Aiden James Striper Squirrels

On the Water Test: “Striper Squirrels” topwater baits

As you guys know, I’m a topwater striper junkie and that means I have to try out every new bait that comes down the pike. There are, of course, tons of great surface baits out there (I’ve been a huge fan of the good ol’ Pencil Popper for decades), but I recently had a chance to try out one that already has me making permanent room in my box for it: The 5″ Striper Squirrel by Aiden James Lures

These lures are really cool — they are hand-carved out of poplar, which is a nice change from all the plastic and particle board stuff currently out on the market. But that doesn’t mean the Striper Squirrels don’t have some modern technology built in. They feature an internal rattle chamber that makes lots of noise and weight transfer system that enables you to cast ‘em like bombs. Squirrels also have a tough UV finish and a marabou tail.
Striper Squirrel ready for action
But do they catch fish?

On a recent run to the Delta, I had John Rutherford out on the boat…the man behind Aiden James and the guy who builds these baits one at a time in Napa. The objective was to put his Squirrels to the test. Now, before I get you too confused here…the Striper Squirrels were originally called “Bass Brats,” a name I struggled to remember all afternoon. So, throughout the course of the day I called them everything from “fuzzy ferrets” to “striper squirrels” and everything in between. By the end of the trip, John humored me and said he was gonna start calling them the latter. They are still called “Bass Brats” on his website though…

Anyway, I was immediately impressed with the action of the bait. You can easily walk the dog with it and, due to the density of the wood, the Squirrel glides further than do plastic lures. I was able to walk it with the classic zig-zag pattern but I thought it was a bit more erratic than a Spook — an attribute I feel is really important. In my mind, the more unpredictable the action, the better the fish like the bait.

Shawn Bertram with a dandy caught on the Squirrel

Shawn Bertram with a dandy caught on the Squirrel

In my testing, I also found that the Striper Squirrel can also be fished in a straight forward splashing fashion — kind of like a popper. What’s really cool, however, is how you can get a combo action going — a little walk the dog with some spitting and sputtering mixed in. The results of that great action were immediately apparent. As soon as we started tossing these things, we experienced a blitzkrieg style topwater session that included lots of doubles and even a couple triple hook-ups.

John Rutherford with a nice bass on one of his creations

John Rutherford with a nice bass on one of his creations

What was interesting too was that the water was pretty choppy that day due to high winds…but the Squirrels had enough attraction radius to pull stripers in without a problem. But how would the fare in calm water upriver?

Well, I found out two days later when I did a trip in the Sacramento River. The first cast of the day produced a boil and a miss and then the Squirrel got inhaled on the very next cast. And then it was off to the races from there, with the lure getting eaten several more times.

As it turns out, river bass like 'em too!

As it turns out, river bass like ‘em too!

I’ve only been using these lures for a week or so now but I’m in love! On the boat that first day, I gave John some feedback that he is currently putting into action. While the Owner hooks that come standard on the lures are sharp, I felt like they were a little too light wire for prolonged striper fishing (though I’ve yet to have any issues). He’s going to offer the lure with extra stout hooks in the near future. I also noticed that the marabou tail, while super cool looking in the water, takes a beating when you are removing the rear hook from fish with pliers. So, John is considering throwing a couple extra in when you order a bait.
Striper and Squirrel

Of course, I also really appreciate the fact that Striper Squirrels and all the other lures John sells are handmade by him, right here in the good ol’ USA.

Check out the Squirrels at Aiden James Lures or also on his Facebook Page

Will El Niño bring big rains to California next winter?

El NinoScientists at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have noticed signs of what what could be a very large El Niño event brewing along the equator, which has a chance to bring much needed rainfall to California next winter.

NOAA closely monitors a series of buoys which measure temperature, currents and winds in the equatorial band…and what forecasters are seeing at the moment is potentially huge. In the simplest of terms, an El Niño event is highlighted by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, which can dramatically affect weather worldwide.

In California, El Niños can sometimes lead to vast amounts of rainfall, which would obviously be a welcome relief after three consecutive years of drought. Scientists say that current conditions strongly resemble those observed in the lead-up to the powerful 1997-1998 El Nino event, which brought the west a lot of rain. But things can change since it is so early in the season. And scientists also caution that there’s no guarantee that an El Niño winter will bring ample rainfall. We’re just going to have to wait and see..

Now, there is a downside to El Niño years too. They result in a rise in sea surface temperatures — which can cause drastic declines in ocean productivity in our region. Food chains are adversely affected and salmon and steelhead populations, in particular, can be hit hard.

