Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For August 24th, 2007 Edition.

For many anglers, August is often the most difficult month to consistently catch fish. Known as "the dog days of summer", August fishing is generally challenging and frustrating. Naturally, there are reasons for this.

Let's start with the food supply. To make it simple, by mid and late summer our lakes and streams are chucked full of food. There are minnows by the zillions, crawfish, and bug life of all kinds, which provides a smorgasbord of dining pleasure for the finny critters beneath the surface.

Next, let's consider water temperature. Most lakes reach their maximum temperatures between late July and September. Keeping in mind that warm water contains less oxygen than cool and cold water, fish tend to shun the shallow shoreline structure and shallow mid-lake structure, especially during daylight hours.

When fish move deeper they are more difficult to locate and successful anglers will need to discover structure in deeper, cooler water that understandably is also more difficult to locate. Fish holding structure is the key to dog day fishing.

Structure can be deep water beds of eel-grass, rock and gravel bars, (don't call them sunken islands, islands don't sink), piles of logs left over from the logging days, seepage areas containing very cool water, and "cribs."

Of all the foregoing types of structure I'd rate cribs as being the "ten." Cribs are also called brush piles or simply man-made habitat.

Back in the days of the CCCs, (Civilian Conservation Corps) many of our local lakes received crudely made cribs that were produced and sunk by the workers of this federal "make work" program. Most of these early cribs were simply bundles of saplings tried together with wire and weighted down with rocks. Generally, these cribs were produced during the winter months and placed on the surface of the ice. Often the ice shifted during "ice out" in the spring and many of the cribs ended up considerable distances from where they were intended to sink.

The most common type of cribs still visible today are what I like to call the "Lincoln log cabin" cribs. They are square or rectangular in shape, made similar to how one would build a log cabin. The interior of the crib is crammed full of limbs and brush, which are held in place by wire. Many of these were likewise built on the ice and weighted with stones or cement blocks, which would send them to the bottom of the lake when the ice melted. That is if enough weight was added.

I recall seeing some of these would-be cribs floating around a lake after ice-out due to a lack of sufficient ballast to send them to the bottom of Davy Jones Locker.

Another method of placing cribs in specific locations was to manufacture the cribs on the shoreline, then launch them and have each crib towed to a certain destination and then have the weights attached. That my friends, is the definition of work!

I was part of such a work project on Frank Lake about 25 years ago, which as far as I know was the last time any "official" cribs were placed in that body of water.

Making and sinking artificial cribs is governed by the DNR, which as one can imagine amounts to mega-bureaucracy. To be honest, presently I have no idea what the "rules and regulations" are governing building and placement of cribs. My guess is doing so in any form is illegal. But so is robbing banks, but some folks still do it.

So it is with cribs. In recent years I have noticed a marked increase in the number of homemade cribs in many of our smaller area lakes. Generally one will find home grown cribs approximately one cast distance from the end of a pier, especially a pier that has fishing rod holders attached to it.

The variety of these modern day do-it-yourself cribs is amazing. Building materials include old sections of docks and piers, junker boats, lawn chairs, treetops, and 55-gallon drums. Ah yes, necessity is still the mother of invention!

With lake water levels at an all time low, cribs are easier and easier to locate!

Many of the old time guides took it upon themselves to sink cribs in their favorite lakes, generally during late fall just prior to freeze-up, when no one else was about to catch them at work. The favorite building material was simple. Fall a lakeside tree into the water, cut off a good sized chunk of the crown, tow it to the desired location and attach large rocks or cement blocks to the treetop with copper wire and watch it sink. Last but not least was to triangulate the position and hope to remember the landmarks!

One such crib project went astray on an area lake some quarter century ago when two local guides decided to sink a crib in one of their favorite fishing holes. To sharpen their skills they ingested several strong doses of internal body stimulants before arriving at the lake of their choice shortly before dusk.

With axes ringing several medium sized maple trees were felled, tied together and towed behind their boat as the dynamic duo took turns pulling on the oars. Large rocks that had been harvested at the shoreline were wired to the bundle of trees and the boys had a celebration brew as they watched their project slip beneath the calm, placid waters.

Several days slipped by and the two crib engineers decided the fish must have located the new mid-lake condo. Eagerly they drove to the lake to begin the harvest. To their dismay visible in mid-lake were the tips of three maple trees, green leaves waving in the breeze. And two boatloads of lucky anglers were already out there filling their stringers with walleyes!

One additional warning about cribs needs to be registered. Don't use chain as an anchor rope. One nimrod did just that and dropped his anchor into a crib. The anchor became lodged in the logs and he could not pull it up! Nor could he cut the anchor line! The poor guy spent nearly a whole day baking in the sun until finally another angler saw him franticly waving his arms and yelling for help. A rescue mission was successful, but I never found out how he eventually salvaged his boat, anchor and chain!

Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin.   Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean,  both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide.   Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email:  or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.

Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here

Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger

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