Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Dog who thought he could Walk on Water

My wife and I took the dog to the Des Plaines River for a late afternoon ride. The plan was for her to relax and for me to fish a little bit.

We went to the first spot and saw a sunken boat. It was a small aluminum row boat that was heavily damaged and and had a least one hole in the hull that we could see where it was sticking out above the water line. I didn't catch a thing there even though we saw plenty of shad around.

Sunken boat floating in an eddy

We went to the next spot and I had a couple of good hits pretty quick, but no hook ups. I spotted a bird sitting on a branch right above the water line and asked my wife to take a couple pictures of it. As she picked up the camera, the bird jumped into the water and ran about halfway across before it stopped and started swimming.

The Bird that could walk (or run )on water

At this point the dog saw it too. He was intrigued that it could run across the top of the water and he thought if the bird could do it, so could he. He jumped over the side and disappeared out of sight under the water. It was the longest three seconds of our lives. It seemed like forever but he came up and started swimming along side the boat. He swam to the back of the boat where my wife was calling him to the swim platform and we were able to get him out of the water fairly quickly. Bear is a very good swimmer and loves to swim in the pool at home. Good thing!

The Dog who thought he could walk on water

The air temperature was in the mid 60s and falling so the poor wet dog was getting cold and started to shiver so we dried him as best we could and my wife put my jacket on him. He was fine then. After we got home my wife gave him a good bath.

And did I mention all I caught was an 8 inch Smallmouth and 3 inch Shad?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Heidecke Lake - August 28, 2009

More photos from today:

Perfect fishing day

I knew fishing would be slow because of the bait fish that are always abundant this time of year, but I decided I'd give the lake a shot anyway. Sure enough, fishing was pretty slow. I caught a few Drum and lost a little Smallmouth that threw the crank bait.

Baitfish on the locator

The highlight of the day was seeing a bird of prey. I'm not sure exactly what species it was ( thanks to Mary Hennen of the Field Museum of Chicago for identifying it as a Peregrine Falcon named Sloopy. She was able to look up numbers on the bands on its legs), but I first spotted it underneath a railroad car. I took several photos as I went past it. I got about 50 yards away from it and it took off and landed about 50 yards in front of me on top of a railroad car. I didn't think much of this until it happened again a couple more times. Could this bird have been following me?

Bird of Prey (Peregrine Falcon) under a Railroad Car

When I got home and looked at the photos on the computer, I noticed bands around birds legs. That had me wondering if the bird had been rehabilitated or domesticated.

On top of a railroad car

Regardless, it was a unique experience to see a bird like that up close, and to have it follow and watch me. Hopefully it wasn't thinking of me as a possible meal. :-)

Bird of Prey posing for the camera

When I was angling the boat to try to get a better photo, I destroyed the prop on the trolling motor. Not only did it shear the pin, but it embedded the parts of the pin into the prop and cracked the inside. It's a good thing those pins are designed to shear before anything else gets damaged. I put the spare prop on but decided to call it a day anyway.

One more picture before it's time to go

Despite not catching many fish, it was a wonderful day to be on the water. There was almost no wind and it stayed cloudy. The air temp was in the mid 70s and the water temp was only 71.

Freshwater Drum

Saturday, August 22, 2009

100+ Fish

After not being able to fish for almost a month, I finally got out to the Des Plaines River on Friday August 21, 2009 and made up for lost time. I had the boat i the water by 7:00 am and was very happy to see some pretty good cloud cover moving in. There wasn't really any wind when I launched, but after the clouds were overhead, the wind picked up pretty good and before long there were whitecaps all up and down the river.

Clouds moving in

At the ramp there was a mass of floating pond scum. It clung to the trailer as I pulled up the ramp and headed for a parking spot. Once I was on my way, I headed to my first usual spot, but found several barges parked along that shoreline. I couldn't get anywhere near my spot so I kept going to spot number 2.

Scum blowing into the ramp

At spot number two I caught a nice Freshwater Drum right away. Then in no time at all I had a couple of very small Smallmouth Bass in (and out) of the boat. That was it for that spot. To get into that spot, you have to pass another spot that looks like it would hold a lot of fish if the conditions are right. I always cast a few times to it, but have never really caught anything there....until today.

Freshwater Drum - First fish of the day

My first cast to the spot resulted in a very small Largemouth Bass. The next cast had me reaching for the net. I had a real good fish on. I landed it and it turned out to be a big White Bass. A couple casts later and I had another slightly smaller one on.

