Spinner Harness: Snake Rigging Walleye

By Jason Mitchell of Jason Mitchell Outdoors

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Whether you are running a spread of planer boards on the Great Lakes or hitting a milk run of points with bottom bouncers on one of the Missouri River reservoirs, you would be hard pressed to find a more effective presentation than a spinner harness. The combination of vibration, flash and profile combined with the speed makes this classic walleye weapon so effective through the dog days of summer.

On the Great Lakes, anglers are often running spinner harnesses high in the water column with split shot or through the middle of the water column with trolling weights like Baitfish Trolling Weights or classic Bead Chain Keel Sinkers. On many inland bodies of water, three way rigs and bottom bouncers are often used to follow structure. Three ways more so in river systems or over basins and soft bottoms while bottom bouncers shine on rock, tight breaks, and sharp contours or along weeds.

Like many anglers, I started out relying on crawlers to tip many spinner harnesses. Crawlers can be fished through such a wide spectrum of speeds and what walleye can resist the squirming undulating action of a big fat crawler pulled through the water? Over the past ten years, like many anglers… my harness tipping has evolved to include a lot of soft plastic and pork crawlers.

My own personal evolution away from live bait began on torrid bites where I literally couldn’t have enough crawlers in the boat and soon realized that I could catch the same amount of fish tipping with soft plastics. Over time, my confidence in using soft plastic and water-soluble crawlers soared. Soft plastic tipping options for spinner harnesses were convenience in a bag, with no messy worm bedding or ice. There is a lot to like about not needing live bait.

I started out rigging the soft plastic crawlers just like I rigged the real counterparts. The front-hook ran through the nose of the crawler (with a little bit of slack line on the back hook) so that the worm would pull straight through the water. Over time, that evolved into the snake rig that I have had so much success with over the past few years.

With real night crawlers, it is important to have some slack between the front and back hook so that the crawler can roll straight through the water. If the line between the front hook and back hook is too tight, the crawler drags in a shape where the worm will often break and pull through the water unrealistic.

Soft plastics however offer much more possibilities for rigging and action. By keeping the line between the front and back hook tight and imparting a curve on to the soft plastic crawler or worm, the action changes and comes alive. This type of rigging requires a bit more speed, often between 1.7 to 2.2 miles per hour. With the curved worm and the faster speed, the harness begins to zigzag through the water in a very realistic action that looks like a snake swimming in the water, the snake rig.

I have had tremendous luck with this snake rigging from mid to late summer and especially so for larger walleye. I theorize that the zigzagging swimming action is more difficult for small fish to hone in on and catch with their smaller mouths where big fish don’t have an issue. This has been my go to weapon the past couple of summers when I need a big fish when using spinner harnesses. Bigger fish just like this particular action. With the right combination of speed and warp, the goal is to get the soft plastic to come alive in a seductive and realistic swimming action. Often necessary to run the snake rig next to the boat just to make sure that it is working properly.

This rigging tweak can help you catch bigger walleye this season or at least give you another very effective alternative to classic live bait options. When fish are really off or if the bite is such where you have to feed the fish or let the planer board fall back, the real night crawler often trumps everything. There are other bites however where the fish drag and choke up on the spinner and want the spinner moving faster. When the bite is good or excellent, soft plastics take over.

By hooking a soft plastic crawler with a little bit of slack between the front and back hook, you have an easy to hit target that moves straight through the water. This classic approach works many days. By just hooking the soft plastic worm with one hook in the nose, you create a fast fluttering action when the spinner is pulled through the water. By rigging the soft plastic worm with the snake rigging method where the worm is curved like a banana, the worm begins to swim behind the harness.

All of these rigging options have their place and I have seen days where each look is desired by fish. This season, experiment with these methods and vary your rigging to catch even more and bigger walleye.

The author’s “Snake Rigging” method curves or warps a soft plastic worm like the rig pictured so that the worm zigzags through the water at faster trolling speeds, an extremely effective technique for triggering big fish.

The author’s “Snake Rigging” method curves or warps a soft plastic worm like the rig pictured so that the worm zigzags through the water at faster trolling speeds, an extremely effective technique for triggering big fish.

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The Midwest’s Top Walleye Water

By Jason Mitchell of Jason Mitchell Outdoors

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The Midwest is ground zero for walleye fishing popularity. Midwesterners love their fish with the white tipped tails and luckily, there are several great walleye fishing destinations across the northern tier of the United States. Of course we couldn’t put every great walleye fishery on this list and the list is in no particular order. This list is nothing more than some top-notch fisheries that are fishing extremely well right now. Healthy fish populations, trophy fish potential and catch ability all factor into some of the best walleye water we have seen in our travels that in our opinion offer some of the best walleye fishing in the region.

Leech Lake, Minnesota

This massive natural lake in northern Minnesota has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for great walleye fishing but this lake just seems to get more solid each year. There are a lot of walleye in this lake with opportunities for both eater size fish and big fish. What is neat about this big lake is that you can fish so many different ways. From classic rigging and jigging presentations to lead core and swim baits, there is so much variety in this ecosystem that there are usually several solid patterns happing at once.

 

Lake Winnibigoshish, Minnesota

Another of the big natural lakes in northern Minnesota, Winnie has quietly developed into one of Minnesota’s best walleye lakes. Perhaps at the expense of the Lake’s renowned perch population, the walleye population is healthy and thriving. Fun shallow weed patterns occur through the summer as well as classic structure fishing over deep gravel bars.

 

Devils Lake, North Dakota

This now massive natural lake is now nearly 200,000 acres of water when you look at the entire lake basin and include Stump Lake. With high water and a decade and a half of incredible recruitment, this lake continues to live up to its stellar reputation as a top tier walleye fishery. Several shallow patterns emerge that are fun for anglers. Top tactics include pitching crank baits and soft plastic swim baits into shallow water along with classic bottom bouncer and spinner presentations along weed bed edges.

 

Bitter Lake, South Dakota

The Glacial Lakes Region of South Dakota is very similar to Devils Lake in terms of history and high water creating new fishing opportunities. Bitter Lake is now the largest lake in the region and offers tremendous fishing. Anglers enjoy casting jigs and crank baits along weed bed edges or run the contours with bottom bouncer and spinners. Within 60 miles of Bitter Lake however are countless small lakes that also offer tremendous fishing and some of the lakes no doubt offer as good of fishing as your going to find anywhere particular for numbers of fish.

 

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Probably the best fishery on the list for consistently producing trophy caliber fish. While some fisheries like the Western Basin of Lake Erie, Columbia River, Lake Winnipeg and Tobin Lake get a lot of attention for producing big fish. Green Bay often gets overlooked. Classic Great Lakes harness and board fishing tactics often shine through the summer with many small boat fishing opportunities on the right days.

 

Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota

This reservoir on the Missouri River in western North Dakota has been on the upswing in recent years and has several good year classes of fish. Extremely high amounts of forage have actually slowed fishing down over the past few years but there are a lot of walleyes in this lake and they have been well fed. This is more of an anticipatory pick as this cyclic lake by nature is due to really turn on and the stars are lining up. Anglers often focus on classic reservoir structure with live bait rigs, jigs and bottom bouncer and spinner presentations along with trolling crankbaits.

 

Kabetogama Lake, Minnesota

A classic Minnesota north woods fishing experience. With much of the lake located within Voyageurs National Forest, this mostly undeveloped lake offers that cool wilderness experience. Classic deep structure jigging and rigging tactics shine on this lake. Much like a Canadian Shield fishing experience, this lake is full of sixteen to twenty four inch walleye.

