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closing Dam Frenzy

closing Dam Frenzy

As the River continues to drop and clear, closing dams are tremendous places to find numbers of active fish. Closing dams run parallel to the main channel. Purpose is to keep water in main channel rather than following nature’s course downstream through a running slough.

Closing dams are not perfect. Every one has a couple of anomalies like a mis-placed rock pile or low spot which are fish magnets. The backside of closing dams off of the main channel have little anomalies like sand bars, eddies and current chutes which also attract fish.

The key is bait. Find bait and fish won’t be far away. This morning i got on the water at 1st light, planning on catching a mess of SMB to fed my fishing addiction.

I started by spot-locking on the backside of the closing dam where current causes depth along the shore behind the closing dam rocks. A short distance away the bottom comes up to form a sandbar. The perfect ambush spot!

After 5 casts with a topwater failed to produce I switched to a #Zman ned rig w/ finesse TRD and a few drops of Liquid Willowcat. 14-incher on the 1st cast–and 6 of the next 8 casts fishing a current seam at the leading edge of the hole behind the wingdam.

Then a school of white bass showed up, herding river shiners to a point where they could be ambushed. Caught several pump/snapping the Ned off the bottom on my #StCroixrods 7′ panfish series ultralight. Fish weren’t huge, 9-11″.

Rigged a 1/16 oz. white RoadRunner with a 1″ Kalin fliptail on my Croix NINE FOOT panfish series rod, while the water boiled with whiteys. It takes about 5 mins. of pure joy to whup a WB on a 9′ ultralight panfish rod. By the time this fish was at boatside, the whiteys had skulked back downstream to plan their next attack. Picked up the Ned rig and popped several more SMB and a short walleye.

Then the surface started raining shiners again with WB in hot pursuit. Quit counting @ 25 fish…but had to catch one more. This turned in to about 10 more. Started counting again. At 23 fish a 16″ SMB slurped in the Roadrunner. Takes awhile to bring a critter like that to boatside on a 9′ buggy whip.

Kalin fliptail came off in the melee. This and special pain in both shoulders told me this was enough fun for one morning.

Got off the water @ 9 a.m. Pretty sure the WB @ SMB will be chewing there for awhile. July & Aug. produce closing dam action like this on a regular basis if the river level is right. Time of day can play a role in fish activity. But if the bait is there, you can bet predators will be close by, too.

My passion for fishing knows no bounds. Catching fish until you’re tired of catching fish isn’t an easy benchmark to achieve. But I’m there now. Just heard the Admiral fire up the lawnmower. 10 a.m. Might have to go help her after my nap. Or not.

River dropping like a stone

River dropping like a stone

A few weeds coming down the main channel this morning. Water is stained out there, but not so bad in the running sloughs. River is dropping like a stone. fishing really good for walleyes, pike and those stupid bass. Panfish getting re-oriented. Bite will be good by Wed. morning. Water temp 84!

Hot weather pattern means I’m fishing from 5-10. Kinda reminds me of the summer of ’88 when we had a bunch of 100 degree days. This summer not so bad–yet. ’88 was an exceptional yr. Boated 1004 eyes from June thru Aug. Similar pattern developing this yr. as the River level begins to fall.

Have several openings during the week for most of July if ya wanna get out–but until this weather breaks I’m only gonna fish half-days, getting out at first light.

My special Saturday rate applies for those who wanna fish from 11-4 until projected high temps drop below 85. Yes, fishing is HOT… but so is the weather.

Smart old dogs don’t even stay on the porch when there is air conditioning and cold beverages on the other side of the door.

here we go again

here we go again

After about a week of truly wonderful water levels the River is projected to jump a bunch into action stage again just in time for the July 4 weekend. Action has been really, really good for walleyes on the rocks the past few days. Looks like we’ll have maybe 2-3 days to cash in on this bite before the River spikes again.

Bass/pike fishin’ is pretty easy and should remain so as these fish push back into the nether reaches of running sloughs away from the main channel as the River begins to rise.

the key for catching just about all active fish will be targeting areas which load from downstream as the River goes up. this pushes cleaner water at the upstream edge of these areas providing 2’+ visibility which is key in finding aggressive fish. Right now the water temp is about 73 degrees.

Obvious emergent weed edges will be a little tougher to find by the weekend, as rising water makes these edges submergent again. Optimistically, this just concentrates fish into fewer areas, which should make fishin’ easier…once you know where to find these areas!

truly, there is nothing more important than time on the water. Those folks who are out there pretty much every day have a good handle on where fish will be and how they will behave under these ‘new normal’ conditions.

i’m out there pretty much every day and it still takes me about an hour–every single day–to figure out both fish location and attitude.

