This Chequamegon Bay thing is getting to be a habit… I like it! Darrell Wilkinson (Tulsa, OK), his son Jordan (Madison, WI), and brother Sonny (Shreveport, LA) were back with me on Monday for day #2 of their trip fishing out of The River Rock Inn in Ashland. We arrived at the landing with completely different conditions from the first day of their trip. Winds had moved to the east, and a heavy bank of fog hung over us for the morning. We started out hot though and caught a pile of fish on live bait in the morning that included a triple and a couple of doubles of big smallies up to 21" as we drifted along weedy breaks in 15' – 20' of water. The action was pretty intense for most of the morning, and it seemed like we someone was always hooked up. Darrell even added a nice 30" pike to the mix. Things slowed late in the morning when winds died down and the sun poked through the fog. We've seen that before… After lunch, we explored a few shallow spots casting plastics, top waters, and crank baits. There weren't many signs of life however with a few misses and short hits. That wasn't going to cut it, and we went off shore again drifting live bait over rocks in 12' – 15'. I asked the guys to pray for a little more wind and they delivered. After a couple of unsuccessful drifts the wind kicked up, and so did the bite. Funny how that happens! We finished the day with an awesome flurry of fish, and my crew performed well. Another bunch of big smallmouth hit the net before quitting time, and it couldn't have been a better ending to the day. Water temperatures ranged from 67 – 74 degrees, and we definitely put on a lot of miles to find active fish. It's that time of year gang. Don't get stuck in one spot too long, and keep moving until you get bit. Awesome job Wilkinson's. Heck of a day!
The Wilkinson's final day of their trip presented us with some challenging conditions on Chequamegon Bay. After 2 big numbers days, we had to work for every fish we caught on Tuesday. Flat water and high skies were with us throughout the morning. We worked weed edges with live bait in 12' – 20' of water. Fish were really spread out and pretty stubborn. We did well to connect on a handfull of smallies up to 19", but they certainly weren't jumping in the boat. One here, one there… By late morning we started to run and found another 15' weedline with fish on it. Same deal though. We missed a couple, and Sonny was able to coonect on a really good fish. Around mid day, a pretty good east wind kicked up. It was just what we needed. Time to find some rocks! We did, and it paid off with another good end of the day flurry. We were able to wrap things up in style putting more smallies in the net along with several bonus pike. A little wind makes a ton of difference this time of year. Water temps ranged from 68 – 72 degrees, and there has been a small mayfly hatch over the past couple of days. It was a great way to wrap up three memorable days with some really good guys. Awesome job fellas! Don't forget to root for those Badgers, and come back to "Sheboygan Bay" as soon as you can!!!
Two of my favorite brothers Bill Johnson (Hudson, WI) and Mike Johnson (Bloomer, WI) returned for their annual trip, and we were back in the Hayward area. I had a blast up on Lake Superior over the past several days, but it was good to be back on some smaller lakes. One of the awesome things about living up here is that you'll never get bored with all of the different bodies of water we have to fish. We began our day targeting walleyes and found a pile of them on deep rock structure in 20' – 25' of water. They wouldn't bite though, and we moved shallow into a 6' weedline and found some fish using jigs and minnows. It was a slow bite though, and we had quite a few short hits and drops in between catching some nice eyeballs up to 17". Perfect for a fish dinner! Water temps were in the high 70's with a light NW wind. We switched lakes in the afternoon to see if we could get into a faster bite, but it was more of the same. Interesting how fish can be on the same page in different lakes… We found lots of fish over deep rocks, and they refused to cooperate. I moved us to a 10' weedline, and we caught a walleye. Talk about scattered… They weren't jumping in the boat though, so we switched our focus to smallies. We ended our day with a nice rally as the Johnson brothers landed a bunch of good fish that were schooled up on a rocky hump in 10' – 15' of water. Those were some hard earned fish, and they deserved it. We worked for every one today fellas. Nice work, and way to hang in there. I believe Mike will be buying that first beverage for Bill tonight. First fish gets a drink. Always a good time!
