Maiden Voyage 2014

20 04 2014


The snowiest winter ever recorded for south east Michigan is finally over (I hope).  The birds are building their nests, tulips are poking through the ground and the days are above freezing (though the wind chill temp yesterday morning was 29 degrees).  Time to go get some walleye.  Early reports have stated that big fish are being caught all throughout the system from St. Clair to Erie.  Could this be the year I finally get that 10 pound fish?  It seems like everyone else is so why not me?  Anything is possible.  Especially now with big females being the bulk of a lot of fish being caught.  We shall see.

My plan was to go out Friday night (4/18) after dinner.  The MWC was having day 1 of their 2 day tournament on Friday so I wanted to wait until they were off the water.  I left the house around 5 and arrived at the ramp as they were going through weigh-in.  I could hear the weights of the 5 fish baskets being called out over the loud speaker as I was prepping the boat.  Most were in the 30 pound range but I did hear a 42 pound weight yelled out.  Don’t know where they were fishing , probably mid river as that seems to be where everyone has been fishing this last week.  I was headed south to my normal fishing grounds, I felt like staying close.

I started off jigging, why I don’t know.  I sometimes think I need to get it out of my system before I start to pull wire.  I really don’t like jigging anymore.  I’m to the point that the only time I want a fishing rod in  my hand is when it is my Fly Rod.  After a couple of drifts and no fish I got down to business.  I turned the boat around, pointed it upstream and out came the Rap’s.  As I was getting ready my friends Dave and Larry pulled up beside me.  They had 4 and were in the process of landing number 5 as I was lowering my baits into the water.  They told me they had lost around 6 fish as well and Larry had lost a big one.  He could never get her up off the bottom.  There was still hope.

About 20 minutes later I had my first fish of the year, a nice 18 inch eater.  He came on a #11 Pink Lemonade Rapala on my 40 foot lead.  That was followed up by another little male that I had to toss back.  The size limit here is 15 inches and he was 14.9999999998 inches long.  No biggie, the sun was starting to set and the fish were starting to get active.  About 20 minutes later I lost another small one at the boat.  Once he came off I quickly got the baits down and went back through the same area.  It wasn’t long and number 2 was in the cooler, another male on a #9 Original Black and Silver Rapala.  I was getting ready to make another run when I spotted something weird looking in the water.  I thought it might be a Cormorant at first but then I realized it was the head of a whitetail deer.  I motored closer and sure enough, it was a deer swimming upstream and headed to the shoreline below the Edison plant.  Once she found a clear spot she walked out and gave me a look of how dare you interrupt my swim and then went on her way.  I have seen deer all over the River but this was the first time I had ever seen one swimming in the water.

It was getting dark now so I switched on my navigation lights and got back to fishing, sort of.  My stern light wasn’t working.  I tried to figure out what the problem was but no luck.  I headed to a nearby dock and tied off while I inspected the pole and socket.  Eventually I got it working and was back to fishing.  It never fails, just when I was zeroed in on them something goes wrong.  I was back in business and it didn’t take long for me to get back on the fish.  Roughly 30 minutes later I had the last 3 of my 5 fish limit and I was on my way in.  I pulled up along side of Dave and Larry again as they were landing number 6.  I tossed them one of my hot lures and threatened their lives if they lost it.  I wished them good luck (I later found out that they ended up with 9 for the night) and ran for the dock.  I had my 5 and was happy.  Of course they were all males with the largest one being 22 inches long.  Only I could accomplish that.  Everyone else is landing a personal best fish and throwing back big females and I manage to catch all males, and a sub-legal one to boot.  Oh well.

For those who are wondering the surface temp was 44 degrees with a nice stain to the water.  These bright sunny days are getting the algae going and the water conditions were just about perfect, for me.  Clear skies and a NE wind made it a little chilly but it felt good to be back out on the water.  It had been a long winter and I needed to get back in to a rhythm again.  It took a little doing at first but eventually I got my mojo back and the fish were coming in.

Here’s to the rest of the season everyone, it’s finally here.


All Males, 18 to 22 inches long.

All Males, 18 to 22 inches long.

A year in a life – February

14 02 2014

This is getting old.  The last estimate I read was that 87% of the great lakes is covered in ice.  The last picture I saw of Lake Erie looks like the entire lake is frozen.  Normally I spend February getting ready but this year there’s no rush.  Besides, there is a 2 foot snow drift in front of my garage door that I would have to remove before I can get to anything.  Kind of hard to get excited about any walleye fishing with all the snow on the ground.  I figure it won’t start getting good until after Easter.  I’m sure a few people will be out dodging ice bergs with the hope of catching that wall hanger.  I’ve pretty much given up on that dream so I’ll wait until the males move in so that I can fill the freezer. Speaking of which the supplies are running a little low.  Hope I have enough to get through Lent.

