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Your boat is parked in the garage, the fluids for the motor are drained, and the trolling batteries are stowed away. The line still strung on that new reel you got for Father's Day is memorizing every coil it now has in it.
But those are no reasons to let the dull days of winter get you down. Try ice fishing. It's easy, relatively inexpensive and fun. Anybody can do it. Even you!
Here are my top 10 tips for getting started with "hard water" fishing.
If you want ice fishing to be enjoyable, you'll need proper clothes. Don't leave home without the snow boots, snow pants, a windproof parka and a good layer of undergarments. If you're cold, you're not having fun. If you're not havi... more
Ice-fishing is getting closer every day. For the past few days there's been a skim of ice on the pond early in the morning, but that skim has disappeared by mid-morning. Today the skim lasted until the middle of the afternoon. Once that layer of ice has a full day and night to get established, it won't be long until there will be anglers out there punching holes in the ice. I won't be the first person out there drilling holes: I wait until I see someone bigger than me out there, and, unfortunately, sometimes it's hard to find someone bigger than me. Nonetheless, when I'm convinced that the ice is thick enough, it's time to go ice-fishing.
The ice gets firm on smaller ponds and lak... 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
It happened again this year. I managed to get through the "fall" part of our fall turkey season without killing a bird.
Wisconsin's fall turkey season runs through the end of December in five of the state's seven turkey-hunting zones. Most hunters probably gave up the idea of turkey hunting when the first half of the split season ended on Nov. 17, but I'm sure I'm not the only one left with an unfilled fall tag.
In zones 1-5, the season reopened on Nov. 28, but the regulations require turkey hunters to wear blaze orange as long as a firearms deer season is in progress. It's hard enough to fool a turkey when you're dressed in camouflage from head to toe. Trying to do it in an orange h... more
Why "Live" Beats "Dead" on Ice
The rodtip of the deadstick springs suddenly and energetically to life. 'Dead'stick? It seems at once a confusing mix of metaphors for a tactic so reliant on the vigor and vitality of a wild baitfish. Below the ice, dormant or just plain dead minnows take pike, maybe the occasional wintertime catfish. But hang a limp, lifeless shiner or chub before the gaping maws of a hefty walleye, and you might just as well present a wet sock on a hook.
Deadstick set in a holder, a bouncing rodtip acts like a beacon, simultaneously prodding the bait to continue its underwater dance, while also pinging the lateral lines of those predators driven by flag-white tails. Tha... 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
We do much of our filming on late ice. We take a lot of our photos at late ice as well. The reason is simple, long relatively nice days on the ice where you can expect sweatshirt weather. When the sun begins to rot the ice, you can expect to get some work done if you are in the business filming television shows as you typically get good fishing and weather that doesn't freeze fingertips and camera batteries. Like many of you however, I need to get on the ice long before late ice and in all reality, first ice is just as prime of an opportunity to catch fish but the conditions might not be so romantic.
The reality is that during that first ice period when we are walking on the first thr... more
The 2011 open water fishing season is starting to wind down. The chill in the early morning air reminds us that it won't be long until ice covers the waters of the Midwest. It's time to get our ice-fishing lures out. However, we're not going to be using those lures for ice-fishing. Not yet anyway. Although the open water fishing season is starting to wind down, there are still lots of open water fishing opportunities to take advantage of, and lures that are often thought of as ice-fishing lures are excellent fish catchers during the last weeks of the open water season. Here's how you can give your ice-fishing baits some extra work.
There are a couple of reasons ice-fishing baits wor... more
Three pro anglers make a quiet habit of catching fish from clear waters
When lakes freeze over and fishing pros Mark Martin, Mike Gofron and Mark Brumbaugh can't launch their Lund boats, you'll surely find them ice fishing the inland waters and Great Lakes near their homes.
The distinguished angling trio, who reside in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio, respectfully, are surrounded by some of the clearest water in the country. These waterways have always been lucid enough to see bottom in 20 feet of water, even before the HEPA-filter-like zebra and quagga muscles invaded their way into the systems, siphoning waters even cleaner than before.
