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Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

Ladies and gentlemen of the Northwoods: Start! Your! Bucktails!

And after a long hiatus from MLO, I’m back with a vengeance. And this time, that vengeance is focused on one thing: boating my first true northern Wisconsin Muskie.

(Insert jokes about an outdoorsman from Wisconsin who has never caught a Muskie.)

But the truth is, I’ve never really taken the time to seek out muskies. If I was going to be on the water, I was going to be fishing for ‘eyes. Plain and simple. But all that changed when my parents bought a cabin last fall on a lake known for its muskie fishing. And as tonight at midnight marks the beginning of Wisconsin’s northern zone’s muskie season, I figured now is the perfect time to start this series.

I really began being drawn to the concept of muskie fishing when I started to really analyze its core. At its most true concept, I realized muskie fishing wouldn’t be like bass fishing, it wouldn’t be like walleye fishing, and no, it wouldn’t even be like northern pike fishing. No, this new endeavor I was contemplating, this new pursuit I was mulling over wouldn’t be fishing, at all. Fishing is far too passive of an activity to properly describe the pursuit of the elusive muskellunge. No, this new journey would have to be a hunt.

Becoming a muskie hunter, I knew, would require not only a new arsenal of equipment, but an entire change in fishing philosophy. No doubt it would be a challenge, but it was one I decided I was ready to tackle.

Making the switch from a primarily walleye fisherman to the ranks of the musky hunter will not be easy, but in the next few weeks I’m going to chronicle my journey to boat my first ‘skie.  I’m going to be talking about how, where, and why I’m fishing the way I do. This is meant to be sort of a fishing log of the novice muskie fisherman.

If you’re a seasoned musky fisherman and see me doing something wrong, please, give me a comment. If you’re a new musky fisherman like myself, realize you’re not alone! Use these next set of posts as a tool to learn from my mistakes. I know I’ll probably make some huge (and stupid) rookie wrongs, but that’s part of what this is all about—the journey through trial and error to becoming a better a musky fisherman! There will be no guides, no cut-corners here. Just a fisherman and his quest to catch his first muskie.

Now, seeing as I’m quite the novice at musky fishing, I’ve been doing my homework and research over the long months of hard water. I think I’ve developed a fairly basic, but decent plan for fishing these first few weeks of the season.  I’ll be mostly fishing a deep, clear lake with a lot of points, mid-lake humps, and break lines. These first few weeks I’m going to concentrate on fishing shallow water (the water quickest to warm) and searching for new weed growth. I’m going to be throwing a lot of smaller bucktails with slow retrievals for cold water lethargic ‘skies. I’ll probably also be tossing quite a few shallow jerk-baits and top-water lures, as well.

Why, you may ask? Because, from what I’ve understood, in this colder section of the season, muskies tend to relate to the shallows. Zooplankton (the bottom level of the food chain) will be drawn to shallower water because it’s the first to warm. This, in turn, attracts the bait fish which feed on zooplankton, which, in turn, attracts the bigger fish which finally, brings in the top-dog prey fish. And it’s my goal to catch that ultimate prey fish—the water wolf of the northwoods.

So join with me on my journey. There’ll be times it’s going to be frustrating for me (and probably a lot more frustrating for you guys who know what you’re supposed to do) and there’ll be times of elation (I hope). But no matter what’s going on, I hope you enjoy reading the next installment of Mitch Larson Outdoors: The Muskie Curve.

Good fishing!

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As ice finally leaves the last of Wisconsin’s lakes and sports fisherman make their final preparations for the opening of the fishing season this weekend, I think it’s important for them to take some time to remember who they’ll be sharing the water with.  The following is the first of a three part reflection on Ojibwe spearing and the importance, tradition, and future of walleye spearing in their culture.

The throbbing cadence of tribal drums blaring over Justin Schlender’s speakers drowned out the rest of rush hour’s traffic.  The rise and fall of the traditional native chants offered a stark contrast to the usual bass beats and techno that bump out of downtown subwoofers. At first, I couldn’t help but to find it ironic. Here, in downtown Madison, who would imagine that Ojibwe music would be causing all this ruckus? After all, aren’t the Native Americans supposed to be the quiet, reserved ones?

But after sitting down with Schlender for a few hours I realized that those thumping drum beats weren’t noise pollution, at all. They were a reminder. Now, even hundreds of years after European encroachment on Indian lands, Wisconsin’s native American tribes are still here–still going strong in their traditions—and won’t easily be forgotten.

The struggle

The Ojibwe have always been spearers. It’s a tradition that’s nearly as deep-rooted as the wild rice that brought them to the land that would become Wisconsin.

Justin Schlender, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles band of the Ojibwe, has a long history with walleye spearing. It was, after all, his father, Jim Schlender, former head of GLIFWC (Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission), who locked horns in the ‘80s and 90’s with the state and the DNR in order to ensure that spearing rights were recognized.

“Spearing has always been in our blood,” Justin Schlender says. “When the Europeans first came over long ago, they saw us out on the waters in our canoes. It was night time and we had baskets of flame hanging out over the canoe bows. Burning bright, they lit the waters, guiding our spearing ancestors to the walleye. Thus, the French called it Lac Du Flambeau–Lake of the Torches.”

Since the time the first French settlers met the Ojibwe people, much has changed. More and more Europeans settled the area, the United States won its independence from Britain, and the lands of the Ojibwe began looking more and more desirable to the fledgling country.

Under pressure from the United States, the Ojibwe signed the Treaties of 1837 1842 to cede large tracts of land to the United States government in order to bolster a growing American timber industry. With great foresight, though, the Ojibwe leaders who signed these treaties made sure to retain the right to hunt, fish, and gather in ceded territory. This, they hoped, would ensure the survival of their descendents.

But while the Treaties of 1837 and 1842 represented the supreme laws of the land—a binding promise between the federal government and the Ojibwe—state law and DNR officers began dismissing the importance of treaty rights. Ignoring the rights guaranteed by the federal government, law enforcement and the WDNR began restricting and prosecuting any Ojibwe who speared or violated state resident fishing regulations. When the state of Wisconsin was created, they claimed, the Ojibwe lost the right to spear in ceded territory.

(more…)

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