While the majority of my time in the fall is spent in the woods chasing whitetails, I was able to squeeze out a “cast and blast” trip on Lake Champlain recently. The plan was to hunt until the waterfowl action slowed down then switch to fishing. With high winds predicted to come as the day progressed, we knew that fishing might be limited.
The morning started strong. While we were setting out our decoys, we had ducks coming in wanting to land in our spread. As legal shooting hours drew near, the action got hotter. Within a minute of daybreak, we had a duck on the ground. A few minutes later another. This one, however, caused some problems. While the bird folded and hit the water hard, it swam out to open water causing us to have to motor out and chase it down. Although we successfully retrieved the bird, a fair amount of time was wasted and we spooked a bunch of incomers. The rest of the morning followed suit.
While we all shot a few, with no other hunting pressure on the water, the birds were not moving steadily after the morning rush. Also the wind didn’t pick up so the fishing looked very enticing! After ditching the hunting gear, we made our way out to fish for some crappie in deep water.
The fishing was decent but we were getting a lot of short bites. We caught a bunch of crappie in all sizes, quite a few smallmouth bass, but only caught the small fish when we downsized and went to ice fishing gear. All those small fish that I mentioned were bluegill and pumpkinseed. The key to catching crappie seemed to be color and a very slow action. The brightly colored “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures, mainly white and chartreuse glo, are simply irresistible to these fish! By using a slow jigging action of only an inch or two then pause, many fish fell victim.
We had a full day on the water planned but with wind advisories and rain statewide, deciding where to go seemed like a daunting task. We waited until late last night to make a decision that Lake Champlain offered us the largest variety of available species and techniques necessary to take advantage of anything that would bite.
We were on the water shortly after 5 am but not much happened until close to 7. Searching weeds, wood, and rocks, we picked at mostly small crappie until Dylan caught his first catfish. What a fight it was on light weight panfish gear! After the release, we loaded up the boat due to weather report of a nasty storm rolling in on us as well as an increase in wave activity.
Chasing blue skies north, we were on the water again with hopes of a better bite in slightly calmer water and no rain. We located fish that were super finicky but over the course of an hour, identified a few sweet spots. While a handful of crappie were taken home, the majority were released for the winter months to come!
With the recent addition of my son Henry to the world, my fishing time has been drastically cut back. I have been fortunate enough to get out on the water a few times and this time in particular with my brother in law. We met up for an afternoon of crappie fishing on Lake Champlain. With partly cloudy skies and a chance of some rain, he picked my up at the launch and we headed for one of his spots.
The introduction of side and down imagining to the fishing world has had a major impact on how my brother in law catches and searches for fish. In just a few months time, he has been able to locate hundreds of sunken trees, brush piles and ship wrecks that are currently holding fish. He asked me what I wanted to catch, Whites or blacks, “it’s doesn’t matter to me” I responded. We stopped first at a spot in a little bit deeper water, around 16 feet, that had producing good numbers of whites. It didn’t take long once we marked our tree to get into the fish. I was using the new paddle tail from Lake Fork Trophy Lures. We used two different presentations depending our our angle to the structure. As we were right over the top we would vertical jig the water column, starting high and working our way down. As we drifted a little off of the structure we would use a pendulum approach, casting past the structure and just letting the bait swing along side ever so slightly popping the jig back to the boat. The approach really let the new bait shine. The action of the new paddle tail combined with the action of the swim slots of the Live Baby Shad body made it irresistible to fish suspending in the structure.
We would fish a spot for a half hour or so and then move on. My brother in law started his fishing career doing a lot of bass fishing. I learned that using this type of approach for crappie (run and gun) was very effective for staying on a consistent bite. You weren’t there long enough to condition the fish to your bait, constantly presenting your bait to new fish. The other thing I noticed is that this approach also gave you a much better average fish, we put fish in the boat the whole day that averaged 11-12 inches. The day ended with us putting well over a hundred crappie, both blacks and whites in the boat and all fish swam to see another day.
My girlfriend and I were finally able to line up a free day that we could go chase white crappie on Lake Champlain. Although we fish together regularly, making the two hour one way trip takes a good portion of a day. One of the big motivators for us to get down there was that she had never caught a white crappie before!
