Five Good Reasons to Fish

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Fishing Replenishes the Soul

Even in the dead of winter on a frozen lake, all by yourself, you can sit and watch the wonders of this creation. That’s reason enough.

Food on the Table

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I don’t know about you, but I love to eat fish! I’d much rather have fresh fish–that I know has been properly handled (by me)–than poorly handled in shipping by unknown hands. Somehow it just tastes better when I’ve caught it.

Time with a Friend

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It can be Challenging

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Most humans love a challenge. It stimulates the mind. Let’s face it, outwitting a dumb fish makes a man feel like he’s really accomplished something!

It’s Great to Be Recognized

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The praise of an adult toward a child, or the encouragement of a friend in the landing of a good fish adds to one’s self esteem and personal value. Some of the greatest friends in my life have been the men and women with whom I first fished.

Teach Them to Prepare Properly What They Keep

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A Sound Principle in Teaching Kids To Fish

Part of the young excitement for kids in learning to fish is showing off what they caught. Teaching them how to prepare their catch gives them the responsibility for having caught it.

When Fish Are Killed, They Should Be Eaten

As young folks learn how to fish and hunt, they bring home more and more of their harvest. Showing them how to clean, prepare and cook what they take is a vital part of the American sportsman ethic. I release more fish than I keep; but I far prefer wild fish over farm-raised, store boat varieties.To me, it’s a blessing to have wild game or fish on our table; so I teach this principle to young people who have this interest in partaking of the wild. I teach it also to their parents or guardians when asked for advice. In business there’s a proverbial cliche that it’s better to teach a man to fish than to give him fish to eat. I agree with that completely.

The interesting phenomenon is that this approach invariably yields some of the more enthusiastic and devoted conservationists in the American outdoor world–that’s both my experience and my opinion. By learning to utilize as much as possible our entire harvest we learn to become excellent stewards of our natural resources.

 

 

Of Bounties, Fines and Plenitude

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Know Your Fish

I fish with a lot of different people in any given season. Many of them are from out-of-state and many are new to fishing altogether. The problem is we, like many states, have an increasingly complex set of regulations; yet the burden of knowledge rests on the angler. Many novice fishers don’t know a peno from a whitefish. In one case, I kept quiet. They would learn at the dinner table.

Go Figure

Your ability to correctly identify a fish caught in the Lake Pend Oreille reservoir and river systems as well as in the Clark Fork River flowing into North Idaho from Montana can mean the difference between reward and violation. This includes North Idaho’s Pack River, the primary river feeding the north end of Lake Pend Oreille and it’s tributary streams as well as lesser streams flowing directly into the lake system, of which there are many. Your knowledge of what fish is which may be the difference between a hefty fine, a sometimes hefty fish for the table or a rather hefty bounty for catching a predator the Idaho Department of Fish & Game deems undesirable to the Pend Oreille Lake fishery.

The Bounty

Though this is likely the last season on this system to carry a bounty on Lake Trout (Mackinaw), IF&G is contemplating introducing its controversial but effective plan on North Idaho’s Priest Lake system in 2013. The objective in this aggressive management policy is to reduce large predators considered responsible for the collapse of kokanee populations in these large bodies of water.

Kokanee (sometimes locally referred to as “bluebacks” are a variety of landlocked sockeye salmon that in good years run12 to 15 inches and populate in very large schools. Hunters and wood harvesters will often see red kokanee in huge numbers on streams that flow directly into these lakes from as early as October well into December as these freshwater salmon go upstream to spawn and die for the next generation of the species.

Kokanee were once so abundant in Lake Pend Oreille and Priest Lake that there was a commercial fishery for them. When I was in junior high school in the early 1960s, we could hand-line for them and keep 50 apiece. By the mid-90’s, the Priest Lake population had collapsed and those in Lake Pend Oreille were in danger of collapsing. The predator management policy introduced first on Lake Pend Oreille was a desperate measure by the department to cull large predators from the system where everything else had failed to revitalize the kokanee numbers.

In 2010, a bounty of $15 per head was placed on Mackinaw Trout (they are actually a char) as well as the Rainbow Trout in the lake as an incentive to reduce the over-abundant populations of these two species, and that under a harsh cry from avid anglers who were sure IF&G was destroying a legendary fishery. However the incentive dominated. some guys, giving in, made a fair living harvesting Lakers and Rainbow despite the fact that specialists from New Finland were brought in to net Mackinaw off their known spawning beds. Biologists radio-tagged some large macks to follow them to their redds and maps were drawn to show the netters where these large lake trout were choosing to spawn.

