Saturday, March 27, 2010

Christina's First Time; Is it better to have hooked a monster and lost or to never have hooked it at all?

That's right boys, she caught her first crappie!

The day started early with a quick trip to Home Depot to rent an 3,500psi power-washer. We had a long day of scum removal ahead of us. Hopefully, this $100 investment would speed things up and get us on the fish soon! Fortunately, Christina and Rick decided to make the trip out.

The pontoons had not been cleaned since last winter, the scum was really starting to build-up and it totally destroyed the boats performance. Christina and Rick arrived just in time to go with dad to unmoar the boat and load it on the trailer. I hung back at the gated boat yard with Boomer until dad was under power and had given me a call. Boomer took off with his orange tractor and 5min latter, my slightly worse for wear boat was being parallel parked behind the dock store. The pontoons were trashed! I've seen it worse but the condition explains why we lost so much power! It is like having a 20ft rug glued on each pontoon.

The power-washer was fantastic! We should have rented one years ago! Dad started at a lower pressure but quickly jumped to 3,500psi, it was awesome! That crap got sliced off like a French ladies leg stubble before a date with a rich American guy! Kinda looked like it too, just as thick but a bit greener! Dad handed the washer off to Rich and he jumped in head first. Rich was able to blast ALL the biological growth off, getting right down to the calcium/lime scum that has bonded with the aluminum. For the first time in years we could actually see the aluminum. On a side note, I really wish we could remove ALL the calcium build-up. Rich did a fantastic job, getting every possible inch and then some. Dad was top-side vacuuming and picking up the general crude that accumulates over years of fishing. Christina and I had an exciting day trying to avoid the sun and the occasional blast from Ricks zealous spraying, it was a very strenuous day all around. lol The whole process with Christina's and Ricks help took just over an hour! Normally it takes 4hours with Dad and me alone, w/ NO 3,500psi power-washer. We are going to have to rent the power-washer and trick Rick into coming out each year to do our spring cleaning.

Before starting to clean up our mess, dad removed four plugs used to drain water that accumulates in the pontoons over the years. You might ask, "How does water get into a air-tight welded pontoon?" Good question, we really don't know! At first we thought it was getting through the plugs (they are sheet metal screws, not true `plugs`) so, we sealed the plugs with marine grade silicon. Apparently, it didn't work or wasn't the issue because the rear starboard side pontoon section had a few gallons of water and the front port side pontoon section was CRAZY full of water. It ran steady (drained) for an hour and was still flowing when we left. I guessing there was a good 10 gallons of water in the front port pontoon. No wonder the boat was leaning to port! Dad and I are starting to think the weld job the prior owner had done (apparently he damaged the pontoons) left some micro fractures in the hull that pulls in water as the pontoon contract and expand in the hot Arizona days and cool nights. We left the boat in the yard with the plugs out to drain, hopefully no one will try to put the boat back into the water without asking us. That would be VERY unfortunate!

The crappies weren't quite as veracious as the last trip but we were able to catch a few and even get Christina her very first Arizona black crappie! I think we got in a bit late, the bite was very slow. We were back in our old spot, all fishing in a tiny area, it's almost like ice fishing. Dad and I were on the wood deck and Rick was off to the side, fishing in our bay and the bays to the right and left. Almost immediately, I got a heavy weight on my line (the crappie sometimes hold the minnow in this mouth w/o slurping it in or swimming off) and started yelling for dad to set the hook! Dad had his little 3ft jigging pole in his left hand and in an effort to not lose it hesitated setting my hook to secure the jigging pole. We didn't catch the fish... I was a bit annoyed and let my frustration show. I can get a bit OVERLY aggressive when it comes to fishing! We really did miss a lot of fish, this day. Mostly because we forgot our net but also the crappie just weren't eating the bloody minnows. They were sucking the minnows heads like an old toothless Finland-er enjoying a bowl of fish-head stew! We'd set the hooks and pull up a smashed totally dead minnow, very frustrating!

