FARM 13 / STICK MARSH FISHING REPORT
February 25, 2003
Dave Thomaselli and Jim Hopper came to teach a few shiners to swim for the big Marsh bass, plus they wanted to harelip a few of our giant crappie. They used up all the shiners, as the bass cooperated. However, many were small. The crappies, on the other hand, were big and came fast and furious in the short time that we allocated to them. It would make any crappie angler's heart pump rapidly. Just the way it all should be in a fishing paradise.
Stopping first on a good crank plug drop-off location, we tossed Deep Wee R Rebel plugs parallel to the drop. A few bass were there, but the number was limited. This had been an exceptionally hot location prior to the spawn. But, since mid-December, it had gradually slowed to a crawl. Now, it seemed some fish were starting to reappear. More on the possible 'whys' of this a bit later in this writing.
Leaving the crank plug location, we decided to sit up the shiners in a special area of the Nursery, at approximate coordinates B-2.5. This area is about 5-6 feet deep, with short stumps and a lot of grass. However, the majority of the grass (as well as the stumps) is down about 3-4 feet, making it ideal to fish across the top of the submerged vegetation.
It wasn't long until a chunky 2-pound fish inhaled a shiner. Then, another came along. Then --- everything stopped.
So, we moved the STRATOS 50 feet.
BANG - BAM! A couple more small bass slammed the shiners. Then - it all stopped again. So, we moved a short distance once more. All we got were a couple more small fish.
Hauling in the shiners, we made for the hole on the center north/south canal that we have been using since December.
Setting up, we were immediately greeted by more small bass. Instead of blasting the shiners, these little bucks would just mouth and play with the shiners, often making us think they were pickerel or catfish. But, if we would let them swim with the shiner for a good period, the small bass would eventually come right at the boat. Then, if we waited to set the hook until they were close to us, Dave and Jim got them most every time. Getting them most every time was great, BUT --- they were really running small!!
Here is my theory on the shiner hole turning so many small bass and why I think the crank plug drop-off area went dry for awhile:
Both the shiner hole and the crank plug location we like to fish are VERY near shallow water (1-4 feet) with heavy vegetation (i.e., good spawning locations). In fact, these nearby areas are KNOWN to be spawning areas for bass.
In November and early December, we usually note a LOT of small bass beginning to show up in the vicinity of these spawning areas. In fact, we have to move AWAY from the shallow areas in order to get away from these hordes of small fish and catch decent fish.
About the first week of December, the small bass disappear and our two fishing locations will produce mostly bass that go 3-pounds, and up. Many 5-8 pound bass will be caught, with an occasional larger one coming aboard. Nearly all these fish appear to be females, with bulging egg sacs. The shiner hole, with its wood and grass cover, produces exceptionally well. The crank plug location, being a hard-bottom, open water drop-line, with no cover at all, will all but dry up.
On the crank plug hole, I believe the bass all migrated towards the spawning location, leaving the open water structure haunt. The small bucks probably went into the shallows to start making beds, while the larger females held in and near the first good cover outside the spawning zone.
I believe the same sequence of events took place in regards to our good shiner spot, with one exception. While the bucks disappeared (obviously moving into the spawning areas behind us), the females staged along the heavy grass wall that predominates along one side of the shiner hole. I believe the females actually stage themselves in the cover areas around the shiner hole and move into the spawning areas when the males come for them. The shiner holes and its cover are really close to the ideal spawning area.
From mid-December through mid-February is the peak spawning time for bass at the latitude of the Stick Marsh. So, by the end of February, we could expect to see a lot of small bass, as well as depleted females, come out of the spawning areas. And, that is exactly what seems to happen. Suddenly, the hoards of small buck again reappear outside the spawning zones. The bass seem to start to school up again and we find them beginning to show up on the open water structures, as well.
In a nutshell, we see the movement and positioning cycle of these particular groups of Stick Marsh bass in relation to the spawning ritual. This means that we should have a pretty good idea of what to expect next year during the same period and the proper actions to take to maximize our catches.
But, as with all fishing theories, that's all they are - just 'theories'. They are our perceptions, based on observation and a logical analysis. If the theory data works, it is a good theory. If it doesn't, it just becomes more data with which to use to form the next theory.
