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September / October / November, 2010


CONTENTS • Trips and Destinations . . . 7

Big City Fishing on Southern Lake Michigan with Captain Ralph Steiger.

• Sea Monster Season . . . 18

Musky Maniacs: Obsessive Pursuits and Fulfilling Personal Vendettas.

• Great Lakes Salmon and Trout . . . 49 The Guide to Success by the Legendary Trout Mafia.

• Gator Games for Northern Pike . . . 67 River Gators: Northern Pike of Northeast Illinois.

• Moonshine Crappies . . . 77 Fall Midnight Madness.

• Fall Hot Shots . . . 81

Photos and Other Assorted Eye-Candy.

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Editor In Chief

Sponsors and Advertising Partners

• Andrew Ragas

• Bearpaw’s Handpoured Baits • CB’s Hawg Sauce • Ragas Media Designs • Sims Spinners Inc. • Stankx Bait Company • Time on the Water Outdoors

Issue 1 Writers • Andrew Ragas • Kenny Lookingbill • Michael Planthaber Issue 1 Contributors • Brian Toth • Dan Cahill • Dan Sims • Capt. Ralph Steiger • Thomas Harris

Contact Us

Contributed Photographs

http://www.fishing-headquarters.com info@fishing-headquarters.com andrew@fishing-headquarters.com telephone - 708. 256. 2201

• Brian Toth • Dan Cahill • Dan Sims • Frank Weilnhammer • Michael Planthaber • Thomas Harris

Questions or Comments relating to Fishing-Headquarters and the magazine, and if interested in contributing or sponsoring, please contact Andrew Ragas at: andrew@fishing-headquarters.com

Layout and Design By • Andrew Ragas • Ragas Media Designs

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Copyright © 2010 Fishing-Headquarters.com. All rights reserved. The usage of articles, excerpts, photographs, and any reproduction of this material is prohibited.

September / October / November, 2010



Smith Rapids Bridge Allegedly historic in some sense to the locals, the bridge in Price County, Wisconsin was restored and re-dedicated in 1991. Seen through the beams is the South Fork Flambeau River. October 15, 2010 / Andrew Ragas

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T h i s i s w h a t i t l o o k e d l i k e o u t s i d e w h e n w e s t a r t e d t h i s.

Now are you ready to read about everything we did?

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T R I P S A N D D E S T I N A T I O N S.

BIG CITY FISHING Southern Lake Michigan Guided Trips With Captain Ralph Steiger. By: Andrew Ragas

< Downtown Chicago is quickly becoming an attraction for anglers seeking trophy sized Smallmouth Bass like this one pictured. / Andrew Ragas

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he alarm clock obnoxiously rang at 5:30 am and as it always happens to me while still dark outside; I did not feel like waking up out of bed early to go fishing. I’ll admit that I am by far the worst person at waking up early to catch fish. But for the fact that I was committed and scheduled to go on a guided trip on Lake Michigan with two fishing buddies for the noble Smallmouth Bass, I had no other choices but to go. For the entire early November day’s adventure, I was accompanied by my friends, Dan Cahill, and Jaypee Hey and we teamed up to fight forces with Captain Ralph Steiger. Captain Ralph is a younger professional angler whom is well-known in the Chicagoland area and Southern Lake Michigan region for his Smallmouth Bass and multi-species fishing exploits. After hearing the rave reviews about him and his quality of fishing outings from friends and fellow angling colleagues, I had to give Captain Ralph a try, and join my friends on this chilly day. We arrived at the launch site located in Hammond, Indiana, 7:30 am, and we were greeted with 30 degree air temperatures and frigid northwest winds at 10 to 20 miles-per-hour. The forecast called for eventual warmer 50 degree air temperatures, and we hoped they would eventually come by day’s end. That, however, was not the case, as it stayed cold to the bone for the duration of the day. Our plan for the day was to entirely focus on catching Smallmouth Bass. Neither of us came in with the highest of expectations because the water was cold, and air temperatures were no better. Captain Ralph gave us warnings prior to today that the fishing might not be the best due to inconsistencies and the

unpredictability of fish locations. Whatever we might catch would have to be hard-earned, and fishing several different spots would be the plan. Despite the forewarnings, and the difficulty of recent Bass outings expressed by Captain Ralph, our morale as a unit was still positive as we all expected for some fish to be caught in one way or another.

species, as they can be found heavily concentrated in groups, and relating to specific points of underwater cover and structure. During end-of-season periods like this, Captain Ralph claims, “These fish tend to get stupid because they will eat anything that falls in front of them.” Periods like this often produce good numbers of big fish exceeding four pounds

Today, we fished in both Indiana, and in Illinois, where we focused on a wide variety of typical Lake Michigan fish-holding areas ranging from piers, break walls, trenches, reefs, drop-offs, transition areas, warm-water discharges, rock points, and harbor mouths. We began our morning fishing in Indiana, then progressing into Illinois as we motored several miles northwest to downtown Chicago city limits, and then concluding in Indiana again where we fished during the afternoon hours until it was game over. On average, Lake Michigan water temperatures at this time are at around 51 degrees. According to Captain Ralph, this number is really good for fall fishing on the Great Lakes if Bass are the desired

for Captain Ralph and his clients. Our presentations consisted of fishing slowly with hopes of catching very lethargic fish. Captain Ralph’s provided Smallmouth gear consists of 7ft, 2in. Shimano Cumara spinning rods (medium heavy, extra fast action) paired with an assortment of size 2500 and 3000 Shimano Stradic and Sustain spinning reels. Each rod and reel is spooled with 10lb. Trilene XT as main line which includes a four foot section of 15lb. fluorocarbon leader which negates the possibility of fraying easily on lazer-sharp zebra mussels found on almost every underwater rock and solid. Our baits of choice were Poor Boys Erie Darters, hand-poured goby imitating plastics, fished on 1/4oz D’s Jigs. Fishing Headquarters | Page 8


T R I P S A N D D E S T I N A T I O N S. Rather than let our reels do the work for us, we forced ourselves to let the lake currents and wind factor control the action and presentation of our baits. As it was expected, the fishing was very slow. Only two fish were boated, one coming from downtown Chicago, and the other coming from one of the many discharge areas in Indiana. Jaypee caught a 15 inch fish during the morning, and I caught an 18 inch fish during the afternoon. We each had a handful of other short hits and misses. The lack of fish caught ultimately proves how inactive things really were out there for us today. However, the four of us in Captain Ralph’s 21 foot Crestliner were 100% positive and confident that we were fishing all of the right spots, and placing our baits right in front of the fish that were sadly not eating during the entire time. Despite not catching a whole lot on our outing, a lot of positive things resulted from this trip. First and foremost, Captain Ralph’s knowledge for Bass fishing on Lake Michigan is second to none. He flatout knows his spots and has the understanding for what to do at almost any given situation. I will be sure to apply the new facts and gained information from today into my future clear-water Bass fishing pursuits whether it be on the Great Lakes, similar areas of Lake Michigan, and the cold, deep, clear inland lakes I love to fish up north in Wisconsin. Poor Boys plastics and the D’s jigs we fished with are current headlines on my future off-season shopping list. Besides learning many new things such as new skinny-water Fishing-Headquarters.com

