"Walleye - Fall walleye anglers struggled a little this last weekend. Anglers were largely unable to find walleyes in their traditional fall locations, but not all struggled. Anglers catching walleyes we're finding them in very skinny water. 7 to 9 feet of water was the most commonly heard depth, but great reports as shallow as 4 feet of water are still being reported by successful anglers.
Minnows continue to be the bait of choice for successful anglers. These anglers have been using lindy rigs or a simple jig tipped with minnow and worked over shallow rock and weedbeds. Pink, blue and orange/chartreuse remain top colors.
Smallmouth bass continue to transition out to sunken islands. Anglers have been using sucker minnows, on a lindy rig, to target the big smallies out there. Best depth out here has been 15-25 feet of water. Not all smallies have left the shorelines yet, so anglers can still find smallies on shorelines with topwater baits, Ned rigs and wacky worms.
Northern Pike - As water temps continue to drop, big pike (30 inch plus ) continue to show up in anglers catches. Anglers targeting them have been having great success throwing large spoons, in-line spinners, and fishing large suckers under a bobber. Areas to target are going to be river mouths, mouths of shallow bays, and rocky main lake points.
Panfish - Crappies continue to be a popular target, for good reason. Anglers have been catching good numbers of crappies with jig/twisters, beetle spins and crappie minnows under a bobber. Anglers are starting to find crappies increasingly near deeper holes, but still close to cabbage beds. Evening hours near weedbeds has been especially good." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
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There’s been some more great fall walleye fishing this past week on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Anglers and walleye charter customers, like Leisha (pictured left) fishing on the south end of the lake are catching some nice limits as well as both larger and smaller fish that they catch and release. The secret now is that they just must find the fish first.
A transitional time, September is known for movements of both baitfish, and walleyes. As they push toward fall locations, adapting to preferred techniques for catching walleyes is important. Electronics help too of course, but there’s no substitute for covering water. Most fish are caught in 18 to 32 feet of water, depending upon the structure in the areas where you are fishing. There can also be a morning or evening bite along the shoreline, which is worth exploring. The shallower water can also light up during the day if bait is present.
Two techniques that are still producing fish are to cover water using spinners with crawlers or trolling with crankbaits. The common fall fishing technique, jigging with frozen emerald shiners is beginning to kick in too. Jigging will become more effective every week as the water cools, and once you find the fish, this presentation can be super effective.
Walleyes are also being caught at many locations around the north end of the lake, which continues to produce a good number of both eater walleyes, along with the occasional trophy walleye mixed in. Action at this part of the lake has been consistent all summer and now into the fall. Saugers, big pike, jumbo perch and a few crappies show up in the mix of walleyes throughout a day of fishing as well. Smallmouth bass, most found on the north end can also be located in other areas where rock structure is found. The south shore between Long Point and Morris Point has many scattered areas with rock as does the areas around Knight, Bridges and Garden Islands.
There is some good fishing in the Rainy River right now. Walleyes, saugers, pike, smallmouth bass, crappies, sturgeon, suckers, and bullheads are all in the mix, depending upon what technique(s) you are using.
Walleyes continue to be caught in Four Mile Bay, along various shoreline breaks, bars and other pieces of structure up and down the river. Trolling spinners and trolling crankbaits continue to be effective. Many anglers are jigging key areas and finding success. It will get even better as the waters continue to cool.
Pike and smallmouth bass are being caught casting shorelines, bays and areas with rock or structure. Sturgeon activity is also getting better. Fall sturgeon fishing is normally excellent. The sturgeon season is open through the winter into the spring.
The Northwest Angle is putting out some nice fish right now too. Most anglers are targeting walleyes, but crappies and muskies are favorite species during the fall months too.
Walleyes are hanging out on points, reefs, flats and neck down areas with current. Good reports are coming from anglers using jigs, spinners and crankbaits. Some anglers swear by a jig and plastic or minnow. Others believe moving around with a spinner or crankbait is most productive. All three methods are catching fish.
Crappies are being found in 20 to 30 feet of water, off of points and around brush piles. Electronics help to find the schools of fish.
Muskies have been active in the angle, some of the best reports are from anglers finding fish just over the border from the Angle. With 14,552 islands, the lake offers lots of spots, and lots of fish. Casting shorelines this time of year will put a plethora of species in the boat and is very enjoyable. Crankbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits, inline spinners and bladed jigs are all good lures to work shorelines. — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Pro bass angler Matt Herren is quick to admit that he’s not a fan of all the new technology in fishing. But love it or hate it, he’s also frank about the need to embrace fish finder and boat control tech to remain competitive as a tournament angler. In this broad modern fish finder technology video, Herren discusses several key technologies that have changed how we fish, which equates to finding fish faster and staying on them more efficiently than ever.
