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The Fish That Keeps Getting Away...
I was spending the week fishing on Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada. My boat partner was my husband, Jim Behm. For those readers who are not familiar with me-let me introduce myself...I'm one of those addicted "muskyheads" that pound the water for hours on end and are happy when we see one fish follow our lure.
I've caught hundreds of muskies over the years, but had yet to catch my true
"fish-of-a-lifetime." That all changed recently. Up "in the bush" I caught, photographed
and released a 54.5" long musky with huge 30" girth. That puts her in the 50# range.
An unbelievable fish. An incredible fish. And she's still swimming around up there... more
Part of the fun of any new fishing season is the anticipation of exploring new waters, chasing a new species of fish, and using new fishing equipment. The ice-fishing world always has new items that can help you catch more fish or be more efficient in your time on the ice. Following are some ideas or products that will make your ice-fishing more productive.
If you're going to catch anything while ice-fishing, you've got to put a hole in the ice. Some anglers put lots of holes in the ice so they can quickly find the area that is holding fish. Unfortunately, the blades on some augers wear out quickly, which makes it hard to cut through ice.
And, in some areas of the Midwest, "snirt" is a... more
Here's a few tips I picked up and answers to questions I had after resuming ice fishing after being idle at it for 15 years... just to provide a reference, I usually fish for perch, walleye, northern pike, and pickerel through the ice here in New York State. We are allowed 5 tip-ups and 2 hand lines per person in most waters.
How to locate the fish?
Fish near other ice fishermen!! Chances are they are die-hards or locals who go out frequently, and know where the fish hang out. If you drive by a lake on a Saturday about 2-3 hours after sunrise, everybody should be set up, and you should get a good idea where the fish are. I've found trying to park the car in a legal spot to be a bigger... more
It is a clear cold morning in end of November. Some geese are still flying south for the winter as I drag my Frabill Ranger Solo out for my first excursion on the ice of the year. I am looking forward to icing my first fish. There is nothing like seeing a 10 inch bluegill or a 40 inch northern pike come swimming at the hole on 5 inches of crystal clear ice.
But before you can head out onto the ice there are things that need to be prepared to make your trip not only successful but safe. This time of year can be extremely dangerous fishing and safety is the number one thing to consider before venturing out on your favorite lake. Having your equipment ready to go not only takes a lot of frus... more
It is hard to imagine Wisconsin without its most famous river, the Bois Brule, or simply the Brule to those who know her best. Nestled in the pines of Douglas County, the Brule flows unimpeded 49 miles north until it empties into Lake Superior. Early explorers came up the Brule to meet its cousin, the St. Croix which flows south to the Mississippi. It is this north south trade route that kept people coming back. These early visitors told of the bounty of the land, great fishing and virgin forests. Soon rich timber barons and ultimately Presidents came to experience the Brule. The reason why they came to enjoy the river is the same reason thousands of people visit the Brule today - wild... more
As a professional fishing guide, many times I see clients show up inappropriately dressed for the weather. We may fish for 8-9 hours through steady, driving rain. Mother Nature is unpredicatable...you just might have to deal with a few days of rain on your next fishing trip, too. But, sometimes these rainy days yield big results (see photo!) In times past, outdoorswomen were very limited in their choices. Not so anymore.
Top of the line Guidewear Raingear has been available in men's sizes for many years. Now, Cabela's offers this uncomparable quality gear in women's sizes, also. A complete 3-piece system consists of a Gore-tex parka, a zip out jacket (windstopper, water resistant, and ... more
With spring just around the corner, fishermen in Indiana and Chicago are already thinking of Coho. With any luck these fish will be heading to southeastern Wisconsin by April 15th. Several variables influence the actual migration patterns and timing, including stocking rates and weather. With ice already melting in the southern most regions of Lake Michigan, the young Coho will soon come together in an annual migration.
Over the past several years, the Wisconsin DNR has stocked 500,000 fish annually, including 400,000 yearlings. These figures do not include stocking by other states including Michigan and Indiana. According to Brad Eggold, Wisconsin DNR Lake Michigan Southeast Region... more
My fly rod thumped vigorously as I stripped line on a native trout that had engulfed my homemade fly. I was in Grant County in late April casting for trout on the last day of the early season. I spent the night in a tent next to the gurgling brook and was awoken at first light by a rousing chorus of gobbling turkeys. The cool morning air soon gave way to warm breezes and a heavy hatch of insects. I heard this trout before I saw him. Fishing just downstream I heard the loud splash as he aggressively inhaled an unsuspecting insect. Even as I fought this trout, his cousins continued to feed, greedily taking advantage of nature's spring bounty.
Trout fishing in southwestern Wisconsin has... more
Why is shocking necessary?
The southwest corner of the state boasts a large concentration of trout streams and the fish populations keep getting better. But it wasn't always this way. Back in the 1930's water quality and erosion were so bad that carp and suckers were showing up in the warm shallow streams. Thanks to land management practices and watershed initiatives, brown trout are well established and brook trout are making a comeback.
