Jun 222015

The old Eagle fishfinder in the kayak is finally going to be replaced with an newer model. I started to get bad water temperature readings; -4°F and the sonar was way off, so I knew something was wrong. Because of the poor readings, I was guessing that the transducer or the transducer wiring was bad. Since I had to replace all the wiring, I might as well spend a hundred bucks and get a whole new unit. I ripped out the old transducer and wiring, sure enough, it looks like the wire to the transducer has gone bad.

I got a new fishfinder; a Lowrance Elite-3x. I don’t believe in expensive fishfinders on a kayak and the Elite-3x fits the bill, it’s about $100. I’m a little worried about Lowrance customer service, they don’t respond to customer inquires or emails. Hope nothing goes wrong with the fishfinder. With customer service concerns, no way would I buy a $500 GPS/Sonar from them, $100 is all I’m willing to risk.

Install kayak fishfinder

Everything is installed and we are waiting for adhesive to cure before we can get the kayak in the water to test the installation. We used Lexel to glue the transducer to the hull of the kayak, it takes at least a week to cure properly. We are updating the Fishfinder Installation page on the watermanatwork.com website with new photos and information.

Jun 142015

We got a little break in what has been a windy week so we headed out on the Columbia River to look for those smallmouth bass that have been a little hard to find this year. We caught a lot of small to medium sized bass up at the John Day River last weekend, but we hadn’t caught any close to the 20″ mark, which I think is a fair size to call a “trophy” bass. By this time last year, I probably had four or five twenty inch fish, so I’m starting to wonder what the heck is going on. We have to find out where those bigger bass are hanging out.

The weather remains mainly hot and dry. It feels like late August. We got out early in the cool morning and loaded up the kayaks.

Loading up the kayaks in the Columbia River Gorge

The river level was up a couple feet from the last time we were here. The dams on the Columbia River completely control the river levels and flow, conditions change on how much water comes through the upstream dam. My fishfinder is dying a slow death so it was no help when I needed it. Not so much to look for fish, but find underwater ledges and structure. Today, I have to find the fish without any electronic assistance. Some of the fish we caught were out in 10-15′ of water on an underwater ledge, some were caught in 6′ of water, right on the rocks.

Kayak fishing Columbia River smallmouth bass

I would describe the fishing conditions as “challenging”. The changing wind direction, faster than normal river flow and elusive fish made for a perfect kayak fishing trip. Because the fishfinder was dead, I had to read the river conditions and cast where I thought the fish were. Had to look in every nook and cranny. The two biggest bass of the day were hooked up literally inches from the rocky shore. The kayak allows you to silently move about and put the fisherman in the perfect spot to find the smallmouth bass. A kayak can maneuver in very close quarters that a boat can’t get too. I got one bass that was pretty close to 20″, another about 19″. Just eyeballing, I don’t use a tape measure or scale, just a camera!

Kayak fishing Columbia River smallmouth bass

Might be windy for the next few days so if we can’t go fishing, we are going to do some hull repair and probably an updated version of installing a fishfinder because my finder croaked today. Can’t complain, have had three fishfinder “heads”(the part with the screen and buttons), but only one transducer. That’s pretty good mileage for an inexpensive fishfinder. I think the replacement will be a low cost model as well.

The fish are always there, you just have to find them…

Jun 082015

Due to the low water levels and unseasonably warm water, the usually great late spring/early summer smallmouth bass fishing has not been that good. In addition, we’ve had more than our fair share of windy days which has limited the fishing opportunities. Fortunately, we have one of the best smallmouth bass fishing spots in the United States about an hour up the road; the John Day River. If you can’t catch smallmouth bass on the John Day, then the end of the world is probably right around the corner.

We headed to the John Day and got out on the river early because the weather here was really, really hot. It was about 80° an hour before sunrise and the river water was in the low 80’s. Normally you would see these temperatures in late August, but it’s only the beginning of June. The John Day River is a great kayak fishing spot, the cool early morning is one of the best times of the day.

Sunrise on the John Day River

The fishing was a little slower than normal. Usually, on the John Day River, it is not unusual to catch over a hundred smallmouth bass a day. This time, we probably caught about fifty fish a day, which is not bad at all, but expectations on the John Day are pretty high. We usually use a lead head grub that looks like a small crayfish, this lure will catch all sizes of smallmouth bass, even when other lures are not working. Our favorite summer mid-day lure is a spinnerbait with a green and orange skirt. This lure may not catch as many bass, but the bigger fish tend to hit this spinnerbait more often than the smaller fish.

Smallmouth bass fishing on the John Day River

We stopped fishing in the early afternoon, usually about 2:00PM, not because the fish stopped biting, but because it was so hot. The hottest part of the day here is in the afternoon, by 2:00 or 3:00PM, it was 100°. Preventing sunburn was a major task, it took repeated applications of SPF 30 sunscreen to prevent being burned to a crisp. There are not a lot of trees around here, shade is hard to come by. Finding a tree to camp under is a real bonus, even though it is still blazing hot, even in the shade.

