Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 24, 2014 - The Fifth Fish

This week was rough for fishermen.  Scattered thunderstorms or rain were forecast every day.

I went out Thursday, fished in the rain.  It was the sort of rain where you don't feel drops hitting you, and you get damp instead of wet.  Like sitting in a cloud.  No wind though, so there's that.

Caught two small bass on a popper.  Didn't keep them.

Sunday, first decent weather in days.  NOAA forecast this day as "Decreasing Clouds," apparently not wanting to go so far as committing to "Partly Cloudy" but still wanting to do their part to stave off shitty-weather-related suicides.  Anyway, the temperature was mild.  The wind was imperceptible except whenever I was casting, as is the nature of wind.

Caught a bass and bluegill on a inline spinner, went back to the car and traded my worm rod for a rod rigged with a curly tail under a bobber, proceeded to catch 4 more small but still worthwhile bass within 10 minutes.  I hooked the last fish in the gills, which means a bleak future if released, so of course I kept him. 

Therein lies a problem:  once I've caught my limit, is it ethical to continue fishing and is there any point in the first place or should I just go home?

The answer to the second question comes first - a literary technique I've developed to keep readers on their toes.  The ultimate end that the meat fisherman hopes to encounter is to catch your limit (or slightly more) and then go home, drink Natty Light, and watch football, but not necessarily in that order based on all the Natty Light cans you run into streamside.  A real meat fisherman is not privy to all of the internal monologue that a more philosophical fisherman would consider while ripping lips.  A real meat fisherman has more in common with otters than those erudite brothers of the angle who eschew nightcrawlers and minnows and instead prefer using dry flies drinking dry martinis.

But I'm not a real meat fisherman, at least I hope not.  If there was a spectrum, one end being the noble catch-and-release fly fisherman, and the other being the beer-gut blue-collar bubba, I'd hope to be somewhere in the middle, or maybe a little left of it.

So in my view, there is a reason to keep fishing, choosing to switch to catch-and-release.  But what then if I hook a fish in the gills.  I no longer have the option to keep him and he dies unnecessarily with no one benefiting other than turtles.  What an ethical dilemma!

So I started fishing out in more or less open water that's about 12-14 feet deep, fishing with the bobber rig with the jig about 6 feet deep, thinking I might catch a crappie.  And miraculously, I did.  I'm not sure whether that was skill and talent of good luck.  I had some other taps on the jig, but didn't hook any other fish.

Here's my mess of fish.  The yellow thing is my thermometer, shown for scale.  It is exactly 6 inches long.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13 2014 - Cesspool and On the Merits of Using Length to Assess Fish Size

Went down to the cesspool after work.  Cast a small red popper to tiny blugills, making my way around the pond.  Another guy showed up, and started casting an inline spinner from the opposite bank, and caught a little bass, maybe 6 inches.  I made my way to the head of the pool, and caught a small bluegill, about 4 inches long.  Lost my popper in a tree and gave up for the evening.

As I walked around the far side, I struck up a conversation with the gentleman, whose name, so he claimed, was Steve.  Steve gave me a hot tip on a good spot to fish, and showed me some pictures of huge bass that he caught at this good spot.

Anyway, Steve was fishing with a 4" "creature" rubber thing, most closely mimicking a crawdad.  He told me that the cesspool is loaded with crappie, which seems unlikely, and that he'd caught a 4 pound largemouth out of there, which seems entirely possible.

I didn't doubt him about the fish, reader, because I'd caught a  good size fish out of there.  However, in my tackle box I don't carry a scale, just because length is a sufficient enough metric for me to assess my performance and my compliance with the law.  Consequently, I have no idea how big a four-pounder actually is.

So I asked Steve "How long was the fish?" to bring it into my sphere of fish-size awareness.  After not inconsiderable consideration, Steve estimated the fish was 12 inches long, but was a spawning female that was really fat.

Reader, allow me to refer you to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website, where they have a table of lengths that you can use to estimate the weight of a largemouth bass.   This I assume refers specifically to Texas largemouths, which are probably bigger on average than bass around these parts.  According to their table, a 12.5" largemouth, on average, weighs exactly 1 pound, a quarter of what Steve thought his fish weighed.

Now, you might think I'm exposing Steve to all the internet as a charlatan, a scoundrel, a liar, even.  He may well be all of those things and more, but in this case it's just as likely that he has an underdeveloped sense of how much things weigh.

Most people can estimate the length of an object the size of a fish fairly closely (within 10%).  This is in part because the human eye is calibrated through everyday use to know the length of an object.  When you wake up, and stare numbly at your feet, you might think, my big toe is 1.5" long.  You might think, as you fill your mug with juice at breakfast, there's 4 inches of liquid in the glass.

