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The Outdoors A place to Get it Together By Gary Howey

 

I have always been somewhat of a sports enthusiast. Competing in about every sport a person can imagine.

In grade school, it was track, baseball, and football, in high school track and football and once I moved to Nebraska it was softball. 

I no longer compete in any of these sports, not because I do not enjoy them, it is just that I have slowed down a bit and I do not move quite as fast as I used to or heal up as fast.  I still think I can do these things, but my body tells me different.

I still spend thousands of hours each year watching or listening to sports on the radio and TV, so I have not lost my love for these sports.

As a youngster, growing up in Watertown, South Dakota, an outdoor paradise where my father, grandfather and our neighbor introduced me to hunting and fishing, which was the start of my lifelong love of being in the outdoors.

Many of my fondest memories as a youngster were those that I spent learning about it from Glen Matteson our neighbor and excursions into the outdoors with my dad Cal and my grandfather Butch Menkveld. 

I have always enjoyed the outdoors and since my early years have really gotten into outdoor activities.

I love fishing, I am hooked, and enjoy fishing with a rod & reel, it does not matter what species of fish I am after.  I have been very fortunate to have an occupation where I can fish for walleye and catfish in several provinces of Canada and walleye as well as fishing for smallmouth bass on several of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. On one trip to Mississippi, I caught crappies while keeping an eye out for alligators and had time to spend hundreds of hundreds hours pursuing walleyes, northerns and bass in the many Glacial Lakes of South Dakota and on the Missouri River and its reservoirs.

Therefore, it just makes sense that I also bow fish for paddlefish and rough fish on the Missouri River after the invasive species, the Grass, Big Head and Silver carp trying to put a dent, it may be a small one, but every one out of the river is one less we need to worry about. 

  Invasive species, devastating are waters, devouring much of the plankton available as they have a voracious appetite, feeding continuously. These fast growing plankton feeders compete and to the baitfish, young gamefish, and our paddlefish.

To some the outdoors is not successful unless you get your limit. To others it is the time spent with friends, in that special place as Mother Nature awakens the World. (Outdoorsmen Productions Photo)

When it comes to hunting, another of my favorite pastimes, I hunt with a rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader and bow, pursuing pheasant, quail, waterfowl, turkey, deer, antelope, wild boar, bear, predators and elk. 
  My family has probably eaten as much wild game as any family.  It is lean, low in cholesterol and when taken care of in the field and prepared properly makes for some excellent eating.

However, it is not the fish or wild game that I bring home that keeps bringing me back, it is the outdoors. I know some people will find that hard to believe, but it is a fact.

I head outdoors to get away, to get back to reality.  I have learned many of lives lessons in the outdoors as I watched and listened to the world waking up when a squirrel is chattering at the birds that are  bothering him  and as I watched a doe and her fawn making their way from where they were feeding to their bedding area.

  You might say the outdoors is my therapy.   Many people go to a therapist to get things figured out, to get their life in order.  I guess I am from the old school and feel that a little peace and quiet along with fresh air will solve many problems.

When I am outdoors, I have a lot of time to think and reflect on what I have done right and wrong with my life.

There is nothing like hearing a tom turkey gobble or a pheasant cackle as the sun is coming up.  The sound of a bull elk bugling in the distance will awaken senses that you never knew you had.

When I first got into the outdoors, it was great to be outside, but I was of that age where I had to be successful, to bring something home, hoping to get my limit, to prove to my folks and myself that I had accomplished something.

  Now days, I do not need to fill my tags or my limit in order to get something out of a day in the woods or on the water, in the outdoors.  The time spent with friends and family camping, fishing or hunting allows me to forget about the deadlines that I have given myself.

 I do not worry about things when I am in the outdoors.  I know that those things will still be there when I return to my office, but the time I am outdoors is relaxing and invigorating to me, it helps me to recharge my internal batteries.

I get just as much of a thrill out of introducing someone to the great things the outdoors has to offer as I do from bagging a big buck or catching a nice walleye.

That is the reason I have been a Nebraska certified fishing instructor and a certified hunting instructor for twenty-five years.