Delving deeper, Herren showcases the power of Side Imaging and Down Imaging. Once akin to fiction, these tools have become the angler’s underwater eyes, enabling a clear view that drastically reduces the time to locate prime fishing spots when used with ..." View Video and Learn More >> How Fish Finder Technology Impacts Angling with Matt Herren
We all know that walleyes bite best during low light periods, their sensitive eyes are not well suited for bright light. But for me, fishing during low light periods is seldom possible, so my job is to figure out how to make them bite from 9 to 5. If the fishing plan includes fishing on clear water lakes, then the odds are fishing will be a grind, we may still catch “some” fish, but my best performances seldom occur on days like that. So, as often as I can, I persuade my customers to let me choose the lake(s) based on local weather and light conditions on the day we will be fishing.
Frequent readers already know that for years now, my special home remedy for fishing on sunny, calm days has been “Pea Soup”. The darker the lake’s water, the heavier the algae bloom and the lower the visibility is, the better I like it! Often, that plan works well, unfortunately, the local supply of Pea Soup is drying up.
The accompanying images of the water at Bowstring Lake were from our trip there on September 11, 2023. The scummy looking film on the surface was thick and green and ooey and gooey and perfect for fishing on a bright, calm day. We located our fish in 5 to 6 feet of water, along the shallow weed edges. In the murky water, they were aggressive and trolling spinners made them easy pickings. Dick and Paul loaded the livewell with their limits of crappies for the trip home.
On Saturday, September 16, 2023, I was there again, except this time, the surface temperature had fallen from 68 degrees down to 63 degrees. That algae bloom was gone, the water is still tannin stained and brown, but clear instead of murky. The whole ecosystem had changed, crappies, except for a few, had evacuated the shallow weed edges and now there were northerns, a couple of walleyes and a few small perch in the weeds. The rest of the fish had slipped out to deeper water, holding along the shoreline breaks in water depths of 16 to 18 feet.
Yesterday, we had a similar experience on another lake. The heavy algae bloom was reduced significantly, and the water had cleared. Early in the trip, there was a dense fog and during that time, fishing wasn’t too hard. We fished with jigs and minnows, and caught some walleyes, along with lots of pike on the shallow weed edges. Not many of them were “keepers”, but we were having some action. As the fog lifted, the weed line bite slowed down and fish moved out deeper, from 7 feet to 14 feet.
They fish were still active, but they were scattered, and that made using jigs and minnows a slow process. Trolling spinners was better, covering water faster than jigging meant encountering the scattered fish more often. One of my fellow guides was out there, and his crew reportedly caught more walleyes than we did, so I think the basis for that presentation was solid.
For us, the action was good, but catching “the right fish” wasn’t working out the greatest. There were lots of pike, but my crew didn’t want them, and most of the walleyes we caught were too small to be of interest. Luckily, we caught a few really nice ones and those will provide a couple of good fish dinners for my crew. As I loaded the boat back onto the trailer, and prepared to drive home, I was speculating about how we could have done better when another fellow guide pulled into the parking lot. He’d been on Winnie and over there, the sunshine, clear water and calm surface forced a disastrous outcome. He was attempting to save the trip by switching, the way I often do, to darker, murkier water; I hope it worked out for them.
During my formative years as a guide, one of my earliest customers, Skip Meister used to remind me, “a day without sunshine is like night.” At the time, I just thought he was being cute saying that. Over time though, I’ve repeated it hundreds of times, typically in the context of searching for the darkest, murkiest water I can find so as to improve the odds of catching walleyes.
As we roll into fall, walleyes will naturally become more active, and conditions won’t need to be as perfect to produce decent action. When the “fall bite” begins in earnest isn’t easy to know, but it hasn’t happened yet. In the interim, there will be days like yesterday. Finding the super murky, algae filled water won’t be as easy now as it was a few weeks back, but still, finding the darkest water that you can, will still be better than “toughing it out” on the clear water lakes. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye fishing continues to largely be a shallow water game. Anglers continue to report excellent bites happening in 4 to 10 feet of water tight to shorelines. Anglers fishing here are pulling gold, perch and orange spinner rigs, tipped with a crawler. Many anglers have reported that the shallower you go the bigger the walleye. Other anglers have been reporting a excellent bite happening out on sunken islands that top out in 10 to 20 feet of water. Anglers fishing out here have been having success using pike suckers on a lindy rig or 1/4oz jig.
Smallmouth Bass continue to transition out to sunken islands as they prepare for winter. Sunken islands located next to deep wintering holes have been the best for location for trophy smallies. Anglers serious about targeting the biggest smallies, out on these humps, have been using lite northern suckers on a lindy rig.
Panfish and Crappies continue to be a very popular target on area lakes. Angler continue to find active crappies relating to cabbage beds, downed trees and even lily pad patches. Small jig/twisters, beetle spins and crappie minnows fished under a bobber have been very effective on active crappies.
It has been a while since we have gotten any decent northern pike reports, but with the more normal, seasonal temps, quality size pike have started to become active again and anglers are catching them. Anglers have been throwing large suckers, large spoons, large spinnerbaits and even large flies. Shallow bays, weedbeds and river mouths are places anglers have been catching pike.
