Category Archives: How To

Wrapping Up the Ice Fishing

Wrapping Up the Ice Fishing Season
By Bob Jensen

For many of us, the ice-fishing season is over, but open water fishing is still a little ways off. Some will make a trip to a river to get in on some open water angling, and others will travel north to find ice that is still safe, but for many, now is a down time for actually wetting a line. That makes it a great time to take care of some things that need to be done to make our fishing even better next year. Following are some of those things.

Let’s start with some tasks that should be done now to wrap up the ice-fishing season. If you have a portable shelter, open it up and let it dry out good on the inside. Clean everything out of it that might attract mice or any other pest. Make sure it’s completely dry, then close it up and put it in storage. I prefer to store my shelters off the ground. Just put a couple of boards underneath it to allow for air flow. I’m not sure this is necessary, but I still like to do it.

Now, here’s a big one: Storing your auger. Different augers use different types of fuel today. Check with the manufacturer on how best to store your auger and then do it that way. Many ice-anglers like to start their auger every month or so and just let it run for a minute.

Also, if you noticed that it was getting harder to make a hole in the ice, have the blades sharpened or install a new set of blades.

Make sure the battery on your sonar unit is charged.

Take some line off your reel and remember to add fresh line when ice-season approaches again. Back the drag off also.

Open up your tacklebox and let it air out. Make a note of what lures need to be replaced.

Last thing: Clean out the pockets of the clothing that you wear on the ice. Make sure there are no candy bar wrappers or containers of waxworms, spikes, etc. Bad things happen when these are left in your coat.

Now to prepare for open water. If you haven’t been ice-fishing, remember to get a new fishing license.

If you didn’t do it when you put your rod and reels away for the winter, strip some line off and add new. More and more, anglers are realizing the importance of fresh line. On my jigging and rigging rods, I take about fifty yards off and tie new line to the old line. I generally never have more line than that out when jigging or rigging. I started using P-Line last year because it’s outstanding line that I can count on, but it’s also very affordable. With trolling reels, you’ll want to add more fresh line because you’ll often have more line out when trolling.

If you have a boat, make sure the batteries are charged and ready to go.

If you have waders that need some attention, get that done now. Leaky waders in the cold water of spring are no fun.

Check your tacklebox and make sure you have the lures you’ll need for the upcoming open water season.

These things are small details that often get forgotten, but if you remember them now, you’ll be more prepared to hit the open water soon and the ice when it returns.

To see all the newest episodes of the Fishing the Midwest television series, new fishing related tips, and fishing articles from the past, go to www.fishingthemidwest.com

Use Depthfinders and Underwater Cameras To Find Fish

High-Tech “Glass-Bottom” Fishing
Benefits of integrating today’s depthfinders and underwater cameras in open water

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

I was about 10 years old when I saw a TV program about a Florida tourist operation with glass-bottom boats. I can remember thinking: Wouldn’t that be cool? Even then, my goal was to catch more and bigger fish, and a transparent-floored boat seemed like a good way to learn more about fish location and behavior.

Now, decades later, my dream has come true. I’m fishing out of a glass-bottom boat… Okay, not literally, but outfitted with a unique combination of compatible electronics, my Ranger 620 allows me to see what’s going on below. What’s even better, the system is simple to use, but profound in what it reveals.

My system starts with a Garmin 7612xsv chartplotter/sonar combo. This unit, like many offered by Garmin, features a video input option that allows me to plug in and view Aqua-Vu Multi-Vu camera.

The pair works extremely well together. The 12-inch 1280 x 800 WXGA Garmin display shows what the camera captures in ultra-bright detail, even in full sunlight. It offers the option of full-screen video viewing, or I can split the screen to have video and sonar, video and mapping, etc., all with a push or two on the unit’s touch screen.

Historically, the weak links with underwater cameras has been the monitor quality, a necessity to keep overall cost down, and ease of use.

Although companies like Aqua-Vu are making better and brighter monitors, there are also options like the camera-only Aqua-Vu Multi-Vu that plugs directly into my 10-and 12-inch Garmin units and provides a stunningly clear, large viewing space.

With the press of a couple buttons on the touch screen Garmin menu, I can go from mapping to sonar (traditional sonar, ClearVü or SideVü) or any combination of the two. I also have the option of adding underwater video to the mix.

The ease of incorporating underwater viewing allows me to use the camera far more frequently. I now drop it overboard any time I’m curious, and within seconds get a look at what’s going on below the boat.

I use it often for fish species verification, a huge time saver, especially when filming TV shows, pre-fishing for tournaments, or when trying to put family and friends on fish. It also helped me become a much better interpreter of the highly-detailed CHIRP sonar readings I only dreamed about a few years ago.

It’s also incredibly fun.

Case Study #1: Smallies or Suckers?

I was on the Great Lakes chasing giant smallmouth when I pulled up on a big reef and scanned it my SideVü. It was loaded with fish! Knowing that smallmouths will move onto reefs in late fall, I was pumped especially after catching a four-pounder on my second cast.

I hooked another fish 15 minutes later and had the surprise of the trip. It was a big sucker and it had inhaled my jigging spoon! The next fish was also a sucker, as was the third, and yes, I was baffled! I had no idea that suckers will feed like aggressive predators.

Looking for answers, I finally lowered the Aqua-Vu down and quickly understood what was going on. The marks I was seeing on SideVü were not smallmouth, but suckers, and the reef was crawling with them.

We left.

Case Study #2: Walleye and Bass

Earlier this summer, I found a rock pile in 19 feet of water that was loaded with fish. I expected walleyes; but when I dropped the camera I discovered they were all deep-water largemouths. Later that same day, I found additional schools of fish I was convinced were crappies. Again, I dropped the camera and was proved wrong; they were big bluegills.

Another trip sticks out.

