Lots of ground to cover in this report…. Good weather, bad weather, good fishing, lots of fish, and a couple of slow days are all included. It's been one heck of a ride over the past week!
We were suffering from a bit of a Packer hangover after a brutal loss on Sunday night, but my crew for Monday was the perfect cure! Doug and Sunny Custer from Chippewa Falls, WI are fellow "Packer Backers", and we were feeling each other's pain. Nothing a few crappies couldn't cure! We spent our day in the Hayward area, and found a bunch of fish right away in 25' of water. The only problem was they wouldn't stay put… We'd anchor up and catch a few on slip bobbers and plastics along with jigging spoons but would have to move frequently to stay on top of them. We played the "catch and move" game for most of the morning until a consistent bite developed. It finally did, and we went in for lunch after a good late morning rally with fish up to 11". The afternoon bite stayed strong, and the Custers finished off our day putting big numbers of fish in the boat. Overcast skies and light rain moved in on us during the afternoon, but it was tolerable. Water temps held steady in the mid 60's, and it felt like a "typical" September day. I couldn't have spent it with a better crew, and I always look forward to seeing these guys. Enjoy those fish tacos, and I know you'll be buying a new grill soon Doug… No need to thank me!!!
Finally… Due to weather, fishing conditions, and bad timing, we haven't been able to spend a full day on Chequamegon Bay since June. That came to an end on Tuesday. Stan and Karen Miller from Alpharetta, GA returned to fish out of River Rock Inn, and we spent the first of a three day trip chasing smallies. Stan is the third veteran in three weeks we've had in the boat. He served in the US Army as a Cobra Helicopter pilot in Viet Nam from 1970 – 1971. Always a privilege to fish with heroes! Conditions in the morning started out perfect with a nice south wind to drift along weed edges in 10' – 20' of water using minnows. We caught some good fish up to 20" right away and had a few short hits as well. The bite was a bit funny though, and we struggled to connect on a few. It didn't stop the Millers however, and Karen even put a fantastic bonus 20" coho salmon in the net after it almost stripped all of the line off her reel. It was a crazy battle and a cool catch. Karen had caught her first salmon, but she wasn't done crossing things off the "Bucket List". East winds picked up in the afternoon, and we moved to 12' – 15' rocks. The bite was slow but steady, and we'd have something happen on each drift. That something included Karen landing the largest pike we've seen this season after she battled the fat 40" fish into the net. Awesome fight and awesome fish. Her personal best pike to go along with her first salmon! We wrapped up the day moving back to weed edges and put a few more fat smallies in the net before quitting time. We didn't find them in bunches, but our totals at the end of the day were pretty respectable. I won't count that bullhead though Karen! Water temps hit 64 degrees by quitting time, and it sounds like another warm up is on the way. Fun start to our trip, but big winds are forecasted tomorrow. Inland we'll go! Stay tuned…
Thunderstorms banged their way through northern Wisconsin early Wednesday morning, and day #2 with the Millers was a textbook example of how to put a day together when weather affects fishing. Predictably, we started slow. Big winds on Chequamegon Bay forced us inland, and our morning was spent trying to figure out a pattern. We came to an obvious conclusion… There was no pattern! Locating concentrated schools of smallmouth was impossible. It was a "one here, one there" kind of morning. On a positive note the fish we did catch were hogs with big bellies, and we started to dial things in a bit before lunch. Rock spots were definitely holding more fish than weeds. In the afternoon I decided to try a spot that's been on my mind for awhile. It had all of the stuff needed to hold fish so we decided to scratch the itch. Glad we did! We drifted minnows along a rocky edge in 20' of water and absolutely clobbered them. Fish of all sizes hit the net including an enormous 20.5" fish with a bursting belly landed by Stan. I can't give you an official weight, but it had to be north of 6 lbs. We don't get to see many of those in a season! We even had a nice double, but I'll have to let you decide who's was bigger. Sorry Stan! The fish were stacked, and the Millers taught them a lesson. After the action slowed around mid afternoon we checked out a few other spots, but it was obvious where we needed to be. We ended our day back at the "Honey Hole" and put a few more in the boat before calling it a day. Goofy weather does goofy things to fish, and you just need to keep plugging along until things click. Water temps inland held at 66 degrees, and that seems to be the standard lately. One more day with the Millers. Can't wait to see what happens!
