Fish Blades for Early Potholes Walleye

Potholes Reservoir is currently locked up with more ice than the lakes seen in quite a few years. It’s been awful chilly in Eastern Washington since early December and that bout of cold weather continues to this day. So why are we talking about walleye then?

The second the ice comes off Washington’s Potholes Reservoir and the boat launches are finally useable again you’ll find a group of hardcore anglers hitting the reservoir in search of walleye. It could be another month or so before that happens but when it does it pays to be ready.

One of those anglers is longtime walleye guide Shelby Ross of PotholesFishing.com. Shelby lives on Potholes Reservoir and has guided for walleye and waterfowl on the lake for years.

When the ice burns off and you’re itchin’ to hit the lake here’s a few tips from the master himself that will put some early season walleye in your frying pan this spring.

Find the Bait, Find the Walleye

There’s no shortage of drop-off’s and humps in Potholes Reservoir and Shelby will hit as many as twenty of them in a day until he finds one loaded up with bait. He targets humps and ledges in 25 to 50 feet of water until he finds one that’s holding a bunch of bait. If the sonar screen looks promising he’ll toss a marker bouy out and keep cruising to see if there’s anything else in the vicinity.

Some of the areas that he’ll scope out first are the rock shelves around Goose Island, the north shoreline just west of Linn Coulee and the deep humps near the mouth of Crab Creek. These are all staging areas for the spawn and walleye are usually feeding in these areas in the months and weeks leading up to the spawn.

Once he’s got a good handle on exactly where the bait is he’ll stop the boat and start casting blade baits into the shallow water and work them out into deeper water. He say’s he’ll know instantly how good it is if they start catching perch right away. Find the perch and you’ve found the walleye.

The technique is somewhat simple to master but of course it does have it’s nuances. Shelby uses 1/2 ounce blades eighty percent of the time and has a few 3/8 and 3/4 ounce blades on board if he needs to switch up. If the walleye are just rattling the blades and they are missing a lot of hookups he’ll switch to a lighter 3/8 ounce blade first to give the lure a little slower fall. That usually produces a more aggressive strike and if that doesn’t work he’ll try the 3/4 ounce blade.

Position the boat on the deep end of the drop off and cast the blades up onto the shallow end of the ledge or hump. The lure should fall into about 25 to 30 feet of water. Once they hit the bottom start working them down the face of the ledge. He likes to work the jig up about a foot and then let it fall back to the bottom with the strikes always occurring on the drop. If you feel anything subtle or different about the action of the blade set the hook!

Make Your Own Blade Baits

Snagging up on the bottom is inevitable with this technique, so bring plenty of blades with you. Shelby spends some time in the winter months making up his own blade baits to cut the cost down a bit. He buys 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 ounce nickel plated blades from Jann’s Netcraft and then adds the prism tape and hooks to finish them. His favorite prism tape colors are chartreuse, red, and silver and on any given day one can be hotter than the other.

He prefers to run Mustad split shank treble hooks on his blades because they greatly reduce the number of tangles. Blade baits with split rings are a tangle waiting to happen. Mustad split shank trebles are extremely sharp and they are easy to install on the blades.

Rig up for Success

Shelby likes a spinning rod in the eight foot range with a fast action. The sensitive tip allows him to feel the action of the blade and the backbone slams the hook home when a walleye picks up the blade. They can be surprisingly subtle and a sensitive rod tip definitely helps feel the bite.

He uses a Daiwa Excelor 2500 series reel spooled with 10 pound Power Pro braid. 10 pound Power Pro has the diameter of 2 pound test monofilament and it’s great for casting blade baits a country mile. The extremely small diameter line allows his guests to feel the action of the blade and contact with the bottom in water as deep as 50 to 60 feet.

He’ll attach a barrel swivel to the end of the braid and then he runs a bumper of six inches of 15 pound fluorocarbon between the swivel and the blade bait. The short section of flourocarbon is easy to cast, reduces tangles, and has some abrasion resistance against the blade bait and treble hooks.

Walleye don’t fair well when they’re caught out of deep water and it’s usually not possible to “high grade” fish when they’re caught in excess of twenty feet of water. If you land on the walleye in deep water keep your limit and head for the barn.