"What many anglers don't realize is that catch... more
If you hunt deer with a group of friends, you are likely familiar with deer drives. Well-run drives can put a lot of venison on the meat pole. To make a drive work, standers must guard escape routes with clear and safe shooting lanes, while drivers move in concert through cover to push out deer.
Do it right, and someone will usually get a shot at any deer in the cover you are hunting. Trouble is, there are too many ways to mess up a drive.
If you don't have enough standers, deer can escape between them. Not enough drivers, and deer can circle back between them. If drivers get out of sync, deer can slip out to the side. And there's always the safety issue of hunters pointing guns toward... more
The best time to search for winter crappie spots is in the fall, when anglers can capitalize on the mobility of a boat and onboard sonar to cruise around marking spots mentally, preferably with GPS, too. Once the lakes freeze, though, assuming you didn't conduct autumn reconnaissance, your tools are a lake map, GPS map chip to select probable areas, and then a whole lot of exploratory hole drilling.
Crappies in most lakes will already be near their winter locations by the time surface temperatures reach the low 50s, so there is a window of opportunity every year to do some homework in a boat before the upcoming ice fishing season.
Every lake has a unique personality, but there are eno... more
As the end of open water fishing nears, the late fall bite becomes hot. If you can handle the cold, the fishing is some of the best of the year. During the late fall months, I enjoy walleye fishing. Most of the summer is spent fishing largemouth bass or northern pike, usually with clients it is a live bait bite. In fall the best presentation is a crank bait. Whether it's casted or trolled, success can be had by all willing to bear the cold temperatures. Different than other times of the year an angler can have success at either day or night time hours. However, I personally still find the first hour of light and dusk to be the most productive for numbers of walleyes.
The two met... more
Co-authored with Tony Boshold
Champion Ice Angler Discusses his Favorite 'Fish Finder'
Ice fishing ace Tony Boshold sees the big picture. Give the world champion angler an auger and an underwater camera in the morning, and later that day, he'll have discovered the lion's-share of a lake's secrets. Many of the top anglers fishing the competitive ice fishing circuit these days utilize a MarCum camera-including reigning NAIFC Team-of-the-Year Champs Jacek Gawlinski and Zibi Wojcik. Yet fewer anglers than you'd think emulate Boshold and the Polish tandem - disappearing into the horizon, dipping the camera lens beneath an unending string of predrilled ice holes. That's gradually changin... more
The formation of the decoy spread and how the pocket is positioned contributes tremendously to how birds approach and drop into the spread. Hunters as a rule worry about or place a heavy emphasis on many details that aren't nearly as important as the shape and size of the landing spot which needs to be adjusted accordingly to different situations that arise.
Many hunters are familiar with the traditional horseshoe or "V" formation that creates a nice open pocket. There are many variations of this basic concept and what is most important is a hole or runway for approaching birds to land. A nice open pocket pinpoints where finished birds will attempt to land which creates a shooting op... more
As the water turns over (going on now) which is well under way in Vilas, Oneida and Iron County in northern WI. in the shallower lakes, the deep clear lakes will be turning quickly, Walleye are already on the bite, big time.
Are we like the great lakes, no, of course not, but we do have thousands of Walleye eagerly biting, right now, for anyone who wants to learn how to catch them and it's easy, this time of year.
As the thermocline continues to drop down lower and lower in your favorite lake, (if your lake is deep enough for a thermo cline) the daytime activity of the Walleye gets stronger and stronger. The tasty table fare of these fish draws a large attraction for anglers, who are... more
Many hunters apply for a fall turkey permit, then tuck it into their backtag carrier when they bowhunt for deer, just in case a flock wanders by. Others carry their turkey permit into the grouse or squirrel woods for when the action slows on one of those species, or again, just in case...
