Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Catch and Release: the Myth

To quote Kirk Deeter in his recent F&S article:

"How many fish are suffocated for photographs, put back in the water, only to die downstream?"

With so much information floating around out there about proper catch and release techniques, I wanted to echo some of the great information that I have found so educational and debunk the #1 myth about Catch and Release.

The three sources used in this post are Casselman (old and in-depth), Field and Stream  (the inspiration) and Michigan DNR (new and confirms technique).

This information answers many questions as to "why" catch and release fishing is still lethal to a percentage of fish, and what to do to limit fish fatalities if this is the method of fishing you prefer.

What? Limit fish fatalities with catch and release? That's right.

Myth: All fish "live to fight another day" when released.

That's right. A certain percentage of all fish released back into the wild die anyway due to causes directly related to your 45+ seconds of pleasure catching and handling them. Some studies suggest it is as much as 10%.

Here are some things to remember so that you can keep that percentage as absolutely close to 0% as you can, and become a more responsible catch-and-release fisherman or -woman.

1. Manage your "air-time"

One day, back when I flip and pitched more plastics than anything, I wanted to know how long I could hold a bass out of the water without "hurting it". I watched this video. (For your sake, start at 1:04)

Count the seconds he has it out of the water.

No, wait, I did for you. From beach to release, he held it for two minutes, forty seconds. That's 160 seconds.

According to Casselman, the amount of "air time" a fish receives adversely affects the internal organism of the fish, with the adverse affect compounding the longer it is held out of water. The periods of time in certain species that he cites tops out at about 90 seconds.

This guy held that bass out of the water for 160 seconds. Don't be that guy.

2. Reduce hook trauma

Hooks cause trauma. They break blood vessels, damage bone, reduce mucous covering, increase infections, reduce growth and otherwise hurt fish. They do this every time, to one extent or another.

This damage can be very drastically mitigated every time by simply mashing the barb of the hook down. 

Also, if you want to release what you catch, don't use live bait. Whether you do or not, a barbless hook is much less likely to cause long-term damage to the fish. 

Also, if you have a deeply hooked fish that you wish to release, cut the line. Survival percentages increase by doing so. Most fish shed a deep hook eventually, and they survive more often than forcing the hook out. I'm not making this stuff up. They test it in laboratories. (See Casselman.)

3. Use your hands, *not a net.

*If possible. A muskie or big pike will remove fingers if you don't use a net, unless you have one of these. If at all possible, use wet hands or moist cloth to handle a fish. They are coated in mucous that protects them from aquatic bacteria and infection. It's that stuff that makes your hands smell like fish.

Using dry hands or dry cloth will remove the coating and increase the fish's likelihood of premature bucket-kicking.

If you use a net, use only knotless or rubber coated nets, and never for a fish too big for the net. You will break fins.

4. If you fish deep... stop it. Unless you want to fish slow, or kill the fish.

Ever come up from 20ft down too quickly after normalizing pressure? Yeah, it hurts. It hurts fish, too. Actually, it kills them. Bring a fish up from 30 ft. down in too big of a hurry, and you will "pop" its buoyancy bladder and it will die eventually. Slow down, if you absolutely must fish deep, and plan on keeping it anyway.

This brings up another point. "Fizzing" deep caught fish kills them. Don't do it, unless you are keeping it.

5. Don't "throw fish back" or drop them.

Sure, they're still flopping around after hitting the ground, but what you can't see is the contusion on its brain or the fact that it can't see anymore out of the eye on the side it landed on. If you drop them, you decrease their survival rate.

If you throw them - literally, throw them - you are increasing "air time" as well as stressing the fish's muscles and physiology even more. I cringe about this, because I spent last night tossing bass fry back in the water at a local fishery. It will be that much less of a bass lake now that I irresponsibly handled those fish.

Closing thoughts

Read over those articles, and Google more. There are other great, useful, important tips to remember.

Now, all of the information brings up a great set of questions.

Is it right to fish at all if you're bound to kill at least some? 

Is it ethical to sell or promote fishing to others, especially children, knowing that they are damaging and ending life even while they enjoy themselves?

Yep, deep questions. Hope I didn't ruin the sport for you. The truth is, though, that you can properly and humanely reduce fish fatalities to 1% or less through education. 

That 1% will be the ones you keep and eat.

The occupy movement might like this post, although I think I'm talking about the survival of a different 99% than what they had it mind. They can keep their pickets, though. Give me my favorite fishing buddy and my 5w.

