FARM 13 / STICK MARSH FISHING REPORTS
FOR THE MONTH OF DECEMBER 2006
29 December 2006
This trip for crappie was a very significant outing, in that it just about made yours truly eat crow. I am hardheaded and don’t want to accept that cold front really effect the fish much. I always subscribe that it’s the fisherman who can handle the cold and/or winds a front brings and that the fish really don’t care about the weather.
As you will see in our trip of he 27th, below, a cold front really appeared to stop everything. But, with two days of warming weather and light winds, everything returned to normal as we took Larry Korzon and Bob Wills out chasin’ those big crappie.
Still smarting from getting beat up by the fish a few days before, we decided to try a different section of Farm 13. We moved to the center north/south ditch (vicinity coordinates D-6) and drifted with the northeast breeze down to the vicinity of coordinates C-5. In this general area, we found a good number of crappie. There was not as many as we had been catching in the past, but the overall sizes were very good. Per the usual approach, we placed the live minnows down 12-18 inches off the bottom. In that the water was up a foot, or so, over the past period, we adjusted our line lengths to compensate. We also had a good amount of weight to keep the lines down while we drifted, allowing 10-12 inches of line below the weights for the minnows to trail behind.
This was another sort, half-day trip. So, after a couple of successful drifts, we took the PERFECT Crappie Jig down to the south end of the Farm to ‘do its thing’. Both gentlemen were very adept with the jig, although it took Bill a bit of time to get his retrieve speed and depth control just right. Larry starting popping good crappie right off the bat. He actually fished his cinnamon, w/chartreuse tail, PERFECT Jig right at the bottom and very slowly. Bill was doing a slow burn for awhile, seeming to have that fishing jinx we all get sometimes hanging over his head. Then, just as quickly as the supposed jinx had come, it went away in Bill’s triple catch of good slabs on three straight casts.
It was a great fishing day, with fine weather, excellent companions and plenty of cooperating crappie.
27 December 2006
“Into each life, some rain must fall”, some philosopher once said. He must have been a fisherman to be so pessimistic. And, he must have been foreseeing this fishing trip with our old friend Glenn Bolton, his son, Rob, and his grandson, Andrew.
The rains had come and gone a few hours earlier, but the first really strong cold front to breech the Florida east coast was upon us. The temperatures dropped significantly and the north winds were howling! As we headed out, I was not overly concerned. The cold was not that bad and my pair of drift socks would handle the winds with ease. I figured it would be just another full livewell of crappie fun.
Boy, was I wrong.
We drifted minnows and drifted minnows, until the minnows knew which way to go all by themselves, without our help. They appeared to be on vacation, with no fish to bother them. We moved our drift pattern a couple of times, without any improvement. A few fish came over the side, but nothing that we would constitute as ‘normal fishing’.
Since we were on a short, half-day trip, we decided to try the reliable PERFECT Crappie Jig down in the basin in the southeast corner of the Farm. While minnows seem to work poorly in that basin, the PERFECT Jig has been turning easy limits, once the schools are located.
As soon as we started with the jig, I turned a small one down deep. I sure hoped that was a positive sign. But, about the only thing positive about it was that we would catch no more. I don’t even think we got another bite, much less a fish.
When we made the ramp, we may have had a dozen keeper crappie, with a few big ones in the bunch. But, it was hard fishing and those few fish only came from being very persistent. We had Andrew hold up his largest for the camera and that was about it. I think the fish won this contest.
17 December 2006
We are now transferred over to a new Web server, so you will see the frequency of fishing reports return to normal. The dead space created by an uncooperative provider, coupled with his continuing efforts to nickel-and-dime us to death, kept us from being able to make any changes to our web site.
At the Top of the News, so to speak, is the continuing difficulty with Stick Marsh bass production. As noted in our 10 December report, fellow guide, Stan Daniel, and I were able to ‘luck onto’ a few bass during a search trip. There were no large fish and it was really a fluke accident, in that Stan spotted the fish chasing baitfish on the surface. We moved around in the area that we had seen the surface activity and would occasionally hit the fish.
