Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sure Sign of Spring

Indiana - February 18, 2009
More Photos from today:

River Otter Tracks with Tail Slide

Today's trip started out above freezing for once. It was cloudy with a slight breeze, but the air temperature was finally above the freezing mark as I ventured into the woods. There was still enough snow on the trail and along the banks to keep me from getting caked with mud as I navigated the terrain.

Clear Water

The water level was even lower than last week and the water clarity had improved quite a bit too. I kept an eye on the water as I made my way to my first spot but didn't see any signs of fish.

A Big Snag Waiting To Happen when the Water Rises

One thing I did notice were several Robbins. Around here, you never see them until spring arrives so the fact that I saw several during the day made me quite happy. Then I started fishing....

I started out drifting bait. The bobber went down three times in the first hour, but each time I pulled back there was nothing there. Nothing happened for the next several hours. I spoke to several guys fishing the creek and no one had caught a thing all day. A few of them suggested it was going to be tough until we get some rain, or we get a rapid snow melt to get some water flowing through the creek. Hopefully when that happens, it will bring a few fish in from Lake Michigan.

About the time I decided to quit, I saw a fish porpoise in the distance downstream. That added another hour to my persistence, but it was for nothing. Or so I thought...

Persistence Pays Off

After I tossed my remaining wax worms into the water to feed the smolts, I decided to throw one of my homemade spinners a few times. It was a good thing I did because on the fifth or sixth retrieve the lure stopped cold. I raised the rod tip high pulling back on it and line started screaming off the reel.

My Best Steelhead

I managed to fight the fish past some downed timber that cost me a fish a couple weeks ago, and after five minutes time I was lifting him out of the water. Once again a nearby fallen tree was used as a tripod and the fish was released after a few pictures.

Bright Red Cheeks -Back to the Creek
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Ice Fishing the Soft Water

Indiana - February 12, 2010
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Frozen Solid

There was a glimmer of light in the eastern sky as I began driving east on I-80 toward Indiana. The outside temperature was 13 but the forecast high was for 26. They later revised that about 5 degrees higher after the forecast clouds failed to materialize.

No Room to Fish

By the time I parked the car at my destination, the thermometer was showing 8 degrees outside. I knew I was going to be in for a rough time with the rod guides freezing up. The creek was frozen all the way across in a couple of spots, but where there was a little more current there was open water.

Frozen Bobber and Line

The first couple of spots I wanted to fish were not fishable due to the thin ice going out so far. Where I was able to fish I still had to contend with chunks of ice constantly floating by.

Fishing in the Floating Ice
All I could do was toss the bait out into the ice and hope for the best. The ice was moving faster than my bait was drifting so I had to constantly pop the bobber loose from the ice that would over take it.

First Steelhead of the Day Comes Out of the Water

Luckily on my second drift, the bobber failed to pop back up. I clicked the bail shut and began reeling up the slack and sure enough I had my first fish on. The fish swam under the ice that had frozen out from the opposite bank. I lowered the rod to my side and was able to get him out of there. Next he swam under the ice that had frozen out from the bank on either side of the spot I was standing in. At that point I let him go where he wanted but when he went back out in the current I was able to horse him to my feet without the line breaking due to the ice that kept hitting it.

"The water isn't much warmer."

I picked up the fish, set him in the snow and unhooked him before taking a few photos. He was released no worse for the wear.

Lots of Ice Behind Me

After several more drifts I gave up on that spot and moved down stream. It took a little longer, but another Steelhead took the bobber down.

More Ice Floats By

This fish felt bigger as it pulled drag out. Then for some unknown reason it turned and swam upstream right towards me. I reeled as fast as I could until the fish stopped and started fighting in circles right in front of me.

Circling for Another Run

I was going to have to somehow get the fish up onto the thin ice that was frozen a foot or more out over the water in front of me. I chose that spot because the ice was out even further on both sides up stream and down.

Diving Under the Ice

The fish swam under the ice in front of me and broke a big chunk off. As it floated out I realized he had done me a favor because I now had more room to land him.

Steelhead Swims Toward the Bank Under the Skim Ice

At this point I got a real good look at one of the biggest Steelhead I had ever had on the end of my line. It took off again for open water and wanted to fight a little more. When I got it close again it swam under the thin ice just above where I was standing. I don't know what it was thinking because it hit the sand under the ice and kept trying to swim right up onto the bank. I got a hand under it and lifted it up and quickly set it down in a huge snow bank that had drifted out from the creek embankment.

