5-16-13 – Hudson River Stripers

Looking at pictures and articles from this past year has made us realize how much of our time on the water is dedicated to panfish. Maybe this is because it’s what we know and have locally available for us but when an opportunity to get out of our comfort level presents itself, it is hard to resist.

Two years in a row now, I have had the pleasure of fishing on the Hudson River aboard the Lazy D And Me captained by Dan Lussier. The target species for this destination is the mighty striped bass. Both years, along with Captain Dan and I on the boat has been owner of Fish Hounds Outdoors, James Vladyka and his father Larry.

Striper season on the Hudson River has the potential to produce trophy fish. According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the Hudson is the main spawning ground for these bass. Stripers are an anadromous fish meaning that they are born in freshwater, spend the majority of their life in salt water, and them return to freshwater to spawn. Timeliness of this transition to freshwater depends on the weather throughout the spring as well as current weather conditions, water temperature, and growing vegetation. When all these factors align, the month of May tends to be prime time with mid month being the best.

Watching the reports roll in throughout the two weeks prior had us pumped up! It was hard to sleep through the nights leading up to the trip with reports of 20, 30, and even 40 pounders being pulled! The season is short and is dependent mainly on the water temperature. As the water warms, the water chestnuts begin to grow. They exhibit extreme growth and can reach lengths of up to 16 feet. When the chestnuts really take hold, the fish are on their way out as the water temperature is past its prime. Of course not all fish move downriver at the same time but the few that still wrapping up their business are hard to target. Trolling through these dense weeds leaves anglers constantly checking their baits.

Although catching these fish doesn’t take a super secret technique, before last year, I had never experienced fishing like this. For a basic set up all you need are downriggers and large stickbaits which makes this fishing possible by many, even those with smaller boats. Sure there are some big water boats out there trolling but we see many “bass boats” and smaller 14′ aluminums.

As we troll along, we see the majority of the other fishermen using the same method. Although productive, it is not the only option. Some of the other techniques are to use dipsy divers, chunked bait, and long-lining. Taken with a grain of salt, keeping tabs on the radio allows anglers to adjust baits, speeds, and depths depending on the fast moving and finicky pods of fish.

Obviously, success comes to those who can piece together the correct sequence of moves. Just like every other species, these striped bass want the bait presented precisely and on most occasions, different every day depending on the water, weather, and their unpredictable movements. Through the years, Captain Dan has put together quite a collection of lures to target these fish. On our outings, we have mainly pulled the 7″ Rapala F18. Color depends on the day, but it seems as though we always have a “hot steel” and “bleeding hot olive” behind the boat.

To put things into perspective, last year the trip that we made had pretty much the same conditions but a little more wind. As we cruised around trying to locate fish with our staggered baits, the number of thumps that we were getting on our downrigger balls was unreal. The balls were brightly colored so we matched our baits. In general we were running out lures 25-45 feet behind the downrigger ball. With no increase in the number of bites, even when large pods of fish were present, we shortened up the distance. Running the baits within a few feet of the downrigger ball increased the number of fish that we hooked up with.

As we work up and down the river, speed is a big factor. Because we are on a river/tidal system, the surface speed is most likely different than whatever depth we are running our baits at. Because of this, the use of a Sub-Troll 900 or similar unit is huge. This allows us to troll the baits at the perfect speed rather than at the speed of boat. The speed the fish seem to prefer hovers right around 3 mph at the ball.

A big upgrade for the Lazy D And Me this year was a kicker motor with remote steering. Not only does it save on some fuel from using the big motor, but it allows Dan to drive the boat without having to sit at the helm. Not to mention, he can really fine tune his speed. At times a tenth of a mile of a mile an hour can make all the difference. Another addition to Dan’s arsenal is the new Lowrance HDS Gen 2 Touch Screen fish finder with structure scan and side imaging. This unit combined with a Navionics chip helps with locating these fast moving fish. It is possible to not only locate these fish using the side scan but you can get a relative idea of their size after looking at and comparing multiple pods.

Although there are constant conversations going on the radios, Captain Dan works with several other fisherman that are out there every day to zero in on fish. Having connections allows him and a few select others to consistently put their clients on more and larger fish. With over 15 years of experience on the Hudson River, it’s hard to trust your time on the water with anyone else!

If you would like to experience exceptional striper fishing on the Hudson River, go to www.lazydandme.com or you can give Captain Dan Lussier a call at 1-802-558-7633.

Check out Striper Fishing On The Hudson River on our YouTube page for some of the action!

