Quack, Quack no Boom

30 09 2012

Yesterday marked the opening of the waterfowl season in Michigan’s Zone 2. For several years now I have spent this morning at a somewhat secluded spot my friend Barry found in the Sanford area. When there is plenty of water and acorns the wood duck shooting can be fast and furious. When there is no water or acorns…..not so much. Then there are those rare occasions when we have both and still no ducks. Yesterday was one of those rare occasions.

We set up in our usual spot, threw out about half a dozen decoys and settled in for the first arrival. The woodies usually come in from the east and this morning was no different. They are easy to spot as they come in over the oaks but once they drop down to water level they practically disappear. The first couple of birds whistled by and we never saw them. The next one came in and I was able to pick it up but unfortunately my shooting was a little late and behind. Dean and Barry were able to knock it down and he landed on the opposite of the shoreline. Barry took his dog over to go retrieve the bird leaving me all by my little lonesome. While the two of them were concentrating on finding the downed bird a lone woodie flew in and I was able to knock her down with one clean shot.

That was it.

After that we didn’t see another duck for the rest of the morning. With no wind and a blue bird sky we expected the shooting to be slow but not this. Usually we see some mallards flying around in the distance but today we didn’t even see that. We didn’t hear a whole lot of shooting off in the distance either. Kind of nice to know we weren’t alone. This had to be one of the most unproductive opening mornings we have ever had. The only activity we saw were squirrels on the opposite shore jumping through the trees. Once it got to be about 9:00 am we gave up and switched out our shotguns for .22’s. One thing I learned about small game and waterfowl hunting is that you have to adapt. If the conditions aren’t favorable for one species, switch to another.

I ended up with 3 squirrels. Should make a nice dinner for me tonight.

A long wet weekend

24 09 2012

This past weekend was the opener for the youth deer hunt in Michigan. Since Kelly and I were planning on taking her son Adam up to the family hunting lodge to try his luck I took a Friday and Monday off. We had to get up north early so that we could get Adam registered. Since we weren’t leaving until the afternoon I had the morning open to go fishing. My morning success has been pretty pathetic but I figured it would turn around soon. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After I dropped my daughter off art school I headed to Elizabeth Park to launch the boat. By 8:00 am I had my lines in the water and I was making my first pass from the Cat to the stacks. The surface temp on the water was 64 degrees and there was a little bit of a stain. Hardly any wind and overcast clouds above. Almost immediately I had a hit but it quickly came off, whatever it was. It wasn’t too much longer and I picked up a 4 inch small mouth on a #7 CCT Rapala. I swear he wasn’t much bigger than the lure. I really have to wonder just how many of those YOY fish are down there. For the next several hours I tried many different color and size Rapala’s, spoons and locations. Nothing worked and I was rewarded with my first skunk of the year. Guess I shouldn’t have eaten that banana for breakfast. I quit around 11:00 am. I still had to pack so it was best that I just went home.

After a quick lunch and some creative packing in the Jeep the 3 of us were on our way. Forecast was supposed to be a 50% chance of rain for the whole weekend. I hope it holds off. I really want Adam to get his first deer. Once we got to the house we unpacked and got Adam all set for tomorrow’s hunt. As it sometimes happens to even the best laid plans of mice and men I awoke to an absolute downpour. So much for the first morning. The rain stopped a few hours later but the radar showed more coming in. I took Adam down to the range so he could practice some more with the rifle he was using. I was letting him use my Remington 788 in .243 Winchester. Last year he used his Grandfathers 30.06 and he missed a deer. He has a hard time getting the scope lined up and he wasn’t very comfortable shooting it. My rifle is cut a little shorter so I thought it might fit him better. Judging from the numerous bulls eyes he had I think this rifle will suit him better. Now all we need is for the rain to lay off.

We headed out to the blind around 4:00 pm to find that the area had been clear cut and the trail to his Uncle’s blind was gone. Fortunately I marked the spot with my Garmin GPS and after a little bush whacking we were able to find the blind. While we were doing this it decided to start raining on us again. It only lasted a few minutes but this process repeated itself 5 more times. After the fifth time Adam had said he had had enough and wanted to go home. I wasn’t about to argue. Even though we had rain gear we still got soaked and I didn’t want him to get anymore discouraged than he already was. Besides, tomorrow will be another day.

