One morning long ago, I awoke earlier than usual and turned on my laptop computer.
I had specific thoughts I wanted to note in a special file. The gist of those thoughts centered on many questions from readers and listeners, but I was uncomfortable answering some of them because my personal opinion would necessarily seep into the answer.
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But now I come to the realization that life is far too short, and my time here is limited. So, with that conclusion I am offering more than just my usual 2 cents.
• A.W. wrote and asked the proverbial question, "Mike, to the best of your knowledge, where can I find good walleye fishing?"
Not too tough an inquiry, but because I have become rather gun shy about answering like that one, I am now stepping out on a limb.
A.W., the ultra-high cost factor is what's keeping a number of Chicago area walleye anglers from going to some of the more exotic fly-in spots for great walleye angling. So, with that in mind here are my stateside suggestions.
Mille Lacs Lake in north-central Minnesota is an excellent walleye factory, as is Red Lake a tad further north. In fact, there are scads of Minnesota locations and lakes loaded with eating-sized walleyes.
In Wisconsin, there's Windigo and Grindstone Lakes near Hayward. In southern Michigan there's the St. Joseph River, from Lake Michigan eastward to the big dam.
Many fishermen want to get out of Illinois and into the land of tall pines and spruce. The walleye fishing comes with all that, especially when one gets to a river system where it's a tad more common to find big walleyes.
•On to T.K., who wrote about big northern pike.
"I know you've chased big pike for years in Canada, and with that in mind, where would you recommend a place my fishing pal and I could go and find big pike"?
Here's where the flak gets generated. I've had pike to 25-pounds on the North Seal River system (Manitoba). I managed to catch several in that same range on Kasba Lake (Northwest Territories). Anything over 20 pounds on a fly rod is exactly what turns on my alarm clock.
•R.S. wants me to stick my neck out for Canadian lake trout.
When the dollar costs were considerably lower I went to Great Bear Lake in the Arctic Circle and caught lakers to 45 pounds. But because the costs now are out of sight, trips like that are for those who can afford the tab. My last big lake trout was a 38-pounder caught on Kasba Lake.
•And what about other fish species?
The smallmouth bass story is a never-ending saga. There is the trophy factory of the Menomonee River near Crivitz, Wis. Little Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin is terrific, as are the upper portions of Door County. You can also make a "vacation" out of three-day trip to the Kankakee River for smallies.
Two- and maybe three-pound crappies make for an excellent trip to Granada, Miss.
For quantities of white crappie, my choice is Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee.
Monster striped bass can be had by trolling the depths of Lake Norfork at Mountain Home, Ark., as well as its neighboring lake, Bull Shoals.
A drive down to Florida has all kinds of possibilities for great freshwater angling. I especially like one Florida tourism page with the following description of one particular area.
"Back your boat in and back out of the 21st century. Leave your emails at the landing; the tupelo trees don't have Wi-Fi. When you encounter the hauntingly beautiful wonders of Gulf County's legendary Dead Lakes and ecologically diverse Apalachicola River system, your co-workers are ospreys, fish and alligators. This unique fresh water environment provides any angler with a variety of exhilarating fishing experiences and a whole lot of wildlife excitement. Spend an early summer morning fly-fishing for Red Bellied Bream among the ancient cypress. Camp overnight on the Apalachicola River and reel in a massive flathead catfish. Whether spending a lazy afternoon with a cane pole, or an adrenaline-packed morning chasing largemouth bass, wetting your line in our waters will guarantee you come ashore with a boatload of memories. Share the excitement and wild beauty of our unspoiled lakes, creeks, and rivers with your loved ones -- take back pictures, or take back supper! Like the lakes themselves, your time on the water will be unforgettable."
What I won't do now is pinpoint a lodge, because it wouldn't be fair to all the lodge owners I know.
But I'm sure 2014 will find you enjoying yourselves and catching lots of fish.
•Contact Mike Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed atmikejacksonoutdoors.com.