Monday, February 28, 2011

Wisconsin sturgeon season numbers.

Weather system worth watching for opener.


Still a couple days out, but looks like rain/snow and windy conditions Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Hopefully nothing that will blow out the streams. Keep your eye out.

Elk River Rods

Elk River Rods is a custom rod building company that is based out of Phillips, Wisconsin. I have followed the company's development over the past 4-5 years and I have heard some great things about the products. I personally am a St. Croix guy, but meeting the guys and getting a feel for the equipment is making me think twice.
Elk River had a booth this weekend at the Madison Fishing Expo, and I got the pleasure of talking with the guys at some length about their product. I really like how the rods looked and felt, the attention to detail they put into their work is unmatched. For a custom product prices are not too expensive either. I will be ordering a custom 6 foot medium light rod with a fast action tip within the next month. The guys are extremely nice and knowledgeable, and I would recommend giving this small Wisconsin company a try for your next stream rod.

I will be!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

First pools to hit

Here are some of the first pools I will be hitting next weekend. Big browns and brookies hold in these year round. Very close to a large spring so water temperature should be nice and steady.

      This pools gets well over 6 foot deep. Has Monsters in it for such a small western Dane County stream.
Same stream about 100 yards up. Just keeps going from very narrow and fast to wide and deep with about 10 pools like these.

                                            Closer to the head water springs is brookie country.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

2010 stocking data updated

The Wisconsin DNR has recently updated the 2010 trout stocking data into the database. Take a look to see if your favorite rivers and streams received any supplemental stocking.
* There are 4,136 miles of Class 1 "blue ribbon" trout streams in Wisconsin; which require no stocking since natural reproduction is at carrying capacity.Wisconsin leads the nation in high-quality trout stream miles!
* There are 4,644 miles of Class 2 trout streams in Wisconsin. Streams in this classification may have some natural reproduction, but not enough to utilize available food and space. Therefore, stocking is required to maintain a desirable sport fishery. These streams have good survival and carryover of adult trout, often producing some fish larger than average size.
*  There are 1,591 miles of Class 3 trout streams in Wisconsin and they comprise 15% of Wisconsin's total trout stream mileage. These waters are marginal trout habitat with no natural reproduction occurring. They require annual stocking of trout to provide trout fishing. Generally, there is no carryover of trout from one year to the next.

Keep in mind these are named and designated trout stream numbers. Within the last 15 years trout populations are booming in the Badger State. There are some streams that now have trout swimming in them that haven't had them in 20+ years.
Trout now inhabit lower sections of large river complexes which in the past were too warm to have trout. Now that is where the big boys hide.

Friday, February 25, 2011

One week

After this weekend the only thing standing in the way is the longest week of work ever....................

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Mepps XD

Mepps has recently come out with a new line of spinners. They look similar to a Panther Martin, but they have some interesting colors and patterns. I picked up 4 of these spinners and will test them out next weekend. The colors I purchased (rainbow trout, brown trout, sliver and black & gold.)
Personally I am a Panther Martin guy, but I will give these a try. The old Mepps did not run well in current or other types of obstructions such as rocky or weedy bottom situations.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Float tubes a tool for the north woods.

My wife purchased a float tube for me for our last western trout fishing excursion to Henry's Lake State Park outside of Island Park, ID. Got home and thought, "I wounder when I would use this thing again?" I had a total blast and was surprised by how easy it was to maneuver and hold steady in a desired position even in a steady wind.
Wisconsin has over 15,000 inland lakes many of these lakes are remote forested lakes which require a "carry in" only approach to fish them. Often times these small lakes are spring feed and have very clear, cool water filled with trout, bass, pike, panfish, walleye, and even muskie. Float tubes are a great tool to explore these remote lakes around the state that offers some of the best fishing you could imagine. I will even fish out of my float tube on Madison's 10,000 acre Lake Mendota. I have floated rivers fishing for brown trout, small mouth bass and pike. It is a very versatile fishing tool that will allow you to have beautiful lakes that you will only share with some friendly loons.
Wisconsin is Also home to over 200 spring ponds which are almost exculsively managed for native brook trout, but some also have rainbow and brown trout which have migrated up from outlet creeks and rivers. For the larger spring ponds a float tube is a great way to cover a lot of water effeicently. Often times these spring ponds are surrounded by bogs so shore fishing isn't the best. Slowly and gently fish these spring ponds in a float tube and you will cover much more water and catch a lot more fish.

