August 31, 2018
Labor Day rolls around on September 3 this year. This annual celebration is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women. It has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States and Canada since 1894.
For many of us, Labor Day also means a day off from work, and if we’re lucky, a three-day weekend full of fun fishing opportunities. If you’re among these people, you may be trying to decide where to go and what to fish for. Here are some ideas that might help.
Grenada Lake, Mississippi: Crappie
As one avid crappie angler said when I asked him where most of his favorite honeyholes are, “There’s Mississippi and then there’s everywhere else. The Magnolia State is its own crappie planet!”
There are, indeed, lots of great places for slab-hooking in the Magnolia State, including Sardis, Arkabutla, Washington and Ross Barnett lakes to name a few. But the number-one blue-ribbon crappie destination for every panfish-crazy fanatic in the country is Grenada Lake, a shallow, 36,000-acre Corps of Engineers impoundment 82 miles south of Memphis, Tenn. on Interstate 55. It produces more trophy crappie than any other fishery in the country.
Big fish are so common in Grenada, the local tourism board has nicknamed the lake “Home of the 3-Pound Crappie.” That’s no exaggeration, either. In most waters within the crappie’s range, a 3-pounder would be the fish of a lifetime. But Grenada has so many, it’s not unusual for savvy anglers to catch one or more on every visit. A typical fishing day will produce dozens of 1-1/2 to 2-pounders.
Guests can stay at one of the lakeside campgrounds operated by state and federal agencies, in a cabin at Hugh White State Park or at one of many hotels and motels in the Grenada area.
Additional information: Grenada Mississippi Tourism Commission
Door County, Wisconsin: Freshwater Bonanza
Another great locale for a Labor Day fishing vacation is Door County, Wisconsin. Flanked on either side by Green Bay and Lake Michigan, the waters off the Door County peninsula and Washington Island offer some the best fishing in the country.
Sturgeon Bay recently was named by Bassmasters as one of the world’s best spots for bass fishing – smallmouth bass fishing in particular. But other towns throughout the county have great fishing opportunities as well, with guides and lodges available to make sure you land your best lunker and have superb accommodations during your stay.
The shallow shoreline waters around Sturgeon Bay hold lots of the rocky points and humps smallmouths love. Catching 100 “bronzebacks” on a good day is a cinch, and it’s likely a dozen or more of those fish will weigh an incredible 4 to 5 pounds or more.
The rest of the county waters – from Green Bay on the west to Lake Michigan on the east – feature lake trout, chinook salmon, whitefish, walleyes, northern pike and perch. The calmer waters of Green Bay churn out huge numbers of jumbo walleyes and brown trout, and thanks to proper management by the Department of Natural Resources, Lake Michigan is a honeyhole for record-class lake trout and chinook salmon.
At many of the county’s inland lakes – including Clark, Europe and Kangaroo lakes – panfish such as bluegills and yellow perch await anglers looking for fresh fish to take home and eat. These waters include some of Wisconsin’s best fishing lakes and can be fished from vessels as simple as kayaks and canoes.
Additional information: Door County Visitor Bureau
Lake Calcasieu, Louisiana: Saltwater Roundup
Want to tangle with a variety of saltwater fish? Lake Calcasieu near the city of Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana is a good place to have on your radar.
Known locally as Big Lake, this is one of the world’s top hotspots for trophy speckled trout, one of the most abundant and best-eating fish in southern saltwater. Anglers fishing the 12-mile-long honeyhole routinely catch 5- to 8-pounders, with an occasional 9- to 11-pound “speck” tossed in for good measure.
Big redfish are common as well, and many anglers visit in fall for the superb flounder fishing. If you catch all three species in one day, you’ve got yourself a Cajun Grand Slam.
A bonus option for Lake Calcasieu fishermen is a series of gas and oil rigs found just offshore. Known locally as the “short rigs,” these near-shore production platforms are extremely productive, especially during summer. As the Gulf waters warm, a myriad of species, including tripletail, sheepshead, trout, Spanish mackerel, ling, king mackerel, shark, redfish and jack crevalle, congregate around the rigs, providing non-stop action for savvy Labor Day visitors.
Additional information: Lake Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau
Flaming Gorge, Utah and Wyoming: Trout, Salmon, Bass and More
Located in the northeast corner of Utah and the southwest corner of Wyoming, 207,363-acre Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area encompasses a scenic red-canyon landscape that draws visitors from far and wide.
