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White Bass Drum Roll

The weekend's plans after Friday night were far from set in stone. The tentative plan, if fishing sucked on Friday, was to head to Lake Winnebago which was about an hour and half northwest of Milwaukee. The other options were to stay in Milwaukee or head north to the Two Rivers area. Since fishing was terrible in Milwaukee, and reports from friends up north were no better, we decided to go after some walleye and possibly pike in Winnebago.

We left Milwaukee around 3am and drove about halfway before pulling over to grab a few hours of sleep. As the sun rose, and the fog still lingered, we woke up and headed to the lake. Of course, some coffee and a nutritious fast food breakfast were had before reaching the ramp.

It was quite gray and dreary with a pretty steady wind. We had stopped and grabbed some leaches on the way and rigged those on various jig heads while we peddled out to the swarm of other boats that were trying to catch some walleye. Reports weren't positive with the exception of a bunch of white bass and drum. This non-positive report seemed to be a recurring theme. I decided to just make the best of it and see what happened.

It wasn't long until I had my first hit that, like reports suggested, was a white bass.

Shortly after that, I was getting bored with the leach thing so I decided to start trolling various lures like Flicker Shads and Rapalas. Teddy joined in and was actually the first to hook up.

I pulled my lines when we said whatever he had was big so I could help him out with the net job. Once I got there we realized it was a biiiiig drum. We got it landed and quickly noticed some really nasty tumors. I had no real desire to touch it - nor did he.

Here's a picture of those nasty looking tumors.............


Anyways - back to fishing - we continued trolling for a few more hours and picked up another seven or eight white bass that all seemed to be cut from the same mold. Still, they were quite aggressive on the take which kept me interested for a while.

As the morning progressed, the winds picked up and the bite shut down. We were still marking all kinds of fish but they all had lock jaw. I even went back to leaches and, aside from a few bait thieves, didn't get any more fish. Judging by the number of boats that had completely disappeared, it wasn't just us.

We loaded the kayaks in the back of the truck and made the journey home. Most of the day Sunday was spent sleeping.

From here on out, my wife has been warned....

Photo Source: Steelhead Manifesto Facebook Page


The Ominous Red Glow

Scattered reports of people catching a king from shore started popping up early last week which means that the annual, and potentially epic, king salmon run on Lake Michigan is almost here.  I have cleared my schedule for most of the next month to make sure I can put as much time out there as possible. Friday night marked the first attempt at the official run for me.

The winds were all wrong most of the week but I decided to go anyways. I launched out of Milwaukee Harbor with the original plan of trolling the breakwall from the north gap to the south gap. If no kings, surely there would be a brown or two hanging around. If I wasn't getting anything along the wall, I was going to head on a straight east troll out to about 80fow then troll back to the north gap.

My partner in crime, Teddy, was of course with me. As we drove and approached Milwaukee, the fog was becoming really thick. By the time we got to the marina, it was extremely bad. Visibility at the ramp was easily less than a quarter mile.

A few boats were coming in as we were getting ready to launch. Most of them opened the conversation with  "How'd you do out there?" The looks on their faces when I responded with, "Just heading out now" was a combination of are you stupid and I am looking at someone who probably wont be alive very much longer. Most were extremely willing to give info on where they were catching fish though, so it helped me adjust my game plan accordingly. Unfortunately, most reports said it was a dead see from about 45fow out to 100fow. To make it worse, the fish that were between 30 and 45fow had a severe case of lock jaw. All the actively feeding fish seemed to be out well past 100fow.

Sadly, I had a feeling this would be the case given the past two days of steady east winds. Still, despite the fog and reports of fish out deep, I was going to stick to the original plan. From the dock, visibility was bad - but manageable - so off we went. As we got closer to the north gap, the fog got worse. By the time I made it to the gap, it was awful. It was so bad that the light from my overhead marker light and gps/finder was practically blinding me. I turned down the lighting on the finder as low as it would go. That helped a little bit but it was still bad. I couldn't see Teddy who was only a hundred feet behind me. I radioed to him that I was dropping lines and was just going to run the outside of the wall and turn around. It was simply too bad out there to make my way out to deep water.

