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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pie plates and big grins!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Guided Fishing Large Migratory Rainbow and Brown Trout

Slab Seeker Fishing is now offering guided wade and fish trips for the large rainbow trout that reside in Lake Superior's Tributaries. We specialize in precision float fishing for these large specimens but tailor trips to fit you, the client's needs. Whether it is a family vacation, corporate event or an angler wanting to learn techniques, we have a great trip available for you.

A typical day on the water starts out early, hiking the remote trails to the river while enjoying solitude and beautiful fall colors or spring foliage. All rods, reels, tackle and lunch are provided. All you need to bring are sunglasses, waders, felt soled wading boots, and a water resistant jacket. We will spend the morning working through spots looking to introduce you to one of these beautiful fish. Around noon, we will make our way back to the parking area and enjoy a tailgate lunch that typically consists of brats or burgers and a cold salad dish. After a bite to eat and some discussion of an afternoon game plan we will either head back down to the river or relocate to a new stretch. We will continue to work through spots, stopping for photographs when needed, as all fish will be released. Our day will commence leaving you with a basic understanding of techniques to chase the migratory trout of Lake Superior. You will also leave with a new appreciation of one of the most beautiful, wild places in the Midwest, the North and South Shores of Lake Superior. Rates are as follows, two people full day fishing with lunch and high quality photos of your trip $250.00. Clients booking two full day trips will receive the discounted rate of $400 for the weekend. Please call for availability.

Slab Seeker Fishing
Garett Svir
Licensed Guide
First Aid and CPR Certified

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Overshadowed Bluegills- Slab Seeker Guide Service

Overshadowed Bluegills
By: Garett Svir
Photos: Kim Svir

Fall is a time of plenty for the outdoor enthusiast. While many pass the days in tree stands waiting for a wily buck to slip up, others wait in fields for fall migrants to pass overhead. Serious walleye anglers are experiencing their best big fish bite of the year over sharp breaks and deep water. Days are devoted to spending quality time with family over a warm bowl of chili while cheering on a favorite team. Families make pilgrimages north to view fall colors or hunt grouse. The fall wish list can get pretty long but for serious panfish aficionados, the fall signals a time of large concentrations of hungry panfish in predictable patterns. Fall brings an opportunity to target some of the largest specimens in a particular body of water. You’ll find that locating and catching bluegills in the fall is not much different than at first ice.

As late summer rolls around and water temperatures get high, big bluegills often evacuate shallow water leaving behind their smaller counterparts. These fish typically stay suspended on the thermocline until fall turnover. Once the water turns over, some of these large fish will return to the weeds while others stay suspended over deep water. Here they generally stay together in small schools of 10-20 fish. These sight feeders are always moving and grazing on anything that catches their eye. Bluegill’s food sources include such things as algae, aquatic vegetation, zooplankton, insect larvae, insects, fish eggs and occasionally minnows. In the fall, packing on pounds for leaner times becomes a priority. Some studies show fish eating up to 35% of their body weight weekly. As water temperatures begin to drop, fish tend to stay more active during daytime hours, not limiting anglers to first and last light.

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time on one of my favorite big bluegill haunts, by none other than legendary angler Dave Genz. When I picked him up at the dock, he was armed with his trusted Vexilar FLX-28, a pocket full of euro larvae and an assortment of his favorite ice jigs. As we made our way out into the basin, familiar lines began to show up on our flashers, reminiscent of being on the ice. Dave knew how to interpret these lines very well as it only took moments before he was tussling with his first bluegill.
Genz suggested anchoring in both the front and back of the boat to keep presentations vertical and visible on electronics. Too much boat sway would bring jigs outside the view of our electronics and leave us fishing blind. He showed me a new tungsten jig that will be available later this fall, called the Dropper. The heavy tungsten allowed him to use a small profile jig that stayed vertical and dropped quickly to feeding fish.
  Chad “Crappie Sniffer” Peterson, owner of HSM Outdoors, says fall is his favorite time of year to hunt big bluegills. The lakes he fishes around Alexandria, Minnesota, all have very different and distinct patterns. He relies heavily on the use of his electronics while searching out basin areas in close proximity to structure. Once fish are located, the trolling motor is deployed and used to hover over suspended schools of gills. He likes the freedom to be able to move and react quickly. He also advocates keeping log books that include information like date, water temperature, clarity of water and depth which he considers invaluable to patterning and locating fish on new bodies of water.

