Chequamegon Bay, Hayward, WI, & St. Louis River Fishing Report 10-21-18
It’s been awhile since we’ve posted a report, but it’s not because we haven’t been on the water. A super nasty stretch of weather has made things interesting over the last couple of weeks, but we’ve had some incredible people in the boat to get through it. Since when did winter start in October?…
It’s been WAY too long since we’ve been on Chequamegon Bay, and I’ve been itching to get back out there in a bad way. I had the perfect opportunity on Saturday when I fished with Jason Harris (Chaska, MN) and his father Scott Harris (Blackhawk, SD). Jason works as a fisheries biologist for the Minnesota DNR and has heard about how good smallmouth fishing on the bay can be. We had a half day to get it done and encountered some pretty rough seas with a stiff north wind. It was a bumpy ride, but we were able to work it out and locate some fish on rocks in 15′ – 20′ of water drifting live bait rigs with minnows. Water temperatures held around 52 degrees on a cold and windy morning. The bite wasn’t fast in any respect, but we had action on every drift. Jason and Scott put some nice representatives of Lake Superior in the net up to 19″. Each of them had the typical fat fall belly, and it was evident on our electronics that they’re starting to stack up. I’m sure we’ve got some big numbers days in store. The Harris men were a pleasure to have in the boat and took advantage of their opportunities. They got a taste of what the big lake can offer, and it was a pleasure to have them in the boat. Excellent job fellas, and thanks for a good time! Sure felt good to get back on the bay!!!
I had a little change up thrown at me on Sunday. David Russo was scheduled for his annual fall musky trip, but he couldn’t make it. Instead he sent his brother Rob and nephew Ayden from Winfield, IL to fish with me. I’m going to miss seeing David, but this wasn’t a bad option at all. Just like David, these two are musky nuts and were fishing out of Angler’s Haven. I’ve got a cool little river trip I like to do in the Hayward area this time of year, and the Russo boys were all about it. It didn’t take long to get into action when Ayden had a good looking fish slam his bucktail at the end of the cast. He had it pinned for a bit, but it cam unbuttoned after a few head shakes. Dang! Awesome start though!!! The hit and miss game was a theme for the rest of our morning. Rob and Ayden had 7 different fish hit or follow, but we were struggling to hook up. Muskies with commitment issues. We’ve been there before… They were nipping and not grabbing. After lunch we decided to work back through all of those fish, and Ayden had one chase him in right off the bat. Not long after, Rob hooked up and put a cool looking 30″ fish in the bag. Finally! We were definitely due, and that was the 9th fish we’d raised. These guys earned it, and it was awesome to see them connect. Strangely enough, that was it for the action. The Russo’s spent the rest of the afternoon chopping water but the fish completely shut down. Hey, 9 fish moved with one in the bag is a good day by any standards. Water temperatures were 48 degrees with more cold temperatures and overcast skies. I’d like to see the sun again, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon. That forecast continues to be gloomy… It was a really fun day with some awesome guys. The Russo men never disappoint. Good luck with your basketball season Ayden! Was that the best brat ever?!
A really bad looking weather system was predicted to hit northern Wisconsin over the next several days. Unfortunately the weather man was spot on. Wish he would’ve been wrong on this one… Several days of really cold and wet weather were in the forecast, and it began on Monday morning. I was fishing out of Northland Lodge , and a fun family returned to give the fall bite a shot. John and Nancy Smith (Schaumburg, IL) along with Patricia Godfrey (Belmont, NC) usually arrive for a spring trip, but they decided to switch things up a bit. John and Nancy’s grandson Erik was along as well, but Mother Nature dealt them a bad hand. It’s one thing if its cold and another when it’s cold and raining. You can usually fish through either of those circumstances, but wet and cold at the same time is a tough deal… As if that wasn’t enough, the fish weren’t exactly cooperative either. Triple whamy!!! Nancy, Erik, and Patricia were up for the challenge, and we were going to make the best of it. You won’t catch them if you aren’t out there… We started the morning searching for crappies, and it was tough to find big groups of fish. There was small bunches of fish in 18′ of water, and we finally settled into a spot after quite a bit of looking. They were there, but they were stubborn. Erik, Nancy, and Patricia put some fish up to 10″ in the boat and took advantage of the opportunities they had. Bites were pretty spaced out though, and the crappies were definitely not in a hungry mood. Apparently they saw the weather report?… We switched our focus to walleyes late in the morning, but that bite wasn’t much better with one small eye and a smallmouth hitting the net. The sledding was tough, but my crew was tougher. We made lemonade out of lemons, and caught a few fish in the process. We were all wet and cold, and it was time to wrap things up at noon. Water temperatures were around 52 degrees when we pulled off the water. Mother Nature owes you some sunshine, and you’ll be fishing on credit next time Erik! See you next year gang!
