I have been fishing Wisconsin waters all my life. Some call me nuts, because I love to use light tackle under most conditions....especially those where most people tend to think heavier stuff is required. I have gear with line ranging from 2 to 20 pound test...mono to superline. I LOVE to fish Lake Michigan this time of year. Big Trout and Salmon, I typically use my ultra-light rods and reels loaded with 2 to 6 lb test mono. Fishing this war is far more rewarding than using heavier tackle, especially when the Browns and Rainbows are in harbors in numbers. Lure action is far more natural, and even in murky water seems to make a difference in the numbers of fish I hook into and catch. Rarely do I loose a fish to light line...more often when a fish is lost it is due to impatience. My favorite tackle is a 7 foot Light action rod, with an Ultra-Light Reel loaded with 160 yards of 6 lb test. This is what I cast with. For Live bait, it is either the 8 1/2 foot Ultra-Light rod and reel combo with 160 yards of 4 lb test ( a spare spool loaded with 2lb test for finicky days) and another 6 1/2 foot light action rod with a light reel loaded with 220 yards of 6lb mono ( a spare spool with 190 yards of 8 lb mono ). I have several experiences I would like to relay just from this year alone. First...I have groundrules that I use when fish big fish with light gear.
1) Always have plenty of spare line available. You WILL be run out on occasion..and having the line available can be a trip saver. I try and buy in bulk...3000 to 6000 yard spools will last a year or more ( unless you are careless).. I change line as needed...or once a month. Casting 3/8 oz spoons on 4-6lb line adds unusual stress that the line was not intended to endure and the shock of large fish hitting the line can quickly cause stretch and that can lead to line twist.
2) Dispose of old line responsibly...I have an empty wire spool from speaker wire, that I attach to a drill with a 3/8 inch bolt..2 washers and a nut hold the wire spool in place...and the drill can strip line off the reel as fast as a Chinook. Once a year I replace the spool with a new one, dropping the old spool at a recycle center.
3) SAFETY is always first...weather conditions and fishing location tell me where, how and IF I am going fish at all. Cold, Storms, Rain, Wind speed and direction can make the difference between a great and exciting time and a miserable or even tragic trip.
Further background about me will also help. I am a Severe Weather Spotter and a member of SKYWARN network for the County where I live. I have been fishing in Wisconsin since 1964 ( age 4 ) and lived most of my life in south-east Wisconsin . Milwaukee suburbs, as well as Washington and Ozaukee counties. I have one Line Class catch - and - Release World Record (National Fresh Water Fishing Hall-of -Fame, Hayward Wis.) for a Brown Trout caught on 2lb test on Lake Geneva...one of my favorite Smallmouth Bass haunts. I fish anything from small ponds to the Great Lakes...from shore and a boat ( 16 foot deep vee ). I love Panfishing, Bass Fishing, Trout and Salmon Fishing...well, just about all types of fishing! Through good times and bad...Fishing has been the one constant in my life that has kept me balanced. I have included a picture of the 4 fish in the story below, taken with my Digital Camera by my nephew.
First week of December was an interesting time. Big waves on Lake Michigan due to strong 15 to 35 knot winds from the southwest...which kept temps above the norm but made casting a little tricky from the location I had chosen. I like to fish the northern side of the main harbor channel. The entrance to the harbor is shallow, but as you move inland drops to over 30 feet in depth. I usually hang 2 lines with live bait. One on a slip bobber set to about 6 feet down with a minnow. The other about 2 feet above the bottom with a nightcrawler. I cast my 3rd line with a variaty of baits...spoons...spinners...plugs, depending on conditions. My Nephew Mike was with me on this trip, fishing with my Uglystick with 20lb mono...a minnow under a slip bobber, his medium action all around rod with 30lb/8lb diameter Spider Wire fishing just above bottom with a crawler, and casting his ultra-light with 15lb/6lb diameter Spider Wire. My nephew loves the durability of the Spider Wire...and the low memory. At the very end of my very first cast...as I was lifting the 3/8 oz red and gold Little Cleo out of the water I had an explosive strike on the lure...one which happened at the surface...and continued to the center of the channel. My nephew at first thought the fish had merely jumped directly beneath my feet...which were dangling over the water as I sat on the edge of the wall, but the bend in the rod told him otherwise. I shouted my typical "HEY MIKE" and and he responded " Yeah, I know". It took about 20 minutes, and 3 netting attempts to land the first fish of the day..a rare 6lb Atlantic Salmon...I have caught only 5 or 6 of these in over 25 years of fishing Lake Michigan...and it took a minute and some conversation with my nephew for me to figure what it was. Pound for pound I think an Atlantic outfights a Chinook...and definatly puts on a real show. Well...thats one I said. The strong winds from the west had the harbor choppy and the water murky...with about a foot of surface clarity. I feel the water a few feet down was much clearer, but with the murky surface layer light penetration was minimul. Up to that strike, i was unsure if I should use the easier to cast spoons, or deep diving plugs with rattles. Spoons it is. Over the next six hours, I caught ( besides the Atlantic Salmon) a 7 lb German Brown Trout, then a 7 1/2 lb Rainbow Trout...both quite a distance from shore...about mid retrieve, and finally a 9 1/2 lb German Brown which also hit at point blank range as I was lifting the lure from the water. We decided to call it quits...the temperature was dropping, my nephew had missed a hit on minnow and one on spoon that he had on for just about a second. My Nephew had been fishing the weekends there with me for a few weeks, and had seen that when I " Lightened up" in the gear I caught fish...repeatedly...consistantly.. This caused him to purchace his own ultralight outfit. There seems to be some correlation between the lure action and using mono or superline which we will continue to study in action. The 30 lbs of fish caught that day translated into meals for friends and family ( I LOVE to cook) and as gifts. This is my first Holiday Season between jobs, and my last job required so much time that I have used the time off to re-learn how to live again...I will be working again before long, but for now I intend to enjoy the Winter Fishing Season while I can. I may choose to enter some Fishing Tournaments in 2006, see if I can play with the "Big Boys" or not. Until then, maybe you will see me at the Lakefront...somewhere between Kenosha and Port Washington.
David A. T. Simon
Wisconsin Fishing Story by, David A. T. Simon