Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" December 26, 2016
Ice fishing is in full swing, no matter where you care to go. Throughout the past two weeks, we’ve tested the waters all the way from Mille Lacs Lake to Lake of the Woods and the report is very good.
Mille Lacs Lake: Justin Bailey made a recent trip there and reports fantastic fishing, if you’re in the mood for a catch-and-release type of day, which is just what he was looking for. All walleye less than 19” or greater than 21” must be released and the limit is only one so I wouldn’t go there in hopes of having a fish dinner for the family. You can, however, keep a lunker if it measures over 28”.
Not only are there plenty of fish to be had but it’s a day bite as well!
Leech Lake: Ryan Berzins and I made a trip out of Trapper’s Landing Lodge, on the south end by Whipholt, for a short-lived walleye bite. Yes, the walleye activity is good but only lasts for a short while. It’s a small window of opportunity but fun never-the-less. Fish the low-light hours of early morning or evening.
We used snowmobiles to access Olson’s Reef, which lies a short distance out in front of the resort. Once there and set up, we witnessed a few pickup trucks driving out to the reef. Ice was measured at a little more than 12” but by now it should be plenty thick if you wanted to drive a vehicle out for a few hours of fun. Josh Bullivant will eventually have 24 miles of plowed road for you to explore on.
The walleye limit on Leech Lake is four fish, with all being measured from 20” to 26” having to be immediately released. Should you land a lunker, you’re allowed to keep one over 26”. For more info call (218) 836-2500.
Big Winnibigoshish: Anglers are currently using snowmobiles and atvs to access their walleye hotspots but vehicle travel will be happening soon. The walleye limit is a generous six fish with all from 18” to 23” having to be immediately released. One over 23” is allowed and much like Leech Lake, the best walleye fishing takes place early and late. High Banks Resort will be officially opening their doors on January 5 but the access is open. For more info call (218) 246-2560.
Big Bowstring: Justin and I have recently fished it a couple times for crappie with good results. We used snowmobiles to be on the safe side but the ice is thickening up very well at 14”. There is a problem, however, with the numerous pressure ridges that have been popping up across the lake. These can be very dangerous areas so extreme caution should be used.
Geiger’s Trails End Resort is currently dealing with one, located a short distance in front of the resort. A parking area has been cleared off and as soon as they chop their way through the ice ridge, you’ll be good to go. Bill will have plowed roads to the local fishing holes. For an update, call (218) 832-3231.
Steve Stelmack, Andover, MN, displays his first ever winter walleye, caught in Leech Lake, out in front of Trapper's Landing Lodge.
Panfish action is heating up in northern Minnesota. With 14 iches of ice, plowed roads will begin appearing soon.
Upper Red Lake: I haven’t made it up there yet this season and it’s killing me, as it’s one of my favorite lakes, especially when it comes to walleye fishing. Brothers, Joel and Scott, made a trip there last week and did quite well, going home with their limit of walleyes and one bonus slab crappie. Yes, there are still a few of them floating around. They drove out of Hillman’s, a plowed ice road, and found good ice for traveling. Upper Red Lake offers good fishing early and late but it can also can be experienced throughout the entire day.
Hillman’s reports “Current ice conditions as of 12/24 - Have 15 inches of ice. Allowing 1/2 Ton pickups pulling wheel-houses out two miles. People are having a lot of success right now come join us!” For more info call (218) 647-8504.
Lake of the Woods: What can I say about this world-famous walleye wonderland? Ryan and Justin made a trip up there during the deep-freeze two weeks ago and in spite of the frigid temps and cold-front effects, they did pretty good. There’s a lot of fish to be had up there and lake travel is excellent. It’s typical Lake of the Woods ice fishing. It’s also a fantastic day bite. Enjoy! For more info call Ballard’s Resort at (218) 634-1849.
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Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" December 12, 2016
Browsing through a stack of old magazines, I came across a few “Ice Team Reports” from the late 90’s. I used to be a regular contributor to these popular ice fishing magazines and thought I’d share one of the articles and make a few comparisons from today. This one is titled “Guiding on Ice.”
“Several years ago, I had the crazy thought of starting a winter guide service. No one else was doing it on a personal level, providing individual shelters, Vexilars, and all necessary equipment to be successful on the ice. There are quite a few guides in my neck of the woods, Itasca county in northern Minnesota, but most all of them are idle during the winter months. (Nowadays, there are a lot of them.)
It was my growing ice fishing confidence that led to this decision. I managed to fish the hard water about 100 times a season and was doing my best to stay on the cutting edge. (I’m still able to get out about that many times or more, now that I’m retired. As far as the cutting edge, yes, I’m still there.)
Let me guide you through a typical guided ice outing. It all starts with the initial contact. My first question for them is “what do you like to fish for?” The most popular species through the ice, in my area, are crappie, bluegill, perch, pike, and walleye and although I’ve guided for most all species, these fish are usually our primary targets.
Best action for our state fish, the walleye, usually comes during the lowlight periods of first light and sunset. This leaves the better part of the day to fish for something else. What could be better?
We generally start out the morning by fishing for panfish and stick with these fish throughout the day. If my clients want a little walleye action as well, we’ll often move up to the shallows or even to another lake and set up for the evening bite. Moving from lake to lake is my favorite style of fishing because it doesn’t take long and it increases my client’s chances of catching a variety of fish.
Usually, 4-wheel drive ATVs are the preferred mode of transportation, once the ice gets thick enough (about 6 inches). ATVs work well until the snow deepens. Then it’s snowmobile time and will remain so until the ice gets thick enough to support a full-size pickup truck. I prefer 14-16” of ice for the heavier vehicles. If the snow gets too deep, we’ll stick with the snowmobile.
Upon reaching our destination, I’ll drill a bunch of holes and look for fish with my electronics. I have used just about every type of electronics available on the market and find that the Vexilar FL-8 is the best product for my needs. Usually it doesn’t take long to locate fish because I always “pre-fish” before each guide trip. (I’m still using Vexilars but my recent favorite is the FLX-28.)
Once I’ve found what appear to be productive holes, the shelters are set up and heaters are lit. This only takes a few seconds because I use the popular flip-over Fish Traps.
Each Trap is outfitted with the essentials, which includes a Vexilar, heater, Berkley Dave Genz “Lightning Rods” with Abu Garcia reels, ice skimmer, minnow net, a variety of bait, fish bucket, and an assortment of lures. (I still use the Fish Traps but now use mostly Pflueger reels, perfectly placed on Tuned Up Custom Rods.)
Prior to placing my clients in their respective shelters, heaters are lit and a crash course in reading a Vexilar takes place. Then I drill more holes, looking for active fish. If the action slows in anyone’s hole, they can easily relocate to a new one. Sometimes you have to keep at it to be productive, while at other times, you may not have to move at all. This is great, especially when it’s cold out. It all depend on the fish.
In Minnesota, we’re allowed two lines for ice fishing. Normally, we fish with one, when panfishing, which leaves us the option of setting a tip-up nearby for northern pike.
One rod or two? Just about the only time we use two lines for panfish is when the fish are a bit finicky. When this happens, you may as well up your odds and watch two rods. The main rod will be in your hands so you can watch your bait on the electronics. The other will be held by a rod holder, aka a “dead stick.”
When the fish are really biting, it is almost impossible to use more than one rod. I’ve tried many a time to manage two rods during a hot bite and it usually results in losing too many fish. You’re much better off with one.
Toward the end of the day, we may move, as previously mentioned, and set up for walleyes. It’s all up to the clients.
Every guide has some sort of game plan. Because I spend a ton of time, fishing a variety of lakes, I always have a back-up plan in case the fishing is tough. Moving from spot to spot on the same lake can produce, but generally, when the fishing is slow in one spot on a certain body of water, it is usually equally as slow in other spots and moving to another lake can save the day.
*After re-reading/re-writing this article, I was surprised to find that things haven’t changed all that much in the last 20 years or so. You still have to do your homework, pre-fish a good deal, use the latest and greatest state-of-the-art equipment, and treat your clients well. (Greg Clusiau, Justin Bailey Fishing & Guide Service)
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" December 5, 2016
The annual St. Paul Ice Fishing Show has come and gone and what a show it was. A lack of sufficient ice for fishing always does this. People are excited to get out on the lakes but have nowhere to go. Except for the show that is. Hence the overwhelming and anxious crowds.
It’s always hard for me, as I love first ice fishing. The fish usually bite very well and it is sort of an early winter ritual.
There have been times when I had already drilled dozens of holes, catching an equal amount of fish, and then had the obligation of heading down to St. Paul.
One of those times occurred when Terry Wickstrom and I did a first ice television show for Mountain States Fishing. After a successful filming outing on a little lake north of Nashwauk, we went to the sports show with video and still photos in hand. People couldn’t believe it. There was no ice anywhere.
Once back home, we found the entire lake had given up it’s hard water surface and only open water remained. That was the only year that I fished first ice on the same lake twice, as a week later it was ready to go again.
The shows are great events to touch base with those that you haven’t seen in quite a while, even though many of us don’t live that far away from one another. Here are a few of my encounters.
Brian Brosdahl, also famously known across the ice belt as “Bro” – It’s always good to touch base with him and his wife, Heather, who most always accompanies him. Living in the Max area, he has fished the same lakes as I have for decades.
Working the Frabill booth, Bro was only a short distance away from my headquarters at Tuned Up Custom Rods. We’ve fished together a time or two and have done a two television shows together, one was fall walleye fishing on Leech Lake and the other ice fishing for crappie on Big Bowstring. Naturally, I had to get my tournament partner, Andy Walsh, over there for a quick photo.
Local Hall of Fame angler Tom Neustrom can usually be found at these shows as well. Both busy, doing our own thing, we had a chance to chat a bit. I bought a Ranger boat from him in 1987, when I first decided to give guiding a try. Tom then switched over to Lund and is still running them to this day. So am I.
Dan Marking was in the Vexilar booth. I used to fish with him every-once-in-a-while and almost every time we meet, which is about once a year, he brings up the time when I caught two muskies in two consecutive casts.
Eric Meyer from Outdoor News hollered to me as he went by. I’ve guided him a couple times. One was on the Governor’s Opener, when I took him to Big Split Hand Lake several years ago. I recall the Glorvigen brothers guiding governor Rudy Perpich on this event. The other trip with Eric was an ice fishing outing. My, how time flies. He was just a youngster back then.
Another old acquaintance was Lindy’s Jon Thelen. Way back when, we both worked with Outdoors Minnesota, with their magazine and television program. I remember a staff meeting, held in St. Cloud, where we introduced ourselves to the rest of the group.
I told of my guiding, favorite fish, etc. and finished it up by saying “I’m just a fishing bum.” When it was Jon’s turn to inform us all, the first words out of his mouth were “I want to be like Greg.” We still laugh at that one. Jon, by the way, has been very successful in the fishing world and continues to take us fishing in his “Fish Ed TV” television program.
Local guide, Jeff Sundin worked the Lindy booth with Jon. It’s always good to see him. We’ve done many, many group guide trips together. He is indeed “Minnesota’s hardest working fishing guide.”
Tony Roach was across the aisle, promoting Striker gear. Now there’s a class act. We’ve guided a few gigs together as well.
Mike Olson of Fish Addictions, representing Eskimo, is another good friend who has just recently launched his “Fish Addictions TV” show. It will air on Fox Sports North (Minnesota) and FS (Wisconsin) January 8. It is currently being aired on Dish Networks channel 226.
The show has many friends, representing different sponsors, and when it all comes right down to it, we’re still all just good friends and in this thing together. How nice is that?
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Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" November 29, 2016
The rainy, warm weather has now dwindled the snow down to “next to nothing” and forecasted colder temps have ice making looking pretty darn good. It won’t be long before we’re walking out on first “safe” ice.
For those that are on Facebook, keep an eye on Justin Bailey Fishing and Guide Service for up-to-date ice reports. We will be checking ice on a regular basis and can save you a lot of trouble. Let us do it for you. We’ll also be giving short videos and reports on the latest and greatest products and techniques.
Another thing, if you see us out on the ice and are interested, or just plain curious, about a certain product (fishing lure, electronics, auger, shelter, etc.), please feel free to ask for a demonstration. There’s been many a time when we let folks try out our equipment. Sharing is what we do. We want you to be successful as well.
Justin and I will be down at the 24th Annual St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show this weekend, Dec. 2-4, held at River Centre. Most of our time will be spent at the Tuned Up Custom Rods booth but we will be “floating” around a little too, visiting other sponsors. This is a great time to do a little Christmas shopping, which is usually my plan.
One more thing on deer hunting, half-way through the season, my partner was back at camp, making lunch, when he glanced out the window and saw a big buck walking across the front yard. It disappeared into the woods and walked right under one of our vacant stands. What do they say? “Things” happen? Good luck, be safe, and have fun in the Great Outdoors!
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Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" November 22, 2016
Well folks, it’s all happening. The firearms deer season has officially come to a screeching halt, except for muzzle loaders, and ice fishing is just around the corner.
I ended my season by heading up north last Friday morning with my son, Kris. Planning to hunt the Little Bear Lake area with my brother, Bruce, who resides there, we arrived late morning. Bruce was already in his stand so a walk in the woods to visit him was in order.
I hated to interrupt his deer hunting but cell coverage is non-existent up there so a phone message wouldn’t do. It worked out perfect, however, as he was getting ready to head back to the house. Not in any hurry to hunt, we joined him.
There was a slight break in the snowfall activity, which prompted my decision to hunt up there. I thought that we might get lucky and it was all we were going to get. Boy was I wrong.
Sitting in Bruce’s kitchen, several cups of coffee were consumed, as we visited and talked of the recent deer season. Joel, another brother, showed up too.
We sat there too long. When it came time to leave, I quickly realized that we had overstayed our welcome, as far as Mother Nature was involved anyway. County road 52 was terrible. The heavy snow had trees bent over, with some of them broke off and lying in the road.
I was already having a hard time in seeing the road and this was the easy part of our trek back home. Heading past Donny Newman’s house, I told Kris “we might have to spend the night at Donny’s.”
Andy Walsh and his cousin Dane Peterson pose with Andy's 8 point buck.
It was bittersweet, reaching highway 65. We had made it to the main highway but now we had to drive another 25 miles in a blinding snowstorm. Not good. Windshield wipers were cleaned up and off we went, with Joel following behind.
Part way into the ride, Kris said “stay away from the ditches, there’s a lot of water in them.” He was right and the fact that most all of them were steep didn’t help matters. It got me to thinking that maybe I shouldn’t wear a seatbelt, in case we went into a ditch filled with water. I’d like to be able to get out of the truck in a hurry.
Then again, what if we had a head-on accident? The seat belts stayed on. It didn’t matter if I was going 20 mph.
Thank God, all vehicles met, maybe 5-6 of them, had their headlights on. That gave me enough warning to edge over to the side of the road, giving them as much space as possible.
It was a white-knuckled, hair-raising ride and one that I soon won’t forget. Hazardous road conditions usually never bother me but I was downright scared on this one.
Getting Kris safely home, I then made my way back to Keewatin, a short stretch that had seven vehicles either stuck or in the ditch. I later heard the count was twenty-seven from Nashwauk to Hibbing.
Once home and with dry close on, I noticed I missed a call on my cell phone. It was Joel. I called back and was informed he was one of those people stuck along the road. Here, I had driven right on past him. I didn’t really care to go back on those treacherous roads but returned to bring him home.
Yes, it was quite an adventure. However, the heavy snow fell into open waters and that cooled it down to the point of freezing. I think we’re going to be in good shape here shortly. - Enjoy the Great Outdoors!
Here’s a short story, written by Andy Walsh, describing a deer hunt taken with his young cousin, Dane Peterson.
“I had the opportunity to spend a morning in the woods with my cousin Dane. It was a slow morning, but cookies and hot chocolate kept us happy. I told him that a deer can show up at any moment and sure enough, shortly thereafter, a deer magically appeared in one of the shooting lanes. I had Dane put his gun up, pointing in the next lane over, thinking the deer would move in that direction.
Meanwhile, another deer, an 8 point buck, showed up in the original lane. Now Dane was positioned to shoot in a different lane and any movement would more-than-likely spook the animal. I wanted Dane to take it but there was no way to get his gun over. I had to take the shot.
We got up to the deer, gave thanks to the animal for the harvest, and field dressed him together.
Later that day, Dane went out with my mom for the afternoon. Twenty minutes into the hunt, he harvested a 6 point buck. His first deer!
Seeing him shake uncontrollably reminds a man of the pure enjoyment of the outdoors.
When both deer were hung up for skinning, Dane mentioned that he went up to his deer and gave thanks for the opportunity to harvest. I wasn't there to share his first buck but have goose bumps knowing he took a moment to give thanks for his deer. I was raised to do the same by my uncle Dan.
Positive modeling for our youth isn't an option. It is a requirement. These little things can make the biggest differences for our future generation. (Andy Walsh)
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" November 16, 2016
Oh, oh. Another deer season is quickly coming to an end and I don’t have my buck yet! I’ve only seen a couple of them but both have been of very nice quality.
One was on a day when Justin Bailey and I decided to go for a ride and do a little road hunting. This is something I usually never do but I was tired out from a series of long days in the woods and needed to rest up a bit. It sounded like a good idea. I didn’t care if we saw one or not.
I should mention that my interpretation of “road hunting” doesn’t mean that we shoot from a roadway, as that would never happen. I mainly look for fresh tracks, to give me an idea of deer movement. If it takes place on public property, great. But if it happens to be private, we just keep moving on. Other safety factors like nearby buildings, etc. are also taken into consideration, as well as making sure we are well off the road.
Shortly after leaving home, a nice doe crossed the road in front of us. Looking back, over her shoulder, I said “I’ll bet there’s a buck behind her.” We slowed but kept on going. Looking in the rear-view mirror, Justin said “there it is” and pulled over.
Chris Kunze of Keewatin Taxidermy bagged this big buck last week.
As nice a buck as one would want, it stopped on the shoulder of the road, sized things up, and disappeared back into the woods. It was a big animal, with a high rack, and would be considered a trophy to most, me included.
Thinking it would keep on following the doe, I went off in her direction and found a nice place to sit about 300 yards off the road. The wind was in my favor, blowing right in my face. Al I had to do was wait. It seemed too easy.
Justin found a little trail on the other side of the road and looped around, just in case, and he was right. Here the doe had crossed back across the road to be with the buck, which was just the opposite of what I expected to happen. At that point, I was sitting in “no man’s land” but Justin, on the other hand, ended up being very close to them both.
At only fifty yards away, he could see the buck moving its head around and could see the whole face on one occasion. Thick, heavy brush prevented him from shooting and it eventually just walked away. He questioned his decision, several times, but I think it was the right call.
By the way, he ended up with six woodticks, Me? None.
Okay, here’s another one. I like this one stand but it’s old and the ladder rungs aren’t safe anymore. With that in mind, I posted myself on the edge of a clearing, within close distance to the rickety, old shooting platform. It used to be a good spot to “ground sit” but now the brush has grown up to the point where it’s too hard to see.
After two hours of seeing nothing, I thought “what the heck, I’m going to fix that stand so it can be used” and went back to repair it. Intending to fix it in the first place, I had brought along a small bow saw for cutting new rungs and wire to wrap them in place. No hammering would take place. It was stealth mode time.
There I was, halfway up the ladder, twisting wire, when I heard a loud “thump, thump” off to my right. It was windy and hard to hear anything at all but the loud thumping got my attention. A very nice “shooter buck”, 8-10 points, bounced right on past me and then started walking, only 25 yards away.
The wind was right and it couldn’t smell me but I did have a slight problem. That being my gun was propped up against a tree, about 20’ away. Needless-to-say, the deer just wandered off and I couldn’t get a shot once I reached my rifle.
I felt like that cartoon of a hunter, answering the call of nature, reaching for his gun with his pants down. Only I was stuck on a ladder.
My youngest granddaughter, Claire, age 10, bagged a nice doe last weekend and much like her older sister, Celia, it took place at dusk so field dressing and hauling out took place in the dark. Also, we had to do a little searching, with flashlights, to locate the animal, which is always tough to do in the dark, especially when there’s no snow. Congratulations to Claire but I wish these girls would start getting their deer during the daylight, like noon or so.
My hunting season will come to a close on Friday, as Justin and I will be in the Twin Cities Saturday and Sunday, attending the Blaine “Hardwater Ice Fishing Expo”. Yes, ice fishing is just around the corner, even though there doesn’t seem to be any cold weather on the horizon. It’s coming. Trust me. It always does.
