April 19, 2014
Mississippi River -This last week was very interesting fishing the walleyes were hard to find but the saugers did cooperate if you were in the right spot.
I say the fishing was interesting because normally if you find saugers and they are biting numerous places hold fish, not the case last week. We got lucky and found a couple good places to fish.
Last week the bite was off even though we did catch eating sized saugers…why? Because the water temperature dropped six degrees, plus the spawn. The water temperature falling always makes me sweat, a cold front in April will push the temp down and cause fishing to be tough. We did luck out and get these fish and for that I am thankful.
One Friday I had a one man guide trip and we got a limit of saugers as well. Plus one nice walleye.
Same techniques and depths for the most part, minnows did the best though over the plastic baits. I still can not come up with a go to color this season. I would pick spring perennial favorite chartreuse pepper and purple chartreuse tail as the two best though. Both paddle tails and ringworms here, but again minnows are better. The saugers did come a little deeper than previous weeks depths and did associated with a deep break line from 22 to 16 feet. my jigs are heavy and use 3/8 to 1/2 ounce.
All this I am writing about from last week will change FAST as water temps will rise with the glorious spring weather and the walleye that have not will drop eggs. Post spawn walleye stage should arrive and the big females will be on the move. They can be extremely hard to catch for a week or so, but then go strong. This is the period when the white bass go nuts. Normally by this time I am back on the St. Croix River for walleye opener. This year the Croix opens May 3rd.
Pool Four (Red Wing)
River data: (feet above sea level) (change in feet in 24hr) (cfs flow)
677.37 0.60 63200
Charlie “Turk” Gierke
16 years Pro guiding experience on St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.
4x Beanie River Rat walleye tournament winner
3x St.Croix Classic Paul Koval walleye tournament winner (formerly Beach Bar)
2001 World Walleye Association Championship winner
2009 Full Throttle Big Water Series Team of the year
USCG licensed OUPV Captain
Trust Jesus – The all-time greatest Fisher of Men.
The river is still rising and will crest coming up this Wednesday. I think this should be a good week for fishing with the high water stabilizing, looking forward to it. I am guessing that the walleyes are spawning this week and saugers next week.
From last week: fishing was slow Thursday for my boat and Friday was a bit better, with some bigger fish being caught, which is always a fun.
Jig and plastics are catching fish, normally they hit the lure with a pronounced thud! I like to make sure I have plenty of weight to drop my rod back and feel bottom, I am using 5/16 to 3/4 ounce weights depending on the flow. I am targeting 8 to 14 feet of water.
I love this time of year on the water, there are much more places to fish and you can even find a place where no one is angling.
From todays date of report 04-14-14
River data: (feet above sea level) (change in feet in 24hr) (cfs flow) 675.41 0.73 46900
Water temps jumped very fast and now are 42 to 43 in the main channel. This is prime time for the walleye and sauger spawn. Yesterday we had more bites than I can remember and about as many “drops” as when they “picked” up the bait. Later in the after noon around mid day the fish became more aggressive and plastics where much better than hair jigs or minnows.
From todays date of report 04-09-14 River data: (feet above sea level) (change in feet in 24hr) (cfs flow) 671.65 0.41 29600
It sure felt great Saturday morning to get out and feel the heat of the sun when the day before Jack Frost dumped a whole bucket load of snow on us here in central Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Last Saturday morning the air was still and as mentioned the April sun even early in the day held great warmth, the American bald eagles were talking to each other in boisterous tones, and the walleye and sauger were just ever so subtly mouthing the bait.
Cousins John and Zach were the customers, and they seemed like brothers, great guys. What a blessing to have such good relatives and share common interests like they do. Our bites were very light and we were doing well on minnows, but on the jigs with plastics the fish refused to hit. I tried many colors, and I could not find the color or style plastic the fish wanted. In the morning we were using mostly plastics on our jigs either paddle tails or ringworms.
As the morning went on the weather remained fantastic and the fish were going very strongly for the minnows. It was all good, but I wanted to find a jig dressing that would get these fish to hit. Hair.
Zach and John really were clobbering the fish with the hair jigs. We caught all our fish in two different places, but from what I know from guys I talked to many places are locating active and feeding walleye, so this helps in spreading out and not having to heavily play bumper boats.
From todays date of report 04-07-14 River data: (feet above sea level 671.05) (0.16 change in feet in 24hr (cfs flow 25400)
April 4, 2014
Historically this is the height of the Pool Four Mississippi River bite, but it is hard to enjoy the fishing in blizzard conditions. Today has been my fifth date of cancelled trips due to weather this season. Strangely I am accepting the conditions as “it is what it is”…
Two days ago I had a half day trip and we had some success, with three nice walleye and two eater sized saugers plus numerous other small walleye and saugers. We caught fish from 13 to 24 feet of water and landed fish both on plastic and minnows. The best plastics were paddle tails in pro blue, firecracker chartreuse tail, and purple and white ringworms.
