Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For August 21th, 2009 Edition.

During my weekly Monday appearances at the St. Germain Flea Market , where I set up my tent and offer my written banter for sale, I receive much pleasure from visits and conversation I share with many individuals, some of which are friends, acquaintances and strangers. Our verbal exchanges span a wide range of subjects, most or which relate to the out-of-doors and the natural world. I often field questions concerning the foregoing - some of which I can answer and many of which I can't. But I genuinely enjoy my many visitors and hope the feeling is mutual.

One frequent reoccurring theme I have listened to and responded to is comments and questions concerning the overall below average fish catching success many anglers are experiencing this summer. I fully realize "fish catching" is a subject containing countless opinions, theories and myths - as well as volumes of printed information published by "x-purts" on the subject. I freely admit I do not consider myself one of those self-proclaimed experts.

Many years ago, during a one on one discussion with legendary guide and inductee into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, Porter Dean, I asked him a specific question concerning a local lake and complimented him by suggesting he was an expert on the subject. Porter quickly and boldly proclaimed, "Nobody is an expert on the subject of catching fish! And if they say they are they're a liar!"

Porter went on to explain the reason for his comment in detail, which left no doubt in my mind he was totally correct in his opinion.

So - with that introduction - what follows are purely some of my personal opinions as to what possibly is contributing to the less than average "fishing success" I'm hearing so much about week after week this summer.

I don't need to remind folks we are having a very cool summer complicated by wild mood swings in weather conditions. Water temperatures in area lakes are eight to ten degrees lower than they should be at this time of the year, and it's a condition that has plagued anglers since the opening bell in May!

Fish, being cold-blooded critters, have their lives regulated by the temperature of their environment. Cold-blooded creatures feed less when they are cold, as their metabolism slows down when it's chilly causing them to eat less.

Another factor that greatly reduces fishing success is wind. Strong, gusty winds make the act of fishing much more difficult and challenging. Boat control becomes a problem as well as lure presentation. Wind direction also influences fish feeding, although many anglers find this fact hard to believe. We have had an over abundance of strong, raw, chilly, northwest and westerly wind this summer, which occur after the passage of a cold front. Fish feed more actively at the approach of a front, and then fast for up to several days after the passage of a front. The meaner the front the more effect it has in reducing fish catching success.

Over the past six decades I've spent on the water I've kept a daily diary of my fishing adventures, now numbering well over 5000. One item I've recorded in detail is "weather conditions." It has become very clear to me that fish-catching success is the greatest when the following combination of weather conditions occurs during the summer season.

Warm southerly winds of low to moderate velocity laced with humidity. Long periods of consistent weather patterns. Daytime highs ranging from the upper 60s to the mid 70s. Partly cloudy, cloudy or hazy skies.

Local legendary trout angler, Neal Long, once proclaimed, "If the flies and mosquitoes don't bite, neither will the trout." I've found this opinion holds true for most species of fish during the warm summer months when those flying, biting bugs are out and about. I've also become aware that biting bugs most frequently make their appearance during periods of high humidity and approaching weather fronts.

Another situation that has contributed to less than average fishing success affected certain species of fish in many area lakes during their annual spring spawning season. Each species of fish spawn during a specific range of water temperature, which opens a window of opportunity that only lasts for a short period of time. Should the water temperature not reach the required level during the window of opportunity the females will not deposit their eggs, and likewise the males will not release their milt.

The retained reproductive eggs and milt will slowly be re-absorbed by the host fish over the course of the summer, which greatly reduces their desire and need to feed actively. In many of our area lakes that scenario is presently being played out by crappie, blue gills, both species of bass, sunfish and rock bass.

I am still finding egg sacks and milt in those species in many of the lakes I've fished recently.

Yet another situation that contributes to less than average fishing success, that is frustrating anglers who fish generally small, landlocked lakes throughout the north, is low water levels. Most of our small, landlocked lakes are severely suffering from the ongoing drought, which has resulted in water levels being anywhere from several feet to six or seven feet below normal levels! Structure that once held fish populations are now high and dry on the beach or located in water too shallow to offer satisfactory housing and feeding areas for the resident fish populations.

Anglers must consider ignoring "hot spots" they've fished in the past and search further out in the lake for new, deeper structure in order to locate fish.

In conclusion I'd like to offer a few suggestions that have helped me fight through a difficult fish catching summer. Fish deeper, fish slower, fish with smaller bait and lures, and use light line and sensitive rods. My companions and I have had good success recently using small leeches, and small sections of nightcrawlers combined with four or six pound test CLEAR mono lines and 1/16 or 1/32 ounce lead head jigs fished vertically right on or next to the bottom.

If nothing else, I'm sure my comments and opinions will ignite some lively discussions this coming Monday!

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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