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The perch Shawn Clark caught on a fishing trip last month were 11 to 12 inches each, with a crappie that measured about 11 inches. / Shawn Clark/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

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Aren't vacations great? I had a 9 day hiatus from my job last month, which I take every year over the Fourth of July week. This provides a much needed break from my daily grind and gives me some time to spend with my family and on the water.

I lived it up during my vacation this year, with not much time spent sitting around indoors. Who wants to do that any way, especially since the Good Lord blessed us with some fantastic weather?

Before I left work for vacation, I decided to put together a 'hit list' of certain lakes that I'd like to try fishing.

I found some great fishing on most days. What I also had (and come to expect) were some trial and error times, especially going to new lakes I'm not familiar with. So with that said, here is a breakdown of the new spots and some of the things I learned.

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Friday June 28

This was my last day of work and my friend Jim Kuester, his son Hunter and I decided to try to Cedar Lake in southern Manitowoc County for some bass and pan fish.

Admittedly, the weather wasn't kind to us upon our arrival that afternoon, as the rain moved in and not having fished that lake much, we thought we'd face a bit of a challenge. After getting on a bunch of small bluegills in our first couple areas, we finally got on some good ones a short distance out from the restaurant on the lake. While the number of keepers wasn't what we hoped for, we still ended up getting enough for a meal, and caught a handful of scrappy bass which we let go. It was a pretty good start to the vacation.

June 29

Crystal Lake in Sheboygan county was next on the hit list and we decided to try it early in the morning. The problem was that the weather wasn't cooperative early on and we decided to postpone our trip just a bit. We went to breakfast where I knew a bunch of guys from my church meet every Saturday for a short Bible study and then went fishing. The weather began to clear up, and we got to Crystal Lake and found bluegills, crappies and bass. We fished a little deeper water and again kept a dozen fish, picking through the smaller stuff, until both the wind picked up and the water ski activity the lake is known for, pushed us off the lake.

June 30

No fishing for me that day, as we went to church in the morning and then had a travel day to our place in Crivitz, where the plan was to fish Lake Noquebay. We finished our yard work and then hosted a bon fire. It was a relaxing day with my wife, Connie, and our kids.

July 1

We went to Lake Noquebay on yet another quest for panfish. It was gorgeous and got rather warm as the day progressed. And the fishing was fantastic, once I located them. I ran solo that day, and had a good time pulling in a number of 7-inch to 8 1/2-inch bluegills, along with about a dozen bass. I ended up keeping 15 bluegills, enough for a meal, and released all the bass I caught, most of which were averaging about 14 inches. It was a completely windless day with 75-degree weather and the fish were biting, along with very little boat traffic. It made for a great morning. While I didn't get out in the afternoon to fish, my wife Connie and I spent the rest of the day ATV riding with friends Bob and Karen Starich on some of the gorgeous trails Marinette County is known for, and then took our daughters for an evening boat ride on High Falls Flowage where we drove the boat up surprisingly close to a loon, and got some pictures of a doe and fawn wading in the shallows and then over to Bob and Karen's place for yet another bon fire.

July 2

Bob and I went back to Lake Noquebay early in the morning and after trying the same area I had success the day earlier, found it wasn't as fast and furious as the previous day. We eventually found some nice bluegills, which I filleted up and gave to Bob and his wife for a meal, along with some nice bass which we let go. I also think I just missed on a good-sized pike. Oh well, you can't win them all.

Later on that day we ended up coming home, as our kids had other obligations and my daughter, Brianna, had band practice that night at church.

July 3

I had made plans with my dad, Doug Clark to give Lake Winnebago a shot. Usually I'd have had a half dozen trips out there by this time of the year. Either scheduling conflicts, bad weather or boat problems prevented me from getting there.

My dad had been assaulting the crappies out there this year, especially early on, but for me it was too late to cash in on that. After some early searching on what was a cloudy morning, with a northeasterly breeze, we got on some perch, and some incredibly nice ones at that, getting them in the 11- and 12-inch range, along with about 15 small walleyes, one white bass, one bluegill, one crappie, a half dozen smallmouth bass including a whopper 16 1/2-inch bass my dad caught and about 10 or 12 sheephead. Got to love Winnebago for it's variety.

July 4

Fishing was how I started my Independence day with a return trip to Winnebago, this time with Jim Kuester and friend Bill Fabian. Once again we were in search of perch.

The bright sunny day provided some action, albeit not as hot and heavy as the day before. We did get 13 perch we kept, as big the previous day, along with some smaller walleyes, keeping one, a pair of nice crappies, a few smallmouth (released) two catfish (which we also released) and another 8 or 9 sheephead.

We had to work for each fish we got that day.

July 5

After deciding to sleep in a little, and going out for breakfast with my wife, my friend Jim, and an old childhood friend of mine Jim Pollock of Sheboygan joined us for an afternoon of fishing at Shawano Lake. JP hadn't been fishing in a number of years and was looking forward to getting after some fish.

We used to fish together for years as kids, hitting local rivers, Lake Michigan, and the Sheboygan Quarry. But life has a way of taking some funny turns and fishing hadn't been a priority for him lately. I figured Shawano would be perfect to get him on some fish as this lake coughs up fish pretty routinely.

When we arrived in the afternoon, the wind was a bit more difficult than I wanted. It was a little tough to anchor, and eventually we did manage to get situated, and got on some fish. Jim evidently had a better day, but we all got fish. JP had a little bit more difficulty getting fish, and despite that, had a good time. He enjoyed being on the water, and is hoping to get more time out there this year.

We ended up keeping 27 bluegills between the three of us, and threw back a lot of borderline fish, and a lot of small perch that ended up moving in that weren't anywhere near big enough to keep. It was a good afternoon, with temperatures in the mid 80's, and winds at 13 mph.

So what lies ahead? I will still be on the water, but that work thing is going to limit me a little bit. But in just two short months, bow hunting starts, and this time of year my practice time increases and stand preparation gets a little more focus.

My fishing focus will likely be on Lake Winnebago chasing perch and walleyes, getting on Lake Noquebay on our weekends up north, and hopefully chasing salmon after work. Fishing is far from over for me. But since the spawning is over and water temps have increased and now dropped a bit, strategies and priorities are beginning to change. I'm getting back to my normal daily grind, and my fishing will be limited to after work in the evenings and on weekends once more.

It's been a complete joy so far this year, and with the numerous people I get to fish with each year has been a God-given blessing. Hopefully the rest of the summer will continue to produce fish and create even more memories.

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