Fishing For Shellcrackers – The 2018 Catch

Let’s Get Fishing

It’s the first week of April and we just had a Blue Moon (two full moons in the same month) so the Shellcrackers should be moving in to spawn.

Searching For The Shellcrackers – The Signs Are There

We are in Tavares Florida on a chain of lakes searching for the Bully of Bluegills, which should be spawning. The spawning signs we look for are; a full moon (it just ended), the Gar-Pike spawning (very active), the Gators are very active (yes see video), and water temperature. Unfortunately the water temps were lower than we were hoping for.

How We Started Our Search

We first started by checking out every spot where we have caught Shellcrackers in the past. Next we spent hours moving down the shoreline and dropping our freshwater shrimp, only stopping when we ran into a small school of Copperheads (Bluegills).

Where Are Those Bullies

So why could we not find the Shellcrackers? My guess is the spawning season was pushed back a few days or a week due to an abnormal cool Spring and high water. For this first week of April the water was two feet higher than normal, very murky, and water temps a little lower than we like. Or due to the high water the Shellcrackers found areas to spawn that we could not get to or find.

The Catch – Copperheads

Even though we could not find any Shellcrackers we did have a great time fishing and catching Copperheads. See our video on the catch!

The Bait – Freshwater Shrimp

Our bait again this year was the Freshwater Shrimp. I like this bait for the main reason it’s native to the lake and easy to net. On this trip we caught the following fish using shrimp; Bullheads, Bass, Crappies, & Copperheads.

How To Get Started In Making Maple Syrup- 2018 Best Taste

How To Start Making Maple Syrup

If you’re interested in making your own Maple Syrup you may want to start out small and learn everything you can the first year with minimal cost. I recommend setting your goal at 1 to 2 gallons of syrup, which will require ~80 gallons of sap (40 -1 ratio). What will you need; taps, buckets, evaporator/pans, fire/stove and a planned process, all which we will describe in this article.

Tapping The Trees

The first thing we need to do is tap and collect the sap, so how do we do that. Start by purchasing a few taps (24), a few buckets/pals (10), and a few feet of tubing. Next drill and tap your trees using a battery drill and small hammer. For our first year we gather 100 gallons of sap (10 trees tapped) then pulled our taps. Again we were in the learning stage and set our goal to 1 – 2 gallons of the final product “Maple Syrup”.

Sap Collecting

We started by tapping ten trees, putting in two or three taps per tree. Smaller trees use only one tap and very large trees can have up to 4 taps. We then used our Vinyl Tubing and Tee Connections and fed the tubing into our buckets (drilled hole in lid). In the first week we had plenty of sap to start boiling. You will want to filter your sap before boiling to remove wood, bugs, etc.. and filter the final syrup to remove the sugar sands.

Boiling Down The Sap

We collected 100 gallons of Sap and boiled off 95% of the water or down to 5 gallons, which gave us a very high concentration of Maple Sugar Sap. The first major boil-off was with our homemade fire pit and evaporator, using dead elm for firewood. The next step was to take the 5 gallons of Sap up to the house and boil that down to 3.5 gallons in a Turkey Cooker. Next we divided those 3.5 gallons into 3 pans to finished our boiling on the stove where we could control the heat and boil to perfection (Maple Syrup).

Fire Pit & Evaporator Boiling

Here you will need to design your own stove and evaporator. We use bricks for the stove and stainless steel pans for the evaporating. In our design we used two pans and six concrete blocks per side (recommend 9 blocks per side and 3 pans). The stainless steel pans are 6” deep and 20” long.

Materials:

Cement Blocks @ $1.05/ea
Stainless Steel Pans @ $30/ea
Turkey Cooker @ $108.99
Tree Taps “Fleet Farm CDL Maxflow 5/16” clear smart spouts (12 PK)” @ $4.29
Tee Connections “Fleet Farm CDL Maxflow 5/16” Tees (12 PK)” @ $5.29
Vinyl Tubing (10 trees 40 ft) @ $0.32/ft.
Ten Buckets with lids @ $3/ea
Filters @ $2/ea

Stages Of Boiling

Stage 1 Fire pit & Evaporator “See pictures, video & design layout”.
Stage 2 Turkey Cooker “See video”
Stage 3 Stove “See Video”

Results “Maple Syrup”

We found that the Maple Syrup was light in color (Amber) for the big leaf Maple Trees and much darker for the other Sugar Maples, as seen in the pictures.

Learnings:

We found once you’re set up and have the initial cost that collecting the sap and boiling it down in the woods is nothing but time spent. So 100 gallons or 1,000 gallons would not of been any more cost other than time and cutting more firewood. We also found out that when burning Elm we only use 30 – 40 logs for our 100 gallons and we had plenty of wood to do 5 times that. It took us 9 hours to boil our 100 gallons down and with 3 pans we may of be able to cut that to 5 hours? We did have great weather for boiling, but a Sugar Shack would help shorten the boiling time even more. We also discovered that making Maple Syrup is easy to do and was much less work than we thought it would be. As for knowing when the syrup was ready we watched for the foaming and color and took it off the stove at that time (did not use a thermometer or barometer). We must of guess correctly each time as the taste and thickness were great/perfect on each batch.