The Hairy Badger

I went to a local lake last night to try out a new creation, the "Hairy Badger." Basically it's a bass gurgler on a size #10-or-something hook, tan razor foam with eyelash yarn body and a badger tail. It was wildly successful. The bass fry couldn't leave it alone. I went to Carter Lake, so I only caught a fairly constant 4 inch size. Lots of fun! I'm going to make a larger version, since I lost one of my big size #2s. Try it! Works great!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The best catch of my life, and the horizon.

As all of those who read my blog may have guessed, I am very passionate about the catch. There's something about the four-part cast and the feel of a fish on the end of the line. All fishermen and women understand the rush that follows a bobber blipping below the surface. What causes it? I don't know. I am passionate, however, about the catch.

Twelve years ago this august, I began my sophomore year in High School. I was a wild teenager, with parent problems and crazy friends. I played sports, and got injured on a semi-frequent basis. On one occasion, I had to get therapy for an ankle during football. On that occasion, there was an incredibly attractive young woman with auburn hair and beautiful eyes. What can I say? I'm passionate about the catch. So, I rigged up some bait and made a cast.

My newly opened Sprite sat open on the training bench.

"You come here often?" I asked.

Auburn hair and pretty eyes might have rolled them. I don't remember. I gave the bait a desperate twitch.

"... want some Sprite?" I extended the bottle towards her. It was 7:00 AM.

"I don't drink pop in the mornings," she responded, and left.

... Dave, you know when you cast to that goldfish and you get cold-shouldered? You trout mongers, you know when you're staring down a 20" Brown and they ignore your presentation time, after time, after time?

 Oh, it was on like Donkey Kong. I bobbed. I weaved. I side casted, roll casted, used harpoons. I actually saw some activity on the line!

Then I moved.

But just as the water levels in the river of life rise and drop and create change in the landscape of its bed, I found myself in a situation to try to pursue her again. This time, though, I got a bite.

On May 12th, 2007, we effectively landed each other and mounted the trophy on our wall... minus the taxidermy.

And I'm passionate about the catch. I love you, sweety.


Two days ago I finished my application to Boise State University to pursue a Master's Certificate in Workplace Instructional Design. My chosen career will be in training and corporate instruction. In five years, I want to be a Training Development Manager or Corporate Instructor making $100k/year. By the grace of Almighty God, we might be able to cash flow it (and I mean that will all the reverence He deserves), and I finally feel like I have a horizon to look forward to with contribution to humanity.

Now, no matter how many or what kind of fish I bring to hand during a day's fishing outing, I come home to the best one in my life. It is because of her and her counsel that I finally was able to put my foot down and make a decision. And I feel liberated for it.

Brent McGuire once asked me, "What do you want to do for a living?"

"I want to be a dad," I said.

"That's great, but you can't be a dad without providing for your family. So you need to decide what you want to do."

Brick to the head? Yes please. That comment haunted me until recently. Now that I've made the decision, I feel much better. I have a goal, a finish line, and a direction for that part of my life. I thank God for the wife that helped me clarify it for myself.

Now, I just need to find someone to pay me to present about fishing.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Fun

A big shout-out to all of the fathers out there. Happy Father's Day, y'all. And a big "tight lines" to the pescadores among them.

My wife and beautiful daughters and I had a chance to go to Ruth's T-Ball game yesterday. Eva had a bit of a hard time, but it was neat to watch Ruth interact and learn the basic mechanics of baseball. Also, there was a runoff ditch nearby and Eva kept pointing at it saying, "I wanna go fishy." Atta girl.

I worked for a few hours and visited two pest visits and a termite sales call, then came home knowing everyone wanted to go out to the lake. Since my daughter had shared with me the secret that they had gotten me a gift card to Bass Pro, I asked my wife if I could use it to get her a fishing license so she can fish with me. She lit up and said that was so sweet.

Yes it was. The girls played in the rocks, mud, and water while my wife caught her first fish on the fly. Pictures to follow.

I love my wife and daughters.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Stealth Bomber

I think I want to give the Stealth Bomber a try. Anyone got any pointers?

Here's the full .pdf blueprint, complete with template.

Youngman Lake

Found at 192nd and West Dodge, Lawrence Youngman lake rests in a bowl behind a sandpit and across the street from the new Women's Hospital here in Omaha.

With more salad in the water than Golden Corral, it was a complete and utter disappointment... again.

Until I started catching 9" bluegill. Then had one of them eaten off my line by a catfish.

