Monday, August 29, 2011

Skunked on the Fox

Walter hanging out on the Fox


Wind: none
Pressure: 29.86" and steady
Clouds: few

I'd read some great things about the Fox River and the vast population of smallies that lived there, and recently seen some posts about massive numbers of close-to-shore smallies that were being easily caught. Could this be my 2011 smallmouth day!!?? According to Ken G (who has an AWESOME blog you should definitely check out by the way) THIS was the weekend to get out on the Fox and catch some smallies, specifically at sunrise or sunset.

My lovely wife decided she wanted in on the action, so we packed up the car and brought Walter with us. I'd scoped out some possible locations on Google Earth, and the most convenient one was right off of I-90, about 25 minutes from our house. There was easy access to the water, it looked promising.

Very pretty little stream
Got there around 9am, started throwing nightcrawlers under bobbers and gulp minnows on jigheads (closest thing I had to Ken G's lure recommendation). We hooked Walter up to his super long leash, and tied it to a bench. He proceeded to immedately tangle himself repeatedly, but hey, we were all fishing! It was good times.

Well, the river was extremely shallow from where we were fishing, so shallow it was hard to avoid the massive amounts of weeds that were everywhere. Looking at the water, it seemed like the deeper water started just past the distance I was able to cast. Claire got some bites up close, but nothing big. There were tons of tiny minnows everywhere, but I didn't see any bluegill or any other pan fish.

I tried a variety of spots, trying to get to deeper water - I figured by 10am any smallies in the area had retreated to deeper water, as the sun was fully out and the air (and water probably) was heating up. No luck, not a single bite. I lost a few lures in the muck, and started to get frustrated.

We decided to move up the shore to the I-90 bridge, which looked like it had seen its fair share of fishing activity. By the looks of it, I guessed catfish and carp fisherman, but I wasn't sure. I just hoped there would be some smallies around!

So many baitfish!
The only fish that were around were the most baitfish I'd ever seen, and a little dead fish that washed up on the shore. Not sure what it was, maybe a chub? A tiny tiny drum? As faithful readers of this blog know, I'm pretty horrible at fish identification.

After a series of snags, more lost lures, and pretty much no luck, we decided to pack it up and head home. By this time it was about 11am, and I figured any bass in the area would certainly not be interested by now. I vowed to return and exact my revenge on the river that skunked us!


so pretty!
Wind: very slight, from the west
Pressure: 29.87" and rising
Clouds: partly cloudy

Return I did- a few short hours later, I packed up the S.S. Silent But Deadly, my gear, and hit the toll road. I wanted to be on the water in plenty before sunset, so I could find some good spots and work them at the right time.

As I was approaching the Roselle exit on I-90, I watched in my rear-view mirror as the strap holding the back of my yak SNAPPED! Suddenly it was gone, and I could see the kayak becoming loose on my roof. Crap!

kayak strap issues, right by Medieval Times
I turned on the four-ways, and pulled off to the side. The cable had just snapped close to where I attached it to the car, but thankfully the other side of the cable was still hooked to the car. I'm not sure how it happened; I'd driven with the kayak many times recently (to the DPR, to Salt Creek, to Busse, etc) and never had any problems. Maybe the tollway was too much for it!

I unhooked the back straps and put them in the trunk. I extra-tightened the side straps and the front strap- I wasn't giving up- I was getting on the water and catching some bass, dammit!

I decided to take back roads instead of the tollway, lest more straps snap and my yak went flying. That would be detrimental to my evening kayak fishing trip for sure.

Although it took at least twice as long to get to my destination, I have to say I really enjoyed the mostly 25 mph journey. I ended driving through our old neighborhood, and passed many fishing spots from earlier in the year. There was the pond where I caught tons of tiny pumpkinseeds on a bare hook; there was Salt Creek, which was my first moving-water kayak trip (didn't make it to Bode Lake like I planned, there were some impassable rapids just west of Barrington Road, and I wasn't the "experienced porter/portager" I am today); There was Bode Lake, where I fished extensively last year, and caught my only recent good-sized smallmouth.

Herons are awesome
I took Shoe Factory Road (awesome name) which winded through a nature preserve, then changed into straight up rural-ness. It was a nice change-up- most of my fishing trips consist of driving through urban and suburban landscapes, to fish in urban or almost suburban spots. Today, I felt like I was in the country (which I kind of was), surrounded by corn, trees, and a yellow late afternoon tint, and the promise of smallies. Wearing my Cabela's camo hat, I felt less like the nerdy city-boy I am and more like the obsessed angler that I also am.

Finally, after a series of amazingly fun hills, curves, and scenery, I arrived at the river. I checked the park district sign (made sure I wouldn't get towed after sunset), parked, unloaded, and within 10 minutes I was in the water. I'm getting good at this! I'm still in love with the idea of of a small boat that I can carry myself, paddle in water less than a foot deep, and catch fish. It's just awesome. And no motor, no gas, and lots of exercise! Good for a formerly indoor-only dude like myself.

But where are the fish!?
Well, I'll cut to the chase. I got completely skunked- even though I followed herons, saw tons of baitfish, worked what I thought were promising spots, tried a variety of lures and retrieval techniques, I didn't get so much as a bite. I was out for about an hour before sunrise, and about an hour after. Close to sunrise, a small army of fishermen appeared on the banks, but they weren't catching anything either. Could it be Ken G's spot, probably much farther south on the river, was where the bass were hanging out, and they didn't make it this far north? But I didn't even catch a single bluegill. What gives!!??

The Fox at I-90, at sunset
Defeated, I returned to the shore, and packed up my yak in the almost-dark. I really enjoyed the river, it was very beautiful, and full of cool-looking spots, and island, lots of wildlife; lots of stuff that made my trip feel less like a waste. At least I saw that great stuff, got some river kayaking in, and practiced casting.

Grumbling, I drove home, vowing my revenge on the Fox. It bested me TWICE in one day; it didn't help that everyone else seemed to be catching boatfulls of fish this week, and I couldn't manage one. I decided to go fishing again in the morning- on a different body of water- to reaffirm my fishing skills. But know this, Fox River, you're on notice! I'll be back, and you won't skunk me again!

Skunked! But some very nice views

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