Monday, March 28, 2011

Kewaunee River 3/27/11

Took a ride to Kewaunee on Sunday morning in hope of landing my first Steelhead of the year.  I arrived at 6:30 to a temperature reading in my truck of 6°!  I figured there might be some ice, but I never imagined it would be constantly coming down the river in sheets!  There was also steam rolling off the river as the sun broke the horizon.

Despite the grim outlook, I hopped into my waders and headed to a spot that looked promising.  I soon realized that fishing was gonna be difficult to imposible due to the heavy ice flows.  I made several attempts to get a rod set with spawn in the hole, but every time I would get it set, an ice hunk would catch my line and take it downstream.  I then tried to float fish it, which worked somewhat, but I had to clean my guides of ice on each cast.  The ice was stacking up in the prime spot, so I wasn't able to get my bait where I wanted to no matter what!

After about an hour of dealing with the ice, I decided to check some other spots and see if I could find some open water without any ice flows.  To my surprise, I found that in town the original ice was still in place, and thick enough to ice fish!  I set 3 Automatic Fishermen and waited them out.  There were no signs of fish whatsoever, never even had a bobber raise in 2 hours, so I decided to go and check out the Ahnapee River in Algoma.

Upon arrival I was excited to see a boat trolling just south of the harbor for Brown Trout, which is next on my to do list!  The river had some shell ice, but none where I wanted to fish, that was until I threw my line in the water!  Within 5 minutes, a 100'x100' sheet of shell ice blew into my spot and got hung up on a bridge piling.  The ice once again prevented me from fishing!

At this point the writing was on the wall, it just wasn't going to happen today!  Despite minimal results in the cold, I still learned a thing or two about the river and am itching to get back out there soon!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Great Lakes Tributary Steelhead

 Regardless of the weather outside right now, the Great Lakes Steelhead are running up the rivers that they were stocked in, and in good numbers.  Each year the spring melt draws these otherwise open water roamers from the deep waters of the Great Lakes into the shallow waters of the many tributaries along the coasts.

Every Steelhead strain has a different time frame for their main spawning run.  I am no expert on what strain spawns when, but I do know that they begin running into the rivers in early March and can be caught in the tributaries in numbers until mid May.

Beautiful Buck Steelhead

One of the most important things to consider as an angler when targeting spring run Steelhead is flow.  When the tributaries are flowing, the fish are coming!  High water brings the fish in, but unfortunately high water in many Great Lakes tributaries means dirty water!

Water clarity is the next factor that can make or break your trip.  Knowing how a spring melt or heavy rain event will effect the clarity of the tributary you plan on fishing can help you make the decision of whether or not to leave the house in search of some spring Steelies.  Living over an hour from the nearest tributary has taught me to monitor this factor closely, to avoid long drives for nothing.

Another thing to consider when targeting spring Steelhead is bait selection.  Fresh spawn is a great choice throughout the year, but how you present it to the fish will make a big difference this spring.  Floating spawn through your favorite holes can be done several different ways, so try floats, split shots above the spawn, and also try putting floats in your spawn sacs to keep the spawn from snagging bottom.
Nice Chrome Hen Steelhead

If the water clarity is decent, spinners can be productive.  Steelhead, when active, will absolutely crush a spinner which makes for lots of fun!  When fishing spinners, be sure not to spook the fish by staying a good distance from your targeted area.  Long casts across the tributary will produce fish and not spook them.

Another method many anglers choose is fly fishing.  I am not a fly fisherman so I couldn't begin to explain what it takes to catch Steelies in the spring on flies.

Take a few of these tips and tricks with you on your next Great Lakes Tributary Steelhead Quest!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wolf River Walleye Fishing Rafts

Since I was 4 years old, I have been fishing off of a raft on the Wolf River each spring for the Walleye run.  The Wolf River is very unique in the fact that it is the only River in the nation that allows "Raft Fishing".  For those of you that are not familiar with a fishing raft, it is simply a house boat designed to anchor along shore and fish off of.  Today there are rafts with all the amenities of home, electric, couches, television, bathrooms, heat, and even internet!

As a kid my grandfather would take my dad and I on his raft, which was quite basic, when compared to some of the rafts on the Wolf River today!  He built the raft from an old pontoon boat frame, and then built a 12'x8' shack on top of that.  Inside the shack was a bunk bed, a small stove, a heater, 4 chairs, a small table, and a propane lantern for light.  The outside had railings on the front and back, the front railing was equipped with 2" rings and two nails every foot, which were used to hold the fishing poles.  A 200 pound propane tank was mounted to the side of the shack, and fueled the heater, stove, and lanterns both inside and outside of the shack.