The next morning produced clear skies and cold temps. We bundled up and headed out. This morning we set up on the edge of a sugar beet field. The woods were still wet and I didn’t feel like getting soaked again walking to the blind. As the sun began to rise I saw a lone coyote walking the edge of the field. Just as I told Adam to pick up his rifle he disappeared. It looked like the animals were moving, now all we needed was a deer. A few minutes later we saw what we were looking for. Off in the distance I saw something move across the field. When I picked the deer up in my binoculars I could see it was a buck. I had Adam get his rifle ready and as he moved the deer saw us and stopped. It was a nice 8 point and he was broadside and looking right at us. Only problem is that he was close to 300 yards away. Adam was looking at the deer through his scope and asking me what to do. 300 yards is a long shot for any hunter, especially a first time hunter who has never taken a shot like that before. I sat there debating what to tell Adam. Seconds seemed like minutes and after a short period the deer got nervous and ran off. Adam looked disappointed but I explained to him he would be even more upset if he wounded the deer and we never recovered it. That is a sick feeling and one I did not want him to experience if it could be avoided. He understood and we settled down to wait for the next one. We didn’t have to wait long. As I was scanning the edge of the field Adam motioned for me to look to my right. There stood a doe not 20 yards away from us. As part of the youth hunt Adam could shoot a doe and the club encouraged it. They want to keep the buck/doe ration in line so a certain number have to be taken. Problem with this one is that it was on my right, Adam was on my left and the deer was looking right at us. I slowly backed up as Adam tried to turn to get a shot. There was tree in the way and he couldn’t get a clear shot. She needed to take a few more steps forward but instead she took a few more steps backwards. Once we couldn’t see her anymore we heard her run off into the woods. By now it was 8:00 am and the sun was shining right in our face. I told Adam we had two choices, we either had to move or head back to the house. He was cold and wanted to go back to the house and that is what we did. Just as well, more rain was on the way and once we got back to the house it started again. Kelly and I had some breakfast and Adam went back to sleep. He had been having a hard time with his allergies all weekend and it was taking a lot out of him. I told Kelly about how the morning went and we talked about what we should do for the rest of the day. We went into town for a little bit while Adam slept. He woke up around lunch and we discussed his options. I told him we could go back out tonight which he seemed willing to do. We decided to get the Jeep packed and the house cleaned up so we could leave right after we came in. While we were packing it started to rain again, this time though it was hail. I gave up, sometimes it is just better to cut your losses and go home. Kelly and Adam agreed. Opening day of rifle is less than 2 months away and he will get another chance. Until then we will go back to chasing squirrels and possibly some grouse and woodcock.


As for the walleye? The next few days are supposed to be more wind and rain.  Maybe I’ll get a chance one night this week.  Next weekend is the waterfowl opener in the northern half of the lower peninsula and I know where a few wood ducks are hanging out.

9/16/12 Quick Trip Walleye

17 09 2012

My Dad was down for a few days so we decided to make a quick trip and see if we couldn’t catch a few walleye. Well that’s just what we did, catch a few walleye, 4 to be exact. Weeds were a nightmare once again. Once it got dark it became nearly impossible to get clean lures down to the bottom. For awhile every time I tried to set lines one of them would get fouled with weeds. On two different occasions all of our lines got tangled because of the huge batches of weeds we would snag. We did manage to each catch 2 but those fish were a lot of work. Mine came on a #9 Blue Holographic Rapala and my dad caught both of his on a blue and silver Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue. One of them tangled up all our lines as he was bringing it in. The front hooks on the lure were in the jaw but the back hook caught the fish near the pectoral fins. This caused the fish to spin like a windmill as he was bringing it in. As the fish was spinning it caught all 5 lines. What a mess. After two hours of lures spending more time out of the water than in I called it quits.

Other than the weeds the conditions were favorable. Water was clear with a surface temp of 69 degrees. There was a 5 mph Southerly breeze, clouds were overcast and no bugs. One of these days I am going to get an evening where everything is perfect.