 

Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin

Really some of Wisconsin’s best inland walleye water. Great early season opportunities exist on the Wolf River but as the season progresses, much of the attention shifts back to the basin of Winnebago. Another lake with so many different patterns, walleyes can be found in shallow reeds and rocks or suspended out over the deeper basins.

 

Mississippi River Pool Four, Minnesota

We would rate this fishery right behind Green Bay for big fish potential on this list. Probably one of the best places in Minnesota for consistently finding fish over twenty-nine inches. A variety of fun patterns emerge including wing dams, trolling lead core and blade baits.

 

Lake of the Woods/ Rainy River, Minnesota

A very big lake with a huge population of walleyes. The Rainy River spring walleye run is one of the best fishing opportunities there is but what surprises some people are just how good the small boat opportunities are on the Rainy long after the crowds have left. Out on the big water, there are some phenomenal trolling bites that more recreational anglers are discovering with snap weights and lead core.

 

Missouri River, North Dakota

While the overall size of the fish has dropped off in recent years, the spring run up the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota is still a walleye slug fest where anglers can sometimes score some big catches of walleyes with many fifteen to nineteen inch fish. Pitch jigs along shallow wood and sand bar current seams, slip jigs in faster water or pull crankbaits upstream.

 

All of these notable fisheries are top tier destinations that attract legions of anglers each season. A sampling of some of the Midwest’s top walleye fisheries but in no way is this a complete list of every great fishing opportunity. There are several smaller and more obscure fishing opportunities that fly under the radar and remember that a great day on a mediocre fishery is much better than a poor day on a great fishery. Is there a fishery we left off this list? Let us know what you think on the

Check out more from our Pro Staffer Jason Mitchell at Jason Mitchell Outdoors Facebook Page

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Big Time Walleyes on Small Time Water

Posted on May 2, 2015 / By Jason Mitchell of Jason Mitchell Outdoors

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Larger established bodies of water get a lot of attention from walleye anglers.  Well-known destination fisheries are some of the surest bets for experiencing great fishing.  Locations like Devils Lake in northeastern North Dakota or Lake Sakakawea in western North Dakota are two premier walleye fishing destinations in North Dakota.  I also love Fort Peck Reservoir in eastern Montana.  Walker is one of my favorite little communities in Minnesota on the shore of Leech Lake… that is where I like to hide out with my family for short mini vacations and Leech Lake is one my favorite places to film a fishing show.  Also fell in love with Kabetogema Lake in the north country of soda land.

What so often gets overlooked or unsaid however is that there are truly great fishing destinations on small lakes scattered across the Midwest.  Small lakes can offer the same challenges as big lakes.  The really good lakes get little fan fare because small lakes can’t take a lot of angling pressure so anglers are much tighter lipped to protect these fisheries.  We film a lot of television on small lakes and at times, viewers get upset with us for not naming the actual lake.  On smaller lakes less than a few thousand acres, we will often just say which area or county we are fishing and leave the lake unnamed unless the lake is large enough to support the pressure.  My reasoning for doing so is because I know in my heart that a lake will get devastated if a couple hundred anglers descend on a tiny lake.

Not all big time walleye fishing opportunities are on big time water.  There are a few areas in the Country that really stand out to me for having numerous small lake fishing opportunities that are top notch.  The Glacial Lakes Region of South Dakota is as good as fishing gets.  There are also many small lakes in central and southern North Dakota that are similar by design.  If you look at a map of North Dakota between Bismarck and Jamestown and look north and south of the interstate by about seventy miles, you are looking at a lot of untapped walleyes.  Ottertail and Becker Counties in western Minnesota are fun but there are hidden treasures all across the Midwest.  The DNR or Game and Fish websites are helpful resources for each respective state where net surveys and stocking reports can help you find some of these under the radar gems.

Biggest challenge of finding good walleye fishing on some smaller bodies of water is finding which lake to fish.  The other challenge is breaking down a lake fast to find fish.  The prairie dish bowl lakes of the Glacial Lakes Region of South Dakota along with the new lakes in central North Dakota are just that… dish bowl lakes with little structure across the basin.  For much of the year, you can’t go wrong working the shoreline.  Shoreline contours that have the right depth profile combining either weeds or a harder bottom like sand, gravel or rock often hold walleyes for much of the year.  Another top location is any saddle that was basically a high spot between two potholes when the water was lower.  Submerged roadbeds and points are other good locations.  At times, fish will randomly scatter across these basins but any structure present can be a calling card for walleye.

Reality with most small lakes is that there are few good maps available.  Accurate GPS maps are such a valuable tool and once you use good mapping, it is tough to fish without it.  Logging sonar data and creating your own map has long been possible but very time consuming with some fairly expensive equipment and some know how.  One new piece of technology that is really going to change how we fish small lakes is actually a couple of Apps on your cell phone if you use iPhone or Android.  The Sonar Phone is a free App that requires installing a Wi Fi signal transducer manufactured by Vexilar that has a retail price of less than a couple hundred bucks.

Video showing Apps in action can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzRd6MA7XV0

 

After you upload the Sonar Phone App, you also upload the Navionics GPS Mapping App, which costs about fifteen dollars.  Navionics has a new feature that offers a live chart update using the Sonar Phone.  You basically make a map as you fish.  The more you fish a lake, the better and more detailed your custom map becomes.  What is nice about this technology is that it is cheap and easy, all you have to do is have your apps running as you fish.  I have gotten into the habit of wearing my iPhone right on my wrist as I fish so that I always have my sonar in front of me no matter where I am standing in the boat.

Many of these small natural lakes in the Dakotas and western Minnesota are predominately shallow and fertile, the result of a high water cycle.  These lakes often fish extremely well early in the season (which is typical of small water) and often an advantage as this water warms up more quickly.  What will sometimes surprise some anglers is just how well these lakes can sometimes fish through the dog days of summer.

The water will often get extremely stained from algae blooms but these fish will often be aggressive and shallow.  When the water greens up, troll hard vibrating lures like a 4.5 or 5 Salmo Hornet around that deepest contour where the shoreline meets the basin.  If there are good stands of cabbage or pondweed, cast swim baits along the outside edges where you can physically see the break.

These lakes can sometimes be very turbid and windswept where weed fragments can sometimes get blown all over the lake fouling up your presentation.  During high winds or whenever weeds and algae are fouling up your presentation, switch over to a bottom bouncer and spinner harness.  A bottom bouncer serves as an excellent weed guard that will accumulate weed fragments and slime while your spinner can run clean.

Hard vibration and bright colors often work best in these environments.  Even though these lakes may indeed be shallow, the light penetration is often cut down by wind and turbidity caused by algae blooms.  Deep cup spinners that have a hard thump often work best.  Hard working crank baits like the Hornet are often necessary.  Good colors include chartreuse, hot pink, gold, white and lime greens in different combinations.  This often isn’t a situation for subtleness or finesse. When you find the fish, you want the fish to find you.  This season, make a point to go down a few roads less traveled and enjoy the search for nontraditional hot spots.  The quality of walleye fishing available on many small lakes continues to surprise many walleye anglers.

[[[Caption for photo: The author Jason Mitchell with a brilliant gold walleye.  High water cycle that has brought many new fishing opportunities across the upper Midwest over the past two decades.  In many cases, small water can fish big.]]]
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Five of Fishing’s Diamonds in the Rough

Posted on May 5, 2015 / By Scheels Partner Jason Mitchell of Jason Mitchell Outdoors

Five of Fishing’s Diamonds in the Rough

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and such is the case of fish popularity.  Walleyes for example are held in snob regard across the upper Midwest.  Trout purists hold down the west and everyone south of Des Moines Iowa is obsessed with bass.  Easy as an angler to get caught up with that tide and chase after the most popular girl in the class.

