Summer is here, so to speak! This year's strange weather patterns have really put a damper on the fishing - there is no consistency or predictable fishing patterns emerging this season. One day the fishing is great the next 2 or 3 it's almost non-existent, we're promised dry weather for the next week or so which should bring some stability to the fishing, but cool evenings and bright sunny days now dominate this weeks weather pattern. That means high pressure and clear skies - not good for midday fishing. Our water temperatures are still miserably low (in the upper 60's) which means the fish will still come into the shorelines during the late afternoon and evening to warm up and feed.
Since the foods which the fish eat are growing larger it only makes sense that the baits we use to catch the fish should also be larger. Longer baits, more rubber legs, large Chubs, Jumbo Leeches and of course larger hooks to accommodate these and other popular baits. This is where smart anglers will use all the "tools" at their disposal to get the fish to strike, tools like sinking lines, neutral weight flies, smaller diameter tippets, Fluorocarbon lines and longer leaders to get to the fish without spooking them.
Take a generous amount of insect repellent with you, the Mosquitoes are very abundant, the Sand Flies are just starting to become a nuisance. The Dragon Flies are just beginning to have an effect on all the bug populations.
We are still waiting on the "Hex Hatch" - (Hexigenia Limbata) - the worlds largest Mayfly. The Hex emerge at dusk and continues throughout the first 2 hours or so of the night with a secondary hatch at about 2:00 am. Just about every fish in the lake will become surface oriented when the hatch is at it's peak - during that week or so the daytime fishing will be slow to nonexistent as the fish gorge themselves on the Hex Nymphs and Duns in the evenings. Be prepared for some of the most explosive night time fishing action of the season - this is the last major Mayfly hatch of the year on our area lakes - it may last for up to a month on some bodies of water, but
the first week is when it will be the heaviest and have the most effect on the fishing!
There is a two fold hatch sequence to the Hex, the primary hatch occurs at dusk or just shortly after dark and continues for about an hour or so, it is followed at about 2:00 am by a "secondary hatch" which usually lasts about 45 minutes and tends to be lighter than the "primary hatch". By dawn almost all the fish in the lake are so stuffed with Hex duns, nymphs and emergers that they can hardly swim - naturally if you had such a hatch on your lake last night, the fishing today will not be very good - the fish are too stuffed to eat anything else for awhile.
Northern Pike are one of the few consistent fish this season; look for them in the Cabbage weeds 20 to 50 feet offshore. Larger more natural coloured patterns are working best since the fish are primarily chasing Minnows, Bluegills and Perch. Good catches of larger than usual fish are coming in from Palmer and Van Vliet lakes.
The daytime fishing for Muskies is still somewhat slow, but that's to be expected with all the unsettled weather we have had recently. Some fish are being caught on Trout, Big and High lakes using deep running crank baits off sharp drop-offs getting them down into the 8 to 12 foot depth range. My best pattern in weedy lakes is a Bluegill or Perch coloured Flute Fly or Diver fished with a 9’ 9 wt. rod and Ghost Tip Line just over the weed tops - a brisk retrieve with short sputtering twitches has been best, especially in the evenings. I'm still chasing some very large females in the very clear water deep lakes but they have moved off the shelves and sand beaches and are taking larger B.P.'s in a Perch or Sucker colour. I'm back to using a wire leader system with 30# test nylon coated stainless steel tippet on a 6' leader with a full sinking XRL Line, give the fly a chance to sink about 4 or 5 feet before starting your retrieve and move it quickly with lots of twitches and pauses.
Walleyes are a bit tougher to get these days since many of them are feeding heavily on the Hex nymphs over the mud flats and deeper weed beds in the daylight hours. Late evening is a great time to get out on your favourite weed bed and cast a fly for cruising Walleyes on the surface - yes they do take surface flies and they even jump when hooked! Larger clearer, mostly sand bottomed lakes have a smaller Hex population (since the Hex live in the mud on the bottom of the lake) and therefore will be less affected by this annual disruption of the general Walleye feeding cycle. Smaller weedier lakes are fishing best with slip bobber techniques since the fish have spread out to forage throughout the weeds and mud flats. Hex Nymphs, Olive Tongue Depressors and Olive Woolly Buggers fished on a sink tip line in 6 to 10 feet of water have also been catching fish off points and mud flats in the early evenings and on cloudy afternoons. Many Walleyes are feeding throughout the "Cabbage flats" adjacent to mud flats in 6 to 12 feet of water taking the same baits and the occasional larger minnow pattern. These fish are widely scattered and the bite is light, but quite a few good sized fish are being caught. Many Walleyes and larger Perch are taking up positions on the mud flats feeding on Hex Nymphs - especially early in the morning and the late afternoons when the nymphs are most active.
Crappies are being caught in open water especially in the evenings - use a Wiggler or Hex Nymph fished about 3 to 5 feet deep near the thicker patches of weeds. Many Bluegills are still on their beds taking anything that comes close to them. Other "Gills are in their post spawn "Feeding Frenzy" and soon will disperse and scatter throughout the weedier portions of the lake basin. You still have time to get your fly rod out to get in on the last of some of the best pan fishing of the season! A small yellow popper, Hex Nymph or Dun on a 7 1/2' 4X leader is just the ticket for these scrappy fighters.
