Exploring Yellowwood State Forest

This trip occurred on August 5th, 2016

Lately, I have been on the hunt for new places to fish. This led me to Yellowwood State Forest. My online research indicated that the famous Bluegill lake there had been destroyed by logging, but I wanted to see for myself. Old surveys suggested that this lake used to have Yellow Perch (a species I’ve always wanted to catch), so the 2-hour drive was pretty justifiable to me. I was also particularly curious about this lake because I couldn’t find any real information about it dated after 2011, so I figured it was time for someone to do a write up about how the fishing is. So on August 5th I got up way too early and drove my way up to the campground.

I started out fishing at the Jackson Creek trailhead and fished off the boat launch there. I quickly found some small Largemouth Bass sitting right off of an isolated grass patch.

 

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I then switched over to try to catch some panfish. It quickly became evident that all of the panfish close to the boat launch were very small, but the diversity in the species raised my hopes that I could find a Yellow Perch.

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I wasn’t catching anything new, so I drove over to the spillway on the south end of the lake to see what kind of fish inhabited that area. There were hundreds of small Bluegill in the spillway, so there were a few decent Largemouth Bass enjoying the easy prey.

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I could see a few other species in this area that I wanted to try to catch. The water was so clear I could see Black Crappie, Smallmouth Buffalo, Northern Hog Sucker and Common Carp. I was quickly able to tempt a crappie, but I couldn’t keep any bait in the water long enough to tempt any other species before the Bluegill would eat it.

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It was starting to get late, so I headed back to the campground to make sure everything was set up before it got dark. After I was all set up, I walked down to the lake to see if I could find any other fish. I ended up tempting a few small Largemouth Bass right off the weed line.

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Stocking reports said that this lake had a large population of Channel Catfish, so I cast out a few baits and waited as the sun went down. It didn’t take long before a catfish hit, but I couldn’t seem to find any of the bigger fish.

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But after the sun went down, a few of the bigger Shellcrackers went shallow and were biting right on the edge of the weed line.

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With that last fish, I decided to call it a night. But first thing in the morning, I started exploring the coves on the lake and found some Bluegill still on beds. It took some time, but I was finally able to tempt the biggest one to bite.

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I rented a jon boat so that I could paddle my way up the lake to where Jackson Creek flows in. There, I found a log jam that looked like it could hold some decent fish. I started by tossing a finesse worm, and immediately hooked into a large Redear Sunfish.

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I quickly caught a decent-sized Warmouth and a small Largemouth Bass.

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It became clear that this lake’s reputation of having big panfish was still pretty accurate. So I tied on a small jig and tipped it with small pieces of worms… and had an absolute blast catching these fish.

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After catching some nice Redear Sunfish, I realized how foolish I was for not bringing a cooler to keep a few. But then I got distracted by a couple of beautiful Longear Sunfish and started targeting them instead.

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I kept seeing a fish move around on the edge of the log jam, so I tossed a jig to it and a greedy Warmouth quickly gobbled it up.

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After a while, the wind started picking up so I paddled back to shore and found some more small Largemouth Bass sitting on any irregularities in the weed line.

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I also did a little bit of micro fishing before leaving. I was able to find what I think are Freckled Madtoms (or possibly a juvenile Yellow Bullhead) and some larger Blackstripe Topminnows.

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My final impressions of Yellowwood State Forest: there are still some nice panfish that can be found, but as far as I could see, there is no longer a population of Yellow Perch. I also wasn’t able to find any decent size bass, but this might have been more because I’m not a very confident deep water angler. The lake seems to have a decent number of catfish, but again I wasn’t able to find any decent size fish. Regardless, I had an absolute blast fishing this lake and I highly suggest giving it a try for yourself!

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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