White mist swirled over the emerald green waters of Leesville Lake as we raced towards the frothing commotion of churning gamefish and frantically skipping shad. Cutting the outboard motor, we cast our white bucktail jigs towards the melee and began reeling. Soon all three rods in the boat were bent double.
No thrill in angling can match that of a hungry bass chomping down on a surface lure the size of a rat. But finding such aggressively-feeding fish is unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. When bass are in a finicky, skittish mood or not aggressively feeding, jumbo surface lures often fail miserably.
With hunting seasons fast approaching, here's a collection of tips for a variety of game species. Hopefully one or two of these will increase your success rate this fall whether you hunt locally in the Shenandoah Valley or travel West for even bigger game animals like elk.
While aquatic insects such as mayflies get most of the attention in trout fishing literature, in modern times terrestrial insects (those living on land) are becoming more and more important in the diet of trout. They jump, fall, get blown in by wind or washed in by rain and are greedily gobbled up by waiting brook, brown and rainbow trout.
The lowly rock bass won't win many popularity contests among anglers. These fish are not sleek and powerful like a landlocked striper. They don't jump like a belligerent bass or streak through the currents like a rainbow trout or chinook salmon.
Casting the lure towards the vast mat of milfoil, I cranked slowly on the handle of the baitcast reel, tensing instinctively. Somehow I just knew a strike was coming. Seconds later, it did. The mat of milfoil literally exploded as a seven-pound largemouth broke through the vegetation and nailed the soft lure shimmying in a v-wake across the surface.
Last week we looked at the "dapping" technique for catching trout. But whether you use this unique method or a more traditional cast, once you hook and land your quarry you face a big decision -- what to do with the catch.
Novice fly fishermen often think the farther they cast, the more trout they'll catch. Actually, more often than not carefully stalking and wading and then a short, accurate cast is a better approach. In fact, sometimes even no cast at all is the most effective fishing technique.
One of the finest ways I know to spend a hot summer day is drifting for flounder. Virginia has excellent flounder fishing available on the Eastern Shore at Chincoteague and Wachapreague and also in the Virginia Beach area around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Both are about a four to five hour drive from the Shenandoah Valley.
Picture this scene. You're hiking towards a distant fishing hole when the trail makes a sharp turn. Coming around the corner, you're suddenly face to face with a bear hunkered over a freshly killed deer. It rises up on hind legs, mouth covered in blood. Then suddenly it drops to all fours, flares its ears back and glares at you menacingly.
Bass and bluegill fishermen have long known the appeal rubber legs on flies offer. Many cork and foam poppers sport these gangly, floppy appendages. Whether they imitate frogs, mice, terrestrials or aquatic insects, warmwater gamefish grab them enthusiastically.
Anyone who is interested in fishing lures has heard the name "Heddon." Here is the story of how James Heddon, founder of the lure company that bears his name, created one of his most famous offerings of all, the Zara Spook.
Minnows may be the staple food for bass. And insects are certainly the bread and butter diet for trout. But if you show either of these popular gamefish a crayfish, they'll gobble it up in a flash. There seems to be something about the taste appeal of these crustaceans that bass, trout, and also walleyes, pike and panfish find irresistible.
Last week we looked at the question of seed choice when planting food plots for wildlife. It's too late for early-spring plantings in the Shenandoah Valley, but it's time to gear up and make preparations for putting in late-spring and early-summer plants. Then just a month or two after that, it will be time to put in late summer and fall crops.
As America's most abundant big game animal, whitetails get most of the attention from hunters. But to many people, the most exciting big game animal in North America does not have hair, but rather wears a luxurious, shiny fur coat. It's usually black, but is sometimes dark chocolate brown, cinnamon or even blonde colored.
Virginia anglers caught 6,167 citation-sized saltwater gamefish in 2013, topping the 6,000 mark for the second year in a row. This is the ninth time anglers have caught over 6,000 trophy-sized fish in a year since the Saltwater Tournament began in 1958. It also is the most award-winning fish caught since 2007, according to Lewis Gillingham, Director of the Virginia Marine Resources program.
Waiting in the predawn mist where the green wheat field joined the still-gray forest, I watched the trees take shape in the nascent morning light and listened. The tom's call broke the morning silence like a stone shattering glass.
Bear hunters came within a baker's dozen of tying the all-time harvest record this past season. Bow, rifle and muzzle loader hunters combined to take a total of 2,312 bears in the 2013-14 season, just slightly less than the highest recorded harvest ever--2,325 taken during the 2009-10 season.
Usually I focus on one type of fishing or hunting for this column, but for this week I thought it would be a nice change of pace to offer a mixed bag of tactics and strategies for various kinds of fishing. The theme for these tips is obvious: early season conditions.
Not many of us would choose winter as a favorite season for trout fishing, with its bleak gray landscape and raw air that penetrates cold-weary bones like a knife. But if the alternative is no fishing at all, never mind the weather. We'll make the plunge, wading out into the currents bundled up awkwardly in thick layers of clothes like stiff-legged Santa Clauses.
During the just-completed season Virginia whitetail hunters harvested 242,734 deer. This is up 13 percent from the 2012 season, when 215,241 deer were reported killed. It is also up more than 10,000, or four percent, above the 10-year average harvest of 232,600, according to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Every year manufacturers come out with a collection of new hunting guns, ammo, optics and other items to try to get us to toss out our old and reliable, but somewhat dated gear. In case you're in the market to replace some equipment, or just want to know about some of the new items being unveiled, here's a look at a few of them.
This winter's brutal weather in the Shenandoah Valley has made things hard for food plot aficionados. There are not too many projects you can do when the temperature is 10 degrees and the wind chill is below zero and the ground is frozen like a block of cement.
Trout fishermen sometimes have a reputation of making things too complicated. Some of the more stuffy members of the group feel like every insect you imitate has to be identified with an impossible-to-pronounce Latin name and vests have to be stocked with thousands of different offerings to precisely match each little bug.
Louis Johnson, a retired Chicago foundry operator, was frustrated by the abundance of weeds that kept fouling the hooks on his lures in his favorite fishing lake. Eager to overcome the problem, he began tinkering with some household items, including a dinner spoon.
Ice froze in the guides of the fly rod as I cast to the school of fish hovering silently near the bottom of the stream. Suddenly a fish turned to the side and its white mouth opened. I set the hook quickly and was fast to a feisty rainbow trout. After a raucous battle, I worked the silver fish in close, twisted the hook free and watched as it darted back into the dark river currents.