Timing is everything… If I ever had a doubt, it’s been proven this season… It’s been a crazy year with lots of twists and turns in weather and fishing conditions. One thing is for sure. Patterns have been consistently changing, and you can’t get comfortable fishing one place one particular way. Stay versatile, and you’ll stay on fish.
With hot weather and extremely warm water temperatures still hanging over northern Wisconsin, a trip to Canada seemed like the right thing to do. My father Jim Evans (Iron River, WI), introduced me to fishing and took me to Canada on an annual “School’s Out” trip every year that I can remember growing up. It’s finally time for my dad to get a little return on investment, and we went back to his favorite place last week to clobber walleyes. Lac Seul in Ontario might be the last best “drive to” walleye destination in North America, and we’ll keep going back until it isn’t… Our friend Doug Berends (Medford, WI) joined us for a week of walleye catching, and the fish followed the script. Lac Seul is a bit different than many Canadian lakes and has a protected slot limit that’s resulted in a huge population of big fish. Slot limits work, and our results were proof. We caught more fish than we could count from 20″ – 26″ using Bait Rigs Odd’ball jigs and crawlers. The bite was ridiculous at some points, but we’ll take that kind of ridiculous any day! It’s good to know that we still have places like that in the world, and I know where I’ll be going if I ever need an eyeball fix. Water temperatures were in the mid 70’s during our trip, and we were covered in smoke most of the week from all of the forest fires that are burning up there. I believe it’s time to cool things down a bit… Awesome trip with some fun dudes!!!
Back to Wisconsin… I had a couple of days to get my bearings before guide trips started up again so I grabbed my partner Terry Peterson to come along for some scouting. We spent Monday checking out a few bodies of water in the Hayward area, and there’s definitely been some drastic changes over the past week. Walleyes were easy to find on our electronics in 30′ – 35′ mud flats, but they would not bite. We threw the book at them, and it just wasn’t going to happen. After waving the white flag we went looking for crappies on 2 separate lakes. The deep water bite had set up a couple of weeks ago, and that usually holds true through the fall. Usually… Everything had completely vacated the deep water including the thermocline. Very strange. We searched and searched without locating any fish. They have to be somewhere, but we certainly couldn’t pin them down. Interesting…? No need to beat a dead horse, so Terry and I spent Tuesday on Lake Superior getting the walleye bite dialed in. Big winds the day before stirred things up a bit, but we were able to find some quality fish after a bit of searching. The key was finding the warmest water with the right color. 65 degrees with a slight stain was the sweet spot in 15′ – 25′. We put some solid walleyes in the net including a fat 27″ fish landed by Terry. Trolling crankbaits with planer boards is the way to go right now, and you have to cover water until you find the right combination. If your screen lights up with bait fish, you’re getting close. When the Lake Superior bite is right, it’s sure hard to beat. Stable weather over the next few weeks will be the key to keeping it going. Now that’s enough scouting… Time to get back to work!
A familiar crew was back in the boat with us on Wednesday. Mike and Kathy Bassett from Big Tine returned along with our old friend Jim Stormer. We’ve been fishing with this gang for over 20 years with lots of good stories and fish behind us. With the strange fishing conditions we’ve had lately in the Hayward Lakes area, we decided to target smallmouth bass during the first afternoon of our three day trip. We only had a few hours to get after it on Day #1, and it was our best move. Finding fish wasn’t a problem at all. We located several big schools of fish relating closely to rock piles in 15′ – 25′ of water and used a stiff NW wind to drift live bait rigs through them. Each spot we tried produced a fish or two, but they would shut down after a couple of drifts. The fish were there, but they certainly weren’t going to let you park on them. No worries! We spot hopped throughout the afternoon and stayed busy putting some good smallies up to 19″ in the net as well as losing some good ones. I’m not sure why, but we had a lot of short hits and misses. Several good fish were buttoned up that came unpinned half way back to the boat. Weird… Regardless, it was a good way to get the lines tight and start the trip out right. We spent the last hour of the day trying to get those walleyes to cooperate, but it still wasn’t happening. We found a bunch in 30′ – 35′ of water on our Humminbird, but they weren’t going to eat no matter what we threw at them. No worries. They’ll eat soon enough… Water temps held around 75 degrees on the afternoon, and signs of fall are all around with changing leaves and dying ferns. What happened to summer?!!! Not a bad start Bassetts. What kind of trouble will we find tomorrow?…
