Memorial Fins and Feathers weekend, minus the Feathers.

30 05 2017

As in life, things don’t always go as planned.  Originally, my Memorial Day weekend was supposed to be 3 days of fishing and turkey hunting.  Due to weather, water conditions and other circumstances beyond my control all I got to do was fish for walleye Friday night.  Even that trip didn’t go as planned, actually the results were not what I figured they would be.

I left the house Friday night around 9:00 pm.  With the blankity blank run still going on I wasn’t even going to try until after dark.  I was planning on running pencil plugs as well with the hope of keeping the blankity blank catch rate to a minimum.  With that in mind I started fishing around 9:30 and shortly afterwards it began.

1,2,3,4,5,6, Hey look….a walleye, 7,8,9, Oh cool, another walleye, a third walleye….we’re cookin’ now 10,11,12,Dink,13,14,15, well at least I’m not catching them two at a time, 17,18,20,21, another walleye, I should just quit now, 22,23,24,26, that’s it, I’m done, time to pull lines.  Holy Crap, number 5, the streak continues.

That was the night in a nutshell.  I got my 5 walleye and the blankity blanks were just active enough to annoy me but not so bad that they drove me off the river.  Around 2 dozen of them in 2 ½ hours of fishing isn’t bad but when I am walleye fishing that is all I want to catch, walleye.  What I was really expecting was a lot of undersized walleye.  I had heard reports about fishermen catching 30 and 40 undersized walleye in order to get a limit of 5.  I didn’t want to deal with that along with the blankity blanks.  The longer the lures are out of the water, releasing unintentional catches, the less time they are in the water trying to catch the targeted species.  This was another reason why I was running pencil plugs.  I was hoping the bigger bait and lack of action would keep the blankity blanks and the undersized fish at bay.  It worked to some degree but it also created a headache.  One of the drawbacks with a pencil plug is that when a blankity blank grabs it the extra hooks catch the fish in odd places.  That creates a tendency for them to come in sideways and pinwheel, which leads to tangled leaders.  I got brave at first and ran 3 leaders but once I realized that the blankity blanks were not going to leave it alone I ditched my kicker to cut down on the tangles.

There were about 6 other boats out fishing tonight as well.  Most of them were south of me but one stayed in my area for a good part of the evening.  At one time they got close enough and I could see that they were bring in blankity blanks two at a time.  I was able to see what they were using for lures, #9 Clown Rapalas.  That’s as bad as wearing a Vote Hillary 2016 t-shirt at an NRA convention.  You’re just asking for trouble.  As the night progressed the other boats thinned out and by 11:00 pm I was the only one out.  By 11:30 I had 4 in the box and was debating just heading in.  I had to get up early the next morning and I needed some sleep.  I decided to stick it out to 12 and then go in no matter what.  I pointed my boat towards the Edison warm water discharge, figuring I would make my last run through there.  After I made my pass I started to pull lines.  I put my 40 foot lead over my right shoulder as I pulled my 20 and started to wrap it on my spool.  As I was bringing it in my reel started unwinding and my 40 foot lead started heading back off the stern of my boat.  At first I thought the line got hung up in my prop but that wasn’t possible.  The lure was 40 feet back, on the surface and probably only 10 feet of line in the water.  I dropped my spool and placed my foot on it to keep it from falling over.  I grabbed hold of my 40 foot lead and to my surprise I could feel that slow head shake and weight of a walleye.  I minute later and he was in the cooler and I went back to putting everything away.  10 feet of water and that walleye came up and grabbed the lure off the surface.  Sometimes it pays to be lucky.

So that was the beginning of my 3-day weekend.  One I had originally hoped would be full of fishing and some hunting but it didn’t work out that way.  I was fortunate to catch a limit of good sized fish.  I was expecting a lot of throwbacks and maybe a couple of just barely 15 inchers.  Instead I was able to keep my walleye limit streak intact for 2017.  I’ll probably try again Friday or Saturday this coming weekend.  At night.  With Pencil Plugs.  Unless the blankity blanks have left, which I highly doubt.

 





7/11 Free Slurpee Walleye Day.

13 07 2014

So what do free Slurpee’s and walleye fishing have in common?  Absolutely nothing, I just thought I would throw that out there.

Hit the water again Friday night (7/11).  Originally my Dad was supposed to tag along but he was to tired so he opted out.  It was supposed to be an extremely beautiful night out so I went anyway.  Partly cloudy skies, full moon, slight breeze.  Almost picture perfect except for two things.  Ridiculously clear water and lots of floating weeds.  I forgot the Gold Cup races were going on so that meant a lot of boat traffic.  With the wind out of the south there was nothing to push the weeds mats to Canada.  They just kept floating down stream, all night long, wherever I went.  It was like they were following me everywhere.

