hours, so we has southerly winds bringing warm, moist air up from the oceans south and west of Florida. The rain only drizzled at us a couple of times and the winds stayed down until noon. Again, we opted to go with shiners and toss a few artificials when we could. Early in our trip, we had a lot of fish blowing up on the shiners with great regularity. Then, as the wind picked up and we had to deploy the drift socks, the bite slowed at lot. We finally decided to anchor on some of the underwater grass beds that had produced multiple bass earlier. Floating the shiners downwind over the grass, Danny got back into catching again.
Then, he got ‘the strike’! It was that rarely seen, true giant bass in Garcia. Danny got a great hookset and it was off to the races. The bass was actually one of those that was too big to really jump. All she could do was get her head and upper body above the surface and then wallow as she fell back. As luck would have it, the hook popped free close to the boat and we did not get her for pictures. But, we did get a good, close look!! What a fish!
The winds laid back a bit and we decided to work the very eastern edge of the open water section we were fishing. It turned out to be a good move, in that all the bass in Garcia appeared to be gathered there. And, most of them were a good bit larger than average! In short order, Danny went through all the shiners and had a big grin on his face.
13 January 2008
7 January 08
After waiting out Mother Nature’s cold front rampage through Florida, we finally got back on the water with Joey and Beth Peifer. This was a bass-only excursion, but I got the pair to stop on a couple of crappie hangouts and help me see if the fish were home. The water was dirty and cold and the crappie didn’t even raise an eyebrow (if they had one) at us. So, it was off to the south end of the Farm and some shallow water. We surmised that the shallows might have warmed somewhat faster than the other locations, and it appeared we were right. With all that wood in the water acting as heat sinks and thermal masses, absorption of the bright sun was a real plus. We found the water at around 63 degrees, a far better cry that the mid-50s of few days earlier.
Beth got everything going and it appeared her end of the boat was the ‘charmed’ seat. When she also latched onto a giant bass, it was certain she had things going her way. But, things have a way of changing and, sure enough, Joey started to rebound and catch up. Then, just before quitting time, Joey got his giant.
Who says the Farm 13/Stick Marsh hasn’t got any bass left?!!
9 & 10 January 08
Jonathan Lebendiger and Bill Bendon flew down from Philadelphia just to fish two days with us. Now, that’s gotta be confidence in their guide, what with all the negative data I had been giving them about the weather changes at New Years. But, as they got on the plane, I was able to tell them about the fine success of the Peifers. I sure was hoping the fishing would continue to improve!!
Our first day, we went to look for crappie first. The water was still dirty and pretty cool that morning, so we went to the south end of Farm 13 to find big bass. John landed a couple of really nice bass, one being a big-bellied sow just full of eggs and ready to go spawn. Bill had to settle for the small fish of the day. But, there was still a day of fishing to go.
Our second day, we went to see if the crappie would hit the PERFECT Jig. The waters had warmed to the upper 60’s and were clearing more. After working 200 yards of levee top, we were still fishless. Then, I remembered the last place I had caught the crappie well just before the NewYears cold front passage. I figured we should check it, as it was a bit more out-of-the-way from where we normally catch those giant crappies. Moving a half-mile down farm 13, we keyed into a GPS position I had marked. After I had made a pass and located the old canal trace and its submerged levees, I dropped a marked and got up to fish. Before I could get the trolling motor down, both anglers had crappie on the jig. We had stopped precisely at the perfect spot, I suppose. What luck!! We worked a 50-yard section of the levee, which appeared to harbor a huge shell bed all along the levee top. It was stacked up with big slabs, those giant shellcrackers and some big bluegill. Strangely absent were all the catfish that had been on the shell beds before the cold front. Jonathan and Bill got to catch their first really giant crappies ever, with Jonathan getting a huge gal with some eggs showing at her vent (looks like an early spawn in the making in that section of the impoundment).
From there, we went over to the east wall of the Farm to the pump station. It was running at about half speed, so we anchored and free-lined shiners into the light current. We caught a decent number of bass. But, It appeared there were more big catfish and mudfish there than bass. We caught our bass and also lost a number of shiners to the trash fish.
Being almost noon, we decided to break for lunch. So, we headed back to the ramp for some fresh fried crappie fillets. Um, um good!! It is always so much better cooked outdoors with some of Dot’s fresh potato salad and baked beans. Plus, a big pitcher of sweet iced tea. Who says life has to be hard!!
After stuffing ourselves well, we moved back to the south end of the Farm and some shiner action. There, the bass started eating the shiners again, as the day before. It was not a heavy bite, but it was decent. The fish were mostly average. Then, Bill set the hook on one that proved to be another egg-laden sow. As I netted the fish and moved for my camera, I suddenly realized that I had left it in my truck after lunch. Dang my forgetful old mind. Doing the best I could, I took a few pictures with my cellular phone. As you can see, one of our pictures is pretty poor, so I know you can tell which was the phone picture.
Jonathan and Bill both stated that the trip had been well worth the flight down, plus it got them into some 80-degree weather. That made me feel good, knowing my luck was still holding out.
11 January 08
We got a last-minute call from our friend, Vernon Grizzard, who said he had to be in our area on Friday. Did we have any fishing time open, he wanted to know. Heck, we always have time for past customers. Vernon is what you call a ‘good guy’, very personable and a real gentleman. The kind you like to call friend.
I hope we are still friends after that afternoon, though. It was warm, the water temperature was in the low 70s, and everything seemed great. Plus, we were coming off three fine fishing days earlier that week. We got a lot of hits on the shiners and a lot of surface blow-ups on them. But, we could not hook up with the fish. I think the catfish and mudfish have learned how to blow-up on the shiners now. That is the only reason I give for only three small bass for three hours of teaching shiners to swim.
