Follow by Email

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

1/29 GMR

With it closing in on the record high for todays date I had to hit the river after work. The Great Miami was up a bit, maybe around a foot and a tad off color. But I just told myself the best time to fish is always when the river is rising and but I had no idea if its was going to hold true in winter too. I had been lucky catching one fish two or three times this winter and avoiding a skunk but after a couple hours the streak was looking like it was coming to an end. But then about dark I felt a solid thump and was fast into the first fish of the night, a small saugeye. Then about a half hour later another small saug hit, again not very big but hey I was catching a few fish and was the warmest I'd been fishing in like two months. It felt very good to cast without gloves and coveralls.
Then about an hour after dark I got another solid strike and the rod bent double. I was sure I was hooked to the saugeye of a lifetime at first but it kept taking too much drag and I ended up with my second channelcat this week on a saugeye grub. This one was a bit less surprising than the other since there wasn't snow on the ground this time. It was about the fattest channel I've ever caught. The cold weather sure wasnt bothering it any as its belly looked like it had swallowed a grapefruit.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

1/26 catfish

Cause we all know how when the water temps get in the low thirties them channels love hot pink metalflake saugeye jigs.....
Dont ask me. I dunno. At least it kept me from getting skunked. As the old lefthander used to say during the reds games, If you swing the bat your dangerous. And you cant catch em if you dont go fishing...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Lure selection for the Little Miami River

