Fishing success has been hot or cold for me, depending on where I end up. For the most part, it’s been pretty darn good but I don’t really care to “go to the well” that often and beat up on one particular fishery. That leaves me checking out other bodies of water, mainly out of curiosity, and sometimes it’s just not that good.
I’ve two weeks left to boat fishing, if the weather holds, and it looks like it’s going to. Then it’s time for two weeks of deer hunting and as usual, I’m not very prepared. Too much fishing in my life to worry about other things.
The weather forecast for this week looks wonderful, with warming temperatures and plenty of sun. This works well for me, as I have someone to take fishing over MEA weekend. The fish are already positioned in their fall locations so they aren’t going anywhere. Perfect.
I picked up my deer hunting license and as I walked out of the store it dawned on me what a good deal it is at $31. Two weeks of spending quality time in the woods with friends and family, along with the chance at harvesting a whitetail for a small fee. Not bad. Next year, however, it looks like the cost will go up a little, which I’m just fine with. It’ll be worth it.
New for this season is a change in the blaze clothing requirements. Blaze pink can now be used. Stated in the Minnesota Hunting & Trapping Regulations, it says “All hunters and trappers in the field during the open firearms/muzzleloader deer seasons must display blaze orange or pink on the visible portion of the person’s cap and outer clothing above the waist, excluding the sleeves and gloves.”
Also, another new regulation is in place regarding bonus tags. The regulation handbook states “After a deer season is open, a bonus permit is valid the same day of purchase if it is purchased before legal shooting hours.”
I see area 179, where I hunt, is now listed as a “hunter choice” area, which allows the hunter to take one deer of either sex with your regular license. Hmm. That’s a nice option but I’ll probably hold out for a buck until later in the season. We’ll see how that goes. We’ll see just how desperate I am in the late going.
I know there “should” be plenty of shooting, in my neck of the woods, as I will be hunting with my son and his three daughters. Claire, the youngest, bagged two last year at the ripe old age of 10. I didn’t get mine until 12, hunting on the last half of the last day with my father. Fifty-six years ago, that memory is still fresh in my mind. I gave grandson, Orrin Holmbeck, the rack, a spike buck. I should mention that I bagged the “big buck” with one shot through the neck, with a .410 slug, my well-used partridge gun.
Most hunters “bait” early in the season so they can get a good look, via trail cameras, at what lurks and lives in their hunting area and they’ve seen just about everything except bigfoot. It’s amazing at just how popular trail cameras have become. I did it when they first came out and had to use 35mm film. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I went to get the film developed and found nothing on it. Depressing. Thank goodness for digital cameras.
Keep in mind that all bait must be completely removed for 10 days prior to hunting.
Definitions of bait includes grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, hay, or other food that is capable of attracting or enticing deer and has been placed by a person.
What is bait? The handbook states “Liquid scents (example: doe in heat), sprays, salt, and minerals are not bait if they do not contain liquid or solid food products. (Is it just me or does this sound confusing?)
It goes on to say “Read the ingredient label on all products prior to use. Many products, including newer liquid, powder and block forms, contain food or attractants such as grains, fruits, and sugar derivatives (glucose, dextrose, and fructose). If a salt or mineral product has anything other than salt or mineral in it, it is illegal to use for hunting.
Well, I guess it time to dig out those old hunting clothes and clean them up. May have to squeeze off a few shots as well.
Good luck out there, be safe and have fun!
If you are like us the fall is one of the best times to be on the water. Cooler temperatures, less boat traffic and big fish feeding up for the winter ahead. You never know when you will run across the scrape of a lifetime and sitting on one spot and loading the boat is not unheard of. Pattern fishing works well and fishing points, primary and secondary, creek channel cuts and the backs of pockets can be killer. You never know you might see them busting shad too. Techniques from flipping and pitching, tossing a jig or squarebill or casting weighted or unweighted plastics can all catch them this time of year.
For our next giveaway we went to Yamamoto Custom Baits and asked them to put together an assortment of their best fall baits in an ..." Learn More >> Yamamoto Fall Arsenal Giveaway
Fall fishing has been as expected and the adage “feast or famine” best describes it. Some days have been stellar, while some have been real stinkers.
Having done exceptionally well on one of my favorite crappie lakes, I returned a week later, only to find the fish in a real funk. They were in the same general area but were sitting tight to the bottom and it took lot of coaxing to get them interested in a bait. Yes. It was struggle time, once again. A return trip found them in the same mood. Other lakes have been treating me the same, with some days good and some days not so good.
We’re truly blessed to live where we do, as there’s enough water for everyone. Many times, I never see another boat all day long but go to a popular fall fishing lake and look out! It seems more and more people are getting “into it” and I honestly like that but I sometimes wonder if I should have written about it so often. Maybe there wouldn’t be so much fall crappie angling pressure?
One thing I’ve noticed is once the word gets out, anglers flock to a handful of popular lakes every year but never really explore other waters. Don’t they realize that the fish are behaving pretty much the same across the North Country? It sure makes me wonder.
When I first started fishing Pelican Lake in the fall, I was usually the only one out there. Nowadays there is an average of 15 to 20 boats out there on weekends. Sand Lake is the same, along with a few others. The crappie populations are taking a beating. Luckily, we have a lot of lakes.
On the plus side, resorts must be quite busy during this time, when compared to years back, as I’ve noticed many out-of-state anglers out there having fun and that’s all good. I like to see that.
I remember Cut Foot Sioux 30 years ago, when most all went there in search of the great fall walleye bite. Finding a parking place was a challenge. You had to get there very early.
I was fishing for fall crappie back then and more-than-likely the only one doing so. On a recent trip to Cut Foot, I, once again, found the parking lot full and was a little surprised when I got out onto the lake, as most all of them were fishing for crappies.
Changing it up a bit, I did a little walleye fishing last week and almost forgot how much fun that can be. I just love a good jig bite. On one of the days, my son and youngest granddaughter hopped in the boat with me and that’s always fun, even if it’s a little slow fishing.
Yes, fall is in the air. You can smell it and it honestly doesn’t smell very good at all, when you get right down to it. I noticed this last week, on one of those sunny, calm days, while sitting on the lake. The pungent, somewhat stinking odor of dead and decaying leaves was very noticeable and although it really stinks, it’s actually a good smell because it’s a reminder that fall is here and seasons are changing.
Heading out early to the lake the other day, I noticed a big doe on the side of the road and could tell she was going to cross in front of me. Luckily, I slowed down because right behind her was an eight-point buck, which I narrowly missed. Slamming on the brakes, I could hear all items in the truck box sliding to the front. One was a $600 Vexilar that came out unscathed.
I still haven’t seen too many ducks or geese but notice quite a few waterfowl hunters out there “giving it a shot.” I used to hunt grouse and ducks a lot but you can’t do it all. I guess I’ll just stick with the fishing until deer season rolls around and that’s not too far off.
We touched base throughout the summer and spoke of getting together for a day in the boat but now fall was upon us and pleasant days were numbered. Last Wednesday looked good, sandwiched in between horrible weather. We were going to make it happen.
Meeting for breakfast at Wizard’s in Nashwauk, we took our time and let it warm up a tad before heading out. That’s one thing about fall crappie fishing. You don’t have to get there early and fishing from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm usually works just fine. Some call it “banker’s hours”, which is quite appropriate, as Patti had just recently retired from working at the bank. Terese, a nurse, was still working but managed a mid-week day off. Me? Well, we all know that story.
We’ve always been close to a lake or two, growing up on Buck Lake and staying at the cabins on Big and Little Bear Lakes, but had never fished together. Still loving the water, Patti now resides on O’Leary Lake, while Terese has a cabin on Buck Lake. It’s odd. Living on a lake, one would think that they would do a fair amount of fishing but no. Maybe that’s why I live in town? I like to fish them all.
My fall crappie fishing ritual has me spending a lot of time on the water so I had a very good handle on which lakes were producing. As a matter-of-fact, going into the trip, I had recorded twenty-eight outings in search of panfish and that’s only through this fall. We’ve got a whole month or so left.
Some of the lakes offered large crappies but they were hard to find and once found, proved equally hard to catch. I ruled these waters out in a hurry. We were going to be out there for fun and that usually means catching a lot of fish. I needed action!
So, with that said, we headed north on the Scenic Highway and launched the boat in a little crappie factory. I had been there two days prior and they were biting pretty good and although most fish were smaller than desired, every-once-in-a-while a nice one would make an appearance. It was just enough to make it interesting. Perfect.
Many of the lakes are in a transition stage right now because of the warmer weather we’ve been enjoying. Fish can sometimes be hard to find during this period, as they prefer locating fairly-tight to structure. This lake, however, had them scattered across the lake bottom, and although they were hugging bottom, there were enough of them in this large school that if you fished it long enough, you’d get bit. There’s always a hungry one or two in the bunch.
Outfitting the “girls” with Tuned Up Custom Rods “Apex” ultra-lights, the lightest of bites were easily detected. This made all the difference in the world.
If there was any problem at all, it was I had to get them to set the hook with authority, not just a half-hearted lift and expect to have a fish on the end of the line.
I told them, like all my guests, “when you feel a bite, try to break the rod.” Now, I know that sounds a little goofy but you need to drive the hook home and you’re never going to break these light rods. Designed to feel, or see, the lightest of bites, there’s plenty of bend in them. There’s also plenty of strength.
Terese recanted a little story of her fishing off the dock on Buck Lake. Casting out a Dardevle, she was reeling in and saw a big northern pike closing in on the spoon, whereas she pulled the bait away from it. Apparently, the fish was too big and she didn’t want anything to do with it. Isn’t that why we’re out there in the first place, to catch the BIG ONE. Oh, those girls.
I remember one of Patti’s experiences, as I was on the pontoon boat with her when it happened. I believe she was only four years old and the whole family was out on Big Bear Lake, anchored, trying to catch a few walleyes for supper.
A large family, there wasn’t enough rods to go around so dad out-fitted her with only a reel, just to keep her happy, which she usually is anyway. I was fishing on the other side of the pontoon, when I had a nice bite, and was pulling for all I was worth. Dad was helping Patti, who also had a good fish on.
Here, we were hooked together and I was trying to land the four pound walleye that Patti had caught with only a reel. I haven’t forgiven her to this day.
It was certainly nice to get out with my sisters, especially when it was a first-time occurrence. Might just have to do that again.
Good luck, be safe, have fun, and take a sister fishing.
"What is it about the pursuit of fish that has such a deep effect on our lives?
Very few avenues in life provide the opportunity for fellowship, enlightenment and enchantment they way that fishing does.
Those of us that have spent a life of pursuit in the outdoors know an enrichment that few may ever experience. Sunrises and sunsets and everything in between to which few will ever bear witness in the ... " Read >> How Fishing Cures The Soul
Just when things were looking pretty darn good, with fish biting well all over the place, I was faced with one of those struggle times and that happens from time-to-time.
