Northern Wisconsin Fishing Report – Jeff Evans

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Jeff Evans

If there was any doubt that the Dog Days had arrived in our last report, I’m here to tell you that it’s official. Typical for this time of year, you need to be flexible when locating fish with every body of water being a puzzle. Sometimes historical patterns hold true, and sometimes not. Water temperature, thermoclines, and weather conditions are all big factors and play a huge role in congregating fish, and it can be boom or bust time of year. If you find them, you just might have some fantastic fishing!
 

My family and I have been making an annual trip to Door county Wisconsin this time of year for a little R&R, and we spent last week back in Sister Bay. Our niece Sydney Weiss from Maple Grove, MN joined us along with my partner Terry Peterson “The Professor”, and we spent our time off seeing the sights, visiting old friends, and fishing of course! It’s been a perfect getaway trip for us at the half way point of the fishing season, and this year’s adventure didn’t disappoint. A mixed bag of weather and wind limited our opportunities to fish, but we made the most of every minute we could. A reliable smallmouth pattern continued to produce, and we caught some solid fish up to 20″ over rock reefs in 15′ – 20′ of water. A variety of methods got us hooked up including swim baits, NEKO rigs, and NED rigs. The highlight of the trip isn’t hard to decide on though… The girls and I decided to squeeze in a quick session before some storms rolled in and found the smallies stubborn. Just before heading into the marina with a last call on casts, Sydney stuck a heavy fish on a crankbait that hit the net as the largest walleye we’ve ever landed. It was a truly amazing Great Lakes fish that measured out at 32″ x 15″. After a few photos and release back into Lake Michigan, I was having a hard time getting my mind around what had just happened. Excellent work on the rod Syd, thanks for helping on the net job Morganator, and nice camera work LeeAnn. You can’t go wrong with that team! Amazing fish, and unforgettable experience. If you’re heading to Door County, make sure you give Lundquist Vacation Rentals a call for rental properties, and don’t forget to stop in and see my buddy Mike Daubner at Boathouse on the Bay when you get hungry. You won’t find better people, better accommodations, and better food. See you next year gang!!!
 

We were back in the saddle on Monday, and some good friends returned for their annual trip. Dan Martin (Maple Grove, MN), Steve Berg (Orono, MN) and Cory McClure (Maple Grove, MN) were back in town, and it’s a trip I look forward to every year. We have a history that goes back to our college days, and having a good time is standard procedure when these guys roll into town. Day #1 of our trip was spent exploring the Lake Superior walleye bite. With lots of stable weather behind us since our last report, I thought it was worth a try. We started out in the St. Louis River and found a few fish up to 20″ trolling crankbaits in 5′ – 7′ of water. The water was flat, skies were high, and action was just good enough to keep our interest, but we decided to see what was going on out on the big lake for the afternoon. Bait fish are stacking up in front of river mouths with walleyes close by, and we were able to dial things in. Again, the action wasn’t fast but worth it. We trolled crankbaits in 20′ of water and connected on some good walleyes including Dan’s walk off 25″ fish to end the day. It was hot day with absolutely no wind, and water temps were pretty consistent in the mid 70’s in the harbor and on the big lake. You don’t see that very often. Even though the fish weren’t jumping in the boat, it was a fun day with some really cool fish caught. Awesome to be on the big water tangling with some big fish! Day # 2 of our trip didn’t produce as well, but we were able to put another notch in Steve’s “musky belt” He hasn’t put one in the net yet, and we put a half day in on Tuesday trying to get the job done. We spent the day chopping up the harbor in the St. Louis River with blades and topwaters but didn’t connect. With weed beds back in some usual spots I was hopeful that we’d stumble in to a fish or two, but it wasn’t meant to be. Muskies suck Steve! This quest isn’t complete, and Stevo will have the last laugh… 12 steps buddy! Too many laughs to count and such a good time having these dudes in the boat. If you’re wondering about the T-Shirts, it’s a long story but a good one… Triple!!!
 