HSM Pro Staffer, Mike Raetz, also professes to catch his largest bluegills during fall, suspended over deep water. Mike often uses his ice rods to jig vertically over the side of the boat. He likes how shorter rods keep his jig inside the cone angle and visible on his Vexilar. “One big split shot, about a foot above my jig, is all I need to maintain depth control,” says Raetz. Mike employs a single anchor off the front of the boat once fish are located. This keeps him swaying and working different fish, picking off the most aggressive ones before moving to his next location.

Fall is a busy time indeed with hunting and family but if you do find some spare time don’t forget the often overshadowed bluegills. Finding large concentrations of big bluegills in predictable locations is a great reason to enjoy some of the last open water fishing of the year. Trust me when I say… you’ll be glad you did.

HSM Outdoors is a group of anglers from around the United States and Canada dedicated to making you more successful in the field and on the water. For more information on fall bluegills visit http://www.hsmoutdoors.com

Scratching The Panfish Itch- By Slab Seeker Guide Service

Scratching the Panfish Itch
By: Garett Svir
Photography: Kim Svir
It’s finally my favorite time of year, early ice. My auger is tuned up and ready. My new Clam shelter is assembled, and my Vexilar battery is charged. My thoughts have started to drift to what skills I would like to hone this season. The addicting part of ice fishing for me is putting together the puzzle and unlocking the mysteries of the world below the frozen surface. That equals finding fish where others seldom look. According to a recent survey on my Facebook page, an overwhelming amount of anglers say the greatest skill an ice angler can improve on is the art of finding fish. This was seen as a greater skill than jigging style and bite detection. Then why do some anglers congregate over community hot spots, so accepting that the fish are simply not biting? These anglers have yet to be stricken with what we refer to, in my group of friends, as the fish itch.

The fish itch is extremely contagious and usually comes on shortly after having success off the beaten path. Far out of sight, anglers with the fish itch, strike out confidently over fresh untapped ice. Symptoms begin as a feeling of persistence that drives you to keep searching until you have located fish. As symptoms eventually progress, you will begin to find larger concentrations of willing biters. Rumor has it that some anglers, who have had the itch for years, will eventually be able to pursue some of the largest specimens in a given lake, known as slabs and bulls. You will begin to recognize anglers with the itch this winter as they move quickly between holes, Vexilar in hand. If you have been stricken, here are some ways that you can scratch the fish itch this season.

Lessons from the Past  
Taking lessons from the past is a huge part of finding fish on your own and gaining confidence away from the community hot spot. When going to a new body of water, try to find areas that have the same characteristics as the areas where you have caught fish in the past. Panfish tend to relate to similar areas on most bodies of water. Learning to identify fish holding characteristics and translating them to different bodies of water will lead to future success. One of my favorite crappie spots is a 20’ depression in the middle of a small shallow bay. When I study a lake map of a new body of water, I always highlight areas that mimic my favorite spot back home.  One tip can be to visualize a contour map in 3D. Looking for fish holding areas on a piece of paper can be difficult. When you begin to see maps in 3D, you will get a feel for how fish relate to a particular spot. You will begin to understand how they find cover from predators, and how they find food.

Drive thru Panfish
Drive through the community hot spot. It is always worth seeing what type of areas the locals are fishing. Let’s say many of the permanent houses are spread out over a 30’ hole, surrounded by a shallow weed flat.  I will begin to search the lake map for other areas with similar traits. Chances are if you can find a similar spot with less fishing pressure, you may hit the jackpot.  It can be a huge advantage to work in a team with one angler walking ahead drilling, while the other follows with the Vexilar. Quickly driving up to each hole on the snowmobile and swinging the transducer in different directions will let you know if fish are present. If fish are seen when swinging the transducer, it will alert you to which direction to drill next. Once located, we drill holes closer together until we are right on top of the bio mass. Missing a school of fish by ten feet is like missing by a mile. The new Pro View Transducer from Vexilar has been a real game changer the past few seasons. It allows an angler to control the cone angle with the gain knob. The ability to search a larger area with fewer holes is a huge advantage and allows for more time scratching the itch.

