Sunday, August 27, 2017

Where Are All The Fish?

I had to go back to work this past week, and the "Great American Solar Eclipse" was happening on Monday as well. I decided to try to go fishing for a little bit before my last hockey game of the spring/summer season during the eclipse, since I had to be at work on Tuesday and couldn't go somewhere with totality.
Taylor's Landing during the eclipse

No fish were harmed in the creation of this photo

I got nothing during the eclipse. I couldn't even get any good photos of the sun; my phone and my eclipse goggles didn't cooperate. So, while I got to see the eclipse (at about 80% totality), I couldn't take my own photos. I guess I should have just taken photos of the shadows. 

So, I went back to work on Tuesday, and the rest of the staff came back on Wednesday. We've got eight preservice days because our governor decided to kiss Ocean City's ass. Since we can't start before Labor Day, and we have to finish by June 15 (maybe it's June 16), including snow days, and our contract has stipulated a certain number of professional days, there wasn't much choice. It's very frustrating to know that Ocean City's Chamber of Commerce is more important than the education of students in Maryland, at least to our governor. 

Saturday, I met up with fellow Caps season ticket holders at a DuClaw/Goonda beer pickup at the brewery. 

Then I went home and started brewing a new batch of my cinnamon beer to be ready for Chilibrew, a contest I entered in October. I'm hoping this batch of the beer turns out as awesome as the first one!
I went with two grain bags for the initial steeping versus the one last time.

The first batch had an OG of 1.034. This is better. 
That leads us to this morning, when Pat woke me up to go fishing. Now, the first thing I actually did was pitch the yeast in the wort (long story, but let's just say you shouldn't listen to someone who tells you to "add hot water!" to bring it up to 4.5-5gal). Then I grabbed my stuff to head out to whereever Pat wanted to go this weekend. 

That was Point of Rocks. We haven't been there in over a year, and I think I know why. Because it sucks. First off, we got basically the last parking space, in the regular (non-boat-launch) parking. Secondly, there is little-to-no fishing from the shore for someone like me. Anyway, after attempting maybe a dozen casts near the bridge, I opted to move upstream. Pat had already caught at least one fish, albeit a sunfish. 

I walked. And walked. And walked. I finally saw a small pathway towards the river, but when I looked closer, it was a scramble to get to the shore. I opted to keep walking. 

I found a second path, and followed it, only to find tree-covered shoreline. No good for me. I kept following the path, and came too close to hurting myself severely when I stepped over a log and put my foot squarely in a groundhog hole. I writhed in pain for a bit, then hardened up and kept walking to find nothing. So, I went through "wilderness" back towards the towpath, where I could see something. 
Lockhouse 28
Lock 28
I almost lost my collapsible water bottle at the lockhouse when I put it down to take some photos and forget to pick it up afterwards. I had to hike back a good quarter mile to grab it. So, the second time I passed it, I took a photo of the mile marker. 
I just kept walking, and I probably hit mile 50, considering I walked a good 20min past MM49. I'm guessing the MM50 marker is missing. Anyway, I found another path to the river near where MM50 should be, and it looked promising. 
Panorama view is cool
I tossed a swimbait a few times, to no avail, and a Whopper-Plopper a few times.... only to get it hung up in a small tree on a rock that was within wading distance. I'd already expressed frustration to Pat via text, and then I get a response saying he's willing to go elsewhere. I tell him that I need to get my Whopper-Plopper back and then it would be a 30min walk. 

He left it up to me where to go after that. I opted for the Monocacy Aqueduct, since I knew it was close by and had areas accessible from shore. The last time I was at Catoctin Aqueduct, the fish-from-shore areas were very limited. 

Pat immediately caught a sunfish (he'd caught two at Point of Rocks), and proceeded to catch several smallmouth. Meanwhile, I was still catching nothing. I wasn't even getting bites or nibbles. I trundled downstream past where he was wading, and still, nothing

As much as I didn't want to, I finally went up to near where Pat was fishing and started tossing lures. 
It was something at least
On a "junebug" TRD Finesse Worm, I finally caught something, a sunfish that was maybe five inches. I haven't caught a sunfish in thirty-some years. I almost kept it, just for noms sake, but tossed it back. 

