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!

Gulf Stream/Scantic River Junction

Home for a few days before starting Ranger School, I managed to convince my brother to join me and my dad on a small excursion in my home town. Often we had passed by this stream on the way to work or school growing up, never having stopped it by.

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A lot of kayakers who mount up in Somersville Pond floated this way and under the roadway bridge. Since this area is right off the road, below the bridge, it was a little difficult to get down to. There was sort of a path, but it was largely overgrown and a wrong step could have landed you off the side and into the water. Given Connecticut’s massive tick population, bug spray was a must.

As usual within this area, we brought up quite a few yellow perch.

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I was using a small treble hook and a combination of either earth worms or mealworms, both which could be purchased from the local Somersville gas station.

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My brother managed to snag his first largemouth bass! Albeit, a dink, but a bass nonetheless. My mom wanted to come along, but having the two dogs with her, she was not in a position to bushwack down to the stream. So after only a little while of fishing here, my family was already urging me to head back to Somersville Pond. I had at least six or seven “last casts” or “one more casts” but not without a prize!

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On my very last cast, with a small treble hook and a mealworm, I managed to snag this trophy sized White Sucker fish. The hook fell off its fleshy lips as I was finessing it in, so I actually ended up with one foot in the stream, and hand wrangled the fatty ashore.

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Never seen a sucker this size, and I wish I had called DEEP to get the trophy certificate, but oh well. I let him go to swim another day.

After that, we headed back up to Somersville Pond and relaxed with the dogs there for the rest of the day.

Caught a few more perch, including my little brother’s first. Was really glad to be able to take him out fishing and show him the ropes.

You can just make it out on the photo on the right, but over the dam, we saw an absolutely massive alligator snapping turtle floating around. It was at least 4 feet long.

Love the multispecies fishing that the great North East offers, and can’t wait for my next trip up there.

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!

Topsail Inlet

Happy Independence Day Weekend to my American Readers! #Brexit1776.

Given the long weekend, Dan and I decided to head down near Wilmington Beach and try our hand at surf fishing. We had previously attempted saltwater fishing off a pier/structure over at Wangpal’s Restaurant  on Jeju island, but this would be our first try on good ole American soil. First order of business, of course, was to find a dog friendly beach with fishing. It actually sounds harder to find than it was!

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Cannot go anywhere without that goofy face.

Topsail Island is about 30 minutes to the Northeast of Wilmington Beach in North Carolina, and consists of a few miles of both ocean front and inlet front. The entire island is inhabited with what looks like summer homes, and a few stores/bars/restaurants. The whole thing is only about three streets wide! You can see water on both sides while driving down. We headed toward Topsail Beach– it was advertised as dog friendly as well as a “lesser travelled” beach location, both of which appealed to us. Stunningly beautiful! During the off season, apparently you can drive your car right onto the beach.

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We did have a little bit of trouble finding a bait shop, however. It would have been wise to pick up bait in Surf City, which is the neighboring town, but after asking around we managed to find a place: Jolly Roger’s Inn and Pier. It’s about halfway to the end of the island,on the left side travelling toward the end, and the only large fishing pier. You can get some food, limited fishing supplies, beer, and your choice of shrimp, sand fleas, squid, and an assortment of minnows/mullets. We picked up a pound of shrimp, a half pound of squid, and a quarter pound of sand fleas. Not knowing much about the local fish, the shopkeepers let us know that drum were pounding the fleas, and squid/shrimp generally are an all around good bet. For a price, Jolly Roger’s lets you use their pier to fish, but no animals allowed, so that was a no-go for us. Instead, we made our way to the right-most road, all the way to the end of the island where there was a small parking lot. We ditched the truck, loaded up our gear and trekked down the beach on the inlet side. Side note, we also picked up some sandwiches and meat (for Brook) at a small Deli toward the town center.

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No kidding, as soon as we got our umbrella stood up, and Brook tied down (dogs must be leashed during the on-season), we heard thunder. Planted down our rod stand, got the first rod set up… cue enormous downpour. Not talking about a light rain. Talking about flash flood, crashing thunder, lightning and high winds. All three of us huddled under our umbrella (it was basically a half-dome tent style umbrella– protected us surprisingly well) and just prayed that it would pass. No way we spent all this time and money getting down here for nothing. We were going to fish, damnit! People at this point were legitimately fleeing the beach– coolers and towels in tow, running back to their cars. After maybe 20 minutes, it started to clear up, so we quickly rigged up our rods.

