Can you believe this?

31 01 2012

Jan. 31st 2012, 54 degrees in South East Michigan. Last November the weather experts were predicting that this was going to be one of the worst winters for snow accumulation in recent history. All the snow the NE got last year was supposed to get dumped on Michigan this year. I have shoveled my driveway once and that was because I didn’t want anyone tracking snow in the house.

The boat is coming out this weekend. Walleye Beware !!

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Laziness….

29 01 2012

One night I was out pulling wire on the Trenton Channel with a fellow club member.  It was a beautiful evening and the fish were cooperating.  We had 7 in the box and we were trying to catch those last 3 before it got dark.  Weeds were a bit of a problem so I was pulling my lines again to clear them off.  For some reason I decided to swap out a lure.  I just grabbed a spoon (Riley Special) out of the box and put it on.  It wasn’t too much longer when I felt that familiar hit and head shake.  Only difference this time from so many before is that the fish was gone before I ever started to pull up the line.  This happened a few more times before we finally called it quits for the night.  Without even looking I put the spoons away without even checking them.  A few nights later I was back out in my boat in the same area.  I grabbed that same spoon from the night before and hooked it up.  About 10 minutes later I had another fish on and then he was gone.  Now this was starting to get frustrating so I finally decided to check the hook on the spoon.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the point was busted off.  If I had taken just a few seconds to check the hook before I used it I could have saved myself a bit of aggravation.  Why didn’t I check it?  Just plain lazy.

The Constant Reminder Spoon

Some people may call this paying attention to the finer points but to me it’s just being too lazy to care.  We all do it, sticking to the status quo without ever bothering to check things over.  There is no reason for this.  The incident I mentioned earlier should have never happened.  I used to keep a hook sharpener in my boat and I used it to touch up the hooks on a regular basis.  For some reason I just quit, probably because I lost the sharpener and I got too cheap to replace it.  I really need to get a new one.

Another bad habit I got into was not checking my leaders for nicks and knots.  The way I fish my hands run over the leaders all the time.  I will feel the nicks and abrasions and just ignore them.  I know the reason why I get lazy about replacing them is because I have so much faith in 30# test line.  I think the stuff is indestructible and I should know better.   The funny thing is that if the line breaks I don’t get upset about losing a fish, I get upset about losing a lure.  Again, if I would just change the leader when it gets damaged it wouldn’t happen.  I keep extra spools with leaders handy now.  It doesn’t take long to swap out a damaged leader.

Another thing I was guilty of that really drove me crazy was “just trolling over to the next spot”.  This bad habit drives me up a wall.  If I’m on someone else’s boat I don’t say a thing but inside I am coming unglued.  I used to be guilty of doing this all the time but I soon realized I was wasting a lot of time.  Over the years I have learned where the dead spots are on my river and I just pull lines and speed up to the next hole.  Trout and Steelhead fishermen do this so why shouldn’t we?  The successful fisherman doesn’t waste his time fishing unproductive water.   I am out there to catch fish not wash lures.  If you hear from a buddy on the radio or know they are catching fish someplace else what is really quicker?  Taking the 5 minutes to pull lines and haul ass or spend an hour trolling over there?  A lot could happen in that hour, the worst of which could be the fish have stopped feeding.  How many times have we heard that one?  “We got a bunch of them about an hour ago but nothing since”.

What it all boils down to is this, how many fish do you want to catch and how quickly?  I only have so much free time so I want to make the most of it.  Other people I know are retired and have all the time in the world.  If you fall into that later category would it still hurt to take a minute or two and check to make sure everything is in working order?  No one likes to lose a fish or come home empty handed.   Just a minute out of your day can make a world of difference.

One more thing, I still have that spoon.  I keep it as a reminder to check the hooks on all my spoons before I tie one on.  I also keep it so that if I get some overly cocky fisherman out with me I slip that lure onto his leader to help humble him a bit.

Have fun out there, it won’t be much longer.





Weekly Fix

22 01 2012

I am a tackle shop junkie. I am forever going into tackle shops just to poke around and see if they have some discontinued lure I just can’t live without. I know, it’s an obsession. Even Rich, the owner of my favorite shop Andy’s Tackle Land, calls my visits my weekly fix. I go to the same part of the store every time, right to the hand lining spoons and buy my usual 10 at a time.

