Joining Forces Community Challenge Contest Entry — SKIFF Program


Submitted by:

Bob Maindelle with the assistance of Dave Hill, Ron Cruse, and Manuel Pena

On behalf of:

Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun (S.K.I.F.F.) Program

2328 Pirtle Drive

Salado, TX 76571


This is Nadia M. of Belton, TX. Nadia’s mom and dad are both active duty non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. She and her sister love SKIFF fishing trips!!

Tell us why you’re passionate about helping military families, i.e., why do you want to help?

My name is Bob Maindelle. I am a children’s pastor and a fishing guide living near Fort Hood, Texas. I am passionate about helping military families because I grew up in and around the military, because I had a great dad who served in the military, and because, as an adult, I began to fully appreciate how profoundly having a great dad impacted me for the better. When my own dad passed away too early, I became passionate about helping kids that were without dads due to death, divorce, and deployment.

In my role as a Children’s Pastor in Killeen, Texas, right outside the gates of Fort Hood, I was on watch when the War in Iraq and when the War in Afghanistan began. As soldier-parents began to deploy for 18 months at a time (and in many cases, several times over), I immediately began to see the impact that their absence made on the family members left behind. I first detected it most notably in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade boys I ministered to. I instinctively knew that the academic, emotional, and behavioral problems they were experiencing was directly linked to missing their parents.

I began to do what I could about what I saw happening around me. I began setting time aside for “Guy Time” wherein boys and girls could spend time with me (a “guy”, hence the moniker) in hopes of making up in some small way for missing the parent serving in harm’s way. I did with the kids the things that I imagined them doing with their father, and the things my father did with me – change oil, mow grass, fix broken things, and fish. Of all these things, the fishing trips really struck a chord with the kids.

I began taking more and more kids, many several times, all from my church at first. Then, I began getting calls from moms I didn’t know to take kids I didn’t know out fishing as word of mouth spread about “Guy Time”. My wife prudently suggested I carry some manner of insurance now that I was dealing with the public and not just families that we knew from church. Well, insurance is costly, so, I set up a small business and began taking adults fishing and subsidizing the “Guy Time” trips with the money earned there, all so that the trips I offered could be offered totally free of charge to the families of our deployed soldiers.

As I gained a following of satisfied adult customers, a call came in inviting me to speak to a fishing club in Austin, Texas, in early 2009. The club’s name is the Austin Fly Fishers. As the presentation wound down I informally mentioned about how paid trips from adult clients went to fund “Guy Time” adventures for kids without dads in Killeen.

The next morning I got a call from a very excited club member, Ron Cruse. He simply said, “Bob, we want to make a way for you to take more military kids on more trips, and not have to do it all out of your own pocket.”

What is the program(s) and/or service(s) that you offer and to whom? How long have you been doing it? (What are you doing to help?)

Over a 3 month span, from February 2009 to May 2009, Ron Cruse, other Austin Fly Fishers club members, and I worked to get our joint venture off the ground. We named it “SKIFF” a generic name for a little boat, the letters of which stand for Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun.

Describing what we do to help is very simple — we put the children of deployed or deceased soldiers on my boat in the middle of nature for about 4 hours at a time and make sure they have a blast catching fish. In so doing, we also give the non-deployed or surviving spouse some much needed down time if he or she chooses not to attend along with the children.

At the conclusion of each trip, we send along to the state-side spouse a blog entry summarizing the fishing trip and showing photos of the kids in action. This is done electronically so the deployed spouse can view the blog and digital photos, too, often on the day of or the day after the fishing trip, despite being half a world away. Children are also presented with souvenirs to recount the occasion. We’ve sent home embroidered hats, t-shirts, silicone wristbands, tackle boxes, lures, and more.

SKIFF is open to children from 5 to 16 years of age. We’ve been taking children fishing under the SKIFF banner from May 2009 to present.

The Austin Fly Fishers does all of the fundraising for SKIFF both through donations from their own members and through garnering grassroots, local support from businesses and individuals around the country, but mainly in the central Texas area. It currently costs ~$65 per child to offer the quality excursion the children experience during their time on the water. The Austin Fly Fishers’ efforts have accounted for over $6,700 in funding for SKIFF from its inception to present.

