Ted Peck's Articles
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Statistics indicate this is the coldest spring we've seen in the upper Midwest since 1951. Perspective on this factoid depends on how old you are. When I look in the mirror and see a face that's been around since '51 looking back at me there are more wrinkles than freckles from more than a half-century out in the wind, rain and sun doing what we love to do.
Thousands of days on the water spent with hundreds of buddies, clients and fellow pilgrims have provided a considerable knowledge base. When coupled with average angling ability there are enough building blocks on lower tiers of the Fishing Success Pyramid to ensure confidence that every trip holds potential for a productive day on the... more
My first real nice Mississippi River walleye started out as about an eight pounder. She hit one of the original Bombers long-line trolled behind a little aluminum boat above a wingdam on Pool 13 back in 1967.
The old red-and-white Bombers was one of about six or eight lures in a rusty Old Pal tackle box. She really made the rod tip of my fiberglass rod thump. Especially when chunking against the rocks.
We didn't catch and release big female walleyes back then. We didn't have livewells, either. My treasured catch was impaled through the lips on a long cord stringer
And dragged behind the boat as I used Dad's 5 ½ horse green Johnson to maneuver along the upstream face of the wingdam ... more
Flooded cornfields usually don't top the list of productive locations for chasing walleyes. But when a river is running belly-full from runoff and rain this refuge from raging current can provide your best odds for hooking up.
Professional walleye angling legend Keith Kavajecz and I found fish holding in this bizarre location one spring about 20 years ago on the Illinois River. Keith was pre-fishing for an MWC event back in the days before the more prestigious Professional Walleye Trail came into being.
The River had swelled to beyond flood stage. We were dodging massive trees at unsafe speeds when underway looking for fish. Although saugers which we caught prefer several times the c... more
Fishing's fourth season has seen quantum changes over the past 20 years with sophisticated electronics, power augers, quickly deployed portable shanties, sensitive jigging rods and dozens of options in ice fishing lures light years beyond staggering out with a stick and a spud to sit on a six-gallon bucket like grandpa used to do.
Every winter brings new gadgets and accessories to the hardwater arena. Many of these are children of convenience from the recesses of a wind-chilled mind. Innovation invites improvement, especially from folks who have a lot of time to sit and think while waiting for a bite.
Ice fishing is far less expensive than chasing fish in open water. You can be a pla... more
Keep your line in the water long enough and you'll eventually tangle with a dogfish, perhaps the most maligned rough fish swimming in Midwestern rivers.
Let's be honest here. If you're an angler who pretty much advocates catch and release a great deal of the angling experience is based upon the pull-the pugilistic ability of that critter on the other end of the line to rock your world.
Those folks who say they are sport anglers but revile encounters with drum, ling cod, gar, carp
and even white bass
have dichotomy in their philosophy which needs reconciliation.
All of these fish species put up a whale of a fight. I submit contention that the dogfish, a.k.a. grinnel, mudfish, bowfin... more
With the catch-and-release ethic so much a part of sport fishing in the 21st century you would think the freshwater drum would be King instead of "The Goat".
Drum, a.k.a. sheephead and many less glorious terms, is the Rodney Dangerfield of rough fish. This designation in itself is little more than piscatory racism. The drum is a hard fighter, willing biter and exceptional table fare.
I believe sheephead should be elevated at least to "sport fish" status like white bass, although gamefish designation is certainly deserved. Drum fight better than walleye and taste better than bass.
If these credentials aren't enough, drum should at least gain respect for their longevity. Becker's ... more
When I was a kid hours were spent thumbing through old copies of Field & Stream and Outdoor Life. The back of these venerated magazines had pages of intriguing ads for exotic hunting and fishing locations.
One of these fantasy destinations was Andy Myers Lodge in Ontario where a guest could catch trophy musky, pike and walleye. These possibilities were surreal for a young angler who could only experience mediocre carp, bullhead and sucker fishing within bicycle range from home.
A half century later I've been fortunate enough to experience some of the most exciting angling venues in North America. But I had never been to Andy Myers Lodge. When long time pal Ron Barefield asked if I... more
Until just over a month ago I had never heard of a Bimbo Gifford Skunk. When Dells guide Nick Olson mentioned this well-crafted #10 fly/jig in casual conversation I asked if he knew Rick Anderson, owner of the AAA Tackle Shop in Spooner. He did not.
