Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The frightful fishzilla, the northern snakehead, an invader normally native to China, Russia and Korea, is now found in tidal Maryland waters.  That's bad news for our ecosystem.  As I blogged yesterday, I caught my first snakehead this weekend, a 36 and 1/2 inch, fourteen pound brute that mangled a white chatterbait with a plastic worm trailer.  I took some pics, killed it, took it home and grilled it (well, broiled it).  Here's that post in case you missed it:  Monster Toothy Fish of the Potomac.
Snakeheads like this one eat just about anything that they can swallow.  They are an apex predator.  But guess what?  They ran into another apex predator...me!  And boy did it taste good!!!!
There is a bright side however, being that they are willing biters on bass tackle, fight like gangbusters, and taste fantastic.

That's right, they taste fantastic.  I promised to grill snakehead for my wife this evening, but things didn't quite work out as planned.  The big storm that knocked everyone's power out a while back also knocked over my grill.  I didn't realize it until tonight that the damage requires more than minor repair.

So, I had to move to plan B, cook indoors.  So, between you and me, my promised recipe should be termed, broiled snakehead rather than grilled snakehead.  Regardless of the method, my wife scarfed hers down with gusto while at the same time trying to get the ugly mug of the snakehead out of her mind.  And, I'll admit, I stuffed myself silly on the remaining filet cuts...and we still have enough for another meal or two in the 'fridge.
Here's the frightful snakehead in it's rightful Maryland environment...on my broiler pan!  YUM!

I didn't cook a gourmet meal by any means, serving my newly discovered fish filets with Ore Ida Tater Tots.  But man was it ever a tasty meal.
My recipe?  It's not gourmet by any means.  In fact, we served it with extra crispy Ore Ida Tater Tots.  Good eats, but hardly gourmet.  I'd cook it all again in a heartbeat if I wasn't so plum full right now though.  OK, I'll get to it, and you can't get much simpler:

McCormick Grill Mates Roasted Garlic and Herb and
a little olive oil is all I needed for a tasty meal of
broiled snakehead filets.
1)  roll the snakehead filets in extra virgin olive oil.

2)  sprinkle McCormick's Roasted Garlic and Herb Grillmates spice on both sides

3)  broil 8 to 10 minutes on each side

4)  scarf it down.

It's that easy, and yes, it's that delicious.  I recommend the bass fishing throughout the Upper Tidal Potomac, and as a bonus, I wish you the best of luck in nabbing a snakehead. 

Do Maryland a favor and kill a snakehead, and do yourself, your family or friends a favor and take it home, filet it and grill it.  This meal will bring you all nothing but smiles and satisfaction, guaranteed!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monster Toothy Fish of the Potomac

Legend has it that a species of gigantic fanged ferocious prehistoric fish exists, that breathes air and is capable of climbing out of the depths and flopping across vast tracts of land to invade other waters, attacks farm animals and high school teens, leaving death, destruction and terror in its wake...and that fish is the northern snakehead, Channa argus.

All of the above statement is fact, as long as you believe what you've seen in the movies.  A couple films portrayed the fish as some sort of monster that can leave the water, run down, and mutilate or eat residents of waterfront communities.  The movies, Snakehead Terror and Frankenfish (no relationship to Senator Al Franken), following a highly publicized wave of media coverage about this invasive species discovered in a Crofton Maryland pond, certainly helped to sensationalize and demonize snakeheads.
Fear not, guys like Steve Kelley are doing their part to protect your lives from these monsterous killer fish!  Steve caught two of these on plastic worms while bass fishing this spring, both in the same day.  In fact, they were taken on near back to back casts!!!!    Picture courtesy of Steve Kelley.
OK, truth be known, perhaps I've exaggerated a bit.  The Maryland DNR is still quite concerned about the ecological impact that the northern snakehead may have on the fisheries in the state, as are the neighboring states of Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.  It's illegal to posess live snakeheads in Maryland or to transport them across state lines for that reason.
Granted, the extremely toothy powerful jaws of the northern snakehead are fearsome, especially to any critter that can fit in it's massive mouth.  But it's hardly the monster that the movies made it out to be.    Picture courtesy of Rodger Moran.
If you catch a snakehead in Maryland, state law demands that you kill the snakehead immediately.  Don't even think about keeping it alive in your livewell, lest you risk a hefty fine if caught.  You can visit the Maryland DNR site to learn just about everything you need to know about these fish including how to identify them, and even see a video on how to kill them. 