Electroshocking is an integral part of watching and maintaining these populations. Other methods of trapping fish, like seining, are not practical because of make up of the streams. Seining is more appropriate for larger bodies of water with shal... more
When the air is crisp and the days get shorter, thousands of anglers head for the Lake Michigan tributaries to catch the migrating Chinook salmon, or Kings. Those monsters of the open lake are now struggling upstream to spawn. The adrenaline rush you get when you see a dozen 18 lb salmon in one small pool can take your breath away. Often I am so excited I can hardly cast. But for many fishermen this excitement soon turns to frustration when they can't entice the fish to hit. The right presentation can improve your chances of going home with a fish.
The first thing you need to remember is that the fish aren't "hungry." As they get ready to spawn their bodies change. All of their ener... more
One thing is for certain when November arrives fisherman will find no lines at the boat landing. You will be able to head out to your favorite lake and probably have the water to yourself. November can be trophy time for a variety of species but it can also be one of the most frustrating and unpredictable times in which to fish. The late fall period is one time of year when fishing the proper lake is a must. Lakes that are tough in summer and early fall can be hot before ice up.
First off we must determine which lakes are going to be the most productive. Clear water is a must for consistent fishing. The clearer and more infertile the water the greater your odds will be to land a trophy f... more
The Upper Midwest has thousands of miles of trout streams especially in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa. But the best of the best is in southwestern Wisconsin. In an area known as the Driftless Area, clear, cool limestone creeks cascade through rolling hills and under sandstone cliffs. Located between Chicago and Minneapolis, this area was untouched by the many glaciers that came through the region over the millennia. The result is breath taking bluffs, steep hillsides that defy tractors, and spring fed creeks teeming with native trout.
In this quaint part of the state driving is punctuated by unmarked, dirt roads and the Amish driven horse and buggy. It is an area that is st... more
Most women wouldn't even consider fishing in a tournament. But I have to tell you if you like to fish you should! I have fished in local tournaments and Pro-Amateur tourneys and have had tons of fun and learned lots. I have never had a bad experience and all of the participants, usually all men, have been nothing but kind.
The Pro-Am tourney I have been fishing in for the last 4 years is the Gary Roach Pro-Am in Minaki, Ontario, Canada. Don't let the name scare you this one actually has some women participants and all of them that I have spoken with have had a great time and learned a lot. Mr Walleye, Gary, his son Dan, and all the rest of the guides are great people to get to know. ... more
The abundance of salmon found in Washington State and Oregon is now in Wisconsin, but it would die tomorrow without the continued efforts of the DNR. For the past four decades fishermen have timed their fall fishing outings with the annual spawning runs of the Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead. What seems so natural to us now is really unnatural.
Although there were some salmon present in the Great Lakes as early as 1877, serious stocking didn't come about until the introduction of the first strain of Pacific salmon in the 1960's. In 1964 and 1965 the Wisconsin DNR got salmon eggs from Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Raised and introduced as a predator to control the alewife population, n... more
The man I adore, my husband and friend of 31 years, has once again opened my eyes to his way of thinking. We've not only made the connection, but we've made the fishing connection. I've always had a pretty good insight into the way this man thinks, but there's been a few times in our marriage when I couldn't comprehend him. For instance, I could never understand why he needed a dozen fishing rods, hundreds of lures and everything else that is required and needed to fish today. I recall his childhood stories of him and his dad fishing together, and back then, all you needed was a fishing pole, hook, sinker, and an old soup can filled with a few worms. Once again, my husband has changed my way... more
For serious sauger fishermen there are two times to fish the Mississippi River, the spring run and the fall run. Simple, but deadly. During both of these times of the year the elements are the same: cold weather and hot fishing. For most of us the weather alone is a mess and we are reluctant to leave the comfort of our warm home. But fishermen in Alma have another definition of "mess" - but I'll get to that later. When the news reports started to mention snow in parts of Canada and flurries in northern Minnesota, die-hards made their way to locks and dams for the annual ritual. And so far the run has lived up to its reputation.
The last week of October saw hot action with fishermen g... more
Spring fishing on the Mississippi River centers on one thing - walleyes. Every year in April, the fish move upstream to spawn in the annual ritual. These fish are big and hungry, giving you your best chance at a trophy. Walleyes between 8 to 10 lbs are not uncommon with the occasional fish tipping the scales at 13 pounds. According to pro fisherman Ted Takasaki, "the Mississippi River is home to more walleyes and saugers now than ever." While many fishermen agree, there are still many among us who put back those large, trophy females to make sure the walleye population will be strong in the future. There are plenty of smaller fish to fill your stringer. This bite the real deal but you... more
For serious walleye fishermen there are two times to fish the Mississippi River, the spring run and the fall run. Simple, but deadly. During both of these times of the year the elements are the same: cold weather and hot fishing. For most of us the weather alone is a mess and we are reluctant to leave the comfort of our warm home. But fishermen in Alma have another definition of "mess" - but I'll get to that later. After the ice shacks have been dragged off the lakes and the raw weather of March is in full swing, die-hards made their way to locks and dams for the annual ritual. And this year's run should be as good as ever.
