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You have just landed the fish of a lifetime and you want more than just a picture to remember it by. Taxidermy is the first thing that comes to mind. You would love to see a mount of the fish on the wall.  The question is who do you take it to.  This is where it can get complicated.

If you already know someone who does taxidermy and you like the work they do then your choice is easy. However, if you are out of town or don’t know any taxidermists then you need to make a decision.  The first decision is do you want a skin mount or a reproduction. The big plus to the reproduction is with a few good pictures and measurements you can release or eat the fish and still put it on the wall.  Once that is decided now where do you go.

If you are fishing with a guide there is a good chance they will have someone they recommend. Personally I recommend people to Anglers Choice Fish Mounts as he does excellent work. I have not seen a fish he has done that didn’t look good.  His prices aren’t the cheapest but also not the most expensive and you get what you pay for. Actually sometimes you don’t get what you paid for and that will leave you with an ugly fish on the wall ruining the whole memory of the catch.  The last thing you want is to pay top dollar for a mount and be unhappy with it. This brings me to my next point.

If you aren’t with a guide ask your fishing friends or a local tackle shop for a recommendation. Many tackle shops are drop off locations for taxidermist.

Even if you have been recommended to someone look at their work first.  Make sure the fish they do look good. Everyone has different tastes when it comes to fish mounts. Make sure the work they do matches what you like. If possible go to the shop in person and look at the fish they have there.  DO NOT just agree to have your fish mounted with out seeing work first. I know of multiple people who have had fish mounted and were unhappy with the results. You want the fish to look like it did when it was caught.

Price is normally a concern when it comes to taxidermy. I am all about shopping around and comparing prices but only if you are happy with the quality of multiple peoples work. DO NOT compromise quality to save a couple bucks an inch.  Remember most likely you aren’t getting fish mounted that often and it is going to be hanging on your wall. You want to be proud to show it off to your friends.

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Everyone has different levels of experience and abilities.  There is no getting around that. When planning an outdoor adventure you need to remember this and be honest about it.  You also need to remember you might not be as good as you once were.  This is true for many aspects of your trip.

When you set up a trip with a guide they may ask you questions trying to judge your abilities. Based on the answers you give them they then plan out said trip.  This is why honesty is important.  Any good guide is going to have a plan b and probably a plan c. However, if you weren’t honest on the phone plan b and c might not be any better than the original plan.

This is especially important if your trip includes fishing back country out of the way waters and you have to hike to get to them.  You might have had no problem hiking for miles fishing in your younger or lighter years.  If those days have gone by and you don’t have time to get back into shape be honest. Tell your guide if you have trouble getting around or if you have knee problems.  Ask them if they can still put you on fish with out long walks to the water. If you don’t you may arrive and quickly find out you are not up for what the guide has planned.

This recently happened to me. I was told by a gentleman that him and his sons were used to hiking 3 to 6 miles in search of wild trout.  They wanted to fish somewhat remote areas where they wouldn’t see many people if any at all.  I was excited to book this trip as it is one of my favorites.  I started planning months before they trip and had 4 streams mapped out for the two days they would be fishing with me.  One of these streams required some bushwacking as there are no worn down trails and the other included a half mile walk from the truck followed by multiple waterfall climbs.  After fishing these two spots on day one I knew that my plans for day two were out the window and it was time to scramble and come up with a plan d.

The original stream for day two involved a few miles of step grade and big boulders.  This left me scratching my head as I needed easy walking wilderness fishing.  As you probably already know those don’t go together that often.  I scraped together a plan and we did our best on day 2 actually landing the biggest wild brook trout and wild brown trout of the weekend.  At the end of the day I was left feeling like two of my four guests weren’t happy with the results of the day.  I don’t like that feeling at all and of course went home and tried to figure out what I could have done different.

The answer was nothing. If had taken them any where that was easier walking it would have involved stocked fish and/or an urban environment.  Two things they didn’t want. In the end given correct knowledge of their ability I could have planned out the days a bit different as to not beat them up so much on the first day. I could have also explained ahead of time that I could put them on some big fish with easy walking on day two but we would be fishing in the middle of town. If they were honest with themselves that might have been alright with the idea.

Here is a list of some of things you should be upfront about when talking to your guide before the trip.

  1. What time you are willing to get out of bed. – Many guides want to be on the water before sun up.
  2. Your physical ability – Can you hike all day or would a boat be a better option.
  3. Your fishing ability – Don’t say you can cast an indicator rig 70 feet unless you can. This will come out very quickly.  A good guide will put you within your casting range of the fish.
  4. What you are expecting to catch. Make sure your expectations align with what the guide is planning to fish for. If you want 20 inch wild brook trout in a small stream it’s probably not going to happen.
  5. Any food allergies. Especially if the guide is providing food.

