Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blustery Day at Braidwood

Braidwood Lake - March 28, 2010

Clouds and light rain at Braidwood Lake

The goal today was to test the new Lower Unit. I put the boat in the water and everything worked fine. Everything worked fine that is - until the engine alarm went off. I looked back and saw the outboard was not spitting water so I powered it off and used the trolling motor to fish a little by the boat ramp.

A 12 inch Largemouth about to be released

I managed to catch a 12 inch Largemouth very quickly. The wind would catch the lures and take them quite a distance which allowed me cover more water rather quickly. I didn't want to get far from the ramp in those conditions so I stayed tight to the bank and worked my way down the shoreline.

Best fish of the day

A short time later I caught a real nice Largemouth that was almost 20 inches long. It put up a good fight.

No sooner did I release the fish when I spotted another boat that looked like it was going to move in to the bank in front of me. It made another quick turn, then pulled up along side me and two IL Conservation Police Officers proceeded to check my fishing license and inspect my boat for all the required safety equipment. They made sure I had life jackets, a throwable cushion, a working fire extinguisher, a horn or whistle, and they also checked my live well to make I didn't have any undersized fish or more than the allowed limit. Mine was empty and I had everything I was supposed to have so I was good to go.

Rain moving down the lake

After working my way down the bank a little I decided to fire up the outboard again and when I looked back it was spitting water like it was supposed to. I ran at just above idle for quite a ways with no alarm before I decided I'd go check out one more spot further away. Just as I got there, the alarm went off again so I shut the engine down right away. It didn't sound for more than a second or two.

I fished until I was sure the engine had cooled down completely before I decided to try to head back. During that time I caught and released an 8 inch Largemouth and lost a smaller one. I had a tough time getting the motor started which told me it was probably still a bit warm. As I was struggling with it, the two Conservation Officers pulled up again and offered to follow me back to make sure I didn't get stuck out in the wind. I got the motor started and it was spitting water again as it was supposed to. I made the run to the ramp but when I turned around to look at the motor I didn't see any water coming out so I didn't wait for the alarm and shut it down, then went the rest of the way using the trolling motor. I was almost right in front of the ramps anyway. I called a good friend and he agreed to take a look at the boat for me within the next couple of days. Since the lower unit was just replaced, he thought he had a good idea what might be wrong.

Despite the engine trouble, I was very happy that the lower unit issue was resolved. That worked like a charm. I caught a couple fish including one real nice one, and the clouds and rain departed leaving sunny skies and warmer temperatures in their wake.

Interesting clouds over an island

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Slow Start

Braidwood Lake - March 15, 2009
A Cold and Windy Morning at Braidwood

I was outside with the dog listening to the birds starting their morning songs well before the sun came up on Monday morning. All the early morning activity made me hopeful that the fish in Braidwood would be active too. A little later I was putting my gear into Al Bernicky's boat and we were on our way to the lake. The forecast was for partly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 50s. When we got to the lake it was still in the mid 30s, cloudy, and the north wind was blowing about 10 mph.

An Island at Braidwood

Our goal was to figure out a couple different ways to catch fish because Al has a tournament coming up there in the near future, and except for my last trip there, the fishing reports I've been getting haven't been that great. We took off for our first spot. I asked Al to stop in one spot well off a bank and he replied, "out here?". A couple casts into that spot and I had my first fish of the day on. It was good one but the fight didn't last long at all. He got away before we got a good look at him.

Another Deer on one of the Islands

We continued to follow the bottom contour without another bite. We threw everything we had at them and nothing worked. We soon gave up on that area and headed for another. All we found was more of the same thing. We made cast after cast with no fish to show for our efforts. Eventually I put the first one in the boat. It wasn't the smallest fish in the lake but it was nothing to brag about. Al eventually caught one too and it wasn't much bigger.

First Fish of the Day

We moved on and fished a few more spots with no luck before returning to the area where we had caught our two fish. We managed to put a couple smaller fish in the boat but they were still nothing that we were interested in catching. A short time later we found ourselves fishing a spot I haven't fished in years, and since we didn't get anything there it'll probably be a few more years before I fish it again.