The Navy SEALs mantra is “the only easy day is yesterday” . Pretty much true on the River…but fishin’ is certainly easier–and better than it’s been since 2017.

Bottom line: any day you can get out on the River is better than any day spent NOT on the River. When a fish finds the hook, it’s even sweeter than when fishin’ is too easy. For some of us, not fishin’ is NOT an option. So there ya go.

Fishing the yo-yo River

Fishing the yo-yo River

The effects of 4″ of rain a couple days ago may prove short lived. River came up almost 2′ at Genoa. Projections call for it to fall sharply in the next 24 hours. This fluctuation came on so quickly that a lot of fish pretty much sheltered in place

Look for bass to stage at choke points in running sloughs as River levels drop sharply. This can be a time when a distinct mudline change can hold a pile of active fish!

If I could throw just 2 baits to start with they would be a white tandem spinnerbait and my beloved oxbow Trap. Doesn’t make much sense to leave active fish once you’ve found ’em.!

Buzzbait bite has been good on humid days when surface tension is high. Frog bite good too. Not gonna say much about the plastics bite…but it involves Ned riggin’ with a willocat plastic and da sauce.

EZ Summer Fishin’

EZ Summer Fishin’

The first thing each morning and last thing at night I check the pool 9 hydrologic table and forecast on wunderground.com…figuring the River level has gotta shoot back up to the action stage cuz somebody flushed a toilet in the Twin Cities. Over the past 72 hrs. we have received about 4″ of rain locally. But the hydrologic prediction only nudged up a bit. Holding steady–right now–for the next week or so.

This ‘low’ water has revealed quantum changes in areas away from the River mainstem–most notably sandbars and shoals where they’ve never been before. Plenty of ‘new’ snags are out there, too. Just waiting for your prop to come whizzing overhead.

Siltation over the past couple years and islands created by USACE to limit wind fetch have fostered development of considerable weed growth–some good, some bad.

Most exciting is development of distinct weed edges which make perch and bluegill fishing much easier. Perch tend to seek out elodea. Gills do too, but really like transition zones between eelgrass and American water lotus( lily pads) . AWL also attracts crappies. All the pannies are there to chow on benthic macroinvertebrates ; the edumacated term for “bugs”.

I like fishing a 1/8 oz. Northland buckshot rattle spoon along deep weed edges for perch. Short walleyes and the occasional legal are there in the mix. My 2nd rod is an amazing 9′ St. Croix panfish rod. the reel is spooled with 6 lb. Sufix braid. this one is rigged with either a Teddy Skunk Perchanator when looking for perch or the considerably lighter Bimbo Skunk when gills or crappies are the primary target.

I suppose using 2 lb. floro might result in more bites when fishing water with at least 2′ visibility. But if you’re fishing where the fish are, you’ll get hung up. Using light wire hooks and a straight pull-back on the rod without stressing it will free your bait about 90 % of the time when using braid…90% more time fishing instead of tying knots means more fish. Enough foot-long perch, crappies and 10″ bluegills don’t seem to mind the heavier line to make this more productive than boy scout practice through hook eyes which get smaller every year.

Of course, bass & pike are cruising near the pannies. That’s a whole nother blog. I have the day off. The Admiral wants perch for supper–and i know where they live. gotta go.

Shad Fly Shake

Shad Fly Shake

Yesterday afternoon I went up to a vantage point here the River can be visualized 10 miles in both upstream and down, looking for clear water after 2+” of rain.

The River was linear ‘chocolate milk’ for as far as 10 X 50 binocs could see. I felt a bug land on my arm. Experience teaches the wisdom of looking before you swat. The bug was a mayfly, a.k.a. shadfly, river fly…or hexagenia.

Experience also teaches when a shadfly lands on your arm @ 1700 hrs., 500′ above the River bottom that a whale of a hatch is about to come off. Last night was one of those nights when the hex hatch could be seen on radar.

Shadflies only live 24 hours. This morning about 7 gazillion carcasses are floating on current seams easing downstream, attracting every fish species with the ability to scarf a mouthful down.

Combine a mountain of shadflies with a linear fountain of ‘chocolate milk’ and you get a shadfly shake that no fish can resist. There are only two presentations with a hook conventional wisdom says will work under these conditions: willocat or a Pop-R topwater lure with hooks removed and a large hex fly imitation trailing behind the rear tie-eye on 40 lb. mono.

You still have the competition of 7 gazillion copies of the real thing to contend with…but the Pop-R makes fish think the commotion must mean there are some juicier bugs and come to investigate. Honestly, I don’t know what fish think…but thoughts tend to go elsewhere after about the 3rd walleye slurps in a hex fly behind a bass popper.

