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…
Zach (L) and Mason (R) with a pair of white bass we downrigged from out of the deep with White Willow Spoons and Pet Spoons.
The boys display our largest fish of the trip, a “loner” largemouth I first spotted on sonar ghosting beneath a school of threadfin shad around 30 feet.
Thursday, 25 August, 2011
Dear Friends of S.K.I.F.F.,
This evening I arranged to pick up my fishing buddies at the Extraco Bank building in Harker Heights. With restrictions on bringing boats and trailers onto Ft. Hood proper for security reasons, I am not able to go to the doorstep of those kids who live on post any longer.
This evening, I welcomed Zach Leonard aboard for his 2nd SKIFF trip. He first came out with me in Oct. 2009 when his dad, Specialist Daniel Leonard was deployed to Iraq. Since then, SPC Leonard returned stateside and headed back to Iraq, this time for 12 months spent at Contingency Operating Base (COB) Spicher working as a medic. Zach, a 5th grader, showed up proudly dressed in his SKIFF ballcap and SKIFF t-shirt that he got back in 2009. With Zach came Mason Andrade, age 5. Mason’s mom and Zach’s mom are friends and so the boys were already acquainted with one another before the trip. Mason’s dad, Sergeant Jason Andrade is currently serving with the First Cavalry Division in Afghanistan and is stationed at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Lightning. He’ll return to the U.S. in July 2012.
There’s always a “funny” that happens on these S.K.I.F.F. trips. On this one, Mason, who evidently at age 5 has never read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” asks, 2 minutes into our drive to the boatramp, “Mr. Bob, are you old?”.
To that I said, “Well, to someone like you who is only 5, I might seem old, but so someone older than me, say 80 years old or so, I wouldn’t seem old. I am 42 years old, so, I’d say I’m in the middle.” To that, Mason said, “Mr. Bob, are you old?”. I guess he’s a yes or no kind of kid…
Well, old or not, I took the kids out in the 100F heat and we proceeded to catch fish. The strong high pressure that has made for some fabulously consistent fishing has moved off to the east over Louisiana, and a SE component to the wind kicked in which always dampens the fishing a bit. We found willing fish, but they weren’t heavily congregated and it took some coaxing to get them turned on.
We first went after white bass with our downriggers. I used both ‘riggers tonight, one with a Pet Spoon and one with a White Willow Spoon — both imitate the larger shad size that’s most common right now. We found fish — and caught 6 of them — holding down at 30 feet in an area triangulated by Areas 885, 886, and 887. After a few runs through the already scattered fish, they became few and far between.
We headed out to between Areas 871 and 872 and found fish along the deep edge of the breakline here and, using the same tactics as before, brought 11 more white bass and a 15 inch largemouth bass to net. I was hoping against hope that we’d find a school of whites ganged up on bottom, but that east wind just didn’t permit it tonight. By around 7pm or so, I could tell the novelty of downrigging had run its course.
We headed to (what remains of) a midlake hydrilla bed at Area 231 and set the boys up with some slipfloat rigs using maggots for bait and got into some sunfish (1 green, 1 longear, and 3 bluegill) before the sun set and the sunfish shut down. We’d now boated a total of 23 fish for the evening’s effort.
Stillhouse is now over 14 feet low so I’m now fishing in areas that are traditionally too deep to hold fish (as they would normally be below the thermocline at the areas I’m now fishing). So, each trip is a bit of an experiment, and, fortunately we’ve been able to crack the code on location this summer and stay on top of the fish. Pray for rain!!
As we wrapped up the trip Mrs. Andrade picked the boys up and little Mason’s mouth couldn’t move fast enough to tell of all the new things he’d seen, heard, and learned. Zach earned his First Mate certificate tonight helping me keep up with the boat, the wind, the sonar, two downriggers and one really enthusiastic 5 year old!
Thank you, Austin Fly Fishers and friends of SKIFF, for continuing to make days on the water like this happen! With school in session now thing get a bit trickier on scheduling trips, but I expect to be able to continue running SKIFF trips on Monday evenings and Thursday evenings right up until the time change in November, and then settle on holidays and Saturdays only for the cold months.
Start Time: 4:30p
End Time: 8:30p
Air Temp: 100F at trip’s start.
Water Surface Temp: ~87.3F
Wind: Winds were SSE7-8.
Skies: Skies were fair and cloudless.