We’re wide open! Hard to believe that it took until the middle of May to say that… The ice finally left Chequamegon Bay last week, and we are officially open for business on all of our water in northwest Wisconsin. As expected, the smelt run came and went in a hurry, and every kind of fish is looking for warm water. That’s just the way we like it! We spent Tuesday filming for Trophy Fish Hunter and the goals were lofty. Two different shows, on one day, on Chequamegon Bay, with NE winds humming off the big lake. Not exactly what you want on paper, but when does it ever work out how you want it to when the cameras come along? Long time friends Tony Brown from Bait Rigs, and his brother Dave Brown from Keyes Outdoors Productions joined me for the adventure, and you always stand a chance with these guys in the boat. Objective #1 was a trout and salmon trolling segment. It’s all about water clarity and temperature right now, and when you find the right stuff you’re into fish. We searched for a couple of hours to find it, but finally got things dialed in. Dirty water is a good thing this time of year, and we were able to find some mud in 6′ – 20′. That’s all it took to get ripped. We took care of business quickly catching a bunch of cohos and browns trolling shallow running stick baits behind boards around 2.5 mph. Water temps ranged from 42 – 48 degrees. Most of our fish were in the 18″ – 22″ range, but I did break off on a really big fish. Of course!!! Once we had the footage we needed, it was time to switch gears and get a smallmouth piece recorded. As we moved to shallow water, I couldn’t help but notice piles of ice still on the shorelines as the trees are starting to leaf out. Bizarre! Surprisingly we were able to find water temperatures in the upper 50’s, and there was a good run of smallmouth that had already pushed in. They’re just as ready as we are! We used SloPoke LS jigs and a variety of Reaction Strike plastics bounced off the bottom, and it was exactly what we needed to nail down the shoot. White and silver were the most productive colors, and the Jerky J was our best producer. Fish were holding along sand bars in 5′ – 7′ of water and climbing all over our presentations. We laid down a bunch of footage on some fat pre spawn fish up to 19″, and it was time to head home. Tough conditions, but I had the right guys with me to get it done. Sure felt good to be back on the bay!!!
Nick Henneman & Christina Brooks from Fifield, WI joined me in the Hayward area on Wednesday. I was still recovering from Lake Superior winds and didn’t account for the 85 degree forecast. Mistake! Jeans and a long sleeve shirt were a bad idea! How did we go from winter to summer just like that? Welcome to Wisconsin… We started our day targeting walleyes and found a few fish in 5′ – 7′ of water, but the bite wasn’t crazy. We caught a few and missed a few on jigs and minnows, but the action was slow. Enough of that… We switched our focus to crappies around mid morning, and had a similar result. Caught a few, missed a few, and moved around a bunch. Right before lunch, I wanted to try one more spot. Yep… We found a pile of pre-spawn fish stacked up in 5′ – 6′ of water and caught all we needed using slip bobbers and plastics. It was just a matter of continuing to move until you found fish. The crappie spawn is in full effect right now, and they can be found anywhere from shorelines to shallow bays. Once we found fish, lunch wasn’t a priority. Nick and Christina wore out a bunch of slabs and kept their guide busy. Just the way I like it! Water temperatures hit 61 degrees by quitting time, and most of the fish we caught were still full of spawn. PLEASE limit your harvest right now. 10 fish is what I allow in my boat. Keep a meal, but leave a few for the next year. Let’s keep our lakes full of fish! Nick and Christina did a super job of rolling with the bite, and it ended up being a super day. Long underwear or shorts tomorrow? I better check the forecast…
When I woke up on Thursday morning I had a feeling things might be a bit tough. Thunderstorms had rolled in through the night, and a NE wind was blowing off Lake Superior. Never a great recipe, but all you can do is roll with it. Rick Roppe and Mae Ames from Winter, WI joined me for a day of crappie fishing in the Hayward area, and the conditions matched up with the bite. Lake #1 was tough sledding to say the least. We boated 4 fish total in 3 hrs, and it wasn’t a hard decision to pull the pin. Water temperatures had dropped into the mid 50’s and I was thinking we should head south to look for some warmer water. Lake #2 was a much better situation. It wasn’t great, but it was definitely the right move. Water temps were around 60 degrees, and we were able to get the fish we needed. 5′ – 6′ was the sweet spot, and my crew put a bunch of fish from 9″ – 12″ in the boat using plastics and slip bobbers. The bite was really finicky though, and we’d only catch 3 or 4 fish at every stop. The anchor got a work out! Catch and move, catch and move… We put it together though, and the Roppe crew will have a couple of good meals for their efforts. Always good to have this gang in my boat and can’t wait to do it again. Nice job Rick and Mae. You earned every one of those fish!!!