 

Just be honest with yourself and your guide. It will make for a much more enjoyable trip.

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of guiding Cherie, her son Ben, and his friend Luke. The boys are both 11 years old. They fished with me back in the fall for salmon and the boys worked together to land the one salmon we managed to hook that night.  This time they wanted to catch lots of fish even if they weren’t all that big.

I took them to one of my favorite spots to go just catch fish. I knew they wanted to take fish home for dinner so I hoped we would get into some Crappie and Rock bass which we did. I also knew that the smallies would keep them very busy.

Keeping kids busy is the most important part of taking them fishing. If kids get bored they won’t stay interested in fishing for long.  Don’t take young kids to a body of water that doesn’t hold a lot of fish or holds fish that are difficult to to catch. Find some place that holds panfish that can be caught with a worm or minnow and a bobber.

I chose minnows and bobbers for our trip. I also had night crawlers and wax worms just in case. As an added bonus my minnows were a split of fat heads and rosy reds. The red/orange minnows not only caught fish but the boys thought they were really cool.

Though out the afternoon we landed 7 crappie, 4 rock bass, a big blue gill, and over 20 smallmouth bass. We kept the crappie, the 2 bigger rock bass and the blue gill which provided them a delicious dinner the next night.  This is another way to get kids interested and keep them interested in fishing. If they like to eat fish take them fishing for a species they can keep and eat. Catch and release can come later in life for them.  Keeping what they catch allows them to show off more than just a picture and it is rewarded for them to eat fish they caught.

If you notice the kids getting bored or restless it may be time to switch it up. Skip rocks, look for frogs, or even call it a day. I can’t stress enough you must pay attention to how they are acting and if it is time to call it a day call it a day. Don’t keep them out there when they don’t want to be there just because you aren’t ready to go home.

If you want to take your kid fishing but don’t know where to start or have the equipment give me a call. I offer discounts for take a kid fishing trips. I will provide all the gear and bait. I have the patience to help teach how to cast and to untangle lines all day if needed. I am willing to bet your kid will not be the worst fisherman that has been on my boat. I have a few good spots weather your want fish to take home for dinner or just want to catch and release a lot of fish. We will have a good time and your kid or kids will go home with stories to tell all their friends.

 

 

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Yesterday I learned a lesson that I already knew.  When fishing a new water you never really know what you are going to catch or in my case break off. It could be a species you didn’t know exist in the new water or it could be a fish much larger that expected.

I left work and headed to check out some thin blue lines I had located on Google maps running through public land not far from my house. Living in the area for 29 years I had never been down this road but the Google Street view looked like one or more of these small streams might hold trout. I knew they would at least hold chubs and fall fish so there would be some action. The first stream was a dead end as it was very shallow and was only about 3 feet wide. The second stream looked much better.

I pulled to the side of the road where it was obvious others had parked before me. From the truck I could tell I was going to be making a few casts so I grabbed my St . Croix 8 foot 4 weight and my vest from the back of the truck. I climbed down onto the culvert pipe that dumped water into a nice wide pool. Watching for a couple minutes I noticed a few bugs coming off the water but nothing rising. I decided to tie on my go to size 12 elk hair caddis.

As my first cast landed on the water I purposely piled fly line in front of me allowing the fly to drift straight away from me drag free. The fly drifted the length of the pool untouched so I started to strip it back to me. As the fly started to move upstream what I believe to be a very large brown trout attacked the flie on the surface coming partially out of the water. Now is where the problem starts.

For the last 6 months I have been fishing steelhead with 10 to 13 foot float rods. When the float drops you reach for the sky fast and as hard as you can. I always tell clients you can’t set hard enough. You have a lot of line out and a long very flexible rod all of which you have to transfer the hook setting power though. I had not given thought to the fact that I needed to remind myself that was no longer the case.

I had thought about tying on a new leader or at least new tippet but I didn’t. After all I was only expecting to catch 6 to 8 inch chubs or if I was lucky brook trout of the same size. That leader from last summer would surely hold up to those little fish.

As the fish I estimate to be between 1 to 2 pounds attacked my fly I slammed that hook home. The rod bent just long enough to feel the weight of the fish as the tippet broke and my heart sank. All of my mistakes ran though my head immediately. I knew better. I retied and began casting again even though I knew that fish still had my fly stuck in it’s mouth and wasn’t going to bite again.

