Eater saugers (14"+) often found near the "Transition Zone"
If you spend enough time in the woods or on the water the comings and goings of game and fish become easier to understand, interestingly the habits of game parallel each other regardless if they travel via fin, wing, or hoof. A pheasant will use the edge of tall thick grasses for cover and pick for seeds in the interface where the shorter thinner grasses meet. Northern pike roam the edge of the weeds and the non-vegetated lake bottom. Deer make trails consistently in the border between cornfields and wood lots.
These examples and more describe areas game find appealing, and what they share in common is the combination of two distinct types of cover or habitat, seemingly more important to game is the interface, or border of where these areas meet. The reason why game use these areas is not exactly important I suppose, but when they use these areas are important to remember. Game use these area when they are unpressured. These transition zones are not the thickest covers or sanctuaries, but travel areas, roaming, and feeding areas.
Focusing on fish, an easily overlooked area to target gamefish is the transition zone between the hard bottom and the soft bottom of the lake or river. Of all the substrates found in a body of water, I would bet that the soft bottom of a lake is less thought of when compared to rocks, weedlines, sand, or downed wood. The silty, puffy bottoms of the soft basin are easily forgotten and non-imagined in many anglers minds. This area should be imagined or pictured when fishing because this transition zone is an area used by fish that welcome deep water – perch, sauger, and walleye.
Perch and walleye are everyday words to the angler, the less known sauger is actually a close cousin to the walleye, and saugers are found in riverine fisheries or in lakes connected to rivers such as Lake of the Woods. I find them on the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers. The sauger is every bit as good on the table as perch and walleye, many say better! These fish are almost always found deeper than walleye, saugers lurk in the depths, they are a sucker for the transition zone of the hard and soft bottom.
Transition zones are in lakes with varying depths, but deep lakes will have the more classic transition zones. This area is usually around 30 feet deep, naturally variations exist, and therefore specific methods are needed to find the zone. In a boat watch the depthfinder, a hard bottom will reflect a stronger signal and produce a wider or thicker bottom signal. A soft bottom will return a thin bottom signal. Note the depth where these bottoms meet and you have found the transition zone.
Tactics to take sauger are almost identical to catching walleye. Saugers are mainly colored bronze with black mottling on the upper half with white bellies, where a green and gold upper half with a white underside characterizes the walleye. Saugers are positively identified by their black spots on the dorsal fin. Saugers are also on the average smaller than their cousin the walleye, however they fall for lures just as big as lures you would use to catch walleye.
Saugers are aggressive fish and will chase lures. Try to jig a fish off of the bottom around two or three feet, when the standard close to the bottom presentation is not working Another difference between saugers and walleyes is saugers appear to be homebodies. Maybe specific fish will not stay in the same area, but a sauger holding area is used by enough saugers to appear that somebody is always home. Walleyes are far more here today and gone tomorrow.
More Than Catchin'
It was a little past one in the afternoon when Mel Westrom set the hooks into a solid walleye. After the fight ended I scooped up the 18” walleye in the landing net, wrestled the treble hooks belonging to a chartreuse crankbait out of the net and tossed the walleye in the livewell where it was now joined with a good number of other walleye, sauger plus a few white bass.
We were starting to take fish rather easily now on the St. Croix River after a slower morning bite, but that isn’t the story of this trip. The real story of the day went beyond numbers of fish, it was about the relationship built between this uncle and nephew.
Fred Coleman called me up and scheduled a trip, as he wanted to take out his Uncle Mel fishing. “He was always there for me,” said Fred of Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin on the telephone.
“All through school, he went to my games, and in more ways than one whenever I needed anything, he was always there for me” reiterated Fred about his Uncle Mel.
As Fred said this, I smiled and nodded, said nothing else, I understood what his uncle meant to him. Being there with the changing leaves turning yellow, falling and blowing, the wind gently rolling the waves, (call me sappy I don't care), it was a special moment.
“He was always there for me.” That statement resounded in my mind, I naturally couldn’t help but think what a world this would be if all of us developed relationships the way Mel Westrom did.
Along with serving his family, Mel also served his country greatly in his younger years, and the following two paragraphs are from Fred Coleman…
“Suffice it to say that my uncle Mel was a much decorated WWII veteran.
He served in the 15th US Army Air Corp, 463 Group, 7775 Squadron. Briefly,
he served in 9 theaters of operation as a tail gunner, in a B-17 bomber. He
has many medals to his credit which include several bonze stars, a silver
star, a presidential citation, victory medal, air medal, good conduct
medal, European, African, Mid-East campaign medal, and two purple hearts,
just to name a few.