Fishing starts early on the float with car... more
As the fog slowly lifted from the valley floor, I heard a turkey gobble from the ridge above. The brook trout didn't seem to mind as I silently landed my sixth fish in the past hour. For those of you who haven't visited southwestern Wisconsin, you're in for a treat. Concentrate on native brook trout and you're sure to have a trip worth remembering.
My obsession with native trout happened after I graduated from college. Before then I was happy with dumb stocked browns, after all I was a kid with a short attention span. But as I got older, I wanted a more sophisticated fishing experience. Unfortunately, thirty years ago I was hard pressed to find native brook trout in Wisconsin. They ... more
Two of Wisconsin southeastern rivers are home to a flurry of salmon as they return to spawn each fall. Other species come to gorge themselves on the egg feast. The Pike River in Kenosha County and the Root River near Racine play host to this urge to procreate and are poised for one of the best fall runs ever.
The Pike River is located north of the city of Kenosha. The mouth of the river is located off of Hwy 32 about one and a half miles from downtown Kenosha. There is a convenient parking lot on the east side of the highway just downstream from the bridge. At the beginning of the salmon run, head for the beach and cast into the lake. Here fish are at their freshest and can be caught... more
Every fall thousands of fish enter the tributary streams of Lake Michigan, and where there are fish there are fishermen. While the vast majority of anglers are honest and ethical, there are still individuals who poach and find the salmon an easy target.
I recently got the chance to talk to Joe Jerich, Marine Unit Supervisor and Warden. He said that in a 5 day period this past October, they issued 72 citations with over $19,000 in fines! All of that in only 5 days. Twenty two citations were given for fishing without a license, followed by failing to release a foul-hooked fish, fishing in a refuge, snagging, and over bagging. There were also four counts of resisting and obstructing a co... more
Sorry to say there have been at least 9 fish kills in SW Wisconsin this year so far. In February 6 miles of the west branch of the Sugar River were killed. Recently removed from the federal list of degraded waters, this stretch of river had been improved after $900,000 worth of restoration work. In February a large, unknown amount of liquid manure was spread on a frozen field near the town of Blue Mounds. After a rise in temperature, the manure ran down the slope into the water. The DNR still doesn't know the full extent of the damage. Over 100 dead fish have been recovered so far, but more dead fish may lie on the bottom. The DNR won't know the extent of the kill until the water temp... more
It is fall and for anyone who lives near Lake Michigan, fall means salmon. In the next few months salmon and trout leave the deep waters of the lake in search of shallow gravel beds upstream. The sheer abundance of these trout and salmon make it a fishing bonanza. There are different sizes and types of fish in the river and the more you know about each one the better your trip will be. So gear up. This fall will be an excellent season for anglers.
One of the best fall fisheries is the Chinook run. Also knows as King salmon or Kings, these powerful fish start entering the tributaries in September. Chinook are traditionally described as iridescent green or blue-green with black spots ... more
In a previous article I gave an account of a typical shocking run conducted by the DNR. In general, the workers use probes to send electrical current into the water to locate and briefly disorient trout. The fish are then netted, measured, weighed, and returned to the water. In a recent visit to the Lacrosse DNR office I was able to learn even more about how electroshocking helps officials better manage our favorite trout streams.
First, the DNR conducts shocking at assigned stations up and down the watershed to determine the overall health of trout populations. The location of the stations remains constant so that the DNR can better evaluate changes in fish, temperature, turbidity/flo... more
One drive through the Mississippi River town of Stoddard, and you'll know if fish are biting. In the spring, trucks parked up and down the road mean walleye. But in late December the traffic means hot bluegill action. Squeeze into the first parking spot you find and get ready to fish. Stoddard's habitat work has become a magnet for fish and fishermen alike.
Most Mississippi backwaters are well known for good ice action, but the area around Stoddard has experienced a transformation thanks to new habitat work. Eight years ago Stoddard Bay was a vast body of deep water. There was little to no structure and very few weeds. High water levels from the dam had eroded away rock bars and fil... more
Want to learn how to catch more fish? Go to school! Here in Wisconsin we are
blessed with thousands of bodies of water to wet a line on. Many of us grew up learning
to fish from our parents or grandparents, but, not everyone is that lucky. As a fishing
guide, I meet many anglers new to the sport. This is particularly true with women.
How is a gal supposed to learn to jig for walleyes or troll for salmon? The
Badger State hosts a myriad of "female-friendly fishing schools" which provide the
opportunity to learn to fish for a variety of species.
