Monday, April 30, 2018

Where The White Catfish Roam

I've tried for White Catfish twice before and came up empty, I was presented a 3rd opportunity and squandered it. The White Catfish eventually took the forefront in my mind with the likes of the Mud Sunfish (and in the past the Northern Snakehead) as the new official grudge match of my lifelisting journey. Speaking of that journey, 2017 was an all time low for fishing I caught 1 lifer in 365 days, I saw a lot of metal concerts and checked my musical bucketlist accordingly likewise all my money and time was allocated to that pursuit. It was a conscious decision that I'm happy with however when 2018 presented itself I knew what I had to do, this would be the year of the fish. I had a goal I wanted to catch the 2 heavy weight contenders The White Sturgeon and The Alligator Gar, as well as lifelisting 200 different species before I turned 30, which is creeping up March of next year. Those of you who follow that page know I started the year going after the White Sturgeon and succeeding, it wasn't colossal but it was bank caught and that is thrilling enough for this guy. I've come to terms with the fact Alligator Gar is going underachieved due to financial/time constraints. Its been hard watching new comers step into the fray and by pass my lifelist numbers but babies are definitely more fun.

I had the day off of work, my wife was sleeping in between night shifts, my parents agreed to watch my two smallest. My eyes wide with excitement I got my oldest Madelyn to agree to accompany me on our first ever "expedition". We woke up at 6am and fervently made our way east to the Hudson River, yes that famous glorious river, you know the one. A Facebook friend Peter Park had recently posted success and after not being able to last year I quickly mobilized and jettisoned toward the big river, without advice from Peter I probably wouldn't be typing out this report now, thanks Peter!

We arrived and I was taken aback, I didn't do a ton of research prior to leaving all I knew is that my spot was situated between Yonkers, NYC and Paterson, NJ both with "reputations". When I arrived the streets were alive with cyclists, runners, friendly policemen interacting with the community, I knew the day was going to shape up to be fun no matter what the outcome. I drove past a lot of fishermen some even actively reeling in fish. I made my way to where I thought I'd be good, I saw the two serious fisherman and knew I was in the right spot. If you fish long enough you know the guys to look for, the guys who aren't messing around, they're in the know and they're there for good reason.

Madelyn and I quickly set up our bottom rigged nightcrawlers and chucked them into the intimidating depths of the Hudson River. I've never fished the Hudson River and I'm glad this was my first exposure to the legend. It didn't take long before I saw the tap tap tap, I quickly had my lifer White Catfish in hand. Madelyn was off casting a bobber rig to keep her mind occupied, sit and wait fishing isn't for everyone especially kids. However the second rod didn't take long to start moving, Madelyn too soon had her lifer White Catfish in hand.

Soon after Madelyn caught a respectable White Catfish in the form of a 1lb 11oz super beast-o. I knew that now my piddly little guy wouldn't do, Maddy would never let me live this down. The guys next to us were definitely locals who've mastered their tactics they consistently caught only big White Cats, we were just happy to catch any at all . The weather was beautiful and the bite was on, it was one of those perfect moments encapsulated in time, a day I won't soon forget.

We caught a few more White Cats, the only type of fish caught that day. I then hooked into my Personal Best (PB) weighing in at 1lb 6oz. Madelyn looked at me and said "Now can we eat sushi!", yes now we can eat sushi, kid. The day was a glorious success, even besting my most optimistic projections. Species #162 was in hand, 38 to go towards the goal for year end.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Skylar's Lifer Brown Trout

I planed for this day all week, finally it was time. My father, Skylar and I loaded into my truck and went in search of Brown Trout. My dad suggested other places where Brown Trout weren't stocked and I told him we were hunting today, akin to a hunter not shooting a squirrel while deer hunting we would not accept anything but a Brown Trout. This is the last of the PA trout for Skylar (unless you are counting Golden Rainbow/Tigers) and for a four year old girl she knows ALL of the trout living in Pennsylvania.