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We used our Korean carp rods which double as saltwater rods. Rigged up was 20lb braided line, with 6-inch 50lb test wire leaders. Attached to that were two size 8 baitholder hooks, with a 2.5oz weight at the bottom. To be honest, the weight was probably too light for the current we were fighting. We ended up losing quite a few rigs that got stuck on a wooden structure about 50 yards out. We experimented with the bait usage. Dan was definitely favoring the squid, and for good reason.

His first cast got a huge hit!

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That’s an Atlantic Croaker, a member of the Drum family. Apparently, it was a common food source for Native Americans. This one was about 18 inches long.

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Not bad at all for a first cast! It was fun to watch the rods twitch on the stand with each bite. I had trouble setting the hook, for sure, but Dan was having a lot better luck.

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His next catch was a tiny Black Sea bass. They’re recognizable by the coloring, and large scales on the body, while naked on the head. Sea bass are a highly sought after recreational fish, though this fella was a little juvenile. Back to the sea he went! And finally, it was my turn.

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After losing what seemed like countless potential catches, at last, I pulled up this little beauty. Hilariously enough, this turned out to be a Surf Bream. Basically, the saltwater equivalent of a sunfish or bluegill. It had these creepy little teeth though.

Darkness crept up on us pretty quick, and before we knew it, the crabbers were moving in, and it was time for us to head back. For a first experience surf fishing, I’m very glad we were able to pull up a few fish and I am excited for next time. Something about having your feet in the ocean, waves lapping up onto shore, and casting out, not knowing what sort of interesting fish you’re going to pull up… it’s just amazing. The view was worth it alone!

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.

McKellar’s Pond #2

Given our success at McKellar’s the first time, we decided to go at it again and see what we’d come up with. This time, we entered from McKellar’s road to a dirt path that had little wooden posts next to it– more of a “main” entrance. We took a left, following the small creek that borders the pond, and settled  in the north, directly across from the Peninsula. We took with us two Shakespeare 7′ Ugly Sticks, and one 7′ PLUSINNO Spinning telescopic rod, in addition to a 5′ telescopic for casting. We used both size 5/0 treble hooks, and size 5/0 circle hooks. Bait was chicken blood doughs, little stinker dip bait, and cut bait we saved from last time (blue gill). The setup was the same as last time– casted out as far as possible, and posted into the ground with rod holders. At the same time, we threw a couple free lines in for baitfish. As soon as evening hit (6pm and forward) the hits started coming!

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We were catching a lot of channels, but at the same time missing a lot. This sort of brought up a hook size debate. Circle hooks in particular work by turning and grabbing the side of the fish’s lips, which is why you generally do not have to “set” the hook like you do bait hooks and others. But the issue is if the bait covers the space between the tip and the rest of the hook too much, the hook has a tendency to bounce out. We experimented a lot with bait sizing, but we only had the 5/0 hooks so stuck with them.

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Seriously, the cats kept coming in! It was a great fishing day. Brook had fun, too. She is very well trained now so she is allowed off the leash and she is too scared to run away from us in the dark anyways. I do worry  about other angler’s trash though. God forbid she get into a discarded hook. Let that be a lesson– PLEASE clean up after yourself when fishing. If not for the good of the environment, for those of us who bring out furry friends out there.

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I just had to add this picture in because it was taken right after Dan slapped himself in the face with a big chunk of stinky cut bait, which I found HILARIOUS. As usual, he was mad at me for laughing at his expense, hence the facial expression…

The next cat we pulled up was a WEIRD surprise. Since we are relatively new in our channel cat angling escapades, we do a lot of studying of the fish’s anatomy, skin, fins, etc in order to better identify. We snag up a seemingly normal fish and Dan goes “This one’s all white!”

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Now check that out!  A ghost catfish in the night! Here’s it next to a regular channel for comparison:

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If you watch The Last Airbender, my immediate reaction was we have captures the OCEAN and the MOON spirits! Twi and La! Really cool catch anyways! It turns out to be an Albino Channel catfish, which is a VERY rare sighting in the wild. Similar albinos are bred in captivity for small fish tanks (much much smaller than this channel). It was a really cool surprise, and likely something we may never see again! Of course we released the beautiful moon spirit, lest the entire world fall out of balance.

GREAT day of catfishing on McKellar’s pond. This pond is quiet, pleasant and chock full of channels. We will be back!

 

 

Somersville Pond

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My sister was visiting back home in CT for a few weeks, from Australia, so I decided to come home and surprise my family. A cool aspect of getting into fishing was it even gave me and my dad another thing to bond over. Now Dad’s all “into” it too haha. So we looked up some local holes, and turns out here was one pretty close at a dam near an old mill site. Fairly small with a nice little pavilion as well as a small dock you could walk out onto.  I used my dad’s dated equipment, so it was about a 5ft long old school spin reel. Nothing fancy.

