Soft Water Fishing on Winnebago, Pounding the Drums

Last weekend, Matt had a family to-do up near Appleton. Since we’ve barely made it out to do anything this summer, we decided to pack up the fishing gear and take the boat for some fishing on Winnebago while we were up there. The last time we were there was for sturgeon spearing back in February. 

Anyway, that was how we hoped it would work. We towed the boat up to his brother’s place and stayed the night, planning to rise fairly early and get out for the last half of the morning bite. Figuring that ‘Bago is the the single largest lake in the state, we assumed we could just head to a launch and snag some bait on the way. My friends, it did not work this way in practice.

Our route took us from a little ways west of Greenville in the upper left corner of that map southeast to Neenah. Apparently, not one person in that corridor thought to open a bait shop. The first bait store our GPS took us to had been closed for what looked like several years. Our next try was ten miles away in Appleton, and the GPS location of it was off by a solid two miles. Once we stopped and got real directions to find it, it didn’t open until 9am on a Sunday (seriously, what bait shop in this state doesn’t open at dawn or close to it?) All the next closest shops were a good 15 miles away in Oshkosh or Winneconne, or even further away down in Fond du Lac. We were driving around for a good 45 minutes to an hour, trying to find anything we could throw on our hooks. Eventually, we found a gas station selling worms, and grumbling, settled for that.

Once we finally launched from the very, very nice launch at Doty park (next to a Coast Guard auxillary post), we headed out to open water and got to fishing.

By the time we got out there, it was well past 8am, and well past the morning bite. Our only luck came in the form of 6 small sheepshead, caught in quick succession the first 30 minutes we were out. I’ve eaten them before, and they taste fine- just very bony. But these were small. We threw them back. I had one small rock bass on towards the end, but they don’t get much over 6 inches.

The only other positive of this trip, besides the family to-do, was a trip to Scheel’s, a place I find to be better than both Gander Mountain and Cabela’s combined. We both got new bow sights out of the deal. I plan to zero mine in this weekend.

Naming sights and other hunting accessories seems to follow the same conventions as naming action movie sequels.

Naming sights and other hunting accessories seems to follow the same conventions as naming action movie sequels.

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More Solo Fishing

I had originally requested this past weekend off, thinking Matt and I were headed down to bowfish for Asian carp on the Illinois river back by home. Turns out, Matt forgot he had work to do both Saturday and Sunday. So I had the three days originally requested, plus two more. That was a lot of days to fill.

Friday, I volunteered to drive to Racine and pick up the new gas tank for the ditch boat. We gave up on the old one, given that the sealing kit barely covered half of it. We got a new, plastic one for under $200. Shipping would have been almost as much as the tank itself, so I drove down for the day. After wedging the tank into the VW, I headed to the river there to fish. I went to the Steelhead facility, where Matt and I had been fishing before. Everyone I asked said there was little trout activity, and I wasn’t surprised- the water was pretty warm. So I cast for bass and whatever else might bite. I did find some bass. But there was a surprise in store for me.

Little bass

Little bass

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Little bass

Little bass

Whoa, hang on a minute.

Whoa, hang on a minute.

Yup. A 6 1/2 muskie fingerling

Yup. A 6 1/2 muskie fingerling

My first muskie was about as big around as my index finger. Though, at this point, I think I have cast for one a few thousand times. Maybe my next one can be a little bit bigger. I released him & told him to go get bigger.

Weeknight Solo Fishing

It turns out a good way to get stared at is to drag your kayak briefly through part of a park before launching it into a lake, and then be a girl fishing by yourself. Wednesday I was called off at work. The day started cool and cloudy, and eventually a small thunderstorm cell ripped through part of town, dropping hail. After the thunderstorm passed, I packed up the kayak and my gear, and headed to Lake Wingra for some panfish.

Looking north toward my launch point from across the lake

Looking north toward my launch point from across the lake

Looking west toward part of the UW Arboretum

Looking west toward part of the UW Arboretum

Getting there from my side of town is always fun, with the oddball streets and 5-way + intersections on the isthmus, but we’d fished here before with good results. On top of that, this lake is also bordered by Madison’s small zoo. From my fishing spots, I could hear a rooster crowing and the lions roaring. I wasn’t necessarily looking for lunkers- I just wanted to catch something. And did I ever accomplish that.

