Archive for September, 2010

Operation Bronze Bombshells

Posted: September 17, 2010 in Recent Reports

All your brass are belong to us

The shift in air temps and the dissipation of our extended summer daylight hours has reigned in the migration of Lake Michigan’s pound for pound fighting champion of the salmon kingdom, the Chinook or “King” Salmon. Fall spawning season is upon us, and up and down the shores of the mighty lake hordes of these majestic creatures flow into our harbors and tributaries whence they came from. However, unlike their cousins from the Pacific Ocean, these beasts do not follow the homing signals that were burned into their teeny tiny brains upon birth. The salmon of Lake Michigan for the most part are only present in abundant numbers through the stocking efforts of the state agencies that share it’s shoreline, as well as from outside funds and donations given through organizations such as Salmon Unlimited.
Wild run Chinook Salmon spend all of their lives in the ocean where they migrate with the available forage, and only return to the freshwater streams, rivers, and tributaries where they themselves were born. It is one of the amazing curiosities of the animal kingdom that is also present in the stocked fish of the Great Lakes. The caveat is that here, the fish only know to go where they first made contact with the clear waters of our beautiful lake. From The Upper Peninsula all the way around and back to Michigan a select group of the larger harbors is where they are stocked, and where they began their 4 year fight to survive.

Upon maturation around 4 years of age, these fish that normally roam the depths of far off temperature breaks and thermoclines, come in great numbers to our shorelines. They gather and circle the harbors, or migrate upstream endlessly searching for appropriate spawning grounds. Unfortunately, There is a severe shortage of suitable spawning habitat for these fish, and very few if any of these migrating fish ever have a successful spawn. Sadly, all of the salmon will die upon completion of their struggle to mate, whether they are successful or not.

On the bright side, this migration leaves them vulnerable to those who posses the intestinal fortitude to hunt them. It is a chance for shore-bound anglers and small boaters to hook into what could be for them the fish of a lifetime. At full maturity many female (hen) salmon full of ripe roe will weigh upwards of 20lbs. or more, with reported catches of fish in the 30 lb. class. Many tactics for these brutes have been perfected over the years, and it seems each year a new “method” or presentation is divulged from the shore-fisherman’s underground and sent mainstream. However, tried and true methods such as casting heavy rolling-wobble spoons, and loud rattling wide-wobble crankbaits and jerkbaits still produce respectable numbers of fish up and down the lakefront.

Now that you have a brief history and general idea of the backdrop for this mission, I think it’s time for a full debriefing.

For logistical reasons, this operation encompassed two separate assaults upon the same general area.

~ Mission #1 ~

Location: Milwaukee, Wi – Milwaukee Harbor
Time: Dusk to midnight (stealth under cover of darkness was paramount to success)
Equipment: Medium to medium light spinning and baitcasting rods/reels, 12 to 14 lb. Fireline and PowerPro superlines, and a plethora of rattling crankbaits and jerkbaits from Strike King, Rapala, Storm, Smithwick, and Berkley.

My partner in slime for this mission would be Dan Sims, a resident multispecies master angler at, and a regular mention in the Chicago SunTimes column written by Dale Bowman, Stray Casts. While he is adept in many angling pursuits, he is most known for his Des Plaines River expertise.

The arrival at our destination brought about the nervous stomach and butterflies often associated with the anticipation of great things to be. Immediately we set lines and made way for our first of a few passes at the outer gaps between the harbor and the main lake. My typical modus operandi is to meter the gaps between the harbor and main lake first looking for staging fish. Typically these are the freshest of the fish coming in from the main lake, and most still have yet to change into their darker “spawning colors”. Passes though the two main gaps proved fruitless so on towards the marina basin we went.

It was here that we happened upon a basin completely devoid of other fisherman, yet the surface activity of ready to spawn kings was 360 degrees around us. We had the whole basin completely to ourselves, and to top it off, the fish were violently attacking our crankbaits, fighting us with reckless abandon, and the action when we got on top of them was nonstop!

First P.O.W. - Female prisoner taken for roe interrogation

I was first on the board with a sow of a hen that came in at just under the 20lb. mark. She ate a white Rapala X-Rap deep-10 in about 13 feet of water. Next up, and ultimately commencing a shut-out on me from there on out was Dan with this hefty stud. This fish, and the rest of Dan’s fish came on a Strike King series 5 crankbait in the “Sexy Shad” pattern.

