I found Mike Loughran from Buffalo New York on Instagram. I noticed that he catches big Smallmouth Bass from his kayak. So, I contacted Mike who graciously agreed to talk about his fishing. We talk about many species including his fishing for Steelhead and even his catching of snapping turtles by hand.
What do you love about fishing from a kayak?
I have been kayak fishing for almost 3 years. I have only owned 1 kayak and it has lasted me all this time. I am in the market for a new one.
The reason I love kayak fishing is because first of all I can get to places and fish waters than traditional boat anglers cannot reach with a motor. The second reason is because I can reach the same waters as the traditional boat anglers can. When fishing I find being quite and stealthy to be very important, so quietly gliding on the water in my kayak is a great advantage. Another reason I prefer to kayak fish is it makes the experience all the more better. I am closer to the water and elements of nature while fishing!
Before we get into a fishing, I need to ask about snapping turtles. I avoid them but you seem to enjoy holding them. What’s the story behind the turtles?
The story behind the snapping turtles is that about 3 and a half years ago I was shore fishing a local swamp/pond. I was wading through barefooted. The water became deeper and deeper and I saw a “rock” in the mud. As I got closer to stand on it to fish off of, I realized it was a snapping turtle.
Until that day I really didn’t know they could get that big or how many there can be in one place. So out of curiosity I picked up the big turtle and ever since then I have been fascinated by them. I hold them every chance I get!
The thing I like about them is that it takes a tremendous amount of time for these turtles to get to a big size. Each one I hold is at a different age and looks different.
The key to holding them safely for the turtle’s safety and for your own is to steer clear of its head and don’t put your hands behind the front of his shell. Many people think that’s how you hold turtles but the turtles I catch are called common snapping turtles. They have the ability to completely retract their head into there shell making your fingers accessible. Alligator snapping turtles cannot do that thus creating the misconception. You should also never hold a turtle upside down by its tail as this can result in a injured spine for the turtle!
You have a knack for catching big Smallmouth Bass. What are your favorite waters to kayak for big Smallies?
Kayak fishing for Smallmouth is one of my favorite things to do. The only water that I fish for Smallmouth is Lake Erie. During May, Smallmouth are easily accessible along the shallow shores of Erie during their spawn. The reason lake Eire is such a good water to fish is because of the introduction of the invasive species of Gobie. These little brown fish have created an extra food source for the already abundant Smallmouth population. This has allowed these bass to quickly gain in size!
What are your favorite kayak fishing methods for catching big Smallmouth?
My favorite method for catching big smallmouth on Lake Erie is to use minnow like imitation baits and to bounce them off the bottom! The key to doing this are using methods like the drop shot and heavy jig heads tipped with minnow plastics. The main important thing when fishing big water like Erie is to know where the fish are on the day you are fishing.
What are your favorite waters to catch New York Largemouth from the kayak?
I mostly fish local ponds and small lakes for Largemouth Bass in my area. My go to lure choice for Largemouth is a crawfish/crayfish jig. I love flipping and skipping them under docks and overhanging trees. I am also a big fan of top water fishing with frogs! Just recently this summer I have discovered a few new spots that I hope will produce some big Largemouth in the years to come.
I saw you caught a Gar on the fly recently. What is the fish story behind catching it?
The story behind the Gar is that I was flyfishing a local creek for Smallmouth on the shallow flats. During this day the water was very clear and low and I could see all the fish that were in the water. As I looked into the hole I was fishing I saw a lot of Bass, a few Carp, minnows and towards the end of the hole I saw a pod of about 6 Gar cruising along. I quickly tied on a small white minnow imitation fly and cast it right past them. Then I stripped in the fly twice and on the second strip, the Gar leading the pod turned on it and bit!
As the weather turns colder, when will you switch to Steelhead fishing?
Fly fishing for Steelhead is my favorite thing to do. I will begin to search for early runners in about late September and early October. I will try all of the mouths of my local tributaries to see if I can catch one early! Once I catch one I can’t stop fishing for them until the following April when they all leave the creeks.
What is your personal best Steelhead? What are the odds that you get a new PB this year?
My personal best Steelhead was caught on a small stream that I have private access too. This fish was just barely noticeable as it was lying right at the end of a pool where there were some ripples. I cast 5 different lures and baits with no avail. Finally I lifted up a rock got a worm and drifted it past the fish. The bobber went down instantly and I was hooked up. 15 minutes later I got him to shore and measured it at 36 inches.
I can only hope that next year brings me a new personal best. The odds are in my favor with the discovery of a few new spots to try out!
Thanks Mike! All of us can follow Mike @fishlikemike on Instagram.d