My first bass, a 12.5 incher, within 5 minutes of my first anchoring.

My first bass, a 12.5 incher, within 5 minutes of my first anchoring.

A nice 6 inch bluegill

A nice 6 inch bluegill

And another

And another

And another

And another

My second bass

My second bass

My thumb all chewed up

My thumb all chewed up

 

All in all, I would catch 15 bluegill and lose easily another ten, which would have made for a day limit for one person. I caught a third bass, but didn’t get a picture. None of the bass were big enough to keep. I could have held on to some of the bluegills, but I didn’t want to fillet little 6 inch fish, and literally all of the ones I got in the kayak were 6 inches. I also forgot a stringer or basket for them.

Even starting my fishing trip well before dusk, the fish where biting extremely well. I made it around the lake in about three and a half hours, and then got everything back in the car and headed home.

 

Finally Broke the Kayak in.

This one’s just a quick one:

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I got my first fish in my kayak! And my first bass on the Madison chain. I called it pretty soon after this- no more bites, plus the wind picked up to around 20mph. Not fun to deal with those waves, even in an anchored kayak.

A Chilly January Fishing Weekend.

Another weekend fishing is on the books. There isn’t a whole bunch to report. The Fisheree was fun but uneventful- fishing was slow for us, with just three fish between Matt and I. M’s family was out, and they got quite a few throughout the day, but nobody else’s tipups were taking off. Just as I was heading toward my lines to bring them in, I got a flag and pulled up my first northern, though. We had a good time anyway.

After a slow Fisheree, we decided to head out Sunday as well. We went out for trout to one of my favorite places- Devil’s Lake. So far, I’d only been hiking here, never fishing. But it’s a gorgeous park. We had one fish here- a 13 1/2 inch largemouth early in the afternoon. We marked a lot of fish, but nothing went for our bait. No trout, either. Some pretty picture opportunities, though.

The head of the east bluff.

The head of the east bluff.

Bright and sunny.

Bright and sunny.

One end of the east bluff from the top of the snow

One end of the east bluff from the top of the snow

GE

The west bluff sloping to the lake

The west bluff sloping to the lake

A visitor's center

A visitor’s center

My bass. I almost lost it- Matt valiantly and quickly reached into the icehole to catch it when it came off the hook.

My bass. I almost lost it- Matt valiantly and quickly reached into the icehole to catch it when it came off the hook.

Snow drifting over the tracks.

Snow drifting over the tracks.

South shore of the lake

South shore of the lake

Our truck and shanty.

Our truck and shanty.

GE GE

One Last Summer Fling Before Fall and Life Catch Us Up.

Normally, my new posts go out on Mondays. But we got back from this vacation on a Thursday. I’m also working all through the weekend- closing the dining room tonight, and closing the bar on Saturday and Sunday. Those two days I also arrive at work by 11 am. They’ll both be long days. I’m not too sure how much I’ll have to write about come Monday, but I had an idea. You see a lot of how-to for packing for camping. I took some pictures of my get home, get unpacked process.

Anyhow. Last Monday I wrote about the salmon fishing we did last week Saturday. We stayed that night in the Appleton area with Matt’s brother and his wife. Sunday morning we hooked the camper back up, packed up the pups, and headed further north. We stopped at a little grocery store in a town along the way to stock up on food. It was a very pleasant ride all along country roads on a sunny day.  Farmers were haying, and that far north, we were seeing the outermost leaves on the ash and maple trees beginning to change color- in spite of temps in the 80s and up.

For the most part, we spent the week fishing. This was another National Forest campground- Richardson Lake. We camped here once last year in June, before I ever started this blog thing up. It was rainy and chilly the entire time, and we were stuck in a tent. At the time, the jon boat had only one trolling motor on a too-small battery, and the old Merc didn’t work. We also didn’t catch any fish.  Not so this time. We had the camper and the canoe. It was nice and warm most of the week. And were the fish ever biting. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked, as my phone and only camera blew through its battery fairly quickly. I need to remember to turn off mobile data that far in the stix so it isn’t constantly searching for a signal.

We fished mostly there on Richardson, but one day we did go to a different lake, where Matt’s grandparents live. That’s where we caught the big pumpkinseed and the big bass. When we weren’t fishing, we were visiting Matt’s family and tooling around the area.

