Fishing With Face

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October 29th, 2012 at 11:01:10 PM permalink
Face
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I love fishing, so I thought I'd talk about it. Join in, just read, or skip entirely if you'd like. I only ask; if you'd like to challenge conservation, the ethics, or the purpose of fishing, no problem. If you want to challenge "whether fishing is a sport", make another thread. It's not important, I just put it in "Sports" because I rarely "Travel" to fish ;)

This first pic and story includes my son Jax, myself, and Pops in the Spring of 2012. After several days of 40*, the snow had melted and the cricks rose, setting off a run of rainbows. On this particular day, which was March in NY if I remember correctly, it was mid 70's and sunny. A truely odd day. Anyone who fishes for Salmonids during the spawn knows to expect winds, rain, snow, wet snow, blowing snow, freezing sleet, and blowing freezing sleeting rain-snow. Days like this are once a decade occurances, and a perfect day to take out my little Captain Jax and the Salty Dog.

But alas, the fishing was garbage. Too bright of a sun stresses out this brand of fish, and most hole up in deep cuts and blow downs. Exposed fish are skittish and spooky, and when you add spookiness to an already spooky fish, plus added light casting your shadow upon them, it equals garbage fishing.

But we soldiered on, as any day on the crick beats just about anything else, and hiking the gorges and cuts of WNY with your son and father on a beautiful Spring day is reward in and of itself. This particular crick is a tributary of the mighty Cattaraugus, or "Catt" as we locals call it. Upstream, the fishing terminates at a beautiful shale waterfall and deep pool approximately 5 miles from the Catt, where fish are unable to progress any further. The crick then runs East and dumps into the Catt about 17 miles "as the crick flows" from Lake Erie. Most of the waterways in my immediate area are slate and shale bottomed, which Salmonids avoid. But while it makes vast stretches unfishable, the few rocky areas and deep holes are usually jam packed. I've seen as many as 20+ of these fish jammed in a hole the size of a hot tub, and it's a remarkable sight. In the summer, this crick is but ankle deep, home to small chubs, shiners, crayfish and all manner of nymphs and waterbugs. To see 10-15lb fish in it twice a year, it just does something to you. Even someone completely ignorant and disinterested in fishing would have to stop and behold.

Anyways, it was the first time I took my son out on a run. As he's only 3, it's not easy to keep him out of the water, and 70* or not, the water is freshly thawed. I don't know how cold it is, but you can't drink it fast. It's colder than the stuff in my fridge. But he can walk, he can talk, and occasionally, he'll even listen, so he was going with us today. We started well downstream, on the border of the Seneca Nation and headed upstream. Almost immediately, I hooked a good'urn, but lost it after a brief struggle. The rest of the holes were unproductive, probably due to the sun.

After two hours of nothing but hiking and carrying a 45lb child up and down ravines, I was whooped. Pops was huffing and puffing and about done in himself. But I knew further outings would be more difficult to get my boy out due to the weather, and I wanted to hook one just for him. We fished the last mile of the crick all the way up to the falls, where we stopped to chill, take a drink, and get some pics. Fish or no fish, it's great to see things that no non-fisherman would ever see, "right in your own backyard". Here's a pic...


As we were a mile from the car, we had a mile to re-fish on the way home. I found a run where a few rainbows had staged that I missed on the way up, and set about casting. And casting. And casting. Pops went about 40 feet downstream to try his luck there. My boy had about had it by then, and wanted to jump, skip, and throw rocks right into where I was fishing. Pops gave up and took him off to the side to throw rocks in a puddle, while I tried 50 "one last times" to just hook one. I must've gave up 18 times, but just had to have that "one more cast, this'll be the one". Ahh, the plight of the Salmonid fisherman =) Eventually the inevitable happened, and Jax started pleading to leave. I of course agreed, and, of course, kept right on fishing. Pops began to lead him away slowly to buy me a few more minutes...and then it happened. The line went tight, I give a quick yank, and I feel not the utter resistance of rock but a slight movement in my direction before the cut in front of me explodes in a fury of action and anger. On small cricks I use my standard ultra light, 5.5' rod and reel, but strung with 25lb braid. It serves a dual purpose of resisting the razor sharp slate and tree blowdowns, while allowing me to yank the already-stressed-fish in quickly so as not to exhaust it to death. It made a run for the nearest tree, which I had to enter the crick and climb under to get around, before, naturally, heading right back under it and into the run. One more crawl under the tree, and I horsed it to shore, to the unleashed excitement of my little boy. He'd never seen a fish of this size, and I think his face says it all...