Stream Streamers are starting to slide a little closer to shore and water temps have begun to cool off. Shore anglers have really noticed this transition. Shore anglers have been having good success fishing with small spoons, small spinners, jig/twister and night crawlers either floated off the bottom or under a bobber. Angler fishing from a boat have been catching trout with small crankbaits, small spoons trolled out over deep water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
During our fish dinner at Florio’s last night, Paul Kautza commented, “It’s not very often that we ever single out one fish species, target a single lake, and then go after them successfully. It’s even more unusual to do the same thing three days in a row, targeting a different species and lake each day, and being successful on all of them.” I think Paul is right, it is unusual, at least it’s unusual for me.
If you haven’t already read reports about walleye and crappie fishing on Sunday and Monday, you can review them here. Monday 9-11 Walleye Report Tuesday 9-12 Crappie Report. If you’re already up to speed, then recall that on Tuesday, I promised a report about perch fishing with Dick and Paul.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to sound gloomy, we can still find perch, and there are still opportunities to catch quality size fish. But Yellow Perch these days is the one species of fish that ..." Read >> Lake Winnie Perch Fishing Report September 13, 2023
"On the south end... Nice walleyes being caught this week on Lake of the Woods. A nice mix of eaters (under 19.5 inches), slot fish (19.5 - 28 inches which must be released) and trophy walleyes (over 28 inches). Although cooler temps and fall is upon us, the best bite so far is still pulling spinners and trolling crankbaits. Jigging will kick in very soon!
There are walleyes being caught at many locations around the lake. One area that continues to put out good numbers of eaters is Little Traverse Bay which is located on the north end of the lake.
Various spots along the south shore from Pine Island, Zippel Bay to Long Point in 15 - 30 feet of water are starting to heat up as some walleyes are gravitating to their traditional fall areas. The key is to locate fish using electronics.
Reefs in the SW corner of the lake typically hold fish throughout the year and are also putting out some walleyes.
Drift or troll spinners at 1.0 - 1.25 mph with a gold and red, a glow red or a pink blade with a two hook harness with a crawler. This technique continues to produce.
Trolling crankbaits continues to produce good numbers of fish, including big fish. This technique will continue to produce nice walleyes into the fall months.
Jigging will pick up any time with the shorter days and cooler temps.
Saugers, big pike, jumbo perch and a few crappies in the mix of walleyes throughout a day of fishing.
On the Rainy River... A great week of fishing on the Rainy River. There continues to be good reports for walleyes, saugers, pike, smallmouth bass, crappies, sturgeon, suckers and bullheads. A variety of fish is common on the Rainy River.
Walleyes are being caught in Four Mile Bay, along various shoreline breaks, bars and other pieces of structure up and down the river. Trolling spinners and trolling crankbaits has been effective covering water and triggering fish. Jigging will start to pick up soon.
Emerald shiners run in the fall up the river. Not a lot of reports yet but typically that will change in the very near future.
Pike and smallmouth bass are being caught casting shorelines, bays and areas with rock or structure.
For those targeting sturgeon, some decent activity this week. The sturgeon bite tends to be very active during the fall months. The keep or catch and release season is open throughout the fall if you like huge fish or simply want to mix up the walleye fishing a bit.
Up at the NW Angle... Nice fish are being caught on both sides of the border. Most anglers are targeting walleyes, but there is a plethora of species to be had amongst the islands. Fall is an incredible time to fish the Angle.
Walleye anglers are finding fish in typical walleye haunts. Points, reefs, flats and neck down areas with current. Good reports are coming from anglers using jigs, spinners and crankbaits.
September and October are months anglers like to catch the huge crappies that live amongst the islands. Deeper areas off of points are good bets. Electronics are helpful in locating these fish. Crappies can reach up to 17 inches in these parts, with most in that 12 - 15 inch range.
Muskie activity is definitely picking up. Many reports of fish over 50 inches this week caught and released. Many other fish in that 40 - 50 inch range caught as well." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
The fall session of “Fun with Dick and Paul” is off to an above average start this year. After a strong day of walleye fishing on Sunday, the trip turned crappie on Monday, when I stumbled into some nice ones in the weeds. At the time, I didn’t give it a thought, but later, when I was packing up their fish for the freezer, it occurred to me that all I’d done yesterday was to follow my own advice.
Last Friday, I’d written an advisory about how crappies would likely retreat to the weeds after “appearing” to have moved out into open water for the fall. As it happens, I’d been given a tip from friends who hired me to take them walleye fishing last week. “We caught some big crappies in 14 feet of water trolling with spinners”, they told me. So yesterday, that’s where I started, 14 feet of water. First, we fished at a spot that’s usually been reliable for me but found nothing. Then I moved to another spot that approximated the area where my friends caught their fish a week ago. The screen of my graph was blank there too and, in my mind, I was already preparing to switch to another lake.
