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.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tracking Down Trophy Channel Cats

Tracking Down Trophy Channel Cats

       After catching the last few species to qualify me for Class II Master Angler back in June, it really lit a fire under me to work towards becoming a Class III MA. I decided it was time to knock out the last major catfish species in Virginia, the Channel Catfish. I’ve caught my fair share of big Flatheads and Blue Catfish, however, up until this point, a large Channel was something I had never experienced.

       To find a big Channel in Virginia it is necessary to target them in an impoundment that is void of other major catfish species. The sheer numbers and overall size of Blues and Flatties tend to stunt the growth of the smaller Channels, thus making it almost impossible to find them amongst the other catfish species.

       Once I had my body of water picked out I implemented a fairly simple game plan for locating the Channels. This time of year, the heat of the Summer tends to drive these fish to the deepest and darkest parts of the lake that they can migrate to; making them very predictable in that aspect. The edges of old creek channels became ground zero for all fishy operations. Even though locating the fish came easy, Channel Cats are very nocturnal in the Summer months, which made it difficult to actually get the fish to bite once they had been located during daylight hours. Much of the time I had to rely on the low light conditions of sunrise and sunset to finally get contact with the fish. My approach with gear and tactics were equally vanilla. No fancy rigs or special techniques were needed, really. I simply threw out a four rod spread on or very near the creek channel edge, making a point to vary the depth of each of the rods. On the bottom I placed a simple Carolina rig with a 4/0 circle hook, nose-hooked through a hand sized bream. I learned quickly that bait size was of the utmost importance. Too small and it will go unnoticed, too big and a Channel runs the risk of not getting hooked due to their smaller sized mouths. Anything around 5-6” or “hand size” is generally the way to go.

      I came close a hand full of times in both length and weight standards but all in all it took me a little over a month’s worth of weekends to finally land a trophy class fish. It wasn’t the hardest species I’ve went after by any means and it didn’t necessarily take a lot of special skill. Just a lot of knocking on doors waiting for someone to answer, knowing sooner or later big mama would be home. That being said, these fish aren’t to be taken for granted. They are nothing short of bulldogs when hooked and contrary to popular belief, when you land a big mean Channel they are simply unmistakable. Many guys seem to confuse them with juvenile Blue Catfish from time to time, but I can assure you, they are a horse of a different color when it comes to attitude and fighting ability.

(Virginia Trophy Channel Catfish- 31 inches / 13 pounds 14 ounces)

       In closing, Channel Cats are awesome species and I highly recommend them. Go Catch one, but try and practice catch and release. Certainly with the ever growing range of Blue Catfish these Channels will undoubtedly become threatened in their own home lakes. They’ll need all the population numbers and good genetics they can muster to stay as established as they are right now.

Now, on to a new adventure!

Fish Hard or Stay Home,
Josh D,