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Author: Cap'n Ted

Weeds A Poppin’–Gettin’ Froggy with it

Weeds A Poppin’–Gettin’ Froggy with it

Pool 9 levels continue to drop and clear. Submergent vegetation is now emergent with American water lotus spreading across the surface and pencil reeds & sandgrass poking a foot above the water line.

All major boat ramps are now open. Some areas away from the channel have changed significantly as we approach normal summer pool levels. If projections hold we should see these conditions by late next week. Navigation in the backwaters should be done with caution. Today’s easy runnin’ is tomorrow’s drydock sandbar.

Punkinseeds have been on the beds for several days. ‘Gills have just started showing up. In some waters it is possible to sight-fish the nests. Not all LMB have spawned. About 50% of females were still carrying eggs as of June 1.
Water temp is 71-74 degrees.

Active bite has been before 7:30 a.m. or after 6 p.m. for essentially everything except pike & panfish. The closing dam bite has been great. wingdam action will improve with each day going forward–if USACE projections hold.

You might wanna go to a floro leader in finesse presentations in some of the backwaters and running sloughs.

My top walleye baits this past week have been the oxbow Trap, Z-Man Jackhammer chatterbait, B-Fish-N 1/4 oz. Big Dude & Z-Man eye strike w/Pulse R plastic.

Same baits working well for both SMB & LMB. You might try a buzzbait on humid days when static tension on the water surface is high…and, of course, the frog. Honestly, i don’t like frog fishin’. I’m a meat & potatoes guy. Green fish with a side order of salad not my thing.

For those folks just giddy with a blow up on a frog, you might try yer tongue on both terminals of a 9V battery. No bug spray or SPF 50 necessary AND you save $4.50 gal. on gas!

Lookin’ Good

Lookin’ Good

Many boat launches on pool 9 are at least marginally accessible w/pool levels stable @ 4′ above action stage til the end of May. “Wet foot’ policy will likely be part of the experience when launching.

Water clarity now is excellent. SMB have just completed spawn. LMB are TIGHT to cover along edges. Walleyes are active in 3-7 fow in running slough all over the map. Hot lures have been black/blue #Zman jackhammers, oxbow Rat-l-Traps & 1/4 oz. B-Fish-N tackle Big Dude blades.

Yesterday’s half-day trip produced 20 quality fish. Mixed bag of eyes, bass & pike. Pretty much the average over the past week or so, probably even better going forward.

Damn Minnesota! Been launching in Mn. recently. Drain plug must be removed when leaving the launch. Launched in Wi. yesterday. Run upstream 7 miles. Started fishin’ client in back of boat tells me his feet are getting wet. DRain plug which is attached on a wire is gone. Other client is hooked up with a nice ‘eye. Hit the bilge switch, netted the fish, scooted to shore.Pulled a spare drain plug out of tool box. Back to fishin’ in 5 mins—but the bilge kept pumping for another 20.

Other than the usual cuts & bruises only got hooked past the barb twice last week. Thankful both were in places where i could pull ’em out with pliers and get back to work after a little electrician’s tape 1st aid.

Available for hire May 24,25 & 31 this month. Next opening 6/18–Father’s Day. I plan on fun fishin’ after church , Lord willin’

Bass Action Better Every Day

Bass Action Better Every Day

With water temperatures now solidly in the mid to upper 60’s bass are going crazy in <6 fow in preparation for spawning.

Swim jigs, chatterbaits, spinnerbaits and Rat-L-Traps are all super search baits. Once you find a pod of active fish switching to a finesse presentation like the senko or a tube might put more fish in the boat.

Edges are still a key to fish location. With a dropping River more edges appear every day. With water coming down out of the trees you can find submergent vegetation in what is usually dry or almost dry ground. Not aquatic weeds. Plants like smartweed and other cover like buck brush & willow.

LMB are cruising in this ‘instant” vegetation where there is at least 2’ visibility. A lure like senko or tube can be finessed right over these weeds, often provoking a strike.

SMB are hanging in more significant structure. Mostly wood or rocks. Great place to fish a Z-Man TRD or tube on a Ned rig!

Pike can be anywhere in the shallows now chasing food. A spinnerbait with a little chartreuse and ORANGE with a 4″ swim jig plastic trailer is tough for them to resist.

Walleyes are hanging on the slack side of current seams and closing dams right now. A good tactic is pulling a deep crank like the Bill Lewis Lures MR-12 in RED/ crawdad pattern on top of the closing dam, occasionally ticking rocks. You will get snagged. Once you’re sure the hang-up is a snag and not a fish just allowing slack will usually fee the bait. If it suddenly ‘snags’ again, SET THE HOOK!

If the River continues to fall in line with USACE predictions migration routes back toward the mainstem are a super place to ambush fish. These conditions should develop in the next week or so.

