Friday, February 24, 2012

Houghton Lake Fishing Report: Feb 24, 2012

From left Dan, Ryan and Blake with Northern Pike

Just spent two days on the ice of Houghton Lake trying for some winter magic. My nephew and his wife Jess, their son Ryan and his friend Blake came up over winter break. (Katie and Sarah came up too but they weren't into fishing) Dan had just bought a new portable shanty and wanted to try it out. So we went down to Lymans on the Lake bait shop and picked up some waxworms and some "blues" (big minnows) and headed out onto the ice. We were situated off the western edge of the southern weed bed in the main body of Houghton Lake. Getting the holes drilled and the tip-ups set up we each picked a hole and dropped in jigheads with either a waxworm or blue.

We were fishing for about 30 minutes when we had a couple of nibbles, then the 1st tip-up flag went up. Reeling it in we found a nice Northern Pike on the end of the line. He went after a blue.

After another 15-20 minutes I caught a Yellow Perch, nice but not quite big enough to be worth keeping. He went for a waxworm. Next Ryan pulled in another Perch on a waxworm and that was the extent of our catch for the day. Six holes, 3 fish, no keepers.

The next day we went to the East Bay off of Harveys Marine. I have seen quite a few shanties there on the weekends. There was only one other there when we set up on Wednesday. The other angler pulled a nice Northern Pike out while we setting up.

After fighting a heavy wind we finally got the shanty setup and staked down. A few minutes later we were baited up and waiting for that first tug on the line. Three and a half hours later we were still waiting. One of the tip-ups had flagged but it was either just a fish swimming by or the wind. Either way we had a few minutes of excitement trying to get out of the shanty to check the rig. Five people in a shanty is a little tight.

Ice on Houghton Lake is between 8-10 inches where we fished.

Northern Pike and Yellow Perch are biting.

Suggested baits:  Waxworms and Minnows on a small hook or jighead.

Depth: Around 9-12 feet, set up close to the bottom.

Fishing is rated: Fair to good.

Hope to see ya on the ice,

Ken S

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fishing Report Reedsburg Dam & Backus Lake: Feb 20, 2012

Reedsburg Dam Fishing Report

Wood Ducks at Reedsburg Dam
Due to the warm temperatures and the early spring like weather, the ice has begun to recede on the flooding (lake) side of the dam. Another sign of an early spring is the wood ducks already swimming near the boat launch. On the low side of the dam (the river side) the water levels are rising and are already high enough to make fishing from the shore difficult. And as of a few days before this post I saw one fisherman wearing waders casting his line from the bottom of the stairs on the far side. The water levels have gotten that high.

The last word I had was some small Northern Pike being caught but nothing large enough to keep and I've heard even those have stopped. On the flooding side the ice is still a hindrance to fishing from shore.

I would rate fishing poor at Reedsburg Dam.

Backus Lake Fishing Report

Several Ice Fisherman at Backus Lake
The ice is still solid at Backus Lake (probably due the shallowness of the lake). And fishing for Perch is moderate and some Northern Pike are being caught but nothing of any size. Although Backus Lake is great for Sunfish, Bluegill, Perch and the occasional Bass and Northern Pike, it can be difficult to get to in winter as access is a seasonal road. Still some anglers brave the icy ruts and actually pull trailers with snowmobiles out to the access point. Considering Houghton Lake has many easily accessible entry points, Backus Lake may not be worth the hassle. Still if you don't like crowds it could be worth the drive.

I would rate fishing moderate at Backus Lake.

Note: There is a lot of open water near Korbinski's Marine on M-55. Another sign of possibly an early ice out this year.

Stay warm and safe on the ice,

Ken S.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Higgins Lake Fishing Report : Feb 16, 2012

DNR boat launch W/side of Higgins Lake
Higgins Lake finally froze and fisherman have landed on the water like a flock of Geese. With up to 9 inches of ice reported in some areas, shanties have sprung up almost over night. Just in time for the Higgins Lake-Roscommon Winterfest 2012. And the March spring thaw which may start earlier than usual this year.

About 50 yds off the DNR boat launch on the west side of Higgins Lake there are about a dozen permanent (hard shell) shanties with maybe a couple of the portable (soft side) shanties thrown in. About another 50 yds out from there is another dozen or so shanties.

This was Thursday about noon and the parking lot was filling up with pick up trucks and snowmobile trailers. A couple of the fishermen were having some luck catching mostly Splake & Perch but were still concerned about the ice. With the warm weather (mid 30's over the last week) the newly formed ice could be shifting and cracking.


What's biting; Splake and Perch

Best bait; waxworms and minnows

Best area: near DNR boat launch west side.

Reminder: Higgins-Roscommon Winterfest 2012 is this weekend Feb 17-18.

