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Friday, January 11, 2019

Burbot II: No Easy Glory

Burbot II: No Easy Glory

While I could of easily opted for a warmer trip, my mind stayed on the glory of the cold and dark. The burbot promised a worthy adversary and would quench my need for the cold water fish, the ones seldom traveled for. There was probably never a worse time to plan a fishing trip, so with that in mind I never knew if I was going to pull the trigger or not. In the 11th hour it was decided I was spending the weekend on the shores of Lake Erie. My dad offered to come along and off we went. We made it to Lake Erie in good time, we got to the bait store right before it closed and got set up soaking baits just before dark.

And then it came, the lights went out, the winds picked up, they REALLY, picked up. I’m used to hunting and ice fishing but there was literal frost forming on the grill we were actively cooking hot dogs on, the chill coming off the Great Lake was something formidable. I guess until now I never knew what people meant by “feel it in your bones”, but I do now, I felt that cold in my bones. The mist from the lake weaponized into a coating of ice I got to wear through the night. To compensate for this I paced back and fourth constantly between the rods the entire night, changing fresh bait every hour. It just wasn’t meant for me, not even a tap was afforded to me by the Lake Erie burbot, not for lack of trying though.

It was my first time using AirBnb and I was pleasantly surprised by how superior the experience was to that of a hotel. The next morning I woke up refreshed, I tried to no avail to jig up these trophy perch I kept hearing about. Demoralized by the all to familiar PA skunk beat down, I caught out of the corner of my eyes a truck veer off the road. BUSTED! I see creek access!!! I’m sure the guy wasn’t happy to see me catch on. The moment I spooked a steelhead I knew I may be onto something. Alas that was the only big fish in the area, it became quite apparent micro fishing trip was the way to go if I didn’t want to drive home with my tail between my legs.

The shiners didn’t make it easy, I had to jig for them. The first one is what I think is a mimic shiner. It shook itself off the hook, then out of my hand, splattering more scales than I thought it had I took a quick pic and put it back hoping it would live. Unfortunately I didn’t bring a photo tank, didn’t think I’d need it burbot fishing!

The next fish took a little coaxing but once it struck it had a distinctly more authoritative bite, soon in my hand was the Emerald Shiner. I knew what it was fairly quick because I had used them for bait the night prior.

My dad and I headed to a local sushi place and he mentioned he wanted to see elk. So off we went, except we didn’t quite see them where we thought we would, my dad thought these were pet elk, that’s how close we were, but they weren’t! I got a few photos and quickly got out of the way of a nice local family with small children who stopped to take in one of this states true wonders.

The burbot may of bested me a second time but I’ll keep trying until the job is done, making victory all the sweeter.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

4 Years A Nemesis: Operation Mud Sunfish (2018)

Date: 8/27/2018
Date Written: 8/28/2018

This was a last second scheme to give the kids a suitable farewell to summer. Since my days off are usually torrential downpours it was a nice change of pace to see 85-90 degree weather with the words humid attached, at least for beaching purposes. The wife and I decided it would be a one day beach trip and off went went to Sandy Hook, NJ. 3 hours down, 3 hours back. 

We made it to the beach and the babies quickly ran to the water, after all I do refer to them all as water babies. It didn't take long before Kori started pointing out the elephant in the room, the fish were in the swimming area in a big way and it was hard to ignore. Kori told me to go get my fishing pole and with peer pressure like that from a wife, who am I to say no. Every Russo save for Tony got a lifer Northern Kingfish today. I intentionally only brought freshwater gear and bait for after the beach when every one slept. I didn't want to intermingle fishing with family time. But hey when you run a fishing blog this sort of thing happens. Kori goaded me into fishing by pointing out the obvious, that the water was THICK with fish. Almost Florida levels of fish. Rays moved in packs, Kingfish chased bait into the rip, silversides danced in the waves as predators came in. It was hard to miss other people catching left and right. So I made the trek to the car and grabbed my mushy semi melted redworms. I could of tied literally anything on the end of my line and lament leaving my gear at home. I quickly found Kori’s motives out as she “borrowed” the rod for an hour not exactly what I had in mind or planned for but I will take it!!!! Also Maddy decided that after all these years of fishing with me she is now afraid of fish out of water, which is odd seeing as she completely solo caught that fish while I had my back turned and proudly brought it to me, camera popped out all of a sudden it was the clown from IT!

