This morning I conducted the 14th SKIFF trip of the 2014 season by welcoming aboard 10-year-old Kyla Harding and her mom, Liz. SKIFF (Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun) trips are provided free of charge to families whose children are separated from a parent due to that parent’s military service thanks to the Austin Fly Fishers and a network of supportive individuals from all over the U.S. All it takes is a phone call from a parent to me at 254-368-7411 to reserve a date.
Kyla is the daughter of U.S. Army Sergeant David Harding, and his wife, Liz Harding. Kyla is now nearly 11 years old and, as a result of his military service which has included combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan and unaccompanied tours to South Korea, SGT Harding has only been living under the same roof for 4 of those 11 years. Over the past 2 years he's only been able to see his family for a total of 3 weeks, thanks to an unaccompanied tour to Korea, followed by an assignment to a post in Maryland.
Kyla is a pleasant, inquisitive, energetic young lady and very willing to give new things a try. She handled and released the fish we caught with no fear whatsoever (after naming most of them, of course).
We were actually expecting a second girl to join us today and for that reason hung around in the boat ramp area for a few minutes beyond our 6:30am start time. While we were waiting, I moved us to some nearby hydrilla beds and Kyla effortlessly put 19 sunfish (greens and bluegills) in the boat with a slip-float rig using a Gulp! bait on a small hook to attract these fish.
When it was apparent our other angler was not going to show, we headed on out to open water in pursuit of the mighty white bass. After looking over a few patches of bottom, sonar revealed what we were hoping to find -- schools of white bass suspended down around 29-31 feet over deeper water -- just right for a downrigging approach. Kyla took care of letting our lines the right distance behind the boat using the Abu Garcia 5500LC line counter reels recently provided to SKIFF by the folks at Pure Fishing in support of the SKIFF program. The line counter gives a numeric display of the number of feet of line going off the reel, so, I'd just call out a number and Kyla would get the job done. Once the lines were the right distance behind the boat, I clipped the lines into the downrigger and Kyla would then press the "DOWN" button on the downriggers to get the baits to the right depth. We'd then watch sonar for schools of fish, and, when they showed up, would turn our eyes on the rods to see if we'd get a strike. Kyla quickly got the hang of what our quarry looked like on sonar, and called them "herds" instead of "schools", but, we all knew what she meant.
We picked up 8 white bass in this way, including 2 sets of doubles before the novelty wore off, after which Kyla requested we do some more sunfishing, which we did.
In our last 30 minutes I suggested we cap the trip off with a bit more white bass fishing, and Kyla was once again game for that. We boated 4 more white bass at what was going to be our final stop.
On our way in, a gentleman fishing with what appeared to be his two grandkids flagged us down. I idled over and he was kind enough to let us know he'd located a nice school of white bass and, seeing I had a child on board, invited us to join in the fun. This allowed me to introduce Kyla to the technique of vertical jigging with a slab spoon. We caught a final 3 white bass in short order here before the fish dispersed. We thanked the man for his courtesy and headed on in.
Our catch today consisted of 15 white bass and 31 sunfish (greens and bluegills).
TALLY = 46 FISH
Start Time: 6:30am
End Time: 10:45am
Air Temp. @ Trip's Start: 70.6F
Water Surface Temp: 83.2F
Wind Speed & Direction: N3-5
Sky Conditions: Fair skies with thin grey clouds in the east, clearing by 10:15am
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
**Area Sunfish at 200, 1416, and 239
**Area White bass via downrigging at 883 and 961
**Area White bass via vertical jigging at 1415