In the mean time I’ll keep on tying flies and completing little odd jobs to make a few extra bucks.  When it does start up I will be in full attack mode and gas and launch fees add up really quick. I did manage to secure the date for my tournament, May 9th and 10th.  Now all I have to do is nail down the weigh-in site.  I am trying to work out something with Sharkey’s Tavern on Grosse Isle.  Thought it would be a nice change to have it at a restaurant that might possibly serve walleye chowder and have something to drink afterwards if we want to stick around and BS.   

For all you guys that are married now would be a good time to get as many honey-dos out of the way as possible.  It’s not like we are doing anything else.

Tournament Date Dilemma

29 01 2014

Here’s the deal.  Every year I put on a tournament strictly for handliners.  Those that have participated know what a chore it has been trying to schedule a date that doesn’t conflict with the multitude of other tournaments and the annual White Bass run.  The last few years have been especially difficult because the run has been early.  This year there is a new wrinkle, I will be out of town on May 2nd and 3rd of 2014.  With that in mind I have two options.

Option #1 April 25 – 26th.

After last years disaster I figured I would hold the tournament early to try and avoid the White Bass.  Well this winter has been one of the most brutal on record.  Michigan has broken records all month long for cold days and snow totals.  The latest long range forecast shows this continuing into February and no end in sight.  I have a feeling some of the major tournaments that are scheduled for the beginning of April are going to be cancelled because there will still be ice flowing down the river.  With that in mind I have a feeling things are going to run late.  Fish will be there but they will still be very lethargic because of the water temps and no one is going to want to be on the river at night when surface temps are still in the 35 to 40 degree range.  That also means that the White Bass will still be out in Lake Erie where they belong. 

Option #2 May 9th and 10th.

I first started fishing for Detroit River walleye back in the 70’s.  My Dad and I didn’t even start until the beginning of May.  That was when the run really took off and easy limits of hungry males could be had.  We didn’t even worry about the White bass because they didn’t show up until after Mother’s Day and didn’t get unbearably thick until June.    10 Years of mild winters have altered that to where the fishing is hot and heavy in April along with the White Bass migration.  This year could be like those days in the 70’s and 80’s where I could catch butt loads of fish all through the month of May.  Of course the jet stream could shift and we might get a quick warm up in March and throw everything all out of whack.  Of course walleye can still be caught during the White Bass run but it takes some doing and a few tricks.  Tricks of course I will not divulge until after the tournament.  After all I would like to win my own tournament just once. 

Well there you have it.  You guys that fish the tournament what do you think?  I have to pick a date soon and I may not be able to change the date come April when I will have a better idea of the weather is going to be like.

Therapy Walleye 6/20/12

20 06 2012

Location: Trenton Channel
Date/Time: 7:30 am to 9:30 am
Water Temp: 71 Degrees
Water Clarity: Still Stupid Clear
Weather: Hot, Hot and more Hot
Wind: S light at first but stronger as the day wore on
Water Depth: 13 feet
Presentation: Handlining 40/20/6
Lures: Metallic Blue Spoon, Riley Special

There is nothing quite as therapeutic as fishing. I don’t care how bad life may be, one trip on the river cures any depression or turmoil in one’s life.

Work and life in general was really beginning to take a toll on me lately so I decided to take a day off. Originally I was just going to leave early so I could take my daughter to a doctor’s appointment. After checking to see how many vacation days I had left I just decided to take the day off. I needed a break and this day was just as good as any other. I wanted to get up earlier and get on the river at sunrise but I overslept. No big deal, the walleye weren’t going anywhere. I launched the boat at 7:30 am and a few minutes later I had my first fish in the cooler. I picked up 3 more in the next hour but once that sun cleared Grosse Isle the fish shut down. I switched out spoons and tried different locations but by 9:30 it was getting too hot and I pulled lines. I had to pick my daughter up by noon anyways so I needed time to clean fish, shower and pick up a new license plate bracket for my trailer. I noticed that it was barely hanging on the trailer, one good bump and it would have been gone. I stopped at Vicar’s Trailer and picked up a metal bracket instead of the cheap plastic one that came with the trailer. Anyone reading this that has a boat trailer may want to go check their trailer plate as well. A replacement plate only costs 5 bucks but who wants to spend time at the Secretary of State office?

So I ended up catching 4 more walleye this morning and just like I said would happen I lost my first fish for the month. As I was flipping one in the line slipped through my fingers and back into the water he went. No big deal, I think he would have been too small to keep anyways. Everything came on my short leads. I couldn’t get anything going on my 40 foot lead. I must have tried a half a dozen different spoons but I didn’t catch a thing. Only other boat handlining today was up south of the free bridge in 24 feet of water. I watched him for a bit and he just kept motoring up stream. Don’t know if he caught anything or not but he covered a lot of water. There were a few remnants of the tri-hull navy fishing the Edison discharge for the few remaining Silver Bass that have yet to return to Lake Erie.