Someday, I am going to get to talk with a fish about all the 'theories I have come up with over my lifetime. And, I sure have a LOT of questions to ask him/her!!!
Back to Dave and Jim ------.
The two continued to catch the small fish, with Dave becoming the undisputed King of the Mudfish, as well. The toothy critters really liked his end of the boat. But, suddenly, a split second change of luck ensued at Jim Hopper's end of the boat and the big fish of the day showed up. The former Army Sargent Major deftly set the hook, played the fish and brought her right on in.
Soon, the shiners were gone and we went in search of the big crappie.
Moving into the Nursery area again, I took the duo back to where we had started with the shiners. An earlier party and I had found the big crappie spawning in the same submerged grass that we had at first tried to lure bass to the shiners. Handing each angler a light rod with our PERFECT jig tied on, I demonstrated how to fish over the shallow grass.
It was a wipeout, with the crappie coming up on the end of the stick big-time. We kept a good number of the larger ones, as I needed some fillets for an upcoming fish fry.
So, we completed the trip with a good number of mostly small bass, but with one really good one. Plus, the big Stick Marsh crappie again proved that they can provide the best 'perch-jerking' experiences to be had anywhere.
Coming next, we host Howard Goodin for a day of fish chasin' on the Marsh. Again, the small bass overwhelmed us. But, AGAIN, the big 8.5 lb. girl showed up to make Howard's day. And, the big crappie made for a fitting finale against the setting sun.
The Old Fishin' Tipster (Weekend Semi-Pro and National Backlash Picking Champion) knows that 'new fishing line never breaks --- EXCEPT when it does!!' A good thing to remember, along with your drain plug.
February 20, 2003
Joe and Mary Ann Haberberger were visiting from cold, cold St. Louis, MO. Mary Ann called us one day and said she and Joe were at Lake Okeechobee for two weeks. But, the legendary crappie of the 'Big O' were not cooperating. Could we catch crappie, she asked?
Could we? Did we? Did they?? You bet your bippy they did. And, Joe and Mary Ann will probably forget all about the Big O after coming to the Marsh!
After scheduling a day with us, the Haberbergers called back and asked to do two days. I already knew they had their boat at Okeechobee, so I suggested we go to the Kennansville Lake one day and the Marsh the next. The reason, I explained, was that Kennansville Lake:
I met the Haberbergers at the 'famous' Cow Palace Restaurant in Kennansville.
- Had a major crappie population
- Was a straight one hour shot north up 441 from where the were staying on the Big O
- They could go there any day themselves once they had been shown how to fish it
(Well, I guess it isn't very famous. But, it's the ONLY restaurant in K'ville; in fact, it is about the ONLY THING in K'ville, other than the Red Gator Lounge. Last time I saw the inside of the Red Gator Lounge [purely by accident, mind you], it had dirt floors and some boards on barrels for a bar. It's a quaint place that checks all patrons for guns when they come in. If they don't have a gun, the Lounge gives them one. The legendary Bunny and Fluffy are the waitresses. Need I say more?)
10 miles down the dirt road and we come to the 'famous' Drop-To-Death boat ramp at the Kennansville Lake. Someone forgot to grade off some of the side of the levee before they laid the concrete slabs for the ramp, and the darn thing is nearly a 35-degree slope. It gets even steeper out in the water!!! Adds a whole new meaning to the questions, "Will we get back home in time for supper?? Will we have the boat with us?"
Kennansville Lake is VERY shallow. The only water over 4 feet is in the canals that border three sides of it. So, guess where the crappies are 12 months out of the year. That's why it is so easy to fish for the papermouths. We usually just drift minnows in the canals at about 5-6 feet deep and load up. BUT - not this time. We couldn't find them!! I knew it was spawning time, so I went into the vegetation and reeds along the canal edges. Ah, ha!! There they were and they were big, too. And, as usual, there were LOTS of them. Minnows and jigs both worked great. The Haberbergers enlisted the neighbors to help clean fish that night.
