Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Late-April 2016 Fishing Report

Weather has been warm for the past week or two.  The fish seemed to like that, but also seemed tougher to catch much of the time.  Maybe there are insect hatches going on that the fish are filling up on?
Have caught some chunky bass, but no 18"+ fish recently.  I've seen guys with spinning gear catch some nice ones, though.  This was a good fighter:

I caught another big 9" Pumpkinseed Sunfish this past weekend:

Based on the coloration of some of the male crappies, and the bellies on the females...the spawn may be starting soon.
What's the smallest crappie you've ever caught?  I was fishing a local public pond I had not fished before....and this one might be my new record smallest crappie:

I did catch a couple nice Green Sunfish there in the 8"-8.5" range:

A chartreuse 1/80th oz Microjig is still catching a good number of fish, but as the fish start moving even shallower, a #8 or #10 yellow Boa Yarn Leech is also catching plenty of fish.

Hit another pond the following evening.  Found some nice bluegills, medium-sized crappies that were sorta thin, and a few decent-looking bass.

Fished another pond and got this 12.5" Crappie just before a storm rolled in:
And a few others caught near the end of the month:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Pond Management Seminar

On Wednesday, April 13, 2016, I attended a Pond Management Meeting in Jesup, Iowa.

The guest speakers were Nate Herman ( http://www.hbpondmanagement.com/ ) and his Fish Biologist, Tad Locher.  The speakers were enthusiastic and knowledgable, and I found the presentation to be immensely interesting.  Between information presented and questions I asked before and after the seminar, I feel like a learned quite a bit.

My interest and questions were largely associated with my desire to help the city where I live and fish to manage some of their 30+ public ponds.  Most of the ponds, we'd like to manage to provide good-sized Bluegills.  In a few others, we may want to focus more on managing for good-sized bass.  Some of the things I learned are below.  Some of it, I added some necessary background information as well.
1.  Channel Catfish in ponds:  Channel catfish are a good add-on fish.  They don't seem to adversely affect either the panfish or bass populations.  They are omnivorous, and tend to be more predatorial as they get bigger.   They are an excellent table fish, and are best when harvested at around 1.5 lb size.
They don't typically reproduce well in ponds, so their population should be maintained by balancing stocking rates with harvest rates.

2.  Blue Catfish:  Nate and Tad were VERY excited with the results they've been seeing from stocking Blue Catfish in ponds & lakes.  They are more of a predator than Channel Catfish, and seem to grow faster and larger.  They can reach sizes of 20-25 lbs or more in ponds.  They are good at helping control bluegill and crappie populations, and they will also eat young carp if present.  They typically stock these at a rate of FIVE 8"-10" fish/acre of water.  That seems like a low number, but not when you image them growing to  FIVE 20lb fish/acre!

3.  Hybrid Striped Bass:  Their experience with adding this fish to ponds has been largely good.  They don't do well in some ponds, but do well in others.  They can help control bluegill populations by eating the smaller ones, but won't eat the large ones because of their mouth size.  They typically reach 4-6 lbs in size.  The ponds they do well in often have a good steady supply of water coming in, and/or at least some shad in the pond.  They said there really is no down side to trying Hybrid Striped Bass...if they don't eat well, they just won't grow much.  They recommend stocking of ~ 30 4"-6" fish/acre.

4.  Bluegills:  The most recent studies have shown that if a pond/lake has big bluegills in it, you need to protect the big males that build the nests during spawning.  It works like this:  As long as you have large males doing the nesting/spawning, the younger bluegills will continue to spend their energy on feeding and growing, until they reach the size to be able to compete with those "alpha males".  If those "alpha males" are removed from a pond, the smaller bluegills immediately become sexually mature and their growth rate slows tremendously.  That's commonly how ponds and lakes get "stunted bluegills" that never seem to grow to large sizes. They recommended harvesting female bluegills only.  

5.  Largemouth Bass:  Largemouth Bass have 2 main lifestyles...as Roamers (constantly swim around in search of food) and Ambushers (sit and wait for food to swim by a piece of underwater structure).  Roamers eat more bluegills, but expend more energy...so they max out at around 3lbs in size.  Ambushers eat fewer bluegills, but expend less energy, so these bass can grow to large sizes.  In waters where large bluegills are the desired goal, you want very little structure, and plenty of bass under 16".  In waters were large bass are the desired goal, you want more structure for ambushing, and you want to harvest skinny bass of any size, but release all fat healthy bass.

6.  Aeration is desired in most ponds.  Actually the "aeration", or pumping air to diffusers placed strategically on the pond bottom, serves to circulate the water column, and when the water from the depths reaches the surface, it will become more oxygenated by contact with the air.  Aeration typically allows an even amount of dissolved oxygen at all depths, and allows fish and bacteria to utilized the entire pond year-round.  Without it, ponds typically stratify during the hot summer months, and water becomes low on dissolved oxygen in the depths.  Inadequate aeration can cause a slow rate of circulation in ponds, which can result in algae blooms and fish kills.

7.  Adding supplemental food (pellets) to ponds can greatly improve fish growth rates and the ultimate size they can obtain.  The type of feed used is important.  For example, bluegills will grow and do well if fed on an omnivorous catfish food pellet.  But they will max out at around 3/4 lb.  If fed a higher protein pellet, they can reach 1.5-2 lbs!  Feeding pelleted food is more economical than feeding minnows.  For example, it takes 10 lbs of fathead minnows to generate 1 additional pound of gamefish biomass in a pond.  It takes 2 lbs of pelleted food to generate 1 lb of additional gamefish biomass in a pond.

