An Outdoorsman’s Journal
By: Mark Walters The End of the Easy Season
Hello friends: My original plan for this week’s column was to hike from my house with a backpack loaded with essentials and hunt rabbits and coyote for three days. That plan changed and became the “I am going to launch my canoe at a public landing and go on an ice fishing trip on the Wisconsin River” trip.
Sunday, Feb. 21 High 30, low 17 Highway 21 where it goes over the Wisconsin River separates Juneau and Adams counties and is an absolutely beautiful area. The views are of the Petenwell Rock, the river, and the dam that holds back the Petenwell Flowage, as well as backwaters of the river on the northeast side of 21.
My house is just over a mile away from this piece of paradise, and to be perfectly honest, I spend very little time exploring it.
My plan was to put in on the Adams County side of the river and canoe under the bridge and into the backwaters, which is kind of a protected area. You can be on the water or the ice, but not on the land. My brain told me that there has to be some huge northern pike and maybe some walleye back there and with my faithful pup Ruby, this adventure began before sun-up this morning.
I began exploring with my Jiffy “Pro 4” and looking for deep water. The only water deep enough to hold fish was on a channel that went through the backwaters. I drilled to mud unless I got on the edge of the channel and then I had 4 feet of water.
I put out two tip-ups and knew I was going to catch me a 40-inch gator. Where the backwater reached the main channel of the Wisconsin, I used a spinning rod with a fathead and then I proceeded to build camp within 20 feet of the river.
Here are some inside stories. The channel on the backwater was either open water or completely unsafe ice, very dangerous. There was a heavy snowfall reported for later in the day and when this trip ends my not-so-busy-season ends. I am going to North Dakota, then Chequamegon Bay, then Michigan and then the state of Mississippi. Plus, the hobby farming thing — plans may change, but I am swamped. What’s on my mind? The second day of this trip, Wisconsin’s wolf season is set to open, and to say the very least, it is an interesting discussion. Camp is built, life is good. I have my portable shack, heat, lights, a table, chair and a cookstove. I almost forgot, I am going to work on my taxes, so I have three one-gallon bags of receipts from 2020. About noon a flag goes up. Where I set the tipup, there is less ice than when I put it there. I catch a northern pike, it is 28 inches. Gators have to be 32 inches to keep them here, but at least I know there are fish.
About 3:00, an incredibly hard snow starts falling and it is surreal to be out here. I chose to hang outside the shack with Ruby until shortly after dark and that was a very cool experience as visibility was next to nothing.
I saw a huge deer on the ice, and it could not see us. I know it was a buck and it knew exactly where to cross the ice on the backwater where it would hold its body. No deer hunting here — if I die and have a choice, I am coming back here as a buck.
I stayed in the snow too long and did not have the right clothes on, so I got pretty wet from the stomach up. When I went into my shack, I had another problem. The snow was falling so fast and the heat in my shack was melting the snow and I had lots of leaks as the fabric was soaked and the seams were not made for this. Generally, I use a tarp, but due to the fact I was canoeing, I had space issues.
In the end, Ruby and I survived and in the morning the fish were not hungry, but a great many wolves in the state of Wisconsin were harvested just like we do with deer, turkey, bear, and bluegill. It is called management.
On my second day, I was so busy doing as little as possible that I found it simply impossible to pull any receipts out and begin separating and itemizing them.
I actually stayed until dark, thinking the gator of my dreams would give me a chance to be a hero, but that was not meant to be. When I pulled my tip-ups, the ice was very thin and had become water with current and I was glad I am built like a gazelle instead of an elephant!
My easy season begins Nov. 29, the day after deer gun season ends. Live ’til ya die! Sunset
A comfortable Wisconsin River camp.
A hard snow fell during this trip.
Walters paddling back to the truck.