Weekly 10

I know that I have said that I keep an inventory of all my lures so that I don’t go out and buy ones I already have but when it comes to these spoons all bets are off.  They are known as “Spikes Spoons” and only one man makes them.  Unfortunately he is over 90 years old and his production is winding down.  As far as I know no one else is making them so when they are all sold that’s it.  For that reason I will buy every one I can find.  What makes them so unique and desirable is the fact they are cheap and light and perfect for pulling wire in the Trenton Channel.  Oh they can be used in other areas (hooked into a couple of Steelhead one summer in Erieau) but the river is where they shine.  So I keep stocking up, especially during these cold winter days when nothing else is going on.

Care to guess how many are in this box?

Until next week………





Crow Hunting Made Easy

20 01 2012

10 degrees below zero.  That’s what it said on the thermometer outside my parent’s picture window this February morning.  I was half tempted to crawl back into bed but everything I had read about coyote hunting said that the morning after a very cold night was a morning to head out.  Once the jeep was loaded with rifle and electronic caller I headed out to my “Hot Spot”.  I was very optimistic for a first time hunter, the videos made it look so easy.  Just find an area with coyotes, sit down, turn on the caller and wait for him to walk into range.  Seemed simple enough.

I soon arrived at my first spot for the morning.  I parked the jeep about 400 yards away so I wouldn’t spook anything and quietly walked in.  Once I found a suitable tree to lean up against I got my rifle into position overlooking a clearing for some power lines.  I then got my caller pointed in the right direction and turned on the rabbit squealer CD.  It didn’t take long; about 20 seconds into the CD the sky above me came alive with Black Bandits.  I didn’t know what to think, here I am trying to call in a coyote and all I saw were noisy, angry crows.  This went on for the next 10 or 15 minutes until I finally gave up and walked out.  As I was walking back to my parking spot all I could think about was what I did wrong.  They never talked about this in the predator hunting videos.  All they ever saw were coyotes, fox and bobcats.  Instead I get crows.  This same scenario repeated itself 4 more times that morning in 4 different areas.  Walk in, sit down, turn on caller, and get bombarded by crows.  Now I know how Tippi Hedren felt in “The Birds”.

That was my introduction to coyote hunting and shortly after that I turned my attention to Crows.  I figured if they were going to keep interrupting me I might as well carry a shotgun instead.  Fortunately Crow hunting is a lot easier and a lot more productive.  I already had all the necessary equipment; I just had to put it all together.

Location, location, location.

Being successful at shooting crows is all about location.  You just can’t set up in the middle of some field and expect them to come flying in from all directions.  If there aren’t any crows in the area you are going to spend a lot of time doing nothing.  Scouting for shooting areas is quite easy; all it takes is some driving around until crows are spotted.  Make note of the location and the time of day and store it away for a later date.  If the opportunity presents itself you can park out of sight of the birds and try calling them in then.  You want to pick an open area without any tall trees.  Crows won’t go out of their way to swoop in below tree top level.  They will stay above the tree tops and out of range to see what all the commotion is about.  Find an area with smaller trees that you can use for cover and your success rate will improve two fold.

Most of my crow hunting is the “run and gun” method.  I have an area pre-scouted with about 6 different calling spots along the way.  I will stop at each one and call for about 5 to10 minutes.  If nothing comes in I will move on to the next one.  If they are in the area it usually doesn’t take long.  If they are really close it can happen in the first 10 seconds.  Once I shoot a crow in a specific area I will leave that spot alone and wait until the following weekend before I hit it again.  Crows figure things out pretty darn quick and they will get gun shy faster than any bird I know.

