"The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope." John Buchan

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 18th Starv'in Perch Service Project

So we made plans this week to try to get out to Starvation.  Weather was looking reasonable for Thursday so we pressed go and headed out.  We in this case worked out to be Jason, Guy and myself.  This was Guy's first fishing trip on a float tube.

We headed out of the Salt Lake area at about 4am to be able to make the drive in time enough to be at rabbit gulch for a sun up launch.  For Jason and I being to the water at sun up has become something desirable vs dreadful.  Guy is more of the latter camp on this angle, but he was a good sport about it anyway.  Anyway we got to the launch site and got going on the setup. 

Jason was first on the water in his now leak free tube and he headed out toward the marker buoys to work along the rock structure.  Guy and I joined him shortly after that and got the show on the road.

Jason took care of the first fish for us which turned out to be an 'eatable' sized perch.  That got our hopes up a bit for aspirations of toad perch overflowing our baskets before the end of the day...  Guy and I, as we worked out toward the rocks, started to get some attention on our lines as well.  Felt mostly like smaller perch, but we were still in the shallow between the shore and the rocks under the buoys.  By the time we made it to the rocks both of us had caught a few perch.  Mostly dink sized perch, but a couple were big enough to land in the basket. 

We worked that area around the rocks for a few hours.  During that time Jason had manged a good sized small mouth bass and a grundle of dink perch.  Guy had caught a foot long walleye and a bunch of dink perch that got sent back to grow up.  I was also dealing with the starv'in dink perch that simply wanted a bite of the bait we tipped our jigs with.  Went through more worms today then most other trips because of them. 

As we moved over this area our finders were showing us a lot of weed like structure in the water that seemed to go from the floor up to just a few feet from the surface.  We were in about 15' of water where we were seeing this.  Mixed in these weeds were fish showing up on the finder, lots of them showing up on the finder.  It took us a while to figure out, or better said guess, that there were no weeds down there except on the bottom...  All of the mess showing up on our finders were the clouds of dinkster perch down there.  We also concluded that the larger fish icons on the finders that were keeping up hopeful either were full bellied larger fish already full of perch meat or a few smaller perch huddled together giving off bigger signals to the finders.  We could get large groups of the smaller perch, that looked to range from about 3" to about 6" to follow our jigs up in the water column enough that we could see them through the water.  Amazing how many perch must be down there.  Makes me hopeful for the seasons to come, both for large perch as well as for other larger fish that like to eat perch.

I find myself lacking when it comes to running a second pole at the same time when your working the perch.  Trying to watch both poles and be johnny on the spot to set a hook on two poles is trying at best for me.  So I simply setup the second pole and dropped the jigs down to just off the bottom without much expectation from that pole.  Then I focused on the other pole for working the area.  A couple times as I moved/drifted around I managed to snag up on the rocks and would have to work to get my jigs free.  Then as it looked like I had snagged up again on my 2nd pole I saw it take a couple hard tugs in the holder.  Quickly switching poles I worked to bring in my first small mouth bass of the day.  I ended up landing a few more in much the same way, having them hit a no-action jig sitting just off the bottom.  Very fun to fight those smallies on my little ultra light pole.

After a while of searching for more small mouth and feeding the future generations of perch I headed across the bay toward the rocky far side. Jason and Guy followed along.  The count of fish on the finders really dropped off when depths dropped down to 25"+ feet.  So other then a few mid strata marks the center of the channel didn't offer much.  As we got into the 20" range nearing the far side the masses of perch started to show up on the finders again.  Since these groups were about 5' deeper then the other side I got myself hopeful that might be bigger perch.  First fish I brought up in this area was an eater sized, though not a toad.  Promising anyway...  Dropped a marker buoy on the center of a large area of fish and started to work around it.  Jason setup shop a dozen yards to the side as he was marking similar amounts of fish.  We didn't find our toads in any concentration, even the eater sized were still sparse, but we did feed a lot of hungry youngsters as we worked the area.  I managed a walleye, but the area didn't really produce much to put in the baskets.

Guy had continued on past where we were toward the rocks along the far shore line.  He found dink perch in groups over there as well with very few sized enough to be worth putting in the basket.  He did finally find justification for the effort it took to kick across the bay when a fat 20" rainbow tested the stretch of his his line and took him for a spin in the tube.  Happily he brought the trout in and landed his top prize for the day.

