spin fishing

Lake Pepin Walleyes

Pepin is a huge natural lake on the Mississippi that straddles the border of southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin. Revered for its prolific walleye and sauger fishery, the lake also produces lots of bass (both smallmouth and largemouth), big crappies, and plenty of catfish. This is big water – Lake Pepin is around 21 miles long and encompasses nearly thirty thousand acres of water. The influence of the Mississippi makes it very productive and brings in some interesting fish, like white and yellow bass, sheepshead, gar, and sturgeon.

We hit Pepin for the first time today. We launched late in the afternoon and hopped over to the Wisconsin side. Started trolling a little point with Lindy rigs, and it wasn’t too long before Noah hooked the first fish, a little walleye that popped off right at the net. Dad put the next fish in the boat, a sauger of about fifteen inches. Sauger rarely get much bigger than a few pounds (the average fish is around twelve inches), so it was a nice fish. We kept trolling the points and steep breaks, gradually moving shallower as we found more fish. The action was steady, but not crazy. We picked up lots of little walleye and sauger over the next few hours, but nothing too big.

The sauger were a new fish on our species list. These guys are closely related to walleye, but prefer murkier, shallower water and are usually smaller than their walleye cousins. (typically under eighteen inches).

Sauger

Walleye/sauger double!

 

Pepin is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever fished. It sits right in the middle of the Driftless Area, bordered by towering bluffs. The lake rubs right up against the steep limestone cliffs, with creeks slicing through the valleys and spilling into the lake. Many of these little streams hold trout, and the cold water at the mouth creates a hotspot for all kinds of fish. The bluffs jut right out into the lake, producing lots of interesting points and bars to fish.

Baby sauger

We headed back to the MN side and grabbed a quick walleye sandwich from a lakeside restaurant. As we were waiting for our food, Noah and I pitched jigs and crankbaits into the shallows hoping for some bass. Nothing on the jig, but I did manage to pull out a walleye on the crankbait in only about six feet of water! After we downed our sandwiches, we took a drive downstream. We stopped and hit the shallows with lipless cranks and jigs. A creek poured into a shallow, weedy bay with lots of brush, a perfect spot for bass. Sure enough, Braden hooked into a feisty smallmouth that put up quite a battle, leaping straight out of the water four times before making it to the net! I was surprised to find a bronzeback in such a weedy spot, but you never really know what to expect on Pepin.

Just before the sun fell below the horizon, we ran into a school of fish crashing bait on the surface. We were motoring around another creek mouth when a fish jumped only about twenty feet from the boat. Braden was right on him, casting his Rattle Trap slightly beyond and to the side of the rings. His Trap got nailed, and after a short but exciting battle he landed his first white bass!

Braden’s first white bass

After that it was pure chaos. Fish were erupting on the calm surface and minnows were flying everywhere in the shallows. All of us were furiously throwing our baits into the fray. I switched up my crank for a Rattlin’ Rap in light blue to better match what might be shad swimming in the shallows. My Rap got nailed after I cast it to a wake, and I pulled in another smaller white bass, my first. The fish were still frantically pounding the minnows in the shallows. Noah’s rod bent over, and a big smallie thrashed on the surface. He played him perfectly and soon had him in the net, a nice bass around 17″!I kept casting my blue Rap into the brawl. Right in the middle of the retrieve my line stopped, a good fish on the other end. I played him for a minute before landing a nice walleye of 20 inches. All of a sudden, it was dead. Just as quickly as it started, it was over. A few fish sporadically jumped, and we kept tossing our Raps, but we didn’t get another bite. As we motored back to the launch, a spectacular sunset ended a great day of fishing.

Twenty incher in only about three feet of water!

The Bite:

Walleye and Sauger were anywhere from three to eighteen feet of water, but the most consistent depths were about twelve to fifteen feet. I would fish the shallows at first and last light, and hit the deeper water during the day. We got most our fish on Lindy rigs and crawlers.

Creek mouths were hot for bass and had some crazy action right at sunset.

