Winter perchin’

Winter perchin’

Haven’t blogged since last year. have only been fishing 5 days this year. Won’t get out again until this afternoon. It’s a real long walk to where I’m fishing. Yesterday I saw 2 sets of fresh tracks out to within a couple hundred yards from where i’ve been catching perch, so its just a matter of time before the rest of the world shows up. ‘Nuf said about that!

What I WILL share is some winter River perch fishin’ philosophy. Maybe only worth what it costs you to follow this blog.

The most crucial thing is finding the perch. Once located they don’t move much–and if they do move, they’ll likely be back if you wait awhile. Hard mud bottom with remaining green weeds is a good place to start looking. Yesterday I found fish in 7.7 fow–NOT a few yards away in 6 or 9 fow. The bite was slow until 1:45 p.m. Caught a nice mess or decent fish until about 2:20, then it got slow again. Just 2 fish in the next hour so i went home.

I think once you find winter perch over an area of several acres and catch a couple there is little value in moving several hundred yards looking for ‘active’ fish. maybe you’ll catch a couple more 300 yds. away. Maybe because they just decided to bite again.

When perchin’ I take six rigged rods with baits i have confidence in. Sometimes I set a tip-down…usually after Feb. 12. More on that in a sec.

Baits are in both horizontal and vertical presentation. Vertical: L’il Cecil, Northland Buckshot Rattle Spoon, Custom Jigs & spins Candy Stripe jig. Horizontal: Northland Puppet Minnow, Mini Mert, Rat Finkee. Fish will pull the knot of the last two so the lure won’t fish horizontal. Got to check this orientation every time the lure goes down the hole.

Won’t go into colors, lure size and stuff like that–but know these factors can be very important!

Once perch are located I’ll start trying baits to see which ones they respond to the most, then tweak the presentation from there. Yesterday they wanted a certain color l’il Cecil and a certain configuration and color plastic on a certain color Mert in a ‘plop &hover’ presentation, hovering about 1′ off the bottom.

it took over 2 hrs. with just a half dozen fish on the ice before figuring things out, then maybe 1 perch every 15 minutes until they finally decided to eat.

This is the typical mid-January pattern on the River. The fishing diary I’ve kept since 1976 says the bite usually changes pretty close to Feb. 12 most years, remaining constant until ice-out.

I think a lot of this is due to a rising River cuz of snowmelt. More oxygen? More color in the water? yeah maybe. Don’t know. This is a good time to set 2 tip-downs and jig with a 3rd line (where legal)

This marvelous time is 4 wks. away. Probably won’t blog again ’til then. Maybe even longer than that. Likely too busy catching perch. I no longer guide ice fishing, cuz this mid-winter period can be slow. Finally got fed up with clueless folks mad at me cuz fish wouldn’t bite even though they could see ’em on the Vex. Can’t wrap their heads around the concept that fish get a vote too!

Lord willin’ I’ll start guiding again 3/15 and start blogging more at that time. meanwhile, If you want the GPS coordinates to the winter River Tiger concentration camp they can be yours for the same price as my 6 hour holiday weekend guide rate: $10,000. BUT unlike open water rate, you have to poke your own holes…and no cheese sandwich will be provided.

Ice/no ice/ice?

Ice/no ice/ice?

Bucketeers were on the ice at Visager’s and Green Lake this morning. Nobody on shore Slough or DeSoto Bay. Dam tailwaters @ Genoa open–of course–but access by boat elsewhere is somewhere between tough and impossible on pool 9 today.

Forecast calls for high of 65 on Thursday after heavy rain on Wednesday. These factors MIGHT blow some ice out and allow access–but there will still be ice coming from upstream. You don’t want to launch at a spot you can’t get back upstream to.

Not much can be done about ice conditions on the River BUT the fridge is a whole nother story. Ice maker has been down for a couple days. 10 minutes work with a pipe cutter and Shark Bite coupler & back in business. Ice is KEY to some of my more colorful blogs. With fishermen there is a caveat to “in vino veritas”. We still strive to tell the truth as we see it. At least i do. Since I can’t launch the boat or safely hoof it out on hard water, getting the icemaker fixed may keep the day from being a total bummer



Jerry’s Sports Service hung my new Yammie 90 the other day. She is beautiful. There are 3 veteran guides on pool 9. All of us run Yamaha. When you work water where all mistakes must be paid for immediately–sometimes in full–a dependable motor is critical.

Today fishin’ will be limited to maybe an hour allowing the start-and-store in the fuel tank to lay up til early March with the Yammie running at idle the whole time, ticking away at the 2 hr. break-in period.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been fishin’ out of my ‘stealth’ boat–a 14′ jon (also yammie powered). Put a couple 27+ walleyes in the boat in this time frame, maybe a dozen non-slot fish…and a pile of shorts and saugers.

Water temp has actually warmed over the past week, up to 37.5 yesterday. Fish have been holding in 21-24 fow. Pulling 3-ways with 5″ sassy shads @1.2-1.4 mph has produced most of the bigger fish, although a couple came on Northland perch pattern Buckshot rattle spoons, kelly green hair jigs and cotton candy Pulse-Rs on B-Fish-N tackle pyrokeet jigheads.

There is an absolute PILE of fish in the wintering holes where I’ve been chasing ’em lately. Many of which are probably sheep. Have thought about taking a screen shot, but a fish usually shows up and the urge passes.

More ‘seasonal’ weather is in the forecast. As of right now the river mainstem and running sloughs are pretty much open. Tundra swans are still in the area. When they leave both the other boats will be maringally winterized ( the baby boat has a 2.5 Yammie).

We usually have about a week of ‘warm’ weather in late Jan. when access to tailwaters is possible. At this time I won’t fish deeper than 30 fow–even though saugers typically hold twice that deep. Realeasing small saugers from this deep in cold water just ruptures their air bladders and kills ’em

Hate to see the gov’t step in and MANDATE a closed season in the tailwaters when you catch a fish you truly hold the future of the fishery in your hands. If this fish was ripped out of 60 fow you just killed the future.

This will probably be the last blog til hardwater time. I’m thinkin’ maybe about the 15th–just 10 fishing days before Christmas.

F>L>P = more cold water ‘eyes

F>L>P = more cold water ‘eyes

Water temp on the Big River this afternoon was 33.5. Fish are cold blooded. With water this cold, they don’t have to eat. The first step in putting fish in the boat is FIND THE FISH.

With water temp pretty close to freezing they don’t move that much. Walleyes are in winter pattern. I keep 4 rods rigged & ready for cold water ‘eyes: Hair jig, Pulse R, Jigging spoon & 3-way

Once I found the fish today only shorts and sauger ate the hair and spoon. Switching to 3-ways produced an immediate hook up with a 23″. Too big to keep.

Tweaked the presentation just a little and fish responded nicely. Hot bait today was 4″ sassy shad on both droppers. Old school all the way, backtrolling @ 1.2 mph in 21-24 fow.

It’s all about the ol’ In-Fisherman formula… Fish, location, PRESENTATION. kept one unlucky 19.7″ for the pan. 2 fish 2 big for the slot released, also 2 legals and 3 shorts

Find the fish and you can catch ’em. It’s all about presentation! Walleyes for supper again tonite!

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’