Christina was off reading her book but we were able to pear-pressure her into doing a bit of fishing. She sat down on the deck and put her feet up on the running-board of our neighbors cabin cruiser. Fairly quickly, she hooked into her first crappie but do to her excitement or the crappies paper like mouth, it quickly pulled off! She was a bit dejected, quickly expressed her discontent and gave up fishing. 45sec. later she was back holding the pole, it didn't take long for the second crappie to bite! She set the hook and started reeling feverishly, determined to NOT let this one get away! We were all yelling instructions (I was probably doing most the yelling); SET THE HOOK!, KEEP THE TIP OF YOUR POLE UP!, DAD GET THE NET!, EASY EASY DON'T FORCE IT, KEEP ITS HEAD DOWN!, DON'T LIFT IT OUTA THE WATER!, GET IT GET IT DAD! Just like that, Christina landed her first crappie! It was a beautiful specimen, a pregnant 3/4lb female Arizona Black Crappie. After admiring her catch and throwing it into the fish basket, Christina was fired up and ready for another! This time she hooked into something BIG! Dad grabbed the net and was guiding her when the fish took a hard run under the dock. It was a large fish on a bluegill spin-casting pole, Christina just wasn't able to control it. The line brushed against something sharp (we are guessing the out-drive or the trim-fin) and the fish was gone in a loud pop! Dad gave Christina one hell of a look of exasperation, like a man that just missed the winning shot with no time left in the championship game after two overtimes! He says he was joking but i'm not sure, it looked like true emotion to me. Dad said it was a large bass, he saw the green body and torpedo shape. I didn't see anything but if it was a crappie it would have been a huge one! Christina had a few more more bites and hook one more crappie that pulled off before giving up for the night. She only fished for 20 minutes but it was an very exciting 20 minutes.

Rick was in the next bay over, fishing around a tangle of hoses and mechanical parts used to lift wake board boats out of the lake. It's tough fishing but usually worth the effort. Rick was getting hit regularly but just wasn't able to connect. Toward the end of the trip, Rick put on a Banjo Minnow that he pick-up on sale but had never used til this day. I think he was grasping for anything to land a fish and it almost worked, almost! He was jigging that Banjo minnow when SOMETHING BIG ate it! He set the hook and was immediately broke off. The craziest part, Rick was using a 20lb test braid, the line shouldn't have broke. I don't know if the line hit something or the knot failed but regardless, the fish was gone, whatever it was. To add insult, it was his only rainbow trout colored Banjo minnow, now a decoration on a very styling fish. Rick ended up with one crappie for the day but I still think he had a good time.

One funny thing did happen! I was watching my minnow twitching away when my pole started to dip. Dad quickly set the hook and began pulling it in and it was HUGE! We were fighting it like real champs when we heard Rick yell out, "I have one too!" Unbeknownst to us, Ricks fat minnow had swam 15ft under the dock and tangled in my line. It seemed, Rick and I were playing tug-of-war but we didn't know this. Rick figured this out before dad and I did, at one point he slacked his line causing my side to look like we lost it. My heart almost stopped! We ended up reeling in Ricks fat minnow and had a good laugh! Is it better to have hooked a monster and lost or to never have hooked at all?

We didn't stay late, packing up well before sunset. On the way out we got the skinny on a few other fishing parties. Most everyone was catching 30+. Mike (the landscaper) was in the 200's catching some beauties, a few over two pounds and around 60 for the day. A pair of kids in our 2nd favorite spot had 20 but lost half to the otter. They heard some splashing around their stringer, went to investigate and actually lifted the otter out of the water WITH the fish! That little bugger just wouldn't let go! I had heard some high pitch squeaking an hour earlier, it crossed my mind that it might be the otter but he hadn't been around so I figured it was just some birds. My first instinct was right, not only did the otter hit the kids but he got Mike later that night. The little bugger put an 2inch hole in his fish basket causing Mike to move his fish into a cooler. My friends Denver, Sarah & company had 15ish for the day. I think we could have done better if we started earlier AND we had remembered our bloody net! The two crappie Christina lost and the 2 or 3 I lost could have easily been netted. Normally, all our tackle and equipment is waiting for us in my boat but this time the boat was 1000yards away in dry storage. Hell, we didn't even have our fish basket, Dad had to buy a rope stringer! We could have done better fishing but on-total, it was a very productive day!

Fish count: 6 crappie

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bartlett Lake Crappie Fishing - Rick's Success

Fish Count: 29 Crappie, 2 Bluegill Total: 31

Rick caught the very first crappie of his entire life and it was a monster! 2lb'er! Congratulations!

