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Handlining the River

3037 Views 51 Replies 26 Participants Last post by  MOB
When I was a boy, my dad and grandfather would often run down to the Detroit River late in the day and handline into the night. This seemed to be a fairly productive way to catch walleye at just about anytime of the year. I did a quick search on this forum, but posts related to handling appear to be quite old. Does anyone still handline? If so, would you say that it is more or less productive or about the same as it was back in the 80's?
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My favorite reel. The two currently mounted on my boat are the same model, both purchased by my grandfather in the early-60s. He taught me to handline on the North Channel 51 years ago, and it's still my go-to method.
Some days I will jig downstream and handline back up. This year will 57th year of handlining, have handlined Detroit, St Clair, St Mary's River, Lake Erie, And Lake of the Woods, caught walleye, musky, bass(of all kinds), white bass, sheephead, perch, and lake trout. I think it is a little tougher with clearer water, so have gone to longer leads and using fluorocarbon line, more natural color lures. The picture is the reel I bought when I was 12, I made the money shoveling snow and cutting. The reel cost about $20 in 1966.

Bob View attachment 880056
you can't beat that presentation. understanding why it works than talking to cold water dirty water jiggers go fishless than handliner barely moving has black gold rapala off the nose of a 10 pound hen she silhouettes it and has time to decide I can get that wham

national walleye trail you had guys prefish when conditions improved than no back up plan with the drop in temp and dirty water struggled mightily. they'd been better literally standing off the rocks with pin k jig twister with snoopy rod.
Great response Bob. I was wondering about places like Lake of the Woods and some of those other popular Canadian lakes and whether handling would be productive up there. At one of the lakes we have fished up there, we often troll rapalas with rod and reel just before and after dark. But, we have found that "surging" the lure, similar to the action that you impart when handlining, produces about 2x as many strikes as if you just let the lure swim undisturbed. So I suspected handlining would work great, but was curious.
Some days I will jig downstream and handline back up. This year will 57th year of handlining, have handlined Detroit, St Clair, St Mary's River, Lake Erie, And Lake of the Woods, caught walleye, musky, bass(of all kinds), white bass, sheephead, perch, and lake trout. I think it is a little tougher with clearer water, so have gone to longer leads and using fluorocarbon line, more natural color lures. The picture is the reel I bought when I was 12, I made the money shoveling snow and cutting lawns. The reel cost about $20 in 1966.

Bob View attachment 880056
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Also my preferred method of walleye catching! I'm a regular around the upper D and SCR from MC to PH. Gotta keep your head on a swivel these days and nights!
handlining was used on the mississippi in the pwt.
Interesting. I'm amazed that fish can see anything in that river!
handlining was used on the mississippi in the pwt.
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One other place I forgot was back when I had a place on Crystal Lake in Beulah I would use a handlining reel like a poor man's downrigger. I would put a herring dodger on a long lead with a silver or white spoon and drag it along the bottom and catch lake trout, did the same on Lake of the Woods in the deeper trout waters.
Still a lot of hand liners and old timers around. I am going to dig out all my Victrola Boxes out, take some pics. and post
them. In the mean time, this is what i have on every day reels.
Beverage can Aluminum can Coin Gas Circle
I remember the first time I saw a handliner, must have been the late '70s, our family had gone out to eat somewhere and ended up at Bishop Park in Wyandotte to eat our meals at the river just before sunset. Saw an old guy in a small aluminum boat doing some strange movement with his arm down near the water and asked my father what he was doing. He explained he was was handlining along with explaining the guy was dressed in warm clothes because he'd likely be out there into the night. I'll always remember that image, that old-timer out there doing that thing he was doing with his arm, alone, fishing into the night, found it fascinating as a kid. Still do.
Our first family boat was 15' cedar strip with 10 hrs Scott Atwater, was great for handlining , the boat was something like this picture.


Water Cloud Boat Sky Watercraft
I remember the first time I saw a handliner, must have been the late '70s, our family had gone out to eat somewhere and ended up at Bishop Park in Wyandotte to eat our meals at the river just before sunset. Saw an old guy in a small aluminum boat doing some strange movement with his arm down near the water and asked my father what he was doing. He explained he was was handlining along with explaining the guy was dressed in warm clothes because he'd likely be out there into the night. I'll always remember that image, that old-timer out there doing that thing he was doing with his arm, alone, fishing into the night, found it fascinating as a kid. Still do.
Beautiful boat, and practical, too.
Looks kind of like the one my brother in law finished up this year. Not the best pic, but you get the gist of it.
Water Sky Boat Watercraft Vehicle
Our first family boat was 15' cedar strip with 10 hrs Scott Atwater, was great for handlining , the boat was something like this picture.


