Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Preliminary Review of a Nameless Bag

OK ,  here's the story :

I have a wonderful sister. We're close , talk a few times a week and get together when we can to hang out. One of the cool things about that is ; she knows I like to fish and has fished with me several times. That adds up to cool presents on birthdays and holidays. I'd love her either way , but she got me an awesome new fishing toy this year that I want to show everyone here on the blog.

It doesn't have any fancy embroidered logo , so I'm not sure where it came from. I think it will work great on the beach or pier. It holds 5 rods , which in practice would work out to 3 rods for me. A 2 piece 7' MH rod for lures , an 8' MH for light bottom fishing and  a 9' H for big fish.

It reminds me of a small golf bag and that's actually a pretty good thing. When carrying it the weight is on the bottom , making it easier to carry like a backpack.The rods go on the outside and there is a great deal of storage inside. It works great for bigger saltwater or lake fishing rods. Smaller rods used for trout and panfish , and 1 piece rods in general , would be awkward because of length and flexibility issues. I can see softer light and ultralight rods bending and making a mess or breaking when you shoulder the bag. Longer rods would be tougher to transport and carry. My guess is 10 12 ' two piece rods are about the maximum , with 12 being on the outside of the comfortable range. It feels nice with an 8 & 9 on the outside and a 6 1/2' inside.

Yes , I did say that I had a 6 1/2' rod inside of this bag. Also packing 2 rigging/lure boxes and a few spools of leader. I attached a pair of pliers/cutters to the bag on a D-hook with a clip and I'm good to go. On a pier I'd probably take a hoop net or a rope gaff , but I can get most of what I need in there and it's still pretty light.

Overall , I think it's a pretty neat setup for fishing light at the beach. Lots of guys have big carts and tons of equipment , but I think this might be a way to get by with less. It would be cheaper and easier than pulling a cart , but would still allow you to be flexible in different situations.

My main complaint is the lack of a cooler full of beer....

Thanks sis , for the awesome presents and for always listening to my fish stories! Love Ya!

Have a great week!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Simple Things

I hope everyone has enjoyed the holiday season! This time of year always reminds me of humble beings that have evolved to appreciate the simple things in life. Bacon , ham , a kind word or a little scratching behind the ears are always enough to snag a smile or a satisfied groan out of our trusted companions. I hope you remembered your four legged friends over the holidays. My trusty lab mix is hanging out in the man cave tonight , as my way of saying thanks for going fishing with me and being there when I need a little unconditional love. The brazen hussy also had a nice big chunk of venison tonight.

That's almost as good as fishing....

Have a great week!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Intimidating Nature of Saltwater Fishing

Just popping in for a second to direct you to a guest post of mine over at The Functioning Fishaholics. I had a great conversation with Func on G+ a few weeks back about breaking into the saltwater scene and this post is an extension of that. You can find it here : The Intimidating Nature of Saltwater Fishing.

There's also a great follow up to my post over at Fly & Gin , which is an excellent addition to the subject at hand. Find it here : On Salt.

On another matter , I'll be taking a break from blogging over the next several weeks as I celebrate the holidays with family. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A True Story About the Collapse of a Fishery and It's Recovery : Part 4

*Disclaimer* What follows is my own personal experience in a sad situation. I have talked to local biologists about this , but I may not get all the facts absolutely correct. I hope my personal experiences shed light on the severity of a fish kill that hit very close to home for me and serve as a cautionary tale to those who don't follow rules intended to protect our waters from invasive species. Several factors could align and almost any body of water could experience something very similar or even worse.

You may want to read Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3 first.

Part 4 : The Road to Recovery

As I write this  , it's almost mid December of 2011. Nearly a full decade has passed since the tragedy that left Smith Mountain Lake without a strong population of it's claim to fame , the Striped Bass. Regular readers will recall that I had several decent catches this year , just a month or two back. My son even got in on the action , something I had my doubts about when he was first born just a few years ago. I won't go so far as to say the fishery has recovered , but I will venture that up to this point VDGIF has done a good job at trying to restore a fishery to it's former greatness. It's been a tough journey , this road to recovery , but it's better than I ever expected. We've had to adapt to new regulations that have changed several times , but I don't feel like I'm wasting my time when I teach my son how to target these fish.

After the fish kill , biologists went into overdrive gathering data. They wanted catch reports. They wanted otolith bones. Gill net data and electroshock studies soon assessed the fishery. As did fish journals and anecdotal reports from anglers. The young fish had survived! We did lose multiple generations of fish to the parasites and starvation , but the bread and butter of fisheries management , 3-4 year old fish who have potential to turn into "quality" fish , had survived. Under the circumstances , it was the best news possible. Many of us had assumed that they were all gone.

The majority of fish 24 inches and smaller survived. A certain percentage of bigger fish survived , but not in any quantity. I would estimate our "average" sized catch , at 6-10 pounds survived at a 50/50 rate , with the most heavily infested fish dying. Anything bigger was effectively gone.

Right away , VDGIF ramped up stocking efforts and implemented a slot limit that goes into effect in the Fall and lasts through late Spring. The slot protects fish 26-36 inches during the time they are most likely to survive when released. The slot is removed during the Summer when mortality is very high for released Stripers and VDGIF encourages anglers to quit fishing after catching their 2 fish limit. Many anglers , including myself , don't fish for Stripers in the Summer now to give the fish a chance to recover.

The numbers of fingerlings stocked almost doubled , going from 250,000 in 2003 to 450,000 in 2004. It's been adjusted yearly to account for survival rates , but most years have seen a minimum of somewhere around 300,000 fingerlings stocked. The late 90's and early 2000's produced a survival rate averaged at 53% and in 2004 this jumped to 62% , possibly due to a decrease in predation.

It's an uphill battle for sure. The number of citations turned in each year has steadily increased from a low of 7 in 2004. I heard a report this year of a 37 pound fish caught on the Blackwater side of the lake. So it is possible for a fishery to recover from near devastation , but it takes time.

