By Nick Simonson
Often now it seems that summer extends past Labor Day weekend. Where I used to be sprinting around the front yard at the cabin in blue jeans and a sweatshirt, tracking down a lofted spiraling football in my youth, the warmth of the elongated summer has been more conducive to board shorts and tank tops in the sunshine. The fish too hold on to their summer habits, as bluegills remain around the dock, the forest of lake grass stays green and tall in the depths and species such as walleyes and bass hold on to their summer territories too. While it is inevitable that fall and colder conditions will descend on the region and hunting will take the forefront of my outdoor efforts; the shift – whether perceived from misty autumn memories of childhood or real – allows for a big finish to summer in conjunction with the holiday.
This weekend the continued stay of the season extended into the turn of the calendar like in more recent years, as my brother, my boys and I went out after crappies and bluegills along the still verdant weedlines, floating minnows under bobbers for the fish that still had their summer activity levels. Later in the morning, we ripped Jigging Raps along the base of those green breaks, boating a number of nice walleyes, which took as aggressively to the lures as they have at any other time in the warm weather of the last two months.
In a flashback to those summer seasons long ago, framed by the fading sunlight of our Saturday evening, my youngest boated a sunfish that eclipsed his smiling face and reminded me of when I was his age and his size and every bluegill seemed that big and memorable. But that particular huge panfish was the biggest any of us had seen on our high-pressured lake in many years and capped off an exciting run from the dock to the deeper stretches for my son which was a blur of bait going on and bobbers going down for what could be the last such flurry of shallow panfish action, depending on when the first real cold front comes.
The walleyes too provided steady action, and no case of seasonal lock jaw due to lake turnover or frontal fussiness had set in just yet ahead of the change in the seasons. Upon tearing the lure away from them, they’d rocket up and smash it, aggressively jarring the rod in my hand making the hookset easier. The silver blue bait coloration on the jigging lure was a suggestion of the shiner population in the clear, sandy waters below which served as their primary forage, but undoubtedly they opportunistically feasted on the schools of the season’s new perch and bluegills along the weedlines which we located ahead of our late summer success.
The final walleye of Sunday evening was a heavy-set 20 incher which eclipsed my personal slot limit and went back into the water. Setting the back hook of the bait into the bottom of its lower lip was like hooking a cinderblock in freefall. Solid headshakes produced some sunset adrenaline surges, and the magnification of the gin-clear water had me thinking it was something bigger before it hit the net. Regardless of its middle-weight status, with the catch and the quick photo-and-release to cap the weekend fishing off before Monday’s holiday cabin duties was fitting. We motored in toward the fire on shore and the voices and laughs of family and called it a night, knowing that while the days may be limited in what’s left of summer, the warmth of this big finish and the activity to come in the field will likely sustain us until next year…in our outdoors.
Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors.
Featured Photo: The author’s son Jackson and brother, Ben, pose with a large sunfish caught at summer’s end. Simonson Photo.