Meanwhile, the fish catching pyramid is pretty much edges>water clarity>presentation.

Regardless of pyramid building block placement and size the baseline is time on the water. So far this month I’ve been on the Miss 9 days. Today’s adventure kicks off in about an hour.

Be careful out there! Still a lot of dunnage coming down as wood floats out of the trees. Be prepared for self rescue. You may not see another boat for hours–if you’re fishing where the fish are!

Hanging fish baskets by Mother’s Day?

Hanging fish baskets by Mother’s Day?

Pool 9 has started dropping from near historic flood level. If the USACE forecast holds true, the River should be hovering right around “Action Stage” by Mother’s day. If it holds true, we’ll see Action Stage a week from now.

Action stage is the level where the boat launch at the end of Army Road, east of New Albin is no longer accessible. The parking lot here might give up a pike or two this time next week, with 5-6 fow covering the gravel–if the USACE projections are accurate

Bottom line: with all the technology available today the US Weather Service forecast is only marginally accurate about 72 hours out. The Mississippi River is MUCH tougher to call. Projections for 48 hours beyond any given day are usually in the ballpark. But it is a GREAT BIG ball park,

Back in the year of perpetual flood–2019–we faced essentially the same scenario mid-April. But ground saturation up North and excessive rain kept Pool 9 at some level of flood stage until mid-August.

If local weather conditions are favorable fish can usually be found up to a level of about 632′ @ Genoa–which is what the projection calls for a week from now.

The key is edges. As of this morning, pretty much the only edges are railroad tracks on both sides of the River. At 632′ there are more spots popping up which fish can’t negotiate around so they are easier to find and catch.

My favorite high water weapons between 632′ and Action Stage are chatterbaits, swim jigs, Rat-l-Traps and spinnerbaits.

With water between these parameters a black or white tandem spinnerbait is usually more effective than an obnoxious orange/chartruese one with an oversize Colorado blade. Why? Visibility! Edges appear first in quiet waters. Water clarity can be a major key. Find 2′ + visibility and you’ll likely find fish. These shallow areas which clear up first are almost always over dark bottom, which warms up quicker than a sandy or rocky bottom.

None of this information will do you any good until at least this time next week. Maybe. Between now and then inland lakes and smaller inland river are more productive options.

This past week I’ve boated 80+ sauger, walleye and baffled 19″ brown trout fishng inland rivers. Fish ere holding over gravel bottom in 3-5 fow. Most effective presentation was anchoring up and casting a Bill Lewis lures MR6 crankbait in RAYBURN RED pattern downstream and retrieving at a slow, steady pace. The MR6 dives to about 6′. This retrieve allows the bait to wiggle seductively occasionally ticking bottom. The biggest sauger last week was a respectable 19 incher. It appeared to be spawned out, so I kept it to make a sammich. When the fish was cleaned it revealed the same gender as Dylan Mulvaney. Whoa. Don’t know if this sauger was woke or not…but it was delicious.

The Reality of the River

The Reality of the River

If you don’t think God has a sense of humor, just tell him what your plans are. Experience gleaned from a half-century working on the Immortal River teaches there will be at least a full month every year when going fishing with legitimate expectations for favorable results is a fool’s mission.

The second half of march and first half of April were generally tough–but fishable. The second half of April moved right into pretty much waste of time status–perpetual cold fronts and muddy waters.

Every morning the first cup of coffee is savored while perusing and the USACE River level and forecast. With Sunday morning comin’ down, it LOOKS like the River will stabilize at the level where USACE delineates between moderate and major flood. This observation is akin to being ” a little bit pregnant”.

As of yesterday essentially every boat ramp is inaccessible with a “dry foot” policy. Parking lots have several feet of water covering them. Those with a railroad trestle or road bridge require a Limbo maneuver to negotiate.

IF the River level stabilizes along the imaginary line between moderate and major flood by this time next week, fishin’ will be worthwhile by the 1st week in May. Accessibility will be a major issue. But a River Rat will find a way.

With water still flowing through the trees the only barriers to stop fish may be shoreline along railroad tracks or areas which are normally dry & solid ground.

Sometimes getting there requires snaking through flooded timber between trunks and under limbs to arrive at calmer waters. Visibillity in these places is generally greater than 18 inches. With dark bottom the water column here will warm quickly to above 55 degrees. something about that number pushes the “eat” button on species like bass and pike AND displaced walleyes.

My Lund Alaskan draw about 18″. The 14′ AlumaCraft Jon boat, about half that much. The jon is really too small to guide more than one person. Fine by me. Fishin’ between now and mid-May will almost certainly be an adventure…with quick potential for turning into a pickle.

