Hi all, I don’t have much time to write a novel of a fishing report because I’m short on time and getting ready for my return to the northwoods for the month of June. This leg will take me thru June 19th. I leave tomorrow (Sunday 5/31).
I’m sorry for this lazy post.
In May, I fished from May 6th thru 22nd. Due to lousy daily weather that ranged from wind storms, to snow and overnight freezing, and below average air and water temperatures, the bass fishing was the most difficult I’ve ever experienced for the month of May. Early spring can be either a feast or famine. Spring 2015 has been a famine. For the past 7 or 8 years, I must have been lucky. During May, there wasn’t much to show for my efforts but a few memorable float trips down area rivers, and some quick feeding windows we had in between the lousy weather.
Smallmouths were found, but not in their usual numbers, sizes, nor locations. My friends and guests had to look long and hard with me in order to find them - we found them shallow and deep, and even from wintering holes. Water temperatures for much of May were steady at 52-56 degrees. If only the sunlight was present, the fishing would have been spectacular - but for over a week it was nothing but clouds and dark skies. Smallies were not moving, nor were largemouths because even weedgrowth was lacking too. Jerkbaits (flukes and suspendos) were undoubtedly best, as were spinnerbaits and an assortment of jigs and plastics.
With the quick ice out and mild winter, I had very high expectations for the month of May, but it didn’t translate much into happiness. At least the new Ranger has been a beauty to fish with, and I wouldn’t trade my lousy weather days for the best day in the office. My friends made the month excellent for me.
Despite having to fish hard, I have a lot of photos to show for our efforts. Based on some of our catches, between myself and friends, we did alright for ourselves. I want to thank my friends whom joined me on the water, and I spent quality time with. Lots of fun was had both on the water, and off the water.
I repowered my river rig this spring. So long old 6 horse, in favor of “new” 15 horse. Wow this baby flies me up and down the river at almost 20mph!
The best fishing I had in May was without a doubt, the Wisconsin River. It warms the fastest and it had the best fishing. I spent multiple days floating and exploring the river as far south as the Wausau Wisconsin area to as far north as the Eagle River area by me in Vilas County. Each day we floated, 30 to 50 fish days were had. I have not been able to enjoy the Wisconsin River during spring season since 2012….... because since then, it’s been nothing but flooded and dangerous. I forgot how much fun the bass fishing is on this river.
Kenny Lookingbill had himself a blast fishing the river with me, which in fact saved his trip. Poor Kenny took 3 days off work to fish with me for 5 days. Two of those days were weather days in which we were forced off the water. Before he returned to Chicago we spent nearly a full day floating and fishing. Several big fish were caught and he loved every minute of it.
On May 11th, my good buddy and fellow river rat and Central Wisconsin guide, Kurt Schultz, hosted me for a day on the river with him in Central Wisconsin. Last summer I hosted Kurt with me on the upper parts where I fish, so this was my first ever crack at fishing the river down south. Kurt specializes in river muskies and smallmouths on the Wisconsin and this leisure trip of ours was quite memorable. Kurt has a fleet of Lowe Roughneck jon boats powered by Mercury jets, thus he can get through the shallowest and most treacherous stretches of river. Several large fish were caught, topping out at 20.5 inches. Kurt guides approximately 150-180 days per season, exclusively on the Wisconsin River, and can be reached online at www.kurtsguiding.net
While the Wisconsin River treated friends and I exceptionally well, the lakes were disastrous and difficult to get a handle of. Fish were not found nor present in their typical spring numbers but thankfully the straggler big fish was found. These catches led to happy moments and gave me the sense that I’m doing alright, but the lakes and its fish were not yet ready.
Mike Piorkowski ALWAYS catches giants with me. I’ve converted him from muskies to smallies and he has the magic touch. He caught the largest fish in my boat last season (a sub 22 incher he’s getting a replica of), and this early season 20.5 takes the lead thus far. Always a pleasure fishing with Mike.
17 inches, but 3 lbs 12 ounces!!! What a butterball.
As for the new boat, it’s been the best purchase of my life. WOW! I look forward to hosting many more folks in it as we together pursue the Northwoods Bass.
In a few hours I depart for the north again for the month of June. Fish are already spawning on most lakes while some will still be in pre-spawn cold water mode like last week was. It will be interesting to examine. I just hope the weather will be on our sides for once because in May it was not pretty.
For the next few weeks I will be fishing solo, hosting family and friends, and available to host/guide inquiring guests (up to 1-2). I invite you to visit me online at www.northwoodsbass.com as I am now officially licensed, insured, and registered with the State of Wisconsin to teach, educate, and catch and share the experience of my daily life with you.