I was taping an episode of “Lake Commandos” on a lake that DNR survey data indicated had lots of largemouth, but very few smallmouth. So I was surprised when we landed several smallmouth along a weedline that should have held largies.

So I dropped the camera to the bottom and discovered a huge pile of boulders in the middle of the grass and it was filthy with smallmouth! This was information I couldn’t get from my sonar because thick weeds had overgrown the entire spot.

Vegetation Identification

Many natural lakes have progressively become more diverse in terms of vegetation types. Thousands across the country are now weed-choked with indigenous and invasive vegetation.

On many lakes, weedlines extend for hundreds or even thousands of yards. This makes breaking down the lake difficult and time-consuming, particularly when fish are relating to specific weed types.

On a recent “Lake Commandos” shoot with BASS touring pro Adrian Avena, the key to the entire big bass bite came down to finding cabbage, which was difficult as it was available only in small, random, isolated patches. As soon as we found a patch, however, we’d land two or three 4- to 6- pound bass on jigs tipped with Berkley Chigger Craws. But you could work 400-600 yards of a weedline between cabbage patches.

Sonar definition has really improved over the years, to the point that it is making it possible to breakdown some weed types with sonar. Milfoil, for example, looks different on screen than cabbage… if you know what to look for.

By running sonar side-by-side with video, I’ve learned to recognize how various weed types appear on sonar. The lessons continue, and it’s not full-proof, but I find myself able to find grass like coontail and cabbage that usually holds fish and avoid those that typically don’t.

This information is so valuable that I am now investing time simply to compare what I am seeing on sonar with the camera. In the process, I am becoming more efficient at finding fish.

One other thing about grass, and I am embarrassed to admit this: in some cases, particularly in areas with current, isolated patches of soft-stalked grass like milfoil, will lay horizontal to the bottom. On sonar, these areas can look like a school of four to five fish (and I thought they were).

Another lesson learned.

Bottom Hardness Identification

My sonar/camera system is also invaluable for confirming bottom composition and clarifying what my sonar is telling me. In many situations, with sonar alone, I was left wondering: Is that rock or thick coontail clumps on bottom. Hard bottom or soft? A bottom transition from one to the other? Now I understand what that looks like on sonar and can validate it 100% of the time with camera, which is critical. Bottom hardness transition areas are underwater super-highways for countless fish species.

Studying bottom composition has led to some interesting discoveries, too. I’ve spotted lost anchors, sunglasses, lures and rods on the bottom of lakes, as well a surprising number of golf balls.

Parting Thoughts

These days, I am dedicating more time to viewing because its making me a more productive fisherman. Oh, it’s fun to drop a camera and drift over cover and get a peak into the underwater world below. “Look, there’s a big smallmouth!”

But what the sonar/underwater combination reveals is much more than just fun… it’s also incredibly educational. I find myself dedicating days to leaving the rods in the locker and studying specific structure. Why is this specific spot holding fish? I’ll study spots for awhile, make mental notes, and drop waypoints, and this is putting more fish in the boat.

About Steve Pennaz
Steve Pennaz is a hall of fame angler who excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns on the water.

Did Hook Tweaks Help Rapala Pro Ott Defoe Win?

Hook tweaks help Rapala pro Ott Defoe win Bassmaster tournament

Tweaking your hook set-ups can improve hook-up ratios and put more fish in the boat. Such was the case last week for Rapala pros Ott DeFoe and Seth Feider, who respectively won and placed second in a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the Mississippi River near La Crosse, Wis.

A new hook set-up and new knot helped DeFoe beat 106 of the best anglers on the planet and win his first regular-season, full-field Bassmaster Elite Series tournament. For Feider, a new take on a classic bassin’ rig put fish in the boat when it counted, rewarding him with his highest-ever finish in two years on the Elite tour.

Although DeFoe and Feider fished in different areas with different techniques, the Rapala family of brands contributed key elements to their success, including VMC hooks and terminal tackle, a a Storm topwater bait and Sufix fishing line.

Swim a Treble

Fifteen of the 20 fish DeFoe weighed for a four-day winning weight of 62 pounds, 7 ounces came from a well-known community hole below a low-head dam’s spillway. Although many other competitors fished in the area also, DeFoe caught more bass there than anyone else by throwing a soft-plastic swimbait with a non-traditional hook set-up.

Rather than rigging the swimbait with a weighted swimbait hook or swimbait jig head – as he most often would do – DeFoe fished it weightless, armed with a treble hook. The way cavitating current in the spillway was causing bass to bite led to DeFoe’s decision.

“In this particular situation, the hook-up ratio can be considerably better with a treble hook,” he explains. “When smallmouth in current come up under a bait to bite it, they have a tendency to just slap at it. So an exposed No. 1 treble hook back there, rather than just a single hook, can really help land more of those fish.”

Forged from the finest high-carbon steel, VMC Round Bend Treble 1X hooks are the leading choice for lure manufacturers and anglers who value maximum strength and sharpness. Available in a wide size range, VMC’s model 9650 round-bend trebles give savvy anglers multiple options for switching up the hook set-ups on their favorite baits to adjust to unique or changing conditions.

That’s exactly what DeFoe did to catch his spillway smallies, which were suspending in the top two feet of the water column as heavy current – caused by rain upriver prior to the tournament – washed stunned baitfish over the spillway, practically on top of them.

“There were a lot of other guys in here at the beginning, but I’d guess most of them were fishing under the fish, you know, with weighted baits,” he says. “Rigged weightless with a treble hook, that swimbait gives you almost like a topwater bite.”

DeFoe casted upstream and reeled in at the same speed as the current – not faster, not slower. “That’s so important about the retrieve,” he says. “You want your bait moving the same pace that something naturally flowing down through there would be.”