I stayed about fifty feet from the wall which was about as far as I could get and still see the wall for a visual reference. I was marking plenty of fish but couldn't get anything to actually hit despite multiple depths, speeds, colors, or lure types. I made it a little more than half way down the wall when I came across the most eerie lighthouse I think I have ever seen. It marked the north side of a gap and had a red light at the top. The light, when combined with the fog and darkness, cast this ominous red glow and dark outline of the building itself. I tried to capture in on the Gopro but it didnt turn out. Imagine the picture at the top of this post being completely black with only the outline of the building visible as a foggy red glow blinks. It was flat out creepy and I should have turned around then. Instead, I dipped through the gap and back out hoping to pick up a fish in there but didn't get anything. Instead of heading back north, I kept going south along the wall. About a half mile down, things got scary.

I was changing lures on one of my lines and it got caught up in the rudder when I was letting the new lure out. After reeling in my other line to make sure I didn't get tangled in that line, I used the pole that my stern light was on to reach back and free the lure from the rudder. I got both lines redeployed and shut off my headlamp so I could see a bit further. The entire process of changing lures and actually getting them redeployed took about five minutes. Once I shut off my headlamp, I could no longer see the wall. I looked around in all directions thinking I had simply just gotten turned around but I couldn't see it anywhere. I could faintly hear it but I couldn't tell which direction it was coming from. Every time a wave crashed into it, it sounded like the sound came from somewhere else. No big deal, I'll just check my GPS and head straight west until I could see the wall again - right?

Wrong. As a looked at the little arrow on my GPS, it just seemed to be spinning. I thought that maybe I was accidentally steering myself in circles so I really focused on keeping the rudder straight. Still the arrow just kept pointing in various directions which essentially rendered my GPS useless. At this point, I had no visual reference, no reliable GPS signal, and I could no longer hear the waves hitting the break wall. I was officially disoriented and not sure which direction the shore was. A compass would have been really nice but I didn't have one with me. Then I remembered that my iPhone has a compass but I really wasn't sure how accurate it really was.

Ultimately, I had no other choice but to put my faith in it and hope it was accurate. I kept on a straight west track for what seemed like an eternity when I saw a blinking white light. I had no idea what it was but it seemed to be moving so I reached for my whistle which was caught on my rudder deployment cable. I gave it a tug and it broke loose. I kept blowing on it and flashing my headlamp trying to make sure the boat would notice me. I got no response from the boat and it seemed it be moving in all directions. It was in front of me, on my left, on my right, behind me.....

What hell is going on?! Why won't it respond?! I hit the radio and got no response from there either. I thought that maybe Teddy had caught up to me so maybe it was him? Still nothing. Even worse, I could no longer steer. My steering lever seemed really light and unresponsive. I didn't seem to have any control over the direction of the kayak. I instantly remembered the lure that had snagged on it a little while ago and feared that it had frayed the cable and ultimately broke rendering me without steering. I quickly reeled in both lines so they didn't get tangled in my drive, rudder, or the bottom. I then looked down to my right side and noticed that when I had yanked on my whistle, I had pulled the rudder deployment cable out of its cleat. Wheeeeew!! I locked that down and finally had steering again. I finally assumed that the light wasn't a boat but the south end of the gap with that I had past a while ago. Somehow, I had been completely drifted north east. As I made my way towards the light, I was able to finally hear the waves hitting the breakwall and was actually able to see it once again.

Feeling incredibly lucky, I started to make my way back north towards the launch. A minute later, I was able to see that eerie red glow and ominous shadow that was the lighthouse building. This time was different though. Instead of a bad feeling, I had a feeling of pure relief. It was familiar and I knew exactly where I was again. I redeployed both lines and made my way back to the north gap.

