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.

 

 

 

Advertisements




Windsday Walleye

12 04 2017

Oops, my mistake, never mind, I erred.  Forgot what day it was.

So I went out Tuesday night to add some more fish to the freezer.  I knew it was going to be windy but I thought with it being straight out of the west that it wouldn’t be to bad.  I was wrong.  The wind never did lie down and I was fighting it all night.  If I took my hand of the tiller I would start to spin around like a top in no time.  Fortunately, I was only out for an hour and a half.  The water was still dirty so I started with the same Smithwick’s I used Saturday.  That changed though because 5 minutes in I got hung up.  I managed to pull the weight free but my 40 foot lead was caught as well.  The wind started to spin me around, over the line, so I just snapped it before it got a chance to get hung up in the prop.  It broke right at the knot so I tied on an old snap that was lying on my console.  I grabbed a #11 bleeding Chartreuse Rapala that was attached to my magnetic strip and I was back at it.  Normally I don’t mix lure like this, because of the different dive rates, but having to fight the wind limited my ability to dig around in the storage area for my lure box.   It did get tangled with my 20 foot lead a couple of times but 3 of my fish came on the Rapala and the other 2 on the clown Smithwick.  I got my first fish about 6:45 pm and my last one at 8:00 pm.  There was about a half hour lull between numbers 4 and 5.  With darkness quickly approaching I figured I was going to be stuck at 4 but I told myself I would keep at it until 8 and my persistence paid off.

No size to any of these fish, all between 16 and 18 inches.  They are all probably from the same year class. No undersized fish yet and no big ones either.  Not that I’m complaining but I would like one 25+ inch fish to smoke.

As I said before the water is still dirty but it is improving.  I’ve heard reports that there is clear water upstream so it shouldn’t be much longer.  I didn’t take a water temperature reading either but I’m betting it is in the upper 40 range.  Soon those other fish will show up and I can hardly wait.  NOT!!!!





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.

 





11/10/13 TC Walleye

10 11 2013

This is going to be a right to the point report.  Vital stats, results, and that’s it.  With the weather report for the rest of the week this will probably be my last trip of the year.

The wind had been howling from the west the last few days but it was starting to die down.  I saw this as my only opportunity so I jumped on it.  Normally winds gusting to 25 mph is a good reason to stay home but this was going to be my only opportunity to fish and I needed to get some more walleye in the freezer.

I launched at Rotary Park shortly after 3:00 pm and by 3:30 I was lines down by the blue boat house.  The wind made boat control almost impossible so I moved farther upstream hoping the shoreline would help block the wind.  It helped some but keeping my boat under control was going to need constant attention.  I started with a #9 Clown and #11 Bleeding Blue Shad and a Smithwick Rattlin’ Rouge.  Something with rattles for the dirty water, the lure that has been working so well for everyone I know the last 2 weeks and another just for the heck of it.  Turns out all 3 caught fish with the Clown catching the largest fish.

The surface temp was 47 degrees and the visibility was between 1 and 2 feet.  Absolutely no weeds, just an occasional leaf floating on the surface.  Winds were out of the west and anywhere from 10 to 25 mph, but most of the time they were around 10 mph.

All in all it was a pretty good trip.  I was only out there for 90 minutes, I didn’t lose any lures and I ended up with another limit.  Boat control was difficult but not impossible.  When the wind is like this I purposely fish alone just to keep the extra lines from tangling up.  I learned that one the hard way.

One final note.  This is for all those hypocrits that preach how they let all the females go and only keep the small eaters.  The 18 incher at the bottom of the picture?  Yep female.  Just goes to show you that any size fish can be a female and you preachers can’t convince me for one second that you have never kept a female walleye.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

11-10-13 TC





2012, the Year in Review.

23 12 2012

Well it looks like Winter has finally set in.  Temperatures have been dropping and the first flakes of snow have finally arrived.  When that starts it’s time for me to put things away for another year.  Earlier today I pulled all my lures and electronics out of the boat.  I hooked up the battery to give it a full charge for the winter and fogged the engine as well.  As I was putting the lures away I gave them a quick look over to see what I needed to replace for next year.  For some reason I went through a lot of Rapala’s this year, more than I realized.

That is a lot of busted lips.

That is a lot of busted lips.

I am all out of one of my favorite lures, a #9 custom painted Copper Crazy Tiger Rapala.  I don’t remember losing that many but apparently I lost 4 of them over the season.  This got me to thinking so I started to look for my busted lip box.  As the season goes on I keep all the Rapala’s I busted the lips on into one box.  Eventually I pull the hooks off of them to use later, I had no idea I had so many.

This got me to thinking again as to why went through so many lures.  I was cleaning out the Jeep today as well and I never pulled down all the launch passes hanging on my rear view mirror.  They stayed there since the beginning of the season.  I had quite a few of those as well.  Once I pulled them down I started to count and I had over 50 of them.

That's a lot of launch passes.

That’s a lot of launch passes.

I knew that wasn’t an accurate count because there were a few times I got to launch for free and I used the Harrison ramp a few times early and later in the year.  I then checked my spreadsheet for the year and it turns out I made 62 trips this year.  57 of those trips were in my boat and I was a guest on 5 others.  During this time I caught 245 walleye, my best year ever.  The main reason for this was because of one thing, weather.  This year the weather was just about perfect.  I started fishing in February and the usual April storms never happened.  This allowed me to catch 63 walleye that month, again my best April fishing ever.  Of course May was a disaster because of the early Silver Bass run but once June rolled around the fishing was hot again.  Thanks to a lot of light west winds I was able to fish all summer long without a lot of issues with the weeds.  This continued on all the way into October.  Of course there were a few days here and there but for the most part bad weather was never an issue.   The only time the weather became a factor was when “Sandy” hit.  That storm pretty much ruined the river for November.  Come December it started to get cold and the arthritis told me to pack it in for the year.  I wasn’t going to complain.  I had enough fish to get me through the winter, I got to introduce some new people to handlining and I pretty much made it through the whole year unscathed.  Which is more than I can say for some of my fellow handliners.

