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Story 2006 Discovery Vermont

Page history last edited by Jerome Moisand 13 years, 3 months ago

Saturday Night Fever in Vermont

 

A Discovery Week-end Adventure

 

When October 6th to 8th, 2006
Where Lake Champlain, Vermont
Who All by myself...

 

This story is about the very first Discovery event organized by the Carp Anglers Group. In 2006, it was dubbed the CAG Columbus Day Week-end (CDDW), and the point was to go fish a previously unknown water during this specific week-end. And the winning story was submitted by... yours truly! In 2007, it became the CAG Discovery Month (CDM), and you can check my new adventure here: Story 2007 Discovery Montreal. But first, let's go back to 2006...

 


 

Before the event

 

Could somebody tell me how to discover a new spot in MA when we have this guy called Scott Osmond who spent 20 years exploring every corner of the state? How to do something really new & challenging? This question was running through my mind while going to the St Lawrence Junior tournament back in August. I was driving from VT to NYS, on a bridge over Lake Champlain. And a plan started to gel.

 

I was going to try to catch my first carp from Vermont, and my first carp from a really big lake. And I’ll do it as a personal quest, alone for the event, without asking any question about Lake Champlain to any CAG member, without searching the Internet, without asking tackle shop owners about local tips. The only source of information would be my own exploring of the shore, assisted by depth maps and dialog with local anglers I might encounter.

 

Did I expect to succeed? Not quite, this seemed a bit ambitious to find carp in such large body of water within a week-end, but well I was at least expecting to learn a few things while trying. And I knew I had at least a minimal chance to succeed, since the presence of carp in Lake Champlain was established. Somewhere in 280,000 acres of water… On the way back from the junior tournament, I stopped in Burlington, located a tackle shop, bought depth maps and mulled over my plans for weeks to come.

 

Friday Oct 6th

 

I had to shift a bit my schedule because of an unexpected business trip on the following Monday (yes, Columbus day). So I piled up gear, bait and clothes in my car and left home on Friday morning. I had this wonderful feeling of being free as a bird, and the excitement of the unknown in front of me. From the start, I enjoyed the drive, with the beautiful views over the New England foliage displaying bright autumnal colors. I was even taking pictures while driving (yeah, not very safe!).

 

One hour of I-93, a turn onto I-89, and after a few miles on the highway, I had a glimpse of a beautiful river surrounded by very colorful trees. I hesitated for a couple of minutes, then decided that I should really follow my instinct during such a week-end. Free as a bird, I took the next exit, turned back, another U-turn, and I stopped in a very illegal manner on the highway to take pictures of the Contoocook River. And it was well worth it!

 

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Back to the highway, a couple of more stops to admire the scenery and to buy some sustenance, and I was getting close to Burlington when I heard a LOUD splash and had just enough time to take a couple of pics of those gigantic fish jumping in the air and back in… the ground? Yes, this is a neat sculpture welcoming you to the town and its lake. Now if I could catch a carp that big…

 

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I finally reached Burlington and went back to the tackle shop I knew about, so that I could purchase a fishing license, and one missing depth map. BIG lake, it takes three maps to cover it all. I had originally planned to explore and fish on my own for one day and a half, then spend Sunday morning to fish with Sarah (who lives nearby, but didn’t fish the area), but it turned out that she was booked to work. She suggested that I fish with Karl Newick, a CAG member who just moved in the area (a few days ago!), and since Karl lives in Milton, I decided to concentrate on the shore between Burlington and St Albans. Just because it was close to Milton. And also because my preliminary study of the lake maps left me a bit puzzled, all the river outflows to the lake seemed to end up in shallow marshes. So much for my original approach (fish such outflows) and I had no other idea than to explore the shore mile after mile, notably check the points and see what I could find.

