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Iowa Great Lakes are a multi-species paradise By Larry Myhre Team Outdoorsmen Adventures

     SPIRIT LAKE,  Iowa — It was shaping up to be a picture perfect, bluebird day. The sun glinted off the calm surface of Emersons Bay on Big West Lake Okoboji as fishing guide John Grosvenor put the hammer down on his big Skeeter WX2060.

     Aboard were Clay Norris, Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member and longtime product manager for the Berkley Company, and me. Following close behind the Skeeter were Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., who has the Outdoorsman Adventures Television show, and cameraman Garrett Heikes, Wayne, Neb., in my Alumacraft Tournament Sport which would serve as the camera boat for this trip.

     We didn’t have far to run.

     Grosvenor had caught a lot of fish on a rock bar just outside the mouth of the bay the day before. Bluegills, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and walleyes had rounded out his catch. He dropped down his Minn Kota Ulterra, bow-mounted electric motor and hit the anchor button. GPS tracking would keep us on one spot in spite of a light breeze which was beginning to kick up.

     John handed Clay a rod armed with a slip bobber and a 1/16-ounce jig head tipped with two red wiggler worms. These tiny worms max out at about 4-inches long and are great fish bait because of their wiggling action. After getting Clay rigged up, John handed me a drop shot rod with a Havoc Bottom Hopper Jr., plastic worm, on the short-shanked drop shot hook. A three-eights ounce drop shot sinker was slipped onto the line about 18-inches below the hook.

     Both rods were rigged with Berkley Crystal Fireline with Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon leaders.

     Both the slip bobber and drop shot rig are finesse techniques and work well in the clear waters of this spring-fed, 3,847 acre lake.

     It didn’t take long for Clay to hook up with a nine-inch bluegill. It was a brightly colored male as were most of the big ‘gills we caught that day. In this deeper water, the ‘gills were still on the beds. Clay took two more fish, a bluegill and a largemouth, before I hooked up with my first largemouth of the day.

     We moved a couple times on that bar, but could not find the larger bass John was looking for. Ours topped out at about 15 inches. And the walleyes, it seemed had left except for the small one that Clay brought to the boat. We had caught and released a lot of bluegills and largemouth, but the smallmouth were absent. A cold front had moved through late the day before and we figured the smallies might have gone into deeper water.

     John decided to make a move. He started the big motor and pointed the bow north. We were headed for the rock bars above Gull Point.

     John has been guiding on the Iowa Great Lakes for the past 16 years. I first met John when he was an Anchor/Reporter for KTIV-TV news and I was working at the Sioux City Journal. John spent 10 years in the news business, both in Sioux City and Des Moines.

     As we began working the rock piles on the flats above Gull, it became apparent that the largemouth and bluegills and even a few walleyes were home, but the smallies still evaded us. We also caught three small northerns along here. I caught a silver northern, my first ever. A silver northern is just a color phase and not a separate species. The silver northern has no spots or coloring along its back and sides.

     Clay remarked, “It looks like a walleye with a northern pike’s head.”

     That’s as good of a description as any.

     Another color phase found in these lakes is the striped northern. The DNR estimates only one percent of the northern population is striped, while some 20 percent are silvers. Apparently, the three color phases originated from Spirit Lake, but the DNR has stocked them in both West and East Okoboji.

     We made one more move into deeper water on a rock pile to the north. [Read more…]

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Ice Fishing at 50 degrees By Gary Howey

  There’s something to be said about ice fishing when it’s fifty degrees, it’s not the type of weather you usually associate with ice fishing.  For one thing, your hands and the rest of your body isn’t as cold as those minus thirty-three wind chill days you had been on the ice. That day when we traveled five hours north with a film crew and had to film as we had been invited up by one of our sponsors and the day before wasn’t as bad with the weatherman indicating that the following day wouldn’t be all that bad!

  On fifty-degree days, you can fish without heavy gloves, making it easier to untangle your lines and easier and quicker to tie on or bait ice fishing micro baits when you don’t have to wear gloves.

