Laura and Charlie Dukes always try to tie fishing into their travels. So, while planning a family visit in Bemidji, they checked around for a fishing guide. Somehow, they stumbled into me, and I’m glad they did.
The Dukes fish a lot, mostly for bass and panfish in their home state of South Carolina. When they travel though, the sky’s the limit when it comes to fishing. Yesterday, they recalled adventures like catching peacock bass, big stripers, and numerous species of saltwater fish. Until now, they had never caught northern pike or walleye. If I could help with that, they could add a couple of species to their list of fishing experiences.
Partly to save them a long drive toward Grand Rapids and partly to give me an excuse to try a “new” lake in the Bemidji region, I started researching possible choices. Following my routine, I started with the DNR’s Recreation Compass, the interactive map allows me to see lakes in the neighborhood I want to fish. Then when one of them piques my interest, I click on the map and voila, I’m re-directed to the DNR Lake finder page. There I can check the fisheries reports, check out the aquatic vegetation studies and locate public access points.
Eventually I narrowed my search down to a few lakes, but the final decision rests on the day’s weather forecast. Sunshine and light winds were predicted, so the lake I chose for Sunday featured relatively low water clarity, a wide variety of both vegetation types and structure. A solid report about walleye populations, along with a special regulation on northern pike, a 22-to-30-inch protected slot, might make it easier to catch better quality pike, I hoped. Panfish and bass, like many of Bemidji’s lakes are present in good numbers too and even when they’re not the target, they do help pass the time between strikes from target species.
When we arrived at the lake, the air temperature was cool, in the low 50s and the surface temperature was about 73 degrees. I offered that we’d start by trolling spinner to “find the fish”, a then if I found something interesting, we’d try other presentations, more specialized for whichever species we’d target. As it happens, Sunday’s trip would turn out to be all about trolling spinners and mixed bag action. Before we were done, we’d caught crappies, sunfish, perch, northern pike, walleyes, largemouth and rock bass, LOTS OF ROCK BASS!
Overall, the mission was successful, but I can’t tell you that the walleye action was fabulous. We did boat 7 or 8 of them and the average size was nice, 17 to 19 inches, that’s definitely a win. The size of the northern pike disappointed me though, most of them were below 20 inches long, so apparently the l;ake’s “special” regulation hasn’t helped. We did catch enough “decent” ones to make the trip interesting and check pike off of the list for the Dukes.
To accommodate an evening fish fry, we harvested 4 walleyes, 1 pike and 1 nice perch. Laura, the undisputed queen of rock bass was not disappointed catching them. “They pull hard, and they’re pretty”, she said. When you’re releasing most of the fish anyway, it’s fun to be kept busy, and we were that. From a professional point of view, I felt like the panfish were almost biting too well. I think it’s likely that we missed some opportunities for larger fish because we were so busy reeling in little ones.
On an optimistic note, this was probably the best example of a true missed bag action bite that I’ve experienced this summer. Even though we were targeting pike and walleye, the Dukes were pleased with the fishing action. If the water temperatures move higher, the variety of species will widen and the action will intensify, I’d love to see that happen.
I have another day scheduled with Charlie and Laura today, and this time the bar for harvesting fish is even lower. In fact, we need to bag 0 fish for their trip home, and that means that I’m free to take a swing at catching something bigger, especially northern pike. They’re headed toward Grand Rapids right now, and before they arrive, I’ll have to decide; Pokegama, Trout, Deer, Wabana …? As always, you’ll be the first to know whatever I figure out. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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Thursday was a good day to be Al Van Thomme’s grandson Grant. The goal of the charter Al set up was “to keep Grant busy”, and luckily, we managed to meet it. Most of the fish we caught, northern pike and walleye were small ones, but there were lots of them. And provided we kept fishing, there would be an occasional strike from fish like the ones you see pictured here.
Trolling spinners tipped with medium leeches was the only presentation we used. We tried fishing over some open water structures, mid-lake bars and caught a handful of fish. At some of the spots we fished, walleyes showed a preference for points, especially ones with hard, gravel or rock bottoms. Overall, though, fishing shallow weed edges, adjacent to sharp breaking drops into deeper water was the most reliable pattern.
Water levels of lakes in our region that have outflowing streams and small rivers are declining. Because of that, vegetation that got off to an early start this spring has become very heavy. Shallow flats on the lake we fished yesterday have densely matted coontail and northern milfoil covering the surface. Perch, crappies, and bass apparently have taken up residence in the dense cover because we never caught any of them on this trip. Northern pike and walleye were basically the only species living within reach of the outer edges of the weeds.
For me, this means that I’ll be refining my search for panfish, and pick lakes with weed types that don’t form dense matts like milfoil and coontail. Lakes with cabbage and certain pondweed varieties should be better for sunfish and crappies. Rock points and gravel bars or stands of eelgrass will likely be better for perch, I think.
Referring to yesterday’s Q&A about Cass Lake, Tim Crosby shared this tip. “We go the first week of august every year and the last couple years the best way to catch walleye during the day is definitely slip bobbers and either leeches or crawlers on weed lines. Fish the windy Side of Allen’s Bay, around the islands or shorelines.”
About my comments in a recent article about advanced electronics and forward-facing sonar, Tommy Howell wrote; “Jeff, remember how we use to both be able to fish a spot on a lake at the same time? Maybe more boats than just you and I, and everyone drifted or backtrolled and took their turn on the fish, being courteous to your fellow angler.
Q) What happens nowadays if someone sees the same school as we’re all sharing, spot locks his boat (on that school of fish) and uses his live scope to maintain the exact spot? Do we all give up our spot? The smaller the spot the worse the problem.
A) This is an interesting topic Tommy, and I don’t know if I have the answer. For me, approaching another angler on a small spot, on a small lake is something I avoid like the plague. So, I don’t see any conflict headed my way in situations like that. So far, I’ve been lucky on the big lakes, the handful of times that I’ve fished nearby someone using the FFS, there’s been enough space that we could share the territory without conflict. I’d like to think that most folks will still be courteous and willing to share some of the larger spots with their fellow anglers like we used to do.
I can see the shoe on the other foot though too. I wonder if some folks can avoid the temptation of zeroing in on a fellow angler who has used the FFS to locate a school of fish. I can imagine somebody fishing a small spot when an observer notices them and sets up close enough to their boat to cash in on the other angler’s discovery. No matter the perspective, it is clear that we’ll be depending on each other to step up and take responsibility for our own use of all the advanced technology we have available.
John Dunkirk asks; “Jeff, you used to recommend Little Joe Spinners, but I haven’t seen them mentioned lately. Do you still use them and if so, which ones are best?”
John, Little Joe’s single 2/0 Aberdeen hook combined with the #3 Indiana blade is perfect for the lakes I fish and should still be my go-to spinner. The problem for me is that they changed the blades from being brass plated, to being spray painted with gold-colored paint. The new finish just is not bright enough to suit me, so I’ve been tying my own spinners lately. Essentially, it’s the same spinner, #3 Indiana blade, 2/0 Aberdeen hook, and 18-pound test fluorocarbon line. The whole point of using a spinner is to attract the fish’s attention, so to make mine really flash, I spend the extra cash for authentic gold-plated blades instead of brass. I doubt that the extra expense is necessary, but it makes me feel like I’ve done something special for my customers.
A few days ago, one of my customers asked why we used mostly hammered gold blades. He was curious if other colors work too and to that, the answer is yes. I do like red, pink, orange and chartreuse yellow too. I explained that the reason we stick to hammered gold and copper is because they are “safe” colors. In most scenarios, one of those 2 blades will work and it’s a lot simpler to carry a large supply of these 2 choices vs a wider range of colors. If you love to experiment with colors, I’m all for it.
The few fishing trips will take me further west. I'm making plans today about which lakes I'll be trying when my charter with folks staying in Bemidji begins. It's going to be intersting for me because they're planning to try their hands at catching some northern pike. I know, there are dozens of lakes where catching pike is easy, almost too easy. Catching pike of above average quality though, that's a different story and happens to be my goal. I've been reading fisheries reports about some lakes that appear to have good potential and a few of them are lakes that I've never fished before. Obviously, I can't predict what will happen on any of them, but if any of my ideas pan out, I'll let you in on the process I'm using to make the choices. Watch for that early next week.
