Monday, April 25, 2011

The Old Creek Lake Mystery: Part 1

    Ok, here's what I do know:
    There's a small lake in Eastern Virginia in the small town of Tappahannock.  My grandparents have lived there since I was a kid, and throughout my childhood and young fishing carreer, this lake has provided me with some of my best memories.  One very appealing feature(in my opinion) of this lake, is the mystery it holds.  Not that its hard to catch fish here, for that is definitely not the case.  However, the dark water, unknown depths, and woody bottom make it very hard to disect without electronics, and furthermore, the knowledge of just what makes the bass tick in this lake has alluded me for years. 

    A good place to start is in identifying fish species in the lake.  Perhaps the most abundant fish is the Black Crappie--with several reaching past the 15" mark.  Next, sunfish like Pumpkinseed and Bluegill are the next most abundant.   Bass are difinitely present, and have been caught up to five pounds, but catches are usually accidental(caught while crappie fishing), and few and far between.  Catfish I have caught, bullheads marinated in the thick mud, but again, these catches have been accidental, while fishing for other species with worms.
    Many creeks feed the lake, and like the names suggests, the long, flowing lake is built on the existing creekbed.  For years I have fished from the dock in the main channel, and quite successfully I might add.  Only last year did we purchase a small pontoon boat--a twelve footer equipped with a trolling motor.  This boat has been a great tool in figuring out this lake.

    What I still don't know:
    A great first step in disecting a lake is to take a good long time to study a contour map.  As you might have guessed, this lake has no such thing.  To make things worse, the original constructors of the lake left the timber standing when the lake was filled, and then cut the trunks off at water lever--the whole bottom is filled with logjams and trees(which can get very expensive for a teenager).  I would love to know the depths and shape of the lake bottom.

    Catfish:  I never have chased them exclusively, but when you catch a few small fish on accident, you begin to wonder where the others are.  Perhaps hiding in the entangles cages of wood on the bottom?

    As I learn better and better how to establish a pattern for a body of water, this lake still resists my efforts.  There are many things I need to know before I can successfully catch OCL Largemouth.  What is the main forage?  Where do they spawn with very few shallow areas to choose from?  Why are catch rates so low?

    Sitting here on the back porch, looking over the lake, the skies are alive with birds.  Osprey, Eagles, Commorants, Seagulls, Ducks, Geese--all fish, and live on the banks.

    Last weeks 5-0 Largemouth (see "Pickerel Pond?") came on a crayfish, which are usually a key food after the first heavy rain during the spawning time--as was last weekend.  The largemouth I caught this trip, yesterday and today, have had crayfish in their bellies.  Yet, I have never, ever, been able to smack one on a crayfish imitation.

     On the rare occasion that the water is clear enough to see more than a foot, against the bank there are minnows to be seen--about an inch in length in general.  These are obviously a major food source for the Crappie, but is it large enough to sustain the largemouth as well?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pickerel Pond?

    Last weekend I decided to hit the pickerel pond, this time armed with two dozen medium minnows in search of a big Pickerel.  The first observation I made was the fact that the grass was about to break the surface--a good sign that the topwater action is about to take off.  With the water temp. around 55*, I was expecting the Pickerel, coldwater spawners, to be burried in the deepwater weedbeds.  Thoughts of twenty-five inch Jackfish haunted my mind.

    With the first few casts it was evident that the only Largemouth I have ever caught here has a larger family tree than I expected.  My first fish of the day was solid 5-pound male off of a bed in about two feet of water.  We hit the spawn spot on this time, being the male fish, that fans the bed with his tail, it was almost dripping with blood.  This guy came off of the only crayfish in the minnow bucket.

    Unfortunately, the minnows didn't come through, and with the spawning story confirmed, I couldn't wait to tie on a Senko.  Countless fish came off of a 4", green pumpkin Senko, both Pickerel and Bass.  My trophy Pickerel did make a showing, a two footer that took a swipe at a waking senko--but did not commit.

    As the sun sank behind the houses on the opposite bank, the Largemouth bite turned on.  In multiple cases I managed to take both fish off of the beds.  Closer to time to go home, I returned to the dam side of the pond to fish the shallow weedbeds there.  To my surprise, these bass were not Largemouth, but Spotted Bass.  And how?  Its mysteries like these that accompany many bodies of water that keep the sportsmen interested.

    Unfortunately, I failed to take a picture of these fish, I will remember to next trip.  Its also worth mentioning that these Spot were nice chunks--about a pound on average, which is a decent Spotted Bass in the Commonwealth.  This trip was just the confidence boost I needed to start the spring fishing pattern.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More Fun WIth Pickerel

This week, at my other house, I was blessed with a no homework weekend (the first in a LONG time).  My desire to hit the pond again, as I had to leave on an adrenaline pumped mind last time, drove me back.  Snow had fallen overnight, and church took up the first part of the day, so the excursion was set for the afternoon.

My dad met me there because I now had him excited with stories of big pickerel.  The first fish came quick, off a grassbed again.  The pattern began to be apparent, and I theorized that the fish were gaurding their beds in the grass.  These fish all came on the Berkeley Rippleshad.

After a few fish we changed to yamamoto grubs, rigged on jigheads.  Casts into the depths of the pond began to yeild larger fish.  Soon a big splash and tailwalking thrashes came from my dad's direction, he lifted the big 20 incher onto the bank with a swing of his rod--the big fish of the trip.
Several fish later, we came across a shallow fish, who kept taking my dad's grub.  two, three, four, five times, then he was gone.  With my ultralight rod, I flipped a small, gold spoon into the fish's path.  As expected, he took it and ran.  Before I lifted the little guy out of the water, at my feet, the razor-like teeth of the pickerel severed the light four pound line--he was gone. 

A few minutes later, I hooked a small fish on my grub in the same spot, but in deeper water.  This time I got it in my hands.  As I worked him into shallow water, a small gold flash came from his head--my spoon!  We snapped a quick picture and removed  both lures from the fish's mouth.  after removing the bulky grub, I noticed a tail protruding from his throat.  Upon pulling it out, we identified his last meal as a creek chub.  We now know the main forage.
Naturally, knowing the main forage present in the pond, I started brainstorming ways to catch more fish.  I was excited to plan a trip with my brother who loves pickerel.  We figured we'd sein minnows and chubs from Cunningham Creek just down the hill, and then smash some pickerel under slip bobbers.  I can't wait!

A Spring Surprise

    The subdivision I live in in central Virginia sports a fairly empty (as far as fish go) pond.  Six years of second chances on this pond has produced far less than expected.  However, the next subdivision links to ours in the back, and they too have a twin pond.  Before now, never have I fished this pond, but the knowledge of its significant age instilled high hopes in my mind.

    On a wim, I took the last hour of light after spending a day raking leaves and playing with the two new Irish Setter, Maggie and Fiona, to pop over to the pond and fish.  My main mission that day was to determine the status of Cunningham Creek (fishy/fishless), but after finding no fish, my interests led me out of the woods to the pond.

    On the first cast, against a small grassbed, a short 9" Pickerel inhaled my 2" grub.  Pickerel were the last things I was hoping to find here (not because they are not fun to catch, but because they are not prominant many places here), so I released the green missle and placed another long cast outside the grassline.  My grup had scarcly hit the water before the line went tight, and limp, just as soon--I was bitten off.

    Bummed, because I had no other tackle with me (mistake!), I realized I had brought my fly rod.  Two casts with the new 3wt. rigged with a yellow CK nymph brought a football largemouth and a small bluegill to the bank.

    About this time the phone rung and it was time for dinner.  Disappointed, but anxious to share my story, I headed home in the rain.