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What is the Right Color Crankbait By Gary Howey

  If there is one thing that anglers disagree on, it is the subject of lure color; some swear that you can catch any species of fish on only one color, while others say that color makes no difference.

  There are times when the fish will be suicidal and bite on anything.  In my opinion, this is when about any bait will take them and color is not a big factor

  At other times, when water clarity, light and weather conditions make it tough for fish to see, are the times when lure color becomes very important.

  I have a couple of rules I follow when it comes to choosing the right color crankbait.

  The first thing you will want to know is what the dominant baitfish in the body of water you are fishing.  This information is generally available from the DNR or Game, Fish and Parks officials in the area or on their web sites.   Another place you will want to check out when coming to a new lake would be the bait & tackle shops. They know what the dominant baitfish is in their area and you will want to match your crankbait size and color to that baitfish

  In the upper Midwest, we have Gizzard Shad, Smelt, River Shiners and Alewife, all of these bait fish have a silver body.  Therefore, in most cases, I will start baits that resemble these species.

  As a scuba diver, I have seen how fish react to different color lures at different depths.  Fish react differently when looking for a meal in clear water than they do in dark or stained water.

  In clear water, a bright color: clown, fire tiger or bright chartreuse may spook fish, while in clear water I go with more subtle, natural patterns like a shad or perch color.

  In turbid, darker water, I tend to go with the brighter fluorescent color, those that hold their color better in low light conditions. [Read more…]


Missouri River Pierre Area Fall Fishing By Gary Howey

    Paul’s lure had just come to the bottom and as he raised the bait off the bottom, his rod dipped towards the water indicating a bite.

  On this trip, we were fishing with guide and good friend Paul Steffen, Steffen Brothers Guide Service on the river below Pierre.

   Team Member Larry Myhre and I had arrived the day before, stopping by the South Dakota Missouri River Tourism office to talk with Karen and Jenn, Paul as well as checking in with several other friends in the area.

  We would be in Pierre a couple of days filming another of our Outdoorsmen Adventures television shows, which meant, no matter what the weather we were on the water as  we had to be back on the road Friday afternoon because of prior appointments back home.

    Fall, when fish instinctively pig out, feeding heavily prior to freeze up when their metabolism will slow down and they have to make it through winter, relying on the fat reserve they built up during the fall.

  The plan was to locate an active pod of fish and using jigs and live bait rigs to put enough fish in the boat to make a show.

  Because the big lake, Oahe would be windy on the following day, on Thursday, Paul thought we should go down river to fish for walleyes and try trolling on Oahe Friday morning.

  The rain was coming down as we headed south out of Pierre; with Paul indicating, that there had been a good jig bite, not too far from the Farm Island boat ramp.

  It was later Thursday morning, when we launched the boat and made the short run from the Farm Island boat launch to  where on a recent trip, Paul had located a good size pod of walleyes.

    Paul made one or two passes through the area, locating the fish, marking them and our drift on one of the three large Lowrance locator/GPS units on his boat.

   Then, closely watching the locator brought the boat back on the same line we had drifted on the earlier passes, in, around and through the depth, the walleyes were holding and once through that part of the river, go back up and do it again.

  Using his Minnkota Ulterra bow mount, he maneuvered the boat giving all three of us an opportunity to work our baits down through the deeper hole and then back up into the shallower water on the backside of it.

  What was different about this trip was that we were jigging with Jiggin Raps, a minnow shaped bait that has a hook sticking out of either end along with a small treble hook on the bottom of the lure. The eye to attach it to your line is in the middle at the top of the lure. The baits fished as you would any other jig.

  When you bring your rod up quickly, it shoots out in different directions, resembling a wounded bait or game fish. As the bait drops, with a tight line, it slowly descends to the bottom, touches down and then this jigging motion continues until additional weights felt. 

  Paul set the hook on the first fish as soon as the bait hit the bottom, the fight the fish was putting on, was that of a short fish, less than 15-inches.

  Because, I was new at using this presentation and not used this bait often in open water, I kept an eye on how Paul was working the bait. Keeping a tight line, he followed the bait down allowing it to tap the bottom, then ripping it skyward, several feet, and as before, following the bait back down to the bottom. [Read more…]


Crankbaits By Gary Howey

Crankbaits have been around forever.  Some look like a minnow while others resemble a frog, crawdad or other aquatic species. Then there are those that do not look like anything that I have ever seen.

Most anglers are familiar with crankbaits, for those of you that are just starting to fish crankbaits, they are a lure that imitates gamefish, baitfish, and crawdad, baits you cast out and retrieve or trolled to give them action. There are numerous crankbaits out there, including Rapalas, Shad Raps, Berkley’s Flicker Shad, and Digger. Dredger, Storm’s Thundersticks, Pradco’s Wally Divers and Bombers are a few of the more common crankbaits on the market.