If you're headed for the lake this weekend, good luck out there! Tommorow, I'm taking a day off for a grand-baby day. It's finally my chance to our meet the newest arrivals to our family, the twins, Augusta and Lander. See you again in a couple of days. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) Scott Finke wrote: "Hi! My family and I are headed up to Cass Lake for a week starting on Saturday. Do you have any reports or suggestions on walleye fishing and perch fishing? We’ve been there before and have done okay on Perch but have struggled with (walleyes). Have had the best luck on Pike Bay in the evenings, but I have a new boat this year and I don’t think I’ll be able to fit under the bridges to get there, so, I’ll be mainly on Cass. I’ll have everything along with me as far as rods and tackle (spinning rods, jigging rods, and even line counters). Just wondering if you have any thoughts on Cass. Thank you!"
A) Scott, since the advent of Zebra Mussels and the subsequent ultra clear water, fishing tactics have changed. The increased water clarity affects all fish species, but walleye in particular, their eyes are extremely sensitive, and their eyesight excellent. Because of that, anglers are learning that to catch walleyes, the best tactic is to keep their boats as far away from walleyes as possible, but still within casting range.
These days, the best guides and expert anglers fishing Cass Lake catch a lot of their fish by using side imaging to locate fish, then pitching lures in the direction of the fish they’ve spotted. Friends of mine swear by “jigging raps” and other similarly designed jigging lures.
Personally, I like throwing jigs tipped with plastics, the Ripple Shads I wrote about recently are a good choice, so are the Keitech and Northland’s “Eye Candy”. I’m not sure how many anglers on Cass Lake are using slip floats, but on nearby Leech Lake, bobbers and live bait are extremely popular. Jig and minnow combinations are still reliable too, the obvious disadvantage this week will be finding reliable supplies of suitable live minnows.
Conventional methods that were once preferred on Cass, like Lindy Rigging, vertical jigging and trolling spinners can still be used when the weather is ideal, like overcast, breezy days. On clear, calm days, you’ll be better off staying away from the fish and casting to them. Fishing at night is always an option too, trolling crankbaits after dark is highly popular in certain cirlces.
Your first thought could be that side imaging sonar is a must, and it is very helpful. Without it, the workaround is to LEARN the structure. For me, knowing likely places to cast my lures has allowed me to continue catching fish, even though at present, I’m fishing without the aid of the most advanced electronics. It could seem like a waste of time but spending a few hours driving around the lake spotting likely fishing structures with your eyes is an excellent investment. Knowing where to throw your bait is the point, not how you figure out where those locations are.
Rocks and vegetation are obvious choices in shallow water, walleyes in Cass also use the breaklines on mid-lake structures. I’ve had most of my best luck in water depths of 18 to 24 feet, but fish will go shallower and frequently move into shoreline structure at water depths of 6 to 10 feet. — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Today we demonstrate how to catch numbers of pike and walleye on lipless crankbaits. And you can easily do it from a boat or as is the case in this video, a kayak. It’s a simple effective method to cover a lot of water and catch numbers of fish, even when the conditions are less than optimal for walleye fishing, i.e. slick calm and sunny. With a fishing kayak and spinning rod and reel combo, some light braid with a fluoro leader, you can take a lipless crank like the Rapala Rippin’ Rap and cover large swaths of the body of water efficiently.
In this video, McKeon Roberts eases along covering water and picks off northern pike as well as summer walleyes consistently. In the summer, these fish can often spread out and be over very large areas. While conditions and times of the day might group the fish up, when they spread out like was this case in this video, it can make fishing really tough. But by changing your mindset and making up your mind to ..." View Video and Learn More >> Ripping Pike and Walleye with Lipless Crankbaits
"Walleye - Walleye fishing continues to be a shallow water affair for walleye anglers. While there are a few reports out there of walleyes as deep as 15, the majority of good reports continue to be in 10 feet of water or less. Anglers have been using slip bobbers and a leech, jigs and twisters, swim baits and spinner rigs tipped with a leech or crawler.
Rocky flats, shallow rocky humps, windblown points and weedlines have been the areas to find active walleyes. Popular colors have been firetiger, purple, black and blue.
Smallmouth - Smallies have remained active this last week for anglers. Topwater continues to be very popular with bass anglers. Wacky worms, Nedrigs, in-line spinners and spinnerbaits have all been effective for bass too. Smallies are being found in rivers, rocky shoreline points, around downed trees and out around islands, in 10 feet of water or less. Bone, white and crawfish colors have been very effective colors.
Panfish - Crappies and sunnies are has been a popular target this last week. Anglers have been reporting catching good numbers and size of crappies around timber laying in the water. Crappie minnows, under a bobber, beetle spins, and hair jigs have been in pink, white and chartreuse have been popular choices. Sunnies have been located in weedbeds and weedlines. Angleworms and waxies, fished under a bobber has been very effective on sunnies.
Stream Trout - Stream trout reports have cooled off as stream trout have moved deeper. Majority of stream trout being caught now are being caught in 15 to 20 feet of water. Small crankbaits and small spoons trolled with leadcore has been very effective.
Pike - Pike fishing has remained popular this last week. Anglers have been finding active pike with classic spoons, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and live suckers. Weedlines and river mouths have been popular places to find active pike." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Do you believe that the full moon encourages large fish to become more aggressive? I do, and after yesterday, Leanne Praska probably does too! Leanne, who along with her husband Nick, chartered me to help entertain Gracie, their high school sophomore daughter. Gracie wasn’t too keen on holding fish for photos of her own, but rest assured, she could have if she wanted to. As you can see by the photos, it was a good day to be Leanne, she enjoyed the very pleasant “side benefits” of bringing Gracie on the fishing trip.
If I tried to tell you that we were doing something special, I’d be lying. Trolling spinners along the weed edges has gotten to be old news for folks who read these reports. In fact, I’ve done it dozens of times on the same lake we fished yesterday. And on most typical fishing trips, the northern pike we catch are “eaters” 21 to 21-3/4 inches if I’m lucky. Most often, there are a handful of fish in the 22 to 26 inch “protected slot”, the largest pike we typically catch might be 27 or 28 inches. Walleyes can sometimes be nice size on that lake, but we don’t usually catch over-stuffed, big fat ones like Leanne Caught yesterday either. That’s why I think the only thing we did “special” yesterday, was to arrive at the lake on the day of the full “Buck Moon”.
I didn’t fully make the connection on Monday, but Ironically, the trip to Red Lake with Derrick and Grace included spotting one of the Buck Moon’s namesakes, a nice looking 6 or 8 pointer in full velvet. I remember commenting about what a great photo we could have gotten, if only we could have stopped in the middle of the highway to take it.
The Buck Moon may also have been responsible for a couple of other large fish that the Praska's had already caught earlier this week. Fishing on lakes known primarily for small fish, Leanne had bagged one 32 inch pike and another one in the 28 to 29 inch range.
I can’t say for sure, but one other thing that may have been a contributing factor was that we used medium to large size leeches on the spinners. Ordinarily, we would have all been using fatheads, but because there wasn’t a single minnow at the bait shop where we stopped yesterday morning, I stocked up on leeches and crawlers as a substitution. Whether that made fishing better or not will always be unclear, as you can see though, it sure didn’t hurt.
Trolling spinners isn’t just working for me on small lakes, my friends Mike and Lisa Lindholm were trolling with them on Winnibigoshish this Monday. Mike sent a text letting me know that he and Lisa caught 25 walleyes trolling spinners on Monday morning. Later that day, the action on Winnie slowed down, but take the message as a signal that the “spinny and minny” season might be getting fired up on the big lake. Just don’t try it until fishing conditions turn favorable, breezy, overcast days or during early morning, late evening periods.
Before we get off the subject of the full moon, I should mention that “back in the day”, folks who requested fishing for either muskies or large northern pike were always advised to plan their trips for the full moon periods during mid-summer. I’ve seen more and caught more big fish during this period than at any other time of the season. June, July, and August are the best for toothy critters, in my opinion. But for walleyes, I like September and October, and I have friends who live for fishing the night bite during those full moon periods.
The Daikin Fish-A-Roo, that you’ve seen mentioned so many times in reports over the years, came to an end last Friday. The annual event did not just wrap for the season, but unofficially, forever. My buddy Jeff “Cubby” Skelly, and me, were the last 2 remaining guides from the original event’s beginning back in the mid-1980s. We've seen a lot of changes over the years, but neither of us thought we'd ever see the end of it.
Apparently, some of the attendees don’t want to lose their spot at William’s Narrows, and plan to continue is upcoming seasons. One of the groups called HTS has already begun setting up their own version of the event. In fact, Matt McPherson who was pictured in one report last week, already handed my my first souvineer, the HTS sunshade hat. Who knows if they’ll come up with an official cute slogan like the Fish-A-Roo? If they don't, I’m sure that some the fishing guides will come up with something; either flattering or not.
