June in the Northwoods

By Steve Huber - June 1, 1999
June is a great time to be in northern Wisconsin, usually, the snow is gone and the weather is starting to stabilize. The water temperatures are in the low 60's and the fish are cruising the shallows...and by fish, I mean just about everything is in shallow. The crappies are spawning, so are the bass (both largemouth and smallmouth) and bluegills. The pike and muskies have already spawned, recovered and are cruising, actively hunting for baitfish. June is for sight fishing, so dust off the old Polaroids, make sure the trolling motor batteries are charged and follow me.

Pike Probably the most exciting fishing is bass on the beds. As long as you are cautious, both in your presentation and how you handle the fish, bed fishing is O.K. One thing to remember is artificials only now. If you use live bait, you'll run the risk of deep hooking the fish and killing it. Catch and careful release is vital this time of year. Enjoy the fishing, keep a trophy but remember, taking a bass from the beds now reduces your fishable population for the future.

Cruise the shallow, warm (62 to 64 degree) bays, looking for circular depressions (the beds) cleared on the bottom. This can be anywhere, from 1 foot of water up to 6 feet in clearer lakes. Then, scan the area carefully for bass, don't only look on the bed itself but in the area surrounding the bed. When you see a fish, cast beyond it to avoid spooking the bass and retrieve your lure past it. Twitch/crawl your bait onto the bed or past the fish, then watch for the lure to disappear, set the hook and HANG ON!!

One of the most productive methods to use is a light weedless jig (1/16th to 1/8th oz.) tipped with either a Berkeley PowerLizard or a small Reaper Tail. In my days before catch and release, I used to throw jig/crawler or jig/leech rigs at bedding bass. In shallow, clear water, I'd easily see a bass pick up a bait by the tail and gently remove it from the bed, depositing it several feet away. While exciting to watch, it was often frustrating in the ol' strike to catch ratio. In desperation, I threw everything in my meager tackle box at these bruisers. Crankbaits, spinners, surface baits, everything I had, in every color would get a passing glance but not the strike I wanted. It wasn't until I tried a plastic lizard on a jig that I had consistent success. Crawling a lizard into a bass' bedding area would draw a ferocious response...it would annihilate the darned thing!!!! The best thing, these fish were always lip hooked and easily released in good condition.

A great part of fishing this time of year is the fact that you never quite know what is going to hit. Recently, while trying a new lake, my friend Gil and I caught largemouth bass, northern pike, even perch and crappies. It's amazing how shallow some very large fish can be in and still not be seen. I overthrew a spinnerbait past a stump, into water that wasn't a foot deep, intending to "bump the stump" on the retrieve. I hadn't made two cranks of the reel handle when the lure just STOPPED! When it took off to one side I realized that I wasn't snagged and had a fish on (I'm quick that way), I proceeded to land a 33 1/2 inch, 9 pound plus northern! Talk about fairly exciting and nerve wracking...especially with all those stumps, trees and assorted fishy looking stuff to wrap up on. This particular day resulted in over 50 decent largemouth caught, one 20 « inch, 5 lb. 7 oz. beauty landed and a bass that looked to be over EIGHT POUNDS lost!!!

A great part of fishing this time of year is the fact that you never quite know what is going to hit!
Tackle for this type of fishing must be matched to the surroundings; light spinning gear (even ultra-light) can be used for fairly clear areas, the type that smallmouth bass spawn in. If you are going into the "junk" like I did the other day, you'd better have some heavy bass tackle and tough line (15-10 lb. hi abrasion resistance). The fight is going to be like two heavyweight sluggers, going toe to toe, so you have to be prepared. Junk fishing requires that when you set the hook, you set it HARD, turning the fish your way. Once you do that, do your darnedest to make sure that you keep him (or her) coming to the boat.

Try this method sometime soon; it's fun, exciting and most of all, it's easy. You don't need expensive locators or fancy boats; if you don't own a boat, you can wade after them. You just need Polaroid sunglasses, a handful of lures and some time on the water. Now get out there and FISH, the lawn will be there when you get home.

Until next time, see ya.

Author Steve Huber

Steve Huber
Steve Huber, an avid angler with over 35 years of experience (man, he's old) is one of the few multi-species guides in the Rhinelander area. He's been operating G & S Guide Service for 8 years now and loves to fish for Muskies, Northern Pike, Largemouth/Smallmouth Bass and the occasional Walleye (in no particular order). A person who loves to see others succeed, he's an educator while on the water and when he's not teaching you something, he'll regale you with tales of adventures and mis-adventures gleaned from his years on the water. If you liked this article, you can check out Steve's web site at http://www.herefishyfishy.com.