Instead of regular fishing poles, we used cane poles with Wolf River Rigs to catch the Walleyes.  The cane poles were different lengths, so that they could be staggered and not get tangled with each other, well at least that was the idea!  As for lures, the original Floating Rapalas were the hot bait back then, with Black and Gold, Perch, and Orange and Gold being hot colors back then.

Growing up on the river each spring has given me an appreciation for the river and all of the different animals that call it home.  There were always Sandhill Cranes that would awaken us each morning at the break of dawn with their thundering calls, and Great Horned Owls calling back and forth in the silent moonlit night.  The marshes would come alive in the evenings with the sounds of frogs, Geese, and several different kinds of Ducks.  Every once in awhile Mr. Beaver would show his face, and I can recall my grandfather wanting to shoot the little bugger because it liked to chew on the wrong trees!

This time of the year is and always will be special to me, since even though my grandpa has passed away, the Wolf River still thrives and each spring the circle of life continues.

Monday, March 14, 2011

3/12/11 Sheboygan Harbor

Had a chance to get out over the weekend in search of some late ice Trout in the Sheboygan Harbor.  It was surprisingly tough to get out of bed at 4am to begin the day, but after one snooze cycle is was time to get rolling.  Three of us made the trek to Sheboygan with high hopes of landing a few fish and enjoying the day.

We arrived at the Harbor by 6am, only to find 2 other groups already making their way onto the ice.  This made picking a spot simple, since there were only 2 options!  By 6:30 we had all of our tip ups and Automatic Fishermen set and ready for some action.

Once the tip ups were in, I set my brother up with a jig pole and explained to him how to use a flasher.  Within 15 minutes he had a fish on the ice!  It wasn't a Trout however, it was a 13.5" Perch!  This is honestly the nicest looking Perch I have ever seen!  He contemplated mounting it for awhile, but decided to have a Perch dinner instead.

An hour passed with no action, when our first flag of the day popped up.  We ran over to it, hurdling the many obstacles in the harbor for a chance at catching a Trout.  Unfortunately for us, the fish only took 4 inches of line and spit the spawn sac out, before we could get to the tip up. 

Another hour passed when I heard that familiar sound, the sound of the Automatic Fisherman base slamming the plastic beneath it, meaning a fish had tripped the rod!  This fish narrowly escaped with the spawn, all that was left on the hook after the hookset was the mesh that had surrounded the Trout eggs.

This was beginning to feel like one of those days where nothing would go our way, boy was I right!  Within the next hour, we had two more trips on the Automatic Fishermen and a flag on a normal tip up with nothing to show for it. 

My brother was losing interest and decided to set his jig rod on the ice with the line still down the hole.  We were just standing 15 feet from it carrying on conversation when we heard something behind us.  We turned around to see the pole sliding towards the hole in the ice!  I quickly sprinted to the pole and grabbed it off the ice just as the tip began sliding down the hole.  Luckily, the fish was still on and I began fighting the fish.

Several minutes of hard runs and the fish thrashing below the hole took place before I finally could get the fish's head up the hole.  A friend of mine volunteered to grab the fish for me when it came up the hole.  He grabbed a hold of the line to try to bring the fish further up in the hole when the hook popped out!  I watched this happen, it seemed like slow motion almost.  I immediately reached down the hole after the Rainbow, but it was too late, the fish was history!

We got a good look at the fish before the hook popped out, it was a Rainbow Trout, weighing around 8 pounds!  To make matters even worse, the fish appeared to be a female full of eggs!  We sure could've used some fresh spawn as bait!  All of that excitement was wiped away with the fish lost when it was so close to being caught!

My friend felt horrible for what he had just done, but I really can't blame him considering the circumstances and how tough Trout are to land on light line!  We pressed on, hoping to get another chance at another fish.

That is when I turned over and noticed my dad kneeling on the ice with his rod tip bent over and his Vexilar cable thrashing around in his hole!  I ran over to offer some assistance, but it was already too late.  He wasn't paying any attention, when all of a sudden his pole nearly went down the hole as well!  He grabbed the pole and quickly noticed that the fish had wrapped around his cable.  Instead of hollering for help, he attempted to untangle it himself, which caused the fish to get off.  Talk about tough luck!

