Tip of the Week (2016)

Bass Crappie Muskie Scenery Turk Walleye

Warners Dock puts on a great sport show/ open house every year. It is the first weekend in January every year, plus there is free food! 🙂



Warner’s Dock Inc. has been in the business 70 Years other boat dealers have a revolving door of managers. I like working with WDI for several reasons one is their trusted service department, and one is working with the same people year after year.

January 2

For ice time panfish 2 – 3 pound line is a must.  It is so fine and  hard to work with though, what helps then is colored line – I like the orange line, the dark blue line is also good.

November 30

Ultra violet painted jigs can help fish find the lure in murky rising water.

Wear a life jacket in the cold water season, unless you want to star in the sequel “RiverDan II  – This waters cold!!!”

November 21

  • I like natural colors in overcast and bright colors in the sun.
  • How to fry fish:
  1. best fish is “bled out” (go to the bottom of tip page here Nov. 6 of last year for bleed out info)
  2. dry fillets
  3. dip fillets in a wash of egg and milk
  4. drain off excess wash not too much though and dredge in dry mix (your choice here – original ShoreLunch is a good choice)
  5. prepare all fish this way and place on cookie sheet and chill in fridge for 10 minutes to “set”.
  6. Fry at 350 to 360
  7. white bass cooked this way fresh are very good – period.

November 7

  • Have a game plan and be rigged up before you hit the water.
  • Lure color matters more the slower you present the bait to the fish. They see it longer before they strike.

October 30

  1. Keep those hooks sharp!  use a hook file.
  2. At no other time of year can an angler catch fish on more techniques. Blade baits, plastics, minnows, crankbaits on three ways, jig n raps…have some fun and try a new technique.
  3. River fishing is tricky when the water goes up and down weekly.. learn spots based on river level.

October 24

White bass are a very edible fish (flat out delicious).  I like to grill them like a steak.  Here is how:

  1. Bleed out the fish in water or live well (cut the gills).
  2. Take the top loin and make sure it is just the white meat.
  3. Eat fresh
  4. Melt a little butter – apply to both sides- must cover.
  5. Sprinkle on any of these spices: Blackened Redfish Magic (Paul Prudhomme brand – cajun and gooooood), Old Bay, Rotisserie spice, lemon pepper and dill.
  6. Spread coals out to cook on using the in direct heat method.
  7. Grill on a very clean and hot grill as to not stick.

Notes – you can also make a foil plate and grill on that, but the “steak” approach works – especially if the fish doesn’t stick and it really doesn’t much.  Also white bass are not easily over cooked.

Tackle tip -In ultra deep water you can consider braided line over mono if you are whiffing a lot on strikes…

October 17

Jigging is so enjoyable to anglers because they try to entice bites so many different ways. Triggering a fish is always satisfying.  Often the best jigging approach is a slow – almost hover presentation versus an aggressive RIP! my tip here is to try a little just lift off of the bottom approach. In other words sometimes more is less!!

#2 use six pound test for jigging. Mono is my choice.

October 7

Stinger hooks make hooking fish easier when jigging. I make my own stinger hooks. You can too – get some # 10 or #12 treble hooks and 12 or 14 pound monofilament line.

I also like to use jigs like the VMC Hammer Head or Northland Fireball.  This style of jig uses a second eyelet designed for stinger hooks.

  1. Tie a 6″ piece of mono to the jig
  2. Tie the treble hook to the mono.
  3. The trick is to have only 2 to 3″  of length  of line when your done (so its not too long).

This set up like this allows for the stinger to not be attached to the minnow it won’t  hang and droop (less snags).  You should know that with jigging fathead minnows you don’t attach the hooks into the minnow  -it hangs free.

The stiffness of the heavy mono holds the treble hook vertical.

September 19

Often fish bite best on the river starting at about 9am.  It is uncommon to hit the water early and hammer on fish and then the bite slowly fades as happens in lakes.  On the St. Croix the day bite is often much better than early and late in the day.

I have seen crawlers catch walleye until mid to late October!

September 12

Baitfish become schooled up this time of year.  Its no secret that if you find the forage you find the fish – we know this.

On the St. Croix a tricky fact is some places always have “bait” and fish activity but these spots don’t always have fish that are biting, at least to the degree you would expect.  This is especially true when you mark pods deep.