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applications, seasonal movements, feeding patterns and so-forth, I got to spend the day with two of my better Bass fishing buddies. Last but not least, I had a hell of a good time fishing and being able to openly discuss many different fishing-related topics and interests with a knowledgeable, entertaining, understanding, committed, and professional fishing guide. While the catching was virtually non-existent, there was never a dull moment in the boat for any of us. Captain Ralph is committed to giving his clients an enjoyable time while out on the water. If catching fish isn’t a guarantee, then enjoying yourself, and receiving an educational fishing experience might be just the thing that will happen. Captain Ralph’s charters and guided trips operate on a year-round basis. A typical day with one to three

different anglers in the boat begins early in the morning, and lasts for up to a full 12-hour day and beyond. Half day and nighttime trips are also available upon request. Different seasons offer different types of fishing on southern Lake Michigan. Captain Ralph offers trips for Smallmouth Bass, Brown Trout, Lake Trout, King Salmon, and Yellow Perch throughout different times of the year. To book your reservations with Captain Ralph Steiger, you may visit him online at www.captainsteiger.com, or reach him by telephone at 219-688-3593. If Lake Michigan Smallmouth Bass are of highest interest, then Captain Ralph is the guide to ask for. No matter what species of fish may be your quarry, I am positive that your trip will not be a disappointment.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas. Captain Ralph guides out of a fully-rigged 21 foot Crestliner that is loaded with the finest Lowrance electronics and motors. His boat meets U.S. Coast Guard safety specificications and comfortably fits up to three anglers.

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More Captain Ralph. . . .

Meet Jaypee Hey. Friends call him the “Hip-Hop” Fisherman. He is one of Chicago’s finest all-around urban Bass anglers. Not only is he a master of fish poses, but he is the professor when it comes to jigging up Bass from lakes and ponds. You can learn more about Jaypee by visiting his website at:

www.hiphopfishing.com Photograph by Andrew Ragas. �

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TROLLING FOR LAKE MICHIGAN LAKE TROUT Brian Toth poses with his biggest Lake Trout caught with Captain Steiger: “The 4-5 hours we fished was pretty much steady action. At one point we had five rods go off at nearly the same time . It was chaos, rods everywhere, Capt. Steiger running between the three of us, unhooking planers, and at one point, setting hooks because we had too many rods and not enough fishermen. “At the end of the day we pulled in 20+ fish mostly in the 10 lb. range, with a couple in the 12-15 lb. range and the biggest being about 20 lbs. We weren’t taking any fish home, so we didn’t get pics of every fish because we were more concerned with getting these healthy fish back in the water. Here’s a pic of the 20 lb. that graced the end of my line.” Saturday, November 6, 2010. Photographs Courtesy Brian Toth.

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T R I P S A N D D E S T I N A T I O N S.

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Travis Brasfield signals SUCCESS with this recent Lake Trout catch from Southern Lake Michigan on November 6th.

“I think this photo sums it all up. The look on Travis’ face says ‘Success!’” - Brian Toth �

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O N T H E R O A D T O M U S K Y C O U N T R Y.

THANKSGIVING CAME EARLY THIS FALL.

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Sea Monste

A Narrative of Obsessive Pursuits a

I have ultimately learned a valuable lesson. Never, ever, allow the fish to make you be their slave and drag you around by a leash. Always take the initiative and show ‘em who is boss!”

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er Season

and Fulfilling Personal Vendettas.

ANDREW RAGAS

Photo courtesy, Jacob Saylor. �

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S E A M O N S T E R S E A S O N.

L

et me ask you the following questions related strictly towards the game of Musky fishing:

Why do you do it? Why do you enjoy it so much? What makes you go back for more the following day? If I was asked the same, my answer is that I am healthily addicted to Musky fishing in similar ways a junkie is addicted to crack or other drugs. But unlike those addictions and sicknesses of life, I consider this form to be healthy, completely ruthless, and an obsessively dangerous pursuit. Musky fishing is for crack addicts. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the way I ultimately see it. Plus they are the elusive sea monsters of the freshwater. I am not the greatest angler in the world, and neither am Fishing-Headquarters.com

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I the best at catching Muskies or any specific fish in general. I lose more Muskies near boatside than what I am able to actually land successfully. When I fish for Muskies, I take it to a personal level. The fish do not like me, and I certainly do not like them in return. It was roughly six summers ago when I caught my first Muskellunge. It was one of those â&#x20AC;&#x153;I think I shit myselfâ&#x20AC;? types of moments. I was on the verge of entering junior year of high school and by then, I was already becoming a wildly-improved Bass angler. I remember how that 36 inch fish was caught while wading the upper Wisconsin River. Outside of thinking that these fish are so beautiful looking, rivaling in ways like the best women that are out there, I also do not fish Muskies to catch either. Rather, I think I only fish because Bass and other more abundant species eventually become boring. It has been happening too often late-

September / October / November, 2010

ly it seems which is fine by me. It hit a #3 Mepps Inline from mid-river and was caught on a powerless six and a half foot spinning rod with six pound line meant for Smallmouth Bass. The most surprising part about it was the leader that was not used. Catching that fish was a miracle at the time because I did not have the proper gear in order to catch something of that magnitude on a daily basis. Followed by mishandling a catch (if it ever happens), not having the necessary gear is the worst thing a Musky angler can do. Six years later, with Bass fishing seemingly becoming more boring in general, and after several thousand dollars worth of new rods, reels and lures meant for Muskies, along with a new boat as well, Muskies now rank among the top of my personal interests in fishing. A new game has begun. Over the course of my last few years of combining Bass fishing and Musky fishing as the bulk of what I fish for on a yearly basis, I have come to learn that this style of fishing is not meant for everyone involved. In order to catch Muskies on a daily basis like most of the true gamers and legendary anglers out there, it takes a special person to get the job done. I believe that knowledge is power and skills and individual experiences are far more important to the equation rather than plain old luck but I guess that all depends on your attitude, mentality, and approach to it. As I have found out, every day of Musky fishing is a learning process, and if you stick to the program, you might eventually get the hang of it.


This past fall, the game was finally coming together. Like I do almost every year in order to maintain a high interest level, I set forth some individual achievable goals. One of the noteworthy for the 2010 season called for finally catching ten Muskies of any size before the time we close up shop for the year in mid-October. As a Bass fisherman since childhood and being used to catching one every few minutes, catching ten Muskies is a chore, and not an easy task. I had never done anything like this before. Living up north in Musky Country for much of the spring, summer, and fall months, I was long overdue. Unlike my previous years of Musky fishing, 2010 was far different. Rather than fishing for the sake of catching and trying to feel productive, I was fishing for the purpose of kicking ass and finishing unfinished business. After the 2009 season ended, I was left a sour taste in my mouth because I

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fell short of getting my number-ten by just one fish. The consequence from that was being pissed off. I was not going to let that shortfall happen again this year, and neither was I going to fish angry. Once frequent fall trips were taken starting in mid-September and lasting through mid-October, I quit Bass fishing for the year. I was all done, officially bored, and wanted no further part of it. If it werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t for Muskies, I probably would not have fished at all. Muskies immediately became my full-time gig. After another twenty-something days of fishing, the end results were finally worthwhile and the transformation I made with myself was a success. This past fall, four separate trips were made. Two of which were quick weekends with my dear dad, another weekend was with good friend and Fishing-Headquarters video director, Dan Cahill, and a full week was with another good friend, Jacob Saylor.