We were back on Chequamegon Bay Friday, and it was a long underwear kind of day. NE winds continue to blow off the big lake, and you better bundle up. Fortunately the fish didn’t seem to mind, and we had a really fun day with Mike Lee (Lakeville, MN) and Tiffany Carlson (Staples, MN). Mike has been a long time customer and friend, but this was Tiffany’s first experience. I can tell you that the fish hope she never comes back! We had steady action throughout the day and this crew wore them out. It wasn’t fast, but just enough to keep everyone busy. Pre-Spawn smallmouth are still piling in to shallow water, and we spent the morning dialing things in. Suspending stick baits worked in 5′ – 7′ of water were definitely the ticket, and we boated a bunch of big dudes including a whopper 21″ fish that Tiffany put in the net. Not a bad introduction to The Bay… After switching locations in the afternoon to see if we could find some new fish, it didn’t take long to figure out that it was a good move. More smallmouth were clobbering our baits, but the highlight was a MAGNUM 44″ pike that Mike battled and landed. It was an incredible fight, and Mike played it perfectly. Not surprised… It stands as the largest pike a customer has ever caught in my boat, and it will be tough to beat. What a fish, and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy! Water temperatures ranged from 52 – 58 degrees. If we ever get rid of these north winds, the bite could get nuts. That’s going to be a tough day to beat though… Thanks Mike and Tiffany! Won’t forget that trip!!!
One of our favorite groups always arrives this time of year. Terry Peterson and I teamed up for a fun weekend with a really good bunch of guys from Sister Bay, WI. Leif Mickelson, Matt Tishler, Mike Daubner, & Charlie Schell all made it back for their annual adventure, and we were only missing one thing… Scott Mueller got this whole thing rolling many years ago and couldn’t make it, but he’ll be back next year. I’ll make sure of it! We began our day in the Hayward area targeting walleyes, and it didn’t take long to get the lines tight. We found a bunch of fish in 5′ – 6′ of water using jigs and minnows along with slip bobbers and minnows. It wasn’t fast, but it was steady, and my crew put a solid limit in the boat with no problem. Our largest walleye was 18″, but a much larger fish was lost near the net… I won’t tell anyone Leif! Water temps were 58 degrees, and we didn’t see any evidence of spawning with the fish we caught. I think it’s safe to say post spawn patterns will be setting up over the next few weeks. After lunch it was crappie time, and we switched lakes. With the slab bite being a bit goofy over the last week I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we were able to locate spawning fish tight to shorelines and cover. The spawn is definitely on right now on some of our lakes, and your best bet is to cruise shorelines looking for cover, trees, etc. in the water. We used slip bobbers and plastics to catch all of our fish, and a stiff north wind moved our presentation perfectly. Water temperatures were in the low 60’s. Leif and Matt took care of business catching fish up to 12″, and Terry’s boat did the same. It was a “Fish Catching” with “Lots of Laughing” kind of day, and that’s just how we like it. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for tomorrow!!!…
Day #2 with the crew from Sister Bay was spent back in the Hayward area, and things were a bit frosty in the morning. Literally… Temperatures at my house were 34 degrees when I left, and skies were as bright as they could be. When we arrived at the lake water temperatures had dropped into the mid 50’s, and the walleye bite was predictably slow. Mike & Charlie were in my boat, and they did an an excellent job taking advantage of every opportunity we had. We caught the fish we needed up to 18″ on jigs and minnows in 5′ – 6′ of water, but every one was earned. We moved lots and would catch one or two at a spot. A late rally of fish ended our morning on a good note, and the gang wanted to try the crappies again in the afternoon. Apparently the crappies and the walleyes were all on the same page. The water was flat, and the bite was tough. We were able to find a few spawning fish in shoreline wood using plastics, but groups of fish were hard to come by. It was a struggle, but I’m not sure it really mattered. We had caught plenty of fish over the weekend, and anything else was a bonus. As Mike and Charlie said, “This trip goes by way too fast”. I couldn’t agree more! I’ll see you fellas in July, and we’ll have a rod ready for you next year Scott!
There’s a little bit of everything going on right now, and we’re off to a good start. Water temps should continue to warm over the next week, and I think our best fishing is on the way. Have a great week, and get fishing!