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Reel Talk: Noodlin’ Around with Allison Hunter Voges

Sometimes you’re the fish, and sometimes you’re the hook. The key is to fight-fight-fight regardless of which role you’re playing. The lines can get blurred, especially in the strange and dangerous world of catfish noodling. Few know this better than Allison Hunter Voges, better known as @amHunter11 on Instagram.

For those not yet among Allison’s 15,000+ followers, there is much more than meets the eye to this Southern Indiana adventurista. She might be best known for her turkey bowhunting exploits, but in the past year she has made a mark with the gritty sport of noodling for catfish.

Predominantly illegal in most states, grappling for catfish is the kind of pastime that most Americans don’t even get to attempt, let alone excel at. It was just about a year ago that Allison was invited by one of the Internet’s foremost noodling experts, @AlyFromAlabama, to try it for the first time. Much like the fish she was finding, she found herself hooked–without any hooks around!

Allison proudly showed off a 50-lb catfish brute last year, and is eager to get back into the action this year! She is a living example of the joys that can come from trying new things, even if they are a bit intimidating. Sometimes you just need a little support to get you out the door.

“I never really thought of myself as a role model, but it was wonderful to receive messages from other women revealing how I helped them try new hobbies,” Allison adds. “The best advice that I can give for someone who feels intimidated by a new outdoor pursuit is to join some online groups of like-minded people. Many of them organize activities and events, and are often incredibly welcoming and receptive of new members. Step out of your comfort zone and meet as many people as you can!”

Noodling is not for the faint of heart. Fans have seen her wrangle snakes, field dress deer, mud wrestle hogs, and even have a veterinarian pull glass out of her arm. She’s clearly as tough as they come, but never would have even received the chance to learn without a little kindness from a former stranger. Allison practices what she preaches: she knows how important it is for women in male-dominated sports to stick together and to support one-another. In fact, she is organizing a trip for the American Daughters of Conservation (@adconserve) in August of this year, and will introduce noodling to them–with all of the mud, sweat, slime, and glory that she has enjoyed!

Whether hunting in the Indiana woods or fishing from hand-lines in Costa Rica, Allison is very aware that conservation is the key to continued outdoor pursuits. It is paramount that new outdoorsmen and women be attracted to fishing and hunting to ensure that money, regulations, and awareness continues to grow for the outdoors. To that end, Allison was disappointed when trying to introduce hunting to youngsters. There were very few materials out there intended for young readers.

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How do we get more kids interested and involved in the outdoors? This is my way of contributing. I’ve searched for children’s books about hunting and there are few options. I wanted a book with illustrations that drew the reader in, as well as content that captured the joy, respect and pride a hunt brings. So I wrote one myself. ⁣ ⁣ So far I’ve sold nearly 100 books and I’m happy to announce my new hardback copies are now available. I’ve put a lot of heart, effort, and money into creating this book. Being an independent author is not easy and finding a printer that did quality work took some time. However, I’m happy to announce that my new hardback copies have arrived! I will be selling them for $12.99 plus shipping. If you’re interested please shoot me a DM on my page or the @raisedtochasethewild page. I’m hoping to find an online retailer to sell and ship them for me soon. The paperback version of my book is still available on Amazon. ⁣ ⁣ I’m hoping this book will open some doors between children and adults for conversations about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. It’s so important that we try and grow a new generation of hunters, not only for conservation reasons, but because kids learn so many advantageous life lessons in the great outdoors. ⁣ ⁣ I’ve also made this book interactive by hiding deer tracks through some of the illustrations for children to search for and find. I feel it’s a great way to encourage curiosity and exploration in nature. ⁣ ⁣ Please feel free to share this post. Purchase a book for your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. Gift it at a baby shower. Donate a copy to your local library or school. If you have any questions for me I’d be happy to answer them. ⁣ ⁣ Thank you for your support. #chasingthewild #raisedtochasethewild

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“I walked into a Bass Pro and looked for a hunting book for kids,” Allison remembered. “After failing there, I searched Amazon as well. Nothing! That’s when I decided to make one myself.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Having no experience in book publishing or writing, she soon found out that there are considerable hurdles in the process. Writing the book itself went fairly quickly, actually. She then let family members read it and give their input. When it came time for illustration, she turned to college friend Rebecca Mullins, who was not a hunter. The duo worked together to ensure that the content was accurate, fun, and above-all worthwhile to young readers. The final challenge was finding a decent publisher with consistent quality. Her book, Chasing Deer, was released in December 2019, and the reception has blown her away.

You can pick up the softcover on Amazon, but she is selling the hardback versions herself until she can find a reliable producer. Shoot Allison a message on instagram or facebook to inquire about the hardback version. She is hoping to have them available more broadly in the near future.