During this period, I had experienced some of the best Musky fishing of my life in terms of overall numbers days, personal-best fish, and overall enjoyment. It seemed as if at least a fish was caught almost every day. In addition, everyone who was also fishing alongside of me was also catching, including some firsts and personal bests as well. What might have led to this success? We were too stubborn to fish for anything else, and our addictions as a unit within the boat were put into overdrive. We were essentially overdosing ourselves with Esox Masquinongy! A wide variety of Musky waters from large lakes and reservoirs to small rivers were fished, and a multitude of presentations ranging from fast to slow were applied. Every day brought something new to us while we were out on the water. Without getting too scientific and in-depth in sharing of my fall fishing exploits and

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S E A M O N S T E R S E A S O N. pursuits which might be best served for a future article, our methods of fishing and lake selections were determined by a number of factors such as the following: Proximity of the venue; Abundance of available Musky population; Water temperatures and clarity; Forage species; Weather, and time of day. Rain or shine, and whether in sickness or good health, we fished in all types of conditions. We somehow caught fish in the calmest of all days and we somehow caught fish while battling the flu and barely able to stay alive in the boat for a day. The cards were being played right, time was invested wisely, and we were finally victorious. Multiple fish days were had, alltime firsts were caught, and personal record breakers were caught-photographed-released. This fall season in particular was one for the books.

One of the most satisfying aspects of fishing this fall was the shear number of fish we had encountered. If I had to guess, we moved anywhere from 50 to 100 different fish on four trips combined, and while fishing 30 different bodies of water. This eventually resulted in catching more Muskies than I had ever caught in a period of an entire year’s worth of fishing. Through the trials and tribulations of Musky fishing, the best advice I can offer anyone is this. The success of Musky fishing and your individual pursuit of it usually results in whatever you make of it and how you approach it. It is that simple. At this stage of my life with Muskies, I am not the most knowledgeable or well-seasoned. There are only a few guarantees I can make which will lead to individual success like I had this fall. Unfor-

tunately, they will only prevent you from having a terrible day out on the water. My guarantee-for-fish advice is the following: • Have the right attitude. If you don’t think a fish will be caught, then you truly are wasting your time. You probably shouldn’t be fishing at all. When fishing for Muskies, you are always casting with a purpose. Think positive and be optimistic at all times. • Good expectations make a good day. Come to the lake knowing that you will catch something. This corresponds with the attitude. • Have an open mind, don’t be stubborn. Approach your body of water by being willing to try a plethora of lures and techniques, and accepting curveballs from fish and the external conditions. • Don’t fish angry. This is never acceptable in my boat at any

Photograph by Andrew Ragas. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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September / October / November, 2010


point while fishing. If you lose a fish, or do something stupid and out of the norm, think of it as a positive mistake that can be learned from. That’s what the next cast and the following day of fishing is always for. Swear at and make fun of the fish and yourself or fishing partner if you have to, but never fish angry. • Have entertainment and fish with an engaging partner. What’s so bad about sharing a laugh, ripping a fart, and constantly talking and being obnoxious assholes in the boat while constantly casting to nothing all day long? Nothing at all, it’s immaturity at its finest.

this fall season, the stubbornness and experienced boredom with Bass fishing has made me a better all-around angler. While casting to virtually nothing for 95% of the time each day, my skills and attitude were put to the test, as was my personality and mentality as a multi-species angler. Through these experiences, I have ultimately learned a valuable lesson. Never, ever, allow the fish to make you be their slave and drag you around by a leash. Always take the initiative and show ‘em who is boss, but do it with respect as I hope you eventually release them clean and unharmed. Having accomplished more than I would have ever envisioned in a month-long period of fishing, I am still nowhere near the level of an angler that I would like to be. Even the best out there are continuously learning and becoming better. To get more proficient on an every-day basis is my eventual plan. Ultimately, that is what we have next year for: To make more casts and to catch more fish. Thank you Bass fishing, for Photograph by Andrew Ragas. making me realize how boring and uneventful that you can be at Trust me these are the little things times. Without the boredom I was that will keep interest and motivapossessed with in September, I am tion levels high throughout the day. positive that the events and suc• Always fish with a plan. cessful trips we experienced this Know your limits, and know your fall never would have happened. spots and how to best fish them. I heart Musky xoxoxo. This is an applied skill eventually learned through personal exDisclaimer: If anyone ever happerience and behavior of fish. pens to lose fish, or cannot get one to eat • Patience and persistence on the follow or figure-8 and then it sudpays off. Nuff said. There is no denly disappears or never comes back to better feeling than catching and the boat again, I highly recommend checking out the 1970’s hit love-song by Player, eventually having an “I think I titled, “Baby Come Back”. To make light shit myself” type of experience. of the situation and to turn any negative Photos and video are the ulti- into a positive, play the soothing song on mate reward from Musky fishing. repeat if your boat has a sound system. Due to the dedication I made Fishing Headquarters | Page 22


S E A M O N S T E R S E A S O N. Both fish seen on this page were caught less than ten minutes apart from the same mid-river weedline. To make things even more interesting, they both came on the same double-bladed Musky Mayhem Showgirl.

“We were essentially overdosing ourselves with Esox Masquinongy!”

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Small River Muskies:

Muskies that inhabit shallow and dark water river systems tend to stay active during most seasonal periods and conditions. Fish like this 36 incher are often sought after for action days. On this Mid-October day of fishing, four different fish made it to the Frabill in less than three hours. Turn to next pages to see. Photos by Andrew Ragas.

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S E A M O N S T E R S E A S O N.

This 36 inch Musky was caught from a dark water river system in northern Wisconsin. Like the other ďŹ sh seen on the next two pages, this one was caught on a Phantom Soft Tail Glider in 54 degree water temperatures. Each ďŹ sh was caught while on the pause, along deeper drop-offs and deeper water around creek mouths and arms. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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S E A M O N S T E R S E A S O N.

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Let them go so they can grow.

Photos by Andrew Ragas. ďż˝

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S E A M O N S T E R S E A S O N.

ANGLER ACCOUNTS

Persistence Pays. Third try is the lucky charm.

A

By: Dan Cahill

s a bass fisherman, the first long hours, perhaps days of Musky hunting without the sight of a fish were painstaking. However, once setting the hooks into one of these beautiful creatures and watching it respond with a water clearing leap, I understood the addiction immediately. Musky fishing certainly was an adjustment. Casting large lures on broomsticks puts much more wear and tear on your body than any kind of bassing can in a day. It’s that heart pumping adrenaline rush of an elusive hookup and the potential of landing a new personal best that will keep me comFishing-Headquarters.com

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ing back for more punishment. After another slow morning on our quest to make me a musky man, my hopes of seeing a fish this trip were dwindling. I was casting bucktails for almost three hours without so much as a follow. During this time we were also drifting with a sucker, which routinely became stuck in weeds and often required maintenance. Shortly after going through the motions of a ‘de-weeding’ and pitching the sucker back into the water, the rod bounced, hard. I quickly dropped my casting rod and sprung to set the hook. Once the fish felt the hooks, I caught my first close glimpse of a muskellunge, as it jumped sev-

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eral feet into the air. I’ll never forget that moment, that knee shaking rush. After a valiant fight, she was netted and I was happy to see the hooks easily fall out. Right there, at that time, all of the countless hours of fruitless casting were condensed and negated. It was all leading up to this, the reward.


Photos by Andrew Ragas. ďż˝

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S E A M O N S T E R S E A S O N.

Photo courtesy, Jacob Saylor.

