Double Up

25 04 2019

Went back out Wednesday night (4/24) with handlining Padawan Steve.  I took him out a couple of years ago to teach him how to pull wire.  He contacted me about a week ago asking if he could tag along on another trip.  He bought a new boat and it isn’t set up yet for this.  We made arrangements to meet at my house around 7:30 pm and from there we headed to Elizabeth Park.

The water had cleared up some more and rose from yesterday.  Clouds were overcast but I still figured nothing was really going to happen until after sunset.  We set up in the same area I caught my fish last night and got started.  I was running the same lures from the previous night and I set Steve up with a 30/15 shank.  He picked out a #11 Bleeding Shad and a #9 Blue/Silver Rapala.  The last time we went out I started off catching all the fish and then Steve caught up.  This time it was the other way around.  Around 8:00 pm Steve caught the first fish and by 8:45 he would add three more.  He had just asked me if I was sand bagging so he could catch the fish and then I caught the next five.  As I was pulling in my lines Steve hooked and landed his fifth fish of the night.  By 9:15 pm we were all done and headed in.  Can’t complain about an easy night like that.

As I said earlier the water was clearing up.  I would guess visibility was over two feet or more.  Skies were overcast with winds out of the south.  They bounced us around pretty well when we started but they slowly started to subside.  Don’t know what the water temp was, I still haven’t replaced my sonar unit.  Two of the fish I caught were somewhat strange.  I caught both of them on my 40 foot lead while it was draped over my shoulder and running on the surface.  The first time happened when I was checking lines.  The second hit while I was landing one on my kicker.  Just as I got the fish in the boat another walleye hit my long lead.  I’ve had that happen before, on rare occasions, but never twice in one night.

Until next time, which will probably be next week.  Hope the other fish hold off for another week.

 

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Back After the Walleye

24 04 2019

After a two week hiatus i was headed back out to put some more walleye in the freezer.  The weather last week wasn’t all that great so my motivation was pretty low.  I really wasn’t feeling it last night but I heard the “S” word being used on the fishing reports so my window of opportunity was starting to close.  Winds were out of the NW but it was supposed to lay down to single digits after dark.  I figured I could deal with it until then.  I started fishing around 7:45 pm, sort of.  I forgot that I lost my 40 foot lead the last time out so I had to make up a new one while fighting the winds.  Not an easy task.  Around 8 I was lines down and starting my run.  It didn’t take long and I had my first one in the boat.  The streak continues.

Not much happened after the first fish.  The water had a perfect stain to it for jigging.  I figured I would pick up a few here and there but I still felt that the bulk of the action wouldn’t happen until after dark.  I was right , around 8:30 pm the fish turned on.  For the next 15 minutes it was easy pickings.  15 minutes later I was all done and headed in.  They were in full on feed mode and hitting all the leads and lures.  Fishing is a lot of fun when it’s like this.  Hope I can get a few more trips in before those “S” things show up in force.





Pre-Tax Day Smallmouth Weekend.

16 04 2019

Back when I was in Alaska, one of the guys I was fishing with mentioned all of us getting together to do a Smallmouth weekend with Schultz Outfitters.  At the time I didn’t think much of it because I figured it would never happen.  Well a couple of months later it was happening and next thing I knew I was paying my part of a deposit.  The man in charge reserved 3 guides and boats for the 6 of us on April 13th and 14th.  A few years back this would have never happened.  The DNR recently made bass fishing a year round sport as long as it was CPR (Catch, Photo, Release) during what was traditionally a closed season.  Since that change the guides at Schultz Outfitters have put in their homework and figured out a program to consistently catch these pre-spawn, cold water fish.

The first day I was fishing with Mike Schultz himself and Ken Fugate from my Alaska trip.  Mike told us we were right on the cusp of the fishing exploding.  Water temps were 50 degrees and the fish were really close to taking off.  Problem was that with so little rain that the rivers were low and clear.  Throw in the forecasted clear skies and it was going to be tough.  We were throwing an articulated fly called a Swinging “D”.  I have fished these flies before and the key to making them work was giving the line a hard strip and then letting the fly pause in slack water.  The pause is when the fish would come up and grab it.  If it was still moving the bigger fish would just ignore it.  Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t make it happen.  The Northern Pike sure liked it though.  I managed to hook 4 of them on Saturday.  Throw in the two smaller bass and I was beginning to question why I agreed to this.  Ken wasn’t having any problems.  He managed to land one that was around 19 1/2 inches long.  The other people in the group were catching big fish as well.  All except for me.  To say I was getting frustrated and discouraged is an understatement.  The only excitement I had was when I made a bad cast and buried the fly into my skull.  Mike was able to get it out but it was a bloody mess for a bit.

The next day was a completely different story in several ways.  Different guide, different river and different conditions.  Saturday was blue skies and sunshine.  Sunday was overcast skies, a rain snow mix and a temperature drop of around 30 degrees.  It pretty much rained the whole time we were fishing.  My guide (And Casting Instructor) today was Jay Wisnosky, also of Schultz Outfitters.  Today we were headed to a stretch of river the guides call The Land of The Giants.  I was a little more optimistic today but still cautious.  A cold front, like we had going on, can shut fish down.  About an hour later I got my answer.  I hooked and landed my new personal best Smallmouth, on a fly, at 17 3/4 inches long.

I was feeling much better now.  These fish are powerful and trying to land one on a fly rod will put a strain on the arm muscles.  After a few quick pics he went back into the water.  These fish take between and 15 to 20 years to get to this size.  Because of this extra care is taken to make sure they are unharmed and able to fight another day.  I asked Ken if he wanted to take over the front of the boat and he passed.  Yesterday we switched back and forth between the front and back of the boat, today Ken didn’t want to switch.  He was having a hard time staying warm and just wanted to sit in the back.  We tried a few more spots with only one smaller fish to show for our efforts.  Jay switched out my fly for a crayfish pattern at the next hole.  He told me to do the same thing I was doing all morning.  Cast towards the bank, let the current pull the line forward and let the fly sink.  Give it a twitch every now and then and repeat.  About half way through the hole I hooked and landed my new personal best Smallmouth at 18 1/2 inches.

After this one I thought for sure Ken would want to get in on the action but he still passed on it.  I was starting to feel guilty for catching all the fish but he said don’t worry about it so I kept at it.  We had a quick lunch after this one.  Hard to eat a warm meal when it is raining on you.  After lunch we drifted downstream to yet another hole and I went back to swinging my fly through the run.  This time I was using a Circus Peanut, similar to the one I lodged in my skull yesterday.  I managed to hook another fish in the 17 inch range that was scarred and pissed off at the world.  Jay was telling me to strip line in and I couldn’t.  The fish was having nothing to do with me and was determined to stay on the bottom.  Eventually I was able to get him up, netted and released without any damage to anything other than his pride.  Or mine, since I had such a hard time getting him in.

Farther down the river Jay switched out my fly back to the crawfish pattern I caught my new PB on. For some odd reason every time I switched flies I caught a fish.  Kind of goes against my theory of constantly changing flies but I wasn’t going to argue with the results.  It made sense though.  At this next hole the bank was lined with tree stumps or root balls and the bottom was covered with rock and boulders.  I started casting and as we slowly drifted downstream I could see a rather large boulder under water.  I was able to time my cast so that the fly drifted over the top and behind the boulder.  My eyes bugged out of my head as I watched the fish come up from the bottom and inhale the fly.  I buried that hook and the fight was on.  He did not want to come out from behind that boulder but once he did the current caught him and he took off downstream.  Eventually I was able to turn him towards me and into the net.  Jay measured him at just a hair over 19 inches.  A new personal best, again.

Now I was really wound up.  I was just hoping for one decent fish and instead I landed my 3 biggest, on a fly. to date.  By now though it was 4:30 pm and we had been on the water for almost 6 hours of wind driven rain.  We tried a few more spots but not much happened.  I managed to land one smaller fish and that was it.  I had had enough, as did Ken, so Jay just rowed for the take out point.  I wasn’t going to complain.  I was more sore then wet but I still had an hour drive home after Jay got us to our cars which were an additional hour away.

So that was my weekend.  One day of blue bird skies and the other a total opposite, both in weather and results.  During dinner Saturday night there was talk of making this a yearly event.  I’ll admit I was ready to bow out after Saturday.  After Sunday I changed my mind.

 

 





Inaugural Handlining Trip for 2019

11 04 2019

It’s been a long winter.

Last Tuesday (4/9) I made my first handlining trip for the 2019 walleye season.  Last year at this time the water was filthy dirty and full of fish.  This year the water is super clear and the run has just started.  I had been hearing a lot of hit and miss reports all over the river.  Seems like their are a lot of smaller groups of males in the river.  If someone can find a group and stay on them a limit can be caught.  If not, then it makes for a long day.

Knowing that I waited unto after 8:00 pm before I even launched the boat.  After a brief chat with some visiting anglers from Grand Rapids on where everything is I was on the water around 8:30 pm.  The sun was just starting to set and I wasn’t expecting much to happen until later on.  It had been windy all day long and it was lying down nicely now.  Just a slight breeze out of the west.  Near perfect conditions, all I needed was for the walleye to cooperate.  Around 9 I got my first fish of the night.  I caught him up by the Edison Power Plant discharge, an area I don’t normally fish too often.  I hung around the area for about another half hour and picked up two more fish.  Fishing wasn’t as fast and furious as I wanted so I headed downstream to where I originally started.  A few minutes later and number 4 was in the boat.  I was hoping to be done soon but the walleye had other ideas.  The next half hour was head shakes and a lost fish at the boat.  He charged my prop and got tangled up with my short lead.  Off he came as I was flipping him  over the side.  I got my lines untangled and back int he water.  As I sat there grumbling and disgusted for losing a fish that way I had another hit.  There was a lot of weight to this one so I slowed down some and turned the boat into the fish.  Once I got my shank out of the water I saw why there was extra weight.  My top and middle lead were going in different directions and there was a walleye on each line.  I got the middle lead fish in first and then brought in the long lead one.  Once I got the lures out of the way I compared sizes and tossed the smaller one back.  First trip of the year resulted in a 5 fish limit and no lost lures.  That is until I started to put stuff away.  As I was putting lures away I disconnected a #11 GFR Rapala and instead of laying it on my console, I chucked it over the side like I was getting it back into the water to fish.

It’s been a long winter.