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Memorable bites

Fishing the Midwest

— Submitted photo Jeff Kolodzinski, Kolo, with a clear water Sturgeon Bay walleye.

For one reason or another, I’ve been unable to get on the ice for a couple of weeks. I’m guessing that warmer weather will provide the opportunity and encouragement to go ice fishing a few more times, but for now I’m doing a lot of remembering. Mostly I’m remembering past fishing trips. For 40 plus years, I’ve had the privilege of working in the fishing industry. From those 40 plus years, I’ve got lots of really good fishing memories. Some stand out though. Following are some of those memories.

Most of those memories are at least partially and usually mostly memorable because of the people that I was fishing with. I have several memories that took place while I was fishing alone. One of those memories happened while wading a small river near my childhood home. I had just acquired a new style of spinnerbait and was anxious to try it. Traditional in-line spinners had caught lots of smallmouth bass and northern pike for me in the past, but this was a new-to-me style. It was the predecessor to the now-popular, super-productive spinnerbaits that have the spinner directly over the hook. A good example would be Strike-King’s Premier Plus spinnerbait. Conditions were perfect and the pike were biting. They had probably never seen a bait like this before. In a short stretch of river I caught a good bunch of pike in the 5-8 pound range. Not big by some standards, but certainly nice ones for a small river. The lesson learned was that much of the time baits that the fish haven’t seen before or haven’t seen much can be very productive.

Another wonderful memory occurred on a river far north of that pike memory. I was going to be fishing the Rainy River on the Minnesota-Canadian border with fishing pioneer Ron Lindner. I had fished with Ron a number of times prior to that and was always so impressed by how he could read the water. While having supper the evening before, Ron predicted that we would “catch 100 smallmouth bass tomorrow”. I knew that was an aggressive number, but I also knew that Ron could predict that sort of thing. The next day we got on the water, and within minutes Ron noticed that conditions had changed. He said, “We ain’t gonna’ catch 100 smallmouth bass today”. He was right. We caught 60. I kept track. Ron was an amazing angler and an even more amazing person.

A more recent fishing trip that’s stuck in my head happened on Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin’s Door County. I was sharing a boat with Bret Alexander, a fishing guide, and Jeff Kolodzinski. Kolo works in the fishing tackle industry. It was mid-summer, the skies were clear, the wind was calm, the bay was flat. Sturgeon Bay has very, very clear water. Those conditions usually create difficult fishing for most species of fish and certainly for walleyes. We were after walleyes on this day. Bret didn’t seem concerned. He said “We’ll get’em to bite”. And we did. We caught a good number of walleyes with a few channel catfish mixed in. They were all larger than most walleyes or catfish that are caught across the Midwest. There was 1 thing that we did that enabled our success. We trolled with in-line Off Shore planer boards. These boards took our nightcrawler tipped spinner rigs way off to the side of the boat. The rigs on the outside lines were at least 50 feet away from the boat and probably even farther. By doing so, the walleyes weren’t spooked by the boat and were very willing to eat our baits. Lesson Learned: When the water is clear, avoid spooking fish by getting your bait away from the boat.

I have lots of other fishing memories that I’ll share another time, but now I have to gather my ice fishing gear for an afternoon on the ice.

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