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Day of Rest for Activist Angler

Even the Activist Angler requires a day off from fishing, especially when in Florida. Breezy and warm here today. Perfect pool weather.


More DNA Evidence Raises Odds That Carp Have Invaded Great Lakes

More damning evidence has just been revealed that Asian carp might already have invaded Lake Michigan via a manmade connection to the Mississippi River basin and it’s only a matter of time until numbers reach critical mass, spawning occurs, and we start seeing huge numbers of the prolific exotics.

That’s exactly what happened with snakeheads in the Potomac River. For several years, anglers caught just enough of them to remind us that they were there. Then someone found a mass of them spawning in a creek, and the population seemed to explode almost overnight.

In the case of Asian carp and Lake Michigan, researchers report that 17 of 171 samples taken from the North Shore Channel tested positive for silver carp DNA. Additionally, 17 of 57 from the Chicago River also proved positive for the genetic material.

Meanwhile, the Corps still is studying the situation.

"Asian carp are knocking at the front door of the Great Lakes, and we cannot afford to wait on a federal government that fails to act,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Read more here.



'Thumbtimes' the Pain Is Worth It

Dave took big-fish honors with this Florida largemouth.

My thumb is scratched, raw, and even bruised. That’s a good thing.

As most bass anglers can tell you, thumb condition is one of the best ways of determining a fisherman’s success on the water.

While anglers are known to stretch the truth a bit, thumbs don’t lie.

When a bass is lipped for landing, its sandpaper teeth can damage flesh, especially if the fish carries some weight. And the more quality fish an angler lands, the more he and his thumb “suffer.”

Thus, my grievous injury from fishing with my friend Dave Burkhardt, owner of Trik Fish/Triple Fish fishing lines, and  guide Ed Grunloh on a chain of lakes near Orlando.

My largest bass was a bit smaller than Dave's catch of the day.

We all caught bass of 5 pounds and better, but I was the luckiest, taking a dozen or more 3- to 5-pounders by making long casts to grass edges with a Bass Pro Shops Swim Stik-O-Worm.

Dave took the day’s biggest bass with a Zoom Super Fluke soft jerkbait, while Ed took good numbers of smaller fish with a hard jerkbait fished in open water.

Sunday, Dave and I are heading down to Lake Okeechobee to fish with Florida legend Sam Griffin, who makes my favorite wooden topwater baits. Many of Sam’s secrets for catching bass on topwaters are revealed in my book, Better Bass Fishing.


Activist Angler Finds Better Luck at Lake Eufaula

Troy Gibson with Lake Eufaula largemouth. Photo by Robert Montgomery

My friend Troy Gibson was disappointed that we didn’t catch more fish when he showed me Alabama’s Lake Eufaula Tuesday.

But considering the slow fishing that I had experienced for several days in Arkansas, I was delighted. Our largest five weighed 15 pounds or better. Plus, we caught several chunky spotted bass in the 1- to 2-pound range.

Additionally, Troy caught a white bass/striped bass hybrid and a channel catfish, which I solemnly promised to reveal to no one. As a tournament angler and one of the nation’s foremost designers of soft plastic baits for bass, he didn’t want that information to get out.

We caught most of our fish on Strike King XD Sexy Shad crankbaits, as we positioned in channels and ditches and threw up onto submerged points and flats in 6 to 17 feet. This was the first time that I had used the Strike King crankbaits, and I was impressed by their action in deeper water and retrieve consistency.

Before we fished Eufaula, Troy took me to Southern Plastics (SP), where he is marketing and sales manager. SP has been making plastic baits for about 40 years, and, since my friend joined Terry Spence’s team, its role as a major player in the fishing industry has grown even more. Terry said fiscal 2012 was their best year ever for the company that produces about 50 million pieces annually, with Bass Pro Shops among its clients.

Here’s an interesting observation from Terry, who knows as much about soft plastic baits as anyone:

“We sell more green pumpkin than anything. Previously, it was pumpkinseed and before that it was electric grape.”

I’ll post more about Southern Plastics later. 


Bass Don't Cooperate for Activist Angler in Arkansas Delta --- But Potential There

Lake Dunn in Arkansas' Village Creek State Park produced this 16-5 largemouth bass.

When I learned that I was to fish the small lakes of Lake Village State Park as part of a press trip up and down the Arkansas Delta, I was excited.

Lakes Austell and Dunn are notorious producers of big bass.

At just 85 acres, Austell has been stocked with Florida-strain bass for decades, and, a few years ago, it yielded a 15-12 trophy. Dunn, meanwhile, is about the same size and anglers have moved some of those Florida bass into it to boost the gene pool there as well.

As a matter of fact, Paul Crowder caught a 16-5 in Dunn earlier this year. It would have been a state record, except for the fact that he was fishing illegally, without a license.

My excitement grew when Jeremy Mitchell, the angler who would be taking me fishing, told me that he has caught 25 bass of 8 pounds or more during the past year at Austell.

Then reality struck, in the form and fury of the first winter cold front. We hit the water under blue bird sky with air temperatures in the low to mid 40s. A cold north wind buffeted us all morning. We managed a few small bass, but nothing close to what we were hoping for. Just as they do in the state for which they are named, Florida-strain bass are especially sensitive to cold weather, often contracting lockjaw for a few days in the wake of a front’s passage.

Sad to say, the rest of the trip wasn’t much more productive, except for a few hours on the Arkansas River at Pendleton, where I caught about 20 bass with David Shopher, a tournament angler and taxidermist, who specializes in North American, African and Asian big game.

Fishing with Jim Ferguson of “The Revolution with Jim & Trav” radio show at Lake Chicot, I managed one drum. Jim caught a sock.

An oxbow off the Mississippi River, Chicot is Arkansas’ largest natural lake and an interesting place, with a long history. French explorers named it “Chicot,” which means “stumpy.”

Asian carp  have invaded this fishery, as they have many others up and down the river. We saw silvers jumping in our wake, but none of them joined us in the boat.

Cypress-lined lake in White River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Robert Montgomery

Fishing with Walter Jones on H Lake in White River National Wildlife Refuge produced just three small bass. But I did get an interesting photo of a mink with a catfish, which I posted earlier at Activist Angler.

Walter is extremely knowledgeable about this wild and beautiful place, and I really enjoyed seeing it. He also runs a duck hunting guide service.

All of these oak trees were moved from forest to farmland to create new waterfowl habitat. Large machinery at the right of photo will give you an idea of the size of the trees. Photo by Robert Montgomery

One of the real highlights of the trip was staying at Delta Conference Center (DCC), a first-class facility for shooting, duck hunting, and, eventually, fishing. It includes a 22-acre lake designed by Bill Dance. Unfortunately, the fishery was still filling with water when I was there, so I didn't fish it.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the DCC is doing remarkable things to create new waterfowl habitat on old farmland, including moving oak trees up to 90 feet tall and weighing in excess of 350,000 pounds.