Time Heals……..Eventually

9 08 2017

We’ve all heard the saying “Time heals all wounds”.  Personally, I don’t think it does.  Two years later and I still have a hard time getting used to fishing without my Dad.  I enjoy my time on the water but not being able to have him sitting next to me, in his spot, sucks.  Even when he couldn’t go I could still call him and give him a play by play on my phone.  His reel is still prepped and ready to go, complete with his shank and leaders.  His box of Rattlin’ Rogue’s are still tucked away under the seat, waiting to be used.  Even though I can use them whenever I want I don’t.  They were his and I don’t feel right using them or letting anyone else use them.  Hell, I still have a hard time letting anyone come along and sit on his side of the boat.  On the rare occasion that I do I’m surprised I haven’t called my guest “Dad”.  Then again, I might have and they just stayed silent out of respect.  With all that in mind I found myself back out on the river tonight pulling wire.  It seemed fitting with it being the two-year anniversary of his death.  Staying home and reminiscing about past trips felt like it would do more harm than good.

I started a lot earlier than I normally do.  Even though the skies were clear and the sun was bright I didn’t care.  I needed to be on the water and catching fish didn’t seem all that important.  Around 7:30 pm I launched my boat and started my way south.  As I was going past the coal docks I noticed that the floating weeds were non-existent so I decided to make a pass there first.  Normally I don’t fish this area because the weeds are so bad.  Since the area was clear I decided to give it a shot.  I set up at the south end in about 20 feet of water and worked my way north.  Nothing happened at first but once I got to the end, things got interesting.  About 50 feet north of the dock I hooked and landed a sub-legal walleye.  No big deal but it warranted a second pass through to see if their might be more.  On my second pass I hooked a double of two more sub-legal fish.  On my next pass I hooked another double, one legal and one sub-legal fish.  My next pass yielded another sub-legal fish.  The next pass through I hooked a triple, one legal fish and two just barely sub-legal fish.  This pattern would repeat itself for the next half hour.  Catch a few fish, make a loop, do it again.  All in an area not 30 feet from shore and about 100 yards form the bridge.  Eventually I wore out my welcome and the fish shut down.  Either that or I caught them all.  By now the sun was starting to set so I pulled lines and headed down to my regular area.

Once I got down by the flag I swapped out my 1 1/2 pound weight and replaced the spoons I was using with Rapalas.  I went through my usual routine for the next hour and all I caught were a few more sub-legal fish.  After the flurry of activity I had in the first hour this next hour and a half was rather tedious.  Of course I started debating going in early but I wanted to know if their were still fish in the area so I kept at it.  Around 10:00 pm the full moon finally cleared what few clouds their were and I changed the #9 Original on my 40 foot lead to a #11 Clown.  That did the trick, in the next half hour I landed two more legal walleye and I was headed for home.  I ended up with a limit, about 2 dozen sub-legal fish, a couple of Rockies, Smallies, Sheeps and no CATS.  After my last trip I didn’t want to see any of those things.  The water is still very clear, the surface temp was around 75 degrees and the weeds weren’t much of an issue.  I don’t know when I will be out again.  I’m headed up to Oscoda for a wedding this weekend and hopefully the St. Mary’s river the following weekend to try for some Atlantic Salmon.  Hopefully, while I am gone, a few walleye will make their way into the river from Erie.  I may make a few trips during the week.  Depends on how I’m feeling and if I start to feel a little claustrophobic sitting at home.





Class Is In Session

22 04 2017

Last Friday, when I came in from fishing I met a DWF club member, Steve Sheldon, as I was pulling in my boat.  Apparently he had been trying to track me down to ask me about handlining.  He had been going out but was only catching one or two fish here and there.  He figured he was doing something wrong and he was hoping I could help him out.  He asked if I could take him out some night and Friday (4/21) was going to be that night.

I had contacted Steve earlier in the week and told him to be at my house around 8.  I also told him to bring his stuff so I could check to make sure his shank/leader set up was correct.  I have found that when someone isn’t catching fish it is either that or his boat handling skills.  At least I would be able to eliminate one variable.  After a quick check of his stuff we were packed up and headed out.  The weather tonight was damn near perfect.  Once again a slight NW breeze, overcast skies and not to cold.  The water was still clear and my only concern wasn’t those other fish,  it was undersized fish.  I had been hearing reports that the river was now full of 13 inch walleye.

The reports were right.