When not doing everything she can to open the outdoors to new audiences, she is either working hard in her landscaping company or traveling to the next adventure on her list. Her dream hunt is coming up in September: hunting elk in the mountains on Colorado. She also looks forward to continuing her adventures in the water–especially trying to catch the elusive musky that has evaded her so far.

What’s next for Allison? She wants to enjoy life in the here-and-now, and has many adventures planned. Will more books follow? She has been blown away by the reception to her first book, and has ideas for turkey hunting and bass fishing versions, but it’s still a little too early to tell. She loves being “a gateway drug to the outdoors” by sharing her exploits online. It’s clear that we’ll all have to follow her incredible adventures to see what is next on the docket for Allison Hunter Voges.

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Fin-Telligence Fly Weird Fish

Fin-Telligence: The elusive tiger trout!

Baby tiger trout
A baby tiger trout is introduced in Oregon with the specific goal of eradicating pest fish – (Oregon Dept. of Fisheries – October 12, 2015)

When learning about the various quarries that can attract reelers to the outdoors, there are a few time-honored stalwarts that come to mind. Rainbow trout, largemouth bass, tarpon, grouper–all are among the first to cross the mind of a new angler. Murkier water comes with the territory, both literally and figuratively, and even species aren’t clear-cut differentiators.

Case in point: the tiger trout. The tiger trout is not a true species, but rather a sterile hybrid made from brown trout and brook trout parents. The tiger trout is occasionally stocked in lakes and streams throughout the United States (and abroad, though in limited numbers) in situations where wild stocks might be impacted by the act of stocking. For that reason, it is sometimes preferred in otherwise pristine trout water. In the wild, the tiger trout is exceedingly rare and alluring to the adventuring angler. For this reason, the wild tiger trout is a badge of pride that can elevate even the most otherwise-accomplished reeler.

Illustration of a tiger trout.
(International Game Fish Assc. – Duane Raver)

Biology:

Tiger trout can be found in the wild where populations of both brown trout and brook trout intermingle. The union is only viable when female brown trout and male brook trout breed, though some fish procreation isn’t the result of direct intent (but close proximity). The standard survival rate of these hybrids is 5% of fertilized eggs. Scientists also believe that a heat shock can help spur the necessary creation of an extra set of chromosomes that tiger trout require, which is why fatality rates and populations can fluctuate strongly from stream-to-stream (with an upper survival rate nearing 85%). This special hybrid is noteworthy to many researchers because the species are not terribly closely related (brook char versus brown trout), with different numbers of chromosomes.

The biological intricacies of tiger trout have been studied for decades.
(Canadian Field Naturalist Guide, 1983)

Hybrids, such as the tiger trout, are also subject to quick growth due to what scientists term “hybrid vigor.” This can enable the fish to grow more quickly and possibly larger than either of their parents. Hybrids can also display behaviors that neither parent express, though tiger trout do not deviate significantly from brook or brown trout.

Identification

Three tiger trout display the variety of patterns that make identification a challenge.
(Wikimedia commons, Matthew Tyree – 2008)

Tiger trout are fairly easy to identify because of their distinct “noodle” vermiculation (spot) pattern. They are only found in cold water “trout” habitat, and often have the general outline and body shape of a brook trout. Stocked brown trout often display somewhat-noodly vermiculations, but only tiger trout have those patterns throughout their entire flank (with few or no brown-trout-esque spots). Being a hybrid, their colors can vary between the silver-green-brown of brown trout and the green-top red-yellow bottom of brook trout.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY: This brown trout displays worm-shape vermiculations, but they are not prevalent enough to be mistaken for a tiger trout…if you have a keen eye!
(Jason Meckes – Clarks Creek, PA – 2012)

Habitat

The crystal-clear waters that indicate trout habitat are very much the haunting grounds of the tiger trout. Wild populations require brook and brown trout habitat simultaneously.
(Jason Meckes – Clarks Creek, PA – 2012)

Being a hybrid of brown and brook trout, the wild tiger trout is most often found in streams of the northeastern United States. The limiting factor in wild stocks is usually dependent on the brook trout being comfortable enough to breed, as brown trout usually enjoy the same water (and more). Any stream with both populations breeding could harbor a tiger trout population, but they are so rare that they are very difficult to encounter. A reeler that is interested in catching one had better look toward the western states, where they are stocked more commonly (Utah, Colorado, Oregon). For conservation purposes, they are the exclusive stocked species in many streams and lakes.

Catchin’ Tips

Conventional gear: The tiger trout is very similar to the brown trout in most of its preferences and activities. Larger specimens are nearly entirely piscivorous, so lures that imitate baitfish (and live bait) are successful.

Fly gear: As with traditional gear, your approach should be identical to that which works for brown trout fishing. If you are aiming for larger specimens, using an articulated fly or muddler minnow can be successful.

