5-11-12 – Finally Put The Boat In

So after a few full weeks of working every day it was a nice to have a personal day. At least until 4pm when I had to go to my weekend job that is! I came across a few cool things since my last post.

In the past two weeks, I came across seven license plates. Six were old and just one was a newer model. Here’s one of the better pictures I managed to take in the cold water before my hands froze.

Opening day of turkey season I was heading out to my spot around 4:30 am. I had my decoys set up and was just about to sit down at 4:45 when a partridge flushed from right where I had picked to sit. It startled me pretty bad but I stayed for 45 minutes before realizing the turkeys had moved on to a new patch of woods. The following day I was passing by and kicked the grouse out again. With a quick peek into where she flushed from I found out why she was holding so tight. I snapped this picture of her nine eggs before vacating the area quickly in an attempt to not disturb her further. I returned the following day and she is still sitting on the nest so she must be fine with my passing by. I found a spot 75 yards away that I can watcher her from without being a threat. I will work on more pictures of her on the nest but its pretty brushed in.

I went out turkey hunting this morning and had an unsuccessful attempt with the longbeards I have been seeing. I called in four hens but called it quits so I could finish up mowing the lawn before my buddy showed up around 11am to hit the water.  The birds are there just not making much for noise so far this season.The quality keeps me coming back so hopefully I can connect one of these days!

A nice looking double beard!

Around 11:30 am, we launched the boat at my camp on rough water. Days like today I usually skip bass fishing and go search for native brookies in the small streams surrounding my camp. Regardless, the time of year is just about right for the bass spawn so we shoved off after warming the motor up. The water temp is still a bit cold for the spawn but being mid-May it won’t be long till the beds are occupied.

We drove across the lake trying to get on calmer water. The spot we began at was still rough but is usually a good early season spot for spawning pickerel. I figured if nothing else we would catch a few toothy fish as they spawn as cooler temps than the bass. As we were drifting in and getting our rods ready for the day we could see beds. We figured it wouldn’t take long to be on fish!

That was unfortunately not the case. We fished a good deal of the east shore of the lake as it offered a slight break from the relentlessness wind. We went close to an hour without a bite before making a move to the north end of the lake and on the west shore. The water was much calmer which allowed us to fish slower and prime bedding areas.

On the first dock we fished, I missed a bass. It got off with about half of my rubber worm after a few cranks towards the boat. I quickly re-rigged my presentation and began casting again. A few more casts at the same spot produced my first bass at camp this summer! Not a monster but it was good to be back at it! I’m sure I will have some much better bass to post throughout the summer.

We managed to hook into a few more bass throughout the day but the bite was slow. Biggest fish was right around 15″. Hopefully the spawn isn’t over! Remembering that the fish on the Connecticut River were spawned out has me concerned but I think the time is yet come. We were off the water around 2:30 pm with the intentions of hitting a small brook for a quick pit stop on the way home.

If you look back at a post back from early April titled “Scouting For Trout And Turkey“, I talked about how I had found some brookies cruising around in pools that I like to fish in the summer. One of the mentioned pools was where we hit today and it was still loaded. We either caught fish, hooked and dropped them, or had chasers nearly every cast. The water is clear to the bottom so we could see exactly what the fish were doing. Next trip out I’ll be sure to bring the GoPro and fly rod!

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5-5-12 – Walleye Season Kick Off

This past Saturday May 5th marked the opening day of walleye Season here in Vermont.  I had the opportunity to fish with Scott Blair.  The plan was to head north to the Missisquoi River which is usually a great early season walleye destination.  The weather man was calling for cloudy skies in the morning and temps in the 50’s, not the case.  After a late start because of over two hours of travel time, we arrived to find the parking lot of the boat launch packed full of cars and trucks with trailers from other fishermen. This spot is no secret and from the stringers we could see when launching the boat the fish were biting.

We launched the boat and managed to find a spot in the mess of boats, there were probably 30-40 boats fishing a quarter mile stretch of river.  The presentation was simple.  A 1/4oz or 3/8oz jig head tipped with a minnow, jigged over the side of the boat.  There was a decent amount of current that day so it took a little strategic maneuvering by Scott to keep the boat in position.   River jigging can be a little tricky at times, the idea is to work the trolling motor so that the boat is slowly moving up river, jigging over the side while the current will work the bait towards the back of the boat.  It is a very difficult technique to master.  It’s important to match the weight of the jig with the amount of current so that you can always stay in touch with your jig bouncing on the bottom.  When the current is strong a 3/8oz jig will help you feel the bottom when is key since the fish are laying on the bottom and most strikes occur when when the jig is falling.  Calmer conditions will allow you to fish smaller jigs as the weight is not necessary in order to feel bottom.   Detecting bites is the hardest part, many times you won’t actually feel a “bite” there will just be weight, it’s either a fish or a tree, for me it was usually a tree.  We like to use an 8-9 foot rod with a fast tip,  6-8 lb line with a 4lb leader connected to the main line by a barrel swivel.

I hate to say it, but we missed the bite, many boats had very respectable stringers that arrived at dawn.  We only managed one fish and that was caught by Scott the walleye magnet!  We did have quite a few bites that we missed due to our lack of experience detecting these bites.  The one fish that was boated was warty. .  This is a common condition in Vermont and the state issues no warning against consuming these fish. This disease is present mainly in adult fish and is most commonly found in their spawning grounds while the fish are in close quarters or at times touching More information can be found on the VT Fish & Wildlife site at “Lymphocystis and Walleye Dermal Sarcoma“. You can see the fish with warts below.