The morning started off cold, breezy and slow! I had gotten word from RC and Kyle that the crappie were hitting around the dock, to the tune of 40-50 crappie a person every day! The problem was, dad did not want to leave our old spot to fish in the public location with a bunch of Ridge Runners! After sitting in our old spot for 30 minutes without so much as a nibble, it became apparent that the fish were not biting there. Rick had put out four catfish polls with some stinky bait he made with fish guts and a play-do formula, Christina was reading a book in the sun and I was trying to talk dad into moving to the new spot. It was very cold! Dad and I took the bare essentials and walked over to the new spot where five other people were fishing. They had been catching crappie all morning (actually, they had been catching Crappie in that location for two weeks). Dad was very nervous around that many people. I had him place my pole in the water with a minnow. The ridge runners were using different colored jigs. The most productive of all the colors was light green and dark green. Oddly enough, the bigger jigs were producing more fish. Dad and I could not even get a nibble! We moved all over that dock, at one point we were fishing only inches from where they had their lines. Regardless, we could not get one bite. In the hour that we stood there freezing our butts off, they had pulled up at least one dozen crappie! With a final attempt, I had a heart-felt talk with a fat minnow that heroic volunteered to be sacrificed for this endeavor, he assured me his distressed wiggling would guaranty a crappie would eat him! He gave his life in vain. Dad and I walked back to our boat dejected, just hoping our spot would turn on. Rick had caught one small bluegill while we were gone. Dad opened up an MRE for us to eat, it was pretty good, something I haven't had before, chicken noodle soup. Fortunately, before I was finished eating the crappie started biting! For the next three hours we pulled in one crappie after the next.

Rick caught the very first crappie of his life! It was a monster, 2lb'er+! I had told him how the Ridge Runners were catching crappie on green jigs, apparently he had a few green jigs that came with his fishing pole (you know, the type that comes in the little box when you buy with your Kmart child's fishing pole combo pack). I had been catching 1/2lb+ crappie, one after the next. He walked over and dropped his Kmart jig next to my line and was immediately hit by something very large! Dad and I thought it was a large bass, the way it jumped out of the water. We did not realize it was a crappie until after dad had netted and hauled it onto the dock. That fish was huge! A real trophy by anyone's standards! Rick preceded to catch many many additional crappie with that jig over the next two and a half hours. He caught another two pound-er in the same spot on a minnow! Rick was just plain hot! The crappies took everything he put in the water! Seriously, he was having a day every fisherman dreams of!

Dad tried a few different types of jigs but settled on one similar to Ricks Kmart special. It worked, he was getting hit and catching crappie right and left. I was doing pretty good with my minnows but not near a good as the jigs. The jigs were getting hit 5 to 1 over a minnow! We were shocked!

This was a day of firsts! Ricks first crappie, the first time a Kmart jig caught anything over 3oz and the first time in my LIFE we caught a crappie with a jig! Two years ago I decided to become a crappie fisherman with an emphasis on trolling. With research in hand, I headed to Cabala's with my trusty large New York City African-American aide, who has zero interest in fishing and even less interest in crappie fishing, in tow. I proceeded to buy every color, type and style jig head, hook and grub body I had ever read about, enough to fill four tackle boxes. Simon (my aide) was bored as hell, I on the other hand, I was as happy as Scrap-booking fanatic with a 50% discount to Michael's. We trolled for a full season, caught numerous little bass including an 5lb'er and one 5lb catfish but NO damn crappie! Until today! With this great success and new found confidence, dad and I are going to give these jigs another try! Hopefully they'll pay off during the spring spawn and trolling this summer!

We only brought home 27 Crappie (19 for me and 8 for Rick, including his two 2lb'er), one gill was to small and the other was fortunate the basket was full of crappie! The remaining two crappie were give back to the lake Gods. Hopefully our offering will be remembered and looked on favorably during our next fishing trip.

Most of the crappie were pregnant females (2/3 were female) with their eggs developed about 90%. If the weather holds, they will begin spawning in 2 to 3 weeks at the north side of the lake & in the southern end, 3 to 4 weeks later.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Halley's homemade chocolate covered waffles

I was woke up that morning with a questions; The Hailey's what to come at 11am or 8pm to make their families famous `Chocolate syrup w/ waffles` for your birthday, what do you want me to tell them? Mom wasn't sure if we were going fishing or had some other plans, we didn't. Ma call them back and set the time for 7pm. We had a ton of soring cleaning to do before they arrive.

They showed up right on time with Renee & Natalie in toe. They had the ingredients partially combined and all the cookware required. Jean started cooking immediately, mixing the cocoa power syrup ingredients & waffle mix. Everything moved very quickly! Jean had the waffles served up faster then a line-cook. Dad had gone out earlier for chocolate chip ice cream for this little party, it was my idea and a good idea it was! 

The chocolate syrup with waffles alone was fantastic but the addition of the ice-cream, well, that was a true inspiration! The addition of the creamy cold ice cream with the salty waffles and rich chocolate sauce was a real winning combination.

Christina & Rick were able to make it, fortunately for them. We sat around the rest of the evening eating to our hearts-content and playing with Natalie. As dad said, she's like watching a campfire! 

