Huron Small Jaws

25 04 2017

About the time those other fish start to show up I begin to look to other fishing opportunities until they leave.  Instead of heading north to go chase Steelhead I decided to make a local trip for some Huron River smallmouth.  A few years ago this wouldn’t have been an option but the DNR recently changed the rules to where bass are now open year round for catch and release.  This presented an opportunity for the gang at Schultz’s Outfitter’s to start guiding trips in April instead off May.  A quick phone call and I was all checked in for a Sunday morning (4/23) float.

My guide today was going to be the newest member to the Schultz team, Justin Pribnac.  This is his inaugural season as a guide for the shop.  He has been guiding for the last 10 years but the Huron was a new area to him.  Seemed fitting as this was my first time targeting Smallmouth Bass with a fly rod.  I have caught them before but it was always by accident.  Now, I was going to be casting big streamers to likely holding spots from a drift boat.  I’m sensing a lot of streamers in trees.

My Chariot for the Day

 

Once we got into the boat we started our drift downstream.  This was my kind of fishing, I stand up front and cast while someone else rows.  I have to hand it to Justin, he kept me in the zone all day and set the boat up so I could make easy casts.  While I was casting he would give me tips on placement and how to get the fly to twitch just right.  Since he knew I was a big fan of the two hand spey game he described the presentation in ways I could easily relate to.  Since the river was flowing high, from all the recent rains, we concentrated our efforts on the “couch” areas.  Places on the river downstream of logs and obstructions that formed slack water areas or pools.  Since it was a bright sunny day  we tried to focus on shady areas as best we could.  This got to be harder and harder to do as the sun rose.  By noon I was praying for any type of a cloud.  It wasn’t gonna happen today.  As the morning progressed I was able to move a few fish and I did catch one smaller bass on a white Game Changer.  Not exactly what I was hoping for but it is to be expected on a bright day like this and early in the season.  The bigger fish are on full alert and after being in the river for over 10+ years they are well educated.

We kept at it though and eventually  we found an area that had a few willing fish.  In about a 100 yard stretch I was able to catch two and had two long distance releases.  I moved a couple as well which.  It was still great to see the fish come from out of what seemed like nowhere to crush the streamer.  This is one of the reasons why Smallmouth are such fun to catch on a fly rod, at any size.  I can only imagine what a true trophy would feel like and someday I hopefully will.  Today just wasn’t going to be that day.  It happens though, that’s why I do this, for the challenge.  If I wanted easy I would stick to pulling wire for walleye.

So that was my initial foray into the world of fly fishing for Small Jaws.  I learned a lot and have a new found appreciation for someone who knows how to row a drift boat.  Hat’s off to Justin who worked his butt off to keep the boat where it belonged and my casts in the zone.  I will definitely be doing this again, I just hope it is on a cloudier day.  Maybe I’ll try a PM float.  After dark.  When I am in my element.  Muhahahahaha…….

 

Oh, one other thing.  I didn’t lose a single fly today.





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.

 





It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

8 04 2017

Everybody Sing…..

Today was the start of my yearly smack down on the local walleye population.  The water temps were slowly creeping up to the magic number (45 degrees) and it was time to have at them.  Only problem was a torrential downpour earlier this week rose the water levels and dirtied up the water.  The MWC was in town and after the first day weigh in first place was 11 pounds and that was only one fish.  On top of that my friend and old mentor Sparky called me to say that the water was to dirty and I shouldn’t bother.  Normally I listen to everything he says, this time I was glad I didn’t.

I waited until later in the day to give the river a chance to warm up some and clear up.  Dirty water warms up faster and with the all day sun I figured it would help.  Don’t really know if it cleared up any from the morning but I didn’t care.  I arrived at a half empty lot (odd for this time of the year) and launched around 5:30 pm.  I saw my friends, Dave and Larry, so I drove over to see how they were doing.  They didn’t have anything yet so after a quick game of banana keep away I set lines.  Since the water was so dirty I decided to run Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogues.  These are a plastic body bait with bb’s in them, thus making them rattle.  When conditions are like this I need every advantage I can get.

It didn’t take long and after about 15 minutes the first one of the year was in the cooler.  It was shortly followed up by number two.  Things were looking good, I got myself straightened around and about 15 minutes later number 3 was on and in the boat.  As I was setting my lines back down number 4 hit.  It was starting to look like I was going to be done in about 45 minutes but the fish had other plans.  During this time I made a quick call to Larry to let them know the where’s and what on.  They had a couple and Dave had just lost one.  About half an hour later number 5 hit and I was done.  Can’t complain about that, especially since the south wind was kicking my ass.  I swung by Dave and Larry again to check in, they were up to 4.  I asked if they wanted to give me the banana back but they declined.

So that’s it for this trip.  5 for 5, no lost lures, no hang ups, no injuries, boat ran great and I am well on my way to filling up the new SD card on my GPS with waypoints.  Now all I need is for the level to drop on The Huron and maybe I can finally catch a steelhead.

 





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

 





A Shameless Plug for Pencil Plugs.

14 05 2016

Normally I don’t make a lot of shameless plugs, unless you count that one post that was a slew of them.  Well this plug is about just that, a plug, a pencil plug to be exact.  Long time readers know that I have used Nite Stalker pencil plugs before, and shamelessly plugged them as well.  They have been hard to come by but a new company has taken up the mantle and they are being produced once again.

http://sportsmensdirect.com/shop/pencil-plug-by-hwi/

They are just like the old Nite Stalkers and are available here in Michigan.  They offer them in many colors along with Chrome, Gold and Blank if you want to paint them yourself.  As for me I will be sending some up to Jim at www.downrivertackle.com  (see what I did there?) to paint mine up.  He told me he can work wonders with the blank and chrome plugs.

I’ll be ordering some this weekend to use once those other fish leave the river.

If you have never fished with a pencil plug before for walleye you might want to give it a shot.  They don’t dive as deep as a Rapala so they don’t get hung up as much.  Walleye tend to hit them center mass and they get all those hooks in them.  Since they don’t have a lip they do a decent job of not getting fouled with weeds and they are just plain cool.





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