Tuesday and Wednesday were a complete wash out, with pounding rain and winds hitting us as predicted. We received up to 6″ of rain with wind gusts up to 80 mph reported on Lake Superior. Chequamegon Bay is a mess again, and it feels like we’ve been through this before. We HAVE been through this before… What a crazy season of weather! We need to keep pushing forward though, and a couple of my favorite guys were back on Thursday. There are some days that you’ll always remember for one reason or another, and this will definitely be one of them. Bruce Bandow (Plover, WI) and his buddy Mike Alff (Stevens Point, WI) were back for their annual 2 day fall trip, and Mother Nature was still angry. We started our day in the Hayward area looking for walleyes and smallmouth with close to impossible conditions. Big NW winds and snow are apparently not a good combination for fishing, and we struggled to put anything together throughout the morning. The walleyes we’d been on a few days ago had disappeared, and the smallmouth weren’t much easier to find. Our options were limited, and we only managed one fat 19″ smallie in the net that Mike landed in 15′ of water on a jig and minnow. It was definitely time to switch things up, and we switched lakes to tangle with some crappies. There was plenty of fish in 30′ of water, and we anchored up on them as winds continued to get worse. Thankfully the anchor stuck, and we put some good slabs up to 13″ in the boat on plastics and slip bobbers. The weather was brutal, the bite was tough, but I had the right guys to work it out. Water temperatures continue to hold around 52 degrees, but my best guess is that’s going to drop significantly over the next few days. Thanks for sticking it out today fellas. You earned every one of those fish and made the best out of tough conditions. Is this wind ever going to stop? See you tomorrow boys!!!
After thawing out by my wood stove overnight, it was time to get back after it on Friday with Bruce and Mike for day #2 of their trip. The weather forecast didn’t do us any favors in the morning… We were back in the Hayward area with temperatures around 30 degrees when we met at the boat landing. I’m really not ready for ice fishing season! The goal was to find some walleyes. We did some looking and located fish in a 30′ basin. After anchoring up, it didn’t take long for us to get into fish. Jigs with minnows and slip bobbers with minnows was the approach, and Bruce carried us through the morning. He connected on several fish with the jig, and his bobber was pretty popular as well. Most of the fish we caught were in the 14″ – 15″ range but Mike was also able to put a really nice 23″ fish in the net. It didn’t end there… Bruce also connected on a good pike around 30″, and we went into lunch feeling pretty good about things. Water temperatures had dropped into the high 40’s, and any lakes that haven’t turned over will be doing so soon. We were on fish, and they were biting. Just needed to keep our fingers warm! The afternoon shift wasn’t a lot different. Fish were in the same basin, but they weren’t as visible on our electronics and not as aggressive. It became a “move and catch a few” kind of game. We’d mark a some, drop anchor, and catch some. By the end of the day, some respectable numbers were in the net along with a few good eyeballs in the tank. Most importantly, we had a great time with some good laughs. These guys toughed out some brutal conditions and earned every fish they caught. Thanks for hanging in there fellas. A warm weather request has been submitted for next year. You deserve it!!!
