If you filled that buck tag on opening morning, download Kris Kristofferson’s 1969 classic song “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” and grab a cup of coffee before continuing with this column.
The traditional nine-day gun deer season ends today. Lack of snow makes chasing pheasants a tough option. The big push of ducks has already migrated south, leaving cold open water instead of ice to fish, and you’re sitting there with the Sunday Gazette thinking “NOW what?”
Sunday mornin’ feels like it’s truly comin’ down.
But there is one solid outdoors option to explore in the week ahead, and it’s a good one: the hot sauger bite on Lake Wisconsin.
Fishing elsewhere in southern Wisconsin pretty much shut down right after Halloween. Lake Wisconsin has been a notable exception this month.
Water temperatures there were still hovering around 40 degrees late last week, goading walleyes and saugers into feeding with purpose driven by innate sense that winter is right around the corner.
Conversely, exceptionally cold ambient temperatures and a perpetual high barometer over the past couple weeks have pushed these fish into deep water wintering holes, where they are now congregated in amazing numbers.
High barometric pressure following cold fronts, which have been pushing through the area every 3-4 days, squeezes the air bladder of these fish, temporarily stifling the saugers’ need to feed until the next approaching weather system brings that barometric needle down.
A falling barometer is a major key to fishing success as we enter what may be 2017’s final week of worthwhile open-water fishing.
Wintering holes on Lake Wisconsin are located primarily along the old Wisconsin River channel in 22-30 feet of water.
Two deeper spots near Tipperary Point were exceptionally productive last week, but most anglers were congregating around the “community hole” near the Merrimac railroad bridge. Most of the deeper water in Lake Wisconsin is located from the Merrimac bridge south to the Prairie du Sac dam.
Good electronics allow you to locate the outside of bends in the old river channel quickly. The electronics will also show fish—so many fish that when you find ‘em you think those marks near the bottom are due to sonar malfunction.
The best way to trigger a strike is snap-jigging a half-ounce hair jig or jighead with a plastic Kalin grub—or with a blade bait like my signature series Echotail Teddy Cat. You can leave the minnow bucket at home. This is a reflex bite, not a feeding bite.
Color plays a considerable role in fishing success with Lake Wisconsin’s saugers. Obnoxious hues of orange or chartreuse are more visible to fish in this stained water.
Replacing the plastic which comes with an Echotail with one so colorful it would hold an acid-dropping hippie’s attention certainly made a difference here last week for guide Ron Barefield and me. Unfortunately, we were out there when a high barometric pressure was dominating the environment. We had to work pretty hard to catch a respectable mess of fish.
Even with the caveat that a meteorologist can be wrong more than half the time and still keep a job, conditions look favorable for catching a nice mess of saugers in the week ahead.
December may be an entirely different animal. We’re coming off two warm Decembers after two exceptionally chilly Decembers.
Sunday mornin’ may be truly comin’ down this time next week. There will be a few days less regret between now and spring if you launch the boat one more time in November.