The Alley

27 11 2017

As I stated on my last post I  was going to fish some of the rivers known collectively as Steelhead Alley over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I wasn’t leaving until Friday afternoon so I had a little free time before I left.  I was originally planning on doing some fishing on The Huron but my mother changed that plan for me.  She said she wanted some fresh walleye so I begrudgingly hooked up my boat Thursday morning (11/23) and went walleye fishing instead.  The sacrifices I make for her.

I got to the ramp around 8:00 am and got everything ready.  The temperature was a balmy 29 degrees but it was supposed to reach a high of around 38 later in the day.  I wasn’t planning on being out that long.  I was hoping to be off the water after only a couple of hours.  A SW wind and below freezing temps makes for a cold boat ride downstream.  I had received a tip that they were catching a lot of fish farther downstream than I normally fish so I set up there at first.  Turns out that would be a waste of about 45 minutes.  I didn’t catch anything there so around 9 I headed up to my normal stomping grounds.  Grandpa always told me, never leave fish to find fish.  One of these days I might listen.  It didn’t take long and I had the first one in the cooler.  That fish was followed up by 3 more.  I was debating heading in because my hands were getting cold and sore.  I told myself I would quit at 10:00 am and a few minutes later I had number 5 in the cooler.  By 10:00 and 18 seconds later I was headed for the dock.

Water was dirty today or as I like to call it a nice handlining shade of grey.  Very few weeds and a temp of around 41 degrees.  Temps are supposed to stay in the upper 40’s all this week.  If I was going to be around next weekend I would go out again for sure.  The 4 smaller walleye were full of emerald shiners and the big one on top was full of gizzard shad.  The walleye were definitely in “let’s eat” mode today.  On to the Alley.

I had booked a trip with Steelhead Alley Outfitters about a month ago.  Five years ago I didn’t even know there were Steelhead runs on any of the Lake Erie Tributaries of Ohio and Pennsylvania.  Since then I have fished them sporadically without any luck.  I was hoping that would change with this trip.  I just had to wait to find out which of the dozen or so rivers I would be fishing.  My guide, Nate Miller,  called me Thanksgiving evening to tell me what river and what time we would meet up.  He told me he would pick me up at my hotel at 5:30 am (The Sadist) on Saturday morning.  The reason why he was picking me up so early was that he wanted to fish a specific stretch so we had to get there before anyone else.  That part of the plan worked but it didn’t prevent anyone from showing up afterwards and camping out on both sides of me.  I had the river all to myself for about 45 minutes.  Around 8 two eggers showed up and surrounded me.  One upstream and the other downstream at the end of the run I was fishing.  As expected the person downstream started catching fish so his partner moved down to where he was.  He hooked into a fish on his first cast but it was short lived, his rod broke during the fight.  Some may think how terrible that is but not in this case, I call it Karma, river etiquette rule #1 is don’t low hole someone.  He went back to his car to get another rod which opened up a little more water for me.  It didn’t help any though, I swung several different streamers for about an hour with no takes.  I could hear Nate talking on his phone with another guide and he was mentioning breaking out the indicator rod if I got desperate.  I told him I was getting to that point.  Normally I will stick to swinging but watching these other guys hook fish pretty much at will was getting to me.  I switched rods and started casting.  My first cast was crap, I’m not used to casting a float with an egg fly on the end.  My second cast wasn’t much better and it wasn’t more that 15 feet in front of me.  Didn’t matter though, 3 seconds into the drift and it was Bobber Down.

I felt so ashamed that I didn’t want my face in the picture. lol

I played around with the indicator rig for about another half hour until the other guy showed back up and moved right back in downstream.  Nate asked me if I wanted to move on to a new spot and I agreed.  He knew of another place further upstream that would be a bit of a hike.  He said there would be other people there as well but we would have about a mile of good water to fish.

