Monday, May 28, 2012

Just a Walk on the Beach

Serenity.  Peace.  One with nature.  The thrill of discovery and the satisfaction of the find.  The gentle slapping of waves against the shoreline acting as natures sorting machine while lulling you into imagining what life must have been like 65 million years ago along these waters.  That pretty much describes my experiences while beachcombing for fossilized shark teeth.  And it's even better as a family activity.  Imagine walking a beach, perhaps having the beach all to yourself with the only stress being how to navigate by wading around fallen trees or other obstacles, or perhaps climbing over them, to get to fresh collecting areas.  And it's even better when you have someone to share it with.
With fossil material all over the beach, all you have to do is enjoy the peace and quiet, and pick the fossils up off the beach.  What a great activity to share with my daughter, and bring home some of natures treasures as well.
In my case, it's a perfect way for me to bond with my daughter.  We've been collecting shark teeth and other fossils together for many years now.  Each trip results in the satisfaction of finding shark teeth, but more important than that, memories that last a lifetime sharing the experience with a loved one.  The great thing about my daughter now, is that although she's grown into a lovely college aged woman, she still loves to go with me.  And now she's getting back into fishing too, which is even better.

Our last trip was to a location where the finds consisted of Palaeocene shark, ray, and reptilian fossils.  For more information on fossils from this era, check out my post titled, "Catching Prehistoric Sharks".  We took some good friends from New York that were down for the weekend on a fossiling trip along with us in hopes of finding Otodus obliquus teeth, fossilized teeth of a gigantic great white shark of that era that grew from thirty to forty feet in length or perhaps some of the rarer teeth from that era.
Otodus obliquus, far left, was believed to be an ancestor of the famous gigantic shark Carcharocles megalodon (far right).

Palaeocarcharodon orientalis.  Photo courtesy of Kevin May.
We all had a goal of finding teeth from two species of fossilized shark teeth from that time are very rare, the pygmy great white shark Palaeocarcharodon orientalis, and a bottom dwelling shark similar to todays cat sharks, Paraorthacodus clarkii, along with the impressive Otodus teeth.  You also have a chance to find crocodile and ratfish teeth.  But the most common type of tooth found there are those of the sand tiger sharks.

Sand tiger sharks were the dominant species of that time.  Not that they were the most dominant of sharks, rather, the number of species of that type of shark far outnumbered other types of sharks.

Last week, one of our friends found a worn but rather large (for this location) Palaeocarcharodon orientalis tooth within the first ten minutes after our arrival.  Amazing.  You never know what or when you'll find something like that!  My daughter and I weren't so lucky, but we did manage to find a good many shark teeth including some nice Otodus obliquus teeth and a pile of sand tiger shark teeth.
Otodus teeth like this one found by my daughter a couple years ago of this size are rare.  Although we didn't find any like this one on this trip, we did find several teeth up to an inch and a half long though, which are also a nice addition to our collection.

Although I didn't find the rare teeth, I did manage to find six nice Otodus teeth (top row) with the biggest having a slant height of an inch and a half.  I also found a piece of pottery (bottom left).

My daughter's finds on the trip, including a crocodile tooth (bottom left just above that piece of turtle shell).  She found some huge sand tiger shark teeth too (second and third row).
Finding shark teeth on the beach can be easy as some of them just seem to appear by themselves on the beach.  Others are much tougher to find because they blend in with the rocks, pebbles, sand and shell fragments making them difficult to see.  All it takes is one wave to wash away some sand and uncover a tooth.  There are other fossils there too, like internal molds of gastropods or even entire shells.  I've added a few of these to my collection over the years, but my preference is to collect vertebrate fossils, especially shark teeth.
Although I prefer to collect vertebrate fossils like shark teeth but have added some gastropod fossils to my collection over the years, sometimes it's nice to find them all in one nice neat package.  Here is a shark tooth in matrix combined with an internal mold of the gastropod, Turritella.

See the Otodus tooth?  It's to the right of my skimmer tool.
Here's a close up of the Otodus tooth.

All it takes is one wave to wash a little sand away and uncover a tooth (center).
When the wave clears, here's the treasure left behind.  A nice sized Otodus tooth.
We also observed tournament anglers practicing for a big tournament later that weekend.  Prior to them moving to our location, large fish were feeding on the surface just a cast off shore.  The commotion was far too much for largemouth bass, so my guess was that they were either large striped bass feeding on shad or herring, or perhaps big blue catfish.  Either way, the fish busting the surface were massive.  I wondered if any of those anglers had hooked anything like that during the day while targeting largemouth.

