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Dreamin’, Again

Friday, going to keep it light for the weekend.  I have mentioned Engbretson Underwater Photography before and especially the underwater videos they post on their YouTube page.  I have said it before, will again, fish fascinate me.  I am not a diver, never plan to be, so any underwater observations or video that anyone shares with me is captivating.  Likewise, I could watch fish in an aquarium, the bigger the better, the fish and the aquarium, for hours.  The “Sixty Seconds Underwater” series that Engbretson has been posting lately are very well done and even though they are short, very interesting.  If you watch close, they will teach you something interesting about the fish we pursue.

So, here are a couple more; the first one, smallmouth bass:

Not sure where those clips were filmed, but I think it is very interesting they showed smallies over classic rocky habitat, but also swimming amidst aquatic vegetation.  From what we know of smallmouth bass in small waters in Nebraska, they can do very well in aquatic vegetation, but largemouth bass tend to dominate in those habitats.

Crayfish show up in a couple of the smallmouth clips and no doubt smallmouth bass/crayfish is a classic predator/prey relationship.  Watch close, several of the clips show smallmouths cruising, hunting, likely looking for crayfish on the bottom.  The first thing those crayfish do when approached is back up against an object, usually a rock, and raise their large pincers in defense.  In that posture, large, adult crayfish can fend off an attack from a hungry smallmouth.  Watch close and you will see the smallies trying to get behind the crayfish, away from the pincers, and if the crayfish flush, and they swim backwards when they do that, then the bass have them!  If you are fishing baits that imitate crayfish, jigs and trailers for example, but also crankbaits, you should be imitating that crayfish behavior!  In aquatic vegetation, you want to catch the tops, stems of vegetation and then pop your bait free.

Second video is one of our favorites during the ice season, bluegills:

As you would expect, you see lots of video clips of bluegills in schools and near cover.  Bluegills are “sippers”, “kissers”, when feeding, and pick off single, individual prey items.  I say bluegills are near-sighted; when they see a potential prey item, they like to nose right up to it and look it over close, cross-eyed, right down the end of their nose.  That feeding strategy excels in cover, especially aquatic vegetation, where the ‘gills can spot relatively large aquatic insects on plant stems and pick ’em off.  That is one reason I am always looking for aquatic vegetation when fishing for bluegills, even when fishing through a hole in the ice.  However, at times bluegills will cruise open-water and out there they even pick off individual zooplankton the same way–ease up, stare it down, sip it.

You ice anglers have seen this on your depth-finder screen a million times–bluegills easing right up to your bait, staring right at it, and then hopefully sipping it in.  Unfortunately, there are times when they will look at it, and look at it, you raise it, jiggle it, they look some more, you jiggle it another way, they look, you hold your mouth just right (Gramps Roth told me that, never did figure out what he meant, but I still try), and the bluegills look some more, you lower your jig, they look, and just the time you think they are done, they look some more.  The “puppet show” mesmerizes them.  Some days it seems all they do is look.  That can drive you crazy, but that is absolutely just the way they feed.

Oftentimes, those “lookers” are small fish, and in that case I don’t want ’em anyway–move along.  Other times you have to fine-tune your presentation and most often that means going smaller.  In clear water switch up to small plastic trailers that look alive when jigged.  If that ain’t working, a little scent on their nose may seal the deal; try a wax-worm just nicked onto the hook, or drop smaller and try a maggot or two.

Just know this, those ‘gills are gonna swim around and look, always do, just like in the video.  The trick is making them think it is something they gotta have!

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About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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