Thursday, December 04, 2008

BP on Dogfish (Bowfin) Fishing

First a Little History: When I was young, even into being a teenager, dogfish freaked me out; I actually had nightmares about them and carp. One time I caught a 3 pounder in the "Back Bay" at our lake cabin on Sylvia/Twin. The Back Bay is a muck bottomed boat channel that was on the back side of our property. The Back Bay always seemed to have a dogfish or two roaming around. Growing up we considered dogfish a trash fish and would kill every one of them we caught. I netted this 3lb dogfish so as not to touch it and removed the hook with pliers. I then took the dogfish about 20feet up the shore onto the edge of the road and left it there to die. About 15 minutes later I heard something in the grass by the water. Sure enough it was this dogfish slithering like a snake back to the water. I did nothing to try and stop it, I was totally freaked out.

Another time when I was a little older I was fishing out of a boat on one of my favorite spots on Twin Lake that I call "My Island." It is a shallow weedy and sandy spot that holds bass and the occasional dogfish. I don't know what the deal was but this five pound dogfish surfaced about 8 feet out from where I was standing in the boat. I swear this dogfish was staring me down. After about 45 seconds the dogfish accelerated straight ahead and rammed itself smack dab into the side of the boat right at my feet. I was both shocked, freaked, and slightly amused, what a crazy fish!

As I got a little older and became more mature as a fisherman I lost my fear of the things but I didn't like catching them much. They can be tackle destroyers and can be unruly to get off the hook if you don't play them out before you land them. (TIP: Always play dogfish out for a few minutes before you try and land them) Sometimes I would throw them back and sometimes I would kill them.

Epiphany: In June of 2003 I fished a Minnesota Pro/am bass tournament on Leech Lake as an amateur. I drew Joel Stokka, former Tournament Director for Excel Bass, as my partner and we prefished together. While we were prefishing we spotted a big dogfish. Joel immediately tried to hook into this monster, but was unable to do it before the fish swam away. I inquired to why he wanted to catch that thing and he told me all about the Minnesota Bowfin Club and their annual Bowfin Tournament. Joel said Spring dogfish angling was a great way to legally use your bass gear before the bass season opened. I had never thought of that before and after a little reflection my viewpoint on the value of dogfish was transformed.

My First Minnesota Bowfin Club Grand Championship: I decided that in the spring of 2004 that I would try and win the MBC Grand Championship and for the first time in my life started fishing for dogfish on purpose. One day in mid-may of 2004, after the MN fishing opener but before the bass opener, I went fishing for pike and dogfish with a trusty white spinnerbait with white colorado blades and a white pork trailer. I was fishing in "Loon Sex Bay" when a big dogfish struck and rocked my world. This 30 inch fish put on an excellent fight, but I was able to net it. This was by far the biggest dogfish I had ever caught in my life and it was full of eggs to make it that much fatter. On my Rapala spring scale it weighed in at 9.5lbs. I registered it with MNBC and sure enough it was the 2004 Tournament Winner.

Second MN Bowfin Club Grand Championship: In 2006 I regained the title of Minnesota Bowfin Grand Champion and became the Clubs first two time Champion. On April 26th I headed to Mille Lacs lake to do a little crappie and dogfish fishing. I knew a little spot in Isle Bay that had held dogfish in the Spring. I had seen them in there while fishing for Crappie on a couple of different occasions. I call this spot "Dogfish Nirvana." I headed into the little cut and sure enough I spotted a big dogfish just sitting there. I threw a white jig with white pork trailer right next to it and hopped it a couple of times. Sure enough it struck and I hooked it. In the cold water this Dogfish did not put up a fight and I quickly landed it. This fish measured 30 inches just like my first MN Bowfin Club Grand Championship winner. The fish was not as fat and probably weighed less than 9lbs. I didn't have a camera with me, so I did not get a picture of the fish. It was a dark one with a white scar at the tip of it's snout. I registered the fish and it won the 2006 tournament.

