Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fish Photo Tips

A friend from Central Iowa Anglers fishing club asked about why my fish pictures look so good (usually).  I thought I would repost my response here in case others might find the information useful.

It helps if you can start off with a good picture, and that usually means HOLD THE CAMERA STILL WHEN YOU SNAP THE PHOTO.  This will at least give you a good image to start with.  Snapping several pics of the same fish improves your odds of getting one that is sharp.  Remember, it really costs NOTHING to take more digital photos!  Also...if you old digital camera doesn't take good photos to start with...GET A NEW ONE.  Do your research...if the camera will be used primarily for fishing, I recommend a waterproof camera, of which there are several good brands that are affordable.

So...starting with a good photo...Here's what I do.  I used a program called PhotoScape (v3.6.2).  Its a GREAT program for pictures.  You can view, edit, create all sorts of things.  Its free, you can download it here:

After you've downloaded the pictures from you camera to your computer, I start up the PhotoScape program and click the "Editor" option.  I navigate to the folder containing my fishing pictures.  I open a new picture.

Step 1.  I click the "Crop" tab and crop the photo to show just the desired area.

Step 2.  Click the "Home" tab.  I click the "Resize" down arrow and reduce the size of the photo so the long edge is 1280 pixels.  If its an excellent photo that I might want to use as my computer desktop, I might go with 1600 pixels on the long side.  I do this mainly to reduce the size of the file.  Since most of these photos are posted on the computer, they just don't need to be huge in size, like they would be if you kept the original 8 or 10 MP photo from your camera.

Step 3.  I hit the "Auto Level" button.  If the photo looks better, I continue to the next step.  If it looks worse, I click the "Undo" button, then continue to the next step.

Step 4.  I click the "Backlight" down arrow and try a few variations (usually 50% or 75%....just hit the "Undo" button to revert back one step) to see what looks best.  This step reduces shadows and brightens the background a bit.  Going too far can give a weird "halo" effect around the fish, so watch out.  This is step can especially improve photos taken in low light conditions, even if you used a flash.

Step 5.  I click the "Sharpen" down arrow, and select a choice.  Usually a "2" is all I need.  If the original started blurry, nothing is going to make it look sharp, but bumping up to a "5" can sometimes help enough.

There's a lot of other things you can do with this software.  You can make classic Ansel Adams-style B&W images from your landscape photos, for example.  On rare occasions if I have a really dark photo, you can "brighten" the picture. It generally washes out the colors a bit, so its usually a last resort in trying to salvage an otherwise useless picture.

Have fun!

Addendum.  Its only fair to show an example of what I mean...
The picture below was taken of me by my friend Dale G. while we were fishing.  He downloaded it from his camera and sent it to me electronically.
This next picture is the result after I've cropped it and adjusted the backlighting and sharpness a bit:
The backlighting helps bring the face out of shadow a bit.  Improving the sharpness makes it a cleaner picture with less "blur".  In my opinion, its a better, more accurate and representative picture.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lunchtime Flyfishing Report, 10-24-2012

Air temp at 74F.  Overcast sky.  13mph wind from the South.  Might be the last day of the year for 70+ degree weather.  Gotta fish!

I visited a public pond not far from work.  This was a pond I had made my first visits to earlier this year, but hadn't revisited since May 1.

I started out with a yellow Boa Yarn Leech on my line.  I caught a small Largemouth Bass, then had a few tentative strikes.  I switched to an unweighted black Woolly Bugger.  Action picked up then.

I ended up with a "baker's dozen" of decent Bluegills.  They were colorful, so I took pictures of a few of the males:

Some of the bluegills are reaching 8", which is what this chunky female Bluegill measured:

And one pleasanst surprise on this trip was to discover a CRAPPIE in this pond!  Excellent!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Costume #1

This isn't my costume...its my son's costume.  It looked fun though, so I had to try it on.  It was a tight fit for me...and then my HEAD FELL OFF!!

Flyfishing Report, 10/21/2012

Saturday was an absolutely perfect, beautiful day for fishing.  So of course I didn't go.

Sunday was nearly as good, and I managed to head to the Skunk River north of Ames for an hours-worth of flyfishing in the late afternoon.  The river looked better, our recent rains have made a small improvement on the river, and there is now a small current flowing in the isn't just stagnant pools anymore.  Its still really shallow, though.

I was hoping to find some suckers, but didn't see any.  I wet-waded, and my feet got cold, so this is probably the last wet-wading trip of the season for me!  Despite my polarized sunglasses, the glare on the water prohibited me from sight-fishing.  I was casting blind.

I started out fishing a small wet fly, and caught 2 Smallmouth Bass.

As you can see on the fly, I was dredging up plenty of gunk even though the fly was lightly weighted with only a small glass bead.  Since the water was so shallow, I switched to a foam topwater...a Chernobyl Ant/Hopper pattern.  I caught 8 more Smallies on that, lost at least half that many more (barbless hook), and also caught one decent Bluegill.

