The winter of 2019 appears to be winding down, at least a little bit. I’m guessing that I’ve got a couple more ice fishing trips in me, but I can’t get out now, so I’m getting ready for open water. Here’s what I’m doing.
I almost always start in my jig boxes. I’ve got a box for walleye jigs and another one for bass jigs. Fire-Ball Jigs are my go-to jig in the spring. The short-shank wide-gap turns the nibblers into catches. There are a few colors that I just have to have.
I fish quite a bit, and the areas that I fish in the spring can be jig-eaters, so I make sure that I have at least six of certain colors in the 1/16- and 1/8-ounce sizes. Those are the sizes that I use the most in the spring. The colors that I rely on the most are Glo Rainbow, Parrot, Glo Watermelon, and Bubblegum. Other colors certainly work, but where I fish in the spring, the water can be stained and the colors mentioned do a good job in stained water.
A long-shank Fire-Ball Jig is hitting the shelves now or soon, so I’ll need to get some of those also.
When it comes to largemouth bass in the open water season, I throw a jig/worm combination a lot. When the bite is tough, that jig/worm still catches’em. When it comes to a jig for the jig/worm set-up, I really like Strike King’s Tour Grade Jig Head in the 1/16-, 1/8-, and 3/16-ounce sizes. I’ve been fishing Ocho Worms in the 6-inch size on these heads a lot. The hooks are sharp, they’re large, and the keeper prevents the worms from sliding down the hook.
With the jig/worm combo, I believe that worm color can be a big factor, but I don’t think the jig color matters so much; maybe sometimes, but not that often. Therefore, I get one jig size in black, one in watermelon, and one in green pumpkin. Each size is a different color. Sometimes when I get in a hurry, and if the different size heads are all the same color, I have trouble quickly determining which head is the 1/8 and which one is the 3/16. When they’re different colors, I can tell quickly.
Now is the time to spool up with new line. You should start the season with fresh line. I force myself to do so by stripping much of the line off of my reels when I put them away in the late fall or early winter.
I take a marking pen and note somewhere on the handle of the rod the style and test of the line. Do so somewhere on the handle where your hand doesn’t come in contact too much, as your hand will eventually erase your note.
In the not-so-distant past I used monofilament and braid exclusively, and it was easy to know which was which with a quick look. Since the introduction of P-Line’s Tactical though, I’m using much more fluorocarbon. Tactical is easy to handle, tough, and invisible underwater. Now I have some spinning rods with 6- or 8-pound test CX Premium monofilament and some with 6- or 8-pound test Tactical Fluorocarbon. On the handle of those rods I mark 6M for the 6-pound mono, and 6T for 6-pound Tactical. I can quickly decide which rod I want to use.
Last thing: I’m converting my jigs and crankbaits to Lure Lock boxes. These boxes have a sticky material on the bottom that holds the lures in place. The lures don’t rattle, and they don’t bang into each other, which can dull hooks or scratch baits.
Open water is on the way, get ready for it now.
Photos: Big fish caught in North Iowa
Steve Young muskie 1
Kid catches muskie
Houston muskie in East Park
Logan Conway and Muskie
Steve Ibarra 2
Sea Wall muskie
Clear Lake muskie
Redig's big fish
12th Street cat
Tom Caswell's Muskie
Big fish in St. Ansgar
Santee's northern pike
Richards' river monster
Mike Uhlenhopp's northern pike
Lenz lands a big one
Georgia Hanford cat
Frank and the fish
Echelbarger's northern pike
East Park walleye
Mom and son muskie
2 for one on Clear Lake
Big muskie caught on Clear Lake in January, 2016
Jeff Lutcavish with giant northern
Catfish in Clear Lake
Fall Classic walleye
Jensen's Fishing the Midwest: Fall can be the best time for trophy fish
Depending on where you live, the young people and their teachers are getting ready to go back to school, football season is either here or just around the corner, and the fall fishing season is not far off. Some folks may not like this progression of seasons, but many anglers do. They know that autumn can provide the best fishing of the year for both numbers of fish and trophy fish. Many anglers have caught the biggest fish of their life in the fall. If we want to take full advantage of fall fishing, now is a good time to make preparations to do so. Following are some things to keep in mind as we prepare for fall fishing.
Whether you’re fishing a lake, river, or reservoir, at some point in the fall the fish will school up. In the summer they’ll be loosely schooled more of the time, but when the fish feel the water temperatures drop and notice the days getting shorter, they’ll group up. Therefore, it works well to keep moving with an eye on your sonar until you find where the fish are hanging out.