So, our great streak of success that started back on the 4th of November 07 finally came to an end. We finally had a poor day of fishing. However, there sure were a LOT of great ones in-between!!
Lastly, I had a gentleman email and ask if I thought he could fish from one of those sit-on inner tube rigs that you move around with swim fins on your feet. I sent him this picture of the big-nosed guy that guards my best fishing spot. Never did get a reply back from him.
31 December 07
We decided to close out 2007 by catching a fish or two ourselves. Where we thought it would be windy, this day was actually warm and calm. In fact, the water was slick the whole time. I ran into Glenn Bolten on the impoundment. Glenn has fished with us before, but does just fine from his own boat. Today, he caught me with a marker in the water and probably saw I was nailing them pretty well. As he drifted by, Glenn jokingly asked me to leave that marker right there when I was finished.
I started out on the levees of the center north/south canal and found the usual crappie, bluegills and shellcrackers still there. They were not as thick as the past couple of weeks, but we have caught a LOT of them. So, I decided to find a new school, or two. I moved to the west north/south canal (coordinates B, 5-7 on our interactive map) and started working the PERFECT Jig along the top of the levees. Boy, did I get lucky again. Within a 100 yard stretch, I caught well over 50 big crappie, 8 big shellcrackers, and a zillion bluegills and catfish. It was steady action. So, don’t forget that canal. But, I expect all the submerged levees have fish. You just have to locate the shellbeds.
I wonder how much better this crappie fishing will get after this coming cold front? They will start to bunch up then and it should get even better, especially for those drifting minnows in the open flats of the Farm.
23 December 2007
19-21 December 07
Derrell Miller has been a long-time friend and fellow ‘fish-head’. He is now a full-time RV’er who goes and lives whereever he wants for as long as he wants. Then, he pulls in the slide on the motor coach and moves it on down the road. Derrell is wintering in west Florida, knowing that somewhere today someone is shoveling snow. When we decided to fish for a few days, the fish just sighed and muttered, “Well, here comes ‘Old Lucky’ again.”
We put in three days. But, at our age, they were more like half-days. We had fine weather and just sorta stayed laid back the whole time.
Day 1 found us on Garcia Lake. The cold front a few days earlier had blown the Farm 13/Stick Marsh out and the water was in pretty poor condition. This day was warm, with lots of sun and only light breezes. Derrell started with a Rattlin’ Rap crank plug and I alternated between a JuneBug RIPPIN’ Stick jerk bait rigged ‘wacky’ style and a small spinnerbait. We sure guessed right this time. Derrell’s second cast netted a 4.5 lb. largemouth, which is a fine bass on Garcia. He wore them out pretty good on the crayfish pattern Rap, while I did best on the RIPPIN’ Stick. Everything went great until my friend got a fish on that jumped and broke his line (literal translation: ‘that sucker got the Rattlin’ Rap’!!)
Day 2 found us check the Stick Marsh/ Farm 13 for water conditions. Actually, they were pretty good, with the water clarity only slightly dark. We decided to try for crappie and big bluegills on the submerged levee tops first. Working a couple of hundred yards of levee tops in three places indicated fewer fish than had been using the levees over the past few weeks. Whether that was true, or not, we did not find that many fish in these locations. Some big crappie and bluegills were present, but not in large numbers. We are awaiting the crappie to start to bunch up in preparation for the late-February spawn and they usually do this when the cold fronts start to drop the water temperatures. So, this may be why the fish had left the levees.
Our next stop was the south end of the Farm to look for bass. This was very successful and resulted in some great fishing. Plus, we discovered an important piece of information. We took advantage of a southeasterly breeze to push our boat out over the wood. Accordingly, we went back into that submerged timber (to the south) a bit further than usual and then let the wind push us out towards the open water. One of my first casts with the Rattlin’ Rap resulted in a huge bass that ate my lunch!! She was just uncontrollable and wound up getting down in the wood. It sure got my blood going good! As we drifted further, Derrell popped two nice fish on the Rap, while I had another at 3 lbs.
Once we cleared the majority of the wood, we noted that ALL the fish had come way back to the south. So, for our second drift, we took the boat back further into the southern wooded area. Sure enough, we picked up a number of good bass again on this drift and they were all well back into the wood. It was starting to look like the bass were moving to the very shallow areas in preparation for the spawn (which runs late December to mid-February in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh). This movement to the shallows happens every year at about the same time, so we who fish the impoundment regularly recognize it when it shows up.
On our next drift, we went even further back to the south, with the boat hanging on stumps with regularity. Plus, the Raps got hung a good bit, too! However, they also got hung on bass lips a lot, as well. As I was releasing a fish, I happened to see a whole school of bass come up chasing baitfish about 50 yards from us! It was directly in our line of drift. Looking around the breaking area, I marked two stumps for reference so I could stop and fish exactly where the fish broke. I told Derrell that, if there were some grass trying to grow in that spot, it might be why the baitfish were there. Plus, the grass would hold the bass and baitfish in that same spot. Those baitfish need that grass to hide in and get away from the predators.
Sure enough, the school of bass was right there when we got to it. We did not note any evidence of grass growth. But, there was a very heavy amount of old logs and stumps underwater. The school was quite large and the average fish was 3-3.25 lbs. Some were larger, one of which ripped Derrell a new one before spitting the Rap back at him! It was such a good school that we anchored the boat and caught them for 30 minutes. At the start of this fishing spree, the school was large enough that we caught 2-at-a-time on the Rattlin’ Rap and Rat-L-Trap sometimes.
