Tag Archives: Southeast Wisconsin

Late Summer Walleye Trolling Southeast Wisconsin

Late Summer Walleye Trolling Southeast WisconsinLate Summer is an opportune time to explore new, potentially productive waters in Southeast, Wisconsin and trolling is an effective technique for targeting big walleyes.

The particular lake we chose to fish receives moderate pressure from anglers and recreational water sports enthusiasts throughout the summer months.

BUT as the summer begins to wind down, the lake becomes less pressured and trolling several lines targeting deep water walleyes is a great way to reap rewards and scratch that exploratory itch!

As a fishing guide who has been on the water this season for 195 hours since the opening weekend in May, exploring new water with a willing client is a refreshing way to pass on the enthusiasm and excitement  that comes from the sport of fishing!

While these “go for broke” missions aren’t always successful, the following video highlights the fact that these trips can ramp up an anglers fascination for the sport when hunches about a fishery are confirmed!

As a BONUS HOT TIP: I Highly recommend that if you’re in the Southeast, Wisconsin area and you’d like to get confidence in trolling for walleye during the summer, target Lake LaBelle in Oconomowoc to gain confidence in the technique!

Nothing SMALL About Pre-spawn Smallmouth Bass

Nothing SMALL About Pre-spawn Smallmouth BassPre-spawn smallmouth bass are some of the most entertaining fish to target with young kids as it’s a great time of the year to get into some big ones!

From the beginning of May until the first part of June, img_1149Smallmouth can be in any one of the 3 phases of the spawn (Pre-spawn, Spawn, Post-Spawn). As water temperatures enter into the upper 50’s-lower 60’s and a full moon period is looming, BIG smallmouth bass will come up onto the shallow flats (5-8 ft. of water) on our Waukesha County lakes to prepare for their annual spawning rituals.

Before they’ve locked onto a bed, they’re typically feeding img_1174very aggressively throughout the day looking to put on that final weight needed to spawn. Big males will need all the nourishment they can get as their role, once the eggs have been dropped in the nest, is to protect the nest from predators smaller panfish, carp, etc. This means they’ll be locked into one area without the opportunity to feed for up to several weeks.

Guide trips during this time of year finds HookedUp101 anglers throwing 3 specific baits in order to target aggressive smallmouth bass:

  1. s7_124921_renderset_05Spinner Bait: A spinner bait is a great search lure to fan cast across shallow spawning flats in search for active fish especially on breezy spring outings when passing storm fronts have put fish on the feed! Shallow sand, gravel, and rock flats with elodea, are a great place to throw a spinnerbait as the combination of cover and bottom content serves as the prime real estate for crawfish and minnow schools in the spring! It’s even better to start your spinner bait chucking if these underwater elements are present on the north end of the lake as that portion receives the most sunlight this time of year. Where there are crawfish and minnows…There WILL be smallmouth!
  2. s7_119074_renderset_16Jerkbaits: As mentioned above, smallmouth bass on a given lake can be in any one of the 3 phases of the spawn during the spring. A jerkbait is a cast and retrieve bait that mimics a bait fish (i.e. perch, ‘glass minnow’, etc.), Suspending versions of a jerk bait are great at tripping a smallmouth’s trigger no matter the the mood of the fish. The reason being, that during the retrieve, the HookedUp101 anglers can wind, jerk, and pause the jerkbait aggressively or subtly targeting the smallies that are pre-, post-, or in the midst of the spawn. The key to a jerk bait this time of year is that pause. When it is deliberately used in the cadence of a retrieve, smallmouth often erupts on the bait!
  3. Jig and grub tailJig-n-grub tail: Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this combination for spring smallmouth. The jig-n-grub tail  has been fooling big smallmouth season after season and the main reason is for it’s versatility. It can be cast and retrieved steadily like a spinnerbait, albeit it a bit more subtle of a profile. It can be brought back to the boat erratically like a jerkbait and elicit the same rod jarring reaction strike from that jerk and pause retrieve. It can also be fished vertically through the water column with a rise-and-fall action imparted by casting the jig-n-grub out onto the flat or parallel to the break. After letting the bait fall to the bottom, the kids simply pull up on the rod without reeling to get the bait to dart off the bottom, and then reel down to take up the slack line thus letting it fall enticingly back to the bottom. This is repeated all the way back to the boat. The darting bait and soft flutter of the tail on the way back to the bottom, gets the attention of the fish, and when they see it acting helpless on its decent to the bottom, smallmouth can’t stand passing on an easy meal and they gobble it up!

img_1164If you’re out on our Southeast, Wisconsin lakes looking for big smallmouth in the springtime. Give these 3 baits priority in your fishing approach and you’ll likely be rewarded with some nice ones!

Looking to learn a few techniques as it relates to catching bass on one or all of the mentioned baits in this post?

BONUS TIP: Another great lake to check out during the smallmouth bass, pre-spawn period is Lake LaBelle in Oconomowoc

Cold Front Crappie Fun in Southeast Wisconsin

“VARIABLE”–YEAH…That’s the term that most appropriately sums up the spring weather in Southeast, Wisconsin lately.

