Today I ran my 14th SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trip, sponsored by the Austin Fly Fishers. SKIFF trips are provided FREE OF CHARGE to military kids who, due to death or deployment, are without a mom or dad in their life for an extended period of time.
Michael and McKensie M. of Ft. Hood were my special guests today.
Michael earned big fish honors (1st and 2nd place) today with these two nice black bass. The big girl went 3.75 pounds and 18.5 inches.
Michael DID NOT win the marshmallow roasting contest.
For each SKIFF trip I run, I provide a detailed report to the good folks at AFF. I share that report with you below:
Dear Austin Fly Fishers,
SKIFF Trip #14 was spent on the now cool, clear waters of Stillhouse Hollow with 11 year old Michael Mitchell and his 8 year old sister, McKensie Mitchell, the children of Staff Sergeant and Mrs. Michael Mitchell. SSG Mitchell is currently stationed at Camp Casey, Korea. He was sent there, unaccompanied, just months after returning from Iraq. He serves in the Air Defense Artillery. The Mitchell’s are originally from the Marysville, CA, region near Sacramento.
I picked the kids up at their home on Ft. Hood at 6:45am and we had lines in the water by 7:40am. The Lord really smiled on us today, as we found unusually active fish despite the rapidly cooling water temperatures, and despite the wet, northeast wind which typically puts the fish off. No sooner did we get on the water than we had a number of terns begin to work over schools of white bass that were forcing shad to the surface as they fed on them from beneath. We positioned ourselves at the edge of a deep flat in 23-26 feet of water after sighting fish on sonar, and began to vertical jig for these fish with slab spoons.
Both kids quickly got the hang of the “rhythm” of vertical jigging, and of properly adjusting their lure depth, and the rest was history. We put 32 fish in the boat at this first stop (Area 385) including 31 white bass ranging from 7 to 12.5 inches, and one 11 inch crappie. We found that intentionally pausing the slab triggered more hits than a slab worked with more action.
As the bite died off at our first spot, we ran downriggers for a bit, only coming up with one additional white bass. This approach was just a bit too fast for these fish that were less than enthusiastic given the contrary conditions.
We next moved on to fish an underwater hump (Area 549). As we approached at slow speed with sonar on, the electronics just lit up to reveal an abundance of gamefish and bait on or near bottom. As I dropped my slab to bottom as a test to see how the fish were going to react, I no sooner engaged the bail to stop my lure’s decent than I was fast to a fish. As I reeled it in, I could observe other schoolmates on sonar following the hooked fish. This is a sure sign of very active, aggressive fish. I release my fish, put up my rod and reel and sat and coached the kids in using a “smoking” retrieve as they proceeded to load the boat. I was tickled to find fish this aggressive under such adverse conditions. We wound up catching exactly 34 fish at this area including 32 white bass and 2 largemouth. Michael caught both of these black bass, the heaviest of which went exactly 3.75 pounds and measured 18.5 inches. It was plump and no doubt had recently dined on one of the smaller white bass in this large shoal of fish we had happened upon.
This day was a bit on the nasty side so far as weather was concerned. We started our trip at around 43F and temps only rose to 48F by trip’s end. After the fish had played out by around 10:45a, we hunted a nice, rocky clearing suitable for a marshmallow roast. I took the kids through the paces of building a fire starting with kindling and increasing the fuel size until we got some silver dollar sized pieces of wood burning. We went through nearly a whole bag of marshmallows, at least 10% of which were not incinerated as a result of the kids’ impatience to down some warm groceries.
By 12:45 the kids were safely delivered back home. Michael’s words to his mom upon arrival, “Mom, smell my hands … they smell like a largemouth!!”. Mrs. Mitchell was duly impressed.
Merry Christmas to all of you and thanks for making this happen for these kids!!