The next day at noon, I met Joe and Mary Ann at the Stick Marsh ramp. They were rip-roaring and ready to see what I promised would be even better than Kennansville. And, the Marsh came through with flying colors. Sitting in on spot with the anchors down, Joe and Mary Ann proceeded to learn all about our PERFECT jig. Boy, they got them going pretty good, with Mary Ann apparently having the 'hot spot' right off her end of the boat and the big slab-sides coming to her on a regular basis.
Since we are fishing in a 12-foot deep canal section of the Farm 13 side for our crappies, I use either two PERFECT jigs, or one jig with a small split shot ahead of it, to get the rig down near the bottom quickly. Sure enough, Mary Ann had two PERFECT jigs on her line and proceeded to catch them two-at-a-time on occasions.
Once again, the pair had to enlist the neighbors to help clean fish that evening. Only this time, it really took awhile to do the job.
Between K'ville Lake and the Stick Marsh, the Haberbergers would have some great fish tales to pass on to the folks back home. Funny thing is, they must have told some of them back at the Okeechobee campground. I have already had four calls from anglers down there wanting to come up here to the Marsh!!!
I encourage all anglers to keep some crappie from the Marsh. There are so many in the place that, if we don't control the population a bit, we will eventually wind up with a stunted population of fish. I have seen that happen in many lakes before.
In our next report Dave Thomaselli and Jim Hopper come to teach a few shiners to swim for the big Marsh bass, plus they got to hairlip a few of our giant crappie. They used up all the shiners, as the bass cooperated. However, many were small. The crappies, on the other hand, were big and came in a never-ending stream. It would make any crappie angler's heart pump rapidly. Just the way it all should be in a fishing paradise.
See you soon and remember, 'Momma always said to be safe'!
February 20, 2003
Dave Golden and his lovely wife, Sandy, paid a call on the Stick Marsh recently. Dave told me that the emphasis was to be on Sandy and for her to catch the fish. I really have little control over which bass bites which shiner. So, the fact that Sandy bombed the biggie bass had to be all her doing.
We set up the shiners on our favorite grass line and watched as the bass bombed them. A lot of really good fish came early in the day, with a tapering off on size as we went forward. Maybe we caught all the biggies, or maybe the smaller bass just moved in and took over. It was hard to say.
One positive thing we noted was that the chain pickerel have apparently moved out of the area. On the other hand, the influx of small bass seems to indicate the spawn is passing its peak period. We are fishing the shiners very close to a major spawning area of shallow water and vegetation. Chances are good that the reason our shiner holes has had so many big fish, especially egg-bearing females, is that it is a staging area for the spawning zone. Now that the spawn is tapering off, the small bucks are coming back out to the deeper water.
In the big bass contest of the day, the lead bounced back and forth, as Sandy and Dave caught a lot of good bass. But, in the end, Sandy had the big bass of the day suck up a shiner the size of your hand. The big female fish appeared to have completed the spawn. In a final 'run for the money', Dave pulled in one almost as big. But, it was just a few ounces short.
It was another great day on the Marsh with a pair of great folks.
Charles Smith and Red Terry paid us a visit recently. These two come down from Kentucky for the races at Daytona and always stop by for a day of fine fishing on the Stick Marsh. Last year, Red set a personal record with a fish that measured an even 6 feet long. Yep, 6 feet. Of course, it was a giant gar, but Red landed the critter. The picture is on our web site under Giants and in the archives of last year's reports.
As we had been noting, we were seeing a LOT of small bass crowding into our shiner hole. This day was no exception, either. Charlie and Red had constant action and hardly ever got a break to even eat a sandwich. But, many were pull-downs that just released the shiner. Smaller bass often appear to be intimidated by the large shiners. Although they realize the shiners are natural food, these small bass also seem a bit reluctant to attack them. Instead, they stalk the bait, running in occasionally to grab and run.
These smaller bass are also moving in large schools and, when one happens to come to the shiners, you can expect a lot more to follow very quickly. An example of this was when the bobbers on all four shiner rods went down within 10 seconds of each other. Red and Charlie hooked and landed all four bass, but none were over two pounds and they were all nearly the same size.
