Surface water dropped back below 60 degrees on many, if not all Itasca Area Lakes over the weekend. With a cold wind blowing all night and rain falling now, the likelihood is that temperatures have dropped even more during the wee hours.
Reports from around the area share a common thread, walleyes are biting, crappies too, if you can find them. Finding them, at least for me has taken a lot of determination. Covering a lot of water is the only way I’ve been able to maintain a reasonably good track record.
With a few exceptions, I’ve found fish in small packs rather than large schools. If I fish through a spot once or twice, I can usually rest assured that I’ve already done my best work and that it’s time to move to another spot.
Weeds have been the key location until now and on Sunday, both coontail, cabbage weeds were bright green and healthy. There were still fish in the weeds too, but I had a hard time figuring out which ones. When we fished the weed edges using jig and minnow, we caught pike, nothing else. When we trolled the weed edges using Little Joes tipped with night crawlers, we got strikes, but had a hard time hooking fish.
Typically, I could use the spinners to locate fish and then once located, fine tune the presentation. On Sunday though, the same fish that struck our spinners, snubbed alternatives that were offered on subsequent passes. They acted like they only wanted the faster moving baits, but they didn’t want them badly enough to gobble them up.
Incidentally, “covering water” has included experimenting with different lakes. These days, knowing a handful of good lakes aren’t enough, I feel like I’ve had to become acquainted with dozens of lakes just to be sure that there’s a few good ones to choose from at any given point in the season. A lot of this has to do with how changeable the environment has become. Lakes that were once murky are now clear, lakes that had high populations of fish now have low ones and weather that was once predictable, is now much less so.
Just a few days ago, I wrote that it was easier to be consistent at catching walleyes. A short period of relatively stable weather really helped move fishing in the right direction. Now a little turbulent weather sends everyting back into a tail spin.
It seems like more and more, every little cog and gear must be functioning perfectly in order for us to enjoy consistent fishing. Reasons for that vary, but I’m thinking that over the short term, there's nothing we can do about a lot of them.
A few days of stable weather is one development that would really help right now. But for the moment, it looks like we’ll have to put up with more turbulence. It’s storming outside my office right now and there’s more foul weather in the forecast this week. East wind today, north wind tomorrow, northeast wind the day after that and by next weekend, sunshine and blue skies.
I wouldn’t blame the fish for being moody, with all the turbulence; they don’t know which way to go next. Let’s hope that Mother Nature settles into a pattern, any pattern, as long as it stays the same for a while.
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Surface temperatures have held tight in the low 60’s, shallow vegetation is weakening and the outer edges of weed beds are becoming heavily populated with baitfish. With all of that food located on the weed edges, walleye have little reason to move. We have seen very few fish on open water structure like bars and rock piles. In fact on the lakes I’ve been fishing, walleyes appear to be choosing weeds to the exclusion of all other habitat.
I know that there are exceptions to that, lakes that have “deep water bites” during fall are showing signs of improvement. But even on many of those deep, clear water lakes, there are more walleyes in the weeds than usual for this time of year.
If you look left, at the accompanying photo, you’ll see what I mean. The walleye pictured here struck in 6 feet of water, in the middle of a weed patch while we were checking spots for perch.
Sometimes this happens and it turns out to be just a fluke, a one-time deal on a given day. But on Thursday, the same thing happened over and over. After I scouted a school of perch that was worth working for, I spot-locked the location with my Terrova and we began fishing for them vertically. While we were “perch fishing”, we caught another half dozen walleyes, including the one you see Mike Morris holding, without ever moving.
The depth of water we fished varied throughout the lake because some weeds grew deeper than others. But the key range was 9 to 11 feet and that’s where most of the fish we caught were located.
1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs tipped with minnows was the only presentation we used. I had a hodge-podge of minnows; large fatheads, golden shiners, rainbows and other and they all worked. When we started fishing, I had an assortment of colors tied on, but by the time we finished, all 3 of us were using the blue/glow color. That color is one of my favorites anyway, but on Thursday, the fish had an extra special appetite for it.
The perch were very active too; we caught some at every spot we tried. Unfortunately for me, the lake we were fishing isn’t really known for having larger perch. But the crew had enough walleyes already and Mike wanted to take some perch home for a meal. So we picked away and sorted out the best ones we could catch on that lake.
I think this would be a good time to check out other lakes in the region that do have larger perch. Reports from Leech Lake continue to be outstanding and there are more and more perch coming out of Winnie right now too. Average size varies from spot to spot and like I’ve been saying, there’s a lot of sorting to be done. But you can fish either lake and expect to sort a reasonable number of fish over 10 inches, including a few jumbos, 11 to 12 inch fish mixed in.
At the fish cleaning shack, we ran into a group of what I’d describe as “average fishermen.” They were carving up what looked like a full 4 man limit of crappies and that got my attention. It’s one thing to see a group of “elite anglers” with an impressive catch. But when a group of anglers catches them without using all of the modern gadgetry, it makes me think that there’s a good bite going on.
This could well be a signal that cooler temperatures are forcing more widespread crappie migrations into fall locations. I’ll be keeping my eye on that over the weekend and let you know what I learn.
OH and by the way, I don’t mean to say that those 4 guys aren’t good fishermen, not at all. What I’m saying is that they caught those fish without the advantage of high tech equipment like the elite anglers use. Honestly, that put them at a big disadvantage but they still caught fish, that’s the sign of a good bite going on.
— Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Surface Water Temperatures remain warm, 63 to 65 degrees is the average range on most of the lakes in the Itasca Region. Certain types of vegetation are in decline, but there are still vast areas of healthy vegetation harboring baitfish, insects and crustaceans.
As long as the weed beds continue to provide safe harbor for their food supplies, significant populations of predator fish will remain active nearby. The puzzle for you to solve is which predators are populating which weed beds. And are they using them because they like that type of cover, or are they there because that’s the type of cover attract their favorite foods?
On Monday, I located walleyes that were holding along the outer edges of large patches of Northern Watermilfoil. The larger the weed patch was, the more fish I found related to them, but they weren’t all equal, there was one rule that I had to follow.