We’ll be working at the Ice Fishing Innovations booth, along with ExCel Outdoors. Stop by and say hello. - Good luck hunting, be safe.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" November 10, 2016
Another opening weekend of the Minnesota firearms deer season is now in the books and what a weekend it turned out to be. The deer, for me anyway, were non-existent but the weather was unbelievable and had me thinking “I should have never put my boat away.”
Early morning rifle shots were heard quite regularly, signaling the official start to the season. That always gets one pumped, knowing there are deer around and that you might have a good chance at filling your tag. However, it seemed to quiet down after a few hours and continued to stay like that until the sun was low in the sky. It was during this time, that shots were once again heard, though far less frequent than the morning hours.
Sunny weather in the sixties has a tendency of keeping deer somewhat stationary during the mid-day hours. It’s just too warm for them to be running around. There are, however, exceptions. The rut will do that. The cozy temps had me dozing off from time-to-time, even though I got plenty of sleep the night before. It was just too comfortable, if there is such a thing.
Never one to sit for long periods, I used to find it hard to stay put for an entire day. Of course, back in the day, we never had stands that would allow this. Many times, they were just a couple 2x4s placed between two trees. But there we sat, even when 10 below zero. If I put in a full two hours back then, it was something to be proud of.
Nowadays, we have finally wised up and are sitting almost as comfortable as we would back home in the living room. Private property allows one to make luxurious deer stands and best of all leave them there year ‘round. Hunting in these conditions can add to your success rate, as you have no desire to get down. Sit long enough and you’ll eventually see something. Build it and they will come.
Using only a ladder stand, I managed to hunt the first day from dark to dark and for me that’s quite an accomplishment. A backpack, full of supplies, kept me entertained throughout the day but panic almost set in when I finished off that last peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Although, I think I need a new thermos. My coffee wasn’t piping hot as it should be.
It was quiet. Too quiet. I never even saw a bird or squirrel, let alone a deer. That always makes it tough to stay in the stand. I like action. Something to look at. It was so boringly quiet that I took great pleasure at watching a large tree leaf break loose and slowly float past my gun barrel.
And the noise it made when finally hitting the ground was surprising. Yes, it was that still.
Back at base camp, I was informed that Celia, my son’s oldest daughter, had bagged a very nice 8 point buck. Shot during the waning hours of the day, we now had to head back out into the woods to field dress and bring it home.
That was deer number seven for her, which is quite impressive for such a young hunter. It does, however, have a ton to do with her father Kris, who makes sure she does things properly and has all the right gear to do so. I give him a lot of credit. He has three girls and all of them are hunting this season, which keeps him more than busy.
Day two had different planning. I would hunt for a half day and then retreat to the living room so I could watch the Minnesota Vikings make fools of themselves again. Unreal. I should have stayed put.
Yes, the weather is great for sitting in a deer stand but I certainly wish it would cool down some, at least to the point where there’s a little freezing taking place at night. I’m anxiously awaiting the ice fishing season to get underway but it appears that we’re not even close to that happening.
Have fun out there, be quiet, good luck, and be safe.
Jager Nash was successful on the opening weekend of deer season, bagging this beautiful buck.
It was another successful Minnesota deer season for Celia Clusiau, who bagged this nice 8 point buck on opening day. As a young hunter, she already has seven deer to her credit.
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Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" November 1, 2016
It was a most wonderful fall season for catching crappie so I decided to make one last trip for walleye before putting the boat away. Maybe I should have quit right then and there, after the crappie fun, as I struggled big time in catching anything at all.
A trip to the Mississippi River, that runs into Little Winnie, was more-or-less based on memories of fishing it many years ago with good buddy Brian Griffith of Deer River. Back in the day, Brian and I used to do quite well there. I even ran a few very successful guide trips on that piece of river but last Sunday was a totally different story.
I haven’t fall fished there in years and have never seen the river so low, about 3-4’ less than normal. This called for slowly making my way to the lake, just in case a new sandbar or tree placed itself in the way. I used to love running the river at near high speed but not under these conditions.
Another thing that was immediately apparent was the unusual clarity of the river, being almost gin clear. Hmm, shallow and clear? That’s never any good, especially if you plan on doing a little river fishing. And it wasn’t. Only one lone perch was coaxed into biting at the river’s mouth.
Not wanting to waste the trip, I headed to nearby Cut Foot Sioux and knew I might be in trouble here as well, when only five vehicles were spotted, parked at the public access. Two of them were duck hunters, which might have been a lot more productive on this day.
Out on the lake, and into most every bay and weedline, baitfish covered the graph. Conditions like this make it almost impossible to catch anything at all so I guess I should have been happy with the few perch that came aboard.
Needless-to-say, it was bust on the last day of fishing in my boat, as plans were made to put it away after the weekend. I wanted to fish right up until deer season and that’s just what happened but I know that I’ll kick myself next week when I’m sitting in the stand it’s once again great weather for fishing. I guess I can wait until first ice, maybe.
Final deer stand duties were taken care of last week. I thought I was all set until my son noticed the opening day forecast, which predicted rain, and ordered an umbrella for me. One more trip to the stand had to be made for installation.
The “tick count”, after my few outings in the woods, is holding at only one so far and that’s pretty darn good. We’ll see how many I end up with after the hunting season closes. I hate those things.
Sighting in my rifle, I managed a couple well-placed shots at 100 yards and decided to call it good. If it’s a poor shot, I’ll pass. There’s nothing I hate more than wounding an animal. That’s bad enough but if you can’t track it down, it’s even worse. I’ve lost a few in the past and it’s something I think of every deer season.
I also recall passing on a monster buck many years ago. There it stood, broadside, head down and eating. I watched it for several minutes and contemplated shooting but it was just too far of a shot and I was using a .30-30 rifle with open sights. There was just no way I could have made a well-placed shot. Besides, there wasn’t any snow for tracking if I did get lucky enough to hit it. I recall this moment every season as well but have no regrets. It was the right call.
Yes, the umbrella should help keep me comfortable, rain or shine, but there are other things that factor into an enjoyable day in the woods. One of them is the proper footwear. Are you prepared to sit for long periods of time? I’ve noticed the older I get, the more patience I have. At least when it comes to sitting in a deer stand.
My badly weather-checked old knee boots finally made their way to the garbage can after years of faithful duty. I noticed a leak in them while launching the boat at some of our shallow landings. Not good. They were replaced with a pair of insulated Muck Boots, which I’m thinking I’ll be wearing right into the ice season.
Also, if you plan on doing a fair amount of sitting and want to keep warm, you may want to have a proper breakfast before heading out. Something to keep in mind is a high protein meal like bacon, eggs, sausages, etc. increase a hunter’s metabolic rate about 30 percent. In contrast, a meal of carbohydrates, pancakes and syrup, only increases a hunter’s metabolic rate about five percent. Carbohydrates such as a chocolate bar (yes, Halloweeen was just here and you should have plenty of candy laying around), however, provide a quick burst of energy when you’re tired. (from Outdoor Life’s Deer Hunter’s Year Book).
Good luck to all the hunters this weekend, be sure of your target, have fun, and enjoy the Great Outdoors.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" October 25,2016
Temps are falling, air as well as water, and that means I’ll be putting the boat away for the winter sometime in the very near future, like maybe in a week or two, depending. It also signifies that the firearms deer season is fast approaching, getting underway November 5.
This works out perfect for me, as it’s usually too cold to be in the boat but not so to sit in a deer stand. I’ll fish until the end of the month and possibly into November a tad but then the boat will be brought to Ray’s Sport & Marine to get winterized. From then on out, it’ll be two weeks of deer hunting and shortly after, ice fishing, if Upper Red Lake is ready by then and it usually is. It always amazes me how a monstrous lake like Upper Red can freeze up before some of our small, local waters.
My fall crappie adventures have me at 55 different outings so far this fall. That amazes me as well. I sure wish I would have starting keeping a fall crappie journal 30 years ago, when I first got into this phase of the sport. I can’t imagine the information it would reveal.
My last trips out on the water had water temps in the 51º range. Fish were bunched up and fishing was very good. I’ve been using smaller baits, like small (1/32 oz.) hair jigs, tipped with a waxworm, and have been catching a lot of nice bluegills. Most fall panfish anglers are in the jig/minnow mode and although they are having fun and catching their fair share of crappie, I think if they reduced down in size, they’d be surprised at just what else is swimming below them. The little jigs, by the way, catch plenty of crappie as well and some big ones at that.
This is also a great time to catch a trophy walleye or two. They have put on the old feed bucket and are chowing down with gusto. All one needs to do is to slowly boat around until a fish is spotted and then drop down a large minnow on the end of a live bait rig. Dangle it in front of their face long enough and they’ll eventually bite.
Ryan Berzins, a member of the Justin Bailey Guide Team, practiced this method last week on a local guide trip. Yes, some very nice walleyes were boated and then you always have that surprise fish every now and then. This time it was a big eel pout. Categorized as “the Rodney Dangerfield of the fish world”, they get absolutely no respect. The colors of these fish, however, are gorgeous. Just ask Jason Rylander, a Bemidji fishing guide, who specializes in these creatures throughout the ice fishing season.
A visit to your local flowage can offer stellar walleye fishing as well, especially during this time of the year. That’s another timely, end of the season, bite that can be very rewarding. For major action, head to major rivers like the Rainy River or the Mississippi.
I sighted in my rifle last weekend, which is quite unusual for me, as I usually wait until the last minute. What happened was a long string of crappie outings, going every day, finally caught up with me so I took the day, Sunday, off.
The plan was to sight in the rifle and set up a deer stand and get back home in time to watch the Vikings game. Now was that a poor plan or what? What a stinker of a game that turned out to be. About 2:00 pm, I was wishing I was sitting in the boat somewhere. Never-the-less, I’m just about ready for the deer opener. How sweet is that?
Visits to a couple of my deer hunting spots revealed an overabundance of water. I didn’t realize we received that much rain. With that said, make sure to wear knee-boots when checking out your hunting area, as there’s a lot of standing water out there. For those that won’t be heading into the woods until opening day, don’t be surprised if you can’t even reach your stand.
I’d like to mention my last crappie trip and that was with Tuned Up Custom Rods pro staffer and rod builder Cal Flander. Cal has personally built all my rods, whether summer or winter. Flander, who spends a good deal of time musky fishing, never had a chance to try out the crappie rods, first hand, until he hopped into my boat last Saturday. Needless-to-say, he was thrilled with the results, as several nice crappie and bluegill made their way aboard.
Cal Flander, rod builder and pro staffer for Tuned Up Custom Rods, caught several nice bluegill and crappie last Saturday using the Apex "ultra-light".
Terry Maciej, Swan Lake, enjoyed a sunny, productive day of crappie fishing last week with Greg Clusiau.
Fishing guide Ryan Berzins and client with a "bonus" fish from a walleye trip last weekend.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" October 18, 2016 - Points to Ponder
It was a guide trip a few weeks ago, when a little bird (not sure what kind) landed on one of my clients fishing rods. It sat there for a second or two and took off. We laughed. I have never had this happen before. Yes, fishing was a little slow at the time but it was still better than having cobwebs on the rod.
Sharing a cabin with the legendary Steve Fellegy for the weekend, we had plenty of time to tell stories and just plain visit. Here’s another interesting tidbit that came up. Steve has caught walleyes in 42 states and if I’m not mistaken those are the only ones in the nation that have walleye.
You know it’s cold out when the water temperature drops two degrees throughout the day, which is what happened on a Leech Lake guide trip. We started out fishing in the morning when it was 57º and finished at 55º. Normally, it’s just the opposite. I should mention that the air temperature was hovering around 32º in the morning. Yes, it was cool, to say the least.
I don’t know what it is but doesn’t it always feel a whole lot colder fishing in the boat during late fall than it does when ice fishing? Maybe it’s the dampness but this phenomenon has always puzzled me, as I am wearing the same super-warm ice fishing clothes and boots and am never cold on the ice. Hmm.
I keep a log of my fall crappie fishing outings. Looking back, it can help me in determining which lake to fish (and why). Now sometimes I fish two, maybe three, lakes in a day but as of this writing, last Monday, October 17, 2016, I have had 46 outings and that’s in a matter of six weeks! It’s what I do.
Fishing takes priority for me, when compared to hunting, and that’s why I declare myself an average deer hunter, at best, as I fish in the boat until it’s too cold to take and by then it’s usually time for the whitetail season. Think about it. There are 52 weeks in a year and two of them are spent hunting. Most all other weeks are spent fishing in some manner.
GPS waypoints make it so nice to find your favorite fishing holes but when it comes to staying “on the spot” I prefer the old fashioned method of tossing out a marker buoy. It’s a whole lot easier staying on fish when you have something visual, a reference point, to relate to. Trying to stay on a GPS waypoint is sometimes difficult and can have you practically going in circles, not good.
I finally found a large school of crappies and to make things easier (very windy out) I tossed out a bright orange marker buoy. No one else was on the lake so I didn’t worry about anyone moving in on me, which is always a problem when there happens to be an inconsiderate angler nearby. That’s the downside of using a marker.
Calling it a day, I headed back to the access to find three anglers just heading out. I thought “good luck in finding crappies”, as I fish this body of water more than anyone in the fall and at times it can be very tough. It was also 3:30 pm and on many lakes, especially this one, fall crappie start slowing up, preferring to bite better during the mid-day hours.
It wasn’t until the next day, on a different lake, when I went to toss out my marker, that I realized I had left it out on the lake. I just laughed and wondered if the anglers spotted my marker and if so, did they catch any fish (it was a tough bite), and if they did see it, did they leave it? To be honest, I hope they saw the marker, caught a bunch of crappie, and left the marker.
Before I realized just where I left my marker, I spotted an orange marker on another lake I was fishing and thought “oh, there it is”, as I had been on this lake a couple days prior. I fish so many different lakes that it’s hard to keep track of things (hence, the fall crappie fishing log). I motored over to it and began reeling it up, while watching some activity at a nearby cabin. When I got to the anchor weight, I then realized it wasn’t mine, as it was affixed with a huge snap-swivel. Oops. I quickly tossed it back where I found it.
Back in the day, before GPS availability, I used to use a lot of marker buoys and even painted some of them black, for those high-traffic days. They are extremely hard to see, especially when it’s windy and wavy. I can’t begin to tell you how many I plumb forgot or just couldn’t find.
Tackle Tamer, made in Keewatin, makes a mini size marker buoy for those discreet, secret little spots. I have some and they are small. They work well but keep your eyes on where they are, as they are hard to see, which is exactly what you want when other boats are around. They even make them in black!
Mike Lesch, Chisholm, enjoyed a day crappie fishing with Greg Clusiau. Fishing was tough on this day and it took two lakes to "get 'er done". Mike is an experienced rod builder, with nearly 50 years experience. Anyone needing rod repair is encouraged to contact Lesch at (218) 966-1431.
Keewatin's Tackle Tamer makes a mini, stealth marker buoy in various bright colors. This is the perfect marker when you don't want to draw any attention to your fishing spot. In the photo, it is compared to a basic, average size marker buoy.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" October 11, 2016 - Leech Lake Fishing Report
Mother Nature was downright nasty last weekend. Oh, it may have been just fine if you were hunting a secluded and protected trail for grouse but if fishing on the waters of a larger lake like Leech, it was challenging to say the least, as high winds made it miserable, especially on Friday, when they reached 20 mph.
However, if you were able to position your boat as close to the rocky shores as possible and keep it there without incident, walleye fishing was pretty darn good.
Leech Lake is alive and well my friends and the quality of fish caught during this group guide event was mighty impressive. Limits of fat, healthy fish came back to our base camp at Trapper’s Landing Resort and several big fish were released as well.
If you’re thinking of doing a little more fishing before ice covers the lake, Leech Lake would be a good choice. The limit is four fish under 20” and a lot of our fish were in the 18-19 ½” range. It just doesn’t get much better when comparing the quality of fish. They were nice indeed.
Tucked up near windy, rocky points and shorelines, they positioned themselves anywhere from 3-7’ of water and were “on the bite” when found.
Most anglers were using jigs and minnows but a few, like famed fisherman Steve Fellegy, used slip bobbers to fill the live well. He’s one of the best bobber fishermen I know, if not the best.
Steve and I shared a cabin at Trapper’s Landing and I think we were the two oldest guides in the bunch so naturally we had more than enough stories to share.
Fellegy has been in the fishing business his entire life, starting out as a fishing guide at his parents resort on Mille Lacs Lake when he was in his early teens. From there, he went on to own the resort and competed in several major walleye tournaments.
As a member of the media, I was an observer in a PWT (Pro Walleye Trail) championship on Lake of the Woods many years ago and saw him win the thing and there’s a bit of a story behind it.
Steve was a good friend of the late ex-Minnesota Viking linebacker, Wally Hilgenberg, and they fished many tournaments together. Taking Hilgenberg’s advice, he used a famed Bud Grant strategy and played a mind game on his competitors.
Even on the coldest of days, Grant had his players pretty much standing at attention on the sidelines, taking in the bitter cold with not a heater in sight. I remember it well and was duly impressed, thinking “wow, those guys are tough. The cold weather doesn’t bother them at all!”
Fellegy used the same strategy on this bitter championship in October. As I said, I was an observer and got to ride along with a different pro for each of the three days and let me tell you “it was cold!”
Hang Loose Outdoors fishing guide Amos Wolf catches another Leech Lake walleye.
Leech Lake walleye are "on the bite" and many of them are of nice size. Button up and go give it a whirl.
Fishing guide Brian "Bro" Brosdahl with some happy clients. Brian was guiding on Leech Lake, based out of Trapper's Landing.
I had on my warmest of ice fishing gear and it was miserable. It was so cold that I couldn’t even handle my camera, when riding full throttle, all the way to Birchdale, with Marty Glorvigen. I tried to take a photo of him while running up the river but couldn’t hang on to the camera long enough to get a good shot so I put it away. Of course, Glorvigen was tucked behind a console and windshield, wearing a ski mask and goggles, while I was in the open air, going some 50 mph or so.
Fellegy, over the course of the three-day event, could be seen running his tiller boat wide open, past other participants, wearing no hat or gloves, with his jacket wide open. It certainly got my attention and I recall an observer who fished with him saying “well I just fished with someone who is ten times tougher than I am.” That was my good buddy Scott Danielson from Chisholm, who made the trip up north to fill a much needed observer slot. It was so cold that no one wanted to ride along for an entire day.
And it worked. One of the anglers was turning around to look at him when he had a strike and because of his awkward posture at the moment, he wasn’t able to get a good hook set, therefore making him lose the fish and weigh in one fish short of the tournament limit. The guy finished near the top but it was Steve that won the big check.
I’ll have to touch base with him again and write an entire article, as there is just too much to share here. So interesting, so funny. - Enjoy the Great Outdoors. Be safe, have fun, and good luck!
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" October 4, 2016 - Fishing Report
It’s all happening. Bird hunters have been doing well and the fishing has been stellar, for crappies anyway. Walleye fishing, more importantly the catching, has been sort of sporadic but that all depends on just where you’re fishing.
I’ve heard somewhat lackadaisical walleye reports coming from Upper Red Lake, Big Winnie and Leech Lake but it all depends on who you are talking to. Some may struggle on one day and others absolutely slam them on the next. I certainly hope Leech Lake is going well this Friday and Saturday, as I have a couple of guide trips there.
Fall fishing, they say, is a “feast or famine” event and that old adage is holding true for now. I’m really surprised at how the water temperatures are holding their own and staying in the 59º to 62º range. The recent warm days have some lakes even increasing in water temperatures. A trip last Sunday had the water temperature at 59º in the morning and at 62º when we were through fishing.
Not too worry! This isn’t going to last long.
A recent guide trip for three had my guests grinning from ear-to-ear all afternoon, as the fall colors were awesome, along with the weather and more importantly the fishing. They had contacted me two weeks prior to set up a date and wanted to go for a half-day, which I truly recommend when it comes to fall crappie fishing, as it doesn’t pay to get on the water at first light and fish all day long. There’s no need for it.
Fall crappie fishing is almost a complete opposite when compared to summer angling. Fall has the catching beginning to wain as the sun sets lower, while summertime crappie fishing really gets going at this time.
I’ve found it best to fish from the late morning hours until three o’clock or so. This makes it so nice for those that want to do a day-trip when coming from the Twin Cities area. Last Sunday’s outing had my guests meeting me at the Balsam Store at 9 am and that works out perfect when driving three hours to go fishing.
As a matter-of-fact, when folks contact me about a full day’s guide trip for fall crappie, I tell them a half-day would work out better for them and they can even save some money in the process, while getting the same results. This turns out to be a win-win for all.
