The falling Autumn temperatures signal bass to gorge themselves on food in preparation for the long, hard winter, when food is scare and life difficult. Because most lakes and ponds are overflowing with bite-sized baitfish at this time, the resident bass become especially piscivorus in the Fall.
Shad are the primary staple of large-water lunkers, while bluegill are more important prey for bass inhabiting ponds and creeks. In either case, a crankbait is one of the most effective lures for exploiting this tendency, so anglers all across the country begin chucking them hither and yond as the days begin to shorten.
Because many of us will be throwing crankbaits for the next few weeks, it seems appropriate to discuss a few techniques for getting the most out of your lures. Specifically, we’re going to talk about three different ways to customize your crankbaits in order to alter their function and “behavior.”
Use Paint Markers to Alter the Color and Pattern
Sometimes a little extra flash is all that is necessary to turn a so-so day of fishing into one for the record books. Paint markers provide an easy (and relatively inexpensive) way to do this on an as-needed basis. For example, you can load up on crankbaits in all of the “standard” colors – silver, white, gold and chartreuse – and then experiment with different accents until you hit upon the magic recipe.
While I am personally skeptical that bass interpret these color accents as eyes or gills, as is so often hinted at on the packaging of these products, there is no doubt that subtle color and pattern changes can have an immense impact on your fishing success.
Add Weight to the Lure
Most anglers alter the presentation depth of a crankbait in either of two ways: They select a lure designed to run at a different depth or they alter their line size, which contributes to the depth of the lure as well (the less resistance created by the line, the deeper the bait will run). However, you can also alter the depth at which your crankbait swims by adding weight to the lure.
There are a variety of different ways to add weight to a crankbait. Some weights are designed to be clipped onto the hook-eyes, while others are akin to a weighted leader – these are simply tied in front of a crankbait. You can also use stick-on weights or add soft solder to the shank of the leading hook to increase the weight of the bait.
But depth isn’t the only reason you may wish to add weight to your lure. You may just need to be able to cast the lure farther. In this case, you’ll need to compensate for the additional weight by making adjustments to your line selection and crankbait choice.
Weight changes also affect the way in which the lure rises (or even sinks) when the retrieve is paused, so be sure to consider how this should alter your lure selection and fishing approach.
Swap the Hooks to Tweak the Action
You can change the hooks on your crankbait to alter its action or weight. For example, by swapping out the stock treble hooks on a crankbait for a pair that are one size larger, you can increase the weight of the lure. Alternatively, if you want a wider wobble out of your crankbait, you may be able to achieve this by downsizing the treble hooks.
You can also swap out the stock treble hooks on your crankbaits for weedless treble hooks to avoid dragging out eight pounds of weeds on each cast or snagging your newly customized lure on an underwater log.
Tuning Your Crankbait
While it is more of a maintenance technique than a customization, it is important to understand how to tune your crankbait to keep it from veering to the side during the retrieve. Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, bend the lure eye in the opposite direction to which the lure is pulling. For example, if your bait is swimming to its left during the retrieve, bend the eye a little bit to its right.
Try some of these ideas out for yourself as you carve up the Autumn water, and let us know how they work out for you. If you have any suggestions that we missed, let us know in the comments below.
Alabama Scientists Use e-DNA to Discover Signs of Sturgeon Presumed Extinct
Alabama Sturgeon by Debbie Kay
Alabama Scientists are having a real soap opera moment, as one of their indigenous species of fish, presumed extinct, may have been found alive. The Alabama sturgeon is considered one of the rarest freshwater fish on the planet, and has not been seen alive since 2007. However, scientists doing work in its home range of the Mobile Basin have now found evidence that it continues, elusively, to live in the area through recent environmental DNA sample collections.
About the Alabama Sturgeon
The Alabama sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus suttkusi, is a small, yellow-orange species of sturgeon that lives exclusively in the Mobile Basin of the Alabama River. It grows to about 30 inches in size, and lives 12 to 20 years. In 1993, the state and federal protection program for the once-populous Alabama sturgeon began. This species had evaded identification until 1991, and were once believed to be the young of the more common gulf sturgeon. By the time the fish were shown to be genetically unique, their numbers had declined so much due to the impacts of several dams in the watershed that there was a question whether any effort at all could save them. Since protection efforts were considered to be a large and expensive change for much of the river’s industries, there was a battle between the businesses and environmentalists whether to take protection measures at all.
