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Fishing Reports, Mercer Wisconsin

September 15, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage

With equal amounts of daylight and darkness the leaves are slowly starting to change the water started cooling but with 80* weather this week the fish patterns are still of a late summer bite.
Still having the best luck on walleyes in water 10' and under relating to mainly wood structure. It is the mixed bag season we are catching nice perch, occasional blue gills and pike while walleye fishing. We've tried deeper water in the 14-16' range fishing various wood structure and have found big crappies doing best on the crappies with slip bobbers and extra large fatheads, have also caught walleyes and perch in the deeper water while targeting crappies casting 1/8 weedless Jigs . There seems to be quite a few 9" crappies under the "keeping size" most of the fish kept are big fish in the 12-14" range.
I have been using mainly minnows now for the last week and a half. A friend has caught big gills in the deeper water on a gulp product, I'm sure crawlers would catch them too. They aren't as prevalent as a couple years ago but there are still quite a few nice gills out there especially on some of the deeper cribs.
Musky can be found in the many varied depths and bottom structures the flowage has to offer. I have heard of fish being this past week in 12-15' on wood structure. We fished all day Wednesday targeting mainly shallower water with weeds. We caught 7 pike had some boils of unknown species and had three muskies hit baits one we had briefly coming to the boat but came unhooked, no fish in the net.
It is hard for most people to stay focused musky fishing all day, it is physically tiring and can drain the mind. I suggest if you start losing your focus, take a break and rejuvenate, there is nothing worse then fishing hard all day and finally getting a big fish hit late in the day and not be prepared to catch the fish.
Also be prepared to catch a fish, have all the proper implements to quickly get the hooks out, including a heavy wire cutter , if needed. Get a quick picture and get the fish back in the water.
September is a great month to catch a musky, good luck.
Uncharacteristic of me, I had all my gear packed for Alaska last night, no last minute panicked scramble. Heading out the door right now for the airport, I'll have phone contact for the next couple days if anyone is interested in booking a trip, have half day 29th of sept. open(afternoon) then open time after the 16th of October.

 

September 6, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

Water is down , I would guess about 2 feet , rocks wood starting to poke out of the water. An attached tree in about 10' of water surprised me the other day, didn't hit it but close, Wow that doesn't belong there! Occasionally the ice uproots one, it bobs along vertically until it beds down in a new place.
The walleye fishing the second half of the month has certainly been better than the first half, have been getting some bigger fish in the 16-18" range. Still doing the best in the 6-10' depth range, humps and wood flats. Been using crawlers and leeches, catching fish casting 1/8oz. jacks jigs and on slip bobbers some days there seems to be a real preference for a jig moving across the bottom other days the bobbers have done better.
The water is starting to cool down, the temp on this report is my best guess, have a power cord issue on new unit with temp gauge, hoping to get to that today. I will be trying some minnows tomorrow.
We've found some bigger aggressive biting perch while fishing walleyes also blue gills in that same depth and structure.
Smallmouth have been on fire some days , slower days still catching them here and there. Still catching best on a deadstick with a leech, my leeches are almost gone, think they are pretty well gone at the bait shops. A lot of stout 14-16" fish out there.
I haven't fished crappies but I know they are starting to be caught in good size and numbers in deeper water.
I got a chance to do some musky fishing this week, was real happy to have the opportunity. Monday fished them all day with the poor weather conditions ( for people) we found a good bite going but luck wasn't on our side. Had a big girthy fish following customer Jim's bucktail, think it would have ate the bait when he hooked a shallow weed about 2' long, the fish turned off. The next fish, again on Jim's bait, Jim hooked the fish had it coming to the boat until the fish leaped, cleared the water by 2' and threw the bait. Next fish hit the Boucher slop master I was throwing, problem I have is I often have my head turned away trying to see the head of the trolling motor, especially with three customers, I made an awkward hook set and the pretty decent fish came unhinged. The fourth fish, a really nice one, swirled on a Fat B. but no bait in mouth. We had other boils of either musky or pike but four were sure musky, 2 were big fish, about as good a day as you can have without one in the net.
Next day Tuesday fished morning with solo musky fisherman, frothed a lot of good water, never saw a fish, talked to two other musky fisherman out that morning same story. Some days or parts of the day they are very inactive.
One of the best aspects of my job is the friendships made, yesterday had the same fisherman I had Monday, think our 7th year fishing together. Monday we kept a couple pike for shore dinner while musky fishing, yesterday they were hoping to catch a few fish to take home to their wives. We live bait fished until early afternoon, had a mixed bag of fish including a 17&18" walleye, but the fish were not real aggressive. I suggested we might be able to collect some pike while musky fishing, the pike were active and hit bucktails aggressively but no musky. The guys had also fished musky the day before and were getting wore, I suggested hanging in there for a couple more spots, I really wanted a fish in the net. Finally around 5pm an acrobatic 41" took Jim's bait ( I think he has a 4 leaf clover in his wallet) after a hard fight we netted the fish and had a good release after a very short time out of the water.
Been fishing a lot of structure, lot of different baits, bucktails in shallow water have seen the most action. Fished some rocks, but a lot of weeds.
I have a few days open, first half of September, will be in Alaska the 15th-26th booked thru the 16th of October, 2nd half of October I have a lot of open days. I am dedicating the 24th to musky fishing (prime moon phase) If I don't get a customer, I'm taking a day off to musky fish. I won't have any minnows in the boat unless I decide to catch a few walleyes for bait.