Jon Schlussler (St. Paul, MN) and Steve Leach (North St. Paul, MN), were back at the River Rock Inn for their annual trip on Saturday, and our original plan was to fish Chequamegon Bay for smallies. The storms we had a few days ago have once again turned it into a muddy mess, so we had to go with Plan B. The weather we’ve dealt with this year has been completely crazy… Changing conditions has been the norm, and you definitely need to be flexible right now. I always look forward to having these guys in the boat, and I knew they were up to whatever I threw at them. We met in Hayward and began the day looking for smallies in 15′ – 20′ on off shore structure. We found them, but conditions were brutal with big winds up to 30 mph, and cold temperatures. The boys fought through it though, and put some good fish in the net including a couple of stud 20″ fish landed by Steve and an “Amazing” 17″ walleye landed by Jon using jigs and minnows. Jon really likes walleye fishing … I told you that fish would make the report brother!!! Winds kept building throughout the morning, and we needed to switch things up in the afternoon. A change of lakes was in order, and it was the right move. We immediately found smallmouth along a weed edge in 15′ – 20′ of water. They were hungry and angry. Perfect! We used the wind to drift live bait rigs with minnows, and it wasn’t long before we had a pile of fat fall smallies in the net. Every drift produced action, and they were all really good fish! It was exactly what you think of for fall fishing. Big and hungry fish… It was probably the best smallmouth bite I’ve seen since all of this crazy weather set in. Interesting that they’ve moved to the weeds, and that’s definitely a pattern we’ll be looking for over the next couple of days. Water temperatures held around 50 degrees on both lakes we fished. Once again, these two buddies landed a bunch of big fish, and I’ve come to expect nothing less. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, these guys produce. What will they do if we ever have nice weather?… See you next year fellas. Can’t wait!!!
With the results we had yesterday, I was completely confident that my plan for Sunday was rock solid. George Pearson (Bainbridge, IN) and Dan Bain (Reelsville, IN) returned for their annual fall trip, and they brought along their buddy Brent Sailor (Cloverdale, IN). These guys are all smallmouth nuts and were ready to tangle with some fat fall bronzebacks. The only problem was that the fish didn’t get the memo… Chequamegon Bay is still a mess from the latest storm, so we started the day back in the Hayward Lakes area right where we left off the day before. Unfortunatly the fish had vanished. We worked weed edges in 15′ – 20′ of water and searched deeper rock piles and points without finding much other than George’s bet winner first fish. One 16″ smallie hit the net, but that wasn’t going to work for us. Not sure what had changed, but it was definitely time to move on… We switched lakes and worked on putting a fish fry together for the guys to take home. The weather forecast didn’t call for any precipitation, but when has that ever been right? Our afternoon was going to be spent in snow, and there was now way around it. Welcome to Wisconsin fellas! Crappies and perch were stacked up in a 22′ – 23′ basin, and the boys put a bunch of fish in the box over the next few hours using plastics and slip bobbers. Dan even had a hungry pike make an attempt at stealing a rod! We had to move frequently to stay on the bite, but every drop of the anchor resulted in crappies up to 13″ and perch up to 12″. That sounds like a perfect fish fry to me!!! Water temperatures remain around 50 degrees on most of our lakes, and I’d expect that to continue to drop over the next several days. The forecast isn’t kind… We ended our day with a stop at Angler’s Haven on the way home, and that’s never a wrong move. Thanks for hanging in there today fellas. Looking forward to Day #2!!!
