4-17-12 – Barely Saved The Skunk…

The title says it all. I decided that because I was in the area, I would fish for a bit. A buddy and I sat on shore of Lake Champlain for for about an hour and a half with minimal results. All signs upon arrival pointed towards the conclusion but we figured why not give it a shot. The sun was bright and the wind was whipping out of the south west, blowing directly into the mouth of the bay we sat perched on. For maybe a hundred yards into the broad lake and the entire bay we were in, the water was about as murky as could be.

Within the first few casts, I landed my first crappie – a small but legal white. I threw it back without even thinking about keeping it. At this point, I second guessed myself and though my initial assessment was wrong. Nope… I went over an hour before getting a solid bite again. I fished every strategy I could think of. I fished the shade, the sun, calm water, rough water, fast, slow, and still. All methods produced the same results. Squat. I didn’t mind too much though because the other guys around weren’t doing any better. Just before leaving, I was able to catch a decent bass around 15″. The fish was right on shore with the bait being dragged constantly along the bottom.

It fish came too late and wasn’t enough to get us to stay. Both of my fish were caught on dark color configurations. My buddy had no bites and fished all colors that were bright. Sure beats doing yard work!

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4-16-12 – The Bass Weren’t Biting…

The plan for the day was to go fishing for bass but try to pick up some trout and bluegill along the way. We headed to a small inland pond that is rumored to have some nice bass and decent gills. We got on the water around 9am and the temperature was rising fast. The high of the day was somewhere well over 80 and the sun pounded all day.

The first shore we fished had some decent old woody structure so we fished it in its entirety as the wind pushed us along. On average it was only a few feet deep quite a ways out with crystal clear water. If there were any fish we would have been able to see them cruising along. The only thing that inhabited this stretch were turtles, and lots of them! It seemed like they were on every tree that was in the water.

As we approached the far end of the shore, we noticed a few mergansers take off. As we watched them go we could see fish popping in the shade of an over hanging pine tree that they just left. Creeping in, we came across a beavers winter cache of branches that jetted out over a slightly deeper channel. Under all the timber was a pile of fish silhouettes. We took casts with multiple baits of all sizes until we determined they were all trout as they chased our baits up to the boat. We quickly changed to spinners and the fish started biting. We caught a few decent sized brookies before moving on in search of the bass.

We began fishing the north shore with a decent current pushing closer and closer. There was much of the same type of structure present but with a few freshly fallen trees still sporting green pine needles and deeper water closely adjacent. This is when we were able to catch a few small bass ranging in the 1.5-2 pound class. The fish were tucked tightly in the cover of the dense pines. For the remainder of the north shore we found fish in every pine tree that offered similar cover. Floating along, we also discovered several bass cribs as we went over them. If there was any fish in them, chances are we spooked them off before realizing they were in there because of the clear water and us being directly overhead.

After the excitement of catching and seeing a bunch of fish on the north end, we began fishing south again with no fish to be had. We found lots of familiar looking, old fallen timber in shallow water. We saw one school of small bluegills cruising in and out of a cluster of ancient tree stumps before calling it a day at this pond.

Because it was still early in the day, we decided to hit another lake before heading home. We launched the boat planning to fish a northern end of the lake looking for similar structure as we had previously found. Also, a bit of shelter from the wind because of the formation of the lake offered a bit of it. Go figure, the fishing was once again poor.

We managed a few smaller bass before hitting the only honey hole for bass of the day. Unfortunately, they were not the species of bass we were looking for. There was a pile of rockbass sitting where we least expected them. We found a square dock sitting in no more than a foot of water with only a few inches for an opening before meeting the sandy bottom. The fish were stacked up under there big time. We anchored the boat only a few feet from the dock and vertical jigged them as if we were ice fishing. We could watch the entire scenario unfold each time we dropped our jig in the water. We found that they hit best when the jig was slightly suspended off the bottom but they would come check it out each drop even if it was resting on the bottom. It was a blast! After a short while my buddy told me we had to leave because I was having too much fun… Weak!

I also posted a few videos on our facebook profile from the days honey hole!

I got to test out a batch of “live” baby shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures. Even though the bite was slow, I was able to catch fish when they were around. The action on these plastics in nice. They seemed to have more action than similar “baby shad” style baits because of the swim slot while being equally durable. I caught numerous rockies without having to change the bait.

Moving on, we had only a short stretch before hitting the next batch of fish. Cruising down the east shore, we came across a spot where a sandy shoal jetted out from shore and immediately into 20+ feet of water and the fish were jumping. We assumed they were trout so we began casting our spinners. First cast, I hooked up with a brown. Not much for size but still a fun catch. Within the small area enclosed by the shoal, the fish were cruising around and surfacing occasionally as there was a decent sized hatch going on.