It was a good birthday w/ my family and friends!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bartlett Lake Fishing Trip w/ David J.

It was another brisk early spring day in Arizona. The sky was clear and sunny but the wind was very cold. The lake was not near as bad as the last trip out but was still covered by debris. Dave and I fished around the dock while Dad readied the boat for our trip up the lake. Normally, I would man the trolling motor but I was not feeling confident in my abilities this morning. Between our visitor and the cold weather my hands were just not working correctly. We had a fantastic trip, all be it cold, up the lake. I decided to have a shoreline lunch in a bay around the buoy lines. Fortunately, dad was able to anchor the boat in a small cove where we could lower our lines and begin fishing. I was not trying to fish hard, the cold weather it makes bluegill fishing very difficult. My main interested was getting dad to relax (a near impossible endeavor) and keep David occupied. To my surprise, David caught a small 6in bass! He had lowered his line down to a structure (not quite sure if it was an artificial fish-house or just some debre), allowing his bait to drifted around under the boat and to my surprise, started getting hit. Dave wouldn't let me take a picture of his little bass, worried that this would be the only fish he caught and his fisherman's bravo would be damaged if anyone saw it. Shortly there after, he caught a very nice 1/2lb bluegill hybrid. I made sure to get a picture this time!

I was feeling better about my trolling motor captaining skills, after practising during our MRE lunch. We up-anchored and headed down the shore. Before heading back to the marina, I trolled crank baits up the north side of the bay to a hot spot from years earlier, it didn't forgo us! Dave didn't catch anything but did miss a few good hits and dad caught a very yellow 1lb channel catfish. Our trip back to the marina was relaxing, I wanted to go up to the Yellow Cliffs but dad wasn't comfortable with the motors water cooling system. We headed straight back to the marina. One tiny issue, I forgot to pull in the fish basket w/ Dave's 1/2lb bluegill BEFORE the 5 mile trip back to the marina. The fish got scaled alive! We had to dispose of the little guy, his guts got busted up during the trip causing him to rot! Oops!

The marina was still completely trashed from the numerous dilusies and the air and water temperatures were still low, all leading me to believe the crappie fishing would totally suck! To my everlasting delight, I was wrong! I wasn't able to fish (forgot my pole holder), dad was fishing in our current favorite spot and David was chilling in the back of my boat. That was until dad pulled the second crappie from that hole, I bet Dave hadn't moved that quickly in years! We all fished that 2ft by 8ft hole for the next 3 hours, catching 16 crappie and a few bluegill. David had a hot finger for crappie, this day! I was also watching his line & pole, cheering him on and directing the action every time he got bit. It was a good time! The only difficulty we were having was the 1in thick of scum and branches jammed until the bay. Literally, the fishing line could not penetrate the muck and every 1/2lb netted fish also came with 5lbs of debre! It was a mess but made it interesting. We had a great day fishing! I could not have asked for a better day for David, cool and easy going...

David was still craving a pizza, so I ordered a pair from the road. It was waiting for us when we arrived!

Fish Count: 16 Crappie, 2 Bluegill, 1 Catfish Total: 19

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dads Hunting Trip & Rabbit Stew

Dad started preparing the day before by laying out all our hiking supplies; MRE, water, hat, first-aide, utility tool, knife, etc. Next we rigged up his hiking pack and he tried on his Christmas hunting outfit, everything from new boots, upland hunting pants, camo shirt & hunting vest. Speaking of Xmas, dad was like a kid, nervously awaiting the big dad when he can actually play w/ his new toys. He put his ENTIRE outfit w/ pack rig on and paraded around the house for hours!

