Fall Is Plastic Time
Ringworms in walleye colors, these were originally introduced as bass baits though in different colors.
One of the best parts of fishing in the fall is the widest range of fish catching baits and lures are available now.
Anglers always love to experiment to see what will get the big ones to bite, and for walleye fishing soft plastic baits are a proven pole bender.
I like plastics because when they are on this bite they bites can be tremendous. It is also great to go bait free.
There are several ways to catch'm with plastics but it can be as simple as vertical jigging them just as you would when vertical jigging a jig and minnow-drifting with the current on the river.
Another type of plastic besides what is shown here are what I call fork-tail styles and they are smaller and are tailless, except for a fork tail. Berkley Power Minnows are a good example of what I'm talking about.
With the twister tail that flows and shimmies in the water, you can see why fish like these. The fork tail though is harder to get your head around as to why fish chop them, but they do.
Both the ringworm and fork-tails can be snapped and then held motionless over the bottom.
There are more ways to fish plastics of course but vertical is good especially with of autumn.
Why Mississippi River?
It is the land of GIANTS! Tom Schultz and a his monster eye.
I will not get carried away, and I will not pretend that these giant trophies are common or even uncommon. No they are rare.
I have seen them come in on a trip where nothing bite all day. I have also seen them get landed when the fish where snapping. You can not possibly know when the big ones will hit.
I can tell you with all certainty that they are in the Mississippi River and near spawning grounds both pre spawn, spawn, and many still around during post spawn.
So the areas they reside in during these mentioned seasons are known well to me.
Believe it or not they will hit even
Having the luck to hook, and land one is another matter.
Good luck to you.
Jigs? Good answer! Good answer!!
Jigs and jigging cadences - plus stinger talk
Watching an old episode of Family Feud there was three-piece suit wearing with a carnation on his left lapel, Richard Dawson, commanding the stage with swagger and greeting each female contestant with a smooch.
The feuding families were answering the typical questions like “ name the top seven most popular foods at the fair.” I thought wouldn’t it be great to have Richard ask a fishing question on the show. In his Australian accent “100 people were surveyed and asked to name the most popular walleye fishing presentation or lure.”
A top answer for sure would be crankbaits, another “good answer! – good answer!” would be spinner rigs. Though the number one answer would be jig and minnow.
I’ve spent a lot of years guiding customers and surveyed them for that number one answer. Here is why, jigging especially vertical jigging provides anglers with their own fishing controls. What I mean by that is when you are vertical jigging with a guide or a buddy that you are in charge of getting that fish caught and brought to the net. You felt the bite, you set the hook, and you caught it. It’s not a situation where the guide essentially sets the hook by how the boat is controlled and does the work for you, like crankbaiting or bottom bouncing.
When jig fishing you’re likely sitting in your spot in your chair, it’s your space. Soon enough if you’re catching them the fellow anglers may utter a phrase like “oh you’re in the hot seat!” or “ they’re hitting on that side of the boat!” One way or the other jigging is up to the angler to get it done and not so much on the skipper, fishing location not withstanding.
Vertical jigging in the fall is a top answer in many bodies of water, river or lake, as fish are hanging in deeper water and the boat can sit or drift right over the fish making it a smart move even in clearer water lakes.
If you find yourself getting ready for a fall trip let me provide this material here to help put fish in the boat. Another reason why jigging is a very popular technique is often it’s a “mouse trap” hook set. Set the hook upon the slightest pressure, when you feel the fish you close down on them like a trap arm coming down on a mouse. Slight pressure and you whack em’ straight up with a vertical hook set.
However sometimes even with a jig you need to wait and pause before you set the hook. You need a delayed hook set because the fish has the body of the minnow and not the hook itself. This is exactly similar to crawler fishing when a waiting period is needed prior to a hook set.
Regarding when to set the hook I am asked, “how do you know they have the hook?” I answer, “the rod tip gets heavy,” and it’s as simple as that. You wait until the jig feels about 4x heavier then they have it.
Often you do that instant “trap” hook set on the slightest bump, nudge, or tick and you’ve got the fish! However it’s not unusual you set the hook and “whiff!” come up with just a clean hook. Then you’ve got to wait.