I started fishing around 8:00 pm farther downstream down by Calf Island.  I wanted to try the deeper water first until the sun started to set.  Good theory but it really didn’t pan out.  I didn’t catch my first fish until 9:30 pm on a Limeade spoon on my kicker lead.  I ended up catching 2 and losing 1 on that lead and lure.  The one I lost made a Banzai charge right at my prop as I was bringing him in.  It worked, out came the hook and he lives for another day.  Shortly after the suicide charge I swapped out my two long leads for a couple of Pencil Plugs.  One Blue/Chrome plug and a Green/Yellow with black dots plug.  This one was painted up for me special by Jim at downrivertackle.com.  My dad and a friend of his had a lot of success on this pattern years ago and I have not been able to find it anywhere.  They bought all of them from The Tackle Box on the corner of Eureka and Telegraph.  That store has been gone for a long time but I managed to find one plug in my Dad’s tackle box.  I sent it to Jim along with a dozen other plugs and he painted them up perfectly.  I only caught one but it was picture perfect.  I was watching my graph when the depth dropped from 13 to 16 feet and then back up again to 13.  I saw some marks that could be fish and it seemed like the perfect ambush spot.  I trolled along hoping that as the lure from the top lead passed over a walleye would swim up and grab it.  One did and he hit it hard.  A minute later he was in the cooler and I was looping back around to see if I could repeat it.  No such luck.  I made a couple of passes but nothing happened.  I stayed in the area for about another hour but it was hopeless.  In spite of it being such a nice night I gave up.  The weeds were getting to be too much.  Even though the full moon was providing enough light for me to see the mats the lures were still getting fouled.  There will be another day.

So I went 3 for 4 tonight.  Not to bad considering the conditions.  It is supposed to cool down this week and the winds will be coming out of the west thanks to another polar vortex.  That should keep the boats and weeds to a minimum.  Unfortunately as I was leaving I saw the FLW trailer in the lot.  That means the channel will be over flowing with Smallmouth Bass next week.  Oh Joy.

7-13 Walleye Green lures

 





A Year in a Life – May

14 05 2014

May is a very fickle month for a die hard river rat. By now the water temps are up in the 45 to 50 degree range and the big girls are out of the river. The males are in feeding mode now and that means easy limits. Problem is that it doesn’t seem to last very long anymore. Back in the 80’s it was a given that the walleye fishing would be fantastic until mid month. It still can be now but we have to deal with something else. That’s right; my favorite’s…….the White Bass.

For the last 5 or 6 years it seems like this run has lasted longer than the previous year and produced more and more fish each time it happens. There has always been a healthy population but now it seems like they completely take over the entire river system. Some people can’t wait for them to show up. I’m not one of them. The DNR could take away the possession limit and it wouldn’t bother me one bit. Like death and taxes though they are a constant annoyance and they have to be dealt with. Walleye can be caught though during these trying times, the tactics just have to change.

There are a couple of options I have to avoid the White Bass. Though they are not entirely fool proof they can at times drastically reduce my catch and still put walleye in the boat. The first one is to change presentations. This time of year I will jig more than any other. I use a ¾ ounce jig and a Wyandotte Worm and I will jig the channel edges north of the Grosse Isle free bridge. I will still catch White Bass but I will also catch the occasional walleye. It won’t be a lot of them but I can usually manage to put a couple in the cooler until it gets dark. Once it gets dark I put the rod away and head back downstream. Now some may ask why I don’t just stay where I am. Well the reason is that I hate catching White Bass in deep water Handlining, especially 3, 4 or 5 at a time. It’s bad enough in 10 feet of water but 30 feet down gets old in a hurry. Some nights it’s not a problem, usually dark, cloudy no moon periods. Other times though they will feed all night. I never know what they are going to do so I limit my exposure and hassles as much as possible. Besides, I really enjoy fishing that 10 to 15 feet of water in The Channel. Again, there are walleye all up and down the river, it’s just a question of fishing where someone is most comfortable.

