Friday, October 30, 2009

Tough day on Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan - October 29, 2009

Leaving the Boat Ramps

When I got to the boat ramps I was surprised to see an almost full parking lot. That would normally be unusual for a Thursday this time of year, but the Lake Trout were in and they're only in for a limited amount of time. You have to wait for a south wind to make the lake calm enough to safely go out there so when that window opens up, you have to take it.

Burns Ditch

I put the boat in the water and fished my way down Burns Ditch to the lake. In the past I've caught Largemouth Bass and King Salmon in there, but not today. As I made my way down the ditch, I noticed a lot of new construction. I didn't make it out on the big lake last year at all and was surprised to see a new walkway along the west shoreline.

New Walkway

The walkway was extended all the way out to the rocks that protect the mouth of the ditch from the monster waves that can develop quickly out there.

You can walk all the way out to the lake

Once I made it out to the reef, I started fishing for the lakers the way I've done in the past. They didn't want anything to do with my offerings. I saw a lot of fish caught, but I don't have down-riggers or the other gear that folks were catching them on. That was ok though because I was able to watch and learn. Every now and then a big Lake Trout would surface near me which told that my day will come. It just wasn't going to be today.

Me with a Lake Trout from the past

The lake was fairly calm since the break wall that protects the port was protecting us from the strong south winds that were picking up. By the time noon rolled around, it was blowing pretty good and there were plenty of white caps. I decided to head in without a fish to show for my efforts. Maybe next time they'll be interested in what I was throwing at them.

Starting to get rough

Lake Michigan is amazingly clear these days thanks to the zebra mussels. You can see a crank bait 10 feet down whereas you're lucky to see the same lure 10 inches down in most of the other water I fish.

Portage Public Marina

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Best day of Sauger fishing I can remember

More Photos from todays trip:

Launching before Sunrise
My original plan was to go look for King Salmon and possibly an early Lake Trout on Lake Michigan Tuesday, but I got an email from my friend Jim Lukancic and decided to take him up on his invitation to fish the IL River instead. I met him at his house about an hour and a half before the sun was due to rise and we headed off in the darkness to fish a stretch of the river I've never been to before.

The sun rises as the clouds move in

The video at the bottom of this post doesn't do justice to the great day we were about to experience. When we got to the ramp there was a large group of hunters waiting to take off. Throughout the day we'd hear the occasional shotgun blasts, but they were a long way off from the water we fished.

Jim with a nice IL River Sauger

Jim ran his boat to the first spot and he was right on as far as where he thought the fish would be. We caught a lot of fish there including Sauger, White Bass, Freshwater Drum, and one Yellow Bass. Jim caught a couple real good fish there but it took me a little while to get into the swing of things. I left my jacket in my car and was concentrating more on the fact I was freezing than fishing.

Jim puts a White Bass in the boat

As we fished that spot we saw flocks of Geese flying south and I was wondering why the Pelicans were flying north. A young Bald Eagle flew by as a crow began yelling his displeasure at the intrusion into his air space.
Are we there yet?

After fishing that spot for a couple of hours, Jim explained that he knew of another spot where there would be fewer, but bigger fish and we decided to go check that area out. Lucky for me Jim offered to stop back at the ramps so I could get his extra jacket before we made the run to the next spot.

Immature Bald Eagle takes flight
On the way to the next spot we saw several young Bald Eagles. Some were in trees and others were playing tag in the air above the trees. Different species of birds were congregating in different areas. It seemed each species had their own little neighborhood on the river.

One of my best Sauger for the day

Jim was right about the next spot. The first time I dropped my jig, I pulled up a small White Bass. A little later I'd pull in my first big fish of the day. Fishing was a little slower, but the fish we caught were definitely bigger as my next fish was pretty much a clone of the one I had just released.

Another Sauger about to be released

Jim wasn't about to be outdone and pulled another good one from that spot. As a barge passed us, I noticed lots of silver carp jumping out of the water next to it. I picked up the video camera and made an attempt to capture it. During the warmer months, boaters have to be very careful because the vibrations from outboard motors will send the Silvers flying into the air and they've been known to break windshields and injure boaters and skiers.

Another nice Sauger from the IL River

Jim wanted to show me one more spot before we headed back. Again he was right on. We caught fish, but I think the brief appearance the sun made, and the fact the wind died down helped to slow fishing. Even though it slowed the fishing (or more likely moved the fish), it was enough for me to unbutton the jacket and life vest I had put on the stay warm. We still managed a few nice fish though. I even caught a small Bullhead to make for our fifth species of the day. The Spirit of Peoria steamed by and we discussed running to one more spot to try for a Bass but decided we'd better hit the road instead. It was going to be an equally long drive back.

Another good Sauger

The day had gone from a cold cloudy morning in the mid 40s, to a partly sunny afternoon in the mid 60s. We drove through a brief rain shower as we left, but by the time I got home, it was still nice enough for me to wash down my boat from the last trip I took with it. My dog was glad to help with that task.

