Chequamegon Bay, Hayward, WI, & St. Louis River Fishing Report 7-21-18
The Dog Days of summer usually arrive in August, but I think it’s safe to say that they arrived early this year. Why wouldn’t they?… We started our week out with smoking hot temperatures again, but a cool down is supposed to be in the forecast. Things might finally be settling down after all the rain we had in June, and a trip back to Chequamegon Bay could be in our plans. Finally!
Three good dudes were back with us on Friday. My old friend Dan Martin (Maple Grove, MN), his father Jim (Ham Lake, MN) and brother in law Joe Benner (East Bethel, MN) returned for their annual trip, and I always look forward to it. Jim is a Vietnam veteran and was deployed with the USMC in 1968. You can’t go wrong with a guy like that in the boat! Overcast skies in the morning saved us from another scorching forecast, and we spent our day in the Hayward area targeting walleyes. We’ve been on a pretty consistent weedline bite over the past several days despite water temps climbing into the 80’s. Our first stop of the day didn’t produce, but spot #2 was a winner. We found a good mess of eyeballs up to 17″ with some big bluegills up to 10″ mixed in with them. My crew didn’t miss many, and it was a fish catching kind of morning. The approach continues to be using slip bobbers with leeches and jigs with minnows and leeches along 8′ weed edges on stained water lakes, and the fish continue to cooperate. That big gill and walleye connection isn’t a coincidence, and I’ve seen it many times many times. They both like the same stuff this time of year. Those are some bull gills! After lunch, the sun popped out, and things really started to heat up. We were able to land on a weed edge that produced another good mixed bag for us including walleyes, pike, smallmouth and bluegills, but the bite slowed down considerably as the day wore on. By quitting time, water temps were in the low 80’s again without a ripple on the water. No worries though. We had caught plenty of fish and had one heck of a good time doing it. Excellent job today fellas, and thanks for your service Jim. I’ll work on getting that fish stretcher for you next year my friend…!
They got it right… Heat and more heat was in the forecast for Saturday with no wind. It was spot on! Dave Rock (Crandon, WI) won a 2 day trip with us as a top salesman for Big Tine, and he brought along his wife Julie for the adventure. They were fishing out of the River Rock Inn, and we decided to target crappies in the Hayward area for Day #1. A fish fry was the goal, and we were going to do our best to make it happen. Water temperatures have continue to climb with this heat wave, and crappies have been our best option if you’re looking for some fish to eat. The first stop of the day didn’t exactly produce. We found a few small fish scattered in 5′ – 6′ weeds, but it was the one here one there scenario with small fish. I even checked deeper and found a few in 15′, but the story was the same. I have to believe that the migration to deep water is beginning on some of our lakes, and it totally makes sense. No reason to force things… We switched lakes in the afternoon, and found a much better pattern. It didn’t take long for Dave and Julie to get into a mess of good fish up to 12″ that we found over a 10′ weed bed using plastics and slip bobbers. The pattern continues to hold up, and we’re going to take advantage of it as long as we can. The Rocks put a whooping on them and got all of the fish they needed. Water temperatures hit 86 degrees by the end of the day, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a stretch of hot water like this. This is really nuts! We were sizzling by quitting time, but the goal was accomplished. Fun day with a fun crew. Man that AC sure felt good when I got home. HOLY HOT!
