Archive for the ‘Set Your Hook’ Category

Set Your Hook: Lily Goes Kayaking

Teaching a Dog to Kayak

This past weekend, I decided to take the mascot dog, Lily, kayaking for the very first time.

Lily Camping

Here's Lily getting the most out of camping: digging and dirty!

Let me just share a few tips I learned on teaching a dog to kayak

  1. Invest in a doggy life-vest. Yes, all dogs can swim — it’s instinctual. But, if they leap out of the boat or kayak in the MIDDLE OF THE LAKE do you really want to rely on instinct and pray they don’t get tired?
  2. Attach a leash to the life vest AND to the kayak. That way if they do make the plunge, it’s easy to reel them back in.
  3. Leave the fishing tackle, camera, lunchbox, etc on shore. You don’t want a squirrely, excited dog AND stuff.
  4. Keep the trip short. If the pooch gets stressed, take Fido back to shore. You want it to be fun, not terrifying.
  5. Pick a calm day, smaller lake and keep it relatively close to shore. Again, make it fun not scary.
  6. If people stress your dog out (love or hate) pick a day with fewer people on shore and on the water.
  7. Don’t have anybody else talk to or call for the dog. Maybe they should stay on shore, or in camp, on in another town. (Or maybe out of sight but close enough to help if needed!)
  8. Bring towels!

So, I’m sure that you’re just DYING to know how I came up with this list, right?

When Code Wolf and I were camping at White Horse Lake last weekend, I decided that it was high-time Lily learned about kayaking. Now, being the do-anything dog that she is, Lily will let me harass her in pretty much any manner I see fit.

Lobster Lily

Remember when I dressed her up as a lobster for Halloween?

So, I put her in her oh-too-cute life vest, left all the goodies on shore – Rule #3 – (hence no pics of the event) and took off.

And I promptly broke Rule #5!

It was a breezy day that went from flat water to little bitty whitecaps. She did okay when it was calm but the second the kayak would start to rock in the breeze… well, Lily couldn’t decide if she wanted to be in my lap or as far from the paddle as possible.

I felt we were just getting the hang of it, slowing paddling around the lake. Then here comes Code Wolf to check on us. Happily, he calls out: “Lily! How ya’ doin’?” (Rule #7 — shattered!)

And Lily jumps out of my kayak and tries to run to him!

Of course, she promptly sinks WAY below the surface and then bobs back up, courtesy of aforementioned oh-so-cute life vest. (Rule #1)

But never fear, I just grab the leash (Rule #2) and haul her in. But when I started pulling on the leash, her head went under again! Once I got her back into the kayak I was practically screaming with laughter.

She took offense to that!

After making a half-hearted attempt to continue on around the lake, I gave it up as a bad job and head back to shore. (Rule #4)

Of course, of COURSE, there were people all over the boat launch fishing. (Rule #6) And Lily doesn’t like kids at the best of times but when she’s cold, wet and suffering the indignity of having jumped into the lake… Lots of loud barking ensued.

Once I had Lily back out of the kayak (I dumped her over the side into tummy-depth-on-a-small-dog water — again, I’ll never be forgiven) I hauled her back to the truck.

Thankfully, I had a towel in there. Don’t ask me why, but at the very least, I was able to comply with Rule #8.

Will I take Lily kayaking again? Absolutely! Will I plan it a bit better? Of course! Will she ever forgive me? Maybe, maybe not!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you boat or kayak with your dog?
  • How old was Fido when you started?
  • Tips for teaching an old dog new boating tricks?

Set Your Hook: Take Me Fishing

Take Me Fishing

Take Me Fishing

Since it’s the start of summer, I thought I’d take a moment to remind you about the great work the folks over at “Take Me Fishing” do.

I’ve been fishing and camping all my life, but I know that many readers haven’t been so fortunate, and they are coming to the great pastimes of fishing and camping later in life.

Have I told you how fantastic I think this is?

I just love it when I go to my favorite Arizona put-and-take lake, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, and see all of the families fishing. I can easily overlook the shouting kids (something that normally makes me crazy when I just want to sit back and enjoy the quiet of nature) when I see families hanging out together.

The”Take Me Fishing” website explains the allure (pun intended!) of fishing like this:

Fishing gives families a break from their hectic schedules and time to reconnect with one another. Nothing can match the memories that your family will make and the bonds that you’ll build while spending time on the water.

Father and son fishing


And nothing is better than when a state holds a Free Fishing Day where people can get out and drop line whether they do or don’t have fishing licenses. Most states hold their Free Fishing Day in June.