The information gleaned this day was valuable. It told us the bass schools were moving way back into the shallows for spawning (they will break up into smaller groups and singles as they reach desirables locations in the prime spawning zones). It also said that baitfish are plentiful back in that wood and that we should be attentive for any action or movement.
Day 3 caught us by surprise. We had intended to fish a few shiners for fun and then go back to the shallow south end of the Farm for bass using artificials. But, Mother Nature pulled a fast one on us and the winds started up at 15-20 MPH out of the northwest. That completely blew out the south end of the Farm and made it impossible to hold the boat. We noted the pumphouse running on the Farm’s east wall. But, those same NE winds made it impossible to hold a boat there. So, we went to the big spillway in the SE corner of the Farm. Remarkably, not another boat was there. We set the shiners out, only to find a few catfish and one skinny bass. I moved the boat a short piece to a different position with about the same results. We tried another position and put the shiners out free-line style. That didn’t do much either. Finally, I moved the boat where we could put the shiners into some deeper water. Boy, did that do the trick. I don’t think there was any water coming through the spillway. If it was, it was just a bare trickle. But, there were bass there and they ate the rest of the shiners like candy. Even with high winds, we managed to salvage the day with some fine catching!!
So, ya'll come on down and enjoy some of this warm weather and great fishing. The bass will be fine, unless the winds blow the impoundment out for a couple of days. The Farm 13/Stick Marsh bass are still plentiful and BIG and ready. If the weather gets rough, Garcia is still a great fishery!! The crappie can be hit-or-miss right now. But, by mid-January, they will be bunched and a lot easier to catch. Then, as mid-February rolls around, they will be hot to spawn and it will really become super fishing!
8 December 07
Mike and Marc Boucher brought their Dad, Will, to fish with us as a kind of 70th birthday gift. This was a trip with the wind blowing us a bit. We went to Farm 13 and took a few fish. But, the winds started to roll us and the water was a bit dirty. So, we decided to go and fish a protected area with a somewhat poor-looking vegetation line. Most anglers pass the spot by, looking for more ‘fishy’ waters. But, I have found the location to be excellent at times, as it appears to be a movement route. It also helps that the bottom in covered with the remains of old orange trees that once stood there!!
Setting the shiners out to swim, we sat and waited. Then, we waited some more. Finally, we waited longer. I have seen it start slowly in that location in the past, so I kept telling the guys to have faith. When the bass come along this grass-line and find shiners, they will stop and we’ll catch a bunch. I sure hoped that would happen, too. You can never tell about fishing, or they would call it ‘catching’ instead.
Suddenly, it started. The first two big blow-ups on the shiners were missed hooksets. Then, we started to connect. Will got a couple of small bass and then Marc got a big old girl on. She ran him from one end of the boat to the other, with Marc trying to keep her out of anchor ropes. Soon, she came to the net. Then, Mike got into the act with some 3-4 pound fish. Will caught a bass every so often, too, but just could not get a bite from that giant bass.
Normally, the ‘Mudfish Hole’ brings bites from more mudfish, gar and catfish than anything else. But, this time, we could raise a strike from anything. For 20 minutes we let those shiners vacation back there, without a care in the World, it seemed. As the sun turned red in the west, I took in and stowed two of the three shiner rods, leaving Mike with his until the last minute. Just as I got the rods put in place, Mike grunted and said he had one. And she was a good one, at about six pounds. Sure enough, the ‘last minute magic’ had befriended us again. It’s sure better to be lucky than good! Always keep a shiner or lure very wet at all times and there is always a chance!!
10 December 07
This trip was with Bryan Robb and his lovely wife-to-be, Tamara Forrest. From Ontario, Canada, these two kids were enjoying the Florida sunshine and the balmy 80 degree days as they played ‘tourist’ and visited Bryan’s Mother.
We started at ‘Jim’s Magic Stump’ at the south end of the Farm (not to be confused with ‘Stan’s Magic Stump’ in the Nursery; mine has a fork on it). Things went slowly, and then the bass started to come. Shiners were blown up into the air and caught by the bass as they came back down. Tamara got a couple of big bass, while Bryan seemed to be afflicted by the ‘little bass’ curse.
When the bite tapered off, we decided to move and try another wooded area. As I pulled up the front anchor, the wind changed a bit and brought the sound of a diesel engine running. Scanning around, I realize that the sound was coming from the Farm 13 pumphouse. So, I decided to go by and see if there was any current flow. Boy, that turned out to be a good move. The water flow was only slight, but it was apparently enough to bring the bass in. Anchoring the boat off to the side of the moving water, I rigged up some free-lined shiners for each angler. Tamara, at that time, was running away with all the big bass catches. But, that would soon change dramatically.
As the free-swimming shiners made their way out into the current flow, bass would eventually find them. There were not hoards of bass, as there sometimes are on moving water. But, there were enough that we had a steady flow of action. Strangely, we seemed to have few strikes from catfish and mudfish that usually use moving water location a lot. Both anglers started to catch solid 3-4 pound fish. Then, Bryan started to come on strong with the larger bass. It must have been boat positioning that gave him the edge. We never did make it to that other location, as the moving water produced bass until the shiners were gone and the sun was low.
12 and 14 December 07
David and Beng were down vacationing (and thawing out) for a week from a very northern state. In-between theme park visits and outlet mall excursions, the couple made time for a couple of outings with us. The weather was nice for them during their stay. But, the day they flew home, the big snowstorm hit the Northeast. I hope their delays were short.
Our first day out found us stopping on a submerged levee in the north section of Farm 13. This pair of anglers wanted to try some crappie and bluegill, as well as bass on the trip. We would soon find out that this was to be ‘Beng’s Big Day’!!
