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Author: Cap'n Ted

Brown Bass Running

Brown Bass Running

Smallmouth bass are moving out of over-winter spots on the River mainstem into tribs where they will live until water temps drop to about 55 degrees next fall. Water temp is key to this migration. It is now 50+ degrees on both mainstem and running sloughs, several degrees warmer than that near trib entry points.

Migration corridors vary in width from just a couple of feet to a couple of hundred yards…usually real close to some kind of current seam or structural break.

Swimbaits fished in a fairly slow retrieve usually work quite well fished in a pitch/drag/snap presentation…but the fish will tell you what they want on any given day.

Over the past three days i’ve averaged a solid 10 bass per hour coming into the Lund, about 90% coming on B-Fish-N Tackle sassafras pattern Pulse R fished on 3/16 pyrokeet Precision jighead. The past couple days the Northland Rippin’ Shad has also been hot, also catching pike and an occasional white bass.

On yesterday’s trip I hooked up with 5 SMB on the first 6 casts–all 15-18″ fish…and FAT throwing the Pulse R, then switched over to the Rippin’ Shad and pounded ’em til shoulders were sore.

River levels will be stable for the next several days, then rise back up into the solid ‘action’ stage by this time next week.

Perch are done spawning and are scattered as they slide into summer haunts. Walleyes are done too. Pulling 3-ways in sand-based running sloughs in 9-13 fow has been producing decent fish.

Had a half-day trip this morning with Don and son Jordan. Guys caught 50+ quality bass.  highlights: 6 doubles and Don catching back-to-back fat 19″ SMB & LMB on oxbow pattern Trap.

Water temp has warmed since just yesterday–58 on current seam where SMB were suicidal and SIXTY TWO in a more secluded backwater where mostly LMB were on fire!

Fishin’ report

Fishin’ report

Water temp dropped a solid 10 degrees over the weekend, with the river jumping up almost 2′ by Monday’s excursion. Best part was winds gusting to 40+ out of the South…a truly DANGEROUS situation.

Fishing was predictably tough. But both walleye & perch are at the ‘top of the stairs”, holding in <10 fow. both species are about half spawned out/half full of eggs. The 23″ female which ate a Pulse-R in 4 fow Monday–back in the marsh-still had a rock hard belly.

I cancelled today’s trip cuz winds are still howling, the River is now starting to recede and the high ambient temp is only gonna reach 35.

A positive fishing trend is brewing. River forecast for the next week shows a steady, slow decline. with temps beginning a warming trend into the low 70’s by early next week.

Walleyes & perch should be done taking care of business by the 7th. By the weekend they be back on the chew, both in the backwaters and in sand-based running sloughs–essentially sliding into patterns we typically see in May.

looking ahead, this is shaping up to be a year like we’ve never seen. With little snowmelt coming down from up north, we may seen another exceptionally low water year. 2020 had the lowest River levels since the dams went in back in ’36, allowing for siltation.

This followed the longest period of sustained exceptionally high water in 2019. Persistent flood conditions killed over 60% of mature trees (mostly silver maple) in the flood plain. This will be an ominous factor a few years down the road. Increased phosphorus levels from fertilizer entering the system out of flooded fields in 2019 got a kick start from low water levels in 2020. The result is filamentous algae–pond scum–all over the place. Especially in backwaters and running sloughs.

For the short term, at least concerning perch, getting bait up off the bottom with a soft floating jighead like B-Fish-N tackle’s Flu Flu floater has helped bait presentation. Whether good weeds like elodea & American water lotus will continue to thrive with the bottom covered in filamentous algae remains to be seen.

With the Immortal River, finding success means deciphering all the clues she gives you in real time–not yesterday, this morning…or what might happen in a week or a month down the road.

THIS is a primary reason why I spend soooo much time here. the upper Miss is arguably the most challenging and potentially productive body of fresh water in North America. when all the puzzle pieces come together and you can help folks you’re fishin’ with connect the dots as well, the satisfaction is sweeter than sweet!

don’t be a deep thinker!

don’t be a deep thinker!

