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I got to fishing again this past week. My friend Mike Gottheardt and I were chasing smallmouth bass on a river in eastern Wisconsin. We caught'em good: Lots of smallmouth and some nice ones. Nothing that would be considered a trophy, but some healthy bass that fought hard and jumped and were just fun to catch. The thing is, at this time of year, anyone can get in on some really, really good fishing. Whatever you want to catch, now is a good time to do so. If you want to have a walleye or a bass or a panfish put a bend in your rod, you can make that happen right now. Here's how.
The thing to keep in mind when you're fishing in the fall is that, most of the time, the fish will be... more
The woods will be doused with delusions of grandeur over the next few weeks as mature whitetail bucks all believe they are the King of the Forest and hunters fortunate enough to shoot a big buck with a bow think Fred Bear simply had a good publicist.
Bucks have busy rubbing trees and scraping the forest floor now in an annual rite of autumn which has been going on for thousands of years. The antlered ones are now chasing does willy-nilly virtually round-the clock with little concern for bowhunters-or Buicks.
With each passing year my appreciation for a mature buck's survival savvy grows geometrically. If it weren't for that strong drive to procreate, I honestly believe 70-year-old wo... more
Every hunter has been dreaming about it. Every hunter has been wishfully thinking. There are no two ways about it, the rut is here. Hunters will seemingly do just about anything and everything to get them within range of a deer.
Hunters that were successful in the past bank on those tactics to work again in the future. Those that have not had success ever or as of late dig into the seemingly endless bag of tricks that friends or complete strangers have stumbled across.
I for one agree with this much; you have to spend time in the woods to become successful. Other than that there is no one tried and true tactic that will ensure big bucks on the ground.
When it comes to scents, dec... more
As the days shorten and the water begins to cool many have put up their boats as the open water season begins to slow down. However for those still looking to bag that last pre-ice trophy, many great days of fishing are still available. Finding these fish can be difficult, but with a little knowledge, and some lures that cover the entire water column you can effectively target America's favorite fish from the shoreline as your boat is nestled safely away from the upcoming winter elements.
First off lets talk late fall bass location. My favorite fall "hot spots" all have 3 things in common.
The first is structure it can be almos... more
Being versatile when ice fishing is often times key to coming up with a bucket full of crappies or bucket full of "what might have been." Sure, a person can be complacent and sit and jig one hole but it is the rare occasion when a school is big enough, or the bait tasty enough, to have your Friday fish fry at home.
So is the case on Lake Winnebago - to succeed, an angler has to be mobile, and fast at changing baits to figure out what will get bit. That happened when Matt Bichanich headed on the ice to film an ice-segment for Midwest Outdoors last year. He, and professional guide Larry Smith, knew they'd have to move to find the biters.
"The key on Winnebago is often times just fi... more
For some reason, autumn is the time of year when I feel the need to share the productivity of drop-shot rigs. It's probably because the first time I ever tried drop-shotting was in the fall at least twenty years ago. My friend Barry Day had just returned from a trip to the West Coast where he had been introduced to drop-shotting. Barry fished the Iowa Great Lakes a lot and had found drop-shotting to be very productive on these heavily fished waters. "If drop-shotting works on West Lake Okoboji, it'll work anywhere", Barry told me. Barry and I spent an afternoon on the water shortly after that and caught lots of bass, walleyes, and panfish when other anglers weren't getting bit. Since t... more
As Midwestern waters start to cool down, the fishing tends to get hotter for all species of fish. Muskies and walleyes get most of the attention from anglers this time of year but the one species that is often overlooked is the smallmouth bass. These hard-fighting bronzebacks know winter is coming soon and they need to start gorging in order to fatten up before the water turns hard. This can make for one of the best bites of the year.
Once October hits, water temps drop considerably and weeds start dying. When this occurs baitfish vacate the area and move to other structures including rocks, timber, and steep break lines making them easy targets for hungry bass.
When it comes to catch... more
As the days are getting shorter and winter moves closer across the Midwest. This signals the migration of most fish from their summer haunts to pre-winter staging areas. This is the time yellow perch are also migrating from the main lake basin to the shallows. Like the other fish species they are concentrated and actively feeding.
Perch will travel in schools throughout the day. Once you locate the schools they can be caught extremely fast. They feed by sight so the daylight hours are the best time to catch them. Unlike most fish, perch are not affected by the weather as much, so don't let a cold front get you down.
