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Craig Ritchie's Articles

May 2022

  • Spring Time is King Time

    Spring Time is King Time

    After a long, cold winter nothing feels better than to get out on open water and chase species of fish that I haven't seen in a couple of months. Sure, spring is prime time for pike and walleye and panfish, but I've most likely caught a few of those through the ice at some point in the winter. So fo...

April 2022

  • Teaching Kids To Fish

    Teaching Kids To Fish

    If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that nothing beats family time enjoying the outdoors. Spending time out on the water with your kids teaches them patience, it teaches them about the importance of wild spaces and clean environments, and it teaches them important values and responsibilitie...

March 2022

  • Pre-Spawn Walleye Tactics

    Pre-Spawn Walleye Tactics

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy ice fishing. But like most anglers, there's a limit to how much time I can spend staring at an eight-inch hole. That's why the return of open water in March is always such a welcome sight - that, and the opportunity to get out in the warming weather to target big pre-spaw...

February 2022

  • A Southern Getaway To Beat The Winter Doldrums

    A Southern Getaway To Beat The Winter Doldrums

    While there can be a lot of fun in specialization, I've always leaned more to the "variety is the spice of life" end of things and particularly when it comes to fishing. Variety keeps things interesting, and it lets you make the most of the opportunities available over the course of a year. As m...

January 2022

  • Beating The Mid-Winter Blahs

    Beating The Mid-Winter Blahs

    For the most part ice fishing follows a relatively consistent pattern from one year to the next. There's that flurry of activity as the first safe ice sets in, when fish are set up in obvious, predictable spots and still feeding aggressively. Then the action dies off toward the end of January, and w...

September 2021

  • The One-Two Punch

    The One-Two Punch

    It sounds like something straight out of a boxing ring, but the one-two punch is an old tournament fishing tactic that's not only put a lot of anglers on the podium over the years, but it's one that a lot of people tend to forget about, and that's part of what keeps it so fresh and effective year af...

August 2021

  • Get The Net

    Get The Net

    It's always a happy moment when you yell to your fishing partner to get the net. But these stories don't always have a happy ending. Landing nets are an important piece of tackle that far too many anglers neglect. So just in time for the busy fall season and some of the hottest action of the year, l...

July 2021

  • Break Out The Buzzbaits

    Break Out The Buzzbaits

    Early summer fishing really is a joy, both in its bounty and its simplicity. It's bountiful alright. Fish are cold-blooded creatures, meaning their activity levels and their metabolism are directly tied to the ambient water temperature. The warmer things get, the faster they digest food and the m...

June 2021

  • Easy Early Summer Muskies

    Easy Early Summer Muskies

    They're supposed to be the fish of 1,000 casts, but when it comes to early summer muskie action, nothing could be farther from the truth. And that's exactly why I love early summer muskie fishing so much. There's no need for huge expensive baits, there's no need for heavy pool-cue rods, and there's ...

May 2021

  • Weeds Are The Key To Spring Walleyes

    Weeds Are The Key To Spring Walleyes

    Over a more than 35-year career as a full-time outdoor writer, I've been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places and learn a lot of different things about fishing - sometimes on my own, sometimes with professional guides, sometimes with big-time tournament pros and the hosts of nationally-televise...

April 2021

  • It's Trout Time

    It's Trout Time

    For a lot of anglers in the Midwest, April is one of those months where there's just too much going on at once. The spring crappie bite is at its peak, steelhead runs in rivers tributary to the Great Lakes are in full swing, inshore trolling for salmon and lake trout is about as good as it gets and ...

March 2021

  • Getting The Jump On Early Spring Steelhead

    Getting The Jump On Early Spring Steelhead

    No question about it - if you live in the Midwest then there's no better opportunity to catch steelhead than March and April, when the fish leave the safety of the Great Lakes and migrate en masse up tributary streams on their annual spawning run. This is no secret - a fact borne out by the crowd...

February 2021

  • Don't Wait To Buy A New Boat

    Don't Wait To Buy A New Boat

    One of the big surprizes of 2020 was the massive surge in boat sales as people emerged from Covid-19 lockdowns looking for new ways to enjoy family time together outside. Demand for things like boats was so high last year that by mid-summer, some dealerships actually ran out of inventory. Yet peo...

January 2021

  • Early Winter Crappie Tactics

    Early Winter Crappie Tactics

    Winter is not my favorite fishing season, if I'm perfectly honest about it. I like to cast, and I like to fish in moving water, working with the currents and solving the challenges they always seem to present - things that are pretty difficult to do when the water is hard enough to walk on. But ...

December 2020

  • Christmas Steelhead

    Christmas Steelhead

    December can be a tricky month for fishing in the Midwest. Depending on what the weather decides to do, you could be picking your way out on early ice with an auger in hand, or just as easily heading out in the boat for one last trip on the open water. I find it make it tough to plan more than a few...

November 2020

  • Going Deep For Fall Smallies

    Going Deep For Fall Smallies

    November is a hard time for anglers in the Midwest, because it seems like its prime time for just about everything. With the clock ticking down before winter's ice brings open-water fishing to an end, muskie action is peaking, walleye action is peaking, and of course it's prime time to stream fish f...

October 2020

  • Trout Time

    Trout Time

    October is a tough time for anglers in the Midwest, because it seems like it's prime time for absolutely everything. October is when smallmouth begin to gather in huge schools in deep water, packing on weight to get through a long hard winter. Walleye are also gorging like mad as they too try to pac...

September 2020

  • Plugging September Salmon

    Plugging September Salmon

    September has always been a month of transitions. The leaves begin to turn yellow, orange and red in September, as summer transitions into autumn. Cooler September nights and shorter days bring deep-water predators like pike and muskie back into shallower waters for a fall feeding extravaganza. ...

June 2020

  • Spoon-Fed Pike

    Spoon-Fed Pike

    If we're perfectly honest about it, we anglers are all guilty of what I like to call Hamster Wheel Syndrome (HWS). Because we spend far more time on the water than any sane human being ever would, we've come to realize that fish respond best to things that they've never seen before. It's precisely t...

April 2020

  • It's Steelhead Time

    It's Steelhead Time

    With boat ramps closed in many areas as a result of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, spring fishing options in some parts of the country are more restricted than usual. Thankfully there are still some terrific opportunities for anglers looking to wet a line, and that includes enjoying some of the b...
  • Slugging Spring Lakers

    Slugging Spring Lakers

    While it's always rewarding to persevere through tough conditions and come up with a decent catch at the end of the day, I don't always want fishing to be an uphill battle. Sometimes, it's nice to have everything click into place and enjoy some easy action. Maybe that's a reason I'm such a big fa...

March 2020

  • Pre-Spawn Crappie Strategies

    Pre-Spawn Crappie Strategies

    Black crappies are one of my favorite fish to catch, and for a number of reasons. They're usually willing biters, and that's important in the early spring when you haven't been out on open water in a couple of months and really want to just unwind and enjoy some fast action. They're also incredibly ...

February 2020

  • Jump-Starting Spring Steelhead

    Jump-Starting Spring Steelhead

    Throughout the Midwest, the back-end of winter can be a frustrating time of year for anglers. By the second half of February ice fishing tends to slump, as fish disperse throughout lake systems with no real reason to concentrate anywhere. That hot first-ice action is by now a memory, yet the furious...
  • Next Generation Electric Motors

    Next Generation Electric Motors

    Electric motors have always been a little strange in the way that technological developments seem to come in waves. The reality is that not much happened with electrics for years, then in the late 1980s and early 90s everyone suddenly had electronic steering as an alternative to the traditional cabl...
  • Size Matters

    Size Matters

    We've all heard the phrase "size matters" but how often do we think about that when we're out on the ice? The simple reality is, using the right sized baits can make or break a day of fishing faster than anything else, and that's especially true when you're out on the ice. In fact, I'd bet that b...

January 2020

  • The Joy Of Winter Bluegills

    The Joy Of Winter Bluegills

    One of the great things about ice fishing is that it gives us all a chance to slow down and take stock of the things that really matter. While catching big fish is always a thrill, the true joy in getting out is just in enjoying a nice day in the outdoors and having fun by catching a few fish. That'...

December 2019

  • Christmas Whitefish

    Christmas Whitefish

    Few serious anglers would argue that the best ice fishing comes as soon as the ice is safe enough to walk on. At first ice fish are still found in relatively shallow water, where they're fairly easy to locate. They're also still active - especially in the case of whitefish, which are gathering in sh...
  • Last Gasp Muskies In Kentucky

    Last Gasp Muskies In Kentucky

    I've always had mixed feelings about December. As much as I know first ice brings the best hardwater action of the year, and that these final weeks of Great lakes steelhead fishing are not to be missed, I'm not yet ready to give up on open water casting. So as often as not, I'll do one more road tri...
  • Where To Start For First Ice Action

    Where To Start For First Ice Action

    We've all heard that the best ice fishing of the year often comes at first ice, just as soon as the hard stuff is thick enough to safely walk on. But that can take a bit of time to happen and, for most of us, there's a gap of two or three weeks since we last visited the same waters in the boat. Bein...

November 2019

  • Winter Steelhead

    Winter Steelhead

    Among anglers, the arrival of that first blast of snow and those first nights below freezing can mean vastly different things. For those who enjoy pursing warm-water species like bass and panfish, ice on the driveway means it's finally time to put the boat away for the year. Muskie and walleye angle...

September 2019

  • How Wind Affects Fish

    How Wind Affects Fish

    There's an old saying that nothing screws up a day of fishing like the wind. But that's not really true. Wind can be a very good thing for fishing, especially if you like catching big fish. That's because of all the environmental things that happen above the waves, nothing else has such a direct imp...
  • Tactics For September Smallmouth

    Tactics For September Smallmouth

    There's something about September and smallmouth bass that makes a magic combination. Perhaps it's the cooler early-fall weather that makes it all so much fun, or perhaps the lack of bugs. Maybe it's that most anglers forget about bass come Labor Day, or that they've switched gears to other pursuits...

