Our 2018 season began with late ice out and tough conditions, and the end of our season hasn’t been a whole lot different… Crazy cold weather over the last couple of weeks with lots of wind, rain, and snow has plummeted water temperatures into the mid 30’s – mid 40’s depending on where you’re at. It’s drastically changed fish patterns, and there hasn’t been a lot of “Normal” lately. We’ve got one week left in our open water season, and it’s always reserved for friends and family that we haven’t been able to get in the boat. With a little more stable weather in the forecast, I’m looking forward to wrapping things up in a big way.
Tom Current (Ocnomowoc, WI) has been fishing with us out of Angler’s Haven for several years, and put in a request to chase muskies this time. It might have been a mistake, but I agreed to introduce him to my “12 Step Musky Program”… Anyone that’s fished with me knows exactly what I’m talking about! Tom also invited our buddy and owner of Angler’s Haven, Jordan Gensmer, to come along. With a team like this in the boat, we couldn’t go wrong! Big winds were in the forecast again… No surprise, but temperatures were supposed to be reasonable. Tucking back into a river in the Hayward Lakes area seemed to be a good play, and my crew was all in. Cold nights are dropping water temperatures into the 30’s, and I expected a slow start. As the day went on and temps warmed into the low 40’s, we started to see some action. Tom and Jordan were throwing bucktails and swimbaits while dragging a sucker, and the swimbait Jordan was working got the most attention. He landed a fat pike, and hooked up on a small ski that shook off at boat side. That set the table for what we’d be dealing with all day long. We had several fish grab the swimbait, but they were all short hits with no hook ups. As proven last week, we like drama. Today was going to be no different… The last hour of our day was spent working through a couple of fish we’d encountered earlier, and we finally had a sucker get nailed. Perfect! Everything went exactly as it was supposed to, and I got the boat into position for Tom to sink the hooks. It was a complete swing and miss, and I had no explanation for it. What the heck? That fish was as good as in the net… With time running out in the day Jordan pinned a fish that immediately broke the surface and shook the hook with violent head shakes half way back to the boat. Unbelievable. Sometimes it’s just not your day… Hey, we had lots of action and even more laughs. Tom is one step closer to “Musky Realization”, and we had one heck of a time along the way. Can’t get enough of these guys! Water temps warmed into the low 40’s by quitting time, and it looks like the wind might finally give us a break over the next several days. It’s about time! Can’t wait to do this again fellas. We’re gonna get it done!
I’m not sure what to do without huge winds in the forecast?… My old friend Scott Roppe (Birchwood, WI) always has a day reserved during this week and was more than ready to do a little fishing. He and his wife Kayla got engaged in my boat two years ago, and the result was two beautiful twin boys that were born last month. Needless to say, Kayla has her hands full right now… She gave Scott a free pass though, and it was sure good to have him back in the boat. We spent our day in the Hayward area, and it didn’t take long to locate big groups of fish in 25′ mud basins. The electronics lit up, and it wasn’t hard to find fish at all. We anchored up and found a fun mixed bag bite that included walleyes, pike, perch, and crappies. They were all mixed together, and we joined the party. The bite wasn’t aggressive though, and we had to work for every fish we caught. Plastics on slip bobbers, dragging plastics along bottom, and minnows under slip bobbers all produced throughout the day, but dragging plastics slowly along bottom was probably our most effective presentation. We caught perch up to 12″, crappies up to 12″, pike up to 30″, and walleyes up to 25″. All of them had fat fall bellies, and most were caught on light tackle. It was a super fun day, and you never knew what was going to be on the end of the line. Always love the mixed bag bite! In between fish we told stories and laughed. Boy did we laugh!!! The weather was darn near perfect and so was the day. Water temperatures were steady around 46 degrees, and we wrapped things up with impressive numbers of impressive fish. Good weather, good fishing, good company. Perfect! Congratulations to the Roppes on those beautiful baby boys, and I can’t wait to fish with them. If they take after their daddy, some fish are in trouble.
I had shoulder surgery last winter, and the recovery took a bit longer than anticipated. Fishing season arrived before I knew it, and my firewood for winter hadn’t been cut. Well… When you have an awesome neighbor like I do, you have no worries. Mike Masterson (Iron River, WI) had been through the same surgery a few years back and knew the situation I was in. He and his boy Lucas took it upon themselves to make sure our wood shed was fully stocked for the upcoming winter, and I was blown away by their generosity. A fishing trip was the least I could do… Mike was back in the boat for his annual end of the year trip, and we were lucky enough to dial up another day of decent weather. I think we’re still a little traumatized from the last few weeks, so any nice day is a blessing! A fish fry for Mike and his wife Sue was the goal, so we targeted crappies in he Hayward area. We found fish scattered in a 30′ mud basin, but they were really spread out and really tight to the bottom. After settling in and anchoring up we got into some fish and put a few in the boat up to 12″. The bite was slow though, and I thought we could do better. A move was in order, and we spent the next hour checking out different basins. Fish had completely vacated some of the likely spots, and it took us awhile to get dialed in. After bouncing around a bunch, we dropped anchor on some fish in 27′ of water. We were using slip bobbers with plastics, and I switched colors. Jackpot! It was totally a color thing, and it didn’t take us long to get the fish we needed. It’s crazy the difference a small change can make on a stubborn bite, and today was an great example. Those fish knew what they wanted, and that was it. Good lesson in sticking with it until you figure it out. We figured it out and sent Mike home with plenty of fish for a good fry. He deserved it for many reasons, and I was reminded how lucky I am to have such a good guy living down the road. We told stories, laughed, and caught fish. Hard to beat that! Water temperatures were around 43 degrees by quitting time. Enjoy that fry neighbor. You deserve it!!!
