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Author Topic: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys  (Read 8555 times)

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eetz


I was reading some articles leading up to today's Elite Series event on st Clair and noticed a lot of the guys talking about how skinny the bass are and referencing health problems.   I heard many of the same comments during the weigh in today, including from Kevin Van dam. 

Question for you st clair regulars:  is this what you have been seeing this year?

I havent caught as many 4-5 pounders as I have in the years past,  but I never felt the smallies were looking unhealthy.  Of course, I havent fished for smallies anywhere else, so my frame of reference is scewed. 
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MSURoss

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Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2013, 09:21:37 PM »

I volunteered at the weighin at the live release boat. The fish from St. Clair were very skinny compared to Erie fish. I also fished during the morning in my aluminum and the few I caught were skinny....
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SethV

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Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2013, 09:52:33 PM »

I noticed the same thing LSC vs Erie.  In the last BFL I caught a 22" smallie that only went 3-15.  On Erie she would have been a 6 lber.  No way at the Elite level with that much at stake that I would fish LSC this year.  There is still plenty of bait, and numbers of fish were easy to come by, but big ones were impossible with them that skinny.
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djkimmel

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Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2013, 02:26:26 AM »

I'm hearing this and have been for just a couple weeks from a few anglers. Yet, I'm seeing and talking to other anglers who are sending and showing me pictures of multiple large, healthy, fat bass they have caught recently on Lake St. Clair?

I spent some time on the phone just a few days ago with the MDNR fisheries biologist who knows the most about all the fish on Lake St. Clair. He had just returned from a day of fish sampling and they only found 1 sick bass all day. The rest were healthy and appeared to be feeding well. That was a survey from the Clinton River area (where they found the only sick looking bass) to the Detroit River that covered large areas and multiple depths.

He said they saw no dead smallmouth bass in the lake. He reported small perch numbers have been high this year and the overall perch population is in good shape. Bait fish of the various kinds that live in Lake St. Clair appear to be in good numbers, and I have received this same positive feedback about bait from other anglers who fish Lake St. Clair multiple days every week.

The MDNR biologist did clarify what I had gotten the impression of - gobies have been declining in numbers on Lake St. Clair the past few years most likely due to the Quagga mussels invading Lake St. Clair and the river, and wiping out most of the Zebra mussels. Quagga mussels grow larger but don't form the same carpeting colonies as the Zebra mussels did. The gobies were the main predator of Zebra mussels and Zebra mussels were their main food source. With the elimination of Zebra mussels, the gobies don't have the food to sustain large numbers of them on Lake St. Clair.

I think many anglers are still targeting bass with techniques that worked so well on bass that keyed in on gobies, but gobies are not the primary forage for smallmouth bass anymore on Lake St. Clair. The anglers I talk to who are still catching quality, fat bass are fishing different or new places in different ways.

In addition, the smallmouth bass have not gone into the St. Clair River in as large a numbers this year as they do in many seasons. I got this report from Wayne Carpenter after his extensive underwater video reviews, and it matched up what anglers were telling me based on their fishing results. There are bass in the river, but they are in smaller groups. The MDNR biologist told me this same observation, and he feels it is because the weather got colder causing a drop in the high water temps of our earlier hot spell. The drop in water temperatures about the time the bass would generally move to the channels seems to have kept them in the lake.

The MDNR fisheries biologist reported they also did quite a bit of underwater camera work in their survey and they saw good numbers of quality-looking bass including large-looking bass. Interestingly (and also matching quality catch reports I'm hearing) they saw numerous quality bass in areas they don't generally expect to see as many quality bass at this time of year. He reported an intriguing angler encounter he had that day where the angler reported fishing the area most of the day and not catching many bass. The angler felt the bass just weren't there yet it was one of the areas the MDNR was seeing good numbers of nice bass on their cameras...? Hmmm?