Last Friday, my last ever Fish-A-Roo crew wrapped up the event in style. The fishing action was not epic, but the average size of the walleyes we caught was. We caught them by grinding away at the weed edges using spinners tipped with night crawlers. Small perch picked at them constantly, and that wasn’t fun, but putting up with that was worth the trouble. Walleyes, when they struck, were averaging 18 to 19 inches and by day’s end, my 3-man crew managed to harvest 12 of them. I know, we didn’t get “our limit”, but the experience, in my mind, was better than that; quality over quantity has always been my bag.
Before that, we’d spent a couple of days fishing for crappies. The conditions were not ideal, sunshine and calm weather didn’t encourage them to be active during the daytime. That said, grinding away at the weed edges did produce some fish, enough to call the fishing good. The size of the fish is still not ideal, but folks willing to be satisfied with 9-1/2 to 10-1/2 fish can find plenty of them.
The rule of thumb can be to use spinners and minnows to locate fish, then stop the boat to fan cast the weeds with small jigs. Either plastic action tails or spinner jigs will work. A lure from the past that worked for me was the Mepps spinner. I don’t even know if you can still buy them, I dragged a few of them out of my dad’s old tackle box and brought them along. It was an experiment to either prove, or disprove a theory, and I plan on doing more of it. When I have details to share, you will be the first to know.
I still have a backlog of Q&As to clean up, and I’ll work on that for Thursday morning. For now, though, I’ve gotta hit the road and I’m calling the fishing reports temporarily, “caught up”. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
The past week has been a turbulent one, not only in terms of weather and fishing patterns, but in personal life too. Thankfully, a hasty delivery forced by some un-anticipated complications turned out okay. With the safe arrival of Augusta and Lander Ray, I and the Hippie Chick became grandparents again, this time of twins.
I managed to keep the fishing trips going during the process, but the early morning writing schedule has lagged. So, today’s report is sort of a quick re-cap of what’s happened over the past week, if you see something that piques your interest, shoot me a message asking for more detail.
Yesterday, July 24, 2023, I my friends Linda and Marion Roberts hired me to take their grandson Derrick, and his girlfriend Grace on a fishing adventure. We discussed options during a pre-trip consult, and I mentioned Upper Red Lake as a destination for a “walleye or die” fishing trip. That’s the option that got the nod, so off we went.
Roger’s Campground was a lot quieter than the last time I was there, conditions at the ramp were great, dry and level. I talked with one of the campers who tipped me off about anglers who’d done well on the south shore over the weekend. “They caught limits in 6 feet or water”, he told me. That gave us confidence and after quickly launching the boat, getting to our first fishing spot went fast too.
The plan was to try a few different presentations, but we started with trolling spinners tipped with minnows. That worked, and we put 2 or 3 walleyes in the livewell within the first half hour. Two of the 3 rods were getting strikes, but not the 3rd rod; the difference was the spinner blades. Gold hammered blades worked, but the copper hammered color did not. When I traded out the spinners on that rod, I also added a night crawler and soon learned that while the minnows were working, the worms were better. Before long, night crawlers complemented the #4 Hammered Gold blades on all 3 of the rods had.
When we’re trolling, I typically put my rod in a holder and announce that when a fish takes the bait, that rod is up for grabs. After the first 3 or 4 times that I traded rods with Grace so she could catch the rod-holder fish, we figured out that it was better to use the rod holders instead of hand holding them. I don’t know why, but sometimes it seems like the less we do, the better the walleyes like it, and that’s what happened yesterday. Anyway, thanks to the efficiency of using the rod holders, the kids were able to sort through a nice limit of Red Lake Walleyes, and I never had to reel in a single fish.
Saturday was both an interesting and frustrating fishing day for me. The Hastings family was in town for their annual Camp Hastings get together and to accommodate the size of the crew, 2 half day trips were required. The first half with Kristin, Brooke and Claire (photo right), the the 2nd half with Owen, Blake and Josepha. Both trips started out great, but thanks to interference from Mother Nature, ended quietly.
There was a storm in the morning, in fact, we had to wait in the truck for the lighting and thunder to pass before we could start fishing. When we got on the lake, there was still turbulence in the air, it was dark and breezy. The fishing started off great, especially for Brooke, walleye and pike were on the prowl and easy to catch using spinners and minnows. But as the storm passed, and the conditions turned sunny and calm, the action got slower; not dead, but noticeably quiet.
Partly because of the morning’s quiet ending, and partly for the sense of adventure, we decided to try another lake for the boys on the afternoon trip. I drove south, toward Grand Rapids and along the way, discovered that lakes in this region were not hit by the morning storms. That sounded like good news and turned out that it was.
The fishing started off great, especially for Blake, both walleye and pike were on the prowl and easy to catch using spinners and minnows. But this time, instead of being in the aftermath of a storm, we were about to receive one. We rolled onto the shore and sat it out, then returned to the water. After the storm’s passing, the conditions turned sunny and calm, the action got slower; not dead, but noticeably quiet, again!
I don’t usually get treated to 2 storm related slow downs in the same day, so this time was a fluke. Luckily, each of the groups were able to enjoy some good fishing during the early portion of their trips. When it was over, they had a couple bags of nice walleye and pike fillets; nowhere close to limits, but a decent number, all things considered.
Prior to the Camp Hastings group, I was finishing off the last sessions with the Daikin crew. I’ll catch you up with that one tomorrow morning, right now I’m out of time and need to hit the road for today’s trip. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Summer fishing is in full swing on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Traditional summer walleye fishing patterns are holding true for anglers.
It is helpful to cover water to find fish and keep presentations in front of fish, many of which are out on the deep mud. Some anglers are still sticking to deep reefs which can always be a magnet. Both are putting out walleyes.
Drifting spinners and trolling crankbaits are the go-to presentations. Finding where the fish are and changing up color, speed and presentations is key. If the walleyes don't cooperate, try something different move on to another school of fish that might be more active.
Crawler harnesses, use a two hook harness with a hammered gold blade, a bright color or combo of both. Drift or troll at 1 to 1.25 MPH. Crankbaits are catching a lot of fish. Rotate colors and speed to find what the fish want. Chrome and blue, shiny gold and pink uv firetiger are some good choices. Alternate speeds, trolling from 2.5 to 3.5 MPH. Try turning the boat periodically can trigger strikes.
Most walleyes are being targeted in 26 to 34 feet of water, with a shallow bite mornings and evenings and when forage is shallow.
On the Rainy River, the morning and evening bite are still the best for walleyes. Deep holes, current breaks and flats with bait are good spots. Trolling crankbaits and crawler harnesses is effective and catching a variety of species. Cast docks, river mouths, rocks and bridges for smallmouthbass. Pike on weed edges into the river and the edges of current breaks.
Great multispecies fishing action going on up at the Northwest Angle. With so many rocks and areas with structure, some anglers jigging with a jig and minnow, or jigs and plastics with great success.
Covering water trolling crankbaits and crawler harnesses is still effective in locating and catching walleyes that aren't schooled or are spread out. Casting crankbaits, spinnerbaits and swim jigs in high probability spots is effective for a variety of fish. In addition to the most sought after walleyes and saugers, smallmouth bass, pike, jumbo perch, crappies and the predator of predators, muskies, are showing up regularly." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Jamie Curley wrote; "I really appreciate your detailed fishing reports, even though I live in Iowa and can only rarely apply some of what you share.
The family and I will be spending next week up in the Northwoods, staying just a little northwest of Deer River. I have went back and read many of your archived fishing reports and it seems that trolling Little Joe spinners may be the best way for me to get the family onto crappies and a mixed bag of fish. Goal is to keep them busy catching and be able to provide a couple fish fry's. Pulling spinners for panfish is a pretty new tactic for me, so thought I'd ask for a little clarification, to make sure I have it down.
Q) Are these best pulled right over the top or right through cabbage beds? Or best outside the weeds? How do I determine what size weights to use to keep the baits down, but not get constantly snagged? How far behind the boat should these baits be running? Thanks so much for any help you'd be willing to share!
A) Jamie, I’ll talk for a minute about your specific question regarding using spinners for the mixed bag, action bite in the weeds. But I’ll remind you that the greatest benefit of trolling with spinners is how versatile they are. You can fish them in the weeds, but they’re equally effective when used over open water, on rocky structures or when covering water on the flats. So, no matter where they’re used, the only major variation is which weights you use to place them effectively in the strike zone.
Typically, I fish along the outer edges of the weeds, especially on lakes with heavy, matted weeds like northern milfoil of coontail. Those plants grow in dense patches and are difficult to navigate. Cabbage, flat stemmed pondweed, and other plant types that grow in scattered, loosely grouped patches offer opportunity to go into, and fish over the plant tops. I look at my graph, and when I see am opportunity, I’ll wiggle right into the weeds. When I see heavier, matted weeds, I move back out to the edges, and hug the edges as closely as possible.