Thanks all for reading. I wish I had more time to go into detail with how my month of May fared, but this will do for now.
Hi all, it’s been about half a year since my last blog post. It almost feels like I’ve forgotten how to write these, but at least writing 1-2 articles per month and continuing to develop and build upon my existing fishing websites has kept me in creative shape. I’ve been motivated for articles but not for maintaining these blogs. Whatever.
I didn’t post much last fall because I was catching lots and working lots. Muskies, river walleyes, and big smallmouth bass kept me busy through mid November, as did a number of new business clients. My winter and spring season as a result has been the busiest it’s ever been in 4 years since I decided to go full-time with the independent design/marketing/media production job (following college graduation in 2010). So being in demand is good and prospects for the future are looking great. Hopefully someday I can become world famous and build myself a castle on a lake.
When the calendar turned to 2015, winter sport shows kept me busy, as did a lot of work, and boat shopping (if you keep reading, you will see what I finally bought myself!). With all of these real life things going on, my participation in fishing has been at the lowest level since before birth. For instance, I have not purchased my IL fishing license yet this year, and at this rate probably won’t because priorities are elsewhere and schedule will be taking me far away. I’ve only fished one week thus far and it was in Tennessee during the last week of March. At least I will be fishing up north for 3 weeks in May and another 3 weeks in June, with the remaining weeks and months afterward still unplanned.
The Wisconsin season opener took place this weekend, and I will be departing for my first trip of the year on Tuesday or Wednesday this week. I can’t wait. Anyways, below is a showcase of highlights of what I’ve been up to since January.
January: I ice fished once all winter and it was for a long weekend buddy getaway to our place north. Good beer and northern pike kept us entertained. My friends Mike and Steve Peterson hold one of many we caught on this end of January weekend. A group of 12 of us went and it was a fantastic time with camaraderie.
February: Didn’t do anything or go anywhere. Too much work, had no life.
March: From March 23 to the 29th, I drove myself south to Eastern Tennessee for my spring break getaway. I joined my friends from the Tennessee Valley Muskie Authority for the second straight year in a row where my good friends/guides and hosts Cory Allen with partner Jake Priegel treated me to a week of muskie fishing on Melton Hill Reservoir followed by a blue catfish extravaganza on Watts Bar Lake.
On day-1, within 2 hours past my arrival, I got on the board quickly with a chunky 46 inch muskie, caught while vertically jigging a heavy plastic from a tailrace area. Per request of my hosts I had to eliminate the background to conceal the spot. If anyone remembers my story from last year in which I caught nothing, this quick catch already made my trip and 9hr car ride worth it! Tennessee is low density numbers, but they have so many HUGE fish down there!
Jake Priegel with a 36 incher caught on day-2.
^^^^ Above - Allen, our friend Charles Wallace, and I spent a full day in the backwoods of Tennessee, fishing at a state park with a stream populated with native muskies. On this day I had action from 7 muskies with one pushing 48 inches and 30+ pounds. Unfortunately we had no biters, but the scenery made up for it.
The rest of the week was a struggle however, as we didn’t catch any further muskies. So after 4 fishless days, I decided to conclude my week of fishing by trying for blue catfish for the first time. I hooked up with our friends Marc Cooper, and Matt Lynch on nearby Watts Bar - both of whom are catfish experts and part time fishing guides on the area reservoirs.
NOTE - more about these two and our catfish outing has been written about in a full article to be published.
Up until now, I had never fished for catfish before. After quickly hooking up with a few 25 pounders, I quickly learned what I had been missing out on my entire life.
Cooper, Lynch, and I spent an entire day drifting and dragging cut baits, with skipjack herring being the preferred menu item for the cats. Blues and flatheads were caught. Not only did I catch my first ever blue catfish, but I caught my first ever flathead too. Watts Bar is an incredible fishery for both numbers, and giant fish surpassing 100 lbs. I highly recommend fishing this massive reservoir for the mixed bag of catfish if you ever go on a vacation to the Knoxville / Kingston region.
Matt Lynch holds our largest from the day, a 38 pounder. Cooper and Lynch have had days where they’ve caught over 400 lbs of cats in a single outing. On this day, which was miserably cold and windy, we caught a modest 120 lbs. of fish which is about average. I will put this first time trip up there amongst my finest fishing memories and trips I’ve ever taken.
For those of you wondering how I partnered up with Matt Lynch and Marc Cooper; both are mutual friends of the muskie duo Cory Allen and Jake Priegel. Marc Cooper (above) is founder and President of the Tennessee University Catfishing Club, and the Collegiate Catfishing Association. Facebook communications and friendships can take you to places, and it sent me to Tennessee for two years now. I look forward to my return trip to fish with each of them again sometime in the future.