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I used the usual, old reliable technique of a treble hook or rooster tail with a fat night crawler attached. My Dad, just like when we were ice fishing, wouldn’t use any of the advice I gave him, and instead attached a hook to a circle bobber and had a little medley of baits floating an unknown distance above the bottom. We started off slow, and were basically competing on who could catch the most pumpkin seeds because MAN those little guys were greedy today.

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Some of them were so pretty though!

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In the meantime, my Mom, sister and brother came along and hung out with us on the dock, as well as took the boys for a walk. A quick reminder of what they look like:

The first fish I hooked was a beautiful, good sized perch! They don’t really have these around in South Georgia, where I’m living now, so it was really pleasant because these fish are just stunning.

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Here’s another angle and a selfie with my favorite hat…

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Even in the face of my success though dad just wouldn’t give up his weird bobber-bait-salad method. I pulled in a couple more perch after!

Dad got a lot of excitement when his goofy rig got a tug. Here he is with a HOG!

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Little pumpkinseed. Haha. Anyways, eventually I even reeled in a few black bullhead. Another cool species that isn’t local where I live.

Bullheads are actually a type of catfish, sort of similar to flatheads, ,but the bullheads head is way fatter. They share the shallow, rounded tail “fork” though, whereas blues and channels have a deeply forked tail. An issue I ran into however, was both one of the perch and both of the bullheads seriously swallowed the hook. We made a dire mistake of not equipping with long nose pliers while out here (we had only my dad’s stuff, I didn’t bring my kit) and so getting those hooks out was a pain in the ass. I also felt bad and truly hoped I didn’t fatally harm any of the fish in the process. A big lesson learned there, because I do truly value the life of all creatures.

Eventually I was able to convince my dad to use my slow pitch jig technique, against much of his opposition. And surprise! He pulled out a bullhead of his own.

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Little guy, but it’s better than sunfish, right? In the words of my Grandpa, however, “I saw your shitty bullhead!” My Grandpa is the worlds biggest Facebook troll, but that’s neither here nor there.

 

Overall, Somersville pond was a ton of fun. It’s packed full of fish, the area is clean and beautiful, and it was so quiet. There were a couple kayakers out there, but not too many people. A boat would have been nice because this dock/side was really the only easily accessible area on the shore, and the kayakers got to move down the whole pond. Really good time, definitely want to get out there again!

McKellar’s Pond

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In eastern/central North Carolina there are a few common types of American catfish: Channels, Blues, bullheads and flatheads. Since we often had success catching Amur catfish we decided to go after their supposedly delicious American cousins. McKellar’s pond is located in Fayetteville, NC tucked into a few backroads. The pond overall isn’t very well kept. It was littered with trash and remains of slobby fishing parties. Sad– they do not have any staff or conservationists to clean up; It’s the fisherman’s responsibility and it looks like people just don’t care around here.

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Anyways, we set up three catfish rods (two ugly sticks, and one telescopic) with different baits ranging from chicken liver flavored dough baits, to “Little Stinker” dip bait, and even some night crawlers. We casted out the rods as far as possible, then tightened the line up and placed the rods into individual rod holders. Finished it off with a little clip on bell that way when a fish bites, we are alerted. We used treble hooks for the dip/dough and circle hooks for other baits. In the mean time, we used our short rods to do a little spin fishing for bass or panfish. We went the first few hours without too much luck until I ended up catching this little guy:

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Channel catfish are known to like to eat bluegill, so we cut him up into small 1-1.5in sections, discarding the fins and spines and slipped it onto circle hooks. It’s important to note that the way a circle hook works is that it twists and punctures the side of the fish’s mouth. So when baiting a circle hook you want to ensure you keep the gap between the point and the hook fairly clear. Bigger bait isn’t always better on a circle hook, especially a smaller one like the 5/0 we were using.

 

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Once the bluegill was on the hook and the sun began to set, the bites started coming. It’s a whole lot of fun when the bells start ringing on all the rods!

We ended up with a good amount of channel cats after the sun went down. Catfishing is a lot like carp fishing in Korea, where it’s pretty stationary and passive, but man it’s fun to bring ’em in once the bell jingles. In the mean time, we just hung out, drank, and played with Brook the entire time. We kept 3 cats to take home with us, and released the rest.

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We cleaned up our catches the next day, using a fairly simple technique of a diagonal cut behind the gills, a cut down the spine to the tail, and just slice the meat off the skin. We got four good filets out of it, which we pan fried up with some seasoned breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper and created some delicious cat fish po’boys.

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Always a great experienced to catch, clean, and cook. We have finally figured out how to catfish in America!