With the rain and the recent cool down (thank goodness) the fishing report is in flux, but here’s what we know so far. Bear in mind that these are always a few days old and much affected by the current and upcoming weather fronts moving in. Plus it is Minnesota, if you don’t like the weather, just wait, it’ll be different soon. And. So. Will. The. Fishing.
Walleye – Walleyes have been moving around more in the last week, most likely due to the warmer temperatures of the water and heat that still persisted at the end of last week. That bumped up against our last storm front and the roughly inch and a half or more of rain over the weekend. It is raining now, a slow soaking rain and last night we received about 3/4 of an inch. As this weather varies, so does the depth of the walleye while they seek out sunken structure, sometimes up about 10 – 12 feet but mostly deeper around 15 – 18 feet above sunken reefs or rock piles. This is pretty good time of year for jigs with half a nightcrawler or half a fake darker colored worm.
Jigging for walleye seems to always work best when you find the bottom and then come up about a foot and jig from there. Trolling Spinner baits at this time of year works better if they are tipped with crawlers (a combo of flash and natural food). Reported top colors recently include gold (one of our favorites), pink (standard) and orange (pretty hard to beat). When the normal colors aren’t getting a response, I like to go with very dark colored jigs like black, purple or blue and after 7 p.m. I tie on a glow painted jig. I have always gotten better results with darker colors the deeper that I fish. This goes for panfish too although lately, with almost all of my fishing I lean towards the flash of gold jigs and gold spinners, whatever the size.
Smallmouth – The hunt for Bronzebacks has become elusive on some of the local lakes and Boundary Waters lakes but topwater is still winning the catch on many others — just like it has been for the last several weeks. If you can’t get strikes from any of the common topwater lures, then any rig with flash to it should help. Getting down towards fallen, sunken trees or rock piles near shore is key. Spinners tipped with worms (again – like for Walleye) will produce strikes. The old glacier ponds up here have some fantastic drop offs, sometimes very close to shore, and these are particularly great places where shadows meet sunlight in the late afternoon and early mornings to hit smallmouth where they are hunting. As the Summer continues, you will also find smallmouth bass in faster currents where rivers/streams and lakes join together.
We’ve got a variety of soft bait selections from Gulp Minnows, Powerbait swimmers, to Yamamoto and Kalins worms, including New Bang Lures Bass Assassins and some of our old standby Super Flukes from Zoom and of course Mister Twisters in stock here at Piragis Northwoods Company in Ely.
Pike – With the arrival of rain and fluctuating temps, the Northern Pike suddenly become more active. Esox lucius, wolves of our northern waters are more aggressive now that June is ending. Things that flash and grab attention are the norms like larger Mepps Spinners and Daredevle spoons. Fishing with sucker minnows and a large bobber has been working on Ely lakes, though it is hard to mimic this when you are days deep into the BWCAW. Setting up a rig off camp that includes a larger bobber and lighter colored worm or fake minnow (ie: Berkley Gulp Paddle Shad, Zoom Super Fluke or Super Fluke Jr., 5 inch Yamasenko Worm in Chart/Shad in our Retail Store) with a weight several feet up from the bait may work best to mimic a sucker minnow. Let this drift through the edge of current “bobbing” your worm up and down creating the mimicry of a dead or dying minnow. Anything you can do to present something that looks like a natural bait works better than not. This is why the varied retrieve of spoons and shad rap type baits (ie: something like a weight in front of a Strike King KVD 2.5 Wake Bait or other lures like Rapala Countdowns and Deep Tail Dancers in our Retail Store) works well (off speed, jerky, vulnerable motions). Shallow bays with vegetation, river mouths, the points on islands and weedbeds are hotspots for big pike. Pike are normally opportunistic and aggressive. They hunt for food that appears to be vulnerable and available with the flashes that make them angry.
The Lake Trout can still be mostly found deep (think 75 feet or perhaps has shallow as 50). That’s a lot of line. Big trolling spoons and larger lures like a Deep Tail Dancer work well. Sometimes, if you do find them shallower they’ll be over sunken islands. Sometimes they will hit off deeper points when you paddle around an island and the bait you are trolling behind you naturally follows your course as you change directions and it changes speed and depth with the slack of your line. Big, heavy jigs, larger spoons, something that can get deep, perhaps with the aid of a bottom bouncing weighted rig, these are things that help you present bait to the Lakers.
Photo below: Paul Knapp
If you are sensing a theme with each species that seems like we are suggesting odd ways of fishing then you’ve got the point. In the wilderness the fish can be obviously more plentiful, but your tackle that you’ve brought along will be naturally less plentiful. Giant, fully stocked tackle boxes don’t often make it into the list of weight you want to portage and fit into your canoe. Being creative with a select set of multi-use, very good producing lures and well-designed lures is a must. Trying something in a new presentation to the fish with an old standby lure (ie: Mepps Spinner tipped with a Gulp minnow) can be both fun and productive.
Be creative with what you have. Make sure what you take on your trip can give you a shot at success. For example, if you want to catch panfish but don’t take any small jigs or hooks or waxworms you probably won’t be eating any bluegill or pumpkinseed or crappie. If you only have smaller jigs and hooks along by mistake, you’ll have to use more weight ahead of your hook to get the bait down low enough for walleyes. If you only have full sized twister tails, gulp bait and artificial worms you’ll need to cut off pieces to use for panfish :).
Roll with the punches and if you have mustard and crackers you can use that instead of fish batter in case you run out.
Don’t forget to grab a copy of the New Boundary Waters and Quetico Fishing Guide
The long-awaited update of Furtman’s original guidebook for the Boundary Waters, this book is an integral piece of any fisherman’s gear. It’s got all the right info and more info to back that up. Besides being an interesting read, it is a book that so many paddlers and anglers before us have trusted in the wilderness and a great thing to put inside a dry bag in your pack. $14.95