Learning about the outdoors is not hard as those who love the outdoors and there are thousands of them, individuals who have spent time in every aspect of the outdoors, more than willing to help you to discover the outdoors.

 Conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, The National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and other conservation groups all have youth programs.

 Most states have hunter’s safety instructors, bow hunter education instructors and aquatic education instructors that hold classes throughout the state, every year. 

The outdoors is not just a male thing as there are programs set up just for the women.   The “Becoming an Outdoorswomen” is a very popular program that is given several times each year in Nebraska as well as in other states.

  In our hunter’s safety classes, we always have at least six girls and women taking the course as women are the fastest growing segment of the outdoors.

Getting into the outdoors is not very hard to learn about and has something for everyone. The next time you feel like you need to catch your breath and get yourself together, look into the outdoors, go fishing, boating, kayaking, bird watching or just hiking as the sunshine, fresh air and tranquility of the outdoors can help you to get back on track.

  Good advice, after this hectic week, trying to get everything taken care of before heading north to our writer’s conference, I need a break, think I need to spend some quality time in the outdoors, so I am going to head out to the pond I hunt to see if any new doves have migrated south!

 

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Dove Opener 2018 BY Gary Howey

  The sun was beginning to makes its decent into the western sky as I pulled into the field where we would park our pickups on opening day of the Nebraska dove season.

   We had planned this hunt later in the day as the hours from about five pm to sundown is generally an excellent time of the day to set up and hunt doves near ponds.  Dove, after feeding, like to come to water to drink before going into the trees to roost for the night.

  I had not so patiently waited for this year’s dove season and was more than ready for the hunt as everything was ready the week prior to Saturdays dove hunting season.  

  I had my upland game permit & stamps, my hip number, which is required in Nebraska and a method the Game & Parks uses to get an idea on what species of migratory birds you hunted in the previous year.

  My shotgun was cleaned, I had checked its choke to make sure I would be shooting an improved cylinder choke, checked to make sure I had my plug in, as when hunt migratory birds you are not allowed to holds more than three shells in your shotgun.

  I had located my hunting vest along with the rest of my camo and hunting clothing in my back office, Camo is not terribly important when hunting doves, but it allows the hunter to blend in with the terrain he is hunting.

  My vest pockets had been loaded with AA loads and because I did not want to run out of ammo again, as I had while defending the base perimeter from a bunker we were manning during an extended firefight in Viet Nam, I had stashed an additional shotgun shells, a full case in my truck.

  As there are times when hunting doves, you need to walk a ways to get to the location you plan to hunt; it is a good idea to have a bucket or two along to transport your gear. I carry two; a six-gallon bucket filled with my decoys and ammo along with a swivel seat, which is the perfect height for me to set on as it is comfortable, allowing me to turn from side to side without much movement.

  I also bring along a five-gallon bucket  that holds the rest of my essential dove hunting gear, insect repellent, Hornady Hearing Protectors, water and a couple of salted nut rolls just in case I get hungry.

  Arriving at our designated time, Anthony Thoene, Hartington, NE. one of my hunting partners was there waiting for me, his brother Dani, would join us later, completing our threesome.

  It was the first day of the 2018 Dove season and Anthony, his brother Dani and I hoped to have a good dove shoot as we did several years back as we were hunting the same dam, with very similar hunting conditions. On that hunt, the birds started coming in early, beginning around five in groups of eight to ten and continued to come in throughout late afternoon.

  On that hunt, empty shotgun casings, both twenty and twelve gauge covered the ground around us as we did our best to drop one bird for every ten shots, which is said to about the average shells expended per bird for the average hunter.

  We were fortunate in a way, as we had received rain through the better parts of June, July and into August, filling the pond we were hunting.

   In years past, when the dam was not holding the water, the Thoene brothers installed a liner in the depression,  in hopes of getting enough water in the dam to allow the cattle as well as the doves to have a place to drink.

  For two years, the pond remained either dry or not enough water there to interest the cattle as well as the doves.

  This year, the ponds throughout northeast Nebraska all had water, giving the doves numerous of places to get a drink before going to roost.