The weeds that formed “a wall” with hard transition from thick cover to clear, open water did not produce many fish. But the weeds that filtered out across more gently sloping flats produced many more strikes. Walleye, pike and perch “seemed to prefer” the more open and sparse patches of vegetation that surrounded certain patches of milfoil.
You won’t find this type of cover on every lake in the region, but when you do, I think you’d be wise to check it out. Don’t worry about being unfamiliar with Northern Watermilfoil; you’ll know it when you see it. The plants grow in dense patches that come right up to the surface and look like a carpet. It looks a little like Eurasian Milfoil, but doesn’t form as densely on the surface.
The northern variety is native to the area and is considered valuable as habitat for fish. I consider it valuable as a fishing spot for walleyes.
By the way, we caught our fish by trolling the edges using Little Joe Spinners tipped with night crawlers.
On Tuesday, we fished Bowstring Lake, a friend of mine; Reed Ylitalo was out there too.
Both of us were trolling spinners, both of us were fishing in and around “the weeds”. But while my crew was catching crappies on one shoreline, Reed’s crew was catching walleyes on another shoreline. That’s right, even though we were all using the same presentation, we never touched a walleye and they never touched a crappie.
They only way to explain something like that is to examine the type of cover that we fished.
I focused on fish that were holding over the tops of “fuzzy stuff”, commonly known as Eelgrass. On my graph, it has a fuzzy appearance; it’s not well defined and typically only grows a few feet above the bottom. I’ve written before about how during fall, perch love this stuff. Crappies do too, especially when it grows in deeper water. The patches we were fishing grew in water depths of 8 to 10 feet. See Releated Article >> Fishing Report September 16, 2018
Meanwhile back in Ylitalo’s boat, the crew was being trolling somewhere along a steeper, shoreline related drop off. Ylitalo; “I found one little stretch along the weedline. Maybe 80 to 100 yards long that held walleyes. We trolled back and forth, catching a fish or two on each pass.” Over time, their larder grew and they wound up with a nice catch.
While we were all playing around on Bowstring, friends of mine were fishing on Leech Lake. The perch bite that I wrote about last Sunday was still going strong. There are lots and lots of fish being caught, but there’s also a lot of sorting going on.
West side, east side, north side, it doesn’t seem to matter much. If you find weed patches and drop a jig and minnow over the side, you’re probably going to find some perch. There are some walleyes mixed in, pike too, but don’t expect that either of those species will make up a very large percentage of your catch.
For today, I’m headed back over to Leech Lake, so I’ll a few more tidbits about that for tomorrow’s report.
If you’re headed out to the lake, enjoy yourself and if you have observations of your own, drop me a line. I think it’s always good to help move your fellow anglers a little further up the learning curve, one day they just might return the favor. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Water temperatures are in the low 60's and walleyes are staging along south shore. Walleyes in good numbers in front of Lighthouse Gap (mouth of Rainy River) in 28 to 30 feet of water. Other areas such as Zippel Bay, Long Point, Rocky Point and Garden Island still holding good fish as well.
Anglers having success anchored up and jigging. Gold, orange, glow and pink hot colors with a live or frozen shiner. The fall jig bite continues strong.
On the Rainy River, with a lot of rain, there's been increased water current this week in the river. Emerald shiners are in the river and have been for weeks. Good walleye fishing continues in Four Mile Bay as well as upstream on the river near Baudette. Sturgeon anglers reporting good success with some big sturgeon being boated.
Up at the Northwest Angle, there are walleyes being caught in various spots around Garden Island. Points with current, necked down areas and at mouths of bays where shiners are running are all good choices.
Big schools of shiners showing up. Jigging and pulling spinners both effective. Crappie and perch activity continues to pick up. Muskie fishing remains strong with cooler water." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"The fall colors are looking very good. It was hard not to notice, on an early morning fishing trip last Sunday.
Plans were to go early, get a little fishing in, and be back in time for the Vikings game at noon. I also didn’t want to miss the Twins, playing at 1:10. Yes. I had most of the day all mapped out.
Keeping the noon curfew in mind, I couldn’t travel to a few of my thoughts, like Leech Lake or Kabetogama. It was just too far. I had to find a local body of water to keep me entertained, and that’s certainly not hard to do in the northland.
On my way up north, I stopped at the bait shop for chub minnows, night crawlers, and wax worms. The chubs could be used for double duty, as they’re the perfect size for catching ..." Read >> Greg's Guide Lines September 24, 2019
I can’t call it the hot bite of the century, but I was there once a week ago with Dick and Paul, then again this past Friday with Karen and Kyle Reynolds. The results of each trip were practically the same, roughly 20 keeper perch, with a few walleyes and a few pike mixed in with the catch.
When I say “keeper perch”, I mean fish that are at least 10 inches long. On both trips we also caught a lot of fish in the 9 to 10 inch range and there were hundreds of smaller ones. On Friday in particular, small perch were on a rampage; we used up a full quart of fatheads in an 8 hour day.
If there was any way to isolate a single school that contained only large fish, I couldn’t figure it out. Nor could I find a presentation or lure that changed the mix of fish sizes. Small ones ate large minnows, large ones ate small minnows and all of them ate everything in between. I tried some artificials too, but they didn’t make anything better. Perch would nip at the tails often, but it was a rare fish that actually engulf the hook so that I could hook it.
As long as there were weeds under the boat, we had action. We spent the day roaming weed flats in water depths of 9 to 12 feet of water. I’d say that the area we covered spanned a distance of about ½ mile, so pinpoint accuracy was least of my concerns.
We used 1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs and tipped them with fatheads. We learned that controlling the boat speed and fishing vertically, directly below the boat worked better than allowing the boat to drift freely with the wind. Trolling into the wind and holding the speed down to about .4 to .6 MPH produced our best action. Drop the jig over the side, hold it a few inches over the weed tops and wait for the right strike, that’s all you have to do.
Knowing which ones are “the right strikes” can make a huge difference in your final catch.