Best Bluegill Bait For Spring Fishing -2018

What is the Best Bait To Use For Bluegills In The Spring

Fishing for Bluegills in the Spring is like no other time of the year. So it’s time to get your Rod and the best Bluegills Bait ready to go. Don’t miss the action!

When Does The Bite Begin

The best time of the year for Bluegill action is as soon as the water begins to warm up (middle to late May). This is when the Bluegills move into shallow water to feed and look for spawning areas. So what is the best bait to use, by far it’s the floating dry fly/spider.

How Do I Use The Floating Spider
The floating spider can by used with a spinning/casting rod (behind a bobber) or with a fly rod. For the best action use a fly rod.

How Long Does This Bluegill Action Last

The Bluegills (Males) will come into shallow water 2 weeks before spawning, feeding aggressively. The Females will stay just in deeper water waiting for the time to lay their eggs. Since there are many types of Bluegills the spawning season can go to Mid June and later. So the best Bluegill action of the year will last four to six weeks in water depths of just a few inches.

Where to Purchase Floating spiders

My YouTube subscribers requested a new video on how to make a floating spider again, so I put the below video together. Note you can purchase these in many stores (Fleet Farm, Bass Pro, ect.) for $1.50 to $3.00 each, but you can make them for less than 7 cents. You can also make them look as nice as a purchase dry fly if you take the time, but why since the bluegills are just looking for a nice tasty ugly bug… So here I show how to make eight floating spiders for less than 7 cents each and under 15 minutes. Note; I have never caught a Bluegill with glasses so do not worry if it does not look like a perfect spider, again the bluegills are feeding aggressively and the ugliest bug you could possibly make will still see lots of action.

How Long Does It Take to Make A Dry fly

I like to make 8 spiders at one time as this seems to work best for the 5 minute epoxy I use. To make eight spiders it takes approximately 15 minutes, not counting the drying of the epoxy. Once the epoxy is dry you can go fishing.

What Materials are needed

I purchase 3mm thick foam form a hobby shop for $1, which will make up to 500 spiders, a tube of 5 minute epoxy, and either rubber strips (taken out of an old bungee cord) or flashabou for the spider legs. All these materials are shown in the video.

Show Me The Bluegill Action

This video is from last Spring with the baits I made then. I will make a new video this Spring with the baits shown in this video. The action and results will be the same.

More Action!

How To Hunt The 2nd Rut – It Takes A Rare Hunter

When Is The 2nd Rut

In the MIdwest the 2nd Rut starts the second week of December and goes to the end of the year. Now you may think this is a very tough time to archery hunt because of the cold and snow, but the opposite is true. Yes it’s very cold and walking in the snow requires more energy, but there are fewer doe in heat and the big bucks are covering a lot of area to find them.

Another advantage is that the deer are herding up, so seeing groups of 10 to 50 deer is not uncommon. If the snow is deep enough then you only need to focus on those trials heading to and from the feeding areas, so just wait them out. Many late season hunters bag big bucks during this time.

Are You Alone In The 2nd Rut

Depending on the Winter you may find yourself alone hunting the second Rut. With temperatures reaching down into the single digits and up to the low 30s most archery hunters will not venture out. The snowy cold is just to much to bare, but is there any thing better than having the woods to yourself.

Best time of the Day To Hunt The 2nd Rut

The time of day is all on your comfort level. For example I like to be there 15 minutes before light/dawn, as the deer will be bedded down on the East facing slopes waiting for the sun. Once the Sun is above the horizon they will become more active, but if you walk in at this time you will only push them out.

If the mornings are to cold, then focus on the noon hours, the bucks will be moving, scraping, and looking for doe that did not get breed during the first rut. The noon hours are also warmer so you can handle sitting in the deer stand much longer. The next best time is a couple of hours before dark. This is the time the deer will move into the fields looking for any grain that was dropped during harvest. So focus on those trails that go from the bedding areas to the feeding areas.

Snowy Hill Sides – Easy To See But Very Cold

Here are a few pictures on the land I purchased this year. These were taken during the Black Powder Season, unfortunately I still have not see a Buck that I want to take. I will try to get out a few times for the late archery season and see if I can tag one.

How To Hunt the Pre-Rut

Whitetail Deer

The Deer are in the Pre-Rut cycle now and in two weeks they will be in full Rut, it’s going to get exciting. During the pre-rut we have rattled and grunted in a lot of bucks, but just no shooters yet.

Where are the Larger Bucks

The larger bucks seem to be traveling during the early and late hours, when it’s still dark out, but that is soon to change. When those Doe come into Heat (reproductive cycle) the bigger bucks will start chasing and it will be all day long.

Signs Of Larger Bucks

Here we see large trees and even a telephone pole hit.

Bucks Taken by Archery

Here are a couple of Deer taken in the past week by a couple of friends, but I’m still waiting for something that will score higher.

Here are a couple of the videos from the first week of Gun Season