I arrived a little before eight with a group of guys from Church. The building was occupied and the group didn't play B-Ball, so I suggested we fish instead. My physicist and astronomer friend Vincent, quoted in this Wikipedia article (Cool!), reported that the weeds were bad. We got our lines wet for a while, moved around, more people showed up... went to the fishing dock. Nothing. Squat. Zilch.

By the way, wind speeds were constantly 20-25 mph with gusts at higher.

Moved up the shore to a protected cove. Caught a small largemouth (didn't get skunked, yay!) Vincent and my friend John came up and followed. No luck.

"A bad day at Cunningham is better than a good day at Youngman," John said. "I'm outta here."

And he was.

"You taking off, too?" I asked Vincent. He was. Not catching anything, so why stay?

I was of the same mind, but I'm also thoroughly competitive, so when mother nature throws me a curve, I swing different. I made up my mind, though. One more spot, then I was done.

I'll never forget that spot.

Rabbit-tail Eyelash Yarn Leech on the line, and I'm landing it gently along some rings that are popping up here and there around a break in the weeds. First bluegill is about 4". Not bad, nice little fighter.

Next one was 8".

Then 9". My blood was really pumping.

Next one was about 7". These are the biggest bluegills I had ever caught! At this point I snapped a picture with my stupid camera so that y'all would believe me.

I didn't take any other pictures, because I had my stupid camera, not my good one. But a couple of fish later, I put my fly in a large furl near the weeds, and hooked a gill, only to have the furl suddenly turn and thrash its nearly 3 ft. body and snap the fish off my line. 

I almost pottied on myself.

Last fish of the night was a 12" crappie. Hit my size 2 leech. Note to self: the Gammy B10S#2 is definitely  not a very good hook for the Boa Yarn or Mohair Leech pattern. 

Ok, so Youngman... you gained some serious points in my book. Now, where do I get the money to get my wife a license? And a kayak?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My butt can take better pictures than my iPad

For real.

Notice the graininess. The pixels. The grittiness.

Three leeches and two soft hackles.


The awesome thing about this picture is that it shows five more flies that I tied tonight as my wife headed home from hanging out with a friend. I wanted to try a brown chenille/olive hackle Softy so I tied two, then I tried three leech variations with some of the material Jim Smith sent me.

Obviously, some of those are better than others. I'm better at working hackles now, which has been a real struggle for me.

I am looking forward to watching that lower left leech perform especially.

Now, where to get some beads for heads... there's got to be something around this house with a bunch of metal beads on it that nobody wants...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hey Guys, Look What I Tied!


A great, big, huge thank-you goes out to Jim Smith at FAOL for contributing so many cool looking materials and hooks to my growing collection of fly-tying materials.

When I checked in with him about what to tie, he mentioned a few patterns, but the Soft Hackle was probably the most intriguing, because of the mighty carp and John Montana's many adventures with them. I really wanted to try a weighted head, so I found some chain bead in the light from upstairs and found it quite excellent. (My wife asked last night, "What happened to the pull string?" I let her know I trimmed it. It definitely got put to good use!)

The first two pictures I what I like to call the TGCB (Tony Gardner Carp Buster). Now, will it bust carp? Who the heck knows, but just as Po's adopted father says, "There is no secret ingredient. You just have to believe it's special!"

And then there's this little dandy.

The Cape Nodge
This was my lame-as-a-three-legged-horse attempt at a weighted-eye hackle-less Woolly Bugger.

I called my four year old out of her room and asked her what the soft hackle looked like. She said, "Oh, a bug."

Then I asked her what the brown one looks like. She said, "Ummm... a mouse, or... it's a cape nodge!"

"A cape nodge? What's a cape nodge?"

"Hm... it's a fly you fish with."

"Oh. Well I think I'm going to call it that! The Cape Nodge."

"Yeah!" she said.

Good times. Can't wait to bust some carp.

By the way, anybody tried to tie any variations on Price's Raton?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stab Wounds While Fishing

(Caution: some narration in this account may be graphic.)

As part of my chill-out time today during work - aka the lunch break - I decided to take my boss' advice and park at a shady area to relax for 30 minutes. It just so happened that shady area was on a lake. Carter lake, to be precise. Being very low, mossy and fully of water millfoil, it wasn't very attractive. But hey, it was a lake.

I had just completed a bed-bug inspection on a home very nearby and was getting ready to do some ride-alongs with my boss.

