The walleye fishing has slowed somewhat, and it could possibly be attributed the dramatic weather swings that we have been experiencing the past couple of weeks. However, there are still anglers out managing to get their fair share of fish. Although it may be uncomfortable sitting in the rain on a windswept lake, the fish that are biting are attracted to these turbulent waters of the windblown shores. The water in these areas is oxygen rich due to the agitation of the wave action, and there is an abundance of particulate matter and micro-organisms present in the water which draws the bait fish in. Bass are drawn to these same areas to get in on the feeding action. Soft baits such as tubes and swim baits can really shine in these situations. A good many walleyes are falling for these same tactics as reported by bass fishermen. Using these tools allow you to cover a lot more water quickly, which equates to more fish being hooked. Pike anglers too are discovering the benefits of soft bait tipped spinners and jigs. Manufacturers are now producing copious amounts of soft baits in every imaginable style. Some impressive lake trout have been caught in and around the Ely area. Maybe more anglers are starting to discover just how much fun these scrappy fish are. When you hook one of these eight to fifteen pound fish on a medium action rod, you really have to hang on as they make some reel smoking runs.
Smallmouth bass anglers are having a blast out on the water. Timing could not be better as many of the bass are spawning or just finishing the task and are hungry. Whether your pitching top water lures or going into the depths with spinner baits or soft plastics on a jig head, any of these methods will provide some incredible action. Bass and pike fill the voids nicely for walleye anglers who might be less than successful.
Speaking of pike, there have been a good number of these large predators caught recently. Most folks are tossing large spoons and crank baits and scoring some impressive fish up to forty-four inches.
Lake trout too are on the menu for some. Trolling spoons and larger Rapala style lures are working when fished down into water depths of twenty-five to forty feet on both area lakes and those within the Boundary Waters.
The walleye fishing success rate is definitely taking a turn for the better over the past few days. A good number of those fish are exceeding the 20-inch mark and that has many anglers smiling all the way to the frying pan.
Bass fishing is also taking an upward turn too as many of these fish up to six pounds are coming to the boat or shore. Soft baits such as "wacky rig worms" and crawfish imitations are doing very well. Leeches are taking their fair share of bass in the shallow water as smallies approach the spawning period. It is a good idea to be conservation minded and release some of the larger pot-bellied females to allow them to reproduce. Please take a picture and gently release the spawning females.
Lake trout are co-operating for anglers trolling spoons down to thirty feet regardless of the overall depth of the water. If you don't currently have downriggers on your boat, another great option to achieving these trolling depths is to use of Dipsy-Divers or Trip-Z-Divers which take your offerings down to these depths. These are great tools allowing you to use regular spinning or casting rods to get down deeper in the water column.
Northern pike are smashing spoons and spinner baits on weed edges or long tapering points sticking out into deeper water. A lively sucker fished under a bobber can be very productive for those who like to take a more laid back approach to catching these toothy creatures. Just adjust your hook depth three to ten feet down and sit back until the bobber begins to dance and then disappears. It is a good idea to wait until the pike completes his initial run and stops before setting the hook. Pike over forty inches are reported frequently the past couple of weeks.
The walleye bite continues its upward swing on many of the area lakes. It is not difficult to catch decent numbers, the problem for many folks is locating the fish. While it may take a good bit of searching, the rewards are definitely there. A couple of methods use to locate them is using either a crank bait or hooking up a walking sinker or bottom bouncer and trailing a spinner. Consider tipping the spinner with a minnow, leech, or night crawler - the fish are willing to take them all. Work all the depths as the bite can happen anywhere from six to twenty-six feet of water right now.
Smallmouth bass are smashing spinner baits and top water plugs. They are also biting on soft plastics worked near the bedding areas. The majority of smallies are caught in less than six feet of water. Good numbers are showing up with some giants in the six pound range.
Crappie spawn is beginning and these feisty fish are susceptible to most any small offerings within their striking distance. Small minnows are hard for them to resist, but any small spinners, crank baits or micro size soft baits like Peg Legs, Gitzit Little Tough Guys, or the old standby Beetle Spins will entice the bite.