Who is involved? Are you an organization or an individual? Tell us about you or your organization, how it got started, what other programs are offered, etc.

SKIFF is a cooperative effort between the Austin Fly Fishers (a non-profit organization) and Bob Maindelle, a professional, licensed, insured fishing guide. Three Austin Fly Fishers club members, Dave Hill, Ron Cruse, and Manuel Pena, serve as the SKIFF point persons.

As mentioned earlier, this all started in early 2009 when I noticed how positively kids with parents deployed reacted to the time I spent with them in the context of the fishing trips I took them on. I began taking more and more kids, many several times, all from my church at first. Then, I began getting calls from moms I didn’t know to take kids I didn’t know out fishing as word of mouth spread about what I had nick-named “Guy Time”. My wife prudently suggested I carry some manner of insurance now that I was dealing with the public and not just families that we knew from church. Well, insurance is costly, so, I set up a small business and began taking adults fishing and subsidizing the “Guy Time” trips with the money earned there.

As I gained a following of satisfied adult customers, a call came in inviting me to speak to a fishing club in Austin, TX. The group’s name is the Austin Fly Fishers. As the presentation wound down I informally mentioned about how paid trips from adult clients went to fund “Guy Time” adventures for kids without dads in Killeen.

The next morning I got a call from a very excited club member, Ron Cruse. He simply said, “Bob, we want to make a way for you to take more kids on more trips and not have to do it all out of your own pocket.” SKIFF was born at that moment.

How have you touched the lives of military families? What kind of positive impact have your efforts had on the lives of military families – from active duty, National Guard and Reserve to veterans and survivors of fallen troops?

Since the first fishing trip conducted under the “SKIFF” banner in May of 2009 to the time of this writing, 12 October 2011, we’ve conducted exactly 51 fishing trips for 104 children. Those children have landed 2,459 fish, an average of over 23 fish per child. Standing behind those 104 children were U.S. Army and Air Force troops serving in harm’s way. By our actions we let them know we cared about them as we cared for their children – to let them know that their service is noticed and is important and is not forgotten. Standing behind those 104 child
ren were the non-deployed spouses who were suddenly left as single parents to take on the job of two people for a time as the needs of the nation required their loved ones’ attention. We provided a respite, however brief, for these spouses – 4 or 5 hours to decompress, to go shopping unaccompanied, to escape the 24/7 fray of childrearing for just a bit. These are the impacts SKIFF has brought about. In closing, I share here the words of Army Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Pearce, who, when he wrote these words, was serving in the 89th Military Police Brigade in Baghdad, Iraq …

24 March 2010

Brother Bob,

I wanted to take just a moment to send a very heartfelt thanks to you and the Austin Fly Fishing Club for taking my daughter, Ashley, and her friend, Danielle, out fishing recently at Stillhouse Lake.

As you know, Danielle’s father and I are both deployed to Baghdad, Iraq for a year and miss our daughters immensely. I am so very grateful that you would take time out of your busy schedule to be a Father figure to the girls. They both went on and on about what great time they had fishing with you; I wished I could have been there to see their faces as you guys reeled in fish after fish that day! I am incredibly proud to call you my friend for the time you sacrifice from your own family to stand in a Soldier’s place in supporting our own Children while we are gone. I am genuinely grateful Bob; thank you.

I know that the support you receive from the Austin Fly Fishing Club makes this all possible, so would you please express my sincere appreciation to them as well? I know that there are many, many grateful Children AND Soldier-Parents whose lives are touched through their generous support. The life lessons that come with this wonderful display of generosity will not be forgotten and will be shared with as many Soldiers as I can talk to about it! I am truly thrilled that an organization would dedicate its precious resources towards the support of our Soldiers’ Children. This special program touches our Army’s Families in so many ways. The Army believes that when we recruit the Soldier, we recruit the Family. Your efforts help to ensure that our Families remain “Army Strong” and that, in turn, aids us in our efforts to retain Soldiers and their Families. Ashley still beams when she talks about her fishing trip and how much she enjoyed it. I know that she and every other child that has been graced with this wonderful opportunity will be forever grateful to you.

