Tips, tricks and advice from the everyday anglers at HSO
WORTHINGTON -- Information and advice can be found on any subject under the sun these days, simply by accessing the Internet. But it isn't always easy to know which sites to trust.
For instance, learning about the details of brain surgery from a site called "Bubba Billy's Bullpucky Blog" probably isn't the best idea.
When it comes to the world of outdoor pursuits, one member-driven site that has quickly grown to include more than 54,600 people is Hot Spot Outdoors. Launched in 1997 by businessman and outdoorsman Rick Paquin, hotspotoutdoors.com includes how-do and informational videos, articles and a forum full of knowledge.
To date, there are more than 270,000 topics on HSO with more than 2.7 million posts.
The forums -- all 270 of them -- cover a myriad of topics guaranteed to cover any interest for those interested in the outdoors, from fishing to hunting, gardening to photography, horseback riding to motorcycles. There are forums for ATV riders, canoe enthusiasts, mushroom hunters, photographers, sports watchers, birders and home improvement attempters. When it comes to the fishing, the forums are broken down by species, type of fishing and locations. While some of the forums have locations as broad as a state or portion in the U.S., the Minnesota areas are divided by 38 regions.
The forums are moderated by those members who have a special interest in that subject, be it motorcycling, cooking or outdoors happenings in southwest Minnesota. The forums are family friendly -- profanity and bashings others is not allowed.
The Daily Globe asked a few of the moderators and pro staff from HSO for some tips, tricks and advice before heading out to the lakes and rivers this fishing season. Here's what they said:
When it comes to taking kids out for a day of fishing, Reinhard1 of Andover has some valuable suggestions. Plan ahead of time, he said, stocking up on snacks and patience, and try to find a lake with panfish, which will provide more fishing action. Make sure the weather is cooperative, because even the most dedicated of anglers gets cold, hot or windblown. Stay positive and prepare to spend the day talking about the child's interests and not your own. If possible, have the child bring a friend. Give them a chance to steer the boat, bring along minnows and leeches for fishing with, playing with and befriending, and don't forget to take a break now and then, heading for a beach or pier to let off some pent-up energy.
"The enjoyment of the day should be in your spirit prior to going," Reinhard stated. "After all, it is about them, and not about you."
Delmuts of Sumner, Iowa, added a few more kid-friendly suggestions, such as keeping sunscreen onboard and making sure it isn't outdated. Sunscreen does expire, which means that no matter how diligent you were about keeping skin covered up, you and your kid could end up crispy by the end of the day if the expiration date isn't heeded. He also recommends keeping bathroom breaks in mind or having a plan for such things.
Keeping things simple might be the key to keeping them fishing, Delmuts stated. Use live bait and try using circle hooks. And don't be surprised if the day is cut short by weather or the need to wiggle and run.
Gordie from Zimmerman had some advice when it comes to boat towing and landing.
"Always check your trailer lights before heading to the lake," he said. "When pulling your boat out of the landing, make sure the safety chain is attached. When backing down the landing, make sure the safety chain is attached."
Gordie also advised boaters to have patience at the landing.
"Your turn will come," he stated.
More good advice came from Upnorth of Chisholm. He said boaters should always get their watercraft ready before pulling into the line at the boat ramp. Check the bilge plug not once, but twice, before launching.
Once out on the lake, if you see a line of boats trolling an area, "don't wheedle your way in and drop anchor in the middle of their trolling pattern."
And he offered another piece of advice about fishing with kids.
"Don't leave your net lying on the floor of the boat," he suggested. "It will invariably be full of shoes, food, jackets and more when the biggest fish of the day is on the line."
Upnorth also offered a tip to make a simple and functional rod holder for those fishing from shore using a 3/8 inch steel rod, 1 ½ inch PVC pipe and electrical tape. Cut the pipe to a length of 8 inches or so and tape it to the steel rod with a bit of pipe sticking over the top. Don't be stingy with the tape, he suggested, putting it in two spots and wrapping it around seven or eight times.
"It will hold for years," he said.
It is easy for a new angler to become overwhelmed while traveling the narrow aisles of an outdoor store, stated TylerS of Fargo, N.D.
"With so many lures, hooks, line and sinkers to choose from -- some of which are more designed to catch fisherman than fish -- how does one know where to start?" he asked. "The best advice I can give is keep it simple."
While there is a time and place for just about any kind of bait, a newcomer should probably just start with the basics -- a variety pack of hooks with various shapes and sizes is sufficient, since most freshwater fish will bite on a simple hook and worm. Combine that with a bulk container of egg sinkers and split-shots and an assortment of different sized lures and a fisherman can get to work catching the aquatic quarry in short order, TylerS said.
While a $300 high-end rod might be attractive, cheaper rod/reel combos are available at most stores and are "still plenty capable of rustling a whopper out of the murky depths."
Purchasing line can be tricky, he admitted. Braided lines have all of the benefits of a higher poundage monofilament line and boast a smaller diameter, but can take a bit of know-how when it comes to tying knots and are not as forgiving as their monofilament counterparts.
"Someone new to the scene may be best served by spooling their reel with an 8 to 10-pound test XL mono," he advised. "This route gives the user a bit of backbone without sacrificing sensitivity or ease of use."
Once the gear is taken care of, it is as easy as digging up a few crawlers in the backyard and heading the nearest lake.
"Just be careful," TylerS warned. "Once that first fish takes the bait, you'll be hooked, too -- for a lifetime."
More than one HSO member has said there is a bond hunters, anglers and outdoorsmen and women have, and having the forums is a great way to tell your stories, exchange information and meet some new people who are passionate about their sport. Members host fishing get-togethers at various locations across the state. Some have even used the site to check road conditions, ask advice for presents for spouses and family members and check out reviews on sporting equipment. And what better place to post the photo of your child with their very first catch?
"If you're really looking for great information to get you started in almost any outdoor-related activity, be sure to visit the social networking sharing forums at hotspotoutdoors.com" stated owner Rick Paquin.