Fishing continues to get better on most area lakes and streams. Surface water temperatures are hovering in the lower 60s and high 50s on most rivers and inland lakes, and we are now seeing a good amount of vegetative die-off happening as well.
Many fish species are certainly putting on a robust feeding binge. Bait selection and tactics are getting easier as we move further into the fall bite. With most waters seeing less and less traffic, you may find you are the only angler around.
With that said, continue to be cautious of waterfowl bird hunters when boating and upland bird hunters when hiking through the woods. This is also the time of year to start planning on bringing warmer clothes and rubber boots, and maybe some bright colored clothing to help hunters identify you.
As we get further into October many public docks will be removed for winter, so plan ahead. Let's get into this week's fishing reports, it’s a good one:
Lake Superior angling has slowed down and most all big lake charter captains have docked the boat for the last time this year. Make sure to check the regulations and freshen up on what is what (lake trout season closed Oct. 4 in Minnesota waters, for example).
In Chequamegon Bay, anglers are finding some success targeting big smallmouth bass, walleye and pike. Many tactics have been working, but it's hard to ignore the live bait bite. Slow drifting walleye-sized sucker minnows has been a good recipe for success. Others are getting fish to go by long casting crank baits near riprap and old timber ruins. Other locations to key in on are the shipping channel edges. Don't be surprised to lock up with a trout or salmon, as they are starting to move in shallower as water temps and daylight hours continue to diminish.
The stream fishing bite continues to gain traction amongst river trout and salmon fanatics. Still not a solid run of chrome steelhead, but a few are being caught. Big lake brown trout are certainly making an appearance. Swinging flies or casting smaller spoons is best. I like to get to the middle sections of the river, cast at the shorelines and slowly allow my bait to veer into the middle of the river. Also, never be in a hurry to retrieve your lure. Stream fish can and will hit at your feet as long as you are still and silent. With that said, be courteous of other anglers as we move further into primetime stream fishing season.
The St. Louis River in the Twin Ports has a lot of solid opportunities back on the radar. So it's sort of a pick your poison on what you want to target.
We like to be diverse, so we stretch many miles in a single outing to find different species. Walleye continue to move into the river and are on solid chew during the later afternoons. Fan-casting double-jointed stick baits at shallow channel edges is turning some nice fish. Don't be surprised to tangle with a few pike and bass along the way.
Big muskies and pike continue to show promise for those that are targeting them. Casting oversized soft plastics and/or slow dragging big sucker minnows are attracting a few fish. Working the bottom areas of 8-14 feet of water with live bait rigs like a 1/8 ounce jig and minnow or plastic (or bobber fishing) is getting some catfish, crappies and a few walleyes to go as well. Not every day is the same, so plan to have other rods rigged up differently, and don't be afraid to change tactics.
On the inland lakes in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, we are finding some sweet panfish bites going strong. Small chunks of crawlers tipped on 1/16-ounce jigs are doing well. Will you occasionally get snapped off by a pike? Yes, yes you will! Look to depths of 10-15 feet of water, preferably around mud to old vegetation type areas. If you lock into a few crappies, don’t be surprised to see them start to feed very competitively.
Bass have been going gang-busters on many types of presentations, but a constant this last week has wacky rigging and drop shotting. Most fish continue to be active in windy areas. Walleyes continue to be very active as well. Spring tactics have been best.
Continue to look to the sunken reefs areas, especially off the deeper sides. Like the river, not every day is the same, but when you have them dialed in, they are showing some easy vulnerability. So might be a good idea to mention again the importance of conservation when deciding what to keep and what to release. In my opinion always releasing bigger fish is a good habit to practice.
Jarrid Houston of South Range is a fishing guide (houstonsguideservice.com) on Minnesota and Wisconsin inland waters, the St. Louis River and, in winter, on Lake Superior.