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Contact Pete Heley
PO Box 264
Reedsport, OR 97467
Monthly Archives: June 2012
Another all-depth halibut opener will run beginning this Thursday (June14-16). Since only 52 percent of the central Oregon coast quota has been landed, there should be more openers coming up.
The few Umpqua River spring chinook anglers still trying for them caught some fish last week – including a 41 pounder. The amount of suspended moss floating down the river allows only a few minutes of fishing before becoming weeded. A couple of anglers rig two rods and when they pull in their usual load of moss, they cast out the other rig and then go about cleaning off their terminal gear. They finish just in time to do it all over again – and once in a great while, during those few moments when a lure is working properly, a chinook will strike.
I would like to point out that the annual spring chinook contest sponsored by the Wells Creek Inn will continue through June. Last year, the person who won second place caught their fish near mid-June. This year’s leading fish is only 34 pounds but the contest does require pre-registration. The $17.00 fee includes a very nice T-shirt and the prizes go as follows: third place gets $50.00, while two-thirds of the remaining prize money goes to the first place winner and one-third goes to the second place winner and for the last several years that has meant an average of around $200 to the contest winner. While $200 is nothing to sneeze at, this writer thinks that the “bragging rights” associated with winning such a contest would be worth even more.
There were some catches of legal crabs off the docks at Winchester Bay last week, but they are still very much earned. Boats crabbing between the entrance to the East Boat Basin and the lower end of Half Moon Bay have made some half limit to near limit catches. There have been few opportunites for boat crabbers to crab in the ocean, but when they can, it is the most productive spot.
The Umpqua’s pinkfin run has been a little spotty, but every day some anglers are catching limits. While many anglers try to fish according to the tides, it would seem that the most important thing is to be where the perch are. Often when anglers say the fish just quit biting, they have simply moved off and have to be relocated unless an angler thinks that he/she is lucky enough that they are going to return. It appears that the very early morning bite is becoming ever more important. As usual, the much preferred bait is sand shrimp.
There are quite a few anglers itching to go tuna fishing, but so far there have been no reports of tuna within fishing range for sport anglers although some reports dealing with water temperature have been encouraging.
Bassfishing in almost all of our local lakes and ponds is very good. While it is becoming more difficult to catch the larger bass, medium and smaller bass have been very active. With the nicer weather, early morning and late evening have been the best times to fish. Smallmouth bass fishing on the Umpqua is good, but not as good as it would be if the river would just drop a couple of feet.
Trout anglers need to realize that the trout plants along the Oregon coast are pretty much over for the summer and they should concentrate their trout-fishing efforts on the larger local lakes which contain native and carryover trout. Even planted trout adjust their active periods to early mornings and late evenings during the summer months.
With the opening of the coastal streams on the last Saturday in May, both Siltcoos River and Tenmile Creek offer wonderful floats for bass and trout.The nearly five mile long float on Tenmile Creek from Lakeside down to the bridge on Old Highway 101 is very productive for both bass and trout and if you are fishing with a partner so you do not have to hide your gear, a less than a mile walk along the railroad tracks can get you back to your vehicle.
While Siltcoos River does not have the fish numbers that Tenmile Creek does, the fish can be quite large with bass weighing upwards of four pounds and trout measuring more than 20-inches in length. Despite the heavy traffic from small boats like kayaks and canoes, the river actually gets very little fishing pressure. Almost everyone using the river doesn’t bother to bring along fishing equipment choosing instead to watch the scenery, the birds or just concentrate on getting some exercise. This river is best fished with fishing partners, one of who parked their car at the picnic area on the Siltcoos Beach Access Road which is located several hundred feet below the small dam (which has a slide suitable for getting around the dam’s right side when facing downstream). Physically fit kayakers would have no problem paddling the nearly three miles upstream from the dam to the lake since the stream flows slowly.
Some new fish arrivals have given this writer cause for concern. So far, the reports of spotted bass in Lost Creek and Cottage Grove reservoirs have not had much of an impact. At some future point, it is almost certain that a low-water year or some other condition will allow them to have a very successful spawn compared to the other bass and panfish species they compete with. A legitimate cause for even more concern is the introduction of smallmouth bass into the Coquille River system. At some point, the smallmouths will colonize most of the river system (the Middle Fork Coquille appears to be ideal smallmouth habitat) and will undoubtedly target salmonids during periods of warmer water since they won’t have pikeminnows (formerly called squawfish) as a main forage base.
