If you're a fisherman/fisherwoman from the South (or anywhere else for that matter) and have always wanted to visit the Northwoods to catch some Northern Pike or Walleye, I've got the trip for you. You don't need to bring a boat, just some fishing gear. And you really don't need that. Many of the Fishing Barges that I'm going to talk about rent gear as well. If you do bring gear, bring some ten or twelve pound test line rigs along with some lighter stuff.
I'm talking about a 100 mile stretch of the Mississippi River along the Wisconsin border. There are five sets of Locks and Dams with barges (really just big piers) that have some great fishing off of them. Even when the river runs slow, they leave the locks in front of the barges open to help the fishermen.
The dams prevent fish from proceeding further north and the fast flowing water also attracts them. The water is usually deepest here thereby holding the larger fish. They are truly fishing hot spots for a wide variety of fish.
Especially if you are new to an area. It's nice to fish along side other friendly fishermen to learn how and what they are doing. You can see them catch fish, and see what they are catching them on. Plus you can check out their specific style of jigging.
My new buddy Rick I met on the barge.
The excitement of group fishing can be contagious. I compare it to running in a 5K or a 10K race. If you were to do it alone, it can get boring. But with a bunch of people participating, its motivational, and you actually try harder to compete. When you see others catching fish it really can psych you up.
There are many different ways to fish off these barges. Generally speaking, you're throwing a half ounce jigging spoon into the current, letting it hit the bottom, and jigging it up about a foot, then letting it drop. You'll get the hits on the drop so keep a tight line on the drop so you can feel the strike.
These barges are awesome. You can jig like I described above on the deep side of the barge, or you can fish for Northern Pike, Bass, Brim or even Crappie on the shallower side of the barge. I was tossing a small jig for Brim on the shallow side and got cut off by a large Northern that I fought for like one second. But it was still exciting. I saw the side of the fish and a big splash before it disappeared out of sight as it gave me the slip. Another time, I was using that 1/2 ounce jigging spoon on the deep side of the barge, and it got slammed. I set the hook, fought what felt like a ton of bricks for a couple seconds, and lost it as well. Whatever it was, it was big. This is what fishing is all about. These are the experiences you remember for a long time about the one that got away!
Here's a lucky fisherman with one that did not get away.
Take the time to walk around the barge. They are large and often placed perfectly between a wing dam and the locks. I did not have enough time to fish every area around the barge, but there looked to be great fishing everywhere. Brad Uhl (owner of Crappie World Magazine) fished for Bass in the weed beds along side the walk ways, I lost a monster fish off the wing dam, we saw Northern Pike caught on the shallow side on crank baits and Walleye were caught by some locals in the deepest reachable holes.
There are 5 Fishing Barges, also known as Fishing Floats, along the Wisconsin "Great River Road". I've listed them here along with their website address. They are listed in order from the most southern barge to the most northern one. I fished on the Clements Fishing Barge and the Alma Fishing Float. Both with excellent facilities--and believe me, I plan to go back and fish them all. I'm thinking that it would be a great trip to hit each barge on the way up north, then on the way back down, hit your favorite ones again.
The drive along this stretch of the great Mississippi River was voted "The Prettiest Drive in America" by the Huffington Post in 2012. Additionally, if you're thinking about something to do right now, the leaves are just starting to change. A beautiful drive and a guaranteed good time for any fisherman, fisher woman or fisher kid.
I took the following pictures at the Clements Fishing Barge. I'll show you the pics of the Alma Fishing Float in my next story.
All you have to do is raise a flag from shore to signal your transportation to the barge.
And the boat comes to pick you up. It costs around $17 bucks for the day. Check out their website for details, kids costs less and they have multi-day deals as well.
You can see the barge there in the distance. It's bigger than it looks.
This is just a small corner of the barge. It was easy to spread out.
The store on the barge has everything you would need. They have rental equipment as well.
These are some big fish pictures from the walls of the store.
The store also has food. The burger I had was big and real juicy. I thought it was great.
Travel Writer and good friend Rebecca McCormick created this video about the trip. See if you can find me and that juicy burger I was talking about in it! It's a great video, you have to check it out. Rebecca does great work.
The 1/2 ounce jig in the upper right corner is what the gentleman in the first picture on this article caught the Walleye and Catfish on. It's also what I used and caught about a ten pound Carp on. Very strange that you catch that kinda variety on the same bait, but in that current we believe it was more a reaction bite. Brad caught maybe a dozen Stripers on that very same lure.
We found this Amish transportation in the parking lot.
It's one horse motor had a bucket of water at least.
Its neat seeing them fish here in front of us. Kinda like stepping back in time with the horse and buggy and all.