A few hunters, however, relish the chance to go one-on-one with a tom when he isn't interested in hens, when he could care less what your calling sounds like, and when you can't get him to gobble away his location regardless of what breed of peacock, owl or auto horn you toot.
Call me crazy, and many have, but I think fall turkey hunting is a gas. I've been foiled more often than not by fall gobblers.... more
Co-authored with Tony Roach
Lure Moves for Walleyes in Reality
Last February, fresh off a phenomenal trip to the current version of hog walleye heaven-Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba-Tony Roach could hardly keep himself from jumping out of his Snosuit. "Here we were," Roach exclaimed, jigging arm twitching randomly, "Standing out in the middle of the 'Winnipeg Wasteland,' ripping these clunky rattling crankbaits-lures like the Rapala Rippin' Rap. You'd pound these things into the bottom with heavy line, didn't matter, and halfway up your jigstroke, WHAM, these big 'eyes would jolt your arm to a dead-stop. Locals were catching 12-pounders on 20-pound test baited with hot dogs!" Befuddled, Roach... 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
Labor Day 2011 has come and gone. For some folks, that marks the end of summer, and to some people that means it's time to put the boat and their rods and reels in storage. If they want to pull the plug on fishing in early September, that's certainly their decision, but, if they live in the Midwest, they're missing out on two months of some of the best fishing of the year. I'm guessing that if they live somewhere else, they're also missing some outstanding fishing opportunities. The following ideas will enable you to successfully extend your fishing season.
Keep in mind that different bodies of water will be productive in the fall at different times. A shallow lake with dark water wi... more
The saddest day of a hunter's life is the day your favorite hunting dog can't do it anymore. All of the memories of the hunts in the past are the all that's left. My dog, Lindy, has reached the age where the time has come to retire. Like any old yellow lab, there is a bit of arthritis and a bit of excess weight from one too many treats from my wife. A busy day for Lindy is a walk in the yard and maybe a nap in a sunny spot. In her younger days, she would hunt until she would drop from exhaustion. She was a great hunter, and loved to get the birds. There are many ways to judge a great hunting dog. My major factors have always been the need to listen to commands and not disrupt fellow ... more
When "Cold, Dark and Damp" actually signal Comfort and Good Fortune
If you're not careful, being on water when most everyone else isn't can quickly become the central theme of your muskie strategy. Since fishing during the closed-season months is automatically ruled out, what we're left with are those 'dirty weather' days when winds howl and rains fall, right along with plummeting air temperatures and barometric instability. Fishing on days like these can easily begin to feel a little crazy, at least until you remind yourself that these are muskies you're after-a fish that often defies logic and reason itself. Which, in a twisted sort of way, makes fishing in illogical conditions start to... more
In walleye country, it's still summer during the day, but nights are starting to cool down. Cool early morning air temperatures remind anglers that autumn isn't far off. Autumn means different things to different people. For some, autumn is a time for hunting: For others it's football season. For walleye anglers, it's maybe our favorite time of year to go fishing. The weather and scenery is generally wonderful, there are fewer anglers on the water so there's plenty of room to move around, and, probably most importantly, walleyes like to get caught in the fall months. They'll go for a variety of lure presentations, but if you just want to get bit, you can't beat a jig. There might be b... more
So, you want to kick off the fall season with a dove hunt, eh? You've heard about how much fun dove hunting is and how hard the little critters are to hit, and you'd like to give it a try yourself. But if you've never hunted doves, you'll quickly find that the advice you get from books, videos and other hunters on how to lead them, what shot size works best and whether to go with an open-choked fast-swinging gun or a tighter-choked gun with a longer barrel for sustained leads is all for naught if you can't find a couple dozen doves to shoot at.
When it comes right down, to it, the most important factor in a successful dove hunt is location. Mourning doves are the most abundant game birds... 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
As an angler, I find the distribution of northern pike fascinating. Pike basically inhabit the northern latitudes of the entire globe spanning from North America to Europe and Asia. In some high mountain lakes and the arctic shield, pike are considered an invasive species. The predatory appetite these fish possess is incredible. While pike are indeed common across the upper Midwest and much of Canada, big pike are really a rarer treasure. Many fisheries are not capable of producing big pike and more than other species of fish; big pike seem most susceptible to fishing pressure. In order to catch big pike, pike have to live long enough in the right water.