Watch the tip of your rod and you’ll see what I mean, small fish will make your rod tip twitch repeatedly. The sensation you’ll feel is like a pick-pick-pick, or tap-tap-tap; you can try to set the hook if you want to, but it’s a waste of your time and of your bait supply.
The right strikes are the ones that go thump or just hang there like a dead weight. Larger perch come up to the bait and inhale it with one gulp. Watch the tip of your rod and you’ll see what I mean, there will be a single strike, and you will not feel the tick-tick-tick. The sensation you’ll feel is a single bump, pop or thump; you may not feel anything at all, you’ll just see the rod tip flexing slowly. Pay particular attention to those strikes because that’s how the walleyes will feel too.
In my opinion, the people who catch the largest perch are the ones who have the most self-control. Folks who try to set the hook on every little bite are typically the ones who grumble about catching the smaller fish. Conversely, the ones who wait for the “thump” are typically the ones grinning while they reel in a jumbo.
After the storms passed on Saturday, I and the Hippie Chick were able to steal a couple of hours on the lake for ourselves. For only having a short time to fish, it worked out pretty well, especially for Susan. She picked up a bass, a sunfish and a couple of walleyes; I picked up one nice walleye too, so we had an almost instant meal.
The fish I found were holding off the tip of a small, shoreline point in about 16 feet of water. There were weeds on the point and the surface was calm so I couldn’t drift and I didn’t want to try pitching jig and minnow combos. Instead, I chose to creep along the weedline and use wiggle worms; a 1/16 ounce Live Bait Jig tipped with a whole night crawler. Wiggle worming did the trick, so I didn’t try any other presentation.
Like I said, our time was short and by the time we’d caught those few fish and taken a few pictures, it was already dark. It seems like every season the two of us get one of these magical 2 hour fishing trip evenings, this was the one for 2019.
This week all of my customers are staying in the Cutfoot, Bowstring, and Deer River area. So I guess I’ll be picking and choosing the best times to fish on each one of the lakes in that area. With luck, the weather will break just right and there will be some fresh evidence of a fall bite pattern starting up. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"This past week "fishing" was way better than last. That is, it was pleasant to be out fishing compared to last week where it wasn't fit to be out on the lake. Some walleyes were caught, but most targeted the species that would bite. Fishermen were rewarded with good northern and perch fishing this past week.
With mainly south winds, Northerns were caught trolling along the southwest shore and the south shore. Larger spoons trolled at 3-4 mph were the best for pike. Some fish were caught casting, but the majority were trolling.
Perch fishing was really good. Many perch in the 10-12" range were brought in. Look for the edge of heavy weeds for these fish. Sometimes they are right in the weeds. Jigs and fathead minnows were the best bet for the perch.
It looks like we are going to have two more good weeks for fishing.
We are still running our 20% off cabin rent special. Give us a call if you want to get in on the action.— Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231" — Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
Yesterday’s report was all about how we’ve been catching fish using jig and minnow as the primary presentation for the past week. The Little Joe Spinners, I said, were a good backup plan, but likely not required as the primary presentation over the next few weeks.
I was wrong, if we hadn’t switched back to the Little Joes on Wednesday, we would have been skunked. That’s not an exaggeration, the fish decided that on this day, no matter what, we will insist on spinners and if the anglers don’t give them to us, then we won’t bite.
Walleye, perch and a few pike, that’s what we caught. We fished in 12 to 13 feet of water, on the clean lip that lies along the outside edges of heavy, matted weed growth.
The vegetation itself, Northern Watermilfoil is nearly impossible to fish; it forms a dense mat that appears to be floating on the surface. During fall, I’ve found a lot of fish in spots like this and these weeds can be found in a lot of lakes in the Itasca Region. Typically, I see it in fertile lakes that have relatively shallow water, 30 feet or less.
I examined some of the weeds and they did not look healthy. They were dark, almost black and turning soft. In terms of habitat, the weed patches were probably of little interest to gamefish throughout the summer. But as the weeds die, small minnows, young of the year gamefish and other aquatic critters are forced out of the stale environment. Once they are forced out into the open, they are much more vulnerable to predators.
Gamefish now become very interested in those outer weed edges because they know that the smorgasbord is open and the fresh fish special is on the menu.
I can’t honestly say that I know for sure, but maybe the difference in fish attitude yesterday was caused by the water temperature. At 64 degrees, this was the warmest surface water I’ve found in over a week.
It could be that there just weren’t enough fish all bunched up in any one area. Slower moving presentations work best when there are “schools” of fish rather than singles and doubles. It’s possible that the jig and minnow would have worked fine if I could have found more fish grouped together.
Either way, I can tell you that there wasn’t anything wrong with the fish, they were biting fine. But they were scattered and we had to cover a lot of territory to put our lures in front of them.
Luckily for me and my crew, I decided not to put away the spinner rods too soon; they came in handy. Now we’ll see how things work out today. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
A week ago, we were hunkered down, bracing ourselves for an incoming cold front. Three days of overnight air temperatures in the high 40’s combined with daytime highs that never rose above the low 50’s sent surface water temps straight down.
Depending on the lake, surface water temps in the Itasca Region finally settled in somewhere between 58 and 61 degrees. Shallow water lakes were the ones most impacted by the cold front, deep lakes held their warmth better.
The trend began reversing itself on Sunday; sunshine and warm air temperatures have driven water temperatures back up. The average temperature on Cass Lake, where we fished on Tuesday averaged out to roughly 64 degrees. Cutfoot and Little Cutfoot, where we fished on Monday had average temps of about 63 degrees.
Coontail, cabbage and wild celery are holding their own though and continue to be green and healthy looking. These plants are the primary locations for all of the area’s most popular gamefish species. However, certain varieties of vegetation have either died off or are in the process of doing so. Shallow water weeds like Northern Milfoil have turned black; some of the other plants like Filamentous Algae are dying off too.
As the shallowest weeds fade away, baitfish is forced out into the deeper growing grasses. Perch and pike are the gamefish showing up for the feeding party first. Both species are feeding heavily right now on whatever minnows and young of the year gamefish are present in the weed’s outer edges.
