Friday, August 19, 2011

An evening of multi-species firsts

Fish are awesome!
or "The Magic of the Green Tube Jig"

Headed out to the new spot on the Chicago River yesterday evening after work, scarfed some Jimmy John's down on the #124 bus (didn't want to waste time eating when I could be fishing), which was filled with Navy Pier-goers.

Daiwa Peanut Crank in prizm black shad
Got off before they all did, ready to hit the spot. I already rigged a chigger craw per Jeff's suggestion, and took about 30 seconds to piece together my collapsible rod. When I got to the spot, I noticed the same security guard was there - right by the water - so I decided to fish from the other side of the river and wait until he left.

I think I'm getting much better at casting, because I was able to consistently get my lure in what I thought was the strike zone from about 50' (?). Although this was great casting practice, I wasn't getting so much as a nibble. I remembered one of the many fishing mantras I've heard over and over again: "If what you're doing doesn't work, change!" Since I wasn't ready to change my location (the security guard was still chatting it up with some ladies) I tied on a Daiwa Peanut Medium Crankbait in Prizm Black Shad color. I had never caught a fish on a crankbait, but I know there were little fish swimming around, so I'd give it a go.

The spot. Notice the security guard in the upper-right-hand corner. Outside the frame is the "No Fishing" sign
My first cast, the crank landed exactly where I wanted it- I waited for the ripples to stop, and I twitched it a few times (this crank floated on the top until you started retrieving it. Maybe that's how all crankbaits work, but I've barely used them...) On the third twitch, WHAM! Fish on!

This was no tentative bite, this was "Hey gimme that right now I'm hungry! MMmmmmm!" I set the hook, and began the short battle. I pulled up, reeled, pulled up, reeled - Jeremy Wade style - to keep the fish from going down into the rebar that I knew was on the bottom. As it came closer, fighting voraciously, I saw it was a fair-sized fish. Whoohoooo!

My 30 minute skunk-fest ended, I pulled up a good sized bluegill (pumpkinseed? I always confuse them), which was not only my first crankbait catch, but my first Chicago River gill!

A real nice-sized fish, who gave me a great fight

It took me a while to get the treble hook (actually 1 part of it broke off, so there were only 2 hooks in the fish) but once I did, I snapped a quick picture and let my new best friend back into the water. She (I think) was happy to go and quickly darted to the bottom.

Alright! I thought- I found something that worked! I cast to the same spot, and twitched it the same way.... and... nothing. Worked that lure for another 20 minutes, and again, not even a nibble.

A mom and her 4-year-old (?) son came down to watch. The little kid thought my pretend fish was pretty awesome, and it "swims just like a real fish!" It sure does! I think it's pretty awesome too. "There's a lot of trash in there. Fish don't eat trash. Ducks don't eat trash." He was right- it's too bad people are so careless with their McDonald's cups and candy bar wrappers.

The security guard gone, with a chigger craw tied back on, I tiptoed to the other side of the river and threw my lure in. This, mind you, was in front of a very large "NO FISHING" sign. I worked the bait against the wall, bunny-hopping it along; dragged it along the bottom near some falling water (fish love oxygen, right?), and again, nothing.

Around this time I noticed two ladies having a smoke break by the water, giving me some dirty looks. Obviously they didn't like me fishing there, but I'm not sure what they didn't like.. All my gear was in my backpack, on my back, and I wasn't casting anywhere near them. Any monofilament line went right back into my backpack, and I wasn't making a sound. I wasn't smoking, drinking, shouting, or littering.

I noticed the security guard come back around the corner, and started talking to the ladies. They spoke in hushed tones, but then one said loudly "Go get'em!"

I heard the keys on his belt rattle as he walked in my direction, but I kept fishing because I got a few nibbles in the spot, and I thought it would be awesome to pull out a smallie or something right when he came down. He came up about 10' behind me and whispered "Hey"

I turned around, and he recognized me from last week. He explained that he didn't care if I fished there or not, but those ladies were complaining. He told me to go back to the other side, but I could come back to this spot when the ladies left. If the sidewalk I was on was in fact city property as Jeff said it was, then this was all total mierda, but I wanted to keep fishing. So I went to the other side, and continued fishing.

