Nov 10, 2017

Scouting Report

Northern Wisconsin 

Turtle Flambeau Flowage (TFF) 

There are abundant fishing opportunities during the months of November and December. In the Northwoods, the lakes freeze over sometime during this period. Early ice fishing is a favorite for a lot of fisherman and the fishing can be excellent, but it can also be a very dangerous time to be on a lake. A good source of information is local bait shops as to whether conditions are safe for travel on the ice.  However, even at that, there are hundreds of lakes in our area and individual lakes can have individual characteristics, be sure to exercise caution.  

Last year with warm weather, fishermen were on area lakes in boats for the entire month of November, which is unusual. With another mild fall currently underway, the same could hold true this year. 

Last year, there were some really big muskies caught in November by the diehards who continued to fish. Live suckers on quick set rigs or single circle hooks are how a lot of the late season muskies are caught. Some musky fishermen choose not to use live bait or use live bait with the combination of throwing artificial lures. Rubber baits, like bulldogs and Red October 10" tube jigs, are good choices.  Hard body baits, like Suicks and Phantoms, worked slow as well as crankbaits, such as Bucher depth raiders and shallow raiders (depending on water depth), are all good choices for late season muskies. When running suckers, I like to have one out on a bobber trailing behind the boat and another close to the boat with a 1 oz. rubber core sinker on the line to keep the sucker down if in deeper water. What can often happen is a musky follows the artificial lure but won't commit to hitting it, however, it can't resist the live sucker. 

Walleye late in the season are often found in deeper water, such as holes in rivers and original river channels in flowages. Deep rock and sand bars in lakes also often hold fall walleye. These fish can often be found in 40-50 feet of water. On the Turtle Flambeau Flowage where I spend most of my time, the fish I'm targeting are usually in the 16-24' depth range.  

When the safe ice does arrive, walleye fishing with tip-ups is a fun way to catch fish. The fish can be found in a wide range of depths then. Sometimes, the 12' range with wood cover on the TFF is a good choice.  While other times, shallower flats with stumps and logs in the 4 to 8-feet depth range is a good location. In our area, most fishermen use the Beaver Dam style tip-ups with underwater spools. Braided line is rigged to these with an 8 or 10 lb. monofilament leader. Between the leader and braid, a barrel swivel, a couple of split shots and a #8 treble hook are used. There is something exciting about seeing the flag go up and the spool being slowly spooled out by a walleye. If fishing with a group of fishermen, tip-ups can be spread out and different depths and structures can be tried. When ice fishing for walleye with tip-ups, golden shiners and walleye suckers are generally used. Stay safe have fun fishing. 

Jeff Robl, Bobber Down Guide Service 

In northern Wisconsin it is that time of year again, where open water fishing comes to an end and the ice season begins. The weather this year has been unusual and the bite has followed suit. Our fall weather has been behind the time, slowing everything down. We will see what the November weather brings, but one thing remains the same, the fish have to eat!!  Spend time on the water in the fall and you will catch fish. Most days in November, I am in the boat before sunrise and out until sunset.  Follow the moon phases very closely, as feeding windows will be shorter but will be very intense.   

Once December gets here, I winterize my boat and start to do maintenance on my ice gear. Ice fishing is something I always look forward to, but my clothes and fishing gear have to be ready. Check all your things over before you head out on the ice for the first time. Once you hit the ice you want to fish, do not mess with sub-par equipment.  There is nothing worse than hitting the ice and finding out one of your boots has a hole in it. Early ice is one of the best bites all winter, so hit the ice and fish on!   

If the lakes are not frozen over yet, head out for some late season deer bowhunting. Wisconsin is an awesome state!! We get to enjoy all four of the seasons in pure beauty. With the different seasons come different outdoor activities, and that’s what makes Wisconsin so great. So get out and enjoy the outdoors!! "SET THE HOOK!" 