 

By 2PM, I was finally ready to check the shore of the lake. I wanted to explore for the rest of the day, without any fishing, then come back to a couple of exciting spots and prebait at dusk. I decided to start by Mallet’s bay and notably the big point at Colchester because the lake map indicated a deep channel around the inner part of the point. There are actually two points, but the first one was quickly ruled out, private road… As to the second bigger point, it turned out to be a gigantic construction work area for new homes, and the few areas not in construction were… private roads. I went back to the bay, where there is a large beach and a marina, and this time, found clear access to the water. Yeah, well, except that a sign made clear that fishing wasn’t welcome. Hmpf. Well, there are miles of shore along Lake Champlain, so I wasn’t going to break my good mood so easily. Two hours later and a bunch of left turns followed by U-turns, all I found were private roads and signs telling me to piss off… They even had a great dane at the end of one road to discourage trespassers (I think this great dane had in mind that CAG is a new brand of dog food)! Another road was guarded by a skunk! I chose to comply!

 

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Finally, I found a bridge over a river (Lamoille River) connected to the lake, and some nice access on both sides of the bridge, and also at a boat launch spot nearby. A bit of plumbing quickly told me that the river was narrow but deep, and overall, it looked ok. Good, at least, I can go back there, but this wasn’t really the lake itself. I searched for the outflow of the river, which turned out to be a big marsh. Since there was shore access, I stopped there and studied the (smelly and extremely shallow) water for 30 minutes, trying to find signs of fish, but this seemed like frog and weed paradise and no more. Forget it. I hesitated to take the bridge to South Hero Island and check out the bays, but decided that the islands would be for another trip. So back on the road towards St Albans, more left turns, more U-turns, more unfriendly signs, I did find two boat launches from where there was some access, but the spots seemed very bland, no feature at all, and very shallow water in front of me. Not inspiring. A couple of nature pics, and I went to check St Albans.

 

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Morale wasn’t high at this point. But at the end of St Albans bay, oh miracle, obstination paid off, and I found a long pier with an endangered species in Vermont, a couple of shore anglers! The depth map (and a few casts) indicated that the entire bay was basically 10 feet of water, that’s good enough for carp. Asking questions to a local perch angler, he told me that he did see a couple of big fish jumps during the day, and plenty of jumps very early in the morning. Ahah. He also indicated that carp were coming to spawn to a nearby bridge. I hesitated to start pre-baiting and fish for an hour, but decided to stick to my game plan, finish my exploration, and drive on the other side of the bay. I found a smaller pier, and then a very scenic state park with plenty of fishing access around a point of land, and a large channel at the end separating the park from a small island. Walking in this park at dusk, with a great sunset over the lake, having finally found a fishing-friendly environment, this was feeling much better than trying to win an argument with a great dane! 

 

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I had three choices for tomorrow morning:

  1. The main pier

  2. The second pier

  3. One of the spots in the park

 

What would have been your choice?

 

After hesitating, I ended up deciding to play it safe, and focus on pre-baiting the big pier. Now this is time to acknowledge the baitmaster, my wife Edith, who had a new secret recipe soaking maize into a weird mix of cinnamon, paprika, fish sauce and some other ingredients. And she had the patience of boiling two large buckets of this very smelly stuff (and for once, I didn’t spill anything in the trunk of my car!). So two thirds of a bucket went to the water while the sun was disappearing on the horizon. I found a local hotel, got ripped off (this will teach me to not plan this part ahead!) and quickly started to doze over my book. Karl woke me up late in the evening, apologizing for not being able to go with me on Sunday morning. Still, he had given me directions to a dam on the Lamoille River that he had heard of being loaded with carp, and I told him I’d go check it out. Back to sleep, although too much driving and excitement made for a poor night of sleep!

 

Saturday Oct 7th

 

5:15AM. I hate wake-up calls in hotels, but hey, this time, this is for fun. Still, I was in a haze, it was very dark outside, it seemed also very cold, and I lingered in the breakfast area longer than I should have. I even quickly checked e-mail on the PC in the lounge, shame on me! Ok, enough, wake up and go fish! Brrr, it was freezing outside, I had frost on my car windshield. I drove to the peer and found an early riser who had been perch fishing since 5AM. I set up my gear, the full moon was still out, the mist hanging over the lake, it was great to be outdoors.