An Adventure in Wet Pants and Smashed Toes…

One thing I wish I’d gotten pictures of, but wisely did not take my phone/camera for was a trout fishing attempt. The Oconto river near Matt’s hometown is cold and rocky. It holds brook and brown trout. One of his old high school buddies took us down there for trout. It was rugged and beautiful. When we picked his buddy up, we should have known we were in for trouble. On the phone, he specifically requested Mike’s Hard Black Raspberry Lemonade and jalapeno beef sticks. He said without those, there would be no trout. He was waiting in his driveway in a pair of chest waders. Matt and I were in shorts and sandals. We went offroad in the Durango for a couple miles, and then bushwhacked our way down to the water. When I said rocky, I meant bouldery. And loggy. When logging was still a big thing in northern Wisconsin, they’d floated logs down the river, and you can still see some of the bigger ones. The rest are all deadfalls. We spent two or three hours scrambling over rocks, under trees, and through icy water. Matt dunked himself repeatedly. I didn’t go in over my knees until the last minute, soaking my right side. No trout, only chubs and smashed, tender feet.

Besides Fishing…

Other than fishing, we did some shooting. I got in some practice with my bow and got it sighted in. We also did some trap shooting, and I got more practice with my shotgun. Based on my practice, the ducks and geese have quite the upper hand this year.

We also went coyote hunting on his grandfather’s farm. The first morning we didn’t see anything. But we went our last night there (Wednesday). It turned into a bit of scouting. We saw at least 5 deer. We also saw a flock of turkeys. Three toms, three jakes. We didn’t see any coyotes, but they did answer our calls in the distance.

Blurry turkey blobs. I need a new camera.

Blurry turkey blobs. I need a new camera.

However, we started to hear thunder rumbling. On the way over, we’d caught some weather advisories out of Marquette, Michigan and Marinette. We hoped it would pass north of us, but then the thunder got louder and this happened.

Not good.

Not good.

It poured. We got soaked. The deer got soaked. The turkeys got soaked. We were mighty grateful for the camper when we got back to the site. Our firepit was full of water, and there were a couple inches of water standing on the ground over most of the site. If we’d had a tent, we’d have been screwed. We changed into dry clothes, and waited it out.

It stopped raining, and Matt decided to throw a line in the lake. Earlier in the trip the dogs had knocked my sandals into the fire, leaving me with only my hunting boots or my leather boots. I opted not to go. After about 20 minutes, Matt shut off the generator on me and said “I’m vetoing you. Come down here”. He’d had a pretty decent bite. We pushed the canoe out for some post-storm fishing. I caught a tiny blue gill, which we used for bait. And Matt finally caught a pike. But the best thing was the light at sunset.

Thursday morning, we headed out one more time to fish. In the pictures above, we kept 32 of the fish we caught. We tossed at least that many back, and used some of the really small ‘gills for bait (only in the lakes we caught them in). Once the morning bite stopped around 8:30, we packed everything in, and headed back home.

A Return to Normal.

Three hours later, we re entered civilization and our normal lives. I work all weekend. Matt works all of today (Friday). Next month he takes over the Madison recruiting office (for the next couple years), and I have the rest of the season to finish out at the golf course (who knows how long the weather will hold). By January, I hope to be back in college classes so I can maybe get this godforsaken degree of mine an inch closer to done.

This vacation was, I think, just a pause or a breath before we both enter a bit of a new chapter. Dealing with recruiting duty with Matt just a canvassing recruiter for the last three years was incredibly hard. The first several months of him running the office will be tough as well, particularly since he’s starting right when school does. It will be a different kind of hard. I’ll be paying down the last of what I owe UW-Madison from two years ago (yuck, I know), and saving up to pay for next spring. Our one touchstone through all of this mess will be our outdoors hobbies. Hunting, fishing, all of it. It keeps us grounded, and it keeps us together.

