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4.22.2014

Lake Michigan Coho Salmon Continue To Bite!

Ultimately, the Lake Michigan adventures in the new Hobie Outback continued on Saturday. I met Woz at his house around 6am to load the kayaks before heading to Indiana for some more salmon. Typically, we just take my truck but we are hoping to save a bit of cashola on fuel this year by taking his VW Jetta. This would be the first time we have attempted to load two kayaks on that thing so we really weren't sure what to expect. Loading took a bit more time than we are used to but once we figured it out, it actually seemed like it would be OK. I have to admit, having two twelve foot kayaks on top of a little Jetta looks quite funny. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who felt that way either. As we drove to Indiana, there were tons of people in passing cars staring, pointing, taking pictures, and even one guy filming this tiny Jetta with two kayaks on top of it. I'm not sure if the two kayaks make the Jetta look tiny or the Jetta makes the two kayaks look huge. Either way, pretty funny looking. As amusing as it was, the system worked great! They didn't move a bit and the car seemed to handle pretty well.

Once we arrived to the area we wanted to launch from, we looked out over the lake and from way up in the parking lot, it looked pretty darn calm! This was going to be great!! Then our eyes scanned towards the beach that I had initially thought about launching from and the full barrel waves had me scanning for different options.  That is the nice thing about kayaks...you don't need a fancy boat ramp or nice flat beach. Just look for a place where the water meets the land and you are good to go! We quickly got everything unloaded, the boats set up, and off we went!! As we peddled out past the break wall, it was very easy to see that the water was not nearly as calm as it had appeared from the beach. The waves were easily three to four footers but unlike previous times I have been caught by some bigger waves, there was a nice spread in between each wave so I never felt uncomfortable. Once the GPS/fishfinder told me I was in fifteen feet of water, I started dropping lines.

Another friend of mine had given me a bunch of his salmon trolling gear that I wanted to try out. I now have a dozen or so flashers/dodgers, some keel weights, a torpedo weight, and a ton of different flies and spoons. I have been reading some recent reports that said small orange dodgers and peanut flies were working so I put one of those on one side of the boat and a Flicker Shad on the other.  As I trolled out to the area that I really wanted to try, I took a little video of the water. I have to figure out how to capture the height of waves to match what real life actually is but you can probably get a decent idea anyways. 


Once I hit the area I wanted to get to, I quickly saw some water that was MUCH clearer. Most of the water so far had been pretty cloudy and the cloudy to clear line was very noticeable so I focused my trolling there. The entire clear spot was probably a mile long and maybe a quarter mile wide with a rock wall running the length on one side and open water the other. Right along the wall it was between thirteen to eighteen feet deep and at the outer edge is was about forty five feet. I seemed to be marking most fish in between thirty and forty feet so I really focus on that range. That's also when I started getting some very consistent action. First bite came on the crankbait and it turned out to be a very small coho. I shook him off the hook at the side of the boat and put the crankbait back out there. Ten minutes later, crankbait rod goes off again and it's got a BIG BIG bend in it. I pull it from the rod holder and can tell this is a bigger fish. And then he was gone. So I put the line back out there and continue trolling. 

At this point in time, I am at the end of the clear water and am kind of wondering why I had two bites on the crankbait rod but not the dodger/fly set up. As I begin a slow u-turn, I reel up the dodger line and realize the problem....there isn't a fly left on the end of it. Somehow the leader had come off the clasp at the end of the dodger. "Well no wonder why I haven't had anything on this line!" I say to myself. Oh well, I picked a new fly, came up with a way to keep it on the clasp better, and got the line back out there to troll the clear water again. I don't think I was in there for more than five minutes when the dodger rod went off. Quickly reel that one in and it's a small coho. Back in the water he goes. 

Continue the troll and the crankbait rod gets another BIG bend in it and then goes loose. Ugh! Two for Four so far and the two landed fish are dinks. Then a minute later, BIG bend on the dodger rod! Quickly get it out of the rod holder and this fish is on! After a nice fight, I heave it into the boat! Finally!  A fish that will get some points for Kayak wars. I took a couple quick pics on the measuring board and back in the water she went. 