Fishing for Dogfish: Being a two time Bowfin Grand Champion I suppose that makes me some sort of expert at the pursuit of dogfish. However, There is a lot I don't know about them and I get skunked more times than I catch them. Here are my tips:

In the winter I know dogfish hold on fairly shallow weed flats where the water has just a little more depth to it than the surrounding area. In the spring dogfish can be found in the same dark bottom bays that hold panfish, bass, and pike. I think the dogfish are in those area's feeding up and soaking in the warmer water just like all the other fish. . Old weed growth and emerging weed growth are things to look for. I don't think dogfish are very active until the water temp is over 50°F and the warmer the water the more active they get. I think the peak time to get into dogfish is when the water temps get into the 60's. I think that once you find a spot that holds dogfish you can count on it to draw them in year after year.

In water that is sub 50°F the best way to fish for dogfish is to sight fish them with a white colored bass jig or big black worm or tube. The dogfish will sun themselves in fairly shallow water around old weed growth at this time. They are not apt to chase, so looking for them on sunny calm days is best. At all times during the spring, summer, and fall sightfishing is a great technique because dogfish get big and their dark bodies can stick out in clear water.

Once water warms up into the 50's you are as likely to catch them blind fishing as sight fishing. I recommend using white or pink colors. Spinnerbaits, swim jigs, jerkbaits, buzzbaits, and Spooks are all good choices. One thing I like to do is to cover water with topwaters or by "bulging" a spinnerbait or swim jig looking for a dogfish to make a wake while in pursuit of the lure. Once you find one you know where it lives and can work it over with fast and slow presentations.

After the 2009 Season it seems another excellent dogfish lure is a black and red bass jig with a black and red jig trailer. In 2009 I caught 2 dogfish on this combination while blind casting including one that would have won the 2009 Minnesota Bowfin Club Grand Championship, but I caught it on June 16th a day after the tournament deadline. One nice thing about a bass jig is they tend to be able to hold up under the pressure of a big dogfish.

That is pretty much the the extent of what I know about how to catch them.

The Critics: Fishing for dogfish in the Spring with artificial lures is not without it's controversy. Minnesota has closed seasons for Bass and Pike well into May and there is a regulation that states: "You may not intentionally fish for any species during its closed season." There are a number of people who consider dogfish fishing to be total BS and a automatic violation of the prohibition against intentionally fishing for bass and pike (mainly bass) in their closed seasons. I have argued with these critics in online fishing message boards. Not only do I fish for dogfish, but I question the very validity of a fishing regulation that I believe to be seriously flawed. This absolutely drives some people nuts and I have been called quite a few names.

Here is the thought process of one of the more thoughtful critics:

Are there any lakes that have a fishable population of dogfish?

I'm all about giving people the benefit of the doubt. But I cant stand it when people fish for "dogfish" and happen to catch 20 bass and no dogfish. It bugs the tar out of me...

I respond that any body of water that contains dogfish has a "fishable population" just as any body of water that contains muskie has a "fishable population" of muskies. Some bodies of water have more dogfish than others or bigger sized dogfish on average than others just as some lakes have more bass than others or bigger bass on average than others. Dogfish are not some special kind of fish that is radically different from the rest. However, dogfish are more like a muskie than they are like a pike or a bass or panfish. Pike and bass tend to be a more prolific species than a dogfish or muskie thus it is easier to catch bass and pike than it is to catch muskies and dogfish. There are plain and simply many more bass and pike swimming around than there are dogfish and muskies. I have at times caught both bass and pike nearly cast after cast but I have never had anything close to that happening with muskie or dogfish.

I would maintain that angling for dogfish is a lot like angling for muskie. If you catch 1 in a day you have done great. If you catch two or more in a day than you have done phenomenal. Obviously things are much different for the prolific bass; One bass in a day of fishing is considered to be quite slow and extremely poor fishing.

