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



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 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.

walleyes in wintering holes

walleyes in wintering holes

Yesterday I had 11 minnows in the bait tank. Decided to take them fishing. Took about an hour to find an active pod of fish. walleyes in 19′ sauger in 27-29. Water temp 32.7-34.4. River level remains low and fairly clear. Ice has formed on many protected backwaters, also in quiet areas of running sloughs. Access still good at all boat ramps. Tundra swans still hanging around….so we won’t be ice fishing for awhile.

Experience teaches when the big white birds bug out, we can lightfoot out on the hardwater on selected spots 48 hrs. later.

Since taking those minnows for a swim was only mission i fished 3/8 & 1/2 oz. hair jigs. Purple best color for walleyes. Sauger wanted kelly green.

caught 2 nice FAT male ‘eyes, 17 &18.5 + a couple shorts, a half dozen sauger, 30″ lake sturgeon and 2 lb. channel cat. Fished for just over 2 hrs. Kept the walleys for dinner tonite. Yesterday was so nice I might have to go out again today.

latest book MORE Tails, Trails & Tales with the Old Guide is being formatted now for Kindle & Amazon. 33 chapters. Should be available by Christmas. Don’t forget to wear a mask and social distance—50 yds. from my Lund is enough.

Rising River & Cooling Water

Rising River & Cooling Water

Pool 9 has been on a steady rise for the past several days, with plenty of color and horrendous weeds part of the picture. Water temperatures have dropped back into the mid-40s after reaching 50 degrees last week

The best way to target walleyes for the next few days will be vertical jigging with blades & hair. Pulling & pitching dragging is like mowing tall grass with a hook.

Taking down my guide shingle for the year as of today. Once water temps drop below 40 bite is unpredictable—sometimes they wanna dance, sometime they don’t. I still plan on getting out there and checking those scaly critters mood pretty much every day until the tundra swans migrate out of here but the fish get to vote, and their vote counts more than my serious attempts at catching them. This is the same reason why i no longer guide ice fishing–besides the fact that it is too much work for these old bones.

Lord willin’ will be back on the water working again with a brand new Yammie on the Lund’s stern about March 15.

Until then this blog won’t be so regular. Have deer to harvest and working on the next book MORE Tails, Trails & Tales with the Old Guide. The first volume of T, T & T is available at multiple outlets here on Pool 9, also on Kindle and

Sighting in the new AR yesterday put me in the holiday spirit: red laser superimposed on the green crosshairs of the holographic sight Ho! Ho!Ho! Regardless of what happens going forward with that bat disease thing, lockdowns, etc. I find peace in knowing God is in control and I shall be forever free here on the River.

Any entity which wants to reign in my Constitutional rights to this freedom will find themselves downrange from holiday optics. Stay safe out there! Don’t forget to wear that PFD!

One more round of Trappin’

One more round of Trappin’

Looks like the gorgeous Indian Summer weather will hold for a couple more days. Guide work usually peters out by the first week in November. Last trip on the books was yesterday, with guys boating about 25 and keeping 10 quality fish.

Not fishin’ today. Last night tried to vector left using the TV remote thinking I was trying to steer the MinnKota. Counted 17 cuts, abrasions, etc. on both hands. Not whining. Battle scars of fishing for a living.

Yesterday water temp warmed to a solid 44 degrees. Only got down to 60 last night, so i know it will get to 45 today. This means bass/pike/walleyes will be up on the flats chasing bait–one more chance to beat ’em up with a Rat-L-Trap? don’t know, but certainly plan on finding out!

Recently eyes/sauger have been hugging the 22-24′ contour. Boats are like duck decoys or maybe seagulls; One guy catches a fish then everybody flocks in. This commotion puts the active fish down–even in 20+ fow. This is why I seldom–if ever–fish with the bumper boats up by the dam. Anyway. THREE TIMES we moved to where there were no boats yesterday, putting a couple decent fish in the box. All 3 times the active bite stopped when a couple more boats showed up. Something you might wanna chew on….

yesterday winds were nil in the morning then out of the south by noon. A 3/8 oz jig or Teddy Cat blade worked well when it was calm. Needed to go to 1/2 oz hair and 3/4 Teddy Cat when the breeze picked up. COLOR is secondary to importance of weight…but sometimes it makes a difference. Yesterday’s hot color was purple/purple

Sincere thanks to all the super folks who shared my boat in 2020. Last night i watched the sunset while savoring 2 fingers of single pot Irish whiskey, compliments of Chris. This morning pancakes with some of Dave’s home made maple syrup. Life is good!

