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Explore Minnesota fishing report: Fall patterns emerge across the state as water temperatures drop

Fishing should continually improve until the lakes begin to freeze over. Walleye anglers report that minnows, especially shiners, are now producing the most fish.

Lakeroad Lodge_090319.jpg
Anglers are enjoying good early fall walleye and sauger action on Lake of the Woods, and more fish also are beginning to move into the Rainy River. (Photo/ Lakeroad Lodge courtesy of Lake of the Woods Tourism)

Here is Explore Minnesota’s weekly fishing report for Friday, Sept. 13:

Fall fishing patterns have taken hold as overnight temperatures turn cool and daylight hours dwindle. The upside is that fishing should continually improve until the lakes begin to freeze over. Walleye anglers report that minnows, especially shiners, are now producing the most fish.

Baudette: Lake of the Woods and Rainy River

Anglers report great early fall walleye fishing on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Good numbers of walleye are coming from various areas along the south shore, with a big school reported in front of the Lighthouse Gap (mouth of Rainy River) in 28 to 30 feet of water. Areas with structure, such as Long Point, Rocky Point, Knight and Bridges, continue to hold fish as well. Emerald shiners are entering some of the bays, as well as the Rainy River. Anglers having success are trolling crankbaits, drifting spinners and crawlers, and anchored and jigging. Some live shiners are still available at local resorts and bait shops.

On the Rainy River, the emerald shiners are beginning their run into the river. There have been good reports of nice walleye coming from Four-Mile Bay and various parts of the river. Snelled spinners and jigging have been best in depths of 14 to 16 feet. Sturgeon anglers are reporting success in the deeper holes.


Up at the Northwest Angle and Islands Area, walleye fishing remains strong. The walleye are coming from various locations including the mud flats in Little Traverse Bay, the flats amongst islands and the funnel areas between islands. Jigging the structure and pulling spinners or crankbaits over the flats have been the most productive. Crappie and perch activity continues to pick up as well. Info: (800) 382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com .

International Falls: Rainy Lake and Rainy River

Cooler than normal temperatures and fairly wet weather have changed patterns for walleye in Rainy Lake. Anglers are still finding them around the submerged reefs, but also around island shorelines where the wind is driving baitfish toward shore. On the reefs, the fish are hanging in about 30 feet of water; on the shorelines, they can be found roughly 10 to 20 feet deep. Slowly trolling with live bait will help you determine the right depth and hot spots. Once fish are found, switch to a light jig and live bait. Popular areas are the humps and shorelines from Sand Bay east to Brule Narrows, but there’s also a good chance for action where the current picks up both above and below the Ranier Rapids. Bass are also generally active in these areas.

Crappies are starting to hit fairly consistently in the west end of Black Bay and up into the Rat Root River system. There are crappie cribs in Black Bay that are likely to be good fishing spots over the next couple of weeks.

Fall color also is developing. Some of the aspen stands are turning gold, and an occasional maple is showing off some bright red or orange leaves. Info: (800) 325-5766; www.rainylake.org.


Fishing continues to improve as water temperatures drop, with reports of reports of area lakes nearing the 60 degree mark. Expect fishing to really heat up once water temperatures drop below 60 degrees.

Walleye fishing on Leech Lake has been very good. The fish are stacking up on the structure, and anglers are taking good numbers when jigging rapalas and plastics, but especially when using a redtail or golden shiner. Pay attention to the wind direction. If it has been blowing for a day or two, particularly on Leech Lake, expect to take lots of shallow fish from the windblown structure when pitching jigs.

Muskie fishing remains very good. Fish are moving into shallow areas and the edges of the reed beds. For the most action, use bucktails and Bull Dawgs in these areas.

The smallmouth bass have been aggressive just off the first break, with anglers reporting lots of fast action when using swim jigs from the shallow flats down the edge. Larger boulders and weed edges can also collect fish that can be targeted with a drop shot or by bouncing a hair jig. Info: (800) 279-6932; www.hackensackchamber.com



The cooler mornings and shortened daytime hours have established fall patterns. On Lake Superior, lake trout, coho and a few king (chinook) salmon are still being caught by anglers trolling deeper waters offshore, with depths of more than 150 feet been most common. Anglers need to take notes on water temperatures and trolling speed, and once a pattern is determined, stick with it. Downriggers and long-lined copper/wire have been effective when used with spoons or dodger fly combos. Tipping flies with a smelt head (meat rig) has been a good tactic as well. Anglers fishing both the North Shore and South Shore are having success. The South Shore walleye bite has been slower this last week. Anglers fishing the streams continue to catch a few resident brown trout and brook trout. With the recent rainfall, water flow is high, so fishing has slowed down a bit.