WORLD RECORD

The world record tiger trout is 20lbs 13oz and caught by Peter Friendland in Lake Michigan, Wisconsin (1978). The world record for fly tackle is 16lbs 12oz caught by Luke Butcher in the UK (2001).

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Blog Posts Weird Fish

Bigger isn’t always better: welcome to microfishing

For a lot of anglers, it’s all about the big one, the whopper, the one that got away.

Some anglers are going in the opposite direction. They catch fish barely big enough to be bait. It’s a small but growing trend—microfishing, where anglers use lines to catch darting fish no bigger than a few inches, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Dude! Too big.

“People are interested in something novel, something new,” said Ben Cantrell, a contributing writer for microfishing.com. The budding sport has Facebook pages, YouTube videos and Instagram posts of tiny, unique species nestled in the palm of a hand.

Chris Stewart, a microfishing enthusiast, first discovered it through Japanese tanago fishing, where the goal is to catch the smallest tanago (bitterling). Stewart, who deals in Japanese fly fishing equipment on his website, found a community of other microfishermen when he began selling tanago equipment in 2012.

“It just felt so different than the feel over here in the U.S.,” Stewart said. “The trend in fly fishing seems to be the longest cast and the biggest fish, the most extreme destinations.” He referenced YouTube videos of tanago fishermen, explaining to the Tribune that “here are these guys in Japan, sitting on the side of a ditch and catching 2-inch fish. It seemed so opposite and so … serene.”

Indeed, while many reelers are going for records—the biggest, the longest—microfishing actually opens up the possibility of catching a variety of diminutive fish.“A lot of the fish in the world are relatively small,” said Dan Gibson-Reinemer, a fish biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, “so they’re not targeted by most anglers. That’s where species

Way too big!

diversity comes in.”

Cantrell said the basic equipment needed for microfishing and abundance of shallow water have allowed him to fish all over Illinois.

“Microfishing opens up this world of all the small, interesting, wonderful fish you never thought about before,” he said, adding that he fishes in places that ordinary anglers wouldn’t bother with.

One of the appeals of microfishing, its proponents say, is there are only so many large species you can catch, but miniature fish number in the thousands and are relatively easy to access.

“Guys like me just like to catch fish,” said Stewart. “I don’t care if it’s a large fish or a small fish, but one thing about the small fish is they are everywhere. You don’t have to go to Patagonia. You can fish at the end of the block.”

Do you think you’ll ever give up chasing the big ones to go start fishing for the smalls? Discuss on our forum.

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Blog Posts News Salt Weird Fish

Moon(fish) over Maryland

The last thing Austin Ensor expected to catch in the cold Maryland waters was a tropical fish. Ensor caught a 105-pound opah, or “moonfish,” in Ocean City in early November, according to Fox 5 DC.

OPAH! Austin and his crew show off their 105 lb. moonfish.

Ensor was reeling in a 80-pound swordfish when the opah took the bait as well. After a 90-minute battle, Ensor and his friends had no idea what a rarity here they landed. Then he realized he’d seen similar fish on West Coast and Hawaii friends’ Instagram accounts.

“I saw him come up and I said it’s an opah,” Ensor told Fox 5.

It’s unknown why an opah was in chillier waters since it’s typically found in tropical areas. Served frequently in Hawaii, opah has increased in popularity and is also used for sushi.  Enson’s catch may be the first opah, believed to be the only warm-blooded fish, caught non-commercially in Maryland. Even though fishing season is winding down in Maryland, Ensor said catching the speckled reddish moonfish was “probably a highlight of our season. That’s for sure.”

Now, to balance things out, we need someone to catch a Chesapeake blue crab in the Pacific.

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Blog Posts Weird Fish

Could this be the Future of Fishing?

Could this be the future of fishing? Using drones to take bait where no mortal could reach casting the old-fashioned way?

South Africa’s South Coast Herald reports that the Sky Anglers Drone Fishing Tournament in late September drew 70 competitors for over 100,000 in South African Rand (that’s right—$7,500) in cash prizes. It also reports that 65 of those used drones to carry their bait offshore. It doesn’t report why the other 5 entered a drone-fishing tournament if they weren’t using drones, but sometimes anglers can be an eccentric lot.

Organizer Yugen Govender claims the event is the first of its kind. Govender has been fishing for more than 20 years and said he’s been using drones the past two years. Drones can take bait farther than traditional casting or help navigate trickier targets such as rocky areas. Govender said a drone even helped him snag a 500-pounder.

The drone-fishing tournament, which was catch & release, was won by Viren Raju, who hauled in a blacktip shark weighing 95 kilograms (that’s right—210 pounds). Other catches included sand sharks, tiger sharks and rockcod. One of the drone’s cameras also caught footage of humpback whales swimming nearby.

What do you think about this idea of drone fishing? Is it a bit nuts? Discuss it on our forum.