Port Austin 2019

20 05 2019

This past Thursday (May 16th) began my now annual Smallmouth Trip to Port Austin.  I started making this yearly trek last year and my plan is to do it every year.  The only thing that could stop me now would be gale force east winds or my health.  I wasn’t going to have to deal with either this weekend (or so I thought) so away I went.  I arrived at Port Crescent State Park mid afternoon and set up camp.  Once that was all done I headed to the lake to start fishing.  When I arrived there were a few other fishermen out but they were all in kayaks.  I brought mine but I really don’t like fishing from a kayak.  I prefer to wade so I put my waders on and started out.  The water levels on Lake Huron are up considerably from last year and I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it as far out as I did last year.  As it turns out I wouldn’t have to.  Once I reached the old rock road I started casting.  3 casts later and the first one was in hand.

Not a monster by any stretch but it was a good start.  At least the fish were in close which is what I was hoping for.  With the west winds blowing the warmer water out I was hoping it would bring the fish in.  One thing I have learned about smallmouth fishing is that a few degree increase in temps can make a huge difference.  Over the next half hour I continued to catch fish.  Most of them were in the 12 inch range with one that was closer to 14.

The size was trending up but no where near the toads I caught last month.  These fish were still in pre-spawn mode and I believe the big ones hadn’t moved in yet.  I kept at it though when suddenly it happened.  It was just a occasional drip at first but soon the skies opened up and I got dumped on.  I could see clear skies in front of me but apparently I picked the only spot on Lake Huron to fish that was getting rained on.  It didn’t last long but it was enough to get me thoroughly soaked.  I debated heading in but I was a quarter mile from my car and I was already wet.  I waded out a little farther and made a few more casts.  My perseverance paid off.

This was my biggest lake Huron fish to date.  I estimated the length to be around 16 inches.  A quick pic and he was on his way.  After that one I headed in, the wind was starting to pick up and I was getting a chill.  I wasn’t expecting rain so I left my rain gear in the car.  A warm fire at camp was sounding pretty good right about now anyways.

I had all weekend so there was no sense in me getting crazy that first night.  If I had known what was going to happen the next 3 days I might have stayed out longer.  I awoke the next morning to the sound of rain hitting the roof of my camper.  It wasn’t a long rain but it was enough to discourage me from getting out of bed.  Once I did I looked out of over Lake Huron and could see it was dead calm.  That part I liked, except for the fact that I wasn’t going to be fishing this side of the point.  The other side faced east and the wind had changed to the direction during the night.  For the next two days it was straight in my face east winds and morning rain showers.  I tried to fish in it but it was pretty futile.  Dodging waves while casting into a 15 mph head wind is pretty much pointless.  So for the next few days I just hung around camp, tied some flies, played with the fire, fed the chipmunks and pretty much relaxed.  It’s still early yet so I may make the trip back up in a few weeks.

 

Until next time.

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Mental Health Walleye Trip 5/14/19

15 05 2019

5/14/19 and the Barbarian Horde still hasn’t taken over the river.

Thank God!

Earlier I had a routine doctor appointment that got a little out of hand.  It was supposed to be a follow up but it turned into a bit of a health scare and an all day event.  Everything is ok now but the one test sent me into a panic so I figured my best course of action to relax was to go fishing.  I would have liked to have gone out earlier but since it was such a beautiful day I opted to start after sunset.  The annual “Other Fish” invasion was on the verge of exploding and I didn’t need that to add to my stress.  With that in mind I launched right around 9:00 pm.  As expected the water was clear and still running high.  As a matter of fact, based on the water levels on shore, it looked a little higher than last time out.  Remnants of the Tri-Hull navy were coming in as I was getting ready.  I was hoping they were still early.  In a few minutes I would find out that my prayer’s were answered.  My first two fish were a couple of those little buggers but that was it.  After that it was all walleye for the next 30 minutes.

No specific color or lead out produced the other tonight.  I caught fish on all of them.  As a matter of fact, I have stuck to the same 3 or 4 patterns all season.  All have consistently produced, except for that one night with my cousin when the new pattern produced half the fish caught.  Still a fair amount of debris in the water and the current was really humping.  Had to kick up the rpm’s on my motor a bit to keep some forward momentum.  If I didn’t I soon found myself going downstream instead of up.  Lot of head shakes and probably a few scrapes tonight.  When I got home I found a few scales on one of my Rapalas.  I think I bonked a couple on the head with my weight as well.  There has got to be a lot of fish in the river right now.  I would like to think they are all walleye but I know better.  About a dozen other handliners out tonight, most I’ve seen all season.  A little late to the party but that’s their business.

I felt a lot better after I got the fish cleaned and the boat put away.  Going back up to Port Austin this weekend to chase Smallmouth Bass.  I’ll try for the walleye again after I get home.

 

 





Family Affair

8 05 2019

My cousin John contacted me a few weeks back wanting to know if I could take him out walleye fishing again.  He loves to fish but he doesn’t have the means or equipment to go as much as he would like.  After he told me his work schedule we made arrangements for he and his roommate to meet me at my house on Tuesday, May 7th.