Rick drove Christina over at 6AM (so I wouldn't have to get my arse up early) and picked up dad for the 1 hour trip to the Tonto National Forest. They regularly hunt the road heading out to Horseshoe Lake but the dirt road had been washed out during the "biblical flood" of 2010. They ended up hunting the south side of Bartlett Road about 5miles west of the lake. This was the last day of the 2009 quail hunt, the birds have been procude relentlusly for the prior 4 months. Needless to say, the birds were crazy weary! They catched the little buggers up and down some very steap and trechorous hills but never got into range. They did take a few shots but didn't even molest one single feather. Dad was able to get one scronny rabbit! Ya! The closet and best oppertunity dad had for quail was at the absolute best time! He had to get the rabbit field dresed ASAP before placing it in his hunting vest, otherwise the flea-like bugs infesting the fur would have infested him! Dad put his shot gun down and got to business, as he turned to wake back, he jumped a giant covy of quail BUT had no weapon! Nice hu? He chased they covey for the next two hills. Rick couldn't get through a GIANT forest of jumping-cactus to get into that covey. No fret, Rick & Dad will be out the opening down of the 2010 season. Hopefully their wing shooting will improve over the next 9 months. Rick bought me a clauy-pigeon thrower for Xmas (and I just bought dad a new Mossberg 500 pump shotgun), we are planning a few practice trips prior to the hunting season. The clay-pigeon thrower is triggered by a rope, we plan on tieing it to my chair and then `Pulling` the trigger by moving my chair. Dad was proud of that little rabbit, as he should be, it took a lot of work it get'em! Dad talked about the hunt for weeks, he still keep saying, "I like walking around the desert, i'd like to go out now", everytime we head out to the lake. I need to figure out a way to hunt the far side of the lake while we are fishing. There is just NOT enough time to do everything we want!

We had to cook the living crap out of that rabbit! We started by butchering him into 5 parts; 2 hind legs, 2 front legs and loins / back. Dad had to cut out some blood-shot flesh, we lost a bit of the right sholder. We next browned him off in the cast-iron pot w/ onions and pored in a can of golden mushroom soup. He cooked for an hour w/o even a bit of tenderness! After three hours we tried to eat a piece, no luck! It was now 7PM but I wasn't about to give up! We decided, one more hour and whatever happens, we're eating it! After a total of 4 hours, the meat was almost fork tender. He was very tasty! Nothing like chicken, game and sweet. The loin and hips are the best but I kinda like the sholder. I like picking the small bits of meat off the bones but it drive dad crazy! He's so impachent w/ me and always tries to throw it out before i'm done. i'd suck the bones if i could! Oh well, we'll just have to get more rabbits so I can waste the little bits. All-in-all, it was a very good meal, a bit small but good!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bartlett Lake Biblical Flood Update

The lake is up 35ft to 85% full, not the 100% we were hoping. SRP is trying to hold the lake 8ft low at 92%. I personally like the lake full!

Those days and nights were rough, they ran three 2 man teams continually. The other six employees didn't make it in before the washes ran over and closed the road. There was no going OR coming for 72 hours. The six remaining trapped employees ran in two man two hour shifts, cranking 40 1 inch thick cable wenches spred over the entire dock before getting a four hour break. This went on 24/7, day and night! If they failed, the marina would be submigged within the hour OR even worse, a 12,000lbs anchor line breaks! During the biggest storm of the last 12 months, the marina would be pushed off its morings, buckle, smashing the dock w/ millions in boats being compremised. Those six guys had a VERY rough 72 hours!

My boat made it through unscathed!

Pea Soup Andersen's Restaurant - Buellton, CA has the best split pea soup in the world, it's rich, thick and wonderful w/ sourcream & bacon bits, plus it's All-You-Can-Eat. Sounds wonderful but I wouldn't know because I've never eaten there. Despite that unfortunate fact, I doubt it's thicker or more baby-shit green like then Bartlett Lake. The lake is completely trashed! A mud flow 100 yards wide that stretchs the length of the lake PLUS floating masses of reeds, branches and whole trees make a trip down the lake trechorous. I'm praying the debre will settle soon, my uncle is visiting us the end of feburary.

Lack of Fishing Trip to Bartlett

Went out to the lake w/ little hope of catching anything and we were right to be discuraged. Not a damn thing, not even a bite. The lake is as silted over as i've ever seen it! The water is thick w/ mud. There are rivers of mud w/ reeds, branches and whole trees floating down the lake. Trying to navigate the lake is like trying to navagate a mine field. Regardless, we gave it our best for 3 hours. Walked a 6th of the marina trying to find those bloody fish, nothing! (BTW the minnows were really nice, it was a shame no fish would eat them!) We gave up....TOTALLY SKUNKED!

Before leaving we always run the boat motor for 15min to keep it properly lubbed and to keep any moister in the gas from settling in the engine. Unfortunately, the storm pushed crap into the motors water intake empellor (for cooling). The engine wouldn't circulate water, that's bad! Dad got down and cleaned it out but it still dribbled worse then an old man with prostrate cancer. We decided dad should take the boat out and give it a good run. We lucked out, the engine started peeing properly! Ya! Saved me a few hundred in proctalagy fees! Now all we have left to do is clean an inch of scum off the pontoons, fun.

Anyone interest, the lake is 15ft down (85% full) and coming up at irregular intervals. It's fluctuating 2ft up and down every day.

I did take a few nice pictures, hopefully they'll come out well.