Article from Post Crescent
Published 6:13 p.m. CT Nov. 1, 2016 |
Written by Gary Engberg, Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com contributor
Last week, I took a trip to northern Wisconsin to meet a good friend and do some muskie fishing. If the weather permits, I always go to Wisconsin’s Vilas County to meet long time friend and Hall of Fame Fishing Guide and Angler, Russ Smith, of Minocqua, Wisconsin for a day of fall fishing. Russ and I have been good friends for over thirty years and with all the guiding that we have done over the decades it’s difficult to get together. When you’re a fishing guide, it’s difficult to turn down money to fish with a friend considering the fishing and guiding season is so short. Then, we’ve also had the weather to deal with because who knows what kind of weather you’re going to have in late October and November in northern Wisconsin.
Russ Smith is also a muskie lure manufacturer making the Smity Bait which is an excellent line of muskie baits. Russ and his son, Jake, are the owners of the muskie bait company which has been on the market for over 30 years, and has cost them many a day of guiding when they have orders to fill for customers. The Smith’s still hand make all of their baits out of wood and do all of the work and air-brushing themselves in their Minocqua studio. From picking the wood that they can use in their lure production to fancy air brushing, Russ and Jake do it all. The Smity Bait Company makes many different kinds of muskie baits from jerk baits, deep diving baits, top water baits, and bucktails.
The muskie season is open until the end of November is northern Wisconsin, but some years the weather will freeze the Vilas County lakes up before the end of the season. I’ve had years where I was scheduled to fish with Smity and he had to cancel because of snow or the lake freezing up. But, not this season.
Russ called me up and asked if I’d like to come up and fish last week due to a late cancellation he had gotten. I had been telling Smity that I was ready to come up, if he got a cancellation before season’s end. That call did come and I was soon on my way with friend, Paul Frautschi, to fish muskies for a day on a couple of lakes just outside Minocqua. Russ likes to fish smaller lakes that have good weeds, lots of wood, a good depth and good size muskies. The four hour drive went quick because Paul did all the driving while I dozed off and read the State Journal. Russ said that we didn’t have to be there at the crack of dawn because his action had been coming in the late morning and in the afternoon. Paul and I arrived in Minocqua about 8:30 am and we were on the water by 9:00 am. The nice thing about fishing Vilas County is that there are dozens of good lakes in a very small area to fish. No matter what the weather was doing or what direction the wind was blowing from there are always lakes to fish in the Minocqua area.
Smity told us that we were going to fish a lake where he had caught a couple of 45 inch fish the week before that had already turned-over and still had some green weeds and a lot of good forage in it. Most, if not all the Vilas County lakes had “turned-over” already and the fishing had been good all fall. The water temperature was 52 degrees and there was a slight wind blowing from the northwest the day we fished. Russ doesn’t troll like so many muskie anglers and guides do in southern Wisconsin. He likes to drift and row over his hot spots while Paul and I casted jerkbaits and shallow running crankbaits to good structure. Smith has good electronics which he watched as we casted weeds, wood, and points that day.
Paul and I casted with St. Croix 8’ rods with Garcia reels spooled with 40 pound Power Pro line and a couple of feet of fluorocarbon line to the lure or crank bait. We made sure to do figure 8’s every time we reeled a lure close to the boat for any muskies that may be following our lures. We also had some nice suckers (use black suckers 12 to 15” long because they seem to work best) on floats with a rubber core sinker to get the suckers deeper in the water column while close to the boat for muskie follow ups.
We fished for over six hours without a strike or follow up, but that’s muskie fishing. You don’t catch a muskie every day! I called Smity a day after we got back home and he boated two muskies the day after Paul and I left on the same lake. But, that’s muskie fishing!
There’s still time to muskie fish in northern Wisconsin through the end of November and the southern counties are open through the end of December. We were disappointed that we didn’t have any action up north, but I’ll be back and who knows what will happen then? There were few other anglers on the Vilas County lakes and there is a week or two of good fishing up north until the season closes. Think about taking a trip up north to muskie fish and there also seems to be a good ruffed grouse population for a cast and blast trip before month’s end.
You can read more of Gary Engberg’s outdoor content at www.garyengbergoutdoors.com