Water depth is of little concern; focus your efforts on locating healthy stands of green plants. For example, we caught perch in 5 feet of water the other day; they were holding in a large patch of healthy green Eelgrass. Yesterday, we caught perch in 13 feet of water; they too were holding in a large patch of healthy green Eelgrass. In other words, it is the type of cover that attracts the fish right now, not the water depth.
At this time of the season, I like Eelgrass the best for perch. I wrote about it last year at about this same time and referred to its appearance on my Humminbird as “fuzzy stuff” (Learn More >> Fishing Report September 18, 2018). I’m not saying that these weeds are the only place to find perch during the fall, but I will say that if you learn to recognize it, your odds of finding jumbos will definitely go up.
Wild Celery, another one of my favorite weeds is a preferred holding spot for crappies. The wild celery will hold other species too, but whenever I’m searching for shallow water crappies, these weeds are the first ones I check.
Cabbage provides a more open canopy than most other weeds and the spaces between plants allows larger predators more room to move around. Pike, bass and walleye will be more likely using the green patches of cabbage during the fall. If there are rocks or gravel mixed in, then the odds of finding bass and walleye will be much better.
Jig and minnow anglers like me are pretty happy about the cooler temps and the outside weed edge locations. For about a week now, I’ve been able to produce decent catches for my customers using jigs and minnows as the primary presentation.
Still effective are the Little Joe Spinners that had been my primary presentation for the past couple of months. Trolling the weed edges still produces good action, but the mix of fish that they produce has changed. Perch and pike have been hot to strike the fast moving spinners, walleyes do to, but less frequently now than they did a few weeks ago.
I’m anticipating that walleye activity will increase over the coming days, but so far, perch and pike dominate the weeds. That’s been fine by me because I’ve been fishing with folks who love perch. I’ve already searched 5 or 6 of my favorite perch and walleye combo lakes and so far, perch action has heavily outweighed the walleye bite on all of them.
We’ve received a string of noisy thunderstorms overnight and into the morning today. This is not likely to be the day that I discover a new mother lode of walleyes, but you never know I could be surprised by an unexpected discovery. Whichever way it goes, you’ll be the first to know. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"On the south end of Lake of the Woods, there's been a strong walleye bite this week. Water temps cooling off, migration has started and walleyes are putting on the feed bag for winter. Walleyes in good numbers along south shore with a big school still in front of Lighthouse Gap (mouth of Rainy River) in 28' - 30'. Various schools of walleyes along south shore and also holding to structure areas.
Emerald shiners continue to run in some bays and Rainy River, but not heavy. Anglers having success trolling crankbaits, drifting spinners and anchored up and jigging. The fall jig bite is coming on strong. Some live shiners are available at local resorts and bait shops.
On the Rainy River, Emerald Shiners in the river, not a huge run, but it has started. Continued Good reports of walleyes in Four Mile Bay as well as up river east of Baudette. Most common depth, 14-16'. The fall run has definitely started. Snelled spinners and jigging the go to method.
Sturgeon anglers also reporting good success as well.
Up at the NW Angle, the walleye fishing has been excellent. Walleyes being caught in various spots around Garden Island and around islands and in funnel areas between islands. Jigging around structure and pulling spinners or cranks over flats all effective.
Crappies and perch activity continues to pick up as water cools. Muskie fishing remains strong." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"The Jig bite on shiners has been getting stronger with the large school of Walleye just outside the Lighthouse Gap and also pulling spinners out by Garden Island. We have been getting some Shiner minnows but it has been a bit sporadic yet.
Congrats to all of the MTT Fisherman. Mother Nature wasn’t easy on them this week.
Temps have been cooler than normal this summer. The forecast for this week shows high’s in the 70’s and low’s in the 50’s. The Chili Bowl is coming up on October 12th. There are a few spots available. Call for a registration form.
There is still time to get in a fall trip while the fishing is excellent. The winter rates are out, if you have not picked your dates, now is the time to get the best available ones." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
The 5 days that Dick Williams and Paul Kautza spent in my boat featured cold & windy, cold & rainy & windy, sunny & windy, cloudy & windy and just plain windy. Hunkered down with his hood tied tight, I don’t think I ever saw Paul’s face for the he first 3 days or their trip and Dick had so many layers of clothing that he could barely move.
I know that sounds miserable, but we were rewarded for our toughing out the weather on those 3 days. All of that turbulence encouraged fish to move and typically during the fall, once they start moving, they’ll start feeding.
It may not have been the hot bite of all time, but walleye, crappie and perch were cooperative enough to keep the fishing interesting. In fact, by day 4, when the winds calmed and the sun came out, fishing got slow and I would have happily taken another windy day to get the action bite back.
At Leech Lake, the destination for day 5, the final trip for Dick and Paul this year, featured a mixed bag of both weather and fishing action.
There was a fog covering the lake during the morning and with a light breeze, just enough chop to drift the boat. Surface water temperatures ranged between 58.7 and 59.8, ideal for jig and minnow fishing.
Our first drift along the weed edges in 12 to 13 feet of water yielded 1 walleye, a few perch and some pike too. As long as it remained foggy, subsequent drifts yielded similar results. Once the fog lifted and the morning breeze faded, the walleye bite stopped. The pike bite slowed down too, but for a time, the perch continued to keep us interested.
It was easy to see that most folks on the north end of Leech Lake were focused on the perch. Most were fishing shallower than we were, and most were catching some fish. Typical of Leech Lake, there was a high percentage of small perch. The pattern repeated itself over and over. First we’d catch a bunch of little ones and just about the time we’d think it was time to move on, somebody would capture a big one.
It can be a little tedious, but the big ones are definitely worth waiting for, they range in size from 10 to 12 inches.I don’t want to make it sound too good, but if the weather would have remained favorable longer, it could have been really good. For us, 10 inches is the minimum target size and over the 6 hours we fished, we gathered 19 “keepers”. Of those 6 hours, only about 2 were what I’d consider good conditions.