Protection was difficult to verify, as only three individual sturgeon were actually captured and held in hand within ten years. The last known fish, a male, was tagged in 2006 with a radio tracker, with the hopes that it would lead scientists to a larger breeding population. Unfortunately, that did not happen before the transmitter died in 2007.
Scientists recently collected 130 environmental DNA samples along the length of the Alabama River and found that approximately 17 percent of the samples had Alabama sturgeon DNA. This means that the fish were in the area within the past 8 to 40 days, based on the average rate of DNA breakdown in the area. This means the fish is present, but it has not been seen.
As these locations are narrowed down, scientists plan to do more extensive surveys on the areas that get continued “hits” during eDNA sampling. Fish collection/viewing can be done via snorkeling, dewatering, or backpack electrofishing. If they find fish in any number, this may be an opportunity There is currently a hatchery-assisted breeding plan for the Alabama sturgeon that sits on the law books if the state manages to locate and secure some breeding pairs of fish. To locate a pair (or hopefully more than one) would allow an opportunity to begin adding fish to more areas, and to better study individuals to understand the specific environmental factors they need to thrive. This can lead to smarter management decisions in the future to truly bring this elusive fish species its heroic return from the dead.
How to Use Fish WebCams to Become a Better Fisherman
Use Fish WebCams By Debbie Kay
Fishcams are an incredibly fun way to discover local fish in their native habitat. They can be found along manmade fish passages, in hatcheries, and along piers (like below the Seattle Aquarium). The videos can be a calming backdrop in a room, a fun novelty to watch and even a way to learn more about fish behavior. Knowledge like this allows you to test some theories and help you to become a better fisher as a result. Here are some things to observe that can help up your fishing game: Continue reading Use Fish WebCams for Better Fishing→
Illinois Hatcheries Stocking Alligator Gar to Combat Carp by Debbie Kay
The state of Illinois has a monster carp problem. What better way to fight a monster than with a bigger monster? So goes the logic, as the state’s hatcheries gear up to begin stocking alligator gar in many of the state’s rivers that have invasive fish problems. Though the fish are native to Illinois, they have not been seen in the state’s waters since 1966. Their return is hoped not only to curb the growing carp population with one of the few native predators, but to return a major trophy fish to Illinois waters.
About Alligator Gar
Alligator gar are one of the most ancient species still living today, with fossil records of these fish dating back to over 100 million years ago. They can grow up to ten feet long and weigh up to 300lbs. From the 1930’s to the 1980’s, they were considered “trash fish” and a detriment to sport fishing. They are known as stalking predators, and will target large fish, small mammals and waterfowl. They were targeted for extermination in many waters of the US and Mexico during this period. When better knowledge of the interaction of ecosystems came in the 80’s, the emphasis went from extermination to protection and reintroduction. Today, many states have an alligator gar fishery.
Reintroduction into Illinois
Illinois has waters that run into two massive interstate watersheds. Some waters run toward Lake Michigan and into the Great Lakes waterway, while others head toward the mighty Mississippi. There is a large pool of federal funding money that has been set aside to deal with the scourge of Asian Carp as it quickly repopulates through the area. The gar reintroduction program is using that funding to help deal with this issue. As a bonus, hatcheries stocking alligator gar will serve as a large trophy fish that can bring state revenue through fish endorsement licenses and tourism dollars.
Will it Work?
The gar is not a complete solution to the carp problem. Population-wise, the carp outnumber the gar by a massive amount. The largest carp are too large to be swallowed by the narrow-throated gar. Also, populations of gar will not breed until they reach sexual maturity at age 11, while carp begin reproducing at age 3. This means that they can take a small portion of the population, but they will never be the main control mechanism for these fish. However, after several years, once they have firmly reestablished their numbers, the gar can be a preventative measure in areas without Asian carp if smaller, younger fish try and expand their territory. Instead, netting and fish kills seems to be the only way to keep this majorly invasive fish species at bay.
When Will Gar Reintroduction Begin?
The hatcheries stocking alligator gar program has been approved since 2010, but funding has only recently been secured. Hatcheries are prepping to begin grow-out and release as early as next year. From there, Illinois will need to decide how to handle fishing seasons for this once extinct species.
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