The Maryland DNR even sports a contest where, if you post a picture on their website, you stand a chance to win a $200 gift certificate to Bass Pro Shops, a fishing license, or a couple other prizes.  Last years efforts proved to be quite a success with a large number of anglers submitting pictures of their dead snakeheads.  Here's the press release for this year's contest: 


Snakeheads currently are fished by either rod and reel or bow, and more and more people are reporting catches each year.  And the fish are getting bigger and bigger each year.  There are snakehead tournaments too.  All of these provide something new for those fishing in Maryland, another form of recreational activity or sport.  Let's face it.  These fish are here to stay.  When fishing for them, they hit hard, fight hard, get big, are toothy, and guess what?  They taste great!
Death to snakeheads!!!!  Here's Steve's second of the day.  I swear that this fish did a summersault when he set the hook on that plastic worm!    Picture courtesy of Steve Kelley.
Not only do they seem to have become a new sought out fishery in our region, but these toothy critters seemed to get quite a bit bigger than other parts of the world.  Recently, it was reported that an angler, Juan Duran, caught a four foot long, eighteen pound four ounce monster snakehead from the Occoquan River, another Tidal Potomac tributary. 

Why is that significant?  It seems to be a world record, shattering the previous one from Japan by over a pound!  Here's the story as reported by the Washington Post:  Juan Duran Catches Record Breaking Snakehead Fish.  It's not the first place that I read the story, there are other links out there, but this happened to be the first one I pulled, so here it is.  No matter what, that's a big fish.

Gene Mueller, retired long time outdoor writer for the Washington Times and outdoor blogger, wrote this nice piece about catching and eating these critters.  It's worth reading, and if you've read it, worth reading again:  Mueller: Snakeheads on the Menu.
Here's Gene Mueller with a brute of a northern snakehead.  Be sure to check out Gene's blog, Gene Mueller's World of Fishing & Hunting, where he posts pictures of snakeheads submitted by followers of his blog, and also those of his buddies.    Picture courtesy of Gene Mueller.
Snakeheads were illegally introduced into the Potomac, and seemed to have spread throughout the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.  Apparently they can tolerate a fair amount of salinity.  After all, in the Upper Tidal Potomac River where many are caught weekly, Maryland watermen are hauling in huge catches of blue crabs!  Not only that, red drum are also being caught in the same waters as bass, catfish, and the invasive snakehead.  They've even been caught in the upper stretches of Marshyhope Creek in Delaware.  Marshyhope Creek is a Maryland tidal tributary of the Nanticoke River.

Another man, not too long ago, claimed to have caught a two foot long snakehead in the Upper Potomac River at White's Ferry.  This caused quite a stir, because it was believed that they couldn't migrate above Great Falls, or even the fall line at Chain Bridge.  This alarming news, however, turned out to be a hoax.  The guy did catch the fish, but he caught it near Difficult Run, but because he didn't possess a tidal license, reported his catch to be in the non-tidal waters.

So, the Upper Potomac seems to be safe, for now. 

I didn't decide to blog about this beast out of the blue.  I had reason to post, based on a recent experience this past weekend.  While other anglers reported catching these impressive but invasive monsters, despite many trips to tidal waters and many bass and stripers to my name of the years, I've been snakehead challenged.  I've hooked and lost two of them...I think...over the past few years. 

Well, on Saturday, I broke that streak.  Near the end of a tough windy day of bass fishing, I managed to hook and land one of the hardest hitting, best fighting fish that I've ever caught, a 36 and 1/2 inch long, fourteen pound snakehead.  What a thrill that was.  It absolutely hammered and engulfed my white chatterbait.