The area’s most popular destination is 91-mile-long Flaming Gorge Reservoir, a honeyhole for rainbow and brown trout, smallmouth bass, kokanee salmon and 30-pound-plus lake trout. In 1988, a 51-1/2-pound record lake trout was caught there, and locals believe an even bigger fish may be waiting to be caught.
In addition to fishing on the reservoir, the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam is famous for its abundantly clear water and endless trout supply. On any given day, you will see a fleet of drift boats and rubber rafts floating downstream, some containing anglers casting or trolling for browns and rainbows. Fishing techniques are limited to artificial flies or lures, and catch-and-release is highly encouraged, so the tailwater is bristling with fish, up to 14,000 per mile according to state biologists.
Additional information: Wyoming Office of Tourism or Utah.com
Lake Tawakoni, Texas: Catfish
If you live in Dallas or nearby, you might want to consider a Labor Day jaunt for catfish on this 36,700-acre Sabine River Authority lake. Tawakoni serves up excellent fishing for the big cat trio – flatheads, blues and channels.
One- to 3-pound channel cats are abundant, but much larger fish are caught here. The lake record tipped the scales at 29.8 pounds. A 3- to 4-hour fishing trip often results in 50 landings of eating-size cats. Most fall for sponge baits – either commercial cheese products or homemade chicken-blood brews – fished in 12 to 14 feet of water around flooded bois d’arc trees near the lake’s north end.
The lake-record blue cat weighed 87-1/2 pounds, and locals contend bigger blues swim here. Most aficionados drift-fish with shad cutbait along channel drops and adjacent flats.
Tawakoni flatheads reach enormous sizes but remain almost untouched by rod-and-reel anglers. Trotlines baited with live sunfish or goldfish baits account for many 18- to 70-pounders each year, and have produced at least two 100-pound-plus fish – a 108-pounder, the former lake record, and a 110-pounder that is said to be the heaviest legal flathead catch recorded in Texas. The lake’s upper reaches produce most big ones.
Additional information: Texas Parks & Wildlife
Lake Talquin, Florida: Stripers
Many anglers heading to Florida are planning to fish for the state’s trophy largemouths or try for saltwater species. But the Sunshine State also serves up some great striped bass fishing, and biologists with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists say Lake Talquin in the Panhandle region is one of the best places to go after these bruisers.
The 8,800-acre impoundment on the Ochlockonee River near Tallahassee is stocked at a rate of 10 to 20 striped bass per acre annually. Those fish thrive in Talquin, regularly reaching 10 to 20 pounds. Thirty-pounders aren’t common but stretch the lines of a few lucky anglers.
Around Labor Day, most stripers are caught in the upper end of the reservoir where tributaries enter the lake. Linesides especially like the cooler inflows provided by feeder streams with springs.
Deeper holes in the river channel near Talquin’s dam also provide refuge for big striped bass. Some points drop to 40 feet, and the predators will lurk there until cooler water temperatures arrive and spread schools throughout the lake.
Gulls diving on threadfin shad are a sure sign of stripers below. Watch for bait pushed to surface, then cast any shad-imitation lure nearby to get the fish’s attention.
Another option for stripers is to troll deep-diving crankbaits along the old flooded creek and river channels. Pay special attention to deep-water haunts where stripers are likely to be feeding.
If you’re a panfishing enthusiast as well as a striper fan, bring the ultralights and cast grass shrimp baits for Talquin’s plentiful bluegills, redears and crappie.
Additional information: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Gunnison River, Colorado: Trout
Want trout? The Gunnison River near Delta in west-central Colorado, particularly the lower portion, offers great fly fishing for rainbows, cutthroats and browns. Labor Day weekend might be a great time to visit.
Visiting anglers often have their best luck fishing with nymphs. Drop a well-placed cast behind a boulder or look to eddies and strainers for a good chance to pull out a 16- to 20-inch trout. Due to these consistently large fish, the river has been given Gold Medal status, so be sure to pack your larger net.
Historically, trout have been exceptionally large within the stretch of river between Crystal Creek and its confluence with North Fork. But you’ll have to hike in a little way as there isn’t a road to this section.
Before it reaches the dam, the Gunnison River runs through the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, so even if you leave empty handed, the scenery alone makes the trip well worth it.
Additional information: diyflyfishing.com