I wrote about Leech’s potential for having a good fall bite a few weeks back. As far as I can see, it still has that potential, now we just need a few days of manageable, but favorable weather so we can find out.
Ever since the water temperatures touched the 60 degree mark, we have caught almost all of our fish using jig and minnow. Each day we made a few trolling passes with the spinners and each day in succession, they produced a declining number of fish. From here on out, jig and minnow combos will be pretty reliable. I’ll be carry night crawlers too though, sometimes on a calm day, they can turn the heads of walleyes better than the minnows. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Surface water temperatures on some lakes fell below degrees overnight Friday. On Saturday, we found readings that ranged from 58.5 to 59.8 degrees.
After 3 days of turbulent weather that encourage members of the perch family to feed, the calm, sunny morning on Saturday was last thing that we needed. Some combination of cooler water, clear skies and calm seas put northern pike into a voracious feeding mood. In fact, I’d call the pike action on Saturday “A feeding frenzy”.
I can tell you that the walleyes didn’t stop biting completely because we did catch some. But the pike struck our jigs so fast and so hard that there was no way to know whether perch and walleye were lying under them or not. There were times that our jig and minnow combos would barely touch the surface of the water before a pike would grab it.
Somehow, the full moon plays into this scenario too, but I’m not sure that I can explain that part of it. I’ll just say that with all of the pike activity going on, it was impossible for me to sift through them all and come up with a fabulous perch and walleye experience.
I’m hoping that by this morning the fish are feeling a little more balanced; we’ll know soon. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"The walleye fishing has been better this past week. Keepers have been brought in most every time our guests go out and try for these fish.
The key has been fishing as close to the weeds as possible without getting hooked up in the weeds. Jigs and minnows have been the best for catching walleyes.
Most of our guests have been targeting northerns. The pike fishing has been good but not great. Most of the fish are caught trolling on the flats from 8-14 feet of water. All of the favorite trolling lures are working.
Perch fishing has been better this past week than at any time this year. Many fish in the 10-12" range have been brought in. Jigs and minnows right in the weeds has been the ticket to catching perch.
Some fishermen have been using artificial on their jigs and seem to be doing just as well as the minnows.
The weather last week was very unfavorable for the fishermen. This coming week the weather looks to be ideal for any fall activity. We have immediate openings and are in the midst of our 20% off fall special. If you are thinking about coming up to Winnie for a last minute trip, give us a call. — Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
Our fishing trip to the Lake Winnie area is coming up soon and I just want to make sure I got what we are going to need. I’ve got all our reels changed over to fresh line and now I wonder which Lindy jigs should I buy; can you recommend size and color?" — Thanks, Erling
A) The timing for your question is good because over the past 3 days, jig and minnow presentations have been increasingly effective for walleye, perch and crappies.
As of yesterday (9-12), the surface water temperatures were hovering just above 60 degrees in the Leech Lake area. We experimented with presentations and while we still caught both perch and pike by trolling with Little Joe Spinners, all of the walleyes we bagged came on jig and minnow combos.
I have a long history with the Lindy Live Bait Jig; they are my go-to favorite, so I obviously suggest these to all of my friends and customers. Most days, it’s the 1/8 ounce size that I have tied on for jig and minnow presentations. There are days though when the 1/16 ounce size is preferred, so I’d be sure to have a supply of those as well. The ¼ ounce size could come in handy if you plan on fishing in water depths over 20 feet.
The Live bait Jigs are readily available in this region, so in terms of pre-trip planning, you could skip the heavier size for now and get them locally should they happen to become necessary.
Color selection is somewhat subjective and most of the folks I fish with have their own “favorites”. In my tackle box, you’ll find that I have every color and every size that’s available. For most anglers, Chartreuse Green is likely the first color that comes to mind and it definitely is a good one.
Personally though, I would never leave my house without these 3 colors; Glow/Blue, Glow/Pink, and Chartreuse Yellow, those are the ones I depend on most. But I also tie on a lot of Glow/Perch colored jigs and there are times when Black turns out to be a really great choice too.
Minnow supplies in the area are generally good, but from one day to the next, the store that has the best selections have varied recently.
To the best of my knowledge, Spottail Shiners are not available anywhere right now. That’s okay because Fatheads, if they’re the right size, will work just as well anyway. In fact that’s all I’ve used for the past few days and they’ve worked well. For me, 3 to 3-1/2 inches is the ideal size for fall walleye fishing, but those are hard to find right now because many of the local shops have struggled to get good supplies of decent fatheads this season.
Alternative choices are rainbows, dace, golden shiners and small sucker minnows. Many of the area shops have been offering a “river mix” which amounts to a hodge-podge of both species and sizes. I like buying the mix, because it allows me to experiment with a variety to determine which ones I like the best. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
This week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources concluded its electroshocking study on our 2019 walleye year class.
Their goal was to understand recruitment from this spring, to see how many walleyes have survived from egg, to fry, to fingerling, to now roughly six-inch fish.
Their findings were remarkable and all indicators point to a strong, abundant future of walleye fishing on Big Winnie. First, a little background.
Gerry and Matt, the DNR biologists, operated a specialized research vessel with a generator on board.
The current produced charged leads in the water that stunned small fish long enough for us to net them and collect samples in a small livewell, where they revive and are measured before being released back into the lake. The process does not harm the fish.
Extrapolating the data, the 2019 catch rate ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Walleye Electrofishing Results September 12, 2019
I’ve been running Lund Alaskans for a long time now; in fact I picked up my first one 17 years ago, in 2002. Right from the beginning, I’ve loved the balance of utility and comfort that the Alaskan provides.
As far as I’m concerned, these boats are the fisherman’s equivalent of having a 4X4 pickup truck for the water. They have allowed me to go anywhere and do anything without sacrificing the comfort of my fishing customers.
Throughout the years, I’ve watched the folks at Lund steadily improve the Alaskan. Every year they’ve updated this or relocated that until now, in 2019 I can honestly say that every single thing about this boat represents the perfect setup for me.
