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updated: 5/9/2012 11:43 AM

A Wisconsin season opener that won't be easy to forget

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BUTTERNUT, Wis. -- This is not a tale of woe, nor is it a bagful of complaints and moaning. This missive is rather a note to myself that I don't actually have to be in the north country for any opening weekend fishing celebrations.

But I will admit it was reassuring to see an honest-to-goodness Ashland County, Wis., rush hour.

I sat there in my friend Roger's apartment and counted vehicle after vehicle speeding by. I quit counting when I got to 70 cars and trucks with Illinois plates on their trailers. I suspect many raced on to their favorite getaways just to sate the hunger of the fishing season's opening weekend.

It was Thursday morning when I left my home and started the 450-mile schlep to the land of great-smelling trees and decades-old supper clubs. By the time I crossed into Wisconsin, a bad omen befell me.

Heavy rain and wind signaled tough times ahead. Milwaukee radio stations blurted out the sky was falling, and advised great caution.

I was towing my new boat behind the truck, and more than once I panicked when I thought there was another truck dangerously close, inches from my rear bumper. Of course it was my own trailer and fishing rig, something I wasn't use to seeing in my rear-view mirror.

The miles clicked away as I kept heading north. It didn't matter that the sky was opening up like a monsoon. I had many miles to go with a jumbo Thermos of hot coffee as well as enough rainfall to keep a Texas drought at bay.

And when I drove through Park Falls, I glanced at the outside temperature gauge. It was inconsequential the thermometer hovered around the 40-degree mark. Nope, I was here to fish while also demonstrating to myself and others that being in far northern Wisconsin at this time of the year was a manly act of nature.


I know Sir Spencer of Petros will laugh his petutee off when he reads this, but I am admitting to you that two days before the 2012 Wisconsin game fish opener, Roger and I failed to connect with the infamous Butternut Lake jumbo crappies.

I found large schools of these fish suspended in 15 feet of water and failed to overcome their case of lock jaw.

So I motored to a sheltered bay and concentrated on finding more schools.

I marked a few fish but decided to leave the bay and head back to the main lake. That was when a muskie came up to the surface and grabbed some kind of bait fish.

Even when I yelled, Roger didn't see it. Big deal, the season for muskies didn't open until later in the month anyway. And this Woody Allen-type scenario just added to the frustration.

I went back to the rock reef and continued to search for schooled fish on the bottom. That turned out to be a washout, so to speak.

Saturday, the 5th, was the official day of May Madness. That's when thousands of cans of beer are consumed along with brats and burgers.

Walleye filets were scarce, to say the least. I can speak with a smidgeon of authority following my interviews with more than two dozen hapless walleye fishermen.

We decided on a nearby change of scenery. Roger and I motored up and down the Flambeau River in search of smallmouth bass and walleyes. The best action happened when I dinged the stainless prop on barely submerged boulders.

Everywhere we went, I asked people in boats if they caught anything. The looks on the faces preceded their answers.

"Nope, not a single bite," they replied.

Two different bait and tackle shop owners reported the same bad news.

I was told some resorts and motels weren't having the usual load of out-of-state customers due to the weather.

Was I unhappy? You bet, but I'll be back here for another shot at glory when it's warmer and drier.

•Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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