Monday, August 4, 2014

Mille Lacs: July 13

Mille Lacs represented the second day of my Lindner-centric fishing expedition. It was a little disappointing, mostly because the story of the day wasn't a fish.

Nick and I never got things dialed in, we launched north of Indian Point (I believe that's what it is called anyhow) and ran to check the outside of an area I had fished with some success in the spring. We idled around the structure for a little while (excitedly punching in a waypoint on one sweet boulder and a few other interesting rough patches) before slowing down and rigging up at the key boulder. I lined up a drop-shot with a Strike King Swim N Shiner and flipped it up toward the boulder. I think my third flip produced a hefty smallmouth. Once the fish was landed, we swung back up and I was hooked up again in short order. We then wandered down the rest of the hump and searched unsuccessfully for more.

The next stop was a break closer to shore that produced a pike. We wandered across the hump/point accompanying the break and smacked another solid smallmouth. It was after this that the day took a turn for the worse.

We fired up the Lund again and ran out to a hump at the tip of the point. After a little idling (and a lot of wild pitching about in a now very rough Mille Lacs), we identified a small section that looked best – I idled up-wind a bit and cut the motor. As I dropped the trolling motor and picked up my rod I somehow heard Nick say “snake!” and was suddenly joined by my fishing companion on the front deck. Having a snake in the boat is Voldemort-in-real-life level scary. I mean, woah. Nick got it out, we got back on the spot, and I'm going to blame the snake on the fact that we didn't batch but two more smallish smallies the rest of the day.

If you didn't see the snake story on social media at the time, you can go dig it back up. Suffice to say, it was a garter snake (a VERY dangerous species) and it swam off into the middle of the lake at a high rate of speed.

The rest of the day we plumbed various bits of offshore structure (with a brief largemouth foray) with little success. Nick picked up one on something and I nabbed our fifth fish on a Duo Realis Spinbait 80, but the afternoon was mostly remarkable for the lack of fish. Word on the street is that all of Minnesota was a little off that weekend. Then again, someone is always on 'em, and I'd like it to have been us.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lake St. Catherine: August 1

I was able to skip back to Vermont for a long weekend to see the fam, wish Char "happy birthday," re-charge before the Forrest Wood Cup, and do a little fishing. It was a lovely time, despite the fact that the grass in my pond has grown an alarming amount.

We hit up St. Catherine on Friday afternoon for a few hours. It was enough time to hit a few of my favorite spots and do okay, but not spectacularly. The lake was a little odd. I'm used to having to deal with changing milfoil conditions, but the pads were not quite right either. Typically you can pick a few good fish out of some of the pad sections. I don't think I even had a bite in the main lake pads.


Despite the pads being off, we did catch a few under and around the docks (including the day's best) and we picked a couple out of some milfoil before ditching the main lake in hopes of better action down south. If I'd had more time, I'd have liked to keep fishing the main lake. Unfortunately, when you're trying to chase memory and have a lot of fun, in a little time, you need to make choices.

Nessie (the new puppy) on the way down south.
The numbers on the south end didn't disappoint. We went through it flipping a few different Texas-rigged soft plastics and chucking a frog, and upped our numbers and added another solid fish. That said, it wasn't a giant, and I feel like we left something on the table down there as well.

I'd have liked to flip a 1-oz. weight in the pads down south, to fish a few more docks up north and hit a couple more patches of milfoil. St. Cath has a very special place in my heart and I'll always cherish it, but I was expecting just a little bit more from one of the lakes I love best.


Sturgeon Bay: July 3-7

The weekend of July Fourth provided me with the rare opportunity to take a Monday off (no BFL events) and to use a comp day from the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour event. Earlier in the year I had the genius idea to meet the fam at Sturgeon Bay for some fishing and mosquitoes and it worked out perfectly. We had a killer weekend on and around the water and I got to experience an amazing smallmouth fishery (though not nearly at the peak time of the year). Besides being a great fishery, Door County is an American gem. I've traveled outside of the US before and the more of America I see the more convinced I become that I'll never leave it for pleasure. There's just so much inspiring land to see right here that I can't see ever getting tired of it. I will for sure be back to Sturgeon Bay in the spring or fall.


Thursday

We caught the evening rise and a gorgeous sunset on Thursday. We basically ran out to an interesting looking hump in the mouth of Sturgeon Bay and started casting around. I think we had a drop-shot/spinbait combo going. It was pretty unimpressive. I did manage to break the ice with an oddly hooked little guy on the spinbait that had a three pounder following, but that was it.

Thursday was merely a sip of what Sturgeon Bay had to offer. Unfortunately, it was not a particularly inspiring sip.

Friday

Friday proved frustrating. The morning was taken up with trying to work around and subsequently replace a bad battery (yay for Walmart being open on the 4th) and then a long breakfast. Eventually, we were back on the water and trying to catch bass. We started out on a big flat/hump to the south of Sturgeon Bay (it was slick calm and we wanted to explore) and dad caught a little guy on a drop-shot and that was about it.

We abandoned the flat to run back into Sturgeon Bay to pick up the girls and lunch and started working our way out of the launch in the canal. I picked up another little guy (little being about a 1 ½ pounds) off a bridge piling before we got out to the area that would both frustrate and enchant me for the next few days.

There's a big flat that runs almost the length of Sturgeon Bay at varying depths. It has sand and shipwrecks and grass and rock on it. The place is smallmouth heaven. We got out on the edges of it and on it and very quickly began to notice that the weed patches held some slammer smallies. They weren't shy about hitting the spinbait. You'd feel an electrifying tap and set the hook, have them for a few moments and then the fish would be gone. It was crazy. I think dad landed one on a drop-shot and I landed two skippers on the spinbait. My losses were impressive. I bet I left 20 pounds in the lake.

After working around the flat for a while we poked unsuccessfully at a few other areas before dinner and fireworks ended the night.

Saturday

Saturday was dad's birthday and we got a little time on the water in the morning but spent the rest of the day doing a variety of non-fishing family activities. In hindsight, the morning was very interesting. After striking out on the flat again we moved out to the point of Sturgeon Bay and I had a tremendous follow on a jerkbait as I worked it over a very sharp break into deep water.

Sunday/Monday

We started Sunday morning on a main-bay break with shallow water nearby. It was basically a point with a shelf that plunged from about 10 to 15 feet deep into 30+. I typically kept the boat in about 38 feet of water and we cast in. Along with the location, I was throwing the right bait – I had an Electric Shad-colored 3.8-inch Keitech on a ½ ounce jig head. It was a primo set up and they would eat it as I reeled it over the break or even well out in the open water a short distance from the boat.

 





Sunday and Monday weren’t a whack-fest, we likely didn’t put 20 smallmouth in the boat between us, but we caught them consistently. Clouds, wind, rain, sun, the only thing lacking was truly slick and sunny conditions. We finally had a bait they wanted to eat and we saw moderate success even when we expanded our location search to other less ideal areas.

Wrap

Sturgeon Bay in July was merely a taste of what it can be. We caught perhaps one fish that was truly fat and healthy, most of them were very evidently postspawn. I would love to have seen some of the fish we caught in the fall or the spring fat with food and eggs.

I’ve really broadened my smallmouth horizons lately. Smallmouth are an amazing fish to pursue and each situation I find them in is unique. Growing up on Champlain, I was basically exposed to two types of smallmouth fishing. I built on that somewhat in Virginia, but Mille Lacs has been a wonderful experience and Sturgeon Bay was my first extended exposure to the Great Lakes. Needless to say, I’m eager for more.