Michigan Trout Trails

4 07 2015

Just a quick post to share an online tool put out by the Michigan DNR for trout streams.  Michigan has a butt load of trout streams but trying to find any information on them can be difficult.  The DNR has launched a new online tool that will help alleviate this.  It is just starting out but eventually it will include information for trout streams all over Michigan.  If you like to fish for trout take a minute to check it out.

Michigan Trout Trails





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 Unique Way to Get an Accurate Fishing Report.

20 03 2014

Used to be that in order to get any type of a fishing report a fisherman would have to call (yes, actually use a phone) a local bait shop.  This info was iffy at best since the bait shop owner wants to make money and he isn’t going to sell any bait if he says the fishing sucks.  Of course there was always word of mouth, the old reliable “My cousin’s, uncle’s, brother twice removed from his friend’s aunt caught fish yesterday” report.  We all know how well that works.

Today though we have an over abundant amount of information literally at our fingertips.  Thanks to the internet, smart phones and savvy tech nerds we can now access a litany of on-line sources.  Club web sites, message boards, forums, state reports and social media have completely changed getting an accurate fishing report.  Some of it is good but also some of it is bad and when it’s bad it can really be garbage.  The task now is to determine what a credible source is and what isn’t. 

Let’s start with the bad; after all bashing something is a lot easier than giving a source credit, specifically message boards and forums. 

There is more to social media than just Facebook and Twitter.  The advent of the Public Forum has given people the opportunity to post just about anything their heart desires whether it is true or not.  Political rants, bashing the local DNR and fishing regulations, criticizing other fisherman and questioning what someone caught is more the norm nowadays.  I’m not saying they are all like this but there seems to be a growing number of haters out there.  The reason is that a lot of people use these forums for more of a bragging page than anything else.  Someone will come on and say he caught a limit of fish and when asked where he will respond with “I caught them on the Detroit River between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie”.  Gee, thanks for nothing.  For those of you that don’t know that section of river is over 30 miles long.  This kind of thing drives me nuts because the people that post these same vague reports are the same people that are constantly using this source to find and locate fish.  Nothing like spreading the wealth.  Years ago I quit one forum because someone accused me of posting his “secret” location on my club website and ruining the spot.  He saw 3 (that’s right 3) boats on that section of the river the next time he went out and because of me I ruined everything for him.  News Flash, that section of river is right next to a Senior Living Center that is full of spies.  That’s right, spies who look upon that river all day long and tell their kids and grandkids when they see boats out in front of the building fishing.  Second News Flash, fishermen have been catching fish on that part of the river for the last 100 years.  Nothing new there, move along, try again, have a nice day.

Now I’m not saying the info posted is pure garbage but the reader has to sift through the report and pull the useful information.  I’m not talking color, size or exact location.  Those variables change daily if not hourly.  The main thing I want to know is time.  Just how long did it take to catch that limit?  I learned this little tidbit many years ago.  A friend of mine and I were heading out one evening when another boat was just pulling in.  I asked how they did and one guy said we got a 3 man limit as he puffed out his chest.  Another fisherman climbed out of the boat and stretched his back while he complained about being in the boat for 12 hours.  That’s 12 hours for 18 fish or 1.5 fish per hour.  That isn’t exactly tearing them up.   After that evening I ask two questions from any report, how long and what time of day.  I’ll figure everything else out for myself. 

Now for the good and it is a pretty easy solution but one that seems to be lacking for a lot of fishermen.  This one is so easy it’s stupid but for some it seems impossible.

Friends.

Yep, that’s all there is to it.  I’m not talking Facebook friend but people you actually talk to and fish the same areas you do.  Once you build up a group of friends that fish like you do info comes free and easy.  Creating this group is pretty easy too; all you have to do is help and give an honest report.  Pay it forward as they say.  For me this all started when I met a local fisherman called “Sparky”.  He took me fishing on one condition; I would have to return the favor to someone else.  Since that time I have given several seminars and helped many fishermen learn how to catch walleye on my beloved river.  Some have bled me dry of info and then disappeared but there are others that have stuck around and they make it all worthwhile.  I can call, text, e-mail or even yell across the river to any of these guys and they will tell me the where, when, how, why and on what’s that are working for them.  Even during my tournament I have had people tell me what is working for them and I have done the same.   With a group of close fishing buddies it’s all about everyone catching fish, not out doing everyone else (though winning my tournament would be nice).  

I can never understand why some people want to be so secretive.  I know of one old timer that will only fish at night so no one can see where he is fishing and another that purposely hides himself bringing in a fish from anyone who may be watching. 

Really?  Is that necessary?

