Weekend Steel

4 04 2015

While the rest of Michigan was waiting for the annual Detroit river walleye run to get started I decided to go Steelhead fishing instead.  There is still ice in lake St. Clair so that means I’m staying put until it is all passed by on it’s way to Erie.  In the mean time I was going to try my luck on the Lower Huron.

One of my handlining disciples sent me a text message last week and asked if I had Friday off.  Thanks to my employer I did so Larry and I made arrangements to meet at the launch at 7:00 am on 4/3.  When I arrived Larry had the boat in the water and was loading it up.  I grabbed my stuff and a few minutes later we were headed downstream or upstream, I really can’t remember.  We were running shallow diving KVD crank baits.  Most holding areas on the river were less than 6 feet deep so a deep diving bait like a Wiggle Wart or a Hot-n-Tot wasn’t going to cut it.  We trolled through a few holes and drifted the lures into a few log jams but nothing so far.  At the next hole we finally had a hit.  As I was reeling it in something didn’t feel right.  It was fighting but the head shakes were these big slow shakes and no running that is characteristic of a steelhead.  I kept working the fish in and then I saw why it felt so weird……it was a walleye.

1st Lower Huron Walleye

1st Lower Huron Walleye

Since the season is closed for inland water walleye we took a quick picture and sent him on his way.  Back to the steel.  We tried a few more spots but no luck.  We did talk to one fisherman who had caught 3 drifting spawn.  I made note of where he was at for future reference.  About noon time we headed back to the ramp and called it a day.  I thanked Larry for the trip and showing me some of the areas and made plans to hit the “D” when it was wire time.

The next day I slept in for the first time in what seemed like forever.  Or at least that was the plan.  I forgot to shut my alarm off from the previous day and it went off at 6:30 am.  I shut it off but it was no use.  I eventually got up and started putzing around the house.  Around 11 I picked up my friend Chris and headed up to Lockeman’s Hardware to see about getting some corner brackets for my boat.  I figured he was my best bet to try and find a pair and I was right.  He had 4 left and once I left he was down to his last two.  Now all I have to do is get my transom built and these attached and I will be good to go.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up and tying more flies.  After dinner I grabbed my Switch Rod and made the 10 minute drive to the Lower Huron again.  I walked down to the same area where Larry and I talked to the guy who had 3.  I carefully waded in and started working the shoreline.  I was throwing a Zudweg Wicked Leech with a little bit of metallic blue flashabou.  After about 2 minutes I had a hit.  It wasn’t a very savage hit but I definitely felt it.  After about 10 minutes of fighting the fish and maneuvering my feet around the sunken logs I was able to get her close to shore where I could grab her by the tail.  Mission accomplished, my first Lower Huron river steelhead, caught on a fly I tied and landed by hand.  I really need to get a net.  After a quick pic I pointed her back upstream and let her get her strength back.  After a minute she swam off to fight another day.  I played around a bit more and checked out some more spots but didn’t catch anything else.  The wind was starting to pick up and casting was getting difficult so I decided to head home.  There will be plenty of other days.

1st Lower Huron Steelhead on a Zudweg Wicked Leech.

1st Lower Huron Steelhead on a Zudweg Wicked Leech.

So Long Marty

21 07 2012

My father’s best friend and fishing buddy Marty passed away last Thursday 7/19/12. My Grandfather, Father and Marty covered a lot of water together. As I got older I started to tag along on these trips and once my Grandfather passed away it was the three of us. We fished from Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan and on the sunrise side of Lake Huron by Harrisville and Oscoda all the way down to Lake Erie. “Stosh”, as my dad jokingly called him, was the butt of a lot of jokes from both of us. No matter what kind of donuts he would bring we would always complain about him not bringing a certain kind. On one trip we complained about not having lemon filled donuts. The next time out the whole box was lemon filled. Of course we wanted glazed that morning. We even gave him a hard time about the brand of pretzel rods he brought. Then there was that silver Heddon Shark pole and oversized Diawa reel. Oh the crap he used to get from us about that thing. It was all in fun and I can’t help but smile as I type this. Every trip my Dad put together Marty was always there, rain or shine, warm or cold, salmon or walleye, it didn’t matter. We even made an ill fated trip to Cedarville one year for fresh water herring and that was a disaster. Didn’t matter, Marty went and afterwards he was willing to go again on the next trip. As the years passed the fishing trips together became less frequent. I was busy with school, work and raising a family. Trying to plan a weekend for all 3 of us became more and more difficult, especially after my Dad moved up to Oscoda. Unfortunately these things happen but at least we have those fond memories to fall back on.

