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.

What exactly is a Polar Vortex?

21 01 2014

Polar Vortex.  Who comes up with this crap?  When I was younger and it was cold out it was just that, cold out.  Now they have to give it a name, what ever happened to just saying it is colder than a witch’s left…..well you know.  One thing this cold has done is give me a serious case of fishing withdrawal and the colder it gets the worse it gets.  My original plan was to do a little Steelhead fishing on the Huron and AuSable River.  Last time I checked most of the Huron from the mouth on up was frozen or there was so much shelf ice that fishing was darn near impossible.  The AuSable isn’t much better.  I go out and buy a new fishing rod and take the time to tie up a bunch of fancy jigs and all I can do is stare at both of them. 

This Sucks!

There is a silver lining to all of this and it has to do with the water levels.  During our last cold spell when we all about froze are butts off (see, isn’t that better than Polar Vortex?) meteorologists made a few comments about the Great Lakes.  I read that it is estimated that up to 60% of the Great Lakes could freeze this winter.  This would help prevent evaporation and keep the water levels from dropping like they have during our previous mild winters.  I’m all for that, water levels were getting so low that boat launching was problematic at some ramps, especially with any type of a west wind.  Hopefully northern Ontario is getting record snow falls like we are as well.  Of course if this does keep up the ice will still be flowing downstream in April.  So I guess I have to pick my poison, early fishing or long term relief?  I’ll take long term relief. 

  1. Of course this extreme cold and deep snow is going to have other affects both good and bad.  A major freeze like this will kill off the gizzard shad which area known predator of walleye fry.  Of course they are a food source for adult walleye as well.  To bad the freeze doesn’t have the same effect on White Bass.
  2. The deer herd is going to take a beating if this keeps up.  This will make the farmers and AAA happy but the deer hunters and the industry that supply’s them won’t be so thrilled.  Those guys seem to have enough to complain about it as it is, they really don’t need anything else.
  3. I also read that the Straits of Mackinac froze over, here come the wolves.  I’m kind of on the fence on this.  I have no desire to hunt a wolf but I believe that the numbers have to be kept in check.  It would be cool to see one in the wild but I am not a farmer who has to worry about his cows disappearing.  Their control should be left up to the DNR not the general, uneducated public.
  4. The ice fishermen should be loving this.  They haven’t been able to get out on to Brest Bay the last couple of years but they can this year.  What really cracks me up though is all the bitchin’ I hear in the Spring about guys keeping female walleye.  Guess what they are catching through the ice out on the lake?  Yep, female walleye.  How come I don’t hear anyone complaining about that? 

I just realized that I am basically rambling on about nothing.  Bottom line is that it is just cold out there.  Bundle up everyone, it doesn’t look like it is going to get above freezing until next month. 

Time to go tie some more flies.

Thanksgiving Deer Hunt

23 11 2012

Every year I take out a few first time handliners to show them how it’s down.  A lot of times these guys will promise to take me fishing or hunting here, there and everywhere in return.  In most instances it never happens but every once and awhile one of them holds true to his promise.  This time it was a person who already knew how to handline, he just wanted a little insight on the Trenton Channel.  Dan had spent most of his time fishing with his father up on the St. Clair or upper Detroit River.  He recently moved down to Melvindale so he wanted to learn how to fish my end of the river.  During several of our trips he would talk about his other passion which was deer hunting.  He had permission to hunt some property   north of Imlay City and he told me I could come along on a few hunts during rifle/muzzle loader season.  At the time I didn’t think much of it but he was persistent.  He was going to be hunting there the week before Thanksgiving so I took a vacation day and we made it happen.

Day 1

3:30 am comes way too early.  There I was driving down Allen road with no one else on the road.  I know, big surprise.  A few minutes later I was at Dan’s and unpacking my stuff.  He told me to pack light which I did, one shotgun, a box of shells and a Pepsi.  I was all set.  I was introduced to John and Cisco who would be joining us today as well.  A few minutes later we were on the road and headed north.  A few hours after that I was seated in a heated blind overlooking a winter wheat field.  This was a new experience to me.  My deer hunting consisted of small wood lots and swamps.  I would find myself a big tree to lean up against and then sit quietly and wait.  This modern hunting was  very foreign to me.  As we sat waiting for the sun to come up Dan explained the situation to me.  The landowner was suffering a lot of crop damage from the local deer herd and she wanted them gone.  There would be no trophy hunting or any Antler Point Restrictions this day.  We had buck tags and antler less permits and our goal was to fill them.  We were facing a woodlot and fence line just over 200 yards to our west.  This would be where most of the deer would come from.  Once a deer crossed the fence and entered the field he/she was fair game.  This was the reason why Dan’s CVA inline muzzle loader was zeroed in for 200 yards.  As I said before my deer hunting was small areas where my shots are up close and personal.  Before today I had never taken a shot at a deer over 100 yards away.  This was a little out of my comfort zone.