I didn't get anything along the way but it felt extremely good to cross through that gap and into the safety of the harbor. I was also finally able to get Teddy on the radio again which was comforting as well. It was the first time since leaving the north gap that I had any communications. We didn't leave the harbor again that night. Instead, we stuck inside and caught a bunch of rock bass. Not quite the salmon or brown trout that we had hoped for but it was fun for a couple of hours.


Pike and Bass on Wisconsin's Lake Delavan

If you ask anyone around here if they have ever heard of Lake Geneva in WI, most people would say yes. Ask them if they have heard of Lake Delavan and the number of yeses would go down. They are literally right next to each other but Geneva gets all the attention. Delavan is maybe only half the size of Geneva but every bit of fun - at least for a kayak fisherman like me. 

It's know for it bass fishing and has a very good population of pike - that was the target today. Bass or fish with big teeth...hmmm...I'm going teeth with a side of bassy bi-catches.

We were on the water by 4:30am and the sun was still well below the horizon. I could have easily gotten started later but I did not want to miss prime time top water action. We fished the channel for a little bit but wasn't seeing any action so we made our way to the main lake. Once on the main lake, we noticed a nice section of large rocks that protected a small harbor. This is where we started the fun!

Before you knew it, it was fish on time. Buzz baits, jitterbugs, wake baits - all producing blow ups. I started off with a small bass that wasn't worth a picture. Then Woz landed a nice 31" pike. I hooked a pike on a wake bait. When I went to land it with the net, the front treble hook got snagged on the netting and i couldn't get the actual fish in there. After a few seconds of trying, fish off. That was the first heartbreak of the day and cost me 15 points for kayak wars.  

The second was when I hooked up with a really nice bass on a chatterbait. Pulled him through all the weeds and right next to the boat. Tried to get a thumb in it's mouth and that was all she wrote. So long fish - that was 10 kayak wars point down the drain. 

After that, I got my stuff together and started landing these fish! When all the smoke cleared, I ended up with 2 pike in the boat and about a dozen bass. The numbers were there but the size wasn't. The pattern seemed to be pretty common. Everything came off of a dock post or right after whatever lure I was throwing ripped through a weed. If I wasn't ripping through weeds or banging a post - I got nothing. Naturally, it didn't take me too long to put that all together so that was my strategy throughout the day. 

I suspect that if I had focused slightly deeper and targeted some of the suspended fish with jerk baits, I might have picked up some larger pike and bass. I was having too much with the shallow stuff though so I never really bothered. 

Here's some fish porn to conclude today's post


First evening smallie bash of the year!

I have been completely neglecting the Des Plaines River this year. While not the first, I discovered it's smallmouth secret last year, enjoyed the crap out of it, and have left it alone so far this year. I've been focused on other venues and the kayak thing therefore I've all but completely ignored it. 

Saturday evening, with a few hours of alone time, I grabbed the waders and 6wt for a short visit and evening of top water fun. This was my go to spot last year for smallies on top so I was hoping it would be the same a year later. I was in the water a little bit before the top water bite would start so I slowly fished some stretches that I never really worked that thoroughly before. I picked up a couple of smaller fish on minnow patterns but nothing to write home about. 

Made it down to the top water stretch and sat there for about ten minutes - just waiting for the activity to start. Sure enough, one splash...then another and another. It's go time! For the next hour, I had a ton of blow ups. Many of them missed but plenty of them did not. Still, not one picture worthy fish. It was dink central. 

I noticed that the heavy ice this winter reallllllllly changed the bottom of that river. Holes that were there before really weren't that big this year. Other places had holes that weren't there before. Made for a couple of dicey steps on occasion but I was no worse for the wear. One of the biggest, and easily most recognizable changes, was the lack of vegetation. Last year there were lilly pads, submerged vegetation, and tons of algae. This year - virtually none. At best, I would say there is 10% of the vegetation compared to last. Not sure if that has something to do with the dink problem but it sure seems like it might. 

I had a good time for the couple hours I was there but I had to get back home. Not sure if I'll be back again this year but who knows. It's just a few minutes from the house and waiting if I get the itch again. 


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