Julie and Claire Hrbacek display part of their catch on Upper Red Lake
I had the narrowest of windows to try and pop a few walleyes for the frying pan last week – about three hours, to be exact.
Where can an angler go to have any hope for success in such a tiny time frame?
Upper Red Lake, that’s where! Just two weeks ago, it looked like I might be able to get away for two or three days at the end of last week. I was primed to hit this phenomenal walleye fishery to cash in on a walleye bonanza fueled by the shrinking of the lake’s protected slot – from 17-26 inches to 20-26 inches on June 15.
I was dreaming of two days of fast fishing, with a fish fry at the cabin and a limit of walleyes to bring home. Alas, the calendar got full, and I was left with just one evening to get out on the water.
I cajoled my wife Julie and daughter Claire into joining me, and we left the house at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20. We arrived in Waskish on the lake’s eastern shore at 5:30 p.m. and eagerly pulled in to Bear Paw Guides, where our guide for the evening, Tyler Brasel, awaited.
It had rained during the drive up north, but the skies brightened near Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, the weather looked troublesome on the western horizon, where Tyler’s dad Steve said a storm was positioned.
Would it come straight across the lake and end our outing? Or, would it steer southward and pass us by?
I said a short prayer, with the intensity only a fisherman yearning to get on the water can muster. With that, we hurried to the boat landing, located on the outlet of the Tamarac River.
A bobber and hope
We only had to go a short distance from the mouth of the river to one of Tyler’s favorite spots. It’s a small rock pile the size of a living room located on the eastern shore. He’s got it plugged in to his GPS, which was the size of a small TV. He actually has two GPS units, which enabled us to park almost right on top of the rock pile.
Tyler handed Julie and I rods with jigs tied on. We promptly attached frozen minnows to the jigs and heaved them overboard. Julie caught the first walleye of the evening – and the second, and the third. This all happened in a manner of minutes, while Tyler was getting Claire set up with a slip bobber rig.
Throughout the drive up north, Claire had said she wasn’t sure she wanted to fish. I hoped she would at least try it. When Tyler suggested the bobber setup, Claire quickly agreed.
Good thing, too. The walleyes jumped all over her jig-and-leech presentation. In fact, she ended up catching the most fish in our group. Even Tyler marveled at her success.
As for me, I caught my fair share, and contributed to the limit of 12 walleyes we brought back to the docks. Turns out, we needed far less than the three hours of daylight to pull in our legal limit. And, we caught several bonus perch, and Julie even landed a northern pike that we were able to keep.
In terms of Claire’s attitude about fishing, she had this to say shortly after landing yet another walleye:
“This is a game changer for me. I like fishing now.”
Why shouldn’t she? With fishing like this, just about anyone would fall in love with it. Fortunately, the storm held off and didn’t bother us during our time on the water. The wind did pick up during about the last half hour, so we decided to head in. Tyler and Steve cleaned our fish back at the resort, and we took home a nice bag of walleye fillets.
Tyler said he is able to catch walleyes all summer long, though he has to go farther out from shore and cover more water. He said he never fails to catch fish when he tries his hardest. Sometimes, he does some experimenting and will come up empty.
The good news is, there is lots of summer left and Tyler has plenty of openings on his calendar, especially during weekdays. And, there are lots of walleyes left in the lake. We caught plenty of various lengths, from about 8-10 inches all the way up to one just more than 20 inches. The fishery looks to be in fine shape.
Perhaps, the best news of that wonderful night is that Claire definitely wants to go fishing again. In fact, she was disappointed to leave the next morning.
Who knows? Maybe there’s hope I can get her into a deer stand.