Wilson Lake and what Lies Below

Wilson Lake, Florence, Alabama.

When Wilson Lake was impounded there was a lot of old structures, canal, bridges and other structure let on the lake floor. With the advent of the new sonar technology such as Side Imaging and Down Imaging you can still find a lot of them.

I have both Humminbird Onix and Helix Mega Scan units on my boat. These amazing pieces of technology enable me to see what’s still laying on the ;lake floor to this day almost a 100 years later!

A Little History on the Lake

Wilson Dam spans the Tennessee River between Florence (north) and Muscle Shoals (south), Alabama. It stands at an elevation of 508 feet and crosses the Tennessee on a 20-foot roadway along the top of the dam. Impoundment of the Tennessee River above Wilson Dam has created Wilson Lake, with a maximum width of 1.6 miles and a main shoreline of 154 miles.

Wilson Dam was erected by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1918-25 and turned over to the Tennessee Valley Authority when that agency was established in 1933. Wilson is a concrete gravity-dam on a blue limestone rock foundation. The total length of the structure is 4,535 feet, the height 137 feet, and the maximum width at the base (Including the apron) is 160 feet. The head the water depth on the upper side of the dam is 97.6 feet. There were originally 58 spillway gates in the face of the dam, each capable of discharging 10,000 cubic feet of water per second.

As I scan the lake bottom with my Side Image and Down Image units I’m always looking for objects that are on the lake bottom. If I do manage to find something, if I can I’ll research and see if I can find out what it is and if possible try to find a photo of what the object is or was. In the two photos below I found an old submerged arched bridge crossing a small stream or creek bed. You can clearly see the creek bed in the Side Image photo.

Click on the photo thumbnails to get a larger view.

I found an old submerged mill a couple of years ago that an old time fisherman told me if I had ever looked for it. In the two photos below you can see what the mill looked like before it was torn down and all that was left was the stone work of the mill.

The following photo is an old marina boat cover slips that instead of being torn down was easier to just pull it out into the lake and sink it. The tin metal top and sides are still on the old boat cover slips. I have tried to find a photo of the original one but have not been able to do so.

Tight lines……

Side Imaging Interpretation

In this blog I’ll be discussing Side Imaging Sonar and Down Imaging and do you need it. As I discussed in my earlier blog on Sonar versus Down Imaging was it really needed. From the images I’ll post below we can see that some of the structure is visible in the Sonar and the Down Image views but the problem is where they are located in relation to the boat.

As stated in the earlier blog I will be converting recordings done with my Humminbird Onix 10 SI Touch and my Helix 12 Gen 2 Mega Scan SI units. The software I use to view the recording is ReefMaster Viewer and sometime I will use Deepview FV as well as AutoChart Pro. Three of these are purchased software and the other one is a free software version. You can do a Google search to find out more on these products. As for recording with your Humminbird unit I have a blog discussing this as well just follow this link “Recording”.

The problem with Sonar and Down Imaging while fishing or even scanning the lake bottom with your units. Is to determine where the structure is in relation to your boat. Since we are dealing with a 2 dimensional flat screen and scanning a 3 dimensional world. Since the software on the units is only placing pixel dots on the screen there is no way to show the bottom in a real world display. That is unless we are using Side Imaging.

With Sonar and Down Imaging as we drive over the structure is it under the boat as the display shows? It possibly could be and we can tell this with the Sonar view by looking at the colors displayed on the screen palette. Since on a Sonar transducer set to 200 kHz the cone angle is pointing straight down and for an example shining like a flashlight beam. Take a flashlight and turn it on and point it straight down at the floor. The circle of light you see will represent the transducers cone angle. As you can see the angle is in a circular pattern and any object that enters the cone will be visible. Now lower the flashlight down towards the floor and you will see the circle of light gets smaller. This represents the depth of the water your boat is setting in. With a standard 200 kHz transducer the circle will be 1/3 of the depth of the water, for example in nine feet of water you will only be scanning a three foot circle of the bottom. Now move out into 30 feet of water and now you will be looking at a ten foot circle of the bottom.

With all that being said if your boat is in 9 feet of water and you drive your boat over say a stump, and it shows up on the display screen then that stump is directly under the boat. That is under the transducer where ever it is located.

Now let’s say we dropped a waypoint on that stump and wanted to fish it. As we turn the boat around and go back to the waypoint where is the stump in relation to the boat. Again on the display as we get closer to it it will show up on the display but now is it under the boat or in front, rear or right or left of the boat?

