Tournament day… Could have gone better! No much to say other than I couldn’t find the crappie. I caught plenty of bluegill and pumpkinseed throughout the day as well as a few nice perch and bass. It seemed like the people that did well stayed put all day with a few exceptions. Some days you catch them some days you don’t. There’s always next time! Lake Champlain has its ways!
For those of you interested, here’s the link to the website – http://www.vtsportsman.com/2011_Tournament_Schedule.html. and here is the link to the forum http://vtsportsman.proboards.com/index.cgi?. Check it out and get in on the info with some input of your own! The next tournament is at Larabees Point on March 3rd.
I headed to the Connecticut River after work today on what turned out to be a solo trip. My buddy had been there all day with another guy and the fishing had been very poor. Upon my arrival they were ready to head elsewhere. I checked some of their holes with my Aqua Vu Micro underwater camera and determined there were plenty of fish hung up in the weeds. I tried to get them to stay telling them they will turn on and we would just have to wait them out!
I punched a series of holes along a 4-6 foot contour that we fished for a while. It took a bit but the first fish I got onto was a nice one – a bluegill just shy of 10″! I asked them if they were going to stay after seeing the gill and they decided not to. So off they went to a different setback and back I went down the hole. As they drove by me on the main road, leaving me the entire honey hole to myself, I pulled another decent bluegill. For the next four hours I pulled fish after fish.
The series of holes that I initially punched held fish at both ends but not in the middle. I extended my rows in both directions and then went back and forth fishing until I exhausted the current supply of willing to bite fish on either end. I always try to keep track of the number of fish I catch while I am on the Connecticut River but a few times during the excitement today I lost track. My total was somewhere between 210 – 220 fish. Three of fish were perch, around 35 were black crappie (20 were 8″ or more), and the remainder were bluegill/pumpkinseed (5 were 10″ or more). I only kept seven fish today. Two perch, four bluegill, and one pumpkinseed. Just enough for a two person meal.
Today was the first time in a while I caught more fish without my Vexilar than with. The weeds were so thick in most holes that it did no good to use a flasher as the whole screen was red. Knowing how deep the water is and using the camera to determine what depth most fish are holding at made it easy enough to fish. Today the majority of the fish were between 1.5-2 feet off the bottom.
My strategy was to use a rod with 6 pound Cajun Line and the drag cranked tight. This way I could set the hook hard without spooling out any additional line and land a larger fish with tight drag having less concern of breaking off if the opportunity presented itself. For the most part the fish wanted the jig moving fast but vertically no more than an inch. I focused on watching the line a lot more than normal today. Most times the fish swam to the side with my bait rather than biting it. It seemed a lot like smelt fishing!
After a sad showing yesterday attempting to night fish pathetically lethargic crappie, a few of my buddies and I decided it was a good day to make up for it and chase flags on Lake Champlain. Of course, we would pass the time between flags by jigging panfish. Overall, we had a fairly successful day. The weather was decent but it didn’t take long to change to snow though. Better than rain I guess!
We stopped at Dockside to pick up bait and headed for the ice around 7am. We got three dozen medium/heavy shiners and were set up with about 20 tip ups out by 8. The flags didn’t take long to start popping. I forgot how much action there can be fishing like this. I wish I had wore a pedometer! At the beginning of the day we were pretty civil approaching our traps that had been tripped. We took turns and walked fast at best. By the end of the day it was an all out sprint with plenty of stiff arms to be had. We all had plenty of chances at fish in the end.
We had two different set ups on our tip ups. One set was rigged with steel leaders the other had straight 8 pound fluorocarbon. None of us noticed any difference in the number of flags on one style or the other. The only difference was break-offs. Obviously, when fishing the toothy critters of the Esocidae family (northern pike and pickerel), line durability is a big concern. The fluoro had several break-offs while the steel leaders had none. Makes sense right? I have read stories and articles about how in certain locations using a steel leader will completely shut off the fish from biting while some times they prefer it. Obviously, the fish today were not too worried! Perfect!
Throughout the day we landed quite a few bass, pickerel, and northern pike. Although none of the fish were huge, two of the pike were over 30″. Jigging pannies was decent all day but they never seemed to school up like the did the last few days. Lots of hole hopping was necessary! At the end of the day, all the guys jigging were spread out far more than normal in a large area.
I could think of a million worse ways to spend a Tuesday! If nothing else, we provided entertainment for all the guys out there as we ran for flags!
Got back up fishing on Lake Champlain this morning. We fished from 7:45 am to 4pm. The fishing was about on par with yesterday but the thicker concentrations of fish had moved slightly south. There weren’t any special lessons learned today other than reinforcement to not fishing an unproductive hole for too long. Most holes still held fish but they weren’t always in a feeding mood. There was the potential today to waste a lot of time on fish that you would have to work very hard to catch if you weren’t proactive in pursuing them.