We were on the water at 4:30 am and it didn’t take us long to find fish. The very first fish that came into the boat was both her first white and the largest one we saw for the day. The fish was over 14″ and thick!I wish we would have taken measurements and a weight. Not everyone marks their first white as a dandy! In past trips, I have taught her how to lift fish in the boat. When I saw her jacking this one up, I was freaking out! Luckily, the fish made it in safely and we got to take a few pictures before the release.
The rest of the day we spent looking for new spots and picking at the fish as we went. We found several new spots that held quality fish but as the day wore on the bite slowed up. We putted around a bunch more looking for new spots using side imaging. It’s amazing what you can find if you really look. There sure is a lot more than meets the eye!
By the end of the day, we kept a mess of eaters and released a bunch of big breeders. Looks like I will have a hard time taking a solo drip now!
We have a track record of making the wrong decision when it comes to leaving home and deciding on the ride as to where we should go. Today one on the fly call finally worked out in our favor!
Getting a late start, we were hitting the water shortly after 10 am. With only a slight ripple on the water, our only obstacle was the rain coming down. We had elected to scratch our initial plans to walleye fish on an inland pond because of localized thunderstorms but it looked like we were going to be no better off to be on Lake Champlain!
From the start, we began to piece together a day. The fish were there but wanted the bait swinging and not bouncing. They also wanted it moving up and down over the course of a few feet with a slow presentation. Picky, I know but that isn’t even as bad as it gets! The best bite, producing the largest fish, came during two of our sunny breaks in the sky. Neither of these breaks were long lived but surely long enough to make the day great!
It had been a while since I had been out fishing for white crappie. It felt good to finally be vertically jigging them on structure again! With a ton of recent rain followed by a heat wave, the fish have slid into their summer haunts. The water today was very murky and hard to believe better than it was a few days before. We were looking in water from 10-20 feet where we could offer the fish with a “pendulum swing presentation”. The idea behind this technique is to cast just past the structure and let it swing through the strike zone, hopefully keeping it away from the structure. Throughout the day the strike zone tends to change so being versatile is a must! Other considerations with this technique are speed of retrieve, wind, sun/shade, and current.
Having a slight chop on the water seems to make the crappie bite. Fortunately, other than about 2 hours when it was whipping in the morning, the wind was just strong enough to hold out anchor lines tight. Although being able to anchor up isn’t necessary, it keeps your casting angles a bit more consistent. When the wind is moving the boat as you use your trolling motor, keeping track of where to cast so your bait runs parallel to the structure becomes difficult. Using throwable markers also work for reference but they are just one more thing to either snag into or get tangled in the structure.
The bait that I used all day was the “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures. Although I caught fish on just about every color I tried, anything bright worked best. Throughout the day, I mainly used pearl, chartreuse/pearl, and chartreuse glo. The only change in color choice today came when the fish became conditioned to one specific color. Sometimes that is all it takes to stay on a bite!
We started the day on Lake Champlain hoping to find crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, or bass. The bite was slow and we covered a ton of water. Although we managed to catch a bunch of bluegill, it wasn’t enough to captivate our attention. After Bobby pulled this bass in, we started scheming where else we could go that wouldn’t be too a big inconvenience.
After the sad morning of fishing, we figured it wouldn’t be too hard to upgrade the status of our day. After launching the boat, we took a look at a map of the lake and tried to determine where the fish would be. Because the lake was so rough, we figured that we would start on the sheltered shore lines with mid depth water.
It took about two minutes to boat the first crappie of the day once we got rolling. The fish came off the limb of a submerged tree in 7′ of water. The second crappie came only a few seconds later. I guess we made the right decision! We were able to replicate this pattern throughout the day. The fish were very aggressive but because of the wind, staying in the right position was tough. The use of the electric anchor on the Minn Kota trolling motor was huge today!
What we were able to determine about this trip was that the crappie were right on wood. About as close as you could fish to it without snagging. Everywhere around the tree was surrounded by perch. Decent ones at times too. We split up our fishing time between vertical jigging and casting bobbers. Both methods were equally productive depending on how the structure was orientated. We fished the “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures. We fished every color in the box and it didn’t seem to matter much. The fish were just aggressive. At one point, the most productive bait was any bait was had it tail bit off. Just the body shape was all it took!
After the spectacular day of fishing Bobby had yesterday while I was at work, I was itching bad to get out! The weather looked great and my girlfriend and I made plans to hit the water when we woke up. It was just before 7 am when we were pulling away from the boat launch. We had hopes of catching some perch but after a little of an hour without marking a single fish on the graph, we decided we had better switch up gears and look for some other fish.