Once it is well past sunset I will set up in my usual areas and run the same leads with one change. The Rapala’s stay in the box and out come the pencil plugs, or more specifically Nite Stalkers. A Nite Stalker is nothing more than a plastic pencil plug. For years pp’s (pencil plugs) were made by hand and out of wood. Nothing wrong with them and there are plenty of them in handliner tackle boxes. I just like the Nite Stalkers (I wonder how many more shameless plugs I can get it in?) because they are plastic, they have great color patterns and most importantly the eye on the front is forward enough that I can use the same crank bait snaps I use for other body baits and spoons. The old wooden pencil plugs have the eye set so far back in the cup of the head that I can’t get the snap on. I don’t like fighting with lures when I should be fishing so I just stick to the Nite Stalkers (4). Besides, they come in a lot of chrome patterns and I like chrome. Also, Nite Stalkers (5) are made right here locally in Michigan and I’m all for supporting the local businesses.

Now on most nights a White Bass won’t bother with a pp, they don’t have a lot of action so they won’t trigger a lot of strikes. There are those nights when it just doesn’t matter, usually during the very peak of the run. There are ways around that as well but I will discuss that later. I will still get a few but no where near the 100 or so I would catch if I was using a Rapala. That’s not an exaggeration either, a handliner could very easily catch 100 or more in an evening during the run when using Rapala’s or spoons. Over the years I have kept track and I average about 2 or 3 white bass for every walleye caught using Nite Stalkers (6) or pp’s. If I was running Rapala’s or Spoons the number would increase 10 fold. Fortunately for me I live so close that if I get one of those nights where they just won’t stop I can always go in and try another day. I feel sorry for those that have to make the long drive. They are pretty much stuck and just have to deal with it.

One more thing about Nite Stalkers (7) and I promise I will quit. They have big sharp hooks and a lot of them. I don’t lose too many walleye when I am using them. They don’t dive as much as a Rapala either so I don’t tend to get hung up as much. Also, Nite Stalkers (8) are almost half the price of a New Rapala.

Now one of my other tactic changes is that I fish a lot later at night. The run coincides with each passing day getting longer so I have to start later. Because of this most of my fishing is reserved for Friday and Saturday night since I don’t have to work the next day. Since I don’t have to worry about getting up the next morning that opens up another opportunity, fishing farther north……the St. Clair River.

The St. Clair River poses some new challenges, they aren’t too difficult but they have to be taken into consideration. The first is the drive. Depending on where I go it can be 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours. That may not seem like much but when it’s past midnight and I am driving home the extra time starts to be a grind. Another thing to consider is that the St. Clair is deeper and the current is faster than the Trenton Channel. Water depths average over 30 feet and with the current I have to use a 2 pound weight. Just think about bouncing that weight along the bottom for a few hours. It can make for a long night, especially if I’m not catching anything. There is a trade off though, the White Bass are non-existent. Now that I have typed this I’m sure they will show up but I have yet to catch one up there. I can use Nite Stalker’s (9, sorry) here as well but with no threat of White Bass I usually run my Rapala’s. Another good point about fishing up this way is that the size limit is only 13 inches and the daily possession limit is 6. Kind of makes that extra drive a little more worthwhile. Now that the DNR have changed the possession limit to 3 days I am planning a weekend trip up to Algonac. Stay at the Algonac State Park, fish Friday and Saturday night, sleep in, and have a fish fry Saturday before I head out.

The last tactic to avoid catching them is to just not even fish for them to begin with. Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I tend to break out the fly rod. Bluegill and Trout are always a lot of fun on a 4 or 5 weight rod. With the brutal winter we had I spent a lot of time filling up the fly box both with traditional trout flies and foam patterns. I should be all set. I’ll probably go visit a local pond this Memorial Day weekend. I could go for a fresh bluegill dinner.

So there it is my White Bass avoidance tactics or my Year in a Life strategy for May. Of course this same strategy will carry over into June and maybe even July if they don’t leave.





A Year in a Life – January

12 01 2014

January is a tough month for me.  Season just finished up and April is still a couple of months away.  Ice fishing is always an option but not for me.  God told Noah to build an ark for a reason and it wasn’t so he could drag it out on the ice in case he fell through or got caught on an ice break.  I do not want to be one of those guys who get’s the expensive ride in the Coast Guard helicopter.  I can wait.  In the mean time there are other things to keep a die hard river rat occupied.  Specifically get my stuff organized for next season.

During a typical 8 or 9 month river walleye season I put my equipment through hell.  Every winter I pull everything out and give it a good going over.  Reels, shanks, weights, leaders, miscellaneous equipment and of course lures.  Lots and lots of lures.