 

Largemouth and Panfish in the Shallows

June 1, 2013

We hit a local lake early this morning for some warmwater action. Started the morning trolling Lindy rigs for some walleye. No walleye, but we did nail some big sunfish on leeches. Surprisingly, these guys were holding in 20 feet of water!

Handful of slab

 

“I got up at 5 just to catch bluegills?! :)”

After a few hours of walleye fishing without any luck, we moved in shallow to chase some bass. I pitched the llama hair jig to docks and caught a bunch of small bass. The panfish bite was pretty strong, with consistent action on tiny jigs or leeches. The water was crystal clear, making for some awesome sight fishing. My jig often wouldn’t make it to the bottom before a bass would dart out and grab it on the fall. Dad, Braden, and Noah each got some quality panfish on leeches.

Best bucketmouth of the morning

Slab that nailed the llama hair jig

The Bite:

Panfish are starting to move shallow. Fish can also be found in deeper water

The bass bite has remained hot in the shallows on the inside weedlines and on the docks

Water Temp 62 degrees F

Day 3…Chasing Gold – Walleyes from the Deep

May 27, 2013

After two early mornings and some hard days of fishing, I was beat. I slept in a bit today and hit the water almost an hour after sunrise. The clouds had returned. Hopefully the bass crept back into the shallows with them, I thought as I rigged up my rod. I lazily tossed a small black/silver Flicker Shad on the spin rod from shore, slowly working the scraggly new cattail stalks and the flat adjacent to the river mouth. The familiar tap of a strike abruptly interrupted the steady wobble of the Shad, and a bass struggled at the other end. I pretty quickly landed a fat sixteen incher that inhaled my crankbait. As I released him, I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if I’d been out at sunrise.

I caught one more decent bass on the Float-Tail Worm bass fly before heading in for breakfast. A few hours and a cup of coffee later the four of us piled into the old row boat and headed toward deeper water looking for some walleyes. We puttered out to the dropoff with the old electric trolling motor, dropping Lindy rigs armed with nightcrawlers into the depths. We trolled the flat just off the dropoff, Noah keeping us in about eighteen feet of water. As we drifted just off a tiny point, Grandpa’s rod bent over.

“Got one?” Braden asked.

“Doesn’t feel like a weed,” Grandpa replied as he reeled it in. The water flashed gold behind the boat, and Braden put the net on him, a nice little fourteen-inch walleye! Not a monster, but it was a great start.

I’ve never really caught walleye from a boat before. Honestly, before the one I caught on the fly the only ‘eyes I’d ever caught were through the ice. Besides a few short bouts of drifting somewhere in the middle of the lake over “deep water”, I’ve never pursued them very seriously. For most anglers in Minnesota, a few walleyes wouldn’t be anything special, but we were pretty excited to get one on our first serious attempt at targeting these fish. Finding good structure, picking the right rig, and Grandpa putting a walleye in the boat gave me a great feeling of satisfaction.

We trolled for another hour without another bite. Later in the afternoon Braden and I trolled around the entire lake. For the first hour of our trip we dragged Lindy rigs along the dropoffs, over a few points, and through the flats but failed to interest any fish. Near the end of our float, we came to the same point where Grandpa pulled in his walleye earlier in the day. I picked up a baby twelve inch ‘eye and Braden caught the fish of the trip:)

Needed the net for this monster!

 

Nice fat largemouth

Bassin’ was pretty good tonight. Grandpa and I started the evening by soaking some nightcrawlers at the river mouth. Yeah, it was straight up bait fishing, but it was nice to just slow down a little and relax. A lot of (fly) fisherman get so intense in trying to match the hatch and stalk the fish that they often forget to slow down and enjoy the moment. Fishing this way allows you to do that and really enjoy the peacefulness and experience of the lake. Grandpa pulled in a nice largemouth, and both of us lost a few more worms. I fished a Meat Whistle and caught around eight in an hour. Nothing huge tonight, just bass around a pound that put up a good fight on the fly rod. I also landed another baby walleye, a cute little guy only about five inches long. Just after sunset I got perhaps the oddest catch of the trip on a fly, a little yellow bullhead! Bullheads don’t have great eyesight but rely primarily on their sense of smell to find their food, so I was surprised to find this guy on the end of my line.

