Ice Hunting

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Woke up to some freezing temps, and a layer of snow in Connecticut. Being early in the winter season, not all bodies of water are locked up yet, and some are thicker than others. I decided to take measurements into my own hands, and head out to see if I could find my own “honey pot.”

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Of course I brought my partner with me, who was very excited to experience her first real snow. First stop, a small lake on Gulf Road, across from Soapstone Mountain access lot.

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To measure the ice, I dig a hole with my auger ever ten steps, then scoop out the slush. I place my tip-up spool at the bottom of the ice, and measure up. The spool begins on the 15″ mark, so I just count from there.  Unfortunately, freezing rain put about an inch of water over the ice and it was incredibly uneven. Didn’t have much luck here.

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So we moved onto Hurd’s Lake which was shrouded in an incredible and blinding fog. Again, it was layered in rainwater, so I stayed fairly close to the edge. If you look at the picture, it actually looks like open water, but it wasn’t. There was a good 4-inches of ice locked up beneath the slushy top. Again, though, no luck here.

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Finally, just by nature of wanted to catch a fish after skunking at all those different lakes, I just headed to my old favorite honey pot, Dennis Pond. The pond itself was covered in snow, without any sign of human tracks on it. Made a trail of holes 10 feet apart out toward the middle, and two rows of two holes across. Ice was easily 3.5-inches in all the spots I tested.

I began jigging with 2-lb test line and little red wigglers.

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Brook was excited by all the snow and ice and just being outside in general, so naturally, she completely went berserk, getting a huge case of the zoomies. She ran around like a wild animal all over the ice, much to my disdain, because the ice was untested. She ended up with her two hind legs in a hole and I had to put her in time out in the car to thaw out the rest of the time.

But in the mean time, I did manage to pull out a chain pickerel from one of the holes, successfully ending my skunk streak.

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Had to pack up the rods and reels and head home after the sun went down and my feet turned into popsicles. Hoping to find another honey pot in the future, still searching!

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!

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.

Frenchman Bay with Island Charter Fishing

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Research on where to surf fish on the Mount Desert Island, Maine coast lead us to the conclusion that it was not worth it. Though you can catch some Atlantic Mackerel from the shore, the seasonal Stripers had skipped the area this year.

So instead, we decided to go out with the experts at Island Fishing Charters and take to Frenchman Bay via charter boat. It was highly affordable at only around 45$ per adult, with everything included– lines, poles, reels, rigs, the whole nine. The only part I found odd was that we did not use any bait. Instead, our hooks looked tied up similar to a fly.

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It was a cold, misty morning, so we were sure to pack a couple of ponchos and our warmest clothing. Sadly, Brook couldn’t come with us on this adventure. The boat took us out to various spots along the bay for us to drop our lines into. Some were active, some weren’t.

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First catch was a Pollock, which is a Cod family fish. We had a bucket to keep our catches in and so long as the fish was longer than the mouth of the bucket, they were keepers.

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The one exception to that was the Atlantic Cod. These fish around these waters remained protected, and had to be released upon catch.

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The scenery was absolutely beautiful on this trip. Above, those are a bunch of seals and their pups lounging around on Egg Rock Island. We saw some swimming around in the water as well. We were also lucky enough to have a group of porpoise decide to swim and dive along with our boat. If that wasn’t enough of a nature trip, a bald eagle sat atop an evergreen tree, took flight and swooped down to snatch a fish from the water with its talons. That’s not something you get to see every day!

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The last type of fish we caught was the Atlantic Mackerel. Really neat looking creatures, with their elaborate pattern on their back. They did not chirp like the mackerel we had caught in Korea with Chagui-do Bay Charter Fishing though!

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The views and the nature were amazing, and the staff was extremely helpful. Since the sea floor in this area is incredibly rocky and rugged, we did experience quite a few catastrophic snags that tore the entire rig away. The staff had ready made rigs to tie onto your pole in a few seconds, which was really convenient, that way we could continue fishing as much as possible. When this pleasant experience was at its end, we headed home with dinner.

IMG_20170818_192348_038We decided to keep only two Pollock and two Mackerel. The staff on the charter boat offered to clean the fish for us, and they used the same simple methods as seen in our How to Clean a Fish in Three Steps guide.

At that point, Dan the camp-chef took over and using simply butter, salt, pepper, and a pan, created a delicious flaky dish of both fish. We paired it with a classic Korean dish known as “budaejiggae” or “Army Stew” that includes salt, garlic, pepper paste, soy sauce, sugar, water, kimchi, beans, onions, and an array of different ingredients such as spam, vienna sausage, tofu,  noodles, rice and whatever veggies you want.

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The fishing trip was a lot of fun, and we got to see some beautiful parts of nature. I would certainly recommend this charter to anyone looking to go coastal fishing in Mount Desert Island or Bar Harbor. It put dinner on the table, that’s for sure.

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!

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!

Broken Arrow Creek

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Equipped with a new pole, and some newly gained American catfishing experience from NC, I set out to try the Chattahoochee River again, this time at a landing near Broken Arrow Creek. This was behind the “Pet Cemetery” at Fort Benning and I had heard good things about it from others. To get there, you have to navigate through a maze of unimproved dirt roads, often flooded over with water, so a off road capable vehicle is a must. The lift on my ’04 Jeep Grand Cherokee was good enough, but I could see it being impossible in a rainier time.  When you reach the end, there’s a couple of different landings to fish, some on the creek itself, and some on the river. I decided to set up on the river.

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Naturally, using a worm as bait for my first rod, I come up with a gill. I was trying to set up my other rod, but kept getting tags on the first one. Next was this little guy:

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That’s a baby channel! Cute little guy. I was using a medium action rod, and the issue was that I didn’t have enough weight attached to it to cast it as far as I wanted. So basically, I was catching the little guys. This next one was a bit of a surprise though since usually they only go for live baitfish!

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Yup, that’s a schoolie! My very first striped. These guys fight like hell though; it was hard to get him to stop flopping to even take the picture.

Unfortunately, after I got my second rod set up, I really didn’t come up with anything so I packed it in after a few hours and called it a day. Definitely will check this spot out again and see if I can catch a true striper!