Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mud it Down- The Key for more Ducks

As written here in WisconsinOutdoorFun.com
One day I was talking to Paul Giese of Team NuCanoe. Since I was planning on doing a few photo shoots with area duck hunters, Paul was giving me some pointers on duck hunting, . “The key that very few people know about ducking hunting is mudding.” Paul said. “Ducks see UV, so whenever I get new duck hunting clothes, or in this instance a new duck blind for my Frontier; I mud it down.”

“Mud it down”? I asked. “Yep.” Paul explains “Your clothes from the manufacturer have UV (ultra violet light) reflecting off them.  You might as well shoot flairs up and yell HERE I AM to the ducks, which have amazing eye sight and can see you form a long distance away.  The first thing I do, is I cover my material with mud. I let it dry and then I brush it off with a broom or scrub brush.  The mud covers and kills the UV reflecting. Mudding is the difference between getting (or seeing) one or two ducks, or having a bunch.”

mudding3 “For my deer hunting clothes I leave them alone.  If they are too dark, I look like a giant black blob. Deer can make out patterns, so if you have a good spot and you’re looking like a dark blob, the deer will see your outline. For that purpose, I like brighter camo.”

mudding2 I watched Paul put mud all over his new Frontier duck blind and returned the next day.  When I showed up, Paul started to brush off the mud.  I have to admit, I was surprised.  The bottom photo shows a spot that didn’t get mudded in comparison to a spot that got mudded. You can see the obvious difference.

mudding1Note: Paul Giese is La Crosse area native and is on  Team NuCanoe, a group of NuCanoe owners and is on the ice fishing team “Stripes R Good”.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chronicle of an Outing By Luke Clayton

As published in North Texas E-News on September 24, 2012

This past week’s outdoor adventure was a month in the planning. While setting around an aspen wood campfire at elk and bear camp in the mountains of northern Colorado earlier this month, my longtime friend and frequent hunting partner Mark Balette invited those present to his ranch in Trinity County for a teal hunt. The assemblage consisted of Larry Large, my partner in the elk hunting operation, Billy Kilpatrick, our camp manager and cook, Bob Hood, longtime Texas based outdoors writer, myself and of course Balette.

Mark’s invitation was instantly accepted by all and the date was set for last week. You would really have to spend a bit of time around my group of ‘running buddies’ to get the full impact of their vast experience in the outdoors. These old boys know how to do it all when it comes to hunting and fishing. For grins one evening, we did a rough estimate of how many years combined, that we all had enjoying the outdoors. Between the five of us, it tallied somewhere around 255 years! That equates to a great many sunrises, sunsets and short nights in hunting and fishing camps. When you do the math, you can readily ascertain that several of us have reached out sixtieth birthday!  We might not have quite the ‘go’ we had thirty years ago but what we lack in energy we more than make up in experience! 

Large spent his early life hunting and fishing in the Pacific Northwest and for the past quarter century, guided bass trips on Lake Fork and for elk in Colorado and New Mexico. Balette grew up hunting and fishing on his family ranch and now hosts hunters from across the nations on hunts for hogs, deer and exotics. Kilpatrick grew up camping and fishing and for the past many years, guided crappie trips on Lake Lavon. He can kindle a fire and have supper ready by the time hunters have time to change out of their hunting clothes for the evening meal! Hood is a well known outdoors writer with more than 45 years spent writing about the outdoors and is one of the most well rounded outdoorsmen I know.  My group of buddies is never at a loss for hunting and fishing tales around the campfire; they all have plenty of past experiences to reflect upon!  

We arrived at Mark’s ranch in early afternoon with plenty of time to get a couple dozen decoys out and blinds brushed in. In a little over an hour Mark and Larry had the elk quartered and the meat chilling in the walk in cooler, the rest of us were busy bass fishing. I had thrown my little Frontier 12 boat by Nucanoe in the truck and as always, found the rugged little craft ideal for getting me into tight areas that were holding fish. We caught bass on everything from top water plugs to spinner baits to Texas rigged worms. The recent cool down of the water temperature had put the fish in the feeding mode. 
After a few hours of chunking baits and fighting bass, Mark asked if we thought it a good idea to break into two groups and go for a late afternoon teal hunt. 

“I know it will be a banner shoot in the morning but with all these birds present and two lakes to hunt them on, I don’t see why we can’t enjoy two hunts. What do you think?” asks Mark, knowing that we would be ready to go. 

We settled into our blinds an hour or so before sundown and after the first shot, teal were buzzing our decoys from every direction. Teal are suckers for decoys and they will readily decoy to anything from magnum mallard decoys to those made specifically for teal. Back at camp, we quickly turned the evening shoot into the makings of one very tasty duck dinner. Teal breasts, with a slice of jalapeno and wrapped in bacon are very tasty when grilled over hot coals. 

Teal hunting was great in East Texas for Luke and a few of his best friends but memories were made that will last a lifetime. photo by Luke Clayton
We debated on whether to enjoy grilled duck breasts for the evening meal or stick with the original plan of fried crappie. Billy had brought enough crappie fillets to feed the entire crew….twice! The teal breasts would freeze nicely for another meal. Teal are the tastiest of waterfowl but we all know how good those snow white crappie fillets are when fried crispy in hot oil!

The after dinner conservation went from recapping our recent hunt in the mountains for elk and bear to the upcoming white tail season. As we all joke, it doesn’t take long to spend the night at hunting or fishing camp but we managed to turn at a decent hour.
Morning’s first light found us back in the duck blinds, eagerly awaiting what we hoped would be a banner teal shoot. The birds took wing at first light and, as is usually the case, flew well for the first hour or so; long enough for us to add plenty of ‘new’ birds to the freezer bag of duck breasts back at camp. Bass again beckoned and we cased out shotguns and broke out the bass tackle. Fishing equaled that of the previous evening. 
By nine a.m. we headed back to camp, broke out Mark’s homemade wok made from a plow disk with two horse shoes welded on the side for handles. About 15 years ago, Mark made a couple of these very useful outdoor cooking utensils, one for himself and one for me. We’ve packed them along on many, many outdoor adventures. Our morning meal consisted of breakfast tacos made from elk sausage, eggs and potatoes, all cooked in the wok. 

Does it get any better than this? I think not, at least not for a bunch of outdoor types that have learned how to make the most of their “banker's holidays.”

DUCKS UNLIMITED BANQUETS - Ducks Unlimited banquets are being held across the country. For a listing of events closest to you, go online to www.ducks.org and click “events.” 

For many years, I’ve been present at the annual Dallas Ducks Unlimited Banquet. If you have never attended, I strongly advise you go this year, even if you might have to do a bit of driving to get here. This huge even it well worth your time and thousands of dollars are raised to held to benefit waterfowl. This year’s event is the 75th Anniversary Banquet and will be held at the North Texas Banquet Center at 677 W. Campbell Rd in Richardson. For more information, go online to www.dallasducks.org. I’ll see you there! 

Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Campfire talk with Larry Weishuhn at www.catfishradio.com. Email Luke via the web site with outdoors news from your area.

Friday, August 10, 2012


I don’t have one custom configuration for my Frontier; I have a bunch of them. Unlike the S.O.T. kayak that I purchased eight years ago, the flexibility of the Frontier design has allowed me unlimited creativity when setting up for fishing. Over the past six months, I have found myself using the following four fishing and paddling configurations with my Frontier.

1. CLASSIC MINI-BASS BOAT ARRANGEMENT - Since taking delivery of my Frontier, I have fished with approximately 10 different fishing partners. For most, my Frontier has been set up with both seats facing forward. Unless it is windy on the lake, I am able to effectively work a shoreline or a section of structure paddling with my left hand and casting with my right. My seat in the rear is positioned as far back as possible with the front seat set up to provide adequate leg room for my fishing partner. None of my fishing partners has ever complained that they were not comfortable or that they felt confined while fishing in my Frontier. Depending on the planned techniques for the day, I may add my depth finder to this arrangement.