I know that these are invasive, and I did my part and immediately killed that fish, but I can't help but feel excited by the experience.  That was fourteen pounds and three feet of pure muscle at the end of my line!  Not many freshwater fish are capable of peeling drag off of that baitcaster of mine like this one did.  And truth be told, I'll look forward to hopefully catching more.
My snakeheadless streak ended the other day, with me landing this massive 36 1/2 inch, fourteen pound slimy monster.  Picture courtesy of Rodger Moran.
I had hoped to cook it this evening, but a late work night combined with an empty can of propane and my lack of effort to obtain a refill, caused me to put the effort off one more night.  So, I can't yet attest to the tastiness of the snakehead filets.  But, I promise that after my wife and I partake of the future snakehead meal, that I'll provide a follow up post, complete with my recipe.  I plan to cook C. argus tomorrow night.
Here's another pic.  I had both paws gripping those gills.  This fish was alive at the time, and there was no way I was letting it flip out of my grasp.  So, I apologize for the not so great picture.    Picture courtesy of Rodger Moran.
So, in summary, the northern snakehead seems to be here for good.  We still, as loyal anglers, are obligated to do our part to eradicate them from our waters by not releasing those that we catch, and kill them on the spot as well.  Our reward is a good fight from a big toothy fish, and a supposedly good tasting meal of fish. 

What about the damage to the fishery?  I don't know, but I, and other anglers, probably agree that the bass fishing in the area is as good as ever despite the increasing snakehead and blue catfish populations.

Best case scenario...we help the Maryland DNR and similar neighboring state agencies to eradicate this invasive species. 

Worst case scenario, and it seems the likely one...we help to keep their numbers in check while enjoying an additional angling opportunity that can put a tasty meal on the table.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Finesse Fishing for Bass at Night. What?

One thing that most bass anglers know is that bass will feed at night.  Of course, the most popular methods include tossing topwater plugs, noisy rattling crankbaits, buzzbaits, and thumping spinnerbaits.  I've discussed night fishing in two other posts where you can get a good take on those techniques, so if you need to catch up, here are the links:  "Night Buzzin' for Summer Largemouth" and "A Night Fishing Trip to Remember".  But one thing that many people that fish for bass don't know, is that you can be successful using finesse techniques for bass even on the darkest of nights.
Smallmouth bass like this one will readily bite soft plastics on light tackle at night.  When the hard baits aren't working for you at night, try a finesse approach.
I've discussed finesse bassin' before in a post titled, "Finessing Largemouth Bass" where you can apply all of those techniques at night when certain conditions permit.  In this post, I'll discuss the finesse bassin' techniques that have worked well for me over the years and under what conditions work best.

One thing that I've noticed is that when fish are very active, most of the time they'll hit aggressively on hard baits at night, but when they don't, have a rod ready with a plastic worm or jig and give them a try.  For specifics on tackle set ups or different techniques for finesse bassin', please refer to the link above.  The rest of this post applies that info towards the dark hours of night, or mostly dark at least.

So what works and when?  Generally speaking, when it's pitch dark out or no moon, I prefer baits that will tease the lateral line of bass by putting out some sort of vibration.  Curl or ribbon tailed worms will do just that.  In addition to the inherent properties of your soft plastic, jigging methods could provoke strikes.  Action on your bait puts out vibrations.
Action tailed soft plastics, like the ringworm (second from the top) and caterpillar grub (bottom) will emit vibrations that the bass can hone in on even in the darkest conditions.  The ribs or knobs on those lures may assist in putting out additional vibrations.  These lures will work at any time at night.  Tube jigs (top) are great crawfish imitations, and the Zoom Super Fluke and Senko when worked near the surface work well at night as well.  All of these lures can be finessed slower on the bottom too, especially during brighter nights and full moons.
Crawfish imitations are a good bet at night too.  Why?  Have you ever shined a flashlight at the waters edge at night to see what's active?  If you have, you've no doubtedly noticed that the crayfish are most active at dark.  Crayfish are like candy to a bass, and a very high source of protein, so when their food is most active, I'd expect the bass to be ready to eat when the opportunity presents.
Crayfish are like candy to bass, and they're most active at night.  Try crayfish imitations at night, you might be rewarded.
In fact, most invertebrates tend to be more active at night.  Ice anglers that fish for nighttime crappie after dark know this, as the increase in daphnia, copepods and other crustaceans affect the returns on their electronics and their view on their underwater cameras.  And, the predatory fish often become just as active.  It's the same with bass.  If you want to catch a lunker, night fishing might just improve your odds, especially on heavily pressured waters.

What about minnows and other prey fish?  If you've ever owned an aquarium, you may know that many fish go into a trance like state at night.  It's not sleep as we know it, but for all practical purposes, they sleep.  And, for those inexperienced aquarists that have even introduced a predator into their tank, have you noticed that the numbers of your other resident fishes may have been reduced?

