Turk's.Column

Turk’s Column

This fish hit with a thump!  I had to back reel several times when it ran. Back reeling is even safer than the most expensive drag you can find.
This fish hit with a thump! I had to back reel several times when it ran. Back reeling is even safer than the most expensive drag you can find. Caught and Released  2018

Early April 2018

I had to clear the snow off the bird feeder again to let the chickadees and juncos access to the black oil sunflower seeds.  The cardinals and jays can clear out a path to chow down, but I guess I don’t want to make it too hard on the little birds. Two weeks ago I heard the cry of a mourning dove, I bet that bird headed south because I haven’t heard it since. Heading south sounds nice right now! I was told ” that’s ridiculous!” when I said “it looks pretty  out,” commenting on the snow on the pines with the sun and blue sky. Folks have had enough of winter up here in the upper middle west.

Weather and fishing go hand in hand. There are no two ways about it.  The trouble is we can’t pick what the weather will be.  Sure we know what’s going to happen it is forecasted, but life is just not made such a way that we get to have our cake and eat it too! When the weather is less than ideal that is all it is – not ideal.  Where I come, in my world, I fish heavily pressured waters and crowds are always a challenge. People file in behind any boat that catches a fish and even if they don’t catch a fish lots of boats spook fish sometimes (based on flow and depth the fish are in).

What I am getting at is catches can be better based on the lack of pressure you face from the crowds.  I am often glad the weather is so -so, because if the fish are there in certain locations and the fish are cooperating – having that spot to myself can be an incredible day of catching!  Made possible by a bad forecast.

If fishing has a rule it is that “the rules don’t apply!” meaning there are exceptions to every rule. Bad weather can be good fishing and bad weather can wreck a bite.  The second Cabela’s sells a crystal ball that predicts future outcomes I will be the first in line to buy it.

Two weeks ago we had a very good bite in the cold weather and then it was followed by a week of tough bites. So the cold itself is not the single factor. Look at the pics on my report page there are some bundled up anglers holding nice fish.

I do enjoy the cold water season maybe because it seems like an adventure.

Take care.

Mid February, 2018

I find happiness with the flowing water going past my boat and a fish on the line.  With the anchor rope slightly dancing and holding tight I get a quite contented feel as the river rushes by.

When done right – having the anchor set just so to keep the boat where I want – is a treat.  A treat for two main reasons. One being my mind and hands are free to fish, ties lines, or sit and tend to rods.  The second reason is good anchor spots are such that “new” fish will come through on either a migration or a daily location change.

Using live bait from an anchored position is effective when still fished.  A cast is made and put the rod down, let the fish come find the bait on the bottom.  Bites are often subtle and when I get an inkling that a fish has the bait, I pick up the rod as if any false movement would set off a bomb!  Pull the tip away about about an inch so slowly and then I know…. they are there or not. If so I reel and lower the rod tip and sweep set the rod tip high in the air.  It sure is fun.

You can catch catfish, walleye, bass, sturgeon, drum, and more this way!

Sounds simple.  Well it is if you are in the right place AT the right time. Regardless of the technique you employ either low tech or high tech you’ve got to fish where the fish are!

Nowadays the fishing industry technology and expense is becoming so prevalent and dominant that I get my head spinning sometimes, makes me wonder what the average angler thinks.  We are bombarded with images of 80K boats teamed with 300 Hp motors and electronics the size of computer laptops!  Is this super sized portion of technology and expense really going to help any newcomers enter the sport?  I say it gives the idea that this is what fishing is, or that a lot of money is needed to be a fisherman.  I was listening to a Cabela’s salesman the other day explaining a new sonar system that has Bluetooth where one can operate the boat via a smart phone. More power to you if this is your thing, but the thought is an absurdity to me.

I will buy technology if I have a reason as to why it will put more fish in in the boat.  I don’t take technology new additions to the fishing scene at face value and that they automatically do help catch fish.  The four most important over the last 20 years have  been:

1. Dependable outboard motors, 2.  “Fireline” also known as super lines.  I do like Suffix products, but Fireline started it or did PowerPro? 3.  GPS boat positioning and then GPS boat positioning on the lake map on your fish finder unit! This was BIG time.  4. Spot- Lock trolling motor technology.

Remember though folks this saying “Knowledge is the key to fishing success.” Buck Perry. Buck was the granddaddy of modern fishing thought.

October 12, 2017

It is nice to know that ” they’re in there.”  A body of water that holds trophy fish is something special,  often it is just the idea that you can catch the fish you want is enough to keep a guy motivated to keep trying.  Keeping on trying is the name of the game.  To organize and plan everything to go just the way you want it often doesn’t work out in fishing. However you can always keep on trying – THAT can’t be taken away.  It’s the fishing and not the catching that you can count on.

Trophy fish are a result on " keeping on trying" and not so much of a genius plan. Catch and Release October 2017
Trophy fish are a result of ” keeping on trying.” St. Croix Catch and Release October 2017

Mid September 2017 The Fall time offers some very fun fishing from not only a catching standpoint but also a time when you can experiment with differing techniques for walleye.