DeFoe caught the tournament’s biggest bass in the spillway late on the second day of the four-day event, a 6-pound, 1-ounce smallmouth that would prove instrumental. After he caught the 6-pounder, he culled a 2-pounder, for a net gain of about 4 pounds. He beat out Feider for first place by only 1 pound, 3 ounces.

Follow these steps to rig a swimbait with a treble hook:

• Using a line-threading tool, run your main line through your swimbait’s nose and down through its body, exiting just short of the middle. “This will end up putting the hook about dead in the middle of the bait,” DeFoe explains. If you don’t have a line-threading tool, he says, a needle or a long, thin-wire hook like a VMC Neko Hook will “do the trick just as well.”

• Attach a VMC split ring to a No. 1 VMC Round Bend Treble 1X hook.

• Tie your line to the split ring.

• Stick one of the treble’s three “arms” up into the swimbait’s body, vertically centered. The other two treble arms will flare out slightly to the sides. “This will keep everything settled on the cast,” DeFoe explains.

New Knot, Same VMC Hook

It was not a new hook, but a new knot that helped DeFoe land keeper largemouths when he was resting his spillway smallmouth.

After swinging and missing on a few bass while flipping grass with a punch rig, DeFoe re-tied his 4/0 VMC Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook with a snell-type knot. Such a knot creates a pivot point which, when pressured by a hook-set, causes your hook to kick out into a fish’s mouth.

“I actually didn’t have it snelled the first two days,” DeFoe confides. “The first day I did OK – I missed one, but I caught more than I missed. The second day I only had one bite [on it] and I missed it.”

So on the third day that DeFoe re-tied all the VMC Flipping Hooks in his punch rigs with a knot he learned from a fellow competitor. “It’s not exactly a snell knot, but it works similar,” he says. “I don’t actually know the name of it. My roommate [on tour] showed it to me. It’s a similar style knot where your weight pushes down and it kicks the hook out. That really helped my hook-up ratio those final two days.”

To build your own punch rigs, click these links: VMC Heavy Duty Flippin’ Hook, VMC Tungsten Flip’N Weight, VMC Sinker Stops, Sufix 832 Advanced Superline.

DeFoe caught five of the 20 bass he weighed in the tournament by flipping his punch rig into mats of duckweed and coontail in a 100-yard stretch of river on the southern end of Pool 8. All his flippin’ fish were largemouth. Located about 20 minutes downriver from his smallie spot in the spillway, his largemouth spot featured clean water, current and “a really good edge and canopy,” he says. The vegetation was growing in three to four feet along a breakline that fell to about five to six feet.

“Those transition areas – where the depth changes and the grass ends – give bass an edge to follow and move in and out, up and down,” DeFoe explains. “And it makes a very good ambush point. They can tuck up into that canopy, under that shade, and look out into that open water and watch for baitfish. And they can look up shallow in the other direction under that canopy and look for targets to feed on.”

That being said, it pays to locate numerous such spots. “I found a lot of other places that looked very similar, but only one had fish in it,” DeFoe says.

Feider Finesses ‘Em

While Feider found hungry smallmouth around offshore sandbars with a Storm Rattlin’ Chug Bug, he put them in the boat when it counted with a modified Carolina Rig armed with a sticky-sharp 3/0 VMC Extra Wide Gap hook. While most Carolina Rigs feature heavy sinkers and a leader as long as three feet, Feider fashioned a finesse version popular among river rats on the Upper Mississippi river, but less so elsewhere. While it follows the same formula of main line + weight + leader line + hook, the weight is lighter and the leader shorter. This combination allows an angler to not only get bites in brisk river current, but feel those bites and set the hook soon enough. Feider was throwing a 3/8 oz. weight with a 12-inch leader.

“The really short leader is key,” he explains. “You’ll feel and detect bites better. With a long leader like with a traditional Carolina Rig, your bait just gets blown all around by the current.

“That current I was fishing in was running super hard,” Feider continues. “If you’ve got a three-foot leader behind your sinker downstream and the fish eats it, you’re not going to feel him until you move that sinker six feet.”

The short leader also keeps your bait on the sweet spot to which you often must make repeated casts. “You use the sinker to kind of feel around where the best little spot is and then that short leader keeps the bait right where it needed to be,” Feider explains.

Most of Feider’s Day 3 and Day 4 fish came on his modified Carolina Rig, which was anchored by 3/0 VMC Extra Wide Gap hook dressed with a 3 ½-inch green-pumpkin crawfish-profile bait with the claws dyed orange. He used 17-pound Sufix fluorocarbon for both his main line and leader.

Two of Feider’s key Day 3 bass came on another curveball finesse tactic – a drop shot rig.

“I’ve literally only caught two bass on drop shot on that river before the tournament,” Feider says. “That’s not really a traditional bait that guys throw there. But I knew there were still fish there and it was the next logical step in finesse to catch them. I caught two good fish on it and definitely saved my Day 3.”

Feider’s drop shot rig comprised a 3/8th oz. VMC Tungsten Drop Shot Ball Weight and a No. 2 VMC Neko Hook dressed wacky style with a soft-plastic stickworm.

Despite having no track record of successful drop-shotting shallow smallies on the river, Feider tried the tactic after a couple bass slapped at his modified Carolina rig “but didn’t really eat it,” he recalls. “They’d bite the pinchers off my bait, but wouldn’t really get to the hook. So I knew there were still some semi-active fish sitting there. Twenty casts later with the drop shot, I’d get one of them to eat. It had a little bit more subtle look to it.”

Chug ‘Em Up

Feider’s finesse bites came from about 10 or 20 spots he found in practice with a Storm Rattlin’ Chug Bug. Although each spot was different in subtle ways, each featured current seams in one to three feet around sandbars or small islands that are usually above water, but had been recently submerged by influx of upstream rainwater. Feider calls such spots “sand drops.”