A Thursday Out of Town and On the River

Every three months or so, Matt has to go away to All Hands training. Since the recruiters are generally pretty isolated out here, away from the Fleet and all the reasons people typically join the Marine Corps, it’s a combination of training updates, and a morale-boosting activity for two days. They do it in different cities all over Wisconsin, and the activities are always different, but August’s All Hands is always Family Day. Other branches and other stations do it all kinds of different ways, but here, we get cheap passes up to Wisconsin Dells. It was my first day off in seven days. We spent the better part of yesterday at the Mt Olympus theme park up there, riding waterslides, roller coasters, and go carts.

We also took the boat up with us. When it got to be about 4 o’clock, we said goodbye to some of the work buddies Matt rarely gets to see, and ducked out of the park. First stop was locating a bait shop among all the lake houses up there. Once that was finished, we found ourselves a boat launch and got on our way.

The thing about the Wisconsin River up in the Dells, though, is that it’s a major tourist attraction. The Dells are there because of the beautiful sandstone formations, and the famous Wisconsin Army Ducks were out in force.

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Layered Sandstone

Layered Sandstone

Small bluff

Small bluff

Sunshine upstream.

Sunshine upstream.

 

At one point, a Duck Driver even worked us into his tour, joking that he saw the same man out yesterday with a different woman. We also had to contend with the Jet Boats.

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Otherwise calm water was made pretty turbulent with all this traffic. We motored a bit upstream and anchored near a sandbar, out of the lanes these things use. The fish were definitely biting. Matt caught a green bluegill within minutes. He also caught a little largemouth bass. My one fish here was a largemouth just shy of the legal limit at 13.5 inches

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While I was reeling in that fish, one of the recruiters Matt knows from another city in Wisconsin called him. He and his wife wanted to fish with us. So, we puttered back to the launch, picked them up, and went downstream, fishing near this neat island.

I didn't futz with my light settings, and I should have.

I didn’t futz with my light settings, and I should have.

There were small fish jumping everywhere here. Nothing really bit, until about 30 minutes in, another Duck Tour came by. The driver went straight over one of Matt’s lines. He hooked into the Duck boat by accident. Luckily, the driver had slowed down to ask how our fishing was. We were able to shout over that we’d caught his boat, he turned around and came close to give us some slack.

SAMSUNGAfter that incident, we motored back upstream to that sandbar. We fished there until dark with few mishaps. Matt caught a big sheephead carp, and kept it, intending to practice his taxidermy on it. With the small school of bluegills he’s collected, the carp, and goodness only know what else he’ll keep to practice on, we’ll have a nice little starter seascape of taxidermied fish.

I had fun on the water. The Wisconsin is a nice river, though my only experience on it was an overnight kayaking trip two years ago on a much lower portion of it, below the Sauk City dam. It’s much deeper up in the Dells, even below the dam there. Our fish finder was reading 40 feet in the channel, and there was a hole under one of those bluffs registering 60 feet deep.  We didn’t get a big flathead catfish like Matt hoped for, but we caught more fish than we ever do in the Madison Chain.

A Perfect Sunday, As Far as I’m Concerned.

Hoo, boy. We had such a big weekend. After posting about the demolition on the boat interior, we scooted on off to Milwaukee. The plan was to attend this function, stay in the hotel they provided us, and then go down to Racine, fish, and come home.

I’m happy to say it went off without a hitch. The hotel provided for us was wonderful. We had a jacuzzi and a rain shower. The function was a pretty good time- I got to meet a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One of Matt’s coworkers met the regional director of Homeland Security. And we got to have a big, fancy dinner at the Harley Davidson museum in Milwaukee. The open bar didn’t hurt, and neither did the fact that a wealthy former Marine picked up our tabs at the bar afterward.

So, this morning, we had breakfast at the hotel and took advantage of the amenities. We checked out of the hotel, and left for Racine, about 25 miles away. We had hoped to find the dam on the Root River there. For a large, inanimate, cement object, it proved elusive. We eventually just found the Root River Steelhead Facility, where the DNR does a lot of their stocking and sampling. We spent most of the day fishing nearby. I caught my first trout, and it was my first time using exclusively lures. Matt caught a couple trout, and a nice, big bass. I caught a little bass and a lot of little trout. We saw some real lunkers in the clear water, but they weren’t having any of our shenanigans. They were almost all rainbow trout, but Matt did get one brown trout.

We were out for about 6 hours. I had a blast, even though I didn’t catch any keepers. Trout are so much fun. They’re such spunky little fish, and I loved seeing the little guys swim up to hit my spinners.

