Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cyber Angling, Is your computer in your tackle box? (SFM, June 2010)

From the June 2010 issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine:

By John “Toast” Oast

Where do you get your fishing tips, and up-to-date angling reports? Do you mainly rely on friends or third-party information at your local tackle shop? Obviously if you are reading this article you either utilize print or internet medium for such information. While tackle shop rumors, ramp-side conversations, and media publications are outstanding sources of information to expand your fishing skills and on-the-water results, there are many other options available at the click of a mouse.

I recall there once was an “internet yellow pages;” my college roommate had a copy. Yep, at the time pretty much everything on the web could fit in a phonebook smaller than those of many rural communities. Today there are so many websites that it would be impossible to count them all. Of these, many are specifically designed for the angling community. These sites may be marketing tools for members of the recreational fishing industry, national club websites, or regional fishing reports, forums, and bulletin boards.

Shortly after the dramatic growth of the internet in the late 1990’s I began to lurk around on various internet angling communities, trying to find a place to call home. At the time I was already an avid kayak angler, and there were few sites covering that aspect of fishing at the time, especially on the east coast. That was when I decided to create Fishyaker.com, which incorporated its own interactive forum for participants to communicate with one-another. I also became active in other more broad groups, such as Tidalfish.com. Today there are plenty of these bulletin boards on the internet, a number catering specifically to our own region, such as Smallmouths.com and our very own SusquehannaFishing.com.

Today when someone asks me, “How did you and ______ meet?” the usual answer is, “on the internet.” It is a great testament to the power of the internet and these forums when I think about my current group of friends, especially those who I fish with. EVERYONE I currently fish with, from the southeast to the northeast, I met on one of the internet angling forums! In addition, the internet is where I typically get recent fishing reports, and “steal” angling techniques.

So, if you want a great way to find more angling information and make new friends, try the internet. More information than one could ever absorb is only a click away… Don’t have a computer? Check at your local library… and nearly everything is totally free!

John “Toast” Oast is the publisher of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine and a member of the Johnson Outdoors Pro Staff and Ocean Kayak Fishing Team. His kayak rigging videos have received thousands of views, and been linked to websites around the world. For more information, visit http://fishyaker.com/ and his Youtube page at http://www.youtube.com/fishyaker.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fishing Kayaks, Making the Right Choice (SFM, August 2010)

From the August 2010 issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine:

By John “Toast” Oast

Before the initial purchase of a kayak for fishing, an angler must choose the ideal boat for his or her fishing applications. Too often, novice anglers purchase their first kayak for fishing only to find that they have ended up with a boat that does not suit the conditions in which they will paddle and fish. Those fishing in confined or flowing bodies of water would not be well served by choosing a lengthy vessel. In the same vein, a short kayak may not be preferable when paddling extended distances. The angler must first decide what types of water will be fished, then set a budget, and finally choose the ideal kayak. Once a new (or used, depending on the budget) kayak is in hand, the kayak angler can concentrate on the best rigging configuration.

First, always keep in mind that with a kayak, speed and stability rarely go hand-and-hand. If someone is looking for a stable fishing platform, the chosen kayak should be fairly wide, but as a result it may be short on speed. If someone wants to cover substantial ground between fishing spots, a longer, sleeker kayak may be desired, prioritizing this speed over primary stability. This does not mean that a shorter, slower kayak cannot be paddled longer distances; the faster kayak just gives paddlers more time at the location, and is helpful for getting off the water in a hurry when the weather turns. The larger kayak also typically offers additional storage capacity.

Good examples of the ideal lengths for various conditions can be found in my personal fleet. When I plan to paddle an hour or so from a launch to my destination, I typically use a longer Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 15. If I am trying to work around confined structure, maneuver through rapids, and need maneuverability, I prefer the shorter Trident 11. And if I plan on paddling in a variety of conditions, I use a versatile Trident 13. The number following the model of a kayak typically designates length in feet. For instance, an Old Town Vapor 12 is twelve feet long.

