Friday, December 20, 2013

Lake Poygan Producing a Mixed Bag

With the unusually cold onset of winter we have had here in Northeast Wisconsin, anglers are enjoying great ice conditions on all area lakes.  There is a reported range of 10-15 inches of ice on Lake Poygan, which has allowed anglers to drive their vehicles out on the lake already!

Fishing action in the Horseshoe Hole of Lake Poygan has remained strong for some, and hit and miss for others.  When fish are located, the action can be phenomenal right now!  Most successful fisherman are using a run and gun approach, cutting one hole at a time and only spending 15 minutes in a hole until fish are found.  This tactic has been paying off for many, whereas tip up fishing has been hampering the mobility of anglers and limiting their catches.

The hot lures have been Jigging Rapalas in Black and Gold, Swedish Pimples and Castmasters in Gold and Bronze, and even Forage Minnows have been taking fish.  Anglers are tipping these baits with Spikes, Minnow Heads, and Waxworms to entice finicky fish, but most of the time this has not been necessary.

The huge 2011 year class of Walleyes is now in that 14"-16" range and is providing the majority of the Walleye fishing action, with larger fish mixed in here and there.  There are some very nice sized White Bass being taken in the same areas currently as well.  The big surprise has been the Crappies, as they are also mixed in with everything and running in that 10-11" range, which is perfect for filling the bucket!

Expect this hot action to continue for several weeks, but also understand that fishing pressure will scatter the fish and make them relocate in different areas, so where you caught them a week ago may no longer be productive tomorrow!  For everyone that ventures out, be safe and best of luck!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Early Ice Trout Report

A few friends and I made it out on the ice in search of Trout for the second time of the season on Sunday.  With morning temperatures in the single digits and wind chills hovering around zero, it was a real wake up when we stepped foot onto the ice.  This year is the exact opposite of last year, as I was still chasing Trout with the long rods until mid December last year!

We started our morning in the Manitowoc Marina, hoping to tangle with some Brown Trout or Steelhead.  I was very surprised to find nearly 5 inches of good solid ice covering the entire marina!  We set lines in a good spread and even tried a little jigging.  

Our morning bite was nonexistent as we never even had a bump until 10:30!  After moving a few Automatic Fishermen in hopes of finding some active fish, one of the recently moved rods popped!  We could see the fish bobbing the rod as we took off towards it; unfortunately the fish freed itself just before we could get to the Automatic Fisherman.  This was unfortunate, as it had been a struggle to get bit this morning and had we been closer to the rod we may have been able to ice the fish.

Due to the poor fishing in the morning, we decided to make an afternoon move up the lakeshore.  Our move paid off as I had a Trout bite my spawn sac as I was pouring Ice Stopper Solution into my Ice Stopper bobber on the first Automatic Fisherman!  At first I just figured that my weight had gotten caught on the bottom or something, since I had only had the spawn sac in the water for 30 seconds.  I quickly realized that I had a fish on as I felt a second tug on the line.  I set the hook with my hands and grabbed the rod off the ice to begin fighting the fish.  After around 10 seconds the fish shook loose.

Despite losing this fish that would’ve made a great story, we were already glad that we had made the move and now had high hopes for our afternoon.  We finished setting lines and took a seat along the banks of the river to keep our noise off the ice.  As we were talking about the Packer’s chances of beating the Falcons we heard that familiar thwack of the Automatic Fisherman arm slamming down on the base!

My dad and I ran over to the Automatic Fisherman to find the rod bent firmly down and slowly taking drag.  Right away I thought it was a Brown Trout as it was not peeling line like the Steelhead typically will.  To my surprise a nice buck Steelhead showed himself below the hole.  This fish came right up to the hole, almost as if it had no clue it was even hooked.  Once the fish saw the hole, it was off like a rocket!  After several good runs in multiple directions, I was finally able to guide him into the hole and scoop the beauty onto the ice!

This was the first buck Steelhead my dad had witnessed being caught through the ice, which he thought was pretty neat!  After taking a few pictures of this Arlee Strain Steelhead, I sent him back down the hole and set the trap back up to catch another one!

My dad was thoroughly confused about the difference between a Rainbow Trout and a Steelhead, so we had a nice chat explaining how a Steelhead is simply a Rainbow Trout that lives in a lake and is completely silver until making their way into the rivers where they morph into their spawning colors.  I also explained to him how males will develop a kype, (Hooked Jaw) and actually return to the lake after spawning where their colors will go away along with their kypes.  My dad found this to be interesting, as he had thought that these fish died after spawning like a Salmon.

With the snow really beginning to come down heavy and knowing that we didn’t want to get caught in Packer traffic, we decided to pack it up for the day and head home.  Although we didn’t light the world on fire with action, we were once again able to land a beautiful Steelhead and enjoy our time on the ice. 

This trip will most likely be the last until after Christmas, as Christmas shopping, family get togethers, and family time will consume my near future.  I look forward to getting down to Milwaukee for some ice fishing action after Christmas in hopes of tangling with a monster Brown Trout!  Good luck to all that venture out in the near future!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Early Ice Safety

As area lakes begin to skim over with ice and that first snowfall of the year blankets the ground, ice fishermen need to scratch that itch.  The itch to be on early ice can yield phenomenal results, but the reward doesn’t always outweigh the risk.  

There isn’t a fish out there that is worth taking a cold plunge for, and especially not a fish that is worth your life.  During early ice, which I consider less than 5” of ice, fishing with a friend is highly recommended.  As the winter progresses and the ice thickens solo trips are appropriate, but during early ice they are a risky proposition.