This has been one of the coldest winters in Eastern Washington in nearly a decade and Potholes has been locked up with ice since mid-December. When the ice finally comes off the lake though you can bet there will be walleye willing to jump all over a blade bait. Give some of Shelby’s tips a try and with any luck you’ll go home with some fresh walleye.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Northwest Outdoor Report

Opening Day Catches Good Despite Weather
Despite cool and windy weather in many parts of the state, anglers had a lot of success reeling in large trout on the trout opener last weekend. From creel checks conducted at 98 lakes around the state WDFW estimates that anglers caught an average of 4.6 trout apiece on opening day. The largest trout checked was a 24.5 inch rainbow caught at Vance Creek Pond #2 in Grays Harbor and a 24 inch rainbow was caught at Lincoln Counties Fishtrap Lake.  The top three lakes in the state were Aldrich Lake in Mason County with a 4.7 fish average, Wood Lake in Mason County and Erie Lake in Skamania County tied with a 4.6 trout average, and Martha Lake in Snohomish County had a 4.5 fish average on the trout opener. Good trout fishing should continue on most of the planted lakes for at least another month or more.

Cowlitz Picking up for Springers
Bob Kratzer from Anglers Guide Service is reporting decent fishing for spring Chinook on the Cowlitz River the last few days. Kratzer said he’s been hooking three or four fish a day fishing below the I-5 bridge and that the fishing seems to be improving each and every day. He’s been backtrolling anchovies, plugs, and divers with eggs and shrimp and said on any given day the fish will prefer one over the other. Kratzer recommends using Anise scent and some Pautzke krill powder on the eggs. He says with the Toutle River flowing gin clear the river has been fishing really well all the way down to the confluence with the Columbia.

Port Angeles Tops for Puget Sound Halibut
Bob Aunspach at Swains General Store in Port Angeles said great weather lead to some pretty good halibut fishing on the opener on Thursday. He said fish were caught at the Rockpile, 31-36, Green Point, Freshwater Bay, Whiskey Creek, and the Garbage Dump. Bob said most of the fish he saw were in the 20 to 40 pound range and there was an 86 pounder weighed in by Port Angeles angler Mark Reynolds. Aunspach said horse herring has been the best bait year in, year out for catching halibut in the Port Angeles area. Halibut is open in Port Angeles May 2nd thru the 4th and the next opener is May 16th thru the 18th.

Possession Bar Cranking out Lings
Nick Kester from All Star Charters in Everett limited his boat out quickly on ling cod the first two days of the season in Puget Sound. Kester said it took them about two hours each day to catch their limits of nice ling cod. Kester said live sand dabs were the ticket and he fished them on a 3 ounce sliding cannon ball sinker. He says sand dabs that about the size of your palm are best for catching lings in the Puget Sound and be sure to keep them alive.

Walleye Bite Heating Up on Potholes Reservoir
Mike Meseberg from Mar Don Resort on Potholes Reservoir said he’s looking forward to the upcoming week of warm, sunny weather. They’ve been dealing with strong winds off and on for the past month that’s kept both the fish and the fisherman guessing. Meseberg said one of their guides caught limits of walleye in Linn Coulee earlier this week and a few walleye have also been coming out of Crab Creek and the mouth of Frenchman’s Slough. Mike says the best way to catch them right now is with a spinner and a nightcrawler on the bottom. The Rod Meseberg Walleye Classic is being held at Mar Don Resort this weekend and people from all over the northwest will be hitting the lake. With 80 degree weather forecast for the region this weekend Meseberg thinks the fishing should really pick up for the tournament.

Man Injured After Taping Cartridge to BB Gun
Gainesville Sun – (Darwin Award nominee emerges in Gainesville, Florida) A man who tried to shoot a squirrel for dinner by taping a .40-caliber cartridge to a BB gun was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds after the cartridge exploded. William Daniel Lloyd, age 31, taped the cartridge to the end of the barrel to apparently shoot a squirrel for dinner. When he fired the BB gun it hit the primer on the cartridge and the round went off alright. The cartridge exploded sending shrapnel into Lloyd’s upper arm and lower leg. Since the man was a convicted felon he wasn’t allowed to possess firearms or ammunition. He apparently found the cartridge while looking thru a scrap metal pile and thought it might work for getting some dinner in the form of a squirrel. Lloyd’s injuries weren’t life threatening.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
Washington Fishing and Hunting Reports and Forums

Northwest Outdoor Report

Lake Chelan Still Tops for Kokanee
Mike Campbell from Lowrance Electronics lives in Chelan and says the kokanee fishing on Lake Chelan is the best he’s seen in over 30 years. He described the fishing as “wide open” on the lake right now. Campbell says the kokanee are averaging  between 16 and 18 inches and  he recommends using a Luhr Jensen Triple “000” dodger and a Kokanee Killer tipped with shoepeg corn to catch them. He says the best fishing has been occurring in 60 to 105 feet of water around Rocky Point and Minneapolis Beach. Campbell says that once you find a school on your electronics it’s important to stay on them.