Around 8:00 am we saw our fist deer in the field.  It was a mature doe and she slowly worked her way further out into the wheat.   Dan marked her with his range finder at 204 yards and he handed me his rifle.  There was no way I could make this shot with my old Model 97 Winchester with iron sights so he was nice enough to let me use his muzzle loader.  I waited for her to turn broadside so I could get the 200 yard dot high on her shoulder.  While I waited a small group of deer came out of the woods farther down the fence line and north of our position.  Dan kept on eye on them while I waited for my opportunity.  Minutes seemed like hours but she finally gave me a good angle for a shot.  Unfortunately I missed.  Not a big surprise to me since this was the first time I ever shot an in-line muzzle loader and at a distance like this.  Amazingly she never ran off, she just stood there and went back to feeding.  Dan quickly re-loaded and I told him to take the shot.  By then though she had walked off in the woods but the other deer never left.  Dan lined up his shot at the biggest doe at about 260 yards away.  He fired and he faired about as well as I did.  This time the deer left the field and we were left with our thoughts and theories on why we both missed.  We hunted for a few more hours and then headed in for breakfast around 10.  We picked up John and Cisco and they hadn’t seen anything.  After breakfast we bummed around town for a bit just killing time until we were ready to head our for the evening hunt.

At 2:00 pm we were back in the blind and by 2:05 Dan was fast asleep.  I figured I wouldn’t bother him, better he sleep now instead of when he was driving me home.  Besides he really wasn’t missing anything. He woke up around 3 but we didn’t see any deer until just before shooting hours ended.  Only problem was that they were in the next field over and headed north away from us.  Oh well, there was always tomorrow.

Day 2

Once again it was 3:30 am and I was heading to Dan’s.  When I got to his house he was a little disgusted and the first words out of his mouth were “it’s just you and me today”.  Two other people were supposed to join us but both of them were suffering from Brown Bottle Flu which they got Wednesday night, the busiest bar night of the year.  Word to the wise.  If you are invited to go hunting or fishing don’t go out drinking the night before.  If you cancel at the last minute and don’t show up you will get moved down to the bottom of the call list.  Ask any of the people I know that weren’t at the dock when it was time to go fishing.  We went anyways and just changed our plan of attack.  Originally Dan was going to place 1 person on different parts of the property in hopes of getting the deer moving.  Since it was just me we decided to just sit in the blind again.  Again the deer were there but this morning they all decided to stay on the other side of the fence.  We had seen probably close to 20 deer (and 3 dozen turkeys) but they were all too far away.  While I was watching a pair of does in the woods Dan spotted two deer running across a field to our north.  I got the binoculars on them and it was a buck and what appeared to be a doe.  We watched them for the next 20 minutes as the buck repeatedly tried to run off the doe.  The buck wanted to head east and every time the doe would follow he would turn and try to run her off.  Usually it was the other way around but this situation wasn’t making any sense.  Not that it really mattered since they were heading farther and farther east.  Right too a blind that Dan later told me he was going to sit me at if everyone had showed.  In fact, the two deer finally disappeared into a stand of pines not more than 20 yards from the blind.  Deer hunting is just like real estate, location, location, location.

Not much happened after that and by 9:30 am we were closing up the blind.  We both had family obligations for the afternoon so we packed up and headed home.  On the way home we talked about the pair of deer we saw running around the field.  The more we talked about the more we thought that the “doe” may have been a small spike and we just couldn’t see the antlers.  That would make sense because the other deer was definitely in dominant buck mode.

So no deer for the freezer but there is still plenty of time left.  Dan told me I was more than welcome to go again, all I would need to do is take another vacation day.  Good thing I have about 10 days left to take.  It’s also a good thing that I don’t drink and my alarm is good and loud.

Sunrise Day 2

View of the Sanctuary from the blind. Trust me, they’re in there.

A long wet weekend

24 09 2012

This past weekend was the opener for the youth deer hunt in Michigan. Since Kelly and I were planning on taking her son Adam up to the family hunting lodge to try his luck I took a Friday and Monday off. We had to get up north early so that we could get Adam registered. Since we weren’t leaving until the afternoon I had the morning open to go fishing. My morning success has been pretty pathetic but I figured it would turn around soon. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After I dropped my daughter off art school I headed to Elizabeth Park to launch the boat. By 8:00 am I had my lines in the water and I was making my first pass from the Cat to the stacks. The surface temp on the water was 64 degrees and there was a little bit of a stain. Hardly any wind and overcast clouds above. Almost immediately I had a hit but it quickly came off, whatever it was. It wasn’t too much longer and I picked up a 4 inch small mouth on a #7 CCT Rapala. I swear he wasn’t much bigger than the lure. I really have to wonder just how many of those YOY fish are down there. For the next several hours I tried many different color and size Rapala’s, spoons and locations. Nothing worked and I was rewarded with my first skunk of the year. Guess I shouldn’t have eaten that banana for breakfast. I quit around 11:00 am. I still had to pack so it was best that I just went home.

