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 – March

5 03 2014

This is it, the month I have been waiting for.  All my preparations are finally going to come into play.  The all out assault can begin.  Oh wait, that was last year.

Fast forward to 2014 and the never ending winter.  This one has been so bad that I can’t even tell my kids that I used to have winters like this all the time when I was their age.  Not anymore.  The last time we received this much snow was during the winter of 1880/81.  That’s right, over 130 years ago.  To top it all off the Great Lakes are nearing 100% ice cover.  This has never happened in my lifetime and probably never will again.  The latest 10 day forecast shows a couple of days just above freezing but the nights will still be in the teens and 20’s.  All this means is that I won’t even get the boat in the water until the end of April.  I’m beginning to wonder if the lakes in northern michigan will be ice free by the trout/walleye/pike/muskie opener on April 26th.

Once things do break up I will be in full attack mode.  That means fishing new areas and using techniques I don’t normally use.  Normally handlining doesn’t start to heat up until the surface temps get above 40 degrees.  That could be the beginning of May at this rate.  In the mean time I may have to do some jigging to put some fresh fish in the freezer.  Early on it is more snagging than actually jigging but the alternative is doing nothing.

Once temps creep into the right zone than it will be a steady dose of Rapala’s in various sizes and colors until those other things show up.  Then it will be Pencil Plugs at night and weekend trips to the St. Clair river.  I might even throw in a early trip to Sanilac, Lexington or Oscoda to see if I can catch any Atlantic Salmon.  If not it will be a full court press on the walleye.  This summer will be that same thing.  Come July my weekend excursions will be lots of trips to Amherstburg to pull wire when the weeds and wind cooperate.  If not then it will be Bottom Bouncers or jigging in the same area.  The fish are there all summer it’s just a matter of getting the right presentation to make them hit.  Normally all I will do is pull wire but when the weeds are bad it will be Bottom Bouncers or jigs.  It’s a lot easier to deal with the floating weeds moving with them instead of against them.

Hopefully I will be able to use some of my owed favors for a trip or two on Lake Erie.  I usually make one trip a year but the last few have proven to be very daunting.  Engine problems, rough water, horrendous weed conditions and a lack of fish have made the trips more trouble than they are worth.  I know some people say it’s just good to be on the water but I won’t say that.  Getting bounced around a boat while constantly clearing lines for weeds while catching dinky white perch is not my idea of a good time.  I’ll stay home and go to Plan B.

I’m starting to feel like those people on Alaska The Last Frontier.  Got to fill the freezer before winter sets in.  Winter isn’t even over and already I am planning on how to fill the freezer.  I never realized just how much I miss having fresh fish.  I pulled some walleye out the other night and part of it was freezer burned.  I still ate it but it wasn’t quite as good as what I am used too.  I may have to start keeping a few steelhead, salmon and bluegills to help stretch out the fish diet.

Oh well, it will start soon enough.  As for now I will still plot, plan, scheme, dream, swear, complain, beg, pray and anything else I can think of until I finally hit the water.





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

 

 





What’s in store for 2014.

3 01 2014

So it is snowing outside, the wind chill it is something below zero and the boiler is out in my office building.

Is it Spring yet?

This of course has me thinking about what I am going to do this year?  What new adventures await me?  Last year wasn’t all that exciting, mostly the same old same old.  I did go Fly Fishing for a weekend on the AuSable river.  This was something I hadn’t done in years and I forgot just how enjoyable it was.  I plan on doing more of that this year along with a few other things.  With that in mind here is a brief run down of what to expect on this blog for 2014.

A year in the life of a die hard walleye fisherman.

I had this idea awhile ago about what goes through a walleye fisherman’s head for a year.  Not just a weekend warrior type but one who is constantly thinking about catching walleye.  This year I plan on putting that into words.  Starting in January I will post monthly entries of what it is like to be a walleye fanatic 24/7/365.  Granted some months are going to be more about planning and prepping instead of fishing but it should be interesting.

There is more to life than just walleye.

This year I am also making a concerted effort to go fishing for other species.  I forgot how much I enjoy fly fishing so there will be more of that in my future.  Not just for trout but panfish as well, maybe a few Smallmouth or Largemouth Bass if I ever get some bigger flies tied up.  Speaking of fly tying I will also be making a few posts about some of my own creations.  Winter time is tying time and with the weather being what it is I might as well.  If the weather ever does break I will be making a few Steelhead trips too.  I still have to get the rod and tie up some jigs but that won’t take long.  Hopefully I will be able to hook into a few on my local stream the Huron.  If not I will have to go visit my parents and take my chances along the AuSable. 

Another plan is to do some fishing out of state.  First on the list is Dewey Lake in Kentucky.  My girlfriend has friends down there she likes to visit and Dewey lake is only a few miles away.  It is an 18 mile impoundment that is supposed to have some walleye in it, panfish and Striped Bass.  Hopefully I can make this work.  I’ll need to do some checking to help cut down on my paddle time in the kayak.  18 miles is a little too much water to cover by kayak.

The big out of state trip for 2014 is Alaska.  For years my Father and I tried to put together a trip but it seemed like every year we wanted to go something happened.  This trip almost didn’t happen again when my Dad was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer but that is under control so we have been given the green light.  The last week in July My Father, Brother and I will be flying up to Homer Alaska for a week.  Currently Halibut, Silver Salmon (Coho), Big Rainbows and Grayling are on the agenda but that could change depending on weather and what is hot at the moment.  The cabin we are staying at has WIFI so you can expect updates and pictures from the field as they happen, or at least that evening after dinner.     