It’s been a little over a month since our boat has seen Chequamegon Bay with the the storms and flooding we had in June, and it was time to get back out there. I’d been hearing reports that things were clearing up, and fish were biting. At some point you just have to get after it, and Sunday was the day. Dave and Julie Rock were back for day #2 of their trip fishing out of the River Rock Inn, and they were excited for their first Lake Superior experience. More hot temperatures were in the forecast for northern Wisconsin, and moving to the big lake was exactly the right decision. The weather man predicted a steady west wind, and he was on point. Atta boy! It was a nice relief from the heat, and the water had definitely cleared up. Perfect! It’s really amazing what that whole system has been through, and it’s good to see things getting back to “normal”. I suspected that smallmouth had begun to move to off shore structures, and it didn’t take us long to confirm that hunch. We spent our morning in 15′ of water using minnows and landed plenty of fish up to 20″. The bite wasn’t fast, but it was steady. Dave and Julie put some really good fish in the net, and it was fun to watch them tangle with some Chequamegon footballs. That never gets old! The bite we were on fizzled out by lunch time, and we switched things up a bit for the PM shift. We checked out the shallow bite to see if there were any smallies left in skinny water. Spinnerbaits and plastics landed a few good bronzebacks along 5′ weed beds, but the action was pretty inconsistent. It’s definitely that time of year when fish are starting to scatter, and you can catch them in a bunch of different locations. Weeds, rocks, and current breaks are all areas to check out. A huge mayfly hatch has obviously occurred with evidence all over the surface, and there will be plenty of full fish along with some still looking to eat. Keep the boat moving, and you’ll stay on them. Water temperatures were in the mid 70’s in most spots we fished, and things got pretty steamy again by quitting time. The Rocks wrapped up their trip landing a nice 30″ pike, and it was a good way to end a fun couple of days. Fantastic work Dave and Julie. Awesome having you in the boat, and I had a blast. I’ll try to dial up a little cooler forecast for you next time. I said a “little” cooler… Man, it’s good to be back on the bay!
Bill Noreus (Zachary, LA) returned on Monday for his annual trip. We usually like to try fishing the St. Louis River for walleyes, but the latest information I was able to collect didn’t give us a lot of hope. No worries… We’ve got options! The goal was to put together a fish fry, so we met in Hayward to try and get the job done on a half day trip. Bill brought along Jim Bryan (Indialantic, FL) and Pat Pfahl (Duluth, MN) to join in on the trip. Jim fished with us last year, and Pat was a new addition to the crew. I had a boat full of good sticks, and we were going to target crappies. Those poor fish didn’t have a chance… All of the humidity we’ve been dealing with finally broke, and the weather was absolutely perfect with sunny skies and west winds. Now that’s more like it! The fish were a bit stubborn to start the day however, and we had to bounce around to several spots before landing on a load of slabs up to 12″. We moved a little deeper and found them suspended 5′ down over an 11′ weed bed using slip bobbers and plastics. It’s interesting that they’ve continued to hold in that top 5′ of the water column with all of the heat we’ve had, but that’s been a consistent pattern for a few weeks now. I’m sure they’ll move deeper at some point. Maybe?… We found the fish we needed, and the boys put on one heck of a performance. Water temperatures held steady at 78 degrees, and our lakes feel like bath tubs right now… Always good to have Bill and Jim in the boat, and Pat was an excellent addition. It was mission accomplished, and we had one heck of a time doing it. Excellent job fellas. I’m counting on you Jim!
Brent Kirby (Hudson, IL) had an incredible morning of fishing with me in the Hayward area last year putting a pile of nice smallies in the net, and he was back to do it again on Tuesday. We began our day with a few technical issues, but it wasn’t anything that the crew at Hayward Power Sports couldn’t take care of with a quick phone call. They always save the day! Once the boat issues were taken care of, it was time to start catching fish, but we ran into a tough bite. We were looking for smallmouth bass on rock piles in 15′ – 20′ and finding plenty of fish but not a lot of cooperation. Skies were high, winds were flat, and the conditions were less than ideal. We managed to put a few in the net using slip bobbers with minnows & leeches but went into lunch scratching our heads a bit. Time to change things up for the PM shift… Instead of anchoring up we used the trolling motor to slowly cruise live bait rigs with minnows along rock piles and flats, and it was exactly the right approach. The bite was extremely light, but Brent did an excellent job learning what he needed to do. By the end of the day he was hooking up on a consistent basis, and we had put together a good pattern. Everyone who fishes should experience a day like this. Things don’t always go as planned, but if you stick with it you might figure something out. We figured it out, and everyone of those fish Brent caught today was well earned. Our biggest smallie landed was a 20″ toad along with a bunch in the 16″ – 18″ range. Water temperatures hit 79 degrees by quitting time, and we’re still dealing with some extremely hot water. It looks like some cooler weather is on the way though, and we might see some changes over the next week. Thanks for another fantastic day Brent. By the way… Was it any coincidence that the fishing picked up after the banana left my boat? Just sayin! You deserved everyone of those fish my friend. Can’t wait to do it again!!!