Smallies Hanging Deep in Lake Stevens
Greg Rockenback at Greg’s Custom Rods in Lake Stevens says there’s been some nice smallmouth being caught on the lake in 30 to 40 feet of water. Greg recommended using football head jigs in any pattern that resembles a crawfish. Lake Stevens holds more smallmouth bass than largemouth’s and Rockenback says the smallies will go up to 6 pounds in the lake. He says the water temperature is about 45 degrees right now and he’s hoping with the warm weather it will jump start the kokanee bite soon.

Washington Halibut Seasons Announced
The halibut season in Puget Sound will be shortened a bit this year to compensate for exceeding last year’s quota. This year’s halibut season was reduced by five days in the eastern strait and nine days in Marine 5 because of last year’s quota over-run. The southern Washington coast will see a slight increase in its halibut season. Managers have moved the fishing days from Thursday thru Saturday to Friday thru Sunday to accommodate an extra weekend day to allow more anglers to harvest halibut. For more on the upcoming halibut season in Washington be sure to check out the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Wenatchee Wolf Pack Confirmed
After being wiped out as a breeding population in Washington in the 1930s wolves have been making a comeback here in Washington State recently. Since 2008 wolf packs have established themselves in Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Kittitas, Stevens, and now Chelan County. The Chelan County pack was confirmed recently by trail cam photos sent from a resident in Pitcher Canyon just south of Wenatchee of two wolves feeding on a dead bull elk. State biologists say that wolves are rarely a threat to humans but they have been known to attack pets, especially dogs.

Springers Still Slow on the Columbia
Only 13 percent of the springer quota had been caught on the Columbia River through last Sunday. The season is set to close on April 6th, but officials are meeting on Wednesday to review the run to date and decide whether a season extension is warranted. Many think an extension of the springer season will occur on the Columbia. The season is scheduled to end on the lower river April 5, but with such a small percentage of the quota having been caught by anglers it’s likely that the season will be extended. Oregon officials are meeting on Wednesday to decide whether a season extension is warranted. The annual NSIA derby is on the river today, which will be a good gauge of how the fishing is.

Walleye Limit Increased
WDFW just increased the walleye limit on Lake Roosevelt, the San Poil River, and the lower Spokane River to 16 walleye per day with no size restriction. Officials are trying to control the population of walleye to reduce predation on native species and produce more quality walleye for future fishing opportunities.

Kokanee Seminar at Three Rivers Marine April 10th
Don’t miss the free Kokanee Seminar on April 10th at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville. Capt. Ryan Bigley’s seminar will kick off at 7:00 p.m. and mini-clinics start at 6:00 p.m.. Kokanee are just starting to bite in our local lakes and now is the time to learn where, when, and how to catch these great eating fish. Three Rivers Marine will have free hot dogs and pop as well as a ton of raffle prizes including a Jared Johnson edition Lamiglas kokanee rod to give away. Get ahold of Kent Alger at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville for more details.

Renew Licenses for 2013
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife would like to remind fishers and hunters that licenses are good thru Sunday, March 31st. Fishing licenses, hunting licenses, and Discovery passes will all need to be renewed on April 1st for the coming year. License fees will remain the same across the board for 2013.

Man Arrested for Shooting a Deer in a Walmart Parking Lot
Indiana Gazette, Pennsylvania – At the Resort Plaza Walmart in Indiana, Pennsylvania people can save a dollar and apparently waste a buck, as well. Arcangelo Bianco Jr. was doing some banking at the Walmart back on November 26th when he spotted a huge 10 point whitetail run around the corner of the store and across the parking lot. He quickly jumped out of his truck with a handgun and began firing multiple rounds at the animal. After successfully harvesting the big whitetail he loaded the deer in the back of his truck and took it to a local processor. In addition to having a parking lot full of witnesses the incident was also captured on Walmart’s surveillance cameras. The game officer working on the case said it was the nicest buck he’s seen come out of Indiana County in the last three years. A preliminary hearing for Bianco is scheduled for May 1st.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com