Present time flow rate is cfs 24,200. As a reference the winter/pre melt flow rate is 13,000 cfs. Present time river level is 671.1. As a reference the winter/pre melt river level is 699.3, there fore the river is running a tad under two feet high.
The cold nights that dip below 32 degrees really tempers the thaw. The water color is about perfect right now with some good color, but not too heavy a sediment load heavy sediment load makes fishing a challenge.
This next week maybe a challenge with the ten inches of recently fallen snow melting fast causing dirty water. This upcoming weekend though prior to the melt will have very fishable conditions.
March 11, 2014
Life is good when floating in the boat and slipping down the river. It felt like spring yesterday with warm temperatures n the 30 to 40s, and especially with the sun shining on the back of my neck.
I had the guide boat out the last two days and though the daytime bite is not on fire it is enough to make the day enjoyable and scratch up some fish.
Every year is different and it takes a while to get adjusted to where the fish are located. One of my favorite tactics early is to let the river do the work and slip downstream with a very light jig and minnow. This drifting covers good ground and you can figure out more about where the fish are locating.
I have said it many times on this website, ” You never know what you will catch on the river.” It is fun to see that even in the 35 degree water, that the BIG fish will bite.
I will say I am very impressed with the size of the male walleyes we caught, Sunday we brought home ten fish between 16 to 19 inches that were so healthy and fat I was amazed; because I assumed the long winter would physiologically wear the fish down with an extra longer period of colder water – not true. Very healthy Mississippi River walleye right now in Pool Four. More soon – the spring bite is just starting.
Mid February 2014 near the end of the severe cold spell winter and just before we are about to bust the grip of the polar vortex death hold…
Looking back on last years February I had several very fun fishing trips where light jigs with minnows and ringworms caught limits of fish.
The key early last February was to identify the water clarity as clear and keep the baits away from the boat as the walleyes were relatively shallow in the 13 to 16 foot range. We did this by dragging jigs behind the boat. The water was also warm enough were the fish were not just holding deep in the main deep channel and other deep holes that are vertical jig drifted.
So not much more to say other than very excited for the temperatures to hit the 30’s and 40’s and wet a line and hopefully get some hook setting in.
January 7, 2014
I am hearing 14″ of ice on the St. Croix River in the Bayport area. I have not been out. I am not hearing any great reports.
Too cold to float a boat for my open water guiding on the Mississippi River, brrrrrr…
The lower St. Croix River ice fishing is variable depending on the day. On the right days, crappies and white bass have been on a good bite from dawn until around 9:30- to 10:30 and the evening bite is starting an hour or more after dark. Crappie average size is 9 to 11” and some magnum sized crappies also coming in, anglers hitting the ice at the right time are getting keepers in numbers of the low teens. On the wrong days next too nothing is being caught. Ice is forming with thickness anywhere from 6- 10 inches. Crappies are over the deepwater basin in 36 to 39 feet and hitting on small crappie minnow tipped jigs along with plain bobbers. A few sturgeon have been caught this winter as well.
November 20 2013
Looking at the forecast this might be my last active guiding report on the St. Croix for 2013. The cold is coming and the river may freeze over soon. The only positive is that the heavy winds will stop ice from forming, however then we need some above freezing temps. Hard to say…
Late last week…
From last Friday…
I caught this one by myself last Friday:
After last Friday the bottom fell out, with heavy winds, the fishing became poor. Yesterday was also very poor. I found two places with active fish, but they were sub legal walleyes and smaller saugers. Got to run. Will try to talk more soon.
oh…Water temp from last week to yesterday was 41 falling to 39 degrees. Trust me and history has shown these are still very fishable water temps.
November 9 2013
With perfect conditions for a late Fall bite, I limited out yesterday with six walleyes between 15.5″ and I would guess 18.5″.
I caught half my limit above on jigs and the other on crankbaits. Same depths and presentations as previous report, though these fish were deeper than the fish I found previously.
Too much to do in the Fall not enough time. God bless all , and good luck, safe shooting in the woods deer hunters hope you get your 30 point buck.
After floating my boat yesterday I was pleased to read the water temperature gage at 44 to 42 degrees, teamed with the light wind these fishing conditions are great for fall walleye and sauger. I found the bite yesterday to be good once I dialed in my presentation, and got to a good fishing spot (that always helps). In 3.5 hours I caught my walleye and sauger combination total limit of six fish. Two nice healthy fat walleye (17 and 19inches) and four nice eater saugers (14 to 15 inches). The walleye were heavily feeding on shad, the saugers were too, but they were not as stuffed as the walleye.