Heavy-bodied pike are also bringing smiles to faces as they are smashing spinners, spoons and magnum-sized crank baits. Some folks are taking the easy approach to these vicious biters by suspending sucker minnows under a bobber. The size of the sucker is only limited by the size of the fishing gear. Small pike sized suckers work, but some anglers are opting for much larger baits in the eight to ten inch range. With these larger baits, it is best to show some restraint by allowing the fish some time to turn it around in their mouth and get it going in headfirst. This can take anywhere from a few seconds, up to a minute or more. Patience can pay great dividends.
The success rate for walleye anglers has increased as the water temperature has climbed into the 60s. Angler success is attributed to using spinners tipped with crawlers. As the walleyes begin to spread out over the lakes in their post-spawn activity, anglers have had some difficulty pinning down their exact locations. The best advice would be to keep moving and cover as much water as possible varying the trolling depth. Once walleyes are settled into their summer haunts and begin to bunch up, catching good numbers in a given area should be easier, but for now it's advantageous to stay mobile. Jig and minnow or leech combinations are working too, but those tactics confine fishing to a much smaller area.
Crappie fishing has been gaining a lot of interest as they begin their spawning activities. On smaller, shallow lakes, the spawn is in full swing, but on larger impoundments, this staging activity is just beginning to take place. Crappie size minnows are the most popular baits, but some anglers are discovering the merits of using soft plastics. When teamed up with a small jig in the 1/8th to 1/16th range, small tails such as Berkeley Gulp 1" minnow or minnow heads can be deadly on slab-sized crappies. Another favorite would be the Gitzit "Little tough guys" or micro tubes, twitched under a small float to indicate their position over the target area.
Sunnies also are invading the shallow, warmer waters of area lakes in search of their ideal bedding locations. Small leeches, worms, or just pieces of them fished under a small float can literally load the cooler with these chubby, tasty morsels. When landing a larger crappie or sunfish that is clearly a female laden with eggs, please practice catch and release to allow them to reproduce and insure the quality of fishing for years to come.
Lake trout anglers are having moderate success trolling deep diving crank baits and spoons. Most lakers are taking the baits trolled twenty to thirty feet down in water from 40 to 60' in depth. Some shore anglers have taken a few lakers off the docks just by fishing a frozen smelt laid right on the bottom. Lake trout are like vacuum cleaners just cruising near the bottom picking up any dead minnows or parts of them laying in the sand.
Walleye fishing has been a roller coaster ride since the season opened. As the fishing season started, anglers did well in spite of the less than desirable weather. Since then, it seems as though the bite has been on and off from day to day. Fortunately, we're back on the upswing of action. Larger walleyes have taken up residence in the shallow waters that has attracted the bait fish as it warms more rapidly. Crank baits, with their larger profile seem to be the way to go as the larger females of the species are looking to bulk up after the spawn. Smaller males have already descended to deeper water and are showing up in water depths of fifteen to twenty-five feet.
Pike too are cruising the flats in search of the bait fish too. Many are falling for the simple presentation of a sucker or shiner fished in water less than ten feet. Spinner baits, cranks and spoons are accounting for a good number of pike up to forty inches or better if you prefer the artificial bait route.
Crappies are now in the skinny water too as they begin to spawn. A few anglers have been reporting catching them in water of less than three feet. Minnows work well at this time, but more and more anglers are discovering the benefits of using small soft baits. These baits allow you to stay in the strike zone and rapidly cover more ground in the process.
Some hefty smallmouth bass are striking baits as they are invading their bedding areas. This can be a great time to fish soft baits such as twister tails and imitation craws worked slowly across the bottom. Sight fishing is easy as the beds really stand out as patches of lighter colored bottom.
Mother Nature did her best to deter fishermen from enjoying the season opener, however, many anglers dressed themselves in their winter garb and ventured out on the lakes anyway. Many of those hearty souls were rewarded with some decent catches, including walleye, pike and smallmouth bass.
Jig and minnow combos were very effective in coaxing many of the shallow walleyes to bite, but by far the largest of the species fell to crank baits slow trolled along deeper water adjacent to the flats. Most pike were caught using sucker minnows in water less than fifteen feet of water, however, more than a few were taken using spinner baits and larger crank baits.
