Algae blooms are a reality during the dog days of summer.
Unsightly and unpleasant, many anglers pack their bags once
the water warms up and turns green. The truth is however some
of the best fishing of the year takes place under such conditions.
Two patterns unfold for us each year during algae blooms and
both these patterns involve using crankbaits to catch some
of the biggest walleye we see each year. On Devils Lake were
we make our livings as guides, green scum on the water seems
to send fish into one extreme or the other. We either find
fish really deep or really shallow. Thatís right, scum on
the water will sometimes bring fish into a few feet of water
right in the middle of summer when the water is at its highest
temperature. Donít ask me the details as to why because this
goes against traditional thinking but a quick look along the
shoreline will reveal a rich assortment of everything from
young of the year baitfish to emerging leopard frogs. When
the water turns green, you really need to look shallow if
you are struggling to find fish. Now for the other extreme.
It is true that we find some exciting patterns in shallow
water during the heat of summer but most of the fish seem
to be relating to the basin of the lake. More specifically,
either the basin itself or the edge where the bottom composition
transitions from hard to soft. Either shallow or deep, crankbaits
are an excellent tool for eliminating water, triggering fish
and working your way through the slime.
||One mistake we see many anglers make whether they are
fishing shallow or deep is fishing too slow. These fish
seem to like speed, not to mention you will get a little
more kick out of a slimed up crank bait at higher speeds.
Pumping the rod, stops in the retrieve and the like still
trigger fish, just donít be afraid to work water fast
because a school of fish during this situation is often
aggressive and will let you know their location. These
fish seem to like a little heat on the lure and a faster
retrieve or trolling speed is often the most productive.
An average trolling speed might be 2.5 to 3 miles per
hour. Whether you are reeling or trolling to get the job
done, slime traveling down your line is going to foul
the action of your lure. A trick that works well for us
is to tie a knot above the lure to catch the slime or
even use a bobber stop ahead of the lure. You will need
something to run interference or you wonít spend much
time with your crank bait actually vibrating. Whether
trolling or casting, keeping the rod tips just under the
waterís surface can also help eliminate some of the algae
from collecting on the line. When there is no wind, the
algae might even form a floating crust on some lakes.
We have often found fish underneath this scum right in the
green water. In fact, wind, rain or anything else that would
clear the water would often destroy the pattern. We have often
noticed this shallow pattern coincided with the emergence
of leopard frogs or a strong population of baitfish that we
could physically see as we worked the shallow water. Emerging
dragon fly larvae would also hold fish in this shallow water
during the hottest days of summer. One of the best baits we
have found for casting into shallow water is a #5 Salmo Hornet.
The Hornet has a very hard distinct vibration that actually
shakes slime and weeds free. This bait also just seems to
out produce other lures during the warm water season.
||Another option might be a weedless jig like a Lindy
Veg-E-Jig with Gulp or Power Bait. Casting into the soup
is consuming because you are always cleaning your lure
and your line. The advantage of casting however is that
you get to see your lure pretty regularly so you become
more efficient, using a free vibrating lure most of the
time on each new cast. Trolling puts you at a disadvantage
because lures are more difficult to monitor back behind
the boat. Trolling accounts for more fish for us at this
time of the year than any other presentation. Most of
the time, we are trolling in at least twenty feet of water
and we are somehow relating to the basin of the lake.
We often combine flat lines and lead core. Often, we will
run some larger, hard vibrating baits right below the
boat on Fireline. Some productive baits in the past have
a hard vibration combined with a back and forth tracking
Lures like Storm Hot n Tots and Reef Runners have been classic
producers in the past. A new bait that is turning heads right
now is the 8 SDR Salmo Bullhead. If you like the Reef Runner
when they are tuned, you will love the Bullhead. Lead core
is often run out the back and we usually use a Fireline leader
to detect when our lures are fouled. On the leadcore, a #5
or #4 Salmo Hornet will usually out fish any other crankbait.
The lure has a distinct action that can easily be felt through
the leadcore, making you much more efficient. You will not
catch anything if you are dragging slime above the bill of
the bait or fouling hooks. Trolling enables you to break down
large parts of the lake. Donít be afraid to troll at speeds
of three miles per hour or even faster. The more turned off
the fish are, the more of a narrower window you have for crankbait
placement. For example, if fish are really tight to an edge,
you are going to have to pay close attention to your GPS and
sonar. When water clarity becomes and issue or if fish just
arenít rising up off the bottom, the level at which you are
running your baits becomes more and more important. When the
fish are snapping hot, you can just make more sloppy mistakes.
Summer might be winding down for many anglers but the walleye
fishing might just be red hot during a period of time when
many anglers stay at home. Use crankbaits either deep or shallow
and fish them fast to put walleye in your boat during the
hottest days of summer.
Editors Note: The author, Jason Mitchell heads Devils Lake,
North Dakotaís largest and most respected team of open water
fishing guides, Mitchellís Guide Service. Mitchellí Guide
Service can be reached by calling 701-662-6560 or on the web
at: www.fishdevilslake.net. Jason Mitchell is sponsored by
Yar-Craft Boats, Lindy Little Joe, Salmo USA, Vexilar, Valley
Fun Source of East Grand Forks, Woodland Resort, Pro-Pointer
Lake Maps, Berkley, Fenwick and Abu Garcia.