Chequamegon Bay can certainly be an unforgiving place, but anyone that fishes it will tell you that it can also give you some of the coolest fishing experiences you've ever had. Stan and Karen were back for the final day of their trip, and weather conditions allowed us to fish it on Thursday. The wind thing has been all or nothing this season, and it happened again today. Flat water made for tough fishing early, and we covered a bunch of ground checking spots without any success. Winds switched to the east, and we were finally able to get into a decent bite late in the morning on a weed edge in 12' – 18' of water. The bite was decent, but the fish were BIG! We drifted with minnows, and caught several tankers including Karen's personal best 21.5" monster. Hard to beat a fish like that anywhere, and it may have been the biggest one we've seen this season. Huge! A fun bonus were the trout and salmon mixed in, and Karen landed another nice coho. Those things fight like crazy on spinning gear! It was all about Karen today… She wasn't happy about your performance yesterday Stan! After lunch we went right back to the school of fish we were on earlier. The fish were still there, but conditions had changed a bit. Winds had picked up substantially, and our mobility was limited. We still put a few more good fish in the net however including more bonuses. Karen cranked in one of the largest splake I've seen in a long time, and Stan cracked the trout code as well landing a splake of his own. We worked hard for every fish we caught, but the results were worth it. Our three day totals included smallmouth, pike, cohos, splake, and a bullhead. Why did I have to include the bullhead??? When it was all said and done, Karen had landed the largest pike and smallmouth we've seen this season. Maybe she needs to stick around awhile…? The bay is a special place. Water temps hit 63 degrees by the end of the day, but I saw my first 50's reading when we put in. Despite our warm daytime temperatures lately, cool nights are certainly keeping us in the fall pattern. Thanks for your service Stan, and I'll try to take better care of you next time if Karen lets me! Everything happens for a reason…
Our crazy weather continues… Friday was scheduled to be spent with Tal and Darlene Janowitz, but severe thunderstorms around Hayward spoiled those plans. It was a big time bummer, but I'll see them again next spring for a "get even" trip. Jon Schlussler (St. Paul, MN) and Tim Leach (Staples, MN) were back with us on Saturday fishing out of the River Rock Inn. More hot and muggy weather was in the forecast, and we spent our morning on Chequamegon Bay. I guess we're having August in September this year… The bay has produced some big smallies for us over the last week, and the trend continued. Jon and Tim started out hot and fast putting some giant fish up to 21 1/2" in the net as we drifted with minnows along a weed edge in 15' of water. We keep getting closer to that 22" mark… A few pike were mixed in as well, and it certainly felt like the beginning of a big numbers day. Winds shifted a bit around mid morning, and the bite slowed considerably. We hit a few spots and decided to pull the plug around noon to head inland. For the record, that was totally Jon and Tim's decision. Maybe not totally… The inland bite was tough. Finding fish wasn't a problem, but getting them to eat was. Fish on rock structure were totally uncooperative, but we were able to connect on a few along weed edges in 12' – 18' of water. Water temps hit 69 degrees on a steamy afternoon. We're heating up when we should be cooling down… Always fun to have these guys in the boat, and lots of laughs for sure. If you need sunglasses next time Jon, just ask! Better bring your snow suit for the next trip. You know that's going to happen!
I'm fishing in shorts on September, 24… There's no way I'm going to complain about that, but it has just been an odd beginning to our fall. Nate Gove (Crystal, MN) and his good buddy Bill Roth (Eden Prairie, MN) were back in the boat, and we spent our day in the Hayward Lakes area. Temperatures were forecasted to hit the high 80's, and I believe they got it right. We targeted smallies for most of the day and had an interesting bite with fish coming on suspending plastics and jigs with plastics in 2' – 6' of water. If you followed our reports in June, that's how we were fishing them today. Fish were located on shallow rocks, and a stiff south wind that kicked up around mid morning got things going. We didn't find them in bunches and had to work at it, but Nate and Bill ended up putting a very respectable day together landing good numbers of fish up to 19". Big boulders seemed to be the key. Whenever we'd drift over an area with the right stuff, rods were bent. One bait or presentation never really stood out though. We all kept throwing something different, and the action was steady throughout the day. By mid afternoon we had caught a pile, and the guys decided to see what the walleyes were doing. Bill loves walleye fishing! We marked a school of fish in 35' of water and parked on them. It took a bit of coaxing, but we were able to put a few fish up to 17" in the net before quitting time on crawlers. Shorts weather, fish biting, and a Packers win. Can't complain about that! Water temps hit 70 again, but I think big changes are on the way… My shorts may be going into storage. Always good times with these guys. Thanks for another good one fellas!!!
