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When the fish won’t bite! Try something different! By Gary Howey

  What I’m about to write about happened to me numerous times over the years and I’m sure it will happen again.

   We were fishing on one of the numerous lakes near Watertown, South Dakota and not having much luck. I was beginning to think there wasn’t a walleye in the lake and as I was about to call it a day, I finally located some fish with my locator.

   My eyes were glued to my locator, as they had most of the day, hoping to find some active fish.

  As I was working my way back and forth over this one particular spot, there they were fish just off the bottom in 12 foot of water, as well as several on the bottom. They were showing up as those big lazy arcs indicating the presence of fish and by the size of the marks on the locator, they appeared to be big!

  Since they were located right on or just a couple of feet or so off the bottom, I guessed they were active walleyes and immediately marked the spot.

  Grabbing a couple rods one rigged with a live bait rigs while on the other I used a jig. I put the one rod with the live bait rig in a rod holder letting it drag along the edge the drop off, while I used a jig, working it up from the deeper water onto the flat where my locator indicated the fish were holding.

  Even though the fish appeared to be active as they were off the bottom, it didn’t take me long to realize that these fish were in a negative mood or weren’t interested in what I was offering.

  I started digging through my tackle bag, switching from one walleye bait to another, going with my old standards, a bottom bouncer with a spinner baited with a minnow. I tried a livebait rig with a crawler, a jig with a Gulp leech, bottom bouncer and spinner and finally going to a crawler on a plain hook with just a small split shot for weight, all to no avail.

  These fish weren’t in the mood, no matter what I was putting in front of them; they just ignored my offerings or lay tight on the bottom refusing to move.

  Once again, I started rummaging through my tackle bag, looking for something different that the walleyes may not have seen before, something to get them to bite. I needed something, that might get the fish’s attention, and to pull them out of their negative mood.

  That’s when I decided to try something different. To do the change up and try a bait I’d used on negative fish in past years. The rig had worked on previous fishing trips on the Missouri River and on lakes in Minnesota to get lethargic walleyes attention and to get them to bite.

  It’s not anything fancy; it’s just something different that most walleye may not have seen before!

When things get slow, and you’ve used every walleye bait in your tackle bag, try something different, Do The Change-Up

  I pulled a floating jig head from my tackle bag and started rigging it in a way that I hoped would work to get them to bite.

  I attached the floating jig head to about a foot of monofilament, tying it about 2′ up the line and at the end of my line, in place of the weight, I attached a ¼ ounce jig.

  Depending on the depth I’m fishing and the amount of current I’m facing, I’ll go with a ¼ oz. jig or a 3/8 oz. jig if I’m fishing in deeper water or in heavier current.

   The style of jig I like to use on this rig is a stand up jig as it “stands up” holding my bait up off the bottom, putting it right in the face of the bottom hugging fish.

  Once the rig ready to go, I baited the floating jig head with a Gulp leech, which would float about, 2′ off the bottom working its way right through the suspended walleyes with the standup jig baited with a minnow running right on the bottom.

  This rig works in several ways, as I jigged along the bottom; it created a cloud of dirt that should attract the fish to my bait.  The floating jig head located above the jig at the depth where I had seen the suspended fish on my locator enticed those fish to bite.

  On this trip, after switching rigs, I managed to take some excellent fish, several in the seventeen to nineteen inch range as well as some smaller fish.

There are days on the water when old walleye standbys may not work, you don’t want to get stuck in the routine where you use the same old traditional bates, not catch fish and go home skunked.

There are times when those baits may not catch fish and you have to come up with a new plan.

When all else fails, you may have to give the fish something different, to do the “Change Up” in order to entice them to look at your bait.

 

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Spring Walleye Fishing By Gary Howey

     Well it’s finally starting to look and feel like spring and to be honest with you, I’m ready for the warmer weather!

  Each day gets a little longer, the sun is warmer and everything is starting to green up.

  It’s what we outdoorsmen and women have been waiting for, as they’re anxious to hit the water and see what’s biting this time of the year.

  With the water temperatures, starting to raise the walleyes below the dams on the river and in the lakes will start feeding more heavily.

  Spawning in some areas is ending as the water temperatures have or will soon reach 50, which in the upper Midwest is generally in the month of May.

  If you’ve fished the post spawn, you know that the smaller more aggressive males make up the majority of the fish taken during this time of the year.

  After the spawning and recuperation period, walleyes will go on a feeding binge because eating during the spawn wasn’t real high on their “To Do.”

  This feeding binge can last throughout the month and at times may even run into early June.

