Trees on Shoreline at Lake Fork
Trees on Shoreline at Lake Fork

We took the kayaks to Lake Fork for  a chance to find some of those famous East Texas Black Bass.  This is truly a lake built for fish.  It is filled with cover.  This cover consists of tree roots and stumps.  There is a forest under water

Lake Fork is littered with stumps of all sizes and shapes.
Lake Fork is littered with stumps of all sizes and shapes.

in this lake.  It is a prop salesman’s dream come true.  I bet most boats loose at least a prop when on this lake.

 

The lake is big and has a lot going on around it.  There are numerous places to stay and eat all around the area and the people are friendly and helpful.  Chief among these was Ronnie Parker of Lake Fork Trophy Lures, who did his best to make sure we understood what the bass at Lake Fork like.  His establishment in Emory, TX was well stocked and a joy to visit.  I encourage anyone going to any of the lakes in that neck of the woods to visit with him.  He might even give

We caught fish in very skinny water.
We caught fish in very skinny water.

some free advice or a lure or two to you.

This was our first fishing of the year with plastics and as such

Catch Photo Release...always fun
Catch Photo Release…always fun

we had to once again get the “feel”.  I lost a ton of bites.  I caught a few fish.  We fished the shallow water as advised.  We were told the fish were in 1 to 5 feet.  We did not catch anything in more than 1.5 feet of water.  The fish were in the weeds or just on the edge of them.  The stumps and roots looked like perfect fishing spots but did not yield anything.  I am sure at another time of the year, that would be the go to strategy.

In Caddo Creek we came in contact with an alligator when I nudged it with my paddle by accident in skinny water.  This was good motivation to move to another location.

We finally were able to hit the lake again this last Sunday.  It was a great day weather wise.  Elephant Butte is way down again.  Most of the structure is out of the water.  I can’t see how most of the fish have not been swept downstream with the water.  There are still fish.  I am sure of that because we were able to catch white bass, largemouth, and smallmouth bass.  We would have had even more fun if there was enough room to get further from the water skiers and jet skiers.   Boats were stacked like cord wood.

I have a 2015 Hobie Pro Angler 14.  For those of you who do not, let me tell you it is a dream machine in the water and a real chore out of the water.  Most will say that you need to launch with a trailer and save your back.  This is true but it limits your entry points and quite frankly goes against part of why most of us started kayak fishing in the first place.  Carts are great except that you have to lean your yak to get them in the scupper holes.  With the PA loaded, I also worry about cracking the scuppers.  The cradle cart is a neat concept but not something you can take with you.  This brings us to the Landing Gear by Boonedox.  This is a take-with-you cart that is attached to a bar across the middle of your yak.  It is not cheap.  It is not flimsy.  It is not in the way.  This carting system is well thought out.  A fully loaded PA rolls on a sandy beach like it was gliding.  The positioning of the tires in the middle of the yak balances the weight nicely.

The Landing Gear goes under the handle Just behind the seat as to not interfere with it's operation.
The Landing Gear goes under the handle Just behind the seat as to not interfere with it’s operation.

I am not going to rehash the installation instructions.

Larger bolts make finding the threads easier.
Larger bolts make finding the threads easier.

There is a very good video on YouTube for installing the Landing Gear on a PA.  I will touch on some of the obstacles I encountered during my installation.  First off, make sure you know the year model you are installing to.  Each model is slightly different.  Parts for these things were ordered.  That meant I had to wait for them to get here.  That also meant that when I was missing needed additional parts, it would take ore time and more frustration.  Get your ducks in a row from the get go or be prepared to be creative.

Bolting down the unit is fun part.  You have a plate that the bolts need to bolt to on the inside of your yak.  This requires really long arms and tiny hands or the use of a wire and lots patients.  First off, the bolts work easier if the are longer.  Get some from your nearby hardware store.  It will make this go much smoother.  I found that the bolts start easier on one side of the plate than on the other.  Check it out on each hole.  It can’t hurt.  Make sure your holes are 3/8 inch and straight.  You have very little wiggle room and have a bar in the way while trying to find the threads.  Give yourself all the help you can.  Again the video on YouTube is great.

