Notes From the Dockside: Two scoops of minnowsWe watched as the young lady at the gas station in Prescott where I buy my minnows dump two scoops of minnows into the bait bucket. “If we go through all of these we should catch some fish,” I told my neighbor Tom as we walked out.
By: Mike Yurk, Hudson Star-Observer
We watched as the young lady at the gas station in Prescott where I buy my minnows dump two scoops of minnows into the bait bucket. “If we go through all of these we should catch some fish,” I told my neighbor Tom as we walked out.
We were on our way to Red Wing to fish the Mississippi River. It was a bright sunny day that belied the fact that it was cold. A strong, wind blew out of the north and tore through our clothing. It was a frigid run up the river from the boat landing to the dam. I was wearing gloves and wished that I had a pullover hat to cover my ears.
We anchored the boat in about 15 feet of water only a couple of boat lengths from the bank. Although the bank provided some protection the wind still got to us. I pulled up the collar of my jacket and hunkered down.
I wasn’t going to take the gloves off. Tom was buried in his pulled up hood.
On the river I fish a two-way rig that has a leader with a half-ounce jig and another leader with just a hook and three colored beads. I baited both hooks and dropped them overboard until the jigs bounced off the bottom. Jigging is easy; just lift the rod tip six to eight inches, then drop it down again until the jig hits bottom, continuing this motion until a fish hits.
I was jigging for less than five minutes when I lifted the rod, felt weight and quickly jerked the rod up to set the hook. I could feel a fish pull back. The fish took off but I turned it and within a minute or two had it splashing alongside the boat. I lifted the fish into the boat. It was a 14-inch sauger which went into the livewell. Tom had indicated that he wanted to keep enough fish for a fish fry.
It was a good start. Five minutes later I heard Tom yell that he had a fish. Tom’s spinning rod was bent in half as his fish was pulling away. A few moments later he was hoisting his fish into the boat. It was another keeper sauger and it too went into the livewell.
We were getting off to be a real good start. It still was cold and windy but the first two fish in rapid succession within the first few minutes after we started made the cold seem considerably milder. However, I still kept the gloves on.
We steadily kept catching fish. Most of the fish were small saugers but we kept dropping an occasional one into the livewell. It seemed that we never went long before one of us had a strike.
I felt a bump and pulled up to set the hook. The fish didn’t move for moment and my spinning rod was doubled over. I could feel a fish jerking on the other end of the line. “This is a bigger fish,” I yelled to Tom. “Get the net.”
The fish tore off as the drag on my reel gave out line. The fish stopped from the pressure of the drag. I turned the fish but it soon took off again. On about the third try I could feel the fish tiring and started getting it coming toward the boat. In the dark muddy just below the surface I could see the brown shadow of a walleye. Tom netted the fish and it was about a two and one-half pound walleye and went into the livewell.
As I dropped the fish into the livewell I counted six fish in there. Tom said that would be enough for his fish fry so we decided that even if we caught any more keepers we would throw them back.
Then I looked into the minnow bucket as I got another minnow. There weren’t many left. Did we actually use that many minnows already? I knew that we had been catching a lot of fish but I hadn’t realized that we went through that many minnows already.
A few minutes later Tom caught a catfish. I am always amazed at the variety of fish we catch in the Mississippi River.
Three or four fish later it was becoming clear that we were going to run out of minnows. That doesn’t happen often. We caught a couple of sauger that we could have been keepers but we released them.
Now the minnow situation was getting critical. We were even using the dead minnows to stretch our minnows as far as we could. Several times when we got a fish into the boat we were able to save the minnow, using it again although it was battered up. Once I had a fish cough up a minnow. Normally I would have thrown the minnow overboard with the fish but this time I kept it, put it on my hook and a few minutes after that caught a fish with it.
Finally we were down to the last two minnows. I told Tom to use them as I switched spinning rods to use a blade spoon. The blade spoon doesn’t require live bait. As I was jigging the spoon Tom had a strike but lost the fish. Now he was down to just one minnow. A few minutes later I saw him pull back on his spinning rod and the rod tip was bouncing as a fish ran off.
The fish put up a good fight but Tom finally pulled the fish into the boat. It was a keeper-size sauger that he slipped back in the water.
We put all the rods away, pulled the anchor and started back to the landing. We guessed that we had caught close to 50 fish. When I pulled up to the landing I checked the time. We had left the landing only three hours earlier. When we got the minnows I told Tom that if we went through two scoops we would catch a bunch of fish and I guess we did.
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.