Many across the southern portion of the Midwest have already hung up their turkey vest for the year, but up north and out west, gobblers are still raising hunters’ heartrates. Open water fishing has cranked up across the board. Walleyes in Iowa, smallmouth in Ohio and Sturgeon in Minnesota are just a few examples of the great diversity of angling opportunity the Midwest offers. If you’re looking for a challenge this month, and want to make the most of your long Memorial Day Weekend, then here are some options for an epic adventure at the end of the great month of May.
Ohio: Lake Erie Smallmouth
Lake Erie maybe most famous for walleye fishing, but anglers in the know put this Great Lake at the top of their destination list for big smallmouth bass. May is the time to get after them. Captain Bob Witt of Sea Breeze Charters said, “Smallmouth fishing heats up in early May. We throw tube jigs on rock piles close to shore. We’ll also use live bait. Soft craws and big shiners put fish in the boat.” If you’re looking to stack up smallmouth numbers, Lake Erie in May shouldn’t disappoint.
Michigan: Two-Hearted River Trout
In his short story, “Big Two-Hearted River,” Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Nick looked down into the clear, brown water, colored from the pebbly bottom, and watched the trout keeping themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they changed their positions by quick angles, only to hold steady in the fast water again.” Anglers today recreate this experience by fishing the Two-Hearted River in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The river is home to numerous salmonid species, but brook trout are the wild, native draw. By May, anglers should be able to reach all of the river’s remote sections.
South Dakota: Merriam’s Turkey
The beautiful white tips of a Merriam turkey’s tail fan are a coveted prize amongst hunters. Those looking to take one of these birds should look no further than the Black Hills of South Dakota, where Merriam numbers are strong. Turkey season runs through May 31 in the Black Hills. Hunters must apply for a Black Hills turkey tag, but there is no deadline to apply. For all the information you need to plan a Black Hills Merriam Turkey hunt, visit the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks website.
Kentucky: Spring Squirrels
Kentucky has a short spring squirrel season that opens in mid-May and runs into June. With a daily limit of six and a possession limit of 12, squirrels offer hunters the excitement of filling a game bag. Spring squirrel hunting is fun on its own, but the spring season gives sportsmen a unique cast-and-blast opportunity to hunt squirrels while also fishing. Canoeing a river running through public land or paddling along a public lakeshore provides for opportunities to spot squirrels from the water. The Land Between the Lakes is a squirrel hunting destination where you can double up with a fishing trip.
Kansas has to be in the argument for the best all-around hunting state in the country. A large part of the qualification for such a bold statement comes from the outstanding turkey hunting in the Sunflower State. Kansas two subspecies of wild turkey; Easterns and Rios. The regular season run through the entire month of May, closing on the 31 st . Hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. Hunters can bag two turkeys during the spring season. Check out all the public land in the southeastern corner of the state.
Iowa “Great Lakes” Walleye Opener
Spirit Lake, and East and West Okoboji Lakes are known as the “Great Lakes of Iowa.” This moniker could stem from how good the walleye fishing can be on these waters. Walleye season opens on these three lakes May 1. The daily limit is 3. All walleye between 17 and 22-inches must be released. Only one walleye over 22-inches may be kept per day. The rest of Iowa has a continuous walleye season.
Illinois: Lake Michigan Coho Salmon
Cohos cruise the Illinois coast in May. Giving anglers an opportunity to salmon fish from shore. Spoons, spinners and night crawler rigs under a bobber all produce along breakwalls and riprap. For a charter boat experience, Captain Rick Bentley operates Windy City Salmon out of Waukegan Harbor. He says, “Red and orange Jensen dodgers and trailing flies remain the go-to rig for coho on flat lines, planer boards, divers, and shallow riggers.” Captain Rick ties his own special coho flies, which are available on his website www.windycitysalmon.com
See you down the trail.
Brandon Butler writes an outdoors column for The Republic. Send comments to [email protected] For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on driftwoodoutdoors.com or anywhere podcasts are streamed.