I thought I would just stare at the water and enjoy the air conditioning while dinking around with my iPad. I pulled up and another gentleman had a couple of catfish lines in the water. I put my car into park, convinced he catfishing gentleman was really just bathing his hot dog in a bunch of seaweed for a couple of hours.

Then the water moved.

If you haven't read John Montana's Carp on the Fly, you should. The fish he is constantly holding up, and the descriptions that accompany them haunt you any time you are near water where grass carp might be milling around in the depths. I still had 25 minutes, so I hopped out, strung up and tied one on. (Of course, I follow strict rules about fishing while at lunch so as not to misrepresent myself or my employer, including wearing my vest to cover my logo. Don't be that guy who doesn't do that.)

"Caught anything?" I asked the gentleman as I pulled line through the stripping guides. My boots crunched clods of clay as I made my way to the rocky shore.

"Nah, I just got here."

I got everything set and started fishing the water. I dropped an egg sucking leach about eight feet from shore with very slow action, and an approximately 14" carp came up and hit it on the surface. I couldn't believe my eyes, and my heart took a leap.

Missed the hookset. Tunnel vision immediately set in.

I put the leech right back where it was, and the carp took it again. It was a rich, golden color with a bright white mouth. This time, I made the hookset, but the s.o.g. buried his nose in the silt trying to run.

You know why I knew he had a bright white mouth? Because it flashed right as he spit out my fly. It was like he had chosen me, then thrown me out like the garbage.

I cast a few more times as I let my adrenaline drop again.

"What are you fishing for?" I asked the gentleman, once again aware of my surroundings.

"Catfish. I'm using hotdogs."

"Oh. Well, try them pretty shallow. Seems to be working."

He reeled in and adjusted them while I pulled in a fingerling bass and two sunfish.

"Yeah, I just buried my nephew, and he loved to fish, so I figured I would come out and fish," the man said.

My heart sank for him. My attention was riveted. The remnants of my tunnel vision immediately dissipated.

"May I ask how he passed?" I ventured.

"Stabbed. Right in the heart." the man said, as he sat in his lawn chair with his poles. A few moments passed.

"I'm sorry to hear that." I was maybe twenty feet away, fishing a clearing in the millfoil.

"Yeah, and boy, heh, when it rains it pours. I just got a phone call after setting up here that my 102 year old grandmother probably won't live through the day. So, I figured I would do something relaxing."

Only three seconds passed.

"I'm sorry about your grandmother and your nephew."

"Well, that's life, you know... my nephew, he loved to fish. Always tryin' to help somebody, and some guy had to go and stab him right through the heart with a Rambo knife. He never had a chance. Bled out on the table."

"That must have been terrible to go through for you."

Silence settled again. The wind picked up, but it was at my back, so casts were still steady. But, I didn't want to be late, and had been party to enough. It honesty felt like the man felt better talking to somebody. And maybe I'm crazy, but I felt better after listening. I felt I should have said more.

Before going to that lake, I had been thinking about my earlier mistakes that day: comments and things that I had said, or silly mistakes at work that were getting me down. I had been praying for some help to come out of it with strength beyond my own.

Then it was like, boom. Everything came back to perspective for me with one simple sentence, with someone I didn't know, the wind at our backs, relishing something that the living and the dead both fondly enjoy.

Whoever it was that stabbed this guy's nephew had stabbed him, too, just in another way.

Before I left, I told him I believed we will see those who pass away again. He shared the belief. I offered a visit from some folks to share a message, and he politely declined. I wished him a good time fishing, even if there was nothing I could do to wish him a good day.

As I drove off, I saw him reading his scriptures, sitting in his lawn chair with his pole, trying to heal. Stab wounds don't go away very easily.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lots of work, family, scripture and some night-time fishing.

Man! It has been quite a while since I've thrown something up on my blog.

Not that I've thrown up. You know what I mean.

I have been hitting it hard at work and at home and everything... drawing myself out a little too much, playing mind games with myself about my own abilities and things. But its getting better, thanks to a loving, patient, dedicated wife, great kids, good scripture and some fishing trips.

This past Sunday, we went up to my mother's farm to prepare and stake out a campsite on their farm away from it all. I dug and installed a fire pit, as well as mowed. I had an opportunity to hang out that was much needed. All worth the amount of sun and calories.

Tonight, after my wife gets home from Church, I'm going to go try some dusk/night fishing for bass, blues and cats. I hope to have some great pictures! Stay tuned.