Minnesota Outdoorsman - Minnesota Fishing and Hunting Reports
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High water, yes, but Lake

Ontario fishing has been


By Bill Hilts

Lake Ontario is open for business!

That’s the mantra that lake shore communities, fishing derby promoters and tournament organizers are shouting from the rooftops. Yes, the water levels are high once again – exceeding the record 2017 levels and still rising. Yes, there is a no-wake ordinance in place that restricts boating within 1,000 feet of shore to 5 mph. And, yes, there is floating debris out there that you need to take some precautions with. However, when it’s all said and done, if you want to experience some of the best freshwater salmon and trout fishing on the Great Lakes, if not the world, you need to check out Lake Ontario and see for yourself – high water and all.

Every year, the Buffalo Sabres Alumni crew sets up a charity fishing tournament out of Olcott. It is held in conjunction with the Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament in Niagara County, at a time when there are plenty of big boats around to utilize for the friendly event. This year it was May 29. While the air temperature would struggle to hit 60 degrees and the lake water temperature was hovering around 50 degrees, there was very little wind.

A hard northeast wind the day before scattered the fish and captains questioned how consistent the fishing would be. It’s a perfect time for captains participating in the Pro-Am to seek out productive waters and rule out areas with no fish. No one thought that the high water would also come into play.

More than half of the teams participating wondered if the event would even happen. Because of the sensationalized local media hype, high-water levels were causing a State of Emergency and, like it was in 2017, the general public thought the lake was closed.

The event went off without a hitch and many of the participants enjoyed some of the best fishing since the event began 15 years ago. It was a great opportunity to sample this outstanding natural resource while rubbing elbows (without the elbow pads and other gear) with some local hockey legends who still call western New York home.

Rene Robert, Lindy Ruff, Wilf Paiement, Brian Gionta, Pat Kaleta, Danny Gare, Grant Ledyard, Marty Biron, Cody McCormick, Tim Kennedy, Derek Smith and Rob Ray were some of those who participated in the event. Because they had an excess of hockey (and a few Buffalo Bills) celebrities, Ray decided to stay back and help me get everything organized for the cookout, held annually out of Krull Park. When everyone came off the water, the grill was the most popular spot to be – not for just the food, but also for the warmth.

Olcott and the Town of Newfane roll out the red carpet when this event is held. They provide a trolley ride to and from the Town of Newfane Marina, so no one needs to drive. Scott Scheffler, marina director, arranges the entire marina to accommodate for the 20 boat captains who need to tie up for the day (if they are not already docked there). The marina also adapts to the high water by securing pallets to the docks and launch area, so no one must get their feet wet. It’s all business as usual, high water or not.

Boat captains volunteer to participate in this fun day year after year, helping to provide a memorable experience for all involved. At the same time, they are working to promote the lake and their businesses, often leading to more work down the road.

Fishing-wise, the lake is off to another great start this year, despite the high water. After coming off back-to-back record-catch rates for salmon in 2017 and 2018, that’s saying a lot. Now we just need to let everyone know that the lake is still open for business.

Answering the timeless question: What lure

should I use on this lake?

By the Outdoors News Site Staff

When it comes to buying fishing tackle the choices are limitless. Today’s angler has access to thousands of brands, varieties, colors, techniques, and more. To add to the clutter, there’s an expanding lineup of retail outlets and websites, not to mention traditional bait shops where you can spend your money on a wide variety of tackle. Are there almost too many options at a modern angler’s fingertips?

No way. Options are a good thing, and the majority of tackle in 2019 is well made, albeit more and more specialized. The missing ingredient, then, is guidance. Information is everywhere today, but finding quality facts and data for specific situations are in shorter supply.

For example, you’re planning an early season walleye trip to Pelican Lake in Wisconsin. You expect to encounter some murky water. What lure/line combination should you use to catch a limit of walleye?

What if you’re fishing for smallmouth on Lake St. Claire in late summer? Ice fishing on Mille Lacs in late February?

These are questions that mega retailers, fishing websites, or even your local bait shop rarely can answer.

Omnia Fishing Co-Founder & CEO Matt Johnson consults with partner and BASS Elite Angler Seth Feider to fine tune the algorithm that connects anglers with the right tackle choices for any body of water.

