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Friday, August 28, 2015

Building block bass

With three grandkids we have an extra room that's for now the toy room. In there they have a set of wooden blocks. There are four blocks that have no numbers just colors. Black on one end, white on the other and two reds and two blues on each block. Don't ask me, a dollar store set I guess. Anyways the kids, as kids will do, have invented a game with these blocks. They toss them on the floor and one kid is red and one blue. If your red and a red color with either black or white gets you a point. Like wise blue with either black or white gets the blue player a point. Basically they are looking for patterns in the random outcome of the toss. Which is the way we are taught to bass fish. Maybe rocks of a certain size are a variable, current is another, a riffle another, a pool another, etc. Find a fish and then find a spot with the same set of variables and your likely to find another fish. After all things like riffles, pools, current, rock, woody debris, they repeat themselves over and over hundreds if not thousands of times over the course of a hundred mile long river.
So out of the blue, red, black and white set of variables which am I searching for? The green one! The one that's completely unlike anything else on the entire length of the stream. A pipe pouring water into the stream, a broken dam, a concrete wing dam, something, anything that's completely totally unique. After all I'm a big believer in the idea that the biggest fish takes the best spot. Smallmouth bass aren't sociable in an ice cream social sort of way. Instead it's an organized crime sort of society. Where the little guys have to make do with the leftovers and crumbs the big guys don't want. So if I can find that one of a kind great spot I feel I have the best chance at catching the best fish. I'm the anti-pattern fisherman, just interested in that one unique fish.
So how do we find that one of a kind spot? The process usually starts in midwinter around Christmas.
Sometime after glorious fall smallmouth fishing and bow hunting for deer when not much is going on. I might drag myself out and try for saugeyes. Or I might just look outside and wander over to the computer and plop down. Here I'll log on to Bing or maybe and find whatever stretch of stream I'm looking trying to learn. I'll zoom in as much as I can and still get a clear image and just crawl up the river. Looking at everything trying to find something, anything that doesn't fit. Maybe a huge pile of rubble dumped in to control erosion, a short channel cut up to a factory, who knows, it might be something that I can't even tell what it is at the time. After I've crawled over the whole stream I'll have a short list of stream stretches I want to investigate further. Maybe by playing on Google I can put in the name of a factory and the river and keywords like outflow or pipe and figure out what something is. This is the fun part where you do the detective work you just wont do in spring when the fishing is good. You might find online a history of the stream with the location of old water mills a hundred years ago that send you back to the maps all over again. Eventually a short list emerges of places you have to investigate on foot.
Before I do that though the list goes back to the computer. I try to find maps that list access points, canoe launches, parks, anything close to my chosen spot that let's people get to it without much trouble. Which is bad. This might not knock the spot off the list if it's unique enough but it sure won't help. Smallmouth bass in rivers are homebodies and just don't move up and down the stream except to overwinter. If the spots too easy to get to and fish a bass might not get the precious time needed to become a trophy.
Next I'll find the EPA study on my river. Every river has EPA studies done on it. If you can't find them that doesn't mean they don't exist, they do somewhere. Call or email your states EPA and ask.
The study on each stream has appendices which include the electroshocking data buried in them somewhere. These studies break the river down into three or four mile sections. Which is important because each piece of stream is different with a slightly different mix of prey fish. Maybe something like spotfin shiners instead of emerald shiners or big numbers of darters and no central stonerollers. While these studies are never the last word on lure selection they give me a place to start.
From there Ill log on to ODNR's species guide index. The Ohio site covers all the normal species you will find anywhere in the Midwest and my go to site even in neighboring states. The ODNR site shows you a good photo of each species you have found in the EPA studies. And possibly even more importantly it will give you habitat and behavior information. It's no use trying to imitate a darter if your fishing a big pool like eddy.
If I've made it sound like all the spots I'm looking for are manmade that's not the case. Often it will be an extreme right angle turn in miles of straight water. A point that looks like it has been blown out by a flood. These kinds of points often scatter a line of rubble downstream that hold nice fish. The key is to find a spot unlike any other no matter how it got there. My philosophy is more of the homerun hitter swinging for the fences. If I check out ten spots five may be duds, three okay and two might be great. But I might just catch a trophy. The pattern fisherman will probably catch many more fish. Just many more smaller fish most of the time...

