Monday, December 7, 2015

Trophy Bass, Stud Slabs, and a Citation Spec

Trophy Bass, Stud Slabs, and a Citation Spec

We have had a very mild fall here in Virginia.  Unlike in recent years when we’d be in the 20s and 30s by now, the air temperatures have only recently begun to drop out of the 60s. With the overnight temperatures dipping into the freezing range, thus in turn, causes the lakes to hit that magical water temperature of 55*. That perfect water temp that causes the Crappie to school up heavy for the winter months to come.

I took advantage of these ideal conditions to try and run down my 13th Virginia trophy species by targeting big Black Crappie in one of Virginia’s best low-key Crappie destinations. By Virginia standards a trophy Crappie must meet or exceed 15 inches or 2 pounds and it wasn’t long before I ran into large schools of fish that were pushing that mark.

Though I managed to get the majority of my slabs by floating and drop-shotting live minnows, my largest Crappie, a 15.75” fish, fell to a basic 1/16 oz white marabou jig smothered in Megabass fish scent. After a brief fight on my ultra-light set up I had my 13th trophy species in my grasps!

To go along with the Crappie I also got a surprise from a bruiser Largemouth Bass that decided a Crappie minnow would make for a quick, easy snack. It was quite the battle on light line and a mosquito hook! She was a beautiful bug eyed fish that met Virginia trophy standards at 22 inches.

The final and most exciting surprise of the weekend came while I was reeling in a juvenile Crappie. While winding in the little guy I a felt a sudden, sharp jolt… something ate that Crappie. I let the fish swim for a few brief moments before setting the hook. After a quick tug of war I came in contact with my new Personal Best Spotted Bass at 3 pounds on the nose. He absolutely CHOKED the Crappie! After getting some pics and dislodging the fish wedged in his mouth, I let his swim on his merry way. Thus capping off a weekend to remember with two trophy fish, two new personal bests, and officially moving past the half way point to my life goal of becoming a Class V Master Angler via the kayak!

Fish Hard or Stay Home,

Josh D.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fall Crappie Craziness

Fall Crappie Craziness!

       It has been a couple of weeks since I was able to get the kayak out to chase some trophies.  I had been checking the weather for a few days and it looked like it was going to line up perfectly with my day off of work and school.  I made sure to get my bait the night before so I could get an early start the next day. 

       I was on the water by 7am and made the long paddle to my first spot.  Without a depth finder sometimes it can be hard to locate Crappie that are suspended.  This is why I chose to fish visible vertical structure because if you can see the cover that the fish are hiding on, the only thing left to figure out is the depth they want.  As I approached my first location I prepared a rod with a small jig rigged below a medium minnow.  I dropped the bait down to the bottom and slowly jigged it. After about 15 minutes of nothing near the bottom I reeled the rig up to about the center of the water column and that’s when it got crazy. One drop after another I began to hoist in Crappie after Crappie from 10-14”.  Even though these were quality fish, I was looking for a 15” or a 2 pounder. 

       Now to most people, 15” doesn’t sound much larger than 14”, but I found out soon enough that extra 1” is a whole lot of Crappie!  After about 30 fish all in the 12-14” range I decided to weigh one of the larger fish just to see how close to two pounds I was. The 14” Crappie I put on the scale weighed 1.57lbs. I was fairly surprised because this was a healthy and fat fish for its size.  I decided to let the fish at my first location rest as I moved to another spot in hopes that I would find some larger fish.  The second spot I went to typically isn’t fished as hard due to how far away it is from the ramp. I figured the less pressure might aid in some larger fish calling it home.  On my first few drops I came up empty. No bites, no bumps, no nibbles no anything. I was a little discouraged because of the long paddle I made to get there.  As soon as I began to consider going back to my previous spot I felt a very subtle tick.  I set the hook hard and lifted a 14” Crappie into the Pro Angler.  

