Double Your Pleasure with Hickory Shad

What could be more fun than catching a hard fighting, high jumping gamefish on light tackle? Well, catching them two at a time would, of course. While hickory shad are not the biggest fish out there, their vigor, cooperative spirit, and sheer numbers make them fan favorites. Hickories provide spring fun for anglers in coastal rivers up and down the eastern states, and tandem rigging makes it even better.

An anadromous species, the hickory shad spend the majority of their life in saltwater. They migrate into freshwater rivers only to spawn. Those that survive return to the salt shortly thereafter. We fishermen most often intercept them at or near their spawning grounds.

A brace of hickory shad taken on a tandem rig,

Tandem rigs are the name of the game for hickories. This my current tandem rig. Start with a Perfection Loop or other reliable loop knot at the end of your line or leader. Then about a foot or two above that tie in a Dropper Loop. Using two loop knots allows me to easily add, replace, or remove lures as the fishing conditions dictate.

One more note about rigging: if you are using a landing net, don’t make the separation between loops greater than your net’s hoop diameter.  I figured this out the other day when we had about 30 inches between lures and only 18 inches of net. If we netted the top fish, the bottom fish had an extra foot of leader to evade the net. We had to lift the top fish out of the water, net the bottom fish, then lower the top fish into the net – not very elegant. A quick snip off the end of the leader and a new Perfection Loop corrected that.

Rigged gold Shad King and custom green shad dart at top. Flicker, Kastmaster, silver Shad King, Len Thompson No. 6, 1″ curly tail grub, custom pink shad dart, Roadrunner with 2″ curly tail below.

Shad darts, small curly tails, Kastmasters, and many other diminutive jigs and spoons are good choices for hickory shad. You can vary the lure style, color, or weight depending on the conditions. Wind, water clarity, current speed, depth, and personal preference all play a factor.

Spoons are best placed only in the bottom position. The wobble and spin of a spoon is restricted at the upper position and can also cause some tangles. Jig type lures perform well in either position. My usual lure offering is a shad dart at the top position and a small Shad King spoon at the bottom position.

The shad run begins in the south and continues roughly, sequentially northward. Now may be the time for tandem rigging shad on your home waters.

This little rockfish grabbed the shad dart at the top of my tandem rig. Bass, pickerel, crappie, perch, sunfish and other species will find a shad rig appealing too.

Stock-A-Palooza

Like the first robins of spring, stocking trucks and the nets full of trout are harbingers of greener pastures. That is true both literally and figuratively. How ’bout that?

A colorful male “broodstock” rainbow trout.

Wordplay aside, grab your Len Thompsons , or whatever your “go to” trout lures may be, and take advantage of these hatchery enhanced fisheries.

What run of the mill stockers may lack in size, they make up for in fight and eagerness to bite.

In my early years, April meant trout season. Then for many years I wouldn’t be caught dead near trout water in April. In fact, I looked forward to April as a decoy to draw people away from the non-trout waters.

From hand size to…

Recently, I’ve come full circle. I look forward to fishing stocked trout waters like it’s some kind of manmade spawning run. The action is fast, the size can be great, and for those inclined, it offers some guilt free harvest opportunities.

…two hands plus, stocked trout add a surge of variety and excitement to spring fishing.

Stockers, stockies, planters, hatchery trout; call them what you will, they provide great spring action for those that partake.

Fishing a Different Kind of Bridge

Winter yields to spring. Ice melts. Temperatures rise. Days get longer. Fish feel the biological urge to spawn.

Chain pickerel and holdover rainbows follow the bridge to the same deepwater edge.

The bridge is both a time and a place. It is when and where anglers have the opportunity to catch both coldwater and warmwater species in the same locations. It is when and where winter habits and habitats change over to those of spring. It is a bridge between seasons and an intersection of migration routes.

The bridge takes largemouth bass to that same edge.

