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The Shotem' and Caughtem' Blog is the place to find the latest reviews and commentary on gear, destinations, conditions, events, and general knowledge to inform our readers and give our opinions to anyone listening.

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We at Shotem and Caughtem discussed last week our ideas on how to get access to great fishing spots on private land.  However, what if you have the land, a water source and want to create your own perfect private fishing hole.  Here are some great ways to go about planning a fishing spot of your own.  Let us know if you have created a pond before and what has worked for you in the comment section below.  As always post your photos of your big catches in the Caughtem Gallery and tell us your story.

Site Selection

A good fish pond should cover no less than half an acre and be six or eight feet deep over at least a quarter of its total surface area. The ideal spot for locating a mini-lake is in a well-banked gully that can offer five acres of watershed for each acre of pond surface. Such a land hollow will provide a ready-made basin for your little reservoir, and any narrow section of the draw will present a logical site for your dam.

When you're first choosing a site for a fishing hole, you can use stakes, string, and a level to predict the general shoreline that will be created when a dammed up area is filled. Just as important, though, is the need to figure the total volume of the projected body of water (you'll need such information to help you properly stock and manage your fishery). The easiest way to determine the capacity is to first calculate your lake's surface acreage. (If the pond's contour is irregular, you can estimate that area by sections and add the segments together . . . just remember that one acre equals 43,560 square feet.) Then take several measurements at different spots until you can reasonably approximate the average depth of your pond. Finally, multiply the latter figure by the surface acreage, and you'll have the pond's total volume in acre-feet. (For instance, a one-acre pond that averages six feet in depth would have a volume of six acre feet.)

Leaking Ponds

The pondmaker's worst nightmare—leakage—is easier to prevent than it is to cure. If your property is composed of predominantly clay soil, the ground will probably seal well without any trouble. (You can test your earth's water holding ability by squeezing a lightly dampened handful of the soil in your hand. If the clod retains its shape when you open your fist, you should be in business.)

But if your land is mostly made up of rocky or sandy soil—or if you've heard of other ponds in your vicinity going dry—it will be best to take some preventive measures. One common tactic is to cut a key way, or trench, where you plan to erect the dam: This vertical slot should be carved so deeply that its base lies below the lowest point of your intended pond. You can then fill up that trench with trucked-in clay (or line it with heavy grade plastic), packing the barrier tightly as you work . . . and continue to pile up the waterproof material to form a firm core that's as high as the finished dam (see the accompanying illustration).

You may also need to seal the bottom of the pond. Many folks use overlapping sheets of dirt-covered plastic for this task . . . but simply covering the bed with a tightly tamped foot deep layer of clay soil also works quite well. Or, you might want to try the do-it-yourself sealer-developed in the U.S.S.R.—known as gley. To make the "biological plastic," first thoroughly cover your pond's bottom and sides with pig manure. Then add a thick layer of vegetative matter — such as freshly cut grass, green leaves, and flattened cardboard cartons — and follow that organic matter with a layer of soil. Tamp the three-tiered sealant well, let the mixture cure for three weeks, and then fill your pond.

Another trick many do not know about is here in the Midwest we are watching a lot of drilling rigs go up in the area.  Go and ask one of the foreman if they have anywhere they are dumping their slurry.  This is the bi-product of drilling usually consisting of clay, rock and water almost like a liquid concrete.  They have trouble finding places close by to dispose of the bi-product and will gladly dump the material essentially sealing your pond for free (cost wise at least).  It usually comes out of a spray attachment mounted to the back of the truck to help give you a nice even coat.  Allow the material a week or two to dry since it usually has toxins that could hurt your ecosystem.  Do not stock your pond right away since it takes a little time to re balance from the slurry (hence the not so free aspect).

Managing Your Fish Populations

You may wonder why I'm making all this fuss about proper stocking when you could probably seed a pond yourself, using a few wild fish caught in a nearby creek or lake. The problem with such stocking shortcuts is that "local" fish will too often set your pond out of balance and thus severely reduce your useful protein yield. When you caretake a miniature water world, you're responsible for maintaining a complete, ongoing aqueous ecosystem, and — as you'll soon learn — keeping the fish population in a pond properly balanced between predator and prey species is the most difficult job in fishpond management.

