Mitch f reacted to rps for a article, White River Walleye on Worm Harnesses
In 1919, Norman Rockwell painted two covers for successive issues of a magazine called The Country Gentleman. The images are now in the public domain.
The Fishing Trip
The Catch Even Norman Rockwell knew worms catch the fish. Why many people avoid using worms and insist on artificial baits would make an excellent topic for a psycho-social doctoral thesis. I won’t be writing that. Instead, this article is intended as a primer for fishing worm harnesses in Tablerock and the other White River impoundments. What I will share comes from fellow walleye fishermen who have showed me a number of tricks. In particular, I want to thank Chuck Etheredge of Holiday Island, Arkansas. Chuck holds the Holiday Island Marina walleye record at 14.5 pounds, and he is the one who taught me about his harnesses for brush fishing crawlers.
Nightcrawlers are one of nature’s perfect animals. They aerate the soil, they help break down leaves and other dead matter to soil, and they are so valuable to growing plants that people buy them to put in their gardens.
Brown trout guides below Bull Shoals dam say they use red worms because they are “more natural looking in the water.” The real reason is stocker rainbows that can’t and won’t leave the nightcrawlers alone.
In the last several years nightcrawlers have become a major farmed and/or harvested crop. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and even Walmarts sell them. Typically, the containers are Styrofoam or cardboard and are filled with potting soil or mulch. I buy at several locations and find the overall quality quite good. However, I always check the contents before I leave the store. Temperature or stock rotation disasters do happen.
Next important tip: As soon as you get home, place the worm boxes in the refrigerator and keep them there until the fishing trip. Crawlers will last several weeks if left alone in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. If you are not the cook, label the boxes “worms” to avoid screams and other domestic difficulties.
On the day I intend to use the crawlers, I pack the boxes in an ice chest with ice. The ice will not freeze them in their containers and will keep them cool and lively. Once I am in the boat and ready to fish, I put some ice and lake water in a flat bottom plastic bowl and add four or five crawlers. The ice water plumps them up and washes the dirt off so your boat floor stays cleaner. In addition, you will be in and out of your cooler less often. When the ice melts, merely add another piece or two.
An alternative I recently learned was to bathe a day’s worth of crawlers at once, then place them in the now empty Styrofoam containers with ice.
In the event you wish to buy crawlers in bulk, they are available from several mail order sources, including Cabelas. Several chapters of the classic book, Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers, cover the long term care and feeding of nightcrawlers.
The Worm Harness
A worm harness is nothing more than one or more hooks combined with one or more devices to attract fish. The early Crème worm was a rubber worm on a primitive worm harness. I caught my first lunker bass on this rig.
Literally hundreds of commercial harness makers exist and a Ebay search for worm harness or crawler harness will prove it. Cabelas and Bass Pro each carry more than one brand and several varieties for each brand. The sheer number intimidates anglers seeking to try a new method. How can you know which ones work best?
For those wanting instant gratification, the “norm” consists of two small hooks, size 2, 4, or 6, snelled on 10 to 20 pound test line. Above the hooks, you will find 3 to 8 beads, and in front of that a size 3 Colorado or Indiana blade. The entire harness will run on a single three to four foot strand of line with a swivel or loop at the end opposite the hooks.
Variations abound including those with single hooks; Smile, Dakota, or Willow blades; and even what appears to be a wedding band in the build.
To help understand the reason for blade choices I’ve built a chart:
A variety of harness colors will work. I suppose you could catch a walleye on anything if you fished long enough with a crawler attached. However, the purpose of the harness is to attract the walleye to find the worm. Certain colors and styles tend to work more consistently.
As a side note, the common forage of walleyes in our chain of lakes explains the color choices. Walleye in the White River chain primarily feed on shad and bluegill. As yellow perch, common walleye forage in the North, become more prolific in Bull Shoals, the color choices for that lake may change somewhat.
Bodies with chartreuse, red, green, orange, pink, and white are the most commonly used. I own a box of plastic beads I bought from Cabelas for tying traditional harnesses. It contains no less than 24 different shades that are variations on all of the above except white. Traditional harnesses frequently use more than one of these colors.