Wellsville Fishing Flea Market

15th ANNUAL WELLSVILLE
FISHING FLEA MARKET
March 11, 2017, 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Wellsville Fire Company
95 Community Street
Wellsville, PA. 17365
Sponsored by:
PENNSYLVANIA BASS FEDERATION
DISTRICT III
Admission $ 3.00
Children FREE Under 16 years

FREE SEMINARS
COME LISTEN TO A VARIETY OF REGIONAL
AND LOCAL FISHING AND TOURNAMENT EXPERTS
SATURDAY ONLY
9:00 AM TONY DRANZO
Fly Fishing Local Water
10:00 AM COAST GUARD AUXLIARY
Cold Water Boating and Safety Equipment Needed
11:00 AM TOM PURVES
River Smallies Fishing
12:00 PM CORBIN GOTWALT
Marburg Lake Bass Tip and Techniques
1:00PM CAPTAIN JAIME HUGHES
Tips & Techniques for Monster Catfish
2:00 PM CORBIN GOTWALT
River Smallies Fishing Tips

YOUTH EVENTS
REEL KIDS CASTING COMPETITION
Competition will be divided into two age
divisions (7-10 and 11-14 years old).
Winners will receive a rod and reel with
opportunity to compete at, STATE
CHAMPIONSHIP, held at CABELAS.
New, used and Antique fishing & boating
equipment will be for sale.
GUIDES & CHARTER CAPTAINS, Saltwater,
and Freshwater
PA Fish and Boat Commission
US Coast Guard Auxiliary
Fishing and Game Clubs tables
Meals and Refreshments will be
available from Wellsville Fire Company.
RAFFEL DRAWING at 4:00 Saturday
Rods, reels, and charter trips. Need not
be present to win.

Questions and table contact: Steve Koch at 717-756-6747; or skfish4048@aol.com
Check US out on FACEBOOK

 

Let Your Voice Be Heard

The introduction of Bill H.R. 622 looks suspiciously like a plan to weaken America’s public land system. The bill proposes the elimination of federal law enforcement on public lands. The responsibility would be transferred to local law enforcement.

That’s right; replace the officers trained specifically for the job with those trained in more general law enforcement. Ask your local sheriff’s office what they know about harvesting firewood in a National Park, and see what they say. With diminished law enforcement coverage, our parks will become vulnerable to exploitation, and quickly lose value in the public eye. With less perceived value, the “for sale signs” won’t be far behind.

Who would propose such a change? That would be Jason Chaffetz, the same Utah congressman that recently proposed to sell 3.3 ares of our public lands in H.R. 621. The voice of the people was heard and H.R. 621 was withdrawn. If you hunt, fish, hike, or just appreciate the forethought of Teddy Roosevelt; please investigate H.R. 622. Follow this link for the short story.

Click here to learn more about H.R. 622 and how you can be heard.

Aren’t Those For Bass?

Trolling with Hawg Shads

Very often we, as fishermen, fall into a target species, marketing pigeonhole. A particular lure is marketed or gains notoriety for one type of fishing, and we resist trying it for other types of fishing.  I’ve heard it over and over at fishing expos, “Is this a saltwater lure?”, or “Isn’t that a bass lure?’ Just because the label implies one thing, doesn’t mean it is not equally applicable for another presentation.

Fish don’t read labels or watch TV. They eat smaller fish – that’s mostly what they do. With that in mind, here is an excellent multi-species trolling rig using a lure better known as a dropshot offering for bass.

A double of Hawg Shad rainbows.

Start with either a 3.5″ or 2.8″ Hawg Shad and rig as described in the March 2016 post: “Keeper Rigging Small Plastics”. The supple plastic and remarkable color patterns make the Hawg Shad the perfect choice for this rig.

Connect the “Keeper Rigged” Hawg Shad to a wobbler with 10 to 20 inches of mono or fluorocarbon. The wobbler has no hooks. It functions as an attractor and enhancer for the hook bait. The shorter the leader, the more aggressively your Hawg Shad will move. Conversely, longer leaders create a more subtle action.

Different brands go by different names such as; Wobbler, Wabbler, or Flasher. I’ve been using the F1 Flasher from Williams. It’s an eliptical spoon that measures about 2.75″ long.
I like to add a ball bearing swivel on each end of the spoon to reduce possible line twist.

This is a slow trolling rig. It is ideal for electric motor, row, or paddle trolling. You want a side to side swing action – not a spin. The wobble and swing makes the Hawg Shad dart from side to side like a fleeing minnow. The wobbler adds extra flash and vibration as well as imparting the action to the Hawg Shad.