Big pike either need regul... more
The cool dry summer we experienced last season made for some unpredictable fishing While we did catch lots of smallmouth on many days the bite was light and called for finesse presentations. One would not think that such conditions would make for a great topwater bite. While it was not a great year for topwater fishing on the river, it was a good year. As usual anglers had to adjust and know when to take advantage of the windows that were open to the topwater bite.
Although the topwater bite was sporadic last summer, when the bite was on it was fantastic. July was good but the best fishing occurred from mid August through mid September. The topwater bite last summer and early fall m... 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
The summer months are a good time of year for fish in at least one way: There is lots of food in the water for them to eat. The baitfish that were hatched this spring are getting to a size where the predator fish can feed on them, and last year's baitfish are still of a size where they can be forage also. The supply of food for predator fish is probably higher right now than any other time of year.
However, that doesn't mean fishing is going to be easy. In fact, because of all the baitfish and other forms of forage in the water, the predators have a lot of food options. The fish are hungry and will eat, but you need to make it easy for them to eat your bait. Trolling is a good way to ... more
Many anglers struggle to catch walleye as late summer progresses into fall. Fish can be scattered and patterns can seem inconsistent. Typically on many fisheries where several forage options exist, there can be a lot of different patterns happening at once with no single pattern dominating fish location. There might be fish scattered both shallow and deep. What we often find ourselves doing is instead of looking for the silver bullet pattern where the bulk of the fish in a particular area are doing something specific; we often fishethrough good spots fast
attempting to fish as many spots as possible as quickly as possible.
What we sometimes see is that we often have to adjust our p... more
Wind and chop on the water often makes or breaks walleye fishing success. As wind directions and velocities change through the course of a day, adapting to the opportunities created by wind requires some flexibility. Mid summer often finds extended periods of stable weather with varying wind. One of the top patterns particularly for shallow or aggressive fish is rolling with what the wind deals. Following wind and focusing efforts on shorelines or structure that is getting pounded by wind is a top strategy. Obviously, too much wind can stain the water too much but generally speaking, some stain in the water created by wind can create short periods of incredible activity. What can make ... 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
How you load and unload your boat at the boat ramp may not have an impact on how many fish you catch, but getting it in the water can set the tone for the day, for you and for any other angler that's waiting to put their boat in the water. Unloading your boat should be a quick and easy process, but often times it isn't. Following are some things you can do to get your boat off and on the trailer quickly and safely. By doing these things you'll be fishing quicker, and you won't be tying up the ramp and preventing others from going fishing sooner. Here we go.
When you arrive at the boat ramp, pull into either the parking lot or the rigging lane. Do not go directly to the ramp.
All p... more
Ok, this is the time to work the Perch and there is no special, long time ago story, to guide you, I am going to tell you just the facts.
My guests enjoy our routine for consistent productivity, this includes, Crappie minnows and a small jig. If you have read any of my reports, as I post on Lake Link on a daily basis, on the Vilas county section of Northern Wisconsin, you will see the Big Perch we catch and NO, they are not Lake Michigan Perch, but very, very good Perch, from 9 to 13 inches. For now, let's forget about all the different rigs you have read about over the last several years, although they do work. Those rigs do and will continue to work and produce Perch. Absolutely yes, but ... more
Behemoths may not come easy, but the devoted know beastly pike are worth the time
Bait mangling marauders. Lure pilfering predators. Slimy line-shearing snakes.
Sad but true, the northern pike often gets no justice. But it's only anglers that have deprived themselves of targeting trophy-size fish during the summer months that take up this preposterous position. While many anglers cast shoreward only and curse the hammer-handles for tearing up their terminal tackle, ardent Esox anglers probe the depths for giants, even though the time gaps between bites can sometimes be long.