  We knew that ponds with high line poles or dead tree close by would attract doves as they like to land and check things out before coming down to drink. [Read more…]

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Fall, When The Bite is on Gary Howey

It is hard to believe that the summer is gone and we are heading into the fall, it seems like just a week or so ago, that school was out and summer had just begun.

 Well, it is that time of the year, the time our kids are back to school, temperatures should start to decrease, and with the water temperatures, starting to cool all species of fish will be packing on the pounds.

When these things happen, it is a good bet that it will not be long before the fall bite begins.

As the water temperatures decline, all species of fish will really start to feed heavily and because of this, in the fall, larger live bait works best. 

This is the time of the year, when, fish are on a mission, fattening up before the freeze up.  Larger baits, chubs, larger minnows and even more than a single minnow on a hook seems to attract the larger fish, out producing smaller baits.

In the rivers, you will find the walleye, sauger and smallmouth bass moving shallow to clean up any remaining baitfish, crawfish that made it through the summer and smaller game fish.

In our lakes, bluegills, crappies, largemouth bass and pike will move into and along the edge of the weeds, picking off the few baitfish left, insects and of course each other.

Those walleyes in the lake will spread out over the mud flats or cruise the weeds looking for a late season snacks.

The key to locating good numbers of fish will be to find the greenest vegetation as in the fall it attracts the fish. 

There are several reasons that fish will move into these green weed beds.  The first is that their food source, baitfish and other aquatic species have relocated there, another is this is where the most comfortable water temperatures are found as the vegetation gives off oxygen, making it more comfortable for the fish, where they find shade, and of course, ambush locations to attack their food.

If you have fished these weedy areas you know, they are a nightmare, as weeds eat tackle as fast as you can tie it on.

When fishing for bass you will probably be working these weedy areas with some sort of weedless rig such as a Texas rig or some sort of weedless jig and pig combination. 

Fall bass love to bury themselves deep inside the weeds, adjacent to the open pockets in the weeds, waiting in ambush for some aquatic creature to swim by. These open water pockets are good locations to fish and run spinnerbaits over the top of the weeds.  As the bait comes into the open pocket allowing it to helicopter down and when you get a bite or a no-show, no bite, you will need to bring your rod tip up high while power cranking the spinnerbait back up onto the surface.

  Buzzbaits are also very productive baits when fishing weedy areas, especially during the fall. They too should be run quickly, power cranked across the weed with the disturbance they make on the surface and the racket from the bait, bringing the fish up through the weeds to attack the bait. 

As water temperatures drop and late fall approaches, fish, which are cold blooded, their metabolism slows down and you will need to do the same, slowing down the way you fish and moving to smaller baits.

If you are fishing for panfish, work the pockets and along the edge of the weeds with small tube jigs or a light livebait jigs. 

One of the best baits to draw panfish from the thicker cover they are using this time of the year, go with a Slip bobber rig, a slip bobber, split shot, micro jig or a small hook tipped with minnows or pieces of night crawler worked slowly along the outer weed edge.

Walleye anglers this time off the year switch from night crawlers and leeches back to minnows.  Experiment a little bit with your baits during late fall, as all walleyes do not change from worms to minnows at the same time or on a given date. On one trip, they may still prefer the larger live bait and the next a smaller bait presentation.

Those fall fishing for walleye have good luck using jigs drifting through current breaks, worked along the edge of the weeds and on the mud flats.

Guide Chuck Krause and author with a few of the fish they caught while fishing during the fall near Gettysburg, S.D. on Lake Oahe. (Outdoorsmen Productions Photo)

Pike anglers will be working the weeds as where you find weeds, you will find pike. Several baits that will pull pike from within the weeds, include spinnerbaits ran over the top or along the edge of the weeds.

When fishing for pike in the fall, as I mentioned earlier when bass fishing in the weeds, you will want to hold your rod high and power or speed crank the bait over the top of the weeds, using the helicopter drop method into the open water pocket.

  If fishing the weeds edge, the old reliable daredevil ran along the edge will drive pike crazy and if the pike are nearby, results in a thunderous hit as the fish charges out of the weeds, smashing the lure and making an attempt to bury itself back deep into the cover.

  Slip bobber rigs with large hooks and bait drifted along the weed edge is another big pike producer in the fall.

Bottom loving catfish make the move from their summer haunts, those cooler, deeper holes that held them in the hotter weather and head shallower. When fishing for fall cat, anglers fish their prepared (stinkbaits), cutbaits and live bait rigs into the in water with less current and cooler temperatures locations where catfish will be located.        

The fast water below the powerhouse will also hold catfish, as when the water came through the turbines, it created oxygen and the cooler water temperatures and oxygenated water, the catfish will be there, as they love to lie there behind the rock piles, dead falls and snags.

You should not overlook any of the slack water pockets just off the current near the dam or others in the river, as no matter what species of fish you are after, these areas hold fish sometime during the day, as the fish cruise these current breaks regularly searching for a meal.

Fall is the time of the year you do not want to make the mistake that some anglers do and put your fishing tackle away, only think only of hunting, as you are going to miss some of the finest fishing there is during the year.

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Dove Hunt Etiquette

With dove season just around the corner, it’s not a bad idea to keep these 10 dove hunting etiquette tips on your mind.

  1. Don’t race to the field and hog the best spots. Make sure the older shooters have access to shade first. If the birds are flying, hopefully everyone will get some shooing. If not, make sure to rotate spots.
  2. Try to camouflage your spot the best you can to keep from flaring birds that are entering the field. Take care to hide vehicles.
  3. Do NOT shoot low birds. Help to warn others and holler “low bird” to the other shooters.
  4. Space yourself safely away from the next hunter.
  5.  Make sure you don’t kill birds that fall into areas where they can’t be retrieved.
  6. Pick up your empty shells and trash.
  7. Obey the game laws.
  8. If you kill your limit, move out so someone who hasn’t had as much shooting can have some action.
  9. Alert the hunters next to you as birds approach, and ask them to do the same for you.
  10. Don’t “burn out” the field. Always try to stop early so the remaining birds can feed. 

[Read more…]

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Successful Food Plots By Gary Howey

  When it comes to food plots and mineral licks, some believe the best time to plant them is in the spring and there is no doubt that spring plantings are beneficial, as long as the wildlife does not eat or destroy it before the cold weather arrives.

  Any food plot, as well as mineral licks, no matter when they are established can be beneficial to wildlife, but it needs to be available throughout the year at those times, when wildlife most needs it.

  For me, I have tried both spring and fall food plots, but after several disappointing spring plantings that were devastated by deer, turkeys and other wildlife before winter, I decided that late summer or early fall planting, those put in late July and August worked the best for me.

  Just like any planting in order to do well, come up and used by wildlife when archery season opens, they need decent timely rains.  With good weather conditions, there is a good chance that at least some of it will be available after the rut on into the winter.

  There has been a lot said as far as the good and the bad when it comes to putting in food plots.

  On one side, there are those who believe there is no need for food plots, believing that there is plenty for wildlife to feed on and they do more harm than good, while on the other side, there are those who feel food plots are something important wildlife and needed, especially in our northern tier of states.

  To me there is no doubt that good food plots concentrates wildlife. Making it easier for predators to find the game, but their benefits, especially during our cold tough winters, after the rut when bucks are worn out and later when does are carrying their fawns, when other good food sources are gone, or unavailable, is when wildlife suffers. This is when wildlife needs a place to feed, when having established food plots outweigh the disadvantages.

  I feel that any food plot, whether it was planted in the spring or in the fall, if put in properly and established correctly serves its purpose, giving upland game, deer and other wildlife the help needed when other food sources are gone.

  The important thing is to establish your food plot in proper locations and that you put them in properly.

  Just like anything else from a business to food plots, the important thing is location, location, location. Food plot locations should be close by and easily accessed by wildlife, especially during the winter.

  They need to be in close proximity to the area where wildlife lives! During the winter, wildlife has very little energy to waste and if they leave cover and travel a long distance to get to a food plot they use up valuable energy, exposing themselves and more susceptible to attacks by predators.

  The closer a food source is to where wildlife beds down or roosts in winter cover, such as sloughs, CRP and wooded areas the better their chances of survival will be. [Read more…]

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Pheasant Survey Indicates 47% Increase for South Dakota’s 100th Hunting Season

August 27, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. – According to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks (GFP), this year’s pheasant brood survey shows a 47 percent increase over last year. The 2018 statewide pheasants-per-mile (PPM) index is 2.47, up from the 2017 index of 1.68.