I did learn a few things over the course of the year as well.  Now seems like a good time to share them.

1.  Wool gloves and treble hooks still don’t mix, they don’t get along with blue jeans either.

2.  Exact change for launching speeds up the process.  The police at the Trenton station appreciate it as well.

3.  White Bass are still a pain.  I wish the DNR would increase the daily limit for them.

4.  I didn’t take a single kid fishing this year.  Shame on me.

5.  If we don’t get a lot of rain or snow this winter launching could become very difficult next year.

6.  Lions…….need I say more?

7.  If I don’t catch a 10 pound walleye next year I never will.  Those 2003 class fish are not going to be around forever.

8.  Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue’s work.  On 2 different occasions my Dad caught two walleye at the same time on the same lure.  I have never done   that on a Rapala and I catch 10 times the fish he does.

9.  Landing nets are a handy item to have, especially when I am fishing with my Dad.  He has a bad habit of losing fish at the side of the boat.

10. I need to fish out of other boats more.  I had some of my best nights while I was a guest on another persons boat.

11. Three fish caught will now be known as a “Dan” limit.

12. Even the kindest, most well mannered fisherman will drop more F-Bombs than I can count when I out fish him 8 to nothing in an hour.

13. My hot lure for the year was a #11 Bleeding Chartreuse Rapala.  I caught more walleye on the one lure I used more than any other.  It can be found at the bottom of the picture.  I busted the lip on December 8th, my last trip of the year.  Go Figure.





9/16/12 Quick Trip Walleye

17 09 2012

My Dad was down for a few days so we decided to make a quick trip and see if we couldn’t catch a few walleye. Well that’s just what we did, catch a few walleye, 4 to be exact. Weeds were a nightmare once again. Once it got dark it became nearly impossible to get clean lures down to the bottom. For awhile every time I tried to set lines one of them would get fouled with weeds. On two different occasions all of our lines got tangled because of the huge batches of weeds we would snag. We did manage to each catch 2 but those fish were a lot of work. Mine came on a #9 Blue Holographic Rapala and my dad caught both of his on a blue and silver Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue. One of them tangled up all our lines as he was bringing it in. The front hooks on the lure were in the jaw but the back hook caught the fish near the pectoral fins. This caused the fish to spin like a windmill as he was bringing it in. As the fish was spinning it caught all 5 lines. What a mess. After two hours of lures spending more time out of the water than in I called it quits.

 
Other than the weeds the conditions were favorable. Water was clear with a surface temp of 69 degrees. There was a 5 mph Southerly breeze, clouds were overcast and no bugs. One of these days I am going to get an evening where everything is perfect.

 
On a side note I received a phone call from one of the teachers at my kid’s school. He was wondering if I knew of any local fishermen who would donate walleye to families in need who have students attending the school. I told him I could donate and that I might be able to arrange a little mini tournament and have the fish cleaned and donated. I told him I would just need help cleaning and storing the fish until he can distribute it. Hopefully this can happen.





TC Walleye 8-28-12

29 08 2012

Decided to try the river again Tuesday night to see if I could redeem myself after the abysmal night my father and I had last week. When I arrived everything was back to normal, the FLW had cleared out and the parking lot was pretty much empty. I got the boat ready, launched and headed downstream. I noticed a couple of dead smallmouth under the bridge, must have been a couple that didn’t survive the tournament. To my surprise there was a barge docked at the Edison plant off loading coal. In my 30 plus years of fishing down here I have never seen that before. I wondered how a ship that size moving through water 10 feet deep was going to affect the fishing. As it turns out it didn’t bother it at all.

 
The sky was clear and the sun still up so I decided to try a little farther downstream in some deeper water. The water was still clear as well and very few floating weeds. I set up in the middle of the river north of Calf Island in about 16 feet of water. It wasn’t long and I picked up an “eater” on my kicker with a Metallic Bone Denny Spoon. By the time I reached the Blue Boat house I picked up two more on the same lure and leader. I swung back around and made another pass and picked up a small 12 ½ inch walleye. Back into the water he went so I can get him next year. The sun had set by now so I swapped out a couple of spoons and replaced them with some Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue’s. They are a plastic floating body bait with small bb’s inside that produce a rattle when fished. I don’t know how much of a difference that rattle makes but my Dad will swear by it. This is the same lure he caught the two walleye at the same time on one lure on two different occasions this Spring. By the time I was up at the Catamaran I hooked into a walleye on the longer bait. After I got him into the boat I was lowering the weight down to the bottom when another walleye hit the Clown Smithwick. This one was right at 15 inches so I tossed him back as well. Things were going pretty good so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem getting a better fish. As I neared the Stacks I had another hit and it turned out to be another undersized walleye on the Clown Smithwick. I was nearing the end of my run and beginning to question tossing back the 15 incher. There was another boat coming up on my port side so I turned to give him some room. When I did I had another hit. This was a heavier fish and I carefully brought him in. I hadn’t lost a fish all night and I didn’t want to lose this one. It wasn’t long and I was flipping in a nice 23 inch 3 ½ pound male, also on the Clown Smithwick. That was my fifth fish so it was time to head in.

Five keepers, 3 throwbacks and nothing lost. Not bad for a couple of hours of fishing. Nights like this are a blessing, relaxing and peaceful…..especially since I didn’t have to share the boat with a cricket.