Small Landlock on the Hawg Shad

Bass also like a trolled Hawg Shad…

…and so do chain pickerel, the ever-present bonus fish.

 

 

Those Brown Boots

I am one of those people who is caught up in the Alaskan reality TV craze – among other reality themes. If someone came out with a show about gold alligators in Alaska, I’d never leave my livingroom. Anyway, I wondered what the deal is with those brown boots that everyone in Alaska appears to wear.

I finally had to google it. I typed “brown boots” into the search bar. Before I could type any more “Alaska” self-propagated. What do you know? They really are a part of Alaskan culture. It’s not just a clever product placement scheme. They are called Xtratufs; made from neoprene rubber by Honeywell International, Inc. .

A little more googling and I found references to non-marking soles, good traction on wet surfaces, comfort, and durability. My interest increased. Now, I own a pair myself.

I have had mine for just over a year. I can honestly say I have no complaints. They are extremely comfortable. I don’t wear them for any kind of extreme activities, or haven’t yet. I wear them mostly for fishing from boats or brief shoreline excursions. Throw in the occasional snow shovelling or wet weather yard work job. It’s been a light duty year, but they have held up fine so far, with vertually no signs of wear & tear.

Comfort is what has impressed me the most. I think a good portion of the comfort comes from the pliability of the boots overall and especially in the uppers. The foot of the boot flexes easily with my own foot in a nearly sneaker-like way. The uppers are so flexible, I don’t even feel them on my calves. Picture rubber boots that are just stiff enough to stand up on their own. That’s the Xtratufs.

The soft uppers flex with your movement and do not irritate your calves.

Although Xtratufs do come in an insulated model, mine are uninsulated. Their warmth is directly proportional to your socks – the colder the day; the heavier the sock. For winter fishing, I use thick 78% Merino wool socks marketed as a hiking, hunting, and work socks. These have worked well for me during the coldest part of the open water season. My feet stay comfortable down to about 25 F in a passive activity; even lower in an active pursuit. I was wearing them the other day while trolling at about 20 F. I had to periodically do toe calisthenics, flexing and stretching, to keep my feet comfortable. Apparently, 20 degrees was a little under the temperature limit on my feet.

78% Merino Woll, 20% Nylon, 2% Lycra

I’ve always thought rubber boots were about the goofiest looking footwear a man can wear, and that’s coming from a guy who owns Crocs. The functionality of Xtratufs have broken that barrier for me. I wear my brown boots regularly, and I wear them proudly.

Chain Pickerel: The Ever-present Bonus Fish

They take a backseat to many gamefish, but I for one think chain pickerel deserve a little more credit than they get. They are willing biters, good fighters (we’re talking pound for pound, not inch for inch), and present in a wide range of waters and habitats. They just have a way of showing up on your line no matter what your target species may be.

On many lakes, you can’t pursue largemouth bass in shallow cover without combing though numbers of chain pickerel, but that’s the obvious encounter. The species/habitat overlap is nearly 100% in that case. Although I don’t turn up my nose at any pickerel, the pickerel that I appreciate the most are the deep water bonus picks – the ones that take lures meant for open water species. These are suspended fish living out over water that would cover a five story building.

 

img_2950
You might be looking for this…
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…and catch this. That’s fine with me.

Reason #1, it’s always an unexpected appearance. Who doesn’t love a surprise, especially in a colorful. green & yellow wrapper?

Reason #2, the deep water pickerel are always sizable; generally ranging from 2 to 5 pounds or even more. Bigger is better.

Reason #3, the fight quality is underrated. There’s no confusing a skinny 16 incher from the pads with a four pounder from the depths. Sure, the fight might include a period of that “wet sock” dead weight act, just like largemouth often do, but full grown specimens will show their athleticism with head shakes and short drag peeling bursts as well. The one in the pic at the top even gave a full bodied jump that would make a rainbow trout jealous.

Sharp teeth and copious amounts of slime will keep the chain pickerel way down on the general popularity scale. Most folks are just too squeamish. While everyone may not share my affinity for the species, I think we can all appreciate them as a predator and a gamefish.