Friday, February 12, 2016

Ginnie Springs BOONDOGGLE!!

 The YakAngler dot com Presidents’ Day Boondoggle for February 2016 was in Ginnie Springs Outdoors along the Santa Fe River near High Springs, Florida. Ginnie Springs is one of the clearest springs in Florida. With water temperatures at 72 degrees (F) the springs are perfect for river tubing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba and cave diving, and kayaking. The facility of Ginnie Springs Outdoors is made up of seven freshwater springs that are nestled in over 200 acres of woods along the Santa Fe River. It should be noted that no fishing is allowed in the seven springs. The area does have a small boat ramp into the Santa Fe River for the campers or if you elect to camp along their shoreline to can launch right where you camp.

The Santa Fe River, at least the sections that we paddled flows very easy. We did not experience any fast water. Fishing the river will provide the opportunities to bream (redfish, shellcracker, bluegill, etc.), catfish (channel, white, and bullheads), largemouth bass, and Suwannee bass. My goal on this Boondoggle was to hook into my first Suwannee bass. To accomplish this I decided to attempt to fish from the 2016 Jackson SUPerFISHal.

We arrived to the campground about mid-day on Friday and setup camp. They we drove to the boat ramp to explore the river along the shore of the campground. Marian was paddling the Cruise 12, my fishing buddy and his wife were in the Big Tuna, and me on the SUPerFishal using the Orion 25 qt cooler as my seat. We paddled against the current with no problems fishing and paddling towards Ginnie Spring. Lewis managed to strike first by catching a nice bluegill just past Dogwood Spring.

I found that the Orion Cooler made an outstanding sit on the SUP. I did notice that my JKrate interfered with the opening of the cooler as they both are about the same height. So I made a note to correct this by getting the JKrate Low, which will be a lower profile when behind the Orion Cooler and should not interfere with opening the cooler to get snacks and drinks. As soon as I past Ginnie Spring I managed to hook up on a small jumping bass. I prayed that maybe I could cross the targeted Suwannee bass from my list. Once on the SUPerFishal and close examination revealed the fish was a small largemouth. At this time we decided to drift back to the boat ramp and see who all had arrived for the BOONDOGGLE!!!

Saturday we loaded the trucks and headed to an outfitting company called Santa Fe Canoe Outpost for a seven mile drift trip to Rum Island. The folks were really helpful in getting us to the river with our kayaks and then we followed a driver to Rum Island Park where there is a boat launch where our trucks were parked waiting for us. The outfitter provided maps and a time table for various land marks to provide us an idea of how close we were to the takeout point. The trip is estimated at 3 hours but we know that it was going to take a lot longer as some of us were fishing as we drifted.

I managed to find a nice largemouth bass shortly after we started. Unfortunately that was the only bass that I managed to hook into. Lewis managed several along the drift including his first Suwannee bass. My other fishing buddy from Charleston on his first Boondoggle managed a nice redbreast. Just over 5 hours we arrived to the takeout point.

That evening we joined about 30 other Boondogglers for a nice campfire that grow to a bonfire to keep us warm as the temperatures were dipping close to freezing. Some of the folks called it an early night as some would be tearing down camp the next morning to head home on Sunday. The morning was spent visiting with the folks heading home to say good bye till the next Boondoggle. 

For us die hearts there was some paddling and maybe some fishing yet to do. Any activities for Sunday would be short as those participating in the traditional Boondoggle Potluck will be preparing their donation for all to eat. There was a lot of great food but Jameson Redding’s red bowl was a hit with everyone. After the fire died down so did this Boondoggle. Now for those anglers waiting for the next Boondoggle in October we will be dreaming of chasing redfish, speckled trout, largemouth bass, and jack crevalles on our return to Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana. If you have not had the opportunity to BOONDOGGLE Cajun style hopefully we will see you chasing the fish of your dreams in Mandeville.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Lake Pontchartrain - October 2015 Boondoggle X

The tenth semi-annual Boondoggle is in the history books. I’m really glad that Marian and I have been part of this great event. I would like to thank the crew at Bayou Adventures for their Louisiana hospitality. Shannon and her crew bent over backwards to ensure that our experience in the St Tammany Parish will be unforgettable.

Thursday evening we decided to head to New Orleans only 26 miles or so across the estuary of Lake Pontchartrain. Marian asked at the Bayou Adventures about a great “locals only restaurant”. It was suggested that we go to the “Ye Olde College Inn”. We were told then to go next door at the “Rock 'n' Bowl” to experience some dancing to some Zydeco music. I will tell you that the food was great and the dance floor full. Later that evening we decided to go do the tourist thing a walk the French Quarter and have beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde.