ANDY HENDRICKSON  

West Central Wisconsin 

It seems like every winter in the Chippewa Valley is different.  The past two years, I never ventured out onto the ice until Christmas time.  While three short years ago, I had my earliest ever venture out onto the hard water; November 16th, to be exact.  Early ice can be awesome, but while you should ALWAYS use caution while venturing out, you need to take extreme caution on first ice.  If it’s worth saying once, it worth saying a hundred times.....No fish is worth risking your life over.  

Glen Loch Flowage 

This is one of the waters I use as a measuring stick for first ice. I live near this small lake, so it’s easy for me to test out. The easiest access at first ice is by the golf course. Use caution when venturing down the hill, as it can be ice covered at times (I know this from experience!)   

Bluegills are often found in the shallows during first ice. Jigs and waxies are the preferred method. Tip-up fishing can also be good near the channel. Please use a spud bar, and use extreme caution when traveling out to the channel. Remember, where there is current, the ice may not be as thick or as strong as other places. 

Chetek Chain of Lakes 

This is probably the most popular ice fishing destination in the Chippewa Valley.  There is just so much water to choose from, and so many different access points such as; Veteran's Park, Six Lakes and Ojaski.  It is great for panfish, pike, bass and walleye.  Bluegill and crappie can be found throughout the day. However, the best action will be during the lower light periods.  Moon jigs, Flirty Girty's, Purists, and Lil Cecil’s, tipped with waxies or spikes, will all work.  A lot of times your flasher will not show you much, but it seems during that last hour of the day, it will light right up with fish!  This is a great place to take your kids or grandkids for hardwater action!  Scatter tip-ups along islands and shorelines at varying depths for northern pike, largemouth, bass and walleye. 

Chequamegon Waters (Miller Dam) 

This is a popular body of water in west central Wisconsin for ice anglers.  Located in the Chequamegon National Forest, it is a little piece of serenity not too far from home.  Miller Dam is a great place to go chase flags all day.  Set tip-ups near weedbeds, rock piles, islands and shorelines.  There are plenty of "snakes" to keep you occupied, but do not be fooled. There are pike of 40 plus inches pulled out every year.  From my personal experience, shiners will get you most of the action, but sucker minnows do seem to produce the larger fish. 

Good numbers of nice panfish are also taken every year on this lake.  Drill yourself a dozen holes and bring a good flasher. Do not be afraid to hole hop.  Of course, if you are fishing the Beaver Creek area, there might not be a lot of room for you to really hole hop a lot, depending on the number of fishermen down there. Also, do not be afraid to set up some tip-downs, and tip them with crappie minnows.  Experiment with your depths. I have had a lot of success with tip-downs on Miller Dam Flowage! 

Chris Powell[Text Wrapping Break] 

West Coast of Wisconsin  

Lake Pepin and Mississippi River Area 

November can be a really good time to be out on Lake Pepin. It is the last time you will be able to open water fish until spring. The river walleye are arriving and the fishing is really active. The water levels are pretty normal, so the backwaters of the Tiffanies are an excellent spot for crappie. One thing is for sure, the bird watching is a sight to see as you are out on the water. And, when you start seeing the diver ducks, you know winter is right on their tail.  

Come December, the ice is starting to form on the backwaters. The bluegill and crappie fishing is hot. The big lake is a bit treacherous, so if you are looking to venture out, you are better off fishing close to the shorelines. The rock jetty off of the Stockholm Park is a great place to spend the day. The marina in Pepin is another spot to check out, you will not be disappointed. The walleye will continue to appear as the water temperatures fall. The safe ice will be here soon and, once again, we will be able to get out on Lake Pepin. Until then, so long from the West Coast of Wisconsin. 

Bart Armstrong  

East Central Wisconsin 

Lake Winnebago System 

The hairy brown backs are in many of your crosshairs right now, and for those of you in planning mode to hit the woods and chase them down, I wish you all the best of luck!  On the heels of another year of family traditions in the woods, follows my favorite time of the year, Early Ice 

The Winnebago System offers some chances at hitting it hard, early, but it all depends on Mother Nature.  I remember some years back that I was hitting the hardwater prior to Thanksgiving and I’m sure hoping that is the case this year… we’re certainly due for it!  Time will tell what we actually face this year, but if she graces us with what a lot of us want, here’s what I’ll be doing!    