The third species in this discussion is the brook trout. You won’t likely catch one in the lake and river system other than some fair-sized ones on occasion in streams like Cocollala Creek. I’ve never taken one or heard of anyone catching one in the Pend Oreille River or Lake. Neither one is suitable habitat. I mention Brook Trout because their markings are very similar to that of Dolly Varden. Mackinaw, especially younger first-year and second-year specimens could be misconstrued to be Brook Trout by anyone not familiar with distinctions. So the point is: read the regulations and do as they suggest. Know the differences and respect what you catch. Beyond that, go and enjoy a good day’s catch!

~Dwayne K Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

What’s the best bass lure on the market?

As hot summer sun warms the bays, not all smallmouth bass have gone to deep water

This smallmouth came savagely to Tony Gunderson's sunfish spinner bait cast along reeds in shallow water on a late afternoon in June.

The dichotomous answer is enough to make one chuckle. The simple part is, “whatever works!” But that’s about as good an answer as “do the right thing!” to someone who really wants to know.

The truth of the answer is that there is no best lure. It’s the fisherman’s knowledge of bass, the species, their habitat and habits that distinguish who catches the most. It’s the angler’s understanding that brings some more big fish than others catch.

The “best” way to acquire that knowledge is by fishing with fishermen who are better than you. Watch what they do; ask questions and imitate their techniques. Then, the bass you catch will teach you what works and what does not.

Observe the nature of the environment you’re fishing, measure the water temperature, note the wind–its direction and speed. You don’t have to write these things down; I’m just suggesting that you note them because they are considerations in the factors that determine where the bass, large mouth or small mouth, are located on a given day, and why they may or may not strike.

There’s one proverbial truth that never changes. “You can’t catch fish if you don’t cast.” Here’s a second truth worth considering if you have time, “You can’t cast successfully if you’re not on the water.”

So if you must go through the failures and mistakes in order to attain the knowledge you desire, speed up the process by fishing with anglers who know what they’re doing–as often as you can.

~Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

 

The Greatest Factor Involved in Consistently Successful Fishing

Believe Like a Child Believes

As we drove up to the Point of rock, this boy said, “I’m going to catch the biggest fish and the most, ’cause I always do.” Four of us went about it for an hour or so and sure enough, this kid was right!

Believing you can is more than half the battle in fishing success.

Not only did he hook and land the largest of the bass caught that night, he fought it extremely well, keeping himself calm, not giving slack as the fish swam hard, pulling line on a drag set just right. It took a minute or two to bring the bass in where his Father could net it.

Look at the beam on this young man’s face. Who can deny his excitement. The great thing was that even his brother, who would have liked catching that fish himself, said something like, “Man, it’s great when someone catches a fish THAT big.”

We were all excited and the mood went home with him that night to be shared by his entire family. I thought about it and realized how important it is that fishermen believe they are going to catch fish. Al Lindner said the same thing once, I believe it was Al, that those who believe they are going to actually catch more fish than those who cast with apprehension, skepticism or doubt.

Can there be any doubt about that? Look again at the beam on this boy’s face and tell me you don’t believe.

# Dwayne Parsons, Twitter @IFishWrite

Fishing for Knowledge

I enjoy my time on the water enough to ask myself why. Sometimes it is in fact the solitude I find of just being in the zone. But more often, especially in this portion of my life, I find a greater pleasure in sharing the experience with another.

Rick Lawrence of Fish'n Fool Lures has become one of my favorite catches on the boat companion side of fishing. He's extremely knowledgeable and very creative when it comes to catching bass of either species. His experiential wisdom applied to fishing has greatly increased my catch to cast ratio.

Rick Lawrence of Fish’n Fool Lures has become one of my favorite catches on the boat companion side of fishing. He’s extremely knowledgeable and very creative when it comes to catching bass of either species. His experiential wisdom applied to fishing has greatly increased my catch to cast ratio.

