This Thanksgiving, Go Corn Free on your Phone!

A couple of years I located a website with a listing of gas stations in Michigan/the country, that offered ethanol free gasoline.  It was a nice resource to have, not only for your boat’s outboards, or inboards for that matter, but for all types of engines around the house.  Ethanol is the bane of small engines, made with corn, it destroys carburetors, rots gaskets and drys up fuel lines.  Love the farming industry, grew up in a farm town, but talk about the 2-3% of the population controlling what goes into everyone’s engines.

Here is the link for Michigan’s ethanol free stations, there should be just one pump at each station that has ethanol free gas.  Michigan Pure Gas is the link, but if you live outside of Michigan, look above the list, and you will see the initials for your state also.

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Lets say you are not near your home, do you have a copy of your list in your vehicle?  Maybe, but now there is an app for your phone available that lists all the stations near your location that offer ethanol free gas.  I will list the Google Play and iPhone app links below, it works with your GPS on your mobile device, and even gives you directions on how to get to the location.

Pure Gas on Google Play for Android

Pure Gas on iTunes/Apple

With many already ice fishing in Northern Michigan and across the northern states, time to think about what is going into not only your ice augers, but snowmobiles and quads as well.  In fact, just picked up a snow blower, why would I run anything else in it!

Copyright, 2014

Posted in Fishing Websites/Stores, Product Reviews | Leave a comment

Michigan’s Backwater Perch Season

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As temperatures drop, ice fisherman across the country are gearing up to get on the ice.  They know some of the best fishing takes place during the first part of the season.  Here on the Southeast side of Michigan’s lower peninsula, first ice means targeting the backwaters of Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.  It is in these out of the way areas where some of the best perch fishing takes place as soon as the ice becomes safe enough to walk out on.
As the winds of November and December blow in the cold artic air, perch migrate in to feed on schools of baitfish. By the time the ice forms, the perch have moved into the back canals, creeks and marinas along the shorelines.  It is during the first ice period these fish tend to be on the bigger side and are at their most aggressive when feeding.  Later in the season they become less active or move out to deeper late season haunts.
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On Lake St. Clair ice fisherman will lower their equipment onto the ice and traverse break walls to get out on the many canals found on the east side of the lake.  They walk into marinas in search of perch, any shallow water area is fair game during first ice.  What makes LSC perch fishing unique isn’t the quality of the fishing, although very good, but two very original methods used to put the fish on the ice.
Lots of anglers are familiar with spearing through the ice.  Many go into dark fish houses and drop spears on northern pike.  In Michigan and Wisconsin spearing sturgeon is also allowed.  On Lake St. Clair though, spearing perch is allowed, and as far as I know, this is the only lake in the United States where it is allowed.
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The second unique method employed to catch perch, like other areas across the country involves a rod, reel and a spoon.  Now when I say spoon, your first thoughts might go to a small spoon presentation like Clam’s Blade or Speed Spoons, tipped with maggots.  The spoons used on Lake St. Clair have been called many names over the years, but all have certain characteristics in common.  They are wide at the top, they narrow towards the bottom, have a sharp bend before a barbless hook, dressed with a plastic bead is soldered onto the blank.
The uniquely shaped spoon will dart off and flair to the side of the hole on the drop, covering a wider circle below.  When a perch hits the spoon, there isn’t any time to play with the drag.  It is literally a race to get the fish out of the hole.  Anglers on LSC use a stiffer rod, either a light or medium light rig, and the reels are spooled up with 6 lb test mono, remember the hook is barbless, so keeping tension on the perch is the key to success.  Once out of the hole you don’t have to handle the fish to get it unhooked, simply drop the rod tip down, let the perch hit the ice, and it will wiggle off the hook by itself.
South of the Detroit River, the anglers chasing perch will find them in creeks, boat clubs and marinas.  Anglers in Michigan are allowed to use three rods each, all year long.  Because of this, I might take as many as six to 7 rods out with me on any given perch trip.
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Whether sitting in my Fish Trap or kneeling on the ice in front of my Vexilar, I want to cover as much of the ice in front of me as I possibly can.  One type of presentation will be the active one, which means jigging a bait.  My other approach will be less active, either watching a bobber or using a dead stick.
One or two rods will be rigged with spoons, one will be more along the lines of a traditional spoon with a treble hook like Clam’s Blade Spoon.  I can either be aggressive when jigging, or just give it a little jiggle now and then.  On another rod, I will have a Speed Spoon with its short gold chain going to the hook.  Either presentation can be tipped with plastics, maggots, whole minnow or just the head.
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My other jigging rods will be rigged with either horizontal or vertical jigs.  In most cases I prefer using a tungsten jig, and last year, had the most success with Clam’s Dingle drop jig.  That short chain with a colored bead presentation helped to get the near sighted perch to bite when other jigs failed.  Sometimes perch can be fussy when feeding, so some rods will be rigged with a #14 jig.  Go as small as you can, when conditions allow.  Many backwater spots don’t allow you to go too small though due to currents flowing through them.  If the water is moving at a good pace, drop a #12 or #10 jig down the hole.  Keeping your line vertical is critical when telegraphing your jigging action on the rod down to the bait.
My second tactic is more passive, utilizing either the dead stick or bobber rigged approach.  They both have a sinker and hook on the line, but I let the conditions tell me which one to use.  When dead sticking, I can either use a very soft glass rod, or a rod equipped with a spring bobber, both types will let you see what the rod is telling you about the perch’s activity below.  I prefer to use a dead stick outdoors, bobbers freeze and lines stick to the ice shards…etc.
When conditions dictate that I need to be inside my shack, then I prefer to use a slip bobber rig on my other rods.  Once I set the thread to the right depth, it goes back to the same place in the water column.  This is key because of fishable space in the shanty and I don’t have move my Vexilar to a different hole every time I put the bait back down the hole.  Do it once, and forget about it.
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The perch fishing in SE Michigan can be incredible, and although the approaches are a little different, both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie have much to offer.   The perch are bigger, more aggressive, and you can use any of the techniques to get the job done.  Just remember to target these sometimes overlooked backwater areas at first ice for the best perch fishing of the ice season.
Copyright, 2014
Posted in Articles, Ice Fishing, Lake Erie, Perch Fishing | Leave a comment