In fall, I will look for the perch in a depth range of 8-1... more
October and November are great months for anglers to pursue their favorite species throughout the Midwest. Trophy fish of all kinds are being caught in lakes, rivers and streams. While many species require a boat to target, I choose to tackle my favorite species, salmonids, from shore. The trout and salmon that migrate toward the shores of Lake Michigan, and eventually into its tributaries, will peak in October and November. Each year the largest fish are consistently caught from within the major tributaries or areas near their mouths. There are many things that contribute to a successful trip when targeting these powerful aquatic creatures; however, within this article I will examine t... more
Serious muskie and fly fishers are generally considered extreme by the mainstream angling fraternity. The concept of chasing muskies with flyfishing gear takes the concept of extreme angling to an entirely different dimension.
"West Fork" Jason Stewart caters to this unique segment of the angling fraternity, guiding clients out of a Clackacraft drift boat on waters like the St. Croix, Flambeau and Chippewa Rivers-all pristine waters about as far from the main stream as conceivable.
Like most fly fishing purists, West Fork Jason ties his own flies. But crafting a muskie fly is much more involved than tying up the basic wooly booger or even a #18 Royal Coachman dry.
Each fly takes ... more
As the dog days of summer persist and I continue to fish deep for thermocline pike or structure walleye, a look in the near future reminds me of what is to come for angling opportunities in the great city of Milwaukee. As the water temperature cools and the calendar reads later months in the year the trout and salmon will migrate near shore and eventually make their push into major tributaries in the Greater Milwaukee area to undergo their spawning stage.
Growing up I became familiar with spoons and crank-baits to chase after these species; however, Vibrations Tackle Echotails have become one of my staples for trout and salmon. The baits vibration and versatility are why the Echotails ... more
Hard & Soft Fishing, makers of Uncle Josh Pork Baits, have hit a homerun! Their Pork Crawlers have been doing damage on hungry walleyes since they first hit the market. These versatile baits can be fished many ways, but during the late summer months, it's hard to overlook their ability to catch fish when incorporated with spinner harnesses. Before discussing how to rig harnesses, let's briefly discuss walleye feeding behavior and common locations fish relate to during the hot dog days that lay ahead.
As the summer continues, increasingly warm water causes fish to have an increased metabolism. This is great for anglers, since fish stay more active and feed more often. Although f... more
Every year when goose season starts, I hear people talking about strategies that will help them defeat the wiles of the Canada goose. After years of trying to solve this problem, I have come to the conclusion that there are tactics that will put the odds in your favor. However, geese are geese and there are no guarantees.
One subject that always comes up in the early stages of the goose season has to do with the number of decoys that should be used. Many believe that during the first part of the season, it is best to put out a limited spread.
The theory here is logical. The geese are typically not flocked up in huge bunches in the early season and are still relating strongly to family ... more
For many people, Labor Day marks the end of summer or the beginning of fall depending on how you look at it. For some anglers, Labor Day marks the end of the fishing season: For other anglers Labor Day is the beginning of the best time of the year to be fishing. I like to fish during all the seasons, but autumn is perhaps my favorite, for several reasons.
First Reason fall is perhaps my favorite: It's just a really nice time to be outside. The scenery with all the colorful trees and such make the fall season special. Fewer people are on the water, so you're sharing the best spots with fewer anglers.
Most Important Reason fall is perhaps my favorite season for fishing: The fish r... more
When I was a kid all trolling motors were made from wood. They were about six feet long and came in pairs. We called them "oars".
By the early 1970's electric trolling motors and rudimentary electric "fish finders" were gaining acceptance as important tools for serious anglers. Today trolling motors and fish finders can actually 'talk' to each other using GPS information downloaded from satellites, allowing hands-free travel along precise depth contours while a fisher works happily along the shoreline.