The fish are moving deeper and the 24 to 34 foot depth range was best for me. Bright colored jigs in chartreuse and green were working and stick bait style Rapala were working good too. Darker colored raps did better than bright.
White bass are also active with some of them being absolutely a fat as a fish can be, these gamefish appear as if they had been pumped full of air and are about to burst! They are predators.
November 4th 2013
The water temperature is still in the mid 40′s I did not fish over the weekend, or today but I would bet it is 45 to 46 degrees. This water temperature is absolutely perfect for walleye fishing. The weather here does not look perfect now though, it is 45 degrees with rain and wind. Tomorrow is rain/snow mix, so fishing is out for a few days it would appear.
The good news is that I am quite sure we will be able to fish for another three weeks with the long range forecast and the current water temp. I have guided on the St. Croix all the way up till December 8th. Jim Green and I went out on the 7th of December about five years ago and did well on walleye and big saugers, we decided to go again the next day and the weather really got cold and the bite was over. done.
Last Wednesday was pretty good for walleye fishing on Dean and Keya’s trip.
Funny thing is last week we caught most of our keeper walleye away from the baitfish clouds, there are some places you can do that (catch fish away from the bait), but 75% of the time you need to be near the baitfish.
Best depths have been from 22 to 32 feet of water.
Get the right weather, and November can be great fishing. As quiet as the river is right now it gets even more sparse as deer gun hunting opens. Very very peaceful out there on the St. Croix River.
15 years Pro guiding experience on St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.
4x Beanie River Rat walleye tournament winner
3x St.Croix Classic Paul Koval walleye tournament winner (formerly Beach Bar)
2001 World Walleye Association Championship winner
2009 Full Throttle Big Water Series Team of the year
USCG licensed OUPV Captain
October 23rd 2013
Last Friday the water temp was 48, this Monday it was 55, Tuesday it was 53, and today it was 51 degrees. As you know the air decreased in temp from last Friday to today. So how did the water temperature increase during a period when the air temperature decreased? The only thing that comes to mind is a temperature inversion – a fall turnover. Turnovers are very common on lakes, but I do not remember one on the St. Croix River. The river does have a deep basin, but I thought turnover was based in part on a water temperature stratification, and I believe the river does not stratify? So this is “turnover” event is perplexing.
St. Croix River fishing is clearly changing where some bigger fish and big white bass are on the bite. We are starting to see large channel cats, and walleyes. The cooling air of the fall gets the fish in tighter groupings oriented toward baitfish.
My favorite part of the cold water late October bite are the presentation choices. Within the last two days my boat has at one point has trolled crankbaits, fished plain jig and minnow, buck tail jig and minnow, jig and plastic without and with minnow, Snap Rap, blade bait, and last but not least plain hook on 4’ leader. The only one of these not catching a keeper walleye is the blade bait, and I did not give it enough time, but from recollection of past catches from this calendar date on work very well.
For those of you wanting a set depth I can’t give it because one of my better eyes lately was caught in 17 feet and other good keepers were caught all the way to 28 feet deep. I normally work a spot and check a couple depths, I also work some spots shallower or deeper based on experience and fishing history.
In regards to “jig and plastic with bait and without bait statement,” I find as the water cools you do not need bait. I did get a nice sauger on plastic and jig no bait, but the guys tipping plastics with fatheads today also caught nicer walleye…
Water level is 675.9 feet above sea level in Stillwater, MN. Water temperature as mentioned above is 51 degrees.
October 15, 2013
The cold weather is here and with nightly lows in the 30s the dropping water temperature is one ingredient to a great fall bite.
Mudcats and channel cats will be harder and harder to catch after the water drops. Sturgeon fishing is closed after today.
Crankbaits land nice walleye even in October.
As mentioned before a more subtle crankbait is needed as the water cools – such as Rapala originals. Walleyes have still been in that wide depth range from 19 to 30. Soft plastics on jigs will get mentioned on this site very soon as a third way to catch walleye. Blade baits too.
It is true there is not enough time in the fall with the leaves turning, hunting and fine fishing. My favorite time of year for fishing is now.