Across the Midwest, there are however some incredible fishing opportunities that often fly under the radar.  Overlooked species that provide an extremely high quality fishing experience for what is often trophy caliber fish.  In some cases these overlooked fisheries are just victim of geography in that they would receive much more pressure and interest if they were located in a different region of the Country.

Regardless, as we travel across the upper Midwest with cameras in tow, we have experienced some of these angling under dogs and have to marvel at the fact that we often have some of these bites to ourselves.  Note this list doesn’t necessarily mean that a fish isn’t popular… at least somewhere but perhaps a better way to summarize, because of local attitude and location these fishing opportunities are grossly under appreciated.

Red River Catfish (North Dakota/ Minnesota)

National angling polls show that channel catfish in particular are one of the most popular fish species to target.  In the upper Midwest, particularly in both North Dakota and Minnesota there are fewer anglers who hold catfish in high regard.  What a shame because this border river between the two states is arguably one of the premier channel cat fisheries in the Nation especially for trophy size fish.  On most water where these kitty cats swim, you would be hard pressed to ever see a twenty-pound fish, not so on the Red.

Anglers often crack really big fish by fishing fresh cut bait next to the bottom.  Anchoring up river of logjams and wood snags or deeper holes.  Both sucker and gold eye are native forage fish in the river for big catfish and these two species of fish are often used for cut bait along with leopard frogs during the fall of the year.

Devils Lake White Bass (North Dakota)

This massive body of water in northeastern North Dakota is renown for walleye and jumbo perch but if anglers discover a school of these temperate bass, they are in for a game of bloody knuckles.  These schooling fish fight as hard as any fresh water fish pound for pound and will often hit top water and shallow running lures.  Some of these fish reach well past three pounds and are extremely strong.

Anglers often find white bass along shallow rip rap or the inside edges of weed beds.  Casting shallow shorelines in the back ends of bays is a great way to search for early season bass.  As summer progresses, vertically jig a jig and minnow near any current around the several bridges that divide up the separate lake basins.

Chequamegon Bay Smallmouths (Wisconsin)

Catch and release regulations over the past twenty years have quietly turned this Lake Superior Bay into a trophy class smallmouth bass fishery.  The shame is that so many local anglers in that region regard bass as a trash fish and would rather target walleye, perch or salmon.  You can find bigger top end fish off Door County on Lake Michigan and Lake Erie but as far as an average size, this estuary is tough to beat.  You can catch more nineteen inch fish in a couple of days of fishing on this body of water than what you would catch an entire season on most good inland smallmouth water.

While fish will shift over deeper shipping channel and some deep boulder piles, the cold water of Lake Superior keeps these fish up shallow for much of the season.   Target shallow rock, weed beds or logging timber remains.

St. Louis River Walleyes (Minnesota)

Weird to see walleyes on a list of under utilized fish in Minnesota but this walleye run truly is an incredible success story for pollution control and conservation that is often overlooked.  Not too long ago and the St. Louis River near Duluth, Minnesota was one of the most polluted rivers in Gopher State.

With more stringent pollution regulations and improved water quality, this river has quietly developed a walleye population that is comparable to the Rainy River or the Mississippi River without all the fanfare or notoriety.  Ironically, many of the local anglers cut their teeth on big water fish like lake trout and salmon on Lake Superior and the strong population of both walleye and musky are one of this region’s best kept secrets.

Clear Lake Muskies (Iowa) 

When anglers think of Iowa fishing opportunities on the larger lakes in Iowa like Spirit Lake, Storm Lake or Clear Lake, anglers often think of panfish like bluegill, crappie, perch or even yellow bass.  Besides a heavily targeted panfish population, anglers often target walleye extensively.

What surprises some anglers is the quality of the musky fishery that has quietly developed on Clear Lake.  When looking at the law of musky averages comparable to other noteworthy lakes, Clear Lake seems to have an astonishing catch rate.  There must be a lot of muskies in this lake and they seem to be getting bigger.  Fish from thirty six to forty inches seem abundant by musky standards and some fish are closing in on fifty inches.  Fortunately, more Iowan anglers seem to be appreciating these top of the line predators and specifically targeting them.  The anglers actually fishing for skies are finding some untapped fishing for big fish.

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Missouri River Walleyes 

Posted on April 24, 2015 / By Jason Wright, Co-Host with Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

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Spring fishing for Missouri River walleyes is a tradition that many anglers in the central Midwest have cherished for many years usually beginning in mid-March through early June.  It oftentimes is the much needed relief for cabin fever, and this year has been no exception as we all endured colder than average temperatures throughout the winter months.  This lingering “cold spell” has slowed the normal spring migration of walleyes into the upper reaches of the Missouri River and shortened our spring fishing season.  This delay of “spring-like” weather has provided better walleye angling in the southern reaches of the Missouri River stretch from the Hazelton Boat Ramp south towards the ND/SD state line.  But, with warmer weather forecasted and the notion that “spring” will eventually arrive, walleye enthusiasts have changed their conversations from heating bills to spring walleye fishing.

As daytime temps begin to warm into the 50’s and 60’s pushing the river water temperature into the low to mid 40 degree range, fishermen will soon begin to fill the parking lots at boat ramps up and down the Missouri River which have remained somewhat scarce due to the unseasonably cold weather pattern through March and into early April.   Finally, the conversations at local restaurants, bait shops, and sporting goods stores are all about walleyes – Missouri River walleyes. Instead of the weather, the major discussions are centered on which ramps are best to use or “Are people catching good numbers of walleyes north of town?  What is the water temperature? Are you using live bait or Berkley Gulp! Alive! products?  What is the average size?  How has the night fishing been from shore? Are the fish looking healthy?  Any fish being caught on crankbaits?” The quick trips in and out of Scheels are no longer the norm as anglers stand amongst the fishing isles sharing last weekend’s success and planning for next weekend’s outing.  All this while eagerly filling their baskets with jigs, fishing line, the newest crankbaits and other new products that recently hit the shelves hoping that the forecast for spring weather will hold true giving everyone an opportunity to enjoying this incredible resource.

River Rats are blessed with this spring opportunity to catch walleyes which are quite predictable in their springtime spawning ritual, as they migrate into the northern stretches of the Missouri River reach and its tributaries between the ND/SD border and the Garrison Dam to spawn.  Eager anglers search for holding and staging areas in hopes of intercepting walleyes before and after they spawn. The predictable and oftentimes incredible pre-spawn walleye fishing opportunity will begin to subside as the spawn comes to an end when walleyes encounter impassable structures in feeder creeks/small rivers or preferred spawning habitat.  The female walleye then searches for the proper structure and bottom content for laying her eggs.  Water temperature in the mid 40’s is sought along with a hard bottom covered with pea size rock and gravel.  A slight current flowing over the eggs is preferred to help oxygenate the eggs. The male walleyes are the first to begin the migration towards the spawning areas and oftentimes have been in the “staging” area(s) for a couple of weeks. The smaller aggressive males will actively search for females and their eggs to fertilize while at the same time providing excellent fishing opportunities for both shore anglers and those in boats.

Boat ramp access is normally good, but can change depending on the river level, amount of deposited silt/sand as well as ramp repair or necessary improvements in some locations; therefore, it is always good to periodically check out the Missouri River boat ramp status which is updated on the NDG&F website or go to http://gf.nd.gov/fishing/boat-ramps.

Similar to fishing on the ice, where ice houses attract more ice houses, boats often attract more boats. Though, these areas are ok to learn what to look for as far as structure and lack of current, there are oftentimes secluded and less pressured fish in many areas up and down the river. My point is once you begin to have an idea as to what a “good” spot might look like, both above and below the surface, it’s rewarding to head off on your own.  Try to find similar spots which can oftentimes provide better fishing and a sense of accomplishment.  There is always something to learn while angling up and down the Missouri River in search of walleyes, so be sure to pay attention to all the details no matter how simple they may seem.