As we fish into the 21st century there are a number of amazing "fish finders" on the market, but essentially just two companies still making trolling motors: Minn Kota and Motor Guide.... more
Ah...The good old blade bait. To many old timers, blade baits have been a go to lure during mostly cold-water periods. For at least 50+ years, angler's have been ripen blades from the Mississippi to the Wisconsin River. Blade baits have originally been thought to be used solely as a cold water lure in late fall and early spring. There are many blade baits on the market. They vary in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Many anglers like to present them below the dams in deep holes, while vertical jigging or ripping them off the bottom. Blades send off a large amount of vibration that attract fish from a long distance. Aside from vertical jigging, vibrating blades can be casted as lipless cran... more
As many of you know, I'm a smallmouth bass enthusiast. Swimming a grub is a staple for many smallie anglers. Some of you have likely used grubs from a variety of companies while on the water. It's unusual to find a lure that works so well that for years you use almost nothing else. For me, that's the Kalin's Lunker Grub, my grub of choice. I caught my first smallie on this lure in 2007 and since 2008, it's been just about all I use on the waters Door County, lakes in Southeast and Southcentral Wisconsin, along with the many rivers I fish. Since 2008, during May and June, I have been on Green Bay in Door County over 100 days catching and releasing 4,000 smallies. Refining the Kalin's p... more
With the ups and downs with the weather and the seasons, it adds a challenge to put fish in the boats for my clients. In the late part of summer, the bite has a tendency to slow down a bit; this time is also known as the "dog days of summer". To have success, I have to resort to more live bait presentations to make happy customers. One of my favorite methods is a slip bobber rig, not for walleye and panfish, but for huge bass and pike. It is basically the same presentation that Florida guides have been using for decades with balloons and large shiners.
The slip bobber set up is the standard presentation; a slip bobber knot, a bead, a slip bobber, weight and a 1/0 hook. The key part o... more
What happens when an unexpected accident or medical emergency occurs on your boat or to one of your clients, or for that matter yourself? You are on the water and miles from any type of boat ramp. Before we get into any scenarios, let me give you some tips I use on every guide trip I take out.
We have all seen this before at any given time at any boat ramp. A large group of friends or maybe a large family arrive at a boat ramp and it never fails, you have eight people, all standing around, and only one person can back the vehicle up, put the boat in the water, park the trailer, and drive the boat.
That scenario I just stated is just what we do as guides on every trip, we put the bo... more
On a typical late July day, fisherman are searching for cold water on Lake Michigan to catch fish. Boats are typically in the sixty degrees of water range looking for anything in the fifties. This congregates the bait and the fish and makes for some pretty intense fishing. Charter captains keep an eye out for where the water moves and are able to stay on top of the colder water and the fish to make their clients happy. Typically you are thinking fastball, when you should wait back on the slow curve.
This year that has not happened up and down the Wisconsin coast. Water temperatures have remained cold all year long and surface temperatures have stayed steady in the lower fifty degree ... more
Veteran guide Lynn Niklasch takes precision trolling for huge walleyes to a level most casual anglers can't even comprehend. But meticulous attention to detail has rewards: 40 Wisconsin walleyes over 30 inches in just six weeks last year.
Niklasch has worked the waters of Door County every August and early September for the past dozen years, probing every hump and bump on Green Bay from Henderson Point south of Sturgeon Bay clear up to Gill's Rock.
Offshore structures north of Egg Harbor hold more walleyes above the trophy threshold of 30 inches than waters further south, but putting a hook which a gigantic 'eye finds irresistible in the strike zone is much easier than finding the p... more
Planer boards have been a part of many walleye anglers arsenal for a long time. Salmon and trout anglers also employ boards frequently. Planer boards do so many good things when a trolling presentation is called for. They enable an angler to get lines and baits out away from the boat, which prevents spooking the fish.
Boards also make it so much easier to get multiple lines in the water. We can experiment with different colors, running depths, and shapes. This helps us determine what the fish are looking for on that particular day. No doubt about it, planer boards will help us catch more walleyes and salmon and trout.
But, more and more we're learning that planer boards will help... more
Lots of anglers refer to this time of year as the "Dog-Days of Summer". The phrase "Dog-Days" came from ancient Rome and had to do with the stars and the belief that Sirius, The Dog Star, caused summer to be a bad time of year. Regardless of what they thought in ancient Rome, summer is not a bad time to go fishing. While catching fish in the summer can be challenging, the fact is that there are still lots of fish to catch. Their metabolism is high due to warmer water, so they eat more. If we put a bait in front of them at the right time and in the right manner, they're going to eat that bait. Here are some things you can do to catch fish during the dog-days of summer.
First of all, ... more
In Wisconsin we are blessed with hundreds of wonderful rivers and streams loaded with my favorite, smallmouth bass. I've spent all or part of hundreds of days wading smaller rivers across southern Wisconsin, as well as hitting a variety rivers around the state also by foot or in one of my Wilderness Systems kayaks.
