Fishing reports and lake information for Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, North Dakota and South Dakota

2014 Articles

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April 2014

Cold Water and Crankbaits by Dennis Foster
Far from a contradiction of terms, they actually complement each other… and quite well too During the first open water forays of the year, most walleye anglers-even your more sophisticated types-just don't equate hard bodied lures with early season success. In reality, nothing could be further from the facts. Yes, jigs and rigs have been and will remain the staple presentation in cold water conditions. But, I am here to dispel some myths and make a case for you giving crankbaits some serious consideration this Spring. Tried and true can also become tedious and tiresome. Take a leap of faith and put down your spinning rods and jigs long enough to break out the linecounters and lur... more
Austin and I were exhausted from hoofing it through the snow that at times was nearly waist deep. It wasn’t long into the first morning of last years youth hunt that we felt as though the odds were severely against us. Needing a break to clear out the snow in our boots we decided to set up against a large oak tree that had about a thirty yard circle around it without snow. Here we could try and dry out. We did notice that the area was pretty scratched up from turkeys as we nestled in behind the ghost blind. In front of us was a swamp area that held some turkey tracks around the edge. The spring turkey season is fast approaching and the anxiety of the weather is the topic of most ... more
Over the last few years I have spent many spring days chasing pre-spawn smallies. In April I target bronzebacks exclusively on Lake Winnebago (which has no closed season for gamefish) followed by the month of May on Lake Geneva, Sturgeon Bay and Big Green Lake. This year things will be much further behind due to our record cold winter and I will likely still be ice fishing well into April. With that being said, the past techniques that I have learned by fishing Lake Winnebago on cold April days will be applicable when the bass season opens in May on Wisconsin's inland lakes. All of the ice we have accumulated will set things back and extend pre-spawn activity for a few weeks at the very ... more
Early in the open water fishing season, jigs are probably the Number One go-to bait for walleye anglers, and folks who fish for bass and panfish also use jigs early in the season. There's a reason for that: Jigs are, plain and simple, fish-catchers. In fact, many anglers, if they were limited to one type of lure to use year 'round, would choose a jig. Jigs come in a lot of shapes and sizes and colors, and determining which jig you should tie onto your line can be a little confusing. It doesn't need to be. Just keep a few considerations in mind and you'll be catching fish on jigs in no time. We'll get the color consideration out of the way right away. Sometimes color matters, someti... more
Open Season Walleyes by Jason Mitchell
Some of the earliest open water walleye fishing opportunities occur each season on river systems and flowages or bottle neck areas that open up because of current. Open seasons and open water are necessary and there are so many good early season fishing opportunities. The Mississippi River, Rainy River, Fox River and the Missouri River all come to mind. Each of these fisheries are drastically different with different terrain features, different forage and ultimately different fishing strategies. While there are differences from one fishery to the next, there are also many similarities. The beauty of fishing rivers is that fish location does get dictated by current… or a lack there of. ... more
There are a lot of different ways to catch walleye and I have tried most of them. Some of these techniques have worked well under certain conditions, others have not impressed me very much. There is one presentation that has consistently been successful for me, especially early in the year. This basic presentation is the live bait rig. Although the live bait rig is often times thought of as a simple means of angling for walleye, it isn't always as simple as one may think. There are certainly many variations and noteworthy equipment refinements that can be made to increase success. Walleye are known for their finicky eating habits. Their pick-ups are often so subtle it is hard to t... more
With so many reasons to look forward to the spring one that always comes to like minds is the walleye run with ice melting and rivers running. About 80 to 90 percent of the walleye across the country move from main lakes into the rivers to spawn. Unlike during the summer when trolling for big fish can be hit or miss, big walleye become more catchable when they migrate upstream with the masses. Rain and melting snow will fill rivers at various times and produced strong current. Fast-moving water draws walleye upstream to spawning areas like a magnet. As good as all that sounds, high water and spring fishing present their own problems. But, attention to detail and modifying presentations to m... more
Tourism folks in Wisconsin's Indianhead Country are anxiously watching the weather this first weekend of spring. Last year they were able to put a positive spin on tip-up fishing at the Governor's Opener held on Lake Namekagon. If ice fishing in May were a once-in-a-lifetime event the experience would certainly be noteworthy. The winter of 2012-13 was semi-tough. The winter of 2013-14 was brutal and still making its presence known in a cruel April Fool's joke. Speculation at Governor's Opener venue on Balsam Lake isn't a question of ice fishing or not. The real question is whether participants will be able to reach water without an extension for their power augers. Ice will certa... more

