As we all get older our priorities seem to shift, we strive to order our lives in the best way we know how. Allowing our children to have the opportunity to love the outdoors and it’s offerings has moved to the top of the list for us. We were able to get Bobby’s son Henry on the ice for the first time this past weekend and it was truly a special moment for both father and son.
The day was set aside as a relaxed family day with most of our close friends. Fishing was low key as it was not the number one priority. We set up a few tip ups on a local inland lake, we cooked some food and just enjoyed each others company. Henry made it longer than we expected, lasting an hour and a half on his first ice fishing adventure. The fishing techniques was simple, “grab the line a run Henry” seemed to bring a few fish out of the hole. The look of pure enjoyment on Henry’s face after the first fish came through the hole was enough to make this trip a success.
It is so important to get our youth out of the house and experience the outdoors. Society is changing every day and our children have lost the experiences we were all so fond of growing up. If you get the chance please give a youth the chance to love the outdoors as we all do. They’re growing up fast with the use of technology, please try to put a Vexilar in front of them instead of them in front of an Xbox.
Saturday Febuary 8th brought us to round 3 of the Vermont Sportsman Hardwater Tounament Series at Mallets Bay on Lake Champlain. Conditions weren’t ideal at all, with temps in the teens and a wind chill around zero. Besides the weather, the bay was going to present it’s own challenges. The portion of Mallets Bay where this event was held, had ample room for fishermen to move around and fish plenty of water, but the fish seemed to be located on one particular weed bed which meant the fishing was going to be close quarters.
At 6 am, we were given the go ahead to start drilling holes and use our electronics but no lines in the water until 6:30. Most of the 36 fishermen all headed for that one weed bed and started drilling their holes. In hind sight, I think we drilled all the fish out of that area, as we started fishing the action was slow. Those that made slight adjustments in location were able to stumble upon the larger groups of fish that had been drilled out at first light. Dylan made a slight but significant move east and was able to connect on nice crappie that ultimately won him big fish for the day. Funny part was it was the same hole that his crappie came from yesterday! The bite was tough to say the least for the better part of the day. The fish were scattered and easily spooked when we would punch a few new holes.
Towards the end of the day, Dylan figured out that the crappie were suspending about half way down the water column and they were cruising, which means you didn’t always mark them on your electronics. Jigging at four feet would often bring a cruising crappie in and make them bite. This was a major adjustment made, as we had been fishing in the weeds for the better part of the event.
At the weigh-in Dylan checked in his 6 fish limit with two seeds, two crappie, one bluegill, and a perch giving him a weight of 3.68 pounds and good enough for first place along with his big fish prize. Bobby struggled all day to say the least not catching any crappies and weighing in a limit of seeds and dink perch for a weight of 1.78 lbs. At the end of the day, the win for Dylan was a major boost in the points moving him up to first place from 6th. Bobby’s weight caused his to drop a few positions down to 6th from third but he’s still in the hunt. The final points event for the season will take place at Laphams Bay in Shoreham on Febuary 22nd. It’s going to be a shoot out!
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.
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.
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!
This past Saturday I made the trip down to fish the southern part of Lake Champlain. I decided this trip would be a good opportunity to continue working with the “Live” Baby Shad made by Lake Fork Trophy Lures.
Our initial experiences with the “Live” Baby Shad were fantastic while fishing them under a bobber for spring time panfish. This outing would bring a new test. Now that it is a little later in the summer, the fish have moved from their shallow water spawning grounds out onto deeper structure. The target areas for the day were submerged pieces of structure in 10-16 feet of water.
I hit the water a little after 7 am and quickly realized that there were multiple bass tournaments taking place. The lake was littered with boats in a hurry to race around to get their bags for the day. No worries. The first piece of structure which was located in 10 feet of water. The graph was showing fish but they seemed reluctant to bite. Thunder storms had rolled through the area a few hours earlier and stirred everything up, which I’m sure had something to do with the finicky feeding habits of this crappie.
I managed a few fish on this spot vertical jigging off the side of the boat but the action was a little too slow. The second spot was located a short distance from out first but what a difference in fish activity. It was now a little later in the morning and the bite was turning on. After marking the structure with the graph and setting out a few marking bobbers, it was time to fish . The fish were positioned right off to the sides of the structure in 11 feet of water. The fish were aggressive and the action was fast. The most productive technique was the “pendulum swing”. The idea behind this technique is to cast just past the structure and let it swing through the strike zone, hopefully keeping it away from the structure. The hot color of the day was the bluegrass pattern. This color is a combination of blue and green which worked well giving the bait a bright and dark color to contrast in the stained water. Check out the video on our YouTube Page of a few of the fish caught today.
I kept some fish for dinner and made my way off the water. All in all is was a very productive day for the “Live” Baby Shad. It caught fish all day long with no hick-ups. I highly encourage you to try some of these baits. Check out our review on the Lake Fork Plastics.
Here’s a pair of quality Lake Champlain white crappie
After 3 failed attempts to connect on a spring walleye on Lake Champlain I finally got a hook in one.
I got on the water first thing in the morning with my guide for the day Scott Blair from VTSportsman. The reports had been decent from the days before so hopes were high. We unloaded the boat and headed out of the marina, the first spot was not far at all, just around the corner. We had decided to use the same technique that I had discussed before, 3/8oz jig tipped with a minnow. We also were prepared to drag crawlers if needed but “only if we had to”. I rigged up two rods, one with a jig and one ready to drag a crawler. It didn’t take too long to get a hit once I got them both in the water. The first rod to fire was the rod set up with a crawler. I had high hopes from the type of bite that were had landed right on a school of nice walleye but up came a decent 12″ white perch. Back in the water with him and back to jigging for me. Shortly after that Scott hooked up with a healthy walleye, just under the 18″ length requirement of Lake Champlain. This was a good sign as walleye are schooling fish and where there is one there should be more! The bad sign was, it was a small male, close to the mouth. For the time of the year and the water temp this means that the spawn is just about over and the fish are on their way out of the river, we better hurry and get these fish before they leave the river for good. Another half hour of jigging with nothing to show for lead us to a new spot, well we thought we’d fish it but when we came around the corner there were about 15 boats drifting and dragging crawlers through the section of river that we wanted to jig. Most boats had stringers out so we knew that there were some fish close by. We kept right on going up river to another spot away from the crowd that has produced fish in the past. It didn’t take long upon arrival for me to hook into my first walleye of the season. I could tell by the bend in my rod that it was a decent fish. I find the fight of a walleye to be an interesting fight. First of all you only about 6 feet of line out when jigging so the hook set is quick and the fish is right there! Keeping your drag set light is key, if you horse these bigger fish often times you’ll pull the jig right out of their mouth. I let the fish take some line and eventually Scott was able to get the fish into the net. It was a respectable 26″ inch fish.
The next hour or so brought Scott three more short fish but none that were keepers. We left the water at 11am with only one keeper in the boat but that was ok since I was finally able to get a hook in one. Walleye fishing is just about over for me for the summer, time to start chasing the crappies on structure. Stay tuned for more posts and some great tips on catching Vermont’s crappie in the summer off structure!