Vexilar Flashers and the Transducer of Your Choice

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Vexilar has so many great products to choose from, and there is some exciting new news this year when it comes to the camera systems, but for today it is all about the flashers. Since my first days of fishing tourneys on the old Ice Team Trap Attack series, I have fished every single tournament with a Vexilar flasher, the models have progressed over the years, but the Vex label was on every single unit I fished with.  I can honestly say this, there is not another product on the market I would go to war with, other than a Vexilar.

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The market has become more competitive with a lot of companies to choose from out there, but when there is money or a title on the line, Vexilar is the one unit I would never be nervous about depending on.  Without going into too many details, I have seen other brands fail at critical times on the ice during crunch time.  Not so with Vexilar, the units take the pounding and just keep finding the fish.

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Way back in the day, circa 2001 roughly, I fished my first tournament with an FL-8 SLT.  Notice the original Dave Genz USL Blue Box that the unit is mounted to.  On the old boxes there were two places where you could mount your transducer arm, either in the front, or on the side.  I preferred the side so that the unit was more in arm’s reach, and if I had a big gill or crappie, I could get the transducer out of the hole that much quicker.  The newer boxes only have the hole for front mounting.  I don’t think Vexilar will be too upset if I mention that I drill a hole in order to still be able to mount the arm on the side.  Actually, the concept works even better now, because the boxes are more compact and the ducer can be jerked out of the hole that much faster.

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The transducers available for the models vary, you can get a 9, 12, 19 degree Ice Ducer, or the Pro View ducer.  Starting with the 9′ option, you would use it if you are fishing in really deep water for maybe lake trout, 80 feet or deeper.  Remember some models will handle fishing over 300 ft of water. 12 degree ducers are your mid-range option, say 35 to 80 feet of water.  For 35 feet or less, then the 19′ Ice Ducer is the option you want, specially if there is current pushing your baits away from the center of your hole.  There is some overlap as far as to which transducer you can use, this is because you can increase or decrease the flasher’s signal strength by adjusting the gain, a knob on your unit.