View attachment 880229
Handlineing on the SCR is alive & well. The Hillbilly limited out most days last spring on McGintys.
Gotta say this made me smile, lol....always hear about the question (what was your 1st memory?)....honestly, mine was getting sat behind the steering wheel of an old wooden Thompson boat....pretty sure I was 4, lol....have to confirm with my older brother, lol again....

Our family never handlined, an older retired buddy keeps offering to take me, just to do it....gonna have to take em up on that....
Our first family boat was 15' cedar strip with 10 hrs Scott Atwater, was great for handlining , the boat was something like this picture.


View attachment 880229
big rattle baits with a real slow troll upstream almost to a standstill. with handlining you can get right down in those holes holding fish and have your bait going back and forth sideways inches in front of their eyes. it pisses them off.
Interesting. I'm amazed that fish can see anything in that river!
Handlineing on the SCR is alive & well. The Hillbilly limited out most days last spring on McGintys.
I remember the first time I saw a handliner, must have been the late '70s, our family had gone out to eat somewhere and ended up at Bishop Park in Wyandotte to eat our meals at the river just before sunset. Saw an old guy in a small aluminum boat doing some strange movement with his arm down near the water and asked my father what he was doing. He explained he was was handlining along with explaining the guy was dressed in warm clothes because he'd likely be out there into the night. I'll always remember that image, that old-timer out there doing that thing he was doing with his arm, alone, fishing into the night, found it fascinating as a kid. Still do.
started handlining at age 8 pullin mcgintys.. going on 70. still have some of my uncle Jim's mcgintys. could have been him out there. thanks for sharing your image. it definitely stirred up some old memories of pullin wire.
When you think back to those simpler times and the boats we used, it brings a smile to my face also. No depth finders, electric trolling motors, heck even need a battery to start your motor.

Bob
Gotta say this made me smile, lol....always hear about the question (what was your 1st memory?)....honestly, mine was getting sat behind the steering wheel of an old wooden Thompson boat....pretty sure I was 4, lol....have to confirm with my older brother, lol again....

Our family never handlined, an older retired buddy keeps offering to take me, just to do it....gonna have to take em up on that....
As a kid I would rent a boat at Van's at the edge of southfield, and pull wire by gls, zug island, salt mines, fighting island, mud island (my favorite) area of the river. walleye run on canadian side by salt mines was phenomenal back then. smallmouth mixed in with them. the free press posted aerial views of the run in the river going from lsc to erie in the spring. tiny painted aluminum spoons were the bait. caught 3 walleyes that had been tagged at the mouth of the thames in 3 separate years. the 3 fish were caught in about a 2 week span. back then I was fishing almost every day. reported the tags to ontario and received interesting info about the walleyes. then there was old Angelo who fished in a small red thompson. we would exchange baits, locations, and stories. he was a great mentor. he taught me to respect the river. he would emphasize that there was just as much danger as fun. easy to forget when one is young and the fun is so good.
Pretty much the same here! Going on 68 this year, and My Dad would rent from Hoovers and never ventured out of the lower river with a 5hp motor. Sugar cut, Ford YC, Boblo (pickeralAlley) horseshoe, south end of Livngston. He stayed clear of the Trenton channel because of pollution , lol !
As a kid I would rent a boat at Van's at the edge of southfield, and pull wire by gls, zug island, salt mines, fighting island, mud island (my favorite) area of the river. walleye run on canadian side by salt mines was phenomenal back then. smallmouth mixed in with them. the free press posted aerial views of the run in the river going from lsc to erie in the spring. tiny painted aluminum spoons were the bait. caught 3 walleyes that had been tagged at the mouth of the thames in 3 separate years. the 3 fish were caught in about a 2 week span. back then I was fishing almost every day. reported the tags to ontario and received interesting info about the walleyes. then there was old Angelo who fished in a small red thompson. we would exchange baits, locations, and stories. he was a great mentor. he taught me to respect the river. he would emphasize that there was just as much danger as fun. easy to forget when one is young and the fun is so good.
pickerel alley. could I tell stories about that spot. a pwt was won with walleyes caught from there.. absolute pigs hole up in the small alley cut. that is an excellent spot for pullin wire because you can easily navigate the baits right down in the holes.
Pretty much the same here! Going on 68 this year, and My Dad would rent from Hoovers and never ventured out of the lower river with a 5hp motor. Sugar cut, Ford YC, Boblo (pickeralAlley) horseshoe, south end of Livngston. He stayed clear of the Trenton channel because of pollution , lol !
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