Posts Tagged ‘fishing’

Set Your Hook: Knots

How to Tie a Snell Knot

The Snell knot allows the leader to be directly tied to a baited hook. It was originally invented for use with eyeless hooks but it is still widely used today. It aligns the fishing line or leader with the shank of the hook.

The Snell knot requires wrapping a loop around the hook. When tightening the knot, hold the turns under your fingers to ensure they snug down neatly.

1. Run the line through the eye of the hook and down the shank. Form a loop behind the eye with the line against the hook shank.

Snell Knot Step 1

2. Pass the tag end around the line and shank and through the loop at least four times. Keep runs in neat row and pull tag end to tighten turns around shank.

Snell Knot Step 2

3. Work all of the turns down the shank to the eye by pulling on the standing line. Pull alternately on tag end and standing line until snug.

Snell Knot Step 3


Set Your Hook: Casting

Casting for Beginners

I was thinking of a fishing tip for this week’s post when I remembered a GREAT casting illustration I had saved to my computer from

As a recovering member of the I-can’t-cast-to-save-my-life club I loved the illustration for how to cast.

How to cast

For beginning anglers, I recommend using a push button spin-cast reel. Learn about types of freshwater reels. So, assuming this is the type of reel you have, let’s get started.

  1. Place your thumb on the push-button and hold it in.
  2. Still holding in the button, bend your elbow and point the rod tip behind you. Keep your elbow near your side.
  3. Release the button as you whip or cast the rod forward.

If only it were that easy! When I was learning how to cast, ESP Boss got the idea of putting a bobber on the end for weight and having me cast in camp. After “catching” one ponderosa pine tree – somewhere around 25 feet up the trunk – we decided that it was best for me to practice casting on the lake where there were fewer things for me to wrap my line around!

The problem with reading how-to-cast instructions is that you don’t get to DO it! When I was teaching CodeWolf how to cast, I walked him through the above 3 steps but he kept shooting the tackle into the lake and breaking the line.

I finally figured it out: he’s a big strong guy; we were using 4 lbs test!

So when you’re “whipping” the rod forward, do it gently. It’s better to cast too close and try again than to have the line break and the tackle end up at the bottom the lake!

Readers Weigh In:

  • How do you teach casting?
  • Any sure-fire tips to teach somebody how to cast?

Set Your Hook: Bluegill

Catch Those Bluegill!

Bluegill are a tasty pan fish that are a hoot to catch for kids and adults alike. When I was up at White Horse Lake a few weeks ago, they were the ONLY thing that was biting!

And for some reason, bluegill are the stereotypical “my first fish”. I can’t explain it, but I’ve seen it time and time again!



The best bluegill fishing usually occurs in lakes and ponds where largemouth bass are so abundant that the bass growth rate has slowed. That’s not good for bass fishing, but the sheer number of bass makes for great bluegill fishing. Small bass in the 8- to 10-inch range will prey on the small bluegills.

This limits competition for food, thus allowing the surviving bluegills to feed and grow to quality sizes. If fisheries biologists have imposed a bass slot limit on a lake to protect the bass in the 12- to 15-inch range, it means the water has an abundance of small bass that feed on bluegills.

However, many lakes here in Northern Arizona have fishable populations of both trout and bluegill. The only issue with our put-and-take lakes? The bluegill don’t get very big!

Do you know where to go for either bass or bluegill? has your answers!


Bluegill do not grow to huge sizes, so select your rod and reel accordingly. An ultra-light rod and reel with light line will allow you to feel the bluegill’s bite more effectively and you will catch more fish. In clear water, light line is less likely to be detected by fish. Line weights from 2- to 6-lbs test work best.

Larger bluegills can be spooked by heavier line, but most importantly, light line makes it easier to cast smaller baits. If possible, do not use sinkers. However, it may be necessary to use a small split shot or slip weight to make a long cast. Try a 1/64-ounce or 1/32-ounce worm weight above a small bead attached to the line about 10 inches above the bait. If you choose to use a bobber, make it the smallest you can find. Strike indicators, like those used by fly fishermen, are best.

Hook sizes from #6 to #10 are most effective. Hooks with long shanks will allow you to more easily remove them from the bluegill’s tiny mouth and thin wire hooks work best for holding small baits.

Live bait works especially well for bluegill. The most common baits are worms and night crawlers. The key is to use only a piece of a worm – just enough to cover the hook (keeping it small!) Other productive baits include crickets, grasshoppers, red wrigglers, and meal worms. Artificial lures also work well for bluegill. Some of the best lures are black jigs (1/32 ounce and smaller) and tiny spinners.

Personally, I use corn to catch bluegill, but regardless of what bait you like, it will need to be small if you want to catch a lot of bluegill.

Bluegill don’t like to chase their food, so a slow or almost motionless presentation is often best. A small bait hanging below a bobber is usually more than a bluegill can resist. Be sure to use a small bobber – just big enough to float your bait. If your bobber is too large, the bluegill will feel the resistance and spit out the bait. Setting your bobber from 1 to 3 feet deep will usually do the trick, but if fish are deeper you will need to fish deeper. Slip bobbers are a must for the serious bluegill angler, because they allow you to fish at any depth.

At the end of the day, use what works best for you! Good luck and happy fishing. Let me know how it goes!

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

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?

Set Your Hook

Contain Your Anchor

Before I started fishing from the kayak (very fun!) if I wanted to go fishing, it was always in my family’s 12 foot fold-a-boat. I LOVE fishing from a boat because you can get to fishing holes that you just can’t reach casting from shore. Plus, you can troll, cast away from the boat or bottom fish, and it’s less buggy ON the water than near it.

But, one of my pet peeves about fishing from the boat was that my gear always got wet, even though the boat doesn’t leak! You know how it is: you reach for a sweatshirt and it’s wet. Or you put the ice chest on your lap to get a snack and the bottom was soaking — and now your pants are too!

And don’t even get me started on what happens when my the-fish-aren’t-biting book gets wet!

Finally ESP Boss realized that when we would bring up the anchor, the anchor rope was creating pooled water on the floor of the boat. Not to mention the addition of lake scum and mud that was getting caked on the boat floor.

Then, ESP Boss had a great idea: buy a bucket (with a handle) just big enough to hold the anchor and the anchor rope. We use mushroom shaped anchors that are covered in a vinyl coating.

When you bring up the anchor, put all the rope and the anchor into the bucket. Viola! No more water in the bottom of the boat! Plus, should the need ever arise; there’s a bucket on board for bailing out the boat.

Here’s a second anchor tip:

Tie a quick link to the end of the anchor rope. Then you can attach the whole rope to the boat. Trust me, if at all possible (or practical) you want to attach your gear to the boat!

A quick link attached to the anchor rope.

Quick links aren’t always the easiest thing to use, so you could also try a swivel eye snap hook or a trigger snap hook. Both are easy to attach to your anchor rope in a way that the rope won’t come off your hardware. For that reason, I don’t really recommend a carabiner; it’s too easy for the rope to come off the carabiner. If the rope isn’t attached to the hardware and the boat, then it defeats the purpose!

Fastener options, depending on what you like!

Shopping Links:

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your anchor tips?
  • Have you ever lost an anchor (or other piece of gear) off the boat? What did you do?

PS: If you don’t believe me about attaching your gear to something, then check out my video about Extreme Geocaching. I managed to lose a $40 piece of equipment!

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