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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 Amazon.com.

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
www.liquidwillowcat.com . 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!!

Pulse R’s & Sizmic Shads

Pulse R’s & Sizmic Shads

Allowing for siltation, pool 9 is the lowest its been since 1936–or at least within a couple inches. River is ultra ULTRA clear in the main channel. Need a floro leader to get bit in finesse presentations–and multi-trebled reaction baits come back with weeds on every cast. With a tremendous amount of forage in the River fish aren’t eager to chase baits, anyway

Giant weed rafts have been coming down the past few days. Avoid them if possible!

Have had fair success recently on wallys &smallies pitching & swimming Sassafras B-fish-n Tackle Pulse R’s and Kalin Sizmic shads on 1/8 oz Precision jigheads with Da Juice–liquid willowcat. usually takes animation or some kind of retrieve anomaly to produce a strike. Bite definitely better during low light periods.

Panfish are on fire!!!

Water temp warmed yesterday to 65. Today back down to 62. Should see upper 50s by next weekend. Bassapalooza!

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

Ran aground last week back in a running slough. 1st time this has happened since 2006. Real hall-of-fame maneuver. River had dropped 3 inches from previous day. But no excuses!

According to USACE parameters now in place the FLOW is still greater than the last historic low level back in ’06, BUT siltation has been profound over past 16 years. Navigation on Pool 9 is similar now to back in ’88 when i guided mostly on pools 11-12. This was the summer of 100 degree temps and the lowest River levels in my lifetime. Siltation is profound and clearly working its way upstream…like a backup in a septic system. Essentially, the same ‘gallon jug’ of water is coming downstream like it always has…but now there is 3″ of sand in the bottom of the jug. Anyway, Contacted USACE hdqs. in St. Paul. They are in the process of reassessing flow paradigms all along the upper MIss.

Besides being at 21st century historic low level, the main channel is running ultra-clear…with the same amount of eelgrass coming down as in 2020 when pool 9 was at or above ‘action stage’ for the entire open water period.

I have had to go with a fluorocarbon leader in finesse presentations like topwater lures for SMB. Topwaters, Ned rigging and Mepps spinners have ben best for SMB under these conditions. Bass will be going nutso any day now as temps fall to the upper 50’s from the 62 degree +/- we have been holding at for the past week .

Walleyes have been willing on cranks–if you can get through the grass. But mostly have to swim a jig once active fish are located on the rocks.

Pike are relating to rocks & steep sandbar breaks–following the food–but due to extreme low water the slough bite has literally dried up.

Panfishing remains off the charts fantastic, but profoundly habitat and depth critical, driven to great extent by light penetration, structure and of course, most abundant forage.

I give a 10% discount for anybody bringing kids age 12-16. Kids of this age who have the “fever” have usually already developed a decent skill set. When guiding kids 8-12 I require an adult to help out with at least one of ’em.

But a trip last week with 10 yr. old Lian and his 8 yr. old sister, Aviana, were pure joy! Uncle Travis worked with Lian. I coached Aviana. She already had basic casting skills–a tribute to her Dad–and soon had pinpoint placement of a lip-hooked minnow behind a Hildebrandt spinner with a PRECISELY placed pencil float and PRECISE split shot weight down pat.

All i had to do was watch her expression . Aviana has those Tucker Carlson, peregrine focus eyes when a bite is going down. About 2 seconds after she got ‘the look” she would lean back on that 9’ #stcroixrod panfish stick and giggle “got another one!” We put the average size crappies back, keeping 20 crappie 12″+ Aviana was too demure to shout the Wisconsin state cheer ‘ I GOT MINE!!” But her little cheshire cat smirk spoke volumes.

Part of this is cuz she put on a clinic for her brother, intensely using a little trick I taught her with the Hildebrandt spinner to trigger bites.

THIS is the primary reason I still guide. After over 45 yrs, I am wearing down.
As of right now, Oct 13 is my 1st open date. Not overly eager to fill it, Except for clients who really wanna take their River fishin’ game to a higher level.

Know this: demonstrating use of a navy anchor and come-along for extraction from a sandbar will not be part of the instructional package! (Lord willin’)

Where are the wingdam rocks?

Where are the wingdam rocks?

River conditions on pool 9 remain low, clear and stable. Eelgrass is a factor. If you can get away from it, presentations like casting cranks can be effective for walleye & bass. But trolling is just a salad gathering exercise.

The River is offering the best fishing we’ve seen since 2017. Boat traffic is exceptionally heavy–even during the week. Got to the launch yesterday @ 8 and parking lot only had a couple open slots ON A MONDAY! Navigation beyond the channel is challenging due to extreme siltation. I wouldn’t even THINK about running side-channel cuts like the one on the upper pool between the main channel and Mn. slough past goose lake–a.k.a. ‘dead man’s cut’. Similar conditions exist down in the Winneshiek and further down the pool.

By every measure, we’re at low summer pool levels, except one; WHERE ARE THE WINGDAM ROCKS? Normally at summer pool you can get out and walk on the closing & wingdam rocks. Not possible this year. Reason is siltation.

Panfishing continues to offer the best action on the pool. Perch, gills & crappies all holding in the same 4-9 fow…just a different depths. Pike have been dogging the pannies. Flathead bite has been good in deeper main channel holes.

Walleye and smallmouth action has been good on main channel rocks if you can successfully dodge the weeds. The Liquid Willowcat plastics dipped in Da Juice on a B-Fish-N Tackle Draggin’ jig has ben a very effective weapon!

Water temps are hovering right around 61. A few nights with temps in the 50s and surface temp will dip below 60 pushing both SMB & LMB to school up in incredible numbers. Bite will be consistently good until temps drop to 54, then the afternoon bite will be better.

But i’m getting ahead of myself. Haven’t blogged in over 2 weeks, cuz I’VE BEEN TOO BUSY FIshin’. Today’s trip will be my favorite format ; whatever the River feels like giving up. Will start with walleyes and SMB, then chase panfish about mid-morning. gotta go. gotta guide.

Ol’ Man River’s Green New Deal

Ol’ Man River’s Green New Deal

The River is running at new normal level low summer pool level right now with water clarity exceptional. Usually by late summer normal pool rocks on many wingdams and closing dams are exposed. Not so this year.

Generally low River levels have exacerbated the annual arrival of a sea of eelgrass working its way downstream.

Weeds are a major factor in catching fish in the fall because they impact presentation. Weeds tend to be heaviest along current seams–which is also where fish like to hide. Hard to catch fish if you can’t get to ’em. Best thing to do is go fishin’ where there are fewer weeds! Usually you can get away from most weeds by moving to the other side of the River.

if you can’t get away from them, streamline the presentation. A lure with a single treble snags fewer weeds than the average crankbait. A jig or other single hook snags fewer still.

If you absolutely must fish where weeds are a factor trying pegging a small split shot about 18″ up the line, or go with a barrel swivel. Both will intercept weeds.

I fish braid about 90% of the time for all species. One exception is the double whammy of very clear water and lotsa weeds. A barrel swivel with a floro leader is pretty much standard for everything but pike between now and late October when water temps fall into the mid-40s pushing walleyes deeper and the weed parade tends to subside a little.

With an abundance of forage in the system panfish remain the most dependable targets, with flathead cat starting to go on the crew at the leading edge of deeper holes.

Great grandpa’s observation that “mud cat” are most active during daylight hours during the full moon period (happening now) and the next one which begins Sept. 29 still rings true today.