Common blade colors include silver, copper, and air brushed or painted blades using the color palate listed above. While I have had some success with half silver/half gold blades, harnesses with solid gold blades have never proven successful for me. Again, the yellow perch in Bull Shoals may change that.
Copper Colorado Blade/Pink Float Beads
Silver/Yellow/Red Colorado Blade/Chartreuse Float Beads
Silver Willow Blade/Firetiger Float Beads
Painted Colorado Blade/White Float Beads (Wonderbread)
How and Where
In a previous article, Trolling for Table Rock Walleye, I wrote extensively about where and how to locate walleye. I urge you to read or re-read that article for location information.
Depth and speed are the other variables that combine with location to determine whether you have success. Fishermen successfully use harnesses for fish holding as shallow as 6 or 8 feet. The harnesses are equally successful on the Great Lakes at 45 feet behind downriggers. For the White River lakes I do not advise downriggers. Instead, those who target walleyes use three way rigs or bottom bouncers.
A three way rig utilizes a three way swivel. The main line attaches to one ring, 12 to 24 inches of line with a bell sinker at the end attaches to the second ring. The third ring holds the harness line.
Those who use this rig do so because they can quickly change the amount of weight or adjust the height off bottom. I suggest any who use this rig make sure that the strongest of the three lines is the main line to the reel. The second strongest should be the line to the harness. The weight line should be weaker than either of the others.
The alternative to a three way rig is a bottom bouncer.
The main line attaches at the junction of the “L.” The harness line attaches to the swivel at the end of the unweighted arm. As the boat moves forward the weighted arm tip brushes the bottom while the harness follows behind the weight and somewhat above it.
Bottom bouncers come in a variety of weights, ranging from ½ ounce to 4 ounces. What size to use? Traditionalists will tell you to use 1 ounce for every 10 feet of depth you will be fishing. That advice is accurate and useful under normal circumstances, especially when combined with the traditional advice on speed and how much line should be out.
If you search the internet for articles on using harnesses and bottom bouncers, almost all will tell you the ideal configuration will have the main line running from the boat to the bouncer at a 45 degrees or less. Those articles also suggest the bouncer should only “bounce” from time to time. These articles are absolutely correct, and professional walleye fishermen use these “rules of thumb” every tournament.
The last element of traditional harness fishing is the speed. Most days a speed of .8 mph to 1.4 mph will be the most effective. Be aware the type of blade can change the effective speed. A Willow spins far more easily than a Colorado. A Smile blade can spin with even less speed. You should go at least fast enough to spin the blade.
However, the ultimate decision maker on speed will be the fish. Sluggish fish may want a slow presentation. If so the weight will be less and the blade choice would be a Smile or Willow. On other days, hot water fish may need a fast speed to trigger bites. In that case a heavier weight and more line may be needed to reach the depth desired.
Chuck’s Secret Method
Careful readers may have noticed the pictures of my harnesses above are different from what they see in stores or some of the sketches I have drawn and inserted. The differences are only a part of the “secret” method Chuck Etheredge taught me two years ago. His method is an adaptation of the traditional ways; one that is designed for the highland reservoirs with submerged timber, brush, stumps, car size rocks, and house foundations.
Chuck wanted a harness that was less likely to sink when the bottom bouncer stalled because it hit a rock or limb. To that end he substituted floats for the glass or plastic beads. If you put one of his rigs in the water and lay the bouncer on the bottom, the blade slides down to the weight, but the floats, hook, and worm stay up.
He also experimented to see if he could avoid exposed hooks. He took from the bass fishermen the idea of Texas rigging the worm. Yes, it is a soft, real nightcrawler, but the embedded hook had to help a little. In addition, one hook point instead of two equaled half as many hang points. He found a worm hook in size 1 or 1/0 was every bit as good as the traditional two small hooks in sticking fish.
Last, to keep the float beads and blade from pushing the worm down into a wad, he made another innovation. He uses a bobber stop to hold the beads in place.
In addition to changing the harness, Chuck defies conventional wisdom as to bottom bouncer weight. He intentionally uses about half the weight considered standard. At 20 feet he will use one ounce. At thirty feet he will have on a 1.5 or 2 ounce bouncer. To reach the bottom, this means he must have out considerably more line. The change in angle between the boat and the bait is exactly the reason for his unorthodoxy. He believes the “flatter” angle aids in pulling the rig up and over limbs and logs.