Mid September walleye - St. Croix River. released.
Mid September walleye  2017 – St. Croix River. Released.

One of the most over looked presentations by anglers is the Wolf River rig.  It is a three way swivel to a floating Rapala , then a dropper line to a bell sinker. It is a bit of a mix between trolling and rigging because there is a lot of art in how to exactly catch fish this way. It is definitely a technique that takes years to perfect.  Then you can leadline troll and longline troll. The choices are like the options of hunting and fishing – too many options and not enough time.

Plastics in the Fall.  20 years ago, I saw the plastics bite explode via the ringworm craze down on the Red Wing area of the Mississippi River. There is no doubt James Holst gets the credit for the promotion of this bait with B Fish N tackle. 20 years ago catching eyes on plastics was big news – since then you see walleye plastics everywhere.

I couldn’t help but catch on to this incredible success that ringworm’s were having as I guide down in Red Wing February, March, and April and return to the Croix in May. Ringies dominated the catches especially during a good bite. The neatest part of the ringworm baits was they required no livebait – just a jig and the plastic.  The walleye and big saugers SMASH the bait – the hits blew me away. The fish would swallow the plastic and the jig head with a thump!

It didn’t take long to explore other plastics that work so well in the open water cold water fishing. Then the following Fall it didn’t take me long to catch fish on the Croix using plastics as well.

Then a simple jig and minnow can be the best.  Fun.  It is hard to know what to do some days…

Crawlers yep crawlers still.  Caught walleye on them till mid October. Blade baits, jigging raps, and jigging spoons.  Of course anglers love to rig minnows at this point as well such as suckers, shiners, and chubs.  They all work and there’s more actually, again a fun time to be on the water.

You can experiment in the Fall but try not to do too much. Let me explain…

Years ago I had “In Fisherman-itis” I read every magazine of the cutting edge fishing journal, I read articles two and three times.  I knew a lot. I would say though in hindsight I knew too much about all of the new presentations but not enough of just one of them!  I fished and fished and tried and tried every presentation under the sun, then rig another and re rig.  All with little success.

The day would end and I had worked hard, but not really fished, I was too busy rejigging and tying knots.  LOL!  Eventually I settled into a pattern of presentations that worked for me and then fishing came together.

Here is a big walleye that was caught on a Jigging Rapala. It is a very fun way to fish.
Here is a big walleye that was caught while Jigging. As the water cools the jig bite gets better. It is a very fun way to fish.

Not a lot of new news. tough bite for walleye, bass a bit better though.  I wish I could catch white bass again like days gone by when they hit on top water across the basin in the early mornings.. I guess change is inevitable.  The river is still a beauty and most people friendly and just enjoying themselves being on the water, so its a good place to be with or without a hot bite.

Mid summer mid July – the bite gets tougher right now every year.  The right colors,  beads, blades all seem to matter now more than ever. Fish have so much feed that they can ignore you rather easily with the abundance of bait.

Bait never hurts though when it is on structure.  But for some reason not all bait on all structure is the same.  What I mean by that is you can find bait balls in certain places always and for whatever reason the fish don’t hit strongly there. Then when the bait is on other places its lights out good fishing!

The more you understand fishing you should then reach a point you start to ask new questions.  There is always a lot more to learn, that’s how I see it.

 

Late May – My Partner Scott Hale and I won the St. Croix Classic/ Paul Koval walleye tournament. Proud to say Scott and I have won this event now four times.

Here are our two biggest . Total team effort! Good job Scott!!
Here are our two biggest, and the one on the left was the tournaments biggest . Total team effort! We took home heaviest stringer and biggest walleye awards. Good job Scott!!

Mid May – Wow 80 degrees one day then 40 degrees two days later.  Thats fishing in Minnesota and Wisconsin! I was looking for my winter hat this morning before the trip, but I figured the hood on my sweatshirt was good enough. Not.  It is not often that an angler goes from sunscreen to a winter hat.

Well what about the fish?  What about the thunder?? This week we clobbered the fish after some thunder, and today though not as good we did put enough in the boat to call the Miller trip a success.  That is a river for you. The rivers especially with high water buffers the bad weather!

Speaking of thunderstorms, I remember a trip a few years ago the weather was so bad, I had to get off the water fast, and wait out the storm in the bait shop. It poured and Cracked Lightning!  When the smoke cleared there was only about an hour left on the  trip.   Before the storm, we were hammering very nice fish, so with an hour left on the trip we decided to motor back to the spot where we were catchin’, to my surprise – we instantly picked up where we left off.  The storm didn’t matter one iota.  I give a lot of credit to catches to the river! What a great resource.

This was a day I wish I had worn short. Greta fishing from May 2017. St. Croix Walleye Released.
This was a day I ended in shirt sleeves and I wish I had worn shorts. Great fishing from mid May 2017. St. Croix Walleye – Released.

I just finished my three month cold water early spring guide season on Pool Four.  What a great fishery down there! Wow.  I launch out of Everts Resort and have now close to 20 years.  Everts is a special place because of the workers and the fishing community there. You find all walks of life and some very very good anglers.  The Everts Bait Shop is the best flat out river bait store I have been in.  Thanks Everts.