  The best thing about it is you don’t have to bribe your friends to go ice fishing with you.

  When the forecast for Friday February 10 was for fifty-degree weather and little wind in the morning, it sounded like a good time to hit the ice.

  Some of my fishing partners were worried about the ice and not having enough ice but after I assured them that there was eight inches a few days before, they were all in.

  Dani Thoene and I hit the ice first, with Dani punching holes and me following up behind him to clean up the ice mound around the hole and scoop them clean.

  Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA. pulled in shortly after we arrived and set up on one of the holes to the east of where I was fishing.

  Ten minutes later Anthony Thoene arrived and began fishing not too far from where Larry had set up, with Melvin Kruse rounding out our crew.

  We’d be fishing on a privately stocked pond in northeast Nebraska, one that I’d fished in open water and knew there were some big fish patrolling the depths as on one occasion, I was fishing with heavy line and was broken off when a big fish hit my lure and broke me off in open water.

  We all had Vexilar locators, showing letting us know when fish moving in on our baits, but as many fish do in the winter, they weren’t overly aggressive.

  I rigged up a live bait bobber rig with a minnow and jigged with another rigged tipped with a wax worm hoping to entice a crappie. Larry, Dani and I were doing a number on the smaller bluegill and bass, with two or more of us pulling fish up at the same time.

 A thick red line, indicating a fish moved up under my bait, I raised my bait just a bit, as I waited for the fish to move up to the bait, I watched the sensitive spring bobber at the end of my rod as it will indicate a bite long before you feel it.  [Read more…]

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Tricks for finicky late-season fish By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

There’s one thing you can take to the bank if you are an ice fisherman during the month of February. Catching fish is just going to get tougher.

The bloom of early ice is off. Gamefish have settled into the doldrums of winter. If you are going to catch your share, whether it is bluegills, crappies, perch or walleyes, you are going to have to fish smarter.

Generally that means lightening up. Smaller baits, lighter lines, more precise presentation all play a greater role late in the ice fishing season.

If you have been fishing four pound test, you might consider switching to two pound. But even more importantly, you need to fish fresh line. Monofilament has a memory. That memory means the line comes off your spool in curls. Your tiny ice fishing jigs or teardrops are not heavy enough to take out those curls, so you are never in direct contact with your lure.

One thing underwater cameras have shown us is how lightly late winter panfish hit lures. We’ve watched bluegills and perch swim up to a lure, inhale it and spit it out all in one motion.

If you are using a camera, you can probably hook that fish. If not, you won’t even know it inhaled the bait. Sure, you can see the fish on your flasher, but you can’t tell if he has the lure.

One little trick I use is when I see the fish signal merge with my bait signal I began raising my rod tip feeling for pressure. Quite often, especially this time of year, the fish has taken the bait with no indication even if I’m using a bite indicator.

So here’s the thing. Having coils in your line severely complicates the catching of light biting fish.

I could make a strong argument for changing your line each time you go fishing.

That doesn’t mean you put on an entire 110 yards of new line each time. If you are fishing 30 feet or less, put on 40 feet of new line, using a blood knot to join the old with the new.

Once you are on the ice, it is a good idea to hook your lure on something heavy like your ice shack or snowmobile and stretch the line to remove the memory coils before fishing.

A good argument can be made for using one of the new “super” lines for ice fishing. There will be no coils in the line and no stretch, so your sense of feel will be greater. The deeper water you fish, the more important it is to use a super line.

Are there other ice fishing tricks that will help you take late-winter fish? You bet. [Read more…]

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This system catches summer panfish By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

Late summer and early fall find crappies and bluegills heading for deep water.

For many anglers, this is the time for the slip bobber set-up, but over the past several years I have been using a method that just about everyone knows about but almost no one is using.

That would be drop shotting.