We started around 8:30 pm and in the first 10 minutes I landed 5 fish and all of them undersized.  I eventually caught a couple of keepers but during this time Steve hadn’t caught anything.  I was just about ready to switch seats with  him so he could fish my set up when he got snagged, BAD.  After making a few donuts around the weight the shank busted and he lost the whole set up.  I rigged him back up with one of my shanks and a 40 foot and 6 foot leader.  After that it didn’t take long and Steve was flipping fish in the boat.  For the next 45 minutes it was game on.  We still caught a few undersized ones, and of course those other fish, but we were catching plenty of legal ones as well.  By 10:00 pm we were all done and putting gear away.  Steve was amazed how one small change, albeit an important one, could make all the difference in the world.  He went from spending hours and maybe catching two fish to catching a limit in just under 45 minutes.  Needless to say he was happy.  We put everything away and headed towards the dock.  Other than the snag, which turned out to be a good thing, it was a near perfect night.  When we got back to the house we chatted some more about strategies for different conditions and what to watch for concerning boat control.  I gave Steve one of my shanks and a weight for him to copy.  He probably spent part of today making new shanks and leaders.  Hopefully he will be able to get out again soon.

As I had mentioned earlier the water was still clear and no debris.  Most of our fish came on #11 blue and silver Rapala and a #11 Downriver Tackle Custom Rainbow Trout, which has a blue back, pink sides and a white belly.  We tossed back just as many as we kept and we only caught a handful of those other fish.  Most of them being big females.  Very few boats out for a Friday night which was surprising.  It’s go time and I really couldn’t understand why so few people were out.  Their loss.

The smaller fish is a great sign.  Successful hatches the last few years is starting to show and it looks like we will have plenty of walleye for years to come.  Based on what I have been catching it should be a good mix of fish from 15 to 24 inches for some time.  We’re going to need it because I’m afraid the hatch this year is going to be a bust.  Any eggs laid before those two big storm events we had probably covered all the eggs with silt which means they will have suffocated.  I certainly hope I’m wrong.





Grind Time

15 04 2017

Normally when one talks about grinding around the Detroit area people usually think of The Grind Line of the Red Wings.  This time though it is all about walleye fishing on a long Good Friday evening.

This last Friday (4/14) I was headed back out once again.  This would be my fourth trip out for the week and I was hoping it would be as successful as the previous ones.  I started around 6:30 pm and found that the water still had a heavy stain to it.  I could barely see my prop, which was an improvement, but still a long way from clear water.  I was hoping I could get my limit before dark but it didn’t take long to realize I was going to have to grind this one out.  The water was choppy and there was a lot of boat traffic ripping up and down the river, which only added to the rough water.  Boat control was difficult and I was constantly lifting my lines up to keep from getting snagged as I was bounced around.  My wish was a double edged sword.  I was hoping sunset would come soon to get these boats off the water and calm it down.  Once it did though I wondered how well the fish would bite with the cloudy water.  I soon found out, sort of.  I didn’t catch my first fish until after 7:30 pm and it was an undersized fish.  My first keeper didn’t come until around 8 and for the next two hours I slowly picked away at them.  They never came hot and heavy and during the next two hours I tried everything I could think of.  Different colors, different lures, different sizes, different speeds, different areas.  Nothing really zeroed in on them.  I got my limit but the fish came from different areas on different lures at different speeds.  No rhyme or reason to it.  The only consistent thing was their inconsistency.  Persistence was the key tonight.  Good thing I didn’t have anywhere special to go.

Now for my rant.  I would like to know who thinks it is a good idea to jig with 30 pound spiderwire or fireline?  If you are afraid of losing a dollar jig then fish someplace else.  Trying to save one jig and losing 50 yards of line (expensive line) only creates something for everyone else to get snagged up on.  In other words, KNOCK IT OFF!!

Rant over.

 





October Walleye 10/06/16

9 10 2016

October is usually the start of some fantastic Fall fishing on the lower Detroit River.  Bigger walleye move back in, chasing the gizzard shad to fatten up for winter.  This year though, the timing is just a tad bit off because of the hot summer we had.  Everything is running a little later than normal.  I had debated waiting a few more weeks but when I heard that fellow handliners, Dave and Larry, were going to be out I decided to give it a shot.  Safety in numbers and we could cover more water to help us key in on the active fish.  Great theory, to bad it didn’t work.

I arrived at the ramp just after 7 p.m. and the few pleasure boaters that were out were on their way back in.  As I got my boat ready I noticed that the marina was full of weeds.  I did not want to see that.  I was hoping it was just the Marina but as I was heading south I could see mats of weeds everywhere. This was not going to be fun.  I set up in my usual area and sent a text to Dave and Larry.  They were farther south, down by Calf Island, so I just stayed up closer to the stacks.  If either of us started to catch fish we would let the other know.  About 5 minutes in I had my first walleye.  As I was flipping him in he came off the lure and slid down the edge of the boat until he hit my reel.  Once he did he fell right back into the river.

Oh well.