  On sunny days the best fishing, will be in the morning or towards evening, because in the middle of the day the sun is beating down on the shallows which forces walleye and sauger to move deeper as they’re not big fans of a lot of light.

  If you’re fishing on cloudy day or times when the sunlight is subdued, chances are the walleye and sauger may spend the better part of the day cruising in and out of the shallows looking for a meal.

  It’s during those low-light periods when walleyes are on the prowl in the shallower water, usually 10 foot or less.

  Remember just because the walleyes are on a feeding binge it doesn’t mean they’ll be dashing and darting here and there attacking everything in sight.

  Walleyes like all fish are cold blooded and their metabolism is in direct relation to the water temperature, so they won’t be in high gear, as the water temperature isn’t warm enough.  [Read more…]

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Figuring Out Spring Fishing By Gary Howey

  To me, it seems like this has been one long winter and unfortunately, there’s a lot of it left! It hasn’t been overly cold, but the wind has been blowing a lot. I like winter to a point, for ice fishing and predator calling, but each year, it seems like I like winter less.

  When the weather has been decent, anglers have been on the water below the Missouri River dams hard.

  Like any other area we fish, the more boats you have out, the better your chances are that someone will locate a concentration of fish. Once people hear that fish are being caught, there are going to be numerous boats on the water during the nice days.

  The majority of the walleyes, sauger and bass caught during the early spring are probably going to be those smaller aggressive males.

  Catching small fish isn’t all-bad because those smaller fish are a good sign for the fishing in the future, indicating that previous spawns were successful and at least there’s something jerking on the line.

  It won’t be long before these smaller fish will be legal size and the fishing down the road should be good.

  The walleyes that they’re catching below the dams now are fish, which started their movement upstream last fall and wintered over below the dam in preparation for this spring’s spawn.

  The larger females will be the last to come up and they’ll set up in the deeper water, waiting for water temperatures to warm up enough for the spawning to begin.

  The walleye & sauger begin spawning when water temperatures hit around 48 degrees, which, during most years is around the first part of May.

  However, who knows, with the temperatures changing the way they do, it could happen earlier than that!

  You’ll find that the smaller males will bite throughout the spawning period, as they are traveling around looking for receptive females and will exert more energy than the females that are in a holding pattern.

  Fishing for the females can be slow up to, through the spawn, and as much as two weeks after the spawn, as the spawn is harder on the females and they will require more time to recuperate.

  After recuperating, the females will go on a feeding binge, as the spawning ritual has taken a lot out of them. This feeding binge, where they’ll feed heavily could last as long as a month.

  After the spawn, with water temperatures warming, all fish will become more active and begin to feed heavily.

  As the water warms, you’ll find the walleyes prowling the shallower water looking for their next meal, generally cruising in 15 foot of water or less.

  Remember just because the walleyes are on the bite, doesn’t mean they’ll be dashing and darting here and there grabbing everything in sight.

  Walleyes like all fish are cold blooded and their metabolism is directly related to the water temperature, so they’ll still be in their slow mode until summer temperatures arrive.  [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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Looking Back at Another Year By Gary Howey

  It’s the time of the year, when temperatures are dropping and the northwest wind is making a visit to our part of the country.

  I’m in the office working with my computer, hating to think that I’ll have to head outside again, when I think about all the last year, 2016, which will be ending soon.

  Overall, it was a very good year, where Team members and I spent some time on the water and in the field with old friends as well as making some new ones along the way.

  We started out our year in Howard, S.D. on a late season hunt where Team member Josh Anderson and I filmed a pheasant hunt, on this trip; it was easy to see why South Dakota is the “Pheasant Capital of the World”.  This trip brought back memories, reminding me of how the pheasant hunting was when I was a boy growing up in Watertown, S.D.  

  Back then, they had a government program, the Soil Bank program with a potion of the farm left idle. This and the method they farmed back then, created thousands of acres of habitat, which help to create excellent pheasant numbers.

  Current pheasant numbers in our area are down, but I’m optimistic and looking forward to bird numbers improving. The new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will create thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, which gives birds a place to nest, roost, raise their chicks and help to protect the birds from predators.

  Following that trip, Team member Simon Fuller and I headed to the Aberdeen-Webster area to do some ice fishing. On the trip there were some big walleyes caught and returned into the icy depths of the Glacial Lake we were fishing. On that trip, I set a record for the most fish caught; unfortunately, they were minuscule, about the length of my hand and released, allowing them to grow up. It was a great trip as it gave us the opportunity to spend time on the ice with folks cut from the same cloth we were, spending time with others who loved to spend time in the outdoors, on the ice on a cold winter day. [Read more…]

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Late fall is prime time for big smallies by Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

WEBSTER, S.D. — When those big old cottonwoods begin shedding their bright yellow leaves, there awakens in me an almost uncontrollable desire to be on the water.

