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Author: Cap'n Ted

River Level @ sweet spot

River Level @ sweet spot

River level at Genoa on Pool 9 is now at about 623.4–real close to perfect as we head into the hardwater period.

Weeds are still a factor, but you can get away from them. Water temp is now hovering in the low 40’s. Walleyes, sauger & perch all active at a level you would expect. All are sliding into wintering holes.

Walleyes have been holding @ 21-23′, sauger a little deeper. Perch moving to wintering areas back in the sloughs, also near quiet rocky/rubble humps in 13-16 fow just off the main channel.

When you can get away from weeds, dragging 3-ways tends to produce more quality fish than vertical jigging or pitching/dragging. Gotta admit i really like the Northland rippin shad in fire tiger or purple/white for snap-jigging ‘eyes.

When vertical jigging sauger are more susceptible to a completely different jigging action than walleyes. Regardless, I use 10 lb hi-vis Sufix when vertical jigging and mono when pitching dragging or pulling.

I’m now running Star Brite (1 oz-3 gal) and letting the motor hang vertical for a couple minutes before trailering. hard to say when the last day of the open water season will be.

Walleye time!

Walleye time!

There is a new video up on you tube–Fishing roots>Legends of Fall/bass. Sorry, I don’t know how to add a link so you can click on it BUT it might be worth checking out if you wanna learn more about fishing the Miss.

Legendary guide Ronnie Barefield & me put about 50 bass in the boat with camera running–no jump cuts. Rotten Ronnie & me have been best of pals for over 40 yrs. Age shows. We’re like a couple ol’ haggard hawks, revealing tips & secrets about fall bassin’ on the Miss while rippin’ many lips.

If i knew how to post a link, you wouldn’t have needed to read the previous. THAT said…water temp has dropped to 43-44 degrees since we filmed that show on Oct. 28. Bass have pretty much gone dormant. WALLEYES are quite active–already ‘stair stepping’ into deeper water on their way to wintering holes.
Yesterday they were holding in 17 fow. Warming trend this weekend might push them just a tad shallower where pitching/dragging B-Fish-N tackle Pulse R’s is a great way to get ’em.

Pulling cranks on 3-ways @ 1.6 mph is also killer this time of year…if you can get away from the grass!

A couple days ago I went back through the north cut into Ronkowski (hole in the Wall) Looking for crappies. Entire cut coming in from the upstream end was blocked with AT LEAST AND ACRE of eelgrass. Have never seen it this bad there since i started guiding pool 9 over 20 yrs. ago.

Fried up a 21″ sauger last nite using Mary Christoffer (the Fishing machine) recipe: equal parts Bisquik & corn starch, 1T. vanilla, salt/pepper–stale beer & a FORK.

Just mix the batter to the consistency where it clings to the back of the fork but not between the tines. There were just 2 pieces left. Fish for breakfast!

Transition time

Transition time

Apologies. have been too busy ‘catching’ to blog for awhile.WAter temp is still hovering around 50 degrees. Bass will still be going nutso on the rocks until it drops two more–probably by mid-week.

If weeds aren’t an issue the Bill Lewis lures MR-6 has been flat out deadly. With weeds a single hook presentation like a Z-Man mushroom hook jighead w/ A Elazatech plastic TRD has been my go-to, changing jighead weight depending on wind velocity.

Same presentation has been working on ‘eyes. But their attitude is generally passive. Two more degrees and the marble-eyes will get aggressive. Most active fish have been cruising 6-8 fow on the rocks and 13-17 in the running sloughs. At 48 degrees they’ll start stair-stepping deeper and bass will go lethargic.

magnum white bass have also been on a feeding rip on the rocks. Diving gulls are a major key! Sneak over to where gulls are dive bombing , pitch an oxbow ‘Trap & set the hook. Best run last wk. was 10 whiteys in 10 casts. Filleted them & smoked ’em over apple wood after overnite in brown sugar soy sauce brine–3 hrs. @ 175-200 degrees. Whoa!

When gulls stop dive bombing it’s time to switch to a B-Fish-N tackle 3/32 pyrokeet precision jighead with a 2″ Sassy Shad type plastic. Hook up frequency drops off to 1 in 5 casts. @ 1 in 15 time to chase SMB & LMB again.

Earlier this week i spent 10 hrs over 2 days filming with my ol’ pal Ronnie Barefield–my vote for wisconsin’s best guide. In 6 hrs. on Tuesday we boated 75+ bass. Maybe 10 were > 3 lb. On Wed. we shot footage for “Fishing Roots” on catching late fall bass on the Miss. It should be posted on You Tube in about a week…after the editor goes through the 50+ bass we caught (plus 15 whiteys) in 4 hrs.. I’m no math whiz…but when you divide 75 fish by 4 hrs it breaks down to a fish pretty often.

