Weeds, Bugs, White Bass and Walleye

29 05 2012

Location: Trenton Channel
Date/Time: 05/28/12 9:45 pm to 11:00 pm
Water Temp: 67 degrees
Water Clarity: Don’t know….it was dark out
Weather: Partly Cloudy
Wind: SW 5 to 10 mph
Water Depth: 13 feet
Presentation: Handlining 40/20
Lures: #11 Bleeding Chartreuse

It had been almost a month since the last time I pulled wire. The worst White Bass invasion I can remember has done a good job of keeping me off the water. All I have been hearing is fishermen catching more white bass than anything else. Even out in Lake Erie people are reporting that you need to take twice as many crawlers as necessary because of all the white bass and white perch. I figured I would give it a shot tonight and see what happens. I purposely waited until after dark hoping that would keep the undesirables at bay. It helped but the white bass were still around. I was catching most of them on my kicker with a #9 Rap so after the 6th one the kicker got chucked into the bucket. That slowed down my white bass catch but tonight I had other problems to deal with. Tonight it was weeds, bugs and eventually lightning that made my night a challenge.

When I first started out there wasn’t much of a breeze. This was welcome since I had been watching SW winds over 20 mph all day long. Since there was no breeze this kept the bugs all around my stern light. Eventually a breeze did pick up and it kept the bugs at bay. I wish the breeze would have pushed the weeds out as well. The floating weeds kept me working to clear lines more than I was fishing. I should have known this would be a problem with all the holiday weekend boat traffic. I decided to tough it out for a while anyways. I had the next morning off so I could stay out as long as I wanted. Mother Nature had other ideas though. Shortly after I picked up my first walleye the lightning started to fire up off to the west. A quick check of the radar on my I Phone and I could see storms developing from Monroe all the way up to Detroit. Time to get off the water since aluminum boats and lightning don’t mix.

I did manage to pick up one walleye and it is evident that the white bass are starting to thin out. Temps are supposed to drop back down into the 60’s by the weekend so that should keep the weekend boaters off the water. I will give it another try then.

Only walleye of the night. I doubt I was going to lose him, all 3 hooks in the mouth and he hit it sideways.

Have Kayak, Will Fish Part II

20 05 2012

Next July my family, girlfriend and I are planning a long weekend camping trip to Harrisville Michigan. Since my siblings are kind of novices at this tent camping stuff I suggested a trial run campout at Sterling State Park. Of course I had an ulterior motive, I wanted to go take the kayak out again and fish the Lagoon at the park. Last year I did pretty well on the Largemouth Bass and I was hoping that it would repeat. In this case though history did not repeat itself.
Normally any time I go camping it is a safe bet that it is going to rain. This weekend was the exact opposite, clear skies and sunshine. As a matter of fact it has been awhile since we have received any rain. Because of this the water levels are down on the Detroit River and Lake Eire and the SSP Lagoon was no exception. The other thing that changed from my last time here was that the water was very clear. Normally that is no big deal but the low clear water seemed to make the fish skittish and they would scatter as I paddled up on them. Another surprise was all the minnows that were chasing insects on the surface. I thought they were small panfish at first but to my surprise it was minnows, by the thousands. That bothered me, with all this baitfish I really wondered just how responsive the bass would be. After about 30 minutes I found out that they were going to be difficult. I started off with my usual tube baits but they didn’t produce this time around. I switched over to some spinners and then cranks but still nothing. After about an hour I gave up and decided to come back out again after dinner. Besides, I was close to the Bass Pro Shop south of Toledo Ohio and I wanted to stop in.
After a dining on bacon wrapped barbecued walleye and a pineapple upside down cake that I baked in my Dutch oven I launched my kayak once again. Kelly came by for moral support and to enjoy the cool evening air. I fished the west side of the lagoon first and still nothing. I pitched my tube bait up around a few blow downs and some reeds but still no fish. The sun was starting to set so we made our way back to camp. I decided to make a few final casts by the fishing pier when I finally hooked into my only fish for the weekend. He smacked a white tube bait as I was twitching back towards the surface. A quick picture and he was back on his way. No Skunk this day.

