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.

 

 

The Great Metaphor of Fishing

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One Fine Passion

I am fortunate to carry a passion for fishing in my heart. I’ve learned many things from it that apply directly to successes in life, in relationships and in the study of things.

North Idaho has it all when it comes to the great outdoors. Taking part in what’s here in a meaningful way adds life to my old bones and brings enthusiasm into my daily enterprise. I find that when I relate to the Nature around me in this positive way that I then also relate in positive ways to the people and challenges found in business.

So fishing became a metaphor where I could lay things out for comparison and see a little better into other events unfolding in my life. The river flows. On it and in it there are many dangers, many surprises and a delightful bounty when you learn to read it and become one with it. I call this latter notion my Zen Attitude, though I don’t study Zen or practice it knowledgeably. Like the metaphor, my Zen Attitude is simply a parallel to a known philosophy. I like to get into The Zone, for instance where thoughts are not being thought, but realizations and insights occur in the moment where I’m in a fully cooperative relationship with the water and air environments around me.

At this stage of my life when most of my friends have retired (but not all, and certainly not me), recreational fishing is a way of analyzing the complexities of modern life and of finding balance within it all. I’ve made many solid friendships too along the way, either on shore or wading or in a boat; and many of those relationships like Mike Robertson of Calgary’s Bow River Blog have become lifelong albeit long distant fishing buddies.

It adds richness to life even in these times.

~Dwayne Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

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

Why Fish Color Varies from One Location to Another

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Camouflage

Coloration within a fish species quite often varies from one lake, river or stream to another. Sometimes these color differences are so slight they can hardly be distinguished from one location to the next.  In other cases, the distinction is so prevalent, the fish can appear to be a variety of the same species; but to my knowledge the variance in coloration is simply a camouflage adaptation to match the general color of the bottom of the body of water.

Fish Wear Camo Too

This unretouched photograph of a prize large mouth bass was taken on a rather dark, grey day. The particularly dark coloration of near black on this bass, however, is typical of MacArthur Reservoir large mouth. It’s a species adaption that allows individual fish to blend with the dark color of this shallow bird sanctuary where fish hawks are plentiful and capable.

~Dwayne K Parsons on Twitter @IFishWrite

Tough Bass Made Easy

When weather and water conditions seem less favorable, you go on the hunt.

Like a couple of Blue Herons, two bass fishers await their opportunity by casting through the dawn for small mouth bass feeding on crayfish.

Do this and you may discover some surprising things. Bass are feeding in that predawn light, especially the bigger ones. It’s an excellent time to be up and on the water because predator fish are taking every opportunity to find their days meal. The crawdads, a night-time creature, are still out on the crawl and minnows are doing their best to stay alive.

It may stretch your waking time, but if you want to tie into a big bass, this is one of the magic hours.

~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

Fishing With Heart

Once you’re on the water, age makes no difference. It’s the fish we care about and the fishing we share.

Fishing is for all ages, young and old alike.

A child's participation in the catch brings them into the experience for a life time.

Ashlynn Wild, the young girl assisting at the net in this Hooper’s Pond action photo, was full of dancing glee as she “caught a fish!” Connecting kids to the outdoors is one of the most important things we can do. I’ll be writing about Hooper’s Pond, a privately held acreage dedicated to invalid and at-risk fishers of all ages.

The trout are enormous and plentiful but none of them are as big as the heart behind the vision. You’ll soon meet owner, Charlotte J. Hooper, who still runs the property since her husband, Howard Gaines Hooper Jr., the visionary behind its development and purpose, passed away a short time ago.

The point is that fishing is wholesome and healing. When it’s introduced to young children in a way where they see the fish and participate in the catch, you’ve given them a gift that will last their life time. They will grow to appreciate and care for the great outdoors.

Check out the YouTube interview series with Michael Christensen, CEO and President of Pass It On Outdoor Mentors, a project based in Witchita, Kansas partnering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters to accomplish just such a mission. We posted it on YourOnTheHook.

The more children we introduce to the outdoors, the healthier will be our society in the future. Call it Fishing with Heart.

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A Late Season Lesson

A change in technique makes the difference when the bite comes on.