He was born August 4th, 1923, in Minneapolis
Minnesota. He has spent most of his life fishing and hunting in Minnesota.
After the war he was a small business owner in Stillwater.
He continues to be an exemplary role model for his children, grandchildren,
nieces and nephews.”
The bite was picking up and Fred really hadn’t caught his fair share, Mel gave his nephew of some 50 years old some friend jabs about the catching.
Then on que Fred caught the largest walleye of the day, near 20”; Mel responded with a “well it’s about time!” Fred just smiled.
We shared sandwiches, crackers, and candy bars, had some laughs, and enjoyed the cool sunny weather. The trip ended as usual with thank-yous and your welcomes, we said good bye. I was left however with a lasting impression on how to live, a reiterance of family relationships, and a remembrance of my vows as godfather. Mel could have millions I don’t know, but money is nothing, in comparison to the commitment he has shown through the years.
I love the St. Croix River it’s got abundant fish diversity, the water looks like root beer, catching is good,
and the river valley area is where I’ve lived and raised a family.
My take on River Fishing the winter on the Croix:
Ice fishing on the river is a challenge because on the upper end above Stillwater the flow creates unsafe
ice conditions so the back water areas that have sunfish and perch are extremely difficult to get to and
again are unsafe from sketchy ice.
Then the lower end of the St. Croix south of Hudson to Prescott is a walleye and sauger fishery on points,
shelves, or large structure. In this stretch the water is so deep - it averages over 50’ in this stretch all this
vast deep open basin makes pan fishing hard.
By far the most fishable area of the river lies from Stillwater to Hudson. This is what I call the “Bayport
Pool.” Where the depth is much less and is 34-foot average in depth and because there is so much less
water (this is open basin fishing) the crappie fishing and even white bass is good.
This “Bayport Pool” is widely popular of an area to fish because of the size of crappies.
The issue is however these fish roam a lot and it’s hit or miss finding them.
Because the pan fishing for crappies in this Bayport Pool is workable and depth range to target
suspended fish in a 30 foot mark is still a challenge. Its still a lot of water. Thus this is why its hit or miss
on the river, and I am a person who has come to realize that anglers want action especially on the ice.
When I ice fish I target local area lakes within 20 miles for panfish.
Tip for ON:
Mid Season Sunfish.
As the ice season rolls on mother nature goes into a deep slumber and lake vegetation beds once alive
now are nearly fallen and brown just like the leaves fall from the trees.
When this happens, the lake life has not as much real need to stay in the weedbed area, sure, some
minnows and critters will bury and hide in the fallen weed mats, some will scavenge the deep basin, and
others will suspend for microorganisms. Point is weedbeds aren’t always the top target area.
This is the time of year that fish will seek other cover than the weed beds, and this is when cribs are a
must-known area for you to target.
Cribs are wooden structures sunken and filled with brush by angling clubs, to provide fish habitat, If the
lake you are fishing has cribs you need to know it because they can be dynamite for fishing.
The issue with cribs is that they are placed by people, it is hard to be predicted where they are. In other
words, they’re hard to find. Especially on the ice.
Tip of the week #1:
Do your homework and find out via a friend or internet search where the cribs are as they are hard to
find and frustrating to find once you’re on ice from the ol’ pop a hole and drop the Vexilar down and
look approach. In hopes of bumping into them.
Tip 1A: Lakes with cribs are better fished in a find and sit than run and gun style. Fish will appear out of
Also imagine where your lure is targeting, on which area of the crib, because, sometimes, they want it
on the crib base near on the lake bottom. You go to them versus them coming up to the top to bite. If
the bite is “on” they will hit anywhere on or above the crib.
Enough Little things
Can turn into big Fish
If you didn't see it, I did a tip recently about how to hook a leech.
I admit Its pretty picky but the details matter in fishing and if you do enough small details right it adds up in a much bigger way.
Another example is the slow death hooked crawler, that's a tricky presentation that also needs to be just right.
If you didn't see that tip for hooking leeches I made a diagram- crude hand sketched - but its works for demonstration purposes.
I have 5 red x's for were to not hook, and two places I think work.
Speed is also key when you conceptualize where the fish are, and how fast you want to go by them.
The longer I fish the more I conceptualize where they are versus simply bumping into them.
Trust me I have no issue bumping into them, and there are days that every place I think they are - they aren't - and I have to cover water and then have the fish hit or strike to find active fish.