The week before Olson and I absolutely pounded smallmouth bass in the Wisconsin River at the Dells, Anderson had me out on a pontoon boat near Spooner where we absolutely pounded big bluegills on Lipsie Lake. Anderson said we would probably catch more-and bigger-bluegills if we tempted them with a Bimbo Gifford Skunk.
Legendary names like Rapala and Mepps were once just anecdotes where fishers foregathered to rant about their passion. Fis... more
Smallmouth bass are on a full-blown feeding binge right now downstream from the Wisconsin Dells dam on our namesake river.
Extremely low water levels have concentrated baitfish by the gazillions close to rocks in shallow water, close to much deeper water and near riffles several miles below the dam where a sign cautions "no rentals beyond this point."
Thousands of smallmouth bass are working like tanned, finned border collies bent on corralling three inch long river shiners, chowing down on the slower members of these vast schools of baitfish.
Understanding the predator/prey relationship is a major key in consistent fishing success. At the Dells success on smallmouth is a simple mat... more
If rotary dial cell phones were available, I would have one. The next best technology for a simple river rat is one of those Trac Phones where you buy pre-paid minutes.
Mine is held together with duct tape and the "3" button is broken, So if you want to reach me out on the water and you're calling from a number with a "3" it will be awhile before I get back to you.
This phone has a voice mailbox, which I've never activated. People call it anyway. The phone beeps every time it locks in on a different tower and the phone asks me if I want to "listen" or "ignore".
Maybe a smart phone would figure I wanted to "ignore" after the 200th time this option was selected. My dumb phone res... more
The old saying 'what goes up must come down' can be applied to walleyes after their spring spawning run in a river. Legions of 'eye chasers will be out there jigging and rigging for their myopic Manitou when the fish head upstream. Few-if any-remain on the water when consensus amongst the most revered local river rats is that the big parade is over.
Many head for other rivers where the walleye wedding march plays a week or two later. Others stow their rods and get back to work. Our exceptionally warm spring this year has thrown classic walleye thinking right out the window.
On the Mississippi where I'm a full time guide pulling cranks on three-way rigs is usually a May tactic. This y... more
You seldom see a snowplow attached to the front end of a Corvette. Such a rig could probably do the job. But flying the 'Vette down the road to a shed where the plow truck waits is a more ergonomic use of both these "tools".
Some anglers have a sports car with a snowplow attitude when it comes to selecting the most deadly walleye weapon yet created: the jig.
The basic quarter ounce ballhead jig may put marble-eyes in the boat when you land on top of a hungry pod of fish. But walleyes are in a neutral to negative feeding mood most of the time. Tweaking your jig selection and presentation usually spells the difference between catching fish and catching lots of fish.
On any given day ... more
Mother Nature has made little ice this past week but those waters which wear winter lids haven't lost ice since the Packer's season melted away.
Days are getting longer. Come Superbowl Sunday we will be playing the back nine of winter-as least from a fish activity perspective.
On those lakes with 'safe' ice fish are in mid-winter pattern. Essentially this means active biting at dawn, dusk and when weather is passing through. At other times the fish may swim up and lick the frosting but are not eager to eat the cake.
A small amount of oatmeal laced with Berkley Gulp can trigger a brief feeding frenzy as it waffles down through the water column below your hole. This invasion w... more
When I was a kid pancakes at Grandma's house was a Sunday tradition. I'll never forget the warm maple syrup curling out of the elephant's trunk from that antique ceramic decanter.
Grandma said the elephant decanter used to belong to her grandmother, wife of a man named Shrake who served in the Union army as a civil engineer. When he mustered out of the service great, great grandpa Shrake had a hand in building one of the first bridges across the Upper Mississippi at Prairie du Chien.
I grew up on the River south of there, down on pool 13. Dad used to let me take our home-made pontoon boat out alone on overnight adventures, several years before I was old enough to drive.
The wildne... more
The Mississippi is getting sleepy, easing downstream in shades of gray which mirror skies overhead. By month's end backwaters will freeze hard enough to allow tentative steps by a vanguard of bucketeers whose number will soon be legion.
Last year November 24th marked the first trip out on the ice for me. It was good to see the spring bobber dance again, a welcome change from almost daily forays to the arms of mighty oaks waiting for a Booner and afternoons probing wintering holes for walleyes and saugers with clients and sometimes just for fun.
Walleye location doesn't change much from Thanksgiving until early March on Pool 9. If its still possible to launch the boat and navigate tho... more
A basket full of fish is icing on the cake for many folks trying to gain reprieve from life's stresses with a little time out on the water.