Don’t feel frustrated by making an occasional ‘wrong turn”. It’s hard to anticipate every twist and turn and are times when I wander into unfishable territory and need to ask my crew to retrieve their lures so I can reconnoiter. If that happens to you, just tell everyone to reel in their bait and move the boat back into fishable territory and start over.
In the area you’ll be fishing, the most common bullet sinker weights that the guides use are 1/16, 1/8 and 3/16 ounce. The 3/16 weight is suitable for water depths of about 6 to 9 feet. On lakes with an ultra shallow weedline, we use a 1/16-ounce weight, these allow fishing in water depths of 3 to 6 feet, but not much deeper. Outside the weedline, in water depths of 8 to 12 feet, I can get away by adding a split shot sinker under the 3/16-ounce weight, just above the swivel.
Adding a split shot is ideal for those times when you’re experimenting with depths and don’t want to take time to re-rig the sinkers between stops. This is useful when I discover that different fish species are located near each other but have selected slightly different locations within the habitat. Walleyes for example, might position along the outside deeper edges of the weeds, often along the cleaner break into deeper water, the extra weight gets your spinner into that zone. Crappies are often found holding tight to the shady cover, and when that happens, I can pull off the split shot quickly, and go further into the cover.
I prefer to fish over the weed tops but do occasionally find it helpful to allow the spinners to drop into gaps and pockets between the plants. That said, no matter which fish species I encounter, I try to keep the lures running higher than the water depth where they are holding. NEVER, under any circumstances, should you attempt to drag along the bottom. On any given fishing trip, I can predict with 100% accuracy which angler will catch the fewest fish. It will always be the one who constantly attempts to “find” the bottom. If you’re dragging up snails, getting snagged in rocks or your lures are frequently fouled in heavy weeds, either shorten your casting distance or change to a lighter sinker.
Finally, how far to cast your spinner away from the boat is important but can’t be planned ahead of time. For me, casting 25 to 30 feet will usually get us into the ball park, and then we experiment with distance until we pinpoint the best distance. Just remember not to get hung up on any one distance, fish position changes with light and water conditions, keep varying the line length until you find the sweet spot. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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You’ve known the expression “give credit where credit is due” for a long time. And every so often, you do give credit where it’s due, we all do, sharing news about favorite restaurants, great music, movies, famous people, and the like. I think it’s rare though, to see “average” folks get credit for doing what we think of as “ordinary” things; today I want to do that.
Ian Dallas fished with me when he was 12 years old, sometime back in the 1990’s his dad told me yesterday. The longer we fished, the more familiar that date seemed, but I had not recalled the original date precisely until we were in the fish cleaning shack. Andrew, Ian’s dad reminded me about how he was originally referred to me by former Eagle Nest Resort owner, Jack Zwicky, but that’s not the point.
Before we started fishing yesterday, Andrew and I were chatting about the weather, a line of Thunderstorms had just blown through, there was another one coming, and the forecast called for more, later. After I offered the usual advisories about how the aftermath of the storms could dampen fish activity, we checked the radar screen and decided to go ahead with our trip. Before I headed toward the boat ramp, Andrew mentioned that Ian had done well the day before, catching 14 walleyes using jigging raps. “Wow, you guys don’t even need me! I said.” He chuckled but assured me that the fishing trip was still on.
I drove to the ramp, launched the boat and drove over to Eagle Nest. Before the crew boarded, I asked Ian to bring along his jigging raps and the rods he’s used the day before. I think that surprised him a little bit, but he obliged and by the end of our fishing trip, I was glad that he did.
The complete report about our fishing trip would take longer than I have to work this morning, so here’s the quickie, Monday morning quarterback version. We fished in the middle of Winnie, on the falts, in the weeds and over the shallow rocks. We used Live Bait Jigs tipped with ripple shads, slip bobbers and leeches, spinners and minnows and Ian’s jigging raps. Almost all the action we had yesterday came on the jigging baits. It’s hard to say if there was a clear winner, the ripple shads worked and so did the jigging raps. If all of us would have been using 1 of the 2 presentations but not the other, our total catch might have been equal either way; maybe? No matter what accounting method I’d use, I’ll guarantee that Ian’s jigging tackle accounted for at least half the catch, maybe more.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can, especially if I’m the old dog. I’m not sure he’d agree, because he was both modest and humble, but Ian impressed me, really. Even if we’d caught the same number of fish using only my bag of tricks, I would not have gotten the fishing lesson if hadn’t asked him to bring his stuff along. Anyway, thank you to Ian, Andrew, Mark and the other Ian too; without you guys, yesterday could have been a real grind. Instead, you helped turned Mother Nature’s weird post-storm grinder into a joyful experience!
Yesterday's experience went well beyond the tip about Ian's walleye presentation, and I'll likely have more to add in upcoming reports. The list of fishing Q&As is growing too, and updates about the rest of Daikin's Fish-A-Roo, but I am out of time and need to run. Check back tomorrow, I'll try to keep up! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye - Best walleye bite continues to be a shallow water bite. 7-9 feet of water been where the best bite is happening. Anglers catching walleyes here are either trolling crankbaits at about 2 mph, jigging leeches, crawlers and even minnows, or pulling spinner rigs. Shallow rocky points, shallow sunken islands and shallow rocky flats have been the areas to target. Hot colors have been Firetiger, purple and gold.
Smallmouth - Topwater smallmouth bass fishing has cooled off some, this last week as cooler than normal temperatures settled in the area. Best bite has been subsurface and on spinners and Ned rigs. Points, shallow boulder flats, downed trees and a few reports out on sunken islands, has been the areas to check for bass.
Pike - This recent cool snap has only improved the local pike bite on area lakes. Pike continues to be found in shallow weedbeds on area lakes. River mouth's, mouths of shallow bays and main lake point are other areas to look for active pike. Spoons, spinnerbaits, and sucker minnows, fished under a bobber, continues to very effective on pike.
Panfish - Crappies reports were surprisingly few and far between this last week. Reports heard, were good. Anglers are finding them around downed trees and weedbeds. Crappies are either holding right next to or just off them. Crappies minnows, jig and twisters and beetle spins have been very effective on crappies." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
“Well, I wouldn’t have known they were there.” That answer, succinct to say the least, was fellow guide, Ken Wood’s response to my question about his effective use of the live scope sonar on his boat. What I’d asked specifically was whether his crew would have caught the walleyes he was cleaning after our fishing day on Monday.
No doubt, being alerted to the fact that fish are present is an advantage, especially in terms of efficiency. I don’t think there’s much argument about how live scope can gather fish faster than someone working without one. But it does lead to the next question; “Is efficiency more important the adventure? For me that’s something we need to factor into the equation about how folks value an average day spent fishing on the lake.
Monday, day 2 of the Daikin Fish-A-Roo, was spent working along with 2 of my fellow guides on one of the area’s popular walleye lakes. Shallow, weedy flats encompass the outer edges, and there are lots of shallow flats and mid-lake structures to explore. I like the lake because the average water clarity is less than 6 feet. Despite the presence of the lake’s invasive snails, the water remains turbid from the inflow of tannin-stained water from connected streams and small rivers.
Reduced clarity makes my life easier because fish are less prone to being boat shy than the ones that live in clear water lakes. This is the great equalizer for folks like me who are “fishing blind”, without the aid of live sonar. It also means that crowd pleasing presentations, like trolling spinners are more effective and isn’t that the point of working as a fishing guide, pleasing the crowd?
I’ll be the first to admit, gathering walleyes in my boat yesterday was the furthest thing from efficient, but it was fun. We moved a lot and tried spots all over the lake and because of fishing along the edges of heavy weeds, rarely “scanned” for fish ahead of fishing time. Researching a spot meant stopping the boat, casting out the spinners and trolling the weed edges to “see” if there were any fish in the neighborhood.
Most of the time, there were at least some fish, usually there were pike, perch and some small walleyes. At some stops there were large protect slot size walleyes and occasionally, a keeper. After 7 hours of fishing, we had gathered a total of 9 walleyes, and a handful of the better pike that are small, but “keepers” according to the legal standards imposed by today’s protected slot on pike. Along the way, we released dozens of other pike, 15 to 20 small walleyes and another 8 or 9 protected slot size walleyes. What I’m saying is that despite the lack of efficiency in harvesting fish, we enjoyed the adventure of searching and sorting through which ones would be keepers.
