I went out to the pole barn yesterday to put a trickle charge on the Lund’s starting battery and soon found myself sitting in this cold aluminum womb yearning for spring.
It will be at least a month before a trip to the Sac dam or Dells tailwaters can even be considered. Hopefully “fishing’s fourth season” won’t drag on to the point where we’re honestly thinking about setting tip-ups on opening day like we did on northern lakes back in 2014.
We are almost exactly one month into the ice fishing season in southern Wisconsin. The thrill of a new auger and trying out new lure designs has long ago worn off. This is the dead of winter. Fish activity is limited to a couple short windows early and late in the day.
These 37-degree days feel like T-shirt weather.
The best way to maintain a positive attitude is looking ahead. It dawns on me that the Lund could use some accessories like a tool caddy back by the stern and a couple more vertical rod holders.
Serious fishers can always use more gear. It dawned on me how fortunate we are to live in the Upper Midwest instead of some God-forsaken place like Nebraska or Kansas. Fishing is an integral part of life here.
My Lund was built in Minnsota. The ShoreLand’r trailer was assembled just south of there in Iowa. The Humminbird electronics and MinnKota trolling motor come from over by Milwaukee. Landing nets, minnow buckets and a bunch of other stuff come from Frabill, just down the road.
My Evinrude was built even closer to home, just 10 miles south of Janesville. The St. Croix rods were crafted just a couple hours north of the City of Parks in Park Falls. Northern Wisconsin is home to a bunch of lure companies—most notably Mepps which is based out of Antigo.
Many, many muskie lures are built in mom-and-pop shops in the north country. The first big toother baits I ever remember throwing are a Suick and Creek Chub Pikie Minnow. I have scars on top of my head from a big jointed Pikie from a fly-in trip to Ontario back in ’65.
The scars are a reminder of a lie my Dad told up on Delaney Lake. He said “Don’t worry, son, I won’t come any closer.”
Five minutes later, there was a blinding white light and I was wearing the jointed Pike across my bloody scalp.
A Google search turns up 16 fishing tackle wholesalers in Wisconsin. But there are dozens more tackle manufacturers than that.
Dan “Bimbo” Gifford created the Bimbo Skunk weighted fly after being tormented by huge bluegills on spawning beds on the Chetek chain near his home in Cameron. There is simply no better lure for bluegills made anywhere.
A couple years ago, Bimbo and I collaborated on a slightly heavier weighted fly we named the “Perchanator”. The overall color scheme is orange to mimic the fins of a yellow perch. It has a chartreuse stripe down the back like the original Bimbo Skunk, which mimics a small benthic macroinvertebrate found primarily on elodea weeds that perch can’t resist.
About the same time, Justin Blancher, a Racine firefighter who lives in McFarland, came out with my signature series “Teddy Cat”, a blade bait with a color scheme that resembles a willocat—a Wisconsin walleye’s favorite food.
The T.C. is an Echotail, which is a drastic improvement on Mert Wolf’s “Zip” lure. Wolf is from Prairie du Chien. His tackle-building genius is also behind the Mini Mert and Li’L Cecil—two killer ice fishing lures.
With so many angling opportunities in Wisconsin, it’s no surprise so many fishing-related businesses originated here.
With fishing generally tough for the next few weeks, now is the time for crafting and perfecting dreams and schemes.
Think I’ll call Mike Hughes, creator of a hand-carved crankbait he calls the “Wobbleknocker”.
Hughes put on a clinic in my boat with his Wobbleknocker a couple of years ago. Maybe he can be talked into a trade for a Teddy Cat and a couple of Perchanators.
Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoor columnist for The Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org