2. SEATS FACING – I have found that under certain conditions, reversing the front seat so that both fishermen face each other is a more effective arrangement. I use this seating configuration when I am hosting a beginner fisherman. It works out particularly well when we are fishing with minnows or we are trolling. I can set up multiple rod holders between the two seats so I can watch all of the rods and coach the new fisherman in proper technique. Setting up the seats is easy. One is all the way forward while the other is at the rear most position on the Freedom Track. The space between the seats provides ample room for a minnow bucket and landing net.

3.VISITING GRANDCHILDREN – The flexibility of the Frontier allows me to set it up specifically for taking my young grandchildren on a paddling outing. Because I built my own seat base, I still have the two seats that came with the Frontier. I fasten my seat at the back of the Freedom Track and position the two Frontier seats to allow each grandchild equal room. My grandchildren can sit facing to the front or back. Also, my weight stabilizes the Frontier to allow my grandchildren to switch seats, move around, or visit their PopPop in his seat.

 4. SOLO FISHING – I love to fish by myself. When I’m by myself, I can quickly change techniques, move to a new location, change positions on a piece of structure, or decide to go home without having to explain my actions to a fishing partner. I have a special configuration on my Frontier when I fish by myself. My seat is positioned so that, if I stand, I’ll be standing at the widest part of the hull, which I believe offers the greatest stability for a standing fisherman. Depending upon my planned techniques for the day, my Frontier may be equipped with some or all of the following. I position a RAM Mounting Ball forward of my position on each side of the Frontier to allow me to use either my kayak cane for standing and support, or trolling rod holders. I place my Humminbird Side Imaging unit immediately in front of the RAM Mounts. I use my Humminbird unit not only to assist me on the water but also to make depth and location recordings on an SD card, which I use with Dr. Depth software, to generate maps of the small lakes and ponds that I fish. The stability of the Frontier easily allows the precision needed for this function. My depth finder is mounted on a NuCanoe Apparatus Board which I modified to fit my Frontier. In front of the Apparatus Board I position another two RAM Mounting Balls on my right side. The closest RAM ball is used for my Pentax Optio WG-1 camera, with a remote control unit, to allow me to quickly take a photo of my catch and then release the fish. The second RAM ball is used in conjunction with a tube holder for protecting my rod when I’ve landed a fish. My remote control camera is a Father’s Day gift and I’m still testing various placements in my Frontier for the best photos.

If you are investigating various kayaks for a future purchase- Do any of them offer the flexibility that I have with my Frontier. I hate to sound like a commercial BUT, don’t purchase a kayak because you saw it on TV or in a fancy ad. Consider a Frontier because it will expand, not limit, your fishing opportunities.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quick Trip to the Lower Mountain Fork River

Yesterday my brother and I made a trip to the Lower Mountain Fork river in Southeast Oklahoma. This near 20 mile stretch of river is home to several trout species, a plethora of smaller sunfish species, suckers, freshwater drum, as well as largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth bass and more.

It was a nice change of scenery from the type of fishing I have done over the last few months. I had not worked an artificial for mostly active predators in quite some time. The river runs very clear and cold, and the fish are seemingly everywhere. Unfortunately, the lower mountain fork is also a VERY popular recreational river stretch so these fish were well accustomed to seeing hundreds of paddlers per day, and probably every trick an angler could throw at them.

Though the fish hardly seemed to spook at the sight of the NuCanoe, they were reluctant to show much interest in any pattern I through. Drifting down stream I aimed at tossing a Texas rigged soft plastic crawfish pattern… assuming in the rocky riverbed this was probably a common food source. I also tossed a small broken body Rapala to work the higher part of the water column.

  Despite the lack of activity we had a good time drifting down river and it was fun to maneuver my NuCanoe through the rocky obstacles in those “turbid” waters. We ended up catching several very small smallmouth bass, numerous bluegill and green sunfish, and one spotted bass.  Occasionally small spotted gar could be seen tucked into heavy cover.   There were a TON of very large sucker fish, freshwater drum, and large smallmouth to be seen, but these fish we rent falling for ANY of my tricks

Monday, July 30, 2012

2 Day Alligator Gar Trip

It ends up I am going to be  moving BACK to South Carolina, and leaving the midwest behind.   Just enough time to squeeze in a few more hours chasing the mightiest freshwater fish in North America.