Remember, at this point, I am not giving answers, I am asking questions. So, I’ll repeat today’s which is a serious one; Is efficiency more important to you than adventure? Would you rather spend your time engaged in a visual search and seizure mission, or would you prefer to throw your bait in the water and find out what bites?
More about day 2 of the Fish-A-Roo, most guides and their crews were in pursuit of walleyes on Monday. Folks fished on a variety of lakes and for the most part, results were similar to the ones I reported. Except, the guides that fished on Winnie, they did better. The weather was perfect, cloudy, breezy and cool, so the fish in shallow water were active. Key depths ranged from 8 to 12 feet and 2 presentations were mentioned specifically. Slip bobbers with leeches, and jig and minnow combinations. Both were equally effective so on your next trip, try both and find out if you like one better than the other.
The pressure to gather walleyes is off now, and my crew’s interest in crappie fishing has been piqued by reports from Sunday. So, it appears that my mission will be to get them in on some crappie action today. I’ll let you know how that goes tomorrow morning. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
According to folks at the Lake of the Woods tourism office, they’ve enjoyed another great week of fishing on the south end of Lake of the Woods. They report, “Some anglers are targeting the deep mud on the big basin, while other anglers are targeting rock reefs.
The two most common presentations to catch walleyes right now are drifting spinners and trolling crankbaits. Both do a nice job of covering water and are producing nice fish. With Big Traverse Bay being a big expanse of water, it is really helpful to use your electronics to search out schools of bait and walleyes. Once you find some signs of life, start fishing.
Try a two-hook harness with a hammered gold blade and a nightcrawler. It is helpful to pinch off long crawlers and have just a few inches of crawler off the back hook. The fish will still hit the crawler and your hooking percentages go up.
If you are trolling crankbaits, part of the fun is figuring out the walleyes that day. What color? Do they want a shad style or minnow style? How fast do they want the lure? Most anglers are trolling from 2.5 - 3.5 mph. Try turning the boat occasionally when trolling to speed up or slow down baits causing reaction strikes. Jigging with a frozen emerald shiner is still effective, particularly when on a good school of fish or fishing on structure.
Most walleyes are being targeted in 26 to 34 feet. There can always be a shallow bite when forage is present or very early or late in the day. Trolling crankbaits in the evening along Pine Island and areas along the south shore can produce nice fish at times all summer.
On the Rainy River, Walleyes and saugers are being caught with the morning and evening bite the best. Target high probability spots such as deep holes, current breaks and flats with bait. Trolling crankbaits and crawler harnesses is effective and catching a variety of species. Target smallmouth bass around docks, river mouths, rocks and bridges. Pike on weed edges into the river and the edges of current breaks.
Up at the NW Angle, Great fishing reports this week up at the Angle. A variety of techniques are being used to catch walleyes. With so many rocks and areas with structure, some anglers stick with a jig and minnow or jig and plastic all year long with great success.
Covering water trolling crankbaits and crawler harnesses is very effective in locating and catching walleyes during the summer months.
Working shoreline structure casting crankbaits, spinnerbaits and swim jigs has been good for a variety of fish. In addition to the most sought-after walleyes and saugers, smallmouth bass, pike, jumbo perch, crappies and the predator of predators, muskies, are showing up regularly."— Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
The typical start of most previous Daikin “Fish-A-Roo” fishing trips have featured hot weather, and more than not, calm seas. Quite a contrast from what this year’s group experienced; cold, blustery, sometimes wet and for my crew, bumpy. We did come in with some fish, but because of that, my fishing report is not a glorious one.
We knew that there would be lots of wind, so I drove around to the west side of Winnie to launch the boat. I’d hoped at the time that I could drum up some decent fishing close to shore, but that didn’t pan out. I began creeping further and further out into the main lake and each step along the way, found a couple of walleyes. Tempted by the promise of finding something more like a “hot bite”, I kept moving further out into open water and eventually, I was in the middle.
Live Bait Jigs, tipped with the Ripple Shads I mentioned a few days ago, were getting strikes. I was catching fish on them, and my crew was closing in on learning the system. The arrival of a line of cumulous clouds changed that, each time one of the heavy looking, dark clouds approached, the wind howled, and the whitecaps crashed into my Wave Wackers. This part of the trip was not fun, and it foiled my attempt to get the crew fully engaged in what was promising to be a good experience. Truthfully, controlling the boat and fishing was not that hard, and there were fish biting, so we toughed it out, for a while. We didn’t throw in the towel until the wind switched direction, and the fish moved. Figuring out where they went wasn’t gonna work, it was rough enough to make that too hard.
Motoring back across the lake, into the waves probably will make a good story sometime down the road, but at the time, it was like adding insult to injury.
Later, I remembered learning about the weather pattern before, but to get a refresher course, I looked it up on NetWeather.TV and found this, “Cumulus will look white as they form in daylight and bright sunshine. Evening clouds can look ominous and give a sense that it may rain. However, often this is just a lack of light, shadows of the cloud on itself or dark bases, again from shadows. Sudden downpours come from convective Cumulus. The short showers that come and go, or heavier ones which surprise you with the sudden rain, dark skies, and blustery winds before it's back to sunshine, and you feel bewildered at what just happened.”
Yup, that’s the way I remember the familar pattern, especially the part about “feeling bewildered”.
Back at the resort, comparing notes with my fellow guides, fishing reports varied. Some folks went crappie fishing, and it was agood idea, they did well. Their experience, I heard was typical of what I’d written about couple weeks back and you might be interested in reviewing this July 2, 2023 report >> "The Great Crappie Rampage of 2023?"
Some folks went to fish for walleyes on smaller lakes, and some of those produced good fish, others produced fish that were entertaining, but too small to keep. Another group went after pike, and as usual, piled up a bunch of eating size fish. So, all things considered, it sounded like everyone found something to do, but most wouldn’t describe their fishing days as stellar.
One point of interest for me, was that fellow guide Dale Anderson, stayed on Winnie too and his crew bagged a good number of walleyes. They caught theirs by casting slip bobbers to walleyes that they located using the Panoptix system. Comparing notes with Dale about how often the fish moved and had to be ‘re-located”, I have to admit that even if we had been there, my crew probably would not have enjoyed the same success as his did. That’s because I do not have the “live sonar” and without it, would have been making random casts, hoping to get lucky occasionally.
The topic is bound to come up again, but the experience begs the question, when will live sonar be perceived as a “necessity” instead of a luxury? For many, that day has already arrived. I can’t say that I have come that far just yet, but I will tell you that I started work an hour early today because thinking about it kept me awake. We’ll see where the conversation leads over the next few days, but I do recall the famous Dirty Harry line; “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” I know what mine are right now, so while we’re all together, I plan on learning as much as I can from my fellow guides who are using the systems already. I’ll share my thoughts as I get them sorted out.
Today, the weather forecast is not much different than yesterdays. I doubt that I’ll try to re-live yesterday’s experience, but depending on my crew, you never know. Check the report tomorrow and find out. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
As much time as I spend on computers, writing custom content, working on websites and such, one could get the idea that I “like” doing it. Really, I don’t, the issue is that I just can’t afford to have a professional webmaster running things, especially with all the daily changes required. Mostly, I do okay at keeping the sites running correctly, but every so often, a technical challenge comes along that makes me scratch my head.
Getting my sites “secured” with an SSL Certificate has been one of those technical challenges and it was tough for me to get rid of that pesky “this site is not secure” warning that Google slaps into the browser for "un-secured" websites.
The good news is that after several days of head scratching, consulting with various “chat” support staff and of course, spending some money; I finally got it done. Now, whenever you visit either of my sites, you should see the secured site padlock in your browser. If you don’t, it might be because you have the site(s) bookmarked and your computer is referring you to the older, unsecured version. To correct that, please take a minute to update the link in your bookmarks, or favorites page section. Here are some shortcuts that will help.
If you’re browsing either of the sites and stumble into a glitch, please let me know so I can update the page(s) to the new, “secure” ones. With that project behind me, I can go back to fishing and reporting about what we’re finding on the lakes.
The past few days featured family fishing trips, moms, dads and the kids and it’s been a blast. You probably already guessed that most of my time was spent in pursuit of anything that would bite, and you’re right. Sunfish, Crappies, Walleyes and Pike were all cooperative, but to catch any of them, we had to use more refined presentations than usual. My preferred mid-summer presentation, trolling spinners tipped with live bait worked okay as a search tool. Once located, all of the species mentioned required specializing in more subtle presentations.
