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The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By: Mari Romanack

To give or receive, this is the best gift you could give that fisherman or woman in your life. You can purchase this Gift Certificate and receive the certificate and a code (via email) to put under the tree. You must know what platform device you are ordering for as LifeTime Memberships do not transfer between platforms. Don't wait! 

A River Runs Through It...

By    Mark Romanack

On the left legendary Niagara River guide Frank Campbell  was kind enough to show the Fishing 411 crew river fishing “Niagara Style”. Our guest Dave Genz (on the right) America’s favorite ice fisherman spent a few hours in the boat catching his personal best brown trout and steelhead. Jake in the back fulfilled a dream of being able to fish with two of the best our industry has to offer. 
              For those fishermen who can’t get enough trout action, the late fall and winter months are a special time. At the end of the year, cold water species including brown trout, lake trout and steelhead converge on flowing water. Some of these fish are heading to rivers to spawn and others are heading upstream to feed on the eggs of other fish.
            Either way the stage is set for some amazing fishing opportunities focused squarely on the major rivers of the Great Lakes basin. In the Great Lakes we are blessed to have countless river systems that produce great trout fishing. Just a few of the noteworthy rivers every angler should be thinking about fishing include the Salmon and Niagara Rivers in New York, the Conneaut River in Ohio, the Big Manistee, Muskegon, St. Joe and the AuSable rivers in Michigan.
            The above mentioned rivers are great destinations, but they represent just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other streams that offer up equally noteworthy fishing action.
            The one thing that these rivers have in common is during late fall and well into the winter months one particular lure type tends to be lights out for steelhead, brown trout and also lakers. High action wobbling plugs do an amazing job of triggering strikes from all three of these fish.
            Sometimes classified as “banana plugs” most of the lures in this group have that classic curved shape of a banana. Legendary baits like the Yakima Flat Fish got the plug bite started decades ago. Since then many other noteworthy lures have hit the market including the Yakima Mag Lip, Luhr Jensen Kwik Fish, Heddon Tadpoly, and Lindy River Rocker.
River browns are not shy about pounding wobbling plugs like
this Mag Lip. Customizing baits by removing the belly
hook and using larger tail hooks is common practice
among river guides who are always searching
for ways to put more fish in the boat.

            It’s the wide “side to side” wobble of these plugs that sets them apart from other crankbait designs. A few of these plugs go a step further and generate an unique “wandering” action.
            Yakima Bait coined the term “skip beat action” to describe the Mag Lip family of crankbaits. “The Mag Lip wobbles, then unexpectedly darts to the side,” says lure designer Buzz Ramsey. “This darting or “skip beat” action does an amazing job of triggering strikes from fish that might otherwise not bite.”
            The skip beat action of the Mag Lip is accentuated when fishing in flowing water. Variances in current flow allow the Mag Lip to enjoy a more pronounced wandering action and this is precisely why so many anglers are using Mag Lip.
            Available in 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 sizes, the Mag Lip family of crankbaits is ideally sized for a wealth of fishing applications. River anglers tend to favor the 3.0 and 3.5 sizes for steelhead and browns. The larger 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 sizes are popular among lake trout fishermen.
            Banana plugs are fished in rivers a couple of different ways. In shallow water these baits are generally fished “drop back” style from an anchored boat or from a drift boat. When the boat is held steady in the current, these plugs dive and wobble their way towards bottom.
            In deeper rivers plugs can also be deadly, but they are generally fished on a three way swivel rig with 1 to 2 ounces of weight added to keep these lures in contact with the bottom.  When fishing three way rigs anglers can drift fish or use an electric motor to slowly troll downstream. For upstream trolling chores a small gasoline kicker motor is required.
            One of the reasons plugs work so well in rivers is because flowing water tends to carry sediment creating off color water. Plugs fish best in the stained water conditions so commonly found in rivers across the Great Lakes basin.
            Wobbling banana style plugs are hands down the choice of serious river guides all across the Great Lakes region. Most of these guides like to “customize” their plugs by replacing factory hooks with premium after market hardware. Others add a touch of color on the lip or flanks of the bait using a permanent marker.
Every angler who enjoys trout fishing should make a
visit to the Niagara River in the winter time.
 Plug fishing is the primary way guides put fish like this
awesome steelhead in the boat. Legendary Ice Fisherman Dave Genz
 caught this beautiful rainbow while enjoying a day of fun
fishing with the Fishing 411 crew and river guide Frank Campbell.
Another common way to get a few more bites from plugs is to fish these lures in combination with scent products. A plug doused with fishing scent, puts a fish attracting scent stream in the water.
            Gel style scents like Pro Cure are wildly popular among trout fishermen because these scent products stick to the bait and don’t wash off immediately like other scent products. Pro Cure scents are made using a host of natural forage species including smelt, gizzard shad, alewives, ciscoes, crayfish and many other bait fish.

