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Overcome summer heat and humidity

Soberg routinely docks his canoe near Phelps Mill, on the Otter Tail River, to cast the backwaters.

It may seem counterintuitive, however, an excellent way to grapple with the extreme heat and humidity typical of the East Otter Tail summer doldrums is to go fishing. Most probably prefer the luxury of central air or cabin shade, but utilizing smart tactics, some unconventional, can make fishing the perfect late July/early August excursion.

A trick of the trade is to get up early and stay up late. Sounds simple, right? Often times, staying up late is easier during a weekend trip to the lake. Getting up early can pay off too. I'm talking hitting the water at daybreak or enjoying our evening summer sunlight until dusk. For both, make sure to bring your bug repellent.

Not only is this tactic generally beneficial because the bite is best at dawn and dusk, it is a great way to avoid the heat. Naturally, temperatures are cooler at these times, which enables an opportunistic angler to comfortably fish the best times of the day. As the sun rises and the heat index does the same, hopefully you will have already caught your limit or you are gearing up for an evening on the lake.

Another way to enjoy mid to late summer fishing is to use an unconventional method, such as a kayak or canoe, to explore our waters. For me, the regular weekend boat fishing gets to be a bore and an Otter Tail adventure is just what the doctor ordered.

The many connected lake and river systems in our area offer adventures like no other. Many head to Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northeast Minnesota for such an adventure, but actually our waters can offer comparable experiences with much less travel or expense. Our lakes and rivers offer everything from day trip paddling to overnight camping adventures.

If you take such a trip, don't forget to take your fishing pole. Using a kayak or canoe enables a crafty angler to access those hidden bays or long lost channels that hold game not often fished. By kayak or canoe you can find these fishing gold mines that are many times concealed by weeds or rushes and only accessible by paddle.

The nearby Otter Tail and Pelican River systems offer fishing opportunities that are second to none. The rivers afford miles of twists and turns leading to large expanses and lakes. Maneuver the turns and cast as you go to find some of the best pike, small and large mouth bass or pan fish action you can imagine.

Many of the river waters do not receive much fishing pressure and are ready for the taking. Use the buddy system by parking one vehicle at the end of the route, put in at the beginning, and fish on a many mile journey not often taken by local anglers. Try just about any mile of the Otter Tail River for an excellent small mouth bass bite.

Likewise, those who enjoy camping or taking extended trips may find the waters of nearby Minnesota State Parks, such as Maplewood between Perham and Pelican Rapids or Glendalough between Battle Lake and Ottertail, in order to fish more primitive waters. Often times, the parks have lakes where motorized boats are restricted. These lakes receive less pressure, as many people do not attempt the multitasking feat of fishing and paddling. Those who try it, however, succeed.

My favorite experience involves an Otter Tail County lake having a secret natural waterway channel concealed by years of weed growth, floating bogs, and a beaver dam. Once the channel was discovered, I had to explore it further. I drug out my trusty Grumman aluminum canoe, a paddle, and my fishing pole just in case. Once I maneuvered past the bog and around the bull rushes, I had to take my shoes off and make a short portage around the dam. I thought I was a little crazy and was hoping I would be able to find my way back.

I arrived at the channel and a few scenic elbows led me to the most beautiful little slough I could imagine. It was hidden in the woods by the trees and weeds. It was too small to be considered a lake by itself, and I call it a slough because that is what it looks like in aerial photos. Because it is connected by a natural waterway to other lakes, the fish can freely pass through, especially during spawning season.

It seems like a lot of work to get there, but the rewards are outstanding. Not only is it so peaceful and secluded, but also two years ago I caught the biggest large mouth bass of my lifetime. It is difficult, but I try to make it back at least one time per fishing season. If you put a little ingenuity and elbow grease into your fishing, you too can find your own magical place.

Don't let the midsummer heat and humidity deter you from wetting a line. Try getting up early or fishing late to avoid the heat and the busy boat rush. If you are like me and need an adventure this time of year, explore our waters by paddle and find a special place of your own. Either way, it is worth it. Good luck fishing!