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5-12-13 – Mother’s Day Panfish

After a morning dedicated to turkeys and our mothers, it was off with the boat to the water we went. With hopes that the crappie were still spawning and some decent bluegill would bite, there was nothing left to do but try it!

Upon our arrival, we saw a few kayaks and one canoe out on the water. The wind was strong and brisk. The skies were dark but it wasn’t raining but it looked like it would. After launching the boat, we realized that our main issue for the day would be dealing with the wind. The worst wind we could have was anything out of the south,south east and yup, you guessed it, that is exactly where it was coming out of.

We were fishing “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures under a bobber.  Last time we had fished this particular spot we found that the crappies were scattered through out the channel at the back most part of the setback.  We decided that we would work our way to that spot fishing a few tress along shore on the way thinking maybe they had began to seek out their cover and shade.  A major difference between today and the last time we were here were the weeds.  It had been a few weeks and with unseasonably warm weather for the end of  April and beginning of May the weeds had really started to grow, some already reaching the surface on the large flats.

Like we said before the wind was a major factor even for the 16.25 foot Lund.  The first hour was slow but we did manage to catch a few small male crappie that were tucked right up on shore.  After fishing the shoreline with little success, we made our way for the channel where the fish were holding weeks ago.  We used the recent weed growth to our advantage, fishing the edges with a little more line under our bobbers.  This pattern payed off as we were able to land several nice spawning colored males.  The fish were still scattered through out the channel but seemed to be concentrated in one specific area.  We worked our way through the channel making long casts, working the weed edge and the shoreline.  We did find some bull gills tucked into shore which made for a nice battle on our ultra light setup.

 

When the wind would die down we found pockets of fish that were busting the surface. With all the activity, we knew that we had to inspect and see what was going on. Drifting over these areas revealed hundreds of beds. The fish would dart out leaving us only mud clouds. From a distance we started pitching baits. We found out that they were all spawning pumpkinseed. Only when the wind was slightly blowing could we catch them though. They were very spooky!

Our timing may have been a little off for the species we intented to target. The conditions were certainly not ideal, but we manged to have a successful day and capture some great photos.

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5-5-13 – Last Ditch Effort

After an unsuccessful trip to the river to check on the walleye and crappie, we decided that we weren’t going to fish a day and be skunked. To put a fish in the boat, we hit  a small lake on our way back through with hopes of hooking into a few bass and maybe some perch.  Not being prepared for either it was certainty going to be an interesting trip.

We arrived to the lake a little after 5 pm and were greeted by water temperatures in the mid 60’s.  Our first hour was to be spent on catching a few bass.  With not much too choose from as far as tackle goes, I decided to leave my half ounce black jig head on and grabbed a black 4″ senko from the bag.  We made a quick run to one of my favorite smallmouth bass spots hoping to catch a few off beds.  The early years of my fishing experiences was spent tearing this lake apart in search of both species of bass. I felt pretty confident that we would find a few to avoid the skunk.  The lake is a huge bowl with very few contour breaks, a larger basin in the middle and pockets of milfoil which provides the bass with good cover.

The first spot was not able to produce even a bite so we made another quick run.  The second spot, unlike the first, was geared towards targeting weeds and weed edges.  I like to fish the weed edges that drop off into deeper water. They always seem to produce fish.  Unlike most, I fish these edges a little different.  I like to make my cast parallel to the edges and retrieve along side of them instead of casting into the weeds and pulling through them.  I usually will run into a few that are lurking on the weed edge ambushing their prey.  A few casts into the second spot, I was able to hook into a cute little pounder.  it was not a smallmouth but instead a largemouth.

This lake is more about specific bait placement as it is bait selection.  My ability to catch fish on this day was a product of no trick, it was knowing the lake and how the fish acted.  Years of practice on this body of water helped me to put a few decent bass in the boat on our short trip.  Moral of the story; pay close attention to when, where and how you caught a fish.  I remember when I figured this pattern out on this lake by pure accident, but now I know a sure way to produce a bite.  You too can learn these patterns with close observation.

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5-4-13 – Winooski Walleye

The first Saturday in May brings Vermonters to the opening day of walleye season.  Many hold this day right up there with the opening day of deer season with the level of excitement they share.  I arrived to the river a met up with a buddy who picked me up on the bank.  As I stood there waiting, I saw that it was going to be a busy day.  From what I could see, there was already 50-75 boats fishing one small stretch of the river north of the mouth.  I loaded up my things and we made a short run to our first spot.