Back closer to home the DNR have been stocking Atlantic Salmon in Lake Huron.  This spring those 2013 plants should be showing up and I hope to get a few.  The AuSable was one of the planting areas so my Dad and I are making plans to target them.  If what I have read is correct they should start showing up in the harbors and rivers about the same time those other fish show up in the “D”.  I hope so, it will be a nice change of pace.

Another change of pace during the “Invasion” will be the St. Clair River.  I made my first trip up there last May and I plan on going back.  I am thinking about staying at Algonac State Park for a weekend and jig by day and pull wire by night.  I may even make this an event to see if other people want to tag along and share resources.  Always easier to zero in on the fish when you have multiple boats out.  That way we can also compare notes and tactics to help improve everyone’s success. 

Can’t forget about hunting season either.

I really, really, really miss small game hunting.  Unfortunately I don’t have the access to private land around home like I used too.  All my small game hunting is up around Midland or Oscoda and I can’t get away for the weekend like I used too.  Hopefully that will change this year and I can post a few items about Grouse, Woodcock and of course Squirrel.  There may even be a post about an early Teal season hunt.  The DNR is pushing for Michigan to have an early Teal season.  The USFWS always shot it down but it looks like they may let it happen in 2014.  If so I know of a few spots that hold a fair amount of Green Wing Teal.  I won’t make any plans until I know for sure but it would be nice.    

Well there you have it, 2014 in a nutshell.  I’m sure I won’t get to do everything I want but if I can pull off half of it I will be happy.  I do know it is going to be a lot of writing and picture taking.  Speaking of picture taking I’m debating purchasing a GoPro video camera.  If so I may have videos to post as well.





Going Home…….

9 06 2013

 

Every year I try to fish at least one new spot.  Usually it is somewhere on the Detroit River but after 35 years I’m starting to run out of places. I had always wanted to try walleye fishing on the St. Clair River so when Dan offered to take me up there I jumped at the chance. This was going to be a trip home for Dan since this was his old stomping grounds as a kid.  This was also going to be a “going home” trip for me as well but for a different reason.  Marine City was the old fishing grounds for my Grandfather and his brothers, specifically Ed and Hank, the two guys responsible for inventing the Schaller Automatic Trolling Reel.  I always get a little nostalgic whenever I am around Marine City, Marysville and Algonac but this time I was going to be fishing the same waters they did.  Tonight we were going to be fishing in Marine City, a place of some significance for me.  My Great Uncle Hank died while fishing out here.  He had a heart attack while pulling up the anchor for his boat, the same boat I own and fish out of today.  Like I’ve said before, there is a lot of history associated with my old 1957 Crestliner.

After some driving around and trying to get a few last minute fishing reports Dan decided to launch at a small little ramp just north of downtown Marine City.  From there we headed south to the Sand piles.  There were a few whippers setting up for the evening and we set up for our first pass just south of them.  Turns out we set up right in front of the DNR ramp south of Marine City.  Oops.

Fishing was a little slow at first, Dan was running chrome Nite Stalkers and I was running some custom Downriver Tackle Rapala’s.  We had to play around with the speed for a bit but eventually we got the motor set the way we wanted and we were heading upstream ever so slowly.  The current is a lot faster up here than it is in the Trenton Channel.  Since it is also over 30 feet deep we were forced to use 2 pound weights.  Normally I never wear a glove on my wire hand but with the current, depth and weight I was having a hard time holding on to the wire.  The rubber coated glove helped a lot.  After about an hour we finally got our first fish, a 3 ½ pound female on a #9 Spring Valley Special Rapala II Rapala.  After I threw her in the live well I tossed my lure back over the side.  I noticed that it didn’t seem to be running right so I pulled it out to check it over.  Everything seemed ok except for one thing.  The bill was installed upside down.  That is a first.  I swapped it out for a Rapala with a properly installed lip and I was back in business.  We made a few more passes in front of the sand piles and didn’t catch anything.  It was around midnight by now and Dan decided to head back up stream to the Belle River Edison Power Plant.  A freighter was off loading coal so we started our troll just south of the ships stern.  By the time we reached the bow I had on another walleye.  This one came on a #11 DT-158.  About 10 minutes alter I landed a small 15 incher on a #11 Clown.  Things were starting to look good and by the time we reached the north end of the plant I landed my 4th on the DT-158.  We pulled lines and headed back down to the bow of the ship to try again.  By now Dan had switched over to Rap’s and he was starting to eye all my lures.  He asked if he could borrow some of mine and he promised not to lose any.  In this area the threat of lure loss isn’t as great.  As a matter of fact I never got hung up on anything all night.  Dan did manage to lose a Nite Stalker though.  We slowly worked our way north again and I picked up another walleye on a #9 SVSII Rapala.  I didn’t know it at the time but that was going to be our last walleye for the night.  We made a few more passes but at 2:30 am Dan decided to call it quits.  That was fine with me.  It had been a long day and night and I was very tired.  I had a lot to do Saturday so I needed to get some rest.  I can’t survive on a couple hours of sleep and a few Red Bulls.  All in all it was a good trip.  Perfect weather, no major tackle foul ups or losses and we didn’t get skunked.  It would have been nice if Dan had added a few to the live well but not much I can do about that.  It was good to get out though and fish in an area that my Grandfather and his brothers fished when they were younger.  I will never get the chance to fish with my Grandfather again but his memory and guiding hand will always be there.

1st St. Clair Walleye

1st St. Clair Walleye