Friday we decided to hit Lake Pontchartrain for some jack crevalles. We planned on using fly rods for these monsters. Marian planned on using her 8-weight with floating line and I with a 10-weight that had a sinking tip. The leader material is made of fluorocarbon 9 ft length rated at 15 lbs tippet. To prepare for this trip we tied some popper flies for targeting the jacks. Our experience resulting in casting at various bait balls in a water depth of 2 – 3 feet, occasionally we would spot a jack. Unfortunately Friday will not be our day to get a sleigh ride either in the Jackson Big Rig or the Cruise 12 from a jack crevalle. Friday evening I learned in the “Vendors Village” that the Louisiana HOW Chapter had an event on Saturday. Marian and I decided that we would provide some assistance.
Friday evening Shannon from Bayou Adventures introduced Mr Green. He has been fishing Lake Pontchartrain for years and shared his knowledge with the Boondogglers. He described what type of habitat to look for. This habitat had to have the abundant sea grass, which is still attempting to come back from Hurricane Katrina. Also look for the mullet or pogies and work these areas. Besides sharing about what habitat to look for he also shared his favorite lures and colors that he uses.  After the seminar, Mr Green spent time to visit with the folks sharing more information based on the questions that he received. 

The HOW event met at Bayou Cane with paddling and fishing from freshwater into brackish water and into Lake Pontchartrain; the participation of warriors was fantastic. Not everyone was yak fishing. There was a group that just went paddling to enjoy the nature of the bayou. Marian & I followed the fishing group. The fishing was really slow but I did manage to land a small largemouth bass. By the time we caught to the mouth of the bayou into the estuary the wind had some good gust. There were reds and speckled trout hitting the mullet. No one experienced any hook ups so we made our way back up Bayou Cane to the landing. After loading up the gear the local VFW in Lacombe provided lunch for the volunteers and warriors.

Saturday evening there were more seminars in the Vender’s Village. Seminars planned were related on Fly Fishing, using a GoPro, and others that I don’t recall. I did attend the GoPro seminar conducted by Jameson Redding and Robert Field. I found their tips to be suburb and plan on applying their suggestions to being my videos to the next level.  

Sunday a few of us decided to fish Bayou Lacombe down to Lake Pontchartrain for sea trout and redfish. Marian decided to launch a ramp not far from Bayou Adventures and paddle to Lake Pontchartrain. Pete, Wendell, and I will drive down to Lake Pontchartrain for some trout and redfish. Pete really wanted to cross off the redfish from his wish list and this will be the final day for the Boondoggle for most of the anglers. We launched and went on our search along with several other Boondogglers. I managed one trout and missed several others using the Vortex Shad.

While this Boondoggle had some distance for Marian & I in driving from South Carolina we did split the trip into two days. I need to point out that we had anglers from not only Louisiana, but also from Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri and other areas unknown to me. While the next Boondoggle X has not yet been announced the original Boondoggle format for February 2016 (12 – 15 February 2016) has been. The next Boondoggle will be in Florida at Ginnie Springs Outdoors ( We hope to see you at the next Boondoggle.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ol’ Pork Chop and Smallies of Conway Lake

Conway Lake is located east of the White Mountains in New Hampshire and is part of the Saco River watershed area. The lake is approximately 1,300 acres and the deepest section of the lake is 45 feet. Fish species include the chain pickerel, brown bullhead, landlocked salmon, largemouth bass, rainbow trout and smallmouth bass.

There is a public boat ramp located off Mill Street in Conway. Also there is a canoe/kayak launch at the south end of the lake. Access to this primitive launch is located along Potter Road. Parking for the primitive launch is off road and limited.

For me, Conway Lake is a wonderful fishery for smallmouth bass. The lake structure consist of stumps, fallen trees along the shoreline, weedy areas along deep water drop-offs, rocky shorelines, rocky points, and submerged rocky islands. These structures make ideal areas to target for the bass and pickerel. For my two weeks on Conway Lake I will be using a Rat-L-Trap lures for targeting bass.

Water temperature according to the Raymarine Dragonfly ranged from 77 – 79 degrees. Water clarity in my opinion water was clearer then on previous trips. Although this is my opinion but talking to some of the local residents and their observations were the same. In fact one day, I managed to observe a loon chasing after my lure under water. Another observation was a large snapping turtle waiting to ambush some type of prey. Whenever I stop a snapping turtle on Conway Lake I think about the legend of Ol’ Pork Chop. 