After a quick lunch and some creative packing in the Jeep the 3 of us were on our way. Forecast was supposed to be a 50% chance of rain for the whole weekend. I hope it holds off. I really want Adam to get his first deer. Once we got to the house we unpacked and got Adam all set for tomorrow’s hunt. As it sometimes happens to even the best laid plans of mice and men I awoke to an absolute downpour. So much for the first morning. The rain stopped a few hours later but the radar showed more coming in. I took Adam down to the range so he could practice some more with the rifle he was using. I was letting him use my Remington 788 in .243 Winchester. Last year he used his Grandfathers 30.06 and he missed a deer. He has a hard time getting the scope lined up and he wasn’t very comfortable shooting it. My rifle is cut a little shorter so I thought it might fit him better. Judging from the numerous bulls eyes he had I think this rifle will suit him better. Now all we need is for the rain to lay off.

We headed out to the blind around 4:00 pm to find that the area had been clear cut and the trail to his Uncle’s blind was gone. Fortunately I marked the spot with my Garmin GPS and after a little bush whacking we were able to find the blind. While we were doing this it decided to start raining on us again. It only lasted a few minutes but this process repeated itself 5 more times. After the fifth time Adam had said he had had enough and wanted to go home. I wasn’t about to argue. Even though we had rain gear we still got soaked and I didn’t want him to get anymore discouraged than he already was. Besides, tomorrow will be another day.

The next morning produced clear skies and cold temps. We bundled up and headed out. This morning we set up on the edge of a sugar beet field. The woods were still wet and I didn’t feel like getting soaked again walking to the blind. As the sun began to rise I saw a lone coyote walking the edge of the field. Just as I told Adam to pick up his rifle he disappeared. It looked like the animals were moving, now all we needed was a deer. A few minutes later we saw what we were looking for. Off in the distance I saw something move across the field. When I picked the deer up in my binoculars I could see it was a buck. I had Adam get his rifle ready and as he moved the deer saw us and stopped. It was a nice 8 point and he was broadside and looking right at us. Only problem is that he was close to 300 yards away. Adam was looking at the deer through his scope and asking me what to do. 300 yards is a long shot for any hunter, especially a first time hunter who has never taken a shot like that before. I sat there debating what to tell Adam. Seconds seemed like minutes and after a short period the deer got nervous and ran off. Adam looked disappointed but I explained to him he would be even more upset if he wounded the deer and we never recovered it. That is a sick feeling and one I did not want him to experience if it could be avoided. He understood and we settled down to wait for the next one. We didn’t have to wait long. As I was scanning the edge of the field Adam motioned for me to look to my right. There stood a doe not 20 yards away from us. As part of the youth hunt Adam could shoot a doe and the club encouraged it. They want to keep the buck/doe ration in line so a certain number have to be taken. Problem with this one is that it was on my right, Adam was on my left and the deer was looking right at us. I slowly backed up as Adam tried to turn to get a shot. There was tree in the way and he couldn’t get a clear shot. She needed to take a few more steps forward but instead she took a few more steps backwards. Once we couldn’t see her anymore we heard her run off into the woods. By now it was 8:00 am and the sun was shining right in our face. I told Adam we had two choices, we either had to move or head back to the house. He was cold and wanted to go back to the house and that is what we did. Just as well, more rain was on the way and once we got back to the house it started again. Kelly and I had some breakfast and Adam went back to sleep. He had been having a hard time with his allergies all weekend and it was taking a lot out of him. I told Kelly about how the morning went and we talked about what we should do for the rest of the day. We went into town for a little bit while Adam slept. He woke up around lunch and we discussed his options. I told him we could go back out tonight which he seemed willing to do. We decided to get the Jeep packed and the house cleaned up so we could leave right after we came in. While we were packing it started to rain again, this time though it was hail. I gave up, sometimes it is just better to cut your losses and go home. Kelly and Adam agreed. Opening day of rifle is less than 2 months away and he will get another chance. Until then we will go back to chasing squirrels and possibly some grouse and woodcock.


As for the walleye? The next few days are supposed to be more wind and rain.  Maybe I’ll get a chance one night this week.  Next weekend is the waterfowl opener in the northern half of the lower peninsula and I know where a few wood ducks are hanging out.