The weather was fantastic.   Blue skies and warm, this was a treat since we have spent many openers in our Clam “blue suits” with spitting snow.  Our technique was simple.  Small lead jigs, 1/4-1/2 ounce, tipped with a fathead minnow.  The presentation is nothing more than a lift/fall.  As soon as the jig hits the bottom you jig again, and repeat.  We made our first pass and within 5 minutes I was hooked up.  Now when these fish hit you think you’ve hooked bottom.  Very rarely do you actually feel a bite, most of the time you’ll feel weight with and immediate head shake.  After my buddy scrambled for the net we managed to boat a nice 27″ walleye that weighed in around 7lbs.  Great way to start the morning.  I put on a fresh minnow and went back to my cadenced jigging.  Two more passes later I hooked up again, seems like I’ve got a pattern going.  I was the only one in the boat that was using a simple chartreuse jig, the color might have been the factor but the weight was more significant.  The jig I was using was much heavier than the two other jigs being used in the boat.  This gave me an advantage.  There was no reason for me to be using this heavy of a jig other than it was already tied on from fishing the Connecticut River from shore in fast water.  The extra added weight have my presentation a little more clack when the jig made contact with the bottom or structure. Also was producing a larger dust cloud when coming in contact with the bottom which also helped with attracting the spooked post spawn walleye.

After a few more passes with no luck we made a move to our next spot.  This next spot would be a little more tricky to fish as it has much more structure, i.e. logs to fish around and not get snag on.  On our second pass I was able to hook up yet again.  The third and final fish of the day was the smallest of the three but still a very respectable 26″ fish.  That was my limit.  All in all it was a successful morning for me.  I spent a little over two hours on the river and fared well.  Maybe the color and weight of the jig made my day more successful but either way, the fishing produced and I got to spend time on the water with friends.

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4-28-13 – Long Day Searching

The crappie spawn in Lake Champlain is a fantastic time to catch a lot of fish.  Some years it’s very predictable and others not.  It can start and last a couple of weeks or it can start and stop, then start back up again. The second scenario seemed to be the case this year.  Our last trip was devoted to the big lake with hopes of catching that perfect water temperature where crappies begin their spring ritual.

We arrived at the lake a little late due to the fact that we forgot the graph at home while still in town and we figured it might be a good thing to have.   We headed for our first spot and arrived to find water temperatures in the upper 50’s. With a blue bird day ahead, we knew the water would soon be pushing into the 60’s.  We made our way back into a shallow cut that had produced fish in recent days.  Using a small jig under a bobber tipped with a “Live” Baby Shad from Lake Fork Trophy Lures, we began searching for fish.  It didn’t take long to find a small brush point that seemed to be holding some fish.

We where getting bite after bite which unfortunately was producing miss after miss.  The crappie would take the bobber all the way under, we would set the hook. . . . . nothing.  We started playing with bait color and style until we found a bait that at least the fish would hold on to long enough to hook a few of them.  From what we could tell, we ran into a bit of a timing issue.  The fish were there in large numbers, however, the water temperature was causing them to think less on feeding and more on spawning.

We struggled through the first half of the day and only managed 11 keepers as we were throwing back the bigger fish which were the egg stuffed females.  By noon, we decided to check some other places with hopes that the fish might be more aggressive.  Up the lake we ran and were greeted by a few of our buddies.  They too had struggled in the morning hours and were not on the fish.  We anchored near their boat to catch up and wait the fish out which ultimately worked out.  With a bunch of lines crossing the area, we found a pod of fish staging up right at the mouth in the channel.  Cast after cast produced not only crappie but largemouth bass and bullhead as well.

The fish moved through in small runs where we would catch 4,5 or 6 fish at a time. After a bunch of runs, we endured a long stretch without as much as a bite. We decided to check on some other spots had produced in recent days. We checked a handful of spots and covered close to 8 miles of the lake. We found no other areas to be productive so we returned to where we started the day. Since we had left a few hours earlier the water temperature had stabilized at 66.4 and in the short time we spent in there it dropped a few tenths. Lots of bait fish were busting the surface as there was a big hatch occurring. Along with the bait, there was quite a bit of predator activity chasing. With the crappie focusing on their spawn rather than biting, we parted ways and met back up with our buddies.

The fish were still cruising the channel so we anchored back up and got to catching. We fished for another 1.5 hours before realizing how late it was and that we should head home. The day was tough and certainly not steady but we caught some big fish as well as took home a few meals. Can it get much better than that?!?!