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 the moon (to the right of Braden’s ear!) rose and the sun set, the fishing tapered off very quickly, but not before both kids loaded the boat with white bass and a few largemouth this cloud-cooled August evening.
This is a side-by-side screen shot showing a sonar (L) and DownScan (R) image of the huge school of white bass we hovered over for nearly and hour. This school numbered several hundred individual fish. On the left half of the screen, the massive school is the collection of red “streaks” at between 30 and 40 feet deep. This school was nearly 8 feet thick and about 20 yards in diameter!!
The following is my report to the membership of the Austin Fly Fishers and other SKIFF supporters who make this program possible …
Friday, 12 August 2011
Dear Friends of S.K.I.F.F.,
This evening I fished with Rebecca Knowles (6th Grade), the daughter of Chief Warrant Officer Jay Knowles and his wife, Susan, and with Braden Eldridge (Kindergarten), the son of Captain Kyle Eldridge and his wife, Caitlyn. Rebecca not only saw her dad head to Afghanistan this past month, but earlier today sent her oldest sister off to Texas Christian University, so, we planned a pick-me-up fishing trip to help keep her spirits up. As for little Braden, he’s been wanting to go fishing for a while, but wound up breaking his arm up near the elbow a while ago and was on “no fishing” status for about 6 weeks as he mended from that injury.
Braden’s dad, Kyle, is currently stationed at Contingency Operating Site (COS) Marez in Afghanistan with the 5/82 Field Artillery as a battery commander. CW4 Knowles is stationed in Kabul and will look forward to retirement shortly following his return from this deployment.
I looked ahead at the weather for this weekend and saw a lot of turbulent activity headed our way from the west and decided to bump this trip up a few hours to Friday evening ahead of what could be some stormy weather for Saturday morning.
As it turned out, a small disturbance that dropped a bit of rain on Lampasas county passed to the north of us during our trip. The grey clouds on the southern edge of this system covered the sun for us and dropped both the light level and temperature substantially. The grey conditions coincided with some great fishing.
We got right on the fish less than 10 minutes into the trip right between Areas 868 and 870 using downriggers rigged with Pet Spoons on the business end of the line. Braden took the first crack at the fish and then he and Rebecca took turns thereafter, boating 18 fish in the first 90 minutes of the trip. This catch consisted of 15 white bass and 3 largemouth. Things then went soft here as the winds slacked off and we experienced a lull until around 7:00pm when the winds began to pick up again, this time from just W. of S.
At this time, I searched with sonar along a breakline which is normally too deep to hold fish, but, with Stillhouse down over 12′, things have changed and I found a great many fish suspended just off the face of the slope here at Area 871 to 872. The fish were so thick (see sonar screen shot) that 3 out of 5 times we dropped our slabs down towards bottom, the fish would strike the slab before it reached the bottom. This was easy fishing for the last hour of the trip, and just the scenario you’d hope for with a 5 year old on board. The fish were so active and competitive in this heavily schooled situation that technique really didn’t matter. If a bait got to the right depth and moved, it was going to result in a hooked fish! We boated the balance of our fish right at this area — 30 fish in all — until the fish stopped as the full moon rose, right at sunset.
One little “funny” on the way home … I had the radio tuned to “KLOVE”, a Christian radio station. Rebecca listened for a while and asked if we could put it on “AIR-1” because it was a Christian radio station. I let her know that the station I had it on was a Christian station. To that she said something to the effect of, “Yeah, but they play old songs that mainly old people listen to.”. I just grinned and pushed the button!
I got to speak with both moms before and after the trip and both were anxious to get this summary so they could pass it on to their husbands. Mrs. Eldridge was going to use the downtime during our trip to get some “honey do’s” done in advance of Captain Eldridge’s return in a few short weeks, so she was very appreciative of the opportunity this trip presented for both her and Braden.
Thank you all for your support to both our soldiers serving in harm’s way, and to their spouses doing double-duty as mom and dad for a year a time.
Start Time: 4:20p
End Time: 8:35p
Air Temp: 96F at trip’s start.
Water Surface Temp: ~86.8F
Wind: Winds were S13 at trip’s start, settling slowly down to near calm at sunset.
Skies: Skies were entirely overcast as the southernmost edge of a storm system that passed to the north of us obscured the sun, cut the heat, and sparked some good fish activity.