Typical White Bass for the day

I stayed in that spot for over two hours catching fish after fish. Most of the White Bass, Largemouth Bass, and Smallmouth Bass I caught were on the small side, but every now and then I'd put a good a good one in the boat.

Largemouth Bass

Once things slowed down there, I moved to another spot that's always good for a few fish and caught a couple more. Again, they were on the small side, but fun to catch.

Smallmouth Bass

I jumped spots a few more times and continued to catch quite a few fish. I lost track of the time and when I finally looked at my watch I realized it was a little past my usual quitting time. Since the fish were still hitting pretty good, I kept fishing.

Most of the fish were caught on crank baits, and when I run into a good bite, I try to make it a point to throw something at them that I don't normally use. This helps me develop confidence in the bait if I catch something on it, and lets me know I have another option if I ever run into the same conditions in the future. So besides the usual cranks, I caught fish on some plastics I haven't used before. Fishing those in the wind was a little tricky because the wind would put a bow in the line which prevented a solid hook set. For the day I'm sure I caught over 100 fish which makes this one of the best trips in quite a while.

On the way up and down the river I noticed a lack of wild life. I usually see quite a few creatures there, but this time there weren't any to be found. I saw a Belted Kingfisher and a Green Heron along the river, and the usual Turkey Vultures flying overhead, but that was about it.

Here comes the rain

Back at the ramps it started raining just as I got the boat on the trailer. I wound up having to scrub the scum off the boat and trailer in the rain once I got home. Fortunaly it stopped long enough for me to get the interior dried and get both covers on before the thunder, lightning, and heavier rain showed up later.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bear goes Fishing, Again!

Photos from this trip:

After a couple of trips back to the Monee reservoir that didn’t leave me with much to write about, I decided that my next trip would be to new water. On Monday July 27, 2009, my wife and I took that trip. We took the boat to Starved Rock State Park and launched in the Illinois River.

The last time I was at Starved Rock, they had a dock there which made it fairly easy to put a boat in the water. No dock this time. I had to pick the dog up and put him in the boat while it was still on the trailer. After my wife climbed up into the boat, I backed it down the ramp and into the water. The plan was for my wife to drive the boat off of the trailer and then I’d climb into it over the front after parking the vehicle and trailer.

As soon as I got out of the car I noticed water being spit out thanks to the bilge pump. Yep, Rookie move. I forgot the drain plug. Good thing that one of the first things I did after I got the boat was to install a float switch and replace the bilge pump with the biggest one I could make fit. That kept the water from sinking the boat, not to mention my wife, the dog, my cameras, and all my other gear. Despite the wind and strong current, my wife got the boat on the trailer on her first attempt and after I put the plug where it belonged, we were off.

As we were heading down river, we spotted a critter along the river bank. My wife grabbed the camera, took aim, and all of a sudden a young Bald Eagle swooped down on the critter. It was either an otter or possibly a mink. My wife took several awesome photos of the bird before it took off and she handed to camera to me. I got a few shots of it flying off before it was gone over the trees.

Better Picture:

For more Bald Eagle photos, check out:

We continued our journey down river looking for spots that I would return to fish in the future. I noted several as I kept an eye on the locator and side scan sonar unit. After traveling well past the town of Peru, we decided to turn around and head back since there was a slight chance of storms later on.

On the return trip I decided to stop and take a couple casts at what I thought was a fishy looking spot. Bear was really happy I was going to do some fishing. He was probably thinking about his last fishing trip. Sure enough, it took less than a minute and I had a small Sauger in the boat.

A few casts later and I had a small White Bass in the boat. We turned to make another pass over the spot and I hooked a monster fish. It ran towards me before turning and heading off to one side. I pulled back and the fish changed directions again heading away from the boat. A couple seconds later and the line went limp – fish gone. It fought like a Striper but was more likely a large bighead carp.

Rather than spend more time there, Bear was looking like he was getting too warm in the sun so we poured a bottle of water into the bowl we brought for him, then headed back after he took a drink. We stopped at one spot I had fished before and I hooked a nice Sauger but lost it at the boat. We spent less than 2 minutes there.

Getting the boat out of the water was a challenge without the use of a dock. My wife nosed the boat up to the ramp and I jumped off the front. She backed away until I had the trailer in the water and then she did another perfect job of driving onto the trailer.

My last trip to Starved Rock resulted in my falling out of a friend’s boat into the water below the dam. I was fishing from the rear casting deck when his trolling motor suddenly struck a rock stopping the boat on a dime and sending me over the side. My cell phone was the only casualty. Luckily this trip went a lot better despite my forgetting to check the most important thing before putting the boat in the water.