Crappies on one lake were holding in the rocks, they were using both small, mid-lake isolated rock bars and shallower, shoreline related rocks connected to larger weed flats. Jigs tipped with small fatheads, fished vertically over the side of the boat was what tripped their triggers. On another lake, crappies preferred patches of flat stemmed pondweed, casting 1/16-ounce Lindy Live Bai Jigs tipped with Ripple Shads was the clear ticket for them. From a stationary position, cast the lures toward the weed patches and let them fall on a tight line. Most often, crappies will strike as the lure falls, but if not, finish the cast by retrieving slowly, using a lift-drop-swim presentation.
Sunfish were located while we fished for walleyes on another lake by using spinners tipped with night crawlers. When we caught them, they seemed active, but ran on the small side, so I didn’t stay in the area long. But after we’d been fishing for walleyes for several hours, Julie mentioned something about going after those “sunnies”. We returned to the spot where we’d discovered them, but this time, spot-locked the boat and fished with bobbers instead of trolling. Small jigs tipped with cut pieces of night crawler or leeches and suspended about 6 feet below a slip float worked well for us. The fish we caught using this method were larger than the ones we caught trolling and we managed to harvest about 20, 8-1/2 to 9 inch fish.
The next day, fishing with a family of 4, on that same lake, walleyes were snubbing the spinners. In fact, despite seeing decent numbers of them on my graph we only caught 2 of them trolling. After a couple of hours, I asked everyone to reel in and put the spinning rigs away, pulled out the bobber rods, set them for about 12 feet deep and tipped the same, 1/16-ounce live bait jigs from the day before, with large leeches. All 4 lines were cast out, parallel to the weedline over about 14 feet of water. We still didn’t catch a million fish, but long story short, we caught several of them, so doing this definitely bested the spinners and trolling. It’s hard to say how many we’d have caught if we spent more time on the project, but this was a goal-oriented family and once they had enough walleyes for a fish fry, we were done.
Today brings us to a mid-summer milestone, the annual Daikin Fish-A-Roo at William’s Narrows Resort on Cutfoot Sioux and Lake Winnie. The first day, always goal-oriented, will feature 10 to 12 fishing guides, all in hot pursuit of walleyes for the post trip fish fry. It’s hard to say where everyone will take their crews today, but it’s safe to say that there will be news about the adventures tomorrow morning. So, enjoy your Sunday and I’ll catch up with you in the morning. If you’re headed for the lake, keep an eye the wind today, looks like it could blow hard, if the forecast comes true. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye fishing continues to improve on area lakes, but anglers have been reporting that walleyes are scattered. Anglers are catching walleyes slip bobbering a leech, right off their dock or campsite in 8 feet of water or less, during the evening. Other anglers are catching walleyes pulling gold, orange and blue colored lindy rigs, tipped with a crawler or leech, out on sunken islands and main lake points, in 12 to 18 feet of water. Still other anglers are having good luck pulling white, bloody nosed and perch colored crankbaits out on large flats in 15 to 20 feet of water or 15 to 20 feet down out over 30 to 80 feet of water.
Smallmouth Bass continue to very active this last week. Topwater baits, wacky worms, Ned rigs and spinners continue to be the go to baits for bass anglers. Bass anglers continue to focus on classic summer structure such as points, boulders flats, downed trees and sunken islands.
Northern Pike also continue to be popular with anglers this last week. Large spoons, spinnerbaits and suckers fished under a bobber has been very effective. Anglers should be focusing on weedlines, current areas and mouths of shallow bays.
Stream trout, Warm summertime temps have the stream trout largely restricted to deeper water now. Anglers have been setting their slip bobbers to 15 feet while using a night crawler. Anglers fishing from a boat have been using small deep diving crankbaits or 3 colors of leadcore to get small spoons down to trout." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"The south end of Lake of the Woods is producing good numbers of nice walleyes. Charter captains and guides are definitely on the fish. Walleyes are constantly adapting to forage, water temps, and current conditions. Anglers will be rewarded who do the same.
Getting your presentation in front of lots of walleyes, by drifting spinners and trolling crankbaits is producing nice fish. Speed and presenting your bait where the walleye wants it is key. Hammered gold combined with brighter colors have been good spinner colors on LOW. When fishing areas with rock, try a bit or orange to imitate crayfish. Over deep mud, try a glow color by itself or with hammered gold.
For those who like to troll, a #7 shad rap or similar lure is catching nice fish. Rotate speeds and colors until you dial in the walleye's preference. Gold/black and pink UV firetiger have been strong colors this past week.
Jigging continues working well for some anglers who are on a good school of fish or fishing the "spot on the spot" on the structure.
Walleyes are living in various depths depending upon the forage they are targeting. Anywhere from 12 to 33 feet is holding fish. Watch your electronics to provide you with signs of bait and fish.
On the Rainy River, local walleyes (walleyes that live in the river year round) are being caught jigging, pulling spinners and trolling crankbaits. The river receives an influx during the spring spawning and fall run when the fish are chasing emerald shiners up the river.
Target the "go-to" spots until you find the fish. Deeper holes, current breaks and even flats with some current will hold walleyes. Remember, using sonar over slight depressions on flats may not pick up the walleyes. Sometimes it is best to quickly fish those areas.
Sturgeon season is open. Most targeting deep holes or the edges of deep holes with current. Use a sturgeon rig with a 3 to 4 ounce no roll sinker based on the current loaded with nightcrawlers.
Up at the Northwest Angle, it's been a great week of summer walleye fishing. Some anglers are jigging, others are trolling spinners and crankbaits. The key, move around until you find active fish. There are plenty of fish to be had and good fishing reports are the norm. In addition to walleyes, anglers are casting bays, points and weed patches for smallmouth bass and pike. Muskie anglers are reporting good activity. " — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
You might think that all “Big Time Pro Guides” would get their jollies by dressing up in fancy fishing clothes and polishing the gelcoat between decals on their boats. Admittedly, there’s a time and place for that, but almost all the best guides I’ve known, are not that way. They show up, look after their customers’ needs and do their best to keep enough fish coming into the boat to make the trip entertaining. For me, people like that, salt of the earth folks who happen to be fishing guides, have been my role models; I’ve done my best to hold their standards.
The reason I brought this up is because Gail Pries, a fishing customer sent me a text on Thursday, and it made me proud of myself. The message came on the heels of a big family fishing date with me, on Big Sandy Lake, where the Pries’ own a lake home. The Independence Day holiday week is a big family event for them, so entertaining the troops meant fishing with 4 people in the morning, and then another 3 fresh faces in the afternoon. So, you might be asking, what was the message and why are you so proud of it?
Pries, “A huge thank you, everyone is talking about what a great experience they had today and how well you work with everyone at the level of fishing knowledge they are at.” She also forwarded the photo (upper left) of her granddaughter Sydney, who caught the fish you see, but wasn’t quite ready to hold it for her own “hero shot”.
Did you notice that Gail didn’t mention “monster fish” or who won the family fishing derby? She didn't mention how pretty my boat was, or that she loved the patches on my jacket either and she wasn't even offended by me driving an 11 year old truck. That’s what I’m proud of, because the family was bragging to her about their “experience”. Bag limits, poundage of fillets, freezers filled with fish, none of that made the note, not even close.
Obviously, catching fish was important, and we did catch plenty of fish to make it a fun trip. But if you know anything about Big Sandy, most of the fish we caught never made it into the livewell. The lake has a 14-to-18-inch harvest slot size, and as is the case with most lakes that have these minimum-maximum slots, we tend to catch a lot of fish that are just below the legal-size limit. Catching 12 to 13-1/2-inch walleyes isn’t too hard, catching enough 14-to-15-inch fish for a meal is a challenge, but it’s doable. We harvested 12 fish that day, maybe 13, and they ranged from 14.25 inches, up to one, 16-3/4-inch fish.
I would not want to see it on every lake, especially deeper, clearer water ones. But personally, I like having the 14 to 18, minimum/maximum “harvest slot”, especially for family fishing trips. Throughout the day, we are almost always on the verge of catching something, a half hour without a bite is very uncommon. While most of the fish must be released, doing so is relatively safe because they are caught in relatively shallow water. For me, 8 to 12 feet is an average depth, but some anglers have said that walleyes occasionally drop into the depths, 18 to 24 feet, still relatively safe depths for catch and release fishing.
Most folks who fish with me don’t request catching small walleyes, and that’s fine. But in my experience, the lake is perfect for family trips like the one we had last Thursday. Keeping the kids entertained is easier, adding enough fish to the larder for a fish fry is usually accomplishable and there are enough fish striking to offer opportunity to learn new presentations. On Thursday for example, we caught fish using spinners, slip bobbers, jig and minnow and jig and plastic. Leeches, night crawlers, shiners, fatheads, and plastics all worked to one extent or another. Having enough fish strikes to allow practicing the techniques is what helps folks progress, the lake is perfect for this too.
