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.


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.

Winter Steel

19 01 2016

I belong to the Downriver Walleye Federation and last week the editor asked me if I would write an article about steelhead fishing for the monthly newsletter.  I thought they must be really hard up for content since out of almost 400 members I know I’m the only one who fly fishes for steelhead.  I told him I would since I know how difficult it is trying to get an article from anyone when I was the editor.  So without further ado here it is.

Winter Steel



Shameless Plug Walleye Report

5 05 2013

After 35 years my old MERCURY 20 HP outboard had finally seen it’s last day.  After thousands of hours on the river and great lakes it was time for a new engine.  After talking to fellow DWF member Tom at ANGLERS MARINE in Taylor Michigan I purchased a new 25 HP EVINRUDE E-Tech.  The crew at ANGLERS MARINE hooked it all up and bolted it down to my old CRESTLINER last Friday so I decided to take it out and run it the next day.  Since the White bass had moved in I decided to wait until the evening.  Besides I needed to time get used to a new engine and all the little bells and whistles that came with it.  That and I needed to mount my SCHALLER AUTOMATIC TROLLING REEL, my EAGLE depth finder and LOWRANCE GPS back onto my boat.

I did get out a little bit before dark.  I wanted some time to run around on the river and get acquainted with my new toy.  I have never owned an electric start engine before so just pushing a button was a pleasant change.  I have to admit I really like my E-TECH.  I have nothing against my MERCURY but I really wore that engine out.  I just need to get used to the sound, or lack there of, of the E-TECH.  I have trolled for so many years with the MERC that I could tell by the sound of the engine when the RPM’s were just right for the speed I wanted.  Need to spend a few hours now and learn that sound again.  Nice thing about the E-TECH is that it has a toggle switch that will increase or decrease the RPM’s by 100 with just a push.  That’s a nice little feature to have.  I can give the lures a little push every once and awhile to see if I can trigger a strike.  OK, enough love for the E-TECH, time for the fishing results.

I set lines around 7:30 pm.  There were a few other Handliners out but it was still early.  The Tr-Hull nave was in full force along the Gibraltar/Trenton side of the river.  Not a good omen.  I put on a #11 COPPER CRAZY TIGER and a #9 SPRING VALLEY SPECIAL II from WWW.DOWNRIVERTACKLE.COM.  I also put on a SPIKE SPOON (He will be missed) in a RILEY SPECIAL pattern.  I figured I was going to get a few White/Silver Bass but I was expecting to pick up an occasional walleye until it got dark.  Turns out I was pretty right in my prediction.  I just wasn’t expecting how it would happen.  Most of the bass came on Jim’s Holographic lures.  Pretty much 95% of the bass I caught came on those lures.  I expected the spoon to catch most of them but I only caught 2.  My first walleye came on the spoon and the walleye that was 14 15/16 inches came on the #11 CCT.  Even after it got dark I was still catching the bass on the RAPALA’S.  Eventually I got fed up (not hard to do when it comes to those rotten little things) and I swapped out the RAPALA’S and replaced them with some NIGHT STALKER Pencil Plugs.  I have a lot of wooden pp’s but the eyelet is set to far back and the crank bait snaps that I use can’t get through the eyelet.  The NIGHT STALKERS are plastic and the eyelet is far enough forward so I could attach them with the crank bait snap.  3 walleye came on the 40 foot lead and a chartreuse  with black dots NIGHT STALKER.  I also hooked in to something big but I never got it in.  Once I got my hand on the leader I could hear it rolling and splashing way behind the boat.  I knew this wasn’t going to last long and I tried to throttle down some to relieve the pressure but it was to late.  I fished until about 10:30 pm but the wind was picking up and it was getting cold so I headed in.  I had 4 in the cooler and sometimes 1 short of a limit is no big deal.  The best thing was that I never caught a single white bass on a pencil plug.  Don’t know if that will hold true during the peak of the run but I will find out.

So I ended up with 4 in the box, 1 throwback and lost probably a Muskie.  Surface temps are at 53.5 degrees and the water is very clear, over 2 feet of visibility.  NE wind with a partly cloudy sky.  Back to a night fishery again, especially with the you know what’s in town.

One more plug….

May The 4th Be With You.

