Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Evening With the Redtails

Growing up in the dairy country of Wisconsin, when someone said redtail it generally meant a type of common hawk found in the area. After moving to Minnesota the term became synonymous with Northwest Airlines who's planes were know as "Redtails" because of the red paint scheme on the tails of those planes. Today redtails mean only one thing, smallies! Saturday my good friend and neighbor Tom decided we should hit the Mississippi River north of Monticello. He as a nice 16 foot Lund Pro Angler with the old style 50 hp Mercury 4 cylinder 2 stroke and would be much more practical than my Ranger. Back in 1987 I bought a boat just like his. At the time is was state of the art in aluminum. The 5o hp Merc was a smooth running machine and it would idle for hours without as much as a hickup. It was also a gas hog, but in those days it didn't really matter. That boat really caught the fish, from the 8.5 pound walleye I have in my office to downrigger salmon fishing on Lake Michigan. Using Tom's boat brings back many good memories.

We headed to the bait shop in Anoka to see if they had any of the fabled Redtailed Chubs and as luck would have it they had a few left. At $9.95/dozen ( a bargain these days) we bought 18. The baitshop owner was kind enough to sort the largest ones for us ranging from 4 to 6 inches and gave us exactly 18. We headed northwest to a landing about 40 miles upriver which after arriving found the water level very low and extremely clear. One could see 4 feet down and sitting on the bow as we headed down river was amazed at all the fish I could see scattering in front of us. We managed to get the boat hung up only once on the way down, which of course did not bode well for our return trip. Once through the shallows we found our first run, a stretch of water near shore that rund 4 - 6 feet deep and extends for at least a quarter of a mile. Not wanting to use up all of our bait right away I started casting a tube. I immediately lost 3 fish. I was fishing with a ML spinning rod with 8# test and I soon felt I did not have enough umpf. Because I was in with Tom's boat, I did not have the luxury of rigging 4 or 5 poles for various presentation. I decided to rig my power rod with a short plain hook and bell sinker combo after Tom landed 2 with his bobber rig. One technique is to suspend a redtail about 3 feet under a bobber and let him do all the work. It was amazing to see the fish actually hit the bait as the water was that clear. Determined to make our bait last we tried a number of artificials and did catch a few fish but the clear ticket was the redtails. We ended the night at 7:00 PM knowing we had to get across the one large shallow area. The fish tally was well over 20 smallies for the 3 hours we spent fishing. The largest were around 18 inches and I would not even want to guess how many grabbed the big minnows but spit them out after a short but intense battle. It was a beautiful day on the river despite Tom having to get out and pull the boat and me through about 200 yards of shallow water. The cooperative fish, eagles soaring above us, and great company made for a wonderful evening on the river. Fall fishing with redtails can mean only one thing, ice fishing is not far behind!

Thanks again Tom.

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