The Quest Begins

9 11 2017

Last Saturday (11/4) began my yearly 7 month quest to chase down my unicorn, my white whale, the cause of many sleepless nights and untold fortunes spent on equipment.  Steelhead.

Too Dramatic??

I was fishing The Muskegon River this weekend, east of Newaygo and west of The Croton Dam.  It’s best to fish this river by boat but I didn’t bother hiring a guide this time and I didn’t bring mine since it really isn’t set up to fish this river.  I was hoping I could find one cooperative fish so I headed to an area where I had seen people fishing from shore in the past.  When I arrived at the parking area I was the only one there.  At first I thought it was great that I was the only one but then I wondered why.  Was the river blown out?  Was it too dirty?  Was it to warm?  Only one way to find out so I suited up and started walking.  Once I got to the river I surveyed the area, spotted a few seams and waded in upstream of them to begin  my cast.  I wasn’t 5 minutes into my run when a guide boat showed up and started fishing just ahead of me.  I expect this since it is a popular river and it was encouraging that a guide, someone who is supposed to know the holding areas, was fishing the same run I was.  Unfortunately, after an hour neither of us hooked into anything.

I repeated this process for the next 4 hours.  Fish the run, get out, warm up the legs, switch flies, walk back upstream, wade in, continue.  Each time I took another crack at it another guide boat would show up and fish near me.  It was encouraging knowing that I must be fishing an area that holds fish.  It was discouraging to see that no one was catching any fish.  The only thing that broke up the monotony was during one of my breaks the local Conservation Officer pulled up.  I was sitting on shore debating what to do next when I saw another boat coming downstream.  I recognized it as a DNR boat so I got up and walked towards the water.  A he pulled up I got out my license, he checked it out while I asked him a few questions about the area.  He told me fishing had been good up until today.  It was slow all up and down the river.  After about 10 minutes he was on his way and I was headed back upstream for one last try.  I wish I could say I hooked one on the last cast during my last drift but it didn’t happen.  Oh well.  I will say that I am really impressed with my Sage Pulse 13-6 Spey rod.  Now that I could cast it on a bigger river I could really push it’s potential.  I won’t be entering any casting competitions but I could easily make 100+ foot casts.

When I got back to the campground I took a walk down to the ramp and fish cleaning station.  I saw plenty of filleted 30+ inch steelhead in the dumpster.  It was an encouraging sign of the run for this year.  I only hope that I can hook into one.  I’m still waiting for that 10+ pound chrome male to smoke my ass.

Next up, The St. Mary’s River.

 

 

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A Unique Way to Get an Accurate Fishing Report.

20 03 2014

Used to be that in order to get any type of a fishing report a fisherman would have to call (yes, actually use a phone) a local bait shop.  This info was iffy at best since the bait shop owner wants to make money and he isn’t going to sell any bait if he says the fishing sucks.  Of course there was always word of mouth, the old reliable “My cousin’s, uncle’s, brother twice removed from his friend’s aunt caught fish yesterday” report.  We all know how well that works.

Today though we have an over abundant amount of information literally at our fingertips.  Thanks to the internet, smart phones and savvy tech nerds we can now access a litany of on-line sources.  Club web sites, message boards, forums, state reports and social media have completely changed getting an accurate fishing report.  Some of it is good but also some of it is bad and when it’s bad it can really be garbage.  The task now is to determine what a credible source is and what isn’t. 

Let’s start with the bad; after all bashing something is a lot easier than giving a source credit, specifically message boards and forums. 

There is more to social media than just Facebook and Twitter.  The advent of the Public Forum has given people the opportunity to post just about anything their heart desires whether it is true or not.  Political rants, bashing the local DNR and fishing regulations, criticizing other fisherman and questioning what someone caught is more the norm nowadays.  I’m not saying they are all like this but there seems to be a growing number of haters out there.  The reason is that a lot of people use these forums for more of a bragging page than anything else.  Someone will come on and say he caught a limit of fish and when asked where he will respond with “I caught them on the Detroit River between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie”.  Gee, thanks for nothing.  For those of you that don’t know that section of river is over 30 miles long.  This kind of thing drives me nuts because the people that post these same vague reports are the same people that are constantly using this source to find and locate fish.  Nothing like spreading the wealth.  Years ago I quit one forum because someone accused me of posting his “secret” location on my club website and ruining the spot.  He saw 3 (that’s right 3) boats on that section of the river the next time he went out and because of me I ruined everything for him.  News Flash, that section of river is right next to a Senior Living Center that is full of spies.  That’s right, spies who look upon that river all day long and tell their kids and grandkids when they see boats out in front of the building fishing.  Second News Flash, fishermen have been catching fish on that part of the river for the last 100 years.  Nothing new there, move along, try again, have a nice day.

Now I’m not saying the info posted is pure garbage but the reader has to sift through the report and pull the useful information.  I’m not talking color, size or exact location.  Those variables change daily if not hourly.  The main thing I want to know is time.  Just how long did it take to catch that limit?  I learned this little tidbit many years ago.  A friend of mine and I were heading out one evening when another boat was just pulling in.  I asked how they did and one guy said we got a 3 man limit as he puffed out his chest.  Another fisherman climbed out of the boat and stretched his back while he complained about being in the boat for 12 hours.  That’s 12 hours for 18 fish or 1.5 fish per hour.  That isn’t exactly tearing them up.   After that evening I ask two questions from any report, how long and what time of day.  I’ll figure everything else out for myself. 

Now for the good and it is a pretty easy solution but one that seems to be lacking for a lot of fishermen.  This one is so easy it’s stupid but for some it seems impossible.

Friends.

Yep, that’s all there is to it.  I’m not talking Facebook friend but people you actually talk to and fish the same areas you do.  Once you build up a group of friends that fish like you do info comes free and easy.  Creating this group is pretty easy too; all you have to do is help and give an honest report.  Pay it forward as they say.  For me this all started when I met a local fisherman called “Sparky”.  He took me fishing on one condition; I would have to return the favor to someone else.  Since that time I have given several seminars and helped many fishermen learn how to catch walleye on my beloved river.  Some have bled me dry of info and then disappeared but there are others that have stuck around and they make it all worthwhile.  I can call, text, e-mail or even yell across the river to any of these guys and they will tell me the where, when, how, why and on what’s that are working for them.  Even during my tournament I have had people tell me what is working for them and I have done the same.   With a group of close fishing buddies it’s all about everyone catching fish, not out doing everyone else (though winning my tournament would be nice).  

I can never understand why some people want to be so secretive.  I know of one old timer that will only fish at night so no one can see where he is fishing and another that purposely hides himself bringing in a fish from anyone who may be watching. 

Really?  Is that necessary?

We all started out the same way, not knowing anything and trying to figure out how to catch fish.  A kind word and some constructive help goes a long way.  A lot more than a turned up nosed and ignored questions.  Granted we can’t change the world but at least we can make our little part of it better.  It’s something to think about the next time someone asks how you did at the dock.  You never know what it could lead too.  I used to keep to myself a lot but thanks to giving a few seminars and helping people out I have standing invitations to fish on a dozen different boats for Walleye, Trout, Steelhead, Perch, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Muskie from Northern Lake Huron to the Western Basin of Lake Erie.  All I have to do is call. 

Never would have happened if I just said I caught fish between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.





What’s in store for 2014.

3 01 2014

So it is snowing outside, the wind chill it is something below zero and the boiler is out in my office building.

Is it Spring yet?

This of course has me thinking about what I am going to do this year?  What new adventures await me?  Last year wasn’t all that exciting, mostly the same old same old.  I did go Fly Fishing for a weekend on the AuSable river.  This was something I hadn’t done in years and I forgot just how enjoyable it was.  I plan on doing more of that this year along with a few other things.  With that in mind here is a brief run down of what to expect on this blog for 2014.

A year in the life of a die hard walleye fisherman.

I had this idea awhile ago about what goes through a walleye fisherman’s head for a year.  Not just a weekend warrior type but one who is constantly thinking about catching walleye.  This year I plan on putting that into words.  Starting in January I will post monthly entries of what it is like to be a walleye fanatic 24/7/365.  Granted some months are going to be more about planning and prepping instead of fishing but it should be interesting.

There is more to life than just walleye.

This year I am also making a concerted effort to go fishing for other species.  I forgot how much I enjoy fly fishing so there will be more of that in my future.  Not just for trout but panfish as well, maybe a few Smallmouth or Largemouth Bass if I ever get some bigger flies tied up.  Speaking of fly tying I will also be making a few posts about some of my own creations.  Winter time is tying time and with the weather being what it is I might as well.  If the weather ever does break I will be making a few Steelhead trips too.  I still have to get the rod and tie up some jigs but that won’t take long.  Hopefully I will be able to hook into a few on my local stream the Huron.  If not I will have to go visit my parents and take my chances along the AuSable. 