Consequently, it's easy to estimate the length of a fish. Now, the weight of the fish!  That's a different story.  Who wakes up in the morning and hefts a 2 lb bag of rice to calibrate their arm, an imprecise organ at best?  Nobody, that's who.

If you are going to measure fish, and you don't have a scale available, use length. 

And even though the eye will get you close, don't rely on it.  Measure a reference on your body, my father uses the spawn of his pointer finger to his thumb, or mark out lengths on your rod, or on your paddle.  Or carry around a tape measure.

If you don't, I'll imply on the internet that you are a charlatan, which probably stings something fierce.  

This is the first in my interminable series of educational posts.

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 10 2014 - Mountain Run Lake

Went over to Mountain Run Lake in the evening.

Set out 3 jugs baited with chicken gizzards for turtles.  My rig is 50 lb test monofilament with a big 6/0 octopus hook.  Something dragged on jug over into brush, the rest appeared untouched.

Fished using the fly rod with poppers trying for a carp, but none was forthcoming.  Caught a redear and a small bass.  Only turtle I saw was this one:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 9 2014 - Mountain Run Lake

Went over to Mountain Run Lake, put in around 4:30, fished around the lake using a small spinner and a small orange popper.  If you measure fishing success by the smell of your hands, it was a successful day, with a lot of fish, although most were pretty small.  Air temp was 82, water temp was 83.  Sky was partly cloudy, and there was a slight breeze.

Saw lots of reptiles today.  Brown water snake, some painted turtles, and a snapping turtle that I didn't get a picture of.

Most of the bass were fairly small, between 6 and 8 inches

This was the only decent size fish I caught, he was 12 inches:

Caught another redbreast sunfish, who wasn't as deformed and weird looking as his brother.

They appear to be spawning, I saw what looked like beds:

Lousy picture of a snowy egret to round out the day.

Friday, August 8, 2014

August 8 2014 - Mountain Run Lake

Went fishing out at Mountain Run Lake after work.  Weather was overcast and still.  Air temperature was 79 degrees, water temperature at surface was 82 degrees.  The people who were taking out as I was putting in said they'd caught nothing, which wasn't encouraging.

I was the only boat on the lake, which was nice.  For my first salvo, I started throwing a chartreuse spinnerbait, and didn't get anything.  I switched to a little orange popper on a fly rod and started catching some sunfish, like this nice redear:

I also caught this fish, which based on its appearance, may be a redbreast sunfish?  If there are any ichthyologists in the audience, some help would be appreciated.  In any case, I haven't caught a fish here before with such a truncated snout and prominent operculum flap.
In fish, the operculum is the flap covering the gills and related structures.  In humans with partially erupted wisdom teeth, the operculum is the flap of soft tissue that covers part of the tooth, capturing food beneath it and ocassionally getting infected.  The only reason I expound so much is that my jaw has been sore the last week because of such an infection.

I caught 3 more bluegills, all of which were smaller, maybe 5 inches.

As dusk fell, there was some scrabbling on the bank and I watched 3 raccoons climb to the top of this tree.  Can you spot them!?  Solution below!

3 raccoons:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014 - Mountain Run Lake

Put in at Mountain Run Lake around 6 and fished until 8:45.  Caught 2 bluegills and one catfish, about 18 inches.  The bluegills were on a yellow curlytail and the catfish was on a spinner.

Not much noteworthy about this visit.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

August 2, 2014 - Rappahannock River

Went over to Fredericksburg, and waded in the Rappahannock, getting in at the access at Motts Run.

The character of the river right at the access is sandy, with some depth towards the middle.  There is what appears to be some sort of algae growing on the bottom.

I fished with small poppers and had several strikes, presumably from small sunfish, but didn't get any fish on the line.

After fishing up to the end of the pool that you encounter when you put in, I concluded it was getting dicey to keep the camera on me, so I returned to the car.

After leaving the camera in the car, I caught an 8" smallmouth and that was it.

I hadn't been wading in a while, and it was pleasant to slosh around in the water.  However, I found myself missing the convenience of being in the canoe, where I wouldn't have been limited to one rod and one small box of popping bugs. On the other hand, the relative permanence of tackle selection when you are wading means that you aren't tempted to switch back and forth from one rod to another, which means more time is spent fishing and less screwing around.  Is the choice of a fly rod and poppers the best and most productive? Maybe not, but no way I'm wading back to the car for a casting rod and curly tails once I'm wet.

Anyway, at around 8:45, a couple of guys on stand-up paddleboards (one of whom had his dog on the thing too) floated by and asked me how far to Motts.  They had launched at 1:30 at Ely's Ford, according to the one guy.

That makes roughly 7 hours from Ely's Ford to Motts, with apparently no stops and no fishing.  Too long for a day if you were fishing.

Packed up and left.