The plan for the day was focused around getting a scouting report for some waterfowl hunting we intended to do the following morning. Rather than go with just one thing on our minds, my two buddies and I brought along some fishing gear as well.
While the ducks and geese weren’t flying with great numbers, one of my buddies wanted to set up and try out his luck with decoys and calls anyway. After leaving him off in a small cut, we putted out to where we could potentially catch some fish.
The first spot we stopped at yielded a few walleye, smallmouth bass, and rockbass. We were sticking to the vertical jigging in wood pattern that has proved successful all summer. One alteration to our approach recently has been to use a whole crawler, rather than half, but hook it in the middle and then hook each end one more time so that there is a little more meat on the hook.
We fished a few more spots before trying to locate fish in deeper holes. While scanning around we located a pod of fish in 35 feet of water suspending off a sharp break. We made a quick mark and back tracked with the trolling motor. After a few drops we both hooked up. Bullhead! Big ones at that! We caught a few more before deciding that we didn’t need any more.
With the boat suspended over 35 feet of water we started casting to shore. The first few casts produced fish. Walleye too! We were dragging bottom and the fish were smacking them! They were charging so hard that it felt like the jig had gone over a ledge and was free falling. Trying to get the slack up before the fish stole the crawler was a challenge!
We tried to continue this pattern throughout the entire deep hole but once we left the muddy bottom and hit rocks, the species changed and only perch, smallmouth, and pike were around.
It was one of those days to try something new. I fished with a buddy from work with intentions of targeting bowfin and pike. We weren’t on the water until about 7:30 but it was going to be a nice day. Temps were in the mid 70’s, no clouds were suppose to be present until later in the day, and a south wind in the single digits. Although the wind forecast was slightly off, it was a great day to be out.
As soon as we launched the boat, we got right to catching bait. We picked up several perch and bluegills in a few minutes and motored to the first and only spot that we ended up targeting bowfin in. Watching the fish boil as we crept in because of the shallow water tempted our patients. With our rods already rigged up we started cutting our bait into chunks.
Within our first few casts we both hooked up. We were fishing in 3-5′ of water with 3′ of line under our bobbers. It didn’t seem to matter what section of a fish we used. Sometimes they prefer the head while others they want the tail. With the bite that was going on, we were trying to conserve the few baitfish that we had so we cut them into thirds. Fish after fish, we keyed in on a sweet spot. Most casts resulted in a take after only a few seconds.
Usually one of the biggest problems with these fish is getting a hook into them because of their bony mouth. Today we planned on testing circle and treble hooks. To start the day, we both fished circle hooks with great success. Later on, my buddy switched over to trebles with equal success. Although we weren’t able to figure out which one worked better, the biggest factor in a hook up seemed to be the sequence of events leading up to striking. Our theory today was that after letting the fish run for a bit if you reeled up your slack and the fish felt you, you missed because it would spit it. If your timing was right and the hook was set with a foot or so of slack, hook ups were far greater. For me, when I felt I was nearing the end of my slack, I would stick my arm way out to try to get the maximum stoke on my set.
Our hot streak for bowfin ended shortly after noon so we decided to go after pike. We target the 10-12 foot contour which we figured would be the hot zone and would also allow us to pick up some bass. After a few hours of slow fishing, we gave up our quest for toothy fish and focused on panfish around the docks. We fished until just before dark and were content with the quality and quantity of fish that we put in the boat!
Check out Bowfin Blast On Lake Champlain on our YouTube page for more action!
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.
This was the day for a long trip. We had initially planned on targeting lake trout but with no smelt running in their usual haunts, it was a no brainier. No smelt = a very tough trout bite. Instead we had a group of friends in the area who were planning on targeting deep water crappie.
We got on the road right around 6 am and made a long trek. The anticipation was building as we got updates from the guys about the bite that was occurring while we were still on the road. After grabbing bait, we were one step closer to icing some fish! We made a plan to catch a fish then set up our tip ups hoping to catch some pike.
Although the bite didn’t start fast and furious, we both iced our first fish then set up 10 tip ups. Both jigging and tip ups never really hit a high but they were steady up until it was close to dark. From 4:30 until we packed up around 5:30, the fishing was very slow. Fish were showing on our Vexilar but they weren’t willing to bite.
Throughout the day, the tip ups went in spurts. We had quite a few flags at first that were run and drops but the first fish to come out of the hole was a pike in the high 20″; a few pounds. After that, nothing too exciting happened for a while. The rest of the day, no more pike came through the ice for us. We did however, start to catch quite a few crappie. The highlight of the day was a 16″, 2 pound 7 pounce hybrid that will most likely get mounted.
We were both able to jig up some quality fish throughout the day. Hot baits were fathead minnows on bigger jigs and a new bait in orange that Maki Plastics currently has in testing. It didn’t seem like any jigging technique worked better than another. When a fish was willing to commit it happened, otherwise, the fish were very difficult to work up and off the bottom.
We will be back at it tomorrow chasing panfish around the island on Lake Champlain!
We weren’t set up until close to 10 am because of prior obligations but we ended up having our tip ups soaking until about 6 pm. A long day on the ice produced only limited numbers of the fish that we were targeting. We had 15 tip ups set up between three of us and we jigged pretty much all the day. We were running medium shiners in hopes that we would catch a walleye but instead mainly caught pike and perch.
The crappie bite throughout the day was spotty. The fish were there on the edge of a deep water flat where it starts to shelf up into shallower water and weeds. They were fairly concentrated but not overly aggressive which is typical for this spot. Most days it is still easy enough to catch smaller fish but not today. For the fish that we did catch, we had to work hard for them. In general, natural colors seemed to work better and plastics were the key.
As far as the tip up fishing went, the bite was slow as well. For the number of lines we had in the water we didn’t get that many flags. We has some wind flags, a bunch of stolen baits, some run and drops, two fish broke off, and only a few fish that were iced. I think the total number of fish that were caught on tip ups was five.
Although the bite was slow, we iced some fish and learned more information about the area and the fish that we love to chase!
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.
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.
With stop one of the Vermont Sportsman Hardwater Tournament Series out of the way, we decided to try something new. Our main goal was to try to find some walleye using tip ups but mainly to chase flags and kick back a bit. We caught fish but it wasn’t fast and furious with the abundance of fish we knew were present. We caught rockbass, northern pike, crappie, and perch. We had ten tip-ups out spread from 15-30 feet. Our bait of choice was medium shiners set just off the bottom.
Our first flag popped about the time we got our fifth flag set. After a short run the fish was still on but bit the line as soon as tension was applied; Presumably a northern pike. From there on out, we had regular flags but none of our desired species. Perch seemed to be the main culprit of dropped and stolen baits as they were the majority of what we were able to jig up and catch on the tip ups.
After a few hours of slow fishing we packed up and headed out. Being outside of Vermont, bait laws were not an issue so we checked one more spot before dumping our bait. The second spot was a dud. The ice wasn’t great and the amount of fish in the area was nothing to hang around for. One more spot that was on the way home had been in the back of out head for a while now.
The first hole we punched revealed about 6″ of good hard ice. Hoping that we could fish fish we punched holes over a large area and looked around with an underwater camera. Very few fish were found in the area but once we located a good patch of weeds, we found the fish. Bluegill, pumpkinseed, and largemouth bass were cruising around in decent numbers.
After catching a few fish, we called it a day. Long hours on the ice in recent days have tuckered us out. A low key night is just what the doctor called for!
The last day of September brought Vermonters to the realization that summer has come to an end, fall is here and winter is right around the corner. With all of our tree stands hung for the upcoming bow season, my good friend Mark and I took the opportunity to check on our favorite crappie spot. We strolled upon this spot last winter and the amount of crappie in this hole is mind boggling, It has been named the Glory Hole.
I hadn’t been to the Glory Hole since spring so I was curious to see what the fish were up to, and see where they were holding up. To make a long story short, they are right where we catch them through the ice and they were hungry. The large school of crappie were roaming the basin and a rather larger setback of the Connecticut River. As long as you know the contour of the setback you could stay on the fish. It was one of those days where you can’t really explain how good the fishing was, check with our YouTube page soon for a video of the day.
We used two methods of presentation, jigs under a bobber, and a pendulum swing into the boat to a slow drop.
We first located the fish by making long casts with a 1/16oz jig tipped with the LFT Lures “Live” Baby Shad. A long cast was made, let the bait drop for a few secs and slowly retrieve the bait. The slow retrieve would cause the bait to pendulum swing through the water column. This not only allows you to locate active fish but it also gives you and idea of what depth they are holding at without using any electronics. The fish were suspended at 11 fow in 23 fow normally, when the fish became more active they moved up into the water column, 5 feet or less. For the first hour and a half or so we had to work to get the fish to bite, this is usually the case when the fish are holding in one spot, somewhat dormant not feeding much. We were able to connect one some nice fish. Mark connected on the first big one.