Pickles aren’t a problem on fishin’ missions with just one “strap”. But i certainly wouldn’t put a client’s life in jeopardy–ever. Right now there are only a half-dozen trips on the books where clients will need to make an informed decision between now and opener of Wisconsin’s general fishing season. If you aren’t one of these folks there are a few open dates in both May and June when the hazard level on the River will likely be more “normal”.

After coming very close to the Big Adios over last winter I’m just thankful to still be vertical and able to fish. And tussling with a toother where wild flowers usually grow is a sure recipe for a grateful grin.

Changing by the Hour

Changing by the Hour

On Easter morning water temp in the river mainstem was hovering around 40 degrees. 72 hours later it jumped into the mid-50s. Most walleyes got ‘er done.

With Easter now 6 days behind us the marble-eyes are sliding back downstream a little higher in the water column. Males are like teenage boys after the prom. They wanna go for pizza and beer. Females just dropped a third of their body weight. They want an in-your-face presentation several feet off the bottom.

Snowmelt is causing the River to rise steadily. If you check the USACE flow chart at https;// the rise is an incline plane at about a 45 degree upward angle, moving from “action stage” almost up to the ‘moderate flood” level.

These two factors–sharply rising River levels and water temperatures –are changing fish location literally by the hour, BUT one common denominator is a key to finding them: fish the lazy side of current seams in an increasingly angry River.

Once you find active fish they will likely be in a tight little pod. Come back after lunch and the pod has probably moved on. Talkin’ walleyes here. The AIM tourney is happening today on Pool 9, so I’m not keen on spilling the beans–even though the catch and release on site format is good.

I think most of the larger walleyes are spawned out. Yesterday I was fun fishin’ with my first mate , Mike Yauk. We had a spawned out ‘eye which weighed about 10 lbs.that hit a Rayburn Red MR-6 crank, casting and retrieving on the quiet side of a current seam. this bait tracks down about 8 feet. She was the 3rd spawned out female to be tussled with and freed since the year’s most important day for Christians..

Current seams and warmer water have been key in bass location over the past week as well, with presentation also a factor. Mike me were on a “fishin’ mission” to boat 50 gamefish yesterday. We accomplished this mission in 2 hrs., 46 mins–a catch rate of one gamefish every 3.26 minutes. About 90 % of this catch was quality bass. Most basshit B-Fish-N Pulse R’s in sassafras pattern on a 1/8 oz Draggin jighead or Z-Man Ned rigged TRD.

With the aforementioned conditions these fish have now moved on, looking for warmer water with visibility of at least 18″.. ..essentially upstream end of backwaters which load from downstream. If water is coming through flooded trees from upstream you won’t find any fish there.

It takes me at least an hour to figure out the fish every single day. during flood conditions finding fish can take twice that long. That’s fishin’ on perhaps the most challenging –sometimes rewarding–riverine system in the USA.

Mike just posted a hilarious video of me on social media, saying when i was born i tried to reel in my umbilical cord & Chuck Norris is my co-angler. Start believing you are master of the River and She will humble your quickly and severely. That’s why I love her so!

Stay safe out there! Watch for dunnage when running under power. Wear your PFD & kill switch. tight lines.



The FULL MOON is tomorrow night. The River is well into ‘action’ stage easing toward minor flood. Water temp has been between 39-42 in the River mainstem. It is now 44-45 in shallower, quieter waters. Ambient temps will warm into the 70s by next week. These factors combine to mean one thing regarding walleyes on the Upper Miss : SHOWTIME!!

If you’re looking for a dance with a fat girl, leave the minnow bucket at home and tie on a B-Fish-N Tackle pyrokeet jighead with a Pulse R, Moxie or Rib Fin plastic. Purple firecracker is a go to. In truly stained water maybe something with a little orange in it. Regardless, a couple drops of ‘da juice’ : Liquid Willowcat.

Target < 10 fow on the slack side of current seams especially where there is rocky rubble bottom. The fat girls are thinking about food. they’re thinking about dropping 1/3 of their body weight. The best presentation is slow, in-your-face swimming close to bottom with an occasional ‘pop’ to trigger fish.

The strike window is small. Gotta be in-your-face. Males are like teenage boys right now. They are focused on spawning too. But wanna go out for pizza & beer after a hot prom date.

Location>Presentation>Bait Profile>Color + TIME ON THE WATER = set the hook!

Early walleyes spawn?

Early walleyes spawn?

Water temperatures on River mainstem was a solid 40 degrees on 3/24. In some places over 41. In backwaters like hole-in-the-wall and trib entry points 44+ degrees.

With the full moon reigning the night sky on April 4 I think there is a 70% chance we’ll see walleye spawning by April fool’s Day. Of course, there is a lotta snow up north. If night time temps up there get down near freezing for the next couple weeks I think the ‘eyes are gonna go early.

Yesterday i found some nice perch on the River mainstem in 6-8 fow over a dark bottom next to 20+ fow. Water temp here was 41.8..

