Last weekend I had the opportunity to fish Lake Winneconne for the first time. Fishing in the southern part of the state, to me, is a lot different than fishing up here. I grew up with our clear northern lakes as well as the darker flowages. But even what I would call darker water, such as Boom Lake and its backwaters, is nothing compared to some of the waters down south, especially in the heat of summer. Luckily, it hasn't been that hot for an extended period of time, so the algae that seems to be everywhere later in the summer was not present.
However, it is the season for everything in the world to bloom. I do not think I have ever seen so much "cotton" on the water as I did in the cuts on Lake Winneconne last weekend. In places it was impossible to fish for more than a few minutes at a time. Then we would have to stop, peel the sticky white goop from everything - our line, our baits, reels, rod eyes - that stuff just gets everywhere. So that was something with which I had not had to contend with for the most part in my fishing life, at least I do not remember having it be that bad up here previously. I am fairly sure my new fishing partner was ready to throw me out of the boat more than once for singing Roy Clark's "I Never Picked Cotton," at random intervals throughout the day. But I could not help myself. Luckily he is an understanding individual who tends to put up with all of my oddities in the boat.
Another thing, and many of my angler friends laugh at me for this, with which I have not had much experience is carp. In fact, several years ago when I moved to Minnesota for a short time and lived in the Rochester area, I caught my first carp. It was the first one I had ever seen.
Last weekend, every cut we went into, there would be carp splashing and thrashing along the shoreline for about the first half of the cut. Once we got past that action, there would be bass further back.
The water was muddy and dark in some of the cuts where we fished, so seeing into the water was difficult. Before I even thought about carp, or that they might be in these cuts, I was hopping a craw imitation back to the boat when I saw this massive shape of a fish following my bait. My heart went into overdrive. It had to be over five pounds! This was going to be our kicker fish, for sure.
I moved the bait slow, watching the fish follow. I assumed it to be a big largemouth. That is really what I thought it was - right up until it got almost to the boat and I realized the error in my ways. I ripped the bait out of the water right before that ugly carp grabbed it. I would be lying if I said my heart did not sink a bit when I realized the fish following my bait was not what I thought it might be.
Other than the carp and the cotton (it seems like there might be a song there, too), fishing really was about the same as it is here, if maybe a little further along. Once we realized the bass were farther back in the cuts, we could move fairly quickly through the first third to half of each one. That helped us eliminate some water. We would still fish through there, but at a faster pace, spending more time where we felt the bass were.
I caught our first keeper early on with a craw imitation. Several more shorts lead us down the wrong path of soft plastics for a bit, but when that action died, my partner turned to top waters of various types.
Although they were difficult and tedious to use with the cotton and other pollen on the water, they produced. By 10:30 we had our limit and were culling fish. I switched to some "big fish" baits and played net girl for the rest of the day. I caught a few more shorts and, by the end of the day, I was calling my partner King Hammer Handle due to all of the small northerns he had caught.
In the end, we wound up about mid pack, with just under 11 pounds for the day. But we did bring in a limit in only our second tournament together as partners. We never did find our kicker big fish we needed to make it farther up the leader board, but it was still a good day. We made some good decisions and we figured some things out, which is the name of the game. Our next tournament will be in a couple weeks on Lake Nokomis, closer to home and a fishery with which I am much more familiar. I am looking for good results there.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.