Even though we were unable to land a Trout, the trip was well worth it as we learned a new spot and the potential it has, and enjoyed a nice day on the ice in mid March with family and friends.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Think Spring

The winter months have taken their toll on many of us avid fishermen, giving us the incredible urge to get the boat wet again and have a normal sized fishing pole back in our hands!  Every year the first trip of the season is highly anticipated and can never come soon enough.
Early March Walleye

The fishing at this late ice/early spring time of year can be nothing short of spectacular as well!  The Walleyes are beginning their spawning migrations up the many rivers throughout the Midwest, while spring run Steelhead are leaving the big lake and heading up the many tributaries towards their spawning grounds, and the Brown Trout are schooled up along the shorelines up and down Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan Brown Trout
Before this first trip of the spring can take place, you must prepare all of your equipment to ensure a safe and well prepared maiden voyage.  If wading the rivers for spring Steelhead, be sure to check your waders for leaks.  I speak from experience on this, since just last week I headed out to a local dam in search of some spring Walleye and had my trip cut short due to a wet leg.  The simplest way I found to test for leaks is to fill your waders with water, then standing them up and searching for any water on the outside of your waders.

27" Wolf River Walleye

If heading out in the boat on your first trip, make sure you put the plug back in for starters, also make sure all batteries are charged up and also properly hooked up.  I also like to make sure that I have all of the tackle I may need on the trip in the boat and ready.  Remember things like pliers and your camera to make your trip more enjoyable.  I also like to keep my life preservers handier during the cold water months than I do in the summer time. 

When it comes to tackle, I prefer to bring a small tackle box that is custom packed for the season, rather than lugging all of my tackle along on every trip.  For one, having less tackle in the boat means more room.  Things such as trolling crankbaits and spoons can stay at home when I head out on the Wolf River, and my jigs and plastics can be left at home when heading out on Lake Michigan for spring Browns!

I hope a few of these spring fishing ideas will help your first trip of the year become a smooth, productive, and enjoyable one!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pflueger Patriarch

If you are looking to pair a great Walleye rod with a dynamite spinning reel, look no further than the Pflueger Patriarch!  This is the finest spinning reel on the market today, made with quality products and engineered to perfection by Pflueger.

Not only will the Pflueger Patriarch put more fish in the boat for you, it will also catch fish in style.  I must admit that this is one of the sharpest spinning reels I have ever seen!  

Here are the specifications and endless features that come standard on this bruiser of a reel!

Ultra lightweight magnesium body, rotor, and sideplate
Lightweight double anodized aluminum spool with carbon arbor
9 Stainless steel ball bearings
XCR bearings in key locations
Instant anti-reverse bearing
Solid aluminum bail wire
Sure-click™ bail provides an audible signal when bail is fully opened and ready to cast

Anti-twist titanium coated line roller
Lightweight carbon handle
Durable EVA knob
Solid titanium main shaft
Sealed carbon drag system
Convertible left or right hand retrieve
Spring loaded line clip
Neoprene protective bag
Aluminum spare spool
On/Off anti-reverse

For more information on the Pflueger Patriarch any many more fine products, visit

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lake Winnebago 3/3/11

Made it out on the ice probably for the last time with my truck tonight off of Oshkosh searching for the huge school of Walleyes that we have been catching over the past two weeks.  Fishing pressure has scattered the once schooled up Walleyes into smaller groups that are also tougher to get to bite.  Guys are constantly on the move trying to keep up with the fish, which can be a difficult task!
Bago Sauger, notice more fish on the Flasher!

If you are lucky enough to be there when they come through you can easily catch your limit in 15 minutes! My advice to everyone is to move until you are consistently marking fish, I have noticed that it is usually all or nothing when it comes to Walleyes right now, either you are on the mother load or off in outer space!

I was not lucky enough to stumble upon the Walleyes tonight, however, I talked to a few guys that said the fish went nuts from noon to two o'clock this afternoon, with everyone pulling them in on all sorts of baits.  As fast as the fishing picked up, it shut back down by the time I made it out on the ice.  This is why the call it fishing and not catching I guess.

At the end of the evening (5:45) I finally marked a school of suspended Walleyes and coaxed one into biting.  It turned out to be a plump 16.5" Walleye.  The fish bit on a Blue and Chrome #3 Jigging Rapala, and wanted it constantly moving in order to bite.  I quickly unhooked this fish and dropped my Rapala back down the hole where there was still a fish waiting for me.  This fish also rose up and bit my bait, but I didn't hook it.