Smith Mountain Lake is my home water. It is not perfect , but the amount of life it is capable of supporting and VDGIF's commitment to manage it for trophy Stripers has given me something I lost during the fish kill - hope for the future.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A True Story About the Collapse of a Fishery and It's Recovery : Part 3

*Disclaimer* What follows is my own personal experience in a sad situation. I have talked to local biologists about this , but I may not get all the facts absolutely correct. I hope my personal experiences shed light on the severity of a fish kill that hit very close to home for me and serve as a cautionary tale to those who don't follow rules intended to protect our waters from invasive species. Several factors could align and almost any body of water could experience something very similar or even worse.

You may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Part Three : " Dead fish everywhere..."

Dead fish everywhere. That's what a friend told me in the Spring of 2003. We had seen the parasites. We knew there had been a winter kill of shad. We did not know the extent of the damage.

At the time it was unthinkable. The Striper fishery had been very good to us over the years. It was reliable and predictable , but also something we had taken for granted. Over a two month period during the Spring of 2003 almost all of the fish over 24 inches died. Parasitic copepods infested the big fish in astounding numbers , making it hard for them to eat. Coupled with a shad kill that made food increasingly hard for the fish to find , this brought about a massive kill that reduced the fishery to a shadow of it's former self.

Near the dam , there were ACRES of dead fish. Not one or two , but thousands of dead or dying fish. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen. The smell was horrific. A rumor at the time claimed that the mass of fish had clogged the turbines at the dam , which was believable due to the number of dead fish. Forty pound fish could be seen floating , some looked to have been close to 50 before their untimely demise after months of malnutrition. Most of us were surprised by the number of big fish. We knew the fishing had been good , but were surprised by the potential that had been there. This only served to stoke the fires of our misery and anger.

Fingers were pointed , tempers flared. A lot people blamed it on various companies upstream that had possibly done some illegal dumping of one chemical or another. I think that would have been easier for some of us to accept than the sad truth. Our fish had been killed by a perfect storm of natural occurrences. Compounding our sense of helplessness was the fact that nothing could have been done to prevent this tragedy and there was no one to blame.

The big schools of trophy Striped Bass in Smith Mountain Lake had been reduced to a mass of putrid flotsam. I was heartbroken. I thought of selling my boat. I thought about taking up bass fishing. I even contemplated giving up fishing altogether. My favorite species , in my own backyard , was gone.

As Spring turned to Summer local anglers became increasingly distraught. Many quit fishing or targeted other species , believing that the Stripers were gone for good. As I thought about what I wanted to do , a sliver of hope appeared. Most of the small fish and a handful of bigger ones had survived the massacre. Was it possible? Should we try? Could we rebuild the fishery after such a huge setback?

Come back tomorrow for Part 4 to find out!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A True Story About the Collapse of a Fishery and It's Recovery : Part 2

*Disclaimer* What follows is my own personal experience in a sad situation. I have talked to local biologists about this , but I may not get all the facts absolutely correct. I hope my personal experiences shed light on the severity of a fish kill that hit very close to home for me and serve as a cautionary tale to those who don't follow rules intended to protect our waters from invasive species. Several factors could align and almost any body of water could experience something very similar or even worse.

You may want to read Part One first.

Part Two : A Two Headed Monster

Courtesy of arkansasstripers.com
The Fall of 2002 began like any other year here on Smith Mountain Lake. We fished. We caught fish , but as the month of October wore on , we began to notice something wasn't right. Some fish had sores in their mouths. Others had worms. Or more precisely , parasitic copepod ( Actheres ) infestations.

How they ended up in Smith Mountain Lake is and will remain a mystery. One theory holds that they occur naturally in the water and only started to attack Stripers as the fish became stressed. Another tells a different tale that begins with the parasites being introduced on the upper end of the Roanoke River arm of the lake and spreading throughout the system from there. I won't go into my opinions on the matter. For my purpose here we just need to know that the copepods are here to stay.

Like any parasite , copepods are opportunistic. They will attach themselves onto just about any species of fish without hesitation. Generally they are found in the fish's mouth and gills. A study done in Europe indicated that a heavily infested fish had , on average , 7 copepods in its mouth/gills. I wish our fish had been "heavily infested". One fish taken from the lake in late 2002 had up to 400 copepods in its mouth!

Why so many? Several factors worked in unison to allow the Striped Bass population to become so heavily infested with copepods. While Stripers are a hardy fish that thrives in both salt and freshwater , forcing them to live in freshwater takes it's toll. They are far more susceptible to stress from warmer water temperatures than their saltwater brethren. This certainly played a roll in the infestation , because the summer of 2002 was hot and dry across much of the nation , including Virginia. Little rain combined with intense heat allowed SML to warm rapidly and stay that way , increasing the likelihood of stress in the Striped Bass population.

Another factor to consider is that our SML Stripers apparently had little or no natural defense against the parasites. Many parasitic infestations are self limiting in that their life spans and the host's immune system combine to keep an infestation from getting out of hand. It's counterproductive to kill the host. Because our fish lacked the ability to ward off the copepods , whether through natural immunity or stress , the problem quickly got out of hand.

Complicating things further , the harsh winter of 2002/03 caused a winter kill of shad. Being unable to find enough food weakened and stressed the Stripers to a point that allowed the copepods free reign. Actheres and a wicked combination of weather related problems would cripple the trophy Striped Bass fishery at Smith Mountain Lake in just a few short months.....

Check back tomorrow for Part 3 !

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A True Story About the Collapse of a Fishery and It's Recovery : Part 1

*Disclaimer* What follows is my own personal experience in a sad situation. I have talked to local biologists about this , but I may not get all the facts absolutely correct. I hope my personal experiences shed light on the severity of a fish kill that hit very close to home for me and serve as a cautionary tale to those who don't follow rules intended to protect our waters from invasive species. Several factors could align and almost any body of water could experience something very similar or even worse.

Part One : The Golden Years and The Beginning of the End

Smith Mountain Lake , one of the most beautiful lakes in Virginia. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains the 20,000 + acre hydroelectric project has approximately 500 miles of shoreline dotted with beautiful flora and million dollar homes. The dam was completed in 1963 , forming the upper reservoir of a pumped storage hydro project operated by American Electric Power. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries manages the fisheries and makes recommendations to AEP and counties bordering the lake based on their findings.