My list of favorite fishing sites online  Biological and water quality reports on every stream in Ohio. Electroshocking data is in the appendices to each study. The site of Little Miami Conservancy which also has the best maps of the Little Miami by far.
 Has nice maps of the Great Miami, Stillwater, and Mad Rivers will access points, low head dams, amenities at each of the public access points etc.  The best of the online map sites because it has a topographic feature along with regular map and satellite features. Plus satellite map has regular map superimposed on it. a lot like google earth, gives you another look. species guide to Ohio wildlife, great photos plus range, behavior, and habitat
Home page of the Fish Ohio Award Program.
PDF's of the river and stream maps available thru ODNR
PDF's of the lake and reservoir maps available thru ODNR, pretty extensive maps of all the public wildlife areas in Ohio homepage of the Hamilton County Park district Homepage of Butler County Parks Homepage of the Warren County Park District Five Rivers Metropark Site (Dayton area)  My blog, mostly fishing on the LMR, GMR, & WWR with a bit of bowhunting, ginseng digging and general outdoors mixed in.  Forum and fishing reports from all over Ohio.  Amazing fishing blog on the Ohio River. archives are treasure trove of info  homesite of all the river and stream gauges.
Daily streamflow conditions for Ohio from USGS
Page of all publications available thru Kentucky Dept of Fish and Wildlife. all are downloadable  Striper fishing forum Just about the best info on smallmouth bass available online. A must read site lots of online articles and a forum huge fly tying forum site dedicated to tying jigs. huge site filled with content I already listed this page but click on The Little Miami River Wild and Scenic River Ecology and History by Stanley Hedeen on left side of page. Online book on the LMR that's amazing. Home page of BUFF. Lots of great info.
Mile by mile description of canoeing the entire LMR amazing site on the natural world along the LMR Great site on local birdwatching

facebook; put Ohio Fishing Reports in search. Huge group with lots of daily reports Larry Dahlberg's site there must be fifty videos on making lures just what the title says a great striper blog great all around fly fishing site Tim Holschlag's site lots of online articles
Smb tracking study
Smb tracking study
Tackle making website
Catfishing sire with lots of articles
West Virginia DNR Ohio River Catfish Assessment
Pre Spawn Smallmouth article
Cold water smallies
Lure Making Forum
Gizzard Shad predation by hybrids in Ohio

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Frederick the Fish

After a hard night spent camping in the wilderness our hero was ready for battle. After bravely baiting his hook (with a wormy he named Jimmy) he gave a mighty heave and cast out. After an epic wait no mere mortal could take (or at least his little brother Donovan) the battle was finally joined. What ensued was classic battle in which the outcome was always in doubt. But thru sheer determination, brute strength and an iron will our hero prevailed. After much deliberation it was finally determined (and after everyone got to touch it) that his cousin Kally could release the newly named Frederick the Fish.  Here it is in all it's glory,,,

 Gavin's First Fish

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

River Fishing Event

Sat August 29th    A Day on the River

At the Little Miami Conservancy's River and Trail Center located on the bike trail in Loveland.

A river fishing day highlighted by a seminar by Mark Blauvelt (Salmonid of OGF fame)
at 11am.

Free hot dogs for lunch afterward

I'll be speaking on river fishing at 1pm

Then at 2pm we will have a fishing roundtable where anyone can ask a question, answer a question, talk fishing or just listen in.

Also we are expecting to add a few things between now and then as well as giving away coupons for Queen City Outdoors in Goshen and promotions on Vic Coomer Lures. The Trail center has a big screen version of Google maps, exhibits on the river and a large deck perfect for talking fishing.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

This week in fish...

This week was mostly just a bunch of short trips. Most of the smallies I caught this week were in pretty fast water. The stripey fish were mostly in deep fast runs and catfish seemed everywhere. No big cats but it seemed I caught at least one on a grub every time I went. The striper was pretty cool. It was right at daylight and suddenly it looked like someone was throwing big rocks in the water. I cast a topwater but no luck. It seemed every time I would cast one would blow up on bait somewhere else. I finally gave up and tied on a clear with mylar curly shad. I cast out quartering into the main current. Then zing the drag started singing. At first I thought I had the drag too loose but it was just a nice fish in heavy current. It headed to the other bank and then downriver. Oh no, no way I can follow the bank is just steep and a jungle. But it turned and came back towards my bank. Which happened to have a big limb hanging down with grapevines trailing into the water. I held the rod horizontal then the tip underwater as the fish swam under the grapevines. After that it was just dogging it out in open water for which I was very grateful.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stream Hybrid

A nice hybrid on Vic's clear with glitter grub.

The last few days in fish....