This is National Fishing & Boating Week. Many states have their Free Fishing Days this weekend. Find out when your state’s Free Fishing Days are this year!

If it isn’t Free Fishing Day, then all adult anglers need to have a valid fishing license. Your fishing or boating license helps sustain the sport of fishing and the environment.
Sportsmen and women help to restore and protect fish and their habitats in each state in this country by doing the things they love — fishing and boating. The purchase of state licenses supports sportfish restoration, preservation and conservation, as well as boating safety and education.

All over, in my “rules” section for each lake or river or fishable body of water, I say: “A valid fishing license is required,” because I know just how important these fees are to the state’s economy – and because being a licensed angler is the right thing to do.

The next time YOU break out your Snoopy fishing poles and containers of night crawlers, make sure that your fishing license is valid. In Arizona, anglers under 14 don’t need their own licenses as long as they are fishing with a licensed adult. That doesn’t mean that children under 14 can fish for free!

“Take Me Fishing” has a great resource for you to find out about the licensing requirements in your state.

Want to know where the best places to fish near you are? Find the answer on!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Will you be participated in National Boating & Fishing Week?

(I’m going camping, kayaking and fishing June 9-12 near Williams, AZ!)

Set Your Hook: Lightning Safety

Stay Lightning Safe On the Water

Lightning on Water


I don’t know about the weather were YOU’RE at, but Northern Arizona has been having its share of really strange weather this year. Not only is it STILL knock-you-down-wind (weeks after it should have stopped) but we also had a thunder storm last week!

(The type of storm that blows, booms, and only rains enough to get your windows dirty!)

So I wanted to start the summer season off with an early tip about staying safe on the water when a storm is coming in.

Of course, the best way to avoid a lightning strike is to avoid becoming a lightning target. Each year in Arizona alone, several people are killed when the lake they were boating on is struck by lightning. Staying safe is more common sense than anything else!

Stay off or get off the water whenever weather conditions are threatening.

Keep an eye on the weather. Watch for the development of large well-defined rising cumulus clouds. Once they reach 30,000 feet, the thunderstorm is generally developing.

Now is the time to head for shore. As the clouds become darker and more anvil-shaped, the thunderstorm is already in progress.

Watch for distant lighting. Listen for distant thunder. You may hear the thunder before you can see the lightning on a bright day. You know how far you are from shore and you can guess how far the thunderstorm is from the lake. But, can you guess how fast the storm is moving your direction? Can you reach shore, unload the boat, store the gear, get the boat onto shore or into the truck, AND seek shelter within that time? You’d better move!

If a storm comes when you’re boating or swimming, get to land immediately and move away from the river, lake or whatever body of water you’re near. Get off the beach. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity and saturated sand or ground conducts electricity very well. Each year people are killed by nearby lightning strikes while they are in or on the water or on the beach.

Weather Radio

Our's is much older but very similar. About the size of an old Walkman tape player.

Carry a portable weather radio with you. There are models that are no bigger than a walkie-talkie that will easily slip into a tackle box or pocket. Think I’m being over cautious? ESP Boss has carried a pocket-sized, battery operated weather radio for YEARS.

Here’s an affiliate link to the weather radios carried by Amazon. The one we own is very similar to the yellow model pictured above.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you carry a weather radio?
  • What do you do if you think a storm is coming in?
  • If it’s raining but not lightning, do you stay on the lake or head for shore?

Set Your Hook: Tackle Box Setup

Quick Fishing Setup

tackle box


Over the last months, I’ve given you fishing tips on how to catch a variety of fish (trout, catfish, walleye, bass, etc) with a variety of lures. I’m sure by now your tackle box is full to bursting with all your gear.

You can catch different species of fish with the same type of lure but in different sizes, colors, and with different hook sizes. So, to make sure you’ve got the right tackle for the fish you’re going after, you can set up multiple tackle boxes.

For example, my main tackle box has all my tackle to catch trout and bluegill. I know that if I grab that box, that’s what I am equipped to fish for. A different box has everything I need for bass.

ESP Boss also has multiple reels with different line strengths. All he’s got to do is switch a trout reel (about 4 lbs. test) for a bass reel, grab his pole, and off he goes! Make your decision about which tackle box to take based on what fish are in the lake and which you want to try and catch that day.

Not sure which type of fish lives where? has the answers for you!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What time-saving tip do you have when you are switching from one fish species to another?

Set Your Hook

I need your help!

Okay, Friends, I need your help. I can’t tell if the Set Your Hook blog and newsletter are getting the job done for you.

I’ve been writing the Set Your Hook newsletter for nearly five years now. But what I’ve found is that I have some GREAT articles that get a lot of comments (both on the blog and emailed back to me) and then a lot of articles that seem to fall flat.