First, for ladies looking to attain their sea-legs I would highly recommend
enrolling in a boater's safety course. Many communities ... more
There has been an on going tension between residents of Wisconsin and residents of Illinois and it has nothing to do with the football rivalry between the Packers and the Bears. This tension is about the apparent disparity over the yellow perch regulations on Lake Michigan. There is a saying that it is darkest just before it goes pitch black. These are definitely the dark days for perch. Since the 1980's perch populations have declined more than 90%. In 1996 the commercial fishery was closed and stringent angling restrictions were put into place. Still perch numbers stayed low with only strong year class 1998. With such dwindling numbers and the 1998 year class reaching the end of its... more
Southwestern Wisconsin is synonymous with great trout fishing. Here beautiful hills surround cold spring fed creeks that are rich in invertebrates and teaming with trout. But it wasn't always this way. In 1977 the DNR initiated its Trout Stamp program and started an impressive 27 year run of improving trout streams state wide. The LaCrosse DNR office has the most aggressive habitat restoration program in the state according to Dave Vetrano. Nearly 23% of all trout stamp money is directed to the La Crosse DNR office for habitat work and hundreds of miles of stream have been improved. But it isn't only the efforts of the DNR. Many players are involved from the Soil and Water Department ... more
The Lake Michigan fisheries netting and surveying has already started for 2005. Yellow Perch, Steelhead, Lake Trout, and Walleye are all on the agenda, making this spring very busy for the DNR.
Underway already by the end of last year, the first species to be completed this year was the Yellow Perch. Since the 1980's, perch populations have declined more than 90% and the DNR has been searching for answers. Wind and wave action along will low food availability and increased predation are blamed for this decline. In the past, studies have shown that a low population of perch is still able to produce a large number of eggs. Yet survival from the egg and larvae stage to the fingerling st... more
On some bodies of water, at some times of the year, the walleyes bite best at night. That is especially true in the fall months. Here is how you can get in on this action.
The best night-bite lakes for walleyes are often the lakes with deep, clear water, although I have done well on smaller, darker lakes from time to time. However, its a pretty safe bet that the deeper, clearer lakes will be better.
Some anglers plan their night fishing trips around the moon phases, and if you can do so, thats great. But just like with any fishing, the best plan is to go whenever you get the chance. For the record though, I can remember fishing under a full moon many nights when the fish really bit g... more
Every year the Wisconsin DNR completes a series of fish surveys. They use both nets and electroshocking to catch the fish and keep track of the health of Lake Michigan. The species on the agenda for this spring are yellow perch, Steelhead, Lake Trout, and walleye, making this a very busy time for the DNR.
The yellow perch surveys started already at the end of last year. Since the 1980's, perch populations have declined more than 90% and the DNR has been searching for answers. Wind and wave action along will low food availability and increased predation are blamed for this decline.
In mid February the DNR finished their mesh netting of Yellow Perch. They had hoped to be done earlier,... more
As I'm approaching age 50, I've finally discovered my passion in life. I LOVE TO FISH!
I guess you could say that I've always had a genetic urge to fish. As a child growing up, I always had a strong desire to fish, but was never given an opportunity to go, as only my four brothers were allowed; you know the old cliché, "Girls can't fish!" I always enjoyed hearing about my brother's stories, but I never realized what I was missing out on. However, I hoped that someday I would pick up the sport.
As I went through life, getting married and taking care of a family, I had forgotten about my goal of fishing. My husband would fish here and there with friends, but it didn't dawn on me to tr... more
As the water cools from the summertime highs the Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike and Musky again move back to the shallow weed flats. In the fall the fish are aggressively feeding before winter sets in. The best presentation to catch them is the tried and true spinnerbait. The best thing about a spinnerbait is the many different presentations available. From slow rolling them in deep water to trolling large baits for covering a lot of water, spinnerbaits provide many opportunities for fast action.
The first thing to consider is the weight of the spinnerbait. The best all around bait that I use is a ½ oz. Booyah spinnerbait made by Pradco. Using anything lighter makes it very hard t... more
The only problem I have in October is deciding what to fish for. Whether you are after a 40 pound musky, a 12-pound walleye or six pound smallmouth, the time is right in October. Sure there are those diehard fishermen who only chase after on specie. However, there are many like myself who prefer to fish for all species. This means taking advantage of every minute and spending your time wisely. This is no time to check out new water. Fisherman will do best by fishing water they know is productive and has produced trophy fish in the past.
Each year fisherman put in their time in hopes of landing a trophy musky in the fall. Pick a lake or flowage with a quality musky fishery that has produce... more
The autumn months offer so many options to sports enthusiasts. There's football on Saturdays and Sundays.
There's goose, duck, pheasant, deer, and small game hunting.
There's the traditional "drive-around" to look at leaves in their brilliant fall colors, visit orchards, and to do whatever else people who enjoy that sort of thing do.
What many outdoor folks forget, or don't realize, is that a day on the water in the fall can be very, very rewarding, in a number of ways. Here's what I mean.