I wasn't getting any other action from the junebug, so I switched to a swimbait. On a Reaction Innovations swimbait (I think it was a "Spanish Fly" coloration), I finally had a hit from the Potomac mainstay, and fought it to the shore. It wouldn't stop thrashing, even out of the water, and managed to disengage itself from the hook. I was able to grab it before it thrashed itself back into the water. 
Smallmouth fury! All 12" of it.
The only other thing I would catch would be another 5-6" sunfish. 

I guess I need to get either waders or a fishing kayak to open up my possibilities. Pat -- wading -- was able to get so much more that I did. 

Another week of preservice training, then Labor Day Weekend. Maybe we'll go camping! :)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Lazy Sunday

Pat woke me up this morning to go fishing on the Potomac. I am not an early riser by any means, but I dragged myself out of bed and grabbed my rods and bag.

He'd restrung two of my reels last night, so I felt obliged to bring all three of my rods. He also graciously gave me some campground tubes and a few jigs for them, so I scooped those up and into my gear.

Today's destination was Antietam Campground, which we last hit before my road trip. Considering I'd caught walleye at Dam 4 on Thursday, I was hopeful to continue the streak.

Pat trekked upriver, towards his current favorite spot, while I walked downriver to where I caught the walleye last time here. The river was very still, and a bald eagle flew overhead.

I started off with the Whopper-Plopper, and in the first thirty minutes, had three solid hits. The last one, I even almost landed the damned fish before it shook off the lure and swam away. Topwater lures are awful like that. You get frustrated, and say "One more cast!" and then you get a hit, and you just want to keep casting.

Stupid topwater.

So, after being teased with the Whopper-Plopper, I finally switched over to swimbait. Second cast in, and I've got another hit!
Not a very big fish
It fought well, and I was happy to actually bring it in after the topwater failures.

Shortly thereafter, two other guys showed up and started fishing maybe twenty yards from me. I was a bit annoyed, and intentionally cast near them to show my annoyance. They moved further away and cast downriver after that, though they never left the area.

I think they were a jinx. The only fish I saw after they showed up was a big 'ol carp that startled me, swimming maybe eighteen inches from my feet.
Carp don't care. Kinda like musky, but no one wants to catch a carp
Meanwhile, Pat says he caught five fish, though the fifth one was allegedly sixteen inches and there is no photo...

Maybe I'll go fishing tomorrow, pre-eclipse. It'll be my last time for weekday fishing for a while, as I have to go back to work on Tuesday.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dam, I Caught A Fish!

Since I've returned from the roadtrip, I've been feeling blah. I guess it's a bit of a wanderlust hangover, knowing that the end of the roadtrip signals the beginning of the school year, and when I need to go back to work. So, yesterday, I made the effort to get out of the house by going fishing before heading down to Kettler Capitals Iceplex for a skating session for season ticket holders.

Pat has started calling the Weverton Cliffs area on the Potomac the "community pool," and sure enough, there were some people wading when I got to the end of the first path out to the river. I don't understand the people who wade and swim in areas where I lose a ton of lures (and their associated hooks), but that's their problem. Anyway, I moved a bit upstream, and with my Under Armour Bozeman boots, had no problem traversing some marshy area to get out to a group of rocks to fish from.

It ended up being a frustrating two hours of fishing. Early on, I had a fish on a Whopper Plopper that escaped. I switched over to a swimbait, and had a hit.... that evaporated when the line broke; I could clearly see the dark shape swim off with my lure. I had another one on a swim bait that again escaped during a leap into the air.

I should have brought a cup. I could have at least come home with a ton of crayfish.
How many crayfish can you find in this photo?
Just before I was ready to leave, I was visited by Mr. Sneaky-snake. I'd seen this snake swim by maybe a half-hour earlier, and then it came back to poke around in the rocky area directly in front of me. It decided to swim up and poke its head out just feet from where I was standing.
I actually hissed at it to make it go away
My first thought was that it was a copperhead, but Pat says it could have been a "northern watersnake." It was a bit pale brown compared to all of the northern watersnake photos I could find. But, when it swam, it was completely underwater, which I don't think is characteristic of copperheads. I didn't get close enough to see the shape of its head.