“With the water being high, now they had water going over them and that usually creates a pretty nice drop, or hole, around them,” he explains. The location of these holes are given away by surface disturbances familiar to experienced river anglers.

“There’ll be some kind of key feature in the current that puts the fish where they are on the breaks,” Feider explains. “There’ll be a little swirl on it, or two streams will come together hard.”

In the three days of practice that preceded the tournament, Feider targeted these current seams with a Chug Bug in a chrome pattern. “It’s one of the louder poppers there is and I think the fish really like the profile on it too,” he says. “If there were fish there, they would show themselves on that, for sure.”

And not only did the Chug Bug tell him which spots held hungry fish, it showed him which spots held big fish. “I didn’t have to catch ’em to see how big they were, the way they were coming out of the water to hit the bait,” Feider says. “After the first morning of practice, I was committed to those spots. I feel like there’s more 4-pound smallmouth in that river than there are 4-pound largemouth.”

Handling the Heat and Staying Hydrated This Summer

Tips for Handling the Heat and Staying Hydrated This Summer

From GoBoatingFlorida

In many parts of the country, summer boating safety tips revolve around the increased number of boats and activity on the water. In Florida, we experience that issue between Thanksgiving and Easter during what we affectionately refer to as ‘season’. However, summer boating in Florida does come with its own set of seasonal challenges, which are either heat or weather-related. Let’s start with weather…

Afternoon Storms

Spend any time in Florida between mid-June and late August and you will notice that almost every day, the skies open up in the middle of the afternoon and send (you’d swear) nearly every drop of precipitation they have down upon us for about an hour and a half. For those of us on land this simply means staying inside and dry.

If you’re out on a boat, it’s a whole different story. Depending on sea conditions, this could be a long hour and a half, especially if there is lightning—the biggest concern. The best way to deal with this kind of weather is to, obviously, not be there. Check the forecast and schedule your time out to be before or after the storms. When this is not possible or something comes rolling in quickly, seek protected water or, better still, head to shore.

Staying Cool

The Florida sun is intense most of the year, but summer is the worst…especially mixed with increased humidity. Which means sunstroke or overexposure to the sun is a real danger. This, unlike weather, is more within your control. Sunscreen is an easy precaution. Use a high SPF and make sure to use the water/sweat-proof kind. Apply before you go out and one or two times during the day depending on your skin type.
The other thing to do is add or use the boat’s canvas top. If it has a hard cover, which is common on larger boats, this is easy. Smaller boats usually include a Bimini top which provides great shade but many boaters don’t use them while running as they can often vibrate underway…a small price to pay for shade.

Finally, jump in. After all, you’re on a boat. A quick swim can lower your body temperature quickly and refresh you all at the same time.

Staying Hydrated

Your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly. Your body even uses water to maintain its temperature.

Water makes up more than half of your body weight. You lose water each day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, and even when you breathe. You lose water even faster when the weather is really hot—so if you don’t replace the water you lose, you can become dehydrated.

Symptoms of dehydration include: Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual, dry mouth, sleepiness or fatigue, extreme thirst, headache, confusion, dizziness or producing no tears when crying.

Don’t wait until you notice symptoms of dehydration to take action. Actively prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water. For some people, fewer than 8 glasses may be enough on an average day—this amount should be increased 50-75% when outdoors in hot wether. And don’t forget, you can stay hydrated via fluid intake and eating water-rich fruits and vegetables like grapes, watermelon, tomatoes or lettuce.

Following these guidelines can help keep you safe, healthy, and none the worse for wear on your next outing. Boating safe is boating smart!

Read more like this at www.GoBoatingFlorida.com.

Tips on Spring Inland Season

Wisconsin Offers Tips on Spring Inland Season Opening May 7
from The Fishing Wire

MADISON, Wis. – Warming temperatures throughout Wisconsin this week should make for a great bite when the general inland fishing season gets underway on Saturday, May 7.

DNR southern fisheries supervisor David Rowe holds a northern pike netted during a musky survey on Lake Monona in Dane County.
Photo Credit: DNR

Matt Andre  with big catfish

Matt Andre with big catfish

Lake Wissota, a 6,300 acre impoundment of the Chippewa River, is well known for its trophy musky. However, the catfish fishery has been gaining popularity and during the spring 2016 fisheries survey, flathead catfish over 20 pounds were a frequent occurrence with flatheads over 40 pounds not uncommon – including this one held by fisheries technician Matt Andre.
Photo Credit: DNR

David Rowe holds a northern pike

David Rowe holds a northern pike

Joseph Gerbyshak holds two 7-plus pound walleyes

Joseph Gerbyshak holds two 7-plus pound walleyes

DNR fisheries biologist Joseph Gerbyshak holds two 7-plus pound walleyes from Long Lake in northern Chippewa County. The lake’s walleye population is rebounding according to recent fisheries survey data and now totals 3.6 adult walleye per acre, up from 2.9 adult walleye per acre four years ago.
Photo Credit: DNR

Justine Hasz, fisheries director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said spring survey work on lakes and rivers around Wisconsin indicates healthy fish populations and great opportunities for anglers based on the walleye, bass, northern pike, panfish, trout, muskies and even catfish netted and promptly released by fisheries crew members in recent days.

“Wisconsin remains among the top three angling destinations in the nation and for good reason,” Hasz said. “Whether you prefer fly fishing, casting live bait, trolling or simply watching your bobber dip, our fisheries offer something for everyone.”

While fishing is a passion for many, it is also an economic driver for the state, with an estimated 1.2 million anglers producing a $2.3 billion economic impact, according to the American Sportfishing Association. That impact becomes clear as tens of thousands of anglers take to Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes, rivers and 13,000 miles of trout streams for opening day.