The fish were concentrated right off from some structure on a break in a holding pattern. Finally the pod of fish started to moved, this means in this particular spot that they are going to feed. These fish travel together and chase bait through the channel of this setback. We now changed our tactics and used a fixed bobber. When the fish start to feed they become more aggressive thus spreading them out in the water column, mostly up. The more aggressive and often times bigger fish are found higher in the water column. These are the fish that we targeted while we used the trolling motor to slowly follow the school back and forth and around and around in the setback. We saw a lot better quality of fish.
The good bite lasted for about an hour. Now when I say good bite I mean a fish every cast, and a bite soon after the bait hits the water. By the end our our four hour trip we boated close to 200 crappie, two pike and two perch. All fish were released to be caught another day.
“Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures
Having only caught a few northern pike in my life, I jumped at the opportunity to go out for a few hours after a day of clipping fins. Calling it a day right around 3 pm put us on the water shortly after 3:30. We decided to fish right off the launch rather than make a run looking for fish. Good thing we stayed! My very first cast I hooked into a pike but lost it only a few feet into the battle. Seeing my excitement, my fishing partner made the same cast I had and hooked into it again only seconds later! I figured that was a good start to the day!
A few casts later, I spotted the silhouette of a fish trailing my spinner bait only a short distance from the boat. I slowed my retrieve a hair and watched the big fish, close to 40″, suck my bait into its mouth only a few feet from where I stood. I set the hook and as the fish turned it shook free so I could watch it swim away. Fishing around this bay we caught several other fish and had a good time watching the abundance of perch and pumpkinseed cruising around. We also saw a couple of bowfin and bass holding tight in the weeds.
After fishing the majority of the large weed patch we were on, we made a move north to another well known producer of pike. The water went from being crystal clear sight fishing to blind casting in mud ridden water. The fishing was tougher but the strikes were more unexpected. We managed mostly bass at this spot with a good mix of smallmouth and largemouth. This was the spot where I caught my biggest pike of the day. It was right at 32″ and fairly thin.
The rest of the shore fished well allowing us to boat several more pike, bass, and perch. As the available amount of pike habitat diminished we ran across the lake to fish an area that I frequent during the ice fishing season.
In this area we found that the pike were more active with most bites coming as soon as the baits hit the water. The surface activity on the lake from other species also increased as the evening wore on. Unfortunately, with the setting sun the pike bite died. We managed to catch around a dozen pike, lost several, and had many followers. We closed the night off with some bass and perch. I think a new addiction was born today and pike will now be seeing more from me!
With the Humminbird 998c SI hooked onto the boat, we hit the Connecticut River to see what the walleye were holding on underwater. We knew that the timber was a key feature but what caused them to hold more concentrated on one area more than another is what keeps us excited to fish every chance we get!
To start the day, we cruised around a good chunk of the river to get a handle on what makes up the area we fish. We found quite a bit of timber with a downstream oriented lean. The logs were stacked one right after another making it very clear as to why we lose so many jigs! If the SI/DI unit could pick up the lures the whole bottom would glow!
As usual, we were jigging crawlers on a 1/4 ounce lead head. With little rain lately, the water on the Connecticut River was not running high nor were the hydro dams pulling water. When the current is faster, it’s best not to fish but if we do we upgrade our jigs to either a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce weight. The currents make vertical jigging nearly impossible because as your line drops it gets entwined in the logs. With a faster current, trolling parallel and as close as possible to the log jams would be your best bet.
Though the water conditions were ideal, the fishing was not. We caught half a dozen walleye, one of which was over the slot, one was in the slot and the rest were under. We took a few smaller eaters for the table that night. Even though the walleye bite was slow, the perch and rockbass were as hungry as usual. They feed so aggressively, it makes me wonder if they just out compete the walleye when the jig drops down.
As for what makes these fish hold in certain pockets more than others, it all goes back to having a good ambush location and offers a break from the current. Each trip, we zone in on certain pockets in these log jams are productive. When one produces over and over, its important for us to keep notes on how we fished it. Sometimes we can pull a few from the same spot while others we limit it with one fish. I think sometimes we spook the fish out because we come from the wrong direction or snag a branch on the way up.
Check out Vertical Jigging The Connecticut River on our YouTube Page.