Most important thing is that you can't catch fish unless you have baits in the water. Seriously you can't expect to find the fish and figure out the presentation by going out for an hour then giving up. Some times it happens but not often.
If you're not catching fish try something different, different presentation, different depth, different bait.
When going out to fish have a plan with different people using different baits and different depths then when you find what is working you can all start doing the same thing and start catching fish.
Finally and most important when at camp put a leach on a slip bobber with a leach or worm set at about 10 feet deep and toss in 10 to 15 foot of water. Make sure your rod is secure so it doesn't get dragged into the water.
Also don't forget to take toilet paper!!
mastertangler: "One last thought...........A big part of fishing (as per what Scat stated) is confidence and even more initially important is belief. Try and not to continually reenforce the belief that you "are a terrible fisherman". If you continue to vocalize that belief it will become self fulfilling. You will soon get discouraged and merely confirm what you already hold as true. Discouragement often leads to failure and giving up.
I'll add to that.
When I 'm not catching fish I don't think "well I'm not a good fisherman" but rather "I'm a good fisherman, why am I not catching anything".
leafwiper: ".... If pressed, I'd probably lean away from northern as I recall them being harder to eat with all the little bones. "
You can cut 5 boneless fillets off of a northern - you just have to do it differently than a wallet or most other fish. There's a lot of YouTube videos on how to do it (and several other methods), but the 5 cut method has worked well for me.
Northern 5 cut fillet method
Everyone here gives such good advice. Here is what I have fun with...and it works for people that have never put a line in or say they fish...it gets them hooked & excited to fish some more. Top water baits. Target: northern pike, small mouth & large mouth bass.
This rig is so much fun...I have a few colors. This one with the red flecks, white, black & a few different greens from light to dark.
I've used it all over the BW & caught big bass & northern pike like crazy. It's great in the weeds & easy to use from the shoreline. One time on Iron Lake, first cast, a big bass hit the white one so hard it was like an explosion, the whole body popped off the hook. I reeled that big boy in, got in the canoe & paddled over to where the body was floating (easy to see). Popped that frog body back on the hook & continued fishing with it for the rest of the trip. So much fun.
I also recommend hula poppers, another top water lure..bloop bloop bloop..bam!
Basspro69: "A quarter ounce jig head with a 3 inch powerbait twister. Trolling an original floating rapala. Try a mepps spinner number 3 silver. Use 3 or 4 inch swimbait I prefer Berkley swim shad. These are all baits that can be super easy to use just cast out and reel them back in and they also can be as skilled a bait as there is out there once you gain knowledge and expertise, just use these baits and you will become a better fisherman."
Great advice Brad, I will add a slip bobber and a leech. With the original floating Rapala just troll behind the canoe next to shore in about 12 feet of water. With these lures you will be reeling them in.
leafwiper: "That sounds doable. What's the best way to judge the depth of the water out there? I guess I can use my map to get me in the ballpark but wasn't sure if there was a better way. "
Take some paracord, tie a sinker or other weight to one end, then tie a knot in the paracord every three feet. Drop the weight to the bottom, retrieve it and you'll see how deep you are.
All the above advice is good, I'd also concentrate on fishing from 30 minutes before sunrise through early morning, and 60 minutes before sunset and continue in the dark if practical. Take a nap, paddle or explore in the middle of the day.
Be safe, have fun.
One last thought...........A big part of fishing (as per what Scat stated) is confidence and even more initially important is belief. Try and not to continually reenforce the belief that you "are a terrible fisherman". If you continue to vocalize that belief it will become self fulfilling. You will soon get discouraged and merely confirm what you already hold as true. Discouragement often leads to failure and giving up.
Rather let your self talk be, "i'm not as good as I want to be but I am going to get much better at this". Then smile, envision your success and enjoy the beautiful day.
You can apply this philosophy to almost anything BTW. Speaking positive words to problems or situations that you wish to improve upon is 1/2 the battle.
leafwiper: "Is there any thinking that goes into color choice of lures? Looking at Shad Raps for instance, there are like 30 color variants. "
Chartreuse and Orange are staple colors for most every type of bait (cranks, jigs, twister tails, etc.)