Musky fishing is hard, and that’s why it’s awesome. Unless you do it, you probably don’t understand why people would spend their day in ridiculous weather conditions to have an opportunity at one fish. Well, that “One Fish” is the reason… Long time friends and customers Michel & Nico Cramer Bornemann (St. Paul, MN) returned to fish with me on Wednesday in the Hayward Lakes area for a two day trip. The goal was to put a musky in the net. We came close a couple of years ago, and the the itch was still burning for Michel. I get it! Rain and thunderstorms had moved into northern Wisconsin, but that was only going to add to our story. If you’re going to musky fish, the weather might as well be miserable! The weather was miserable, and we encountered a bunch of obstacles in the morning. As if musky fishing wasn’t hard enough… We began our day with boat issues, equipment issues, and rain storms. At one point I just figured that it was going to be “one of those days”. If there’s a limit on how much can go wrong, I’m pretty sure we were close. After sorting through all of the problems, we were able to work weed edges with blades and topwaters in 5′ – 10′ of water. Around noon, Nico had a thick fish scream in on his bucktail but couldn’t get it to commit. It was a good looking fish, and I knew we’d pay it a visit later in the day. As the afternoon wore on, we were pounded with more rain. North winds dropped air temperatures into the 50’s and our weather was far from pleasant. Sometimes that’s a perfect musky recipe… After hitting a bunch of proven spots, I suggested that we go back on the fish we saw earlier in the day before quitting time. My crew was all in, and Michel put the hooks to a magnificent 44″ tiger musky as time was running out on our day. It was without a doubt the same fish that we’d encountered earlier and a perfect testament to the role perseverance plays in musky hunting. After a spectacular fight with an amazing jump on the hook set, Michel put a perfect fish in the net. Water temperatures were in the low 70’s by quitting time. It’s really hard to put a day like this into words, but I’ll do my best. That was amazing! Congratulations on your PB musky Michel. You deserved it!
 

Michel and Nico were back for day #2 of their trip on Thursday, and Nico was ready to catch some smallmouth bass. That musky catching thing is awesome, but it was time to do more catching than fishing… The rain we had in the Hayward area finally blew through, but north winds and overcast skies made it feel like an October morning when we hit the water. I’m normally not a fan of a north wind this time of year, but after the last month we’ve had any kind of cool weather is a relief. Believe it or not, we needed the rain as well. Even with all of the flooding we had in June, I’ve noticed several lakes around Hayward that are a bit low now. We started off locating fish on rock piles in 15′ – 20′ of water and casting to them with jigs and plastics. Nico connected right away on a good fish, but the bite got slow in a hurry. We switched to drifting live bait rigs, and it was the right answer. Cold fronts always change things up, and fish can get really particular with what they want to eat. We figured it out though and got into a bunch of fat brown bass up to 19″ before lunch. They weren’t coming easy, but the action was consistent. Our afternoon was more of the same locating fish on deep rocks with our electronics and drifting minnows through schools of fish. Nico put on one heck of a performance, and I solved a lot of problems with Michel in the back of the boat. OK, at least one of those things is true… Water temperatures ranged from 70 – 74 degrees, and it turned out to be a really nice afternoon on the lake. That never gets old. How many times have you heard that Nico? Best wishes with your next adventure buddy. Off to college!
 

I had an unexpected opening in my schedule for the weekend, and I called up my old friend Scott Roppe from Birchwood, WI to see if he would like to join me on Saturday to do a little fishing in the Hayward area. Scott and I have spent lots of time on the water together over the years, and it was good to have him back in the saddle. We spent our morning targeting walleyes. The deep rock bite in the clear lakes fizzled out over a week ago, and I had to do some searching to locate fish. The next move is usually to mud flats around 30′ of water, and we found them right were they should be. Big schools of fish were easy to locate in 30′ – 35′, and I thought we would make quick work of it. The fish were definitely not on the same page however. We threw the kitchen sink at them. Minnows, crawlers, Jigging Raps, jigs, slip bobbers… Not a sniff! We stuck with it for a few hours before enough was enough. Time to stretch the lines. We wrapped up our day catching smallmouth in rocks on minnows in 20′ – 12′ of water using a good south wind to drift along rocky points and reefs. The smallies were definitely in a better mood, and we put some respectable fish up to 17′ in the net before wrapping things up. They are continuing to binge on crawfish, and everyone you catch has a full belly. Water temperatures cooled down a bit more and held around 72 degrees as more rain moved in on northern Wisconsin. Nothing cures a stubborn walleye bite like a smallmouth on the end of your line. We ended on a good note and stopped in to visit to our friends at Angler’s Haven on the way home. Perfect! Thanks for sharing the boat Scottie. I couldn’t have a better wing man!
 

As crazy as our weather has been this summer, things are surprisingly typical right now on most of our bodies of water. Lake Superior walleyes are at the river mouths, smallies are holding on deep rocks, muskies are sitting on weed edges, and inland walleyes are moving to the mud flats. All is well in northern Wisconsin. Have a great week on the water everyone!
 

Jeff Evans
jeffevansfishing.com

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