However, the 'second shift' appeared to move through on their way to the spawning grounds early in the afternoon. When that happened, the size of the bass improved dramatically for our duo. And, most of the larger fish still had bulging egg sacs, indicating they were yet to spawn. Milking them carefully resulted in the leakage of some fluids and eggs, so they were ready to go. Charlie got the big bass of the day, while Red settled for the most.
Next up, Joe and Mary Ann Haberberger get blown away by the giant crappie. Mary Ann called us one day and said she and Joe were at Lake Okeechobee for two weeks. But, the legendary crappie of the 'Big O' were not cooperating. Could we catch crappie, she asked?
Could we? Did we? Did they?? You bet your bippy they did. And, Joe and Mary Ann will probably forget all about the Big O after coming to the Marsh!!
See you later. And, remember, a dry lure catches darn few fish!!
February 12, 2003
Our old fishing buddy, Larry Johnson, stopped by recently to visit. With him was Al McCelland, a former client of ours and one of Larry's fishing partners. Both had come down from South Carolina for their annual winter visit. Of course, they also had thoughts about the Stick Marsh. The Marsh didn't let them down, either.
"Let's catch a bit of everything', Larry Johnson said. "It's too pretty a day to worry about 'what' and 'a lot'. Let's just catch something."
So, we did.
Starting off with a few shiners, Al quickly set into a series of we call the 'average sized' bass off this particular shiner hole. At times, this average will drop for a day or so, but 3 to 3-1/4 lbs. is the usual size of most of the bass from this spot.
Poor Larry was sitting at the other end of the boat wondering if Al had them penned up at his end. It is odd that one end of the boat will catch and the other just have to sit and watch at times. Both anglers were swimming shiners right against a thick grass wall that bordered a submerged canal levee and both were rigged exactly the same. The only difference was spacing between shiners of possibly 15-20 feet. But, that's fishing.
I always tell shiner fishermen that the bite, especially the big one, ALWAYS comes when you least expect it. That can be when your head is in the cooler, you are heeding the call of Nature off the back of the boat, or some such daydreaming. And, that is exactly what happened to Larry J.
Suddenly, we seemed to be missing a bobber. As I started a quick sweep of the water to count them, I heard the rod sliding on the boat. Larry heard it too and grabbed the outfit. The bass had basically already gotten ALL the slack out, so all Larry had to do was lean back and hang on. After a few passes by and under the boat, Larry had his big 'un from the Marsh.
But, getting even is fun, I suppose. So, while Al continued to bombard the 'small' bass, Larry proceeded to yank a couple more slightly smaller than his giant fish.
Soon, the shiners were no more. Ah, how sweet it is. So many bass, yet so few shiners. What the heck. We knew where the giant crappie lived and they are fun, too. For them, all we needed were a few PERFECT jigs. And, I just happen to know the man who makes them.
The crappie hole we frequent is basically all ours. I have seen a couple of boats very near it, but none have ever solved the real secret of its success. That secret is boat positioning and lure presentation. Everything has to be exactly right. And, when it is, the crappie come nearly every cast. The spot is also frequented by more giant crappie than any place I have found in the Marsh. On a given day, you will catch a mix of sizes for perhaps the first hour and then the giants seem to come in and take over in force (You will see pictures showing these fish in numerous reports; one to especially watch for is our pure crappie trip with Joe and Mary Ann Haberberger coming up soon).
After getting the boat set correctly, I picked up an ultralight rod and PERFECT jig to demonstrate the proper presentation to the guys. One cast - one crappie - we were right on 'em! Larry and Al wasted no time and started in.
Somewhere in the midst of the crappie melee, one of the Marsh's giant bluegill wandered by. He wasn't lost, as you can get a lot of his kind off this same spot using crickets or red worms. But, it seems the crappie usually beat the bluegill to the PERFECT jig. This bluegill was a classic example of the huge size 'gills attain in the Marsh. And, he was just an AVERAGE one. Sorta hard to believe, but true.
Soon, the sun got low and we decided discretion was the better part of valor. We had told the ladies we would be back at a decent hour for dinner, and promises made had darn well BETTER be kept around our households.
So, we packed it in and gave thanks for another great experience on Florida's famed Farm 13/Stick Marsh complex.
Next up, Dave Golden and his lovely wife, Sandy, paid a call on the Stick Marsh.
