I made a long trek to fish a bay that I have very little experience with. Although it was a Monday, it isn’t everyday on Lake Champlain that you have an entire bay to yourself. At first, I figured there was a reason no one was there but in general I have a hard time believing people who say the fishing is poor.
Using Navionics, I made my way along a 5 foot contour punching out to 6 feet and as shallow as 3. I was catching fish right along but very few crappie were in the mix. After working about a half mile, I turned around and paralleled my original line working slightly deeper. Still not finding much for crappie action, I was content with jumbo perch and plenty of sunnies and bluegills.
Halfway back to my car, I got stuck in a whiteout. In a small sandy area with no weeds, I started catching crappie. When the snow let up the crappie shut off. Looking for similar areas, I was able to put 18 crappie on the ice before I left.
A successful scouting mission is always a confidence booster.
While bass and rainbows weren’t the intended target for the day, they composed quite a bit of the catch. I was on a lake with very little weed structure so I knew the bluegill would be deep. Starting off in about 30 feet of water my first batch of holes covered a 25-35 depth range. Right off the fish were making on my Vexilar. A few minutes into the day I hooked up with a rainbow, and then another, and then another. As I worked shallower, the bass started to bite as well as a few smaller bluegill. Creeping up on a new hump that I stumbled upon, the gills started to get bigger. By noon, the gills were nice sized and stayed consistent. It was a great day on the water!
Saturday Febuary 8th brought us to round 3 of the Vermont Sportsman Hardwater Tounament Series at Mallets Bay on Lake Champlain. Conditions weren’t ideal at all, with temps in the teens and a wind chill around zero. Besides the weather, the bay was going to present it’s own challenges. The portion of Mallets Bay where this event was held, had ample room for fishermen to move around and fish plenty of water, but the fish seemed to be located on one particular weed bed which meant the fishing was going to be close quarters.
At 6 am, we were given the go ahead to start drilling holes and use our electronics but no lines in the water until 6:30. Most of the 36 fishermen all headed for that one weed bed and started drilling their holes. In hind sight, I think we drilled all the fish out of that area, as we started fishing the action was slow. Those that made slight adjustments in location were able to stumble upon the larger groups of fish that had been drilled out at first light. Dylan made a slight but significant move east and was able to connect on nice crappie that ultimately won him big fish for the day. Funny part was it was the same hole that his crappie came from yesterday! The bite was tough to say the least for the better part of the day. The fish were scattered and easily spooked when we would punch a few new holes.
Towards the end of the day, Dylan figured out that the crappie were suspending about half way down the water column and they were cruising, which means you didn’t always mark them on your electronics. Jigging at four feet would often bring a cruising crappie in and make them bite. This was a major adjustment made, as we had been fishing in the weeds for the better part of the event.
At the weigh-in Dylan checked in his 6 fish limit with two seeds, two crappie, one bluegill, and a perch giving him a weight of 3.68 pounds and good enough for first place along with his big fish prize. Bobby struggled all day to say the least not catching any crappies and weighing in a limit of seeds and dink perch for a weight of 1.78 lbs. At the end of the day, the win for Dylan was a major boost in the points moving him up to first place from 6th. Bobby’s weight caused his to drop a few positions down to 6th from third but he’s still in the hunt. The final points event for the season will take place at Laphams Bay in Shoreham on Febuary 22nd. It’s going to be a shoot out!
I was parked and getting ready as the light started to enter the sky. With a tournament tomorrow and no recent information for the bay, I knew that I had my work cut out for me! Fortunately, I had fished this bay about a month ago and knew where some of the weed beds were.
I cut about 20 holes at my first destination and on my first drop I caught an 11″ crappie. Great start to the day. Unfortunately, that was the only one that I saw. As I worked over a large area throughout the course of the day, I found small concentrations of decent pumpkinseed and bluegill. Catching them was no issue but after exploring much of the bay, I realized that we were going to be fishing shoulder to shoulder in the morning.
I fished until almost dark but never saw where the fish turned on any more than they had been biting all day. With a few spots marked on my Navionics app I felt content that I stood as good of a chance as anyone.
After getting out of work at 8 am, I made the snowy drive to my destination. While I had already missed the morning perch bite, I was determined to figure out a way to pick at a few mid day. After grabbing fatheads and rigging up several rods with a variety of presentations, I trudged through 8″ of snow to get over deep water.
The snow was still flying and for the first hour, the fish weren’t biting. I tried big, small, flashy, and dead sticking. Nothing seemed to work any better than old faithful; the drop shot rig. While I didn’t pick many fish, the ones that I brought topside were quality. After about 3 hours of slow going, I decided to change up my target species and go shallow for bluegill and pumpkinseed.
When I got shallow, the snow was quite a bit deeper due to the wind that was blowing it all in. I spread my holes wide over a weedbed with intentions of punching more when I found the fish. It seemed to take quite a while to find any concentration of fish. Two or three out of one hole was good.
Around 2, the roads had worsened significantly and I contemplated heading home. As a long shot, I said one more set of holes that paralleled the weed edge. This is where I found the best size class, as well as the best numbers. They were aggressive charging up 3 or 4 feet my intercept my dropping jig.
