By Steve Weisman
The dog days of summer…historically, for lots of anglers these words mean the end of walleye fishing until the cool fall days begin. For fishing guide and tournament angler Kevan Paul, the dog days of summer can still be days of good walleye fishing. “I agree that some lakes just seem to shut down, but there are also lakes where even during the heat of the summer you can have good walleye action.”
Paul’s recommendation right off the bat is this: know the body of water you will be fishing. What does the lake have to offer? “You have to know the water. I guide on both Clear Lake and the Iowa Great Lakes, and I also head to Lake Rathbun in the late summer. All three of these areas can have good walleye fishing in ‘the dog days of summer’.”
No matter the body of water, Paul notes the importance of understanding and trusting your electronics. “The new electronics are incredible with their definition and side scan abilities. With my Lowrance HDS 10, I can both down view and side view, so when I get to an area on the lake, I can explore the area first looking at the structure, weeds, baitfish…basically anything that will help me target walleyes.”
When it comes to a deep lake like West Okoboji with its deep weedlines and deep rock piles or Lake Rathbun with its windswept points and river channels, Paul uses his electronics to find the schools of baitfish or an area that Paul describes “as fishy.” He goes on to say, “Using the side scan, when I find these key areas, I will move the curser to that spot on the screen and mark it. Sometimes I’ll find and mark several spots, and then I have my trolling path. You know you are on to something, when you see larger arcs relating to this structure or right below or off to the side of the baitfish.”
When it comes to fishing suspended walleyes, Paul recounts several late August trips to Lake Rathbun. Each time temperatures were in the 90s, yet the walleyes were on the bite. “I think the fact that Rathbun is a reservoir that often has a lot of water moving into the system helps make the August bite good.”
The first time Paul fished Rathbun in August was several years ago. A fishing acquaintance had told him about the incredible August bite going on. “We fished late afternoon into the evening, working the high banks east of Ranger Point in 25-30 feet of water. First, we located the pods of baitfish and then took #5 Firetiger Shad Raps and let out between 100-120 feet of line and toll at speeds between 2.2 to 2.5 mph. “ Paul notes that if you want to increase the diving depth of the crankbaits by 2-3 feet, try using FireLine instead of monofilament.
On that very first trip to Rathbun, Paul says, “In two hours, we had three ‘eyes over eight pounds and multiples over four pounds.” Since that time, Paul has made several trips to Rathbun in August with similar results. “Two other key places to target are windswept points and the river channel.”
Paul finds trolling crankbaits such as the Shad Rap, Flicker Shad and Salmo as a great way to both cover ground and locate the active fish. Plus, they are the perfect size to go down 12-14 feet.
This lake offers all kinds of structure, weedline and depth opportunities. One major factor here is pleasure boat traffic in the summer. You want to be on the lake early at daybreak and off well before noon. Early evening and after dark will eliminate most of the boat traffic, and the walleyes will come up onto the shelves and shallower weedlines to feed.
According to Paul, West Okoboji is one of those waters where you can use all kinds of presentations, even during the month of August. “The deep weedlines will run in the 20 foot depth, and where there are weeds and openings, there are baitfish and predator fish. A slip bobber with a leech or even a crawler can lead to all kinds of surprises. Largemouth, smallmouth, bluegill, perch, northern pike and walleye will all be in the area, and you never know what you will catch.”
West Okoboji is known for its bluegill numbers and also now has a good population of perch, so pods of baitfish are relatively common. Once again, Paul uses the search mode with his side scan and sets up his trolling run using the same crankbaits he used for suspended fish on Rathbun. This is also a good place to use planer boards and run a spinner and nightcrawler rig through the suspended baitfish. Using blades that match the baitfish can lead to excellent results.
Clear Lake is a shallow basin lake, and although Paul pulls crankbaits, he very seldom finds the walleyes suspended. Instead, he finds they are usually hugging the bottom. “In August, I’ll fish before dawn through early morning. The cooler evening temperatures can change the water temperature a little, which can trigger the early morning bite.” However, Paul says not to forget about the evening bite. “Two summers ago we had great luck pulling #3-copper colored Colorado spinners and a 1-ounce bottom bouncer in 6-7 foot of water over Fisherman’s Reef.”
Yes, crankbaits are a go-to presentation because he can cover ground and they can be a great search tool. However, on Clear Lake, Paul will go to live bait over structure. “I still find that a big juicy nightcrawler on a spinner/nightcrawler harness to be my go-to bait in August.”
Yes, the dog days of summer are approaching, but don’t put the walleye rigs away. There’s some great fishing during that time of the year!