Notes From the Dockside: Multiple species days
It was the first day that spring that my buddy, Doug and I were fishing the Mississippi River. We had several sauger already in the livewell and had caught a number of smaller fish we threw back. Although it was cold out, as you would expect in early spring, we had steadily been getting strikes and it was a good day of fishing.
Doug pulled back to set the hook and his spinning rod began to dance as a fish ran off. Doug stopped the fish from racing off too far and was bringing it to the boat.
"What is this?" Doug asked as he got the fish closer. The fish was brown in color but it didn't look like anything we had caught before on the river. He got the fish alongside the boat and I extended the net. Doug led the fish into the net and I pulled up on it. Twisting and turning in the net was a brown trout. "I have never heard of anyone catching a brown trout in the Mississippi River," I told Doug.
Although Doug's brown trout on the early spring day is the most unusual fish I ever saw anyone catch on the Mississippi River, I am constantly amazed at the variety of fish caught on the river. You never know what kind of fish you will have on the end of your line once you feel a strike. In a day of fishing on the Mississippi River it is not uncommon to catch half a dozen or more species of fish.
Normally we are fishing for walleyes and sauger on the Mississippi River. Generally we seem to catch more sauger than walleye but sauger taste just as good as walleye so it doesn't matter if we are looking for a fish fry.
As well, we can expect to get some white bass, especially in the spring. When the white bass are running there have been times that two of us in my boat have caught over seventy five white bass in a day. Many of the fish are over two pounds and put up a strong, stubborn fight. Although we will catch a few in the fall the best white bass fishing is in the spring.
Then there are catfish. Catfish in the Mississippi grow to be huge. Gary, a long time fishing buddy of mine, caught a thirty-pound catfish one year. I took his photo with the fish and he blew it up to an 11 by 17 inch picture, had it framed and hung it up in his office, saying that it was the biggest fish he had ever caught.
Of course there are sheepshead. Most people look at them as being a nuisance fish but I have never minded them. They put up a good fight and are fun to catch and that is what we are out there for anyway -- to have fun.
Those are the normal variety of fish we catch. From there the list of species we see on the Mississippi River start to become stranger.
No one considers the Mississippi River a great muskie or northern pike fishery and although they are rare they are caught in the river. My neighbor, Tom, who often fishes the Mississippi with me caught a muskie one summer day when we were trolling crankbaits near Prescott. Another fishing buddy, Rod, also from Hudson, one afternoon in October had a northern pike on his line. The fish got behind the boat and I saw its nose on one side of the boat and its tail was on the other side.
Bass are another species no one thinks of fishing for on the Mississippi River but I have caught both largemouth and smallmouth there and they may be considerably under fished and underappreciated.
Crappie is another species that you do not see often on the Mississippi. One fall afternoon another buddy, also named Mike, and I each caught a large crappie.
One late fall day my son, Todd and I were fishing after Thanksgiving. It was a chilly day with light winds. He caught a yellow perch. On over ten years of fishing on the river I had never seen a perch caught there before.
Sturgeon are another fun fish to catch on the Mississippi. Every year I normally catch a couple of them that will run over thirty inches. I may never want to keep one but they sure are fun to catch and put up a whale of a fight.
Then there are any number of rough fish that many people call trash fish. I have caught carp, suckers, dog fish and gar on the Mississippi River. They may never go into the live well but again they are fun to catch and when you are fishing, it is all about the tug on the line and the bend in the rod and these fish make fishing the Mississippi River exciting.
One year I even caught a paddle fish. It is the only one that I ever caught. They eat plankton so they normally will not strike a bait. I think the fish was sucking in plankton when it just accidentally sucked in my jig. The fish was about fifteen pounds and it took me a long time to get the fish into the net. After a quick photo it was released but it provided a great fishing memory.
My buddy, Paul, and I keep track of the different species we catch when we are on the river. We normally count six to eight different fish per day. One day in addition to the walleye, sauger, white bass, sheepshead and catfish we expected to catch we also caught a big carp and a mooneye.
Multiple species days on the Mississippi River are always exciting. You never know what you will catch.
Editor's Note: The Notes From The Dockside is an exclusive feature appearing in the Hudson Star-Observer on the first and third issues of each month.