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Ted Peck

Outdoors talk with certified Merchant Marine Captain Ted Peck.

Peck: Luring fish in May

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Ted Peck
Saturday, May 13, 2017

My “Humminbird Helix 10” is a truly amazing “fish finder.”

Side-scan and bottom-scan features on this 2016 unit electronically remove water as a barrier in being able to see fish.

New products from Humminbird and Lowrance have taken technology to an even higher level. It is now possible to determine the species of fish hiding in the roots of a tree on a side-scan image to an angler with an experienced eye.

Young fishing pros that understood shiny objects before they mastered fishing with a baitcast outfit, certainly have more experience interpreting sonar images than this old dog—but for at least the next couple of weeks, old-school tricks like finding fish with “search lures” instead of electrical power can play at least even with any kid fishing out of an expensive toy.

A new generation of anglers is just discovering the effectiveness of lipless vibrating crankbaits like the Rat-L-Trap for locating fish in water so shallow that even the best electronics are of little value.

The primary drives in those scaly critters we love to chase are procreation and finding food. Both of these missions often find fruition in water less than five feet deep this time of year--within casting distance of the shoreline.

In many places across southern Wisconsin, today’s shoreline was last summer’s backyard. This is the third year in which high water conditions have become a fact of life—making tools like the Rat-L-Trap even more valuable.

This iconic lure has been around since 1964. I first started throwing it in the early 1970s when the water table was so low docks, which ran almost 100 yards out into Lake Koshkonong, were surrounded by mudflats instead of water. The deepest spots on the lake were less than six feet.

Back in the day the ’Trap, and the granddaddy of all lipless cranks, the Heddon Sonic, were the bomb on Kosh.

My small stash of Sonics hasn’t seen the water in years. They continue to grow in value as collectables. But the ’Trap is still hard at work and available in a rainbow of options now beyond the old blue-and-chrome.

The original blue/chrome and black/chrome are still good choices on any water across southern Wisconsin now. But a color scheme called “oxbow” works even better in stained water like Kosh and Lake Waubesa.

A purple/white pattern called “royal shad” is a multi-species killer on water with more clarity like Geneva or Big Green Lake.

I spent opening weekend guiding folks over on the Mississippi River south of Genoa, where boots are required to launch a boat at just about every ramp. There is no closed season on this water.

The Thursday before the opener, Don Scott caught a pair of 25-inch walleyes throwing the oxbow Trap. Opening morning, Tom Tittl caught an impressive 23-inch brown trout where the Bad Axe River dumps into the Mississippi.

Tuesday afternoon, Rory Nelson caught a 50.5-inch longnose gar, which is now in the freezer of a Manitowoc taxidermist.

The brownie, gar and more smallmouth, largemouth, white bass and pike than you could count have all seen the inside of my Lund in the past week after refusing to let go of a Rat-L-Trap.

Water temperatures all across southern Wisconsin are just now starting to warm into the low 60s.

In a couple of weeks, electronics will be a key in consistently putting fish in the boat.

But for the short term, you’ll catch more fish “Trappin” than staring at the electronic fish finder.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc.


Last updated: 11:43 pm Saturday, May 13, 2017


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