“I’m just gonna take a look at the weeds and see if they moved in there”, I muttered. I picked up the search in about 8 feet of water as soon as I could see the vegetation on my graph. “don’t cast too far, maybe 25 feet or so, you’re gonna feel some weeds in here”, I said. “Using 3/16-ounce bullet weights in front of the spinners, can be a little too much weight unless we keep them close to the boat. But I don’t want to change them yet, just in case we need to move deeper again,” I added.
I’d estimate that we trolled about 50 yards before anything happened, but then WHAM! I can’t recall who caught the first crappie, but I do remember that it was the first of many of them. In fact, they were biting so well that even Dick and Paul's fishing guide finally caught a nice crappie. We breezed through the 2-man limit for Dick and Paul, then I added 3 more to the larder for our dinner.
The crappies were still biting, and we now that were releasing all of them. I was hoping to find and catch some perch, so I experimented by adding a night crawler to my spinner instead of a minnow. I did not catch a single perch on that combo, but was treated to a nice surprise, a nice sunfish. Paul agreed to try a worm on his spinner, and he caught a sunfish too, and within minutes, our game plan was transformed.
Using my bow mount trolling motor to creep along the weed edges, we dropped in 1/8 jigs tipped with cut pieces of night crawlers. As soon as we caught a couple of sunnies, I hit the spot lock and we pretty much spent the rest of the trip within about 50 yards of that spot. I couldn’t sit in any single spot indefinitely, but we could “creep” along the weeds, contact a few fish, then stop until that spot slowed down. Some of the sunfish were nice, 8-1/2 to 9-1/2 inches but there were a lot of small ones too. After catching and sorting through them, we would up with 27 of them in the livewell. That wasn’t as impressive as the crappie fishing, but still a nice bonus.
I’m afraid that’s about as glorious a report as I can make it. All we really did was fish like I did when I was a teenager, just putting around and checking out spots until I stumbled into something. And I do mean stumbled into them, I could have tried 20 different weed beds, I just happened to try this one first: total dumb luck.
The water temperature was holding steady at 67 degrees and will likely linger in that neighborhood for a little while. So, keep it in mind because the weed pattern could remain in play for some time.
Now I have some thinking to do, the boys love perch, or at least their wives do, so I’m scratching my head for one of the better plays for catching them but still offers other interesting things to do. I’ll let you know tomorrow if I come up with anything special along those lines. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Locating summer crappie can be a daunting task due to their nomadic nature. Wired2fish staff McKeon Roberts discusses how you can shortcut locating summer crappies by highlighting what to look for as well as an in-depth look at a variety of baits to help you cover water and stay on the fish.
McKeon talks about transition areas that are magnets for summer crappie. Namely finding thick, healthy, outer weedlines adjacent to fertile bays that have access to deep water. Weeds are the key here, and crappies will roam them like underwater corridors. These weed beds can often be massive, which makes intercepting roaming crappies a bit of a challenge.
Two things to consider when locating crappie in weeds are, the ability to cover water and fish slow while staying snag-free in and around thick vegetation. McKeon goes over a variety of baits suited for all anglers, that ..." View Video to Learn More >> Fishing for Summer Crappies | What it Looks Like Underwater
It’s hard to come up with any fishing scenario that might have been more fun than the fun I had yesterday as the “Fun with Dick and Paul” Fall Session began. The air temps were in the low 60s, the sun was shining and there was a light breeze from the north, surface water temperatures held steady at 66.5 degrees. Walleyes were active and one of my favorite presentations, “wiggle worming” was hitting on all cylinders!
During the transition between summer and fall, my focus begins shifting away from the more casual, summertime mixed bag action bite, and toward more ardent fishing charters. The goal of keeping folks busy catching some of everything gives way to specifically targeting one species at a time. During this period, “Wiggle-Worming” is one of the absolute best ways to isolate walleyes from many other fish species.
Some readers could be thinking, wait a minute Jeff, a couple of weeks ago you said that wiggle worms were a great presentation for a mixed bag, action bite. So, which is it, a presentation for mixed bag fishing, or targeting walleye specifically? It is both, and the only thing you need to remember about which one happens when depends on the timing of the season.
Take yesterday for example, I drove the boys to a lake that’s been reliable for me over the years. Earlier this summer, we trolled spinners along the weed edges there and caught 7 species of fish all at the same time. Of those 7 species, walleyes were present in decent numbers, and back then, I made a note to myself that I stood a good chance of singling them out whenever the timing was right.
What made the timing right yesterday, in my opinion, is that water temperatures had cooled enough to slow down the warm water species like sunfish, rock bass and largemouth. At 73 degrees, those fish chased down and attacked not only fast-moving presentations like spinners, but also more deliberate presentations like the wiggle worms. Some of the panfish had already moved away from the weed edges yesterday, crappies, rock bass and largemouth were most notably absent. Some sunfish were still there, but most of them allowed the worms to pass by without striking. Now had 3 competing species instead of 7, northern pike, perch and walleyes.