October 9th, 2013
The bite right now reminds me of August and early September. What happened then was most of the river was flat out dead, but there where tiny pockets holding fish. If you where not on one of these smallish sized areas you caught little. Find the right area and it was good fishing. It really pays to fish lots of areas to find an active bite, because the good sized walleyes are in small areas and not scattered. Trolling is one of the best ways to cover ground and catch fish.I have always been a Rapala fan and the Shad Rap is a deadly lure on eaters and lunkers. Nightcrawler’s are still catching fish, I traditionally will go to minnows very soon. Live bait is a great choice when fish are pin pointed. I will also start to use blade baits and plastics. These last two presentations are some of my favorite ways to catch fish. Truth be told a buzz bait on a calm day for smallmouth bass using a Diawa Megaforce bait caster reel (yes with the twitching bar) and a Limit Creek LCC69MHF is my favorite way to catch any fish! Flat out fun.
Saugers have been slow and not hitting yet. The walleye bite peaks when the saugers are out in force and the 18 inch saug dogs come to the nets. Good things are right around the corner, I can feel it in my big toe
I have straight walleye trips on the books, and have not done a single sturgeon trip. I have heard of some good reports from the night fisherman. I do know a bit about sturgeon and their peak bite and when they really go and they do go in the day. The sturgeon have not been biting much in the day yet. Fifteen years ago at Beanies, the local boat launch down on the river for the river rats was home to many many cat fisherman, and in the fall sturgeon fisherman. They didn’t say much as a whole, but the best angler of the lot, Bob Hill would give me the skinny. I can remember seeing him in his flat bottom boat fighting sturgeon and getting bites for hours at a time when the weather was cool and the sky blue.
Even in the fall” you still do not know what your going to catch in the river!” Heck we got a gar fish yesterday.
October 2 2013
I know people want a straight out plain fact absolute best presentation to catch fish on the Croix. Fact is right now there is not one, for example the last three outings we used three differing baits. On one trip, minnows, and the other trip, crawlers, and the other trip we trolled and in all three we boated 40 legal eyes. The bite is not hot and they bite in short spurts. Best place yesterday had no bait balls!? Last Saturday it was a must… You can not be second guessed for fishing the balls of shad. Depths again as always vary, 19 to 30 fow. Some spots hold fish shallower some deeper… With the water temp still at 66 degrees crawlers as mentioned are catching fish (thats what we did yesterday). That will end as water cools and minnows become the choice.
It is really beautiful out there. Good luck to all.
Sept. 23, 2013
Sturgeon bite is fair right now, and the walleyes are on and off, but when you boat 12 legal walleye in six hours I can not say the bite is bad at all. I do know as the water cools the bite will improve further. Walleye caught here came from 20 to 30 fow.
Sept. 16, 2013 Change is in the air, and the leaves will fall.
We are still getting fish on night crawlers in the same depth from 20 to 30 feet deep. I do say though that the bite has slowed down from last report. The walleyes are mixed with all sizes from the 14″ to the nice 19″ fish, like the one above that Ken caught. It seems to me that the good spots have fish grouped fairly tight and many other locations on the river have nothing. Bone dry like the surface of the moon. Also lots of species are mixed together right now.
Water will cool soon and the walleye bite gets very good. This is also the time the sturgeon start to bite as well. Sturgeon can be caught bottom fishing, like when fishing for catfish. An anchor is needed to help detect the “sunfish like” bite that the sturgeon has. Use cut bait, or minnows, or crawlers. Tackle similar to muskie fishing is needed in terms of poles, reels, and line.
Walleye trolling for my guide service will start to be used heavily to cover ground and find fish once the water cools and the fish move. Also a wide wobbling lure will now fall out of favor as the water cools. I like to match lure action with the water temp. Cool = subtle, hot = erratic.
The change of the seasons is so beautiful on the St. Croix with the turning of the leaves and the cool air, however some guys can find the end of summer feeling down or somewhat alone… One reading I like in the Bible to remind us that we are known by God and never alone is Luke 12: 6-7.
08/26/13 The walleye bite is still pretty good for late August.
Even when the day starts slow lately we have found some good ones:
Plus we are running into cats:
Bass still cooperating on soft plastic lures:
Not overly optimistic with the heat wave in regards to the bite. I guess time will tell. The river water temp likely jumped 4 degree in four days. I will know more tomorrow.
08/15/13 Mid August marks a time on the St. Croix River where I like to mix up the species and target bass, catfish as well as the walleye and sauger. We also mix in a bit of muskie casting when smallmouth bass fishing.
Smallmouth were very active today in the 4 to 12 foot depths. We found fish both near the bottom and on the top of the water column. We landed 40 bass and many of these were in the 14 to 15 inch range, we did not catch any monster fish but a few in the 18 inch range were caught. We also got some baby bass that always gets a chuckle from the guys. These fish were predominantly caught on plastic jerk baits or Senko style baits. We did not use tube jigs today, normally tubes dominate on the bass, I guess it was working so why fix it…
When targeting catfish, I go for channel cats as they bite in the day. For channel kitties I like to use cut bait, as you can adjust the size of bait to go for large cats or smaller cats. The St. Croix has large channel cats and catching a ten pounder is not uncommon.
