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Showtime!

Showtime!

Wildly fluctuating water temp has resulted in a challenging bite this Spring. Several 4 degree drops overnite just when the River was approaching 55 degrees followed by window where it jumped 12 degrees in just 48 hrs really made things tough. BUT over the past 4 days temp has dropped to 64-66….right where it ought to be mid May

THE BITE IS ON for pretty much everything. Yesterday boated about 80 SMB, LMB, pike, walleyes, sauger and WB in just a half-day trip on Rat-L-Trap. All species feeding heavily on shad. Key was changing cadence of retrieve.

River is rising steadily toward minor flood stage. Access to most ramps is challenging. Wet foot policy in effect. BUT bluegills are now swimming on what was dry ground just a week ago…and they are AGGRESSIVE.

I was scheduled for heart surgery on 5/23. It has been postponed, so i have several open dates between now and Memorial Day.

Don’t know if this year will be like ’19 with perpetual flood conditions BUT large watersheds in the north country are belly full, so we likely won’t see summer pool for another 6 wks. at least. no matter. the fish are already wet…and they’re hungry!

The Heat is ON!

The Heat is ON!

Mother Nature FINALLY turned up the heat on Mother’s Day! Water temps FINALLY moved beyond 55 degrees. They won’t dip back down below 55 until fall.

55 is a magic temp for many species. SMB go on the move toward spawning areas, dropping their eggs shortly after temps reach 61 degrees. We’re already there right now in many running sloughs.

Submergent weed growth has really taken off in dark bottom backwaters, drawing pannies which in turn draws predators like pike, bass and WALLEYES.
An amazing number of quality ‘eyes get caught by folks chasing bass in the sloughs. The walleyes are in the backwaters BECAUSE THE FOOD IS THERE.

Probably the best multi-species lure in the backwaters right now is a #Zman chatterbait with a 3″ fliptail trailer. I modify these by removed the snap and replacing it with a 4″ steel leader. My fave chatterbait color is black or white or crawdad, Color choice is driven primarily by water clarity.

The River level is dropping steadily now. With no massive rains upstream pool 9 should be below ‘action stage’ by may 16, making almost all boat launches available without getting feet wet.

My beloved #RatLTrap in oxbow pattern is always rigged on at least one rod. On yesterday’s trip a sizable dogfish inhaled a client’s lure. No suprise. But when a 15 lb. bigmouth buffalo slurped the Rat-L-Trap in it was a jaw dropper, Conventional wisdom says this species simply don’t do that!

yesterday’s trip produced a half-dozen fish species throwing Z-Man , Mepps double blade spinners, spinnerbaits & of course the TRAP.

Tomorrow a couple of folks from S. Carolina are booked. They have never fished the upper Miss. This, and helping kids realize their fishabilities are two major reasons why I still guide .

For the past month fishing has been generally tough. three +30″ walleyes already BUT generally tough putting numbers in the boat. Willocat have been the best weapon for both quality SMB & ‘eyes. This is always true. But with temps now past the point of no return the catch rate now averages 4-5 per hour…after the hour it takes to figure out what kind of mood the River is in.

I have a couple of open dates this month and a few more in June, but I’m not anxiously waiting to book them. Having too much fun just fishin’. Good chance this will be my last year to work. Stay safe out there!

Post-prom Walleye patterns

Post-prom Walleye patterns

The big dance is over with frisky male walleyes looking for fun while slack-bellied females slide back downstream a little higher in the water column.

Sharply falling water temps when it was just about show time pushed spawning back a couple of weeks. But they got-er-done over the weekend. Water temp on April 24 was a solid 49-50 in a brutal south wind which switched to WSW in the early afternoon and then really started to howl. Needless to say, boat control was tricky especially since my trolling motor decided not to work. A quick run to J-Man MinnKota repair got me back on the water for tomorrow…But the possibility of a hard frost tonite will drop temps again making walleye/saugers in sand based running sloughs a better option than chasing smallmouth bass which begin their pre-spawn migration when water temps reach 55 degrees.

You can expect to find marble-eyes over pretty much clean sand bottom in 12-14 fow for the next couple of weeks. The fish will respond to pulling 3-way rigs upstream @ 1.1-1.7 mph or hair jigs/plastic downstream eith pitching/dragging or in a vertical drift. On any given day one presenttion will work better than the other.

The River level has stabilized at ‘action stage’. Looks like this trend will continue. This means access at some ramps is impossible and many other ramps require knee boots to keep feet dry at both ends of the launching sequence. Road closures on both sides of the River are also part of this matrix

Bluegills are back in the trees in very shallow water right now. You’ll probably need to frog around to find ’em. But when you do catching a mess is pretty easy. Crappies are still pretty much in late winter/deep water pattern, suspended over submergent wood. Perch are in the wind for the short haul. With spawning completed only prepubescent river tigers are hanging around in areas which used to hold quality fish. Don’t be surprised if you pick up a big ‘un when looking for walleyes.

Besides challenging access the WIND is an ever-present factor. It seems like wind is < 10 mph only about every 5th day, seriously impacting presentation options once you’ve found the fish.

So far this year fishing overall has been generally tough when it comes to putting numbers in the boat (besides perch & saugers) . But this is definitely been a good year so far for quality walleyes. The slot limit is already working!

Although there is no sauger size limit on pool 9 and the daily bag of walleyes is 6 from 15-20″, harvest in my boat is 3 walleyes per angler, with no sauger <14″.

If you wanna fish with me and take home more bring a kid! Kids from 12-15 fish for for free. Kids younger than that are entirely the responsibility of the adult who brought them. To my mind there is no more important task an adult can do. My job is to ensure this person has every advantage to assure the true hero status that they deserve.

tight lines, y’all!

Staircase landing back in the trees

Staircase landing back in the trees

On Wednesday I saw just one other boat in 5 hrs. on the River mainstem. Water temp was 45-47 degrees. Found male walleyes in <10 fow, females 12-14′. Five legals boated. Kept a 19″ male for supper. All fish still had firm bellies.

The only bait i threw was a QUARTER OUNCE #B-Fish-N tackle pyrokeet precision jighead w/ firecracker /chartreuse Moxie. Plenty of weight if you’re fishin’ where the fish are in calm wind conditions.

With a sharply rising River and falling temps I still expect to find the males in < 10 fow—BUT probably back in the trees, with the afternoon bite probably better (if the sun is out).

Being out there pretty much every day it still takes me at least an hour–every day– to get the walleye pattern dialed in.

Quiet backeddies where a 1/4 jig is plenty are tougher to find on a rising River. When wind is a factor there are days when 1/2 oz is neccessary to fish a jig effectively.

Although the full moon is tomorrow night I think the major spawning push will be a week from now. Of course, a week from now will be a brand new ball game.

Believe I’ll spend the next couple days chasing stream trout between the wind gusts. Hopefully back on the River monday afternoon.

Walleye spawn by Easter?

Walleye spawn by Easter?

Several factors combine to convince a marble-eyed egg cannon to commence firing. Probably the most critical is water temp–45-48 degrees in some waters, but 42-43 in other waters like the Wisconsin River.

When the desirable water temp is in harmony with the full moon period the majority of fish will spawn over just a couple of days. On April 4 the water temp on the Miss River mainstem on pool 9 was 39.7 degrees. On April 8 the temp had fallen to 37.2. On Palm Sunday the temp climbed back up to 41-42 degrees. HOWLING winds have made lure presentation difficult for the past 10 days.

