Hey gang, I'm happy to say the dog days of summer appear to be on the way out. Fishing will only get better for a run of six to eight weeks now.
In General Terms :The cooler mornings are a key time to target active fish in shallow to mid-depth water. Look for them in the usual places, but watch for them to have periods of time where they feed actively. The changes in the photocycle and the length of day will be evident to the fish, and you can expect to seem them get active.
Panfish are still holding in deeper water, and will continue to do so for a couple of weeks. Look for them to suspend along weedlines in 12-22 feet of water, or to suspend over deeper sandgrass about 14-18 feet down over 40-50 feet of water. Silver, Ashippun, Golden, School Section, Okauchee, Garvin, Nagawicka, Forest and North Lake have been the best.
Largemouth will come on two major patterns in the short term. On sunny days, you can find them around shallow docks, wood laydowns and scattered weed clumps. As the sun gets up, look for them to move tighter to overhead cover, but here will be periods of time during the day where their activity level will increase for a short spell. Be ready to switch tactics as they switch on and off. Early mornings are key, especially around transition areas and over flats where the topwater bite can really be fantastic. Deeper fish will continue to use weededges and point in 12-18 feet of water, or be suspended over deep water about 6-12 feet below the surface. Some fish are relating to rockbars in 5-12 feet of water. Tube baits and skirted grubs are a great way to target these fish. Okauchee, Oconomowoc, Pine, Lac Labelle and Moose have all had active bites around rocky areas. Some fish are still being taken off the weedlines and off the weed flats by anglers flipping around heavy cover on Okauchee, Kessus, Golden and Nagawicka especially.
Smallmouth will start to make several foraging moves each day. When you are contacting active fish in shallow water, the bite can be incredible. Topwaters, including size 9 or 11 rapalas or poppers in natural patterns can get you started, but be ready to switch to tubes, skirted grubs or twister tails as the day progresses. When things are slower, look for them to be just off the first major break in deeper water. Crankbaits in white or chartreuse, spinners or live bait are better for the deeper fish. They will be actively hunting baitfish especially after the crawfish finish molting. Okauchee, Nagawicka, Pine, Oconomowoc, and Lac Labelle have been producing.
Walleyes will continue to hold in their summer patterns for another couple of weeks, but they will quickly make a move to shallower weedy areas as the baitfish move in for their fall spawning run. For now jigging or backtrolling with live bait around weededges or drop-offs in 12-18 feet of water is a good place to start, and be ready to adjust to deeper water on sunny days or shallower on cloudy or windy days. A few fish are appearing on mid-lake structure but many are staging off main-lake points, especially where there is bottom transitions from rock to sand or from sand to muck. Trolling with bottom bouncers and spinner harnesses or drifting with live bait rigs are great ways to target these fish. Nagawicka, Oconomowoc, Lake Koshkonong, Lac Labelle, and Pine lake have all been productive.
Northern pike activity has been hot all summer, and I wouldn't expect that to change. Smaller pike can almost always be found in shallow water around weed clumps and inside weededges adjacent to rock bars/shorelines. Larger pike can be taken trolling cranbkaits or backtrolling live bait along deeper weed edges, especially in 12-20 feet of water. Try Moose, Fox, Pretty, Kessus, Okauchee, Golden, Fowler Garvin, School Section and Ashippun Lakes for pike.
Musky reports have slowed down over the past 15 days, but I suspect that has as much to do with the heat as anything. For the next run, look for them to over weedy flats in 8-12 feet of water making for some great topwater or large bucktail action, or in deeper water suspended around baitfish which is perfect for a trolling bite. Action will pick up considerably in the weeks ahead. The usual lakes have been been producing, Pewaukee and Okauchee have been slower, but are still productive for anglers putting in the time.
Last thing, anglers are starting to report active white bass on the Rock River, Koshkonong and Lake Winnebago. Trolling with spinners or small cranks seem to be the best right now. Stay tuned for more.
It'll just get better.