Hard to believe, but we've arrived at our final days of the open water season. I always spend the last week of October with friends and family. My brother in law Joe Weiss (Maple Grove, MN) along with his brother Chris (Eagan, MN) were first up. The weather forecast wasn't exactly what you'd like to see with northeast winds, snow, rain, and cold temperatures moving in. We've had it too good lately… With the winds that were dialed up, our only option was to duck into a river in the Hayward area. These brothers have a history of some incredible musky trips with us including a 50" fish Joe landed many years ago along with the brother musky double landed last season. How could we top that? We might have come close… Not long into our day, Chris tied into a good fish that smashed his bucktail at the end of the cast. It was one heck of a battle to the boat, but he was able to put an amazing mid 40's fish in the net. Love to see those big bellies this time of year. Can't beat that start! We kept moving up stream and had a few tense moments with follows and hits before Joe got into the game. A very nice mid 30's fish creamed his bucktail, and we officially had a two fish day. Not a bad deal at all considering the circumstances. Water temps cooled down to 49 degrees, and it's safe to say that the late fall musky bite is happening. The Weiss boys seem to have this musky thing figured out even though they're Viking fans… A couple of good skis are a great remedy for a house divided. Heck of a way for us to start "Friends & Family Week". Congrats on some incredible fish guys. Our muskies definitely don't like it when you're here!
Good neighbors should never be taken for granted, and I've been lucky to have a really good one for a long time. Mike Masterson (Iron River, WI) has been there for my family over the years for whatever we've needed, and he certainly deserves an annual fishing trip at the very least. He's been jinxed with miserable weather for his trips over the last several years, and he was due for good one. He got it! Thank goodness, because I think my "good neighbor" status was in jeopardy… With more nasty weather in the forecast, we hit the water for the "calm before the storm" on a perfect late October day in the Hayward area fishing crappies. Water temperatures continue to cool, and fish continue to bunch up in deep water basins. The first spot we fished had a decent amount of fish located in 25' of water, and we had fairly steady action catching crappies up to 13" with several different year classes mixed together. Always good to see. Slip bobbers and plastics set just off bottom was the right presentation. Action was steady, but I thought we could do better. I checked out another basin and found a pile of fish stacked up in 25'. That depth certainly seems to be the ticket right now. It didn't take long, and we were into a bunch of really good slabs. Mike was able to bring home a nice meal for his wife Sue (always important), and we threw back a lot of good looking fish. Lots of fun with a really good guy! Water temperatures ranged from 49 – 52 degrees, and that's going to keep dropping if the weather man is correct. The next few days could be interesting. Glad you were along today Mike. You deserved that weather and those fish. Thanks neighbor!
You'll never forget your first… For 12 yr. old Levi Hayman Thursday was spent going after his first musky. I've known and fished with Levi's father Mark (Frederic, WI) for a long time, and we've shared many memories in my boat. Today was special though. Mark and Levi have an annual trip scheduled every spring, and we usually do well catching walleyes and smallmouth. With his father's instruction Levi has become a very good fisherman over the years, and it was finally time for him to chase skis. He actually had a big musky hooked up when we were walleye fishing several years ago and played it like a champ for several minutes before a last minute jump broke him off on the light tackle he was using. Time to get even! We were in the Hayward area with a goofy weather forecast, and apparently a winter storm is on the way. Not ready for that! Skies were overcast with gusty south winds, and it didn't take long before we were in business. We were throwing jerkbaits and bucktails as well as dragging suckers along 10' breaklines, and our quick set attracted some interest. There was a bit of drama as the musky headed into shallow weeds after picking up the bait, but Levi handled the situation like a pro. He set the hook and put his first ski in the net. It was a thick mid 30's fish, and a super way for us to get started. I'm telling you, this kid can fish! His hook set was perfect, and he followed every instruction I have him. We've got a future musky nut on our hands… Not long after his first fish was released, Levi connected on fish #2 that grabbed another quick set we were dragging in 10' of water. Once again the set was perfect, and his second musky was in the bag. It was a low 30's fish and a good lesson in not messing around as the fish came unbuttoned immediately after entering the net. He's got it figured out! Winds continued to build, and we had a couple of follows with short hits throughout the rest of the day as we continued to work break lines. Water temps were steady at 50 degrees. Late in the afternoon we moved deeper into a basin area, and one of our suckers was drilled in 20' of water. Levi laid into it with all he had, but it wasn't meant to be. The hooks immediately pulled out, and the fish got away. Hey partner, two out of three ain't bad. That's a good day of musky fishing! I'm so proud of the fisherman and young man Levi has become, and I've got a feeling this musky thing won't go away… It's a tough bug to get rid of. Congratulations on your first muskies buddy. You won't forget them, and I won't either!
