I spent the day filming tip up fishing pickerel for Tom Gruenwald Outdoors. With an odd ball target like pickerel, there were many options on where we could go but what better than Lake Champlain. Having the right to put out 15 tip ups per person greatly increased our odds. As it turned out, we couldn’t get that many out! As we set up our first tip up, we guessed how long it would take for our first flag to pop. Jamie guessed six and I guessed seven. It was five, so neither of us were right but for the remainder of the day we had steady action.
We caught several pike and plenty of pickerel. During some of the downtime we jigged up panfish. As the sun started to set, we were told that there was plenty of footage and we could pick up. After I picked up the first two tip ups I saw that the third one was bumping the hole. I quickly snagged it up and soon landed my biggest pike ever on camera. It went 36″ and unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of it yet. The camera man snapped a photo for me but hasn’t had time yet to send a copy to me. When it comes I will post it up.
I fished with a buddy today at a spot that I usually stay away from because of the trek in. With hopes of suspending crappie and some pike on tip ups, the walk in wasn’t so bad!
The action started off with a pickerel before we got our spread of flags out. With short bursts throughout the day, We both stayed warm chasing the action down. We both caught some decent pike, pickerel, and bass but nothing overly large. The crappie on the other hand were almost non-existent. Mainly in the deep water were bluegill, pumpkinseed, bullhead and perch. Can’t forget about the mudpuppy too!
It seemed like the pickerel were in less than 7 FOW, the pike were 7-12′ and the bass were deeper. As the sun started to set the cold breeze really sunk in and forced us to pack up and head for home.
With the crazy weather that was plaguing Minnesota during our trip, our equipment took a beating. Most nights, we had to pull out all of our jigs to prevent rust and set up our shacks so that they could dry out and not just be a block of ice on the porch. At times our cabin was quite stuffed. Fortunately, the pellet stove kept the front end of our house at a comfortable 82!
Finding fish on Mille Lacs wasn’t a problem. It was the catching that has us stumped. We spent a great deal of time just trying to put some fish on the ice so we could get a pattern of what they were feeding on. After 6 days on the ice, we finally found a jig/plastic combo that worked somewhat consistently. We ran a white Clam Pro Tackle “Epoxy Drop” with a pinched off tail of a motor oil “Stoni” from Maki Plastics. While this caught some fish it certainly wouldn’t catch them all. They were beyond picky. Many fish would come in, put the jig right on their eye, and then swim along with it touching the entire length of their body. It was frustrating beyond belief! While out there we thought of several factors of why the fish were so hard to catch. The obvious factors were the severe cold temperatures, full moon, and decaying weeds. Another factor that seemed to frustrate us more than anything were the abundance of tiny yellow perch.
One afternoon while we were attempting to catch some fish, we set up a few tip ups for pike. Shortly after getting them out the first flag popped. About a minute later, Andy pulled a nice pike through the hole. Because of the freezing cold and wind, we didn’t measure it but we figured it was in the high 30″s around 12 pounds. During our stay, we saw numerous pike of trophy size both looking down the hole sight fishing and on the camera.
Having an underwater camera was a huge factor in locating effective patches of weeds and fish. While cabbage was abundant, it seemed that the crappie and bluegills were more loyal towards the sparse patches of dense milfoil.
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!