As we all prepare for the spring opener and the first few weeks of new 2010 fishing season, (the key word being all!), usually that means the popular lakes are very crowded, at least through Father's Day. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish in those hot spots. I know, no one likes fishing with a lot of boats around, and I try to avoid it all cost, if possible. There’s just times when you have to just bite the bullet, and join in.
When you first arrive at a large group of boats. First make sure they’re not fishing memories and that there is actually a bite going on. You can tell pretty fast by just watching the other boats. Take a quick count on the number of boats around you, then multiply by 3 (the average number of people per boat). For example 30 boats times 3 people equals 90 lines in the water. If you see no one catching fish in about 10 to15 minutes, that means to me that there’s not much of a bite going on or you’re just too late and missed it. 90 lines in the water times 15 minutes equals about 22.5 hours of fishing by one person with a fish or two, to me that’s slow fishing, and I’d be moving on. If the opposite is happening, and you see a half dozen fish or more being caught in the pack in that time period, there’s still some active fish in the area. The bite is still on.
On a shallow water bite, I will start on the outside edge of a group of boats. Reason being the fish are getting a lot of pressure from the boat traffic and will start to move off their original area. I usually start on the deep side of the group and work my way from one end to the other. If that’s doesn’t work, I’ll try the shallow side, again work my way along from one end of the pack of boats to other. If you're still not having much success and you still see fish caught in-group, the next move (and my least favorite) would be to make a pass right through the group of boats.
When fishing in such a group of boats, in shallow water the fish are pushed tight to the bottom by the boat traffic. I like to fish with a short line, meaning not trailing far behind the boat. You want your line as close to the bottom as possible. Sometimes, depending on the wind, I’ll even switch to a heavier jig. On most occasions I use 1/8 oz. Northland Tackle round colored jig head with blood red hook, tipped with a small shiner minnow. Switch to 1/4 oz. or heavier jig in strong winds to stay down tight to the bottom.
Ninety percent of my walleye presentation that I use the first few weeks of the season is a jig tipped with a minnow, preferably a small shiner, till the water warms up into the sixty-degree range. Then a rig or a jig tipped with a leech or night crawler comes in to play.
Here is another tactic that works well, but only in a light wind or calm situation. In an area where you pick off a couple fish, just shut off your trolling motor, or motor. You may have to use it to hold you on the spot. Then cast out just a short way and jig your line back to the boat. This works well especially if the fish are staying in a small area and not on the move chasing shiners around. Your sitting on the school of fish instead of passing through them and you're not spending all that time going past them, then turning around and coming back to find them again. Even if the school is moving you’ll be giving yourself a few minutes of hot action before you have to move on, to either find them or another group of fish, and then you can repeat the same process over.
If you own or have any type of electric trolling motor, I strongly suggest you use it, if at all possible, only if the wind is too strong and your forced to move up to the gas power motor. I prefer Minn-kota trolling motors over all the others and fishing water less then 12 to 15 feet deep. Not saying you can’t catch fish running a gas motor, I know some great Winnie fishermen, such as Doc O’Brian, Kirt Tagtgren, Ron Edminster & etc. that use a gas powered motor for trolling, and they can, and do, catch fish consistently. I do believe if you run an electric trolling motor, you're going to cut down on the disturbance and the bite may last longer.
If you've been searching hard and long and not finding much action, and it looks like everybody else on the lake has found them, and are gathered in one spot, along with which seems like all fish in the lake, you don’t have to feel left out. Try these tactics and you should be able to tap in on the fun.
Walleye & Northern Pike - May 11, 2019
Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass - May 11, 2019
Muskie - June 1, 2019
2019 Fishing RegulationsMN DNR Fishing Regulation Handbook for 2019
Charlie Worrath talks early season walleye for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
Jason Boser appearing on an episode for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)
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