Can't go wrong.
Congratulations, you've made the first step.
Lots of good specific advice in here. Fishing topwater poppers is always fun, slip bobbers are a very reliable way to put fish in the boat.
The only specific advice I have is to wear polarized sunglasses with a copper/ amber or yellow lens.
If you are a terrible fisherman, here is some general advice to help you find success.
1. The 95/5 rule. 95% of the fish are in 5% of the water. Look around the lake for the 5% of the water that is different. If you have a lake that is all rocks, and a few weeds - fish those weeds! If you have a lake that is all weeds, and a few rocks - fish those rocks.
2. Work on making a pattern. "Patterning" fish is like playing clue. (Col. Mustard, in the library, with the candle stick). Every fish you catch (or don't) gives you a clue. After a day of fishing you should know, "smallmouth bass, on poppers, around big boulders". There are certain combinations that come up frequently (walleyes, on leach under a slip bobber, on the shaded side of a steep point) but they are not set in stone. Each lake is a puzzle, and it is your job to figure it out.
3. Focus on a few solid/ simple techniques. Pick a few from the suggestions above. One should be slow and finesse, one should cover water, and one should be casting to structure. (slip bobber/ troll diving rapala/ casting poppers or rapalas). Use the technique that best suits the place you are fishing. This speeds up the process found in #2. You are more likely to hit on a good pattern if the technique matches the habitat. Casting bobbers at down trees would probably work... but it is going to be much more frustrating than casting top waters to the same trees.
4. Be impatient. If you have fished in a place for an hour and not caught anything, move. Do you think your kids are going to sit in a canoe for one fish per hour? Being patient is possibly the #1 mistake poor fisherman make. Yes, kids need to be patient when fishing (5 minutes is an eternity to a child). But, you'll catch more by going to the fish, instead of waiting for them to come to you. If you limited your techniques to those listed in the replies, then you know the technique is solid. If it isn't working, it is probably your location, not the lure. And if you can't find a spot on the lake where fish will bite one of your three solid presentations? Go look for a water fall and come back when the trees cast long shadows.
If you can put those 4 things together (find the 5% water, pay attention to the patterns, keep the presentations simple, and keep moving) you will catch fish (eventually).
Hey, welcome to the site. Good name. You didn't happen to run out of TP on a trip once, did you?
Fishing is kind of a weird thing. A lot of it is confidence. Once you have success, you can build off that. I got a lot better after I fished with a guide a couple times. They knew where the fish were, and trust me, that is the most important thing. Catching them was the easy part, just do what you’ve been hearing all along on fishing shows, mags, whatever. The cool thing about it is, you get better the more you do it. To me, that is inherently righteous. Fish will bite. Like I said, the most important thing is knowing where they are. Figure that out and you are ninety per cent there. Best of luck. Don’t stress, have fun no matter how your day goes. Cheers.
Everybody has made good points and offered good ideas. The thing of it is, though, sometimes they don't bite. On our trip last year, we pulled out all the stops and tried everything. Between six of, we caught one bass and made fish tacos with one little hunk of fish in each. We usually manage at least one big fry every couple of days. Last year's mid-August trip was the poorest fishing I've had. I'm guessing you already know the lakes. Yup. Vista and area.
If I had it to do again, I'd portage over to Meads and give it a shot. Last year means nothing, though, so go get 'em!
I agree with Mastertangler...mostly.
I would use a Mimic Spinner, or something similar like a jig spinner and white 3" curly tail grub, but I would also have a 2nd pole rigged for a slip bobber. Changing between a slip set up and a casting set up is a PITA. If you use a 1/8 oz jighead (white) and a leech on your slip pole, you will know if your jig is on the bottom because the bobber will not stand straight up. So you can reel it in and adjust the stopper. The nice thing with the bobber set up, is your kids (you didn't mention ages, but I'm assuming under 10) will be able to "help" you by slowly reeling it in. While they are doing this, you can be casting with your other rod. You can help watch the bobber while you cast, because you will be fishing by feel rather than sight.