The crappie aficionados had relatively good success too as the spawning ritual for these silver-sided gems has begun. The fishermen have found them in water as shallow as three feet. Savvy anglers and conscientious sportsmen released the larger breeders and kept only a few for the frying pan. It is beneficial to give them a couple weeks to get their procreation done before targeting them anyway.
As the weather improves and stabilizes, the fishing should improve as well, so make your plans now to get in on the action.
Here we go, off to another great fishing season. The weather gods have smiled down upon us, with daytime temperatures hovering in the mid-sixties, and no snow to shovel out of the boats before striking out onto the lakes. The ice has been out for over a month now and the walleyes have moved into their post spawn haunts.
One of the most productive methods to fill the stringer at this time of season can be trolling crank baits. Working up and down the drops at the entrance to shallow bays can be smoking hot right now. Trolling speed should range from .8 to 1.5 mph, and you should try different speeds in this range to uncover what can trigger the fish to respond. Neutral colors of silver and shad work best in clear water lakes, and bright colors such as fire tiger, orange, and chartreuse are favorites in stained or wind whipped cloudy water. Many anglers revert to the older tried and true method of a jig and leech or minnow, but trolling allows you to cover a lot more water to locate the schools of actively feeding fish. As the sun goes down, try working the shallows with a lighted slip bobber suspending a lively minnow - this can be a very productive way to fish after sunset.
Northern pike will be cruising the shallow bays in search of baitfish. A sucker minnow under a float can be hard to beat as bait for these fresh water barracudas. If you prefer to use artificial lures, now is the best time to break out those spinner baits, spoons, and magnum-sized crank baits.
Crappies and sunnies are still holding in deeper water and will start to move up to the shallows as water temperatures begin to climb.
While ice conditions cannot be considered safe, there are still a good number of anglers out there taking advantage of the late ice season and doing quite well at it.
The crappie bite has really improved over the past couple weeks on area lakes. It is a very wise decision to only travel on these lakes with someone who has local knowledge and familiarity with ice conditions. There have been many reports of thin ice and in some instances open water when traveling across some lakes.
Lake and stream trout have been cooperating on many of the traditional trout lakes within and outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
With the current ice conditions, it is a good idea to travel in pairs with a throwable cushion and a good length of rope to aid in rescue should it become necessary. ALWAYS wear a life jacket with a set of ice picks readily at hand. If in doubt, remember there are no fish worth risking your life over. In a few weeks, ice will be disappearing off area lakes and fishing can resume with a boat or canoe under you.
With ambient air temps in the forties, the ice conditions are beginning to deteriorate but, there is still fishable ice on many of the surrounding lakes. Anyone venturing out under these conditions must exercise extreme caution. A good pair of cleats on your boots is recommended. With the snow cover almost completely gone, the water layer on the ice can make it very difficult to walk around, something akin to roller skating on greased glass. It cannot be stressed enough to drill holes as you go, to ensure the ice thickness is navigable. Don't travel alone either. If you should get into trouble, you may need someone to help you out or to go for additional help. A life jacket and a length of rope can be invaluable tools at this time of year. No matter the situation always remember - safety first.
Crappie fishing lately has been very good. Your choices of where to go may be the most difficult part of the trip to decide on. Many of the area crappie lakes all have decent numbers of fish. Minnows typically are the preferred bait, but wax worm tipped jigs and soft plastics have been edging minnows out lately. Pay attention to your electronics to locate the fish. Start at the bottom and work your way up to approximately one third of the water column, if you haven't marked fish, move on. Don't waste time by fishing unproductive holes. It might be the active fish are biting just a short hop away.
Trout are still on the table so to speak for the remainder of this month. Some of the larger lake trout lakes are producing and have sufficient ice for foot travel. Snowmobile and ATV travel should still remain viable for a bit longer. Active jigging rattle baits and small spoons are working well, and as always, a smelt or ciscoe on the bottom will usually tempt one of these lunkers to bite. Rainbows and splake were still active too.
Keep in mind that ice conditions can vary widely from lake to lake. Again, use caution and remember areas of current will have the least ice cover.