Walleyes and saugers are still doing pretty good for livebait anglers and trollers. This has been a nice August for catching eyes, they aren’t jumping in the boat but if you put in your time you can catch them. The eyes are deep from 20 to 30 fow. Crawlers are a go to bait and Rapala Shad Rap regular and jointed crankbaits are proven fish catchers.
The algae bloom that peaked about five days ago has receded. The water is actually clear in most places where the algae are not. The river temperature is 74 degrees and the river is at 675.5 feet above sea level.
08/06/13 St. Croix River fishing for walleye and sauger has been surprisingly good considering it is the first part of August. The dog days are here and normally the walleye can be struggle to find. However there is a nice year class from 14.5 to 15.25 inch walleyes in the Croix that are biting as of late.
In case you don’t know the legal keeping length is a 15 inch minimum so there are tons of “shorts” and it is an easy 3 to 1 ratio of shorts to keepers, but heck its fun catching them anyway.
Saugers are also biting okay, but a little slow for this time of year. We did see nice 18 inch saugers about ten days ago but now the good keeper saugers are from 14 to 16inches. Also saugers can be any size to keep.
The river has a strong algae bloom right now, and I can’t say that it is all that pleasant. Naturally the river flows so certain areas harbor this green stuff more than in other areas, where say in the middle of Lake St. Croix the algae is not too thick at all.
If you are looking for new presentations from me on what is working it is the same as weeks before, I am livebait rigging with crawlers (mainly crawlers very little leeches) and trolling Rapalas to take the fish. Best depths have been from 20 to 30 feet.
Very brief white bass activity is happening on the surface and it is a far cry from what it used to be, I really long for the days where you would see these “silvers” busting on the surface the whole river wide and it they were so easily caught… dyas gone by….
Channel cats are biting on the livebait rigs, but they are really small.
River level is 675.5 and water temp is 74 degrees down from 80 two to three weeks ago.
07/23/13 There is a pretty good sauger bite on the river right now, walleyes are also being caught.
The river is dropping and coming to the normal water mark. Best depths for me yesterday was 20 to 26 feet deep.
More than half of my boats recent sauger/walleye catches have been while trolling Rapala Shad Raps.
Water temps on the surface were 78.5 to 79.5 and the river water level is dropping and at 676.6, now only one foot higher than normal pool elevation.
07/16/13 When the walleye action becomes slower on the St. Croix River, I start to target other species, namely muskie. Last week we had some success with the Muskellunge. Muskie are a very fun fish for me personally, they have an ability to appear out of thin air (thin water), in places that you would not think could mask their large frame and appear like a ghost…
All Muskies caught on our hunt – 45, 34, and 31 inches were caught away from the boat, and not one a figure eight boat side technique. We targeted two to eight feet of water, We both cast and trolled for the ghosts of the river. This shallow depth is a typical depth for mid July.
Conventional muskie lures were used for both trolling and casting: bucktails, bulldog type, top water, and jerk plugs. Muskie are a fish that will aggressively swim to and attack the lure like a wild beast, and on the other hand come to investigate your bait at a leisurely speed with a half hearted nip on the bait. Though most times they will completely snub your offering making them a real challenge.
St. Croix River water level has dropped and is now 678.5, this mark is 3 feet higher than the normal pool level.
07/08/13 After eight days of a river wide slow no wake rule for boaters, the ban is off. Boaters are now able to hit the firewall again and get the motors humming. I found the no wake a bit slow a few times, but overall the relaxed pace was enjoyable. There was less in my hands and I had to more readily accept what God had in store for catches those days and accept whatever was meant to be was.
Trolling Shad Raps worked well for putting walleyes in the boat. I had mostly half day trips, where we got from 5 to 7 keepers, with many many more 14 to 14 ¾ inch walleyes. I did try very hard to turn fish in less than 10’ of water, but the depths from 23 to 25 were best. Best colors were blue, firetiger, and neutral.
I really must mention rigging, because rigging with crawlers accounted for half of the catches of short and legal keeper walleyes. I also know spinners are working as well. This time of year I like to use beads ahead of the hook to add some color and bulk up the bait. Large beads can also be used here versus the tiny ones you would use in the early season.
I will be out Wednesday looking for the great big toothy predator the mighty muskie. This is the time of year I start to hunt them.
Last outing the river was 75 degrees water temperature, and the water level is now 681.3 feet, which is still 6.5 feet higher than the normal pool level of 675.5.