The only true way to know for sure is either with the Side Image or the Humminbird 360* transducer. With the Side Image transducer the problem is we now have to drive past the stump to see it displayed on the unit. But now we will know if the stump is on the right side or the left side of the boat. With the Humminbird 360* transducer we can see the stump without having to even move the boat. If the stump is at a three o’clock position we just cast to the stump at a 90* angle to find the stump.

I hope this explains a little the advantage of the Side Image transducer. Take a look at the images below to see what I am trying to explain. I’ll do a blog on the Humminbird 360* transducer after I get on the water and do some screen shots with it.

Click on the Thumbnails for an Enlarged view of the images.

In this image we can see a stump displayed on the Sonar but only know it is located slightly to the right of the boat by looking at the Side Image view. In this view we see the top is directly under the boat and slightly behind the boat.

In this image there is a creek channel that the boat just passed over but but it did not show up on the Down Image view.

Now let’s look at this gravel point that is off the the right side of the boat. Without the Side Image view we would not even know it was there.Can you see the gravel bar on both sides of the boat in the Down Image view.
See the tree top slightly to the left side but still under the boat?Stump field to the right and a stake-bed to the left not visible on the Down Image view.


Stump field to the right and a stake-bed to the left not visible on the Down Image view.

Sonar Interpretation – Sonar and Down Imaging

I get asked sometimes if Down Image is really worth the extra expense over the regular Sonar  units. I definitely have to say yes but only if you do not know what your looking at with the Sonar unit. I’ve used sonar units since the old flashers and paper graphs from back in the mid to late seventies. One thing for sure is that you want to get one with a GPS so you can return to the structure that you will find with them.

My units are Humminbird Onix 10 SI Touch and Helix 10 DI and a Helix 12 SI. All of these unit have GPS and Sonar built into them. I’ve also used a Garmin unit and Lowrance units with good results.

One thing I must say is that of all the Humminbird units that I have owned, everyone of them has had software issues and several have had to be returned to Humminbird for repairs! I don’t know why they can not get their software right before they release their products. Anytime that they have to release five to ten software updates that tells me they have issue with their software!

All of the images you will see in this article will be from recordings that I have recorded with either my Humminbird Onix or my Helix 12 units and then viewed in ReefMaster Viewer software.

I use the Sonar with the 83/200 kHz transducer settings and my chart speed is normally around 5 or 6 with my boat speed at about 3.5 to 4 mph when I’m doing the recordings.

Look at the images below and you will be able after a lot of time on the water looking at different structures to learn what you are really looking at. In my next blog I’ll show you the Side Images and the Down Images views.

Hope this helps you to learn your units a little better and catch a few more fish.

Click on the image thumbnails for a larger view of the images.

 

Canada 2018 Fishing Trip – Lac Seul

Danny Montgomery and I made a fishing trip to Ear Falls, Ontario to Lac Seul Lake in September 2018. We made the decision to make the long drive up from Alabama which was about 1600 miles since we drove out to Polk, Missouri to meet up with a couple of buddies.

We left Polk, Missouri on Friday morning September 14 heading north for the 2 day drive to Golden Eagle Resort in Ontario. We made the 795 mile drive to Virginia, Minnesota where we spent the night. The next morning we made our way to International Falls, Minnesota where we crossed the border into Ontario, Canada. (Not you will need your passport to cross the border). Also make sure you fill up with fuel on the American side of the border as the gas is about $5.00 per gallon in Canada!

Our next leg of the drive was from Fort Frances, Ontario to Ear Falls, Ontario. On one of the legs of the drive we drove on HWY 105 for about 90 miles and to let you know there were no gas stations, stores or even homes on this section of the road. There were also Moose Warning signs all along this section of road and they are a major road hazard especially at night. There were thirteen persons killed on this road last year that hit moose at night! Click on Thumbnails to enlarge the images.

(International Falls, Minnesota to Ear Falls, Ontario)

We finally made the drive to Ear Falls where we pulled into the local tackle store to purchase our Canadian fishing license. There were a couple of options on buy fishing licenses for our trip. One choice for the eight day trip which allowed you to have in possession is only 2 Walleye. The other option was a 4 Walleye in possession license. We opted for the 2 Walleye so our cost was $38.00.

On a note for the possession limit which we found very usual was the following. You are allowed to catch and keep two Walleye that were less than 17” and allowed you to keep only one of the two if it was over 22”. Anything else had to be released back into the lake. Once you decided to catch and keep a Walleye you had to kill it by knocking it in the head with a small ball bat that was provided in each boat.

