Thursday, April 29, 2010

No Perch, Big Problem....

My good friend Rich was the first to arrive early Wednesday morning at Waukegan Harbor. He called me on the cell to let me know that the parking lot was filling up fast with trucks and boat trailers. I was still a few miles south of my exit off of Interstate 294 and I was thinking to myself, how crowded can it be on a Wednesday? I pulled in at 5:30am and the boats were lined up out of the parking lot and down the street. There is three public boat ramps at Waukegan Harbor, so you can get an idea of how many people had the same thoughts that we did. After we launched the boat and took our time heading out of the harbor channel, we noticed that all the boats were forming a giant flotilla about a mile out from shore. We made our way into the group and began to fish for Lake Michigan Perch in about 55 to 60 feet of water.

I looked at all the boats that were resting comfortably upon the calm clear water and took a quick count. I was well over 100 before I stopped counting. Most of the boats were smaller vessels under 20ft and I think I saw only 3 charters within the group. This gave me a little cause for concern. The Perch must not be biting or there would be more charter boats. We marked a few fish on the locator, but after an hour or so we only were witness to one Perch. No excitement, no Perch. After talking to a number of other boats we had gotten the story straight. You had to have been out before sunrise to catch any fish on this day. If you had managed to get out there at 4:00am you would have caught a few, but they stopped biting at about 6:00am. Lucky me! That's the time we got out there.

Our boat captain who still had to go to work that morning said we better call it a day. I'll keep his name off the record as to not help the company build a case against him. That reminds me of the guy who skipped out of work to catch a Cubs game and catches a foul ball. His face is plastered on the TV and he is fired for calling in sick. Classic! So we headed back in around 9:00am. I could have talked him in to staying out there if we were catching any fish.

Rich and I spent the rest of the morning fishing the Skokie Lagoons, having a few laughs and seeing a guy keep a 20 inch Largemouth. I was so mad at the sight of that fish on a stringer that I wanted to get as far away from Chicago as I possibly could. All the care that is taken by most of us to release fish that will help create trophy fisheries, and some idiot comes along and makes you shake your head in disgust! I will continue to try my best to educate the public on the benefits of CPR. Catch, Photo, Release! It is the only way that we will be able to provide quality fishing for future generations. Take the time to teach as many fisherman as you can. I eat fish all the time, but know the waters you are fishing, and what species is in abundance and the average size. I'm preaching to the choir here, but you get my point.

When I was a youngster, Dad would keep all the fish we caught as long as it was legal. I remember when I started to release some fish as a teenager and he would look at me and say, "What the hell did you go and do that for?" It was one of the few things we didn't agree on, but I think he came around to understanding why I did it. To me there is no better feeling than to catch a trophy fish, snap a few good photos and place that fish back into the water to fight another day. It is the true definition of sport and all that goes with it. My son Bryan said it best while as a four year old. He would sing a little jingle. "Put the fishy back where he came from". It shows you that a little education to the younger generation can make a big difference. I started watching the pros releasing fish on TV and it caught on. Now my son is releasing fish, and so on.

As soon as I'm done with this post I'm heading to the river to catch a few catfish for dinner. Most of them are about a pound and a half to two pounds. Perfect eaters, and if I happen to catch something else, you can bet I'll be posting a few good pictures!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

IHSA Bass Fishing Sectional at Busse Woods / St. Viator H.S.

Yesterday was one of those days that just don't come around often enough. Getting up at 4:00 am and smelling the freshly brewed coffee that I had prepared and programmed the night before. I was filled with anticipation for the days events and also a little nervous that I may not be able to meet the expectations of those who were counting on me. It had finally arrived. The IHSA Bass Fishing Sectional on Busse Lake was here and I was very fortunate to be a part of it.