Sneaking walleyes out of weeds

Sneaking walleyes out of weeds

Meaty Urologists are predicting a warming trend beginning today and running at least through the weekend. Early voting is possible now, but you can only exercise this right through tomorrow.

We live in the most uncertain times I’ve experienced in nearly 7 decades on the planet. God alone knows what will happen. Ronald Reagan noted our Republic is only one generation away from losing it’s freedom. Don’t let this happen on our watch! VOTE!

Water temperatures have been stable for several days at around 40. Wind has been a significant factor in boat control, with the most effective presentation a controlled vertical drift along a particular depth contour. Recently this contour has been 23′ for both ‘eyes and snauger.

An INCREDIBLE volume of eelgrass continues to come down the River making presentations like pitching/dragging plastics like the B-Fish-N Tackle Pulse-R difficult if not impossible. Would certainly give this a shot if I had some 3/8 oz. B-Fish-N Draggin’ jigs….but going vertical with hair and snap-jigging with my signature series EchoTail Teddy Cat by Vibrations Tackle are putting enough fish in the boat to hold my interest pretty much every day.

Subjectively, it seems like the most brutal, frigid weather has been producing the most quality ‘eyes–especially that fall outside the slot…but that’s proabably just me whining.

Back to the things which have been working: Taylor Tackle Killer jigs and the Teddy Cat. Karen has come out with a new color called “willowcat” which is consistently outfishing old reliables–snauger green, purple/purple and red/white/blue.

Like my Teddy Cat, Karen’s “willowcat” pattern looks like the walleye’s main Manitou : the Willowcat. Many folks add a minnow to the jighook and let the treble stinger trail behind hanging free (to pick up weeds). I’ve gone to taking the stinger off and soaking the hair in “Da Juice” (a.k.a. Liquid Willowcat). The fish hit it just as hard, with a 75% reduction in hooks to grab weeds.

Liquid Willowcat is available at many local outlets and on-line at . Eric Ingvalson who is the brewmaster cooking up Da juice also sells my Teddy Cat through his website.

In-Fisherman magazine called my Teddy Cat “The Swiss Army knife of blade baits” because there are so many ways to configure the hooks and snap attachment points. For vertical jigging deep and in heavy weeds i like to attach the snap to the second hole back behind the head, Using a single treble attached on the bottom, back hole jus in front of the tail. Lately, my tail has been the back couple inches of a B-Fish-N sassafras pattern Pulse-R or one of Eric’s soft plastic willowcats in brown/orange.

Howling NW winds convinced me to visit the court house and VOTE the other day, leaving the next couple days open for fun fishin’ , then guide work through the weekend.

There will come a day–far too soon–when fishing puruists will be mostly sitting on a bucket. ‘Til then, every single day is precious–either out there in a tree during the rut, in the blind waiting for mallards (the little flight is pushing through right now) or rippin’ lips on those wily marble eyes.

Most important: DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!

Officially in Cold Water Period

Officially in Cold Water Period

Water temperatures on Pool 9 have plummeted from the mid-50’s to 42 degrees over just the past 10 days, drastically impacting both fish activity and location.

SMB are still catchable with slow presentations aimed at targeting primarily walleyes, with walleyes running ‘down the stairs’ in just over a week holding @ about 18-21 fow. Saugers have been active in 21-24 fow. This pattern won’t change all that much as temps continue to fall into the upper 30’s.

Eelgrass is a MAJOR factor now, limiting presentations pretty much to single hook options like the venerable jig. Northland Buckaroo & Taylor tackle hair jigs have been very effective over the past week or so–especially with a little meat. With calm winds in a vertical presentation of over 20′ a 1/4-3/8oz is plenty. But with a howlin’ NW wind like we had yesterday 1/2 oz was necessary to stay in the fish zone.

