It's been awhile since we had a dedicated musky trip, but it was good to get the big sticks back out last Thursday. Jeremiah Andrews (Union, IA) and his partner Brian Groninga (Geneva, IA) were back to fish the Hayward area, and we spent the day chopping water. Brian served in the US Navy and spent time in Viet Nam from 1970 – 1974. Lots of heroes in the boat over the past month, and we're glad to have every one of them. Jeremiah told me last year that he'd like to get after the muskies, and I always think to myself, "Are you sure?" They steal you mind, money, and soul… All of our bases were covered between topwater, bucktails, and cranks, but the fish were definitely not in a good mood in the morning. No worries… Switching lakes is a great luxury we have in this part of the state, and today was a perfect example of why it pays to stay mobile. It took us all of 5 minutes to get hooked up on lake #2 when Jeremiah connected an a beautiful low 40's tiger that crushed his bucktail at boat side in 8' of water. It was an amazing looking fish, and Jeremiah couldn't have done a better job. Lots of muskies are caught or lost in that situation. Definitely good to get that one in the net! A front was moving in on us, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with the action we had over the next few hours. It wasn't long before Brian was hooked up on a big fish that came unbuttoned right at the boat. Dang that was close! A few minutes later, Jeremiah connected on another fish in the mid 30's. It was the perfect way to get our fall musky trips going. Water temps were steady in the mid 60's, and fall keeps trying to creep in on us. Weed edges were the key today, and every fish we encountered was hugging those edges. As temps cool, weed edges should continue to hold fish. Our day ended a bit early as storms moved in, but our work was done a that point. The musky bite should just keep getting better, and it was sure good to see these guys put a couple of nice fish in the net. Good dudes and good fish. Hard to beat that! A Packers win over the Bears tonight would be a perfect ending. Sorry Bears fans, and thanks for your service Brian!!!
We were back in the Hayward area on Friday, and Larry Dittner (Mikana, WI) returned for his fall trip. This year he brought along his nephew Dave Albricht from Eau Claire, WI. Dave is in the US Army reserve, and has done a tour in Iraq. Happy to have him along! A classic cold front moved in with northeast winds, cool temps, and we spent the day working through some tough conditions. Larry has been through this before, and he always seems to bring some interesting weather along with him… We wouldn't have it any other way! There was no agenda, and we began targeting smallmouth. Dave hooked up instantly at our first stop on a big fish, but it wouldn't come that easy after that. Fish were really scattered along rock edges in 8' – 10' of water. We'd catch one here and one there and kept moving from spot to spot using jigs and minnows. There was a friendly competition between these guys, and Dave's first smallie in the net was a 21" brute. That's going to be tough to beat Larry!!! By the end of the morning we had put a bunch of good fish in the net including a fun double, and we turned our attention to walleyes in the afternoon. After a bit of searching, we parked on a good school of fish in 40' of water. They were there, but it wasn't happening. Dave landed one small fish, and we lost another. They weren't going to cooperate plain and simple. Time to check out some weed spots in 15' – 18' of water. Weeds were holding fish, and we put together a really nice late day rally of some good smallies . Dave and Larry put a bunch of fat bronzebacks in the net, and I've never had anyone say that isn't fun! Water temps are trying to cool down and held in the mid 60's throughout the day. Good guys and some good fish. You're always welcome in my boat fellas, and thanks for your service Dave! Already looking forward to our next trip Larry. You better not bring nice weather!