The importance of paying attention to your sonar was once again driven home on a fall trip to Lake Kabetogama a couple of years ago. Kab is known for its walleyes, but it’s also a world-class smallmouth fishery. We were fishing for the smallmouth on deep structures. We located the structures on the maps in our sonar units, then cruised over them looking for fish. The first two spots were fishless, the third showed fish.
We dropped jigs and dropshot rigs to them and had immediate action. Just for the heck of it, we tried similar looking structures that didn’t show fish on the sonar, and that’s what we caught: Nothing. The fact that you’ve got to fish where the fish are if you want to catch fish was reinforced that day. We were using Raymarine sonar at the time: I can’t remember which units we had, but the Axiom series of sonar from Raymarine that we’re using now does an amazing job of showing fish, and they have the other features necessary that make fish-catching so much more consistent.
Start the autumn season off with fresh line. Just as we start the season with fresh line, we want to be sure our connection to the fish is in good shape in the fall. Be sure that when that fish-of-a-lifetime eats your bait, your line will be ready to handle it. There are lots of line choices out there, and they all have a purpose. With that said, day-in and day-out, I use P-Line CX or CXX Premium. These are kind of like monofilament line, and I’ve developed a lot of trust in them. If I want more sensitivity and better hooksetting ability, I use XTCB braid with a Tactical fluorocarbon leader. This set-up provides the ultimate in strength and minimal stretch, yet allows for a very natural presentation.
In the fall, fish like larger lures. Even the smaller fish eat bigger baits in the autumn. Mother Nature tells the fish that it’s better to eat one large meal instead of several smaller ones. Use big bait for big fish.
There are lots of options for recreation in the fall. Football and hunting take up lots of folk’s time. But if you like to fish, reserve some time for doing-so. The weather is pleasant, the scenery is nice, and the catching can be outstanding. Discover that for yourself when the leaves on the trees turn colorful.
Muskies: Mitchell County Conservation intern explains 'the mystery fish' (with photos)
OSAGE | Local anglers had an opportunity to hear about the “mystery fish" -- also known more commonly as the muskie, from Levi Nettleton, recent naturalist intern with Mitchell County Conservation.
Nettleton, who will be a senior science education major at the University of Northern Iowa this fall, told attendees muskies are known as the mystery fish because of their unpredictability.
“Muskies are very unpredictable,” he said. “You can find them in waters that are 6 inches to a 100 feet deep. They look like a pike, but they have six teeth instead of five teeth like northern, and northern are spotted.”
Nettleton said a female Muskie can lay up to 265,000 eggs, but their survival rate is very low. They spawn best in water temps of 55 to 65 degrees, laying their eggs randomly in shallow waters where predators can consume the eggs.
“Many fishermen believe the muskie is a major consumer of other game fish such as bass and walleye, but they are apt to eat softer fish like bullheads and minnows,” Nettleton said, noting they also eat insects, crayfish, small mammals and waterfowl.
"Many believe they are aggressive, but that isn’t true, unless they are feeding," he said. "They are complicated for naturalists to study.”
Nettleton said Muskies’ habitats also vary, meaning they can be found in weeds like tobacco cabbage or 30 feet deep in open water. He said fisherman can find them in different places throughout the year.
Nettleton shared his enthusiasm for catching the large game fish, something he started four years ago.
“Once you do it, it can become an addiction," he said. "There's a lot of skill in muskie fishing, and sometimes, muskies are called the fish of a 100,000 casts.”
Nettleton’s study has rewarded him well, as he caught and released 36 muskies last year and 12 so far this year.
Fishermen seeking muskies typically use 7- to 10-foot rods, according to Nettleton. He uses a 300- to 400-foot reel with 22 pounds of drag, with 50-100 braid line and steel or fluorocarbon leaders.
He also carries needle-nosed pliers longer than 8 inches and a rubberized net, so he doesn't harm the Muskie.
He gave some additional pointers:
• Leave the catch in the water and support and release it when the fish is calm.
• Cut the hook if the fish has been deep-hooked.
• Don't fish over 80 degrees.
• If trolling, start at 2 mph, increasing to 4 mph.
• Do figure-eights to attract muskies.
Nettleton, who whose biggest catch was 53 inches long, said there are Muskies in the Cedar, Iowa, Shell Rock, and Winnebago rivers, as well as in Clear Lake.
The largest populations of muskies are in Minnesota, according to Nettleton, where the largest caught was 56 inches long and weighed 54 pounds.