The snow, wind and cold from last weekend’s weather event kept most anglers off the water. Those that did get out had some success with multiple targeted species.
Reports as well as photos of trophy-sized walleyes in the 28-30-inch range, smallmouth bass up to 20 inches, largemouth bass up to 21 inches, and musky up to 54 inches were all caught on area lakes and circulated on social media sites. The snow dropped the water temps from the mid-50-degree range to the mid to upper-40-degree range in a matter of just a few days. The weather also made for some feast or famine, goat or hero, days on the water, so it wasn’t like everyone was catching trophies!
Mornings have been very cold, so most fishing activity in the area has been during the late afternoon until dark during the warmest part of the day. The best bite has been the low light period just before sunset until “dark 30.” Walleyes have come on live bait rigs or jigs with minnow, or jigging/rippin raps. Both a deep water bite in the 24-32-foot water on bars or extended points has produced, as well as a weed edge bite on shoreline breaks in the 10-16-foot water depending on the lake. Many of the very clear water lakes have a deeper bite. Cloud cover and wind are also a factor. Look to deeper water during bright days with little wind, and shallower during overcast and windy days.
Musky anglers are having success casting baits over remaining green weed areas, trolling baits along the outside edge of deeper weed lines, or slow trolling large suckers under bobbers along weed edges. Big Detroit and Pelican get most of the attention for musky-chasers now, but Little Detroit, Sallie, Beers and Many Point also produce. Melissa also has a growing population of musky, but is mostly neglected by visitors to the area, and gets only a few locals attention (or accidental catches of the existing musky).
Quality largemouth and smallmouth have come from anglers pitching jigs and plastics/minnows to shallow rocks or weed edges. Not every lake in the area hold smallies, but it seems every lake in the area has a population of largemouth. Some of the top producing smallmouth lakes in the area in the fall include (but not limited to) Lida, Island, White Earth, Cormorant and Pelican Lakes.
Remember that this time of the year, the smallmouth are catch and release only. Quality-sized largemouth consistently come from Floyd, Melissa, Sallie, both Long Lakes and, of course, Detroit. Many of the smaller lakes in the area are worth exploring for quality bass, sunfish and crappie.
It will be busier on the lakes this weekend with MEA and nice weather. Most of the docks are still in and water levels are extremely high making launching and loading very easy for this time of the year. Be careful if you are on unfamiliar waters in the area, as most of the shallow water hazard markers have already been removed for the season. There will be several more weeks yet to enjoy the open water season and fall fishing.
Columnist Brad Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.