The water of the St. Croix River produces gold. Walleye Gold.
The water of the St. Croix River produces gold. Walleye Gold – 2017.

April 29 -Happy to be back on the St. Croix.  It’s waters are amazing and you need to be in  the boundary waters to find anything like it.  The Croix runs cool for a while, but in summer its a warm water fishery and the catfish and saugers get fired up and chew. Right now the name of the game is walleye.

It is true a lot of the good spots are in community holes, but there are many out of the way places to fish.  I was just thinking this last night… the keepers from the Croix go so far on the dinner table in terms of how much walleye meat you get, that three good sized 17″ walleyes go a long way – its a lot of food.  Limits of six per person is a HUGE bag of meat.  I am not against catching limits by any means, just saying that if you want to fish in places away from the crowd and your goal is solitude, and to bring home some  – 3 to 4 keepers -, there are ample opportunities to fish different locations that hold keepers all year long on the St. Croix River.

next.

Every now and then I have a customer who knows both -a lot about the river, and has fished it for a long time.  Last Fall I had the privilege to Guide a guy like that – Steve Frankosky. Steve and his brother had all these great stories from the Croix I asked Steve to put them down for all of us to enjoy! Thanks Steve!…

 

Steve Frankosky (right). Steve has great stories from the Croix, he put some of them down on paper for all of us to enjoy.
Steve Frankosky (right). Steve has great stories from the Croix, he put some of them down on paper for all of us to enjoy.

Turk asked me for a brief history of fishing the St Croix, I started fishing the Croix back in 1966 or so, I was 15, my dad bought a boat from the Afton Chris Craft marina, now the Afton marina next to Windmill Marina. We got a hand me down 12’ Alumacraft boat and used a 5HP green Johnson SeaHorse moter with a built in small gas tank, my brother Greg and my dad and myself would fish out of it, usually anchor fishing . In 1967 my dad bought a bigger boat, a 38’ used Chris Craft, and we actually started to troll the St Croix using that and with three way wolfe river rigs, that we still use a lot today. This is the era when Russ Lind, a mechanic at the marina, would fish out of his 15’ wooden boat , anchoring at his favorite spot and still fishing with minnows or crawlers. My brother and I would try to beat him out there but no matter what time and what conditions he would always be there, nod his head and give us a wave, many times in the fall he would appear to us out of the fog already anchored up. In the cold, he would have a insulated metal bucket with charcoal in it to keep him warm. He would use two poles, one always in his hand and one dead stick, reminded me of the old man and the sea…
In 1974 we bought a 15’ Alumacraft, I think a F-11 and a 9.9 Evenrude, going big time, it helped us cover a bit more river, up to Hudson and clear down to the Kinni! We usually trolled in the fall, but used lindy rigs with crawlers and some blade baits as well. In 1976 we bought a 25HP Evinrude and used the 9.9 as a kicker, our depthfinder was the old Lowrance green box, still have it! We used that set up, got a 6hp when the 9.9 wore out, till 2009 when I got a 1725 Lund Pro Guide with a 75HP tiller.
We usually launch out of Windmill Marina, it used to be called Windmill Bill’s, my dad moved his cruiser over to that marina in about 1990 from the Afton marina to be closer to friends. We have launched out of Beanies as well.
Beanie used to run a tourney that ran from opener to November in different catagories, walleye, sauger, catfish.., My brother Greg won the sauger and we placed in the walleye, but each year it was fun to watch the board leader weights go up.
Fishing has changed a bit on the Croix, in the 60-70’s the opener was busy with 20-30 boats at catfish, many anchored, silvers were thick and big…in the fall about the same as now but now more trollers and slipfishing with jigs. Best year ever was in the fall of 1968, the water was high, similar to most of this year, Wally McCarthy and his buds would troll near every day back then and starting in mid October walleye limits of 7LB average were happening, the DNR came down and said that schools of Mississippi walleyes, big ones had moved up the Croix and were stacked up on some of the points above the Kinni, not many boats were fishing as it was a cold fall but it was like in the old pictures of big stringers. We follow a lot more catch and release now, with all the big girls going back in to the water, in 2015 my 10 year old great nephew came down to fish the Croix for the first time and nailed a true 30” walleye, he was excited!, we were stunned it was our biggest walleye of the year! I thought that the fall of 2016 was one of the best and most consistent we have had for a few years, my brother nailed a 31”, key is time on the water but fish were active. The Croix is such a great fishery and environment with clean water and sand bottom, just a treasure so close to the cities yet not really overfished, hope it stays that way. From Steve Frankosky.

December, 2016 —

With water temps hovering around 40 degrees, I fished the first week of December from the boat before winter hit. Often the last bite before winter crashes into fall is some good fishing. This was the case again this year. We had a great time catching fish on soft plastics, minnows, and jigging Rapalas.  Not all but some of the bites were thunderous.

When fishing artificial versus live bait the strongest strikes are on artificial.  Its very common to have the jig and  plastic bait struck and shallowed with the entire bait in the mouth.  Then the live minnows are often a light and faint bump.  Not sure why, but walleye crush artificial lures during this cold water bite.