Once the desired purpose and amount of stability has been decided, the next question is whether to choose a sit-inside or a sit-on-top kayak. Sit-on-top or SOT kayaks are the kayaks of choice within the kayak fishing community. SOTs allow the paddler better access to gear, while providing a design which is easier to re-enter if ejected or if regularly exiting the kayak to wade fish. They also incorporate scupper drain holes to allow escape of water which has come into the cockpit or tankwell (the storage area behind the seat area). While SOTs have these benefits, sit-inside-kayaks (SIKs) give the paddler the benefit of removing oneself from the elements by partially enclosing the paddler within the vessel. The drawbacks to each style are that a SOT is often a bit slower than a SIK, but a SIK can easily become a bathtub if water is allowed to enter the cockpit. This water within the cockpit compromises the stability of a sit-in kayak, and also makes it more difficult to reenter. Again, one’s budget or access to a specific type of kayak may be the deciding factor when choosing between a SOT or SIK. Either may be configured into a quality fishing kayak, but the initial decision is a personal one.

After deciding upon the desired style and design of kayak, possibly the most important issue is weight capacity. A recent trend within the kayak industry has been designing kayaks for “bigger” guys or gals, so don’t worry if you are six-foot-six or slightly gravitationally challenged, there is a kayak for you. Also, anglers shouldn’t just consider their personal weight – they should add the potential weight of all the gear they will have on the kayak. If the boat is too weighted down, it will not track properly, may capsize, or even sink. This is obviously a major concern. If the boat you are considering does not handle your gross (as in total, not disgusting) kayak fishing weight, move on to the next possible kayak choice.

The important issue to remember when getting started in the sport of kayak fishing is to be informed of the products before purchasing them. Also, do not expect knowledgeable staff if you are purchasing your first kayak at a big box store, unless the location you are going to has a dedicated paddling department and staff. The good customer service at a local paddling shop goes a long way, especially when the people you are purchasing from may be the ones you bump into on the water. They will always point you in the right direction and stand behind their products. No matter where you choose to purchase a kayak, make sure that it suits your purposes. You don’t want to take it out for the first time and realize it does not hold your weight or that you don’t have anywhere to keep your gear. Simply do a little research prior to parting with your hard-earned cash.

John “Toast” Oast is the publisher of Susquehanna Fishing Magazine and a member of the Johnson Outdoors Pro Staff and Ocean Kayak Fishing Team. His kayak rigging videos have received thousands of views, and been linked to websites around the world. For more information, visit http://fishyaker.com/ and his Youtube page at http://www.youtube.com/fishyaker.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Susquehanna River Fly and Spin Fishing Report for the Week of August 22, 2010

This week has been a great week to get out for trophy summer time smallies and my father and son anglers are proof of this as they managed to do everything right to get this trophy smallie to take his lure in gin clear shallow water. Way to Go Colbster! Fishing will just get better and better as the fall approaches. Give us a call to "Get Bent and Sling Some String" today. Tight Lines!

Your guide, Steve Hancock--------<*)}}}}}><

Visit Susquehanna Fly & Spin Guide Service on the web:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 17, 2010 Susquehanna River Fly and Spin Guide Service Fishing Report

The Susquehanna River shared her fruits today as my anglers from the Caymen Islands experienced their first freshwater fishing outing. They hooked several smallies during the day and even a big catfish which made a drag screaming run before breaking one of the anglers line. With all things in our favor toward the end of the day everything came together and they even managed to catch two fish at the same time to end the day with a smile and a nice picture.

To experience summertime fishing here on the Susky give us a call to get "Get Bent and Sling Some String!" Tight Lines Everyone! -----<*)}}}}}}><

Visit Susquehanna Fly & Spin Guide Service on the web:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Hi Gang,

The river was at 3.0 with 4,900CF of flow and 87 degrees at the beginning of the week and at the end of the week we had 3.2 with 5,300CF of flow and 74 degrees. The BP was 30.40 and steady.

1. Trip #1 – Guide Scouting Trip – This was on Saturday and we fished from 6:00 – 2:30 PM and we boated 17 bass. The largest was 17.5” and we caught it on a rattle bait. We caught all are fish on Rattle Baits and Crank Baits. We had 3.2 – Stained – 5,300 CF – Steady and 72-76 degrees. It was cloudy and pleasant and we had a BP of 30.40 and steady.

2. Trip #2 – Guide Trip – This was on Saturday night and was an 8 hr. catfish trip. We boated 12 Flatheads and 2 Channel Cats. The largest Flathead was 7 # and the largest Channel Cat was 8#. We caught them on live bait and cut bait. We had 3.2 – Stained – 5,300CF and 74 degrees. It was night time.

Trip #3 – No Trip

3. The bass fishing in the Harrisburg Area is starting to improve but you have to cover a lot of water. The fish are really scattered and the cooler water temperature is helping.