Slot Box and ball bat this was a slot fish and had to be returned to the lake.

Now the confusing part of this catch and release is that you are only allowed two or four fish in possession depending on which license you purchased. If you purchased the two fish license that means you are only allowed to have two fish at any one time. For example if you go fishing today and catch two keeper size fish and carry them back to camp. If you fillet them and place them in your cooler to eat say maybe the next day, and then you have two fish in possession. So now if you go fishing tomorrow, you can not legally catch a Walleye, if you do and net it and the game warren checks you and you have that fish plus the two in the cooler back at camp he will write you a ticket for over the limit! They also have the authority to come into your camp and check your coolers, refrigerator etc. for any fish you might have in possession!

After purchasing our license we headed to Golden Eagle Resort which was about a mile from town. We got into the camp around 11:30 a.m. and were ready to head to the lake.

(Our cabin)
(Hand carved bench at the resort)

After we arrived at the resort we quickly unloaded the truck, we grabbed our tackle and headed out onto the lake for a few hours fishing.

(Boats at the pier photo)

The boats we were provided to use the 7 days we fished were Crestliner 18.5’ Kodiak’s with 50 horsepower Yamaha tiller steer engines. These were very comfortable boats to fish out of and took the rough water we experienced the last day very well. The boats did not have any trolling motors but did have small Humminbird depth finders on them which came into use finding the fish.

(Beautiful Lac Seul)

Man what a beautiful lake this was on our ride out of the camp onto this huge lake. I’ll give a little more detail on Lac Seul a little later in this article. As you .can see from the photos about the weather was perfect for our first day out on to Lac Seul. This would change over the next few days as a major cold front would be coming our way in a few days.

Kenny Reynolds’s and Glenn Roberts were leading us out onto the lake as they have been coming up to Canada for over 20 plus years. As Danny and I had never been to Canada we had no idea where to start fishing. Kenny carried us to a small island with a submerged rock reef that Danny and I started on. I tied on one of my custom painted 201 crankbaits in the HD Creek Chub patterns.

( BER Custom Painted 201 HD Creek Chub)

We pulled up to the rock pile and in just a matter of a few casts I hooked and landed a smallmouth close to 5 pounds. I could tell this was going to be a great fishing trip. Only problem was that I only had this one crankbait as Danny and I were told to pack “Lite” on tackle and to bring mostly jig-heads, grubs etc. stuff to fish for walleyes with. We would regret this as we did not have the tackle we needed to catch more smallmouth bass. Danny was throwing a Rapala CD-7 Countdown minnow and caught a few fish on this lure as well but again he only had one of these lures.

(Me with a nice Lac Seul smallmouth on day 1)

(Danny Montgomery with one of the doubles we caught)

On day tow of the trip the weather turned south on us and the high temperature for the day was a high of 47* and a northeast wind around 8 to 10 mph. The weather was a lot different from day one when the temperature was around 62* and no wind.

On day two Danny and I went back to the submerged rock reef we fished the day before and had fair results with the limited lure selection we had. We did manage a few smallmouth a few Northern Pike. We did not fish for walleye the second day as we were not sure how to catch them yet, but that was going to change the next day or so. We fished the same crankbaits as we did the day before along with a NED Rig and a 1/4 ounce black bucktail jig.

(Day 2 Fish)

Day three found the weather had again changed with a misty rain and a high of 46* and a low of 37* with a north westerly wind of around 4 – 6 mph. The lures we used on day three were as follows a Blue hair jig, black hair jig, Rapala CD-7 Countdown minnow, the NED Rig and a spinnerbait. We started to figure out the walleye fishing and on days four and five we really honed in on how to both find and catch them.

(Day 3 fish)

Day four and weather change for us with this one a warming front coming through. Weather for day four was a high of 57* and a low of 39* with no wind. On day four we finally figured out how to catch lots of fish with the lures we had with us. As you can see from the following photos we caught all three species we were after.

(Sunrise on day 4 from our porch)

Lures we used for smallmouth were Ned Rig’s, Strike King’s Red Eye Shad in Gold Black color a Strike King Jerkbait in Chrome Ayu a Strike King 1/4 ounce spinnerbait all chartreuse with chartreuse willow blades and for walleye we used 1/4 ounce lead-heads, pearl chart grubs tipped with a minnow.

Lures we used for smallmouth were Ned Rig’s, Strike King’s Red Eye Shad in Gold Black color a Strike King Jerkbait in Chrome Ayu a Strike King 1/4 ounce spinnerbait all chartreuse with chartreuse willow blades and for walleye we used 1/4 ounce lead-heads, pearl chart grubs tipped with a minnow.