The lake is home to a wide variety of game fish , including Striped Bass , Largemouth Bass , Smallmouth Bass ,  Crappie , Catfish and several other species not listed. The deep waters are also home to big populations of forage species like Gizzard Shad and Alewives. Threadfin Shad are occasionally caught , but are deemed undesirable by VADGIF and many anglers.

Stocking of Striped Bass began shortly after the lake was formed and continues today because of limited spawning success in the lake. These fish contribute a great deal to the local economy and earned Smith Mountain Lake a reputation for big fish. During the 80's and 90's catches of 10-15 pound fish were common and you had a very real chance of catching a 30-40 pound trophy every trip. It was without a doubt one of the best Striped Bass fisheries in the nation. Large schools could be found breaking almost anywhere on the lake and the fish could be taken using a wide variety of baits , both real and artificial. Smith Mountain Lake and it's sister in the pumped storage hydro project , Leesville Lake , both produced state records for freshwater Striped Bass in the late 90's. Leesville still holds the record due (in my opinion) to a series of tragic events that brought about the decimation of the fishery in Smith Mountain Lake.

It was too good to last. Once a fishery has reached it's potential there is a precarious balance of fish to forage that must be maintained or the consequences can be dire. The story of Smith Mountain Lake in the past decade is a testament to the importance of good populations of forage species in any fishery.
A SML Gizzard Shad (Photo and hand courtesy of Jody White)
One of the main contributing factors to the collapse of the Striper fishery on SML was a winter kill of Gizzard Shad that happened during the 2002-03 winter. Populations were reduced by a minimum of 60% for an extended period and this was a big setback. The full effect on the fishery wouldn't be understood until several months later , when fish began to die.....

Look for Part Two tomorrow!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Big thanks to the OBN (again!)

I'd like to take a second to plug my pals over at the Outdoor Blogger Network (again!) Rebecca and Joe do a lot of great things for semi-bloggers like myself. I was honestly thinking about a hiatus from the blog , but they've brought me out of my funk and a sea of waist-high , aspiring young basketball players by featuring my blog this week on the OBN.

I'm very grateful for all that the OBN does , and even more so for being featured. I'd normally be talking fishing (again!) , but lately I'm busy. I don't want to cheapen the honor of being a " Featured Blogger of the Week " , so let me express my gratitude by passing the honor on.

I try to feature a few of my favorite blogs on lazy Sundays , but I've even been slacking on that. In lieu of a Sunday Shout Out , let's do a Monday Mention to highlight a few good blogs in the spirit of the OBN .

First up is a blog I really like.that features fly patterns on the cheap. I do not fly fish  , but if I did....

Trash Flies

Next is a blog I may or may not be a member of. My name is Josh and I have a problem...

The Functioning Fishaholics

Go check those out if my blog is slow (again!). I'll hopefully have a post over @funcfish soon.

Have a great week! (again!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'll be away from blogging the rest of the week as I stuff myself with obscene amounts of turkey. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday with friends and family while remembering what we have to be thankful for.

Personally , I'm thankful that my fishing buddy is finally coming into his own as young angler!

And I'm also thankful that my family is healthy and happy , but fish like that are hard to beat...

Happy Turkey Day!

Monday, November 14, 2011

An Update on the SML Stripers

We've still been catching scattered fish during the day here on the lake. Most recently this past Friday with Jody White of the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team (again)! I was very glad to have Jody back since our last outing was laughable. It was nice to have a chance at redemption , and although we didn't catch the big fish we were after , we did get two fish for my collegiate friend. Always a pleasure fishing with this fine young man , even if he can eat his weight in crackers when the fishing is slow!

That's a start!
Even better!
Jody may or may not have pictures on his blog at a later time of a rather rotund blogger throwing a casting net. Cool set of pictures , either way.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Striper Fishing SML , Fall 2011

Short compilation video of my last weekend on the water. I don't think I'll ever get the hang of netting fish and using the GoPro. Or keeping drops of water off of the lense. The renegade drops of water ruined several good fights.

Have a great weekend! I'll be trying for a repeat.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Importance of Bovine Mysticism for the Modern Angler

Think it's a good day to go fishing? These psychic cows say otherwise.
Driving home this morning I was reminded of one of my all time favorite fishing superstitions. Or old wives' tales. Or fishing voodoo, Whatever you call it. My particular favorite goes something like this : " If the cows are laying down , it's not a good day to fish." and the reverse " If the cows are standing up eating , the fish will be biting."

I can't fathom how this one got started. I imagine an ancient fisherman having a horrible day on the water while a nearby herd of reclining cattle stare him down with the universal " I told you so " smirk gracing their beefy faces. I'm sure there were times when this superstition proved true , just as there are times that it is obviously false. The part that fascinates me is the oral tradition. Little bits of perceived wisdom , passed down by word of mouth.

Most fishermen and women will take any help they can get , even reverting to odd traditions and the occasional bit of folk lore to further the cause. Bananas on a boat? Not on my watch. Eat the heart of a tuna? You betcha. Bite the head off of a mackerel? Sure , why not?

While some are strange , there are many more that have an obvious factual origin. One that I recently heard from a friend (who heard it from an elderly fisherman) , is that " The big catfish on the New River will be biting when the apple trees start to bud. " There is a wealth of information in that simple  statement. The apple trees , like the fish , don't conform to any set date on the calendar , but they do respond to the warmth that comes with the onset of Spring.

I enjoy being a curator of tidbits of fishing wisdom , true , false or just plain silly. I think it enriches the sport and reinforces the bond I have with the centuries of fishermen who came before me. Sharing these anecdotal fishing mantras adds a mythical element to fishing , something those who only use a modern scientific approach are missing. Therein lies the importance of Bovine Mysticism. Keeping oral traditions alive adds to the experience and I am always delighted when one of them proves true , if only for a day.

If things go wrong , you can always blame the cows.