We all started out the same way, not knowing anything and trying to figure out how to catch fish.  A kind word and some constructive help goes a long way.  A lot more than a turned up nosed and ignored questions.  Granted we can’t change the world but at least we can make our little part of it better.  It’s something to think about the next time someone asks how you did at the dock.  You never know what it could lead too.  I used to keep to myself a lot but thanks to giving a few seminars and helping people out I have standing invitations to fish on a dozen different boats for Walleye, Trout, Steelhead, Perch, Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pike and Muskie from Northern Lake Huron to the Western Basin of Lake Erie.  All I have to do is call. 

Never would have happened if I just said I caught fish between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.





When Mother Nature gives you snow, Tie Flies!!

2 02 2014

In January my area of Michigan broke the old record set in 1908 for most snow in a month, 39 inches.  Guess how we started February? Yep, more snow.  To make matters worse that after it stopped snowing it started to rain and then the temp dropped to make a frozen mess of everything.  Looks like a good weekend to stay indoors.

As I had mentioned before I got back into fly fishing in 2013.  I plan to carry on with that in 2014.  Only problem is that I obliterated what few flies I had so I need to replenish.  With the way this winter has been any trips I make to the AuSable in May could turn out to be a streamer/nymph/wet fly trip.  I’ve never done much nymph fishing before so I spent the first part of Saturday watching You Tube videos on tying bead head nymphs.  Once I saved a few videos and watched them repeatedly I dug through my materials to see what I could come up with.  I think the results turned out pretty good.

I spent Saturday tying up some Caddis Fly nymphs and pheasant tail nymphs.  Any pattern that uses pheasant tail fibers is all right with me.  I saved a lot of tail feathers from my pheasant hunting days and I’m all about free materials.

Caddis Fly Bead Nymph

Caddis Fly Bead Head Nymph

Pheasant Tail Bead Head Nymph

The next day I decided to take a drive up to Schultz’s Outfitters in Ypsilanti to pick up some more beads, hooks and dubbing material.  Today I was going to tie up some Hare’s Ear Bead Head Nymph’s and Frenchie Bead Head Nymph’s.  I have never tied either before so there was going to be a bit of a learning curve here.  The end result wasn’t too bad, I just hope they fool a fish or two.

Frenchie Bead Head Nymph

Frenchie Bead Head Nymph

Hare’s Ear Bead Head Nymph

Wonder if I get an invite this year if the other fishermen will want extra’s?

Well since Seattle is kicking the snot out of Denver I guess I’ll go tie up some more.





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.





Midwest Fly Fishing Expo

11 03 2012

Last show. Just in time too because with the way the weather has been going I will be fishing on a regular basis starting next weekend.
I haven’t been to the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo in almost 30 years. The last time my Dad and I went we were both in sticker shock at the prices for rods and reels. At the time I was in High School so I didn’t have a whole lot of money. I could not understand why anyone would want to pay over 1,000 dollars for a rod and 300 for a reel to catch a 10 inch Brook Trout. That was all I would catch on my streams near Calumet Michigan so I couldn’t understand the need for something that expensive. I was using my Dad’s Shakespeare Wonder Rod that he used as a kid and it worked just fine for me. Oh well….to each his own.
My Dad and I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived and we were very surprised to see how crowded it was. Wall to wall people from the newest beginner to the seasoned veteran. Rods, reels, waders, clothes, outfitters, clubs, supplies and fly tyer’s…..lots and lots of fly tyer’s. We started weaving our way through the crowds and checked things out. Still a little sticker shock but that was to be expected. Fly Fishing became somewhat of a status sport, kind of like pheasant hunting in England. You will get that in a lot of outdoor sports but it’s nothing that should interfere if you want to try it yourself. Just don’t get sucked in to the belief that you need the best of everything. There are no streams in Michigan like you will see in “A River Runs Through It.” I was there today to just poke around and to pick up a few fly tying supplies. I wanted to experiment with making my own foam flies so I needed to pick up some foam sheets. I found what I needed and spent the next hour checking out the different fly patterns that people were tying. Fly patterns have come a long way since I tied my first Adam’s. Some of them are more works of art then something to catch fish. I just wish I would have remembered to bring my camera.
The Michigan Fly Fishing Club does a really great job putting this show together. If you want to try fly fishing I would suggest going to this show when it comes around again. Lots of information for the beginner and for someone who has been at it awhile. They even had a few seminars and a casting pond to teach people how to fly cast. Just be patient and keep in mind what you hope to accomplish. If all you are going to do is cast for panfish on some pond you can go really basic. One hundred pound tarpon on the salt water flats……..that’s a different story.

http://sites.google.com/site/michiganflyfishingclub/
http://www.midwestflyfishingexpo.com/
http://www.ausableanglers.org