Tomorrow

Thank you to Dan Donarski for this guest blog piece on the opening of walleye and northern pike fishing season up in the Upper Peninsula!

Remember the old adage “Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday”? Well, tomorrow is going to be the today you’ve been hoping for since the 15th of March.

Tomorrow, the walleye and northern pike season opens in these parts – these parts being the U.P. of course. And with that opening come hoards of expectations. It’s just as it should be.

If indicators are correct, then Eastern U.P. area walleye waters like Waiska Bay, Baie de Wasi, Maxton Bay, and Munuscong should offer up some fine fishing. Water levels, while still down, are certainly manageable. Perch anglers out on Munuscong and the two bays are reporting more than a few walleyes finding their baits to the fishes’ liking. No, the lilacs aren’t blooming just yet but the ones in my backyard are sure showing signs of an early show of color. The weed growth on Munuscong is well ahead of last year. All very good things.

If there is one “downer” to the opener, and this happens year in and year out, it’s that the walleyes are widely scattered. It takes a good deal of weeds for the fish to congregate in these shallow places and we just don’t have that weed growth yet. The fish are going to be scattered.

Scattered fish mean one thing: you need to cover a fair amount of water in order to find them. One method that does this very well is trolling.

Trolling any time after early-to-mid June is a fool’s method with all the weeds grabbing a hold of your baits. Now, however, it is perfect.

You’re going to find two types of fish and what type you find is all dependent on the mood of the fish. On nice stable days the fish will be active. It’s your pick to the bait you use: a crawler harness or a trolled body bait. On days when the barometer is inching downward, the experts believe you should target the aggressive fish. Those mean ones that want to lash out. Rather than feed them you want to tick them off into chomping down on that thing in front of them.

One of the better baits for these aggressive fish is something like a Wiggle Wart or a Hot-N-Tot. Anything fat, short, and with a very tight wobble should do in the stained waters. The major vibrations call the aggressive fish in and hopefully they’ll hammer that thing.

Back to the nice days. Yup, those short and fat baits will still work, and you do troll them a bit faster than the next bait so you can cover more water, but there is one early season trolled bait that really shines when the fish are dumb and hungry.

That is where that magical mysterious crawler harness comes in. Troll them slow. Using the wind if it is just right, your trolling motor or your arms, just get the boat moving over likely water. Troll the crawler harnesses no more than foot off the bottom. Six inches is even better. Now just keep going.

Likely water includes changes in the bottom structure. Changes from gravel to sand or clay, or mud are a good bet. So is trolling by old weed beds and even better is if you can find some weed beds that are starting to show a good deal of green. These differences in the bottom or of the weeds represent an edge and walleyes like edges.

Now, keeping your crawler harness at the right depth will take some doing. A good rule of thumb is to get the boat to trolling speed and send the harness out on a free spool. When the harness hits bottom stop line from going out. After a few seconds do it again, stopping the line from going out when the harness hits bottom. And, after waiting five to 10 seconds do it all over again.

What this does is this– by letting out the line until it hits bottom you’re splitting differences. When you stop the line from going out the harness lifts off the bottom and climbs up. By doing this two or three times you are continuing to split the difference and getting ever closer to the bottom. And, the bottom is where the walleyes will be in these shallow waters.

There is another bait type that you should consider. If you are of the over 50 age you’ll remember one of the Godfathers of fishing shows, Virgil Ward. Well, ol’ Virgil had a favorite bait, so favored in fact that it took his name. That bait is the Virgil Ward Bass Buster Beetle Spin. Most shops carry the bait in simply the Beetle Spin name. In today’s world of gimmicks it’s nice to know that the old stuff still works well. Very well.

With a small blade on a piece of L-shaped wire that flashes above a jig head, which is dressed with a simple tandem tail plastic body, this “bass” bait, catches a heck of lot of walleyes. While I am not all that strong a believer in color making a difference in water that is heavily stained, I always put on a purple or black color to start. It rarely fails.

This is a bait that can be readily cast into likely areas but it can also be trolled very effectively. You’re going to want to get it close to the bottom, just like the harness. And, just like the harness, you can use the splitting the difference method to get it there.

Tomorrow I won’t be in the office. God willing and the weather doesn’t send a storm, you can bet I’ll be playing hooky. Some of you will, too.

Fresh walleyes are on the menu tomorrow night.

Dan Donarski is an award-winning journalist/photographer and author. He specializes in the outdoors and adventure travel. When he’s not out and about he lays his head in Sault Ste. Marie.