August 24, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

September is a month of significant change in the fishing of northern Wisconsin lakes. As the days grow shorter and the nights cooler, water temperatures fall. The scenery also changes from summer foliage to the start of the dramatic fall colors by months end. Turnover occurs, usually around mid-September when the water temps drop to the 50* range. With all these changes fishing patterns can vary greatly from the beginning of the month to the end of the month, even the bait used changes.

I spend almost all my fishing time Guiding on the Turtle Flambeau (TFF) in Iron county Wisconsin. It's approximate 13,000 acres of water, 150 miles of shoreline (over 90% undeveloped) and 98 islands gives the feeling of being in a remote place with a lot of solitude, an easy place to want to spend fishing time. There are good lodging opportunities on the TFF along with 66 island campsites.

I spend most of my time on the water in pursuit of walleyes and smallmouth, my customers target species, often perch and crappies are caught while walleye fishing. Early September the fish are often in a late summer pattern, they can be found in a wide range of structures, often deeper wood structure in the 12-16' depth range is a good starting point for the search. There are deep wood flats on the main basin along with remnant stumps on what would have been the banks of the original Turtle and Flambeau Rivers.

At the time of this writing (August 20th) we have been doing better on walleyes in the 6-10' depth range, shallower than some late summer bites. I expect this depth could be good well into September. Many of the places we are catching fish are humps that have sand/rock and stumps on them. These humps are often surrounded by water in the 12-16' range. Some of these humps are small, about the size of a couple of large boats others 50 or so square yards. The better spots generally have more snaggy wood and rock structures.

My approach to fishing these areas is from an anchored position, I use two 20lb. navy anchors with 100' of rope on each anchor, unless it is really windy I don't have to use all 100' of rope. I anchor with the wind hitting the boat at a 90* angle, I anchor in this manor because I do a lot of slip bobber fishing, this positioning allows the bobbers to be spread out covering a wide swath of the structure being fished. I also have customers cast a jig at the same time, with three or four bobbers out and three or for jigs being cast it doesn't take long to establish whether there are any hungry fish on the spot.
As a rule of thumb the bait used goes from crawlers and leeches to minnows as the water cools. This switch of bait is usually early September, the minnows I use on the TFF are extra-large fatheads.
Later in September I find walleyes in deeper water, holes in the original river channels and around the perimeter of original lake basins in the 18-28' depths. Even the jigs used changes in September, when fishing the shallower wood/rock structure we use 1/8 oz. weedless jigs( I like Jack's jigs, Invasion jigs are also a good choice), in the deeper water fishing over sand and rounded boulders I often use 1/8 oz. round head jigs.