Couple of side note items for today. A bald Eagle swooped in on me as I was bringing in a smallmouth. He must have seen it splashing on the surface as I was bringing it in. That could have been interesting if he grabbed it. I also started wearing a glove on my left hand to cut down on the cuts and scrapes from the fish. It’s just a brown jersey glove but it seems to help. I just have to remember to take it off before I stick my hand in the cooler to grab something to drink.

A front is supposed to come in tomorrow and start to cool things off a bit for the weekend. Hopefully it does and the guys fishing the DWF tournament this weekend won’t fry out on Lake Erie.

Still haven’t lost a lure.

The best kind of therapy for what ails you…..walleye in the box.

A different kind of Tournament….Reelly!!

7 05 2012

No it’s not a typo, just a creative play on words.

As many of us already know the Detroit River is one of the premier fisheries for tournaments every spring. Local clubs, charities and the professional circuit all take advantage of the spring run and the fantastic fishing the river offers. The preferred method of fishing these tournaments is of course jigging. While jigging is a very effective way to target these big Spring fish for some anglers it is not their preferred method for catching walleye. This was the determining factor that helped bring about this tournament. A tournament designed for handliners.

Several years ago I was sitting with some of the DWF board members at our first Perch tournament. We were discussing some changes to the yearly club tournament format and one of the topics was having a captain for each tournament. This person would be responsible for organizing the tournament. If this person wanted to have a “special” tournament he or she could then organize it. I then asked if I volunteered could I have a handlining only tournament. I was told yes and that was the start of it all.

That was over 4 years ago. Since I had never run a tournament before I had a lot of questions so I asked my friend Jerry Hinton how I should go about putting this together. He answered a lot of my questions and pointed me in the right direction. Most tournaments are held during the day for one day only. Handliners generally like to fish at night so I had to arrange this so fishermen could fish both in the evening and morning. I thought this would create a challenge but actually it was a lot easier than I thought. The hardest part was trying to come up with a date. One might think that this part would be easy but there are a couple of factors that have to be taken into consideration.

The first hurdle was trying to plan one around all the other tournaments that take place each spring. My own club, the Downriver Walleye Federation, holds about 3 or 4 tournaments during April and May. I couldn’t conflict with any of those because I would need the club scale and some of the other equipment. I also had to plan around all the professional tournaments and I had no idea how many there were. I had to look up the schedules of the FLW, PWT, MWC, MWT, LOL, SSP, MIA, VIP….Mouse. Most of the club handliners don’t fish in these tournaments but I didn’t want to compete with all the boats at the launch ramps. Someone would probably think that it would be easy to just pick a date after they are all done but that leads to the next problem. The annual Silver Bass run.

Every year, usually between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the Detroit River plays host to the annual Silver Bass (actually they are known as White Bass) run. This is probably one of the largest runs of Silver Bass anywhere in the country. They fill the river by the millions and once they are in trying to catch anything else becomes an exercise in futility. They can be a lot of fun on light tackle or a fly rod but when a fisherman is handlining it can become very frustrating and a lot of work. This year I was off by just a couple of days. As of Tuesday (5/2) there were still no reports of huge schools of Silver Bass. Back to back 80 degree plus days changed that. Oh well, can’t have everything. The alternative would be to hold it a few weeks earlier but then I run the risk of very cold and miserable weather. It’s no fun being out on the river at night with high winds and a chance of snow.

Even though the Silver Bass did interfere the participants were able to catch a lot of nice walleye. There may not have been any of the big females that the earlier tournaments produce but a lot of above average males were weighed in. This is actually one of the best times to pull wire on the river. The weeds haven’t started up yet, pleasure boats are still in storage and the walleye are hungry. After the spawning period is over the big females head back out to the lake but the males stick around and go on a feeding binge. Big Rapala’s are the norm and easy limits can be had. The crazy weather in March stabilized and April turned out to produce some of the best fishing I have ever seen. Most of the fish caught were still from the 2003 class and they are well over 20 inches in length. Catching fish this size can be fun but it is hard on equipment, especially the hands. I may start to wearing gloves now.

My team had a great night. The first hour was mostly Silver Bass. My dad and I did manage to catch a walleye while Mike just sat in the front of the boat and took pictures. Once it got dark the Silver Bass shut down and the walleye turned on. We caught 11 walleye in the next hour with many of them being over 23 inches in length. Two of the fish were closer to 25 inches and around 5 pounds each. My dad was very optimistic that we were going to place in the top this time around. I was a little more pessimistic. Based on all the boats fishing around us I figured they were doing just as well as we were. Turns out Dad was right, we ended up in 3rd place with 21.59 pounds for 5 fish.

When all was said and done we had 16 boats with 32 anglers signed up. 14 teams weighed in 69 fish for a total weight of just over 250 pounds. That worked out to an average weight of 3.6 pounds per fish. Not bad considering these were all male fish. 6 teams weighed in over 20 pounds and 1st place had a total weight of 23.72 pounds. The biggest fish of the tournament weighed in at just less than 6 pounds. Everyone had a great time, the weather was just about perfect and even though the silvers showed up we were still able to catch walleye.

Mission Accomplished.