Crazy on how Spring came on so fast! Water temp on pool 9, River mainstem is now a SOLID 45-46 degrees, with water in shallow backwater areas up to 48! These temps–in conjunction with the full moon–means its SHOWTIME for spawning walleyes this weekend–a full 3 wks. earlier than the average!

When seasons change, walleyes ‘stairstep’ staging at progressively shallower depths in the Spring and deeper depths as things cool in the fall.

For the past couple days i’ve been fishing with ol’ pal Jesse Simpkins of St. Croix rod–an exceptional “stick”. he outfished me yesterday (probably cuz he used the 2021 greatest rods on earth). Caught 5 species of gamefish yesterday–walleyes, sauger,pike,largemouth and several QUALITY smallmouth–mostly on swim baits. ALL fish in <4′ !!

Essentially this means walleyes are at the “top of the stairs” RIGHT now. concentrate on < 10′ if you want to catch quality fish. Today we’re gonna start by targeting perch. But if the perch jerkin’ isn’t TOO EASY will probably catch a couple of ‘eyes then go chase “brown bass”.

Time for me to lock & load. Leisure days are over. Back to work. Next open date for guiding is 4/12 and 4/16. 2nd half of April still has several openings–but I’m not eager to fill them. Special Saturday rate now in effect; $1000/4 hrs.
Any other day it’s a $750 savings on the base guide rate!

In remembrance of dear departed friend and competitor Dick Neefe “see ya out there on the water!

Redhorse run

Redhorse run

Attitudes are ugly in some of the throng of perch jerkers jostling below lock & dam 8 at Genoa. I won’t fish within a mile of the dam–just on principle–this time of year. Why hire a guide to go play ‘bumper boats’?

Instead, I like targeting small tribs & bays for the perch, chasing ‘eyes & sauger staging off of spawning areas downstream. Today the ‘eyes were holding @ the 16’contour. Caught ’em on Northland Buckaroo & B-Fish-n Tackle Pulse R’s w/ 3/16 oz Precision jighead in ‘pyrokeet’ pattern 4 eyes–all legal–then went on a perch search. Same place where the fat boys cooperated 48 hrs. ago only gave up redhorse the past couple days. Bite is so fast, i had to go to just one rod: my St. Croix 9′ panfish wand.

Redhorse are a phenomenal pull on this type of tackle! Flat-out fun. Fish have been averaging about 2 lbs, but i had a 5+ whopper yesterday.

Fish were in about 4 fow ,over sand w/ moderate current. Switched from “standard perch rig” of 1/8 oz egg sinker/swivel/14-16″ leader/#6 long shank Eagle Claw gold hook/redworm to a couple OO split shot/hildebrandt spinner hoping the Redhorse would leave it alone. Nope! When an 18″ redhorse gernips a red wiggler fished 18′ under the surface w/10′ line out you want to have a firm grip on the rod!!

Redhorse are great smoked, pickled or made into fish patties…kinda like sheepshead–a rough fish that fights hard and is spectacular eating when correctly prepared.

1st LMB of the year!

1st LMB of the year!

About 30 years ago i did a TV segment–catching bass on Rat-l-Traps just after ice out with water temps of just 45 degrees. Today’s outing beat that mark–multiple LMB on the ‘Trap with surface temp of just 39 degrees!

In just the past 24 hrs. surface temp in the Miss mainstem has warmed to 40 degrees, with a solid 42 in a couple of the major tribs. In several dark-bottom sloughs away from current the temp today was a solid 43. By tomorrow afternoon 45 degree temps are possible. This means go-time for both bass & pike!

Meanwhile, most folks are focused on walleyes & perch. Both are on the move. Walleyes today have already ‘stairstepped’ shallower, holding about the 18′ contour. perch have pushed against barriers like the dam and into particular backwaters which hold solid populations of ‘bugs’ –the primary perch food.

Today pitching/dragging both plastics and hair had a definite edge over vertical jigging with meat for the ‘eyes.

Most years the major walleye spawn on pool 9 is real close to 4/15. I think they may go several weeks earlier this year, looking at moon phase, relatively low water level for this time of year, 40 degree surface temp in the mainstem and a forecast DROP in levels by this time next week.