Equipment    

Getting started on crow hunting takes a minimal investment on equipment.  Most hunters already have everything they will need to start.  All it takes is a shotgun, a few shells, a cd player and calling cd and camo.  For the beginner an actual predator caller is nice but not necessary.  If it plays a cd or tape and has speakers it will work.  Just point the speakers up and turn up the volume.  As for what type of calling tape I prefer a crow in distress or crow fighting sound.  Both seem to work pretty well for me.  Crows are the bullies of the avian world and they love to pick a fight with just about everything.  If they hear another crow in distress they will usually come charging in to help out.  Once that happens you have to be quick.  Your favorite shotgun along with some target loads will work nicely.  A crow, body wise, is not much bigger than a pigeon.  They just look bigger because of the wings.  It doesn’t take much to bring one down and a well-placed load of #8 shot will do the trick.  I like to keep my shots close so my O/U 20 gauge with an IC/Mod choke combination works quite well for me.  In order to get them close good camouflage and keeping still helps.  It’s just like duck hunting, if you move to quickly or look up at the wrong moment the birds will flair and you will be hard pressed to get them back into range.  Once a crow thinks something is wrong he will stay out of range and fly circles around you until he gets bored and flies away.  Sometimes you can get away with not having any camouflage but if you already own it, wear it.  A couple of standard decoys will help lure them in as well.  I like to set one up on the ground near the caller and another in a small tree or bush if I can.  It isn’t always necessary but it certainly does help.

Know your target

I can’t stress this enough.  When using a call, especially one of a rabbit squealing, just about everything within earshot is going to come check it out.  I have had owls, hawks, cats, dogs, a bald eagle and lord only knows what else come in to see what was making all the noise.  The last thing you want to do is make a mistake and rise up to shoot at a hawk.  Where I hunt in north east Michigan the other problem is Ravens.  Ravens are protected and there are a lot of them in my area.  They look almost identical to a crow except they are bigger and their tail has a “V” shape to it.  Their call is also more guttural and not as high pitched as a crow.  It doesn’t take long to spot the difference between the two so err on the side of caution until you are sure.

When to go

The best time to hunt crows is when they are in season.  Morning, evening, middle of the afternoon, it really doesn’t matter.  Crows fly around all day.  My home state of Michigan has a 120 day season that is broken up into two parts.  The first season starts Aug 1st and runs until Sept. 30th.  The second season starts Feb. 1st and runs until the end of March.  Check your local game laws to see when the season is for your state.  Each season had its advantages and disadvantages.  The early season means first year birds that have never been shot at but it can also mean 90 degree humid days with mosquitoes.  The later season the birds are smarter but food is also a little scarcer.  That first spot I mentioned in the beginning was holding so many crows because there were a couple of deer carcasses nearby.  If the deer had not been there I doubt the crows would have either.

Well there you have it, crow hunting in a nutshell.  All that is left is to go out and give it a try.  Crows do make for some excellent wing shooting and they also make an ideal hunting experience for a young wing shooter.  Just remember to be careful and have fun.

Oh, one other thing.  That first spot I mentioned?  I went back there right after dinner with a shotgun instead.  There are two less crows to attack me the next time I stop by.

for more info visit http://www.crowbusters.com

Excessive use of Camo





Reflections…

16 01 2012

Recently my girlfriend and I spent a very relaxing weekend at a Bed & Breakfast in Marine City Michigan.  As luck would have it we were the only couple spending the night so we had the whole house to ourselves.  Being the nosy little busy body that I am I found myself poking around and checking out all of the rooms.  Eventually I ended up in the widow’s peak overlooking the St. Clair River.  I have always wanted to own a house with a room like this overlooking a river.  While I was up there I found a copy of “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean.  As I sat down I began to flip through the pages and read some of the quotes from the book.  I could hear Robert Redford reciting them just like in the movie.   Soon I began to think about the fishing history around me, what stories the St. Clair could tell and what part it played in my own family.

I have never fished the St. Clair River but my grandfather and his brother’s did.  My Great Uncle Ed, who manufactured the Schaller Trolling Reel, moved to Algonac and set up his new shop during the early 40’s.  The house still stands where he built hundreds of the reels that became synonymous with hand lining.  Earlier that day I found an old Schaller Trolling reel in a nearby antique store.    It was an earlier model with a wooden spool that he built while he was still living in Detroit.  The older reels are not as popular as the aluminum ones  built in Algonac but I think they have more character.