There is much to be said for taking time to ponder obtuse concepts like cloud formations, migrating birds-or the inside of eyelids-on a crisp October afternoon.
On countless occasions over the past half-century I have given serious consideration to bait. When you have time to delve into this metaphysical discourse it usually means there is still plenty of room for prisoners in the fish basket. There have been many instances where speculation and wonder focused on where minnows come from, far beyond the obvious answer "minnow eggs". If this subject ha... more
Minocqua, Eagle River and Hayward (Wisconsin) are no longer the fishing destinations I knew as a kid or even as my kids fell in love with back in the 1980's. All of these tourist meccas have morphed into little more than the Wisconsin Dells with loons-- some zipping around in SUV's with out of state license tags.
It is difficult to venture far from the beaten path when this travel route is concrete and two lanes wide in both directions. But there are still a few special places where cloistered lakes reflect birch and balsam sentinels with minimum impact from human interlopers in Wisconsin's north country.
The Pike Chain just south of Iron River is such a place, for several different... more
Justin Kohn says Libby whips up a whale of a breakfast at the Diver's Inn in Marquette, just an easy stone's throw from Lake Puckaway. There was no time for waffles, eggs and fresh squeezed orange juice as we eased away from this comfy sportsman-oriented bed and breakfast place at oh-dark-30. We had fish to catch.
Kohn has angling savvy and ability far beyond his 29 years, with great knowledge of fish behavior on his "home lakes" and tools like sophisticated electronics which keep his big landing net perpetually wet.
We briefly considered pulling planer boards on Puckaway, which has been one of the most consistent walleye producers in southern Wisconsin this year. Puckaway is like Ko... more
Dick Urbonya works harder at not putting effort into catching fish than anybody I have ever known. The retired Beloit firefighter has always had a knack for finding subtle nuances which make his minnow, waxworm, redworm or cricket just a little bit more provocative than a similar bait swimming 10 feet away.
"If you let the bait do the work its easier to focus on doing the catching," he winks while hoisting two crappies over the gunnel of his pontoon boat at the same time. Catching a pair of fish simultaneously on two poles would take too much effort. Urbonya finds it easier to rig two hooks on a single main line.
"In the summertime crappies tend to school horizontally," the 67 year ... more
What does a fishing guide do on his birthday? Take the day off and go fishin', of course!
Another day on the Mississippi would feel too much like just another day at the 'office'. Time for a road trip to my second most favorite water on the planet-The Wisconsin River between Merrill and Brokaw.
Walleyes don't run as big here as on Pool 9, but muskies are almost pests and the smallmouth fishing is outstanding. Anglers are also few and far between, because a cartopper, canoe or boat with a jet drive outboard are the only platforms which allow safe travel on this water.
Kurt Schultz knows every inch of this water, with knowledge far beyond his years. He's a hoot to fish with, parti... more
An angel was born on Aug. 11, 2001 just north of Cassville. She didn't look like an angel according to our perception of angels. This one has a tail instead of wings and soft yellow fur.
I didn't realize Hanna Banana was an angel until last Wednesday. We went on a turkey scouting/shed antler hunting mission on a neighbor's 200 acre farm the day before. I was tired after working along a tall ridge looking for sheds and sign, deciding to take in the vista of the valley below from a large rock. Hanna came over and put her heavy chin on my knee, looking for affection.
Back home she had difficulty getting out of the truck. Once in the house she couldn't get comfortable. The following morn... more
Upper Midwest anglers have walleyes on the brain this time of year. Their numbers are legion, perhaps because other piscatorial opportunities remain unseen. Catfish are a virtually untapped resource with equal reputation at the dinner table and greater 'street cred' in the realm of hand-to-fin combat.
Why don't we chase this whiskered walleye on the early side of serious summer? Tradition? Social acceptance? Species specific snobbery?
I suspect all three explanations. But I also suspect each to be a cleverly veiled excuse. Most who hit the water well before Easter are of two persuasions: either they don't know where to find cold water cats and how to catch 'em or know full well and... more
Twenty-three anglers stood waist deep in the chilly Maumee River waiting for the sun to peak over the horizon east of Toledo, signaling the start of another day of fishing. There probably would have been more eager walleye chasers along this hundred yard run of riffles, but it was a Tuesday morning and the ambient temperature was only 22 degrees.
On weekends when the annual spring run out of Lake Erie peaks about mid-April the fishers will be standing literally elbow to elbow. Why would anybody want to subject themselves to this extreme level of combat fishing?