The Largemouth Bass are now out of their "post Spawn slump and feeding throughout the early morning hours on frogs, minnows and anything else they can get their mouths around. The top water action for Largemouth Bass is still great, just work the shorelines with any bright coloured popper and you're in for some great action! Most fish are averaging about 2 to 3 pounds, these hard fighting acrobatic "Bucket Mouths" are an exciting fish to catch on the fly!. Many Smallmouth Bass have moved offshore but are still hanging near the spawning beds, even though almost all of the spawning is over. Top water action is hot for Smallies in shallow bays in the evenings, there's nothing like watching them sneak up and suck in a popper from the surface! A great late afternoon bite is on with all species of Bass taking Ova positing Dragon Flies as they return to place their eggs on aquatic vegetation - the fish are EXPLODING on Dragon Fly Patterns twitched on the surface! Near dark the Bass switch to Hex Duns and continue their night feeding on the surface.
Many smaller "carry in" and "bog" lakes have been the most consistent and productive throughout the season, this week is no exception. There are a lot of lakes with good Walleye, Bass and panfish populations which have been producing some very great catches - with Walleyes averaging 3 to 5 pounds and Bass coming in at a very heavy average of about 5 pounds. These "secret fisheries" are a very closely guarded secret among those anglers who frequent these bodies of water, but a little research with the DNR will reveal most of them in short order. The action on these types of lakes remains very good to excellent.
As the daytime temperatures slowly increase the top water fishing activity will continue to pick up, the shallow water fishing is just about to peak!
Trout fishermen are delighted with the warmer weather and lower water levels, we are well into some of the best fishing of the season. The HEX are about to hatch on area streams and lakes! This is the culmination of the major mayfly hatches for the season so get out there and get in on it while you still have time!!! The dry fly action is excellent with many larger fish being caught daily. Mayfly hatches will continue to peak with spectacular emergences beginning just before dark. Many area streams are experiencing a "Smorgasbord" of insect activity as multiple hatches come off throughout the day, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
Brook Trout in many area spring ponds and creeks are still being caught and the "put and take" lakes are now producing some very nice catches of larger trout. Regular hatches of Midges are coming off daily with the Hex just before dusk. Weed growth in the spring ponds has increased and Scuds are now a favourite meal, with Midges during the mornings and the Hex in the evenings.
Hex populations are much lower in the U.P. since there is less favourable habitat for these largest of the Mayflies.
U.P. fishing conditions have caught up with and in some cases passed Wisconsin's, Muskie and Northern Pike activity has picked up considerably in the past week. Walleyes are in the weeds and deeper drop-offs during the day and moving up onto the rock bars and points in the evenings. In Bond Falls Flowage the fish are still on the shallow flats feeding on anything that comes close to them - especially a Brown or Black Cone Head Rubber Leg Bugger! Smallmouth Bass are just about done spawning and many fish are holding in the log jams along deeper banks - look for a Beaver lodge to give you some spectacular daytime activity. Lake Gogebic is seeing some great Walleyes and Perch fishing throughout the lake with a lot of fish being caught on the southwest shore. Bluegills are still on their beds and taking small bugs from the surface - get your fly rod out this is some of the best pan fishing of the season! Langford and Stateline Lakes are still hot for hand sized 'Gills on the surface and some huge Northern Pike!
The Middle Branch of the Ontonagon below Bond and Agate Falls is very good. The water levels are a bit high, but dry fly conditions couldn't be better, the Brooks, Browns and Rainbows are sipping dry flies from the surface of all your favourite areas. The stretch from US 45 to Mix-I-Mini Falls is fishing very well also with lots of big Brook Trout taking surface flies very well, especially Hex Duns in the evening and after dark. The hard to access reach from Burned Dam to Interior Road is an excellent choice for a float trip, with a great combination of trout and Smallmouth, it couldn't be better! Cooks Run and the South Branch of the Paint is near normal flows and the fishing is excellent. Steady water levels and stronger hatches are allowing the fish to take up feeding positions in favoured areas, look to riffles for the best action, especially just before and during a hatch. The Hex are about to hatch - this truly the MAGIC TIME to be on the streams! Mornings are a bit slow since many fish are gorged with Hex from the night before. There are a limited number of streams in the U.P. with favourable habitat for the Hex, other streams will not be affected by this feeding activity and are fishing very well in the early mornings. The fishing is really turning on in the afternoons and evenings with an evening rise that rivals anywhere in the world, as the bugs make their way back to the water the fish are eagerly awaiting their arrival. These prolific hatches are bringing out the largest fish in the rivers, they are responding with a feeding frenzy lasting well into the darkness every evening!
The Mosquitoes and Deer Flies will have their way with you,
Come prepared to do battle with a swarm of biting bugs!
Smallmouth Bass fishing in the shallow water is excellent; the Bass are just past the peak of their spawning activities. Bluegills are also just coming off their beds in all the Lakes and are eagerly taking a variety of flies, especially small poppers. Clark Lake has the largest Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass of the tract - most of these fish are now taking surface baits very aggressively and the evenings are becoming just electric with surface feeding activity! During the day Dragonflies are returning to the water to lay their eggs, a Dragon Fly imitation twitched on the surface will certainly get the attention of any bass in the immediate area. Tongue Depressors and Clousers are still taking many fish.
The water is considerably cooler this week, the fish are responding to it with decreased surface activity. Warmer water temps in the next few days will increase the angling opportunities throughout the region. Warmer air and water temperatures are bringing the fish into shallow water and they're looking up especially in the evenings!