Another plan is to do some fishing out of state.  First on the list is Dewey Lake in Kentucky.  My girlfriend has friends down there she likes to visit and Dewey lake is only a few miles away.  It is an 18 mile impoundment that is supposed to have some walleye in it, panfish and Striped Bass.  Hopefully I can make this work.  I’ll need to do some checking to help cut down on my paddle time in the kayak.  18 miles is a little too much water to cover by kayak.

The big out of state trip for 2014 is Alaska.  For years my Father and I tried to put together a trip but it seemed like every year we wanted to go something happened.  This trip almost didn’t happen again when my Dad was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer but that is under control so we have been given the green light.  The last week in July My Father, Brother and I will be flying up to Homer Alaska for a week.  Currently Halibut, Silver Salmon (Coho), Big Rainbows and Grayling are on the agenda but that could change depending on weather and what is hot at the moment.  The cabin we are staying at has WIFI so you can expect updates and pictures from the field as they happen, or at least that evening after dinner.     

Back closer to home the DNR have been stocking Atlantic Salmon in Lake Huron.  This spring those 2013 plants should be showing up and I hope to get a few.  The AuSable was one of the planting areas so my Dad and I are making plans to target them.  If what I have read is correct they should start showing up in the harbors and rivers about the same time those other fish show up in the “D”.  I hope so, it will be a nice change of pace.

Another change of pace during the “Invasion” will be the St. Clair River.  I made my first trip up there last May and I plan on going back.  I am thinking about staying at Algonac State Park for a weekend and jig by day and pull wire by night.  I may even make this an event to see if other people want to tag along and share resources.  Always easier to zero in on the fish when you have multiple boats out.  That way we can also compare notes and tactics to help improve everyone’s success. 

Can’t forget about hunting season either.

I really, really, really miss small game hunting.  Unfortunately I don’t have the access to private land around home like I used too.  All my small game hunting is up around Midland or Oscoda and I can’t get away for the weekend like I used too.  Hopefully that will change this year and I can post a few items about Grouse, Woodcock and of course Squirrel.  There may even be a post about an early Teal season hunt.  The DNR is pushing for Michigan to have an early Teal season.  The USFWS always shot it down but it looks like they may let it happen in 2014.  If so I know of a few spots that hold a fair amount of Green Wing Teal.  I won’t make any plans until I know for sure but it would be nice.    

Well there you have it, 2014 in a nutshell.  I’m sure I won’t get to do everything I want but if I can pull off half of it I will be happy.  I do know it is going to be a lot of writing and picture taking.  Speaking of picture taking I’m debating purchasing a GoPro video camera.  If so I may have videos to post as well.





Wood Creek, The Results.

23 11 2013

Earlier this week I went to a presentation by the HRWC of all the work the volunteers did this summer.  The data I gathered along with the data from over 100 volunteers was compiled into a 90 minute power point presentation.  This presentation took all the pictures, water samples, temp readings, bug collections and water flow measurements and put it into something I could understand.  The main thing I took form this is that the whole watershed is given a score from 1 to 100.  A score of 1 is basically the bottom of a port a john where as 100 is perfectly pristine.  The watershed as a whole had an average score of 67, with one section up by White Lake scoring a 93.

As for Wood Creek the overall score was a 66 which is extremely close to the river average.  Not bad but their were a few bright points and some areas for concern.  Phosphorus levels were above the accepted number but not by much.  Anyone who fishes in my world knows what high phosphorus levels leads too…Algal blooms.  Granted they won’t be as bad as the blooms in western Lake Erie but any bloom is a bad one.

One other item of concern that bothered me was in relation to the fish, specifically Steelhead.  Years ago  adult Steelhead were seen trying to spawn in Wood Creek.  A DNR electroshocking survey failed to locate any young of the year fish.  That still doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a hatch but it is highly unlikely.  One thing I did find out was that there is a dam .6 miles upstream from the mouth.  This dam is blocking the steelhead from being able to swim farther upstream to more suitable habitat.  Maybe someday the Dam will be removed.   This data will be used to help make the case for removing the dam along with other improvements throughout the whole watershed.  Hopefully the improvements will happen.

Overall it was an interesting experience that I will do again.  I’m sure they will contact me again to help out and hopefully a different stream.

 

 

 

 

 





The Results are in…..Again.

