"The walleye fishing continues to be very good. Most boats are reporting double digit catches everytime they go out! The majority of the fish continue to be in the 19-22" range, but some "keeper" size are becoming more common. There have been some big ones caught, as well. My boats largest today was 27". There were many other fish above the slot (23" +) caught, as well.
The conditions were tough this weekend with high winds and cold temperatures. But the ones who toughed it out were rewarded with premium action. Jigs with minnows are the most common method of catching walleyes right now.
Most of the fish are in 7-10 feet of water along the windblown shoreline.
Northerns are being caught along with the walleyes. One cabin caught a monster 36" fish on a jig and minnow. With the majority of the walleyes returned to the lake, a lot of our guest are supplementing their catch for the frying pan with some northerns. Fish above the 22-26" slot and below are being caught.
Not much to report on the perch front. Very spotty so far. There have been one caught here and there, but no schools of perch showing up yet. Warmer weather could help on this front.
All in all, the walleyes are where it is at right now. This weekend could be some of the best walleye fishing we have seen in some time. The fish are shallow, and ready to bite.
If you haven't made plans for Memorial Weekend yet, and want to go fishing, Winnie is the place to be. We still have a few openings for the holiday weekend. Check our availability and give us a call." — Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
For anglers, the conditions were less than ideal; whitecaps churned up by a strong northeast wind at 10 to 20 MPH, steady rain falling and an air temperature in the low 40’s.
For fish, the conditions were less than ideal too, or so it appeared in the morning. The sudden temperature drop forced surface water temps back down into the 48 to 50 degree range. The low barometric pressure gave fish a case of the blahs too and fishing spots that had previously been good were now producing nothing.
At 11:30 AM I told my new friend Bob Vrklan that it was his lucky day. “Why is that, he asked?” “Because this is the day you get to watch me dig myself out of this hole; I said.” Bob, along with his brother Patrick chuckled at my little joke, but for me, the concern was real.
Luckily, I did wind up digging myself out of that hole. Our day turned out pretty good and while I’m not sure I can lay claim to any particular wisdom you haven’t heard before, I might as well tell you how the turnaround happened.
I did an inventory of the pros and cons about our fishing situation. The cold water and low barometric pressure were negative. The overcast sky was positive and so the whitecaps would be too, as long as we were willing to travel onto the windy side of the lake. At least there we’d have a fighting chance, the current created by the strong northeast wind could be a mitigating factor; it might encourage at least some of Winnie’s walleye population to move and when they move, they feed.
On the west side, conditions were wavy and cold, but not un-fishable. I was able to move from spot to spot without too much suffering and eventually, we landed on the right spot. The large, shallow flat that lies halfway between Stony Point and Mallard Point. On top of the structure there are rocks, clamshells and scattered weeds. There will eventually be lots of weeds in the deeper water surrounding the large flat, but on Saturday any weeds we encountered were barely 2 inches tall.
On top of the flat in 5 to 6 feet of water, there were perch and they decent size, but we didn’t find any walleyes. I moved off the top and onto the north side breakline where Bob proved to us by catching one, that there were walleyes along the deeper edges of the flat. The fish weren’t overly aggressive, we missed a lot of hook sets because the fish are short-striking our minnows. But now that we knew where they were, we were able to keep working slowly back and forth, picking them up one-by one.
There were ups and downs in the action the fish seemed to come and go, but the intermittent action lasted for a couple of hours. Once the fish appeared to be gone for good, we tried the windier, south side breakline and either found the same fish again, or found a new school of them. In the heavier water, the fish were more aggressive and they allowed us to end our day with a grand finale’.
The ratio of slot-fish to keepers was about 3 to 1, and by the end of the day, we’d managed to gather 7 keepers. We estimated that meant catching 20 something walleyes overall; Bob and Patrick even had a couple of doubles.
All said and done, we didn’t do anything special except that we kept looking. That’s the lesson that I’ve had pounded into my head by 35 years of “almost failing”; there are always fish biting somewhere. You just have to figure out where they are before you run out of time.
Happy because of the opportunity to meet new friends and because of the day that ended well, I gave away a little more information than usual today. That’s because conditions today are gonna be a lot like they were yesterday. Anybody who’s willing to be like Patrick and Bob and choose to brave the elements deserves a little head start. Good Luck! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
The wind was brisk, but manageable on Thursday and the walleyes did what they do best; went on a feeding binge. Since the opener, almost everybody that’s been fishing the big lake has caught fish. Thursday was no exception, but it was a little different.
