So, you’re up here on vacation with the family, huh? Great! Brought the boat along too? Super! I bet you could fish every day from daylight until dark. But sightseeing, shopping, swimming, water-skiing, tubing, dining out, and more sightseeing are likely on the agenda of other members of your party. If not, enjoy the week on the water. However, if you’ll be squeezing some fishing in between other activities, you will surely want to maximize your efforts. You might find yourself fishing in the morning one day, evening hours the next, and mid-day the day after that. You’re the guide for the week so you’ll also have to consider your clientele on each outing. With these variables in mind, flexibility will be the name of the game. You might consider planning one or more of the following trips.
Everybody up! OK, maybe not everybody. But, for those who want to experience the best morning of the summer, this trip is for them. Creating the first ripples on the water as your boat makes its way through a thin layer of fog is a cool thing.
Morning hours are a great time to chase bass. Yes . . . bass! Largemouth bass are plentiful and willing in most area lakes. Smallmouth bass are found in smaller numbers and in fewer lakes. Work the shorelines. Bass will relate to any obstacles in the water. Target lily pads, bulrushes, and fallen trees. Oh, and don’t forget to cast around docks. Because top-water fishing is so fun and effective in calm waters, I like to throw a popper like a Skitter Pop. Be careful casting these with multiple people in the boat though. Cast it near ambush cover and twitch it back to the boat. Another sure-fire bass bait is a soft plastic stickbait. It looks like, well . . . a dipstick, but it catches bass like crazy. Often when I’m guiding anglers for bass, this is all we use . . . all day! Rig this bait weedless on a worm hook and cast it near the cover, working it back very slowly, with lots of pauses. Many strikes will occur while the bait is descending or idle on the bottom.
Lather up with the sunscreen! Get some cheap polarized sunglasses for the kids too. Mid-day is a good time to get the whole family on board. Walleyes lay pretty low during high skies. On bright sunny days, panfish and northern pike are more cooperative.
For sunfish, nothing beats a small fly-imitating jig suspended under a slip-bobber. No bait is required. My three young children have determined that a bumblebee-colored Fire-Fly Jig is irresistible to bluegills and rock bass while a pink and white Gypsi Jig tipped with a small minnow tempts crappies. Look, actually locate them visually, for panfish in the same areas mentioned as bass haunts.
Pike will bite a lot of things. During mid-day, look for cabbage weeds in 6-12 feet of water. Casting works well and is fun. However, trolling may be a better option with multiple anglers in the boat. Put the boat in gear, cast the lines out behind the boat, and hang on! Diving crankbaits like Shad Raps work well for pike. In heavier weeds, switch to a Classic-Series Reed-Runner Spinnerbait with tandem blades. Pike like flash and gaudy colors. Let ma and the kids pick their own colors and do some side-by-side taste tests!.
OK, walleye time! The last couple of hours before dark tend to be best for mid-summer walleyes. And, for an adventure, consider staying out after dark for a couple of hours. For evening walleyes, I like to troll the same 7-12 foot cabbage flats I fish for mid-day pike, but with a ¼ ounce Mimic Minnow® Spin in the silver shiner pattern. If I stay out after dark, I’ll switch to a #7 Shad Rap, also in a shiner pattern, working the same depths but in areas with sand, gravel, and rock.
This probably isn’t your first family vacation. Thus, you understand the need to be flexible. I‘m confident that you’ll demonstrate that flexibility on a rainy day. Walleyes bite all day on rainy days, right? So . . . you’ll toss the above itinerary overboard and fish walleyes . . . all day. You’ll don your rain gear, put your hood up, and slow way down, soaking a jumbo leech or redtail chub on a Roach Rig along an 18-21 foot breakline. Now, that’s being flexible!