My wife and I spent 4 days, 3 nights up at the ISA road trip cottage.
A big thank you to Norm Perkins for gifting a few days of the trip. Thank you to the rest of the crew for letting my wife and I stay in the honeymoon suite with the private screened in deck and Jacuzzi tub. It was a very enjoyable trip with outstanding weather, conversation, food, fishing, exploring, and general comradery. Norm was just arriving as we were leaving and I did get to pick Ken's brain a little before he left. Here was the crew that I stayed with:
Although I did some fishing this was more of a relaxing and exploring type of get away for the two of us. We spent every night around the campfire having a few drinks, telling stories, and joking around.
A nice section of river is right in the back yard of the cottage. The first morning I woke up to catch the sunrise for this view.
I caught maybe 60 bass over the trip. The best 2 came within view of the cottage. These were 19"+ fish and it speaks to the quality of the location.
I did a long float with Mike on a day my wife went to visit her Aunt in Wausau. It is a nice section of river and we did ok. You had to work for your fish but I put the time in and was rewarded with around 2 dozen with 3 that were 18" or better.
The next day we all went out and floated a section and worked out a shuttle. Fishing was slower but there were plenty of nice smallmouth caught.
This leads me to technique as these fish were a little particular. There was a lot of talk of the whopper plopper. So much so that my wife wanted to create a drinking game where everyone had to chug every time someone said whopper plopper. I tried the plopper plenty but only caught 3. They all happened to be 18" or better but its wasn't the best thing going. I was my most productive dragging bottom with larger profile natural colored plastics on sliderheads. After a riffle section when the river got deeper and slower, was the most productive for me. I focused on the middle 1/3 of the river and would work 2 rods. This isn't for everyone as you can easily become a hot mess fishing this way. I was able to avoid snagging for the most part along with not tangling and not having 2 fish on at the same time.
The last day my wife and I explored some waterfalls as there is about a dozen in the area. It is absolutely gorgeous up there hiking about some of the natural areas. Water levels are low right now and I'm sure the waterfalls would be more spectacular in high water conditions.
I did bring my rod on one of the waterfall hikes. I caught around 10 smallmouths out of one hole. I also caught 2 fish in one cast. I was reeling in a smallmouth and a northern pike attacked my smallmouth head first and would not let go. Would not let go to the point where I was able to grab the pike and separate the two even though the pike was never actually hooked.
I felt like I had a quality Northwoods experience and wish I could have stayed longer. I can't imagine there are too many places in the Midwest more picturesque to fish.