Saturday, August 20, 2011

Late Summer Wolf River Smallies

By Duane Fronek

I’ve been fishing the Wolf River the last couple weeks. And the Smallmouth Bass action has been hot. The Wolf is historically known as trout water, the upper part at least north of the Menominee Reservation. Brown trout is the main target. But for me I’ve switched gears and got into hunting down big smallmouth bass on the Wolf. By big I mean 16-18 inches maybe 20”, they’re in there because I’ve caught them up to 18”, not overly that big compared to other areas of the state or even compared to the Largemouth. But these smallies or Bronzebacks as some call them put up one heck of a fight in the strong current of the Wolf, they make big Largemouth look like powder puffs when it comes to the battle. The smallmouth could probably whip their weight in wildcats, seriously they are a fighter but majorly overlooked on the Wolf.
A good example of a deep eddy around a boulder
My partner Volker landing a nice 16 incher

  I’ve been fishing the Wolf since the late 80’s mostly for Brown trout. But after hooking into a few big smallies they slowly got my attention. I know the Wolf pretty well from all the years of fishing it. And found the big smallies hang in the deeper eddys and holes. Fishing these spots you need to take caution on the Wolf. The current is strong and the deeper you wade the more chance of getting dumped and going for a swim.

  So what gear do you need for this type of fishing? Well first off, you can don chest waders and I do at times. But for me I throw on a pair of shorts and rubber boots. You’re gonna get wet fishing these guys so I look at it like go comfortably, chest waders are hot and when you fill them, it’s a pain. So I go light. I strap on a back pack for my tackle which is minimal, a bottle of mountain dew or 2, my camera, and my surgical looking forceps for removing hooks. My camera is in a Ziploc bag as well as my cell phone, never know when you may need to call for help.

  For a rod, use what you want in the med. to ultra light using atleast 6#-8# test line. My buddy is using that red Cajun line in #4 test and hasn’t broke off yet, tough stuff. My favorite line is Royal Bonyl but it’s not made anymore, at least I can’t find it. So I use Trilene Max, and it has been performing fine, I was using Berkley Iron Silk, but can’t seem to find that either anymore, at least it’s not carried around here anyway.

  For lures I’ve been using spinners in the size 2 range or topwaters in the 1/8 oz range. The Rapala Skitter pop is doing a dandy job smacking the bass as is a shallow running rapala. The spinners were doing fine early on but the topwater lures have been explosive, getting hits that send your lure 2 feet or so, or the explosive smash of a big smallie or sometimes the subtle suck it under. Either way it’s been fun. Fishing deep rapids with large eddy’s or stretches of deep water with weed growth along the edges seems to be the ticket, these spots provide a good food source with crayfish thick and abundant in the slow weedy stretches and in the eddy’s they prey on other fish like chubs or even trout. I caught a 17” that had a small brown trout in its belly. I usually catch and release but will keep a few for the frying pan, they are good to eat with a tighter grain meat than the largemouth, and ones feeding heavy on crayfish have a taste of crab which I like. A local lake I fish the smallmouth taste like snow crab to me, their also bigger in that lake, but the action and fight on the river is more exciting and challenging, fighting around logs rocks is tough on your line and you just never know when you’ll here that dreadful snap of your line being shredded in an instant.
 A nice stringer full
 Deeper slow water
20" from an area lake
 Sometimes the action is so fierce you get 2 on one lure,lol.

 You need to take caution wading in the Wolf, the rocks, boulders, trees submerged under the surface are a challenging but treacherous obstacles to be aware of. Many times I’ve taken a header into the strong current of the Wolf, and she is not forgiving. When this happens always get yourself positioned facing and your head upstream while trying to get up it’ll protect your head from smashing a rock and you can actually swim it out if you face upstream. I’ve recently twice now this past week took swims, once losing my small tackle box and once yesterday smashing my knee into a boulder. So pay extra attention to where you’re walking, and if you’re going to fish till dark carry a waterproof flashlight to shine the bottom as you walk, walking blind in the river is dangerous stuff.
Some areas along the Wolf are walkable from shore where you can take your son or daughter. As you can see in the background how rough the Wolf can be.

  A bonus to fishing towards evening is the chance at catching a nice snapping turtle, their good to eat and not hard to catch. When you see one swimming, just grab it by the tail and hoist it up, but keep it at arm’s length to keep from getting bit. I’ve caught 3 so far with shells measuring at 15”, that’s a good size turtle. I usually carry a plastic burlap bag in my backpack for these guys. Just put them in the sack and tie it shut with a piece of rope and drag it along on my way back to my truck, then kill it at home, then clean it. I guess I’ll have to write up on how to kill and clean a turtle. Their excellent table fare.

  Well any way I hope you enjoyed the pics and vids, and give the Smallmouth a shot if your ever on the Wolf you won’t be disappointed.     

