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As we drove into the lot at Island View Lodge on Rainy Lake in northern Minnesota, it only took a moment to realize this was going to be a different sort of walleye trip for our group. Instead of being greeted by the serenity of the landscape, we were greeted by sandbags and huge pumps spewing water from behind the makeshift dam.
It was somewhat disheartening to know there would be little in the way of "normal" fishing. Our milk-run of hotspots that characteristically hold fish in the month of July would be useless. The high water and cold water temps meant we would be starting from scratch.
Before we embarked on our initial voyage onto the water, our eight anglers from four boats hud... more
It's opening day! Not for baseball or the horse track, but for the gamefish season on the inland lakes of Wisconsin. The first Saturday in May is the official start of fishing season. The opening of fishing season marks the renewed traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation. My tradition is the start of my guiding season. Of course I do find time to take my son or daughter fishing too.
My opening day takes place on the lakes of Walworth County in Southern Wisconsin. The biggest Lake in the county is Lake Geneva; it's big and cold in the early part of summer. Because Lake Geneva is so deep and cold on opening day, I usually hold off and fish there a coup... more
Now before you ask, no I'm not talking about a fun game you can play at your next club meeting. I am talking about a great strategy to help you land more of these delicious little fillets with fins. Fishing the late ice/early open water season for crappies can yield some serious table fare. However fishing this transitional season is wrought with it's own set of problems. Using this simple technique will allow you to catch crappies with greater consistency.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of bobbing for crappies, let's take a quick look at what the crappie are up to this time of year and how their habitat is changing during this transitional season. When the days grow ... more
Across the Midwest, walleye anglers are getting into boats and waders and are chasing walleyes. Jigging is perhaps the most popular way to catch walleyes this time of year. Jigs are popular because they're effective. Following are some ideas for using jigs to catch walleyes in rivers right now.
Most rivers throughout the Midwest are currently low and clear. Minimal snowfall this year means minimal run-off. In many rivers the walleyes are holding in deeper holes. As soon as we get some rain and the waters dirties up a bit, the fish will really start moving. For now, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
With the clear water, the fish can be kind of spooky. Early and la... more
The first trip of the season is most definitely not the best time to deal with all the little things that can and do go wrong in a boat. Common sense dictates that they can quickly become big things and will ruin a trip if you fail to address them. Foresight can not only salvage a trip for you, but should you experience equipment failures in extreme conditions
it might just save you and your occupants lives.
This is just as true for maintaining a boat you may have owned for years as it is for a newly purchased boat. Proper rigging and scheduled maintenance is the key here and any corners that are cut-no matter how seemingly small-will end up costing you big time. Unless you truly po... more
I have been a fan of blade baits since the early 1960's when walleyes below the Bellevue dam on Pool 13 slurped in Sonars on fishing trips with my Dad.
We used to fish 'em on braided Dacron line-the granddad of today's superbraids. Monofilament was untested technology. Fluorocarbon wasn't even dreamed of yet.
About 30 years ago tackle pioneer Mert Wolf conceived a blade bait which gained notoriety as the Zip lure. It is still manufactured under a couple of different names. Wolf calls his the 'Dude'.
In 2011 firefighter Justin Blanchar and his Dad, Rob, turned the bladebait world upside down with the introduction of the Echotail, a hybrid blade with a Kalin grub tail.
Pro angle... more
With the internet it has been almost impossible to get any kids to play outside or enjoy the outdoors. Most kids are always "plugged in" to their phones or computers. This is a big factor in the decline of the fishing industry as a whole. Given that fact I take every opportunity to introduce someone to the sport I love and make my livelihood at, teaching people how to fish is my small way to pay it forward. Taking first timer's ice fishing is a little trickier: weather, deep snow and quite frankly the fish don't usually bite as well as they do in the summer months. With all that you need to really plan for the trip out on the ice. Safety is paramount so safe ice is the number one requ... more
Every spring, I look forward to the days when I can drop a boat into open water and fish the shallow water panfish bite. For me, this is an enjoyable time that frequently offers some of the best crappie and bluegill angling of the year.
Most anglers understand that this early season rush to shallow water is not to spawn. The water is too cold for spawning right after ice out. However, the strong instinct to spawn may have something to do with the shallow water movement.
The shallow water panfish migration that happens each spring is all about food. It is about finding locations that will have the warmest temperatures in the lake. It is these warm spots that will harbor the most active ... more
Every man has limitations which can not be exceeded without suffering profound mental distress. My personal panic stage for not seeing bare ground and open water is about six weeks.
