Josh Rouse: Berkeley Mouse Tail brings in big trout full of eggs

After getting mostly skunked last week while trout fishing at Lake Shawnee, I was determined to come back this week and get a nice one.

I picked up some Berkeley PowerBait Floating Mice Tails and a couple of Rooster Tails and headed down to the south side of the lake to see if a change in scenery would improve my odds. Little did I know that everyone and their dog would be out at the lake that day, and when some kids started throwing rocks in the water at my first spot, I decided it was time for a move. I don’t know how much it affects the fish bite, but it can’t help.

I moved up and down the west side of the lake looking for a good spot. Eventually, I settled again on the heated dock. I fished a deep worm below a big school of shad hoping to get a bite from a crappie or catfish, while I drifted a Mouse Tail about a foot and a half under a crappie float on a small jighead. A lot of people have questions about how to rig a Mouse Tail, and the general consensus I find is that you just hook it through the PowerBait ball connected to the long rubbery tail and use it however you want to fish — floating, drop shot, under a bobber, etc.

The shad were all over the place, and I could sit there and watch them pop up at the surface inside the dock. I had a couple hits on my worm early, but when I went to set the hook I got snagged up on the structure below the dock.

My light crappie bobber then started to bounce as another angler, Richard Cooley, came in. It turns out that Richard, who was fishing for crappie, knows my dad and my uncle Dan. Dad says he used to race street stocks and hobby stocks against him at Topeka Raceway, Junction City Raceway and a couple other spots, and they bowled together in a league years ago.

As the float with the Mouse Tail kept bobbing, I figured it was a shad or small bluegill that was grabbing the tail. However, it eventually went all the way under for several seconds. I set the hook and was shocked when my rod bent in double, and soon I saw the giant side slab of a big, beautiful female rainbow trout.

It wasn’t quite as long as the one that got away earlier in the year at the heated dock — though it was just under the 20-inch Kansas Master Angler Award size at 19.5 inches — but it had incredible girth. The side of the trout was about the size of my hand.

As I got down on my belly with a grabber claw that I had purchased after the last trout got away, it took me several minutes just to get the trout corralled. Every time it got close to the side of the dock, it would slam its powerful tail and take off on a run again. Richard offered me a net, but I let the trout wear herself out and finally grabbed it by the mouth.

I took her to my Grandma Rouse’s house to clean outside with my electric fillet knife and was shocked by all the eggs she had inside her when I cut off the first fillet.

I thought she might be pregnant because of her girth and a protrusion near her anal fin, but this confirmed it. There were literally hundreds of eggs, if not more. I got a Ziplock baggie and put them in there to use as bait later — they’re very similar to salmon eggs, which are sold in small jars as trout bait.

If it were a natural-born fish in Lake Shawnee, I likely would have released her back into the water to lay her eggs, but the rainbow trout are stocked in the fall and spring and are said to mostly die off in the summer, so I wasn’t too worried about her offspring being released.

I got two giant fillets out of her, each about the size of a side of salmon like you’d see at a nice restaurant.

As a side note, spoonbill (also known as paddlefish) snagging season began Thursday and will continue until May 15, and trout anglers have until April 15 to catch their haul of rainbow trout, though the state has been known to allow all anglers to keep trout after the season since they die out anyway.

The youth spring turkey season begins April 1 and runs through April 17. Adult hunters can take turkeys with bow and arrow beginning April 9, and the regular spring turkey season (firearm/archery) runs April 18 through May 31.

I look forward to seeing a bunch of turkey photos from my readers this spring, as well as fishing photos. Speaking of which, Patricia Mellard sent a couple of photos she snapped of a nice bass she caught in a pond near Wakarusa on March 3.

She said she was using a 3-inch smelt Berkley grub — her go-to bait.

Congrats on the nice fish, and I look forward to seeing more fishing photos from readers as the season progresses.

Dale Hossfeld, of Topeka, also sent a bunch of interesting trail camera videos from the woods near his home. Included in the videos were coyotes, a raccoon and a skunk getting in a fight and several bobcat videos. They will be posted on the online version of this story.

ARCHERY EVENTS ON TAP — Topeka Bowhunters recently announced its 2018 shoot schedule.

Each event will include 40 3D targets and starts at 8 a.m. at S.E. 37th and Ratner Road. Cost of registration will be $12 per person.

The next event will be April 7, followed by shoots on May 5, June 2, Aug. 4-5 and the Chili shoot on Dec. 1, which will include lunch.

For more information, contact Gary at (785) 246-4033.

The Kansas Secretary of State’s Office will host its eighth annual Ad Astra Youth Archery Tournament on April 21 at MacLennan Park. Students grades kindergarten through 12 can participate in the event.

The event will include a fishing clinic, instructional area and a demonstration on how to make your own arrows.

Registration is due by April 6 to guarantee your receive a T-shirt in your size. You can register online at https://tinyurl.com/y7dj69yw/.

AQUATIC EDUCATION DAY SLATED — On April 21, the Emporia chapter of Fishing’s Future will host its second annual Aquatic Education Day at the Marina Cove at Council Grove Reservoir.

The event will teach kids about water safety and fishing. It will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will be sponsored by Fishing’s Future and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Fish KS.

For more information, contact the Council Grove Marina or Phil Taunton at outdoors@kvoe.com.

COMMISSION MEETING AHEAD IN TOPEKA — The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission will hold its next public meeting March 22 at the Kansas Historical Society History Center, 6425 S.W. 6th Ave. in Topeka.

The afternoon session will begin at 1 p.m. and recess at 5 p.m.. The evening session will then convene at 6:30 p.m. Discussions will focus on webless migratory birds, waterfowl regulations, deer seasons on Fort Riley, public lands regulations and antelope and deer regulations.

The commission will vote on the 2018-19 Kansas deer seasons during the evening session and hear Secretary’s Orders on deer permit numbers.

Live video and audio will be available online at http://www.ksoutdoors.com.

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