Well I’ve managed to get out twice for crappie this year. In recent years it just seems like the crappie have gone bananas in our waters and after a fairly weak run at the bounty last year, I’ve hunkered down to fill the freezer better this year. My first outing three weeks ago was perfect. The temps had crept up into the low seventies and as soon as I saw that everyone else was consistently catching good fish I went after them. It was a solo Sunday evening trip and I had little trouble filling my limit, culling only four fish. I could tell that even though the bite was good and the fish were keepers, we were barely in range with water temps. I fished jigs until dark and switched to live bait when the sun went down.
Of course the very next weekend I set out for a repeat performance, only this time I brought another angler to back me up. Temps dipped during the week and while I was a little worried about it, I had to go. We fished hard from 5pm until after 1am culling dozens of fish and keeping only nine. The water temps were just down too much and the bite was very lethargic. The good sign was that there were way more fish on the finder than the week before.
This last weekend temps dipped way down below average, so I left it to the pros. Fortunately the low temps were short lived and I’m seeing great posts of crappie catches this week, already. So hopefully we can make another good strong run or two before they start spooling down post-spawn.
My guide buddy Richard Simms has absolutely been hammering crappie for a few weeks now and serves as a pretty good indicator of bite activity this week. Granted he does it for a living and all-importantly gets out on weekdays, you can see in his and others successes that it’s another strong year for crappie in Tennnessee Valley.
The morning was a bust. Saw two skunks, two beavers and an otter, but barely a duck anywhere near my setup. Before heading back to the truck I wanted to inspect a beaver dam that I’ve been watching all year. Low water has kept me away from it and just enough water to skate back to it was the case on this day. The motor worked for it, but I was able to get in close to two sides of the dam despite random hard clay bottom in spots. Here’s a few clips of the digging, clawing and scratching required to simply get a look at this dam. I cut out the extended mud blasting efforts to save time, but trust me there were a few moments of slow progress or even hopping out of the boat to get turned around.
Christmas eve has pretty much turned into a mad scramble to get all the presents and all of us successfully to my parent’s house. So when I got the call from my old friend and mentor to squeeze in a quick hunt the night before, I squirmed a little at the thought of making a day like that even longer. The flip side is that surely the hunt would see some ducks down on the water, so it was a pretty easy call. Duck hunters like being tired wet, right?
We walked into what we consider one of the toughest areas to get to there is. Of course, the weather patterns had shifted so that it was raining sideways the whole time and the water had come up the better part of a foot, to boot. The heavy weather had the birds driving deeper into the swamps than normal, but we had several takers. Ironically the weather that had this are fired up was working against us a little driving birds hard to the side as they tried to stage to get down on our decoys. We didn’t leave much on the table, as most of the birds that got down over the decoys were dropped, but there were a few more volleys that couldn’t quite relax and get down out of the heavy winds successfully. The larger circling flocks further back in the timber added to that indecisiveness on their part, to be fair. We didn’t get our limits, but slightly less wind and we had it in the bag.
In the end I got home mid-morning soaked completely through every stitch of my gear, with a pile of ducks to clean before heading off to see what Santa had going on in Alabama. I squirmed at the idea of cramming a hunt in where it didn’t belong, but I sure was glad I did!
Here’s a little banging around on the day after New Years Day. I was hoping recent rains would have flooded some new areas for the ducks, but at this point it still hadn’t runoff enough to flood them. It did rain another 2 inches two days after so another scouting run will be in order after the current freeze thaws.
After all this running around, I found a spot and dropped some decoys and sat in the rain for five hours. No shots fired and all but guarantee the ducks were sitting tight in the timber somewhere.
While there’s hardly any ducks being killed around here, there’s not much else to do other than run the low rivers and see what’s out there. Saw some interesting things but mainly just cruising up and down the river.
Nothing special here, just a nice cruise down the river on Saturday afternoon.
A little afternoon scouting to find a place to hunt. Terrible bluebird day for ducks but a good chance to run the motor for a few minutes.
Well it’s been a long year or two around here. With a baby in the house, what little spare time to hunt and fish there has been, hasn’t made it into the blogs. While things have settled down enough for me to get back into the swing of things a little bit, the blogging is slowly catching up.
New to the mix this year, is the Gator Trax boat from so many blogs in the past now calls my back yard home. The guys just weren’t using it so much anymore and when they did use it, usually it was up here with me. So it made sense for us to work out a deal, and so we did. I was reluctant as i already had a boat without a motor and barely enough time to get out as it is, but we agreed it was the right play. I now need to sell either the Gator Trax or my Geaux Custom to wash it all out, but we’ll get it done over the winter.
I picked up the boat right before the season and barely had a chance to run it before opening day. She is a little tired from sitting quite a bit in recent years, but fired right up for this jaunt into the wood duck swamps of northern Alabama. I ran the GoPro even though this was hardly the most exciting boat ride, especially with the cold-natured restarts that plagued me all morning. The boat seems to be loosening up the water-based carb problems that popped up last season.
Before the season, I bought a 35hp new take-off carburetor from mudbuddy, but the linkages were all too different and ended up sending it back and rolling the dice. The motor actually runs pretty good other than the random sputter-and-die routine that seems to be getting better as fresh gas runs through it. I still feel like the tiny air filter we rigged after the entire air cleaner assembly came up missing on a hunt a few years ago is part of the problem.
I spec’d and ordered parts to put a higher flowing air filter setup along with a water proof pre-filter. All of those parts finally arrived and are assembled and ready to clamp on. Hopefully the additional fresh air will help with some of the sputtering and the annoying dead spot in the throttle that always seems to kick in when you’re navigating the technical stuff.
Otherwise, the motor is in good shape with plenty of prop wear left for another season or two.
With as many ducks in the area as ever to open the season, i knew where to go to at least stay busy with wood ducks. Going here pretty much guaranteed that only wood ducks would be shot, but it also guaranteed ducks. I passed up on several easy shots, so many in fact that I almost waited too long. I finally picked out a few and knocked two down and waited for an easy third duck to round out my limit.
A sever lack of water and rain is going to be an issue sooner than later but for now, the gadwall and woodies will have to do.
Well it’s done. It started with finding an 80 gallon propane refill tank in an old Chevrolet dealership’s basement and obviously snowballed from there. In the discovery phase, it became obvious to me that moving heat and smoke was a science and not just as simple as cutting a door and welding on a smoke stack. From there I focused on meeting the technical requirements for the cook volume I had and tried to solve design problems with flair and an eye towards functionality and durability. The end result was way more than I set out to accomplish. The cost was too, but I’m in at less than a third of what it would have cost me to farm it out in a much simpler form. It was a great project that was tons of fun and a great chance to get to know Ben better. So many of the details we quibbled over during the build, and resulted in a very long list of great features on this smoker. Steel is expensive, perfection takes time and two heads are way better than one are some key takeaways from this project. In the end I’ve got a one-of-a-kind smoker built to last generations that works perfectly. I’d say it was a success. Now to get some meat and get on with the cooking! Continue reading »