While small lakes may not offer big fish, they can be your best bet for a big catch. By June, many anglers begin concentrating on large reservoirs and natural lakes. Scattered throughout the upper Midwest are countless small lakes with limited fishing pressure. These smaller lakes can see increased usage by mid-summer, but in June many are absent of any boat traffic.
Besides limited fishing pressure in June, these smaller lakes also offer variety. Later in summer and fall, you may see only one or two fish species active on the lake, but in June, youíll find several different species all in the same area. Itís not uncommon to make five casts and catch five different fish species! So if you want action, this is the place to be. Itís also an excellent time to take the kids or anyone with limited experience.
Northern pike are common on most upper Midwestern Lakes. Big lakes may have lots of big pike, but fishing for them can be difficult - their window of activity is difficult to pattern. Believe it or not, some of the largest pike I have encountered in my 25 years of guiding have come from lakes under 200 acres. While big pike may not be abundant in smaller lakes, they are accessible. Smaller lakes may have less pike, but figuring them out is easier.
By early June, most lakes sprout fresh weeds. These weed beds are the main focal point for all species. With pike being the primary predator in the lake, they will search out the prime feeding areas. On smaller lakes, both predator and prey can all be found in only a few places on the lake. Later in summer, these same areas may only hold small pike as larger pike have moved to deeper water.
Tactics used for early season musky are also deadly on early season northern pike. Small bucktails and shallow running crankbaits are my personal preferences. In clear water, use a black bucktail with a small Indiana orange blade. The black-orange combination is very deadly when fishing fresh weeds. Rubber skirted bucktails and spinners with plastic trailers are also deadly. In stained water, orange blades are a good choice, but use orange or yellow bucktails or plastic bodies. These same bucktails will also catch big bass and an occasional big walleye.
Shallow running crankbaits will also catch a variety of species in weeds. They can either be retrieved slowly over the weed tops or twitched within the weeds. Try both presentations since one species may hit one presentation and another species might hit another. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass will aggressively hit this presentation. Use dark and natural colors in clear water and contrasting and bright colors in stained water. If bass are present try, fishing a salty sling rigged wacky style.
Walleye can also be an easy target in June. Having recovered from spawning, they are on the feed in the weeds. Weed walleyes are eager to chase both shallow and mid-running crankbaits. In fact, crankbaits may be more effective than live bait presentations. Since walleyes may be scattered in the weeds, a crankbait will allow you to cover water quickly looking for the active walleyes. If walleye action slows during the day, a jig and leech or slip bobber rig can be very effective. A Tin Man Jig rigged with plastics or a leech is almost always productive.
Watch for fish movements. Bass and walleye may be most active early and late in the day, while pike will be feeding during the day. Last year, we were fishing a small weed bed and made several trips to the spot. Each time we moved into the area we caught a different type of fish. On our first pass we caught walleye, the second pass smallmouth, and the third pass largemouth. Later in the day we caught northern pike and panfish. Believe me, this is a common occurrence in June on many northern lakes.
Quality panfish population can also be present in smaller lakes. Like northern pike, panfish will be concentrated and easy to locate in June. Later in summer, the large bluegill and crappie will either suspend or relate to deep weedlines. These deep fish are catchable, but locating them can take time and they will require precise presentations. Not only are panfish easy to locate in June, they will hit a variety of presentations.
So if you are looking for fast action and just want to catch fish, count on smaller lakes in June. You may not catch a trophy, but you will have lots of fun. Youíll evade the crowds, but the fish wonít evade you!
Wisconsin Fishing Guide, Author, and TV Host