14 03 2013

Well I just got my 2012 log books back from the DNR.  I was curious to see how 2012 compared to 2011 and I was surprised.  I caught more fish in 2012 but the average length and weight was exactly the same as the previous year.  Yep, average length of 19.5 inches and an average weight of 2.5 pounds.  How that happened I have no idea.  I caught more under sized fish but that would mean I had to catch more larger fish to keep that average.  Either that or something is wrong with the DNR survey program.  I suppose I could add up the weights and lengths myself but I deal with enough numbers every day as it is.  I’ll just accept it and fill out another book for 2013.  Maybe I won’t count the smaller ones and skew my numbers towards the right.  Just like a guy, always trying to make things seem bigger.

I really do have to wonder why they said I kept 126 White Bass and released 17?  I never kept track of how many I caught, all I said in the book was why don’t they increase the daily possession limit.  If anything the numbers should be reversed, I kept 17 and released 126.

I still can’t believe I caught 136 Smallmouth Bass either.  I catch a few every summer but I never realized it was that many.

Oh well….here’s to 2013.  This year I have scale sample envelopes to fill so I will get an idea of how old the fish are I am catching.  That should prove interesting.





2011 Results

23 04 2012

For several years now I have been participating in a fishing survey for the Michigan and Ontario DNR.  It is designed to give fisheries biologists an idea of the fishing success of anglers along with growth rates and locations where fish are caught.  The area is basically the Huron Erie corridor and it is broken down into specific grids.  I have a book where I have to keep track of how long I fished, where, what I caught, if I kept or released the fish and if I kept the fish how long it is and what it weighed.  It can be a bit of a hassle at times but it has provided me with some valuable information.

At the end of every fishing season the Michigan DNR sends me an envelope so that I can mail the book in for evaluation.  Once they are done with it they mail it back to me along with a new one for the following season.  Along with the new book I receive a stats sheet that lists all the data the DNR pulled from my work.  Normally I just kind of breeze through it but this year I took the time to actually read all the data.  One thing I have to do is make a better effort to make sure I write my “K” for kept and “R” for released a little more legibly.  I know I didn’t release 27 walleye last year.

One of the data metric’s the DNR records is fish caught per rod angler hour.  This is a number I really never paid any attention to and never really understood, until last week.  At the last DWF meeting the guest speaker was Ohio Fisheries Biologist Travis Hartman.  He spoke about the research that the Ohio DNR has been doing over the years and one of the topics he brought up was fish per angler rod hour.  He said that in the hay day of the 80’s the number was .45 fish per hour and recently it is .5 per hour.  He went on to say that this number relates to some fantastic fishing.  That helped put my number into more perspective for me.  My number for last year was .992 fish per hour.  This tells me a few things, the first being that I am doing a lot better than I thought.  I always figured I had a below average catch rate compared to all the reports I hear on Lake Erie.  I hear a lot of people catching limits but now I have to wonder how long it takes them to do that?  I know of one person who is always catching limits but he will stay out all day to do it.  If that is what you enjoy more power to you.  I don’t think my body could handle being out in a boat all day.  The second thing this tells me is something I have always known.  There are still plenty of walleye to catch in the river long after the spring run.  A little work and pre-planning can help you catch fish in the same locations they are caught in the spring.  The tactics may change but the results can still be the same.  I’ll never catch the monsters some of the Erie fishermen catch but I get my fair share of eaters.  I guess it all comes down to what you want to accomplish.  Hogs or piglets?

One other result that I checked out this year was the average size and weight of the fish I caught.  For 2011 the average length and weight of the walleye I caught was 19.5 inches and 2.5 pounds.  These were mostly male fish there were part of the 2003 hatch.  It amazes me that 8 years later most of the fish being caught are still from that year class.  Some of the fish were from other year classes but the majority are still part of the 2003 class.  Good thing we had that phenomenal year otherwise the fishery could be in rough shape.

The Smallmouth fishermen should be happy as well.  I caught a lot of fish ranging from 3 inches long to 20+.  Looks like those guys are going to have some great fishing for years to come.

Can’t say the same for the Muskie fishermen.  Only caught 1 last year, then again I have been avoiding the areas where I have caught them before.

The books do make for some interesting reading during the long winter months.  I’ll take them out and go over them every once and a while to reflect on seasons past.  I’ll think about those days, who I was with, what we caught and generally anything that made the trip memorable.  After all, that is what it is all about.