Dave told me that the emphasis was to be on Sandy and for her to catch the fish. I really have little control over which bass bites which shiner. So, the fact that Sandy bombed the biggie bass had to be all her doing.
Until next time, remember - if you are setting in that chair in front of the TV, you are definitely fishing TOO SHALLOW!!!
February 8, 2003
Yesterday, Mike Saccone and Gordie Braun paid us another return visit. These fishing buddies from up north had gone for crappie with us on one trip (see the 28 November 02 report) and then again for bass (28 December report). The great fishing of the Stick Marsh has obviously done a job on both of them!!! They just can't get enough!
In this latest adventure, the duo asked to 'get on them bass again'. Boy, did they!! It was another classic Stick Marsh fishing day with shiners flying and bass jumping over the boat to get them.
After anchoring parallel to our targeted grassline, I got the shiner rods laid out and began to bait up. Soon, all four rods were set and the shiners dutifully began swimming around.
I always hope that a shiner will get eaten before I get all the rods set, in that that would be an indication of a good location with active fish. But, this time, there wasn't a ripple on the water, save the trailing swirl of the bobbers being dragged slowly around.
As it was to soon turn out, I think the bass were sandbagging us.
As we sat wondering where the fish were, a rod suddenly took a leap towards the side of the boat. Mike made a sweep and grabbed it just before it went over the side, setting the hook hard on the fast-moving bass. Getting the rod correctly position, he began to play the fish. It was obvious it was a good one.
Then, the fun began.
Mike's other bobber suddenly did a deep-six maneuver like it was hit by a Mac truck. Decision time was at hand now. Holding the original rod high and out with his left hand, the angler picked up the second rod and held it poised just long enough for the swimming bass to take out the slack. With a sweep of his right arm, Mike set the hook on the second bass. After determining that the first fish was much larger than the second shiner-taker, Mike laid the second rod on the floor and put his foot on it.
The two bass somehow managed a coordinated jump and Gordie and I got to see them both at the same time. Mike had made the right decision, as the first bass was a fat 4-pound female full of roe. As I let her swim into the net, Mike grabbed up the second rod and played in the smaller buck bass.
This action and excitement set the stage for what was to come in the next few hours, as the action went from the initial 'where are they' stage, to nearly non-stop until we ran out of shiners.
The bass suddenly seemed to be converging on the boat, as though it had a sign on it proclaiming 'free beer and shiners - today only!'. Gordie was steady jerking bass - Mike was steady jerking bass - and, I was running back and forth between them with the landing net and a handful of new shiners. I doubt I sat down for a solid hour, as the shiners were blown up into air all around up. We even had a couple of dead shiners floating loose out on the 'battlefield' that were blown up by hungry fish.
Although Mike got the opening lead with his double, Gordie soon caught up. Then, Mike regained the lead in most caught. It went back and forth, with Mike finally coming out ahead by four fish.
BUT - the big bass lived at Gordie's end of the boat this day and he landed four like the huge old girl in the attached picture. Not bad at all.
It was just one of those days. Everything went right, except that we ran out of shiners too soon. Gordie even caught a giant crappie on one of the smaller shiners.
We also had an experience that shows just how voracious a bass can tend to be when in a feeding frenzy. Take a look at the picture of the bass with the shiner in its mouth. That bass is under two pounds and the shiner is 10 inches long. The shiner is wedged across the fish's jaws because the shiner is just too wide to go any further. The shiner was hooked in the lips, so the bass actually did get hooked. This bass ran that big shiner to the surface and blew him up, just like a big fish would. What is interesting is that the bass was so accurate in his attack that he actually got the shiner properly for swallowing when he blasted it. The other interesting part is that there is NO WAY the bass could have ever swallowed that big shiner, since it was bigger than his mouth opening. I guess he was just a mean fish.
With all the shiners gone, we moved onto a crappie hole for a hour to close out the day. Tossing the little PERFECT jigs out, we got yet another surprise!! There was a school of small bass on the crappie spot. None went over two pounds and most were a half-pound less. But, they ate the jigs like they were candy. After 8-9 bass worked the jigs, the big crappie dutifully moved in and took their place.