Minnows when disturbed at night by a predator will dart and move, and the "school" is not formed to protect them.  They can't school with each other because they can't see.  And, they become confused when disturbed, and become easy prey when a predatory creature finds them, like a bass or catfish.
This dandy largemouth bass inhaled a plastic action tailed worm during a dark summer night.  Finessing at night can pay off for you too.
Conversely, when you have a full moon, you might not have to impart as much action, or you may get strikes on "do nothing" type soft plastics, like tubes, soft stick baits, or soft jerkbaits.  Bass have good visibility, and you probably already know how active they are at dusk and dawn which are known as the magic hours, so it stands to reason that during a bright moon, bass will feed when presented with the opportunity.  After all, they are opportunistic predators.

The color of your lure is probably the least important factor when choosing an option, but many anglers prefer black, with the popular line of thought being that they produce the best silhouette.  There may be some truth to that, but honestly, between you and me, I do just as well with chartreuse or green pumpkin, even white.  My belief is that the action of the bait, or what you impart on your lure, is far more important than the choice of color.  Scent added to your soft plastic, or using those that are made with scent infused, could play a factor in producing a strike or not.
You may not think that finesse plastics will catch bass at night, but this bass sure does!
Another general rule of thumb of mine is when it's darker out, I fish faster or higher in the water column.  I'll either jig the lure more, or keep my rod tip high and keep the lure as close to the surface as possible.  It's my opinion that bass may more easily see the silhouette of your lure, and tend to feed up in those situations.  Conversely, I find that I can slow down more if there is more light out there, such as during a full moon.  Why?  The fish can see it on the bottom, so the silhouette plays a less important role.  That's my belief anyway, and I don't have any scientific proof, just my personal experiences.

Before I go on, let me restate that those rules above are very general, and if the fish aren't biting, by all means, break them.  Whatever it takes to generate a bite is the best rule of thumb, so don't paint yourself into a corner.

So, are bass always active at night?  No, they may or may not be active.  I'd consult the solar lunar tables to assist you, but in general, I find them easier to catch at night during the warmer months.  They will feed at night all year long though, but it's just that they don't chase down prey like they do during the warmer months.  They simply conserve energy and wait for the prey to come to them.  So, when it's colder, put the lure in front of them.
My buddy Howard will be the first one to agree that buzzbaits are an effective tool at night, as evidenced by his catch in this picture, but he'll also agree that finesse bassin' may produce when other methods don't even during the darkest hours.
Bass will sometimes go into a slumber at night, and for those that have kept bass in fish tanks, you'd know this.  But, with the introduction of prey items that actively emit the vibrations of prey, or other things that trigger a feeding response in bass, you'll see them wake up and seek the prey.  Sometimes agressively too.


The Old and the New
OK, I have to change gears.  I just want to point a couple things out, and by saying the old and new, I'm not at all referring to peoples ages here. 

So, first let me point out that one of my old links to another outdoors blog deserves additional recognition, and that blog is Gene Mueller's World of Fishing & Hunting.  Why?  Well, I could probably go on for a page or two of reasons, but what comes to mind is his continued dedication to the outdoors folks of the State of Maryland.  He produces fishing reports and news for Marylanders, D.C. outdoors folks, or Virginians, even though he no longer lives anywhere near there.  Please visit his blog (linked above) regardless of where you live, but if you're a Marylander or Virginian, or from the Washington D.C. area, keep in mind he's still lookin' out for us.

Gene's still lookin' out for us, so let's make sure that we look out for him too.  Please visit his blog.
Also, to get to know Gene a bit more, check out my post titled, "Interview with Gene Mueller, Outdoor Writer Celebrity".

Thanks Gene!  We really appreciated your efforts!

Now on with the new.  I've been following a blog that is new to me, but a few years old now.  Fellow angler Jon Griffiths has a very fine outdoors and fishing blog.  I've had the pleasure of reading his posts on fishing forums, but just recently found his blog, and I'm now a fan.  So, let me introduce his blog to you, and please pay it a visit, the Opportunistic Fisherman.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Shark Tooth Hunt (Set 3)

We'll continue our shark tooth hunt, eye spy style, with pictures 21 through 30.  To see the first twenty pictures, you'll have to go back and revisit my two prior posts, "The Shark Tooth Hunt (Set 1)" and "The Shark Tooth Hunt (Set 2)", where I posted ten pictures of in situ photographs of fossilized shark teeth.  These next ten pictures will be a mix of locations and background styles, but still should be a lot of fun.  Hope y'all enjoy them!