I think that one reason river fishermen dont painstakingly match the hatch with exact copies of the forage that bass eat is that rivers are so daggone complicated. In the LMR over a hundred different species of fish have been recorded and most of them are small fishes that could serve as bass food. And the abundance of these can vary wildly over the 110 mile plus length of the river. But since the Little Miami is designated a National Wild and Scenic River it has been studied rather extensively. Sampling surveys over the years have shown definate trends that can help you with your lure selection depending on where you are fishing in the river. Many minnow species like the central stoneroller and the various darters and shiners are found throughout the river but the population densities of each are different in different sections of river. In the lower LMR, say from Loveland/Milford to the Ohio River, shiner species such as the emerald shiner greatly outnumber other small fishes. So what does this mean? Well, shiners have a completely different shape and profile than other small fishes. They are long with a thin profile and look slightly flat being taller than they are across and silvery in color. In other words alot like classic floater diver minnow plugs such as the Rapala or AC Shiner. In the lower river you might want to fish soft plastics with this profile too such as the Mister Twister Sassy Shad. Shiners also spend alot of time in open water and close to the surface so topwaters like the pop-r are also great where shiners are common. Also the closer to the Ohio the more shad you will find. In the middle reaches of the LMR you begin to find higher and higher numbers of darters in every survey till they become the most common small fishes found on some stretches. Darters are very very colorful and on average smaller than shiner species. Darters also spend most of their time under and around rocks in swifter sections of the river. This is why rock cover becomes more important as you progress upstream and sandy gravely cover less so. Also riffles produce better in the middle LMR than the upper or lower LMR. Lures in brighter patterns with a bit of red or orange produce well in the middle LMR. Instead of a silver rapala like you threw in the lower LMR, a slightly rounder bait like a smaller rebel minnow in a "rainbow trout" pattern might be a better place to start. At the top of the middle LMR, say from Fort Ancient to the Narrows, the number of darters and shiners equals out somewhat with more plain minnows like the stoneroller than anything else. Here it becomes an anything goes affair dependant more on where you are fishing, a riffle might be full of darters but next to a pool with shiners, chubs and minnows in it. In this stretch carrying a wide lure selection can really pay off. Further upstream the river becomes a minnow factory with high numbers of darters and minnows such as the stoneroller. In some pools the number of stonerollers is staggering, well into the thousands. Here generic minnow lures like inline spinners and metalflake grubs really shine. These are just general guidelines and you might find smallies feeding on darters in the lower LMR and on shiners in the middle LMR but it gives you somewhere to start. The particular spot you are fishing is just as important as the section of river. If your fishing a riffle you might want to fish a bottom hugging smaller brighter lure while a bigger silvery plug might be the ticket in a big pool. Some common small fishes of the LMR... Central Stoneroller The most common small fish in the LMR, Stonerollers are stout brownish gray minnows with short, rounded fins. The snout is bluntly rounded and projects beyond the nearly horizontal mouth. Their mouth is always white in color. Males during breeding season have some orange and black on fins, large pointed bumbs on their head, and orange eyes. Stonerollers spawn in spring between March and the end of May. Males dig spawning beds just above or below riffles and aggressively chase other males away. The eggs are sticky and become lodged in the gravel and the nests abandoned prior to hatching. While they can reach seven inches most stonerollers are around three or four inches in length. Stonerollers feed by scraping algae from rocks on the riverbottom. The LMR is also home to other minnow species such as the tonguetied, suckermouthed, bluntnosed, fathead, and bullhead minnows. These are some of the most common small fishes in the pools of the river. Shiners The LMR is home to something like fifteen or sixteen different species of shiners. Shiners typically have a long thin profile and look slightly flat being taller than they are across. Shiners as a whole tend to hang out in open water like pools and often high in the water column. Shiners typically eat tiny insects and other various aquatic invertebrates, and terrestrial insects that fall in the water or fly just above the surface. Often when it is still and wind is not blowing you can see them dimpling the surface feeding on tiny insects like midges. Most shiners are three to five inches long but a few can reach up to ten inches in length. Darters The LMR is home to around a dozen different species of darters. Darters run two to four inches in length for the most part and are among the most colorfull fish you will ever see. When breeding most darters become very bright with fins edged in orange or red and bright blues as well as spots or bands of bright colors on their bodies. Darter species on the LMR include the greenside, rainbow, fantail, least, johnny, and orangethroat darters as well as the logperch, varigate, banded, channel, blackside and slenderhead darters plus maybe an additional one or two that I may be missing. Most darters inhabit swifter riffles in the LMR often hiding under flat rocks in the swift current. Darters eat mostly small crustaceans and aquatic insect larvae. Sculpins and Madtoms The LMR is home to five species of madtoms as well as the mottled sculpin. Like the darters these guys spend most of their time glued to the bottom of swifter riffles and runs or at least right on the edge of such places. Ferocious predators they are almost like tiny three to five or six inch long shovelheads, eating whatever they can fit in their mouths. More camoflaged than darters they are usually colored to blend in with their surroundings. Chubs The LMR has around seven or eight species of chubs. Chubs mostly have a thich rounded body and can grow fairly large, up to a foot in some species though most are around five or six inches in length. Chubs eat small invertabrates and insects but large ones can even take small crayfish. Chubs grow big enough to be caught on hook and line and are often caught as shovelhead bait. I almost dont want to get into crayfish because I'm going to part ways with 95% of you on this. First off they are very important as smallie food. So important its almost impossible to overstate their importance. That being said heres why I hardly ever imitate them! Even though I'm constantly fishing for smallmouth that are feeding on them. First off, pick a day in June. Then there are really only two sizes of crayfish in the river as far as a smallmouth is concerned. Great big ones left over from previous years and ones hatched this year. The old ones may vary in size but to a smallmouth they are all the same size...too damn big. Every study I've seen says that smallmouth are constantly selecting small crayfish and leaving the big ones alone. Or if they take a big one they circle around it a while or pick it up and blow it out several times till they get it facing tail first. Several studies suggest that the very biggest smallmouth are the most selective for size. Ok so that leaves me that years crayfish. In midsummer that years crayfish reach a size that smallmouth love. In one study in Wisconsin crayfish were 14 percent of food volume in May but a whopping 83 percent from July to September. So after July if you catch a smallie he's probably looking for a craw. So heres my problem. Smallmouth arent selective about minnows in the LMR, they come in all shapes, colors, and sizes so they cant key completely on just one. But young of the year craws are all the same size, the same color, almost exactly. And this size changes constantly. In their first year crayfish molt something like ten or eleven times because they are growing so fast. So every craw looks the same, is the same shade at the same time in that hole and every smallmouth knows it. So I cop out. If a smallmouth is nosing around looking for a craw and a tasty minnow imitation like a three inch grub swims along he's not going to pass it by. Ok so why is the rebel craw such a great lure? Look at these two pictures...
Big craws out of the LMR
Little craw out of the LMR Now lets be honest does a rebel craw look anything like either one of those? Does it act like them? I think a rebel craw is a crankbait that is just the right size for catching alot of fish in the river and it doesn't run too deep like something like a model A bomber does. It wobbles along at a good depth to fish below and above riffles and its a good size so it catches fish. Heck I fish one alot. I just dont really think I'm imitating a crawfish. Its generic fish food I'm imitating. When I'm bouncing a grub in the rocks or hopping a marabou jig along the bottom or fishing a suspending crankbait just off the bottom, thats when I feel like I'm fishing for smallmouth feeding on craws. Smallmouth are opportunists and theres too many minnow species for them to become selective so I'm not going to throw something like a really detailed plastic craw at them because thats the one and only thing in the river they just might be selective about. He might hit my big living rubber jig with a plastic craw trailer but he's going to really look it over and he might be just a bit afraid of it and suck it in and blow it out a couple times first but the same fish is going to confidently swim over and thump my smoke metalflake grub without a second thought. Like I said I'm going against the grain here but I dont try to imitate craws in the LMR when lure fishing. I think alot of the small dark jigs like marabou jigs or little living rubber jigs or even wooleybuggers the bass thinks is something else yummy like a hellgrammite in addition to a craw. The nice thing about fishing is people can look at things completely differently and both still be right some of the time. __________________ __________________