On the other hand, I have some spots where if I find bait on them its normally very good catching.  Its hard to know when to stay on a spot and give it some more time and when to move on simply base on baitfish activity.

So my tip here  is to understand not all bait pods on a location are equal, and just because you are fishing bait pods and not doing as well as you think – do not give up on them.

August 29

Always be prepared for your fishing plan to go awry.  Don’t be shocked if the fish aren’t there, be ready to take it on the chin and keep fishing.

August 22

Trolling crankbaits for walleye is always an option on the table to catch fish.  One key to trolling effectively is that your lures are tuned properly and tracking straight.  If your lures are not tracking straight  you will flat out 100% catch less fish.

August 11

Not sure how high the water will come up again after these rains, but a neat little rig we used when the water was high and fast two weeks ago is the rig pictured here.  I also wrote about this on my column.  We cast these little spinners with crawlers and it has a hit. Literally!

cute couple Annette and Kelly. This short leadered rig with a spinner worked great on the cast in high water.
Annette and Kelly. This short leadered rig Kelly is holding with a spinner and bait worked great on the cast in the high water. We had a great time fishing!

August 3rd

Fathead minnows are a top choice when you have fish actively feeding on like sized forage fish.  Right now in the river there are lots of small shad that gamefish are  feeding on – making minnows a good bait choice.

July 27, 2016

An over looked technique for Bronze Back Bashers is the “Texas Rig.” It is a largemouth presentation for its weedless properties but can help in not snagging up while smallmouth Bass fishing.

Texas Rig
Texas Rig

This Rig can be used for tubes, grubs, wacky worms, straight worms.  Also this is one way that you can also catch a walleye as well with a Texas rigged straight worm.

July 18, 2016

When netting fish always net the head not the tail.  When you net the tail they can and I have seen it swim right out of the net.

Walleye like fast water, but if the water is too fast for you to fish  and have good boat control then it is water too fast for walleyes to hold.

July 5, 2016

When fishing spinners it is easy to get careless and put the presentation into the water too fast to the bottom and tangle the blade around the leader.  When this happens you will have an ugly mess on your hands when you reel up.

Use a larger hook when spinner fishing – a number four or two are good for walleyes.  Use larger than when rigging.

June 28th

Tired of fish coming unbuttoned while spinner fishing??? Limit Creek Rod Co. a sponsor of mine, sells a model called the LCSE83MLF. It is a great light bouncer rod.  Its not rated this heavy BUT because ratings are intended for casting weight and not slow trolling, but it will handle up to 1.5 ounces easy, plus it is a killer deadstick rod (pun intended) – it loads very well. The right rod matters a ton when fishing bouncers or heavy three ways.  Tell Jim at Limit Creek – Turk sent you. The link is on the left.

June 17th, 2016

Smallmouth bass love “natural” colored baits – earth tones.  A walleye will be readily tricked by a gaudy lure like a firetiger Shad Rap for instance – smallies are different, they want neutral colors.  Smallies like dark shades of tan, green, black, brown, blue, and red.  White is also a very good color.  I have also come to know that there is hardly a soft plastic bait a bass will not hit!

June 9th, 2016

The more you can have a kid “own” their fishing experience the more they will like it.  Believe it or not kids can like a dock experience where they fish on their own power more than a trip by a guided professional.  Making a boat experience and fishing experience one where kids have some level of control in catching a fish or fishing goes a long way in making it enjoyable to them.

June 3rd, 2016

Watch for insect hatches in June, these areas draw in the small fish that large gamefish come and eat.  Look for larvae casings on the top of the water in the calm of the morning.

May 23, 2016

Leeches are a TOP bait right now and for months.  Leeches are hard to fish if you are moving too fast as they will roll. I believe a rolled and twisted leech is a poor way to try to catch as fish.  So when fishing leeches always make sure you do not move too fast for the leech to swim and undulate.

May 16, 2016

Tip #1.  Nightcrawlers come in two sizes normal and crawzilla size.  the huge cralwers are a 1/4 ” thick. You know them when you see them.  For these magnum cralwers use a #4 hook.

For a normal crawler use the #6.

If i was to pick one size and that is the only size i could use it would have to be #4.

I used to be a #6 only angler, but the fish can become unbuttoned after hook up more with a smaller hook.  But for a smaller crawler #6 is correct.

p.s. smaller to larger hook sizing is as follows. #8, #6, #4, #2, #1, 1/0, 2/0 ….