Fall fish have received a message from Mother Nature that it's time to start fattening up for the winter months. Mother Nature sends this message through falling water temperatures and shorter ... more
One over looked period to catch largemouth bass consistently is the early fall period. Many bass anglers do well on lakes and flowages in spring and summer but they fail to key in on the major bass movements that are about to occur once. These bass movements on many natural lakes and reservoirs can be dramatic and offer excellent fishing.
Many bass anglers love to fish the slop and shallow weeds in summer. By early September fishing the slop in the back bays is no longer a predictable pattern. While there may be a few stragglers in the slop, the bulk of the bass have moved. What happens in the early fall is that the weeds start to die off and there is a major migration of baitfish into ... more
Just because it's after Labor Day, that doesn't mean that it's the end of the fishing season. My best months for smallmouth bass are September and October. The shorter days and cooler nights bring the suspended main lake smallmouth bass back to their rocky haunts. This time of year I prefer points; main lake rocky points. The lake I fish most of the year is Lake Geneva in SE Wisconsin. Lake Geneva is a very deep lake with a lot of gravel and rock. Rock is a perfect place to find crayfish; which is a primary food source for the smallmouth bass.
The points I like are where the water comes from the deepest portion of the lake. For example, Lake Geneva has a couple places where the ... more
Sometimes anglers get in a rut. So much of the time we tie on the lure that was productive on our last fishing trip and stick with it too long. Although that lure might be producing o.k., there could be another lure that would be much more productive. That point smacked me over the head on a recent fishing trip.
My nephew Sam and I traveled to central Minnesota in early August to join our bass-catching friend Mike Frisch. We had an afternoon and the next morning to chase bass. The bass were "on a pretty good jig-worm bite," Mike told us when we arrived. That made sense, largemouth are almost always willing to eat a jig-worm, especially this time of year.
Sam has caught a lot of fish an... more
The idea of courtesy at the boat ramp is something that should be thought of early in the season, but in reality, anytime is a good time to think about getting your boat in and out of the water quickly but safely. There is no need or reason why a ramp should be tied up by a boater loading or unloading for more than a couple of minutes maximum.
On a recent weekend at a popular Midwest lake that I was visiting, it was late in the afternoon and a storm was quickly approaching. We headed back to our take-out point, a three-wide ramp. We arrived in plenty of time to beat the storm, but two of the ramps were tied up for ten minutes apiece by boaters who were loading their boats. If the storm w... more
By August most waters reach the maximum water temperature and water usage by watercraft enthusiasts is also at its peak. Fish are feeding on a regular basis but you would never know it by listing to anglers. The "Dog Days of Summer" Syndrome takes the blame for many an empty live well. The key is to find a place where fish are active and you can escape some of the boat traffic.
Fishing a river in late summer will give you the best of both worlds. Smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike and perch are all active during the late summer period. While all species may be active it is the smallmouth fishing that takes center stage. Besides the numbers big fish are also common. These river fish h... more
For years, I have wanted to fish smallmouth bass on the Upper Mississippi River, northwest of Minneapolis. I had heard that it is one of the best river smallie spots in the country. In early June, I had the opportunity to make that trip and was planning on fishing the stretch in and around Monticello, Minnesota for up to four days. I know rivers can be unpredictable, especially when you have not had a chance to fish them before or due to changing weather conditions. To be safe, I had a Plan B and a Plan C.
I arrived in Monticello the morning of June 9 on an overcast and potentially rainy day. The river seemed to be running fast and wasn't as clear as I had hoped. I had heard the riv... more
When the heat of the summer comes the Northern Pike action also heats up. Northern Pike prefer cool water to make their home, which makes them very predictable in the hot summer months. Big Pike will either be on the thermocline if the lake has one or on the deep weed line where they can attack their prey. The two lakes I fish most are Delavan Lake and Lake Geneva and each have a different pattern.
Delavan Lake has the deep weed line bite. The fish in July and August are in the 19-26 ft depth range associating with the deep weeds. The best way to catch these fish is by lindy rigging suckers. I prefer using a ¾ oz walking sinker and a 1/0 bait hook. Circle hooks also work very wel... more
So you want to get some fly fishing gear but you don't know where to start. Like anything unfamiliar, it can be very intimidating. The good thing is it's not hard to get set up.
When someone comes into the shop and tells me they are new to fly fishing and want to get set up my first question is what species of fish you are going to target. Someone fishing for trout or bluegills is going to have different equipment needs than someone looking to fish for bass or steelhead. Imagine trying to golf eighteen holes with only one club. You would do some things well and others very poorly.
The first thing to select will be the rod. Fly rods use a weight system to designate their size. For example... more
Finding fish is almost always the key to fishing success. It has been said so many times before: You can't catch'em if you can't find'em. There are a few things to keep in mind when searching for summer fish.
First, remember that eating is what fish do all summer. Their main objective every day is to find something to eat. Therefore, you should be looking for the areas that hold the food for the fish. Smallmouth bass eat crawdads much of the summer, so you should be fishing where the crawdads live.