Just enough room to get him out of the water

The fish was still hooked so I quickly got the line untangled from the ice just in case the fish decided it was going to flop around and try to get back to the water. Sure enough, it did. I stopped it once as I snapped a few pictures. The fish nearly took my rod with it into the water as it tried to get away again. This time I picked up the rod and let the fish wiggle his way out onto the ice which quickly broke under his weight. He made a few powerful splashes as he took off for deeper water.

Big Steelhead in the Snow

I drifted that spot for a while longer without any other bites. The sun was getting higher in the sky and there was less and less ice drifting by. I could still hear the ice out over the creek moan and groan as the sun warmed it. I decided to move but as I approached the spot I wanted to fish, I noticed the area was frozen to the point where there was no place I'd be able to fish so I headed back.

Through the Skim Ice to Freedom

I stopped at the spot where a nice fish had broken my rod during the previous trip. By this time I didn't need gloves anymore and there was no more ice floating by. The ice around the shoreline was minimal in this spot due to the current but all I was able to do was snag twice.

A Scenic Spot

An older gentleman I hadn't seen before stopped to ask how and I did and then went to a spot about 50 or 60 yards down. A short time later he landed a nice fish and released it. I threw the spinner a couple times then decided to hit the road.

A Nice Steelhead about to be Landed

It turned into a really nice day. It warmed into the mid 30s by the time I got home and Bear was happy to have some play time in the snow.

Bear is Happy to Play Ball in the Snow

By William D. Anderson

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Late Winter Steelhead

Indiana - February 2, 2009
More photos from today:

Two Steelhead

Al Bernicky and I went creek hopping in search of Steelhead. The original plan was to go chase Sauger again in the IL River, but after double checking the weather forecast I thought it best not to be pulling my boat around on snow slickened roads.

Al picks a spot

We got to our first spot and began fishing. I landed a smolt right away and commented that we should use him for bait as I let him go. Al started fishing near the same spot, but after a few minutes I decided I'd head for my favorite spot on that creek.

My first Steelhead of the day covered in snow

I fished the magic hole very thoroughly and didn't get a bite. I tried a few things and nothing worked. I switched positions and started hitting another part of it and quickly hooked and landed my first fish.

My second Steelhead of the day

The problem was that I would have to get the fish past a couple of sunken trees with thick protruding branches in order to land it. The first fish I hooked was no problem.

A nice head shot showing the hooked jaw

The second fish I hooked got wrapped around the tree and I lost him. The third fish I hooked got all the way to the ice I was standing on and as I was slipping my hand under him to gently lift him out of the water, he bit through the line and was gone. I hooked and lost a few more fish while I was in that spot. They seemed to be stacked up in there pretty good.

Light snow falling

All this time it was snowing very lightly but there was one stretch where it came down pretty heavy. The birds were really active today and I was especially amused by these small birds that had blue feathers because they would constantly fly to a spot across the creek from me, poke around in the snow, then leave. Al later told me about another bird that kept diving down and coming up with smolts. It had quite an appetite.

Another shot of my second fish

I landed the next fish and took a photo using the self timer on the Canon Digital SLR I had in my bag. I used a fallen tree as my tripod and the picture turned out OK. The fish was a brightly colored male.

One of several that got away

I set the fish in the snow next to the first one I caught and decided that would be all I would keep for today. Just as I finished re-tying, Al walked up to join me. He fished the stretch of creek I was originally working on and didn't get a bite. A short time later, I hooked another nice fish and Al got the camera out of the bag and was able to get one picture of the fight before the fish wrapped itself around the tree and got away.

Al tries to keep a fish from going under the ice

Al then decided he'd hit another spot and caught several nice fish there. He took a few pictures with his cell phone.

Another fish that Al was able to get onto the ice

I decided I'd start working my way back even though I was 2 for 8. I stopped at one last spot before I was done and hooked another nice fish. This time I had him in a pool where I could keep him away from the brush and was able to get him to the bank - until my St. Croix Rod snapped in half when the fish tried to make one more run. I loosened the drag right away since I still had the fish on. It all was for nothing though because he quickly snapped the 6lb test line like it was a wet noodle since there was nothing to absorb the shock.

The "broken rod" spot

Al walked up a few minutes later and we headed back towards home. Al's catch ratio was about the same as my miss ratio, but it was still a good day despite breaking the rod. This was my first St. Croix rod that I've owned and they should warranty it if they're a reputable company since I've only used the rod a couple times and have taken good care of it like I do all my other gear.

The water temp varied between 33.8 and 35.8 according to the thermometer I had. There was a lot of ice along the bank and the water level had dropped since the ice formed so we made sure to only walk on ice that had dry (or very muddy) land under it. The ice over the water was not safe.