The method first burst upon the professional bass tournament trail probably around 20 years ago. Perfected in tough, clear fishing waters of Japan, the bass pros soon learned that it was a dynamite system over here as well. It was a closely guarded secret for years. But, eventually the word leaked out.

I don’t remember the year, but I was introduced to the technique by one of the pros at the Berkely Company. We fished West Okoboji and caught smallmouth, walleye, perch and crappie using the technique.

I could recognize the potential this system had for any of a large number of gamefish. In those days we simply used long shanked Aberdeen hooks and large split shots for weights. Although I rigged up a small plastic box just for drop shotting, I seldom used the system. That was a mistake. Over the years, special weights and hooks designed for this system were developed and are widely available today.

In case you are not familiar with the system, let’s go over it. It is your basic hook, line and sinker setup. You tie a hook on the line using a Palomar knot, which will cause the hook to sit out parallel to the line. You leave a long tag on the line and slip it through the eye of the hook and, let’s say 12 inches below the hook you attach a sinker such as a large split shot or two.

I’ll try to explain how to make this rig in more detail. You want the hook point to ride up, so begin the Palomar knot by passing the line from the top side down through the hook eye, and then bring it back through from the bottom, leaving a loop under the hook. Then, using the loop, tie an overhand knot and slip the hook through the loop it creates. Pull the knot tight. Next, pass the tag end of the line through the hook eye from the top side down, tighten it and attach a drop shot sinker or large split shot. [Read more…]

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Jumbo bluegills seek deep water in summer By Larry Myhre

When fishermen think of bluegills, their thoughts turn to weed beds.

“That’s where they are right now, right?”

Well, if you are happy with small to mid-size ‘gills, you’re right. But if it is those dinner plate-sized jumbos you want, that answer is wrong.

Big bluegills, and I’m talking those nine, 10 or bigger-sized hogs, are not found in the weeds during the dog days of summer. No, those giant, ultra-light-tackle-busting monsters are found in deep water in glacial lakes all across the upper Midwest.

I guess we should get a little more specific right now, especially when we are talking about lakes. Good bluegill lakes are a lot like good walleye lakes. Lots of deep water, lots of sunken islands and bars, long tapering points and some black bottom bays. If your lake doesn’t fit that description, thick weed beds might be your best option.

I first ran across deep water ‘gills on Lake Vermillion, that big jewel of a lake located on the Precambrian shield of northeast Minnesota. It’s not exactly the kind of lake we’re talking about here, but the big bluegills leave the bays and get on structure in the summertime. Back in the mid ’70s it didn’t have a very strong bluegill population. That has since changed, however.

I was probing the deep bars and sunken islands looking for smallmouth bass using 1/16-ounce marabou jigs.

There was a tiny rock bar about 12 feet down, not much bigger than the average-size living room. I found it by accident since it was not on the map, but my flasher found it. It topped out at 12 feet and when the first fish came in I was really surprised. It was a big bluegill. I caught and released several of them off that small bar each day thereafter.

It was food for thought, but being a little thick-headed, I didn’t put two and two together.

A couple years later I was fishing Lake Wapogasset near Amery, Wisconsin. It was a walleye factory in those days and I found them easy pickings during the seven days I fished there. There’s a major point, so broad it is almost a flat in the southeast corner of the lake. Walleyes were thick all along the weed line. [Read more…]

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Perch, Panfish & And Kids

I remember when I was growing up in Watertown, when my Grandparents Butch and Mary Menkveld took my brother and I fishing.  They were always fishing and knew about everything there was to know about the outdoors.

  I don’t remember the lake, but I do remember Grandpa giving us a cup full of bait, just enough to get start fishing and telling us, he wasn’t going to clean any of those little fish we usually catch unless we caught over twenty-five.

  He thought that it was a safe bet, but forgot he’d showed us how perch eyes were such great bait for perch.

  That evening when he and I were out behind the house cleaning the dozen of little perch we caught, he mumbled under his breath, “I should have never showed those kids that trick”.