Build-up for Trout, Oct. 19-20,2012

The DNR would be stocking trout in Banner Pits on Friday.  I got the day off from work.

In preparation, I decided to fly-fish Lake Petocka on Thursday evening for some "legacy trout" that may have survived the Summer.  It was cold miserable drizzly conditions, but I dressed for it.  I tried two spots.  I saw a fish dart away from shore at the first spot.  Not sure what it was.  At the second spot I landed 2 chunky Largemouth Bass.  Then it was too dark to bother, so I went home.

I finished tying up some flies I hoped the trout might be interested in the next day.

Friday was again cool, breezy and with a light drizzle off and on throughout the day.

Since the trout wouldn't be stocked until noon, I decided to occupy my morning with a goal of catching 100 fish before I headed to Banner Pits to fish for trout.

I visited a local public pond where I had caught 58 fish during my lunch hour on Thursday.  Fish weren't quite as easy to catch on Friday morning.  I only caught 77 fish on micro jigs before I had to leave for Banner Pits.  That total included an even 50 Crappies, 13 Bluegills, 12 Green Sunfish, one Largemouth Bass, and one Yellow Perch. The fish were mostly small.  The biggest fish were a 10" Crappie and an 11.75" Crappie.  I also lost another really nice Crappie that managed to throw the hook.

By the time I got to Banner Pits, the stocking truck was about halfway done dumping the trout into the lake.  The shoreline was crowded.  I picked a spot next to the stocking truck simply because it was the only open space...and it afforded me room to fly cast.

I tried several different fly patterns, and found a few the fish liked.  I was soon catching fish.  In the next two hours I landed and released 21 Rainbow Trout.

Compared with those anglers around me, I am happy to report that flies outfished PowerBait, live minnows, and nightcrawlers.  I could have fished longer...but I felt like I had fished enough for the moment.
On the way home, I tallied my fish total for the day.  98.  So close to 100, it would be a shame to waste that opportunity.  I realized I would need to fish one more spot to catch enough fish to push me over  triple digits.  It was time for the schools to be letting out for the day.  I had to take my kids to piano lessons, which lasts an hour, so I decided to wait and fish after I had dropped them off.

I fly fished a public pond I often just drive by.  It was still gloomy and drizzling.  I donned my rainwear and headed for the water, fly rod in hand.  Fishing was slow here.  Using a microjig under an indicator, I squeaked out 7 Bluegills, 5 Green Sunfish, and 2 tiny Largemouth Bass.  By tiny, I mean like 2" young-of-the-year Bass!

So, those 14 fish put my total for the day at 112 fish and 6 species.  Satisfied.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lunchtime Beast Bluegill, 10-16-2012

Skewed are my perceptions.  Gone are the days when 10" Bluegills were common.  These days, in the waters in my part of the world, an 8" Bluegill is a NICE Bluegill.  9-inchers are even uncommon in nearly all local waters.

Today during lunch, I headed to a local public pond.  Actually, it was Choice #2.  Choice #1 has small but plentiful Crappies, Bluegills, and Green Sunfish.  For reasons of my own, I was hoping for a "good numbers" lunchtime flyfishing outing.  But the parking lots around Choice #1 were practically overflowing, and folks out and about around the pond.  I prefer my crowds sparse or nonexistent.  Hence Choice #2, which has far far fewer numbers of fish, but the chance to catch some larger, 8" Bluegills...and usually few people during lunchtime.  This pond gets hit very hard on evenings and weekends, though, which is why the fish numbers are low.

Anyway, I tied on an unweighted black Woolly Bugger.  I fished a short stretch of shoreline in the 30 minutes I had to spend at the pond.  I managed just 4 Bluegills, and missed a few other strikes.  The 2nd fish caught was this BEAST (by my standards) chunky 9" female Bluegill.  This might not do it for most folks, but it got me pretty excited!  :)
The pictures just don't do it justice.  Beautiful healthy fish!

Dwarfs my hand!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fishing Report - October 13 & 15, 2012

I got out flyfishing for bit late Saturday evening.  The weather was warm...about 74 degrees.  Wind was gusty, but usually fishable.
I started off catching some nice Bluegills on a Springbrook Wunder microjig under an indicator.  Many were around this size:

I also caught 3 Largemouth Bass.  I took a picture of the smallest one...because it was so cute:

Later in the evening, it started misting pretty heavily.   I could see the waves of it under the nearby softball field lights.  It didn't didn't really even drizzle...just a heavy mist.  Eventually, although I was comfortably dry, my glasses got covered in tiny droplets to the point I could barely see.  I called it a night.

Monday, October 15....  I went flyfishing during lunch today.  Visited a nearby public pond.  Apparently the rain we had over the weekend had little effect on pond water levels.  The water did seem a bit clearer than it had been, though.