According to the year-round residents around Conway Lake there is a very old and large snappy turtle named “Pork Chop”. The turtle received its namesake because a summer resident claims to have fed the turtle pork chops each year. Stories of Ol’ Pork Chop are used successfully to coax children out of the water. However there are no known snapping turtle attacks reported on people. At the north end of the lake resides a snapping turtle called “Scar” due to a prominent laceration across his face. Scar does not like pork chops but prefers to favor leftover pizza crust.

Smallmouth fishing on Conway started out a little slow but started to pick up about half way through the first week.  During this time period I worked water depths in the range of 3 – 6 feet using the Rat-L-Trap lure getting some hook ups on several small size smallmouth bass. I did manage to get a nice largemouth bass as well.

Using the same lure I decided to try some deeper water in the range of 6 – 12 feet of water just a little further away from the rocky points and sunken rock islands. In these areas I managed to locate some bigger smallies but the schools also appeared to consist of bass around 12 inches. Moving to the deeper water I did manage a few bass in the range of 15 – 18 inches.

If you are in or visit Conway, New Hampshire I would highly suggest that you check out Conway Lake for smallmouth bass. This lake is getting to be known as a trophy lake for bass in the New Hampshire area. While on the water watch out for Ol’ Pork Chop and Scar; they just might give up their favorite food choice for that stringer of fish that you have on your stringer.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Going Back in Time

For the month of August I decided to go back in time. Not really but I decided to concentrate on my childhood of learning to fish from my father. As with most anglers I’m sure that your dad and/or mom took you out fishing for the first time for sunfish or bream. These feisty panfish can be great fighters for their size. When you manage to locate a school of sunfish they will inhale the bait that is being presented. This feeding frenzy makes this species ideal for kids to learn fishing techniques like tying the Improved Clinch Knot to attach a hook to your fishing line, baiting the hook with either worm or cricket, casting the rod usually if would be that famous Zebco 404 or maybe just a cane pole, and then landing that monster bluegill.

While I’m no longer using that Zebco 404 reel; I do use an ultra-light 6 ft Shimano Convergence spinning rod with a Shimano Sahara 1000 size spinning reel spooled with 10 lb Power Pro. The 10 lb Power Pro will have a diameter similar to 4 lb monofilament but stronger. I will add a length of 10 lb fluorocarbon leader tied to the braid using an Albright knot. I will either use this setup with beetlespins or maybe a baited hook, small float, and a BB size split shot for weight.

Another setup for fishing for sunfish or bream is the Bream Buster. These are nothing more than the modern day version of the cane pole except that they are telescoping. I will attach a 10 lb monofilament line just a foot or two longer then the pole with a number 8 or 10 size long shank aberdeen or panfish hook, a BB size split shot and a small float. I would suggest that you tie the end of the line to the Bream Buster by threading the line through the eye at tip of the pole and using the Improved Clinch Knot to tighten the line around the shaft of the tip. If you would attach the line directly to the eye there is the risk that a large fish will pull that eye off of the tip and your trophy will be gone.

These bony fish live in ponds, lakes and streams across North America. They normally average about 8 inches but some species like the shellcracker (redear sunfish) are the largest averaging nearly 10 inches. I targeted these species on the Quimby Creek launching from the Ralph Hamer Sr. Landing on Cainhoy Road. Quimby Creek meanders through marsh land and old rice fields for about a mile and a quarter before emptying into the East Branch Cooper River at its confluence with Huger Creek. You will see remnants of the old rice field dikes on the left bank as you approach the river. This is considered a blackwater tidal creek. On this trip I was fishing with my buddies Chris Davis and Greg Bartle targeting bream in this tidal creek. While we did not find any big sunfish we did manage to find a few around the 8 inch length but mainly they were averaging about 6 inches. We also caught a couple small largemouth bass and some pickerel as well. I think I finished this day with about 20 bream that were caught and released.

The next type of body of water is a lake/reservoir. In this situation we decided to try fishing Goose Creek Reservoir. On this trip I decided to try the Bream Buster instead of the ultra light setup. Fishing for sunfish on the reservoir proved more difficult in locating the schools of panfish. I managed to locate a couple at 8 inches and a lot at 3 or 4 inches. At one point I had a great float reaction and set the hook. The Bream Buster buckled right over. I had something that was bigger than a sunfish. I managed to get the unknown monster close to the Jackson Big Rig and noticed that I had a huge grass carp. He took another run and managed to straighten the small number 8 panfish hook.  Tying on another aberdeen hook and hooking up another cricket I sat there and waiting. No bites. I would lift and cast the bait back in the general area about 10 feet from the Big Rig. Again the float went down. I performed a hook site and again the Bream Buster was being tasked into some heavy fighting. This time I started hand hauling the line in. I managed to get another huge grass carp next the kayak. Opened up the fish grippers but the crap made another run and the monofilament cut into the hand and the line broke. At this time I decided I was going to call it quits and head back. I was way too exhausted to battle these monsters again.