A good smallmouth bass ends the day well and provides a winter's memory.

Who can explain why one person in a boat catches more fish than another, fishing apparently the same technique, bait and equipment? I was the victim in this instance, fishing with Go Fish Charters’ outfitter, Chad Landrum. It was early October, 2010 and we were in the after-breeze of a North Easter wind that had blown fiercely across the Idaho Panhandle for two days prior to my afternoon on the water.

He picked me up at a dock in Hope, a small town on the north shore of Pend Oreille Lake. We motored across to fish the rock shelves along the opposite shores of the first bay. Chad had started earlier while waiting for me to finish up with a business obligation. He had little activity, he said, landing only a couple of smallies of average size.

Maybe it was too early in the day, I remember thinking. We had roughly 4 hours of daylight left and the breeze was dying down. The lake would soon be smooth. If we found fish, we could experience an afternoon bite at any time. My enthusiasm was up; the lake had been good.

On that first shelf Chad picked up another small bass, maybe fourteen inches, on his second cast; then we had nothing for the next hour and a half as we explored several locations in earnest. We fished the docks and rock structures we graphed, all likely habitat where bass might hold. But we found nothing. The fish were apparently off-bite following the unusual wind event. We even tried the shallows of the Clark Fork River delta, fished the channel and the edges of deeper water, but still nothing, trying a variety of tube worms, flukes and crankbaits–the usually successful fare.

Chad’s favorite that time of year was a quarter-ounce olive-colored tube worm on a jig-head fished to imitate the lake’s abundant population of 1- and 2-inch crawfish.

Pend Oreille is Idaho’s largest natural lake but it’s now technically a resevoir because of Albany Falls Dam constructed years ago to abate spring flooding and provide electrical power for thousands of homes and businesses in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Without that dam the lake can flood houses and shoreline structures near and in Sandpoint, as it did in the days before the dam–so it’s a good thing.

We hoped to locate some place where the bass were holding, knowing we’d catch a few if we found them. But until the last half hour, nothing picked up our presentations. We never felt a nibble and never saw a follow.

Coming off the delta, we worked the rocky shoreline of the Green Monarchs into the evening. It’s a wild stretch of shoreline perhaps six or seven miles in length greeted by a few isolated cabins at Whiskey Rock on the east shore. With forested ridges several hundred feet high providing the backdrop, one easily feels the solitude this great lake offers.

We cast to this shore and drag our tubeworms slowly off the rocks into deeper water. Chad picked up the first strike and boated a nice bass, 3.5 pounds on the guage. Nice fish for his second cast on a particular ledge. My hopes rose to the surface. I hadn’t had so much as a bump.

“Would you mind coaching me as to what you’re doing that I’m not?” I asked with envy.

“I think you’re reeling a little fast. You’ve got to crawl that tube worm along the bottom through most of the retrieve. Imagine a crawdad. That’s what you’re imitating. They don’t swim so much as they move slowly along the bottom. You want to imitate that,” he explained.

On my second cast, doing just as he said, I felt a fish mouthing the tube worm. I held off, then set the hook. I was fast to my first small mouth of the day. It wasn’t as large as his, but it was a strong fish, a good fighter and a better memory than nothing.

“Another thing I see you doing Dwayne, is you’re fishing that rod tip like your spinning for trout. Keep it up high so the fish has time to pick up the lure. It wants to believe that soft tube worm is alive. Don’t worry, it won’t let go–most of the time. After a pause, just like you did on that one, then you set the hook hard. A big smallie has a tough mouth and believe me, you don’t want the hook coming out on a big fish, right?”

Releasing the bass, I nodded my agreement.

In that last fifteen minute window, fishing in this way, I picked up 2 more nice bass and lost one. The bite came on right at the end of day and didn’t last long, but the memory savored an entire winter.

The most pleasing realization I had from that afternoon with Landrum was the huge difference it made to change my presentation from “low tip and jerk” to “high tip and lift.” If I don’t fish that water again for awhile, I’ll remember the rock-strewn bottom and the 6 casts that yielded 4 hookups at dusk with a new understanding in the importance of technique.

# ~Dwayne Parsons