At the time of this post, we’re waking up to 38 degree air temperatures and a frost advisory  during the 2nd week of May!

Just last week we were in the low 80’s during the day! However, even when air temps are predicted to be warmer, they always seem to be the windiest days of the week.

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The first two trips of the 2015 game fish season have yielded ANYTHING BUT game fish as a result of these pesky passing cold fronts that always seem to included a bunch of rain.

It’s been quite a different result compared to last seasons start that saw clients routinely hoisting bass, pike, and walleye into the boat with relative ease.

Eric Crappie

In order to still experience some fishing fun, we’ve changed locations and changed the fish that we’re after!

Let’s chase some Crappie!

1Crappies will provide the first fast action after ice-out in S.E. Wisconsin. When game fish have us frustrated, we always seek lakes containing darker or stained water in shallow bays (1-5 feet of water). Just in case in order to chase these larger of the panfish species!

Chilly water temps from heavy cold spring rains can often provide help as they stain the bays on lakes with a reputation for being crystal clear thus allowing us to search for crappie up shallow.

These darker, stained waters provide the perfect environment for early spring cold front crappie as they heat up the quickest.  A general rule of thumb is to start our search in the Northwest bays of the lake as they generally will receive the most sunlight in spring.

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mick crappieIdeal water temps that typically have male crappies moving up in schools are in the mid-50’s. This top of the food chain panfish typically spawns in 60-68 degree water and that’s when you can find the schools that contain the larger “slabs”, referring to the egg-laden females.

Once an area of the lake is identified as a productive crappie location, look to hone in on the first subtle drop-offs in the bay from 6-8 feet of water as crappies will form their beds/nests deeper than other panfish.

If you can also find clumps of weeds adjacent to the drop off as highlighted in the 2nd photo below. This is another area to focus your efforts!


As a general rule, when the crappie action is hot and heavy the best fishing and time to target the bigger fish is in the early morning hours of sunrise and later in the evening as the sun is setting. There can be flurries of fast action from aggressive fish looking to gorge themselves in these lowlight conditions.


A great tactic to approach these high percentage areas for crappies is to drift across the bay with the wind while fan casting baits.

During our recent trips we’ve relied on the following set up for casting for crappie:

If you’re finding the game fishing tough over the next few weeks, bring along the crappie gear suggested above and don’t be afraid to change gears and target these larger panfish. Keep the fishing fun by hoisting a few slabs to beat the spring cold fronts!

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 4.57.29 PMBONUS TIP: Another strategy to add to this information is to first begin looking for smaller lakes that warm quicker for Spring Crappie Action!


Pike and Panfish in Southeast Wisconsin

The weekend prior to Presidents’ Day saw temperatures in Southeast, Wisconsin plummet and a windchill advisory take effect causing temperatures of nearly -40 below zero!

Pike and Panfish in Southeast WisconsinA break in the weather came Monday and fortunately University Lake School scheduled their students off for Presidents’ Day so Nick and his brother Matthew were able to get some quality ice time in with good friends Aaron and Sam.

Nick took an ice fishing trip last season with his in-laws from Georgia and caught some fish! Let’s see if Nick’s ice fishing excursion pays off with some fun here as well!

This guiding adventure took place on a small 70-acre lake in Waukesha County. The chosen body of water we visited features seemingly endless 5 foot weed flats with a distinct 12 foot hole in the middle.

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img_0724During this transition from the mid to late ice period, the lake’s panfish population looks to suspend  about 10-30 yards off the weed flat over the deeper water from 6-8 feet down. Crappies, Sunfish, img_0746and Bluegills were targeted by the group using Vexilar Sonar Technology in each of the Clam Hub Shelters. The Vexilars were instrumental in allowing the boys to successfully target the ‘fish feeding zone’ in the middle of that water column. As soon as their small jigs (1/32 and 1/64th oz.) tip with wax worms or spikes came to a rest the fish would soon appear slowly like green, sneaky ghosts!  Once committed to bite, however, their strikes were sharp and quick to put a bend in the rod and a few even pulled some 3 lb. drag!

Teams of Aaron and Nick in the Clam Base Camp Thermal Hub Shelter versus Matt and Sam in the Clam Summit Hub were formed in a panfish show down! Aaron and Nick would scream for joy when hooked up with another fish and a corresponding announcement of their current total score followed by a rebuttal…the banter sounded something like this…

“We got 9!!”

“Yeah well we just got our 10th…better get your jigs back down..HA!”

In the end I believe the score was 12 to 13 or wait…was it 13 to 12?! Either way this team of boys who enjoyed some ice fishing while off from school iced a total of 26 panfish! Not too shabby!

img_0725As an added bonus to the features of this lake and the time period we fished it, was not only that we had the lake all to ourselves, but the Northern Pike pull from the relatively expansive weed flats to the edges of this 6-8 foot break positioned peering out at the abundance of forage suspended over that 12 feet of water. Strategically placing tip-ups just off the flats in 10 feet of water with large shiner minnows hanging 2-3 ft. off the bottom, the boys were able to go 1 for 4 on Pike during their 3 hour trip.