Walleye continue to be an important target for anglers and since 2013, the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative has worked to rebuild and enhance walleye populations throughout the state. The fish that have been stocked should reach legal size over the next two to three years although some anglers have reported increased catch and release activity from the young fish.

In 2015, Wisconsin stocked 760,000 extended growth walleyes, eclipsing the 2014 record of 720,000. For 2016, DNR intends to stock some 827,000 of the six to eight inch fingerlings, including some 229,000 fish from private and tribal fish farms and 598,000 from DNR hatcheries.

The trout population continues to make gains throughout the state and this year anglers will find 14 streams with upgraded classifications as well as 27 that for the first time have been documented as sustaining trout populations. Six of the newly classified streams have earned the coveted Class 1 designation.

Also new for anglers in 2016 will be simplified trout regulations designed to create more uniformity for anglers who fish on different trout streams and within small geographic areas. Under the new system, maps online and in the regulation pamphlet will indicate one of three regulations:

Green means go fish, with no length limit, a bag limit of five fish and no bait restrictions;
Yellow means caution, with an 8 inch length limit, a bag limit of three fish and no bait restrictions; and
Red means special regulations are in place. Anglers are advised to stop and understand the regulations before fishing.

Anglers targeting panfish also will find new, experimental bag limits to optimize panfish size on high potential lakes capable of producing large panfish. On these lakes, identified in the fishing regulations book, daily bag limits reflect efforts to limit harvest during spawning season or prevent overharvest of any one species.

New Go Wild licensing system makes it easier than ever for anglers to buy, display licenses

Buying a license is easy and convenient through the new Go Wild licensing system, with online access available 24-7. Visit GoWild.wi.gov, one of more than 1,000 vendor locations or a DNR service center to purchase licenses.

While the GoWild licensing system allows several new ways to display proof of your license purchase including use of a personal conservation card, authenticated driver’s license and pdf display on mobile devices, anglers fishing in boundary waters must use the paper printouts as law enforcement officials in the surrounding states do not have access to the Wisconsin database.

Wisconsin residents and nonresidents 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. Residents born before Jan. 1, 1927, do not need a license and resident members of the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty are entitled to obtain a free fishing license when on furlough or leave.

Anglers can buy a one-day fishing license that allows them to take someone out to try fishing, and if they like it, the purchase price of that one-day license will be credited toward purchase of an annual license. The one day license is $8 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

Information about how to provide proof of your purchase may be found at dnr.wi.gov by searching “Go Wild.”

The general Wisconsin fishing season runs from May 7, 2016 to March 5, 2017. To learn more about statewide fishing regulations and rules that apply on specific lakes, visit dnr.wi.gov and search “fishing regulations.” For a complete calendar, search “fishing season dates.”

Anglers can find fish species information, boat access sites, shore fishing areas, lake information and regulations by downloading the free Wisconsin Fish & Wildlife mobile app, which includes a full array of fishing information. DNR has tackle loaner sites in 50 locations, including many state parks, making it easy for people to enjoy fishing if they don’t have their own equipment or if they left it at home.

How To Pitch Plastics for Walleye

How To Pitch Plastics … Like A Plumber?

By Jim Edlund
from the Fishing Wire

Big walleye caught pitching plastics

Big walleye caught pitching plastics

Although obsessed with big walleyes, Minnesota guide Josh Wetzstein is pretty humble about statistics. “I haven’t measured a fish in years. Walleyes or muskies. Hold ’em up, snap a photo and put ’em back in the water,” says Wetzstein.

Like the sag-bellied monster (in the cell phone image below), caught this past weekend on Pool 4 of the Mississippi River, that Wetzstein “guesstimates” the fish to be in the neighborhood of 12 pounds. “They had just opened the roller (gates) and it started snowing when I caught that fish. The water came up quick and fish started scrambling. Came together just right and she bit,” laughs Wetzstein.

He was pitching a chartreuse B FISH N Moxi on a 3/16-ounce white H20 Precision Jig Head. “I like H20 Precision Jig Heads but when you burn through as many jigs as I do, well, you make your own, too. I probably have 50 or 60 Do-It molds.”

But more on that later.

Though humble, Wetzstein is also opinionated. “I don’t waste time floating the river with Dubuque rigs to catch eaters. Doesn’t interest me in the slightest. My thing is targeting big fish. And in my river experience, 90-percent of the big fish are caught in 10 feet or less.”

Fat walleye caught pitching plastics

Fat walleye caught pitching plastics

His program? Pitching shallow water with plastics.

“You’ve gotta get out of the fast current. The big fish aren’t there. Find a point, a rock pile. Get down current. That’s where the big fish are. I jump around using my bowmount, jogging up and down, pitching riprap, wood, current seams, whatever. Electronic anchoring is key.”

And electronics? “The big thing is knowing where you can motor, where you can’t. Otherwise, it’s about reading the river, looking for current seams, inside and outside bends, eddies, and working riprap.”

Some days yield big fish, while others don’t. Not a big deal to Wetzstein, whose other passion is muskie fishing, although he catches his share of respectable mid-sized walleyes, too. “Besides the big fish this weekend, we caught probably thirty fish between 18 and 26 inches. And lots of milking males,” says Wetzstein.

But it’s the anticipation that the next cast could connect with a 30-incher that keeps him swinging when most anglers are vertical jigging or pulling three-way rigs. And right now – from water temps of 40 degrees through 50 degrees – he’s pitching a B FISH N Tackle Ringworm to find fish, then sizing up to a Moxi. “Beefier profile plastics like the Moxi just do better on big fish this time of year.”

Pitching Pointers

“I usually pitch upstream and let the flow sweep my bait down past the boat,” Wetzstein says.

Walleye showing jig it hit

Walleye showing jig it hit

The best tip, he adds, is to remember the exact location of your pitch just before the bite occurs. “You might catch a fish as your jig and plastic moves right in the front of the boat, but don’t cast back to where you got bit. Pitch right back to the exact spot where the jig hit the water before you got bit. That’s where I see guys messing up.”

