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Friday, August 6, 2021

Summer float tube fishing

Over the past few seasons, I've spent increasing time fishing from my float tube. There's something about the serenity of being alone on smaller, untouched, lakes, rivers or steams, fishing for relatively unpressured fish. In today's modern world of gadgets, electronics, and electric motors, the old fashion simplicity of paddling around with fins while visually casting to structure, is a welcome throwback to simpler times.

Being that casting topwater lures is my favorite technique, most of my outings occur during evenings, when the wind has typically calmed down. Windless days are good too, but something about fishing the evening bite into the sunset just adds to the serenity / relaxation factors, especially when I'm fishing in a mountain setting.

With my kids day camp schedule running through most of the summer this year, I haven't bothered doing many full day trips, opting instead for shorter 3 to 4 hours outings on the float tube. Starting at the end of June, my goal was to fish a few new target lakes I had in mind, as well as double down on some of the spots where I've already had success fishing for a float tube.

My first summer float tubing outing was to an old spot, where one can expect a mixed bag of species. Predominantly largemouth bass, but a good number of longnose gar, sprinkled in with some pike and the occasional musky. With outer temp at 30C and the weeds not fully blanketing the area, I was able to cast to many gar, but unfortunately, couldn't keep any hooked long enough to land them. Most were too small to properly take my modified lure, but it's significantly harder to sight fish from a float tube, being that I'm very low on the water, as opposed to shore fishing from the bank or standing on a casting deck by boat. I was lucky enough to hook a good largemouth bass, followed by this chewed up pike, surprisingly aggressive for an emaciated fish with those wounds.

As July rolled in, I mixed in a few "bike to" outings, both for bass and musky. Not much success for musky from shore, so I decided to try from the float tube, casting oversized topwater lures. Not much luck either, so I finally hit a new lake I had scouted a few weeks earlier. Knowing that this small Laurentian lake had a decent population of smallmouth bass, and having found a parking spot close enough to launch, I headed there alone for my first shot at fishing / discovering this new lake.

As the mid afternoon was still windy, I tried my first target area of the lake casting a Mepps spinner. Caught a few very small bass. Eventually, the wind died down, and I was able to get some decent topwater action on my Pop R during an evening bite that lasted for a bit over 1 hour. 

A few days later, a heat wave cancelled my biking plans. Being that the winds were strong all week, I opted to get out on the float tube and fish my gar spot, as I knew the wind direction would affect it much on that particular day. Unfortunately, the weed cover was a lot more dense, and the gar were buried deep in the weeds. With no way of presenting any viable lures to them, I tried casting a variety of topwater lures to open water, without much luck. Finally, I tied on a weedless Spro frog, which was about the only presentation on hand that I could use to attempt to lure the bass out of the "hay". The frog the trick. Landed a few good largemouth bass in a short spurt, before I had to head home mid day.

Being that my old float tube is functional again after having replaced the leaky bladder, I'm now able to bring along a second person to fish with on my outings. After another unsuccessful float tube outing for muskies casting big topwater lures, I finally convinced Levi to come along for an evening of bass fishing.

We headed up to another Laurentian lake I first fished last summer, this one having a mix of mainly largemouth bass, mixed in with some smallmouth bass as well. The sheer numbers of bass in this lake are insane, but not too many big ones, as the bass growth in this lake seems to be stunted. Regardless, as Levi didn't want to risk not catching anything, and the lake is a sure bet for numbers, it was a no brainer.

With Levi casting a Mepps spinner and myself using a PopR, we hooked well over 100 bass in about 4 hours of fishing, landing close to 100 bass. Most were quite small.

As we fished closer to night, the bass sizes increased a bit, especially on the PopR. I ended up catching the biggest bass of the evening, a chunky largemouth bass.

A few nights later, I decided on a last minute outing back to the new lake I had fished for smallmouth bass a few weeks earlier. With an incoming cool front, I wore my waders and long sleeves for this one.
I headed up for a short 3 hours of fishing, and fished a new area of the lake. First smallmouth bass of the evening ended up being the biggest I landed, though I managed to lose a much bigger bass after a few jumps.

A few more feisty bass came to play, ended up landing 8 smallies. 

I also got to try my new camera's underwater capabilities.

The following week, I finally got the opportunity to try another new lake. I first fished this lake on ice last January. After having landed my a splendid smallmouth bass in the 4 lbs range on ice there, I knew I had to make it back there in the summer, with the float tube being perfect, as no motorboats are allowed on that lake.