Fish of a Lifetime: Behind the 51-incher. Any time you catch and release a Musky is a team effort. By: Andrew Ragas

O

n Wednesday, September 29, 2010, Jacob Saylor, and I caught and released this 51-inch fish from the Minocqua, Wisconsin area. This was my largest fish to ever be boated. It was a team effort, and an interesting scenario as to how it happened. At around 3pm, we were fishing for Muskies on one of the area’s larger lakes in Oneida County. While casting lures and covering water, I rigged and set out my grandfather’s 1967 vintage 5Fishing-Headquarters.com

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foot fiberglass rod with Abu Garcia 6000C reel so that we could drift a sucker behind the boat, hoping that something would hit whether it be freely, or after a follow. This rod and reel is essentially an antique. We were expecting to catch a fish on this day, but not in this way, and neither of this magnitude. As soon as the clock turned three, the rod went off. Luckily the rod holder did not break, and we saw a noticeably large fish thrashing the surface 30 feet away from the boat. We did

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not see this fish at any point in the water, and neither did we know when exactly it hit our trailing line. Because I fish out of a smaller vintage 16 foot fiberglass Lund Musky boat, Jake was standing in the boat’s rear where my rod was located. I did not have access to the rod because I was on deck at the front end. . If I had a chance to reach my rod in time before the fish would potentially get free, Jake was eventually going to be pushed into the lake by me because I had zero room to grab the rod. However,


I gave him permission to get the rod for me and he even set the initial hooks. I was then handed over the rod to finish off the rest, and to also set my own hook for good measure. The fight was very short and fast, lasting not more than 30 seconds since she hit so close to the boat. Despite that, this fish possessed some incredible weight and by the time we scooped her up into my Frabill, which I was skeptical of it even fitting 50 inchers, the hooks on my quick-strike sucker rig popped free. I no longer believe that my 60 inch measuring stick is all that big, because this personal best fish measured out at 51 inches. I think my largest prior to this was 43 to 44 inches. We forgot to measure the girth with hopes of eventually getting a replica mount to be made. However, this fish weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 35 pounds, and if I was not battling the flu and severe fatigue at the time, she would have been a lot easier to lift for a photo. Jake and I took several photos of this fish while measuring and releasing. The ones picturing the release are my favorites because they capture the moment so effectively as both I am ecstatic and happy, and it looks like the fish is smiling too because I let her go. As soon as that happened, the fish exploded off from my hands, back down to where she came from. In the end, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think I know of any other type of angler or friend who would have given my rod to me just the way Jake did because he was standing closest to it. For that unselfish and kind gesture, he will be certainly going on more future trips with me again next season. ďż˝

Personal best Musky, 51-inches, 30lbs. September 29, 2010. Oneida County, WI.

Photo courtesy, Jacob Saylor. Fishing Headquarters | Page 32


Photo courtesy, Jacob Saylor. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photographs by Jacob Saylor. ďż˝

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FISH OF TEN THOUSAND CASTS A C T I O N S H O T S F R O M T H I S F A L L S E A S O N.

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Meet two of our fall Musky sacrifices. We named them, “Bitchcatchmedatfish” (top), and “Jesse Jackson” (bottom).

Photos by Andrew Ragas. �

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Got TopRaider?

Photos by Andrew Ragas. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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BIG FISH EAT ME.

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Photos by Andrew Ragas. ďż˝

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Fishing in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin. Musky Capitol of the World. On this cold October morning, Jacob Saylor was put in charge of Sucker Operations. He finished our outing by going 1-for-3, catching a 32 inch fish, and losing a 45-incher that came around to eat twice. When we saw it go airborne the second time while trying to set the hook, that’s when heartbreak was experienced. We both ended up watching it, and were witnesses. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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“Hold my beer and watch this.” Photograph by Andrew Ragas. �

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Photos by Andrew Ragas. ďż˝

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â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Til Next Season.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas.


G R E A T L A K E S S A L M O N A N D T R O U T.

The Complete Guide to Fall Fishing Success. By: Mike Planthaber

TROUT MAFIA Fishing-Headquarters.com

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he Great Lakes of North America are the backbone of a $7 billion dollar fishing industry. Many of its angling participants chase salmonoids miles offshore in deeper and colder waters. To make it that far and have a fair shot at success, one must need a sea-worthy vessel, a variety of electronics (fish finder, GPS system, marine radio to name a few), trolling gear, and variety of trolling tackle. For those who are not outfitted for the sport, hiring a charter service seems like a costsaving alternative. That is what salmon and trout fishing is all about for most fishermen during much of the year. The outlying states of the Great Lakes sustain the fishing industry by producing salmonoids through fish hatcheries and infiltrate the system with generations of fish. All of these fish, whether they were born in a hatchery or developed in a tributary, are genetically programmed to return to their birth grounds and reproduce. There are some fish, such as the Chambers Creek and Skamania strains of Steelhead, will migrate in the early spring through

Photo courtesy, Mike Planthaber.

the summer months from the deep offshore waters, but the majority of the salmonoids will make the journey during the fall months. Most notably (and in chronological order), the Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Brown Trout, and Steelhead (also known as the Rainbow Trout). When these fish return to the shorelines and tributaries to perform their biological duty of passing their genetics, this gives the avid angler on foot a fair shot at landing a prized fish; All species noted above are capable of reaching 15 lbs. in weight, with a few outliers that will hit 20+ lbs. Arguably the most prized and sought after species is the mighty Chinook (King) Salmon. When the run is on, anglers from many states will hit the shorelines with a variety of angling methods. For the early runners, the most common tackle choice is a longer rod equipped with some fairly strong line (10-14 lb. test). Fishermen, women, and children hurl spoons and crankbaits off of piers for the early runners, and those willing to put in the long hours of casting are usually rewarded. Once the salmon

cherry is popped, many will say that an addiction has begun, and some will even fish throughout the night with glow in the dark baits looking to connect with a fish. The Kings will eventually reach the end of their life cycles, and their bodies display the evidence of maturity. Male Kings will turn darker and tan in color, and the females ripen with caviar. Both genders will eventually stop eating and focus on the spawn and take to within shoreline harbors and swim up any current that pushes out to the lake. Sleeper spots include manmade discharges and smaller tributaries with less angling pressure. During the peak of the spawn, fly fishermen target the streams and rivers, mostly swinging egg patterns. The fish migrate upstream throughout the nighttime hours, and usually retreat to the deeper pools during the daylight hours with hopes of avoiding visual confrontation with any predators on land. Daytime fishing is done with stealth, and usually with the aid of polarized sunglasses. Fishing Headquarters | Page 50


G R E A T L A K E S S A L M O N A N D T R O U T. For the fish lost within the fall migration, harbors are an eventual dead-end, and lead to great fishing opportunities for the shore bound angler. Dragging shallow to middepth crankbaits often yield results as the kings will hit the cranks simply out of pure aggression. Some fishermen claim that the severe blow of a King smashing a bait can be felt throughout the length of the rod, through the angler’s body, and down to the toes. Another common method for retracting kings in the harbors is done by floating spawn 4 to 10 feet deep below floats. In order to do so, you will need to catch a female or seek en egg donation from someone. Usually by the end of October, the kings have all but died off. The coho salmon are usually reaching the peak of their migrations. The same methods used for chinook are also applied.

The end of one shoreline fishing chapter begins the next, which leads to brown trout fishing. This is probably one of the more consistent bites to pick up on and angling results that are often more predictable. The browns, just like the kings, return to the shorelines from the depths of the Great Lakes for their turn to spawn. Many fish will make it to the tributaries, but a fair number end up in the harbors. Due to yearly stockings, many browns are planted in the harbors each spring and fall. Thus the fish return to the locations where their original life cycles began. Harbor fishing for browns is probably one of my most favorite seasons of the year. A basic setup consisting of light line (4-6 lb. test flourocarbon), a slip float, and a tube jig (1-1/2”) tipped with a wax worm or two should result in some fish. The approach is simple: Cast,

let tube fall, twitch the float, and allow for the tube to fall. For this float fishing approach, a bait placed higher in the water column is most effective. Trout look for food above them, and the tasty flutter fall action of the tube bait is simply irresistible. Brown trout eggs are highly valued. Some anglers refer to the spawn as “gold” due to their effectiveness to catch all species of trout. Landing an egg-laden female full of spawn should all but guarantee continued success for trout fishing with spawn throughout the remainder of the run if one was looking for a different approach to catching these fish. Another simple, yet effective, method for catching trout in harbors is casting Rapala Husky Jerks and other stick baits, and even rolling a smaller spoon. Around the same period when the browns show up, you should

Photo courtesy, Tom Harris - Great Lakes Angler. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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September / October / November, 2010


expect to encounter some steelhead. Just as the method for catching brown trout, the same is said for steelies. It is not uncommon to catch both species in the same day using the same baits. Fall steelhead display their full spawning colors, with the males sporting red cheeks and horizontal red stripes along their body. Landing a steelhead will always create a fantastic photo opportunity for those fortunate enough to land one. The fly fishermen whom are more tolerant of the colder weather will also travel to the same streams and rivers the kings had once occupied. The spawning grounds are shared by each of these species. Many trout will hold in the rivers throughout the duration of the winter months, and for those willing to put in the effort during the coldest months of the year, the ending results can be tremendous. Unlike the king salmon and cohos, brown trout and steelhead are capable of reproducing multiple times throughout their lives and eventually return back to the Great Lakes following their spawn. Catch and release is a recommended practice for most of these fish. Mike Planthaber displays a trophy Brown Trout caught during the fall season of November 2009. Like most fish caught during that time, this 20-pounder took a spawn sack beneath a float.

For more detailed reports and fishing information on fall and winter Great Lakes Salmon and Trout, browse through the archived fishing reports and discussions on our website at fishing-headquarters.com. A wealth of information is available free through the world wide web.

Photo courtesy, Tom Harris - Great Lakes Angler. Fishing Headquarters | Page 52


G R E A T L A K E S S A L M O N A N D T R O U T.

Angling in Mplant’s Neck of the Woods.

Mike Planthaber is a resident of Chicago Illinois, and writes a popular blog for fishing-headquarters.com, titled, “Chicago Fishing With Mplant”. At a regional level, his fishing reports and writings are extensive and one of the most comprehensive and informative on all aspects of Trout and Salmon fishing for the Great Lakes. Rain or shine, and death do us part, Mike fishes in all conditions, and can be found somewhere along the western shoreline of Lake Michigan from Chicago to north in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Whether fishing harbors, breakwalls, and many small tributaries, Mike fishes every week during each period of the season.

Visit Mike’s blog, and read more about his fishing at: www.fishing-headquarters.com/mplantfishing/ Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photo courtesy, Tom Harris - Great Lakes Angler. ďż˝

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G R E A T L A K E S S A L M O N A N D T R O U T.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin Salmon By: Tom Harris

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ny Salmon fisherman knows that in order to catch a salmon it requires at least some degree of knowledge of the fish, it takes time spent on the water, and it takes luck. Put those three together, and in time you’ll hook one and at least get to battle with it, weather it breaks your line or not, well that’s up to you. Some days it takes more of one than the other. If you really study how the fish work you can make a very educated guess to where and why Salmon are where they are, and because of this you’ll catch a fish that day while others don’t. Some days it takes hours, just casting and casting as the hours pass, and eventually some lone fish decides enough is enough and hits your bait. The final ingredient is luck, and this is a tricky one. Some days you just get lucky and the fish just so happen to be where you are, and you just so happen to want to catch them. On October 2nd, two friends and I had all three of these things in abundance. It turned out to be a day of such volume and magnitude of fish that I’m not sure I’ve heard of a day like it. My of fishing started with a stop at Oak Creek, which is running very low, clear, and as far as I can tell is empty at the moment. Rain Fishing-Headquarters.com

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will pick things up, and we need it bad. At this point my knowledge of Salmon started to kick in. My reasoning in my next move is as follows. Since it is now October and we’ve been rain free for more than two weeks now the fish have got to be around in number in the harbor. There are four harbors in my range.

Which one should I pick? The only source of moving water in range is the Milwaukee River, which is actually running at a reasonable flow, not great enough to push fish into the system. This time of year, it’s flowing at an average rate. Milwaukee it is. Where in the harbor should I try for Salmon in broad daylight?

Photo courtesy, Tom Harris - Great Lakes Angler.

September / October / November, 2010


Photo courtesy, Tom Harris - Great Lakes Angler.

If there are hundreds of Salmon in the harbor waiting for a torrent of moving water where can you find them? Well the night before last we had a brief downpour in the region, not enough to make the rivers swell, but probably enough to get the discharge near McKinley Marina flowing at least a bit. That would be my destination in hopes that a little trickle of water would draw in fish, fish that hopefully would be willing to bite on chunks of Salmon skein that I happened to have in my car, just in case the situation came up. I pulled my car up, there were 3 fishermen there. One had a fish on, good sign. As it was netted I walked up, said nice fish, I then moved around the other two fishermen to claim my spot on the railing. As I put down my stuff one turned to me

and said “TOM!”, it was my friend Keith, whom I had fished with the night before in Racine. Mike was there as well, I asked if they had and fish, and sure enough, Mike had caught a fresh, silver Coho, which was on the pavement behind us. I asked how long they had been here, they replied only 15 minutes. Hopes were high at this point. The next six hours may have been the best six hours of shore Salmon fishing I’ll ever experience. Between the three of us we landed 32 fish, were broken off by seven more, lost 10 more to spit hooks, and had probably 30 hits that we missed. Altogether 28 king salmon, 3 Coho, and one Brown Trout. Absolutely amazing. To anyone who thinks this years salmon run is already over,

there is no other way to put this, you are wrong. The run is late, and is only just beginning. A warm summer, cool temps near shore in the fall, and a lack of rain have led to a very slow start and a prolonged run. I will not be surprised if we still see a strong spawning run going into November. We kept 12 fish, released the rest until the last three fish of the night, which we also kept. All fish except for three were donated to the fishermen around us who were fishing for food and were not as lucky as us. We fished cured salmon skein about 3 feet beneath a float. That’s all there was to it!

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G R E A T L A K E S S A L M O N A N D T R O U T.

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September / October / November, 2010


Photo courtesy, Tom Harris - Great Lakes Angler. ďż˝

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G R E A T L A K E S S A L M O N A N D T R O U T.

The Drought of Fall 2010.

Where’s the water at?

This photo is old news, taken from November, 2009. Pictured is Mike Planthaber walking alongside of Oak Creek, in southeast Wisconsin. At the time, water levels were as low as what we have been experiencing throughout all of this fall season. Uncharacteristically, we have been in drought conditions since the end of September and tributary fishing has not been much of an option for us this fall. If you were to visit the creek right now, you would be hard-pressed to see as much water as this, and you definitely wouldn’t find any fish either.

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas. ďż˝

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G R E A T L A K E S S A L M O N A N D T R O U T.

Photo courtesy, Tom Harris - Great Lakes Angler. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Trout MaďŹ a reports indicate there are browns in the harbor, and there are coho in the rivers. Pictured here is a Lake Michigan Harbor Brown Trout taken on Saturday, November 13th. According to Tom, this big fella fought like a champ. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Tom Harris Photography Tom Harris is a member of the Legendary Trout Mafia, and friend of the Fishing-Headquarters. He is a professional photographer who graduated from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2009. His specialty photography work consists of architecture, landscapes, portraits and studio, and fishing scenes. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tom is currently living and working in Chicago, Illinois. Since his move to the big city, he has been chronicling all of his fishing adventures throughout the Great Lakes region, often writing about them, and documenting with photos and his cool shots. Ever since his fishing and photography website was established in 2009, he has started a photography project: To photograph every species of fish currently residing in the Great Lakes.

Visit Tom’s website, and see more of his photos at:

www.great-lakes-angler.com �

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G A T O R G A M E S F O R N O R T H E R N P I K E.

River Gators: Northern Pike in Northeast Illinois. By: Andrew Ragas

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sox Lucius, better referred to as Northern Pike, are sleek and explosive ambush predators that are popular amongst freshwater anglers. Northern Pike are cool water species that are extremely adaptable living in a diverse number of habitats ranging from small creeks and streams to the largest river systems and lakes. The best Pike fishing in North America is typically found throughout the Midwest and northern regions of the United States, and includes much of its native range in Canada, and other non-indigenous regions. Although most avid anglers choose to spend hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars to travel to the best Pike fishing destinations in the world in order to get that â&#x20AC;&#x153;trip of a lifetimeâ&#x20AC;?, there are other good alternatives for fishing success. These Fishing-Headquarters.com

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options can be local and close to home, extremely cost-efficient, and donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t require week-long vacations from work and other obligations. If you happen to be a resident of northern Illinois, you are in luck. Look no further than minutes west of the city limits of Chicago, Illinois. Flowing southward from Wisconsin through the counties of Lake, Cook, DuPage, and Will, the slowflowing and low-turbid Des Plaines River offers some of the finest untouched and unpressured fishing that the Chicagoland area and Northeast Illinois region has to offer. More than twenty years ago, fishermen would have been hard-pressed to find such a diverse number of fish species present in this river as pollution and abuse from previous generations took their toll on the river and its fishery. However, thanks to

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rehabilitation and improved management of the fishery, excessive stocking efforts, and strict environmental and water quality regulations, the river has come back to life and is experiencing a revival. Most notably of all species of fish, including the popular Walleye, Sauger, and both Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass, the Northern Pike population has flourished in recent years. Tremendous angling opportunities await for anglers who are willing to explore the waterway and are able to invest the time as the legendary explorers, Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet, once did 350 years ago. On the Des Plaines River and its connecting tributaries, Northern Pike are available in both numbers, and moderate to potentially trophy sizes. Much of the high population density is comprised of mature 20


to 30-inch fish that keep everyone interested. Understanding that there is always a good chance for a serious gator approaching the 40-inch mark often brings anglers back to the river for more as each day may result in the possibility of eventually catching bigger and better fish. Northern Pike can be caught year-round on the Des Plaines, with the best seasonal periods occurring in spring from the end of March through the end of May, and resuming once again during the fall, lasting throughout all of October and deep into November. During these periods, typical water temperatures range anywhere from 45 to 65 degrees. It is during this time when most fish are active and feeding heavily on anything that gets caught up in their way. Besides spring and fall, other productive windows may be found at around ice-out, as fish congregate in shallow and marshy bays and backwaters; about a weeklong period. Fishing for Pike on the Des Plaines is not a hard chore as abun-

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dant fish can be caught from literally everywhere as long as there is some form of river access to them. However, if larger-sized fish greater than 30-inches are on the agenda, take note, as some homework is involved. First and foremost, determine whether or not you are a shoreline fisherman, wader, or a boat angler. Stay within your skill level and be sure you know your individual limitations. Much of the river is accessible for shoreline anglers, but you are very limited for the amount of water you can cover as well as having a variety of casting angles. For waders, the river offers an infinite amount of productive fishing areas, but along with the good aspects come a lot of bad as wading can be difficult due to a countless number of underwater hazards, dark water clarity, and unknown, unseen, and unmarked deep pools. For instance, there have been a handful of times where my friends and I have gotten stuck and taken spills in deep non-wadeable water, and have even

nearly sank in shoreline mud as proficient as quicksand. line mud as proficient as quicksand. As far as boating is concerned, the river is perfect for small craft such as canoes, jon boats, and prams with electric motors. With watercraft, you can access almost every spot including inaccessible deeper holes and channel areas that are ten feet deep or more. However, the river offers poor navigation for larger boats with outboards due to large stretches of shallow water with exposed hazards, and poor launching facilities. As an avid angler who has been fishing the Des Plaines and its tributaries often for the past five seasons, I have learned to adapt. I eventually find myself within all three categories in one way or another as I enjoy walking, and wading the shallower waters, and schedule float trips on weekends to otherwise inaccessible stretches of water with my friends. No matter how you fish the Des Plaines, there are certain key factors that will enable you to catch fish year-round. The most important is to understand location and seasonal movements as both will be dictated by water temperatures. By nature, big Pike thrive in the coolest environments they can find, and whenever they are on the move, they often do it for a purpose: To hunt prey, seek refuge and sanctuary, and mark territory. Therefore, adapt yourself to where the fish might be found on a seasonal basis. For the greatest odds in catching fish, the best course of action is to stay mobile and cover a diverse assortment of areas. Based on personal experience, the most successful places for both numbers and larger fish occurs the farthest Fishing Headquarters | Page 68


G A T O R G A M E S F O R N O R T H E R N P I K E. away from urban areas, and away from spots that receive the highest amounts of angling pressure. However, successful river anglers tend to focus on the following areas regardless of surroundings: Bridges, as they usually offer deeper, dark pools; Log-jams, stump fields, and laydowns, because they are fish magnets in general and Pike are excellent at blending in with their surroundings; Weedbeds because they serve as fish communities; Main river channels and edges; Deep shoreline and mid-river pools; Creek arms, points, rock piles, and sandbars; Creek mouths, ditches, and other inflows; Dams (for blocked fish that have nowhere else to go); Deep current runs and slackwater pools (eddies); and backwaters and shallow coves which are best during early season outings. There are a variety of presentations that will work successfully. When fishing for Pike, keep in mind, however, that certain baits and lures will offer better results than others. It is important to always match the hatch, and pay attention to the patterns and movements of pelagic baitfish because wherever you find the baitfish, there will often be Pike close nearby. The dominant forage species on the Des Plaines are White Sucker, Creek Chub, Golden Shiner, Spotfin Shiner, Threadfin Shad, and assorted juvenile Sunfish species. By keeping the forage base in mind, there are a number of productive lures that can be fished. Lure selection will always be dictated by several factors such as water clarity, water temperatures, depth, the type of cover, and moods of fish. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Frequent contributor and fishing partner, Dan Sims, with an average size Northern Pike taken from the Des Plaines River. As you can see, the river offers tremendous angling opportunities for Pike and most other species of gamefish. Be sure to check out Dan’s lure company - www.sims-spinners.com

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Photo courtesy, Dan Cahill.

Not only is wade fishing successful, but so is boating. This fish was caught on a 3/4oz Northland Reed Runner spinnerbait with a 5-inch Stankx Grub trailer. Taken during an October, 2010 float trip with Dan Cahill. Due to the dark brown water clarity of the river during the spring and summertime months, it is often best to use bright and dark colored lures that offer excellent color contrast while in the water. Meanwhile, as water gets colder during the fall and winter months, clarity improves tremendously, and neutral, more natural colors will work best. Lastly, keep in mind that much of the river is full of underwater snags. Therefore, presentations that avoid bottom contact should be used most often. Lure sizes should always be determined by the feeding activity of fish and whether you intend on catching numbers of smaller fish, or entirely larger ones. To improve your odds in catching bigger fish, we often like to “go big, or go home.” Some favorites for year-round Pike consist of the following:

Bucktails and inline spinners with number-3, 4, 5, and 6 blades: Mepps Musky Killers, Musky Mayhem Showgirls (single), and the new single and double-bladed Sims Spinners brand are a few blades worth consideration. Spinnerbaits: Brand doesn’t seem to matter, but blade style and colors play an important role. Oversize double Colorado and Willow blades that generate the most vibration have produced the best results. As far as colors are concerned, black/orange, gold/white, white/red, white/silver, and bright chartreuse and orange work extremely well throughout the entire year. Use 3/8 oz to 1 oz sizes. The addition of plastic trailers such as a grub or reaper tail, and hooks, improves odds. Buzzbaits and topwaters:

These work exceptionally well during the summer months during low water periods and when fish are tight to shore. Color doesn’t matter. Jerkbaits and twitch baits: 4 to 8 inch baits that fit this category are Rapala X-Raps, Husky Jerks, and Bomber Minnows. In addition, smaller Musky-sized baits such as Musky Mania Jakes and Grandmas also work well too. Color selections should be determined by water clarity and the forage base. Gliders and sub-surface lures: These are extremely underrated for Pike as not many anglers are accustomed to using them around Chicago. Smaller five and six inch models such as the Savage-Gear Freestyler, and any ordinary glidebait designed for Musky fishing will work. Glide baits work exceptionaFishing Headquarters | Page 70


G A T O R G A M E S F O R N O R T H E R N P I K E. ally well during the colder months in water temperatures below 55 degrees when fish begin utilizing the deeper channels and pools. Crankbaits and Rattlebaits: Due to the high shad and shiner populations, cranks and rattles can be year-round producers. Shallow and mid-range crankbaits, and rattlebaits with neutral and chrome patterns work best. Chatterbaits: In any color, and usually ½ oz. in size, these are great early spring and summertime producers when fish move shallow, and are using the weedlines. Swimbaits: Nothing better than using something molded out of soft plastic to imitate the real thing. Favorites are 4 and 5-inch Storm WildEye swim shads, Live Shiners, and Live Perch baits. In addition, Kickin’ Minnows also fare well. Live bait: When all else fails, drifting suckers and shiners beneath a float through the deeper holes and slackwater areas cannot be beat. Best in winter and cold water months.

powerful casting, hook-sets, and playing fish out of heavy cover and current. Monofilaments and copolymer lines are not ideal choices for Pike fishing, especially on moving water, due to its stretching capabilities, poor abrasion resistance, and abilities to snap. In addition to using the proper rod and reel, be sure to carry a supply of 30 to 60lb. titanium, seven-strand, or fluorocarbon leaders. It is always better to be safe than sorry as nothing is worse than having a fish bite off and swim away with a lure in its mouth. For other precautions and to ensure a safe and successful release of your catch, it is equally as important to carry the necessary release tools such as longnose pliers, jaw spreaders, and hook cutters. However, the biggest mistake any angler can make is being unaware of how to properly handle the catch. Consequently, these tools and recommendations will only simplify things and make it easier on both the fish and yourself.

Ultimately, the Des Plaines River is an environment that encompasses all of the characteristics that a traditional and productive Northern Pike resource has to offer. The next time you are planning a Pike fishing trip, keep in mind that big money won’t have to be spent, vacation time won’t have to be taken, and individual travel times to the spot will not take long. There is a great fishing resource right next to the urban sprawl of Chicago, and within everyone’s backyards. The quality of fishing on the Des Plaines is as great as it has ever been and to this day, continues to get better. The best plan of action right now is to fish and enjoy all that is available. Every Wednesday, check out our official Des Plaines River fishing report that is published in the Chicago Sun-Times, and can be viewed at Fishing-Headquarters.com. It is the most comprehensive resource for up-to-date news, conditions, and fishing reports for the river.

Gear and Tackle: As far as gear and tackle is concerned, rods and reels should be a personal choice and left entirely up to the angler himself. However, some recommendations are to use six and a half to seven and a half foot, medium-heavy action baitcasting equipment with reels spooled with 30 to 50lb. braided line. Spiderwire Stealth and Power Pro are some personal line choices. Any ordinary bass fishing gear also works well as long as the rod has sufficient length and backbone for powerful Fishing-Headquarters.com

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September / October / November, 2010

Photograph by Andrew Ragas. �


DPR Wading

Above - Dan Sins and Jacob Saylor wade the shallow river while in search for deeper holes in Will County, Illinois. Below - Andrew Ragas hooks into a ďŹ sh from some mid-river current while Walleye ďŹ shing.

Photo courtesy, Dan Sims. Fishing Headquarters | Page 72


G A T O R G A M E S F O R N O R T H E R N P I K E. Dan Sims with a 31-inch fish caught with his Sims Spinners while on an October, 2010 wade outing in Will County, Illinois. / Photo courtesy, Dan Sims.

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Dan Cahill, who often fishes the river by boat, is seen here with his personal-best 32-inch Northern Pike from October, 2009. This fish was caught by boat while casting a Rapala X-Rap 10 to a shallow weedline that eventually dropped down into the main river channel. If it wasn’t for having a boat, this spot along with the fish would have been inaccessible from shore. / Photo courtesy, Dan Cahill.

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Photo courtesy, Dan Cahill. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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M O O N S H I N E C R A P P I E S.

Photo courtesy, Kenny Lookingbill.

Moonshine Crappies: Fall Midnight Madness. By: Kenny Lookingbill

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t has been two years since that very cold mid-November day of autumn 2008. I recall that our day was spent fishing the Du Page River in Chicagoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s western suburbs, and we caught some quality rock bass and smallmouth bass. As our daylight was dwindling in late afternoon, we left for a dinner break before returning again. Our day of fishing was to be concluded in fast fashion with a quick evening outing at a quarry in town before embarking on the two hour journey back to school at Illinois State University. Ultimately, this allegedly short outing turned out to be the complete opposite, and far longer than planned. What occurred during this outing exceeded any sort of expectations I had originally expected. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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This forever changed my philosophy on crappie fishing. My three friends and I were armed with our light action panfish rods and an assortment of jigs and small plastics. First cast in and there was a fish on for one of the comrades. It was a slab of a crappie measuring about a foot in length. This same pattern continued for the next two hours, with each of us catching dozens of crappie going 10 to 12 inches. What makes this experience unique was that our catching took place more than an hour after the full effects of darkness had set in, during mid-November with 30 degree air temperatures. I had never seen anything like it in my life, nor ever heard of it before.

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Following the quarry, we fished a nearby retention pond. While casting a 3/8 oz. Rattlin Rapala with hopes of a reaction strike from a bass, I hooked into a 15 inch crappie. It was the largest crappie of my life at that point. At first I believed that each event of that night was a fluke, and not meant to occur. However, over the last few years, there have been many more outings like this that have occurred for us at different locations. Events like these were taking place on fall nights with air temperatures sometimes falling into nighttime lows of 20 degrees and colder. Last summer, I eventually discovered that the night bite was not exclusive to only the fall season. I ďż˝


was catching giant crappies up to 16 inches on baits meant for bass. The catches of the large crappie might have been a fluke based on how they were caught. As I reflect back on it now, I do not think the timing of the fish feeding window was any accident. I have finally become a believer in a crappie nighttime feeding window in which point you can go out at any given time at night to catch fish. From these nighttime experiences, I have discovered that there are three key elements needed in order to have success. These factors are the following: Shallow flats with structure and adjacent to drop-offs; Vibration from presentation; and Light sources.

Shallow ďŹ&#x201A;ats:

These areas are utterly impossible to distinguish while it is dark at night. Locating these areas requires some daytime scouting and pre-fishing in order to determine whether or not the location of interest is any good. For instance, finding structure that may be present on the bottom that may not be seen from shore, as well as determining the presence of fish right on the drop-off because they will likely be holding there during the daytime hours. However, at night fish eventually move up on the flat, feeding on small baitfish to gorge themselves up as much as possible before the winter months move in and then they return to the depths and suspend. I have also found the presence of woody debris to also be a very positive attractor on these flats, more so than rip rap. Also vertical structure such as piers and tree stumps are great producers.

Vibration:

Considering that it is dark out, vibration is a very important component

Photo courtesy, Kenny Lookingbill. Fishing Headquarters | Page 78


M O O N S H I N E C R A P P I E S. in order to be successful at catching crappies at night. My trusted setup is a 1/32 oz. Blakemore Roadrunner jig with a colorado blade rigged with one of Charlie Brewer’s 1.5 inch sliders. I have learned that color is not a very important factor for nighttime fishing as the crappie’s reaction to the lure is more predicated on vibration from the blade and the paddle tail on the slider rather than color. A lightweight set up with low diameter braid is important for sensitivity because there will be times that there will be a really light bite. In order to detect short bites and to maximize sensitivity, I employ a light action 6ft. Abu Garcia Condolon rod with a Pflueger President 6725 reel spooled with 8lb Berkley Fireline. The braid is resistant to abrasions, much more sensitive to light pickups than monofilament

ice fishing is imperative. There will be a handful of miserable nights where you will struggle to catch fish. There will and layering up with clothing like you are going to be ice fishing is imperative. There will be a handful of miserable nights where Light sources: By far, the number one source you will struggle to catch fish. There of congregation for crappie is lights. will also be some windy nights in I probably catch 75% of my night which you will come home with crappie in the presence of lights. a wind burnt face and zero fish to My belief is that crappies are not speak of. However, the positive outattracted to the lights themselves, ings will far outweigh the negative but rather to the baitfish that school ones and those successful outings up in lit up areas. The crappies will will be just as consistent if not more than about any other type of fishing quickly follow. Crappie at night is not a terri- you will do throughout the year. Do yourselves a favor before bly complicated or difficult one for that matter. All it requires is perse- ice fishing season begins. Despite verance and daytime planning. For what other people may think of your instance, you are going to be cold sanity and your body’s protests, get if you are fishinging during the late out to your local bodies of water fall months, and layering up with during these cold nights. Let the clothing like you are going to be domination of night slabs begin! line, and the low diameter greatly increases casting distance so that long casts parallel to shore can be used and the bait is in the strike zone for a greater period of time.

Photograph by Andrew Ragas. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas.

As Kenny Lookingbill indicates, bodies of water that are rich and abundant with sources of light are often the best places for catching nighttime crappies due to their abilities in attracting baitďŹ sh and the predators that soon follow. This is the quarry, site of his midnight massacre with friends during November, 2008.

Fishing Headquarters | Page 80


F A L L H O T S H O T S. Fishing-Headquarters.com Photos Closing out, we would like to showcase photographs from our website members and contributors that appeared on our website during certain points of this fall season. Ultimately, this end section of FHQ Magazine is destined for quality discards because due to articles and advertisements we had nowhere else in the previous space to place them. Photos and ďŹ sh porn captured during the Fall 2010 season.

Vilas County Wisconsin - During the last week of September, the shoreline was already changing colors. The Muskies loved it, and obviously our cameras did too. Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Photograph by Andrew Ragas. Fishing Headquarters | Page 82


Above - Website member and blogger, Jim Gronaw, with his personal best Largemouth Bass caught during the final week of September from a Pennsylvania pond. This fish measured 25-inches and was pushing 8-pounds! Below - Member, Hambone40, with a spawning Coho Salmon caught on the fly from one of southeast Wisconsin’s Great Lakes tributaries. You can read more of Blake’s fishing by visiting his blog at http://illinoiswisconsinfishing.blogspot.com/

Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Website member and North American traveler, DocEsox, was in the wilderness of Alaska on a Grayling and Sheefish trip during early September. Pictured here are his personal best Inconnu (Sheefish), both weighing in the range of 25 to 30-pounds apiece. In three and a half days of fishing, Brian and his friend caught and released over 100 fish. These unpressured and abundant fish were caught while wading the Kobuk River, 500 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska.

Fishing Headquarters | Page 84


After his Alaskan Wilderness Sheefish trip, DocEsox hit the road again and traveled cross-country to the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec. Here, he fished for world-class Muskies with guide, Mark Currie. Pictured is Doc’s biggest Musky to date, a 51-inch fish that weighed 38-pounds. It was caught while trolling crankbaits along a deep weedline. According to Doc, the whole experience was over in several minutes and his heart was racing. That’s what this trip was all about.

Fishing-Headquarters.com

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Website blogger and frequent contributor, Jim Gronaw, poses with a trophy Bluegill caught from the famous Richmond Mill Lake in North Carolina. Jim was fishing with his son, Matt, and treated him to a 30th birthday present that was filled with trophy sized Bluegill and Largemouth Bass from this intensely-managed private lake. You can read Jim’s article about the Panfish of Richmond Mill in the March 2010 issue of In-Fisherman Magazine.

Photo courtesy, Jim Gronaw. Fishing Headquarters | Page 86


W O R D F R O M T H E E D I T O R.

Did you like reading this? We certainly hope that you enjoyed reading the articles and looking at photos with captions as much as we enjoyed putting this first issue together. Over the course of this upcoming 2011 season, we hope to make eventual improvements to the content, layout, and ideas of this magazine so that we have all seasonal topics of interest covered for a large and diverse audience. In addition, if this first issue along with the next few releases result in a loyal following with an extensive readership, we hope to eventually make something out of this venture that could lead to a print magazine, job opportunities, profit, and more within the fishing industry. Until then, we will be a FREE internet publication. Thank you for reading this first issue of Fishing-Headquarters Magazine.

Andrew Ragas Editor In-Chief, Designer, and Owner.

Questions or comments relating to Fishing-Headquarters Magazine, and if interested in contributing, or sponsoring and advertising, please contact us at: info@fishing-headquarters.com Fishing-Headquarters.com

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September / October / November, 2010


Photograph by Andrew Ragas. Fishing Headquarters | Page 88


December/ January/ February Issue: • Winter Gold at Warm Water Discharges. • Deadbaits for Open Water Pike. • Icing Lake Michigan Harbor Trout. • Ice Rodeos with the FHQ Crew. • Tournament Tactics of a Champion. • Plus more! Expected Release Date: February 15th, 2011.

Pictured is Tony Boshold, renowned ice angler and resident of Chicago, Illinois. Tony has won numerous awards during his ice fishing career, including the 2005 NAIFC Championship, and 2009 and 2010 World Ice Fishing Championships with USA IceTeam. His article on tournament tactics is one of our headliners in the next issue of Fishing-Headquarters Magazine. For article and photo submissions and advertising, contact us at:

info@fishing-headquarters.com

Photo courtesy, Bill Lindner Photography.


Fishing Headquarters Magazine