I gave each a light spinning outfit with 6-lb. test Fireline on it and rigged with a cinnamon/chartreuse tail PERFECT Jig. With the winds very light, it was easy to control the position of the boat so both could work the jig slowly across the top of the levee. We fished along about a 150-yard stretch, finding plenty of bluegills and a few crappie. Using marker buoys, we marked the places we caught crappie and then concentrated on those levee locations. Beng suddenly got a strike and her rod just kept bending over and down. I could tell it was something big, so I grabbed the net and moved to her side. From the pull on the line and rod, I expected to see a big catfish. But, it turned out to be the first 3-pound crappie of the year!! Wow, what a whopper.
But, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. A little later, we boated the largest shellcracker I have ever seen. It weighed 2.4-pounds and dwarfed any others we have caught. It was so huge as to defy the imagination. A couple of weeks before, Stan Daniel and I had caught some around 1.5 –lbs. In a report below, we showed one that was as big as my hat. But, this fish was way, way above those in size. Man, alive. The Farm 13/Stick Marsh sure grows big fish of all kinds.
From there we went to the Farm 13 pump station. It was running, but the water was moving only slightly. A few fish were there and went on the shiners quickly. In addition to the free-lined shiners, I also put one out under a bobber. Sure enough, they ate the bobbered shiner, too. In fact, David blew off a giant bass on the bobber rig right near the boat. It may well have been the big bass of the trip.
Our next stop was at the south end of the Farm, over submerged wood. Setting out the shiners, we waited for about 30 minutes with no action. Then, the strikes started to come. It was not fast action, but just enough that you could not take an eye off the shiners. Beng seemed to have the ‘charmed’ end of the boat at this location. While the bass were nearly all 3-pounds, or better, Bend was averaging closer to 4-lbs. Then, she got the ‘big bite’. A monster blew up on the shiner! She went down to a tight line, set the hook well, and somehow missed the fish completely. Since Beng said she never felt any contact on the hookset, I think the big bass spit the shiner out. Quickly baiting her up again, we put the shiner back in the same location. 10 seconds passed and BANG, the giant bass went on Beng’s hapless shiner again. This time, though, she hooked him perfectly. The huge bass’s surges stood the slight girl up on her feet trying to hold on. But, she kept the big bass’s head up and out of the wood just fine. After a couple of passes across the front of the boat and one near an anchor rope, 10 lbs. 4 oz. of fine looking pre-spawn bass came to the net. With a flawless complexion and a giant, protruding belly, the big old gal was a prime example of a giant Florida largemouth.
After a few more good fish, the action slowed and we decided to go look at a final spot for crappie. This location was not intended to be for giant crappies, but just to anchor and fish minnows under bobbers for fun. I only think six were caught. Not much fun in that. We called it a day and went in.
Our second day found us eliminating other species from our plan and gunning for just bass. In particular, we were after a giant bass for David. Stopping first at the pump station, we found it running with a pretty good current. And, we hooked into 8-10 good fish very quickly. Everyone got fish in the 4 and 5 pound range. Then, it seemed to just stop. Possibly, the baitfish moved off the spot and the bass followed them.
So, we went to the location at the south end of the Farm where Beng had caught the giant bass the day before. The fish were not as numerous and the strikes far between. They were good, solid bass. But, it was slow. So, we moved the boat 100 feet to another big log pile location. Here, we had the same action – a few good fish, but a good wait between strikes. We went back to the pump house spot, only to find it still barren.
So, it was off to the spot where we had successfully taken the Bouchers a few days before. It was a terrible looking place, but the bass seem to like it. Setting the shiners out, we got no action for perhaps 15 minutes. Then, as we were talking about some obscure subject, we all heard an explosion as a bass broke the surface. It turned out to be a strike on Beng’s shiner, which had swam almost back to the front of the boat. It caught us all unawares, but the young lady got her act together and landed the fine 6-lb. fish.
The action gradually heated up some and David started to get 3-lb bass with a little regularity. But, we still did not have a really big bass for him. Plus, we only had about 15 minutes of daylight left. I was giving it my ‘have faith’, ‘keep the shiner wet’, and ‘last minute heroics’ speech, when something ate David’s shiner all at once. No warning and no shiner action to this one. Just a sudden strike and a bobber flying down out of sight. David let the fish clear some floating trash and then set back hard. Man oh, man. It had happened again. It was the biggest largemouth David had ever caught!! I am again amazed!!
1 December 2007
Well, well. We managed to locate some of the giant crappie in Farm 13! But, it is difficult to do and they may not be in that location the next day. In addition to the crappie being in these locations, they are also teeming with giant bluegill and shellcrackers. These two that Stan Daniel is holding weigh about 2.2-lbs. There are no eggs yet. These are just BIG crappie!!each.
Now, here is what we found and how we did it.
If you read our last fishing report (25 Nov.), we wrote the following, “The only ‘constant’ we noted was that most of the crappie came near a levee of a north/south canal (no one in particular, just near any levee).”
This week, we decided to see if this levee relationship had any merit.
We took some minnows and the reliable PERFECT Jig and headed over to the north end of the Farm. Our first trial was along the northern half of the center submerged north/south canal. We kept the boat just outside the levee and dragged the minnows, while also tossing the cinnamon, w/chartreuse tail, jig parallel to the levee. After 45 minutes, we had caught two small bluegill on the jig and a channel cat on a minnow. We decided to switch tactics slightly and positioned the boat INSIDE the trace of the canal. Again, we dragged the minnows and tossed the jig down the deeper water inside the canal. Again, we didn’t do much of anything.