All and all, not the best day in terms of catching but any day on the water with good friends and fishing is a great day in my mind.  We’ll be back after the walleyes this week and will have more to share.  Thanks for reading.

Lake Fork Trophy Lures

Artificial baits have come a long way in recent years, especially when it comes to baits designed to catch panfish.  Many companies are producing baits with new designs and technologies, these baits have become an essential part of our fishing arsenal for both hard and soft water. There are many benefits to using plastics over live bait including: cost, durability, castability, and re-rigging time after a bite or hookup. Don’t get me wrong, live bait will still have times when it will out fish plastics but in general I will always choose plastics. The market for plastics has numerous options that can make one feel overwhelmed but here is a review on one company that has provided us with with some great success recently.

The bait this review will be focused on is the “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures. It is a patent-pending design, 2 1/4″ swim bait, that provides a fisherman with ample action from its combination of “swim slots” and a pintail to entice all types of gamefish”, not just crappie like we usually target. This bait was spawned after requests from many of their customers to slim down their popular “Live” Magic Shad. The bait currently comes in 35 different colors to meet just about any of your fishing needs.

The normal set up we fish for pan fish with is an ice fishing jig under a bobber with a length determined by water depth and the active zone for the desired fish species. The variety of jig we use depends on where we are fishing but a long hook shank with a wide gap is the best option. There is a lead ban on the Connecticut River, so our main choices are limited to tungsten or to meet the 1″ minimum jig length for all lead products. In general, when fishing tungsten, we run jigs made by Bentley which usually have short hook shanks and a narrow hook gap. Fishing anything but micro plastics with these hooks can be difficult at times but I still have very good hook up ratios unless targeting bluegill and pumpkinseed. The next best option is to go to just about any sporting goods store and buy lead heads. They come in a variety of sizes but 1/16 of an ounce is our hook of choice and is very common to be 1′ or greater in length. We know that there are other options for jig head composition but when fishing structure and brush we burn through quite a bit of terminal tackle… Lead is just the best option for the price!

At first, looking into purchasing plastics seems expensive. You can buy a 15 pack of “Live” Baby Shad for $2.99. When you count the number of fish that can be caught on one single piece the number of fish possible per bag can grow very quickly making the price seem far more reasonable. When you look at it this way, cost and durability go hand in hand. Unless you are catching toothy critters or having fish that are just biting the tail, it is hard to ever notice a bait getting beat up. Catching 50-60 fish per bait or more is not out of the question.

For instance, check out the two pictures below. Fishing for crappie, we find that the majority of the time the bait is inhaled so far that the bait isn’t even touched and is stuck in the roof of their mouth. That means no tearing of the bait and the tail is left untouched. Most issues that evolved with this bait, as with any swim bait, is tearing around the head of the bait where it was stuck initially with the hook. When this happens, depending on the severity, I just bite off as small of a section to get rid of the tear in order to halt its progression further.

Another benefit to fishing plastics is their ability to cast out with very little concern about the bait falling off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fished live bait and been limited with what is in my range for a cast because I can’t whip my bait. For all the times I’ve fished plastics, I have never whipped it so hard that my bait flew off other than when due to a faulty knot.

Now lets think about times when fishing live bait. Most bites result in stolen bait or a hook up. When you reel it in, chances are you will have to re-bait. This means getting into the live well, scooping out a minnow and hooking it while its flopping. With plastics its a matter of pushing the bait back up onto the bait holder and you are back in the water. If it is time to put a new plastic on, you don’t have to mess around with anything but a bag and they won’t die on you!

The action these baits by Lake Fork Trophy Lures have is amazing. The swim slots allow more side to side and vertical action than other similar styled “shad baits” because of their ability to twist more freely. When coupled with the pin tail and ball at the end, it makes twitching your bait even more effective because of the bit of added weight. Being that the sliver of plastic between the sections in the body  of the bait are so thin, you would think that it is a weak spot. This is not true. We found no issues with the segmented body. There was only two places that the bait that ever ripped. The head of the bait around the hook shank as we mentioned before and only a few tails were bit off.  During the period in which we fished this bait exclusively, the fish were very lethargic so a quick retrieve was most productive.  This swimming action of the Lake Fork Lure only added to the triggering effect of the retrieve.

One of our favorite fish to catch is the bluegill. I’m sure that anyone reading this has caught or at least seen a bluegill up close and the size of their mouth. The area where the majority of this baits testing was done was loaded with giant gills so as our baits were being stolen it wasn’t too hard to figure out who the robber was. The difference between a feeding gill and crappie is only a matter of their ability to fit the entire bait in their mouth as they are both very aggressive.

The main drawback for us with the “Live” Baby Shad was the number of baits lost due to bluegills. When the fish were feeding aggressively, the size of the bait was no issue and the fish would steal far less plastics. When the bite was slightly negative, I found that the baits were being ripped off because the fish were grabbing just the tail. I have watched this over and over during the winter months on my underwater camera when the fish are only sucking on the baits. When I have a situation arising like this, I try to come up with a way to counteract the downfall. The solution to this was to bite off a section of the head before threading it on the hook. Also, I found some success in waiting a bit longer before setting the hook to allow time for the fish to actually take the bait. At times, a quick reaction is necessary though to get the hook setbefore the fish spits the bait realizing it isn’t actual forage.

When all is said and done, the “Live” Baby Shad flat out catches fish.  The swim slot action gives the bait an extra degree of eat-ability.  We highly recommend that you look into these baits if you want to catch more fish.  The customer service is top notch and this company really cares about their product.  You should check them out.  Lake Fork Trophy Lures

Here are some other notable fish caught on “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures