Tom Gonya and a colorful pickerel
Perseverance, with a good dose of adaptability, on a hot summer's outing can (sometimes) pay off. We all know how fishing can slow down during the "dog days" of summer, but unfortunately, my desire to fish doesn't. Not basing the success of any given trip solely on the number of fish caught helps me to rationalize subjecting myself to summer conditions that potentially can be quite uncomfortable, but that's me! I could be considered to be a bit fanatical when it comes to fishing (just ask my wife!). Finding someone else to suffer along side of me can be just as challenging as finding elusive summertime fish; However, if I paint a pretty enough picture of willing pickerel and bass, and show it to a person gullible enough to believe it, I just might have a sucker, i.e. a partner to go along for the day.
I was successful in talking my brother-in-law Mike into braving the summer heat for a Pocono Mountain pickerel and bass fishing trip. It has to be said that Mike is still willing to go on "ill advised" trips with me even though I've probably literally put him in harms way on more than one occasion. He loves fishing enough to "try it one more time". Where Mike works, there's no A/C, and the poor guy has been melting throughout all this muggy junk for months now. It has cooled down a tad, and with the overcast conditions they were calling for on this day, it seemed to be a good idea. The only thing Mike wasn't crazy about was getting up real early. To be on the water at "cracko", we would have to leave my place about four-thirty in the morning. That's fine by me, but in an effort to make this trip somewhat pleasurable for Mike, we settled on leaving at six... still fine by me. Hey, we're going fishing! Mike was prompt as usual, and after a quick stop to get gas (thirty dollars for 3/4 of a tank… ouch) and something for lunch, we were on our way.
It was drizzling for most of the trip up to the Poconos and we could literally smell fish at different spots along Rt. 402. I am not sure where the smell was coming from, but it only helped in our anticipation of a great fishing day. The weather had cooled down and with the light rain and cloud cover it seemed like all the fishing planets were aligned.
|Weeds, Weeds, and more Weeds|
When we arrived at the parking lot of Shahola Falls, our "Pocono pick of the day", we got a clue as to what we could expect with regards to weeds. Literally all of the trailers for boats already on the water were covered with coontail weeds. You couldn't even see the axils on most of the trailers, and this one trailer looked like it was used in a dredging operation. Shahola is an electric only lake, and I was glad I had brought the second deep-cycle, because those weeds are battery-eaters. In spite of the weeds, we had no problems launching, and I set a course for a few places on the southern, shallower end, of the lake where I knew there would be some pockets of open water (more or less). I figured we'd hit those first, because the wind was blowing in from the south, and I wanted to work back with it, and hit the deeper end of the lake by mid-morning. There were a couple people on kayaks scooting around and we were quite impressed with the ease in which they were getting across this virtual Sargasso Sea. I had to wind my way through the weed beds, searching out for the thinner parts where we could get through. The 10-mph wind was making the task of determining which way to go even more interesting. Lifting the motor every minute or so is a pain, and I was only a quarter of the way back... close enough. Let's fish!
Plastics are the order of the day in that slop. To try and throw anything that was not completely weedless was an effort in frustration. Fishing with spinnerbaits would even come back sporting yard-long "weed wigs". Mike and I are quite accustomed to this environment and we rigged our offerings accordingly. It didn't take long before Mike had a bass and a pickerel under his belt. Well, that's a good start...
We both were using various baits throughout the day and as always some worked out better than others. Mike is constantly amazed at how a particular lure can be hot one day, and then, the next time he uses it, the fish won't even look at it. Last time Mike was in the Poconos, an FLW purple "finesse" worm was the ticket. This time around, they seemed to prefer the same worm, only in a "pumpkin seed". One of Mike's "go to" plastics is a Zoom "Fat Albert" grub in smoke coloration… he couldn't buy a strike with those this trip.
Sitting down at my bar the night before, I was going through my plastic assortment and stopped on these Storm "Wildeye" minnows. I had bought these several years ago and except for a brief tryout up in Canada, I really haven't used them. This past spring, I started experimenting with coloring white senkos with magic markers and it was quite successful, if I don't say so myself. With that in mind, I took one of these "wildeye" minnows and went to town. My "vision" was to come up with something that resembled a fingerling pickerel and I think I came close. When I tried this minnow out in the water at Shahola, I was so disappointed in the action of it, especially in the weeds, that I retired my "work of art" to my "drawer 'o shame". Sometimes you lose….
Another hot plastic just two weekends ago was a "Yum Dinger" in an olive color with a chartreuse tail. I caught most of the pickerel at Peck's Pond on this, but at Shahola, not even a nibble. Go figure! Mike had three fish at this point to my El Zippo, and it was starting to become apparent that we would be working for the bites today. Talking with a couple fellows, that were out there since 5:30 A.M., lead us to believe that it wouldn't have paid off to get there much earlier than we did. These guys seemed to know what they were doing and had a very lackluster report. No big deal, it was just good to be there, and besides, the day was young and maybe the fish needed to wake up a bit.
I switched to a new plastic I picked up recently manufactured by the Tablerock Bait and Tackle Company called "Chompers". They are basically a plastic jig body minus the hook. This particular plastic was a 4" "spider craw" in a root beer and green fleck coloration. They come scented with "garlic salt", and the aroma was quite heavy… good thing I like garlic. I rigged it weightless with a 5/0 "keeper" hook and caught my first fish of the day on it. It was nothing to write home to Mom about, but a two-pound bass is always a welcome start.
We continued to fish in the weeds but the action was very slow which surprised me because the weather conditions seemed perfect. I guess we didn't get the "take the day off" memo that the rest of the fish had evidently received. I took us out into more "open waters" in hopes of finding receptive fish. It was already approaching eleven in the morning and with only four fish to show for our efforts in the heavy weeds, we certainly weren't going to break any records.
Once we were out in water that was deep enough to not be completely choked with weeds, I tried out another lure that was recently added to my arsenal. It was a Berkley "Blade Dancer" which I had been eying up for quite sometime. Even though I garnered no reaction from the fish on this lure, I was still quite impressed with both the action, and how weedless it worked, even though the hook is completely exposed. It didn't catch any fish this time around, but just looking at this lure in the water, I know it will shine under the right circumstances. The blade dancer was spared from being doomed to my drawer 'o shame… for now. Even my Terminator in-line spinners drew no action, and these I can always count on for at least a strike or two, so I wasn't going to be too harsh on the blade dancer.
Spinnerbaits were not garnering much attention either, at least in the areas we were fishing. Later in the day, a guy came through using a chartreuse spinnerbait and was reporting modest to hot action. After eyeing up what was on the ends of our poles, he also went on to categorically state that plastics just won't work (we had caught about eight fish by now on plastics…), and that he NEVER catches pickerel (as if that were a bad thing…), so we were a little skeptical. To each their own I always say. I try not to lock myself in on ANY one type of lure. My "go to" lure lately for these weedy, shallow lakes has been a 6" Yamamoto root beer with green fleck senko, and even though I had caught two back-to-back bass at about 2 P.M. with it, I didn't use it all that much. I like to experiment and maybe that can cost me some fish at times, but it takes time to "learn"different plastic techniques. There is no time like the present to do this experimentation. If I were in a tournament or maybe fishing to keep from starving, then that would be different. Even then, it's good to have a bigger repertoire of presentations to draw from because you never know just what the fish will want on any given Sunday. I would imagine that lure manufactures love my type.
In the deeper waters along the weed lines, I found that I needed to get the Chomper to sink at a much faster rate. I could have used a jig head, or even Texas rigged it, but those darn cootails were still an issue, so I opted to use an "insert weight" and continue with the keeper hook. The act of falling is the only real "action" you can induce out of a jig in weeds like that, and getting the sink rate just right is much more easily accomplished with an insert weight. Once the jig settles into the weeds, it's pretty much game over, so I don't want it to sink too fast, but yet, I don't want to wait an hour to get down five feet either. That setup resulted in the largest bass of the day.
Knowing that spinnerbaits ARE in fact a killer presentation (my largest bass AND pickerel from Shahola were fooled by one), I kept tossing one out on a regular basis. I tend to be the type to "hunker down" in a known to be good area, and try to beat the fish into biting, especially when the fishing is slow. I've even been known to state: "We ain't leaving this spot till we catch at least one fish!". Yeah, pretty drastic I know, but when the fishing gets REAL tough sometimes that's what it takes. There always is something that unreceptive fish will trigger on, and sometimes it takes a while to figure it out. If you know the fish are there, and if you don't actually spook the fish, you can continue to throw everything in the arsenal at them until they react. "Running and gunning" under those circumstances, in my humble opinion, just makes the job harder.
What makes it even more interesting under slow, hot conditions is that the fish that you do manage to catch don't seem to have anything in common when it comes to lure preference. We might have ended up with a dozen and a half fish that day, and other than the pair of senko bass, I think that every fish was caught on something completely different. Things that make you go, "Hummmm".
I try to show the lure with the fish in my pictures, and maybe you can make out the chomper with the bass and the spinnerbait with the pickerel. Both these came later in the day, and if I were to rate the outing using a "cast-to-catch" ratio, it would be more akin to a musky hunt. We still had a great time, nobody was wounded, we didn't spontaneously burst into flames from the heat, and we did manage a few fish… that's a success in my book! Perseverance paid off and maybe, just maybe, I can talk Mike into one more trip!
Last updated on ... September 3, 2005