I showered to wake myself up, got dressed and headed down to the kitchen. I packed my lunch and water, filled my thermos with coffee, and topped off my travel mug too! As i headed for the garage, Scruffy looked at me from his bed, as if to say...I hope he's not planning on making me get up? I obliged and told him to go to sleep. He was very content with my response. Hooking up the trailer to the truck, I closed the garage door and headed out of the subdivision and down the road. As I approached route 20, I was surprised to see so many cars out so early in the morning. Oh yeah! It's Friday and people have to go to work. Sometimes I forget what day it is, being so occupied with all that I have going on with Cast Across America and Job Hunting!

When I arrived at the launch ramp I was surprised to see that there was only one other boat there. That was a good thing because we were first for boat inspection. After a complete check of our safety equipment we launched and tied up the boat at the dock. I was very impressed with how well organized the Sectional was. The volunteers were great and it seemed to go quite smoothly. A big round of applause is needed for their efforts! After our coaches meeting it was time to hit the water.

I was the boat captain/coach for two Sophomores from St. Viator H.S., Daniel Cleary and Patrick Hulsebosch. I graduated from St. Viator back in 1985 so it was an honor to be helping out my old school. The boys were pumped up for the tournament and ready to go. That extra adrenalin might have cost us our first fish. Patrick was fishing a crank bait and probably was a little too aggressive in trying to reel one in when it let go. Within 15 minutes he had a second fish hit that same crank bait, this one held on a little longer but still managed to get off. I'm pretty sure that both fish just nipped the back of the lure and were not hooked very well. That can happen to anyone, unfortunately it happened to Patrick. He handled the situation quite well and it only made him more determined to catch a Bass. Daniel on the other hand didn't have any opportunities, and other than one bump on a twitch bait, it was a quiet day for him. We did however fish the spot where the largest Bass of the day was caught. We talked with that team for a few minutes just before they hooked it. That's Bass fishing. Congratulations to Jacobs H.S., Algonquin, IL for catching that 3lb 14oz fish!

There were some nice fish caught and a few limits too. All in all I'd say it was a win win situation for everyone involved. Another round of applause goes out from Cast Across America to Wheaton Warrenville South Boat #2, Maine West Boat #1 and York High School Boat #2. Good luck at the State Finals on May 7Th and 8Th at Carlyle Lake.

One final thought on the days events. 25 years will have passed this June since I walked through the doors of St. Viator H.S for the last time. I have many great memories from my years there, and have always felt that I was lucky to have been able to attend St. Viator. Meeting Daniel and Patrick and spending a few days with them on the water, has reminded me again, not only of the academic education that I received, but the outstanding character values that are taught at St. Viator. The Cleary and Hulsebosch families along with the Faculty and Staff at St. Viator should be very proud of these fine young men. Thank you again, for letting me be a part of the first Bass Fishing Team at St. Viator H.S.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

St. Viator Bass Fishing Team

Friday April 23rd is the Busse Woods Sectional for the Illinois High School Association 2010 Bass Fishing State Tournament. I was asked to be the team boat driver/coach for St. Viator High School, Arlington Heights, IL. I graduated from St. Viator in 1985 and it is an honor to be participating as a driver/coach for this years event. My brothers and I were happy to be able to donate the use of our boat to our former High School. Not only did each of us receive a quality education from St. Viator, we also made many long lasting friendships and a boat load of memories.

Hopefully the weather will cooperate for us on Friday and we will be able to complete the 5 hours of fishing. About two hours ago it was as warm as 65 and sunny and it is now overcast and much colder. It must have dropped about 20 degrees. The up and down temps will make it difficult to find numbers of active fish, and I believe that a lucky fish or two is all the students might need to place at this years event. In order to qualify for the State Finals on Carlyle Lake on May 7Th and 8Th St. Viator will need to finish within the top three teams at the Sectional.