The combination of differences works for Chuck. On more than occasion I have watched him fish snag filled flats and timbered channel edges with his worm harnesses. Yes he will sometimes hang up, but far less often than anyone would expect. And while he is at it, he catches fish.
The first time he showed me his ways, he tried to explain his uncanny success at staying free from hangs. In my words, he does it like this. When he feels the line begin to rub over a limb, he does not jerk. He waits until the line between the limb and harness shortens. As this happens, braid line will sing or vibrate. Quite often the rod tip will feel heavier. Just when he feels the bouncer arm contact the limb, he lifts the rod in a high arc to pop the rig and harness over the limb. He then lets the bouncer fall back to the bottom. Many bites happen on that drop.
Please note that Chuck’s method requires the angler to hold the rod and feel for the key moment. This is different from those who put the harness rod in a holder.
Every article about a fishing method should include a few pictures to vouch for the method and the author.
A Table Rock Limit from 2010 when Chuck showed me his secrets
Three from June of 2011
My personal best, 13.75 pounds, July 8, 2011, on one of Chuck’s style harnesses.
Mitch f reacted to Lance34 for a article, Slab Sunday
Finally back on the water Sunday after church. Got started about 12:45 and fished to about 4:00. Water temp was 43 and stained... Looked perfect
Didn’t really know what to expect after this lake has turned upside down in a weeks time... Up, down and up again... Geez
They bit pretty fast at the get go. Got 8 in no time and then they came in spurts. The wind got to whipping which might of been why. Got tossed around a bit...
Best bite was rigging about 13 feet down about 18-20 fow. Caught a few at 10 feet down but more consistent at 13 feet.
I quit about 4ish with a limit and headed for the house...
Amazed by health of the fish this year...
Pics below... God bless and good fishing Lance
Mitch f reacted to Lifes2Short for a article, Slabs!
Another great day on the water! Caught a limit of unbelievably large Crappie! Also caught a number of nice largemouth and one 17 inch walleye. This time I found them in 28 feet of water on a little channel swing that went from 20 to 28 feet. Dropped the little jig straight down, reeled up about 6 feet off the bottom and whamo! Water temps were about 46 to 48°. The other interesting thing is I caught some of the LMB on a spinner bait, didn’t realize they would hit it when it was this cold. Sure hate to see this cold weather coming in, it’s been a great three day run! Might have to make it four days!!! 😜
Mitch f reacted to Smalliebigs for a article, Brrrrr..... post cold front 12/9
Well I had the opportunity to fish with my good buddy Hog Wally this morning. Last night watching Dave Murray's forecast for today was giving me the chills. I even messaged Hog last night bitching about the forecast and that we probably wouldn't have fish jumping in the boat and he promptly sent back a message so full of confidence it got me going (one of the things I love about that guy)
The water temps were hovering around 39, the water clarity was a scary Gin color...I could see the bottom everywhere we went in water up to 17 ft deep and the winds gusts were anywhere from 10 to 35 mph I would guess. A cold front pushed thru very early prior to us going out....not exactly ideal conditions.
I started out fishing a jerk bait as it is just one of my things, I absolutely love fishing jerk baits these fish were having none of that not even a sniff. The water was soo amazingly clear that I found myself just standing there looking at the river and it's contours and it's fish....just astounding. I'm sure Hog was sick of me commenting on how clear it was, just so fun to be able to see everything.
We fished for a bit I wasn't doing anything , Hog was fishing a Craw pattern they just came up with and at first glance I thought it looked peculiar. Then I tied one on and let it fall into about 6 ft of clear water and it looked amazing!!! It is really weird how these colors can look so different in and out of the water.
Just as I started with the craw, Hog as he does, says " oh I got bite here" and then set the hook and his rod bent in half. I knew he had something with some weight. Sure enough he did, he coaxed up an absolutely beautiful 19 inch 4lb Smallmouth. This fish was soo chunky and just a perfect Bronze beauty. I was jumping and fist pumping as I just love to see fish like this in person....I was ecstatic.
Now I'm pumped as hell and ready to go but, these conditions were just horrific for fishing and the bite was very slow. It seemed like if you could get the craw in front or near a fish they would crush it.