Along with the joy of communing with nature, it is so nice to not have to fight those crowded launches, especially on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Where I'm chasing smallies it's rare to see more than a few other anglers and most of the time I see no one else.
Types of Structure to Look For
When wading or kayaking a river, I look for locations that wil... more
Neal Soyka lives to fish and it doesnt hurt that he knows how to as well. The man is as friendly as they come and after spending a day with him fishing for whitefish this past winter we were friends.
Neal had a hot tip for me and once again, the boys and I traveled to Dykesville, WI for some Green Bay walleye fishing action.
The Bay has a storied past of feast and famine surrounded by pollution, perch, whitefish, muskies and of course now walleyes. The walleyes in Green Bay are some of the biggest you will find in the state. The other wonderful thing about that is the consistency of the size of the fish. I would consider it the biggest most consistent walleye fishery right behind ... more
There are several critical factors in lure selection necessary to get a fish to bite the hook. These factors can be grouped under the general headings of presentation, bait profile and lure color.
Presentation is the most complex. Topwater or subsurface? Trolling or casting? Steady or erratic retrieve? Casting with the current or against it? Choose the right option in each of these categories-and a couple more-and you're well on the way to getting your string stretched.
Once an angler decides where and how they want to fish the best bait profile must be selected to most effectively achieve this goal. Spinner or spinnerbait? Lipless vibrating crankbait or deep diver? Lure size? Topwat... more
Like many anglers, I learned how to live bait rig for walleyes with the bail open and my trigger finger on the line. At the first indication of a bite, the though process was to let line peel off the spool giving fish line so that they could swallow the bait. Anglers insisted that the less a walleye feels your presence, the better.
There are situations where giving to the fish whether it be by feeding line or pointing the rod tip back when either running live bait rigs or spinner rigs can be the ticket. Especially earlier in the season, the drill often seems to be creeping the rig along and feeding the fish momentarily before the hook set.
One adjustment to make however that c... more
I have been a high school science teacher for the last ten years and recently became the adviser of our school's fishing club and coach of the bass fishing team. Talking about fishing is a great way to get to know kids, and eventually, students always ask what my favorite bass lure is. To me this is a very loaded question - as a tournament angler I have about ten rods in the boat rigged with different baits for the variety of situations that I may face during an outing. I think a better question would be, "if you could only use one lure for bass, what would it be?" Or, "what is the easiest lure to catch bass on?" The answer to both of these questions is the stick worm. Why? Because ba... more
The summer of 2014 has finally arrived. Lots and lots of anglers are taking to the water in search of their favorite fish, and for many of those anglers, their favorite fish is that guy with eyes that glow, the walleye. In most areas walleyes are done spawning and are setting up their summer patterns. There will be lots of ways to catch walleyes, but let's take a basic look at catching them in the summer months.
Right now, from early June until the weather gets really warm, jigs will catch walleyes. More and more, we're tipping our jigs with Impulse Paddle Minnow plastics. These baits can be fished fast, and as the water warms, walleyes will respond to fast moving jigs. Fish these... more
Bluegills will spawn in mid- May through June, they prefer to spawn when the water temperature reaches 70 degrees. This time of year, I often find active bluegills in less than 3 feet of water. I search for the warmest water on the lake, typically on a sunny shoreline. I choose locations like the back of bays or channels and look for soft muddy bottoms. They seem to warm more quickly and hold more fish. The softer bottoms contain more vegetation which provides both food and shelter for the bluegills. Fishing in the shallow water makes it pretty easy to sight fish for spawning bluegills. I will use my Minn-kota trolling motor to slowly cruise the shallows and locate the spawning fish. ... more
As anglers settle into summer patterns for bass fishing and we start working a little deeper water for bucket mouths, I find there are some refinements I can make that will increase my level of success. These refinements are simple yet will get results.
One of my favorite presentations for working bass in the spring and early summer is through a presentation called wacky rigging. This concept of hooking a sinking worm through the middle goes against everything I have ever learned about fishing. However, the slow, tantalizing drop of a wacky rigged worm is something bass find irresistible.
The problem that develops with summer bass and wacky worming is the depth change of the fish. When... more
A couple of wise old buddies of mine, Ron Triggs and Ralph Dimartino came along on my annual vacation, or trophy walleye hunt. We all were a bit apprehensive about the conditions we faced at first, but as I told them old stories from the past about throwing back twenty-seven to thirty inch fish to continue hunting for one really big trophy.