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


 Although the very best time to go fishing is whenever you can there are a few moments worth planning for.
It's midsummer and it's been hot for a week or two. The best fishing has been early and late and that's been slow. But the weather man says a front is going to hit today. Possibly even some severe stuff. A major break in the weather. You might think the best time is after the storm, But if your brave and don't mind risking a bit of wind or hail in your quest for THE fish the best time is right when all hell breaks loose. Those sheets of rain, that muddy water pouring out of tiny normally dry drainages off the hillsides. The very first inch the river raises, All of these can trigger magic. That riffle that has seemed dead for the last hour suddenly seems a different place. Where no fish were present you get now get a strike on five of ten casts. And one of those is the best fish you've caught in a month. I remember last year a half hour before the storm it was ninety and I was melting down. Up out of the rivers cut you could hear the storm rumbling as it bore down on my location. Big rain drops began splatting the water's surface as the trees up on the rim began to sway in the wind. Twenty minutes later I was pressed against the trunk of a big sycamore trying to hunker down even further into my rain poncho. But in those previous twenty minutes I'd landed six nice smallmouth with one stretching the tape past  nineteen inches. Thirty minutes after I'd sought shelter under the sycamore the sun was out and  the river had risen a foot and was the color of chocolate milk. Soaking wet I hit the trail muddy soaking wet and happy.
 Just the opposite weather can be the ticket in midwinter. You want that week of abnormally warm weather. When you can venture out with a hoodie and light jacket instead of a heavy winter jacket. The sun has warmed the cold clear winter water a couple degrees. In afternoon during the heat of the day river smallmouth might be tempted to move a couple dozen feet to a shallow hump or up a steep rocky bank in their wintering hole. Up to where sunlight was making things comparatively warm. Here I like to throw a hair jig. My favorites are ones I tie myself out of coyote. Not our course Midwestern coyotes but from ones I get online from Montana. These create a jig with wonderful light hair that simply comes alive in the water. You need a light flowing hair on your jig whatever the type because the best retrieve you can use is the slowest one you can manage. But if you have done your homework in the fall and tracked big smallmouth to first riffle up or down from this hole you know your showing your jig to fish. Often instead of a solid strike you simply feel a weight on the line an find yourself attached to a nice fish. But sometimes a nice fish will surprise you and really thump a jig. Either way any fish caught in winter is a great fish to me.
  Jumping back to that hot steamy stretch of late summer weather. Sometimes the best time to go on small rivers and bigger creeks is right in the middle of the heat of the day. What?, how can that be true? It kind of goes against everything we instinctively know about smallmouth. But those smaller rivers and creeks don't always have really deep cool refuges for fish to escape the heat. Even the deepest pools might only be barely waist deep and as warm as a hot bath. Well the most comfortable place for a bass then is right up in the fastest riffle he can find. His metabolism is also ramped up and that riffle provides lots of food as well as much needed oxygen. If you can keep yourself cool and avoid heatstroke the work of finding the fish is done for you. I find the best riffles are the very first ones upstream of the deepest holes in the creek.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The ten

If you count my lousy attempts to catch a shark that wasn't a baby I'd been fishing nine days in a row. So if I went today it would be ten. Double digit days in a row. That only happens maybe once or twice a year for me so that was my excuse to sneak out for a couple hours before work. Middle of the day. Hot. Sunny. Just goes to show the best time to fish is when you can. I hunted up the fastest water I knew of. It's a chute of water about ten feet across that is really moving. Like faster than the water below a lowhead dam fast. Maybe below a dam on the Ohio fast. Scary fast. In a stream that you can wade across in a lot of places. This time of year I find I have the best luck on quality fish in fast water close to deep water. I think the fish's metabolism is ramped up so they want to feed. But it's hot so they want deep cooler water. So they make feeding runs up into that fast water that has lots of oxygen all day long then back to their deep spot, then repeat. At least that's my swat (scientific wild ass theory). Anyways that chute of water has a big eddy curling back upstream that's actually moving faster than most riffles on the rest of the stream. That's how fast the chute is. I positioned myself about ten feet below the eddy made a short cast into the edge of the chute and let the clear with silver flake grub tumble out of the chute and curl back upstream along the bank. Wham! and the fish ran right into the fast water. The rod bent double as the fish used the heavy current. I thought for sure it was a medium sized shovelhead. That is till it went airborne. Then airborne again. Then back into the heavy current. Finally after a longer than usual fight because of the fast water I finally landed the fish. No twenty incher like I'd thought. Heck the 19.5 I'd landed with Dan this spring was a smidge longer but not nearly as heavy. Ten days in a row got me a fish that was a ten in my book. Fat healthy and colored gorgeously, I couldn't have been happier with her...

