Tag Archives: walleye

Walleye jigs from an unexpected source

October 28, 2011

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When I stopped in to see Michael and Anne Gross this morning, I did not expect to walk away with a bag full of jigs. That was a surprise ending to our brief visit.

I was there to drop off copies of The Catholic Spirit containing a front-page article about their daughter, Teresa, who took her own life almost a year ago, on Nov. 1, 2010. I also interviewed them on the air this morning on Relevant Radio.

When I handed them a dozen copies of the newspaper article with their story, we talked more about their journey through tragedy into healing and, ultimately, to helping others through an event they are organizing at their parish, St. Paul in Ham Lake. It takes place Saturday, Nov. 19 from 8 a.m. to noon (call 763-757-6910 for details or to register).

As we neared the end of our conversation, I happened to mention that I am going on a fishing trip (yes, fishing trip!) to Lake of the Woods on Sunday. When I told Michael, an avid fisherman himself, that we would be jigging for walleyes, he said that he makes his own and I was welcome to take some with me.

I couldn’t refuse the offer. For me, that would be special to catch a walleye (or six!) on one of his jigs. I felt as though the time I have spent talking with him over the last few weeks has created a bond. Not only have both of us lost someone (my first wife died of cancer in 1995), but we also share a love of the outdoors.

We talked about scheduling a fishing trip next summer. I’d love to see that happen. For now, I’ll head up north, tie on one of his jigs and see what happens. The fishing reports are good. According to one on the Sportsman’s Lodge website, the walleyes are running strong from the lake into the Rainy River and biting well.

That’s good news for me and my friend, Pete Wolney. We try to hit the river run of walleyes every fall. Looks like it’s here. I’ll do some bow hunting later today and again on Sunday morning, then it’s up to Lake of the Woods we go!

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The bass weren’t biting

August 22, 2011

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On Friday, I went on my annual fishing outing with my good friend, Dave Altman. We’ve had some great bass fishing trips over the years, and I was hoping this would be another. I like going out fishing with Dave because not only is he lots of fun to fish with, he’s also a very skilled angler.

I planned on putting his skils — and mine — to work on Lake Calhoun. By the time August rolls around, the bass are in their predictable summer pattern, which means they are schooled up on the weedlines.

It’s a pattern I have been able to count on year after year, except in cool summers like 2009, when temperatures never got very warm and the fish stayed shallow all summer. Fortunately, this year’s heat in July should have been enough to push the bass down deep.

Nice start

We tried our first spot on the south end of the lake, and Dave caught a nice 16-inch bass within the first 10-15 minutes. Just after he landed his, I hooked one and battled it for a few seconds before it spit the hook. I figured more fish would come after that.

Dave and I kept casting our jigs and plastic worms to the weedlines, hoping to get into a school of bass. We threw a marker buoy out near this spot, in the hope that there would be a bunch of fish to catch.

Action slows

To our surprise, that was the best — and only — flurry of the day. We plied the waters on the south end, hitting spots that have, in years past, yielded fish in the 19- and 20-inch range. The best I could muster was a 16-incher that matched Dave’s first fish. I caught a smaller one and lost a few others, and Dave never landed another bass.

I think there were three contributing factors to the tough fishing:

1. A cold front came through right as we were fishing. The wind shifted from the southwest to the northwest, and the cloud cover lifted, leaving a clear blue sky. Cold fronts are notorious for shutting down the fishing, and this outing was proof.

2. The weed growth was way down. I’m not sure why, but the growth of eurasian watermilfoil was extremely stunted on all of the Minneapolis city lakes this year. Even though it got very hot in July, and the usual milfoil harvest did not take place because of the government shutdown, the weedgrowth was very thin. In fact, I did not see any that had reached the surface, which is a trademark of this weed. That has been the case the last three years, which makes me think it is dying out on the lake. The sailing enthusiasts are happy about this, no doubt, but not me. The more weeds, the better the fishing has been for me.

3. The water clarity has diminished. Normally, I can see eight to 10 feet down in the clear waters of Lake Calhoun. Not this year. When we pulled out of the boat landing, you couldn’t see two feet down. At least for now, this is a stained lake. I’m sure that changes the pattern, too. And, unfortunately, I was not able to figure out what the pattern is.

Overall, the fishing has been tough for me this summer. I have had to work hard on every trip to catch fewer fish. I’ve got one fishing trip left this year, my annual trek to Lake of the Woods in the fall with my friend, Pete Wolney. Hopefully, I’ll finally hit the bonanza I’ve been waiting for.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to shoot my bow and get ready for the fall archery hunting season.