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ice Fishing (without the ice)

I went this morning to a pond at the local wildlife area. Just last week I was thinking about trying the same pond thru the ice. But with near record temperatures the last few days the ice was gone. Usually if i'm fishing this time of year it's in a river for sauger or some other cold water fish but it's rained over an inch in the last 24 hours and all the local streams are high and looking like chocolate milk. But it was warm and I wanted to go bad so I ended up at the pond. With the ice only gone a couple days I decided the way to go was to pretend it was still there. I used the same tiny slip floats and handmade ice jigs I would have used thru the ice. In summer this pond becomes a garden of lilly pads and weed beds. Even now you could see extensive weedbeds on the bottom. I set the ice jigs up under the floats so they would just tick the tops of the weeds and tipped them with waxworms. Then I would cast out and just let the action of the winds and waves work the jigs and left them alone. The only spot I could find fish was off one little weedy point that stuck out four or five feet further into the lake than the rest of the shoreline. In about an hour I caught six or seven small bass in the eight to ten inch range. The float would just begin to move slowly off or sometimes just stop moving with the wind and I'd tighten down and the fish would be on. Only once did they even pull the float underwater as they hit.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Saugasaurus rex

Hit the LMR about an hour before dark. Nothing till right at dark. Throwing a four inch grub on a 3/8 ounce jig head into some deep water that had quite a bit of current running thru it. Even the heavy jighead was getting swept downstream by the current. I cast quartering across and was letting it sweep downstream on a tight line when thump, she ate it. 2nd Fish Ohio fish and it's January 9th??? I'm feeling pretty lucky about now. I think I gotta like my chances for back to back master angler pins. Turned her loose she had to be full of eggs with that fat belly. Water was crystal clear. Hopefully we can all get some fishing in this weekend before it's all blown up by the rain.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