April: For April I had plans to head east towards Lake Erie to go fish the massive Maumee River walleye runs. However, schedule conflicts with my fishing buddies and then my work schedule prevented this year from happening. Last year it was floods. This year work and life getting in the way. I am not invincible as once perceived.
Despite no fishing for me in April, I did some major leg work on FINALLY concluding my two year long boat search for the coveted Ranger 681VS. Luck struck on the third week of the month as a boat I had been on the watch for was available for sale. All thanks to the original buyer for not having sufficient funds and flaking out. Up for sale was a 1996 hull with a 115 horse Evinrude 2-stroke with approx 150 hours. Discussions with the seller, and an agreement to purchase on the spot, sent me to Park Rapids, Minnesota on April 24th.
Following perfect compression test scores of 125 in each cylinder, and an awesome test drive, my 600+ mile round trip journey into North Central Minnesota from our house in Minocqua, Wisconsin proved worthwhile.
But what took me so long to do this and find the right one?: 1) I fish too much. 2) Ranger stopped making this boat in 2004. 3) Most private sellers don’t have the integrity and straight face this seller had. 4) Most people selling right now are overpriced and asking way too much for junk. 5) I wanted a boat that would require NO fixing or major overhauling.
I got my dream boat at last, with a pretty damn reliable outboard that still has a ton of life before a re-power will be needed in the future. In 3 or 4 years from now I am leaning towards an Evinrude ETec.
^^^ That’s Leech Lake in the background. Leech was this boat’s home water.
I currently have the boat stripped of its old gear and will be redoing all the electronics and trolling motor, as well as some other odds and ends and upgrades throughout the coming months. I ordered a MinnKota Terrova 80 with I-Pilot which will be super convenient when taking out friends, guests, or clients. I will also be running my existing Lowrance HDS units, but won’t be ordering much larger screens till later on. All new equipment has been delivered this week and when I return to the north either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week I will install and rig it up immediately so that I can be on water quickly. I AM SO EXCITED AND CANNOT WAIT! I have a boat for life in this ageless Ranger.
Even though I bought a new boat which will be primarily used for my bigger water, cold season, and bass fishing adventures, I still have two others that I will be keeping and still using frequently. The old fiberglass red retro Lund has been designated to part-time retirement status, but will still serve as my primary musky boat and small to medium size waters lake hopper for bass. I also still have the 14 ft custom river jonny that I keep adding upgrades to, such as this 15 horse Evinrude I repowered it with (has 9.9 decals so previous owner could be legal on IL waters, HA!). I also have a manual jackplate for it too but when time allows and if performance necessitates it, I will install it. I’m anxious to get on the rivers early this season unlike these last few years that have been flooded out. I should be good to go next week!
Some days I will have issues deciding upon which of the three boats I should use.
With all of these recent events taking place, more is set to come in the next few months. I’m still planning out my Canadian trips back to Rainy Lake and hopefully Lake of the Woods, attempting to find a balance between real work and fishing, and getting a schedule together so everything I want to do is accommodated for.
Last but not least, many of you were curious last year if I was ever going to get a future bass fishing guide service established. I needed the new boat first, and next I need some time before I can proceed the way I want to. I still have a couple things to take care of because I want to be legal and do it the right way. So for starters you can visit this operation at www.northwoodsbass.com. A complete high-end website for this project of mine will be released at some point this summer. Before anything this will be an informational resource for all things smallmouth fishing. I look forward to this next chapter and seeing how it goes. At least it will give me the continued excuse and motivation to keep fishing at the rate I want, and so I have a greater purpose to keep doing it. It will be fun once things get underway.
For the next several weeks I will be fishing a lot, but will check in periodically to publish weekly reports. I appreciate all the comments, e-mails, encouragement, and your readership.
End Notes –
If anyone wants information on lakes or has questions for me concerning the north, I’ll be more than happy to help anyone out this 2015 season and host you for a Northwoods Bass Fishing Adventure. Give me a shout anytime through my sites at www.ragasfishing.com and www.fishing-headquarters.com ........ AND NOW www.northwoodsbass.com
I’ve spent my last three weeks up in my magical northwoods kingdom. The bass fishing was spectacular and I had been meaning to post my weekly reports much sooner but my time on the internet was limited. I’ll be posting my August fishing report much differently than I usually do. Below are two installments, all in one single entry. First one written on August 3rd, and this latest written today. With the weather and patterns all changing on a weekly basis, this one should be interesting to follow…..