Whether we like it or not, fall is here! I love this time of year, but I'm not a big fan of what comes after. That's the price we pay for living "Up North"! It's been awhile since we dedicated a day to smallmouth fishing, and Saturday was the perfect opportunity to do it. Dustin Hofler (Nora Springs, IA) and Pat Fair (Riceville, IA) fished with me a few years ago after a tornado had blown through Hayward. Literally… It was a crazy day with crazy wind. Thunderstorms rolled through northwest Wisconsin again early on Saturday morning, and it was a bit of Deja Vu… The smallies were predictably stubborn in the morning after all of the banging that went on, and we struggled to put a few fish in the net with lots of dropped hits and a very lethargic bite. They were there, but they were not in a good mood. Pat's 20" magnum was definitely the highlight of our AM shift, and I considered switching lakes after lunch. We were marking plenty of fish however, and I thought if we stuck with it they'd eventually eat. They did. Our afternoon was much more productive as Dustin and Pat landed a bunch of fish while we drifted minnows over rock edges in 15' – 25' of water. The highlight of our day was a really cool walleye/smallie double that was perfectly excecuted by my crew. Electronics are so important to consistent fishing this time of year, and our day was an excellent example of using them to park on tough biters until they want to eat. There's a fine line between patient and stubborn… Patience prevailed today, and it was fun to see the guys get into some good fish. Coudy skies and thunderstorms rumbled around us throughout the day, and water temperatures held at 67 degrees. Excellent work today guys. That was a little better than fishing after a tornado Pat…!!!
Dustin Hofler and Pat Fair were back in the boat with me on Labor Day Monday, and they brought along Mike Jensen (Thornton, IA) who returned for another trip in the Hayward area. Crappies were our target, and it turned out to be a funky day in many respects. Thunderstorms threatened throughout the day, and air temperatures dropped significantly. Water temps were in the mid 60's, and the fish were in a bit of a mood. Not a good one… We found a pile of them covering the bottom over a mud flat in 15' – 19' of water right away, but they weren't going to cooperate. Not at all! So, we went on the hunt. After lots of looking and burning some gas, we found scattered schools of fish in 19' of water that were a bit more cooperative. The bite was slow, but we put some really good looking fish up to 12" in the livewell with a nice late morning rally. There was no way Dustin was going to let us leave that lake! With action picking up, we decided to stay put for the afternoon. Unfortunately, the crappies didn't get the memo that they were supposed to keep biting. The pm shift was tough, and we were only able to scratch out a few more small fish before quitting time in between storms and wind. Lots of thermocline areas seemed to have fish very scattered and hard to zero in on. It didn't stop us from having a good time and a few laughs though. Never a problem with this crew! No more banannas Mike, and lets make up with that weather man Pat… Looking forward to next year men!!!
I fished with Tom Huckaba (Joliet, IL) and Larry Evans (Mesa, AZ) last year, and we had one heck of a day on Chequamegon Bay. After that, they decided a four day trip was in order. We got it in the books, and they were back on Tuesday for day #1 fishing out of the River Rock Inn. Tom was a rifleman in the USMC during the Vietnam TET Offensive in 1967 and earned 3 purple hearts during his service. It's always a privilege to have U.S. Veterans in the boat and an honor to have a guy like Tom sharing stories and catching fish. There's a bit of a friendly rivalry between these brothers in law however, so I had to be carefull… Big north winds and rain were blowing through northern Wisconsin, and our best option was to target a hot crappie bite I was on last week. The crappies were there, and they were cooperative. We found lots of fish in 22' – 23' of water, and my crew caught a bunch up to 11' on slip bobbers with plastics in mud flats. They were a bit scattered in the morning, but we landed on the "Mother Load" in the afternoon. We didn't have to move the boat after dropping anchor, and it was a catch, catch, catch, kind of day. A great resolution to some miserable weather. One thing is for sure… Tom and Larry are going to have one heck of fish fry when they get home. Nice work today fellas. I'd keep a close eye on that rain gear Larry!!!
