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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fishing by the light of the moon

Fishing is always a mystery as to what lurks in the watery depths and how you are going to catch it. The element of darkness adds another level of mystery, anticipation and excitement. Frequently that excitement is punctuated by a lunker fish that makes this extra effort worthwhile.
Muskellunge are always a fish of mystery and challenge. Their huge size, the relativity scarcity of these fish and their unpredictable nature make them a prized challenge for anglers. Although most people put their hopes of catching one on trolling the icy days of late autumn, some anglers like my friend Mike Seymour regularly catch bragging-sized muskies all summer long.
Mike generally fishes the area of the St. Lawrence River near Ogdensburg where he guides for various species. Even when he is not guiding, Mike and his son Luke regularly fish for muskies and catch 10 to 15 each summer. The key is that he fishes for these behemoths after dark by trolling the areas that he knows hold muskies.
Naturally this calls for an intimate knowledge of the river and its structure as well as the techniques of fishing for muskies. If you want the excitement of catching a muskie without fishing during the icy gales of November, then fishing at night is your best bet. For more information contact Mike Seymour at (315) 379-0235.
Many bass fishermen target bass after dark because the cool summer night air is a welcome relief from the day’s heat. During the daylight hours their favorite spot is often buzzing with boaters. Any bass in the area were hiding in deep water or in dense cover with no thought of feeding.
Fishing after dark means there is less boating activity to disturb bass. The water temperatures cools a few degrees and they no longer have to stay in deep water or heavy cover to avoid the bright sunlight. The bass not only feel more secure after dark but the items on their menu like frogs, crayfish and small bullheads are also more active.
My friend Gary Lee is an Adirondack angler who loves to fish at night for bass with top-water lures. Many of his best fishing adventures are at night during the summer season. Bill Batdorf and Blaine Cook are two local anglers who are adept at night fishing for bass. Although they may have their own preferences for different methods or favorite spots, they all agree that night fishing for bass is a magical time and some of the biggest fish are taken at night.
Shallow areas adjoining deep water or those that have heavy cover are the best bet for night fishing. Areas of clear water and weeds are usually better than areas of dark or murky water for fishing at night. A key factor is that bass won’t have to move far from their daytime hideouts to their feeding areas.
Fishing after dark calls for being familiar with the water and knowing that the area is free of stumps, shoals or other hazards. You should also know the depths, structure and other areas where the bass are likely to be so you can quietly approach them using landmarks as guides. It is a good idea to be out on the water in prime areas before sunset to orient yourself and get your gear ready.
Often the fishing will be good in the last hour or two before sunset. You will probably find that the period right after sunset is slow fishing. It usually takes an hour for the fish to acclimate their eyes to the darkness before they are ready to feed again.
Fishing after dark calls for extra caution. In addition to PFDs and lights, you should be sure to include a jacket and insect repellent. Make sure you have long-nosed pliers because trying to lip-lock a bass in the dark is an invitation to disaster. Check the shoreline or other landmarks and carry a compass because even familiar waters will appear strange after dark.
Bill Batdorf favors top water lures like Jitterbugs. He suggests darker colors for darkest nights, since bass see the lure on the surface as a silhouette. Other top water lures include Chug Bugs or various poppers. Bill usually employs a steady retrieve because that gives bass a chance to zero in on the movement. If that doesn’t work, you can vary the speed of your retrieve.
Although most bass anglers like lures that create noise such as top water chuggers, lures with “propellers” or spinner baits, other bass lures will also catch fish at night. Some anglers who are skillful with plastic worms use these at night as well. Remember that key considerations are getting the lure through and out of the weeds and cover, and the ease of unhooking bass afterwards.
There are countless ponds or lakes, large and small, that are suitable for night bass fishing. You are actually better off trying some of the smaller ponds since it is easier to familiarize yourself with the cover, etc.
Brown trout are another species that lends itself to night fishing. Browns are warier than brook or rainbow trout and often spend the daylight hours in deep water or heavy cover during the summer days. Night anglers often catch some lunker browns that most people would not believe inhabited those streams.
Again it is imperative to know the stream you are fishing. Be familiar with the depths, the current and the bottom structure. Know the area so you can almost cast to the areas from memory since you will not be able to see much in the dark. Although the big browns are often cruising the pools, you may still find them close to their normal hideouts.
Have a light handy, but be careful not to shine it on the water or you will put down the big browns who should be out feeding. Typically these monsters will be cruising the pools or feeding in the riffles at the head of pools.
Nightcrawlers, salted minnows or big streamer flies and Wooly Buggers are my baits or lures of choice. Some other anglers, however, are successful using smaller streamers or flies, as well as Phoebes, Mepps spinners or small spoons.
In the next few weeks the water temperatures will remain warmer and days will still be bright and sunny. Thus it is still a good time to be fishing at night. Give it a try and you may be surprised at what goes slurp in the dark of the night.                       
Larry Chandler: Sportsmen and the Central New York community lost a good friend last week when Larry Chandler passed away. Most people knew Larry as a pleasant and warm personality who practically always had a smile on his face. His easy going nature belied his hard work, dedication and sense of responsibility to his community and sportsmen’s issues.
One of Larry’s greatest loves was the Boy Scouts of America and he spent countless hours serving and leading in many capacities. He was also a long time instructor for Hunter Safety and put in many days teaching youngsters the safe and ethical practices of hunting. He also served as Hunting Safety Coordinator for the Oneida County area.
Larry aided the causes of many sporting organizations and projects including the Vernon Rod & Gun Club, Oneida County Federation of Sportsmen, youth turkey and goose hunts and the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame. Larry was an inductee of the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame as befitting someone who contributed so much to the preservation of outdoor sports and conservation.
Our organizations and area are much richer because of his efforts. Larry Chandler will be missed as a sportsman, a member of the community and a friend.
BPS Women’s Workshop: Bass Pro Shops in North Utica will continue its Fall Classic education series this weekend with a women’s workshop. The Women’s Hunting Workshop will be held on August 29 at 3 p.m. The workshop is free and first 25 women to attend will receive a free tumbler.


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