 

The perch angler told me that he saw a bunch of jumps earlier this morning between 5 and 6AM, then nothing. Three hours later, it became quite clear that the carp were no longer in the area, I didn’t come early enough. What a dope. Another angler stated that 3 days ago, he did see carp jumping at dawn as well. All right, sounds like a pattern, I’ll be back tomorrow, but what next for today?

 

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Four main choices at this point:

  1. Check the spawning bridge

  2. Go to the second pier

  3. One of the spots in the park

  4. Go back to bed (just kidding!)

 

What would have been your choice?

 

Since the bridge was on the way to the other spots, I decided to quickly check it out. One rod on one side of the bridge (outflow to the lake), another rod on the other side of the bridge, towards a bend of meandering water. Now, if I’d get a run on both rods at the same time, I would have been in troubles. One hour later, I decided that I didn’t like the spot. Not sure why, except that having cars drive a few feet from my rods wasn’t my idea of pleasant fishing. Oh, and the fact that I didn’t see any sign of fish, of course. Plus… The day was tuning into a bright sunny day, and I wanted to go to the scenic park! So I drove out there, and surprise, a gate closed the access. At 11AM. You have to be kidding. After studying the obstacle for a while, I figured out that the lock hanging from a ring on the gate didn’t lock anything, and I could open the gate. Was it the right thing to do? I didn’t care, I wasn’t letting this stupid gate go in the way of my fishing day!

 

I parked and took a walk, not wanting to hurry a choice between the various possible spots. On the left side, there was a small pier and boats tend to attract carp. On the right side, there was another (smaller) bay, and plenty of mussels on the shore (which I had not seen any trace of so far), telling me that this bay could very well be a feeding area for carp. Finally, at the (rocky) point, there was this nice channel and the island, and a beautiful view, as well as the ability to keep an eye on the mussels bay. Tough decision.

 

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(sorry, forgot to take a pic of the mussels bay)

 

So the choices were:

  1. the second pier

  2. the mussels bay

  3. the rocky point

 

What would have been your choice?

 

My understanding is that big lake carp tend to move in large schools, and follow some kind of pattern. So I reasoned that even if the mussels bay seemed like a nice feeding area, if I didn’t see a sign of fish, I could wait for hours of nothingness. On the other hand, the channel seemed more like a possible transit path. And I could monitor the bay while fishing the point. And… I liked the view! So go for the channel. I decided to set up the rods on top of the rocks, so that I could move easily move back and forth, plus get a bit of shade, but if I had a run, it would be a tad acrobatic to go down to land the carp! Oh well, let's see what happens.

 

After a while, I decided to switch one rod to a strawberry boilie as main pickup, with pieces of boilies stuck in a method ball to increase the attraction. I left the rod and bait on the floor for one minute to set up my rod pod. And… out of nowhere, a German shepherd rushed at me, and swallowed the method ball in one big gulp. Stupid doggie hooked itself (this bolt rig works well!) and ran in distress pulling my rod. Now that was a first. I had caught in the past turtles, ducks, trees, old tires, wallets, condoms, other anglers, bicycles, washing machines, seagulls, geese, but not a dog! The owners got a hold of the dog and started to moan. All right, so I have to unhook the stupid dog now. Luckily enough, it didn’t hook its tongue, but the corner of its mouth. Took me a while to calm down the growling dog and the growling owners, then get the hook out, but we finally made it and I still have ten fingers! Nah, I don’t have a pic of my PB dog (I was too busy unhooking it!), so you’ll have to take my word, it was a big one (70lb, said the owner)!

 

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After catching this new Personal Best, it felt wiser to throw my terminal rig + bait in the water instead of leaving it on the ground, and then enjoy a couple of hours of quiet time watching the water and the beautiful surroundings. Alas, nothing moved, and when I started to long for another dog to come, I knew it was time to move.