At the next spot Nate asked me if I wanted to take both rods.  I said nope, from here on in it’s swing or die.  I know guides want their clients to catch fish but if I was worried about numbers I would have bought a center pin setup instead of a spey/switch rod.  For the next 5 hours I worked several runs and holes with still no  luck.  We talked to a couple of other guys who were swinging flies and they weren’t having any luck either.  They said that the day before they hooked into 12 but nothing today.  Sounds like the story of my life, always a day late.  Never the less I continued on and kept at it.  We set up on one last run and I was bound and determined to make the most of it.  We switched my streamer over to a bright orange one, hoping it was obscene enough to piss off at least one fish.  About ten minutes in I was starting to strip in my line to make another cast when I had a hit.  I set the hook and the fight was on, for about 20 seconds.  After the initial run the fish started shaking his head and that was when the fly pulled free.  I didn’t know it at the time but Nate was filming all of this with his phone.  It wasn’t until I got home that night when I saw the footage of my overly dramatic response to losing the fish.  This happens but considering I haven’t caught a steelhead on a fly since Jan. 2nd, 2016 this hurt.  My window of opportunity was quickly shrinking and the odds of me landing a fish was growing slimmer by the minute.  After I composed myself I waded back in and got back to business.  After about 20 minutes Nate told me to move back upstream and start over.  Now any normal person would have reeled in his line and fly before wading back up.  Not me, I left the line and the fly in the water, put the rod over my right shoulder like a rifle and proceeded to walk upstream.  Two steps later…..WHAM!  I spun around, set the hook and yelled to Nate to get the net because we weren’t going to screw around with this one.  A couple of minutes later she was in the net.

Redemption

After we released her we headed in.  After almost 8 hours of wading 42 degree streams in and on/off all day rain I was whipped.  I had 3 1/2 hour drive ahead of me as well.  I was happy, I ended my no steelhead streak, unfortunately my never losing a steelhead streak ended as well.  I had my first multiple fish day.  I learned a lot about the rivers in the area, specifically how flow rates dictate which one to fish.  This is a vital piece of information I needed to help increase my chance of success.  Since that day I’ve uploaded all the Steelhead Alley rivers I could to my Fish Head app.

As for Sunday, I just slept in.

Next up, The Manistee and the Pere Marquette.

 

 

 

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2017 Lake Erie Walleye & Perch hatch results

14 09 2017

http://ohiovalleyoutdoors.com/page/content.detail/id/536464/Results-of-2017-Lake-Erie-Walleye-and-Yellow-Perch-Hatches-Released.html?nav=5045

I’m very surprised about this.  I figured that the two storms we had right around spawning time would have nullified any type of a successful spawn.  Guess the walleye did their thing after the storms.  Based on the graph we are going to have some excellent fishing for quite some time.

536464_1





Come On Fall

7 09 2017

Yesterday was one of those days at work you would like to just soon forget.  It’s not that it was a really bad day but one part of it was rather annoying.  I really hate when I am trying to complete an assignment and I have people behind me telling what to do, where to put the numbers, how to write the email, what to put in the subject line, how to format the spreadsheet.  I have no patience for back seat drivers or know it all co-workers who won’t shut up and let me do my job.  Because of all that I decided to go walleye fishing.  I figured it would be a good night weather wise and I was right.  The water was clear, very few weeds and even fewer boats.  Only problem was a lack of walleye.  I ended up with 5 for the night but I could only keep 3 of them.  I’ve said before that August and September can be transition months but this has me worried.

The first thing is a lack of baitfish.  Normally I see lots of Emerald Shiners in the Marina as I am launching.  Not this year.  I haven’t see a one.  I haven’t seen any Gizzard Shad jumping in the Edison discharge either.  It’s still a little early for them but I usually see a few by now.  I haven’t caught any young of the year smallmouth either.  As a matter of fact I haven’t caught any.  The only other fish I caught last night was another big channel cat.

The other thing is the Algal Bloom in Lake Erie.  It was bad this year and I have noticed that when the bloom is bad in Erie the Fall walleye fishing suffers in the river.  I don’t know if it is just a coincidence or if it acts as some kind of a barrier to keep the fish from moving in.  I guess I’ll find out later in October once the water temps get  back down to the 50 degree range.  Right now the surface temp is at 65 degrees so we have a ways to go yet.  I’m not about to push the panic button, there is still time.

All the fish came on a #7 Hot Steel Rapala.  I tried other sizes and colors but that was the only one producing.  I also broke the lip on my last #9 Original.  I’ll have to go raid Walmart or something soon.  I’m beginning to wish I never had all those originals I bought at garage sales painted.

No pics this time.  Who really wants to see what a 15 inch walleye looks like?

 





Erie Perch, 08/27/17

28 08 2017

My original plan for last weekend was to take care of some chores and do a little fly fishing each morning.  That all changed early Saturday when I got a text from Steve Schoonover, owner of The Mad Viking Tackle Company.  Normally I don’t start perch fishing until the Fall when they make their way into the river.  Since they have been doing so well on Erie I jumped at the chance to get an early start on putting some in the freezer.  We made plans to meet at the Bolles Harbor Marina the next day around 10:00 am.  Fellow Handliner Dave and his son Braden were also along for the trip.  That meant we had the potential to go home with a 4 man limit of perch, 200 of them.  While that sounds both excessive and awesome the thought of cleaning that many really didn’t appeal to me.  I’d be happy with a couple of dozen each.  I give most of the yellow perch I catch to my Mom and she really can’t eat that many anyways.

