I have been threatening to take Savannah camping for two years now, we finally made it happen. We made it to our campsite, a semi-remote lake in Paul Bunyan State Forest in the early afternoon, and had the boat launched by two. I have been to this lake before, and I consider the fishing on this lake to be fair, with good numbers of largemouth prowling deep weedlines. The scenery is what really gets me coming to the lake to this lake, there are no cabins on the lake, the only residents are a nest full of screeching ospreys and a pair of loons. We managed a half dozen or so largies, and Savannah had fun at the access, alternating between feeding and catching the bluegills residing there.
Our plans for a campfire were ruined by a small, but very violent thunderstorm that moved in and dumped about two inches of rain in 15 minutes. The tent shook, partly caved in from wind, and started to leak! Remember, Savannah had never been camping before. She was pretty scared, but she hung in there OK. Even though it was probably the worst weather I’ve ever experienced while camping, we managed to come out of the ordeal unscathed, with just a few damp things, and were treated to a rainbow as a reward for putting up with the storm.
The next day found us doing some lake hopping. The first lake we tried was not giving up much, just a few small bass and sunfish, so we put it back on the trailer. I called my friend Dan Craven for advice as to where we could find some good panfish. Dan has fished and guided in the area for many years, and is truly an authority on the waters around here. On his suggestion, I headed south to a lake I was not aware of, and once on the lake I easily found the small point of cabbage weeds Dan had described. Savannah and I were both rigged up with small jigs, mine had been in the water for about two seconds before my light spinning rod was doubled over. The fish felt heavy, and when the line started doing circles, I knew we were into the gills. This one turned out to be the biggest at around 9″, but we had no problem catching all we needed for a shore lunch, and releasing many more. We also caught one rogue 12″ crappie and a bunch of small bass, all while anchored on one weed point in about an hour. I can’t wait to go back!
We left the lake and pulled into a picnic area/park in a small town, Savannah made friends with some local girls while I cleaned and fried our mess of fish. It’s pretty hard to beat a meal of fresh panfish and we [mostly me!] ate them all. Then it was down the road to Dan’s house, he had offered to take us out fishing for the night. In the years I have known Dan, most of our outings have been muskie oriented, but tonight I just wanted to get my girl into some fish. Dan made a suggestion that seemed usual, it involved trolling the cabbage on a nearby lake for a variety of fish. The trolling technique did not make sense to me when he described it, in fact I couldn’t imagine how it could work. One thing I do know though, when in doubt, do what the guide wants to do! I won’t go into the details, but it involves trolling a spinner rig with a plastic grub. Dan insisted it was a surefire way to catch a variety of species, and was easy for anyone to catch fish doing this. Everything Dan said was true, Savannah had five fish in the boat before I had caught one, including her first walleye ever. By the time the evening was done we had boated four walleyes, two pike, three big crappies, several largemouth, and a bunch of big bluegills, rock bass and perch. We also lost several fish in the cabbage that were likely walleyes. I would not have guessed we’d have that much action on walleyes in less than 10 feet of water, with no bait, in July! I know trolling spinners in the weeds is a long ways from how I usually fish, but having a great guide like Dan put us right on the fish immediately, well I guess it was nice to have a break from running the boat, all we had to do was bring in the fish. And I always try to be open to new fishing techniques, you can be sure I will be trying this method out on local waters very soon.