Mix in a stinger hook and now now you can do an instant hook set as the stinger does just what its name implies. However a stinger isn’t a “get out of jail free” card, as a stinger can be a bite deterrent!
Presumably the treble hook and wire of the stinger can make the jig look unnatural and that’s why I believe a fish will snub. Let me make a key point, if they snub it, its often when its lightly jigged or simply hovering off of the bottom and then the stinger looks wrong to the fish. The stinger hook add on is a real weapon when its aggressively jigged in a continuous non stop jigging motion.
You may be saying to yourself okay, maybe I’ll just use a stinger always and always jig aggressively. That’s a natural conclusion but what in fishing works ALL the time? There are times they will absolutely snub the aggressive action and hit a plain jig and minnow just held off of the bottom.
In conclusion, you have a few choices here, hold off the bottom and drop and touch bottom and lift and when you get hit do an instant set, but if you whiff then there is a bit of waiting period, and you set the hook upon the extra weight. If it’s still a lot of whiffing then the stinger comes into play, but sharply snap jig! Watch your line fall to detect bite just like ice fishing for crappie.
If jigging for you is “the number one answer” I hope this autumn the female walleye find you just like Richard D and give your jigs a kiss.
The cold water - Good Catching.
The fishing was great but the catching was slow. I was trying a new technique that came to me one night laying in bed and its an off shoot of an already used technique, anyway it was fun to be out in the cool of the morning was quiet and so was the river.
All I saw were some whisps of smoke rising from the water in the shade on the Wisconsin side rising up in the morning light.
I can not not notice the black squadrons of cormorants flying in from their rookery in Bayport by the Allen S. King Plant. The cormorants came in three waves of 20 to 30 birds a piece.
I was very interested to see where they land as they hunt down the shad baitfish and feast. I saw all squadrons land out in the open water over the soft bottom of the river were its about 50 feet deep.
There they hunt for the open water fish. Interestingly enough the first squad started hunting and then within three minutes up and left. They left in unison I was impressed they are a machine and hunt in an organized fashion. later in the day they spread out but in the morning it appears they are pack like.
So they are a bird that has been much hated because they eat so many fish species, I am not sure about how detrimental they are to the river gamefish as I would guess they prey on mostly shad, but who knows. I have seen pictures of them holding a fish, one was a 1 pound pike and the bird was preparing to swallow it whole! wow.
Double breasted cormorant
So I am wondering how many cormorants are on the river right now? It does appear that they are growing in number. Are they a problem? Good question.
So the morning went nice I caught a sizable drum that felt like a walleye while experimenting with my new idea. I was extremely excited all by my self and upon the bump of a bite I instantly snapped a hook set. I got it up off the bottom and it wanted to dig I switched off the anti reverse handle and back reeled instead of the drag.
This is very old school to back reel and I do it a lot especially if I really want to see a fish or need a fish or need affirmation when trying to crack a code. Anyway I reverse reeled here and played it good enough to get it up. Nice drum, but a drum. I was targeting eye and saug dogs.
I was having fun with this experimentation and fished it for another two hours, I grabbed a 14" eye and a 18" sauger that absolutely crushed the lure.
It wasn't good catching but it was good fishing and I felt happy that I could enjoy fishing for what it was just a brief morning trip, a fishing trip.
Mid July 2019.
There are three main flowers that I use to signal that an official season of nature is here. The first is the daffodil, this signals that the earth has finally heated up to a point after a long winter and is coming to life.
The second is the dandelion, this is a signal that extended periods of warmth have came and that sun levels are constant enough to really get the earth alive - it came to life.
Third is the tiger lilly and this is the "true summer" herald this is a time the colder water fish like the walleye become just another specie and catfish and muskie start to become active, plus crappies become more and more a regular part of the take home bucket. The tiger lilies is when the life that came alive grows.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the ego of walleye and bass fishing, and being the fishing hero, but that's not what fishing is supposed to be. If you can keep ego out and see it with a childlike wonder you are really ahead in terms of keeping it a pastime for pleasure. This is where cats come in.