Afternoon Traffic

Thanks to Jim for inviting me out. It was a great day of fishing and conversation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Weather at LaSalle Lake

Since today is closing day for the 2009 season at LaSalle Lake, here's a video of some of the wind, weather, waves, and fog from the past 10 years. Don't forget to try full Screen and HQ.

Fishing Tackle

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

LaSalle Lake - October 14, 2009

LaSalle Lake - October 14, 2009
More photos from today:

Cold, Rainy, and Foggy
When I left the house it was cold, dark, and a moderate rain was falling. I left the cover on the boat for the ride to the lake hoping that the spray from the other vehicles on the highway would not wind up on the windshield and upholstery. The interior stayed clean, but the exterior was filthy by the time we got the boat in the water.

Boat Ramp Out of Order

The parking lot for trailers was empty when I got there. I was a little late due to being held up by a train in Seneca. It stopped just short of the last car clearing the crossing, then sat there for a while before it backed up and cleared the crossing before stopping again.

Neither the road leading into the lake, nor the parking lot are paved so when it rains it can be very sloppy. We were concerned after we saw the "Do not Enter" sign in front of one of the ramps and discussed going back towards home and fishing the river again. After a closer look at the sign we figured out that it was only for the one ramp because of a hole that had developed near the bottom of it. The fact that there were no other boats there also concerned us because they have a tendency to close the lake to boats if its windy. More on that later.

Empty Lot

There was a lot of thick fog blowing across the lake with the cold east wind. Both Mike and I were surprised at how brutal it was considering that there didn't appear to be much wind at all on the way there. LaSalle is a cooling lake for the LaSalle nuclear power plant. It's 2,600 acres of water that is built on high ground so that it catches the wind to keep the water cool. This means it can get very dangerous out there too.

Fog and Rain

Mike caught the first couple of fish. His first fish was a nice Largemouth. A little later he hooked a catfish and kept it in the water until it got loose. He didn't want it in the boat. Mike also wound up with a nice Smallmouth and a couple more Largemouth before we were done.

Mike with the best Largemouth of the day

Fishing was a lot tougher than we expected. Usually fishing at LaSalle is phenomenal when there is a good cloud cover and a good breeze. Not today. We worked several areas with no luck but Mike was able to pick off a fish here and there while I hauled water.

My first fish of the day - Freshwater Drum

When we got to the warm water discharge canal, I grabbed a rod with a blade bait and promptly caught a Freshwater Drum. As we worked our way into the warm water (which was only in the low 70s) we thought we'd at least catch a couple small catfish. Neither of us got a bite so we moved on.

Me and my best fish of the day

Cabela's Bargain Cave

I didn't catch my Smallmouth until we were almost done for the day. The fish hit right at the boat and took off. I didn't let him go very far and when I got him back to the boat I hoisted him up out of the water, unhooked him, and posed for a photo before releasing him.

Not the best of days - but my favorite kind to fish

As we were leaving we saw two boats launching. We were concerned that one of them was taking a baby out in those conditions. Judging by the issues they were having getting their boat in the water, then off the rocks after it got away from them, they did not seem to be experienced boaters. That lake has taken several lives over the years and today was not a day for the inexperienced to be out there. Usually they close the lake to boats if it gets windy because 6 and 7 foot waves can materialize very quickly.

To see some of what this lake is capable of dishing out, take a look at these links:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Inside a Bee Hive

I was doing the yard work today and came across the bee hive that I would usually avoid when cutting the grass. It was located in the ground along a line of bushes on the edge of my yard. It looked as if a critter had dug up the hive and eaten some of the honey comb that was inside the hive. In this first picture you can see the critter dug from two angles and pushed the dirt behind it onto my neighbors driveway.

Here is a close-up of the hole. The original entrance to the hive wasn't much bigger than a quarter.

And here is a shot of the hole and one of the pieces of honey comb on the ground next to it.

Last year I was swarmed by the same type of bee and stung at least nine times. I wasn't anywhere near them either. The kid next door also got it a day later so I went out at night and disturbed the hive with a shovel (not wanting to kill them) hoping they would relocate. They did, but it took me two more times before they left the property.

Since no one was stung and they were not in a spot that was likely to get disturbed, I figured I'd leave them alone this year. Bees are good for the environment.

Maybe it was a little nuts, but I stuck the camera inside the hole and got photos of the bees working on what was left of the hive.

Inside the Hive

Another shot inside the hive before I backed off and let them calm down.

A couple other bees were doing something with the honey comb material that was on the ground.

I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about bees other than you don't mess with them and they typically wont mess with you. Especially with Bumble Bees. We had a Bumble Bee hive right near our side door and they never bothered anyone. Then one day they were gone. I was able to stand next to the hive and they'd land on me and not sting me. I wouldn't try that with these bees because when I first found the hive, I went past it with the mower and a bunch of them came after me.

As luck would have it, I spotted another type of Bee on my porch as I was on my way back inside.

