By Steve Weisman
While many anglers put all of their planning and efforts toward getting their boats out and fishing walleyes on the May opener, there are lots of options for those who want to fish from shore.
When the ice went out and water levels pretty low, I was worried about this fishing option. However, the recent rains and snows have brought the levels within a few inches of the Big Spirit spillway, thus raising the levels of our shore fishing options. With the temperatures finally hitting over 70 degrees for several days, water temperatures have risen. The result?
Fish have become more active in the shallows. The past weekend was outstanding for bluegill and crappie action in the area. Although there are other places to fish, let’s take a look at the top places to fish.
You can’t mention this lake without thinking about the Grade at the north end. With water warming, the entire stretch from west to east can be a good fishing area. However, where the water flows in from Loon Lake (the trap area) is always top producer. Lots of anglers will also fish the pier casting out into the area in front of the trap and also working the cement pilings. Bluegill and crappie are two of the most targeted fish, but any game fish can be taken in front of the trap. I’ve seen some really nice walleyes caught right there! Obviously, with the lily pads and other weeds, largemouth bass will also be around. If the water warms enough, look for catches of the famous big yellow bellies (bullheads). With water levels improving, the north side of the Grade can also be a good fishing option.
A second option is the Templar boat ramp, where the newly wood pier is located. Look to catch bluegills and crappies.
Two key areas exist with public access, while two key areas are only accessed through private property. The first is the Triboji boat ramp area. The docks in this circular area are publicly owned and privately maintained. The wood docks provide lots of structure for bluegill, crappie and largemouth bass. At times, the fish are also located across toward the island in the center of the circle.
The second public area is the south side of Turtle Lake (the small shallow lake located east of Crescent Beach). Many people fish in the circular area near the old supper club area, where parking areas are plentiful. Heading east along the south side, where the lake opens up are more areas to fish, but parking can be a problem when there are a lot of people fishing this area, because there are lots of No Parking signs and only a couple of areas at the east end where vehicles can be parked. Fish can be caught all along this south side from shore, and there are a few docks from which to fish. The north side contains quite a few docks, but they can only be accessed through private property, so having permission is needed. Once again, bluegill, crappie and largemouth bass are most common fish.
Two other areas are the Harbor on the northwest side of West Lake and Miller’s Bay canals on the west side of West Lake. They are both great areas with the Harbor producing lots of big crappies and Miller’s Bay canals producing both bluegill and crappie. However, you must get permission from the owner of one of these docks before you can fish there.
Fish like wood, and the Trestle located at the west end of East Okoboji, just across the road from Smith’s Bay on West Okoboji, is all wood! Expect to catch bluegill, crappie, yellow bass and some yellow perch. However, don’t be surprised if you catch largemouth bass, sheephead and even a walleye. Last weekend was packed with anglers all along the area, and the fishing was excellent. There are catwalk areas on both the north and south sides with lots of submerged cross braces and corner posts. Huge wood structures support the bike/walking path that goes across the area supporting the two arches where boats go through to West Okoboji and back into East Okoboji. Fish congregate along all of this wood. Each spring for a short time, the open water area along the Rescue Boat hoist on the south side can be alive with yellow bass.
What to use
Presentations are varied, and it seems the anglers that consistently fish these areas develop their own “special” strategy. Personally, I will use four-pound Berkley XL and a 6-foot ultralight combo. If depth is less than 4 feet, I will use a small egg bobber that will put the bait within six inches of the bottom. If I am working the wood right below me, I will often take off the bobber and straight-line.
For lures, I will go small with the smallest Rat Finke, a size 16 Diamond Jig, a Gill Pill, a size 14 Marmooska Tungsten Jig or a tiny black hair jig. Early on, I will tip the jig with a waxworm or a silver wiggler, and when the water temperature warms, I’ll go to a Red worm, often called Belgium or Trout worm. They are both lively and tough, not easily snapped off by a fish.
For the most part, the presentation is all about a subtle jiggle, jiggle, jiggle. A bobber makes it easier to detect the bite, while you have to feel the bite if you are straight-lining.
If you are going strictly for crappie, consider a tiny, lively minnow beneath a bobber.
Where to start? If you have been working these areas for a while, you already know where to go and what to use. If this will be your first time out, head to your favorite baitshop. Nothing worse than having a few hours to fish and no idea about the recent bite. They will have the baits you need and can also point you in the right direction.
While putting the pieces of the puzzle together and the catching are fun, nothing can beat a meal of fresh fish.