Peck: Spooner area provides family-friendly fishing
Special to The Gazette
Rick Anderson may be the hardest working fishing guide in Wisconsin. Anderson specializes in panfish trips in the Spooner area, working out of a 24-foot pontoon boat—equipped with a galley.
“My favorite trips are with families,” Anderson said. “The Spooner area has many great panfish lakes, and a pontoon boat is a wonderful fishing platform for kids of all ages.”
Some guides clean fish for their clients. Anderson takes it one step further, frying up the catch and serving it with fries, rutabaga and cinnamon poppers while still anchored up catching fish.
Several times each summer Anderson treats folks from local retirement homes to a great day on the water, leaving wife Barb home to take care of business at the couple's AAA Sports shop, which in my opinion one of the north country's best.
Anderson goes to work each day with his first mate, Buckette, a chocolate lab, descended from his previous first mate “Buck,” which took up space on Anderson's boat “Gill Getter” for 15 years before moving on to wait for Rick at the Rainbow Bridge.
Although only a year old, Buckette gives new meaning to the term “laid back,” rising only to ham it up when somebody picks up a camera.
Anderson jumped in my Lund late last week while some work was being done on his pontoon boat, accompanied by Buckette, who took up residence on one of the boat seats with her chin on the gunwale. She hardly moved for four hours.
We fished Spooner Lake. Crappies, perch and most bluegills are just done spawning here, but quality punkinseeds are still hovering over nests.
Anderson had never heard of my "Perchanator" jig/fly, even though he's been a long-time friend of Dan "Bimbo" Gifford, who created this lure with my input. Gifford has legendary status amongst the panfishing fraternity for creating the amazing Bimbo Skunk, which at 1/80 oz. is considerably lighter than the Perchantor, which weighs 1/32 oz.
The slightly heavier weight of the Perchanator allowed Anderson and I to cast this lure, tipped with a waxworm, about 30 feet using ultralight spinning rods. It didn't take long to fill the livewell, as we were hooked up with doubles 12 times.
Most punkinseeds and bluegills in Spooner Lake are quality fish, averaging eight inches. Spooner Lake also has a tremendous population of largemouth bass and too many small northern pike, known locally as “snot rockets.”
Weed growth on this fertile fishery last week was still primarily submergent, topping out about 18 inches beneath the surface. These conditions practically screamed for a #4 Mepps spinner with a chartreuse/yellow/orange blade cast toward shore pretty much anywhere in this shallow basin lake.
Characteristics are quite similar in nearby Lipsie Lake, which has an almost identical biomass and is another great destination if you feel like going “catching” rather than working at “fishing.”
Every time I fish the Spooner area I try to target several different lakes. Last week Big McKenzie and Skunk Lake also got the nod. Muskies were the species of choice on both these lakes.
I “moved” a fish throwing a Northland bucktail on Big McKenzie, which to some muskie anglers is considered a successful trip. Skunk Lake lived up to its name by any definition, but it is a truly beautiful, secluded lake.
The Spooner area has an entirely different ambience than classic northern Wisconsin fishing destinations like Hayward, Eagle River and Minocqua—more family-friendly than hard core.
If your favorite fishing gear includes push-button reels and big round bobbers, you'll feel right at home on the panfish lakes of Washburn County.