As mentioned above, a good rod and reel are important. The most important is the drag of the reel. You need a smooth drag. If you had a good rod and reel when you fished with your buddies, it may still be sufficient, but your line will certainly have to be replaced. If your rod/reel combo was a cheap unit 11 years ago, do yourself a favor and spend some money on decent combos before you go. Around $50 will get you a workable setup that should work well enough for a couple years. I've used the Abu Garcia® Silver Max™ Spinning Combo and was happy with it for the $45 I spent on it. If you plan on doing more fishing, I'd spend a bit more and get a good setup. I'm a fan of the Pflueger President spinning reel, and have several of them. They can usually be found for $50. You can buy the Pflueger President Combo from Cabela's right now on sale for $64. I've never used that rod, but I'm sure it would fit your purpose. You could always upgrade the rod at a later date.
Try and focus on one thing and do it well. Avoid spoons and spinners as they tend to spin your line and tangles make for frustrating fishing. The topwater bite is largely off in August IMO but some smaller fish can still be had on dark water lakes.
Live bait rules but is not always so effective at "finding"fish unless your adept at recognizing key areas. So no matter how well live bait catches fish if they cant see your bait they are not biting.
I would fish this lure and it alone. Covers all water depths, multi species, very attractive to walleye, snag resistant and easy to handle fish after a catch. Plus it trolls or casts equally well. Fish it on 10lb trilene XL and make certain you practice and test your knots. New line, put on correctly is a must. Go to a tackle shop which gets lots of business to insure fresh line. As per colors just experiment..........I am partial to gold blades and natural colors but anything can work if you put it in front of a hungry fish. Try and fish near the bottom........throw out, let it drift down until the line goes slack and reel in (oh, and hang on ;-)
Mimic minnow spin
The trick with fishing is to fish where the fish are........and that means food. No food, no fish. So try and find places which sustain a diverse biosphere of life. Smooth rock facings and steep plunging cliffs are poor places. Think weeds, think rocks of fist size with some bigger boulders thrown in. If you are wondering what the depth or make up of the bottom is like pay attention to the shoreline as it often mirrors whats underneath. Is it cliff like on shore? Probably the same below. Is it smooth rock facings on shore? Probably similar below. Focus particularly on points which extend out like long rocky fingers, gently dropping or flat banks which have rubble on shore or any place you see weeds.
Might be best to stick with the mimic minnow for a trip, fish it hard, move around a lot and get a feel of where fish like to be. Then perhaps next trip you could take in some leeches and make good use of them. Bring a bunch of the Mimic spins, they are cheap enough, make sure they are near the bottom. You can stop your retrieve and let them plummet back down to bottom occasionally. Good luck.
It may not be ideal for Pike and Walleye, but August is actually a great time for smallmouth. There's something about the hot months that seem to make smallmouth desperate and aggresive, eventhough they don't chase lures very far. My lure of choice is a white tube jig. A swimbait jig with a paddle tail is also an ideal search lure. Another tip is live bait fished under a "slip float" once you find them. Live bait is necessary for me to have a shot at walleye too. I bring an aerated baitwell for minnows, as well as leaches and nightcrawlers. Fish will be deeper that time of year. Last time I was there in August we were finding smallmouth on the top of sunken humps in 20-25 feet of water, and on steep ledges that dropped into infinity. A portable depth finder and a contour map is a must. Study the map ahead of time and highlight key areas then search for them with the depth finder. Look for sunken humps, points, rock piles, and nearby ledges. Rivers can hold fish year round too. Concentrate your efforts in the bends of rivers, current seams, and at the mouths. Smallmouth and walleye like a moderate current. Dawn and dusk can bring fish in shallower so don't waste those hours. Get up before dawn and fish until after dark. Take a nap mid day. Invest in some quality tackle if you haven't already. You don't have to spend a fortune but get a decent rod and reel and quality terminal tackle at least. Throw your clip on bobbers out and buy some quality balsa wood slip floats. Do some research about weather patterns and what they do to the fish's strike zone, and what's that means for what you need to catch them. Buy some fishing books and magazines and read them. You never stop learning. Being succesful at fishing takes a lot of work, preparation, dedication, patience, and stamina. You'll get back exactly what you put into it.
Awesome, thank you all so much for the advice. I've got some time so I will definitely educate myself based on you recommendations and perhaps even get a little practice before the trip. Thanks again.
A quarter ounce jig head with a 3 inch powerbait twister. Trolling an original floating rapala. Try a mepps spinner number 3 silver. Use 3 or 4 inch swimbait I prefer Berkley swim shad. These are all baits that can be super easy to use just cast out and reel them back in and they also can be as skilled a bait as there is out there once you gain knowledge and expertise, just use these baits and you will become a better fisherman.
icefishbaby: "I would suggest plugging shorelines with a top water bait. "
I couldn’t agree more. This is the most foolproof way to catch fish in the bwca. A topwater lure does not snag, you don’t have to anchor, and it’s pretty much impossible to fish it wrong. Half the time they smack it right after it hits the water. I have casted topwaters at rocky shorelines in the last two hours of daylight dozens of times up there and have never been skunked. If there is a downed tree in the water and it is more than 3 ft deep under it your odds of getting bit when casting at it are better than 50/50.
Slip bobbers and leeches will usually put more fish in the boat but the rigging and can be tricky and frustrating if you’ve never done it before. Do a google search and practice before your trip. It’s not hard once you get the hang of it and it pays off big. For that short of a trip your leeches will stay alive in a water bottle as long as you don’t roast them in the sun and change the water once a day. Probably would survive if you just left them in the bottle actually but why risk it.
better yet... bring along someone who is a severe fishaholic. These guys can be a fish magnet and can lead the kids to where the fish are.
Years ago I decided bwca was more trouble than it was worth hauling all that stuff in...now my wife and I are content to explore and look for wildlife....and buy a fish dinner
2 years ago I brought two former boy scouts with their wives who are in their late 30's. These guys could catch walleye under any conditions. We ate fish almost every night....had a couple teenage scouts along who gladly ate anything that came their way. They would have gotten to fish but we didn't realize they need SS card to get a license in Mn. ...my mistake
I gladly washed the dishes.
icefishbaby: "I would suggest plugging shorelines with a top water bait. I prefer prop baits Cast near shore, twitch in, pick up bass and occasional northern by accident. Most lakes have small mouths and very easy bait to work and use. The floating ones are easiest for beginners to use. If you can cast close to shore or structure, should catch fish. ... "
This is also a great suggestion. Topwater lures are very fun, effective, and easy to use. Here is a list of about 90 from cabelas. They all work pretty well.
leafwiper: "I'm not too particular about species of fish, It would be cool to catch something that we could eat but we won't starve if we don't. If pressed, I'd probably lean away from northern as I recall them being harder to eat with all the little bones. Live bait is an option for sure but Leeches are probably easier to care for than minnows or no? "
Leeches are definitely easier. Use the search button on the top of this page. You'll find several suggestions for keeping leeches alive.
Here is one thread: leeches
Learn how to use a slip bobber. That is my favorite and easiest way to catch fish.
Another great way is called the TGO method on this site. It is just a plain hook, maybe a single splitshot, and a leech. It is extremely easy and very effective:
I would suggest plugging shorelines with a top water bait. I prefer prop baits Cast near shore, twitch in, pick up bass and occasional northern by accident. Most lakes have small mouths and very easy bait to work and use. The floating ones are easiest for beginners to use. If you can cast close to shore or structure, should catch fish.
Otherwise, troll a spoon and something should bite, pike, lakers, bass, walleye-put in enough time.
Is there any thinking that goes into color choice of lures? Looking at Shad Raps for instance, there are like 30 color variants.
That sounds doable. What's the best way to judge the depth of the water out there? I guess I can use my map to get me in the ballpark but wasn't sure if there was a better way.
I'm not too particular about species of fish, It would be cool to catch something that we could eat but we won't starve if we don't. If pressed, I'd probably lean away from northern as I recall them being harder to eat with all the little bones. Live bait is an option for sure but Leeches are probably easier to care for than minnows or no?
When not using a fishfinder we'll usually drag bottom bouncer's around the areas that look like they have good structure on the map. Pay attention when you're doing this as a lot of times you'll be able to find good structure that's not marked. If we catch a few fish in an area we'll switch over to jigging on that structure. You can always troll around at different depths.
If the wind is blowing we like to throw QM's zulu rig off of points and work it with the wind around the point right where the water changes direction (think of it as baitfish washing up to a point in the wind). The zulus are our best producer. At night when the wind dies down we throw topwaters for bass.
If we find a weed bed we'll throw spoons and whatever else we're feeling around that looking for pike.
I'm far from an expert in fishing up north but this has produced pretty well on our trips.
Good point. I have not been in that part myself. But I would start at 6 to 12 foot of water for pike, raps and spoons work good. Eyes, I prefer to jig but could be really slow that time of year till you find them, so shad raps are good you can cover more area faster to locate where they are hanging out, 6 to 15 foot with big rocks or drop off to start looking. Smallies same as eyes, I tend to find them while looking for eyes. It's a way to start and adjust for what you find. I'm sure there's more people with better advise, but that's how I'd start with a new lake at that time of year.
Send me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org - and request the Grand Slam Lure article. This will at least give you some of the basic lures to use up there.
What questions do you have?
What are you fishing for or does that not matter?
When are you going?
Do you just want to use lures or is live bait an option?
Probably the simplest way to catch fish would be with a slip float (bobber), a split shot weight, a hook and some type of live bait, either a leEch or minnow.
August 10th. I'm sure I'm putting myself at a disadvantage there as I've heard fishing is better earlier in the season but being my wife and kid's first foray into the wilderness, I thought it better to err on the side of potentially warmer weather/water and fewer bugs to insure they want to come back. ;)
When are you going in?
let's not mince words here – I'm a pretty terrible fisherman. As a kid, I used to fish all the time up at my grandparents cabin and in the boundary waters on our annual trip. I remember catching as much as the next kid at camp, but I had no idea what I was doing. I just took the pole that was handed to me and cast my line out as far as I could before slowly reeling it back in. My Grandpa or Uncle or someone would select the proper bait and if the fish were hungry, we'd do alright.
I was thinking back the other day and realized, I have NEVER caught a fish of my own accord. Once my family stopped going to the BWCA, I started tripping with friends instead, and I know for certain I was skunked on each and every trip. I know this to be true because our deal was that whoever failed to catch anything would have to gut the ones the others caught. You don't forget having to clean everyone's fish three years in a row. Even ocean fishing on my honeymoon, some stranger baited my hook and took me to the spot and I just dropped it to the bottom and brought it back up.
After a few years of camping with my buddies, my wife and I moved to Chicago and I haven't dropped a line again since. We spent 11 years in Chicago and just recently moved back to Minnesota. I have the itch though and I'm planning my family's first trip this summer to the BWCA, and my first trip in 20 years. I know pretty much everything a guy needs to survive out there, I can paddle and set up tarps and make fires and all that, but geez if I could only catch something, it would be neat-o.
I'm hoping someone out there can help me. What advice would you give a guy like me? I know there's no magic combination or idiot-proof setup, but without any advice, I'm sure to be throwing the wrong lure into the wrong places the whole trip.
If it helps, we're doing a short trip (3-days / 2-nights) just to be sure the wife and kids will be down for it before I drag them on a longer adventure. I have a permit for EP 47 and we hope to fins a site on Vista to basecamp and explore.
Any thoughts on what tackle to take and how/where to use it would be greatly appreciated.