June 25, 2013, Happy to be back on the St. Croix River after a wonderful week long stay at Sah Kah Tay Beach Resort ( www.sahkahtay.com ) at Cass lake, MN with my family and relatives. Weather was great, resort and lodge fantastic, and Cass Lake fishing is great this year. My highlights of the trip was having my sons and young cousins Evan and Alexander on board the boat last Thursday when the fish were jumping on the hook. Cass a gem, and is a structure fisherman’s dream.
The St. Croix is rising and is now at 682.68 feet above sea level in Stillwater, MN. The water temperature is 73 degrees. The water is two feet higher and 8 to 10 degrees warmer than my river trip.
I had a great trip today with Bruce Fullerton, and his father, Russ, and his son Andrew. We targeted bass and walleye – a wonderful entertaining Croix mixed combo to pursue.
I found that even though the water was high the color was not overly stained or muddied, so wind helped on this trip. We live bait fished and did very well on bass especially in the morning.
We targeted shallow water in the 10 foot range in the morning.
Legal walleye, took a bit of time to locate after a week off, but we did find some nice keeper walleye and saugers mixed in with the very strong year class of 2010-2011, there is a huge batch of 14″ fish in the river. I targeted walleye today with spinners/bait and cranks.
As mentioned I targeted walleyes with spinners but as we had more luck on cranks, cranks it was.
Pretty typical late June day, though it felt much more like July in the 90 degree heat. Actually the bass were larger than normal, we got at least 6 from 18 to 19″, plus the big one that got away…hey how often do I say that…I bet you can’t find that in print on this site. Talked to a buddy at the landing that did well on spinners and that is good, because that means the walleyes are open to a few ways to being caught. When the bite gets tough fewer techniques work…
Also the river will likely go no wake tomorrow. Its summer time.
June 10, 2013, The St. Croix River walleye and smallmouth is alive and well. With the spring being unusually cold, quality walleye can be hard to find, but the good news is they are there. Better news is smallmouth bass are setting up in normal locations and biting well as they should in the first week in June.
Smallmouth are hitting natural colored soft plastics (tubes, jerkbaits, grubs, worms) and swim jigs near shorelines, both on the surface and on the bottom. Look in depths from 2 to 8 feet of water. These fish are widely distributed on the entire river. It is true certain areas hold much better concentrations, but from Prescott to Stillwater solid 14 to 16” smallmouth are common, and eager to eat your lure.
My partner Scott Hale and I recently fished the Slagle Rig Fest walleye tournament held in Bayport Minnesota. This tournament showed that several fishing techniques are working, proving again that numerous presentations catch fish on the same day on the St. Croix River. Livebait rigging leeches, minnows, and crawlers ALL caught fish. Trolling crankbaits also caught keeper fish.
I know of a high placing team of this 50-boat tourney that kept their boat no deeper than 9.5 feet ALL day and had many nice walleyes. We stayed mainly in 14 to 18 foot depths. I also know of a big 25” coming from over 28 feet. So what am I trying to say here? I am trying to express that you need to be aware of what the fish are doing. Did they move shallow to feed? Did they get run off a spot by boat pressure? You need to do your best to think like a fish – they are wild animals after all, bent on surviving. I am not saying you can think like a fish, just that you should try.
The over all walleye bite was solid six days ago before the cold front hit. I was able to guide on the same spot and get good walleye (16 to 19 inches) for three trips in a row. Then the cold weather came in and the river wide bite turned into a 14” walleye bite where all the spots were over run by this great year class of fish. It took around 10 shorts to get a keeper.
I am happy to say the sunfish have not attacked our lines like last year, the freshwater drum (sheepshead) appear to be finished spawning and are still biting well, but not at the RAMpage stage anymore. Drum are a great eating choice for the grill, smoker, blackened fish, fish tacos, or chowders. They are a non oily, boned like walleye, white firm fleshed fish. I have an analogy for you – It is just as foolish to chop up a ribeye steak to use in a stew, as it would be to put walleye into a fish chowder. The drum has their place in many different dishes.
Very low catfish numbers to date, muskie action slow, have not seen or heard much for northern pike either. Water level steady and is 680.1 Water temperature 62.
05/29/13 In the last week we have more and more found the walleyes receptive to taking the whole bait. I say would since opener the “short strike”, not to be confused with the thousands of 14” walleyes in the river right now, was the most common bite you would get, where the walleye would take the bait and avoid the hook. Now I am seeing a more aggressive bite where they have the hook in their mouth much earlier when you get bit.
I figure that the days are getting long and even though the water temp won’t really budge it is in the low 60’s and the fish are just plain getting more aggressive.