Once we got the boat loaded up with our gear we made our way to the first stop near Stony Point.  There were some decent rollers so it made for a bumpy ride.  The Algal bloom wasn’t to bad in this area but looking out over the lake you could see where the surface would go from green to blue.  We started drifting perch rigs (supplied by Steve) at first to find some active fish.  Once we did we dropped anchor.  The first stop yielded about 2 dozen perch in the 9 to 11 inch range.  Not a bad start but after an hour we moved on towards the Raisin River bouys.  There were a lot more boats in this area so we picked a spot just outside of the pack.  The bloom was a little thicker here but nothing like the pea soup it had been like a week ago.  We picked up about another dozen during the next hour.  Around 1 Steve had us pull lines and we moved deeper into the center of the pack.  Once we dropped lines it was game on.  For the next couple of hours the 4 of us steadily filled the live well.  We only got a handful of doubles but we weren’t complaining.  We were kept busy and there were very few lulls in the action.  If we didn’t get a bite after a minute or two we were pulling in to check for bait.  The minnows we had didn’t survive well and by now we were using dead ones.  The perch didn’t seem to mind but whenever we set the hook the minnows would come off all the hooks.  We were even doubling up on the minnows on each hook.  We pretty much had to, the emeralds we had were in two sizes, extra large and extra small.  The extra large ones were used first, after that it was the pinheads, two at a time.  Like I said though, it didn’t matter.  The perch were abundant and hungry.  Only problem was that being bounced around in the boat for the day was starting to take it’s toll.  We were already at 100 so Steve decided we should quit at 125.  Braden brought in #125 but since we still had lines out it was soon followed by numbers 126 and 127.  All that was left now was the trip back in and the cleaning.  With four people helping it only took about an hour, which isn’t to bad at all.

Father & Son

Captain Steve, The Original Mad Viking.

Doubling Up

 





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.





2015 Lake Erie Walleye and Perch Hatch Numbers

23 09 2015

Looks like Lake Erie had a good hatch for this year.  If I figured correctly the walleye population should get a 20 million fish boost.  I’m curious to see what the TEC numbers for 2016 will be and what the estimated population is.  This hatch won’t be counted with the estimated population.

http://budmancharters.blogspot.com/2015/09/2015-walleye-hatch-as-reported-by.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/lake-erie-walleye-and-perch-hatchlings-near-record-numbers-1.3242477

Of course the down side to this is that next summer (2016) we are going to be catching a lot of 8-10 inch walleye.  In 2017 they will be barely legal so we will have to do a lot of sorting.  2018 should be a fantastic season.  Wonder if they will increase the daily limit for the Detroit River in 2018?  Probably not.  If Canada increases their daily limit I might have to start fishing Amherstburg again.

The population really needed this boost, especially if we have another warm winter like they are predicting.  Hatches after a warm winter have been historically poor.





Weeds Still Suck

22 09 2015

Originally I had no plans to fish last night (9/21/15).  I was planning on going out on Thursday since I had the next day off from work.  Figured I would be able to stay out as long as I want and maybe experiment with some other lures.  What changed my mind was the wind forecast.  The forecast called for NE, E and SE winds all week.  That meant that by Thursday I would have needed a brush hog to find any clear water.  So I figured last night would be my best bet.  Unfortunately the weeds were still bad, not as bad as my previous trip but bad enough.  I only fished for about 90 minutes and managed one 18 inch walleye and one 19 inch Smallmouth (which really made a mess of my leaders).  Both fish came on the same blue and white pencil plug I have been using for the last month.

No pictures this time.  I figured everyone has seen enough pics of an 18 inch walleye and by now everyone should know what that pencil plug looks like.  Water temps was 68 degrees and the water is still extremely clear.  Weeds were all throughout the water column.  Mats on top and single strands below the surface.

Taking a break for awhile.  Got enough fish for my mom’s fish fry so I’m good for now. I’ll wait until the water cools down some more and we get a few days of west winds.  I’m hoping a few new fish will move in from Erie.  Not that I did that much damage to the local population but it would be nice to get some new fish in the river.