|"The Bait Shop"|
...(9-6)The walleye season on Mille Lacs is now closed.
... (9-23)Most of the focus since our last newsletter has been on the Bassmaster Angler of the Year tournament held on Mille Lacs last week. In summary, Gerald Swindle won Angler of the Year and Seth Feider took first place with a 3 day, 15 fish total of 76 pounds, 5 ounces! Pretty impressive, guys... congratulations!
Clearly the smallmouth bite is still on. Lots of dropshots, some tubes, swimbaits, some wacky and some Jiggin Raps. There are fish from 4-24 feet, but your prime range is from 10-18. Stick to the natural colors. We saw a few decent northern days this week too - 9-12 feet on the edge of the weeds with big sucker minnows. Look for this bite to improve as the water temperature continues to drop.
... (9-16)The premature closure of the Mille Lacs walleye season on September 6th left a lot of folks looking up toward the sky asking, "now what"? Muskie fishing? Smallmouth fishing? Other lakes? If you plan to stay on Mille Lacs, today's answer has to be smallmouth bass. Today is day 1 of the 2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship right here on Mille Lacs. The top 50 point-leaders are fishing head-to-head Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Many of these guys have never fished Mille Lacs before and were surprised at the abundance and size of the smallies here. The top 23 anglers weighed 20+ pounds (5 fish bag)! For anyone interested in following the event, you can stream the coverage live from 7:30-1:30 at Bassmaster.com. You'll also find the leaderboard and you'll be able to stream the weigh-in beginning around 3:45.
That said, the smallmouth bite will provide the most action this weekend. We've seen a few muskies and a few more northern (mostly across the north end and around the immediate Garrison area), but realize that there just aren't many folks chasing them. Smallies can be found from 4 to 24 feet, with the sweet spot being between 8 to 18. Mostly tubes, some craws, some swimbaits. The top color patterns include pumpkin, melon and red. Here again, the northwest quadrant of the lake is providing much of the action, although the southeast quadrant isn't far behind.
...(9-1) Some folks view Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer, others the beginning of "fall fishing". Sounds like one of those "half-empty, half-full" deals. With water temperatures finally starting to come off of their "peak" for the season, we can expect to change our fishing patterns soon. As all of our subscribers have read by now, the walleye season on Mille Lacs will close beginning Tuesday, 9-6-16. You can still fish walleye on Monday, Tuesday you cannot. This seems to be confusing to some folks. If you have any questions about the regulations, click here. If you question the cause or the need for the closure, call the Aitkin Fisheries office at 218-429-3010. Smallmouth, northern and muskie remain open.
If you're headed to Mille Lacs for one last shot at walleye fishing this weekend, our advice is the same as it's been for some time now - head to the mud flats! Leeches (yes, we still have leeches) are the top bait followed closely by night crawlers. Many of the active fish we've seen are off the bottom edge of the flats, but remember that they will move throughout the day and evening. Smallmouth bass remain active on both live bait (leeches, minnows and crawlers) and on artificials. Yum tubes and Senkos top the list of plastics, but there's no need to limit yourself to just those two... some days they'll hit just about anything! Look for the smallies in 8-15 feet. Northern and muskie action is spotty. 7-12 feet looks to be the key depth. Use large suckers or bucktails at this point.
Yes, we still have leeches (9-1-16)
...(8-26) By now most Minnesotans have heard that State anglers have exceeded the "quota" (via hooking mortality, whatever that means). Shortly after that, the DNR and Governor Dayton announced that Mille Lacs anglers would be allowed to continue fishing walleye even though the "quota" had been met and exceeded. The DNR announced Tuesday that, in fact, anglers WILL NOT be allowed to fish walleye on Mille Lacs beginning September 6th through November 30th. All lake-related issues aside, why are these people allowed to make public policy? How do they decide whether to wear a plain shirt or a checkered one? In an early August 9th announcement regarding the continuation of the catch-and-release season, Dayton remarked: "It was my decision," Dayton said. "And to impose [a closure on Mille Lacs business owners and others] without a compelling reason wasn't something I could justify. ... Closing the walleye fishing season on Mille Lacs would devastate area businesses and communities."
I guess the Governor changed his mind. AGAIN.
I can hardly wait to see what they decide to do next week!
The bite is similar to what we saw over last weekend. The smallmouth action is good on the rocks in 8-15 feet, the walleye bite remains solid in the evenings on the mud flats and northern activity is hit-or-miss.
Yes, we still have decent leeches, but the end is in sight.
We received news earlier this week that Mille Lacs anglers have reached AND exceeded the 28,600 pound walleye quota set earlier this year. Unlike last year where the DNR shut down walleye in early August, they have decided to leave the season open. WOW! As you would suspect, the "arm-chair biologists" have busy since the news was released. The comments range all across the spectrum - bad science, bad data, bad policy, some surprised, some defiant, some happy, some ashamed, some accusing... all the while the Mille Lacs walleye remain a "pawn" in a political train-wreck.
***************Be sure to keep your crawlers and leeches cool. Pumping 75+ degree surface water will kill them just about as fast as leaving them sit in the sun. Speaking of leeches, the supply has toughened up a lot. Several years ago, I wrote an article about the lifecycle of a leech and why they get hard to come by as the summer goes on. You can find that article HERE if you would like to brush up on your "leechology".
If you didn't read this last fall, it deserves your attention this week. Here a link to the DNR'S Hooked on Mille Lacs fall newsletter. You can check out some of the results of the 2014 fall netting survey. Of particular interest is the summary on page 4: "There is nothing in this data that suggests tribal fishing is affecting reproduction". If you're left with a shred of doubt after this compelling analysis, PLEASE contact the Aitkin Fisheries Office of the Minnesota DNR.