  We were fortunate to have several people in our lives to show us all the great adventures that were part of the outdoors. My father Cal, my Grandparents and good friend and neighbor Glen Matteson got us interested in the outdoors.  Which was good as it kept us too busy to get into trouble, well anyway in much trouble?

  Kids and fishing just naturally go together but there are a couple of things you’ll need when it comes to teaching a youngster about fishing, one is a lot of patience on your part and the other is something pulling on the fishing line, an eager biter, a fish that will take the bait.

  When fishing with kids, the old K.I.S.S. rule is in effect, or the Keep It Simple Stupid rule, which means go with the basics, the old hook, line, sinker and a small bobber. The more difficult you make it, the quicker you’re going to lose the kids interest, as a kid’s attention span is very short.

  In the fishing classes I give to kids as a Nebraska Aquatic Education instructor, I start with the basics, keeping it short and not too complicated, starting with how to handle a rod & reel, the short Mickey Mouse set-ups for the younger kids and a Zebco 202 for the older ones. I teach them how to cast, rig up the basic rig, including how to put a wiggly ole worm on a hook. With some of the girls, this may take a bit of coaxing, but after they’ve completed it once, and have something to wipe their hands off and after they’ve did it the first time, it’s not so bad. [Read more…]

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Kramper Lake offers great fishing promise By Larry Myhre

 

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

HUBBARD, Neb. | The tiny red and white bobber tipped over on its side and then zoomed under the water as yet another bluegill inhaled my 1/64th-ounce jig.

“I just love the way bluegills fight,” I told my boat partner, Gary Howey of Hartington, Neb., “If they weighed six pounds I don’t think you would ever land one.”

This little guy was exhibiting the trademark fight of his kind. Bluegills turn their broad sides to the pressure of the line and somehow swim in tight circles which can test the mettle of your 4-pound-test line.

We were fishing Kramper Lake, the centerpiece of the new Danish Alps State Recreation Area just a mile or so southeast of Hubbard, Neb.

The lake opened to fishing last July after heavy rains the previous year filled the 226-acre reservoir. The lake was first stocked in 2012 and has had two more stockings since then.

Well-stocked with bass, bluegill, crappie, walleye and channel catfish, the lake is tucked into over 500 acres of parkland featuring more than 70 gravel pads for RVs and 22 tent-camping sites. Camp sites are complete with 30 and 50 amp electricity hookups, water, shower houses and equestrian facilities. A picnic table and fire ring is located at each campsite.

Our boat was tied up to one of the many trees which line the now submerged Jones Creek. Although many of the trees are in over 30 feet of water, we were taking bluegills within a foot or two of the surface. Sunken trees attract most gamefish, including walleyes. We were told that a 17-inch walleye had been caught on a crankbait in the trees the week before.

The trees are only part of the ample structure built into the lake. Before it filled, several brush piles, shoals, rock piles, reefs and other structures were installed. Coordinates are provided in a brochure which will enable anglers to find them with their GPS units.

All things considered, this could be one of the best small-reservoir fishing sites anywhere.

We had begun the day working the weedline looking for bluegills, largemouth and crappies. [Read more…]

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It’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to fishing. By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

Take walleyes, for instance. If your springtime presentation is limited to a quarter-ounce jig tipped with a chartreuse curly tail grub and later in the year you switch to a bottom bouncer in front of a chartreuse spinner and nightcrawler, you should probably widen your thinking to try some other baits.

When it comes to largemouth bass, or smallmouth for that matter, if your presentations are limited to a 6-inch, Texas rigged worm behind a pegged quarter-ounce cone sinker or just tossing a big spinnerbait, you definitely need to expand your horizons.

Panfish are another matter. A jig and bobber just about covers the presentation scene for most anglers for bluegills and crappies. A good choice most of the time, but why not mix it up some.

Want some examples of change-up presentations for walleye, bass and panfish? Here are two for each.bass and panfish? Here are two for each.