I did manage to keep a few sunfish in the Orion 25 Cooler for dinner. The fish were not big enough to fillet so I decided to scale them, cuts the heads off, and gut them. Marian and I lightly breaded the fish and fried them in an iron skillet. We oven roasted some baby potatoes, and streamed some broccoli. This resulted in a super meal.

So when you decide that you are tired of chasing the same fish day in and day out give the bream or sunfish a try. I promise you that your childhood will surface and you will once again relive those memories.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mississippi River Smallmouth Bass Fishing

It has been a couple of years since Marian and I had visited my family back in Northern Minnesota so for the 4th of July weekend we decided to make it a long weekend. Prior to flying out of Charleston, SC I contacted my Jackson Kayak Fishing Team members about a locating some Jackson Kayaks for taking my brother kayak fishing. Aaron Stiger suggested that I contacted CW Outfitting in Clearwater, Minnesota.

Calling CW Outfitting, I talked to Theresa who took my information about the requirements for this experience. By the end of the day Dan Meers the owner of the shop sent me an email so we swapped emails about my plans for the fishing trip. I explained to Dan that I was planning on doing a story about the experience for Jackson Kayaks and maybe even a short video as well. This trip I planned on also to introduce my brother, Bruce to kayak fishing.

CW Outfitting is located along the Mississippi River in central Minnesota. They say location is the key for a great company and CW Outfitting has the location. This location provides customers that are looking for a kayak to purchase the opportunity to demo that day. Also this section of the Mississippi River is rated in the top 10 in the country for smallmouth bass river fishing by some national magazines. The shop not only sells kayaks and accessories but also sells fishing equipment.  Also this section of the Mississippi is very canoe, kayak, & SUP friendly as the water depth is too shallow for motor boats.

I decided that we would fish an eight mile stretch of the river that starts at CW Outfitting and ends at Snuffies Landing. Along the paddle we will be targeting the famous Mississippi smallmouth bass but there will be the opportunity to land a walleye, pike, and catfish or maybe enjoy a battle with a monster muskie. To reach out for a line puller I will be borrowing one of my niece’s ugly combo rod & reels. I did get some ¼ oz jig heads that have black heads with painted white eyes and red pupils from Walmart. I did bring two packages of curlitail grubs; one package of 4” Got-Cha plastics in smoke/silver flakes and the other package of Gary Yamamoto of 5” super grubs in green pumpkin/black flake. Marian also will be borrowing a ugly stick combo with the same jig and plastics. 

My brother, Bruce is a different story; he attempted to use the same setup that Marian & I planned to use but part way through the fishing trip he decided to change over to a bottom bouncer starting out using crawlers and leeches. This way he could enjoy the drift and bouncing the bait along bottom as we headed to Snuffies Landing. Bruce then challenged me to see if I could out fish him with the plastics vs. him using live bait. Since the three of us are not familiar with this section of the Mississippi River I accepted his challenge.

I started working the shoreline but concentrating on downed trees and brush piles. After a few cast I managed to land a smallmouth bass. The first strike was made. Bruce paddled the Coosa HD to check the fish out. Then he decided to fish ahead of me. I managed another smallmouth, and then a third one that was a nice smallmouth and the smallies started getting bigger in size. The last fish that I caught that day was a nice pickerel. When I managed to catch up to Bruce he was in battle with a fish. He landed a nice smallmouth bass.

When the three of us managed to get close to a series of islands marking the end of the fishing trip so I called CW Outfitting to let them know we were approaching Snuffies Landing. Once at the landing, Bruce reported that he had three smallmouth bass landed. I told him that I managed four smallmouth and a pickerel in the Coosa . Marian had a great time in the Kilroy. So on this trip artificial baits 4 and live baits 3. The score is really not that important. The most important part of this trip was to share the kayak fishing experience with my brother. 

This experience would not have been possible without CW Outfitting for providing the Jackson Coosa, Coosa HD, and the Kilroy. Their location being along the Mississippi River in Clearwater also is the big part of this experience. Lastly the service of picking up the paddlers from their destination and bringing them back to their vehicles at the store completes one of the packages that they offer. If you plan on a trip to Clearwater, Minnesota I would suggest that you book your Mississippi River fishing and paddling through CW Outfitting. What a great way to check out that Jackson Kayak you are considering to purchase.