But new anglers, seasoned fishermen, and even pros are discovering the answers to questions like these with Omnia Fishing, a retail website that uses mapping, weather, environmental, and crowdsourced data to present recommended tackle for a specific lake or river. Omnia has even partnered with Pro Bass Angler, Seth Feider as a key consultant on how the algorithm is built to help refine your search for the ideal tackle choices.  Via Omnia Fishing, you can hone tackle purchase options specifically to any body of water.

“Omnia Fishing has a map of the country and every lake has a dot on it. You click and it’ll crowdsource information to give you an educated shopping list, “Feider said. “It’s a remarkable new resource, especially if you want to be competitive on a limited budget.”

The Omnia Fishing advantage becomes very clear when you’re heading to a new body of water away from the comfort of your “go-to” fishing hole. Instead of wasting time employing every lure in your tackle box until you get some action, Omnia gives you the power of supplying yourself with what’s working now before you even launch your boat.

“Sometimes it’s better to have an ample supply of proven winners than one of everything,” Feider said.

Omnia won’t tell you how or where to fish, but it can help you head to the water more confident in your tackle box every time out.

To learn more about Omnia Fishing go to http://www.omniafishing.com

Tube time

Why crayfish imitations make a hot go-to bait for walleye

Successful fishing is all about taking risks, but this was ridiculous. A few years ago, I was at Winnipeg’s Mid-Canada Boat Show, presenting seminars on stage at the “Hawg Trough,” a glass-sided tank stocked with several dozen walleye in the five- to 10-pound range. By the last afternoon of the event, the fish were frazzled and hugging the bottom, so as I was standing at the edge of the tank with my fishing rod in hand, I got a bright idea. I told the audience that if I didn’t catch five fish on my next five casts, I’d jump into the tank fully clothed. Talk about grabbing everyone’s attention.

In the end, you’ll never know if I was serious, because I made five casts and caught five fish. But the bait I used is what will truly surprise you—a tube jig. Yep, it was the same four-inch, soft-plastic crayfish imitation beloved by bass anglers. Now, I have to confess that calling my shot on stage was a carefully calculated risk. Truth be told, I rely on tube jigs throughout the open-water season to catch walleye, especially when I find them along the bottom.

The crayfish

Part of the reason walleye are the most sought-after fish in the country is they’re so adaptable, and their palate is anything but discriminating. That’s why so many pros say the best way to catch them is by tipping a jig with a natural or soft-plastic minnow, leech or nightcrawler. Well, it’s time to add crayfish to the list. In some areas, in fact, these freshwater lobsters should be the top choice.

Gord Pyzer

The author and a tube-tricked walleye

While often overlooked by anglers, crayfish have always been on the walleye’s menu. And these crustaceans are even more prevalent today as the invasive rusty crayfish moves into more lakes and rivers (see “Rust never sleeps” below). In my home waters of Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario, for example, there are now so many rusties crawling on the bottom it’s impossible to lay down a natural bait and not have it carried away by the aggressive invaders. Ditto in thousands of other waterways. The most obvious evidence of this is when you keep a few smaller walleye for shorelunch in your livewell. They’ll expel so many partially digested crawfish—from both ends—that you’ll smell them.

The tackle

Another nice thing about fishing for crayfish-consuming walleye is that the set-up is so simple. I fish with the same rig I use for bass: a 6' 8" medium-heavy spinning rod paired with a 3000 series spinning reel spooled with eight- to 10-pound gel-spun line. And I tip that with a five-foot leader of eight-pound monofilament because I like the little bit of stretch it provides.

1The techniques

When I mark a school of walleye lying tight to the bottom, I’ll engage the Spot-Lock feature on my Minn Kota trolling motor and hold a half-cast away from the fish. Then I'll fire out a brown or green-pumpkin tube on a 3/16- to 3/8-ounce jighead (above), depending on the depth. When fishing for smallies, I’ll pop the tube. But for walleye, I’ll work it much more subtly—inching it along with a few subtle skips is all it takes to catch the attention of a lobster-loving walleye.

When I find the fish spread out along the bottom, on the other hand, I’ll make a long cast behind the boat, feed out another half-cast length of line, and drift or use the trolling motor to drag the bait. Give it a try this summer. And when you find an aggressive pod of walleye, bet your friends you’re going to catch five fish on your next five casts. If it’s a hot, sunny, calm day, there’s no way you can lose.


