Thursday, February 18, 2010

Smelt Fishing

Smelt fishing is a lot harder than dipping netfulls out of the stream.  I recently wanted to try smelt fishing as there were two good lakes around that had smelt.

First there is Crystal Lake in Benzie County between Benzonia and Frankfort.

Max. length 8.11 miles (13 km)

Max. width 2.5 miles (4 km)

Surface area 9,854 acres (40 km2)

Average depth 70 ft (21 m)

Max. depth 165 ft (50 m)
This is a big lake and I found out that the boat launch off Lobb Road is where some people fish or you can go to the North side near Herdman's Point.  You want to get out in 40-60 feet of water but the easy way is to just go where the shanties are.  You can see that they line the area effectively.  I try to get there about 6:30 pm so it is still light out to see where you are going. Crystal only has about 6" of ice so you don't need a power auger.
Three important items for fishing for smelt.  One is a lantern to see by.  The propane lantern works great as you don't get fumes on your hands and it isn't smelly. Second is a underwater 12V light. You have to use your trolling battery.  Don't try the smaller Vexilar battery, they don't last over 2 hours.  Third is the Vexilar to see where the fish are staging.  You can just fish over a wide range of depths to find the fish and they move following the zooplanton.  In 45 foot of water, I have found smelt in from 20 to 40' depths.  See how the Vexilar helps pinpoint where to fish.
I'll get back to fishing for smelt but thought I would cover the next lake; Green Lake is in Grand Traverse County near Interlochen.
There are three launch sites for parking.  One on the North, one at Interlocken State Park, and one on the Southwestern point off Betsie River Road. All are good for smelt.
Surface area: 2,000 acres
Maxium depth:  102 feet
Ok, back to fishing for smelt. When I first decide on a spot near the shanties, I drill three holes in a triangle pattern, with the point hole near the direction of the wind.  Then I set up my shanty so the point hole is close to my portable shanty and the wind is to my back.  The hole closest to the shanty  gets the Vexilar and the underwater light, so my fishing lines in the other two top base holes don't get caught in the wires from the Vexilar and light.  Then I am usually ready to light my lantern and place it above the light hole and between the fishing holes.  Are you with me?  Getting set up is important so when the biting starts, everythings works out for land the fish.
Then I get out my lightest ice fishing rods.  I still use a small spring bobber because they smelt bite very lightly.  I tie on a plain size 12 wet fly hook about 1' up the line and tie a Hali jig on the bottom.  The Hali jig is weighted and has the small single hook handing down on a very light chain.  I use wax worms and/or spikes for smelt.  They seem to last all night with only one or two replacements.  Since I fish with two rods, I usually put spikes on one rod and wax worms on the other. I am checking what is working best.
Here is a picure of only using two holes and I quickly decided I needed a separate hole for the Vexilar.  I lost a few fish by hitting the cord or transducer. You can see the orange, green and red lines on the Vexilar.  The heavy green is the bottom and the red and yellow are fish.  I can turn the gain up so it highlights the small fish and I can tell what depth they are at.
I can see on the screen as my jigs are going down the hole.  If I am marking fish, I usually put one jig on top and the other rod below the fish.  Or, I fish one rod higher and one rod down in the next layer of fish.  Then you just wait and jig. Sometimes the fish want a little action and sometimes they want it on a deadstick.  When the smelt are moving you can see whole swarms of color on the Vexilar.  When you pull the portable shanty cover down over you and onto the ice, it is nice inside.  You have cut the cold & wind and the lantern keeps the shanty comfortable.

The smelt aren't big but they are tasty fried up fresh.  These were from Green Lake.

These are the smaller smelt from Green Lake. I think they are tastier than the larger smelt.

These are the larger Crystal Lake Smelt. I keep hearing about guys getting a bucket load of these guys but I have progressed from getting 0 fish one night to 4 fish and recently getting 18 smelt on two different nights.  I fished Tuesday night in a slight freezing rain from 6:15 pm to 10:30 pm. before I gave it up.  I think I have to rest my sore neck and try to stay out longer.  Usually there are only a few guys left fishing when I leave around 11:30 or 12:00, but will try it later when my neck feels better.

I know, I didn't have any green or yellow vegetables on my plate but I was hungry and chowed down.  It is fun to eat these little guys.  The frying softens the bones and spine so you eat the meat, bones, tail, and spine right down.  Yummy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Skiing Up North

I decided to go downhill skiing as the weather was nice and it wasn't blowing!  Caberfae is only about 17 minutes from my house and I have a seasons pass!  You can't beat the $99 season pass for Monday - Fridays.

This is the entrance area where you get your ticket and the sign says only 85 miles north of Grand Rapids.

This is the back of the Main Lodge where you can get ready for skiing or get something to eat.  I leave my ski bag in here by the fireplace.

Here is the hill map.  You have to start out in front and work your way over to more advanced runs.

I usually ski alone and just recently got a name of a person to ski with.  I decided to just do a couple of hours today.

This is the view first view of the first slope.  The base is solid and a light snow covering the base.  I keep wishing for more snow but we haven't had a lot.  Last year we got 185" of snow.

This is the middle slope and looking left or west to the Black Diamond hill.  The fence is to stop you from even thinking about skiing down this side of the hill.

Here is another shot of the middle hill.  I took this shot from the chair lift.  The seat gets pretty high in the air.

This is not on the ground!  I'll try to get another shot from higher up the lift.

This shot shows you are above the trees!  I remember have a safety bar when I was younger but they have eliminated that from the modern lifts.  Don't lean forward!

