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

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