Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Milwaukee Harbor Trout Fishing Weekend

After weeks of detailed planning and building up the hype of catching monster Trout through the ice in the big city the time had finally come to gather up the troops and hit the ice!  A total of 15 of us (all newcomers to ice fishing in Milwaukee) braved 20-35 mph winds and frigid temperatures in hopes of landing some trophy Trout through the ice.

The morning started off with lots of drilling!  Luckily we had 5 augers as we drilled around 45 holes through 20+ inches of ice!  This process took awhile, as did setting up all of our lines in the gusty winds.  It was also very challenging setting up the Clam Six Pack Ice Shanty as the wind turned this beast of an ice shack into a giant kite that required 8 grown men to tame!  It wasn't easy, but within an hour we were setup and ready for some fishing action!

The morning bite was nonexistent for us, as we never had a legitimate bite as the clock struck 10:00 am!  What made things even more frustrating was the fact that we watched numerous Trout cruise past our underwater camera without even glancing at our baits.  Just as our hopes of catching anything plummeted, an Automatic Fisherman rigged with a spawn sac tripped and then the rod began bouncing around and then bending right down to the water!

"Derek, FISH ON" was yelled by Tyler, which quickly emptied out the ice shack as the entire group made a mad dash towards the active hole.  Derek grabbed the rod out of his Automatic Fisherman and began fighting the fish.  After a solid 5 minute battle Derek eased a nice Hen Brown Trout up the hole.  The fish measured 28" and weighed around 11 pounds!  It was pretty cool witnessing 15 grown men all eagerly anticipating the fish come up the hole, as everyone let out a shout as Derek hoisted the feisty Brown into the air.

Each and every one of us now had that renewed spirit that we might actually catch some fish today, which was the case as another Automatic Fisherman tripped before Derek could even get his back in the water!  Chase's Automatic Fisherman popped and had a fish on it for a brief period before the rod tip shot straight up in the air and remained there.  Upon arrival we were disappointed to find that the fish had somehow managed to break the line.  Despite feeling like we had missed out on the chance at a monster Trout, we were optimistic that the fish had finally began to feed.

About 15 minutes later Jimmer's hot tip up called Lord Zed went up.  Quick story on Lord Zed.  As a child Jimmer loved the Power Rangers, especially Lord Zed, so Jimmer's father cut out a Lord Zed picture and glued it to the flag of a Beaver Dam Tip up which helped convince Jimmer to go along ice fishing with his father to use this very tip up.  Since those days, Lord Zed has landed numerous Pike, with several true monsters!  So when Lord Zed went up, it was no surprise as this tip up has been lucky for years! 

As we reached the tip up we were pleased to see the spool slowly turning.  Jimmer grabbed the tip up out of the hole and gave the line a tug.  The fish tugged right back and we were once again hooked up!  This was Jimmer's first Trout through the ice, and I must say he fought the fish like a pro!  After a few minutes of violent head shakes under the hole, Jimmer was able to ease the fish up the hole where I grabbed a hold of another beautiful Hen Brown Trout!  This Brown Trout took a Golden Shiner and measured 27" and weighed around 9 pounds!

It was now almost 11:00, so I did the rounds to all of the Automatic Fisherman and changed up the spawn sacs in hopes of enticing a few more Trout.  I then decided to jig for a bit to see if I could catch one on the jig rod, which was short lived as I watched my bobber rise on my Automatic Fisherman that was only 25' from me!  I dropped my jig rod and watched the rod trip as I ran over to the Auto and grabbed the rod.  I fought the fish for a couple minutes before Chase landed another Hen Brown Trout!  This fish was a bit darker, as was actually dripping eggs as I held her up for a couple pictures!

The action that had started out so slow had completely switched around and made the whole trip worthwhile!  Before I could reset my Automatic Fisherman, another Automatic Fisherman popped.  This time my brother Grant grabbed the rod and fought another Hen Brown Trout for a couple minutes before icing her.  Grant's fish was completely spawned out and rather dark from being in the Harbor for some time.  This was a minor detail, as the fish more than made Grant's day!