Another plus while beachcombing for shark teeth is that you often see things that most people don't get to see when it comes to nature.  Like hunting and fishing, fossil collectors often encounter wildlife.  Sometimes we'll encounter deer, fox, mink, or just about any animal that frequents a river bank.  The other day, we found a breeding pair of five lined skink.  These beautiful lizards could care less that we were there and let us sneak up to take a picture.
We were able to sneak up and take a picture of this breeding pair of five lined skinks. 
So, last week we had a great time sharing a fossiling spot with our friends Mike, Mike and Nick from New York.  In return, they invited us to collect at some of their spots further North.  I think that we'll take them up on their offer.  We had a great time socializing with them and collecting.

For me, any time I can get out with my daughter outdoors is a great day, whether it's finding shark teeth on the beach or out on a fishing trip.  I can't think of a better way to spend time with someone you care about.  Can you?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nanofil - FBO's Final Analysis and Review

I've used Nanofil exclusively on my open water spinning tackle, with the four pound test on my ultralight panfish set up, and for my bass and walleye finesse fishing rigs, I'm sold on the twelve pound test.
Using the twelve pound Nanofil allows me to put the boots to 'em on my hooksets.  I no longer worry about break offs and still get great casting distance while casting all of my finesse bass stuff.
Why twelve pound?  Because I was tired of breaking off on the hook set.  It was too much for my feeble mind to remember to hold back.  I like to put the boots to the fish on the hookset.  It's habit, and I've been doing it for years.  The good thing using the twelve pound test is that, although I've sacrificed the casting distance that the thinner diameter Nanofil had to offer, I'm still casting further than any other line that I've used in the past, and I have yet to break a fish off on the hook set.

Edit:  When I had problems with the lighter versions of Nanofil, I was used a Palomar and Double Palomar knots.  With the twelve pound Nanofil, I've used the Palomar without any issues.

The only maintenance that I've done to keep the breakoffs from happening is that the line will fray after a while and weaken, so I trim a couple feet off prior to each trip.  To keep the spool full, all I have to do is to replace the lost line every once in a while with backing (by transferring from one spool to another).

Memory?  There is no memory.

About the visibility?  I have yet to use my fluorocarbon spool or a fluorocarbon leader in over six months of fishing with it.  The fish don't seem to mind the white color even in gin clear water, and between you and me, I can see it better and that makes for good jigging in my book.
Even when fishing gin clear water, the Nanofil twelve pound with the white color passed my test.  I have yet to use any fluorocarbon leader or my other fluorocarbon spool in over six months since using Nanofil line.
Nanofil isn't quite as strong as similar diameter super lines, but it's pretty close, and stronger than monofilament or fluorocarbon lines of the same diameter.  Also, like superlines, it doesn't have any stretch.

Also, after putting the light stuff on my panfish set up, I haven't gone back to mono or fluoro either, and I've caught a ton of panfish in the last six months.  I haven't had any breaks on the hook set, but also using a slower action ultralight power panfish rod may help with that.  And, I've caught some decent bass and chain pickerel on that set up while panfishing.  Using the Nanofil also allows me to cast my ultralight jigs further than with other lines.
While panfishing, the Nanofil held up well for me on chain pickerel and plenty of bass like this one...
...and plenty of slab crappie have fallen victim to my ultralight rig and jigs using Nanofil.
I'm sold on this line until something better comes out.  Is it perfect?  Nope, but it's the best that I've used to date.  What step in technology that will get me to change?  How about making a line just like this with the clarity of fluorocarbon line?

Bottom line on the line, is that when using this stuff for the right purpose, and choosing the right diameter for the right application, this line should produce for you too.  Is it for every application?  I don't know the answer to that.  I like it for working finesse plastics for bass, and for catching panfish on my ultralight set up.  I've also caught some nice walleye in our local rocky rivers, chain pickerel in weedy ponds, and even striped bass while bass fishing without any issues.

