Questions for Ken

Do you have a question about fishing? Send it to espn@winnercomm.com
with Questions for Ken in the subject line and your name in the email.

Because of Ken's busy schedule, the volume of questions and the fact that he's out fishing a lot, he cannot reply personally nor answer every question. Before you send an email with a sport-fishing question, check out the inventory of Q&As already here. Perhaps your topic has been covered.

Ken will answer a number of questions here each month. Here's what's on his agenda this month (April 2006):

  • He forgot his fillet knife

  • Bass from shore

  • Tidal water fishing

  • Filleting large saltwater fish

  • 100 percent knots

  • Best baits for crappie

    He forgot his fillet knife

    Question: I was out fishing the other day, and wanted to fillet a fresh fish for lunch, but I forgot to bring along my trusty fillet knife! So I ate the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I brought instead. Do you have any suggestions on what I could have done?

    — Submitted by Herman T.

    Answer: Hey Herman, I'm guessing that you were probably just catching little fingerlings, so take your car key, puncture a hole in the gut, scrape the innards out, then toast 'em over a fire on a stick and pop 'em down. If you have breadcrumbs and roll them in that and then pan-fry them, all the better. I think you did the right thing by eating your peanut butter and jelly, but I'm amazed that you forgot to bring along at least a pen knife. Or that you didn't have some type of knife back in your car. My first suggestion is to be more prepared. If you had brought your knife, did you also have matches or a lighter for making a fire (another good idea), assuming that you could legally make a fire wherever you were fishing? If not, were you going to fillet the fish and then eat it raw (not a particularly good idea for freshwater fish that often have parasites). Anyway, back to the filleting problem, my suggestion for the future is that you file down an old and unused key, slip it on your keychain, and use that in the future to at least gut the fish in a halfway suitable manner. Personally, I would go looking for another angler with a knife.

    Bass from shore

    Q: I live in Ohio and fish one lake nearby from shore, since I don't have a boat. I only fish for bass, but for some reason I am not having very much luck catching them. I have almost no luck with crankbaits or spinnerbaits, and only have modest success on soft jerk baits and worms. Do you have any idea what I am doing wrong or where I should be fishing and how I should be fishing this area?

    — Brian McC.

    A: Hey, Brian, it's tough to say since I know nothing about the lake and its size or features, what other species are in it, etc. Since it is early in the year as you write this, and are having no luck on cranks or spinnerbaits, which often do well early in the season, I have to guess that perhaps the lake gets a lot of fishing pressure and that the bass have seen a lot of lures. This may be why lures that require a more subtle presentation are a little more effective. I would talk to other anglers who fish on the lake and see what you can learn from them about effective lure types and colors. I'd also try to learn about the contour of the lake and its submerged features, especially near shore. Early in the season the shallow flats, inlets, and coves are likely to be good, but later on, you may want to concentrate along shorelines that drop more quickly and in places where you can reach deeper submerged aquatic vegetation (if it exists). Good luck.

    Tidal water fishing

    Q: I will be bass fishing in tidal water this spring for the first time. Are there any fundamentals on fishing tidal water that I should know?

    — Jim H.

    A: Yes, tidal movement affects fish a great deal, especially if there's a significant change in water levels. Often, the hour or two before and after high tide produces the best results. If you are fishing in backwater areas, realize that you may have to plan for your exit or risk being left high and dry by falling water. Also, a place where there is significant current movement in some places (like where a slough enters the river), will be important for some species of fish to easily capture food (which washes out with current). Get a tide table and figure out what the changes are where you'll be fishing. During the low tidal stage, focus on main river areas that have cover and which are not as much affected as shallower backwaters.

    Filleting large saltwater fish

    Q: How do you fillet large saltwater fish?

    — L. C.

    A: First, make sure you have your fillet knife, unlike my friend Herman (see above). How you do this depends on how large the fish is, but you can start with a longer knife than you'd use for freshwater fish, probably with an 8- to 10-inch-long blade that's very sharp. The actual filleting process for most large saltwater fish is the same as it is for smaller fish, although you have to be more careful, and repeat some cuts. Start by slicing along the backbone from the back (top) of the fish, and make deeper repeat slices while using your non-cutting hand to lift back the meat so you can cut without hacking the flesh. Trim away the meat over the rib cage, then insert the blade under the flesh by the tail to slice backward and remove the skin.

    100 percent knots

    Q: Do you know any 100 percent fishing knots for super lines?

    — A.M.

    A: By super lines I believe you mean strong, thin-diameter, gel-spun, polyethylene lines, which are also known as microfilament lines. These are tough to tie good knots in and it's important that you do tie them very carefully. I primarily use a Uni Knot for this, but a Palomar also works well. Both can give 100 percent when done right. Microfilament lines are very slick, so what you can do with really thin diameter versions is use a doubled length of line to make a Uni Knot, which absolutely prevents slippage. Double the last 6 to 8 inches of the line, pass the doubled line through the hook eye, then make your knot with doubled strands just as you would with single strands. Pull up on all ends to snug the knot firmly, and be careful when you cut off the tag ends.

    Best baits for crappie

    Q: What are the best artificial and natural baits for crappie?

    — H.G.S.

    A: The best natural bait is probably a small minnow, since crappies are notorious for eating small baitfish; the best lure is probably a small jig. You can fish a minnow beneath a float, or live-line it, usually with the lightest split shot possible. You can fish a 1/8-ounce (or lighter) jig with or without a float, but always slowly and usually in a vertical manner; use a jig with a fuzzy hair or synthetic body, or a small soft grub, but avoid long curly tails.

    For more information on angling, see Ken Schultz's Fishing Encyclopedia, available through www.kenschultz.com.