Dad’s First Ice Fish!

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For my last day in New England before the journey back the South, I decided to go back to the ole’ honey hole, Dennis Pond, to ensure at least a few fish. My father had been coming with me for the past couple trips, and had yet to pull anything.

We drilled 7 holes, two rows of three and one in the middle. I decided to try my luck at the tip-up dad had given me for Christmakkah and fitted it with about 12ft of monofil 4lb test line, a small spoon/treble and a dead minnow. The plan was to set the tip-up in the middle hole, and jig with our small 1.5″ spoons and some mousses in the surrounding holes to attract fish.

Within ten minutes we had a flag up!

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It was a little chain pickerel.

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Back he went. Felt pretty successful to have my first tip-up catch! So Dad was enthused by this and insisted I set him up his own, which I went ahead and did. In the meantime, I picked a hole adjacent to the one I had the tip up in and jigged the bottom with a couple of mousses. Decided to pound the bottom and see what would come along.

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Plucked up this fat little perch! Did not even realize they had perch in this lake– it’s truly a great multispecies destination. So far we have turned up pickerel, perch, bass, and crappie all from the ice.

In the mean time, Dad was still struggling to turn up a catch. I drilled a new hole adjacent to the one I jigged up the perch in  and we moved his tip-up there.

In the midst of all this, we were freezing. The weather took a plummet this week in CT, and was about 5-degrees, -12 with wind chill. Long underwear, based layers, insulation layers, down jackets, multiple socks — still the cold was piercing through us. We made a smart decision today that I suggest anyone hitting the ice do: we put warmers on the tops and bottoms of our feet between the two sock layers. It just keeps your toes from getting to the falling off point.

Dad was jigging a few holes away when suddenly his tip-up’s flag sprung up and was spinning wildly!

“Fish on!” I shouted toward Dad who gave me a blank stare in return, “Fish on! Fish on!”

He finally seemed to come to his senses when I up and ran to the flag, pointing at it, hoping the fish didn’t tear through the 4lb test line barely holding it on.

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Dad makes his way to the hole and starts reeling on the spool.

“Hand over hand!” I was doing some serious back seat fishing by this point. But, it’s really easy for the fish to get away without proper finesse when you’re using such thin line. He finally drops the tip up, and begins to bring it in, hand over hand, letting the line slide with tension through his fingers when the fish swam.

The fish was tiring out, and it felt pretty good sized. Finally it surfaced!

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Out came a beautiful large mouth bass. Didn’t have the scale on us, but I would eye it at a little over 1lb.

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Released for another day, but not before a bunch of pictures, hugs and high fives. Dad finally caught a fish through the ice!

With that, concluded our last ice fishing trip, and my vacation in the North. Back to the South tomorrow, got a long drive ahead. Gonna miss hitting the ice!

Dennis Pond

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Ice season is here and we are up North for the holidays!

Finally, after a long year of waiting, the ground is covered in snow, and the lakes thick with a layer of ice!

Well… not that thick. Sadly, the last week was freezing cold (twenties and below), but this upcoming week the winter weather has taken a turn for the warmer. The ice is slipping away beneath our feet (all 3.5 inches of it).

At least we were able to get in some lines before the melting began. We stopped by an old favorite, Dennis Pond, to do some jigging.

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Passed a couple of wild turkeys on the way. Always nice to see the local wildlife.

20171217_151102Scenery was breathtaking as usual. Drilled about 6 holes (one every 10-feet, laterally and outward). Got to about 10-ft depth, but the ice was not exactly the safest. At about 3.5 inches at most going toward the center, we did not venture too far out. Water temperature was about 34-degrees F at the surface beneath the ice.

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We used standard jigging techniques, with little red wigglers as bait, and small spoons for lure.

Caught a few little chain pickerel which are always a fun catch. It was pretty cold out though, as you may be able to tell by Dan’s ski coat and 7 pairs of pants.

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Things were getting slushy, quick, though. Our feet were wet and frozen, but between the snowy scenery and continuous action on our ice rods, we stuck around and  sucked it up.

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Patience is a virtue, however! I was finally able to pull a decent sized large mouth.

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Dan was on fire with the pickerel game too.

Overall, a fun day on the ice. Excited to get back to it once temperatures go down next week. Dennis pond is a perfect ice fishing pond!

Tank Creek

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Instead of searching far and wide for fun new fishing spots, this time we got local.