The full moon will rule the sky on April 16. Some walleyes will drop their eggs by the 18th. BUT the extended weather forecast calls for high temps of 40 by next weekend. This factor and fact that every female walleye boated in the past week still had a firm belly makes me believe the major spawning push will likely happen next weekend, April 22-24. This is pretty much in the typical window of April 15-25. Last year walleyes were spawning on April Fool’s day–way earlier than the ‘norm’

Client Nolan Franzen caught his PB on Palm Sunday: 30.2 x 17.5″. Estimated weight 12.25 lbs. Fish ate a B-Fish-N Tackle purple firecracker Moxie on a 1/2 oz. jig—normally far too heavy when fish have ‘stair stepped’ up to the 16′ contour.

usually 1/4-5/16 works well at this point in pre-spawn migration into shallower water. But maintaining occasional bottom contact in the HOWLING wind has required that much weight to stay in the game.

In all of 2021 four honest 30″ fish came aboard my Lund Alaskan. So far this year there have already been 2 fish within 1/4″ of this mark. I credit the slot limit for better fishing! Over the past 5 yrs. I have been lucky to see just ONE 30″ eye in a season.

With the slot on pool 9, walleyes from 20-27″ are protected. Congrats to Nolan for releasing his trophy fish! After 50 years of seriously chasing the dual-dorsaled myopic manitou I’ve caught a number of honest 10s, many of these on ‘trophy’ water like Bay De Noc, Erie, N. Door County & Canada. MY PB is only 13.3–caught on a BLUEGILL behind an egg sinker in the Red River above Greer’s Ferry Lake, Ark. over 40 years ago.

But I digress : the toughest fish you’ll ever release is your 1st honest 10.

Today I’m gonna go rip some pike lips. Pike spawn @ abut 45 degrees. We’re there in the spawning sloughs RIGHT NOW. Weapons of choice for pike are an orange/brown Northland double bladed magnum spinnerbait, A #5 double blade Mepps in obnoxious flourescent with a mylar tail and the RT 97 #RatLTrap –the Red Head Uncle Ted.

The River is at ‘action stage” on Pool 9. Forecast is continued rise of about a foot over the next 10 days. The Army road boat launch on the River’s west side is about 4″ shy of closing as of noon on 4/11.

Hope i can squeeze in one more trip before having to try less desirable launch options. tight lines, y’all

Fishing tough for Short Haul

Fishing tough for Short Haul

Three inches a snow after a couple days of almost 70 degree temps is never a good thing for fishing–even in an “in like a lamb, out like a penguin” March.

Over the last few days I’ve been chasing perch from shore at a secret little spot. The 1st trip was productive. Then the spot started to ICE OVER. Yesterday there was only one short stretch of shoreline which wasn’t locked in. Caught just one perch.

Water temp in River mainstem has been holding @ 38 degrees–down from a solid 41 about 10 days ago. Walleyes/perch will be lethargic until this trend reverses.

On the upside, River level has crested in the ‘action stage’ @ Genoa. There are still plenty of current breaks & discernable edges to hold fish. 10 day forecast calls for only a slight rise. Good news! But if 3 folks take a bath at the same time in MPLS the River could quickly spike into full-blown flood.

Experience teaches it is better to focus what IS or WILL BE only a couple days out. With the exception of a howling NW wind…and 38 degree water temps conditions aren’t bad.

However, the fish get to vote, too. Lately–and for the short haul–they vote “not hungry”.This will change drastically over the next 3 wks–when traditional walleye spawn occurs.

Between now and then I hope to be out there pretty much every day. May sound perverse…but I really don’t like it when fishin’ is easy.

Showtime!

Showtime!

I have been savoring the ‘ice out til snow melt arrival’ since last Monday, beating up a nice mixed bag of sauger/walleye pretty much every day. Some bigger ice sheets are coming downstream as the backwaters continue to shake off winter, with River rising quickly since yesterday.

Surface temp on the Pool 9 mainstem was a solid 40 degrees yesterday. Clarity is decreasing as we’ll be well into ‘action stage’ by this time next week. Temps in several backwaters yesterday were a solid 41–some places 42. In a couple sheltered, dark bottom areas that can be super at ice out it was 44!

