Tuesday, December 3, 2013
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!
Monday, October 7, 2013
Slab Seeker Fishing is now offering guided wade and fish trips for the large rainbow trout that reside in Lake Superior Tributaries. We specialize in precision float fishing for these large specimens but tailor trips to fit you, the clients 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. 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 around 3 pm, 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. Please drop me a line or give me a call for rates and availability.
Slab Seeker Fishing
First Aid and CPR Certified
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Thursday, August 15, 2013
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.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Winter Strategies for Spring Success
By: Garett Svir
Photography: Kim Svir
The ice season has come to an end but don’t throw out the larva or put away the ice fishing jigs quite yet. You might find success using winter strategies for spring success. After ice out, crappies will start to make their way from the deep water haunts of winter to shallow black bottom bays. It’s not spawning time. These fish are searching for the buffet line. Black bottom bays soak up the heat of the sun like a sponge and hold bug hatches necessary to start the food chain. Crappies sneak in on warm days for a quick meal long before the spawn begins. While minnows are a great producer once water temperatures have warmed, ice out slabs require finesse presentations. I think the experiment stemmed from my unpreparedness for the coming season. Winter jig boxes and larva somehow made their way into the boat one spring morning. Now I never leave them behind and don’t think you will want to either.
Predictable locations make searching for crappies at ice out fairly basic. Bays located on the northern end of lakes warm up first and see the first signs of life. Feeder creeks can also hold insect life and draw in crappies for a quick bite. Soft bottom shorelines on the northern end of lakes are also areas worth exploring. Look for anything that will transfer heat into the water like tree branches, cattails or wood dock pillars. We pay close attention to the temperature reading on the graph when scoping out areas. It’s amazing what a difference a few degrees make to crappies this time of year. On one outing last year after searching out several bays we learned an important lesson in temperature. The first bay we fished was void of fish. Normally, after striking out, we would start to search different types of areas and abandon black bottom bays altogether. On this particular day, we decided to check out a similar bay in the other basin of the lake. We headed to some overhanging tree branches in the far back section and were greeted with a water temperature 3 degrees higher than in the first bay. We found crappies stacked up against tree limbs and when we didn’t get snagged, we hooked fish. Just that small change in temperature made all the difference. Another important lesson we learned was that while It’s easy to overlook the really snag infested areas; these areas often hold some of the largest specimens. Looking through old fishing log books, I also uncovered that many of my biggest crappies have been caught right after ice out, long before the spawn.
Stealth is equally as important in the spring as during late ice. We use the electric motor to slip into bays and deploy the anchor quietly. Excess commotion will push shallow water slabs deeper into unreachable cover. Cold fronts may also push fish deep into heavy cover or into the deepest part of bays. Fronts will sometimes push fish out of bays altogether but don’t fret because they seldom go far. The first break line outside of the bay will offer crappies the security they need to wait out a front. Once the weather stabilizes, fish will make their way back to the buffet line.
Float fishing brings out the kid in all of us. If your childhood was anything like mine, many hours were devoted to watching a float and patiently waiting for it to slip beneath the water’s surface. My level of excitement hasn’t changed much since those early days. I still love the anticipation of float fishing. Ice out crappie fishing is a great opportunity to release that inner child. The round bobbers of your childhood may lead to light strikes going unnoticed but adult versions do exist. I started using small clear floats that attach with surgical tubing. My favorite is the 2.4 gram Drennan Crystal Loafer. These floats are used by tournament anglers in the UK because of their incredible sensitivity. These floats can be perfectly weighted to achieve neutral buoyance. The goal is to have enough weight so only the orange top of the float is above water. If a crappie as much as thinks about sampling your offering, these floats will alert you. Crappies are still biting just as light as when you left them a few weeks ago during late ice. Many anglers abandon small presentations at ice out and go straight to large bobbers and minnows while anglers in the know stick with cold water presentations.
Jigs for early season success should be small. Some of my favorites are the 3 mm tungsten jigs from Fiskas. They cast with ease and weight floats to that sensitive level of neutral buoyancy. I also like the 2.5 mm Hole-In Jig from Fiskas. I tend to tip these with micro plastics and use a slow retrieve to swim them back to the boat. Hole-In Jigs, by design, stay perfectly horizontal without having to position knots. The poor crappies don’t have a chance. Some other stealthy options include 1/64th oz calf tail jigs. Calf tail jigs take on a life of their own under water. They can be tipped with a single wax worm and fished in a stationary manner or worked back to the boat without bait. Experience has taught me that cold water crappies prefer a smooth gliding motion over jerky up and down movements. Experiment with float depth and speed of retrieve until you crack the code.
It feels great to be back in the boat, feeling the heat from the spring sun, but before you race to put away your ice fishing gear give winter strategies a try. It’s a great technique to tempt cold water slabs and make you a more versatile angler.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Well it's almost steelhead season on Lake Superior's North Shore. Great time to look back on some of last years adventures..