Nine million big walleyes, tasked with running this gauntlet of floating jigheads and Carolina rig weights to carry on the fa... more
Life is a circle, with time on this planet known only to the Creator. Most of us would like to lead a fulfilling life, seen as part of the solution instead of being part of the problem when our time on the planet is done.
Humans are the alpha life form on the big, blue marble which is planet earth. We learn early on that life is a treasure. At least human life. There are severe consequences for messing with the lifeline of a fellow human. In Genesis the Bible tells us we humans have dominion over all other living things.
A nightcrawler certainly has less value to us than the family dog. But a life is a life. As fishermen we don't give a second thought to ending the life of a nightcra... more
Jimmy Buffet is right-a change in latitude can make a world of difference in a person's attitude. A couple hundred miles on a southern vector might wipe the snarl off your face. Cross the Arkansas state line and it's hard to keep from laughing out loud.
Arkansas is truly a sportsman's paradise. Right now this state offers at least three things you won't find much of close to home: open water, bare ground and striped bass.
Ocean rockfish, a.k.a. "stripers" are perhaps the hardest pulling fish in fresh water. The only potential challengers for this designation are Chinook salmon and flathead catfish.
Muskies would be out of the race after 20 yards. A big striper won't even look b... more
The concept of finding a hot bite in early January is an oxymoron which only a moron could believe is possible.
'Hot' is a relative term when the topic is activity levels in cold blooded creatures. Now is the time when a day on the ice usually starts out with slow fishing then slacks right off from there.
Fish in 33 degree water don't need to feed often or eat very much. They can sometimes be goaded into striking, but the strike window is relatively small. In 70 degree water an aggressive fish may streak five feet to smack a bait. In near-freezing water the same fish may move mere inches then merely gernip your offering with the lightning reflexes of a gutter wino.
Those of us who have been around awhile remember where they were when JFK was assassinated. I heard the news over a loudspeaker in sixth grade music class. This tragedy changed the lives of all Americans.
School was dismissed and I arrived home to find Dad hooking up his old green flatbottom boat to the back of our '63 Chevy BelAir. He was headed to The River in pursuit of walleyes and growled an invitation to join him if my butt was on the Chevy's bench seat in 10 minutes.
We hadn't been fishing the tailwaters of the Mississippi River dam at Bellevue for more than 20 minutes before it was clear inadequate outerwear would be an issue. Odds for actually catching fish appeared pretty l... more
Old Man River continues to show fishermen his complete repertoire of curves, fast balls and sliders in 2010 as we move through the 11th inning of a 12 inning game.
Lord only knows the changes we may see between now and Christmas in a year which started with less than stellar ice fishing into an early spring, gin clear June into a summer and fall which vacillated between flood stage and high dirty water with a few short chuckles of unbelievable action in between.
Coming into November there are only a couple more cards to play before Old Man Winter takes the mound and we enter the cold water period. The first one turned just before Halloween when he covered the 48 degree walleye "eat"... more
The Mississippi River will change a hundred times-at least one hundred times-between the first of October and the end of the month.
It's easy to write these words as the time has come to tear September off the calendar. The River has been running belly full, brown and angry for a solid week with more weeds coming down than I have ever seen in almost six decades on this water.
That's okay. When its time to throw October in the trash can walleyes will be going absolutely bananas on the wingdams, closing dams and other rocks-and a bunch of other special little places where I like to sneak in with the Lund when all the conditions are just right.
This has been the most challenging year I... more
"Kurt Schultz was one of those rare kids who learned how to cast before he could walk," veteran guide Bill Melanson said of his 30 year old protégé. "He was born to be a fishing guide and the Creator planted this young buck right in the middle of Wisconsin's best muskie water."
Melanson believes the 13 mile run of Wisconsin River from Merrill down to Brokaw is the most productive muskie water in this muskie-crazy state. Melanson said his clients have boated "somewhere between 2,500 -3,000 muskies on the Merrill to Brokaw run since he started guiding these waters in 1979.
Schultz started working with Melanson 11 years ago. "I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be in the boat with Bil... more
Facing you own mortality is a tough bear to tussle with. If the Biblical allotment of three score and ten years holds water, I still have a good 10 years to fish.
A lifetime of chasing fish all over North America has spawned several trips with annual adventure status. One of these is the February run to Louisiana's gulf coast to chase redfish and speckled trout with Capn. Daryl Dispensire.
Retired Chicago Bear Mark Bortz and I have made this foray for the past nine years, reveling in the warm winter sunshine in the perpetual party ambience of the happy folks down there who are content in knowing nature can provide for every need.