As my Dad and I fished tonight we talked and joked about all the fishing trips the three of us made together. The fish we caught, the ones we lost, the little old lady that was inadvertently terrorized in the outhouse by flying frogs. Marty will be missed but never forgotten.

Marty Tarlowicz 12/16/1933 – 07/19/2012

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.

Fishing Show/DIY Day

12 02 2012

Yep, looks like a good day to stay inside.

15 degrees outside, wind chill around zero and 4 inches of new fallen snow on the ground.  Looks like a good day for some do-it-yourself fishing projects.  First things first though, need to go to the MI – OH Sport fishing Expo in Monroe Michigan.  This is the first of 5 shows in a row for me.  Next week is my friends Sporting Collectables (Gun/Fishing) show.  After that it is Outdoorama, then it’s The Michigan Quiet Water Symposium and then the Mid-West Fly Fishing Expo.  It’s going to be a busy month for me.  No time to think about that, I had to meet my friends for breakfast first and then off to Monroe.

This show is put on by the Huron Valley Sport Fishing Club.  This is a show that is geared towards fishing the Western Basin of Lake Erie.  That means 3 things, Walleye, Steelhead and Smallmouth Bass with a heavy emphasis on Walleye.  There are lots of vendors selling crawler harnesses, blades, spoons and crank baits.  If you fish Lake Erie a lot this is the kind of show you need to visit.  You could probably purchase everything thing you would need for the upcoming season at this one show.  The only thing I bought was a hook sharpener (made in Ohio).  I don’t have a boat to fish Erie so whenever I go it is because I was invited by someone who has a big enough boat.  Since I am a guest on that boat I am going to use his stuff and do everything he tells me too (something to remember people, a boat only needs one captain).  I do have a few blades , spoons and harnesses just in case but for the most part I am using someone else’s equipment.  It’s still a good way to spend the morning, talking fishing with people I know and making new friends while I am there.

After the show was done my friend Jerry and I set up shop in his heated garage to get started on weights and shanks for the upcoming walleye season.  Normally I wait until March and warmer weather to do this in my garage.  This winter has been very mild and if it continues we could be fishing in March.  I’ve already been out once this month so no sense waiting until the last minute.   I had already poured a few weights a couple of weeks ago but Jerry needed a few as well.  You can purchase weights for handlining but a few of us prefer to use a homemade weight of copper tubing filled with lead.  It bounces off the rocks and doesn’t get hung up as much as the soft lead weights.  Today we were making 1 ¼ pound weights from an 11 inch piece of ½ inch copper pipe.  Both Jerry and I have a lot of scrap lead lying around so we melted it down in my electric lead ladle and carefully poured it in the tube.  We stand the copper tube into a piece of 2×4 with a ½ in hole drilled to hold the tube.  It has to fit tight or the hot lead will leak out from the bottom.  The tube also has to be pre heated some to insure there are no air pockets during the pouring process.  It is really quite easy to do but you need the right tools and a steady hand.

After a short Canada Dry break it was on to the next phase, shank production.  I need about a dozen to make it through an entire a year.  I replace them every 2 or 3 weeks just because of the abuse they take.  If a shank is kept in good working order you won’t lose as many lures.  Again you can buy these but I have so much #60 stainless steel wire lying around it is easier for me to make my own.  I can also customize special ones for friends and family who don’t like to run 3 leaders like I do.   The main thing is to remain consistent.  An inch or two difference on where a clevice is no big deal but if the 1st one is off it compounds all the way to the last one.  Just remember this rule of thumb 1 inch equals 1 foot (measured from the top of the weight) .  This isn’t an exact science but it is a start.  Once you get a shank set up and working for you keep making or buying the same ones.  I was the only one making shanks today, Jerry spent his time organizing and sorting through stuff.  Like me he has so much stuff he forgets what he has and where he has it.  It’s all time well spent.

Weights and Shanks, ready to go.