 

Here are a few things I had in mind:

  1. Finally try this second pier

  2. Try the mussels bay

  3. Stick to the rocky point and take a nap

  4. Go catch an easy fish at the Lamoille dam

 

What would have been your choice?

 

I had checked the mussels bay every now and then, but didn’t notice any activity. So I decided to take a few more pics of the foliage, then leisurely drive towards the Lamoille dam to try a new fishing environment, and secure a Vermont carp before the end of the day.

 

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Upstream of the dam, the river formed a large pool and seemed rather carp friendly (and accessible!). I thought I noticed a large circular ripple when I stopped the car (a carp jump?), but a local angler didn’t seem to think carp were there, and this section was not connected to the lake anyway, so I decided to skip it. Maybe I should have tried… Would have you tried?

 

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Anyway, the plan was to go downstream of the dam. Thanks to a Google Earth pic sent by Karl Newick, I quickly found the spot and it looked good. Positioning the terminal rig proved a tad difficult though, the water current coming from the dam was quite strong. One spot was easy to select, a deep pool of still water close to a wall of rocks. I wanted to position another rig on the other side of the current, behind a point of land, but the current kept dragging my line and I had to tighten the baitrunner really hard, which seemed like the best way to lose my rod in case of a run!

 

Nothing moved for a couple of hours, this didn’t seem as loaded with carp as Karl’s contact was saying. I sync’ed up with Sarah (I had a date with her for dinner!), and by 5:30, I was ready to move on.

 

 

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Not having seen any sign of carp in any of the spots I had fished today, I was really pondering what should be my next move. While I was in the area, I decided to stop fishing, and finish exploring the Lamoille River (I was quite upstream of the bridge spot I had found the day before). After some driving around, I found a nice stretch downstream behind… another dam. So much for fishing an area connected to the lake at the previous spot. And maybe Karl’s friend actually meant to go fish downstream of the last dam, which would make more sense. Well, this will teach me, I should have done my full discovery homework instead of just following a word of mouth… Plus anyway, the plan was to catch a fish out of Lake Champlain, so what was I doing on this river?

 

Back to a motel room in St Albans, quick shower, a short drive to Burlington, very nice dinner with Queen Sarah, who expressed clear skepticism about catching carp in Lake Champlain… Hmmm. I have to say that I was seriously starting to doubt that my trip would be successful by Sunday early afternoon, at which time I had to drive back home. So I drove back to St Albans late in the evening, and was pondering my choices on the road…

 

I wanted to fish the main pier, but I was hesitating between three choices:

  1. Go to bed right away (it was pretty late, the motel was close) and get up VERY early (like 3AM) to prebait before starting fishing

  2. Go prebait right now, then a few hours of sleep, and get started around 5AM

  3. Or… should I be more adventurous and try night-fishing?

 

What would have been your choice?

 

I quickly ruled out the first choice which was more dictated by my fatigue, and I drove to the peer to check it out. Of course, I didn’t pay attention to the speed limit, and an obnoxious police car showed up out of nowhere. Busted. But my luck was starting to turn around, the guy noticed my fishing gear, became curious, and was impressed that I came all the way to VT to catch a carp. And let me go away with a simple warning. Nice of him. So I finished driving at 30mph with the cop trailing me to check that I was behaving, and parked at the end of the pier. I started to take my buckets out of the car, and… what’s that noise in front of me? A fish rolled. Not a clean splash, but undoubtedly fish activity. So I threw a few spoons of maize, and waited a bit more. And I head a similar noise. At that point, deep inside, I wasn’t 100% convinced those were carp, but I really wanted to believe it! So the decision was taken, and I set up my gear around midnight. One rod with method ball and flavored maize, another rod with method ball and Pescaviva Caramel. A few minutes later, a very loud splash unmistakably told me that carp were indeed in the bay, although rather far away from where I was fishing. Earlier today, I had this theory that carp were coming during the night in the bay and leaving at dawn. Well, sounds that I was right!