Scouting out lakes, had me finding fish at various levels, which called for a different approach in catching them. The first lake had many larger fish being caught but one had to play “bumper boats”, as it was a popular body of water you had to jockey around to get into position. Yes, the fish were big but they were also quite deep and harder to catch as well.
My guests grinning from ear-to-ear as the weather, fall colors and fishing were awesome!
Slow but steady, with fish scattered across the bottom. Large schools weren’t present but if you hung in there long enough, you would go home with a nice limit.
Lake number two offered a slow but steady bite, with fish being scattered across the lake bottom. Large schools weren’t present but if you hung in there long enough and kept on chipping away you would go home with a nice limit.
The third lake offered some very nice fish but they were suspended and really on the move, making it harder to pinpoint them. Seasoned anglers would have no problem in catching these fish but novices would struggle big time. It was pretty much a no-brainer that lake numbers two it would be and a good choice it was. By using brightly colored ¼ oz. Northland Tackle “Fire Ball” jigs tipped with minnows, all we had to do was slowly move about the area and wait for that “tap.”
One another topic, as I was heading west on highway 8, by Crooked Lake, I spotted something moving in the brush, along the road. To my surprise, it was a turkey. I know they have been slowly migrating north across the state but I think this may have been a transplant or tame one from a while back. I also spotted another one by Thistledew Lake this summer. Always cool to see, regardless of how they got there. Good luck in the Great Outdoors, have fun and be safe.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" September 27, 2016 - Fishing Report
The inclement weather, as of late, can make it quite miserable out on the lake but I’ll put up with it for now, as it’s cooling waters down to the point where crappie will become more stable, making them easier to locate and best of all, easier to catch.
Most all lakes had water temperatures in the 64º range over the past week or so and this has fish stacked up, or sometimes spread out, along 20-21’ breaklines. This, of course, depends on the lake size, depth, etc. that you are fishing. There is also a fairly heavy thermocline (dense, cold, water) right at 22’ and this has the fish staying above it and relating to the adjacent breakline or structure. Once you figure this out, it’s fairly easy to catch them. Finding them, however, can be difficult at times.
Once it cools down to the point where the lakes turn over, mixing the entire water column, it will become much easier after things settle down, as most all of the panfish will be down near bottom, eating blood worms and enjoying their new winter digs. Like retirees that had south for the winter, crappie head south as well, to the lower portions of the lake.
When checking out lakes, in the hunt for crappie, many times I’ll slowly troll crankbaits, using lead core line, and study the lake as I move along, looking for fish. This was the case last week, in checking out one of my good crappie lakes.
The thermocline was at 22’ so I trolled a small, #5 Berkley “Flicker Shad” just above it, with hopes of catching a walleye, which are plentiful in this lake.
Greg Clusiau was joined by brothers Joel and Bruce in a fun-filled productive crappie fishing day last week.
Walleye fishing on Gull Lake is heating up.
My first strike came quickly and ended up being a small northern pike. Regrouping, I continued trolling the breakline at 22’ and had another nice strike. Thinking to myself “this is a walleye”, I was more than surprised when a huge crappie shook off by the boat. It didn’t matter because at least I had found what I was looking for.
After that, I went into “stealth mode” and slowly worked small jigs and minnows along the edge, catching a very nice limit of crappie. They’re there and catchable but I’d much rather vertically fish the deeper holes and basins. It’s just that much easier and limits come fast.
Although I have a number of trips lined up for crappie this fall, I also have those that still want a walleye or two and that was the case last Saturday when I joined a corporate group guide trip on Gull Lake, near Brainerd.
Based out of the luxurious Grand View Lodge, forty-three guides met and entertained well over a hundred guests. I’ve been in on several corporate trips before but this was clearly the largest gathering ever.
I told my clients “well guys, I’m telling you right now that I’ve never been on Gull Lake in a boat before but I’ve been a fishing guide for nearly thirty years so I think we’ll be able to catch a few fish. I hope so anyway.”
The wind was howling pretty good so just to make things a little easier I headed to a calm area and took a look at the breakline. Sure enough, there they were, sitting in 35’ of water. You talk about finding a needle in a haystack. We went on to catch some very nice walleye and lost a few other good ones as well. I always say “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
Regarding walleyes, they are currently being caught at all depths. It all depends on the body of water you are fishing. Walleye are currently being caught along weedlines in 3-4’ of water, as well as in deeper lake basins in 40-46’ or more. They are also starting to turn on very well in our river systems, which are often overlooked and teeming with nice fish.
There’s just too much to do. I can’t fit it all in. My duck hunting partner in Ontario is enjoying a great season thus far and has been asking me to come up. My problem? I either have a guide trip going on or else I’m just too engrossed in fall crappie fishing. Now is that a problem or what?
Have a good one everybody. Try to get out there and enjoy the fall activities. It’s happening NOW.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" September 20, 2016 - Fishing Report
She’s slowly cooling down and it’s making finding those fall panfish a little easier. Right now, most lakes are in that 64-66º range and although the fish aren’t deep yet, they are being found in transition areas, which usually means the main breakline leading into the main lake basin.
Put it like this. First-ice panfish, especially crappies, are normally found in the deeper waters of average depth lakes. My favorite first-ice lakes have maximum depths in the 25-35’ range. This makes finding fish a whole lot easier. Try fishing a lake in the 50’ depth, or more, and it seems there are just too many hiding places. During these conditions, they usually suspend and roam about the main lake basin, making them harder to pinpoint. Therefore, my favorite fall crappie lakes are those with depths in that “happy medium.”
I’ve done well on three lakes thus far and have checked out sixteen different bodies of water over the last two weeks or so. Many of these lakes are first time fall visits, and haven’t panned out. This is like a regular fall ritual for me and there’s plenty of water to pick from. Living and doing the majority of my fishing in Itasca county, home to over 1,000 lakes, I never run out of places to fish.
Some of “my” better lakes haven’t been checked out yet because I know from past experiences that they won’t be producing until some of the other lesser quality lakes begin. That just comes from over thirty years of experience in fishing for deep water fall crappie.
So, the way it stands right now, I’m 3 for 16, which sounds like some of the Minnesota Twins hitters. However, once the water temperatures cool down a little more, I’ll be batting close to 1.000.
I’ve witnessed some anglers struggling and this is usually the result of not being able to keep the boat still enough for an almost perfect vertical presentation, especially when in deeper water. Add a little wind and it’s even harder to maintain proper boat control.
Fishing deep, be sure to use more weight than you would under “normal” situations. By this, I mean using heavier jigs, something that looks like it would be used for walleyes, etc.
I really like Northland Tackle “Fire-Ball” jigs because the short shank, wide gap hooks give your presentation a more compact appearance. You can get away with ¼ oz. jigs or larger, depending on the mood of the fish. I’ve done very well when the fish have been very aggressive by using a large jig and a 3” twister-style tail. They eat it up.
However, there are times when they don’t care for a large presentation and this is when most anglers struggle. They’re using jigs and minnows, a basic summer crappie bait, and are having a tough time in putting fish in the boat. This is when they should consider switching to the smallest minnow in the pail or even a piece of the minnow, just enough to give your lure a little lip-smacking scent. If this doesn’t work, switch to small plastic trailers. These things work well and the selection nowadays is almost unlimited and most of them are scented.
If big jigs aren’t cutting it, switch over to the smaller 1/32 or 1/16 oz. leadhead jigs and use added weight to get them down to the fish. This is usually all it takes.
If this still doesn’t “trip their trigger”, use your basic winter fishing jigs, with tiny plastics or wax worms. You’d be surprised at how many big fish can be caught on a little tungsten jigs and you just may find that the mother lode of big sunfish have been down there all the while but didn’t care to nibble on a minnow.
My last outing had me bringing along the Vexilar and a “Bull Whip” ice fishing rod made by Tuned Up Custom Rods. I forgot how much fun it is to pull in a big crappie with a small rod designed for ice fishing inside a shelter.
All I had to do is place the floating transducer over the side of the boat and fish next to it as one would do during the hard water months. The key here is to keep a tight line on the transducer cord, keeping it as short as possible so it doesn’t “wander” away from the boat.
This is a great way to catch fall panfish, as you can see them rising up to hit your bait, much like during the winter. Give it a try.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" September 13, 2016 - Fishing Report
"Looking back at things, I’m amazed at the large waters I have fished. Yes, Big Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, and Upper Red Lake are all on the list but I’m talking really big, something that makes you want to sit back and say “wow.”
Lake of the Woods, a couple weeks ago, is definitely on the list, weighing in at over 1,000,000 acres. And How could I forget a trip to Lake Nipigon for lake trout. “Nip” covers 1,872 square miles and is considered by some to be a “sixth Great Lake.”
Of course, at the top of the list is Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Named “gichi-gami” by the Ojibwe, it has the meaning “be a great sea” and great it is with its massive size of nearly 32,000 square miles.
I try to make it to Lake Superior at least once a year and that happened, once again, last week, when three of us gathered together to hop aboard a charter boat, owned and operated by Capt. Lorin LeMire.
Lorin and I have been internet “friends” for several years. Similar fishing interests had us planning to get together several times but it just never happened, as one thing or another would come up. One trip I couldn’t make was a late-ice northern pike expedition on Rainy Lake, where Lorin and his group caught several trophy class fish.
This time, it was going to happen. Only the weather could stop us now and that didn’t look to be a problem.
Arriving at McQuade safe harbor in the dark, 6 am, pleasantries were exchanged and out to sea we went. Joining me on this trip was guide partner Justin Bailey and longtime tournament competitor and friend Jim Carpenter.
The weather was about as nice as one could expect, with comfortable air temps and only a wisp of a wind.
Lorin, originally from White Bear Lake, moved to Duluth fifteen years ago and for the first five had no interest whatsoever in the big lake. He finally started to fish Lake Superior, summer and winter, and quickly fell in love with it.
Fishing out of a 23’ Grady White in prior years, he upgraded this spring to a 27’ Pro Line and began his “Fish of the Gitch” Lake Superior Chartering service and things have been going well. As a matter-of-fact, his books are filled for the remainder of this season.
With eight lines set, two per person, it didn’t take long to put the first fish in the boat, a small lake trout. Another was boated a short while later and then there was a lull. You have to be flexible when fishing, especially when it’s big water. You know fish are somewhere and it’s up to you to find them, something that can be hard to do at times.
Heading out to deeper water, keeping a keen eye on water temperature changes, Lorin was finally satisfied with his findings and rods were once again set. Again, with a quick fish.
Also key in locating fish is the ability to find baitfish and in this case we’re talking smelt. By the looks of it, the Lake Superior smelt population must be thriving, as huge “bait balls” were spotted continuously. It was also in this area that several more fish were caught.
We went on to finish the day with nine fish boated and a handful of them shaking the hook. The old adage “the big fish always gets away” held true for us, when a nice, fat laker shook off as it neared the boat.
The day prior, Lorin did well on the bigger fish, with a 5 pound coho salmon among them. Now that’s a big coho for Lake Superior. LeMire said he hasn’t hit twenty yet but many trips have had catch rates in the high teens. His best Lake Superior lake trout came this season, when a 30 pounder latched onto his lure. Then there was the time when he had five lines “pop” at the same time and each one was the recipient of a king salmon. He said things went smooth and they caught each one of them but it sounds like organized mayhem to me!
It was nice to finally meet and fish with Lorin and plans are set for future outings. He’ll even be heading north to do a little ice fishing with Justin and I.
For more information on Lorin LeMire and “Fish of the Gitch” charter fishing, phone (218) 260-6404."
Jim Carpenter, Greg Clusiau, and Justin Bailey enjoyed a day on Lake Superior.
"Fish of the Gitch" Charters, Lake Superior charter Captain Lorin LeMire
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" September 4, 2016 - Greg's Guidelines; Clusiau Fishing Report
My, what a difference a lake makes. In anxious anticipation of finding a few fall, deep-water crappie, I started my search with a little, hidden gem in northern Itasca county. This Lake, which I’ll call “Lake #1”, is small in size, slightly under 90 acres, and is basically shallow, except for a small portion. These characteristics make it fairly easy to find fish and it’s one that I make productive, annual fall visits to. I normally never give this lake a go this early but figured “maybe?”
I was wrong. After scouring the little fishery, shallow and deep, all I could come up with were a handful of small largemouth bass, a couple northern pike, and one lone sunfish. I’d like to know where the crappies were hiding out, as I tried in the weeds and all the way out to the deeper depths, nothing. Maybe this is why I never try this lake early in the fall season. It should have been easy enough to figure out but that wasn’t the case.
With air temperatures dipping into the low-40’s overnight, I hoped lake temperatures would be dropping right along with them. However, the water temp on “Lake 1” ranged from 68º to 71º, still way to warm in my opinion. Hmm, what to do?
When it comes to fishing, or most any sport dealing with Mother Nature, you can’t just figure it out on paper. It doesn’t work that way. You have to document your outings, over a long period of time, and go from there.
Lakes have a history of producing at different times, no matter the size. A prime example is “Lake #2”, which I visited the very next day after being shut out.
Practically doing a “180”, I then did an about-face and went to check out a lake of much larger proportions, measuring almost 11,000 acres. The only obvious common trait between the two bodies of water was the fact that they both had the majority of the lake being somewhat shallow and only one major deeper hole in which fish would migrate to, in preparation of the winter months ahead. This lake also had a history of producing fall crappie well in advance and most others.
Arriving early, I zipped out to the “crappie hole” and starting looking around. As expected, fish were all over and the very first crappie caught was pushing the 13” mark, very nice. I went on to catch thirty fish or so, going home with a nice limit of slab crappie. “Lake #2” had lived up to its expectations as an early fall producer.
I just can’t see myself going back there, as I usually only make one or two trips to the lake each fall, mainly out of curiosity, and it never lets me down. I prefer to check it off the list and move on to see what else is happening.
There’s another local lake that is always the first to produce each fall but I haven’t gone there yet. Although I’ll be making a visit very soon, just to see, just to say “hello, I’m back, did you miss me? I’ll see you next fall”. That’s pretty much the way it goes. The fish are smaller but usually very active. Never-the-less, I get bored quite easily and will move on to other waters. That’s the fun part for me. I wonder how many different lakes I’ll fish this fall? It will be interesting.
Part of my fall fishing arsenal isn’t only for deep-water crappie. The lead core rods and crank baits are always along and the reason being is that I’m fishing for “deep fish”, crappie and whatever else is down there, hopefully walleyes.
However, most of my experimental trolling in the depths has resulted in only northern pike. Sometimes a slab crappie latches onto a #5 Shad Rap. That’s always exciting.
I’ll keep at it, looking over the deep water. Some lakes have walleye moving shallow in the fall but then again, certain lakes have them deeper and that’s what I’m all about during the fall season.
I should mention that I’m not incognito anymore, as I have a “Greg’s Guide Lines” sticker on each side of my boat. White lettering, it stands out pretty good and can be seen for a long way off. A big “thank you” goes out to Silvertip Graphic Signs and Designs in Grand Rapids for the excellent work.
With that being said, if you see me out on the water, or on the highway, etc., and have a good story, photograph, or just plain want to talk fishing, feel free to flag me down. I’ll share with you what I’m doing to catch fish and maybe even pick up a tip or two from you!
"I zipped out to the “crappie hole” and starting looking around. As expected, fish were all over and the very first crappie caught was pushing the 13” mark, very nice."
Greg Clusiau's Lund Boat, courtesy Ray's Marine, Grand Rapids, MN
Brothers, Mike and Todd Clark were found enjoying a great fall day of crappie fishing last week. Todd (right) is a fishing guide on Lake of the Woods.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" August 23, 2016 - Greg's Guidelines; Clusiau Fishing Report
"Checking out new waters lately, for lead core walleye, has me catching nothing but some very nice northern pike. It’s a game I play, as I just love to experiment and do a little exploring, trying to put together another pattern.
Although I’ve been on these lakes before, I have never tried the mid-summer lead core bite, which often doesn’t exist on many bodies of water and that’s the chance I take. However, if I find another good lead core bite to add to my repertoire, all the better.
The best lakes are somewhat larger in size, which makes it easier to troll, as you don’t have to quickly turn around and head back the other direction. Keep in mind that at times I have enough line let out to stretch the length of a football field, making sharp turns almost impossible, if you are trying to stay close to the break line.
Also, it is much more favorable if the break line is fairly straight, making it easier to stay on course. Sharp turning, jagged break lines are impossible to cover when using lead core. When you encounter this, you’re better off using a different presentation to get inside of those little cuts where fish may be holding.
Another thing is a good “core” lake usually has a good population of walleye. That always helps.
If you are lucky enough to discover a new lake with a different presentation doing very well, you will pretty much have the entire lake to yourself, unless you can’t keep quiet about it, of course. It’s hard to do at times.
I can tell, almost immediately, if the lake will be any good, as soon as I start moving about. If you don’t “see” any fish in the deeper depths, it’s just not going to happen. You can’t catch fish if they’re not there. Often times, you’re better off to load up and go to another body of water and we have plenty of them to pick from.
I’ve also been checking a few of my fall crappie lakes and am finding that they aren’t quite ready to go. Fish aren’t moving into their wintering areas yet and are still frequenting the heavy weed lines. This early fall weather has air temperatures cooling down at night and lake temperatures along with it. We just have to wait a couple of more weeks.
Although anxiously looking forward to the AIM Pro Walleye Series championship, this weekend, on Lake of the Woods, I am even more excited to spend the rest of the fall, at least most of it, chasing crappies, far and wide.
This is a fun time, when fish can be caught on a variety of different baits, ranging from jigs/minnows, jigs/plastics, jigging spoons, blade baits (sonars, etc.), and “Jig Raps”. It all works but sometimes one works better than another.
My brother, Joel, and I did a little jig-rappin’ on our latest trip to Rainy Lake. We started out by trolling lead core and within minutes had boated a couple smallmouth bass that were cruising the 30’ depths. We kept on trolling and picked up a few little walleyes but put the brakes on when we encountered a huge school of fish. What could they be? We were excited to find out.
Joel’s first drop, before I was even ready to fish, had a walleye latching onto his jig rap. My first drop resulted in the same. They were on fire. We stayed on top of them until the wind blew us off the spot. Thank goodness for gps mapping, as we were quickly back over the fish and caught as many as we cared to. It just didn’t end. Now that’s the way fishing should be!
Anytime you find a large school of fish, the competition is usually fierce. Fattening up for the winter months, they don’t want anyone else eating their food and are quite aggressive.
We went on to catch jumbo perch, northern pike, walleye, sauger, and crappie, all from the same school. No smallmouths though. That was strange.
In fisherman’s lingo, the term “jig rap” is used to describe vertically jigged lures such as a “Jigging Rapala”, Northland Tackle’s “Puppet Minnow”, and others. These baits are extremely versatile, especially when you’re sitting over a pod of fish.
They drop like a rock, getting down to the fish in a hurry, are lifelike in appearance, and come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.
Thinking of doing a little fall crappie fishing? Check out the “jig raps.”
I can tell, almost immediately, if the lake will be any good, as soon as I start moving about. If you don’t “see” any fish in the deeper depths, it’s just not going to happen.
Joel’s first drop, before I was even ready to fish, had a walleye latching onto his jig rap. My first drop resulted in the same. They were on fire.
Greg's "Magic Box"..A good selection of "jig raps" is always on hand.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" August 16, 2016 - Greg Clusiau Fishing Report
"I just love lead core trolling, especially once you have it “dialed in”, which Ryan Berzins, Andy Walsh, and I did last weekend. My partners, somewhat new to lead core trolling, are definitely hooked on it now, as we reeled in over two dozen nice walleye.
Some lakes don’t offer consistent lead core trolling from year-to-year and I have yet to figure that one out. More than anything, I think it has a lot to do with the available forage. I’ve done extremely well on a lake one year only to struggle on it the next, not being able to find fish and that’s usually the easy part. All you have to do is spot fish on your graph and begin trolling through them, offering them different bait sizes, styles, colors, and boat speeds.
It’s a bit of an art but once you have mastered this presentation it becomes almost too easy and anyone can do it. All you need to do is spool up a baitcast reel with lead core line, add a little bit of a leader to it and get to trolling. It’s a lot of fun and quite relaxing.
I’m sure many of you have seen me trolling around some of the local lakes, rod in the holder, feet up, just sitting back with a cup of coffee and watching the graph.
Anyone wishing to know more about lead core trolling is encouraged to flag me down on the lake and I’ll show you exactly what I’m doing. Actually, that goes for any presentation.
While some of the local lakes can be a bit more fickle, as being conducive to lead core trolling, Canadian Shield fisheries are usually quite predictable at this time of the year and easier to master. I’ve done extremely well on Kabetogama, Vermilion, and Rainy Lake, to mention a few and many times you’ll be the only one using this presentation. I’ve also done well on Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish, and Leech Lake, along with a few other smaller bodies of water.