Picture 21
A different fossil this time...there's a fossilized Palaeocene crocodile tooth in this picture.   Click on the link below to find it.

Picture 22.
There are two teeth in this picture, one obvious fossilized Striatolamna sand tiger shark tooth, and a not so obvious partially hidden tooth.

Picture 23.
OK, well this isn't a fossil, but he's pretty well hidden, but his defensive posture gives him away.  Say hello to a Maryland blue crab!
Picture 24.
This tooth has a broken root, but was found at a different location.  I think that it's also Palaeocene based on some of the other fossils found in the creek along with a little research on the area.  I was prospecting a new spot that had potential, not knowing if I'd find shark teeth or not.  Here's the first one that I found here.  Can you spot it?
Here's a picture of the tooth...I'm not sure of the species yet, but I think it's another sand tiger shark lateral tooth.

Picture 25.

Here's another one from my new spot...it's a bit easier to see though.  Although the quality of the finds on this trip weren't that great or numerous, this spot has a lot of potential.

Picture 26.
Here's another easy one to find.  It seems easy here, but in real life this was much tougher to find.  Give credit to the camera!

Let's look for some stuff from the PCS mine in Aurora, North Carolina.  Currently, they don't allow collecting there, but a few years ago they did.  Let's hope that they open it up to collectors again some day soon.

These are some pretty large shark teeth and should be easy to find, right?  Well, let's see how you do finding the two on the left.
Picture 27.
Well, this is the easiest one of the bunch.  It's the left most tooth in the picture above of the three teeth.  This mako, Cosmopolitodus hastalis.  This shark was perhaps ancestor or close extinct cousin to today's great white shark.
Picture 28.
There's another Lee Creek mako in this picture.

Picture 29.
There's a Lee Creek Pliocene tiger shark in this picture, Galeocerdo cuvier.  

Picture 30, the last one of this post.
There's a Lee Creek megalodon in this picture.  It's a posterior tooth. 
It's not the huge meg that folks look for at the PCS mine in Aurora, NC.  But it's a good find., not very common at all.

During our virtual shark tooth hunting trips the past three posts, we visited Palaeocene and Pliocene locations and saw a variety of shark teeth.  I admit that it's quite a bit more difficult to pick the teeth out of these pictures than it could be in the field, but not much really.  My hope is that you had fun reading these and if you are a beginning collector, this might help to give you the "eye" for finding your own.  If y'all provide some positive feedback then perhaps I'll post more like this.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Shark Tooth Hunt (Set 2)

Well, if you missed it, "The Shark Tooth Hunt (Set 1)" of our shark tooth version of the "Eye Spy" game was my last post, where I posted ten pictures of in situ photographs of fossilized shark teeth.  As promised, I'm posting a set of ten more pictures where you can participate in a virtual shark tooth hunt right here on Fat Boy's Outdoors.  Have fun!

Picture 11.
There are two shark teeth in this picture...see if you can find them.  The link below gives you the answer.

Picture 12.
This one is tricky because of the distortion of the magnification of water along with the glare, but there are three teeth in this picture.

 Picture 13.
There are two teeth in this picture.

Picture 14.
There's one tooth in this picture, partially buried.  Can you find it?

Here's the tooth after being found.  It's a Palaeocene sand tiger shark tooth, common at the loction that I collect.

Picture 15.
Here's another partially buried sand tiger shark tooth.

Picture 16.
There's one tooth in this picture, but it's small and broken, only the blade.  I asked the butterfly to fly near a better tooth for the picture, but it didn't cooperate!

Picture 17.
There are two shark teeth in this picture.

One of the teeth in picture number 17 was an interesting find, Cretalamna appendiculata...some palaeontologists consider this shark to be the ancestor to Otodus, Megalodon and the other mega tooth extinct great white sharks.
Picture 18.
There are two sand tiger shark teeth in this picture.

Picture 19.
Who would think that a washed up plastic drum would have fossilized shark teeth inside?  Well, there are two of them inside.  Can you find them?

The last one for today's post, picture 20.
I picked up two teeth in one scoop.   Even after picking them up, they're sometimes difficult to spot.

Well, that's all for today.  More to come in my next post, so please check back soon for more.  I hope that you had fun on today's hunt!