 

By 1:30AM though, I was less sure. I still hadn’t heard a very clean jump close to where I was fishing although fish activity did continue. What seemed for sure though is that a school of nice fish were jumping on a regular basis a few hundred yards from me (yeah, where I didn’t have access). So I was thinking to throw a good deal of bait, and sleep a few hours in the car while waiting for carp to show up. But I was also wondering if Edith’s recipe was right, if there wasn’t too much paprika, if it wasn’t turning fish off… I quickly stopped pondering when a bite alarm started to scream! YES! I had a carp from Vermont, this was too good to be true. My heart was pounding, I was already starting to think to this write-up as a success story, life was good. Yeah, well, except that I rushed the fish, I messed up my netting attempt, and the hook pulled.

 

You would think that I would curse for ten minutes on a row, throw my gear in the lake and go ask the great dane to have mercy and end my miserable life? Well, actually, I just smiled. I was happy. I had done 95% of the work, I had found a fishing spot, I had found the right time to fish it, I had the right bait, I was certain I’d catch other carp during the night, I was just happy to be there and certain to reach the end of my quest.

 

2:30AM. I wasn’t smiling anymore. Not a sniff, nothing was moving. There was still occasional fish activity, but not on my rods… Come on, I can’t finish my story like that! Luckily, the gods of fishing were with me. At 2:45, another run, the carp quickly turned around to swim towards me, I thought I had lost it, but no, it was hooked, I took my time playing it and was properly landed. YES. I put fish and net on the landing mat, and… another run! Now that’s too good to be true! This was a lively fish, but I landed it as well (real handy to have taken two nets with me because the first fish was still somewhat tangled in my first net). My scream of joy probably woke up a few locals! I had an interesting time taking a pic of this memorable instant (this 10 second timer on the camera is a blooper generator!), and almost forgot to weigh the first (and biggest) fish, a nice 13 pounder. So I released the fish, threw a few more spoons of maize in the water and a handful of Pescaviva kernels, and went to my car to dream of success stories.

 

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3:30AM. Another take, carp landed, I took a quick snap, released the fish and re-cast. I had a sudden impulse to take a pic of my rods. The flash illuminated the night and, as if on purpose, the alarm screamed! I was really wondering if I’d see the rod bending on the pic (nah, I missed it by 1/10th of a second!). Carp landed, nice strong fins, oh yeah baby, four carp from VT, Sarah will never believe me if I don’t take many pictures. Flash, release, bait up, go back to dozing in the car. It was starting to get seriously chilly, but with the excitement (and multiple layers of clothing), this wasn’t a problem.

 

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4:20AM. Another run. I started to play it and… A second run, you have to be kidding. Now I never had the opportunity to fumble with two fish at the same time during a night session. It’s always tricky during the day, but at night, even with a bright full moon, that was rather interesting. I tried to block one of my rods against my car external rearview mirror but I didn’t see the line was scratching the pier concrete and punishment came right away, line cut. DAMN IT. I landed the other fish, recast right away without method just for the sake of having a line in the water while I was fixing my first rod, and… I got another run within minutes. So the pattern of landing fish by pairs was established! Around 5AM, I had another pair of fish which made for 8 carp landed, and I was quite convinced I would reach the magical number of 10 carp before dawn and before the fish would move away. I baited a bit more heavily, hoping to make them stay a bit longer. I was also playing with the idea of catching a mirror and wake up Neil at 6AM in the morning with the news!

 

Then things started to go wrong. I lost three fish in a row. Dawn was coming fast, and I seemed unable to land fish #9 and #10. After changing my terminal rigs, I recast with hope, but starting to lose faith… Well, thou non believer shall be proven wrong, said the fishing gods. Or something like that. What do you think happened?

