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Beyond walleye, pike and bass: Fishing to build memories for life

Sometimes the smallmouth bass is more like a memory maker than a fish, such as this trip for father and daughter, Dale and Sara Bowman in northern Wisconsin.
Credit: Dale Bowman

MINOCQUA, Wis.–Where do you start building lifetime outdoors memories with your kids? Is it getting your 15-year-old daughter up at 4:30 a.m.? And she got up.

I don’t know the general answer, but I know what stuck Friday fishing with our daughter Sara. Guide Kurt Justice and I talked about doing this for years. We finally juggled schedules, no snap with modern teens.

Kurt Justice caught both the first and biggest walleye of the day on Crawling Stone.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman
Kurt Justice caught both the first and biggest walleye of the day on Crawling Stone.
Credit: Dale Bowman

We began fishing Crawling Stone shortly after 5 a.m.

A pair of bald eagles floated over as we set up to walleye fish. Two loons wailed sporadically behind us.

Justice had us work jigs and leeches over weed tops.

That method is not child’s play, but Sara, a decent fisher, picked it up quickly. Her first catch was a largemouth bass.

Frankly I didn’t give a damm if I caught anything. I wanted to see her catch fish; and she did. Any mom or dad, uncle or aunt, grandmother or grandfather, knows what I mean.

Justice had us using St. Croix rods with 8-pound Stren MagnaThin with 1/16th-ounce Slo-Poke jigs (firetiger or gold). In weeded areas, he favors Jack’s Weedless Series Jigs.

We fished much shallower for walleye, shelves in 6-10 feet, than I expected in late summer.

Sara Bowman holds one of the keeper walleye caught on a memory-making trip to northern Wisconsin.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman
Sara Bowman holds one of the keeper walleye caught on a memory-making trip to northern Wisconsin.
Credit: Dale Bowman

“Walleye come up to feed on the yellow perch and, same as the smallmouth, they like to be close to deep water,’’ Justice said.

Walleye bites can be deceptive, so I was happy when Sara caught a keeper of 17 1/2 inches. Justice caught the big walleye of the morning, 19 3/4 (just under the slot).

In a few hours, we fished three similar areas, boating two keeper walleye, five rock rock bass, five bluegill, 25 largemouth and five smallmouth.

Ah, smallmouth bass, my favorite fish.

Sara latched into the first one of the morning. It was a doozy, what we call a picture fish in my business, of about 4 or 5 pounds. But it was more than she could handle and it busted off.

More importantly, she learned how to handle smallmouth, and boated several more, though not quite as big.

As good as those numbers sound, Justice wanted to chase more walleye, so we switched to the Rainbow Flowage.

The iconic look of the Rainbow Flowage.<br>Credit: Dale Bowman
The iconic look of the Rainbow Flowage.
Credit: Dale Bowman

“So many lakes to fish every time of the year, there is always something to fish for,’’ he said. “The more you fish, the more to like to fish.”

We started on big weedy flats, which had been producing. We did nothing, so Justice switched to weedy bays.

Sara’s first pike of her life she didn’t realize she had hooked when it swam at the boat with both Justice and I telling her to reel.

Sara caught most of the pike. largemouth and eight walleye (one keeper, most were just under 15 inches) on the Rainbow.

It was time. Too soon.

An osprey squealed off. A bald eagle coasted out to check. Then a pike bite Sara’s jig clean off, an experience we explained would happen many more times.

We finished on a shore drop-off. By shore, a mallard quacked away, mixing down with a loon wailing.

Justice has a stable of guides from Kurt’s Island Sport Shop–, (715) 356-4797–on the east side of Route 51 entering town.

EXPO: I put together some thoughts and highlights the Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo over the weekend at Interstate Center in Bloomington. Click here to read.

HALL OF FAME: Illini Muskie Alliance will introduce its first Hall of Fame at the muskie show in January. Nominations are open until Oct. 15. Should be able to load the documents by clicking here, but I had trouble loading it this morning.

STRAY CAST: Fighting in football practice is like fishing stocked trout.