By the time we arrived to "The Pond" to unload our gear, the guys were both jacked up ready to head right out. They were really amazed with what I had told them about Lake Erie's potential, as it is one of the best big walleye lakes in the country. This body of water has no equal in producing numbers of giant walleyes! While the walleyes are both... more
I love catching panfish all year long. As an avid ice fishing tournament angler, I spend my winters trying to figure out what panfish want to eat and where they position themselves in their environment. This article will focus on seasonal location of bluegills and crappies and techniques for fishing open water.
For the purpose of this discussion, we will consider early season as the period immediately following ice out until the water temperature in main lake basin reaches the upper 50s. During this period I focus on looking for areas that warm up quickly like ditches, shallow rivers, and creeks. There may be fish in other areas but not in the concentrations I am interested in. Ther... more
Catfish have at least one characteristic for the feline mammal which gave them the name-when threatened a catfish will often seek refuge in a tree.
Boiling currents in upper Midwestern rivers push virtually all fish species to seek refuge from high and roily water. Native intelligence tells channel catfish that the downstream edge of shoreline timber will provide both refuge and easy food.
Right now virtually all of the forktail's habitat needs are easily met within 5-10 feet of the shoreline, hunkering down in the slipstream a tree or similar barrier provides.
Channel catfish are omnivores, eating everything from insects to annelids to ivory soap. They are aided in this proce... more
When I started guiding, years ago, I was an artificial bait guy; jigs, plastic worms, spinnerbaits, etc. Oh, I caught fish, sometimes a lot of them. My customers who only fished a couple of times a year had fun, however we could have caught double or triple the fish if we would have used the bait from the good earth. In the lakes I fish most, like Lake Geneva and Delavan Lake, I have found that live bait is the only way to go. You can catch every fish that has a face and I have.
I have been fishing for over 45 years and guiding for 22 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 li... more
Through the years, wherever and whenever anglers go fishing, live bait has always been the go-to bait when fishing gets tough. It's still that way in many fishing situations: Pure and simple, live minnows, nightcrawlers, leeches, crickets, crawdads, and whatever else catch fish. But plastic baits are taking the place of live bait in many situations. However, when some anglers try plastic baits for the first time, sometimes they don't experience the same success that they have come to expect from live bait. There's a reason for that most of the time. The reason is, they're fishing it like they fish live bait. The fact is, when you're using plastic bait instead of live bait, you've got ... more
We all do, most of us just don't get to pick one out as often as we would like. When you do decide to pull the trigger and make the investment in a new fishing platform, you had just as well do it right the first time. That means all aspects from the very obvious of hull and motor right on down to electronics and accessories. After all, we are talking about a major purchase here and buyer's remorse over any part of it is the last thing you will want to gain from the experience.
That being said, there are some considerations that you will want to ponder as you delve into the decision making process. As considerable as the expense can be, it is far more than just financial, it's also ver... more
Far from a contradiction of terms, they actually complement each other
and quite well too
During the first open water forays of the year, most walleye anglers-even your more sophisticated types-just don't equate hard bodied lures with early season success. In reality, nothing could be further from the facts. Yes, jigs and rigs have been and will remain the staple presentation in cold water conditions. But, I am here to dispel some myths and make a case for you giving crankbaits some serious consideration this Spring.
Tried and true can also become tedious and tiresome. Take a leap of faith and put down your spinning rods and jigs long enough to break out the linecounters and lur... more
Austin and I were exhausted from hoofing it through the snow that at times was nearly waist deep. It wasnt long into the first morning of last years youth hunt that we felt as though the odds were severely against us. Needing a break to clear out the snow in our boots we decided to set up against a large oak tree that had about a thirty yard circle around it without snow. Here we could try and dry out. We did notice that the area was pretty scratched up from turkeys as we nestled in behind the ghost blind. In front of us was a swamp area that held some turkey tracks around the edge.