In my opinion, this guy is quite outside the proverbial tackle box. It’s not uncommon for him to show up with a new prototype bait he’s just designed and is testing. He’s one of the more accurate bait and spin casters I’ve ever met. His body memory, developed from countless numbers of casts, places his bait time and again in the exact spot of his mind-eye coordination. I’m talking precise. Sometimes I can only shake my head at it and wonder how the human body knows exactly how much whip to put in a rod tip to place a lure weighing so many ounces exactly where the man thought it ought to go. I admit, I’ve never detected a laser beam emanating from his eye nor seen a red dot on the water on the edge of those reeds, but “plop” there goes his swim bait or floating mouse or sinking fool. And the next thing of course is a nice bass. If it’s large enough, it’s brought into the boat, weighed and photographed and then released again for another day.

You can’t help but love to fish with a guy like that. For me it’s always a lesson in learning, always a new discovery either in technique or presentation and so I’ve enjoyed one of the best seasons of my life, because this kind of learned knowledge coming from the other person in the boat allows me to pass it on to the lesser experienced guests I like to host.

Aside from methods, lures and the what-not of bass fishing I’ve learned something else from this gentleman of the water. Quite often he will invite a third person, someone he barely knows, who has inquired about his lures through some store where he’s given a clinic or through his FaceBook page. That person is always along to learn and Rick demonstrates great candid patience in assuring that they understand how a particular bait is to be presented and where it should be cast. He’s a natural teacher in that way, never lecturing, always willing. And when our guests watch him boat one fish after another with relative consistency, they start to pay attention.

Me too!

# Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

Teaching Kids How to Fish

I’ve discovered something incredibly important for myself related to fishing and why I fish. It’s probably perfect to come into this consciousness at this time in my life, full circle, as they say.

The best of fishing is a shared experience. Why, therefore, don't we teach others how to enjoy this very complete form of recreation where sustenance is found on all levels?

I am blessed to live on the water at Dover where I can watch the changing conditions of the Pend Oreille River. This water now has several game species in it, all feeding and available. Three varieties of trout: rainbow, cutthroat, and brown. It yields on occasion two kinds of char: dolly varden and mackinaw. It also contains both large mouth and small mouth bass in relative abundance. It has a relatively untapped abundance of small landlocked salmon we refer to as Kokanee. And it is showing itself to be a productive source of walleye (though that boom hasn’t arrived yet).

On the scrap side are large and relatively common pike minnows, tinch, suckers and complimenting them are occasional winter- and spring-caught mountain white fish and Lake Superior whitefish. The river has an abundance of perch, some bluegill, a lot of black crappie and a wide assortment of minnows.

In places, the main channel goes ninety feet deep, but the bays and bay-size eddies are for the most part in the 12 to 15 foot depth range. There are huge mud flats too where the bottom is a mix of sand, glacial silt and just plain mud, all giving a rich crop of aquatic weeds including a millfoil problem. What body of water isn’t plagued with invasive species.

But the fishery is currently alive, rebounding and quite productive; so we who live here simply accept these things and do our best to enjoy the water and the catching. But that’s not what I discovered, and my discovery wasn’t a sudden flash of insight. It was a gradual dawning of awareness that something was more important to me than just me catching fish.

Living where I live, I’ve had the great privilege of being visited by a number of families with kids in all age ranges. So over time, I found myself collecting and restoring “yard sale rods and reels” so that when you folks came for a visit, they’d have a rigging available, ready for use, with new line and a variety of gadgetry to bait and lure the fish in. Last year a troop of boys caught 34 perch off the end of my dock, filling a picnic basket with their catch. I taught them how to clean them, skin them and eat them. This year, they come back with eagerness and my shores frequently give up the sound of “I caught another one!” or “I got one! It’s a keeper!” (They are taught to release the fish that are too small for consumption, and sometimes a larger one depending on the child).

Here’s what I discovered: the joy it brings to me to see the beam of a young boy’s smile or the gleam in the eye of a girl who’s caught a fish she’s proud to show. I discovered that I enjoy more, seeing young people unfold with a new understanding and a connection to the water that will bring them a life-long appreciation for the outdoors and for food sources, where they are caught, how they are kept (if and when) and how they are prepared for eating.

This discovery has caused me to think back on my own life. I was raised on this same water about two miles from where I currently live. Several years ago when I nearly died in a timber-falling accident, I had to sit and ponder while I healed. I did a lot of reflection at that time, waiting hopefully as a fractured neck and broken back found their places again so I could get up and become active again. I pondered my childhood and the many fishing experiences i had.

Last year, I called up and took fishing the very man who first took me fishing now 60 years ago. We had a blast! It meant a lot to him that I would bother to do so. This year, I’ve made an appointment with his son, Larry, to fish again together like we did in high school. These are profoundly good memories.