Examples of articles that you like:

The goal of Set Your Hook was to be a resource for people just getting started in fishing. I take my own knowledge, research tips and tricks from experts and try to produce a quality weekly article for you.

But I feel like I’m not doing a good job at it.

Just between you and me, I’ve pretty much reached the end of what I KNOW about fishing. From here on out, it would be a lot of research and compiling of the “truth” from other experts. And maybe that’s fine, but I want your opinion about the future of this blog.

Here are some of my thoughts about it all. But what I REALLY want is for you to leave me comments or email me about YOUR thoughts. Because at the end of the day, I don’t write this blog just to see my words in print. I write it for you.

  • Focus more on a section of beginner fishers. Like maybe women. Or women with kids.
  • Focus on a species, like trout. Of all the fresh water fish out there, I know the most about trout.
  • Focus on tackle. All types of tackle and what you do with it.
  • Or… What are YOUR thoughts?

Here’s something really weird though: I DO get a fair amount of search engine traffic from fishing terms like ‘gang hook’ or ‘worm threader’ or ‘fishing for pike’. But I can’t tell if those searchers are finding what they’re looking for or not!

Now, what about video? It seems that the two fishing videos that I’ve done have gotten some good results.

Video links

Do you want me to do more videos about basic techniques? Knots? Tackle? Putting line on a reel?

Of course, on the other hand, I could just call Set Your Hook a grand experiment and then move on to something else. But if I do that, what would you be interested in reading about?

Keep in mind that I want to gear everything I write towards the beginner!

And, in case you weren’t aware, the Thursday Set Your Hook fishing article is just ONE of the 5 weekly articles I write. If you haven’t looked, check out to see all the topics I cover.

So if we decide that the time for the Set Your Hook blog and newsletter is over, never fear that I won’t find something else to fill our Thursdays with!

The bottom line is I really need your help! Tell me what I’m doing right, what I can improve on, and what you want to see more of.

And PLEASE, don’t just read this and NOT comment! Set Your Hook doesn’t get as many comments as the other blogs I write, but I don’t want to assume that you aren’t out there, somewhere, reading it. Comment or email me and let me know what you want.

All the best!


Set Your Hook

Fall Fishing For Walleye

Walleye illustration

Walleye are considered one of the finest tasting fish available. The meat is white, flaky and has a very mild flavor. So, this week’s Set Your Hook article gives you some general fishing techniques for catching walleye.

Do you know where to find walleye in your area? Are you looking for a lake where you can fish from shore or go out in the boat? Find lakes, rivers and streams on

Walleye Description

Walleye are known by their yellow-olive back with a brassy cast. The sides are brassy-yellow with dark mottling, and the belly is white; there is a dark spot at the rear of the spiny dorsal fin. The eyes of a walleye are opaque-silver in color. The fish have moderate canine-like teeth. They range in length from 12 to 29 inches and can weigh between 10 oz. and 12 pounds or greater.


Walleye Location & Habitat

Walleye are a bottom oriented fish, due to their sensitivity to light, preferring to stay in deep water during the day, moving to shallow waters during the night. The walleye prefers moderately deep lakes with gravel, rock or sandy bottoms. It is found primarily in cold water lakes but has proven to survive in some warmer water impoundments. They spawn in spring, in relatively shallow water, over clean gravel or rocky bottoms.

There are eight lakes in Arizona that have walleye, but you can only eat the walleye from 6 of them (mercury issues!) Before you consume ANY fish, be sure to check your local Game & Fish to see if there are any restrictions.

Walleye’s Favorite Foods

Walleye will eat virtually anything they can catch and get in their mouths. They prefer small fish and will eat crayfish, worms and insects.

Angling For Walleye

Because of light-sensitive eyes, walleyes feed more actively early in the morning, late in the evening, or at night. Effective lures and baits include, minnows, night crawlers, jigs, crankbaits, spoons, small spinner baits, and minnow imitating plugs, as well as plastic worms and grubs. (Be sure you can fish with live bait in the lake!)

Fall Fishing For Walleye


This fish can be somewhat wary and prefer the safety of deeper, darker water. Try fishing for walleye from sundown to midnight, particularly during the heat of summer.

Fall Fishing For Walleye

Top Baits: Jigs, crankbaits and spoons. Fish shallow to moderate depths in the mornings and evenings. As the sun rises, move deeper and use small spoons or jigs.

Set Your Hook

Cleaning Catfish

Unlike trout and most pan fish, you can’t really use the super easy 4 Step Fish Cleaning Process.

