Monday, September 19, 2011

How To Fish

I was doing some research on fishing topics and discovered "How To Fish" is a frequently searched subject on Google.  I was a little surprised by that, I have used the Internet to look for tips and tricks to improve my fishing, but I hadn't thought of people actually learning how to fish online.

I suppose I was fortunate to have family that enjoyed the outdoors and taught me how to fish at a young age.  I grew up going camping near the water and frequently trying to catch the stocked Rainbows at many of the Colorado lakes and reservoirs.   I started learning how to tie fishing knots, select lures and even how to thread a worm.  As I grew older I sought to add to that knowledge and experience by trying new things.  I have learned how to fly fish, use lead core and downriggers.  I have traveled to lakes, such as Blue Mesa Reservoir, specifically trying to catch a new species of fish (that trip was for Kokanee Salmon).

Artic Greyling in Alaska

But seeing the amount of searches for "How To Fish," made me think that there are a lot of people out there who either never had the opportunity to learn how to fish, or maybe they learned it as a child and haven't used it since.  Either way, they recognize that millions of people enjoy getting out on the water and trying to catch fish.  They simply want to know how to get started.  I can understand that it would be intimidating or frustrating to walk into a store, such as Bass Pro, and try to pick out a rod and reel without knowing a lot about them.  The selections is huge and without knowing what style reel to pick, or what lures and baits you will need for your local waters, it might be easier to just walk away without choosing anything.

Lake Trout at Green Mountain Reservoir

If you are reading this and you are just trying to learn how to fish, don't give up.  Try to find a friend or family member that can take you out to a local lake or stream.  You will learn much faster trying the techniques in person, with someone that knows what they're doing, rather than trying to read about it online.  Maybe you can go with a couple different friends, that way you can try different types of reels, baitcasters, spinners, etc.  Then when you decide to go into the sporting good store to pick out a rod and reel you will have an idea of what is more comfortable for you.

Here are some informational articles for additional reading:

What is It?
Getting Set Up
One the water
What is a downrigger?
Do you need the latest fishing gear?
Learning from the locals.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fishing Trip Checklist

If you're like me, you've probably showed up at a lake, realizing that you forgot an important piece of gear.  It's usually not the same piece, after all, once you forget it the first time, you will probably make sure you grab it the next time.  Whether your trip is a short one to a local lake, or a cross country trip that involves flying or driving long distance, make sure you are organized.

Don't forget your favorite lures!
Here is a list that you can use to help plan what you need to bring on your trip.  While I've tried to include as much as possible, it isn't necessarily all inclusive.  Make sure you add or subtract items from your personal list as needed.

Fishing License!
(It isn't fun to forget this, and you don't want to add a ticket to your trip experience.)

  • Rods and Reels
  • Hooks, Lures, etc as needed,  if you use multiple tackle boxes, double check that have everything you need.
  • Weights
  • Extra line
  • Bait,  worms, live bait, Power Bait, etc.

  • Make sure your clothing is appropriate to your local weather and time of year.
  • Hat
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Jacket,  at least a rain jacket, heavier if the weather dictates.
  • More insulation layers than you think you will need.
  • Gloves, both for the cold and if you use them for handling fish.
  • An extra pair of shoes or boots with extra socks.

  • More water than you think you will need.
  • Meals, plan according to how long your trip will be.
  • Snacks, enough to keep the "edge off," but also bring a little more than you think you will need.
  • Gum, candy, etc, depending on your preferences.

Don't forget your GPS!
  • Knife, pocket, fillet, etc.
  • Extras of anything mentioned above.
  • Map
  • GPS
  • Sunscreen
  • Cell phone
  • First Aid Kit
  • Flashlight
  • Insect Repellent
  • Pliers
  • Scale and measure tape for your catch
  • Copy of local fishing regulations

Hopefully, by planning exactly what items you will take with you on your next fishing trip you can reduce the frustration from gear left at home.  You may not carry every one of these items on your person every time, but hopefully you have them available in your vehicle, or camp nearby.

What other items are on your list?  Share your must have fishing equipment that I missed in the comment section below.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Do You Need The Latest Greatest Fishing Gear?

As with any other sport, fishing magazines and TV shows are full of ads for the latest and greatest products.  If we follow the ads and what we see the pros using on TV, we might assume that in order to fish well, we will need the newest equipment that we can buy.  We might even get the impression that we need to update our equipment whenever there is a newer product that offers some small advantage.

