Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

These Fish were not Photoshopped

This nice brace of trout was caught by Feral some time before the turn of the century.  If I recall the story correctly he passed a couple worm fishermen walking the bank upstream, caught the trout in ten minutes, and walked back past them heading downstream. The worm fishermen couldn’t believe their eyes.  A proud moment.  They were kind enough to take this photo and I have been trying to figure out ever since where exactly on the Pine River he caught them.  If you look closely something doesn’t seem right.  Feral assures me the trout have not been photoshopped, but concedes everything else might have been.

Original photo!

Fixing a Fishfinder Transducer

I know I keep veering away from trout fishing and promise to get back to it soon – but this may be important to a fisherman somewhere. I have an older model Humminbird fishfinder, a Wide Eye, from the eighties. The wires to the transducer were sheared (or pulled off) right at the transducer puck. I did some research online and found a replacement for $77.16 at Amazon, but, based on an email to Humminbird Service, I couldn’t be sure the replacement transducer works with my older model. (Service said my unit is so old there are no replacement parts and I should buy a new fishfinder – uuhhh… thanks for the advice?)

I trolled the web to see if there was a way to fix it. The word on the web is: buy a new one because you can’t repair them. I could see their point, in my case the wires I needed to reconnect are encased in the plastic compound of the puck, sort of like Hans Solo encased in Carbonite, but less to work with.

I decided to do surgery on the puck. (What did I have to lose?) The main issue was getting to the wires inside. I took a 1/8th  inch drill bit and made small holes all the way around the spot where the wires exit. I drilled just deep enough to break though the molded plastic seal. Then I chipped away the plastic until I could see the two wires, one black and one red (matching the wires encased in the cable). The wires are tiny – so extreme care has to be taken to work them free of the plastic seal. Once they were free I was able to strip the coating off the two wires using an exacto knife and a lot of patience.

Then I did the same thing with the cable end – stripped and exposed enough of the wires so I could hold and solder them to the wires in the puck. I used a pencil type soldering iron with a fine point. Once the wires were soldered I filled in the hole and soldered joints with two part epoxy. I gobbed on enough so that it covers the cable where it exits the puck. Hopefully it’s as strong as carbonite so the wires don’t pull out again.

The Test: I took the boat out on a local lake and it seems to be working better than ever. It zeroed right in on the bottom. If you are on a budget – don’t trash the transducer. Dig out and solder together the broken off wires and gob up the hole and wires with epoxy. Save yourself eighty plus dollars with very little effort.

Bass Lures for Trout

Trout have a reputation for being finicky and I can probably thank fly fishermen for that. Most published accounts focus on finding the one pattern that works for a particular time and place and that makes me smile since I have pulled junk out of my congested lure tote that resembles nothing a trout has ever seen and proceeded to catch trout.  One time on the lower Baldwin, in a good rain, I lost a favorite lure and had to try something untested. By chance I had a big-lipped deep diving crankbait with me and since the water was high and rising, I figured what the heck. My second cast brought in a medium size brown around 14 or 15 inches. The Big “O” type lure was mostly green and had a fish type pattern that was supposed to resemble a bluegill. Not much chance the trout I caught had ever seen a bluegill. I caught one or two more keepers on the lure before finally calling it a day.

I haven’t caught a trout yet on the #3 Sperm Whale pictured above but I don’t count it out. My reading is it’s a night lure and I know just the pool to try it on. It’s designed to wobble like a jitterbug and who knows what kind of leviathan it might call up from the deep. I’m half afraid to use it since it may be the only one like it in existence and I don’t have to tell you what the antique lure market is like.

One year Natch, our “wired” fishing buddy, hit the bargain bin at Wal-Mart on the way up to trout camp. He picked up some dollar bass lures of various strange patterns. He caught trout and what really amazes me is that for several years running he took “big fish” honors in our annual contest. I can’t say it was the dollar bass lures, we keep some secrets, but I know he experiments.

I recall another year when we trout camp regulars were disgusted by the rising price of our “standard trout lures” and experimented with new lures by Japanese companies. The Japanese get creative and have made a huge impact on the professional BASS tour. Some lures are reminiscent of their monster movies although this one reminds me of the Nautilus from 2000 Leagues under the Sea.

As you can see the lure has a perch pattern and I’m pretty sure the stream trout I fish for have never seen a perch.  Or the Nautilus. Feral and I ran into this lure by accident. He had invited a buddy from Alpena to go fishing and we stopped so the guy could buy a couple lures. He wasn’t a trout fisherman and chose this to our dismay. Once on the stream we watched him pull in trout after trout while we shook our heads and tossed old standards without luck. So there’s a good clue. Trout aren’t afraid to change their diet. Generally speaking – they are after an easy meal.

Saving Silver Lake

Silver Lake, up by Hart Michigan, is unique for its beauty and recreation. Sand dunes abut the lake on the west shore, the same sand dunes that are famous for the dune rides. There is a state park with camping and it must be one of the most popular parks in Michigan because any time I have driven by the park it appears full up.  The lake has great bass, walleye, and pike fishing and is a treasure for Michigan, not just the lucky homeowners, but for campers and visitors.