There is at least one big difference between muskie fishing and dogfish fishing and that is in the baits best used to pursue the quarry. "Legal" muskies are big fish that often require big baits that will select against most smaller fish striking them. Meanwhile dogfish are more modest sized fish and are most efficiently pursued with baits that are symmetrically equal to lures that select for largemouth bass. This is the fact that fixates the critics. Dogfish techniques are the exact same as bass techniques and dogfish lures are bass lures. I'm sure to make matter worse in the eyes of critic dogfish location overlaps pretty much perfectly with bass location. If you are going to catch a dogfish, you are most certainly going to catch many more bass than dogfish in the process due to the simple biological realities. The critics pretty much believe these facts prove dogfish fishing is nothing more than a thinly veiled cover for fishing for bass out of season and thus dogfish fishing is de facto breaking the law.

The big problem with that theory is that dogfish fishing is 100% legal according to MN state fishing regulations. If you are a licenced angler the pursuit of dogfish, which have no closed season, is 100% with in your legal rights. If your intent is to catch a dogfish than any bass you catch in the process is an incidental catch and temporarily permitted under the law. How many bass you catch or don't catch incidentally or how many dogfish you catch or don't catch doesn't change that fishing for dogfish is absolutely allowed under the fishing regulations. The thoughtful critic referenced above goes on to succinctly state: "Rules are Rules, if you don't like them.. tough!" The rules about fishing for dogfish are clear, they have no closed season and so fishing for them is perfectly legal.

It's no secret that I don't like the fatally flawed regulation about angler intent and closed season fish. The refrain that I have heard from my critics on that matter is that if I don't like the law, than I should get it changed. Well I think the critics on the matter of dogfish fishing are in that same boat. If you don't like dogfish fishing than get the law changed so that dogfish have the same season as bass. But hey, why can't they just let the rules be the rules. I have a better suggestion, instead of trying to get a dogfish season that aligns with bass it makes more sense to just open bass up to catch and release fishing when they are not in season. CATCH AND RELEASE FISHING DOES NOT HARM THE RESOURCE IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY!!! Get this kind of regulation passed and we can both be happy.

Update: Cyberfish is trying to take some credit for my conversion on dogfish. Funny but I don't remember any of that. What I do remember is Cyberfish trying to convince me about the merits of catching big ole carp. I have never really bought into his enthusiasm on that subject. Carp just don't annihilate a lure like a dogfish can.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Go to" Lure

"Go to" Lure

Every year it seems that the tackle industry comes out with a plethora of new lures to fool the fish. And every year it seems like I have to add at least one of these lures to my tackle box. The hope when I try the new lure is that it will become a "go to" lure. Of coarse a "go to" lure is a bait that you can count on to produce fish under conditions that you face commonly.

The new lure for me this year was the Rapala X-Rap Subwalk. The Subwalk is a fishy looking fat cigar with with a couple of small wings; It is designed to "walk the dog" subsurface. I have found this lure to be tricky to control, but it does catch fish. It is close to being a treble hooked version of my "go to" lure the Zoom Super Fluke which is a soft plastic jerk bait. I don't think I will count on the Subwalk, like I count on the Super Fluke, but when smallmouth are around you can bet I will throw that Subwalk some.

My last Newsletter article was titled: "The Art of the Lost Lure" and was about losing and maybe getting back a lost lure. I have a lost lure story for the Subwalk:

I was fishing from shore and had a pike bite off my white Subwalk. Several days later when I was able to get out in a boat, I made my first priority on the water going to see if I could find that Subwalk as that it was bit off in a place that wasn't very deep or weedy. Sure enough when I got into the area it was bit off I spotted it and retrieved the lure. I proceeded to use the lure to catch several more bass before a pike bit it off a second time. This time the water was deep and weedy and so my white Subwalk was lost for good. Easy come, easy go!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Art of the Lost Lure

If you are not losing fishing tackle than you probably don't fish enough. This past 2008 Minnesota Fishing Opener at the Eddy's Jetty on Mille Lake on my very first cast of the new season I backlashed which cut my line at the spool, and sent the Purple Perch Husky Jerk, that was so productive last year, hurling into the darkness never to be seen again. I had not dialed in my reel so it was ready to cast. Easy come, easy go!

I have bought a number of reels off Ebay this spring and of coarse was eager to try them out ASAP. One particular reel came with what looked to me like 30lb braid. Instead of putting new line on I left the braid there. The reel performed just fine and I caught several fish. However on two occasions I backlashed which the knot tied to a spinnerbait could not take and so two productive spinnerbaits went to the bottom of the lake. I am not using that reel again until I get some line on there that I have a clue about.

Fortunately, not all lost baits are lost forever. This first week of open season I found that a watermelon Bass Pro Shops Monsoor Swim Jig with a green grub tail was something that the Pike around here dig. Along with several hammer handles I caught one around 30inches. I have been fishing from shore and certain areas of the shore I am fishing are lined with Cattails. Wouldn't you know it, I got my swim jig caught into a cattail and my line was not strong enough to get it back and broke. The jig was stuck out over the water in the cattails. I was bummed but determined to get this productive lure back.

The next day I returned to the spot with chest waders and high hopes that I would find the lure and be able to get it before I sank to deep. I didn't have to wade in far and the lure was visible. I inched in just a little more and retrieved my "lost jig." Since that recovery I have nearly lost the jig twice more. Easy come, easy go, sometimes comes back.

Written for the Fishers of Men Club Twin Cities Newsletter.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bearing False Witness

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor"
Exodus 20:16

This Email about the BP was sent to the Baxter Bass Snatchers, by a false accuser and coward (I don't know any Jon Beaupre):

-----Original Message-----From: Jon Beaupre [] Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 7:23 AMTo: Subject: Dave Maas-KNOWN CHEATER

If you have allowed Dave Maas into your club, you better think again!

He has a history of pre-fishing the morning of a tournament, fishing off limit waters during a tournament and knowingly fishing for bass out of season.

Here is proof of his pre-fishing on the day of the tournament (cheating) from his own blog:

posted by Basspastor
6:49 PM 0 comments
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Proof Positive that BP is a bass tournament cheater: this make me a Bass "Perp"?????

Now, he says that "he didn't think it mattered", but he took second place, cashed a check and was subsequently asked to not return to the club.

Here is the quote from his blog: "Technically I think this was against the rules but it's the guy/gal tournament and so I didn't think it mattered. I wasn't pre-fishing. I knew this spot holds bass in the early morning and that I would not visit the spot in the tourney, and probably nobody else would as well."

The Team Bass club rules specifically stated that there was no pre-fishing the day of the tournament and just the fact that it helped him pattern a bite makes it cheating in most books. How did he know that no one else would fish that spot? It is just a bad excuse for his cheating.

Read the link and make your own decision!

I have already once blogged about this "Cheating" accusation here. I also responded to the "Cowardly Lion" in the comments section of a blog post.

In this email that was sent to members in my new club, there are two outright bald faced lies.

I have never fished "off limit waters during a tournament."

I was not "subsequently asked to not return to the club"

As for the charge of "knowingly fishing for bass out of season," this has been thouroughly vetted on my blogs and it is neither illegal or unethical to catch bass out of season provided that you are legitimatly targeting a species of fish in it's open season. Do I catch bass trying to catch Dogfish and Crappie and Pike in the Spring? Yes, but so does everybody else who legally targets those species. The "Cowardly Lion" obviously cannot let a settled issue rest.

As for the "Cheating" at the Sylvia/Twin Guy/Gal tournament and the so called getting kicked out of the Team Bass Club. I think a further apology on my part is in order.

The Team Bass Club 2005 Guy/Gal Tournament was held July 23rd at Sylvia/Twin Lake in Wright County MN. My family had a cabin on Sylvia/Twin until I was 31 years old and is the lake I know better than any other and have fished more than any other. On the morning in question I arrived at the access early and headed to a shallow flat rocky point that doesn't have any pronounced drop off located on a weed flat. I went to this spot because I knew it held lots of little bass that bite on topwater in the morning before the sun gets up to high. I have fished this spot many mornings with buzzbaits and other topwaters and I can't remember ever catching a fish bigger than 12" off of it. The Guy/Gal tournament got off to a late start at 8AM or maybe it was 9am and by that time the little bass scatter from the exposed rocks and go onto the weed flat. The notion that I was establishing a pattern is ludicrious, there isn't another spot on the lake like it.

My plan for the day and what we did was fish Slop for 95% of the day. I did catch 1 keeper bass off a point but that point doesn't have rocks, isn't part of a weed flat, has a very sudden and distinct drop off, was wind blown, and I have caught many bass over 12" off of this particular point. That is 5 distinct differences between the two "points"

The Guy/Gal tournament does not count for any points in the Team Bass Standings and was a tournament I thought the club did for fun and trophies. I did not know money was on the line until we were at the weigh in and they handed out checks to the winners. Had I known money was on the line and someone would be hyper anal rententive about it, I would not have gone out and fished for fun early. There literally was nothing for me to gain by doing what I did except to enjoy myself and that is what I did. I probably caught a dozen 7-10" bass just like I thought I would. The spot has been consistant that way and I am willing to sacrifice size for topwater when I'm fishing for fun. I used a topwater popper to catch all of these little bass. I did not use a topwater popper at any time during the tournament. Yet another gapping whole in the theory I was "pre-fishing" to pattern fish.

How does my "sticking" little bass the morining of a tournament in any way benefit me for the tournament day?

The place I was fishing that morning was directly between the public access and the place where we headquartered the tournament in an area where the lake narrows down. While I was fishing I waved at several club boats as they passed by. I am sure at least 3 tournament boats saw me, and no protest was filed the day of the tournament. My sister-in-law Erin and I came in 2nd place and won a whole $100 and two trophies. I believe the "entry fee" to fish the tournament was under $20. In Team Bass you pay a flat fee at the beginning of the year and that is divided among all the tournaments.

Apparently the "Cowardly Lion" learned about what I did because they read my blog about it. This person obviously reads my blogs even though they hold a grudge against me. "Know your enemy" I guess. The "Cowardly Lion" has never addressed me directly but annonymously went to the Tournament Director Dale Glader and filed a protest months and months after the fact. I assume it is the same coward who sent the email to my new club. The Team Bass Tournament Director got my side of the story and did not DQ me and ask for the money back. If that would have been the punishment than I would have paid the money back. I was "punished" by not being allowed to fish the first tournament of the next season in WI. The Tournament Director was aware that I had no intention of fishing this tournament and so the actual punishment was less than a slap on the wrist.

As I noted above it is a bald faced lie that I was "subsequently asked to not return to the club." I fished two tournaments in 2006 and was headed to my third at the Horseshoe Chain in early July when I hit a deer and totaled my truck. I no longer had my vehicle to get to the tournaments and so I didn't go to any more tournaments that year. In 2007 I elected not to rejoin the Team Bass Club on my own, I was never asked to leave.

Since the "Cowardly Lion" still frequents my blogs, why don't you show a little courage and admit who you are and renounce the lies you have told about me. I want to hear about this incident where I fished on "off limit waters" during a tournament. I am not gonna hold my breath, but I am gonna say this:

The Guy/Gal tournament is supposed to be a for fun and money just happened to be on the line. My actions were predicated on the fact that I did not take that particular tournament seriously. I think your attitude and actions make you a Grade A Royal Prick, "lighten up Francis."

BTW "C.L." the guys who got the email think what you did is bush league and they have made up their minds and have allowed me to join the club.