Moving to a location more up towards the north end of that canal (there is a big log lodged right at the north end, so be careful in that area), we started our drift inside the canal again. This time, I began pitching the little PERFECT Jig up ON TOP of the levees on each side of the canal. The deeper water of the canal still produced nothing with the minnows. BUT, all at once, the jig starting being eaten by huge crappie and bluegill! Then, there was a huge shellcracker that went on it. Taking stock of what was happening, it appeared that the fish were hitting the jig as it bumped the shallow top of the levees (the water is presently 4-5 feet deep over the levees). They occasionally hit the jig when it was just in a slow ‘swimming mode’, but the strikes increased dramatically when the jig was allowed to bump along the bottom (sort of like a slow, steady Carolina Rig).
What you need to understand at this point is that the tops of the submerged levees are very hard and very clean. This is because of two things: 1) For years, these levees were on an active farm and dry and they baked in the sun for years; and, 2) The wind-induced water currents wash back and forth across these levees, pushing silt and other residue off into the deeper adjacent water. If you will recall, this is precisely why shellbeds grow on high spots – water currents keep them free of silt/sediment so they won’t smother.
I pulled the minnows in and then positioned the boat right on top of the eastern-side levee. This allowed me to cast the jig straight down the levee, keeping it in the productive zone for the entire retrieve. It was awesome fishing. Just plain fun. But, I was catching maybe one crappie for every dozen big bluegill/shellcrackers caught. In one location was seemed to have a bunch of fish present, I anchored the boat so I could feed minnows out under bobbers on top of the levee. That reduced the bluegill action and tripled the crappie catch. Plus, it eventually provided 8 nice channel cats, too. I culled crappie for awhile and then headed in to clean fish.
That night, I called fellow guide Stan Daniel about what I had found. It did not take much arm-twisting to get him to meet me at the ramp the next morning. (Stan is an excellent bass guide. But, he also just loves to catch those crappie and bluegill. That’s something to look for when searching for a great guide – someone who truly LOVES to fish. Don’t forget that).
When we got down on the levee area, we found zillions of bluegill still ready to zap a jig. There were lots for small ones that day. But, there was also a LOT of giants, along with some truly stupendous shellcrackers. A couple of the shellcrackers actually weighed 1.5 lbs. on my scale. That B-I-G-G-G-G! One was as large as my hat. Another went from 3-inches BELOW Stan’s fingertips to well above his wrist. Awesome.
We had to work at isolating the right section of levee. But, we finally go a couple of markers down on either side of a concentration of big crappie. Six of the bunch we caught went 2-lbs, or better.
Yesterday, I took Lou Daniels to catch some of these fish. We started very slowly. There were lots of small fish, but the giants appeared to have thinned out. Of course, we had been there filling the freezer for two days and that may have had something to do with it. Lou and I moved to the south on the center canal, nearly down to the big east/west canal. Working back north, we still did not find the big mass of giant fish. There were lots and lots of small ones all along the canal levee, however. We switched over to the next submerged canal to the east of the Farm. There were lots of fish there, too, and we managed a few more crappie. Finally, we moved to one of my reliable crappie spots. Stan and I had fished it the day before with very limited success. But, this day, the crappie were stacked in there and we limited in about an hour.
Such are the trials and tribulation of fishing. Can we catch those fish exceptionally well tomorrow? It is hard to say. They are definitely using those levees, but you have to search them out. The way I see it, it takes precise boat control and an ability to fish the jig in the appropriate manner. It is not a haphazard ‘cast it out and they just jump in the boat’ thing. You must be very deliberate about the approach. Once you find them, though, it’s ‘Katie, bar the door!’
25 November 2007
Off the soapbox and back to fishing ---
We went out in all that dark water and drifted minnows at 7 feet across the north end of Farm 13. We actually caught 10, or so, with 5-6 being those giants we like to see. But, it took us 4 long hours of drifting to do it. The only ‘constant’ we noted was that most of the crappie came near a levee of a north/south canal (no one in particular, just near any levee). We tried to investigate this using the depthfinder to keep us on a levee and tossing the PERFECT Jig at them. That only produced 1 small crappie. But, we found that if we actually dragged the jig on the surface of the top of the levee, we could catch a LOT of giant bluegills and shellcrackers. It was a bit like fishing a Carolina Rig for bass. We added a split shot 8-10 inches above the jig and actually dragged it along on the bottom. Fishing seems strange at times!!
Until it got so full of floating debris, the canal between Garcia and Farm 13 still produced crappie. Look for 14 feet of water and fish at 10 feet deep.
Lake Washington is still reporting good crappie catches, though the fish are not as large as those in Farm 13. The north end with minnows or jigs at 3-5 feet has been the ticket.
Yesterday, we hosted Terry Miller (Baltimore, MD) and his father-in-law, Lee Fleishman, from Davenport, FL. Terry had been out with us before and knew that we sure catch a LOT of bass in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment. I had forewarned the guys of the dark water and ‘iffy’ conditions, but they were raring to go. So, with shiners in the well, we ventured into the unknown for a half day of fishing (and, we hoped, catching!!).
We actually went 2 full hours without as much as a strike. But, knowing the waters intimately gave us a big advantage. We knew one area of clean water and had caught fish there well a couple of weeks earlier (with Bob Clark and Mike Esposito; see trip report below). Floating the shiners out in that location, we got to keep on waiting for a strike. 15 minutes went by and the shiners were doing the backstroke and just on vacation. 30 minutes passed and I had to wake Lee up. It was that exciting! 45 minutes came and Lee got a hard strike – a big blow-up on the shiner. He missed it. Then, Tim got the same type strike and missed his. A few minutes later, the strikes started coming. Then, they came faster. And, faster!! I got caught trying to hook a new shiner and having to stop and grab the net numerous times. It was good there were only 2 fishermen aboard. I would have never kept up with 3.