In fact, having an incorrectly proportioned stock of even the proper piscines can actually throw a pond out of whack as quickly as will introducing the wrong species. Suppose you're sorely tempted by the fast-growing foot-long bass you see in your new pond. So you throw out a line and catch—with ease—most of the eager, finny youngsters.

Well, all of a sudden your bluegills (who will have fewer predators to limit their numbers) will start multiplying rapidly. You'll soon have more fish sharing the same amount of food, and—before long—instead of raising "two or three to a pound" eating-size bream, you'll find yourself stuck with lots of tiny "30 to the pound" utterly useless specimens. (On top of that, the excess bluegill will then eat bass eggs along with most all of the bass fry still left around . . . and you'll wind up with a very few lunker bass and a jillion minnow-sized bluegills in your pond.)

Of course, it's also possible to find yourself with the opposite problem: a pond full of too many small bass and a few large bream. To avoid such extreme situations, you'll have to continually work at keeping a proper proportion of the two fish species in your pond. This task is not always easy. All too often, an owner lets his or her pond get too much fishing pressure in its first year, and then not enough use after that.

It's generally best not to fish the pond at all during its first year. The bluegill (which should be stocked half a year before the bass) will then have a chance to spawn and provide better forage for the predator species. You may also need to wait until after the second year of your pond's life to begin harvesting any of the bass (to give the slow-reproducing fish a chance to spawn).

When both bass and bluegill are ready to be caught, try to harvest the species according to the same ratio—by weight—in which they were stocked. You should be able to monitor the yield by watching your angling success. When you're catching undersized bluegill faster than you can bait a hook (while once in a while landing a huge bass), your pond is out of balance. But when you haul in a mixture of five-to six-inch bream that weigh six to eight ounces apiece, along with one-to two-pound bass (and some smaller throw-them-back largemouths that are coming along fine) . . . well then, your fish populations are in good shape.

We wanted to talk about management before stocking because many people get so excited to use there new fishing spot that they immediately start throwing in fish they love to catch.  The most important rule to a good fishing pond is finding that perfect ecosystem.  Each pond or lake can be different that the one sitting right next to it.  One might spawn the largest bass you have ever seen and the next have awesome catfish with no bass at all.  Funny part was you never put catfish in either one.  Mother Nature always has a way of naturally stocking a pond.  It might take a little more time but she always finds a way.  Waterfowl carry fish eggs from streams and ponds to other streams and ponds and before you know it if your pond has the right stuff you have fish.  A friend had the "perfect stocked pond scenario" until three years later when we pulled a couple of crappie out of his water.  "I never put crappie in there," turned into a nice crappie hole with little to no bass which was not what he designed.  

More importantly the perfect fishing pond is different for everyone.  What has worked for your neighbor might not work for you.  The most important part of the equation is not to get frustrated and realize the basics.  If you have a good water source that can provide life through the workings of mother nature with a little tweaking you can create a perfect environment for a great fishing pond.  If it happens the first time out, pat yourself on the back, history says it might take a little trial and error to find the perfect balance. 

We at Shotem and Caughtem love fishing.  Some of the best spots to catch fish we have found are the little honey holes located on ranches and farms all over the nation.  The only hard part to this equation is getting the nerve to ask permission to access some of these hidden gems.  While many ranches and farms are leased for hunting, many ranch and farm ponds go decades without even having a line dropped in the water.  We feel it is the last great hidden gem and ponds/watersheds like this have gone unfished for decades.  Many times this equals big fish stocked by Mother Nature.  Here are some tips on how we have gained access to some of the best untouched fishing spots around the country.

For the last decade farmers and ranchers have been bombarded by people asking permission to hunt or lease their property.  Many have ruined the old school way we were able to access these great waters.  When I first got addicted to the Shotem and Caughtem lifestyle a nice smile, and giving the landowner some food or drink was all you needed to gain access to great ponds.  Those days are long gone.  Most ranches and farms now supplement their incomes with leasing out property to hunters but not many people want to fish these properties.  So how do we get access?

As always much of this can be a who you know kind of scenerio.  You might have a family member or friend that could act as your broker to access your ability to get to a hidden gem.  We have found that good old fashioned hard work and sweat are the best way to gain access.  Many ranch and farm owners are starting to get older.  They find that many of the chores they did around the farm are getting hard to do.  With their limited income in their later years they can not afford to hire someone to get things done.  

