Do you love big bluegill?
Location: Susquehanna River/Saginaw area
Time: 11:30am - 3:50pm
Water Temp: N/A
Air Temp: 34-39
River Stage: 4.23-4.22
Bait: 1/64oz. jig heads tipped w/maggots
1/64oz. jig heads w/ Maki Maki
1/64oz. jig head w/ Maki Stoni
1/64oz. jig head w/ Maki Draggi
Presentation(s): Cast and retrieve
Fish: Bluegill, Rockbass, Redbreasted Sunfish (55)
Smallmouth bass (1)
As Z and I walked along the frozen dirt road, we discussed what was going to happen in a few minutes. The talk was about who was going to catch what and how many. Z had visions of grandeur as he proceeded to tell me how many more bluegills he was planning to catch then myself.
He was carrying his Micro Lite setup rigged with a single 1/64oz. jighead set to suspend 30" below a waggler style float. The plan was for him to fish live bait (waxworms and maggots) exclusively while I fished beside him with artificials. I was carrying The Strad rigged with an orange jighead and a black Maki Stoni.
The first stop we made was at an area that had produced well for us in the past. It was an apparently featureless, tapering bottom that offered a slower current area just off the main channel current. At the present river stage this area is an approx. 5.5-6ft. hole. It didn't take long for Z to connect with the day's first fish with his waxworm.
I was carrying equipment to put togther a video along with the camera and dive case, which turned out to be a waste of resources. Z realized he was getting consistent action and felt the need to start smack talking my abilities. Now don't get me wrong, I love the child dearly, but he had to learn that in order to talk the talk, he had better be able to walk the walk. Being able to place my small jig directly at the seam between currents allowed me to fish an area he couldn't reach, which turned the tables to my advantage at a very fast pace. While the fishing was enjoyable, the quality of the fish wasn't what I was looking for. I opted to walk a few yards uostream and fish the area from a different angle to see if a new group of fish could be found that we weren't presenting to from the ground we normally fish this spot from. This decision turned out to be more of a test for The Strad then anything. On my second cast, while feeling for the jig to make contact with the bottom, I felt a fast tick-tick-tick take of a fish.
If you have ever experienced the rod stopping weight of a fish during a hookset, you'll understand what I mean when I say I knew I just coupled with something more substantial then this rod/reel had ever experienced; something more substantial then this setup was designed for. While a normal individual's first thoughts would be "nice fish", mine were, "use the rod and work the drag". I instantly put the outcome of this battle in the hands of what I thought my abilities were.
Then it took to the air.
The smallmouth bass cleared the surface by a full body length, head thrashing, and doing everything to rid itself of the object in its' mouth.
Then it took off to places unknown across the river.
I left it go while slowly thumbing the spool to slow the fish down. This seemed to work, as it turned and finished its attempts at avoiding me by feeling my thumb on its' lower jaw.
This was a first for me: a legal Pa smallmouth taken on a micro jig, with 2lb, line and a 7.5ft 1wt flyrod blank...............who would have thought?
As the afternoon progressed, more panfish were caught, along with a few incidental catches.
Small walleye seemed to accept the Maki plastic as quickly as the panfish. More then a few toothy faces showed themselves as the sun reflected off the water.
Z had voiced on drive in that he'd like to catch a walleye this year. I assured him that we would spend some time fishing for them on Lake Marburg this summer. As I felt the telltale head shakes of the walleye I was catching, his request continued to come to mind. I was contemplating giving him my jig to see if he could scratch another species off his list, but each time it was interrupted by, "Dad, I got another one. Click it!"
We moved downstream a few times, stopping at deeper holes and any wood structure we came across. The afternoon was filled with laughter, smiles, and the ever present "my fish is bigger then yours" comparisons.
Z managed to catch his first rockbass. A very nice 10" fish that wanted very badly to get back in the water while waiting for a picture to be taken.
I ended up losing all the plastics I had built so much confidence with over the last two trips, but not before they raised that confidence a bit higher. They brought my personal best for this waterway to hand.
Just to make things interesting, I asked Z if he wanted to learn how to rig spikes (maggots) on a jig. He of course jumped at the chance, so we switched him over to fishing with five(5) maggots allowed to writher on the end of a jig head. That is when the whole afternoon became one that will never be forgotten.
Since I didn't have any artificials to fall back on, I started fishing a maggot tipped jighead w/o a float. That is when the bruisers for the day started showing up. Z's handled his first redbreasted sunfish:
A few mature 'gills couldn't resist the wriggling "fingers" of multiple maggots. This particular one carried an elevated attitude when being removed from his lair:
Since Z was on such a role removing fish from his list he wanted to catch, he felt the need to increase a personal best as well. I'm not so certain this 8.5" RB sunfish doesn't beat mine!! A very healthy specimen for our area:
At 3:30pm we decided to call it quits. We had ventured into new water with very little to show for it, and figured anymore fruitless time would simply take away from the wonderful afternoon of angling we had together. The road we walked in on had gone from frozen and snow covered to a sheer mess:
We walked out to the truck talking about all the firsts we experienced today. There was one fish that stood out from all the others however. It wasn't the smallmouth on micro tackle, or those first panfish species. As we talked about it, it wasn't completely the fish itself but moreso what it was caught on. See, as Z was busy enjoying the last hour panfishing with maggots he had his wish granted....................on a 1/64oz. jig tipped with maggots fished under a float!!
Just for the record: when asked which fish he liked catching the most was, his answer was..............."Big Bluegill."