Reels

Most years I don’t do much to my reels except give the aluminum a bit of a polish.  Their operation is pretty simple and there isn’t much that can go wrong.  Except for last year.  On one of my trips I got hung up pretty good and trashed a lot of wire.  I peeled the nylon coating off of about 30 feet in several places.  Normally I would just flip it around and put that part on the inside of the reel but I had already done that from a previous year.  Time to replace all of it.  It’s pretty easy to replace it, the only hard part is getting up to Andy’s to pick up a new spool of nylon coated #60 test Mason wire.  A couple of crimps and 211 revolutions later and I will be all set to go.

Shanks, Weights and Leaders

These items are more inventory than inspection.  If I haven’t used them they are still good, I just need to know if any more have to be made.  It is very frustrating to lose a shank and find out that was the last one in the box.  Leaders can be made on the boat pretty quickly but making a shank is a little more difficult and a weight is damn near impossible.  The shanks that are on the reel are removed and the clevises and snaps are recycled.  Same with the leaders.  All old nylon line is removed and the snaps recycled.  I won’t buy new line and make up new leaders until March.  I have always bee a firm believer in fresh line.  Granted it takes a lot to damage #30 Trilene XT but I’m not taking any chances.  I still want that wall hanger.  If I have to make any weights I’ll start poking around for scrap lead and copper tubing and make some up once it warms up some.  As of right now I have plenty to get me through the next few years.  Unless of course I take out a lot of newbies and they get donated to the lower channel river monster.  I do have to make up a few 2 pound weights for the St. Clair River but that can wait until March.

Lures, Lures, Lures

Where do I begin?  Over the years I have accumulated a butt load of lures.  Rapala’s, Spoons, Pencil Plugs, Night Stalkers, Bombers, Thundersticks, Stubbies, McGintys, Smithwicks, Spinners and a few Flat Fish just for good measure.  Well that’s it, no more purchases, at least for this year.  I need to save my money for an Alaska trip and if I can’t catch fish on what I have than I suck.  I did this back in 08 and 09 during the start of the recession.  I had to take two furlough days a month so my spending money went out the door.  I bought a handful of spoons then and that was it and guess what…..I still caught fish.  Apparently you don’t need the hottest color out there to catch fish.  The old reliables still work.  It also helps too that back in November I walked in to a clearance store that was selling brand new in the box size 9 and 11 Rapala’s for 4 bucks a piece.  Needless to say I bought every one they had, especially the Clown’s.

All my lures

Here they are, every walleye lure I own. I think.

So all that is left is to organize, consolidate, check and then put them back in the boat.  Easier said than done.  I still have a lot of boxes to go through and one box I need to do some work on.  The dividers on my spoon Plano box come loose so I need to glue them all in to place.  I’m tired of them coming out whenever I pull out a spoon.   Of course that means I have to pull all the spoons out of the box and keep them all separated until I can put them back.  I know when I do this I am going to wonder why I ever thought I would need so many different color patterns.  Sometimes I think these lure manufactures come up with new colors just to make me buy more.  Those Bastards……

 

The Miscellaneous Crap

There seems to be a never ending list of things I want to do to my equipment, especially my boat.  It seems like every time I am out I come up with some new idea on how to make things easier or more efficient.  Last year wasn’t any different.  I made new mounts for my reels but now they are too close to the side of the boat and the casing is rubbing up against the boat.  Need to fix that.  I also want to mount magnetic strips along the sides to hang lures.  Better to be on the side and out of the way instead of on the bottom of the boat.  I also have a couple of tubes I want to mount so that I have a place to put the weight when it comes in the boat.  Again, better to be out of the way instead of rolling around on the deck.  Need to come up with a new headlamp.  I keep trying different styles but they all have their drawbacks.  I’m sure I will come up with more as the winter months wear on.  It makes a nice diversion though until Spring gets here.  That and the fishing shows.

Pass

 

 





How much is too much?

24 02 2013

This weekend I pulled out all my lure boxes.  Why I have no idea but for some strange reason I felt the need to see just how many lures I really had.  For the first time in my life I think I may actually have enough.

The scary thing is that I See empty spots that need more lures.

The scary thing is that I See empty spots that need more lures.

Now some may think that this is a little excessive.  To others, this is nothing.  I know some people that have 5 of each color of each size.  Whatever floats your boat.  It took many years of poking through bargain bins at tackle shops and tackle boxes at lure shows.  I don’t even want to think of what the total cost of all of these would be if I paid full price for them.

The really scary thing is that this is just the body baits.  I have 3 times as many spoons.  Fortunately they don’t take up as much room.