I guess it was just Mike and Gordie's day to do the bass. In that Mike has to return to New York State and the cold weather soon, it was fitting.
And, a good time was had by all. (Especially me. Darn, I like this job!)
Our old fishing buddy, Larry Johnson, stopped by recently to visit. With him was Al McCelland, a former client of ours and one of Larry's fishing partners. Both had come down from South Carolina for their annual winter visit. Of course, they also had thoughts about the Stick Marsh. The Marsh didn't let them down, either. We'll tell the story and show the great pictures next time.
See you on the pond.
February 4, 2003
David Pace returns to fish with us. Last time, David brought his 9 and 7 year-old sons, Carson and Gordon, wanting them experience a for-real fishing excursion. (See our archives for the 6 December 02 report of the boys' 60+ bass day and you will see they got just what dad asked for - and then some!!!)
This time David brought along his Father, Paul, and brother, Mike, to try out the bass. The emphasis was to be on Dad, David said.
But, the group brought one other thing with them - the strongest cold front of the year!! Steadily dropping temperatures and 35-40 MPH winds. Talk about getting blown away!! As the winds got stronger, the waves got bigger. Soon, they were breaking hard and high against the boat, liberally coating us with cold spray.
The Stick Marsh bass, however, seemed totally oblivious to all the elements. Shiners hit the water - bass hit the shiners. And, although our fishing time on my shiner hole was extremely short, Paul Pace got his 'good old big one' there, just like David had asked for. Additionally, chunky 3 lb. fish came along quickly and ravaged the bait, as well. It was just great fishing - but, then the winds started to howl for real and we had to make a run for it.
The rest of the day was spent searching for a good windbreak with fish, but we never found one. So, we concluded a day of 1/3rd great fishing and 2/3rd fighting the elements.
But, everyone was smiling broadly, especially Poppa Paul.
Back in October, we got the chance to fish the ocean marshes near Beaufort, SC, with Buck Morris. This time, Buck came to fish with us. He said he wanted to see those big Stick Marsh crappie he had heard about. Well, we gave him one good 'up close and personal' look at them.
Buck is a distant relative through all sorts of marriages and other such interactions. He is also 78 years old, but you would never know it. He is more active and has more get-up-and-go than most 40 year-olds I know. When he left us, he was heading to Colorado to go skiing.
Zipping across the Marsh, Buck indicated that he'd like to catch a couple of bass before we visited the crappie. So, we peeled off into an area a grass and a few stumps and pulled out the Swimmin' Image lures. The strikes came fast and furious, with most of the fish being in the 3-lb. range. However, every third fish was a chain pickerel. From where we were fishing in the SE area of Farm 13, we could see perhaps 20 boats stacked on one another over on the west side. The bass have come to think of the Nursery, and adjacent areas, as a shiner factory, I do believe.
Buck finally connected with a really big bass (in the 8-9 lb. range, I would estimate). After a few twists, turns, and stump bumps, the old girl tore the hooks out and regained her freedom. With the plug floating out there on the surface and the last ripples from the departed bass fading out, Buck looked at me and said he sure hated to lose one like that. Then, suddenly, the Swimmin' Image just disappeared in an explosion of water and something black and green. When he regained his senses, Buck started to reel and found a 5-pound bass had just done a topwater pounding of his lure. It was a bit unbelievable. I just told Buck it had to do with all that 'clean living' he'd been doing.
Moving out to the crappie hole, we got onto a very active school of big slabs almost immediately. It took Buck about 10 minutes to get the slow, steady retrieve down right. But, when he did, a fish came on the PERFECT jig nearly every cast. A few of the big females appeared to have laid some of their eggs, in that their vent holes were red and protruding. Plus, if you 'milked' them carefully, some eggs would be passed. But, with this school, most were yet to spawn and their bellies we tight and swollen. So, we put them back in hopes of better fishing in the years to come.
This fine crappie fishing can be expected to continue into April, after which the fish will move into the thick grass beds. The crappie spawn appears to have started and should last until mid-March. The majority seems to bed in conjunction with full moon periods.
