Island Lake Crappie Fishing

There are days when you hit the lake with a plan in mind, only to change that plan when things don’t work quite as you hoped. Sometimes, that new plan works out even better.

Darrell and I made our first visit to Island Lake in Orangeville this season with the goal of catching some bass on the frog bite. Topwater bass action is one great way to get an adrenaline fix, and I had yet to get catch anything on my beloved Scum Frogs. Island Lake has often been a cure for that in the past.

However, as we worked along the usual areas, we realized we couldn’t see any bass, much less catch them. The lone bass we saw scurried away at the sight of the boat. Whether it was the heat, a slow recovery from a winter die-off, or poor fishing skills on that particular day, I do not know, but I quickly changed my mindset from one of targeting bass, to one of targeting panfish.

There were sunfish everywhere, so I picked up my ultralight combo and started toss to them. I landed a few and laughed at the fight they put up. If I ever get tired of catching sunfish, I should probably just give up fishing. We drifted by a log that looked to provide good cover and I cast to it. My lure was grabbed immediately, but to my absolute joy, I had caught a crappie, not a sunfish. That was pretty much it.

We have not yet found a lake near home with crappie in it, so I was jonesing for a crappie fix (seriously, I’m addicted to them). The boat drifted along some more and Darrell caught one, but the bites were few and far between.

perch

It wasn’t just crappie and sunfish, the perch joined in too!

crappie fishing

Oh my darling crappie!

crappie

How I missed these guys.

sunfish

A beautiful pumpkinseed.

crappie fishing

Yet another crappie.

crappie

Wonderful crappie!

island lake

This one looked like it had tangled with something.

Darrell was reluctant to give up the search for bass, but once we found a good patch of pondweed, he finally gave up and we started the crappie search in earnest. As is so often the case, these wonderful little fish were suspended in the vegetation, staying out of the sun. The key was to find the right type of veg, sort through the sunfish and rock bass, and get to those schools of black crappie a little further below.

Simple jigs were the perfect lures, with both of us going to our standby Berkley Micro Power Nymphs. These things are seriously awesome for crappie. Once we found the right locations for the day, it was a matter of dropping the jig down, and pulling up a fish. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully describe why I love crappie so much, but I’m sure part of it is that they can be the most frustrating species to fish for. They are either completely off (even when you can find them), or completely on. On this day, they were completely on.

We caught several different sizes of crappie, indicating different year classes – always a welcomed sight. It started out with 20 fish, then 30, but the more we released, the more we caught. We had to have caught some of them twice, because our total count was over 100 crappie between the two us, with another 100 sunfish (pumpkinseed, bluegill, and apparent hybrids) and rock bass.

Catching big fish is great, but some days you just need to catch a whole pile of fish. Crappie usually give me that day. We didn’t catch any true slabs, but we also weren’t refining our technique to look for them. We just enjoyed the bite. As long as we had the right vegetation, the right depth, and the right presentation, we couldn’t keep them off.

It was impossible for the two of us to stop smiling that day. We may have set out to catch bass, but our old friends decided the day should be about them, and we couldn’t have been happier.

Early Summer Bass Fishing

Though our bass opener turned into a day of pike fishing, Darrell and I have since managed to get into quite a few nice bass. We spent several days of our vacation chasing both largemouth and smallmouth bass, with varying degrees of success. Since returning to work we’ve had to make do with less fishing time, but we’ve made the most of it and the bass have been outstandingly cooperative at times. Patterns have developed, new water has been explored, and our bass fishing skills are shedding the rust.

We live in area where most of the towns have ponds, many of which are stocked with trout. But the bass are in these ponds in good numbers and offer a great destination for a quick fish. They’re our fishing spot of choice when we want to get the dogs out for a bit and take a few casts.

bass in holstein

Pond bass always provide some fun.

dog swimming

The problem with taking Molly fishing is that she swims in the fishing spots. We love her anyway.

As usual, we took part in the Grand River Bass Derby, held July 4th-5th this year. The flows were high thanks to rain in the days leading up to the event, and with the drive now being closer to two hours, we decided to save some gas, take the car on the first day, and just fish from shore at a few favorite spots. Fishing from shore turned into wet wading, with the water taking my breath away after the first couple of steps. It had been a long time since I walked in water that cold without my waders on.

If you ever want to have an enjoyable day, head to the Grand River on a sunny summer day, wade up the river, cast about, and chat with all the people floating by in canoes and kayaks. It’s really quite fun. A few small bass, a couple small brown trout, and one big creek chub were the extent of our catch, so though we had a great time, we caught nothing large enough to take to the measuring scale.

While shorefishing is fun, there is nothing like spending a day in the boat, and we spent the second day of the derby fishing out of the boat, on a stretch of the Grand with an incredible amount of floating weed drifting downstream. The visibility was poor in the morning, but cleared up through the day. We caught nothing of note and had to content ourselves with enjoying the beautiful day and testing out our ability to fish many lures through the weeds. Still, it’s always a great event to fish and lets us chat with many other anglers.

grand river

The Grand River is a beautiful place to spend the day.

grand river bass derby

Darrell shows off one of the big ones we caught in this year’s Grand River Bass Derby.

