Here's a story that demonstrates what I'm talking about.
years ago there was an amazing crappie bite on a smallish lake not
far from where I live. I heard about it, and of course I wanted to
get in on the action. But the word had gotten out so much that
everyone and their brother was out there beating up on those fish. I
really didn't want to join that army.
So I did some research on the lake and saw on maps and satellite
images that it had a tiny feeder creek and an outgoing flowage that
spilled into a big wetland. Tracing the feeder creek up, I noted
that there was a spot about 15 miles away (and in the middle of
nowhere) where the creek made a sharp sweep and formed almost an
oxbow lake. Not big at all. Maybe 100 yards wide and 300 yards long.
I figured if that creek was swimmable by crappies, then surely
some of them must have migrated up. And if the oxbow had enough
depth, then there could be a mother lode in there!
Consulting a plat book, I found that the only access into that
water was via private land. So I found out who the property owner
was and called him up. A nice guy. He granted me permission and told
me the best way to get back there, on an old cow trail that hadn't
been used in years. Oh, and he also said I was "probably wasting my
time" because he didn't think there were any fish in it.
The next day I pulled my truck and Aluma trailer over where the
landowner had told me to park — off a dirt road next to an old
rickety gate. On the other side, I could (sort of) see the cow trail
that would wind back to the oxbow. He wasn't kidding about the trail
being unused for years. Muddy, brushy, terrible ... I wondered if
I'd make it!
After unloading my four-wheeler from the Aluma and strapping down
all my gear, I was off! It was an adventure, my friends, but after
getting stuck and unstuck a couple of times, I finally made it close
enough to walk in the rest of the way.
Upon arriving at the water's edge, I was thrilled to find good
footing on the bank. Judging by the lay of the land and how the
water's depth dropped from shore, I was pretty certain this little
waterway had some decent depth. To check it, I performed a simple
little test: I set my slip bobber to 5 feet and made a long cast.
The bobber stood up. That meant it was at least 5-plus feet deep
there. I reeled up and reset it to 10 feet. It still stood up.
Excellent! I kept doing this until I determined that there was
roughly 14 feet of depth out at my longest cast distance.
[to top of second column]
From there I set my slip bobber to be about a foot off the bottom
(13 feet) and hurled out a REAL cast with a fat waxworm on my
feather jig. A few seconds later a sound caught my attention — a "swirly-water"
sound to my right. I looked over to see the remnant ripples of a
swirl about 15 yards down the bank. Was it a fish? A muskrat? I
didn't know, but the sight of it made my confidence soar! "Oh,
please, let that be from a fish," I begged.
When I brought my eyes back to my bobber, it wasn't there!
I slowly reeled up my slack line and set the hook. BINGO! Fish
on! Right away I knew it wasn't fighting like a crappie. Nope,
instead it was a jumbo perch. And I mean JUMBO! Wow, I was so
excited I could barely stand it. I felt like a little kid.
As the afternoon trickled on, and without leaving my initial boot
prints, I caught fish after fish after fish. Crappies? My objective?
I only caught two. They were keepers: 9- to 10-inchers but perfect
eaters. I also caught a limit of huge bluegills! They were so
plentiful that I only kept the orange-throated males. A few decent
largemouth bass pounced on my jig too, along with a northern pike
that went about 4 pounds.
But the heyday was on those big perch. Holy smokes, did I clean
up on perch! Fortunately I had the foresight (and hope) that I'd
catch fish in that oxbow, so I brought my YETI cooler with ice that
kept my catch fresher than fresh.
When I got back to the road, and after loading all my gear back
on the Aluma, I paused to look down that cow trail as I closed the
owner's gate. I smiled as I thought about all those boats choked
into that little lake 15 miles away — connected by a small creek to
this secret oxbow. Without being part detective and part
bushwhacker, I would have never discovered that spot.
I would tell you exactly where that spot is. But hey, the fun is
in finding your own secret fishing hole, isn't it? So start
exploring, my friends. And when you discover yours, keep it under
your hat and off the beaten path.
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman hosts "Good Fishing" and
"Outdoor Secrets," the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on
television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America,
Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York, and many local
broadcast channels. Visit
Winkelman.com for airtimes and more information. Follow
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