Last but certainly not least, another one of Derek's Automatic Fishermen went off, and Derek was once again fighting another Trout.  Right away we figured that he had a Steelhead on rather than another Brown Trout, as the fish peeled off drag for 15 seconds straight!  It took nearly 10 minutes to even get a glimpse of this fish as it continued to take long runs in all directions.  Eventually Derek was able to tire this fish and sure enough he landed a 29 1/2" Buck Steelhead!  This fish was icing on the cake, as we once again had all 15 guys around the hole to witness this epic battle with such a beautiful Steelhead!

Looking back on the day and what worked for us, I would have to say that peach colored spawn sacs with Brown Trout Spawn yielded the most bites and 3 of our 5 fish.  The best depth for these spawn sacs was between 6 and 12 inches off the bottom.  Shiners set 1.5 feet off the bottom produced 2 of our fish as well as several other hits and spits. 

For whatever reason Steelhead Spawn, Brown Trout Spawn in bright colored netting, and everything we tried jigging with never got touched.  The rising pressure and cold front conditions may have had an impact on the lack of production jigging.  The amount of noise from drilling 45 holes most likely caused the bite to turn on for us so late, but we really couldn't pre-drill the holes the night before with temperatures in the single digits.

There were several highlights of the trip looking back.  It was really neat to see my brother in law land his first Trout through the ice, as he was kind enough to let us crash at his place and take us out in Milwaukee.  Roger's Clam Six Pack Ice Shanty was another highlight, as there was more than a six pack consumed in it throughout the day, and without it we simply would not have lasted out in the elements long enough to catch anything!  It was also fun to catch up with old friends and teach some first timers how to catch Trout through the ice!  Derek's big Steelhead was the last highlight of the trip, as it put up a fight for the ages that many of us will be talking about for years to come!

Brown Trout Gold

Overall a good time was had by all, and hopefully we can make this trip an annual event that will continue to grow! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rapala Rippin’ Rap

Every year the designers at Rapala continue to create fish catching crank baits which are always teamed with lifelike color schemes and the sharpest hooks on the market!  This year is no exception, as the lure company has hit a home run with the Rippin’ Rap!

The Rippin’ Rap is a lipless crank bait similar to a Rattle Trap, which has a thin, Shad like profile.  What makes the Rippin’ Rap unique is it’s loud rattle, compact nature, and especially it’s unique fluttering action on the drop.  The Rippin’ Rap comes in 12 colors (Yellow Perch, Chartreuse Shad, Gold Chrome, Chrome, Chrome Blue, Chrome Moss Back Shiner, Helsinki Shad, Olive Green Craw, Dark Brown Crawdad, Red Crawdad, Peral Grey Shiner, Firetiger) and three sizes (5, 6, 7).

The Rippin’ Rap can be used in multiple scenarios from open water casting and ripping along weed tops to vertically ripping it through the ice.  Loud rattles in this compact little lure get the fish’s attention, while the lifelike colors seal the deal once the fish approach.  The chrome colors really throw off lots of flash as the bait is ripped and allowed to fall, which simulates a stunned baitfish.  The bright color schemes work great in dirty water, helping fish home in on the lure and capitalize on an easy meal.

A large variety of fish can be taken with the Rippin’ Rap including; Walleye, Bass, Pike, Trout, and even Panfish.  Bass, Pike, and Walleye simply cannot resist this bait as it is worked along weed tops and ripped along rock bars.  Trout will absolutely crush the Rippin’ Rap while it is worked vertically and ripped and allowed to fall both through the ice and during open water.  Perch and Crappies will even take the Rippin’ Rap as it is worked along the bottom and through the weeds.

