Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ice Out Brown Trout

The ice is finally on its way out, meaning time to get the boat in the water!  This past weekend presented the perfect opportunity for a friend and I to take advantage of this and do some trolling for Brown Trout out of Algoma on Lake Michigan.  Lake Michigan greeted us with a beautiful sunrise and perfect fishing conditions!

For those of you that typically launch in the Ahnapee River rather than the Algoma Marina, I strongly urge you to use extreme caution when venturing through the river just downstream from the Highway 42 bridge.  The water is so low that there are several rocks exposed here, and the deepest point we found was only a little over 2 feet!  We used the bow-mount trolling motor to navigate the shallows on the way to the lake, and the big motor trimmed way up on the way back to the launch.  We were fortunate enough to make it through without any issues but if we weren't extremely careful, things could have gone much worse!

Now that I got that out of the way, lets talk about the fishing!  Since the weather called for increasing winds out of the south, John and I chose to start our day by running all the way south to Kewaunee and our plan was to troll north until we found dirty water holding Browns.  We did exactly that, as there was a nice 1 foot chop that we rode all the way to just south of Kewaunee where we decided to set lines.

Our first pass through the Kewaunee gap resulted in nothing, but we did notice that there was some warm water in a little pocket that we missed to the outside on our first pass.  We pulled our lines and set back up shallower to pull through the dingy water.  As the water temps went from 35.6° to 37.9° our first board of the 2013 began screaming back!  Fish On!  The best part about it was the fact that 10 seconds before the board dropped back we both mentioned that we should catch one any second now!

After a nice little fight, we landed a nice and healthy 4 pound Brown Trout on a floating Rapala.  We quickly got the bait back in the water and continued pulling through this warmer water when another board dropped back.  This turned out to be a small Brown Trout, which we released to grow up and fight another day.  We continued our pass in front of the Kewaunee gap and this time doubled up right as our planer boards crossed the mud line!  Before we knew it, we had already landed 4 Brown Trout!

After that kind of action we decided that we had to take another pull through that area, so we pulled lines and set back up for another run.  This time we had one fish on briefly but it shook free.  We then decided to continue our troll towards Algoma, since the waves were building to 4 feet with some 5 footers mixed in!  This turned out to be a wise choice, as we found another pod of hungry Brown Trout about 25 minutes later!  

This time the water actually wasn't that warm, but there were plenty of Browns!  By the time we had the planer board off from the first fish, we had 2 more boards pull back!  One of the fish managed to get a treble hook in its side, which caused it to come in sideways and feel really big!  While we were attempting to land these fish one at a time, I had no choice but to cut the engine power to gain on the sideways hook fish.  While in neutral, I watched a Brown jump completely out of the water near our outside planer board.  A few seconds later, the board surged back!  At this point we had 4 fish on at once!  This was a first for me with Brown Trout!

When all was said and done, we landed 3 Browns, and the fourth broke our line right by the boat.  I was happy with the outcome, not perfect, but I will take 3 out of 4 any day!  We both thought about pulling up and heading back north for another pull through this area, but with the waves and distance from Algoma, we refrained.

We picked up a couple more Browns along the way before pulling lines a couple miles south of Algoma and heading in.  Things got interesting when we reached the river and made it to the Highway 42 bridge.  While we were out fishing, a 75'x10' chunk of ice must have broke free and conveniently lodged itself across the bridge pilings!  Luckily we were able to push the chuck upriver a bit before we snuck around it along the shoreline!

Overall it was a great first open water trip of the season, despite several challenges we encountered along the way!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

MWC Spring Valley 2013 Final Results

Well, the first major Walleye Tournament of the 2013 season is officially in the books!  Mother Nature is always very unpredictable for this event, and this year was no exception!  Anglers left the docks on Day 1 with temperatures in the low 20’s and 10-15 mph northeast winds!  The cold weather hampered the already tough bite for anglers, as 60 teams were unable to land a legal Walleye on Day 1!

The weather on Day 2 was actually even worse!  Anglers left the dock in slightly warmer temperatures than they did on the first day, but the winds had increased to 15-25 mph out of the northeast, and to make things even more interesting, 1-2 inches of snow in the forecast!

Despite brutal fishing conditions even for ice fishing, 130 teams braved the elements and fared much better than they did on the first day, bringing 23 limits in compared to only 2 limits on Day 1. 

After it was all said and done, Teammates Clayton Freiburger and Mike Bisdorf claimed the top prize with a two day total of 18 pounds 15 ounces, which earned them $20,575 in total!  The team reported catching their fish vertical jigging with a 5/8 ounce jig tipped with a Berkely Powerbait Ripple Shad and a Minnow.   

