Exploring Ferdinand State Forest

I’ve fished Ferdinand State Forest a few times when I was younger with my father, but these trips have always focused on catching Largemouth Bass and I’ve always wanted to know what else lives out in this park. So Friday after work I started packing up all of my fishing and camping gear so that I could leave first thing Saturday morning. When I go on trips like this I always like to set myself a goal to help keep me motivated, this trip I decided that my goal would be to catch 10 different species. Saturday morning I got up with the sun, packed the last of my food and jumped in my suv to start the drive. I got to the park before the ranger at the station did and was able to secure the best camping location in the whole park. After struggling with the tent for a half hour my campsite was set up and I unloaded the rods to do a little fishing.

I started by exploring the overflow creek from the lake and tried to target some of the gar that kept surfacing. After many failed hook sets I gave up on that quest and put on my rubber boots and started microfishing my way down the creek (well as close to microfishing as you can get with a size 22 hook). My efforts were quickly rewarded with a lovely Blackstripe Topminnow.

Blackstripe Top Minnow

At the next pool I was happy to find a large number of creek chubs.

After working through a good number of chubs I found what I think is a Striped Shiner

At this point I switched over to the top lake and took the canoe out to target a few evening largemouth. It didn’t take long to find a Largemouth Bass willing to hit a top water lure.

As sunset approached I set out to find some firewood and get dinner ready. I had hoped to fish for catfish once the sun had set, but after making supper I was surprisingly tired so I went ahead and settled down in my tent for the night.

Once again I woke up as the sun was just starting to come up, I decided to go back to the over flow creek and see if I could find a few more fish species before it got too hot. I started by jigging around the rocks and as I was hoping was able to tempt quite a few Warmouth.

I then started tossing the jig into some shallower water that was at the back end of the pool I was fishing was able to find a few very colorful Green Sunfish

But I had heard rumors of that this overflow was home to some crappie and I just couldn’t seem to tempt them. Then I had the idea to start casting as far up the inflow pipe as I could. Surprisingly I started catching a lot of bluegill from this spot.

After working through a lot of bluegill I was incredibly excited to hook into a small Black Crappie (I may or may not have cheered when I landed this fish).

I tossed out a rod with some cutbait with hopes of a gar again, but this time I was lucky enough to hook into what I think is a Yellow Bullhead (I honestly have the hardest time telling the bullheads apart)

After this fish I returned to jigging, I found a small submerged tree branch and tossed my jig into it. I was incredibly excited to see this little Redear Sunfish come out of it.

The last thing I wanted to include were a few of the strange catches I had as I was exploring the forest. The first is the very oddly colored Warmouth, at first I thought it was a rock bass but it appears to have the wrong number of spines on the anal fin.

And while I was micro fishing I was very surprised to catch a frog in between the tadpole and the froglet stage!

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My Favorite Time Of Year

April has always been my favorite time of the year to go fishing. The water is slowly warming up and the fish are starting to hit more consistently. What I really love about this time of year is that the fish are hitting different patterns every day. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of figuring out what the fish are hitting on every time I go out. During the summer it is easy to get in the rut of tossing the same lures over and over again at the same spot that you caught a fish at last. But in the spring the fish will hit a lure one day and then be in a completely different part of the lake and honed in on a different pattern before you know it.

This is the time of year that I like to take out new baits and test out new tactics for Largemouth Bass. I have had days where I will fish a lake and get top water hits for hours, then come back the next day to find that none of the fish are in the shallows and then proceed to fish tube jigs and find quality fish all day. It is amazing how quickly the fish change how they are feeding, and what color they prefer. So far this year I have focused on a few lures: frogs, tube jigs, flukes, worms and crankbaits. With these five lures it is hard to find a situation where you can’t entice a few fish to strike. The pictures below show a few of the fish that I have been finding while exploring some new lakes with these tactics.

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The other nice part of this time of year is how easy it is to find Crappie. There are many lakes in my town that are strictly bank fishing, and unless the Crappie go shallow it is extremely hard to catch them. But with the fish being in the middle of spawn it is easy to find them; just find structure and slowly drag a small tube jig across it and before you know it a Crappie will attack it. I haven’t found the size Crappie I’m looking for yet, but I am finding the numbers each time I’m out.

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My last trip out I started to see the Bluegill and Redear Sunfish bedding up in the shallows, it is about time to break out the fly rod and start throwing some top water flies at these fish again. May is just starting and this is always when the fishing really starts to pick up in Indiana.

I hope your spring is treating you with just as many fish

-Isaac

Spring Has Sprung: Shallow Fish

It has been all sorts of busy since I’ve last update you all last. Spring has sprung and the fish are shallow and hungry. I can easily say this has been the most productive start to spring I have ever had.  Since the last update, I caught this monster of 5 lb 9oz largemouth bass. This may not be huge in most parts of the country, but for southern Indiana that is a respectable fish. Oddly enough I caught him while crappie jigging, he bit on a gulp alive white minnow.big bass

Another exciting thing that has happened is that the fish have started to bite topwater lures. I’ve perfected some small foam poppers and the little bass have just been tearing them up.