“A substantial increase in the pheasants-per-mile index is an exciting prospect for South Dakota’s 100th pheasant hunting season this fall,” stated Kelly Hepler, GFP Secretary. “Weather conditions continue to play a significant role when it comes to bird numbers and better weather helped this year with the average pheasant brood size increasing 22 percent over last year.”

From late July through mid-August, GFP surveyed 110, thirty-mile routes across the state’s pheasant range to estimate pheasant production and calculate the PPM index. The survey is not a population estimate, but rather compares the number of pheasants observed on the routes and establishes trend information. Statewide, 85 of the 110 survey routes had a higher PPM than 2017.

“We are pleased to see pheasant numbers improve across the state; particularly in the far eastern part of the state where hunters will have more opportunities to harvest birds than in recent years,” stated Hepler. “The full report provides an overview of upland habitat; which remains a concern for all wildlife across the state. Just as changes in landscape-level habitat conditions have produced peaks and valleys in the pheasant population for 100 years, habitat will again be the key to preserving pheasant hunting for another century.” [Read more…]

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Dove Hunting They Zig when you Zag By Gary Howey

  As the sun rises on Saturday, September 1, in South Dakota, Nebraska and throughout the upper Midwest, look for hunters set up on their favorite pond, around sunflower, millet, wheat or CRP fields and near shelterbelts to take a shot at dove hunting. 

Take a shot, may not be the correct words as it may take many shots to down these small birds when the dove hunting seasons opens.

  Believe it or not, doves are the number one game bird in America, forty-two states having dove seasons with over 20 million birds harvested each year. Even, with this large of number of doves taken, their population is growing and the range expanding.

Dove hunting is a challenging sport, as doves are the aerial acrobats of the bird kingdom. They seldom fly straight, darting and dodging from side to side, changing altitude in the blink of an eye as they zig-zag their way across the sky.

It does not take much of a load to bring down a dove, just as long as you can catch up with and get a bead on the little buggers. 

It takes a while to get onto hunting doves, so do not lose your faith and feel bad if you miss several birds, as studies indicate that the average dove hunter will shoot as many as ten shells for each bird that he drops.

I am sure ammunition manufacturers lick their chops because they know that ammunition sales are going to skyrocket just prior to the dove opener.

You can hunt doves with any gauge shotgun, with those hunters I hunt with use every gauge imaginable, hunting with twelve, twenty, twenty-eight and even four-ten gauge shotguns.

When it comes to what what shells to use, we pretty much agree on Winchester AA, eight or nine loads.

Our plan on opening day is to set up around a farm pond or stock pond, with our most productive hunting occurring in the  late afternoon until sun down, as doves make their way to these areas for water just prior to going to roost.

The ponds you want to set up on should have open ground around the edge, those with dead or dying trees nearby really attract the birds as they give doves a place to light, rest and observe the pond before flying down. 

Doves are not in a hurry to do anything until you take a shot at them, as they will set in the trees, on power lines or  hill above a pond for long periods before coming in.

The reason open ground around a pond is important because that is where the birds land before they will saunter down to the water.

Those ponds with heavy vegetation along the edge do not attract doves because the heavy cover makes it impossible for the birds to get to the water to drink.

When hunting around ponds, a good hunting dog is necessity, as much of your shooting will be over water and a dog can retrieve those doves that come down in the pond.   

Doves love weed seed, preferring hemp-marijuana and ragweed. If the pond you are hunting has a weed patch nearby, chances are there will be plenty of dove activity in the area.

When hunting ponds, your best hunting is if there are several groups of hunters on the surrounding ponds, as it keeps the birds moving, jumping from pond to pond.

On larger ponds, it is a good Idea to have several hunters stationed around the water.  Doves are such erratic flyers; you never know from what direction they are coming. By having hunters stationed around the pond or on several different ponds in the area, you have an extra set of eyes letting you know what direction the birds are approaching as well as more shooting opportunities, which helps to keep the birds in the air and on the move.