Because catfish have no scales, you usually remove the skin when you’re cleaning them. As I discovered with The Queen Mother’s Cataract Lake catfish, removing the skin is easier said than done.

(Take my word for it on THAT one!)

After trying to ‘intelligently’ write up the process, I found a great 5-step process from Iowa Department of Natural Resources that I’ll share with you. (The pictures are theirs as well!)

Materials needed: a sharp knife, pliers, fillet glove, and firm surface.

Step 1. Grip the head tightly with the pectoral fins tucked between the fingers. Slit the skin along the backbone from just behind the head to the dorsal fin. Cut the skin on either side of the dorsal fin.

Catfish cleaning Step 1

Step 2. With a firm hold on the head, grasp the skin with the pliers and pull toward the tail fin to remove.

Catfish cleaning Step 2

Step 3. Grasp the head with one hand and the body with the other. Bend the head downward to break the backbone. Remove the head.

Catfish cleaning Step 3

Step 4. Slit the belly and remove the internal organs.

Catfish cleaning Step 4

Step 5. (Optional) Cut along both sides of the dorsal and anal fins and use the pliers to remove.

Catfish Cleaning step 5

Readers Weigh In:

  • Is this how YOU clean catfish?
  • Do you have a better/easier way to get catfish ready to cook?

Set Your Hook

Catching Catfish

As I got ready to write my article this week, it dawned on me that I hadn’t written an article about the best ways to catch catfish!

Catfish Story:

The “Royal” Family was trout fishing at Cataract Lake in Williams, Arizona. The fishing seemed slow but the lake was packed so we had to walk way past our usual spot. When we got to the lake shore, we discovered that ESP Boss hadn’t brought The Queen Mother’s fishing pole. After a, ahem, ugly scene, The Queen Mother agreed to use ESP Boss’ backwards, upside-down, won’t-catch-anything, left-handed pole. She threw in a test cast and pulled out a catfish! It was the only fish we caught all day.

Channel catfish are well-known for their fighting spirit. Because of this, it’s important that you have a quality rod and reel. A medium action 6-7 foot rod with 12 pound test line will land a large channel cat, but be prepared for a lengthy battle. And, you still might end up breaking your tackle and losing the fish. Isn’t that possibility part of the fun?

Catfish have scattered black spots on a silver or gray colored back and sides with a white belly, but large adults have few spots. They have smooth, scale-less skin and 8 barbels or ‘whiskers’. Length is 10 to 39 inches and weight 12 ounces to over 15 pounds or larger (depending on the waterway, area of the country, fishing habits, etc.) Contrary to myth, the “whiskers” are harmless to touch and used only to smell, taste and feel as it forages for food. However, the dorsal fin and pectoral fins have sharp spines which can inflict a painful wound.

Channel catfish are found in most warm water lakes and rivers and they inhabit deeper stretches of rivers and streams with moderate current. Spawns are from April through early June. In Arizona, they are occasionally stocked in some waterways.


Channel catfish will eat almost anything dead or alive, although, they prefer minnows, crayfish, and aquatic insects. Effective baits are waterdogs, liver, blood bait, shad, shrimp, anchovies, homemade stink baits, hot dogs, minnows and worms. Other popular baits are cut baits (pieces of goldeye, tulibee or suckers), raw shrimp, chicken and beef liver and hearts, frogs and nightcrawlers.

(Before using a bait, be sure to check with your local Fish & Game to make sure that it is allowed in the waterway you’ll be fishing!)

All baits work well, but on some days one will work better than another, so it is best to bring more than one type with you. Fresh cut bait works better than frozen. A float rig with a small hook tipped with a piece of nightcrawler and some split shot for weight is an effective way to catch some goldeye.

We usually use the old standby of chicken livers, but another option is turkey or chicken hearts. They stay on the hook really well and cats love them!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your favorite catfish baits?

Set Your Hook

3 Trout Trolling Tips

There is that point in every beginner’s life where they decide to switch from bank fishing to fishing from a boat. If you’re just getting into boat fishing, the easiest thing to do is to go to a lake that rents row boats and take one out for an afternoon.

Once you’ve mastered the challenge of just DEALING with all your fishing tackle in the boat, then you can try trolling.

Just What Is Trolling?

Put very simply, trolling is drawing a baited fishing line through the water. Trolling can be done with one or more people in the boat. But, if you’re just getting started, I think it’s easier if one person runs the motor and the others fish.

It’s a challenge to try to run the motor

AND fish

AND deal with anything you catch

AND not get the line fouled in the motor.

