Column: Muskies Inc., good bass fishing and crankbait

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 14, 2006

Now is the time of the season that most muskie fishermen look forward to and July is usually one of the hottest times of the year for muskie. Some lakes are reporting slower than usual activity but others such as Leech seem to have picked up the pace.

A new Southern Minnesota Chapter of Muskies Inc. is now organized and active. The regular monthly meetings will be the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Owatonna Eagles Club.

They invite anyone interested to come and learn more about muskie fishing. Visitors are always welcome.

No matter what fish you pursue it’s a good bet that now is a great time to hit the lake of your choice. Northern and bass should be in the mood to hit just about anything you want to throw at them. According to the fishing reports I have read bass fishing has been especially good right now. My grandson, Dylan, called me last Saturday night and informed me that he had just returned from fishing and that he had caught three walleyes and they had also caught a nice catfish which they released.

&8220;They are hard to clean you know, because you have to skin them,&8221; I was informed.

I asked Dylan if he was going to tell grandpa where he caught his fish but he said &8220;it’s a secret spot.&8221; He did say that if I came over he would take me there but he wasn’t about to tell me where it was. That’s the sign of an aspiring fisherman &045; already being secretive about his favorite

fishing hole at only 7 years old.

There are plenty of good fishing lakes in our area and any time is a good time to test the waters. There are a few lakes that I have on my list of area favorites and I haven’t fished some of those for quite a few years. I really would like to try some of them again this year. The only down side of this is that there just never seems to be enough summer for me to get in all the fishing I’d like to.

With the hot weather that we have been having the ideal times to be on the lake are early morning and late afternoon and evening. I know this is an old &8220;ism&8221; but it seems to hold true.

A technique that seems to work well for walleye this time of year is trolling crankbaits or Rapalas along the weedlines at sunset or even well into the darkness of night. Early in the season smaller baits such as No. 5 or No. 7 Rapalas, (floating or sinking) work well as do Shad Raps. As we get farther into the season the size of the bait should increase. The reasoning behind this is that the baitfish are growing and so should the bait. The same can hold true for spinner baits. Smaller blades early and larger blades like willow leaf or even a double bladed spinner as the season progresses.

One method that can be effective if you want to get a floating Rapala to run a little further below the surface is to add a splitshot about 18 inches ahead of the eye of the bait. Doing this and letting out a good amount of line will run the bait deeper.

I have found that this method also works very well for northern at almost any time of the day. Northerns are not particularly fussy about when they bite and I’ve had pretty good luck during the mid-day hours trolling a jointed Rapala behind a split shot.

Here are a few fishing reports from different areas of the state:

LEECH LAKE &045; Muskie anglers should be here right now! Reports of at least 10 muskies being caught in the last couple days. Bucktails and minnow baits working the best. The muskies are going wild by Bear Island, bass mixed in. Bass are also very aggressive. The perch and pike are biting. Walleyes have moved deep but are still biting.

BRAINERD LAKES

&045; The warmer weather has really kicked up the tempo on the large bass and northern pike in the Brainerd Lakes area. This week we released an 18-pound pike and a 6-pound bass. Several of the rest of the guides had multiple pike in the 12-to-15-pound range. The key location for both the pike and bass have been just off the second weedline in 15-18 feet of water. The walleyes continue to be found on the main lake mud flats in 22-26 feet of water on Mille Lacs. Spin rigs and bottom bouncers have been starting to out produce other methods, especially on the calm days. The toughest thing right now is deciding what you want to fish for. Large pike, big bass, or hefty walleyes, they are all biting right now in the Brainerd Lakes area.

TIP: Warmer water means aggressive fish!

CASS LAKE &045; Muskie action really has picked up throughout the weeded areas and bays of Cass Lake. Bucktails and Suicks are the preferred baits during lowlight periods of the day. Work the weed edges of Lake Andrusia with Rapalas for northern pike. Walleyes can be had on leeches in the shallow sand and grass areas of Cass during the evening hours. A crawler or jig and minnow has worked best during the day in 20 feet. Look for perch in the six-foot pencil reeds of Cass and Pike Bay Lake. North Twin Lake is a safe bet for bluegills in 12 feet.

FARIBAULT &045; Sunfish are hitting along the 8-to-10-foot weedlines of Lake Mazaska and Roberds Lake. Look for suspended crappies over 22 feet of water on Mazaska. Topwater baits and small bucktails have been turning muskies on French Lake. Largemouth bass are an easy catch on lakes such Kelley Dudley, Hunt, and Cedar. Spoon Plugs also have provided steady pike action on these lakes. There’s some evening walleye action with leeches on French Lake in 12 to 14 feet and on Fox Lake in 20 to 22 feet of water.

WATERVILLE &045; Crappie action is strong in flooded timber areas of Lake Francis. Northern pike are hitting minnows and spoons on Lake Sakatah. Weedlines of Lake Tetonka hold walleyes, sunfish, and northern pike. The bigger fish are being pulled from six to eight feet of water during the morning hours.

MANKATO &045; On both Washington and Madison the panfish and crappies have been doing really good. The panfish are in 5-6 feet of water biting mostly on waxworms and the Crappies are in 14 to 16 feet of water biting on crappie minnows. German lake is also a good lake to go for crappies and they are also found in 14 to 16 feet of water biting on crappie minnows. The catfish have really turned on in the Minnesota River. Cats are biting on big chubs and suckers. Big pike and big bass are biting on Big Jefferson. Look to the outside weed edges for these fish.

Until next time, good luck and good fishin’. Remember to keep the troops that are serving our country in your thoughts and prayers.