The spring turkey season is fast approaching and the anxiety of the weather is the topic of most ... more
Over the last few years I have spent many spring days chasing pre-spawn smallies. In April I target bronzebacks exclusively on Lake Winnebago (which has no closed season for gamefish) followed by the month of May on Lake Geneva, Sturgeon Bay and Big Green Lake. This year things will be much further behind due to our record cold winter and I will likely still be ice fishing well into April. With that being said, the past techniques that I have learned by fishing Lake Winnebago on cold April days will be applicable when the bass season opens in May on Wisconsin's inland lakes. All of the ice we have accumulated will set things back and extend pre-spawn activity for a few weeks at the very ... more
Early in the open water fishing season, jigs are probably the Number One go-to bait for walleye anglers, and folks who fish for bass and panfish also use jigs early in the season. There's a reason for that: Jigs are, plain and simple, fish-catchers. In fact, many anglers, if they were limited to one type of lure to use year 'round, would choose a jig. Jigs come in a lot of shapes and sizes and colors, and determining which jig you should tie onto your line can be a little confusing. It doesn't need to be. Just keep a few considerations in mind and you'll be catching fish on jigs in no time.
We'll get the color consideration out of the way right away. Sometimes color matters, someti... more
Some of the earliest open water walleye fishing opportunities occur each season on river systems and flowages or bottle neck areas that open up because of current. Open seasons and open water are necessary and there are so many good early season fishing opportunities. The Mississippi River, Rainy River, Fox River and the Missouri River all come to mind. Each of these fisheries are drastically different with different terrain features, different forage and ultimately different fishing strategies. While there are differences from one fishery to the next, there are also many similarities. The beauty of fishing rivers is that fish location does get dictated by current
or a lack there of. ... more
There are a lot of different ways to catch walleye and I have tried most of them. Some of these techniques have worked well under certain conditions, others have not impressed me very much.
There is one presentation that has consistently been successful for me, especially early in the year. This basic presentation is the live bait rig.
Although the live bait rig is often times thought of as a simple means of angling for walleye, it isn't always as simple as one may think. There are certainly many variations and noteworthy equipment refinements that can be made to increase success.
Walleye are known for their finicky eating habits. Their pick-ups are often so subtle it is hard to t... more
With so many reasons to look forward to the spring one that always comes to like minds is the walleye run with ice melting and rivers running. About 80 to 90 percent of the walleye across the country move from main lakes into the rivers to spawn. Unlike during the summer when trolling for big fish can be hit or miss, big walleye become more catchable when they migrate upstream with the masses. Rain and melting snow will fill rivers at various times and produced strong current. Fast-moving water draws walleye upstream to spawning areas like a magnet. As good as all that sounds, high water and spring fishing present their own problems. But, attention to detail and modifying presentations to m... more
Tourism folks in Wisconsin's Indianhead Country are anxiously watching the weather this first weekend of spring. Last year they were able to put a positive spin on tip-up fishing at the Governor's Opener held on Lake Namekagon.
If ice fishing in May were a once-in-a-lifetime event the experience would certainly be noteworthy. The winter of 2012-13 was semi-tough. The winter of 2013-14 was brutal and still making its presence known in a cruel April Fool's joke.
Speculation at Governor's Opener venue on Balsam Lake isn't a question of ice fishing or not. The real question is whether participants will be able to reach water without an extension for their power augers.
Ice will certa... more
Nothing marks the start of spring like the thousands of walleyes that migrate up the Fox River each year...and the anglers that follow them. The walleye fishing on the Fox River is world class and offers a good chance at a walleye weighing more than 10 lbs. Understanding the dynamics of this river, such as how water clarity can change with precipitation and runoff, is critical to finding and locating big walleyes; and getting them into the boat.
The section of the Fox River below the De Pere dam is 7 miles in length. The majority of fishing is done in the first mile from the fish refuge located north of the De Pere dam to roughly the Highway 172 bridge. There are plenty of fishing opp... more
Over the years, I have read a kajillion articles on how to catch spring panfish. Some of them have been excellent and some have been a little farfetched in my opinion. I believe catching spring panfish is not that difficult if one sticks to the basics.
The first and most important concept in catching crappie and gills is finding them. I don't care what kind of angling skill a person might have, you can't catch fish if they are not there.
For me, the most important aspect of finding shallow panfish is understanding why they are shallow to begin with. These early season fish are not up shallow to spawn as was once promoted by many. This springtime, shallow water migration is all about fo... more
Knowing that spring is a long way off in Wisconsin this year, we decided to take a family vacation to Port Charlotte, Florida. Yes, we had sunshine and 80 degree temperatures for most of our trip. Anyone who knows me, knows that I never leave home without my fishing pole and this trip was no exception. I booked a couple of fishing trips and had my sights on some shoreline fishing as well. A local bait shop, suggested Captain Billy Barton of Scale and Tails charters. Billy, a life-long resident of Florida has had countless hours on the water and has spent many days 100 miles off shore catching anything from Black Tipped Shark to Grouper, on those types of trips, success could mean 10,000... more
The USMC hymn traces the Corps noble beginning in the very first line. Pirates operating out of the Libyan port Tripoli were vicious cutthroats. Our first Marines went over there and solved the problem.
