Going Fishin'

Going Fishin'
Red Sunset

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Trick or Treat

Following a rather lack-luster October on one of our favorite big fish lakes, the water temperature on Conneaut finally dropped below 55 degrees.  So with prime temperature range reached at last, Marilyn and I weren't ready to throw in the towel.  October 30th found us back on the lake...along with sustained 25 mph winds gusting even higher at times.  The strong south wind made boat control very difficult if not impossible on most areas of the lake.  After 1-1/2 hours without a strike, it looked like we were getting the "trick" part of Halloween played on us.

Positioning the boat for a blow-by pass on a deep weed edge where we often caught nice bass, I reminded Marilyn that her next few casts may result in a strike so choose her lure wisely.  She picked up a rod with a new Sebile Snagless Flat Shad lipless crankbait.  On her third cast, I heard her mutter something about missing a strike but the fish came back at the lure again.  I turned to see the G.Loomis cranking rod doubled in half on what appeared to be a very impressive fish.

When I saw the fish boil on the surface, my legs began shaking as I scrambled for the net.  Marilyn kept shouting "Get it into the net."  My inner voice kept repeating "Don't screw up the net job."

Following several tense moments, I finally scooped the bass.  The fat largemouth measured 1/4 inch shy of 22 inches.  We estimated the weight to be easily 6 pounds, making it the biggest largemouth that Marilyn had ever caught.  A Halloween treat far better than any candy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Big, Bad St. Clair Browns

I had not fished Lake St. Clair (just north of Detroit) since my first trip there in the early 1990s.  Back then we caught 2 to 2.5 pound smallmouth, which the local experts at the time told me was fairly typical of the fishery.  I had no pressing desire to return to St. Clair when I could catch larger smallmouth closer to home.

But pro angler and smallmouth guide Joe Balog had been telling me that the St. Clair of today is not the one of old.  Zebra mussels have improved the water clarity allowing bass to forage more effectively and gobies have added to the prey options.  "In the case of these two exotics, we like the influence on the smallmouth population in St. Clair," says Joe. 

So last week I took Joe up on an invitation to fish with him, ranger Boat rep Pat Kleppert, and St. Clair smallmouth expert Scott Dobson.  Our catch results blew me away!  Big, Bad, Brown Bass!

Scott showed us how he had just won a St. Clair tournament with a record-setting smallmouth catch.  First, he visually locates areas of open sand amid the weed & moss-covered flats in 5 to 10 feet of water.  He pitches a 1/2-ounce blade bait to the "sand spot" and gently pumps it once or twice, then lets it settle.  Smallmouth would pick it off the bottom.  Brand blades used included Vibe, Poor Boys and Silver Buddy.

Soaking tubes on the sand spots also produced.  On the second day of the trip, Joe blew us away with a 7-pound smallmouth taken on a tube. 

Today a fishing trip to St. Clair is certainly worth the six hour drive from Northwest Pennsylvania - or just about from anywhere.  But typical angler-type lodging is absent at this lake.  Although plenty of big pleasure boat marinas line the U.S. side, there are no fishing camps, campgrounds or small fishing-friendly motels on the lake.  We stayed at the ConCorde Inn (586-493-7200) in Clinton Township, an excellent facility only 20 minutes from the Metro Beach Ramp.  Plan a trip for next October - you won't be disappointed!