Thursday, September 1, 2016

Muskie Mania!!

The rod doubles over and it is that split second where your heart stops…Is it bottom or will you feel the head shake of a fish that hits so hard the drag starts screaming.  Fortunately for me, there have been head shakes a fair number of times this summer.  The summer started right after spawning with some smaller fish in the mid 30 inch range.  Fun to catch, they weren't quite the 40"fish we were attempting to connect with, but they were soon to come!  The best day we had started early one morning as we took off from the launch, we wasted little time on hooking onto our first fish.  I hooked it on a bass lure with no leader and the 40 inch class fish was only one for 30 seconds before severing the line with its' teeth.  Excited, we continued our quest and a few minutes later we were rewarded with a 38" fish which was a beauty and I already considered the day a success.  Sliding the speckle bellied, finned beauty back into the water we readied our rods again.  A short time later I felt the lure stop solid and with a yank I felt the unmistakable head shake of another fish.  As this one came under the boat I could tell we were close to our magic 40" number.  Sure enough after a brief battle we slipped it into the cradle and confirmed the tail was just past the 42" mark!  Ecstatic we took several pictures and measurements in case we decided on a fiberglass reproduction to remember this fish by.  With a nod of approval and a grin on my face, I released my grip on the its' thick tail and the revived fish disappeared into the current with a few flicks of its' tail.  Almost ready to pack it up thinking we couldn't catch more fish we decided to keep fishing anyway.  A few minutes later I shook my head in disbelief as my forearm tensed to control the flexing rod with another fish.  This one, once boated, measured in at 41". Then as we turned to head back I couldn't resist fishing on our way back and yet one more time the rod came to life and I landed a 40" fish.  That was the best day of fishing I personnaly have ever had for muskies, landing 4 muskies in one morning with 3 fish over 40 inches.  We have caught more fish before, but not of that size class.  Brent was a phenomenal net man and as painful as it was for him to watch me catch those, he has had a pretty good run of big fish, it just wasn't his day!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Stripers aboard the Kristin K

This summer has been a productive fishing season for the ridge runners and river rats crew.  This post is the first of a few to come featuring finned beauties!  

In June, we spent a weekend on the southern coast of Maine in pursuit of Stripers!  After hours of searching and reading reviews of charters while the snow flew outside, we settled on the Kristin K Sportfishing Charters with Captain Ben.  To say we made the right choice would be an understatement.  Captain Ben was top notch and wasted no time in getting us hooked up to some fish!  His attitude and personality was top notch and made him feel like one of our friends, rather than a charter captain.  He humored our landlubber questions about the sea with ease and taught us everything we needed to do while still seeming a friend rather than a teacher, but behind the helm of the ship his experience showed and he made quick work of the harbor and headed for the fishing grounds showing us some beautiful scenery along the way.  I can not recommend him enough to anyone looking to explore the saltwater.  I think a shark trip is definitely on our horizon!  We were able to experience the whole gamut, by starting to fish for mackerel which would be our bait for the stripers.  In a couple of drifts and a short time we had a live well full of feisty mackerel awaiting a circle hook and the hungry maw of a bass.  The fishing proved to be fantastic and even though we had a large party with 5 people, we all managed to hook onto the striped bass we were targeting.  Some  of us even managed to snag multiple fish, while I far exceeded my personal expectations and landed 4 stripers!  All told we landed 13 stripers and lost 2 others which was pretty steady action.  Again, I would like to thank Captain Ben for his top notch trip with safety always on his mind.  WIth his experience and diligence, I had no need to worry and I could concentrate solely on the fish which was a treat to say the least.  I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking and if you want to catch some saltwater fish lookup the Kristin K!

The Kristin K

The "Crew"

Plenty of Horsepower to Get you Fishing Fast!

Fishing Mackeral

Nice Big Mackeral

First Striper of the Trip

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A year of firsts on the ice…

This was a year for first time experiences on the ice.  I had a few things I hoped to accomplish or check off the bucket list so to speak.  The first was:

1. Catch a togue (Lake Trout)

That may seem odd to you that someone who spends as much time as I do fishing has never caught a togue, but while I have been with tons of people who have caught them and even pulled some through the ice for other anglers, I could never say I caught a togue.

2.  Jig more and be successful

I have spent a far amount of time jigging, and other than smelt, I had never felt the tug of a fish back on the short rod bouncing a lure tantalizingly up and down.

3. Catch a Whitefish

This is a fish that had never really been on my radar until I heard incessantly about their culinary assets from my coworkers, which made them a must try species.

Long story short, 1. Check, 2.  Check,  3.  Check!!!!!

I had my chance fairly early in the season, despite losing a couple weeks to unsafe ice conditions.  The first trip of the year I planned a trip with Tim Cyr and it wasn't long after we had our flags setup did one rocket skyward signaling what was soon to be my accomplishment of number 1.  Followed by other flags with some healthy salmon.

The same trip I had just settled into a jigging routine, when something almost pulled the rod from hand. Looking into the large hole we had created I saw a nice lake trout slashing at my lure.  Looking away so I wouldn't be distracted, I continued jigging and hooked him!  As I battled him, the tugging proved too much for my jig pole as it shattered into pieces.  Discarding the battered pieces I finished landing the fish hand over hand.  We proceeded to have several other fish show up in the hole and managed to hook into another one as well.