Arrogance in sports is pretty much inevitable. It starts out as early as junior high school, where a coach and/or faculty start treating a precocious athlete as something special and often overlook such things as tardiness, bullying, poor grades, poor behavior or a lack of proper social skills. By treating these young athletes in such a special way and at such an early age, the athletes have a very skewed sense of proper behavior and academic achievement.
On the other hand, the arrogance (and confidence) that come with this special treatment often further enhance the young athlete’s sporting achievements. In other words, their relative lack of “second-guessing” often makes them more effective than their teammates and opponents.
However, there is another side of arrogance that can reduce a team’s ability to win. When a coach let’s an NBA superstar shoot a technical foul shot when there are several more effective foul shooters on the floor – it will cost that coach a few victories over the course of several seasons. When a coach allows a superstar to take an important shot when there are teammates on the floor who will be less closely guarded and whose shooting abilities more closely fit the situation – that coach will also lose a few games he shouldn’t over several seasons. In baseball, when a star player refuses to bunt, play hit and run, or adjust his stance to avoid a severe shift, he will cost his teams some games they should have won and his decisions are determined by his arrogance or refusal to admit his imperfections.
When Kobe Bryant feels the need to shoot repeatedly to help his team win games, despite shooting only 43 percent for this last NBA season, when he has two seven foot, very talented, big men (Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) who consistently shoot at a much higher percentage, Kobe’s arrogance costs his team numerous games. Arrogance helped Tiger Woods become the best golfer ever and he has been mediocre since he lost that arrogance after the public rebuked him for his sexual misconduct while married.
The arrogance problem becomes more apparent when an athlete moves up into every tougher leagues or classifications and at some point becomes an average player. It is difficult to just switch off the arrogance that helped the athlete be so successful at a sport’s lower levels – and doing so may result in the player playing less effectively.
One of the biggest problems caused by athletes’ arrogance is their inability to realize when their skills fade – and they often pay a brutal price for that inability. A good example of that inability would be Sugar Ray Leonard.
It is quite surpising to this writer that so relatively few superb athletes misbehave is society after receiving years of special treatment while growing up – after all, arrogance also affects mere mortals such as us.
When I have taken a couple fishing for a fish species and in a spot which I pretty much know, I am consistenly amazed by how well the women heed my angling advice – and how consistently the man decides that he has a better fish-catching system. Despite not catching any fish, the man will refuse to ask “directions” to improve his success and after the trip, the wife or girlfriend will not wait until they are out of earshot before beginning to gloat. But the guy will almost always do exactly the same thing the next time he is in a similar situation.
So while a little bit of arrogance can be a good thing, and more of it – not so much, we all suffer from it.
As someone who greatly enjoys fishing in Oregon waters, there are still many things that could easily be done that could make the fishing even more enjoyable – for me and thousands of other anglers fishing in Oregon waters. Here are some of my ideas.
1 – Introduce hybrid (sterile) tiger muskies into select Oregon lakes that have serious problems with non-gamefish. The program has been wildly successful in Washington where it is pretty much a catch and release fishery since a musky has to be 50-inches in length to be large enough to legally keep. In fact, Washington’s musky anglers are so used to releasing their muskies that even muskies big enough to keep have been released. Should someone actually catch one of these giants and actually keep it and turn it in for official state record recognition, Washington’s state record for tiger muskies will almost certainly be at least ten pounds heavier. Ironically, in Washington’s seven waters hosting hybrid musky populations, the trout fishing has show noticeable improvement.
2 – Plant western Oregon lakes and reservoirs with channel catfish. Since it is unlikely that the waters in western Oregon will be warm enough for very much successful spawning, this would have to pretty much be a put and take program – kind of like Oregon’s current program for hatchery rainbow trout. However, the catfish will taste a lot better than the stocked trout and, if Devils Lake near Lincoln City is any indication, be capable of growing to more than 20 pounds. More than 30 years ago, Devils Lake was lightly stocked with channel catfish which showed good growth. A state record channel cat weighing more than 29 pounds was produced and a 32 pound channel cat was found floating in the lake after apparently dying of old age. Such a program might reduce the state’s gasoline usage since a surprising number of residents living in western Oregon drive considerable distances to fish for channel catfish in eastern Oregon.