My first spot where I took Kori to catch her lifer Brown Trout was bust, a passerby stopped me and stated they don't stock here anymore due to the dam weakening. Further on down the road we happened upon a large gathering of trout fisherman however what I would consider the prime spot was completely empty. My dad and I rigged up Skylar with a redworm and I started to cast a spoon. Skylar had a giant noodle rod my dad for some reason brought. I look to my right and shes got the tip in the water being a goof, I turn to cast and shes hooked up. Just like that with a little assistance from Grandpa Skylar brought her lifer Brown Trout to shore. "Papa" tried to hold it for her, but Skylar was having NONE of that. Skylar quickly grabbed her prized lifer and posed. Shouting for the approximately 30+ fishless fisherman that she did it. Definitely something she won't soon forget.

It was a welcome victory especially after the skunking we endured on "PA Mentor Youth" trout day, where they said they did but didn't stock most if any fishing spots.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Russo Girls Go Icefishing!

To say I've put in some time trying to make my daughters self sustaining fisherwomen is an understatement, if they chose not to it wouldn't bother me, but they seem to really enjoy it in the same way I did when I was their age so may as well take advantage! In the back of my mind I've always had wild notions about taking them icefishing however I tell fully grown men "Icefishing is only something people do who love fishing at an unhealthy level and for everyone else it is not fun at all". 

Well the stars aligned, I got my father to make a rare appearance, Mark came to help, we were more than qualified for a day out with a 9 year old and 4 year old girl. We set up the rigs at a nice little honey hole I figured would produce consistently and it did. I even got carried away and made a poor Dominos delivery driver deliver pizzas onto the ice. Skylar managed to jig up 2 Largemouth Bass, one being her PB, before she attempted to sleep face down in the ice. My father scooted her off home, content with her days catch.

Maddy, I showed the day before how to use a tip up, however it didn't prepare me for how far she has come. I still think of her as my baby and she's not. Before I even knew, she spotted a flag, baseball slid next to the rig, and pulled up a largemouth bass before I could even press record on my IPhone. No longer a baby. She perfected her tactic throughout the day and did very well for her fish time icefishing catching many more fish as the day went on. Maddy played a little too much in the melted water and soaked her boots, another one bites the dust, Grandpa taxi picked her up and away she went to hangout with Skylar. Maddy stated that she liked icefishing more than regular fishing, it is pretty sweet when the stars align.

Mark and I had consistent tip up action intermittently throughout the rest of the afternoon, Mark's brother Luke even made a never before seen Deftik Angling appearance. My first time on the ice this season, and the girls first time icefishing ever, a late start, but White Sturgeon definitely made up for that.

This guy had a plastic rig stuck in his throat for who knows how long, caught again and rescued!

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Year In Review: 2008

Written 1/15/2018

I put this one off for quite some time because writing about 2008, in 2018 is quite the ordeal, I'm about 10 years detached. Looking back through the photos it looks like I kept up with fishing with friends, a little escapism from college here and there. Most notably this was a year with 0 lifers caught, the first since I started documenting in 2007. My father once famously said something along the lines of "enjoy the fishing while it lasts when you get older you won't be able to keep this up anymore".  I get what he meant, I have tried to keep fishing a centerpiece in my life ever since.

Summer Time and the Livins' Easy...

Monday, January 8, 2018

Bomb Cyclone and the Great White Sturgeon (2018)

It started as they all did an ill fated thought slowly turned to fruition. What kind of maniac flies across the United States to fish for two days? So much room for error, for weather, for delay, for complete financial devastation. However fear not life bestowed upon me yet another amazing trip for the books, my first time on the west coast was a resounding success.

