Huron Small Jaws

25 04 2017

About the time those other fish start to show up I begin to look to other fishing opportunities until they leave.  Instead of heading north to go chase Steelhead I decided to make a local trip for some Huron River smallmouth.  A few years ago this wouldn’t have been an option but the DNR recently changed the rules to where bass are now open year round for catch and release.  This presented an opportunity for the gang at Schultz’s Outfitter’s to start guiding trips in April instead off May.  A quick phone call and I was all checked in for a Sunday morning (4/23) float.

My guide today was going to be the newest member to the Schultz team, Justin Pribnac.  This is his inaugural season as a guide for the shop.  He has been guiding for the last 10 years but the Huron was a new area to him.  Seemed fitting as this was my first time targeting Smallmouth Bass with a fly rod.  I have caught them before but it was always by accident.  Now, I was going to be casting big streamers to likely holding spots from a drift boat.  I’m sensing a lot of streamers in trees.

My Chariot for the Day

 

Once we got into the boat we started our drift downstream.  This was my kind of fishing, I stand up front and cast while someone else rows.  I have to hand it to Justin, he kept me in the zone all day and set the boat up so I could make easy casts.  While I was casting he would give me tips on placement and how to get the fly to twitch just right.  Since he knew I was a big fan of the two hand spey game he described the presentation in ways I could easily relate to.  Since the river was flowing high, from all the recent rains, we concentrated our efforts on the “couch” areas.  Places on the river downstream of logs and obstructions that formed slack water areas or pools.  Since it was a bright sunny day  we tried to focus on shady areas as best we could.  This got to be harder and harder to do as the sun rose.  By noon I was praying for any type of a cloud.  It wasn’t gonna happen today.  As the morning progressed I was able to move a few fish and I did catch one smaller bass on a white Game Changer.  Not exactly what I was hoping for but it is to be expected on a bright day like this and early in the season.  The bigger fish are on full alert and after being in the river for over 10+ years they are well educated.

We kept at it though and eventually  we found an area that had a few willing fish.  In about a 100 yard stretch I was able to catch two and had two long distance releases.  I moved a couple as well which.  It was still great to see the fish come from out of what seemed like nowhere to crush the streamer.  This is one of the reasons why Smallmouth are such fun to catch on a fly rod, at any size.  I can only imagine what a true trophy would feel like and someday I hopefully will.  Today just wasn’t going to be that day.  It happens though, that’s why I do this, for the challenge.  If I wanted easy I would stick to pulling wire for walleye.

So that was my initial foray into the world of fly fishing for Small Jaws.  I learned a lot and have a new found appreciation for someone who knows how to row a drift boat.  Hat’s off to Justin who worked his butt off to keep the boat where it belonged and my casts in the zone.  I will definitely be doing this again, I just hope it is on a cloudier day.  Maybe I’ll try a PM float.  After dark.  When I am in my element.  Muhahahahaha…….

 

Oh, one other thing.  I didn’t lose a single fly today.





Pre-Harvest Moon Walleye 9/15/16

19 09 2016
Moon over the Grosse Isle bridge.

Moon over the Grosse Isle bridge.

 

It’s no secret that I like to fish for walleye during the full moon periods.  Normally I do pretty well but after the last two full moons I’m beginning to wonder.  The Sturgeon Moon was less than stellar and The Harvest Moon turned out to be even worse.  Hopefully the Hunter’s Moon in October will break the trend.

I arrived at the ramp around 8:30 pm and I had the whole place to myself.  No other cars in the lot, not even the ones normally parked over by the Marina.  I launched and headed south to my usual starting spot.  The water was still clear and a surface temp of around 65 degrees.  A few weeds were floating down, mostly single strands with the occasional large mat.    The south wind had died down to almost nothing which kept the water relatively calm.  Seemed like the start of a good night.  To bad the walleye had other plans.