Our most success for bass this season has been on some local lakes. The fishing has been so much fun that I often wonder why there are so few boats out there taking advantage of the incredible fishery, then I remind myself that I am grateful to have the water largely to ourselves.

While we have used spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits, dropshotting, and flipping, the vast majority of our bass this season have come on a wacky rig, whether using a senko or some other version of plastic worm (my favorite has been the Power Team Lures Finicky Tickler). It is absolutely phenomenal how effective this incredibly simple technique can be. If you’re not familiar with the technique, check out this video from Wired2Fish:

We fished the rig weightless, finding that fish preferred the slow drop with a subtle twitch. It helped us fish around vegetation and docks without getting snagged in anything. In the mornings we have usually found the fish under cover such as docks and deeper stumps, but as the day progressed they would move up to the shallows and start feeding in the vegetation and wood. Much of the time we were able to sight fish them, and it’s hard to beat the adrenaline rush of watching your lure hit the water, seeing the bass shift it’s attention, then watching your bait disappear into it’s mouth. I find it hard to keep myself from setting the hook too early.

This technique has been so effective that it really doesn’t matter what colour or type of plastic worm we use, the fish just can’t resist that twitch. We’ve had double-headers, had one fish on with another chasing, and have caught a fish after it’s gone for the lure several times. Here are some of the bass we’ve been lucky enough to get pictures of:

bass bass fishing bass7 bass8 bass9 bass10 bass11 bass12

Likely the biggest bass I had on so far this summer actually bit on a dropshot. I cast to an area where the water colour changed from dark green to light green. It wasn’t long before a freight train was tugging at the other end of my line and I started reeling. Just as I was watching my rod tip bend over and thinking about what a nice fish it was going to be, I heard a ‘ping’, saw my line flutter into the air, and the fish was gone. I learned a valuable lesson that day about always double-checking your drag. I had needed to do some work with the reel the day before, and forgot that the drag had been tightened down. What a reminder.

While I truly am a multi-species angler – I have trouble choosing a favorite fish species to catch, it’s usually the last one I was catching – I have to say that bass never cease to provide me with a thrill. Hooking into a nice 3 or 4 pounder and watching them fly out of the water, and spook at the boat and peel line, is always a fun way to spend the day. Catching small ones will entertain me for hours, and catching the big ones will actually leave me shaking.

Chasing bass is such a great way to spend the summer, and the season has really only just begun. I look forward to many more awesome days on the water!

A Pike-Filled Bass Opener 2015

It took me longer than it should have to get the chickens back in their coop tonight. While I rushed through chores and brought my grateful horses into their dry stalls, the chickens delighted in splashing through the puddles and took no notice of the water dropping on their heads. In fact, they ignored when I first went out and even with a big bowl of treats, it took some coaxing.

While the chickens were dismayed to end their outdoors time early, I found myself thankful for the rain that has given me time to sit in front of the computer. I’ve been wanting to blog about all the fun fishy adventures we’ve had lately, and now is the perfect opportunity.

Bass opener for Zone 16 was on June 27th this year and it marked the beginning of my summer vacation (Darrell still had to work the following Monday before he was off). We timed vacation to coincide with the opening of bass season, so we were obviously excited to hit the lake Saturday morning in search of all the beautiful smallies we had been watching since ice-out. We weren’t the only ones eager to get there, as witnessed by the several other boat trailers in the parking lot.

Darrell was parking the truck while I started my normal routine of driving the boat to the pick-up spot, a routine that was interrupted by the sight of three nice smallies swimming under the boat. I grabbed the first rod I could get my hands on and took a few casts, but they had already seen me and they weren’t coming back. I went over to pick-up Darrell and it took him only a couple of casts to get a fish to the boat – a nice pike that came out of heavy weed cover. We had a good laugh about continuing with the toothy critters, then headed off in search of bass.

pike

First fish of bass opener – this lovely pike!

Since there were other boats working some of our regular spots, we decided to fish some frequently overlooked areas. While we use most techniques across the species barrier, it felt great to be throwing a wacky-rigged worm for bass once again. It’s a simple but effective technique, one that Darrell is far more skilled with than I am. When I got tired of snagging weeds with the wacky I would switch up to a spinnerbait, chatterbait, or crankbait. I prefer to power fish more than finesse – I have a short attention span.

The first bass of opener chose a rather opportune moment to be caught. Another boat was going by and slowed down to ask, “How’s the fishing?” I opened my mouth to reply but was cut off by Darrell’s, “There you are!” followed by a hookset. He lifted the pretty smallmouth bass into the boat and we all started laughing. It’s not often you can answer a question in that fashion.

bass opener

The bass with impeccable timing.

Despite that bass, the day really ended up being about the pike. We saw plenty of bass swim by, but the toothy critters were the ones wanting to bite. I missed a rather large pike that came out of the shadows of a boat house, chasing my orange and black spinnerbait all the way to the boat and hanging around for a few seconds before disappearing to the dark depths.