My hat is off to the Austin Fly Fishing Club; you are all Heros to me.

On behalf of all Soldier-Parents; thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I sincerely hope your organization receives the many blessings you so richly deserve!

Very Respectfully,

Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Pearce



XO, 89th MP Brigade

Fishing the Montauk “Blitz” — Long Island, NY — 29 Sep. 2011

A few of you have e-mailed and asked if I’d fallen off the face of the planet. After all, I hadn’t posted a local fishing report in at least 3 days!

One of nine false albacore landed in a morning’s fishing off of Montauk, New York.

Paul Dixon and I with a false albacore in hand and a mountain of water coming in behind us. We experienced 8 foot seas less than a 1/2 mile off the beach.

Here the Atlantic Ocean slams into North America at Montauk Point Lighthouse shrouded in fog.

Well, I didn’t fall of the planet, but I did venture to the end of the continent … to Montauk, NY, to be exact, on the extreme eastern end of Long Island.

Each fall loads of baitfish (rainfish and bunker, mainly) exit Long Island Sound headed south down the East Coast as the Sound’s waters begin to cool.

These smaller fish are intercepted at Montauk by southward-migrating schools of striped bass, bluefish, and false albacore.

If you’re lucky and the wind, weather, and tides allow, the fishing can be spectacular.

I linked up with local guide Paul Dixon and, despite heavy seas caused by a stiff east wind the day before and fog during the first 90 minutes of our trip, we got onto some nice fish.

In all I hooked 11 false albacore, also called “little tunny” and landed 9, with other “blowups” that didn’t result in hookups.

Paul had me using a “Deadly Dick” slender jigging spoon for distance work and a white Sluggo topwater soft plastic bass lure for close-in work.

False albacore are in the tuna family and are very hard fighters. We boated fish in the 7 pound class using medium-heavy weight freshwater spinning gear spooled with braid and a fluorocarbon leader. Average fight duration was an honest 3.0 to 3.75 minutes with numerous drag stripping runs after an initial long run on the hookup.

If you like “destination fishing”, you need to time this for mid-September to mid-October and do it!!

A Young Man’s First Fish of a Lifetime — 59 Fish – Stillhouse Hollow — 17 Sep. 2011

Ka’ni holds two of our 59 fish caught this evening. The white bass on the right was the first fish Ka’ni ever caught, and the white bass on the left, measuring 14 3/8 inches, is currently the largest fish he’s ever caught!

This evening I had the opportunity to take a young man from Killeen, TX, out fishing. His name is Ka’ni Wesley and he is a 10 year old 5th Grader. I got to know Ka’ni this past summer when he came to our church’s Vacation Bible School.

Ka’ni asked the Lord to be his Savior during that time so I’d hoped to spend some one-on-one time with him to help him grow in his faith. I found out later that he doesn’t have a dad in his life, so then I really knew I needed to make it a point to have some “guy time” with him.

Well, today was the day. We met at Stillhouse Hollow at 4:00pm and fished until just shy of 8:00pm. The weather was a bit turbulent with SW winds at 8-10 and gusts 2-3 mph higher with grey clouds and light rain showers in the the area.

As we got to talking, he told me he’d never been out fishing before. My plan was to start off with the very basics by fishing for sunfish near what is left of this lake’s hydrilla now that we are 16 feet below full pool due to drought.

As we headed toward the area I had in mind, I checked an area that had been producing well for white bass lately. I count it a blessing from the Lord that, in trying to create a memorable time for Ka’ni, we found a huge concentration of white bass right on top of a mid-lake hump at Area 762 in about 30 feet of water. Sonar just lit up like a Christmas tree literally minutes into the trip, and I knew it was going to be good — offering Ka’ni some instant success to bolster his confidence!

Ka’ni and I had done some practice casting near the boat ramp, so, he already knew how to hold a spinning rod, how to manipulate the bail, close it, and begin a retrieve. We put all these tasks into practice and in no time, he had me down 3 fish to zero as I coached and took fish off the hook and just watched him just having a blast with a huge smile on his face.

