Target Walleye/Ice email

How Jason Mitchell targets rocks, Bold NWT prediction, Near-record muskie caught

Today’s Top 5

BOLD PREDICTION: The Lake Sakakawea NWT will be won…

…trolling Berkley Flicker Minnows. Phew…I finally said it:


The derby kicks off tomorrow — I know a bunch of NWT pros read these Target Walleye emails, so was waiting to make my “prediction” until the last minute…. Reason(s) for my guess:

For whatever reason, those chunky Lake Sakakawea love them some Berkley Flicker Minnows — maybe it’s the smelt-like profile seeing as that’s the primary forage out there? We get loads of pictures sent in from TW fans holding big Sakakawea gravel lizards, and I swear 3/4 of ’em say they were caught on Flicker Minnows.

The NoDak AIM State Championship was just there a few weeks back and I know for sure the top 2 teams were running ’em. I remember the 2nd-place team, Matt Ristow and Kyle Hertz, saying they had everything (in their program) so dialed-in that the fish “were eating them head first.”

Matt said they were running big #11 Flicker Minnows custom-painted by his buddy Dane Heid of DH Custom Baits. Had to get my hands on a pic to see what sorta color combo they were working with and:


Considering Mr. DH Custom Baits himself is fishing the NWT tomorrow, I’d bet there’s a whole pile of those ^ stuffed in every compartment of his boat. Wouldn’t even want to know what the on-the-water price of ’em is right now lol.

Kinda hope I’m wrong [shoulder-shrug emoji] because I love when these things are won with hand-to-hand combat = casting/jigging vs trolling…but you gotta do what you gotta do when there’s a 1st-place payday of $80-90K!

Either way it’ll be super interesting to see how it all goes down seeing as they just had a massive cold front roll through. Highs in the upper 80s just a few days ago then woke up to 25°F yesterday:


Good luck to all the pros/cos! Be safe.

Near-record muskie caught in MN.

To say the dude who caught it was excited is anunderstatement?

> “When he jumped and I saw him, I [messed his pants]. I literally did….”

That’s Brandon Graddick talking about the moment he first saw the 52-lb (57″ long x 25″ girth) muskie he caught outta Straight Lake, MN while on family vacation the end of Aug:


Whoa…thing’s insanely large. What’s even crazier:

> Straight Lake is not a natural muskie lake, has never officially been stocked with muskies and the DNR has never captured one while doing its netting surveys.

> The DNR’s acting area fisheries supervisor in nearby Park Rapids, Calub Shavlik, believes it’s likely the fish was accidentally placed in Straight Lake from a muskie rearing pond located across MN Highway 34 from the lake.

Hmmmm…”accidentally placed” huh…? The resort owner has heard/seen several other ‘skies come outta Straight Lake over the years, but of course nothing like the one Brandon caught:

> [By the time he got back to the dock to show his family, keeping the muskie’s head in the water] Graddick said he didn’t think the muskie was going to live. So he made the decision to get the fish weighed to see just how big it was. After trying for some time unsuccessfully to find a certified scale that would make the fish’s weight official in case it was a record, Graddick brought the muskie to Delaney’s Outdoors in Park Rapids. Using a hook scale used to weigh deer, the fish measured 52 lbs.

> Keeping the fish was legal but Graddick said he’s already caught some grief from anglers chastising him for keeping the trophy muskie, which are usually released alive back into the lake. He said he struggled with keeping the fish, but once the muskie looked like it wasn’t going to survive he made the decision and will live with it.

> Graddick said he’s comforted that some people have told him muskies aren’t supposed to be in Straight Lake anyway, and that the DNR says the fish was likely near the end of its natural lifespan.

> Brandon: “I did try to keep him alive, but I wanted to show my family the fish. If people want to give me crap about it, then it is what it is. It’s a once in a lifetime fish.”

Here’s how close it was to the MN record:

> The state record muskie weighed 54 lbs and was 56″…. It was caught in Lake Winnibigoshish in 1957. The catch-and-release record was a 57.25″ fish with a 25.25″ girth caught in 2019 on Lake Vermilion.

“Boats to kids can be like a prison after a while. They’ve explored the space, played with what they’re able to, and in minutes to hours, can feel like they’re trapped rather than trolling.”

– That’s Joel Nelson talking in one of his newest summertime write-ups called “fishing with kids – striking the right balance.” He did leave out one minor detail tho:


Lol. But seriously Joel is talking about lessons he’s learned the hard way when it comes to getting/keeping kids interested in spending time on the water…it’s not always about the fishing:

> “Despite my very best efforts and preparations, they had way more fun jumping off the boat near the beach and swimming the last 2 hours of the day.