Enter eager fisherman.  Many of the great spots we have had the opportunity to get access to have come from us doing the things that need to be done in exchange for some quality time at their watersheds.  We use google maps to find great watersheds, county maps and parcel information to get the names of the owners and then track them down through different means of public records.  A simple phone call can answer many questions as to whether you might gain access.  Do not lead with I want access to your watershed.  It might take you a couple of visits to gain the trust of the landowner and some extra work to show you are on the up and up.  Many afternoon days are too hot for good fishing.  Early morning and nights are the best times.  It works out perfect.  We show up early get a couple hours of fishing in then work mid morning til mid afternoon then back to the watershed.  We get access to great spots and the landowner gets some help around the property.  Win, Win!

Let us know how you get access to your favorite watershed in the comment section below and share your monster fish photos in the Caughtem gallery and tell us your story.  Happy Fishing!  

 

With drought conditions in the Midwest continuing to put pressure on water levels in rivers, lakes and ponds we went looking for solutions to how we can still get to good spots for fishing.  Many water levels will be low enough at the start of the spring fishing season that many spots we would normally fish will be hard to access by different types of fishing boats.  Boat ramps, river access points and low water tables will make it hard and risky for many fisherman and woman to get to many areas that provide the best fishing spots.  Due to the fact that areas prime for fishing will be crowded by those who have not thought of other means, we wanted to find a great way to get away from the crowd.  We think the solution is the Kayak.  

Kayaks are not just a boat used to whisk ones self down a river of rapids.  They have evolved to be quite the nice little fishing rig for conditions such as the ones we might be facing this year due to the drought.  They are fairly light weight, small and could be pulled by hand or by smaller machines to give you access to areas many boats can't.  They need very little water to travel through so hitting some low spots here and there to get to deeper water in rivers and along edges of lakes and ponds where trees and other hazards might start to become a factor will be less of a problem in a kayak.  Many of todays kayaks offer multiple places to hold rods, tackle and other needs as well as live wells for your big catches.  They can be transported on roof racks, small trailers, pickup truck beds, by ATV's and UTV's allowing you to get to even the most remote spots with all the gear you need.  

Some other pros from fishing from a kayak might come during the catch itself.  Due to its light weight nature should you hook into a decent size fish the capabilities of you and your vessel being involved in the fight itself is greatly enhanced.  Many fisherman talk about hooking into a good size fish and being dragged around by the fish as it fights its way towards and away from the boat.  

Some of the Cons to fishing from this vessel are the fact that it tends to be a one man or woman in one boat type of adventure.  They are not a platform that we would recommend buying one day, loading up and going out the next.  They require a bit of time to get use to when it comes to proper weight distribution and making sure you are comfortable paddling so that you avoid tipping over.  More importantly they do not allow you to transport the amount of beverages that we feel is necessary for a successful fishing trip.  

Though many of the pros will outweigh the cons once you have mastered the capabilities of the kayak, we at Shotem and Caughtem feel they will provide a perfect vessel to access good fishing spots.  With drought conditions likely to continue this year we feel they might be a good option for those that might worry that their fishing boats might just collect dust or not get them to the spots they love to go.  Let us know how you might get to remote fishing spots in the comment section below or post your solutions to the Gear gallery and tell us your story.

Published in News/Events
Friday, 15 March 2013 20:23

Fly Fishing's Fatal Attraction

Those of us at Shot em' and Caught em' would not say that we have devoted the time to fly fishing but the art of it is mystifying.  The beautiful sway back and forth that takes so much time to perfect.  The look of a shallow stream and the sun glistening off the rapids.  It all makes for quite the scene in our minds.  But for Dan Blanton it comes down to finding the big fish and he found the perfect fly to bring them to the shore line.  We thought we would pass along the information of what he calls a Fatal Attraction.  Let us know what you use on your fly fishing rigs in the comments section below or post a photo to the Gear Section and tell us your story. 


Published in News/Events
As the warm weather is quickly approaching, it is time to blow the dust off the rod and reels and get ready for some summer fun. Be it sitting on your favorite farm pond or zipping across the bass filled lake at 70 mph to beat your buddies to your favorite fishing hole. Shot em' and Caught em' thought these proven tips might give you a bigger bass to post to the Caughtem Gallery and brag to the world.  We found this article/video and thought we would pass along the information.


Published in News/Events