Catch Gord Pyzer on the Outdoor Journal Radio Show on the Fan 590. See www.odjradio.com for times.


Minnesota Sea Grant

Rust never sleeps

Native to the Ohio River Basin, invasive rusty crayfish first appeared in Ontario’s Kawartha Lakes in the early 1960s, and have since steadily spread north, east and west. Because they’re so aggressive and large, with bodies measuring up to roughly five inches in length, they outcompete native crayfish for food and are better able to avoid predation. They also eat large quantities of aquatic vegetation, reducing spawning and nursery habitat for native fish. In Ontario, the overland transport of any species of crayfish, either alive or dead, is now prohibited.

Debunking the "summer doldrums" myth

Bass, walleye, northern pike and other fish actually enjoy the stifling heat and humidity

By Gordy Pyzer

It is early in the morning as I write this, and the sweat is already running down my back, soaking my T-shirt and dripping off the end of my nose. And get this, the forecast for Kenora this afternoon is predicting a Humidex reading of 104°F. It's the same thing, or worse, across much of the country. 

So, we're well into the dog days of summer, right? When the fishing gets brutally tough, right? Well, no, that isn't right. 

Fact of the matter is, there's nothing the bass, walleye, northern pike, muskellunge, yellow perch and black crappies enjoy more than the stifling heat and humidity that's blanketing the country. 

Oh, for sure, the conditions make fishing a challenge for the angler, who needs to wear light, sun-smart clothing, slather on the sunscreen, don a wide brimmed hat and stay well hydrated. But the weather is nothing but a bundle of joy for the fish. 

Think about it: largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are members of the sunfish family and relish bathtub temperatures. They shivered away the winter, lying on the bottom of the lake, for many of the past months, surviving like bears in a state of torpor. In fact, a significant percentage of the population perished under the ice, especially those individuals that failed to build up sufficient energy reserves last fall.

It's the same thing with the walleyes, muskies and most of the other warm- and cool-water species. Life simply couldn't be better than it is right now. 

If this is the case, however, why do so many of us think that the fishing is the pits, and refer to the period as the summer doldrums? Ironically, it's because the fish have moved to the summer cottage and most of us, quite simply, have failed to come along for the ride. 

Another important reason is that the fish have so many different choices of where to eat and what to dine on, that it can be a chore for some anglers to sort through the various options. Think about the angler who says, "But I caught them here a month or two ago using a #5 Mepps spinner." 

Hello, that was in the spring—it's summer now! 


Let's take walleyes as the perfect case in point, because they are eating as much as five percent of their body weight every single day. My grandson Liam and I were out the other day fishing for smallmouth, and just before noon we decided to enjoy a walleye shorelunch. I know, it's a tough job but someone has to do it. 

Anyway, Liam dropped me off on shore and I started to collect some driftwood for the fire and fashion a crude rock circle on which to lay the frying pan. But before I could strike the match to get the fish feast underway, he was flipping walleyes into the boat left, right and centre. They were gorging so intensively on the mayflies that were hatching in the shallow warm water that he wasn't even using live bait. Instead, he was skewering small soft plastic minnow imitations onto his ReelBait Flasher jig. 

That same afternoon, however, a buddy who loves pulling crankbaits for suspended walleyes out on the main lake was catching much bigger fish as fast—or faster—than Liam.  And my young friend, Hudson Kyte (below), who lives almost 2,000 kilometres away in southern Ontario sent me an email image of a beautiful walleye, and his personal best, which he had just caught casting tube jigs.


Outdoor Canada reader, Hudson Kyte caught his personal best walleye recently casting a tube jig for smallmouth. As I have mentioned in the past, tubes are one of the most overlooked walleye options in the summer. 

Understand what I am saying: Liam was sitting over top of a school of mayfly-gorging walleyes in 6 or 7 feet of water, catching them on a jig. Buddy was catching them 20-feet under the surface, trolling a slender Rapala Tail Dancer over much deeper structures.  And Hudson was fishing somewhere in between those depths using a bass-style tube jig.

I am just as certain, as well, that other walleye anglers were catching fish in vastly different ways, including slip bobber rigs, Jigging Raps and swimbaits, and in a variety of water depths. 