After a quick stop at the local tackle store to purchases fishing licenses we were on our way.  By 7:30 pm we were on the water and jigging.  That’s right, jigging.  I figured I would let them try this at first until sunset.  After some quick instructions we made our first drift.  Almost immediately Jessie was into a fish and we soon landed his first walleye.  This would turn out to be our only walleye caught jigging along with a few of the other fish.  While Jessie was reeling in one of those other fish it was followed by about a dozen more.  Once he lifted it out of the water the others went after Jack’s jig and he caught one.  After about 45 minutes of this nonsense we pulled lines and headed downstream.  Jack was up first and after a quick refresher course he was back to handlining.  After I got him set up I got myself squared away and all lines were down.  Not much happened until sunset and right on cue (8:30 pm) I hooked the first on, a 25 inch male.  I put a few more in the cooler but unfortunately Jack wasn’t having any luck.

After about half an hour I told him it was time to switch things up and let Jessie try.  I gave him the same instructions and after a couple of minutes I was coaching him along as he brought in his first walleye by wire.  After that I told him he was on his own.  He managed to pick up a couple of more along with one of those other fish.  Around 9:30 I told him to let Jack try again as we were running short on time.  I had to work in the morning as did Jessie and we probably wouldn’t get done with cleaning fish until after 11 as it is.  I joked with Jack about getting it in gear and it must have worked.  He boated 3 in the next 10 minutes.  I had been playing catch and release for awhile so that he would add some to the cooler.  When he hooked his third I had hooked one as well.  His was bigger so we kept it for 15 and I released mine.  After that I out everything away and we headed for home.  Good thing too, I had a lot of fish to clean.

I got a new pattern from Jim Downrivertackle. com to try tonight and it caught the majority of the fish.  Glad I had him paint up a few of those.   My modified #9 rap’s with the single trailer hook landed a few as well and none lost.  Gonna have to rig up some more of them like that.

This will be the last walleye post for awhile.  My hands are trash and the other fish invasion is about to take off.  I have plans to go to the Kalamazoo River this weekend and Port Austin the following weekend to catch Smallmouth Bass.  Hope my luck continues.





Weekend Walleye Report

6 05 2019

Friday (5/3):

Random guy who has had a few Ginger Ale’s: How you doing? (rather loudly)

Me: Ok

RGWHHAFGA: We got 8.

Me: That’s Good.

RGWHHAFGA: We’ve been out since 6 (2 1/2 hrs) We are killing them.

Me: Cool

RGWHHAFGA: How many you got?

Me: 4

RGWHHAFGA: Been out a long time?

Me: No, 20 minutes.

RGWHHAFAG:…………………………………………………..

His fishing Partner in the boat: Can you shut up now and get back to fishing instead of being so cocky?

 

That was the highlight of my Friday Night.  I got on the water about 7:45 and by 8:15 I had my 5 and was headed in.  The only drama was the aforementioned individual who everyone on the river could probably hear.  I figured they were doing well from all his yelling.  I didn’t hear him anymore after he talked to me.

The water was dirty from all the rain we got earlier in the week.  I ran some Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue’s and for kicks and giggles a spoon.  All of them produced fish.  1st one of the night was a 26 inch male.  Biggest one of the year so far.  Still haven’t caught any of those other fish but I did see a few caught.  They have to be close to taking off.

 

Sunday (5/5):

7:30 to 8:30 – One walleye and 3 of those other fish.

8:30 to 8:40 – Hold My Pepsi…..

Originally I was supposed to be going out with my friend Richard but he cancelled earlier.  He was all packed and ready but he is still feeling the affects of a hunk of chain falling from his garage rafters and hitting him in the head.  I told him not to worry about the fish.  They weren’t going anywhere and I would get him out another night.  I didn’t know what the water was going to be like so I left my house a little after 7.  I was hoping it would still be dirty and it would be a quick night.  After I got to the ramp I could see that the water had cleared up a lot.  Still a bit of a stain to it but there was a couple of feet of visibility.  Add in the clear skies and I had a feeling I was going to waste an hour until sunset.  I set up in the same spot as Friday night and started my run.   It  Wasn’t long and I had my first fish on for the night.  Unfortunately it was one of those other fish, a big female.  I didn’t get to upset.  I had been out 10 minutes and it was the only one so far.  They weren’t in that thick, yet.  I ended up with 3 for the evening.  I won’t complain about that.  I did manage to pick up one walleye in the first hour.  Once the sun set it was game on and I finished up limit in about 10 minutes.

Once I was done I motored over to a fellow DWF club member to see how he was doing.  I see him out just about every night I am.  He had caught a few of those other fish.  I told him the where’s and what on’s and said my goodbye’s.  I had more fish to clean and I was hoping to be in bed by 10:00 pm.  It had been a long weekend and I needed some rest.  I won’t be going out tonight (5/6), rain all afternoon and into tonight.  Supposed to take out my cousin tomorrow.  Depending on the other fish it could be my last trip for awhile.

Friday Night

Sunday Night

 





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.

 





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.