When our four dozen shiners finally ran out, it was close to dark. 22-23 bass had made it to the net. There were no giants in the crowd, with Lee having one that pushed 5 pounds being on top. But, a really nice thing was that nearly all the bass were 3 to 4 pounds, a truly fine average size. Even for a windy day with a lot of dirty water around. Plus, we got our egos stroked at the ramp when other bass anglers reported not even getting a strike!
17 November 2007
The Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment was still very dirty as of three days ago. Fishing is poor under those conditions. All the people I spoke with indicated little action. I would forget it until possible the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Today (Saturday, 17 Nov) was calm and, if we get a couple of more days of low winds, it may clear up. I spoke with 3 or 4 of the black guys who are down there regularly and they all said it was nearly zero crappie/specks, too.
Now, the good part.
I went to Lake Washington three times in the past 10 days. Twice alone and once with a party. The crappie are willing and ready in this St. Johns River headwaters lake. But, they are not as big as the Farm 13/Stick Marsh giants we have come to enjoy. I worked the North end of the lake, based on some guidance I had from Bill Sargent. (Bill recent retired from his position as the Outdoor Editor of the Florida Today newspaper and is getting more fishing time now.) I worked water that the depth finder says was 6-7 feet (that is really 7-8 feet based on the depth the transducer is in the water). Drifting minnows at 5-6 feet deep brought a lot of activity. The winds blew a bit, so I used a good bit of weight to keep the bait down. Also, ‘power trolling’ with jigs and Beetle Spins worked, too You have to move the artificials at a decent rate of speed and on enough line to get them down 4-6 feet.
I fished about 3 hrs by myself and 4 hours with customers (old friends Earl and Theda Cagle from Alaska) for 22 to 45 keepers, on the average. Again, they are not as big as the Farm 13/Stick Marsh fish. But, they were fine for table fare.
I also went to Garcia twice and fished crappie. The borrow pit area did not work for me. The water is high in Garcia and the visible grass is gone on the high spots. So, I could not tell shallow from deep water and had trouble staying in the deeper zones of the pit effectively.
I went into the canal between Garcia and the Farm 13 spillway and drifted minnows in the open water. The first trip, Stan Daniel and I located some in 12-14 feet of water, holding at a depth of 6-10 feet. A couple of days later, with the winds blowing pretty hard, I went back to that canal. It provides an excellent windbreak and is easy to fish in bad weather. This time, I loaded the boat pretty well. I found an area about 50 yards long that had water from 14-18 feet deep. Again, using minnows, I drifted bait at 9-10 feet successfully. However, when I got into the 15-18 foot areas, it was better to drop the minnows to 12 feet (crappie are fairly depth-oriented critters). I found the deeper crappie to be much larger, so I stayed within the bounds to that deeper water.
Both with Stan and when I was there alone, it was noted that staying to the south side of the canal, right close to the drop from the submerged flat, was best. Also, a few crappie would come to the PERFECT Jig if we let it slowly drop down the side of the drop from that flat to the deep water.
We had reports from local guide, Randy Sanders, that he had done well on bass in Garcia using jerk baits, worms and Horny Toad topwaters. But, he indicated in was only in certain locations and did tend to vary from day to day. Randy is as good as anyone who fishes Garcia, so we pay attention to what he says.
For you bass anglers, take note that the canal from Garcia to the Farm 13 spillway is also a great place to free-line shiners for bass to 8-pounds. (There are bigger ones, I am sure. But, 8-pounds is the best we have done.) We even took Doug Stange and the IN-FISHERMAN TV crew in there last year successfully when Farm 13 was dirty. We fished it two ways. First, we just anchored along the shoreline reeds and free-lined the shiners out into the main part of the canal. Our second approach was to drag the shiners behind the boat using planing boards to keep the shiners in close to the vegetation, while the boat stayed out in the open water.
I have since found a much better device than a planing board with which to control the positioning of the trolled shiners. It is called a ‘Bullet Bobber’. The name is actually a misnomer, in that it is not really a bobber (although it has a similar shape). It is what I would call a ‘lure/bait positioning and control device’. For shiners, the X-Large, 4-inch model is best. I will post a picture of the device with this report. Also, here is the web site for the device. Go take a look at this truly innovative invention:
If you use clumsy planing boards for your fishing, you will really like the Bullet Bobber. It has the ability to plane either right or left, as you choose. And, you can change the direction with the flick of the wrist. You don’t even have to bring the rig to the boat to do so. Talk about neat!!
Starting tomorrow, we are going into a search mode for the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 impoundment crappie and bass. We’ll let you know what we find.
4 November 2007
This report will cover the fall turn-on of smallmouths and spotted bass in the North Carolina reservoirs and the present fishing situation in Florida.
It was a long time coming, but fall conditions finally made it to NC. After an unseasonably warm summer in the NC mountains, an unseasonably warm introduction to fall came along. Normally, it is expected that the summer disappears and fall starts in September. This year, it did cool down a bit around 10 September, but it never did get really cool until around 20 October. That was a 1.5-month delay, with the cool down being very gradual. The question we consider is if ‘global warming’ is a reality.
The gradual cool down, though, did wonders for the fishing in the high reservoirs such as Hiawassie, Burton, Blue Ridge, Nottley and Chatuge. With the waters very low due to local drought conditions, we were able to target good structure easily. The blow-down seen in the picture (now 40 feet out of water!) was a great location for both smallmouths and largemouths back in May and June. Now, it is a bit too 'shallow' for them.
