Friday, July 9, 2010

Return from the Northwoods

Lake Thompson - Rhinelander, WI Area

June 2-9, 2010

We made great time driving up to the Rhinelander area for a weeks stay on Lake Thompson. We made it to the lake before noon, and before check in time, but we were able to get the keys and unload the vehicles, then head into town for lunch and grocery shopping.

First Bass of the trip - tiny Smallmouth Bass

After we ate lunch and got back to the lake, it was time to put the boat in and do some fishing. The weather was clear and the air temp ranged from the upper 80s to low 90s as we fished through the afternoon. Chris Nolan and I caught a lot of small fish as water skier after water skier flew by with an occasional jet ski thrown in for good measure.

My first Pike comes to the boat

I caught a Northern Pike right away. A short time later I caught a little Smallmouth and then a little Largemouth on two consecutive casts. We caught a lot of small fish that afternoon and continued to try to figure out how to catch the bigger fish that we knew were in the lake.

Chris catches a nice Northern Pike

As we entered a shallow weedy bay, Chris changed lures and proceeded to tie into a good Northern Pike. I netted it and proceeded to unhook it, but it shook and caught my thumb with one of its teeth and punctured it deep enough so that it took a couple days to stop bleeding despite pressure. My wife wound up going into town for some additional first aid supplies and eventually we got it under control although a stitch or two would probably have been the way to go.

My first Walleye of the trip

I went out later in the evening by myself and caught more fish and added a Bluegill and Walleye to the species count. I also hooked and lost a real good Smallmouth Bass over a rock bar that was marked by a hazard buoy. A small pike got my other thumb but I was prepared and was able to stick a band aid over it.

Into the net after a brief battle

Chris and I were up early Saturday morning and back out on the water. It didn't take long before it was hot and humid to the point of being uncomfortable. We caught another mix of small fish that included bass and pike. I managed to land a nice Musky that was hanging around a weed line, and that was the highlight of the morning.

My only Musky of the trip

The boat traffic got pretty heavy so we decided to go in wait until evening before we'd head back out. Before we headed in though we were stopped by two conservation police officers and had our licenses and live well checked, and the boat inspected for the required safety equipment. We were good to go and had no violations. That was also the first time that Chris had ever been checked.

A nice Northern Pike

When we got back out the boat traffic was still pretty heavy. There was even a 4th of July parade of ski and pontoon boats going around the lake making a lot of noise. More and more boats joined them as they made their way around the lake.

A deer spies on us through the trees

We got to a quiet shallow area and noticed a deer hiding behind some trees as it kept an eye on us. There were several Loons on the lake and every evening you could hear their unmistakable call echo across the water. Crows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Kingfishers, and other birds were also in abundance around the lake. Every now and then an Osprey would fly by and we spotted a Bald Eagle a couple of times too.

A small Pike that was hit by a bigger fish on the way to the boat

The fish were still running on the small side although Chris got a nice Largemouth and I caught a small Pike that had a bigger fish hit it while I was reeling it in. I didn't get a good enough look to see what it was, but it left a mark on my pike.

Chris gets his first nice Largemouth

As the evening progressed, the fireworks began. They were everywhere. The sky was lit up in every direction and there was no shortage of loud booms thundering across the lake. Soon the mosquitos were too much to take even though we were soaked in deet. By this time the fireworks had ended and the lake was pitch black to the point where we couldn't see anything. I switched my locator to the GPS screen to make sure we were headed in the right direction back to the dock.

One of three Otters we saw playing in the rain

The next day we headed into town for the 4th of July parade. They really did a nice job and had a big turn out. The skies were over cast and every once in a while it would start to sprinkle, but the heavier rain held off until the parade was over - and we were ready to hit the water.

A nice 4th of July Pike in the rain

Sure enough as soon as we hit the water, the rain gradually began to pick up in intensity. We had our rain gear on and were determined to catch some decent fish. I changed my tactics since the majority of the fish we were catching were on the small side. It worked because the average size of the fish we started catching went way up.