The Mercury ProXS 115 Big Tiller with Integrated ZTF Tiller Valve is a perfect match for this rig too. The engine purrs like a kitten and using the RPM adjustments allow me to troll down as slow or as fast as I want. And at speeds approaching ..." Learn More >> 2019 Lund Alaskan For Sale
Mother Nature’s sense of humor is whimsical; she loves to play little games with people. She’ll do odd things that don’t make any sense, like make the weather really nice on days when I have to fish on a lake with gin-clear water. She did that a lot this summer and I was starting to take it personal.
Fishing on lakes with clear water hasn’t always been a lot of fun throughout this summer. Fish have been fickle and my timing hasn’t been good, I’ve been a step behind the action more than once.
There have been times when friends have had great fishing on any number of different lakes; they’ve been there on cloudy days with good winds and the fish have bit. But while the action could have been fabulous for them one day, the next one would be a total head-scratcher for me because I missed out on the right weather.
It’s seemed like every little detail had to be in perfect alignment before the fish would really bite. It seemed too that I was always on the scene whenever every little detail wasn’t right.
Personally, the frustration that comes from knowing that there are perfectly wonderful fish in a lake and not being able to catch them adds up. Any angler can only be so persistent; sooner or later you begin wondering; “Have I lost my touch or am I barking up the wrong trees?”
On the other hand, working through those tough times until conditions finally turn to your advantage is really nice. There aren’t many rewards as sweet as the ones that come whenever hard work pays off. There’s a heightened sense of accomplishment that comes from winning a long and hard-fought battle.
The past few days have been nice that way, fishing conditions have been better and we’re winning more battles than we’re losing. Although we still aren’t catching fish hand over fist, at least now some of the fish I see on the screen of my Humminbird actually bite!
Surface temperatures continue the slow slide downward, 61.5 degrees was the most common reading I saw on Tuesday. I could tell that the cooler temperatures are triggering changes in the feeding habits of walleyes; they’ve been susceptible to a variety of presentations.
I wrote yesterday morning that we caught most of our fish Wiggle Worming. We had already tried using jig and minnow combos and didn’t get a sniff on them. But on Tuesday, a 1/8 ounce Live Bait Jig tipped with large fatheads worked like a charm. As it often is in clear water, the blue/glow jig that you see in the photo of Scott Johnson was the preferred color yesterday.
Fish were still holding on the weedlines, but I noticed more of the walleyes were out on the slightly deeper and cleaner outside edges. When we fished in 10 to 11 feet of water, in the weeds, we caught perch and they were mainly small ones. When we fished in 12 to 16 feet of water, we caught walleyes and very few perch.
It’s still early in the cooling process and I doubt that jig and minnow will be the only way to catch a fish. BUT, it is my favorite way to fish and if we can catch fish jigging, then that’s what I’m gonna do. I will continue to pack in night crawlers and leeches too when I can get them, but I’ll be asking every bait shop in town to let me know whenever they get good supplies of nice jigging minnows.
Fun with Dick and Paul MMXIX Fall Session starts today and that means I’ll have a few days to spend exploring. Looking at today’s forecast, I’m leaning toward spending our first day on Leech Lake. I’ll know for sure in a little while and if you tune in tomorrow, you’ll know too. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye - Walleye fishing was good to excellent for many anglers this last week. Falling water temps mean one thing for walleye. Winter is coming and you better eat as much as you can before it’s here. More and more anglers are reporting that the bigger the minnow the better! Creek Chubs, Pike Suckers and Lite Northerns have been the minnow of choice for these anglers. These anglers have been having great luck fishing jigs or lindy rigs, tipped with a big minnow, in 20-30 feet of water around sunken islands. For anglers a little gun shy about use a minnow between 4-8 inches there are still reports of leeches and crawlers working along shoreline breaks in 15-20 feet of water. Here spinner rigs or jigs worked slowly have been best. Blue, gold and white remain at the top for anglers with the best reports.
Smallmouth Bass - Smallmouth Bass have begun their annual fall feeding binge. Big smallies in the 4-6lb range are aggressively hitting big minnows out around the sunken islands. Again as with the walleyes Creek Chubs, Pike Suckers and even Lite Northerns are getting the best results for anglers. Out here anglers are fishing the big minnows with a lindy rig or jig and simply working them up and down the edge of sunken islands until the connect with the smallies. 15-30 feet of water has been best for this technique.
Muskie - Muskie anglers have been reporting some excellent catches of Muskie this last week. Anglers throwing large plastics or dragging the biggest suckers they can find, under a bobber, behind their boats over weed beds have catching some very big muskies. Anglers should focus on the best weedbeds they can find, river mouths and windy points. This fish is largely overlooked in our area, so these muskies tend not to be shy about hitting a big bait thrown by inexperienced anglers. Multiple fish days for anglers new to muskie fishing are not uncommon around here.
Stream Trout - With water temps falling back into the range trout like anglers are reporting that shore fishing for them has been getting better and better. Anglers pitching small jig and twisters, spinners or fishing a night crawler under a bobber have been catching trout. Mornings, evenings and cloudy days have been best, but there are a few reports of anglers catching them right in the middle of a calm sunny day, right from shore. Bottom line is if you have a hour or two to kills then give it a try. White, pink and yellow have been good colors this last week.
Pike - Bigger and bigger pike have begun to return to the main lake shorelines. Reports from anglers catching them out around sunken islands has largely dried up and reports of anglers catching them along the shorelines have become more common. Anglers targeting them should focus around river mouths, weedy bays and main lake rocky points in 10 feet of water or less. Heavy suckers or very active large Creek Chubs fished under a bobber, right off your dock is not only a great way to catch some pike right now, but it’s also a great way to relax and enjoy the fall colors around your lake. For anglers looking to cover some water and connect with several big pike then they should be throwing big minnow style baits, buzzbaits, big spinnerbaits or spoons.