As for number 3 I would have to wait until later in the season, so I opted to chase some other species and we managed to pick up some nice brook trout as well.

For our final ice fishing adventure, we decided to target whitefish and togue.  With our destination selected over 120 miles from my house, the morning started early as I rose shortly after 3:00 A.M. and started the journey meeting up with the rest of our party as we traveled.  After traveling 80 miles into the woods on gravel roads we expected to be alone, but the number of other anglers was quite surprising.  Encouraged by good fishing reports we hurried to drill holes and present our own offerings.  A valuable lesson of the day was learned in that riding on a tote sled when there is several inches to a foot of water on top of the ice is not recommended.  I arrived at our destination soaked all the way through, but too excited to care.  Not behavior I would recommend either by the way.  Our group wasted little time hooking up and within a few minutes a nice whitefish, albeit too small was on the ice. A quick admiration by several of us who had never fished for them and it was back down the hole.  Not wanting to be outdone, a few minutes later I brought my own whitefish to the surface.  Check off number 3, but it was too small and was sent back to the bottom so I would not be able to taste it's acclaimed white flaky flesh.  I sent my jig back to the bottom to continue my quest.  The action was steady most of the day and there were definitely some highlights including Nick Pelletier catching an 8 pound togue, which while he was playing on his jig rod a flag shot up with a 20 inch whitefish on it, limiting him out with two beautiful fish in a matter of 5 minutes.  Bud also had a respectable laker in the 5 pound range that saved itself for the end of the day.  I also picked up a 20" whitefish which put up a remarkable fight and gave substance to their reputation as the freshwater tarpon.  It also lived up to it's reputation in the kitchen as it was very delicious.  All in all it was a great trip.

I wet a line earlier this year with the Commissioner's opening of the open water season on March 17 this year.  Not much other than cold fingers to report, but stay tuned!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Maine Bear Trapping

Black bear are a unique animal that often have just as unique of a following of outdoorsmen who pursue them.  Outside of spring time while they are trying to gorge themselves as much as possible and seem to lose their fear of humans, these black bears are rarely seen for more than a passing shadow here or there.  Their secretive nature and the dense growth of forests they inhabit make them a worthy adversary to pursue.  The classic spot and stalk hunting that is often employed out West is a pure shot in the dark here in Maine with the possible exception of agriculture ground.  Thus tactics have changed and a reliance on bait stations in an attempt to concentrate a bear’s activity into a smaller geographic area has become the norm.  From bait stations, several different approaches can be utilized; such as sitting over the bait with a vigilant eye in hopes that the shadow behind the cedar tree that you have strained to watch as minutes tick by, will materialize into a bruin licking his lips for some food, or hounds may be brought to the site to take off on a fresh track from a bear that most likely is purely nocturnal, or lastly a trap may be fastened at the location in an attempt to snare that bear by his foot.  Few hunting methods evoke more public debate than bear hunting, but I am not looking to get into that in this discussion, rather all three aforementioned methods are acceptable, legal methods of take by the State of Maine’s definition.  Having sat in a tree stand for hours and watched bait stations in years past, I had been fortunate enough to harvest a bear a few years ago.  Its edible qualities are far underemphasized and we enjoyed dining on fresh bear meat that winter.  Looking to harvest another bear, I thought it only fitting to pair my love for trapping with the pursuit of a black bear.  To fit a three month baiting run into a brief synopsis, I am not dining on bear meat this winter, nor will I be able to relax on a luxurious bear skin rug, but I do have some trail camera pictures which are a constant reminder that I need to improve next year.  The first three weeks of the bait season went so smoothly, I became complacent.  A medium size boar would show up and devour the bait like clockwork.  He was a nocturnal bear and off and on a smaller bear would show up for its ration of goodies to fatten up for the winter.  Then, the week before the season they vanished, only showing up for one night a week later before vanishing again.  It became obvious I was competing with natural food sources.  While I enjoyed snacking on the hazelnuts while walking to and from my bait station, I quickly started singing another tune as I realized the bears would rather dine on the natural abundance of nuts than eat the bait I was bringing.  Lots of “secret weapons” later, I would be able to coax them back to the bait site for a night or two, but then they would disappear again.  Oats ripened, hazelnuts loaded the trees and let’s not forget the bushels of apples that weighted down the crooked old trees branches.  Everywhere I turned there was food, and nothing I could do about it, but wait.  Meanwhile, I had the fattest and happiest coon family for miles around!  Finally, the last week of the season, most of the natural food sources started drying up and I knew it was my time.  Sure enough, they showed back up and where up to their clockwork patterns.  I set up my snare in the perfect spot, or so I thought! (Keep in mind, trapping is only allowed with a cable restraint, there is no use of the big old bear traps that everyone pictures)  Night after night though, they evaded the snare until the last night.  As I walked in to pull my snare out, I saw it was fired off.  Thinking it was the raccoons again as they had fired it on more than one occasion; I grumbled under my breath and gathered up the snare and the ever vigilant trail camera.  I was quite surprised when I reviewed the pictures to find that lo and behold, I had caught a bear!  However, he was quite astute for a bear and since the snare had only caught him mid foot rather than pull it any tighter, he decided to just sit down and pull it off with his teeth.  Succeeding in doing so, he leisurely filled his belly and sauntered off to find his denning location, but have no fear, I will try again next year!