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!

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.

WP_20160702_17_58_04_Pro

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.
WP_20160702_17_28_37_ProWP_20160702_17_25_57_Pro

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