Taking it up from there, we’ll start this new report. I returned the next day and found those bass to still be in the same location. They only pushed the baitfish to the surface once and then it involved only 3-4 fish breaking. But, the fact that it was in open water and that the baitfish and bass remained there for at least 24 hours indicates there may be a bit of new grass trying to start in the location. I never pulled any up, nor could I make it out on the depthfinder. But, baitfish will not stay in a spot that does not provide some type of cover to get away from predators. I found that moving parallel to the outer woodline and tossing rat-L-Traps and Carolina-rigged worms north into the open water made for a reasonable amount of continual action. But, again, no big fish at all. The location was about 50-100 yards north of the wood line of Farm 13 and in the vicinity of coordinates E-3 on the interactive map on our web site.
I have checked that location twice since and managed a few bass each time. But, it did not appear to be a school – just miscellaneous fish. I just kept moving and cranking the Trap. Stan and I have concluded that the best approach for bass right now is to drift just north of that woodline crank Rat-L-Traps until you locate fish. Last week, I picked up four dragging shiners across the area of F-3, again north of the woodline in open water with a clean bottom.
If you attempt this approach of working just north of the Farm 13 woodline, take note that the distance the woodline is from the south bank of Farm 13 INCREASES as you move east-to-west. The locations of change correspond to the north/south canals.
We have had a bit of rain recently and the spillway in the SE corner of the Farm has been running at a slow to medium rate. During the past few months, water flow from this spillway has produced very few fish. However, there are a few moving into it now. I was there on a Tuesday trying to find bass for the next day’s fishing party. One guide was fishing in the water flow. But, I only saw his party catch 4 catfish and one small bass in an hour. After that guide left, another boat confirmed that the guide and his party had not caught much. That guide knows how to fish that moving water location very, very well. So, it indicated a lack of fish, not ability.
I continued to move around the edges of the water flow, trying to get a bite or two using other techniques. Then, I saw what might have been the start of some bass moving into the area. I did not see bass, but I DID see a large school of small gizzard shad. They were just the right size to be prime bass forage. Previously, all I had seen were the large shad that the Ospreys prey on, plus gar, needlefish, catfish and mudfish rolls. I watched to see if I could see the smaller baitfish again and soon found they were generally confined to an area of the water flow next to an eddy area. I anchored the boat and actually caught 10 bass, with one being 6-7 lbs., and all the rest being 3-4 lbs. Considering how tough fishing had been on the Farm 13/Stick Marsh impoundment, that almost seemed like a miracle to me.
Taking a chance that the water would continue to run, I took my party to that spillway location the next morning. The other guide was there once again. But, he was not close to where I had seen the schools of small baitfish and did not do well at all. Having the advantage of baitfish location, we went through our six dozen shiners and caught some nice bass. There were no monsters, but all were good fish and one was better than six lbs. An interesting thing was that we caught no chain pickerel or mudfish, and only a couple of catfish. Usually, those fish pester you badly when using shiners in moving water. This pattern may hold up for awhile, since the rain is continuing for a few days. And, if the bass continue to move into the basin, it may get to be easy fishing again.
Speaking of moving water, that pump station on the east wall of Farm 13 has run a good bit lately. However, I am yet to find bass using it. That is an odd circumstance, when compared with past years. I really don’t know an answer for it, unless the bass are just clustered too far away from that area to sense the water flow. However, if catfish are your thing, that location is loaded with them when the pump is running.
Good old Garcia Reservoir. What a beautiful place – loaded with grass and loaded with fish. There are not as big as the ones in the Stick Marsh, but there are sure LOTS of them. On one trip, we worked the ditches and the submerged levees of the ditches and caught lots of bass, bluegills and a few crappie. The best lure was a small spinnerbait. Then, we started to work the old farmland flats between the ditches. These old fields have a nearly 100% coverage of mostly submerged grass. In some places, the grass tops out. But, most locations have 2-3 feet of open water over the grass. We found a lot of bass and pickerel using these open water areas. And, they appeared to be grouped in some locations. An unweighted RIPPIN’ Stick jerk bait, in JuneBug or Green Pumpkin, worked great. The standard ZOOM Super Fluke was also a top producer. The small spinnerbait worked well where the grass thinned at bit, and a Mann’s Minus One would draw them to the top. Stan Daniel advised us that he did well on a ChugBug out over the grass on one recent outing.