Have a great weekend! Share your own fishing or hunting superstitions in the comments below.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to Disable a Boat in 30 Seconds or Less

I have horrible luck. Mainly I have horrible luck at the worst possible time , but then sometimes the sun shines on me and I have a stroke of good luck that makes up for it all.

First , the horrible luck. I was out last Friday with fellow blogger and excellent fisherman Jody White. Jody is the current president of the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team , so needless to say I was stoked to have him on the boat. We went out right in the middle of a cold front , caught bait and soon enough I had a fish in the boat.

A small one , but a fish just the same.
It would be the only catch of the species we were after on that fateful day. We did manage 2 White Bass , but that's not what we wanted. The cold front was steadily driving the fish deeper , so after a short discussion we decided to move further downstream to a spot I know that should have been holding fish.  I also wanted to show Jody a few hotspots for bass. It never happened.

I started my cold natured boat , let her warm up and eased her into gear. As we got underway , I pushed the throttle forward intent on speeding up. As I neared the end of the arc on the shift lever/throttle control , I was sickened to hear a crunching , grinding sound as all tension on the lever went slack. My boat was dead in the water. Wouldn't go into gear , wouldn't idle. I was sure I was looking at a major problem and a 2 hour drive to secure the necessary parts. Jody took it like a champ , only saying " Sounds like a trolling motor issue " as we contemplated what to do.

We ended up trolling back up to the launch with the electric motor , thankful for a strong battery and trying to fish as we headed back. No takers , but all things considered we were lucky it only took us an hour and a half to get back. It could have been far worse , especially if we had made it to the spot we were headed for. Boat problems suck.

Now for the good luck. As I mentioned above I was not looking forward to a 2 hour drive ( 1 hour each way ) to secure the parts  I needed to repair the boat. I started taking the control box apart and , much to my surprise , the guilty party that had left my 2000 pound boat stranded on the water was this little guy :

A 1/4 inch Machine Screw
Good luck at last! I had the EXACT SAME SCREW here at the house and had the whole works back together and working smoothly in about 15 minutes. It amazes me that such a small screw could cause so much trouble. It held the fast idle lever onto the main bushing that the throttle used as a leverage point to rev the motor up. So I guess if it breaks you're "screwed"?

Unfortunately for Jody , he had to sit out the next two days while I headed back out and did THIS  , followed by THIS. We'll get you on the fish next time!

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm Speechless

Words cannot express how proud I am. My son beat his personal best today , and I got to watch and help him out. I think my title of " Best Fisherman in the House " is in serious jeopardy and I couldn't be happier!

First fish of the day
Biggest fish of the day!

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Smith Mountain Lake Stripers

Just a teaser for now , but the fish are up and biting! It was a tough day Friday - boat problems , cold front , rain and sleet , but after a minor repair we were back on the water today catching fish.

A little windy.
A small schoolie.
Nice one for my buddy Larry!
Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pliers I've Loved and Lost

Oh , Miss Klein , how I miss those sun kissed days of bliss we spent at the waters edge. After I liberated you from my tool box ,  you were by my side more often than not. I always admired your simple beauty and effectiveness. I cared for you when you were stiff from being overworked and oiled you regularly with great care. Then you left me. I don't know what that bluefish can offer you that I can't , but I wish you two the best. It was very upsetting to watch you leap into the water at the end of the pier after him when you realized I was throwing him back , but it has renewed my belief in love at first sight.
Madame Berkley , you are a cheating whore. I am appalled that you would run off with another man so soon after we first met. He will never be the caliber of fisherman that I am. I have more character and dignity in my little finger than someone who would run off with another man's pliers ever will. He should have turned you in at the pier house , but in hindsight maybe you two were made for each other. I never could bring myself to trust you after you cut my main line instead of the tag end anyway.

Mustad , my newest love , I have big plans for us. I can show you so many wonderful places and introduce you to many interesting fish. I really hope you don't fall victim to the call of the sea or run off with someone else , as I am growing quite fond of you. Maybe this means I'm pli-sexual?

Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy Birthday to the Outdoor Blogger Network!

Big celebration going on over at the Outdoor Blogger Network as Joe and Rebecca celebrate the first birthday of the OBN!

In case you haven't seen me mention the OBN here on the blog before , it's a great site with a directory filled with outdoor blogs. Hunting , fishing , hiking or just whatever flavor you like. Most of my favorite blogs are members over there and I am too. It's a great community of like minded guys and gals.

Joe and Rebecca have also done a great deal over the last year to help bloggers out. They keep us busy with writing prompts , gear reviews and a host of other things to get us over the occasional bout of writer's block. They also do a great job of helping tech challenged bloggers like myself stay up to date on the latest innovations available to those who write blogs.

Thanks so much for all you two do for us! Happy Birthday OBN!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Give a Man a Fish...

And he'll most likely do something to make his doctor cringe. Sorry Doc.

A good friend of mine was kind enough to bring me a nice little Striped Bass he caught the other day. I'm not proud of stooping to the level of accepting "Charity Fish" , but I haven't been for a while and my buddy doesn't eat Stripers. I LOVE Stripers , but only if they are prepared correctly , and by prepared correctly I mean deep fried into greasy goodness.

I'll spare you the pics of bloody hands and fish being filleted , but I'm going to share my Striper recipe. First you'll need to fillet the fish , remove the skin and cut out the "Red" meat along the fish's lateral line. Next cut the fish into chunks - maybe 1 inch wide by 2 inches long or so. I like to soak mine in a mixture of salt water and lemon juice over night. No exact measurement , but probably around 2 or 3 tablespoons of salt , enough water to cover the fish and a few good splashes of lemon juice. This removes blood from the meat and the strong fish taste that some people don't like. **Very Important** Rinse it well , let's say 2 or 3 water changes , before cooking or it will be way too salty! You should have something that looks like this when you are done :
Next you'll need enough beer batter to coat your fish. Again , this isn't an exact science , just the way I throw things together in the kitchen. All measurements are approximate.