We've had two nights below freezing and the low temps are forecast to be just above freezing for the next week, so maybe the bees will be able to fix their hive and survive the winter.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Des Plaines River - October 7, 2009

Once again I was up before the sun, and outside with the dog uncovering the boat. I could see the stars above which told me there were no clouds, and more importantly that after the 70 mph wind gusts we had overnight, fishing would be tougher than normal.
First fish of the day - White Bass

As I left the driveway, there was a faint glow in the eastern sky and by the time I made it to the boat ramps the sun was above the horizon and I could see a pretty good bank of clouds moving in from the west. No one else was in the parking lot yet. The wind had calmed to around 15 mph out of the WNW and was forecast to diminish even more.

A little Largmouth Bass

As I headed up to my first usual spot I noticed more barges and tugs flying around the river than birds and other creatures. The creatures were still probably hunkered down from last nights strong winds and I was hoping the fish would not have been as effected by it. I was also thinking how great it would have been to be out there before the winds because the fish would typically be going nuts under those conditions.

Another small fish - Smallmouth Bass

I got to my spot and worked it with crank baits and plastics, and only caught a couple small fish. I didn't spend a lot of time there before running to another spot.

White Bass

I caught a couple of nice White Bass and a lot of small fish before I realized that the fish I was looking for were not going to be easy to find in that spot.

Best fish of the day - White Bass

I moved to another area and caught one more small fish before running back to where I started and catching the best Largemouth of the day - which was still nothing to be bragging about. After a few more casts I ran back to a spot near the ramps where I had caught some fish the last couple of times but there was another boat already on it.

Best Largemouth of the day

I ran a little further and decided to work my way back up to that spot. I caught another little Largemouth and watched as the other boat caught a couple fish about the same size. Before I knew it I was looking at 5 or 6 bass boats in the area. I continued working past the spot I wanted to beat up and only got one more small fish before I decided to hit the road. Besides, the sun had long since come back out and it had warmed enough for me to wash the boat since I neglected to do that the last time I took it out.


So for a day that started out fairly windy and in the low 40s, it turned out calm and in the upper 50s. The water temp ranged from 62 to 72 at one of the discharges I went by. The highlight of this trip was a coyote catching my eye on the opposite bank off in the distance. I picked up the camera with the 300mm lens and took a couple shots before he was gone.

Done for the day

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Change to the Homepage

I've made a change to the hompage at :

I've added a control on the homepage so that anyone can jump directly to a specific blog entry from the site. It works with IE7, Safari(MAC and PC), and IE8.

If anyone notices a problem with this control, please leave a comment and let me know what browser and OS you're using. And while you're there, take a look at some of the Outdoor, Rough Weather, or Bald Eagle Photos!

Maybe I'll try to do an HTML control that will work on the other pages??


Friday, October 2, 2009

Lake survey with Herman Brothers Pond Management

Cabela's Bargain Cave

On Wednesday September 30th, 2009 I had the opportunity to assist Nate and Justin Herman of Herman Brother Pond Management with a survey of a 22 acre lake at a private facility.

This was my first time doing something like this and it was a unique experience for me, not to mention a lot of fun.

Bluegills and other panfish

Nate began by testing the conductivity of the water. He also made a prediction as to where the fish would be based on the weather pattern and current conditions (post cold front), and he was 100% correct. I know a lot of fishermen who wish they could do that.

Justin Photographs a Goldfish held by Nate

We put the boat in the water and were joined by Kevin and DJ who are two employees of the facility. Nate started the generator and explained that there would be an optimum setting for safely shocking up the fish. He also mentioned that it wouldn’t be a good idea to touch the water – which I forgot and did after handling a carp. He warned me that in some lakes I would have gotten quite a jolt and that was enough for me to remember that from now on.

Justin measures a Largemouth Bass

As Nate moved from spot to spot, fish would float up near the electrodes that were hanging in the water. The bigger fish would recover instantly and if you weren’t quick, you’d miss them. We took turns netting the fish and making sure they were put into the tank properly. It was obvious that Justin had been doing this for a while because he was scooping up fish that I never even saw. Once I got my hat and polarized sunglasses out of my car, I did a little better.

Me with two Largemouth Bass

After we had enough fish, Nate and Justin carefully measured, weighed, and inspected the fish for signs of disease. All the fish were healthy and showed no signs of disease. From the weight and length, Nate explained how he could determine if the fish were eating enough. He also explained that the weight/length ratio would vary at different times of the year.

Me getting another fish to measure

After releasing the first group of fish, we set out to survey the second half of the lake and repeated the process. Not only did I have fun but I learned a few things too. That’s not unusual when you spend time with someone like Nate who really knows his stuff.
A Largemouth Bass about to get weighed

When we were finished, Nate explained he would provide the facility with a complete report and also with a few recommendations for maintaining the lake.

Nate demonstrates how to hold a Largemouth Bass

If you need pond supplies, fish to stock, help with a weed problem, or anything else lake or pond related, Herman Brothers Pond Management can help you out.