Walleyes eat perch in some lakes and open water forage like smelt in other lakes. If you're on a lake where they eat perch, you should be fishing near the bottom.
If you're on a lake w... more
It is summertime and the dew is heavy on the truck as I head out to the lake. The may fly hatch is on and they are littered everywhere on the ground. I get to the lake and back my new Action Marine Skeeter 2050ZX into the water and fire up my Yamaha 250 four stroke but instead of heading to my favorite point or rock pile you head out to the flats. It doesn't seem like typical walleye structure and the techniques for fishing them even seem stranger.
As I arrive to the flat I try to decide whether to run my favorite crank bait or troll crawler harnesses. Both can work very well but I prefer to use crawler harnesses during the hatch, but don't be afraid to throw out crank baits like a Dave's ... more
Fishing season is here! Opening day has come and gone and the pre-spawn big fish bite is gone. Even picking a few fish off the beds and releasing them to spawn again is gone. You go back to these same areas, and after 50 casts you end up with zilch. You stand there in the boat....rod at your side pointing towards the water.... drifting...staring...adjust your hat...slap a bug on your neck...thinking "now what?" I know you are doing these things because I've been there too many times to count. After years of personal research, I've come up with some techniques that work for me. But first, let us examine the bass and the stages they go through after the spawn. During May and early June... more
With salmon catches reaching all time highs on Lake Michigan more and more anglers are flocking to the nearest boat ramp all along the Lake Michigan coast. Fisherman from Sheboygan south to Kenosha have been out in full pursuit, targeting the elusive and feisty Coho and Chinook Salmon that roam the vast expanses of Lake Michigan, in hopes that one just might crush their spoon or dodger/fly like a freight train. Some may believe that the only way to get out and land a few of these silver bullets is to run way offshore into the blue abyss, that's not the case for a majority of the season. The boat and much of the gear you own can go from the inland lake out to the big pond with little or no va... more
Smallmouth bass can be easy to pattern during late spring through early summer. They are shallow and will aggressively hit a variety of presentations. Once they enter the post spawn period they can scatter on many lakes and be difficult to locate let alone catch. If the lake is clear and has an abundance of deep water even seasoned anglers will have a tough time. For the most part many anglers just plain give up.
The key to catching smallmouth in natural lakes during summer is timing. You can expect to find peak feeding periods where smallmouth will go on a feeding binge. Depending on the lake you are fishing these feeding periods can occur early or late in the day while on extremely clear... more
While fishing is seldom easy, there are times when finding a productive pattern requires less effort. Spending most of my life on the water I have seen many patterns change from year to year. Much depends on water levels, weather and forage, the things out of the angler's control. For me, figuring out the pattern is often a challenge that is more rewarding than the catching.
However, there are a few distinct patterns that I can count on like clockwork, which is important when you fish for a living. One pattern that has proven effective for me throughout the years is cranking the weeds during early summer. The best thing about this pattern is that is works in all types of water and fo... more
Early in the open water fishing season, many of our favorite fish that live in Midwest lakes are active in the shallow water, and when they're shallow, they are often willing to bite.
However, shallow water fish are often quite spooky. Too much noise or motion will make them skittish. They will either leave the shallows or just not bite until things quiet down. To catch these shallow water fish, there are a few things we need to keep in mind.
Fish in clear water will be more spooky than fish in stained or dirty water. Clear water fish are just a little more nervous when they're shallow. An angler needs to be even more cautious when fishing shallows.
First of all, make longer cas... more
The average angler has probably $2000-$5000 worth of fishing tackle. Is all that tackle worth the money? I think not. I have been fishing for over 35 years and guiding for 13 years, trust me I have more than my fair share of tackle and equipment, but I would have to say that out of all the tackle I have, the best bait is the tried and true nightcrawler! Those very easy to come by bait - for any kid with a flashlight and a wet yard,
the biggest concern among these kids is not finding them but rather avoiding the mosquito bites while searching.
When I started guiding, years ago, I was an artificial bait guy; jigs, plastic worms, spinnerbaits, etc. Oh, I caught fish, sometimes a lot... more
Fly fishing has often been thought of a mysterious form of fishing that you could only catch trout with. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like fishing with conventional tackle, fly fishing can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be and species from bluegills to billfish can be caught with fly tackle.
The difference between fly tackle and conventional tackle is with conventional tackle you are throwing a heavy lure and the light monofilament line goes for a ride and with fly gear you are throwing a heavy line and the light fly goes for a ride. The casting strokes are the exact opposite of each other.
Anyone can learn to fly fish. The biggest thing that separates fly fi... more
You're never too good or too experienced to learn something new. Recently, I was asked to pre-fish for a FLW Walleye Tour Tournament on the Detroit River with Brad Davis, a touring pro from Jackson, WI. Brad Davis has been fishing the tournament trail for many years, I was fortunate enough to meet him through a mutual friend, Jack Mudgett, owner of Action Marine in Slades Corner, WI. Davis is sponsored by Action Marine and is also a national team Skeeter/Yamaha pro staff member.
