As we head into the annual free fishing weekend , you're going to find a range of conditions around the area.
Water temps are in the mid to high 70's on most lakes, water clarity has been surprisingly good despite some very high water and the heavy rains we've had. What does vary lake to lake the most is weed growth.
I have no explanation for this. Some lakes have some really developed standing weeds this season, others, even ones where there's usually some solid growth, just aren't there yet. In practical terms this means it can be hard to pin down fish on the lakes with scattered weeds, as they are using different areas.
As for fishing, it is what you would expect for early June.
After that warm weather, the panfish (bluegills anyway) have started to move up onto their beds. Sandy or pea gravel areas in the shallows will all have some panfish, but typically the better keepers come from areas where nests can be in 8-12 FOW. Lots of approaches will work, but when fishing for spawning gills remember there's always lots of smaller fish in the area. Small plastics tipped with waxworms, or a leaf worm. helgramite, on panfish leech on a small red or gold hook with a split shot or slip sinker really can get the job done, but don't be afraid to bust out the slip bobbers for deeper panfish.
People are still catching some nice crappies, but consistent numbers have been hard to produce. A few crappies are being caught over deeper water near mainlake structure, and you may still find a few spawning crappies are in shallow bays near weeds, wood laydowns or reeds. Minnows, hooked through the tail on a small hook (#8 or #10), waxworms and plastics have all been taking fish.
A handful of bass are still spawning, but not many. Topwaters and crankbaits are catching fish over open water areas, especially if you can find some isolated standing weed patches on the mid-depth flats in 6-12 feet of water. Early mornings have been tough, but there has been an amazing bite mid mornings. On the sunny afternoons, the fish have been tighter to cover in 3-8 feet of water and fishing around the docks and in the slop has been picking up a bit, especially late in the afternoon. Overall fish are shallower than you'd think they should be. Plastics: Texas rigged lizards, tube jigs skirted grubs, and wacky worms are all catching fish, as always, if the bite is tough, try a jigworm. Live bait (shiners >suckers) or leeches on slip sinker rigs are catching a few fish for anglers making solid drifts over productive areas.
Chasing smallmouth this weekend? Minnowbaits, like size 11 or 13 floating rapalas are actually a great way to catch these fish. Keep it simple, black and silver or chartruese and white are the best. If it warms up this weekend and the early part of next week, look for them on sand/rock transition areas and target them with tubes, skirted grubs or twister tail grubs.
Walleye are still using shallow weeds and weed edges in 6-12 feet. Slip Bobbers, jigging with live bait or drifting with lindy rigs have been productive, especially when using small suckers or leeches for bait. In the evening, a few anglers are still catching fish by working rapala minnow baits over isolated weed clumps on mainlake points and humps, but this bite also dropped off with the weather changes this past week.
Northern Pike fishing was slow, but steady. The best way to catch pike is a small sucker or medium to large shiner on a slip sinker rig with a flourocarbon leader. Drift along the deeper edges of the weeds you can find in 12-18 feet. Up shallow- Lipless crankbaits, buzzbaits and spinner baits are still producing.
Musky fishing has been slow but there's been lots of fish up shallow in the mornings. Anglers continue to report lots of lazy follows, so figure eights are an absolute necessity.
Note: If you're a novice and want to catch some fish this weekend, pick up a couple of lipless crankbaits (either rattletraps or rattling rapalas) and cast them around (but not into) any standing weeds you see. Cast it past the edges of the shallow weeds you see, and then as soon as the bait hits the water, reel quickly. I won't promise you a big one, but there will be some action.