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OUTDOORS COMMENTARY

Outdoors commentary: Unique conditions sill lead to good fishing

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With the largest single-day rainfall in La Crosse — 5.59 inches — officially etched into the record book for Aug. 7, 2021, plus significant subsequent rainfall after that, I knew area streams and rivers would be running high.

I knew it could takes days, even weeks, for the water to recede to more normal levels, whatever normal really is.

It didn’t matter. I needed to fish.

Or at least attempt to catch some fish, so I decided to leave the fishing boat tucked in the garage, instead opting to load my kayak and test my luck against some Mississippi River backwater bass. Largemouth, smallmouth, it didn’t matter.

Besides, I haven’t fished out of my kayak at all this summer, and the itch was there. I couldn’t handle writing about any more fishing tournaments — even big-time events like the Major League Fishing Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Elite, which is in progress on the Mississippi River as you read this — without trying to reel in one of those feisty fighters myself.

What I didn’t realize is how high the water really was, even in the Trempealeau Lakes area. When I reached the area, it was like spring — only there were leaves on the trees — as part of the parking at Round Lake was under water.

Not a good sign.

But, as any true angler will tell you, wind, rain, high water behold, as if there is water, there are fish. So I tried another close-by lake, and slid the kayak into the water.

Several very relaxing hours later, I had two bluegills and almost-a-smallie. Let’s say my fishing-and-catching skills in a kayak need some work, and one smallmouth bass is luckier because of it.

Nope, I didn’t get wet, but it was close. As the sun started to set, I retreated to shore with one thought in mind: I need to do this again, as in a few days, even if the bite was slow.

Here are some odds and ends from around the area:

MONSOOR NOT RETIRING: He’s 72 years old and competed at several Major League Fishing levels for more than 23 years, including 18 on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, but Tom Monsoor is not about to utter the word “retirement.”

Coming off a disappointing 2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit season where he finished 91st in the points standings out of 163 competitors did nothing to dissuade him. In fact, it fired him up.

“Oh yeah,” Monsoor said. “I hate the driving (to tournaments), but I love the fishing. I’ll be back next year.”

Monsoor has experienced considerable success in the latter part of his MLF career, winning the Mississippi River Super Tournament in 2020 — and a first-place prize of $125,000 – and an event on the Potomac River that earned him another $100,000.

“I am the oldest guy to win — twice. I broke my own record. I won at 69 and 71,” Monsoor said. “I love competing against these guys. They are the best at what they do.”

TAKING A BREAK: Mark Clements, owner of Captain Hook’s Bait & Tackle and Clements Fishing Barge in Genoa, is taking a little break to do some traveling. The tackle and bait shop will remain open, but the fishing barge will be closed until Friday, Sept. 3.

Mark and Karen are heading on a short journey to northern Minnesota, then — if COVID restrictions permit — a longer trip to Peru.

“We lock up (the fishing float) for August, close down for one month. It gives us time to do maintenance on boats, and it’s time for a vacation, time to rejuvenate after going seven days a week,” Mark Clements said.

“We go back at it, from September to the middle of November. It is really good fishing in the fall. The first two weeks of November, a lot of the weeds have died and gone downriver. We really catch a lot of walleye and sauger in the fall.”

Clements said action on the fishing float – believed to be the oldest on the Mississippi River as it was established in 1936 — has been solid to good this spring and summer. Ever-changing water levels, however, have been a challenge.

“It was a good spring; the summer was OK. Low water hit us hard in June and upset the cycle for a little bit. We had low water in the spring anyway, then it went lower,” Mark Clements said. “All through June it dropped.

“People, they look at the river, saying it is the lowest it has ever been. Traditionally we have low water every August. In the last 10 or 15 years, the water has been higher. People forget that. I remember walking on the wingdams and grabbling lures off the wingdams (in August of years past).”

HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE TOURNEYS: A few weeks ago (July 29) I wrote a column about Gage Griffin, a recent UW-La Crosse graduate and member of the university’s fishing team. Griffin and his teammate, Jordan LaRue, of Wausau, Wis., were about to compete in Major League Fishing’s Abu Garcia College Fishing event on the Mississippi River on July 30.

The pair finished 74th out of 97 teams, catching two bass for a combined weight of 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Dylan Sprain, of Sparta, and Connor Kolb, of Madison, representing the University of Wisconsin, finished third with a combined weight of 10 pounds, 7 ounces.

The winning team, Pierce Knarr and Jake Usher, from the University of Iowa, won the tournament with a combined weight of 12 pounds, 10 ounces.

In Major League Fishing’s U.S. Army High School event, also held at Stoddard the next day (July 31), two Caledonia High School anglers teamed up to win the event. Kody Schroeder and Eric Welscher topped the 49-team field with a combined weight of 16 pounds, 14 ounces.

Parker Kratochville, of Onalaska, and Benson Swatek of Holmen, were representing Holmen High School. They finished second with a combined weight of 13 pounds, 8 ounces.

ANY IDEAS?: I’ll keep throwing it out there as a number of you have sent me story tips that have turned out to be very interesting pieces. Keep sending them, please. It doesn’t matter if it’s a longtime waterfowl hunter, goose hunter, ultra-biker, long-distance kayaker, bow hunter or whatever. If it has to do with the outdoors, I’m interested. Send Jeff story tips at outdoorstrib@gmail.com

Jeff Brown, a former longtime sports editor for the Tribune, is a freelance outdoors writer. Send him story ideas at outdoorstrib@gmail.com

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