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Now the Pro View Ice-Ducer is a different animal altogether.  It takes the place of the old reliable Tri-Ducer.  Where the Tri-Ducer would allow you to switch between 9, 12 and 20 degrees, the Pro View extends your viewing window down below by having a 30 to 9 degree range.  At the 30′ setting, you increase your view by roughly a third.  With the Pro View there isn’t a selector switch, you actually control your view by adjusting the gain knob.  This makes sense, since you increase your strength by turning the gain up, which takes you towards the 9′ limit.

To get a better concept of the transducers available, click on the link below that will take you to Vexilar’s website.

Vexilar Transducers

Copyright, 2014

 

 

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Organizing Your Ice Fishing Walleye Baits

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I had a high number of clicks this morning on this article and thought it would be good to bring it back up for reading. Lots of new readers, lots of fresh perspectives out there.  The interest probably resulted in posting yesterday’s walleye lure/ice fishing article, so it is worth a new look.

Icing Eyes: Organizing Your Walleye Lures

The piece is two years old, but I had reorganized my baits to make things more compact when hitting the ice.  Ice fishing can boil down to storage and weight, and even though hitting the big water means employing transportation, it does mean you can fit more “stuff” in your Fish Trap!  And if anyone knows me at all, I am all about the stuff, and being ready for adapting to what the walleye want.

Copyright, 2014

Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Storing your Ice Jigs

One of the keys to ice fishing is to protect your investment, and yes, your equipment is an investment.  Augers, shanties, rods, reels and of course, your jigs.  I started a Facebook page, or I should say “launched”, Fishing Michigan on FB.  One of the ideas was to cruise through some older articles, and one or twice a week, break one out for revisiting and ice jig storage is just one of them I found today. Click on the link below….

Storing your panfish jigs!

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Copyright, 2014

Posted in Ice Fishing | Leave a comment

Panfish Ice Line: My Choice

This brand or that brand, this color or no color, that can be just two of the many questions an angler might ask themselves when staring at a wall full of line options at a retail store. Perfectly good questions all, but most of all, the line should reflect the type of fishing you are going to be doing with particular rods in your own personal arsenal.  Each type of rod can have its own purpose; sight fishing, hole hopping, deep approaches, bobber rods and tightlining.

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Like I said, fit the rod and line to the type of fishing, or better yet, to the approach you will be taking under certain circumstances.  When approaching a tournament, pretty much the full arsenal goes with me.  It isn’t until you spend a day dissecting a lake will you really know which ones will serve you best. But, fortunately over the years I have been able to narrow my line choices down to one brand, one color and believe it or not, one size pound test.  This makes purchasing the line a whole lot easier!

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The line of choice has become Sufix Ice Magic in 3 lb test, and the color is orange!

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I have played with thread, braids, various colors and sizes, but after some trials and tribulations, have settled on the 3 lb, orange ice line from Sufix.  So now the question is why, and one answer is that with roughly 85-90% of my rod and reel combinations, this line works with them all.  With hardly any memory, it works on my spinning perch and deep water approaches.  Because it is 3 lb, I don’t worry about the line getting cut at the bottom of a hole while sight fishing.  There is a bit less stretch versus 2 lb test lines, so I know my hook sets are going to be there.  Most importantly, the 3 lb Ice Magic works with a wide variety of lure sizes.

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If you have a line too heavy for your lure presentation, your line will coil, and you lose a bit of your ability to tell when a fish first hits your jig.  Think about all those coils that have to straighten out before you can tell there is a fish on!  That said, I  can run a 2mm jig all the way to a 6 mm presentation, and not have a problem with this line.

And it is orange; no matter your philosophy, tightlining, spring bobber or noodle rod, a brightly colored line will enhance your fishing experience.  Is any one approach the perfect one, well let me say this, if that was true, I would have a lot less rods, and they would all be the same make, model and rating.  The answer is a resounding no, but each philosophy has a time and place to be sure, the one thing in common is that a colored line makes them all better techniques.  You can line watch, take that back, you should be watching your line no matter what is your method of choice, because no one of them is perfect, and the line is the one common thread between all of them.  Sometimes your spring doesn’t budge, but you may notice your line drifting to a side of your hole indicating a fish is on.  If you tightline, it’s all about watching the line, and if you drop your rod tip, having a bright orange line will make it easier for you to see the line bunch up telling you there is a reason your jig isn’t falling with the rod tip action.