My brother and I packed up for a two day trip to the Red River, hoping to finally get that alligator gar exceeding 7 feet and 150 pounds.
To be able to haul all gear we had to rig the top of my jeep with home-made extended cross bars for my roof rack... 2 x 4's secured with bungee cords and string... boom.
We strapped my brothers Old Town Canoe and my NuCanoe Frontier 12 to the roof and ample water and food.   Weather reports called for temperatures in excess of 100 degrees... but temperatures in the river gorge should easily radiate at 110 degrees+ with the stagnant air, hot rocks, and relentless sunlight.

The water level has dropped dramatically in the red river, exposing a sandy riverbed... this allowed for SOME driving along the riverbed, however, unseen pockets of air below the sediment could, and HAD claimed other victims...

We loaded up all gear for a mile and a half paddle down river that often required us to get out and drag our gear over shallow sections of drying riverbed.  Because the NuCanoe is lighter weight and sits higher in the water... I was able to make it down river much faster than my brother who was in the Old Town.   Well, I also had a trolling motor for the scattered pools that were deep enough to use it! So, I glided along and got some things set up while Travis continued down river.
First things first, we needed bait... so I began setting up a station where we could catch buffalo or common carp.   We also had several older buffalo from days past on ice as reserves.

When Travis arrived the heat of the day was in full force... we opted to put our camping gear into the shade and set it up in the evening.
We got lines in the water, some tight lining, some with sliding floats.   All of my bite alarms were broken on a fishing trip several months back so we just needed to keep within close enough proximity to the rods to know if a fish was on.
We also passed the time toying with longnose gar, which have never been too difficult to capture here.

We both kept as hydrated as possible, I even wore a Camelback for several hours until I realized the pack water turned hot really quickly...  The first take of day 1 came later in the day, but for whatever reason the sturdy rod I was using snapped in half upon hookset.   I don't think the fish was THAT big, as it fought for a moment after the rod broke before shaking free, the rod must have simply had stress fractures in it that I wasn't aware of.. Nevertheless, another one of my baits got a run shortly after, and we managed to land that fish.  It was a considerably sized fish, probably in the 80-90lb range.

There was no more action for the rest of the day and we moved back to the campsite to set up for the night.
As darkness fell, the shoreline around our campsite had a lot of activity from longnose gar which cruised up and down the shoreline picking off unsuspecting minnows of all sorts.  I watched one gar in particular simply sit and wait in mere inches of water as unsuspecting baitfish moved dangerously close before the lightening fast jaws of the gar snapped shut on them.  I chose not to take advantage of what would have been a very easy opportunity to catch these gar though.
We didn't do any night fishing, a full night's rest was in order after the fatigue of the hottest day I have EVER fished...  We had hotdogs, chicken breast, and the classic Hot Pockets for dinner... all heated over a grill, delicious!

Travis and I both woke up before the sun peeked over the tree tops... Travis was cooking up a nice breakfast, bacon and shrimp!  After eating and hydrating, I went back to catching baits.   I managed a very nice common carp that would provide enough bait for the rest of the trip.   We diced the carp up, and got baits in the water.  This time we placed two on our side of the river (Texas) and two on the Oklahoma side.   After an hour or so of waiting Travis let out a whistle from where he was stationed 150 or so yards away letting me know he had a take.

Travis was hooked up by the time I had gathered all gear necessary to land the fish, but it was no MONSTER unfortunately.  Nevertheless, it gave us good momentum and a boost of morale to carry us on.


Shortly after releasing his fish,  we gazed across the river to check the other rods, and I noticed one of the rods had a strong take.  Travis and I hopped into the NuCanoe and headed across the river to retrieve the rod.   We followed the fish for nearly 15 minutes before heading back to solid ground for a hookset.   Upon hookset the fish was moving towards me quickly... and I had a hard time gauging where the fish was, how big it was... or if was really even ON the line.   I was very concerned the fish would pull free without a propor hookset, but she turned, and she turned with authority.
We battled it out with the trophy sized gar for about 15 minutes before she succumb to exhaustion and Travis was able to get the snare pole over her head.  The fish measured just over 7 feet and should have been in the range of 170lb!  This was my largest Alligator Gar to date.

