Braving the elements on fishing trip

If you have ever gone over the Highway 21 bridge that spans the Wisconsin River just east of Necedah you will see a large dam. That dam holds back the water that creates the Petenwell Flowage which just happens to be Wisconsin’s second largest inland body of water.

I live about a mile away from that piece of paradise and have to admit that I spend very little time on it, and I’ll explain why.

I am a syndicated outdoor adventures writer and I write for newspapers throughout Wisconsin and just into Iowa and Upper Michigan. I travel throughout this region on about 45 trips a year and when I come home I want to be a dad, hobby farmer and do my job as president of KAMO (Kids and Mentors Outdoors).

This week I put my 18-foot War Eagle in below the Petenwell Dam and spent 27 hours in it without getting out a single time. As luck would have it, a north wind with literally bitter cold would attempt to kick my butt.

Tuesday, March 21

High 40, Low 12

In my opinion some of the best fishermen that you will find are your locals that fish below the dams in the upper Midwest.

So, I launch my boat at 3 p.m. I have a pretty good idea where I want to set up shop which is on the east side of the river close to the long wall of the dam. There is a cold north wind blowing and I know that I better be wearing big-boy pants to make this a successful adventure.

My arsenal would include an ice fishing pole with a broken reel handle that I would use a slip bobber on with a 4-pound test line on it. I would work the standard jig and a minnow on other poles and the die-hard sliding sinker with a hook and a minnow on the bottom.

The first few hours were very interesting as I was catching “shorts” (walleye under the legal 15-inch minimum) and an occasional perch. I had a problem with the perch in that my fathead minnows were a little large and I was losing most of Wisconsin’s tastiest fish just below the surface.

About an hour before dark with only one other boat on the water I relocated to the middle of the river and kept catching shorts with a now total of eight walleye and about five perch. I have to admit by 9 p.m. the wind had actually become stronger and due to a screwup with me bringing the wrong anchors I was having a hard time keeping my boat in place.

More importantly, it was now 20 degrees and dark, and I was getting cold. I relocated back to the long wall with the hopes of getting out of the wind and that was not meant to be.

When I relocated I forgot to pull my rear anchor and once again realized that I am human.

About midnight without a single bit of action after dark I put my sleeping bag on the floor of the boat and tried sleeping. It was so cold and windy that sleeping was a total impossibility.

An hour before sunrise I was going to move back to the walleye hole and my 90-horsepower Etec started like a champ but my throttle was frozen up, so I used my electric motor. It was “shorts city” so I relocated to my perch hole and truly started really enjoying this trip.

My friends Bryce Kies, Noah Boissoneault and Bryce’s good buddy from northern California, Rob Herold, were fishing as well. Bryce is on spring break from UW- Madison and had met Rob last summer while building hiking trails in Alaska. Rob and Bryce having been fishing all week and having a blast and today Rob caught a 27-inch walleye.

This afternoon after missing several perch and having landed 32 shorts, I rigged my ice fishing rod with a Buck Shot jigging spoon tipped with a half a minnow.

Holy Moly was that the ticket to having a blast. My reel constantly wanted to fall off when landing a fish, which added to the challenge and remember this my friends, vertical jig this lure below the dams and if there are fish, you will have action.

I fished until just after 6 p.m. today to give me 27 hours in the boat and really felt like I manned up and most importantly had a blast just over a mile from my house.


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