Early Model Schaller Reel

As I stared out the window I wondered who owned that reel.  Was he an everyday fisherman or a weekend warrior?  Was this reel used on a regular basis or did it sit on a shelf collecting dust?  I began to think of my own fishing stuff and the history behind all of it.  The boat I own was originally built in 1957 and owned by my Great Uncle Hank. He died from a heart attack while fishing near Marysville in 1966.  My Grandfather inherited the boat and several years later it was passed on to my father.  Eventually he gave it to me and over 50 years later it is still going strong.  I spent my whole life in that boat and unfortunately I have forgotten more experiences than I can remember.  People have asked me why I don’t get a new boat but it is hard for me to let go of that history.  I grew up in that boat, why sell it to someone who would never appreciate all that it has experienced?  I know some day it will start to leak and it will have to be replaced but for now I can still day dream about all it has experienced.

Eventually I went back to reading but that soon ended once Norm began to talk about the beauty of the construction of a bamboo fly rod.  His description made it sound more like a work of art and I thought of my own bamboo rods.  I never looked at them that way before.  I used to just view them as an old rod that I would never use because they weren’t as good as today’s graphite rods.  That view changed this past Christmas when my Father gave me a bamboo fly rod that was given to him.  This rod belonged to a friend of both he and his father, Bill Boudrie.  The rod itself was made by Wright & McGill and it is in beautiful shape, except for a crack in one of the tips.  I wonder if that crack was caused by some errant car door or by a 2 pound Brookie on some isolated stream in the Upper Peninsula.  Was it one of Bill’s favorite streams or one that even Ernest Hemingway fished himself?  I will never know for sure but it is a lot of fun to think about.

I never did finish reading that book.  As usual I spent more time day dreaming then actually reading.  This was a problem I had all during my school years as well.  It didn’t do much for my grades but it sure was a lot more interesting.  Guess I will have to go back sometime and try again.





Time to Take Stock

7 01 2012

Well another walleye season has come and gone, at least for me it has.  Some people will venture out on the ice but I don’t have the patience or equipment for that.  Only thing left for me is to get ready for next Spring.  That means re-organize, repair and re-stock.

Over the course of the season lures seem to end up in the craziest places.  Most of the time it’s just laziness on my part but everything has a place and the lures and equipment need to be put back where they belong.  Before that happens though I inspect everything to see what needs to be repaired.  The Trenton Channel, my home waters, is hard on equipment.  Mangled shanks, bent hooks and broken lips are more the norm then the exception.  Checking lures may seem like common sense but on more than one occasion I have pulled a Rap out of the box only to find the hooks bent or the lip broken.   

The hooks on an original floating Rapala are light and bend easily.  This is both good and bad.  When they snag up on something they usually bend enough to where the lure will come free.  At 9.00 dollars a pop that is a good thing.  Problem is though that same propensity to bend can also cost you a few fish.  It comes down to personal preference.   Replace them with a stronger hook and lose more lures and less fish or leave the originals on and have it go the other way, the choice is yours.  Broken lips are another story.  I keep hoping that someday I will come across a bunch of replacement lips but until then they just get put aside until that day.

Once the inspection is done it’s time to take stock of everything I have and to see what I lost over the year.  I have 8 Plano boxes with all my lures sorted by size and type in my boat.  After every season I pull all the boxes and take an inventory of everything I have.  Some may think this is a little anal retentive but I am an accountant and spreadsheets are my life.  Keeping an exact tally of lure by size and color just comes naturally to me.   This also keeps me from buying too many of a lure I already have.  When I can get a deal on some lures it’s no big thing but when they are full price, it pays to know.   You don’t have to get as meticulous as I do but it doesn’t hurt to take a look in the tackle box to see exactly what you have.  I’m all about saving a buck so money saved on a color I don’t really need is a couple of extra gallons of gas for the boat.  It pays to do all of this now with the Fishing shows just around the corner.  I will have 3 in my area in the next 2 months and a lot of good deals can be found at them.

Now is the time to do this.  You don’t want to be out there when the fish are hitting hot and heavy to find out something is wrong.  A little time and effort now can go a long way.





2012, Will this be the year?

5 01 2012

To the casual reader this could imply anything but for a devoted walleye fisherman it means only one thing. Will this be the year I finally catch my wall hanger? For over 35 years I have been trying to catch the ever elusive 30 inch, 10 pound plus walleye. Every year I hear of someone else who catches one and every year it isn’t me. I’ve come close but no cigar. I’ll admit I get lazy about it and don’t put in no where near the same hours some people do but even a blind squirrel eventually finds a nut. In the mean time I have a few months to re-stock, plan, dream and come up with more excuses for the new year.