I started the week off doing quite well in my crappie fishing. One of the lakes, a fall favorite, offered a good number of hungry fish pushing the 12” mark. A few others were cooperative as well, giving up several crappies, with some of them in the 11” to 12” range. Most, however, were smaller fish and that’s okay, as it’s always fun getting bit.
Starting last Wednesday, however, after an early morning display of thunder and lightning, things went drastically south and I had to pull out all stops to catch anything at all.
The next morning, it was 36º, so I bundled up (I love it when it’s cool out) and headed to another lake. Fishing was tough, as I expected on this body of water. I make at least one trip here each fall just to see if I can find a large school of fish but it hasn’t happened yet. There are always a few fish taken, during this period, that relate to humps but never in the deeper mid-lake basin.
Each lake is different and I continue to be baffled by a few of them.
The rest of the week was some of the same, with air temperatures rising into the 80’s. Since then, water temps have raised back up a couple of degrees into the mid-60’s. Now, I’m not sure if this has anything to do with anything but something has sure put these fish into a funk and the recent strong winds surely didn’t help matters.
Always up very early, I usually check out the days weather forecast and plan my fishing outing accordingly. Last Friday had a storm rolling through the area, coming from the west, but it looked to be a quick one. With that in mind, I took off, headlong into the teeth of the bad weather, before first light.
It was quick and impressive display, as the lightning was non-stop. Along with this front was heavy rain and strong winds. Wondering if it was the right call, I finally drove through it and found calmer waters awaiting. I think I surprised the AIS worker waiting for a little company at the public access, as I was the first one there.
Needless-to-say, it was, once again, one of those tough outings. Only giving it a couple of hours, I packed up and headed to one of my reliable, good lakes. Here too, I struggled, catching only one nice fish. They were found lying tight to bottom and as finicky as all get out. Something had affected these fish.
We, as humans, don’t pick up on the little things that affect fish and game. I’m glad it’s like this, as it makes it more of a challenge. I always say, “just when I had it all figured out, Mother Nature threw me a curveball.” Like Byron Buxton, I often swing wildly with poor results.
I have several rods, pre-rigged, with various panfish presentations. They range from basic ¼ oz. jigs, that can be tipped with minnows or plastics, for when the fish are aggressive, all the way down to the smallest of hair jigs, 1/80 oz., that can be tipped with wax worms, for when the fish are more tightly lipped. Basically, the rods are rigged to deal with the entire range of fish moods.
In the middle of this selection are rods rigged with vertical jigging baits, like “Puppet Minnows” and “Jigging Raps”, small spoons, smaller jigs, tube jigs and plastics, etc. I cover it all and am often surprised at what the fish want. It’s often not what expect.
Normally, I’ll bring along a scoop of crappie minnows and prior that horrible last week, found crappies preferring larger minnows, over plastics. This is when things are good and they’re biting well.
The standard crappie minnow is fairly-small in size and finding a large one in the pail can be difficult. With that in mind, my recent outings had me purchasing chub minnows, used mainly for walleye fishing.
On a normal day, using a larger minnow will sometimes keep the smaller fish at bay, allowing you to catch better size crappies.
Well, wouldn’t you know it? The fishing was tough to the point where there wasn’t a crappie anywhere that would want a large minnow. This had me using small pieces of minnows to get a bite. Yes, I tried small plastics too but they wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Many times, they prefer the natural scent of a minnow.
Last Saturday, the opening day of duck season, had me fishing two lakes. And just for the record, I haven’t seen too many ducks around. It’s not like normal.
The first lake normally has a few ducks on it but was almost void of any waterfowl at all. The second, however, had several dozen ducks and geese, rising out of the rice, as I trolled past. I was surprised no one was out there, as it can be good, but realized the heavy, miserable, early-morning rains must have kept a lot of hunters home on this opener.
I’m looking forward to this Wednesday, when I will be taking out some special guests. This will be fun. Stay tuned.
There’s better days ahead my friends. Be sure to get out there and enjoy the Great Outdoors.
Lakes are cooling down to the point where it’s going to be “game on” practically anywhere you care to fish and I’m talking deep-water fall crappies here. I guess we can toss a few bluegills into the mix as well, as they often frequent the same areas.
Prior this writing, very early Monday morning, I’ve enjoyed over a dozen trips in hot pursuit of fall crappies and have found the lakes that are producing best for me to have fish in transition mode. This means they aren’t in the deeper basins yet, as they will be in October, but are well on their way.
Instead of being scattered across the 35’ depths, close to bottom, they are now hanging tight to break lines in the 19-21’ depths. This, of course, is the findings on some of the lakes that I fish. Other lakes, however, could have fish deeper than that. They’re all different.
Anxious for things to really get going, I’ve fished ten lakes so far and only four of them have fish stacked up to the point where it’s easy to go out and catch a bunch of crappies. Not to worry. It will be happening here right quick.
Another thing I’ve noticed is the fish’s preference for live bait over plastics. I usually bring along a scoop of crappie minnows “just in case” and have been glad I did, as they have been a little on the picky side. I normally don’t care to use minnows and this is because I hate taking care of them. Now, however, the cool temps make it a whole lot easier. All I do is change water and drop in the aerator, when I get home, and they’re good to go the next morning.
My overall best presentation, this year, as well as throughout the past many years, is a basic Northland Tackle “Fire-Ball” jig tipped with a minnow. Sometimes color makes a difference so I keep “switching it up” until I find something they like. I’ve done very well using “glow-in-the-dark” but am all out of them because it’s my favorite. Those darn northern pike! It’s time to re-order.
The size of jig, usually a 1/8 or ¼ oz., depends on the depth I am fishing, as well as how active the fish are. One would think that a larger jig would be too much for the crappie’s mouth but they can really eat-it-up when they want to. The larger jig works well, especially when fishing deep. The extra weight works wonders.
Often, the fish are suspended and when this happens they are usually quite active. Many times, the fish are only 15’ below the boat and while they normally bite with reckless abandon, staying on top of them can be difficult at times, especially when it’s windy.
When deep and relating close to or right on bottom, I like to use a heavy jig and minnow, slowly dragging it in front of their faces. They just can’t pass it up.
A rod with a very soft tip is preferred for this method, as sometimes all you will notice is a slight bending of the rod tip. While using this type of rod allows you to see the bite, and many times feel it, it also forces you to set the hook hard, as there’s a lot of bending taking place before there’s direct contact with the fish. Great fun!
Fussy bites usually require the use of smaller baits. The only problem here is that because of the diminutive size of the offering, you are more susceptible to catching smaller fish. It’s part of the game, something you will have to deal with, but at least you’re catching.
I made a trip to the Red Lake Nation to fish with guide Daris Rosebear and what a trip it was. The panfish were stacked up and biting very good.
Joined by Mike Gaede, Grand Rapids, we started out bass fishing, as there are some real hogs in this water. It was slow going, however, with me catching the only two, which were real nice fish. Thinking all along of the many nice panfish that were so close at hand, we regrouped and within minutes were catching fish after fish. It was incredible.
We played with the bluegills for an hour or so before looking for the crappies and when we found them, wow. Fish after fish, averaging 12” inches. The bluegills weren’t anything to sneeze at either, with some of them reaching the 11” mark! Awesome.
This bite will last until things start to freeze up and it’s an easy trip to make. For more info on fishing with Daris, contact him on Facebook at Rosebears Guide Service or phone 218-214-0018.
Terry Wickstrom and I got together last week for one of our annual fishing outings. Largemouth bass were the targeted species and Terry had brought along some new baits to test out on one of our favorite fish. Wickstrom, who has worked with Berkley for decades, was anxious to see just how well they worked. So was I.
The bait, called “MaxScent”, a hybrid of sorts, is best described as a cross between the standard “PowerBait” and “GULP!”, whereas it still maintains the soft and durable properties of PowerBait while offering the famed characteristics of GULP!, that being it releases a super-charged enhanced flavor into the water and keeps fish from letting go.
Terry started out using the 8” Blue Fleck colored worm called the “Kingtail” and I a 6” of the same color called the “Lunch Worm.” Now, I don’t know about you but I had a good feeling right from the get-go. How could I go wrong using a plastic worm called “Lunch Worm?” Hopefully the bass would consider it more than a light snack.
Fishing was slow on this day and the first bite was hard to come by. Eventually, I caught a nice bass and followed up with another. Thinking the 8” worm might be too big on this day, Terry cut off an inch, from the head of the worm, and was now was using a modified 7” version. Within minutes, he had a very nice largemouth grabbing ahold of it. Sometimes it’s the little things that can lead to big differences. Never be afraid to “doctor” your baits.
Trading off, we seemingly took turns catching fish, with a hungry bass making its way into the boat every twenty minutes or so. As I said, it was tough fishing and not because we were using new baits that we weren’t sure how well they would produce. As a matter-of-fact, I’d change lures quite often and couldn’t catch a fish on any of my other tried-and-true presentations. Over the course of two days on the water, every fish was caught with the new “MaxScent” lures and this was during difficult times. I was impressed.
“MaxScent”, like it’s older brother “GULP!”, boasts “an enhanced flavor to keep fish from letting go.” Terry proved that more than a couple of times, when keeping tension on the lure and feeling a heavy fish swim toward the boat for 25’ before finally letting go. Terry could have easily caught the fish but wanted to see how long they would hang onto it. Impressed again.
The baits kept their natural-looking flexibility throughout the entire two-day mini bass vacation and proved themselves to be very durable as well. We did have to replace baits every once-in-a-while, when they got too chewed up and started tearing from overuse but that’s always a good thing.
Leaving a “MaxScent” lure on your hook for several hours, or even days, doesn’t change its makeup, as it remains as soft and pliable as it was fresh out of the package. This characteristic is huge. Even more impressed.
A few days later, I hooked up with Mike Gaede for a day of bass fishing. Mike and I used to fish walleye tournaments together on Big Winnie and Leech Lake, some 20 years ago. We each started off using plastic worms, Mike with a 4” jig worm and I with an 8” “Kingtail”, rigged “Carolina style.” My first three casts resulted in a missed fish and two that made it into the boat. Yes, I’m really liking this bait.
We ended the day by casting crankbaits and catching quite a few fish. Another thing to remember. Don’t get locked into one presentation. Change it up a little and see if you can figure out just what the fish prefer. Each day could be different.
Terry said the “MaxScent” baits aren’t in the stores yet but will be making an appearance in October. Other “MaxScent” baits that we tried were “The General” (wacky rigging), “D-Worm” (jig worm/shaky head), and “Flatnose Minnow” (drop shot/jig worm).
The purple packaging has several tips printed on it, such as style of hook to use along with various presentation options. Check them out.
The better part of a week was spent on Lake Vermilion, pre-fishing and competing in the AIM Pro Walleye Series state championship. Here are a few thoughts and happenings that come to mind regarding last week.
