Brandon Butler: Top road trips for family fishing

As spring turns into summer, fishing often becomes a family affair.

This is the time of year to focus on taking kids fishing. All across the Midwest, we are fortunate to have good fishing in

every state. Simple angling adventures can be used to build outdoor passions in the next generation. Combine fishing with travel and camping, and you’ll be creating memories the youth in your life will never forget.

Midwestern summers are meant for days at the lake. As most head out to enjoy the weekend on crowded waters, anglers are left to find locations where the wake of a wave runner won’t interrupt their enjoyment. There are plenty of places to find peace and quiet during the summer; you just have to know where to look:

Indiana — Worster Lake bluegill

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 offers 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 row boat, 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 after dusk 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.

Iowa — Spirit Lake bluegill

Break out the BBQ grill and the push-button reels; nothing says summer like an outdoor feast during a day of catching big bluegills. In Iowa, few places are better to combine the two than Spirit Lake. At 5,600 acres, this is a large lake, but the maximum depth is 22 feet. There is a lot of shallow water ideal for bluegill habitat. Anglers can catch the end of the spawn in early June.

Look for bedding bluegills on hard bottoms near the shore, especially around dense vegetation. Bluegill will aggressively eat worms, beemoths and crickets. Small jigs and flies also produce. The daily limit is 25 bluegills with no size limit.

Minnesota — Mille Lacs Lake musky

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, picking one water to be the premier musky destination should be tougher than it is. When musky season opens on June 3, Mille Lacs Lake is where the trophy hunters will be. Warm water is the key early in the season. Look for fish in the backs of shallow water bays and along weed lines. Cover as much water as you can, making lots of casts with large musky plugs and bucktails.

If you dream of landing a musky over 50 pounds, there are few places more likely to produce that kind of a giant than Mille Lacs.

See you down the trail …

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on or anywhere podcasts are streamed. Send comments to [email protected].