Questions for Ken


  • Also see Ken Schultz' latest fishing column, "Solving the pike puzzle at Kesagami."

    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 (March 2006):

  • When sauger and saugeye spawn

  • Proper line for a reel

  • Early-season pike

  • Big bass in a clear reservoir

  • Releasing a deeply hooked trout

  • Fixing tangled float rig

    When sauger and saugeye spawn

    Question: What time of year do sauger and saugeye spawn, and what can you catch them on then?

    Submitted by B.D.

    Answer: Saugers spawn in late winter and early spring, when the water temperature is between 41 and 46 degrees; saugeye spawn between 40 and 50 degrees. Try a jig tipped with a live minnow, worm or leech, and focus on gravel or rock bottoms.

    Proper line for a reel

    Q: Can I use a line that is heavier than what the reel is rated for?

    G. R.

    A: Yes. However, the problem with using a line heavier than what is recommended is that you may have diminished line capacity due to a usually larger diameter, and the thicker line may not lay well on the spool, which means that it can balloon off, cause diminished casting distance and be generally more problematic to use. On the other hand, if you move up to a heavier line than is recommended, but use a type or brand that has a diameter that is equivalent to what is recommended for the reel, then there may not be casting issues to deal with and you merely need to be sure that you aren't overpowering the strength components of the reel.

    Early-season pike

    Q: In March I'll be fishing a fairly large lake in north-central Nebraska. The bottom is sandy and flat, with depths from 6 to 11 feet. What type of lures do I use this early to catch northern pike?


    A: Although pike are aggressive fish, you may find that the water is cold and they are still sluggish in March. If there's open water that has warmed up, look for the pike to be shallow, and possibly in reeds. If you find fish shallow, then try large, soft jerkbaits (on wire leaders), super-shallow-running plugs (in pockets) and large jigs with soft-plastic bodies. If the water in the shallows is warm, then try faster-moving lures. If the shallows don't produce, then work deeper water, and fish more slowly, using jerkbaits and jigs.

    Big bass in a clear reservoir

    Q: I fish a clear, deep, manmade reservoir in California. You can see 16 or more feet into the water and see all of the bass swimming around. Some of them are huge. I can catch trout and panfish but not the big bass, no matter whether I try every plastic and every rig type and all manner of crankbaits. Occasionally someone catches a big bass on a live shiner. Do you have any suggestions?

    Andrew H.

    A: Obviously there is no easy answer to this. I'm wondering if you can fish at night on this reservoir. These bass are eating everything there, including the trout, and are so wary that you have to get an advantage somehow. I believe that at night, among artificials, I'd try various soft-bodied jigs and deep-running crankbaits that suspend, and that I'd both try vertical jigging and trolling by using an electric motor. You can also try live bait, such as shiners or crayfish, assuming that it is illegal to fish with trout and bluegills. You may also need to use a fluorocarbon leader ahead of your lure or bait and a fairly light, thin-diameter thin.

    Releasing a deeply hooked trout

    Q: I was recently fishing with my 4-year-old son when he caught a 14-inch trout that was deeply hooked on a plastic worm. I figured if I pulled too hard on the hook I'd rip the insides of the fish. So I cut the line and hoped that maybe it would be able to pass the bait in time, and at least I'd get to see it swim away. I told my son the fish would be fine, but I really wonder. What is the best thing to do?

    James H.

    A: Assuming that the fish was not bleeding and that you handled it carefully, it sounds like you did the right thing. You could choose to keep only a deeply hooked fish for a meal (if legal where you were fishing) , but if you don't want to keep the fish, or can't, then you have to do the best thing under the circumstances. You probably used a hook that will corrode in time (not true in freshwater of cadmium or stainless steel hooks), which will benefit the fish. Being deeply hooked is a problem and does lead to higher delayed mortality (in general), than superficial hooking. When you're using a bait or lure that is likely to be swallowed, try to strike quickly before the fish swallows it; this will help avoid deep-hooking.

    Fixing tangled float rig

    Q: Often when I cast a float and baited hook, the rig gets tangled when I cast. How do you prevent this?

    A: When it comes to casting modern floats, always lob the float upward slowly and smoothly. Never snatch it or cast it quickly, which causes tangles. When a float starts to lose momentum, start to feather the line as it comes off the spool; this pulls the float back so the baited hook passes over the float before it hits the water.

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