(A couple lures we used on day 4)

(Rainbows on day 4)

(Danny with a big Northern Pike on day 4)

(Me with a keeper sized walleye on day 4)

(Me with another one of our doubles on smallmouth)

(Danny with another big smallmouth)

(Me with a good Northern Pike)

(Me with another day 4 smallmouth)

(Danny with the largest Northern Pike we caught on the trip)

Day five and another weather change for us weather with a high of 46* wind easterly 6 mph with gusts to 11 mph. Make sure you bring plenty of clothes as you never know what the weather will be doing from day to day. Also a good rain-suit both insulated and light weight rain-suit, gloved heavy and lightweight a toboggan and a good cap as well as sun-glasses and sunscreen or a gaiter.

Lures used on day 5 were for smallmouth a Steel Shad, Scrounger with a Strike King Caffeine Shad, Ned Rigs and spinnerbaits. For the walleye we used 1/4 ounce lead-heads rigged with a 3″ Pearl Chart and Pumpkinseed Grubs tipped with minnows.

(3″ Pearl chartreuse grub we used for the walleyes)

(The NED Rig we used for all three species we caught on Lac Seul)

(The Scrounger I used to catch the largest smallmouth on the trip)

(The Steel Shad we used to catch a lot of fish on)

(Some of the day 5 fish we caught)

The day 6 weather had a high of 46* with a northeasterly wind at 6 mph gusting to 12 mph. Lures we used today were the Scrounger, a 3.5” green pumpkin tube on an internal 3/16 ounce tube jig and lead-heads and grubs tipped with minnows and the Steel Shad.

(Ice on the boats this morning)

(A 22″ walleye I caught on day 6)

(Danny with a 23″ walleye on day 6)

(Danny with another big Lac Seul smallmouth)

(Loved catching those Lac Seul smallmouth)

Day seven was our last day and the weather was not good to us on our final day. The temperature high was 46* with the wind gusting to 20 mph which made the wind chill about 38* the last day. With the high winds we tried some of our regular places but could not fish them so we went into a protected bay and fished for Northern Pike with spinnerbaits.

(Danny holding up his last walleye he caught this trip)

(Waves crashing over one of the reefs we liked to fish)

(Danny bundled up the last day)

(The long cold slow rough ride back to camp day 7)

(The huge lake and boat taking a pounding on day 7 back to camp)

(Rough water 3 to 4 foot rollers)

(Danny hoping we make it back to camp)

(Finally the resort is in view on the last day)

(Golden Eagle Resort tackles room)

(Small one room cabins for rent)

We left heading back home around 4:45 a.m. Saturday morning with a blowing snow coming down. They had at least an inch accumulation of snow that morning after we left. Over all the trip was a very fun experience and not too expense this time of the year. I spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1400 dollars for this trip which included fuel from Alabama, food, hotel room one night and the use of the resort, boat, bait and license. I will be going back hopefully next year.

Lac Seul is a large, crescent shaped reservoir in northwestern Ontario, Canada. It is approximately 150 miles long. It has a maximum (regulated) depth of 158 feet, with a surface elevation of 1150 feet above sea level. Its level is raised in the summer and then drawn down in the winter months to reach points of as low as 16 feet below the maximum level. It is the second largest body of water entirely within the province of Ontario. The lake consists of open bays, narrow channels, and islands. It is a relatively shallow lake with many rock shoals. This provides a good habitat for Walleye, Yellow Perch, Pickerel and Northern Pike as well as Smallmouth Bass.  Lac Seul is noted for offering some of the best fishing in Ontario. The water color we fished in had a visibility of about 20 to 28 inches.

Suggested Tackle:

I’d carry maybe two or three spinning reels with 6 to 10 pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line. I had one spinning reel that I used most of the time size 2500 spooled with 20 pound yellow braid with a 10 pound fluorocarbon leader. I’d take at least two bait casting rods one spooled with 15 to 20  pound monofilament for the Northern Pike and one with 10 to 12 pound monofilament for crankbaits.

Lures:

Anything that you normally use for smallmouth or even largemouth should work on Lac Seul for the smallmouth. I’d carry an assortment of shallow to medium crankbaits. Some would be 1.5 square bills, Bandit 200’s and 300’s in dark and shad colors. Another lure would be Rapala CD-5 and CD-6 Countdown minnows. Shad Rap’s and either Rattle-Traps or Strike King Red Eye Shad lipless lures. I’d carry a few spinnerbaits in 1/4 ounce to 1/2 ounce sizes in willow-leaf in solid chartreuse or yellow colors along with a black one. For top water I’d suggest some buzzbait’s and Whopper Ploppers should work if they are feeding real shallow.