* I use the pictured above float tube by trout unlimited called the kennebec with thruster fins.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is what I am packing

Wisconsin trout season (catch and release) opens in just 10 days. I got my spin fishing chest pack all ready to go. Still have to run down to "On the creek" fly shop to pick up some patterns this coming weekend.
For the spin pack I carry 4 boxes containing a bunch of different lures in different sizes and patterns/colors.

 Box #1 - This is my "go to" box that I keep in the front compartment. Contains spinners, spoons, stick baits and some jigs.

Box #2 - Is nothing but stick baits and plugs. I keep this box in the back compartment since it is pretty large.
Box #3 - Double sided box loaded with nothing but spinners, spoons and a couple blade baits.

Box #4 - Is my jig box containing grubs and other soft plastics, road runners and small crappie jigs.

I think I have the bases covered.
And you can find me here for the first 2 hours of the season until I move on.
Saturday will be hunting browns.
Sunday will be hunting browns and brook trout with a few rainbows mixed in.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tiger Trout

Wild naturally occurring Tiger Trout (Salmo trutta X Salvelinus fontinalis) are very rare to find in the wild. Southwestern, Wisconsin is one of the only places on earth where they occur naturally. I had no idea what a tiger trout was until Len Harris @ wrote a great article and showed some pictures on his blog.

This year I plan to target them more often.

I have one under my belt! Caught this little guy last year on a Driftless area spring creek.

Importance of scouting

I get the question all of the time. How important is it really?

While everyone is complaining about the winter weather I am adding trout fishing honey holes to my list.

Why do you scout trout streams?
The reason is simple, I want to catch more and bigger trout. Just like anything to do with fishing or hunting the more time you put into the sport the more you will get back. I hear people complaining about never seeing any deer every year, but the only time they are in the woods is during the 9 day gun season. Same thing goes for fishing. I love to scout trout streams in the early and late winter during times of low snow pack. I will identify either an area to search or just specific streams that have caught my attention. I also have noticed that I will look and study  a stream differently when I am not fishing, I slow down and really see every detail. When I am fishing a new stream for the first time without scouting it, I want to cover as much water as possible and tend to rush areas, not noticing small details. This winter alone I have found at least 15 new streams that look like GEMS!! Loaded with trout...some of them really big ones.

When do you scout streams?
Normally during the winter months. I also do a lot of reading off of the Wisconsin DNR website. I read the most recent surveys and other literature about the waterways. I also will send emails to fishery biologist with questions I have about the systems.  I gather all this information and keep notes in my map book for future reference.

How do you know where to scout?
Like mentioned above, the DNR website has information for you. Some of these surveys are 10+ years old, but it will give you a baseline for what streams are worth looking into. See what streams have had HR work done on them. I have found that 3-4 years after HR work has been done is when the fishing really improves. I personally don't fish too much HR stream sections all that often. Don't judge a stream from the first bridge either! Find out what the stream classification is (I, II, III) and check out the stream from multiple bridges or crossings. I fish a couple streams that look like trickles from the bridges, but 100 yards upstream open up into really nice pool, run, riffle segments. Once you find a stream that sparks your interest get out and walk the banks (get permission if needed) and bring allow a camera.

Me and my dog Denali checking out a stream near my house that had some recent HR work done.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Early season........................... Fish ass-backwards???