We didn’t really care what we caught but along the shore line we could see a lot of fish. The next step was to figure out what they wanted and the best way to catch them. We had crankbaits, plastics, worms, and everything in between! One of the options surely had to work. The majority of the fish we could see were bluegill and rockbass. Perfect specimens for dinner tonight!
We started off tossing the “Live” Baby Shad from Lake Fork Trophy Lures. Although we were able to catch some fish, we were missing a lot more. Our next change took us to live bait. Fishing an 1/8 ounce jig under a bobber, we started a slow drift paralleling shore. Throughout the course of the day, we found that if there was wood in the water, big rockbass were holding nearby. The better sized bluegill we found were holding in weeds near their spawning areas. Particularly, open and weedless gravel bars. Most docks held fish but docks constructed of wood and lower to the water were the most productive.
We ended up keeping 10 rockbass for dinner and sandwiches the following day. Not a bad way to wrap up the weekend!
With a day to fish and so many places to go, we decided to head for one of our new spots and continue our search for big crappies on a large body of water. Hoping to catch a few fish on the tail end of their spawning patterns, we loaded up the boat and made the short drive to the water. We arrived with clearing skies and very little wind, much better conditions than last time when we were face temps in the 40′s with a fresh blanket of snow on the ground.
Learning a new body of water requires a lot of patience. We decided to start fishing where we left off the previous trip. Using the “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures under a bobber, we hit the water. This presentation has proved successful in many different places and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Right off the bat at our first stop we started catching fish, and crappie at that. The fish were tucked right up on shore relating to any wood structure protruding from shore. The fish seemed to be aggressive, there was a storm possibly coming through in a few hours which might have had something to do with it and it was also prime time in the morning. We were hopeful that the rest of the day would produce a good bite. We set the Minn Kota motor on auto pilot and set off the fish the rest of the shore line.
The bite was strange, pockets of fish would produce a quick flurry of action but then nothing for some time until you were able to locate another pod of fish. A pattern that proved to be successful last time was to locate small flats with boulders, yes we know, this is a prime spot to look for spawning smallmouth. Oddly enough, this particular body of water seemed to attract big crappies in these same locations. We were able to get on to a few bigger sized fish but the skies darkened and we decided to chase the storm backwards hoping to find clear skies and more fishing.
We made our way to a small mountain lake hoping to catch a few remaining smallmouth close to beds for some quick action. We launched the boat and received a rude welcome by mother nature. The skies opened up with big rain drops, thunder and lightning so we made a quick run for camp and cover to wait out the storm.
The worst of the storm passed and with our rods rigged with Champlain Custom Baits, we hit the water again. Fishing wasn’t what we expected it to be. There were a few small males left on shore guarding beds but very few larger fish (females). We were fortunate to hook up up with a few decent fish for a quick picture. The fish were right on shore, literally! Most bites came within a foot from rocks and docks on shore. More good times on the water!
With a frustrating and unsuccessful turkey season in the books, I decided it was time to get back to the fishing. The weather in Vermont had been about as predictable as the fishing. Last Sunday, we hit the water passing snow plows and wearing our Clam Blue Suits. This week we saw record setting temps getting up into the 90′s in some areas of Vermont. I decided to go and spend a few hours on a crappie pond to check and see where they were at with the spawn. The body of water isn’t very big and I was able to cover most of it in a short time. Last weekend we were experiencing water temps in the upper 50′s to lower 60′s but it was also snowing, on this particular morning, I arrived to a water temp of 71 at 6 am! What a difference a few days can make.
Being able to start fishing right at the launch I grabbed my bobber rod rigged with a Live Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures and started to make some casts. My focus for the morning would be the shallows hoping to catch a few fish still in spawning pattern, targeting weed edges and wood. My first spot and also the most productive in the past was a bust, one small perch was all that I was able to get. I went to work searching. I was able to connect on one decent crappie along side a tree, but nothing after that. I made a big move and headed for the far side of the pond.
The shoreline on this part of the lake was similar in design but the drop off was a little steeper. I was able to locate a few fish but they were spread out for sure, no concentration. I would guess that the fish are at the tail end of their spawn with many having already done their business and had slid back into a little deeper water. All in all it was a good day on the water, any day on the water is a good day!