Pro Anglers require a longer bar.  It is sold separately.

The spacer included was not thick enough to fill the gap.
The spacer included was not thick enough to fill the gap.

It will come with two thin spacers.  These are to raise the handles slightly so the Landing Gear fits.  These spacers are not enough for some year models.  For those who do their homework, you can order a second set of spacers that are larger at the same time you get the PA extension kit.

 

Home made spacer disk made of rubber belting.
Home made spacer disk made of rubber belting.

 

Both spacers were needed to get the right fit.

If not, you can wait another two weeks in frustration for them to arrive after ordering them midway through installation.  It took a long time for me to get the first order.  I was not about to wait that long again.  I decided to make some spacers.  I took some thick rubber belting and cut disks that could be inserted for spacers.  The bolts were the next hurdle.  of course they were just shy of reaching.  I found some that were the same size that I had saved from my power pole installation ( I guess I should write that one up some day).  They were actually too long and had to be cut.  Always make sure that you use a brush to even out and clean the threads when you cut a bolt. They went on fine.  Take your time not to cross thread anything.  You get one shot at these nuts that are in the hull.

 

This unit is great.  It lets you move your yak without unloading it first.  Just remember that with weight on it, it will be a booger to remove.  Lift your yak and set it on something to remove the pressure when changing the wheel settings and you will have less trouble doing so.  If you try in the water, remember the wheels are buoyant and will fight you.  You will need to push them down.  A little lesson I learned the first trip out.  Tight lines.

 

 

 

Pro Anglers on trailer
The Pro Anglers Ready for Action
13 in largemouth bass from elephant butte lake 5-14-16
13 in largemouth bass from elephant butte lake 5-14-16

We had a blast this last weekend (5-14-16) up at Elephant Butte Lake.  The weather cooperated this year.  The fish were biting.  The Anglers were courteous and there for a good time.   We had some wind against us going out and some how it was against us on the way in…….hell on the legs.  Just glad I was not paddling.  The Pro Angler usually handles wind better than most.  I was actually fishing  while fighting the wind.  Elephant Butte patterns are usually predictable.  White and purple have been colors that we have used some way or another since I was a child and this time

8.5 in white bass from elephant butte lake 5-14-16
8.5 in white bass from elephant butte lake 5-14-16
16.75 in smallmouth from elephant butte lake 5-14-16
16.75 in smallmouth from elephant butte lake 5-14-16

was no exception.  A white model “A” bomber lure was a go to bait for white bass.  Most cranks with a white belly would get attention especially if there was some flash of red like red eyes or gills.  The Walleye were also hitting this pattern when you got into them.  If I could only use one bait on this lake, it would be this one.  You can even get an occasional black bass on it.  Targeting the Black bass, I used a senko.  Pumpkin with purple, blue and emerald flake seemed to work best. This was extremely effective weightless with a weed less hook.  I was casting it into the brush and letting the senko float down slowly.  We pulled out more smallmouths than I have in the last ten years on this lake.  The lake is definitely coming back.  Water level is still only at 16 percent.  lets hope for some rain this year.  A special Thanks to Zia Kayak Outfitters and the sponsors for putting on this event.

 

Blue Catfish
Blue Catfish

Blue catfish are one of the strongest freshwater fish in North America.  They occur naturally in large rivers and tributaries in the south.  Many lakes and reservoirs have been stocked with them.  They do better in relatively clear water but can live in stained water as well.  They are very similar to Channel Catfish but get much bigger.  They never exhibit spots, even when young.   Blue Catfish are best caught on live bait or cut bait.  Night crawlers have been known to work.  The tail fin is forked.

We took the Hobies out on Caballo Lake The first Saturday of October.  It was great weather.  There was very little fishing pressure.  Unfortunately, the lake was down.  We found a small area where it was 16 feet deep but the majority of the lake is like a flooded soccer field.  It was 9 feet deep all the way across.  The water was what we like to call chocolate.  The arroyos had run into the lake and stained the water pretty bad.  Lots of exercise and only one bite.  We should have gone on up to Elephant Butte.