Sadly, there is nothing the USMC can do about the increasingly cutthroat nature of the fishing tackle industry. If all the jig and spinner makers adhered to a credo of Duty-Honor-Country, America would be a better place.
The tackle industry used to do business that way. If you designed a new lure and you liked that lure you could patent it. Period.
Other manufacturers would respect your efforts. If it sold like hotcakes, they might change it 10 percent to avoid patent infringemen... more
With near-record days below zero and a winter that we have not seen since the 70s, ice fishing tactics this year will need to be adjusted during the month of March to put fish on the ice.
The winter is showing that we are nearly two weeks behind to normal. The recent Battle on Bago results should be testament enough as anglers put more burbots onto the ice and into the contest than ever before. Typically the freshwater cod is off of its spawning grounds by this time of year.
Fish in general will also feel the stress of this winter soon enough if they already have not. Thick ice, coupled with snow cover on top of the lakes, causes a lot of problems. Without sunlight hitting the wa... more
Another open water fishing season is closing in. It's still a ways off, but it's getting closer every day. Maybe the most important thing you can do to enhance your fishing is to use fresh line. Fresh line will help you enjoy your fishing and catch more fish. Here's why.
Line that has been on a reel for an extended period of time probably isn't in ideal fishing form. It may not cast well due to memory. Memory is when line remembers the shape it has been in. If line has been wrapped around the spool of a reel for a long time, it might not want to straighten out as much as necessary when you are casting. Casting distance and ease of casting is not as good with line that has memory. M... more
Application is name-of-the-game for determining best ice fishing line
Whenever you play on the fringes of extreme, the choices you make truly do impact success.
Ever see what -25 degrees does to motor oil? How about fishing line?
When I started ice fishing line choice was simple. You used mono on "jiggle sticks" and Dacron on tip-ups. Pound test was determined by size of fish targeted-2- or 4-pound test for panfish, 8-pound for walleye, and 20 or so for pike.
The biggest issue I struggled with back then was line memory. Cold, stiff mono went down the hole in coils so I'd load the line with enough split shot to get it straight, then select a float large enough to keep it al... more
It might not seem like it, but the late ice season is not that far off. With Polar Vortex's and such displaying their power, warmer weather seems like a long way off. However, as the days continue to get longer and the sun moves farther north, we can be assured that the fish under the ice will sense a change and start to bite. One of the things that will determine whether or not they will bite your bait is color. Following are some thoughts on the importance of color under the ice.
It's important to keep in mind that color is just one consideration whether you're ice-fishing or open water fishing. If the fish want to eat, they'll sometimes eat your bait regardless of color. Other ti... more
After first ice, the bluegills will migrate from the shallow water haunts of early season ice and suspend over the main lake basin. The best months to catch deepwater gills' are Late January through February.
I consider deepwater any water depth over 15 feet of water. Deep water bluegills are roaming and don't concentrate in any area for a long period of time. When they move they are usually in small schools of 5 or 6 fish. I will always catch the upper fish in the school first not to spook the fish that are lower in the water column. I find that the upper fish in the water column seem to bite better the fish that remain tight to the bottom. The greatest asset to the deepwater gill ... more
February just blew in the other day with all the popularity and perceived longevity as the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Even the most ardent outdoors enthusiasts find our winter to venture forth, searching for vicarious escape on the Travel channel to destinations like the Bahamas or Belize.
Campbellsport's Tom Gruenwald is a stark exception to this rule. Gruenwald secretly wishes winter will never end. If the icy grip of the silent season ever recedes, Gruenwald will chase it.
Gruenwald is an ice fishing junkie. He has accepted this addiction, even penning a series of books on this sport-"Hooked on Ice Fishing".
Two years ago he made the logical progression in spreading the h... more
Have you ever heard the saying "ninety percent of the fish are in ten percent of the water?" I find this to be very true when ice fishing for panfish. Ice trolling is a technique that I use to locate elusive schools of panfish roaming deep water basins and even shallow areas devoid of weeds.
