Advice From The Old Guide

By Ted Peck - July 1, 2013
Late last month I got to fish a few days with a young guide named Josh Tiegen who works Wisconsin's northernmost waters. The first time we fished together he was still a teenager. Last winter he got his captain's license to enable working the St. Louis River and Chequamegon Bay. At just 21, Josh was the youngest student in the captain's class.

Tiegen was mentored by legendary guide Jim Hudson, who died last winter when his snowmobile plunged through the ice on Chequamegon Bay. Jim's passing had great impact on young Tiegen, strengthening both his faith and desire to make a living at fishing.

At three times Tiegen's age we share this common ground and remarkably a deep fondness for the same water: 1,323 acre Lake Owen in Bayfield County. Owen is just minutes down the Delta-Drummond Road from his home on the Pike Lake chain. It is just over four hour's drive from my work place over on the Mississippi.

Most years I'm on the River a minimum of four days per week. The outrageous weather of 2013 has created the worst fishing conditions I can ever remember in a lifetime of fishing here.

Fishing with Josh last month drove home a lesson I hope you take to heart. Life is short. It truly is a journey of so much water, so little time.

I can't remember a year when I wasn't on the water somewhere at least 100 days. Over the past 60 years, the average is probably close to 150. Over the past 12 years since I retired from the fire department, this average has jumped to 180-some years pushing 200.

Here it is, July already-and I've only been on the water 122 days. Less than half of these on my beloved Mississippi due to near flood conditions which have persisted since the end of March.

Not fishing is simply not an option. So much water, so little TIME! When fishing is your passion, this mantra is an absolute truth.

Last month was the first time I've been on Lake Owen in seven yearsÂ…and Owen is one of my favorite lakes!

My first outing on this gorgeous, wild, crystalline gem was back in the mid-1970's. My boat was 16 footer with a 25 Evinrude tiller. She had a Humminbird Silent Sixty flasher for electronics and a MinnKota 65 on the transom.

Some young men used to carry certain items in their wallets in case they found themselves in a promising situation. I used to carry two shear pins for my MinnKota 65.

Success is more likely when preparedness stumbles across opportunity.

Wacky rigging "Senkos" was an undiscovered concept back in the 70's, but we somehow managed to pull piles of bass and a few really nice walleyes from Owen's wood-filled waters.

My Lund has a MinnKota Terrova with an I-Pilot. The Humminbird has a Lakemaster chip. When Tiegen and I slid her off the trailer at Otter Bay resort, it was clear that many, many fish on Lake Owen were about to have a memorable day.

Otter Bay resort has been a fixture on the southeast end of Owen since the 1940's. It is the only remaining resort on this tremendous fishery. For the past dozen years or so the resort has sponsored spring and fall bass tourneys.

Tiegen and his partner consistently finish in the top three spots. This year 25 boats were signed up for the spring event. Two person teams returned to the dock with over 200 bass. Just over 25 pounds took home the $500 top prize. Tiegen and his partner took second place with just over 24 pounds.

What amazes me is how anybody could fish Lake Owen for eight hours and not catch a limit of respectable bass. There is no size limit on Owen for largemouth, with the DNR urging harvest of this species.

Pride might keep a tourney angler from checking in a bucketmouth shorter than one foot long, but failing to catch a five bass limit is pretty much impossible if your line is in the water.

The recipe for success is simple: Six pound test fluorocarbon line, #1 Octopus hook with a wacky rigged, dark melon pepper colored Chompers salty sinker. Cast toward the wood or rocks. Wait two seconds. Set the hook.

I missed church the last Sunday morning in June for one last shot at Owen, with a plan of catching 20 bass before heading home. I got on the water at first light and didn't see another boat until 7:47 a.m. Don't people fish anymore? The Lund was back on the trailer just after 9 a.m. Mission accomplished.

Otter Bay resort is my new Bayfield County home. But with so much water and so little time I may not make it "home" again this year. The only finned critters my beloved Mississippi doesn't have are muskies and salmon.

The muskie itch got scratched with a decent fish from the Pike Lake chain on this latest road trip. But it needs to be scratched again. Salmon? This month can't slip away without educating at least a couple of Kings.

Meanwhile, the River is screaming my name. I will answer the call today. Tomorrow is never a guarantee. So much water. So little time.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.