At the onset of this trip, I thought I would be learning about jig fishing heavy jigs in heavy current for 10-14 lb walleyes. But we couldn't find any fish. In fourteen hours on the water in two days, nothi... more
A new fishing season has arrived. Anglers are excited about what this season may bring in the way of fishing. You may have new lures, new rods and reels, maybe even a new boat. Maybe you have fishing trips planned, and new techniques that you're anxious to try in an attempt to get the fish to bite. When that big one finally does bite, will you be ready? Too many anglers forget about perhaps the most important part of the fishing equation. The line that you're using in the only link between you and the fish. The right line will enable you to catch more fish, the wrong line will, in some cases reduce the number of bites you get, and in other situations, prevent you from landing any fish that d... more
Being on the water on a daily basis a fishing guide learns to deal with the elements. We take the good and the bad and somehow manage to keep our clients happy regardless of the weather. Last May seemed like we were stuck in one big cold front with no light at the end of the tunnel. I would get excited after two days of stable weather hoping that the water temperature would climb a few degrees. Under these conditions fishing the right lake is a must.
So choosing the right lake to fish in the spring will have just as much to do with the conditions as choosing a lake with a good fish population. In fact a lake with a good population of quality fish may not be as productive as a lake with a ... more
Regardless of the kind of winter we have, April is the first month of real open water fishing. In March the sun is high and on warm days many anglers yearn for open water. Up here in Northeast Wisconsin those warm spring days are welcomed indeed. Walleyes will receive the most attention as they make there annual river spawning runs.
To successfully catch spring river walleyes anglers need to be aware of the present conditions. Water temperature, water levels, prevailing weather and current are all critical for both walleye location and presentations. Once you establish a pattern don't make the mistake of getting in a rut. Spring is known for changing conditions and as the conditions ch... more
With the snow and ice lingering this winter, I told my wife it was time to get some salt and sand. Not for the driveway, but for our drinks and for under our toes - it was time to head down to Cabo. The weather forecast was for 80 degree temperatures and sunny skies . . . all month. Plus, the striped marlin report was red hot.
From Earnest Hemingway to Sammy Hagar, folks can't get enough of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - a (former) sleepy little town that lies south of the border at the tip of the Baja peninsula. Long before Van Halen extolled the virtues of Cabo's beautiful sand beaches, pretty girls and lively nightlife, Cabo had established itself as one of the world's premier fishing de... more
Anglers across the Midwest are starting to get the urge to go fishing. They're looking forward to feeling a tug on their line, and many of those anglers are also looking forward to a meal of freshly caught fish.
A meal of fresh fish is a good thing. Most folks will agree that fresh fish are tasty in a good way, and, when prepared correctly, fish are good for our health. There's nothing wrong with keeping a few fish to enjoy on the supper table. The key is, we need to keep the right fish. Here are some ideas on keeping fish.
In many areas of the Midwest, fishing is as good as it ever has been. In some bodies of water, the opportunity to catch a trophy is better now than it was t... more
There is nothing more fulfilling to me than to watch a child's expression when they have their first fish on the line, after you have taught them the basics of fishing. This is a universal language not divided by religion, politics or race. The exhilaration is spontaneous and the excitement contagious. I almost feel as if a child has been shorted if they don't experience this feeling.
After that first fish, it is our responsibility as sportsmen and women, parents and mentors, to keep the interest brewing. Having kids myself helped me stroll through the mine field of what to do and what not to do as far as keeping kids interested in fishing.
In my humble opinion, they are as follo... more
As you get out of bed to a crisp cool morning full of anticipation catching a limit of elusive walleyes and hoping to land that trophy of a lifetime.
Spring time is undoubtedly one of the best times of the year to land a trophy walleye. Many trophy walleyes have been taken using the lead head jig tipped with a minnow or plastic or a three way rig with a floating jig head and minnow. Some people will troll them in the spring using lead core line or hand lining.
Jigging is still the number one used method for spring walleyes though.
There are many styles of jigs and picking the right one for the right situation can be difficult. One jig that seems to work in almost e... more
I can remember what seems like a million years ago for this young man, drifting in a 16-foot aluminum somewhere in the middle of Green bay off of Oconto, WI , fishing for perch with my father, pondering to myself why I was out there, and wishing I was doing something more exciting back on dry land. Most importantly I wondered why my father was in complete bliss, and honestly enjoying and savoring every minute we had in that boat.
Mind you we did catch many perch, but still I didn't truly understand nor appreciate the moment of the experience.