That first area produced exactly 25 legal white bass for us before the school moved on.

To add some variety to the mix, we did then head on to fish for sunfish in the shallows, and Ka’ni did well at that, too. We caught a mix of bluegill sunfish and green sunfish at Area HB002 using slipfloats and maggots, and added 13 fish to our tally before the itch for bigger fish returned and we headed back out to deepwater to find some more jigging action.

Right around 6:00pm after doing a bit of searching with sonar, we found fish right on top of Area 232, and it was game-on once again. This time we bagged 17 more white bass before weather began to deteriorate and I spotted lightning in the distance to the NE of us, over the Belton area. I quickly got us off the open water and hunkered down in a protected cove. We took lemons and made lemonade here by breaking out the sunfish gear again and putting a final 4 sunfish in the boat before dark fell early on this cloudy, grey evening.

TALLY = 59 FISH, all caught and released

Start Time: 4:00p

End Time: 7:45p

Air Temp: 90F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: ~81.7F

Wind: Winds were SSW8-10 with occasional higher gusts.

Nate Did Great!! Stillhouse Hollow Fishing Guide Report, 41 Fish, 15 Sept. 2011

Nate G. of Fort Hood is a great young multi-species angler — very talented for his age!

I had the pleasure of fishing this evening with Nate G. today, son of Specialist and Mrs. Leonard Dedinas. SPC Dedinas is currently serving at COB Adder in Iraq as an Apache helicopter mechanic.

It is routine for me to ask children’s parents about their children’s experience level in advance of each trip I take that includes children, just so I know what techniques may and may not be options given the weather and fish activity, etc.

Nate’s mom told me that Nate had done “a lot” of fishing in Florida, that he could use most any kind of fishing tackle, that he had caught quite a few fish, and that he was really excited to be going fishing with me. She was absolutely right on all accounts!!

This 8 year old young man can cast long and accurately, baits his own hook, takes his own fish off the hook, picks up on and imitates successful presentation nuances very quickly, and he can flat catch fish … 41 of them on this day … more than he’d ever caught on any previous trip.

We began our day over some hydrilla focusing on sunfish and did very well there using slipfloats and maggots. After 25 fish in about as many casts, I knew I wasn’t dealing with your “average” kid here!!

We picked our weather, and as we experienced a bit of a decrease in wind and increase in grey cloud cover, we headed out searching for largemouth and white bass feeding high in the water column, and we found both.

At Area 916 and 661, we found bottom-hugging white bass beneath smaller numbers of more aggressive fish feeding on very small shad in the top 8 feet of the water column. A white TNT 180 (for cloudy conditions versus silver for sunny conditions) did the trick in 3/4 oz. today. I sat back, watched sonar, and kept Nate on the fish as he reeled in one after the other — 16 in all — before the skies got stormy and brought a quick end to the action as the sun set early behind a bank of thick clouds to the west, but it was fun while it lasted.

Nate was all for catch-and-release, but not before making sure mom saw some hard proof of his labors. He fished two white bass out of the livewell as we approached the dock at the end of the trip and grinned from ear to ear as he held them up for her and his little sister to see.

TALLY = 41 FISH, all caught and released


Start Time: 4:00p

End Time: 8:00p

Air Temp: 90F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: ~82.0F

Wind: Winds were ENE at 4-8 due to some instability.

Skies: Skies were grey and mostly cloudy.

Grumpy Old Men — Texas Edition, 106 Fish, 12 Sept. 2011, Stillhouse Hollow

Dick (left, a.k.a. Mr. Snickers) and Claude (right, a.k.a. Mr. Grumpy) show off a set of healthy white bass taken with slabs out of ~37 feet of water.

Caution: Some of the following MAY be exaggerated for humorous purposes …

With the excellent fishing we’ve been experiencing lately spurred on by the season’s first drop in water temperature, I wanted to get long-time friends and co-workers in ministry Dick Chapin and Claude Carson out on the water to experience this fishing first hand.

