Tag Archives: Connecticut River

3-3-15 – Growing The Sport

As I add more years on to my age, I grow more and more concerned about getting our youth involved. A few of my students approached me about advising a Hunting/fishing club and without a doubt I accepted. I’ve had the chance to take them on the ice few times this year and as February break was almost over I took two of them to what I thought was going to be a hot bite and a positive time on the ice for these youngsters.

We made our way to the lake with a few extra Vexilars for the boys to use. Dylan and I had fished this spot the previous week and it was a hot bluegill bite. I thought it was going to be an easy day for the boys giving them a little confidence by putting some fish in their buckets. I drilled the area out and got the boys all set up and ready to jig. It didn’t take long for the two of them to start a baseball game, there was a great deal of swinging and missing going on as I fished beside them.  After a few tips on presentation and ready the electronic in shallow weeds they were both hooking up a bit more. We fished for a few hours and I soon realized that the fish just weren’t here. I cut another grid of holes and went searching. I was able to locate some fish but they had slid to the weed edge in 9 feet of water and the weeds were right to the ice. This wouldn’t be a problem for me and Dylan but knowing that I had two young fishermen with me that had no experience reading electronics in thick weeds I decided it would be best if I took them to another body of water to target deep water suspending crappie.

We packed up our gear and made the short trip to a nearby setback. This particular setback was well known for a decent crappie bite early ice and I was hoping there might still be a few fish we could talk into biting. The conditions were poor, we had about 16 inches of heavy snow to deal with. I sent the boys out to clear a few spots in the channel for me to drill about 20 holes. It didn’t take long for one of them to get hooked up. As a matter of fact I don’t think I had even got my rod out yet. The first fish to come up was a decent little crappie, which to these boys was like pulling up a piece of gold. We had a short spurt where the fish would bite but it seemed like you’d only catch fish out of a hole that was fished for the first time, these fish are the fussiest crappie I have ever met. Both boys were able to catch a few fish, one even landing a nice pike. That’s what this sport is all about.  Teaching and passing on what we have learned to the generations will only support a positive experience for those to come.

anderson ryan 3-3 anderson ryan 3-32

Advertisements

6-23-13 – It’s Been A While

I hit the water with a few friends this past weekend. The three of us hadn’t been on the water together in quite some time but it worked out fine. We got a late start and weren’t on the water till close to 10 am. The water flows on the Connecticut River looked decent so we figured we would give it a shot.

The fishing was slow. We managed to only get one walleye into the boat and it was a small one. I brought one decent sized fish to the surface but it shook the hook before the net could get under it. The rest of the trip was relatively unproductive minus one giant rockbass that came right before we packed it up to head elsewhere!

IMG_8886

IMG_8889

We found a much better result at our second stop. The fish were very aggressive and seemed willing to bite everywhere! We pulled many doubles but the triple seemed to elude us. Rockbass were holding tight to wooden docks and timber, bluegill were on sandy shores and under metal docks, and the pumpkinseed were in the curly pond weed and milfoil. Throughout the time we spent at our second stop, we located a few pods of larger bluegill. When we hit these spots, we used the electric anchor on the Minn Kota Terrova to hold us in place. The wind was working against us, but our will to keep catching fish was strong enough to deal with the wind.

By the end of the sheltered, but still windy shore, we were content with our results. The fish cooperated very well and we all had a good enough fix to head home. Not to mention that it was suppose to start raining any time. Luckily, we had a few minutes to chat outside before it started to rain. Couldn’t ask for a much better day!

IMG_8917

IMG_8901

We saw a big snapping turtle too!

IMG_8908

4-16-13 – Spring Walleye Run

With most of the ice finally leaving our lakes and ponds, spring fishing is upon us.  In years past, we have focused most of our attention on panfish with the occasional bass trip.  The first Saturday in May brings on the opener of Walleye season but what many may not be aware of is that walleye season never closes on the Connecticut River which leaves us with great opportunities to cash in on some great spring walleye fishing.