For those that have recently started following this blog and missed the other reviews, you can find them here:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Do Nothing Bliss

Naw, I don't mean laying around the house watching WFN repeats of Hookin' Up With Mariko Izumi and eating bon bons.  I'm talking about a type of finesse plastic bait that brings bass to the boat during the spawn and post spawn when they seem to ignore just about anything else, the soft stickbait.  On top of that, these baits are productive all year long. 
Soft stick baits produce fish like this all day long, and to me that is do nothing bliss!!!!
For those that aren't familiar with these, years ago Gary Yamamoto designed a bait that he coined the Senko, which basically took the shape of a ball point pen.  It had no curly tail, no ribbon fact, it had no tail at all.  I guess it has a head end and a tail end, but honestly, they work so well that I fish them either end head first to get the most use out of them!
Gary Yamamoto Baits Senko (third from top) can be fished any number of ways, but it must be fished!
Over the years, these baits not only became popular, but have won tournaments and a lot of money for some people.  But, for weekend warriors like me, they simply catch fish.  Not only that, they can be fished a variety of ways, and bass simply love 'em.  You can fish them weighted or unweighted, Texas rigged, Carolina rigged, wacky rigged, drop shotted, on a shaky head or nose hooked with a circle or octopus hook, bit in half, thirds or quarters.  There is no wrong way to fish them except not fishing them.
My buddy Howard knows first hand about nice bass like this one that love soft stickbaits like the Senko
I recall a trip to a pond on Maryland's Eastern Shore many years ago when the Senko was just out on the market.  My buddy Howard and his significant other, April, were fishing out of his Coleman Crawdad cartopper boat, and I was fishing my buddy Bill's boat, on a decent late spring day when the bass weren't particularly easy to catch, but certainly catchable  We fished hard for our bites, tossing plastic worms with some success, jigging and worming, working our baits as any skilled angler might as to tempt chunky bass from their weedy or woody lairs.

Meanwhile, April was reading a book while perched in the front seat of Howard's Crawdad, with one line out dragging a Senko behind the boat.  Next thing you know, her rod tip is thrashing about and she's reeling in a decent two pound largemouth.  This happened again and again, and enough that she probably had to read a good many pages over again and again.  In fact, she didn't really have much time to read at all and wound up outfishing all of us two bass to one.  And it wasn't even close.  Her secret?  Do nothing!

Most soft stickbaits have similar traits to the Senko.  They're heavily salt impregnated, so they are heavy and sink much faster than other soft plastic baits.  They're also very soft, and when fish hit them, they hang on to them forever, and will swallow them if you don't set the hook quickly.  The action is really impressive, although they don't appear like they'd do much, they flutter down and kind of wiggle tantilizingly, and often glide in one direction or the other on the fall, sometimes taking the lure deeper under a weed mat or into the cover.

You can fish soft stickbaits in the rivers, creeks, ponds or your local lake, and fish them just about any time of year.  Often when other soft plastics aren't drawing the strikes that you'd expect, these do nothing baits will put either numbers of bass in the boat or good sized ones, or both.
Howard fooled this bass on a five inch Senko when the bite was tough.
Senkos, and their cousin the Kinami Flash, are available in several sizes and colors.  There are many other brands on the market these days with their own version, and many of them are quite good also.  I've tried some with great success, and have yet to be disappointed with any of them.  I've also tried Case Plastics Magic Sticks, which are somewhat more durable with a firmer plastic, a Yum version that has a hook slot, and Bass Pro Shops Stick-O.  They all work well.
Toothy critters like this chain pickerel love 'em too.
There are also many versions out now, some with tails, some slim, some fat, some short and stout.  They all work well, so find one that works for you and fish it.  My favorite is the four inch regular version, but also regularly use the five and six inch sizes.  My favorite technique this time of year is to Texas rig them without weight, cast them out, and jig them, and if the fish are agressive, twitch them a few times and pause, and repeat.  Try working them quick at first, but if you don't get hits, slow things down, sometimes way down to a do nothing approach. 
Reservoir smallies munch on soft stickbaits as if they're candy during late spring.
Yet, sometimes the best technique is to simply toss them into the cover and let them flutter down.  This works well Texas style, but even better when wacky rigging.  Bass can't resist them.  When fishing them in a river, toss them along a current seam and let them drift along an eddy where fat smallmouth bass lie in ambush.  Or, cast them up and across current, and let them drift down past river obstacles such as logs and rocks, where aggressive smallies on the feed will crush and hang on to them.
In rivers, toss a Senko amongst the rock piles and get ready for a bite from a hungry smallmouth.
If the Senko has one knock against it, they're soft, and fish hit them so often that they tend to tear them up.  And they're a bit pricy.  But, there are things that you can do to achieve more longevity out of each one.  When wacky rigging, you can use a wacky rig tool along with small rubber rings to hold the hook on your rig.  Others use small rubber bands.  Still others fish the pieces after they fall apart, and others, like me, weld them back together with a soldering iron.  I never throw the pieces away.