It ran probably a tick over 5lbs, a great eating size but nowhere near the size we usually catch. After a quick pic, I spent the next 15 finger shattering minutes reviving it in the ice water before it swam under it's own power to rejoin it's mates in the run.

All the pain and exhaustion of the day wore away. A couple high fives, a group hug, and 4.5 hours of fishing was a complete success. All the money for permits and boots and fuel and gear, all the hiking and sweating and blisters, all the burdocks and prickers and every manner of poking, scratching plant, all the aching back from carrying 45 squiggling, squirming pounds of living energy, all completely justified for those 10 minutes spent catching, photoing and successfully releasing that one small fish. To some, a waste of a day. To us, it's a way a life. The life of a fisherman.
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
October 30th, 2012 at 12:32:44 AM permalink
odiousgambit
Member since: Oct 28, 2012
Threads: 73
Posts: 1571
some thoughts:

*totally agree that just getting out into the outdoors is reward itself, an escape too, and always recreation, even if the fishing or whatever sucks that day.

*nice fish!

*wait till he catches his first fish

*don't wear your son out, you have to cut short your previous excursion length when taking him. Often kids don't follow their fathers into these avocations [to Pop's disappointment], and starting to have a 'tude about getting worn out is a big factor IMO. This becomes forgotten later in life, and the failure to become a fisherman or whatever is put down to a mystery.

*You drink the water? Wow, I was brought up to never do that, unless you were drinking from a spring. There's typhoid fever risk, I always heard. Just generally too big a risk that something died in the water upstream, which can really do you in. Just the deer etc crapping in the water means there is a risk of picking up parasites. That's assuming no farm is upstream.
The light at the end of the tunnel is often a freight train coming the other way! per Fleastiff
October 30th, 2012 at 12:52:46 AM permalink
Face
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Thanks, OG. That was actually one of the smaller ones I've caught. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a hatchery fish released maybe 2 years ago. Either way, no complaints here =)

He has caught his first fish, stay tuned! That story is in the works for the coming days =)

I totally understand the issue of "forcing" your kid to fish. Especially at 3, he ain't all about the sitting and waiting that is fishing, and I surely don't want to instill a negative connotation into fishing by forcing him to be bored. But that's why crick fishing is so great, it's mostly a long hike with short breaks to haul water. He gets to run, throw rocks, look under logs, and very rarely "gets bored" He stuck with it and was rarin' to go the entire time, up until the end when I just refused to leave that hole.

On the water thing, I've brought this up before. I grew up here and have drank all manner of the local waters all my life. Yes, there are farms, and wildlife, and street runoff, hell, many of my fishing (and drinking) hours are spent within visual range, downstream, of a Superfund site. The only time I've ever gotten sick was in my younger days on trips to Chautaqua Lake, which is about 30 miles south of my "habitat", and it amounted to little more than mild "bubble-gut". That was the late '90s, and since the mid '00s, I've seemed to have built a tolerance to Chaut as well. I completely understand the caution, but at least here, I just haven't found a reason not to. Dipping my lips into that freezing cold, vodka clear crick, with the smell of clay and moss in my nose, it's just one of my favorite things in this world. I've been doing it my entire life.
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
October 30th, 2012 at 2:49:24 AM permalink
odiousgambit
Member since: Oct 28, 2012
Threads: 73
Posts: 1571
Quote: Face
I completely understand the caution, but at least here, I just haven't found a reason not to. Dipping my lips into that freezing cold, vodka clear crick, with the smell of clay and moss in my nose, it's just one of my favorite things in this world. I've been doing it my entire life.