By the end of the day I had pulled 5 bluegill that were 11″ as well as many in the 9-10.5″ range. Can’t complain with a day like that!
With hopes of crappie, a buddy and I got on the ice early. Although we found 0 crappie on new water, we ended up salvaging the day with some perch.
We checked 4 bays throughout the course of the day and the bite was beyond tough. Nothing but dink perch seemed to want to bite anywhere. Fortunately, the bite for deep water perch recently has been decent. The perch came off a gradual 35-50 foot slope. So that I could release smaller fish, I tried to determine immediately after hook up whether they were big enough to keep. Coming out of such deep water, their air bladders were popping easily.
Using the truck as a wind break was almost necessary today due to the heavy winds. It was a wild one! Each move we made seemed to produce large perch immediately and from there the size dropped significantly with decent keepers in the mix. We can a drop shot rig with fatheads. Plastics didn’t seem to do much and maggots only caught the smallest fish.
While the next tournament was less than a week away, a slow bite at Mallets Bay was not enticing enough for me to go there and prefish alone. Rather, I met up with a buddy to chase around some shallow water panfish.
It was a cold day and the ice was plenty thick. With only 2-3 feet of water and no weeds under the ice, we started cutting holes searching for where the holding up as the sun rose. We found fish on a regular basis but they never seemed to be too concentrated. Using a flasher wasn’t much of an option because of the depth but the water was clear enough to see them come in.
As the day progressed, we found fish spread out over a large area. Working through the spread of hole over and over was productive until about sundown. I used orange tungsten all day and switched back and forth between a bubblegum Jamei from Maki Plastic and maggots.
After a few days at work, it was good to get back out on the water and yank on some fish. I started the day chasing deep water perch. They were schooled up following weed edges in 25’+. Most of the fish I caught were in 31 FOW and aggressive. It didn’t seem to matter how you worked your jig. If there was a fish, it bit! At times I had schools 10 feet thick! The only think that spooked them was cutting holes. It didn’t take long to realize that cutting one hole at a time was the way to go. Pretty good way to start the morning!
After the perch shut off around 9:30, I headed to some nearby weeds and started looking for the bluegill. In the mix I also found some pumpkinseed,pickerel, and largemouth. The fish were cruising above the weeds all day which was strange. Usually they hunker down for the mid part of the day and make me work for them!
Work for the week starts tomorrow but that is still plenty of time for a great day trip with a few buddies. We took our time getting on the ice because of the limited afternoon bite yesterday and the lack of sleep from last nights trout trip. This move worked out in our favor. Not only did we eat a good breakfast but the fish were just starting to bite when we got going.
For 4 hours, I sat in one hole with constant action the entire time. I was fishing in 5.8 feet of water but never went more than 3 feet down. The majority of the fish I caught were within 2 feet of the surface. The larger crappie were within only inches of the surface. I was running a gold Drop Jig from Clam Pro Tackle with a pink Jamei from Maki Plastics and the fish were inhaling it. While the bluegill came in and closely inspected it, the crappie just swam right through without blinking. It was pretty exciting.
I ended up heading home with a limit of crappie and some great memories shared with friends. Sunday seems so far away!
The day began around 8 am. We knew that the fish were around because they bit yesterday but the odds of them sitting still overnight is slim to none. Starting out our search in the productive holes from the day before, it didn’t take long to realize that they had moved. We checked a few other locations that they had bit in recently with no real success. Starting to parallel the shoreline working through the weedbed seemed like the best odds of getting on them rather than waiting.
Shortly after our search began, we found them. The gills were biting well and the crappie bit as they moved through. With a chilly temperature and a breeze in the air, I was fortunate enough to find a nice opening in the dense milfoil patch that I could set up my shack over. For the remainder of the day, I sat in that same hole picking at the fish as they moved through. The water was clear enough to see the fish move in and I was able to see how they wanted it moved. There was a steady stream of bluegill and I ended up releasing 45 crappie that were about 9″. Many of the larger crappie that I saw were cruising right under the ice and weren’t too interesting in my presentation. We left the ice with enough time to get to the bait shop for minnows as we had intentions of a nighttime trout bite!
I ended up taking a few crappie and perch home for a meal on the ice tomorrow!
With hopes of a night bite, we packed up the two man Clam flipover, a vexilar, minnows, heater, and a Hydro Glow Fishing Light. We targeted mid lake humps and sharp breaks near shore. The mid lake humps seemed to hold the most fish so we stuck with it until heading for home.
While these lights are killers on this body of water during the summer months, we had no idea how the trout would react in the winter. On our best set up, we were perched over 18 feet of water with a sandy bottom. Paralleling us to the front was a lengthy sandbar with deep water at our backs. We mainly worked the bottom 6 feet of the water column but when a fish flashed above we reeled up and tried to work them. Most of the trout came cruising 6-10′ off the bottom but one was picked right off the bottom in the mix with the crappie and rockbass.
All night long we ran gold tungsten jigs from the Clam Pro Tackle Line. It didn’t seem to matter what style jig was tied on as long as it was gold. A very steady but slow jigging action seemed to trigger the most strikes. As the clock neared 1am the fishing had slowed significantly and we decided that it was time to pack it in so we could get home and do it all again tomorrow!