Friday, March 30, 2012

Wake Up, Bass! Part II. Bigger than It Looks!

Nick casting over calm water full of non-hungry fish
After some challenging and partially successful mid-day fishing at Governors Bridge Natural Area, Nick and I skedaddled over to my new spot for the season, Fifty Dollar Lakes.  Access is tough here because the permit costs $50 per three months, in addition to your regular fishing license.  And it's catch and release only.  And they only sell 30 permits per quarter.  And yes, you could try to sneak in, but it's surrounded by fences and no trespassing signs, and the game warden lives in the old caretaker's house on the property.  So there.

It's interesting what money does to public access.  There's less trash.  Less fishing line hanging around.  A perceptible lack of used condoms.  And everyone who can afford a permit tends to be a friendly person.  They'll tell you what they caught, where in the lake, and what lure they used.  Hooray for nice people!  But what such a high access fee also does is excludes a large sector of the public - those who can't afford the permit, or just don't make fishing one local catch-and-release lake a $90 per year priority.  Which certainly makes some sense.

But I bought a permit for the spring months.  May buy one for the fall, too.  This summer, I hope to spend more time chasing striped bass out in the Bay.  We'll see if that happens!  For now, it was just Nick and I on a nice, private public lake outside of Annapolis.

In the roughly one week since I'd fished here, everything had changed.  Small panfish schools were now scattered throughout the shallows.  Bass weren't shallow, but would rise to take lures that were 2-4' below the surface.  I fished some tough structure really tight and had some great strikes but no hookups (maybe that was for the best).  Nick was throwing every fly he could think of, but the bass just weren't moving for him.  Despite the huge number of panfish, none - not even the tiny ones - would rise to take a surface lure or fly.   It was giving Nick a fit, for sure.  I kept changing lures, changing lures, trying to pull a big bass or pickerel out of the cloudy depths.

Finally, I was working the crown of a fallen/dead pine tree with a 2" rapala minnow (about 18" down) when I picked up this guy.  He ran out the drag, hit the air, and just generally put on a great show.  When I picked him up, I could not believe how heavy he was for his size!  He had the trademark "flat head" of a southern largemouth and man, he just felt like a hog!  In the picture below, you can see a 15" or so largemouth, and you can see my hand straining to hold him up - I thought my thumb would break! Easily 3.5lbs 3lbs 2.5lbs!  Imagine my disappointment when I saw how "big" he actually looked on camera:

No! Now, the angle of the photo isn't doing him any favors, but still, it's a small fish for such heavy weight. Maybe if I show it in black and white, it'll look bigger.

Woah! It actually does look bigger!  These lakes are known for heavy metal and PCB contamination so maybe that's it?  Maybe he literally has an iron stomach?  Regardless, he was a heavy fish and I sure worked hard to catch him.  Nick ended up getting blanked again on the fly rod, and I didn't have another single bite after this (luckily Nick managed to catch a dozen fish on the Patuxent a few days later).   We grabbed some fresh seafood and commiserated about work, well, more accurately, the working life.

I don't pretend to be a guide.  I work really hard to get fish for myself, and I haven't learned enough to be a great fishing coach for my son, let alone other least yet.  I was stressed about putting Nick on some fish and really felt bad that he didn't catch anything but it seemed like he was enjoying the change of pace from his usual travels and getting a taste of the South North, well, whatever the Mid-Atlantic is.  The good thing is, he did catch fish on his trip, and the fishing is now heating up.  It's all good.


Devin Angleberger said...

Nice Bass, better than nothing.

Kirk Mantay said...

Yeah, that's for sure!

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