|"The Bait Shop"|
...(9-6)The walleye season on Mille Lacs is now closed.
... (10-20)Mille Lacs took a little more pressure this week with the mild weather. It doesn't hurt that the smallmouth bite is still draggin' on this late in the season and the muskies are starting to turn on a little. Maybe it was just a good week to fish?! We hit the trout mid-week up in the pits along with some rogue bluegills AND even some keeper crappies up toward that Garrison area. All in all, it's been a respectable week so far. Surface temps are still in the low-mid 50's, even with the air temps close to 30 in the mornings. The docks are still in at the accesses as of today, and it's not uncommon to see the lots about half-full with late-season anglers. With deer season right around the corner, it might be a good time to throw a can of Sta-Bil in the tank and head out this weekend!
Still no chatter or even a guess about the upcoming ice season.
...(10-14)Just a short upate from Thursday's DNR/citizen group meeting - After the fall netting assessment, it appears that Mille Lacs is in better (walleye) shape than it was last year at this time. That's the REALLY short version. The news many of us were/are waiting for regarding a winter season on Mille Lacs never came. As of this moment, "we" don't know the status of the winter walleye season on MIlle Lacs nor do we have any info regarding northern spearing.
We just returned from our "tackle show", where we get to preview some of the new products from a lot of different outdoor manufacturers. There were a bunch of summer offerings and some pretty good looking winter items too. Even though we didn't know the future of our winter season on MIlle Lacs or the 2017 open-water season for that matter, we jumped on anything that looked like it would catch fish here. We couldn't just sit back and wait to see what the DNR and the Band come up with for the future of Mille Lacs... the Lundeens decided to move forward with or without 'em. On that note we added some promising-looking walleye stuff, and we doubled the smallmouth section too!
The surface temperature is in the low-mid 50's.
Water temps are bouncing between the low 60's and the high 50's - close to the temps a lot of folks look to for some great fall northern and muskie fishing. We're starting to see the bite pick up a little as the temperature continues to drop. The next few nights/mornings are forecast to drop into the 30's - this could spark the bite even more! Historically, there's about a month or so left of the openwater season before the bays can begin to "gel-up". In short... if you're gonna do it, don't wait too much longer. On the smallmouth front, the bite remains solid - arguably a little softer than where it was around Labor Day, but still worth the trip. The biggest challenge may be finding a day where the wind isn't blowing like crazy. Plastics are still good. Some folks have switched over to 4-6 inch suckers and have done great.
Thursday 10-13 is the next Mille Lacs meeting with the DNR. No other information is currently available.
... (9-29)The bite remains much the same as last week. Short of re-wording the last report, let's just say that if you smacked 'em last week you'll probably smack'em again this week. If you bombed out last week...
Mille Lacs anglers should note that the reef markers in Mille Lacs County (southern 2/3 of the lake) have now been removed. Early? Yes. Why? So they don't freeze in. Huh?
The docks at the public ramps remain in the water.
A lot of folks have asked about the winter season and even some about the 2017 open water season. As of today, no decisions have been made about either season. Historically, after the DNR completes their fall test net assessment it takes a few weeks to crunch the data and shortly after that they will announce the parameters for the winter season. Expect that announcement to come around mid-October. I'd be surprised to see anything official regarding the 2017 open water season until after the ice season is over.
... (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.