With the wind blowing and the clouds growing more ominous by the minute, we decided to head back to the launch before rain came. However, Darrell couldn’t let us just go by the weed patch he caught the first pike out of without a few casts to other one he had seen in there. I rolled my eyes but cast out the spinnerbait anyway and it wasn’t long before I felt the smash and saw water spraying everywhere and a pike flying out of the water. I reeled, she swam away, I reeled, she swam away. It was awesome! After I got her to the boat I may have actually yelled, “Screw the bass!”. It’s always an adrenaline rush to play with a nice fish.

pike

My dear toothy critter! Sure, not a monster, but not bad and one of the biggest ones we’ve found in this lake.

So our bass opener didn’t feature many bass, but it kicked off an incredible week of on-the-water adventures.

 

A Pike And Panfish Kind Of Weekend

It may have been opening weekend for bass in many areas of Ontario this past weekend, but those of us in Zone 16 have to wait it out for another week. It wasn’t a hardship to forego bass and spend another weekend chasing pike.

After spending Saturday morning running errands, working in the gardens, and watching the chickens play in the horse stalls, I was eager to hit the water when Darrell got home from work at noon. We headed to a nearby lake, pleased to see several vehicles in the parking lot and many kayaks coming and going. It’s always nice to see other people getting outside on a sunny day and enjoying what nature has to offer.

fishing

A perfect day!

As we ran up the lake I watched a boat towing a tube drive in tighter and tighter circles, bouncing the tube higher out of the water and causing great laughter for all participants. I am not particularly fond of swimming in lakes (I have real issues with the feel of swimming through aquatic vegetation), but this lake with its crystal clear, deep water, always makes me consider jumping out of the boat for a splash.

While pike were the main target of the day, we also wanted to find some panfish, so we headed to a quiet bay that has produced both for us in the past. I took a few casts and was pleased to notice that my boat legs seem to have returned. It’s so much easier to get a good cast while standing up, but I was really out of practice on our first few boat trips this year. I was casting around some logs when my chatterbait felt like it moved – just a slight change in the vibration. Nothing bit, but pike are big on swinging at a lure the first time they see it, so I cast back to the same area and this time the fish inhaled it. The retrieve was one of the most fun I’ve had with a pike. It was a decent sized fish, nothing big but not tiny, and it leapt out of the water like a smallmouth bass, spraying me in the process, and than dodged all over the place coming to the boat. It was a great little fight. Unfortunately, he really inhaled the lure, so we didn’t get a picture because time was of the essence to return him back to water.

We thought that pike was a good omen, but the bay failed to produce anymore bites. The sunfish were on redds and have yet to stack up in the deep spot like they will later in the season. Not being overly patient anglers, Darrell started the motor up and we moved on to another spot.

rock bass

Love the little guys.

sunfish

Sunny!

fishing

A peaceful sight – rods in the boat.

A few more pike were caught in woody areas with floating veg. Some fish came out of shallow water, others were deeper. Since we like to catch and release, we tried to release most of the fish without taking them out of the water. Sometimes this is accomplished by leaving some slack in the line and the fish will shake the hooks loose, other times we use the pliers to pop the hooks out without touching the fish.

The vegetation on the banks was really coming to life, and the pitcher plants were stunning for their numbers, colours, and blooms.

Pitcher plants

Pitcher plants

While the pike were providing a great fishing outing, I was really hoping to find some panfish. Sometimes, all I really want to do is catch a pile of little guys that fight like much bigger fish. I was in luck! In a sheltered bay we came upon schools of sunfish and rock bass, all associating with stumps and bank undercuts. It was as simple as tossing out our Berkley Micro Power Nymphs, and reeling in the fish that managed to get there first. It was entirely too much fun. I hope I never get tired of the simple joy of catching panfish after panfish and watching them swim away after the release.

On Sunday we were able to get out once again (a second day of fishing?! Unheard of these days) and headed to a different lake in hopes of a few more pike. With another roadside gravel ‘ramp’ I was again super grateful for our great little boat; it’s so easy to put her into just about any lake we choose.

The forecast had called for rain much of the day, but despite some ominous clouds the weather stayed dry. We headed for some sticks and I picked up a little pike right away. Though I cycled through some different baits for the heck of it, it was again the chatterbait that continued to shine for the toothy critter bite. There were several bass swimming in the area and we took a moment to watch them. I hope we can still find them next weekend when their season is finally open.

pike

The weather cleared and Sunday was beautiful.

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Grabbing a fish.

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Now that’s a nice rock bass.

Rock bass decided to steal the show from the pike and Darrell caught some incredibly nice ones. They sure made the ultralight rods work and even tried grabbing some of the pike gear.

Pike took over again as we drifted along a weed edge on a dropoff. We got a double-header, and several more fish on every few casts. It was a pretty quick and fun bite while it lasted. There were the typical short strikes, swings, and fish getting off at the boat, but every minute of it was a blast.

The clouds parted and the sun came out. A green heron flew from log to log, a turkey vulture soared out of the trees, and the green frogs sang a chorus around the edge of the lake. I could not help but realize that I would have missed all this if I never got into fishing.

We caught a few more fish and called it a day. Two days of fishing felt absolutely wonderful, but all to short. Bass finally open next weekend!