After a celebratory pat on the back for myself, I dropped both lines and started going again! A very short time later, Woz comes over the radio to tell me he is heading in. "Good deal", I respond. "I'll start trolling that way. I turned the boat towards the launch and started my long troll back. Just as the boat was crossing over the clear to cloudy water line, the dodger rod goes off again! The rod is really bent over so I quickly get it out of the holder and start reeling it in. The fish was really splashing around the surface on the way in so I wondered if it was a steelhead. Once I got it to the boat I realized it was another coho that appeared to be a bit bigger than the last but had really wrapped itself up in the line.  It took me quite a while to actually get it untangled and on the board for a quick photo. It wasn't a hard decision to realize that this fish would at best be a delayed mortality fish so I threw in the hull of the boat and filleted it when I got home. Tasty tasty!!


On the rest of the troll in, I had a couple more quick hits that didn't stick but I was pretty happy with the fish count considering we had only been on the water for a few hours. We got the kayaks loaded back on the Jetta and I was home in time to start cleaning for Easter!! This will be the last time I am on the big lake until mid-may. I'll be spending the next couple of weeks targeting some other stuff on smaller inland lakes which also means learning how to fly fish in this kayak! WOOHOO!

All for now
Nick


4.14.2014

A Windy Start Only Got Windier

Fishing this weekend was a bit on the questionable side. I had spent all week finally getting the new kayak rigged with a new GPS/Fish Finder combo (Elite 4 HDI), including all of the various parts that go along with it, and various rod holders. Needless to say, I was eager to get it on the water and put it all to the test. Saturday was amazingly perfect outside but I wanted to take full advantage of it and spent the day at the Zoo and playing outside with my wife and son. So that only left Sunday for fishing.

On the days preceding last Sunday, the forecast called for strong winds, rain and thunderstorms. In other words, not good. Since I was so eager to get out there, I really didn't care about the rain or the winds. The rain is just rain...nothing that a raincoat can't take care of. The winds are somewhat of a moot point because there is always some harbor along the lake that will provide some shelter. The lightning that is often associated with thunderstorms, however, was the only thing that really had the power to keep me off the water. 

To make the pressure to get out even greater was the fact that a good friend just bought his first kayak a couple of weeks ago and was even more excited to try it out than I was to test all of my toys. I don't think he cared about the lightning. As a matter of fact, he flat out told me that he doesn't care if has drop it in his pool, he's putting it in water on Sunday! 

So we anxiously checked the forecast everyday as Sunday drew nearer. Who am I kidding...we checked at least five times every day. Finally, as Saturday night was upon us, it seemed that the thunderstorms, and even the rain, would not be upon us until the early afternoon. The farther south you went, the later those storms would arrive. The winds would be present from start and they were going to be strong according to the weather folks! Luckily though, they were supposed to be blowing straight from the south so the waves would only be rough as you moved away from shore. All of the stars seemed to align so fishing it was! 

As we launched the kayaks, the prediction seemed pretty spot on and the waves were merely non-existent at the beach. We quickly got into water that was deep enough to start trolling so we dropped our lines and started our fish catching mission. Where we were fishing had a pretty large break wall to the east that supports various factories and tend to serve as a good funnel for fish. Well, it did last week at least. This week not so much. The wall is about three miles long so we simply trolled along staying about thirty feet off it so our lines wouldn't get hung up in the rocks. By the time were at the half way point, the wind had enough time to build the waves to a good couple of feet. The kayaks were completely stable but I was worried a bit about my friend making the return trip against the wind. His new kayak is not one with the pedal drive so he only had arm power to rely on. I suggested that he pull his lines and see if he would be able to make it back before proceeding any further out. After making very little forward progress despite a pretty fast paddle pace, he decided he would simply focus on the daunting task of getting closer to the launch than fishing. I couldn't blame him.  I, on the other hand, decided to make the rest of the trip out to the end of the wall (another mile or so) where I saw a charter boat continuously trolling in the area so I could only assume he was on fish.