Northerns in depth
Like any brute fish, northern pike prefer to spend a summer's day in cool water. During ... more
When your fishing buddy calls and tells you to drop everything because the fish are snapping, you do what you need to do. That may mean playing hooky from work or telling your wife that your off to buy milk... see ya in 6 hours! Last week I received such a call, from my friend Pat Kalmerton, co-owner of Wolf Pack Adventures. In summer, Pat charters Salmon on Lake Michigan out of Sheboygan, WI. My voicemail was short, "Duwe, it's the best fishing in years, limits almost every day!" I called him back in a matter of hours and scheduled a trip for one of his few open dates. I told the folks at work that I felt the fishing flu coming on. We met in the marina up in Sheboygan, early the nex... more
One of the most overused terms in fishing today is "reaction strike." It seems like every time you turn around, someone else is talking about a scenario where a fish has been magically stimulated to bite. The truth, of course, is that fish strike baits for one primary reason-to eat. As anglers, we're in the persuasion business-doing things with presentation that allure fish to bite when they otherwise wouldn't. It's actually a pretty apt description for the role of a lively baitfish.
I can make an awfully convincing case for the supreme reaction strike triggering power of a live minnow, such as a meaty golden shiner or a creek chub, for any fish species, including bass and trout. But for... more
If there is one spot, one pattern that is capable of producing a lot of walleyes for us each season early in the summer, my vote would go to large shallow flats that protrude to deep water. Shallow is relative along with deep but what we are looking for are flats that are generally at least one acre or sometimes several hundred acres that might be in anywhere from five to fifteen feet of water. These flats are generally more productive if they drop off into deep water whether this deeper water is a deep basin, old river channel or trough. The bigger the flat, the more obvious the spot and these flats are often no secret on the map. While small, obscure flats might not get as much attenti... more
If it weren't for the muskie, a good case could be made for the smallmouth bass as the state fish. Smallies are native to more waters than muskies. Pound-for-pound, they fight as hard. And, unlike the toothy king of the Esox clan, smallmouths will hit just about anything just about any time, which makes them a favorite of anglers who count action high on the list of a fish's qualities.
Smallies are perhaps most at home in rivers. A good smallmouth river has some current and lots of instream cover in the form of rocks, rubble, logs and undercut banks. Very fast and very slow stretches harbor fewer bass than do those with a moderate flow.
Bass rivers range in size from the Mississippi ... 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
From a Texas rig, to lightly weighted with split shot, to working the surface, the plastic worm is your friend in clear water from opening day to late fall. Choosing the color for your presentation is a trial and error event, although, black, dark red, green, blue, motor oil, purple and several others with metal flake are proven winners. Single hooked worms (through the head), wacky hooked worms (1 hook in the middle of the worm) and pre rigged worms with 1, 2 or 3 single hooks already imbedded into the worm, all of these are deadly from the surface to the bottom, for clear water Smallmouth Bass. Casting these presentations can be easily done with light, moderate or heavy pound test along wi... more
It happened again, just like the last Minnesota Walleye Opener, and one before that. We were dosie-doe-ing amongst dozens of other boats, all square dancing over a giant piece of structure and dipping jigs. Not bragging, but like last time and the time before that, our Lund's catch rate trumped the dance floor. Soon, other boats orbited us like moons circling a planet. Elbow room tightened, but we continued hauling in walleye after walleye while the invaders struggled to scoop up our scraps.
The 'tail-pipers' appeared to be using similar jigs draped with live shiners, too. But still, the barrel of our landing net stayed hot while they drifted by fishless - the difference not being with wh... more
Live bait rigging is all about angles. The amount of weight on the sinker combined with the amount of line out determines the angle that the line takes from the rod tip to the water. The direction that you hover or move either across structure or up and down through structure determines the angle that the boat has to cross structure to catch the most fish. Master the angles and you catch way more fish with live bait rigs, plain and simple.
