Losing ice, gaining fishing opportunities....
It was a long, drawn-out Winter in 2021-2022, as ice lingered around for much longer than average. Water temperatures stayed in the 30s near the end of April, giving anglers a delayed start tome prime riverbank fishing activity, a delayed crappie bite, and a deep off-shore cold-water bass bite close to our annual gamefish season opener. We took a few trips with some middle school kids in the region to the Chippewa River, in hopes of catching suckers, carp, smallmouth buffalo, freshwater drum, yellow perch, walleye, or an accidental lake sturgeon. Although we did catch a few fish, it was slow, the water was low, and the fish were very young.
LOCAL ANGLER WYATT B HOLDS UP A JUVENILE LAKE STURGEON
ICE-OUT BASSIN, TURTLE FLAMBEAU ADVENTURES, RED CEDAR LAKE ESCAPADES
Always a fan of learning new experiences, I challenged myself to some very cold-water as the ice was melting off. My first trip included a small water excursion in which our Helix 12 HD side imaging exposed schools and schools of fish laying on the main lake deep-water basin, still in a winter-hole phase in 37 degree water temps combined with 25 degree air temps. The fishing was slow, the wind was dead, the water was flat, and we had the chance to fish slow and methodically, trying to temp some deep-water bass. Unfortunately my fishing buddy for the day may have had a largemouth of a lifetime near the surface, but lost it on a head-shake on his treble hooks, which so often happens. We came back for round 2 the following morning, and to our surprise, this beautiful 18" brown trout made up for the previous day's loss:
DAVID XIONG WITH A 18" BROWN TROUT
ALEX PIONTEK'S CRAWFISH BANDIT IS OUT OF HIBERNATION
JESSE JAMES WITH AN 18" LARGEMOUTH BASS IN 14' WATER DEPTH
I came across an affordable TourneyX event for the month in Wisconsin, so I joined with 28 other anglers. It was open to kayaks, boats, canoes, banks, you name it. This would fit me well for the month, as I was planning a few trips, but didn't have it in me to meet people at set dates or times, or had the health to battle through 8 hour fishing tournaments. My first stop would be on a small bass and panfish 90 acre natural lake in Rusk County, a place known for numbers of bass, but not necessarily size. With a water temperature sitting at 47 degrees, I wanted to rule out anything tight to shore or aggressive. Of course, I did try shoreline areas with long casts and reaction baits, with zero success or sightings of any fish. I decided to do some slow speed scanning with my Helix 12, and was finding clear markings of massive fish in around 14' of water, tight to the bottom. This lake does not have northern pike in it, it does have some musky. I don't believe it has a walleye population, so I assumed these were largemouth bass I was seeing, working their way in from their winter locations. There were also cribs all over in these contours. I pulled out a brand new Molix deep-diving jerk bait, and was running this slow and as deep as possible. I was able to make a lot of bottom contact to generate a reaction-strike. As always in tough conditions, I loaded the back treble very heavily with scented JB's Jelly, by JBs Fish Sauce. With every pass down the contour, I found success, as I landed 4 solid largemouth pass in 4 passes. These fish were very sluggish with the cold-water, and were very easy to net. What a fun time as I saw myself rise in the TourneyX standings to 3rd place early in the month, without having a 5th fish to fill my limit.
BIG CHETAC PERCH FEST
OUR CRAPPIES WERE HIDING BUT THE PERCH WERE JUMPING INTO THE CAST IRON
TURTLE FLAMBEAU - SCENIC, RELAXING, REWARDING
My annual Turtle Flambeau Flowage trip went about as well as expected - the scenery was amazing, the fishing was tough, the giant smallmouths were present and girthy, wildlife was abundant, and the boat trailer sustained more injuries. Just another weekend at the Turtle. I started the trip by towing the boat to the Lake of the Falls County Park, for my second year in a row. This is an affordable way to be able to charge boat batteries, and have shower access. Remember - this flowage is full of islands with free camping on a first-come first-served basis with no registration involved. If your batteries are charged ahead of time, you can just stay out on the islands for free and find all the peace and quiet you are looking for (besides the loons all night.) I was limited on fishing time due to health reasons, and the bite was definitely a challenge. As usual you have to stick with your plan and keep an open mind, and over time you will have opportunities. I tried scouting a new area to me, which is something I do every trip. This time was Blair Lake. The water was muddy and cold, and it felt dead in there. After a few hours, we split and tried some of my previous spots near fisherman's landing, and found a few hooksets on quality fish. Unfortunately both fish missed the net, the first one may have broken my all-time longest bass for the Turtle. I was able to catch #5 for my online TourneyX event, so I gained some ground after slipping back several places from not fishing for a few weeks.
VIEWS NEAR FISHERMAN'S LANDING AT DUSK AS WE IDLE IN TO THE LAUNCH
THE BEST PLACE TO ESCAPE IS THE SANCTUARY OF A TENT AND TIKI GLOW
MY FAVORITE WAY TO END A DAY OF FIGHTING WAVES WITH A TROLLING MOTOR
RED CEDAR CHAIN OF EVENTS
UNCLE JESSE PUTS A JAMES GANG BOOTYKICKER TO WORK ON HEMLOCK LAKE
Mid-May was leading us on, as it appeared that Mother Nature was going to give us a record early spawn. We had 66 degree water temperatures on May 17, as the bass and northern pike were feeding heavily, and the bass were busy cruising or making beds in spawning areas. Brad Peplinski and I light up 30 bass and 10 northern pike, with most fish caught on a James Gang Fishing BASS JERKER suspending jerk bait in "Bloody Cisco," while a few were caught on James Gang NEST INVADER needles swinging jigs in 1/4 oz size. Zoom Fluke Jrs as well as large spinnerbaits caught the rest of the fish. A return trip two weeks later surprised us as we found water temps back down in the 50s, and a very negative feeding attitude. A few fish were caught on the James Gang BOOTYKICKER, a small walleye on a ned rig, a few smallmouth on a James Gang NEST INVADER, and a few bites on a plastic craw. Both trips I was able to cull out my lowest fish and move up in the standings. I finished in the Top 10 for the month out of 29 anglers, and besides my 18" bass, the rest was a nice 16-17" average to fill by bag limit. It was a lot of fun, and I was very proud of my production on these limited windows of opportunities that I found in the month of May.
It's been a wonderful start to the 2022 Spring fishing season. Summer will be here soon, and after the bass are done with post-spawn, we can enjoy or times froggin and chasing prime time bluegills on the lakes, catfish on the rivers. Always remember to invite a child when you can on your next fishing trip, and focus on relaxing and enjoying the outdoors whenever you get the time!!
Jesse James is an avid fisherman that loves smallmouth bass fishing, loves spending time with his family, with other family-orientated people, and loves seeing children fish. A huge fan of BASSMASTER Elite Mike Iaconelli, like Mike, he is known to be a little strange, and obnoxious, but only to have fun and make people laugh.