John Day River fish camp

As is usually the case on the John Day, you can catch fifty pounds, or more, of smallmouth bass per day, usually a half pound to a pound at a time. If you know where to look and cast your lure in the right spot, there are bigger fish to be had. Catching one pounders that put up a great fight on light tackle while hoping for that twenty incher that will put up a fantastic fight on light tackle is what smallmouth bass fishing on the John Day River is all about.

John Day River smallmouth bass

We would have liked to stay another day, but it was just too hot. Today it was 105° on the John Day, that’s uncomfortably hot to be sitting in a kayak all day totally exposed to the sun. We’ll go back again when it cools off a bit.

May 312015

It’s been a slow start to the 2015 smallmouth bass season for sure. After a few kayak fishing trips, we finally managed to get a couple nice smallmouth bass in the boat. The secret was to target another species of fish, then we were able to get some smallies. The last time out, we caught a bunch of northern pikeminnows. Since the bass fishing wasn’t so good, we figured we’d try to go after the pikeminnows and make a few bucks. Of course we didn’t catch a single northern pikeminnow this trip, but did manage to get about ten smallmouth bass, including a couple nice ones, as well as a few small sturgeon.

It’s been pretty hot and sunny the past few days, so we got an early start to avoid the heat and early summer sunburn. The wind was light and the water level in the Columbia River remains very low, especially for this time of year.

Columbia River sunrise

The fish weren’t exactly jumping in the kayak, but as the sun came up, we started to catch a few small bass and a couple small sturgeon. The time tested lures that always worked for us were not working today. When smallmouth bass are not hitting the lure you’re using, try something else. That’s what we did and, sure enough, the first cast with the different lure got slammed by the first decent sized smallmouth bass of the 2015 season.

First 2015 smallmouth bass

A few more casts with what would turn out to be the lucky lure of the day resulted in another pretty good bass. Not the early season lunkers we were hoping for, but the way things are looking this year, you have to take what you can get.

Another nice smallmouth bass

It’s looking like it’s going to be a tougher than normal year for smallmouth bass fishing so you have to use all the knowledge you have to try and figure out where the fish are and what they will bite. The low water levels and higher than normal water temperature make the fishing conditions now what they would normally be at the end of August. What’s going to happen at the end of summer is anybody’s guess. We’re going to head upriver next week and see if we can do a little better in another location, so stay tuned.

May 222015

We managed to get a relatively calm day in what has been a somewhat windy spring, not that unusual in one of the windiest spots in North America, so we headed out on the Columbia River looking for those big springtime smallmouth bass. The fishing for smallmouth bass has been very slow this spring and we may have gotten a glimpse of why that is happening. We did manage to catch a couple very small bass, but what we caught mostly were northern pikeminnows. I should have signed up for the pikeminnow catch reward program because I would have made $30.

Northern pikeminnow

What caught our attention more than anything was how low the water was in the Columbia River. It was the lowest I’d ever seen it, even lower than at the end of a normal summer. The water level at this time of year is usually the highest of the season due to melting snow and springtime rain. With the water level this low, it’s possible that the usual smallmouth bass spawning areas are now dry land and the smallmouth’s spring spawning behavior has been interrupted. This is not good news for the smallmouth bass population. We did not see any evidence of smallmouth bass in any of the areas where, during a normal year, they would be found in large numbers. It is likely that the fish are already in the deeper parts of the river where they would normally hang out to hide from the midsummer heat.

Not only have the smallmouth bass disappeared, but the low water level means the water is going to warm up more quickly than normal and the plants and weeds that choke the shallow sections of the Columbia are going to appear much earlier in the season. We saw patches of vegetation already starting to grow in the river shallows. Due to the numerous dams on the Columbia River, it’s hard to say if the low water is temporary or is going to get lower as the dry part of the year approaches. We live in a relatively rainy part of the Columbia River Gorge, it is much dryer to the east so it’s hard to imagine that the river east of here is full of water. We’ve all read and heard about the severe drought in the western United States, here in the Cascade Mountains we have less than 10% of normal snow pack, which means we are probably going to have some kind of water shortages. If this is the situation here in one of the rainiest parts of the country, then places like California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas may be in for what could be the biggest water crisis in the nation’s history. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen and the weather could change at any time, but from what we are seeing, there is real cause for concern.

Apr 212015

The weather is much nicer than “normal” this time of year, but the fish haven’t gotten the message that it’s time to start moving. There were a number of bass fisherman out looking for those first smallmouth bass of 2015, but as they say, there was a lot of fishing and not much catching. The water is warm enough and there are smaller fish around, fish that large smallmouth bass should be eating this time of year, but no sign of bass anywhere.

Early season smallmouth bass fishing on the Columbia River

Experienced smallmouth bass fishermen know that early spring is when you catch the big ones and they are going to start biting any day now so we are anxious to get out fishing this time of year. It is also the time of year for unpredictable and quickly changing weather so you have to get out on the river when you can. Looks like a few days of wind, so no fishing, but we are hoping to get back out there as soon as possible.