I planned to do some "View Askew Universe"/Kevin Smith Movie touring while in the area but the babies were very hungry so we headed to a local Longhorn Steakhouse where everyone got to show just how much of an appetite all day swimming can work up.

We traveled another hour south for my new arch nemesis the mud sunfish. Its been 4 years and 3 trips, a collective 19 hours of driving specifically to target these guys. You can read about 2015 here or 2017 here. So yeah me and this fish have some history. I got some super secret intel I'm not publishing online but changed the game and with that the Mud Sunfish became a much easier adversary. I drove home singing along to my favorite songs with snoozing kids and a happy wife, not only that but two hard adversaries on the lifer list were stricken down. #183 Northern Kingfish and #184 Mud Sunfish. If I don't hit my target of 200 species by 3/22/2019, this is a major consultation.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Journey to 200: USA vs Eurostyled Coarse Fishing (2018)

With a view like the one above the vastness can be intimidating. Sure these depths hold the company of the serious bruisers of fish, but what are the odds? I guess you'll have to read to find out, or just scroll through the pictures like some sort of n00b.

Attempt 1: The Fruits of Labor

For my second ever fishing expedition by myself I headed north on a tip that Rudd were biting in New York. I gassed up and quickly jettisoned through the early morning breeze doing the only thing I can do, try to get to 200 fish species before I turn 30 (3/22/2019)

I arrived to a very crowded spot and made quick work of fish lifers under the punishing sun. My first fish was ironically a new personal best (PB) Alewife. They balled up in a school and it was almost too easy, a far cry from previous attempts.

My first lifer of the trip was extremely anti-climatic. I saw an Atlantic Salmon (fish #180). I casted at it and then I caught it, it was over just like that, a dream fish from water to palm in seconds. I repeated that once more on this trip, hilarious to think I always put that fish on the back burner as something that was going to be hard.

Meanwhile my real goal of this trip was Rudd, and I didn't see any, nothing, no Rudd to be found. I was told they would be flooding the waterway and almost too easy. So I talked to a tourist who told me he saw what I was talking about days earlier but he hasn't saw any today. It figures I was late to the party. I decided to go focus on the sole remaining micro of the trip and quickly I was rewarded with a Spottail Shiner (fish #181). The only thing notable about a spotfin shiner is its knack for losing all of its scales from the most rudimentary handling.

The rest of the day I spent more hours than I care to share pacing up and down the waterway to the bewildered looks of passerbys. I even took a food break to clear my mind and give the water a chance to warm up hoping to goad the Rudd into the shallows, no bueno. I did get a small consolation prize in the form of me walking around without a rod and finding a small school of giant Rudd as far away from my car as humanly possible. Naturally I made the walk back to my car for the Rudd to submerse themselves back into the deep. However I didn't take this lightly the chance to hold a Rudd stayed prominent in my mind and as a goal. I then cleared my schedule to try again a mere seven days later.

I fished a small creek on the way home and got three regular micros I see daily in PA.

 Creek Chub

 Eastern Blacknose Dace

Cutlips Minnow

Attempt 2: Hes Going The Distance, Hes Going For Speed

Once a goal is in my head its hard to shake it, it becomes what I think about before bed, at work, while out to eat, it becomes the all encompassing mission. So naturally I segued a preplanned trip into a new and improved fishing trip. I arrived again early to find no fish. No nothing this time. No bullheads, no bass, no alewives, no spottial shiners, no Rudd. NOTHING. Nooooothing. I once again paced up and down with a look of bewilderment. As the day went on and the water warmed up small Rudd started to jet through the shallows but nothing you could realistically fish for. So I took to the depths where I found a school of mega Rudd. The type of fish school you know doesn't fall for nonsense, any experienced fisherman knows targeting a grouping like this is borderline futility. However that is exactly what I did for hours. Until it happened. IT HAPPENED. I connected with the gold shining brute and as it flailed side to side in the water. It was hard not to imagine it falling off but it didn't. Triumphantly the Rudd made land fall and made my entire day. I guess I can wait on the trip to the UK after all. The after feeling was glorious and I'm still reveling in it as I type. Not only did I catch a lifer Rudd, i caught a respectable superbeast. (Fish #182)

I tried another spot for micros but caught the regulars I'm used to seeing.