There has been a decent bite during mid-morning hours on the St. Louis River. A variety of crankbaits have been producing fish, especially when trolled at the channel breaks, and at the flats near deeper channels. Muskie anglers are taking some fish when speed-trolling oversized baits on the lower sections of the river, or chucking large spinner rigs towards the shoreline up river.

Anglers continue to do well on the inland lakes. The reservoirs north of Duluth are giving up walleye to anglers slowly trolling 20-foot depths. Other anglers are catching fish when dragging live bait on lindy rigs over the mid-lake humps and near other structure. Panfish have been plentiful near the vegetation in and around 5 to 15 feet of water. The best bet is a float combination with worm chunks. Crappies are turning more active so be sure to bring along small hair jigs and/or plastics. Bass are hitting top-water baits such as poppers and buzzers. Northern pike are being taken by anglers shore-casting near the breaks and vegetation. Info: (800) 438-5884; www.visitduluth.com

Grand Rapids

The water temperatures are in the low 60s, and anglers report that fish are now into their fall fishing patterns. Walleye fishing continues to improve on area lakes. Deer, Splithand. Winnibigoshish, Cutfoot Sioux and Bowstring lakes are great destinations for fall walleye fishing. A jig and minnow is the presentation of choice, but trolling crankbaits late in the day and after dark can be a great option as well.

Muskie fishing has improved dramatically, with Double Girl bucktails attracting fish to the boat. Good choices to catch a fish of a lifetime are Moose, Deer, North Star and Little Winnibigoshish lakes, as well as the Blandin Reservoir.

Panfish continue to provide consistent action on many bodies of water. The fish have pulled away from shoreline locations and relocating to deeper, soft bottom areas. Small jigs tipped with minnows or a chunk of a night crawler will put fish in the boat. Info: www.visitgrandrapids.com

Brainerd area lakes

Some walleye are being taken on the edge of the weeds by anglers long-lining jigs with shiners. Other anglers are taking fish from the deeper structure on live bait rigs or snap-jigging rattling baits.

Large northern pike have moved into the shallows, where they are very active. Trolling muskie jerk baits and casting big spinner baits has been effective.


The bluegills have moved shallow, but the crappies have moved deeper. The bass are heading into the reeds and shallow weed flats. Info: (800) 450-7247; www.visitbrainerd.com

Lake Mille Lacs

Fishing is definitely heating up on Lake Mille Lacs. The smallmouth are very active in 8 to 14 feet of water on the shallow flats. The fish are super aggressive and they will often hit your lure more than once if you miss them on the first strike. Numerous presentations are working well, including #4 swim baits, stick baits, drop-shotting and tossing ned rigs and tubes. This bite will continue to improve as the bass gather in groups.

The northern pike bite has also been great. There have been a number of 40-plus inch pike reported on the north end, along with a report of a 56 inch muskie. Large sucker minnows are working well, but trolling is also turning fish. Depths of 8 to 14 feet are generally best, especially at the weeds. Info: (888) 350-2692; www.millelacs.com

Stillwater: St. Croix River

The walleye have been elusive on the St. Croix River, but the sturgeon, white bass and smallmouth bass are becoming more aggressive. Night fishing for flatheads has been good on calm nights.

Various species of fish are turning their attention to minnows instead of crawlers. Depths of 8 to 28 feet are turning fish, but shallow waters have been better than deep waters. Expect the walleye and sauger bite to pick up very soon. Info: (651) 351-1717; www.discoverstillwater.com

Southeast Bluff Country rivers and streams

As of Thursday, Sept. 12, rain had fallen off and on for several days, and rain was expected to continue through the morning of Friday, Sept. 13. Fisheries staff had been unable to monitor many of the streams so were unable to offer a forecast for weekend stream conditions.

There were reports of some great blue-winged olive hatches during the week. Pale yellow crane flies and some caddis were also observed.

Fly anglers are encouraged to check out Free Fly Tying Fridays at the National Trout Center in Preston.


For years, the MN DNR has maintained accessible fishing sites in Whitewater State Park, near the Lanesboro Hatchery on Duschee Creek, and at the Lanesboro Park and Dam. Online maps are available.

Before you go, check out the DNR’s Stream Flow Report for the most current conditions, as well as the "Area Highlights" section of the Lanesboro Area Fisheries web page for stream maps. Info: (800) 944-2670; www.lanesboro.com.

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