As the temps drop, look to the protected bays, specifically the ones shielded by whatever the forecasted wind has been.  The Asylum Bays (N and S) on Winnebago and the channels throughout our system, offer awesome opportunities for some lightning fast panfish action.  Most weedbeds are on their way out, but if one can find a bed that is still producing oxygen, chances are it will also produce some fish.  Some enjoy targeting the pannies with plastics on small teardrops or specific bug look-a-like jigs, while others prefer a simple waxie or a spike on the end of a tiny lead-head. 

Sight fishing has a huge advantage in this realm. The use of an underwater camera, or blacking out your fishing environment so you can see down the hole, will heighten your advantages to “selecting” the larger fish to bite. Unfortunately, there is usually a whole lot of small guys mixed in with our targeted size.  I’m sure a few of you have had some days in which you got on a school of nicer fish, but I certainly can’t remember the last time that has happened to me out here without having to throw some back to get a nice limit.  

If you have ever read my past articles or watched my videos, you know I love the challenge of hunting down an active school on the Winnebago System.  If I get my wish of an early, first ice fishing environment, you are going to be seeing me two places before the January issue of Badger Sportsman comes out: Butte des Morts or Poygan.  Each offer amazing fishing opportunities from Winnebago County controlled public launches.  

To hunt down these schools, you must move and move and move.  There’s nothing easy about it, unless of course you get lucky and land on one on your first hole… Yes, it can happen!  Usually it doesn’t, and we’re on the hunt.  I won’t name a specific depth because I have caught fish in all depths in these lakes, from just a couple of feet to 10 FOW.  It’s up to you to try it out and see where they’re at on any given day.    

Jigging Raps and Jigging Shad Raps have been great baits.  I haven’t used any live or artificial baits on them for a while and have been able to ice some decent numbers of fish.  While I strongly recommend against it as we currently sit, if our forage base continues to dwindle down, the bite will be had for bigger fish on tip-ups with large shiners, especially early ice.  Time will tell how that will play out, but be ready… 

Please be very careful as you target your selected body of water this early ice season, as well as anytime!  Have that life jacket or float suit on, put your cell phone in a plastic bag, rely on your spud, and as always, make sure someone knows when and where you’re heading out.  Let’s have an awesome start to this season and as we get closer, keep an eye out on the OB Outdoors Facebook page for my ice/fishing reports as we rip into another great ice season here on the Winnebago System.  Until next time, “Tight Lines. Stay Dry.”    

Kyle 

South Central Wisconsin 

Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages 

This time of year, most people are starting to wind down their fishing season. Many outdoorsmen are out in the woods chasing whitetails, upland game birds and waterfowl. For those still out fishing the flowages, most are fishing below the Petenwell and Castle Rock dam. However, there will be a few fishermen fishing the main lakes. Now, the fish will have pushed out of the shallows and into the main channel or deeper water. For the most part, people will fish the main channel, deep holes and main lake drop-offs with live bait. The bait of choice is large chubs and fatheads, tipped on jigs, Lindy rigs and slip rigs. Another choice for this time of year is to use blade baits and plastics.  

As the month of November winds down, and the Wisconsin gun deer season comes to an end, it is time to get the ice gear out. For the last three seasons, early ice hasn't been an option until late December or even as late as the first of the year. Hopefully, this year will be different. To start off the ice season, many will target shallow backwaters for pike, bass, panfish and walleye. Most of the backwaters are 2 to 8 feet deep. Places to target are weedy areas or along timber and the smaller deep channels. For panfish, a good option is to use small jigs tipped with plastics, spikes or waxies. For chasing pike and bass fish with tip-ups using large shiners set just below the ice. A good tactic for walleyes is to use fatheads and smaller shiners a couple of inches off the bottom.  

Remember no ice is safe ice. If it looks bad, stay off. And never go out alone. For any questions or information about Castle Rock and/or Petenwell Flowages, check us out on lake-link.com, facebook @ green water walleyes guide service.  You can also contact me at greenwaterwalleyes@yahoo.com or 608-547-3022. 

Jesse Quale   

Southeast Wisconsin  

Lake Koshkonong 

The cool spring and summer, along with higher water levels, made for some awesome fishing so far this season. However, the lake system began its fall drawn down September 29th, 2017. Unless a significant amount of runoff occurs, expect the water levels to be slightly below typical levels. This will push some fish to the river, but the lake itself will still offer some decent action. Trolling crankbaits while the water remains open is still a good tactic. Casting ACME Tackle spoons and Kalin’s swim baits near weedy areas is also a productive option for hungry pike.  Once the ice takes hold, action can be found by simply rigging tip-ups with minnows. For early ice, targeting pike near shallow bays or dying weeds with larger baits works well. We use Beaver Dam tip-ups, rigged with 25 lb. Beaver Dam line and Northland Tackle Predator Rigs, which easily hold large suckers or shiners. Since the water depth is 4 feet or less, the bait can be placed pretty much anywhere in the water column. We have equal luck between suckers swimming just under the ice and ones placed near the bottom. Lake Koshkonong can be very dangerous despite its shallow nature. Pay close attention to the sudden development of seams and thin ice near the numerous springs.  

Rock River 

Before the ice takes hold, large crappie can be found near shoreline structure in both the Upper River and Lower River systems.  A simple bare hook or 1/32 oz. jig, tipped with a crappie minnow under a bobber, seem to work the best, but casting Kalin’s Crappie Scrubs or Northland Tackle Bloodworm jigs can also be productive.  Be prepared to move often when searching shoreline structure and plan on bringing plenty of extra jigs.   The crappie population isn’t off the charts here compared to other systems, but their size typically ranges between 12 to 14 inches.        

Madison Chain 

Some panfish will remain near weeds or shallow cover year-round.   However, as colder temps develop, many fish move out to deeper water. They’ll typically remain in large schools suspended in these areas throughout fall and early winter.  With this being the case, taking the time to locate suspended schools with sonar just before the ice develops can be very beneficial, since they tend to be in the same general area after freeze up.  We use Humminbird Helix 10 side-imaging units during the late fall to mark large schools of suspended fish.  Those waypoints are then moved into our Humminbird Helix Ice units and after safe ice develops, relocating schools of fish is much easier.  Both late fall open water panfish and early ice panfish can be caught using a variety of small plastics, waxies and spoons.  Northland Tackle Bloodworms are a favorite, as are Acme Tackle Kastmaster’s, which show up easily on ice flasher units.  The UV Glow series, made by ACME Tackle Kastmaster’s, will brighten presentation up and can give anglers that extra edge for finicky fish.  Good luck and as always, please be safe!  

Captain Adam Walton 

Southeast Lake Michigan 

Lake Michigan fishing in Racine County has remained consistent in the last part of the season. The chinook run is in full swing, with the large chinook salmon starting to stage heavily in front of harbors.  Several big fish are being caught in the rivers. The fish in the rivers have been coming on mostly skein below a float and casted out. This can provide for some great action on spinning reels and light line. The trolling bite has been going very well, and the main baits being used are J-Plugs, Brad's thin fish, and Bomber long A crankbaits. These predominantly work best on mono rods and small lead core setups such as 1, 2 and 3 color lead core.  The speeds, on average, are 1.5-1.8 mph at the ball on the Depth Raider.  Slide Divers are the main choice, with the stealth presentation accounting for several fish on each trip.  They really provide great action with the violent strikes from mature salmon.  Also, it really helps to get several additional lines out when boards are not used with heavy traffic.  

The bite on the outside water is lake trout and steelhead in 140-240 feet of water. The best setup is 200-450 copper and 90-120 feet down on riggers. This has been going strong for a few weeks with Stinger Confusion, Confused Blonde, Blue Dolphin, and Natural Born Killer baits. When the fall season wraps up, the gears will be switched to winter brown trout, with large numbers usually showing up.  

It has been a great year and we hope to see you all soon to make memories of a lifetime. Good luck and be safe.  

A1 Big Fish Charters-Jim La Fortune