Fishing Report - 11/6/2016

I did a lot of fishing this weekend, but it was mixed in terms of results. On Friday evening, the whole family went to the lake. The kids and I got skunked, but my wife caught one medium sized fish. We only had a couple of hours, and with the kids it wasn't high quality fishing time. It was very high quality family time though! I spent most of it trying to help everybody else catch fish.

On Saturday, I got to the lake at 8AM. I went to the location that's been very successful for me. Fished for an hour and got a couple of bites. I didn't set my hook well enough on the first one and the fish coughed it up before I could get him to shore. I caught the second bite - a small fish, a couple pounds or so. I released him since we're well stocked on catfish.

A couple of other people showed up and that upset my flow because the bank and foliage is arranged in such a way that I can't cast into my preferred spot without casting across the entire fishable bank. This spot is a little cove with reeds, and fallen and overhanging trees, which is a perfect catfish sanctuary. These folks set up camp between me and that spot so I would have had to cast across them which would have been very uncool. So instead I cast out to where I figured it would be slow, and it in fact was. But it's not like I own the lake and they were very nice people. I could have moved, so I can't complain. Actually I should have moved but I didn't have enough time to find a new spot by exploring so I just shared the location with my new friends. You see, finding open bank on lakes in NC can be challenging because there is so much forest that goes right up to the water, making it impossible to cast very far. It saves a lot of time and frustration to get on Google Maps and use the satellite view to find open bank before you get to the lake.  But the lesson for me was that fishing on Sunday is better since most respectable folks are at church! And I guess I should have a longer list of suitable bank fishing locations on the lake in case my first choices don't work out.

About an hour after that, my wife arrived. She wanted to sleep in, and since I was not having a whole lot of luck, it seems like a great idea in retrospect. Anyway, she arrived and within minutes she caught a fish, which she reluctantly released. (As a relative newbie, I can say with some authority that it's emotionally hard to release a fish when you're new to it; you're not confident that you'll catch more and you want to keep 'em all!) Then, about 20 minutes later, she lands her personal best fish, a 5.25 lb channel cat. From what I've seen so far, that's pretty big for this lake. I've only caught one that was bigger.

I on the other hand, continued my string of bad luck. I got hung up not once, but twice and lost a couple of expensive floats. (Note to self: Find a cheap source of weighted floats!) That was karma: I'd been feeling a little smug and put out about how often my wife and kids get hung up and lose their rigs. Apparently the gods of fishing are nothing if not ironic. I caught no more fish that day. It was a bust. My wife however caught a couple more that she released, including one she caught on a live bluegill given to her by the folks that we were sharing the bank with (they were throwing the bluegill back in). She had the Midas touch and I was really happy for her because she'd been skunked a lot in the recent past and hadn't caught a big one yet. So it was awesome to see her get her day.

We kept her big fish. She wanted to show it to the kids and although we didn't really need it, it's not like we were going to let it go to waste. I made a catfish gumbo that night with her fish using a recipe I got from this video. It was delicious. Highly recommended! And I was mightily impressed that one fish fed a family of four and we had plenty leftover. By the way, that video also showed me that I was leaving a lot of meat on the catfish by simply filleting the sides with a knife and chucking the rest. On my wife's fish, I took the time to cut the meat from the bottom of the fish (there's a lot there on a big fish!) and to take any small pieces of meat that were missed in the filleting process. I stopped short of scraping the sides the way the guy does in the video, but I managed to get an additional 25% to 30% more meat!

I decided to devote Sunday morning to advancing my ability to catch bluegill for use as cut bait. The lake nearest my house reopened after Hurricane Matthew and I've had some luck in the past catching bluegill there, so I decided to go there. I also wanted to test out some Berkley Gulp Alive Crickets as bait. Gulp crickets are soft rubber crickets impregnated with a scent attractant. There are a lot of positive reviews for them on the 'net. We've had some luck with actual live crickets but they're a pain for me to procure and deal with, so I was hoping the Gulp crickets would be a good substitute. I'll cut to the chase on that: For this trip, they didn't do very well. I fished with a rubber cricket for an hour and a half and caught a small catfish with it, and had several nibbles. But it seemed like the bluegill, who are very cautious and like to peck at bait a lot before they actually hit it, lost interest in it after a couple of swipes. I ended up buying red worms from the lake store and using that instead. I'm not totally giving up on Gulp crickets yet, but first impression was not positive. Next time I'll start with worms and confirm that the fish are biting first, then try out the Gulp crickets.

It took a couple of hours before I started catching any bluegill. That might be weather related since it was notably colder than usual on Sunday. I was only planning to fish for 2 or 3 hours, but I didn't start getting any bites until that far into it, so I ended up staying at the lake for 6 hours! I really wanted to get some bluegill! In the end, I caught 6 bluegill, one pumpkinseed (which was cool because they're pretty and I'd never caught one before), and one crappie. One of the bluegill was really big - about the size of my whole hand (and I've got big hands). The others were small to medium. That evening I did some research online to make sure it was legal to use crappie as bait. It is. And in the lake I'll be fishing with it, there are no size or creel limits either.

Unfortunately, I knew I wouldn't be able to use the bait fish right away. So I intended to freeze them for use next week or at some time in the future. I did some research to find the best way to do this. I brought a cooler 2/3 full with ice, rock salt, and water to put the fish into immediately after catching. The idea is to keep them as cold as possible until you can get them into the freezer. When I got home, I got them into a zip lock bag as quickly as possible and laid them flat in the freezer so they'd freeze quickly. I have no idea if this will actually be effective or not, but the theory seems solid.

Eight fish are enough for my next catfishing expedition, but for 6 hours of work, that's pretty pitiful. I put more effort into catching the bait than I will into catching my actual target fish! I'm going to have to get a lot more efficient to make this worthwhile. At some point I've got to get fast enough at this that I can catch the bluegill right before fishing so I can use them live. So I'll be doing a lot of research on targeting bluegill for next few weeks...