Andy Walsh and Ryan Berzins used lead core line trolling tactics to make a nice catch of walleye last weekend.
That’s one thing about lead core trolling, you need to have a large enough lake to “move around”, as there is usually about 200’ of line trailing behind the boat and irregular breaklines make this a difficult task if fish are hanging close to depth changes. However, once they are out and about the main lake basin, it becomes all too easy.
All of this recent lead core fine tuning will lead Andy Walsh and I into the AIM Series Pro Walleye championship, on Lake of the Woods next weekend, feeling quite comfortable in our presentation. We will, however, have to target big fish and may be using slightly larger baits but that will be determined throughout our pre-fishing days. One never knows.
Of course, I am also looking forward to the fall crappie bite, which is one of my specialties. Actually, it’s my favorite fall fishing activity and one I’ve been enjoying for roughly thirty years. I practically give up on all other species, once the crappies have decided to hole up for the winter months. I’ve several repeat guide customers join me each fall for this fun-filled “slab fest”, as it’s a lot of fun and the odds are stacked quite high that they’ll be going home with a nice limit of fish. Join me!
On another note, I’ve recently had some skin cancer removed from the side of my head. This time it was on the right sideburn area, as opposed to about fifteen years ago, when I had to deal with some on my left sideburn area. I hate that stuff.
A full day was spent in Duluth, where Mohs microscopic surgery was performed. The surgery, in itself, didn’t take long at all. Actually, it only took a few minutes. It was the tissue examination that took the most time, up to 1 ½ to 2 hours, because of being so busy.
After each procedure, tissue is examined under a microscope to insure all is removed. I had to go “under the knife” twice, which wasn’t so bad at all. Let’s hope I can keep this stuff in check for a good long while.
I make regular six month visits with a dermatologist, to keep an eye out for any unpleasant situations and really recommend that others do as well, especially when in the sun all of their lives. For those spending most of their entire life in the outdoors (sports, work, fishing, etc.), like myself, you may not notice anything when younger but it does have an ugly habit of catching up with you.
Hence, most of the time, you’ll see me “covered up” as much as possible, wearing full brim hats, long sleeve shirts, buffs, and sun glasses. I want to catch a few more fish and continue to enjoy the Great Outdoors. I want you too as well.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" August 9, 2016 - Fishing Report
"My brother, Joel, and I were making a day-trip into Ontario for a little crappie and walleye action and were just nearing International Falls when Joel spotted “something” walking at a quick pace on a railroad track.
Pointing it out, he said “what is that? It looks like a wolverine.” I was driving but had enough time to get a good look as well and it did indeed look like a wolverine, something I had never seen “in real life” before.
Fairly large, looking to be about 30-40 pounds or more, it had short legs and was brownish in color. Having spent our entire lives in the northern Minnesota outdoors, we’re positive of our sighting. It was a first for the both of us and we were both thrilled with the opportunity.
Once into Canada and catching fish, I had a small walleye take my bait and while reeling it in, a larger fish decided it would be a great meal. Usually, about 99% of the time, it’s a northern pike that will try to steal your catch but this time it was a big walleye. That was another first for me, as I watched it swim around with it at boatside before giving up and disappearing into the heavy weedline.
I can’t say enough about the vinyl flooring in my boat. No matter how careful one is, fish are dropped, every once in a while, or sometimes slime and/or blood is dripped on the floor. All I do is wet one of my fishing towels and swab it up before it has a chance to dry. The clean-up is so easy that I doubt I’ll ever have another boat with carpet.
I’ve strayed a bit, as of late, fishing for practically all species (musky, smallmouth, largemouth, crappie, & bluegill) but will be focusing on walleye for the next couple of weeks. The AIM Pro Walleye championship will be held on Lake of the Woods, August 26-27, and I want to be sure that fishing partner, Andy Walsh, and I have all in order for a good showing.
Trolling crankbaits for walleye and northern pike can have great results.
Berkley's new "Cutter" crankbait is fast becoming a fisherman's favorite when it comes to catching trophy fish.
We’ll be doing a good deal of deep trolling, using lead core line and/or down-riggers. Depending on the situation, if using deep enough diving crankbaits, we may be able to get by using only braided line. All that is needed is to use lures designed to dive deep and let out enough line to reach bottom.
Then again, one could always use snap weights to get the job done. There are many different applications for this presentation, along with a few others. A few days pre-fishing will determine just what we will do and hopefully it will be a good game plan. In any event, it will be a fun tournament.
Out on the water last week, I noticed a lot of bird activity and decided to investigate. I found a couple of dead ciscoes on the surface, freshly killed, imprinted with the teeth marks of a large predator.
Even though the ciscoes measured 12” long, I decided to go with a 6” crankbait, the new Berkley “Cutter”. Although smaller in size, it had the alluring colors of one of these high protein forage fish. Twenty minutes later, I was reeling in a fat walleye. It worked!
I’m always experimenting and just plain “monkeying around” out there on the water. That’s as much fun for me as anything, unless I’m guiding or in a tournament. Then I get a whole lot more serious.
Go with your gut feeling at times and try different techniques, even if you’re not sure if you’re doing it correctly. You just may surprise yourself.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" August 2, 2016 - Fishing Report
"Fishing success definitely has its ups and downs and I’ve experienced a sampling of it as of late.
My brother, Joel, and I made a trip across the border last Friday and did very well on crappie and walleye. This was an outstanding trip, where we focused on crappie by trolling artificial lures, with no live bait being used.
Searching a large flat, we knew fish were located on it somewhere but the area was huge so trolling for them is always done to pinpoint location. Once found, a fan-casting presentation is often used.
In search mode, we started by making a long cast behind the boat and trolling with Salmo “Hornets” and Northland Tackle “Thumper Jigs.” Both baits work well, especially when dealing with stained water, which we were.
The Hornet has a tight wiggling action to it that fish can “hear” coming from a long way off. Using braided line allows you to “feel the wiggle”, no matter how far back the bait is. A #3 or #4 Hornet runs shallow and can effectively cover the upper level of the water column, which is where these fish are usually located.
The Thumper works well too, as it has a spinner added to the jig, which once again attracts fish from quite a distance. Brighter colors seemed to work the best with both baits.
It didn’t take long to find the crappie and once we did a little fan-casting was in order. Fish came fast.
I got to thinking “hmmm, what if I used a large crankbait in this heavily stained water? Would it be as effective? Would it possibly catch even larger fish than we were already catching?”
Digging through some of my bass baits, I picked out a new one made by Berkley, called “Wild Thang” and gave it several casts. I was actually puzzled when not a strike was had but then it dawned on me. This lure was designed to run 8 ½’ deep and I was possibly pulling the lure beneath the fish. Switching to another new Berkley bait that would only dive to 5 ½’, I gave the “Pit Bull” a try and caught one on my first retrieve. As a matter-of-fact, I caught three large crappie in a row with this technique, along with several more afterward.
We finished the day by catching a bunch of walleye. Again, no live bait was used, even though we brought along some nightcrawlers “just in case.” The walleyes were caught by slowly trolling Thumper Jigs along various weedlines.
Saturday had me staying home, resting up from the previous days marathon outing. While home, I stayed in contact with fishing partners Andy Walsh and Justin Bailey, who were on different lakes and really struggling. Both on guide trips, Justin was in the Park Rapids area and Andy on Leech. Maybe it was the weather? I wondered.
Sunday had Justin heading to Mille Lacs Lake and I was invited to go along. Still somewhat dragging from the Ontario trip, I declined, as I know Justin and that means he’ll fish from first light until the sun drops and it’s just too much for me.
Andy and I discussed various Sunday options, ranging from Rainy Lake to Lake Kabetogama, but decided to fish somewhere local. I had the perfect lakes picked out, or so I thought.
Big Baits, Big Fish. Greg Clusiau did well on the large crappie last Friday by using larger, "bass style" crankbaits.
The hot lure of the afternoon was this new Berkley shallow-running "Pit Bull", which runs 5 1/2' deep.
The first one, a great little bass fishery, treated us rudely, making it quite difficult to catch anything at all. I think we boated a half-dozen fish up to 17”, with Andy losing a hog largemouth while on its way to the boat.
The next lake would be one that I had fished last Thursday. This one allowed me to catch a good number of big bluegill and crappie and I was excited to get back to it.
However, this one too had a severe case of lock-jaw? How odd. After only catching a couple bluegill of the smaller variety, we admitted to defeat and decided to call it quits. Sometimes Mother Nature wins out and she did last weekend.
Justin, by the way, had hit the Mother Lode and walleye were practically jumping into the boat. It was so good that he was digging through his tackle box, looking for something he figured they wouldn’t bite on but to no avail. That’s the way it goes sometime. You have to be at the right place at the right time and Justin was certainly there.
Also, speaking of night crawlers, here is something to ponder. First off, I hate buying crawlers, and often won’t, when they are packed in black dirt. The black stuff gets all over the boat (thank goodness for vinyl floors), under your finger nails and any other place that it possibly could.
Prior my trip to Ontario, I ran all over looking for crawlers packed in worm bedding but no luck. This was later in the evening when a few local bait shops, who had what I was looking for, were closed so I was forced to try the “24 hour stores, etc.” and Walmart was one of them.
Walmart had nice, lively crawlers but they were packed in black dirt and here’s the kicker. They are called “Canadian Night crawlers” but Canada won’t allow you to bring any dirt across the border, even if it’s there’s. Your crawlers have to be packed in worm bedding? I don’t get it."
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" July 26, 2016 - Fishing Report; Grand Rapids Fishing With Vets
“More than busy” would best describe me as of late, with fishing, of course, at the center of things.
Guide trips last week, had me doing a little pre-fishing, which is the norm, to best put my clients on fish, giving them a vacation to look back on and fondly remember.
Pulling into one of our local lakes, not a vehicle was parked at the public access. Now, this is usually a barometer of sorts, an indicator that fishing is absolutely terrible. It practically shouts out “don’t go, there’s nothing biting” but sometimes that’s not the case.
Mid-summer months can offer great deep trolling for walleye, via lead core line and crank baits or bottom bouncers and crawler harness spinners. It all depends on the lake and just what the fish prefer to attack.
My pre-fishing day found only a couple walleye using lead core but they were of nice size. Sometimes guests want to catch bigger fish, even though they have to be tossed back because of slot limits. Leaving the lake, I kept that in mind. If it’s a crack at their own personal best walleye, I may go there.
The next lake offered a bottom bouncer bite but once again it was slow fishing, catching only a few but of nice size. Hmmm. Judgement call, what would I do on the next day when guiding?
Loving the lead core bite, I headed directly back to “lake one”, hoping they would have put on the ol’ feed bag and were ready to eat. That often happens. No one would be parked at the access and fishing but the fish would be going wild out there. You just have to get there first.
It turned out to be a bad call, as not one walleye was caught, only three small northern pike, in two hours of trolling. I hadn’t noticed a large bug hatch on the day prior but it certainly was there now. Wow. There was an incredibly large “bug slick” on the water, making it reminiscent of a Lake Superior mud line. Needless-to-say, we packed up and within 30 minutes were fishing another body of water, “lake two”.
Again, I was facing an extremely tough bite but once committed to this lake, decided to stick it out for the remainder of the day. It was a long, hot, miserable day on the water but a couple nice walleyes came aboard, along with a handful of smallmouth and northern pike. It was action, but slow.
The next day was to “lake three”, which wasn’t pre-fished but one I have fished a hundred times or more. I had a pretty good feeling that we’d “get bit” and we did.
Walleye were the focus and although running on the small side, a couple of very nice limits were put in the live well, along some hefty jumbo perch. Small pesky northern pike kept us on our toes as well and all were released of course.
Tired out from four full days on the water, in hot weather, Sunday found me attending the “Fishing for Vets” outing, held on Trout Lake near Coleraine. This time, I’d be spending yet another full day on the water but had different duties.
Instead of being a fishing guide for the day, I was the official photographer, taking photos for various newspapers, along with my own personal use on the internet through Facebook, etc.
Vets and volunteers gathered for a group photo at day's end.
Fishing guide Tommy Cemensky nabs a nice walleye, netted by veteran Chris Wojciek
This was quite an outing starting out at Maki Glass in Grand Rapids. Here, we assembled and created a lineup of truck and boats, twenty-five in all. A police escort, along with about twenty member of a local motorcycle club, escorted us directly to the Trout Lake access, next to the Coleraine fire department.
Guides traveled far and wide to take part in this impressive event and each boat had two veterans along to enjoy a day’s fishing and fun.
My job, as photographer, was to sit back, within distance, and wait for someone to get a bite, which wasn’t too hard to do, as plenty of fish were caught. All fish, by the way, were released. That’s what makes an event like this so special. No fish are kept, the vets are having fun, and we, in some small way, are helping out and saying “thank you” for all you have done for us.
At mid-day, a shore lunch was enjoyed at the fire hall. It was here that stories were told of the big one that got away. Good old-fashioned fishing chatter filled the hall, along with the aroma of fried fish (donated), hot dogs, beans, chips, and beverages.
At day’s end, a touching awards banquet was held and it really drives home how lucky we are to live in America.
A huge thank you goes out to all, too numerous to mention, who donated toward the event.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" July 19, 2016 - Fishing Report; Grand Rapids Walleye Shootout
Another GRAHA Walleye Shootout tournament, on lovely Pokegama Lake, is now in the books and what a day it was. Tournament partner, Andy Walsh, and I struggled to catch fish during the pre-fishing days but still managed to boat a few fish, very few.
My first day of pre-fishing, going solo, had me going home, scratching my head, with nary a walleye caught. The second day, with both Andy and I working over the big lake, gifted us with two nice fish. The third day was only slightly better, with three fish, but at least we had somewhat of a pattern put together.
The areas where we found walleyes were only fished a short while, as to not beat up on the fish or show others just where we were. It was good enough to give us a feeling of confidence.
The pre-tournament meeting had us laughing, as we drew boat number 100 out of 100 boats entered. That meant that, going in order, we would be the last boat heading out to our best spot found during pre-fishing. Would anyone else be on “our” spot? Would there be too many already there to even fish it?
Also, was it a bad luck omen that we drew the last number? The year prior, with Walsh fishing with a different partner, he drew boat 101, which was last as well. The year prior that, he won the event. Now that’s the old “sophomore jinx” if there ever was one.
Finally getting out of the shoot, we scooted across the lake wondering how many were already there. Rounding a point, we could see across the bay and couldn’t believe it but there was absolutely no one there. Unbelievable! We were thrilled.
Slowly moving down a weed line break, we found that the fished had moved. Just how far I wondered. Would we be able to find them again?
Zig-zagging our way, to cover as much area as possible, we eventually found them and they were stacked up big time. It was a fairly large school of fish and more than enough for us to “fill our card.” GRAHA rules allow each team to catch-photo-document-release five fish. There was certainly more than that there.
On the first pass, using bottom bouncers and spinners, we trolled right through the school and never caught a fish. That wasn’t a good sign but Andy did have one “bump” his lure. The next pass, at a slightly different speed, had the same results, with no fish caught, and then they were gone. We scoured the area and were unable to find just where the fish had disappeared to.
We fished it long enough to catch one lone northern pike and then abandoned our little hot spot for our next best option.
This one had a number of boats on it but they weren’t catching anything. Working it over for a couple of hours had us leaving and going for broke, which meant heading out onto the main lake and using large creek chubs, trying to catch a couple of trophy class fish.
Opening morning of the GRAHA, heading out of Sherry's Arm access. Tournament boats were assigned various accesses to allow room for other boaters.
Oops! While fishing a little deeper, in looking for Pokegama Lake walleyes, Greg Clusiau happened across this nice lake trout.
The first two spots were “card fillers”, which means that the fish ran of smaller size but would be good enough to count in the event, with walleye having to be at least 14” to register. Our fish were running 16”-20” in these spots.
Using large creek chubs, via live bait rigs, we fished big fish spots, usually a bit deeper, and came up empty handed.
Oh, we went through our bait, about two dozen large minnows, with northern pike just loving them. We couldn’t keep them off of our lines and even a double or two going while trying for walleye. Hmm, maybe they should have a northern pike tournament? That would be fun and there certainly wouldn’t be any shortage of fish to register.
We ended up zeroing, along with over half the field. However, fish are always caught by someone, no matter how tough it is out there, so big CONGRATULATIONS goes out to the first place team of Tim Bymark and Chris Marinucci for registering their five fish, weighing 19.79 pounds, good for $15,000.
Here’s something of interest. Although very few fish were caught in the event, it doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t any walleye in Pokegama Lake. It means there is plenty of forage in the system and the fish are all fat and happy, making them more difficult to catch.
One team was using a camera and watched a school of 20-25 walleye for hours, dropping down everything but the kitchen sink, only to see the fish totally ignore their baits. I can’t wait until all of the bait is eaten up. Pokegama Lake will be back to the way it was; awesome!
Grand Rapids Fishing Report July 17, 2016 - Lake Pokegama, Grand Rapids Walleye Shootout
Would you call the Walleye fishing on Pokegama Lake a tough bite? I think you could say so, especially when 52 out of 100 really good Walleye fishing teams wind up with zeros in their weight columns.
Winning the Grand Rapids Walleye Shootout wasn’t easy for Tim Bymark and Chris Marinucci, of Grand Rapids, MN. Win it they did though and with a respectable, albeit lower than average weight of 19.79 pounds. That proves the point that no matter how tough fishing is, there’s always somebody who figures out how to ... Read >> Grand Rapids Walleye Shootout
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" July 12, 2016 - Fishing Report
"Well, that’s it. Another AIM Walleye Series tournament is in the books. Last Sunday’s event was held on Otter Tail Lake, Otter Tail county, and I must say I’m certainly enjoying learning new waters this season.
Andy Walsh and I had what seems to be our “normal” poor pre-fishing but came off the lake with somewhat respectable results, placing 16th out of 76 teams. Coming up next is the popular GRAHA Walleye Shootout on Pokegama Lake this weekend, followed up by the AIM championship on Lake of the Woods in late August. We’re anxiously looking forward to both.
It was my first visit to the Otter Tail area and I was pleased with my findings. What a beautiful area! I could see myself living in the Battle Lake area. It’s just that cool and has a special flavor to it. Also, did you know that Otter Tail county has more lakes than Itasca county? How nice it is to drive along and see a new lake every few miles or so.
Fairly large, Otter Tail Lake consists of over 14,000 acres, with over half of it being less than 15’ deep. It’s an interesting body of water that has an extensive, shallow flat ringing the entire lake, with most of it being sand. It’s looked to be a great recreational/swimming lake.
Caution, however, as there are rocks that could come up and “grab” your prop if you get a little careless, even though the lake is 120’ deep in places. We weren’t. Thank goodness for today’s gps technology and informative lake charts. They’re life savers, especially for us newcomers.
I wasn’t aware of the lake sturgeon population in Otter Tail. Re-introduced to the lake in 2002, we saw them surfacing and jumping out of the water all weekend and some of them were of the huge variety. Quite a few were accidently hooked up by tournament anglers. That’s always fun but it does rob one of precious minutes when competing in a tournament. They don’t come in very easy at all and takes a bit of time.
Mother Nature was up to her old tricks again, right on cue, as the night before the tournament she treated us to high winds, heavy rains, lighting, and thunder. I was surprised the fish bit as well as they did, with all of that commotion. It usually shuts then off pretty good.
On the way home, we observed several trees blown down, next to highway 200, east of Leech Lake. This had “mini tornado” written all over it, as some of the trees were twisted right around.
Last week’s musky adventure had us in almost the same situation, as we were trying to get home and hot on the heels of the storm the ravaged Deer River and the surrounding area. We had to stop a couple of times to remove trees off the highway but received plenty of “thumbs ups” and horn honking salutes for our efforts. All this was done in a pouring rain.
My goodness. This weather certainly has been trying as of late. Let’s hope it gets it out of its system before the Pokegama GRAHA tournament this Saturday. Some of “the best of the best” walleye anglers will be competing for the $15,000 first place prize, along with bragging rights, of course. Stop by this Saturday at the IRA Arena in Grand Rapids for the weigh-in, which gets underway at 6:30.
Like most all other tournaments, it’s a wonderful way to showcase a lake and community and what I think to be the best of it all is the fact the no fish are kept. All fish are caught, photo’d, and released to be caught again.
A scorecard will be reviewed by contest organizers and prizes awarded accordingly on stage. It’s going to be another big event. Hope to see you there."