The gradual weather cooling caused a similar gradual transition of the fish to their fall feeding binge patterns. Smallmouths and Kentucky Spotted Bass all go on a major feeding spree when the high reservoir waters cool to 65-70, and it continues until the water gets down to 50 degrees. There is a LOT of surface action, as the baitfish school out over deep water and the bass coming to pick them off. We saw 20-30 bass in 4-5 hours normally. Most were 1.5 to 2 pounds on the average. But, we did run across a few 3-4 pound fish. Our best lure for the breaking fish was a fluke rigged with a treble hook trailer. We would never miss a strike when using the treble add-on hook. Fishing out over 40 feet of open water meant we’d never run a chance of getting hung up, so the treble was great.
The next best lure was, remarkably, the Swimming Worm. We found the bass were chasing the baitfish up onto shallow flats and bars adjacent to deep water. So, we figured the bass must have been holding just off the flats over the deeper areas and waiting for the baitfish to come by. We simply ran the Swimming Worm at about 4-5 feet, very slowly and parallel to the drop from the flats to the deep zones. It worked great.
Returning to Florida recently (and when the NC temperature got below freezing a couple of mornings in a row!!!), we found a late tropical storm cum Hurricane named Noel heading at us. Talk about not being able to win. But, a high pressure pushing a good cold front into Florida steered Noel out to sea. We did have about 6 days of rain and 30-40 MPH winds from Noel. However, it turned out that the east and northeast winds were from directions that did not mess up the Stick Marsh/farm 13 badly. We had a guide party scheduled for Friday, 2 November, and it was ‘iffy’ as to whether we could make the trip safely and effectively.
We pre-fished on Tuesday and Thursday, finding the winds horrific, but the water not too dirty. Working some sheltered areas, we actually did very well.
Any ideas that the numbers and sizes of bass in the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment have been depleted are just untrue. Stan Daniel recently took our old regular customer, Bill Molen, from Florida's west coast. Bill brought his Father-in-Law, Russell and said he wanted Russell to 'catch the giant fish'. Stan and the bass cooperated beautifully, with 30+ bass being caught, including Russell's 11 lb. 4 oz. giant!!
On Tuesday, we only hooked 12 bass. We used the Swimming worm as a slow 'sreach and tease' lure and then a deep Fat Free Shad in front of the pump station. One minute it was blue skies and the next another of Noel's rain bands moved through. But, you could see the rain coming, so it was easy to grab a FroggToggs and stay dry. The rain and low light at times messed up some of the pictures (see the one where the orange rain suit is saving my skinny tail from being washed away!!) we tried to take with the automatic timer, just not having enough light to focus properly. On Thursday, we caught well over 20 bass (with a 7 and an 8-pounder at the top end) and then about 40 crappie (PERFECT Jig, Hot Momma color). With high hopes, we advised our party members, Bob Clark and Mike Esposito, that we were optimistic about a successful trip. They were ready to go, rain or shine, so it was decided we’d give it a try.
Friday found Tropical Storm Noel at near hurricane strength, but turning away from Florida and out into the Atlantic Ocean. That was the good part. The bad part was that the 3-40 MPH winds shifted to the NW and North and blew straight down into the Stick Marsh and the farm 13 impoundments. The winds also blew out our successful fishing location of the previous days. On top of that, it dirtied the water terribly.
Never give, the man said. So, Bob, Mike and I ventured out into the 3-foot swells and pounding wind to try and harelip a bass. Fishing in the brunt of the wind, we managed 3 fish. What a bummer. Dirty water, getting beat to death by the wind and waves, and no fish. What luck!! The only protected place left was the ‘Back 40’, the shallow area to the north of the boat ramp and along the canal that carries water to the exit gate of the impoundment.
We got a bit drenched by the high waves and winds running back to the ramp area. But, we found the back 40 reasonable stable. With all the summer rains, the impoundment is now full of water and the back 40 is at normal level. Trying to recall where certain brush piles and structure features were in the Back 40, we laid out two anchors and floated shiners over where we though the fish might be. I still say I am the luckiest fisherman I know! The first place we stopped turned a pot load of bass, up to 5-pounds!! It was like a feeding holiday, with bass chasing and blowing up shiners all over the place. Those surface blow-ups are what really make shiner fishing great! Talk about falling into it and coming up smelling like a rose. Bob and Mike burned up nearly all the shiners in that one location.
We tried a couple of other locations in the back area to no avail.
Then, we went to what Stan Daniel and I reverently call ‘The Mudfish Hole’. This mucky, shallow ‘nothing’ of a spot has turned a LOT of big bass for Stan and I when the main impoundment waters were muddy. It saved many a fishing trip for us. We don’t know why the bass are there at times, but it always seems to turn a good one, or two (sometimes a LOT more, too!). Mike had maybe five blow-ups on his shiner, but never had the fish take the bait sufficiently to get hooked. Mike had some chase his around and not take the shiners, too. I suspect they were catfish or mudfish. But, their surface blow-ups sure looked like bass. Eventually, Bob got one to take his shiner. It was not a giant bass, but we were happy with whatever we caught this rough day.
When the dust finally settled (and the rains passed on), Bob and Mike had managed enough action and fish caught to use up five dozen shiners. When we looked back at the day, there were actually a LOT of bass caught. One went five pounds and the rest 3-4 pounds. Not bad at all for a storm day with high winds.
27-28 April 2007
Tom Benson is an old friend. He and I worked in the Defense Industry at Harris Corporation for a lot of years and shared a boat on occasion. Tom called early in 2007 and booked two days, one for bass and one for crappie. It was some exciting fishing, with a few twists and turns along the way. It also turned out to be our last guide trips until next Fall.