Brown Trout


 Creek Chub

leech ridden Eastern Blacknose Dace

After fishing it was off to watch the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan play live.

IV: Gloom and Doom In The Sunshine State (2018)

Presented by Deftik Angling

Day 1: Et Tu Brute? 

This trip was quickly formulated out of a trip Mark backed out of to Missouri. Sadly 8 days wasn’t really ideal for flash planning, I spastically spit-balled potential fishing locales and flirted with the idea of just flat out staying home. However delta informed me it was do or no refund. My wife put the nail in the coffin, paraphrased for family friendly reading “get on a plane and go, go catch fish so I don’t have to hear about you not going for the rest of the year”. Deal. And just like that I started my first ever solo fishing expedition because frankly what else was there to do? As frantically as the idea was formulated I landed and got right to business. I went for the mysterious fish that haunted my social media for the last year first. The Eastern Happy cichlid was a willing participant after I waded through a few Mayans and a bunch of questions from a nearby store employee. I was trembling when I caught it so my photos are not ideal, its always hard catching the first lifer of any trip especially after a long hiatus.

Next was a spot for redhead cichlid. I start using small pieces of nightcrawler, but quickly bumped it up to full. That was the ticket, which led to my second lifer of the trip the much adored Redhead Cichlid. If you’re new to this blog I’m addicted to cichlids I may have a problem and will regularly derail productivity of trips to chase them. This fish was followed shortly thereafter by a hard fighting coppernose bluegill PB (personal best).

Next stop was Anglins pier which is a far cry from the glory it used to be. Word on the inter web is it was sold to a new owner. Last years hurricane closed half of it. I was the only serious fisherman there because everyone else got the memo, this place is completely useless until fixed. I got some small fish and a super drunk lady named “Jax” hitting on me. I’m not sure if it was the squid I was ripping apart by hand that drew her in but two inches from my face was enough for me to turn around and give some kids my bait and beat feet. Humbling as it was I’m a married man, here on business, fishing lifer business.

Day 2: Beat the Rain and Drive Like You’re Insane

Next was a pay lake for barramundi. I imagine these fish retained all their natural fighting power any thing more than this would be wild. I’m actually pretty pro pay lake so this was a lot of fun and something new for a change up until now I never actively fished a pay lake. I also caught an African Jewel cichlid while fishing here.

I quickly jettisoned north to catch these lovely specimens, another cichlid to my ever growing list. Man do I adore these fish.

I then drove across the state literally to Tampa where I encountered this lifer cichlid gem. PS it’s not what you think it is and telling you would spoil the fun!

I then drove south to my buddy Marcos house. Marco was super hospitable and was kind enough to catch bait. We tried to no avail to try for snook in some very snooky habitat.  The hardhead Catfish were very willing participants, the Gafftopsail Catfish were a little harder but came in after a little bit. At this point I was at 7 lifers, my goal was 20 for the trip. Given the circumstances of impending tropical storm Alberto, I was going pretty strong. 

Day 3: Let Minnow, When It’s Gonna Rain

I made a quick stop for mini sheepshead but could only locate gulf killifish, lifer #8, I’ll take it!