And cadence?

“It kind of depends on the day, but I usually just cast upstream and give small twitches and little pops off bottom as the current works the bait. Sometimes a really slow retrieve will work, too.”

And if he finds fish, he’ll move on after 20 or 30 minutes. “I don’t like to beat up on the fish too much. Some guys will sit on ’em all day, but I like to move on to a fresh spot, let the spot refill and come back later.”

Like a Plumber

“Thing is, you’ve gotta bring the motherlode with you when you go fish the river. Think of it this way, it’d be like a plumber showing up to fix your sink with nothing but a Channellock pliers. Sure, you might be able to fix it, but you can do a better job by bringing all your tools.”

For Wetzstein, a ‘better job’ equates to a dozen rods or more – 6’8″ to 7′ St. Croix Legend Elite and G Loomis NRX with extra fast actions – all rigged with different line types in different diameters and test. He also totes vast variations in jig head styles and weights, and myriad profile and color plastics. Plus, a few more sticks are rigged with various size blade baits and hair jigs.

During early-season, Wetzstein typically pitches jigs tied direct to 10 – 15 lb. PowerPro braid so he can free baits from snags without wasting time re-tying. But when it’s really cold and the water clears he’ll turn to 10 lb. NanoFil and a 15-lb. fluoro leader. And for super-finesse situations he opts for 6 or 8 lb. Berkley Sensation thin-diameter monofilament in high-visibility orange.

Wetzstein fine-tunes his presentation not only with jig size, but also line diameter and bait profile. “You might have to go from a lighter line to a heavier braid – or vice versa – to get the right rate of fall to trigger bites, which changes from day to day. Same goes for soft plastic baits. Cut off an inch or two – or size up. Again, there are a lot of factors at play. Don’t assume the fish aren’t biting if you don’t catch them on one bait. I see guys run around fishing a ¼-ounce jighead and the same color plastic, but don’t catch fish and go home. When you fish the river you have to experiment with jig weight, plastic profile, color, line; a whole bunch of different factors.”

Along the same lines, he’s believes too many river anglers play it safe. “Don’t be scared to cast into the wood and sticks. Walleyes feel safe there; they’ll even spawn in there. Boggles my mind that you have guys in $50,000 boats who cringe at losing a bait. Burn through jigs if you have to.”

Given the conditions on Pool 4 right now, Wetzstein says 3/16 oz. jig heads are about right for pitching, but there’s always a fine line between getting bit and getting snagged.

“Think of it this way, if you can’t fish a 3/16 oz. jig right now, you’re probably in the wrong spot. But when the water drops back down I’ll switch to an 1/8-ounce.”

And for the really snaggy spots, he recommends jigs like a B FISH N Tackle Draggin’ Jig. “If the wood is really gnarly, these jigs do the job. I’m always surprised how many big fish I catch way back in wood.”

And when to comes to his favorite Moxis, he sticks to fluorescents and the occasional dark pattern for dirty water, and natural colors like ‘oystershell’ for clear water.

Besides brighter colors during high, muddy water, Wetzstein recommends fishing more aggressively. “Vibration is the deal during low visibility, so give the bait a couple good rips, then a couple pops and let it sit. It you can figure out the little details in the cadence it’s huge. But don’t be afraid to grab a blade bait or hair jig, too.”

High-Water Trout on the White River

River Rigging for High-Water Trout on the White River

White River Trout

White River Trout

Winter is an outstanding time to catch big trout from the White River, and high water normally lends itself to casting lures like the Rebel Tracdown Minnows that we would be using.

by Jeff Samsel

The flooded signs at the Wildcat Shoals access made it immediately clear that this trip to Arkansas’ White River would be unlike any other I had experienced. With all eight turbines at Bull Shoals Dam running around the clock and 10 floodgates open, the river was rocking, to say the least.

Winter is an outstanding time to catch big trout from the White River, and high water normally lends itself to casting lures like the Rebel Tracdown Minnows that we would be using. When you’re talking about floodwaters, though, the fish tend to hold tight to the bottom in any eddy they can find, and they won’t move very far to feed. Even with sinking lures, traditional casting strategies simply don’t get the lures down enough in the strong current.

Guides on this highly dynamic tailwater must continually adjust for conditions, and long-time guide Donald Cranor figured out exactly how to cope with the excessive water. For three days our group drifted over gravel bars and along the edges of grasslines and pulled Tracdown Minnows on “river rigs,” which kept the lures swimming just off the bottom and among the fish.

“That’s where the trout are when the water is like this, so that’s where you want your lure,” Cranor said.

A river rig is essentially a three-way rig, pegged with a 3/8-ounce bell sinker. White River guides routinely use this rig to drift with bait, but Cranor proved that it also works exceptionally well for delivering a minnow-style lure just off the bottom. Guides use an Albright knot to attach a leader to the main line so one end drops about a foot to the weight, and the other end, which is about 3 feet long, leads to the bait or lure. A small three-way swivel and two sections of leader could also be used.

We had excellent success with 2 ½- and 3 ½-inch Tracdown Minnows, including slender-profiled Tracdown Ghost Minnows, mostly in trout color patterns and in blue back/orange belly.

The TD47 Tracdown Ghost Minnow comes with barbless hooks, so it was the main tool we used for fishing a highly productive special regulations area, where only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. A good strategy, if an angler wants to spend some time in the special regs area and some time in general waters, is to have two rods set up with river rigs and a barbless Tracdown Ghost Minnow on one and a regular Tracdown Minnow on the other.

Cranor suggests a simple presentation for dragging a minnow lure on a river rig. “You can work it a little with tugs, just to make the lure flash, but often the best thing to do is just hold the rod still let the lure do the work,” he said.

