7-31-14 – Spinning Walleye

I’ve put a lot of walleye in the boat the past couple of years fishing the Connecticut River and the tributaries of Lake Champlain jigging.  One thing we haven’t done a lot of is learning how to troll for them over large areas.  The opportunity arose to going trolling for walleye with a friend and I jumped at the chance to learn something new.

Our plan was to take an afternoon/evening trip to one of the few inland ponds in Vermont that has a sustainable walleye population.  I had never personally fished this pond before and my fishing buddy had only been on it a few times in the past having decent success.

The pond was great, one deep hole but lots of humps with weeds a top of them and rocky shores.  I wanted to learn how to run in-line planner boards with cranks so we set one board on either side with cranks and two lines out the back running spinners.

There is a lot more to trolling than just simply cruising around dragging baits behind the boat, especially for walleye and I quickly learned why.  Speed and boat depth control are very important to keep your baits at an effective depth.  A good sonar unit with a chartplotter is also an essential tool in catching roaming walleye.  We made several passes through our first spot and I missed a decent fish on the spinner.

Through conversation about good places to look for fish we made our way through a stretch that my buddy hadn’t fished before.  This particular spot was nothing more than a gradual inside turn pushing up to a rocky shore, I thought it looked like a fishy spot on Navionics.  While we made our first pass through the spot, we had our first fish on for the afternoon.  The 21” walleye came on a spinner tipped with a crawler.  Starting to think that the spinner bite was key, we switched over to running just spinners.  We had a quick bite to eat and motored over to another spot on a rocky hump.  While making our first pass, we started to mark a good number of fish laying on the bottom when we hooked into our second fish of the day. Another nice walleye, this one coming into the net at 22”.

As the sun went down and daylight faded, we decided to call it a day. A very productive day in my mind.  Some the best ways to learn something new is to just do it, it also helps to have good friends that are willing to share with you their knowledge.

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7-29-14 – Family Time

It had been a while since I had been on the water with my dad but with plenty of time to spare at camp while at our family week, we were able to get on the water. We began the day at sunrise with a very pitiful attempt at catching bass. Neither of us were sure why it was so slow but we figured that we would try to salvage the day with a night Hydro Glow session for trout.

With my mom, dad, girlfriend, and dog in the boat, we putted around the lake looking for fish on the graph. It didn’t take long to get over them so we anchored up, submerged the lights, and I explained how things would work. It is a pretty easy system and before putting the first marker on Mary’s line, we had missed a fish.

After we were all set up, we started picking at the bluegill. It wasn’t for a bit that a few trout made their way in the boat. The bites were very light and quick. I don’t remember any fish coming back for a second taste. Maybe they are accustomed to the glowing light or maybe things just slow down as the water warms.

By the end of the night, we had a few good rainbows to go on the smoker and released about a dozen bluegill. My mom didn’t fish but she kept us informed on where the fish were cruising through on the graph. It was fun to have them all out with me and they were happy to see what it was all about!

 

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7-23-14 – Lake Trout On Down Riggers

I went out with Captain Dan on the Lazy D & Me today with hopes of some lake trout. A wicked storm was rolling in after noon so we hoped things would happen early. With about 85 feet of water below us and plenty of fish laying right on bottom things were looking good.

Things started off pretty rough and only calmed down a little as the morning wore on. Most of out fish were caught on flatfish slow rolling the bottom around 1.8 mph. We managed to go 12 for 13 in the 5 hours we were out with several fish right around the 30″ mark.

The sky was hazy all day but we knew it was time to head home when the wind really picked up and started tossing the boat around enough to make fishing difficult.

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7-22-14 – At Least I Can Still Swim!

It was an interesting day to say the least. After a short morning of trolling boards, I headed to Champlain for some crappie, Launching my boat around 11 am, things were as usual. I had my gear loaded, unhitched, and had my rope clipped on to the bow with the excess rope secured in my tailgate ready to back in. Everything went as planned until I hit the water. As my boat started to float, I heard a loud pop and slowly watched my boat float away deeper and deeper into a dense mat of weeds.