We had good luck on Shakyheads with Zoom Magnum Trick works, NED Rigs with both the small TRD’s and the Magnum TRD’s in green pumpkin and brown orange colors and PBJ.  One of my favorite smallmouth lures there was the 1/4 ounce Scrounger with a=either a Zoom Fluke or a Strike King Caffeine Shad.

For walleye we used both 1/8 and 1/4 ounce leadhead jigs, black bucktail hair jigs, blue rug baits and 3” grubs in chartreuse, pearl chartreuse and pumpkinseed colors. Also a few were caught on a 3/4 ounce chrome jigging spoon.

So with that I’ll leave you with some photos of our trip.

(Another sunrise on Lac Seul)

(Lots of Bald Eagles)

(Walleye fillets – YUMMY)

(One of Lac Seul’s beautiful shorelines)

(Left to right, Glenn Roberts, Kenny Reynolds’s and Clint Perkins the Resort Owner)

(Sunrise on Lac Seul)

Fishing Log – March 2, 2018

I made a spur of the moment fishing trip yesterday on Pickwick Lake as I was hearing about all the big fish that are being caught right now. The weather was pretty nice with the low in the morning at 41* and a high of around 58*. There were very few clouds in the sky and the wind   shifted during the day. The wind was blowing out of the north when I started but shifted out of the WNW as the day progressed. The water was very muddy as TVA was running current through the lakes at about 245,000 cfs, we have had a lot of rain this past week. The water temperature was 57* to 58* in the area I was fishing.The key for me was to find clear water running into the lake mixing with the muddy water. These areas seemed to be holding the shad in the shallow warm water. I did notice several time shad flicking on top and if I threw to those areas I would either get a bite or catch a fish.

The best lures for me were two primary lures one was a Squarebill 1.5 crankbait in my Hunger Pang pattern and the other was a Rattle Trap I painted in the Dark Crystal Craw pattern. I fished these two lures about 95 percent of the day. I did catch one fish on each of the following , an 1/8 ounce shaky-head with a Zoom Green Pumpkin Trick Worm and one on a Texas rigged Vibe tail Speed worm. I had a couple hit a spinnerbait but did not hook either one even though I had a trailer hook on it.BER Custom Lure Painting – Hunger Pang.BER Custom Lure Painting – Dark Crystal Craw

I ended up catching a total of 27 bass with most of them in the 15″ range. My best bass pushed 5 pounds. Overall it was good day of fishing since this is the first trip out since the first week of December from last year.

Tight lines until my next post.

Longear Pumpkinseed Spawning Process

Check out this video I did of the spawning process of the Pumpkinseed sunfish in my 125 gallon aquarium. I have figured out no matter what time of the year it is, once the water temperature gets around 72* to 75* the bluegill will try to spawn. The female can lay up to a 1000 eggs during the spawning process.

History – Florence Barge Canals

While doing a little research at the library this week I ran across some history about Pickwick and the canal systems.

Before TVA took over the operations of the Tennessee River there were canals all up and down the river from Florence because of the Mussel Shoals also called Muscle Shoals. These were not navigational sections of the river because of the low water over these rocks and the rapid descent of this portion of the river.

After the dam was built and the shoals inundated there were a series of canals that were built up to Wilson Dam. When the original two stage lock was built the original canal shown in light blue below was used to get to the locks. But after the start of construction on the new larger single lift lock the canal was rerouted up to the original lock.

Note: Click on Thumbnail to get an enlarged image.

In the above photo you can see the all three canals that were used during the new lock construction. The canal colored yellow above is now closed on both ends and is in the middle of Patton Island. The one in blue is now the location of the Florence Port or what we called Fuzzy Feeds canal.

In the above photo you can see where the canals were dammed off and the other canals rerouted.

Here you can see a photo of all three of the canals in this aerial view photo. You can also see the construction of the new larger and longer single lift lock.

In this photo you can see where Dam #1 was located and also the new existing canal. If you notice you can see the old swing railroad bridge that was used for the trains crossing the river into Florence from Colbert County.

In this photo you can see that the Dam #1 was removed and the existing lift canal is still in place.

 In this final photo you can see that the swing bridge was replaced with the lift bridge for the railroads. This bridge was also removed and all railroad traffic was stopped crossing the river into Florence.