We moved on to a few other spots and the wind and temperature were oppressive really. Not much happening but, my excitement was keeping me warm from seeing Hog's fish.
We finally made it to a spot that Hog said there is a giant here for sure and I thought to myself what is he talking about?? As it looked fairly vanilla but, I know not to question his knowledge of that river. I made a cast right to the area he was speaking of and wham I had a nice hit and set the hook. Hog says you have a nice one and being the dork I am, I say it seems like a 17 incher. Then a massive blob of Bronze rolls in front of the boat and I see Hog lunging for the net in excitement....low and behold it's a 20 inch FAT Hybrid Smallie/Spot!!!! We were both high fiving each other like little kids. This was such a cool moment for me as I have never seen one this big in person.
Guys I know you may get sick of people pushing products on here and I am not a part of Tackle HD anymore as we parted ways. I can tell you this, their 4 inch Craw just flat out catches bigger fish on average. Eventhough we parted ways we are all still friends I love Paul, Mitch and Aaron like my brother. They have a great bait and their jigheads are the best at crawling thru rocks I personally have ever used. Sorry in advance if you don' care for my endorsement but the proof is in the pudding as far as I'm concerned.
Now as I sit here eating my wife's delicious chilli, I am wondering how old that Hybrid is???...the biggest one I had caught prior to this was 14 inches.
Anyway everyone have a good rest of the weekend
Mitch f reacted to Blazerman for a article, Long Branch report from last few days
Greetings, though I don’t fish Table rock much I thought I would post a report from my visit over the past few days.
I just returned from spending 4 days at the Long branch area by the 86 bridge. My wife’s cousin just bought a really nice place there and they were nice enough to let us use it for a few days.
This was my fourth trip to Table rock and the second time I have brought my boat. The first two times I did not have my boat and didn’t really fish.
In July I was there for a family reunion when the water temps were close to 90 and had my boat but did not really do much serious fishing. I mostly took some of the younger kids out and we fished with worms and they had fun catching bluegill.
I went out a couple mornings with my daughter and caught some fish on the deep points including some decent spots and a very good smallmouth on a HD craw. (Biggest smallmouth in the pics). But did not really spend a lot of time fishing.
This time with the water temps in a decent range, (74 to 78) I thought I might find some shallow fish so the plan was to fish each morning and each evening shallow and then go deep in the middle of the day.
We got a late start on Thursday morning so I went to an island near the place we were staying and started throwing the HD craw again in about 20 -30 foot and once again caught a couple decent smallmouth. (Thanks Arron for the craws).
Tried a couple other spots and got nothing. When we came back to the dock for lunch everyone was saying how slow it was and how the lake was turning over and the only way to get them was deep, drop shotting night crawlers. So after lunch we bought some night crawlers and headed to some deep points. We caught some small spotted bass and some big bluegill (which we kept) but it was pretty slow.
Thursday evening I shifted to working the bank and caught some small spots on a spinnerbait and small smallmouth on a crankbait. I caught the spots mostly close to shore and the smallmouth when I cast out towards schools of baitfish. I noticed there were schools of baitfish everywhere and kept watching for big fish to go after them but did not really see it happen.
Friday morning we headed out and fished some of the coves. Once again baitfish were everywhere and again I caught some bass working the spinnerbait and my wife picked up some smaller fish on a Ned rig. But it was not fast and furious by any stretch.
Wife was getting bored with it so we took a long ride over to Indian point and had breakfast at the floating cafe there. In July we stayed at Rock Lane resort so we went over there to fish their cove and saw baitfish breaking everywhere all over in the Rock lane cove and this time there were bigger fish busting them here and there. They were spread out all over so I said to the wife let’s try trolling.
I tied us up some shallow running jerk baits and started slowly trolling and did not get much and I was getting really frustrated and then a fish busted the surface right ahead of my line and when my bait got to the spot I connected with the fish. And was amazed to catch a 12” smallmouth. I say amazed because we were trolling in depths up to 100 foot and these fish were hitting top water and I did not expect a smallmouth. And that was the only one we got there.
Friday afternoon I decided the heck with drowning night crawlers and headed back to the bank with the spinnerbait. And I finally got into some good fish including the one big bass in the pic. Caught about 12 over all included 3 more chunky keeper spotted bass. All the bass were released.