Good luck and stay safe,

Ken S

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hottest Fishin' Hole:Part 1 "Catfish Phil"

I suppose at one time or another every fisherman hears a story about that perfect fishing spot. That hot spot where the fish just seem to jump in the boat. Of course hardly anyone fishes there because it's in some obscure location nearly impossible to get to. Even if you get back there the fish are so big there's no way to haul them back out. Every lake town has such a spot. Houghton Lake is no different.

I was coming home after another frustrating day of "if only", "thought I had a bite" and "should have stayed home", when I stopped at Catfish Phil's Bait Emporium (Phil thought emporium sounded more sophisticated than "shop"). Phil was sitting out front under the awning drinking a beer wearing his signature "lucky" fishing hat loaded with over $7 worth of previously owned lures, spoons, jigheads and flies purchased at various garage sales. Each one with it's own unique story of the fish caught and the challenging conditions of it's capture.

Now Phil was a real humanitarian in that he always released the trophy fish he caught and since he always fished alone there was never an eyewitness to his remarkable ability to locate and capture these elusive lunkers. He had a camera once but that went overboard during an exceptionally strenuous fight with a record breaking Largemouth Bass.

As I walked up to the stoop Phil told me, in true Phil fashion, if I wanted some bait to just get it myself and leave the money on the counter. And while I was in there would I grab him another beer. One of the cold ones in the back. He thought it was a waste of ice to put a few in a cooler next to him when the refrigerator had to be on for the crawlers. So to save on ice he kept his beer behind the crawlers. He told me if I wanted one just leave an extra $5 on the counter. I passed on the beer and opted for a $3 bottle of water instead.

I flopped down in the seat next to his and recounted my day. Phil listened quietly then took a long pull on his beer. He thought about it for awhile then he told me about the "secret" fishing spot that he had heard about from an old angler named Jake. The old man had made it clear to Phil he didn't want others to know about this "honey hole".

Now Jake hadn't been back since and Phil assumed he had moved away. So why not tell me? He would give me directions to the best fishing in the county, heck possibly the whole state. By this time the next day I could be dragging a creel of the largest and best tasting fish anyone had ever caught. I might have to let some go just to keep from sinking the boat.

Yes, sir. The secret fishing spot handed down through generations finally revealed to me. For $50 he would sell me a map and give me exact directions to the very spot where a 39 inch Walleye had been landed. It would have set state record only Jake wouldn't say where he caught it so the DNR seized the fish assuming it had been caught illegally in restricted waters.

Of course Jake had not had a chance to take a picture before the DNR had removed the trophy Walleye, never to be seen again. He had told Phil it was OK because there were bigger ones still out there. Something about the area just made the fish grow beyond normal size (or rational thought). I was hooked.

Next: Part 2 Restricted Waters

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Higgins Lake Report Jan 2012:On Thin Ice

Higgins Lake East DNR Launch
 Jan 15, 2012
Due to the warm weather this winter Higgins Lake ice may not get thick enough to safely walk or ride on. As of a week ago there was still plenty of open water. I heard rumor someone had launched a boat. Not likely but possible.

That said I have seen snowmobile tracks along the west shore near the DNR boat launch but no sign of ice fisherman. So I would recommend staying off the ice or going to Houghton Lake. There was some open water 2 weeks ago on the west side of Houghton Lake so caution is still required.

Don't forget Tip Up Town is this weekend and next weekend Jan 20-22, 27-29.

Use common sense and stay safe.

Ken S

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Heavy Snow Causes Low Visibility:Jan 12,2012

Snow is finally coming to the Houghton Lake area. Snow fall forecasts are for 2-6 inches over the next 18 hours. Great for the upcoming Tip Up Town USA.

But for those out on the lake earlier today the sudden snow fall means limited visibility for the return to shore where their vehicles are parked. If your going out on the lake on a day when there is snow in the forecast a compass is a must and a GPS even better. A handheld GPS not only locates a good fishing spot it can show the way back to where you started. Some units have been known to stop working in extremely cold conditions (thus the need for a compass as backup). But keeping a handheld GPS under the last layer of clothing should be warm enough to keep the display working. Simply pull out the GPS long enough to get a bearing then put it back under your clothes to keep warm.

Spending a long time wandering around the lake looking for your vehicle is not only frustrating but dangerous. You could wander onto thin ice without knowing it until it's too late.

Using a compass take a bearing facing the direction of where you plan to fish. Then when your ready to return simply reverse your bearing. Or if you can still see your vehicle when you get there take a bearing facing your vehicle. If the snow gets heavy and visibility low, just follow the compass back.

Be Safe and Good Luck,

Ken S

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Reedsburg Dam Northern Pike Update

Reedsburg Dam in Michigan

As I reported before there are Northern Pike being caught at Reedsburg Dam on the low side of the dam. I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon on Friday at Reedsburg and enjoyed a warm winters day fishing. As I reported before the water is back up to normal levels, the Northern have returned and they're biting.

