Well, I am finally home from spending time down on Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River with buddy and guide Jon Bondy.
I was fishing with Jon, gathering material for an upcoming Outdoor Canada Magazine feature for the 2012 May edition. I can’t spill too many beans at this time, you’re going to have to read the story when the edition comes out, but just let me say, if you’re are a muskie angler, you are not going to want to miss reading about Jon’s tricks and techniques.
On the other hand, if you’ve never caught a muskie before and the species is on your “bucket list, well, this will be your ticket to scratching it off the list!
I will only tantalize you further with this one small, er, big detail: we caught 11 muskies in 15 hours of fishing and the biggest one was 51.5-inches long and weighed in excess of 42-pounds. A bunch of the other fish, were almost as big!
When I got back home to Kenora, however, instead of rushing out and fishing for more toothy critters, guess what I did? I went chasing after crappies. Talk about the two extremes of the spectrum in terms of size!
But, I love fishing for crappies in the fall because they’re such cool characters. And they’re probably the finest freshwater fish on the table, and I have to confess, after eating restaurant food while I was away, I was hankering to cook Crappie Florentine for dinner!
I’ve always said, too, that no fish teaches you how to use sonar better than crappies. They are the fish for which sonar was invented in my opinion. So much so that I would not go fishing for crappies without ensuring there was a good sonar unit in the boat. You’re simply making it too hard for yourself to fish for them without it. And that was precisely the case the other day.
From years gone by, I had a pretty good idea where the fish would be congregated, as they start drifting into 25 – 30 foot deep pockets at this time of the year. So, when I was in the general area I turned on my new Simrad NSS sonar/chartplotter and started searching.
By the way, I am pretty sure most folks haven’t heard of the new Simrad brand, but let me assure you, in the days and weeks to come, you’re going to be hearing plenty about it. It knocked off the socks of everyone at ICAST this year.
As a matter of fact, Simrad (which is owned by Navico, the same company that owns Lowrance, Eagle, B&G and Northstar) has been the sonar/chartplotter of choice by most of the salt water charter captains along the Atlantic and New England coast.
Indeed, when I happened to mention to charter boat captain Chris Gatley, that I was going to be putting it on my boat, the only thing Chris said to me, was … “Man, are you ever going to be impressed with its target separation abilities.”
He is right!
As a matter of fact, the principle reason I did so well the other day fishing for crappies was because of the unit. I kid you not, the crappies were lying on the bottom. It is a little secret pattern I’ve been fishing for years now, and to be honest, I’ve never written about it or mentioned it before.
Everybody has to keep a few secrets to themselves, right?
Anyway, the whole key to success the other day was zooming in the Simrad unit to the maximum extent, so that only the bottom couple of feet was showing on the giant, full colour screen. I can never understand why so many anglers keep their sonar screens set on normal view, showing the entire water column, when they know the fish are locked onto the bottom. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Indeed, as buddy Curtis Atwater over at CMC Electronics says, “you’re wasting most the screen when you know the fish are lying on or close to the bottom. When that is the case, zoom all the way in and maximize your sonar unit’s target separation capabilities.”
Well, that is what I did the other day, and even zoomed in to the max, the most I would see is a slight “bump” on the bottom with a smidgen of “air” underneath it.
Hovering over each “bump” on the bottom, hanging a naked (no dressing) 2 1/4-inch hammered silver plated Williams Wabler spoon and then subtly shaking the lure once or twice, I’d watch each bump materialize into a huge brown, yellow, green and red coloured arc before feeling the unmistakable thump of a giant crappie.
Which is how I came to be preparing Crappie Florentine for dinner tonight!