Since I have a pike trip early next week I went looking. Found them below wingdams. Aggressive on a 5″ K-Grub. Soon they will be transitioning into shallows to spawn. This might happen by tuesday’s trip.

yesterday all walleyes were caught pulling B-Fish-N Tackle rib fins in 14-17 fow or spot locking on current seams at this depth and pitching Northland Tackle 1/4 oz bucktails parallel to the seam & shallower.

Being on the Water 200 days annually for a half century–mostly on rivers–has taught me not to spend too much time trying to re-live yesterday’s bite. it takes me at least an hour to find the fish, every single day. This is ESPECIALLY true in the Spring.

Tomorrow I’m gonna try to catch a mess of redhorse for the smoker. they are really starting to move. Fair chance a brown trout might show up. On the river you never know what’s gonna stretch your string.

The bite is ON!

The bite is ON!

Water temps warmed to 39 degrees on 3/15. Walleye/sauger very active on hair jigs. Also caught fish pulling pulseRs & 3-ways with small cranks and pitching blades and PulseRs.

Active fish were in 21-22 fow but sometimes responded when pitching a little shallower.

The coming week will reveal a lot about timing of the spawn this year. I’m leaning toward April 5–2 wks earlier than the norm. But with the spawn on 4/1 in 2019, maybe earlier is the new norm.

I plan on being out there regardless. Guide business is now tkaing booking dates for 2023 season. Still have 5 open dates in march & 9 in April.

My latest book ‘Flames & Fins’ (An old river guide looks back upstream) should be available @ Capn Hooks, River n Ridge and City Meats by Saturday.

Got off the water @ 7:30 last night. It is now 06:35. Plan on launching in one hour. Gotta go. gotta guide. The grind begins!

The March March Begins!

The March March Begins!

Water temperatures on the pool 9 river mainstem have risen two solid degrees, up to 34, over the past 48 hours waking walleyes, saugers, perch & pike up and pushing them out of wintering holes.

Walleyes tend to ‘stair step’ in spring and fall, moving shallower in the Spring in preparation for spawning when water temps rise to 45-48 degrees. A week ago walleyes were in 29-32 fow with saugers slightly deeper. By march 5 these fish have already moved into 21-24 fow. A few more degrees they will be in 16-20 fow and crazy hungry. When they go up one more step and start cruising the <12 foot contour the spawning show is about to get underway.

Walleyes usually spawn at night, during the full moon period–especially if this lines up with the 45-48 degree magic temp. USUALLY the spawn occurs April 15-22 on pool 9. Two years ago they spawned around April 1, with many dropping their eggs back in grassy areas in the running sloughs instead of quiet waters off the River mainstem over rocky-rubble bottom.

This year the B-Fish-N Tackle B3 blade bait has been smokin’ hot for multiple species. This piece of metal was first introduced down on Pool 12, known as the Zonar–or maybe by Heddon lures called the Sonar, back about 1960.

Whatever you wanna call it, I’ve been using this chunk of metal since I used to chase ‘eyes below the Bellevue dam on pool 13 since 1965. Never ceases to amaze me. Why would a walleye slurp in a chunk of metal laying on the bottom when there is so much natural food in their enviroment?

Experience teaches you don’t wanna be pondering the possibilities when the B3 is in the fish zone. Sometimes fish have been slurping in the metal when the bait is just laying on the bottom. Sometimes they stop its progress after a quick rip as it flutters back down. This is a tough bite to detect unless you’re paying attention!

The nature of the bite will certainly change as waters continue to warm. A hair jig with a minnow is very popular on pool 9–purple for walleye, kelly green for sauger. Since Valentine’s Day I haven’t put “meat” on the hook yet…and boated–conservatively–200+ walleyes. Some on #Northland jigging spoons, some on plastic paddletails and a pile on blades.

Gonna kick off the guide service on March 15. This year i will be able to accommodate up to 6 anglers as I’ll be working closely with Mike Yauk of Fishin’ Mission guide service. Mike is on pro staff with #stcroixrod ,#B-Fish-N tackle and a couple other manufacturers.

My latest book “flames & fins ” (an old river guide looks back upstream) is now available on amazon &kindle. Lotsa stuff in there about the River and how to fish it.

As of today–March 6–access is still an issue on pool 9. Ice tends to block many access points. A couple days ago I needed help sliding my ‘stealth boat’ , a 14′ jon, across about 100′ of ice so i could put it on the trailer. Navigation is also an issue on the River mainstem. Keep your eyes open! Many tons of ice are leaving thousands of acres over quiet backwaters and running sloughs moving slowly downstream. Smacking into a six-inch thick chunk the size of a card table can put the pin in the party hog of an otherwise happy day. Don’t ask me how I know. Stay safe out there