As water temperatures  slowly rise, the walleye begin their yearly migration to their spawning grounds. For the river fish, that is usually upstream towards dams, or any other man made “road block”.  It has become a goal of mine to target these fish while waiting for the water to warm up to get after the panfish.  After a small amount of research on google earth, I decided to try a spot that looked like it might hold some fish during this time.  I only had a few hours after work and grab my rod with some jigs and a couple tubs of crawlers.  The spot I was fishing is passable but offers great habitat as well as fast moving water.  Walleye often times during the spring will congregate in these areas and will lay just on the edge of the fast moving current.  Knowing this, my cast was position just along that edge.  It didn’t take long to hook into what felt like a decent sized fish.  Another great thing about fishing the Connecticut River is that you never know what you are going to catch.  This particular fish happened to be the target species. Without a net, I was luckily able to land it along the rock shore to get a handle on it. It turned out to be a nice 24″ walleye.  I globed another crawler on and made the same cast which produced another hook up.  A bigger walleye rolled on the surface and managed to throw the hook as it slid into the current.   After a few more misses on what I think were walleye I managed to land two northern pike and a smallmouth.

There will be more trips to the river for spring walleyes.

IMG_8248

The Vermont Master Angler Program

The Vermont Master Angler Program is gaining quite a following throughout the state. From young to old, anglers are contributing some incredible catches to display the top notch quality fishery that Vermont has to offer! The program began in 2010 with 200 entries and has since grown to just shy of 800 from across the state! The diversity of species being entered has grown the curiosity for anglers of many species that are not usually targeted. Bowfin, freshwater drum, and several panfish species seem to be the most popular while bass, pike, and walleye have steady following.

The program is described by the VT Fish & Wildlife as: “Vermont’s wealth of waters and abundant fish populations provide the opportunity to experience outstanding fishing. An excellent way to enhance the Vermont angling experience is by challenging yourself to catch “exceptionally-sized” fish of various species. The Vermont Master Angler Program is designed to recognize the achievements of anglers who catch exceptionally-sized fish from Vermont waters. This program recognizes the accomplishment of the angler in catching a large fish and the fish’s accomplishment in surviving and growing to such an admirable size.”

There are two categories to the Master Angler Program. They are:

Trophy Angler – Anglers catching a fish exceeding the minimum qualifying length in any of the 33 species categories. Their names and catches will also be included in the new Vermont Trophy Fish Report, posted annually on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website.

Master Angler – Anglers demonstrating the skill necessary to catch multiple species that all exceed the minimum qualifying length outlined in this program, in the same calendar year. To qualify for the annual Vermont Master Angler Pin, an individual angler must submit qualifying entries for 5 or more species categories within a calendar year.

We contacted VT F & W Fish Biologist Shawn Good through e-mail with some questions concerning the program.

-are there any plans to make separate categories for seasons? tackle? harvest vs release?

We’re still in the early years of the program, and we don’t want to make too many programmatic changes at this point.  There’s a lot of potential with the program and many ways to make it interesting and fun with extra categories.  We’re certainly open to changes in the future.  One thing I think is on the books, though I think it will be very difficult for someone to accomplish, is a special award category for an angler who completes the entire 33 species list – kind of a “life list”.  Obviously, this would be cumulative over the years, and not need to be accomplished in a single year!

-is there any use of this data biologically or just to promote quality fishing opportunities in vt?

This is definitely one of the benefits this program provides to the Department.  Through our regular sampling activities, we have a pretty good handle on the status of fish populations in most waters, but some of the entries that have come in have surprised even us.  Having angler submissions on trophy fish catches can give the Department information on things like what waters are producing more

-have you noticed an increase in enthusiasm towards the program?

Defintely. In 2010, we had 200 entries from 90 different anglers.  In 2011, we had 481 entries from 181 different anglers – a doubling of participation in just one year.  2012, the third year of the program, is shaping up to be another record.  To date (as of January 4, 2013), there have been 772 entries from 273 different anglers.  So, not only have the number of trophy fish entries increased every year, so have the number of individual anglers participating in the program.  What’s even more encouraging is that the number of youth anglers entering fish has increased as well.  In 2010, 19 of the 90 (21%) individual participating anglers were kids; in 2011, 47 of the 488 (10%) wre kids.  In 2012 so far, 34% of the participating anglers are kids (93 of the 273 anglers).

-most people go fishing to catch fish. Do you think this makes people go out and target bodies of water that hold fewer but larger specimens?

I definitely think they do.  While this sort of fishing is not widespread, there is definitely a core group of anglers in Vermont that seek out “trophy” fishing opportunities, and that’s one of the things this program is designed to showcase.  Despite its small size, Vermont has some fantastic waterbodies that hold some true trophy fish.  All you have to do is look through the Master Angler Program website at all the entries that have come in over the last 3 years.  There are some truly gigantic fish being caught out there.  For example, who knew Otter Creek could produce a 16-lb wild brown trout!