Jason Rylander with a very nice Otter Tail Lake crappie. Several big panfish were caught while pre-fishing for the AIM Walleye Series tournament.
Greg Clusiau caught and released this large northern pike while trolling crank baits with lead core line on Otter Tail Lake last week.
Nancy Koep, of "Koep's Bobbers & Bait" in Glenwood, had a blast reeling in this lake sturgeon while fishing for walleye on Otter Tail Lake.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" June 27, 2016 - Fishing Report
"Blessed. Yes, that’s what I am. Every once in a while, I have to just sit back and look at the whole picture. Quite unbelievable it is.
First off, let’s start with the fishing and all other outdoor activities available to us in this magnificent Minnesota “North Country”. Itasca county offers over 1,000 lakes to choose from and I’ve certainly done more than my duty in trying to fish them all. However, at last count, I was only at around 350 or so and know I’ll never hit that magic one thousand mark. I probably could fish them all but great fishing keeps me going back to about a dozen or so local lakes and I’m happy with that.
The high number of lakes has certainly helped me when it comes to guided ice fishing trips. There have been days when we’ve packed up and headed down the road 15 minutes to try another lake because of slow fishing. That usually doesn’t happen but I do remember one trip where I wasn’t happy with the fishing and kept going until we found the “mother lode.” That was lake number four for the day.
I’m also thankful for a special circle of fishing friends and one of them, Terry Wickstrom, just happens to be here fishing with me at the time of this writing. Terry hails from Colorado but grew up in the Hibbing/Grand Rapids area. Terry often says “we never grew up, we just got older.” I think he’s right on that one.
Wickstrom has been a huge influence in the sport of fishing, writing articles for In-Fisherman, Facts of Fishing, and several other outdoor publications. Appearing on television every week for over twelve years, he has recently retired from the limelight of “Mountain States Fishing” and “Angling Adventures”, of which I was co-host.
He continues with his popular Saturday morning radio program, based out of Denver, and has now taken up writing a weekly column for the Denver Post. He always did burn the candle at both ends.
Another fishing buddy is my guide partner Justin Bailey. Somewhat a newcomer to the media fishing scene, Bailey has made a huge splash in the industry. He just has a knack for promotion, as well as catching fish. As a matter-of-fact, as I write this he is on his way home from the Alexandria area where he captured first place in a walleye tournament.
I phoned to congratulate and asked him if it was windy there like it was on the iron range. He said it was terrible and that he never even pre-fished, saying “I just went to the calmest part of the lake and started fishing.” That’s pretty darn good.
Another in that circle is my tournament partner Andy Walsh. I fished with Andy last Sunday but didn’t plan on it. Here’s how it all went down.
I got up early, like normal, and headed out to the lake. He messaged me saying “fishing today?” I answered back “Trout Lake” to which he responded “when are you leaving?” “Already there, fish on” I answered back. “Okay, good luck” Andy replied.
Well what could I do? I had to ask him to join me. After all, it was his birthday. I told him to join me but he had to bring a boat seat and a cup of coffee. When fishing alone, I take out all unnecessary seats and other equipment. Shortly after, there he was, standing on the dock with a boat seat and two cups of coffee. It did look funny. We went on to have a great day, for how windy it was.
My family has been great as well, starting with my wife, Marilyn. She used to fish a lot with me but no longer has the desire that I do and continues to let me run like a dog, fishing until I get too tired out. Sometimes I have to stay home a day or two to regroup. It’s what makes me tick.
My brothers are always fun to share a boat with too and I look forward to any of them jumping in with me. It’s always fun.
My son and daughter are both lovers of the outdoors, as are their spouses and children. It’s pretty impressive. I recall having Terri and Kris in the boat with Marilyn and I when they were quite young. The 14’ aluminum boat had a blanket or two on the floor to keep them comfortable. They’d sometimes fish but usually just played, filled in coloring books, or slept. The amount of time spent in that little boat surprises me to this day that they would even still love the sport. - Enjoy it folks. We’re darn lucky!
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" June 21, 2016 - Fishing Report
I think summer is finally here. Fish are biting well and by that I mean all species. I just may have to go musky fishing a time or two, something I haven’t done in years. Every once in a while, I fall off the wagon and feel the urge to cast my brains out for these big teasers. Actually, I’d rather just sit back, put my feet up, and troll for them. It’s a lot easier but hard to do when fish are hanging tight to or deep in the cabbage weeds. Oh I suppose a few casts can be made for old time’s sake.
I fished for these things quite a bit back in the day and even competed in the pro circuit one year, traveling across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Brian Griffith, formerly of Deer River, was my tournament partner and I couldn’t ask for a better one. This guy can flat out fish and taught me a pile when it comes to musky fishing.
He made it look so easy. I’ll never get over it. As a novice musky fisherman, I shared a boat with him all summer and watched as he would catch one or two on darn near every trip. As a matter of fact, I never caught one that first summer. It became a mind game and I was actually psyching myself out.
Brian offered me the best baits, along with spots and first casts but no. I didn’t happen. Maybe the “fish of 10,000 casts” moniker held true?
Finally, the next year, I latched onto a small one while fishing Elk Lake in Itasca State Park. Only about seven pounds, a baby by musky standards, it was enough to get the monkey (maybe should say musky) off my back and I was on my way. The rest came easy, if there is such a thing. All of a sudden, I had a confidence that allowed me to do quite well and I was expecting to catch one or two myself on every outing. It’s funny what that confidence thing can do to a person and it’s true for anything you do. For me? Well, all I do is fish.
Getting back into the sport of musky fishing has me looking at a myriad of new up-dated rods, reels, and tackle. I can get the job done with what I have but am certainly looking forward to getting some new gear, mainly some longer casting rods made by Tuned Up Custom Rods. Something in the 8’ range would do just fine.
I’ve two musky rods that I’ve used for years and both are outdated and a whole lot shorter than the new trendy rods of today. One is a 6 ½’ and the other a 7’. Also, I have a little 5 ½’ that I used decades ago to catch big northern pike on. How in the world I used that thing is beyond me but hey, back then it was in style!
Musky fishing. It’s bringing back a flood of memories, like the time I caught my first big fish.
Fishing solo, often the norm, I tied into a nice fish on Moose Lake, north of Deer River. Flinging a long cast with one of my favorite bucktails, a #5 Mepps “Giant Killer” with that wonderful prism willow-leaf blade, a strike was felt.
Fishing in the Swan Lake Classic last Saturday, I caught a bunch of walleye, with this 24" being the largest. Many fish were caught throughout the day but fish to weigh in, 14" - 17", were few and far between. Out of all the contestants, only a handful of fish were brought to the scale. This is incredible. I think Swan Lake is turning into another Trout Lake, with "eaters" becoming a real bonus.
Setting the hook, I soon realized it was a very good fish. Getting it next to the boat and trying to net it myself had my heart pumping, just knowing it was going to shake free.
Finally, it was eased into the net and hook removal took place. Now for a photo. What to do? Back then, there were no cell phones so a selfie was definitely out of the question.
I have the photo around here somewhere but it certainly doesn’t do the big fish any justice, as it’s just lying on the boat floor with nothing to compare it to. Although only 48” long, it was my largest fish to date, and a very fat, beautiful specimen.
Then there was the time I was fishing on Leech Lake with Brian. The seas were angry that day my friend (sorry, I had to use George Castanza’s popular phrase) and it was hard to maintain your balance, casting jerkbaits in three foot waves.
My back was getting sore so I decided to take it easy, sitting down, casting and slowly retrieving a surface bait. Then it happened! A very fat 48” fish came screaming out of the waves and engulfed my lure. The fight was on. Running around the boat, trying to keep my balance and keep the fish away from the motor, we eventually netted it.
Posing with the fish for a photo, I had stay on my knees to keep from falling out of the boat. Wish I could find this photo. It’s here some place. And then there was the time ...
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" June 14, 2016 - Fishing Report
Oh it’s so nice to be back home and sleeping in my own bed! Fishing is indeed fun and I love nearly every second of it but never care to be away from home for very long. Three days is more than enough for me.
Last weekend was dedicated to the AIM Weekend Walleye Series, held on fabulous Leech Lake, one of my favorites. We did a fair amount of pre-fishing and found some excellent spots for the tournament. Two key locations had fish practically jumping into the boat on Saturday, with the tournament being held the next day. One would think it couldn’t get much better.
Our first spot, accidently stumbled across the day before by Justin Bailey, allowed us to catch four fish in fifteen minutes on Saturday morning. It was an area often over-looked by most and one that Bailey had found while on a guide trip.
Trying to put some novice anglers on a good northern pike bite, they started out casting crank baits over the weeds and within minutes has several nice walleyes in the boat, with one of them being a fine 28” fish. Realizing what he had found, they switched to jigs and minnows and went on to catch 16 nice walleyes. Over-looked and no one there. Wow. What a spot.
Andy Walsh and I zipped in, caught a few fish, and left undetected, saving it for Sunday morning. From here, we would go to another prime spot, located further down the lake.
This one was hot as well. Making one pass through the area allowed us to catch a 16” and 27” fish. Not wanting to burn the spot, again, we packed up and left the area. This one too, was highly over-looked. The rest of the day was spent looking over other areas.
Now, it seems that Mother Nature does this to almost every tournament that I fish. The days prior the event are great for fishing and actually comfortable to be out on the lake, especially big waters. However, come tournament morning, she’ll flip the switch, as to say “I’ll fix them.”
An early riser, I woke at 4:00 am on Sunday morning and stepped outside our cabin at Trapper’s Landing on Leech Lake. I almost expected it. The trees were bending with the wind. It was really kicking up. I wondered what this would do to our fishing spots.
It was really picking up speed by the time the event got underway, held out of the Walker City Park. Our first spot would be a much shorter run than the second and we were fine with that. This time, we were boat number 91 out of 100 and would be leaving after nearly everyone else. I wondered if anyone, other than Bailey, would be on the spot.
As Andy and rounded the corner and got a good look at our destination, we were pleased to see only Justin and his partner, Jason Rylander, sitting on it. After all, it was Justin’s spot. He was just kind enough to share it with us. What a guy!
I could see them boating and recording a fish as we pulled up. Casting away, it was obvious that the winds had changed the chemistry of this little-known hot spot, as fish were hard to come by. Finally, Andy latched onto one that measured 20 ½”, which turned out to be our largest of the day. One more small one was caught before we packed it in and headed further out onto the main lake, which was really rough by this time.
Our plans to make a run to one of our big fish spots was halted when the windshield bracket broke loose from all of the hard wave impacts. It’s amazing what a boat can go through and remain in one piece. Also, while trying to make our way there, one of Andy’s graphs broke loose and almost fell in the drink. Yes. It was that rough. I’d say the waves were measured anywhere from 4’–6’ high.
Not being able to reach our destination, we settled for another well-known big fish spot that no one was on. Gee, I wonder why? It was so darn rough. We ended up catching one more small fish, before heading back to where we came from.
We knew Justin was heading to the second spot and really wondered how he was doing, as the day before it was absolutely “lights out” for him.
We finished the day by “filling the card” with smaller fish, ranging from 12 – 15” and ended up in 58th place with a weight of 8.23 pound for five fish. Not good. But that’s fishing. It’s always a gamble, one way or another and I always say “it all depends on what side of the bed you got out of that morning.” (Maybe I should have stayed in bed!)
Justin, by the way, made it to the other spot and only caught one fish there. Lake conditions had mixed things up there too.
The rough waters claimed their fair share of broken equipment on this day. A few windshield frames were broken and equipment lost but the BIG casualty for me was when my famed full-brimmed camo hot blew off my head. We turned around immediately, as if it was a small child, but it couldn’t be recovered before doing the deep six. Now I have to go shopping.
Hats off to those that fought the weather (high winds, heavy rains & lightning) for a full day and a big pat on the backs of first place team Bleeker/Weeda for their first place finish of 32.99 pounds for which they earned $8,000.
Next stop, July 10, Otter Tail Lake.
Justin Bailey with a nice Leech Lake walleye caught during the pre-fish days.
Greg Clusiau and Andy Walsh rigging rods for the next morning, in preparation of the AIM Weekend Walleye Series, held last Sunday on Leech Lake. They stayed at Trapper's Landing on Leech Lake.
Tuned Up Custom Rods, rigged and ready for action.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (June 7, 2016) - Leech Lake Walleye Tournament
I’ve spent most of my fishing time chasing walleye this year and that is mainly due to the AIM Pro Walleye Series that Andy Walsh and I are signed up for. We’ve competed in two of them and have that many more to go before the championship on Lake of the Woods in August.
Our next event will be on one of my favorite bodies of water, Leech Lake, this coming Sunday. My brother, Joel, and I did a little pre-fishing last week and found some very nice fish but locating a good school of fish that far in advance of the tournament is usually all for naught, as they more-than-likely will have moved on before next Sunday’s event.
The annual Leech Lake Walleye Tournament (formerly Leech Lake Classic) was held last weekend. I tried to enter but the field was full at 155 boats and although I had a good idea on where to catch a few fish, the weather was miserable and almost made me glad I didn’t enter. I hate battling high winds and heavy rains.
The LLWT was won by the Bemidji team of Curb/Sutton, weighing in 6 fish on each of the two days for a total weight of 28.06 pounds. Bolstering the weight, they were able to weigh in a 6 pounder on Saturday and a 7 on Sunday. The lucky duo went home a first place check, good for $14,200.
Needless-to-say, a fair amount of time will be spent on Leech Lake this week, trying to put together a good pattern for next Sunday.
I have to chuckle when looking back over the last week or so of walleye fishing. It all started when a trip was made to Upper Red Lake. I was guiding and picking up a few fish (40) but not as many as some young Grand Rapids area anglers, of the Hang Loose Outdoors group. Honking the horn, I told them “you’ll have to move over, you’re in my spot.” There were only about 200 boats out there and they were putting on a real walleye catching clinic.
The very next day, again with the same scenario, me guiding and them just having fun, I bumped into them again on Big Bowstring. Again with the friendly banter. “How odd” I thought.
A few days later, when Joel and I were ready to leave our little hotspot on Leech Lake, a boat comes cruising up and wouldn’t you know it. It’s those two again! What in the world. Only this time, I was there first.
They, Colt Anderson and Dylan Maki, were pre-fishing for the Leech Lake Walleye Tournament and evidently did their homework, as they finished in 11th place with 21.23 pounds, good for a $740 check. Congratulations boys! (Now keep your distance!)
Colt Anderson and Dylan Maki enjoying the day, pre-fishing and having fun.
Along for the ride. A dragon fly stopped by, landing on Joel Clusiau's hand, while fishing on Leech Lake.
Back to Bowstring, I was out there last Sunday, just minding my business, fishing alone, and catching a few walleyes, when I hear this ear-shattering blast. A thunderbolt had made its presence known somewhere behind Geiger’s Trails End Resort.
I don’t know where the storm came from, as I had my back toward the shore and never noticed the threatening clouds working their way toward me. Quickly reeling up, I headed to the resort for shelter. It was at this time that the hail started to fall.
It’s not so bad if you’re sitting still but traveling across the lake at 35 mph with a tiller boat, I had to slow down. I couldn’t take it. I was worried they might crack the screens on my graphs. Small hail stones had hit me in both lips, along with the right ear, but it was the one I took in the eye that had me putting on the brakes. Wow. That hurt.
Going about half-throttle, the following torrential downpour had me soaked by the time I reached the dock. My Goodness. The things we do for fun!
I should mention that I keep a close eye on water temps and noticed a lot of our lakes are in that 60–65º range. Keep in mind that crappie spawn around 62-65º and bluegills at 65-75º. These are merely general guidelines and each body of water may vary.
However, if you’re looking for some fast panfish action, check out the shallow shorelines of your favorite waters. Please remember to use selective harvest and let the big girls go. Good luck, be safe, and have fun.
Fresh in the door from another AIM Pro Walleye tournament, I’m plum tuckered out. Not only is it a grueling endeavor to be on the water for a full three days (honest), it’s also the five hour ride home when you’re through competing.
Andy Walsh and I struggled during our pre-fishing efforts on Friday and Saturday but finally put something together in the late going. It wasn’t much, in our book, but after catching a couple of larger fish, five and six pounds, figured it was our best chance to do anything at all in the event.
We ended up drawing boat number 52 out of a total field of 66 teams from across the Midwest. That put us in the second flight, which left 15 minutes later from the staging area on the south end of Big Stone Lake. We wondered. How many boats would be fishing on “our spot” by the time we got there?
The big lake was nice traveling on this morning, all 26 miles of it. Long and narrow, Big Stone offers plenty of fishing opportunities and not just for walleye. Throughout the three days there, we ended up catching white bass, sheepshead, perch, sunfish, bullhead, northern pike, and walleye and most all of these species were of trophy caliber.
I was truly impressed with the size of the sunfish, even though we only caught three of them. The smallest was 10” long, with the largest pushing 11”, and all three attacked a crank bait meant for walleye. These fish have some big appetites and their physique shows it. The bullheads looked to be small catfish and the perch were real jumbos. Everything was big and robust, even the white bass and sheepshead. I’d love to go back there for a few days to target these trophy fish.
Big Stone is appropriately named, as there are rocks everywhere. Normally this wouldn’t be of too much concern to me but when the lake is basically 15’ deep, you really have to be on your toes and pay close attention to where you are traveling. This is where a Navionics chip comes in real handy, giving you a good idea of just where it is safe to run wide open.
Finally, it was our turn to take off. Cruising at over 50 mph for ten miles or so, we arrived at our spot to find not a soul there. Now, there are two ways to look at this. One is that everybody else had found something better or two, it was an overlooked area that others had somehow missed. How would we know? We’d have to fish it and find out at day’s end.
Trolling crank baits, I tied into a big fish right away. Fighting much harder and heavier than the six pound caught from the day before, we were excited to start the day with a big fish only to have the hooks pull free right next to the boat. Deflated? no. Angry with myself for losing it? Yes.
Then it was Andy’s turn. A heavy fish was on and off in an instant and we were kicking ourselves but continued on with our pre-planned program.
Finally, a fish pushing 6 pounds was caught and we were on the board. The “catch, photo, and record” format has anglers releasing all fish, which is a great trending way to do tournaments. Put a fish in your live well for any reason and you’re disqualified.
Each boat receives a tournament packet in the morning consisting of the official measuring board with your boat number on it, a card for your camera, and a data sheet for recording the catches. Photos must be taken a certain way to verify the catch. It’s about as fail safe as possible when it comes to someone trying to be dishonest. I like this format and wish other tournaments would follow suit, as all fish are released on the spot, right where you caught them.
We kept pecking away but the big fish, from then on, eluded us. We’d have to “fill the card” with whatever we happened to catch. Anglers can catch and record as many fish as possible but only the largest five will be counted for your total weight. A formula is used to configure just how much a fish would weigh, breaking it down to ¼” increments.
Catching was slow and steady but came to a screeching halt when we became bombarded with green algae slime that was loosened up by the day’s high winds. It was almost impossible to fish without everything becoming covered with the slippery stuff. At the end of the day, my greenish fingers made it look like I was working on the lawn all day.
Andy and I went on to catch seven fish, recording five, for a total weight of 13.46 pounds. The weight placed us in 17th place and left us wondering “what if?”
Next up? Leech Lake.
Andy Walsh takes time for a quick photo during the pre-fishing hours on Big Stone Lake.
Many large sunfish were caught by anglers seeking walleye last Sunday on Big Stone Lake near Ortonville.
"Team Picht", local veteran walleye tournament anglers, Stephen and Brenda Picht, placed 6th last Sunday in the AIM Pro Walleye event held on Big Stone Lake near Ortonville, Minnesota. Stephen and Brenda weighed in 5 fish for 20 pounds and cashed a check for $1,000.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (May 17, 2016) - Minnesota Fishing Opener
Another Minnesota fishing opener is in the books and what a weekend it was, making it one of the coldest on record. Never-the-less, anglers got out and made it happen.
My original plan to fish with Justin Bailey on Leech Lake went out the window when I looked over Saturday’s forecast. It wasn’t so much the cold temps but the strong winds that had me back-pedaling. So with some regret, and not a whole lot, I declined his offer.
Plans were made with my brother Joel, Friday evening, to just sleep in and take a look at the weather in the morning. We’d make a determination then on what species and where to go.
Saturday rolled around and all I had to do was peek out the window at the American flag, positioned at the Keewatin fire hall across the street, and see it stiffened out in the heavy breezes. Nope. No way were we going to be boating on this day. Oh, it would be “doable” but why suffer. We’d be doing the shore fishing gig on this Minnesota general fishing opener.