Tip #2 clearing water means the fish will located deeper than when the water was dirty.

Tip #3 it is more important where they are than how to catch them.  If you’re on them many ways will catch the fish. Case in point  – I found a big group of fish Saturday and trolled them up NO livebait.

May 9, 2016

When unhooking fish caught on crankbaits never hold the crankbait. When the fish shakes the lure can be damaged and you can hook yourself!  Hold the line a foot above the fish and crankbait. Next grab the fish with your other hand behind the head and turn the fish upside down so the lure is below the fish. This is done for two reasons. One if the fish slips the crankbait falls to the ground with the fish and not into your hand.  Also turning the fish upside down seems to disorient them and they don’t shake shake so much.

May 3, 2016

When netting fish keep the net out of the water until it is time to net. Huge mistake to leave the net in the water and guide the fish to the net. The net goes quickly to the fish.

May 2, 2016

If the water is cold and by cold I mean 50 degrees and below the fathead minnow is a great bait choice.

I like leeches at 60 degrees and up.

In shallow water – ten feet or less don’t use colored hook – use black or bronze.

April 25, 2016

In high and dirty water I like gold and orange for colors. on another note – Nightcrawler’s will be a wise choice in bait soon.

April 16, 2016

Casting is an art on the river.  Its called “pitching”. The key is to know that you are working a set or specific spot. On the river this time of year – it is a cast and a sweep where the jig sweeps in the current just off of the bottom.  The trick is that the fish are in one little spot and if you come in too high or miss it because you cast too short or cast too far – it just won’t work.  So my tip here is to know where the fish are exactly by catching them say via a jig and minnow and then cast to them after located.  Otherwise its very difficult to locate them pitching unless you have extensive experience in the location.

March 30, 2016

River fishing is fun for many reasons and challenging.  High water and low water.  Falling water and rising water.  These four factors make it essential that you know the river level and flow to gauge a bite and predict from past experiences where they will be.  Knowing the water level and flow is important. Here is a site i use.


March 24, 2016

This time of year the overcast comes and goes, there is some sun , then clouds.  This changing sky cover reminds me of early spring fishing in March when the overcast gives way to sun and then is gone again to clouds.

The reason I bring up March fishing is, in March, I angle with soft plastics baits – mainly ringworms. Here the color when fishing plastics matters greatly in catching walleye and sauger.  Color choice is a factor of mainly sky cover and water clarity. When the sky cover changes often due to topsy turvy weather patterns your lure colors need to change too.

March 19, 2016

Continuing from last tip. The off sized jig was the right tackle on my last trip. We found a 5/8 ounce jig best – a half ounce was a tad light.  When dealing with river currents these “off sized” jigs are handy.  Standard jig weights are 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4.  All other sizes I consider “off sized.”

March 12, 2016

“Off sized” jigs???  These are jigs that are 3/16 and 5/16 ounce, some anglers who do lots of pitching for fish will also employ a light 3/32 jig for the hogs in the shallows.

Off sized jigs are just another niche weapon that river anglers use, one that you do not see in non river tackle shops.  Off sized jigs were created with the phrase ” as light as possible but still feel the bottom,” in mind.

February 24, 2016

On GPS units track lines can become so thick ( as you run over a spot many times )that your unit shows nothing but tracks and it cluttered up.  You then have  a harder time deciphering where you are catching fish. Clear your track log to keep way points visible or the GPS unit looses some of its merits.

January 18, 2016

It has taken me many years to finally accept that ice fishing is tough.  I have figured out that success mostly depends on the lake you fish.  I have tried time after time to alter and tweak my plans and presentations to find success on some lakes and the river for ice fishing on these types of waters all the best laid plans mostly come up short. In other words lakes that kick my tail always seem to, and lakes where I am catch fish do produce the good panfish for me.

So now I am focusing on my below theory when looking for new lakes. It worked as I found a new one today and had great crappie action!

I have two key characteristics of lakes in my area that produce very well for fish.

1. Fertile water – lower visibility

2. Not too deep – bottoms fairly deep maybe 22 to 24 at the most with a mostly uniform depth.

Happy to share this info and hope you do well.

January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

It is the time of year that the ice is here.

New ice is thin ice and thin ice is dangerous.

4″ minimum for walking as declared by WI DNR.