Here’s a short, yet ‘bumpy’ video of Sam’s Pike catch of the trip with Matthew!

Working for Walleyes in Southeast Wisconsin

This past Saturday, HookedUp101 put in some miles working for walleyes in Southeast Wisconsin.

A  productive walleye location on a 700 acre lake was the destination, but given the early ice period and that fact that it’s a waiting game in regards to safe access as client safety is always job one!

Not only must an angler remain patient, but they must be determined and willing to work hard by lugging the necessary equipment to the high percentage walleye structure provided in order to achieve ultimate walleye success!

Things might be different if motorized transportation were available, but to add to the ‘walleye challenge, these walleye factories have rules in which no motorized vehicles (cars, trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc.) are allowed onto the ice.

So the job as the guide was this:

1) Ensure we could make it safely to key 100 yard stretch of deep rock (16-24 feet deep) that runs parallel to a lush, green weed edge notoriously known as a walleye highway.

2) Lug all the gear necessary to pinpoint and target these walleyes 1.8 miles out onto and hour in advance with

I ventured out an hour earlier than the onset of the trip exactly 1.8 miles with a life jacket, spud bar, ice safety picks, Waukesha County Ice Fishingthrow cushion and rope.

This process requires an angler to diligently check the ice thickness along the way.

A smile broke across my face as I arrived successfully at my waypoints on the handheld GPS…we can make it!

I quickly backtracked the 1.8 mile journey to the lake’s access point to meet my client and get all the gear packed into 2 sleds.

With approximately 100 lbs of gear (Portable Ice Shelter, Vexilar fish finders, Minnow Bucket, Power Auger, Tip-Ups, Jig Rods, Propane heater, a couple 5-gallon buckets, etc.) we made the 1.8 mile walk back out to fish just before sunset/prime-walleye-time.

Vexilar1We used the GPS, Power Auger, and Vexilar to pinpoint the exact holes we wanted in 16-24 feet of water with a hard bottom, and a hint of weeds those weeds.

Not long after the tip-ups were put in, we had the first tip-up flag of the night spring to life. Eric quickly scurried from his jigging position to begin his battle with the first walleye of the night. His hook set was flawless and some decent weight at the end of the line was accentuated by some nice hefty head shakes. Unfortunately half way back to the hole, the line went limp and the fish came unbuttoned! BUMMER!

Soon we had flag but this one was a false alarm. Jigging for fish found us only marking a couple more fish that we were unable to coax into biting.

Ten minutes left in the trip and Eric raised a solid mark on the Vexilar indicating a nice fish moving off the bottom…his jig rod doubled over as a nice 22″ walleye completely inhaled his bait. He fought it patiently as it peeled drag near the hole, and when it seemed ready I reached in and hoisted his fish onto the ice!

After a walleye like that, lugging all the gear back ANOTHER 1.8 miles through the slushy, snow-capped ice was more than tolerable now that we had a nice photo memory to share!

SAFETY NOTE: Click to learn more about the essential ice fishing safety tools utilized for this ice fishing adventure

Youth Spend Time Chasing Fish Through the Ice on Pewaukee Lake

Twenty-one students, ages 6-12, ventured onto Pewaukee Lake after school to expand their ice fishing knowledge beyond the basics.

Pewaukee After School Ice FishingPewaukee Elizabeth FishingPewaukee Perch

Their experiences included the opportunity to jig for panfish using the latest in sonar technology from Vexilar, and strategically locating productive areas on the east end of the lake to set finesee tip-ups for Crappie and Walleye after dark.

Vexilars on PewaukeePewaukee Tip-up Pewaukee Walleye

The action-packed and often humorous sessions contained anywhere from 4-6 students each night who invested their time from 4:30pm-6:30pm 2-nights a week throughout the month of February.

Nolan Pewaukee PerchConnors panfish from Pewaukee Lake

During the various group outings, the students faced the elements head-on ranging from warm and slippery glare ice, to blizzard-like conditions.

Through it all, 80% of the students enrolled in these ice fishing opportunities with HookedUp101 caught at least one fish for their efforts and every student shared two unique learnings at the conclusion of each session that they hadn’t previously known related to the sport of ice fishing.

Allie and Kaylees Pewaukee Lake CrappieAJ and Connors Crappie from Pewaukee LakeCrappies in the blizzard on Pewaukee

Some of the added benefits that can’t be denied were the fact that many new friendships were made amongst the groups, cabin-fever was successfully treated by a few students, and one group got to spend time as an extended family doing something new and exciting in the great outdoors with his cousins who were in town for a spell.

To receive updated ice fishing information on how to secure a similar experience for the anglers in your family, please visit the following link:
Ice fishing for kids in Southeast, Wisconsin

New Friends on Pewaukee LakeCousins Catching CrappiesFishing in a snowstorm on Pewaukee Lake