A struggle some novice river anglers have is that river fishing is a little different than lake fishing in regards to navigating, locating walleyes, and boat control with current.  Unfortunately, this uneasiness for the current has kept many from enjoying this spring fishing tradition; therefore, once you hit the water take your time and be smart…learning the art of understanding, navigating and fishing a river takes time. River walleyes constantly have to fight current; therefore, energy is used, so these fish try and locate any type of structure that is breaking the current.

River walleyes have learned to adapt to structure and/or areas that provide current breaks (areas of less or no current) so they don’t have to struggle against current all the time.  A current break is caused by anything that partially blocks, completely blocks, and/or diverts the river’s current allowing for less or no current.  These slack current areas can oftentimes be identified by the unmistakable “oil-slick” appearance on the surface separating the main current from the slack or no-current area; hence the term current break.  Most slack water areas are found behind and/or alongside exposed and underwater sandbars.  However, other obstructions that can cause current breaks are rocky riprap, wing dams, stumps or fallen trees as well as man-made obstacles such as bridge pilings.

The key to locating river walleyes is to start by finding the river channel and then begin looking for areas of slack current and/or the “oil-slick” on the surface nearest the channel.  Walleyes will be using the channel to migrate in the spring and slack water provides staging opportunities as well as areas to ambush prey.  Look for areas/spots that might jut out towards the channel or hard bends in the river which might act as a funnel or magnet for both baitfish and walleyes funneling them into the slack water and thus possibly narrowing your search.

These slack current areas allow the fish to rest and feed without fighting the current. Walleyes can dart out, feed quickly, and then return to their holding spot while conserving their strength for spawning. Good spots can be located up and down the river, so the wise angler will leave the pack and begin learning how and where to locate these spots. It may take some experimentation, but if you take your time you should be able to find these pre-spawn fish. Once you learn to read the river, finding walleyes becomes much easier, and when you find these prime locations you’ll most likely choose not to fish in a pack of boats again. Finding fish is the hard part. Catching river walleyes is much easier than locating them!

The equipment needed to get started is relatively simple. First, a good fishing rod to feel that light tap of finicky spring walleyes is a must. A quality graphite rod between 6 and 7 feet is preferred by most and my first pick is a 6’10” medium light Elite Tech walleye series by Fenwick. Then incorporate a small open face spinning reel spooled with 6# or 8# blaze orange or solar Berkley Sensation or 8# test high vis chartreuse Berkley NanoFil (uni-filament fishing line).  I’ve found that Pflueger has a great line-up of reels and a variety of models that will exceed your expectations.   Remember, you will spend most of your time fishing in water less than 15 feet deep; therefore, a small reel capable of holding 100 yards of 6# or 8# test is sufficient and will help keep your setup light.

Next, have a good supply of jigs ranging in size from 3/16 oz to 3/8 oz in a variety of your favorite colors. Jig shapes vary, but for most applications, you can get by with a typical round-head jig and then begin to experiment with different shapes as you begin to get more proficient.  The majority of the time I use a 3/16 ounce jig tipped with either a live fathead minnow or Berkley Gulp! Alive! 3” or 4” minnow.   The important thing is to maintain bottom contact whether vertical jigging, casting, or dragging your jig. Sometimes, as was the case this past week, we found that a slower jigging presentation was out-fishing a faster or more aggressive presentation telling us to keep it slow and simple.   When you notice this, try a plain light wire hook with a colored bead and split shot above the hook. The distance between the hook and shot varies with the structure and amount of current. A great starting point is to attach the split shot about a foot above the minnow tipped hook and lengthen or shorten the distance based on success. Changing the color of the bead attractor can make a difference too when fish are less active and sluggish. The bait of choice is a good, lively fathead minnow.

A product I truly depend on during the spring bite is the Berkley Gulp! & Gulp! Alive! products which can turn a tough bite into an extremely successful outing.  Besides, it gets exhausting always having to re-bait when the weather is cold or immediately after missing or catching a fish.  This biodegradable non-plastic soft bait comes in many colors, shapes, sizes and is well worth having in your arsenal of walleye gear.

Boat control is another key to river walleye fishing, but with todays advanced 24v and 36v electric trolling motors, such as the Minn Kota Terrova, boat control doesn’t have to be difficult.  Whether you’re simply allowing the boat to drift downstream or using your electric trolling motor to slip slowly with the current, you can vertical jig or cast jigs into shallow water using your jig as a probe to help visualize the bottom contour and locate fish.  Another method which can be deadly is to what we refer to as “horizontal jig” which is to slowly troll upstream with your Minn Kota while your jig is behind the boat just far enough to make contact with the bottom while sweeping the rod forward and then dropping the rod tip backward until making contact with the bottom.

Nighttime wading can also be deadly during the spring because walleyes will move shallow to feed as well as search for a place to rest providing excellent opportunities for those that choose to fish for walleyes via moonlight. The stealthy night angler can catch big fish this time of year by casting jigs or shallow running stick baits with a tight wobble such as an Original Floating Rapala size #11 or #13.  Similar to fishing in a boat, it is important to be mobile and look for those areas where walleyes can get into the shallows along sandbars or rocky rip-rap with reduced current.

It was a long cold winter even though it appears spring has sprung, and chances are that Walleye Fever continues to have a tight grip on you too. But the cure is as simple to swallow as a minnow dipped in olive oil. The prescription is easy, locate your jigging tackle, hook up your boat and head to a Missouri River boat ramp and participate in one of the best springtime traditions. Once you feel the unmistakable “tick” and hook into a few dandy Missouri River walleyes, your adrenaline will soar and you will be on the road to recovery.  However, it has been my experience that it can take several successful trips to actually be cured!

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You asked for it – Jason Wright’s Fishing Opinion 

Posted on April 9, 2015 / By Scheels TV Partner Jason Wright of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

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Throughout the winter months I have the opportunity to travel to various sport show events, host fishing seminars with one of my best friends/fishing partner Kurt Schirado and enjoy collaborating with and meeting new fishing enthusiasts via social media.  And, it doesn’t take long for people to gauge my enthusiastic approach in researching, testing and creating an honest opinion on outdoor hunting/fishing related product or technique.  I’m always keeping tabs on the newest gear to hit the shelves prior to the open water fishing season creating an excuse to head to Scheels almost every Sunday afternoon when the weather keeps me from getting outdoors.

February seems to be the beginning of cabin fever for most open water fishermen and continues through the end of March – depending on weather – causing unannounced trips to a local marine dealerships, gatherings in the fishing aisles at sporting goods stores and unexpected fishing related purchases.  It’s this time of year when I begin to get both emails and Facebook messages from fishing enthusiasts asking for my opinion about certain products and/or anticipating a truthful response to make their next outing more successful as they begin to prepare for the open water fishing season.

I regard all these questions seriously and often will take a day or two before I reply, and if necessary, do a little homework to be sure that my reply is both accurate and based on my own experience.  Just this past week, and since I didn’t have to report to work due to a blizzard, I decided to go back through some of the questions I have received and share some of them with our readers.  If my opinion helps a few people, then my goal was accomplished. Feel free to contact me any time with either a question or an opinion since I too enjoy listening to others discuss how to be more safe, comfortable and successful during their fishing adventures. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions I received from fishing enthusiasts this past winter, and while on a recent outing to Scheels in Bismarck I confirmed my replies as I started at one end of the fishing department and cruised each aisle.

 

Q: I am looking to purchase an outer layer for the spring fishing season, what would you recommend?

