Jim Bennett

We have officially moved into summer fishing. The spawn is mostly over around here. We did manage to take a bunch of beautiful bull bluegills the other day and we released some big females with a few eggs in their swollen bellies. There are other indicators it’s summer. Fireflies are lighting up the evening. Mosquitoes think you’re their lunch. People are at the cabin or camping and boat launches are full on weekends. Kayaks are stacked high on trailers or piled in trucks.

My old buddy Jon, The Fish Whisperer, holds many keys that open fish-catching doors. Jon McCorkle, now dealing with Parkinson’s in his early 70s, was planning on going after trout a day after a big rain storm.

“I like to fish for trout right after a good rain. The rain runoff stirs things up by washing in worms and all kinds of bugs. Trout go on a feeding frenzy after a good rain! My favorite bait is a beaded hare’s ear nymph on a fly rod. It looks like all bugs in one. If I want to eat fish I’ll use worms. Trout can’t resist a worm after a rain,” added McCorckle.

If McCorkle wants to have fun this time of year he heads out in a boat and works the tops of the weeds. “There is nothing more fun than working buzz baits over weeds for pike and bass. A pike will violently attack buzz bait. Small pike or large, they want to just rip them up. Bass explode out of the water and do most of their fighting on the surface.”

But what if you want to catch walleye? To get those answers I talked to Ben Elfelt of Prime Time Guide Service who just placed well in the recent AIM Pro Weekend Walleye Series on Mille Lacs last weekend.

Ben’s quote of the week, “Fish eat fish!”

 “That is why you’ll always find minnows in my boat when I fish for walleye. When everyone else was out on Mille Lacs trolling lead core and other rigs I was in the weeds with a sucker minnow and a jig. Presentations may change a bit depending on the lakes but this time of year walleyes are in the weeds.”

I asked Elfelt how to fish weeds and not get all snagged up. “I look for weeds that aren’t thick. You can’t fish weeds that are all matted up but you can fish patches of weeds. I like cabbage. They have open pockets to cast in. You need to use the lightest jig possible and I use fatheads. You have to realize that it’s OK to end up with a few weeds on your lure; on many casts you won’t have any weeds on your hook.  You have to realize that’s where all the baitfish are and that’s where the game fish are going to be too.”

Elfelt digs a secret weapon out of ice fish tackle this time of year too. “Jig-n-Raps are great this time of year. I’ll find a weed edge and work the bottom. I don’t tip them with anything. It’s a reaction bite.” I’ve fished with Ben using this method. Have a good grip on your rod!

If you’re after crappies and sunfish it’s no different. We were working weed edges with leeches finding some great sunfish action. All you have to do is look for spawn beds but don’t fish those. Instead move back out of that shallow area because spawning is finished, so get out to the weed edge at around 8 to 12 feet. We were working that depth midmorning to midday and doing very well using slip bobbers fished about half way down to bottom.

While we were out I noticed a couple trolling nearby while we anchored out from the weeds casting into the edges. They were trolling small live bait presentations and catching crappies, again off the weed edges in 8 to 12 feet of water. I tried casting plastics a bit deeper after marking them on my electronics and found crappie eager to smack my white paddle tail fished on a small jig head. I’d cast out and count down to certain number, say 5-one thousand and reel in. I continued doing this, adding a number until I hit the depth the fish were in. They were eager to hit my jig. After pinpointing them and getting anchored in the right spot I’d cast and often several fish were closer to the surface and ready to smack my bait before I was done counting. That was OK; math was never my best subject.

Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com

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