Angling in the Iowa Great Lakes offers diversity.
By Greg Drees
People are drawn to water magnetically, spiritually. Anglers are among the most ardent to seek lakes of fortune. They come from near and far to the waters of Okoboji, lured by the legend of the fisheries, which are healthy, diverse and full of mystery.
Some ply the waters in showy boats rigged with an arsenal of digital fish-finding gadgets. Others choose more elemental approaches in chest waders or from shorelines. Ice fishers, too, come in all shapes and sizes, from the fundamental to the sublime. But the quest is all the same: To be out there enjoying the resource, sharing and making friendships on the water and, truth be known, to catch that elusive trophy or put a fish or two in the creel for a special dinner.
Most anglers agree – from guides who are on the water daily, to the casual weekender – that the good ole’ days of fishing are NOW in the Iowa Great Lakes.
“What I’ m impressed with right now is the overall health of the fisheries in the Iowa Great Lakes” Grosvenor said. “We are putting numbers of fish in the boat that are hard to believe.
”Burns concurred, saying there is a bite going on somewhere all the time. “If I look at the overall picture in my 17 years of experience as a guide on these waters, I don’ t remember better times.”
Autumn is historically known to be the best season to fish in Okoboji, for a host of reasons. The weather can be the most beautiful of the year, boat traffic is minimal, the water is still relatively warm and the fish are putting on the feedbag for the winter. This all translates into some of the best fishing of the year.
“I shift gears in the fall, when most of my clients want to get in on the fantastic yellow perch bite,” Grosvenor said. “I can almost always put us on fish at this time of year, from as shallow as four feet in East Lake.” He likes to pitch tiny maribou jigs tipped with wigglers to active schools of perch.
The walleye bite usually heats up in the fall as well. “Right now there are a ton of slot fish out there (walleyes in the 17-22 inch range that must be immediately returned to the water), so if you like catching and releasing nice walleyes you can troll cranks in basins of East Lake or Big Spirit in the fall and have a blast,” Grosvenor said. “Spinner rigs in those same areas can produce as well.”
Burns has found a good bite for ‘eater-sized’ walleyes (in that 15-17 inch range) on East Lake by trolling crankbaits on lead core line on the edges of the basin. He also prefers to target smallmouth bass on Big Spirit using some of the same presentations as in the spring. “Top water action can be good, too, on some of the calmer days,” Burns said, “and that is lots of fun.”
The message from Grosvenor and Burns, and you’ll hear the same from most veteran Iowa Great Lakes anglers, is to just get out there, no matter the season, and enjoy the resources. “We’re blessed with some incredible fisheries here,” Burns said. “Doesn’t matter if you like to target a certain species of if you just like to chase the hot bite, it’s out there for the taking.”
“There are more fish being caught here right now than in all the 15 years I have been guiding,” Grosvenor said. “Summer, fall, winter, spring…the time is right. Get out there and do it!”
For up-to-date fishing information visit our local bait shops: Kabele’s Trading Post, Stan’s Bait & Tackle, and Oh Shucks Bait & Tackle or check out the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fishing Report. Search for Lakes: “Okoboji.”