I've always said we were spoiled and mostly meant it as a tongue-in-cheek joke because our fishing is so good in Michigan that our idea of 'poor' fishing is often fishing people will travel to experience. Now it appears that the continued annual changes in the fish behavior on Lake St. Clair is causing some anglers to perceive things (contagiously) that may have more to do with perception than reality.

The bass didn't all die (as one angler told me he fears) and they didn't all leave. I'm not saying any of you are saying that - but some have contacted me outside of this website to voice those thoughts - but all this talk about skinny, sickly bass is contradicting proof I can see in fish reports and fish pictures from other anglers who fish Lake St. Clair a lot, and in direct observations from a fisheries research crew.

I expected we would have a late post-spawn due to our cold, cold spring. It may be that some bass have not fattened up yet from the late spring, and it may be that some anglers are fishing were the main amount of bait isn't, or where bass still looking for gobies instead of other, more abundant prey are hanging out? I don't know, but there is no mystery disease killing large bass, and there is no sign of sick bass in any numbers, and there is plenty of forage in the lake and river.

The fishing has been changing more the past few seasons than I recall on average throughout the season, and maybe some of it is the decline in goby numbers. That I don't know, but I can look at the crazy weather we've had and some of that correlates to equally odd fishing situations. I can also think back to season where the weather, water levels, or whatever else it was, saw significant changes in weed cover, and other factors that affect fish, and think of the effects that had on fishing success in many areas in numbers and quality, and how anglers had to adjust to continue catching good catches.

I think as long as the water levels keep changing (up ~ 1 1/2 feet since early April) and we have these major weather swings we can expect the fishing to change. The bass have to adjust to the different cover and conditions to continue to find the forage, and anglers need to adjust to the moving / changing bass.

I think maybe we are getting caught up in a major case of dock talk that has gotten out of control - sometimes when enough people say something, even the ones who started it start believing it is true... The bass are still out there. Some anglers are catching the same quality and size bass as last year. A few have reported catching more large bass this year. Recently. So rather than continue to spread talk about only sickly, skinny bass, find where the well-fed, fat bass are and what you need to do to catch them. There are anglers out there doing it as recently as yesterday while the Elite Series anglers were fishing.

PS: I also got one contact about 'skinny' bass in Lake Erie, so the dock ta... er, sickness may be spreading there too. Funny considering how all the talk is that the bass are bigger, and fatter in Lake Erie... There have always been leaner, longer bass in Lake St. Clair and the lower river channels. And then there are the footballs. My theory, with no proof, real study or substantiation has been that the bass that spend more time around the current are longer and leaner while the bass that spend the most time in Lake Huron, or even the more open waters away from the channels of Lake St. Clair are fatter because they burn less fuel in slacker water. I am wondering if the 'river' bass are spread out more in the lake because they did not enter the river in the larger numbers?

I don't know? I do know there is no evidence of a die off of smallmouth bass or of a sickness. There is plenty of forage that bass do feed on including young bass themselves which the MDNR reported were also seen in good numbers earlier this year, and as many anglers do report to me and as I have seen myself, the bigger bass do feed on these fish too, particularly when they are abundant. So how much of this sudden (just the past 2 to 3 weeks really) building report of 'sickly, skinny' bass is perception, and how much is reality.

The top 50 Elite Anglers still managed to bring in limits of bass on day one that averaged over 3 pounds per bass, and they weren't all Lake Huron and Lake Erie bass.

Lake St. Clair is a lake many of us love so much, maybe that is why reactions to any possible change in the fishery can so quickly build to mass concern? I have seen plenty of these periods come and go over the years, sometimes even more than once in a season. So far, I'm thinking this will be another one that will be 'cured' by a movement to the river, or fall/winter feeding grounds, or the next warm spring, or big spawning movement. Until the next time things are different that many of us expect.