Now in my defense, I hate swimming. I don’t go unless it is completely necessary. I actually contemplated waiting for another boat to come in to rescue me. I though for probably longer than most would have before stripping down and taking a plunge into the nastiest water I have every been in. It took me several tries to get in the boat but I made it work. It was a lot harder than I would have imagined! I spent the next few hours in my underwear drying off which lead to a wicked sunburn on my pasty legs.

Fortunately, after my hardships of the day, the fish were willing to bite. I ended up putting together a limit of nice fish over the next few hours with many throwbacks and some nice bass to boot. There wasn’t any color the fish would hit other than white. All my fish were caught on “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures and the crank bait was dead. With the warm water, it had to be moving slow.

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7-20-14 – 222

One week after a full moon = go crappie fishing. Everything about this trip seemed right leading up to it. Along with our buddy Mark, we loaded the boat around 8 am with plenty of snacks and drinks and headed back to southern lake Champlain. The theme of the day was “click it” on the counter, which is what we said each time we put a crappie in the boat.

The strategy for today was simple, fish structure.  It took us a little while to get dialed in but once we did it was pretty much non stop catching for the three of us.  While the plastic bite was good, the interesting part of this trip is that we figured out a little way to prolong the bite once the fish become conditioned.  We’ve seen plenty of shows and articles on trolling small crank baits for crappie but we tried our luck at casting them.

After the plastic bite tapered off at each spot, tossing a small crappie crank bait made by Arkie Jigs made the difference.  Being on the small side, we were able to rip the bait right along side and on top of the structure we were set up on with very few, if any snags.  They were also very useful when the fished decided to take a “lap” off the structure which crappie seem to randomly do.  The crank bait allowed us to locate the fish from a greater distance than a jig. While most colors worked, bright plastics and shiny cranks were the best bet.

We finished the day just shy of our goal of 238 with 222 crappie put in the boat and released.  A large majority of those fish being keepers.  It was refreshing to learn something new as it becomes easy to get stuck doing the tried and true over and over again.  Remember, next time you’re out on the try to switch it up every once in a while to put more fish in the boat.

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7-16-14 – Early Morning Limit

I was on the water for sunrise because I had to work at 8 pm and I wanted to bring home some fish for the freezer. It looked like it was going to be a beauty of a day and it was the first cool day after a warm stretch. The only thing lingering in my mind was whether or not the cold front would change the bite.

I had my buoy marker in the sweet spot in the dark and was catching fish within only two casts. While not every fish was a keeper, probably every third was. I should mention most of the fish were of legal size though. It took me 82 fish to complete my limit but it didn’t stop there. I spent the rest of the day looking for new spots many of which were loaded with fish.

By 8 am I was throwing back 12″ crappie. Every spot I hit produced similar sized crappie. Nothing huge but some were pushing 14″. I ended up putting another dozen quality spots on my graph for future trips. The fish were hungry but many were biting as soon as my “Live” Baby Shad hit the bottom. Many of the fish I caught actually had mud sticking to their bellies.

With the warm water from the last few days, the fish wanted the jig moving extra slow so mainly I was running a 1/16 ounce jig even when the wind picked up. After a little more than eight hours of catching fish, I headed for home. I ended up the day with 237 crappie on the clicker. Not too bad of a day!

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7-13-14 – Mystery Lake

Who doesn’t like exploring a new lake? Well on a hot Sunday that was the plan. Crappie were the target and outside of that, we had no idea what the lake would fish like.

I met my buddy Andy at sunrise and we launched the boat shortly after. We started off scanning the bottom with the side imaging. It is a big lake so exploring seemed like the best idea.

We located several sunken trees that were completely vacant of fish. Then we checked out a rocky shoreline thinking that a “bass” pattern might work. Nope. Just rockbass and lots of them! As we worked off the rocky shoreline, a warden approached us. We had a short chat and he told us that they were there but not many people catch them on purpose. Lakes like this can be great because you will have them to yourself but at the same time locating and staying on them year around is a big chore.

