Some folks are bringing in some really nice fish lately, while others still have their stringers remaining dry in the tackle box. The best way to connect at this time of year is to remain flexible.
Fishermen are landing some nice walleyes while fishing soft tube baits and small crank baits in as little as four feet of water, while others are pulling walleyes out of thirty feet of water using a bottom bouncer and spinner combo.
As the weather has warmed, many anglers are using crawlers as their go-to bait since crawlers are easy to maintain by just storing in the cooler and almost every fish that swims will eat them.
Big pike are readily taking spinner baits and spoons worked a bit deeper along drop-offs down to ten to fifteen feet.
Minnows and deep diving crank baits are allowing anglers to take some decent lake trout from area trout lakes. The lakers seem to be doing most of their feeding in fifty to sixty feet of water.
Recent reports have indicated an upswing in the catch rates of folks heading out from the Ely area. A good number of walleyes over 24" have been taken, as well as smallmouth bass hovering around the 20+ inch range. The most successful angler have been catching the walleyes where they have been suspended down from 9-12', or just above the thermocline. Speaking of which, if you have a good depth finder on your boat, turn the gain way up so that you can easily see where the thermocline lies, and put your baits in this zone. This may be difficult for some, as they are using the old tactic of putting their baits just above the bottom, far under the active fish. This is where a good crank bait comes in handy as you can adjust their running depth by either letting more line out or adding some small weights just ahead of the lure to put it in the target zone. Smallmouth bass are working the shorelines for whatever baitfish or crustaceans may reside there. Crawfish imitations or soft swim baits really shine under these conditions. Even on those lakes that have been experiencing mayfly hatches, the brown bass are smacking on top water cranks, chuggers and poppers.
Walleye fishing seems to remain good with anglers favoring leeches and crawlers on a spinner rig. A good number of the fish are coming from ten to twenty-two feet of water during mid-day and in the shallows early and late in the day. Some folks are still managing to catch some on jigs, but the long-liners are doing better as fish that are shallow seem to spook easily, especially on those gin clear lakes.
Bass fishermen are having a heyday as these aerial acrobats are smashing everything from soft baits on a jig head to top water lures worked along the shorelines and sunken timber. A few lake trout are still being caught by dragging spoons and plus-sized crank baits down to thirty-five feet. Some anglers are slow drifting frozen smelt along the bottom or rigged suckers in the four to six inch range.
Panfish are cooperating too, as anglers from shore can testify. Youngsters and older folks alike enjoy watching a bobber disappear as these scrappy fish take a piece of worm offered just above the bottom.
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.