May the 4th Be With You walleye

May the 4th Be With You walleye

Pre, During but no Post tournament fishing

27 04 2013

Once again it was time for the yearly DWF Handlining tournament.  Last year the weather was warmer, the water was clearer and the White Bass numbered in the millions.  This year none of that applied.  It was cold, the water was dirty and the White Bass were in the hundreds.  I think the walleye were in fewer numbers than the bass.  For most it was a tough night.

My Dad came down a day early so we could fish some before the tournament.  We headed out Thursday night and hit the water around 6:30 pm.  My Dad hooked into his first fish of the night in the first 5 minutes and followed that up shortly afterwards with another one.  While I was helping him get that one netted I forgot about my lines and they got tangled up in the prop.  About 20 minutes later all was good and we were back to fishing.  We fished for about another hour and picked up a few more walleye.  Unfortunately we also caught a few White Bass.  This made no sense to me.  The water is around 46 degrees and yet they are here.  They have arrived earlier than last year and it was also warmer last year.  I just don’t get it. I’m still praying that the DNR will increase the creel limit on these things.

Once the sun set the temperature dropped as well.  The NW wind that was supposed to die down increased and my Dad was getting cold so we packed it in and headed home.  We had 5 walleye that ranged from 22 to 24 inches long so he was happy.  Besides, we had the following night and we figured we would catch a bunch more.  Little did I know that I couldn’t be any more wrong.

Friday night we started at 7:00 pm.  This time the wind was out of the south east, the temps were warmer but the water was still dirty.  I figured we would still catch some fish but I didn’t think it would take an hour.  This was going to be a long night.  We ended up with 3 walleye and they all came within a 20 minute period.  We stayed out until 10:00 pm but after awhile we both agreed that it was pointless and headed home.  I talked to a few other people on the water and most had only a couple of fish.  My friend Dave and his father and son had 7 and that was about the best I had heard anyone do.  Until the next day when we had the weigh-in and the winning team had caught 22 walleye, weighed 5 that was over 30 pound and one that was a 9 1/2 spawned out female.  At least someone had found the fish.

Oh well…..there’s always next year.

Only picture, didn't think a pic from the following day was worth the effort.

Only picture, didn’t think a pic from the following day was worth the effort.

The Ultimate Fishing Show

6 01 2013

In the words of Mr. Incredible…….”It’s Showtime”.

Winter is a tough time for a soft water walleye fisherman.  Not a whole lot to do except get things ready for the start of the next season.  One of the things I like to do to help pass the time (which seems like forever) is attend fishing shows.  The first one and probably the largest is The Ultimate fishing Show at the Suburban Showplace Center in Novi.  The Downriver Walleye Federation has a booth at this show every year and I volunteer to work the booth on Friday night (1/11/13) with my father every year.  It gives me a chance to catch up with fellow walleye fanatics and people I generally don’t see over the course of the year.  The other advantage to working the booth is that it gives me an opportunity to check out all the new gadgets that have come out.  You know, all those items I never knew existed but now that I have seen them I can’t live with out them.  The last few years I haven’t bought anything new but someone may just come up with the one lure that will work every time.

Yeah right !!

There are a couple of vendors that I do make a point of visiting.  The first one is the Lake St. Clair Walleye Association booth.  As part of their fund raising they sell Spike Spoons.  As I have stated earlier Spike is the only person around that makes and paints spoons suitable for handlining.  These spoons are becoming more and more difficult to find, especially in the style and color I want.  Because of that I make it a point to check out their booth, talk to some of the members and of course, buy some more spoons.  The second vendor I check out is D&B Fishing Products.  They are a local supplier of mostly spoons, blades, blades, more spoons and the occasional custom painted Rapala.  They also carry a few Spikes Spoons and usually in some hard to find patterns.  They also carry a lot of other products for the open water fishermen but for the river handliner all I am interested in is the spoons.

There are a lot of other things to see at this show besides the couple of vendors I talked about.  Fishing tackle, seminars, trips, boats and just about every new little gizmo known to man.  I check it all out when I’m not at the DWF booth talking fishing.  Some years I spend more time there then I do wandering around.  Depends on the crowds and how many volunteers we have.  I think one year it was just my friend and DWF booth Organizer Jerry and myself.  Usually we have more than enough help which gives me more time to wander aimlessly down the aisles.  It helps to fend off the winter blah’s and make plans for the coming season.  It’s not the same as being on the river but it sure helps.