So I’ve resolved that I have a new purpose for writing this blog. A new and better reason for writing about fishing and taking pictures that tell a story. I’m going to specialize on teaching fishing, especially to children. I’m going to teach adults how they can teach their children how to fish. It will include everything from how to set the drag properly and why to how season the fish you caught so that it tastes really good coming out of the fry pan.

That’s what this blog is now all about.

It’s better to teach another how to fish, how to catch them, dress them and prepare them for the table than to provide them with store-bought, packaged fish. It’s just as valid to teach them how to release a prize catch they don’t need to eat, or may not want to, than it is to let fish spoil. Some fish need to be released; some need to be kept, and if kept, eaten.

The Best Time to Go Fishing

Les Graham of Spokane is the man behind my introduction to the sport.

I've had no greater pleasure this year than fishing with Les Graham of Spokane, the man who first introduced me to the sport more than 5 decades ago.

It’s Who You Take That Makes It So

I can’t say I know why I learned to fish and to love it as I do. I only know that it’s true. Last week I had the great opportunity to return a favor. I took fishing the man who first took me 58 years ago when I was only 5.

Les Graham and I went to Badger Lake in Washington near Spokane. We had a great day. He out-fished me on the cutthroat trout of his favorite lake. It was appropriate for him to catch the most, I felt, a kind of honor lived out.

I remember the day he took me and his son, Larry, for the first time. Before we went, Les had us practice casting with little Zebco outfits, if I remember right, throwing bobbers at a Hoola Hoop target on his front lawn. When he felt we were proficient enough, he took us down to the Spokane River to a reasonably safe place where he could fish while we toyed at the idea.

Larry and I stood on rocks above a clear pool trying to catch little perch that chased our worms. I don’t remember catching one, but I remember seeing them with their black perch stripes and feeling the nibbles.

These trout were firm, fresh out of the cold deep water.

One of Les Graham's Badger Lake Cutthroat Trout.

I remember as well the nice rainbow trout about the length of Les’ forearm. He caught it on a spinner or spoon. It’s frozen in memory, glistening silver, with pink-purple swashes on both sides speckled with black spots heavier against its dark green back.

I dreamed of fishing at night and by day from then on all through childhood. That was the hook set in me and it’s remained these many years. I’m now 63.

Something happened that long ago day. Some divine imprint was placed into my spirit that told me fishing was part of my life. I’ve always been happiest when I did. It’s been my connection to reality, to life and to other people.

On Badger Lake

Thank you, Les, for taking time to give me that childhood memory. It was enough to settle in me for life.

~Dwayne Parsons     Twitter@ifishwrite

How do you teach fishing?

Sarah Nichols in the glee of a find catch.

There's no greater pride than a loving pride. It swells the breast with joy and wins a thousand arguments, lays low the petty things and lifts up the great.

They Find It On Their Own

How bitter-sweet when the child you once cradled grows to adulthood and bears her own. She goes away and marries. You wonder where the time has gone; you seldom took her fishing, never really taught her how. She comes home from clear across the States, from where she found her husband and brings him here to live.

A year passes by and she gives you a grandson, Max. “I’ve bought a fishing license,” she tells you–two years in a row, but you’re absorbed elsewhere with life and other things.

She persists.

In the third year, when you’re fishing again, she insists. By golly, she’s serious. You take note; you find the time; and there you are on water you’ve known since childhood with your little girl grown up.

Her husband Todd and his dad have joined you this day too. The sun is warm and welcome. The water is high and a little cold; so you explore until you locate a bite. Several smallmouth are boated, but none take Sarah’s lure.

” Had a nibble,” she says, but isn’t sure. “It might have been a weed.” Still, she persists.

I hand her my rod with one on. I want her to experience the catching.

“No,” she refuses with furrowed brow and smile. She is here to do this on her own, “thank you very much.” She casts again with earnest intent.

You begin to worry she’ll lose interest. But then you look at her casting well and understanding things you’ve said about the bass, where they are and why. You stop casting and watch her. She has the heart for it, still pursuing when nothing takes. You marvel a little, quietly, behind the scene. She doesn’t know you’re watching. She persists.

We’re about to leave when her rod bends suddenly. She has one on and fights it well. Keeps her rod tip down and let’s it play out. When it comes to the boat, Todd nets it for her and the day is complete.

~Dwayne Parsons    Twitter @ifishwrite