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hot Summer Coyote Control

By Duane Fronek
Hot summer days don’t really bring visions of coyote hunting but more of fishing, swimming or just trying to stay cool. A friend of mine, Volker, had the permission and the go ahead to kill coyotes coming in to their dairy herd barns and calf pens. I had the privilege to go along and do some coyote hunting. The coyotes were coming in to feed on the occasional dead calves or cows that were put in an area to be picked up by a carcass disposal truck. Before the truck picked up the carcasses coyotes would come in to feed. If there were no carcasses that the coyotes were accustom to they would come in closer to the calf pens and open stall barns looking for a meal.
  The coyotes had become dependent on the free meal. So Volker and I would go to the farm around dark thirty or so and set up the ambush. And some nights the times would vary when we went, depending on the weather. One particular night was a thunderstorm ,so we decided to go out and setup behind the front. With the lightening still chaining across the sky we set up, the rain had stopped and the temp dropped quite a bit.Volker was setup with his Rem. 700 thumbhole .223 zeroed in to dilate the pupils on a coyote at any range. I was set up with my old faithful 700 Rem in .243 shooting a new load of an 85 gr. Speer soft point that Volker loaded up for me. Groups of .750 was the norm and plenty tight to kill a coyote in the dark.
  We set up in the tall weeds that ran along the lane along the barn. The lights from the barnyard lights illuminated the field the coyotes would come across to check the carcass dump. The light was enough that  we used binoculars to spot incoming coyotes. With the fur thin on the coyotes they would tend to glow in the light of the barnyard lights which made them easy to see.I’d like to make note that the fur was not prime for the taking, we were basically in there to kill nuisance coyotes, not to take fur. Sometimes whether we like it or not animals need to be taken out when causing problems regardless. I’d much rather take them prime, but that was not an option here.

  The first night out it was like a coyote hunters dream, coyotes coming in without so much as a care, no predator call was needed and wind didn’t matter, they were accustom to the sound and smell of people, trucks and noises
 The first coyotes came in maybe 10 min. after we setup The deuce pair came in from the west through a potato field The lead dog was 75 yds away with the trailer about 50yds behind her. I took her out with a neck shot that dropped her like a sack of rocks. Her accomplice trotted off maybe a 100 yds and stopped. I put the .243 to work on him putting him down, but he got up and ran into the poytato field and went down again and stayed there We couldn’t find him that night but the eagles and crows found him for us the next day.

Volker and I with a nights worth

After retrieving our first dog of the night, we settled back in our positions and not another 10 min. another deuce shows up. Volker lines up on the lead dog and I line up on the trailer, the bark of the .243 and .223 simultaneously complimented each other putting the 2 dogs down. We recovered mine at about 252 yds according to the range finder, and Volkers was about the 100yd mark, though we didn’t recover her either till a few days later because the hay field was about a foot or so high and a dead coyote is tough to find lying on the ground in thick alfalfa and clover. We set back in to our positions once again to see what the coyote world would bring us next, and sure enough in comes another which died of a fatal 85 gr Speer from the .243. The rest of the night was quiet after that.

  A week later we went out again , this time it was about midnight when we set up. A pair of coyotes came in from the north. But when I got the shot off I missed, yep, I do miss once in a while. But this pair wasn’t off the hook yet. After the shot instead of running off they just walked away like nothing happened. They were out there maybe 300 yds or so. Volker had a hard time picking them up in the scope, and I held off shooting again, because they acted like they may come back. I said to Volker that they’ll probably come back in but from a different angle to catch the wind better. Sure enough they came back in about 20 min. later from the east trying to pick up the southwest breeze. But they didn’t catch it soon enough, the .243 found it’s mark on the lead dog convincing the trailer to high tail it out of there. The rest of the night was dead. Volker and I would setup about once a week to let things cool off and to give time for other coyotes that were coming in to fill the void. As of right now it’s been pretty quiet there and looks like the problem is taken care of for now. But like a vaccum the the void will suck in more coyotes that will need to be dealt with.

  Night hunting requires a couple things, a good quality scope that gathers as much light as possible, a knowledge of what lays beyond in the darkness of your bullets path in case of a miss. A good battery operated spot light for those long shots if legal. Here in WI we can use a hand held light at the point of kill, but cannot shine looking for eyes, that’s where a good set of binocs comes in handy to spot coyotes coming in. We we’re using a Nikon, and an old pair of 10x50 sears that must have good glass because I could see just fine with them and there almost as old as me. My dad used them while working as a game warden back in the early 70’s I believe. But the most important thing is gun safety at night, be extra careful. And shooting at night and consistently hitting your mark takes practice at night. Having a good accurate rifle and optics is vital to make clean kills.

Tired eyes are common in night hunting especially at 2am

  Even the dog days of summer coyotes are like us, lay around trying to stay cool, but at night when the sun is down and temps are down, their on the prowl to fill their belly. Thanks for  reading and good luck on all your hunting activities.