The struggle is real… Cold temps and big winds continued on Monday. This is beyond crazy… George, Dan, and Brent are some tough guys, and we were going to need all of that toughness today. We spent our day back in the Hayward area looking for smallmouth bass. I had a good plan. Maybe… We started out using the wind to drift over mid lake rocks and weeds with minnows. That didn’t work, and the wind kept getting worse. It was impossible to drift, so we moved to the calm side of the lake and pitched jigs and minnows at wood structure in 15′ – 20′ of water. After a couple of stops we connected, and the boys were on the board! This weather system we’ve been dealing with has definitely impacted fish patterns, and it was good to put some bronzebacks up to 20″ in the net before noon. These boys have a couple of bets going, and I’m not going to get into the middle of it. At least I’ll try not to get into the middle of it!!! We had a 19 3/4″ fish hit the net, and the battle was on. That’s one heck of a fish Dan! We switched lakes in the afternoon and tried to put together the same pattern. Winds kept howling, and it was really tough to stick on spots. My crew hung in there though, and we ended up with some respectable numbers of smallies in the boat by the end of the day. The wind made it tough to feel bites, but we had some pretty cool results including a really fat 21″ smallmouth and a 25″ walleye landed by George. Dan and Brent were extremely happy for him. Maybe not… Sorry fellas! Water temperatures on both lakes we fished continued to hold around 50 degress, but I can tell you that things feel much colder than 50 degrees… Despite the weather, we sure laughed a lot. What a fun group of guys. One more day to win that bet boys!!!
Guess what? More wind was in the forecast. It’s official…. This is nuts! My hope was to finally get back on Chequamegon Bay after the storms we had last week, but there was no way that was going to happen with with gusts up to 30 mph out of the west. I’m hard pressed to remember a stretch of weather like this, and I probably don’t want to. With the winds that were predicted, our only option was to try and tuck into an inland lake around Hayward. When we got to the landing, winds were tolerable, and hopes were high. We started off drifting minnows on live bait rigs along a point that produced a few days ago, and we were immediately into some good smallmouth. Exactly what we were looking for! George and Dan got the day started right with a double that came out of much deeper water than I expected. Not much was showing up on our electronics, but there was no mistake they were holding in 30′ – 35′. You can’t argue with a fish! George, Dan, and Brent continued to put a bunch of fat bronzebacks in the net, and it was by far the best bite we’ve seen over the past few days. Our biggest was a 19″ plus fatty landed by George that somehow got released before a picture could be taken. I’m not sure how that happened, but I’ll take full responsibility… That fish really needed to get back in the water George! As predicted, winds picked up and turned out of the northwest. It was the kiss of death… We struggled after that, and it was time to switch things up. Wind can limit your options, and our options were definitely limited… We moved to a different lake and tried dialing in some walleyes, but that was an impossible task. After landing one small fish and getting blown off our spot it was time to find some crappies. I had a protected bay in mind, and the fish were there. We found big schools of fish in 25′ of water, but they weren’t exactly cooperative. Jigs and plastics under slip bobbers weren’t producing, but Brent was able to figure out a pattern. He started catching fish casting and dragging a tube jig along the bottom, and that was definitely the answer. He reluctantly shared his secret with the rest of the boat, and the race was on to see who would catch the most. The contest ended in a tie, and Dan was ready for some BBQ! The weather was brutal, the fishing was tough, but I couldn’t think of a better group of guys to have in the boat. Many crushing blows are in your future Dan!!!
I’ll admit that there’s one trip I’ve been really looking forward to all season, and it was finally here. Jason Keesy (Cedar Falls, IA) was back with a twist for his annual 2 day trip on Wednesday. This guy has caught a ton of fish with me over the years including his first muskies on his last trip. That was all it took to give him the musky bug… He’s also become one heck of a fly fisherman and wanted to see if he could put a musky in the net on the fly. I’ve never done it before, but I was all in. If there was anyone that could get it done, it was him! We had a rock solid plan and spent our first day on a river in the Hayward area. The wind continued to blow, and the cold wouldn’t leave either. Water temperatures were 38 degrees when we launched the boat. I can’t believe how fast things have cooled off! After clearing out a log jam and figuring out the current we were ready to rock. Welcome to river fishing… Jason worked big streamers, and a nice musky clobbered his fly around mid morning. He was hooked up, and I was diving for the net. Unfortunately the fish came unpinned, and it was a heartbreaker. I got a good look, and it was definitely the fish we were after… Dang! It gave us confidence though that we were on the right track, and Jason continued to pound water. That was the only action we’d have on the day, but we had one more to get it done. A weather change was in the forecast, and some warm temps were on the way. Finally! Day #2 was a completely different scenario with winds switching to the south, and we were back on the river. Warmer temperatures were moving in, and we were in it to win it! Jason continued to masterfully work that streamer with the fly rod along the banks but finding cooperative fish was an issue. They were stubborn, and the struggle was real. I can tell you this… Any musky caught on a fly is a trophy, and Jason deserved a trophy. We were also dragging a sucker and had a fish grab it late in the afternoon but dropped it before we could set the hooks. Of course! Water temperatures started to warm back into the low 40’s late in the day, and it was sure good to feel some warm weather and sun. Finally… Jason WILL get his musky on the fly, but it wasn’t to be this year. It ain’t about deserve brother… Those fish are in trouble next year!!!
