Even though it isn't on any calendar, late winter/early spring is when fishing fever officially begins. The days are longer, but still too cold to turn hard water soft. The itch to ice fish, snowmobile, cross-country ski has been scratched. It's time to not only think about open water, but to prepare for it, and enjoy doing so.
And no one knows this better than the fishing industry. It fills the media with fishing shows, sport shows, and articles like this one. New tackle is presented and old tackle is wrapped in new packaging. Baits may be the same, but there are new presentations, with promises of better results. Anticipation is the key to buying things. This fishing information is intended to provide us with not only a vast knowledge of how to catch fish, but to give us that "edge" over other fisherman who have not gotten the "magic" lure or "secret" insights.
I'll have to admit, I have been and still am drawn to this media fishing info overload. In fact, I'm part of it; however, I do think people have a tendency to read too much into it. They think if they have a "magic" lure or bait, it will work everywhere all the time.
This is where I part ways with a lot of what you hear, see, and read about fishing. I have fished most of the area lakes throughout the years and have found, for the most part, that presentation doesn't need to change that much from lake to lake. What's more important is the time of year and how the weather changes daily from the opener to freeze-up and how this affects fishing, no matter the lake or specie targeted.
Probably the most important factor is water temperature. Water temperature is going to determine the presentations we're going to use on a given lake at any given time.
When I first started guiding, I didn't think I could get a big enough boat or tackle box to fit all the things I would need to catch fish consistently throughout the year. As time went along, however, and after hundreds of days and thousands of hours, I decided I needed to simplify.
Starting out in the spring, for example, where I once used a large assortment of "magic" lures, I now mostly use the simple jig/minnow combo I would bet at least 98% of the time. I'll stay with this until the water temps reach around 65 degrees. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying other baits won't catch fish. I'm just saying it's just easier to jig fish and not only that, you'll get the chance to catch every fish species in the lake during the same outing.
Believe it or not, even if I'm bass fishing, I'll pitch and chug that old jig. Yes, I know, if you're a true bass fisherman, using live bait isn't kosher, but it's a simple tactic that works well without changing a lot of tackle on a bunch of rods.
You can also catch large northern pike by jigging some lakes in deep water. Simply tie on a foot of 20 lb. monofilament line or braided line to a swivel and then tie it directly to the jig and you're set. The only changes I would make in this time period would be jig color (to match the water clarity) and jig size (weight is determined by the amount of wind or how soft the bite is that day). Minnesota Fishing Pros highly recommend Northland Tackle jigs, which come in all sizes, colors, and shapes.
Usually by the middle of June the water temperatures have risen to where fish will bite better on leeches or crawlers. When that time comes, I simply switch over to "rigging." Again, like with cold water jigging, I'll pull rigs in warm water 98% of the time if I'm walleye fishing. I'll continue to use rigs throughout the summer. The rig is just a slip sinker on the line with a bead, then a swivel, then a fluorocarbon leader with a colored hook. You can vary lengths, but between five and seven feet will work just fine. Again, just keep it simple.
In late summer, when water temps are at very high levels, giving lakes a pea soup green algae bloom, shallow water fish become very vulnerable. This is the time crank baits become an option, along with pulling spinners. With these last two techniques, we simply troll the weed lines, preferably where there are long stretches of shoreline. Troll the crank bait tied directly to the line 100 to 120 feet behind the boat. If you have a line counter, use it. If you don't, measure out a hundred feet and put a bobber stop there so you know where a 100 feet is. If you need more or less, it will be easier to estimate. The longer line also helps eliminate the use of planer boards, once again making it simple.
We use Rapala Shad Raps in #5 to #7 sizes. To start, match the color to the lake's forage species. Braided lines are the preferred line of choice because they eliminate the line stretch factor. As far as spinners are concerned, just add a bullet sinker to your line, tie on a swivel with a snap to attach your Northland spinner, add a leech or crawler or minnow, and you're all set.
Finally, as the days start to shorten and the sun loses some of its power and there is a hint of fall in the air that stirs up the hunter within us, the water temps will start to drop. When they fall below 65 degrees, the fish will again return to shallows. At this time, I'll switch back to a jig/minnow combo to finish out the open water season. Yes, you can still catch fish with a lot of other presentations and with the large assortment of other baits available to use, but I like to keep it simple, short and sweet.
Like a line drive in baseball, a good slap shot in hockey, or "nothing but net" in basketball, there is nothing quite like setting the hook on a fish. Remember, even though not all the good things in life are free, some of the best ones are just plain simple.
2017 Guided Fishing Trip Rates
|Number of Anglers||Full Day Trip
8am - 4pm
|Half Day Trip
8am - 12noon
|1 - 2 people||$400||$330|
|Tag Boats||$150 per boat|
|Shore Lunch or Shore Dinner||$35 per boat|
Fish cleaning and packaging at the end of your guided trip is included in the trip price.
Rates for a full day or half day guided fishing trip are reasonable and include bait, fish cleaning and packaging services as well as use of pro's boat, fuel, fishing equipment and safety gear. Clients need only bring their valid Minnesota fishing license, rain and/or cold weather gear and food & beverage.
Fishing trips may end sooner if the limit of fish is caught. A $100 deposit ($100 per boat for group trips) is required to hold your reservation for a guided fishing trip with a MN Fishing Pro. Please send check or money order to the guide with whom you have booked your trip. The date of your full or half day fishing trip is not guaranteed until your deposit is received.
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Walleye & Northern Pike - May 13, 2017
Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass - May 13, 2017
Muskie - June 3, 2017
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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