Friday, July 27, 2018

Lake Michigan 2018: Fish Pics and Tally

Year 2013 was dramatically low water as noted in previous post; that year was the 20x20 meaning top twenty fish caught were all >= 20 lbs.  A feat that we figured hadn't been done prior and wouldn't be done subsequently.  This year we did get to 24 fish of 20+ lbs, but we didn't get the heaviest twenty fish or the heaviest 24 fish (if we assume (safely) that the 21st - 24th biggest fish in 2013, while unrecorded, were 19 lbers).

We weigh fish with digital scales, subtract tare for net.  We generally only scale fish that are close to (or obviously greater than) 20 lbs.  Or mirror carp.


Number fish 20+ lbs: 24
Total weight: 544 lbs
Average: 22.66 lbs


Number fish 20+ lbs: 20
Total weight: 471lbs
Average: 23.55 lbs
Assuming next four fish were 19 lbs each, top 24 fish average: 22.79 lbs

There are no photos that I can find of the first day.  We spent it walking around the "old" water meaning that which was good when the water was low.  We found some tough fish that wouldn't eat. Found one fish that would eat; it was caught; only fish to hand while wearing the new black hat (excluding bass of which we caught a few).  Changed to the old one the next day and went to the new water.  We never left it.  Unsure how many carp we caught overall but it was many.  Multiple dozens per day for three days straight.

Remarkable settings.  Giant fish in shallow water set in stunning landscape.  

27 lber

15 lber

26 lber

They say the black ones don't eat.

30 lber.  Deep water setting.  I watched the pack approach and exclaimed that the biggest was the one in the middle.  They passed me and got to JM; he put a leech in perfect presentation on the big; I saw the fish from behind turn to the fly.  Quite a deal of backing was taken.  When I saw the fish in the net I thought it was going to be a PB for him but it scaled at thirty.  I believe his sixth (?) 30+ lb carp.  Just a monster, big-looking ridiculous fish.  Second 30+ fish we've landed on Lake Michigan.  

21 or 23 lber

Last fish of the trip for me at 23 lbs.  We both broke off mid-20s fish on the last day too; we were very close to 26 fish above the threshold.  Both silly good eats - watched the fish saunter to fly and pick it up.  Mine shattered a tippet knot at the time of hookset; had tied on tippet to get fly down in deep water; compromise that didn't work out.

Many other pics and many other fish; don't take as many photos though, and it's now harder for me to manage the images from devices to computer; I'm getting behind in that regard.  This is a favorite image though, captured by JM.  Walking lonely water in remote setting.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Walking Lake Michigan 2018

I think about Lake Michigan if not every day, at least multiple times per week.  Pretty simple: remote, unmatched beauty, traversed on foot, always watching for giant meat eating fish in knee deep water.  All done via relatively untrodden paths; we wonder if some of this water ever sees other anglers. 





Thursday, July 19, 2018

Lake Michigan: Kids' First Run

For years been wanting to get my two sons on Michigami.  Finally happened.  I gauged the walking according to what I figured they could do.  This generally precluded fishing the best water (at the current water level).  Three different days (but only 3-4 hours per day) my older son fished the "old good" waters.  In fairness to him he didn't have many good targets.  A lot of carp sleeping in grass and cattails.  Very high degree of difficulty.  He worked pretty hard.  He saw a lot.  Waded some miles.  In the end he learned that carp are a lot tougher than bass.  The SMB provided a bit of a crutch and he leaned on it.  Pictured here is the first fish he caught from the lake.  He sight-fished to it with an orange bunny streamer.  It was around 17 inches.

Second fish.  Another sight-fishing deal.  Not on a nest.  It was patrolling in a regular pattern a radius of cattails maybe 20 feet.  He set up at a little inlet and each time the fish came by he dapped on it.  Five minutes or so and he hooked up.  This one was big enough to tape and scale.  20.5 inches and 5.4 lbs.  I think the best SMB we've logged on Lake Michigan.  Keeping in mind we don't target them.

Little bro came out one day.  He did really well too.

This is what I really wanted the kids to see: unending wadeable deadclear water full of giant fish.  A lifetime of walking in beautiful country.  So this seems like a simple image but it's one I created many times leading up to the realization.  No carp for either kid.  Fair number of bass for the older guy.  He had some sleepers try to eat the fly but no connections.  Overall I didn't see him fish to a carp that I thought was a good target.  As such I credit them for doing their best to approach the opportunities afforded.  Better guiding next year.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lake Michigan Water Levels

This is one of the better websites I've seen in terms of serving technical information.

Thinking back on Lake Michigan 2018 and all thoughts ultimately have links to water levels.  Here is a simple tabulation of the mean June elevation of the water surface for "Michigan-Huron."   We are up to nine visits total; almost two months of time studying the lake and the near-shore fishery.

2010 nil year - we were too late and had no chance of seeing a fish
11    578.12
12    577.66
13    577.59
14    578.67
15    579.69
16    580.18
17    580.31
18    580.64
(1) While there is a long-term average, it'd be a reach to say that there is a "normal" water level for Lake Michigan.  Same thing is true for many water bodies, e.g. Lake Pepin for which there is no "normal" year re flows and weather.  The middle image below shows the "meander belt" of stage spanning approximately six feet: 576 to 582 feet.  That's a lot of variability.  Rain and snowmelt come to mind, but another important driver, according to the local resource experts: if the lake (or a lot of it) freezes over in winter, the evaporation stops thereby profoundly impacting the local water cycle; meaning higher water coming.  On the long-term then, the angler must be ready with an adaptive management approach.

(2) Our first good year was 2011; we didn't know it at the time but we were fishing low water.  We should have given more weight to one landowner who said basically this, paraphrased: "The carp didn't used to come in here.  But then the water left and the carp came."  Or maybe that was 2012 or 2013, years in which the water dropped even further to a period-of-record low point in January 2013.

(3) Since our June 2013 fishing the lake has risen up past the "average" such that now there are 3+ feet of water on top of the water surface we fished that year.  In 2013 we watched carp traversing bays with dorsals out of the water; just slogging along.  Now those paths are topped by a great volume of water such that the sun's energy is not enough to heat them up to the point of making them desirable for fish (carp or bass for that matter).

(4) The data seem to indicate that there is nothing to suggest that the water level will continue to increase or even "stay high" for whatever period of time.  The period of record shows remarkable cycling rise and fall patterns.  It's high now but it's been higher.  Can only read and react.  There isn't a recipe or a point on the map that alone begets outstanding carping.  It's not good casting skill or the right fly or gear; it seems to boil down to these: commitment to setting aside the time to go, watchfulness and data study, adaptability in planning, willingness to walk a long way questing after the fish as needed.

Andrew D. Gronewold, Anne H. Clites, Joeseph P. Smith, Timothy S. Hunter, A dynamic graphical interface for visualizing projected, measured, and reconstructed surface water elevations on the earth's largest lakes, Environmental Modelling & Software, Volume 49, November 2013, Pages 34–39