 

A double run. Oh boy. I had pondered what to do after my first failure, and decided to let the second fish run freely, and focus on landing the first fish. Most of the fish I had caught so far didn’t run far at all, although they fought a long time close to shore. Well, this one was different. 10, 20, 30 seconds, my bite alarm was still screaming, and I couldn’t take it anymore, I lifted the rod. Now, that was a bad move. Because I still had plenty of line on the reel, because my first fish could have been landed quickly, because I was now clumsily struggling with two fish, and one of them has taken a lot of line, and reeling in while you’re holding two rods isn’t exactly easy. After quite a few minutes of anguish, I finally netted the second fish with one net, and my first fish (which fought like a daemon) found the other net. And my second fish proved to be the biggest of the day, a cool 13-8lb with some irregular scaling, like a St Lawrence fish. I was so giddy, I started to take rather silly pics.

 

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By then, the sun was fully out, the mist was gone, I had accomplished all my goals and more (I was just kidding about the mirror, Neil!). I called Sarah (I knew she was getting up early for work) and bragged very excitedly for a few minutes. I suspect my English was rather broken and impossible to understand by then, but Sarah got the gist of it and was smiling in disbelief over the phone... It was time to wrap up and go sleep a few hours to have safe driving home. I was slowly gathering my things, one rod was already dismantled on the car, when I noticed something on the floor. What’s that? A fishing rod? With the maize all set on the hair rig? Why not throw it in the water, like that, no method ball, just for fun, while I finish wrapping up? The temptation was too strong, I cast, put the rod on the pod, turned away. It took 30 seconds. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeppppppppp! Quickly enough, carp #11 was landed. Now, I was curious, and I cast again. Put the rod on the pod. I didn’t turn away. 30 seconds later, I had another take, the hook pulled, ok, no big deal.

 

Now I was really intrigued, and I started to think. Those of us fishing with rod pods, we kind of lost something. You know, the feeling of your rod in your hands suddenly coming to life? So I cast and instead of using my rod pod, I set up the baitrunner but keep the rod in my hands. One minute later, I was starting to feel a bit silly, there was no way this was going to work. Oh yeah, said the fishing gods, try that! And the rod came to life. I was almost weeping, overtaken by the emotions of the night, the fatigue, the joy of fishing at its best... And I did land the fish! Carp #12. And by then, a couple of locals had showed up, and I could finally ask for a nice pic to be taken without me fumbling with the camera timers.

 

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I started to chat with one of the guys, who seemed genuinely interested. So I asked him “want to try playing a carp?”. He was game. I cast, confident to have a run within minutes. Er, didn’t work as fast as I was hoping. Hmmm. I extracted my other rod from my car, cast it, and waited. Nothing. Then I noticed that during the past 15 minutes, there had been no jump or roll anymore. 30 minutes later, the conclusion was clear. They had moved. You know, this had to be a pretty good school of fish for my last three runs to have occurred that fast. I find fascinating that suddenly obeying to their instinct, they all silently moved away in a matter of minutes. And I am ready to swear that they were back the night after. Karl and Sarah, you know what to do now!

 

Epilogue

 

I rested a couple of hours, got kicked out of the motel at 11AM (I could have used a bit more sleep!), and I had a secret plan… Go back to this cool scenic river in NH, and catch a carp out there. Alas, it wasn’t going to be, the river turned out to be very shallow, cut into short stretches by small dams, no carp in there as far as I could tell. I gave one last try driving in the woods to Hopkinton Reservoir, again very scenic, seemed carpy, but too many bass boats were slowly circulating on this venue, and somehow… I just enjoyed the scenery… and… I had enough fishing for the day. I finished my driving in NH by exploring a stretch of the Merrimack River, and finally drove home as a happy & successful discoverer.

 

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Harry (who submitted the original idea of a discovery week-end), Scott and Pat (the CDDW organizers), thank you so much for having created this unique event.

 

My best catch of all, my wife Edith, was really fantastic to let me go through my crazy adventures and to be so talented with bait recipes.

 

I had the time of my life, and I will remember those 3 days forever. Maybe I’ll explore the islands of Lake Champlain next year… Can't wait.

 

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