This past weekend I ventured up to the Northwoods of Wisconsin with my fishing buddy Alex. Al and I grew up playing little league baseball together and at one point us two southpaws were pretty decent ball players.
It’s so easy to go stick with what works. Whether it’s the way you approach problem-solving or simply how you cook your burgers, what’s easiest usually becomes the norm because people like easy. This is especially true in fishing, anglers are constantly getting stuck in their ways. Throwing the same bait, fishing the same areas or targeting the same species of fish. While I’m guilty of this too, I’d like to share a story with you about how exploring new water recently paid off for me.
Sorry, Anyways… It was Memorial Day weekend and we wanted to fish somewhere off the beaten path. Our goal was simple – See as few people as possible, explore new water, and rip a few lips along the way.
We decided to make a 5+ hour drive north to fish a series of small glacial lakes in the middle of the wild Wisconsin wilderness. The game plan was set and we agreed to leave as soon we finished work on Friday.
I wrapped up my day at the Catch Co. and jumped on the train home to meet Alex at the pickup point. Once he arrived, we did the mandatory dude fist bump and then loaded the truck and headed north.
After a tank and a half of gas, a few energy drinks and a whole lot of fishing stories we rolled into our primitive campsite around midnight. We set-up camp and briefly talked about morning plans before retreating to our tents. After a full day of work and a 5+ hour car ride, both of us fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
For me, there’s no need for an alarm clock when camping, the suns light beaming through my nylon tent are enough to wake me from any slumber. Plus, the feeling when I wake up and remember I’m about to do something I love is unlike anything else. I get a spring in my step like you wouldn’t believe. Springy as a slinky.
We woke up at the crack of dawn, slugged a coffee and then jumped in the truck to get to the first lake. After launching the kayaks, Alex and I started fishing opposite bait styles in the effort to quickly pattern fish. Alex started with a wacky rigged Senko and hit the north shoreline while I tied on a spinnerbait and headed south. These lakes are glorified ponds so it didn’t take long for us to meet in the middle report on our findings. The Senko was clearly out fishing my spinnerbait, so I tied on a wacky rigged BioSpawn Exostick and joined Alex on a stickbait smashfest.
After catching close to 30 small bass between us, Alex pulled out a 3lb+ pounder that was the icing on the cake. At this point, we decided to keep it moving and headed to lake number two.
My buddy Alex prepping for the upcoming lake.
Lake Number 2
Next, we launched into a larger lake that which had noticeably cooler water and less active fish. My lure was bitten off by a Northern Pike within the first five minutes but we couldn’t buy a bite after that. Instead of sticking around and trying to figure out the fish in this particular lake, we decided to lick our wounds and head on to the next one.
Lakes Three and Four
Lakes three and four were both densely populated with small Nothern Pike. I wasn’t sure if this was due to a fish kill, (small bodies of water in northern states are prone to fish kills due to oxygen deprivation during harsh winters) or just a lack of bio-diversity which resulted in these dink pike. However, I do know pike are both delicious and fun to catch.
Chatterbaits and swimbaits were the best-producing baits in lakes three and four but I honestly think they would have eaten almost anything. These fish were hungry.
This is a dink pike which some anglers refer to ‘Snakes’ or ‘Hammer Handles’
Lakes Five And Six
After finishing up at lake number four, we met a fellow kayak angler who was portaging (carrying a boat) back to the lake in which we just fished. This guy was extremely friendly and provided us with valuable insight regarding the next two lakes, it was simple. Don’t fish them.
There was indeed a fish kill a few winters back and it turns out that lakes five and six were hit especially hard. This news was saddening but also served as a reminder of how nasty nature can be. It’s not the first time this has happened and probably not the last. Those lakes will be back and filled with action, it’ll just take time.
Lake Number 7
The last and final lake on our journey was my personal favorite. It was deep, clear, and the fish were very foolish. I was using a Ned Rig jighead trailed with a small pink plastic worm. Within the first five casts, I landed four bass. It was just one of those days.
After fishing lake number seven, I was dog-tired. The excitement from exploration was beginning to fade and the realization of the work ahead was beginning to set in. We were miles into the woods and it was finally time to turn back to and head to the truck. The next couple of hours were not fun but they were damn rewarding in hindsight.
We put our heads down and just paddled our tails off, eventually making it back to the truck around dinner time. Our bodies were tired but our spirits were high. We just spent the last 12+ hours in our kayaks exploring new waters while catching dozens of fish. Plus, we kept a few of those tasty pikes for dinner.
We capped off our epic day in true Wisconsin fashion, cheddar brats, and a northern pike fish fry, the Wisconsin version of surf and turf. It was so dang good.
Could we have found bigger fish in a local retention pond near our house?
Sure, we probably could have but there is no way it would have been as memorable as the day I had fishing new water with an old friend. The fish catches were just the icing on the cake. Get out there and get you some.