The early trout season in Wisconsin can provide some different types of challenges from perfect weather to blizzards. It also will provide for some of the best fishing of the season. In March/April the weeds and grasses surrounding the trout streams will not be overgrown allowing for great casting angles. In stream weed growth will be at a minimum, and the stream water temps are near perfect most of the time.
I think that many people over think the strategies on how to fish in the early season. Yes things might be SLIGHTLY different, but you really don't need to completely change how you fish. Weather can and will be a constant challenge at times, but here are some pointers to catch a monster Brook, Brown, Tiger or Rainbow this season.
1.) Bring an extra pair of clothes. For two reasons, the first reason is obvious, if you fall into the cold water when temps can be below freezing you will want to change. And some mornings you will start out very cold, but temps will rise into the 50's and 60's quickly.
2.) Fish a bit larger than you normally would. Spin fisherman can up size spinners, spoons, plugs whatever. Fly-Fishers you should also consider doing the same with great early season patterns like wolly buggers, Maribou Patterns, Matukas, etc.................
3.) Very early in the year you might have to slow down your presentation just a bit. Trout are cold blooded animals so super cold water = super sluggish trout. The magic water temp I have found is 40 degrees for trout to really start feeding. This means fish near constant water temperature areas (springs, feeder streams)  when there is a good amount of snow melt which will cool the streams more the further down stream you go.
4.) Sleep in. I won't even get out of bed until 9-10 am during the first few weeks of the season when average high temps are still in the 30's. Sleep in and let things warm up a bit.
5.) Fish deep in the trout's "winter holes."  Trout will still be holding in deep pools saving energy and not battling the current in riffles, runs, or rapids where you might catch aggressive feeding trout in late spring and summer.
 6.) Fish ass backwards!! 90% of anglers will fish moving upstream (since trout face upstream) allowing you to sneak up on them without spooking the fish. Early season you might get a ton of follows or quick strikes with few hook-ups, but try this!!
* Find a deep hole you wish to fish.
* Walk away from the stream and bend up and around about 15 yards upstream of the pool.
* Sneak up to the side of the stream keeping a low profile and wearing dark natural toned clothes.
* Cast a lure or fly into the top area of the pool with a low cast to avoid a large splash.
* Let the current do the work allowing your presentations to spin, flutter, wiggle or dance without moving the presentation upstream, but just holding it steady and maybe twitching it a bit. Keep the rod tip out over the stream keeping your presentation working in the pool. The trout will not have to "chase" your bait down using a bunch of energy to catch it. This will allow you to catch more big trout in the early season.

I also would recommend fishing streams that you know very well the first two/three weeks of the season. Once average high temps are reaching the 40's go nuts.   Go find big trout in non-designated water.....explore and find new gems!!

Enjoy only 14 days until I see you stream side!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wild Wisconsin Rainbows

Rainbow trout are stocked in many popular streams and area ponds a crossed Wisconsin. But very few of them are reported to have naturally occurring populations of Rainbow Trout. The species is a native of the west coast and far eastern Asia. Is some areas of the American West the Rainbow has negatively impacted  native fish species by out competing native fish, transmitting contagious diseases, like whirling disease or hybridization a good example of this would be the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
But here in Wisconsin there are only a few places where someone would be able to catch a wild rainbow. Most tributaries to Lake Superior have naturally reproducing "steelheads" where the smolt will live in the streams for 2-3 summers before moving into the lake. At this age they are typically around 6-8 inches in length (although this depends on the stream) Although not all trout will move into the lake, but some will live their entire life in the stream.
Moving inland..................... Black Earth Creek and Mount Vernon Creek in Southwestern Dane county have SMALL populations of wild rainbows and I have caught a handful over the years.
 If you really want to catch a wild, stream born rainbow trout in Wisconsin look to Central Wisconsin in a few counties like Waushara county and the surrounding areas. I have found a great place to catch wild rainbows in Northeastern WI.

Rainbow trout prefer 55-60 degree water with a faster current and a gravel or rocky bottom. They are often found at the head of rapids or strong riffles.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Not just saltwater!

Zo-Zuri lures is a name that is synonymous with saltwater fishing. Little do people know that Zo-Zuri is also a fantastic trout lure. The pins-minnow series comes in two great trout fishing sizes the 2 3/4 in floating and sinking pins-minnow and the 2 inch floating pins-minnow. They come in a wide verity of colors and patterns. My personal favorite patterns are the creek chub, brown trout and rainbow trout pattern. The rainbow trout pattern does very well in streams where smaller rainbow trout are stocked (example Blue River) and other large streams. The action on the pins-minnow is close to the x-rap with less "slash" and more wiggle. They can be very hard to find at times, but I keep at least 15 with me at any time. They do get a bit pricey, but I highly recommend giving them a try this season.

They have great action even while using a slow retrieve. This is great for early season trout fishing.

They also come with some of the sharpest and strongest hooks out there. My doctor can speak for that! He had to take one out of my hand last summer.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Introducing the Rapala X-Rap XR4

The Rapala X-Rap is one of my favorite big trout lures. The X-Rap is a slash bait which delivers a violent movement in the water. This lure produces big time for me in the fall once the browns and brook trout start staging for the fall spawn. Throw a X-Rap into the pool where a mature Brown, Brook or Rainbow is holding and the territorial strike will happen. Now Rapala has come out with the new XR4 series which is only 1.5 inches long and 1/16 oz in weight. Not only with a smaller size, but it will come in brook trout and brown trout pattern. This lure will now run 2-3 feet compared to the 3-5 foot range for the larger sizes. Needless to say I already have a few of these in my chest pack for small streams in the Driftless Area.

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