We fished just about every type of habit the lake had to offer and we covered about a third of the lake with side imaging. At the end of the day we had nothing great to show for other than checking of a new species on the bucket list. Redbreast sunfish. We caught a lot of them.

While we didn’t complete out goal, we marked some weedbeds on our Navionics for a potential winter trip.

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7-11-14 – Solo Day

Not being able to find anybody to fish with on this particular day, I decided to make an adventure out of it. I made a long drive to fish southern Lake Champlain. Knowing that the moon was full I did not know what to expect while planning on targeting crappie.  One thing was for sure, I was going to stick to one game plan.

My goal for the day was to explore a bit and find some new structure using the side scan.  I was able to find more than expected but was disappointed when most of what looked like fantastic habitat was not holding decent numbers of fish.  I really couldn’t figure out why these spots weren’t holding fish so I decided to check out  few of our spots that have always produced in the past.  As I pulled up to our third reliable spot I was pretty discouraged to find it was fishless.  I had been on the water for almost three hours now and have yet to put a fish in the boat.  By accident I stumbled onto a pattern that put a few fish in the boat.

The full moon has pushed many of the fish holding structure off and they scattered along deep weeds lines.  Wanting to stick to my plan as along as possible, I slowed down my presentation knowing that the fish were going through a transition period and they might be a little fussy.  The bites were hard to detect as I slowly dragged my Lake Fork Trophy Lures “Live” Baby Shad across t bottom adjacent to the structure.  A subtle twitch in the line was the only indicator that I had one on, I really had to pay attention.

All in all not a very productive trip from the fish catching standpoint but I did confirm that when the moon is full, the fish move and you have to slow your presentation down.

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7-6-14 – Top Water Bassin’

My family has a camp in the North East Kingdom on a lake with great bass fishing.  As my wife and I decided to head up for a few days for the 4th of July, I decided that I was only going to bring one rod with me, and one box of lures, including my top water plugs.  Since I was a young kid I have always fished the bass there on using top water baits.  It’s something about the suspense waiting for that explosion as the bass attacks my bait.

My wife and son went to bed early on this particular night so I decided to try my luck.  Equipped with only a small ten foot row boat, a net, and my gear, I rowed to a nice inside turn that has always produced quality fish at dusk.

I started on the furthest rocky point.  My lure of choice was a torpedo.  I like to make long casts with this bait, quickly popping it back to the boat.  Thankfully the water was calm that night and I was able to drift in the direction I wanted to fish.  After about a half hour of no action I made my way in.  I knew that there was a nice deep weed bed in this turn that shelfed up onto a nice sandy flat.

As I worked my way towards the flat making long casts, the fish lunker of the night slammed my bait and jumped about four feet out of the water.  The hit came from the break line, right where the weeds transition onto the sandy flat in about 5 feet of water.  I took this and ran with it making casts to target that depth.  The first fish I landed was a hog. Only being in a small boat it was literally moving the position of the boat as it made it’s effort to throw the bait.  The bass at here are amazing.  A three to four pound average is not uncommon.  This fish probably was pushing four and a half pounds and over twenty inches.

I continued working my way back towards camp and was able to land several more decent smallmouth.  There was something about this trip and fishing without all of the modern technologies and fancy boats that brought me back to my childhood.  More memories in the bank.

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7-5-14 – Catfish Night

After I got out of work at 4 pm, I hit the road to get on the water for sunset with my buddy Dan. We were going to stay on the water until the catfish stopped biting. He was already on the water so he had caught some panfish for our evenings bait. After locating some good weed edges, we diced up our bait and sent it out.

The wait wasn’t long. Within minutes, Dan landed the first cat of of the night. It was only 7 or 8 pounds but it was a start. Over the next couple of hours, we landed a cat about every 30 minutes. While most were around 10 pounds we caught a few in the middle to upper teens. One of the biggest swam right to the boat, slid into the net but flopped out and popped the hook all within only a matter of seconds. That’s fishing!

Throughout the course of the night, we made several moves trying to find a more consistent location. While no spot seemed better than another, they all produced at least a fish right off. As the sun started to break, the bite died off so we packed it up before things got hectic on a beautiful Sunday morning!

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