The remainder of the day was very unproductive. I don’t think we caught another fish even though we fished a lot more water before getting off shortly before 6. The day was slow but we fished two bodies of water that were new to both of us. We learned a bit about where and how to fish and probably won’t forget sunscreen the next trip out. We both got roasted in the early summer sun with our winter skin!

4-14-12 – Worked Hard For A Few Fish

I went out Saturday morning on Lake Champlain with a buddy. We fished for about 7 hours starting around 9am. The water temps on the broad lake were right around 50 and slightly warmer in the shallows coming in at 52. Throughout the course of the day the water temp went up significantly. As we were getting off the water we were seeing temps in the shallows pushing 59. As for the fishing, it was slow. We were looking for crappie but seemed to only have success finding yellow perch!

Our strategy for the day was to fish backwaters and coves in order to stay out of the wind. After fishing for a while, it was apparent that we weren’t going to have great success fishing skinny water for crappie. We were fishing 4-7′ of water somewhat sheltered from the wind. Although we were catching some decent perch over the 10″ mark we figured we would move on and stay in search mode. We fished channels, rocks, brush, and docks for a good portion of the day. They all held fish but nothing that had us hooked.

The best method of fishing we found was to drift over dense weedbeds and vertically fish the open pockets. As we drifted, we could watch bait and at times crappie chasing the schools. We caught a few crappie in the weeds as well as some more jumbo perch. For the amount of time we spent drifting, it wasn’t worth staying too long… On our last drift through for the day I was lifting my bait out of the water and a sizable gar rolled on it at the surface. Quickly, I dropped the bait back down and it came back immediately. I set the hook but unfortunately, on the first run my line snapped. Fun way to end the day regardless!

We caught pickerel, white and yellow perch, bluegill, smallmouth bass and crappie. Even though it wasn’t a super productive day, it sure beats sitting around home! I also got to expand my knowledge of Lake Champlain and fish some new waters that I had never been on.

4-14-12 – A Blue Bird Saturday

After doing some house hold chores that had been building up since the end of ice season I pulled my boat up to Lake Champlain on Saturday morning. Weather at departure was overcast skies and temps in the low 40’s.  The plan was to be meeting up with some of the boys from VT Sportsman and see if we could put some crappie in the boat. Arrived at the launch at 9 and managed to get the boat in and only get a little bit of water in my boots. I arrived at my spot to find only one other boat there and one person fishing from shore, luckily I was good friends with the shore fishermen and knew who the boys in the boat were.  I pulled in, dropped my anchor and made a cast, nothing.  The boys in the boat were pulling fish left and right so I did my best to re-position ethically to a spot where I could reach the fish.  The fish were on fire for the first hour, however the bait that they really wanted was a Bobby Garland baby shad in Black Bubblegum.

The fish were schooled up pretty hard and with the right cast you would get bit every cast.  Most crappies in the morning were all worthy of the cooler and I did see many nice fish (12″) being caught.

As the day went on we were joined by many more people who knew that the bites was on.  The overcast day turned into a blue bird day.  I don’t mind other people fishing around me, but I was constantly being blocked off with my casts by another fishermen.  Not very ethical in my mind. So me being who I am decided that I would leave fish to get away from the crowd, not a great idea.  I fished nearby in some areas that had the same structure as the one where we were getting fish but only found small perch.  So, I made my way back and set up in  a different spot.  By this time the bite was slowing considerably and the fish were spread out making things much more difficult.   The water temp was only 45 degrees, I think these fish were here because the bait was there. I did however check on my Navionics app and noticed that this part of the way was actually an inside turn, and the exact spot that the fish were in was the turn itself.

The crappies stopped biting and the bluegill came in, which is probably the reason why the crappies vacated the area.  I switched up my baits to a small Mister Twister Tail in a motor oil color and managed to boat some really nice bluegill and pumpkinseed.  Ended the day with a dozen crappies and 24 nice bluegill and pumpkinseed. Wish I would have been there at daylight!

4-12-12 – A Word To The Wise

Had a few hours to wet a line last night.  Conditions were tough on Lake Champlain.  I was greeted on arrival by a steady 15-20 mph North wind.  Normally, this isn’t an issue since you can position the boat in a way that the wind can aid you, this outing however was from shore and I was fishing I had to cast directly into the wind.  Apparently, the fishing had been slow until I got there, guess I brought the lucky horseshoe.

We were casting to about 8-9 feet of water, well if you could reach it with the wind blowing.  I could find no reason of why these fish were here other then the bait was there.  The fish were cold when you brought them in meaning that they are just starting to make their move into warmer water.  There was no need to jig the bobber in yesterday because the chop on the water did that for it.  I had a hard time at first getting bites. I tried different retrieves and finally hit on a keeper.  I was getting bite more frequently on a slow retrieve, enough that the bobber remained on the surface.  Bait selection was tricking.  The best bet was a 1/16 oz jig head in fire tiger, tipped with a Berkley Gulp Minnow in their smelt pattern.  I ended the night with 21 nice fish in my bucket.