4. Dave will soon have his new custom boat ready for Guide Trips. We have put extra thought into this design to specifically aide us in our Catfish Trips.

5. Please write the Fish and Boat Commission and express your concerns to them. We can provide you with email addresses if you need them.


From Koinonia Guide Services:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Channel Catfish, the Overlooked Fight! - SFM Blog Exclusive

By William Milheim

In the summer, the water warms, and aquatic vegetation grows. Early pre-spawn, and spawn areas produce fewer and fewer smallmouth. As the water continues to warm after the spawn, the smallmouth scatter. They are not as easy to find until the water temperature stabilizes mid-summer. I find this time of year hard fishing for smallmouth. Instead, I focus on another hard fighter in the river mostly overlooked by some fisherman: channel catfish. These fish are very active when the smallmouth fishing is slowing down. Let’s not overlook this special time. Being a smallmouth guide on the river and writing an article on channel cats is a bit different for me. Most fishermen have no idea how fun a huge cat is to battle. This article should give enough information to get started.

Most associate channel catfish with fishing in the dark. That’s not the case. They feed just like any fish in the river. Sure, they hit at night, but they can be caught in the middle of the day as well. When we hang our bass gear up because the river is high and muddy, it’s time to grab the cat fish rod. channel catfish are not affected by rise in water, or its clarity. A great time to fish for them is when the water starts to rise, or when it is falling. These adaptable fish are not fussy when it comes to feeding time.

Some dyed in the wool channel cat fisherman have tried and true bait for Mr. Whiskers. You can catch a channel cat on just about anything. I compare them to sharks; in fact I tell the wife I’m going “river sharken”. I’ve tried most of the old standbys such as night crawlers, crayfish, stink baits, hot dogs, hellgrammites, and chicken livers; all are good baits. In late spring and summer I’ve found cut baits work the best. I use whatever I can catch such as suckers, fallfish, rock bass, chubs or larger minnows. If catching non-game species is to time consuming, consider purchasing herring fillets from the grocery store. Whatever form you choose, cut the fish into varying sizes. Start with one inch cubes up to four to five inch cubes. Don’t scale the fish or de-bone the chunks. Some days channel cats will take only small chunks, other days they prefer larger chunks. I still follow the saying, “bigger the bait the bigger the fish”. Much to my wife’s protest, I keep my cut bait in triple plastic bags in the freezer until I’m ready to fish. I tend to agree it isn’t pleasing to the eye to see chunked up sucker in a clear bag in the freezer, so I must mark the bag “fish bait” and put it on the bottom shelf. The triple plastic bag….well, it’s a wife thing.

There are many tactics to use when channel cats are your target. There are a few boat techniques to employ. I see some fisherman in boats in a good hole practicing one tactic that is extremely dangerous, double anchoring. These anglers turn the boat on a right angle to the current and anchor from both the bow and from the stern, thinking it enables them to place rods pointing downstream and the bait directly downstream in front of the fisherman. This is an accident waiting to happen. One misstep or weight transfer and the boat will roll. Instead of an enjoyable day fishing it could turn to tragedy. Don’t do it! Instead anchor the boat from the bow the way it was intended. Each person cast the bait from either side. Make casts directly behind the boat, one short one long. Casting directly behind the boat will allow the bait to settle on the bottom and eliminates most snags. Casting ninety degrees from the boat allows the bait to tumble behind before it settles in the current. This approach has a greater chance of snagging. Casting directly behind the boat gets the bait down and settled and in the zone. Another tactic I use is “drift fishing”. I use this when I have a long hole or a good run of deep water. This tactic is faster paced as it relates to cat fishing. Knowing your fishing area helps. It involves casting upstream or downstream using a bobber and drifting through the hole. I’ll address the techniques later when I discuss rigging. If bank fishing is your forte, there are several tactics to employ. We all know a spot along the river that has a place to pull over and park with a semi overgrown trail to walk down to the river. Be careful on choosing these spots; most of the time it’s a good fishing spot, but other times it is just a place to fish with access. When the spot is found just like in a boat ensure the cast is slightly down current; this will eliminate a lot of snags. Allow about ten feet of slack line after the cast so that the bait sinks more quickly to the bottom.

Rigging is another tactic that employs many different forms. Complicated three-way barrel swivels and bottom bouncers all are good rigs, but I keep it as simple as I can. If I’m fishing from my boat and anchored with cut bait I use this rig often. Start the rig by using a bullet sinker, usually one eighth ounce. Ensure the line is put through the point of the bullet weight first. This will enable the weight move freely up and down the line with ease. Next, I install a plastic bead on the line to keep the bullet weight from cutting into the knot. After I have the bullet weight point end towards the end of the rod along with the bead, I’ll tie a barrel swivel. Now you have a weight, bead, and barrel swivel; then I tie a good mono leader about a foot long to a 2/0 or 3/0 size hook, preferably a barbless circle hook. That’s a simple rig that works well for channel catfish. The bullet weight does a number of things; first it doesn’t snag as easily (if it does snag it’s easy to un-snag) and second, it also offers no resistance to the cat when it picks up the bait. The reason I use barbless hooks is for easy un-hooking. If you cannot find barbless hooks just take pliers and bend the barb in. Believe me, hook a cat and chances of losing it due to no barb are quite slim. Unhooking a well hooked channel cat is a workout most of the time. This rig can be used for shore fishing as well. It is a great uncomplicated rig for use at night.

Another rig I use when shore fishing is simple as well. Start with line tied to a three-way barrel swivel. Tie one end of the line to the swivel and straight through or opposite end tie a good mono leader about two foot long to2/0 or 3/0 circle hook (barbless). The odd circle on the three-way swivel I’ll use a rubber band about three inches long and loop it through the swivel. I use the rubber band to install my weights. I use either pinch sinkers or stick sinkers. After the sinkers are secure I clip just a little cut into the rubber band. This will allow the rubber band to break with ease and free the line. Most snags are from the weight, not the hook. Using the rubber band method allows the line to break free without totally re-rigging. Most of the time the rubber band can be used many times after freeing the snag just by adding the weight that was lost. This is a good rig to use especially at night.

Drift rigging does get a bit involved. I don’t drift fish during the night for a number of reasons. Drifting in the Susquehanna at night has many hazards; in addition, using a bobber at night can have some frustrating line issues. Drift fishing is an active approach that helps you help the catfish find your bait. When in a boat, use a drift rig composed of a slinky or bottom bouncer sinker placed on the line above a barrel swivel to which is attached a two to three-foot leader with a 3/0 circle hook on the end. A small bobber added on the leader just above the hook floats the bait above the bottom so cats can see it. A lot of factors are involved in this tactic, especially wind and current. You’ll have to determine if your bait will float before the boat or trailing behind the boat. Wind and current will let you know. The idea is not to let the bait get too far away from your boat.

What tackle to use is a subject that ranks up there with what’s the best deer rifle to use. I don’t use heavy surf tackle (used for deep sea fishing) but I ensure I have some hefty equipment. Reasons for using large hooks are simple. Cats don’t seem to mind the hardness of the hook or the size when they take the bait. They just take it. Larger 2/0 or 3/0 hooks make it just a little harder for them to swallow. Circle hooks also aid in this. I try to find the better quality hook. You need a sharp hook to drive it through the tough skin of a channel catfish’s mouth. Check for sharpness every time you un-snag your line. If in doubt, change the hook. Keeping a sharp hook will enhance better hook-ups.

Rod and reel choices are many; I feel these are an individual choice. I prefer a medium heavy action rod. I like a rod that bends over with a good channel cat. Choose a rod that is sensitive as channel cats will nibble then take it with a bang. A good sensitive rod will give you a good feel for even the slightest strike. Regarding reels, bait caster or spinning outfits work well, but ensure it will accept larger diameter line. Be sure it has a good drag range as well. Once a large channel catfish gets close to shore, or your boat, it will take a reel with good drag to land it successfully.

Line is a big factor. Even though I am not a big fan of braided line, I use it while channel cat fishing. It offers smaller line diameter for less line drag, as well as less stretch and more strength. Now some will say twenty-five pound braid is a bit of overkill but there are some big channel cats in the river. A ten pound channel catfish will wear out fifteen pound test mono. I know twenty or twenty-five pound braid line is horrible to work with. It is hard to un-snag, but it won’t break and is tough enough to handle multiple heavyweight channel catfish with no trouble. Once you land a twenty pound plus channel cat you’ll be thankful for a larger test line. For leader line I also go large. I use at least twenty pound mono. You can use any choice for leader but keep it larger test.