There are several ways to adjust sinker weight that have come and gone over the years but to this day, the simplest and most effective system I know of is the simple blade change clevices used for quickly changing spinner blades on harnesses. The No... more
Writen in conjunction with Scott Glorvigen
Don't worry, this isn't a complex story about boat control. We promise not to make you read all about how to execute the perfect backtroll; slip-drift a steep breakline while quartering with a 30-knot gale; half-circle troll for king salmon with three different motors while standing on one leg. Yes, they're all show stopping techniques given certain sets of circumstances. But for this exercise, the focus is on kicking back and letting the boat control itself.
It's all about stability. Crunching waves, grinding teeth and spearing rollers with the trolling motor? Miserable, even painful. Smoothly breezing across open seas, enjoying the lakescape... 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
Although the lakes across the northern section of the Midwest are still covered with ice, anglers are fishing almost everywhere else. There's a feeling in the air that anglers are anxious to get fishing. They want to be on the water chasing whatever it is that they like to chase, and nothing is going to keep them from doing so. They might be fishing closer to home this year, but they're going to go fishing. That's an outstanding attitude. Following are some ways you can enjoy your fishing even more this year.
Go fishing whenever you get the chance. Wherever you live, there's probably a body of water that holds fish nearby. It could be a large lake or a small pond, a major river or ... more
Over the years, an incredibly effective tactic for us is to long line a light jig or split shot rig through shallow water. In states where we could use two rods in particular, we often used the long line rig on the extra rod in the rod holder. There are probably several reasons why this set up works so well at times but I can attest to the fact that I have been out fished several times by the rod holder.
Back in the day, we used to pour our own jigs for this technique as you often wanted a light jig, say eighth of an ounce or less but many of the smaller jigs had smaller hooks basically for crappie fishing. The smaller hooks just had a lower hooking percentage when combined with a larg... more
Nothing gets a turkey hunter's heart a-thumpin' like a booming gobble just yards away. Let that tom gobble incessantly without coming any closer, though, and the warm rush slowly turns to frustration.
Spend enough time in the turkey woods, and sooner or later you'll encounter a trash-talking tom that comes so tantalizingly close, only to hang up, retreat or fall silent. Such a bird is usually a boss tom, an old, wary bird whose spurs have turned to hooks because he doesn't come trotting to the first box call of spring.
A turkey like that will teach you a lesson in patience, but when nothing you throw at him brings him to the gun, you can sometimes outflank him and put him in the bag.... more
I would bet that every one of you reading this article knows someone who has dealt with skin cancer. And maybe, like me, you even know someone who has died from complications related to malignant melanoma.
Skin cancer is frightening, and protecting ourselves while in the sun can be lifesaving. Many of us spent time in the sun before ever hearing of sunscreen, and we can only hope that those sunburns don't lead to problems as we age. Living in Wisconsin, we try to pack as much outdoor activity as possible into our half-year of nice weather. Fishing, boating, hiking and golfing are just a few of the many things we love to do outside.
For me, it's fishing and hiking. Whether in the ... more
Every fisherman has taken a long awaited fishing trip. I had such a trip planned to go to Lake Erie this past week. After months of discussion, setting the date, getting the details worked out, including getting my wife to agree that it was okay for me to leave on Easter Sunday; all the great plans came together. Except one. Mother Nature was not on board with the plan.
Anyone who has ever fished Lake Erie knows that weather is the great equalizer. Lake Erie is full of walleyes, big and small. Tommy Harris of Tommy Harris Blades, Scott Hill a fellow fishing guide and our Captain Randy Roth of Hit N Miss Charters out of Port Clinton, set out with the same goal, to catch a bunch of ... more
The ice went out 3 days before opening day and as the alarm went off at 4:00AM that Saturday morning, I was going over in my mind the location of the weed bed we were going to fish, trying to decide where to position the boat in conjunction with a strong south wind. Anchoring was and still is an important method, when fishing weeds in the wind. Presque Isle Lake has very, very clear water and wind is my friend when fishing any clear water environment, at this time of year in particular. Remember, we are discussing lakes, not a river environment.