For the past several years, I have been experimenting with a jig and 4-inch ringworm in a lot of my walleye fishing, both during the cold water months and in the springtime. The jig and twister is the preferred choice of most anglers at this time, or, perhaps, just a plain jig and minnow.

But throwing a 4-inch ringworm on the right-sized jig head often out fishes either rig. Conditions, however, have to be right. By that I mean you have to slow down. Pitching jigs to the shoreline is often a very productive method on our Missouri River reservoirs and some lakes both in the springtime and the fall. But typically the boat is moving too fast to use the ringworm effectively.

The presentation of the worm is critical. You cannot “jig” it like you do with a curly tail. It has to “swim” along the bottom. It is a lift and drop retrieve with no embellishments on your part. It is really effective in light current where you can cast across and upstream and swim it back with that rolling retrieve on a tight line just over the bottom.

It’s a presentation that was perfected on the Mississippi River and parts east, but just hasn’t caught on anywhere on the Great Plains.Pic-Klages-Panfish

Here’s another option. It’s becoming more and more well-known now that just a piece of nightcrawler can be more effective for walleyes than the whole bait. This technique had its beginnings on the Missouri River.

Only rarely now, do I ever fish with a whole night crawler. The key, I think, is to put a small bead on your line above the hook. I suspect that color can make a difference most days, but I usually just put a fluorescent red or orange bead on the line and let it go at that. But, I have also tried chartreuse, white and green and caught fish as well. Most days the bead, regardless of color, is important to your success.

I hook the crawler through the nose and then pinch off the tail about four inches below the head. The theory is that the pinched crawler releases more scent into the water and that might be the case. It works, and that is all I really care about.

Some of the lakes where I fish largemouth bass are hammered so hard throughout the open water season that I firmly believe the bass become conditioned to some baits and just won’t hit them. Do you know a bass fisherman who doesn’t throw spinnerbaits? I don’t, either. In fact, I’d say largemouth bass see more spinnerbaits in a season than any other lure.

I love spinnerbait fishing. Cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. That’s about all there is to it. And It catches fish. It covers water fast. It’s effective in shallow water where active largemouths spend a great deal of time.
 
 But is there another bait that these fish hardly ever see that is just as effective and just as easy to fish as the spinnerbait? Yes, there is.

It’s called a “chatterbait.”

This bait is like a spinnerbait without the overhead wire arm. It’s a jig with a rubber skirt. The jig is attached to a short wire upon which sits a “flat” piece of metal which causes the jig to jiggle, chatter and just act crazy as you pull it through the water.

It’s been very effective on every body of water I have fished. Try it and see what you think

What about panfish. Here’s a couple of ideas.

I remember when “Beetle Spins” first came out. I really didn’t think much of them. It was simply a “safety pin” type spinner hooked up to a small jig with a plastic grub body that culminated in a split tail. The body had no action

But when I tried it for the first time, I became a firm believer in the effectiveness of this lure. I fished it on both sides of the Highway 71 bridge that separates East and West Okoboji. It is a very popular fishing spot to this day, and for good reason. Lots of fish hang around there.

I caught perch, bluegill, crappie and bass right there on that little jig-spinner fishing from shore. Later, in the fall, I cast it there after dark and caught walleyes. I even hooked something one night that peeled 110 yards of brand new, four-pound-test, monofilament line off of my Mitchell 308 reel and finally broke me off as it continued its way into East Lake.

It’s a great crappie bait when fished slowly around crappie cover.

Another panfish bait well worth throwing is the Road Runner jig. It consists of a “horse head” shaped lead head at the bottom of which is attached a small willow leaf spinner. The body is made with either marabou or plastic, your choice.

Like the Bettle Spin, it is a simple, cast and retrieve bait. The best tip I can give you for fishing either bait for crappies is, fish them slowly. Crappies are not chasers so the presentation has to be slow. If fishing over deeper water, you don’t have to worry about being on the bottom; crappies will rise up to take a lure but it has to be moving very slowly.

