I really enjoy exploring new fishing destinations. Last weekend a buddy of mine, Roger Wright of Tinley Park and I drove up to La Crosse, Wisconsin to fish pool #8 of the Mississippi River. What a beautiful area it is and the fishing there was pretty good too
This was my first visit to pool #8 but Wright has fished here a few times before and knew of some good places to start.
La Crosse has 7 free boat ramps and we used one on the Black River. The Black meets the Mississippi in heart of La Crosse, so we launched there because it was close to our motel and only a short 5-minute boat ride to the Mississippi and some its beautiful backwater areas.
The largemouth and smallmouth bass were plentiful. During our weekend of fishing we were able to catch dozens of bass from 12 to 19 inches long. Most fish were about 15 inches long. Our baits of choice were flat bodied shad crankbaits, 3-inch twister tail grubs, or stick baits rigged wacky worm style because they matched the local forage.
My vision of the backwater bays and channels between the islands was that they would be shallow weed choked flats. There were shallow bays, but surprisingly some were 20-25 feet deep. The current was close to being unnoticeable in some areas while in others it was quite swift. With all these different situations, the challenge to find and catch fish was fun.
We caught our largemouths on plastics in slack water areas that had weeds or fallen trees. In a few of the smaller bays we could see schools of shad breaking the surface. They were being chased by feeding bass. We caught quite a few bass casting crankbaits around the schools of baitfish.
The smallies were in faster moving waters. They hid behind boulders, along rocky banks, and on points that had a swift current passing over them.
We also fished a few wing dams that came to a foot or two of the water’s surface. Water rushing over the tops of the wing dams created straight lines of turbulent water. This made them easy to see from a distance. We caught several smallies that staged themselves on the downstream side of the wing dams waiting to ambush any bait that came over the top. For the smallies, wacky worms and grubs worked best.
Wright caught the biggest smallie of the trip on one wing dam that was between two islands. The fish was 19 inches long and fat. It looked like a football.
Once and awhile our lures got bit off. That’s a tell-tale sign that northern pike are in the area. When that happens, we would throw a spinnerbait for the toothy critters.
Just before we left on our last day, I was casting a spinnerbait near a creek mouth. I had a hit and miss but was able to see that it was a nice sized Northern. A minute or so later the fish surfaced about 15 yards away. I made a quick cast beyond it and in about 5 cranks of the reel a 38-inch pike smashed my spinnerbait and ended up in the boat. What a great way to end the trip.
All of our fish were released. The river was in good shape, the fish were biting, and the drive up to La Crosse was only about five hours from our south suburban homes.
Pool #8 of the Mississippi River is a great place to go fishing that’s not that far away, so I’ll add this one to my list of destinations for a quick weekend trip.