The pic here in this column is a measured 29" twin cities St Croix river walleye that had recently spawned out - look at how thin the back is between the 1st and 2nd dorsal fin.
I had a good idea in my mind where she was and let the bait hover, this was a crawler caught nose hooked presentation. I applied a slow speed and had guessed right.
Here the little things were the speed and how I had that crawler hooked so the hook bit on the take.
It almost got away near the top but that's another story on how to fight fish, which I probably wrote about somewhere here on this stie. lol. :)
Fishing With Kids - Hook Them For Life
Action keeps them in the game
Its better "to luck into fish" like this one than target and expect them.
As a professional fishing guide I have learned a few tricks and pitfalls to avoid in order to do your best to hook them for life.
The first area to get your head around, is deciding whom the trip is for. I have customers that want to limit out on walleye and turn their nine year old son onto fishing at the same time.
This “have your cake and eat it too” request is possible at certain times, then there are other times its not possible, to really crush the eyes, and actions would turn a kid off and not on.
So you need to set realistic goals for you and them.
Young anglers are in different stages, keeping a new angler in the boat for eight hours isn't a good thing. On the other hand there are those that can fish for a full day, though you run the risk of it back firing on you.
My experience has found, when you keep them wanting by heading back home early rather than later, the sweet phrase of “Dad, when are we going fishing again?” will likely be uttered.
Know your angler and do not keep them out too long.
Late Season Perch - Tech
“Out of sight, Out of Mind”
From my experience ice fishing the late season panfish bite, the biggest challenge is fish becoming conditioned to lures very quickly and ignoring baits. This conditioning applies even to a school right after one, two, or three fish were quickly caught.
I do not believe we will ever know why exactly fish do things, but when you catch two nice perch instantly on a gold spoon and a minnow head, and the electronics shows several more fish underneath, and they don’t bite something is up.
I have come to recognize this as lure conditioning and again it becomes more and more pronounced as the season progresses, perhaps because of prolonged angling pressure?
The good news is when they wham hit, and brakes screeching stop, if immediately you change up your presentation they can hit again.
In fact, it’s as if the fish have such poor short-term memory that when you reel up, take away, that gold spoon and minnow head for five minutes, and drop it down later, they bite, as if they never saw it before!
It is not once they quit hitting, its over, no, but get the bait out of sight from the pannies for a spell, In other words “out of sight, out of mind.”
This intentional take away game appears to keep the hole hot longer, where the fish are intrigued and teased to stick around. Also, I find this pulls fish in from the area, but this means you need to be organized and efficient in getting lures baits down fast.
It is great fun to try all those toys in your tackle chest and seeing what the fish like. I find that a cycle of three rods works best. To be clear, I’m fishing two rods for two holes.
“Out of Sight, Out of Mind” three rod rotation:
My aim is to fish on a found good spot and continue to draw fish in as I stay warm and cozy. To start, I punch holes and move my Fish Trap until I find a particular hole with good fish activity. Once found, I call fish in and not allow them to hit for a minute, this can seem like a long minute! To do this I simply take the jig away and reel up as the marks rise.
When I fish the three-rod rotation I show them the minnow on the bobber last.
A large part of the three-pole technique involves spring bobbers on the jig and spoon rods, because when I set them down in a rod holder I can watch the spring, as they absolutely hit the deadsticked bait or eat and just sit there. This is especially true for perch and crappies.
Tweak presentations of lure and color of course, but this takes time, and I find it of utmost catching importance is to keep fish under you and interested, therefore at a minimum one bait needs to be always down there.
Fastest changes are plastic tails style and color, to me there are two types of ice plastics, a straight thin tail or some creature shape. For me it seems the longest I can work a bait is 10 minutes before changing up. When you drop a minnow, often you can land one, two, or three fish extremely fast and then crickets. I immediately take away the minnow and don’t let them see the minnow for a while.
In the late season when panfish that are still swimming and have seen a lot of lures, appear to get wise and finicky fast, go ahead and work their poor short-term memory against them and get out of sight, out of mind, and set some hooks!
Fight Hard, Hit Lures, Take Bait - Taste Great
Among all the species in the river, either channel catfish, saugers, flatheads, even sturgeon, maybe the best fish you won't find in many lakes is the white bass.
White bass affectionately known as "Silvers" are what a fish should be. They strike hard, fight very well, and eat good.
Over the years water changes - the resources we fish, changes, and thus what the fish do or don't do - changes along too.