August 2019

  • Crankbait Selection Part 1

    Crankbait Selection Part 1

    Open any angler's tackle kit and it's a sure thing that you'll find a whole bunch of crankbaits in different shapes and sizes. Deep-runners, shallow-runners, floaters, sinkers, suspenders. And if the owner is like most anglers, these expensive baits probably seldom see the water. It's an amazing ...
  • Crankbait Selection Part 2

    Crankbait Selection Part 2

    In our last article we looked at how to select crankbaits based on depth and action. But other factors are also important, such as the material that the lure is made from. Crankbaits come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, as well as a variety of materials. Walk down that tackle aisle and you...
  • Fly Fishing For Summer Trout

    Fly Fishing For Summer Trout

    Trout fishing in the Midwest is a seasonal game for most anglers. We line the rivers flowing into the Great Lakes in early spring and late fall, chasing migratory rainbow trout and brown trout long before and after prime fishing seasons for everything else. But it's wrong to think of stream fishing ...

July 2019

  • Saddle Up For Big Fish

    Saddle Up For Big Fish

    We all have our favorite fishing spots, but mine is straight out of a spaghetti western. While scores of other anglers pound obvious spots like shoreline docks and pad beds, I head straight for places you can only see on navigation charts. Because these unseen gems see little fishing pressure compar...

June 2019

  • Easy Tactics For Early Summer Muskie

    Easy Tactics For Early Summer Muskie

    They're supposed to be the fish of 10,000 casts. But when it comes to catching muskie, June is an exception. That's when large numbers of post-spawn fish converge on shallow areas where they actively feed to regain lost weight. It's not prime time for catching the biggest muskie of the year, but whe...

May 2019

  • Dredging and Burning Spoons For Spring Pike

    Dredging and Burning Spoons For Spring Pike

    Spoons have long been a staple for spring pike fishing, when post-spawn fish remain concentrated along shallow shorelines. The standard technique of fishing with spoons - constantly casting as you move slowly through a weedy bay or along a promising-looking shoreline - is a big reason for their effe...
  • Running and Gunning for Spring Walleye

    Running and Gunning for Spring Walleye

    Ask a group of walleye anglers what their favorite technique is, and you'll get a lot of different answers. Some will say jigging, others will answer slip-rigging with live bait. A few will respond that their favorite is trolling with spinner rigs and snap-weights, while others still will prefer a d...

April 2019

  • Save Your Eyes And Catch More Fish

    Save Your Eyes And Catch More Fish

    Walk through any well-stocked tackle store these days and it's a sure bet that somewhere onsite you'll find a display rack with a range of polarized sunglasses for fishing. Some of the glasses on display will be cheap and cheerful, while others can cost several hundred dollars. There are plenty ...
  • When To Use Mono, Braid or Fluorocarbon

    When To Use Mono, Braid or Fluorocarbon

    Buying fishing line used to be easy - you picked the brand, tint and breaking strength you like best, and head for the cash register. There wasn't much more to it. Not so today, with fishing stores offering braided lines, fluorocarbon lines and monofilament lines in a huge range of sizes, colors,...

March 2019

  • Enjoy Fast Action With Ice-Out Crappie

    Enjoy Fast Action With Ice-Out Crappie

    While each of the four seasons has its own charms, it's tough to beat the surge of activity that comes in early spring as winter finally relaxes its icy grip. Fast-slowing streams across the Midwest attract big runs of powerful steelhead, open waters on the Great Lakes offer salmon close to shore, a...
  • Prime Time For Winter Steelhead

    Prime Time For Winter Steelhead

    As much as I enjoy ice fishing, and as much as I look forward to a mid-winter trip south to get in some open water casting, my favorite winter pastime has always been river fishing for steelhead. Each year, starting in late February, winter begins to release its icy grip from the rivers flowing into...

February 2019

  • Easy Tactics For Mid-Winter Panfish

    Easy Tactics For Mid-Winter Panfish

    It's well known that the best ice fishing happens early and late in the season. Many species are still putting on the feed bag when the first ice seals the lakes shut, while longer days and the approach of spawning season for many species brings another burst of activity before the ice gives out alt...

January 2019

  • Use Winter Nights To Prepare Tackle For The Coming Season

    Use Winter Nights To Prepare Tackle For The Coming Season

    If you really think about it, an angler's year can be divided into three neat periods. There's the open water season, when we're fishing every chance we get. There's the winter, when we still fish, but through a hole in the ice. And there's that brief, panic-stricken few days in between, as the last...

December 2018

  • Tactics for First-Ice Walleyes

    Tactics for First-Ice Walleyes

    While it may not be for everyone, ice fishing in the early winter often produces the best walleye action of the year. Part of the reason for that lies in the time-honored principle of supply and demand. In the spring and summer, forage fish are plentiful, and walleye have it easy. But by fall, after...

July 2018

  • Catch Walleye During Summer Cold Fronts

    Catch Walleye During Summer Cold Fronts

    Stable, warm summer weather often makes for fantastic walleye action as the fish pack into predictable spots and put on the feed bag. But then like flicking a switch, the easy pickings come to a halt with the arrival of a cold front that brings cooler temperatures, clear skies and stiff winds. All o...

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