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8.11.2014

Pike and Bass on Wisconsin's Lake Delavan

If you ask anyone around here if they have ever heard of Lake Geneva in WI, most people would say yes. Ask them if they have heard of Lake Delavan and the number of yeses would go down. They are literally right next to each other but Geneva gets all the attention. Delavan is maybe only half the size of Geneva but every bit of fun - at least for a kayak fisherman like me. 

It's know for it bass fishing and has a very good population of pike - that was the target today. Bass or fish with big teeth...hmmm...I'm going teeth with a side of bassy bi-catches.

We were on the water by 4:30am and the sun was still well below the horizon. I could have easily gotten started later but I did not want to miss prime time top water action. We fished the channel for a little bit but wasn't seeing any action so we made our way to the main lake. Once on the main lake, we noticed a nice section of large rocks that protected a small harbor. This is where we started the fun!

Before you knew it, it was fish on time. Buzz baits, jitterbugs, wake baits - all producing blow ups. I started off with a small bass that wasn't worth a picture. Then Woz landed a nice 31" pike. I hooked a pike on a wake bait. When I went to land it with the net, the front treble hook got snagged on the netting and i couldn't get the actual fish in there. After a few seconds of trying, fish off. That was the first heartbreak of the day and cost me 15 points for kayak wars.  

The second was when I hooked up with a really nice bass on a chatterbait. Pulled him through all the weeds and right next to the boat. Tried to get a thumb in it's mouth and that was all she wrote. So long fish - that was 10 kayak wars point down the drain. 

After that, I got my stuff together and started landing these fish! When all the smoke cleared, I ended up with 2 pike in the boat and about a dozen bass. The numbers were there but the size wasn't. The pattern seemed to be pretty common. Everything came off of a dock post or right after whatever lure I was throwing ripped through a weed. If I wasn't ripping through weeds or banging a post - I got nothing. Naturally, it didn't take me too long to put that all together so that was my strategy throughout the day. 

I suspect that if I had focused slightly deeper and targeted some of the suspended fish with jerk baits, I might have picked up some larger pike and bass. I was having too much with the shallow stuff though so I never really bothered. 

Here's some fish porn to conclude today's post












8.04.2014

First evening smallie bash of the year!

I have been completely neglecting the Des Plaines River this year. While not the first, I discovered it's smallmouth secret last year, enjoyed the crap out of it, and have left it alone so far this year. I've been focused on other venues and the kayak thing therefore I've all but completely ignored it. 

Saturday evening, with a few hours of alone time, I grabbed the waders and 6wt for a short visit and evening of top water fun. This was my go to spot last year for smallies on top so I was hoping it would be the same a year later. I was in the water a little bit before the top water bite would start so I slowly fished some stretches that I never really worked that thoroughly before. I picked up a couple of smaller fish on minnow patterns but nothing to write home about. 

Made it down to the top water stretch and sat there for about ten minutes - just waiting for the activity to start. Sure enough, one splash...then another and another. It's go time! For the next hour, I had a ton of blow ups. Many of them missed but plenty of them did not. Still, not one picture worthy fish. It was dink central. 

I noticed that the heavy ice this winter reallllllllly changed the bottom of that river. Holes that were there before really weren't that big this year. Other places had holes that weren't there before. Made for a couple of dicey steps on occasion but I was no worse for the wear. One of the biggest, and easily most recognizable changes, was the lack of vegetation. Last year there were lilly pads, submerged vegetation, and tons of algae. This year - virtually none. At best, I would say there is 10% of the vegetation compared to last. Not sure if that has something to do with the dink problem but it sure seems like it might. 

I had a good time for the couple hours I was there but I had to get back home. Not sure if I'll be back again this year but who knows. It's just a few minutes from the house and waiting if I get the itch again. 

7.28.2014

Stupid Lake Michigan Salmon!

Pure bulls#*t! You leave your house around midnight after being awake since 6 am the previous morning and head off on a two and half hour drive. You spend all that money on gas to get there and back just to catch some salmon on Lake Michigan from a kayak. Sure it sounds kind of crazy to those who haven't done it. To you though...you know the pure awesomeness when it all comes together!

Once you get there and unloaded, it's barely 3 in the morning and pitch black. Still, you launch your kayak in surf that can only be heard. "How big is the surf?" you wonder. "Not sure...can't really see but it sounds like 1 foot. "Maybe 2" you tell yourself.

You paddle into the pitch black with the glow from your sonar/gps illuminating your way nothing at all. You are pretty quickly in 30 feet of water - time to start dropping lines! Great. Turn on your headlamp so you can actually see the spoons that you are trying to put on the end of your line and the line counter on your reel.

Oh yeah...you don't have your headlamp. That's OK. You have that sonar light.

Good job, you got both of your lines in the water and you didn't even hook yourself.

Now start trolling aimlessly since you can't really see anything at all.