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And as always, when it comes to ice fishing, there is an economic consideration.  One, with each 100 yard spool, I can fill up 3 to 4 reels.  You really do not need more than 25 or 30 yards of line on each reel.  Most of the time you are fishing in less than 20 foot, but even if you are fishing in 30 ft, that is at most 10 yards, and no bluegill, crappie or perch is going to strip out the last 15 yds on the reel.  Also, 3 lb test lasts longer.  When I used mostly 2 lb line, I was changing line every year.  For most applications it worked fine, but it was fragile, and after a year of heavy use it broke down.  With 3 pound, I can skip a year or two before I re-spool on most of the reels. I still go back and inspect each setup, it’s a must when you think it could cost you a big fish, or even a check if you are hitting the tourney trail this winter.

Copyright, 2014

 

Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing, Product Reviews | Leave a comment

An Easy Schooley Reel Modification

IMG_1899I had a question last night about modifying the classic Schooley ice fishing reel, so went back into the archives and pulled this article out.  Its easy, pretty inexpensive and it will make fishing with this classic reel even more effective while hitting the ice this winter. Click on the link below with your mouse to go back in time and get started gearing up for this winter’s fishing!

 

Schooley Reel Modification

Copyright, 2014

Posted in Do-It-Yourself, Ice Fishing, Ice Products | Leave a comment

Bringing Back an Old Trick for Catching Fall Walleye: The Snap Weight

The ol’ tried and true snap weight, sometimes overlooked, but always effective under the right conditions.

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From 1/2 ounce all the way up to 3 oz, my snap weight box filled with Church Tackle snaps, gets used all season long when fishing for Lake Erie Walleye.  Cannot help it, when something works, it works, why ignore it?  Although Church no longer makes the snap weights, I can’t just bury a good tactic, and with the advent of their new TX-007 Stern Planer, the concept has new life in my approach to catching walleye.

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The method in which you use to get the baits down can be up for debate, you have the standard 50/50 method as found in the Precision Trolling guides, or you can play with what works best for you.  Either way, its effective with either crawler spinner rigs or running cranks, as well.  Sometimes 50 feet behind the snap can be a little much, but remember this, no matter how much line you run behind the snap take into account how far your lure is going to dive behind the weight.  Just for example’s sake, take a Storm Deep Thunderstick (not the Jr. size, the big one) and you let out 20 feet, your bait will dive 10 foot behind your snap. So if you are running, or targeting fish on the bottom in 24 foot of water, let enough line out to get to a depth of 14 ft, and let the lure do the rest.

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In the picture above, are two good examples of the baits I like to use behind a snap/flex weight.  To the left, the classic shallow Rapala Husky Jerk in size #14, and to the right, a #12 jointed Deep Husky Jerk.  On their own, neither bait will get down enough in some depths holding fish, so with a little assistance of a snap weight,  they get down deep quick.  Side note, you have to love a jointed bait on Erie this time of the year!  If you have ever braved the cold and wind on the break at Luna Pier, you know what I am talking about.

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Like my artwork?  Well, truth be told, it has something to be desired, but you get the point.  Here we have my rendition of a six rod spread utilizing both Church’s Stern Planer and their TX-22 planer boards.  On the outside the strategy is let the cranks dive down on their own, but off the back will use the snap weights with the -007’s and let them out anywhere from 100 to 200 feet, after attaching the planer.  What this does is allow any walleye that might have affected by the passing of the boat, whether drove down deeper or spread out to the side, to come back in line and get a good look at your presentation.  This has been a good approach on the boat the last couple of years and cannot imagine fishing without the Stern Planers now.  If I was long lining on an inland lake or river, they would be a must.

OK, so artwork aside, that is my new twist on using an old trick (the snap weight) and the TX-007’s, for a highly effective approach to catching walleye on Lake Erie’s late season.