March 2014

Nothing marks the start of spring like the thousands of walleyes that migrate up the Fox River each year...and the anglers that follow them. The walleye fishing on the Fox River is world class and offers a good chance at a walleye weighing more than 10 lbs. Understanding the dynamics of this river, such as how water clarity can change with precipitation and runoff, is critical to finding and locating big walleyes; and getting them into the boat. The section of the Fox River below the De Pere dam is 7 miles in length. The majority of fishing is done in the first mile from the fish refuge located north of the De Pere dam to roughly the Highway 172 bridge. There are plenty of fishing opp... more
Over the years, I have read a kajillion articles on how to catch spring panfish. Some of them have been excellent and some have been a little farfetched in my opinion. I believe catching spring panfish is not that difficult if one sticks to the basics. The first and most important concept in catching crappie and gills is finding them. I don't care what kind of angling skill a person might have, you can't catch fish if they are not there. For me, the most important aspect of finding shallow panfish is understanding why they are shallow to begin with. These early season fish are not up shallow to spawn as was once promoted by many. This springtime, shallow water migration is all about fo... more
Knowing that spring is a long way off in Wisconsin this year, we decided to take a family vacation to Port Charlotte, Florida. Yes, we had sunshine and 80 degree temperatures for most of our trip. Anyone who knows me, knows that I never leave home without my fishing pole and this trip was no exception. I booked a couple of fishing trips and had my sights on some shoreline fishing as well. A local bait shop, suggested Captain Billy Barton of Scale and Tails charters. Billy, a life-long resident of Florida has had countless hours on the water and has spent many days 100 miles off shore catching anything from Black Tipped Shark to Grouper, on those types of trips, success could mean 10,000... more
The USMC hymn traces the Corps noble beginning in the very first line. Pirates operating out of the Libyan port Tripoli were vicious cutthroats. Our first Marines went over there and solved the problem. Sadly, there is nothing the USMC can do about the increasingly cutthroat nature of the fishing tackle industry. If all the jig and spinner makers adhered to a credo of Duty-Honor-Country, America would be a better place. The tackle industry used to do business that way. If you designed a new lure and you liked that lure you could patent it. Period. Other manufacturers would respect your efforts. If it sold like hotcakes, they might change it 10 percent to avoid patent infringemen... more
With near-record days below zero and a winter that we have not seen since the 70’s, ice fishing tactics this year will need to be adjusted during the month of March to put fish on the ice. The winter is showing that we are nearly two weeks behind to normal. The recent ‘Battle on Bago’ results should be testament enough as anglers put more burbots onto the ice and into the contest than ever before. Typically the freshwater cod is off of its spawning grounds by this time of year. Fish in general will also feel the stress of this winter soon enough if they already have not. Thick ice, coupled with snow cover on top of the lakes, causes a lot of problems. Without sunlight hitting the wa... more
Another open water fishing season is closing in. It's still a ways off, but it's getting closer every day. Maybe the most important thing you can do to enhance your fishing is to use fresh line. Fresh line will help you enjoy your fishing and catch more fish. Here's why. Line that has been on a reel for an extended period of time probably isn't in ideal fishing form. It may not cast well due to memory. Memory is when line remembers the shape it has been in. If line has been wrapped around the spool of a reel for a long time, it might not want to straighten out as much as necessary when you are casting. Casting distance and ease of casting is not as good with line that has memory. M... more

February 2014

Best Lines For Ice? by Steve Pennaz
Application is name-of-the-game for determining best ice fishing line Whenever you play on the fringes of extreme, the choices you make truly do impact success. Ever see what -25 degrees does to motor oil? How about fishing line? When I started ice fishing line choice was simple. You used mono on "jiggle sticks" and Dacron on tip-ups. Pound test was determined by size of fish targeted-2- or 4-pound test for panfish, 8-pound for walleye, and 20 or so for pike. The biggest issue I struggled with back then was line memory. Cold, stiff mono went down the hole in coils so I'd load the line with enough split shot to get it straight, then select a float large enough to keep it al... more
Color Under The Ice by Bob Jensen
It might not seem like it, but the late ice season is not that far off. With Polar Vortex's and such displaying their power, warmer weather seems like a long way off. However, as the days continue to get longer and the sun moves farther north, we can be assured that the fish under the ice will sense a change and start to bite. One of the things that will determine whether or not they will bite your bait is color. Following are some thoughts on the importance of color under the ice. It's important to keep in mind that color is just one consideration whether you're ice-fishing or open water fishing. If the fish want to eat, they'll sometimes eat your bait regardless of color. Other ti... more
Deep Ice Bluegills by Dave Duwe
After first ice, the bluegills will migrate from the shallow water haunts of early season ice and suspend over the main lake basin. The best months to catch deepwater gills' are Late January through February. I consider deepwater any water depth over 15 feet of water. Deep water bluegills are roaming and don't concentrate in any area for a long period of time. When they move they are usually in small schools of 5 or 6 fish. I will always catch the upper fish in the school first not to spook the fish that are lower in the water column. I find that the upper fish in the water column seem to bite better the fish that remain tight to the bottom. The greatest asset to the deepwater gill ... more
February just blew in the other day with all the popularity and perceived longevity as the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Even the most ardent outdoors enthusiasts find our winter to venture forth, searching for vicarious escape on the Travel channel to destinations like the Bahamas or Belize. Campbellsport's Tom Gruenwald is a stark exception to this rule. Gruenwald secretly wishes winter will never end. If the icy grip of the silent season ever recedes, Gruenwald will chase it. Gruenwald is an ice fishing junkie. He has accepted this addiction, even penning a series of books on this sport-"Hooked on Ice Fishing". Two years ago he made the logical progression in spreading the h... more
Have you ever heard the saying "ninety percent of the fish are in ten percent of the water?" I find this to be very true when ice fishing for panfish. Ice trolling is a technique that I use to locate elusive schools of panfish roaming deep water basins and even shallow areas devoid of weeds. I start by drilling dozens of holes using a cordless drill attached to a 5" strike master hand auger via the Beaver Dam Drill Converter. This lightweight, quiet, but yet powerful combination, allows me to make Swiss cheese of the lake with ease and without fatigue. In the last few seasons I have even started drilling holes while remaining on my 4-wheeler because of the time it saves. I literally... more
What Lies Beneath by Ted Pilgrim
Discovering Hidden Hotspots on Ice Written in conjnction with Brian "Bro" Brosdahl Right now, there's a hidden hot spot in your favorite lake, and most years it never gets touched. "There's this lake I've fished my whole life," says legendary ice angler and guide, Brian "Bro" Brosdahl. "Thought I knew it pretty well. Then several years ago, I ran the entire basin in a boat armed with Side Imaging. What an eye-opener. Discovered a sweet spot that had likely been untapped for decades, maybe longer. It was just filthy with crappies and big sunfish. Still is." The truth, Bro says, is that every waterbody in the Ice Belt has secrets to share, if only anglers will "listen." Whether it's a r... more
Whitefishing The Bay by Scott Stankowski
Many years ago my father and I headed out to the Bay of Green Bay for some ice fishing perch action. We nearly lost the truck due to bad ice and the fishing failed. The fishing in the Bay since then has gone down the drain and so has part of the economy. The poor fishing has affected local guides and related services. With the advent of invasive species– most notably the goby– game fish have learned to adapt and have made the invasive species part of the food web. A fish that has taken advantage of this is the whitefish. Their numbers are at an all time high right now and the interest in fishing for them has brought the guiding business, as well as the economy, back in the right direc... more