-what species are the most reported? fewest?

In the first year of the program the highest number of entries was for bowfin!  These are caught pretty regularly as incidental catches while fishing for other things in Lake Champlain like bass or pike.  We realized however when SO many bowfin were entered that we probably set the minimum length a little too low for that species.  Our minimum lengths for each species was based on biological data on length distribution collected for each species from waters all over the state.  The intent was to set the minimum length to represent the upper limits of size for each species – basically the largest 5% out there – to truly represent trophy sized fish for each species.  For some species, like bowfin, we didn’t have a lot of good biological data, because it’s not a species we typically collect while sampling.  The first year of the program showed us that we clearly didn’t have a handle on just how big bowfin can get in Lake Champlain (which gets back to your second question you asked earlier).  We’re learning from this program just as much as anglers are!    Aside from bowfin in the first year, the numbers of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass far outnumber any other species.  That’s just a pure reflection of how great bass fishing is in Vermont.  We have so many hidden gems – small ponds and lakes all over the state – not to mention Lake champlain – that offers phenomenal bass fishing.  I think Vermont has the best bass fishing in the northern US!  There are definitely a few species that could be entered more.  We’ve only had a few muskellunge entered, and small numbers of cisco, smelt, suckers, gar.  So far, of the 33 eligible species, only three don’t have entries – American eel, American shad, and lake whitefish.  I think eel and whitefish should be the easiest of the three for people to catch and enter, if they take the time to learn about the species first, and understand where to find them and how to catch them.  Another objective of the program!  Educate Vermont anglers on fish biology, behavior, feeding preferences!  It’s all about learning and having fun!

At the end of every year, we put together an annual report that lists every fish entered into the program, and summarizes the catches in table format, so you can see what species had the most entries, what waters produced the most entries etc.  These reports can be downloaded from the Department website here: http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/MasterAngler.cfm

-has this program drawn attention to any species that were previously ignored?

Again, this was another BIG objective of the program – to profile many of these lesser known fish species that can offer fun, exciting fishing opportunities that no one thinks to target.  I’d really like people to start getting outside their comfort zone and fishing for species that aren’t traditionally thought of as “sport fish”.  Things like carp, freshwater drum, gar, suckers – they can be a ton of fun, very challenging.

The majority of fish on the list of eligible species is reasonably obtainable to those who are willing to put their time in. Both of us have been following the quality and quantity of fish that are coming in from around the state. We have also been able catch several specimens from across the state. We put together a collage for each of our entries. Bobby entered six species and Dylan entered nine.

2-9-13 – Tail End Nemo

The end of the work week brought the people of the Northeast winter storm Nemo.  Most schools were closed and Boston was bracing themselves for two feet of snow, we went fishing. . .

We arrived to our setback early and found that the snow totals in this area were not as much as home.  Encouraging this was but the long walk down a steep hill and the longer walk back up it killed that excitement.  The plan for the day was to set up a few tip ups in hopes of getting a Walleye to take the bait.  We drilled our holes, our buddy Mark cut some more holes while I set the jacks.  Once we were set up we began jigging for panfish.  Using the electronics we “trolled” around looking for fish.  There was no shortage of fish! (but)  I’ve never, in all my years fishing seen fish so lethargic.  I would pull up to a hole that was literally stacked with fish, 6-7 suspended in the water column.  The fish would either not move, or swim back down and disappear.    This gave me the chance to refine my cadence and try some different things to try and entice these fish into biting.  Two cadences seemed to work better than normal.  The first was to pound, literally pound the jig.  I made my jig violently bouncing through the water column as to almost upset the fish into biting.  These fish seemed to become agitated with my bait as it worked down towards them, often times leading to a strike.  The second pattern that worked well was a slight bounce, which was interesting since the aggressive tactic worked.  There was not happy medium.  It was pound or close to dead-stick that triggered the fish on this day.

We followed the fish as the slowly moved through the channel trying to pick out the aggressive ones.  Mark was able to land a nice Crappie that actually got stuck in the 6-inch iced up hole.

After a few hours and no luck on the flags other than wind flags we made a move into shallower water.  Shortly after re-setting Mark landed this little Northern.

IMG_20130209_132615_849

I was able to find a few fish for the frying pan as we worked thro0ugh the day.  All and all the day was a struggle but we made the best of it.  I did manage to catch this great Bluegill suspended in 20fow.  The fish was at least 10 inches and I would say close to a pound.