3 – Plant brown trout in some lowland lakes in western Oregon. Washington does this and the brown trout seem to extend how long it takes before a trout plant gets caught out. Additionally, a few of those brown trout carryover and have reached weights of more than ten pounds. There has been virtually no successful spawning by these planted browns, so the program could be completely controlled by the ODFW.
4 – Resume stocking brook trout in East Lake. As someone who campaigned for years to have brown trout reestablished in East and Paulina lakes, the giant browns these lakes have produced over the last few decades elates me. However, in the fall, East Lake offered wonderful fly fishing in shallow water gravel beds for brookies averaging 14 to 18-inches. When the ODFW reestablished the brown trout and added landlocked Atlantic salmon, kokanee salmon to their regular plants of rainbow trout, I never thought that they would let the brookies die out. I’m happy with the many policy changes they have made at East Lake – but why not strive for perfection.
5 – Allow smallmouth bass fishing on the South Umpqua before mid-May and after mid-September. I am sure that there are reasons for the fishing closure on the South Umpqua, but I have a difficult time thinking that smallmouth bass anglers would be a part of any problems. The South Umpqua offers wonderful smallmouth bass fishing for those wading the river or fishing form float tubes or such small craft as canoes and kayaks. However, in most years, guess when the river’s larger smallmouths are most likely to bite – before mid-May and after mid-September.
6 – There seems to be a not-so-subtle bias where the ODFW seems to want every Oregon angler to fish for the same fish species in the same waters at the same time. Whether that is actually the case, or not, the fishing opportunities afforded Oregonians now fits that description far more closely than it did years ago. Working with landowners to open up more fishing opportunities would be a major step in the right direction. Throughout Oregon, but especially along the Oregon coast, there are many acres of water that either have no fish at all, or fish that are no longer suitable for the waters they are in. I am not advocating regular fish plants, I am saying that an initial stocking to establish the fishery and then don’t do anything until a drought necessitates a restocking. In some of the lakes and ponds between Reedsport and North Bend, digging a deep water sanctuary to allow fish to make it through a low rainfall year would certainly be helpful. The benefits would be more angling opportunities for those fishing in Oregon and, hopefully, fishing pressure would be more spread out.
7 – It would not be difficult to make fishing in Oregon more interesting. I know that ODFW personnel work very hard, but if they could somehow become more proactive when it comes to keeping state fishing records angling interest would pick up – especially if they could somehow keep semi-official records for each fishing spot. Part of this plan would involve keeping state records on fish species not currently covered in Oregon. Spotted bass have been reported in Cottage Grove and Lost Creek reservoirs and while they are not much desired by anyone who doesn’t fish for them – it would be nice if state records were kept for them. The same could be said for the common carp – a fish that Oregon does not currently keep records for. Like some other states, Oregon does not keep separate state records for bullhead catfish. It once did, when a three pound two ounce yellow bullhead was the state record for that species, but now black, brown and yellow bullheads are now lumped together. State records are not kept for Oregon’s marine bottomfish (lingcod, greenling, pile, redtailed and striped surfperch and several species of rockfish). The shame of these omissions is that a couple of the striped surfperch taken from the Umpqua River’s South Jetty at Winchester Bay would have been world records – if records were kept. Additionally, an official state record for pikeminnows would allow one to address the numerous anglers that claim to have caught one that is substantially larger than they actually get.
This article is not meant to be a rant. Fishing is pretty good in Oregon, but it could be better and definitely more interesting.
Although a few diehard spring chinook fishermen, willing to deal with the increasing amount of moss in the Umpqua River, are still catching some fish, the best recent salmon-fishing news has been a rather consistent bite in the ocean between the Umpqua River Bar and Charleston. Over last weekend, when sport anglers could get out, they had consistent chinook action as long as they were fishing in water less than 100 feet deep. Deeper water seemed to yield only cohos and let’s hope they stick around until the July 1st ocean opener makes the finclipped ones legal angling fare. Almost all of the recent chinook catches have been feeder chinook weighing from eight to 16 or 17 pounds with a few larger chinook, possibly late-arriving spring chinook, also entering the catch. One of the larger chinook, a 30 pounder, was taken by Dave Roe of Lakeside, on Sunday, while fishing between Tenmile Creek and Charleston.
