Monday, June 25, 2012

Fishing in Kalamazoo

This weekend Claire and I were in Kalamazoo, Michigan helping my little sister move. Obviously I wanted to take the opportunity to do some fishing. I woke up at 5am EST (4am my time) on Sunday morning, headed to the nearest supplier of coffee (Starbucks wasn't open yet, McDonalds still did the trick) and made my way north to a small trout stream I'd read about on the Internet. I figured I could try for some stream trout for a while, then hit the Kalamazoo river since I'd be fishing very close to it.

There was supposed to be a street going to the stream, a street where I could park and not have to traverse any private property. Turns out this street was a dirt road, and it was closed. I spent about twenty minutes trying to find a way to get to the stream. Finally I found another part of it, farther upstream from the Kalamazoo, but it was clearly private property. The stream was about ten feet wide, and it most certainly ran through a series of backyards.

Well, I thought, I wouldn't be catching any trout this morning. I made yet another u-turn in the deserted country backroads and headed toward downtown Kalamazoo. Every now and then I'd stop and take a look at the map, trying to figure out some river access that wasn't private property. At one point I pulled into a seemingly abandoned industrial complex of some kind. There was river access, but it was behind very tall barbed wire fences.

I drove to a city park on the river, and when I got there I realized I'd actually fished there before. Last year, I happened to be in town and tried fishing from the bridge. Back then I didn't have a clue about river fishing (I still only have a clue, not much else) and was, as expected, skunked. This time I had waders, quickly made my way into the water.

A few years ago there was a major oil spill on the Kalamazoo, but cleaning efforts have been mostly concluded, except for a few stretches. There was no sign of the oil spill where I was; the river looked like a normal river. A lot more urban than I expected; reminded me of the Desplaines River in Chicago with its high banks that made me think of erosion. I was surprised by the depth and sandy bottom of the river. I was also surprised by the lack of current breaks in the form of rocks; there were some downed trees, and there was a bridge, and that was it. No boulders, at least as far as I could see.

I got some hits, then pulled out a monstrous 9" rock bass on a tube that immediately self-released from my hands. It was good to catch a fish- there's always a lot of (self-inflicted) pressure to catch at least one fish. After that I can relax a little.

Casting everywhere, I decided that if I were a smallmouth bass, I'd probably prefer an area with a rocky bottom and more current. The only place that existed was around the bridge, so I headed in that direction. I worked the downstream sides of the columns but no takers. Under the bridge there was a little riffle, and when I cast to it I was rewarded with my first Kalamazoo River smallie.

Pretty fish
Not a trophy, but a good solid fish with nice colors. I worked that area for another half hour, and when I decided to leave and find another spot, at least 10 tube jigs stayed behind, attached to various underwater obstructions. I couldn't retrieve them when I went to check out the spot, but I did notice a bunch of boulders; it appeared the smallies were hiding behind them. I also found a submerged stereo. I wondered if there were times fish gathered behind it, using it to hide from the current.

the "wet" knob on the reverb must have been turned up all the way (music nerd joke)  
I got into my car and brought up Maps on my phone. I wanted to find a place with more current breaks, more variation in water depth. The river was mostly straight near me, but there was one big curve in the river. I know from the internet and some experience that in river bends the inside bend will be shallow, the outside deeper. I also have seen that bends like that tend to deposit trees and other current breaks as the current changes, providing more places for fish to hide. I headed to the curve.

It took me a while to figure out where to legally park and how to get down to the water. On one attempt I stumbled upon some homeless people living in a tent under a bridge. I suppose they could have been camping, but it looked like they'd been there for weeks. I wondered what I would do if I suddenly didn't have a place to live; permanently camping by a river seemed like a perfectly reasonable solution. I wondered if they would ask for some fish if I caught any, and if I should give them any. I decided I probably would give them some, even though the water quality wasn't the best. A contaminated fish might be better than no food at all.

After some major bushwacking through a solid wall of foliage, I stumbled down into the river and saw exactly what I was looking for. Lots of rocks, boulders, downed trees, bridge columns, deep water, shallow water; Maybe it was luck or maybe it was me, but either way I found a great spot. My good choice was confirmed as a good choice when I caught another smallie hanging out in a bunch of riffles.

Kzoo river smallie #2
 I lost some more tubes, got a few hits, and really enjoyed the experience. I was fishing in downtown Kalamazoo, a half mile from the Union where I'd played more than a hundred gigs... But I'd never seen this spot, nor had I fished it. I wonder what other hidden jewels I miss as I drive over bridges.

I was almost out of tubes, so I thought I'd try another approach. I definitely use tubes and jigs too much for smallies; I've never caught one on anything else. I pulled out a gold and red spinner I made (with a paperclip for the wire shaft) and clipped it to my line. When I was testing its action in the water not two feet away from me, I saw and felt fish come up and nip at it! Awesome! I'd been standing still for a few minutes, and it appeared fish were using me as a current break. I had heard of that happening, but never experienced it myself.

So I cast out my spinner, downstream into the current break I was creating, and sure enough connected with a fish. Another rock bass. My first river fish on a homemade spinner! I made it extra heavy to dive deeper in heavy current. This seemed to be the perfect place to use it.

I made that spinner! First fish caught in my own wake
It took about 5 minutes to remove the treble hooks, but after a few minutes holding the fish in the slack water behind me, he came to and swam away just fine. As I was doing so some guys came upstream in a boat, giving me dirty looks. I wondered if I was in "their" spot. I asked them how they were doing, but they didn't seem interested in talking to me.

I caught another rock bass behind me, but couldn't coax anymore smallies. Nobody asked me for fish, nor did I see anybody in the tent. Maybe they were still asleep; it was early after all.

When the time came I made the reverse bushwhacking trip through the thick trees; it seemed clear to me not too many people fished this spot. At least not wading. I wondered if wading in the Kzoo was a bad idea after the oil spill; but I didn't see even the slightest indication of any topwater oil slicks or contaminated rocks or plants. I know that doesn't always mean it's clean, but I felt fairly protected by my waders. Except for the small leak they seem to have developed. I guess I'll find out...

Although I didn't do any trout fishing like I'd hoped, it was a good outing with some nice fish. 2 smallies, 3 rock bass. One of those guys was a GIANT! Not the best trip, but certainly not the worst. It's very encouraging to know that, at least in some circumstances, I can explore a new body of water and successfully find fish.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell me what you think!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.