*First off, with Andy Walsh, my season-long tournament partner, getting a new job and moving to Brainerd, I had to do all the pre-fishing, which I didn’t really mind. I went solo the three days before the two-day event got started on Friday. Many of you know that I fish alone, the majority of the time, so I was right at home out there.
Tuesday was terrible, as far as the weather went, being windy, rainy, and cold, but there I was, fishing from first light until 3:30 pm and just loving it. I didn’t bring along my warm clothes (wait until I run into that weatherman) so it did end up being a little uncomfortable out there.
My first two days were dedicated to just finding numbers of fish and that I did, going home with a nice limit on Tuesday. Wednesdays fish were all tossed back. The first two days were pretty good.
The third and final day of pre-fishing was dedicated to finding big fish, which I should have been doing all along. Working big baits and fishing deep, I ended up with only two fish for the entire day of fishing and both were of the smaller variety. Nothing big.
*Andy and I had a poor first day in the event, registering our five fish (aka “filling the card”) for a measly 10.56 pounds. We did lose a heavy fish that more-than-likely would have had us weighing in somewhere around 15 pounds or so but who knows? It didn’t really matter, as the top three teams each brought in over 30 pounds. We were basically out of it.
*Friends Travis Sorokie and Doug Robinson weighed in a nice bag for 21.13 pounds. Talking to them, after the weigh in, I asked Travis how he caught his fish and where he was fishing. He replied, “we caught our fish in that spot where you taught me how to lead core.” Maybe I should follow my own advice at times. At least I knew where we would be fishing on day two.
*There was a total of 55 boats entered in the tournament and Andy and I were boat number 53, which meant we were one of the last to take off on day one. However, they reverse the order for the second day so we were boat number three the next day.
Getting ready in the morning, I saw Grand Rapids angler Dylan Maki and his partner, Joe Bricko. They were one of the top teams on day one, weighing in 34.67 pounds, and were dead last in taking off, which meant they were boat number one on the second day.
I hollered out to Dylan “boat number one, you couldn’t have planned that any better.” I can’t imagine having a big bag like that and then being first out of the gate the next morning, knowing no one would be on your spot.
I then told him “I talked it over with Andy and we’re going to follow you guys.” A look of concern came over his face. I followed up by saying “we’re going to park 50’ away from you and not even fish. We’re just going to open a big bag of popcorn and watch.” It was at that point that he knew we were just teasing him. An obvious sigh of relief was witnessed. The poor kid. I scared the daylights out of him. But that’s just me.
Dylan and Joe went on to win the event, weighing a whopping 64.80 pounds, good for $8,500 and a trip to the national championship. Congratulations to them!
*Trolling lead core, sometimes back as much as 250’-300’, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you have a fish on, especially if it’s a small one.
On one occasion, I told Andy “I think I have one on here.” Reeling in, I wasn’t sure but something wasn’t right. It felt too heavy.
Getting near the boat, you could tell that something was on the end of the line, as the rod was pulling down. Reeling up, and Andy standing there with the net, I saw what had happened. My little #5 Shad Rap had snagged, of all things, a rock!
Small and round, looking like an ancient baseball, the little hooks had found something to dig into and I hauled it up from the lake bottom. It actually looked like a little cannon ball. Maybe it was?
I lifted it out of the water and Andy reached out to grab the line. That’s when it happened. The rock fell to the bottom of the boat and the lure sling-shotted itself at 100 mph into Andy’s hand.
“Oh oh” I thought to myself. “How bad?” I looked at Andy and two of his fingers were stuck together. One of the small treble hooks had a hook in two fingers and both were past the barb. There wasn’t a whole lot we could do, as we couldn’t even get a pair of cutters in there to cut the hooks off.
I offered to help but Andy wanted no part of that, saying “I know my own pain threshold.”
So, there we were, fishing. I set out the lines and kept on trolling, while Andy worked the wound and eventually wrestled the hooks out. Blood everywhere. Not good. I thought we might have had to make a run back to HQ for a little first aid.
Pouring ice cold drinking water over the fingers, to clean the wound, he dried it off and I applied a goodly portion of Liquid Bandage. We were good to go! How was your weekend?
A group guide trip, last Sunday, had me explaining to my guests that walleye fishing was somewhat slow at the time, especially during the mid-day hours, but if they wanted to catch a lot of fish and have some fun in the process, we could always go after bass or northern pike. Pike it was!
Based out of Sugar Lake Lodge, I had been doing a little poking around beforehand, trying to find the best bite for my clients and wanted it to be as close as possible to the lodge, as it would only be a half-day trip. I would be picking them up around 11:30 am and had to have them back by 5:00 pm. Travel time was strongly considered.
I was catching a few walleyes, here and there, but it was painstakingly slow action. Even though I had caught fish up to 8 pounds, I didn’t think it would be too much fun for them. It would be boring, in my opinion. I wanted them to have fun and that usually involves ACTION!
Pre-fishing, I found a lot of northerns, using the old tried-and-true method of trolling spoons and was anxious to get going, as it’s still fun for me, after all these years. One of my guests, Rodney from Arkansas, had never caught a pike before and was blown away at how hard they hit. Even the little fish hit with gusto. He immediately called the trip a success, catching a small northern within minutes of trolling. “Oh, we should do a lot better than that” I explained, as his fish only measured 21 ½”.
The spoon bite was slower than expected and I was a little surprised by that. They were really biting two days prior. Also, a trolling presentation was needed, as both anglers couldn’t cast a bait-casting reel. That can sometimes make things a little more difficult. What do you do? Troll along and try to stay as close to the weedline as possible. It’s easy on a slow-tapered flat but sharp breaks can make it a real challenge.
Previously fishing the area, I had also done well with rattle baits but they weren’t producing either. It was time to change things up a little so I dug out the larger “Bionic Bucktail” spinnerbaits, made by Northland Tackle. These baits are much more weedless and can be trolled over the top and amongst thick cabbage weeds, where most pike live.
Previously trolling along the edge of the weedline, we stayed in the 9-12’ depths and caught a few fish but not the numbers I expected. However, with the change in lures, we were now able to troll in 6-8’ and that made a huge difference. Even the smaller fish were jumping onto the larger bait. It amazes me how aggressive those little fish can be. We were catching a lot more fish because of fishing shallower.
I recall a trip I had, many years ago, with “old Bill”. He couldn’t cast either and believe me, he tried but it just wasn’t going to happen. I’d be casting to the shallows while he trolled behind the boat and every once in a while he’d say “let me try that.” Back-lashes galore. I finally wouldn’t let him. He was relegated to trolling and that was it.
Fishing a thick weed area had me changing tactics, in order to get Bill some fish, and that was trolling Northland Tackle weedless “Jaw-Breaker” spoons. Never give up, if you can’t locate fish. They’re usually not too far from the weeds and the larger the weed-bed the better.
Rodney caught the biggest fish of the day, last Sunday, and that was a chunky 32” fish, which isn’t a monster but when you’ve never caught a northern pike before, it’s pretty darn good. He was beaming from ear-to-ear and wants to come back.
However, I think my other guest, Rudy, had a crack at the largest when he had a hard strike and reeled in to find the spoon and leader cleanly bitten off. I think a big fish hit it from behind and took the whole shebang. Rudy, from the Twin Cities, wants to come back as well.
Established back in the late 70’s, In-Fisherman ran the program from 1983 to 1991, when they closed the doors. It was a great program but financially not a good decision to keep on operating.
Jump ahead to 2017. The doors are once again open and I was asked to guide for this inaugural event. Based out of Camp Bliss, near Walker, parents and children are offered classroom sessions, along with plenty of hands-on time on the water.
How wonderful it is to see such enthusiastic youngsters, fishing with caring parents. I was duly impressed. These kids know a LOT about fishing, to say the least.
Captained by Brad Petersen, who worked for Camp Fish back in the early years, guides were busy fishing the surrounding area. Most trips were taken on smaller bodies of water, where cooperative bass, northern pike, and panfish kept us all busy and some of these fish were very nice in size. However, a few walleye trips were done on Leech Lake as well.
At the present, there are plenty of creative ideas swirling around, regarding the next Camp Fish sessions and I’ll keep you all informed. There might even be a winter ice fishing session. Who’s up for that? I certainly am!
Cleaning up the garage, I came across this old bottle of sunblock. It reminded me of an unusual experience, when using it, many years ago, while on a guide trip.
Here's an interesting little story for those concerned about getting foreign smells on their bait or hands. Does it scare fish and keep them from biting? Sometimes it does but sometimes it might just help.
A corporate trip with a dozen or more other guides out of North Star Lake Lodge, it was a three-day event that usually had us going to Big Winnie on the first day.
Sunny, hot, and almost dead calm, I was trying to coax a few walleyes into biting on one of my favorite spots, Ravens Point, when I decided to put on a little sun-screen.
Lathered up with Coppertone, I asked my clients if they wanted any. One accepted my offer. The other refused.
A jig and minnow bite, the wind was almost non-existent. It was perfect, with the boat slowly drifting across a small depression.
Fish were there but very, very fussy. The slow drift was essential to catching anything at all. Move too fast and you wouldn't get a bite.
Up until the sunblock was applied, we only had a couple of walleye in the livewell. Fishing was tough.
All of a sudden, the two of us that used sunblock were catching fish at a good pace. The other angler, who didn't lather up, was more-or-less just watching us catch fish, even though I made sure that all of us had the exact same size and color jig. He couldn't catch a cold.
Other guide boats saw the activity and got in line for a drift but nothing. As a matter-of-fact, I motioned for others to "get in line." It was happening and they better take advantage of the situation. Who knew how long it would last?
I watched as several boats repeated slid through the area and only witnessed a couple fish caught. It just wasn't happening.
Meanwhile, the two "sunblockers" were catching them pretty good, with several "doubles" taking place.
Back at the lodge, guides were bringing their catch to the cleaning shack and there were some very skimpy catches being brought in. It was just one of those days. We've all been there.
However, my boat had 35 walleyes on this day, with two of us catching almost all of them.
One guide was angry, saying "you weren't on Winnie", as he struggled terribly.
Now, the two of us used a liberal amount of the sunblock and finished with a light rinse of water. I honestly believe that there was just enough of a smell on our hands to aid in catching as many fish as we did. It was incredible and I have no other explaination for it.
Up until that point, I was always a little leery to put anything on my hands but after that happening I would "grease up" pretty good and not worry about it.
However, insect repellent? That's another story.
My strong interest in fishing was launched at a very young age. We did a lot of northern pike fishing back then and the lure of choice, which is still going strong today, was a simple 3” spoon. The classic “red and white Daredevle”, made by Eppinger was the best bait going.
Founded in 1906, Eppinger has been around for quite some time and over the years has expanded their product line to an extensive selection.
