March 14/2002A Lake Memphremag…
March 14, 2002
A Lake Memphremagog Marriage (Written by: Mark Currie 05/22/01)<P>This past weekend was our first 3 day long weekend, and my wedding anniversary as well. What a better way to kick off the fishing season than to spend it on a beautiful Vermont Lake, catching Smallmouth Bass by the hundreds. A tradition was started some ten years or so ago and if it ever changed, a divorce would be in order. My wife would be the one filing for it however, because she is the one that insists on going year after year. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!
Lake Memphremagog is a spectacular body of water that covers some 28 miles or so, in length. It begins at the Canadian end of Magog, Quebec and stretches all the way to the U.S. end of Newport, Vermont. It’s beautiful scenery is only matched by the phenomenal fishing that it yields each spring as the smallmouth bass begin their annual migration from the deep water to the shallows, where they will eventually spawn. If you time it just right, you can intercept them on the main lake points, and offshore humps & rockpiles. Targeting them in the shallows as they spawn is not recommended and can be detrimental to the future years of fishing.
The first morning began damp and miserable, until a three and a half pound bronze beauty stopped the suspending jerkbait I was throwing. You would be amazed how tough these smallies are and how hard they fight in water barely above 50 degrees. All of a sudden the weather didn’t matter as we were into the first of many fish of the season and they were beauties. We continued to boat bass in the three to four pound range for the next hour or so until the bite slowed down. Knowing that there were plenty more fish roaming the edges of the bay, just waiting for the water temperature to rise, we opted to relocate. Memphremagog is renowned for the numerous offshore shoals and structures, and quite often at this time of year, many bass are found staging on them. Out to open water we went, and my wife Christiane was into a fish on her first cast over the rock shoal. We concentrated on the deepest sides of the structure, as the fattest females were positioned there ambushing anything that came their way. A Herb Reed’s Finesse bait fished on eight-pound Berkley Trilene XL line fooled the four-pound bass into striking this lifelike imitation of the ever-present Smelt that inhabit the lake. The visibility of the water was amazingly clear as I sighted several more buddies swimming alongside her during the battle. We continued to boat many more fish of equal size on Jerkbaits, Jigs and 4 inch Berkley Power Slugs, until they slowed down, once again.
After a quick lunch on the boat, I thought I would try some shoreline fishing outside the main bays of the Vermont end of the Lake. The thought proved to be the right move and we began to catch more bass along the thirty-foot edge of a cliff like shoreline on Rogues and other Suspending Jerkbaits. By covering the water with these lures, you never know what you might catch as the line snaps tight, and the fish nearly jerk the rod from your hands. Along with the bass, we caught many huge perch, a couple of Lake Trout, a Brook Trout and a fair Sized Rainbow Trout of about four pounds. We also had quite a few follow-ups by other Trout, and one laker that must have gone over ten pounds. Over fifty bass were caught from various locations on the lake in search of the really big ones. All the fish caught, including the trout, were released unharmed as we were only here for the pleasure and thrill of the fight, not the consumption of the fish. The least we could do on our anniversary is dine out!
Day two proved to be an even better day than day one, if you could believe that! The weather turned for the better, and gave us sunny skies all day, with a high of about 75 degrees and variable winds. I thought we would try some other points with deep edges and huge boulders, to see if we could catch a real big one, but we only managed to scratch up another dozen or so two to three and a half pound males, and decided to move. Too much water, too little time! Off to the large flat offshore that has yielded many a five pound bass in the past years, and slam! First cast along the deep edge, and Christiane is into a four and a half pound bronze beauty. This fish is so powerful, that she starts to complain of sore wrists from holding the five and a half foot Fenwick rod that I gave her for a birthday present the year before. With the water being as cold as it was, we didn’t see many fish jump, and this one was no exception. She bulldogged down and almost overpowered my wife until she managed to get a lip on the pre spawn beauty. This one’s a photo fish I told her and snapped off a shot with the digital camera. Once released we continued to boat many more on different baits, but the best seemed to be the Finesse, on a 1/8 ounce ballhead jig. All the big, sluggish females seemed to come from that bait worked slowly along the deeper edges in twenty feet of water. I managed to catch several smaller fish on top of the flat with a suspending jerkbait in a silver/blue finish, and even another Lake Trout, but nothing of any size. Changing to another rod rigged with finesse, I joined my wife in boating over twenty more big fish in about three and a half hours. Slower fishing definitely had a hand in catching all the big fish. Size and numbers can be caught if you just keep an open mind and let the fish dictate what they want. By covering lots of water along the shores of the lake, we managed to catch plenty of fish, but only a few really big ones, however, by concentrating on the deep edges of the spawning flats that they use every year, we caught only the big females feeding on the smelt. With growling stomachs from skipping breakfast, we thought we deserved a lunch break seeing as how it was after 12:00. We had both worked up quite an appetite from battling those fish all morning, and broke out the food and relaxed for a little while just enjoying the day.
After lunch we thought we’d try a few other locations with similar features. As a tournament fisherman, an important key element is patterns. Once you pattern the fish on a body of water, you can usually duplicate this in other locations on the lake at the same time. The next place proved to be no different, with Christiane hammering the first fish on the same Finesse bait in 18 feet of water, right on the lip of the break. Scattered boulders were amongst the shale and rubble that composed the bottom content we were on, and so were the fish. They were thicker than thieves and as hungry as a bear. We doubled up many times with the average fish weighing about three pounds, but many of them going over four. After about two hours of boating over 25 fish, we ran to another offshore structure and did it all over again. What a day! We probably caught close to a hundred fish between us, and many of them trophies by most standards.
Day three was going to be a short one with us leaving by noon, so we tried to get on the water before 7:00 due to the condensation and fog that regularly appears in the morning mountain air. We wasted no time by running to another offshore rock pile that we hadn’t yet fished, in anticipation that it would produce as well as the others, the days before. It wasn’t long before we were answered with double fours. A beautiful pair of bronze beauties, once again. Both females, and both ready to explode by the looks of it. This lake, even during the summer months has a tendency of producing spawning like bass. They feast on the smelt and look pregnant because of it. We call them footballs. Footballs they were, with both of them regurgitating smelt during the battle to the boat, only to be eaten by the others that followed them. Two beauties and one photo for Christiane to remember of our sixteenth anniversary and how we spent it. The family think we’re nuts, and all my friends are sick with envy. Gotta love it!
Even a fellow fishing friend there at the same time commented to her, and I quote, “You’re a Saint”. How true they are!
We milked this spot for all it was worth, and changed baits several times to provoke and entice more strikes from the others that were reluctant to hit after seeing so many of their buddies go topside. We probably caught close to, if not more than fifty bass again in only a few short hours. Jerkbaits, finesse baits, or power slugs will take these prespawn bass when the conditions are right. Water temperature will dictate where they will be and at what stage they are in if you know where to look for them at this time of year. We targeted the offshore structures and deeper shoreline where we found temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees. It should be a few more weeks before the bass really get into the full spawn mode, by the looks of the temperatures, but you can still find prespawn fish in other parts of the lake if you know where to look for the cooler water.
Some would think that they died and went to heaven, but not us. Just another anniversary where the Bass Gods from above bless us for all the little things we do right during the year.
Vermont has a special “Catch and Release” season that begins April 14th, and ends June 8th. Their regular season starts on the following day, June 9th and ends on November 30th. Remember to practice catch and release whenever possible, not just during the posted season. These fish are special, and should be treated as such.