Second P.O.W. - Soon to be tortured for intel in ~The Smoker~

Someone said the camera flash induced “red-eye” in these pictures was pretty bad and could be corrected, but I believe Dan’s eyes were red with murderous intentions. The man was on a killing spree, and nothing seemed to quell his appetite for more bloodshed. The assault went on into the wee hours of the night, but finally our battle fatigue forced us to make our “last casts”.

Ninjas don't kill salmon, Dan does.....

Eat your heart out Abu Ghraib.....

At the close of the mission, as I battled to overcome my slump I was again stomped upon by the merciless skill of a man possessed. In what would end up being his finest battle, Dan once again found himself victorious over another Bronze Beauty. Feeling grateful for the bounty in which I had provided, he made an honorable offering to his ever-gracious host. With humility and desperation I accepted, hoisting the great pewter-skinned beast for our final photo-op with the enemy.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

~ Mission #2 ~

Location: Milwaukee, Wi – Milwaukee Harbor
Time: Dusk to midnight (again, stealth ops under the cover of darkness was paramount to success)
Equipment: Medium to Medium Light spinning rods/reels, 12 to 14 lb. Fireline and PowerPro superlines, and a plethora of rattling crankbaits and jerkbaits from Strike King, Rapala, Storm, Smithwick, and Berkley.

Intel had come back from Headquarters that not only was the bite continuing strong in the A.O. (area of operations) from last week, but the general public fishing community at large had not caught word either. With my slump still fresh in my head I spent 4 days mentally preparing myself for another assault. Finding solace in a favorable weather pattern on day 2….. I made plans with local legend and Firefighter/Hero extraordinaire, Jake Saylor. We contrived a diabolical scheme to use the element of surprise to our advantage. Arrive under the cover of darkness and hit them mid-week before the weekend bucketeers gained control of the “high ground”.

Once again, our arrival to the land of cheese and extraordinarily friendly women at Culver’s who think you parked too close, chew you out, then actually look at where you parked, realize that she can still fit her fat pushin’ cushion easily between her own little p.o.s. and the boat, only to look at you with daggers in her eyes exclaiming that it was still my fault for making her worry, then gets in her car and drives off with that “I have pms, so get the hell outta my way!” look…….. hmmm, uhhh what was I saying?

So the gameplan was to set lines at the launch and troll a bit around the mouth of the river hoping to catch some migrating fish off-guard. However, with East winds gusting that day at 20 to 25 mph, the whole harbor was churned up like a washing machine. Trolling anywhere near any entrance to open water beyond the protection from the breakwalls was out of the question. “This could be bad,” I tell Jake as we pull lines, “I was warned by one of our friends that we would have difficulty due to the water clarity and the mud lines. Maybe we should just give up?”. Jake was not convinced, he told me flat out that whoever said that is full of shit. I was pretty amazed, he is normally not so candid with his feelings, but I had to admit that his confidence was contagious.

Jake always did have a thing for golden blondes

A short jaunt over to the marina basin later, and we were quickly on fish. It took us a few minutes to find a suitable location, but once we did it was steady action. Jake the Snake Saylor put on a clinic hooking three fish and landing two before I even got the chance to swing at one.

Excited or...? What is that on his leg?

Even if they were all males, Jake didn’t seem to mind. Heck I think he may have even enjoyed it more…… Did you see the placement of his hand near the rear of the fish in almost every picture? I’m not sure if that is his “signature torture technique” or not, but it sure looks as though he is enjoying his work….. lol

Hand placement is key when subduing big males

As I said, Jake schooled me right off the bat. His kill ratio was climbing dramatically while I was struggling to line up the crosshairs.

This was when I noticed Jake’s weapon of choice was a Storm Thunderstick in the luminous herringbone pattern, which was what I was using, but in the deep-diving model. That is what made all the difference in the world. Once I switched over to a Rapala X-Rap XR-10 in the famous “Hot Head” pattern, things began to really heat up for me!