Hunters will find good numbers of doves in areas adjacent to shelterbelts or heavily wooded areas where the birds roost and near hemp or other weed patches where the birds feed.

During the early season, it does not take much to draw doves into a pond, but as the season progresses, doves become more wary and can be tough to attract.  In the late season, dove decoys will help to bring them in.

  If you use stationary dove decoys, place them as high as possible on the trees as this gives the doves an opportunity to locate and zero in on them at greater distances [Read more…]

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Channel Catfish Eager Biters, Excellent Eating By Gary Howey

  If you have ever had the opportunity to tangle with a big catfish, you realize how powerful this fish can be.

  Catfish, not the prettiest fish, but are plentiful, accommodating, and fun to catch and great eating.

  They are bottom-hugging creatures, whose eyesight is not the best, where they depend on their sense of smell and taste to find their food.  The barbells, those cats like whiskers protruding from their head and their lips, covered with taste receptors, help the catfish to locate a meal.

  In the upper Midwest, you will find three species of catfish: the channel, blue and the flathead.

  This article will deal with the largest population of catfish, a fish found in rivers, reservoirs, lakes and even farm ponds, the channel catfish.

  Channel catfish are the most abundant catfish species in the upper Midwest and perhaps the entire U.S.

  You will find them in the Glacial Lakes of South Dakota, below the dams of the Missouri River and on most bodies of water throughout the Midwest. 

  Channel catfish lie in the deeper holes in the lakes, and near the Missouri River dams below the spillway, behind the rubble below the turbines and in snag-infested areas adjacent to deeper water.

  Catfish are opportunists when it comes to what they eat; feeding on just about anything, they can get their mouth around.

  With what I do, television and radio, I have had the opportunity to fish for channel cats throughout the Midwest and in Canada and am fortunate to say that two of the channel catfish I caught were line class world records taken on cut bait made from suckers and goldeyes.

  If you have followed my “Of the Outdoors” columns over the years, I preached about the use of lighter line and lighter baits.  However, when choosing the tackle to tangle with catfish, that theory goes out the window and when fishing for cats it is always best to go heavy because there is no finesse bait presentation when it comes to fishing for catfish.  This is especially true since most catfish are taken from areas where there are numerous snags and you never know how big of a fish might be that followed the scent trail to your bait.

  When using heavy line on catfish, once you feel a bite, you will want to reel down towards the fish to take up any slack line before setting the hook, as heavier line will have more memory/coils than lighter line.

  The rods I use for catfishing are long rod with a lot of backbone and a fast tip so you can detect those subtle bites backed up by large bait-casting reels.

  When catfishing, you will find that even the larger cats do not grab your bait and run. They will nibble on it for some time, pulling as much of the bait from the hook before taking the remaining bait and hook into their mouth.

 As far as line goes, I stick with monofilament, as it is much easier to get out of snags than the super braids, like Berkley Fireline.

  Another reason I do not care to use super braids on catfish is that once hooked, catfish

roll, and rollover again trying to shake the hook and I have seen catfish that have rolled up so tight in super braid line that it cut their skin.

  Because we release quite a few of our fish, monofilament allows us to release more fish unharmed.

  I mentioned earlier that channels are opportunist, not being terribly fussy about what they eat and caught on numerous baits including; nightcrawlers, worms, cut bait (suckers, shad & skipjack), shad entrails, chicken or turkey liver and of course stink baits.

  Stink baits are popular on the Missouri River and as their name suggests, they are a smelly concoction.  The reason that they are so popular is because they are easy to use and very productive, yet very messy.

  Many people make up their own mixture using a smelly cheese, blood and other “secret” ingredients.

  If you do not have your own recipe for stink bait, you can find it and plastic stink bait worms at most bait shops. Sonny’s stink bait is my choice when it comes to a stink-bait and I have taken both small and large catfish using it with a stinkbait worm rig.

 Stink bait worms are pre-rigged with a short heavy monofilament leader with a small treble hook that straddles the bottom of the worm.