I caught around 20 Bluegills.  I also caught 4 small naturally-occurring Hybrid Sunfish.  All the fish were caught on a #10 unweighted chartreuse Woolly Bugger. Although the Hybrids were considerably smaller than the Bluegills I was catching, I had to take a picture of one of the colorful Hybrids:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sick Humor

I don't know why.  This picture has me trying to stifle a laugh here at work.  The Iowa DNR posted this picture on their Facebook page, asking people to submit their ideas for a caption.  My caption is below:
"Nice one.  Can you please move downwind next time??"
...or maybe:
"Don't look now, but some old toothless a-hole is talking about you behind your back!"

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fish Habitat Improvement Projects, 2012


Central Iowa Anglers (CIA) has worked with various public angencies over the years to improve fish habitat in central Iowa lakes.  CIA provides most of the (non-cedar tree) materials and labor.  Other participating groups provide the trees and the boats used for delivering the trees to the drop-off locations on the lake.

In May 2012, we (CIA) worked with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)'s blessing and with the assistance and approval of the City of West Des Moines Parks & Recreation to follow up a project started in 2011.  In 2011, cedar trees, wood pallet "teepees" and catfish tubes were placed at pre-designated areas in Blue Heron Lake.   Blue Heron Lake is an old quarry pit that often floods from the adjacent Raccoon River during wet years.

Here are a couple pictures from the 2011 project:

We've gotten pretty good at building the catfish tubes and pallet teepees.  These are built on-location and weighted with plenty of concrete cinderblocks.  The cedar trees are also weighted with cinderblocks to sink them.  We've learned to use plenty of cinderblocks!

Anyway, the 2011 project at this lake was a huge success, and the City of West Des Moines received a lot of positive feedback from anglers fishing the lake, from both open-water anglers and ice-fishing anglers.  So, when we approached the City about continuing to add more habitat to the lake this year (2012), they were excited about it and willing to provide any assistance they could.

We had a great turnout of CIA Members wanting to help out with the project.  Earlier in the week, the City had cut invasive cedar trees from around the lake, and placed them along a parking lot near the boat ramp.  We wired cinder blocks to these trees, and built wood pallet teepees out of discarded/donated pallets we had collected.  We affixed some cedar tree branches to the pallet teepees to increase their fish-holding attractiveness.  The City purchased the cinder blocks and provided one boat, and the Des Moines Izaak Walton League provided a second boat.

Following are some pictures from this project...of course I tried to pick mostly ones that I am in!  I'm the "fashion plate" in the orange shirt and yellow cap:
First we started preparing the cedar trees.

Pallet of cinderblocks?  CHECK!  I think we actually used two pallets of cinderblocks on this day.

Gotta love the CIA logo-wear!

Cedar tree(s) heading for their drop location.

Next, we started building the pallet teepees.

We ended up with an odd number of pallets, so we built this one.  It is NOT our typical design, but should hold fish, especially with a few cedar branches attached.

George Clooney? el Dorko....I mean, FishnDave!

Attaching some cedar branches to the pallet teepees.

Full load.

The delivery.
You just KNOW the fish had to be even more excited than we were!
We completed the project before noon, and celebrated with a cookout!  Great day!

This past weekend we assisted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in preparing and placing fish habitat in Saylorville Lake, a federal impoundment on the Des Moines River north of Des Moines, Iowa.  This is also an on-going project between USACE and CIA.  Over the years we've added a variety of habitat structures, and we monitor them for their fish-attracting and fish-holding abilities.  Cedar trees seem to be as or more effective than anything else we've tried, so it is a popular item for these projects.  Plus, the USACE appreciates a reason to cut and use some of these invasive plants from their lands surrounding the lake.

This project was much easier than most.  The USACE provided an end-loader and a large boat, while the Izaak Walton League provided a second boat.  USACE had the trees cut and ready in the parking lots near two different boat ramps, for use on this project.  They also purchased the cinderblocks.  CIA wired the cinderblocks to the trees, helped chain the trees to the loader for transport to the boats, and manned the boats for delivery to the predesignated drop-locations.  5 of the 6 chosen drop-locations were in areas that were intended to be accessible to shore anglers.  Accessibility of course is entirely dependent on the casting ability of the angler, and the water level in the lake.  The selected spots were in water deep enough to not hinder boating traffic during normal pool.  Here's some pictures from this event:
That's me with the outstretched arms.

I'm sitting on the ground, wiring some cinderblocks to the tree trunk.

"El Back-Saver"!!  Really made our work easier!

Excellent tree structure here!

Another great project completed for the year!  We don't know if these trees will hold fish this winter, or if it might take another year or two to attract fish.  It'll be fun checking this during ice-fishing season, which is just a few months away!

***EDIT:  Added the following pictures from this latest habitat project at Saylorville.  These pictures were taken from a CIA Member who had his boat on the water during the project.
The loader picking up a tree from the parking lot.

The Izaak Walton League's boat.

The USACE's boat.  BEAST!

Look at the size of this tree, compared to the boat!!!

The USACE boat handled the biggest trees with NO PROBLEMS!   WOW!