A nice male with a healthy tan

Due to various reasons, and I won’t mention anyone’s name. After all I wouldn’t want to call Jake out on his bumbling idiocy while taking pictures of my fish…. I wouldn’t throw him under the bus like that… I wouldn’t want everyone to know he screwed me over like that, so yeah due to various reasons we didn’t get pictures of EVERY fish we caught. However, we did get pictures of most of them. Especially ALL of Jake’s fish, multiple times, and some really good shots, cover page material ….. 🙂

Fish that max out my 36" ruler are welcome aboard anytime

To say that this trip was of epic proportions would be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was definitely a consistent bite, with plenty of hook-ups, hits, swings-n-misses, thrown hooks, screaming drags, and even some slime on the boat. I even caught Jake mid-coital at one point, and frankly I was disturbed to say the least.

Here, I caught you a delicious brass

On our way out of the harbor we ran across a group of locals shorefishing the area that Dan and I had committed our violent offenses on last week. I stopped to ask them if they were doing any good, and hoped to offer suggestions on how they could improve their catch. After all, we had a little info based upon our findings on the other side of the harbor. Unfortunately I was greeted with no answer to my questions, and was thrown some rather unkind words. I figured surely they misunderstood me, so I crept in closer and dropped anchor right in front of them. That was when I heard the unmistakable sound of hard jerking heavy weighted hooks through the water. Snaggers….. despicable creatures they are. Did they even deserve my hospitality? I was hoping for a friendly dialogue here, but all I was treated to was some unpleasantries, and stereotyping based upon the IL registration numbers on the hull of the Tin Can. Oh well, we tried to be nice. Momentarily I thought about firing up the gas motor and doing donuts in the general area they were fishing, but my plan was to stay stealthy. No need for me to lose my civility.

Bonus Brown Trout!

So we set-up again in an area clearly in view of our felonious friends and worked our jerkbaits for a few minutes until I caught this bonus fish.

That unfortunately would signal the end of our mission. We had a long drive out of the area ahead of us, and we were both due back at our “jobs” early the next morning. We were slimy, tired, sore, and crashing from the adrenaline rush that only hard-fighting close-quarters salmon fishing can provide.

As I drove home I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if we had just given up when we were working the river mouth without much luck. Tough conditions might make some anglers throw in the towel prematurely. However, the more successful anglers will adapt, persevere, and keep inspiring words of motivation close to heart –

Jake: “I know there is at least one guy on this boat that wants to go to D.I.X.”


Superman Saves the Day

Posted: September 7, 2010 in Recent Reports

I had the pleasure of fishing with a fellow FHQ superstar Dan Sims and his two sons out to my local fishing grounds this beautiful Labor Day. The weather was looking rather ominous before we hit the agreed upon meeting place, but as we neared the water, the dark clouds gave way to sunshine and the prospects for a great afternoon of fishing with the kids was improving.

Father & Son

Our first shoreline location produced a fish quickly and gave us hopes that today would be one for the record books. For days such as these I often make a trip beforehand to a local bait and tackle shop to pick up a couple dozen large golden roach minnows. The objective when I take kids fishing is fun. Catching is secondary, and any catalyst to increase the odds of having fun is definitely worth investing in!

When I squeeze him he makes this face !EeEeE!

So after a fish here and nothing else for a long time a move was made. Another hour or so spent hunting…… and playing…..

Minnow torture.....

Well, things were just not picking up for us. We moved again, saw a couple fish, missed one, and frankly we were running low on live roaches. 😀

The next "Zoolander"

So it was time to break out the “big guns”. That’s right, the unstoppable “Superman” fishing pole. A languid 4 foot fiberglass spincasting outfit with only two guides and a tip-top. The bright blue and red combo that has an uncanny ability to catch fish when it seems nothing else can. The next location I chose was nearest an area I knew MUST hold some fish. Thankfully, Superman saved the day.

Superman, fighting the good fight

The battered Hi-Viz styrofoam float set a couple feet above a #2 Kahle took a dive quite a few times while blowing around the pond, and on a couple of occasions we made solid connections.

An epic power struggle between fish and $5 fishing pole...

Amazingly, all of the fish that came to hand this day fell to the power of the mighty Superman pole.

Kids always smile a little more when they realize Dad got skunked

The sun was getting low in the horizon, stomachs were grumbling, and the bait bucket was looking pretty sad. So, it was agreed that it was time to end the afternoon and vow to return again soon to exact revenge upon the fish that outsmarted us this day. The news was not taken well by the little ones.

"But Daaaad.... We wanna staaaaay..."

Dan is a great Dad, a knowledgeable angler, and lucky to have a couple of great kids. I can’t wait to get out on the water again with him, and I have a feeling it will be sooner than later.