January 2014

Dead Sticking Revised by Jason Mitchell
In a perfect world, we would always be able to fish for fish that make us look good. Fish that burn up to the presentation and rise to meet and greet you. Fish that are looking for a meal and want to eat. So often with fishing, we are dealt our hand of cards however and there are times when we have to react and make adjustments to what the fish are giving us. Massive cold fronts and other factors can shut the activity of fish down. Lop sided forage bases that offer endless forage options can also create tough winter bites. There are many situations where the fish are the exact opposite of aggressive. There are times when moving the bait aggressively causes fish to flee the other... more
Hit and Run Perch by Jason Mitchell
Schools of perch often seem to continually be on the move. When there are several mouths to feed, sitting in one location doesn't work. A school of perch can devour everything in its path. I would hate to be a minnow or crawfish when jumbo and all of his friends roll through. Because schools of perch are typically here today and gone tomorrow because of their nomadic lifestyle, finding and getting on top of fish can be always fleeting. How do you land on a moving target? Sitting in a good location where fish are likely to roll through isn't a bad strategy. If the fish are moving through and you have good traffic underneath you… why move? The other strategy is a run and gun menta... more
The middle part of the ice-fishing season will soon be here. There are things we do in the middle of the season that we don't do earlier in the year. For more fishing success in the next few weeks, keep these ideas in mind. I was fishing for perch through the ice last year in South Dakota with Blake and Taylor Anderson. These guys are as sharp as it gets when it comes to ice-fishing. The perch seemed to be kind of spooky at mid-day. We could see numbers of perch on the bottom with our sonar, and we were catching them regularly, but Blake and Taylor were catching them more regularly than I was. Here's why,,we think. We weren't keeping any perch that day, we were releasing them right... more
Locating a population of bluegills is seldom a problem on virtually any southern Wisconsin lake. Ice fishers are not shy about grinding holes dinner table close to another angler if they think this proximity will help them put some panfish on the ice. Ice fishers are like duck decoys. Two or three astride buckets on an acre of ice my not draw attention. But a dozen hunkered down on a tennis court sized parcel of ice will. Soon 12 become 20. If those who arrived first had any kind of active bite going on before the troops arrived you can bet aggressive feeding will come to a screeching halt once the tap dancing overhead begins. Winter bluegills often locate over flats. You can fi... more
Tip-Ups And Teeth by Adam Walton
When ice fishing, it's hard to beat the adrenaline rush that a triggered tip-up flag brings. The quick response that follows can be quite entertaining as well. Watching your buddies run to the hole, performing an uncoordinated ice skating routine the entire way. I don't know what's more amusing, watching someone fall on their rear or watching them pretend nothing happened after getting up. Regardless, tip-up fishing can be a blast. As long as the proper tactics are used, this style of fishing can be very productive, especially when targeting the notorious Northern Pike. Having the proper equipment, knowing where pike hang out, and understanding their feeding habits will significantly i... more

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