Erie Perch, 08/27/17

28 08 2017

My original plan for last weekend was to take care of some chores and do a little fly fishing each morning.  That all changed early Saturday when I got a text from Steve Schoonover, owner of The Mad Viking Tackle Company.  Normally I don’t start perch fishing until the Fall when they make their way into the river.  Since they have been doing so well on Erie I jumped at the chance to get an early start on putting some in the freezer.  We made plans to meet at the Bolles Harbor Marina the next day around 10:00 am.  Fellow Handliner Dave and his son Braden were also along for the trip.  That meant we had the potential to go home with a 4 man limit of perch, 200 of them.  While that sounds both excessive and awesome the thought of cleaning that many really didn’t appeal to me.  I’d be happy with a couple of dozen each.  I give most of the yellow perch I catch to my Mom and she really can’t eat that many anyways.

Once we got the boat loaded up with our gear we made our way to the first stop near Stony Point.  There were some decent rollers so it made for a bumpy ride.  The Algal bloom wasn’t to bad in this area but looking out over the lake you could see where the surface would go from green to blue.  We started drifting perch rigs (supplied by Steve) at first to find some active fish.  Once we did we dropped anchor.  The first stop yielded about 2 dozen perch in the 9 to 11 inch range.  Not a bad start but after an hour we moved on towards the Raisin River bouys.  There were a lot more boats in this area so we picked a spot just outside of the pack.  The bloom was a little thicker here but nothing like the pea soup it had been like a week ago.  We picked up about another dozen during the next hour.  Around 1 Steve had us pull lines and we moved deeper into the center of the pack.  Once we dropped lines it was game on.  For the next couple of hours the 4 of us steadily filled the live well.  We only got a handful of doubles but we weren’t complaining.  We were kept busy and there were very few lulls in the action.  If we didn’t get a bite after a minute or two we were pulling in to check for bait.  The minnows we had didn’t survive well and by now we were using dead ones.  The perch didn’t seem to mind but whenever we set the hook the minnows would come off all the hooks.  We were even doubling up on the minnows on each hook.  We pretty much had to, the emeralds we had were in two sizes, extra large and extra small.  The extra large ones were used first, after that it was the pinheads, two at a time.  Like I said though, it didn’t matter.  The perch were abundant and hungry.  Only problem was that being bounced around in the boat for the day was starting to take it’s toll.  We were already at 100 so Steve decided we should quit at 125.  Braden brought in #125 but since we still had lines out it was soon followed by numbers 126 and 127.  All that was left now was the trip back in and the cleaning.  With four people helping it only took about an hour, which isn’t to bad at all.

Father & Son

Captain Steve, The Original Mad Viking.

Doubling Up

 

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Just one of those nights…..

22 06 2017

Ever have one of those nights when nothing seems to go right?  The kind of night when you have that feeling deep down that it is going to be a disaster and you should just stay home?  Well last night was one of those nights.  I had been debating going fishing all day.  Originally the weather forecast was calling for light west winds but that changed to SSE winds at 10 mph.

Strike One.

It was also June 21st, the longest day of the year.  That meant it wouldn’t get dark until after 10:00 pm, thus giving me a very short window of opportunity since I had to get up for work the next day.

Strike Two.

With all the warm weather I was expecting here to be a lot of boat traffic, which is never fun.

Strike Three.

The Fish Flies were hatching.

I really can’t consider this a strike since I usually do pretty well when they are hatching.  Problem is I have had nights where they covered the boat and car which is really annoying.  So keeping all this in mind I did what any logical fisherman would do, I went out anyways.  I arrived at the ramp around 8:30 pm and as expected there were mayfly casing covering the water and lots of big boats out.  I must have had a look of disgust on my face because the ramp attendant asked me if I was “ok” when he took my launch fee.  I launched anyways and became even more disgusted when I saw the mats of weeds floating downstream.  The water was very clear as well which would probably mean lots of the other fish until dark, providing they were still around.  They usually leave about the time the mayflies start up.  I headed for deeper water first until the sun got a little lower on the horizon.  I started off with a couple of spoons and a #9 CCT Rapala.  It didn’t take long and I had my first fish for the night.  Problem was that it wasn’t a walleye, it was a walleye’s smaller cousin, a yellow perch.  A first for me.  I have never caught a yellow perch pulling wire, nor on a Rapala.

If he had been a few inches longer I would have kept him.

From then on it was clearing weeds, dodging pleasure boats and catching everything else but a walleye.  Yellow perch, White perch, White bass, Smallmouth bass, Rock bass, Sheepshead.  Even after dark i was still catching this crap.  Almost two hours of this line fouling nonsense.  At one point I was surrounded by a bunch of Common Terns and Ring Billed Gulls.  I knew what was coming and before I could pull my lines it happened.  The water boiled from those other fish pushing emerald shiners to the surface and then the birds dove in with me right in the center of it all. As expected all of my lures had fish on them.  Once i got them in I got out of that area and headed north.  Shortly after that I got rid of the spoons and switched over to all Rapala’s.  That cut back on some of the junk fish but they were catching every weed floating by.  I had debated quitting but I didn’t want to go in empty handed.  It has been years since I have been skunked and I wanted that streak to continue.  Around 10:30 I finally caught a walleye.  I seriously thought about just throwing him back and heading in but I wanted some fresh fish so I decided to stick it out for a bit longer. I stayed in the same area where I caught the one and in the next 20 minutes he was joined by four of his pals.  Now I was heading in.