Another entry for the Season Long Challenge

The next morning my sister-in-law Karen wanted to go try out her new custom fishing rod I had made up for her. She is taking this whole being a Schaller thing to heart and wants to learn how to fish. At first she wanted my Dad to teach her because he isn’t as species specific as I am…..she’s starting to come around. A pack of wax worms (purchased at Bass Pro), a small teardrop, one slip bobber and she was ready to go. Things were slow at first but I spotted a group of bluegills in the shallows and soon Karen was bringing them in left and right. She ended up catching about 30 bluegills in various sizes from a couple of inches up to about 8 inches in length. Didn’t matter, she was having fun and all she had to do was reel them in. I did everything else. In a couple of years I will get to teach her daughter Katie how to do this. I can’t wait; teaching kids to fish is one of the great joys in life for a devoted fisherman. I know my Father and Grandfather did.

One of the smaller ones

Have kayak, Will Fish.

12 05 2012

A short time ago in a campground not too far away I had a thought. I wonder if the fishing is better on the other side of the lake. I thought about this as I watched people catch 5 inch bluegills from a fishing pier at a State Park. I looked out across the lake and on the other side I could see cattails, lily pads, blow downs and even a stream flowing into the lake. I knew there had to be something better then what was being caught in this vicinity. Problem was how to get to the other side; I couldn’t just “cross the road”. Nope, it was at this point that I decided it was time to break down and finally buy myself a kayak.
The last few years have seen a boom in kayak fishing. Just go on to “You Tube” and type in kayak fishing and you will see videos of fishermen catching everything from bluegills on small ponds to bull sharks in the ocean. This boom has led to the development of all kinds of different kayaks designed just for fishing. Add some creative rigging and these boats rival my aluminum boat that I use for walleye fishing. Fortunately for me I didn’t need to go that extreme so my choice was relatively easy. Something small, inexpensive and easy for me to store and transport. If a kayak was going to be my primary fishing vessel I would have gone with a sit in style that is designed for fishing. I was thinking along the lines of a part time fishing/rec/touring kayak so I went with the more traditional sit in style. I ended up buying a Patriot, seemed fitting since I also own a Jeep Patriot.

The Jeep always looks better with the kayaks on top.

It’s not the most ideal set up for fishing but it works. After one trip I quickly learned that you have to be organized and all fishing rods better be attached to the kayak or have a float on them. On 3 different occasions my rod went for a swim that first trip. Thankfully I had a float.
I have learned a lot since that first trip down the Gibraltar canals. Since most of my kayak fishing is for bass and panfish I scaled down my tackle to 2 rods, my custom kayak rod and my fly rod. I even scaled back on the lures. I never realized just how versatile a tube bait is until I started this. Of course you can catch just about anything on a fly rod but I have a new found respect for a tube bait and what it catches and where I can use it. I have caught both Largemouth and Smallmouth bass along with many other species of fish on ponds, lakes, impoundments and rivers all with simple tube bait. I still keep some crank baits and spinners handy but my go to lure is a white tube.
On this day my girlfriend Kelly and I decided to make a quick trip to Kent Lake which is in the Kensington Metro Park. I haven’t fished this lake in probably 20 years so I was pretty much going in blind. The catch and release bass season is open now so I was hoping to catch a few to enter into the Kayak Fish the Great Lakes Season Long Online Tournament. I had yet to enter any fish and it was bothering me so I was going to remedy that today. I had heard the Kent Lake was having a problem with invasive weeds and it was quite evident that what I heard was true. Here it is the beginning of May and already the weeds were at the surface and just about everywhere. I made the most of it and was able to catch one small Largemouth.

A little later on I found a sandy gravel area on the south side of the lake that looked like it might hold a few bluegills. I broke out the fly rod and on the first cast I pulled an 8 inch gill. After a quick pic he was released and I was in search of another.

Just about that time the wind picked up and it started to rain. Kayaks, fly rods and wind don’t mix and I was soon blown out of the area I wanted to fish. Kelly and I were running out of time anyways so we headed back towards the ramp. Besides, I was going camping at Sterling State Park next weekend and Houghton Lake on Memorial Day weekend. I would have other opportunities. It was still nice to get out though and paddle around. The quiet that comes from kayak fishing is a pleasant change from my noisy outboard and hand lining.
One other thing, this is for those guys that ignore the DNR signs at boat ramps about cleaning out your intake to prevent the spread of invasive species. I snagged a stick that was covered with zebra mussels today. It doesn’t take much to spread those things around and it only takes a few minutes to prevent it from happening.


A different kind of Tournament….Reelly!!

7 05 2012

No it’s not a typo, just a creative play on words.