* 2 cups self rising flour (or all purpose flour with baking soda & powder)
* 1 egg
* splash of milk
* 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
* 1 can of beer (drink what you don't use)
* Old Bay Seasoning to taste ( I like about a tablespoon , maybe a little more)
* Pinch of garlic powder
* Fresh ground Black Pepper to taste

Whisk it all together until you have a nice thick batter. It should only take about 1/2 to 2/3 of a can of beer , so don't get carried away. If the batter is too thin it won't stay on the fish - adjust beer and / or flour until it is the desired consistency. Now is a good time to make hush puppy mix if you're going to , because it will turn out better if you let it sit for about 15-20 minutes before cooking.
Next , I like to dump the batter on the fish or if I'm doing other seafood like shrimp or scallops , just start dipping it and putting it in the deep fryer. I only put about 5-6 pieces in at a time. Any more than that and they won't all be done at the same time. So yeah , dump the batter on the fish and stir. It will look like this:
Start frying! Your oil should be hot at around 375 when you start. Fish will float when it is done , but let it go a little longer for thick pieces and to give it a nice golden brown color.
Take em out when they're floating high and place on several layers of paper towels to allow the grease to drain a little.
After you've done the fish , you can do a few hush puppies. They take a little longer than the fish , but not much. Just until they are golden brown.
That's it. I need to eat a salad today. Dinner was delicious last night
More than enough for a family of 4
Have a great week!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm Bored and I Haven't Been Fishing

So , yeah. I get like that sometimes. I need to be out fishing at least every couple of days or things get crazy. I'll always be a tinkerer. I like to mess with stuff , take it apart and see how it works (or doesn't). Of course , when I put stuff back together I always have spare parts and it may or may not work anymore , but it's fun.

My latest "experiment" has been to mess around with the 2D UPC or QR codes. I probably have no business doing that , but hey I'm bored. I've made a couple and they work. That has led me into thinking about what I could use them for on the blog. Probably not much , but you'll notice a new image in the upper right. You can click or scan it to see the newest mobile content from Something's Fishy for smartphones. Or not. It might be like the failed attempt at a forum I tried for a while and just sit there , sad and alone. We'll see.

One benefit of my misguided attempt of doing something just for mobile users is that I've removed most of the ads and pictures and links from ALL of my static pages. Should load a lot faster and look neater. They might go back up later. I don't know. For now they're sitting in the "Spare Parts" box under my desk.

I am planning to get a line wet again very soon. I have new toys to test out and I desperately need to feel something pulling at the end of a line. You can see my new toys , that I'm very proud of by scanning the image below.
Or you can click HERE - I don't want to leave anyone out just because they don't have a fancy phone , especially since I just got one a few weeks ago. Trust me , they're not that great unless you're a fan of Angry Birds.

Have a great week!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sailfishing! : An Interview with Captain Tom Boice

 Today , I'm featuring an interview with Captain Tom Boice of Panamax Sailfishing. Captain Tom has been fishing the waters of Guatemala for close to 25 years and is one of the best Captains out there. Be sure to check out his website HERE and follow him on Twitter for the latest in big game fishing reports and breathtaking pictures of some truly amazing fish.  A big Something's Fishy THANK YOU goes out to the good Captain for putting up with this surf fishermen's questions. On to the interview! 

JM : Captain Tom , can you tell us a little bit about what it's like to live and work in one of the top fishing destinations in the world?

TB : Living and working in Guatemala for 24 years has been a hoot!  The culture and geographically diversity is amazing.  The fishing is stellar. 

It is quite the head trip walking dock the dock in the morning saying “morning”  and talking about the previous days fishing with the likes of Ronnie Hamlin, Brad Phillips, Chip Schaefer some of the top billfish captains in the world.  Geez, between Ronnie and Brad there is over 50,000 ( no typo there) billfish caught between them.   It speaks volumes about the Guatemala’s fishing that guys like these make this place their home.  While fishing out in the generally calm seas, we see a lot of action so it doesn’t take long to hone your skills. 

JM : Why is Guatemala so special when it comes to sailfishing?

TB : There is a unique configuration of ocean dynamics that happen off the coast here. Recent studies  show that there is very little oxygen infused in the water below 300 feet.  There hasn’t been a consensus on why , but it is part of the reason Guatemala is renown for it’s amazing numbers.  The fish all stay kinda trapped in that upper layer, that includes bait fish.  So it really narrows down your field so to speak on fish being concentrated.   Also, there aren’t a lot of boats that fish out of there so there is great communication within the fleet as to what is happening and precisely where.  This is important because there is no standard location where the fish are, they move around quite a bit.  It is etiquette to radio your coordinates immediately after every catch.  If you don’t you will feel the wrath at the dock.  Also, there is a working ethic as far as what kind of fishing is acceptable amongst the fleet.  We use circle hooks to minimize injury to a sailfish.  Ronnie Hamlin who I mentioned previously is generally regarded as the captain who brought circle hooks to the forefront of bluewater fishing technique.  Another example is that nobody fishes with a dredge because of the theory that a fish nursery can be trained to go after certain bait configurations.  One reason why the fly fishing is so exceptional here is because everyone pulls baits and teasers on the surface and not below as with a dredge.  That makes a fly cast on the surface that much more alluring. ( yes pun intended).

JM : Can you tell us about the Que Vela! and some of the key features that make her a great fishing vessel?

TB : The Que Vela! is a 34 foot center console with an 8 foot beam boat with twin Suzuki 140’s.  She has a tower in order to get a better visual advantage spotting sails.  She has all the amenities such as a large cockpit area, three sounders, and two radios (this is great because I can listen to the Spanish speaking captains channel and their action as well as the Gringo’s channel simultaneously).  She was built here in Guatemala and was put together and owned for a couple of years by Mike Day and Tiffany Sisolak out of Oregon Islet.  Those two have extensive fishing history and skills and they created a masterful fishing machine that is in the prime of it’s life.

JM : What kind of fishing trips do you offer aboard the Que Vela! ?

TB : The standard trip is a three day fishing, four night accommodations with food and transport.  We predominantly fish for sailfish but we do encounter a lot of dorado (dolphin fish in your parts), and we do get both blue and black and an occasional striped marlin that come into the spread more than one may think.  I cater my trips to the client.  For example, I’ll get a lot of captains and mates come down to fish with me because I’m less expensive than the large crafts and they can get their hands a bit dirtier when it comes to all around fishing.  They really can hone their billfish skills such as teasing a billfish to the pitch bait, or wiring a billfish or the subtle technique of the drop back circle hook method of hooking a fish.  On the other end of the spectrum with clients who don’t have much offshore fishing experience, I can demonstrate and teach the techniques if desired or one can sit back and relax and we’ll have Victor, my mate, hook the beast and hand off the rod to you.  I again cater to whatever one wants on their fishing adventure here.

JM : Describe a typical trip on the Que Vela!
The Que Vela!

TB : We’ll leave from the dock at 7am and head out to where the bite was best the previous day taking into consideration ocean current directions, etc. That can be anywhere from four to forty miles offshore.  Once we get to “the spot” we’ll put out the outriggers where on the short riggers we’ll let out usually a squid chain on one side and a teaser on the other and then on the long riggers we’ll pull ballyhoo rigged with a circle hook.  Sometimes we’ll have a chugger in front of the ballyhoo.  On the flats we’ll put out naked ballyhoo again rigged with circle hooks.  Then the constant focus of watching the baits begin.  As a sailfish comes in there is quite, as I call it, “the dance” where everyone works together, rods are picked up quickly to start the drop back at the correct time or it comes in on a teaser we’ll keep the bait just in front and tease em into the flat line bait or pitch another into her agitated grasp.  Once a sailfish is hooked then I’ll put the boat into a wide circle and try for a multiple hookup.   Then if no other sails take or swipe at the other baits we’ll bring in the other lines and the fight begins!  What is so cool about sailfishing here is that the sailfish are big.  They are in the 90 to 110 lb range normally and all the action takes place on the surface.  You’ll watch as a lit up sail will come into the spread and attack a bait or teaser. Once hooked she’ll usually sky out of the water dancing across the surface doing amazing acrobatic maneuverers trying to rid itself from the hook.  We do get a lot of dorado so I’ll have a sweet sashimi set up on the boat so one can partake in some fresh nectar of the sea.  Lunch, snacks and drinks, including beers are imbibed during the day to keep your energy up.  We’ll get back to the dock at 4pm where we’ll head to the pool and sip some cool ones, munch on some appetizers and relive the fishing of that day.

At night one can choose to kick back and have dinner at the lodge or we can go out to visit some of the local restaurants and partake in some local flavor.

JM : Here on the East Coast , many Captains offer alternative trips (ie. crabbing , shrimping , sightseeing). Do you offer any type of alternative trip for those who may not be interested in big game fishing?

TB : We can cruise the coast and fish for roosterfish, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle.   There also are some areas of structure where we will fish for grouper and red snapper.  The view of the coastal shoreline is pretty interesting.  Occasionally I’ll have a whale watching charter especially around Feb and March as the humpback whales migrate through.
JM : Tell us about the best day of fishing you've ever had aboard the Que Vela!

TB : It was March 11, 2006.  The bait balls had been pretty prevalent the previous days so we thought it could be a good day.  Well the ocean was calm and the color was an amazing deep deep blue purple color.  We were out about twenty miles and the sailfish just started coming into the spread. One after another, doubles, triples!  You would look down in the water and see groups of twenty sailfish swimming underneath!  There were dorados swimming underneath in huge schools and smashing into the baits often.  It was almost like Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” except it was fish coming at ya and all around.

I had some seasoned clients on the boat, one being the editor of a large NC outdoorsmen magazine. So they were having quite the work out. Well we were catching so many sailfish that day that by the end of the afternoon folks were so tired of reeling in sailfish that it was hard to get someone to step up to reel them in once they were hooked!

On the radio you could hear Ronnie Hamlin’s numbers coming across and it was clear he was about to break the world record.  He was fishing a few hundred yards away when he did break the record at 124 sailfish caught on his boat in one day! We watched it happen!

JM : What's the most memorable charter trip you've ever taken clients on?

TB : I had some crazy Dutch clients fly over from Holland to fish on my previous boat.  It was October and the fishing for sails was a bit slow.  We did run into some spinner dolphins and caught some nice yellowfin tunas around them.  Well, it was a long afternoon and we were 30 miles offshore and the boyz had come back a few days earlier from touring the Guatemalan highlands where they bought some souvenirs.  Of which one was a rainbow colored Peruvian style hat that Mikel was wearing.  It was nerve rackingly slow so I came up with an idea that Mikel agreed to just for fun.  We got out the video camera and put together a little comedy skit.  I started the video explaining what kind of teasers we use here in Guatemala to raise fish and also that I use a Mayan God icon, called Maximon for luck.  At the predetermined time we panned back to behind the boat with the video camera and there was Mikel wearing his funky hat holding onto a rope being pulled thirty feet behind us.   Yes, a Dutch Rainbow Warrior teaser!  Well we pretended that he was getting attacked by a fish and pulled him into the boat.  Then we had him lie down in the boat and we placed a previously caught dolphin fish in a strategic spot and gaffed it off of him.  Those guys have come back and fished again the next year for a total of about ten days where we’ve caught sails and marlin.  But to this day we all have tears in our eyes laughing over that video and it is easily one of the most memorable parts of their trip.  You can watch it HERE !   though I do have to warn you there is some foul language used by Mikel.

Editors note : The above video in no way indicates that Captain Tom is not a serious fishermen. The exact opposite is true , it shows a Captain entertaining his fares on a slow day. Check it out! No Dutchmen were harmed in the filming of this video.

JM : When is the best time of year to book a trip on the Que Vela! ?

TB : The best time to “book”  is between Sept. til Dec.  as this is when the calendar starts to takes shape to “fish” the most popular season of Dec. til April.  There are sailfish all year round but this is generally considered the high season. 

JM : Tell us about your favorite fishing memory.

TB : A few years ago I had a father (74yrs old) and his son (who is actually a boat captain in Georgia) charter me for the third year in a row. (It's up to six years now) It was a little rough that day but since they were seasoned offshore fishermen we went out. We didn't go far offshore maybe 7 miles and let out the lines after seeing some birds working the water pretty hard. They wanted to hone their fishing skills so we didn’t have a mate that day so there is only the three of us. I had to keep the boat quartered into the waves to keep the splash down a bit. Then suddenly there were three sailfish attacking the baits. I dropped back a bait and hooked one and handed the rod off to the father, Brandt. Allen, the son, was able to hook another and I ran back and hooked the third. I ran back to the wheel to keep us from rocking too much with one hand still holding the rod over my head. I looked back and we all witnessed all three sailfish suddenly jump skyward simultaneously as thought it was a dolphin water ballet show at Sea World! The volcanoes were in the background. We all looked at each other and realized that it was one of those once in a life time moments. We did land all three.

JM : What do you do to prepare for a days fishing and what types of equipment do you use?

TB : I take offshore fishing very seriously.  I realize a lot of money and time has been spent to come fishing in an exotic place like Guatemala and do everything I can to make it a quality, safe yet fun trip.

  Some of the things I’ll do is I’ll look at satellite maps from previous days to get a sense of what the ocean variables are like and how that could affect the fishing.  I’ll have my mate, Victor, (who has fished these waters for over thirty years) go down to the local dock where the shark fishermen come in with their catches, and he’ll ask them what they saw coming back from being way offshore the previous day. I will also talk with other captains as to what they saw. I think the more info one can gather will lead to a better idea of where to fish especially since here in Guatemala the sailfish are very random on where they will show up.

I’ll have the best ballyhoo baits I can get and they’ll be pre-rigged and ready to go as we go out.  Sometimes the ballyhoo can be scarce to buy but I always have enough in the freezer. I believe in good equipment and keeping it in great condition.  That goes for the boat and fishing equipment.   I like the Shimano Tyrnos #30’s and we use Suffix 30lb line on them.  I do have a nice 14wt Thomas and Thomas fly rod and an Abel reel available if someone wants to partake in some fly-fishing.

JM : Is there anything you want to close with?

TB : I realize Guatemala gets bad reviews as far as crime is concerned. It is generally situated in and around Guatemala City and is drug gang vs. drug gang related. It is very rare tourist are accosted. Of hundreds of clients coming down to fish nothing has ever happened other than one person losing his passport and the occasional Montezuma's revenge. Also, Guatemala can boast of a few world class and renown tourist attractions. Lake Atitlan, Antigua, Tikal, the living Maya culture, and yes the best sailfishing in the world!

Many thanks to Captain Tom Boice and Panamax Sailfishing for doing this interview with us! There's also a contest going on over at SoCalSalty and iFished where you can enter to win a once in a lifetime trip to fish the waters of Guatemala with Captain Tom. Great interview Captain!

Have a great weekend !

Featured Product : Fish Creek Spinners

Today I'm very fortunate to be featuring an interview with John Delaney , owner and operator of Fish Creek Spinners.  John has been gracious enough to agree to talk with me about his product line as a way of introducing a great company that makes unique and effective alternative baits for fishermen. Be sure to head over to the FCS Store so you can put some "Noise on YOUR Line" during your next fishing trip! John also has a great sale going on , so be sure to use the code FishFrosty to get 38% off your order until 11/11/11. I've featured FCS baits here on the blog before , but after using them and having good luck with them I wanted to dig a little deeper to find out some of the ins and outs of making and selling fishing lures. Here's what John had to say :

JM : First , can you tell me a little about the first spinner bait you made and how you got into making your own spinners?

JD : Sure Josh, thanks for the interest in Fish Creek Spinners!

As far as a first spinner, it was a beaut! I’ll have to reconstruct  it for a picture, lol.
You’re looking at a nostalgia item here! – big parts and primitive - not a pretty sight. Zero shelf appeal, but still an effective lure.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Sorry for My Recent Absence

Bad blogger , down boy , DOWN!

I've been trying to fish a little when I can ,but mainly I've been spending my fishing time on our small ponds with my son. He's very interested in fishing and the outdoors right now , so I'm going to indulge him. It makes me proud to see him so interested in fish , their environments and how to catch them. I'll be following his lead when I can , he picked a good spot on the big pond today.

From last week , no cameras today!
I'm also unplugging a little and getting out more. I think we all need to do that.. Striper season is just around the corner and the little guy pictured above is ready to catch his second big linesider. He caught a nice 8 pounder (Striped Bass) last year , but I didn't get a picture. I need to remedy that.

I did manage to write a guest post for my friend Celia who writes ...Just Trying to Find My Way

You can find it here : My Guest Post for Celia - or how my big mouth got me in trouble on Twitter (AGAIN!)

Go check it out and leave her a  comment!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Shout Out #6

I haven't done one of these for a while , so I think it's long over due. Today I'm going to feature three bloggers that I have a great deal of respect for as writers and fishermen. If you're not following these guys in some way , you should add them to your favorites or follow them on Facebook , Twitter or via RSS. Great group of bloggers and some great reads if you look back through their blog archives.

First up is Ken H. who writes The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond under the alias Quill Gordon. Recently , Ken has given us a touching glimpse into his personal life as his community struggles to recover from the hardships caused by hurricane Irene. Be sure to look through the archives for some great reads and a good dose of humor. I'm a big fan of anything he's written chronicling the adventures of his close friend Eugene.

Up next is Mike who writes the blog titled Troutrageous! Mike does a great job of keeping his blog up to date , interesting and relevant to the world of fishing. There's always something fun going on at Troutrageous and for this reason alone it's worth your time. Mike is one of the best bloggers out there and I highly recommend his blog for anyone looking for an entertaining read.

Last , but certainly not least , is Ken G. who writes Waterdog Journal. He's constantly on the move exploring the waters near his home with a rod in hand. His great writing paired with a good eye for photography have carried me along on many trips to the Fox River with him and it's always great reading. I'm a huge fan of the simple yet effective ways Ken fishes , a back to basics approach that a lot of us gear heads could learn from.

That's all for today. Be sure to check these guys out , you won't be sorry!

Have a great week!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Make that THREE winners in our Happy Birthday Something's Fishy giveaway!