Satisfied with our experience on the river, we packed up our gear and headed back up river... I am not sure when i'll be back to this stretch of river, but I look forward to my next encounter with these outstanding fish!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Gar Fishing with the Frontier 12 (7/15/12)

Recently I put together another little video chronicling a weekend’s fishing that some may enjoy.   I really wanted to put together another good alligator gar video, but two things worked against me… one, I was fishing entirely alone, and two… the alligator gar weren’t cooperating what so ever.
Saturday I went to a creek I used to fish more than 10 years ago and not much had changed there.  There were PLENTIFUL groups of smallmouth buffalo and common carp moseying in the shallow waters.   The fish here face pretty certain demise, as its below a dam on the Oklahoma City river where if water is not flowing, the tailwaters dry up completely… the fish were hanging out in scarcely more than a foot of water, and the water temperature at the bank were boiling!
In any case, the shallow water made sight fishing for the big herds of buffalo really easy.   I used 3/8 sized creep feed and managed a few buffalo for bait, and several just for fun!

Sunday I headed to my favorite spot on the Red River… I stayed out there for hours upon hours suspending chunks of buffalo under balloons for gator gar (with no success).   The water level had dropped significantly since last time I was there, I didnt mind, I assumed it would merely condense the fish into the deeper hole at the area I fish and make it easier to find them.   Though the alligator gar were surfacing in my area, I never had any great pick ups from an alligator gar.   I did manage a nice 25lb~ blue catfish… but the fish tossed the hooks at the shore.

I then started using smaller tackle and cut sunnies and had some fun with longnose gar!  No  MONSTERS were landed, but it was still an enjoyable weekend of fishing.   That was also the first time I have been to that spot WITHOUT catching an alligator gar!

There are still images of the weekend’s fishing just after the “credits”.

Alligator Gar with NuCanoe 6/19/12

On June 19, 2012 I headed out to the Red River alone with some rods and the NuCanoe, hoping for a giant!

I hit the river at about 0930 and made my way down river with the Frontier 12 packed full of gear.  Because I was heading INTO the wind, the trolling motor really came in handy.. once I reached the bend that I typically fish  I started trying to catch buffalo for bait from the shore.  As the first two hours passed without landing one I grew impatient and decided to settle on the older frozen bait (which I usually use only as backup)… old carp from a local pond.
The last time out at this river we had a lot of trouble getting picked up despite there being a lot of fish in the area and I figured it was because the gar were staying suspended, and not on the bottom… the water in this particular bend is close to 20 feet deep… which is irregularly deep for most parts of the Red River.  These isolated holes like this are like a virtual magnet for the huge gar that live in the river, as there aren’t many of them to choose from.
I had the idea to use balloons as floats and try suspending carp chunks directly in the current or in eddies from the bank.  Ends up it works… works quite well!
It was not long, as I was anchored down in the middle of the channel, that I observed my balloon go down (they kept popping in the heat of the sun…)
Because I did not want to be dragged around in a small watercraft by a potential monster, I would follow the fish for a while before putting over to the shore to engage the fish from solid ground.   I lit into what felt like a monstrous fish, and it was.   I battled it out with a gar that I am certain exceeded 150lb  until I had the monster all the way to the shore.   Armed only with a home made snare pole, I went in after her.   Well… 1 man, vs a 7 foot long fish proved to be quite the conundrum… fish like this simply require an extra set of hands and manpower..  that became painfully obvious.   As I was attempting to noose the fish, she thrashed, and my noose sinched around my trace line and pulled the hook free (she was shallow hooked).  She writhed around totally free in the mud for a moment and with reckless abandon I did a belly flop right onto her and we were in for it!… I wrestled with her for a moment but she powered out of my grip and got AWAY!!!!   I could not believe I had just lost my biggest fish ever and she was literally in and out of my arms.
Maybe 2 hours later I had a second take, this fish was much smaller… After a short but spirited battle I captured the 50-60lb alligator gar… had to have been one of the only SMALL ones that live there.  After a few disappointingly mediocre photos, I let the little fella go.