In those few areas where eelgrass is not a MAJOR factor, pitching/dragging 3/16 oz. B-Fish-N tackle precision jigs in pyrokeet pattern w/ firecracker or cotton candy Pulse-Rs has been producing some nicer fish. A Rippin’ shad has been putting a few fish in the boat, too–in areas where the trebles don’t work like a six-tined rake

Most panfish have moved to zero-current areas near where they will spend the winter, with many pike right behind them. Crappies & a few gills are still relating to wood with crappies 4′ down where there is at least 10 fow and gills on the same structure a little closer to the bottom.

Perch have ben a mystery to me lately. Catching quality fish, but not numbers cruising the same areas as walleyes. Almost all have come on a 1/4 oz. perch pattern Buckshot RattleSpoon, with occasional “perch bites” in deeper water on bigger spoons. Aggressive “frosting lickers” which are just slapping larger lure profiles? Don’t know, but certainly plan on being out there just about every day until the tundra swans leave.

Seems like 48 hrs. after the big white ones bug out, quiet shallows ice up. The wonders of nature along the Immortal River never cease to amaze. Closing in on 7 decades, humbled by the fact that the more time spent out there trying to figger it all out, the less you really know

Walleyes headed down the stairs

Walleyes headed down the stairs

Water temperature on the main channel dropped 6 to 48 degrees on 10/15. It may tickle 50+ on a sunny afternoon in the next few days…but 48 essentially means it’s showtime for walleyes to start moving deeper, hungry all the way. “Stairstepping” happens spring& fall on the Upper Miss. As temps fall to 48 in the fall fish which have pretty much been cruising in <12-13 fow start to move deeper–eventually into ‘wintering holes” that are >25 fow.

yesterday’s falling temp and a howling NW wind pushed ‘eyes down the first step: 16 fow +/- This is ideal for pitching/dragging #northlandtackle Buckaroo hair jigs or #B-Fish-N tackle pyrokeet precision jigheads with Pulse-Rs and a shot of ‘Da Juice’–Liquid Willowcat.

Beyond 16′ vertical jigging is a good way to go. Taylor Tackle hair jigs, Echotail Teddy Cat blades or #Northland tackle buckshot rattlespoons. These presentations work right now…but pitching a hair jig or Pulse-R and feeling that THUNK when wally slurps it in is much more thexual.

Bass will still be crazy active on #Rat-L-Traps on afternoons when water temps move into the low 50’s for awhile at ambush points on main channel rocks. Pike are still happily chasing royal shad pattern Super Traps in areas where panfish are staging for winter, crappies will be hanging 3-4′ down close to wood at least 10′ deep…but between now and when the Iceman cometh to the Immortal River chasing those marble-eyes up and down the stairs is your best option for a stretched string

As good as it Gets!

As good as it Gets!

Put simply and honestly fishing for all panfish and gamefish species is as good as it gets right now on the Upper Miss.

Water temp has dropped to 55. Walleyes have started to ‘stair step” staging at a certain depth. Yesterday 12′ was the magic number.

Both LMB & SMB are shallow and gorging on minnows.#ratltrap in Royal Shad is best way to find ’em…then pretty much a fish on every other cast until sick of catching ’em.

Pike are suicidal. Today my daughters Jess & Em had a SIXTY MINUTE tourney. Boated 8 up to 34″. Probably that many more came unbuttoned. Hottest bait #Mepps #5 double blade/chartreuse & orange. Jess took $50 for 1st fish in boat, Em took $50 for most. Neither took me up on offer to lip-hold pike for 2 minutes without tears for a Benjamin. Guess I was too easy on them when they were growing up.

Crappies active on wood, 2-4′ down over at least 10′ and back in running sloughs, on lip-hooked minnows w/Hildebrandt spinners, halfway down in the water column in 4-8 fow.

Perch and gills active in same areas, just closer to the bottom over elodea weed. #northlandtackle buckshot rattle spoon and glider jig in perch pattern hot ticket. Also, Custom Jigs “wonderbread’ pattern Wolf Finkee. Hoo-boy!
In last week, 8 perch >14”. Biggest gill, 10.25″

My only regret is just 24 hours in a day. Just comin’ home for a nap and a sammich. Life is so, so good!!