By Steve Weisman
The early teal season opener (Sept. 6-7) proved to be a success, according to Greg Harson, acting law enforcement supervisor for the DNR in northwest Iowa. “From all of the reports that I have received, there were a lot of hunters out and a lot of teal harvested. Most of the success came on the shallow water marshes and ponds that hunters could walk to.” Almost all of the teal were blue wing teal.
This past weekend, although the action was spottier, hunters also bagging teal as they filtered down with the brief cold snap.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season progresses. With each dip in temperatures, hunters can expect teal migrating through the area, either in advance of the cold push or as the cold front hits.
The weekend of Sept. 6-7 was the 26th annual Pocahontas Iowa Great Lakes Invitational Fishing Tournament (PIGLIFT) on the Iowa Great Lakes. A total of 25 entries (three anglers per boat) participated. I have had the fun, along with two of my friends-Bill Elling and John Amick, who is our Poky connection,-to participate in this tournament for 25 years.
Anglers can compete in two divisions: walleye and panfish (bluegill, perch, crappie). Over the years, our team has found our niche to be in the panfish division with most of the teams fishing Big Spirit Lake for walleyes.
The PIGLIFTers have become famous around here for their ability to boat lots of walleyes. They pull cranks, and they are good. So, this year I looked forward to seeing how things would go. Since mid-June the bite on Big Spirit has been really tough.
Well, this year was a tough one even for PIGLIFTers. Only four walleyes were weighed in on Saturday and five walleyes on Sunday. Two of those were over the slot with the largest being a 4.2-pound walleye. Teams did report a lot of 8-10 inch walleyes and a few slot fish. On Saturday, one team estimated catching around 40 of those little walleyes.
As I said, these anglers are good, so when they have trouble, a lot of us “recreational” crankbaiters will really struggle. The hope is as the weather cools, the bite will get better. For sure, the evening/night wader fishing should be good.
The panfish taken during Piglift came out of West Okoboji. Each team could bring their best 10 panfish to the scales. We ended up in second place behind Charlie Brown’s team. We brought in a 10-bluegill weight of 5.12 ounces on Saturday and 5.10 ounces on Sunday. However, Brown’s team weighed 5.13 on Saturday and 6.3 pounds on Sunday. They were nice fish with nothing shorter than 8 inches in length. However, it wasn’t easy fishing.
Our best luck came using a Shuck’s chartreuse green/gold Jigger Minnow tipped with a Belgium worm or leaf worm.
We had pre-fished Millers Bay and the southeast corner of the lake on Friday, so that we could have a pattern set up for Saturday and Sunday. Our strategy was this. I would motor slowly (5-10 mph) and watch my Humminbird for fish. We worked weedbeds in 15-18 foot of water and 22-26 foot of water and deeper adjacent humps in 30-35 foot of water. We did find that huge schools of fish turned out to be the little gills (4-6 inchers) and tiny, pesky green sunfish. So, we eliminated that after the first stop.
Instead, we looked for larger arches. Once we found them, I would mark them on the locator and then continue to work the area. Soon, we had eight icons in a 200-yard area.
We also had another area in the southeast corner of the lake, where we set up a series of icons that ran 15-18 foot of water along a quarter mile stretch of shoreline.
During pre-fishing, we sampled these spots to make sure the fish were there and then left them alone.
Then on Saturday and Sunday we had our spots and went right to the icons we wanted to try. I would hit the anchor on the I-Pilot and we would sit in that area. However, we also found that the schools were always moving, so we had to make the decision of sitting and waiting or searching and finding. Sitting meant a lot of dead time and sorting smaller fish as they came through, while moving meant the chance of getting more of the larger 9-inch gills.
I would guess that each day we switched spots every 5-10-15 minutes. Over seven hours of fishing that amounts-I would guess-to over 50 moves. Wow, am I glad I did not have to lift an anchor full of weeds each time!
We took most of our bluegills within a foot of the bottom with a few suspended. Presentation on the bottom was a drop, drop to pound the bottom…then raise the Jigger Minnow off the bottom a little and jiggle, jiggle, jiggle. We could always tell a big gill, because it was a thump instead of a peck, peck.
If we had been keeping fish for a meal, I would guess we would have brought home 50 or so 8 to 9+ inch gills each day. So, that is averaging around 7-8 keepers per hour with another 10-20 smaller fish each hour. Pretty good action, I would say. I truly believe that anglers will be able to catch nice bills for several weeks yet. Of course, you can go shallower and find lots of 7-8 and maybe even some 9-inch perch. Lots of them out there on West Okoboji!