Ted Peck

Outdoors talk with certified Merchant Marine Captain Ted Peck.

Fishing activity still in full swing ahead of the start of autumn hunting seasons

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Ted Peck
Sunday, September 1, 2013

September is a time when many outdoors-types transition from fishing into hunting mode. Although doves and the early goose season both scream for personal participation, there are two fishing opportunities that must be addressed between now and month's end.

Lake sturgeon season opens Sept. 7 and continues through the end of the month. Ironically, the best lake sturgeon fishing is in rivers, most notably the Wisconsin River. Bag limit is one per year, with a free tag required prior to fishing for this prehistoric species.

An incident almost 40 years ago convinced me that a lake sturgeon was a creature I would never harvest. DNR fisheries biologist Gene VanDyke was new at the job. I had only been writing outdoors stuff for a couple of years.

A happy angler had legally harvested a big sturgeon. It was still alive, fanning in a kid's plastic swimming pool. VanDyke took a scale sample and determined the fish had been swimming since Chief Blackhawk roamed free. Such creatures deserve a natural death.

Thousands of four-year-old Chinook salmon are headed into Lake Michigan tributaries right now to complete their life cycle. Challenging these warriors to one more tussle seems a nobler end for these great gamefish.

For much of the year, these “king” salmon are not accessible to the common man.

Salmon fishing in Lake Michigan requires special gear—most notably a watercraft with dimensions of a young ship—to enjoy safely.

All you need for a serious shot at salmon success this month is medium spinning gear, a few spoons and a Great Lakes salmon stamp.

I'm particularly fond of blue/chrome Little Cleo spoons, but the Krokodile catches its share of fish. Large, deep-running crankbaits and the new Echotail blade bait will also work.

Wisconsin allows three lines. Many shore anglers cast with one rod, tossing out bait on a “deadstick” with one or two more wands. Spawn sacs are the most productive bait.

Pier fishing is a popular option at places such as Port Washington, Sheboygan and Racine. Many anglers leave the bail on their spinning reel open with a loop of line around a soda can as a strike indicator.

Experience teaches the value of not wandering beyond the distance of a long lunge from the deadstick to cast a spoon. A once-new, $200 spinning outfit, which was my pride and joy, is still gathering zebra mussels somewhere east of Port Washington.

Although dying king salmon are notoriously fickle feeders when they enter tributaries, fish staged in the lake near confluence with the Big Pond can be aggressive.

Some charter captains such as Racine's legendary Rich Gorske call these fish “screamers” for the sound an angler's reel makes when a king decides to strike.

Salmon are quite wary in shallow water. Best action comes at dawn and dusk. A flashlight mounted on a very large net with a very long handle is almost as important as a large capacity spinning reel if you actually want to touch one of these fish.

Grouse season brings the promise of a “cast-and-blast” option, which can quickly ascend to the status of an annual trip.

The public lands of Washburn County are flush with grouse this year. A variety of salmonids will be cruising close to shore just out from Sioux River Beach in Lake Superior, eager to slurp in a spawn sac and scream towards deeper water.

Autumn is a sportsman's sundae. September is the ice cream. October is hot fudge and a time to just go nuts. A booner buck that comes grunting in beneath a tree stand in a regal oak during peak rut in November is the cherry on top.

Lord, don't let me drop the dish in my lap again this year.

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

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