There are lots of fishing seasons and ways to go fishing.
In some parts of the world right now, it’s ice fishing season, but in others it’s open water season.
In some places, it is crappie season, in others it’s perch season.
In some places, we go spinnerbaiting for bass or jigging for walleyes.
Wherever you live and fish, I think that much of the time it’s good just to go fishing. Don’t get locked into a particular fish or technique, just go fishing. Here’s what I mean.
When we leave the house to go fishing, we usually have a species of fish in mind that we’d like to target, and we also probably have an idea of the technique that we’ll start with to catch that species.
If we’re after walleyes and it’s early in the year, we’ll probably lean toward jigs. If it’s summer, spinners or crankbaits will generally get the nod.
The same is true if largemouth bass are the target: The time of year will help us decide what type of bait to use.
However, sometimes the fish break the rules. They’re not really breaking the rules, they just don’t know what the rules are. As anglers, we, on occasion, think we know more about what the fish want than they do, and often, we do.
There are times though, when the fish are behaving differently then we anticipate. When this happens, it’s a good idea to change our plans. If our target was walleyes, but the walleyes don’t want to get caught, it’s time to just “go fishing.” I’ve done that many times in the past number of years, and almost every time, it’s been a good and productive idea.
In the summer, oftentimes we go fishing for walleyes. We’re often successful at finding and catching them, but sometimes things don’t work out. When this happens, we switch species, and frequently the species we switch to is largemouth bass. Here in the Midwest, we have some outstanding bass fishing. If the walleyes aren’t biting, the bass usually are, and I would much rather catch a bunch of bass than not catch any walleyes.
When we make the switch from walleyes to bass, we’ll often start throwing a crankbait on the weedline, and that will usually work. Usually but not always. When the bass won’t eat a crankbait, we’ll often tie on a plain jighead and tip it with a Strike King Ocho plastic worm. Not many bass can resist a jig/Ocho combination. And again, I would much rather catch ’em on an Ocho than not catch ’em on a crankbait.
What I’m suggesting is this: We should do what it takes to enjoy our fishing as much as possible.
North Iowa photographer Ron Miles Jr. is a weather enthusiast whose images are frequently shared on social media. He lives in Clear Lake.
Most of us want to catch some fish, and the more and the bigger the better. Spending time with friends and family and enjoying the surroundings is certainly a very important part of fishing, but catching fish adds to that experience. It adds a lot.
If you truly enjoy catching a particular species of fish using a particular technique, go for it. But I truly believe most people are happy catching just about anything that pulls back by using whatever technique necessary to make that happen.
I know that most of my fishing partners do.
Much of the time, we’ll enjoy our fishing more if, instead of “going jigging for walleyes,” we just go fishing.
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.