Pike, during any season, seldom show a strong preference for night crawlers. While they will occasionally hit them, the number we catch on crawlers is miniscule compared to jig and minnows, Dick learned more about that yesterday. Perch are perch, and they pester everybody, no matter what they’re fishing with and admittedly, we do have to put up with them. But the difference between the “peck-peck-nibble” of a perch strike and the slow, steady “pull-down” strike of a walleye is easily recognizable. As anglers gain experience, knowing when to get serious about a strike, AND WHEN NOT TO, gets easier.
Now we have only 2 major competing species, and we know which one of them is biting when. That means our odds of singling out walleye strikes increase dramatically. Think of it this way, walleyes probably don’t like the wiggle worms any more now than they would at other times of the season, but for them, there are fewer hungry competitors. The walleye’s simple have more access to our baits now so we get more opportunity to catch one of those, instead of the other, often more aggressive species.
Dick and Paul, both reminded me about something yesterday; wiggle worming takes some determination. I’ll agree that most folks can’t just pick up a rod and do it perfectly in the first few minutes. But the learning curve is shorter than folks believe, and after a few hours, Paul was fishing like a pro using the presentation. Dick resisted, avoiding it because of a perceived notion that the presentation is more complicated than jig and minnow fishing. I’ll argue that it is not complicated at all, in fact it may even be simpler, it’s just not as familiar … yet.
If you think I’ve gone overboard on the wiggle worming subject, I apologize. But it’s not because I have anything to gain by telling you about it, in fact, my life would probably be simpler if I kept it a secret. No, the reason I keep banging the drum is because I believe in helping my fellow anglers, and because of how effective and versatile this presentation is. The timing is great right now for folks who haven’t tried it, and if you’ve even thought about it casually, but haven’t tried it yet, the window of opportunity is wide open today.
The kickoff of Dick and Paul’s fall session went so well yesterday that I’m gonna have to steer clear of any walleyes for a little while. With theirs already in the freezer, we’ll be limited to harvesting 3 or 4 on my limit for our evening fish dinners. We’ll still do some catch and release fishing, but now crappies and perch are in the cross hairs. Let’s hope they’re as cooperative today as the walleyes were yesterday. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Imagine that you were out for a half day on the lake fishing with me on Friday morning. Imagine you’re looking at the shoreline and asking, “what’s the shiny stuff on that dock?” “I don’t know, we better go in and investigate”, I might have said. As we get closer, you’re surprised to see women dressed up in wild, flashy outfits covered in bling. But not me, I’m not surprised at all, “that’s the way my afternoon charter, the Luscious Sisters roll”, I’d say.
The reality is that you couldn’t have been the one out there in the boat with me because it was already occupied. The morning crew, “the quiet half” of the VA Nurses Group already had filled.
The luscious sisters, my afternoon crew, get the lion’s share of the attention because they’re fun to tell stories about; they provide some very interesting days on the lake. But truthfully, the morning crew should get a lot more attention than they do because they’re the lucky ones who get to endure watching me figure out where the fish are hiding. Often, just as we get it figured out and begin catching fish, the alarm bell sounds, and I announce that the time for trading crews has arrived.
On Friday, before that bell rang, Mike, Missy and Joyce had helped me figure out where the walleyes were. They were holding in about 8 feet of water, close to, but not deeply into the weeds. They were filtering in and out of the more sparsely grouped cabbage plants that were scattered on the slow-tapering shoreline break into deeper water. I could get away with moving out to about 9 feet, but as soon as I went deeper, and the screen of my graph was clear, we’d stop getting strikes.
The surface water temperatures ranged between 67 to 68 degrees, and the water was noticeably clearer than it was last week. So, if there had been a brisk wind, I would have preferred trying either jig and minnow, or maybe wiggle worming presentations. But without the ability to drift, I chose to stick with trolling spinners for simplicity. We trolled them at about .9 to 1.0 MPH, slightly slower than my typical trolling speed. Two lines were rigged for night crawlers, the other 2 were rigged for minnows. In the morning, the action was equal either way, but in the afternoon, I felt the night crawlers worked better; at least a little.
For hard-core anglers looking to the fall for hot and heavy action, our totals might not sound too impressive. But considering this group’s unique blend of serious “Fishing-Ness”, “Silly-Ness”, “Sentimental-Ness”, “Princess-Ness”, and “Luscious-Ness” I think we did okay. The trolling presentation worked well enough to gather enough fish to feed all six, and me. We had 8 really nice size keepers left over to divide between them too, a few northern pike, and the crappies we’d caught on Thursday. So, the hunter-gatherer instincts were served fairly well.