If you decide to give the lake a try, you might catch a walleye that has been tagged by the MN DNR fisheries. From the DNR web page, tagged fish reporting, “Tagging and marking are important techniques fisheries biologists use to study individual aquatic animals or populations. They will tag or mark aquatic animals to obtain information necessary for research or management. By reporting tagged or marked fish, you can assist.” It’s not hard to find the page, but here’s a link to make it faster >> MN DNR Fisheries Tagged Fish Reporting.
I don’t fish Big Sandy a lot, but whenever the opportunity presents, I do love taking families there. I find that kids of all ages who enjoy getting their string stretched have fun. Meat hunters, not so much, if poundage or bag limits are your only measure of success, you probably won’t love the lake the same way I do.
Obviously, I’m delighted that the Pries family chose me to be a part of their family fishing adventure. But, especially gratifying to me, is the opportunity to help foster a simple, unglorified appreciation for fishing. Today, getting the whole family in any one place at the same time is challenging in and of itself. But getting most of them onto a boat and sharing time on the water is becoming rarer all the time. I’m just glad I could be there, and I hope we get a chance to share the pride and joys of fishing again someday! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Independence Day, at least for me, is among the most important holidays of the year. The concept of freedom from central authority and the right to self-determination cannot be taken lightly. Add the fact that my daughter, Annalee happens to share a birth date with Independence Day, and you’ve got the explanation why I always take a few days off to celebrate the timing of it all.
This year, the celebration(s) were less intense than sometimes in the past. Instead of featuring one large family gathering event, or going on a multi-day fishing trip, I and the Hippie Chick celebrated a series of little family parties, sharing time with kids, grandkids, and most importantly, each other.
On Monday, we shared an early morning on the lake, hoping, we thought, not only to beat the heat, but also to beat the heavy crowds. That would be trickier than I thought, the weather was so nice, and the morning so warm, that by the time we found the first spot to wet a line, everybody at the lake was already up and at it. Folks were milling around their cabins, getting ready for the big play day that lied ahead of them. That was a little intimidating for Mrs. Sundin, practicing a new fishing technique with all those eyes watching was not the ideal scenario. So, after an hour of casting jigs and plastics into the weeds, I opted for a simpler, less stressful approach.
We headed out to the middle of the lake, began scanning mid-lake bars for schools of fish and prepared for a session of “power corking”. The rods were set with 1/16-ounce Lindy Live Bait jigs, tipped with lively leeches, a #4 split shot sinker 12 inches above that, and a Thill slip float set for 24 inches above the bottom. After watching the graph for about 5 minutes, I spotted 3 fish on the screen, advised the Hippie Chick to open the bail and drop the lure into the water. About 10 seconds later, I asked where her bobber was, “I don’t know, I am trying to find it”, she replied.
The accompanying image explains where her bobber was, the walleye you see pictured here had drawn it down below the surface when it scarfed up her leech. At subsequent stops, the same thing happened again, sometimes the fish were “keepers”, most times they were too small for us. But by noon, we had 3 nice fish in the livewell for a meal. We also had waves surrounding us from all angles, everything from speedboats, pontoons, wave runners and the dreaded “wake board boats”. With everything that was going out there, the incentive to keep fishing had been diminished and we headed for the dock.
Those hours on the lake constituted my entire fishing experience over the past 3 days, so I’m afraid that’s all I have in terms of a “fishing report” today. But with the holiday behind us, the schedule will get busy again and I’ll have plenty of new news to share over the next few days.
Before I wrap up, I want to share a question that came in via email this morning. I didn’t ask for permission to share the reader’s name because it doesn’t matter, questions like this come over the wire often. Reader, “Jeff, I’m planning on going fishing this Thursday, crappies, walleyes perch, it doesn’t matter, just throw me a lake !!!”
Hmm, how do suppose I’m expected to answer a question like that? Should I just throw out the first lake that comes to mind, or should I take some time to figure out where you are and select a lake that’s close to you? Should I consider what the weather is going to be like on Thursday, or should I just send you over to a lake to see whether the conditions warrant it or not? Should I offer guidance based on whether the fish are biting there now, or simply offer an idea based on the good luck I’ve had there in the past? I could go on and on, but you get the idea, there simply is no single "right answer."
The truth is that there are days, a lot of them, when I wish somebody would “just throw me a lake” too. But I'm afraid that’s not how it works, the right to independence and self-determination that our forefathers sought, also happens to include fishing. If you want to find the best fishing lakes, then you’re gonna need to go out and do some of your own exploring.
The best way to utilize MY expertise is by reading the fishing reports, learning about “current trends” and fishing patterns, then applying that information to lakes that you’re interested in fishing.
When I’m pondering what to do on a given day, there’s a process I follow. First, I assess who my crew will be, if they insist on catching a particular species, then that pushes me in directions where I might accomplish that goal. If they’re flexible, I may decide on a lake based on other factors, action bite vs the walleye or die bite, for example.
Geography is important too, sometimes I can’t avoid driving long distances, or forcing my customers to, but if I can avoid that, I do. Finally, I must consider my customers’ abilities and fishing preferences. There’s no point in me taking folks to a lake where fish may be biting, but only highly experienced anglers can catch them. The choices I make need to be within my expertise too, there are certain things I’m good at, others that I’m not.
Whenever I’m pondering where to go, I always start by logging into the MN DNR Recreation Compass. Using their interactive map, I zoom into an area where I’m hoping to fish, then select lakes within that region for consideration. Clicking on the lake name links to the MN DNR Lake Finder pages. Here you can dial into information about fish populations, special regulations, and its biological composition, like aquatic plant surveys, water clarity and the like. It’s just a matter of time before I click on a lake that piques my interest, one that “looks good”, at least on paper.
While I can’t necessarily “just throw you a lake”, I can absolutely throw you a “LAKE FINDER”! I hope you’ll take this, in and of itself, as a hot tip, one that serves you better than me just pointing the finger at any random lake and saying go there. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Walleye fishing is starting to show signs of improvement on many area lakes, as the mayfly hatch is starting to wrap up. Anglers have been having to work hard for each and every fish on these lakes. On lakes where the mayfly hatch hasn’t happened or has wrapped up, anglers have been catching good numbers of walleyes. Anglers on all lakes have been finding walleyes in 15 to 20 feet of water, on top of sunken islands. Orange, gold, pink and blue colored jigs, tipped with leeches or crawlers, has been the ticket. Spinner rigs have also accounted for its fair share of walleyes.
Northern Pike fishing was excellent this last week for a lot of anglers. While there weren’t to many reports of fish over 34” being caught, good
numbers were had by just about everyone targeting pike. Classic pike presentations like spoons, buzz baits, spinnerbaits and suckers fished
under a bobber, keep pike anglers busy all of last week. Weed beds, mouths of shallow bays and areas where water enters the lake, are the areas to focus on pike.
Smallmouth Bass - Topwater fishing for smallies continues to be hot and popular among anglers. Anglers continue to find big smallies along shorelines with boulder flats, rocky points and downed trees. Ned rigging, wacky worms and spinners, continue to be very effective on smallies also and in the same areas.
Stream trout fishing has started to slow up this last week for many trout anglers. As surface temps continue to climb, trout are forced deeper to find their preferred temperature. Anglers have been having the best luck fishing night crawlers 10-15 feet, under a bobber.
Panfish fishing was a popular choice this last week as many anglers struggled catching walleyes. As weed beds are established, finding
panfish hasn’t been too hard to do for most anglers. Small leeches are proving to be deadly on sunnies in these weed beds. Beetle spins, small spinners and angleworms or waxies fished under a bobber has also been effective. Crappies are also being caught on these same weed beds and same lures, but more often than not during the evening hours, just before dark. — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"It's been am awesome week of fishing on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Walleyes are transitioning into mid-summer patterns in response to constant changes within the ecosystem from week to week. It is interesting how what is happening up on the north end of the lake isn't necessarily the same as the south end of the lake. It's a diverse body of water. One constant remains, lots of fish are being caught.
Summer patterns are rolling along, always on Mother Nature's timeframe. Some bug hatches this week with many walleyes migrating to the deep mud. Some of these fish are very cooperative, others suspend and are not so willing. Find active fish. Getting your presentation in front of lots of walleyes, by drifting spinners or trolling crankbaits as an example, will produce fish.
When pulling spinners, try various sizes and colors of blades. Great success was had with a #5 Colorado bronze blade with some orange. Other anglers using smaller #3 blades. Hammered gold combined with brighter colors are good choices on LOW.