Gale by his Hobie Pro Angler 14
Gale by his Hobie Pro Angler 14

Elephant Butte 2nd Annual Kayak Tournament turned out to be a bit less  than expected.  Mother nature did not help matters.  We had winds over 20 mph which can get dangerous on that lake.  The tournament was shortened.  There were about 39 entries in the event.  Fish were caught and prizes were awarded.  We went up with a group of 5 kayaks.  2 Hobies, 2 Icons, and one Sun Dolphin. Wind and light trailers don’t mix.  Having the whole bunch of kayaks on one trailer was bothersome with the high winds.  The kayaks in J hooks would catch the gusts.  We will rethink the  trailer configuration next time.  I made stabilizers for the smaller kayaks that turned out to work great.  There was no worries about tipping.  Actually, our group was mad that they stopped the tournament early.    Can’t wait to get back on the water.  I will post a short video later.

The Channel Catfish is the state fish of Missouri and Kansas.
The Channel Catfish is the state fish of Missouri and Kansas.

 

Channel Catfish under a submerged log.
Channel Catfish under a submerged log.

The Channel Catfish is Common across most of the nation.  From the southern US into Canada, this catfish is found throughout the center of the country.  The Channel Catfish is found in rivers, lakes and ponds of varying levels of clarity.  It can tolerate murky water well.   It is a popular fish because it is relatively hardy and a great fighting fish.  Channel Catfish prefer cut bait or some form of stink bait.  They can also be taken on live bait such as worms or minnows.  An occasional fish will even take an artificial bait while anglers are fishing for other species of fish.  The Channel Catfish has cells on the outside of its body that can taste.  It has an enhanced sense of taste and smell making it well adapted to finding food in the murky depths.  Those who eat catfish consider the Channel Catfish one of the better tasting catfish.  The sides of the Channel Catfish are brownish with spots and are at times greyish to silver.  It has a forked tail and smaller anal fin than that of the Blue Catfish.  A 20 lb Channel Catfish is considered an incredible catch.  They are most common between 2 to 3 lbs and 16 to 20 inches in length.

Black Bullhead: This catfish is also known as a mud cat, black catfish, yellow belly bullhead, and horned pout.-Missouri Department of Conservation.
Black Bullhead: This catfish is also known as a mud cat, black catfish, yellow belly bullhead, and horned pout.-Missouri Department of Conservation.

The Bullhead Catfish is the catfish with the widest distribution in the United States.  It is home in much of the central part of the country.  Not much of a fighting fish, it can be taken with relatively light gear.   It is most common in stained water to muddy water.  They are extremely hardy and can tolerate low oxygen levels, cold and dirty water.  They do not get very big.  At six years of age a common Bullhead Catfish is about 10 to 14 inches in length and only 2 to 3 lbs.  With dark barbels and a square tail, this catfish has a gold to green sheen on the sides.  The top is dark grey to black.  This is the hardiest of catfish and will be here after all the rest are gone.  You can catch these on worms, cut bait, livers, shrimp, dough bait and cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

This Map borrowed from a share on Pintrest, shows the range of the Wells Catfish in Europe.
This Map borrowed from a share on Pintrest, shows the range of the Wells Catfish in Europe.
Wells Catfish.  Picture from Pinterest.
Wells Catfish. Picture from Pinterest.

The Wells Catfish is found in Europe.  It is much larger than the catfish found in the Americas. The Wells Catfish can reach lengths of 12-13 feet.  It mainly feeds on insects, small fish, and arthropods while it is small and will eat large fish, mice, and even waterfowl.  Most Wells Catfish are found in deep rivers and lakes.  They like warm water.  Taking a Wells Catfish requires strong tackle.  Usually a boat rod is used.  Live bait works best at night or twilight periods as this is when it feeds.