The team targeted 16-18 feet of water and used a very subtle lift-pause-drop jigging motion to catch their fish.  Their catch consisted of primarily Saugers, and quality ones at that.  The team caught the largest fish of Day 2, a 3 pound Sauger which really helped anchor their spot on top of the leaderboard!
The next Masters Walleye Circuit event will be held on the Detroit River on April 12-14 in Trenton, Michigan.  To get more information on the Masters Walleye Circuit, check out their website at or you can also check out Bear Solis Outdoors for behind the scenes pictures and video.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New Scheels Exclusive Flicker Shad Colors

Steel Shot

Once again Scheels stores have created some custom Flicker Shad colors that are only available at Scheels for the 2013 fishing season.  Scheels will also continue selling the standard Flicker Shad colors also.

Fire Perch

Over the past few years, the Berkley Flicker Shad has taken the Walleye Crankbait world by storm, as they continue to be the best bait for the price!  Not only are they affordable, these things catch fish!  Berkley has also expanded their size chart, now offering the Flicker Shad in sizes 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9!  It is now easier than ever to match the hatch, and change your baits throughout the summer as the Shad also grow!

Black Crusher

 Scheels custom colors include; Pink Shine, Hot Perch, Black Crusher, Blue Crusher, Purple Chrome, Pearl Ghost, Fire Perch, and Steel Shot.  These baits can be purchased in store or by visiting the Scheels Online Store.

Pearl Ghost

 Don't miss out on your chance to get a hold of these custom colors, stock up your tackle box with some Flicker Shads, you won't be disappointed!

Blue Crusher

Purple Chrome

Hot Perch

Pink Shine

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Steelhead Fishing is Here

Finally got a chance to put the long rods back to use this week, let me tell you it sure felt good to cast again!  A friend of mine and I spent the morning in search of spring Steelhead, and we weren’t disappointed!  The morning started off a bit frustrating, as the 17° temperatures caused our lines to freeze up in an instant!  As the sun came up, this gradually decreased, which allowed us to focus on finding the fish rather than de-icing our lines after every cast!

After coming up empty in the first two spots, I had a hunch about a third spot, so we headed there next.  On my third cast in this spot, I was hooked up!  A beautiful hen Steelhead took my spawn sac and gave us a really cool aerial show before eventually wrapping herself under some branches and nearly getting off!  Luckily my friend was able to untangle the line before the fish took a big run and then landed this fish!  This was a 27 ½” hen Steelhead full of eggs, so I decided to keep her as I could use some fresh spawn for this spring. 

After taking a few pictures and getting this fish on the stringer, it was back to fishing.  Within a few more minutes, I was once again hooked up!  This time I had a nice buck Steelhead, with full spawning colors.  This fish put up a nice fight in the heavy current as well, and was eventually landed.  We decided to release this fish, as it had heavy spawning colors, and we already had one for dinner. 

 It was now my friend’s turn to get in on the action.  I showed him exactly where to toss his offering and within minutes he was fighting a fish!  Unfortunately the fish made a run and somehow broke his line, this appeared to be another chrome hen.  The bad luck bug bit me next, as I briefly hooked up with another Steelhead until it rolled on the surface and sent my spawn sac flying right back at me!


We ended up landing 2 more Steelhead in the next hour before the sun crept higher into the sky and shut the bite down completely.  Despite a relatively short feeding window, it was a successful beginning to the 2013 open water fishing season!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fox River in Depere is Open

Despite cooler than average temperatures trying to hang on to winter here in Northeast Wisconsin, the Fox River from Depere to Green Bay has opened up for boat traffic.  The Fox Point Launch in the City of Depere is still iced in, but that isn't stopping Walleye anglers with spring fever from getting on the river.  The Metro Boat Launch at the mouth of Green Bay is wide open, so anglers are putting in there and making the journey upriver to Depere to cash in on some of the hottest Walleye action of the year for shear numbers of fish!

During the next week or two, make sure to have someone keeping an eye out for floating ice chunks, as hitting one of these can ruin a day on the river.  Ice can be hard to see in the water, so I suggest going slow in the river until the ice has a chance to melt.  Another thing to keep in mind when launching from the river mouth and heading upriver, is that ice can at anytime break away and stack up at the bridges.  Make sure to bring a chisel or other tool that you can use to push ice away from your boat!

Fishing right now on the river is fast and furious, with 50+ fish days common, and even 100 fish in a day can be accomplished!  The water clarity is good now, which is a main factor that is leading to the hot bite, as the spring rains and runoff enter the river, water clarity will become an issue, which slows the bite some because the Walleyes cannot find your bait as easily.  To combat the dirty water, I recommend using bright colored jigs and gaudy plastics, and even adding a rattle to your presentation.  This will help the hungry Walleyes key in on your lure in the quick moving dirty waters of the Fox River.