They twitch and wiggle from side to side as they move through the water giving off vibrations, others have sound chambers inside, with BB’s or lead shot that rattle that attract the fish through their lateral line and hearing. 

Used in so many ways, they are very versatile baits and used almost year around, with fall being an excellent time to troll crankbaits.

You can cast them from a boat, from shore, trolled behind a boat or drifted downstream and the retrieved back against the current.

How do you go about finding a crankbait that will attract and catch the species of fish your after?

The first thing you need to do is to find out what the prey fish are feeding on.   If the fish in the lake are feeding on creek chubs or shiners, you will want to use baits that resemble those species.  Check with a local bait shop, as most of them know what type of prey fish inhabit the area waters.

If they are feeding on crawdads, then look for a crankbait that resemble a crawdad.

The type of fish you are going after can also make a difference when it comes to choosing a crankbait.

If you after Smallmouth Bass, you will want to use a smaller crankbait, because of their smaller mouth.  Largemouth Bass anglers use larger baits, the alphabet style bait.  Larger and fatter than baits used for other species because a Largemouth Bass will go after anything that he thinks he might be able to swallow.  Ducklings, baby birds, snakes, frogs and mice are just a few of the things that a Largemouth will try to inhale.

Walleyes on the other hand are more apt to take a thinner minnow shaped bait, something that resembles a shad or minnow.

Panfish also love smaller crankbaits, but need to be much smaller for these tiny mouth fish to inhale.

Pike, Tiger Musky and Musky all prefer larger  crankbaits but really are not too particular about what size or shape and if they are in the mood, will attack anything they feel like attacking, because they are the big guys in the pond.

Crankbaits work on all species of fish. Guide Paul Steffen and Team Member Larry Myhre along with the author caught 12 pike, a salmon and smallmouth bass in less than 3 hours on this trip to Lake Oahe using crankbaits.

Crankbaits work on the surface, suspended, diving when cranked or trolled. Several things affect the depth a lure will dive.

  If not tuned correctly, your bait will run off to the side, and will not attract fish and tangle with your other lines.

  There’s a new tool on the market that allows you to tune your crankbait quickly, allowing it to run straight and true. The Off Shore Tackle EZ Crankbait Tuner lets the angler adjust the bait without over-tuning or damaging their bait. Check it out at www.offshoretackle.com

Number one is the size of the bill on the front of the bait; shorter billed bait will run shallow with larger billed baits diving deeper.  Most boxes that the crankbaits come in now will give you the approximate depth the bait will run, so you will have a good idea on where it will be running.

The second thing that will affect the depth the lure will run is your line diameter.  A larger line diameter has more resistance and not allows your bait to dive as deep.

The last thing affecting the depth is the speed at which the bait is being retrieved or the speed it is being trolled.  The faster the bait is running, the deeper it will dive.

Crankbaits account for larger fish than any other bait.  The reason for this is that you are covering a lot more water with a crankbait, showing your lure to more fish.  Since crankbaits are quick presentation baits, you catch the aggressive fish.

Crankbaits are something that the angler should have in his tackle box, as they help you to catch almost all species of fish.

The more time you spend using crankbaits, the more ways you learn just how an effective bait in your fishing arsenal.

Next time, we will look at choosing the right color crankbait for the body of water your fishing.







The Paddlefish By Gary Howey

  Paddlefish, a prehistoric looking fish whose skeleton has few bones, only a cartilage running from their head to their tail.

  Unlike other fish with scales, the paddlefish is smooth-skinned, with a shark-like body and an elongated, paddle-like snout, which is often up to one-third of their total length. Their paddle and head contain tens of thousands of sensory receptors used for locating swarms of zooplankton. They have a huge toothless mouth on the bottom of their head and are a powerful fish with a deeply forked tail.      

  Fossil records of paddlefish date back over 300 to 400 million, nearly 50 million years before dinosaurs first appeared.    

  There are two Paddlefish species in existence, the American paddlefish, found in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries and the endangered Chinese paddlefish found in the Yangtze River in China.

  By now anglers in Nebraska and South Dakota know if they drew snagging permits which were applied for the first two weeks in July.

  Unfortunately, for me and many other anglers who failed to draw a snagging permit this year, we will have to wait until the next application period and hope we have better luck in the 2019 drawing.

  The Nebraska and South Dakota paddlefish-snagging season opens up on October 1 running through the end of the month.

