1st walleye trip for 2016.

17 04 2016

There’s always something special about that first trip for the new year.  The anticipation of maybe, just possibly, that this season may be the year I get that wall hanger.  Seeing old friends again on the water.  Feeling that familiar head shake of the first fish after a 5 month absence.  It’s a feeling that can’t be described to a person who has never experienced fishing or has the same passion as I do.  I’ll admit that the excitement has become a little more subdued over the years.  When I was a teen, I would be like a kid at Christmas when my Dad and I started to get the boat ready for that first trip.  The next day at school, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate all day long knowing that in a few hours, I would be catching walleye again.  Now, 30 years later, I still look forward to that first trip but I have enough sense to pick my days and go when the river isn’t literally so thick with boats you could almost jump for boat to boat and reach Canada.  I don’t dodge icebergs anymore nor do I fight the crowds on the weekends.  I wait until weekday evenings when most people are already off the water.  I choose days with favorable conditions and stay indoors during sudden snow squalls (like last weekend).  Some call it laziness and saying I have lost my passion.  I say I have become wiser and more of a realist.  Unlike 90% of the jig fishermen out there right now I have all summer and into fall to catch walleye in the Detroit River.  They aren’t going anywhere.

I had been paying attention to the reports for the past few weeks and things didn’t sound promising.  Lots of bad reports and claims that everyone missed the run.  I really didn’t believe it.  Mother Nature threw us a major curve ball this year and decided to extend winter an extra month, even though that stupid groundhog said otherwise.  We had such a mild winter and no ice cover that a lot of people expected the run to start early this year.  Just when the water temp started to creep up we got slammed with a lot of non typical cold April days.  Here it is mid-April and the surface temps are still in the 40 degree range.  Throw in a lot of dirty water from the snow melt run-off and fishing was not what everyone was expecting.  Fish were being caught but not in the numbers everyone was hoping for.

My friends and fellow handliners, Dave and Larry, had been texting me for about the last week about current conditions and all the complaining on the message boards.  We had been discussing when would be a good time to start pulling wire.  Usually handlining doesn’t really start to take off until water temps hit the 45 degree mark.  It was getting close but not quite there yet.  after a few more texts we decided that Thursday, 4/14/16, would be a good evening to start.  It’s always good to have a second or third boat out on the initial voyage in case any of use have any engine problems.  It also makes trying to find active fish easier.  We can split up and cover more water until one of us zeroes in.  Thus was the case this last Thursday.  Dave and Larry got an earlier start than me but I was able to track them down.  They were fishing downstream so after some info sharing I headed farther upstream.  There was a SW wind this evening and it was making the lower river a little bumpy.  All the more reason for me to head up and get out of the choppy water.  I set up with a pair of #11 Rapala’s and a #9 on my kicker.  I trolled around for about an hour without much activity.  I talked to a few friends who were out jigging and they repeated what I had been hearing for the last few weeks.  Very few fish and mostly eaters.  This was a little discouraging but they are jigging and I was handlining.  Two completely different presentations that can produce completely different results.  Especially as the sun starts to set.

Around 8:15 pm I felt that old familiar hit and shake.  I went through my routine and about 30 seconds later the first fish of 2016 was in the cooler, an 18 inch eater.  This once came on my 40 foot lead and a #11 Chartreuse.  A quick text off to Dave and Larry and I was back at it.  Shortly after that fish I got hung up really bad.  Turns out the 20 inch clevice on my shank got wedged in a rock.  Once I pulled that loose the Rapala on my 20 foot leader got hung up as well.  It eventually pulled free but it took me almost half an hour to get myself situated and back to fishing.  Once I got the shank and lure replaced I motored back to where I caught the first fish and set lines.  By now it was close to 9:00 pm and I was hoping the fish would get active.  They did.  over the next half hour I managed to put 3 more in the cooler, one of them being a 25 inch male.  He turned out to be my last fish of the night.  They turned off just as quickly as they turned on.  After the 4th fish was in the box I called Larry to let them know where I was and what lures I was getting them on (they quit shortly after I did with 3 fish).  I fished for about another 15 minutes but I was getting cold and tired so I headed in.  There were plenty of fishing days ahead.

All in all it was a pretty good start for the season.  I managed 4 in about 2 1/2 hours of fishing.  I had one minor casualty and everything on the boat worked fine.  Water clarity had a bit of a stain to it and that little bit will probably disappear over the weekend.  No rain or wind for the next few days should do it.  That will mean very few fish caught during the day for me.  When I go out again it will be closer to dark, as everyone is leaving the river.

Good luck everyone.

Never stretched out a split ring before. The hook should have bent out or broke before this happened.

Never stretched out a split ring before. The hook should have bent out or broke before this happened.

04-14-16 TC

A late night snack. I scoff at restaurants that tell me their fish is fresh.

A late night snack. I scoff at restaurants that tell me their fish is fresh.

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