It’s been too long between blog posts, and part of the reason is that the fishing has been sub-par this fall. In my October post, I was rooting for the water to clear but we continued with rain and storms, and while we caught some nice fish, the numbers have been down. Fewer mullet inshore this fall, fewer migrating schools of whitebait and the schools of large reds were hard to find. We’re currently experiencing a somewhat decreased winter trout run; trout have been in the Steinhatchee River in decent numbers, but they’ve been inconsistent. There have been some great days with silver (sand trout) in deeper river holes, and lots of speckled trout have been taken as well, but just minor warming temperature shifts will shut off the bite and send the trout out on the flats. A few weeks ago, fishing with Capt. Tommy Thompson, we found a nice school of larger fish, anchored by this 5.25 pounder.
This was a nice fish, but I wanted to discuss several aspects of this catch. I was using my standard winter-time trout lure, a Paul Brown Corky Devil, by far the most productive cold-water trout lure I have ever used. A slow-sinking soft bait with a single treble, it is designed to fish very slowly, with little motion other than a slow retrieve and an occasional jerk or two. The only problem with the lure is that winter time means large trout, like this one. Large trout have large mouths, and they inhale these lures so deeply that the treble becomes wrapped around their gill rakers. Just a few days before I caught 8 trout over 22 inches and four of the eight had hooks around their gill rakers, which takes great care and skill to retrieve without killing the fish; this is an issue when you are restricted to keeping only one trout per person over 20 inches. I decided to try something a little different, and attached a sturdy circle hook to replace the treble. I also attached the lure using a clip.
There were a lot of trout around that day, and I had a lot of hits. I tried a variety of ways to fish the circle hook. The first few fish that took the lure were never firmly hooked. I simply raised the rod tip, felt a few shakes, and the fish was gone. I finally realized that the wide body of the lure required a slower approach. Fish hang onto the Corky lure; it’s soft and you have enough time to simply reel slightly with the rod tip down to secure the hook in the corner of the mouth, as in the picture. Not that this will be perfect. The trout has to be large enough to get the lure well into its mouth. I expect to lose some fish with this set-up, but since most cannot be kept anyway, I don’t consider it that much of a loss, and the larger fish are more likely to be hooked up. I have strong feelings about large trout being released in good shape, because these large trout are the breeding stock (almost all are females) that provide more large trout. If you are a lure fisherman, consider giving circle hooks a try instead of trebles.
You’ll also notice the clip. It’s not that lure fishermen are lazy, but somehow switching lures and re-tying when there is a bite on doesn’t happen, and you end up with a shorter leader when you do. Additionally, many lures without split rings (like the Corky) are said to work better with a loop knot, which also takes up leader and time to tie. My friend Sam Root clued me into the Tactical Angler Fishing Clips and I ordered some, not really expecting very much. I had tried similar clips many years ago and found them either too weak for large fish, or too difficult to use. However, these clips are quite different.
They are by far the easiest clips I’ve ever used. It literally takes seconds to switch lures, especially in lures without split rings. Lures with split rings require a bit more manipulation for more mature eyes and fingers, but even those are easily switched. Here’s a video demonstration of how to use them.
I’ve used them several times now, on a variety of plugs and jigheads, and even on unweighted soft plastic jerk baits rigged with offset worm hooks. I wish they were available in a slightly smaller size than the 50 lb. size for this latter situation, because they do cause the baits to sink faster than I would like, and in a nose-down direction, which is not that realistic. However, I’ve caught some nice fish using this set-up as well. You can find them from a variety of vendors on the web. I expect I will using these regularly as I fish plugs about 90% of the time I’m on the water. I think you’ll find them useful as well.
I want to wish everyone a great New Year…unlimited horizons, clear water and tight lines ahead.