It points to the fact that in the summer, when the fish have so many different options at their disposal, that you need to be more mobile than almost any other time of the year. It's also the reason why so many of us keep half a dozen or more rods rigged with different lure choices and bait options. If you try to force feed them with one presentation, they may not like what you're offering. 

Indeed, our philosophy has always been to: "Fish 'em fast, fish 'em slow! Fish 'em high, fish 'em low." But it is especially true in the dog days of summer, if you want to debunk the doldrums myth.

Now, I have to go change my T-shirt and get a cold drink of water.

Reconsidering Northerns

Think pike are pesky? Here’s how to tackle the trophies throughout the open-water season

1Mike Hungle

The moment I set the hook, my drag started singing. The next few minutes were a real treat as the giant northern pike hugged bottom and veered off to the right, then busted hard left. Three times I got the beast to the surface before it again peeled off line and headed back to the bottom, each time making my heart pump harder. Finally, my buddy netted the huge northern, ending the epic fight. I often hear anglers complaining about catching pike, but I sure didn’t—and I was proud to let the fish go to fight another day.

Pike are aggressive predators living at the top of their aquatic food chain, a trait that often gets small and mid-size northerns into trouble with walleye, perch and trout anglers using light tackle. When lines get tangled and lures are stolen, too many anglers overlook the fun of the fight and get frustrated; some even handle the fish roughly or purposely injure or kill them. But these feisty little predators have the potential to become trophies—if only every angler could see them for the great gamefish they are. And the best way to appreciate pike is to go after the big ones.

For targeting large northerns, the perfect set-up is a medium-heavy to heavy-action six-and-a-half- to seven-foot rod, with either a spinning or baitcasting reel spooled with 15- to 20-pound monofilament. Wire leaders are a must—I prefer a 12-inch, 20-pound wire leader with a quality cross-lock snap. When it comes to baits, pike are so aggressive they’ll fall prey to a variety of presentations; large, loud or flashy lures that create commotion are the go-to choice for many anglers. I like a more refined approach, however, matching my presentations to the time of year.

Mike Hungle


In the early spring, pike of all sizes can be found in shallow-water places, such as bays. Search weedy areas, near cattails and along rocky shorelines facing south, where the water is the warmest after ice-out. During this time, the fish are recovering from spawning and they’ll either be lounging or feeding heavily on all the aquatic creatures that come to life as the water temperature rises. The big pike will also be feeding on smaller northerns.

At this time of the year, fan-casting the shallows can be very productive, either from shore or from a boat. Some of the best baits for this are large, three- to five-inch spoons. Good choices include Len Thompson’s Yellow & Red (a.k.a. Five of Diamonds), PK Flutter Fish in silver or brass (below), Mepps’ Syclops and Luhr-Jensen’s Krocodile. If big pike are following the spoons and not biting, periodically stop reeling and let the bait flutter downward. After a short pause, start reeling again. The fish will often hit on the drop, so be ready to set the hook.1

Lead-head jigs with large, soft-plastic paddletail swimbaits are also a good choice for early-season casting. My two favourites are the five-inch Doc’s Dipper in plain sexy (blue, green and pearl) and the six-inch Elite Sow Belly Swimmer in pearl, both from Tightlines UV. While smaller fish will often inhale a soft-plastic as it’s being retrieved at a constant speed, I find the bigger fish are more inclined to hit when it’s twitched and hopped along the bottom.

Another good spring casting bait is a size 12 or 14 Rapala Husky Jerk, which dives on the retrieve and suspends on the pause. I think the pause mimics a minnow stopping to assess danger, and that’s when a big northern will often strike.


Bonus tip: Tools for teeth

Part of showing respect for pike is releasing them quickly and safely, which requires a few tools. Instead of grabbing the big fish by the back of the head with a pair of rough gripper gloves, use a large, tangle-free rubber hoop net. For really big fish, a cradle is even better. With their long snouts, pike often deeply inhale lures, so it’s important to have a jaw spreader at the ready to prop that big mouth open and remove your bait. And to grab those baits, you’ll need a good pair of long, sturdy pliers. My favourites are Cabela’s 11-inch needle-nose pliers and Cuda’s nine-inch stainless steel pistol-grip pliers (above).