I did manage 2 fall fish in my next dozen or so casts. I kept trying to convince myself it was a big fall fish and wasn’t a big deal it broke off. The problem was and still is I saw too much of the fish. It was definitely a trout.

There was some good that came from this day. I now have a new spot to fish that is close enough to fish when  I only have a couple hours. I also will never forget when trying new water you never know what you may catch. Always prepare for the best or the worst depending on how you look at it.

If you haven’t already, change the line or leaders before you head out with gear you haven’t used in a while. 

Today i went to another stream I hadn’t been to in many years but I know is full of rainbow trout.  I was prepared this time for a big fish but unfortunately only found little ones.  That was okay though. In about an hour I landed 5 fish and missed or lost more.

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Northern Pike caught on Sandy Pond

Northern Pike caught on Sandy Pond

So you have decided you want to try ice fishing but don’t know where to start. You have a few options. The first and least expensive is find a friend or co worker that is already into ice fishing and ask them if they would take you. This will cost you a few bucks for gas, bait and maybe your friends lunch. This will give you a good chance to experience ice fishing and if you decided you don’t like it your not out anything.

The second option would be to hire a fishing guide who offers ice fishing trips. This will cost you about $300. That may seem like a lot of money but it will be worth it for more than one reason. First off if a guide is offering ice fishing trips they spend a lot of time on the ice and will know where the fish are and what they are hitting on. During a normal season I spend 2 to 6 days a week on the ice. I cover a lot of water until I find the fish. The guide you hire will also likely have top notch equipment including a shanty, heater, fish finder, quality rods and reels, and tip ups or tip downs. This will not only give you a better experience but also introduce you to the different equipment you may want to purchase in the future. Your guide will also provide all the bait needed. If you are going to hire a guide make sure you specify that you are new to ice fishing and are looking to try it out. Let them know the type of fish you are looking to catch and make sure they are confident in being able to put you on that species. In the Central New York area the major species of fish caught ice fishing are Perch, Sunfish, Bluegills, Crappie, Pike, and Walleye.

The third option would be to go out and buy the basic ice fishing gear and give it a try on your own. If you feel that ice fishing is going to be for you this is a good option. There is some basic gear you will need. First off you will need an auger to cut through the ice. I don’t recommend the blue Morra augers. They will work ok at first but will not last. Spend a little extra and buy at least the Strike Master Lazer auger. This is a good starter auger. As you get more into ice fishing you may want to upgrade to a better hand auger or even a gas powered one.  Don’t forget to get an ice scoop to clean all the slush out of the hole after you cut it.

Then you will need something to catch fish with. If you are planning on just fishing for panfish or walleye then a couple jigging rods will do. I recommend buying one with a good reel that has an instant anti reverse. With out an instant anti reverse you will miss many hits when setting the hook due to the bail spinning back until it hits the stop.  You can pick up a decent rod and reel combo for around $30. You will want one light action for sunnies and gills and a medium action for perch and walleye.

If you plan to fish for pike you will also need some tip ups. The style you choose is all personal preference. I personally like the polar style as they set up easy and very seldom do you get wind flags.  However the Laker style are nice if you are setting long strings as the higher flag will be easier to see in the distance.

Tip downs are also a great option for perch fishing. There are days where my jigging rod barely sees any use as I am busy chasing my tip downs all day. This is a problem I love to have.

The bait you need will depend on what you are fishing for. For perch jigs or spoons with spikes, a minnow, or a perch eye are best. I like the Forage minnow jigs the best. They are shaped like a spoon with a single hook molded into it. You will also find a variety of soft plastic baits that can be applied to your jig or spoon that will also work. For panfish you will normally want smaller sized jigs tipped with spikes. There are times where small spoon such as Frostee’s tipped with spikes or a perch eye can be the ticket.  For pike you will want large minnows to fish on your tip ups. You will want a steel leader or a heavy mono leader on the tip  up with a good sized treble hook. Hook the minnow through the back and place it about 3 feet from bottom. If you want to jig for Pike large jigging spoons tipped with a minnow or a jigging Rapala will be your best bet. As for Walleyes I like to use medium sized jigging spoons tipped with a large buckeye or fat head minnow. Overall your best bet is to hit up a local tackle shop and ask what has been working. They will be more than willing to show you what you need for lures and bait. Start off with a small box of the basics they recommend and go from there adding a few each time you stop for bait.

The last thing you will need is a bucket or sled to haul your stuff out on the ice. Jet sleds are my preferred sled for hauling gear but a simple kids sled will work at first. A bucket can double as a seat and a way to bring your fish home.