            And not just any water.

            No, I begin to dream of lakes harboring strong populations of those big ole brown fish. And if you don’t do Southern speak, let me interpret for you. We are talking about smallmouth bass.

            In my book, the smallmouth bass is the fightingest freshwater fish that swims.

            And the best time to take numbers of huge smallies, sometimes in areas no bigger than your average living room, is right now till freeze up.

            That’s why I called my brother Dean, who lives on a farmstead near Worthing, S.D., and asked if he wanted to chase big smallies on a couple of northeastern South Dakota lakes. It was, of course, a question that needed no answer.

            Fast forward a few days. We had been fishing maybe five minutes when Dean’s seven foot spinning rod bent over and began to pulse with the thrust of a good fish.

            “Got one,” Dean muttered to no one in particular, and I began digging for the landing net. It’s a fold up style and takes a little bit to get unlimbered and ready for action.

            “Should have gotten this ready before we began fishing,” I said as I opened the mesh and began pushing buttons and sliding the handle back and forth.

            I got the thing together just as the three-and-a-half pound smallie surfaced alongside the boat. I dipped him up and placed the net in the boat at Dean’s feet. [Read more…]

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Fall fishing heating up on natural lakes By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

Lake Poinsett, that 7,903-acre glacial lake just a few miles west of Estelline, S.D., certainly lived up to that billing last weekend.

Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska, and I joined fishing guide Jarrod Fredericks for an afternoon go at what Poinsett had to offer.

 We weren’t disappointed. Jarrod sent his Minn Kota Talon to the bottom in eight feet of water to anchor our boat on the edge of a boulder pile that gave way to a gravel and sand flat.

“We get big smallmouth off the boulders as well as good-sized crappies,” he said. “Perch and walleye work the edge of the rocks over the gravel.”

It didn’t take long for us to prove him right.

Gary soon hooked up with a scrappy smallmouth on his 1/8-ounce, minnow-tipped jig. Another smallmouth inhaled my 1/16-ounce, marabou jig to put me on the board.

For the next couple of hours, the smallmouth kept us busy, but we also added some nice walleye and pound-plus crappies.

We each put a dead rod over the side with a 3/16-ounce tungsten jig tipped with a piece of crawler. Smallmouth are notorious for following your cast back to the boat and then setting up residence under the boat. The dead rods proved that, but we also took several walleyes using the same method.

After awhile, Jarrod dropped a Jiggin’ Rap over the side and proceeded to give us a lesson on this technique, which is a “must” method for any serious walleye fisherman. As soon as he dropped the Rap to the bottom and gave it a snap, he was hooked into a two-pound walleye.

After releasing that one, he went back down and, I swear, no more than two snaps and he bagged another walleye.

While this spot had produced big perch for Jarrod in the past, they were absent on this day.

“We may have to troll crankbaits to get them,” he said. “We’ll save that for tomorrow.”

We anchored in two more spots that afternoon and each produced smallmouth and walleye.

I was surprised at the number of boats that were fishing that afternoon. There were lots of trailers and rigs at the boat ramp on the east side of the lake. Most of these anglers were in pursuit of the jumbo perch for which this lake has become famous.

Last winter the lake received tremendous pressure from ice anglers as the big perch bite heated up. It’s amazing how quickly word of a bite can spread through social media nowadays.

It’s a far cry from the days when I first fished this lake in the early 1960s. I’d drive up and launch my 12-foot wooden boat with a 7 1/2-horse motor and fish for whatever I could catch. That was mostly walleyes, white bass and northerns. If Poinsett was slow, I’d slide over to nearby Lake Albert and fish for bullheads. I slept in my car.

It was also where Fran and I spent our two-day honeymoon in August 1964. I caught a nice stringer of walleye, white bass and northern while wading one evening off the shore at our resort in the southwest corner of the lake.

[Read more…]

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Lake of the Woods Fishing: Vast, Beautiful and Productive By Gary Howey

  As we made our way out of Zippel Bay on the Resorts thirty-foot charter boat, the lighthouse marker appeared on the rock jetty with Lake of the Woods looming out before us.

  Nick Painovich captained the boat with Captain Mitch Cole who had 40-years as a charter captain on the lake.

  As the charter, one of five the resort has came out of the bay into the main lake; the vastness of the lake became obvious with the lakes stretching out before us.