Chris gets his first ever Perch

I caught some good Largemouth and Chris caught his first ever Perch and Warmouth to add to our species total. He also caught a couple good Largemouth too.

Chris gets a nice Largemouth in the rain

The rain showed no signs of diminishing, but since there was no thunder or lightning we decided to stay out and keep fishing. We caught more Northern Pike and Largemouth and there were more than enough of them to make it worth staying out.

Fishing in heavy rain

By the time we were done, we were both soaked all the way through our rain gear. I was wearing brand new rain gear and Chris decided he was going to get new rain gear since there was more rain forecast. Part of the problem was the humidity. There was no staying dry out there but at least it was a warm rain.

A Largemouth caught during a heavy downpour

That night we put a different cover on the boat to see if it would make a difference since the other one blew halfway off in the wind the previous night. There wasn't any way to secure it other than at the front and back so we opted for the cover I use to trailer the boat since it's a tight fit all the way around. Since I fished all day, I took both our wives to a late movie that night. The theater had a northwoods decor and was pretty cool. It was different from any other theater I've ever been in.

Chris teaches his son to fish

On Monday we headed up to the Minocqua area and visited a Wildlife park. It was better than most zoos I've been to. You are able to get up close to many of the animals and I even kissed a camel. My wife was able to feed the bears and deer, and everyone was able to pose for pictures with some of the other animals. They have a Musky pond and we were able to spot a big musky hiding under some lily pads. The pictures didn't turn out so good though. While we were in town stopping for food, I ran into an old friend that I used to work with at a sporting goods store some 10 or more years ago. That just goes to show just how small the world really is.

A nice sunset over an island

We went out again that evening for a little while and fishing was slower although we put a few nice fish in the boat. The mosquitos seemed immune to deet so we gave up sooner that we would have liked.

More rain moving in

On Tuesday morning, the weather was somewhat clear and Chris went out with his wife to get new rain gear while I went fishing. The boat was still soaked under the cover and did not smell very pleasant either. I caught a few fish but nothing to brag about. Chris came back with minnows and wax worms so that we'd have some live bait for his son to use. We didn't think his son was ready to start tossing lures at fish, and we wanted to make sure he'd see a fish up close.

As if the jet and water Skis weren't enough....

Garrett was playing in the water by the beach so we headed out into the boat traffic and not only had to deal with water skiers and jet skis, but an airplane that flew a few dozen feet over our heads before landing on the lake. The plane was met by another boat and someone either got off or was picked up. A short time later the plane took off again and was gone.

...we had a plane buzz our heads and land on the water

I managed to catch a big smallmouth in the same spot where I had lost one the first evening we were there. After that we fished for a little while and caught a few more fish before heading in for an early dinner.

A nice Smallmouth Bass

After dinner, we let Garrett try his hand at fishing. He was holding the pole and the bobber went under, but when he tried to pull back, the fish kept going. His dad took the Batman fishing pole from him and took over the battle.

Garrett's dad helps him with a big fish he hooked off the dock...

It didn't take long before I was reaching into the water to grab the Pike that Garrett and his dad had caught. Laura and Cathy (our wives) came down and took some pictures of the fish before we let it go.

...and it turned out to be a Northern Pike.

I picked up Cathy's pole and tossed a minnow out there and worked with Garrett to catch a nice Crappie. He wasn't as apprehensive about getting close to the Crappie as he was with the Pike - especially after knowing what the other Pike had done to my thumbs.

Me, Garrett, and a Crappie

After dinner we headed out fishing again, and true to form, the rain decided to join us again. We caught a few fish but decided not to take the camera out of the zip lock. I threw one nice largemouth in the live well but let it go without a photo before we went in for the night.

A nice Largemouth in the rain

On Wednesday we headed back toward Minocqua again to visit an Indian reservation which I found very interesting. I was very impressed with their engineering and other skills. We also saw the lumberjack show then went out for dinner before heading back to do a little more fishing. Just like the previous few nights, the rain waited for us before it started. This time the fishing was the best it was to be, but unfortunately for us, the rain was also the worst of the trip.