My guests and I headed across the chain of lakes, moving thru the large waves when I noticed they were becoming too big for us, the date was 198... more
Blade baits. They cast like a bullet and sink like a brick - the antithesis of what most anglers think of as an ideal bait for walleyes - yet those finicky, light-biting critters practically knock themselves out to hit these solid-metal jigging spoons.
The secret to the attraction of blade baits is vibration. Whether jigged, ripped or retrieved, blade baits send out a thumping, pulsing rhythm that walleyes just can't resist.
The original blade bait was the Heddon Sonar, introduced in the late 1950s. Unlike nearly all the wooden or plastic plugs of its day, when it hit the water the Sonic sank straight to the bottom. When retrieved, it wobbled with a tight vibration you could feel ev... 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
The warming spring sun draws to a conclusion another long winter. In early spring (March & April) there is a period between ice fishing and the start of Wisconsin's game fish season. Game fishing season opens the first weekend in May. But this early spring period also has something to offer, the warm spring sun makes the winter blues melt away and the panfishing can be tremendous.
This is the time of the year when the bluegills and crappies will move from their wintering locations to the warmest water in a particular lake. This is usually less than 5 ft of water. A lot of time, I am fishing the edges of a lake with the middle of the lake still frozen. Keep in mind that the nort... more
There is a general rule of thumb that fish are often located in shallow water during the spring and fish progressively move deeper as the year progresses. There is often some merit to this general rule of thumb but remember that there are always factors that can change or alter this generic migration. Weeds for example may hold walleyes shallow well into the open water season. Wind or rising water can also keep fish shallow. Every body of water offers a different twist and each year can even be different on the same body of water. Often as anglers, we get conditioned to expect a specific pattern and if the pattern doesn't materialize, we beat the dead horse. Confidence when fishing dic... 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
This spring, nearly 200,000 hunters will take to the woods in Wisconsin in search of a turkey. If this season is like others before it, less than a third of them will bring home a bird. Successful hunters usually prepare well in advance for their hunt, devise a game plan and then adjust their plan according to how the turkeys respond. Here are some tips that can help put you in the success column this season.
Scout Sooner and Later
Even if you're hunting familiar land, now is the time to start scouting that land to get an idea of how many birds it holds, where they might be hanging out and whether there have been any changes on the landscape since last spring. On one place I have hunted,... more
We are entering what many ice-anglers declare to be their favorite time of the year for ice-fishing. The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and the fish are really starting to eat. During mid-winter there can be a time when getting bites can be kind of a tough deal. From now until the end of ice-fishing season, bites will be more frequent and your nose is going to stay a lot warmer when you're on the ice. Here's how you can get in on the action.
First thing, and this is very important: Don't push your luck on the ice. Know when enough's enough. Falling through the ice is no fun! If you're not sure of ice conditions, get sure. Just like you don't need to be the fir... more
In life there are moments that are very enlightening experiences that at the time don't necessarily seem all that significant. I had one of those experiences in my recent trip to Florida with my family. We were vacationing in the Tampa Bay area. The purpose of the trip was sun and fun (along with a lot of fishing). We had beautiful weather, mid 70's and we also caught a lot of fish, including an accidental hook up of a porpoise. The porpoise broke the line after a short run and jump, 8 lb test wasn't going to keep flipper fighting long.
The enlightenment in the trip occurred by happenstance. My brother in law, Jeff, was heading to our shore fishing honey hole and saw another angler ... more
Steve Starr, a good kayak fishing friend of mine, was back in Wisconsin for the summer. After kayaking for peacock and largemouth bass with him in South Florida I was looking forward to kayaking for some Wisconsin River smallies. We talked about it a number of times, however the river seemed to be running high all summer, but finally we had our chance on September 10th. I do most of my kayak fishing on lakes, but had kayaked the Wisconsin in the Sauk City area a few times and caught and released a bunch of smallies. Having fished that stretch from Sauk City to the Ferry's Bluff takeout, Steve and I decided to try something new.