The Little Miami contains both sauger and saugeye. The saugeye is a cross between a sauger and a walleye and telling them all apart where they overlap is not always easy. Sauger have many dark spots usually in rows on their dorsal fin. The first dorsal fin is usually relatively clear in unspotted areas, and there is not a large dusky area at the rear base of the fin as in walleye. The over all body coloration of a sauger is a bronze or brown color compared to the usual gray or more silver color of a walleye. The sauger has large dark oblong blotches on the sides of their body which I've heard compared to camoflauge. Sauger do not have the white edges to the bottom part of their tail and anal fin like a walleye, at best they have a very thin lighter colored edge that is often more yellow in color. Possibly the easiest way to identify saugeye are the dark bars or oblong vertical spots between the spines of the first dorsal fin. The membrane of this fin in the unmarked areas is often a dusky color and not as clear like that of a sauger. A large dark spot at the rear base of the first dorsal fin is usually visible on a saugeye but not as clearly defined as it is on a walleye. Saugeye have dark laterally oblong blotches on their sides but they tend to be smaller than those of a sauger. Saugeye also have white tips on the lower part of the tail and anal fins. These are more defined than the very thin light colored margin of a sauger but less defined than the large white tips found on a walleye. To me a sauger in hand is easier to ID than a saugeye, a saugers clear fin and lack of a spot at the rear of it's dorsal are obvious. When I hem and haw and wonder which species it is, it usually turns out to be a saugeye. For all practical porposes except for records they can be treated as the same fish, in the LMR they are fished for exactly the same. Speaking of records the Ohio record sauger is 7.31 pounds and was caught in the Maumee River in 1981 by Bryan Wicks. The world record sauger is an eight-pound,12-ounce fish caught in 1971 in North Dakota. Roger Sizemore of Orient, Ohio caught a new state record saugeye weighing 14.04 pounds from Antrim Lake in Franklin County. Sauger spawn in the spring when water temperatures reach the upper 40s. Females lay between 10,000 to 50,000 eggs. The eggs are adhesive and stick to vegetation, sticks, and stones until they hatch in about 10 days. Saugers are migratory and spawning runs occur in early spring. Fishing below lowhead dams at this time on rivers like the Great Miami can be very productive. The lowhead dam on the Little Miami in Corwin also has good sauger fishing but is not the obstacle to fish that the dams on the Great Miami are and so sauger are more spread out thru the river. Perhaps the most important difference from a fishing standpoint between sauger and walleye is the difference in their eyes. Both have a light-gathering layer in their eyes this layer covers more area in the eyes of sauger. Sauger are even more light-sensitive than walleyes, explaining their preference for deeper and murkier water. Sauger thrive in turbid environments like rivers while the walleye does better in big lakes. This means that water may get too swift to fish well for sauger when the water is up but it never gets to muddy for the fish to bite. For this same reason sauger often bite best at night and even continue to feed at night all winter. Sauger seem to be a bit more bottom oriented than walleye and less inclined to look up to feed. Sometimes your lure must be presented right on the bottom and a difference of just a few inches can make or break your chances of catching fish. Sauger and sauceye remain active and feeding in low water temperatures. Many fishermen often don’t even start fishing for sauger until the water temperature has dropped to the 40’s and other game fish have shut down for the winter. If your busting the ice out of your guides every few casts its prime sauger weather. The Little Miami River is second only to the mighty Ohio River in producing Fish Ohio awards for trophy sauger while the nearby Great Miami is fourth in trophy saugeye. Both the saugfishes do not fight like smallmouth bass and are treasured more for their tolerance for cold weather and the fact that they are the best eating fish there is. In a case of damning with faint praise I've heard it said they have "moderate fighting abilities" but any fish that bites in the middle of january is plenty game in my book. They certainly look tough with their camo good looks and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Be sure and carry some needlenosed pliers to unhook deeply hooked fish.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

1/1 first fish

Ok Ok so its only a carp. but hey it's freezing out there so cut me some slack. I went to Hamilton! to try and catch some saugers and no luck. I had a grub on and about ten inches up the line a marabou jig tipped with a pinch of nightcrawler. I fished for about three hours with no fish to be found. Don't know where the saugfish were today couldn't get up with them. Then the rod bent double and the drag began to whine. I probably played it way too long but I wasn't going to let the only fish of the day pull off. It had swallowed the marabou jig and crawler deep I really didn't need to worry. Qualifying carp for a Fish Ohio pin is only 26" that seems a bit short to me. Haven't checked the length of this fish yet, (marked it on the rod) but I'm pretty sure its longer than that.