Today, the transition into hard core fishing starts, and doesn’t stop for me until mid-October. Stay tuned for frequent, and maybe a little more serious updates in the following days. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
We probably have a lot in common, you and me, see if this sounds familiar. Whenever I go to a lake, my first stop is usually the one where I had my best luck the last time I was there. That’s especially true if we did well there on the last trip, and double down if that last trip happened just yesterday! Sometimes I do that even when I already know that I shouldn’t, like at times when conditions on the lake have changed. Sometimes, like yesterday, changes so radically that there’s no way that the fish will be in the same spot again.
Don’t worry, if you fall into that trap occasionally, it just means that like me, you’re an optimist. It tells me that you’re hopeful that the fish will still be located somewhere nearby, and that if you’re diligent, you’ll figure out where they are, and how to catch them. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t, but usually not because I can’t “figure it out”. No, my problem is that I get anxious about running out of time and decide to switch plans before sand drains to the low side of the hourglass.
On Wednesday, the wind was from them the north, the sky was grey and the walleyes in “Paul’s Corner” were feeding. My livewell was full of 1-inch-long perch, barfed out by the walleyes we’d put in there; they were definitely on the prowl. Contrast that against the conditions on Thursday morning, the lake, especially in “Paul’s Corner”, was flat calm, the surface temperature, at 67 degrees had fallen almost 3 degrees overnight, and the screen of my graph was blank. However active the walleyes were on Wednesday; the frenzy had long passed, and the fish were off napping somewhere. I looked at a couple of alternate spots, but by 10:00 AM, started getting that feeling, the “don’t just stand there, do something” feeling.
We loaded up the boat, switched lakes and started searching for crappies. Long story short, that worked out better for us yesterday, and it may work for you too, but the window of opportunity could be short.
Try scrolling through the report archives from September during previous years. You’ll find clues about what USUALLY happens when these early cold fronts trigger panfish to move out of the weeds and into open water. First, the small groups of panfish begin to build, they assemble into larger “schools” and become easy to both track and catch. Folks in every boat appear to be catching them, and it doesn’t seem to matter which presentation they use. Word spreads, the crappies are biting, and the crowds get larger. Then, just when we think that the fall bite is on, conditions stabilize, and the fish seemingly disappear.
I can’t say which day will be the one when they disappear, but I can tell you why they will do it. They will make a move back into the weeds.
Let’s say you were in one of the boats we saw yesterday, and you were catching some of those crappies in open water. Let’s say that today, you try to catch them again, but it doesn’t work. Go to the weed edges, put on a 1/16-ounce jig tipped with a plastic action tail and start casting toward the edges. The odds are good that you will find the crappies there, instead of open water. Sunfish could be there too, so if you feel fish nipping at the plastics, but not eating them, try using a cut piece of nightcrawler, or small leech instead.
We might not be there all the way there just yet, but this little cold blast did move us a step closer to the “fall bite”. For now, check your favorite open water spots and if needed, move from there back into the weeds. The best fishing days will be cloudy, breezy days that trigger feeding opportunities and get the fish moving. Or you could target crappies and sunfish early in the morning when they typically are on the move. Gradually, it will take less and less effort to both find them and to trigger strikes.
Whatever happens out there today, you’ll have to let me know if it works out. As much as that “Crappie Plan B” helped me out yesterday, today I’ll go back to the drawing board and get focused on walleyes until I figure it out. Hopefully, I’ll have some good news about that soon too. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
The transition between summer and fall is inevitable. Cold water is coming, and favorite summertime presentations begin to fade out, while fall patterns begin emerging. There are times when I wish Mother Nature would just get it over with all at once, like ripping off a band aid. Unfortunately, though, she usually doesn’t do it that way, she tugs on it, a little bit at a time, ouch!
As cold fronts go, Tuesday’s weather change wasn’t all that dramatic. There was some noise, and a lighting show resulting from a series of storms that rolled through north central Minnesota. The air temperature dropped too, about 20 degrees different from Labor Day but for most of us, that was a relief. Surface water temperatures declined too, dropping from around 73 degrees, down to around 69 degrees. That water still felt warm to the touch, especially in contrast to the 50 something degree air temps.
Many seasoned anglers have come to expect certain disruptions in fishing patterns whenever there’s a significant weather change. So, when the Labor Day weekend heat wave ended abruptly on Tuesday, I was on edge about showing my crew a good time this Wednesday. Too worried maybe, because despite a slow start to the day, we would eventually leave the lake, one of them anyway, happy.
So, why do you suppose that after enjoying a good day yesterday, I’m worried all over again this morning? I’m worried this morning because I believe the full impact of the weather changes didn’t occur yesterday, I think today is when they’ll be felt. Yesterday, the skies were still dark, the wind was still blowing, and the current in the water gave walleyes good reasons for feeding. Today, sunshine, and calm seas are in the forecast and the message to fish might be that it’s time for a nap.