00 RainGear 1JW’s Opinion: I truly enjoy this question, not because I am an expert of outer layers, but in my opinion it is very simple.  The most versatile outer layers for year round fishing is a good set of raingear which includes both an uninsulated parka and matching bibs.  Now I don’t mean the cheapest set, but rather, search for quality raingear with areas of reinforcement for extended wear, large cargo pockets, zippered leg gussets with storm flaps and heavy duty zippers.  You will begin to rely on your raingear not only during those unexpected rainstorms or long runs back to the ramp in 4 footers, but by layering properly you can expect to stay warm and dry throughout the entire year.  I rely on my raingear to keep me comfortable during all seasons whether I am fishing a top the ice for big pike in March, pitching jigs for walleyes in May or fishing a walleye tournament Lake Sakakawea in July.  It will be the fishing garment that you will wear the most – especially during the spring – and can be the difference between a great outing and a soggy adventure.  I personally like the Scheels Outfitters Extreme jacket and bibs which have lasted me many years and can be purchased at any Scheels store.  In my opinion, raingear doesn’t have to be worn only on rainy days.

 

Q: My kids are at the age that I want to start taking them in the boat with me, and I always make sure they are wearing appropriate life vests.  Can you suggest a life vest that would be comfortable for me during warm weather?

01x Auto-Manual Life Jacket DisplayJW’s Opinion: A number of years ago, I too was in the hunt for a couple of life vests that could be worn comfortably all day during tournaments and without limiting movement.  Then, while at Scheels I found their automatic/manual inflatable life jacket.  This was the answer to my all day comfort on the water whether it was bitterly cold or scorching hot not to mention a peace of mind when you have the kids on board.  The life preserver will automatically inflate upon immersion in the water or when the inflation handle is pulled manually.  This type of life jacket has become very popular amongst the fishing world and better yet they don’t take up much storage space.   

 

 

Q: I would like to try trolling crankbaits on Lake Sakakawea with lead core and was wondering if you have a favorite style or brand crankbait.  I know you have mentioned using smaller crankbaits with lead core; is there a crankbait that won’t break the bank?

03 Berkley Flicker Shad PROJW’s Opinion: Trolling small crankbaits with lead core can be a deadly and a very productive trolling technique throughout the year on various lakes and reservoirs.  The first of the two baits that come to mind is the Reef Runner 200 Series Rip Shad which is a shad styled bait that rattles.  However, this particular bait can be a fish catching machine, it is important to be sure it is properly tuned.  The other crankbait which I have had great success with while pursuing walleyes with lead core is the Berkley Flicker ShadI like this crankbait because it is available in a variety of sizes and colors, runs true right out of the package, and they are priced much more affordably compared to other crankbaits.  Last year Berkley introduced the New Flicker Shad Pro Slick and Pro Flash series which became very popular.

 

Q: I am in the market for a new rod/reel combo which is going to be used mostly for pitching jigs for walleyes.  During one of your seminars you mentioned Fenwick rods, do they make good rod without having to spend $200 and what about a quality reel?

04 Pflueger Spinning ReelJW’s Opinion: You are right; when it comes to pitching jigs I definitely enjoy the Fenwick line of spinning rods.  My recommendation to you would be to check out the Fenwick HMG 6’9” medium light fast action spinning rod and I think you will find it to be a quality stick with an affordable price tag at just under $100.  Match the HMG up with a Pflueger President model 6925X spinning reel and you will have a quality rod/reel combo for pitching jigs for around $150.

 

Q:  What line do you prefer when pitching jigs during the spring on Lake Sakakawea?

05 Trilene Sensation Blaze OrangeJW’s Opinion: This question is like asking a group of guys which truck is the best; you will receive differing answers.  There are many jigging situations which require different line choices, but since you identified both the lake and time of year, this is a simple recommendation for me.  Whether you are pitching jigs on a lake, river or reservoir during the spring most walleyes are found shallow; therefore, I choose to use a hi-vis 6# or 8# monofilament.  Line color is critical when pitching jigs since it is important to watch your line so that you can determine when the jig hits bottom as well as visually detect the strike.  Berkley Trilene Sensation successfully meets my spring pitching needs and best of all it comes in both blaze orange and solar which provides the necessary line visibility above the water.  Another favorite monofilament which I seem to be using more and more while pitching jigs is the Berkley Trilene XT also in solar for the hi-vis advantages.

 

Q: Is there a difference between one brand of sunglasses and another?  My eyes seem to get fatigued by the end of a sunny day on the water; what brand sunglasses do you wear?

06x Jason Wright_Costa SunglassesJW’s Opinion: For many years, I wore cheaper polarized sunglasses because I didn’t want to spend the money on good quality sunglasses assuming the difference wasn’t that great.  Finally, I decided to meet with one of the experts in the sunglass shop at Scheels and after listening to all the advantages I purchased a pair of Costa sunglasses.  It was absolutely amazing at the clarity of the lenses and I actually felt as though I had an HD view of the world.  Now I own a couple pairs of Costa sunglasses, and whether we are out filming or fishing for fun, I typically have my Costas on for many hours and the lightweight characteristic and clarity is incredible making my outings much more enjoyable.  My current favorite Costa model is the Fathom 580g and I would strongly suggest spending the money on quality polarized sunglasses; there is a major difference.

 

Q: Do you use anything to organize your bottom bouncers or do you just toss them in the glove box?

07 Bottom Bouncer Bag IIJW’s Opinion: I keep the majority of my bottom bouncers in a Rubbermaid storage container about the size of a shoe box.  This way I can keep plenty of extra bouncers on board and stowed in my bow storage compartment.  The bouncers that I plan to be using are kept inside a Plano 3700 tote; however, I recently purchased a Scheels Outfitters Bottom Bouncers Bag that has six pockets that can easily hold a dozen bouncers in each pocket.  It folds up and you will be assured to have the size bouncer for every situation in a compact heavy duty bag.

 

Q: Do you tie directly to your crankbait or use some sort of snap swivel?

08 Fast-Lock SnapsJW’s Opinion: It is ok to tie directly to the split ring attached to the eye of the crankbait, but it makes it more time consuming to switch baits and it’s never a good idea to attach your crankbait to the line with a snap swivel.  The snap swivel can actually act as a rudder steering your crankbait and/or keeping it from running true.  I always use a #2 Fast-Lock Snap which allows the crankbait to run true and it makes it much easier to switch colors or crankbaits.

 

 

Q:  I am planning to upgrade to the newest and best Lowrance electronics.  What model would you recommend and is there anything new from Lowrance?

09 LowranceJW’s Opinion:  Depending on how old your current electronics are, you are in for an incredible upgrade in technology.  Keeping up with other electronic manufacturers in late 2012 Lowrance introduced its HDS Gen2 Touch models which are incredible units.  However, my personal favorite Lowrance model is the HDS-9 Gen3 for its 9 inch multi-touch widescreen display, ease of use and price point.  Although Lowrance has introduced several new series for the upcoming fishing season, the HDS series are the most popular in our region.  If you are really fussy about boat control and knowing exactly where that “spot on the spot” is located or how far you are from the sunken hump you are casting to then I would suggest looking into adding the Point-1 GPS Antenna by Lowrance.  It is much quicker and provides a more accurate boat position and speed update as well as boat direction at any speed. I am excited about adding one of these advanced antennas to my Lowrance equipped walleye machine this spring.

 

Q: My rod locker doesn’t have rod tubes and I am always having trouble with my rods getting tangled together.  Is it worth trying to install rod tubes myself or do you have other suggestions?