I'm not saying that the Senko is better than any other brand, but it's the one that got me started fishing these.  I keep fishing them, perhaps habit, perhaps because they work, so why change if you're catching fish on them, right?  I've used other brands when I've found colors or features that I like that I can't get from a Senko. 

For more information on fishing Senkos, check this article out, "Senko Secrets", by Steve Price on Inside Line online magazine.

The bottom line is that, if you haven't fished these do nothing style lures, you could be missing out on some quality bassin'.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Bite

You know where the bass are there because you've fished your spot countless times over the years.  The water is crystal clear, leaving you with the first impression that the bass might be spooky.  It doesn't matter what time of year it is at this spot, because the bass always seem to hang out in this area all year long.  It's the perfect spot for bass to ambush unsuspecting prey with plenty of cover, a drop off to deeper water, and during this time of year, vegetation.  On this day, you're facing typical cold front conditions with Northwest winds at ten to fifteen miles per hour and bluebird skies, not exactly ideal bassin' weather.  You normally work these areas with crankbaits, spinnerbaits or buzzbaits, looking for that big fish reaction bite.  But today, you're finesse fishing, because you know that under tough conditions, this is your go to technique.  You aren't worried, because you know that you'll get "the bite".  Maybe a big fish, or maybe a lot of bites, or maybe both.
One of my favorite things in fishing, catching bass on a plastic worm, and getting "the bite".
Most people don't like fishing these conditions; bluebird skies, annoying relentless winds creating a bow in your line, and crystal clear water.  Yet, you know that with these conditions, the wind piles up warmer water along the woody shoreline, also breaking up the surface and decreasing the ability of prey to see predators that lurk in the heavy, until it's too late.  Today, the bass should relate tightly to the wood or hide under the mats of weeds.  Reaction baits may work, but your past experience has shown the fish to be picky under these conditions at your honey hole.

You pitch your plastic worm right into a hole through  a tangle of branches in a huge blowdown.  Your offering falls slowly as you watch your line intensely for the slightest movement that should indicate a strike.  You're using a superline, where the lack of stretch gives you confidence that when a bass bites, you can easily drive that hook home on your hook set.  You position your rod to minimize the bow in the line as much as possible for two reasons, to allow your lure to fall naturally through the cover, and to feel the bite as easily as possible.

And then, you feel it.  "The bite".  It's not a bone jarring strike, nor does it rip the rod from your hands.  Rather, it's a suble tap, as if someone gently flicked their fingernail against the blank of your rod.  Immediately, you sense the weight of the fish beginning to move away with what it assumes is an easy meal.  You drop your rod tip and crank up a little slack line, and with a quick short snap of your wrist, drive the hook home.
Long time fishing bud Howard Boltz knows "the bite" as well, recognizing it early enough to set the hook into this fine largemouth bass.
Then the bass goes ballistic, diving deep into the cover against the force of your rod.  You put pressure on the fish to oppose it's will to escape, and turn the fish successfully.  The fish tries to dive once again, but your drag is tight, and there's nowhere for it to go.  Your superline is much stronger than the rated pound test, and soon you move the fish out of it's woody lair.  You reach down and grab the bass by the lower jaw and hoist your trophy out of the water.
My friend Steve felt "the bite", nailing this hawg on a plastic worm.
In my opinion, I live for that bite.  That's when I know when I'm doing everything right, the way that I need to perform.  I know that I'm on the verge of bassin' success for that day.  I know that when I can get that first bite, I can get more.  And after catching that first bass, I'm greedy...I want more bites.  And when you're in a zone, worm fishing can do that for you.

There are other exciting bites in fishing.  Many are very exciting, like a bass slamming a buzzbait at boat side, or a musky attacking a blade bait at boatside after a figure eight finishing retrieve, or a massive striper crushing a crankbait at the end of your cast.  Some bites are so explosive at the boat side that you may feel the need to change your drawers!  Even in bassing, the spinnerbait or crankbite bite is a very addictive, adrenaline generating event.
Crash Mullin's demonstrates "the bite" in this awesome and humerous video.  It can't get much more exciting when a musky follows your cast and you draw a strike after going into a figure eight.  He has a great fishing show, by the way.  "The Bite" gets your adrenaline going for sure!!!!

It's not the braggin' style photos posing for fish that I live for, nor is it the numbers, and it's certainly not just the activity outdoors that many say, "a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work".  On the contrary, I live for "the bite".  And I live for lots of them!!!!!!