One technique that I had great success today was fishing right on the bottom with slack in the line. The last few trips I have taken on Lake Champlain have had me trying to perfect this way of fishing. Lots of the fish I have pulled recently have had small snail like shells in their mouths so I assumed that they were feeding right off the bottom. I drew this conclusion because there are very few weeds in the area and there are so many fish… They have to be feeding locally. Basically, I lay my jig right on the bottom and wait for the line to move from a fish swimming away. Every once in a while, if the fish don’t take it, I pound my bait a few times to stir up the sand/muck which rings the dinner bell. I caught 8 of my 11 crappies and a decent number of the gills/seeds this way today. If you are going for numbers this technique is less productive but it is great when the bite gets tough.
The majority of the fish today were caught using a vertical Caty jig tipped with a J & S Plastic. The color didn’t seem to matter much as the fish were always active in at least one hole.
Here’s our catch for the day
We went fishing up in the islands of Lake Champlain today. The bite started slow but after switching to a different bay we were able to get on good fish. From 11am until just after 4:15pm, I caught about 50 pounds of assorted fish (perch, gills, seeds, and crappie). We punched a bunch of holes in a large area and using my Aqua Vu Micro underwater camera I was able to confirm that most holes had fish. Throughout the course of the day I was able to pinpoint a few specific “honey holes” that held better numbers of fish each time I returned. Whenever I would drop the camera down one of these holes, there would be numerous fish at all depths in the water column. Trying to fish with my flasher was difficult because the whole screen was red!
There weren’t many people out there fishing today and the weather was great. Tomorrow is calling for snow but no significant accumulations. Perfect! Stay tuned for more tomorrow night!
I went fishing on Lake Champlain yesterday from 7:30 am to just before 5 pm. The bite was never hot and heavy nor were the fish of quality size. The picture below was my only seed over 9″. The weather report was far from what was called for not that I am complaining. The wind was suppose to blow 15-20 mph all day but luckily it didn’t pick up till later in the day. It was also suppose to be a sunny day but that never happened either. There was actually a fair amount of precipitation throughout the day. That’s ice fishing in Vermont for ya! As for the crowd, there were quite a few people out there fishing until the wind picked up. I think the lack of fish and deteriorating weather pushed people out early.
For the most part, every hole I fished had fish but the majority of them were filled with dink perch. There were a few areas that were replenished throughout the day though so I tried to get back while still searching around for better schooling areas. I found one spot that offered a good deal of snow coverage on the clear ice. I punched maybe 2 dozen holes in a small area that was about half clear ice and half snowpack ice. My first few drops produced decent seeds so I kept pounding the area. I was getting pretty frustrated with how frequent the little fish were stealing my bait so I changed up my presentation to a larger profile that included a plastic by Maki Plastics. Because the fish were still showing on the flasher, I put on the first plastic I found. It was a previously used red Maki that had turned to a maroon in my coat pocket. I then started having a lot of fish following from the bottom to just below the ice but not taking it readily like before while fishing meat. Three holes later, I landed my first crappie of the day. Over the next two hours I iced a dozen crappie and a good pile of gills and seeds. About the time the fish stopped showing on my flasher people started to clear out so I was able to move to other areas and not punch holes the rest of the day. The rest of the day was fairly consistent but still not a great bite.
I try to analyze my day after every trip. I think that if I don’t try to learn something from every fish I will never get any better. Some fish want it fast while some want it slow. Some want it put right in their mouth while others want it taken away so they have to charge. Figuring out what the fish want can make the difference between landing chips all day or catching a limit of quality fish especially on Lake Champlain where the fish are abundant. Some days it doesn’t matter though… You can do everything right or everything wrong and it could be the best or worst day on the water. My grandmother had a sign above her kitchen doorway with a picture of a cow in a green field on a beautiful bluebird day with its foot in a bucket with the quote: “someday’s you step in it, someday’s you don’t”. Not everyday can be a great day on the ice but one thing that I have learned is that it is better to work on new tactics and techniques and not catch fish than to go home early without a meal and twiddle your thumbs.
So looking back at yesterdays trip I ask myself, what did I learn? Well to start, don’t throw out your used plastics! Maki Plastics are durable and you can hook them anyway you want and still catch fish. Also, sometimes a new color can be made inside your pocket that is just what the fish want for the given day! When I switched from using spikes to a plastic not only did I weed out smaller fish but I started catching an entirely different species that was already in the area but I just didn’t know. Secondly, I changed my mind set that when there is clear ice, look for ice that has texture or snow to break up my silhouette. I caught more sunnies on clear ice in an 8″ hole than anywhere else. Lastly, get out on your own. When I caught my crappie I was away from everyone else. There were no holes and no one withing a short distance of me.