To learn more, go to: NOAA and the SJ Mercury News

Allison Jones

The San Joaquin River: #1 on the nation’s “Most Endangered List”

The San Joaquin River is screwed. Once home to one of the largest spring runs of Chinook salmon on the entire West Coast, it’s been reduced to a trickle — and in some cases, dry riverbed — thanks to outdated water rights interests and other diversions.

Conditions are so bad, in fact, that the San Joaquin was named The #1 Most Endangered River in the Country for 2014.

And it gets worse…

The river’s beleaguered salmon population got a shot in the arm awhile back when an agreement was reached to allow more water to flow down the river. However, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation [H.R. 3964] that would override the settlement and prevent restoration. But gutting environmental protections won’t make it rain, folks!

It’s time to step up and stop the madness…

Just fill out the following form and send an email to Senators Boxer and Feinstein to ask that they don’t lend their support to H.R. 3964. It only takes about 30 seconds! Sign the letter HERE

Farmed Rais Salmon: DANGER!

Salmon Farming Wiping Out Wild Salmon & Posing Huge Public Health Risk

The evidence is pretty overwhelming: Salmon farms are posing a huge threat to wild salmon runs on the West Coast of North America, Chile and Scotland. While I understand that the demand for seafood worldwide is insatiable and fish farming is probably the only way to keep up with demand as the oceans get depleted…but there has to be a better way of going about it!

In a nutshell, there are a few major issues associated with salmon farms and I’m going to try and break these down for you here…

First off, sea lice collect in huge numbers around and below salmon pens. Returning adult salmon can handle some of these parasites, the out-migrating juvenile wild fish run into these massive walls of lice and get devoured.

Another major problem that is rearing its ugly head is the amount of disease coming out of the farmed areas. In British Columbia, for example, researchers are finding that wild salmon are being infected with all sorts of deadly virus and other pathogens as they migrate through areas where the fish farming occurs. Though the farms may be located well back in bays and fiords, the outgoing tides will wash the heavily infected water from the farms out into wild migration routes.

Salmon in British Columbia are showing up bleeding and yellowed and unable to spawn. And it’s not isolated to the north country, either. Our California fish swim through some of those same migration routes and I had some photos sent to me this year of yellow Chinook from the American River.

And finally, farmed salmon is terrible for you. This is a no-brainer considering they have to add orange color to the stuff to make it look like real salmon! A single serving of farmed salmon can contain roughly 3 times the toxins the US EPA has established for adults and nearly 6 times the tolerable level for a child. Mercury, PCBs, Dioxins, PENTACHLORO-BENZENE, etc etc etc. Check this out: WHAT’S IN FARMED SALMON?

Color Added Salmon: The "SalmoFan" color guide…read the fine print about the pigment additive!

Color Added Salmon: The “SalmoFan” color guide…read the fine print about the pigment additive!

This stuff is serious, folks and there’s big money behind the farms so we can expect things to get worse before they get better. Obviously, it points out what we already know: A healthy ocean and healthy spawning rivers is a way better approach. Wild salmon (hatchery reared-fish too) are the way to go!

Alexandra Morton is doing a lot of amazing research on this subject. What she is finding is incredibly alarming!

Read more below…




FishwithJD Guide Books

My guide books…now available on iTunes!

Many of you have been asking when my guidebooks would be available on iTunes…they’ve been on Amazon and Nook for awhile but we are now up and running with Apple as well.

These two are just the first of many. Plugging for salmon and bait fishing for stripers will be out in the not-too-distant future. With the whole guidebook series I’m trying to give you what amounts to a “users manual” for each subject, complete with detailed diagrams and photos. The idea here is to take the mystery out of catching fish. And the other concept I’m trying to keep the costs reasonable. Most books will retail for less than the cost of one lure!

Check out the first two below…

Light Tackle Delta Striper Secrets $4.99
Graph of Stripers

Light Tackle Surf Perch $2.99
Perch Trough

907-pound Pacific Bluefin Tuna obliterates IGFA World Record

World record pacific bluefin tuna
After a battle that lasted longer than a complete American League baseball game, Donna Pascoe landed this immense 907-lb. Pacific Bluefin Tuna while fishing off New Zealand’s Three Kings area.

The fish absolutely annihilated the current IGFA ALL Tackle World Record for the species by 130 pounds and, if all the paperwork goes through, she’ll be atop the record books. Read more HERE

In the meantime, I hope Donna has a lot of wasabi on hand!