We met around 6:45a, not because that was the best time to meet, but because, Dick and Claude are grumpy old men (G.O.M.) who think that if on time is good, than earlier is better. Let me explain … I have been fishing 3 to 4 half-day trips a week all summer, and with the stable weather we’ve enjoyed, the fish are readily patterned. I know when they’ll start feeding and when they’ll stop. So, I asked the two of them to meet me around 6:50 – leaving us plenty of time to do all we need to do and be on our first fishing area by sunrise. The grumpy old men informed me they’d be there at 6:45, so, when I arrived at 6:20 to prepare, there the G.O.M. were, no doubt already grumpy that I wasn’t there sooner!!

Well, I thought it’d be best to assess the G.O.M.’s casting abilities before heading out after the fish, so, I armed each with a spinning rod, made sure the handles were on the correct side, and we did some practice casting. Well, Claude got a tangle, cut his line, and sent my lure to Davy Jones’ locker because, in typical G.O.M. fashion, he did not listen when I suggested that he close the bail by hand instead of using the spinning reel’s handle. So, as I fixed his spinning reel, he evidently got grumpy about how long it was taking me and (intentionally?) spilled his sweet tea so as to make my just-cleaned boat deck nice and sticky. Now while all this was going on, Dick, also in classic G.O.M. fashion, snickered loudly enough to be overheard by Claude, which made Claude even grumpier. When I finally got everything retied, I looked over and noted that Claude was taking off his cowboy boots and his socks. Dick asked him if he thought that was a courteous thing to do, and Claude shrugged the comment off. Not one to be shrugged off, Dick said, “Hmmm, I thought we were going to use artificial lures, Claude, but there you are prepping the stink bait.” Dick then snickered at his own joke, and Claude got even grumpier.

So, with that, Mr. Grumpy, Mr. Snickers, and I were now sufficiently mentally prepared to go catch some fish!! I found out that G.O.M. require a certain level of grumpiness to exist so as to function normally, and we were evidently now at this level. As we got to our first area, the fish were just starting to pop bait on the surface. I explained that we’d need to make a cast beyond the fish, reel the baits through the fish while pointing our rods at the fish, and reel with a moderate retrieve. I did this and caught a fish. Dick did this and caught a fish. Claude pointed his rod up at around 11 o’clock and did not catch a fish — now he was even grumpier. He claimed at this point that he was cursed. And so the trip went … for 4 more hours!!! But, what’s 4 hours in the big scheme of things?? I’ve known these fellows for well over a decade and it’s always been like this … in fact, you’d know somethings wrong if they weren’t fussing at one another!!

Note: None of the following has been exaggerated…

Now to be honest, neither Dick nor Claude are grumpy, but they are both old and they are both men, so, two outta three ain’t bad, especially in a fish story, which, after all, this is.

Actually, we had a great trip and did get to chuckle and poke at one another good-naturedly now and then. Once again today, Area 910 provided the first topwater action I spotted anywhere, and there were abundant quantities of gamefish and bait here, however, the winds were nearly slack at sunrise and that always means a less intense feed until winds increase. We did all boat a few largemouth from out of the visible schools of fish feeding in the area, all on swimbaits. When it became apparent that today’s topwater bite was going to be a soft one due to light winds, we went searching for bottom-hugging white bass instead.

We found four distinct, large populations of white bass from between 35 and 48 feet of water, at Areas 912, 913, 914, and 915. Each group was holding at or less than 3 feet off the bottom. We worked shad-imitating slabs through these fish in sizes roughly approximating the size of the bait we saw being chased and being regurgitated by the fish we were landing — about 2.25 to 3.5 inches.

We boated a total of 106 fish today, including 8 largemouth bass and 98 white bass.

TALLY = 106 FISH, all caught and released


Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 11:15a

Air Temp: 76F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: ~81.5F

Wind: Winds were light and variable, finally picking up from the WNW by around 7mph.

Skies: Skies were fair and cloudless.