  These rigs are nothing more than a large egg sinker, snap swivel and plastic stink bait worm.  Putting this rig together is simple. First, your main line goes through the egg sinker and then ties to the snap swivel.   Attach the leader from the stink bait worm to the snap and then, using a stick, dip the worm into the stink bait, getting as much of it as possible on and around the worm.

 There are several other rigs that work well for catfish, especially in the swifter water found below the dams.

  One of these is the Wolf River rig, a simple rig, made up using a three-way swivel, a sinker and a large circle or other type of bait hook.

  Using your heavier main monofilament line, tie it to one of the three swivels, on another swivel; you will attach a heavy line monofilament leader with a large strong hook, a creek chub or some other bait.

  The dropper, the bottom line, is a six to ten inch piece of lighter monofilament line and where your sinker attaches, the sinker rides along the bottom allowing your bait to ride just off the bottom keeping your hook and bait out of the snags.

  If snagged, the lighter line can be broke off and all you will lose is your sinker. This rig excels when fishing in heavy current, but you may have to re-bait from time to time as swifter current can beat up your bait. [Read more…]

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Livebait Rigging with Spinners, There’s Differences By Gary Howey

  Livebait rigging, bottom bouncers and spinners is effective bait anytime of the year and does not take long for an angler to learn and to master them. 

  It is one of those rigs that pretty much fish themselves, where all you need to do is to lower the rig down  to the bottom, put the rod in the rod holder and wait for the rod to bend, indicating you have a fish on.

  Bottom bouncing with spinners or other live bait rigs is very simple.

  The bouncer is an inverted “L” shaped piece of bent-wire with a weight attached about halfway down the longer of the two wires.

  This weight on the rig allows the bouncer and spinner to get down on or just off the bottom, where the fish are located and if used correctly will stand up and work its way through all the rocks and snags, with the spinner following close behind.  The spinner creates a vibration and the flash, which attracts the fish as it, works up off the bottom through the structure, the rock and rubble, areas where the fish will be holding.

  Where the two wires twist, forming a circle, is where you attach the snap tied to your line, there is also a snap on the shorter top wire, which is where your spinner attaches.

  The key to using this set up correctly is to keep a tight line, fishing vertically, allowing the rig to stand up and to work its way along the bottom, with the longer weighted bottom wire keeping the spinner up above many of the snags. If you are not fishing vertically and have too much line out, the bouncer will drag and more than likely become snagged.

  I found that when fishing bottom bouncer in the Glacial Lakes , Missouri River reservoirs,  Lewis & Clark Lake, Lake Francis Case, Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe, that the bottom bouncers most often used are those in the one to two ounce range.  There are heavier ones, but I have never had to use them in the depths of the Glacial Lakes of South Dakota, Minnesota, the reservoirs and the rivers that I fish.

  A good general rule to follow for using bottom bouncers when trolled from speeds of one to two miles per hour is to use a one-ounce bottom bouncer when fishing shallower depths, those from ten to fifteen-foot deep.  If you fish water that is fifteen to twenty-five foot in depth, you will want to go with a one and a half ounce bouncer and when fishing deeper than that, to go with a larger, a two-ounce size bottom bouncer.

    Another thing I learned when fishing bottom bouncers is that its stiff wire helps me to feel the

bottom changes, where it goes from soft or hard bottom to rocks or other structure as it works its way into and through it, I can feel the vibration or change the bouncer  through my rod.

  Now that we have a good idea as to what a bottom bouncer is, let’s talk about spinner blades and spinner rigs.

  Spinner blades come in numerous shapes and sizes with each style of blades performing differently under different fishing conditions.

  You will find most metal blades stamped from brass; those plated or have a painted finish one the top while others are Mylar plastic.

  Their flashy side and vibration of a spinner helps draw the fish in, and once a fish moves up and directly behind it , closing in on your bait, the flash and vibration become less of an attraction as the fish has seen and zeroed onto the bait, the hook and the its movement.

  Which spinner blade you use has a lot to do with where you are fishing, the clarity of the water, how deep you will be fishing and the speed you drift or troll.

  Some spinner rigs, those rigged with the smaller metal blades will not work well or spin when fishing at slower speeds,  less than one mile per hour. The smaller blades like many of the other blades work best when trolled at around one and a half miles per hour and faster.