While loading the truck, the phone rings and it’s our nephew Jesse Clusiau. He’d be joining us. I gave him a short list of equipment needed, mainly rubber knee-boots or waders, along with the basic terminal tackle used in tricking a few rainbow trout.
The first lake offered some protection from the wind but it was still quite cold out. Catching was equally cool, with us landing only one nice rainbow, caught by Joel.
We packed up at noon and headed further north, stopping at the Effie Cafe for a hot meal. What a great little restaurant. It’s truly a classic place to eat.
From there, it was on to the next trout water, located just down the road.
Campers were placed at various prime locations but there was still room enough for us to fish, which really surprised me. This lake wasn’t much better but we still managed to catch a few more fish, rainbow and splake.
Day two was more of the same, with us heading to yet another trout lake in the morning and a panfish lake in the afternoon. It turned out to be a better day, with us catching some nice rainbows, crappie, and pumpkinseeds.
So, all-in-all, we fished four lakes from shore in the two days with three of them being designated trout lakes. Considering our approach, being somewhat restricted in our movement, we did pretty darn good. It was a classic way to spend the season opener.
Justin Bailey, meanwhile, was bouncing around Leech Lake for two days and managed to put together some great walleye catches but the monster dogfish seemed to get all of the praise. It was almost labeled “the catch of the day.”
Tournament partner Andy Walsh opened up on Mille Lacs. I questioned his thoughts on this one but when I saw the productive fishing reports coming in at 2:30 a.m. I knew he had made the right decision. He was even finding calmer waters to fish in, which surprised the daylights out of me. Never-the-less, to be out there in the middle of the night when it’s 28º isn’t too much fun in my book.
Oh, I’ve been there, when younger and more adventurous, but those days are pretty much gone but not completely.
Upper Red Lake was its old nasty self on opening day but some anglers still managed to find a place to catch fish. My original plan was to go there but any breezes coming other than out of the east can make it difficult and the weekend offered strong gusts out of the northeast. Not good.
Actually, as I was writing this report on a Monday morning, Justin messaged me saying he was leaving Leech Lake and was heading to Upper Red. Does that guy ever rest? Brother Joel was heading up there too.
Young Jordan Tew with a beautiful rainbow taken on opening weekend. He was fishing with avid trout fisherman Caleb Babcock of Bigfork.
Jesse and Joel Clusiau display their afternoon catch of nice crappie, caught while shore fishing and wading
Jesse Clusiau with some nice rainbow trout, caught while fishing on one of the many designated trout lakes in the Itasca county area.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (May 10, 2016) - Hanging Loose with Colt Anderson
Minnesota’s general fishing opener is finally here and it looks to be a good one, according to local fishing guide Colt Anderson. Colt, age 25, works with the Hang Loose Outdoors guide group, based out of Grand Rapids, and has been guiding for the past four years.
HLO features eight accomplished fishing guides that concentrate on all area waters with Pokegama Lake being a strong favorite. Trips are also offered on other popular waters such as Big Winnie, Leech, Bowstring, Upper Red, Jesse, Sand, and more. It all depends on what the client wants and where the “hot bite” is taking place. On a side note, Anderson said he’s been fishing Pokegama since he was 16 years old.
Like most, he prefers a jig and minnow presentation but uses two different applications when it comes to sticking a minnow on the end of the hook. One is by using a long-shank “shiner jig”, where the hook is inserted in the minnow’s mouth, out the gill, and finally imbedded in its side. This allows the angler to jig more aggressively and works well on those short striking fish.
If the walleyes are a little on the fussy side, he’ll lightly “lip-hook” the minnow, in the mouth and out through the top of the head, and use a slow drag method. The log-shank hook works well on the sand flats but when it comes to working rocks,
Anderson prefers a short-shank jig saying “they seem to get hung up less.”
Colt also uses a lot of jig and plastic presentations, with “paddle tails” being a favorite. It all depends on conditions and what the fish want. Berkley Power Baits and B-Fish-N Tackle are favorites.
His “go to” jig colors, for dealing with stained water, are chartreuse or black with a yellow eye. Clear water has him using blue/white and “parrot”. Favorite plastic colors are toned down, with solid white and black being favorites. Then again, the ever-popular and flashy chartreuse makes an appearance here as well.
There are times when a live bait rig is needed and this is usually when it’s colder and fish are in a more neutral mood. This calls for a somewhat short leader, 12” to 24”, tipped with a chub minnow. The short leader keeps the bait close to bottom, right in the fish’s face.
Colt uses 10# test fluorocarbon line for his leaders and ties on a red hook when using crawlers and green when using leeches. He went on to say “I don’t know what it is but that’s what I like to use, just personal preference. It works well for me.” When asked if he uses any beads with his leaders, he said “only when the fish are more aggressive.”
Regarding fishing line, he said “I’m a mono guy”, with clear 6# test being a favorite. Using a forgiving, “stretchable” line like mono, along with a medium-light rod, has put a lot of fish in the boat. His boat, by the way, is a new 1875 Lund Pro Guide, recently purchased from Rays Sport & Marine in Grand Rapids.
Like a lot of us, Anderson was pursuing ice out crappie and doing well until that miserable cold front weather moved in. It was at this time that the fish seemed to have packed up and left town, as they had become extremely difficult to locate. However, the weather has straightened out real nice as of late and fishing has been good. The walleye season is now upon us and Anderson expects great fishing.
Regarding an opening day tip, Anderson said “find greenish weeds if you can, fish the windy side, and keep moving.”
For more information on a guide trip with Colt Anderson, call 218-256-0916 or Hang Loose Outdoors at 218-259-5447. You can also find them on Facebook or go to their web site at www.hanglooseoutdoors.com.
Good fishing this weekend. Hope you have a GREAT opener!
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (May 3, 2016) - AIM Walleye Tournament Report
Now that was interesting and fun as well but I’m glad it’s over and done with. What I speak of is the first of four AIM Pro Walleye weekend series events to be held in the Minnesota division.
It was definitely a learning experience and I’ll be the first to say I was out of my element. When speaking rivers, I’ve done a lot of fishing on the Rainy River but comparing Pools 3 and 4 of the Mississippi River to the Rainy is like the comparison of apples to oranges. They are so different it’s not even funny.
The Rainy is basically straight, with somewhat defined river banks or shorelines. There is nowhere else to go. The Mississippi, however, offers all of that and then some, in the form of wing dams, locks, and an unlimited backwater area. Once off the beaten track, you’d think you were in the Florida everglades and sometimes that’s where you need to go.
Many factors come forth when considering where to fish and they are:
1) “High or Low” – Is the water high or low? River waters can fluctuate in a hurry. Find fish one day and go back the next to find the water has risen 6-8’. Are the fish still in this area or are they frolicking around the backwaters in 2’ of water? Good luck.
2) “Cold or Warm” – Fluctuating water temperatures of spring can throw a wrench into things as well. A key here is to search out the warmer waters, which definitely can help in certain situations. We were at a loss in this category, as Andy’s graph got a little stubborn and wouldn’t reveal any water temps. However, pull the boat out of the water and it worked just fine, 46º air temp.
3) “Fast or Slow” - Another factor is current. You might have things figured out but when they open the dams and water is surging like a mini tidal wave, it can call for a change of plans.
4) “Murky or Less Murky” – Water clarity just doesn’t happen. It’s usually murky and muddy but the fish are used to this. This situation calls for some thought when selecting lure colors. You want it to stand out and get a little attention. Our best baits were chartreuse jigs tipped with orange or white.
5) “Sunny or Overcast” – Some thought should be given to this when selecting lure color, especially when trolling crank baits, bright on bright days and duller or tuned down colors when overcast.
6) Windy or Calm” – Not a huge factor, but can be, on the river but if you had a good pattern going further down river on Lake Pepin it could make or break you, as the lake is big and can get pretty nasty when windy.
Seventy-eight teams entered the event, based out of Evert’s Resort, on the Wisconsin side of the river. Names were “drawn out of a hat” to determine the order of take-off and Andy and I drew #9. Partners Justin Bailey and Jason Rylander drew #73.
Not a walleye! Greg Clusiau was more than amused catching sheepshead and white bass during his recent visit to Pools 3 and 4 of the Mississippi River near Red Wing.
The tournament team of Jason Rylander and Justin Bailey will be fishing the AIM Pro Walleye weekend series this summer, as well as several other events.
Pre-fishing together and sharing information, Justin had come up with a couple proven, good spots. The problem with one of his best spots was that fact that it was small and would fill up quickly, as there was only room for 4-5 boats. With this in mind, it was decided that Andy and I would take that spot, as by the time Justin got there it would be too late.
It was a jig bite, in or next to brush, so break-offs were expected. Waiting for all boats to get registered in the morning allowed us to tie up nine jig rods. The thought here was to grab another rod and cast back out when you broke off. There would be no down time.
The run was about 10 miles, with two possible routes. We chose the backwater plan because the water was high enough to “give it.” Up on plane and going over 50 mph through the backwaters was worth the trip alone.
We knew it was a popular spot and weren’t surprised to find three tournament boats and one local angler already there. As a matter-of-fact, the local was tied up to the same much desired stump that we hoped to use.
It’s indeed a patience game, anchoring up and sitting for the entire day. I can’t ever recall sitting in one spot all day for a tournament but this day would be different. The spot was a proven big fish spot and Andy and I were going for the “homerun.” It would be all or nothing. Fish move in and fish move out. You just had to be lucky enough to be there when it happened.
Three hours into the morning, all we had was one sheepshead. Then it happened. Our angler neighbor, the local, had a bite and the fight was on. It would be a little nerve-wracking to fight a heavy fish for too long when in a tournament because of all of the snags there.
He eventually netted the fish, which was a highly desired 29” walleye, just what Andy and I were looking for. Maybe the bite was on? We hoped anyway. However, all that followed was another drum. Yes, we sat there, going for broke, for 7 hours and it didn’t happen and the only fish we saw caught was the 29”er. Such is fishing and gambling.
Sitting there all day can be boring but we did see a few things that broke the monotony. One was a red fox that ran past us, only fifty feet away. That was cool. There were also two large eagles that sat over us, watching our every move, hoping we’d toss back an injured fish. And then there was the swimmer.
Nothing was happening in this little honey hole so every once in a while a tournament angler would reposition his boat to what little space available. On this one occasion, a boat slowly motored to the back of the cut, while one of the anglers stood on the deck.
I happened to glance over and saw the boat lift and cant to the side, which made it was obvious they had run on top of a log. I also saw the guy standing on the deck roll right off and into the water. Now, I’ve been there before, like the time I fell in on Leech Lake in October and it’s definitely no fun and I’m imagining the water was just about as cold. The poor fella. At least he wasn’t hurt.
Andy and I were just getting ready to pull up anchor and help them get off the log but a local boat beat us to it. Hats off to them.
The next event is on Big Stone Lake in three weeks.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (April 26th) -
I’ve been bouncing around the country, as of late, fishing for walleye and panfish. For walleye, I’ve been visiting Pools 3 and 4 of the Mississippi River, near Red Wing, where my first AIM walleye tournament will be taking place this Sunday. If there’s any problem with this quest, it’s the fact that it’s so darn far away, which makes effective pre-fishing efforts a bit difficult.
My last trip there was a one-day shot with Justin Bailey, which involved driving eight hours to make the 400 mile round trip and ten hours on the water. This makes for a long day but it’s what we do. I’m certainly glad Justin did the driving. That guy is going non-stop and it was probably like a walk in the park for him. For me, however, I was totally wiped out the next day and never left the house.
We were honored to have Jim Carpenter hop in the boat with us, to show us around this magnificent river system. It’s a bit intimidating, as we are out of our element, for now, but plan on learning as much as possible before this coming weekend. Actually, as I write this week’s column, on a Monday morning, Justin is back down there.
Long-distance pre-fishing has us teamed up, even though we will have different partners in the event and actually be competing against one another. I’ll be fishing with Andy Walsh, while Justin is partnered with famed Bemidji fishing guide Jason Rylander. You see, Andy and Jason have jobs and less time off. However, for Justin and I, every day is Saturday! You gotta love that.
Initially, I imagined this part of the Mississippi to be nothing more than a large river like the Rainy but it’s so much more than that. While the Rainy has miles and miles of defined shorelines and riverbanks, the Mississippi has countless “cuts” and backwaters, creating an absolute maze of fishing opportunities. Not to mention, wing dams, barges, and locks.
Going through one of the locks was worth the trip alone, as Justin and I had never been through one before. On this mid-week day, we were the only boat involved, which was nice for us newcomers. Carpenter said that during tournaments it can be shoulder-to-shoulder inside the lock.
One thing to consider in pre-fishing is just how long it takes to travel from take-off to your pre-planned fishing hole and if it’s through a lock, you better account for the time it takes to travel through it. Just a few boats? Well, that’s easy but a whole fleet of boats could slow things up a good deal. It’s always a chance that you take.
We tried several of Jim’s tried and true spots, along with proven presentations that have won him a tournament or two on these waters. We were in good hands, to say the least.
I’ll be running back down there early Friday morning for two days of pre-fishing with Andy before Sunday’s event. It should be fun and I’ll have a report for you coming up shortly.
As far as panfish, the local waters warmed up to where they started to bite pretty good but wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I gave it a try, the temps dropped and the fish moved back out into deeper water.
My nephew, Jesse Clusiau, got in touch with me, saying he did well on the big sunfish. They were in 1’ of water and several big fish were caught. It was on one of the first warm, almost hot, days we’ve had this spring.
Overnight, it cooled down considerably so we made plans to go after the Twins game, which would end around 3:30 pm. We’d give the water all day to warm back up.
Jim Carpenter showed us around the Mississippi River's Pools 3 and 4.
Lock and Dam #3 on the Mississippi River near Red Wing.
Justin Bailey with a nice white bass caught on the Mississippi River. They fight hard (but it's not a walleye!).
Yes, the Twins. Good Lord. I don’t know what’s worse, watching them lose time and time again or going fishing in severe cold front conditions with nary a fish being caught. I should have gone fishing. Actually, we went earlier than planned, when I called Jesse, telling him I couldn’t take it anymore.
We did manage to catch a few fish but it was considerably slower than the previous day and the fish ran smaller. The water temperature had dropped to 49º, which was almost 10º colder than the day before. The cool breezes didn’t help matters either. Actually, I felt lucky to catch anything at all under these conditions.
If you’re wanting to catch a few panfish, give it time to warm. Walleyes? Drive down to Red Wing.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (April 20th) - Rainy River Fishing Report
Hurrah! It looks like spring is officially here. Most all area lakes are wide open now and ice out crappie fishing will be taking place here shortly. This is one of my most favorite things to do. However, now that I think about it, almost any type of crappie fishing is high on the list for me.
On another note, walleyes are running heavy in midst of their spawn. Yes, it’s all happening. They should really be hungry when opening day finally rolls around. Get ready for a banner year of fishing!
As of late, I’ve been doing the ol’ river rat thing, catching Rainy River walleye and suckers locally on the Prairie River.
Three of us made one last trip to the Rainy River before the walleye season there closed on the 15th and what an outing it was. It was the type of fishing that I remember, with many fish being caught and some trophies as well.
Justin Bailey, Lee Lane, and I did well, using 3/8 oz. jigs tipped with plastics. Not a minnow joined us on this late season adventure and that’s more or less due to not being able to find any live bait locally. No one really carries anything but crappie minnows during this time of the season.
We could have stopped in Baudette for live bait but it would have out of the way, adding an additional hour of travel time. Not to worry. We had confidence in using artificial baits and that comes from having prior success with them.
Early in the going, a “tomato” (yellow with a red core) color was working well. After experimenting with various colors, it became clear that this was the preferred color. However, later in the day, when the bite slowed down a tad, switching to white made a huge difference.
That’s one thing about plastics. You can vary your presentation countless times by changing to different styles, sizes, and colors, whereas using a minnow would restrict your options. However, there are times, and we’ve all been there, when minnows rule. You just never know for sure.
I’m guessing we caught 50-60 fish on this day and had a half dozen in the 8 pound range. As luck would have it, I lost the “pig of the day” and possibly the “pig of a lifetime” for me. It was one of those fish that “doesn’t actually feel like a fish” because of the heaviness of it.
I thought I felt the telltale head-shakes shortly after setting the hook but then it was just heavy. Slowly cranking it toward the boat, it was more than reminiscent of pulling in a large piece of driftwood but every once in a while a head-shake would reveal itself.
Once near the boat, it was obvious that it was a big fish but I couldn’t see it. Justin, who was standing near the transom with the landing net, got a glance at it before it pulled off saying “it was at least 30”. With that being said and based on the super fat fish we were catching, I’m figuring it was at least a 12 pound fish or more. Darn.
I always say that a person will never forget the big fish that get away. I’ve caught countless trophy class fish but it’s the dozen or so big ones that somehow magically shook free or bit me off that I tend to think about.
I see the big tree has been removed from the waters of the “twin bridges” shore fishing spot. Thank you! I drove over there to check it out and just visited, as there wasn’t any more room for another angler. Yes, it’s that popular. They were catching the suckers at a pretty good clip.
I checked it out, early the next morning, when less people were there, and got my “sucker fix”, catching some very nice fish. I like doing this. It’s like a rite of spring for me.
Speaking of spring, it truly must have arrived. Brother Bruce, Little Bear Lake resident, messaged me saying “spring must be here. The bears are out of hibernation. They’ve got my garbage strewn all over the yard.”
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (April 4, 2016) - Greg's Guidelines
I prefer to give up-to-date outdoor reports but this transition time is killing me. The only open water fishing available to me, at this time, is river fishing the Mississippi near St. Paul or the northern state boundary of the Rainy. Been there, done that.
Oh, of course I could always go to the popular warm water discharge, aka the “hot pond”, but I’ve tired of that scenario, as I used to fish it quite a bit back in the day.
The Rainy, which is a preferred spring fishery for most of us on the iron range, is still taking some time to get straightened away, as far as a good bite happening there. I’m sure that before it closes at mid-month it’ll be just fine. But here too, I’ve somewhat tired of that particular early season walleye and sturgeon pursuit, as I used to be up there every spring. Looking back on it, I started fishing the Rainy River for early spring walleyes over thirty years ago.
I thought of doing a little “shed hunting” but figured I’d leave that up to my daughter. I’ve never been very successful at it but she seems to stumble across them with ease. Go figure.
I did manage to stop in at Ray’s Sport & Marine to look over the new boats and found myself putting down a deposit on a 1750 Lund Rebel XS tiller. I recall not too many years ago when the Rebel was pretty much an “entry level” rig. Nowadays, however, it is much more than that. I’ll have more on the new rig when it arrives. A big thank you goes out to Eric Koenig for all of the knowledgeable assistance.
The fresh snowfall had me driving around, looking at various open waters. Photos at this time can look absolutely stunning, with the contrasting white snow and blackish waters. A favorite is the famed “twin bridges” of Crooked Lake.
Suckers fishers will be disappointed to find a large tree has tipped over, falling into the river, right where one of the more popular fishing holes happened to be. I tried for a few suckers the other day and thought there was something wrong with my spinning reel, as I could only reel it a little bit before locking up tight. Upon closer inspection, I found the problem to be the rod tip had iced up. Yes, it was that cold out and obviously I never caught a one.
This early season activity lull has me thinking back on some of the many guide trips I’ve taken and like all guides, there are things that happen that you’ll never forget. Here are a few of them.
A nurse from Tennessee relocated and found work at the Hibbing hospital. She loved to fish and booked a couple of trips with me. Introducing her to the great outdoors of northern Minnesota, I told her “keep your eyes open, we’ll probably see quite a few deer.” “Oh, really” she excitedly replied.
Heading to Big Winnie, shortly before arriving in Deer River, I pointed off to my left saying “there’s some right there.” Expecting the best, she glanced toward the field and sighed in disgust. She didn’t think it was funny that I was pointing out a deer farm but I chuckled all the way to the lake.
Then there was the time old Bill was just about asleep. We were walleye fishing on Swan Lake and picking up a few fish but it was slow for the most part. I was trolling at a snail’s pace, using a live bait rig and nightcrawler when I felt the slightest heaviness. Slowly reeling in, it was as I suspected. I had Bill’s rig. He didn’t notice and was looking the other way.
Naturally, I did what most everyone else would do. I yanked on that line of his as hard as I could and watched his reaction. “Whoa!” Bill hollered. “I had one hell of a strike.” He fed it line to the point where it was enough and slowly began reeling in the slack, only to find that the “fish” had dropped his bait.
“That was a big fish” Bill went on to say and repeated that phrase for the remainder of the day. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was me. I think it made his whole trip.
We’re definitely in the transition mode right now, with ice giving way and anglers scrambling across the country, looking for open water to put their boats in.