010 Rod SockJW’s Opinion: I actually wish that walleye rigs wouldn’t come with “rod tubes” installed in the bow rod storage or at the very least that it was an option from the factory.  In fact, I usually remove them and/or cut them out when possible since I feel it is much more practical to have a large open locker versus the few tubes.  Before you begin adding tubes to the rod locker purchase some “Rod Socks” which easily slip over the entire rod and you can pile a bunch of rods into your locker and be able to choose and remove any rod without trouble.  I always have my rods socked with Scheels Outfitters Rod Socks so that I never have to worry about those troublesome rod tip tangles.  This is an easy/affordable solution to your frustrating rod locker, and in my opinion keeping your rod locker open is much more practical and allows for more rods.

 

Q:  I just recently purchased a boat, and up until this year, my fishing has all taken place from shore with a 5 gallon bucket used to store my tackle. Could you suggest any types of tackle boxes or storage containers that work good?

011 Scheels Tackle Storage BagsJW’s Opinion:  The market is flooded with many great tackle storage options with soft sided tackle bags containing Plano boxes being the most popular.  I use the Scheels Outfitters soft sided tackle systems for all my tackle storage needs.  The small size Deluxe Tackle Bag which includes 4 Plano 3650 boxes work great for all my jigs and are easily removed and/or exchanged depending on fishing location and depth.  Then for all my tackle tamers, slip sinkers, rigging tackle, spinner blades and bottom bounces I prefer the large size Scheels Outfitters Mega Tackle Bag which includes 4 Plano® 3700 totes.  Both bags incorporate multiple pockets and tool holders on each side keeping additional items organized and secure.  My suggestion is to closely check out a variety soft sided tackle storage systems to determine which one(s) will best meet your needs.

 

Q: During one of your fishing seminars both you and Kurt Schirado talked a lot about using Berkley Gulp! 3” and 4” minnows on the river in the spring with jigs.  My family and I fish a lot of smaller lakes for walleyes as well as Devils Lake.  What Berkley Gulp! products would you recommend during the summer with jigs and also with spinners.

012 Berkley Gulp Alive DisplayJW’s Opinion: Berkley Powerbait, Gulp! and Gulp! Alive! products definitely work throughout the entire season and the benefits can be extremely rewarding.  As the water temps begin to warm on any lake, I prefer to target shallow walleyes by pitching jigs to windswept points.  I tip my jigs with Berkley Gulp! Alive! Killer Crawlers this time of year since they so closely resemble a pinched off or half a crawler.  If my chosen presentation is trolling spinners then I will tip my spinner with either the Gulp! Alive! Spinner Crawler, Killer Crawler or the Gulp! 5” Jumbo Floating Leech Many of our lakes are heavily populated with a variety of smaller bait stealing fish and using any of the previously mentioned Berkley products will keep your lines in the water rather than always having to re-bait.

 

In conclusion…

I enjoy sharing information about products that I have found useful as well as fishing presentations and techniques which might help others be more successful during their next fishing adventure.  However, it’s just as enjoyable for me to sit down with others who share my fishing passion and learn about the gear and tactics which they have found useful and/or productive hoping to better my own skills.  My prior opinions are based on my own experiences and by no means am I trying to say these are the “best” or only options, but rather, a guide to finding what just might work for you.  Now that the future forecast looks promising, get your gear organized and prepare for the open water fishing season.

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Tips for More Walleye this Season

Posted on April 7, 2015 / By Scheels TV Partner Jason Mitchell 

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Fishing can remain frustrating, humiliating and most of all humbling regardless of how much you get to fish or how much you think you have learned.  There will always come a time when you feel like you just hit a wall.  Anybody who has never been stumped on the water just hasn’t backed the boat down the ramp too many times or they are not being honest.  Either way we have probably all pounded a lake from before sunrise to after sunset with our pride seriously tarnished.

I can’t tell you how many lessons I have had to learn over and over in my life but regardless, here are a few guidelines that just might help you catch a few more walleye this season.  Believe me when I tell you that some of this Intel is hard earned.  None of you want to know how many tough days of walleye fishing I have had in my life.

Tip One:  Understand Water Clarity

One of the secrets to catching walleyes consistently is just avoiding bad situations.  Extremely clear water and extremely turbid water are two conditions to avoid when possible.

You can sometimes find the right water by using wind.  On really clear bodies of water, wind will give the wind blown area of the lake just enough stain.  On the flip side, what we see so often on wind swept prairie dish bowl lakes is that wind can whip up too much turbidity in the water and we end up looking for areas that are out of the wind so that the sediment can settle.

Fishing is usually better in stained water, that is water that has some color and this stained water often gets moved or pushed around the lake with wind or current.  There is a difference between stain and turbidity.  Fish can still see well in stained water but can’t see well if the water is turbid.

This is why mud lines have a life cycle.  Mud lines create an opportunistic window when waves crash up against a bank until a veil of turbid water protrudes from the shoreline.  In the early stages of the mud line, the plume of churned up muddy water reaches out and hangs like a veil in the top of the water column and at this stage is typically when mud lines are the most productive.  As the wind continues to pound and the veil becomes bigger and sinks down through the water column, the bite will often dissipate.

So often when wind churns up sediment and clouds the water, the day after the big wind can sometimes be the best because as the sediment sinks, the visibility increases yet still offers some stain in the water.

What also happens is that the water will get a green color as it warms up so we often find stained water with the temperature gauge.  Colder water is often much more clear and warmer water is typically more stained.

Tip 2: Focus on the Process

So often with walleye fishing, the key to catching fish is to find fish.  At times, locations will let you down; specific spots will let you down.  Tried and true patterns will sometimes disappoint.  What never fails however if you have enough time is an honest and thorough process of elimination.

In order to truly be successful, you have to almost turn off human emotion and start checking off possibilities from the list.  The walleyes should be shallow but they are not, next step is eliminating main lake structure in depths from twenty to forty feet as an example.  The key is to keep checking off possibilities even if the possibilities don’t feel right at the time.  So often, there are things happening in an ecosystem that we don’t have a grasp of until after the fact.

When it comes to finding fish, the least you know going into the day is sometimes better because you can adhere to the process of elimination easier.  If you give something a good honest effort and it isn’t happening, turn the switch.  It is always amazing how many anglers will cling to a spot or pattern for agonizing amounts of time.

Been guilty of beating a dead horse myself.  This is why a clock is an invaluable fishing tool.  Use the element of time to force yourself out of ruts and also use the clock to slow you down when you begin to scramble.  What can also happen in search mode is not giving any one spot enough time.  Commit yourself to hour increments as you begin the process of elimination so that your day has some structure and you can stick to the strategy.

Tip 3: Worry about Efficiency

I honestly believe that most anglers worry about the wrong stuff.  They get hung up on matching the hatch or they simply out think the fish.  With everything that you do in fishing, focus on becoming as efficient as possible because this can greatly increase your likelihood for success.

Consider this, if you can become twice as efficient, you can basically become twice as successful.  Do some real honest self-evaluation and try to do an honest assessment of how much you actually have a lure or hook in front of fish.  If you can take steps to become more efficient, you will basically increase your success exponentially.  If you can land a higher percent of the fish you hook or hook a higher percentage of bites, your success climbs.

Most people want some secret formula.  Some B.S. reasoning that if there is sunshine, you need to use bright colors or if there are perch in the lake, you need to worry about using a perch color.  Worry about being in the right place at the right time and when you get an inch, take a mile.  You do all of these things right and you can use the wrong color to catch all kinds of fish in the right spot at the right time until the paint is all chipped off.

Tip 4: Chameleons Catch More Fish

We all have our favorite way of doing something.  We all have something that gives us confidence.  Sooner or later however, there will come a time when you are simply an observer.  Somebody else is catching all kinds of fish and all you can do is watch.  A little humility can do an angler a lot of good if you let it.

When it is your turn to watch somebody else put on a clinic, embrace the opportunity and let the experience make you a better angler.  That means no excuses or over evaluation.  Adjust and match, be the chameleon.