I Missed any previous post about drinking the water. Well, as kids we sometimes broke the rule when the water was running a distance over rapids and gurgling rocks. Seemed safer, but you have to figure it doesnt really kill germs [g]

I sometimes wonder, too, about the build-up of resistance. I have been bitten so many times by mosquitoes it seems I never get itchy bumpy bites, like I am immune. Have had to remove many a tick, too, in my day, with never a problem. With poison ivy, I have to have it rub on bare skin to get a rash. These things clobber my wife at the least exposure.

Also, other people, it just seems to aggravate their allergies.
The light at the end of the tunnel is often a freight train coming the other way! per Fleastiff
October 30th, 2012 at 10:12:47 AM permalink
Face
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Member since: Oct 24, 2012
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Quote: odiousgambit
I Missed any previous post about drinking the water. Well, as kids we sometimes broke the rule when the water was running a distance over rapids and gurgling rocks. Seemed safer, but you have to figure it doesnt really kill germs


It was a WoV thread, Nareed's "Stop Trying To Kill Me" if I remember correctly.

Surely, one should be aware of the danger. In a survival situation, I'd not think of it, as even "mild bubble gut" could be fatal. Likewise, I'd not try it in a strange environment, as you could very well ruin a vacation. And, to be fair, I suppose even a local boy like me drinking the local water that I've done for 30 years could still leave me with GI issues or even parasites. I guess I just don't care. Too many drinks with no repercussion.

I suppose, much like The Science Thread's "ice on skin" experiment, we'll label this as "Do Not Try At Home".
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
October 30th, 2012 at 12:14:21 PM permalink
Face
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I suppose I'll continue this thread chronologically through a WNY fishing season.

Spring time fishing on the Catt is not for the weak willed. Many if not all guides do not offer Spring sessions, as it is unpredictable to the point of madness. Salmonids are extremely weather dependant, and one can never tell what a WNY Spring will bring.

Typically, trout start running once the snow and ice starts melting and the waters rise, giving them access to the many small streams where they spawn. In '09, during a small span of unemployment, I fished every day and the Spring was perfect. The ice went out quick while the temperatured remained cold, there was plenty of precipitation to keep the levels high, and the fishing was amazing. I remember one special day meeting a fellow fisherman as me and my two fishing buddies arrived to its banks. When questioning him on how it was, he flashed a big, toothy grin and exclaimed that he must have caught 20. Now that is a complete fish story. No one catches 20 trout in a day. Hell, in the last two Spring and Falls combined, I've caught maybe 4. But that day we set about, and in just short of 3 hours, we three totaled 16 fish hauled in. I went every day after that, right in town not 3 a minute drive from my house, and probably averaged 6 fish an outing. A truely magnificent year.

Since then, Spring has been on steroids. After a week of 50s to melt the snow and clear the ice, I'd usually take a week off of work only to find it 70-80* by the time my days off came to be. Fishing has been bad, and highlights the reason for no Spring guided tours.

But again, a bad day on the Catt is better than a good day most other places, so I never failed to go. The Catt is a very interesting water way. Here in town, as seen in the picture below. It's wide and calm. In summertime, you can ford it on foot and not even get your shorts wet. Its gravel bottom and large submerged rocks makes a great smallmouth habitat, and I've hauled my share over the years.


Not 5 minutes by car or a 30 minute wade away, and you find yourself at the edge of Zoar Valley. Sheer cliffs box in each side, and many places are only accessible by rafting down or wading up. The slow moving, gravelly bottom in town is replaced by fast, white water and shale bottom. At one place, local children spend summers wading and floating around. In another not a mile away, several search and rescues have been launch and not few lives have been lost. I myself was almost a rescue statistic, but due to my familiarity and some luck, I managed to make it out and make contact with my family just before they called the authorities.