  October is the month when huge concentrations of anglers, those who drew snagging tags will descend on the waters below and downstream of Gavin’s Point Dam to try their luck at snagging a paddlefish.    

  Because they are filter feeders, traditional fishing methods will not work on these prehistoric fish, as they can only be taken by snagging. Open waters for snagging in Nebraska and South Dakota runs from Gavin’s Point Dam on down to the Big Sioux River.

  These fish are one of the largest, native freshwater fish in North America, reaching lengths of more than six feet, weighing over 100 pounds, with the South Dakota state record weighs more than 140 pounds, while the Nebraska record is over 113 pounds.

  At one time, paddlefish season opened in November, running through March allowing snaggers to harvest three fish a day.  Back then, in South Dakota and Nebraska anglers only needed a resident fishing license to snag paddlefish.  Then, the season opened in November, running through March and during those earlier seasons, snaggers could harvest three fish a day.

   Historically, paddlefish were free to travel great distances, migrating up to 1200 miles to reach their spawning grounds.

With their migration blocked by the construction of Dams on the Missouri River, and the changes in their natural habitat there was a decline in their numbers.

  Because of these factors, there were changes made on how they issue tags. These permit/tags issued on a limited-drawing basis, with both residents and nonresidents tags available in both Nebraska and South Dakota.

Author with Team outdoorsmen Adventures member Marlyn Wiebelhaus, Wynot with  a paddlefish taken below Gavin’s Point Dam. This fish was a slot fish, measuring 44 ¾” long, ¼” short of being a keeper, then released back into the water. (Outdoorsmen Productions Photo)

  Those with a tag can take one legal size paddlefish with all fish measuring 35 to 45 inches from the eye to the fork of the tail returned to the water, as these fish are the main spawners.

  Paddlefish are powerful fish and it takes either a heavy bait-casting reel spooled with heavy line, fifty pounds on up or a stiff spinning rod with a long forgiving tip with a large spool spinning reel. Snaggers are allowed only one hook and its gap between the hook and the shank cannot to exceed one-half inch.

   The weights used for snagging can run from two ounces to eight ounces, with the weight used directly related to how you fish and the amount of current.

  It takes a good back to snag a paddlefish, as snaggers need to cast these heavy rigs out, allow them to sink to the bottom and then jerk back on the rod, reel up the slack and repeat this until you hook something.

  If you are snagging out of a boat it is still a lot of work, but you can cover more ground by having the boat running back and forth across the current while, the snagger rips the line through the water. If they do not connect, let the hook sink back to the bottom and repeat until they connect with a fish. 

  Paddlefish prefer quiet, slow-flowing waters where they swim continuously near the surface slowly swimming with their mouths wide open, filtering the water, removing the microscopic plants and animals as the water passes through specially designed gill rakers

  Paddlefish live long lives, with some living over thirty 30 years of age.  Male paddlefish generally mature at about five to eight years. They spawn in early spring when water temperatures get close to the mid-fifty degree range.

  Larger females produce over a half-million eggs, depositing the fertilized eggs over gravel bars in large free-flowing rivers. The best hatching success is in water containing clean gravel with little siltation and good aeration  and hatch quickly, in nine days or less, when water temperatures are sixty-five to seventy degrees and able to swim at birth. These young paddlefish look nothing like their parents and it takes about a month before the young paddlefish, start to resemble their parent.

  Successful paddlefish reproduction, in South Dakota and Nebraska documented only in the free-flowing river below Gavin’s Point Dam in South Dakota and on a small stretch of “semi-natural” Missouri River below Ft. Randall Dam.

  When an angler brings a fish to the boat, the fish should be measured and if it is below or above the slot, it can be kept and tagged in the dorsal fin.

  There is a certain way to clean paddlefish if you want excellent eating. Some anglers cut off the tail, allowing the fish to bleed out, others after gutting the fish, cut along the cartilage filleting the meat from the sides of the fish, and then skin the fish from the fillets.  Once done with this, remove all and I do mean “all” of the red meat from the fish as if it is not, you will wish you had as the red meat has a nasty taste, you want the meat you end up white and very firm.

  Others, because these fish have no bones will gut the fish, then cut the fish into chunks, fillet off the skin, remove the red meat and then soak it in cold water, which is a good ideas as it helps to draw any excess oil out of the fish, helping to firm up the meat.

  Some bread and deep fat fry their fish, while others make it much like lobster, boiling it and then dipping it in butter.

  My wife breads it and then fries it up in a pan and it is delicious, with a small paddlefish not lasting long in our house.

  If you have not applied for a snagging tag, you should, as the fish you snag will test you and your equipment, could be over one-hundred pound or even a state record and will be some of the finest eating fish you have ever eaten.