Sure an angler can get carried away in their cat-fishing prowess but many of the cat trips for me are just fun and somebody in the boat isn't keep track of how close we are to the limit.
I come from a meat gathering extended family and I want limits at times, I don't begrudge you of this, truly I don't. I am just speaking to how catfishing is just plain fun and not about catching the most. If you haven't tried it it is very simple compared to walleye fishing because you get to anchor and watch set lines.
The catching can be another matter, but anyone used to fishing lots of locations and stopping until they strike their target can pick up catfishing.
Plus the poles you get to use are real sturdy and heavy line and big hooks!
Plus no other fish fights like a channel cat! None. A ten pound channel cat would drown a sturgeon if their tails were tied together. A sturgeon would do that to a smallmouth.
Walleye Tournament Notes - Paul Koval Memorial St. Croix Classic 2019.
I used to fish a lot more tournaments and if you have seen my signature byline on the report page there are several different names of tournaments I have participated in.
Over the last few years, I have narrowed my participation to one event and that is the Paul Koval Memorial event. I would still do the Beanie River Rat - as thats a whole different ball of wax in late September - and thats an event that sometimes any bag of six legal fish can win. Those can be fun events too. Those are events you really need to know the water.
But Gary and Dottie Mau sold Beanies and times move on and the event is no more.
I fish this event mainly because I have a good time fishing with my partner Scott Hale and its a chance for us get after it and fish nose to the grindstone, which I enjoy.
Scott also is a never say die guy, and we get along very well and see eye to eye and that makes pressure events go well. I talk about this topic in my class, way important.
This year we both didn't talk about it but we wanted to win it and " three-peat " for three straight wins.
This year we picked a spot where we completely believed the winning bag would be. The conditions were right and pre-fishing confirmed beliefs. We also had it in our minds that we took first place here last year and it was going to be history repeating itself- hoping...
We arrived on site and it was a mess, boats were all over. Before I can start to pull some guy comes by rip jigging and driving from his bow mount while his partner is stringing up the line on his rod and looking at me strangely, and then completely cuts me off. No biggie... you go thorough once next time is my turn through first, I thought.
Then one boat was suddenly anchored and the rope was allowing a sway in the place we got a 21" eye.
It was not as jammed up as it can be, as I fish Red Wing and truly understand bumper boats, but there was congestion. Whatever its a tourney, been there, seen worse.
Other boats were cool and I've mellowed a lot in these events. But I looked at the clock and its 9:30 and we have one, ONE fish, in the box and this is a TEN fish tourney.
We decided to cut rope and throw our plans out the window. We had a crappy wind making "my stuff" tough, and we just didn't feel it. Didn't feel fishy. So we cut rope.
The next spot we went to was really not a place to be in the highwater, but we only waisted 12 minutes there. This isn't a fun feeling.
I told Scott some facts from the Frankosky trip what we got, and that there was in fact some size to be had.
This event has been good to us over the years because its a ten fish bag weigh. Its that tenth fish that can determine the winner many years. Ten is the number you've got to have. Scott said we can get ten there. Good because I thought this was our only choice too.
We arrived at the community stretch of the river and this areas has 21 specific spots that I know hold fish based on the conditions.
As luck would have it some of the places I wanted to hit were open.
It was a slow go, but by 10:30 am we had 3 in the boat. 4 came. Time moves really fast when you don't want it to. Then 5. Time. Then 6 and 7 were a double and it started looking good.
It turns out with ten minutes to go we finally boat number ten. "Lets get back to check in because if we are late Kenny will give us the DQ!"
Nobody wants a disqualification with a potentially winning bag.
It turns out champs wasn't to be had another team had a big bag. We did have 20 pounds for second place and it was the tenth fish that marked the difference from third.
Thank-you Kenny Lundgren and to Mary and Janice the Koval daughters for making this event super well run and fun. For ten years with a sit down dinner that is good food! BBQ ribs oh man. Plus door prizes galore. Well done. Thanks again.
Some of you received an email about my fishing course I was teaching. It is detailed on my Tip of The Week page. I taught the 4 night course two times last winter.