On the St. Croix River the water has cleared from 13 - 20 plus years ago. As a result there is more vegetation, as light can reached the bottom at greater depths and grow more aquatic plants.
This plant growth has spurred on a population boom of perch to such a result as on a recent walleye trip, there among the trips catches, we had eight perch and four were keepers. So what? You may ask that's average, I agree maybe on a lake, but for many years on the river guiding, perch, yes perch, were the rarest fish to catch and if I got eight all season that was a lot! No joke.
Back to White Bass, the clearing water has changed how you fish for them. When the water was darker these silvers would routinely drive shad to the surface and boil and churn the water while feeding with wild abandon.
Gulls would dive into this forage chowing kettle, and shad would squirt out of the water. This action was easy to see and tens of boats would actively fish for whiteys on the surface with Mepps Spinners, Wordens Roosters Tails, small spoons, or Mister Twister Grubs on a jig.
Although this bite can still happen it lasts on the top water so shortly, when you arrive the feeding frenzy disappears under the water. Moring and dusk are still your best times to topwater.
The joy of the topwater white bass bite comes from a crushed lure on every accurate cast. Even after a few silver hard hits, a new baits paint will start scraping off from the fishes jaws and speed of attack!
I guess this is one sign of getting old, talking about a fishery 20 years ago, but this topwater bite lasted for two hours, where if you'd motor and chase the gull/shad/white bass action you could keep catching fish this way.
Two hours in the morning and two hours at about near dusk this happened all summer, not during the cold water of spring and autumn which is what I feel is the peak bite.
Now a days when the water is cold the white bass are still very active in the St. Croix River system, but are caught close to the bottom.
Whiteys love minnows, a jig and a minnow is a lure and bait combo they can't refuse. They also crush walleye crankbaits with wild abandon. They love Jig N' Raps too, bottom spoons worked in a snap up and a bottom drop is another great lure to use ( and one not often tried anymore with the earned popularity of Jig N' Raps).
Once White bass reach 11" or greater they spend their time hunting down shad. I have witnessed dozens of them in a coordinated effort appear out of nowhere, emerge in a wall and shove bait balls to a rocky point and smash the shad. They did it with the precision of a wolf pack displaying very sophisticated hunting instincts.
Of all the fish species to target with new comer anglers, when they are hot, in my opinion, it would be the white bass. Its everything I think a fish should be - numerous, aggressive, lure strikers, bait takers, and eaters.
However White Bass aren't that sexy of a specie like the sturgeon which the regulators do back flips to protect on the St. Croix, which is fine of course- they are an incredible fish, but, still to this day the DNR allows a limit of 25 per person per day. That's an absurd number, for all intents and purposes the DNR both MN and WI say basically take as many as you want. Hey isn't 50 fish between two people essentially no limit? Three people you can take 75? This needs to change.
Give white bass fishing a try, if you like to fish, you may find them one of your favorites I know I did.
There is a saying amongst card players, it's playing on "House Money."
The phrase is uttered when a player is ahead chips wise and they are playing on their winnings from the house or casino, and not the cash they brought to the casino.
There is a saying amongst anglers and they utter it, when they are enjoying themselves on the water per the vistas and scenery. My best pal Ronnie growing up used to say it every time out. "It's just good to be out here on the water." I always would nod and say, ya.. though thinking to myself, well I guess, but I sure wish we were catching fish!
Ron played on house money while we fished, people are all wired differently, and that will always be true, so playing on house money for some is a nice bag a fish to take home and others its just being out.
Enjoy the summer. turk
Negative? Find Cover
Structure is NOT cover
I am getting fish nerdy here, but in my opinion this is some nerd, that is important.
Structure is the bottom, and whats on the bottom is cover.
Buck Perry taught this in 1963. Buck figured out, made famous, AND invented the term:
Buck was such a phenomenal angler he mapped out the lake by trolling and bottom bumping. This is how he found the learned structure, and then found the best structure.
To do this he invented a sinking lure to do this, The Spoonplug. Critics of Buck thought he was just a lure salesman, but what Buck really sold was a system. As detailed in his book Spoonpluging.
So all of this was in the days that the good ol boys just kept casting plugs and worms to stumps and docks.
Buck went off shore trolled, killed the fish, won tournaments. Buck got banned with his style of fishing. To this day the bass guys still can't troll legally! LOL.
and Steep Sharp breaklines
If a lake was a perfect smooth bowl shape it would have NO structure.
Standing submerged tress
If the fish are negative find Cover.
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.
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.
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