Rain and east winds moved into northern Wisconsin on Monday, and normally that would be a recipe for disaster. It was just what the doctor ordered for Chequamegon Bay however. Unseasonably warm water temps have delayed the usual fall migrations of smallmouth that we see, and it's been difficult to put big numbers days together out there for awhile. Problem solved! Dustin and Tasha Hetke from Elk Mound, WI fished with me out of the River Rock Inn. Our day started out slow, and we were blanked at our first stop but found a school of fish at stop #2. They were goofy though, and we had a lot of short hits and misses before finally connecting on some good fish around mid morning. The bite got better as the morning went along as we drifted minnows 12' – 15' rocks in a light rain. The rain cleared when we went in for lunch, and there was definitely reason for optimism with the way our morning ended. As we headed back out, Tasha said that she has her best luck in the afternoons. Turns out she was right! Winds shifted from the west to the east, and I noticed a bunch more fish on my graph as we set up on the rocks we were fishing in the morning. They were hungry, and it wasn't long before we were hooking up on a regular basis with a few doubles mixed in as well. As I moved between drifts more and more fish kept appearing on my screen, and I couldn't help but think that fall is definitely here. More rain moved in around mid afternoon, but it didn't stop the fish from biting. The Hetkes put a pile of big brownies up to 21" in the net and kept me moving all afternoon. Just the way I like it! The bay is tough to beat when it's right. Today it was definitely right, and the right people got to experience it! Water temps held in the mid 60's throughout the day, and it looks like more rain is on the way. We might need to build an ark. Can't wait to do it again Dustin and Tasha!
I was only kidding about having to build an ark… Paul & Devin Bruening from Decorah, IA were scheduled to fish with me on Tuesday, and the rain continued. A huge weather system parked right on top of northern Wisconsin, and there was more than enough wind and rain to go around. Plan A was to get right back on the Chequamegon Bay smallmouth bite that was good to us the day before, but that wasn't going to happen in the morning with 20 – 30 mph E winds. Inland we went, but the bite was tough. Drifting minnows along beaklines only produced one fish, and we switched to fishing rocky points with plastics catching a few fish up to 18" in 2' – 6' of water. That was definitely the most effective approach, but it was a "one here one there" scenario… Water temperatures were in the high 60's. Winds were forecasted to lay down on Lake Superior in the afternoon, and the Bruenings wanted to scratch the itch to fish the bay. I've been trying to get them out there for a few years now, and this was our first opportunity. Off we went! Stiff winds were blowing from the east when we arrived a the landing, but we were able to get where we wanted to go. Devin didn't waste any time putting a nice 18" fish in the net after we arrived at our first stop. He followed it up with a second smallie right away, and things were definitely trending in our favor. Unfortunately that was the end of the bite as winds calmed down, and the fish we were marking in 12' – 15' of water became completely uncooperative. Apparently they were on the same page as the inland fish. Glad everyone is communicating!!! We checked out a couple of other spots, and Devin was able to put another 18" fish in the net. That was the end of our action though… The big lake laid flat, and fast currents put every fish we were after in a bad mood. Water temps were in the low 60's, and our unstable weather over the past couple of days definitely has put things in a funk. Tough bite, but good guys to have in the boat on a slow day. Trust me… They'll get even! See you next year fellas. Those fish have no idea what they're in for!
Our first October fishing report is coming up next… Can you believe that? We're officially on the home stretch of our open water season, but we've got a lot more fishing in us before we wrap it up. Stay tuned!