Growing up on Buck Lake (Terry Wickstrom always says “we never grew up, we just got older. How true.), the majority of our fishing was done by hopping onto the pontoon boat, with friends, and trolling around the lake with spoons.
We weren’t real serious, just out there having fun. One time I was fishing with one of the Mickelson boys, a cousin, and his beloved dog “Henry” was getting in the way, swimming behind the pontoon to be as close as possible to his “master.” Ah, the good old days.
Looking back, it’s a miracle we did as well as we did because we didn’t really try to stay next to a weedline (what was that?). Never-the-less, we always caught fish and the old red and white spoon was the hot ticket. Although I do recall when someone tried the black and white version and started to do pretty darn good. Green and white caught its share of fish too. Those were the top three colors.
However, when the first spoon came out sporting fluorescent orange paint, we couldn’t believe it. I don’t think we even saw a color like that before. The new spoon flat out caught fish, as they hadn’t seen anything like it either. Much less expensive than a Daredevle, we bought a lot of them and for many years it was the first lure we would snap on.
Jumping ahead, some 50 years, the red and white spoon still does just fine and it’s one that I’ll use quite often. Nowadays, the lure selection is overwhelming. There are so many more manufacturers, which means that many more color variations. There’s some really cool stuff out there.
Pulling spoons can save the day, especially when guiding for walleyes and the fish start to get a little fussy. I’ve had that happen a time or two and would say “reel ‘em in. We’re going to catch some fish” and off to the nearest weedline we’d go.
Letting my clients pick out what they thought would be a hot color, we’d just make one long cast behind the boat and troll close to the weeds. I usually worked each and every time. After they had enough fun, we’d go back and play with the stubborn walleyes.
I’ve caught as many as 50 fish in a matter of a few hours by doing this and it’s still as much fun as it was when fifteen years old. Who doesn’t like to get their string stretched?
The spoons aren’t just for pike either, as I’ve caught some rather large walleyes, admittedly by accident, by casting over the cabbage weeds. They’re opportunists, like most other fish, so if an easy meal happens their way, it’s theirs.
Ontario fishing guide, Tom Batiuk, uses Northland Tackle’s “Baitfish-Image” Forage Minnow spoons for lake trout and does very well. I had the mind-set of using thin “flutter-style” spoons for trout, not heavy spoons made for northern pike. Tom changed my way of thinking in a hurry.
When thinking about it, the heavy spoons just add a little more weight and make it easier in getting down a little deeper. Once there, they have a great wobbling action.
My spoons are all stored in Plano 3700 tackle boxes. One is for spoons in the 3” range and is for northern pike. The next one is a tad smaller and is used for our local stream trout. The last is for the little guys and is used for panfish. One can never have enough!
My father, who just celebrated his 89th birthday, last Sunday, tells of the time when he was fishing with my uncle, Alan Marsh. They were on Prairie Lake, north of O’Leary Lake, and enjoying the day catching northern pike when a foul cast hooked him between the eyes. You know, that thick skin at the top of your nose.
To make a long story short, they couldn’t get the hook out so Alan drove dad to the clinic in Nashwauk where he walked in with a big spoon dangling in his face. It must have been quite the sight.
It may have been the old “KB Spoon” but dad always referred to it as a “Finnlander Spoon.” I’m not sure what that is.
I’ve recently found myself chasing bluegills all-across the North Country, which has included three counties, Itasca, St. Louis, and Beltrami. The most recent was another stellar outing with Daris Rosebear on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
An impromptu trip, a phone call to Brian Griffith was made and as luck would have it, he was off work on this day and was able to join me. This would be the second trip with Brian to the fantastic fishing of the Red Lake Nation.
Late night messaging with Rosebear finalized our plans. He wanted us there early, 7:00 am, due to the road construction that was taking place on the lake he wanted to take us to, Bass Lake.
As luck would have it, we were running a tad late (my fault) and the heavy equipment had beat us to the access that was being rebuilt. This is really going to be nice when done. A new dock is already in place. Thankfully, they allowed us to get the boat in and we were fishing and catching in a matter of minutes.
Catching fish on the “first drop” is pretty much the norm when fishing with Rosebear, as these lakes are phenomenal.
I was first to toss a line in. I had four rods ready to go and selected a Northland Tackle “Thumper Crappie King” for my first attempt. Almost immediately, I had a hard-fighting heavy bluegill on. This was going to be fun!
Brian and I both ended up using 1/16 oz. jig, tipped with a small Impulse plastic. Daris used leeches to entice the big fish into biting, which didn’t really take much. They were hungry and of good size, averaging in the 9” range. We all caught a few fish that went over 10”.
The lake has nice crappie too but during the mid-day hours only a handful of small ones were caught. I’m thinking of trying for them in the fall, when they stack up in deeper holes and are much easier to find.
Rosebear runs trips on the same lake for largemouth bass and it certainly looks like it would hold plenty of them, as it’s very “bassy” looking with all the shoreline weed growth. Large northern pike are also caught in Bass Lake. Hmmm, let’s see. A fall trip for crappie, mixed in with northern pike, when they go on their fall eating binge. Sounds perfect! Oh yeah, maybe a few bluegills too, while I’m at it.
Each trip has me teasing Daris saying “you’re living the dream.” He just smiles. How nice it would be, guiding on un-pressured waters such as these. I couldn’t imagine. Well, maybe I can, as I keep on going back there. Yes, it’s that good.
For more information, you can contact Rosebear at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 214-0018. Did I tell you that kids under 16 are FREE?
I figured on doing something a little different, like catching bluegills, before I set my sights on Lake Vermilion, where I will be spending a majority of my time between now and August 25-26, pre-fishing for the AIM Pro Walleye Series championship with Andy Walsh.
Here’s a little tip on using buzz baits for bass. If it’s calm, you’ll want to use a “quieter” bait, with smaller blades or at least slow it down so it’s not so noisy. It just seems more natural that way. They’ll find it if they want to. Trust me.
However, if the lake condition is choppy, “go for the gusto” and toss out a larger bait, something that makes a good disturbance in the water. Big fish can get a little reckless during these conditions and if it’s raining, all the better. I’ve caught some real tanks during inclement weather and this goes for muskies as well.
I recall one time, musky fishing on Leech Lake with Brian Griffith, when I was having difficulty standing up in the boat because of the rollers. My back was hurting so I decided to take it easy for a while. This meant sitting in the boat seat and using a surface buzzer. It was a lure that could be cast out and slowly reeled back in. There was no hurry. It was easy and relaxing, until a 30 pound fish just about pulled me off the boat seat.
Give buzz bait fishing a try. Also, if you can get your hands on a “double-buzzer”, they work awesome!
"Fishing lately has consisted of a myriad of different species and opportunities. One day I’m trying my hand at some large northern pike in Aitkin County and the next I’m searching out big panfish in St. Louis County. Covering a wide area, the fish range from monstrous to small and it’s all fun, even on those “struggle days.” Yes, we all have them.
One short trip was made to Mille Lacs Lake, where I met up with Andy Walsh and Mike Patras to give big northern pike a try. Meeting in Malmo, poor weather was quickly rolling in so we decided on having breakfast first.
It eventually cleared and it was all downhill from there on out. Lake conditions looked to be prefect but the fishing wasn’t. Trolling up and down the shoreline, looking for isolated weed patches, we fished for three hours, without a bite, and decided to call it quits. It was just one of those days. I’ve had plenty of them in my day.
The next day, I joined panfish expert Keith Nelson for a crack at some big crappie. It was a lake that neither of us had been on before but had heard the “rumors.” We had to investigate.
This lake, too, threw us a curveball, giving up only dinky crappies but the bluegills were about as good as it got. Countless nice fish were caught and released, with one going well over 10”. That’s a good gill anywhere.
When looking back at this year’s open water season, I can call it “the summer of big bluegills”, as I have caught seven 11”and two 11 ½” fish. Beautiful gills, they were all quickly admired and released. I’m really getting into those big platters and am in the process of setting up a big bluegill trip on the Red Lake Reservation with fishing guide Daris Rosebear. I can’t wait for this one!
Up until now, it’s been pretty much all walleye, with the AIM Walleye Series, GRAHA, and Lake Vermilion tournaments.
The next AIM event will be on the St. Louis River/Lake Superior. I’ll be skipping this one but my replacement, who’ll be fishing with Andy Walsh, will be Duluth area fishing guide Jared Houston. This will sure make things a lot easier for Andy, as neither one of us has much experience down there and Jared know the “ins and outs” of this system very well.
This event will be our third AIM Series tournament, which is the minimum required to fish the year end championship to be held on Lake Vermilion in August. Well, you where I’ll be spending every waking moment until then. This is another “can’t wait.”
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of fishing some world class fisheries that are situated fairly-close to home. These fisheries can be best described as “champagne trips on a beer budget.” Basically, the main cost of each trip is the gas to get there.
One, Lake Nipigon, is quite a haul, but the lure of monster lake trout, brookies, and northern pike have had adventurists seeking out this remote area for the last 150 years.
I made it there once, with my son, Kris, and outdoor writer Brad Dokken. We teamed up with fishing guide Lorne Sholter and spent two days trying our hand at a big trout. Sholter has caught them upwards of 55 pounds and although we had it a little slow, we still managed a couple 23-pound fish.
Kris and longtime friend Kyle McCollor recently made the “Nip Trip” and spent an entire week, camping on an island.
The big lake is unforgiving and careful planning is a must. Kris and Kyle thought this one out for months before heading into the treacherous, big lake. Sixty miles long, it has countless shoals, reefs, and islands. Any mistakes made out there could prove to be life-threatening, as there’s no cell service. You are on your own. The television program “Alone” should go there if they want to get real!
It took them a while to figure out the lake trout but they eventually got into them, although not fish of the huge variety. They did, however, have the treble hooks pulled out of their large Rapalas a couple of times. Swivels were also broken. That makes one wonder. Fishing shallower, they really did a number on the big northern pike and brook trout. Kris is thinking another trip this fall. We’ll see if I have it in me.
Another budget trip that has exceptionally high rewards and expectations is fishing for Red River catfish in Manitoba. About six hours away, I’ve made this one quite a few times and like the Nipigon lake trout trip, I get excited when a close friend or relative is going there, even if I can make it myself.
Chisholm residents Tim Ranta, his son Timmy, and friend Greg Gargano made this trip last weekend and it surely didn’t disappoint. It never does. Although I’ve written about it many a time, it just doesn’t do it any justice. I’ve always said “you have to experience it to really understand.”
They must have gone home with their heads spinning, as they boated 71 big catfish in a day and a half, with the largest being a 27 pound fish caught by Tim Sr., who said “I broke my personal best catfish by 24 pounds….LOL.”
Summer’s in full swing and things are happening, as this warm weather really gets the fish cranked up. Some of my favorite fishing is taking place right now and that includes largemouth bass and crappie in the weeds.
