We shall now proceed to do a little surface fishing by casting artificial baits from the shore as we walk round the lake, beginning at the inlet, A. Attaching a three-inch bass-terror minnow, we cast from A all round the inlet, as far out as it is possible, reeling in the lure almost to our feet every time. Moving our position, we then cast the minnow round about the tree trunks, at B. If we don't succeed with minnows, we change our lure and put on the frog, a brown color, because that color is most likely to imitate frogs which abide in such a situation. Whether we succeed or not, we continue to cast the frog among the submerged logs for pickerel, and out farther for bass, moving alongshore until we come to grassy shallows and try with a large-size grasshopper for both pickerel and bass, casting first near shore, gradually farther out to where the bass lie, at dotted line. From the corner bend below C we again change our lure to a green frog and try for the pike lying below the lily-pads. Going round the other bend, we cast toward D for pickerel and farther out to the bass, at dotted line.
Walking around, crossing the outlet, at E, we there take a stand. Changing our green frog to a brown one, we cast to F, quite near shore, and as far out to G as we can. Walking down alongshore from F we change our lure again to a minnow. If our previous effort with a minnow at the inlet, where we commenced, was effective in getting fish, we choose the same size minnow; if not, we try one smaller in size, a little two-inch darter, an imitation of a silverside. Casting to the dotted line, we proceed alongshore, till we come again to the inlet. Should it happen that weather and season conditions are right, and we get a fair bag of fish, we content ourselves with not making changes in the lures. If otherwise, we change from large to small, and different colors of lures, but we firmly cling to the use of exact imitations of the fish food located on the chart.
We then choose another day, with favorable weather, to try bottom fishing from a boat, with a different rig that has a sinker attachment to carry the floating lures near the bottom, using the same lures with the addition of the hellgram-mite and crawfish. If the wind blows and we have no oarsman, we row out beyond the dotted line to about fifty feet from shore, to anchor in selected places. We can begin by trying the rocky plateau, about fifteen feet out in the lake, from G, using as bait the crawfish and casting from place to place till a strike occurs. If not, we take up anchor and row around the line toward F, still fishing with the crawfish. From that we can change and try the hellgrammite in various rocky spots, changing the baits if unsuccessful, and continue fishing with baits that get success. From F, we row across to within fifteen feet of dotted line, at D, with green frog as lure, changing again to grasshopper and minnow if no success occurs. Should you desire to fish exclusively for bass, it will perhaps be best to fish the dotted line with a varied assortment of minnows, trying a change to hellgrammites and crawfish at such places as B and F. If you are not successful in casting, and consider you might have more luck in trolling, you row along the deep-water chart line, using a large-size minnow as lure. Neither the frog nor crawfish is suitable for trolling, but with a light sinker you can troll with excellent results by using the hellgrammites, minnows, and large-size grasshoppers; and also the large-size cricket is almost certain to get bass.
By nature, bass are pugnacious, impetuous, Rooseveltian fighters, jealous of any moving object that resembles food within their vision, following after the lure for a considerable distance, to take or not to take. The inactive response of bass to our lures is not due to overfeeding, but rather to peculiar traits, in their habits.
Muskellunge, pike, and pickerel, also wall-eye, usually take a position and lie still at a distance of two feet (more or less) from the bottom, to run up and down, as the case may be, when, upon observing their prey, they dart like lightning after it, to return to the same spot to gorge it. Sometimes, to be sure, we observe members of the Lucius family lying still, basking in the sun near the surface, close to or under some heavy aquatic vegetation. At such periods they are not generally responsive to any lure, though I am inclined to think if an exact imitation of their natural food was moved within their vision they would dart for it instantly.
Some species of game-fishes have periods of inactive feeding. This largely depends upon the weather, the season, and the time of day, particularly is it so of trout, muskellunge and bass. At times, they seem to be utterly indifferent for a period; then, all of a sudden (as if a general commanded them to fall to), they begin in right good earnest to feed; not isolated cases, but every one of them. If you are at all observing you will often notice, shortly after sundown, a strange dearth of insects. Then the wind goes down, and all at once the air is full of them, and the placid water, so quiet before, bubbles all over with rising trout. This does not only appear in a limited area, but inquiries have revealed the fact that anglers fishing at the same time twenty miles up and down stream experienced exactly the change we had.
I have noticed this same apathy in bass, when I tried every means to induce them at the period when I used live bait; and in disgust I determined to quit - when they suddenly responded and I filled my basket in quick order. An instance of this kind occurred late in July this year, when I caught fourteen bass in rapid succession on my small artificial crawfish, without moving an inch from the place I was fishing. I once fished diligently for muskellunge in Chautauqua Lake for four successive days without a single strike, under the guidance of a local expert, the lake and fish being a new experience to me. Then trying the fifth, a rainy day, I caught three in two hours, 18 pounds, 13 pounds, and 9 pounds in weight, which fully repaid me in splendid battles with leaping fish for my patient endeavors.
Muskellunge feeding on minnows.