8.  If the bluegills in your pond don't seem to grow beyond 4"-6", you can actually help the population by removing some of those fish and stocking 4"-6" bluegills from a hatchery.  This is because the fish in your pond may be 4-8 years old...while the fish from the hatchery are fast-growing fish that are probably only 1.5  years old.  They are likely to outgrow the size of the existing fish in your pond.  This is a good thing!

I thought this was pretty cool....during the presentation, Nate put up a PowerPoint slide showing the differences between a male bluegill and a female bluegill.  I thought the pictures looked really familiar...  so I took a picture of him and the slide to check it out later.
Turns out they are both pictures I took on a flyfishing trip in my kayak at Lake Keomah, Iowa.  I blogged about it here back in 2012.
Yep...pretty cool!  :)  Of all the pictures of bluegills out there....what were the chances???

Blog Refocus coming soon.

When I started this blog, I had several main goals in mind.
1.)  To chronicle my own fishing adventures in some fashion, for my own personal future perusal.
2.)  To share knowledge I've gained from much time spent fishing my local waters.
3.)  To excite and encourage others to get out and fish their own local waters by posting pictures of what can be caught in public waters.
4.)  To support a Catch, Photo & Release (CPR) ethic of fishing.  If a fishery is balanced, it doesn't need any interference on our part, and I do believe we can fish for the enjoyment of it without adversely affecting a fishery.  That's been my experience.  I should also say I'm not against folks keeping fish for the table, if done with proper regards to sustaining or improving your local fisheries.

I believe there is a hunger for information out there.  And let's face it, I think most of us have turned to the internet for the bulk of our information these days.  Its quick and easy to access from our computers and smartphones, and there is a huge amount of information available covering nearly anything you want to learn.  There are a fair number of websites & blogs that contain great information on flyfishing and warmwater flyfishing (which is the bulk of what I do here in central Iowa).  I hope to supplement what is already available, or maybe provide insight from a different or more focused perspective, based on my experiences.

So, in upcoming blog posts I'm planning to refocus on the sharing of information, so other anglers can (hopefully) shorten their learning curve towards being more successful on their local waters.  I will probably revisit some topics I have posted on before, especially species specific information.  So...expect to see me recycling pictures I've used before.  You've been warned.  :)   I plan to rewrite the blog entries from scratch, however, so the information should all be updated and new.

The bulk of my flyfishing takes place very close to home.  I happen to live in a town that has grown from @ 20,000 to 50,000 in the past 15 years.  Many residential and commercial subdivisions have been built.  Often, stormwater retention/detention ponds are included in the design of these subdivisions to help control soil erosion and surface water pollution.  The City often takes final ownership of these ponds and turns them into parks for the public to enjoy.  There are now more than 30 such ponds in my town, and these are the waters I fish most often.  I feel these public ponds are more difficult to fish than the typical farm pond, where often few people are allowed to fish each year.  These public ponds get fished nearly every day, so pressure is high.  And when the fish are large (especially bluegills or crappies), the big fish get harvested.  Sadly, this results in smaller bluegills in the ponds over time.  It is what it is.  I will talk about that more in future blog entries.

Flyfishing Report for Mid-April 2016

Still getting some decent bass on flies.  Size 2 baitfish/sunfish patterns and tiny 1/80 oz microjigs have been catching most of the bass.
19" Largemouth Bass

18.5" Largemouth Bass
Also catching a few Pumpkinseed Sunfish.
9" Pumpkinseed Sunfish
and others:
Pumpkinseed Sunfish

Pumpkinseed Sunfish
This is a naturally-occurring Hybrid Sunfish:
Hybrid Sunfish
Have also been catching some decent bluegills:
Male Bluegill

Male Bluegill

I've been catching crappies, but the big ones recently have been throwing my fly.  Hey...the fish gotta win sometimes!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

March-early April 2016

Well...I haven't posted in nearly a month!
I've been busy...took a Spring Break trip to Palm Springs and Los Angles with my wife and teenage kids.  Flew to Arizona and drove back to Iowa with my Mom and her dog.

But I've been fishing as well.  Our waters here aren't warming up much.  They are probably in the upper 40's.  Weather here has been variable.  One day the high temperature was 40 degrees, the next day it was 80 degrees, and then the third day was back in the low 50's.

I've been flyfishing the local public ponds.  Some days they are good, some days not so much.  I can usually manage to fool at least some fish.

My top producer has been a chartreuse 1/80th oz microjig under an indicator.  Other flies that have produces well are an unweighted black mohair leech, and an unweighted chartreuse mylar chenille bugger (no hackle).  I had a BIG bass take a large popper, but it shook free near shore.  I also caught a couple bass on a chartreuse craft fur baitfish pattern.  Each time it happens, I think its a fluke....and its happened 3 times already this season: I've caught 3 large bass on that little microjig!  The first (in a previous post here) was 18.75", the second was 18.5", and the third was 20"!
This is the 18.5-incher (it was sorta skinny):

And this is the 20-incher (nice deep-bodied fish):

Two guys I've flyfished with have caught 9"+ Pumpkinseeds so far.  My biggest has been 8.5".  Nice fish!

I also got into some really nice STRONG Bluegills one day...They were chunky 8"+ fish....which (sadly) is pretty nice for around here.

I've also caught some crappies...nothing over 11", however.

Caught some Hybrid Sunfish:

And reached down into some shallow water to introduce this Crayfish to my camera-phone:
The better fishing is still to come!