The word epic seems to get used an aweful lot lately, but I think it's appropriate to say we had an "EPIC" cold front move in on Wednesday night. North winds brought clouds and plummeting temperatures to northern Wisconsin. The thermometer at my house read 45 degrees when I woke up on Thursday morning. Not exactly what you expect to see in July… I bundled up and met my friends Greg and Geralyn Miller (Bloomer, WI) for Geralyn's annual birthday trip in the Hayward area. The "Walleye Queen" has developed a reputation for putting some big eyes in the net over the years, but even she couldn't overcome the conditions we faced. Stiff north winds and falling temperatures put what was a slow walleye bit into a no walleye bite. Finding fish wasn't an issue as we set up on several different schools throughout the morning after marking them on our electronics in 23' – 28' of water, but they were just to stubborn. We had a couple of half hearted bites and one nice fish that came unbottoned just before it hit the net, but it was tough sledding. Water temps had dropped to 71 degrees, and we used leeches, minnows, and Jigging Raps without success. We weren't skunked though. The 10" smallmouth Geralyn reeled in saved the morning! Time for lunch and a change of scenery… After visiting our friends at Angler's Haven, we were off to see if the crappies would cooperate. Just what the doctor ordered! After a little looking, we found some good fish up to 11" suspended in 13' of water using slip bobbers and plastics. The bite wasn't fast, but it was steady. After the morning we had, some tight lines were more than welcome. We may have even converted Geralyn into a "Crappie Queen". Not so fast on that though… I believe she'll have a reckoning with those walleyes. Happy birthday Walleye Queen! The only problem with our trips is that we don't laugh enough…
Friday was a good example of taking what the lakes give you to put a good day together. My old friend Dan Martin (Maple Grove, MN) along with his father Jim (Coon Rapids, MN) and brother in law Joe Benner (East Bethel, MN) were back for their annual trip, and we started our day targeting walleyes in the Hayward area. Clouds from the day before had moved on, but northeast winds persisted. This has been some incredible weather to deal with… We located a bunch of fish on rocks in 20' – 28' of water and had some early success using leeches and minnows. Jim landed a fat 20" walleye, his personal best, along with a nice 18" smallmouth. It was over as quickly as it started however, and we decided to switch lakes around mid morning. Lake #2 produced quite a mixed bag including a couple of walleyes up to 15", several pike up to 27", a nice 18" smallmouth, and a small musky. How's that for variety?! The bite was definitely slow going though, and we moved around a bunch using jigs and minnows in 5' – 6' weedbeds. After lunch, my crew decided that crappies sounded like a good idea. Great idea! We switched lakes again and pounded a bunch of perfect eaters up to 11" on plastics suspended over 10' of water. Good call men. When it was all said and done, we had fished 3 different lakes and put 5 different species of fish in the boat. Awesome way to end the day with one of my favorite crews! Walleye bites can get weird this time of year, and staying flexible will keep your net wet. Water temps started in the low 70's and ended in the mid 70's by quitting time. I think summer is back…??? Thanks for another great trip fellas, and enjoy those fillets Jim. You're all done with photos until next year!!!
Our last trip on the St. Louis River showed a lot of promise, and I was back there with Mike Lee (Rosemount, MN) on Saturday for a half day. Mike and his gang were up in May for their annual trip, and he's always wanted to get in on the St. Louis walleye action. We tried to make it happen a couple of years ago but the bite wasn't on, and I was hoping he'd hit it right this time. The cold front we had a couple of days ago had me a bit concerned. Drastic water temperature changes are usually not a good thing for fishing in that system. Our forecast was good however with sunny skies and winds out of the NW with warm temperatures. Pulling crankbaits on boards was our strategy for the day, and we found water temperatures in the low 60's at our first spot. That's what I was worried about. As we moved into windblown areas, water temperatures warmed up and so did the fish. Our first walleye was a fat 18" fish in 5' – 6' of water. That pattern held pretty true throught the morning as we worked over 5' – 6' flats. Action wasn't fast, but it was steady. We boated a two man limit of eyes up to 20" with a bunch more that were released as well. There were even a couple of big fish bite offs that we'd have to assume were big musky or pike. Mike actually had one of them on for quite awhile before it sliced the line. It always makes you wonder what you had. That's what keeps you coming back for more! By quitting time water temps had hit 69 degrees, and the bite definitely got better as the water warmed. Hopefully a little stable weather over the next few days will keep things rolling on the river. Awesome day with a really good guy. Can't wait to do it again Mike!
Warm weather is in the forecast, and water temps should be heating up on our inland lakes again. The "Dog Days" are on the way. Stay tuned, and we'll keep you posted!