As many of us already know the Detroit River is one of the premier fisheries for tournaments every spring. Local clubs, charities and the professional circuit all take advantage of the spring run and the fantastic fishing the river offers. The preferred method of fishing these tournaments is of course jigging. While jigging is a very effective way to target these big Spring fish for some anglers it is not their preferred method for catching walleye. This was the determining factor that helped bring about this tournament. A tournament designed for handliners.

Several years ago I was sitting with some of the DWF board members at our first Perch tournament. We were discussing some changes to the yearly club tournament format and one of the topics was having a captain for each tournament. This person would be responsible for organizing the tournament. If this person wanted to have a “special” tournament he or she could then organize it. I then asked if I volunteered could I have a handlining only tournament. I was told yes and that was the start of it all.

That was over 4 years ago. Since I had never run a tournament before I had a lot of questions so I asked my friend Jerry Hinton how I should go about putting this together. He answered a lot of my questions and pointed me in the right direction. Most tournaments are held during the day for one day only. Handliners generally like to fish at night so I had to arrange this so fishermen could fish both in the evening and morning. I thought this would create a challenge but actually it was a lot easier than I thought. The hardest part was trying to come up with a date. One might think that this part would be easy but there are a couple of factors that have to be taken into consideration.

The first hurdle was trying to plan one around all the other tournaments that take place each spring. My own club, the Downriver Walleye Federation, holds about 3 or 4 tournaments during April and May. I couldn’t conflict with any of those because I would need the club scale and some of the other equipment. I also had to plan around all the professional tournaments and I had no idea how many there were. I had to look up the schedules of the FLW, PWT, MWC, MWT, LOL, SSP, MIA, VIP….Mouse. Most of the club handliners don’t fish in these tournaments but I didn’t want to compete with all the boats at the launch ramps. Someone would probably think that it would be easy to just pick a date after they are all done but that leads to the next problem. The annual Silver Bass run.

Every year, usually between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the Detroit River plays host to the annual Silver Bass (actually they are known as White Bass) run. This is probably one of the largest runs of Silver Bass anywhere in the country. They fill the river by the millions and once they are in trying to catch anything else becomes an exercise in futility. They can be a lot of fun on light tackle or a fly rod but when a fisherman is handlining it can become very frustrating and a lot of work. This year I was off by just a couple of days. As of Tuesday (5/2) there were still no reports of huge schools of Silver Bass. Back to back 80 degree plus days changed that. Oh well, can’t have everything. The alternative would be to hold it a few weeks earlier but then I run the risk of very cold and miserable weather. It’s no fun being out on the river at night with high winds and a chance of snow.

Even though the Silver Bass did interfere the participants were able to catch a lot of nice walleye. There may not have been any of the big females that the earlier tournaments produce but a lot of above average males were weighed in. This is actually one of the best times to pull wire on the river. The weeds haven’t started up yet, pleasure boats are still in storage and the walleye are hungry. After the spawning period is over the big females head back out to the lake but the males stick around and go on a feeding binge. Big Rapala’s are the norm and easy limits can be had. The crazy weather in March stabilized and April turned out to produce some of the best fishing I have ever seen. Most of the fish caught were still from the 2003 class and they are well over 20 inches in length. Catching fish this size can be fun but it is hard on equipment, especially the hands. I may start to wearing gloves now.

My team had a great night. The first hour was mostly Silver Bass. My dad and I did manage to catch a walleye while Mike just sat in the front of the boat and took pictures. Once it got dark the Silver Bass shut down and the walleye turned on. We caught 11 walleye in the next hour with many of them being over 23 inches in length. Two of the fish were closer to 25 inches and around 5 pounds each. My dad was very optimistic that we were going to place in the top this time around. I was a little more pessimistic. Based on all the boats fishing around us I figured they were doing just as well as we were. Turns out Dad was right, we ended up in 3rd place with 21.59 pounds for 5 fish.

When all was said and done we had 16 boats with 32 anglers signed up. 14 teams weighed in 69 fish for a total weight of just over 250 pounds. That worked out to an average weight of 3.6 pounds per fish. Not bad considering these were all male fish. 6 teams weighed in over 20 pounds and 1st place had a total weight of 23.72 pounds. The biggest fish of the tournament weighed in at just less than 6 pounds. Everyone had a great time, the weather was just about perfect and even though the silvers showed up we were still able to catch walleye.

Mission Accomplished.