Crappies - Crappies have begun to start transitioning to deeper water. Anglers shouldn’t abandon the cabbage bite just yet, but understand that if you are striking out with the cabbage bite during the day, to check out in the deeper water just outside the weedbeds for schooling crappies. As long as the weed remain green crappies will move into the cabbage beds to feed, but will spend more and more time out in deep water as winter gets closer and closer. Crappie minnows fished under a bobber, jig and twister and beetle spins continue to be very effective on crappies." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Fish are responding to the cooler water by feeding both more heavily and more often than they were just a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I’d say that “the fall bite” is on, except that fish still need a little encouragement from Mother Nature before the bite will be automatic.
I mentioned yesterday that the VA Nurses Club fishing trip reminded me of a roller coaster ride. That’s because over the past several days it’s been obvious that fish are already in feeding mode. Whenever the winds blow and clouds shade their eyes, they bite. But it’s taken both wind and shade to provide good action, especially to produce good walleye fishing.
Last Friday morning was beautiful, the sun was out and the surface of the lake was calm. Crappie, perch, walleye, panfish were all taking their naps; action during the first half our day was slow.
During the afternoon, there was a surge of wind and the clouds rolled over the lake; perch, walleye, pike and bass all started biting. We trolled the shallow weeds with little Joe Spinners tipped with minnows and caught fish consistently until our time was over.
On Saturday, conditions were perfect right from the start. Cloudy skies and a light chop on encouraged fish to get aggressive.
We found crappies first; they were in deeper water, 16 to 20 feet and beginning to school up. At first, we caught them using 1/8 ounce Live Bait Jigs tipped with small fatheads. But for comparison, I tried on a Tungsten Toad and tipped it with a single wax worm and found out that was what the crappies really wanted. As you see in this photo of Missy Shephard, the tiny lures attracted fish of very desirable sizes.
I may have been tempted to spend the whole day fishing for crappies. But we already had a good number of those and there such a nice “Walleye Chop” on the lake that I wanted to see if the walleyes would respond. They did and we caught a few of them before it was time to return to shore and switch crews. Yes Norm, it was time to go pick up “The Luscious Sisters” in character.
It’s sort of hard to explain, but whenever the Luscious Sisters enter the boat, I really have to be on my
“A Game”. They tend to attract a lot of attention and with anglers in every other boat watching us; I feel a heightened sense of urgency to make sure that somebody is usually reeling something in. That’s why I decided to skip over the crappies and go straight to spinning the weeds. Between the pike and perch and walleyes and bass, there’s always somebody catching something.
Luckily for me, that’s was the way our afternoon worked out. Pictures tell their own story, so I’ll let you be the judge of the ones you see here.
We never caught “limits” of any species, nor did we set that as our goal. But by days end we had amassed a 3-2-1 special, there were about 3 dozen crappies, 2 dozen perch and 1 dozen walleyes, more than enough for a fish fry back at the lodge.
On Sunday morning, there was still a good chop on the surface of the lake, but now the sky was brighter. To an extent, the fish continued to be active, but the mix of species had changed. Walleyes that had been easy to catch on Saturday were now hunkered down, refusing to strike.
So that’s why I used the term deceleration to describe the final day of the VA Nurses Club fishing trip. We still caught fish, but at a slower pace than we did on Saturday.
I notice these days that the old saw about how a “Walleye Chop” makes the walleye fishing good doesn’t always work. Now days it seems like the walleyes in lots of lakes in my area need both gloomy skies and wavy conditions. In fact, it’s the days that most folks won’t even go out on the lakes that produce the best walleye fishing.
Take Monday for example, 20 MPH winds and steady rain for most of the day; who’d want to fish on a day like that? The answer is probably nobody except folks who would like to return to the dock with their legal bag limit of walleyes.
That’s how it worked out for Scott Johnson and Mike Shannon, they were well rewarded for suffering the rainy weather. In fact there was even a surplus of fish and that allowed me to bring home a couple to prepare along with the big Puffball Mushroom that I found a couple of days ago.
On Monday, there was a definite change in the feeding preferences of the walleyes we caught. Trolling spinners produced fish, but they did not produce walleyes. Lindy Rigs tipped with night crawlers did though and for a while, they did it better than anything else we tried. But the windier it became, the higher walleyes moved above the bottom, in 12 feet of water, I could see fish suspended 3 and 4 feet above the bottom.
An experiment with wiggle worming paid off; I used a 1/16 ounce Live Bait Jig tipped with a full night crawler to float the offering higher up in the water column. That’s the way wiggle worming works; it forces anglers to give up on their love affair with finding the bottom. All you need to do is have faith that the light weight jig will float the crawler high enough above the bottom to attract those high riding walleyes.
Okay, so for anybody who hasn’t tried wiggle worming, here’s today’s challenge. Read the article Wiggle Worming 101 and then pick up a few 1/16 ounce jigs and give it a try. I’ll bet you will love it, but even if you don’t, the jig and minnow season starts up soon and you can always use the Live Bait Jigs for them too. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I said; “well they did, but then they didn’t; I mean they were deep in some spots last week, but they were also shallow in others and by this past Wednesday, they were somewhere in-between. We couldn’t find them in deep water and we couldn’t find them in the weeds either; they were scattered across a flat in open water at 12 to 13 feet deep.”
It will be easier to get a handle of the true pattern whenever the weather stays the same for more than one day at a time. Until that happens, I think we need to be ready for panfish to show up in shallow water, deep water or anywhere else they feel like going; they’re in transition.
At 63 degrees, surface water has cooled enough to trigger some early fall movement. That’s one factor in triggering the start of fall panfish patterns, but surface temperature alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Weed growth, or I should say the lack of it, is equally or maybe even more important than is the water temperature.
What really forces baitfish out of the shallows and out to the deep weed edges is when the weeds begin to die. Whenever photosynthesis cannot work its magic, plants decay and in the process, give off carbon dioxide. Areas that provided oxygen rich environments during summer now become uninhabitable, at least temporarily.
As of Wednesday, area lakes with good water clarity have vegetation that remains bright green, lush and continue to produce oxygen. So as long as they have plenty of fresh air and baitfish populations in the weeds remain strong, crappies have no incentive to move away from the security and comfort of their gardens. For that matter, neither do any of the game fish species who love weed cover.
