Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hot Bite In Freezing Weather In Milwaukee Harbor

I had one of my hottest bites ever in freezing whether in Milwaukee Harbor Thursday, December 13. My friend Jeff Berg, guide Eric Haataja, and I caught fifty-seven browns, four steelhead, a two or three pound shad or moon-eye and a thirty-eight inch plus pike in five hours. The browns went up to 15 pounds plus.
We started with thumb nail size spawn sacks in chartreuse netting, fishing under the boat a foot off the bottom in 30 feet of water and we started catching browns. Then Eric cut up a skein of raw spawn into chunks about an inch and one half long and an inch wide. The skein was quite loose and we had to gob it several times onto the hook. It was much better at attracting bites. But, if we set the hook and didn't get a hook-up the skein would come off the hook and we would have to rebait which slowed down the catching.
To maximize the catching with the hot bite we began casting and jigging Berkley Gulp pearl white plastic jerk shad and chartreuse jerk shad, three to five inches long, on one-quarter ounce jig heads and we caught even bigger fish further away from the boat.
The jigging technique was to cast out and let the jig fall to the bottom. After it hit bottom, we would reel down close to the water and give a fairly quick lift of a foot or so, then reel down to keep slack out of the line, while letting the jig free fall. During the fall we lifted the rod back slowly and slightly to keep slack out of the line. This allowed us to better feel any hits in the deep water. After each drop we would again reel down close to the water and jig it again, remembering to lift the rod slowly and slightly to keep slack out of the line. If there was a hit and we didn't hook up, we kept jigging all the way to the boat and all the way up. Sometimes there would be up to three hits on a cast and sometimes they would hit next to the boat.
I was using a long rod with eight pound test Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon line and catching a lot of fish. Eric was doing even better with a longer, softer rod and six pound test. My friend Jeff was not catching as many and was using ten pound test. At my suggestion, Eric switched Jeff's rod to one with eight pound test and Jeff began to catch more fish. Sometimes we would have three fish on at once which made for some excitement trying to keep two fish away from the third fish which was being netted with one hand while the other hand held the rod.
We used several techniques to keep the rod guides from icing shut. When we reeled in we would hit the rod butt a time or two to shake off the water. When it eventually began to ice up we would dip the rod into the water and swish it back and forth to try to clear the ice, then after taking the rod out of the water we would either shake some of the water off or hit the rod butt a few times. Eventually the guides would freeze up and we had to use our fingers to pick the ice out of the guides.
Our ice fishing/snowmobiling type clothing was as critical as our tackle and bait. Here was what I wore:
• First Layer: Regular Jockey underwear and breathable liner socks.
• Second Layer: Heavy woolen socks and mid-weight breathable long underwear.
• Third Layer: Regular weight fishing pants and a very heavy flannel shirt.
• Fourth Layer: A Polar-Tech 300 fleece hooded sweat shirt and a fleece lined hat with fleece ear flaps.
• Fifth Layer: Gore-Tex insulated duck hunting suit of bib overalls and hooded jacket and ice fishing boots rated for sixty degrees below zero.
• Gloves: Steelhead type fingerless fleece gloves with mitten flaps to periodically put back over to warm my finger tips and three back-up pairs of gloves.
Safety was of utmost importance. Our boat had a good motor, a back up trolling motor and a back up kicker motor. We watched the weather forecast to ensure a day with light west or southwest winds. Before we launched the boat, Eric spread salt on the launch ramp so his truck would not slip on the ramp when it came time to pull the boat out of the water at the end of the trip.
We started fishing at seven o’clock and were back at the launch ramp by twelve thirty. I even stopped fishing periodically to sit down, rest, warm my fingers, drink some hot coffee and eat a sandwich.
It was a great day catching big brown trout with some bonus steelhead and a big pike that I will never forget.

Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Subject: My recent email and second email with attached photos from Milwaukee Harbor
Hi Jeff,
The guide has, on his website, a photo of the big pike he got and a few of the browns from our recent 57 browns and four steelhead day at the Milwaukee Harbor. But, I can't figure out how to attach it to an email. I don't think he wanted to say exactly how good the fishing was because it was almost unbelievable.

Sent: 12-14-2007

From: Eric Haataja
Yesterday was just awesome. Clients landed a bunch of really nice browns and a few steelies and I even got to fish from time to time. Crazy thing was in one cast I caught a really nice pike pushing 40 inches and the next cast I caught this pig fat female brown. We let all our big females go and kept one female steelhead for the smoker. The best bite was on 3-5 inch gulp minnows with jigs, casting them out. We caught fish on spawn as well but the casting bite ruled.
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