It was getting close to 1pm at about this time and the wind was starting to pick up to we started our kick back across the water.  I think all of us had a fair smile on for the day.  Jason had the fullest basket with over a dozen fair to toad sized perch as well as a nice smallie.  Guy managed the biggest fish of the day with his 20" trout as well as put a couple walleye and perch in his basket.  I had a happy day with the smallies and while the trout eluded me both the perch and the walleye made a cameo appearance in my basket.  Nice when everyone has something to smile about.

Now if we can just put some size on those younger generations of perch!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pan'tastic Day on Utah Lake

With the few weeks of unfriendly weather we have just had it was nice to see things clear out this week.  That allowed us to start to look for and plan our next fishing trip.  Jason, Scott, Jeff and I started to look at our schedules to see what worked for us all and what weather conditions were expected to be.  Turns out that Saturday the 13th was the day that looked and worked best for us.  So we started to talk about where and it quickly narrowed to Utah Lake.  Either the Knolls, Lincoln Beach or Provo Harbor was to be the target.  As the week progressed we narrowed things down and planned for Provo Harbor with the idea that we would launch along the south side and go to work the open water out past the south west corner of the harbor jetty as well as the weed line south along the shore.

We all got to the harbor about 6:30am and headed over near the big pavilion in the area of the volley ball courts.  You could not go past there as they have most of the south side closed still due to the higher water levels.  So we parked there and found a reasonable place to launch the tubes.  Jeff and his son were first to be ready and on the water.  Jason was second, with Scott and me last.

Just as Jason launched he started to observe some bubbles coming up from under his tube in the back left portion of his tube.  He had already 'topped' off the tube once already and now understood that he had a leak.  So while he started to unpack the tube so we could try to address the leak we got Scott out on the water so he could start to fish.  It took us a bit but we did find a leak in the bladder of Jason's tube on the underside and used a urethane patch to get him back into business.  As Jason was reloading his tube to get back on the water I launched and started out to catch up to the others.  Jason shortly got onto the water but stayed near the launch point for a bit to validate the repair job before heading down to join up with the rest of us.

(Quick disclaimer that I was lazy with the camera today.  So very few pics...)

I caught up with the other 3 near the marker buoy near the inlet channel.  We continued west from there through the weeds and to the open water.  Jeff caught and took care of the first fish jinx (maybe the reason for the later "radio" oops), a nice white bass that took up residence in the basket.  That got us hopeful for some prime schools of whites.  Well, things didn't pan out for finding more whites.  There were a couple of boats in the same area and a whole line of bank tanglers on the south west bend of the jetty.  Didn't see any of them producing anything of merit.  So we started to fan out and work more area in search of something to stretch our lines.

Scott had not come out as far into the open water as the rest of us.  Instead he was south a bit near the weed lines.  I headed his way to fish near him and see if we could find anything in the shelter the weed beds offer.  Along the way to him I had one inquiry on a plastic that felt like a white.  As I got near Scott and the weeds I had another couple inquiries that felt really 'off'.  They were very hesitant in feel and made me think that we might be offering the wrong lure or presentation and that it was just not getting the aggressive response that we have come to love from the whites.  I had a few more fish hit the lure and even had a few on line.  They really felt off still though as they didn't fight much and as soon as I would set the hook I would loose them.  Really had me scratching my head for a wondering why they were not either taking the lure into their mouth enough to get a solid hook up or what the issue was.  So maybe out of dumb luck I slowed everything down a bit.  Next time I felt the lazy inquiry on the line I just waited for a little load to feel on the line and started a steady but calmer retrieval to keep pressure and tension on the line but not over do it.  Well to my pleasant surprise in comes Mr Crappie.  But due to my lack of fluent crappie know how I went back to full speed retrieval and tore the jig out of the fishes mouth right at the tube as I went for the net...  Well if nothing else this  turned out to be another "perpetual series of occasions for hope", but in a good way.  

I radioed the others that there were crappie over near me and that I figured that the lazy strikes we were getting were just crappie and not whites.  So as the others came over Scott and I continued to work around in the weeds and were getting pretty consistent action from the crappies in quite a large area of water.  Over the nest few hours we worked that area and I think everyone but Scott had put a fair number in a basket.  Most of the crappies were in the ~10" range.  Nothing huge but fine fish none the less.  It really seemed to do the trick though to slow things down, wait for the fish to lightly load up the line and then just start reeling in with a steady pace.  The bad things seemed to be trying to set the hook or letting the fish body surf on the water on their side as you brought them in.  Any thrashing they did would put you in high risk of having them come off.  I think everyone lost a fair number making mistakes in the retrieval, but it was still fun getting the chance to take the crappie 101 class.