Of course, this is conjecture—but LMB with an aggressive ‘Trap bite in , 5 fow this time of year certainly indicates a different paradigm out there!

i don’t pretend to have the answers. I just get out fishin’ pretty much every day. The Miss is always dynamic. But this spring its dynamic on STEROIDS. Conventional wisdom is out the window. Fish the fish. Multiple LMB on Rat-L-Trap in 39 degree water?? this is nuts! But it is what it is.

My only regret is not being able to fish again until TOMORROW.

Showtime!!

Showtime!!

A few days ago Pool 9 was as low as I’ve ever seen it in March with ice still in a lot of the backwaters. According to the NOAA website: https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=arx&gage=genw3 The River will see significant rise beginning today, pegging out well into the ‘action stage’ by this time next week.

With rapid snowmelt far up in the cool blue north this rise could bump even higher, maybe tickling minor flood stage by April Fool’s Day. No problem!

Once we get to the ‘action’ stage access will be tough at some boat launches, BUT the walleyes & perch will be on a real feeding rip!

The rising River level will bump most ice out of the backwaters by next weekend, creating a possible navigation hazard. Pulling the transducer off the stern of your boat might be a wise idea for the next week or so.

Water won’t warm much for the short haul due to all the giant ice cubes. Walleyes will still be in the wintering holes–pretty much. But probing shallower edges in the afternoon might produce some big ol’ eyes.

I’m kicking off the 2021 guide season next Monday. A number of dates are already spoken for. But there are openings, too. Honestly, I’m not too eager to get back to work. Thinking about going to that special Saturday rate ($1000/4hrs) right out of the chute. Guiding is hard work. Even tougher once you’ve been on the planet for 7 decades. I LOVE fishin’ more than i need money…not that i’m that good at fishin’ BUT after maybe 48 hrs. of not being on the water the spectre of eventual mortality pushes me to get back out there every day possible.

This ain’t your problem. At least not yet. The time is at hand to git back to it.
Brother Dick Neefe is no longer with us. But, stealing a line from this premier river rat….See ya out there on the water.

Back on the Grid

Back on the Grid

Been a long time since we’ve howdied! I’ve been down in mexico Beach, Fla. since late january. Had to get a trans service on the ol’ Silveroo after pulling Spring weather back this way.

Quite a few folks still out ice fishing the backwaters. But ice edges are fading FAST. In about 3 days a hovercraft will be about the only way to get out there safely. The main channel is open from lansing up to the dam on pool 9. AS of yesterday, pool 10 tailwaters still pretty much locked up.

Yamaha tells me I’m now on their national pro staff. Thankful for that! Will be headed down to Jerry’s Sports Service in Beloit to mount the new Yammie on the stern of my Lund. Beaver will have my 2019 Evinrude E-tech 90 up for adoption after that. One sweet runnin’ motor!

Down in Florida I got out fishin’ pretty much every day. sometimes twice. Caught an Octopus, stingray, a pile of pompanos, whiting and reds. Biggest saltwater thrill was sight fishing a 39 1/2″ bull redfish in the surf. She garwoofled my signature series Rat-l-Trap RT-97 and peeled off over 200 yds. of line before she decided to run back toward the beach…then toward Panama City. What a fight!

In freshwater, fished the Dead Lakes near Wewahitchka a couple of times. The SMALLEST bluegill was 10″!!! Little white beetle spins and Roadrunners the hot baits. Best part—the best fishin’ there will start in about 2 wks.

Best part of trip was grabbing a 3 yr. old boy by the britches as he was about to fall off a 4′ wall into 9 fow, with no easy way for rescue. Went on a rampage with the MBFD demanding life rings/ ladders be placed. Couch potatoes seldom drive change. There are sweet ‘tators, mashed ‘tators and agi-tators. The rings/ladders will be placed next week. Both the local PD & FD gave me “challenge coins”. probably to get me out of dodge. Anyway, I plan on getting back on theRiver tomorrow and will keep you posted.

Lots of ice will be busting loose out of backwaters soon. Launching and heading upstream is smart…but floes can come in behind you. Having an alternate plan to recover the boat is wise. PFD’s won’t work if you don’t wear them. Even if you do, herpothemia can kill you pretty quick. So don’t go overboard.