The annual Wounded Warriors In Action Foundation Bayfield County Cast & Blast was held on Friday, and we were once again lucky enough to be invited along. We’ve had the honor of kicking off this event along with Josh Teigen’s Guide Service for since it began several years ago, and it’s always a highlight of the season. 5 purple heart veterans were selected to participate this year, and they all chose to start with a musky fishing trip. I’d expect nothing less from a bunch of heroes. After our customary amazing breakfast provided by the Delta Diner, it was time to get after those muskies. My crew for the day would include two incredible guys. CPL Adam Jahnke (Landrum, SC) served with the USMC and earned his Purple Heart in Ramadi, Iraq. SSG Derek VanBuren (Negaunee, MI) served with the US Army and earned his in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. I’m always humbled by the stories of these soldiers, and it’s a reminder of how lucky we are to have men and women like this who will lay it on the line for the rest of us. We were headed back to a river in the Hayward area that beat us up over the last couple of days, but we’d be throwing traditional gear this time with warm weather in the forecast. I was banking on that water warming up enough to get those muskies eating. I can’t remember ever hoping for warmer water in October… No surprise that big winds were in the forecast again, and a river trip is always ideal in those conditions. Adam was a musky rookie, and Derek was still looking to land his first after a few previous attempts. It didn’t take them long to get into a groove throwing bucktails and swim baits, and we were only about an hour into the trip before things got interesting. The sucker we were dragging got excited, and a musky made several attempts to eat without grabbing it. We turned the boat around to drift back through the hole, and the fish committed. The wind made things a bit tricky, but we were able to get the boat into position for Adam to put the hooks to a cool looking low 30’s musky. It was in the net, and we were on the board. Love how those river fish fight! Now it was time for Derek to score, and he had a close call awhile later when another fish in the low 30’s hit his bucktail at boatside on the figure 8. He had him pinned for a few seconds, but it shook off before we could get the net under it. So close! A little wile later we had a fish completely smoke our sucker, and it was one of the most violent strikes I’ve seen. I thought it was a done deal but the sucker was dropped before we could get into position. I’m sure Derek was thinking that maybe this musky thing wasn’t in the cards, but he didn’t know that we really like drama… After plugging away without any action for the rest of the afternoon, we decided to visit that last fish one more time before we called it quits. As I was starting to wrap things up with time running out, the sucker got clobbered again. It was no doubt the same fish, but this time it was serious. Derek slammed the hooks into a gorgeous 40″ tiger and put his first musky in the net. What a beautiful fish and a perfect way to end a fantastic day that we’ll never forget! Water temps warmed into the mid 40’s, and I’m certain that had a lot to do with the increase in fish activity. Thank you so much for your service fellas. Now it’s time to go shoot a buck! Big thanks to all of the local volunteers and businesses that make this event happen. We’re thankful to be a part of it. Good luck on the hunt!!!
What a wild ride it’s been in Northern Wisconsin lately. We can’t thank all of our customers/friends enough for sticking it out through some ridiculous weather conditions over the past couple of weeks. We appreciate your loyalty, and I’m pretty sure Mother Nature owes you one! It’s been nuts, but but we’ll get back at her. Our season is winding down, and I’m looking forward to all of the friends and family we’ll be fishing with over the next week. Didn’t we just get started?…
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