Here is a letter from a student who attended my second course. It is a professional level course designed for you to know what I know about fish movement, it will, oh I will let Joe explain:
March 10, 2019
Why I Took Charlie “Turk” Gierke’s Walleye Fishing Course – Piece It Together Like a Pro.
I am seventy years old. I have fished walleye in Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Canada since I was five. I fish mostly in the spring and fall because that is when I can catch walleye on a regular basis. I am a sucker for success.
Like most guys my age I have fewer fishing partners today than twenty years ago. About ten years ago I cultivated a few younger men to fish with as my old buddies aged and I watched them give up cold weather fishing after age sixty-five.
My new pal is a walleye enthusiast and fifteen years younger. He loves to portage and paddle after walleye. He also loves to fish North and South Dakota as well as the St. Croix River.
He has made me a more enthusiastic walleye fisherman and he has made me a better walleye fisherman.
So when my pal comes over to pick up his share of the goose sticks from a Christmas goose hunting trip to Montana and is hyper excited about a course in walleye fishing he has just completed – I paid attention.
He explained that his whole approach to walleye fishing has been altered – I stopped him. Wait, says I, you know how to fish walleye.
No, he says, think of a walleye shaped jigsaw puzzle. Mine had all the pieces lying on the bottom of my tackle box but I never put them all together. I have been skunked a lot. I have never liked it. I do OK in the spring and fall but in between I fish but I do not catch much.
Then he said the magic words: you have to take the course.
Why, I want to know? You can just tell me what was in the course.
No, he said. I could read the whole thing to you and you would still not get it. There is a cost for it. Sure there is. You know how I am about money. It was worth it. It has changed my whole approach to walleye fishing.
Lucky for me I heard from my pal that there was another course session starting the following week. I signed up and arrived at the class location along with eleven other walleye hunters.
The group was filled with experienced walleye fisherman however after taking the course I wish I had taken it as a novice. My walleye path would have been paved with many more fish. I should note that Gierke just put this jigsaw together after twenty years guiding walleye fisherman so I got it as soon as I could.
I now feel like I have all the pieces to my walleye jug saw in my tackle box and the knowledge to put them together to enhance my fishing experience. I feel confident I can fish where the fish are with Turk Gierke’s new system.
I will do more courses in the future - if interested to be put on a list let me know. Turk
MORE Zebra Mussels Transfer Culprits but there is Hope -Nature Takes Care of Itself.
For what seems like 25 years us river anglers on the Mississippi and St. Croix have had to deal with zebra mussels. When they first came on the scene it was obvious that they were a large infestation on the flowing waters. Bring up a log or any drowned river object and they were covered by zebs.
If you were trolling and bumping bottom with a crankbait you could have your line cut when the Rapala went by a zebra mussel covered rock or downed wood. There were stories after stories of zebs clogging intake pipes from water plants or power plants.
Since the story broke of zebra mussel infestation popping up on new lake after new lake, the tale went that zebra mussel veligers (their smallest form) are transfered by anglers bringing bait buckets from one body of water to the next and through water transport via livewells.
Many anglers like myself have thought and rightly so the above is true, but that there are many others ways water gets transported. Ways such as the mechanical design of motors to use water for cooling transports water, or wet areas of wave runners. Other places like carpet covered bunk trailers are always wet transports water too.
In fact last summer I was thinking of this topic as I noticed I had two small trees growing in the rear end carpet fold on my boat trailer. These sprouts had fallen in the crevice and clearly found enough water to grow. Surely a veliger could find a brief home in this same spot.
So today I find this headline: Zebra mussels’ best friend: wakeboard boats, new U study finds.
I took out this excerpt as I find it informative as it ranks the trouble makers:
“In those boats that had more than five larvae on board, here’s how the various compartments of various boats stacked up, ranked from most likely to least likely: ballast, sterndrive engine, outboard motor, livewell, foot well (where occupants’ feet go in some boats), splash well (open basin right behind the outboard in some boats), bilge, and jet. The bigger the compartment, the more larvae were found.”