On a side note I received a phone call from one of the teachers at my kid’s school. He was wondering if I knew of any local fishermen who would donate walleye to families in need who have students attending the school. I told him I could donate and that I might be able to arrange a little mini tournament and have the fish cleaned and donated. I told him I would just need help cleaning and storing the fish until he can distribute it. Hopefully this can happen.

Windy Day Walleye 9/11/12

12 09 2012

I had been watching the weather forecast all day, hoping that the SW wind was going to die down. I was supposed to take Dan out tonight and it wasn’t looking good. A 10-15 mph SW wind usually isn’t bad except when I am trying to fish the south end of the river. With the wind pushing against the current it can get rather bumpy. The forecast said it was supposed to die down after dark to less than 10 mph which isn’t bad. Unfortunately it never did, guess that’s why it is called a forecast and not an actual.

Dan and I hit the water just after 7:00 pm. I saw Richard out in his boat so I decided to make a few circles around him to add a few mores waves. I did this to Dan a few weeks ago and I didn’t want to think I only pick on him. We pulled up a long side of Richard to see how he and Mark were doing. They had just started and he threw me a lure he wanted me to try. He is playing around with painting his own lures so he wanted my “expert” opinion on it. We pulled away and got set up. We had about a 1 foot chop on the water and setting up was a little difficult. I put Richards freshly painted lure on my long lead along with a #7 CCT and a #7 Green Holographic Rapala. I don’t know what Dan used, I was busy trying to keep the boat heading north.

It didn’t take long and I had a walleye on. When I got him up to the side of the boat I could see he was barley hooked and with one more shake of the head he was gone. With a strong SW wind the boat bounces around more and the speed varies a lot. I think this causes a lot of short strikes and fish that are barely hooked. I told this to Dan and said we were probably going to lose a fair number of fish tonight. A few minutes later Dan had a walleye on and he was able to get it into the boat. It was barely hooked as well and undersized. Dan tossed him back and soon we were back at it. For the next few hours we picked away at the fish. It was slow going but we were putting fish in the cooler. Dan started to switch out lures and I handed him one of my #7 CCT’s. He had been having a rough night with snags and all he had to show so far was one under sized walleye. He also lowered his top lead down a few notches and got back to fishing. About 10 minutes later he landed his first keeper for the night. It came on the CCT and the lead he adjusted down. It’s hard to say what was the determining factor but he had a fish in the cooler and that’s what counts the most.

All good things must end though and it was time for us to head in. We both had to work the next day and neither one of us got any sleep the night before. We had 5 in the cooler, tossed a couple back and lost 2 as well. Not bad considering we had to deal with a 10 to 15 mph SW wind all night. Surface temps were down to 71 degrees and the water was still clear. Another front is expected for the weekend and that should lower the temps some more. As for Richards lure, well I like the paint scheme but the lure didn’t float. It kept tangling up with my second leader. This is why the larger more buoyant lures always go on the top leader. Keep the ones below it from rising up and tangling. Needless to say it didn’t stay on long.

Endeavor to Persevere 9/5/12

6 09 2012

Or however Chief Dan George said it.


After last Saturday’s debacle I was determined to make amends. After a quick check of my boat for banana’s and crickets I was on my way. Even after the rain we received the last few days the water was still clear, probably about 3-4 feet of visibility. I set up north of Calf Island and put out 3 custom painted downriver tackle Raps in size 9 and 7. It wasn’t long and I had my first dinky Smallmouth Bass on for the night. I hoped this wasn’t going to be a repeat of Saturday as I released him and went back to fishing. About 5 minutes later I caught my first walleye on a #7 CCT on my 20 foot lead. This turned out to be the hot combination for the night, accounting for 3 walleye and most of the bass. I spun around and made another pass through that spot but didn’t catch another fish. I continued north weaving east and west until I hit the Catamaran. By now the clouds were starting to break and the setting sun was peaking through the clouds. The breeze was letting up and the bugs were just starting to come out. Conditions were darn near perfect when I first started but they were slowly deteriorating as darkness set in. Chief Dan George saying “Endeavor to Persevere” kept going through my mind as I methodically worked the river over. I began to pick away at my 5 fish limit even though the bugs were biting and the floating weeds were getting thicker. By now it was 8:30 pm and I didn’t know how much more I could take. The bugs were getting thick and the weed mats were getting larger. I told myself I would quit at 9, 5 fish or not. Fortunately for me at 8:45 I caught number 5 on my kicker and the Downriver Steel Rap. Good thing too because my GPS shut down as did my depth finder. I started to check connections but I noticed that my navigation lights were very dim. Guess I need to charge up the battery.

