As we continue to move through October, many anglers are already starting to look ahead toward the ice fishing season.
Just a word of caution most anglers already know, but this winter season may be challenging for retail stores to hold inventory. If you want something for winter, best to buy it now. Same goes for anyone looking ahead to the 2022 open-water season, like maybe a new boat.
It comes as no secret that the pandemic is still affecting the world and the outdoors industry is no exception. As of now, it looks as if outdoor sports expos/shows will be back on over the winter. It will certainly be interesting to see how things play out.
This is no doubt a great time of year to get some open-water scouting done before the lakes freeze over. Fishing memories is a common saying you might hear in the angling world. And of course, lots of times fishing early ice spots that have produced in the past will again pay off.
However, it’s also a good bet to go out now, during open water, and explore "fishy" spots that may also produce when the ice builds.
Every year we run into new favorite areas. Breaking down water — which water holds fish and when — is what makes an angler successful. And, just like anything else, it starts by doing your homework. Like any year, we will keep fishing close to ice up, and sometimes these late open-water successful fishing spots will be the target areas for first ice.
Let's get into this week's fishing report:
Lake Superior reports are mostly coming from Chequamegon Bay. Many anglers are continuing to find some success for world-class smallmouth bass in the areas in and around Ashland and Washburn. With the nice weather we had in recent weeks the fishing for the most part has stayed consistent.
However, looking ahead at the much cooler forecast, things will start to change. Best tactics have included casting and ripping jerk-baits over waters of 10-18 feet of water. Some are finding success slow-rolling walleye-sized sucker minnows as well. As usual, don't be surprised to run into a few pike and walleyes, especially when using live bait tactics.
Closer to the Twin Ports, and up the North Shore, a few anglers have been flirting with some salmon and brown trout with common trolling techniques. This time of year, many fish have moved closer to the mainland haunts, so areas near shore will be good spots to target.
St. Louis River angling has seen its fair share of successful walleye trips this fall. Many tactics are working fine, but it's hard to beat a simple jig or hook and minnow. Anyone who knows me, knows one of my favorite ways to catch walleyes is throwing reactionary type baits. So, a one-eighth-ounce jig and soft plastic hopped 1 to 2 feet off the bottom can work wonders. Trolling and casting stick baits is turning some fish as well.
As far as other species go, smallmouth will continue to be easy targets when fishing faster-moving, narrow parts of the river. A few pike and musky also are being caught on the estuary, mostly pike. If you head out on the river this time of year, you will certainly have company of both musky anglers and waterfowl hunters. You may even run into die-hard deer hunters using boats to get to secret archery hunting river spots.
Inland waters as mentioned last week are seeing less and less traffic every day. You may run into a few other boats on weekends but it will be surprising to see many other anglers during the work week from here on out. Fish continue to come boat-side using minnow rigs. Fishing outside the perimeter of vegetation is still the best spot to target.
However, don't be afraid to get out and explore the soft bottom shallower mud basins. Pike and bass have been going good casting spinner baits toward shorelines and areas that have now had docks removed.
Just like the river, some area lakes will host some duck/geese hunters, so be cautious. It's hard to believe, but we are really only about six to eight weeks away from early ice fishing. Oops, I said it. Be safe, courteous and we will see you on the water!
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.