I wanted to devout half of my writing to musky fishing, but am already surpassing the word parameter limit, laugh! Ok quickly:
Twice last week, on two different spots, we had muskies grab fish we were bringing in. The first one came out of the depths and grabbed a rock bass at boat side. As the drag screamed out on my rod I told one of my customers to set his pole down and take my rod. I happened to have my musky net in the boat and quickly extended the handle. After a few minutes of gaining on the fish, then losing line back as he pulled out line on the drag, the mid 40 inch musky decided he didn't want occupancy in our net and spit the rock bass. Two days later, on a spot a couple miles away, another big musky took a walleye we were bringing in after another battle the fish must have realized the walleye was fighting a little too hard and a chewed up walleye came back on the 1/8 oz. jig.
I'm starting to get more musky fishing customers. I keep an inventory on these spots and have musky fisherman go back after these fish. On the off-shore structure spots with at least 6 or 7 feet of water over them I like big perch or walleye swim baits to try to trigger one of these big fish. On shore line weeds which are good areas well into September we are mainly throwing bucktails.

There are some big fish in the TFF in late June we boated a 50-1/2" on a bucktail, a couple weeks before that in a different part of the TFF we had the biggest musky I've ever personally seen take a walleye. After a rod bending battle on a walleye rod we had the fish boat side, no musky net, I've pretty easily netted fish up to 44" in my walleye net, I got the big fishes head in the net and a small part of its length, he stiffened and came out of the net, the net was woefully inadequate for the behemoth fish. The fish went back down, the walleye still in his mouth wasn't even visible , after about a minute the rod took the normal bend of the weight of a walleye and a chewed up 14" walleye came to the surface. Myself and two customers from West Virginia stood there, “ Can you believe the size of that fish!”

July 17, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

Since last report we have caught fish in a variety of structures, wood structure in the 8-14' depth and weeds in 4-6'. Our best structure the last few days has been smaller humps in the 6-9' depth with rock and wood. What sets these humps apart are the boulders, lot of them are mostly covered with rock in various sizes. These humps have had smallmouth and walleyes on them, the smallmouth fishing has been excellent with a lot of fish in the 15-17" range , up to 18". These spots have also held numbers of non target species, rock bass, which can annihilate a lot of bait.

Yesterday we ran out of the 6 doz. crawlers I brought along also a lot of leeches. With temps in the 80's, flat water and bright skies we took a reprieve from the sun and drove to Donner's Bay for bait and a couple sodas at the bar, exchanged a couple of musky tales with Marvin.
We caught a lot of 11-12" walleyes we released, kept a half dozen 13-14" walleyes a few perch and a couple smaller smallmouth for my camping customers evening fish fry. I like the newer TFF bass regs, If we keep any smallmouth they are in the 11-13" size range.

Over the years I've made it a point to tell of the slow days as well, you don't always see that in fishing reports. As a guide I fish every day, you can't cherry pick the days you go out. A few days back I had three customers with plans for a shore lunch, noon came and went with 2 or 3 fish in the live well. I made my usual crack about never not being able to have a shore lunch for lack of fish, the caveat, we don't always eat at noon. At 4 o'clock we had enough perch and walleyes to look for an island with some wind exposure for shore dinner. We also kept a couple smaller smallmmouth which I separated so my customers could compare them to the other fish. They found a slight taste difference but found them very good eating.

Another slow day, I had a father and son customer, father 90 years old. The previous two years I fished with them we had some fantastic perch and walleye fishing, not this year. We banged away at a wide range of spots with not much action, I got a text from a little bird who told me he found a few good ones in shallow weeds, that's where we looked next. ( a biologist reading a fisherman's report must cringe, they are aquatic plants with names) anyway.. first cast a 16" a few casts later another keeper but it slowed. In all we caught 6 walleyes that day, kept 3, I caught all of them, not the way you want it to go as a guide. I consider myself a good teaching guide, usually watch customers rod tips if needed to coach them, with passively biting fish especially in weeds it can be tough. We did have a couple decent pike and a few perch, a good day on the water with a lot of humor. If I make it to 90 and still have days with a fishing pole in my hand they will indeed be good days!