As a sign of normality in a spring where the lilacs and the tulips are flowering at the same time, I am happy to see the sheephead going on their late may early June RAMpage. You know the sheeps are often hated, but they are a native specie, and at the very least keep you on your toes. At least at this point in time these drum are not shallowing the hook. I admit that is when they become irritating.
Smallmouth bass. The bronze back bashers opened last Saturday along with the muskies. Both species have been quiet overall. Not really surprised by the slow Muskie bite as it is high cool water. It is strange to me on a day when we go through 6 dozen nightcrawlers and land one smallmouth while walleye fishing – folks that is not normal.
Walleye depths have been all over the board. I have seen on two occasions within the last week how the wind sucked the eyes up shallow and 8 feet deep was where we tagged some good white tips. Otherwise it has been a 14 to 24 foot depth on average. Livebait – crawlers, leeches, and minnows, though as the water warms I will use less minnows personally. Rigging on a sliding sinker Lindy style is my main set up right now. With a decent to good livebait bite I am not trolling, though late last week trolling did well on Thursday and Friday. I have no doubt that if I pulled my Rapala crankbaits through my rigging spots we would bring some nice eyes to the net. Bright colors bright days dark or neutral colors , firetiger is a solid color working in both sun and clouds,
The river has crested and is falling the current level as of this report is 681.4. The water is very clean with minimal debris. The river level projection shows that the water is on the drop despite the rains. Water temperature is 61 degrees.
05/26/13 Most years while targeting walleye on the lower St. Croix River it is common for smallmouth bass and freshwater drum to readily take your live bait, and from a “lets get things back to normal” point of view, I am happy to say they are. It has taken a while but the bass and drum (drum more so) are biting well.
Good news is that the walleye bite is better. Livebait in 8 to 26 feet has produced keepers for us this last week.
As mentioned the depths for walleye are all over the board in (8 to 26 feet) and the wind is a big factor in locating the fish shallow.
As mentioned livebait fishing is working, maybe not as good as most years, with the up and down air temperatures, but it is working. With that said, we have also trolled Rapala crankbaits to put fish in the boat. About a third of our total fish in the boxes this last week have come from trolling. I have targeted the high teens in depths for trolling. Bright colors on sunny days works best.
681.65 is the river water level in Stillwater MN. The water temp is 63 at the beginning of the week and 60 at the end… Even though there is a water rise the water is clean. River projected to top out at 681.85 feet.
05/19/13 Yesterday my partner tournament partner and good friend Scott Hale and I fished the Paul Koval St. Croix Classic walleye tournament held out of Beanies on the St. Croix River. We got completely soaked by a three hour rain during a real touchy bite, but managed to land six legals to bring to the scales for 13.30 pounds, I ran the boat and Scott caught the fish. We finished 4th place out of 26 boats. The bite was incredibly light, feeding biting fish livebait was a must. Many (over half) of the tournament anglers did not weigh a fish. With that said it is hard to say that a river wide bite is on. The winners Dave Hale and Mark Hedin had a great eight fish bag with over 25 pounds. Congrats to them.
I am still believing a good river wide bite will happen this spring. The river is 60 degree water temp, and above 680.0 and looking to rise a foot in a week. Still low sheephead and smallmouth bass activity, white bass are holding deeper and fairly active. In the tourney bait anglers did better than trollers.
05/12/13 Yesterday was a Saturday and the Wilkening guide trip day, with a great group of repeat customers – Bill the father, Dan and Mark the sons, and Mathew who is Dan’s son. Our goal was the 2013 elusive walleye keeper. With sustained 22 mph winds and 30+ mph gusts forecasted, feeling out the bite and how we could effectively fish four anglers considering the windy conditions was the plan.
We fished our first spot (a place where a few species are normally caught and mixed in can be keeper walleye), where two days previously we hammered on the white bass with fathead minnows. This day we found nothing biting.
Still very early in the trip, the winds already had caught up with the boat, so spending time trolling Rapala crankbaits for the best boat control looked like a wise move. We started fishing in one of the river narrows (in 16 to 19 fow) that still had good current running through it. After five minutes of trolling, Mark caught a short walleye that could have fit in a hot dog bun. Then a minutes later Bill caught a 14” walleye. The wind kept coming. Within a half hour we landed a 15.5” keeper! Booya Jack.
The guys had the wind to their backs and behind the full windshield of the boat we had good conversation. Dan is a big trout angler, so it is nice to hear about the trout fishing in our area here in the valley, I found myself wishing for more time to explore and do some trout angling. Mark is a servant of the Lord previously working with youth mission trip services, Bill is retired who also does big brother type mentoring and volunteering, and Matt is a bright high schooler soon to be Eagle Scout planning his future college choices.