Some of the Coast Guard personnel stationed in Winchester Bay have been casting spinners into the East Boat Basin near their station over the last week and hooked a number of cutthroat trout as well as a steelhead, and adult and jack spring chinooks.
Although the halibut fishing has been somewhat disappointing so far this season, especially when it comes to the size of most of the fish, some very nice-sized halibut were taken last week by boats fishing northwest of Florence. Bill Gates, our very seasoned fish checker, reported that the boat he was on accounted for halibut weighing 70 and 90 pounds. Usually the quality of the halibut fishing gradually shrinks, but let’s hope this year is different.
Fishing has been erratic for the “pinkfin” that run up the Umpqua River to spawn between Winchester Bay and Gardiner. While a few anglers seem to get limits or near limits each day, the perch have been hard to find for most anglers over the last week. If the perch anglers are concentrated in only a few spots (such as across from the entrance to the East Boat Basin and near Marker 12), the chance of finding the perch when they are elsewhere is unlikely. While the perch run should last at least six more weeks, there is easily enough perch in the Umpqua right now to provide hot action when they are biting and nearby. A good portion of the flounder taken in the Umpqua each year are incidentally taken by anglers fishing sand shrimp for pinkfin during their spawning run. As usual, the male pinkfin remaining along the local beaches after the female perch ascend the river often bite much better than the females do.
Sturgeon fishing remains slow and although they are available to be caught in the Umpqua, the fishery will never rebound until the Columbia sturgeon fishery achieves its former glory. It wasn’t so many years ago, that sturgeon spawned so successfully in the Columbia that thousands of the small sturgeon had to leave the river to find enough food to survive. Competition for food in some sections of the Columbia among the smaller sturgeon was tremendous and some of my friends have even caught sturgeon while fishing spinnerbaits for on the Columbia for bass and walleyes. The small sturgeon that left the Columbia River were usually right at or just above the minimum legal length when they entered the lower reaches of many Oregon coastal rivers and the Umpqua always seemed to get more than its share of the migrant sturgeon. With a burgeoning stellar sea lion population added to the sport and commercial sturgeon fisheries, the long term health of the Columbia’s sturgeon population does not look good.
The South Jetty has been fishing well for bottomfish. Tony Stark, who caught a limit of rockfish on a herring rig recently, while fishing the South Jetty from a boat, caught a quick limit of rockfish on Sunday while using crappie jigs. On Sunday, his rockfish averaged two pounds.
A very few anglers are enjoying consistent striped bass action on the Smith River at night. Most are fishing with some sort of bait and the amount of floating or suspended debris in the Smith makes fishing lures rather difficult. There has been some very good shad catches made on the Umpqua, but overall fishing success has been fair at best.
Many area lakes will be stocked this week prior to the “Free Fishing Weekend” this coming Saturday and Sunday (June 9th and 10th). Lake Marie will be stocked this week with 1,000 legal rainbows and will have a kid’s fishing even on the lake from 9 am through 1 pm on Saturday. Area lakes that will be stocked besides Lake Marie include Loon Lake (1,000 legals); Empire Lakes (6,000 legals); North and South Tenmile lakes (3,000 legals each) and Cleawox Lake (2,000 12-inchers and 250 14-inchers). This weekend pretty much ends the spring trout plants for our area.
With very few exceptions, the smallmouth bass spawn is over and the same can be said for the largemouth bass spawn in inland waters. However, in some coastal waters the bass are just entering the spawn and there will be at least some bass spawning throughout June. (Eel and some of the deeper lkkes). In lakes like Saunders and Tenmile, many, if not most, of the bass have already spawned. The importance of the bass spawn is that it means that fair numbers of decent-sized bass are in shallow water and can often be seen or more easily fished for than when they are deep. Panfishing, even for yellow perch, along the Oregon Coast has been disappointing, but early morning fishing farther east has been very productive for crappies and bluegills with some yellow perch also biting.