Last summer a strange thing happened. Over 3000 carp died off and washed up on the shores. Most folks (at least me) didn’t realize there were carp in the lake. Perplexed homeowners had to clean up the shoreline. According to the DNR, the fish die off was caused by koi herpesvirus, or KHV virus, specific to koi, carp and goldfish, however the source of the virus is unknown. It may have been introduced by released ornamental fish and illustrates the danger of releasing exotic fish in waterways.

The carp die-off caught the attention of a new lakefront homeowner and activist, Dr. William DeJong, my brother-in-law. Bill is one of those very high energy people that solve problems while others sleep and as a new homeowner he decided to research the lake further. Bill uncovered reports by Progressive Engineering classifying Silver Lake as meso-eutrophic which indicates high phosphorous levels. High phosphorous can lead to excessive weed growth (already noticed by homeowners), increased algae, and ultimately affect what fish species can survive in the lake. The source of phosphorous is a very complex problem but sewage is a contributing factor. The cottages all have septic systems. There is a well developed smaller lake upstream of Silver Lake and that too is all septic. There is a watershed feeding the little lake.

As Bill explains it, the problem may come from a dozen possible sources or combinations of sources, so until there is a clear understanding of the problem, expensive sewer systems or upstream holding ponds should be avoided. What’s needed is a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation to identify the phosphorous source and spell out options. This is more costly than a piecemeal approach and requires the cooperation of the lake property owners, local and state governments. Proper evaluation now could save million of dollars later and ensure the health of Silver Lake. Bill is the right person to try to get consensus and funding to solve this complex problem and the homeowners and the state need to support his efforts.

A little bit of Bio on Bill DeJong: He is a semi-retired educational facilities consultant that pioneered studies to rebuild and update schools systems throughout the U.S. Bill also started a charity called Schools for Children of the World that literally builds schools in third world countries. He visits poverty stricken areas, develops education plans, and pitches in with the actual construction. I am adding a link for anyone that would like to contribute or volunteer on a school building project.

Small Tents and Good Sense

I’ve had a variety of large and small tents including my 61 Apache Chief Tent Camper, which is more of a tent on wheels than a camper. For regular tents I started off big – big enough to stand up in and plenty of floor space so I could move my sleeping bag to the middle in a good storm to avoid the puddles and lakes that would form in the low ground wherever that was. Placement of the tent, especially big “family” size tents is critical since there is not a level spot in all the woods or campgrounds in Michigan. Preparing for rain is an integral part of camping and this usually involves the tent, a plastic tarp, and a shovel. The tarp is self explanatory. The shovel is used to create a trench around the tent designed to carry the rainwater anywhere that is not under the tent.  It never actually works but it gives the camper something else to do that seems important and manlike.

I like big tents but I have never seen one that doesn’t take an engineering degree and three people to set up.  And a one-ton press to flatten it sufficiently to put back in the carrying case. They offer pretty good rain protection (with a plastic tarp) and having the big space inside also provides a false sense of security in bear country which is helpful for a good nights sleep.

I misrepresented myself here – I actually started off with a small tent – a pup tent. I think the name came from the fact that small dogs were the intended users. Back a very long time ago, my brothers and I acquired one of these, I don’t know how. It was a basic inverted V of canvas with a center pole running down the middle like a doghouse with no sides. It could fit two small boys or one hound.  I am trying to remember if the thing had a floor, but I suspect not. I do remember that setting it up was a four boy operation since someone had to hold the upright at each end while someone else attached the ropes to the stakes and pounded them in.  It was the fourth boy’s responsibility to direct the operation and be the General.

I am happy to report small tents have made some strides toward common sense and utility. Two years ago I decided to buy one for quick trips and one-nighters (and also if I wanted to pull my boat instead of the tent camper). I knew what to look for because Feral sold his J C Higgens tent camper to Jake and bought a small tent.  It looked easy to set up.  I bought a Eureka Tetragon 2, the same brand / different model as Feral.  I have used it a half dozen times and now I can set it up before Feral has found my cooler and knocked down half a beer. So that’s really fast.

If you want tent buying advice here is the one important tip to take from this post: Look for a shock-corded external pole system where the tent clips to the poles instead of the poles threading through a closed seam channel.  You can see what I mean from the picture. To set up you attach the poles to the corners and hold them together while you clip on the tent – very simple and fast.

The Tetragon 2 is considered a two man tent, and Feral has the four man version. If you divide the number of persons a tent is rated for by two you will get the actual number of people a tent will hold without someone complaining.  I love my two man one man tent. It’s too small for anything but sleeping, but it’s comfortable.  I lay some carpet samples down on the ground and set the tent up over them. The tent has a lot of screen so airflow is good (minimal condensation) and the rain fly works. No tarp required.

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