Funny story as I was passing him on the way out, he yells out on his loud speaker "Are you really going out there?!?" "Of course" I yell back. "You must be a moron" he chimes back. I laughed out loud and kept on going.

As I neared the end of the wall, sure enough, one of the rods went off but that ended as soon as started. Oh well...at least I got some action! At this point in time, the waves are getting bigger and the wind seemed to be getting stronger so I turned around to start making my way towards the beach where my friend was heading. The difference was, that I trolled back while he did nothing but paddle. No fishing, no trolling, no anything...just paddling. The scary thing is that he only beat me back to the beach with enough time to pee before I landed. Score one for peddle power! Oh yeah...I happened to land a small coho on the way back in as well and shoot a short video while I waited for one of the rods to hook up.




Once we were both on the beach, we talked a bit about the paddle back in, weather conditions, and came up with a plan for the rest of the morning before the rain was supposed to be here.

The plan basically was to stay closer to the beach and fishing along the drop that runs parallel to the shoreline which would keep us just a quarter mile off the beach. If you start on one side and go all the way to the other side, the whole bay that we were fishing was about a mile and half. We decided to start at one end, troll to the other, and then troll back. Off we went and the action started pretty fast. I had the rods go off another four times before we got to the end and started our turn. Sadly, not a single one of those fish were on long enough to even get the rod out of the rod holder. I call those drive-byes. Anyway, we started making the turn at the other end and all of the sudden, the wind seemed to completely stop. By all of the sudden I mean ten seconds earlier, it was blowing at twenty miles an hour straight out of the south.

Then nothing.

Nada.

Nill.

At the exact moment that the wind stopped, the temperature dropped by at least fifteen degrees! INSTANTLY! I stopped, looked around, and noticed a huge wall of fog blowing in to the spot where we were supposed to land making it nearly impossible to actually see it. I yelled out, "PULL THE LINES AND GET TO SHORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

By the time we got our lines out of the water, the winds had started again and were even stronger than before except that they were now blowing straight out of the north!! Within minutes, the waves hitting the beach were solid three footers and we had to head across the bay which meant they were hitting the sides of our kayaks. My friend couldn't paddle like that for too long so he just turned and let the wind and waves push him straight to the beach. I kept moving across the bay though, taking wave after wave over the side. Amazingly, there wasn't a single moment that I felt like the kayak would tip. To say that it is super stable would be an understatement!! I was able to keep about a four mile per hour pace despite the strong side wind and waves coming over the side of the boat. Pretty impressive!! GO TURBO FINS!

Finally, about fifteen minutes later, I hit the beach without incident and started walking on the beach, towards the other end, to help my friend pull his kayak a mile in the sand. Luckily, he had a cart for his kayak so it wasn't that bad. We got to the other end, grabbed the truck, broke everything down, packed the kayaks and rods in the bed and loaded the rest of the stuff in the backseat before heading home. Just as we closed the doors, the rain started pouring down!! Talk about a close call. 

The end of the day concluded as a "great" first outing filled with all kinds of conditions for my friend to learn what his kayak is and isn't capable of. I wish he could have caught a fish or ten but I think the experience was invaluable. It also served as a day of even greater confidence building for me in my new kayak. I am absolutely thrilled with the way I set everything up and the only other additions I will make are adding a larger sailing rudder and some lighting. As much as my friend likes his new kayak, he admitted on the way home that he will be saving his pennies to upgrade to a Hobie. It's hard to argue when you see the way they perform side by side in harsh conditions. Oh yeah...and we ended the day with just one fish in the box. 

Till next weekend!

Nick

4.07.2014

Kayak Wars, New Hobie, and Salmon update!!!

Updates Updates Updates!!