While the Umpqua’s smallmouth are becoming more active, the river is still high enough to make wading the edges of the river difficult, However, boating the river is easy and the fish are cooperative. While the river is still relatively high, it is important to concentrate one’s fishing efforts on backwaters and the slower-moving sections of the river.
Lakeside, Oregon angler Tony Stark used his eyes to make some of the quickest rockfish limits taken off the Umpqua River’s South Jetty in quite some time.
Fishing out of his small boat, as close to the jetty as he dared, Tony noticed what appeared to be newly-hatched striped surfperch swimming around near the surface by the thousands. He also noticed what he thought were larger fish below the schools of fry when they flared their gills to inhale the tiny perch.
The newly hatched perch were quite small and Tony did not have any lures that would closely imitate them except for a herring rig which is normally used to catch small baitfish such as anchovies, herring and sardines. He decided to give it a try and he ended up with a quick limit of rockfish that averaged about a pound and a half.
Two weeks later, the small perch were a little larger and Tony used a two or three hook setup with inch and a half long curlytail grubs on them. The most productive color was root beer with pepper. Once again, Tony landed a quick limit and had a couple of the larger rockfish break his line. The rockfish limit he landed averaged about two pounds.
As long as the small surfperch remain the major forage for larger fish along Winchester Bay’s South Jetty, Stark’s technique should continue to work well. An apt description of his technique might be “Matching the Hatch for Rockfish”.
Anglers wanting to catch good numbers of fair-sized bluegills crappies would do well to consider Ben Irving Reservoir, a 250 acre – more than two mile long, often turbid, reservoir located in the foothills west of Winston. Because the reservoir doesn’t get many trout plants, can be unattractive when windy and the some of the best routes to the lake from Highway 42 are not marked, the lake gets relatively little fishing pressure compared to such nearby lakes as Cooper Creek Reservoir in Sutherlin.
But Ben Irving offers good fishing for bluegills to at least eight inhes and the most consistent crappie fishing in Douglas County with the average fish measuring at least nine inches.
Last Friday, John Ledfors, a fellow graduate of North Bend High School, and I visited Ben Irving for a half day trip to see how many warmwater fish species we could account for. Since it was after 9 am when we launched John’s drift boat, the crappie and largemouth bass fishing only lasted about three hours, but it was very good. We landed close to 20 bass with the largest a three pound six ounce post spawn female taken near the dam. Almost all of our crappies measured at least nine inches with the largest, an 11-incher, that hit a soft plastic jerkbait intended for a lunker largemouth.
As our crappie and bass catch slowed, the bluegills became more active and were quite evident swimming near the surface as far as 40 feet from the bank. Some of the larger bluegills were on their beds and were quite difficult to hook. In addition to the bass, crappies and bluegills, John also landed a nice-sized yellow perch. We didn’t try to catch a brown bullhead, but were somewhat surprised that we did not incidentally catch a planted rainbow trout. Since we caught at least 50 fish, we were in no position to complain about the fishing, but our mid-morning start definitely reduced our catch of bass and crappie.
As summer wears on and the water gets warmer, an early start will become increasingly important when it comes to catching the reservoirs bass, crappie and trout, but the bluegills should bite all day – be sure to use small hooks. On our Friday trip we found Ben Irving’s water visibility to be almost three feet in the lower half of the reservoir, but much less near the inlet. Since the bass and crappie spawn is over, don’t count on continued success for them in shallow water.
In the photo below, John Ledfords is nonchalently holding up a three pound Ben Irving largemouth.
Over the last several years, the crappie fishing along the Oregon Coast has gone from fairly bad to really, really bad. There are undoubtedly a number of factors for this decline, but the major one is probably that when it comes to crappie fisheries near the Oregon Coast, yellow perch tend to outcomplete them in almost every case.
As warmwater fish go, crappies are relatively poor swimmers and easy prey for big largemouths, large trout, bullheads and catfish and even larger crappies. Warm-blooded predators such as cormorants and other diving fish-eating birds definitely take their toll, but crappies are not much impacted by such fish-eating birds as herons and ospreys because they are seldom shallow enough for the herons, or close enough to the surfact to be osprey food.