I expect the Fox Point Launch in Depere will be ice free sometime this week, which is much more convenient for anglers, and will also cause more pressure on the River.  When fishing on the Fox River during a busy day, please be courteous to other anglers, and pay attention to what everyone around you is doing.  May I also suggest that anchoring in the middle of the boats that are drifting is a bad idea, and just not necessary.  There are plenty of places to anchor if you wish to fish that way, so try and avoid throwing the anchor in when there are others drifting through that area.

Fishing on the Fox River will be good for the next several weeks, as thousands of Walleyes will be congregating in the river to carry out their annual spawn near the dam in Depere.  Make sure to check back here for updates on the fishing on the river!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trolling Techniques for Early Spring Brown Trout

Early spring varies from year to year here in Northeast Wisconsin, but generally the boat launches open up enough to allow anglers to get out on Lake Michigan here in mid March.  Last year was the exception, as I made it out in early February!

Regardless of when mother nature enables us to get the trolling rods back out, being one of the first anglers out will lead to great fishing!  Since Brown Trout spend the winter months close to shore, usually in waters of less than 40’, active fish can be picked off in the common areas pretty quickly.  Taking a nice boat ride to get away from high traffic areas near the harbor will usually pay off, as there will usually be unpressured fish awaiting you further up the shoreline!

At this time of the year, warmer water is also key.  Wherever you can find dirtier, warmer water, you will find the Brown Trout!  Typically stained water will be warmer, since the sun hits the floating particles in the water, which absorb the heat from sunlight and warm the water.  Even a one or two degree difference in water temperature can be huge!  Understanding this and keeping an eye out for stained water, and then doubling back through these areas once hooking up will play a huge role in putting numbers of fish in the boat!

Another dynamite location in the spring for numbers of Brown Trout are warm water discharges.  Power plants, water treatment plants, and even creek/rivers that dump warmer, stained water into the lake will hold fish.  Since 9/11 Nuclear Power Plants have really tightened up their security, which has resulted in limited access for trollers unfortunately.  Trolling these areas (where legal) can lead to memorable fishing, as Brown Trout are guaranteed to be around. 

Another factor to consider in the spring is wind direction.  Generally an Easterly wind will generate dirty water and push the Trout shallow.  West winds do just the opposite, bringing in crystal clear water and pushing the fish deeper, where the water is warmer.  A Southeast wind is my favorite for targeting spring Browns, since you are almost guaranteed to find some nice stained water holding hungry Trout!  You also want to keep in mind that it will be cold, so heavy winds make for a cold day on the water, try to avoid the windy days if possible.

Trolling speed is another key factor to pay attention to during the cold water months.  Browns are less active in cold water, so presenting your baits slower is crucial.  Experiment with speeds until fish are caught, but generally 1.5-2.2 mph will do the job.  Look at your baits in the water to see how they run at certain speeds, and then try to keep the speed that makes the lure run nice.

Lure choice is another important factor to consider.  Many guys like to run spoons, while others prefer crankbaits early in the year.  Both approaches will catch fish, but generally I prefer crankbaits when the water is so cold, since they can be ran at slower speeds.  Spoons will work better when the Trout are a bit deeper however, so having both along on any given day is always a good idea.

Blue and Silver Husky Jerk, a proven Trout Killer!

Husky Jerks, Flicker Shads, Floating Rapalas, Smithwicks, Thundersticks, Shad Raps, and just about any other Walleye crankbait will work for Brown Trout.  I like to run shallow running baits on the shallow side, and always try a deeper diver on the deep side of the boat.  Once a pattern is identified, switch up lures, speeds, and depths to put more fish in the net!

Small Stinger Spoons are another good option

Time of day, believe it or not, doesn’t seem to effect the bite at this time of the year as it does in the summer months.  Once located, Brown Trout will bite all day long, so racing the sun in the morning is much less important than the rest of the year! 

When determining lure colors, there are a couple factors to consider.  When you have dirty water, a brighter color will typically out produce a natural color since the fish will locate the brighter bait better.  Just the opposite is true during clear water, the fish may not hit the bright colored bait since they can inspect the bait before biting.  A more natural color that mimics a baitfish will fool the Trout into biting.

The last thing I wanted to touch on with spring Trout is keeping fish.  Brown Trout, once over 6 pounds, are not the best table fare.  The larger Browns taste fine when smoked, but not nearly as good as the smaller ones on the grill.  There are lots of people that keep everything that they catch on the Great Lakes, since they figure fish are stocked and only live a few years. 

Trout are different than Salmon in this aspect, as they can spawn multiple times and return to the lake after each spawning season.  Trout get spawning colors as they enter the tributaries/harbors to spawn, and the males even develop a kype.  Once spawning is finished, these fish head back out to the lake and lose their colors and kype.  They can also live for 10 or more years, so releasing a few more fish will allow them to grow into trophy Trout, something every angler dreams of catching!