Saturday and Sunday morning worked the same way except the wife was using the drop shot with the crawlers and picked up some catfish which we cleaned.
For me all the decent bass came on the spinnerbait close to laydowns. Also caught a few on top water right at sunrise.
We ended up with a nice bag of filets thanks to the catfish and perch.
Table rock is truly one beautiful place to fish. Can’t wait to go again.
Mitch f reacted to Al Agnew for a article, Memories of the Meramec
I've floated the entire river from Short Bend to Times Beach. In fact, I floated the whole thing in one trip one time. It took 12 days, and it rained on my friend Clyde and I 8 out of the 12 days. The first two days, down to Maramec Spring, was nice weather and terrific fishing, including several 17-19 inch smallies. Then it rained the second night, Dry Fork turned to mud, and the next two days down to Steelville it was too muddy to fish. It finally started clearing below Steelville and the fishing got good again, and just kept getting better. I remember catching a 19 incher just below the mouth of the Huzzah, another one above Meramec State Park, and a third one just above St. Clair. We stopped at St. Clair, called Clyde's uncle, and he came down and delivered us a Pizza Hut pizza. Below St. Clair I caught two smallmouths that were both 21 inches. Then the rains came again, the Bourbeuse got muddy, and below it we couldn't fish for the rest of the trip.
That was in 1982. At the time, the Meramec was probably the best big smallmouth stream in MO. There was excellent smallie fishing all the way down to Times Beach. I caught some big fish in the Pacific area in those years. Then the spotted bass started showing up, and now smallmouths are a rarity below St. Clair. That stretch from St. Clair to the mouth of the Bourbeuse used to be my favorite stretch of river for big smallies. Bob Todd and I once caught 8 smallmouths between 19 and 21 inches in one day on that section!
One of my two biggest Ozark stream smallmouths came from the Meramec. It was during the height of the controversy over the Meramec Dam, and I'd never floated the stretch that was slated to be buried by the dam, so I figured I'd better check it out. So I put in at Onondaga and did a two day trip to Meramec State Park. The first fish I caught was a 19 inch largemouth, and the first day was pretty much non-stop action, with some very nice fish. I had a huge smallie follow my lure in right under the Campbell Bridge...I can still remember the sight of that fish.
The second day the fishing was slightly slower, but I was fishing my homemade crankbait along a very deep clay bank when this big smallmouth engulfed it. The fish was 21.5 inches and 5 pounds even. Needless to say, after that trip I was VERY active in writing letters against the dam to newspapers and politicians.
I've spent a lot of time on the trout water, hiked and climbed Cardiac and Suicide many times, had good days and bad. I even fished this water with Bob Knight, when he was still coaching at Indiana U. He was drifting nymphs through a piece of ugly, log-laced water just above Dry Fork, and getting hung up on every cast. After about the fifth time of snapping off and retying, he turned in disgust to go fish someplace else, and tripped over a submerged limb, falling flat on his face in two feet of water. The air turned blue for several miles up and downstream!
The smallie fishing on the Meramec is a shadow of what it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The spotted bass took over the lower river, and the jet boat traffic took over much of the rest of it. For a while, the jetboat wakes apparently messed up the spawn...I believe the fish weren't adapted to the wakes and commotion and siltation caused by the advent of jetboats, and the population of smaller fish just dropped to almost nothing for a few years. So for a while there were very few bigger fish, as those year classes went through their life cycle. But the smallies eventually adapted, and the population went back up somewhat. But fishing pressure, and especially the increased gigging due to the convenience of jet boats, still keeps the smallmouth population much lower than it was when I first started fishing it.
But the Meramec is still one of my favorite rivers. Beautiful green water, big bluffs, and smallmouths along with trout, what more can you ask for?
Mitch f reacted to Tim McDougald for a article, Day Trip to Maramec Springs
I had the day off today, so I made a quick day trip to Maramec Springs. I have only been there once, some 40+ years ago, when I was nine. I got there about 10:00 am and started flyfishing in the rain. I slowly worked my way downstream, eventually coming to a sign that said "Deep Water" and yeah it was deep. By that time some nice fog formed over the river - the picture above does not do the scene justice. I spent about three hours flyfishing but, unfortunately, all I caught was a small bluegill. Even so I had a great time because "a bad day fishing..." I guess I need to use different flies next time.