I believe that will not change anyway, because it is a major system that changes so much, and some of it pretty fast too at times. Unless our weather suddenly becomes stable and consistent from year-to-year, expect lots of changes, but please don't be too quick to pull the alarm because the next upswing in fishing success on a lake as productive as Lake St. Clair usually isn't too far off. Thank goodness.
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Unless clearly stated as such, opinions expressed by Dan Kimmel on this forum are not the opinions or policies of Michigan BASS Nation or TBF of Michigan.

rufus

Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2013, 03:15:25 PM »

I haven't chimed in in quite a while. Sorry, I really don't spend too much time on the computer anymore. I spend most of it on my iPhone though!!! lol Anyway, there is no doubt St. Clair is in a downswing this year. The common 20 pound+ limits of the last 3 years are gone and have been replaced by 15-17 pound limits and less. This topic seems to dwell on the overall health of the bass in the lake right now. For a guy who lives 1 1/2 hours from Erie and 2 1/2 from St Clair I fish both of them a lot as many of you know. I fish common seasonal patterns on St Clair, but I am also one of those guys that fished a lot of "off the wall" stuff, too. My last prefish on St Clair a couple weeks ago I caught fish in 18 inches to 19 FOW from one end of the lake to the other (I did my best in 18 inches for the record:). Anyway, the average fish in St Clair was rather skinny. I caught some tubs, too, but for the most part they were skinny. I don't think the fish were sick. They just simply were not well fed. They showed no physical signs of illness such as sores or anything like that. They were just simply a bit skinny. Early in the year the Erie fish looked very similar. Much of it I attributed to the late spawn, but that was just speculation. As the season progressed, the Erie fish got extremely chubby. Not only that, I am an Erie guy day in and day out, but Erie also became a numbers place this year. It has been on a 3 year downturn. Finding an area that had any number of fish has been tough. This year suddenly, BOOM, there they are. Where have they been? I sure wish that question was easily answered. As Dan said, things will continue to change on a yearly basis and before we know it St Clair will be kicking out 4 pounders once again. I will say this, if St Clair still has those 20 pound sacks I sure have been seeing a lottttt of well known guys on Erie that I have never seen there before:)
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motocross269

Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2013, 05:45:21 PM »

There were quite.a few.sacks over 18lbs taken out of LSC during the elite event..
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djkimmel

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Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2013, 12:41:23 AM »

There have been a few bigger sacks from Lake St. Clair during this confusing and rough period for some anglers. Erie does have the consensus nod from many anglers right now.

I have always enjoyed watching the Erie to St. Clair pendulum swing back and forth, often multiples times during a season. Now I was thinking we add Lake Huron to that but it looks to me like it is still more upper St. Clair River. I imagine we'll find out soon about that as more anglers venture to Lake Huron.

I have heard good reports of the numbers being up on Lake Erie this year and that actually contributed to the confusion for some during the Elite Series because they felt that something was 'wrong' or odd because they were catching a lot more keepers to get their same end result limit. I was asking 'where is the problem with that?!?' ;D

I still think late spawn and mid-summer cold snap keeping more bass in Lake St. Clair that might have otherwise followed big schools of minnows up the river has caused some bass to feed less efficiently lately. I wait to talk to the MDNR after next week about their forage sampling to make sure there isn't a forage issue.

I've had a few anglers show great concern over the thinning out of goby populations on St. Clair but again, we can't expect any intervention for or with an invasive species. It has been going on for severals years and this skinny bass phenomena really only started to wind people up within the last month so I don't think it is missing gobies.

In case anyone missed it, the MDNR did report good numbers of smallmouth and largemouth bass young of the year earlier this year. If enough of them grow big enough to make it through their first winter, that could help in the coming years. We have had 2 pretty good smallmouth bass year classes recently so that bodes well for odds of continuing good bass populations in the coming years (unless you are one of those [crazy?] people who thinks there are too many bass?!?).

Still getting reports of fat bass in parts of Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. One full-time bass guide tells me his clients have been landing more keepers this year than any season before.
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Help stop invasive spcies. Don't move fish between unconnected bodies of water. Clean, drain and dry your boat before launching on another water body.
Unless clearly stated as such, opinions expressed by Dan Kimmel on this forum are not the opinions or policies of Michigan BASS Nation or TBF of Michigan.

djkimmel

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Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2013, 12:44:37 AM »

All I know is I would LOVE to be fishing Lake St. Clair any day from now on until it is too cold to launch a boat the rest of the year!! I LOVE that lake!! Good fishing everyone!

