Jarrid Houston column: North Shore, South Shore — take your pick — Lake Superior trolling has been hot
Watch your hook size for panfish so as not to injure fish that will be released.
What a whirlwind of busyness the last few weeks. Lots of fishing and other extracurricular activities have certainly consumed our time. Things won't slow down anytime soon either with a full list of more fishing and fishing-related workshops, etc.
We hope everyone is enjoying summer as much as we are. Before you know it, we will be looking into autumn. And while I'm thinking about it, let's all make it a point to be safe on the water. We’ve heard of some tragic events around our area over the past week. You can avoid disasters on the water by taking your time and making good decisions.
Around the region fishing seems to be full throttle. There are not too many popular boat launches that are completely empty, especially on the weekends. Weather has been very nice as well. Cool mornings and cooler overnights have fish slipping into a few new patterns. Surface water temperatures have been anywhere from 72 to low 80s depending on what inland water you are tackling.
Best fishing has certainly been in the mid-morning and later afternoons into evening, but a few bites are happening throughout high noon. Wind has been on our side for walleye fishing, but not so much for pannies.
Let’s dive in to our weekly report:
The Lake Superior bite has certainly been picking up with reports of good lakers and even a few bonus kings in and around Duluth and Superior. Anglers have been busy on both the Wisconsin and Minnesota sides. In all honesty, it's hard to choose which side is the best. However, as mentioned about the wind relating to walleyes: The same can go for the resident Gitch trout and salmon.
Downrigging has been the popular choice and will continue to pluck a few bites as we move further into August. But don't be afraid to trailer some surface bait presentations as well. Popular depths have been around the 150-foot mark, but some trollers are getting fish shallower.
The South Shore walleye bite has got a few fish going as well. As usual, it is a big gamble as the fish are dispersed from the Superior entry and spread out all the way to the Brule River and beyond. Stickbaits trolled around the 2.5 mph have been productive, but, as always, mix in some speeds and zig-zags with the boat control.
In the stream fishing world, some good reports of brook trout and a few resident browns have been coming topside with a mix of conventional flies and/or small spoons. Like anywhere else, covering water will boast the best results.
The St. Louis River Estuary continues to be productive for catfish when using live bait and dead-sticking the bottom with heavy weight and about 12- to 18-inch leads. Stinky, cut bait is ideal, but in all honesty, it is hard to beat a simple night crawler. A few walleyes are showing up on the various flats but most of the fish have been on the smaller side. Once in a while a nicer fish can be caught, but it seems the bigger fish prefer last light or late afternoon.
Smallmouth bass are still an option swing casting spinner baits or paddle tails toward any structure in faster/cleaner moving water. As mentioned in a previous column, the river is about to get busier with the Championship AIM Walleye tournament coming to town Aug. 19-20. Don't be surprised to see a bunch of out-of-towners doing some homework, pre-fishing to get ready.
On the inland lakes of our area, the best consistent bite has absolutely been for panfish. Casting small twister-tails or Beadle Spinners has been a fun way to catch them. Of course, you can also turn some fish with simple live bait presentations. Make sure if you are live bait rigging you are using the proper size hook so as to not let the fish swallow any hardware into their gut. It's hard to release panfish when they are bleeding badly!
Same goes for all species of course. Walleyes continue to be active in the early morning and later afternoon into dark hours. Fishing structure has been a good bet in and around 20 feet of water. A simple leech on a red hook with a split shot about 10 inches up has been a good technique, especially on the slower days. As usual, don't be surprised to run into a few bonus fish over structure. Bass and pike have been patrolling weed edges and dock spaces on shorelines. If you are the first one on the lake, it is not a waste of time to work lake perimeters.
Be safe and courteous to each other 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.