Again, don’t get hung up on cosmetics but monitor and break down the big picture, watch the jig stroke, the rate of retrieve, casting angle, visualize what that successful presentation is doing in relation to the structure and fish.  Visualize what the lure or presentation looks like.  If you are fishing below the boat, look to see what the angle is from the rod tip to the water and match that angle with the angler that is catching fish.  Test location versus presentation so that you gather better information.   Locational nuances to test might be pushing the boat up or out of the break.

When somebody is catching fish and you are not, the best thing that can happen to you as an angler, is to figure out why.  This often means you will have to swallow some pride.

Tip 5: Make Time to Learn

As a guide, it was easy to go right back to the same old well because of the familiarity.  Could be as simple as going back to a good spot or sticking with a presentation that had worked well in the past.  There are times however when we cling to the past as anglers and that experience that works so well for catching fish can start to work against us.

Spend parts of your day exploring.  Make a point to try something different each day.  Mix up exploring the unknown with the tried and true.  Force yourself to embrace the unknown.  Experiment with new lures, new tactics and most of all new locations.  Try approaching old locations with a different mindset.

What I have found for myself personally is that learning new things keeps fishing exciting and fresh.  I sometimes hear anglers complain that there is nothing new in walleye fishing but it is safe to say that anglers who are learning nothing new are not making an effort.

By forcing yourself out of the rut, you not only expand your knowledge but also increase the amount of satisfaction from fishing.

 

Editors Note:  The author earned a reputation as a top walleye guide on Devils Lake, North Dakota, now hosting the popular outdoor program, Jason Mitchell Outdoors. www.jasonmitchelloutdoors.com

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Chasing King Salmon

Posted on March 26, 2015 / By Jason Wright of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV

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My crazed passion for chasing Salmon on Lake Sakakawea during the months of August, September and into October from the late 1980’s through the early 2000’s was caused by the indepth biological thinking of the ND Game & Fish Department. I would temporarily stow my walleye gear and become obsessed with “black jaw fever” towards the end of July each year.

It was the ND Game & Fish biologists that determined chinook salmon could thrive in the deep cold-water habitat found in Lake Sakakawea which was nearly void of sport fish. The first stocking efforts took place in the late 1970’s which were successful leading to salmon fisheries in both Fort Peck and Lake Oahe. This eventually caused “black jaw fever” to spread to both Montana and South Dakota. These stocking efforts would lead to a very prosperous salmon fishery providing another great opportunity for anglers. It was usually mid-July in North Dakota when a strange metamorphosis began to take place. Anglers, once satisfied with a freezer full of tasty walleye fillets, became obsessed with locating salmon in the deep water of Lake Sakakawea near Pick City and Riverdale.

The beauty of salmon fishing is that it was and still is an available option to almost anyone with or without a boat. Depending on the time of year, Chinook salmon – also known as “King” salmon – can be caught not only by trolling deep with downriggers and other means, but also by long lining spoons and crankbaits as well as by casting from shore.

Although my passion for locating and catching salmon from a boat or shore ran strong for many years it lessened as water levels began to drop in 2003 which eventually affected Saks cold-water habitat as well as the smelt population. Mother Nature dealt us very dry conditions with hot temperatures during the summer months creating a “not so ideal” environment for both salmon and smelt – the main forage base for Sakakawea salmon. The lack of water eventually ended after several harsh winters which instantly shot the lake level to an all-time high causing high levels of entrainment the spring/summer of 2011 – again negatively affecting the smelt and salmon population. As salmon fishing became more inconsistent from one year to the next I chose to spend more time chasing walleyes, fishing tournaments and additional time in treestands during September. Memories of seeing a rod pounding as a salmon ripped the line from the release attached to a downrigger ball 90 feet below the surface or the enjoyment of walking the shoreline casting for salmon throughout September always remained quite vivid.

It’s true that over the past decade my desire to chase salmon on Lake Sakakawea had diminished, but similar to glowing embers after an evening campfire, all I needed was a bit of fuel. It’s funny how things have a way of working out – those embers were about to ignite.

February 2014 – Symptoms of “Black Jaw Fever”
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During the 2014 Bismarck Tribune Sports Show it just so happened that I began to come down with what would eventually be determined was a severe case of “black jaw fever” – only cured by the hammering of a rod and screaming of a drag after hooking up with a 4-year old salmon. The symptoms started after passing by the Kinn’s Sport Fishing booth and seeing photos of big king salmon caught from Lake Michigan. That sparked an instant conversation between Kurt Schirado and me as we reminisced about great catches of salmon from both boat and shore during many adventurous salmon outings on Lake Sakakawea, Fort Peck and Lake Oahe – one great fish story after another.

As you can imagine my symptoms were getting worse and the next time we passed by the Kinn’s Sport Fishing booth we greeted Troy Mattson (co-owner), grabbed one of the professional looking brochures and continued on our way. That evening I studied the brochure which looked more like a glossy magazine with high quality photos of great catches of king salmon, steelhead and coho. I was hooked, and it was obvious that my case of “black jaw fever” was severe, so I did what everyone living in the 21st Century would do – started my computer and typed www.kinnskatch.com. I also checked out their YouTube Channel and Facebook page which provided more information regarding them as a premiere charter fishing destination specializing in king salmon, steelhead, and coho on Lake Michigan.

The next morning after arriving a bit late to our booth, I found out that Kurt too was experiencing symptoms of “black jaw fever.” He had thought long and hard about possibly booking a king salmon trip with Kinn’s Sport Fishing. It didn’t take long for him to say, “I think we should book a trip and experience something new!” I immediately responded with a yes knowing that if the research I had done was accurate this could be an awesome adventure. Kurt took the initiative to hook up with Troy Mattson, co owner of Kinn’s Sport Fishing, and set up a time for the three of us to settle on dates for our trip. Later that afternoon we all agreed that early August would be the best time for all of us.

August 2014 – Six Months Later…

Our Toyota Tundra HD was definitely loaded for “kings” on August 2nd as Kurt Schirado, Gerry Meissner, and I rolled into Algoma, Wisconsin, located approximately 30 miles east of Green Bay. We quickly realized that this town of approximately 3,000 was very clean, the people were extremely friendly and its location right on the shore of Lake Michigan created the ultimate sportsman’s atmosphere. Troy gave us directions to one of the condos we would stay in and to say the least it was amazing; it even had a double stall garage. Later that evening we had an opportunity to meet up with Troy as he explained what we could expect for the next few days. He then pointed us to the harbor so we could get an up close and personal look at the Kinn’s fleet of boats. By now it was becoming obvious that we had booked a trip with an extremely professional business committed to providing the ultimate salmon fishing experience, but when we checked out their fleet of 11 boats ranging in size from 32’ – 38’ we were in awe! They were tournament rigged with radar, extremely clean/organized, equipped with GPS, and the latest in marine electronics not to mention top notch rods/reels and tackle for Lake Michigan salmon and trout fishing. The next morning couldn’t come quickly enough!!

The alarm goes off early when you are targeting king salmon on Lake Michigan since the best fishing during early August usually takes place prior to and shortly after the sun rises; therefore, the plan was to meet at the harbor by 3:30 AM. We were assigned to Big Daddy II with Captain Bryan Wiesner along with two of the best first mates you could imagine; a truly well-organized team. As we walked down the ramp towards Kinn’s fleet of boats I was giddy with excitement as every boat was brightly lit up with crews preparing for another day of fishing for king salmon. Bryan greeted us with excitement and enthusiasm while telling us where to stow our camera equipment then pointed us to the freshly brewed coffee and fresh pastries.