With the Stick Marsh in a pretty dirty condition due to the winds, I elected to go for crappie the first day. Plus, I talked Tom into going to Garcia Reservoir for them. Yep, the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 impoundment has a lot of giant crappie in it. And, we caught about 1500 of them between November '06 and April '07. But, one of the best-kept secrets around our area is that Garcia has a tremendous population of them, too. In fact, Garcia has an excellent population of bass and giant bluegills, as well. While the Garcia bass do not average as large as those from the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 waters, the size and densities of the crappie and bluegill from its waters is quiet possibly better.
So, Tom and I took a pair of little PERFECT Jigs (cinnamon, w/chartreuse tail) swimming.
The key to the big crappie and larger bass of the ultra-shallow Garcia Reservoir lies in fishing the deepest water you can find. Outside of the canal connecting Garcia to Farm 13, the deepest water is the big borrow pit on the west-central side of the impoundment. In that pit, the depths range from 8-12 feet at the present drought condition. There are a number of shallow places in the pit, which are easily identified by the vegetation topped out over and around them. Large bass key to the vegetation near deep water. The crappie, being basically a school fish, key to the open water depths and the edges of the vegetation. Bluegill, meanwhile, can be found just about anywhere there is vegetation, around the pit or in the shallows.
We started working the jig slowly around the vegetation lines of the borrow pit, looking to find active feeding crappie. Our back-up plan was to drift the deeper open water in the pit, if necessary. Fortunately, we never had to leave the vegetation. While the crappie were not in or up against the vegetation, we did find them quickly at about six feet deep and 8-10 feet OUT FROM the grass. And, being that far off the edges of the grass, they were actually in schools. Catch one and you could catch 6-12 in the same spot. And, boy, were a lot of those Garcia crappie giants!!
As we worked our way around, we started to encounter a lot of GIANT bluegill. In each instance, the huge bluegill were near the shallow water and concentrated within a small area. Plus, they were extremely aggressive. This was a clear indication that they were starting to bed. I switched us off to the chartreuse body, w/red tail PERFECT Jig, which was specifically designed for bluegill and shellcrackers and just got the end of the rods literally eaten off. Many of the panfish actually weighed 1.5 pounds, which made for some great fishing fun.
The next day found TOM and I starting at the Stick Marsh/Farm 13 impoundment. We were after giant bass, so we decided to see if the waters had cleared enough to fish. Garcia was close by, so we could always pack up and move, if need be.
We didn't 'need be'.
While not clear, the water at the south end of Farm 13 was clean and had a visibility of about 18 inches down. That was fishable water. However, it did not fit artificials well, so we went with shiners. 'Old Lucky Tom' pulled off his big bass trick again, too. It seems that every time I fish with Tom, he gets a giant bass.
These two days were a fine way to end the season!!
18-19 April 2007
Phil Couey was another Harris Corporation employee whom I had known in earlier times. He knew I was running the guide business and was pretty good at fishing. So, when his brother, Joe, decided to travel from Wisconsin to Florida for a visit, Phil called to book a couple of afternoons of bass and crappie.
When the time came for the Coueys and I to go out, the winds had utterly destroyed the Stick Marsh. The water was the color of chocolate milk, not to mention the water was down to a dangerous low level. So, we opted for Garcia.
Our first day was devoted to crappie. Using the little cinnamon, w/blue tail PERFECT Jig, we proceeded to start along the grass lines of the big borrow pit on the west-central side of Garcia. For whatever reason, the crappie were everywhere there was a drop-off with grass along the edges of the pit. It most cases, the panfish appeared to be positioned right against the edges of the grass at about three feet of depth. Lots and lots of crappie came to the boat. Once we realized how great the fishing was going to be, we started releasing all small and mid-sized crappie. Just keeping the good ones, we finished up with 68 destined for the deep freeze.
The next day, we picked up a few shiners and headed back to Garcia. Bass were the intended target. Have you ever had a fishing trip where you caught the first fish immediately? We did that and I wish we hadn't. For some reason, when you get a good fish right off the bat, you don't catch anymore. It is a strange thing. But, it has happened to me more than once.
Anchoring the boat, I baited up a shiner rod, tossed it out and handed the rod to Joe. Before I could get the second rod baited, Joe was fast onto a nice Garcia bass. And, it proved to be the last one for a few hours.
We fished all over, swimming those expensive shiners in all kinds of great places. Nothing happened. The shiners went on extended vacation without a care in the World. No bass, no catfish, no mudfish --- nothing bothered them. Finally, we managed to get bit a few times, but the bass were small. Then, Phil set the hook on what would be the big bass of the day. She was a nice, long old gal, but a bit on the thin side. That probably came from not eating enough shiners!!
11 April 2007
I was at a point that I could not fish for a few days, so our buddy, Stan Daniel, took out a party for us.
Curt Slaton had called earlier and wanted to get his two kids out on the water for a day. He said the object was for the kids to catch fish and he didn't care what type. However, his son, Ben, had indicated that he wanted to catch a 'big bass'.
Stan later told me that they had a great time and that the kids were really happy. Plus, he sent me the pictures you see here. Then, I got a nice email from Curt about their day on the water with Stan. So, since I wasn't there, I think I will let Curt's email tell the story:
"Jim: I want to thank you for arranging my day of fishing last Wednesday with "Stan the Man" (that is what my 7 yr old daughter Sally calls him!) We had a great time with Stan. He was great with the kids. My 10 yr old son, Ben, got one probably around 5 lbs but Stan can tell you of the hookup he had with a very large one that broke water so we could all see how big he was only to spit the hook. I think my son would still be there trying to catch that one if we would have let him! Caught a couple 6 lbers myself. All in all we had a great time and just wanted to thank you and Stan for fond memories. Fishing with your kids is truly one of my favorite things. You can't get much more quality time than that.
It doesn't get any better than fishing with kids. Do it right and let them have fun. It's wonderful.
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