Yesterday, Mike Saccone and Gordie Braun paid us another return visit. These fishing buddies from up north had gone for crappie with us on one trip (see the 28 November 02 report) and then for bass (28 December report). The great fishing of the Stick Marsh had done a job on both of them!!! In this latest adventure, the duo asked to 'get on them bass again'. Boy, did they!! It was another classic Stick Marsh fishing day with shiners flying and bass jumping over the boat to get them. You'll like this one!!
See you later.
February 1, 2003
Dale Marcott and his Father, Roger, are local residents in the Melbourne/Palm Bay area. In fact, Dale lives only a short way from me. Boy, was I glad of that. I invited them to go out again at no cost when we could find an open day for all of us.
This outing was really a fun day, but it was a bummer with the bass. I repositioned the boat along my favorite grass wall numerous times, only to find the bass had slowed down a lot. 'Slowed down' is probably a generous term. Heck, they must have been hibernating with old Wally Alligator somewhere. The chain pickerel were about, much to the chagrin of the shiners, and I saw a good bit of activity from other types of fish. But, the bass simply took a day off. Even though the weather was cool and stable and a few days after a front, we had a low fish count. But, there were some good fish in the few we did entice to the hook.
Usually, when the bobber goes under gently and then is released, it is an indication of possible one of three species of fish after your shiner: a mudfish, a chain pickerel, a catfish, or possibly a big needlefish. Each as some distinctive characteristics in the way they often approach a shiner:
Dale, Roger and I played the game with the fish, but found few bass coming to us. Occasionally, one would make a wrong turn at Pittsburgh and happen by. When she did (all we caught appeared to be roe-laden females), we got her right away. The bobber would go down like a flash and haul butt off towards Miami. When that occurred, a hook-up was a sure thing. Dale wound up with the giant bass of the day, while Roger settled for the solid 3-lbers that came by.
- The mudfish (Grindle) may often pull the bobber just barely under the surface and swim off rapidly, looking a lot like Jaws pulling those barrels across the surface of the ocean. Other times he just sinks it slowly, but it stays close to the surface and within sight.
- The chain pickerel looks a lot like his northern cousins, the pike and the muskie. His eyes are wild looking and, coupled with those wicked teeth, he lives up to the description of the 'wolf of the water'. The pickerel uses his teeth to grab and kill prey before ever engulfing it. Consequently, unless his first grab at the shiner happens to also get the hook, you will never set the hook into him. You will just tear the shiner off. The pickerel will pull the bobber down and swim off like a bass, but you will continually come up empty-handed (not to mention 'shiner-less') after the hookset. (Big needlefish do the exact same thing.) There is a shiner-saving solution, though. Unlike a bass whole has fully engulfed the shiner most times and does not want to let it go, the pickerel will drop your shiner if he feels significant resistance from you. So, you point the rod at the fish, take up the slack line and then DO NOT set the hook. You make the fish tug back on you at least twice. If it is a pickerel, he will drop the shiner. If it is a bass, he will keep going and try and take the rod away from you.
- A catfish will nip and tug on the shiner's tail endlessly. If the cat is big enough, he may eventually get the hook. Most times, he usually nips enough that he eventually tears the shiner off.
All in all, it was a great day on the water with two excellent gentlemen. Father and son teams who fish together ALWAYS turn out to be very special people with strong bonds between them. Such were Dale and Roger.
And, we are going to go do it again. You bet we are. And, real soon, too!!
Next on our Dance Card of Fishing Delights, Dave Pace returns to fish with us. Last time, Dave brought his 9 and 7 year-old sons, Carson and Gordon, wanting them experience a for-real fishing excursion. (See our archives for the 6 December 02 report of the boys' 60+ bass day and you will see they got just what dad asked for - and then some!!!)
This time Dave brought along his Father, Paul, and brother, Mike, to try out the bass. The emphasis was to be on Dad, Dave said.
But, the group brought one other thing with them - the strongest cold front of the year!! Steadily dropping temperatures and 35-40 MPH winds. Talk about getting blown away.
But, not before Dad got his!!
See you then.
Today's Weather for
the Stick Marsh Area
Past Stick Marsh Fishing Reports
Farm 13 / Stick Marsh Information Guide
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Pete and Tina Heinz / 9 South Mulberry St. / Fellsmere, FL 32948 / 772-571-9855
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