            In the winter months when many anglers are zeroing in on ice fishing opportunities, there are lots of river fisheries that remain open and viable all winter long. Our advice is to dress warm and carry a tackle box full of wobbling plugs.

Slabs of the Northwest Angle

                 Mark Romanack
Lake of the Woods is known for producing not only numbers of crappie, but also slabs like these.
              When anglers think of crappie fishing, chances are they are thinking of classic waters in the south like Lake Grenada in Mississippi, Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee or Kentucky Lake on the Kentucky border. The truth is the far north has some exceptional crappie fisheries and leading that charge is Lake of the Woods sandwiched between the Ontario and Minnesota borders.
            A tiny corner of Lake of the Woods known as the “Northwest Angle” is becoming a destination every crappie fishermen needs to visit. Ironically, one of the best times to fish for crappie on Lake of the Woods is during the winter months. Crappie are a warm water species, but they feed actively during the winter and it’s at this time of year they form into huge schools. For the crappie angler who likes to get bit often and pull slab after slab from the ice hole, it doesn’t get any better than Lake of the Woods.
Crappie like this are amazingly abundant at Lake of the
Woods near a destination known as the Northwest Angle.
The northern most part of MN, this little slice of heaven is
 a dream come true for hard core ice fishermen.

            Last winter the Fishing 411 crew visited the Northwest Angle and Sunset Lodge to experience this fishery first hand. Just getting to this place is an adventure in of itself. To reach Sunset Lodge you travel north to Baudette, Minnesota, cross the border into Manitoba, travel for about an hour and actually cross the border again into Minnesota.
            Believe it or not, the travel adventure isn’t over yet. Once you reach the Northwest Angle region of Lake of the Woods, you can only reach Sunset Lodge by traveling across the “ice road” which connects the mainland to this and many other fishing resorts. The ice road is plowed and well marked. Once you arrive at Sunset Lodge you’re in Minnesota waters, but the best crappie fishing actually takes place in the nearby Ontario waters of Lake of the Woods!
            If all this travel seems ridiculous the fishing is ridiculously good and worth every minute of the travel. Sunset Lodge is a full service resort providing lodging, meals, a bar, bait, transportation on and off the ice and of course seasoned fishing guides.
            Crappie fishing on Lake of the Woods is generally so good that the guides rarely mess with live bait. Tungsten jigs tipped with soft plastic are the mainstay for icing a mess of slab crappie.
            A flasher or liquid crystal sonar unit is critical to finding fish and pinpointing the depth they prefer at the moment. Crappie are notorious for suspending in the water column and a good graph makes it possible to mark both fish and the lure in the water column. Without electronics an angler is literally fishing blind. 
Lake of the Woods is known for producing not
 only numbers of crappie, but also slabs like these.

            Fishermen interested in traveling to the Northwest Angle can get more information by visiting or The ice fishing in this region isn’t limited to just crappie fishing. Anglers will also find world class fishing for walleye, sauger and northern pike.