> “It’s a lesson I’ve lived and re-learned so many times…. We take our children fishing, hoping to excite them with the experience, while clinging to childhood memories we still have. The result is often a frustrated father and kids that are somewhat incredulous to the time and efforts their parents put into trying to make it fun, while often, failing miserably.

> “That day on the water, we should’ve quit an hour or 2 earlier and focused on swimming more than the fishing. …hoping that by re-accounting my own adventures, it might strike a chord with other parents and grandparents….”

> “Here’s what I’ve learned, and need to be reminded of from time to time….”

Keep reading here if you’re struggling to find that balance.

“It’s like looking at the Model T of the fishing industry.”

– That’s Ray Gildow talking about Gary “Mr. Walleye” Roach’s first real fishing boat, a Shell Lake 315 Lund Tri-Hull he bought new for $300 back in 1970!


The boat has since been restored, and Gary donated it to the MN Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame in Little Falls. For sure worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Gary actually lives not too far from me here in central MN. Been meaning to bop over there and snoop around his garage chat fishing. Reply to this email if there’s any questions you’d like thrown the legend’s way!

Ever heard someone say…

…they’re gonna be eating “tag soup” at the end of the hunting season? Meaning they weren’t able to catch any deers…. Think I found the fishing-version of that posted by Greg Ricer over on the Facebooks:


That pic give anyone else flashbacks to their college days?


1. WORLD RECORD for the most fish ever caught in 24 hours?

…was 2,172 [!] by Jeff “Marathon Man” Kolodzinski last fall, and heeeee’s baaaaack…! Gonna try to break his own record at Sankoty Lakes Resort & Retreat outside of Peoria, IL today. Not doing it for a spot in the record books:

> “He’s doing it to introduce people and families to fishing and to increase awareness and financial support for Fishing For Life, a non-profit, charitable organization whose Next GEN program finds mentors for children of families in need.

> “A special focus within the program, serves families of our veterans who have lost loved ones while serving our nation.”

Great cause! Can hit up the silent auction or make a donation here.

It’s goin’ down live on Facebook RIGHT NOW — kicked off at 9am and he’ll be fishing for 24 hours straight — and he’s already caught 745 fish as I’m about to click “send” on this email.

2. ON: Rare blue rainbow trout caught on Superior.

Tanner Hrycyk caught the 27″ smurf out of 60′:

> …believed to be a genetic mutation that occurs in a vanishingly small number of hatchery-produced rainbow trout.

Write-up said they did some digging and approx 1 in 1.3 mil raised in a hatchery are blue. Would love to know the odds of them then getting to that size and being caught on a Great Lake.

3. How Covid impacted the fishing industry.

Just came across this In-Fisherman write-up that interviewed multiple industry leaders on how the pandemic impacted manufacturing, the sales channel, the retail environment, etc. — lot of good news! — and how they see things changing going forward.

4. OR: Coast Guard rescues 3 boaters on Columbia River.

During 52 mph gusts = yikes!

5. PA: New invasive called “rock snot” lol?!

Invasive alga didymo found in Quemahoning Creek. Not sure who gave it the nickname “rock snot” but after seeing a pic…it works:

6. More info on the new StrikeMaster Lithium 24v.

You read that right! Don’t worry…the Lithium 40V is NOT going anywhere. Think of this as a lightweight run-and-gun version of the already proven ice-cutter:

That ^ compact unit is a new lightweight auger head combined with SM’s popular Lite-Flite Lazer drill. Gets 100 holes per charge with the 6″ drill (13.3 lbs) and 50 holes per charge with the 8″ drill (14.3 lbs) based on 16″ of ice.

Available Oct 1.

7. MT has inspected over 115K vessels so far this season.

Watercraft inspectors have stopped 27 mussel-infested rigs from entering the state this year — most recently they found a mussel-fouled kayak strapped to the roof of a van traveling from MI to Glacier National Park.

8. MN: DNR wants your opinion on potential new panfish regz.

> “…proposed special fishing regulations that, if adopted, would become effective next year. Most of the proposed changes are aimed at protecting and improving bluegill sizes by lowering bag limits on lakes in 26 counties.”

There’s a series of “town hall meetings” coming up the beginning of Oct — more info here.

9. OH gets $5 mil for wetlands and water quality.

> The DNR is partnering with the OH Water Development Authority (OWDA) to strengthen the impact of the H2Ohio water quality initiative.

> “The funds will be used specifically to help ODNR naturally reduce nutrient runoff and prevent algal blooms over the long term.”

10. MN: DNR needs volunteers for…

…fish and wildlife budget oversight committees that review how the DNR spends “Game and Fish Fund” dollars.