  On the hour run to one area Nick had taken fish on a previous trip, we talked about the resort and all it offers. We were staying in one of the many log cabins on the resort, each with three bedrooms, two baths, television, fireplace and well-equipped kitchen. These as well as smaller cabins, their lounge, swimming pool, hot tub, shoreline equipment for the kids and rental boats makes Zippel Bay Resort the only lake on the south shoreline near Williams, MN. it’s an ideal place for a family outing, fishing trip or corporate retreat.

  Lake of the Woods is the sixth largest freshwater lake located-partially in the United States; it’s 70 miles long and wide with more than 14,552 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline.

  Our destination would be twenty-two miles out, where, we were able to see the shoreline of Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Angle the only U.S. territory lying in of Canada.

  Nick and His wife Deanna have owned the Resort since the late 70’s, with major improvements coming to the resort each year, making it one of the premier resorts on the big lake.

  On our first stop we’d be drifting, using 3-hook spinners and Wingit Quick Change bottom bouncers tipped with a crawler.

  It didn’t take long to realize Nick had the right plan as we put several fish in the boat, including keeper walleyes and sauger for our supper that evening.  Team Member Larry Myhre would even add a big perch to the menu. [Read more…]

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Best fishing of year is right now By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

We are currently on the threshold of the best fishing of the year.

I love the fall months, September, October, November. No, I could care less about the football season, even hunting plays second fiddle. Fishing is where it is at for me, and the catching just gets better right up until the lakes freeze over and the mighty Missouri begins running ice.

It never ceases to amaze me how popular fishing has become and how much money the average angler throws into his sport in the purchase of boats, electronics, tow vehicles and gear. Yet come September, only the die-hard anglers remain on the water.

That’s another reason why I like fall fishing. It can get lonely out there. And that’s just the way I like it. And so, too, do trophy walleyes and bass.

Launch off any of the most popular boat ramps on the Missouri River reservoirs in the middle of any week all summer long and you have to ask yourself, “Doesn’t anybody work any more?”

On the popular walleye spots you can count 20 to 30 boats in view at any time. And don’t even think of the weekends.

But from now until freeze up you’ll find plenty of room to park your trailer.

There are a couple of reasons fishing for any species is so much better in the fall. One is that water temperatures are cooling and approaching the fish’s comfort level. Temperatures above a fish’s preferred temperature put them under stress. Stressed fish are less active and not as aggressive. Colder temperatures than their preference does not put them under stress. Being cold-blooded creatures, their activity slows, but they are not stressed.

Females of all game species begin developing eggs in the fall. They instinctively know they must eat a lot to store fat to see them through the less active periods of cold water. So, they are willing to bite your lures. [Read more…]

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Walleyes biting well on Lake of the Woods By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

WILLIAMS, Minn. — Nick Painovich, owner of Zippel Bay Resort, guided the big, 30-foot charter boat around the corner and through the mouth of the bay. Lake of the Woods lay before us. Nothing but water could be seen along the northern reaches. The view of the south shoreline was tree-lined until it, too, faded into the dancing heat waves and melded into the lake’s surface.

To the east you could see a couple of faraway islands, two of the over 14,000 found on this giant inland sea.

Our destination was 23 miles to the north just outside “the Northwest Angle.” The Northwest Angle is the farthest north portion of the contiguous United States. Its existence is thanks to a mapmaker’s error in the late 1700s.

It was an hour’s run to a reef where one of Nick’s charters had picked up some nice walleyes the day before.

Our plan was to troll bottom bouncers and spinners with nightcrawlers impaled on three-hook rigs. And, it was a good one.

We soon were pulling eating-size walleyes and saugers over the side of the big boat. The best ones were put in the live well for supper back at camp that night.

Gary Howey, of Hartington, Nebraska, and I had arrived at Zippel Bay the day before. Nick put us up in one of their big log homes available for guests. There are three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a jacuzzi, kitchen with stainless steel appliances, fireplace, flat-screen TV and a large deck.

We met Nick for breakfast in the lodge and then boarded the charter, where we were joined by Mitch Cole, a veteran charter boat captain with 40 years of service on the water.

All walleyes between 19.5 and 28 inches must be released at Lake of the Woods. The walleye/sauger aggregate limit is six, but not more than four can be walleyes. From Dec. 1 through April 14, the limit is increased to eight, but only four can be walleyes.

We were catching a lot of fish, nice 18- to 19-inch “eaters,” but none topped the 19.5 mark. We were hoping to get a “picture” fish, which, of course, would be released. Last year I released an eight-pounder. So we made a change of location to another reef about five miles to the southwest. A charter captain there told Mitch via marine band radio that he was trolling plugs behind downriggers and was catching some nice fish.

We pulled in, put down our spinners and began boating fish. But once again the larger fish were eluding us. [Read more…]