This idyllic picture changed forever a couple of mont... more
If you're one of those folks more at home in the great outdoors than a man-made environment, "cotton" raining down from cottonwood trees just before the Memorial Day weekend was a welcome sign.
The parachuting seed signals catfish spawning is nigh, typically beginning within 4-5 days. Channel cats spawn when water temps reach 78 degrees. This benchmark arrived 4-5 days after the cottonwood rain began to fall.
Funny how conventional river rat wisdom enables those who heed nature's whispers to consistently cash in on a river's bounty.
Channel cats are omnivores, dining on everything from hot dogs to Ivory soap. Nightcrawlers, cut bait, chicken livers, shrimp and decaying mussels ... more
Wingdams are one of the biggest fish magnets on the Mississippi River. They are also profound hazards to recreational navigation-and a source of curiosity in those who want to discover more about this magnificent fishery without the painful expense of repairing props, skegs and lower units.
Know this: if you try seriously to reap the bounty found on wingdams damage to equipment is a matter of when - not if. You should never venture out on this water without redundancy in power, navigation and safety equipment. Don't leave the dock without a spare prop for both the big motor and the electric!
Wingdams are rocky fingers extending pretty much out from shore at a 90 degree angle from the ... more
The slackwater/fast water interface frequently found in conjunction with a backeddy is a popular haunt of riverine walleyes in the spring.
Locating one of these fish magnets is fairly easy. But orienting a boat or making a cast that puts your offering in the optimum strike window is a study in precision.
Anchoring up is one angling skill that many casual anglers don't take seriously. River fishing isn't like lake fishing where anchoring within casting distance will usually pay off.
If you're in position to get a reasonable drift where the fast water meets the slack water you may be able to tempt a few fish. But if you anchor up to present an in-your-face presentation you ca... more
My tax guy tells me I need to buy a new boat every five years. This is the year. My 1860 VSD Lund was ever faithful. But it's time for her to go. With the Bush tax cuts set to expire the end of this year, I suspect many folks who fish for a living are pondering accelerated depreciation schedules on their "offices" too.
Those of you who have shared my 1860 VSD know she was a great boat to fish out of. A wonderful watercraft for covert operations-just a glorified flatbottom with a 75 E-Tech on the stern and a big yellow Lab on watch in the bow.
The livewell on that boat wasn't big enough. Seating was less than comfortable-especially when guiding three anglers. But it was a near perfect... more
Door County, Wisconsin has been one of my favorite fishing destinations for over 30 years. This is a place where you want to bring all the gear-from downrigger rods to perch jerkin' tackle-because the bite will always be good but finding the best action is a study in versatility.
Packing for a roadie to Wisconsin's thumb is a little easier this time of year. All you need is the ice fishing stuff: tip-ups for pike and brown trout, jigging sticks for walleyes and whitefish.
A GPS and compass are must have items. You'll want to bring a portable shanty, Vexilar and power drill. Driving on the Door County ice isn't a real good idea this winter. But it's a long, long way out to most of th... more
There is no doubt electronics will improve your ice fishing success by at least 75 percent. Both an underwater camera and sonar flasher unit will help you put more fish on the ice.
Which is better? Ask two old bucketeers what they think about either electronics or choice of underwear and you'll eventually get the same response. Camera or flasher? Boxers or briefs? Depends.
If you're an ice fishing addict, the obvious answer is "both". The downside of this response is two-fold : you can only carry so much gear and the checkbook contains a limited number of checks. At $300-500 per unit you may have to choose like a wise Latina.
You might base choice on how deep you usually fish... more
The hardwater season is coming late to the upper Midwest this year. Will 2010 be a year where we're back in boats by mid-February or will we still view tip-ups as the gamefish weapon of choice when turkey season is part of the agenda?
A bucket will be the primary boat seat for 6-14 weeks for most Lake-Linkers no matter how winter shakes out. Might as well make the best of it. Panfish get the lion's share of attention from the bucket crowd. In some lakes a large portion of the panfish biomass goes deep to hover just off the bottom in the mid-lake basin during the heart of the cold water period, becoming active only for brief periods at dawn, dusk and when a snowstorm is blowing through.
With so many hunting and fishing options crappies are all but ignored between now and first ice, even though some of the year's best opportunities for a nice sack of slabs occurs over the next 30 days. I would rather fish crappies on a river system than a lake. Chasing slabs in the fall is typically a boom or bust scenario. But wood is always part of the strategy. On a huge river like the Mississippi crappies like to suspend about four feet down on woody cover with a bottom depth of 10-14 feet. On small to medium rivers check snags and driftpiles next to-but not in current.