       My first fish at this spot was as big as the largest I had landed at the previous. Even though it was slow, I decided to fish on.  On my very next drop, luck was on my side. Again, I felt a VERY soft tick and set hard. I immediately knew this was a larger fish because of the weight. When I saw it come up I was shaking because it looked massive in comparison to the 14”ers I had been catching. After a few hard headshakes and some short dives I had her in the net.  She came in at 15.25” and 2.05lbs. I was amazed that that extra 1.25” added an entire ½ pound to the fish. After some quick photos I released her back to where she came. 

       After fishing for a couple more hours to burn through the last bit of bait I had left I realized that this was only my first real attempt at targeting a citation Crappie. It was nice for a plan to come together on the first trip without too many hiccups along the way for a change.  This Crappie was my 13th different Virginia citation species to date. The chase for these citations has become beyond addicting and I can’t wait to get after another one. Now it’s time to start getting a plan together for the next species on the list!

Tight Lines,

Grant Alvis

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Mixed Bag and a Beast Bowfin

A Mixed Bag and a Beast Bowfin

            With Thanksgiving and our annual family hunting trip coming up next week, I took advantage of this last weekend to try and bag a few more citations before the break.

I geared up to try and take down a few more White Perch or possibly another big Channel Cat but I quickly realized it would not be that simple. After scoping out some of the deeper creek channels it became pretty apparent that the lake was in the beginning stages of its “turning over” period. Lake “turn over” happens when the hot days of Summer transition into the cooler, shorter days of Fall.  This prompts the warmer surface layer of the water column, once heated by the Summer sun, to cool and sink, which in-turn pushes the bottom layer up towards the surface, lifting leaves and light debris to the surface with it. Once late Fall and Winter sets in, after the turn over, the deepest layer of the water column is also the warmest and most stable, far less effected by daily changes in temperature and weather pattern. This is why the vast majority of your fish will always be found deep this time of year.

It took a while but I eventually found a pocket of fish. I proceeded to land White Catfish as fast as I could reel them in and I even picked off a decent Channel Cat and a few straggler Perch.

The day was capped off by an absolute monster of a Bowfin that came as a welcomed surprise after the endless supply of White Cats.  Upon coming aboard, she quickly displayed her displeasure with the situation by obliterating my measuring board. Not before I got a measurement though! 31 inches long, 10 pounds 12 ounces, A Virginia trophy fish and my second trophy Bowfin of 2015!

It was a fun little trip before a week of family, food, and tradition. Time to relax a bit and recharge the batteries before we charge into the cold, bitterness of Winter fishing.

Fish Hard or Stay Home,


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall Feedbag- A 12th Trophy Captured

Fall Feedbag- A 12th Trophy Captured

            Every angler knows as blistering Summer days transition into frosty Fall mornings fishermen nationwide can look forward to more invigorated fishing. Water beings to cool rapidly, lakes begin “turning over” and all fish species use that as a trigger to begin their heavy feeding patterns in an effort to pack on extra weight for the cold Winter months that are only weeks away.  We took advantage of the cooling weather patterns over the past week for a few, very different fishing trips that all had one thing in common… they produced great fish.

            We started last Saturday by fishing in the Jackson Kayak River Bassin’ Tournament stop hosted by Appomattox River Company- Ashland, Va. The day was cool and windy, the first real touch of Fall that either of us had on the water up until that point. The fishing was on fire, we began culling fish early and often. Grant picked up the majority of his fish by banging a white spinnerbait off of stumps, landing him a second place finish with 45.50 inches. I found almost all of my fish in current breaks with wood, all on a wacky rigged Watermelonseed Senko worm. That combination earned me first place with 51.00 inches, Big Bass honors and it also helped Grant and I place first in the team division.

            The following Thursday, Grant ventured up to the mountains in hopes of finding some native Brook Trout that have been reinvigorated with the recent flows from heavy rains. The Brookies are gearing up for the spawn, that paired with the better flows had the fish feeding very well. Many of the Brookies captured broke the double digit mark, respectable for a Native Trout almost everywhere.