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Working hard for walleyes

July 5, 2011

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Dave with walleye

I spent five days fishing on Lake of the Woods as part of a fishing retreat organized and run by a priest of the Diocese of St. Cloud. It is the subject of my outdoors column, which will appear in this week’s edition of The Catholic Spirit.

As the photo in this post will attest, I was successful in my search for walleyes. But, I had to work much harder to find and catch fish than I’m used to on this lake. Part of it certainly was due to the weather. We had winds from the east for three of the days we were there, proving once again the time-worn slogan: Wind from the east, fish bite the least.

Wouldn’t you know it, the weather got nice the last afternoon we were there, and our departure the last morning featured clear blue skies and bright sunshine. That was good news for a priest, Father Greg Mastey, who came in right after us with his group of fishermen. I emailed him after he got back and he said the fishing was excellent for the three days he was there.

As I have often said, timing is everything. Father Mastey hit it right, we didn’t, at least in terms of the fishing. But, that’s OK. The virtue of patience was tested on the trip, though I struggled to be patient at times.

I sure hope I can hit it right sometime this summer. The weather often stabilizes in July, so I’m optimistic for good outings ahead!

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Walleye tip

June 13, 2011

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For those looking for good walleye fishing, I have a suggestion: Go to Upper Red Lake on Wednesday or later.

Starting on that day, the normal protected slot of 17-26 inches for walleyes shrinks to 20-26 inches. So, those fish between 17 and 20 inches, for the first time this year, will be fair game.

Folks, there are a lot of fish that size in this lake. If the weather holds up, it should be a bonanza. Since the opener, the walleyes have been shallow and biting aggressively when the weather is decent. But, strong winds can make the lake unfishable, especially when they’re out of the west, northwest or north.

Looking at the weather forecast for the area, things are looking pretty good for this week. Looks like there could be some rain on Wednesday, but nice after that. If the winds are light, anglers should have a walleye feast.

The nice thing is, we have had a cold spring so far, which means the walleyes will stay shallow. There is a break along the shoreline that goes from 4 feet to about 10 feet, and as long as the water stays cool enough, the walleyes will hang out on this break.

I have anchored on the break and fished many times, and it’s generally pretty easy to catch walleyes on a jig and a minnow. Some folks troll Rapalas and catch fish, too. In fact, both methods work well.

I looked at a recent fishing report on a website called iDoFishing.com and the fishing has been good on Upper Red, as I suspected it would be. What’s nice about Upper Red is that it’s an easy lake to fish — find the break, anchor and throw out a jig and a minnow. You will catch walleyes, and also freshwater drum (commonly known as sheepshead). With the expanded slot, it will be possible to catch a four-fish limit of walleyes, all between 19 and 20 inches. That’s tough to beat on any lake!

If you’ve got a little more time, I would suggest adding a day or two on Lake of the Woods to your agenda. The fishing is also excellent on this lake, and it has a year-round protected slot of 19 1/2-28 inches. Not only that, but once you reach your four-fish limit on walleyes, you can add two more sauger (you can keep up to six walleyes and sauger in combination, with up to four of them being walleyes).

What some people don’t know is that, if you fish both lakes on the same trip, you can keep a total of six walleyes (the statewide limit), as long as no more than four come from either one of these two lakes. So, if you would like to take home the most walleyes that you can, this would be a nice way to go. I’ve never been able to a catch a combined six walleyes on the two lakes, but have tried a few times.

A good place for a fishing report on Lake of the Woods is a website called Walleye Hunter. It actually has fishing reports from several sources, including resorts on the lake, which are updated regularly. Plus, on several of them, you can read the history of fishing reports going all the way back to the opener and, in some cases, the ice-fishing season. Basically, unless the winds are really strong, the fishing is good on this lake. There were some high winds last week, but things look quieter for this week.

If you can take some vacation days this week, now’s a good time to head up north!

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Trying a new lake

May 31, 2011

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“Nothing venture, nothing gained.”

This is what I told my oldest son, Joe, as we fished the waters of Lake Traverse, which runs about 15 miles or so on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. We were hoping to cash in on a hot walleye bite that has been running strong for the last few weeks.

I got a great tip for a local fishing guide, Steve Carney, who has fished this lake many times over the years. He says it is typically good in the spring and fall. In fact, he said it’s usually “on fire” in May.

I was envisioning an outing like I’ve had on Upper Red, where dozens of walleyes come over the gunwale, and many more fish are thrown back then kept. What I liked, in particular, is that the protected slot for walleyes on Traverse doesn’t start until 20 inches. And, you’re allowed one fish over 20. So, you would be able to keep at least one walleye per person of any size.