On Ol' Man River target primarily running sloughs and backwaters off of the main channel. Many of these running... more
Every serious angler has a favorite fish which they pursue with some degree of passion. Many chase Wisconsin's state fish: the muskie. DNR surveys indicate the walleye is our most popular gamefish. Some find happiness in a nice stringer of panfish.
Bass are a favorite target in this part of the state, but don't cause much of a stir in the northcountry. Smallmouth bass are generally considered more worthy adversaries than largemouth bass. Although these two species are both members of the sunfish family, they are entirely different critters.
The same dichotomy is clear in catfish. Channel cats are more abundant. They tend to run smaller than flathead catfish and will eat just about a... more
When I close my eyes for a 15 minute catnap and see my beloved Mississippi it's time to get away for a few days. Old Man River meets almost every fishing need. There are just two exceptions-salmon and muskies. The salmon itch has been well scratched this summer with a half-dozen forays to Algoma, Sheboygan and Racine. But the need to see a substantial Esox masquinongy charging wildly at a Top Raider just isn't going to happen on pool 9.
One question I hope to ask the Creator someday is why aren't there any muskies in the Mississippi River? There are plenty of these toothers in the Rock, St. Croix and Wisconsin Rivers-all Mississippi River tribs, but few-if any-in the Father of Waters. A h... more
An hour long phone conversation with Lake-Link's Darin Novak prompted this month's article. You won't find information on fooling August smallmouth or late summer panfish in the words that follow-although this is really what I want to tell you about.
If you're a Lake-Link member you're already somewhere between passion and obsession when it comes to fishing. At some point along the way you've probably entertained thoughts about being a fishing guide or an outdoor writer or a fishing tackle pro staffer or a top tournament angler.
Americans are wired to excel. It's only natural that those who see fishing as more than just a pastime would like some recognition beyond being just another ... more
One of the biggest mistakes in my college career was taking Greek Philosophy 481. This was an advanced course for philosophy students. Not a good choice for a journalism major who selected the class because the time fit his fishing plans. Besides a welcome "D" this class produced two epiphanies: philosophy students would rather talk about work than actually working-and a man can not step into the same river twice. I couldn't tell you the name of this old Greek, or the other Greek who opined you can't step into the same river once. A lifetime spent fishing the Mississippi reveals both of these ancient wise men were pretty much on target.Finding a consistently productive fishing pattern on Th... more
Nothing puts the pin in a fishing party hog faster than being forced to contend with discourteous boaters. Natural Resource organizations in many states-Wisconsin included-require young boaters to successfully complete a boating safety course before piloting a watercraft. I think all boaters should be required to show proficiency in boat operation. Further, course content should include information on boating courtesy beyond what is required by law. Some discourteous boaters are simply ignorant of unwritten rules out there on the water. Some are aware but operating on their own agenda. A few are intentionally obnoxious .
If you're a new boater and really want to do the right thing, pl... more
Not long ago a young man asked me which stretch of Rock River offered the best catfishing. The honest answer is 'that run of river you happen to be fishing at any given time'.
The first couple miles above Lake Koshkonong is a great place to get your string stretched. So is that mile or so of the Rock from the Jefferson dam to the school. Fishing around Fort Atkinson is pretty good as well. On a busy weekend you can hide from speeding boats and catch channel cats below the Indianford dam or from the county park up to Afton
if you aren't afraid of a little prop damage.
Between now and Memorial Day when pleasure boats crowd the river the generally quiet run of Rock River between Portl... more
Recent posts on the Pool 9-Genoa link confirm our human tendencies to make predictions on fish behavior based on limited information. It's human nature to see somebody catch a fish and try to mimic their behavior or to honestly believe walleyes are about to spawn on the Mississippi River in mid-March simply because the surface water temperature has warmed to 45 degrees.
Surface temperatures on several running sloughs off of the main channel warmed briefly to 47-48 degrees around spring's official arrival on March 20, driven by sunny days with air temperatures warming to the mid-70's.
Conventional wisdom says walleyes spawn when waters warm to 47-48. But there is more to the Creator's... more
My Dad was a wealth of homilies and old guy sayings which still whisper in my ear, even though he's been gone for almost 20 years now. One which comes to mind almost every day is "the best way to get two rods tangled is to get them within 10 feet of each other".
