Peck: 'Old wolves' return to Castle Rock
Gazette outdoor columnist
Several days ago I got to fish Castle Rock Flowage for the first time with my old pal Ron Barefield.
Both of us have fished “The Rock” at least once or twice a year for decades. But we couldn’t recall ever sharing this water from the same boat at the same time.
Barefield and I go fishing about 200 days annually. The first time we fished together was about 40 years ago, out on the Lake Waubesa ice—arriving at the same spot from two different directions. We’ve shared countless outdoors adventures since, some of which can never be chronicled in this newspaper.
We have both spent our entire adult lives in the fishing industry, Ron as a factory rep and guide, me as a guide and outdoor writer—fishing brothers from different mothers.
Last week the spinning wheel of life gave us the same day off. We decided to do what most pro anglers do when they get a day off: go fishing!
Ron didn’t want to fish the water he is on every day. I didn’t want to take him on my water, either. We decided to meet at the boat ramp East of Necedah on Highway 21, a riverine stretch of the Wisconsin River system between Castle Rock and Petenwell Flowages.
Fishing “new” water is always exciting, even though both of us were exploring Castle Rock in the days before those old “Fishing HotSpots” maps were new technology.
Drawing from a knowledge base from two different perspectives resulted in a productive day on the flowage in spite of generally tough fishing conditions.
Weather was nearly perfect. It was another sunny day in what has been a long string of sunny days. Lack of rain has resulted in very low levels in the Wisconsin River system throughout Wisconsin, resulting in challenging navigation conditions in riverine areas and almost stagnant water in the flowages.
Over a century of combined fishing experience told us that areas with at least a little current and nearby deep water escape cover would be good habitat to attract fish given prevailing late summer/early fall conditions.
Barefield recalled catching some quality largemouth bass under these conditions back in the early 1980s where the Big Roche a Cri Creek dumps into Castle Rock. We caught several nice ones here on suspending stickbaits and senkos.
There were a few small walleyes holding near the train trestle crossing just a short hop down the flowage to the south—a popular community spot, which folks who fish for a living try to avoid.
Barefield vectored slightly east to rip rap along the railroad bed, noting he used to do pretty well on smallmouth bass there. Siltation has degraded this habitat over the years. The few smallmouths which we caught had truly small mouths.
Although nothing was said, we were both thinking about muskies which are almost always cruising somewhere near the east wing of the Petenwell dam. It was like Barefield’s boat read our minds and just started moseying in that general direction.
There are multiple small islands in the upper reaches of Castle Rock flowage. Areas near islands often have small areas with just a hint of current flow with deeper water nearby. I knew of a couple such spots from fishing trips in years gone by. A couple of them held a pile of pike, several of substantial dimensions.
Conventional wisdom says a tandem spinnerbait is a great “search” lure under these conditions. We both tied on black baits without saying a word. I went with a Custom Carter Shaker chatterbait with a Kalin Sizmic grub trailer. It proved a productive choice.
We finally found ourselves at the east wing of the Petenwell dam. A respectable muskie swung and missed at my chatterbait. It swung and missed again at Ron’s spinnerbait a few minutes later then decided to skulk away.
We slid into adjacent deeper water, both tying on deep running crankbaits without saying a word.
When Ron’s rod bent almost double we thought it was the muskie. A few minutes later we were disappointed to see it was a mid-30s-inch pike.
Dusk was fast approaching. Time for two old alpha wolves to head back to their respective lairs and prepare for the next day’s fishing with clients.
Every day on the water is a gift. Spending a day on the water with a fishing brother from a different mother is as good as it gets.
Last updated: 11:45 pm Saturday, September 23, 2017