The ice is gone, the weather is getting "warmer", and the skunks in the backyard are out...this only means one thing!! IT'S FISHING TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you read my last post, I picked up a new kayak for 2014 - a Hobie Outback - and I have been busy trying to get some seat time on it and gain some confidence with it. It's hard going from a kayak that you have bucket loads worth of confidence in to a brand new and unfamiliar kayak. It's even harder when you are trying to do it in water that's only in the upper 30's or very low 40's. It's even more difficult when the water you decide to practice in is none other than big, powerful, and often unpredictable Lake Michigan. But what the hell...go big or go home, right?

So far, I have put right around twelve hours on it in three separate outings and none of them have been what I would call "calm" conditions. The first few hours consisted of a very cold and windy day in Wisconsin. The winds were out of the north and really had the main lake stirred up. Once you got out of the harbor, waves were incredibly choppy, frequent, and coming from all directions. No fun that day and no fish to boot. I mainly stuck to the harbor and got used to this whole peddle power kayak thing.

The next outing was with a couple of friends who also own Hobies. The weather was definitely a bit nicer that day but still produced two footers on most of the lake. We decided to surf launch which meant we had drag the kayaks over the still snow/ice covered beach.


Fishing that day was fantastic though! Between the three of us, we landed somewhere around twenty fish. Most were coho but there was a steelhead or two caught as well. I was able to log a few of my own catches for Kayak Wars which finally got me and my team on the board. The spot we were fishing was about a two mile trip. Once we got there, the waves had picked up a bit but never once did I feel even an ounce of instability on the new kayak. This trip was a very big confidence booster for me. The Outback is touted as a very stable kayak but it took some personal experience for me to really believe that for myself. I also gained a bit of clarity on how I want to set it up for fishing. 

Trip number three was with another local Hobie owner who I have fished with a couple of times before. The night before had winds gusting at forty plus miles per hour out of the west/northwest. According to NOAA though, the waves were predicted to be around one or two feet my the later part of the morning so we got a late start. Once the kayaks were on the beach and we were ready to go, the forecast seemed to be pretty accurate so off we went. Fishing was OK this day but not great. It wasn't non-stop action like the last trip but bites were frequent enough to keep us engaged for a solid four to five hours. There was one particular area that kept producing so we really focused our efforts there at the end of the day. At one point, I had both rods going off and managed to bring one of the two fish to the boat. This little double header really made me appreciate the ability to keep forward progress while fighting a fish. Without having to have a paddle in my hand, I can fight a fish, peddle forward and keep the other line from getting tangled up. With my old kayak, trolling two lines was risky proposition that almost surely meant a tangle. By then end of the day, I had landed three fish and missed another three. This also meant more points for Kayak Wars! The winds shifted during the last hour of the day and had the waves quickly building so we decided to call it a day. In an uncommon move for myself, I took the fish I had caught home for dinner. One went to a neighbor, the other to a coworker who will be cooking it up for Easter dinner, and the other will fill my belly. 


I have taken the time and experience from these three outings to really solidify my plans for upgrades and rigging. Between the second and third outings, I upgraded from the stock fins on the mirage drive to the ST Turbo fins. Talk about a bit difference! I am still on the fence for the bigger rudder but for $35, I'll probably upgrade that as well. I am awaiting a few deliveries that include a new GPS/fish finder, rod holders, battery, and a few other accessories. I anticipate them arriving early this week which should leave time to get everything installed for next weekend!! I am really looking forward to getting the fly rod mounts on there so I can start trolling some flies in deeper water!

All for now and thanks for reading!

Nick



4.02.2014

Cheaper slide tracks for kayaks!!

I've been starting the rigging process of the new Hobie and new that there had to be a cheaper alternative to the ones that are marketed for fishing. I mean, $44 dollars for a 2' section of extruded aluminum is insane. A large part of my job is sourcing stuff like this so I knew I could find a supplier with a better price.

And so I did....

Universal T-Tracks

$15 for a 2' section. Still uses t-bolts like the other systems but the bolts are cheaper through these guys as well. Hell a 4' section of this stuff is only $26.

Plus the blue is kind of cool looking

Enjoy!

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