Up in the Outaouais region of Quebec, the drive out is sort of long for a short afternoon/ evening outing, but the calm and serenity I get for float tube fishing, as well as the relaxing, scenic drive, is well worth it. 

After having mapped lake depths on the Navionics web site, the spots I identified online ended up producing most of the smallmouth bass I caught. Strangely enough, I was hooking more bass on topwater lures over 15 to 20 feet of water, than in shallower water under 5 feet. I guess I'm figuring out smallmouth bass in deeper lakes this summer, as most of my target bass have been largemouth bass over the past few years.

Again, I the biggest one of the evening ended up getting away, probably in the 2 to 2.5 lbs range. Landed a bunch of smaller ones up to 14 inches, and got to practice some more underwater photography.

Also got a nice "jump shot".

Sometimes, I'm surprised by how aggressive tiny bass can get. 

All in all, another fun exploratory outing to a new lake, may head back there at some point if I have enough time.

The following evening, I stayed closer to home, opting to throw a variety of topwater lures for bass and pike, in a spot I usually fish for muskies from my float tube.

Starting off casting a buzzbait, I had a smaller musky in the 36-38 inch range follow my lure all the way up to my feet. Being that I was on a float tube, I only saw it at the last second due to being low on the water, I wasn't quite able to get get a good enough figure eight to get the musky to strike. It sort of hovered next to me for a few seconds, then slowly swam off. 

I eventually switched to casting a Zara spook. Again, I was very surprised at the size of my first catch of the evening, a small bluegill about the length of my lure.

As it got dark, I tied on a weedless Spro frog, and order to fish the weedbedss and lily pads lining the shoreline. Missed a few good hits in the grass, sort of typical when fishing heavy weed cover for bass and pike. After missing 4 good hits, I switched to casting a PopR on the outer edges of the weeds.

Move paid off, I landed a small largemouth bass. 

Eventually, I tied on my buzzbait again, hoping for another shot at the musky I raised earlier on. No such luck, but I did get a good sized gar roll on my lure just before dark.

The following week started off with a guided outing for carp from shore. Was set to fish for lake trout off Patrick's boat later in the week, but that trip was cancelled due to stormy weather. When the wind finally calmed down on Friday, I figured I'd head out to chase some more smallmouth bass from the float tube while water and outer temps are still warm enough.

When I got to the lake and was ready to inflate my float tube, I noticed that one of the inflation valves had fallen off in my garage, so I had no way of inflating the tube. Not wanting to waste the day, I ended up wading "the slop" along the shorelines, and casting the drop offs. 

First bass of the day turned out to be my biggest on this lake to date, a nice 3 lbs smallmouth bass exploded on my PopR. 

When it comes to bass fishing, topwater lures are about the most satisfying method, that bass made my day. I landed another smaller bass on the PopR, but eventually switched to a shallow diving Rapala J9 which landed me a couple more smallies.

Glad to have found the valve in my garage when I came home, guess I'll be checking the valve's before heading out float tube fishing in the future....

After having caught a big smallmouth bass ice fishing a new lake last January, I had planned to return to give it a try from my float tube this summer. I first returned a few weeks ago, got some decent numbers of smaller bass.

Returned yesterday, just in time for the evening bite last night. I targeted the most successful areas based on my previous trip's experience. Didn't take long to get bit, this nice smallmouth was my first of a few in that size range.

Second spot yielded a couple smaller ones, until I hooked into a big bass, but didn't realize how big it was until a few jumps. After quite the intense tube side battle, I lipped the monster bass, which was barely hooked at the tip of it's jaw by this point. 

Measuring 20 inches, it weighed in at a couple ounces under 5 lbs, a very respectable fish for the surprisingly small lake, and for the region I was fishing. Turns out to be my biggest topwater bass, as well as the biggest bass landed from my float tube. Couldn't be more thrilled with my outing, if all goes as planned, I'll be back!

Sure enough, I headed back to the same lake a few days later, as we are still in middle of a late summer heat wave. Having learned the more productive bass areas over the the past few outings, I headed straight for the better spots. Lucky for me, topwater bite was on most of the afternoon, despite wind being stronger than predicted in forecast. Too make a long story short, I ended up landing 15 bass, losing a bunch more. 

Biggest two bass I managed to land were this stunning 21 incher, that weighed just under 4.75 lbs, due it it being sort of thinner than normal at that length.

The next real big one was a fat 19 incher that weighed in at 4 lbs even.

This new area I've been fishing has turned out to be infinitely more productive than expected. As a bonus, one of the locals I ran into pointed me to another lake where there are bass that supposedly get even bigger.

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