Cast Long and Reel Fast!! 47 Fish — Stillhouse Fishing Guide Report, 10 Sep. 2011

David (L) and Kaleb (R) with proud mom, Angela, in the background following today’s trip. The smiles tell it all!!

This morning I had the pleasure of welcoming two very fine young men aboard — David and Kaleb M. Their mom, originally from El Paso, is on active duty serving at Ft. Hood.

The boys’ previous fishing experience was very limited, so, we began with casting lessons before even boarding the boat. David’s hands were a bit larger than Kaleb’s (they’re 2 years apart) so he did best with a closed-face reel, while Kaleb seemed to do best with an underspin reel. So, with our arsenal now customized, we went hunting for the big ones.

We enjoyed success in two general areas today. First, right at sunrise schools of both largemouth and white bass began to lightly surface feed near Area 910. This was nowhere near as aggressive as yesterday’s heavy feed, but still provided a “target rich environment” for my beginners. We used Spook Jr. hardbaits at first; they weren’t a good match for the forage size, but the boys needed the weight to add distance to their casts. We caught 18 fish during the first volley and before the winds went flat and the fish left the surface.

We downrigged for about 25 minutes as we hoped the wind would pick up and bring another round of surface action with it. We boated only 1 white bass and 1 largemouth on the downriggers during this lull.

The wind did pick up again from the NNW at around 4-5mph and the fish responded very quickly, this time in the vicinity of Area 206.

Despite the heavier-than-weekday weekend boat traffic, we slipped off by ourselves and fish undisturbed for all but the last 30 minutes of the trip.

From ~8:40 to 10:45a there was an unbroken stretch of topwater action. The harder the wind blew, the more aggressive the fish became, and vise-versa. While the wind rippled the surface, the Spook Jr. worked adequately, but, once it calmed, only a much smaller swimbait would do the trick. The whole trick was to cast long and reel fast. The longer the cast the more fish that got a look at the boys’ baits, and the faster the retrieve speed, the less detail the fish picked up on the artificials we were using. The shad that most fish were chasing are about 2.25 inches and swim for all they are worth when those bass are after them. We tried our best to imitate that look with good result today.

The boys boated a total of 47 fish today including 41 largemouth bass ranging from 9 1/2 to 16 1/8 inches, as well as 5 white bass, and 1 smallmouth bass.

TALLY = 47 FISH, all caught and released


Start Time: 6:50a

End Time: 11:05a

Air Temp: 62F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: ~80.5F

Wind: Winds were NW3 at trip’s start, going light and variable by 8:00a, then finally taking on a set direction and velocity at NNW4 until going flat at 11:00a.

Skies: Skies were fair and cloudless.

AWESOME TOPWATER — 120 FISH — Stillhouse Fishing Guide Report — 09 Sep. 2011

Wow! The fish fed long and hard today on top. The weather was glorious, the winds were just right, and the company was top-notch…

Ed re-mastered the art of casting with spinning gear, covered the distance, had the accuracy, and put fish after fish in the boat today.

Joe worked both swimbaits and hardbaits for variety’s sake and did extremely well on both.

Mister Joe came to life when the largemouth and whites headed to bottom and we began jigging for them — no one could keep up with him!!

Fishing was a simple as it gets today. We launched, we drove straight to where the fish should have been, they were there, and we caught them for 2 1/2 hours straight!!

Today I was joined by Ed T. and Joe O., both with Central Texas Christian School in Belton, and by Mr. O., Joe’s father. What a decent bunch of fellows they are and what an enjoyable trip that makes for both guide and client!!

We encountered, in the vicinity of Area 910, many well-dispersed schools each holding many (50-60) fish per school. This was true of both white bass and black bass. We fished with swimbaits and hardbaits and kept them on the small side so as to match the primary (but not only) forage — that being threadfin shad ~2.25 inches in length. In the first blitz of the morning, from 7:00am to 9:30am, we boated 74 fish up until the time that the topwater ended.

We then searched with sonar in this same general vicinity and found a deep school of white bass at Area 911 in 48 feet of water. We sat over these fish for a while and managed to get 7 in the boat with a few more missed as the fellows got the hang of the necessary jigging technique. This bite went soft as the gentle breeze we had began to go slack.