Jigging is working well for some anglers, especially those fishing structure like rocky reefs. Whether on top, on the edges or where the rock meets the deep mud, anchoring up in an area with walleyes and vertical jigging with frozen emerald shiners can be very successful.
Walleyes are targeting many different types of forage this time of year. Some are focusing their attention on crayfish. Whether you find them when cleaning fish or they burp them up when you catch them, they are on the menu currently. These would be rocky areas, oftentimes shallow rocks. Try gold and orange colors in these areas. Minnows and young of the year fish of all types are a staple for LOW walleyes and saugers. Oftentimes, you can see suspended schools of minnows on your electronics. There is a good chance there are walleyes in the area. Finally, the various hatches of bugs draw walleyes over deep mud. Thousands of larvae expose themselves from the mud and are a great meal. There are a lot of walleyes over deep mud right now.
Walleyes are being caught in anywhere from 12 to 32 feet based on the forage in those areas. Good sonar will help you see walleyes, as well as minnows and bug hatches.
With 42 miles of navigable water of the Rainy River, there is good fishing to be had there too. A mixed bag of walleyes, saugers, pike, smallmouth bass, lake sturgeon, crappies, perch and even some rough fish like suckers and bullheads are in the river. Try a milk run on the river for multispecies action. Cast "fishy" spots up and down the river, going spot to spot until you find fish. Current breaks, deep holes, docks, feeder rivers, bridges and weedlines can all hold a variety of fish.
Cast jigs, swimbaits, crankbaits,spinnerbaits, or chatterbaits to cover water and catch fish. Jigging, pulling spinners and trolling crankbaits all are catching walleyes.
Up at the NW Angle, theres a strong bug hatch with an abundance of food available for walleyes too. This has made some days more challenging than normal. Anglers worked a bit harder to catch fish, jigging and pulling spinners to overcome the buffet available to the fish and still caught good numbers.
Moving around slowly over the structure holding fish with a jig and minnow or jig and plastic. Try various colors of jigs and plastics until you figure out the walleye's preference. Crawler harnesses continue to catch a lot of walleyes. A 2 ounce bottom bouncer fished at a 45 degree angle at about 1.25 mph over mud or rocks with a snelled spinner and crawler is working well. Try to be close to the bottom, but not drag the bottom. Hammered gold, pink and orange spinners, or a combo of these colors, has been effective. Use a two hook harness with a night crawler or imitation crawler. A mixed bag of fish up at the Angle. Walleyes, saugers, smallmouth bass, pike, perch, crappies and muskies in good abundance." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Did you know a lake that used to offer good crappie fishing, but either got “fished out”, or just hasn’t been very good lately? Well, if you’re vacationing over the Independence Day holiday, and that lake happens to be located nearby, you might want to go check it out.
Last year, during the fall, I wrote about finding large schools of crappies in a variety of “new” lakes that I had been exploring. At the time, I theorized about a great year class of crappies that must have hatched and survived in 2018 or maybe 2019. No matter where I went, huge schools of small, but catchable 6-, 7- and 8-inch crappies showed up, seemingly out of nowhere. During the winter, I consulted with some DNR fisheries staff who confirmed that many north central Minnesota lakes do have strong populations of these young crappies.
This spring, I’ve re-visited some of those lakes, and have also visited a few of my former favorites, ones that had been reliable in the past, but disappeared from my radar for one reason or another. The results have been similar on most of them, there are lots of lakes in my region that offer better than average fishing for crappies, and they are biting right now. The good news is that there are a lot of fish, the bad news, if you want to call it that, is most fish are on the small side. The ones we’re catching this summer range in size from about 8 inches up to 10-1/2 inches.
On Saturday, my 2nd day with Kurt Volkert and his son Kollin left me with a decision to take. With walleyes already in the freezer from day one, where should I take them and what should we fish for? Volkert, is not particularly fussy about which species to harvest, but does like to harvest. An action bite, featuring multiple species is perfect for him.
Emboldened by that knowledge, I decided to try fishing one of the formerly good crappie lakes, but a lake that I haven’t been on for 25 years at least, maybe more. The plan was to troll spinners until I found something to do, and then zero in on whatever was biting best.
I think you already know where I’m going with this, but I’ll say it anyway, we found crappies, not just a few either, it was more like "CRAPPIES GALORE!". They were not huge ones, like the image at right shows, most were just below 10 inches. What they lacked in size though was made up for by how agressive they were, active would be an epic understatement. The larder didn't look that bad either, after a day of catching and sorting, the Volkerts each had their legal limits of 10 crappies and they ranged in size from our "boat minimum", 10 inches up to 11-1/2 inches.
Along the way, we caught quite a few pike too, but most of them were in the protected slot and we only bagged 2 keepers, 27 inches for Kollin, 29 inches for Kurt. Early in the day, I caught a walleye, 23 inches long on the 2 inch white YUM twirl tail too, and the boys caught of couple of smaller walleye too. Lots of small perches, way too small to harvest eventually become annoying but were a small price to pay for the overall experience.
I mentioned trolling with spinners, and that is how we started the day. I don’t think it took more than a few minutes to find a small pod of fish along the outer edge of the weeds. As I moved from spot-to-spot, we found other pods of fish too and for a few hours, spinners tipped with minnows was the only presentation we needed. But as the sun got higher in the sky, the action slowed, for a time, we were lucky to catch a crappie every 15 minutes.
We returned to one of the weed beds that had offered decent action earlier and rigged up the ultra-light rods with 1/16-ounce jig heads. Plastic tails added to the jigs were the main entre’, no live bait was used. You can see in the image of my Humminbird, 10 feet of water, with lots of vegetation under and around the boat; that’s where we fished. Casting our lures toward the shallower weeds and using a “drop-swim-hop-drop-swim-hop” motion, we creeped along in the weeds, but near the outer extremities.
My experiment, I hoped, would help revive the action and keep the boys interested. As it happened, jigging is what we should have been doing all along. Yes, trolling the spinners did help me cover the water faster, and spinners did afford us decent action. But to these crappies, the jigs, tipped with plastics were akin to offering milk bone biscuits to my yellow lab; we didn’t need to ask twice! For a couple of hours, one of us had a fish on almost constantly.
The best lures, for us, were 1/16-ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs tipped with either a YUM 2-inch twirl tail, or a 2-inch Keitech 2-inch sight flasher tail. We didn’t experiment a lot with colors but of the ones we used, white or chartreuse both worked, today, red and blue did not.
The vegetation was a little different than I’ve seen in most of my other favorite crappie lakes. It resembled flat stemmed pondweed, but was finer, featuring multiple thin, wispy, vertical standing shoots. I used the DNR Lake Finder Page to look up the aquatic vegetation survey and found a variety of similar plants listed. From what I saw, I think it was Potamogeton pusillus, but I can’t be certain. I guess it’s not super important, but I do like to know the names of plants that hold certain species of fish; it helps me get the patterns figured out faster.
Will this strong year class of crappies go down in history as one of the best ever? Will we have a story to tell our grandkids about the Great Crappie Rampage of 2023?
I doubt that, but crappie fishing right now is darn good, and you don’t need to take my word for it. Just asking any one of my fishing customers who’s been on a crappie lake with me this year will get you a similar answer. The crappie fishing this season, on a wide variety of lakes, has been way better than it has been for a long time. They might not all be trophies yet, but there are enough “keepers” in the mix to make it worth fishing for them. And recalling the crappie growth rate chart that I linked to on January 24, 2018, these fish promise to provide us with both good action and quality size later this fall, into the 2024 season and beyond.
So, like I said, if you’re perusing today’s report from your lake cabin of camper, and you’re near a lake that has historically had decent crappie fishing, you should think about making this part of your Independence Day fishing plan. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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This video showcases fishing techniques above an emergent snag or brush pile on the river. While a depth finder aids in locating submerged snags, Leitch emphasizes that it is not a necessary tool, as this type of fishing can be done from canoes, kayaks, or the riverbank. Side imaging, although not essential, allows for identifying hidden snags underwater, which can point out spots other catfish anglers have missed. Leitch shares insights on optimal bait placement duration, highlighting the catfish’s ability to ..." View Video and Learn More Full >> Mastering Summer Catfishing: Tips & Techniques
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Each map can have varying contours and preloaded structure depending on how recent your map is. There are numerous different mapping companies available who all offer a different variety of maps, each of which has their own benefits. Some of the most popular companies include C-Map, Navionics and LakeMaster. This feature will cover some of the most important aspects of choosing and utilizing the best map for you to ..."Learn More >> Comparing LakeMaster, Navionics and C-Map
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