I trolled around for the next two hours and all I had to show for my efforts was a half a dozen smallmouth and a few sub-legal walleye.   I tried different size lures, different colors, spoons, pencil plugs, just about every thing I could think of but I couldn’t get anything going.  Around 10:00 pm I got hung up bad and after 10 minutes of trying to free the weight the shank snapped right at the loop.  I lost the shank, weight and 3 custom painted Rapala’s.  I thought about giving up right then but I hadn’t been skunked in almost 3 years and I wasn’t about to let it happen tonight.  I dug out another shank, weight, leaders and lures and started all over again, after I moved away from where I got hung up.  About 15 minutes later I finally caught a legal fish.  Not much of one but it was a start.  I tossed him in the cooler and headed towards the Edison discharge.  I hadn’t been by there lately so I thought I would give it a shot.  Weeds were a lot worse there and I could feel them starting to pile up on my line.  Just as I was about to pull my lines and clear the weeds I felt a lot of weight.  I figured I hit a big mat of weeds, under the surface, so I started to pull it all up.  The “weeds” were all on my 40 foot leader so once I got my other two lines clear and out of the way I started to bring it in.  About half way in the load became lighter and I figured some of them must have come off.  I looked back and my headlamp showed a pair of eyes staring back at me.  That stupid fish never shook once, she just came in like a wet towel.  It was a bigger fish so I wasn’t taking any chances.  I got my net behind her and just as I start to scoop she shook and threw the lure.  Didn’t matter, she was in the net and then in the cooler.  After that I decided to call it a night.  I was headed to Columbus Ohio in the morning and I needed some rest.  I had enough fish to fill a vacuum seal bag and I didn’t get skunked.  It did turn out to be my most expensive trip of the year but I won’t lose any sleep over it.  It was my own fault for not swapping out shanks and leaders.  I had been using the same one all season so I’m sure it had been stressed in a few places.  One of these days I will start to listen to my own advice.

I doubt it.

09-15-16-walleye

 

 





Weeds Still Suck

22 09 2015

Originally I had no plans to fish last night (9/21/15).  I was planning on going out on Thursday since I had the next day off from work.  Figured I would be able to stay out as long as I want and maybe experiment with some other lures.  What changed my mind was the wind forecast.  The forecast called for NE, E and SE winds all week.  That meant that by Thursday I would have needed a brush hog to find any clear water.  So I figured last night would be my best bet.  Unfortunately the weeds were still bad, not as bad as my previous trip but bad enough.  I only fished for about 90 minutes and managed one 18 inch walleye and one 19 inch Smallmouth (which really made a mess of my leaders).  Both fish came on the same blue and white pencil plug I have been using for the last month.

No pictures this time.  I figured everyone has seen enough pics of an 18 inch walleye and by now everyone should know what that pencil plug looks like.  Water temps was 68 degrees and the water is still extremely clear.  Weeds were all throughout the water column.  Mats on top and single strands below the surface.

Taking a break for awhile.  Got enough fish for my mom’s fish fry so I’m good for now. I’ll wait until the water cools down some more and we get a few days of west winds.  I’m hoping a few new fish will move in from Erie.  Not that I did that much damage to the local population but it would be nice to get some new fish in the river.





Bump and a Headshake, 2 Fish.

17 09 2015

I don’t think I would get the same reaction from Roger Rabbit as the version from the movie.

Made a quick trip last night to see if I could catch a few more for the ever looming fish fry.  I can sum up the night in 2 words…..Weeds Suck!  They were horrendous.  If I didn’t catch a fish in the first minute my lures were down I was pretty much screwed.  Every time I brought them up I would have weeds on the shank and each lure.  The two I did manage to catch each hit the lure within the first minute they were down.  Not my idea of a fun night.  After about an hour I gave up.  There was one other boat out with two fellow handliners in it.  They had 3 and were giving up, they had had enough of the weeds as well.  Can’t say that I blame them.  I would have preferred to stay out longer.  It was a nice night and my girlfriend Susan was along for the trip.  She has been wanting to see first hand how I catch walleye and unfortunately I had to cut the trip short.  The two I did mange to catch were nice fish in the 18 to 20 inch range.  Both caught in the middle of the river from where the “Cat” used to be.  No Cats or Smallies but I did catch one over zealous Rockbass.  Water is still very clear and 68 degrees.  It needs to drop about another 20 degrees before things really get interesting.  I hope.

walleye





3 more for the freezer 9/13/15

14 09 2015

I had some more free time Sunday night so I decided to see if I could add to my Mother’s request for a fish fry for her friends.  I thought I had enough but she keeps adding people and time is running out.  I got a late start and arrived at the ramp around 8:30 pm.  No one at the gate and I was the only car in the lot.  Kind of spooky being the only person there after dark.  I quickly launched my boat and soon I was heading downstream to my usual starting point, right where the “Cat” used to be.  I started off with the same two Rapalas and Pencil Plug I have been having all my success with.  If it’s not broke why fix it?  As it turns out it would be somewhat broke tonight and try as I might I couldn’t get anything going on the Rapalas.  All my walleye tonight came on the same blue and white Pencil Plug.  I needed to check my boxes to see if I have anymore of these pp’s tucked away.