As the White River gradually settles, casting the same Tracdown Minnows to the shore and working them with jerks and pauses will be extremely effective for brown and rainbow trout.

The Bull Shoals tailwater offers approximately 100 miles of trout water and year ’round action, with two distinctive trout fisheries. Rainbows are managed as a put-and-take fishery, with year-round stockings of nearly 1.5 million fish annually.

Brown trout enjoy excellent reproduction, and the population is managed as a trophy fishery. The daily limit is one fish, with a minimum size of 24 inches, and anglers mostly release trophy browns that would be legal to keep. Spawning areas are also protected with special regulations, including a total seasonal closure of the most important spawning area, immediately below Bull Shoals Dam.

Fishing with minnow-style lures produces excellent numbers of brown trout measuring from the mid-teens to low 20s, and any fish that grabs a lure in the White River could turn out to be a brown trout that weighs 10 or 20 pounds (or much larger).

Planning Information:

Guided Fishing, Cranor’s Guide Service – www.whiterivertroutfishing.net
Riverside Lodging, Cedarwood Lodge – www.cedarwoodslodge.com
Rebel Lures, www.rebellures.com

Why Check Your Trolling Motor Shaft for Fishing Line?

Last weekend while fishing at Sinclair I got my jig hung on some line near a dock. When I got it loose I let the line fall back into the water. It got on my prop as I started to move and I got all of it off that I could see. i checked it today – thank goodness I remembered

Line on prop shaft

Line on prop shaft

Use a pair of pliers to remove nut

Use a pair of pliers to remove nut


To get the prop off, I used a pair of pliers to loosen the nut on my Motorguide Trolling Motor. You can buy a tool for this but a pair of pliers, opened a little and used like a wrench, works fine. You can do the same thing in reverse to tighten the nut when finished.

Take the nut off by unscrewing it, you will have to hold the prop while unscrewing the nut. After taking the nut off the prop should slide off the shaft. You may have to tap it on the back side to get it off. There is a pin in the shaft that goes into a slot in the prop hub and it sometimes sticks. Be careful you don’t lose the pin. See the picture of it below.

After I cleaned off all the line I checked the white line barrier. It helps keep line from getting into the prop shaft seal. if line gets into the seal and damages it water will get into the motor and it will rust and stop working.

Clean prop shaft showing seal protector

Clean prop shaft showing seal protector

Time to put the prop back on. First put the pin into the hole in the shaft

Look inside the back of the prop hub and you can see the slot the pin has to go in. You can see the ridges from the front of the hub to help you line it up. Slde the hub down on the shaft until it is tight on the pin. There should be little gap between the outside edges of the prop hub and motor housing when it is all the way down on the shaft as it should be.

Put the nut back on the shaft and tighten it. Use your pliers to get it very tight. I have lost two props because I left the trolling motor in the water and idled across a cove. The water pressure turned the prop backwards, unscrewing it. That is why I have a spare prop, nut and pin in my boat and why I never idle with the trolling motor in the water!

Prop pin

Prop pin

Slots inside prop hub

Slots inside prop hub

Prop on shaft

Prop on shaft

Prop Nut

Prop Nut

Nut tightened properly

Nut tightened properly

Chose the Right Rod and Land More Fish

Wrong Rod Choice Often Leads to Lost Fish

Yamaha Pro Todd Faircloth Matches Rod Actions to Specific Lures
from The Fishing Wire

Todd Faircloth landing a bass

Todd Faircloth landing a bass

Among his contemporaries in professional bass fishing, Todd Faircloth rates as one of the most consistent anglers in the sport, regularly finishing well and always a threat to win any tournament he enters. The Yamaha Pro has a simple answer for his consistency: he doesn’t lose very many fish.

“It’s not an easy lesson to learn, and believe me, I’ve lost my share of fish that ended up costing me some high finishes and definitely a lot of money,” smiles Faircloth, a six-time Bassmaster® Elite winner who will be fishing his 14th Bassmaster Classic® in March, “but I have also spent a lot of time studying why I lost those fish, and have made some serious adjustments in my fishing style to keep fish losses at a minimum.”

The first adjustment Faircloth made was to change to softer action rods when he fishes treble hook lures such as crankbaits and jerkbaits. One of the main reasons anglers lose bass is because their rods are too stiff and hooks simply pull free. Instead of using a heavy action rod, Faircloth has changed to slightly more limber medium action rods that flex evenly and with less pressure. Chose the right rod and land more fish.

In winning a Bassmaster® Elite tournament at Lake Amistad several years ago, for example, Faircloth used a medium-action, 7-foot 6-inch flipping stick while fishing a heavy swimbait lure. Most want the heaviest action rod they can find with these types of lures, but Faircloth boated bass over eight pounds with the more limber rod and won with a total of 76 pounds, 15 ounces. Just as importantly, he never lost a fish.

Todd Faircloth

Todd Faircloth

“On swimbaits, crankbaits, and jerkbaits especially, you’re not really setting the hooks on the fish itself,” explains the Yamaha Pro. “Instead, the bass is grabbing the lure and you’re just pulling the hooks into it. A stiffer, heavy action rod simply does not flex to absorb the shock when you do this, and the hooks never grab the fish.

“This doesn’t happen nearly as often with a single-hook lure like a jig or plastic worm because you’re just driving the one hook into the fish’s mouth, and a stiffer rod can do this.”

At the same time, adds Faircloth, treble hook lures often tend to be larger lures, and bass use the weight of the lure itself as leverage to help them “throw” the lure free. That led to Faircloth’s second major fishing adjustment, which is to change all the treble hooks on his lures to short-shank models.