We finished the day on our second spot where we started trolling, ending up with a pretty good total. Out of 35 to 40 walleyes and saugers caught, the Wilkenings brought home seven keepers. 4 walleye in inches 19.5, 18, 17, 15.5, and three keeper Sauger 16.5, 14, and 13.5 (normally 14” is my minimum but hey, its been a tough bite). I am pretty sure Bill landed the most fish.
I also know from Saturdays catches from talking to other anglers that livebait techniques was working and Saturday overall was the best bite of the season so far here in 2013. River master Scott Hale and partner Dave Kortum won the Hamm Room Tournament again using livebait. Congrats!
A few side notes – Walleyes seemed to be in one area and sauger in another. Most occasions they are mixed in the area I was fishing. Of our total fish species caught 100% where either sauger or walleye. No sheephead caught all year, none. We did not troll up one white bass, in our location we angled that is odd.
River water is dropping (680.4 feet above sea level in Stillwater,MN, water temp 51 degrees) and is a clean light bronze color - really pretty water right now.
05/11/13 St. Croix River walleye bite is improving as we are seeing more walleye now, but the issue is most fish are short of the legal 15″ mark. Things are improving though and that is the good news. White bass are biting well and keeping the poles bent. Smallmouth bass are also coming to the net while we are fishing for walleye. Note smallmouth are closed.
Trolling Rapala Shad Raps and drifting nightcralwers and fathead minnows in 15 to 19 feet have been my most productive methods. The bite is still way off from normal years, once we get a stable weather system where it stops yo yoing from 80 to 40 degrees the bite should be back to normal. River water is clean and mostly debris free.
River level is 680.2 feet above sea level and dropping.
05/07/13 St. Croix River walleye season is open. The bite for walleye and sauger is tough, we are still in the hangover period from multiple cold fronts dropping the water temperature very low. I wish I could say we are in the honey moon period after the spawn, but nope. The sun is slowly bring the temp back up and good things should come…
Trolling has been not the most productive, but as the water temp rises they could really crush cranks any day. This “any day” thought of any day they will get biting where they normally do has been my mantra. So I have caught walleyes and saugers jigging minnows, dragging jigs and three ways, plus trolling cranks none so far is “the ticket”. Any day now…
04/27/13 The Mississippi River has been a very tough bite with environmental conditions of rising and muddy water combined with cold water. However the water temperature in the river is on the rise. The river will also level off with in a week, so the bite should improve.
Roughly half of the walleyes have spawned now. The walleyes are three weeks behind on their spawning calendar.
We have had limited success dragging jig upstream. Most years thisdragging jigs presentation puts limits of fish in the boat but with the cold we had the last month it was slower than normal.
FLOOD 7 AM 7 AM 24 HR 7 AM 24 HR FLOW LOCATION STAGE POOL TAIL CHANGE STAGE CHANGE CFS ---------------------------------------------------------------- MISSISSIPPI RIVER DAM 3 REDWING MN 674.63 674.39 0.16 40800
04/15/13 The bite is picking up on the river for walleyes. Still a very slow approach will jigging is needed, though slow or fast, I am just happy to say the bite is picking up. Best depths are from 12 to 18 while jigging (dragging or vertical). Pitching jigs and plastics have not been as productive. The fish are getting used to the water temps again and becoming more aggressive as the temps actually increases!
FLOOD 7 AM 7 AM 24 HR 7 AM 24 HR FLOW LOCATION STAGE POOL TAIL CHANGE STAGE CHANGE CFS ------------------------------------------------------------------- MISSISSIPPI RIVER DAM 3 REDWING MN 674.06 673.41 -0.14 35700
As it is boating needs time of year, I want to say that the good folks at Warner’s Dock have always been very good to me with great service. If you are looking for a new or used boat or motor give them a shout at 1-888-222-3625 or look them up at www.warnersdock.com. They also have a very good selection in the ships store of boating accessories. Also I believe they are still running a boat motor oil sale.
04/13/13 Plain an simple folks the bite has been off this spring with the cold temperatures that have accompanied the snow, sleet, and freezing rain. The exact issue is the water temperature drop. Last weekend the river hit a high temperature mark of 41 degrees (the bite was good last weekend too). Yesterday I found the main channel to be 36 degrees.
On the good news note the fish that are being caught are nice sized fish. Hard to say when these fish will spawn, but this is the week historically that they do spawn. I believe once the water warms the bite will be very good. Stay warm and THINK SPRING!
04/03/13 The Mississippi River has rose three feet rather quickly since last Saturday. The water is cloudy and thanks to Sunday and Mondays weather has become cold. The rising river water has leveled off as a result of the cold weather chilling the snow melt.
Good things in terms of exciting catches are just around the corner as the weather warms and the river level stops rising.