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 (May 2006):

  • Summer muskie lures

  • Surf-rod length for stripers and blues

  • Bluegill-spawning time and temperature

  • Stocking Florida bass

  • What's a kelt?

  • Line spooled backward?

    Summer muskie lures

    Question: I'm an avid bass fisherman turned muskie fisherman and was wondering what lures work well for muskie in the summer.

    Submitted by Steve S.

    Answer: I have to admit that nearly all of my muskie fishing takes place in the fall.

    Also, I am not averse to trolling for these fish, which I think would be useful in summer when they are deeper, assuming that you can troll in the areas you fish.

    That said, I have fished for muskies in summer, and know that large creature-bodied soft baits on jigs work well for probing the deeper holes and edges of weedlines. I'd also focus on large crankbaits (5 to 8 inches long) that can be retrieved in the 10- to 15-foot range; it's a lot of work to cast and crank these, and trolling with the same allows for coverage of a lot of ground.

    Another good choice is a heavy-bodied bucktail spinner; you'll need to experiment with weight and size and retrieve to get it to work slow enough so the blade turns yet the lure sinks enough to be in the deeper zone. Think dark colors in all of these.

    Surf-rod length for stripers and blues

    Q: This summer I'm going to Provincetown on Cape Cod and want to fish for bluefish and striped bass. I'll be mostly surf fishing. What length rod is ideal for both species and what is the shortest that I can get away with for each species?

    L. S.

    A: When you're fishing from the surf you generally need a long rod to power a heavy lure or weighted bait out beyond the surf line. We're talking at least an 8- to 9-foot rod here, and many surf regulars use 10- to 12-footers.

    Spinning tackle is preferred by most surf anglers. However, if the fish are closer to the beach, you may be able to use a 7-foot spinning rod, making casts of up to 100 feet with appropriate-sized spoons and plugs.

    Wet wading, or getting into the water wearing chest-high waders, will help a great deal when you have a shorter rod, as you can gain 20 to 30 feet of casting distance by getting into the water rather than fishing from the foam line on the beach.

    Bluegill-spawning time and temperature

    Q: I live in northern Illinois just south of Chicago and am looking for the time and water temperature for bluegill spawning in this area.

    M. A.

    A: Could be any day now, if it hasn't happened already. Bluegills (and other members of the sunfish clan) spawn when the water temperature is in the upper 60s and low 70s. This should occur in mid-spring in your area, and just after largemouth bass have spawned, although in some places around the country, there may be more than one spawn during a year.

    Bluegills and other sunfish make round nests in relatively shallow water over sandy or muddy bottoms; these can usually be observed near shore, and often are clustered, so you should be able to see the spawning nests and observe fish patrolling them during the spawning season.

    Stocking Florida bass

    Q: Do you know where I can get some Florida hybrid largemouth bass? My uncle has a 65-acre lake that has phenomenal cover, and I'd like to put some quality fish in but don't know where to get these.

    J. W.

    A: The so-called "Florida bass" is not a hybrid largemouth bass, but a subspecies of largemouth bass, which itself is often called a "northern largemouth." This fish occurs naturally in Florida. Mixtures of Florida bass and northern largemouth, which are somewhat of a hybrid, are called intergrades, since they are neither pure Florida nor pure northern strains; they occur from northern Florida to Maryland. Neither of these may be appropriate for you if you're too far north, as Florida bass, which grow large, are not very tolerant of cold water.

    If you do some research via the Internet you should be able to get information on suppliers. A reputable one that I know of is Ken Holyoak at Ken's Hatchery & Fish Farm, Inc.; call 229-532-6135 or visit www.kens-fishfarm.com.

    Also check with the state fisheries agency to see if you need a permit, even for stocking a private pond. Make certain that you understand what you're getting, however, as there is a big difference in these fish and in their suitability for your small lake. Simply buying Florida bass is not a guarantee that they'll grow large or that you'll catch them.

    What's a kelt?

    Q: I read a magazine article that referred to a salmon as a kelt. What is this?


    A: Kelt is a term for sea-run Atlantic salmon that have overwintered in a river and that return to saltwater in the spring. These fish are also called "black" salmon, or spring salmon (although "spring" should not be confused with chinook salmon in the Pacific Northwest, which are commonly called "springs"). Kelts are darker than fresh, bright-silver incoming Atlantic salmon, and they also feed in the spring, the only time when sea-run Atlantic salmon do feed in freshwater.

    Line spooled backward?

    Q: I spooled new line on my spinning reel, but after each cast the line loops around on itself. My friend said that I spooled the line backwards. Is this possible?

    T. M.

    A: To put line on backwards you would have to turn the handle in reverse to spool the line on. You didn't hold the rod and reel upside down, did you? (The reel should be under the rod.) More likely, you didn't put any tension on the line while spooling it on (run it through the fingers of the hand that holds the rod), you have line that has a lot of memory (giving it plenty of springy coils), and/or your reel does not have a good anti-reverse so that the reel spool allows loose line to loop off the spool when the line is not under tension.

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