Don’t look for temps to rise much with all the cold water coming down from northern pools–but fish are already beginning to stairstep shallower. A week ago walleyes were holding at 27-29 fow, sauger @ 29-31. Sunday before the River started coming up sharply walleyes were @ 21, sauger @ 25fow. They were a little tougher to find yesterday, as rising River level has to be factored in to the depth location.

Perch are starting to show up in good numbers by the dam–so i’ve been told–but i never come within a mile of there in the Spring. Don’t wanna play bumper boats. I plan on looking for river tigers in some of the more anonymous spots in a couple days.

Consistent success in the Spring on a sharply rising River requires being out there pretty much every day–trying to figure out where fish are headed and not where you found them just a few hours before. This can take awhile. you might run out of time some days before putting it all together. BUT once the rise slows and levels stabilize this process usually only takes a couple of hours.

The Miss isn’t like smaller inland Rivers where spawning time can be pinpointed in a 48 hr. window–like the Rock R. in south-central Wi. The spawn happens on the Rock on April 1-give or take 2 days. This pattern has held true with only a few exceptions for almost 30 yrs.

Walleyes USUALLY spawn here on pool 9 about 4/20–give or take 5 days. Last year they went on 4/3. In 2019 they went in fits and spurts…and the River stayed at flood stage pretty much until freeze up in late fall.

Water temp rise of almost 6 degrees in just 4 days over the past 10 days & finding water up to 44 in quiet areas of some running sloughs has me wonderin’ if this year will be like ’21–or not.

Pike spawn @ 45 degrees. Maybe I’ll look for toothers instead of perch later this week. First guide trip on the books is 4/1. In no big hurry to get back to work. Not real eager to work more than a couple days a week after that. Guiding is hard work most days. Harder once you’re “elderly” by definition. Sure, Lord willin’ I’ll still be on the water 5+ days each week. But many of these days I’ll be FISHIN’ not guiding.

With sales tax, income tax, refuge use tax, guide insurance, licenses & fees added to almost double prices on fuel, lures & gear–not even factoring in depreciation and ‘unexpected’ stuff failing or breaking, the cost/benefit analysis says the money doesn’t even come close to covering the price of this lifestyle.

But, I still feel driven to help folks become better anglers so plan on blogging and FUN FISHIN’ more regularly in 2022. Gotta go tie up some purple bucktail FLIES for pulling with plastics in 3-way rigs. killer presentation when looking for fish as they begin to stairstep shallower. tight lines

State of the ice

State of the ice

Just got off the ice @ Visager’s. Was able to kick ice out of maybe 20 holes tapped yesterday. Caught a few SMALL gills, a 9″ crappie and an 8″ perch last nite with similar results this morning, fishing in 3 fow with a tiny Northland tungsten jig. Shore ice was still good this morning with 7-10″ of good ice. Shore ice is starting to erode @ south end of DeSoto Bay. Pretty much surface ice. When you break through there is only about 4″ of water before boot bottoms out on walkable ice as of yesterday morning. Suspect this will change drastically over next 48-72 hrs.

Main channel of pool 9 is pretty much open from south of Lansing up to lock & dam 8, although access is still questionable from day to day. Lots of dunnage & general crap working its way downriver now around Stoddard.

I plan on getting out fun fishin’ in the boat tomorrow. Will not start guiding until the 25th.

One good thing about a lot of time on the water over the past 50 yrs. is knowing pretty much where the wintering holes are. I won’t put transducers back on the boats until ice is less of a hazard. Most of the catchable biomass is within a foot of the bottom right now. No need for thumb sucking, looking at the sonar just to lose the signal cuz the boat hit some ice–the River is dangerous enough when keeping your eyes on the water.

Channel opening Up

Channel opening Up

Pool 9 main channel from below Lansing up to lock & dam 8 is ALMOST open today. Many ice jams still between the wide open spots. With temps below freezing until after this weekend access will be dicey until St. Paddy’s Day…and challenging after that!