Here is the article: https://www.twincities.com/2019/01/22/zebra-mussels-wakeboard-boats-umn-study-livewells-mn/
Finally there has been “evidence” of what we as laymen always knew -- that zebra mussel veligers get moved through processes other than by joe fisherman’s bucket and livewell.
It is confirmed what many of us knew, but this isn’t good news it means that we can never stop the spread! We can’t, but hold on, there is light at the end of this tunnel, it might take 20 years but I believe there is light. Here is why. One thing I believe that is not commonly found in print is the idea that the longer the zebs are in a particular body of water that their population falls over time. I have only anecdotal evidence from The Saint Croix but the volume of my anecdotes carry reasonable weight as far as I’m concerned. In 2018, when you snag an old rope, or anchor, lift up a sunk branch, raise an old fishing pole, what do you not see in abundance or at all, something I used to see 20 years ago? Yep zebs.
Not a scientific study? I agree, but as far as I know that is exactly how zeb densities are studied by observing and counting on test drop sites. I understand this testing involves the lifting of objects and counting the zebs numbers. Sound familiar? I have done this same study for 20 years albeit unintentionally. So how is this possible? I believe that in time fish like perch and sunfish pick and peck at the zebs and eat them and control the population. The boom in time even the zebs become just another specie in a lake.
In fact I found research showing this belief of mine that fish eat zebra mussels in a fisheries study.
Predation on Zebra Mussels by Freshwater Drum and Yellow Perch in Western Lake Erie
T.W. Morrison, W.E. Lynch Jr. & K. Dabrowski found that ” Zebra mussels were consumed by freshwater drum and yellow perch.”
I would guess there will be a huge overreaction to the study finding wake boats as culprits to the spread, and a large discussion about engine redesign. I feel it is all overblown and in time it will be just as the Saint Croix today.
I am not advocating transporting water through bait buckets and livewells or doing away with AIS laws. What I am advocating is ratcheting down the gloom and doom rhetoric about zebs as I believe, in time, the population explodes with a boom, then busts – as nature, and not us humans, takes care of itself.
Next guide season is 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.
Mid November. Snow in the boat! If it wasn’t for the wind it would’ve been heavenly. I pulled into a fishing location I know like the back of my hand, but with the flurries I was all turned around and it was an erie atmosphere like a dreamscape. The I had to snap out of it to strart baiting up hooks they way I like it done and then started explaining presentation deployment and the bite.
The the wind kept blowing. We started fishing, I landed a fish right away and showed the guys a 17″ walleye, it was funny because two of the three guests didn’t even notice me reel in a fish. A similar event happen recently as well, where you get a nice one right away and that relieves peoples' minds as to why are we out here fishing when its snowing?!
Because the bite is good – and you’re a little bit nuts too.
I really enjoy this time of year. The places I launch are winding down for the year. The dock pushers are about done for the year pushing the endless amount of residential dock up and down the river, and its just the end of the season everywhere else. Kind of the last hurrah. Long time ago I that guy that stay really late at the party and closed it down for good or bad. I have been closing down the St. Croix River for about 20 years now and fishing this bite many many days. That will end someday, but not now not this year. The river gets so crazy busy in the summer that hanging out one on one with this lovely lady is just really great.
Loons, immature Loons are still here and have been for a good moth. Very nice birds, and though they are immature juveniles they still know their tell-tale songs very well.
The St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers are connected and I believe see fish that migrate from both resources, therefore what happens down there can effect the St. Croix…
Below is a survey from the Lake City Area fisheries department they are proposing some changes like keeping only one walleye over 20″. This is better than no restriction such as they have now!
Also they are looking to change white bass limits from 25 to 10! Nobody needs to keep 25 white bass.
Please take the time to do the survey, it ends in about two weeks.
Rear drag fishing reels –
the best design for freshwater panfish, walleye, smallies, and finesse largemouth
If you fish panfish, walleye, smallmouth, or finesse rigs for largemouth bass you are certainly familiar with the spinning reel. Spinning reels come in three designs: top drag, rear (bottom) drag, and the bait runner. I will talk about the first two here in this article where I take a stand that fly’s in the face of popular opinion and that is – the rear drag is a superior design for most freshwater applications.