For the next hour it was mostly clear weeds off the lines.  Shortly after 8 I did manage to catch a 19 incher.  About 10 minutes later I caught a short.  I was starting to get a little optimistic but those feelings were quickly crushed when I hit a huge mat of weeds.  After spending the next minutes clearing them off my lines and off my prop I was back at it.  By now it was 8:30 and I told myself I would stick it out until 9.  At 8:55 I landed one more that was just over 15 niches.  A couple of minutes later and a quick text to Dave and Larry and I was headed home.  The weeds were just to much to handle.  If the fishing had been better I would have stuck it out but this was one of those nights when it just wasn’t worth the effort.  Living only 10 minutes away makes these judgement calls a whole lot easier.

The big one grabbed the size 7 and the little one grabbed the size 11. Go Figure.

The big one grabbed the size 7 and the little one grabbed the size 11. Go Figure.





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

 

 





Custom Night Walleye 9/2/16

3 09 2016

NE winds and clear blue skies.  Seems like a perfect night to go fishing.

Yes, that was sarcasm.

It had been a couple of weeks since my last trip and I was feeling the need to go fishing.  I at least waited until dark.  I arrived at the ramp at 8:30 pm and was lines down at 8:45 pm.  I was happy to see that there weren’t and big mats of weeds.  I feared it might be bad considering there were NE winds all day.  I started off with a pair of Downriver Tackle Custom Lures, a #11 Rapala in Pink Lemonade and a #9 Rapala in the Spring Valley Special II pattern.  I also had a #9 Original Rapala along for the ride since that was it all it did.  Just swim, not a single hit on it, not even a bass.

About 9:00 pm I had my first fish and by 10:45 I had my fifth keeper.  I also caught a few 8 to 10 inch walleye and all 3 hit the number #11 Rapala.  Clear proof that their eyes were bigger than their stomachs.  Only caught a couple of bass as well.  It was a pretty peaceful and uneventful night except for about 5 minutes.  Around 10:00 pm I got hung up, or so I thought.  I felt one of my lures get tangled up in what I thought was a bunch of fishing line.  I could feel it give just a little but I knew it was going to take some time.  I started to circle downstream and gain wire back into the reel.  Eventually I got close and was able to get my hand on the shank.  My 40 foot lead was the one that was snagged so I got the two shorter ones in first.  I started to pull on the longer leader and I could feel a tremendous amount of weight on it.  I slowly began to pull it in when all of a sudden it started to shake.  Turns out I wasn’t snagged on some old line, I was snagged onto a fish.  There wasn’t a lot of headshakes, just a lot of dead weight.  I thought for sure I snagged a sturgeon but it turns out I hooked a big channel cat in the head.  He was coming in upside down, thus all the weight and lack of movement.  I finally got him to the boat and removed the lure so I could send him on his way.  He was well over 30 inches and probably quite relieved to be sent on his way, minus the lure in his head.

After that not much happened.  I caught number 5 at 10:45 and packed it in shortly after that.  5 more for the freezer and no damage or lost lures.  Hope this continues for the rest of the year.  Just need the temperature to start dropping.  Then it will be walleye during the week and steelhead on the weekend.  One thing that I did notice to night was that the fish were up off the bottom and moving around.  The first two fish I caught was while I was brining in my leaders to check for weeds.  The last two came on my kicker after I shortened up the lead from 7 to 4 feet.  Just goes to show that they aren’t always hugging the rocks.

9-2-16 walleye

 





Sturgeon Moon Walleye 8/19/16

20 08 2016

You can file this one under useless Cliff Clavin bar trivia.  I didn’t know this until recently but every full moon has a name.  This past full moon is known as a Sturgeon Moon.  What that actually means is still a mystery to me but it makes for a unique blog post title.

I started out fishing Friday night a little earlier than I normally do.  It was overcast so I figured going before sunset wouldn’t hurt.  Of course, once I got on the water the clouds broke and the sun came out.  Oh well, live and learn.  At least there were no weeds, for now.  I started it my usual area and threw out a few spoons and a #9 Bleeding Olive Rapala.  Not much happened at first but around 8:00 pm fishing got interesting.

Bass, Bass, Bass, Bass, Bass, Bass, Are You kidding me? Bass, Bass, Bass, Bass, Bass, Bass, swap out spoon catching all the bass.  Brief lull.  Short, Short, legal, Double Legal, Short, Short, Legal, Bass, Double Short, Really short, Lost at boat, Short, Bounced off side of boat, Short, Rocky, Short, Short, Short………………………………………………………………….Short, Ridiculously short, Where did all the weeds come from?  Screw this.  Went home.

That’s pretty much how the evening went.  From 8 to 9:30 my lines were out of the water more than they were in.  Smallmouth bass and lots of undersized walleye.  Once the full moon came up and cleared the trees the fishing really slowed down.  Kind of odd since I usually do pretty well under a full moon.  Just goes to show that there are no absolutes in fishing.  Around 10 the weeds showed up in force and fishing became impossible.  I tried to find clean water but it just wasn’t happening.  Eventually I gave up and headed in, there will be other nights.  At least I know, barring some catastrophic event, the walleye fishing next year should be awesome.

Sturgeon Moon walleye