Crappies in lakes with poor water quality may show up in open water before the fish that live in clear water lakes do. In dark or stained water, weeds only grow in relatively shallow depths. Sunlight doesn’t penetrate dark water as easily, so it’s harder for vegetation to remain green. Shallow water weeds are more easily influenced by falling temperatures too, so they die-off faster.
For the weekend, I’m prepared to assess each lake individually and I’m ready to fish either shallow or deep depending on the situations I encounter.
My go to presentation for the shallow weeds is a 1/16 ounce Lindy Jig tipped with a plastic action tail. We’ll cast the small jigs into pockets and gaps in the weed edges and retrieve them slowly using a swim-drop-swim approach.
My go to presentation for deep water panfish is a Tungsten Ice Worm or Tungsten Fat Boy tipped with wax worms. I know that you can catch a lot of crappies using minnows and or some of the more popular jigging baits; that’s fine. But using the small jigs with waxies, I get in on a lot of panfish that the other baits won’t attract. I like picking up some bonus bluegills while I’m crappie fishing and most days, the crappies are equally enthusiastic about eating the little bugs.
A couple of years back, I wrote an article about finding crappies during the fall. If you haven’t read it, today would be a good time to do it, the information is going to come in very handy in the very near future. Learn More >> Following Fall Crappie Migrations — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye - This last week proved to be very challenging for all anglers, as extremely high winds blew hard for days and kept many off the water. Water temps dropped quickly from the low 70’s to low 60’s. Interestingly this has triggered a full on big minnow bite on some lakes in the area while others seemed less effected and leeches are still raining supreme.
Anglers have been having great luck with big minnows, catching walleyes out on main lake humps in 15-20 feet of water. Many of these anglers have been reporting that they are marking fish as deep as 25, but not catching those fish. Out here anglers have been working jigs and lindy rigs, up and down the edges of the humps, until the connect with walleyes. Anglers catching walleyes with leeches and crawlers are reporting that they are fishing shallow in 6-12 feet of water off weedlines or main lake points. Here spinner rigs or jigs have been very effective. Gold, blue and white were the hot colors this last week.
Smallmouth - Smallmouth Bass have begun to put on the feed bag. Anglers have been catching some real pigs out on top of sunken islands with sucker minnows. Anglers have reported seeing them spit out ciscos as they were bringing them up. Anglers are also catching lots of bass near shore in 10 feet of water or less, with tube, senko rigs and crawfish looking crankbaits.
Pike - Pike fishing has been getting better and better as water temps drop to a temperatures big pike like and return to shallow water. Anglers have been catching big pike on large spinners, spoons, and suicks. Large suckers fished under a bobber is also very effective, but supplies of big suckers has been limited, so finding them maybe more challenging then finding a big pike to hit one. Anglers should focus on weedbeds and large rocky main lake points for big gators.
Stream Trout - Stream trout fishing has been getting better and better as water temps fall and trout move shallow back in reach of most anglers. Small spinners, jig and twisters, small spoons and a simple worm fished under a bobber has been very effective on trout this last week. Early morning hours and during the evening has been the best time to fish for trout.
Panfish - Panfish fishing has slowed this last week as water temps dropped quickly. Fishing under a bobber was the most effective way to catch panfish as they were largely unwilling to chase down fast moving baits. Crappie minnows, small crawlers or wax worms fished under a bobber were very effective this last week. Panfish are still largely being located in weedbeds, but more and more anglers are reporting that crappies are beginning to pull out of the weedbeds and relate more to deeper water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
On September 3, 2019 Howard Norris wrote; "Over the years we brought our young sons, our parents, siblings and friends along to a resort in Hubbard County on Lake Belle Taine.
We haven’t been able to make it up this year, but we keep connected with friends we have made over the year and with your fishing reports that I discovered a couple of months ago! The next time we come up I will put your fishing tips to good use!
But what I enjoy the most about your posts is the human side. When you share comments about your “crew”; especially the youngsters, it warms my heart to know that there are still parents that care about their children and that you get to be a part of that!
It is my belief that a youngster that has love from a parent, encouragement from others and the chance to experience what the outdoors has to offer is less likely to show up on the morning news I also think that those kids are likely to pass those values and traditions to their children and somewhere down the road, pay it back to those that taught them!
Thank you for your reports and someday, I might tell you about my “Magic Worms”. Best Wishes!" Howard
Good numbers of walleyes have staged along south shore in 28 to 31 feet of water.
With some shiners starting to run, walleyes are being caught near Lighthouse and Morris Point gaps. Spinners and crawlers and trolling crankbaits most effective. Some anglers are anchored and jigging with success as well. Some live shiners are available.
On the Rainy River, Emerald shiners have begun showing up in the river. Numerous reports of some nice walleyes being caught in Four Mile Bay and various parts of the river. Most common depth, 14-16'. It seems like the fall run is just starting. Snelled spinners and jigging the go to method.
Up at the Northwest Angle, Walleye fishing remains solid up at the Angle. Fish being in Little Traverse Bay, on flats amongst islands and in funnel areas between islands. Spinners with crawlers or minnows is still the go to presentation with gold and orange hot colors. Pulling crankbaits and jigging also catching.
Crappie and perch bite picking up with water starting to cool. Muskie anglers still producing big fish." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Into September we go! It’s amazing how the summers seem to go by faster each year. August left us with a wind storm. Although most of August was great weather, the last week was nothing but wind. We had a great Labor Day weekend with the World Ploughing contest. It was an amazing event with 30 different countries represented, what an honor to have it in Lake of the Woods County.
Fishing in Little Traverse Bay has been the go-to the past few days. After the winds we need to wait on the lake to settle a bit. Catching still remains solid. Drifting with spinners is an excellent start to the day and trolling with crankbaits has been great in the afternoons.
Temps have been cooler than normal this summer. We expect that will help the water cool down faster this fall. The forecast for this week shows high’s in the 70’s and low’s in the 40’s.
There is still time to get in a fall trip while the fishing is excellent. The winter rates are out, if you have not picked your dates, now is the time to get the best available ones." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge