Jul 10, 2014
Northern Wisconsin: Vilas/Oneida Counties
The dog days of summer can be hot and heavy when it comes to musky fishing. Fish are in predictable patterns since the water has stabilized in temperature for the longest period of time throughout the musky season. This allows for predictable patterns to develop. Once you find fish, keep note where they are located. For example, are they sitting on top of the structure, edges, points, inside turns, or just off the structure? Fish like spots and rework that spot for more fish. Good spots will hold multiple fish.
During the warm summer months I generally fish structure edges and just off the structure during the day and the edges and on top of structure during low light. Most of the time, I will stay out of the shallow water and the open water this time of year. Fish will be out of the shallow water due to warm water temperatures but close by their food source. The open water bite starts to taper during mid-July once the thermocline develops and pushes deeper in the water column. There are resident fish that will spend all year out over deep water so you can get fish there, but figuring where they are located vertically in the water column becomes more difficult. After the thermocline develops, you will have to use sinking baits and count them down which becomes more complex.
Generally getting your bait down to the fish throughout daylight hours is best during this time of year. Crank baits and jerk baits that can get down to the 6 to12 feet range work best. Work parallel to structure to keep your bait along drop offs and weed lines which keeps your bait in the strike zone longer.
As the sun starts to go down, muskies will start to move up on the structure to feed. This is the time where bucktails and top water lures will start to produce on many of the lakes in the area. Don't be afraid to spend your time on the water from late evening and throughout the night casting. Since the water is warm and a musky’s metabolism is cranking, this is when you want to keep your bait moving fast and get reaction strikes.
On the other hand, the dog days of summer can make walleye fishing a little tougher, mostly due to the time of day when you need to be out there fishing them. For many lakes in the area, the walleyes are still biting. It’s just the matter of getting up well before the crack of dawn and then staying out after the sun goes down to hit the feeding windows. The nice thing with Vilas/Oneida counties is that we have good stained water lakes that really help your walleye hunting this time of year.
Even in August, most lakes will have the morning and evening window of opportunity to catch fish, if you can fish through the weeds. I generally will try and cast weed weasels or slow pokes through the outer portion of the weed beds. If the weeds are coontail, where it’s almost impossible to fish through, I will work the outside weed walls with a 1/8 oz jig head.
Another couple places to look for walleyes during the summer are the rocks, and sand grass. If the lake has sand grass, it is almost a sure bet that walleyes will be there for a good portion of the summer months. I generally use leeches and crawlers during the summer months since they are easier to keep alive in a cooler than minnows.
Most of your better sized panfish are going to be holding deeper this time of year, just like many of the game fish species. Many times, I will find them among weed edges, cribs, or rocks. Slip bobber rigs with a chunk of crawler for perch and gills work well. Slurpies and cubbies will work for the crappies casting over cribs. Or, use a bobber to keep the bait at a desired depth over structure to keep your bait in the strike zone. Use popping motions with your rod to give your bait some life as you work it slowly to the boat.
Bronzebacks and bucketmouths
Largemouth bass can move shallow during warm water if the water has some stain or an algae bloom. I usually move shallow when the lakes start to turn green in July. They will move up under lily pads and in the timber to ambush prey. When scum moss starts to form, plastic frogs make for a fun outing. My number one producer and all around technique this time year for smallmouths and largemouth is using a wacky rig. It is as simple as it gets. Using a #2 octopus hook with a Senko like worm hooked in the middle with a slit shot 12 to18 inches up the line. The key is to keep your line tight when casting out to feel the bite. Bass will hit it on the way down so watch your line move or look for the pop in the line when they hit it. For largemouth bass, you can use this technique up shallow in the wood or on the outside weed edges if water is clearer or bass have moved back out in August on the stained water.
For smallmouth, I recommend looking for rocky humps or break lines. As the summer progresses and the water is warm, these bass can sit in water over 30' deep. When they go deep like this on the clear water, a ¼ or ½ oz Chompers jig will work well in. Drop shotting is another ideal technique for bass fishing over deep water.
Captain Matt Raley, Hideaway Hollow Outfitters, (715)347-4868, visit www.HideawayHollowOutfitters.com or www.WisconsinMuskieGuide.com
West Central Wisconsin
It’s the hottest time of the year!!! But you may notice, with the hot weather, the fishing cools down. Here are a few options to try to increase your odds of a “hot bite.”
For years, I have traveled great distances to experience great fishing. Now the Chippewa River, I always thought was good, not great. Then in my 20’s, an old friend turned me on to catfish! I spent many an early morning on the Chippewa, fighting big cats, and having the time of my life! You can find cats at various depths in the Chippewa, but during the hottest of days, they will relate to water from 15-25 feet; #1 and larger hooks should be used. I usually don’t overdo it with the weight. Just enough to get your bait down, and not get swept up by the current. Crawlers, cut bait, and live suckers are all good baits on the Chippewa. I have heard of folks doing well on stink baits, but I have never had luck with them personally. The Chippewa holds flatheads, but the majority in this system are channels. And a LOT of them. Even when I am not targeting them, I will catch them on walleye lures and bass lures as well.
This is a popular destination for vacation goers and anglers alike, for its beauty, and great fishing! Holcombe has a strong walleye population, and I enjoy targeting them at all times of the year. Summer is no different. My preferred method this time of year is trolling. Work those drop offs near weed beds with cranks or crawler harnesses. Both will produce walleye, with the occasional smallmouth and crappie. When the sun gets too hot, stop in to Big Swedes for a burger and an ice cold beverage, so you can re-charge and preserve yourself for the evening bite.
Mississippi River Pool 5
Ok, this is one of my favorite places in the world to be in late July and early August. I absolutely LOVE multi species angling! The thing on the ‘Sippi, is you really never know what you are going to catch. The first rule, for truly enjoying this experience, however, and I can’t emphasize this enough…go during the work week. Trust me. We fishermen and women have to share the water with pleasure boaters, whether we like it or not. Well, on the big river, the pleasure boats are, you guessed it, bigger. Bigger waves, bigger headaches. Trust me here. Now, what to fish for? Take your pick! You don’t have to go much further than Alma landing to find largemouth bass. Texas rigged Power Worms and Zoom Lizards will both produce fish. Are you looking for bluegills? Find a wing dam, and fish directly behind it with a Flu Flu tipped with a waxie, or a 1 inch gulp minnow, and you will catch them all day long. Spinnerbaits, and blade baits alike, thrown into the semi-weedy shallows, will produce a variety of different fish including northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and the occasional sheephead.
CaptainChris Powell, Chippewa Valley Guide Service, 715-577-9771
www.Lake-Wissota.com, Twitter: @Wissotaguide, Follow us on Facebook!
East Central Wisconsin
The Wolf River will still hold some male walleyes. These can be caught by casting a jig and night crawler along the shorelines or using a smaller crankbait such as a Flicker Shad or Shad Rap. You will want to cast along the shorelines and onto the top of the sandbars. The best fishing times are earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
There are a lot of people that also fish catfish in this river system. These can be caught by fishing the deeper holes with cut bait or stink baits. Again, the best times for fishing catfish are early in the morning, later in the afternoon and into the evening, or sometimes all night.
Lake Poygan should be giving up large numbers of walleyes at this time also. These fish will be finished in the deeper holes and can be caught by trolling crank baits and night crawler harnesses. Crankbaits such as Flicker Shads, Salmos and Shad Raps are what most anglers will be using. Later in the evenings, you can cast some of the rocky shorelines. There is a new man-made reef on Lake Poygan that should also produce some fish.
The Fox River will still have walleyes and catfish available for the taking. These fish will be caught by vertical jigging and casting a jig and a nightcrawler. The catfish will be caught by using cut baits or stink baits. Fishing for catfish will usually take place later in the evenings or all night.
Lake Winnebago will be giving up large catches of walleyes, perch and white bass. When fishing walleyes, trolling the mud flats with night crawler harnesses and crank baits will be producing a lot of fish. Crankbaits of choice are Flicker Shads, Reef Runners, Salmos and Shad Raps. When fishing the mudflats, look for fish in 15 to 19 feet of water, they will probably be suspended somewhere between 9 and 13 feet down. Slip bobbering the reefs and rock piles will also produce fish. Bait of choice for this fishing is leaches or nightcrawlers.
Perch can also be caught by fishing the edges of rock piles and reefs using nightcrawlers, wigglers and hellgrammites.
Bay of Green Bay
The Bay of Green Bay is producing good numbers of fish during the summer months. The walleyes, smallmouth bass, and perch are the most sought after species targeted by anglers.
Walleyes are caught by using trolling boards and vertical jigging. Nightcrawler harnesses and crankbaits are the weapons of choice for this type of fishing. Crankbaits to use on the Bay of Green Bay include Reef Runners, Flicker Shads, Shad Raps, and Salmos. Once again, look for suspended fish, and target those fish. Those fish will be suspended in 25 to 40 feet of water, usually somewhere between 12 to 14 feet down. Smallmouth bass are caught by casting plastics along the shoreline. The perch are usually caught in water depths between 10 and 40 feet. Again, bait of choice for the perch are wigglers, hellgrammites and night crawlers.
Captain Jim Klein, Bills and Gills Guide Service, (920)680-7660, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.BillsandGillsGuideService.com
When it comes to fishing in the Fremont area, there are multiple species you can target. Walleyes, small/largemouth bass, panfish and catfish are the most popular. All of these species have distinct areas where they live as well as consistent feeding patterns.
On the Wolf River, in the summertime, you will find them in deep holes by vertical jigging with leeches, using a 1/4 oz jig. On Lake Winnebago and Lake Poygan, walleyes are primarily caught trolling with Salmos and Flicker Shads at approximately 1.8 to 2 miles/hour in 6 to 8 feet of water. Another method used for lake walleyes, is trolling with crawler harnesses at .5 to 1.2 miles/hour keeping the crawler harnesses on the bottom.
Panfish are found in 3 main areas which are bayous, sloughs and lakes with fallen timber. When fishing on the lakes, sloughs or bayous, using a bobber is the most effective method. For the areas of the lake where the fallen trees are, use small jigs with the tip of nightcrawlers, small minnows, or wax worms.
You will find smallmouth bass primarily along the docks of the river, by the rock plies and fallen trees. Crankbaits, plastic worms, tubes and plastic crawfish are the most effective for catching them in the river.
Largemouth bass are also found in sloughs, bayous and lakes. White and chartreuse spinner baits, top water frogs, buzzer bait and Texas rig worms work the best.
Last but not least…
On the Wolf River system, at all times of the day, you can find catfish in deep holes and near submerged trees. At night, catfish drop off any tree piles. Nightcrawlers, cut up minnows, leaches, stink bait, chicken, fish livers and/or raw shrimp with a slip rig is the best method of catching them. A slip rig is a free sliding weight above a two way swivel with 18 to 24 inches of line to a treble or circle hook. The weight for this rig will depend on the current you are fishing.
Captain Patrick Morack, Moracktion Guide Service, (920)216-9085
South Central Wisconsin
Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages
July and August are our hottest months of the summer. The water temp is in the upper 80’s to lower 90’s at times. This time of year we like to target panfish, bass, and walleyes. We also like to target muskies. However, we will not target them if the water is too warm. This will put a strain on them while fighting in the warmer water temps. When we do fish for muskies, we go on cooler days.
This time of year, the trolling bite is in full swing. Use a larger profile bait, one with rattles, or a hard wobbling bait like a Hot N’ Tot. The reason is because, by this time of year, the fish that spawned early in the spring now have fry large enough for a game fish to eat. While trolling, you will want to speed your baits up to 2.3 to 2.5 mph, or even a little faster. The reason is you are trying to trigger a reaction strike, not really a feeder bite. Areas to troll would be flats, and 12 to 18 feet of water. Our best bite would be during the middle of the day around 10 am to 2 pm.
Large numbers of catfish can also be targeted at this time of year; both flatheads and channel cats. Channel cats can be caught on crawlers, stink bait, and cut bait in both shallow and deep waters. You can also troll crankbaits in shallow water. Catfish can also be targeted from shore. Flathead catfish like live bait. Large live suckers or bluegills work the best in deep water holes.
One of my favorites during the summertime is targeting panfish in brush on both the river and lake. On the main lake, we will anchor and throw slip bobbers over deep brush piles. We use smaller minnows and red worms for bait. We also like to troll Off-Shore Tackle Mini Boards and Salmo Hornets high in the water for crappies and down deep towards the bottom for bluegills and perch. In the river, we like to target panfish. On very hot days, they will be in the shaded brush piles in 6 to 10 feet of water. We will tie up to trees and drop small jigs with red worms down in through the limbs or right along the edges. You can also pitch weedless jigs for walleyes in the brush that can be found along with panfish.
This time of year largemouth bass can be targeted in deep wooded timber areas. Pitching jigs, plastics or spinner baits works the best. Smallies should be along deep rocky shorelines. They can also be caught in the wood and timber. Small crankbaits, plastics, and smaller surface baits work really well to catch smallmouths.