The trip down to Arlington for the skating session was awful. Traffic was more miserable than usual, and then of course both Elizabeth and I miss out on winning cool prizes by only a few numbers. We had 273165 and 273265, and 273163 and 273267 were called. :( We consoled ourselves at the former World of Beer location just a block or so away, before calling it a night.

So, this morning, I woke up wanting revenge on the fish who'd escaped me.

I decided to try my luck at Taylor's Landing, and chose poorly. Ninety minutes in, and nothing. No nibbles, just several lost lures.

Giving up there, I drove out to Dam 4. Last time I'd done these two in conjunction, I'd caught nothing at Dam 4, but a smallmouth and a walleye at Taylor's Landing.

My first spot, I was vying with two idiots that if I didn't know any better, I'd just call them frat boys. Loud, obnoxious, and just trying to be disruptive. I just kept casting, and didn't say a word. They quickly got tired of trying to antagonize me, but they'd clearly scared the fish away. When I was sure they'd left the area (and so wouldn't think they'd "won"), I moved further downstream from the dam.

I cast for about fifteen minutes with nary a nibble. I moved further downstream and tried again. Nothing. I moved a total of four times before I found a place with fairly calm water, albeit a huge log about five feet off shore. It was going to make casting interesting if I wanted to reel in directly in front. I opted to cast so that I was bringing in the bait at an angle to the log, and hopefully missing it.

Now, I'd been trying everything I had. Topwater (Zara Puppy and Whopper Plopper). Swimbait (Reaction Innovations Little Dipper and BPS Sassy Sally). TRD Finesse Worms. Nothing was getting even sunfish bumps. So, I went back to my old school setup -- the Spider Classic hook with a BPS Sticko Split-tail worm (minnow color).

The second cast, I felt something, and figured it for a sunfish (which I'd seen chasing some of my bait on the way in). I was wrong.
I'm probably the only person who is disappointed to catch a walleye
It was a skinny little thing, and came in just over eleven inches. Figures, considering I now have a stringer to keep the larger ones! I tossed it back and kept casting, only to lose the lure a few moments later.

I put on a swimbait and promptly caught another walleye; again, it wasn't quite twelve inches. All I could think was that Pat was going to be upset that I'd caught two walleye, and couldn't keep either one.

The swimbait was pretty beat up after the walleye (as usual), so I swapped it out for another one. A few more casts, and I'd gotten it hung up on a log (not the one I could clearly see) twice, bad enough that the hook was slightly bent. It was getting close to six, and I was thinking I should go home, but I wanted one more cast. Just one more.

I tossed out the line, then actually started walking downstream as I reeled it in, to try to avoid both the visible log as well as the one I'd gotten hung up on the past two casts. Then it hit, hard. I knew it had to be a smallmouth. I set the hook and reeled for all I was worth. When I saw the fish, I thought, OMG, it's a monster.
A good 14-15" fish, and a hell of a fighter
I think it looked like a monster right off because of how skinny the walleye were. Still, this fish was feisty, and it was hard for me to even get it off the hook. It was thrashing so much, the swimbait flew off, and I was nervous I'd end up with the naked hook in my hand. Obviously, it calmed down enough that I was able to grab it by the lip and remove the hook.

Since I was pretty satisfied by that last cast, I packed it up afterwards and headed home. Pat scowled at me when I returned, but I will put money on us going fishing this weekend, and him outdoing me. :) Though I might catch more walleye.... ;)


Monday, August 14, 2017

Home Again

Well, I just got back from three weeks on the road. Mom and I went out on what has become our yearly road trip following my niece's birthday party, and this time hit sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Nevada (sort of, we spent the night in Wells), Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.

I took over 2000 photos with my phone alone, and if you follow my Instagram account (@kiirenza), you surely saw some of them.