We also found fine jerk bait and fluke action on the shallow, wooded side of the canal connecting Garcia to the Farm 13 spillway.
In every case in November and December, we have had winds. Don’t forget that drift sock Tipster. It makes or breaks your day. Plus, remember that Garcia is ALWAYS fishable in the worst of winds. You have to adapt a little, based on wind direction. But, Garcia has enough windbreaks and grass to buffer nearly all the waves. The drift sock is a big help on Garcia when drifting the old farmland. Just tie it off short so it rides above the grass a bit.
15 December 2006
Gary Atwell is an old friend and we were once members of Virginia’s Old Dominion Bass Club together. Finally retired, Gary is striving to catch-and-release all the fish the World has to offer. He has fished with us many times in the past, as our fishing report diary shows.
This time, we opted to go to Garcia and just have fun catching lots of fish. With both of us fishing, it soon became obvious that the bass were ready and willing to work on a fluke and a RIPPIN’ Stick. It also became obvious that I had a jinx on me and Gary had been practicing that ‘clean living’. I think he easily caught five bass to my one, and had many, many more strikes that I did. He was a master with that fluke that day. We fished the open water between the north/south ditches in the north part of Garcia. It was cloudy and cool and the bass were right up near the surface, it appeared. Many strikes came as the jerk bait touched down. We later moved into the canal that connects Garcia to the Farm 13 spillway and found fish along the south side flat. There are some BIG bass in that location.
14 December 2006
Ron Bartley and Marc Bergerman had heard so much about the extraordinary crappie catching going on in the Stick Marsh this year that they just had to experience it for themselves. I advised them that a half-day trip would provide all the crappie action they wanted, so we booked it accordingly. We had a two-day window to work with and finally selected the one that gave us the best chance of staying dry!!
Obviously, when we met at the ramp, it was raining. But, it quickly stopped and just spit at us most of the time. Not enough to get wet, but enough to make you keep the FroggToggs at hand. Thinking it might start to rain hard, I suggested we start our with the PERFECT jig right around the ramp area. We never did locate a bona-fied school of crappie, but still managed a 10 keepers in 30 minutes.
About that time, the sky lightened up a lot and we decided to take the minnows to Farm 13 and try for the giant crappie out in the open water. Hey, no guts no air medal!!
We were lucky and did not get rained on much. Just light stuff and light winds. Only one drift sock was required even when the wind did blow. Our first drift was great and put a dozen crappie in the livewell, with 6-8 of them being really big slabs. We had nearly one limit in the boat by then. Our second drift started out OK, with some quick bites on the minnows. But then the strikes stopped and we only had one every 10 minutes, or so. We tried another drift and still the action stayed slow. We all agreed to go back to the jigs.
Firing up the BLAZER, we hustled down to the SE spillway basin. That location is FULL of crappie. But, for some reason, they are hard to catch on minnows. I have learned to just go with the PERFECT jig and find the fish. The key is to get 2-3 strikes in one spot. When that happens, the rest of the school will get competitive and the action gets wild. This day was no exception. We worked 10-30 off the banks and started to catch crappie quickly, but many were small. So, we would move from the smaller fish and keep looking. Sure enough, we managed to get two schools to work for us, with one being large crappie in the 12-13 inch range. This was Ron’s day to dominate with the jig and he had those big slabs coming over the side in a steady stream.
When all the foam on the water had settled, Marc had landed the largest fish, a 2-LB (+) beauty and the guys had filled a big cooler with limits of the great eating crappie. Factoring in all the small fish that were released, I suspect there were 80-90 crappie caught, with most of them on the PERFECT jig. Now, that’s fun fishing!!
13 December 2006
John Czodli is in the construction business and wanted to take some of his clients out for a day of fun and fishing. We worked hard at finding a window of good weather and good fishing for John. I believe we re-scheduled this trip 4-5 times due to high winds, poor fishing, or rain. This time everything came together. I found some good fish on a small section moving water at the Farm 13 spillway and the weather stayed comfortable. Plus, the fish really cooperated for us well.