From 9:30 to ~10:15 we struggled on a flat calm surface, but, by ~10:25, the breeze began WNW4 again and the game was back on in the deepwater.

We again located abundant, bottom-hugging, aggressive white bass peppered with the occasional largemouth and wore these fish out, boating a final 39 fish in the last 30 minutes of our trip.

As we headed in at 11:00 (due to appointments the fellows had to keep) we left the fish biting with exactly 120 fish boated for our efforts.

TALLY = 120 FISH, all caught and released


Start Time: 6:40a

End Time: 10:55a

Air Temp: 59F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: ~80.6F

Wind: Winds were NNW4-6.

Skies: Skies were fair and cloudless.

Change of Seasons!! SKIFF Trip #20, 05 Sept. 2011, 40 Fish

The Lakey Family, big sister Abigail, Mom Heather, and little brother Asher.

Asher hoists a well-fed “schoolie” largemouth he caught all by himself.

The S.K.I.F.F. (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) Program exists to take the children of deployed or deceased soldiers on fishing trips at no charge to the soldiers’ families as a way of showing our support for our troops and providing a respite for their spouses. The following is a note to SKIFF supporters about this most recent outing…

Monday, 05 Sept. 2011

Dear Austin Fly Fishers and Friends of SKIFF,

On the heels of a brisk north wind that began in earnest on Saturday, the teeth of the season’s first cold front passed over Central Texas this morning. As I awoke to prepare for today’s trip, the outdoor temperature was 75F, by the time I left the house it was 73.8 and heading towards 70F by around 9:00am, only to bounce back thereafter with the warming of the sun. The pre-frontal and frontal conditions between now and late December will each bring with them some great fishing, and today kicked it all off.

There wasn’t another soul on the lake this morning (now remember, it’s Labor Day weekend) due to both the stiff 15+ mph wind blowing due north and “bad press” about low lake levels. That didn’t bug me or my fishing buddies today in the least.

I had big sister & little brother Abigail (6th Grade) and Asher (Kindergarten) on board today. Their dad, Sergeant Brian Lakey is currently serving as a forward observer with the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade out of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Spin Boldak. The Lakey’s all originally hale from Oklahoma where their grandpa has taken the kids out on Lake Texoma in the past.

The wind was our foe today. It made boat handling a bit tough especially when trying to keep a wary eye on a Kindergartener. Also, we’ve been having some great topwater action of late, but, that topwater, although it existed today, was largely masked by the many whitecaps blown by the 15-18mph wind.

We did a bit of downrigging to “work out the kinks” and ensure some immediate success at Area 885. We boated 2 white bass and missed a largemouth here, but then, with the ice now broken, moved on as I wasn’t seeing as much bait or gamefish as there has been of late.

We encountered our next bit of success at Area 909. There were truckloads of bait packed into this area and the mix of white bass and largemouth bass that found the bait were having a feast. Although this area ranged from 26-29 feet deep, most fish we saw on sonar were at 10-12 feet down. We just adjusted our downriggers upwards and scored 3 more fish with another one escaping here. While we were working for fish #6, I saw among the whitecaps some heavy topwater action about 150 yards away, at Area 908. We left the downriggers in, picked up our speed and got to the fish with gear already in the water. As we got to where the action was, both downrigger rods went off and the sonar lit up with fish in the bottom 4 feet of the water column.

I got the kids re-rigged quickly with pre-rigged slab spoons, we e-anchored over top of these fish and then jigged for all we were worth. I had the kids practice this jigging motion before we ever left the boatramp areas for just such a time as this. With the water temperature high and the fishes’ metabolism equally high, these fish don’t stay put very long, so, having the kids already familiar with what to do helps “make hay while the sun shines”. We boated exactly 26 keeper whites in a flurry, and then, just as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone.

We took a little break at this point to eat some snacks, snap some photos, and then discussed our gameplan (as I knew Asher’s attention span had to be nearing it’s end at this point).