Another Largemouth during a downpour

As we made our way around the lake, the float switch for my bilge pump would trigger the pump and water would shoot out the side of the boat. That beats bailing water any day. When I would step off the front platform, the boat would tilt a little and the bilge would kick on every time. I've fished in worse, but not much worse and definitely not for that long.

And another after the rain let up for a few seconds

I had to switch tactics again as the rain picked up and was able to keep catching nice fish. Chris followed suit and put more fish in the boat also. The fish were in and around the lily pads and we would catch them way back in the pads, or just outside the weed lines in open water.

And another Lagrmouth after it started raining again

There were a couple times where the rain let up and we thought it might stop but mother nature was just teasing us. Another round of heavy rain would hit us and we'd pull our hoods a little tighter.

Chris got his share too

Eventually there were a few lightning strikes so we decided to head in. We were the only ones out there, thus the only targets for any other lightning bolts that might get thrown our way. Covering the already soaked boat was no easy chore but we managed to get it done without winding up in the water.

The fishing got better as the rain got worse

Thursday was a bright and sunny day. It was a little less humid but still hot. Chris and I went out and caught some nice fish. Most of what we caught were Largemouth but there were still a few small Pike around too. We headed in for lunch but were soon ready to head back out on the water. Garrett wanted to go fishing in the boat so we grabbed the remaining minnows and headed out to a spot that had rocks, weeds, grass, and a little of everything so we'd be sure to
catch some fish with live bait. Garrett fished for a little bit and missed a couple fish but his dad was on top of things and hooked a couple.

Chris gets another Largemouth

It didn't take long before Garrett got bored and decided he'd be the minnow wrangler. He had more fun getting minnows for us as we caught perch, crappie, warmouth, and bass. I tried vertical jigging over some rocks in deeper water but struck out.

Garrett sits in the boat and supervises

It was very windy while we were out there and controlling the boat was tough. Garrett eventually got bored with the minnows and decided he wanted to go back. He lasted longer than we thought he would and seemed to have fun.

A nice Warmouth takes minnow

After we dropped Garrett off we went back out in search of bigger fish. It didn't take long before we started to catch them. Chris finally managed to catch his first ever Walleye to bring his species total up to 6.

Another Largemouth in the heat

Just before we were about to head in for dinner, I was watching my lure clear a line of lily pads when a big Pike swam up and grabbed it at the boat. It was quite a sight to see and after a short battle the fish was in the boat.

A nice Northern Pike

We went out again for our last time after dinner and fishing was slower. I caught a couple nice fish and Chris finally caught a few fish after switching lures. The sunset was spectacular and was a nice end to a nice trip.

A nice sunset to end the trip

After the trip, the boat needed a thorough cleaning. I spent all day Saturday scrubbing the carpet and airing out all the compartments. As I was inside writing this post, I heard what I thought were heavy rain drops hitting the house. I looked out and saw it was still sunny so I ignored it for a minute. Once it got heavy I realized it was indeed rain so I went out and closed the compartments and waited until the rain stopped which was only a few minutes. There was some thunder and enough rain to wet everything down again so I had to wait a while longer before everything was dry enough to cover the boat. The wet gear will have to go back into the boat another day.


  1. What an amazing post! The fish pictures just went on and on. Love those pike and muskie pics along with smallmouth...even an otter. Wow, man. Very impressive stuff.

  2. Fantastic trip, super pics of some fish. Got to love those kind of days. Great Post.

  3. Great job, Bill. You always do a wonderful job of wrapping some great photography around your fishing trips. Enjoyed this just as if I was right there with you and that is why this is a great blog!

  4. WOw this proved to be a great trip even Garrett seemed to have enjoyed it

  5. Hi Bill:

    I came over from Urban Outdoorzman's site. I'm not a fisherperson or hunter, but I tend to follow blogs that include shots of wildlife and nature too. Your in-between the fish shots "lured" me in (pun intended) and then when I saw Rhinelander WI in the title of one post, I had to join up. I'm originally from Central Wis and moved to Texas over half my life ago now, so enjoy seeing some northern photos and folks! :)

  6. Thanks!!! :)

    I have more photos on my site at