One of my favorite fishing partners was back in the boat on Saturday. 10 yr. old Jackson Hampton, his father Randy, and grandpa Dave Schroedel from the Madison, WI area all returned to fish out of Angler's Haven. These guys are huge Badger fans, and it was fitting that we spent game day on the water together. Unfortunately I'd forgot to wear my customary Wisconsin hat and was concerned about a jinx. Fishing guides believe in that kind of stuff… Our first stop was right on top of the school of walleyes I'd marked from the day before in 40'. Despite winds switching to the south, the result was the same. We caught one small fish and lost one after throwing the book at them, but it was obvious they weren't going to bite. We might be paying for the binge that went on in August and September. Lots of full bellies! We switched our focus to smallies, and it wasn't long before Dave was hooked up on a good fish as we drifted minnows over weeds and rocks in 5' – 20' of water. Water temperatures continue to hold in the mid 60's, and fish are really scattered. Jackson battled his personal best 20" brown bass to the boat, and we had found our groove before lunch. This kid really has the fishing itch! It was more of the same in the afternoon with a scattered bite, but some really good smallies. Jackson and Randy provided the highlight of the day with a really cool double, and we had a fun late day rally. Dave topped it off by ending our trip with one more fish in the net just before quitting time. Awesome stuff! The Badgers pulled it off, and we caught a bunch of good fish with everyone hooking up. Maybe my hat isn't that important… I'll have it on next week though! Thanks for another great trip guys. You're one heck of a fisherman Jackson. Keep rowing that boat!
Musky fishing can be tough, and Sunday was a good example of why it's so cool to catch one. Jim Pones Jr. from Villa Park, IL was back for a fall trip with with big toothy fish on his mind. We spent our day in the Hayward area, but had a bit of a tough start. Shortly after we got set up on our first spot, a loon decided to take off with the sucker we were dragging. These last loons to leave for the season are a real pain, and I don't mind saying it. Thankfully we didn't hook up, but it took a bit to get reorganized. Not long after that I ran one of our quick set rigs into an unknown obstacle on a spot I've fished for years. Any fishing guide who's been through this knows exactly what it meant. Cut line, re-tie, and re-set. What a bunch of nonsense! In between all of that we were able to cover some water tossing bucktails and crankbaits, but there was zero activity, and it was time to switch lakes. Probably should have done that right after the loon incident… Gusty south winds picked up in the afternoon, and it was a challenge to keep the boat in good position. We did the best we could and pounded water with bucktails and crankbaits. By late afternoon, one half hearted strike and drop on one of our suckers was all we had to show for our efforts. Water temps ranged from the mid to low 60's. With time running out on our day I moved us to a sweet spot that has a history of producing, and one of our suckers got drilled. Jim did an outstanding job setting the hook and put a 34" fish in the net. It wasn't the biggest musky, but it was a well earned and well deserved musky. I'll take that any time. Muskies suck until you catch one! Excellent job today Jim. Way to keep pounding. You deserved that fish brother!
More rain moved into northern Wisconsin on Sunday night, and it's safe to say that we're plenty wet in this part of the country. Dave Russ and his good pal Jim Hanneman from Merrill, WI returned to the Hayward area, and I couldn't have been happier to have these guys back in the boat. Jim had one heck of a battle with cancer over the past year, but he didn't let it keep him from getting back on the water. Big winds were blowing behind the front that came through, and the first part of our morning was spent trying to get on a walleye bite. The schools of fish we marked were really scattered in 40' of water, and it was more of the same with only one small fish hitting the net. With the mood they've been in over the past few days, I didn't waste a lot of time switching to smallmouth. It was the right choice, and we spent the rest of our morning popping really good fish on minnows as we drifted rock edges in 7' – 15' of water. Jim put a 21" tanker in the net, and we had several others in the 20" range. Our plan after lunch was to stay on the smallie bite, but that changed after I rolled over a good looking group of fish on our electronics stacked in 40' of water. They looked different than the fish we saw earlier in the day with fish further off bottom. They had to be walleyes, and we dropped anchor. It wasn't long before we were hooked up on some eyeballs. Jim and Dave landed some good fish up to 20" on minnows and nightcrawlers, and it was definitely some positive news after the last few days. The fish were concentrated in small groups along a soft to hard bottom transition, and it kind of makes sense. We had a really good bite going on the mud flats over the past two months, but things are changing. Water temperatures are slowly cooling into the low 60's, and those big schools we were on are starting to scatter. We'd mark a group of fish and have action immediately, but it was time to move after one or two bites. It may be a few days before we settle into a good walleye pattern, but today was a good start. Keep looking for schools of fish stacked off bottom, and keep moving after a couple of strikes. It's October, but we're still dealing with September conditions. Did I mention that we have more rain on the way tomorrow, and weren't we talking about building an ark last week?… Congratulations on some awesome fish fellas. Fun day with some really cool guys. Proud of you Jim!