I just posted four albums of unedited photos from the phone, and some time this week, I'll probably add the photos from the camera, though the phone photos will probably be better. After all, the Motorola MotoX Pure Edition has a 21MP camera, versus the really old Canon EOS Rebel digital camera that I have.

Here's a few photos from the albums.

We started off at the Flight 93 Memorial

The Skew Bridge at the Allegheny Portage Railroad was cool

The Perry Victory Monument at Put-in-Bay, OH

Tons of shells washed up on the Lake Erie beach at Sterling State Park's campground

The Sleeping Bear Dunes were impressive

I hiked out to the Au Sable Lighthouse at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

I had never seen this plant before; it's an Indian Pipe, and it is a parasite! Obviously, it has no chlorophyll of its own.

The widowmaker drill, named such for the scores of men who died due to silicosis

Conglomerate Falls

A thimbleberry along the trail at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
People keep trying to improve on the standard Vulcanized rubber puck

I had to find out what a "pasty" was

I hiked in Voyageurs, and think I might have to go back for fishing

We saw so many abandoned homes and farms

A recreated earth lodge at the Knife River

Theodore Roosevelt National Park has some incredible scenery

An overlook shelter built by the CCC in the '30s.

We went back to Roosevelt the following morning so that we could tour the North Unit.

Fort Union, a trading post

There were some awesome dinosaur displays at the Fort Peck Interpretive Center

Fort Peck's Interpretative Center also had a tank with sturgeon in it. 

This was heart breaking. A beaded blanket that was traded for food by a homeless, starving Nez Perce tribe member.

Glacier National Park's Baring Falls

After Logan Pass, the sun came out at Glacier

Glacier was another one where we saw what we could the first afternoon, then came back for more the next morning.

I hiked up to Avalanche Lake in the morning
Craters of the Moon was an otherworldly landscape in the midst of Idaho

Dewdrop "Cave" is more of a splatter cone entrance or lava tube than anything

Minidoka Japanese-American internment camp. Lest we forget what happened in 1941.

Hagerman Fossil Beds

Do I even need to say it?

Simpson Springs Pony Express station. We had to drive 20 miles on dirt roads to get here. And the 20 more miles back to a "real" highway. 

The bighorn sheep rams were standing in the road like nothing could hurt them

The Flaming Gorge Dam

We did the dig site tour at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. This is one of only a handful of sites where dinosaur tracks and bones have been found together

The Thermopolis specimen, an Archaeopteryx link between birds and dinosaurs. 

Jewel Cave's nailhead spar calcite

Wind Cave's natural opening, a holy site for the Lakota Sioux and others, who see it as part of their creation story. 

Boxwork formation in Wind Cave

The Native American beadwork, art, and artifacts on display at the Crazy Horse Memorial museum is incredible

The South Dakota Badlands

I did the Castle Trail (five mile hike) this year at the Badlands. It did not disappoint

As we left the Badlands to head towards Wall, we found a herd of ewes and lambs.

The exhibit at the Minuteman Missile NHS visitor center is a must see
The Berry Bridge over the Niobrara River

Berry Falls, emptying into the Niobrara

Lincoln's brother-in-law served at Fort Randall. Not much remains of the fort's site any more, except for some foundations.

The spillway at the Fort Randall Dam

Pipestone quarry

Many historic sites preserve graffiti from an historical perspective. They don't appreciate new additions, though.

Effigy mounds in the forest. Most of the ones on the trail by the visitor center are round ones like these, though there are a few bears. 

The National Brewery Museum in Potosi is an eclectic mix of brewiana

In an effort to kill some time before arriving at our campsite for the night, we stopped briefly to explore these lime kilns in Hurstville

I chased this monarch butterfly around the Cowles Bog trail for a while, trying to get some good photos

The Fallen Timbers and Fort Miamis historic sites are on the banks of the Maumee River

Fort Necessity, the starting point for the French and Indian War

A prelude to the interstates that allowed us to see so much in just three weeks

Mount Washington Inn's bar

Someone else was relieved to be home, too

The dust, dirt and salt gathered over three weeks of driving