I only ended up with 3 walleye, it could have been 4 but 1 walleye made a kamikaze death charge right at my prop and off he came.  They must teach them that at walleye survival school because that is the second time I have had one do that to me.  Water is still very clear and the surface temp has dropped 5 degrees from the previous trip on Wednesday.  It should warm back up again later this week as temps get back up into the 80’s.  Weeds were not an issue, the skies were clear, the wind died down to nothing and as I said before I was the only one out there.  The only other boat I saw was the Homeland Security boat around 9:00 pm.

Nothing else to report other than I caught another channel cat and a couple of smallmouth bass.  From what I have been reading it sounds like the bass have moved into the lower river.    Wish some bigger walleye would move in.  One or two 25 inch fish would cure my fish fry needs.

I know I’m going to jinx myself for saying this but this is 4 trips now and I still haven’t lost a lure.

IMG_2348





Redemption 7/22/15

23 07 2015

Remember everything I said yesterday?  Forget it.

It never ceases to amaze me how one good trip can change my whole perspective.  It didn’t start out that way but eventually everything fell into place and fishing was fun again.

I started around 7:30 pm and as promised I put on a J-9 Rapala on my 40 foot lead.  Of course the two spoons that have been so effective for me went on as well.  I started up by the Edison coal docks to see if my success last week would pan out.  It didn’t.  I made a couple of passes but no fish, not even a hit.  I pulled lines and headed downstream to Calf island.  By now I was starting to question starting so early but I dropped lines and went about my business.  There were a few other handliners in the area trying their luck.  I didn’t recognize any of the boats but I kept an eye on them just in case they started flipping fish.  About 20 minutes into my run I had a fish on and it hit my J-9 Rapala.  I carefully worked him in since I was bound and determined to end my losing streak.  I just wish the fish felt the same way.  Just as I was about to flip him in off he came.  After muttering a few foul words under my breath I dropped lines again and kept at it.  About 30 minutes later I had another fish on and just like the previous fish I lost this one as well.  This was starting to get discouraging.  I was trying everything I could think of to prevent losing fish, I even switched hats to change my luck.  After I lost the second one I decided to switch things up a bit.  With the clear skies and water I decided to go natural and switched out the J-9 for a #9 original floater in classic black/silver.  I also left Calf Island and headed up to where the Catamaran used to be.  By now it was close to 9:30 pm and all the other boats had left the river.  It was just me and the bugs.

Time to get serious.

Toledo Walleye Hat is on backwards, Headlamp is in place, Lines are clear.  Come on walleye.

It didn’t take long.

Shortly after my move I had another fish on.  This was a good solid hit.  Nothing like all the dead weight grabs I have been getting lately.  As I was bringing up my wire I could see the top lead going way off to the left.  Here we go again, another walleye on the Rapala.  I turned the boat into the fish and worked him in, all the way to the cooler.

Finally!!!  Let the trumpets sound and the pigeons loose!!!  Redemption!!!

I quickly dropped my lines back into the water and #2 was on and in the boat.  It was obvious that the spoons weren’t going to be any good for the rest of the night so off they came.  I put a #9 Blue/Silver Rapala on my kicker, switched the #9 Black/Silver to my 20 foot lead and put on a #11 Hot Steel Rapala on my 40foot lead.  Now one might wonder why I would change up what appears to be working.  I was hoping to increase the effectiveness of me offering and improve my odds.  Great theory but it didn’t matter.  My next 3 fish all came on the same lure.  The walleye were keyed in on that classic pattern and nothing else was going to sway them.  I didn’t care.  I just landed 5 nice fish in a 45 minute span and I DIDN’T LOSE ANY.

Life is good again.