A couple of solid guys always have a date reserved for this week every year, and it was sure great to see Mark Hayman (Siren, WI) and Steve Naglosky (Shell Lake, WI) back in the boat. We’ve got a history that goes back 20 years, and this is a trip I always look forward to for many reasons… I gave them a few options, and they wanted to target the mixed bag bite we’ve had going around the Hayward area. The plan was solid, but the fish weren’t on the same page. Lake #1 produced some nice perch up to 12″, a few small crappies, and a small walleye, but we just weren’t feeling it… Schools of fish were scattered, and the bite was tough. Time to switch lakes! It was a good move, and it didn’t take us long to zero in on a good deep water crappie bite. Big schools of fish were stacked up in 30′ – 40′ of water, and we were hooked up quickly using slip bobbers and plastics. We tried tight lining, but bobbers were the way to go. Weird… One day it’s tight lines, and one day it’s bobbers. These fish need to make up their minds! Mark and Steve tangled with a bunch of slabs up to 13″, and we also solved a lot of problems along the way… It’s funny what three buddies can accomplish during a day on the water. I think meetings like this should be mandatory procedure for everyone! Water temperatures held in the mid 40’s, and it sure felt good to be comfortable. That hasn’t happened in awhile… There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for these guys, and It’s always good day when they’re along. It definitely seems like we’re on the right side of all of that ridiculous weather, and I’m looking forward to gliding out the next few days of October. Fingers are crossed for a smooth finish to a crazy season. It’s been nuts, but we wouldn’t have it any other way… Thanks for another good trip fellas. Always looking forward to the next one!
The crappie theme continued on Saturday… Wayne and Gloria Martin (Lake Nebagamon, WI) were looking for some fish to take home for a fry. and there’s nothing better going right now than the slab bite. Our plan was to fish the Hayward Lakes area, and we began our day waiting for the rain to move through. We’ve definitely had enough rain this month, but the wet stuff continues to come. We thought the rain was done and hit the water, but a steady drizzle kept up throughout the morning. Wayne and Gloria were up to it thought, and we went right back to the school of fish I was on the day before. It was no problem finding them on the electronics in 30′ – 40′ of water. The problem was that they wouldn’t eat… After a couple of moves, we finally landed on a hungry school. The Martin’s were in business!!! They put a bunch of slabs in the boat up to 13″ on jigs and plastics under slip bobbers, and we had our limit in the tank in pretty short order. Just like the day before, our only action came on slip bobbers. I tried several different approaches including tight lining over the side and dragging a tube along the bottom, but bobbers it was. Can’t argue with a fish! It wasn’t a super aggressive bite, but that’s no surprise with the cold water temps we have right now. The Martins did an outstanding job taking advantage of the opportunities we had, and it was fun to watch this crew scrap with some good fish. After some cheese burgers on the grill for lunch and warming up a bit, it was time to switch lakes to see what else we could get into. Lake # 2 wasn’t as kind, and we spent a lot of time searching for a mixed bag of fish in 20′ – 25′ mud flats. The big schools we were on a few days ago have spread out for some reason, and it took a lot of looking on our Humminbird before we settled in. The fish were there, but they weren’t exactly in an eating mood… We caught some small perch, a few more crappies, and a rogue pike before quitting time. Water temperatures were steady throughout the day at 45 degrees. Gloria and Wayne were fantastic and a great couple to have in the boat. Really fun day with a fun couple. Thanks for a good time Martins!
It’s always fun to take people to new places, and we were finally able to get back on Chequamegon Bay. Double bonus! Jordan and Kelsey Gensmer from Angler’s Haven Resort are regulars with me during this week, and it was the perfect opportunity to do something different. This season has presented plenty of challenges with weather and conditions, and I’ve had an incredibly hard time getting back on one of my favorite bodies of water. We solved that problem on Monday, and I met Jordan at River Rock Inn to start our day. The Gensmers have a lot going on these days with a couple of cool kiddos to take care of and a resort to run. Kelsey couldn’t make the trip so Jordan was riding solo. I guess he gets to catch all of the fish… Sorry Kelsey!!! The huge storm we had a couple of weeks ago definitely took it’s toll on the bay, but things are finally getting back to normal. Jordan and I started out drifting over a bunch of fish we marked on a mud flat in 20′ of water and quickly connected on some nice fish using live bait rigs and minnows. Action was slow but steady, and we picked off a bunch of fat smallies up to 20″. Northwest winds pushed us along on our drifts, but the wind died late in the morning, and that always slows a good bite on the bay… No worries! We moved to off shore rocks in the afternoon and caught a few more fish until the wind completely laid flat there as well. It’s amazing what a fine line there is between not enough and too much wind on the bay. We worked it out though. Jordan ended up battling with a pile of fat smallies and put some good fish in the net while told stories from the past season. We had lots of stories! Water temperatures were steady throughout the bay at 45 degrees, and fish should continue to stack up as the water clears. If the weather cooperates, Chequamegon Bay is probably the place to be over the next few weeks until ice up. Those fish haven’t seen a lot of pressure lately, and they’re definitely hungry! Awesome day with a really good guy. We were only missing one thing… Missed you Kelsey, but you’ll be fishing on credit next year. It won’t be fair!!!