We also had the good fortune to meet a wonderful fly fisher, who took pity on Matt and walked down to show him some stuff. He even gave Matt a fly. He was so nice!

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We stayed in this area most of the day, on about a 3/4 mile stretch of river. We later moved on to a different area, much farther upstream, but we didn’t catch anything there and eventually decided to head home. It was a great day, and we had a good time. It was nice to get out of town for a little while. I’ll go ahead and dump some captioned photos tonight.

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First trout of the day.

First trout of the day.

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My little smallmouth

My little smallmouth

My first trout.

My first trout.

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Beautiful day, beautiful setting.

Beautiful day, beautiful setting.

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Muscle Man

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Itty bitty trout!

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17" small mouth.

17″ small mouth.

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Through sheer, stubborn persistance.

Well, we spent another weekend all around fishing. After I got off work Saturday afternoon, we stopped by the Madison Fishing Expo. It was a good show. Lots and lots of fishing lures and poles, lots of sparkly boats. We picked up about 15 brochures for fishing and hunting places all over the state, one out in Idaho, and one in western Ontario. I entered to win at least 5 or 6  guided fishing trips.

Sparkle Boats

Fishing poles

Fishing poles

Musky lures

Musky lures

I also got my picture taken next to the largest outboard motor I’d seen out of water.

Wish list

Big damn motor.

Sunday morning we got up and headed on out to Lake Waubesa. It was sunny and gorgeous, 32 degrees or so. Matt got to play with his underwater camera, and with the flasher.

Playing with the underwater camera.

Playing with the underwater camera.

We didn’t get anything yesterday, and we barely marked any fish on the flasher. We did get to see a few small planes landing on the ice and taking off.

Little plane

Little plane

There were quite a few permanent shanties on Waubesa, especially out over the deeper water. I thought this cow print one made out of an old camper was pretty great.

You think it was pulled by a Here-Ford?

This is, after all, Wisconsin

We moved our tip ups quite a bit yesterday. We started off in about 2 or 3 feet of water, and moved out to about 18 feet, and then back. Some one was nice enough to drill a bunch of holes for us with their gas auger. Talking to him and to one guy that stopped by our shanty as we packed up, the fishing on Waubesa is rough, too. The guy with the auger had seen a couple small pike and bluegills, but not much else. The guy who stopped by our shanty had had his son with him, who caught one perch.

Matt took off most of today, and headed out this morning before I left for work. I was done around 2:30 this afternoon, and I met him out on the ice. He was literally in the middle of Lake Mendota. I figured I spotted our shanty from shore, but on the way out, a really nice guy in a group of permanent shanties stopped me to ask if I wanted help. He let me use his spotting scope, and the shanty I was heading for was definitely ours. He even offered a ride on one of their four wheelers. I hoofed it the rest of the way out with our lunch, and as I open the door of the shanty, what do I see?

Pretty sweet piece of bass

The first fish of the year!!

I wasn’t even mad that he caught a fish without me. He got a nice little white bass. I guess the flasher was a great aid in catching it, since it marks where fish are in a cone shape from the hole you have it in. I didn’t catch anything, but as we jigged we saw a few more fish go past. I had a few nibbles, even, but they aren’t really striking. Someone walked past our shanty and stopped to chat. He was using spring bobbers, which we’d seen at Gander and sort of ignored. With how gently the fish are nibbling, I can see how the increased sensitivity is really helpful. We may need to go get some soon. We’ve got about a month left at ice fishing, and I’d like to get at least a few more fish.

We left before dark today, cause it turned out that Matt had to run by the office after all. Walking out, the guy who let me use his spotting scope stopped us to chat. Apparently, they’d had 7 people out with them, and 21 tip ups in the water, with only 4 small pike to show for it. The same guy said that the perch fishing this year was utterly hopeless, and he’d been fishing Madison waters for years.

I’m not too sure if we’ll be going out next weekend. I know I’m sort of fished out, and even Matt said the same today. But either way, there will be a post. We do still have two deer to finish processing in our chest freezer (8 quarters from 2 big deer), and we still have to dry the hides.  We’ll see though. We do have the rest of the week to get through. We finally have a fish, at least. I’ll cook the fish tomorrow, and share my recipe.