By Steve Weisman
For the fourth time in the past three weeks, I found myself heading to West Okoboji last weekend with my son Curt. This time we took my 13-year-old grandson, Hunter with us. It was the first opportunity for him to get away and fish since Memorial Weekend. With traveling team baseball, there had been no opportunity to do so.
So, the night before Curt texted me with the question: “Should we take Hunter to West tomorrow morning to catch gills?” I couldn’t resist the invitation.
As we had the three previous times, Curt settled the Skeeter into a nice spot in 18 feet of water along the weedline on the north end. Using Shuck’s Jigger Minnows (orange/chartreuse and green/gold), we found the bluegills and yellow bass right away.
We found the bluegills hitting the Jigger Minnow just after we let it fall to the bottom and then twitched it up only a few inches. For the yellow bass, it didn’t seem to matter. They were anywhere from a foot to two feet off the bottom. When the yellows moved in, it was non-stop action. Sometimes we grew tired of catching them and moved a little ways to get away from them. In addition, Curt threw out a slip bobber rig tipped with a leech, which caught several largemouth bass and a keeper walleye.
We left nearly four hours later with nice bunch of bluegills and yellow bass (20) and a 15-inch walleye. There is no doubt that we could have kept three times that man, but we sorted and just kept the bigger fish. The real fun for me came from watching Hunter catch a bunch of fish.
At this point, we continue to find the best fishing in the 18-20 foot range along the weeds. However, it took us several moves until we found our spot. If you are going to try this, unless you already have a spot selected, you will probably have to do the same.
On this last trip, I did notice a typical change in my son’s attitude. He was a little bit testy, cranky you might say. Boat waves bothered him; getting caught in the weeds bothered him…his patience was pretty much gone. Every year for the past 25 years, this change has occurred at just about the same time of the year…the end of July.
No matter how good the fishing is or how much fun he “should be having,” he gets cranky. The reason?
He’s ready for hunting season. I’m serious. The closer hunting season comes, the more impatient he gets with all of his other hobbies. He’s ready for hunting season, and I guess in some respects I am ready for the fall season to begin, too.
The best part is the September 1 dove season opens up the hunting opportunities earlier than ever. I visited with Greg Drees, the former chair of the Natural Resource Commission, last week and we talked about the anticipation he has for the upcoming dove season, which the commission approved three years ago during his final year on the commission. He said, “I am really glad it happened during my tenure on the commission. It is historic for Iowa hunters. Instead of Iowans heading to neighboring states to hunt doves, they can now stay right here in Iowa. It also has a positive impact on the state’s economy, because these hunters are now spending their money here instead of other states.”
Like many other hunters, Drees finds northwest Iowa to also be a good dove hunting area and finds the early September dove season a perfect warm-up for the waterfowl and upland game seasons.
According to Todd Bogenschutz, DNR Upland Wildlife Research Biologist, “We are seeing more hunters taking to the sport each year. It’s a new sport, and as people become more familiar with dove hunting, we should continue to see an increase in hunter numbers.”
Then, of course, we will be watching with anticipation when the central flyway ends its annual meetings and releases the upcoming waterfowl regulations. Breeding populations are up, so I am really hoping for both a liberal season and bag limit.
We waterfowl hunters are hoping, as are the farmers, for some timely rains. Sloughs currently hold good water, but we all know after last summer what hot and dry August and September conditions can mean!
With county fairs already opening throughout the area, there is already a hint of fall in the air. Yes!