As we pass through the heat of the summer months, we are hitting the peak of the warmup of the lake waters and corresponding weed growth. Big Mantrap Lake has its share of weeds this time of year and some of the target fish are still relating to the weed growth. While others have dispersed, you can find schools suspended over deeper water and lake structures.
For me, this is prime time for largemouth bass fishing and the excitement that comes with setting the hook and having one take you for a ride. It is not uncommon to see a stringer of 5-to-6-pound largemouths this time of year in one day and stay hot for multiple days, depending on stable weather patterns. We start to see the big largemouths migrating up deep into the lily pads and shallow water with cover, they are laying in wait for your bait to drop in sight. Key is to get the baits to the fish; either dropping jigs through the pads and working slowly back to you, or slow descending baits like Senko worms wacky rigged or with small nail weights can really get them going. As far as colors go, bold bright colors seem to be a good start, but do not be afraid to change it up if things slow down. When rigging the jigs, you may need to go weedless to stay off the lily pads and braided line helps pull it out if you get hung up. I like to add a soft plastic trailer as well. We see this pattern hold until around Labor Day weekend, usually when we get our first fall cold front which will push the fish out.
Northern pike are shifting patterns, they will move just a little deeper water, usually in the 12ft to 15ft range and still relate to weed beds. It seems that the more weeds the better and you can get through them and dig them out. Something with flash can always tempt these toothy critters as long as you can run it close to the top of the weed line, bladed jigs/chatter baits or spinnerbaits are always a good start. Traditionally you can troll decent sized sucker minnows with a large inline spinner rig and pull it through the weeds and get their attention. Many times, with this method you can mix in a Musky within a week’s time as a bonus fish.
Speaking of Muskies, our famous natives of Big Mantrap Lake that tease us with their presence. You can still find them during the heat of the summer but need to be cautious handling them because of the warm water conditions. If you get one hooked, keep it in the water as much as possible, it will keep it calm and make it easier to handle. Once you get it unhooked, get a quick picture and get it back into the water to release. We find good numbers of Muskies chasing and following schools of bait fish usually suspended over open water. Use your electronics to find these pods of bait fish, then look around them and you will see large marks. You can vertically jig various baits to lure them in and perhaps get a strike.
Lastly, let us hit the panfish topic. Long gone are the days of catching number of fish in shallow water, at least the larger fish that you can pick up right off the dock around Memorial Day. Just as I noted with the Musky fishing, this is the time to use your electronics and find the pods of fish suspended and sometimes relating to structure, mid-lake humps or drops. They are easy to see on your depth finder, and no need for fancy electronics to pick them up (just do not tell my wife). Our basic depth finders pick them up fine and make it easy to locate and track them. They will move when suspended over deeper water, you may need to stay mobile and chase the school around the basin. I still prefer jigs this time of year and perhaps tipping with a crappie minnow for some added incentive.
See you on the lake, and remember to practice catch and release to ensure our future generations can enjoy the wonderful fishing on Big Mantrap Lake.
Andrew – Mantrap Lodge