“The majority of factory-made lures today are fitted with long-shank treble hooks that swing more freely when a bass jumps and shakes its head,” he adds. “Every time a fish does that, chances increase the lure will come loose. A short-shank hook actually keeps my lure pinned closer to the fish’s head so the bait can’t swing back and forth. I’ve changed to short-shank trebles on every treble hook lure I have.”

Faircloth’s third fishing adjustment was to change how he played bass as he was bringing them to the boat. He stopped depending on the drag systems in his baitcasting reels to control the fish and began relying entirely on spool pressure he applied himself.

“I don’t use the drag system on baitcasters at all,” the Yamaha Pro emphasizes. “Instead, I disengage the reel and thumb my spool. I feel like this gives me quicker and more complete control, especially on a larger bass.

“I can put pressure on the spool with my left thumb and keep my right hand on the reel handles to engage the reel instantly when I need to. If I feel the bass is pulling hard enough to possibly break my line, all I do is lessen my thumb pressure and let the fish gain a little line.

“These are just three changes I’ve made in my fishing over the years, and now I hardly think twice about them,” concludes Faircloth. “I still lose a bass occasionally, as does every fisherman, but certainly not as many as I did a few years ago.”

Will I Fish More Effectively With an Underwater Cam?

Fish More Effectively With an Underwater Cam

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

Given the drastic reduction in size, huge increase in performance, and ease on the pocketbook, I’m convinced the underwater camera is here to stay. Used in combination with mapping and sonar, there is no better combination of tools available to help anglers decipher lake structure and fish behavior secrets. I know I’m using my Aqua-Vu in more situations all the time.

Case in point, this past year we were filming a Lake Commandos episode on a lake known for its largemouth, but there was a small population of big smallmouth there as well. About 100-150 yards down a long weedline, my guest caught a 4-pound smallmouth. We turned back around and she caught another in roughly the same spot. After this happened a third time in this one little stretch of weedline, I got curious to find out what was holding the fish. So I dropped the Aqua-Vu over and discovered a 15-yard field of boulders that started inside the weedline and spread out deeper. And there were 3-pound and bigger smallies spread out over the rock!

each bridge corner had different habitat and a different fish species on it,

each bridge corner had different habitat and a different fish species on it,

Image courtesy of Aqua-Vu. “Only 200′ from one of the busiest boat ramps in Minnesota, we learned each bridge corner had different habitat and a different fish species on it, including walleyes, crappies and bass,” says Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz.

This situation is just one of many and illustrates how important understanding “spot on the spot” locations can be to consistently catching fish. First, consider that there was almost no indication of the rocks on the the graph due to the weed cover.

Yet, with the camera, not only did we learn there were rocks down there, we figured out where the bigger boulders were and how the fish were positioned. So, when we came down the weedline again, it was a lot easier to fish effectively.

And that’s just one example of how Aqua-Vu cameras have helped me better understand lake structure, cover and fish behavior.

Plug it in and use it

Plug it in and use it

Image courtesy of Aqua-Vu

“It’s plug and play. Viewing the Aqua-Vu Multi-Vu on my Garmin 7612 XVS gives a brilliant and easy-to-ready picture of what’s below,” says Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz.
Historically, putting underwater cameras into practice has been far from convenient. When the technology first hit the scene weight and size was an issue; it was like dragging around a dormitory refrigerator! And even as cameras grew smaller, screens were often hard to read in the sun. Lastly, there was always a lot of labor to put it all together, get it to run right and interpret what was on the small screen.

Aqua-Vu has made huge advancements in all of these areas. New models like the AV Micro 5 offer an unprecedented level of portability (fitting into your pocket), brighter screens, cool features live a built-in DVR, and ease of use. For me, I love the fact that new cameras are also compatible with the sonar units on my boat. So, rather than having to carry a camera, screen and other hardware, I’m simply attaching the Aqua-Vu Multi-Vu Complete Camera System to my Garmin 7612XVS. It’s as easy as connecting one wire, hitting a couple buttons and dropping the camera overboard. Some sonar units may require the addition of an RCA to BNC connector to integrate the camera, but these are available at RadioShack for under $10.

Image courtesy of Aqua-Vu

Find and learn structure

Find and learn structure

fwuc3Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz says underwater cameras have helped him find and learn more about “spot on the spot” locations, even on waters he thought he knew well. He’s also a big fan of the ultra-portable AV Micro 5 with built-in DVR, seen here.
Nothing beats viewing underwater footage on the big screen of a video-capable sonar combo unit. On my Garmin, I can view underwater video in full-screen brilliance or run split-screen to compare with 2D sonar, cartography or Down- and Side-viewing technologies. That can be really revealing! And with the HD resolution found in units like the Garmin 7612XVS, the images are just stunning!

I’ve found that the Aqua-Vu penetrates 20′-25′ in clear waters to reveal structure, cover, transition areas – and the fish species of the marks on my 2D sonar, saving countless hours of fishing time. Are the fish I’m seeing on my graph really smallmouths? Or am I targeting suckers? (I’ve run into this twice in the past year!) Used as a species verification tool, the Aqua-Vu is a huge confidence-booster. You look down and say, “Wow, there’s a bunch of walleyes” or “Wow, look at the size of that bass!” I’m still like a kid in a candy store.

Recommendations

Find bass

Find bass

Image courtesy of Aqua-Vu
Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz locates panfish in weeds near one of the busiest boat launches in Minnesota.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn waters is to allow some undivided time to camera use/underwater study. Choose a day when the conditions are tough, like when the lake’s flat calm, and go out with your GPS/sonar and get to know key structure in a way nobody else does. Leave the fishing rods in the locker, lower the camera into the water, and idle around off-shore reefs, points, cribs, what-have-you. Study what you see and when you find boulders interspersed along a weedline or bottom transitions you didn’t know were there, drop a waypoint. Then you’ll have something nobody else on the lake does!

About Steve Pennaz
Steve Pennaz excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns on the water.