Of the three mentioned designs the top drag spinning reels are the most commonly sold and used by anglers. The top drag reel design has the drag adjustment knob on the top of the spool. Not as common now and in the past more prevalent, the rear drag spinning reel has the drag adjustment knob mounted on the bottom of the reel.
As I recall years ago the top drag and the rear drag spinning reels were about equally offered merchandise sold in stores, and over time the top drag reels dominated the shelves.
About 20 years ago I remember one of the industry’s leading experts explaining that the top drag-spinning reel is far superior to the rear drag because it was a stronger drag.
I, like the rest of you, slowly started to buy exclusively top drag spinning reels to a point where over time that’s all I owned. I bought it because it was stronger, and because that’s what everyone was doing. Hey stronger is better, right? As stronger reels are better to fight fish with, makes sense… bye bye rear drag.
Then one day last year I had two reels crap out on me and I bought two reels of the same model, make, and size that I thought were two top drags. When I got back home I saw I bought the same model, make, and size, but one was a rear drag. I cursed and didn’t have time to make a return, I needed the rigs ready for a guide trip the next day. This is how I was reintroduced to the rear drag.
I forgot how much I liked using the rear drag reels based on the drag accessibility.
What I mean by drag accessibility is the top drag is completely clunky in actually loosing and tightening the drag in the heat of the battle. As you know when you fight a big fish there is a lot of action and making the drag adjustment on a top drag with the fishing line exactly in the way of your hand is tricky. The rear drag is located exactly on the bottom of the reel out of the way of the fishing line.
Many things can happen when you are fighting a fish and placing your hand in front of the reel on the top and trying to make and adjustment can be tricky. What I have seen happen over the past 20 years of guiding is a big fish comes in easy and when it sees the boat or gets close- it makes a run – a fisherman stumbles clumsily trying to loosen the top drag as the fish makes a strong push hard away and breaks the line.
So you say, “why not just have the drag set so the fish can run to begin with – then you don’t have to worry about adjusting the drag on a big fish?” Good question. I will tell you why.
For many freshwater fishing applications monofilament is the best. For example fishing bait in 25-27 feet of water or shallower you want mono. What is mono’s best fish catching point? It’s that it has stealth; it stretches, so the stretch lets the fish take bait and not feel you instantly like braid does. However the problem with stretch is that it makes hook sets not a solid. Especially with the commonly used 6 pound line. Here is where the drag talk comes in and this is the crux of my argument. You need you drag maxed out when setting hooks especially when fishing mono. After the hook set then you loosen the drag when you feel the fish.
If while fishing you have your drag set for a fish to run, as many people do, the drag will slip upon the hook set, essentially making the mono line even more stretchy. You will not get the best hook sets with a drag that slips upon hook set.
Here is where the rear drag comes in. When you get a big fish its not always completely known that it’s as good as it is. Sure sometimes you know you’ve got a hog right away. Take Smallies for example, they often grow in size as the fight progresses. Then if you drag is maxed out in tightness for proper hook setting and it makes a beast of a run making the adjustment with a top drag is clumsy and I have seen anglers not loosen the top drag fast enough!
Not so with the rear drag – and this is why precisely it was designed. The knob is so accessible and a simple half knob rotation to loosen the drag can happen as fast as the fish can run.
You may still be stuck on the “ stronger drag” theory of why you use a top drag. I grant that argument. However an Allison transmission is stronger than what I have in my standard 1500 Silverado, I don’t need an Allison transmission because I’m not hauling farm impliments. I’ve had one fish in my life fry my drag and that was a 5 pound bonefish in the Virgin Islands. My drag locked up during the fight and was ruined after that – it was a freshwater top drag btw… There is NO freshwater walleye, bass, panfish that is going to fry your drag. It is not going to happen. So why do you need a drag that a salt water angler needs?
I still have top drag reels in my boat, I’m not going to throw them out but for the reasons I espoused here I am integrating back into my system one purchase at a time the rear drag spinning reel – bye bye top drag it was nice knowing you