Sensationalized media reported a “bomb cyclone” (did they make that up?) hitting the east coast, stating it’s the snow equivalent to a hurricane. The name was goofy but the results real, Georgia and Florida got snow and cold they haven’t saw in 30 years. Thousands of flights north and south of us cancelled. We just got the extreme cold, home settled for single digit temps and negative lows with high wind as we took off for a much warmer Oregon.

We landed in Oregon and didn’t waste any time, this was carefully crafted precision trip taking. I’ve honed my skills over the years to ensure not a moments wasted. First stop was oddly enough, Washington state for a first time visit and some grub. Later that night mark and I snagged $20 seats to the Portland Trailblazers vs Atlanta Hawks game. I don’t think I’ve ever watched an NBA game on tv ever but it was definitely an enthralling way to spend the evening.

We quickly rose the next morning to what we set out to do, fish for white sturgeon. We met up with Olivier Gandzadi an angler we saw on Instagram check out his Page. Olivier had a confident grin on his face when I said I’d be happy with one small sturgeon. We claimed our spot on the bank and set up shop. What came next could only be described as an old endless onslaught, 3 baits never stayed in the water. Tap tap tap, swing swing swing, up came the ghost like beings from the depths armed with razor scutes and lifeless eyes. Gorgeous, majestic creatures we caught mostly what locals refer to as “shakers” (small ones) however we went on to catch sizable fish with frequency. Many good times were had as the day went on swinging endless prehistoric dinosaurs from river to hand. We also got to see a sea lion for the first time in our lives which was truly magical, unfortunately no photo of him swimming amongst the sturgeon drenched waters but the memory will be lasting. Beaten, bruised, smelly and tired we headed to get some food which was absolutely delicious. We made way for the hotel, tomorrow would cause us to pivot due to forecasted rain.

We slept in, checked out the rain maps and drove south until we were clear of it. We did some research and were going to try a spot that was completely on a hunch. At the spot we were greeted by a local donning a cowboy hat who immediately stated “you guys here to kill some trash fish?” We squeezed him for intel, we were in the right spot, wrong season. 90 minutes into fishing I set the hook on a heavy weight, alas Northern Squawfish/Pikeminnow came to hand. This is incredibly odd to write but the Portland fish and game vehemently hate the NATIVE pikeminnow so much they actually pay you to kill them, no seriously the advertise this, set up a website and everything, check it out at Seems like some odd priorities but to each their own, mine went back to thrive and swim again treated like any other trophy fish, 30 Seconds out of the water, a lifetime in.

 This trip was truly special at this point seeing as I caught all the fish I feasibly came for, it seemed as though the trip was on a roll of success. We put in 5 hours attempting to get mark a fish but it never came to pass. I talked to a local vendor who had no idea what sturgeon were and was completely enamored by the fact I took fishing vacations. I asked her if the place we were at closed and she stated no but “odd people without homes wonder at night” I found her phrasing to be unintentionally hilarious, she gave me the coffee for free and I gave her a tip, nothing but good vibes coming from Oregon. We went to grab some food but accidentally went to a ritzy restaurant which was the low point of our trip should of doubled up on the sushi instead. Meh.

We were out of things to do so we checked out a movie i wanted to see Ladybird so now seemed like a good time. A girl who’s bump to my seat would of barely registered on the movie theater richter scale made it a point to profusely apologize once the movie ended, the good vibes continued, Dorothy I don’t think we’re on the east coast anymore. This is when the trip truly took a turn for the special. I found a place called “Ground Kontrol” in Portland a late night 21+ ARCADE that sold beer. Oh dear sweet baby Jesus was this built for me. Dio and other metal legends came thundering out of the speakers as I played old school X-men and Ninja turtles on arcade machines, bouncing pinballs back and fourth on the KISS machine, with a cold beer not far behind. This was the only time in my life i felt like I was in a movie, the perfect encapsulation of my childhood, id be a poor man if this existed at home. We went straight from the arcade to the airport and waited for one of three flights home. What a truly special adventure, audacious and bold to say the least but that’s the way we like em’.