As a competitive sport fisherman I have competed in a number of Muskie fishing tournaments in the past, and although I am not fishing in this event, I feel that I am just about as nervous and excited as one can get. The boat is ready to go. The team has pre-fished the main pool at Busse Lake and we have formulated a strategic plan. Now all we have to do is execute and hope that the Bass help us out a little bit too. I know that Patrick, Daniel and I will do our best to try and qualify for the State Finals. Good Luck to all of the participating teams at this years Sectional and let's hope for a nice day for everyone involved!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wolf River...Spring wouldn't be Spring without it!

The other night while I was checking the facebook page, and trying to catch up on all of the fishing info I could, something caught my attention. Over in the lower right hand corner of my laptop display was an instant message from my cousin Chuck. It read, Wolf trip, May 1&2. Now I've been telling myself for the last three months or so that I wasn't going to go the Wolf this year. Being unemployed is starting to take a toll on the old bank roll, and the thought of me trying to explain to Shirley that I was planning another fishing trip (I have one scheduled for the second week of May to St. Germain WI, and another one on the books for the first week of August to Orr MN. That doesn't include the annual Muskie tournament in October) just wasn't making me feel all too comfortable. Our dog Scruffy has a rather large cage for a Jack Russell Terrier but I don't think he would appreciate having to share it with me. So I didn't respond all to quickly to the message, but then I got to thinking about it...and I responded back, sounds good!

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of fishing the Wolf river in and around Fremont WI, I am sorry for you. It truly is an awesome fishing experience. Now for the rest of you, I am sure you can relate to what I am talking about. March/April begins the Walleye run. Late April/May is the White Bass run. June is the Catfish run. The summer can be great for the Smallmouth/Largemouth. Then by the beginning of September the White Bass start again. October/November bring the Walleyes up the river for the fall run. I prefer to make a trip in the beginning to mid May for the White Bass. The fishing can be nonstop action if you hit the right weather days. White Bass seem to bite more regularly on the sunny warm days as opposed to the cold cloudy days but I have had good days under both conditions.

We like to start out fishing the deeper holes with a Wolf River Rig tipped with a river shiner to see if there are any active fish stacked in the current. If they are there and feeding aggressively it can be the best method for catching them consistently, without having to move the boat too often. This is a great opportunity for the youngsters to get out and enjoy a day of fishing. The bite can be hot and heavy and easy for the kids to catch a bunch of fish, and get hooked on fishing like I did. A good river anchor is a must when fishing the Wolf. The currents can be quite strong, and without a good anchor you will not be able to stay upon these fish in the deeper holes.

The other fishing option is to drift down the river casting to the river bank structure with spinners. This can also be a very effective way to catch White Bass very quickly, the key here is to find the schools of fish that are entering the shallow areas to spawn. On trips in the past, I have seen fishermen catch a fish in 10 out of 10 casts. That is how quickly you can fill a cooler full of White Bass on the Wolf. Boat control is critical here when casting spinners to a school of hungry fish. You may be just a few feet off of the school or at the wrong angle to the structure and you can get nothing. I am talking from experience here and it's not very much fun when you can't catch a fish and the boat next to you is stacking them up one after another.

White Bass can be quite good on the table if prepared correctly. Here are few tips that I have found can make a big difference in their quality of taste. First, it is critical to keep them cold until you clean them. I prefer to ice them immediately in a cooler instead of keeping them in the livewell. Most of the fish will die in the livewell anyway because you will have too many, and the water will get too warm. Once they are warm the meat will begin to soften and will not be as firm as it is when cold. The next tip is to remove the mud vein when cleaning the fish. If you are not sure how to do this you can look online for videos that show how to remove the mud vein. The third tip is to keep and eat only the fish that are caught in the deeper holes. Once the fish have gone up shallow and begin to spawn, the fish tend to have a different flavor than the fish in the deeper current. I'm not sure exactly what the cause is, but I have my theories, and it is a noticeable difference in the taste quality.