It’s smart to head UPSTREAM when ice is still a factor in the event some massive floes are pushing down. Also smart to have a plan B exfil point UPSTREAM in case your launching point gets blocked with ice.

Removing the sonar transducer is a good idea until ice is less of a factor. Probably won’t put transducers back on the boats until April Fool’s Day. Don’t need ’em at ice out anyway. Walleyes/ saugers are in wintering holes. Walleyes holding 29/32, saugers a little deeper (maybe a lot deeper!) Pulling saugers out of water much deeper than 35′ will kill them as air bladders rupture. Better stewardship of the resource if you just fish shallower than 30’…bigger fish, too!

Early on I drag a lot of hair jigs & plastics. Seldom use minnows. Also fish echotail blades, especially the Teddy Cat. Once ice is a lesser nuisance pulling 3-ways can be very effective.

With ice sticking around longer this year than last, i anticipate peak spawn will be mid-April, the traditional time. Last Spring the walleyes were spawning April 1, with water temp 48+ in several backwaters where they often drop eggs when spring comes early.

Filled the Lund up with boat gas today. She was just over half-full. Pump shut off at EXACTLY $100. LETS GO BRANDON! The idiots who are currently running this country dumped Russian ‘blood oil’. Talking about buying from Venezuela or IRAN. Great way to cut to the chase and jump into Armageddon–in which case both slot & bag limits will be waived in my boat.

The only guys out ice fishing in a traditional march spot this afternoon were jerry Boardman & me. Jerry got off the ice about 3:45. Bottom 6′ of the Vex LIT UP. Put 8 butterflied fish in the smoker @ 5 pm. Gonna eat good tonite!

Open for Business March 20

Open for Business March 20

My new Yamaha is ready to push the Lund up River soon as the ice goes out. I need to run it slow for a couple of hours to break my new baby in. As of today pools 10 & 9 are still essentially locked up with ice, although some black ice is starting to show up. Long term forecast calls for highs in the mid-20s weekend of the 12th so open water options will be limited until probably the 15th.

Ice floes will make navigation truly dicey until probably the last week in the month given the way March is beginning to shake out. Traditionally, walleye spawn peaks about April 15-20 most years. 2021 was an outlier–females got serious about precreation around April Fool’s Day and SMB were on a crazy feeding rip less than 10 days later.

This year I expect more traditional progression, But the River herself will tell us what to expect when the time comes. The Miss is the epitome of a ‘dynamic’ ecosystem!

I’ll try to blog on at least a weekly basis once things start to open up. Right now in the process of getting all 3 boats rigged and ready. Good chance this will be my last year for guiding. True, it has been pretty much a dream job for the past 45+ yrs. Guiding is hard work for a young guy…and damned hard work for an old one. I fished 207 days last year, have been out 35 times so far in 2022–all but 7 of ’em in Alabama & Florida. 200 days on the water has been pretty much the average every year for the last 50 years, but I can’t see fishin’ that much going forward.

Seriously crunched the number on fixed expenses of the guide business last week. Based on 100 trips per year, it costs $105 every time I launch the boat–figuring nothing significant breaks.

With gas already up over 40% from last year–with no end in price increase in sight–I’ve had to bump the base rate to $275, holding the line at $50 per hour after that. The average crankbait has also doubled in price. The River and toothy critters will usually eat a couple every trip, But losing any more than that seriously diminishes an already skinny bottom line. Fortunately, most of my clients have been truly generous with tips. This validation for doing my best to put fish in the boat but MORE IMPORTANT helping a client become a better fisher is pretty much the only reason I’ve been able to hang in there for so long.

Guided sportfishing is under the hospitality industry tent. The boat is no place for a whining guide. My job is providing the client with the best possible fishing experience. This effort and my promise that you’ll end a day on the water with more knowledge than when we started are my only focus.

But this is MY blog. You don’t have to read it. Just know that in this space the first Amendment is sacred an unbridled. Enough rambling. gotta get ready to catch some perch tomorrow morning. tight lines.