Mitch f reacted to Al Agnew for a article, Big River
The largest tributary of the Meramec River, Big River begins with water running off the north side of a ridge topped by State Highway 32. It almost immediately begins to have permanent flow, however small, and is dammed on the upper end by the U.S. Forest Service's Council Bluff Lake, a beautiful, clear, timber-lined reservoir nestled among high wooded hills. In this upper portion the watershed is within the igneous rock of the St. Francois Mountains, the oldest outcrops in the Ozarks and the geologic center of the Ozark uplift.
Although there is an MDC access where Highway 21 crosses the river south of Potosi, the river there is still wading water only. It first becomes marginally floatable a few miles downstream, where Cedar Creek enters and adds some flow. From there it flows for nearly 124 miles northward to enter the Meramec. The river in that long reach may be the most abused stream in the Ozarks, suffering from the effects of vast amounts of old lead mine waste as well as some of the ills of suburban civilization as it flows through what is known as the Old Lead Belt, once the largest lead producing area in the nation. Below there it flows through a barite (tiff) mining region and has suffered fish kills in the past from barite mine waste. And in its lower reaches it is lined with homes, cabins, and camping trailers along with their often inadequate septic systems and trash dumps. Yet the river has always had the reputation of good fishing. It is a slow river that has never been popular with the canoe rental crowds, and is served by only a couple of small rental businesses. There are two major state parks along the river and a few private campgrounds, but most river users are local people. Access to the river is poor in many sections.
Big River has only one major tributary, the Mineral Fork, but many smaller streams gradually add to its flow, along with a few springs, and in the old lead mining district there are a number of rusting “drill pipes,” connected to the now flooded underground mines, which are gushing water into the river. While the river does not dramatically change character at any one point, St. Francois State Park makes a convenient place to divide the upper reaches from the “upper middle” river, the Mineral Fork adds considerable water and is the spot at which the river becomes truly big enough for easy floating and some jetboat use, and Morse Mill divides the still pastoral and scenic “lower middle” from the highly developed lower reaches.
Special Bass Management Areas:
Description of River Sections (Link)
Missouri D.N.R. Big Creek Fact Sheet
Missouri Code of Regulations; 3 CSR 10-6.505 Black Bass, 1 (C) On the Meramec, Big, and Bourbeuse rivers and their tributaries, the daily and possession limit for black bass is twelve (12) in the aggregate and may include no more than six (6) largemouth bass and smallmouth bass in the aggregate, except that the daily limit may include no more than one (1) smallmouth bass on the Big River from Leadwood Access to its confluence with the Meramec River, the Meramec River from Scotts Ford to the railroad crossing at Bird’s Nest, and Mineral Fork from the Highway F bridge (Washington County) to its confluence with the Big River. Otherwise:
Bass, black (largemouth), smallmouth and spotted bass (kentuckies)- 12-inches length limit, 6 daily, 12 possession.
Statewide season on bass in rivers and streams is open from the 4th Saturday of May till the last day in February annually.
White bass, striper, hybrid bass- 15 total daily (only 4- 18 inches or longer can be kept in a daily limit), 30 possession.
Rock bass (goggleye) - no length limit, 15 daily, 30 possession.
Crappie, white or black - no length limit, 30 daily, 60 possession.
Bluegill - no limit
Catfish - no length limit, 10 daily (only 5 can be flatheads in a daily limit), 20 possession.
Walleye - 18 inch minimum length, 4 daily, 8 possession.
Fishing Licenses -
Residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older and 65 are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license. Those 65 and older do not need a fishing license.
Proof of residency - Valid Missouri Drivers License.
Non-residents - those fishing of the ages of 16 and older are required to have on their person a valid Missouri fishing license.
Resident - $12 annual
Non-resident - $42
Daily - $7
Trout Stamp - $7
Buy Missouri Fishing Licenses Online!
Report Violations - Poachers
In cooperation with the Missouri Department of Conservation, Operation Game Theft works to stop the illegal taking of fish and wildlife that includes trophy animals and rare and endangered species.
Missouri Wildlife Code