That was enough to lure me and my son three-and-a-half hours west. I left with high hopes, confident we would be bringing home eight walleyes.

Unexpected results

Unfortunately, the fish had other ideas. We ended the day with three 13-inch walleyes in the livewell. Typically, we throw those back. But, it took us several hours to land the first one, so I kept that one and the other two. We pulled back to the boat landing scratching our heads.

I feared we might learn that other anglers were successful using different tactics, but that was not the case. In fact, Carney had told me that a number of people catch lots of walleyes fishing from their docks. We worked areas where there were docks and people fishing from them. We saw very few fish caught, and even asked a few how they were doing.

The reports were all the same — very few walleyes, and all of them small. Of course, we heard the classic line: “Shoulda been here yesterday.”

I emailed my report to another friend who has fished the lake. And, he said this lake can be very tough at times. Thus, he was not surprised that we had a tough day.

Still, we had fun, especially with the half dozen silver bass that we caught. They put up a pretty good fight, and I wouldn’t mind targeting them sometime. That is, after we have caught our limit of walleyes.

On the positive side

One bright spot was meeting Todd Johnson, owner of Wing N Fin Resort located on the south part of the lake on the Minnesota side. He was very accommodating and did his best to help us find good spots to fish. His information was solid, the fish just didn’t cooperate.

He said the fishing can be good all summer, and generally picks up in the fall. I think it would be fun to come back in October and try for some walleyes. What I like about the fall is that there generally are fewer boats on the lakes. In fact, sometimes you can have the entire lake to yourself.

Time to hire a guide?

Given the long drive and higher gas prices, it makes more sense to go for a few days to make the trip worthwhile. And, it might also be a good idea to hire a guide like Steve Carney. He has a keen attention to detail and he has fished lakes like this so many times, he knows just where to go and what to do. What I especially like about him is that he is very willing to share his tips and techniques. I can read them just about every week in Outdoor News, where he writes a weekly column.

I have had the pleasure of fishing with Steve on a few occasions, way back in the 1980s when I wrote a fishing column for Sun-Current newspapers in the south and western suburbs. Most of the time, we did very well. In fact, on one trip to Mille Lacs, I caught two 27-inch walleyes in one morning. But, Steve topped me with a 29-incher. That was a day on the water I’ll never forget!

I hope to have more days like this. Maybe, it will happen someday on Traverse. My next chance to catch a walleye comes later this month, when I’ll take my son, Andy, and his friend to Lake of the Woods for a fishing retreat led by a priest from the Diocese of St. Cloud. I hope to write about that for an upcoming outdoors column.

Stay tuned!

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On the air

May 26, 2011

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I had a fun time in the studio at Relevant Radio this afternoon. Joining me for a show about the outdoors was Father Troy Przybilla, the vocations director for the archdiocese. The show airs tomorrow (Friday) morning at 9 a.m. and will last about 30 minutes.

He happens to be an avid outdoors enthusiast, and I knew he had some good stories to tell about his adventures. He did not disappoint. I got to hear about the 50-inch muskie he caught one year, plus he told stories about his turkey hunts in southeastern Minnesota. And, in the process, he was able to connect those tales with his calling to the priesthood.

It was fun to get a chance to sit down and talk with him about our mutual passion for the outdoors. As we parted ways, he said he’d like to go fishing with me on Lake Mille Lacs for smallmouth bass this summer. I gave him a simple answer:

I’m all in!

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Fishing report

May 23, 2011

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I got a call from a friend of mine last night who is planning on going up to Lake of the Woods this weekend. He is bringing his wife and kids to spend Memorial Day weekend on the big lake.

I have to confess feeling more than a twinge of jealousy. This is a prime time to be up on this lake — and many others. Judging by the fishing reports I have been reading for Lake of the Woods, the fishing is good and getting better. Because of the cold and wet spring we have had, the fish are a bit more sluggish than usual. But, on this lake, that just means that, rather than catching 100 walleyes a day, you might only catch 30-50.

In other words, a slow day of fishing on Lake of the Woods is often better than a good day on many other lakes. That is precisely why I consider the six-hour drive well worth it.

I also like the fact that you can keep walleyes up to 19 1/2 inches, before reaching the protected slot of 19 1/2 to 28 inches. On this lake and many others, I often catch walleyes between 17 and 19 1/2 inches, which I can keep on LOTW. For some reason, many other lakes, including Upper Red, have protected slots that begin at 17 inches. I sometimes get frustrated by the number of fish between 17 and 19 inches that I have to throw back on these lakes.