Video may not be politically correct. I admit to having some gender confused moments when Ronnie kept yelling “Annette, Annette”–especially after my Mouseketeer ears blew off into the River.

Pretty much done guiding for the year. Only one trip on the books in November. Walleyes/crappies will be pretty much the easiest critters to catch between now and freeze up.

When will that be? As of this morning the tundra swans haven’t shown up on the pool yet. They hang around eating “duck potatoes” until 48 hrs. before the backwaters lock up in ice. 3 days after that it will be time to go back to the short rods again.

Bass on fire–walleyes waiting on the wings

Bass on fire–walleyes waiting on the wings

Water temp has been hovering in the mid-60’s, with River levels still near historic lows. Several days ago it got down to 620@ Genoa–something not seen since 8-1-06…1988 before that. When allowing for siltation we’re literally looking at new ground.

Most quality gills have been either on main channel rocks or close to bottom on deep wood. Crappies in the same wood, suspended 2-5 ‘down over at least 10 fow.

SMB & LMB beginning to stack in great numbers over small structure. Wed. trip clients boated 7 decent fish in just 20 mins. @ end of day throwing #Zman Ned w/ liquid willowcat sauce.

Pitching/dragging #B-Fish-N Tackle Pulse Rs in crystal ice & bubble gum most productive for me the past several days. Better fish have been hold in 14-17 fow. Trolling DT10s also effective if you can get away from the weeds.

Ironically, bigger pike have been hanging in deeper water, too. Not back chasing pannies in the weeds like the normally do in Oct. because low water has either moved forage base elsewhere…or its too tough to navigate through the shallow, weedy water to get to spots where they are hiding.

60’s Redux

60’s Redux

Coming of age in the 60’s was a blessing. The 60’s are also a special time on the River. We haven’t seen the 60’s here since May…But they’re Baaack!

Fish know seasonal change is on the way. River is on the rise again from historic low levels to near-perfect pre-autumn stage–and water temps are a solid 65-67 degrees in both the River mainstem and running sloughs.

Rising river levels bring weeds. Contending with weeds is a fact of life in autumn–either contend with them by modifying presentation or move to where you can fish without bringing in salad on every cast.

Talking dead, floating weeds. Not elodea( coontail) which is a magnet for perch. The projected one-foot River rise over the next couple days will push the perch into the elodea in 18 inches- 6 fow.

Crappies are already staging in the wood–4′ down over at least 10 fow. Gills are still on main channel rocks but will begin to move toward over-winter areas as the River continues to rise–which it most certainly will over the next month or so.

There is a tremendous amount of food–mostly shad–available to gamefish now. Bass &pike won’t be far away, once you find them.

Some walleyes, too. But with temps now in the 60s I would rather go after the easy fish–relatively speaking, since willocats are now tough to come by. With a finite number of main channel rocky structures getting so much boat traffic, I’ve gone to plan B: drifting outside channel edges in 9-15 fow in running sloughs with a half-crawler threaded on a #B-Fish-N Tackle 3/16 oz Precision jig in Pyrokeet pattern.

True, 3 out of 4 fish will be shorts–but when you catch 15-20 its LUNCH…and that sweet rush of adrenaline every time you set the hook!

Dropping like a stone–again

Dropping like a stone–again

After tickling the ‘action stage’ a week ago the River quickly dropped down to really good early September levels, with projections calling it to remain stable for at least another week.

Overnight lows in the mid-50s are causing water temps to fall as well, setting the stage for some tremendous fishing in the weeks ahead.

it takes me at least an hour EVERY SINGLE DAY to get in sync with the River. When not actually on the River, I’m usually thinking about the River. A couple recent thoughts: If the River can rise from ultra-low to action stage in 72 hrs. from just moderate rains upstream for a couple days, what does it say about siltation in quiet waters clear up past LaCrosse?

Weeds are a perpetual problem in the fall. Nutrient-rich substrata with more siltation translates into more aquatic weed growth–not a bad thing– until the weeds start to die off and head downstream. Thinking the next wew weeks will be tough for throwing multi-hook presentations. Thinking single hook with a split shot “shock absorber’ 18” up the line might weigh in presentation at least for the short term.

Fishing is usually better on a rising River, BUT we’re now back near levels which fish have become acclimatized to since mid-May, making behavior/location easier to pattern.

I haven’t been on the water since Friday morning and won’t get back out there until maybe late tomorrow afternoon. Nobody wanted to book a trip at the special holiday weekend rate: $10,000/6 hrs. (includes a cheese sandwich) Time to re-think my biz plan. Thinking about bumping it to $12K and including a vennie stick next year.