As you all know, I hate the heat and pretty much lay low during the mid-day hours. However, as the sun nears the tree line, I become as active as the fish. It’s the perfect match!
The GRAHA Walleye Shootout on Pokegama Lake, held last Saturday, found me checking out the weeds, looking for walleyes. Although I didn’t find the Mother Lode, as did guide buddies Colt Anderson and Ben Olson, I certainly found some very nice crappies, along with oodles of largemouth bass.
Colt and Ben, by the way, finished in second place, competing in a very strong field of 107 teams, by weighing in 19.82 pounds, good for $5,000. Top honors went to the team of Tim Graupmann and Larry Estebo. They weighed in 21.62 pounds of walleye for a whopping $15,000. Now that’s a pretty good pay day!
During my pre-fishing efforts, I checked out plenty of weed lines but never did find the right areas. The newly found big crappie, however, have me thinking of heading back there for some evening fishing. Anchored up and bobber watching, it should be good.
Pitching into deep cabbage weeds, in 12’-15’ of water, I boated several nice crappies and these fish were hitting a large minnow. I can’t imagine going back and fishing for them with a proper, more finesse presentation. We’ll see what happens. Maybe they prefer big baits?
Fish hold in these deep, dense weed areas, especially when it’s sunny. It’s their “living room”, allowing them to be comfortable all day long and always have something nearby to eat, as there’s plenty of forage in there as well. The problem is finding these little sanctuaries.
The same with bass and although they seem willing to bite “in the slop” all day long, I like going after them later in the day, especially if it’s been hot out. Using the stealth mode of an electric motor, gradually ease up to the lily pad field and cast out a surface bait and slowly work it back to the boat. There’s something quite special when a bass “blows up” on a bait. It sometimes startles you.
My favorite lures for this are weed-less frogs and spoons but always have a flippin’ jig on hand, as they take more than their fair share of big bass. I’d have to think that the “jig & pig” is THE big bass bait.
This is a great way to catch a big fish. There may be a lot of bass frequenting weed lines but the big mamas are back in the vegetation. If you haven’t tried this, you owe it to yourself to get out there and give it a whack. You just may surprise yourself. One last tip – be sure to use heavy line!
Although crappies can be taken in the weeds, throughout the day, they too, really come alive when evening rolls around. All one needs to do is find a weed line and start trolling and the larger the weed bed the better.
Think of it like this. A skinny weed line is much like a small dwelling, housing a minimal number of residents. However, a large cabbage bed can be compared to an apartment building and has the potential of holding many. The adage “go big or go home” certainly holds true here.
I like to make a long cast behind the boat and slowly troll along the weed-line, usually beginning my outing around 6:30 p.m. or so. Many times, it’s like clockwork, with fish cooperating very well. You may be able to go “to the well” several days in a row, catching fish at the same time, but always be ready to have them start biting at a different time or sometimes not at all. That’s called fishing.
If you happen to find a good number of them, anchoring and using bobbers or just “fan-casting” the area with a jig can sometimes work very well. Anchored deep enough, 10’ for example, you may be able to catch them right below the boat, as fast as you can get your lure back into the water.
I’m not much of a bobber person and prefer to use a small jig, tipped with plastic. I like to stay busy. Casting out, keep an eye on your line for that little “twitch”. Many times, you won’t even feel the bite, as the fish strike from behind and push the lure toward you.
A little tip for this type of fishing is to use colored fishing line so it’s easier to see the “twitch.”
"What started out as a routine outing for a few largemouth bass, ended in another experimental session. Maybe that’s why I go solo most of the time. I like to fool around and try different approaches and ideas, when most other guest anglers would prefer staying with the program and catching fish. But that’s just me. I’m always thinking “what if?”
The small, local lake has very nice bass but one is always better off checking the forecast to make sure it is going to be overcast. Sun is absolutely no good for fishing this lake, as it is borderline “gin clear” and fish are easily spooked.
Easing into the water, I never started the outboard because this is another method of scaring shallow fish. It was cloudy and I was in “stealth mode”, sneaking along a weed line with the bow mount electric motor.
The first, long cast, using a top-water frog, resulted in a hungry, little bass. Things were looking good but that would change in a hurry. Almost on cue, the sun broke through the clouds and I was dealing, once again, with the wrath of Mother Nature. I knew immediately that it was going to be difficult fishing.
Working some of my favorite shallow-to-mid-depth areas resulted in nothing. Eventually, I ended up positioning the boat out in 25’ of water and casting a “jig & pig” combo toward a fast-dropping breakline, watching the lure slowly pendulum its way to the bottom.
The first cast had a fish hitting the bait as it neared bottom but it was only on for a second before becoming unbuttoned. A couple more attempts had me reeling in a nice three-pound largemouth. I felt the bite but always a line-watcher, I also noticed the telltale sign of a fish when the line made that little “twitch.”
Catching remained tough so I quickly changed gears and began trolling across the middle of the lake. Letting out 200’ of line, I offered a #7 crankbait that dove down to 10’. I’ve caught largemouth bass like this before, when trolling over 45’ of water. This time I was in 35’.
One of my largest bass, a 7 pounder, came as result of main-lake basin trolling so never rule out this plan of attack. When we get the infamous “dog days of summer”, now fast-approaching, give this method a try. All you need to do is snap on a shallow-running crankbait, let out a ton of line, and slowly troll across the middle of the lake, no matter how deep it is. You just may be in for a surprise.
Two trolling passes at “high flying” fish didn’t work so a different plan was put into practice. Noticing several fish at the 30’ level, it was time to go deep, using my lead core rod, which is always at the ready.
Snapping on a #7 crankbait, I only went a matter of 5 minutes before a fish took my offering. Nothing big, it was only a 3-pound northern pike but at least it was action. A couple more passes resulted in a fish with each one. Again, nothing big and certainly not what I was looking for. It was time to change it up a bit.
Sitting there, scratching my head, I spotted my little tackle box full of Northland Tackle “UV Mimic Minnows” and thought “hmmm, I wonder?” I tied one on and observed it at boat side, trolled at 2 ½ to 3 mph. It was perfect. I was amazed that the little bait worked so well, when moving at a fairly fast clip.
It looked to be the perfect stealth mode plan of attack, a small (2 ¾”) jig with a super-busy paddle tail, tied onto a 50’ monofilament leader, trolled deep at 30’ and 200’ behind the boat. It had to work.
The first pass resulted in nothing but halfway through the next run my rod buckled and the rod-holder strained under the load. Thinking northern pike, at this point, I saw the line quickly rising to the surface and thought “maybe a bass?” And then it surfaced, about 200’ behind the boat. Yes, it was and a nice one at that.
It bulldogged, as bass do, as I watched it down deep in the clear water. It was a nice one, around 3 ½ pounds. Thinking maybe I was onto something, I gave it a couple more passes before calling it a morning.
Heading home, my mind was awash with ideas on how to best utilize this new method. The presentations and opportunities were endless and I can’t wait to get back out there.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors. Get out there, be safe, have fun, and good luck!"
A late evening message from fishing guide Scott Moe had me quickly getting things ready for the next morning. Prior the message, I didn’t have any specific plans. Maybe another round with Swan or Trout Lake. Maybe checking the waters of Pokegama Lake, doing a little super-early pre-fishing for the big GRAHA Walleye Shootout. However, those thoughts fell by the wayside when Scott said he had an open seat and was heading to Mille Lacs Lake in the morning. I was there.
Having only fished it a handful of times, it was the perfect opportunity to get a crack at some nice walleyes before the season closes on July 7. Yes, heavily managed for walleye, Mille Lacs Lake is under the microscope and there is no such thing as a “normal” fishing season for the big lake, all 207 square miles of it.
Up until July 6, it is catch and release fishing only and totally closed to walleye fishing from July 7 through the 26th. After that, it opens to catch and release fishing again from July 28 to September 4, closing again from September 5 through November 30. Who can keep up with these regulations. What in the world?
Moe, five years a fishing guide, focuses on the big waters of Mille Lacs Lake and Upper Red Lake, along with several smaller lakes in the Alexandria area, where he used to live. Now making residence in Brooklyn Center, countless trips are made to Mille Lacs, along with several days at a time on Upper Red Lake, where he runs a launch for Rogers Resort.
Winter finds him on the same waters, where he is busier than all get out. Talking about his guide service, Scott said “I love meeting new people. No one is the same. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a tough way to make a living but I love it.”
Our meeting place was the public access near the casino and I realized it was the Fourth of July weekend but who would think you’d have trouble in finding a parking place? Fishermen were there in droves. It didn’t matter if they had to toss back all their walleyes. They were going there to get bit and the odds were pretty good that it was going to happen. Truly amazing.
Sure, there were the occasional smallmouth bass and musky fishermen but the majority were looking for Minnesota’s state fish, Mr. Walleye.
Moe’s boat, a 1775 Lund Pro V, was purchased new in 2000 but looks good for its age and handled the windy waters of Mille Lacs quite well. I can’t imagine how many thousands of fish have come aboard that old Lund.
We planned on trolling crankbaits so no live bait was brought along, even though it was allowed through July 6. Starting July 7, it is not allowed. Minnesota fishing regulations state “Only artificial bait and lures allowed in possession on Mille Lacs Lake from 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 7, to 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, July 27. Live bait restriction begins again at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5, and continue through 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30. Anglers targeting northern pike and muskellunge may possess sucker minnows greater than 8" in length during these restricted periods.”
Pulling cranks, our first walleye, a nice, fat 24” fish, came quickly and lure colors were changed a few times until a definite pattern emerged. Although it wasn’t fast and furious, fish came often enough that we were never bored.
And it’s more than just tossing out lures and going willy-nilly across the lake. Moe, at 47 years old, has fished the big lake for most of his entire life. Speed and lure depth was also very critical but it didn’t take Scott long to get them “dialed in.”
Moe is good at what he does and represents several fishing related companies. One of them really caught my eye. It’s a little device, made by Kill Zone Fishing, that can make your bottom bouncers much more versatile. In a nutshell, it allows you to quickly and easily adjust the dropper weight distance on any rig you are using. For more information, go to their Facebook page or web site at www.killzonefishing.com. Here, you’ll be able to view short videos of the product.
It ended up being a great day on the water, catching a couple dozen nice walleye, with Scott getting bragging rights for his 27” fish. He also lost a larger fish as it neared the boat. For more information regarding a fishing trip with Scott Moe, go to his Facebook page or phone (612) 868-8810.
Brian Griffith and I made plans to fish together on Trout Lake last Saturday but inclement weather forced us to postpone for a day. Both retired, we can do that now and prefer avoiding bad weather. It’s amazing what old age can do to a fella. Back in the day, when fishing musky or walleye tournaments, or just playing around, we’d be out there come hell or high water and many times it was a little of each.
