Saturday, June 4, 2011

Memorial day.........

     My introduction to the Mississippi river began when I was old enough to walk, and I've been in love with this river ever since. My grandparents owned a summer home in Harpers Ferry and I can remember spending almost every summer weekend with my grandfather on the river fishing for everything from blue gills and crappies, to walleye and northern pike. So every Memorial Day, I spend at least part of my day fishing the Mississippi river allowing it to take me back to much simpler times in my life. And this last Memorial Day was no exception as I spent another day on pool 9 with Eric, a fellow Northeast Iowa Bass angler.
     We started our day on a large section of backwater fishing shallow weed beds. Eric began by throwing a spinner bait and I began by alternating between a pop-R and a spinner bait. Even at 5:30 in the morning I was quickly reminded of the forecasted winds for that day as we had more than a few waves chopping up the back of the usually quiet lake. It took roughly a half hour before Eric boated our first fish of the day which took longer than either of us expected. The emerging weeds and shallow depth looked like a perfect spawning area, but to our discontent, the first stretch we fished did not hold fish in any concentrations. We moved deeper into the back of the lake and found a few defined weed points and slightly deeper water. These points held a few fish as we both got bit around the same bush on a tube and a jig, but came up empty. We fished the area out with only a a few dinks to show for our efforts and decided to try another area with more current and considerably more weed growth. This new area didn't take long to produce as Eric boated a solid 2+lb largemouth on a spinner bait withing minutes. Shortly after that I boated my first keeper that exploded on a Berkly pop-R just outside the defined weedline. The whole area looked like it should hold fish with a shallow weed flat out of the current, just 20-30 yards away from a deep secondary channel. We again caught a few more small fish (and one enormous dogfish) as we finished this area, but nothing that would help the cause, so we strapped down the gear and decided to head down river.
     On our way down Eric punched the boat into what is usually a clear water feeder creek, but was surprised to see milky stained water throughout the area. We fished this area quickly, as Eric noticed the water temperature was almost 10 degrees cooler than our other stops, and with no luck and headed down the river a few hundred yards to the top of the Winneshiek. As the boat spilled out of one of the canals, we were greeted with another bass boat sitting one the area we intended to fish. So, we made short work of the area we had left to fish and decided to continue our trek down stream in search of more consistant fishing. We fished the top and bottom sides of a few points on our way down stream with a few fish here and there, until finally we found a solid concentration of fish. This area consisted of another feeder creek spilling directly into the river with 2' inside the creek spilling into a 3'-5' flat with a few large tree stumps barely sticking out of the water. Our first positive sign was bait fish holding behind each of the logs blocking the current. Just at the mouth of the creek we found the fish feeding aggresively, and biting on everything from spinner baits and crankbaits, to tubes and beavers. To be honest, the area was loaded with fish, but they were mostly 10'-12's. However, I did take my best fish of the day off a black with red flake 4" tube. This 2-3/4 to 3lb fish came directly in the mouth of the creek in about 4' of water. And, as we could see when we buzzed a spinner bait behind the current breaks, they were feeding on the bait fish holding in the area.
     As fun as consistantly catching fish can be, Eric and I both wanted to keep searching for bigger fish so we put the poles down and quickly traveled around the corner and into a partially flooded island cove out of the wind. Eric quickly noticed all the activity in the area, but realized it was carp and other rough fish making all the commotion. Regardless, the area looked solid with shallow, but cleaner water and fresh green grass patches springing up to the east of our boat and an immature lilly pad field to the west of the boat. Eric blanketed the weed line with a spinner bait and swim jig and I pounded the small lilly pad field with a modified Stanley Vibrashaft spinner bait. Eric quickly swept two solid 2-1/2lb fish into the boat and I added a third keeper minutes after that. As we made our way between the weeds and pad field we would pick up a keeper every 10-15 minutes, but what made this intriguing was the fact we were catching no dinks. These were solid tournament fish. As we made our way into the very back side of the island we were in very skinny water and spooking fish as we went. At first we thought these were the carp we'd seen jumping and moving around earlier, but Eric and I both realized these weren't very quickly when he hooked into a solid 3lb largemouth and I boated another solid keeper on a Rivers Edge Peanut Butter and Jelly Swim jig. This area was being used for spawning and the pad field on the outside was a staging area near deeper water. Even though the fishing wasn't fast and furious, we continued to pull quality fish from this area until my watch told me it was time to be getting back to the vehicle and heading for home.
     Eric and I began the day struggling to find consistent fish in areas we both thought would be holding various stages of spawning fish. But as it often plays out, we needed to move around from spot to spot to find areas with active fish. Even though we caught fish in two main areas, it was clear this was two different kinds of "active". The mouth of the creek had fish in the feeding mode with schools of bait fish holding behind almost every log and current break. The shallow weed flat and adjacent lilly pad field had larger fish, but they were reacting to baits in and around spawning beds. Regardless, we would have had a solid bag of fish on any tournament day, and in the process, learned a lot about how the fish were using the two different areas for different purposes.

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