We met John, Steve Elder, and Kevin Lund at the ramp right as the early morning rain ended. Arriving at the spillway, we found a boat sitting right where we wanted to fish. He wasn’t fishing where the bass were located, but he still blocked our preferred boat position. Luckily, we have enough experience on that impoundment to know how we can adjust to that. So, we anchored off just a bit down from our primary location, but still we able to place our shiners in the ‘sweet spot’. Another guide was also fishing the moving water. But, he had fallen on ‘Catfish City’ and did not do well with bass. Our location was a bit ‘special’, in that I had found schools of small gizzard shad holding right on a eddy of the moving water right out from where I anchored.
We rigged the shiners in a free-line manner, with just enough weight above them to give them incentive to stay down near the bottom. It wasn’t long until the fish bass walloped a shiner. Then, another and another. . Kevin boated the first three or four. Suddenly, Steve set the hook on a fish and we all thought he was hung for a moment. Then, a big 6-lb. (+) bruiser came to the top and swirled. Steve held on and soon she was safely in the net. Soon thereafter, John had a fish on, which was obviously the giant bass of the day. She came partway out of the water on the jump and tossed the hook, but we got a good look at her huge body. John said he wanted the other guys to catch the fish, so he was just being a gentleman by letting the bass get away.
Steve had the ‘an odd thing happened on the way to the pond’ event this day. Setting he hook on a good bass, he hooked and played the fish for 5-10 seconds. Suddenly, the line went slack and she was gone. Reeling the line in, we were all very surprised to see not one, but two shiners on Steve’s hook. One was the one I had originally hooked through the lips and it was still on by the lips. On the hook outside that shiner was another! It was a little deteriorated, as though partially digested, and was hooked through the body. We could only assume the bass had swallowed Steve’s shiner sufficiently far enough down his gullet and to allow the hook to catch onto another shiner he had recently eaten. Strange things sometimes happen when fishing!!
Before long we had burned up all the shiners and everyone was about spent from jerking bass. It was such good fishing, the anglers even bypass a scheduled lunch break!!
1 December 2006
Sam Carmichael signed on for a half-day of big Farm 13 crappie. Being a local guy, Sam and I played ‘musical dates’ to try and find a day of good weather.
We left the ramp and made our way to the east side of Farm 13. Checking with our trusty GPS, we lined up our first drift on a track that had produced some of those 2 to 2-1/2 lb. slabs recently. We put a number of 12-foot fiberglass poles over the side, each weighted to stay down near the bottom and baited with live minnows.
The winds worked on us, so we put out our drift socks to slow us down. It worked like a charm. The crappie were plentiful. Even though we caught a large number of small fish, there were lots of the big crappie spread out across the open water. Sam had some real giants in this catch.
28 November 2006
John and Diane Leyczek are old friends and have been out with us in the past. Both love to fish, but work keeps them from being on the water sufficiently to stay up with the current fishing conditions. So, they called a guide who fishes nearly everyday!!
We delayed John and Diane’s trip a couple of times, trying of miss bad weather and our unusually strong winds. Finally we had a day that worked, even though it did spit rain at us a couple of times. Thankfully, no one got wet. But, thankfully, John and Diane DID get ‘fished’!
We started out over in the open waters of the NE section of Farm 13. Our method was to drift minnows just off the bottom. As has been pretty standard in the past, this method of fishing turned some big crappie. The livewells began to fill.
Looking both south and north, we saw some heavy rain showers develop and move across east-to-west. But, we were ‘living right’ and they missed us entirely. This kept up for some time, with our luck holding out well. (I later found out that my friend Lou Daniels and his daughter were way south of us, at the spillway, and got drenched.) As we tossed crappie into the livewell, I kept watching the weather. Soon, a big area of rain developed out on the coast and started to move right at us. It was not too wide, so I suggested we run south to the SE corner of the Farm and its spillway for awhile.
That worked well and again we stayed dry. In the spillway basin, we broke out the PERFECT Jigs and started searching for a school of big crappie. It took possibly 30 minutes of hit-and-miss with small fish before we connected. There, about 40 feet off the east shore grassline, we found a big school suspended at about 6 feet. We would count the jigs down a couple of counts and then use a slow, steady retrieve. Those crappie we so plentiful and easy to catch that we never went back to the minnows.