Of course, I also love about 50 or 100 other lakes and rivers in Michigan, and don't get me started about other Great fishing spots throughout the Great Lakes region!!! :)
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Help stop invasive spcies. Don't move fish between unconnected bodies of water. Clean, drain and dry your boat before launching on another water body.
Unless clearly stated as such, opinions expressed by Dan Kimmel on this forum are not the opinions or policies of Michigan BASS Nation or TBF of Michigan.

rufus

Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2013, 10:35:48 AM »

Please know, when I said downswing I only meant the average size is down a bit. The fishing is still outstanding and a 20 pound sack is still achievable, but not nearly as easy to catch as has been the case for the last 3 years. The numbers of fish in St Clair are second to none and we will see the pendulum swing there is no doubt.
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djkimmel

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Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2013, 06:03:17 PM »

I wasn't addressing you directly rufus, just sharing my opinions and what I've found out so far. I always greatly appreciate it when you take the time to post on GreatLakesBass.com! Your comments are always very popular - Thanks!

I'm personally hearing all kinds of 'theories' from anglers and some I feel are way more bleak than actual known information suggests. We kind of had a mass panic affect over the previous 2 to 3 weeks that wasn't reflected in the sheer numbers of bass caught and weighed. To me, it was more of the shock from finding out you actually had to go fishing rather than just cast anywhere and catch 20 pounds. I'm not saying that to be disrespectful, but I felt there was some overreaction. I was glad to hear more of the pros in particular start saying they actually felt we still have a fantastic fishery that we should take care of. I agree. Of course, there's only so much we can actually do, and limited when you already have a voluntary 80 to 90% catch and release rate.

I periodically try to remind people that smallmouth bass at the population level do tend to swing a bit. On the Great Lakes, especially Lake Erie, studies have shown the biggest impact by far is the weather, particularly during the spring spawning time.

Studies have also shown though that if you can get 3 really good year classes out of every 10 years you can still have good bass populations.
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Help stop invasive spcies. Don't move fish between unconnected bodies of water. Clean, drain and dry your boat before launching on another water body.
Unless clearly stated as such, opinions expressed by Dan Kimmel on this forum are not the opinions or policies of Michigan BASS Nation or TBF of Michigan.

rufus

Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2013, 06:32:45 PM »

No worries Dan, i wasn't offended in any way. I just thought the topic was interesting. My time online is fairly limited anymore. I have a 21 year old that is getting married soon and 2 middle school boys that are busy in activities. On top of that I fish a LOTTTT:)
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djkimmel

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Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2013, 09:03:26 PM »

You are a lucky, lucky guy to get to fish a LOT with that other 'stuff' going on. :)
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Help stop invasive spcies. Don't move fish between unconnected bodies of water. Clean, drain and dry your boat before launching on another water body.
Unless clearly stated as such, opinions expressed by Dan Kimmel on this forum are not the opinions or policies of Michigan BASS Nation or TBF of Michigan.

Team houston

Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2013, 02:42:41 PM »

Dan, see if you can get him to do  journals again.
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djkimmel

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Re: lake st. clair smallmouth health - comments from elite series guys
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2013, 03:39:05 PM »

I did ask him awhile back but I understand when someone doesn't have the extra time, particularly when family / kids are involved.

I try to keep on his good side for the day he has more time! :D

Meanwhile, your 'journals' are pretty popular too! Thanks!
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Help stop invasive spcies. Don't move fish between unconnected bodies of water. Clean, drain and dry your boat before launching on another water body.
Unless clearly stated as such, opinions expressed by Dan Kimmel on this forum are not the opinions or policies of Michigan BASS Nation or TBF of Michigan.
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