June 22, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

Flat water and a recent bug, loose track of the days I think it was Tue. or Wed. night, it was a pretty sizable hatch of the larger hex variety. There is often more than one hatch I would guess we might see more.

On one recent day since last report we fished in on and off 20 mph winds off and on thunder and rain and had a nice catch of walleyes and perch in shallow structure and weeds. Kept a limit of 9 and released probably two walleyes for each one put in the livewell. After catching 25-30 walleyes and finding active fish on everything we fished, I took another customer out for a few hours. An hour had lapsed, ( a mess of fish to clean) the water had gone completely flat the sky had turned an eerily dark color, strange feeling kind of gloomy. We fished 8 spots , I never had a walleye bite, that's how fast the fish can change their mind.I had water sloshing in my shoes customer wanted to talk about moose hunting, offered to go to the bar and have a couple beers instead, I said,"Corey I'll do whatever you want to do", we went fishing I guess I called that one wrong.

Last few days a lot of flat water with bright skies, we have been catching some nice fish, mostly working wood structure in the 10-14' depths. Not big numbers of fish but some bigger walleyes, but spending a lot of time looking for them, catching one here another there. We have had some nice perch in the mix of walleyes, some days smallmouth from 14-17" our biggest so far 19-1/2" on the day mentioned above with the big wind blowing.

I don't do much drift fishing any more, a few days back on a really slow bite day we had only 3 walleyes in the livewell near days end we spent the last 45 minutes drifting a 7-8' wood flat and picked up three more nice fish, 5 of the 6 were 16-19".
It might not feel like it some days but the fish are out there, they aren't always cooperative.
Been using 1/2 crawlers and have had a few days now when leeches did better, I suggest you bring both.
Good luck out there.

 

June15, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

Fishing has ranged from excellent to a couple days when it was a real struggle to get walleyes to bite, then there were periods of the day when it was slow in the morning and the fish really turned on in the afternoon or vise versa. In general we have been seeing bigger fish this year , yesterday we released a 24" walleye, five minutes prior on the same spot(10' sand bottom with a lot of wood) we had a big fish on that came unhooked. At first glance I thought it was a musky then had a good view of the fish it was a big walleye. Over the years I've had customers catch a 27" and a 28" this fish looked bigger, not many fish like that in the tff but they are out there.
The walleyes are in a summer pattern, what's the pattern? It is all over the board. Had a good weed bite going for a few of the days, cabbage in 4-5' we've caught fish in deep wood flats 12'-16', have done well on humps with stumps in 7-8', sometimes on the sides of humps on the slope in 7-12' where there are stumps on the slope and some hard bottom areas with laid down logs in 12-14'.
Bait I've not been taking minnows anymore the fish were coming exclusively on crawlers, the last few days we have however caught fish on large leeches. The 24" we released was on a leech as well as the big fish that came a little short of the net.
Tackle: we have been starting to use bobbers more and putting out a dead stick with a leech while we cast 1/8 oz. Jacks weedless jigs. The jig rods are spooled with 8lb fireline or power pro both good lines.
The smallmouth on some days have been on fire catching numbers some days in the 14-16" range with a few bigger. They will take crawlers obviously but leeches are a good bet for the bass.
Been catching perch with the walleyes some nice fish other times run into groups of mostly 6" that will chew up a lot of crawlers. If you're getting "machine gun bites" and can't hook the fish, they are small perch.
The fishing pressure during the week has been incredibly lite during the week, some days on the "big waters" only a couple boats in all the water you can see.
Enjoy the fishing.

