Seems crazy it is already December. Overall my favorite month (November) was pretty uneventful. Warm weather patterns really made a lot of things more challenging then they needed to be. Especially when you are counting on the cold to get things like migrating ducks and spawning whitefish going. The whitefish run has certainly been late this year and I imagine it will be coming to an end soon.
I'm actually ok with that because it has been a frustrating one. Despite decent numbers of fish in after Thanksgiving we've had a tough time getting them to bite. The numbers have definitely been in, just biters have been scarce. It seems like years that the temps are in the 20's and waves are crashing on the pier are much better than nights you can fish without wearing gloves. Nasty weather in November is best for almost everything I like to do!
There isn't much to report on the duck hunting, although we did finally get a calm day to go out hunting on Lake Michigan. It is always a good time out there, but the shooting can be the most frustrating thing ever.
There were a lot of great moments duck hunting this year though, even if it was the fewest birds harvested in the last several years. The dog was a big part of the fun. The only tough part about it is bad hunts are frustrating. I can deal with not dropping ducks like crazy every hunt, but I hate not getting the dog much action. However, it's obvious he likes to go just as much as I do whether the hunting is good or bad. Naturally some of my favorite moments of the season are ones involving him.
You would think his first few retrieves were the big moments, but in the grand scheme of things not really. He didn't know what was going on, it was more just going through the motions and figuring out what was all happening. There was a moment in the first couple hunts though that definitely had an impact. We had a group of 5 mallards circle once and then just drop right in the hole, this was all in plain view for Hutch. Fortunately we shot well and dropped them all. He watched everything go down and that moment is what made it click for him. There was no worrying about pointing him in the right direction, he marked them and retrieved 3 of the 5 birds while Tank, an old veteran retriever, got the other 2. Tank definitely taught him a few things about bird hunting this season which was also really cool to see.
It was also really rewarding when Hutch would recover birds that would otherwise be lost. One particular one comes to mind. We had a mallard hit the water and swim into some super thick cattails. It landed a long ways away so we went in the boat to the area we thought it might be. Initially I was wrong and a little disappointed he wasn't picking up on the bird. But we kept working and moving further down the bank. All of a sudden he hit the spot where the bird went in and his nose went to work. There is zero chance we ever find that bird without Hutch. He eventually pushed it out of the cattails and recovered it!
We definitely learned what we need to work on for next season, although I am hoping we get out just a few more times this year. It is sort of disappointing it's almost done. As far as killing birds goes there's one that really sticks out in my mind. I was fortunate to be a guest on a hunt that seemed like it was going to be awesome. Sometimes those ones work out perfect, other times they don't. On this one the birds read the script. We pounded a 5 man mallard limit in 11 minutes. That is the fastest it's ever happened for me. It was what duck hunters dream of!
Another thing that was great about this season is I was comfortable the whole time. Throughout the season I was thoroughly impressed with the Sitka Gear I was wearing. How can you go wrong when you combine Gore-Tex into duck hunting gear. No getting wet and no wind getting through. Also since it is so weather proof and light it worked awesome as cold weather fishing gear. We had some pretty mild weather this year so one thing that got a ton of use was the Dakota hoody. The key to that is the wind stopper built into it. Those mornings with a little chill that turn into nice days are built for that hoody. The Hudson jacket was an impenetrable barrier when there was moisture or it was actually windy and somewhat cold. If you are serious about outdoor activities in cold weather I strongly suggest investing in one. You'll also want to check out the Sitka Gradient glove on my Facebook Page. I'm doing a 13 days of Christmas gift guide with some things you won't want to miss.
I know some of you don't want to hear it but it is time to start thinking about ice fishing. I've been getting things ready for ice and getting acquainted with all my new clam gear. I've got some top notch stuff to hit the ice with this year. One of the things I'm most excited about is the Clam Lift suit. I'm not in the business of falling through the ice, but no matter how safe you are there is always a chance something could happen. The lift suit is not only going to keep me warm, but if I go through I'm going to float! I've actually been using it on cold nights whitefishing on the pier. I've been using it without the liners that come with it and it has still been really warm. I feel like sub zero weather would be no match for the lift suit. I'll be talking a lot about Clam products throughout the season, because they really have everything there is for ice fishing. I'll be looking forward to talking to people in person about it this coming weekend (December 9th and 10th) at ClearH2O Tackle. If there is something you need I can make sure Darrin has it in stock or can get it shipped your way.
It's also almost time for some FishSens videos of bluegills biting jigs and rocketing towards the surface. The SondeCAM definitely helped me put more fish on the ice last season and it was so much fun to see it all happen down there. Hopefully we have a longer ice fishing season this year though!