I caught five, all less than 16". But still fun on a medium-light rod. I was using a jighead with various plastics large and small with the same results.

Muskegon River by Reedsburg Dam
Best Bait: Minnows, silver or white tubes or swim tails any size

Best Spot: East side at the bottom of the middle path cast straight out let float downstream

Best of Luck,

Ken S

Friday, January 6, 2012

Is the Ice Ready for Fishing:

East Bay near Harveys Marina 
The ice is rumored to be 4" up to 8" (in some areas). We have had some good lows overnight but the highs are unseasonably warm for this time of year.

The DNR is advocating the use of caution when on the ice as there are still many thin spots that will not support any weight.

Best Bet:
For now is the East Bay near Harvey's Marina at the edge of the shelf. Although I haven't heard if anything is biting.

Best Bait:
Most successful during the cold water months is minnows and wax worms.

Best Fish:
Northern Pike seem to be active in the winter along with Yellow Perch and Walleye

Notes: Ice shanties for rent have not been placed on the lake yet due to thin ice. Use extra caution on the ice.

Stay Safe and Good Luck,

Ken S

Biggest Fish I Never Saw

Pond off Highway 55

It was a typical autumn day here in Michigan, temperatures in the 60's and overcast with a light wind. I had been fishing one of my favorite spots on Backus lake with little success. So I decided to try a small pond by a picnic park off highway 55. Occasionally I had seen others fishing there, though not many. Actually it's not a very popular spot with only two picnic tables and no facilities of any kind. Still there is a pond with some decent vegetation surrounding most of it.

The shoreline is mostly sparse grass and hard earth. Near the picnic area is small sand beach with cattails and lily pads to the right and left sides the type of area big fish call home. I scouted along the waterline checking for minnows, a sign that there might be other larger fish. After a few minutes I finally saw a few. Encouraged I pulled a fat crawler out of the plastic container. I cut off a nice piece (I don't believe in using a whole one) placed it on my favorite jighead (1/32 oz orange and yellow) and adjusted the weighted orange styrofoam bobber to the proper height on my 8 lb test line.

There was a gentle wind blowing from my right so I cast out that way and let the wind push my rig back across in front of me. I tried 35 feet out, 25 feet out, 15 feet out, not a nibble. I suspected I knew the reason no one fished here twice.

Let me tell you right now, I'm not very patient. If I don't get a bite within 15 minutes I'm ready to move on (which was why I left Backus Lake). After a look around I could see there was no other spot offering access to the pond. Then studying the pond I noticed an opening in the lily pads to my right about 2 ft in diameter. Only thing was I had to cast around some cattails to drop it in there (if I was golfing it wouldn't be a problem since I have an incurable slice). Normally I won't cast into lily pads, it's a disaster that ends with losing my rig even if I don't hook a fish. But the season was ending and the prospect of catching something outweighed my common sense. So I hauled back and let her fly.

It was a perfect cast and when my bait landed in the opening two things happened; the surface water erupted and my bobber disappeared. I was so surprised I almost forgot to set the hook. But a split second later I heaved back on the rod and then...nothing. I gave the crank handle a few quick turns to take up slack and tried again...still nothing. My bobber remained out of sight as I started to furiously crank the reel. I tipped the rod back once more and still nothing. Disappointed I calmly reeled in the slack line assuming it must have broken.

Only it hadn't broken. There had not been even the slightest tension in the line from the moment my bobber had disappeared. The line would have to be taut to break. Quickly looking back there was my bobber floating next to a lily pad.

My only explanation is that a very large fish, probably a largemouth bass must have gone after the bobber (a common occurrence) and enclosing the whole thing in it's mouth it must have bit the line in two. It could have been a catfish or northern pike but I like to think it was a bass. After it realized the bobber wasn't edible it just spit it back out.

I set up another rig and cast to that same spot several more times. But lightning never strikes twice in the same place. The old fella had moved on probably with a bad taste in his mouth.

I'll be going back in the spring and trying again. I have a weedless frog lure I want to try out. And maybe next time I'll actually see this trophy fish. I've been toying with the idea of giving him a nickname but for now he'll just remain the "biggest fish I never saw".

Take care all and happy fishing,

Ken S

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reedsburg Dam Fishing Report:Jan 2012

The water levels at Reedsburg dam are back up after being lowered most of the summer and with it the Northern Pike have returned. The summer yielded mostly Rock Bass on both sides of the damn with a few Yellow Perch and Sunfish. Recently with the colder weather the Rock Bass have vacated for deeper waters. Now that the water levels are back to normal the Pike have returned and are being caught on the lower part of the dam on either shore.

Best bait: large minnows or chubs

Presentation: 12-18 inches below the surface on a jighead. Hooked through the lips or back. A bottom rig works also but sinkers are known to wedge between the rocks making it difficult to retrieve.

Good Luck,

Ken S