More rain… This is getting crazy! Regardless of weather, I had an awesome crew in the boat on Tuesday. Chuck Reynolds from Seaguar, Chip Stringer (Mequon, WI), and with their pal John Richter (Sayner, WI) returned for a fall trip. Plan A was to fish Chequamegon Bay, but 30 mph winds were in the forecast. Not happening! That's been a theme this year whenever we try to schedule a trip out there. All of the crazy weather and bad timing have made it a struggle to get on the bay consistently this season, but we've got options. I met the gang in Hayward, and we began our trip on top of the walleyes I'd located the day before in 40' of water. I thought I might be on to something after yesterday, but the eyeballs didn't agree. We caught one small fish and missed a few others before deciding to switch things up. They aren't hungry, and that's that! I moved us shallow over rocks and weeds in 5' – 15' of water, and Chuck was first on the board with a 17" walleye. I've been waiting for the walleyes to start showing up in shallower water, and this was definitely a good sign. We used a good south wind to drift with minnows and ended up getting into a steady smallmouth bite with a few walleyes mixed in. The boys landed a bunch of really good smallies up to 21" along with a couple of good doubles. It wasn't on fire, but it was good. Heck, they even let the guide get in on the action. Kind of nice being on the other end of the net job! Water temperatures continued to hold in the low 60's, but a cold front coming in might correct that a bit. Big winds with heavy rain moved in around late afternoon. That was the end of our bite. They completely shut down, and our fish catching was done for the day. Hard to a beat day with these guys in the boat though. Lots of stories and laughs with some good fish mixed in. More laughs than stories I'm thinking… Already looking forward to next year guys, and thanks for passing along your favorite hat Chip!
Some days you look forward to no matter what, and Wednesday was one of those. Erik Halverson and his dad Carl from Tomahawk, WI have been fishing with me for several years now. Erik and I played high school sports against each other, and our days on the water are always filled with old stories along with a few fish. Wish I could tell you I was on the winning end of those old battles… Carl is a Viet Nam Vet as well, and its always an honor to have those guys in the boat. This year we added a new Halverson to the annual trip. Erik's 7 year old son Zak joined grandpa and dad for a three generation trip in the Hayward area. Northwest winds blew out all of the rain from yesterday, and it finally felt like fall. With the walleye bite being being as goofy as it's been over the past week, we didn't waste any time on them and went all in on smallmouth. The first cool north winds that move in every fall always seem to trigger a spectacular smallie bite, and today was the day. The Halversons put a bunch of huge fish in the net in the morning including several in the 21" range. Zak was a fishing machine, and he helped dad and grandpa crank everyone of them in. We've put a lot of good fish in the net with this crew, but this was different. Big fish after big fish came on jigs and minnows as we drifted along rock edges in 10' of water. It couldn't have been more cool, and I'm certain we've ruined a the next generation of Halversons on smallmouth fishing. When we'd catch a 17" fish Zak would say, "That's a small one!". I'm going to have my work cut out for me with this kid… After lunch, it was more of the same. I moved to a little deeper structure in 15' – 20' of water and found a bunch of hungry fish right away. We were all hooked up, and the smallmouth slam continued. In fact, we wore Zak right out. By late afternoon, he was piled up sleeping in the front of the boat. That's when you know you've had a good day. Water temperatures held in the low 60's, and I'd expect to see them drop significantly over the next few days with cool nights in the forecast. Fall may finally be here. I think?… Incredible day. Same place, same time next year boys. Keep fighting Carl!!!
The October blitz is here. Time for long underwear, stocking hats, and big fish. We've got a few reports left before shutting down for the season. Stay tuned!