Another nice thing on LOTW, at least on the south end, is that finding the fish and catching them is relatively easy. You don’t have to hover on small pieces of structure and finesse fish with complicated rigs. Rather, you drive across Four Mile Bay and out through the gap near Pine Island, find where the boats are clustered, drop anchor in the mud and drop a jig and minnow down to the fish. It’s so simple, even kids and inexperienced anglers can do it.

I find that very appealing. As much as I like to fish, I don’t fish for walleyes enough to have learned many of the complex methods for catching them. But, I am pretty good with jigs, and you rarely have to use anything else on this lake, even in the middle of the summer.

Actually, I will be heading up to LOTW in late June with my son, Andy, and one of his high school classmates. We will be going on a five-day fishing retreat organized by a priest of the St. Cloud Diocese. That will be the subject of a future Outdoors column. We will be going to the Northwest Angle, which is several hours north of Baudette on the south end of the lake. It will be interesting to see what the fishing is like farther north on the lake.

I’m excited to find out!

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Mark your calendar!

March 28, 2011

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A sure sign of spring happens this week. It’s the annual Northwest Sportshow, which takes place March 30 through April 3 (Wednesday through Sunday).

Even though the weather has been feeling more like February than late March, walking through the doors of the Minneapolis Convention Center will make you feel better by turning your thoughts — and dreams — toward the upcoming fishing sesaon, not to mention the turkey season just around the corner and, later on, the fall hunting seasons.

Walking the numerous and spacious aisles of the main auditorium is always fun for me, as I have made this an annual adventure. In addition to looking at lots of gear and trip destinations, I have been able to find some good prices on stuff. For example, about two or three years ago, I saw a Nikon Pro Staff scope at the Reed’s booth for $99. It normally sells for $139. So, I bought it for my son’s 20-gauge.

Nikon makes excellent scopes and this one has performed well. This year, we went to the gun range to sight in the shotgun with the Nikon scope. My son, Andy, took three shots at 50 yards to see if the scope was still on (it’s very important to check your scope every year). All three shots — with two different brands of ammo, no less — landed in the bullseye. In fact, they were all touching!

That’s the kind of performance you want in a scope, and the price was great. In fact, I don’t think I have seen a price that low on this scope since then. Some companies offer great deals at the show, so it’s worth looking. My advice would be to price items you are interested in buying, then check the prices at the show to see if there’s a deal to be had.

The show also features numerous seminars dealing with a wide range of topics, including fishing and turkey hunting. Most of them are designed for beginners, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to decide which seminar to attend.

Often times, more advanced tips can be found by talking to people who work in the booths. One of my favorite booths is Ammo Craft, which sells primarily hunting gear. The owner, Ron Becker, is an avid turkey hunter, and he has carried on the tradition of the store’s previous owner, Don Parsons, in supplying a wide array of stuff for turkey hunters.

About two years ago, I bought a push button call from him called the Pro Push Pin Yelper made by Quaker Boy. It’s a great call that is very easy to use. It makes the softer calls like clucks and purrs that can help bring a gobbler into gun range.

Ron recommended the call and I have used it a lot over the last two seasons. It’s my go-to call when I’m trying to get a tom to come those last few critical yards. I have a lot of confidence in this call, and I highly recommend it. Other companies make this type of call, called a pushbutton call. The funny thing is, these calls are so easy to use that they are often overlooked by hunters.

I think what happened is that, when they first came out, they were marketed to hunters who had a tough time using other calls, like box, slate and mouth calls. But, let me tell you, I am proficient with all of these calls, yet I still like my Pro Push Pin Yelper for the soft calls. And, make no mistake, soft calls are very important in turkey hunting, though you hear lots more about the basic mating call of hens in the spring — the yelp.

I remember going to the show way back when I was a preteen. It was held at the Minneapolis Armory, and one of my favorite booths to visit was one run by a guy who called himself The Rat Man. He made a series of jointed wood lures that can best be described as sexy in the water. These lures had more gyrations than the scantily clad women you see on Dancing with the Stars.

Funny thing is, I have never caught a fish on one of these seductive lures. Maybe I didn’t use them often enough. But, that didn’t matter. The Rat Man, complete with his black eye patch — probably used primarily for dramatic effect — was one of the most entertaining characters at the show. And, quite frankly, there has not been anyone like him since he vanished from the scene a number of years ago.

That’s OK. I still like going to the show. I’m fired up about the upcoming turkey hunting and fishing seasons, and I’m fired up about making my annual trip to the Northwest Sportshow.

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Walleyes in November?

November 5, 2010

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I know it sounds strange, with the deer firearms hunting opener just around the corner, but I went walleye fishing earlier this week on Lake of the Woods.

Actually, it has become an annual fall ritual for my friend, Pete Wolney, and I since we went for the first time seven years ago. We really nailed the walleyes that year and have been “hooked” ever since (pardon the pun).