Fishing guide Justin Bailey recently spent three days on the Rainy River and has this report: “Our second annual Rainy River trip is in the books. Aaron Paulson, Casey Hynek, and I went up to the Rainy River on Thursday, in hopes of catching a few walleye and maybe a bonus sturgeon or two.
We arrived on Thursday morning, around 9 am, after a 3 ½ hour drive and the weather was perfect, with no wind and warm, around 45º and sunny.
Once the boat was launched, we noticed the water was extremely muddy so we decided to chase sturgeon instead. Staying at Wheeler’s Point Resort, we landed there and headed to Four Mile Bay to look around and try to graph a few fish before we actually begin to angle for them.
As soon as we came around Wheeler’s Point, I noticed I was graphing a lot of large fish on my side scan so we decided to get in front of them up stream and drop anchor to see if we could hook into one of those dinosaurs.
To fish for these prehistoric vacuum cleaners, you need a whole different setup than with any other fish. We used heavy rods and baitcasters spooled with 80-100 pound braided line. A heavy duty rig is preferred to do battle with these fish because once you hook into one you’re in for the fight of your life.
We used 4 oz. “no roll” sinkers to keep the bait on bottom and a 12-18” leader to a large #2 circle hook. For bait, we stopped and got a flat of crawlers before the trip and a few dozen frozen shiners.
On the circle hook, I usually add 3-4 night crawlers and a couple shiners, almost making a “bait ball wad” and cast it out, letting it sit on the bottom and wait. We targeted “bottle neck” areas, where fish would concentrate while traveling upstream. We anchored in 21-26’ of water, which seemed to be the best depth.
For such a large fish, they sure can hit light. A few taps on the rod tip sometimes acts like a small fish until you reel up the slack and feel a heavy pull. When you hook into one of these fish, that’s when the real work starts!
They do not fight like any other fish. They pull and when I say “pull” I mean it. They take so much that you’ll use muscles fighting these fish that you forgot you ever had. Just when you think the fight might be over or coming to an end because the fish is coming toward you, upstream, they go right on past you, pulling for all they’re worth. An average fight can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, with the proper gear and they are worth every minute of it.
The second day was a different story, as the weather went from a beautiful spring day to 34º with snow, rain, and a 20 mph north wind. It was classic Rainy River spring weather. We had to battle sturgeon, as well as the weather on this day, with the current going one direction and the wind blowing the other, it makes it hard to keep the boat anchored in one spot.
We actually had to use the “spot lock” feature on my bow mount trolling motor, as well as an anchor, on this day, which was working well for the most part but fishing was still made difficult. We earned every fish caught on this miserable second day.
The last and final day was even worse! We peered outside in the morning and were excited to see it looking absolutely sunny and gorgeous. There was no wind, along with bright blue skies, and looked quite pleasant. Well, that’s where it ended. It was a balmy 16º and that usually makes life a bit difficult, when fishing out of a boat.
The boat landings were slick ice, which made for a real challenge, and once we got our boat into the water, we found that it was frozen to the trailer. Instead of sliding into the river, like normal, it floated the trailer up off the bottom. We had to pull back out and give it a gentle pounding to break free.
Finally, we were all in the boat and ready to go fishing. Hold on! Not so fast. Everything freezes when it’s cold, besides the river. Our motor was so cold that the water cooling system on the motor was frozen and not letting any water circulate through the engine so that lasted a few minutes. All of the boat storage compartments were frozen shut as well. Oh the things we do for fun!
Once we thought everything was a go, we traveled down river and starting graphing a few fish. We found them again! But this time we had to battle these conditions: ice was building up on our lines and our reels were freezing up, making things more difficult but we stuck to it and made it happen.
We had a great trip overall. We only tried for walleye for a few minutes, as reports were not in our favor because the river was murky and had a lot of debris floating downstream. However, it didn’t hurt the sturgeon fishing one bit.
We ended up with a lot of nice fish on this trip, which made it “one for the books.” Plus, there were plenty of laughs and a ton of new memories of fishing with friends.
One thing to remember when heading to the Rainy River is to dress warm, no matter what the forecast, and be prepared for most anything because if it’s going to happen, it will surely happen on the Rainy River.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (March 22, 2016) - Racking Up The Miles
Sometimes it takes a little traveling in order to “make it happen” and such was the case last week when I put on over 1,000 miles in three consecutive days.
Day one, I told you about, when I did a solo trip to check out the boat ramps on the Rainy River. It was ever so close but clearly we wouldn’t be putting in any larger boats, in order to catch a few walleyes.
What to do? Well, that’s easy enough. We’d travel south to Pool 2 on the Mississippi River near St. Paul. Yes, it was a bit of a haul but if your searching for fishable open water, it was pretty much the only game in town. So, with that in mind, Justin Bailey, my brother, Joel, and I headed south for a day of fun.
Two hundred miles later, we were happily fishing away, along with a small group of other anxious anglers.
Fishing was slow on this day but we did manage to catch a few walleyes, a catfish, and the highlight of the day, a pretty cool looking buffalo fish.
As we were fishing, Justin, who is constantly on his phone, stated with excitement “they’ve cleaned the public access at Birchdale! Let’s go to the Rainy River tomorrow.” Naturally, Joel and I agreed. What else could we do?
Arriving back home around 8 pm, I checked the weather forecast and packed, what I thought was appropriately, for the next day’s trip on the Rainy River. It would be cool so very warm clothes would be worn. It was “supposed” to be overcast, with a little bit of sun, and a high of 49º.
No rain was in the forecast but after fishing for less than an hour it began to lightly sprinkle. “No matter” I thought, “this won’t last long.” However, it didn’t let up a lick for four more hours and I was getting wet.
Normally, it wouldn’t be so bad but with no rain gear and cold air blowing our way from a nearing snowstorm, it was getting quite uncomfortable. It was one of those days when gloves were taken off so a minnow could be added to your jig and you couldn’t get your hands back into them.
Finally, around noon, I told Justin “you’re going to have to bring me back to the truck, I’ve had enough of this.” He responded by saying “I’m done too”, which really surprised me, as the guy is an animal and I’m actually surprised he didn’t stay out there until the sun went down.
The fishing, here too, was super slow and not worth our time. Now, if they had been biting good, it makes one somehow forget all about inclement weather but when they’re not, we come to our senses in a quick hurry.
Shortly after, we regrouped with friends in Baudette at the old Ranch House, now called Alice’s. It’s amazing what a hot meal can do for dampened bodies and spirits.
Then we received our mini snowstorm, which pretty much put everything on hold for a few days.
Friends did make a trip back up to the Rainy River for the sturgeon bite but found the water temp had dropped almost 10º and river was muddied up in comparison to chocolate milk. We can thank the 10-12” of snowfall for that and when this happens the fish are very difficult to come by and who can blame them for not biting in conditions like this. They’re probably just looking to survive at this point.
Only three fish made it into the boat on this trip, a small walleye, a large sucker, and a very nice sturgeon. I’m actually surprised they did that well considering the conditions but as I always say “it’s better than sitting on the couch.”
For those wishing to catch some Rainy River walleye, the season runs through April 14. The water should clear up well before then. Let’s hope so anyway.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (March 14, 2016) - Sunday Drive To Rainy River, Close But No Cigar
All it took was a successful post on Facebook to get Justin and I pumped up about fishing the Rainy River. Actually, we had been waiting for weeks so it didn’t take much to get us excited.
Justin had a three-day commitment, in working Ray’s Sport and Marine Boat Show and vowed to go to the Rainy River on Monday, come hell or high water.
I used to get a little rambunctious like that in my younger days but now I put a little more thought into things, not much but certainly a lot more than I used to.
I just had a bad feeling about the trip. What if there wasn’t any place to put the boat in? I had to find out. It was the perfect day to go for a Sunday drive. Besides, I hadn’t been up in that direction in quite a while so I was due.
Upper Sault Access, ice conditions forced using a smaller boat to slide it across the ice into the river.
Heading north on highway 65 is a favorite of mine, having grown up in this area, working, hunting, trapping, and fishing. There’s a memory with almost every mile traveled, especially from Nashwauk to the Littlefork River.
The first thing I noticed was the frozen skim ice in the ditches. Not good. I would have felt a lot better if they were wide open and flowing. The shoulders of the road, however, were completely thawed out. It’s sure nice to see grass again, even if it’s a dead-brown color.
I always got a chuckle out of the sign on the edge of Nashwauk stating “Littlefork 94 Miles”. Yes, folks. It’s somewhat of a wilderness “up north” when the next town is almost 100 miles away.
I got a late start, around 11:00 am, but figured that would work perfectly, as the Twins played a pre-season exhibition game at noon. At least I’d have something to keep me occupied on the 320 mile round trip.
One thing I forgot about was the “bucking bronco” effect of highway 65. Wow. That thing needs work again. It made me think back when I was a youngster working for the State Highway Department. We worked that stretch when it was all gravel. Oh the stories!
Another thing forgotten was the lack of traffic. I think I met two, possibly three, vehicles in that 94 mile ride. How is that even possible?
Crossing the Littlefork River brought back a flood of fishing memories. Most of the time we went for muskies but a few smallmouth bass and walleye trips were mixed in there as well.
A two-night trip down the Littlefork River, covering 26 miles, had us making camp on the shoreline and catching walleyes for supper. Not another soul was encountered. It reminds me of the show “Deliverance”, so remote and isolated. I don’t know what I’d have done if I heard someone playing a banjo!
Another thing that was lacking on this day were animals. I never saw a thing until nearing Littlefork, when three very healthy deer crossed in front of me. They looked in great shape and were in no hurry to get out of the way.
Finally reaching the Rainy River, I was thrilled with the wide open water. Heading west, I wondered how far I would go before it became ice-capped again.
The first stop was the Upper Sault Access, which had two young men landing their boat on an icy shoreline. It was one of those conditions when a smaller boat would be required, as you had to slide it across the ice in order to get it in the water.
Loading up required long lengths of rope and tow straps to pull the boat up close enough to dry ground where it could be loaded on the trailer. Parking nearby to watch, I felt my truck start to slide downhill. I told one the guys “I thought I was going to slide into the river.” “It’s happened before” one of them replied. What an awful thought. They also said the fishing was very good.
Further west, the Birchdale Access was cleared out for parking but had a large sheet of ice preventing anyone from putting in a bigger boat. You would have to do the slide deal again, which I’ve done a time or two but nowadays prefer things a little easier.
Frontier was the next access and it too offered the same challenge.
Shortly after that, the entire river was locked up with ice.
It won’t be long and we’ll be out there, having fun on the Rainy. However, until that happens, a change of plans has Justin and I heading south to fish Pool 2 of the Mississippi river. It’s basically the same distance.
A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, especially if you’re a fisherman.
Mary Walsh enjoyed a recent trip to Lake Winnipeg last week. Fishing was a little slow but several big fish were still caught.
Mike Walsh enjoyed his first trip to Lake Winnipeg last week stating "what a tremendous fishery."
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (March 7, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
Another annual trip to Lake Winnipeg is in the books and if there was anything bad about it all it was the fact that I was unable to go. L Due to my ankle misfortunes over the entire ice season, I decided to pass, as I didn’t think wrestling around with my snowmobile, ten miles out on the ice, would be in the best interest of me walking around and in good shape for the upcoming open-water season.
It would have been my ninth annual early March trip but not to worry, as I was constantly kept “in the loop” by cell phone photos and messaging. I guess that’s the next best thing. I felt as though I was there, sort of.
Last year, it was the first trip ever to this mega-walleye wonderland by two young friends of mine, Mike and Andy Walsh, and as luck would have it, they both caught monster fish, weighing in around twelve pounds. The rookies will do that to you almost every time.
So impressed with the outing, Mike and Andy invited their parents, Mike and Mary, to go along this time and the wonders of Lake Winnipeg did not fail to make a mark on these newcomers as well. Each member of the Walsh family, visiting Lake Winnipeg last week, gave their thoughts on this wondrous fishery. What did they like about it?
Mary said “I like it for the best chance ever to catch the biggest walleye of your life and for the beautiful color of these fish.”
Mike Sr. stated “tremendous fishing. It was certainly worth doing. I’m also amazed that it doesn’t get fished more during the summer.”
Mike Jr. had this to say. “Catch pig walleyes. The thought that you never know what you will catch, and the 50-50 chance that the walleye you catch will be over five pounds. Also, seeing mom and dad catch their biggest walleyes.”
Andy had a lot to say. “Last year was my first adventure to chase the majestic Lake Winnipeg greenback walleye. I wondered why this creature posed such girth and color. As someone who loves to chase walleye across Minnesota, having the opportunity to experience the rod bending of Lake Winnipeg greenbacks has little to no comparison.
Being fortunate to have landed a Manitoba Master Walleye on my first trip, you would wonder why I would come back. Silly to ponder that thought for a second!
But this is why I come to Winnipeg and experience this God given resource:
“Top Ten Reasons to Chase Greenbacks” are – 10. Destination fishing is a natural thrill due to unknown variables and uncharted waters.
9. In my opinion, a 28” walleye here is pushing 10 pounds or more, when back home they are more-than-likely in the 7 to 8 pound range, depending on forage.
8. Hospitality – lodging and food is really good! Having a brother who is a successful Executive Chef, getting to see him enjoy such great hospitality in return is a great addition to this experience. It truly is “Friendly Manitoba.”
7. Family and camaraderie: Coming up here as a group, whether it is family or friends, is very special. Sharing laughs and stories about the giant that got away in the hole, or when you launched your Vexilar off the back of the sled. They become unforgettable memories.
6. Teamwork makes “dream work.” There’s not many places where an angler would take a handful of teeth, or frozen hands from going shoulder deep in the ice hole for your trophy. Up here it sometimes takes three people to make a good catch and release.
1) the catcher (hopefully you). 2) the Braveheart: he/she freezes their hands, pulls out the transducer, and in an epic save, lands your personal best walleye. 3) and then there is the photographer. Having that moment caught on film is what you look back on every day when you aren’t here.
5. Stewardship: seeing so many “Master” fish (28” or more) being caught but so delicately handled and cared for, with most all being released for the next person is very appealing.
4. Healthy recreation and leisure. Fishing is healthy for the mind, body, and soul. Hiking around while drilling holes in 4’ of ice is a good workout. When everything is set up, the mind is at ease until the next fish is underneath!
3. Opportunity and challenge: knowing that you have an opportunity to embark on something that many haven’t entices you to keep coming back. Having the opportunity to do this is a privilege.
2. Serenity: fishing is my “happy place.” A place to get away, to idle anything else. Except when you worry about that potential 30 incher on the end of your line.
1. The red lines, hands down. When you see a huge red mark on your Vexilar, normally there is an intense focus and sense of joy when you catch the fish. Here at Winnipeg, when I see a red line, my heart races, I start breathing hard, and my rattle bait shakes because of nervous anticipation.
These red marks keep me coming back for more. Knowing what lurks below could very well be the fish of a lifetime.
Thanks Andy and Team Walsh. Looks like I’ll have to make the trip next year!
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (March 1, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
The weather has been bouncing around a bit, going from warm and melting to cool and freezing, which is typical for the late ice season. Locally, seasons have closed for walleye and northern pike but crappie, bluegill, and perch are always available and now is an excellent time to put a few topside. They have really been biting well.
If you’re still in the hunt for a few walleyes, Lake of the Woods offers fishing for them through April 14. The northern pike season is continuous and never closes. Late ice pike fishermen land some real trophies during this time.
However, be sure to pick up a new fishing license, as a new one was required as of March 1.
Regarding the removal of permanent ice fishing shelters, the DNR describes it as “Dates of removal are determined by an east-west line formed by U.S. Hwy. 10, east along Hwy. 34 to Minnesota Hwy. 200, east along Hwy. 200 to U.S. Hwy. 2, and east along Hwy. 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. South of line - March 7, 2016. North of line - March 21, 2016.
The way this weather looks, you’ll more-than-likely be removing them sooner than that.
Red Lake crappies have started to show up with a little more frequency and the size is great. There’s been quite a few big fish caught up there. Don’t expect a limit but you just may end up with one.
Big Bowstring has crappie and perch biting all across the lake. There’s been a lot of smaller crappie in the 9-10” range being caught but every once in a while someone stubbles across a bunch of more typical Bowstring slabs measuring 12” or more.
My last trip there had the crappie practically jumping out of the hole, as they were hitting anything we dropped down.
It was a guide trip that had me stopping to check a little hole out in the middle of nowhere. One hole was drilled and several fish were seen below.
Fishing with a Northland Tackle “Forage Minnow Spoon”, tipped with a wax worm, they would race up to it and inhale the bait before it neared the main school. After a couple quick fish, the wax worms were gone but I continued to catch them one-after-another with no bait added. They were that active.
However, as it goes most of the time, in the matter of an hour, the fish went from reckless, all-out feeding on anything to being tight-lipped and cautious. Switching gears, it took a small tungsten jig tipped with plastic to get them to commit and it wasn’t just anything.
One of my clients, Mike, came up with the right presentation, which was a small gold jig tipped with a Clam Maki “Polli” plastic, charteuse/glow in color. He put on quite a clinic with this offering.
I was fishing fairly close to Mike but they didn’t want anything else but that little green “Polli”. It’s amazing how fish can sometimes prefer certain colors; this was one of them. I didn’t start catching fish again until matching exactly what he was using. Mike was thrilled with his success, after picking up some new plastics at Ben’s Bait.
One never knows. I recall getting a limit of crappie on Bowstring one time in ten minutes and that was when Northland Tackle “Slurpies” first came out. I was using the little Slurpie panfish tubes and couldn’t get it down there fast enough. About an inch long, scented, and shaped like a little minnow, it was the perfect bait.
Then there was the time, on Big Bowstring once again, when I did extremely well on the crappies all winter long with the same bait and that was the Custom Jigs & Spins “Ratso” in the color “nuclear blue.”
I don’t know what it was but that bait was super-hot all winter long. However, come the next season, it wasn’t as good as it was previously and I had to start all over in finding that hot new lure. I think this is a bit part of the enjoyment of fishing. It is for me anyway.
Good luck, be safe, have fun, and don’t forget to buy a new license.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (February 22, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
It’s seems we lost a month somewhere? All of a sudden it’s the end of February and it actually feels like a normal year at the end of March. Oh well, I’ll take it.
Scouting around a few days ago, after the mini-monsoon we were treated with, I was really surprised at how nicely the lakes have shaped up. If you’ve been waiting for good lake conditions so you can easily move about, now is the time.
With another guide trip coming up, I checked out three lakes last Sunday and was amazed at how close to perfect lake travel was made. The heavy rains have flattened out the snow and freezing temps have solidified the surface.
If there was any problem at all last Sunday, it would have been directly related to some mighty tight-lipped fish. Wow. Never-the-less, a game plan was put in place and we’ll see how that goes. The beauty of living where we do is the fact that there is usually another lake located only fifteen minutes away, which always gives us plenty of options in case we have to switch waters.
One of my latest panfish bites had the fish preferring three wax worms bunched up on the end of a small jigging spoon or tungsten jig. Plastics just weren’t getting it done on this day. Neither were the crappie minnows, or pieces of minnows, which can get crappie quite excited every once in a while. Every day is different. You just never know.
The annual “No Child Left Inside” outing, put on by the Nashwauk-Keewatin elementary school, takes place this Friday on O’Brien Reservoir. This is a great event and caters to all students from 4th through 6th grades.
Many will experience their first try at ice fishing, sled dog rides, and a full slate of other fun things to do outside. The weather looks to be perfect for the event. If you have any free time on your hands, stop down and check it out.
Believe it or not, this is one of my favorite times of the year, as I just love chasing around those jumbo perch. Having guided for them on Leech Lake, Big Bowstring, Big Winnie, along with a few other lakes, I have a notebook chock full of prime perch spots. The problem is that things change over time and seasonal perch location is one of them, for me anyway.
I had a hump on Big Bowstring that was “lights out” for big jumbos years ago but over the last few years it has really gone downhill. Maybe it’s the forage but for whatever reason they don’t seem to frequent it like they did in years past.
On the plus side, I have found other locations that can provide great action and some of my old favorite spots still produce from year to year.
A lot of my perch fishing takes place in the 12’ to 16’ range and I have actually followed these fish toward the shorelines, fishing as shallow as 6’.
How fun it is to drop a medium-size jigging spoon down the hole and see the “red bands” chasing up to greet it.
Sometimes I’m tipping the treble hook with a bunch of wax worms. Other times it’s a full minnow or at least a piece of one but my favorite is when they are really on the bite and are totally engulfing a jigging spoon with nothing else added to it. When this happens, you know they’re hungry. This is a great time to get some true “jumbos.”
