Brandon Butler: Five summer fishing trips in the Midwest

With the arrival of summer, outdoor opportunities often turn into family affairs. The relentless pursuit of spring gobblers is just behind us and long stretches of days in tree stands are still far off. You hopefully hammered crappie in the spring, and maybe even put enough walleye filets in the freezer to last until fall.

This is the time of year to focus on family and take some kids fishing. All across the Midwest, we are fortunate to have simple pursuits that can be used to build outdoor passions in the next generation.

This list includes a five top Midwest summer fishing trips:

Indiana: Worster Lake bluegills

Potato Creek State Park is a special destination for the outdoors, because it offers a little bit of everything — hiking, biking, wildlife watching, a beach and a boat rental. The latter offering families the opportunity to rent a canoe or rowboat to explore the 327-acre Worster Lake.

Not all fishing has to be a serious endeavor. Rent a rowboat, buy some red worms and dunk a few under a bobber. All summer long, quality bluegills can be caught throughout the lake. Along the dam and around patches of lily pads are top spots.

Michigan: Lake Michigan yellow perch

When it comes to eating freshwater fish, yellow perch is tough to beat. The Great Lakes produce millions of them each year, with Lake Michigan long being a top fishery. The numbers may not be what they once were, but anglers in Michigan still catch them all along the lakeshore.

In early June, the perch come in close to shore. You can find them just outside of the harbors in South Haven, Muskegon and Ludington. As the water warms, the perch retreat to deeper water. Jigs tipped with minnows bounced on the bottom are the still the go-to for perch. The long ago days of 100-fish limits are a thing of the past, but anglers can still boat a mess of perch when the conditions are right.

Kansas: Wilson Reservoir smallmouth bass

At 9,040 acres with depths up to 65 feet, Wilson Reservoir gives smallmouth bass plenty of places to hide. Smallmouth can be caught during the daylight hours during the summer months, but the most exciting way to fish smallies this time of year is after dark with topwater baits.

Throwing topwater baits to the bank and working them back to the boat before dawn and afterdusk is one way to increase your heart rate. When a smallmouth explodes on a topwater, you can’t help feeling the rush. Look for topwater action back in coves where the bass will come up to feed in the shallows at night.

Nebraska: Pawnee Lake carp

Common carp are the Rodney Dangerfield of fresh water fish — “never getting no respect.” They’re ugly, and not much to fight over on a dinner table, but when it comes to putting up a fight and being fun to catch, carp are underrated. Found in most large reservoirs and rivers, one who enjoys fishing for them can usually find them in strong supply. Such is the case at Pawnee Lake, where carp have somewhat of a following. The lake is even home to the “King Carp” tournament, where carp are appreciated.

Fishing is pretty simple. Set out some lawn chairs, put some corn or a garlic scented dough ball on a hook below ample weight and heave it out to rest on the bottom. When the rod tip twitches, set the hook and hold on. Common carp put up a fight.

Wisconsin: Turtle Flambeau Flowage musky

There’s nothing like fishing the Northwoods in summer. Families have been traveling to the Turtle Flambeau area to fish for generations. Musky aren’t the easiest fish to catch. They’re known as the fish of 10,000 casts, but hook into one and you could be ruined for other sport fish.

Fishing for musky is hot right after the season opens. Early June is a prime time. Throwing big musky baits is a laborious task, but when you hook one, you know you’ve just done something special. Land one and you’ll have a memory to last a lifetime.

See you down the trail …