We wait until mid to late October, and even early November, to try and catch the annual run of shiners from the main lake into the Rainy River. These little minnows are a major food source for walleyes, which follow them wherever they go.

Last week’s cold spell pushed the water temperature down into the low 40s, which usually triggers massive runs of shiners into the river, with the walleyes following closely behind.

However, there wasn’t the big shiner run we have seen in other years. Some went through on Friday, but not many since. The good news is, walleyes have been showing up in the river in decent numbers. We were hoping they would be present and hungry Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

We found willing takers of our jig-and-minnow offerings, but the fish didn’t seem to be as aggressive as usual. Many times, we would feel a bite, pause to let the fish take it, then set the hook and come up empty. It was very aggravating. Fortunately, there were enough fish that engulfed our jigs to help us come away with fish to eat and take home.

We started off on Monday afternoon, heading out from Adrian’s Resort about 2 p.m. People were still catching walleyes out on the lake, so we decided to try there first. Winds were light and temperatures were mild, and we figured we had nothing to lose.

We caught two 15-inch walleyes, plus a few sauger (close cousin to the walleye that runs smaller). Then, we headed to the river and caught a few more fish before dark — seven in all. We haven’t kept detailed records of our trips, but we think it may have been our best first day ever. There was plenty to eat at our fish fry that night, plus some left over for the next day, in case we struggled to catch fish.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen, except right away at dawn, when Pete caught several nice walleyes, while I didn’t even get a bite. After a while, I grew quite frustrated, and asked if we could switch locations. We headed out to the lake again, though there was more wind to contend with than the previous day.

Still, the walleyes and sauger were cooperative. In fact, the bite was better than the previous day. We caught more fish, plus one or two in the protected slot of 19 1/2 to 28 inches. After that, we went back to the river and anchored in about 16 feet, where we got a few more and went in with a limit.

On the last morning, we went back to this spot and anchored again. After about 20 or 30 minutes, I landed a nice 18-incher. We needed only one more walleye and one sauger to replace what we had eaten the day before and come away with a limit of four walleyes apiece and two sauger.

Unfortunately, this great reward was immediately followed by a bizarre mishap. After unhooking, measuring and dropping the fish into Pete’s livewell, I discovered that my fishing rod was missing. Apparently, it had fallen into the river somehow.

That was about a $50 mistake. After venting for a few minutes, I pulled out another spinning outfit, and we kept fishing. Pete caught a nice 20-incher, then we discovered that the wind had pushed us in shallow. We decided to pull anchor and head to the other side of the river and fish a little rock pile that had produced in previous years.

It has never been our best spot, but we’ve always been able to pull a fish or two from it. Because we only needed one more walleye and one more sauger, we figured this was the place to do it.

Boy, were we ever right in our spot selection. Within minutes, I landed a small sauger. Then, I caught a bigger one just minutes later. Just a few minutes after that, I caught a 15-inch walleye.

But, we were far from finished. I caught an 18-incher, then a 19-incher, then another 15-incher, and another sauger. Finally, I capped it off with a 20-incher. Along the way, I lost a big fish and Pete caught a beautiful 17 1/2-incher that we released. On the previous two days, that fish would have been one of our nicest keepers of the day.

Not this time. It all happened in about an hour, making it the best flurry of the trip. Interestingly, that seems to be the way it goes most every year — tough the first day, better the second, and best the third. Maybe it has to do with making some improvements in our technique as each day progresses.

We’re not sure. All we know is the fish always seem more cooperative on the third day. The truth is, had we started the day with zero fish, we still would have come off the water with a limit.

What a great way to end the trip. We were a little sad to leave this walleye factory, but we drove home very, very satisfied with the fish we had caught.

I plan on taking this walleye out to Montana later this month when we make our annual trip over Thanksgiving to see Grandpa Bob and Grandma Sharon Guditis. We’re hoping the deer and elk will show themselves when we take our rifles into the woods.

This year, my 12-year-old son, William, will be going on his first Montana hunt. Also joining us will be my oldest son, Joe, who currently is going to school at the University of Dallas. Bob and Sharon bought him a plane ticket so he can join us Thursday through Sunday. It will be great to see him. Plus, my other son, Andy, will have a youth deer and elk combination license. He really is hoping to see and shoot at an elk this year. I’m praying for that already.

But first, we have the Minnesota deer opener tomorrow. Andy and I are going, along with my brother, Paul, plus my friend, Bernie Schwab, and his two sons, Dan and Chris. It will be Chris’ first deer hunt. He’s excited and so are we.

Bring on the whitetails!

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