 

June 5, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

Enjoyed some smallmouth fishing yesterday, rather enjoyed running the boat and watching my customers catch fish. I met Father and son Dick and Jeff for an annual outing with their flyrods. We were greeted with fog on the water, a cold north wind and air temps in the low 50's, the day did warm a little as time passed.
We started on a shoreline that was our best producer last year, the wind was blowing in but being proficient fly fisherman it wasn't insurmountable. We worked the best part of the shoreline and found only rock bass and a pike that would take the offering. I was really surprised it was prime territory for shallow bass. I worried the cold front might have put a big damper on the bite.
Jeff suggested we try some calm water, one of my favorite smallmouth islands was only a mile away, not a big island but big enough to provide a break from the north wind on its southern side. Again perfect structure, a mix of different size boulders with open areas of sand and small pebbles.
The fish were there, not sure why I never took up fly fishing, I never loose enthusiasm watching the fly rods bend into a u-shape with a smallmouth at the end of the line.
Dick took one of the bigger fish of the day on a yellow popper, it was the only fish taken on the surface. Jeff who for two days last year cast nothing but poppers somehow knew the bite wouldn't be on the surface, he tied on Clauser minnows in an olive green color and conehead wooly buggers, black bodies and white legs. He broke in a new St. Croix 7 wt. fly rod , he was really impressed with.
At days end I netted 18 smallmouth, 6 or 8 pike, they also caught about 30 rock bass, not as many as most years but for the conditions we were pleased. Oh I did catch a few fish, on one island shore I saw an approaching down tree, scrambled for a crawler and my jig rod and in 4 or 5 casts caught two walleyes and a rock bass.
Most of the fish were pretty tight to shore in a foot or two of water, the calm water was defiantly key to active fish. Some of the most fun to be had on the TFF, not sure how much longer they'll be shallow in numbers but they were yesterday.

June 1, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

Fishing has been very good in general since my last report, there were a couple of those days when most of the fish in the lake will take a bait if you get it in front of them and a couple where we thrashed a lot of water and structure types to come up with a mixed bag of fish.
I've been fishing mainly walleyes and perch, there is a really good population of perch in the flowage currently. They range considerably in size there is a big year class of fish a little small to make the cut but a lot of fish in the 10-12-1/2" range.
We've caught fish in a wide range of depths but most days have done better in shallow water in the 4-8' range. Fishing both wood cover, laid down logs and stumps in 4-8', and weed cover in the 4-5' depth .
Our bait of choice, rather the fishes, made a pretty abrupt change from fatheads to a half crawler.
The smallmouth action in shallow water is on right now, shorelines with boulders/gravel and mix of sand. We did surprisingly catch some nice ones in weeds yesterday.
Hope to have time to post a few pictures next day or two.
Have fun out there!

 

May 15, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

Fishing has been good since my last report , there have been slow time periods but in general we have been finding hungry walleyes in mainly shallow water relating to warmer water and wood structure. Shorelines with a drop close to shore then a gradual taper down to 6' depth about 30' from shore with a lot of wood, mostly laid down logs, held walleyes and pike with a few random perch. The fish were sometimes close to shore in a few feet of water others closer to the boat in 6 feet. We also caught some nicer size walleyes on small humps with stumps, humps in the 6-8' range were best. Downed shoreline trees also accounted for some walleyes. We've been fishing with extra large fatheads and 1/16- 1/8 oz. weedless Jack's jigs and a slow presentation.

We did give some of the river channel holes a brief try with very few fish caught. The spawn this year came and went very quickly. In the coming week I will be focusing on water mainly in the 3-10' depth range with wood and rock structure. Today we tried some cabbage in 5 ft. of water that at this time last year produced perch and walleyes, today only one big perch.

Drifting shallower flats with a lot of log structure on the bottom might be a good producer this up coming week.
After a slow start to the fishing season(fisherman not fish) with very low fishing pressure the first week, there were quite a few anglers out this weekend enjoying a pretty good bite and some weather that didn't require long underwear.

Looking forward to a lot of good fishing coming up, enjoy the great north woods.

