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! 

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