I was now ready and willing to start salt fishing. A bait shop owner who mistook me for a local recommended I try Sanibel Island. I made it to the island, but didn’t get very far as my need to fish made me stop at the first possible place luckily this place produced a lifer Mangrove Snapper #9. Unfortunately that fish was in the first 5 minutes and motivated me to stay and use up all my bait before reaching my destination. I then went to visit my mom at my cousins house an hour south but quickly got fidgety and had to abruptly leave to fish more seeing as the weather held off. Threat of the weather on this trip was very real like the title the weather people predicted gloom and doom. What I really got was dark overcast skies and the idea of rain messing with my choices. However it is hard to ignore “possible tornados and 1.5-2 inches of rain accompanied by flash flooding from the keys to Tallahassee” which the threat of was ever-present on my weather apps.

Luckily when I left I stocked up on bait upon arriving I questioned why I’d go sit on a pier by myself on an isolated island in high winds. Luckily that nonfishing crazy talk was silenced by endless Spotted Sea Trout (#10 lifer) I even took a few to give to my cousins. I made my way back in the morning. The fishing was impeccable and a real high point of an already sterling trip. I found solace out there in the dark, it’s one of those moments when I was deep in my element laser focused connecting with something primal and foreign to me.

Day 4: Threat of Rain Will Drive A Man Insane 

This was mostly a throw away day as far as fishing is concerned I hung out with my cousins in the morning and made my way east to a metal concert but decided the weather wasn’t bad enough to see a show. I said I’d take a quick nap and woke up 3 hours later. My wife then suggested I head toward the keys in the midst of subtropical storm Alberto so I gathered bait and headed south. As I drew closer she said if it gets bad seek shelter. I then informed her what the keys was and that there is no shelter. In classic kori fashion she exclaimed I didn’t know you never took me there! I made good time to the keys but was inundated with HEAVY winds, my line blew side ways and up in the air. The roaches and crabs kept me amused until the rain came, today was a two fish day. I then watched Alberto pee on me from the comfort of my car, epitome of throw away day. After scrutiny it turns out my two fish day were both lifers a French Grunt and white grunt.

Day 5: Working For It

Fortunately for all the “end of days” weather that was foreshadowed by my weather apps and locals alike only the wind came. I spent the rest of the day fishing the keys save for a meal break. FYI  for all you “foodies” finding sushi in the keys is hard. From sun up to sun down I grinded through endless white grunts and yellowtail snapper. I was also stopped for a record 5th time by FL fish commision. This time I asked why so many patrols, officer said due to the holiday. In truth I saw less anglers this trip than any trip I’ve ever taken to Florida. The threat of 40mph winds and 1 1/2 - 2 inches of rain + tornados must of discouraged everyone. The officers opening line was “what brings you out in the wind and rain today” For my diehard efforts I acquired 4 new lifers Lane Snapper , Mutton Snapper, Southern Puffer, and Sheepshead Porgy. For some reason no tropical fish came out to play this trip but I was satisfied with my days keep. I turned the car north covered under the cloak of darkness, to try to fish my half day before the flight.

Day 6: I’m only Clowning Around

I woke up at my 5th consecutive rest area setting a new personal best of 5 nights living out of a car (very proud of that by the way). I drove north and found the nearest bait shop, he knew what I was after and quickly supplied me with 12 large shiners for $12. These fish were LARGE, so it was actually worth the price. It felt odd trying to shake off 2-3lb peacock bass and Florida Gar but bait was limited. In the end I landed a nice peacock and Florida Gar no clown knifefish wanted to play with me. I was impressed with my dedication this trip and how I rose to the challenge doing things I never fathomed I was capable of. My target never came to fruition but a sense of accomplishment overtook me anyway. I quickly disassembled my fishing war machine and made way for the airport but not before stopping at Kori and I’s favorite, Burger Fi. 

I crushed approximately 1,700 miles scouring Ft Lauderdale to Miami to Boca Raton to Orlando to Tampa to Naples, back to Ft Lauderdale to Islamorada back to Boca Raton then to the airport in Ft Lauderdale. It was a gauntlet, subtropical storm Blah blah blah never materialized but left heavy wind and uncertainty which factored into the decision making of the trip. For my 4th trip to Florida I pulled 16 lifers, a lot of them are what I consider “high priority targets”. A lot of valuable lessons were learned and not a moment was wasted, I say this sparingly I left Florida a changed man, for the better. Until next time.