You think the little pole and rope would keep you from falling over...think again.  The hill was built up during the contruction phase and it is a high hill with steep sides. Keep away from the edges children.

I meet some neat people on the 5 minute ride to the top every time.  Most are from downstate and just here for the day.  I am lucky to live so close.

This is on top of the Black Diamond Run. It is pretty steep.  The view at the top is great.  You can see for miles.    I love to ski at night to see the surrounding lights.

I am very careful and ski within my ability.  I am alone and have to drive home by myself so I enjoy myself but remember that I don't heal as fast as the kids that ski here.

You can see the snow machines that they make their own snow with when the weather doesn't cooperate.  The hill is in great shape.  I just heard that about 400 school kids are due here by 4:00 pm.  Lots of schools have ski trips here during the week and some schools have races and ski meets so I try to schedule around them!

OK, last ride up and get one more good run in before I call it quits.

A great day of broken bones...... Priceless!

Next month I fly out to Salt Lake City to ski several areas.  First time out there and I'm looking forward to some great skiing.  So, in the meantime, I'll just practice a couple of times a week for the trip.  Hope the ride up the hill is shorter than the ride down!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Skiing with the Bear!

Yeah, skiing with the Bear!  My brother, Gary, called and told me to meet him at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes with cross country skis and snowshoes at 10:00 AM.  The Goggle Map said it was 53 miles and one hour and 15 minutes to the Bear in Empire, MI.  As I headed out, I programed the GPS and it said I'll arrive at 9:30!
The GPS is taking me an interesting route but I trust it.  After going by Crystal Mountain it puts me on 31 North and I know I am heading in the right direction.  Then a quick left turn and I am heading North.  OK, this GPS is great!  The next turn indicated is coming up but it is pointing to a unplowed road!!!

Not to panic, I just go by and hear the pleasant voice saying "..recalculating".  "Turn left".  NO, I want to go North!  Suddenly I am on 22 and keep going until I see 22 South!  I want 22 North!  Ok, 15 minutes out of my way , I turn around and head 15 minutes North.  Now the arrival time has changed to 10:10 AM!  Instead of being 30 minutes early, I am now 10 minutes late!  I finally arrive, no thanks to the GPS!!

We leave my car and and head up to the Scenic Drive of Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

We are ready to cross country ski up to the famous Dune Climb overlooking Lake Michigan. The road is closed for the winter so the only way in is by foot or ski! It is only a mile or so.

One car is in the parking lot and a trail of snowshoe prints is on the path.  We follow the path and it takes us over to the road to the top.  Wow! This is a wide cross country trail to the top!  Then I realize that the trail is the paved road that goes up.  It has 3-4" of snow and hasn't been plowed all winter. 

We take a shortcut across to the other road and get away from  the snowshoe tracks.  It is pretty easy going but a ways to get to the top.  It is maybe a mile up the road!  Suddenly the road looks like is is going up more steeply ahead!  Yes, the road got quite steep and we started up!  A little ways up and we stop and remove our fleece jackets and tie them around our waists.  When you cross country ski, you burn up a lot of calories and you get hot!  You don't want to sweat because you will chill down and get cold.  I has huffing and puffing trying to keep up with Gary.  He is faster on skis than I am.  He would get way ahead and then stop to wait for me and then head out again.  I didn't stop to rest like he did!  I couldn't!   ...or I wouldn't keep up!


We had to take our skis off and hike up to the very top.  It took us about one hour and 20 minutes to get here.  This is where the famous Dune Climb is.  Kids run down and then climb back up the 400" hill!  In the summer, that is!  There were no other tracks up here.  We did see some coyote tracks and deer tracks.

Right behind Gary is the steep hill down to the shore of Lake Michigan.  Behind him is the look-out point.  The wind blows the snow off and the sand is just below the surface.

Yes, that is how I felt!  The wind off the lake made it a little chilly.

This is looking down the dune climb area.  Can you see that it is pretty steep?  It takes kids (usually teenage boys) about 25 seconds to reach the bottom.  They start out running down and then start tumbling and falling and rolling down.  It is a long ways down to the beach!   Then they start up!  They are trying to walk upright but after 15 minutes and only 50 feet of progress, they are on their hands and knees climbling slowly up.  It takes 30-45 minutes to climb back up and they are pooped!

This is looking to the north.  That is South Manitou Island off in the distance.  The Indian legend is that a mother bear and two bear cubs tried to swim across Lake Michigan.  The two cubs didn't make it and the islands are the two bear cubs and the Mother Bear was the giant dune looking back  for the cubs.

We slid back down to where we left our skis and headed down the other side of the loop.  We were discussing if it would be better to take the gradual up hill route on the way in and the steep down hill route on the way back and we decided that it was better to climb the short steep hill up and ski the gradual rhill down.  It was a slow gentle ski down until we hit the middle hill!  Then things speeded up.  I waxed my skiis before we left and they were not gliding very fast at the beginning of the day.  I guess the friction of the snow gradually polished the wax as I was picking up speed on the long down hill.  It wasn't too fast but it was saving us much time on the downward trek.


This is one last shot of the trail coming down.  No tracks, we were the first ones in a while to do the 2 mile loop!

We loaded up the car with our skiis and Gary handed out packed lunches that he brought!  What a great brother!

That was a tasty meal!  I know what you are thinking!  No, that flask contains Peach ice tea, really!!!

A nice winter day, a great ski trip, time with my brother...priceless!