I recently posted that I added a Humminbird 768 Fish Finder to my boat.  I enjoyed the extra information and detail that the fish finder provides.  We tested it out at Green Mountain Reservoir, locating schools of fish and getting better readings of the depth than we could with our older fish finder.
A reel with lead core line

One thing about the fish finder though, is that it can't catch fish for you!  Sure, it can help you catch fish, but ultimately your success or failure will boil down to how you interpret and use the information that the fish finder provides.

We noticed at Green Mountain Reservoir that despite covering a lot of water and noticing fish around the lake, we were only successful fishing in one certain area.  You can read more about it here.  But to sum it up, we spent a lot of time without catching anything, but one we returned to the area where we had been marking fish, we started catching fish again.
Top of the line fish finder
So did the more expensive fish finder help us?  Or was it just the realization that we needed to be fishing where we had caught them earlier in the day?  In reality, the fish finder helped us to locate where a good number of fish were located, but our decision to return to the fish we had marked came from advice I had received in the past about locating fish and returning to them to try different depths and lures until you figure out what they want to bite on.  So while the technology helped, experience affected the way I decided to use it.

Technology certainly isn't bad.  There are many technological improvements that really do increase your chances of catching fish.  But in the end, it is ultimately up to the fish and whether or not it decides to take your bait or lure.  It isn't wrong to want to update equipment, or to add a piece that you don't have.  But no amount of technology will guarantee you a fish on your line.  You must balance your desire for new equipment with the knowledge that some times it is better to spend your money on gas so that you can actually go fishing.  All the newest, greatest fishing gear will get you nothing if you can't afford to go fishing after you buy it.

What technology do you find is helpful for your fishing?  What equipment do you find to be highly over-rated?  Share it with us in the comment section below.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Green Mountain Reservoir

Green Mountain Reservoir is located in north of Silverthorne 16 miles along Highway 9.  Although many people are more likely to recognize Dillon Reservoir because of its location near I-70, Green Mountain Reservoir is a popular location for those looking to enjoy fishing and water contact sports.  Green Mountain Reservoir offers over 2100 surface acres of water when it is full and has plenty of opportunites for boating, camping and fishing.

Green Mountain Reservoir serves as a storage location for water that is sent to Denver from Dillon Reservoir.  As Denver draws more water, more water is released from Green Mountain Reservoir to end up eventually in the Colorado River, providing steadier water flows to states down river.  As a result water levels in Green Mountain can fluctuate widely.  While not as big of an issue for shore fisherman, make sure that if you will be boating at the reservoir that you have a quality map with you.  When the water is down, watch out for rocks and other submerged hazards, especially in the shallower north west end of the lake.

Green Mountian offers fishing opportunites for Rainbow and Brown Trout, Lake Trout and Kokanee Salmon.  My dad and I made a trip shortly before this post and caught 17 Lake Trout and 1 Kokanee, most of them in about a two hour period of time.  You can read that trip report here.

The Town of Heeney and Green Mountain Reservoir

2123 Surface Acres of Water
Boat Ramps- Heeney and McDonald Flats
Marina that offer boat rentals and tackle
Rental slips on the water
Public docks near the town of Dillon for parking, picnic area
Fishing for the following species:
Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Kokanee Salmon, Lake Trout
Multiple campgrounds located around the lake.
The lake is free to use, camping and parking may have associated fees.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hiking In The Maroon Bells Wilderness

For any resident of Colorado, Maroon Bells is an easily recognizable landmark.  Nearly all gift shops in Colorado seem to have a post card or print available featuring Maroon Bells, typically with snow on the peaks, and a reflection in Maroon Lake below it.   The scene is so popular that many people outside of Colorado are also familiar with it.  The iconic scene was used by the state of Utah for tourism posters at one time, and it was featured in the logo of Molson Canadian beer.  At the bottom of this article is some information about the crowds of people drawn to the fall colors at Maroon Lake this year.

Maroon Bells over Maroon Lake
The popularity of the area brings millions of visitors each year, wanting to get their own photograph of the famous peaks.  These 14ers also attract hikers and climbers hoping to summit the peaks.  While such a beautiful location attracts so many visitors, the majority of them do not venture far from Maroon Lake, which is pictured above.  For anyone willing to hike a little further, the Maroon Bells Wilderness offers an escape from vehicles and other mechanical devices.  
Tear resistant map for Maroon Bells
Planning a trip to Maroon Bells must start with thoughts towards transportation.  During the summer, buses ferry hikers and sight seers up the last few miles towards Maroon Lake.  If you are planning on seeing Maroon Bells from Memorial Day to Labor Day, plan on taking one of the buses up.  If you want to backpack in the area, there are registration cards just past the lake.  There is no associated charge, but the park service does like to keep track of how many people are actually using the back country.  Make sure you get a good map of the area too, at right is the National Geographic series map for the area.  I own several of the National Geographic maps.  They are made from water and tear resistant material and have trails marked.
A good guide book can help you 
If you aren't sure where to go, or you want a little more information about trail difficulty and what to see, consider getting a guide book.  I have used Falcon Guide books for several parts of Colorado and can highly recommend them.