Bam! The rod on your left bends over.

Well what do you know. The great Lake Michigan and salmon really DO appreciate all that you have risked and decide to reward you with a fish! I knew there was a reason why I did this.

Way to get cocky....the fish just spit the hook.

Son of a!



It's OK. You hooked up early. This is just the beginning.

So you redeploy your lines and get back to trolling.

And you troll some more

And some more.

You have burnt calories upon calories as a sort of sacrifice to the fishing gods. You think that they plan on paying you back and giving you another chance?

Nope.

Your friend Kal is somewhere out there as well. While you can't see him, he's just a button push away. You've been talking a bit on the radio and he's running the same spoons you are and pretty much the same depth and speed.

Then you hear a buzz somewhere off in the foggy distance. The radio chirps, "fish on"

Sure, you are happy for your friend who just battled and landed a nice 19lb salmon. You are even positive in your thoughts, and pretty excited, thinking it's a sign that the fish are active.

So you troll...and troll...and troll.

Think all of this sacrificial stuff is going to pay off for you? Nope

But guess what! It's a mere 6 hours later and miles upon miles of pink lines indicating the trail you have covered on your GPS unit and your friend Kal is hooked up with another fish.

Grrrrrrr

It's been a solid 8 hours and you're not even marking anything anymore. You have tried every spoon and flasher/fly you have at every depth and speed you could imagine. Still, the fishing gods give you nothing.

You have been away for 28 hours and are starting to fall asleep as you peddle your kayak. Your stomach is practically eating itself and your knee has been popping with every stroke of the peddle for 8 hours. Time to call it quits.

Did you have fun? Sure...it was an adventure. Still, you wonder why you weren't rewarded for all of your hard work. Then it dawns on you as an Amish family is on the beach admiring your plastic kayak rigged like a 30 foot salmon boat.

The fishing gods are saving all of the rewards for the fall run that is a mere month or so away!! That's it!!!

I take back my "Stupid Lake Michigan Salmon" comment!! I take it back!!

7.16.2014

New Illinois State Record Smallmouth Bass - Sorta

I've heard about this rumor for a couple of days, but it wasn't until today that the story finally came out. It's a story that has me torn and apparently a story that has the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) torn as well.

The whole story can be read on my friend, Dale Bowman's, column in the Chicago Suntimes. I'll give you the summarized version....

Guy catches giant smallmouth bass, throws it on a stringer, brings it home to show his friends, and when he realizes that it's taking too much room in his freezer, he goes to put it in his friends freezer.  Before it was put in the freezer, his neighbor realizes that it could be a new state record so he breaks out his digital scale and it comes in at 8lbs 9oz (old record is 6lbs 7oz). At some point, the fish thaws out and turns to complete mush so they throw the fish away.

So here's the problem that the IDNR is having - Do we count this as a record when there was no IDNR witness?

Here's my thoughts on this - Seeing as how I am a pretty strict catch and release angler who absolutely hates seeing a sport fish go on a stringer and ultimately into the garbage, I am pissed off that this fish no longer swims in Lake Michigan for me, or others, to catch and enjoy. Not only isn't it swimming in Lake Michigan, it was completely wasted and not even eaten. It's like killing a deer and then throwing it in the dumpster on the way home. It served nothing and nobody despite being killed. Was it in his legal rights to keep the fish? Damn right it was but legal isn't always the "right" thing to do. So that part of me basically says kiss my butt on your record.

However, another part of me realizes that there is an opportunity here to change the way IDNR verifies record catches by following in the footsteps of the IGFA. Currently, you have to submit a specimen for examination to the IDNR. If I were to catch a state record fish under current rules, I wouldn't even bother because I wouldn't want to kill the fish for the sole sake of having a record. This is the IDNR's opportunity to adopt the IGFA's catch and release record guidelines and start implementing them. No longer will a fish have to be killed for the sole sake of a record.

In this case, the scale that was used to weigh this fish was indeed found to be accurate by the IDNR. There is a witness to the guy catching the fish and a witness to the readout of scale. More importantly, there is a photo of that fish. When I compare that photo to the 20" 4.5lb smallmouth that I caught from the same lake, I have no doubt that the potential record fish in the photo is bigger. The measurements that were taken definitely would add up using a known general weight to length/girth scale for bass.

So, in conclusion, despite my anger for the fish being destroyed and ultimately ending up in the trash, I vote to give the guy the record. I also implore the folks at the IDNR to truly take this opportunity to allow for catch and release fish to be considered for record status. Adopt the IGFA standards and adapt whatever you want to make sure it works for Illinois as a state. I can almost guarantee you that more records will be broken as result because I guarantee you that there a ton of catch and release anglers like myself that wouldn't enter a potential record fish under current guidelines because they prefer to see it swim away.

Update: As of July 17th, 2014, IDNR has denied the record. It still stands at 6lbs, 7oz

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