In case you didn't hear about it, the upper Midwest was crushed by a winter storm on Friday. Northern Wisconsin took a direct hit with 70 mph wind gusts and up to 8" of snow. Needless to say, we kept the boat in the garage. My good friend Shawn Lund and his father Bob (Ashland, WI) were scheduled, and we bumped our trip back to Saturday afternoon. With everything stirred up, our options were limited. We went after crappies in the Hayward lakes area, and our drive to the landing was surreal with everything covered up in snow. The end of our open water season is definitely upon us. Getting our boat in the lake was a bit tricky with lots of snow and ice on the ramp, but that didn't stop us from getting a few hours in. Water temperatures had plummeted to 44 degrees. If the extended forecast holds true, it won't be long before we see our first skims of ice on smaller lakes. After looking around a bit, we found fish glued to the bottom in 20' – 25' of water. Understandably, they were scattered and not in the best mood. Even the fish weren't ready for this… We used slip bobbers and plastics to land some good slabs up to 13", but they weren't jumping in the boat. We'd locate a school, drop anchor, and catch a few before moving to the next spot. Each stop produced a few fish, and the Lund men had a good meal in the box by the end of the day. North winds and periodic snow continued throughout the afternoon, and I'm sure Mother Nature is telling us that it's time to wrap things up. Just a few more days… Always great to have these guys in the boat even if we had to tough it out in some cold weather. Count to three Bob, and let me know when you're having that fish fry. Looking good fellas!
Rick Tutor (Ashland, WI) and I have been friends for many years, and we were able to catch up on Monday when he brought his 15 yr. old son Dylen along for our annual fishing trip. First of all… What have you been feeding this kid?! He's almost 6' tall now, and I can remember when he was barely up to my knee. How does this happen?… Winter like weather in northern Wisconsin continued, and crappie fishing has been our best bet over the past several days to consistently get bit. The rain, snow, wind, and cold we've received this week have drastically changed fishing conditions, and typical fall patterns are a bit hard to come by right now. No worries. I had a good crew with me, and we were able to put together a decent day despite another extremely tough bite. Cold nights keep dropping our water temperatures, and they were ranging from 40 – 42 degrees. We located fish in 25' – 27' of water hugging mud basins, and the slabs definitely seem to be sliding deeper as temperatures drop. The bite was really slow, but we were able to catch enough fish up to 12" for the boys to take home and have a nice meal. Slip bobbers and plastics set just above bottom caught all of our fish, but it wasn't easy to detect bites. The bobber would slightly sink, and you had to really be patient before setting to hook to connect. Kind of like yesterday, there was a short window when the fish were active, and we were able to "make hay" while it was open. Otherwise, we had to move around a bunch after catching one or two at each stop. The fish are there, they're just not in an eating mood. It didn't matter though. We had a lot to catch up on, and the fish were just a bonus. That's why I always look forward to this week. Just wish it wouldn't come to an end… We fished hard, told stories, laughed, and caught a few for dinner. What's not to like? Good day, good guys, good stuff. Get that leg healed up Dylen. You've grown into a fine young man, and I can't wait to see you on that football field next year!
If you said we saved the best for last, it would be hard to argue. Scott Roppe (Birchwood, WI) proposed to his wife Kala in my boat back in the spring of 2016, and we had lots of help from my partner Terry Peterson. They sealed the deal in July, and we were able to get everyone back in the boat on Monday for our last trip of the 2017 open water season. Couldn't have had a better crew in the boat! Winter weather continued, and we had to deal with snow and gusty northwest winds throughout the day. Scott has pushed through some tough weather days with me over the years, and this was no problem. I was just hoping Kala wouldn't hate me for it… Terry was able to join us, and the whole gang was after it. After the previous few days I wasn't expecting a fast bite but was pleasantly surprised by the action we had. We targeted crappies in the Hayward lakes, and continued to find them in 20' – 25' mud basins. Slip bobbers with plastics was our most effective presentation, and we were able to connect on a bunch of good fish up to 13". Water temperatures held steady at 43 degrees as we battled through snow, wind, and cold. Surprised I have any friends left after this last week in October thing… The crappies were biting way better than I thought they would, and we ended our season in appropriate fashion. Even though the weather was a bit extreme (or a lot extreme), it was a perfect day in many respects. Great friends spending the day of the season catching a bunch of good fish. Hard to beat that, but we'll try next year! On my way home snow fell harder and was piling up as I backed my boat into the garage. How appropriate. Didn't we just get started…?
This concludes my 25th season of guiding in northern Wisconsin, and I'm frequently asked if it ever gets old. Truth is, it doesn't… The people, the relationships, the stories, and the fish are all things I look forward to every day when I hook up and head down the driveway. Thanks to all of you that follow these reports and to all of my loyal customers that make them possible. I'm very fortunate to do this for a living, and none of you are taken for granted. I'd also like to give special thanks to the following businesses that go out of their way to help us get through every season in one way or another: Hayward Power Sports, Angler's Haven, River Rock Inn, Northland Lodge, O'Brien's C-Store, Bloomer Ford. I couldn't do it without them and highly recommend their services if you're in our area. Most importantly, thank you to my wife LeeAnn and daughter Morgan. Their patience and understanding is amazing. Now they've got an entire winter to deal with me! We'll be taking a break over the next month, but our reports will start up again when ice fishing kicks into gear. If this weather continues, we could have some good early ice conditions. Stay tuned…