Hooked Up: July 2009

Hooked Up: July 2009
Capt. Morgan Overton from Thomas, Oklahoma, with a great summer time trout (29”) caught on a Bass Assassin. Released.
Mother Nature has come through in a large way down here in the Upper Laguna and Baffin area. We have been hoping, crossing fingers, and rubbing rabbit's feet for quality water, and we have finally gotten it. As a charter captain, I can not express in words what it means to me to have great water visibility where we can see our structure. It is like the cliche, "Like someone flipped a switch." Everything has just turned on.

The tide has been coming in from down south at a great rate, but by the time this article is in your hands, it will be slowly declining. No worries here, as the tide has brought much life to our bay systems, and we have steadily watched our daily catches go from fair to above average. Not only are we catching much better numbers, but our average size has increased along with our hooksets. After a below average spring, we are finally getting to experience a taste of what Port Mansfield has been experiencing since September 2008. It has, truly, been a pleasure to be on the water, and the conditions will last throughout the summer.

In all of the excitement that has been taking place, I have realized that I have gotten to be a bit relaxed on what I promote to clients. Not the catch and release part, as we are hard set on that, but what it takes to be a better fisherman and conservationist from the hookset to the release. As our water temperatures rise, the trout become more and more susceptible to stress. The stress sets in almost immediately after the Waterloo loads up and the Daiwa drag starts singing. It is always more obvious in the larger fish that we are bringing to the Boga Grip.

Since I have started writing for TSFM, I have made it a point to take many photographs of all quality catches, releases, sunrises, videos, etc. I'm glad to do it, as I know the clients love to see them when they arrive home, but the truth of the matter is that when water temperatures are above 80 degrees, we do not have very long from the time we set the hook to the time that we release a good trout before she starts getting weak. To insure that fish are released healthy enough to fight another day in these warmer months, a few simple practices will go a long way.

  1. Land the fish as soon as possible.
  2. Use a Boga Grip or similar device to land the fish. Hard hand grips above the gills or rolling around in a net is bad news for fish that are to be released.
  3. If possible, remove the hook with her still in the water, and able to breathe.
  4. Leave the fish in the water once attached to the landing device, and keep her upright until you are absolutely ready for your buddy to snap a photo.
  5. Take a quick weight, set her back in the water upright, slide back and forth to get the water flowing over the gills, and cut her loose.
I am pleased to say 99% of my clients are pure sportsman, and are here enjoying Baffin for their love of the game and the chance to catch a personal best on a lure. When the opportunity presents itself, many just do not have enough experience at handling large trout, and the excitement easily overpowers the fish handling guidelines just mentioned. As Confucius said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." We all have to start somewhere in gaining experience, and if you are serious about catch and release, these tips will help put you on the fast track.

Speaking of experience, and catching fish; If you are not fishing 100 days out of the year, do yourself and the fish a favor, and utilize a good braided line. Yes, mono is cheaper, but this is about the only attribute it has over braid, and when you figure out how often you have to change it out due to memory/coiling, you will find that it really is no cheaper in the long run. The reason that I mention this is that I have had an unfortunate run of days on the water where clients were using mono and gut hooking large trout (above 25").

What does mono have to do with it? NOT FEELING THE BITE IN TIME. By the time the bite is detected with mono, especially under windy conditions, these large fish have swallowed the lure. Braid allows you to feel the bite many times faster than mono does. Of course, topwaters is a visual thing, and no big deal there, but any lure being worked under the surface should be with braid. It kills me to have to lay a good trout on ice due to her being gut hooked and really embarrassing when I hit the Marina and have to lay one down on the cleaning table. On those days I feel like a croaker that is about to be slammed. Of course, my guide buddies that use finfish are the ones doing the slamming.

Fishing has not changed much from the last issue. We are seeking out areas that are laden with baitfish; and some preferable slicks to get us up tight and close to a specific area. The majority of our fishing has been in Baffin for the trout, and in the Laguna for reds. One point that I would love to drive home is that topwaters are great when the fish are hitting them, but you need to be willing to switch to a Bass Assassin, AKA, "The Worm," when it slows down. This is especially important on high pressure, clear sky days. Yea, I can hear all of the diehard topwater guys saying, "I'll fish them all day, no matter what." Well that is fine and dandy if you are willing to get your butt handed to you on a silver platter by your buddy who has sense enough to understand that fish need to be caught the way that they want to be caught - and not the way that you think you can dictate them to be caught.

"Bragging may not bring happiness, but no man having caught a large fish goes home through an alley." ~Author Unknown

Set 'em Loose,
Capt. David Rowsey