If you were to peruse the September archives from previous years, the trend would be recognizable. As the water temperatures begin notching lower, fall fishing patterns begin to kick in, but not all at once. Good days, windy and cloudy ones like yesterday produce decent action. Then, just as we get our hopes up that fall is here, a warm spell, calm water and sunshine temporarily shuts it back down. But every step down in water temperature equals a step up in fishing action and before long, the real fall feeding sessions begin.
No matter what anybody was doing before Labor Day, it will likely have changed now. That means there will be a lot more to talk about tomorrow, after I’ve experienced the day today. But for right now, I will say that I’m planning to avoid clear water, like Winnie, where the crew is staying, and move back toward the relative safety of murky water. Prior to the storms, shallow lakes like Bowstring, Split Hand, Black Duck, Round, and others had thick algae blooms. Usually, a sunny day after a cold front trigger a revival of algae blooms and that’s what I’m hoping to cash in on. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye • With the recent heat wave, the growing minnow bite cooled off quickly. Savvy anglers who adapted to the heat wave, switched to crawlers and fished them on a spinner rig. These anglers had no issue catching walleyes over the weekend. Anglers found them still out of sunken islands, in 15-25 feet of water. Now with the cool snap and return to normal fall temperatures, anglers should expect the fall, big minnow bite to come back strong.
Smallmouth • Big smallies continue to transition out to sunken islands and feed heavily as they prepare for winter. Anglers looking to catch the biggest smallies of the year should be fishing with big minnows on a lindy rig. Humps that top out in 10-25 feet of water, with deeper water very close by are going to be the best ones to fish. Large jerk minnows and paddle tails, fished in the same area, has also been very effective.
Panfish • With the heat wave, crappies we're very active on popular area crappie lakes. Anglers targeting crappies found active crappies working cabbage beds, downed trees and lily pads. Beetle spins, jig/twister and crappie minnows under a bobber have all been very effective on crappies.
Stream trout • Stream trout were a popular choice this last weekend, but results seemed to be mixed. Anglers fishing from a boat trolled small crankbaits, behind cowbells with mixed success. Anglers fishing from shore mainly fished with a slip bobber, with a crawler suspended between 10-15 feet down. Again, their success was mixed." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"As we roll into September, there are some nice coolers of walleyes coming in from the south end of Lake of the Woods. Plenty of "eaters" along with some big trophies being caught, explains the attraction for folks who love walleyes. There are plenty of "do-it-yourself" anglers catching fish, but winning against these predators isn't always a slam dunk, first you have to find them and then get them to eat. Folks interested in consistent success have learned that it's most common when enlisting the services of guides and fishing charter services.
Many of the charters continue to run to the north end of the lake for good numbers of eaters. The two techniques with the continued warm weather catching the majority of the walleyes are drifting spinners with crawlers and trolling crankbaits.
Drifting spinners (or slowly trolling if no wind) with a gold and red or a pink blade along with a two hook harness with a crawler continues to catch numbers of fish. Tip with crawler harnesses, hook for front hook in the dark part of the crawler, straighten the crawler out and hook the second hook. Leave about 2 to 3 inches of crawler off of the back hook and pinch off the rest.
If you are looking at a mix of eaters with the chance of larger walleyes, the basin is holding larger fish. Both the mud and rock reefs have fish. Electronics are a big help in knowing where to fish. There is a lot of water. Trolling crankbaits is producing good numbers of fish, including big fish. This technique is effective on all parts of the lake and will continue into the fall months. Jigging will pick up and be a desired bait for walleyes as the waters cool.
As fall water temperatures start to cool, and the days continue to get shorter, fishing the Rainy River will inxreasing reliable. Mother Nature will drive some transition activity on the river. This means shiners running and more fish entering the river. As past reports have noted, there are some fish in the river already and it should only get better. Typically, mid September is when we start hearing about increased activity.
Walleyes are being caught in Four Mile Bay, along various shoreline breaks, bars and other pieces of structure up and down the river. Trolling spinners and trolling crankbaits has been effective covering water and triggering fish. Pike and smallmouth bass are being caught casting shorelines and back bays. Crappies are showing up along docks and just off of shoreline breaks. Sturgeon season is open and the "dinosaur" activity will pick up as waters cool. For those targeting these huge fish, there are fish being caught. A sturgeon rig loaded with crawlers or a combo of crawlers and frozen emerald shiners is the ticket.
Up at the Northwest Angle, fishing on both sides of the border continues strong. Walleyes are the most sought after, but if you have fished the islands area, you know muskies, smallies, pike, sauger, crappies and perch are in the mix.
Walleye anglers, some nice fish being caught on flats adjacent to structure. There are also walleyes on various areas of structure. Not every walleye is focusing on the same forage in the lake. Flats often have walleyes spread out, thus covering water with cranks or spinners is effective.