Jesse Quale, Green Water Walleyes, (608)547-3022, check us out on Lake-link.com, facebook, www.greenwaterwalleyes.com
During the dog days of summer, Lake Koshkonong gets hot…and I mean that literally. With an average depth of only 6 to 7 feet, the lake commonly gets shallower during the late summer months and water can get very warm very quickly. This is a key factor in understanding fish movement. Most fish will not tolerate abnormally warm temps and will attempt to congregate in cooler areas. Try locating one of the many springs scattered around the lake and don’t overlook super shallow areas. As long as the water temperature is cooler, fish will hold there. Along with springs, look for inlets from feeder creeks. These too bring in cooler water and will attract fish. When searching for these cooler areas, electronics are a must! Look for subtle temperature changes, a few degrees can make a huge difference.
To help cover big water and locate springs, trolling Northland Tackle crawler harnesses is very productive. We combine them with rock runner bottom bouncers and tip them with Uncle Josh Meat Canadian Crawlers or live crawlers. Crankbaits also work, with Berkley Flicker Shads being a Koshkonong favorite. Color preference can change daily, but starting out with Fire Tiger is always a good choice. Since fish are easily spooked in shallow water, getting lures away from the boat is important. Incorporating planer boards to your trolling package will greatly help you in catching fish.
Some shallow springs can be located in back bay areas where trolling isn’t practical. These areas require pitching or casting lures, which can be unbeatable. Spinners and shallow running crank baits work well for pike and bass, along with surface baits if conditions are right.
The upper river system near Blackhawk Island has cooler deeper water and will hold fish year round. Try drifting this area while vertical jigging or dragging Lindy rigs. It can produce nice walleyes, along with occasional pike, white bass, and catfish. Depending on the current speed, jigs from 1/8 to 1/4 oz work the best. If stronger current is present, try increasing the jig size. Experiment with colors, but chartreuse, orange, black, and white seem to do well. Please remember, no motor trolling is allowed on the river system other than the mouth area near Newville.
The lower river system from Newville to Indianford Dam also has some great areas. There are four bridges on this stretch of river that consistently hold fish. Along with producing shade, all have rocky structure and are a little deeper than surrounding areas. Try fishing bridge pylons for walleye with jigs tipped with crawlers or plastics. Panfish can also be found in these areas where less current is present. A simple slip bobber tipped with a chunk of crawler or wax worm works best. Fishing downed trees along the river bank can also be productive for panfish. A slip bobber tipped with a small crawler is all you’ll need, but watch out for snags!
The Madison Chain of Lakes will continue to offer great pan fishing opportunities throughout the summer months. With spawning rituals complete, pan fish are hungry and eager to bite. Any location growing weeds will most likely hold fish. First try fishing the edges of these areas and work your way in, if needed. Work the area parallel to the weed edge by pitching a small Northland Tackle Bro’s Bloodworm jig or a small 1/16 oz jig tipped with Uncle Josh Meat Panfish Leeches. Using a quick popping motion while retrieving works well, but make sure to allow time for the jig to fall. No bobber is required with this presentation and black, purple, and white colors seem to work well. If fishing deep in the weeds, a slip bobber will help keep your bait out of the jungle. We keep the line distance from the bait to the slip bobber short and pitch it into the weeds. Let the bait fall, then retrieve it a few feet and let it fall again. Repeating this process can be deadly on crappies and bluegills.
If it’s musky you’re after, they won’t be far from pan fish. We like to work weed areas in 3 to 5 feet of water using Esox Assault Tackle’s Double Blade lures. The Twin Drone, Colorado Blade, and Willow Blade styles all work. However, the EA-8 and Short EA-9 Colorado Blades in either Black Smoke or Gang Green colors have produced the best.
This year has been the first year since 2009 that the weeds are way down. I have been able to fish spots near the shoreline and docks as well as the east end and mid-lake structure that were choked with weeds for the last 5 years. This could set Pewaukee Lake up for a great year of musky fishing. 2009 was crazy good for muskies on Pewaukee with 3-5 fish days not uncommon. This year could be a repeat of that great bite!
Musky fishing on Okauchee Lake is known for quality, not quantity. It is not an “action lake” but it can give the persistent musky hunter a fish of a lifetime. There are giant fish in Okauchee. For those not familiar with Okauchee, I would highly recommend a weekday trip. Although I have caught some very big fish on weekends, boat traffic can be dangerous on this party lake. Summer bass fishing can be fast and furious too as big largemouths school up on deep weed edges.
Oconomowoc is a great option to get away from the crowd. Big muskies, exceptional smallmouth, walleye, and panfish in this clear water gem keep anglers coming back to Oconomowoc Lake. The trip down river from the launch, especially in low water conditions, keeps some anglers away. I like to hit Oconomowoc on overcast days. Sunny days send fish deep making them less accessible.
Kevin Moore, Muskies, Etc. Guide Service, (414)491-1218, www.muskieetc.com