A major part of this was being a child and naturally uninterested and bored by most things that didn't involve reeking havoc. And up until no... more
This is the time of year when fish start to show some of the effects of fishing pressure. Although some lakes across the Midwest haven't seen quite as much ice-fishing pressure as usual this year, the fish in most bodies of water are acting like fish that have been beat up on as much as ever. Here's how you can continue to catch fish through the ice when others can't.
If you've been fishing a community hole, you know, one of those areas that attracts crowds, you're going to need to move. Community holes can be great early in the season, and they'll still produce a fish every now and then this time of year, but you'll do better by moving. There just aren't as many fish in these communi... more
Northern Pike do have a reputation of cooperating when other fish have lock jaw. Although they do tend to be easier to catch at times than walleye or bass fishing is seldom easy. The problem is that most pike anglers get into a rut and use the same presentations. Pike like other species relate to weather changes and seasoned anglers can adapt to these changes.
Over the years I have developed finesse presentation for largemouth and smallmouth bass. The same techniques that will catch big bass under the most adverse conditions also work for pike. When it comes to pike fishing few anglers even consider finesse presentations thinking smaller baits will only catch small pike. With the uns... more
As you sit in your comfortable heated ice shack slamming the bluegills and crappies through the ice, don't forget that in a month or two it will be time to hit the water. It takes a lot of preparation to get ready again for the open water, specifically the walleye run on the rivers.
Ice fishing is a lot of fun and puts fish in my freezer every year. There isn't much that is more anticipated annually than the river walleye runs. It is time to start organizing your equipment and doing any maintenance that will be necessary to have everything working in top form for the run.
Start with you fishing rods and reels. Check your rods for any broken eyes or damaged eyes or reel seats. Repl... more
As the ice-fishing season continues, the fish change a little bit. If we want to continue to catch them, we need to change our lure presentation a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes it pays big dividends to sit still if you want to catch more perch from now through the end of the ice-fishing season.
When we talk about sitting still, that doesn't mean we're not moving around looking for the fish. We're moving quite a bit, but when we get to a hole that has fish, frequently it will work best to present the lure as motionless as possible.
To be successful on the ice this time of year, the proper tools are necessary. We will be moving from hole to hole quite a bit. Usually we will drill a... more
Lets face it; life on the ice can be cold and boring. What one needs to add excitement to the icefishing game are gadgets. The thicker your wallet, the more gadgets you can afford. Mind you, I have had plenty of fun catching fish with nothing more than a homemade spud bar, a make shift jig rod and a handful of ice jigs. However, if I had my choice, the following toys would accompany me on the ice.
First, since my wish list is long, I would start with a Yamaha Kodiak 450 ATV four-wheeler. ATV's expand one's range and make one more likely to try multiple locations until active fish are found. They are also great safety devices. The old adage that 'no ice is save ice to drive a truck o... more
It is definitely getting to be that time again. The snow is starting to fall temperatures are dropping and ice is forming on the lakes.
First ice is a very exciting time to fish every year. The anticipation to fill your bucket full of fish is exciting but there are several techniques that will increase your chances for success.
The first thing is you can't be set on just one jigging technique. There are several techniques to try.
One of my favorites is a 6-12 inch raise with a slow drop. I will make a quick 6-12 inch raise of my rod tip sometime only 3-6 inches works as well but then slowly lower the rod tip. You should lower it as slow as possible. If you think you are going to slow... more
Everyone can stand to catch a few more panfish through the ice. However, ice anglers typically settle into a routine when they head out onto the ice. They catch several fish and then the action slows down or stops entirely. Maybe they change depths, colors, or holes a few times but that is about it. Once they stop catching fish based upon this routine, they quit and blame it on the fish - "they just stopped biting." Prior to muttering this phrase again, try the following tips and techniques.
1. Vertical to Horizontal. The style of one's ice jig is just as important as its color. Most anglers are accustomed to using a tear-dropped shaped jig that hangs vertically in the water, such as Jamm... more
Most anglers know that trolling is an effective open water fishing technique. Successful ice-anglers know that "trolling" is also an effective way to catch more fish through the ice. Here's how you troll on the ice.
When you troll in open water, you put a lure in the water, let it out behind the boat, put the motor in gear and start moving either forward or backward. You keep a close eye on your depth-finder and follow a certain depth contour or work around structure.
It's the same idea for trolling on ice. Electronics, an ice auger, and your "boat" all come into play.
When ice-fishing, you need to have an idea of where the structure is that you want to fish. Let's say you want t... more
If this warm weather is keeping you off the ice then consider taking out the spinning tackle and heading to downtown Milwaukee. That's right smack in the middle of the busiest city in the state we have some excellent open water fishing all year. What to use? Grab a walleye rod some crawler's, leeches, spawn minnows, some casting spoons and be prepared for a potential mixed bag of trout and game fish such as walleyes, pike and bass.
Yes I said crawlers and leeches; the great thing about fishing the downtown Milwaukee area is that there is a Warm Water Power Plant. This discharge usually keeps the water from 50-60 degree's all winter. Remember the walleye's don't realize it's winter a... more