            Lastly, I set out this past Saturday in hopes of crossing off another new trophy species from my “hitlist”…. The White Perch. The day started out with me dishing out a little good “mojo” by stopping to help a turtle cross the road. After witnessing the influx of traffic on that particular stretch I certainly helped the little fella from becoming reptile roadkill.

After paddling around for a while I started passing over what I assumed were small schools of Perch. I baited up my three way rig with a large shiner and dropped it straight down. Confirmation was immediate with by far the largest White Perch I have ever hooked up with. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was the good mojo, or maybe it was the universe balancing itself out from all of the failed Perch attempts this Spring, but I was rewarded with my 12th species citation on my first drop of the day! The jumbo White Perch went 13.25” and 1lb 6oz. Virginia trophy requirements for the White Perch are 13 inches and/or 1lb 4 oz, meaning I bested the standards by both length and weight! I spent the rest of the day picking off average size fish but never managed to raise one as big as my first fish of the day. Sometimes that’s just how it goes, it is fishing after all… you never know what’s going to happen!

That’s another species down, many more to go. Damn this stuff is fun! Until next time…

Fish Hard or Stay Home,
Josh D.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Blue Ridge Bruisers- Slamming Summer Citations

Blue Ridge Bruisers- Slamming Summer Citations

            Grant and I loaded up the truck and hit the road early Friday morning with an optimistic plan, to knock out as many new species citations as possible. Grant needed a trophy Muskie, I needed a trophy Smallmouth Bass, and we were both in need of trophy trout. We had four days to try and accomplish our goals, starting with the trout.

            We had our feet in the water bright and early in a healthy trout stream known for boasting above average fish. It wasn’t long before we were hooking up with some seriously beefy Rainbows. Even in the heart of summer, the cold spring fed creeks keep these fish charged up, making them a formidable opponent. We both landed some good fish over a 12 hour period and roughly 8 miles hiked, but Grant managed to top off the day with the biggest fish either of us could have imagined. After spotting, stalking, and eventually coaxing it into striking, Grant landed a beast of a Rainbow Trout weighing in at a hefty 7 pounds and measuring 24 inches in length, a Virginia trophy.

            After we picked off a trout we then turned our attention to our favorite stretch of the New River. Abundant with both large Muskie and giant Smallies we felt pretty confident that we would both accomplish what we came to do. I focused on Smallmouth for most of the trip, picking off plenty of fish, just not any huge ones. We spotted and stalked many good upper echelon fish, unfortunetly, they all had lockjaw. None of our Smallies even came close to trophy qualifications; My biggest fish went just 17 inches on a black Booyah buzzbait. However, I did spend a decent amount of time targeting Muskie as well, it’s pretty hard not to… especially since I have a peaked interest in anything big with teeth.

 After breaking off a solid Muskie Grant managed to pick up where I left off. He bagged two Muskie using live Sunfish. Pike are a cold water species, therefore in the Summer when their environment heats up they generally become more lethargic and less apt to strike a very large bait. This is our reasoning for using Sunfish as opposed to the larger Suckers and Chubs we like to live-line in the cooler months. The smaller of the two fish went 38 inches in length, caught within our last hour of the trip. The largest, Grant’s newest trophy, went 43.25 inches in length, an impressive kayak caught fish for the heat of Summer.

It was a great fishing bender filled with big, aggressive fish. Though I didn’t find the big Smallie I was after, it was cool to see Grant finally land the big Muskie he’s been chasing the past few years. Any time you can bag fish of that caliber during the heat of Summer you have to walk away with a sense of accomplishment, even if I did act as the cameraman for most of the trip…. But I digress, ha! Time to sit back and plan our next move. Although the heat is still constant right now, there are still big fish to be caught, hopefully one of those will be the notorious Biggie Smalls. We shall see.

Until Next Time.

Fish Hard or Stay Home,

Josh D.