Be Shallow
                Searching shallower than everyone else will often produce the largest panfish in a given water system. Panfish grow large because they are able to avoid predators, including anglers. Noise from anglers can push large panfish out of deep water and into heavy cover. Once in the weeds they will find the oxygen, food, and cover they need to thrive. The two factors that seem to draw fish are green healthy weeds and proximity to deep water. Coontail and curly leaf pondweed specifically will often stay green, even through the harshest fall weather. Hungry panfish will roam through the weed stocks, like a pack of lions, looking for that next easy meal. While pre-fishing for a tournament last winter, my wife and I stumbled on an interesting pattern. While most anglers drilled out deep basins looking for plankton feeders, we found huge bluegills gorging on Amphipods or freshwater shrimp on a large weed flat. Watching these fish with our underwater camera uncovered larger bluegills than we had ever encountered on this lake. We watched in fascination as these fish made their way through the weeds with ease, sucking shrimp off the stocks. Shallow water is where fishing fast really shines. Because fish aren’t as visible in shallow water on electronics, we briefly fish each hole we drill.  By drilling a large amount of holes we are assured to find the open patches, pathways and edges, which hold the largest numbers of fish.

It’s a Slippery Slope
Steep drop off’s surrounding main lake structure can also hold large concentrations of fish. These areas hold food such as mayfly larva and dragonfly larva. While these food sources can be present in many different areas, the base of a steeply dropping slope will provide some of the highest concentrations. For years, panfish guru Dave Genz has talked about these sticky bottom areas. These areas house the correct type of substrate to allow larva to burrow.
                It takes a certain type of angler to strike out away from the pack to uncover that next hot pattern, an angler with the fish itch. Once you get the itch, you may acquire a renewed passion for the hardwater season. It just may leave you dreaming for a late spring.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Back Country Bluegills

I had an opportunity to chase some back country bluegills with the crew from HSM this past weekend. The morning started off slow as we worked through a large coontail flat that had produced some nice fish for me on Friday. After striking out and what seemed like a million holes later, we made our way into the 9' depression in the middle of the bay. Small perch begin to light up our Vexilar's as they raced up to steal our euro larva. Must have been a large bug hatch going on from the amount of fish located over the mud basin. Every once and awhile a larger fish would come through high in the water column and these were bluegills. While we didn't capture any true  backwoods monsters on this trip, our average fish was around 9" with the largest specimens going 9.75". The hot bait of the day was the Half Ant from Clam and seemed to produce fish with whatever we happened to tip it with. All fish were released to pass on those good genetics. I hope this snow coming doesn't goof things up for us. Tight Lines!  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Making Streamside Omelets- By Brule River Fishing Guide

Making Streamside Omelets
By: Garett Svir
Photography: Kim Svir

It was a cool July morning on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula when we made our way onto the drift boat. Pure adrenaline and excitement had taken over as the 30” Kenai River rainbows we had been dreaming of became a distinct possibility. Thoughts of fly selection fill my mind as we made our way out into the fog. I had spent the night before carefully assembling a fluorocarbon leader and tipping it with the only prince nymph I felt worthy of these legendary Kenai River rainbows. I cannot deny the initial disappointment that came over me as Alaska Troutfitter’s Guide Eric Perkins handed me a 6 weight yielding something that looked like it came off a 6th graders friendship bracelet. I am by no means a fly fishing purist but had a hard time believing that some of the largest rainbows on earth were going to fall victim to these gaudy pieces of plastic. I think he could sense my disappointment as I grabbed the rod from him.

As we began our decent into the canyon, I couldn’t help but look over at the other drift boats and wonder if they too were using such unrefined offerings. Our guide carefully navigated around a few boulders and instructed my wife, Kim, to “hit the shot” on the far current seam. She rolled out a large cast and as soon as she mended her indicator dipped below the surface. I caught a glimpse of silver as the large fish rolled beneath the surface. I guess that bead fishing was starting to grow on me, but it took several large rainbows of my own before I completely bought in. Throughout the day, our guide would reach into a rubber made tool box and pull out different colors of nail polish. He would change the shade of our beads to match the stage of salmon eggs in the river. Alaskans are serious about bead fishing and for good reason. The original owner of Alaska Troutfitters, Curt Trout, was one of the first anglers to experiment with plastic beads. He would train guides by having them paint beads that would later be taken to the river and compared to the real thing. They would drop different beads amongst salmon eggs until the apprentice and Curt could not tell the difference. Curt Trout has now passed on; however, the shops new owners, Dusty and Billy, have continued on with his legacy of being well versed in bead fishing. The secret bead painting room is only accessible by two employees. Their trademark way of painting beads to achieve that perfect molted swirl is known throughout Alaska. While we didn’t end up hooking a 30” rainbow, several fish over the 20” mark started a love affair with bead fishing that would travel back to my home streams on the Great Lakes.
In the past few seasons, I have really gained confidence in bead fishing. Last fall, during my annual pilgrimage to the Pierre Marquette River, I couldn’t help but try them on king salmon. We had absolutely amazing results. On previous trips we would start our adventure several hours before daylight, casting minnow baits in complete darkness. Once the sun came up we would fish through holes using cut skein. By afternoon the bright skies would eventually cause the bite to die off. This year we found bead fishing could extend this notorious morning bite late into the day by simply downsizing from skein to beads. We were amazed to find how light these kings would bite during the afternoon, often times just causing our floats to pause or drift sideways for a moment. Even with bright bluebird skies they could not pass up a single egg drifted past them.