January in November had most voices in my head screaming "drive south". These voices grew louder as the whispers to hunt deer faded with every doe hanging in the pole barn.
A brief respite from winter's brutality around Christmas resulted in return of perpetual tinnitus, the aural test pattern which plays when the voices go away. But the die was already cast.
Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama has been on my bass fishing bucket list for years. This 75 mile long impoundment of the Tennessee River ha... more
When it comes to fishing in a large basin like many of our flowages and reservoirs, electronics are a must. I spend a great deal of my time out on ole Lake Winnebago and she behaves in much the same way. I consider myself an above average fisherman in the open water on these bodies of water and can catch active fish on any given day. A variety of tactics always work from trolling the mud to jigging up shallow.
The hard water bite is a little bit more complicated than the summer for me. One thing that I have learned is that the fish retain some tendencies from the summer into the winter. One of these that I have noticed through my electronics is targeting the fish that are active and ... more
The Best Rig You've Never Fished?
Written in conjnction with Brian "Bro" Brosdahl
Amazing that such a versatile rig- this prefect presenter of soft plastics and livebait- would be so little employed by panfish fans. In reality, a dropshot rig can be as productive as a bobber and bait, or even a tiny jig. It's even possible that the dropshot is the most versatile rig of all, providing instant depth control; fishes heavy without impairing or impeding the presentation; shines in shallow and deep water; and activates softbaits like no other presentation.
Despite the rig's "advanced" connotation, the dropshot couldn't be simpler. Think split-shot rig in reverse. As a softbait delivery met... more
In two-line situations throughout North-Central Ontario - and much of the continental Ice Belt for that matter -- not much beats a jig and minnow combination for scraping extra walleye off the spots you jig. Spoons, rattle baits and other lures bring fish under you, and a lively dace, chub or golden shiner set up nearby adds a whole other angle to your game. Struggling against the weight of a lead ball in its nose or back, a minnow rigged this way is just too easy for a walleye to eat.
Inside a shelter, rig up a horizontal rod holder and set your drag to slip a little if a good fish scoops up the jig and minnow when you're not looking. I like shorter rods, from 26 to 32 inches long with a... more
Perch are unquestionably one of the most sought after panfish during the hardwater season. It would seem they have the perfect combination of scrappiness and delicious to put them near the top of any panfisherman's list. The habitat is vast in the northern tier of states. Farm ponds in the Dakotas, mega lakes of north central Minnesota, small to medium natural lakes and impoundments across their range, and portions of the Great Lakes. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on my strengths. A lifetime of fishing the deep natural lakes of Madison, Wisconsin, and over 20 years of fishing both Leech Lake and Lake Winnibegoshish in north central Minnesota.
The Madison chain is home to... more
Times were tight for Dan "Bimbo" Gifford back in the summer of 2012. This longtime union carpenter and laborer was looking forward to retirement after a 30 year career.
He had just 72 hours to work before qualifying for a full pension. Dreams shattered in an instant when Gifford severed his Achilles tendon and was unable to get work.
Gifford and his wife were able to survive with the small income she brought in and from a small panfish fly Gifford tied while trying to recover.
He calls his bait the Bimbo Skunk. When two anglers living 250 miles apart asked if I had ever heard of the Bimbo Skunk in less than a week it was like a whisper from the Holy Spirit. I had to find this ... more
The deep water basin that typically holds winter crappies was void of activity. There was not one single house in the area and very few old holes.
As my fishing partner, Charlie Simkins, and I walked through the region taking readings through the ice with our Vexilars, it became evident why this perennial hotspot was being ignored this year. There were simply no suspended fish anywhere in the vicinity.
We didn't waste our time. Once we were convinced it was hopeless, we pointed the four-wheeler towards the landing and left.
Once at the landing, we were loaded and off to a different lake within minutes. Thirty minutes later we were marking fish on new water and drilling holes. There ... more
Fifteen years ago I was living the ice fishing dream, spoiled by limits of big panfish nearly every outing on the lakes around Madison, Wisconsin. I was very fortunate to have become friends with Kevin Fassbind who taught me the ins and outs of ice angling for panfish on the Madison Chain. The real key to success was to aggressively search weedbeds for concentrations of gills and crappies. Underwater cameras were a relatively new innovation at the time and we utilized them to the fullest, drilling dozens of holes and probing each with the camera before ever wetting a line. Our strategy was based on the fact that panfish are relatively stationary in thick weeds - find holes with concentra... more
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