Jigging areas of structure is catching fish. Many guides jig all year. When fishing Ontario waters, live and dead bait cannot be transported across the border from the U.S., hence plastics are being used. Another option is to purchase live bait in Canada, your favorite resort can help you with how and where. Muskie anglers are catching fish with some nice fish over 50 inches this week." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Thursday was one of those days when we weren’t left many choices. Driven by strong winds, the rolling waves topped with heavy whitecaps held us back from fishing on any of the area’s large lakes. Even the small one where we fished required hunkering down and fishing the calm side. At first, the churning water appeared to be working against us, we did more hunting than catching during the morning. Eventually though the moving water encouraged fish to begin moving and encouraged a period of good activity, allowing us to enjoy a strong finish.
On shallow lakes the one we were fishing, strong winds like this will force the water to “turn over”. On Wednesday, surface temperatures had been consistent, holding steady at about 72 degrees. By days end yesterday, they’d fallen to about 68 degrees on “our side” of the lake. On the other side, the inbound surface water was a bit warmer, but I’ll bet temperatures there dropped another degree or 2 overnight.
I noticed that there were a lot of weeds floating on the surface too. I’m sure that some of them were just dislodged by the wind, but I also think that some of them have matured and begun to die off. The mix of northern milfoil and coontail weeds were dark, and very soft, and I think this marks the beginning of what will soon be “the fall fishing season”. As the weeds die off, many of the small fish that lived among them will be forced out of the heaviest cover, moving to the deeper edges, or into remaining green patches where dissolved oxygen remains favorable. Others will move out the weeds altogether and begin showing up on the outer edges, along steep breaklines located near shore.
Even though I see the fall season coming, I don’t want to get too far ahead of current conditions. We still have warm weather and sunshine heading our way. I see a couple of calm days in the longer range forecast too and that might make fishing a little tough. As long as the wind keeps blowing and conditions remain unsettled, fish will probably remain active. After conditions settle, it will take a while for the fish to re-group again, and I’m thinking a slowdown in the daytime fishing action will be hard to avoid.
Fishing in the evening time and after dark will help. It’s been common knowledge among local anglers and resort guests that fishing for walleyes on the most popular lakes like Winnie, Leech, Cass, and others has been much easier after the sun goes down. But walleye fishing is not the only thing that improves in the evening. The folks I’ve talked to this week are doing better on virtually every species from perch to muskies during the crepuscular periods. Crappies, sunfish, and largemouth bass have been their main pursuits. If you’re here, or headed this way for the Labor Day Weekend, consider doing most of your fishing during the low light periods. Save midday for picnicking, swimming, or catching up with family.
Like I said yesterday, the array of effective presentations has been amazing this week. For me, wiggle worms and spinners have produced the most walleyes. Friends fishing on Winnie report catching good numbers of them using jigs and minnows too. I know that there are still anglers who find the fish using live sonar, and then fish for them using slip bobbers and live bait too. Trolling crankbaits on the flats, and along shoreline breaks is producing the night bite walleyes we keep hearing about.
When I found crappies this week, casting 1/16-ounce jigs tipped with plastics was our best presentation. Yesterday, I talked to a friend who was doing well catching crappies by trolling using spinners tipped with minnows. When I found sunfish this week, we did our best work using jigs tipped with cut pieces of night crawlers. Trolling spinners tipped with small leeches allowed me to ‘find some”, they were not the most productive way to catch them.
Nobody I know has produced consistently good catches of perch but during the past few days, there have been more reports about folks finding them in good numbers. Yesterday, a friend reported having some “jumbos” in the livewell and he’d caught them trolling spinners tipped with minnows. If you’re on a lake that produces good numbers of perch, it might be worth your time to take a spin along the weed edges.
For bass, early morning has been the time for fishing shallow cover like lily pads and bulrushes. Surface lures like weedless frogs, or Texas rigged plastic worms will do the job in the heavy stuff. Spinnerbaits and shallow diving crankbaits produce action along weed edges and bulrushes. Daytime bass fish has been better anywhere folks can locate rocky patches located within weed beds. Jigs tipped with pork ring baits of soft plastics work well, so do Texas rig worms and weighted wacky worms.
Pike fishing has been hit or miss lately, finding concentrations of them, especially larger ones, has been difficult. For me, trolling spinners tipped with minnows has produced enough “eater” size pike to make folks that want them happy. If my life depended on finding big ones though, I’d have to change it up.
This summer, pike have been noticeably absent from some of the traditional territory. Rocks have been better than weeds, and open water has been better than shoreline structure. It’s an educated guess, but I think trolling crankbaits over mid-lake structure would be one way to target larger pike. Large minnows presented on Lindy Rigs is also a good way to target pike on mid-lake structures. Target steep breaklines adjacent to deep water where open water forage fish hang out. Adding a spinner to you live bait rig allows a faster presentation for times when you’re exploring.
By now, most folks who have plans for the weekend are either already on their way or preparing for the trip. Because it’s Labor Day and like many of you, I consider myself “labor”, I’ll be moving at a slower pace over the next few days. Relaxation, rather the toil, is a theme I totally endorse for the weekend. Have a fabulous holiday and if you’re fishing, let us know how you’re doing. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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