We found a creek less than two miles away from our home, and decided to give it a go. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most aesthetic of locations and definitely did not have the upkeep of public ponds or national/state forest areas, there was something a little enchanting about a little semi-stagnant pool we found beneath a small dam.

The way the water swirled into its soft current seemed promising.

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And we were not disappointed. This little bass infested pool in Tank Creek provided a fun opportunity for us to experiment with different lures and techniques.

The most successful seemed to be a version of the slow pitch jig using soft plastics like the Zoom U Tail in June Bug or the Zoom Lizard in Chartreuse/Pumpkinseed (6″).

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Unfortunately, the creek was relatively close to the road so Brook did not have the luxury to roam like at Kiest.

Through trail and error, we managed to toss our casts softly under bushes and small rock bunches which produced some of our best bass catches yet.

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We also utilized use of 6″ Yamamoto senkos in various colors. We always used a off-set hook, a texas rig (since the creek is full of snags), completely weightless. The creek was small enough that we did not need any additional weight for casting strength.

Who knew that such a small space held such nice fish!

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We came back to this area since it was so close a couple times and continued to have relatively good success. The small pool combined with it being not fished often seemed to push our luck.

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However, due to the nature of North Carolina’s thick woods, we did sacrifice many lures to the fishing gods in trees and even worse, to snapping turtles.

Sadly as the months grew colder, the bites came less and less, but we did discover a large gill population.

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A fun discovery close to home that allowed us to practice a myriad of techniques and baits in a confined area. It was nice to find a “training pool” so to speak!

Georges Pond

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We had a week of leave to spare, and went up to “Down East” Maine in order to visit and fish near Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. We struck gold and ended up staying at a Lakefront House in Franklin, Maine which had the beautiful Georges Pond right in its backyard. The pond was known for its Smallmouth Bass, which we had never fished before, but we were excited to delve into something new.

Dan and I have been experimenting in hard plastic lures as of late, and with the overcast we faced in the first few days, we gave topwaters a try.  As soon as we arrived that night, we hopped on a canoe and threw some lures in.

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As usual, Dan had some luck from the get-go and caught both a smallie and a LMB using his favorite tiger striped top water. I was trying to jig, and ended up with nothing. Part of it was technique, part of is was that we didn’t have an anchor and I was busy rowing us around all over the place while Dan fished. I called it quits for the night and went to bed. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Dan was determined to grab that late night lunker, inspired by tall tales of monster fish and straw-ber-ritas.

The next morning, I saw something strange. Dan’s entire outfit from the night before as you see above — the shirt, pants, socks, hate and even his underwear, were all strewn across the outdoor deck. Upon confrontation, Dan, cheeks glowing with chagrin, offered a harrowing confession. Apparently, in a partially drunk stupor, he tried to take out the canoe himself, in the dark, after I’d retired. Instead of a big fish, he got a big black bruise. When he stepped into the canoe, his footing was off, throwing the boat off balance, and he completely fell in the water near the dock, the canoe flipping upside down beside him.  Gave me a good laugh but also I was like WHAT THE HELL DUDE because that was a really dangerous thing to do.

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The next morning, back at it and again, Dan’s hauling in some great fish using a spinner bait. This time, we attached the 3# anchor from our rubber raft to the canoe so we could stay in one place. The wind was no joke. After coming up flat again, I give in to his advice and try a top water myself.  And this time I forced Dan to row while I trolled off the back.

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At long last, I brought in my first Smallie and it was a beautiful one at that. I was using a Heddon Tiny Torpedo in Fluorescent Green Crawdaddy.

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A couple other greedy little fish seemed to want a bite of the lure as well.

That’s a gill and a baby small mouth.

Brook was terrified of the canoe because of the way the slighted move shook the boat side to side. She was standing most of the time, frozen in place, but finally laid down.

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The prop bait started to slow down so I moved onto an Original Rat-L-Trap crank bait in Lake Fork Special color. This thing vibrates so hard you can hear it no matter how far you cast it away. I ended up only pulling a little baby yellow perch on it, however.

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Dan continued to catch some little smallies, and I switched it up to a popper. We were both utilizing a similar technique for the top waters. Basically, you cast out, then holding your rod parallel to where you cast, twitch the rod away, causing the lure to pop and bubble toward you. Then you reel in, to tighten the line and let it sit for a little bit. By varying the twitch strength and the length of the pause, you can draw in the attack. The fun of it, especially for smallies, is seeing them jump out of the water to grab the lure.

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BAM! My record smallie! Dan and I JUST got a scale before we went on the water this day, so I was able to measure it in at 2.5lb. This fish fought HARD. Didn’t help I was using an ultralite rod, hoping to catch some lake trout. We fought for a good 3 minutes, and she jumped straight out of the water. I couldn’t help but let out a loud “WHOAAAA!” when that happened. It was really exciting!

Sadly, that was the last hog Dan or I brought in on the lake, but we did scoop up a couple of smaller fish.

All the while we were out in the canoe, searching for flats and weed beds, my Dad, who I brought an interest in fishing to, was on the dock, casting out into no more than 2-3 feet of water tops, using his classic shallow bobber-night crawler combo. As usual, he was hauling in tons of little bluegills and green sunfish, and a lot of juvenile white perch.

He did this into the night, and while I was sitting at the table, conversing with my mom, suddenly my Dad comes running to the door, frantically. I run out, thinking he’s stuck with a hook or something, and he holds up this:

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A FAT small mouth. Weighing in at 3.4#, my dad, who I always make fun of for never bringing in a big fish, has snagged the biggest catch of the entire trip. But there’s a reason! He was using the secret technique, and not his bobber. The secret technique is how Dan and I first learned to fish in America: a weightless treble hook with a nightcrawler, slow pitch jigged across the bottom. I had been trying to get my dad to use this technique for ages, and finally, it seems he conceded– and it paid off, big!

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It was incredible staying at a house with this beautiful pond right in its back yard, and we were floored by the top tier smallie fishing available at our fingertips! I would highly recommend Georges Pond for any Smallie fishermen or those looking to get into catching them. And with the fight these fish put up, you will get addicted in a heart beat.

Texas Pond

We hadn’t taken out the raft in a while so headed to Texas Pond right outside Fort Bragg. The water was surprisingly low, seeming to average no more than two feet in any location.

 As usual, little B was ready to go in her outward Hound life vest and boat shoes. Dan had been researching and experimenting with different types of hard plastic minnows and spinners/buzz baits. I really never got into using these so it was a bit of a learning curve for me.

One lure he used was a white Mistsuo popper. The method was to toss out, then twitch the bait causing it to splash back and fort, and pause while reeling to retrieve the slack line.

Dan seemed to have pretty good success with this. He used the same method with a black lucky craft topwater bass lure. In the mean time I am not catching anything and getting fairly frustrated. Dans been watching a lot of videos and doing a lot of research, so really its no surprise he has gotten a lot better. Nevertheless, I am butthurt at this point.

Poor poo dog still hasn’t gotten used to being in a boat. She continues to cling to my leg and get in the way of rowing. Not sure how to get her used to it outside of continuing to bring her though. It’s sort of cute how she will conquer her fears to be with us though!

Dan also hooked a decent sized chain Pickerel! This one was snagged utilizing a jerk bait. The method here involves holding the rod at a 90 degree angle from where you tossed the lure, then jerking the lure toward you and reeling in between as you go. There are a many ways to retrieve: aggressive, twitches, long pauses, continuous… you simply have to try different speeds and levels of aggression until one attracts the bite.
Of course when I tried this, I seemed to attract nothing. Finally, I got a big hit on the jerk bait and I was hoping to see a Pickerel or a bass!

Thanks to Dans extensive research, we are breaking into the world of hard plastic lures and there’s so much to try. Though often harder than live bait, it’s a fun challenge to work and finesse the lures to get that bite. We will continue to update with different lures and methods.

Boundary Line Lake

After a very relaxing night in on the 3rd of July, Dan and I suddenly got an itch, and went and purchased our first boat on a whim. .

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(Photo Source: Rubberboats.com)

It was an Intex Mariner 3 inflatable three-man raft. Having never owned or operated a boat before, we decided to start small, cheap and portable. The nice thing is, we can easily transport this deflated back and forth. It also did not take very long to inflate nor put away. Armed with this game changing piece of equipment, we headed to Boundary Line Lake, home to largemouth bass, sunfish, warmouth, pickerel and bullhead.

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It felt absolutely amazing to no longer be bounded by trees/terrain/shoreline. Suddenly, we were fast and furious, free roaming the entire body of water. No longer were we fishing for bass — we were straight up hunting bass.

20170704_110452Dan’s first cast brought up this nice one. He was using a 6-in watermelon seed senko on a size 5/0 offset hook. Excited that we were so mobile in the boat, I was trying all sorts of different baits and rigs.

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Unfortunately, sticking to what I knew would have been a better plan because this is all I was able to come up with. Big for a gill, but still!

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Meanwhile, Dan caught the two largest bass we have pulled up in North Carolina yet. Too bad our scale was out of batteries, but they were at least 2-3 pounders.

We only stayed out for a few hours, and there were a couple reasons why.

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For starters, like usual, our little daughter was with us. Poor thing was scared to death at first, and was literally clinging to me with her paws. Even though she seemed to get used to it, and had water available, with the temperatures soaring above 90F, and absolutely no shade out in the middle of the lake, we could not keep her out there for too long. Canine heat injury is a real and very scary thing when living in the South.

Second, I must have lost 60ft of line to snags on logs at the bottom. I was jigging using cut baits and treble hooks, and there was just too much debris. The texas rigged soft plastic was absolutely a better bet at this lake. I was to the point where I couldn’t even cast out three feet away due to the shear lack of line. And of course, we forgot to bring a spool onto the boat.

20170704_130033Really cool experience on our first boating trip (well, more of rafting, but still). Next time we will bring an anchor, so we don’t drift as much, as well as visit a lake with less logs and debris. Boundary line has swamp-like stumps, jaggedly protruding in all directions, some beneath the surface of the water. We actually got stuck on one for a minute, so there’s an ode to the durability of this rubber raft.

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Til next time!

Johnsen Lake

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On the way home from Nimblewill Creek, we decided we wanted to get some bass fishing in, and took to Fishbrain to scout out a good lake. Right off SR-19 near the town of Cumming, there was Johnsen Lake. Though it appears to be right off the road, there’s actually no access to it from there. You have to swing around, go down Northgate Pkwy, and park at the roundabout at the end of the road near Cladding and Compound Solutions. From there, there is a dirt path that is fairly easy to follow.

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It’s only a couple minutes walk, just take caution in there’s a lot of wood and metal scraps on the ground in the beginning. Once you cross a small stream bed, you’ll run right into the southern tip of the lake. Right away, there’s all these downed trees and logs that just look perfect for bass to  be lurking under.

20170618_120115Today, Dan went with a light green senko on a 6/0 offset hook, wacky rigged. I decided to get rid of our remaining live bait, and toss some worms and crickets out there on a 14 treble hook. Both of us were slow pitch jigging. No shit, on the first cast Dan comes up with a bass!

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Little fella, but a bass nonetheless. It took me a couple more ins and outs to finally get one. myself.

20170618_121552Pretty skinny.  Couple reasons a bass could come up real skinny in an otherwise healthy lake. Too much algae/vegetation, not enough food/insects/small fish, harvest slot fish, an old timer on his last legs of life, or even swallowing too many soft plastics that clogs up the fish’s digestive system. Regardless, he got a worm today, and we were playing C/R.

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Dan ended up catching a total of four, alternating between a wacky and a texas rig.

 

As usual, I caught a ton of gills.

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But at last, a second bass. And a pretty healthy one at that. Caught on crickets.

Johnsen Lake was a hidden gem by the expressway that had a lot to offer. Definitely a great bass population in that lake that are eager to eat up!

Kiest Lake

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Wanting to branch out our North Carolina expeditions, we set off for Kiest Lake, near Fort Bragg Military Reservation.  It was a hot ass day, upwards of 90 degrees F with at least 80% humidity. We settled on the South side of the lake, where there was a  fairly large clearing we could pull the truck into. Little Brook was suffering though. No shade. SO hot. We left the car door open for her just in case, but she improvised on the shade;

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Yup, she hung out under the truck! We stuck her water bowl down there too. And don’t worry– every hour or so, we turned on the truck, pumped the air and cooled off our little daughter. Gotta be careful this time of year in the Southern United States. There are countless cases of pet dogs dying of heat exhaustion,  but at the same time we love our dog and want her to have fun and be included. We take every measure possible to ensure she is comfortable and well taken care of.

Anyways, Dan set up his massive carp rig because supposedly there’s huge common carp in this lake. I don’t have any pictures of the set up but I will take some next time it is used. It’s similar to a catfish set up, only the poles are lying parallel to the surface of the lake instead of perpendicular. There is also this motion detector device that beeps when the line is pulled. Unlike a catfish rod, you do not want “tight lines” on this rig. The drag is almost completely loose, allowing carps to suck the bait in and run with it before hooking themselves. We experienced a few beeps here and there but nothing seeemed to stick. Turns out, there were an astronomical amount of turtles in there!

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Here’s a little one I managed to pull up with our landing net. They’re some sort of box turtle, and love to nibble fishing bait. Since they have those little beaks, they don’t get hooked and just steal the bait! While Dan worked on his carp set-up and tossed in a few senkos for bass, I set up some catfish lines and threw in a few casts of my own. The bottom of this lake is incredibly weedy, so the “secret technique” was an absolute no-go. Instead, I used a foam stick bobber and set it up about 2 feet above my bait (nightcrawlers).

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I managed to catch a gill on this bobber set up that I turned into cutbait. In the mean time, neither the carp rods nor the catfish rods were getting much action. It was such a hot day, that I assume the fish were very slow moving and avoiding the heated up shallower ends. Likely in the middle of the lake, just treading water down below. After I while, I did get a pull on one of the cat rods, though! Reeled t his one in, pretty excited. With it came an enormous hunk of weeds, but hidden beneath the weeds there was indeed a fish!

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This skinny guy was trying to eat himself some gill. Definitely did not expect to pull up an LMB on the cat rods, but lo and behold there she was! I let her go, recasted the rod and then continued to throw out the bobber set up. Dan was preoccupied with some mysterious beeping on his carp rods,  but nothing seemed to set. Somehow, I managed to pull up another small bass on the bobber.

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No action following this for quite a while. We decided to call it, and head back. After all, poor little B was probably burning up in her little yellow fur coat. Not a terrible fishing day, but the heat was tough to bare– for us, and apparently for the fish. Supposedly this lake is filled with bass, so we certainly just scraped the surface on this one. We will return to see what we can garner next time.

Twilight Pond #3

Sadly, Dan and I are living apart for now due to work. So I decided to cast a line on my own for a while after work at Twilight Pond. I used a #14 size treble hook with a canadian nightcrawler and a slow pitch jig technique.

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Lo and behold I pull out this beauty. I didn’t have a scale on me, but she was about 18 inches long. Pretty happy about that! Fishing by myself isn’t the same experience and fishing with Dan and Brook, but it is meditative and relaxing. Sometimes you just need to sit back and unwind at the lake… and sometimes you get some pretty good pigs in the process! I also pulled in what looks to be three different types of sunfish:

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A shellcracker, a redbreast and a bluegill! Fun times, but I miss my crew. Fishing is special in that way… it’s not just about the sport, it’s not just about the catch, but it’s truly about the camaraderie and bonding you experience while doing it. So grateful to have discovered this passion with the love of my life… and many great adventures to come.

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Twilight Pond (Again)

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Now this was a great day of fishing. A bit after our initial success at Twilight Pond, Dan, Brook and I decided to make our return. We used nightcrawlers again and a similar method to the first time– a sort of modified slow-pitch jigging. Almost off the bat we were getting bites left and right.  I was fighting a bass for a while, when I finally hooked him. I reeled him in in a frenzy and DISASTER STRUCK. The fish got away, and it felt like a big one, too. When I brought my line out, the hook was nowhere to be found. Was it big enough to have broken the line? Well, it happened AGAIN! And as it turned out, my knot was coming undone. Let me admit that I’d been really lazy with my spin reel knot tying because I never expected to get anything huge. Like I said before, my luck had been pretty poor in Georgia. So instead of a figure eight with a bight, I’d been doing like 5 square knots in a row. I know, I know… really idiotic. So I go over to fix this problem, and in the mean time Dan steps in my spot.

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And comes out with a HOG! We didn’t have a scale, but it was around 18 inches long, so assuming 3-4lb. A great catch! I have to say though I was a little butthurt that I moved away for a second and he snagged my nemesis. I definitely get a little competitive with catching! Anyways, we were fishing for food today, so we knocked this bad boy out and put him in the cooler. I retook my spot and got another bite.

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To my surprise I pulled out this flathead! Had no idea there were even catfish in this pond since it had recently been drained. Threw him in with the LMB to add some catfish nuggets to our future meal. Our luck kept going at this point.

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Pulled out 3 more pigs! Really great day of fishing since we were only there a few hours! Here’s one in comparison to Brooky:

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She always likes to give the fish a little sniff and a lick. Anyways, we threw a couple back and kept 3 largemouths and the flathead to go. Cleaned all four fish, and got some nice filets out of them. We seasoned with salt and pepper, washed with egg, and bathed in a combination of breadcrumbs, salt/pepper/garlic and other fry seasonings. We pan fried the bass in filets and the flathead in nuggets.

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Came out amazing. There’s always something extremely satisfying about catching, cleaning and cooking your own protein. Overall, a really successful day for fishing.