Others don't come to mind so often but are equally profound. "In March you can gain a week on spring for every hundred miles traveled south." Dad didn't much care for winter. He used to spend this dreary month somewhere in Arkansas, Texas or Missouri. Wanderlust for green grass, tee shirts and the year's first sunburn pulls me away from home every year about this time.
Interstate highways have added Florida, Mississippi, Ala... more
There is no doubt ice fishers are playing the 'back nine' of Winter in Wisconsin. But make no mistake, the hardwater season is far from over. Environmental changes below the ice are changing behavior in panfish, forcing successful anglers to adapt if they want to put some fish in the frying pan.
Barring a truly bizarre change in weather we should still have "good" ice for another 3-4 weeks on smaller inland lakes and backwaters of the Mississippi. Southern Wisconsin waters I've fished over the past several weeks have between 8-22 inches of pretty much clear ice, although the ice sheath is starting to thin around the edges in some fisheries. Runoff from snowmelt causes drastic changes unde... more
Thirty-one is a great number if you're talking walleye length. But when the home barometer needle hovers here you can bet the bite will be tough. The active feeding window for fish has been small lately
.roughly the size of a peephole in the armored door of a crack house. Arctic high pressure has dominated the for over a week now, no surprise with January weather arriving a month later than usual here in the stateline.
Icing a nice mess of fish for the next week or so is all about timing. You've got to be out there when the groundhog can't see his shadow.
Crappies on Delavan Lake are snuggled into the night bite mode, pensively nibbling minnow heads impaled on Hali jigs about halfwa... more
Fishing's 4th season howled into southern Wisconsin just after Thanksgiving, snap-freezing open water into walkable ice statewide virtually overnight. Most years the five-gallon bucket brigade migrates from sheltered areas like the "ditches" near Stoughton to Cherokee Marsh, Whalen's Grade, and sheltered bays of Madison lakes over a period of several weeks as the two inches of clear ice considered "safe" by hardwater anglers appears in these popular winter spots. Puckaway was covered with skim ice even before Thanksgiving.
This year Wisconsin's ice angling fraternity has a buffet of options to choose from, a good 10 days before even the most avid have their gear dug out of a back cor... more
Our recent monster cold front last weekend brought most fishing activity to a screeching halt. Exceptions to this pre-winter wake up call are walleyes, muskies and crappies.
Walleyes and muskies (and their respective kin saugers and northern pike) get most of the attention from the few who are still out there on the water. This suits retired Beloit firefighter Bobby Burnett just fine. Crappies are his favorite target.
"November is a time of profound change for those big slabbers" Burnett grins "Over the next 30 days crappies will move from suspending over the middle of the water column in deep water into the shallows where you'll find them when it's time to break out the ice fishi... more
October is a time of profound change in Midwestern rivers. On Mississippi River Pool 9 where I guide water temperatures were still hovering around 70 degrees at the end of September. A cold north wind blew that page off the calendar, causing water temperatures to tumble and fish to come alive.
Some folks call September "Slump-tember. There is so much food in the water for fish to eat action can be slow-even with water temperatures at nearly ideal levels for predator comfort. There is little incentive for a big ol' bass to garwoofle your $6 crankbait when merely opening his mouth amounts to a pass thru a long buffet line.
Anglers chasing smallmouth and largemouth bass on my neck of th... more
The Mississippi can be described as a dark mystery wrapped up in an enigma. Sometimes fish seem to be everywhere. Sometimes they just disappear. Crappies certainly fall into this category-easy as pie under late ice, May and October but tough to find as summer morphs into fall. Bear in mind these critters are never tied up. This is especially true in a river system where dynamics of their ecosystem are in a state of constant change. By early June the silver slabs are done spawning and swim away from shallow woody structure to find food and ensure survival.
Often these needs are met back in the weeds. As weed growth sees geometric increase as summer arrives in earnest, the number of places... more
My faith in the future of America was shaken to the very core not long ago when my sister-in-law and nephew "Arthur" came to visit for the weekend. My wife's sister works long hours as a nurse trying to provide for her son. His Dad bailed out when the kid was 10 years old. Raising a boy into a man is difficult when two parents aren't in a household. When Mom has to do it all alone, development can suffer.
This is the case with "Arthur" who is now 16 years old. He will finally enter high school this fall. He has at least average intelligence, but has been held back twice in school for reasons too complex and personal to discuss in this column.
