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Exploring Lake Champlain

Part 5 in a 6 part series

By Dale Brown


How about the Middle of this pond?

Now that we've covered---in the first four articles---most of the shorelines of Champlain, that leaves us with the middle to consider. Champlain has many humps, reefs, and points that are outstanding fish magnets. A "Humps" is an island that didn't quite make it to the surface, while a "Reef" is a point that is always underwater, and of course a "Point" is a protrusion of dry land out into the lake, whether from the main land or from an island. If you guys have been paying attention you might have picked up on a few humps, points, and reefs that I've already mentioned up to now, but if you'll bear with me, I'd recommend that you go down the middle of the lake and re-investigate all of them.


If we start up North again, we have to take a look at Martindale reef. It sticks out from Martindale Point. The point and the surrounding shoreline is all reed beds. These reeds are great places to fish and in the next article I tell you how to attack them and about the great fishing that they offer. So, back out to on the reef, that's where the fish that you catch in the reeds, live most of the time. The reef is covered with weeds and has got a lot of fish around the edges. Use a Yamamoto Hula Grub, Watermelon Chartreuse or a same colored Bacon Rind and rig it with a 1/8 oz Mojo Weight on a number 2/0 or 3/0 hook. Then flip or cast it out and drag it around, nice and slow. The hits here are soft and difficult to feel. Use a light rod and light line. I Prefer a 7 foot 1/2 oz Fenwick with a long handle, and 6 pound test line. I set the handle on my hip and use both hands to move the rod slowly. Stop and jiggle it every few feet of movement. You have to look at the top end of the rod and imagine what the lure on the other end of the line is doing. A little movement of your hands, is a lot of movement at the end of the rod and subsequently, at the end of the line. Move the rod a little and slack off to let the lure come to rest again then jiggle, wait then move again. As you go to move it, feel the weight of the lure and line. Be slow and concentrate. Sometimes the weight you feel will also have movement. If it does, strike and strike hard. Then, Yahoo, hang on and crank, with any luck it won't be a weed.

A GPS is a must for fishing humps or reefs. And not just any GPS. I have a good Humminbird GPS and Depth finder on the dash of my boat. It's a map unit, I wouldn't use any other kind then a map unit. It is great for guiding you around the lake and bringing you right up on top of a hump or reef. They have the same charts or maps in them as the paper variety that you get at the tackle shops. C-Map USA, makes a great set of electronic charts that fit most GPS units. You can look at the paper charts and plan your trip, then follow the electronic version to you destination. No more paper charts flying around while you try and handle the boat and not hit something or someone. Once you come to a stop you need a very particular type of GPS. When I go to the bow of the boat I have a Lowrance unit there. The difference is, that Lowrance is much more sensitive to movement. When I wander around on top of a hump, the Lowrance will track my movements and show me my exact location on the chart, at all times. The Humminbird on the dash stops tracking when the boat movements drop below several miles per hour, it won't track the movements of the electric motor or of drifting. And you need to know if your still on top or if you've moved to the one side or the other of the hump, Point, or reef.

When I'm on a rocky hump like the ones at City Ledge or the point at McGregors I like to use a split shot rig or a Mojo or any one of these similar rigs. They're all basically the same. Use a heavy steel sinker.---- I emphasize steel, because we have to stop using lead, we're killing too many waterfowl like the Loons. Do us all a big favor and take all the lead sinkers in your tackle box and take them to the dump and have them properly disposed of. This might cost you a few dollars to replace them with steel or brass, but it's that or lose the Loons and ducks for ever.---- Fish the rig by staying out of the top of the hump and drag it down the sides. Slowly move the lure by dragging it with the sweep of your rod. Move the rod horizontally to the water. Stop for a minute or two between each sweep. The fish will pick it up when it is sitting still and the next time you go to move it you may feel the weight of the fish or it's movement. Then strike and strike with a good hard sweep of the rod. You can set the hook after you get the slack out of the line. Occasionally, you will set the hook into a rock or weed by mistake. We've all done that one at least a hundred times a day, and then we start to heave around on the rod and crank the reel as fast as we can and the drag sings, while we yell for everyone to get the net and start figuring out if the fireplace mantel is going to be big enough to handle this monster. And then we realize that "It's not moving". Which is usually followed by a few choice words and a lot of laughter. But that is exactly how the big ones are eventually caught, and then released. Sometimes you will catch a Walleye or Lake Trout while doing this. 