This is the word to the wise part.  When the weather is still cold and there is no need for a cooler I use my ice fishing bucket to hold my fish.  Nothing more than a bucket with a seat and a crappie checker on it.  Well in our rush to leave and attempt to move all of our gear in one trip.  We managed to get everything between the two of us but I made a huge mistake!  I proceeded to carry my bucket with 21 slab crappie in it by the seat, which is always a pain to get off so I thought it would hold.  Guess what?  It didn’t.  In one fell swoop the bucket crashes to the dock and 8 nice crappie which are still alive get a second chance at life.  Lesson learned!  Still had a great time for only a few hours of fishing,  Thanks to Scott and Dody!

The bucket of live fish after the disaster!

“Must Have’s” for Spring Time Crappie (part 2)

Terminal tackle is obviously important in any fishing application but what is between you and a fish and just as vital as lure selection? Line! There are many so many options on the market that it is easy to feel overwhelmed with what to put on your favorite rod.

I have had success with many different companies and types of line but during the winter months, I like to run Cajun Red Ice as I detect the majority of my bites by sight. The red shows up well against a winter schemed background and is the first color in the visible spectrum to be filtered out under the water because of the material composition and red color. Cajun Red Line is a great option for all seasons of fishing and not to mention that it is a very smooth and long lasting line.

Recently, I came across Cajun Optix and have had great success with it. This line is marketed as three lines in one. It is described as being: “Low-visibility, High-visibility, and Depth-indicating. Optix line features alternating sections of low-vis red and high-vis yellow, and tying your lure to the end of a red section minimizes line detection by the fish, while the yellow color lets you more easily see your line above the water.” It can be purchased in pound tests from 4-30 and has a very thin diameter. The price is comparable with any other company and is definitely worth a shot!

When you like to eat fish like us, you need a good selection of knives. The majority of the time, I run an electric knife as it is much quicker and equally as efficient once you get the feel for it… I have cut through the spines of many, many fish (I still do on occasion)! It is certainly possible to use any electric knife (turkey carver included) but having a “fillet” styled blade works best.

A great starter knife is made my Rapala. When Bobby and I clean fish together after a day on the water, we can do a limit of crappie in about 30 minutes. Makes for a much more pleasant experience when one person fillets and the other de-ribs the fillets. The best knife option for removing the ribs if an electric knife isn’t available is a paring knife. You can get them for a few bucks at most any kitchen store and the last for a long time. I keep these on hand for cutting up deer as well.

During the summer months, when I work two full time jobs, fresh fish isn’t always available so I rely on the meals that I put in the freezer throughout the winter and spring. I like to use a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer to preserve the various food that I harvest throughout the year. The packages, after being sealed, contain no air so you don’t get freezer burn. Although the bags are a bit more expensive than regular freezer bags there is no waste in the long run. You can seal your favorite dishes with seasoning right in the package so it is ready to be grilled, baked, or fried as soon as it’s thawed!

“Must Have’s” for Spring Time Crappie (part 1)

Thought I would take a quick moment to write about the baits that have been effective this spring and their presentation.This is the Baby Shad made by Bobby Garland.  This bait is a recent addition to our Crappie arsenal and has proved it-self over and over again.  This bait is made in 45 different color combo’s and they also have it in 10 glow patterns.  The presentation has been pretty straight forward.   All we are doing to rigging the bait on a small jig head.  Dylan has mostly been using a an ice jig made by Bentley.  I’ve been using nothing more than a 1/64 or 1/32 oz painted jig head that you can buy just about anywhere.  We are fishing these baits under and bobber, adjusting the depth as needed depending on the fish.  The presentation when the fish are there and active is simple.  Cast out to the school, count to “3” and set the hook.(that’s Dylan’s way)  When the fish are acting a little fussy, a good technique is to bounce the bobber back towards you.  This will make the fineness tail of the Baby Shad flutter and trigger a lot of bites.  Another great presentation is simple, swim the bobber back in, using frequent stops.  Sometimes the fish just want the bait moving.  You’ll have to try your own techniques to see what’s going to work best for that day.

We have recently been talking with the guys over at Lake Fork Trophy Lures, they have had many requests to slim down a very popular bass bait for use on Slab Crappies.  What they have come up with looks dynamite!  Lake Fort lures has a 2 1/4 “Live” Baby Shad which is the smaller version of their Magic Shad designed for bass.  From what I have seen through reports and pictures, this bait is going to be a must have for me.  Their design is a little different.  They have patented their segmented “swim slots” into the baits which gives it a swimming action as if it were a live shad.  This bait is offered in 35 colors right now and we are very excited to try these baits out.  Look for a thorough review later!