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The crappie have also started staging on shelves transitioning from deep to shallow water. My search for them has resulted in some nice crappie and I even managed to pull a few largemouth and striped bass out of the mix (I actually couldn’t decided if they were striped bass or white bass, any ideas?).

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I’ve also been playing around with my ultra light rod a lot more lately, mostly I’ve been using small jigs and inline spinners with it. I will freely admit that I am a huge sucker for inline spinners, during early spring and summer they can catch a ridiculous number of fish. Granted these fish tend to be smaller, but I can usually justify it by the short wait between catches. A week ago I fished a spinner in a small public pond and managed to catch 34 bass in an hour. They were all caught with in 5 feet of the bank directly off rip rap.

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My final location I have been focusing on has been Bluegrass FWA. For some reason this location has a reputation for being one of the hardest places to fish in the area. I find this statement to be absurd. It has been too windy to take the kayak out, so I have been focusing on improving my bank fishing. This property has numerous lakes that all offer different conditions to fish, I’ve started catching crappie and largemouth from the bank with great consistency. The crappie are still a little deeper, but are still with in the far reach of casting distance. I’ve discovered Bobby Garland crappie soft plastics and I can honestly say I have been incredibly impressed. I’ve been close to limiting out on numerous occasions this season already. The rest of my time has been spent on bass fishing, jigs and worms have been the most effective method so far. Another great lure I’ve discovered is the Walleye Angler Ring Worm made by Bass Pro in the Hot Orange/Chartreuse Belly color. This has become my go to lure for muddy/stained water.

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I hope march is treating you all well, tight lines

-Isaac

Last Fishing Trip of 2015

The year is winding to an end and the temperatures are ever slowly dropping. This is typically the time of year where my fishing companions stop going out with me and my fishing adventures tend to get shorter and shorter. Luckily the weather hasn’t really dipped under freezing yet, keeping the fish very active and easy to catch.

With half an hour to spare, I set out on my last fishing trip of the year, the temperature was sitting right at 40 degrees and wind was only blowing at 2 MPH making conditions fairly enjoyable. I set out to fish Evansville State Hospital Park to fish my favorite holes in hopes of catching as many species as I could. I only had a half hour to spend, so I focused on the spots that have historically been the most productive for me: the drainage ditch pipe between the two lakes and the rocks around the edge of the dock.

I started out at the drainage ditch, and as expected, there was a nice bass sitting in it. These bass see a good amount of pressure so I stuck with a natural bluegill pattern and since the drainage ditch is so shallow I fished a squarebill crankbait. On the first cast, this beauty engulfed the lure.

Last bass of the year

Sadly, this appeared to be the only fish sitting in the pipe so I moved over to the dock. The water isn’t too deep and there are a large amount of rocks surrounding the dock so I kept fishing the squarebill. With the temperatures being higher than usual I expected the crappie to be suspended in the water column still. This lake has a notoriously small crappie population, so anytime I catch one it is a special day. But this was one of those special days where the crappie were biting, landing me this little guy on a squarebill.

squarebill crappie last of the year

Nothing compared to the size crappie you would expect to find in most places, but a welcome sight to see any day. With time running short, I still wanted to try out the ice fishing rod I was given for Christmas so I moved to the end of the dock hoping for a bluegill. I tied on one of my Lazy Man Woolly Bugger Jigs and started jigging away! Luckily it didn’t take long for a hungry fish to grab hold of it. I was rewarded with a little bluegill, and with that fish I called it a day.

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I was happy to say the last trip of the year was a success and for only having a half hour I was happy to have caught 3 species of fish. 2015 had some amazing fishing adventures and I can’t wait to see where 2016 brings. Tight lines and a happy New Year!

Crankbaits and Inline Spinners

It had rained for last few days and the lake levels were up a little and that always seems to make them easier to fish. I had some time to kill so I went to the State Hospital Park again in search of catching a decent number of fish.

Because the water was higher the rocks around the borders of the lake were submerged so I started with a squarebill to try to get a few reaction strikes. Which worked out surprising well, I caught a good number of small fish and one very nice fish (I’m guessing 4-5 pounds, I’m not sure my scale is definitely broken).

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After I caught the bigger bass I decided I was tired of fishing a squarebill and just wanted to catch some fish regardless of size. With the fish so active I thought a inline spinner would be a good choice. I caught a good number of small bass, a bluegill and a crappie. I’m always excited to catch a crappie from this lake, I seem to catch one every year or two. I’ve seen people pulling them out one after another during the crappie spawn, but I have yet to see a crappie over 7 inches out of this lake.

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I was really happy with how the day turned out, ended with three species and one very nice bass for this size lake. The crappie made me want to go out and do some serious crappie fishing. I’m still searching for a decent crappie hole that isn’t out at Bluegrass FWA.