11. Anyone run a Megaware Keelguard Skeg Guard?

Things look legit. Posted by BASS Opens angler Andrew Upshaw:

12. Mustad names Kenni Riise new CEO.

13. Now earthworms are bad for the environment?

Not ones that can jump, skip or sing…just straight-up earthworms….

14. Pink salmon are benefiting from warmer water.

I would’ve never guessed.

15. FishUSA has a bunch of the new…

Berkley Hit Sticks in stock = ooooh la la!

> Berkley: “They said we’d never find a material that could replicate the action of a balsa bait. They were wrong.”

Big claim — here’s how they did it: “low-center gravity FlashDisc weights [on the bottom] and a superior polycarbonate exterior.” Supposed to have that nasty-good balsa-type action, but is more durable and casts 60% farther:

16. Few new fishin’ podcasts out…

– JMO Podcast: Trophy fall walleye w/ Bret Alexander.

– Fish House Nation Podcast: Ice fishing Fort Peck, MT w/ Mike Howe.

– Chip Leer’s Wildside Podcast: Joel Nelson gets sciency. Highlights

Tip of the Day

Not all rocks are created equal if you’re trying to stick one of these:


Full Jason Mitchell write-up here, few excerpts below:

> “While the general locations might not be a secret, the spot-on-the-spot often takes some work to dial-in.

> “As a rule of thumb, any rock is better than no rock come late fall, but boulders that range 2-4′ in diameter are often big-fish locations.

> “Finding the sweet spots is often all about finding the right rocks. …humps or high points on a contour map might simply be one enormous mass of rock that might be 15′ across or more…that isn’t what we are looking for….

> “The best rocks might be on the outer edges of a chunk of rock that seems to be the size of a 1-car garage. Other locations might be covered with small rocks that are the size of a bowling ball or smaller and on 1 piece of the structure are the boulders the size of your desk. These types of boulders offer a lot of crevices and character. The sweet spots are often gaps or spaces in between the boulders or edges where boulders meet small rock, sand or even mud.

> “You have to pick your way through this type of structure. You’re going to get snagged and you must pay your dues figuring out these locations.

> “…it’s easy to miss fish with your electronics when fish are hiding in crevices and blind spots. Side Imaging can be a useful tool for gauging the bottom composition [but] down view reveals fish the best in these types of locations…easier to distinguish fish from rock….

> “…the key…fishing as vertically as possible. …classic vertical-jigging with either live bait (chub or big minnow) or soft plastics…. Live-bait rigging big creek chubs is a classic fall presentation that accounts for many big fish on a lot of different fisheries. Snap jigging horizontal swim lures like Rail Shads, Tikka Minos or Jigging Raps can also be extremely productive.

> “The key with all these presentations is pinpoint boat control and a vertical presentation. Move the boat in increments and hover. In wind, I still love to back troll with a tiller but Spot-Lock capabilities on many trolling motors have made boat control easier. Get straight up and down to feel your way through the rock.

> “A reaction strike sometimes saves the day…. If I miss fish or just getting soft bites and am getting frustrated with a spot, I always try to throw a Rail Shad or Jigging Rap down before I pull my hair out and leave. It’s surprising how often this presentation can turn a day around. The fish are just there when you snap the rod tip back up.

> “As you can imagine, rock is hard on these lures with broken fins. The Salmo Rail Shad is durable with a polycarbonate fin and has a wicked vibration that more resembles a crankbait. Clam Pro Tackle has a new lure called the Tikka Mino that is a solid construction zinc alloy that also features an exceptionally durable zinc bill. The key with all these lures is the cadence. After working these lures all day, I typically have blisters on my fingers — that’s how hard I snap these lures to get them to work.”

Quote of the Day

“No matter how slowly you reel in fish from that depth, there’s still likely going to be some trauma.”

– That’s Brandon Eder, MN DNR assistant area fisheries supervisor, talking about how deep is too deep to be targeting walleye. Lots of interesting info in the full write-up here, including how “re-compression devices” used by saltwater folks could be a safer alternative to “fizzing” (actually illegal in many states):

> “These tools can simply be an inverted barbless hook secured to a line with a weight that takes the fish to bottom and releases it with a sharp snap of the line, or a jaw clamp that releases similarly. The general idea of both being that the fish quickly gets back down to a depth that allows air bladder pressures to recede, and ultimately supports its survival. …the decompression devices show greater efficacy overall.”

Have no idea on the legalities of that so (as always!) check your local regz before playing mother nature….

Today’s ‘Eye Candy

Francis Audet (@frankaudet) is back and they keep getting bigger! Tied his PB with this blue-hued 32″ rock melon caught pitching a LIVETARGET Twitch Minnow with his Okuma Helios Reel and Rod. Congrats dude!

Sign up another fish-head!

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