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"You obviously didn't read the signs"

Location: Susquehanna River/Saginaw area
Time: 7:03am- 11:19am
Water Temp: N/A
Air Temp: 36-48
Bait: 1/80oz. twister(s)
Presentation(s): Cast and retrieve
Fish: You're gonna have to read it this week


The plan began right on schedule. I was setting the truck alarm at 7:03am while struggling to see where I was walking. It was that time of the morning when there is enough light to see, but not enough for the human eye to see anything in color. As I walked toward the river I started thinking about how few other anglers I saw on the drive to this location. I thought for certain there would be a crowd of anglers taking advantage of a warmer morning then we have seen in awhile.
When I reached the bank I could easily see Mark's information was solid; the river was indeed down from last week, but not enough to completely eliminate my choice of starting point. My attention quickly turned to the Strad (formerly known as the Stardivarious II). It was moments away from making it's maiden presentation.
It was rigged with a 1/80oz., chartreuse green jighead, tipped w/a white twister tail. The jig was left to dangle off the rod a few feet, then the brightness of the morning came back into play again. I couldn't see the jig. I could feel it, but I couldn't see it. This in itself posed a problem; how was I supposed to cast something I couldn't see, with a rod I had never cast, into gray moving water I could barely see? Somehow I did it.....................the next problem was I had no idea where I cast. I didn't know if my bait went straight, to the right, to the left..............I had no idea as I certainly couldn't hear the tiny jig touch down. The only option I had was to start reeling and hope for the best.
I reeled, and reeled, and reeled, and began wondering if the line had broken and I was standing there just spinning the gears, and reeled some more. I had to actually reach out to make sure there was line coming off the rod - which there was. A few more turns and I could see the white twister come out of the water.
I bumped up the concentration level a few notches for the second cast. This time I think I saw where it landed.
Three cranks of the handle and I felt the first tap.
It scared the wits out of me. My attention was focused on exactly where this new rod was putting this tiny jig, not on how the rod would transmit a strike. It was enough to make me knee jerk a hookset that Ali would be proud of. I struck back that hard the jig launched out of the water and landed in the dark abyss behind me.
The third cast I saw for certain - right smack dap in the retrieval path of the most limbs the river has in right now.

It's a good thing my phone has an application for a light. Ever try to re-rig a 1/80oz. jighead with 2lb. line against a grey sky? It's almost as hard as doing it above a phone light. In any event, I got the hot pink jighead rigged and was finally able to place a cast. A few hops of the jig and I set the hook home into the Strad's first fish. It's not the biggest 'gill I've ever seen, in fact, it was about as mediocre as they come, but it was the first fish on the system I put together specifically for this purpose.

The ice had been broken. I started seeing color. I sent another cast out.
The bluegills started coming to hand throughout the 10 casts I allowed myself along the blowdown I started fishing at. Just as I took a few steps to position myself to work the current seam that ran along this hole, I turn around to see a Regional police car sitting in front of my truck. The driver's window was down and I heard the officer yell to me, "You obviously didn't read the signs when you came back here."
"What signs?" probably wasn't the most thought out response I should have gave him. He proceeds to point to five(5) "No Parking" signs along the side on the road I parked on.
We hollered back and forth to each other as I started collecting my things. He ended up getting out of his cruiser and meeting me halfway. Turns out he was a really down to earth officer. The Game Commision and the township has taken action against those who are using the lower Saginaw area as a 4wd park. He told me stories about broken down vehicles that were abandoned, left stuck in the river, rolled over in the river, etc. We talked for the better part of a half hour about how the anglers end up getting the short end of the stick in the whole deal. He informed me that the Regional police would not be the governing body, but the Game Commision and the township would be the ones handing out the fines for not obeying the signs. He was merely giving me a heads-up, as he knew I wasn't there to cause problems - simply to fish. I took the time to move my vehicle and on the way back in, I passed him coming back out. He rolled down the window again and said, "Hey, I have your license plate number and vehicle description on the exemption list. That gets your vehicle overlooked if you forget to read the signs again." He smiled and moved on.

I had to get back to the fishing. I had 30 'gills to handle and the clock didn't stop ticking.
I had given myself a personal challenge of catching 30 'gills on twister tails only + measuring and weighing them.........................I really wasn't thinking. That takes time, especially when you're waist deep in water and have to walk out every time to record the numbers. I ended up using a bag and digital scale to get the weights.

The fish that is in the bag was one of the slot fish I kept. It was an 8.5" fish that weighed just a touch over a half pound (9ozs.) Some of the other numbers are tagged with the day's smallest contribution.

The 30 'gill mark?
I had that covered at 10:13am. Putting three(3) twister tail combinations together, and using them exclusively, brought my clicker to rest at 42 'gills for the morning. The one part I didn't make good on was the 10 slot fish for a meal. I brought eight(8) home - which are on ice until I get time on Sunday to fillet them.

So, all in all, a good morning, But it doesn't end there.
While bluegill made up the majority of that 42 number, I had a few of my favorite river sunfish mixed in.

But that's not all....................
Seven(7) of the most intriquing panfish didn't get included in the count, but were forced to pose for pictures.

Does it end there?
No.
Part way through the morning, I lost a rig to an unseen snag. Taking advantage of a re-rig, I switch colors again - this time to an all orange bait. I made this move because I knew the Marburg 'gills respond well to orange and I had remembered a bright orange plug that used to be the rage at Saginaw in the late 70's. What happened next, I wasn't prepared for mentally. Five(5) casts were made into the same area I had just caught 'gills from, without so much as a tap. I shifted my target spot downstream approx. 10 ft, let the jig fall, made three turns on the reel handle, let the jig fall, and saw the line tick. The Strad doubled over farther then it had all morning and started throbbing from the head shaking that was going on at the other end.

Here again, while they aren't they largest things that are swimming in these waters, catching them on micro tackle, with a rod build to maximize panfish enjoyment - they were a welcome species to the hands. Five(5) walleye ended up taking that orange twister, well actually six(6), but the last one being more substantial then the previous was only willing to let me know he was down there before seperating my twister and myself.

Just for one last kicker, the Strad even showed it was up to the task of yet another river resident. Mark one(1) smallmouth up on today's roster.


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Comment by Jim Gronaw on February 27, 2010 at 8:26am
Way cool, Zig! I am retired...want to fish some hot water this week! I am 50 miles from Brunner Island....

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