Make a ‘bucket list’ for summer

The blizzard to close out this past weekend had me up at 6 a.m. on Monday morning shovelling snow for about two hours before I could get on with my day.
As I shovelled, to keep from becoming totally depressed that the lakes were going to turn into complete slush factories (and the nice mild weather was moving on), I started thinking about all the great fishing I have to look forward to in a few months when spring returns and another open water season greets us.
Anglers have so many world-class fishing opportunities here in Sunset Country that it truly is hard to do it all. Different species of fish appeal to different people for a number of reasons, but this coming season, try to increase your options and take advantage of some of these opportunities that you normally may overlook.
The following are some of my favourites during the open water season:
•Pike exist in many waters in our region and are one of the first fish to move shallow in the spring to spawn. Sometimes the best fishing is when the shallow back bays first open up and the main lake is still ice-covered.
Pike move shallow to spawn at this time, but they still are catchable and this is the best time of year to catch a monster.
Look for big pike in two-six feet of water and use large Rapala floating minnows and spinnerbaits to cover water. Old weeds from the previous season will attract fish and sometimes you need to feed them a weedless bait.
If this is the scenario, rig up a soft jerkbait like a five-inch Northland Slurpies Jerkshad on a weightless worm hook.
The best locations are old reed beds, bulrush edges, or small creeks and rivers.
•From the time walleye season opens until the end of June, walleyes can be found in much shallower water than most people ever consider.
Maybe it’s the bass mentality I have that’s led me to these fish, but throughout the first six weeks of the season, I seldom fish deeper than about 12 feet of water. Instead of pounding all the traditional humps and points that most anglers target, I look for weeds.
Don’t get me wrong. The folks out on the humps and traditional spots still are catching some fish, but catching walleyes in the weeds is fun and offers up a great chance at a big fish.
The key is to find green weeds that are sprouting up along sandy or boulder shorelines.
The best method for catching these walleyes is to pitch light, 1/8-oz. jigs tipped with three- or four-inch plastic tails. Sometimes twister tail grubs are the best; other times, more subtle straight-tailed worms are better.
Jigs tipped with minnows will work too, of course, and may be necessary in cold front conditions. But keep in mind that your jig occasionally will catch weeds and it’s much easier to rip it off the weeds and keep your bait intact with plastic than with the real thing, which normally will tear off.
Most anglers overlook shallow-water walleyes early in the year and they are missing out.
When you drive by a beach or sandy shoreline in June, move in and pitch some light jigs around—you’ll be surprised by your success.
•What about fishing a tournament? I love tournament fishing (the competition, the camaraderie, and the challenge) and we have some of the best walleye and bass events found anywhere in North America right here in Sunset Country.
Not only are our fishing opportunities second-to-none, but the volunteers who show up to make these events happen is unparalleled anywhere.
You could try your luck in the two big bass events, the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship on Rainy Lake in July or the Kenora Bass International on Lake of the Woods in August, or fish one of many smaller events on waters across the region.
If you like to fish, you owe it to yourself to try one of these events. It’ll be the highlight of your summer!
•Finally, have you ever caught a musky? We have fantastic musky waters that are easily accessible for all anglers.
They commonly are referred to as the fish of 10,000 casts, but they don’t have to be. There is some expense in getting the gear to chase muskies, but once you have the right rod, reel, and line combination, all you need is a few lures and you’re ready to go.
The season opens every year on the third Saturday in June and runs through the rest of the open water season.
Early on, you’ll find muskies in shallow water, recovering from the spawn. But as the summer progresses, fish will move out to main lake structures, where they hang out through the fall.
I seldom ever use anything but a bucktail style bait when I musky fish because they excel at not only triggering fish to bite, but at hooking them, as well.
Look for a new bucktail style bait from Northland called the Booty Call which is hitting the market this spring.
Now is the time to start planning your open water fishing trips and collecting the gear you need so you’re ready to go when ice finally hits the road.
Here’s to an early ice-out!

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