One more tip from the old guide…there is a bucketful of river fly carcasses beneath some light poles at the boat ramp. Two cups of carcasses blended into a jar of Sonny’s Super Sticky is a wickedly effective bait for channel cat. Applying just a dab behind each ear is a truly effective way to establish social distancing, while assuring prompt service for any purchase you are making.

The River is predicted to rise just over a foot in the next couple days, down from a projection almost 2′. The chocolate milk will pass, the bug carcasses will float away and the action on the Immortal River should be headed back towards ‘crazy good’ levels by early next week.

A perfect morning on the River

A perfect morning on the River

I seldom fish when guiding. Watching clients catch 25+ bass and pike in the first 90 minutes of yesterday’s trip, mostly on #Rat-L-Trap & MR-6 were heavy on my mind when eyes opened @ 0:430. Check the pool level at https:water.weather.gov/ahps2hydrograph.php?wfo=arx&gage=genw3. Noted pool levels were stable, with forecast rise of over 1′ by the weekend. Then checked forecast on wunderground.com . Doppler clear, hourly called for rain to start shortly after noon, then get serious.

Hooked up boat and got on the water by 6:30. Headed to spot where Kelly & Tonya POUNDED them yesterday. Explained the spot was a choke point by which 250 acres of backwater must go through when River is rising or falling. There was a distinct mudline at this spot, which changed considerably in the 3 hrs. I was on the water this morning.

Plan was to catch 25 gamefish and go home. By 7 a.m. had caught released 8 pike and 16 LMB, mostly on the oxbow Trap. 25th fish was a 17″ walleyes–which is the reason we stopped there first thing on yesterday’s trip. Change of plans!

Switched to a B-Fish-N Tackle 1/8 oz Draggin jig &sassafras PulseR. Added a squirt of Liquid Willowcat. Picked up a pike on the first cast. After another 20 or so bass and pike, went back to the Trap looking for a second walleye to feed the Admiral lunch.

An old River Rat motored up to tell me he had just read my latest book “Tails, Trails & Tales with the Old Guide” found on kindle ebooks. Said he “laughed, cried and couldn’t put the damn thing down” until he finished it.Just what a guy who is too full of himself needs to hear!

While we chatted, went back to the Trap and caught another dozen or so LMB and pike. Another Old River Rat who recognized me pulled up in a pontoon, asked if he could anchor up nearby and fish for gills. THIS is the etiquette that is the rule rather than the exception when you fish during the week.

We talked fishin’, the cwazy stuff going on in Mn. and world in general while he caught a mess of respectable ‘gills and I caught another half dozen bass/pike on the Trap.

Said he didn’t have kindle.Wondered where he could get the new book in paperback. Told him Amazon would have it in a week or so but that he could find my other book “Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide” on amazon now, and locally at the Driftless Center.

Admitted that what he was really angling for was a free book and that his 81st birthday was coming up next Monday. Told him I didn’t have any copies in the boat. Gave him my lone walleye as a birthday dinner.

Motored back to the launch and waited patiently while a guy from Decorah tried to put his boat in. he saw that I was waiting, then hurried to launch and get his rig out of the way. Tied off to a steel corner post on the dock, jumped back in the truck and started to pull out, not noticing the mooring rope was caught under one of his trailer bunks.

Boat lurched, plowed into trailer. Dock came halfway out of the water. Truck to a screeching halt. Finally got things squared away and said fishing must be tough or I wouldn’t be getting off the River @ 09:30.

Told him that actually, it was about as good as fishin’ ever gets. He asked sheepishly where/how I was catching all these fish. Normally wouldn’t say a word. Figured he wasn’t much of a threat to the resource so told him EXACTLY (knowing the fish wouldn’t be there tomorrow with the River on the rise) Took the oxbow #Rat-L-Trap off my Croix Legend Glass baitcast rod and gave it to him. This is just the River way.

Clouding up. Looks like rain forecast is spot on. Believe I’ll take a little nap. Feel truly blessed to be American born and River raised. Just about every day on the River is great. But sometimes its perfect.

Don’t mean nothin’, push on!

Don’t mean nothin’, push on!

Just spent the past couple days on a species specific quest for walleyes. Even with willo cats fishing was tough. Most fish came pulling cranks, anyway. with the River up almost 2′ and dirty over the previous 48 hrs. and boat control a little channeling in winds gusting to 30+ fishing was TOUGH.

Not that we couldn’t catch fish. All that was needed was finding water with 2’+ visibility. Pike all over the place. We were actually sight fishin’ them. Only a few bass, cuz they’re still shaking off the spawn. Rapid rising water levels pushed a lot of ‘gills & perch back into timber now flooded where it was too shallow to get a boat. Crappies now post spawn and cruising clear water suspended 3-6′ down looking for food.