Enough of the water, let's get to what's inside it. Late Spring, when the water warms into the 60s and becomes more predictable, is a good time on the Catt. Several late spawning trout can still be found, and at the same time, many juvenile smallmouth begin a run of their own. Unlike their adult counterparts in Lake Erie, which reach world class size, these fish rarely exceed 3lbs. But they're plentiful, they're aggressive, and they put on a good show. This time of year is my favorite for Catt fishing. The weather's much nicer, and you can spend a day hauling in 10+ smallies with a nice rainbow peppered in now and again.

Those who followed my relationship story on WoV are aware of the lesbian girlfriend, who, after much talk and boasting on her part, was taken along on one of these late Spring days. After some concern and trepidation, I'll say I was completely impressed at her skill with a spin cast rod, and with her determination and lack of complaining during the outing. After 2 hours of getting blanked, about the only thing she lamented was that she wanted a fish and a beer.

The still waters in town were unproductive, so we went up to the railroad bridge where Zoar Valley ends and fished the rapids. All fishing outings include a game of 1st, Biggest, Most, where $5 is awarded for first fish, $5 for most fish, and $5 for the biggest fish of the day. On my first few casts, I pulled a 1lb smallie out of the first rapid, locking up $5. She followed shortly after, getting a baby smallie of her own, followed by another and another. The day was getting long and it was clear she had $5 of her own locked up (because she reminded me every 5 minutes), and we began the "just one more cast" of the day.

After several casts into a cut that just screamed "productive", I set into a bolt of lighting. After one good shake, line peeled off my reel and a great slab of silver shot out of the water, flashing it's metalic sides in the late day sun. On the Catt, where blow downs are not an issue, I use the same ultra light 5.5"' set up, only strung with 4lb monofilament. Hooking a rainbow in these powerful waters is a test of skill on such a set up, but that's half the fun. After it's great leap and follow up run into the cut, I was sure I had her hooked good. I called my new fishing partner over and handed her the rod to give her the thrill of catching one of these beauties from the mighty Catt. It was very much a trial by fire, but in a few minutes time, she had it to shore. I gave her a quick verbal instruction on how to get her fingers in the gill plate to hold it, thus avoiding the mouthful of teeth, and with little trouble, she had it grabbed up, unhooked, and displayed for picture. Designer shades, manicured nails, and she never hesistated. This really is one of my favorite pictures of the year, and got a lot of laughs from my typical scruffy, bearded, overall-wearing fishing group.


The fish was an absolute beauty; sheer metalic sides, deep pink hues, sharp, crisp spots. Strong and healthy, it lacked any war wound whatsoever, which most of the fish that bang and struggle their way this far usually have. Just a perfect specimen. After she tossed it back and I saw her expression as it floated side-up down the crick, I retrieved it and gave her the lesson on these cold water fish, holding it in the current for 5 or so minutes to re-oxigenate it before it had the power to swim off on its own. And it did, staging up behind a rock to catch its breath before continuing on to perpetuate the species.

Nature: It's Fantastic =)
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
October 30th, 2012 at 1:08:36 PM permalink
FrGamble
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 45
Posts: 5191
What great stories Face I really enjoy reading them. I like to fish (usually only get to about 3x a year) but you are a real fisherman! I love how you know so much about each fish, how much you respect them, and care for them. Do you ever keep any of the fish to eat? Also I have a good friend who likes to be out in nature as well but I can't seem to get him into fishing because he thinks it is very painful for the fish can you give me any insights I can share to alleviate his fears.
October 30th, 2012 at 1:41:58 PM permalink
odiousgambit
Member since: Oct 28, 2012
Threads: 73
Posts: 1571
Quote: Face
I myself was almost a rescue statistic, but due to my familiarity and some luck, I managed to make it out and make contact with my family just before they called the authorities..


I wouldn't mind hearing this story; if you posted it before I could search for it.
The light at the end of the tunnel is often a freight train coming the other way! per Fleastiff
October 30th, 2012 at 2:34:16 PM permalink
Face
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Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 61
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Quote: FrGamble
What great stories Face I really enjoy reading them. I like to fish (usually only get to about 3x a year) but you are a real fisherman! I love how you know so much about each fish, how much you respect them, and care for them. Do you ever keep any of the fish to eat? Also I have a good friend who likes to be out in nature as well but I can't seem to get him into fishing because he thinks it is very painful for the fish can you give me any insights I can share to alleviate his fears.


Thanks, FrG. I personally do not typically keep fish for consumption. I support it, and occasionally supply fish to friends and family unable to get it on their own, but the vast majority of my personal fishing is catch and release. I'm big on conservation, which does include proper harvest within State and Species limits, but with the amount of fishing I do, I could single handedly destroy a pond within a year or two by overharvest or disrespect of life. Whether a magnificent specimen of wild bred trout, or a "garbage fish" like suckers and drums, all are treated with respect and handled as delicately as possible. I hope to get more into that side of things as the thread progresses and more species are introduced in this thread.

I guess this is as good a time as ever to cover the trout, as I've only glazed over it so far. Trout in my area are a cold water fish, spending summers deep in Lake Erie and only coming inland in Spring and Fall to spawn (although some do get stranded and hole up in the crick over summer). I've watched these fish in every stage of the spawn, and it's absolutely remarkable. Besides the simple act of swimming 20-30 miles upstream, they have to pass shallow rocky areas, often thrashing 100 yards at a time over shale in water just deep enough to fill their mouth. I've caught a few 10lb'ers by hand, in water so shallow their eyes weren't even submerged. Many sport impressive scars, where the scales and skin have been completely worn away. We've even caught some that were completely lacking in fins. Dorsal, pectoral, anal, all gone, it was just a head, body and tail. They spend days doing this run, on little food, only to find that perfect spot, where they stop and thrash to dig out their bed, spawn, and hopefully make it back to the lake without dying of exhaustion. There is no other word to describe it other than "epic".

Without proper handling, the simple act of catching these fish can be a death sentence. They are continously on the very cusp of complete exhaustion, and as shown earlier in the thread, a simple release leaves them with not even enough energy to swim. They'll basically asphyxiate in the very water that gives them life. All fights should be completed as quickly as possible, time out of the water minimized, and all releases held in the current until they leave your grasp of their own accord. I happen to live in the middle of a steelhead Mecca, arguably the best location in the world. I plan to keep it that way.

The question about "pain" is an interesting one, one which I have studied, and one with no concrete answer. In addition to Discovery Channel-esque programs, I also have a 150gal tank I keep at home and fill with wild fish throughout the summer. It started as a way to teach my son about fish and nature, and ended up kind of turning into Dad's science lab ;) The program had wild steelhead in a tank, which they would catch and observe. Some would be caught by net and handled to simulate the stress of handling and being out of water, some caught by line and hook, complete with the mouth wounds that result. Overall, they found the fish to react the same. Both exhibited short term behavior different than their "uncaught" counterparts, but the mouth hooked fish acted no different than the gently netted examples. They generally exhibited short term signs of stress and aggrivation, but settled down rather quickly, none the worse for wear. They then caught some of these fish and injected their lips with bee venom. These fish, when returned, would rub and scrape their faces against the gravel in the bottom of the tank. Clearly, they can "feel" on some level, but at what level will probably never be known. I can confirm these findings through my own observations. Wild fish when placed in my tank are fidgetty, they thrash when I walk by, and don't eat. After a few days, I can approach the tank with no issues. An amazing thing I found is that they can learn. Everytime I feed them, it's from my red and white bait bucket that I use to get minnows and crayfish from the local crick. After a month or so, me walking up to the tank will cause them to turn and face me. If I'm just watching them, they'll go back to their business. If they turn and face me and the bucket is in sight, they'll immediately go head up and near the surface, waiting for the food. It was eye opening. Also, some of the smaller ones are bug fed. Crickets, beetles, snails, slugs, and, yes, bees. They very quickly learn what a bee is and identify it by sight. I can throw in a handful of all manner of invertabrates and they'll visually identify the prey before eating. 5 minutes later, there's just bees left floating on the surface. Simply amazing.