Day #2 with the Bassett gang was all about putting a few fish in the freezer to take back to Indiana, and a day of crappie catching around Hayward was in order. The only problem was that the last time I looked, all of the fish had vacated deep water. I wasn’t super confident that I could find them but had an ace up my sleeve. We were scheduled for an afternoon trip, so I took Jim Stormer along with me in the morning to do a little scouting. Jim is one heck of a wing man, and we found the fish we were looking for almost immediately. The thermocline had returned and we located good bunches of fish in 18′ of water. Problem solved. Maybe… We picked up Mike and long time friend Joe LaMantia (Lakeville, MN) at the landing full of confidence that we’d take care of business quickly. It’s always good to have Joe along, and this was one heck of a fish catching crew to get the job done. Apparently the crappie bite is a “fluid situation” however, and those fish we found in the morning didn’t stay put. Of course they didn’t… We spent some time searching mud basins in 15′ – 18′ of water and eventually found a pattern that worked. Fish were scattered and moving. We’d mark some, catch some, and have to move. Shorter days and cool nights are starting to drop water temperatures a bit, and it seems like fish are trying to adjust on a daily basis. After hopping around several times we finally dialed into a good school at the end of the day, and the boys pounded a bunch of fish up to 11″. Fish movement over the past few days has been insane, and I’m sure it has a lot to do with water temperatures, oxygen levels, etc. Everything is in play right now, and electronics have never been more important. That screen doesn’t lie, and you need to spend lots of time looking before you commit to fishing a spot. Water temperatures ranged from 69 – 70 degrees, and I’d expect that the crappies will continue to settle back into traditional mud flats over the next week. Why in the heck did they ever leave?… Fish fry heading back to Indiana and mission accomplished!
It’s been bone dry in our area for the last two months, and some much needed rain was in the forecast for Friday. Fortunately Joe LeMantia and I were able to squeeze a couple of hours in before storms hit the Hayward area. Joe is a smallmouth junkie, and he didn’t have to twist my arm at all for a chance to tangle with a few bronzebacks. I’m never going to pass on that opportunity… Patience really pays off this time of year, and we did some searching before deciding on a spot to fish. You can find fish just about anywhere right now, but we were looking for the right scenario with lots of fish. We found it. A big stack of smallies was hanging on the deep edge in 20′ of water off a rock reef, and they were hungry. We had a perfect wind out of the southwest to drift minnows on live bait rigs, and we were immediately into fish. Our first drift produced a double, and the trend continued as we put a good bunch of solid fish up to 19″ in the net including more doubles. We love doubles! Our fun was cut short when the thunder and lightning moved in, but there was no complaints. I’ll take a couple of hours like that any day. For as much inconstancy as we’ve had over the past month, the smallie bite on deep rocks has really been steady. Even more reason to love em! Water temperatures held at 72 degrees. With storms chasing us off the water, it was a perfect reason to stop in and see Jordan and Kelsey at Angler’s Haven for lunch. Rain days aren’t all bad… See you in the deer woods this fall Joe!
Jeff Miller (Bloomer, WI) has had some incredible smallmouth days with me over the years. In fact, he landed the largest one I’ve ever seen and probably ever will see. We’ll never forget that fish or that day… He was back for his annual trip on Saturday with his daughter Mariah for a father/daughter day chasing smallies again in the Hayward area. If memory serves, Mariah has gotten the best of her dad on the past couple of trips, and a little revenge might be in order. We spent our morning looking for schools of fish on rock piles, and the pattern really hasn’t changed much over the last month. Keep looking until you find them, and when you do you’ll catch fish. We didn’t have any trouble finding fish in 15′ – 20′ of water, but they weren’t overly eager to eat. It ended up being a “catch a few and move” morning using minnows with live bait rigs. That wasn’t all bad though because the few we caught on each spot were quality fish. The highlight of the morning came when Jeff and Mariah connected on a cool double. Mariah’s fish was good, but Jeff’s fish was a monster. It’s the biggest one we’ve seen in awhile at 21″ with a huge belly. Love seeing those fat smallies, and I think even Mariah was happy for her dad. Maybe… It was a fun morning with some very good fish and some good laughs. After lunch at Angler’s Haven, we switched lakes to do a little scouting. It wasn’t hard to find fish on deep rocks again in 15′ – 20′ of water, but getting them to bite was a struggle. We caught a few small fish, but the big girls didn’t cooperate. With sunny skies, warm temps, and light winds it was hard to complain. What an excellent day to be on the water! Water temperatures held around 73 degrees throughout the day. Thanks for letting your dad catch the big one Mariah. I’ve got a feeling you’re going to get even! Thanks for another memorable day Millers. Always a good time!
Leaves are starting to turn, and a whiff of fall is in the air. Didn’t we just get started?… I love fall fishing, but I’m not ready to say good bye to summer just yet. Stay tuned, and we’ll keep you posted!