Fish #2
They left about 3 minutes later, I went back to the other side, and the security guard gave me a thumbs up. Ok, cool. I wonder what he would have done if I complained about the ladies' smoking. Seems to me that is a lot more disruptive than a silent, careful, respectful angler wearing a backpack. Not to mention the ~20 people who stopped to talk to me, seemingly sincerely interested that there are fish in the river. I'm guessing some of them will come back and fish sometime!

Back to fishing, I tried some more lures, to no avail. Chigger craw, cranks, minnows on jig (worked last week), and nothing. I decided to bust out my all-time favorite lure, that has caught me more fish than any other, probably because I fish with it so much- my green tube jig.

Of course, immediately, first cast, I got a hit! and reeled in a nice looking rock bass. Cha-ching! I'm in!

It had a very interesting pattern I hadn't seen before, with dark splotches. Kind of pretty. This is rock bass, and not some other species, right? Remember, I'm still super new to all this.

Kept working the tube jig, got LOTS of little hits. Saw a brown colored fish in the water hanging out with a bunch of dink 'gills. Couldn't tell what it was (smallie? smallie? smallie?) Pitched the jig ~4' beyond the fish, and crawfished it over toward the brown fish. WHAM! Fish on!

This guy fought even harder than the previous two fish, and I was very surprised to see a ~10" catfish come out of the water attached to my green tube jig. This was my fourth catfish ever, first one on the river, and first one on an artificial! Whooohoooo!

My new friend, the catfish, fish #3 of the day
Fish #4 - My first Chicago River crappie!

This was kind of weird; usually when I get into some fish, I'll get into some more of the same kind in the same place on the same bait, but not today. Today was multi-species day! And it kept going- a few minutes later I got my first Chicago River crappie... on the same green tube jig.

Awesome! None of these fish are huge, but hey, it's great to catch fish. It's also really cool there is such a variety of fish right here- I know there are also LMB and smallies around here, and I'd been seeing carp jump all evening. To think a few 20 years ago this river was a disgusting trough of toxic waste, it speaks volumes of the river cleanup and awareness that it can support all these fish today.

I caught mussels! (Fish #4 1/2?)
I kept with my favorite lure, and was getting battered by hits. Missed a few hooksets, and got caught up in some branches a few times. One cast I got into a fish, it pulled the jig down, and when I reeled in I got another very interesting catch. I wasn't sure if they were zebra mussels or not, I should look that up so I know if they are nice mussels or bad mussels. I thought of how much I like eating mussels... Don't worry, I didn't eat them.

Anyway, I persisted, and hooked into what seemed like a VERY nice fish. Could it be? Finally? After all this time and effort, could I have finnally hooked a smallie?? Is this the moment I've been daydreaming about?

This fish gave me a GREAT fight- I estimated it was bigger than the bluegill I caught earlier in the evening; it was taking me all over the place, my rod tip bent and pulsing, my drag squealing as I struggled to keep it out of the weeds, rebar, and rocks on the bottom...

I finally get him to the surface, and I was a little confused, to say the least..

Confused because it's very small size, un-rock-bass-like shape, and extreme fight. I didn't think this was a smallie, it's fins and pattern seemed to be wrong for that... It didn't seem like a rock bass, or did it? It was a lot darker than any other rock bass I'd caught.

Here's the fish I caught...
... here's a picture of a "shadow bass"

..and here's a similarly-sized rock bass
And here I was, thinking I was all fancy and good at identifying fish now... and now I was stumped. I took a few pictures, and let the little bugger go. It was time to leave to catch my train, so I could see my wife for a few minutes before we both went to sleep.

All in all a great outing- but it really made me wonder about the green tube jig. Is it that is really that effective, and can catch basically anything that swims? Or could it be that since I've fished with it more than any other lure, I am better at working it in the water than any other lure... Or maybe I just suck at all the other lures I try using...

I'm not sure; I'm going to keep varying up my lures and not automatically start with the green tube jig on my line... I would like to get better at other lure styles, and learn to be a well-rounded all-species angler.


  1. Looks like a crazy colored rock bass or hybrid mix. If you're after smallies I got a river trip in michigan next time you're here.


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