On Lake Superior’s Bois Brule River local fly patters like the glimmer soft hackle, spring wiggler and Lake Superior x-leg are considered the norm for steelhead. We found many willing steelhead using… you guessed it, beads. Actually they worked so well on this gin clear, spring fed, trout stream that they have become my confidence bait here on my home water. Fall is a great time to use smaller beads in caramel roe or apricot to mimic the many brown trout eggs washing downstream. Spring runoff will muddy up the water and colors like chartreuse and tangerine really shine. Runoff that contains a lot of red clay is common on Lake Superior streams. Chartreuse and yellow beads will often look far more natural than any shade of orange or red in these conditions.  Opaque colors of nail polish can give eggs the mottled look like they have been in the river awhile. Small drops of pink, orange and even black nail polish can further refine offerings, imitating a nucleus. I was a skeptic at first but have since found that the possibilities are endless for imitating the common egg. I now sometimes find myself on all fours inspecting eggs lying on the bank or boat floor trying to match the hatch.

                When trying to match the egg hatch, I try to keep in mind the size of eggs fish are feeding on. If fish are feeding on eggs from steelhead, sockeye, suckers or whitefish, I tend to start with a 6mm. If fish are feeding on eggs from pinks or silvers, I start with an 8 mm. The largest I personally carry is a 10 mm and I use these when fish are feeding on larger eggs from king or chum salmon. The other important factor is color. Matching bead color to the color of eggs that fish are feeding on seems like an easy task; however, several factors come into play. Keep in mind the time of day and available light penetration, color of the water, amount of sediment and if runoff is stained from tannic acid swamps or red clay banks. All of these factors can make the bead look different underwater. The easiest test is to inspect beads underwater before drifting. This allows you to make adjustments and also check visibility. As a final test, I hold beads up to the sun to look at how the light passes through them. I have found that translucent beads catch more fish. The secret lies in making the bead translucent but not so shiny that they spook finicky fish. The last but certainly not least important factor to consider is the stage of the eggs the fish are keying in on. Eggs change color constantly as they develop into the alevin stage. The nucleus that is originally present changes over to two distinct black dots as the embryo is formed. The embryo will then begin to form a darker red yoke sack along the bottom portion. In the later stages, eggs look white as the embryo can be seen through the egg. When an egg dies and is washed downstream, it quickly takes on a yellowish hue. If it is plagued by fungus or algae, it will become green. Rather than getting too caught up in the details carry a large selection and change beads often until you find something that works.

                One of the great things about beads is how customizable they are. While Alaska Troutfitters’ Shop Manager, Laura, wouldn’t tell me any trade secrets she highly recommended a three step process. Painting with opaque nail polish will give beads the mottled look like they have been in the water. Another trick is to spray white or yellow paint into a paper bag, let the paint dry slightly, add beads and shake. This will achieve the same effect but is far less time consuming. Leave beads on a newspaper to dry and you are ready to fish. I have also been known to hand paint a nucleus, black dots to represent embryo eyes or a small red yoke sack spot on the bottom of beads. My final step is always to dip painted beads in Soft-Tex. This will give beads a softer more realistic feel and protect nail polish from chipping. 

Rigging beads is not a difficult venture. Common practice is to peg beads a small distance above the hook. This will assure that fish are not hooked deeply. It also serves to hide the hook in clear conditions and prevents large beads from covering the hook gap. Beads can be pegged using a toothpick, small clear commercially available pegs, or tied onto the line using a bead knot. I have seen angler’s fish beads under floats, with strike indicators and along the bottom, all with great success. Make them work with the style of fishing you are accustomed to.

Bead fishing is here to stay and a valuable tool to add to your steelhead fishing arsenal. Experiment by painting different colors and changing throughout the day. You’ll be whipping up streamside omelets in no time.