If you’re trolling for lake trout, then you’ll want to use a lure specifically designed for trout. I’ve tried trolling with worms or Power Bait with no success; the lures are specially designed to get the job done.

My favorite lure for trolling for lake trout is a flatfish lure. I’ve had mine since I was 8 so it actually has a name: Sir Gregory. Go figure!

flatfish lure

Sir Gregory has been retired from active fishing (I would hate to lose him after all these years) and just hangs out in my tackle box for luck.

Here are my three biggest tips for getting started with trolling.

1. Troll Slowly

Big fish will not expend any more energy than necessary to catch a meal. Also, most lures will not perform correctly at fast speeds. The best advice is to troll SLOWLY, the slower the better.

When ESP Boss and I troll, sometimes he refuses to use a motor and rows instead. Of course, this may have something to do with a full reel of line being wrapped around a new electric motor and ruining it. (I was 9 but he’s never gotten over it!) A plus of using oars is that the movement of the lure is a bit erratic as it moves quickly and then slowly with the rhythm of the rowing.

People trolling for trout

Notice that there is very little wake? That's because they're moving slowly as they troll.

However, if you must use a motor, make sure it will throttle down to a crawl, or, better yet, purchase a multi-speed electric motor. You can use the electric motor for trolling and save a larger gas motor for power. Just be sure that your type and size of motor is permitted on the lake!

Most of the lakes listed on have motor information.

2. Vary Your Speed

While slow speeds are critical, this does not mean the same slow speed all the time. A lure running through the water at a constant speed, at a constant depth and giving off the same vibration pattern will not catch many fish. The movement is too regular and there’s nothing to indicate an easy meal or that something (i.e. the lure) is in trouble. Troll slowly, but adjust your speed every few minutes to change the lure’s speed and vibration pattern.

3. Troll In “S” Shaped Curves

The best results mean that you shouldn’t troll back and forth in a straight line. An “S” pattern is great, because every time the lure is on the inside swing of the boat, it will drop deeper and slow down. On an outside turn, the lure will speed up and rise. With each turn, you will impart a different action to the lure, signaling meal time to nearby fish.

Trolling for trout

As the boat gets closer to shore, it'll swing in a wide curve to pull the lures through the shallows. And to tempt any trout lurking there!

If you know where the fish like to hang out in the lake (EVERY lake has hot spots), then swinging curves to pass the lure through these areas should also get results.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you prefer to fish from the shore or a boat?
  • If fishing from a boat, would you rather troll or bottom fish?
  • Do you have any trolling tips to share?

Set Your Hook

Gang Hooks to Catch Trout

Every so often I run across a trout fishing idea and think “WHY have I NEVER heard of that?! That sounds like a fantastic idea!” This is one of those ideas.

Fishing Worm

Before I discovered a worm threader, I hadn’t been a big fan of using night crawlers as trout bait. No, it has nothing to do with being squeamish (I’m not) or the fact that you get dirt under your fingernails trying to get the worms out of the container. It was that I never seemed to catch anything with a worm; it’s a waste of bait as the worm gets soggy or eaten (with no fish on the hook), and left over night crawlers aren’t even great for my garden.

A gang hook set up is a one-up on a worm threader. The worm is presented in a more “natural” fashion and you get the advantage of two hooks instead of one.

I haven’t tried this set up yet (it’s still too hot for good trout fishing around here!) so, I want somebody to go out and test this one for me and then let me know.

What are gang hooks?

Gang hooks are a series of two or more single hooks tied in a straight line on a piece of monofilament leader.

What are the advantages to using a gang hook?

  • The worm will be stretched along the line, in a more natural position than wadded up in a “worm ball” around a single or treble hook.
  • You’ve got two hooks instead of one.
  • You can use smaller hooks which will better fit in a smaller fish’s mouth.
Worm Ball

A worm ball -- Gross!

How do I create a gang hook?

Using a snell knot tie a single, size 10 hook to a leader, leaving at least a 12″ tag end. Tie a second hook about 2- to 3-inches below the first (depending on the length of your worm) and clip the tag end.

If you want to, you can add the hooks to the leader directly below each other (with no space in between) to create a longer line of gang hooks. If your worm isn’t long enough to finish out the line of gang hooks, make a small ball of Powerbait to cover any remaining hooks.

Attach your gang hook to a swivel (I like two slip weights above the swivel) and you’re good to go. You can use this set up with or without weights and also with a bobber.

Gang hooks are best used in shallow areas with debris, including fallen trees and water plants. Gang hooks are less likely to catch or snag on the debris, due to its unique hook presentation.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Have you ever fished a worm on a gang hook? How did it go?
  • What is your favorite worm presentation?
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