With Labor Day behind us , the $1000/4 hr Saturday rate has been reduced to $250/4 hrs for the rest of the open water season. Of course, this means I’m gonna have to work a little more–maybe 4 days a week. This leaves 2 days for ‘fun fishin’. Just me & the dog. Fishin’ with “buddies” is still guiding. It’s in my “sheepdog” nature to put others sharing the boat in the best orientation to hook up.

Throwing a $20 for gas helps offset the $42 it takes to launch the boat–barring a major breakdown like lower unit, trolling motor or electronics.
Adding a third boat to the fleet doesn’t help this bottom line BUT it’s kinda fun petting the boats when its fleet week out on the River.

Very impressed with the new Garmin on the “Pinta” , #2 boat. Humminbird updated the software and fixed problems on the helix 10 with a turnaround of just 11 days on the Santa Maria. Only ran a couple of trips without electronics in this time frame–which just confirms you really don’t need electronics when fishin’ a river…even THE River.

Not gonna apologize for lack of inside skinny, solid fishin’ info on the blog this time. Whining cuz of not being on the water for 50 hrs. My choice. Sometimes you’ve gotta let the passion of the pull simmer for awhile after more than a half-century of serious fishin’ to build back a hotter fire.

Even Kevlar Chapstik won’t help those scaly critters when one of the fleet gets wet tomorrow. Lord willin’

Action Stage!

Action Stage!

The River is projected to rise FOUR FEET over the next couple days, bringing us into “action stage” by Sunday afternoon–last time the River was this high was late March.

What this means is all gates are open @ most lock & dams and access may be challenging at some ramps like New Albin. For the next couple days fishin’ will be challenging BUT once we go 48 hrs. without rain backwaters which load from downstream will start to clear up on the north end, concentrating fish.

Influx of all this water should also drop water temp a bit. it was 77 on the mainstem yesterday.

navigation will be challenging, as there will be lotsa wood & other dunnage coming down–especially downstream from confluence with tribs like the Bad Axe & upper Iowa. The upside is, running aground is much less likely. You can also expect floating weeds to be a factor for at least the next few days–maybe until late fall.

By this time next week fishin’ should be really REALLY good. With prevailing low water conditions pretty much all summer finesse was needed most days–even throwing crankbaits.

From this point forward it will be a brand new ball game! Right now it looks like the sharp rise might reach crest by Tuesday. Until then, the challenge will be figuring out where fish are heading before they get there. Plan on doing considerable froggin’ around til this time next week.

Back in my college days I made the mistake of taking a 400 level course ‘History of Greek Philosophy’. One drunk Greek said it was impossible to step in the same river twice. Another drunk Greek said you couldn’t step in the same river once.

I’m thinkin’ the 2nd Greek got it right. In vino vertitas. I’m out there pretty much every day and it still takes me at least an hour to get in harmony with the River.

I KNEW she would come up substantially, eventually. Plum tickled that this day has arrived. May sound weird, but the more water headed downstream, the easier it is to reach that point of harmonic convergence.

Just took 4 fish (2 eyes/2 sheep) out of the smoker. The Admiral says she likes the sheep better. No surprise here! It’s all good–but when it comes to eating smoked fish, my vote is for the goat!

How Low Can it Go

How Low Can it Go

River projections call for stable level @ about 620.1 @ Genoa for the next few days. Just one wk. ago it was flowing @ 623.8. Then it dropped 2 1/2 FEET in just 24 hrs.!

Discretion and supply chain issues have me running @ idle prety much everywhere beyond the channel. The best part of extreme low water is you now can mark rock piles, etc which will be hidden when the River rises again–which history says it WILL–at least a little–before ice up.

The River drop last Monday moved many fish species. Many sloughs are now weed choked/covered slack water.Current seams in running sloughs are good. Current seams out on the River mainstem are even better for producing fish.

This even includes channel cats! Yesterday key was moderate current, hard bottom, above snags in 10-16 fow, Today is a walleye trip. fortunately, I have willocats.

Fog is an issue until about 8-9 most mornings–but ‘eyes are most aggressive in low light conditions. Floating eelgrass is already an issue. I like throwing cranks on rocks if you can get through the weeds under these conditions.

But sometimes willocats are the only game in town..Guess i’ll find out in about an hour. Even when you’re out there pretty much every day, it still takes at least an hour to get in sync with the River–at least this humbling fact is true with me.

The Immortal River is the Creator’s best handiwork I’ve ever experienced. After 10K+ days on the water all I know is the River will give you what She will and you need to find peace with this reality. What a spectacular place to work!

River on the Rise

River on the Rise

Just woke up from a rainy Saturday nap. Upper pools are getting a substantial soaker–so River level @ Genoa should be on the low end of just about perfect by this time next week.