All the tactics, rigging and methods are proven. One method that can’t be bought is patience. Once a channel catfish is interested in the bait the strike can be hard; often times it’s a series of small strikes followed by a long hard strike. This is where patience comes to play. You need to fight the urge to set the hook until you feel body weight. Then give it a good hard hook set. A large chunk of cut bait is very appetizing to a cat. Some times you’ll have a series of small hits then nothing. Hold on, it’s a good chance that in the next few minutes he’ll come back.

I’ve referred to snagging a lot. Channel cats feed on the bottom more often than any other fish in the river. So to present cut bait on the bottom you need to add weight to keep it there. Over weighting the line makes a poor presentation as well as creating more resistance when the channel cat strikes the bait. If you experience a few hits without the channel cat taking the bait there’s a good chance the channel cat felt resistance and let it go. The idea is to keep it on the bottom, not floating mid current, so under weighting the bait is another consideration. The river current isn’t constant so get the bait down but allow some slack in the line so the weight can settle itself to the bottom.

Swivels are needed with cut or chunk bait because of the nature of the square or chunk. In the current, or at rest, or while reeling in, the bait will spin and twist the line. We all have dealt with line twist, which isn’t fun. A good swivel will eliminate that.

If you shore fish, or from a boat, be flexible when it comes to location; I’ve found that water depth is important. I usually start out in water between five to fifteen feet. I’ve caught channel cats in less than five feet of water and up to twenty-five feet. Structure is more important than depth. I look for holes in the river bottom. Structure followed by a drop in depth is what to target. Cast above the hole and let the bait settle in the hole. I look for current breaks, cut banks that flow into slower water. Submerged trees in the water provide great structure for channel cats. Rocks and big boulders with current and current breaks are a good place to start.

Channel catfish locate prey by using their whiskers. They are not a sight locating fish like, say, a smallmouth. This is why their eyes are small in relation to the body. The beauty of cut bait is while it’s resting on the bottom the current is giving a big scent trail for them to follow. Knowing this, I wait at least twenty minutes before I relocate my bait. During this time raise the rod tip up to make sure the bait is not snagged. If a channel cat is interested and I’ve received a few hits, then nothing, there is a good chance he felt resistance, or the line was hung up on the bottom. Its time then to check the bait and re-locate. I re-bait after an hour in the water; if you do it anymore often the bait will lose a lot of the blood and fish oil that attracts the cats.

Another item needed for channel cat fishing is a big landing net. There are truly some big channel cats in the river. A big landing net will end the fight successfully. Also, to enjoy a night on the river bring plenty of light with you. I found using red light cuts down on the inevitable bugs.

Be careful while handling channel cats. The pectoral fin and the dorsal fin have pointed barbs. The myths are they have poison in them, or they can shoot them like a dart. All are myths, but if you are poked by a barb while handling the fish it can give a puncture wound that stings. The stinging comes from the protective coating (slime) that covers the entire fish. Channel cats don’t have teeth, like a walleye, or pike, but rather rows of sandpaper-like bumps that will give a brush burn on the fingers while unhooking. This is where a net will aid in proper handling.

While I’d rather fish than most anything else, many people find it funny that I don’t eat fish. I never liked the taste. According to the Pennsylvania Fish Commission, along the entire length of the Susquehanna River one should limit his or her consumption of channel cats due to toxins in the river. Take only what you can eat. Practice CPR (catch, photograph, release). It helps protect the resource.

I hope this article inspires you to give channel cats a try. My passion is smallmouth bass but a close second is channel cat fishing. When smallmouth fishing slows down in the summer, channel cat fishing is always a good choice. So whether you’re enjoying the beautiful night sky or the middle of a summer day, a channel catfish will give you all the fight you need.

Bill Milheim has been guiding and fishing for smallmouth and channel catfish on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River for over 25 years.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rich's Bait & Tackle Moving, Auction (Milesburg, PA)

For those in the Bellefonte/Milesburg, PA area, please note that Rich's Bait & Tackle is in the process of moving. Their new address will be 2255 N. Eagle Valley Road (The old Puff Store). They expect to be completely moved by the end of August.

Also, they will be having a moving auction at their current location on August 21st, at 9am.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Susquehanna Fishing Magazine August Issue Now ONLINE!

If you haven't already seen the August issue of Susquehanna Fishing Magaine, you can read it online for free at SusquehannaFishing.com. Back issues are also available.