A couple minutes later I was back at the dock and tying off.  I was feeling a little better now but I questioned whether or not it was worth the effort.  I go fishing to relax, not stress myself out.  As I pondered this I made it back to my car where I got the final kick in the teeth.

I know it doesn’t look to bad but I knew that once I opened the hatch to put  gear away they would swarm into my Escape and I would be finding dead flies for the next week.  I suppose I shouldn’t complain, at least my car wasn’t coated like the white Border Patrol car parked next to me.

My silver lining for the night, along with the fish.

 

 





Taking stock of 2015, so far.

22 07 2015

This has been a weird season.  I know I got a late start due to work, family health issues and my boat being down but I wasn’t expecting the pickings to be this slim.  I usually catch more fish in June and July than I do in April and May during the peak of the Spring run.  This year however, has been a tough one to figure out.  Some of it being a real head scratcher.

1.  I have yet to catch a fish on a Rapala.  A #9 Rapala is my bread and butter lure.  When all else fails this body bait will produce.  I have been running a #9 or #11 on my 40 foot lead every trip this season.  So far nothing, nadda, zilch, zippo, diddly squat.  I will admit I have had a couple on and lost all of them but no fish? This leads me to my next head scratcher.

2.  I have lost more fish this year than I can ever remember.  Used to be I could go several weeks without losing a fish but this year I am losing fish on an average of 2 or 3 per trip.  I know it happens but this is getting ridiculous.  Losing a fish once and awhile is no big thing, it happens, but this is has me second guessing everything I am doing.  I was starting to think that the fish are just hitting light but I have brought in a few that have completely swallowed the spoon.  For some reason the fish are getting barely hooked on my Rapala’s.  WTH???

3.  I have yet to catch a single walleye over 20 inches long.  Granted I like to get the eaters but the last few seasons I would catch at least one in the 24 to 25 inch range every trip.  This year they have all been 20 inches or less.  Again, I am not complaining but it just has me wondering what is going on.  Have all the big fish moved out into Erie?  Are they in a different part of the river?  Are they just that finicky?  Inquiring minds want to know.

4.  Now this one I am really happy about but again it has me wondering if the structure below has changed or if the baitfish are not there.  I have only caught 2 dink smallmouth and one rock bass so far.  No Sheepshead, no Channel Cats, no Muskie, no Steelhead, no White Perch and lately no White Bass.  Normally July produces a lot of smallmouth anywhere from 6 to 20 inches long.  This year has been the exact opposite.  Two bass and both of them less than 8 inches long.  Is the lack of other predators due to a lack of baitfish or some other factor?  So far the walleye I have caught have all come up empty, no shiners or goby’s in any of them.  What are they feeding on and when?

5.  Now this may have something to do with the consistency.  Water levels are up from previous years but I really can’t see it affecting the fishing that much.  Granted some areas that were too shallow before may be more attractive now but not the whole river?  Surface temps are about a degree lower than last year at this time so maybe it is cooler down at the bottom.  Don’t know for sure.  I do know the surface weeds have been a pain but that is to be expected with the east winds and higher water.  The water is again ridiculously clear but I have been catching fish both in the daylight and after dark, there just hasn’t been any consistency.  The one trip I got a limit was an overcast morning a month ago.  Since then I have been pecking away and coming up short of a limit.  Granted if I would quit losing fish my numbers would improve but I am still having a hard time finding groups of active fish.  One night I picked up 3 in a 5 minute span but mostly it is 1 or 2 fish every hour and none of them in the same area.  I went back and looked at my way points for this year and other than that one 5 minute spurt the marks are all over the place.

6.  Ninety percent of my fish have come on the same two spoons, the ones pictured in my last post.  I have tried different colors and styles but these two have been the best producers.  Of course I am always running these two now since they are catching fish so their production rate is slightly skewed.  Lately though the majority of my fish have come on the chartreuse spoon on my kicker.  I have noticed that this one has a very aggressive action so maybe it is triggering more strikes.  The smaller orange one has been completely swallowed though and on more than one occasion.  You can make your own assumptions based on my findings. I think the next time out I am going to run a jointed Rapala and see if the increased action has an affect.  I will let everyone know how it works out.

Well there you have it, my mid season findings for 2015.  I hope it gets better or I may start having to keeping some of the steelhead I hope to catch this fall.  either that or I may have to start perch fishing again.





Lake Erie White Perch

17 03 2014

This is a post from Howard Meyerson about the white perch populations in Lake Erie.  If you are not already subscribed to Howard’s blog you should consider it.  He makes quite a few interesting posts about the Michigan fisheries. 

http://howardmeyerson.com/2014/03/17/increasing-white-perch-population-affecting-lake-erie-yellow-perch/





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.





White Perch Side Note

17 06 2012

When I was out fishing on Lake Erie 6/16 we caught a few White Perch. I always considered them a nuisance fish like White Bass. I never thought about eating one but then again I am a bit of a fish snob. I have always had fresh caught and because of that I won’t buy any fish from a store or rarely order it in a restaurant. Today though Jerry and Mike convinced me I should try it. We had been catching a few nice size White Perch so I decided to keep a few and give them a try. There wasn’t much to a fillet, especially after i cut off the darker meat. I didn’t do anything fancy for cooking them up. Just rolled them in bread crumbs and into some hot oil and my cast iron skillet. Much to my surprise they weren’t bad. It wasn’t as good as yellow perch but then again not much is. I still don’t plan on keeping any though. Like I said before there isn’t a whole lot of meat on one once I cut away the dark meat. I’ll stick to yellow perch.