Hook #5: 100-Fish Day

Big Butte Creek, Little Butte Creek, Medco Pond, Willow Lake, OR
Trip Date: August 5, 2011

“A good plan implemented today, is better than the perfect plan implemented tomorrow.”

General George S. Patton’s words should be taken to heart in our daily lives, but are especially true when it comes to fishing. Research and reading are incredibly important, but no matter how knowledgeable you are, you can’t catch fish from behind a computer or magazine.

When I set out the morning of August 5, 2011, I had a good plan: try to break my personal record for fish caught in a single day (57).

Little Butte Creek
If the first stop, Little Butte Creek, was any indicator, I had no chance.

The two Brook Trout I caught there on my favorite small Rainbow Holographic Panther Martins were beautiful, but small, and I burned almost half an hour getting them to bite.

Running Total: 2

A particularly beautiful Little Butte Creek brookie.
A particularly beautiful Little Butte Creek brookie.

Willow Lake
Day-Use Fees are commonplace at lakes throughout Southern Oregon, including at my second stop that day: Willow Lake. Unfortunately, for a broke college student who often didn’t eat on days he went fishing to account for the gas spent driving to and from the lake, paying to park was not an option.

Since the fee is charged to park a vehicle on the grounds, and hikers and cyclists don’t have to pay, I always tried to find a free place to park and then walked in when possible.

At Willow, I always parked on the Forest Service land just outside the gate on the south side of the road, then walked in to fish the corner of the dam, where the Yellow Perch congregate.

You’ll cast in a crappie jig or worm and reel it in. Maybe one or two fish will follow and nip at it. The next cast, four or five. Then a dozen. That day, despite a small school of maybe 25-30 fish trailing my jig, I caught just three of the bait-stealing fish.

It was now late afternoon, and my chances were not looking good.

Running Total: 5. 

Big Butte Creek
A few miles down the Butte Falls Highway, I stopped at Big Butte Creek, hoping the trout there would be more compliant. While I did catch two-of-three sport species found there (Coastal Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout), I only caught one of each, putting my record still 50 fish away.

Running Total: 7. 

Coastal Cutthroats often hybridize with Rainbows to produce "Cutbows," but many of the fish do retain genetic purity.
Coastal Cutthroats often hybridize with Rainbows to produce “Cutbows,” but many of the fish do retain genetic purity. The fish pictured here is likely a hybrid.

Medco Pond
Driving up to Medco Pond is kind of anticlimactic. After driving 12.5 miles on the winding, dangerous Butte Falls-Prospect Road, you arrive at a gravel parking lot with no amenities. The setting is pretty, but it doesn’t look like the destination fishing spot it really is.

Most people fish along that gravel parking area, sitting in or near their cars while soaking a worm or Rainbow Power Bait for the skinny hatchery ‘bows that rarely top 10″ in length. On a good day, these folks might catch three-to-five fish apiece.

Another group will fish with a worm or crappie jig suspended under a bobber. They will often do a little better, sometimes catching as many as 10-15 fish in a day.

With 50 fish to go, I knew it was a long shot, but I also knew I didn’t fish like either group. Using a tiny ice fishing jig tipped with the smallest piece of worm I could pinch off, I caught fish after fish.

Cast, let the lure sink, then reel up a few times and repeat. It was insanely effective.

I caught 43 quite quickly, paired with the seven I’d already caught, it made 50.

Then 57. I’d tied my record.

58.

60.

70.

80.

Then it slowed. I was already breaking my personal record with each fish, but I was greedy. This close to 100, I pushed until the bitter end, hitting the mark just before dark.

Pitch counters are a great way to keep track of how many fish you've caught. I used them for almost 10 years.
Pitch counters are a great way to keep track of how many fish you’ve caught. I used them for almost 10 years.

I don’t know if it was because I liked the movie 101 Dalmatians, or maybe just because I was compulsive, but I decided to end at 101.

It took me nearly 20 minutes to catch #101. Irritating, because there had been times that day when I’d catch five or six fish on as many casts but now that I wanted just one more … well, I really couldn’t complain.

At the time, I used a pitch counter to keep track of the fish I’d caught in a day, and few things in life were more satisfying than clicking it that final, 101st time on that balmy August night.

Totals: 
84 Bluegill
6 Black Crappie
4 Largemouth Bass
3 Yellow Perch
2 Brook Trout
1 Coastal Cutthroat Trout
1 Rainbow Trout

#CaughtOvgard

Read Hook #6: Highs and Lows.

Hook #1: Record Keeping

Spencer Creek
Tiger Lilies, one of my favorite flowers, grow wild on the banks of Spencer Creek and can be found in moderate numbers during the summer.

Spencer Creek, OR
Trip Date: May 25, 2004

I didn’t know it yet, but my life was about to change forever.

As I loaded fishing gear into the car with my dad, my brother Jake, and our family friends, the Wogans, I had no idea that an afternoon of fishing at Spencer Creek, the southernmost Oregon tributary to the Klamath River, would impact my life so profoundly that I’d develop a lifelong passion — some call it an obsession — with fishing.

For it was on this trip that Judge Cameron Wogan, one of my dad’s closest friends since college, told me he had begun to keep a journal detailing his hunts and fishing trips.

He recorded the date, location, weather conditions, and other information relevant to why he did (or didn’t) catch fish on a given outing.

While it's easy to catch fish in Spencer Creek, it's not easy to navigate.
While it’s easy to catch fish in Spencer Creek, it’s not easy to navigate.

I wasn’t quite 14, but I saw the wisdom in it, and on that day I began keeping records. I faithfully poured every trip into that journal. Then it filled up, so I got another. And another. For seven and a half years.

After filling six paper journals of about 150 pages each, I decided to enter the digital age, instead recording trips on what I titled Trip Log in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. It listed the date, location, unit/zone, and a list of notes about the trip that replaced my journaling altogether.

Trip Log Screenshot

At the time, I was also equally into hunting, and prior to purchasing a new license each year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) required hunters to complete a survey saying how many birds they’d killed in the prior season. So, rather than guess like most people, I decided to keep a log of how many of each species I got fishing, hunting, or trapping.

One for each season, which I called the Season Bag and one continually-used one, which I called the Lifetime Bag

Annual Bag Screenshot Lifetime Bag Screenshot

My final spreadsheet kept track of my largest fish for each species and a list of all trips where I caught more than 5 fish in a day (as of the time of writing, my best ever was 319 fish in one day). I called this one the Fishing Hall of Fame

Fishing Hall of Fame Screenshot

Now, more than 10 years later, I can look back and see where the fish were biting at a certain time of year, what I caught them on, what my largest fish were, and how many fish I’ve caught in my lifetime.

If you’re serious about fishing, or just think you’d like to start keeping records of your own, you can. Feel free to use my templates as an example if you want to. If you’re not familiar with Excel, consider buying the relatively inexpensive >Excel for Dummies by clicking here: Excel for Dummies.

#CaughtOvgard

Read Hook #2: Fish of a Lifetime.