Tom and Larry were back in the boat on Wednesday, and we were back on Chequamegon Bay. It's been a couple of weeks since we were able to get out there, and I wish I had better news to report. After a couple of hours I knew our time there was going to be short. Water temperatures had dropped to 62 degrees, and the big winds from yesterday had kicked up some strong currents. North winds didn't help our cause, and one small pike along with one lost smallmouth was all we could manage without seeing much of anything on our electronics. I've seen these conditions before and didn't hesitate to pull the pin. Time for Plan B! A change of scenery was in order, and we went inland. Our first stop of the afternoon was productive. We boated 5 nice smallies and lost a few more drifting minnows along a weed edge in 15' of water. It was a bit of Fools Gold though. The rest of our day was spent covering lots of water catching one here and one there. One thing I found interesting was that the fish we targeted on weed edges were more cooperative than the fish we marked on rock structure. Not sure what that's all about?… The fish on rocks weren't having any of it so we settled in on the weed fish. Even though the bite was slow, Tom and Larry ended up putting a respectable afternoon together considering the conditions. They put several nice fish in the net up to 18" and worked hard for every one they caught. We had plenty of time between fish to tell stories, and I'm sure we solved a few world issues… Water temps inland hit 66 degrees by quitting time. New day tomorrow fellas. Sleep well, and rest up those arms!!!
Day #3 of my trip with Tom and Larry was nothing short of outstanding. More rain and overcast skies were in the forecast, but the the fish weren't going to let that get in the way of eating. We spent our day in the Hayward Lakes area and started out looking for walleyes. The mud flat bite that we were on last week might be fizzliing out. We stopped on one spot and caught a small fish, but that was it. Time to look around. After cruising over lots of flats without seeing anything I wanted to park on, we started looking at steep breaks into main lake basins. I marked a few fish in 30' of water in sand to mud transitions, and we gave it a shot. Shortly after dropping anchor, we were into fish. Tom and Larry put a bunch of good eyeballs up to 21" in the net using minnows, crawlers, and jigging spoons. Action would come in crazy flurries, and there were several times when we had three rods hooked up. After putting their limit of keepers in the livewell, my crew decided to see what the smallmouth were doing to finish out the day. It didn't take us long to find a stack of hungry fish in 12' – 20' of water along a rock breakline. Without any wind, we slowly trolled minnows over the top of them, and the fish went nuts. Fish after fish hit the net along with a few doubles and big fish as well. Tom and Larry worked them over and caught a pile of fish up to 20". I'm not going to get into the middle of who caught more, but there was definitely a lot of ribbing going on… Tough days like yesterday sure make you appreciate days like this. Water temps held steady in the mid 60's, and I sure hope our day was a forecast of things to come. Hard to beat that!
I gave Tom and Larry the option of picking the lake they wanted to fish for the last day of their trip. After the day we had yesterday, is anyone surprised that we were back in Hayward on Friday? Weather conditions changed drastically, and we had high skies with cool temps and east winds when we got to the landing. That's usually not a great recipe for a productive day. I went right back to the trasition area we fished yesterday and couldn't find any fish right away, but after a bit of searching we were on them. I mean ON THEM! After locating a school of walleyes in 35' of water on our electronics, it was lights out. It took me 45 minutes just to get all of our lines in the water as Tom and Larry caught fish after fish. Crawlers on slip bobbers were the ticket, and I never stopped running from the back of the boat to the front of the boat netting fish and baiting hooks. That's a fishing guide's work out program. What a morning! After lunch we went back after the walleyes, but the bite slowed considerably. The fish were there, but they'd had enough. I don't blame them! Tom and Larry finished off their trip putting a bunch of smallies in the net including a couple of cool doubles. We drifted minnows along rock edges in 10' – 15' of water and found plenty of cooperative biters. Smallmouth are definietly migrating shallower on a daily basis as water temperatures cool. That bite should only get better over the next few weeks. What a way to wrap up an awesome trip with some fantastic guys. That was an incredible four days fellas. Can't wait until next year!
The suffering in Texas and pending disaster in the Florida right now really puts things into perspective. Our thoughts are with all of those folks who are dealing with these horrible storms. We've got several customers and friends in those areas, and it sounds like everyone is getting by for now despite the circumstances. Stay high and dry gang!