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.





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

 





7/28/16 TC Walleye

31 07 2016

This one is going to be short, sweet and to the point. About the only difference from this report and the previous two is that the weeds were a pain and we were losing fish on a regular basis.  I figured the conditions wouldn’t have changed much from the previous weekend to this past Thursday (7/28) so I told John to meet me at my house around 8:00 pm and we would give it a shot.  Water was still clear but this time the wind was out of the south, though it wasn’t much of a wind.  It didn’t take long and I had our first fish in the boat which I quickly followed up with another.  Things were looking good, especially since John had just boated one as well.  From then on though it was a different story.  After that third fish the rest of the evening was short fish and fish lost at the side of the boat.  Both John and I continually lost fish right at the side of the boat.  At one point I had a double and I couldn’t land either fish.  I don’t think I have ever done that before.  To make matters worse the weeds showed up in grand fashion shortly after 10 pm.  The Sam Laud was off loading coal at the Edison Plant and left around 9.  As he headed up stream he must have cut a lot of weeds upstream.  No big mats but tons of single strands were coming down.  After 11 we finally gave up and headed in.  We ended up with 6, lost 6 and threw back just as many.  Definitely not how I expected the night to go.  The weeds I could understand but losing so many fish annoyed the snot out of me.  At least there are still a lot of fish in the system just waiting for better conditions.  Hopefully I will be able to get out soon to find out.

Like I said the water is still very clear and it started off weed free. I have no idea what the water temp was since I never did turn on my Depth Finder.  Natural colors were catching the fish tonight.  Original and Bleeding Olive Rapala’s in size 7 and 9.

An interesting little tidbit occurred while we were back at the ramp putting stuff away. A coyote started howling and yapping from the park.  He couldn’t have been more than 100 yards away.  Wish I could have recorded that or got a picture of him.

 

7-28-16 walleye





1st walleye trip for 2016.

17 04 2016

There’s always something special about that first trip for the new year.  The anticipation of maybe, just possibly, that this season may be the year I get that wall hanger.  Seeing old friends again on the water.  Feeling that familiar head shake of the first fish after a 5 month absence.  It’s a feeling that can’t be described to a person who has never experienced fishing or has the same passion as I do.  I’ll admit that the excitement has become a little more subdued over the years.  When I was a teen, I would be like a kid at Christmas when my Dad and I started to get the boat ready for that first trip.  The next day at school, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate all day long knowing that in a few hours, I would be catching walleye again.  Now, 30 years later, I still look forward to that first trip but I have enough sense to pick my days and go when the river isn’t literally so thick with boats you could almost jump for boat to boat and reach Canada.  I don’t dodge icebergs anymore nor do I fight the crowds on the weekends.  I wait until weekday evenings when most people are already off the water.  I choose days with favorable conditions and stay indoors during sudden snow squalls (like last weekend).  Some call it laziness and saying I have lost my passion.  I say I have become wiser and more of a realist.  Unlike 90% of the jig fishermen out there right now I have all summer and into fall to catch walleye in the Detroit River.  They aren’t going anywhere.

I had been paying attention to the reports for the past few weeks and things didn’t sound promising.  Lots of bad reports and claims that everyone missed the run.  I really didn’t believe it.  Mother Nature threw us a major curve ball this year and decided to extend winter an extra month, even though that stupid groundhog said otherwise.  We had such a mild winter and no ice cover that a lot of people expected the run to start early this year.  Just when the water temp started to creep up we got slammed with a lot of non typical cold April days.  Here it is mid-April and the surface temps are still in the 40 degree range.  Throw in a lot of dirty water from the snow melt run-off and fishing was not what everyone was expecting.  Fish were being caught but not in the numbers everyone was hoping for.

My friends and fellow handliners, Dave and Larry, had been texting me for about the last week about current conditions and all the complaining on the message boards.  We had been discussing when would be a good time to start pulling wire.  Usually handlining doesn’t really start to take off until water temps hit the 45 degree mark.  It was getting close but not quite there yet.  after a few more texts we decided that Thursday, 4/14/16, would be a good evening to start.  It’s always good to have a second or third boat out on the initial voyage in case any of use have any engine problems.  It also makes trying to find active fish easier.  We can split up and cover more water until one of us zeroes in.  Thus was the case this last Thursday.  Dave and Larry got an earlier start than me but I was able to track them down.  They were fishing downstream so after some info sharing I headed farther upstream.  There was a SW wind this evening and it was making the lower river a little bumpy.  All the more reason for me to head up and get out of the choppy water.  I set up with a pair of #11 Rapala’s and a #9 on my kicker.  I trolled around for about an hour without much activity.  I talked to a few friends who were out jigging and they repeated what I had been hearing for the last few weeks.  Very few fish and mostly eaters.  This was a little discouraging but they are jigging and I was handlining.  Two completely different presentations that can produce completely different results.  Especially as the sun starts to set.

Around 8:15 pm I felt that old familiar hit and shake.  I went through my routine and about 30 seconds later the first fish of 2016 was in the cooler, an 18 inch eater.  This once came on my 40 foot lead and a #11 Chartreuse.  A quick text off to Dave and Larry and I was back at it.  Shortly after that fish I got hung up really bad.  Turns out the 20 inch clevice on my shank got wedged in a rock.  Once I pulled that loose the Rapala on my 20 foot leader got hung up as well.  It eventually pulled free but it took me almost half an hour to get myself situated and back to fishing.  Once I got the shank and lure replaced I motored back to where I caught the first fish and set lines.  By now it was close to 9:00 pm and I was hoping the fish would get active.  They did.  over the next half hour I managed to put 3 more in the cooler, one of them being a 25 inch male.  He turned out to be my last fish of the night.  They turned off just as quickly as they turned on.  After the 4th fish was in the box I called Larry to let them know where I was and what lures I was getting them on (they quit shortly after I did with 3 fish).  I fished for about another 15 minutes but I was getting cold and tired so I headed in.  There were plenty of fishing days ahead.

All in all it was a pretty good start for the season.  I managed 4 in about 2 1/2 hours of fishing.  I had one minor casualty and everything on the boat worked fine.  Water clarity had a bit of a stain to it and that little bit will probably disappear over the weekend.  No rain or wind for the next few days should do it.  That will mean very few fish caught during the day for me.  When I go out again it will be closer to dark, as everyone is leaving the river.

Good luck everyone.

Never stretched out a split ring before. The hook should have bent out or broke before this happened.

Never stretched out a split ring before. The hook should have bent out or broke before this happened.

04-14-16 TC

A late night snack. I scoff at restaurants that tell me their fish is fresh.

A late night snack. I scoff at restaurants that tell me their fish is fresh.





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