The USACE projection can change quickly. But its hard to imagine this late summer rise will get anything besides better. I’ve always figgered 623′ @ Genoa is perfect–give or take a foot.

This summer has been one of historic low levels. If you look at the history of low water on the Miss, it almost always happens in late summer. We’ve been at 621 for awhile. Projected rise is to about 622. Really don’t think it will drop back to 621 for the rest of the year. Guess we’ll cross that sandbar if we get to it.

A sharply rising River means substantial change in River clarity. Chocolate milk fishin’ is never good. But the rise will push water with at least 2′ clarity, and active fish will be waiting in ambush nearby.

For the past few days the easiest target has been bluegills on main channel rocks. The ol’ split shot, wire hook and a pinch of crawler will always catch fish. But a drop shot presentation with a couple orange beads in-line above the hook has been producing significantly larger gills.

Channel cat have been another easy go-to. But we’re at that point in the summer where a 2-worm presentation produces more quality cats. Fiddlers continue to jump all over the typical dipbait worm BUT a smaller, shorter worm with the dimensions of a ‘ladyfinger’ firecracker tend to give up bigger fish.

Quality pike are still close to the panfish–but deeper water is the key to finding the good ones under low water conditions this time of year.

Bass fishin’ is pretty easy under almost any conditions this time of year. Willocats are the best way to catch too-big walleyes now. If you’re looking for slot fish and shorts try a Bill Lewis lures MR-6, Rapala DT 6 or Bomber 6A. All these profiles work, but some colors work better than others.

I have a couple openings during the week the rest of this month if you’re looking for a guide. you won’t see me on the water the 1st weekend in Sept. Maybe its time to change the “Labor Day” designation…nobody works anymore. I propose “migrants day”: no fishing license, no bag limits, no mask required.

Enough rant. haven’t fished in 48 hrs now. starting to get the shakes

Back in the Saddle Soon

Back in the Saddle Soon

Low speed impact with unforgiving structure on July 7 put a serious crimp in both guide work and fishin’. Was able to run several trips out out client’s boats since prop, propt shaft & pinion/forward gear sent the structure kiss up the line. Outboard still ran well enough to sneak out close to home–but not well enough to take folks out on the River for hire.

Biggest snag:pinion/forward gear. Zero available in the 4 nat’l distribution centers. Just 3 in dealer inventory nationwide. I was able to secure the one out in KS. Lord’ willin’ will be back on the water soon.

Here’s the deal: amount of ‘fishable water’ has dropped about 70% below an average summer do to historic low water levels in the Miss. Navigating just a few feet beyond the channel can have dire consequences. 3 out of 5 guides working this stretch of River have had lower unit impact issues over the past couple months–and all of ’em have a pretty fair idea of how to run the River.

With such a decrease of fishable water obvious spots are getting POUNDED. Quality gamefish realize this. Finesse is key to hooking up! A great deal of this is bait presentation, often driven by boat location/orientation.

Often, the scenario is like deer hunting from a strategically placed stand instead of even a well orchestrated drive. Putting that hook at the optimum point for a quality fish to slurp it in may take a drop shot or Ned rig presentation for bass & walleyes. Z-Man products set the bar in both these presentations.

I’ve had a fair amount of success drop shotting willocats–both live and #liquidewillowcat plastics doused with ‘da juice’ for quality walleye over the past couple months and the #liquidwillowcat leech for SMB. Downside of getting bit is the mixed blessing that the fish tear these baits up. The Z-Man ElaZtech plastic is usually good for several fish.

Weird thing is some of the nicer SMB have chomped when the drop shot is firmly snagged in the rocks! Fishin’ 40 lb. braid to the hook and 10 lb. floro to the weight means the weight is often lost, but a fish is in the net.

29,30 & 8/2 are open for half-day trips in the a.m. Next open date for an extended tour is 8/9…with maybe a half dozen open days during the week the rest of the month.

have y’all ever seen the movie “Second Hand Lions” starring Robert Duvall & Micheal Caine? That’s kinda where guide john Bomkamp & me are right now…with Galen Bremmer still ridin’ hard but slowing down.

The FWS extorts a $3 ‘head tax’ on every person we share the wonders of the River with as fishin’ guides. Of course, my thought of being compensated for working at teaching others is counter to conventional government wisdom. Paying folks not to work is why there are only 3 forward gears available for 90 h.p E-techs in the entire USA. Maybe I’ll invoice the FWS for 15-20 folks I wasn’t able to take out when my motor was down. Oh, well the FWS inequitable tax for ‘administrative purposes’ is Biblical…right out of Isaiah 5:20.

stay safe out there!