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Big Fish Story

A friend of mine & I drove up to Deep Creek Lake from Manassas, VA early Tuesday morning to spend 2 days fishing. We stayed with Don at Streams and Dreams. What a wonderful experience it was- and what a wonderful host. We were welcomed like old friends and he quickly introduced to our 'new home'.

Don is and avid sportsman and environmental scientist with many experiences and fascinating stories to share. We stayed up until about 11pm swapping stories & sharing ice fishing secrets. My favorite story of Don's was about the 47" steelhead that he caught & released- complete with amazing photo.

Here is the story:

Much of our discussion with Don that evening was about techniques for targeting 'bull' bluegill. We headed out at 6am for Turkey Neck, my own personal favorite big bluegill area. We were soon set up had had a decent day of fishing, with 2 perch over 14" and 3 bluegill over 9". My friend Gary was the bluegill master, with (2) 9" beauties.

It was mid afternoon about 4pm & I hadn't yet caught a bull bluegill. I decided to improvise and tied a pre-tungsten tiny red and black #16 jig to my spring bobber pole and checked the depth with my lead depth finder. I was a little surprised to find that apparently about 2" of weeds were still on the bottom in 22' of water. (When I carefully lowered the tiny jig, I found that it stopped falling about 2" above where the depth finder indicated.) I put the rod on the ice supported by my plastic ice-auger blade protector, with the jig, tipped with one spike (maggot) hooked through the head, and suspended about 1.5" above the weeds. Rather than jigging, I merely touched the rod with my fingertip to make the jig vibrate,

Suddenly, the spring bobber trembled ever so slightly, and like lightning (At least as fast a my 64-year old body can still move after 2 days of digging holes in ice :-) ) I set the hook. It was immediately clear that this was a big fish and that the hand-over-hand method wasn't a good idea. I use 4"-test P-line fluorcarbon-coated line, and ALWAYS set my drag very lightly.

It was like playing any big fish. It ran with the line and I had to use the rod to gain leverage to reel in a few feet of line at a time. This went on for several minutes while I carefully played the lunker. Finally I was able to see the fish through the hole drilled with a 6" auger. I carefully pulled the fish into the hole and the head emerged, only to have the body get stuck.

I dropped to my knees & grabbed the fish by the mouth & tugged; nothing happened, the fish was stuck in the hole. I adjusted my grip & pulled hard and out popped (literally) one monster bull bluegill, over 10" long, nearly as wide as it was long, and weighing well over a pound.

Now for the most important part of the fish story; what was it eating? I carefully dissected the stomach & large intestine looking for clues. The answer, perhaps not surprisingly given the cold water temperature was not much. I found remnants of several very small insect larvae, perhaps a small caddis, and one small fresh-water shrimp.

I'm attaching a photo of the bull bluegill with a perch & walleye for comparison. The walleye is just over 15" & the perch is 15". dclbigfish.JPG dcljig.JPG

I'm also attaching a macro photo of the jig.

I want to thank Don again for his generous hospitality, and hope to visit Streams & Dreams again soon.

John Steinbach

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Comment by John Steinbach on December 31, 2010 at 5:02pm
The length was about 10.5" I doubt I could have gotten a 12 incher through a 6"hole. There are 12 inchers in Deep Creek Lake though. My biggest was 11.5 inches about 6 years ago. The jig was inherited- an old Marmouska I think
Comment by Jim Gronaw on December 31, 2010 at 4:18pm
John...what was the actual length of the monster gill? If the picture shows a 15 inch perch for comparison, it seems likely that that fish is about 12 inches long, maybe more. It would be interesting to get an actual weight on that fish.
Comment by Jim Gronaw on December 30, 2010 at 5:58pm
I emailed Don last night...he said you guys were on to some big gills! Congrats!
Comment by Magnolia Rick on December 30, 2010 at 5:47pm
Thanks for sharing with us.
Comment by John Sheehan on December 30, 2010 at 5:28pm
Great read !Great Gill! Marmouska jig?

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