Basically, what I gathered from it, is that the "wounds" of catching aren't the issue, it's the simple act of catching. And catching is about equally as severe as throwing rocks in the water, walking up to them, or tapping on a tank. Some might say "well, just don't mess with them period, it's not right." But I believe that fishermen, and sportsmen in general, are what keeps these resources so healthy. If nobody cared about these fish, no one pursued them, no one funneled money to the DEC through licensing, well, no one would care. Dam a river, destroy a spawn run, who cares? And that fish would cease to exist, for little other reason than "no one cared". The health of the trout and salmon in this area, of the local whitetail population, of the resurgence of the white sturgeon and other formerly endangered species, I feel, is in large part to those who may be seen as "harming" them. For that reason, I fully support all manner of sportsmanship, regardless if I no longer hunt, nor fish for food.
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
October 30th, 2012 at 3:02:11 PM permalink
Face
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Quote: odiousgambit
I wouldn't mind hearing this story; if you posted it before I could search for it.


I haven't posted it before. Honestly, it's more embarassing than exciting, especially for someone who fancies himself an "outdoorsman" =p

My family-in-law were up for a visit, and my 13yr old nephew wanted to go fishing. I decided to canoe the Catt, and decided to take him up in Zoar Valley. I had never been in that part of the crick, and never in a canoe, but I have canoed downstream through the Seneca Nation to Lake Erie plenty of times. I knew Zoar was full of rapids, but I'm not a stranger to rough water canoeing and figured we'd be ok.

Supper ran late, and, completely adamant about getting out, I had my then-wife drop us off at a tributary at 7 friggin' PM. Way too late to go, but I told her I'd be home by 9p, hardy-har-har. Well, the trib, which I thought was a few hundred yards from the crick, was more like a mile and a half. And it was completely unnavigable. I basically had my nephew sit inside and pushed the damn canoe the whole mile and a half. By the time we reached the Catt, I was exhausted, frustrated, embarassed, and completely lost focus on "this is the Catt".

The Catt can be and is dangerous. I suppose growing up with it, my fear of it doesn't exist. I always say "don't be scared, just don't be stupid", but I immediately went stupid. As soon as we entered the main run, I forgot all about everything except getting the kid fishing and getting our ass headed home. Absolutely immediately, I found myself in a chute heading for a rapid I had no business canoeing through and it was too late to avoid it. I tried to keep it straight, but the left side hit the shale, tipped it to the right, and we both fell into a raging shute. Fortunately, he was in the front and the current past the chute shoved him up and out of the main run. I was in the thunderdome and got sucked back into the swirl. Knowing not to fight it, I just kept my head above water and waited until I was brought to land; almost immediately the current caught me just right and flung me out, too.

Both fishing poles were gone. Tackle box, tools, cigarettes and lighter (the horror!!), and both cell phones, gone. So, exhausted, scared (I was, he thought it was the best thing ever), out of contact, and the sun had already set behind the high walls of the gorge. Just ducky. I spent the next TWO HOURS in a full on, balls to the wall paddle, eventually, in complete darkness. Further chutes and rapids were identified by sound, where I'd beach, grab the canoe, and set off down the shore at a stiff walk until calm water reappeared. I eventually recognized a farmhouse in the valley. We had to scale a 15' embankment, where I basically had to drag him up, then return back down and drag the canoe up, drag the canoe over 4 acres of cow pasture, then walk 2 miles the the nearest house.

By the time I caught a ride back to my truck (without the canoe, I had to ditch it due to exhaustion) it was almost 12:30a. Completely safe, none the worse for wear, and one hell of a story for his "What did you do this summer" return to school. I learned a valuable lesson, though, one worth the $100+ in gear I lost. Never take nature for granted, never let down your guard, and...stupidity kills.
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
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