The best way to fish safely on new ice is to have and use a “spud bar”.  I make several very hard and strong jabs into the ice to test the ice as I walk on the ice.  I repeat this as I walk.   For me three of these jabs into the ice will punch through and show you that the ice is not thick enough.  You should test how many jabs into the ice it takes you to punch through 4″ of ice.


Shown is a spud bar - likely four feet long and weighed about ten pounds. They are also great for opening up ice holes frozen from recent fishing.
Shown is a spud bar – about four feet long and weighing approximately about ten pounds. They are also great for opening up ice holes frozen from recent fishing.

December 14, 2015

During the cold water season, you hear me talk a lot about soft plastics and the reason is they catch fish.  Plastics also normally catch bigger fish than minnows.  There are dozens of companies and products out there. One I started using recently and am very impressed with is Prescott Bait Co.

Here is an example of a soft plastic from Prescott Bait Co. that will fool a walleye and sauger into eating it.  Soft plastics are fun to use, and color changes or trying different colors routinely see instant results in more caught fish.


December 7 2015

The November 6th, tip discusses bleeding out a fish – do this it makes the meat white as snow and there is less blood while cleaning.

I also always cut out the lateral line, this is the line of reddish meat on all walleye – that runs from their tail to the gill area on the skin side of the fillet.

Cut out lateral line after you have the fillet.  Do this by making a 45 degree cut along the line on both sides and then you can pull out the line.

  • When river fishing always remember – fish locate based on the present actual water level.
  • Fish locations CAN (not for sure ) become predictable based on present water level.
  • Tackle tip super line like Suffix 832 is great for deep water or heavy flow fishing. Monofilament is better for shallow water and shallow to mid depth casting.

December 3 2015

The water temperature greatly dictates the speed your present your lure. During over cast days the fish can be sluggish and react differently in the cold water versus if it was a sunny day. Many times in the cold less is more and a non aggressive jigging style is better. To be sure have friends try different styles from aggressive to passive jigging motions to see what they really want on THAT DAY.

When jigging in conditions that snags are unlikely you can afford lighter line to aid in keeping jigs vertical.  light test has a smaller diameter and hangs straighter (vertical) than larger diameter line. This is why many fishermen love super line – like  Suffix 832.

November 6

Look closely these fish have been bleed out... you end up with whiter cleaner tasting meat. Plus less blood when cleaning.
Look closely these fish have been bleed out… you end up with whiter cleaner tasting meat. Plus less blood when cleaning.

To bleed: look at the bottom walleye, you will see where the “neck” has been separated from the head.  You can cut this area or snip it with a side cutter or game shear.  Then let the fish bleed out on a stringer in water or in the  livewell.  Bleeding takes about five minutes at the most.


There are numerous soft plastics that catch walleye and sauger. plus almost endless colors. experiments of trial and error is the best way to know what they want. The above fish hit a Pulse-R bait. Almost any bait with a twister tail will work. But don't get caught up on a curly tail only a lure with a small forked tail - the fluke or fluke styles are lunker getters.
There are numerous soft plastics that catch walleye and sauger. plus almost endless colors. experiments of trial and error are the best way to know what they want. The above fish hit a Pulse-R bait. Almost any bait with a twister tail will work. But don’t get caught up on a curly tail only choice, a lure with a small forked tail – the fluke or fluke styles are lunker getters.



Plastics are very effective bait on bass, no news there, but when the water is cold a slow falling and settling prior to retrieve retrieve is a sure fire way to fool a fish. Bass are very slow growing please release. White bass are a better eating fish than smallies.
Plastics are very effective bait on bass, no news there, but when the water is cold a slow falling and settling prior to retrieve  presentation is a sure fire way to fool a fish. Bass are very slow growing please release. White bass are a better eating fish than smallies.
Find the right water and you will now have a chance to find the right fish. This lunker hit a fathead minnow.
Tributaries hold nice walleye in post spawn stage. This lunker hit a fathead minnow.  Pool Four Mississippi River
Chad hoists his Croix walleye. Chad and his father dave hammered on the eyes. We feed these short strikers line and fooled them on this day.
Chad hoists his Croix catch and release walleye. Chad and his father Dave hammered on the eyes. We feed these short strikers line and fooled them on this day.

Jay Leary with a trophy smallmouth bass                 Jason Hankes with a trophy walleye

Jay Leary and St. Croix River smallmouth bass Jason Hankes and St. Croix River walleye