Saturday, June 20, 2015

Northwoods Notes - 2015

Enough about the northwoods vacation experience. Fishing is what we came to do but it's not the be-all or end-all of our trip. At least that's how we approach it. Fishing isn't for everyone but for those of us who don't worship golf it's a great way to spend leasure time.

There is no such thing as a consistently lucky fisherman. We make our own luck.

As a result, we caughts us some real big-ass fishes this year.

Some years are better than others. Much has to do with a variable seasonal calendar, water condition, weather condition and the ability to locate our prey among a wide variety of underwater structural options. But what underwater structure will be most productive at any given time? Simply wetting a line and drowning some live bait is no guarantee no matter the latitude.

Each and every year has presented challenges and we have learned from our experiences and adjust accordingly.

This year along with the past three or four have proved that no matter what you've learned or how you anticipate, anything goes at any time. When past hotspots fail to produce or give up fish we go to plan B. Usually we don't need a plan C.

At any given time of day or on any given day of the week fishing can be hotter than hell then suddenly slow down to nothing. The trick is to not give up on a hot spot that looks good after we have patterned the fish. We will always give our spots a second and third chance.

Patterning the fish means pinpointing a location combination of depth, bottom structure and forage base that holds active feeding fish. Past knowledge and experience allows us to find a similar spots on the lake that match the same pattern.

A hot spot can be shallow water bays or island points near landmass containing either weeds, gravel, sand or mud at depths from 3-5'. It could be mid-depth (8-15') locations with similar bottom features.

The next spot location could be offshore (15-30") with submerged islands of rock, weeds, sand,  mud or any combination of those. At times a long flat area containing any of the above will produce. Once a spot has been patterned any similar spots will produce fish anywhere on the lake for days until conditions change. Once we locate a good spot we try and narrow the location down to the ever valuable "spot on the spot".

We plan our trip early in the season so conditions will favor shallow or mid-depth water. As the season progresses all other options need to be considered if a shallow pattern isn't working.

This year everyone on the trip did outstandingly well between the two boats. We caught all species we were after in numbers and quality. The following fish were caught by me. The others did just as well and better but without their permission those images will not be published here.

Here is one walleye that measured 23" and went about 4 to 4.5 lbs.

That is a respectable walleye anywhere and we all caught many of them, the largest being about 26". Walleye over 24 or so inches are not considered to be fine table fare. I disagree. Large walleye especially when grilled make outstanding table fare when taken from these near wilderness waters.

On the Ontario lake we fished each license holder was permitted to hold two walleye in the boat daily with only one longer than 19.1" per license. Total possession (in the boat and at the cabin) was four walleye total with only one longer than 19.1" long per license. We were allowed to cross the border holding the total of four with the same restrictions. Math is hard when culling such nice fish.

This is a northern pike measuring about 32".

On the lake we fished each license holder was permitted to hold two northern pike with none exceeding 29" per license. Any pike over 29" must be returned to the water. We caught many over 29" and let them go.

Here is a northern pike that measured 36".

Northern pike make fine table fare though I prefer walleye. Pike are known for their y-bones but when cut properly the bones can be eliminated. The bro is a master of this. He loves pickled pike and I traded him my pike limit for his walleye limit. Pound for pound he came out ahead.

Here is a musky that measured 38".

Musky is THE prized fish for anglers in northwoods lakes. Dedicated musky angler conservation groups have pressured USA DNR / Ontario MNR laws to restrict muskie possession. On our trip to Ontario the four muskies were out of season and when in season muskies must be longer than 54" to be kept. The fish shown here is far from being considered a trophy.

The musky season in Ontario  began the weekend after we departed. A large "keeper" musky isn't considered by most to be fine table fare.Most muskies kept generally end up displayed as taxidermy on a supper club wall, in a dentist's office reception room or on a wall of the angler's man cave.

Local northwoods economies depend depend on quality of the fishery. If the fishing sucks fishermen will seek more favorable locations. I favor restrictions. Over time we have seen the quality and quantity of fish increase due to these restrictions.

Those my of father's generation believed any fish caught was a fish to be taken. The result was poor fishing and caused most fishermen to travel farther north. Soon fishing farther north suffered as well.

I, nor my boomer fishing buddies are environmentalists. We are conservationists. We like to catch and eat freshwater fish. We only take what we need and put back what we don't.

Every fish shown here was released to live and fight another day.

We'll see the same fish next year and they'll be larger too.


badgerwx said...

My dad was a dedicated fisherman (summer & winter) but his big 3 fish were bluegills, crappies & perch. His love of fish & fishing centered on the eating potential & he thought the big game fish were too bony to be worth the trouble of catching them. What I wouldn't give to have some home-caught fillets in my freezer. My mom would freeze dad's fillets as fish-sicles in plastic containers so they wouldn't get freezer burn. After growing up in Wis eating freshwater fish, eating eat coast ocean fish just isn't the same. Though the fish that get flash-frozen on the boat aren't too bad. I really miss the Friday fish-fry that just about every eatery in Wis would serve, too.

Terry from Crown Point said...

That Muskie's a beauty, eh? Given time it's gonna be a well shouldered Monster.
Nice shot of the fried "Fish Box" (TM), too.

Gerry from Valpo said...

badgerwx we like to catch and to eat all fish . Bottom feeders such as catfish and carp not so much. Perch and bluegill are great but catching ones large enough to clean and eat are a challenge. Saltwater fish are different and I like eating them as well, especially grouper. Over the past few years I must say Grouper could be the finest eating fish of all.

Dan from Madison said...

Holy shit awesome!

Carl from Chicago said...

Sounds like a great trip. We used to fish in Montana but frankly had no idea what we were doing. We never caught anything remotely as big as these fish.

Funny before the era of the digital camera / phone everyone relied on "fish stories" to tell their tales. Now it is all recorded and the facts are plain to see.