Ice spikes that connect together and can be worn around your neck are a great safety item to have. They are designed to be used if you fall through the ice to help you climb back onto the ice. They are cheap insurance at about $9 a set. I always have them with me and always wear them on early and late ice.

There is a lot more gear that you could purchase but this would get you fishing. If you plan on getting serious about it you will want a shanty, a heater, fish finder, and possibly an under water camera. These all will make the ice fishing experience much more enjoyable but are not necessarily needed to get started. I will get into these items in more detail in future posts as this is just discussing the basics.

Now that you have a the gear you need the question is where to fish. This is again where hiring a guide or going with a friend will help a lot. They will already know the hot spots. If you are fishing on a body of water that gets any fishing pressure it will be easy to see where people are catching fish. All you have to do is look for the “city” of ice shantys and head in that direction. I normally wont set up any closer than about 30 yards from another shanty. I don’t like it when someone sets up on top of me so I don’t do it to others. If the person has tip ups or tip downs out be considerate of them too and don’t set up in the middle of their spread.

If you are fishing a body of water that doesn’t get much pressure or is private fish the same types of structures you would in the summer. If there are drop offs, brush piles, or weed beds these are the places you should start. If you can get a contour map of the lake or pond it will help with this.

Staying mobile is a big part of my strategy and should be yours too. If I don’t find the fish I am looking for in the first 10 minutes I am moving. I may only move 10 feet or I may move 100 yards. It all depends on the water I am fishing.  This only applies to jigging. If I am setting tip ups for pike or walleye I will spread them out over a big area to start and move them towards the tip ups that start producing. When tip up fishing I give them an hour before moving if I haven’t had a hit.  If I am moving my whole tip up spread its to an entirely different section of the lake as I normally put out 5 tip ups covering at least 100 yards. Again this is a subject that will be discussed in future articles.

I hope this post has helped you if you plan on trying ice fishing this year. Again if you are going to give it a try I recommend going with a friend or hiring a guide. It will make your first trip much more enjoyable than trying to do it on your own.

I appreciate any questions, comments, or ideas for future posts. Good luck and see you on the ice.

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The start of Steelhead season has been very wet. With all the rain we have received the Salmon River has been running at what most consider to be high levels. Personally I prefer 750 cfs to 1800 cfs but I know most people do not.

There are two reasons I like the high water. The first is it makes running a drift boat down the Salmon River much easier as you can float about any where. The second reason is that it creates more places to fish. High water on the Salmon River changes the runs and pools enough that it actually makes more holding water for the Steelhead.

Many people are afraid of the high water because they don’t know where to find fish or they can’t see the fish. It’s not difficult. All you need to do is fish the slow water on the edge of the fast stuff. Inside seams on a corner are perfect. Another great spot is the edges of where the fast water runs into the center of a pool. If there are rapids and fast water upstream from the pool there will be a seam created on both sides of the edge of the head of the pool. This is a prime location at first and last light.

One mistake I keep talking about because I see it so often is people wading where they should be fishing. I can’t stress this enough. If you are wading over your knees you are in too far. This is especially true in times of high water. Steelhead don’t want to hang in the fast water. They will hold and rest in the slower currents on the edge of the faster water.  Make sure you are fishing these spots not wading into them. I see too many people wading out waist deep and casting into the fastest water in the river.

One last tip. Don’t be afraid to take a walk along the side streams and diversions of the Salmon River. High water makes many of these very fishable. Look for a deep pocket or long run that you can get a drift through. You may be very surprised at what you find on the end of your line in these little sections of the Salmon River.

If you still don’t feel comfortable fishing the high water hire a guide to take you down the river in a drift boat. Drift boat fishing on the Salmon River is the hands down best way in high water. You won’t be disappointed.

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Yesterday was the first time I have fished with buck tail jigs using stinger hooks. Until yesterday I had never even heard of such a thing. I use trailer hooks on spinner baits but had never thought of using them on a jig.

The stinger hooks we where using where small treble hooks rigged on mono-filament fishing line. The line is run through a bobber stop then looped and brought back through the stop creating a loop to put over the jig hook. A metal crimp is used below the bobber stop to keep the loop together. You tip the jig with half a night crawler, loop the stinger hook over the jig hook, and then slide the bobber stop up tight to the hook.

This technique is great when a fish strikes the worm and not the jig itself. The walleye I caught yesterday came in hooked just by the stinger. My friend Mike said that many times this is the case. Only when the bite is really on do they normally come in on the main hook. He fishes a stinger hook whenever he is Walleye fishing on Oneida Lake.  After yesterday I am a believer and will be doing the same.

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