Warm water fishing is here, time to adjust
Water temperatures jumped significantly this last week with the hot weather and bright sunshine. Warmer nights didn't cool the water off, and each consecutive day of the warm front raised surface temps a degree or more a day. We are now in the high 60s to low 70s all around the region.
The warming lake and bright sun also triggered multiple bug hatches, but most significant to fishing was the mayfly hatch. The abundant food the mayfly hatch provides to fish makes fishing against mother nature more challenging.
When the bug hatches happen, leeches and nightcrawlers can become an important bait choice for walleye anglers. Their role as a bait choice can make a significant difference in your ability to catch fish.
The most common way to present leeches and crawlers is on a live bait rig (often referred to as a "Lindy" or "Roach" rig ... named after two icons in the walleye fishing world). It is a slip sinker rig, and is easy to fish.
It consists of a weight usually ranging from 1/8th to 3/8th ounces (depending on depth) on the main line with a barrel swivel acting as a stop. The other end of the swivel has 4-8 pound line of 2-6 feet as a "leader," with a hook or floating jig head at the end of the line.
Minnows, leeches or crawlers are placed on the hook and the rig is lowered to the bottom and drifted or trolled at a .2-.6 of a mile an hour.
A spinning reel is most often used when fishing with this rig. Keep the bail open, your finger on the line, and when you feel a bite, let the line go free for a few seconds, close the bail and when you feel the fish again ... set the hook!
Jigs can be tipped not only with minnows, but half a crawler or leech can also be productive now. The slip bobber also becomes a great way to present leeches to fish.
With all the new hatches of bugs and young of the year fish of many species available, forage is abundant now. Weed beds are worth checking out now to find active feeding fish, especially cabbage weeds. Walleyes, and most gamefish, use cabbage weed for cover and food.
Oxygen levels are high in the weeds, and the canopy covering that cabbage weeds provide is great for sheltering walleyes from bright light conditions. Always check the inside edges of cabbage, not just in the weeds or the outside drop-off edge. Expect multiple species to be available at times in productive patches.
Fish will be moving from shoreline breaks to mid-lake structure now that we have transitioned into the summer warm water period. Humps, bars, long extending points into main lake areas, and the "sunken islands" with irregular shapes become fish holding areas.
The tips of the points or edges that are getting windswept are worth exploration. Areas that create a cup on a hump that is taking wind become feeding areas that can stack fish while they are corralling baitfish.
When you find areas that are successful for you, pay attention to the details of the conditions. This helps you to figure out other similar areas on the lake as well as repeat your success in future trips with the same or similar conditions. Get out, experiment, and have fun with your fishing.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)