Most fisherman would agree that fishing a large body of water can be challenging during the warmest days of summer. And most of us would say that is because fish don’t like the warmer surface temperatures so they go deeper and become more lethargic. Combine this with the increase of vegetation in the water during the warmer times of the year and you are adding extra cover for game fish that are already seeking the cooler deep water. Contrast this to the Spring-when fish are becoming more active and searching for fresh food after a long winter, or in the Fall-after the lake has turned and fish gorge themselves getting ready for winter. It is no secret that late July and especially August can be tough for fishing. So is August a bad time to go fishing in Northern Minnesota? Yes and No.

First the yes. From about the last week of July until after Labor Day fishing anytime on a big lake can be tough. Fishing in the middle of the day can be especially tough. So then what do people do who go fishing on Pelican Lake and other similar lakes in Minnesota to catch fish? Part of this answer depends on the species and presentation. But I have a favorite type of fishing for August, and an alternative to fishing out on the big lake. Go river fishing. Rivers have moving water which is cooler than the surface of a lake and you can find nice sized fish in  holes along eddies. All you have to know is which river to fish, what tackle to use and you need somewhere to access said river. Fortunately for us we are close to the Vermillion River. Sure you may have to drive a little ways, but for me a little day trip excursion once in a while can be fun and I love a new challenge.

Get up early, run out for an hour or two and drift or troll along the edge of a drop off or weed line. I’d throw a Meps spinner or a jerk bait. Come back for breakfast. Grab some bait (leeches are my favorite) and a lindy rig spinner (gold, orange or chartreuse) and head for the Vermillion River. The Vermillion is full of Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, and Goldeye. While working at a local resort as a dock boy for three summers I fished the Vermillion River nearly every week after work and always appreciated that even on a hot day in August you can catch nice fish in a river. If you have a canoe you can float the river (you will need to portage around rapids) or there are a few places you can hike in and fish from shore. One of my favorite places to fish is at the base of Vermillion Falls. I like to take my shoes off, wade into the water a bit and cast my line across the current, let the water pull the line out a ways and slowly work it back in. Won’t take long till you feel a tug as a Smallmouth hits your leech. Sure you will catch several 12 inch Smallies, but bigger Bass are in there too! Brock caught the Smallmouth Bass at the top of the page on a hot summer day this past August.


Don’t know what a Goldeye is? Here you go. This picture is from a day spent floating down the Vermillion River a few summers back. There are a handful of places you can put in a canoe and slowly float down the river. You’ll enjoy fantastic scenery, solitude, and of course great fishing. Make sure you bring extra bait. And don’t even think about running the rapids! Otherwise you may not survive to fish again.

Vermillion River

Summer day on the Vermillion River