IMG_20130209_094056_213

1-26-13 – Cold Day To Be A Crappie

Having been tied up with other responsibilities for the past two weekends and not able to fish I was excited to get back on the ice.  I decided to make a day trip to a spot 2 hours away.  We arrived at our location with decent conditions.  The mercury was finally above zero for the first time in five days, and the wind at this point wasn’t an issue.  I loaded my shack and made the 80 yard walk to where I would be fishing for the day.

I drilled out an area, shallow to deep.  It’s always a good idea to cut your holes first thing, one it will save you time later and two, it will spook the fish only once if the fish are sensitive to sound.  I started fishing the deep hole to begin with.  The vex was marking fish in 16 feet of water all through the water column.  First drop produced a small crappie, second drop, small crappie.  One thing that I have noticed about this spot is that these fish school in relation to size most of the time.  If you’re catching small fish you’re in a nursery school of fish.  I made a move to the next hole working my way out of the deeper water up towards the shallower shelf.  Right off the bat I hooked into a heavier fish, bass.  OK; well now I know the bass are set up waiting for those small crappie to make a mistake, I made another move, this time more drastic.  I found ten feet of water, fish were stacked on the bottom four feet.  First drop was a beautiful 13″ crappie.  Next few fish were all decent in size, bigger than before.  We continued to work the 10 foot range and were able to produce several decent fish through out the course of the next few hours.

As the morning went on the wind picked up and it became difficult to fish outside of our shacks.  As the sun went higher the fish slid shallower.  This is something we have noticed before while fishing setbacks off the main river.  The fish tend to seek out more cover even if it means going shallower when deep holes are present.  Large weed flats are great places to find active fish during high light conditions.  Another important thing to note was that the fish were not tolerating a presentation for long.  I was constantly changing my jigging cadence and my Maki Plastic to keep the fish interested.  These plastics teamed with a Bentley gold colored tungsten jig worked well for both the deep and shallow water applications we used today.

All in all it was a good day, unfortunately I wasn’t able to “fish” the way I wanted to as was confined to my shack for comfort.  It was a good day learning a few new tricks and applying some older ones to be successful.

1-6-13 – Crowded Day On The River

We’ve all had the days when we arrive at our favorite fishing spot and realize that we have it all to ourselves, on this day that wouldn’t be the case.  We arrived at one of our favorite spots greeted by calm skies with little to no breeze and temps in the 20’s, perfect day to be on the ice.  Unfortunately, the recent cold temperatures had given the tip up fishermen enough confidence to haul out the hard sides and set up shop for the season.  A few members of our group were able to arrive at day break and punched out an area as a way of “claiming” a spot.

The morning bite was hot, everything was right, the water was coming in, we had overcast skies, fish were active.  We spent the first couple of hours chasing the school’s of pumpkinseed, bluegill, and crappie along the edge of the main channel adjacent to the thickest weed line.   Early ice at it’s best however;  Early ice also means everybody and their brother is itching to get out.  The amount of tip ups in the ice was off the charts.  This is not a big setback and every inch of the channel was spoken for.  We were not able to fish our spots the way we normally would have.

A lot of people also brought on another dilemma.  Noise.  Once the morning had gone and the activity picked up we noticed that the fish were gone, well at least we thought so, we actually ended up learning a lot about this particular spot on this day.  We found that instead of running to deeper water when levels dropped and noise picked up, that the fish actually moved shallow and found the thickest weed patches to surround themselves with.  This made it a little more difficult using the electronic but we were able to pull some nice bluegill and pumpkinseed out of the thickest weeds while the sun was at it’s peek.  Fortunately for us the fish stayed close and slid only 20-30 yards away from the “area” we had settled in.

As the sun got lower in the ski and the commotion let down, we noticed that the fish slowly worked themselves out of the weeds and back towards the edge of the channel.  The fishing was fast times, chasing the feeding fish up and down the banks. Moving to stay on fresh and active fish, the rest of the night stayed successful with a stead increase towards dark.

The bite for the last 45 minutes consisted of mainly bluegill and crappie; favoring more heavily towards crappie. As we worked through the rows of holes we found that the fish were attacking our jigs as they worked down the water column. Anywhere for 2-5′ below the ice was stacked with crappie and occasionally a bluegill as you neared the weed edge. It was the time when we could do no wrong. The fish weren’t pick as long as it was moving.

A run like that was the best possible way to end a nice long day on the ice!

IMG_7149

IMG_7158

IMG_7167

IMG_7171