Catch and release, is when a fisherman catches a fish and chooses to let it go, instead of keeping it or killing it. This practice is encouraged by most fishermen for obvious reasons. If you're not going to eat it, there's no reason to take it home. If it's a real trophy fish and you want to have it mounted, just take the measurements. Measure the length and the girth (that's around the middle). Make a tracing of it on a shopping bag or any piece of construction paper, if you have a scale, take it's weight. Also a picture would be helpful. Then go to your Bass Pro catalogue and you will find an advertisement for a company that will make a perfect copy of your fish. Meanwhile the original fish will be there the next time you go fishing and it will keep getting bigger and only you know where it lives. 

In order to handle the fish, some caution must be taken. Depending on the species, it can take a little extra consideration. Trout for instance need a lot more gentle handling then many other species. If you were to catch a trout in mid summer on a lake, it would most likely have been retrieved from very deep, cold water, where there is much more pressure per square inch then on the surface. While dragging the trout up from the depths, it will get a condition that in humans, is called, The Bends. In humans, that means that the air bubbles in the blood have increased in size and get stuck in the capillaries, causing great pain. That's kind of a simple description of the condition, but it will do. In fish, it's the air bladder that gets over sized. That's also a simple explanation of the condition for fish, there's temperature changes that also cause havoc with their systems. All fish are effected by atmospheric pressures. Bringing that fish up 30, 40 or even more feet is like going from a cold, rainy low pressure stormy day to a high pressure sunny day over a three minute period. So while you always want to handle trout with extra care, when fishing in hot weather you must also remember to burp the fish. That's what I said or wrote, burp the fish. No, don't throw them over your shoulder. Just bring the fish up along side the boat, don't remove it from the water. Wet your hands first, then hold the fish by the tail, keeping it wet, and remove the hook. Next, gently rub the fish's stomach, by sliding it back and forth over your hand until you see a bubble, burp from it's mouth. By helping the fish release the excess air from it's bladder, you make it possible for the fish to return to the depth from which it came. Without this release of excess air, the fish would be trapped in the hot surface waters and will die. Don't take anymore time then necessary. When your have to take a fish out of the water, don't keep it out any longer then you would want to be under water. The effects to both species is the same, brain damage from lack of oxygen.

If you wish to participate in a catch and release program, you have to stop the use of live bait. The fish swallow the bait right down before you can set the hook and they get the hook stuck in their stomachs. It is almost impossible to retrieve the hook without damaging the fish and killing it. Another serious problem that has come to the fore front in recent years is the many numbers of fish that are dying due to the use of a technique called Mojo and split shotting. Like live bait, the fish swallow the lure so fast that it is impossible to set the hook before they have swallowed the lure. In both techniques, we recommend that you close the barb on the hook, the fish will not get off. And with the use of a good, long set of forceps, you can remove the hook with ease. 

When the lure is drug around on the bottom, with the use of a heavy weight, a couple of feet up the line from the lure. The lure floats a few feet off the bottom, causing it to bob and dart around. It's quite deadly on fish, literally. It not only works well catching them, but also because it is so life like, they just grab the lure and swallow it. It seems to be especially deadly on Smallmouth Bass. They travel in schools and eat things fast, to keep their school mates from getting it. They not only have to hide their lunch money, but they have to get heartburn from eating too fast. It must be tough to spend your whole life in a school. At least that's what my students, keep trying to tell me.

If you look at a chart Of Champlain you will find many humps, points and reefs all over the place. Some points have continuations as humps right near them. I have not found a single one of them that is not worth fishing. Some are marked with buoy's and get close to the surface in the Fall, also when the lake gets down, others like Sea Gull Island become visible. As the weeds grow thicker, the humps are easier to see and follow. A hump with weeds is usually better then one with no weeds but all have fish. When you are following a point out and you get to the end, check around with your depth finder, sometimes they startup again a little farther out and the paper charts may not show that feature. If you see a marker buoy out in the middle, check it out. There are usually rocks near it. If you see a gallon milk bottle out there or near shore, stop and see if some local guy is not marking a pile of rocks. If I were to name all the points, humps, and reefs in this lake it would be just one long list of names and would take up all the space they give for these article. There are thousands and thousands of fish living in this lake who will never be near dry land. So go get them. 

Lake Champlain - Part 1
Lake Champlain - Part 2
Lake Champlain - Part 3
Lake Champlain - Part 4
Lake Champlain - Part 6

If you found this article helpful, go to www.thefamilyboat.com and get all of Dale’s 30 years of experience fishing Lake Champlain in Bass Fishing 101 - Lake Champlain

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The Family Boat series is brought to you by
Skeeter Bassboats & Reynolds Marine

Reynolds has new Skeeter Bass boats, new saltwater boats, as well as a large line of used boats

To contact Reynolds -

Reynolds Marine
264 Hamburg Road
Lyme, CT 06371, USA

Tel (860) 434-0028
Fax (860) 434-0597
E-mail

 

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