We agreed that fishing with “bobbers” for sunfish would be a nice change of pace, so, that’s what we did. We found the sunfish reacted pretty quickly to the falling water temperatures (~4 degrees F over the past 2 days) and weren’t as thick as they normally are, but we managed 7 bluegills before “mom’s taxi” was to pull up signalling the end of our day. Our tally stood at exactly 40 fish, all caught and released.

On this Labor Day, I thank you all for your “labor of love” in giving of your earnings to support SKIFF, our deployed soldiers, their hard-working spouses, and the kids who benefit from these outings.


Bob Maindelle


Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 11:00a

Air Temp: 73F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: ~82.5F

Wind: Winds were N15 at trip’s start, ramping up to N18 by trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were “bluebird” and clear.

New Words for “Big”! SKIFF Trip #19, Stillhouse Hollow, 84 Fish, 03 Sep. 2011

Zach exceeded his previous personal best fishing trip tally by over 80 fish today!!

Eric had a good bit of fishing experience and adapted quickly to the 3 new techniques we used on today’s trip.

The S.K.I.F.F. (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) Program exists to take the children of deployed or deceased soldiers on fishing trips at no charge to the soldiers’ families as a way of showing our support for our troops and providing a respite for their spouses. The following is a note to SKIFF supporters about this most recent outing…

Saturday, 03 Sept. 2011

Dear Austin Fly Fishers and Friends of SKIFF,

We had another tremendous excursion today with two super young men, Zach Christenson and Eric Foster. Although both boys’ dads are deployed, Zach’s adventure fell under the SKIFF banner and Eric came by way of another booking made by his mom, but, I suspect that we’ll see him back for a SKIFF trip before too long!

Zach’s dad, Staff Sergeant Ryan Christenson, is a tanker assigned to the 2-8 Cavalry stationed at Camp Echo near Taji, Iraq. His mom, Erica, is doing admirably at juggling the schedules of 3 youngsters for the remainder of Ryan’s deployment.

Eric’s dad, Stephen, is a Private First Class. He’s new to the Army and this is the family’s first deployment experience. Stephen is an airframe repairman assigned to the 2-227th, 1st Cavalry Division aviation. He’s based in Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Fishing was simple and productive today — and just right for having kids on board!!

We began our day with twin downriggers working down at 24-25 feet, bounded by Areas 885, 886, and 887, amidst suspended bait and gamefish with a Pet Spoon on one rod and a White Willow Spoon on the other. We boated 10 fish in our first hour of fishing including 8 white bass, 1 largemouth, and 1 drum.

I have to say that spending all this time with kids on these fishing trips is stretching and modernizing my vocabulary. Eric, upon seeing our first hooked white bass approach the side of the boat as Zach reeled it in, exclaimed, “Oh man, that thing is gi-normous!”, which, after thinking about it, I assumed to be a combination of gigantic and enormous. It was, after all, an 11 inch white bass!

Next, another lesson, again from Eric, came as his own largemouth bass leapt into the air about 15 feet behind the boat. He yelled, “That thing is a sea cow!!”. It was 14 inches in length.

And so it went, fish after fish, for 4 hours straight landing 84 creatures of immeasurable proportions … we boated exactly 60 more white bass using 3/4 oz. TNT jigging spoons at Areas 906/907 and then went on to boat a final 14 sunfish (2 green sunfish and 12 bluegills) at Area HB002 on slipfloats and maggots. Were it up to me, we’d never have left the strong white bass bite, but, both boys had reddened right palms and their fingers were literally getting cramps thanks to the very aggressive white bass action we experienced.

Both boys were right around 10 years old and that is a “just right” age for the kind of fishing we experienced today. The boys were old enough to follow technique-specific guidance and had the manual dexterity to maximize our fish-catching potential once we found fish. All three of us had a blast today!

Thanks again AFF and friends of SKIFF for paving the way for trips like this to take place!


Bob Maindelle


Start Time: 6:45a

End Time: 11:05a

Air Temp: 79F at trip’s start.

Water Surface Temp: ~85.0F

Wind: Winds were light at N3 at sunrise increasing to N9 by trip’s end.

Skies: Skies were fair.