It wasn’t long until all rods were secured in rod holders as Captain Bryan was searching for a huge school of king salmon. The tactics weren’t a whole lot different from what we use which included downriggers, dipsy divers, lead core line, planer boards and tackle including everything from spoons to flasher/fly combinations. Although the presentation and equipment was very similar it was amazing at how skilled this crew was at keeping 14 lines in the water at all times throughout the morning.

I think the best way to describe what was about to happen is “perfect chaos!” The king salmon action – which I will never forget – began as Captain Bryan shouted, “Fish On…Here We Go Boys!” I still get goose bumps just thinking about it. The first king salmon was on and nearing the net when another rod loaded up with the drag screaming and soon another king was netted. It was awesomeness as Kurt, Gerry and I handed off the video camera to Captain Bryan in order to keep up with the insane salmon fishing. During the next 3 hours we had constant fish on at all times with doubles and triples very common. Kings were being netted at an incredible rate, but like any other day, we lost quite a few salmon which may have been the only factor that kept us grounded. Gerry was the first to boat an awesome 4-year old which was in the mid 20# range not long after sunrise which made for a picture perfect moment. As the sun rose higher the fishing began to taper off, which to be honest, was ok because we all needed a moment to take in what we had just experienced. We boated over 20 king salmon as well as a few really nice steelhead during our first morning charter with Kinn’s Sport Fishing. As we leisurely made our way back to the harbor that morning the first mates filleted, washed and neatly bagged our catch with awe-inspiring skill and then scrubbed down the deck – another sign we were fishing with the best.

Our incredible first day with Kinn’s Sport Fishing ended with a trip to Bearcats Fish House where we dropped off 85 pounds of fresh salmon fillets to be smoked, vacuum sealed and frozen prior to our departure. During the next couple of days we experienced similar fishing on Lake Michigan aboard Big Daddy II with Captain Bryan Wiesner – salmon spectacular to say the least. I have appreciated many great days on the water in the upper Midwest and Canada, but I can honestly say this was the most incredible.

My first time trolling for king salmon on Lake Michigan during the early hours well before sunrise was revitalizing and successfully calmed my symptoms of “black jaw fever” – for now. The anticipation of waiting for the scream of a drag as a large king salmon slams your lure hoping this could be the big one creates a natural high. But most memorable might be the thrill and challenge of fighting multiple salmon at the same time in the dark of night with friends who share the same passion. Now I understand why so many have said that the Great Lakes salmon and trout bite is legendary. If you would like to find out more about Kinn’s Sport Fishing check them out online at www.kinnskatch.com or search for them on Facebook.

While writing this article I took the time to browse through photos from my experience fishing for king salmon on Lake Michigan last summer, but at the same time I am excited for the opportunities salmon anglers can expect right here in North Dakota. Lake Sakakawea has been experiencing very favorable and consistent water levels the past few years and 2015 is looking very promising. This consistency has allowed for a solid smelt population and an increase of salmon being stocked by the ND G&F compared to the past few years. In my opinion, if Mother Nature will continue to help keep Lake Sakakawea at an elevation necessary for a quality coldwater habitat, and with the increased stocking efforts of the ND Game & Fish, the future looks good for salmon anglers on Lake Sakakawea.

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Scheels Pro Staff: Ten Items That Are Always In My Tackle Box

Posted on March 24, 2015 / By Scheels Pro Angler Johnnie Candle

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Spring fishing is almost here. Scheels Pro Angler Johnnie Candle shares his necessary gear and what’s always in his tackle box:

1)  #5 Berkley Flicker Shad in Pearl Ghost – My most versatile crankbait.  Can troll it at many depths or cast it to the shallows.  It seems to produce on most days.

2)  3.5 inch Berkley Ripple Shad in Fire Tiger – Can’t miss for walleye with this one.

3)  3 inch Gulp! Minnow in Emerald Shiner – Can fish it on a jig, spinner, or drag it on a plain hook.

4)  Size #2 Trokar Revolve Hooks – These are the sharpest hooks I have found out of the box and roll a night crawler or artificial as good as anything out there.

5)  Extra Spools of Line – It never fails that a “professional over-run” is somewhere in your future.  Don’t let a giant bird’s nest wreck your day because you can’t put new line on.

6)  Ample supply of 1/8 oz and 1/4 oz jig heads – These two sizes cover 80% of my fishing.  Color is least important.  If you want to save a few bucks, use the un-painted ones.

7)  3 inch white Twister Tail grubs – The catch anything that swims and work great on the 1/8oz and 1/4oz jigs.

8)  Reef Runner Crank Baits – If you are a walleye angler and don’t own one, you are really missing out.  They work from the Great Lakes to the Western Reservoirs.

9)  Scissors – nothing cuts fishing line better than a great pair of scissors.

10)  Size #2 Octopus hooks – you can deliver any type of live bait on an octopus style hook and size #2 works for all of them.  Red is by far my go to color for a hook.

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Gearing Up for Spring Fishing

Posted on March 20, 2015 / By Kurt Schirado of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV
Scheels_Bags-JasonWrightFor years I’ve taken advantage of the bitter days “Old Man Winter” delivers to prepare for the busy spring fishing and hunting months that lie ahead, and even though we may not have had a blustery winter, gearing up for the spring fishing season is in full swing. This past weekend I took inventory of all my fishing gear, and with a new Triton 186 Fishunter, I made note of all my storage options and then raced off to the local Scheels store to meet my best friend and fishing partner, Jason Wright.

We first met for a hot cup of coffee at Gramma Ginna’s Fudge and Coffee Shop where our morning conversation centered on the outlook of the up and coming open water season as well as storage options found within our new walleye rigs. Still deep in conversation, we purposely stumbled toward the fishing department. Our first stop was to admire the new line-up of fishing rods by Fenwick. These newly designed rods feature Carbon Bound Spiral Blanks, Fuji Reel Seats, Titanium Guides and a new sculpted TAC and EVA blended handle. After testing several of these new beauties, without hesitation, we both decided the 6’9″ Medium light, fast action spinning rod would suffice our spring walleye needs…a great rod for casting jigs and or rigging. Perfect!

Our next move would find us in the “tackle bag” aisle. To most, this sounds like an easy decision but after nearly an hour and a half of inspecting all the options, we both decided the new Scheels Outfitters soft sided bags should cover all our fishing needs. First, we needed a compact but roomy bag just to handle our jigs so we both agreed on the small size Scheels Outfitters Deluxe Tackle Bag which includes 4 Plano® 3650 totes. For our tackle tamers, slip sinkers, rigging tackle and bottom bounces we chose the large size Scheels Outfitters Mega Tackle Bag which includes 4 Plano® 3700 totes. Both bags embrace multiple pockets on each side and back to keep all your tackle organized and secure. Convenient tool holders are incorporated to keep your tools handy and safe. The Scheels Mega Tackle Bag is also equipped with a nifty sunglass case attached to the side for safe and easy accessibility.

With most of our tackle already contained in the two soft sided bags mentioned above, we still needed a simple but large storage bag for all our crankbaits. After a continued search for the ultimate set up, we stumbled across the Scheels Outfitters Dry Bag. This waterproof storage bag is great for camping, hunting, or even during those days when fishing with a friend and moving from boat to boat. I carefully chose the medium, olive green bag and found it perfect to handle up to 8 of the large Plano® boxes and 4 of the small Plano® boxes. This would suit me perfect for all my crankbait storage and travel needs as well as fit nicely in my front storage compartments.

With most of my fishing gear already sorted and neatly stowed, I think my next task at hand will be to strip all the line off my spinning reels and re-spool them with some new 6# hi-vis monofilament. Once that is accomplished the Missouri River will become my playground for the next month allowing me to do what I like best…casts jigs for spring time walleyes.

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