Midwinter Ringers

Midwinter Ringers

So far 2021 is shaping up to be the year of the perch! So far fishing conditions this winter have been great. There is plenty of ice for folks who aren’t stupid-3-12″. Easy to grind through in less than a minute. Ambient temps have not been extreme, snow cover hasn’t been an issue…all good.

The only issue is a need to frog around a little until you land on the fish. I won’t mention popular community spots, as there are enough folks out there already. THOUSANDS of fish have been taken out. Those which are left behind are generally wise to the ways of bucketeers

The jumbo ringers started coming on in Pool 9 back in 1999. At least for me. The first entry of an honest 12″ was in Dec. of ’99. Since then the perch population has really burgeoned, spreading out to more and more wintering areas every year. It doesn’t take long for the crowd to find a spot.

Some of the best areas are over-winter areas developed in the last several years by rip-rapping and island building only accessible by hovercraft, or boat if you don’t mind a long walk. Action in these areas is pretty much all day. Elsewhere there is a flurry of activity 2-3 times a day followed by essentially zero bites for awhile.

Perch movement tends to be cyclonic, even under the ice. The fish move in a large, lazy circle mostly looking for bugs. Mainly hellgrammites. Where fish have been POUNDED these feeding flurries are mainly mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

There are days when minnows are the only way to go, fished deadstick. By far my most consistent producer has been a little perch pattern Northland buckshot rattle spoon tipped with 2 red spikes.

Jigging cadence is key to consistently hooking up–and the presentation which trips their trigger changes every day. Often the best presentation is what i call ‘plop & hover’.

Plop the lure on the bottom a couple of times to stir up the mud, then bring it up about a foot and try to hold it still. If you hook spikes through the fat end, just under the skin, between the “eyes” it will frequently goad fish which are already familiar with hooks.

My only other tip is don’t leave fish once you find ’em. They will go away, but they will return. you can’t catch ’em if you go looking somewhere else.

My latest book MORE Tails, Trails & Tales with the Old Guide is now live on Amazon and kindle ebooks. Order on line and the book will show up in a few days. It will be awhile before MORE T, T & T shows up at local outlets cuz it takes awhile to print up 100 copies and ship them to me to be signed and delivered. Probably looking at mid-March.

Mother nature hasn’t been making any ice lately…and the Big River keeps on rollin’. Be extra careful out there. Go prepared for self-rescue

Hardwater!

Hardwater!

Several backwaters known for early ice action here on pool 9 are now locked up. With River levels lower than they’ve been at freeze-up for the past several years, places like Visagers, Green Lake and back slough at Millstone will probably only produce for a couple weeks til the ice gets too thick. DeSoto Bay and spots like Shore slough won’t be impacted BUT since you can got right past wet to dead (at least in DeSoto Bay, don’t think i’ll be checking it out for a few more days.

ALSO a number of folks have been visiting my website recently, i guess looking for books. Will eventually get site up running so all 3 can be purchased right on the site. Until then Mississippi Musings and Tails, Trails & Tales are only available at local outlets here along the River, on Kindle and on amazon.com T,T & T volume II should be available in a couple weeks on these sites too.

Meanwhile, if you get out on the ice between now & the weekend wear a PFD and don’t forget the spud. Not talkin’ taters either

Swan Song

Swan Song

Finally winterized the outboard when I got off the River at sundown last nite. Regular saug-o-rama. Active fish holding in 22-23 fow. Bite profoundly depth critical, but once in the zone caught em on Teddy Cats, hair jigs, Northland buckshot Rattle spoons and pulling 3-ways with a firecracker B-Fish-N Pulse R & #5 jointed Shad Rap on the 2 droppers.

Color was critical on the hair jig bite. Lt. blue and purple/purple. Lately the active bite window has been 1-2:30. But yesterday partner Larry Barthel hooked up in the first five minutes, last five minutes and about every 5 minutes in between for 5 hrs.!

Thinkin’ the fish knew serious cold weather is on the way. Tundra swans are still here, but not for long.

Last year we had walkable ice by thanksgiving. In 2018 the first safe ice was Dec. 11 —2 yrs. ago TODAY.