Wherever you end up going, be cautious, as Maroon Bells has earned the nickname "Deadly Bells."  Because of loose rock and steep terrain, the Maroon Bells can quickly take the life of anyone that ventures beyond their experience level or anyone that isn't paying attention to their surroundings.  For the average hiker, sticking to the established trails through the valleys will yield a beautiful, safe trip.  For anyone looking to try climbing the Bells, make sure that you have experience with other locations and similar conditions.  The Maroon Bells Wilderness is not a place for a first time climber looking to bag a 14er.  

Whether you want to see the iconic landscape from the typical vantage point, or if you want to trek deep into the wilderness, Maroon Bells has something to offer everyone.  Let me know what you think about the wilderness area in the comment section below.

Photographing The Fall Colors

As you might guess by the nearby town of Aspen, the area around Maroon Bells is famous for groves of Aspen that turn to beautiful shades of yellow and gold as the days shorten.  In the beginning of October, 2011 the forest service reported that over 5,000 people traveled to Maroon Lake each day as the colors in the Aspen hit their peak.  The beautiful colors certainly add to the picturesque view from Maroon Lake.

Unfortunately the hordes of people have caused the Forest Service to re-think how they will allow access to that part of the National Forest.  They may have to restrict vehicle travel or something along those lines to ease the pressure that it places on the natural resources.  Hopefully we will all still be able to enjoy the views and the colors for years to come.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes holds a special place in my memories.  As a young boy I can remember frequently fishing along the shore near the boat ramp and along the rocks near the power pump house.  In fact, when I was younger you could fish right along the walls of the pump house.  Of course these days you can no longer do that.  For security concerns you have to stay further away from the building itself.  I also remember a time as a young boy when we were fishing along the boat ramp, as we fished the Colorado Division of Wildlife came and started stocking the lake from the ramp.  Almost every cast from my red and white Daredevil produced a little stocker Rainbow Trout.  We threw them all back, but it made for a very exciting time for a little kid.

Twin Lakes is located along Highway 82, which leads up and over Independence Pass, connecting the Arkansas Valley with Aspen.  The highway is closed in the winter, but while it is open it offers a beautiful drive up and over the Continental Divide.  In fact, to the northwest of the lake is Colorado's tallest peak, Mt. Elbert.  

Twin Lakes also has several historic buildings on the south side of the lower lake.  While these buildings were previously in disarray and boarded up, the last time I was there they were being restored.  In fact I was able to take my kids through one of the buildings, not only had it been restored to the point that you could go in, but there was even a log book to sign in your visit.  

2440 Surface Acres of Water
Boat Ramp on the lower lake
Picnic areas and camping along the lake
Fishing for the following species:
Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Kokanee Salmon, Lake Trout
Multiple campgrounds located west of the lake along the highway.
The lake has day fees for use, camping may also have associated fees.

Want to try start climbing some of Colorado's Fourteeners?  Check out some of these guide books to get you started.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What Is A Downrigger?

When fishing by boat, trolling offers the means to cover large amounts of water, while you search for and locate where the fish are located.  I've heard it said that 95% of the surface water of a lake contains no fish.  That means that in order to catch fish while out on a boat, you need to get your baits and lures down to where the fish are.  While there are several methods for doing so, in this post we are going to take a quick look at downriggers and what they have to offer.

A downrigger is a device that allows a heavy weight to be lowered into the water.  The fishing line is then attached to the weight and lowered to the desired depth.  When a fish takes the bait, the line is released from the weight and the the angler is left fighting only the fish, not the weight that was used to get the line down the water column.  Let's take a look at the parts of the downrigger:

The Downrigger

The downrigger itself is the actual device that makes this all possible.  It attches the boat, more on that in a minute, and offers a spool of wire (or sometimes heavy fishing line), an arm to get the line out away from the boat, and a pulley to facilitate dropping the weight or bringing it up.  Depending on the model, the downrigger can either be manually or automatically controlled.