A few observations about tonight.  First off the water is still very clear with a surface temp of 72 degrees.  Pretty close to what it was like last year at this time.  All the fish came after sunset which isn’t surprising given the lack of clouds.  I have been piecing together why I lost so many fish this year on the Rapala’s and I have come to a couple of conclusions.  First is the lures I was using, older lures with old hooks that are probably in need of replacing or a good sharpening.  Laziness on my part but usually a walleye hits hard enough that they do a pretty good job of setting the hook themselves.  Which leads me to my next point.  The walleye just aren’t very aggressive during the daylight.  The hits on a Rapala were more like just dead weight.  Last night they were smacking the lures and getting all the hooks in them.  None of this half ass maybe I should grab it crap.  They wanted that lure and they wanted it now.  So I guess it was part my fault and part just the lazy nature of a neutral walleye.

One other thing, two of the walleye had gobies in them.

7-22-15 Walleye All That's Left





Taking stock of 2015, so far.

22 07 2015

This has been a weird season.  I know I got a late start due to work, family health issues and my boat being down but I wasn’t expecting the pickings to be this slim.  I usually catch more fish in June and July than I do in April and May during the peak of the Spring run.  This year however, has been a tough one to figure out.  Some of it being a real head scratcher.

1.  I have yet to catch a fish on a Rapala.  A #9 Rapala is my bread and butter lure.  When all else fails this body bait will produce.  I have been running a #9 or #11 on my 40 foot lead every trip this season.  So far nothing, nadda, zilch, zippo, diddly squat.  I will admit I have had a couple on and lost all of them but no fish? This leads me to my next head scratcher.

2.  I have lost more fish this year than I can ever remember.  Used to be I could go several weeks without losing a fish but this year I am losing fish on an average of 2 or 3 per trip.  I know it happens but this is getting ridiculous.  Losing a fish once and awhile is no big thing, it happens, but this is has me second guessing everything I am doing.  I was starting to think that the fish are just hitting light but I have brought in a few that have completely swallowed the spoon.  For some reason the fish are getting barely hooked on my Rapala’s.  WTH???

3.  I have yet to catch a single walleye over 20 inches long.  Granted I like to get the eaters but the last few seasons I would catch at least one in the 24 to 25 inch range every trip.  This year they have all been 20 inches or less.  Again, I am not complaining but it just has me wondering what is going on.  Have all the big fish moved out into Erie?  Are they in a different part of the river?  Are they just that finicky?  Inquiring minds want to know.

4.  Now this one I am really happy about but again it has me wondering if the structure below has changed or if the baitfish are not there.  I have only caught 2 dink smallmouth and one rock bass so far.  No Sheepshead, no Channel Cats, no Muskie, no Steelhead, no White Perch and lately no White Bass.  Normally July produces a lot of smallmouth anywhere from 6 to 20 inches long.  This year has been the exact opposite.  Two bass and both of them less than 8 inches long.  Is the lack of other predators due to a lack of baitfish or some other factor?  So far the walleye I have caught have all come up empty, no shiners or goby’s in any of them.  What are they feeding on and when?

5.  Now this may have something to do with the consistency.  Water levels are up from previous years but I really can’t see it affecting the fishing that much.  Granted some areas that were too shallow before may be more attractive now but not the whole river?  Surface temps are about a degree lower than last year at this time so maybe it is cooler down at the bottom.  Don’t know for sure.  I do know the surface weeds have been a pain but that is to be expected with the east winds and higher water.  The water is again ridiculously clear but I have been catching fish both in the daylight and after dark, there just hasn’t been any consistency.  The one trip I got a limit was an overcast morning a month ago.  Since then I have been pecking away and coming up short of a limit.  Granted if I would quit losing fish my numbers would improve but I am still having a hard time finding groups of active fish.  One night I picked up 3 in a 5 minute span but mostly it is 1 or 2 fish every hour and none of them in the same area.  I went back and looked at my way points for this year and other than that one 5 minute spurt the marks are all over the place.

6.  Ninety percent of my fish have come on the same two spoons, the ones pictured in my last post.  I have tried different colors and styles but these two have been the best producers.  Of course I am always running these two now since they are catching fish so their production rate is slightly skewed.  Lately though the majority of my fish have come on the chartreuse spoon on my kicker.  I have noticed that this one has a very aggressive action so maybe it is triggering more strikes.  The smaller orange one has been completely swallowed though and on more than one occasion.  You can make your own assumptions based on my findings. I think the next time out I am going to run a jointed Rapala and see if the increased action has an affect.  I will let everyone know how it works out.

Well there you have it, my mid season findings for 2015.  I hope it gets better or I may start having to keeping some of the steelhead I hope to catch this fall.  either that or I may have to start perch fishing again.