Apr 062015

As the record dry and warm spring in the PacNW continues, we were able to start the 2015 fishing season a couple weeks earlier than usual. It was a calm, sunny and mild day today and we were able to get out on the Columbia River to see if the smallmouth bass were starting to move. I don’t think the fish got the news about the mild spring weather because I did not catch a single fish, nor did I see any signs of smallmouth bass activity. The water temp in the main channel was about 53°F, that’s still a little cold for the bass to start moving.

First 2015 fishing trip

I think it will be a couple more weeks before we are able to get the bass to start biting. Looks like alternating wind and rain for the next few days, but if we get a calm day or two, I think we might try for a spring chinook or steelhead. The odds of catching a springer this far up the Columbia are pretty slim, but if you are going to paddle all day and not catch anything, you might as well go after something big. We’ll be catching plenty of smallmouth bass soon enough.

Meanwhile, the work on the watermanatwork.com mobile website continues. We are making good progress. Once the mobile site is up, we will probably tweak the pages and get back to one website that works on all devices.

Mar 232015

The regular late winter/early spring showers are back for a few days, but the weather overall continues to be very mild for this time of year. You won’t hear this very often from someone who lives in the PacNW in March, but we could use the rain. The water levels of rivers and lakes around here are very low and there isn’t much of a snowpack this year. As of today, we only have 7% of our usual average snowpack. That is not good news because water has to come from somewhere, and around here, when it’s not raining, it comes from melted snow.

Anyway, the mild late winter weather is making us think that it’s going to be an early start to the fishing season, so we are starting to get the fishing gear ready to go. A good way to spend a rainy day indoors is to clean up all those fishing reels. I’m not a believer in expensive fishing gear, I try to get good fishing tackle at a reasonable price. The thing with less expensive fishing reels is that you have to do regular maintenance on them to keep them working smoothly. The fishing tackle used for kayak fishing tends to get banged around and dunked in the water a bit more frequently, so at least once a year, I take the fishing reels apart, clean them up and re-lube them with waterproof silicone grease. That’s enough to keep them working smoothly for an entire season of fishing.

Cleaning and re-lubing the fishing reels

First up are the reels we use for smallmouth bass and trout; a few light spinning reels and a baitcaster or two. Taking care of fishing reels is pretty straightforward and easy to do. All you do is take them apart, making sure you pay attention to how the parts fit so you can put it back together, clean them with alcohol so you don’t damage plastic parts, re-grease them(I use Slickoleum, a lightweight, waterproof, silicone grease) and put them back together. If you do it correctly, you shouldn’t have any parts left over and the reel will work just as good as when it was new.

In a week or so, we’ll be getting the kayak out of the garage and checking it out to make sure it is ready to go. We have to fix a crack on the deck and a few scratches on the hull along with the usual pre-season kayak checkup, so stay tuned for that.

Work is still continuing on the watermanatwork.com mobile website. We have a lot of it done but it’s a time consuming process, but it won’t be long before the website will work flawlessly on any digital device.

Mar 042015

Steve from Amphibian USA has sent us some his Spex Amphibious eyewear. A hybrid of sunglasses and goggles, these action sports oriented glasses look perfect for active watersports like kayaking, rafting, SUP, sailboarding and kiteboarding.

Amphibian USA Spex eyewear

The frames are soft and comfortable on your face and are held in place by an adjustable, replaceable neoprene strap and come in a variety of colors. The easily interchangeable and replaceable lenses come in a number of tints as well as clear. There are polarized lenses which are perfect for water oriented sports. The lenses are optically correct, block 100% of UVA and UVB light and are scratch resistant. If you wear contact lenses, Spex eyewear will keep water and dirt out of your eyes. The glasses float, which is a big plus, especially if you’ve ever lost a pair of $100 designer glasses over the side.

We are looking forward to using these glasses as soon as we get back out in the kayak. The way the weather has been going here in the PacNW, that shouldn’t be too long. Check out the different Spex colors and lenses and get ready for another season on the water.

Feb 042015

Since fishing kayaks are fairly expensive, you may want to know how long a kayak is going to last. Even if you don’t keep the kayak yourself for five or ten years, it’s important to know how durable a kayak is as far as resale value goes if you choose to sell it.

When I got my Hobie Quest fishing kayak in 2005, I had already been kayak fishing for a few years so I knew what I wanted in a kayak. I started fishing out of the Quest on the Pacific Ocean and later, on the rivers and lakes of the Pacific Northwest. When conditions permitted, I would go kayak fishing whenever I could, often two or three times a week. When I go fishing, whether the fish are biting or not, I like to fish all day; on the water before sunrise and in as it gets dark, so the kayak has seen more than average use. I like to find the not easily accessed and more remote areas, so it’s only a small part of the time where I am launching from a ramp or beach.

Click HERE for the Hobie Quest review after ten years of fishing

We did a video review of how the Hobie Quest has held up under ten years of solid fishing use in some of the more rugged conditions a kayak fisherman is likely to find. Click HERE or on the photo above to check out the video.

The watermanatwork.com editing team is hard at work and there will be more videos up on the website shortly, so keep checking in.