I thought an afternoon in the outdoors wou... more
There are no 'sure things' on the Mississippi River in August. But rocky fingers called "wingdams" which help maintain a nine-foot navigation channel are pretty close-provided you can "read" them, of course. Be forewarned that learning to "read" wingdams will mean multiple trips to the prop shop for repairs. You'll ding or break off skegs on the motor. Maybe lose a lower unit or two. Wingdam fishing is a blatant risk/reward scenario.
What reward could possibly be worth a $60 rebuild job on a propeller? How 'bout a 20-inch smallmouth or six nice walleyes in six casts or a bucket full of jumbo bluegills? Wingdams hold this potential, a chance to dance with double-digit pike, constant actio... more
Catfish have at least one characteristic for the feline mammal which gave them the name-when threatened a catfish will often seek refuge in a tree. Boiling currents in the Rock and other rivers push virtually all fish species to seek refuge from high and roily water. Native intelligence tells channel catfish that the downstream edge of shoreline timber will provide both refuge and easy food.
Right now virtually all of the forktail's habitat needs are easily met within 5-10 feet of the shoreline, hunkering down in the slipstream a tree or similar barrier provides. Channel catfish are omnivores, eating everything from insects to annelids to ivory soap. They are aided in this process by an... more
"Esox lucius" is known by many names beyond its official Latin designation. Water wolf. Gator. Snake
and several other more colorful descriptions not suitable for this newspaper. For many, northern pike are the black sheep of gamefish. Muskie hunters revile them. Bass anglers curse their tendency to eat $6 crankbaits and swim away. Panfishermen don't even want to bring them in the boat. If you can manage to land one without losing a lure northerns often initiate one of two different ploys to let you know it ain't over 'til its over.
One favorite trick is to roll and flop violently in the landing net, snarling the mesh in a Gordian knot which can take considerable time to untangle. If you ... more
Thirty-five years of marriage has made me a better fishing guide, although I must admit guiding and fishing were both more fun back before the marital knot was tied and cinched down tighter than a loop in boat launch line you were foolish enough to let a client hold when backing the "office" into the lake.
Catching walleyes from May until the arrival of serious summer is pretty straightforward : fish where they are feeding when Wally and Wanda are in the mood to eat. This will invariably be in the top six feet of the water column during periods of low light. Fish are cold-blooded creatures. They are wired to eat the easiest available meal available with the least amount of energy expend... more
"What's the big deal
you catch lots of bass?" my wife snorted as she witnessed a victory dance accompanied by multiple howls and war whoops.
No point in explaining to someone torn from the deep metaphysical truths in the latest issue of Oprah that a 23 1/2 inch, pre-spawn smallmouth bass is a really nice fish
or angst upon discovering the camera was at home and not in the boat. What do you do with a fish like that? Release her of course
after confirming the length and 16 1/4 inch girth twice.
Water temperature was only in the low 60's along those sun-drenched rocks on that May afternoon three years ago. The bruiser bronzeback was probably the 15th or 16th smallie released along t... more
Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. This month it seems like all who sported shamrocks, sipped green beer and danced a jig have tied a jig on a spinning rod and morphed into walleye anglers
an every one of them arrived at the boat launch down at the river 10 minutes before you did.
A number of them have forgotten how to back boat trailers, check for drain plugs or ensure there is fresh gas in the tank before blocking the launch
delaying your overwhelming need to wash jigs and drown minnows for a few more agonizing minutes. There are two ways to deal with this reality. You can allow anger and frustration to cancel out one of the primary reasons you like to fish
or you can bide your... more
Walleyes are moving seriously into the spawning mode across Wisconsin and I haven't thrown a minnow at 'em yet. The reason stems from a convoluted mixture of logic and philosophy, which so far has revealed truly promising results. This self-imposed livebait ban is centered around theories and conventional wisdom in regard to walleyes which was thrown into cyberspace on the www.in-depthangling.com website recently seeking input from the walleye angling fraternity.
In five days this query generated 726 hits and 25 replies with those responding running the gamut from giving up on artificials and going back to minnows to taking a scoop of minnows along "just in case" to "haven't used minno... more
The Bible lesson found in Matthew 14 is having great impact on my fishing efforts this winter. You may recall Peter saw Jesus walking on the water and headed his way, perhaps to find out where the fish were biting. Suddenly he realized that most fishermen can only get away with walking on the water by faith
or in February in the upper Midwest. At least most years
on most waters.
This winter has been a study in contrast. Remember the end of January when ambient air temperatures dropped almost 50 degrees in a 24 hour period ? Now that is a monster cold front!
Human activity shut down more than fish activity after the front howled thru on Jan. 29. Air temperature may have plummeted, b... more