The decision to cancel Saturday’s outing came early in the morning but I had the boat all ready to go so another trip to Trout was in order. I’d go solo, as it was only 19 miles from home. Brian, on the other hand, lived near Walker, about 1 ½ hours away.
It was cold, wet, and windy but I had somewhat of a game plan. That being to fish until noon and then head home to watch the Twins game. The whole day was planned. (By the way, how ‘bout those Twins!)
Having done well on the walleyes in days prior, I struggled and only ended up catching four smallmouth bass. I was glad he didn’t make the trip for that kind of fishing but wondered about the next day. The forecast didn’t look any better. Hmmm. What to do? I certainly wasn’t going back to Trout Lake. But then it struck me. Native fishing guide Daris Rosebear and I had been meaning to get together sometime soon and although he was quite busy with his guiding schedule, I wondered if he might possibly have an open spot for Sunday. A message was sent and sure enough, he was open. We’d be there.
I called “Griff” and told him to meet me in Bemidji at 6:15 am, saying “we’re going lake trout fishing.” After a slight pause, his expected response was “What? Lake trout? Where?” “On the Red Lake Reservation with Daris Rosebear” I answered, which only brought on an onslaught of more questioning. I finished up by telling him “just bring a couple jigging rods and I’ll meet you at Burger King.”
Meeting the next morning, we traveled together to Red Lake and met Daris at the casino parking lot. From there, we followed him to the jail (now that’s always a little concerning), where we each purchased a permit to fish for a day on the Red Lake Nation. Cost? $10.
It was nice to see Daris and it’s getting to be like “old home week” when we meet up. I first fished with him several years ago, when ice fishing for stream trout. I think we caught about fifty fish that day. Another trip was made on the ice with the same results. It’s always good.
This was my first open water trip with him and I was just as excited as Griff, who admitted he couldn’t even sleep the night before. It’s sure nice not to lose that enthusiasm for a passion that we both share.
We followed Rosebear to Green Lake, where we would try our hand for lake trout. The lake is off limits to outboard motor use but it’s small size made it perfect for the bow mount trolling motor and within minutes we were on the spot and jigging.
It didn’t take long for a lake trout to come aboard. I think it was on Brian’s first drop, as we jigged in 40’ of water. A good sign. Using smaller lake trout offerings (jig/minnow, jig/plastic, spoons, etc.), we went on to catch our limit of two each and released a good number of them, along with the occasional largemouth bass. I can’t recall catching bass that deep before. It was a fun battle all the way to the top.
The lakers ran an average size of three pounds or so but Rosebear has caught them up to 33”, weighing about 12 pounds. You really never know when a big one will show its face. A medium action walleye rod works well for these fish.
There’s 27 lakes on the reservation that are available for summer fishing, as long as you have a permit and native fishing guide. Wintertime only allows one to fish three stream trout lakes. Lake trout are off limits.
Enough lake trout fun was had and it was time to move on to lake number two, which was only minutes away.
Island Lake, one that I had ice fished before, is home to great numbers of rainbows and brook trout and right on cue, they were biting with every drop. This time, the baits were smaller yet and tipped with a small piece of minnow. Put the whole minnow on and they’d steal it away.
The brookies were hungry, like normal, and many were of the smaller variety but every-once-in-a-while you’d latch onto a bigger one. Daris has caught them up to 19”.
Rainbows would come and go but you knew immediately when one had grabbed your lure, as they fought a lot harder than the little brookies. A panfish rod works very well for these fish.
With a limit achieved, we went on to catch and release. Total fish count wasn’t kept track of but I’m sure we caught over 50 fish, again. It never ceases to amaze me. Actually, that’s the catch phrase on Rosebear’s guide service brochure, “be amazed.” And we were.
Daris, at 27 years of age, does well as a fishing guide and has been at it for 7 years now. He’s a true joy to be fishing with, whether on the ice or in the boat. His boat, by the way, is a 2016 16 ½’ AlumaCraft, which is perfect for the many smaller waters available on the reservation. Tag boats are allowed, if you want to bring your own to accommodate a larger group.
For more information on fishing the Red Lake Nation with Daris Rosebear, contact him on Facebook at Rosebear Guide Service, email email@example.com, or phone 218-214-0018. Be Amazed!
It doesn’t matter where I’m at. Somewhat a magical happening, there’s always something luring me toward the fishing tackle aisle, whether I need anything or not and I usually don’t. But what if? What if there’s a hot, new bait on the market and I’m missing out? Good Lord, I can’t let that happen.
Stopping at the local bait shop, you’re expected to look things over and make a purchase or two but WalMart? Come on. I can’t begin to think how many times I ran over there to buy bananas and bread and came home without them. I did, however, have some plastic worms, to use for bass fishing, along with a few other much needed necessities.
Much of the tackle, I believe, is designed to catch the angler, as well as the fish, as it comes in flashy, well-balanced colors and looks pretty darn cool. I’ve a lot of this stuff. However, some of it isn’t fancy at all but is proven and has been around forever, like the famed “Plow Jockey” plastic worm. I can’t remember where I first purchased one but it looked goofy enough to entice me into trying it.
While most all plastic worms are fairly straight, the “Plow Jockey” lies there curled up, in sort of a crooked, fetal position, almost looking like it has given up. Odd, I thought. I had to try one just for fun. Needless-to-say, I was more than surprised when I started catching quite a few fish with the contraption.
The pre-rigged “Plow Jockey”, along with a few of the copycats, measures 5 ½” long and features three hooks, embedded into the worm. On one end, there is a short leader with a loop for tying on. It also emits the sweet smell of anise oil.
It’s a great little, obscure bait that can put a lot of fish in the boat. Bass eat it up, as well as sunfish, as the small Mustad hook at the at the rear of the bait nabs them most every time. The three hooks, by the way, are tied together with 17 pound test Trilene XL line so it’s made to take a beating and hold up.
When using one, I use a light sinker, just heavy enough to aid in casting but light enough to offer a slow fall. It gets them every time. Shortly before writing this article, I drove around Hibbing and failed to find any so it looks like I’ll have to order a few more from their web site at www.kellybassworms.com.
Coming in all sorts of colors and different lengths, you can get them weedless, if preferred, and some even feature a small propeller in the front.
I have the mind-set that slow trolling them wouldn’t be very productive but when thinking about it, they would almost imitate a “Slow Death” rig for walleye, where a crooked action is preferred. So, who knows?
The Swan Lake Classic was held last weekend, based out of Mr. Roberts. Anglers competed for top spots in walleye and northern pike divisions and the competition was fairly stiff. Many of these local anglers are very good at what they do. Make no mistake about it.
Coming out on top, in the walleye division, was Ted Bielecki, weighing in the largest walleye of the tournament at 1.45 pounds. He also took top honors in the stringer weight with three fish going 3.49 pounds.
Tom Galley and Casey Fisher brought home the big northern pike trophy with an 8.31 pounder, while the stringer of three award went to Gary and Chad Rutherford, weighing in 17.03 pounds.
Andy Walsh and I fished the event but had trouble in catching anything to weigh in, as all of our walleyes were either too small, under 14”, or too big, falling in the 17” to 26” slot limit and we did have a big one get off, while casting for northern pike. That fish, which I saw at boat side, looked like it might have been in the 26” range. Regardless, it sure put a bend in my musky rod.
Trying lead core mid-way through the contest, we immediately caught two nice fish, a 24” walleye and 28” northern pike. The walleye had to be released but the northern went into the live well and do you think we could get another qualifying fish over the 24” mark? No, but the lake certainly has a ton of smaller fish in the 20” range. Wow.
It makes one wonder just where all the walleye in the 14” to 17” range are. Gone? We either caught 11” fish or 23”ers. Hmmm.
Wow. Fished out I am. I’m sure it will take a day or two to recover to the point where I want to hit the water again. I just spent eight days on Leech Lake, non-consecutive, pre-fishing the big lake for six of them and tournament fishing the other two, during last weekend’s AIM Walleye Series. As expected, “highs and lows” were had throughout the entire stretch.
I started things off by joining Al and Bev Standly. Covering a lot of water, in typical pre-fish mode, they were scouting things out for the Leech Lake Walleye Tournament to be held in days to follow. It was an excellent day and I even learned a thing or two from this dynamic walleye fishing team. Who said you can’t teach an old dog a few tricks now and then?
After a day off, I headed back solo and tried a few interesting spots. More-or-less riding around and exploring, I didn’t do much of anything until later in the day, when I finally found some very nice fish, measuring 26” and 28”. Checking out another area had me catching smaller fish in the 17”-18” range, along with losing another bigger one.
I waited another two days before going back, as the big Leech Lake Walleye Tournament was taking place and I didn’t want to get in the way or deal with all the boat traffic. However, the following Monday, fishing partner Andy Walsh and I were back at it.
It turned out to be a real stinker of a day. Fishing was horrendous. At least the catching was.
The next day had Brian Griffith, my tournament partner from many years ago, joining us. He knows the lake well and has run many a guide trip on Leech Lake. Although not fantastic fishing, we pin-pointed a couple more, little, obscure spots and went on to catch and release a few fish. Overall, it was a good day and a great opportunity to catch up on things with Brian. Oh, the stories.
Another day off, Wednesday, was taken due to Andy’s grandfather’s funeral. We had two more days to pre-fish before the two tournament AIM Walleye Series got underway on the weekend.
Thursday had good friend Jim Carpenter joining us for the day. Jim’s been in many walleye tournaments and has done very well. He also knows the big waters of Leech Lake like the back of his hand. We went on to learn a few more good spots, catching a bunch of fish in the low-to-mid 20” range, with the largest going just under 25”.
The final day of pre-fishing was held on Friday, where Andy and I were honored to have Bill Thurman, owner of Mesaba Heating A/C Plumbing, join us for the day. Bill, one of our tournament sponsors, is an avid angler and was right at home in chasing Leech Lake walleyes. This was somewhat of a slow day but we didn’t want to beat up the spots that we had going.
As luck would have it, Mother Nature, right on schedule, knew Saturday morning was tournament time and presented us with typical angry Leech Lake weather. It was blowing pretty good and really threw a wrench into some of our favorite walleye spots, as the lake was too rough to fish them properly.
How hard was it blowing? Well, Justin Bailey was just taking off, right out of the shoot, on the way to his “first pick”, when he hit a “hard wave”, causing a drawer to slide open in his boat. Now that’s not so bad but when stored items fly up into the air and settle on the bottom of the lake it is. Some of them were about $200 worth of Jig Raps, handheld radio, truck keys, and billfold.
We went on to struggle throughout the day and had a poor showing. Such is the life of a tournament angler. Thank goodness I don’t do this for a living, as I’d starve to death or at least be eating one heck of a lot of fish.
The next day was almost a repeat, with Mother Nature acting up again, only tossing in a little rain and lightning this time, and with Andy and I struggling. We did better on this day but it was still tough going for us, along with a few others.