Off to our next spot

We started fishing again in a new area. By this time I wasn't expecting much until Al said "Fish On" and pulled back on the rod. In no time flat he had a nice Largemouth in the boat.

Al releases a nice Largemouth Bass

On his next cast he set the hook and his rod doubled over again. This fish was a little better than the last.

Al puts another one in the boat

I was throwing a different lure and it didn't take me long to hook one. I was surprised the fish hit as it did because it had a huge shad in its throat. I put the fish and the shad back in the water and off it swam.

My first nice fish of the day

I didn't get a hit on the next cast like Al did. Instead I had to skip two or three before I caught my next fish. It was even better than the last.

Another nice one about to be released

We were happy we had finally figured out a way to catch some fish in those conditions. This trip was the total opposite of the last trip were we started out great and it slowed down the later it got. In this case, fishing was miserable until about the last hour. Al even caught a Bluegill on one of the Bass lures.

A Bluegill

We continued moving and manged to pick up a few more fish. I alternated between two different colored lures and caught fish on both of them. Al was throwing a few more things and also caught a few more fish.

Another one about to go back in the water

As Al began to put some of his rods away, I hooked one last fish and it turned out to be my best one. Al snapped a picture and the fish was quickly put back in the water so that he'll hopefully end up in Al's live well on tournament day.

My last and best fish of the day

As I started to get my gear in order for the trip back to the ramps I noticed it wasn't quite as cold as it was earlier. Not that I was anywhere close to being warm, but I had stopped shivering. The sun never showed up and it never got out of the 40s, but the fact we ran into a few nice fish helped make it a memorable day.

Best Fisherman on the Lake

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Braidwood Bass Fishing

Braidwood Lake - March 4, 2009

Almost Sunrise at Braidwood

Mike Matlock and I had the boat in the water at Braidwood before the sun was up thanks to the fact that the gate was opened early. Our goal was to catch a few Largemouth Bass. Braidwood is a cooling lake for the Braidwood nuclear plant so the water is artificially warmed. When we launched, the air was 24 and the water was 57.

My First Largemouth of the Day

We ran to our first spot and started catching fish right away. My first fish was nothing to really brag about but a short time after he was released I hooked and lost a real good fish. We took that as a good sign. Mike started out-fishing me at least 2 to 1, and he also tied into a big carp that we brought into the boat to make sure we got his lure back.

The Sun Peeking over the Hills

By this time the sun was starting to show itself above the horizon. The wind wasn't too bad and once the sun came up, the air warmed into the 30s quickly. It hit the mid 40s by late afternoon.

Frozen Turtles

Despite the frigid morning air, we saw a few turtles on logs. The water on their shells had frozen, but quickly melted as soon as they returned to the warmer water.

Mike about to Release a Chunky Largemouth

We continued catching fish on plastics and crank baits. I tried tubes and plastic worms and struck out while Mike had the magic touch and landed a few fish on the plastic worms. I had a couple fish hit the worm and tube I was throwing but failed to hook anything. I had no trouble getting them to hit my crank baits.

One of many Deer we saw today

We saw a lot of deer as we went from spot to spot. From the time we got there to the time we left we saw flock after flock of migrating geese. All were heading north.

One of my Better Fish

We tried a couple more spots that failed to produce anything and as the day progressed, the bite slowed down.

Common Carp that hit a Crank Bait

In one spot I managed to have a Carp hit my crank bait. It was a little smaller than the one that Mike had landed earlier in the morning.

Mike with a Nice Fish

Mike continued to out-fish me despite not having fished the lake in years. There was just enough wind to make fishing plastics tough in some of the places we really would have liked to, but we did the best we could.

My Best Fish of the Day

On the way back to the ramp we found out the hard way that I had a bad prop seal (due to hitting fishing line) and all the gear lube had leaked out and was replaced by water. We were still a good distance from the ramps and had to use the trolling motor to get back. It took us a while but we made it. A friend of my sons came over and dropped the lower unit and suggested it might not be as bad as it sounds. We'll have to wait until he gets it back to the shop for the verdict. I'm without a boat for the time being though.