With only two days left in our open water season, getting my father (Jim) in the boat was long over due. Our old buddy Terry Peterson also came along on Tuesday, and I had two of my favorite fellas in the boat. Crappies were the quest in the Hayward area, and we went back to one of our old stand by lakes that’s always been a good late fall producer. It’s been a stubborn bite there lately, and that situation didn’t really improve. We were there a few days ago and struggled to find fish, but that wasn’t the issue today. There was no problem finding them on the Humminbird. They just wouldn’t eat! The crappies were hugging tight to bottom in anywhere from 23′ – 32′ of water, and we were only able to catch one or two fish every time we stopped the boat. It was kind of crazy… I’d park the boat on some fish, we’d get bit right away, and that would be it. Time to move… The one here and one there thing played itself out throughout the day as we caught fish on both slip bobbers and tight lines with plastics. A pattern never really developed, and bites seemed to be completely random. Finally around mid afternoon we got into a groove and rallied with a bunch of good slabs up to 12″. Man the crappie bite has been tough sledding on a few of our lakes over the last month, and we were wondering out loud what it’s all about? Lots of here today, gone tomorrow, and uncooperative fish lately. I always hang my hat on the fact that Mother Nature has a plan, and we’re just along for the ride. It would be nice if she’d share that plan with us though… Water temps were stuck at 43 degrees throughout the day with more gloomy skies and some rain to deal with. When is the last time we saw the sun? I couldn’t have had two better guys in the boat to deal with a tough bite, and we figured it out. Those were some hard earned fish, but we didn’t let them get the best of us boys! One more day left before we pull the pin on the 2018 season. Where does the time go?…
Hayward area Fisheries Biologist Max Wolter always has a spot in the boat with us this week. Terry Peterson and I started this annual trip with Max several years ago, and It’s always a good time. Ironically our trip with Max landed on the last day that we’ll be on the water this season, but it was the perfect situation to catch up and do some learning. Max has been working his tail off to keep things rolling on our inland lakes, and we’ve seen some fantastic results from his efforts. He’s just the man for a very challenging job, and we’re more than lucky to have him on our side. He had his pick from a few options I gave him on Wednesday and chose to fish a lake that he manages so he could get a first hand look at how things were going. Even when he’s not supposed to be working, he’s working. I wouldn’t expect anything less… We targeted a mixed bag bite and found exactly what we were looking for in 23′- 25′ mud flats. Tight lines and slip bobbers with plastics along with slip bobbers and minnows all produced a variety of crappies up to 12″, perch up to 12″, pike up to 30″ and a couple of fat walleyes up to 21″. In between fish Terry and I got to pepper Max with a bunch of questions, and he kindly answered every one of them. It’s not often that the guide gets to flip the script in the boat, but Max is a wealth of knowledge and can teach you a lot about what’s going on under that boat. Water temps are holding steady around 45 degrees, and this is always a bittersweet day for me. I’m never ready to put the boat away, but it’s time to put the boat away… Terry and Max pounded the fish, and I was on the net. I might have even caught a few myself. It was a great combination, and I couldn’t think of a better way to put a bow on the 2018 season. By the way, the sun was shining and temperatures were comfortable. It was probably one of the nicest weather days we’ve had all month. How ironic! Thanks for taking care of our lakes Max, and good luck on the trick or treat trail tonight. Happy Halloween!
So here we are… Our 26th season of guiding is in the books, and the boat is put away. For many reasons, it’ll be one I won’t forget. Whether it’s the late ice out, epic flooding, or the largest walleye and pike I’ve ever seen in the boat, we’ll be talking about 2018 for a long time. Big thanks to all of our loyal customers for making it possible to do this crazy thing for a living all of these years. I’m truly blessed and look forward to seeing all of you every season. Thank you to my partners and sponsors as well. Your support is huge, and we certainly couldn’t do it without you. We’re all in it together, and I’m proud to be affiliated with such great people and companies. If I recommend a guide, brand, or product, you can bet that they’re top notch and will get the job done. Last but certainly not least, thanks to my girls LeeAnn, Morgan, and Berkley. I’ll be around a whole bunch over the next few months to drive you nuts until next fishing season. Love you guys! Fishing reports will resume when the ice fishing begins. Thanks for following us throughout the season. As always… Stay tuned, and we’ll keep you posted!