It’s always fun going head-to-head with some of the best walleye teams and “Team Picht” emerged as one of them. Stephen and Brenda Picht placed 23rd on Saturday and wrapped up the weekend with an impressive 4th place finish on Sunday. Full results can be viewed by going to “AIM Weekend Walleye Series” on Facebook.
Next up? The GRAHA Walleye Shootout on Pokegama Lake, July 15. And the competition doesn’t get any easier.
Their love for each other, along with the sport of fishing, is quite evident. After all, they stayed in a tent on their honeymoon, spent at Judd’s Resort on Big Winnibigoshish, in 1979, and are still going strong today, maybe stronger.
Al and Bev Standley, Lakeville, have been a fixture on the walleye tournament scene since 1996, starting out with a “couples event” held on Mille Lacs Lake. From there, things sort of snowballed, as they have competed in at least 200 events so far and still counting.
I had the opportunity to hop in the boat with them last week and observe how this well-oiled walleye catching machine gets things done. We were on Leech Lake and it was their first day of pre-fishing for the 9th annual Leech Lake Walleye Tournament.
Leech Lake offers 111,000 acres of water with angling opportunities for all, no matter the species. While Al and Bev Standley were in hot pursuit of trophy walleye, many others were enjoying Leech Lake for its bass and northern pike fishing and let’s not forget about the bragging size panfish that swim these waters. Famous for its musky fishing, the musky season opened June 3, the same day as the first day of the Leech Lake Walleye Tournament.
Although one of Minnesota’s larger lakes, it doesn’t take the Standleys’ long to go from one end to the other, if need be. Forever a “tiller man”, Al now runs a wheel boat, a 20’ Warrior, powered by a 300 horsepower Yamaha. Needless-to-say, we covered water in a hurry.
It was a little breezy on this day, making the big lake rough from time-to-time, but it didn’t matter when sitting in a boat seat on top of a WavePro hi-performance pedestal. These units make all the difference in the world, especially when it comes to running hard in rough conditions, which is what tournament anglers do. Your back will say “thank you.”
We checked out several areas and found a stingy bite. A few fish were caught and released and some were just what Team Standley was looking for, like the 27”er caught by Al. No stranger to big walleyes herself, Bev has caught them up to 29 ½”, on Mille Lacs Lake, while Al’s largest came from the Rainy River and taped out at 31 ½”.
Trying to put together a pattern was difficult, as fish came on all live-bait presentations, using shiners, crawlers, and leeches. Depths varied as well, depending on which area of the lake we were fishing. Hopefully, by the end of the week, Al and Bev would have a concrete plan to put to work. They usually do.
Back in the early years, Bev said she was more than a little intimidated when it came to backing up a boat trailer. Watching her now, you’d think she’s done that for decades. Oh wait, she has! She’s also pretty darn good at catching fish too.
Although the Standleys’ are always a force to be reckoned with on the tournament trail, Al said “we’ve had our highs and lows”. There isn’t a tournament pro that hasn’t. It comes with the territory.
He told of the time when they had a nice basket of fish to weigh in but their boat broke down. Tournament rules allow an angler to be picked up by another boat, during a situation like this, so Bev and the fish bummed a ride back to the weigh-in, while Al stayed with the boat.
They ended up cashing a check that day. Ironically, the same team that brought Bev back to shore was bumped out of the money for their good deed. Classy anglers all around.
I’ve competed against Al and Bev quite a few times and no matter the outcome, they always hold their heads high and display a professional demeanor. They usually beat me too!
My first walleye tournament is now in the books and after two days of rest, I’m still tired out. They’re a lot of fun but a good deal of work as well, especially when Mother Nature starts throwing curveballs, making it miserable out on the water.
My pre-fishing started out with my brother, Bruce, on opening day. I really wanted to go to Upper Red Lake on this day but seeing how Andy Walsh and I were entered in the City Auto Glass Walleye Classic on Lake Vermilion a week later, I thought it best to spend as much time out there as possible.
Bruce and I experienced decent fishing (except for the banana episode) on that Saturday. I took Sunday off but headed right back to Lake Vermilion, by myself, on the following Monday. More-or-less just exploring and looking at areas I have never fished before, I found a couple more good spots and brought home a nice limit of walleye. I also lost two big fish but one I’m betting was a musky, which is always fun but not what I was looking for.
Going solo, back at it again on Wednesday, I found the fishing, or at least the catching, to have slowed considerably. Never-the-less, several other spots were checked off “the list” and pre-fishing continued. Even if fish weren’t found or caught in some of these areas, I consider it positive pre-fishing, as at least I know not to worry about missing something and there’s a lot to miss on this body of water, with its 40,000 acres, 100 miles of shoreline, and 365 islands. It’s indeed quite a fishery.
Andy had Thursday and Friday off to help pre-fish but the weather had really turned sour so the first order of the day was to stop and have a hearty breakfast, on our way to the lake, at Sportmen’s Café in Hibbing. To say we weren’t in any hurry is an understatement.
Once on the water, we re-visited several of my proven spots and came up empty-handed. Not one walleye was caught on this day but a couple of very nice smallmouth bass made their way to the boat. That had me thinking of the bass tournament that was scheduled for Sunday. Hmmm?
By Friday, the weather had straightened out to the point where it was actually nice out. The fish bit well too. Determining where to go in the morning of the tournament was a difficult choice. We had fish going in so many different spots and none of them were anything special but both of us favored going back to the last area we fished on Friday. It looked promising, in there was a good number of fish to be found and it wasn’t over-fished by other anglers. We’re usually on the same wave-length, when it comes to making fishing decisions, and that, I believe, is what makes us such a compatible tournament team.
Although only a little more than an hour away from home, we stayed Friday night at Fortune Bay Casino, where the tournament was based out of. This made things a lot easier, as we had the rules meeting dinner from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and had to get after it right away in the morning. Precious hours were saved.
The marina opened at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. If you needed bait or boat gas, it was readily available. Andy’s boat was securely left in a slip overnight and was charged up and ready to go.
Coffee and muffins, courtesy of Perkins, were offered to any anglers needing a little something in the morning. We didn’t worry about not eating a breakfast, as Subway box lunches were given to all contestants. That would work just fine.
Being boat number 91, out of 110, we watched almost everyone else heading out onto the big lake, wondering if anyone would be in “our spot.”
It was windy and rough out but that didn’t stop Captain Andy from pushing the limit with his 200 horsepower Mercury. I think we only went airborne once, maybe twice. Halfway there, I noticed Andy’s lucky hat had blown off his head. It did the “deep six” somewhere back in Big Bay.
Only one other tournament boat was there to greet us. Each working a small area, fishing etiquette was observed, as we each kept a safe and respectable distance from one another. That’s sure nice when you are fishing near “class” anglers. I’ve seen it the other way around too many times.
Andy started things off with a 13 ½” walleye, caught on a jig and minnow, which is certainly nothing to brag about but when it’s the first fish of the morning and you don’t know what is in store for you, it goes into the livewell. Each team could keep their limit of eight fish, four each, and weigh in six of them. The walleye had to be at least 12” in length and only two could be over 26”. Everything in the slot limit, 20” to 26”, had to be released.
He followed up with another of the same size. I told Andy “I’m going for the gusto” and dropped down a large minnow on the end of a live bait rig. Minutes later, I had a nice fish on the end of my line. Upon netting the fish, I was a little disappointed, as it looked to be 25” or so, which meant it wouldn’t count for anything, other than the fun in catching it.
The fish measured at a “hair” over 26”. Using two bump boards, we measured it several times before deciding to keep it. Still fishing, another decision had to be made and that was to leave our spot and head back across rough water to weigh the fish in before it died. It was looking good now but later? Who knew?
We left and tried to take it easy, which is hard to do during windy conditions. Heading back, I pointed off to the side and said “look, a hat”, joking around like normal.
One hour into the tournament, we were docking at the headquarters and officials were walking down to meet us. If the fish was too small, we would be disqualified. You can rest assure that we did some accurate measurements out on the lake, using two different boards.
It measured out as over, but barely, and we were on the board with a nice walleye weighing 5.69 pounds, which was successfully released by officials. Now we had to go back and get five more decent fish, which really didn’t happen. Although we set our sights on catching a few in the 16” to 18” range, the biggest we could come up with was two measuring 15”.
Mixed in with a few 14” walleye, we were able to put together a six fish tournament limit weighing 10.51 pounds, which ended up being good enough for 7th place and $1,400.
Hats off to the team of Dan and Jake Dougherty for their first place finish, weighing in six fish for 15.28 pounds, which included a 10.2 pound trophy walleye. They were awarded $12,500 for their efforts.
We’re already looking forward to next year!
From the sounds of it, most everyone did pretty good and if they didn’t, they surely couldn’t complain about the weather. That’s about the nicest opening day weather I can ever remember.
Fishing friends and family were spread out on different waters, all across the North Country and here’s how it all went down.
Andy Walsh did the “start at midnight thing” on Mille Lacs and just about wore out his fish clicker, as by the time the smoke had cleared, over 140 walleyes made their way into the boat. Of course, it was catch and release only, as you can’t keep any walleye there but who really cares when you can start the season off like that. Wow.
Andy and friends trolled crankbaits at night and had several “triples” happen. Once the sun peeked over the trees, they switched to jigs and plastics and kept on catching…and releasing. Yes, the fish were hungry, to say the least, and they weren’t just the little guys, as a couple of them were in the 30” range. Mike Patras boated his personal best of 30.75”. That’s a nice fish anywhere. Congrats Mike!
Justin Bailey started on Leech Lake and found good fishing as well. Bailey found success by slowly working, almost dragging, 1/16 and 1/8 oz. jigs tipped with shiners. Key areas were where the sand met new weed growth in 5’ to 12’ of water. Justin also commented on the weather, saying “it was the most beautiful weather I can ever remember.”
My brother, Joel, and company, fished Upper Red Lake and did as expected, catching several nice walleyes. He stated that after catching a number of fish by using jigs and minnows, they switched gears and trolled Rapalas, and began catching them at an even faster pace. That can be hard to do, when there’s a lot of boat traffic, and I’m sure Upper Red Lake had plenty of it.
My son, Kris, and longtime childhood buddy, Kyle McCollor, are always up for an adventure and this year’s opening day was no different, as they set their sights on a bunch of small backwater lakes. You know the type. They’re the ones that have you sometimes pulling a small boat through all kinds of obstacles, just to reach the water, not even knowing if it’s going to be worth the effort. Well, it was. Some of them anyway.
Their next adventure is going to require something more than a jon boat, as they will be making a trip to Lake Nipigon for monster lake trout, as well as other species. I can’t wait for the report on that one.
I talked my brother, Bruce, into joining me for a day out on the water and that’s always a special occasion, especially when it’s on opening day. Lake Vermilion was my selection.