Copyright, 2014

 

Posted in Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

New Baits From Big Eye Custom Lures…

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Vader

…just in time for the fall bite!  We busted out the gear Saturday and went walleye fishing out of Brest Bay here in Monroe.  Both fish came on custom painted baits from Big Eye Custom Lures out of Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Not really a surprise though, was talking with Don Dumas this weekend and we both realized that I have been running his harness spinner blades and custom painted cranks for just about four years now.

As I said earlier, just in time for the fall walleye bite, there are new baits ready to ship on the website.  Actually there are five new paint schemes for the Rapala Deep Husky Jerks (DHJ-12), one is a take off from a spinner blade and the other four are brand new baits!

Boo Berry

Boo Berry

 

Purple Haze

Purple Haze

 

Vegetarian

Vegetarian

 

Paula's Pride

Paula’s Pride

 

Looks like I am going to need some new Plano Stowaway 3700 sized trays for these.  “Paula” is already one of my fave spinner blades, so that crank is going to be a must. Like the purple/pink combination, so definitely Boo Berry. Vegetarian will be a nice contrast, something different to cover the color palate for walleye to choose from….oh hell, not going to fool myself, I will probably get all of them!!!

If you haven’t tried Big Eye customs yet, they are well worth the price of investment, you can find them online at bigeyecustomlures.com, and since I will taking another road trip this Friday, will check out some more of Don’s baits at the Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Clinton, Ohio!  Its that kid in candy store mentality, can’t help it!

Posted in Fishing Websites/Stores, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Saturday on Brest Bay

Busted out the Church Tackle TX-22 boards and walleye cranks Saturday morning and headed down to Lake Erie.  Grabbed some supplies at Jeff’s Bait and Tackle, Eric has a good supply of the needed crankbaits to get the job done, picked up some extra Rapala Deep Husky Jerks (DHJ-12’s) and went to the Sterling State Park boat launch. There were quite a few boats, but really could not get a handle on just how many were perching, or chasing walleye.

At the launch one guy was coming back in after fishing solo inside the bay.  Actually, he did say he got out of the bay a bit to get away from the white perch.  He threw the kitchen sink at them, cranks, crawler rigs and spoons without a bite.  The approach made sense, as we noted the water temperature was roughly 54 degrees in and out of the bay.

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We set the lines and the boards out when we hit 20 foot of water just inside the point, straight out from the Sterling ditch and made our way at a 1.5 mph clip, swinging Northeast across the point towards the state line and the Fermi buoys.  Basically going with the flow, or the direction the waves were taking us.  Without a trolling motor it is a whole lot easier to control the boat when or if you get a fish on.

Like the gent at the launch, we through the kitchen sink at the fish and a various depths.  This time though it was all about the different types of cranks. Rapala Deep Husky Jerks, DDT-11 Taildancers, Scatter Rap Minnows on 3-way rigs, Storm Deep Thundersticks and a couple of Reef Runner 800’s.

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We only caught two fish, and they were the only two hook-ups for the day.  Both were males, but as you can tell in the picture, they have started to pack on the weight.  One was 18 inches (bottom) and the other on top of the pic was 22 inches.  The 18 incher came on a specially painted RR 800 from Big Eye Custom Lures, 44 ft behind the board.  The larger fish came on a DHJ-12, also painted by Don from Big Eye, but this time we ran it 80 foot back. You wont find them on the website, but if you order six or more of a bait, you can get them painted up.  With the Reef Runners, you will need to mail six clear Bare Naked RR’s up to Green Bay to get them custom painted.

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Of course, no fishing trip can go unpunished and we had a tangled mess as a result of the 2nd fish. It not only came in heavy, but it was dragging three other lines back with it. Obviously we caught the fish, but had to do some major cutting to get the lines rigged back up and in the water. We never got another fish on our second pass, but the wind was starting to kick up and the whitecaps were rolling so we called it a day.  Managed to get back to the shop and catch the 2nd half of Michigan State’s (Go Green) beat down on Michigan, so it was a good day all in all.

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Copyright, 2014

Posted in Lake Erie, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment