Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bait Dunkers

Today, I girded up my paternal loins, and took to the field of battle. Mama Bear was away for the day, Mercury was aligned with Venus, and my psychic said the time was right to introduce the Daley triplets to hooks, bobbers, and panfish. So, at high noon, I found myself standing in the local Getty gas station, asking the proprietor if he actually sold the nightcrawlers advertised on a weather worn sign that hung loosely on the glass door. He nodded for me to follow him back into the beer cooler, pointed to a pile of Styrofoam cups, and without so much as a word - turned back to the register. After sorting through a half dozen polystyrene bowls filled with mud and gelatinous, decaying worm goo - I found the holy grail - a dozen healthy, wriggling annelids. It was an odd beginning to an otherwise fantastic day.

Madison struck first and proved deadly with her Tweety Bird combo.

Mikey sounds his barbaric yawp after striking pumpkinseed paydirt.

Emma thought her bluegill was cute.

But she wanted to take the worms home with her.

Nature girl.

Daddy, what happens if I pull on both ends?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Single Asian Carp Found Six Miles from Lake Michigan

By SERENA DAI and JOHN FLESHER, Associated Press Writers Serena Dai And John Flesher, Associated Press Writers – Wed Jun 23, 8:41 pm ET

CHICAGO – An Asian carp was found for the first time beyond electric barriers meant to keep the voracious invasive species out of the Great Lakes, state and federal officials said Wednesday, prompting renewed calls for swift action to block their advance.

Commercial fishermen landed the 3-foot-long, 20-pound bighead carp in Lake Calumet on Chicago's South Side, about six miles from Lake Michigan, according to the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

Officials said they need more information to determine the significance of the find.

"The threat to the Great Lakes depends on how many have access to the lakes, which depends on how many are in the Chicago waterway right now," said John Rogner, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

But environmental groups said the discovery leaves no doubt that other Asian carp have breached barriers designed to prevent them from migrating from the Mississippi River system to the Great Lakes and proves the government needs to act faster.

"If the capture of this live fish doesn't confirm the urgency of this problem, nothing will," said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office.

Scientists and fishermen fear that if the carp become established in the lakes, they could starve out popular sport species and ruin the region's $7 billion fishing industry. Asian Carp can grow to 4 feet and 100 pounds and eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily.

Rogner, from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, estimated that the male carp was about 3 to 4 years old. It was caught live but has since been killed and will be sent to the University of Illinois to determine if it was artificially raised or naturally bred.

The fish was sexually mature, but Lake Calumet's conditions aren't conducive to reproduction because the water is too still, Rogner said. Even so, the lake is the ideal living environment for the fish because it's quiet and near a river system, he added.

"It fits the model to a T," he said. "They may be concentrated in that area."

Officials said they'll use electrofishing and netting to remove any Asian carp from the lake.

They have been migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers toward the Great Lakes for decades.

There are no natural connections between the lakes and the Mississippi basin. More than a century ago, engineers linked them with a network of canals and existing rivers to reverse the flow of the Chicago River and keep waste from flowing into Lake Michigan, which Chicago uses for drinking water.

Two electric barriers, which emit pulses to scare the carp away or give a jolt if they proceed, are a last line of defense. The Army corps plans to complete another one this year.

"Is it disturbing? Extraordinarily. Is it surprising? No," Joel Brammeier, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said of the carp's discovery beyond the barriers.

He said the capture highlights the need to permanently sever the link between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. The Army Corps is studying alternatives, but says the analysis will take years.

"Invaders will stop at nothing short of bricks and mortar, and time is running short to get that protection in place," Brammeier said.

In Michigan, officials renewed their demand to shut down two shipping locks on the Chicago waterways that could provide a path to Lake Michigan. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice rejected the state's request to order the locks closed, but state Attorney General Mike Cox said he was considering more legal action.

"Responsibility for this potential economic and ecological disaster rests solely with President Obama," Cox said. "He must take action immediately by ordering the locks closed and producing an emergency plan to stop Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan."

A Chicago-based industry coalition called Unlock Our Jobs said the discovery of a single carp did not justify closing the locks. Doing so would damage the region's economy and kill jobs without guaranteeing that carp would be unable to reach the lakes, spokesman Mark Biel said.

"A few isolated incidents of Asian carp in this small section of the Illinois Waterway does not mean existing barriers have failed," said Biel, also executive director of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois. "Additional regulatory controls and river barriers should be explored before permanent lock closure is even considered."

Monday, June 21, 2010

The First Day of Summer

It was June 21st, the first day of summer, and this little spring was running at a chilly 58 degrees.

Her twin was a sweltering 64 degrees.

And in the pool where the sisters came together were nearly 40 of these little guys.

Bennie couldn't believe his luck ... and it was luck.

This guy couldn't believe Ben's luck either.

And I couldn't believe that chartreuse foam lashed to a hook had the look of something tasty.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh Crap!

When I was a soldier stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, my fellow grunts and I used to catch these things by the bucket-full. Beer-battered crappie ... absolutely divine. I had forgotten just how much fun they can be to catch, especially when they take bass flies on top.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Fishing and Friendship

I've been thinking, reminiscing actually. Remembrance brings with it the realization that I've lived just long enough to know a few things with absolute, crystalline certainty.

First, I know that I do not know it all.  There was a time, not too long ago, when I thought I had everything figured out. The enigmas of life and love weren't mysteries at all. I was cocky. I was ignorant. I was twenty, and I had the world licked in the first round. In round two, marriage and children landed a vicious uppercut, and effectively handed me my ass. Lesson learned.

Second, I've learned gratitude. I've been fortunate to have in my life some people of genuine character; mentors who have guided me to the right choice or dragged me - kicking and screaming - to a better decision. Sergeant First Class William Johnson, Professor Karen Callahan, G. Michael Apostol, and Captain Michael Klusacek are among the finest people I know. I am a better man for having had these folks in my life.

Finally, I've learned a sad and immutable truth. Friends come, and friends go. Rarely do the years spare relationships that we pin to the fringes of our hearts. All too often, those people we take into our confidence are forgotten when we're separated by distance and time. Maybe I'm a little too cynical, or perhaps I'm not a very good friend, but life does seem to have a way of ending a friendship not with a bang, but a whimper.

With all that in mind, I find myself traveling the paths of memory, and categorizing the epochs of my life by the company I've kept.

For most of us, the years we spend in high school are fundamental to our social development. This is where we begin to foster an identity separate and distinct from that of our immediate family, and our friends are central to that development. Brett, Craig, Jesse, Sun, John and Seth were all great guys. We played a thousand pick-up games of basketball, and collectively drank a thousand bottles of cheap beer. Meghan was the token female of the group, and truth be told - with her acid tongue and especially colorful vernacular - Meghan was one of the boys. Of course, it didn't hurt that she had absolutely radiant eyes, a truly disarming smile, and an infectious laugh. We were all tight, the closest of friends, and we haven't spoken to each other in twenty years.

My fellow soldiers were men for whom I would have willingly sacrificed my life. This is not some trite cliche. I loved even the worst among them. The best of them - Fitzpatrick, Kowalski, Eagleeye, Kim, and Magana - were my brothers. We were united by a code, shared experience, and our love of country. There isn't a day goes by I don't think of the time we spent together. For a short while we shared everything, yet we haven't shared so much as a phone call in 15 years.

Later came college, and then my professional life. In all the schools I attended and all the institutions in which I worked, there were people with whom I was close. Like so many of the people before them, they too have passed out of my circle and into memory. As sad as it is, it is equally true - friends come and friends go. Such is the nature of things.

Unless you fish.

Fishing partners aren't friends. Fishing partners are family, and family forever remains family.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Uber Goober

Tom Rosenbauer - author of The Orvis Guide to Prospecting for Trout: How to Catch Fish When There's No Hatch to Match, The Orvis Fly-Tying Guide, and a whole host of other titles - is a prolific writer, a patient teacher, and an accomplished fly tyer and angler. And while he may know his stuff, he's also a first rate goober.

As evidence of Tom's gooberitude, I offer the following Orvis promotional video.

If you're not a fly tyer (and you should be) it really is a good sale on quality flies. Still, I find Tom's gooberishness hard to dismiss.

Sorry Tom ... you're just a little over the top.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Switching Gears

We had an amazing spring. The weather and water were both very cooperative. The hatches were consistent and predictable. The trout were large, and most were oddly agreeable. Now, however, things are beginning to change.

The streams are low and warm, dangerously low and warm. The fish are stressed, and even though we're barely into June, many of the river's trout are beginning to move to cold water seeps and springs. Unless we see some continuous, heavy rain - weeks worth of what we had this past weekend - then we're likely to have a tough August. Should you head out to one of the local ditches, please remember that as bad as it will be for us flyflingers, the trout will have it much worse.

So, it seems that summer has arrived a little bit early; perhaps it's time to switch gears.

Summertime is bass time; time to dust off the 9' 8# and 10' 7#, and chuck some deer hair, foam, and Krystal Flash. This summer promises to be special as it will mark the maiden voyage of Patches. Patches is the name I've given to my pontoon boat; a used Water Skeeter River Tamer, which I purchased in February.

Together, she and I will be exploring the backwater coves of Ballston Lake, the reeds and weed beds of Round Lake, the meandering flats of the mighty Mohawk, and the locks and dams of Henry's Hudson. I think that Patches and I are going to get to know each other intimately and well (especially if my wife lends her blessing to the purchase of a trailer).

If Patches is a good girl and proves her worth, I might go so far as to deck her out with a trolling motor - just to make the ride that much easier on us both. After all, she appears to have been through quite a lot in her days on the water. Her oar locks are tarnished, her frame's showing a little rust, and her pontoons look like they've seen the bad end of grandpa's 12 gauge. And let's face it, I'm not as ... svelte ... as I once was.

Who am I kidding? I've weighed over 200 pounds since I was 12.

And when I was a fat, prepubescent boy, I fished nearly everyday from the public dock here in town. My friends and I caught bushels of smallmouth, pike, and crappie. Ocassionally, we would hook a largemouth, walleye or carp. I remember taking one rubber-lipped specimen that must have weighed nearly 30 pounds. That behemoth sucked in a small woolly bugger, and nearly buckled my 8' 6# Orvis Superfine (not the ideal carp rod). I wish I had a picture of that fish. I wish I still owned that rod. I wish I could spend just one more boyhood summer fishing from that dock.

Who knows?  Maybe I'll recapture some of that feeling this year. Maybe I'll catch that toad of a largemouth that eluded me last season. Maybe the river gods will see fit to throw a monster pike or tiger musky my way. Maybe this will be the summer.