Monthly Archives: August 2012

Freshwater Drum

Last week I went down to the lower Chesapeake Bay and did some fishing in the coastal estuaries and tidal rivers. I ended up catching some spot and a stingray, but mostly croaker, a small fish of the Sciaenidae family  related to the much larger Red Drum caught further out. Most of the drum fish are saltwater inhabitants and habit the eastern coast along the shoreline, and are mainly south of New York. One species of this family is different though and can be caught in the heart of New York.

The freshwater drum is the only species of the Sciaenidae family to reside in freshwater it’s entire life and can be caught in the lakes and rivers of New York. The other month I caught my first freshwater drum in the Mohawk River, and after catching another close relative the other day I figured I’d write about this curious fish and give at least a little advice on how to catch one. Here are some tips:

Freshwater drum

Do your homework first
Not every lake or river has freshwater drum. They usually reside in large rivers and lakes where they need the space to spawn, so don’t expect to catch them in your local town pond. Even in bodies of water where they are known to live in (i.e. Hudson and Mohawk Rivers) they can have spotty localized habitats, so it’s worth researching hot spots before going out.

Try fishing below dams and at locks
Right below Lock 7 on the Mohawk River is a place where I took my first drum. It seems a lot of these fish congregate in these areas, probably because zebra mussels and crayfish are so ubiquitous. I haven’t seen anyone catch them in the slower parts of the river, although I’m sure they occasionally do migrate in schools throughout these sections.

Look for surface activity
Drum will splash at the surface like carp. If you see a lot of jumping fish that are silver colored and are of medium to large size, there is a good chance it’s drum. Bass and walleye rarely exhibit this behavior in large numbers.

Use worms or crayfish
Drum have evolved to feed on crustaceans. While they will likely take an artificial lure, live bait will yield the best results. Using a crayfish might be more effective than a nightcrawler, but make sure to restrict it as they like to slip under rocks even when hooked. Keep your bait on the bottom.

Try jigging with bait
Drum do feed by sight, so using a flashy jig with a worm might hook on to fish quicker than just letting bait sit on the bottom. Try lifting your jig several feet off the bottom and drop it down and wait for a hit. Let it sit for several seconds and repeat the process.

Bring medium to heavy gear
Drum get big. They average at 18 to 20 inches in size, but some can get up to 20 lbs. The world record is over 50 lbs! You probably won’t catch a fish that big, but make sure to use thicker line and a stout rods and reel. It also helps when fishing in the craggy areas they seem to like.

Ultimately freshwater drum aren’t the flashiest gamefish, but they can grow big and provide good sport. Few people target them exclusively, but knowing how to catch them can provide you some excellent fishing when located and a good fish to bring to the table too.

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Swamp Fishing

Yesterday I went swamp fishing. Yes, swamp fishing. In New York. Upstate New York. I originally was out kayaking on a small lake, but decided to paddle up a small feeder creek after the wind picked up. This tributary quickly fanned out and led me to a flooded region full of weeds, roots, and branches.

Swamp Fishing is a completely different experience in real life. Maybe you’ve seen a youtube video or watched a clip of it, but fishing from a small boat in a swamp is nothing like regular fishing. It’s the ultimate stealth challenge. It’s tough. But it’s quite a change of pace and is certainly rewarding.

If you want to go swamp fishing, here’s what to do and what to expect.

Swamp Fishing is all about going fishing where no one fished before

 

Requirements
•A very small boat or kayak. I’ve got a 10 foot kayak and it’s almost too big. Anything with a motor won’t work. Waders may be ok, but you might get wet.
•A stiff rod with at least 10 lb test line. A baitcasting reel is preferred.
•A weedless lure or nightcrawler. Small minnows can work but will snag more unless restricted.
•A lake or river with a swampy tributary.
Instructions
•Locate the mouth of a tributary and launch at it. Head upstream.
•If using live bait or worms, paddle over to open spots and quietly dip your baited hook into the water. Set your drag high.
•If using a weedless rig, cast to the thickest spots(maybe even the shore) and quietly reel it in. Do your best to avoid spooking the fish
•When a fish bites, reel it in as quickly as possible.

Expectations
•Largemouth bass, panfish, and small pickerel are the primary species you’ll get. Perhaps gar or bowfin if they are in the area. Don’t expect trout or pike unless you go in the spring or fall.
• You’ll lose a bit of gear on roots. Bring extra hooks and lures.
• Don’t bet on landing a lunker. Most fish will be under a pound, but be on the look out for bigger fish as they will occasionally take refuge in backwaters.
• Be prepared for a workout. It can be pretty difficult to paddle across thick weeds and brush that are so prevalent in these areas.

I ended up catching only one bass and losing a couple smaller fish. It was a great experience and I wish to go again sometime. While I didn’t catch my biggest fish or most fish, the experience was quite memorable to say the least. So my recommendation is go try it sometime. You’ll be surprised at how difficult yet rewarding it might be.

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Summer bass fishing

Summer is my favorite season for bass fishing. I know plenty of people might disagree with me, especially when they hit a good bite in the spring or fall, but the one thing that Summer promises is consistency. While I’ve had excellent experiences with bass fishing in the fall and spring , I’ve gotten skunked in those seasons as well. Summer is different though in how a relatively unpredictable fish can be somewhat…predictable.

Plenty of anglers give up when the weather gets hot. I suppose there is some logic with hanging the rod up during the “Dog Days of Summer.” Hot weather and bright conditions certainly do make the fish less active. Bass are still very much catchable though, and you can very well match the success of the cooler months. Here are some tips on how to land bass during the hottest days of summer.

When the sun is out, hit the weeds
During the summer heat, my favorite spot are weedbeds. Bass love to hold in dense foliage during the day. Try fishing a moderate to heavy weeded spot that is at least 4 feet deep. One tip to lure out bass is to use a weedless frog and dance it across the surface of lilypads or water chestnut. Or through a weedless rigged plastic worm in the same manner and then let it drop at the waters edge.

Fish prime spots during dawn and dusk
Fish will always bite more aggressively during low light conditions during the summer months. At these times bass usually migrate short distances to points where baitfish are. It can be tricky to locate bass during these feeding blitzes, but one fail free method is to locate spots where the fish are “rising”(when a group of small fish is splashing on the surface).

Protected areas are better
A lot of lakes and rivers get a good deal of traffic during the summer months during the day. When noisy boats are out, I’ve always found the back sections of lakes and rivers which are somewhat isolated are better than open stretches.

Live bait yields the best success
During the day, bass are much less active and put less effort into feeding. It’s much harder to get a fish using a crank bait or spinner bait, especially when they are located in restrictive spaces. Using live bait is a better tactic during these times.

In short, bass fishing is actually quite good in the summer. While you won’t get 10 fish in an hour during the day like in the Spring, you definitely can still catch some lunkers, even during the hottest days.

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