May 7, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

MOON PHASE
Last Quarter
CONDITIONS
Sunny
AIR TEMP
66° - 70° F
WATER TEMP
46° - 50° F

Probably assumed, yes the ice is out. I launched Friday at Murray's landing and spent the weekend camping. On Saturday, people were able to launch at Fisherman's. Late Saturday afternoon, Baraboo Basin and Springstead Landing were still frozen in. By Sunday morning the ice was out of Baraboo and I assume the landing as well.

There were a lot of boats fishing the east end of the Flowage where there was known to be open water. In general, however fishing pressure was low for opening weekend and the Flowage as a whole, surely due to limited access.

How was the fishing? It was very good! There were walleyes being caught in the original river channels in the 12-20' depth range. My customers and I did best however opening day, and myself Sunday, on shallow rocks. The females had mainly released their eggs but were still on the rocks along with the males.

One rocky point where we caught fish, further down the shore we saw fish splashing, I said they were probably bass. We worked towards the activity catching fish on the way, when we got there, customer Jeff in the bow laughed, do bass have white tails! Several times another walleye followed a hooked one to the boat. The fish were in 2 feet of water (fow) and down the drop into 5 or 6 fow. 1/16 oz. jigs worked through the shallow rounded boulders better than 1/8 oz. Bait was extra-large fatheads.

The week ahead: I would expect with the fast warm up for the spawn to be a very short window. The right shallow rocks will still be good especially early and late in the day. There will still be fish relating to the river channels. Shallow warm water with log structure and shallow stump fields are also good shortly after the spawn.

 

 

May 3, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

I think I'm going to revise my ice out prediction and move it up a couple days. Tuesday our home weather station said 78, it was full sun and windy, the ice really took a beating that day. The change in the ice from morning to late afternoon was dramatic. Today the 96 acre lake we live on is about half open water, it will likely be gone tomorrow. I think some of the lakes in that size range in the Mercer area will probably be open by Saturday morning.

I think the chances of the main landings on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage being open Saturday morning is still slim. Springstead, Fisherman's,Sportsman's, and Sturgeon Bay was also still iced in. I would guess by early next week the ice will be off.
Back to cleaning the boat...

 

May 1, 2018
Jeff Robl
Bobber Down Guide Service
Turtle Flambeau Flowage
Mercer, Wisconsin

Frozen lakes on opening weekend were thought to be about a one in twenty-year event. We have the same ice conditions we had in 2013 and 2014. I can't predict ice out any better than anyone else, but, if I look at the 10-day forecast and factor in the experiences of 2013 and 2014, I would guess the ice will go out about the 9th or 10th of May. I can't remember which, but either 2013 or 2014 had record cold temperatures. I remember mornings well into April with temps starting below zero, I believe that year the ice went out on May 10th.

My forecast for the fishing: opening weekend in 2013 was preceded by a snowstorm on Thursday and cold front conditions on the weekend, opening day, the walleye fishing was as bad as it gets, it improved slightly on Sunday. In 2014 opening weekend and the whole month of May had some incredible walleye fishing, I can remember a 100 fish day fishing with a husband and wife with a lot of nice fish. I predict the quality of the fishing will be somewhere between 2013 & 2014, how’s that for a forecast? LOL

The main body of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage will be frozen and area lakes will also be frozen (best guess). Fishing opportunities in a boat will be limited to areas where there is current from rivers. Parking is not ample and there will be not be an endless supply of water to fish.

Ice fishing: I'm sure there will people ice fishing. I would avoid the novelty of being able to say you ice fished on opening weekend. The land on shore transfers heat to the shorelines which gets thin before the main body of ice, looking at our lake outside, there is a thin band of open water around the shores with full sun exposure.

One more day of carpenter work, the rest of the week I'll be getting boat and gear ready, can't wait to get out fishing. With unknown conditions people waiting on the sidelines, I do have openings the first week, I'll be fishing somewhere, and it won't be watching a tip up!

fishing-mercer-wisconsin