The next time you are at the sporting goods store, make sure to grab some Rippin’ Raps and add them to your arsenal!  These baits will not disappoint!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Harbor Monsters

The secret is out on Lake Michigan’s winter Trout fishing in the many harbors up and down the Wisconsin coast line. Both Steelhead and Brown Trout occupy the Harbors during the hard water season, offering anglers a chance at landing a fish of a lifetime all winter long. These fish return to the harbors to carry out their spawning rituals, before returning to Lake Michigan to continue growing!

Milwaukee Harbor offers some of the best ice fishing for both size and numbers of fish, but every harbor along the lake offers anglers a chance at Trout in excess of 20 pounds! Fishing for these Trout can be tricky however, as these fish are accustomed to feeding on large schools of baitfish in open water.

Clear water adds to the challenge, as Trout can see your line making light line a necessity for fooling these clever Trout. Lure selection can vary from day to day, but generally Minnows and Spawn Sacs are used on tip ups and Automatic Fishermen, while anglers use Waxworms on small jigs, tube jigs, jigging spoons, Gulp Minnows, and even baits like the HD Ice while jigging for trophy Trout.

Wisconsin’s Harbors offer some of the best ice fishing for monster Trout, which is quickly becoming one of the more popular fishing destinations for anglers seeking the ultimate thrill through the ice! Great Lakes Trout are known for their feisty nature, and offer the most intense battle you can find through a hole in the ice!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Port Washington Winter Browns

With forecasted highs in the upper 30’s this past Saturday and needing to scratch an itch to use the long rods one last time in 2013, a nice long ride along the lakeshore was in order to Port Washington to tangle with some Brown Trout.

There is a warm water discharge from the WE Energies Power Plant which keeps Port Washington’s Harbor open all winter long, and also attracts Brown Trout from Lake Michigan where they like to hang out in the warm water.  Shad are also attracted to the warm water, which offers these Trout an abundance of food at times.  All of these variables put together can offer some intense open water fishing action in the middle of the winter!

This was our first time fishing in Port Washington, so we didn’t know what exactly to expect.  As the sun hit the horizon, we began fishing along with quite a few other anglers.  It was surprising to see so many other people open water fishing as well, since we are in the midst of ice fishing season here in Wisconsin!

The morning started out slow for us, but we watched a few Brown Trout get caught by others in the area before we made a small move which paid huge dividends!  Once we moved, it was instantly game on!  Jigging Gulp on darter head jigs was our presentation of choice, but we witnessed fish being taken on spoons, spawn, shiners, and even crankbaits.

In the first 30 minutes we easily landed 10 Brown Trout and lost just as many light biters and fish that escaped before we could get them to the net.  It was astonishing to me the sheer numbers of Brown Trout in the harbor, as well as how aggressive these fish seemed to be.  At one point, I caught 3 Brown Trout in 4 casts!  The fish were really hitting our Gulp as we slowly popped it along the bottom.

As the morning wore on, we continued to land Trout after Trout, primarily in the two to four pound range.  Chase managed to land a seven pounder, which was fun after catching so many cookie cutters.  I also had a large Trout on briefly before it shook the hook.

We also landed five Northern Pike throughout the day that were mixed in with the Brown Trout, and ranged from 24”-30”.  It was fun to land a few Pike, as we didn’t expect to find them here.

By noon the non-stop action had subsided, so we decided to make a move to the other side of the Harbor.  This move never yielded another fish, but we were able to learn a new spot for another day!  Overall we had a great first experience in Port Washington, and hope to get back again soon! 

The only negative aspect of Port Washington seemed to be everyone’s desire to keep everything they caught.  There were lots of 2-4 pound Brown Trout taken out on just this one day, which puts things into perspective for me.  It’s no surprise that large Brown Trout are rare these days, as many of our stocked fish never even make it to be 5 pounds!  I totally understand that anyone with a license is entitled to keep their limit, but I also see the big picture of less big fish being caught in the future.  Keeping a few fish for dinner or the smoker is great, but letting a few fish go to grow up is even more rewarding for me.