Final tally for the night was 5 eaters between 15 and 18 inches. Conditions were overcast with a South wind at first but as usual it all changed once I started fishing. The wind disappeared and the clouds gave way to clearer skies. The floating weeds were intermittent at first and then very thick. It was like someone dumped a bunch of them into the river further upstream. Surface temps were around 75 degrees. The water should start to cool off with the evening temps dropping down into the 50’s the next few nights. Not as many Smallmouth Bass tonight and they were all undersized. None of the 3 inchers though. Won’t be long and the shad will start to move in and hopefully the big boys will be right behind them.

T to B, Rainbow Trout, Copper Crazy Tiger, Downriver Steel. All by Downrivertackle.com

Bass, Bass and More Bass. 9-1-12

3 09 2012

Normally I am not a superstitious person, but when a black cat ran out in front of me as I was headed to the ramp Saturday morning I should have taken it as a sign. It was a beautiful morning so I had no reason to think it was going to turn out as badly as it did. I arrived at the ramp at 6:00 am and quickly launched my boat. I still had an hour until sunrise so I put on the body baits and one pencil plug. I could make out a few weeds on the surface but nothing to bad too worry about. Fishing was slow at first with nothing except a few under sized Smallmouth Bass to show for my efforts. Once the sun came up I switched over too spoons and got ready for action. Problem was the action I was waiting for was not what I wanted.

Shortly after sunrise I felt a very light hit and it turned out to be a 3 inch bass. This is not un-common. These are fish from this year’s hatch which from all indications looks like a good one. That’s great for my bass fishing friends but I was looking for the toothy critters that like to eat them. For the next hour all I caught were under sized bass. I was averaging one about every five minutes. I was getting ready to change tactics up a bit when something hit me in the leg. I looked down and there was green stuff on my right thigh and on the seat of my boat. Sure enough, a bird crapped on me as he flew overhead. I just shook my head and cleaned up the mess. I switched out some spoon colors and styles and continued my run towards the stacks. As I was getting closer I noticed something running back and forth along the bank. I thought it was a muskrat at first but when I got closer I realized it was a mink. I watched him bop around for about a minute and just as I was making my turn I had another fish on. This one turned out to be a walleye but he was exactly 15 inches long so I tossed him back. The way things were going this morning I wasn’t expecting much more and I didn’t feel like cleaning one small fish. Shortly after I set lines again I had another light hit and as expected it was another 3 inch bass. It turned out to be a triple with a 3 inch bass on each lure. As I was releasing the fish off the short leads I noticed a Ring Bill Gull hovering behind me. He had seen the other bass on my 40 foot lead and was trying to get a quick meal. Just as I got my hand on the leader he swooped down and grabbed him. Fortunately from him and me all he got was the bass. I didn’t feel like trying to un-hook a gull today.

Once I got all my lines in I took off downstream to try some deeper water. Same results as my first spot but at least I did catch a legal bass, an 18 incher. After a quick pic I tossed him back in the water. By now it was 9:00 am so I decided to make a run farther upstream and try the channel by the Rotary Park ramp. I set up in the channel in 25 feet of water. I fished until about 9:30 am with still no walleye. I pulled lines for the final time and just headed home. I had stuff to do around the house so it was time to cut my losses and try another day.

Conditions this morning weren’t bad. Water is still clear but the weeds were a bit of a problem. Surface temps have been stable at around 75 degrees the last few trips. Won’t be too much longer and it will start to cool down more. That will make me and a bunch of perch fishermen very happy. Final tally for the day was one barely legal walleye and about 3 dozen Smallmouth Bass. At least I didn’t get skunked.


Sort of.

I need to go check my boat for a banana.