Dec 10, 2018

Scouting Report

West Coast of Wisconsin

Welcome to the West Coast of Wisconsin. We have had some really crazy weather move through and the water levels are extremely high, making the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin quite treacherous. So not only do we have dangerous water conditions, but we are transitioning from fall to winter ice.

Fishing the Mississippi is a bit different than fishing other bodies of water in the state. It’s valuable to explain some of the features that separate the Mississippi River from the rest. The area I fish is called pool #4. A pool is the stretch of the river between two navigational dams. Each pool is numbered in reference to the dam at the downstream end. Pool #4 extends from Lock and Dam #4 located near Alma, Wis. upstream to Lock and Dam #3 located near Hager City, Wis.

Lock and dams changed the river – no longer is it a wild and raging body of water, it has now been somewhat tamed. These changes did ultimately affect fishing habitats. These habitats helped some species while greatly damaged others.

Tailgater are turbulent stretches of water just below the dam. These rolling waters provide incredible habitats for walleye, sauger, white bass and catfish. While traveling on the river will you see plenty of sloughs and channels forming mazes of waterways. These waterways are excellent fishing and can keep you busy for weeks at a time.

Something that makes the river unique are wing dams. Wing dams have knocked the lower units off of many boats. In the late 1800s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed these dams to help maintain a channel for commercial navigation. The function of these dams is to divert the flow of water back to the main channel.

Wing dams usually run perpendicular to the shoreline out toward the main channel. They range from 20 feet to 300 feet long and can be 6 to 20 feet wide, and are made out of rock. It is best to travel at slow speeds and be mindful of ripples in the water when traveling shorelines. One more consideration is to always be aware of barge traffic.

Hopefully this helps in enjoying the Mighty Mississippi River. This is your Sippi River Drifter checking out.

Bart Armstrong co-owns Spring Street Inn, Spring Street Outfitters and Har-nes Gallery in Stockholm, 715.204.2410. 

Northern Wisconsin

Oneida and Vilas counties

The musky bite has been amazing in the Northwoods since the beginning of fall. Suckers have been in steady supply and using them with quick strike rigs has put plenty of fish in the bag since the end of September.

One thing to remember this time of year is that the docks at the landings will be removed, so a pair of waterproof boots is a must to get into the boat.

During the later part of the season prior to ice up on non-Cisco lakes, I will move out to the secondary breaks and even to the central basins if there is any sandgrass to go over. Casting large-profile rubber such as Magnum Bulldawgs and jigging Bondy baits work best for triggering hits. Once the water temperatures dip into the 45-degree range, I will start venturing out to lakes that have Cisco-based forage, due to their late fall spawning period.

I will be casting while pulling suckers as the weather permits. Once it is too cold and rod eyes begin to freeze up, I will transition strictly to trolling steep breaks and Cisco pods that will move off structure during daylight hours. The Cisco spawn during low light periods and move up on shallow gravel bars and sand flats – I will troll my baits just off these areas in and around the pods.

Once I can’t get my boat in and out of landings anymore, I switch right over to the hardwater season. Early ice is a great time to get out and set tip-ups and have fun chasing flags. I always do the partner system to ensure total safety when heading out on first ice conditions.

Testing the ice with a spud bar is a must, and never just start to walk out with an ice auger to your favorite spot. I do the two-hit method and move out further if I don’t punch straight through. If we receive steady cold during the beginning of ice formation with no snowfall, generally by Christmas we have great ice. Good luck and tight lines!

Dan Gropengiser, Grop’s Guide Service, 715.360.1601 

South Central Wisconsin

Lake Koshkonong

Water levels have been above average for most of the season due to the endless monsoons we keep getting. Although launching boats can be a pain in the flooded landings, the higher water conditions have helped both the trolling bite and jigging bite stay strong.

The walleye/sauger numbers are good, but size can be hit or miss. Trolling the river mouths and rock pile areas are great locations to start. Perch and bluegill have been fairly aggressive once you’re able to find them.

Anchor or drift around structure while using small jigs tipped with Reds, Spikes or Waxies. We’ve had great success with Kalin’s roundhead jigs. Casting and slowly popping the jig back works great, as does simply straight-line jigging over the side of the boat. For pike, we cast or troll Acme Tackle spoons and Kalin’s swim baits throughout the lake. With the deeper cool water, the pike are roaming almost anywhere.

The fall draw down will occur at some point once the weather allows. Once that happens, the dynamics of the lake will change quite a bit. A lot of the walleye seem to push out of the shallow lake and head into the river. Many pike and panfish, however, will remain in the lake and hold throughout winter.

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 bait works well. We use Beaver Dam tip-ups rigged with 25-pound Beaver Dam line and Liquid Steel leaders, which easily hold large suckers or shiners. Since the water depth is four 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.

As is the case each winter, please be alert to the fact that Lake Koshkonong can be very dangerous despite its shallow depth. Pay close attention to the sudden development of seams and thin ice near its numerous springs. 

Rock River

Again, the water levels being high most of the season has offered some great fishing opportunities. Fall walleye can be targeted with the simple vertical jigging approach or dragging approach. For bigger fish though, don’t be afraid to try the shallow areas, especially if there’s timber or structure nearby.

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-ounce jig tipped with a crappie minnow under a bobber seems to work best, but casting Kalin’s Crappie Scrubs or other small plastics 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.

Captain Adam Walton, Pike Pole Fishing Guide Service, 608.290.3929, www.pikepolefishing.com

Petenwell and Castle Rock flowages

The month of November can be some of the best fishing all fall on both Petenwell and Castle Rock. The lakes have been turned over for about a month, water temperatures are in the low 40s and the fish are on the feed!

For anglers targeting walleye, fish deeper holes below the Petenwell Dam, Castle Rock Dam and around the train tracks on the northeast side of Castle Rock. They will fish the main river channel or big bends in the channel out on the main lake basin in 18 to 20-plus feet of water.

This time of year we use chubs, suckers and very large fatheads. Slip sinker with a plain hook or a floating jig worked up and down the channel or drop works the best for us, though others still like to use jigs tipped with fatheads tight to the bottom. Blade baits and plastics work wonders this time of year as well.

When targeting musky this time of year, troll large crank baits along the main channel in 20 to 30 feet of water. Others will cast stump fields in the river in four to 10 feet of water, casting jerk baits and bucktails. When fishing below the dams, use live suckers, big rubber baits and jerk baits while casting up along shore, over deep holes and at the face of the dam.

As the month of November starts to wind down and Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season passes, only a few diehards will remain out chasing walleye and musky. Most others will be out finishing up deer hunts and chasing ducks and geese.

For the past five years in December we have had very little safe ice – usually not until the first of the year. In years when we have safe ice in December, you can target many different areas on both flowages. Fish shallow back waters in three to eight feet, targeting walleye, bass, pike and panfish. For the walleye, pike and bass we like to use medium golden shiners on tip-ups. For panfish we use small jigs tipped with plastics, spikes and Rosies around wood structure, weeds and in the deeper holes.

Jesse Quayle, Green Water Walleyes, 608.547.3022, www.greenwaterwalleyes.com. Check us out on Facebook at Green Water Walleyes guide service, and please like our page.