One last thing you can do to make your Wolf river trip a successful one is to check the local conditions before you go. Ma's Bait and Tackle in Fremont can provide all the information, bait and supplies, to make your trip a great one. Stop by and see Ma's or visit them online at Tell them Cast Across America sent you! Good luck at the Wolf this Spring!

If you get a chance to make it to the Wolf this year let us know how you did on facebook at Cast Across America or email me at: and don't forget to visit our website at

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pondering thoughts about ponds......

When I decided to go and try and fish the local park pond this past weekend in Red Bud, IL, I had no idea what to expect from my first time there. My views of the pond from the golf course (which we play most years) adjacent to it showed some promise, but I had always wondered if it would be worthy of my limited time spent in Red Bud. About 5:00pm on Saturday evening I decided to give it a few of those minutes. Earlier in the day I had pulled out Claude's (my brother-in-law) fishing gear from the garage and began to prepare the rods and reels for Sunday at the Waterloo Sportsman's Club. I tied on a 2 inch countdown Rapala (the only one he had) to the end of the line. Yes I can read your mind. You are wondering why I didn't have my own gear with me when I fish all the time, right? Well, if you can believe this one, I wasn't planning on fishing. Sounds crazy doesn't it?

I arrived down at the pond and took a good look around. The left side of the pond was the golf course side and there wasn't any good looking cover over there. No visible signs of anything that the Bass would be looking to relate too. To the right of me was a small stretch of shoreline that had cattails and such, but most of it was still bent over from the previous winters weather. There were a couple of fishermen directly in front of me who were fishing with live minnows on slip floats.
I asked them if the fish were biting and I got the usual reply. "Nope, not today."
Looking out over the pond one more time I found exactly what I was looking for. Right smack dab in the center of the right side was a sunken brush pile. Not to get off the track here but I can not stress enough the importance of polarized sun glasses. If I wasn't wearing them I wouldn't have seen the cover. The best $20 you can spend on fishing equipment, period!

The first cast was made and nothing. I must not have been close enough to the cover, I thought. On the second cast I proceeded to get a little closer to the brush pile, and on the retrieve something bumped the lure. My third cast was made to almost the same location, but this time I paused for just a split second as I passed the cover. Whammo! The Bass smacked it and within a minute or two I was holding a chunky 16 inch Largemouth. The locals ran over to see my fish and commented that they had been fishing there all day and hadn't caught anything but a few small gills. You do not know how many times I have heard that when fishing a small pond.

I arrived back at the house that evening and showed them the picture of the fish and told the story of how I got that one. We were all laughing when I described the look on the local fisherman's faces after just three casts! the lesson learned from all of this is to study the pond and it's structure long before you make the first cast. I've done the same thing on other ponds, and have caught fish right in front of people who have been there all day. Sure, my presentation was completely different than how they were fishing, but I still would have taken my chances with that float and minnow a little closer to that brush pile.

So the next time you go out to the local pond. Remember these two important tips. Wear your polarized sunglasses, and stop and take a few minutes to look around for the best available structure. You will be glad that you did, and before you know it, people will be running over to take your picture. Believe me, that's a story that never gets old.

Please join us on facebook at Cast Across America
and also on the web at

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter with the Easters.....

I can't begin to tell you just how fantastic of an Easter Sunday we had. Shirley, Bryan and I went to visit Shirley's brother and family in Red Bud IL. Red Bud is located about 35 miles south of St. Louis, MO. We spent the day at the Waterloo Sportsman's Club eating Claude's (Shirley's brother) famous beer battered fried chicken and all the fixings, caught a bunch of Bluegill and Bass (that is I caught a bunch of Bass) and just had a wonderful time enjoying a glorious day! The kids were catching a few nice gills and having a blast, and smiles were all around from ear to ear. Seeing their faces after they reeled them in is what fishing is all about. I hope all of our Cast Across America fans and families had a wonderful Easter Sunday like we did! Maybe next year even Rich and Claude will catch a Bass too.

Cappy's Pond on Youtube