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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Sometimes It Is Numbers Over Size

I made a trip out to Scales Lake in Boonville Indiana with the intention of catching as many bass as I could. The park opens at 7 but because I am not the best at planning I arrive there at 8. After a little confusion renting a boat, I launched and made my first stop at the life guard stand. I know this spot gets a lot of pressure so instead of throwing a jig into it, I tossed a wacky worm and let it fall slowly and twitched it a few times. I pulled 3 little bass off this feature within the first few minutes of fishing.

The rest of the day I focused my attention fishing the coves this lake has. I saw few fish hitting top water in the shallows so I tied on a hollow body frog and started tossing it around. The fish weren’t confidently taking the lure, so I tied on a buzz frog and the bass started hitting it instantly. Out of curiosity I tied on a popping frog and the fish hit that as well.

As the day got hotter it be came apparent very quickly that they were not interested in top water any more. One of my favorite patterns to fish during the hottest days of summer is to fish a lizard that has its tail dyed chartreuse and fishing it right on the edge of thick hydrilla. The fish were unquestionably honed in on this pattern today. I fished them weightless and on Texas rigs and the fish seemed equally interested regardless of the weight.

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At this point it was about 94 degrees so I decided to call it a day. I caught 30 bass from the jon boat and the largest fish of the day was 15 inches. I have still yet to find a large bass in this lake, but today was a great day and I had an absolute blast.

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

Short, But Productive Sessions

Most of the time when I go fishing I like to make my trips as long as possible, but every now and again life works out to give you just an hour or two to go fishing. And this has been the case this last week, I ended getting two great sessions in that I had never expected to be able to do.

The first session I had was bank fishing on the Ohio River, I set up with the intention of catching as many types of fish as I could. On the drive to the river front I stopped and picked up some nightcrawlers (my preferred spring river bait). I set up one rod with a modified tight line set up: 1 oz sinker on the bottom, a dropper loop tied off 1 ft above with a 6 inch line to a size 2/0 hook. When the river is falling I like to suspend my bait just a few inches off the bottom of the river, I find it catches more fish and you snag your gear in the rocks less often. The other rod I tied a size 6 hook on with a few split shots to let it flow with the current.

I set up on the back side of a water discharge, this produces a nice deep eddy that constantly holds fish when the water is falling. This spot fished just as I hoped, the break from the current held all types of fish and successfully caught 5 different species of fish in an hour and a half session. I was incredibly excited to land a few Sauger, they tend to be a very difficult fish to track down from the bank and notoriously difficult to get a hook to hold in. I also caught my first Striped Bass for the year, it seems they started moving up the river earlier than usual this year. And my absolute favorite was a Smallmouth Buffalo that hit on the suspended worm, these fish give such a hard fight and I have such a hard time finding them in the river usually. Other than these fish I had a number of small Channel Catfish and Freshwater Drum which are always a fun fight on light line.

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Sauger

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Sauger

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Channel Catfish

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Freshwater Drum

 

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Smallmouth Buffalo

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Smallmouth Buffalo

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Striped Bass

 

 

My second session for this week was a happy coincidence, I finished biking with a group of friends and on my drive back I realized there was a public lake at this location. There were some storms starting to roll through, so I figured I would tie on a top water and try to catch a few more fish on the Lunkerhunt Pocket Frog. This lure has proven to be one of my most productive lures this spring, so many of these pressured fish have never seen a lure with this natural of an action and don’t hesitate to hit it. I hooked into 5 little bass and honestly that was about all I expected to catch.

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Largemouth bass that hit shallow beside a tree stump

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Largemouth Bass that hit working the frog out of a lay down

But then as I was working the lure off the other bank and slowly working the deep water in between the banks and fish swam up and popped the lure, but missed the hooks. So I gave the frog 2 quick twitches and that fish came right back up and hammered the frog. I set the hook hard and was immediately surprised as my drag started peeling out. I worked the fish in very carefully to keep it from wrapping up in any of the submerged trees, and then I slipped and fell into the lake…opps. But that was okay, it made landing the fish much easier. I lipped the fish and carefully crawled back up on the bank. My scale put him at 6 lb and 1 oz. The funny thing is before today I hadn’t caught a fish over 14 inches in this lake.

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Largemouth Bass that hit in open water

 

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6 lb 1 oz: My best at this lake

Soon after this fish the rain started pouring down and I made my way back to my car. So I guess the lesson from this past week has been to take full advantage of every little chance to fish that you can, because you never know when you will hook something great.

Tight lines,

-Isaac

 

 

Winter Catfish: Flooded Creek Adventure

Winter fishing has always been a little bit of a mystery to me. But as an angler, there is one thing that no matter what time of year it is tells me that I should be fishing: Flood conditions. The NOAA chart had the Ohio River just dropping below flood today. Ideally you would fish as the water rises or when the water reaches its maximum level, but this trip proves that fish will still bite even as the water levels start to drop.

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I set up in between two sharp bends on Pigeon Creek, this sudden change in flow creates a deep bowl in the creek bed. When the creek floods, this results in a roughly 30 foot deep pocket that has a slightly buffered current. This creates a safe place for bait fish to school up, in turn bringing actively feeding catfish. The map below shows the location that I fished.

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It was too cold for me to comfortably try to cast net bait fish, so I settled for some nightcrawlers. I tied 2 ounces of lead on my line and then created a dropper loop a 1 and 1/2 foot above that. I attached a circle hook to the loop and cast the bait 10 feet out into the creek. The bite was very slow,  having a nibble once every 30 minutes or so. Luckily my patience paid of with 2 small catfish.

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I missed a large number of bites, but for a short and very cold trip I was happy to have landed 2 fish.Fishing this creek only gets hard and harder as the water drops and cools down further, so soon I will back trying to figure out how to catch fish in the Ohio River during the winter. But until then, I will stay grateful for every little catfish that I get lucky enough to catch from this creek.