I used the random number generator at Random.org to pick three winners , starting with 3rd , then 2nd and lastly our grand prize winner.

Third place and a prize package consisting of " One filler spool of Suffix Elite Monofilament in 14 pound Hi-Vis Yellow , One filler spool of Suffix Siege Monofilament in 14 pound Neon Tangerine , One hand tied bottom fishing rig and One hand tied Fireball rig." goes to lucky number 13 , Amber Kincaid!

Second place and a prize package consisting of "One filler spool of Suffix Elite Monofilament in 14 pound Hi-Vis Yellow , One filler spool of Suffix Siege Monofilament in 14 pound Neon Tangerine , One hand tied bottom fishing rig and One hand tied Fireball rig. " goes to lucky number 1 , Alex!

Our grand prize package consisting of " One 12" Star Crab Trap , One Filet/Bait knife kit , One filler spool of Suffix Elite Monofilament in  14 pound Hi-Vis Yellow , One filler spool of Suffix Siege Monofilament in 14 pound Neon Tangerine , One hand tied bottom fishing rig and One hand tied Fireball rig. " goes to lucky number 34 , Stealth!

Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone else that took time to enter! This is going to be a yearly thing , so check back often to see when the next one will be.

Winners , send me an email through the contact form HERE or directly to my email HERE

Thanks again to everyone who played along!

Have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Recurring Dream

Sorry for the test post earlier , had to see if I could get the slideshow thing to work. I've been putting off writing about my recurring dream of late mainly because I didn't want all of my followers here on the blog to know how crazy I am what happens to me in the middle of the night. I think it's time though , since at least a few of you clicked through to read about the test. Here's a little recap of what has happened at least two or three times a week during my troubled slumber here at SF HQ over the last month :

I sit alone on my boat , the Gun Boat , somewhere on Smith Mountain Lake. It's a cloudy day , but the air is cool and crisp with a faint tang of fallen leaves drifting on a gentle breeze. The lake itself is relatively calm  , except for a slight bit of chop stirred by the breeze and the occasional splash as a shad breaks the surface. The water is gin clear and I marvel at the schools of shad surrounding my boat. I certainly haven't had any trouble catching bait on this trip , as I have a lively one on a hook under the boat. It's a nice size shad , evident by the occasional twitch of the rod. I constantly glance at the depth finder behind me to look for signs of life , but the screen is always blank.

I'm sitting sideways on the pedestal seat mounted on the casting deck , with both feet on the rail. Drifting downstream , I watch the schools of shad and marvel at the reflection of clouds and trees on  the water's surface. Some nights a few birds flutter overhead , but the only way I see them is in the reflection on the water. Other times a big fallen maple leaf lands silently beside the boat and begins to drift beside me , on it's way to a watery grave.

I gently reach beside me to thumb the trolling motor controls and correct my drift as I approach a fishy looking point that juts out into the lake like a jagged piece of glass. And then it happens.

Fumbling with the trolling motor , I hear , but don't see the rod flex in the rod holder moments before the bait clicker starts screaming at an alarming rate. Horrified at being caught off guard , I yank my feet from the rails , plant them firmly in front of me as I stand and grab the rod in one fluid motion. My boat rocks angrily as I lean back and pull up sharply on the rod , intent on burying the hook in this behemoth's gaping jaw and beginning my efforts to subdue him. Then I wake up.

I'm sure my muttered curses about missing the fish again have awoken my sleeping wife at times , but then again maybe I don't vocalize them as loudly as my sleep addled brain thinks I do. Who knows?

A real one , from a few years back.

I do know I need to get this sh!t out of my system and soon , before I end up hurting myself trying to set the hook. I'm also starting to wonder what happens if I catch him. Isn't there some old wives tale about dying if you don't wake up from an " I'm falling " dream before you hit bottom?

Only a few more weeks until the fall Striper action gets started here on the lake , and I CAN"T WAIT!

Have a great week!

Just a Test

I have a cool interview coming up soon , and I need to try this out. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the winners some time tomorrow afternoon! Let me know if the slideshow doesn't work for you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Only Three More Days


Get in on the free giveaway. It's easy to enter and you'll get some nice stuff to help you get started surf and pier fishing!

Now that that bit of business is out of the way , I've got some more pics from vacation that are finally seeing the light of day here on the blog. First up is a picture of the crooked Rodanthe Pier. I assume it was straight and square when they built it , but 60 + years of hurricanes and Nor'easters have a way of warping the deck.

Safer than it looks
Next is a little puffer fish. They get so upset when handled.

Here's a shot of the pier house

Here's a picture of what's left of an old bridge (or something) on the Pamlico Sound. This is what happens to just about anything built on the Outer Banks , if the wind and waves have their way.

An angry Seagull

Don't F#$% with Jonathan Livingston Seagull
That's all I've got for now. Stay tuned for the announcement of the contest winners on Thursday.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fighting a Big Sting Ray

On the East Coast in the Summer , big Sting Rays are often around the piers. I try to avoid catching them , but that's not always possible. They put up a good fight that can last for an hour or two , but otherwise they are considered a trash fish , so they get thrown back or end up breaking your line. Other times they are simply too big to bring on deck and I end up having to cut the line after getting as much as possible back onto the reel. I don't like leaving them with a hook in their mouth , but I use regular hooks instead of stainless so they will rust out quicker.

The best fight I had during my vacation was a big ray. I hooked him on the north side of the pier and he pulled me all the way out to the end and halfway down the south side before finally breaking my line. Lots of fun , but a workout. It's unbelievable how strong they are , especially when they get to be six or more feet across , like the one I had hooked.

About 30 minutes into the fight.
They are fun to catch though. Even more so when they are big enough to put a bend in a 12 foot surf rod. I'd still rather have a big bull red or a king , but I'll take what I can get.

This guy was tagging rays , not sure why.
A small one on the planks.
The big thing is to be careful with their barb. It takes some practice to learn to cut them off so you can use the rays for shark bait , but some people do it. I just avoid the barb and get them back in the water as soon as possible. Hard to see in the pictures , but the barb sits on top of their tail at the base close to the body. Be careful if you hook one!

Have a great week!