 

Noah launched floating Rapalas into the dark of the night hoping for some walleyes. The fish have been coming up real shallow at night, taking advantage of the darkness to sneak onto the flats. He wasn’t disappointed, and caught two fish almost an hour after the sun slipped behind the trees, a solid sixteen incher and a smaller walleye.

Floating Raps are deadly on walleye in the shallows. This one ate a 4" monkey puke (chartreuse/fire tiger)

Tomorrow is our last day…should be another good one.

Tight Lines,

Conner

Day 2 – Sunrise on the Bass Lake and More Walleye on the Fly

I was up at five again this morning. Unlike yesterday, the clouds had thinned a bit, so we actually had a sunrise – and it was awesome. Standing knee-deep in the shallows of a lake or stream at the break of dawn on a cool morning is one of my favorite times to be outdoors. The lake is usually dead calm, yet frantic with feeding fish. Trout are rising in the creeks, bass are jumping, and every fish in the lake seems to take advantage of the relative darkness to snatch an easy meal.

Unfortunately, along with the sun came slower fishing. Despite pounding the river mouth and surrounding shoreline, I managed only two fish on the fly the whole morning, a decent largemouth that ran about fourteen inches and a smaller “pounder”.

Later in the morning, we hopped in the old van and scouted a new spot on a lower stretch of a favorite smallmouth creek. All the recent rain we’ve had put the stream running high and muddy, so it was a little tougher to figure out where the fish were holding. We tossed a variety of flies, but came up empty. The river was quite a bit wider here and very close to the confluence with a large lake, so there were undoubtedly some fish hanging around, maybe some bigger bronzebacks and pike. We backtracked and hit a favorite spot farther upstream. The creek here was unrecognizable from the last time we were here when low summer flows reduced it to practically a trickle. I only fished for a few minutes before heading back.

August

 

Late May

Once we returned to the lake, we set up at the mouth of the river for the evening bite. I nailed a nice 3 pound, six ounce largemouth on the Meat Whistle, my largest fly-caught bass of the trip. Fishing was a bit slower tonight, but all of us got some fish, mostly bass around the twelve inch mark. I also caught another walleye on the fly rod, a baby eight incher that smoked my Meat Whistle.

About 17″ on the fly rod

Gold on the fly

Overall, it was another great day of fishing. Tomorrow we’ll pull out the old row boat and hit some deeper water looking for some ‘eyes.

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

Bass Opener Weekend 2013


Just got back from a weekend of epic fishing on bass opener up at the lake. The bass were in the shallows and hungry. We landed some great fish on both fly and spin gear, including some nice fat females like the one pictured above. I’ll post a full report soon, but meanwhile here are a few pics from the weekend…

Float-Tale Bass Worm fly

Meat Whistles (and any jig/creature bait crawled slowly along the bottom) were hot this weekend

Evening Bluegills

Sunday was our last day at the cabin. Fished for a while in the morning and caught a few bluegills. After lunch we drove over to one of our favorite catfish holes and drowned some worms. Unfortunately, the catfish didn’t cooperate with our plans. Instead Noah landed this 25″ monster of a sucker/carp thing. It took him over five minutes to bring in! While it wasn’t fly fishing, its still fun to pull in some big fish on spin gear every now and then. I tried a fly for a while, but that didn’t work so well.

 

On to some prettier things…

Braden and I had some of the best bluegill fly fishing of our lives in the evening. We took the canoe back to the spot where I caught the bass. Braden caught well over sixty in two hours on dries and poppers, all thick slabs as big as my hand on nearly every cast. The little bay was just filled with fish. Just cast, twitch, and bang, a big bluegill would practically come flying out of the water after the fly. Not a bad fight on a five weight, either.

I still find it amazing how aggressive small bass are

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