24 November 2006
If you don’t know it yet, fishing with kids is ‘where it’s at’. As a guide, I really look forward to Fathers and their kids and Grandparents with grandchildren. I don’t think I have ever had a bad trip with these sorts of groups either. Young kids usually have a short attention span, which often makes entertaining them and keeping their attention hard. But, I have found that it only takes about two fish to get and hold their attention all day. The Farm 13/Stick Marsh is such a great fishery that catching those first two fish is usually a quick and easy task. The kids take over after that. They watch for strikes and see those even we experienced adults miss. They want to bait the hooks, take the fish off, and even put them in the livewell. Pretty soon, they are having ball and I have nothing to do but watch. I love it!!
Such it was when Terry Merrion brought his grandsons, Parker (10 years old) and Stuart (12) Bell to fish with us on the Stick Marsh.
We went for crappie and it was crappie the group got! We drifted those minnows in the open water of Farm 13 in the vicinity of coordinates F-6. There have been lots of big crappie in and around that location all year. Actually, the crappie seems to be all across the north half of the Farm. It is all flat, open bottom, except where the old north/south canals ran. Nothing to get hung on and no grass yet. Just a lot of baitfish running for their lives and a lot of predators chasing them.
The boys got started pretty quickly, with some big crappie coming aboard right away. Then, we hit an area where the crappie were small. I almost pull up and started the drift again, when the big fish started to hit the minnows again. We made 4 or 5 drifts, catching good numbers and sizes of fish each time. Soon, we had all the fish Terry wanted to clean, and then some.
Those kids liked that fishing. Stuart and Parker will probably be worthless as husbands some day. All they will want to do is fish all the time. Important things like jobs, money and wives may all take second place to fishing!! Darn, they may turn out more like me, rather than their Grandpa! One of them had better go make good friends with 10-year old Lindsey Adams (see the pictures with the 17 November 06 report). She has been bitten by that same fishing bug!
10 December 2006
"On 30 Nov, my fellow guide, Stan Daniel, and I decided to try and figure out
the problem with the Stick Marsh bass.
We may have found the answers. But, it will have to work a couple of more
times to be sure.
We caught, or had on, 8 small fish in real shallow water in the wood at the
very south end of the Farm. Worm, jig, spinnerbait.
Then, we were out in the open water of the Farm when Stan spotted a huge
school running baitfish everywhere. It was possibly the largest school
either of us had ever seen. However, as we managed to get on them, we think
it could have been multiple school of different sizes of bass. The winds
were 15-25, so there was a good chop on the water. But, the surface action
was so strong, you could see the fish and the baitfish clearing the water.
We drifted down through the area three times using a wind sock to slow us.
Each time, we'd get 2-3 small bass. We decided to try an anchor just upwind
from the estimated location of the main breaking activity we had seen. The
first time we tried, even 2 anchors would not hold in the wind. We moved a
bit further over and finally got the anchors to hold. Every 15 minutes, or
so, there would be 2-6 breakers come up on the baitfish. A Rat-L-Trap was
fine. A Carolina-rigged worm also worked well.
There appeared to be three separate schools of bass in range of the boat.
The one to the north side was 8-12 inch fish. The one to our west was 2 to 3
lbs. There were some larger ones that broke too far for us to reach them and
we ran out of daylight before we tried to set up on them. I expect we caught
25+ and had another dozen come off the Rat-L-Traps when they jumped. At one
spot, Stan must have caught nearly a dozen small ones in 20 casts.
Using the Carolina worm, we determined the bottom in the open water area to
have a LOT of shells, probably big shell beds. We are sure because we
snagged large shells off the bopttom 3-4 times when we let the crank plug
get to close to the bottom.
Whether we can do this successive times remains to be seen. But, it does
give a very positive indication that the previously 'uncatchable' bass
population in the Stick Marsh/ Farm 13 is probably just fine. And, that they
are exactly where we had anticipated they would be -- out in the open water
working the baitfish.
A good point to remember is that these bass will be moving into pre-spawn
modes by Christmas. So, we should see more and more return to the shallow,
wooded areas of the south farm and the north and west walls of the Stick
Today's Weather for
the Stick Marsh Area
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