Another 2 hours or so passed before I got another run, but this one was… THE ONE!  This was the gar pushing 200lb that I have been searching for.  How do I know?  after some time following the fish I saw her surface in front of the canoe and was shocked by how massive this fish was.   Most alligator gar have a olive green, almost bluish look when they are under water, but this one came up so big, old and ancient she had this weathered grey scarred up look that sent chills down my spine.   Well over 7 feet long, I know this fish was closer to 200lb than any other ive seen.   Disaster struck of course…. the fish found its way over to a steep bank and finagled its way under some sort of underwater snag where she dropped the bait and of course caused me to lose a good rig.
I called my brother Travis, who was in the Dallas area for business reasons, and expressed my frustrations… he decided to head my way.
After Travis arrived we got to work, and near the end of the day I got one more nice run.   Once again, I saw this fish surface, another monster over 100lb.   This time everything came together… the hook-set, the fight, all was textbook and with Travis’s help we got her noosed properly and landed!   The fish measured 6’5,  just like the last one!  hell I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same fish, though this one did look THICKER.   I would estimate the fish around the 130lb mark.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Standing, Fishing, & Paddling by Ken Ziomek

                                                                STANDING, FISHING AND PADDLING

I’ve had my Frontier for approximately four months and I continue to be amazed at the flexibility that it offers.  For the first time in my eight years as a member of the “plastic navy”, I’m able to not only stand and fish, but I can also fully control my Frontier while I’m standing and fishing.  When my Frontier arrived, I immediately started spending more time standing while I was fishing.  The problem that I encountered was that I had to immediately sit down when winds moved my Frontier out of the area that I was fishing.  I would have to sit down, grab my paddle, move back to my fishing area, and then stand up to fish again hoping the wind would not continue to interfere with my fishing.  

My solution to the problem involved adding two simple paddle holders to my kayak cane which I’ve detailed elsewhere on the NuCanoe website.  When used in conjunction with a tubular rod holder mounted on the Freedom Track, my paddle and my rod are always within easy reach when I’m standing and fishing.  If the wind moves my Frontier away from my fishing area, it only takes a few seconds to set my rod in the holder, grab my paddle, reposition the Frontier, and get back to fishing. 

 As you can see from the photos that I’ve included both my rod and my paddle are always within easy reach making it very easy to stand, fish, and paddle.  Another photo shows all of the Ram Mount and PVC components that I used in constructing and then modifying the kayak cane.  If you decide to build your own kayak cane/paddle holder, I offer the following tips.
1-      Use some type of lining on the inside of the paddle holder.  This will aid in keeping the paddle from sliding on the PVC.  I used strips of the fuzzy side of Velcro that came with adhesive.  I purchased mine at Hobby Lobby.
2-      I fasten my kayak cane to one and one-half inch Ram ball mounts kept in place on the Freedom Track with double NuCanoe mounting screws.  With this type of strong mounting arrangement, the Ram ball is also suitable for use with trolling rod holders.
3-      While the paddle holders are held in place with PVC cement, none of the threaded couplings or pipes should be fully tightened.  This allows you to adjust the paddle holders to be in the best position to support the paddle if you prefer your kayak cane to be mounted at an angle.
4-      Build your kayak cane with a height that allows you to easily access or place your paddle in the holders.
5-      I’ve found that placement of my seat and the kayak cane in a location that allows me to stand in the widest part of the hull provides the greatest stability.
6-      Finally, make certain that your rod holder is mounted far enough forward of the kayak cane so the holder or your rod does not interfere with your paddling.
I’m very pleased with the results of my modified kayak cane.  I don’t believe that there is any other kayak or hybrid that offers the flexibility for a setup like mine.  If you like to stand while you are fishing, be careful before you buy another brand of kayak or hybrid.  Ask yourself whether it will provide the flexibility that you need for your fishing?