If venturing out on early ice alone, I strongly suggest letting someone know exactly where you will be fishing and when you plan to come back.  Having your cell phone handy and in a waterproof case or bag is also suggested.  Ice picks are also highly recommended. 

Being prepared for actually falling through is key to fishing on thin ice.  Ice picks should be worn around your neck for quick access in case you end up in the drink.  Having a long rope along with your gear is also a good idea, since a rope allows another person to retrieve the person that broke through from a safe distance. 

Waders can also be worn on the ice to prevent an angler from getting wet while fishing in shallow water.  Waders can be dangerous at the same time, since they can fill up with water and actually weigh you down if you fall through in water deeper than the waders.  For this reason, I only suggest wearing waders if you know that the water depth where you are fishing is less than 4’.

Using a chisel to check the ice ahead of you as you are walking around on thin ice is also a good idea to prevent you from walking over thin spots.  Generally if you break through the ice with one hit of the chisel it is probably not going to hold you up for long! 

There are times where you will also be able to determine spots that froze over late or are thinner due to current simply by the color of the ice.  Avoid ice that appears darker than the main ice, since it is usually thinner than the other ice.

When fishing rivers during early ice, it is very important for an angler to understand where the main current flows through, since your thinnest ice will be where there is the most current.  Learning the currents should be done in the fall prior to ice up, to ensure your safety once the river freezes over.

The next time you get that itch to get your ice fishing gear out to capitalize on the early ice bite, remember that no fish is worth your life and think safety first!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Early Ice Steelhead

Ice fishing in the month of November here in Northeast Wisconsin is a rarity these days, so having the opportunity to partake in this unique experience was something I just had to do!  To make things even better, I had the chance to spend the day with a fishing legend!  Kerry Paulson, creator of the Automatic Fisherman joined me for a day on an area tributary to Lake Michigan where we hoped to tangle with a few Steelhead that have chosen to spend the winter inland.

The morning started off slower than both of us had hoped, only having one trip on an Automatic Fisherman with nothing to show for it.  After two hours in this spot and not another bite, it was time to try some different water.  Our second spot yielded similar results, with only 1 bite here and nothing landed, we were once again on the move.

Our confidence was beginning to fade as our first two spots were duds, luckily the third spot was the charm!  We barely set our sixth Automatic Fisherman and the first one popped!  Kerry and I ran over to it, only to find that we had missed another bite!  Before we could try to comprehend how we had missed yet another fish, another Automatic Fisherman went off! 

As we neared this one, we instantly noticed that the rod was doubled over and could even hear the fish peeling drag.  I grabbed the rod and held on for dear life!  The fish nearly spooled me before I could turn the fish around.  Once turned around, I could barely keep up with the fish as it came right back towards the hole!  We briefly got a look at the fish through the 2" of clear ice enough to determine that I was fighting a large Steelhead!  To make things even more interesting, we were using chiseled holes which had sharp edges.  My rod tip spent most of the time below the ice to ensure that my line wouldn't get caught on the ice and break.  After several more long runs and multiple failed attempts at landing this fish, I had finally put him on the ice!  Kerry filmed the entire fight, which made for a really neat video and a new challenge of hand landing a fish on my own!

This amazing fish made the entire trip worthwhile, as there is nothing out there that can beat the fight of a large Steelhead in shallow water through the ice!  After a few pictures this beauty was sent back down the hole to grow and make more memories for someone else down the road.  Kerry and I estimated the fish to be in the 10-11 pound class and around 30" long.

After re-tying my rod and setting the Automatic Fisherman back up, Kerry and I reminisced on that epic battle and how our moving had finally paid off.  Another hour passed without any action, so Kerry and I did the rounds to change baits on our Automatic Fishermen.  As I was walking up to one of mine, I watched the bobber rise and the rod trip!  This was really cool to see, as I was a mere 5 steps away when this happened.  I grabbed the rod and quickly realized that I had something small on the other end this time.  I simply lifted the rod and a small, recently stocked Rainbow flipped out of the hole.  I sent this little guy back down the hole to grow up, and continued re-baiting my rods.

Within 30 minutes of re-baiting our Automatic Fishermen, my same lucky hole where I had caught the first two fish yielded yet another bite!  This fish again had the rod tip pegged to the water and that familiar sound of the drag screamed out as I neared the hole.  Before even grabbing the rod, I knew I was once again dealing with another large Steelhead!

Kerry was talking with another fishermen about 100 yards away, and had not noticed me make my way over to my lucky hole again.  Rather than yell for him that I had one on, I decided to let him carry on his conversation and attempt to land the fish on my own.  After 10 minutes of line screaming runs and intense thrashing below the hole, I somehow managed to land yet another giant buck Steelhead!

This fish was even larger than the first, and also had great colors.  Once I had landed the fish I signaled for Kerry so that he could get a few pictures of this mammoth and get him back down the hole.  It was now around 1:00, so Kerry and I decided to make another small move to see if we could capitalize on more uncharted waters.  Wouldn't you know it we once again ended up having one bite but were unable to hook this fish either.

Despite having to move multiple times to locate active fish, Kerry and I had a great time on the ice and learned quite a bit about catching Great Lakes Steelhead through the ice in the tributaries.  Our best bait this day turned out to be Steelhead spawn sacs tied in pink netting.  We tried a variety of different spawn sacs in a magnitude of colors throughout the day with the pink netting yielding the majority of the bites on this day. 

The short range forecast is calling for a warmup with the possibility of rain which could cause for unsafe ice conditions so make sure to be safe if venturing out in the near future!  I am hoping to get out fishing again this upcoming weekend whether it be on the ice or open water.  If I am fortunate enough to get out, I will have another fishing update for everyone!