If you’ve never experienced late ice perch fishing, you really should give it a try, as now is the time.
They’ll be on the bite pretty good until the ice gives way.
Also, they are a great eating fish and you really don’t need that many for a meal. The limit used to be 100 fish. Isn’t that crazy? Nowadays, it’s 20 and a good way to remember this is the phrase “twenty’s plenty” and believe me, it is.
Get out there and give it a whack!
Shirley and Mark Lantz, and Maryclare Jensen did well on the crappie last Saturday.
Andy Walsh gives a tutorial to Maryclare Jensen on how to read a Vexilar and catch crappies
Mark Lantz tricked this big bluegill into biting before the shelter was even set up.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (February 15, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
I was looking through a stack of old magazines the other day and several of them happened to be Ice Team publications from the late 90’s. Many had articles and photos submitted by yours truly. I actually read some of them, as if they were new, because I had forgotten what I wrote back then. It was nostalgia at its finest, for me anyway. Here’s one of them describing some of my old fishing trips that were recorded in a detailed fishing log. Enjoy.
“Ice Time” - Most of the Ice Team “Power Sticks” are allowed, in some manner, enough time to fish the hard water. If they don’t have extra time, they more than likely create it. I can honestly say that time on the water is the only way to achieve the proper feel and knowledge of ice fishing.
There is no substitute. You can read all the books in the world but if you don’t get out there and experience the negatives (frozen fingers, deep snow, slush, broken equipment, etc.) you probably won’t enjoy the positives (catching fish with a realistic understanding of the sport).
Most of us have “real jobs”. I consider my tournament fishing and guiding as my “fun job.” Every weekend is planned well in advance, whether I am guiding a group on the ice, traveling to some remote hotspot, or just plain having fun locally. As a matter-of-fact, it’s all fun to me.
Getting back to time on the water. We all have a few extra days off throughout the holiday season. By glancing over my fishing log, let me share with you a few of the trips that were taken within a day or two of Christmas. Some of them were good and some not so good, as far as productivity, but all of them were great because I was doing something I love.
1990 – Rainy Lake, Ontario. “Went north in search of slab crappie on a day when we should have stayed home. It got down to -60 below with the wind chill. The snowmobile got stick in slush and later broke down. We spent all day, never wetting a line, and abandoned our equipment on the lake for a few days. Went back on Christmas Eve to retrieve it.
1991 – Big Balsam Lake, MN. “30 nice crappies. A good bite!
1992 – Big Balsam Lake, MN. “Very cold and windy. Fish could be seen on our Vexilars but they were in a very negative mood. Temperature in the morning was a minus 44 below zero, with the wind chill factor.
1993 – Long Lake, MN. “Guide trip. Slow but steady fishing resulted in 100 crappies. Cold snap hit later that day and extended through Christmas.
1994 – Kennedy Lake, MN. “Caught 40 smelt through the ice (must have really been bored). The smelt can be caught just for fun and can be used as an excellent bait for northern pike and lake trout.
1995 – Big Winnibigoshish, MN. “Caught 100 jumbo perch. Nice, big, clean fish.
1996 – Big Winnibigoshish, MN. “Caught 12 walleyes and a bunch of big perch.
The old adage “it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game” certainly has to be applied to the sport of fishing.
Note: Most successful ice anglers don’t rely on memory to recall details about specific fishing trips. Instead, they jot notes in an angler’s logbook, which can be as simple as a spiral bound notebook. In it, they keep track of weather conditions, spot-on-spot locations (either through gps coordinates or shoreline triangulation), best baits, water depths, etc. Start keeping your angling journal on your next outing. You’ll be glad you did.
10 Ways To Know You're Dating A Fisherman - Wired2Fish
If you’re already in a relationship with a fisherman, you’ll certainly relate to this. If you’re thinking about dating a fisherman, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Dating or being married to a fisherman takes a special kind of person; we’re a fiercly passionate and straight-shooting breed of outdoorsmen. While some men might attend a nice ... Read >> 10 Ways To Know You're Dating A Fisherman
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (February 9, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
And the winner is……spoons! That’s the way it’s been going lately in my quest for North Country panfish. About 90% of the time it’s a spoon of some sort that brings a bulging bluegill or slab crappie to the frozen topside.
I use spoons a lot and maybe that’s the main reason I catch so many fish on them. Normally it’s a small-to-medium size spoon that is used on the “first drop.” This is because a larger lure usually is an attention getter and can dictate the mood of fish right off the get go.
If the fish are active, you’ll know it in a hurry, as there will be one on the business end of things right away. This can make for a fun and productive outing, as you can catch and release, picking and choosing the fish you wish to keep. Too small? Let them go. Too big? Same deal. Let them go as well.
Catch and release fishing is fine as long as they are coming out of shallower waters, such as depths down to 20’. Any deeper and you better be prepared to keep the first ten fish caught, if you are in search of a meal, and that is probably the only downside to stumbling across a hot, hungry school of panfish.
Size matters. Although I have a nice assortment of spoons down to the smallest sizes, I generally start out fishing with a medium size lure like Northland Tackle’s “Forage Minnow Spoon”, which measures 1 ¼” in length, counting the treble hook on the end of it. I like to figure in the entire length of the spoon, counting the hook, because it is normally tipped with a wax worm and is a part of the total profile length of this fish catching bait.
Using a spoon to search out fish works well because they “drop like a rock”, getting down there in a hurry, and not much time is wasted, only when you are removing the hooks from a nice slab and there is moody, hungry school of them waiting below you.
For color, that can vary from day to day but I usually use something flashy and minnow-imitating, like silver, when first starting out. If this doesn’t look like a small minnow, I don’t know what does. Once I began catching fish, I’ll switch up the colors to see which one works better than the others and it can really vary. Some of the hot colors have been, in Northland Tackle lingo, “silver shiner”, “super-glo perch”, and “super-glo rainbow”.
There are times when I’ll reduce down to the smallest Forage Minnow in the lineup that measure a full 1” from tip to tail. This lure, however, is usually used more for bluegills than crappie. If a crappie is taking this lure, it more than likely will take the next larger one as well. The larger lures are also easier to remove from a fish’s mouth.
Then there are the times when I don’t see many fish at all and I am desperately trying to call them in. This is when I use a larger bait, measuring in the 2” range. I’ll do this when first plying the waters for jumbo perch or slab crappie.
Another time I’ll use the larger spoon is when the smaller fish are active. The larger presentation can weed out the smaller fish, some of the time.
One of my favorite spoons is an off-brand of some sort that measures 2”. Silver in color, with a few black spots decorating it, this bait has caught a lot of big crappie and some larger bluegills as well.
Then there are the times when a spoon variation with a dropper line gets the job done, such as the lure Chuck Klinker was using last week. He clearly out-fished me using a small spoon with a 6” dropper line affixed to it, with a glo-green hook on the end, tipped with a wax worm. I was too lazy to follow suit and stuck with my big, silver slab catcher.
Another time I should have changed baits was when fishing with Dylan Kukkonen, last weekend, when he schooled me by using a tungsten jig tipped with Clams white Maki plastic. It seems he had a fish on every time I glanced his way.
Never-the-less, I’ll still start out by dropping down a spoon. Give it a try and go from there."
Don't Wait To Take 'Em Fishing
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Erin Budrow, Chisholm, did a number on the fish last weekend, catching several nice bluegill and crappie.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (February 1, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
I’m finally able to get out and go fishing by myself, as my foot/ankle problems have subsided to the point where now it’s only slightly painful and I can walk without the aid of crutches. What a relief! What was wrong? Well, let’s say it was a myriad of problems all rolled into one.
The first solo trip had me thinking it wasn’t going to happen. My truck had been sitting for weeks in the back yard so when I walked down in the morning darkness to fire it up, I first had to remove frozen snow and ice which covered the whole thing. I let it run just long enough so I could see to get it near the garage, where the loading of equipment would take place.
Pretty much doing a “crow hop”, I still had trouble putting any weight at all on my left foot but there I was putting together a new 8” Clam Edge auger and getting my old Kenai Pro Fish Trap ready to load into the back of my truck. Well, I tried to anyway. The tailgate was froze shut!
By the time I had chipped all the ice from underneath the tailgate and made access into the truck box all the windows were clear and I was ready to rip. What a feeling! From here, it was off to the local gas station to mix gas for the auger.
|Now, I would really like to know the engineers name who invented that new-fangled, green, locking, safety nozzle that is on every plastic gas can you can buy. What in the world!? The morning was going fairly smooth until I mixed up my gas and tried to pour it into the auger. By the time I was done, there was gas all over the tailgate, as well as on my new Stormy Kromer Christmas mitts. Not happy.
After the gas mishap, all went well and a key ingredient to my success was being able to drive a truck out onto the lake. If a snowmobile had to be used, I wouldn’t have gone, as there would be just too much twisting and turning in the loading and unloading process.
The lakes have finally gotten to the point where truck travel is very much doable. However, take precautions, as many of them are not where they should be at this point of the season. This has been a strange ice fishing season to say the least. Fishing last week, although the end of January, had me comparing the weather to late March. It was just too nice, if there is such a thing. One can’t help but think it will be an early ice out and a great fishing opener.
Driving to “the spot”, I parked so I could fish out of the truck and drilled a hole next to the driver’s door. It was real windy but sitting there with the door open, a heater blowing hot air, and the radio playing, I was able to catch a very nice limit of fish, all the while wondering how the cleaning process was going to go.I first had to make it downstairs to my fish cleaning station, not an easy task with a stiff and swollen ankle. Also, the thought of me standing there, mainly on one leg, while wielding a razor sharp fillet knife was of some concern. I only stumbled once.
The best bait on this day and pretty much all last week has been a small tungsten jig tipped with a brownish, natural looking piece of plastic like Northland Tackle’s Impulse “Slug Bug.”
It was so nice to get out on my own but I do have to say thanks to a handful of my baby sitters that took me fishing a time or two. Actually, it was about once a week, over the course of two months. Yes, it was that bad. So bad that I didn’t care to go and that’s definitely not normal for me.
So with that said, a HUGE thank you goes out to Blake Liend for the easy rides to the fishing holes in his new side-by-side. That sure made things easy. Also to young Mason Graves, who shuttled me across O’Brien Reservoir with his wheeler. And of course to my guide buddy Justin Bailey, who has driven me to Clam headquarters and back, as well as all over the North Country to fish. Thanks guys. I appreciate it.
Avery Bailey shows how to get it done. The recent warm weather had anglers of all ages out on the lakes.
Kelli Patrick, aka "The Upland Huntress", Grand Rapids, displays a nice catch of bluegills from last weekend. She loves her new Tuned Up Custom Rod.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (January 26, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
Armed to the teeth, with fishing rods, electronics, and tackle, a group of eighteen anglers made their way from all-parts Nebraska to the backwoods of Itasca county, Minnesota for two days of fishing with Justin Bailey’s Guide Service.
Having been in the “guide game” for nearly thirty years, I was excited to get out there to help Justin out. I’ve had large groups before and a little assistance is usually greatly appreciated. Looking back on it, I think the largest group I have ever had was twenty-seven, all perch pounders from the Twin Cities area. They followed me around on Leech Lake like little ducklings trying to catch up with their mama. Oh, the good old days.
One main thing to consider is the lake, of course. These guys just wanted to “get bit” and while we can do that on dozens of different lakes in the area, it would have to be a lake that offered vehicle traffic, just to make things a little easier and that was made a bit of a challenge due to the late freeze-up we’ve experienced.
Lakes are finally getting to the point where it’s like mid-winter again but in reality we’re not really too far ahead of December first-ice conditions when it’s comes to truck traffic so please continue to be safe and take extra precautions.
A lake was selected one day prior, just to make sure. Yes, all was safe, for the most part, as ice thickness varied, but the bite was good.
Another thought going into lake selection is the size of the group. For larger groups, naturally, a larger lake would be used. There’s just no way we can bring a dozen people to some of these “back-in-the-bush” little panfish lakes that could be fragile fisheries in the first place. Another factor is the “shuttling” of anglers via wheelers or snowmobiles. It’s just too much. Maybe this is why some of the group is coming back up in twos and threes?
A bad ankle has kept me hobbling around the house for nearly a month or more but I was on the mend. Unfortunately, I would be on the injured reserve list for this trip and drive out a little later to see how things were going.
Arriving at the lake, it wasn’t hard to find the guide group, as all I had to do was look for the “big, blue, Clam Outdoors hub shelters” and on this cold and windy day, we were fortunate they were of the warm, thermal design. It was bitter fishing out in the open.
Fishing was slow. The weather? Maybe, as the day before it was “on fire.” Never-the-less, fish were caught, slowly but surely, with many of them being in the “nice size” category. Most all were bluegills, along with a few nice crappie thrown in for good measure.
Unable to walk any distance at all, it was hard for me to interview the anglers without walking around on the ice aided by a pair of crutches so I backed my truck up tight and close to those that dared to fish outside and gave them a temporary wind-block. After a few photos, it was time to visit the next.
I did make it inside one of the hubs for a nice, long visit and have to tell you that I am duly impressed every time I fish in one of these. They offer plenty of room, warmth, and the opportunity to experience good old-fashioned camaraderie.
Leaving early, I went home and posted some nice photos on the official Justin Bailey Fishing & Guide Service Facebook page. It’s all here if you care to take a gander.
Day two had me out on a different lake, shortly after first light. Going ahead of the group, I wanted to be sure of the proper access to take out, making sure the ice was safe and the access was as close as possible to our best fishing opportunities. We’d be going for crappie on this day.
The group showed about an hour later and by then I had a game plan put into place. Like the day before, it was slower than normal and fish ran a tad smaller.
The first spot was short-lived, as only one lone crappie was caught. Not wasting any time, we moved on to the next location and quickly found fish, where small flurries would keep us entertained until lunchtime. Piping hot, freshly grilled brats can sure hit the spot on a cold lake covered with ice.
After everyone was full and back to fishing, Cal Flander, Tuned Up Custom Rods, and I headed across the lake in search of a better spot, which was found within minutes. An old standby spot, no one had fished there yet and it was teeming with untouched hungry crappie. Perfect.
This was the final setting for our group, which fished until the sun fell. Several crappies were caught but the larger fish eluded us. I’ll blame the weather, as It’ll do it every time. We fishermen have a lot of excuses.
Let the 2016 guide season begin!
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (January 12, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
It was on one of the colder days we’ve had all winter that we headed west, making the two-hour drive to fish for Red Lake Nation stream trout. Guided by brothers Daris and Davis Rosebear, it would be my second trip to this fantastic stream trout fishery.
I wasn’t too excited about the sub-zero temps but the hungry little trout would more than make up for the cold weather. Now, if we were pursuing other gamefish, like walleye or panfish, I may have been a little concerned, as frontal weather conditions can often make things quite difficult. However, it’s been my experience that trout don’t seem to be affected as much. I was hoping that would be the case here.
First stop was to check in at Seven Clans Casino in Red Lake where we would meet our guides and fill out the proper paperwork for obtaining a one-day fishing permit. Brothers and fishing guides, Daris and Davis Rosebear assisted with the permits and within minutes we were out the door and heading to trout country, a fifteen-minute drive.
There are only two lakes that one can fish during the winter months and both are stream trout havens. Open water options offer slightly over two dozen lakes that are home to practically everything that swims. Spring through fall, one can fish for trophy crappie, bluegill, northern pike, walleye, bass, lake trout, and of course stream trout. After talking with Daris, I’m pretty sure I’ll be going back there for some spring rainbow fishing, as the action is non-stop.
Fresh holes were drilled and a Clam “Six Pack” thermal hub shelter was quickly set up. Not quite ready for fishing, we were in the process of lighting the heater when Blake Liend hollered out “I’ve got one!” Liend was outside, in the bitter cold, and dropped his lure down about 5’ when a nice little rainbow came by and greeted him “good morning.” It pretty much went like that the entire day.
We had one shelter set up in 40’ and another set up near a beaver house in shallow water. The deep shelter provided steady action throughout the day, with fish being caught at all levels but most of them came from right below our feet. Many times, if you were looking down the hole, you’d see them swimming by or inhaling your lure. What fun!
While the deep shelter provided a lot of action, all of the fish were rainbows. The shallow hub, however, provided a nice mix of rainbows and brook trout. Brook trout love cruising the shallows and if you’re more interested in them you’d be better off fishing shallow, closer to shore.
They’d come by in spurts and we’d catch a few. Then it was time to wait about fifteen minutes or so before the next run came in to check out our lures. Many “doubles” were had, along with a “triple” or two.
It didn’t take very long to achieve our limit of five fish each but we certainly did our fair share of catch and release fishing. We had six members in our group and a fair estimate of fifty fish were caught. We kept twenty in total, as two of group didn’t want to bring any home.
Best baits were smaller spoons, mainly Northland Tackle’s new “Flutter Spoon”, along with the always popular “Macho Minnows” and “Buck-Shot Rattle Spoons.”
Many fish were caught with no live bait added but for a sure bite a small piece of nightcrawler was added to the business end of things. Who would have thought we’d be using crawlers in the dead of winter? Oh well, as they say, “when in Rome”, or maybe I should say “when in Red Lake Nation.”
Everything is provided on these trips, even a nice lunch, which really hit the spot on this bitter day. All one really has to do is to toss a few warm clothes in the vehicle and head to Seven Clans Casino. The trip, of course, has to be lined up ahead of time so be sure to contact Daris Rosebear of Red Lake Outdoors at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-679-2500 ext. 16091 or 218-308-5378.
Daris and Davis Rosebear host guided Trout fishing trips for Red Lake Outdoors.
Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (January 5, 2016) - Ice Fishing Report
Lake conditions are setting up very nicely and anglers are getting out all over the North Country. Caution still has to be observed, depending on the lake, but I see that trucks are on a few bodies of water and wheelers and snowmobiles are a common sight. It’s finally happening folks!
A recent trip to Upper Red Lake had it looking like it normally does. Going out of Roger’s Resort, there was such a hub of activity that it was almost overwhelming but never-the-less still good to see.
Blake Liend and I pulled his new side-by-side up there and parked on the lake along with a couple hundred other vehicles. From there, we took off in search of a “Fishing with Vets” outing and found them about a mile away, catching walleye in 14’ of water.
The event, based out of Roger’s Resort, featured ten veterans that were put on fish and very well taken care of by twelve guides. How impressive is that? That’s the least we can do for those that have served our country. They deserve even more. Thank you everybody!
Blake and I joined the team and quickly had our limit of three walleyes each, with one being over 17”. Presentations varied, as almost everything was working and when that happens you know the bite is good.
Sitting in my Fish Trap, the constant hum of augers, wheelers, and snowmobiles brought back vivid memories of days of old, when crappies where finding their way to the surface. Nowadays it’s walleyes and plenty of them.
You owe it to yourself to get up there and give it a whack. It’s happening NOW.
Last Sunday’s outing was about as nice as it gets for me. Nursing a bum ankle, I didn’t care to run my snowmobile and go through all of that monkey business just to have fun so I contacted young Mason Graves from Keewatin, asking him if he was fishing anywhere on this day.
Getting ready to head up north to one of his little crappie lakes, he quickly changed plans and agreed to babysit me on the local reservoir. All I had to do was drive to the access and from there he would shuttle me out to the fishing holes with his wheeler.
Joined by his buddy, Austin Depaulis, also from Keewatin, we went in search of perch and only caught one real good one. The rest were of the pesky, smaller variety. A few small northern pike made their normal appearance and were quickly shoved back down the hole as quickly as they came up. You can never really get away from those things.
The sun was ready to hit the trees so we relocated and set up for the evening walleye bite if we were to be so lucky. It worked, as we caught four of them, but all were small, being in the 12-13” range. Back down the hole they went.
The reality of things had this trip going down as quite poor fishing but it was the companionship of these young guys that made it oh so special. It was a great trip in my eyes and hopefully theirs as well.
Being retired from the school district, I would see “these two” most every day so it was nice to spend a little time with them on the lake.
They’re still in high school and it truly pleases me to see them out and about, fishing and hunting. Their love of the outdoors is impressive and I wish everyone had this opportunity. There is so much good, clean fun to be had in the out of doors.
Good luck on the lakes, be safe of course, and always have fun!
Austin Depaulis and Mason Graves, Keewatin, double up on small walleyes.
The "Fishing with Vets" gathering was based out of Roger's Resort on Upper Red Lake. Ten veterans were very well taken of by twelve guides.
Greg Clusiau and Justin Bailey recently spent a day on the lake with James Holst of the popular In Depth Outdoors television series.
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