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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Micro Fishing Bluegrass FWA

To start this out, I know this is going to be a post that really only relates to a very small number of anglers and that this kind of fishing goes against the typical fishing mentality. The first thing you need to know is what micro fishing is: basically micro fishing is where you try to catch the smallest fish possible on a hook.

My go to setup for micro fishing is my 5 wt Redington fly rod and Mustad size 22 hooks. I tie the hook onto my fly line and tip the tiny hook with a very small piece of white soft plastic from old lures. This gives the fish a specific place on the hook to strike and increases the hook up ratio significantly.FOT9603

The easiest place to target micro fish on lakes seems to be at boat launches, since it provides safety from predatory fish in the deeper water. However, it seems that you have to work through a lot of average size panfish before you can start targeting the actual micro fish. The first fish you tend to catch in these spots are more aggressive, in my case Green Sunfish.

After the Green Sunfish got spooked from my spot the next aggressive fish started hitting my fly: Redear Sunfish.

The last species you have to worry about is the occasional Largemouth Bass that will come up into the shallower water.

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Now the fish actually start to become micro, the easiest small fish to start catching is the bluegill. The fry tend to stay in the shallows and are fairly aggressive and will fight each other over which gets to eat the fly first.

If you start fishing in the very shallowest part of the water you can catch some of the truly small species. I focused my attention on trying to catch my first Blackstripe Topminnow. Turns out they are very easy to catch once you have downsized your hook to a 22.
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The last species that I was able to find was the Western Mosquitofish. This is a very common fish to find in the shallows, however due to their very small mouth they are one of the more challenging micro fish that I have caught so far.WP_20160702_18_29_41_Pro

I know this post will seem strange to a lot of anglers since this goes completely against the “catch the biggest fish possible” mentality. But I find that micro fishing is incredibly relaxing and very intriguing when you are trying to figure out how to identify the fish that you catch.

So give it a try, I’d love to know what you think about this very different form of fishing.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

Exploring Sugar Ridge

I like to think that I have fished a good number of lakes in this area, but before today I never had an opportunity to fish Sugar Ridge. I had always heard that the pits there didn’t have very good shore fishing and I had never tried taking the kayak out there. But today was different; a buddy and I planned to meet there and fish from his jon boat for the day.WP_20160530_17_08_36_ProI arrived before my friend did and got to choose the pit that we were fishing, so naturally I choose Arm Pit. My friend was being slow getting here so I started exploring around to try to find a spot to fish from the bank. Most of the spots accessible from the bank were very shallow and had lots a weeds. But I found a creek that was flowing out of the lake so I hiked out to it and started fishing it from the bank. As expected I found a lot of panfish in this creek and was able to catch them on worms, jigs and spinners. I was hoping to catch a bass out of this creek but I just couldn’t seem to find one. WP_20160530_13_33_16_ProWP_20160530_14_01_31_ProWP_20160530_13_42_46_ProWP_20160530_13_47_24_ProWP_20160530_14_25_13_ProAt this point my friend arrived and we tossed his jon boat in the lake and started fishing. We actually started fishing the lake beside Arm Pit, it was super clear and you could see bass all over it. These fish all seemed to be smart and we couldn’t tempt any of them to hit lures. We then dragged the boat over to Arm Pit and started fishing it. I fished a finesse worm rigged wacky style in this lake and targeted all of the submerged trees and any place that had a slow transition from shallow to the deeper water.WP_20160530_16_32_54_ProWP_20160530_15_51_50_ProWP_20160530_16_22_33_ProWP_20160530_16_22_52_ProWP_20160530_16_35_36_ProWP_20160530_16_41_43_ProAfter covering a lot of water we hooked into some nice fish and even managed to sight fish for a few cruising fish (I am such a sucker for seeing a fish hit a lure). The biggest fish of the day hit 4 lb even  and caught about 30 fish total.

I hope your Memorial Day was as good as mine,

Tight lines,

-Isaac

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

Lake Spillway Fishing

Most people go to Ferdinand State Forest with the purpose of fishing in the main lake. I am not one of those people. You’ll see me walk right beside the lake and down the dam wall and stop at the small creek formed by the spillway. I have been laughed at countless times for fishing in this little creek, but I have yet to be disappointed by it. It holds large numbers of chubs and bass in the spring and crappie and panfish through the summer and fall.  The lake only thawed out this week so the water levels were high and water was terribly muddy. But this pushed a lot of water through the overflow and had the creek at decent level. The set up was simple, an ice fishing float tied on 18 inches above a jig with a piece of night crawler. With a fairly decent current at the top of the creek, the fish were congregated around the edges of the deep pool. It seemed I was reeling in a fish every minute or two, they were all small (the largest being around 9 inches) but they all produced that kid like excitement of watching a float dance and then shoot underwater. My prize catch this round was a small Longear Sunfish, it was amazing how few panfish there are in the creek this time of year (of the 70 fish I caught in the creek only 4 were panfish). The most photogenic of today’s catches:6tag_200216-2213586tag_200216-2214306tag_200216-2215506tag_200216-2216286tag_200216-2216476tag_200216-221758

So next time you are exploring a new lake don’t forget to check for a spillway, because often times this is where a good number of fish will be congregated. Tight lines

Slow Winter Fishing

The Indiana DNR has been making an effort to make trout a more available species for anglers. This has resulted in a large number of lakes being stocked all over the state. Sadly, the majority of these occur in central and northern Indiana. Luckily, three counties are stocked in southern Indiana: Vanderburgh, Clark and Jefferson. The southern most lake is here in Vanderburgh, the pond at Garvin Park was stocked with 850 Rainbow Trout. However, Garvin Park is too shallow to hold trout year round, during late spring the water temperature will rise too quickly and these fish will not survive. For anyone with a trout stamp, this scenario is perfect for the dinner plate.

