Rivers are the lifeblood of our nation, from drinking water and irrigation to transportation and electric power, but it also plays a massive part in recreation — including fishing!
No matter where you live, there’s likely good, fishable rivers just a short drive away. And one of the best things about rivers is their multispecies fishing prowess.
We put together a short list of a few of our favorite river bites here in the Upper Midwest, from untapped bass fishing in the North and South Dakota, to musky fishing the St. Clair river almost 1,200 miles away.
Missouri River – Smallmouth
The Dakota’s Missouri River has become synonymous with excellent walleye fishing, but more anglers are also discovering its virtually untapped big, brown bass fishery.
AnglingBuzz field reporter Jason Mitchell recommends five key areas for bronzeback fans to explore this summer:
Lake Sharpe and Francis Case offer loads of fish to the 20-inch mark.
High-probability targets include bluffs and sharp-breaking shorelines with lots of rock, rubble, and sand. On Lake Audubon, shallow rock reefs and islands are a solid bet.
For trophy 20-inchers and better, Mitchell says Lake Oahe and Sakakawea are hard to beat with their plentiful rocky points, sunken islands, and lots of forage.
In terms of presentations, tubes, paddletails, curly-tail grubs, drop-shot rigs, or cranks are top contenders.
Red River – Catfish
The Red River of the north is some of the finest channel cat fishing in the entire country. From Wahpeton, North Dakota, through Fargo, Grand Forks, Drayton, all the way to Lake Winnipeg, the channel cats only get bigger the farther north you travel.
The Drayton pool offers up lots of fish in the 20-pound category and trophies pushing 24. While Manitoba’s Selkirk pool produces lots of 25-pounders with channels pushing to the 30-pound mark. In both locations, anglers describe their success not in number of fish caught, but by the hundreds of pounds boated on a typical day.
If you’re looking to put a bead on big cats this year, check out AnglingBuzz field report Brad Durick’s guide service.
The Driftless Region – Trout
With its unique geology untouched by glaciers, the Upper Midwest’s “Driftless Region” offers some of the most picturesque and productive trout streams anywhere in the country.
From southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and Northeast Iowa, the Driftless offers everything from “put and take” rainbows to naturally-reproducing brown trout and brilliantly-speckled brookies.
In Wisconsin, the Viroqua area presents numerous trout opportunities; in Minnesota, Whitewater State Park offers great camp and fish facilities; and the Iowa region around Decorah is a good place to start.
A short 3- or 4-weight fly rod in the 7- to 8-foot class is perfect for the small limestone creeks. For larger streams and rivers like Minnesota’s Root, consider pounding the bank with heavier-weight rods and streamers for bruiser-sized brownies.
Another deadly tactic is tossing in-line spinners or small Rapalas on an ultra-light combo like St. Croix’s Trout Series.
No matter where you trout fish this summer, practicing catch & release and selective harvest promises great trout fishing for years to come.
St. Clair River – Musky
Muskie anglers on the St. Clair River are reporting excellent summer fishing, yet again.
This 40-mile stretch of river has its share of resident fish, and studies reveal fish movements in and out of the river from Lake St. Clair.
Right now, anglers are hitting paydirt vertical jigging the river’s deep-water breaks and ledges with big plastics and there’s an explosive topwater bite on hotter, more humid days.