Simple Clamp on downrigger
At right is a very simple downrigger with a clamp mount.  It can be used to attach the downrigger to a small boat or canoe to give small watercraft owners an additional method for fishing their favorite waters.  The compact design and ease of attaching/detatching this style make it easy to remove when it isn't needed, or pulled off for storage.  This is generally the cheapest style of downrigger to buy, but works best with lighter weights.

Manual downrigger
Stepping up, the downrigger at left offers a little more durability, while still being fairly affordable.  This type mounts to a special mounts that is typically either attached to the boat.  It offers a longer arm, to get the cable and weight further away from the boat and it gives you a little more leverage when reeling up the weight.  Although different brands may vary a little bit from each other, they will typically hold around 200 feet of stainless steel cable, making them useful at most freshwater depths.  (Especially here in Colorado).  If you don't need, or can't afford an electric downrigger, the manual models can offer you a lifetime of fishing for a fair value.

Fully loaded electronic downrigger

The next model, at left, is the electronic downrigger.  This main difference is that they offer you the ability to raise and lower the weight at the push of a button, rather than physically cranking a lever.  Not only is it easier (imagine raising and lowering the weight a couple dozen times when you the fish are really biting!), but it also allows you to bring the weight up while you are still fighting the fish.  This reduces the chance of the fish becoming entangled in the cable and leaves the weight at the water line, ready to go when you bring your fish in.  Some electronic models can even be connected to a fish finder, allowing for depth adjustments from the finder as you locate schools of fish, or the water depth changes.

The Line

Typically, stainless steel cable is used to attach the line.  The cable doesn't stretch and is plenty strong to keep you from losing the weight.  Some people also use heavy duty braided fishing lines instead of the wire.  This fishing line provides less drag, resulting the weight dropping deeper, and prevents the "hum" sometimes associated with the wire.

Downrigger weight
The Weight

The weight is what brings your fishing line down to the depth that you want it at.  Sometimes referred to as "Canonballs," due to their round shape and lead composition, they come in different weights, such as 4, 6, 8, 10, 12lbs.  The heavier weights allow greater depths when moving fast or when you have a lot of cable out.  The weights typically have two eyelets, one to connect the cable to and another for your release.  There are also a wide variety of colors available, plus you can paint them any color you would like.  While black is the classic color, you can try different colors to see what works for you.

The Release

Line release
The release is the ever important device that allows your line to be attached to the weight, but to release once a fish bites it.  There are different amounts of grip that a release can have, varying from a light grip, to a heavy grip.  The light versions are perfect for shallower waters and smaller fish.  The stronger versions are designed for fishing deeper depths and for hard hitting fish that need a little more resistance for setting the hook.  The release can be one of the most frustrating parts of using a downrigger, you want enough tension that it doesn't release prematurely, but you need it loose enough that it doesn't drag any fish that you hook.  Setting the release takes practice to set it properly and consistently.

Hopefully you have an idea of what makes up a downrigger.  Check back for more articles on how to use your downrigger.

If you want to try a different method of trolling, namely lead core, check out my three article series on using lead core line:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

As I post this, Labor Day weekend is starting.  To a lot of people, Labor Day tends to mark the end of the summer.  Kids are back in school, fall is approaching, which will bring with it cooler weather and eventually snow here in Colorado.  Labor Day weekend is the last big chance for many people to go camping.

I'm going to be headed to the mountains for the weekend.  I get to see some family, as well as hopefully spend some time enjoying the mountains.  While I never look forward to the crowds associated with a holiday weekend, I am looking forward to getting to spend some time in the wild.  

This shouldn't be my last chance to be outside this year, I still have some camping and fishing planned in the coming months.  If you are headed out to enjoy the mountains this weekend, be safe and enjoy yourself!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Are Pike Aggressive?

I haven't really shared video links in the past, other than the few videos  I have made.  But after looking around at a couple other interesting videos I decided I would post a couple that I found interesting.

Any one that fishes for Pike will have heard at least one that they are an aggressive fish.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, for one, they aren't as picky about what they will eat as other fish.  In fact will feed on pretty much anything they can get their sharp little teeth on.

Here is a video that I came across that illustrates just how aggressive Pike can be.  

The next video doesn't have any poor, suffering ducklings, but it does illustrate how a Pike will go after a fish, something that is more expected than the previous video.

What do you think of the videos?  Would you like to see more interesting links, or do you prefer my original content?  Let me know in the comment section below.