  Each spinner rig is somewhat different depending on its size, the style of the blade, their color, the way they are painted, the different size beads, as well as the number of beads used on the rig and their different colors. This along with the line test used on the spinner rig, how many hooks are on the rig,  all may making a big difference from one day to the next  when it comes to catching fish.

  The attractor on spinner rigs is the blade, which performs best when fished at a certain speeds and depth.

  Spinner lengths may vary depending on how clear the water you fish,  running from about forty-eight inches long to seventy-two inches long, as anglers fishing clearer water prefer the longer snells.

   There is a lot of discussion out there when it comes to blade or bait color, I believe the best color to use is generally the color of the spinner or bait you use the most.  That color of spinner or bait is on your line and in the water the most, it is a bait you have used to catch fish, unlike many of those other colored spinners and baits you have in your tackle bag or tackle box.

  As I have mentioned before, if I have a choice between a solid color spinner or bait and a multi colored spinner such as the Firetiger, I am going to go with Firetiger. Firetiger has numerous colors on the blade not just one and any one of those colors might be the color that the walleyes want that day. 

  By using a multi-colored spinners or bait, you have it in the water longer and do not have to waste time attaching and retying baits.

   Listed below are several spinner blade variations available to the angler, information I have learned over the years about the spinners and some I have used when fishing different bodies of water, water of different clarities and other fishing situations.

Smile Blade Spinners

  Unlike the metal spinners, Mack’s Lure Smile Blade spinners are not metal, but constructed from a Mylar plastic allowing the angler to change the Smile Blade action by simply squeezing or flattening the blade.

  If you want to make the Smile Blade Spinner rotate slower, flatten the blade and to have it rotate faster, all you need to do is to pinch the blade down.

  This blade works at all speeds and can be trolled or drifted down to one-quarter mile per hour, as the these blades spin at much slower speeds than the metal blades.

  Where this blade really stands out is when fish are not aggressive, how you present the bait where the spinner still has action and catches those non-aggressive fish.

  These blades are available in four patterns, thirty-six colors, available in six sizes, allowing the angler to fish the Smile Blade spinners in all fishing conditions baited with minnows, night crawlers and leeches.

  They come in two leader lengths, the longer seventy -two inch leader, tied with either twelve and fourteen-pound test, longer leaders work well when fishing clearer water conditions where you want your bait farther away from your bottom bouncer and when and if fishing conditions change your leader  length can be shortened. [Read more…]

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When it’s Windy Put the Brake on By Gary Howey

  If you spend much time in the outdoors in the Upper Midwest, you know that the wind can kick up quickly and mess up a fishing trip

  Walleye anglers know the best fishing can occur when there is a chop on the water, when these ripples on the surface prevent the sun’s rays from penetrating to deep.

   However, what do you do when the winds blowing twenty-five to thirty miles per hour, some would say, that is easy “Stay Home”, which would make a lot of sense to most of us.

  Sometimes you have no chose when you are already there and you need to get out no matter what the weather conditions are.

  This happens a lot, if you have a fishing tournament you are in or are like my crew when we are there to film a television show, those times when you really do not have an option.

   Take for instance, a trip we made to north central Minnesota where we planned to film one of our shows had to face heavy winds on one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.

  We had driven hundreds of miles, had our accommodations paid for and did not want to give up and drive back home just because of the wind, so with rain gear on and life jackets securely fastened; we headed our twenty-one foot  boat out into the large waves.

  This was what you call “Rocking & a Rolling” and after twenty minutes of being tossed around, we finally arrived at the area we hoped to fish.

  The original plan was to use bottom bouncers with eight to ten foot spinner and livebait rigs, to drift over a twenty-five foot gravel flat where we had caught some nice fish on previous trips.

  Because of the strong wind, just allowing the boat to drift in these conditions was not an option, as the wind pushed us along a lot faster than we wanted to go, with our baits riding high in the water and moving too quickly for the fish to zero in on them.

   Using the bow-mount trolling motor would not work either because the waves at times were coming over the front of the boat.

  Trolling with the 9.9-kicker or our big motor was also not working well as it was hard to control our drift. [Read more…]