If you haven’t already, try out these options for your favorite fish this year. It’s tempting to quote a couple of cliches here to make my point. Don’t be a “one-method Pete,” and “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Whatever.

More outdoors information is available at http://siouxcityjournal.com/sports/recreation/outdoors

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Decoying Through the Ice Gary Howey

 

I was fishing on a farm pond northeast of my hometown and just had my Vexilar transducer placed into the hole over the top of six foot of water. The first thing I look for is the red marks on my locator screen, indicating there are fish below me. If I do not see those tell tale signs, then I have to do something to draw or decoy the fish in!

I always have two rods rigged and ready to go when I am ice fishing; one with bigger baits and another with the smaller lure, the first bait I put down will be a larger lure such as a Northland Buck Shot spoon. I’ll let it drop quickly towards the bottom, stopping it a couple of feet off the bottom , then allowing it to free fall and hit the bottom; raising it again, then slamming back into the bottom.

Now that I created a disturbance on the bottom, something the fish can see, it is time to get down to business. As the silt off the bottom settles down, a red blip appeared, indicating a fish has come over to see what caused the disturbance. I slowly raised the bait above it and the fish followed. I let the bait set there motionless and then jiggled it a bit. Wham, the fish hit and hit hard, I set the hook and it was all my little rod could handle as the fish peeled line off my reel.

I yelled for my fishing partner to pull the transducer out of the hole as I had my hands full fighting the fish, but before he could get there, the line wrapped and the fish, probably a big bass broke off.

Well, back to work, down went my spoon, setting just off the bottom and as another red blip appeared on the screen I raised and lowered my bait trying to entice the fish to bite, it would move with me, but not take the bait.
I quickly switched to smaller bait, tried the same trick and iced one of several Bluegills, which would soon be lying on the ice.

What I was doing was decoying fish under the ice, creating a disturbance in the bottom, drawing fish in, then taking the aggressive fish with a larger lure and once the aggressive fish were done biting going with a smaller bait to take those not ready to take larger bait.

Decoying fish is not something new, the first person I saw do it was Jim McDonnell, who is no longer with us and probably catching fish somewhere up above catching fish. He would use a spearing decoy to get things riled up and to draw fish into the area he was fishing. The first time I saw him do it, I had to wonder what was going on, but if it brings fish in and makes them bite, I’m all for it.

I do not carry a spearing decoy along with me, but when I first drop into the hole, I’ll use a larger baits, a Northland Forage Minnow Spoon tipped with a couple of wax worms. I’ll let it hit bottom a couple of times, stirring up the silt, drawing attention to the area and then bring my bait up higher, above the cloudy water and as the silt settles down, lower my bait towards the bottom. [Read more…]

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Farm pond ice trip yields bass, bluegills By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

BOW VALLEY, Neb. | I could see the gate was open to the pasture that held the little farm pond that Gary Howey and I planned to fish. His pickup was parked near the top of the hill that overlooked the little gem, which we knew was filled with fish.

My Jeep plowed through the snow at the gate and climbed through it to higher ground where I parked alongside Gary’s rig.

My companion already had all of his gear, which is usually substantial, already on the ice and he was busy drilling holes. With bibs and parka on and zipped, I grabbed my bucket and began waddling down to the pond.

“There’s all kinds of fish down here,” Gary, of Hartington, Nebraska, yelled. His sonar was lit up like a Christmas tree.

He jerked back on the rod. Swing and a miss.

I baited up and sent my tear drop down, a waxie hanging off the hook.

Then Gary connected.

“Big fish,” he exclaimed.

His rod tip was bent down to the waterline and he was desperately trying to pull his transducer out of the hole. Just as he got it free, his line went slack.

Moments later, I set the hook into something just as substantial. I didn’t have to clear my hole because Gary hadn’t brought the Vexilar that I usually use when we fish together. Nice guy. [Read more…]