Coming from different directions, we made plans to meet in Sturgeon, a halfway point. There, he would toss in his gear and jump in with me, leaving his vehicle.
There wasn’t a lot, just a couple of rods, an unusually heavy, old tacklebox, and a light lunch, which included a BANANA!
I enlightened him of the wide-ranging superstition of bananas being labeled as bad luck, when it came to fishing. Many anglers won’t allow them into the boat. Not believing in that bad omen, I just laughed it off but was sure to rag on him a little for trying to ruin our opening day.
Once there, Hoo Doo Point, (now with a name like that, I should have known better. I already had the banana going against me) I quickly backed the boat in and left Bruce on the dock, holding the rope. We were a little late in getting there and the parking lot was full so I had to drive quite a distance, park on the edge of the road, and walk about ¼ mile back to the dock.
Hopping in the boat and getting things in order, I noticed a lot of water coming in from somewhere. I couldn’t believe it! (It was the banana, I’m telling ya) The boat is only one year old and doesn’t leak a drop. As a matter-of-fact, I take great pride when it comes to pulling the plug, as it’s always as dry as a bone.
It was busy, more boats were putting in and we were kind of stuck, with nowhere to go. I found a small open area and beached it in front of some campers. I hated to intrude but had no option and explained the situation to my new friends. They could have cared less but their dogs were sure barking.
Wave Wackers are great for keeping water out of the boat, when back trolling, but there’s no way a person can reach over them to inspect a boat plug. I knew I put it in there and tightened it up good. How in the world could it have come out, if that was even the problem?
There was only one way to find out. Yup. Taking my shoes and socks off, setting them neatly off to the side, I stepped out of the boat and into the nice, cool, spring lake water. Thank goodness we had an early spring, as it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.
Wet up to my knees, and up to my shoulders, I found the plug intact and shoved a spare plug into the “other” hole. Bruce walked up to get the truck (he needed the exercise anyway), while I watched the bilge pump work away. It didn’t look like I was making any headway but it didn’t matter. I had to drive it back onto the trailer to check things out.
He arrived and I don’t think I’ve ever loaded a boat so fast. I just don’t like the feeling of a lot of water inside the boat. It’s supposed to be on the outside.
The boat launch people probably thought “wow, that was a quick limit. I just saw those guys go out 30 minutes ago.” They did come to check us out though and once again I had to explain.
Parked well out of the way, I looked at the back of the boat and found I had inadvertently put the boat plug in the livewell drain hole! (I don’t care, I’m blaming the banana)
Tossing my wet shirt up in front of the boat and putting on any extra clothes I could find, we got back in line and did it right this time. Yes, my pants were wet and stayed that way for most of the day but we did go home with a nice limit of fish. How was your opening day?
Are you ready for the fishing opener? I think I am. Although at the time of this writing, I have only taken my boat out two times, so far, this new open water season. We’ll see. There’s always something that I have forgotten and it usually takes me two or three trips before all is “perfect.” Here is a brief “first trip checklist”.
• First off, be sure to try your boat out beforehand and not at the public launch, where a dozen other anxious fishermen will be waiting for you. I’ve seen it too many times. Fire that beast up prior to the opening day. Also, have a little patience, especially if you see someone having difficulties. It’s a long season and it doesn’t hurt to help someone out on this much-awaited day.
• Current fishing license? This is easy to overlook, when there’s so many other things on your mind.
• Boat trailer – This too, may need a license. Are the running lights “running”? How are the tires looking? If they’ve been sitting for a long time, they just may be weather-checked and in need of being replaced. Make sure there is enough air pressure in the tires. Running low will cause them to run warm, if not hot, and may create problems on the highway. If so, do you have a spare and the proper jack and wheel wrench to change it? Also, give the hubs a shot of grease and check (feel them by hand) after traveling a few miles. If they’re slightly warm, okay, but be careful, they could be HOT! Cool or cold is always preferred.
• Boat – Do you have a current license? A lot of anglers do but leave it sitting at home or in their wallet. Do the conservation officers a favor and put it on, as they have a lot on their plate and shouldn’t have to make “wasted stops”.
• How about a boat launching rope? Water levels vary (most are fairly-high right now) and a rope makes things a lot easier. You don’t want to be wading in the cold waters of spring. It’s not very comfortable. I always carry a pair of knee-boots, along with a pair of hip-waders, for difficult launching situations.
• Batteries are probably the number one cause of opening day problems. Be sure they are charged up and ready to go. Check the connections.
• Boat plug? As simple as it seems, this is highly important. Over the course of many years, who hasn’t gone to the lake and found out a boat plug had disappeared? I remember whittling down and jamming a stick in mine one time. Of course, it was a little 14’er that I was able to keep an eye on while nervously fishing away.
• Enough life vests and boat cushions? Not only a regulation but also something that just may save someone’s life.
• Drift sock? Larger lakes they often require slowly drifting the bait in front of a walleye’s nose call for some sort of device to slow you down a bit. This can make or break your day. I remember, back in the day, using a 5-gallon bucket on the end of a rope. This was before the drift-sock was even on the market. We do what we need to do.
• Check your fishing line, as it’s probably the least expensive cost of the whole trip. If you’ve got a little idle time on your hands, change the line to be sure you don’t break off on that big fish. Not sure how to do it? Bring the reel in. Most bait shops will gladly “spool you up.”
• Landing net. I can’t recall how many times I’ve forgotten mine at home. This is mainly because I don’t use one when fishing for spring panfish, as it gets in the way. So, there I am, out walleye fishing and am looking for the net when that first fish is hooked, only to remember that it’s hanging in the garage. With a half-dozen others.
• Most boats have livewells but many don’t. Don’t forget a method to keep your catch. When I’m fishing in a small boat, I either use a floating fish basket for panfish or cooler with a little ice in it. Sometimes a stringer is used but they take up time and always offer a good chance at losing a fish, if not the whole stringer.
• Last, but not least, on this somewhat short list is to be sure to protect yourself from the sun. Bring along sun-block (better yet, put it on at home and then wash your hands) and a hat and sunglasses.
Enjoy your time on the water with family and friends and good luck to all. Be careful and have fun!
Marc Koprevic of Keewatin continues his turkey hunting success with this nice bird taken in SE Minnesota. Bagged April 23, the tom weighed 24 1/2 pounds and sported a 10" beard and 1 1/4" spurs.
Eight year old Aubrey Bailey, Keewatin, shows how to catch big crappies. She was fishing with dad, fishing guide Justin Bailey. Crappie are up shallow NOW. Keep this in mind for Minnesota's "Opening Day".
Normally waking up quite early, I was a little disappointed in myself for sleeping until 4:35 am (I never set an alarm). That’s when I first cleared my eyes and glanced at the clock. It took a few seconds before I realized that Andy Walsh and I had made plans to leave town at 4:30 am!
Peering outside, there he was, patiently waiting, with his big Lund Impact in tow. Somewhat embarrassed, it only took a few minutes before I was joining him for a trip across the border to Kakagi Lake.
Ice-out lake trout in mind, I knew we’d be pushing our luck a bit, as the ice had just left. I’ve experienced poor fishing immediately after ice-out but here we were, positioned in a miserable transition stage, with not a lot of choices, when it comes to fishing. Also, Andy only has weekends off so we had to make it happen.
I was excited, as I haven’t tried my hand at these early fish for several years. The equipment used has been sitting in the garage, organized and ready to go for the last two weeks. All we needed was open water and it was finally here.
It’s not a bad trip, for doing it all in one day. It’s very comparable to driving to the Twin Cities and back for a day of fun. There’s one big difference though and that is there aren’t any Canadian Shield lakes offering great lake trout fishing.
It was cold overnight, so I wasn’t surprised to find an early morning ice skim covering most of the lake. We took it easy, making it out to a few open water patches, breaking ice as we went. One other boat was out there, slowly trolling an open water area. The ice looked to be ¼” thick in places but had melted away by day’s end.
Picking our way, we found suitable water to troll in and would occasionally feel our lines hitting ice from time to time. The ice looked to be ¼” thick in places but would melt away by day’s end. Water temperatures ranged from 37º to 39º throughout the day.
Starting “old school”, the way I first began fishing for these critters, 30 years ago, a stick-bait was tied on and let out about 200’ behind the boat. A 1 oz. trolling sinker was also used, to make sure that we were down just a bit, in case the fish were lazy and didn’t feel like raising up to get it.
The other bait was one of my custom-made rigs, mimicking the famed “Strip-On Minnow.” Decorated with catchy, trout-loved colors (silver, white, purple, etc.), a thawed-out cisco was threaded onto it. I’ve found this to work well, especially very early in the spring. It will catch more than its fair share of fish, when compared to crankbaits and spoons.
Years ago, a 4” floating Rapala was king and best colors varied from day to day. This was before the introduction of “Husky Jerks” and the myriad of other great crankbaits that we have on the market today. There’s almost too much to pick from and that can be a problem at times. I think.
Nothing was happening with our trolling approach so we decided to do the shore-fishing thing. This is always fun.
We tried one of my favorite spots for this method. This one involves a long, slow tapered break that has early season trout on the prowl, looking for something to eat. Many spots like this allow the angler to cast out from shore but this one had us bringing the baits out to the desired depth with the boat, dropping them in place, and then returning to shore, giving line as we went.
Once on shore, the rod is propped up and the reel bail is open, allowing the fish to pick up the bait and run with it, not feeling any resistance at all.
If it’s breezy out, the line will be pulled out of the reel so you need to make sure that it is secured in some creative manner. I have some custom-made line holders, made with rubber-coated alligator clips but there is also the old method of “beer canning”, so named by my Canadian trout fishing friends.
This involves wrapping the line around an empty can, shortly after leaving the spool. Sitting upright, the can will tip over and make noise (almost always fishing on a rock ledge) when a fish runs with the bait. Shore fishing usually involves having lunch and not paying a lot of attention so this method works well.
Since we are not allowed to carry beer in the boat, let along be drinking it on shore, we went the American version of “pop canning”, or in Andy’s case “energy drink canning”.
Another tip when shore fishing is to place something on the line, close to the rod tip, so you notice line leaving the rod, signaling a fish. Do you chew gum? Tin foil works well for this practice.
We gave it the old college try and came up empty-handed. Discouraged? Not much. Maybe just a tad. The beautiful scenery made up for much of the lack of action. It’s always gorgeous up there, especially during early spring, when ice is still clinging to the shorelines.
It did give us a chance to check out some of our tournament equipment (graphs, new transducer, trolling rods, etc.). All worked great but I think we’re going to upgrade the trolling line-counter reels.
We’re also making a trip back. This time, the water should be a little bit warmer and trout should be frequenting the shallows. Warmer shallow water equals insect and minnow life and with it hungry trout. Maybe next weekend?