Busting at the seams

Hit the river a bit before daylight. As the sky brightened hybrid stripies were busting bait hot and heavy right where a seam of really fast water poured into the pool. Sometimes I think watching them blow up and smack a minnow three or four times on the surface before getting it is about as exciting as catching them. Very cool when it all goes off like it's supposed to. Managed two like this one and a few little guys before things stopped. As soon as the sun cleared the trees and hit the water you'd have thought there wasn't a stripe within a hundred miles.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

opportunity knocks

I'd been gone for a week. When I left the rivers around here had been blown out for a month. I'd been reduced to farm ponds and gravel pits. Not my kind of fishing but fishing at least. Well on the way home every stream I crossed looked prettier and prettier. After driving ten hours home and taking a short nap I was off to rush to the bank before it closed. I took a minute to throw a rod and a baggie of jig heads and curly shads in the truck. I made the bank with two minutes to spare and then the river with two hours left till dark. Sigh. Sometimes obsession does pay off...

Losing hearts and minds for conservation

So I receive my monthly newsletter from my city. On the front page is a story titled "Duke Energy rates show significant increases". Inside the article is this gem, "The largest portion on this increase, 7%, is to permit Duke the ability to recover $33 million in lost revenue it has incurred due to implementation of energy efficiency programs mandated by state law. As energy efficiency programs are implemented and revenues decrease...".
So the average Joe who winces and mutters "please, please, please," under his breath when he opens his utility bill this winter is going to have to pay more because of the push to be more energy efficient and use less energy? And no one thinks this guy isn't going to support efforts to conserve energy use in the future? That he is going to support conservation groups and vote for politicians that support conservation?

In 2012, President Obama called the call to drill for oil domestically, "drill baby drill", "a slogan, a gimmick, and a bumper sticker ... not a strategy." Almost every single politician supported by national conservation groups echoed this sentiment. And every single politician that supported drilling was painted as evil and against clean air and water. That same average Joe who was paying $4 for gas is now paying close to $2. Joe knows he was lied to. In todays world of black and white where no common ground is ever reached the political pendulum is swinging away from the screeching hypocritical politicians flying their private jets home from Washington every weekend while telling Joe he's ruining the Earth by driving a pick up truck. Instead of electing politicians who understand the need to drill at home BUT do so cleanly and in a way that won't wreck the environment, Joe is going to support politicians who were painted by conservation groups as evil. Do we really think these guys will give a flip about clean air and water when they are elected? Ignoring the fact that living in the world is a delicate balancing act where the input of all sides is considered is going to cost conservation dearly. Common ground, common sense, all thrown away in the rush to wring out an extra dime while fund raising.

Yesterday I'm listening to National Public Radio on the long drive home from South Carolina and every hour they played this piece, "Climate Change is Forcing Bangladeshi Girls into Child Marriage". According to the reporter climate change was forcing families to marry off their girls at an early illegal age where they are beaten abused and raped by their new husbands.
Why? because families were losing their homes and land to river erosion; others lose crops every year to flooding or had lost everything in a cyclone and could no longer support their children. All caused by climate change of course, In another story a supposed climate expert claimed we could expect the following scenario:
"ALLIGATORS bask off the English coast, the Sahara desert stretches into Europe and 10 per cent of humans are left. Science fiction? No, this is the doomsday prediction if global temperatures make a predicted rise of 4C in the next 100 years. Some fear it could happen by 2050…"
And on and on, childhood insomnia, cannibalism, bird strikes on airplanes, civil unrest, cabbage shortages, and hundreds of other absurdities have been blamed on climate change. Our average Joe knows this is a huge steaming pile of bull crap. Just like the debate over oil drilling their is no common ground or common sense. No one is allowed to say, we need to study this in a sane manner, we need to see how much is a natural process and just part of the natural cycle in temperature that has gone on since the beginning of time. Say that and you are painted a moron who cares nothing about the planet. That same average Joe who quit throwing his trash out the car window years ago, quit rolling that old washing machine in the river, who gave money to groups like the Nature Conservancy is starting to realize todays conservation movement who seemingly cares about nothing but climate change is not really helping the world in tangible real ways.

Who's going to lose out from all this extremism? Real conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy and thousands of local groups like the Little Miami Conservancy, Friends of the Great Miami,  Friends of the Little Miami State Park. People trying to make the world a better place are going to find it harder and harder to get support from Joe. All because of the idiocy of the "mainstream" conservation movement and the idiots in Washington they support. It's time we speak out and take the conservation movement back and put the emphasis back on making the world a better place instead of being about how much money can be squeezed out of guys like Joe thru hysteria and half truths.