USACE projection calls for River to drop like a stone over the next week. Thanks to judicious placement of gravel on Army road @ new Albin, access should be possible by Friday or Saturday IF USACE PROJECTION HOLDS TRUE. But if somebody in the Twin Cities stops rioting long enough to flush a toilet, all bets on River level are off, thanks to the change in paradigm from siltation over the past couple of years.

Should this happen, it will be time to search for that water with 2′ + visibility again. In the words of my generation: don’t mean nothin’ push on.

Meanwhile, the Immortal River isn’t impacted one little bit by the covid thing or riots. This is where I spend most of my waking hours, just trying to plug in to the Creator’s unspoken but obvious message about who is really in control of all things during these turbulent times in America.

Don’t have to work today, since the 6 man crew gave up and went home. gonna be too hot to fish, anyway. have tomorrow off, too. Will probably get out early and catch a few ‘eyes for fun and see if the bass are on the prowl yet. But game plan is likely to change once the Lund gets wet–just like the River.

Kicked off the Team

Kicked off the Team

BRP corporation announced Wednesday that they are no longer gonna make Evinrudes. They didn’t really announce this…it just kinda leaked out. I’ve been on the Evinrude pro staff for over 30 years, coming on long before OMC went belly up in 2000. jerry’s Sports Service in Beloit has sponsored me for over 30 years. They are still carrying me on the Lund team–but this is a real kick in the teeth to the great folks at Jerry’s, fellow hall of famers Jim Grandt & Tommy Skarlis (who is already battling cancer) and thousands of other Evinrude owners across the USA.

When OMC declared bankruptcy all motor warranties were voided. BRP says they will continue to stand by limited warranties to original owners. At least that’s what they are saying now.

Officially, BRP is blaming the covid crisis for ending production. Industry insiders several pay grades above my humble status say otherwise. Learned a valuable lesson about trust from my Dad when just a wee bairn. At least that’s the way he used to remind me years later. He said he put me up on the fireplace mantle, extended his arms to catch me and said ‘jump’. Then he let me hit the floor saying ‘that should teach you to never trust anybody’. The Old Guy was a beaut. Certainly wouldn’t put it past him. But this and many other old guy saying have stuck with me through the years.

Everybody who has shared a boat with me over the years has heard Dad’s wise observation ‘the surest way to get 2 rods tangled is get them within 10 feet of each other’ Maybe this will cross your mind the next time fishin’.

Boat traffic is so outrageous from noon Friday til Sunday at 2 p.m. that I’ve raised guide prices within this time frame to $1000/4 hrs. Just sayin’

The River is still on the rise and generally dirty as of right now. Supposed to crest on pool 9 tomorrow @ just over 628′ at the upper end of the pool. This will push fish back into haunts they became familiar with last year. But at 628 there are still some edges beyond firm shoreline like RR track rip-rap where fish will be following their forage base.

Forecast calls for the level to gradually decline over the next week. But if somebody in Mpls. quits rioting long enough to take a shower, the level could go the other way. if it goes up to 630′ I can motor across rather than jump a beaver dam which has clear water and a pile of pike and bass. There a are a couple of sweet spots which develop when you need to go to the half-mile scale on the boat’s nav chart to see blue which indicates water.

This evening I plan on grilling a couple of backstrap tenderloins then later sit around the campfire with the Admiral. yesterday she surprised me with the new M.I.T 70 automatic inflatable PFD from Mustang Survival. New vest is incredibly ergonomic and comfortable. Will be much easier to hold on to the wheel with one hand while waving the other over my head for the full eight seconds it takes to jump a beaver dam!

Topwater baits are producing a few fish with water temp now tickling 70 degrees and some emergent vegetation beginning to appear. Crappies and bass are done spawning.The return of higher water has probably moved the walleyes away from the rock pattern they’ve been on for the past couple weeks. Lord willin’ gonna find out where they went tomorrow afternoon.

New Baby!

New Baby!

Got off the River ahead of the rain to find an email that my latest book “Tails, Trails & Tales with the Old Guide” is now available on ebooks through the Kindle store–just type in the title and it pops right up. Will be out in paperback on Amazon.com and select outlets by late next week.

Walleyes are active on both crankbaits like the #Rat-L-Trap MR-6 on the rocks and with a half-crawler drifting sand based running sloughs in 9-13 fow. Water temp is now 67-68. Bass are on the beds. Perch/gills/crappie are shallow and very active. Kept 2 ‘eyes for supper, should go well with the batch of outstanding potato salad the Admiral whipped up last night.