We met at the Rivers Edge Resort in Wisconsin Dells, d... more
The fact that fish move into shallow water during the early part of the open water season is no secret. This general pattern is fairly universal with both warm water and cool water fish that spawn in the spring. Whether the targeted species is bass, walleyes, northern pike or even pan fish, anglers are often finding fish shallow providing that the weather is stable and that this shallow water is warming up. This stratification where shallow water close to the shoreline warms up ahead of deeper, offshore water is crucial for many of these shallow patterns to develop. On reservoirs and lakes, anglers often find fish of several species under the generic "bay within a bay" rule where you loo... 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 late ice period is often a prime window for anglers targeting panfish. Bluegills, jumbo perch and crappies often stage in somewhat predictable locations as the ice begins to rot. A top strategy for locating fish is to identify weed beds and structure that is located between wintering holes and massive basin areas where many fish winter and shallow bays that typically see spawning activity. One overlooked pattern however that often rewards anglers with larger fish often takes place in relatively deep water. The deep basin areas that intersect the mouths and necks of shallower bays where these fish will eventually spawn are often a major staging area that produces big panfish.
When ice fishing slows around February, I get hit by what some call "cabin fever." I prefer to call it the ice fishing "blahs." The "blahs" happen when you start getting sick of ice fishing and can't wait for open water fishing. When that feeling hits, I can't help but dream about getting the boat in the water and setting out, but for me that's at least a month away. To make the time pass faster, it's time to start getting prepared for the upcoming open water season.
With the new 2011 catalogs in hand, it can't be any easier. To get prepared, I like to get my terminal tackle re-stocked, rods and reels prepared, and take care of any miscellaneous boat service items.
When cons... more
In many areas of the Midwest, we are entering a time of year when walleye fishing through the ice can be pretty good. In some states, or in parts of some states, walleye season closes and walleyes can't be targeted, but in those areas where you can still chase walleyes, the bite can be very rewarding. Here's how you can get in on the action.
There are a lot of things that you can do this time of year to increase your chances for getting bit. First, just like any time of the year, you've gotta find the fish.
Second, there are times of the day that are better. Day in and day out, early and late in the day will be more productive: Late in the day is my favorite. Weather can change t... more
When the Right Flash and Flutter Out-Produce All Others
Pulling panfish from frigid water with tiny treats is, no doubt, the modern ice angler's most popular ploy. But while fishing in micro-mode is a most excellent tactic, there are periods when the flash and flutter of a falling spoon will out-produce any ultra-miniature jig - especially during feeding furies near the end of winter.
Plucking panfish with stamped steel and molded metals is nothing new. In fact, anglers have been hauling multitudes of spoon-caught species through holes since man first fashioned the tools needed for shaping these precious metals. But there's more to duping panfish with spoons than meets the eye. The best... more
There are several different species of fish that anglers chase through the ice. Some anglers like to catch walleyes, other like to get after perch. Pike are popular in some places, and crappies and other types of panfish are favored in others.
Different species of fish respond to different presentations. Walleyes like spoons, panfish like tiny jigs, and pike like natural baits. If you're targeting a particular species of fish, you need to employ a technique that that specie is most likely to respond to.
However, there are some basic principles of fishing that you need to keep in mind regardless of what fish you want to catch. Following are some of those basic principles.
The ... more
When you look at some of the best ice anglers, there often is some strategy in how and where they drill holes. Ice anglers might not be able to drift or troll but they can drill holes in a pattern and discipline themselves to fish the holes in a set time to cover water. There is a method behind the madness and successful anglers often have a strategy behind the drilling. Just drilling a bunch of holes for the sake of drilling holes can be counter productive if there is no purpose.
The reality is that some of the better days I have had on the ice were days where I didn't have to move a lot and was able to catch a lot of fish out of a handful of holes. For whatever the reason, there wa... 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.