Wednesday had everything you could ask for. Sunny skies, light south winds, and reasonable temperatures in the high 70’s is a tough forecast to beat. Bev and Otis Cobb from Menomonee Falls, WI returned for their annual trip, and we spent our day in the Hayward area. I was confident that we’d be able to get into some good smallmouth considering the way yesterday’s trip ended, but we ran into an extremely tough bite. A huge bug hatch had occurred overnight, and I’ve seen that situation go both ways over the years. It will either turn them on or shut them down, and we experienced the shut down version. We found plenty of fish over rock piles in 15′ – 25′ of water, but they would not cooperate. Every trick in the book wouldn’t get them to bite, and it simply wasn’t going to happen. I’m not a big fan of putting a square peg in a round hole, and my crew agreed that a lake switch was in order for the afternoon. Very good move! Whenever you’re in a slump, a good crappie bite will get you out of it. We found exactly what we were looking for… Bev and Otis caught and released a pile of good slabs up to 12″, and we caught scattered fish over 10′ weedbeds with jigs and plastics. There wasn’t a lot of stopping and catching, and we had to move around a bunch to keep lines tight. Catch a few and move was the program. We worked it out though, and the Cobbs held up their end. It was fun to see them connect and crank in a bunch of fish. Water temperatures hit 80 degrees by the end of the day again, and it’s definitely going to take some time to cool things down. Always good to have Bev and Otis in the boat. Otis is working on being our first mate, and he just might make the cut… See you next year Cobbs!
A fun new crew joined us on Friday. Jim and Jane Leverance from Madison, WI booked a half day trip and we spent 0ur morning in the Hayward area. Jim is a Vietnam veteran, and we’ve been honored to have a good run of vets in the boat lately. There was finally a break in the weather, and we had overcast skies, light rain, and a light north wind. It actually felt really good, and I din’t mind putting on the rain gear. Hope I don’t regret saying that… It seemed like a perfect walleye day, and we set out to see if we could stumble into a few eyeballs. The same shallow thermocline that I talked about early in the week was still in place, so that made the where to look decision easy. We parked on an 8′ weed edge, and Jane immediately hooked up on a fat 18″ smallmouth. Heck of a start! The first half of our day was definitely the “Jane Show”, and she put a good variety of smallmouth and big bluegills in the boat using slip bobbers and leeches. The walleye bite was slow going though, and it was time to start moving around. Stop #2 on another weedline only produced a few more gills and a pike so we pulled anchor again. Spot #3 is where we ended our trip. We were able to connect with walleyes up to 17″ along with more big gills and smallmouth. Jim got in on the action and gave Jane a run for her money with a good late morning rally, but Jane sealed the deal when she landed a 19″ brute of a smallie. Nightcrawlers under slip bobbers turned out to be the ticket for walleyes, with fish holding just off the deep weed edge in 8′ of water. It’s that time of year when the bite can change daily, and it pays to have a variety of bait along. Water temperatures held around 77 degrees throughout the morning, and I had a really good time with this really neat husband and wife team. Thanks for your service Jim. I’ll give you Jane’s lucky rod next time!
It’s been a very interesting week with some challenging days and a lot of really good people. I never mind working for a few fish, and it always makes you appreciate the good days when you have a tough one here and there. It looks like more reasonable temperatures are on the way, and we should settle into a good late summer bite. Is it already late summer?… Hope you all find some time to get on the water and catch a few fish. Have a great weekend!
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