Golden Minnow Bucket Tournament 2012

5 08 2012

It’s no big secret about my total disdain for Silver Bass and after my trip to Erieau that disdain has grown even worse. It’s bad enough catching them 3 at a time when I am pulling wire but pulling one in on 10 colors of lead core is ten times worse. Fortunately I only had to do it a couple of times. The crew I was fishing with went through that drill several times over the day before. I have to admit I wasn’t very optimistic about the fishing on Saturday. The group I was fishing with only caught 5 walleye and 3 steelhead the day before. That wasn’t so bad, the part I didn’t like is that they caught close to 50 silver bass. Every 10 minutes they had to pull lines just to clear them off the lures. If a walleye or Steelhead didn’t grab the lure on the way down a silver bass would. I tried to remain positive because things always seem to change the next day, hopefully for the better.

I woke up early Saturday morning to hazy skies and a slight breeze, so far so good. We got our lunches packed along with lots of water and ice for the cooler. Once that was done we launched the boat and headed out. We were fishing the 4th annual DWF/LSCWA Golden Minnow Bucket Steelhead and Walleye tournament this morning. This was a friendly little tournament between two of the premiere walleye clubs in Michigan. Something a little different than our usual Detroit River tournaments. Fishing time for the tournament didn’t start to 7:30 am and I was wondering why we were leaving at 6:30 am. Turns out we had to travel through Rondeau Bay at first and then out into Lake Erie for 18 miles. This will be the furthest I have ever fished out into the lake. Any other time I fished Lake Erie I could always see shore. With the haze on the horizon I couldn’t this morning. Once we got to our starting point we set lines, 2 on down riggers, 3 on Dipsey’s and on one 10 colors of lead core on an inline planer board. It didn’t take long and we caught our first walleye. We followed it up with a couple more and then our fist steelhead in about an hour. Not fast and furious but enough to keep us in the area. We fished for another hour and all we caught were silver bass, Sheepshead and a few small white perch. Jerry decided to pull lines and head to deeper water.

After a few more miles of travel we arrived at our next destination. A quick check of the graph showed the thermocline to be down around 55 feet so we set lines accordingly. Once we got the lines set Jerry made a slow turn into the waves and we started to pick up some better fish again. By now it was time for lunch so Jerry took a break and Tom took over the driving. For the next 2 hours we had a little bit of a flurry going. We were picking up steelhead and walleye on a regular basis. We were having a hard time keeping all the lines in the water because one would always have a fish on. We were still getting the garbage fish but not as many as what we were after. At 2:00 pm we pulled lines and headed back in. As we were doing this we hooked into our last steelhead of the day on one of the downriggers set 62 feet down. Tom suggested that for the last 15 minutes we should lower the downriggers farther to see what would happen. We ended up catching 2 steelhead in that time frame. Unfortunately the last one came off right at the boat. Oh well……it happens.

We ended up with 8 walleye and 8 steelhead which isn’t bad considering the conditions. Fish have been scattered and boats have been having a hard time locating fish. As for the tournament our 5 fish weighed in at 26.99 pounds, good enough for 5th place out 19 boats. The tournament only paid out to 4th place which we missed by just a few ounces. The DWF did take 1st, 3rd and 4th for the tournament and the Golden Minnow Bucket Trophy stays in DWF hands for another year. A team from the Lake St. Clair Walleye Association took 2nd place along with the biggest walleye at 7.24 pounds. Biggest steelhead was just under 12 pounds and it was caught by the 1st place team.

It wasn’t a bad day of fishing, certainly a lot better than the previous two days that my fishing partners experienced. It would have been nice if the waves were a little smaller. Driving a boat out 18 miles into 3 foot waves makes for a bumpy ride. If I had any kidney stones lying on my kidneys they are loose now. Another problem I discovered is that my tendonitis in my left arm is worse than I thought. I had a hard time holding on to the trolling rods while reeling in the fish, especially the one with lead core on it. Guess I’ll be going back to the doctor sometime soon.