Now the funny, well let me be careful and say it's funny from the outside perspective, story of the day was about the radios.  Jeff only brought one radio.  That mean his son did not have one to use.  Well as kids do I'm sure his son pestered Jeff until finally Jeff let him use the radio.  We were getting some reports from his son on how they were doing as they were out of sight behind a wall of weeds.  Then we heard his son, but not through the radios, calling out to his dad and saying, "Um Dad, I owe you a new radio".  There was a long pause, in which time I started to snicker a bit imaging what that meant (though Jeff I do feel your pain at the loss of a radio).  Jeff finally called back for clarification and got the usual kid like response of, "Well, I don't know where it is.  I put it in the pocket and now it's not there".

Well at about 11am Jeff called over and said he and his son had to head back as they were out of time.  We got the report that mixed in with the crappie they had managed a couple bluegill.  So they headed back with Jeff having to herd his son off the water as he was reluctant to go.

About this time Jason was starting to question his patch job or wondered if there was a second hole that we didn't find.  His tube was a touch soft, nothing that was going to go flat or sink soon, but not as firm as it should have been.  So he considered following Jeff and his son back to the launch to either fish from the shore or work on the tube.  In the end either took place as I think the catching that was going on was just too catching for Jason to handle.  Part of that could be to blame on a walleye that decided to play with Jason's lure and then politely agreed to take a ride in his basket.  I think he said it was in the ~17" range.  The crappie action kept going as the 3 of us worked further south in the weeds. We finally got to a point that we found a school of white bass.  They were in a little pocket in the weeds that we could cast down a channel between weed beds and bring a plastic back through and the whites would follow the plastics to just about when your lure would start to rise up  in the last bit before getting to your tube and then they would hit in white bass fashion.  So that made it easy to avoid the weeds but also meant the fights were short.  Somewhere in the mix of all of this we started to have the occasional bluegill latch onto our lines.  Some with very good size on them.  They sure do put up a good fight with their determination to dive down while you try your best to pull them up.

Scott was still empty in his basket so I had him come over to the channel I was working and join me there.  He proceeded to land a white bass and have a bit more action.  He now had a fish in the basket and I'm sure that put a better light on the day for him.  I moved off a bit to try to get to another access point to the same area we were fishing and while I was moving around Scott put another white in his basket as well as the solo perch for the day, a nice 10" perch (good sized for what I've seen out of Utah Lake at least). 

We kept at it for a while and then, much like a child that has been playing non stop for a long time has that look of unfortunate realization as they make their mad dash to the bathroom uncertain if they have any chance that will make it on time, Jason reported his tube was pretty soft and starting to lean in a bit much on him.  So he headed back as fast as he could to the launch.  He didn't say it was leaking faster, just more that he had overstayed his welcome.  That didn't stop him from fishing his way back and finding a school of whites back close to the end of the weed line before entering the river inlet.  Not to spoil the story but he does make it back to launch just fine... ;)

Scott and I, a bit more leisurely,  headed back as well and got to play with a few fish along the way.  As we neared the river inlet channel I changed to a larger 3" black with red glitter jig and matching plastic.  One the second or third toss I had a fish hook up that took a strong and immediate dive.  Turned out to be a bluegill that felt it could do in this larger then mouth sized permitted offering.  Well not to be thankless for the valiant effort I let him join the party in my basket.  Then turning the bend into the river inlet channel I got my next nice surprise on the same jig.  A 20" walleye decided to give me a thrill ride as I fought him on my little utralight pole.  I tried to be calm and patient but I worried that those teeth were going to do in my 4lb test but I did manage to get him in the net and then into the basket.  Frosting on the cake... :)  Well with that I put up the poles and started the final stretch to the launch spot to call it a day.

In the end  Jeff and his son put 12 crappie, 2 bluegill and 1 white bass into their basket.  Scott had 2 white bass and 1 perch in his.  Jason had 3 bluegill, 7 white bass, 7 crappie and 1 walleye.  I managed 12 crappie, 15 white bass, 4 bluegill and 1 walleye.  Thinking back on it I'm really kind of at a loss for words.  Meaning I've not been on Utah Lake and had such a diverse selection of fish come to play in any numbers, especially the crappie and bluegill.  Oh I've caught a crappie here and there before and once had a bang up day for bluegill during their spawn a few years back...  I've just never been out on the lake and had more "other" species hit the plastics then I did whites.

Before Jason headed home we did work on his tube at my house and did find the other hole and patch it.  Used enough soapy water to be sure there were not any more that we could find.  So hopefully we got him fixed up for the next trip.  We did conclude that we needed, for the both of us, to find out more about the urethane tape you can buy and use as a patch for small holes so that we can more easily handle a small repair on a trip.