But the poor crappie catches along the Oregon Coast cannot be completely blamed on the fact that almost everything is eating them. Crappies, unless specifically targeted, are rather difficult to catch. They seldom hit full-sized bass lures and don’t seem to relish angle worms or nightcrawlers. They are also more active during periods of low light to the point where they are seldom active when people are actually fishing. By early morning, they have moved to deeper water and few anglers fish in the late evening or during nighttime when they are most active.
I am going to attempt to list most of the waters near the Oregon Coast that have crappie fisheries (more complete crappie information is available in either the Oregon Coast Bass and Panfish Guide or the Oregon Bass and Panfish Guide – both of which are available for purchase on this website under the book section). Along the north coast, Cullaby Lake has fair numbers of both black and white crappies, Sunset Lake has a very few crappies and Smith Lake produced a crappie weighing more than three pounds several years ago. Crappie have been planted in Cape Mears Lake near Tillamook, but no longer seem to enter the catch and Devils Lake, near Lincoln City, contains both species of crappie – but very few of them.
Lower Big Creed Reservoir seems to have fair numbers of crappies that seem to hang out in the roadside cove near the middle of the lake, but since the primary fishery, besides planted trout, is for yellow perch, the reservoir may not hold the same numbers of crappies that it did three and four years ago.
Near Florence, both Sutton and Mercer lakes have a very few black crappies in them that are almost completely untargeted. Although this writer has not heard of recent crappie catches from Woahink Lake, I once listed to an angler that was bragging about the 15 1/2-inch crappie he took out of the lake years ago. Cleawox Lake has fair numbers of crappies that become active near dusk, especially in the lengthy north arm of the lake. Although most of them are small, I have observed foot long dead crappies in the lake that seem to have died of old age.
Both Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes have cyclic populations of black crappies that are seldom targeted. In Tahkenitch, one of the more consistent spots is the narrow portion of the lake immediately above the Highway 101 bridge, while an angler targeting crappies at dusk near Ada Trestle on Siltcoos is likely to catch at least a few.
Lake Marie, several years ago, produced a few very nice-sized crappies to a member of Reedsport’s Lower Umpqua Fly Casters, but there have been no reports of crappie catches in several years.
The crappie fishery at Tenmile Lake has crashed, but anglers fishing with crappie jigs at dusk are still catching a few. Crappie fishing at Tenmile has never been the same since the crappie invaded the canal connecting North and South Tenmile by the tens of thousands and attracted up to 100 anglers per day for a two month period during the winter. A growing population of yellow perch make the chance of a crappie rebound in Tenmile Lakes very unlikely.
Eel Lake has fair numbers of black crappies that are seldom targeted and seem to stay relatively deep. Saunders Lake, although full of yellow perch, has some crappies with the best fishing usually being along the north edge of the weedline at the south end of of that sectioni of the lake near Highway 101. The author’s first crappie out of Saunders Lake weighed a full pound, but he has yet to duplicate it. The small pond on the east side of the railroad tracks just south of the south end of Saunders Lake has a few crappies in it to at least ten inches, but it is usually weed-choked by mid-May.
Butterfield Lake, now with increased access, contains black crappies, but not nearly in the numbers it did years ago. Still, anglers fishing crappie lures near dusk should catch some crappies. As for Beale Lake, crappies suffered the worst of the lake’s fish species during the lake’s series of droughts that ended several years ago – now the crappie population rivals that of the lake’s rarely taken warmouths or brown bullheads.Stump Lake, a four acre lake located on the west side of the railroad tracks just south of Beale Lake still has a few crappies in it, but crappies used to be the dominant fishery in the lake before bluegills and yellow perch somehow ended up in it.
Empire Lake has a few black crappie in it, but the population will continue to be depressed as long as it is a favorite spot for cormorants and the lake continues to receive tens of thousands of trout plants each year which tend to compete with the crappies for food.
There are a few spots, less then 20 miles from the Oregon Coast, that produce fair white crappie fishing. Loon Lake, gives up a few crappies to two pounds every year, but the population has shrunk since bluegills found their way into the lake. North Slough, nine miles east of Reedsport, has white crappie, but since the condominiums were built there are a lot less of them and they are much smaller. Numbers-wise, the crappie in Fat Elk Slough in Coquille, on both sides of the tidegate, are numerous, but seem to top out at about nine or ten inches above the tidegate, while below the tidegate a few crappies weighing between one and one and a half pounds enter the catch. The recent weed removal project on the slough should bode well for all of Fat Elk’s warmwater fish in the long run.
Good crappie fishing is available in many of the lakes near Interstate 5. The best fisheries are Cooper Creek Reservoir, Ben Irving Reservoir and Selmac Lake. In the photo below, John is holding up an 11-inch crappie from Ben Irving Reservoir.
While one should always fish while in possession of both a camera and an accurate scale, but it seems that we often catch our most notable fish while in possession of neither. In fact, fishing while having a camera and a scale seems to almost be a jinx, at times, when it comes to catching big fish.
As a hedge against fishing without a scale, an angler should always have some way to closely figure the length of a fish and hopefully the girth. If you can determine the length and the girth, you can very closely figure the weight of any fish you catch. One formula often used for bass is to take the length and multiply it by the girth squared. In other words, if you caught a 24-inch bass and was able to determine that it had a 17-inch girth you would figure the weight in the following way: 24 (length) X 17 (girth) X 17(girth) and then divide the resulting figure by 800. The answer would be 6936 / 800 or 8.67 pounds. This formula tends to underestimate the weight of real lunkers or really fat bass.
Ron Speed, an outfitter who was famous for his mexican bass fishing camps liked to use the following formula: length times length times girth divided by 1150. The previously estimated bass, using Speed’s formula would weigh: 24 X 24 X 17 divided by 1150 or 9792 / 1150 = 8.51 pounds. Of course, Ron did much of his fishing in warm climates, like Mexico, where the bass tend to be lengthier and thinner.
What I have found works for me is to a firm grasp on how long a one pound fish is of a number of different species. For example, a fat one pound trout may measure 13.5-inches and a somewhat leaner one pound trout would measure 14-inches. If I catch a larger trout, I simply cube the lenght of my catch and divide the resulting figure by the cube of the length of a one pound fish. As an example, if I caught a 21-inch normally shaped rainbow trout, I would estimate its weight by cubing its length (21X21X21) and divide by (14X14X14) or 9261 / 2744 or 3.375 pounds which is exactly three pounds six ounces. For some sizes, it is easier to just cube the proportion – in this case 3/2 cubed or 27 / 8 or three and three-eighths pound – which is, once again, three pounds six ounces.
A fat one pound bluegill is about nine inches long, a thin one pounder is about ten inches long and an average one pounder is about nine and a half inches long. A fat one pound crappie is about 11-inches long, while a normal one pounder is 11.75-inches long. You can spend some time getting a good handle on the lengths of one pound fish of various fish species.
However, very fat fish of any species need to be accurately weighed because any formula or weight estimation process will not do them justice. Alabama’s record bluegill was 15-inches long. Using a nine inch bluegill as the base for one pound, cubing 15 and then dividing that figure by the cube of nine results in the following figure: 15(cubed) / 9 (cubed) which is the same as 5 (cubed) / 3 (cubed) or 125 / 27 or 4 pounds 10 ounces – very close to the actual weight of four pounds 12 ounces. But if you have used a ten inch bluegill as your base one pounder – the estimated weight for that 15-incher would only have been three pounds six ounces. Bear in mind that few nine inch bluegills actually weigh a full pound.
Many lunker trout are incredibly fat and easy to under-estimate their weight, but steelhead weights are relatively easy to figure. If you know that a healthy, but not fat, 14-inch trout weighs about a pound, they a 28-inch steelhead will be twice as long, twice as deep and twice as wide and weigh about eight pounds. A 35-inch steelhead would be 5/2’s as long, 5/2’s as wide and 5/2’s as deep and the estimated weight would be: 125 / 8 or 15 pounds ten ounces.
Knowing these weight formulas will become more important as one gets older. At 63, I find that I am forgetting more and more things when on a fishing trip, whether it be my polarized glasses, a hat, my camera or a scale. But one thing I have yet to forget is how to do basic mathmatics.