I’ve fished this pond more times than I can count, but I have never caught a trout out of it. I was fortunate to get a tip from a fellow fisherman, he claimed to have caught a few trout this week on yellow and orange inline spinners. I made a quick run after work and fished in the cold with a yellow and black rooster tail. I focused my attention on the small coves and had many hits right off the bat. I landed 3 largemouth and had one hit that felt very different, I can only assume it was a trout (but that is mostly wishful thinking).

Winter fishing is hard enough to start, and failing at catching a new species has been a little demoralizing, so on my other fishing trips I’ve been focusing on a more predictable fish. The last two fishing adventures I’ve been targeting bluegill around structure. Even when the water temperature drops in the 40’s panfish will often go shallow if there is a consistent food source. The trick with these urban lakes is to find where people are feeding the ducks, that is where most of the bluegill will be schooled. Fishing these locations with worms or crappie nibbles has been proving very productive.stupidly cold bluegill fishingbaby bluegill on crappie magic
None of these fish have been big, but I will happily take every fish I can catch before the lakes ice over. I will be trying Garvin Park again tomorrow with worms, powerbait and spinners with big dreams of trout. Hopefully the curse of the Rainbow Trout will pass soon!

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!

Bluegill on Jigs and Crappie Bites

Having a bit of cabin fever led me to tying up some jigs. I bought some small 1/64 oz jigs and got to work. The majority of the jigs I tied are what I call a lazy man’s wollybugger jig. These are super easy because they are made only from marabou and only require the feather that you use for the tail. Then a few winged nymph patterns, though I didn’t actually end up using those today.IMG_0080.JPGIt was a little chilly today, 48 degrees F and wind blowing about 7 mph. I set up on the little dock that people feed ducks from and immediately saw a school of bluegill beneath it. The water was clearer than usual so I tied on a white jig and caught a few little bluegil1201151426After quite a few bluegill this size they started to get a little antsy so I tipped the jigs with crappie bites. Being the cheap person I am I bought a can of Magic Bait Crappie Bites to try them out. This seemed to put the bluegill back on the bite and caught one fish after another.1201151436None of the fish were large, but they were all fun to catch and using small jigs is always a fun adventure. The picture below gives some scale to the average size fish I was catching.1201151430I have not tried using these for crappie yet, but for bluegill these crappie bites work just as well as any other crappie nibblers. The advantage of these is the ‘bites’ are a little smaller than Powerbait, so you lose less each time you lose one, have a very pungent smell and stay on a hook well. The disadvantage is the colors, they only come in 5 color options, however Powerbait has a large (possible overkill) color scheme of options. The price comparison of these is the real kicker: a large can of Magic Bait Crappie Bites only costs me $1.96, while a small can of Powerbait Crappie Nibbles costs $4.99. So as far as I’m concerned Magic Bait Crappie Bites has fairly earned my business and I will with out a doubt be purchasing their product again.

A Rainy Days Fishing

A large storm front was moving through today, leading to 7 hours of rain. Seeing this forecast I though the fishing would be incredible (like any good fisherman any excuse to go fishing is a valid excuse). The rain was supposed to start about noon, so I quickly found a spot to fish at and not be miserable. I ended up at Pigeon Creek for many reasons: Setting up under the Diamond Avenue bridge would give me cover from the rain, the creek is surrounded by woods so there would be a little bit of a wind break and there storm drain outlet there so I thought the fish would be feeding on everything that was getting washed out of it.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this creek and have found 2 lures that tend to catch fish pretty consistently: bucktail jigs and inline spinners. This spot is littered with snags, so I choose to work a little higher in the water column working a small rooster tail. On the third cast I caught a small bass. Shortly after this the rain started and the bite totally stopped. I saw a few small schools of shad swimming in the shallows, but there was not a single sign of any other fish. I didn’t have a single bite on lures, minnows or nightcrawlers so I decided it was time to move on.

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By the time I got to Burdette Park it was raining fairly hard so I bundled up in rain gear and set up my rods on the lower lake. The lake’s water level was significantly lower than I had expected, so I only worked the areas by the lily pads. This was probably the smartest thing I did today, I caught quite a few nice sized bluegill and rock bass. After a while the fish started getting smart and stopped biting, so I relocated the creek that feeds into the pond. I started working this area with minnows and had no interest so I switched to the last of the worms I had with me. I hooked a bluegill, warmouth or rock bass on each cast. The true spectacle that I caught from the creek the bluegill below

1024151535     I was amazed that with a scar that deep that his spine hadn’t been severed. This crane attack survivor was thriving and was the biggest bluegill I caught in the creek. All the fish after him were too small to even warrant a picture. Hopefully this storm front means that the temperatures will drop back down and the big fish start feeding again.