I start by drilling dozens of holes using a cordless drill attached to a 5" strike master hand auger via the Beaver Dam Drill Converter. This lightweight, quiet, but yet powerful combination, allows me to make Swiss cheese of the lake with ease and without fatigue. In the last few seasons I have even started drilling holes while remaining on my 4-wheeler because of the time it saves. I literally... more
Discovering Hidden Hotspots on Ice
Written in conjnction with Brian "Bro" Brosdahl
Right now, there's a hidden hot spot in your favorite lake, and most years it never gets touched. "There's this lake I've fished my whole life," says legendary ice angler and guide, Brian "Bro" Brosdahl. "Thought I knew it pretty well. Then several years ago, I ran the entire basin in a boat armed with Side Imaging. What an eye-opener. Discovered a sweet spot that had likely been untapped for decades, maybe longer. It was just filthy with crappies and big sunfish. Still is."
The truth, Bro says, is that every waterbody in the Ice Belt has secrets to share, if only anglers will "listen." Whether it's a r... more
Many years ago my father and I headed out to the Bay of Green Bay for some ice fishing perch action. We nearly lost the truck due to bad ice and the fishing failed. The fishing in the Bay since then has gone down the drain and so has part of the economy. The poor fishing has affected local guides and related services.
With the advent of invasive species most notably the goby game fish have learned to adapt and have made the invasive species part of the food web. A fish that has taken advantage of this is the whitefish. Their numbers are at an all time high right now and the interest in fishing for them has brought the guiding business, as well as the economy, back in the right direc... more
In a perfect world, we would always be able to fish for fish that make us look good. Fish that burn up to the presentation and rise to meet and greet you. Fish that are looking for a meal and want to eat. So often with fishing, we are dealt our hand of cards however and there are times when we have to react and make adjustments to what the fish are giving us.
Massive cold fronts and other factors can shut the activity of fish down. Lop sided forage bases that offer endless forage options can also create tough winter bites. There are many situations where the fish are the exact opposite of aggressive. There are times when moving the bait aggressively causes fish to flee the other... more
Schools of perch often seem to continually be on the move. When there are several mouths to feed, sitting in one location doesn't work. A school of perch can devour everything in its path. I would hate to be a minnow or crawfish when jumbo and all of his friends roll through. Because schools of perch are typically here today and gone tomorrow because of their nomadic lifestyle, finding and getting on top of fish can be always fleeting.
How do you land on a moving target? Sitting in a good location where fish are likely to roll through isn't a bad strategy. If the fish are moving through and you have good traffic underneath you
why move? The other strategy is a run and gun menta... more
The middle part of the ice-fishing season will soon be here. There are things we do in the middle of the season that we don't do earlier in the year. For more fishing success in the next few weeks, keep these ideas in mind.
I was fishing for perch through the ice last year in South Dakota with Blake and Taylor Anderson. These guys are as sharp as it gets when it comes to ice-fishing. The perch seemed to be kind of spooky at mid-day. We could see numbers of perch on the bottom with our sonar, and we were catching them regularly, but Blake and Taylor were catching them more regularly than I was. Here's why,,we think. We weren't keeping any perch that day, we were releasing them right... more
Locating a population of bluegills is seldom a problem on virtually any southern Wisconsin lake. Ice fishers are not shy about grinding holes dinner table close to another angler if they think this proximity will help them put some panfish on the ice.
Ice fishers are like duck decoys. Two or three astride buckets on an acre of ice my not draw attention. But a dozen hunkered down on a tennis court sized parcel of ice will. Soon 12 become 20.
If those who arrived first had any kind of active bite going on before the troops arrived you can bet aggressive feeding will come to a screeching halt once the tap dancing overhead begins.
Winter bluegills often locate over flats. You can fi... more
When ice fishing, it's hard to beat the adrenaline rush that a triggered tip-up flag brings. The quick response that follows can be quite entertaining as well. Watching your buddies run to the hole, performing an uncoordinated ice skating routine the entire way. I don't know what's more amusing, watching someone fall on their rear or watching them pretend nothing happened after getting up. Regardless, tip-up fishing can be a blast. As long as the proper tactics are used, this style of fishing can be very productive, especially when targeting the notorious Northern Pike. Having the proper equipment, knowing where pike hang out, and understanding their feeding habits will significantly i... more