Different in that it’s not unusual during the early season to hear stories about catching lots of fish, except with a low proportion of keeper size walleye. Most folks have fun catching the larger fish, but most would like to eat a few too and catching eater fish was a lot easier on Thursday.
The reason catching keeper size fish was easier on Thursday is because they reacted to the first day of a brisk wind from the northwest. The strong breeze agitated the water in many shallow spawning areas that had been protected until now. There are still quite a few male fish inhabiting those areas and with a good walleye chop, they started moving.
With conditions like these, most of our guests never need to leave our home territory, Tamarack Bay. The river channel runs through the middle of it and there are weed beds, steep breaklines and shallow flats on both sides.
Right now, the shallow breakline from Tamarack Point moving south toward the Dam Bay has scattered schools of fish moving through. So does the breakline that runs from Plughat Point heading north toward Bowen’s Flats and on Thursday, there were good numbers of fish coming in from the north side of Bowen’s Flat near the gap into Cutfoot.
The best water depth was about 10 feet with the wind blowing. When surface water calms, the fish move deeper, so experiment with depths down to about 16 feet.
A 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a minnow is a good start, but there are already a lot of low-lying weeds emerging in the southern portion of the bay. When you’re fishing the weedier breaklines, it’s a good idea to use a 1/16 ounce jig to help keep your minnow out of the moss.
Some folks say that shiners offer an advantage, but they’ve been hard to come by. Fatheads, if they’re large enough or rainbows will work too. On Thursday, we already saw anglers catching fish using Lindy Rigs as well and we’ve heard that folks are already catching some fish with leeches.
Perch and pike are hitting at random times, but there aren’t a lot of folks targeting them. With the walleyes going, their attention is pretty fixed. There have been a few people checking out the better crappie spots and so far, all reports say that it’s too early. There may be more news about panfish as we get closer to Memorial Day weekend. But for now, let’s just have fun with the walleyes.
We want to remind you too that we still have some limited availability during our special Memorial Day event. During the week of May 25 thru 31, 2019 Memorial Week Special – All active and retired military will receive 15% off of any rental.
Stay in touch with us, the fish are biting and we've still got some openings this summer. We'd love for you to make The Pines Resort and Lake Winnie your next fishing destination. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
After reading yesterday's report about following spawning shiners to catch walleyes on Red Lake, Estelle Palmer wrote; Q) Jeff, I always thought shiners spawned in the fall?
A) Thank you for the comment Estelle; this is a great follow up to that report and it dove tails with another question from Kent Hoerdt that we’ll get to in a minute.
It's completely understandable that you would have had that impression because shiners actually do migrate into these same shallow sand flats in the fall. Often, huge schools of them move across the flats during a warm, sunny afternoon.
There haven’t been many extensive studies about the behavior of Spottail Shiners, or at least I can’t locate any. So I’m not sure about the precise scientific explanation of the fall migrations. It could be that there’s a special food source that attracts them during fall. Or it could simply mean that the sunshine makes water temperatures warmer and they’re attracted to that.
For Spottails, the spawning ritual begins when surface temperatures reach about 52 to 53 degrees and continues until the females have finished depositing eggs. The process begins in about mid-May and can run well into the month of June in certain lakes.
Q) Kent Hoerdt wrote; Jeff, the lakes were open 3 weeks ago, but none of the bait shops have any shiners. Why is it so hard to find shiners this spring?
A) Kent, it all boils down to the timing of when the shiners are physically ready to begin spawing. Obviously, the eggs have to reach maturity before anything can happen. But after they do, conditions favorable to triggering the spawning migrations must also develop.
In scientific terms Kent, “surface temperature” is defined loosely. For some, it refers only to the teperature within a fot or so of the surface. But for the sake of discussion, let's say that the minnows won't spawn until the entire water column from the surface (0 feet) down to a depth of 3 feet is one uniform temperature. If the temperature at the top is 53 degrees and so is the water at 3 feet, then the official, 53 degree surface temperature has been reached.
That explains why the shiners in one lake maybe spawning like crazy, while another lake across the road has no spawning activity at all. Lakes like Upper Red, where we fished earlier this week, have expansive stretches of shallow water in the 2 to 3 foot depth range. These flats reach ideal spawning range much faster than lakes with deeper flats. In Winnie for example, the band of water in the 2 to 3 feet range is much narrower and is subject to more constant mixing with the adjacent deep water.
Water clarity is a factor too; dark water, like Red Lake’s reaches ideal temperature fast than clear water does.
That explains why the suppliers of spring shiner supplies are so dependent on the timing of warm weather in relation to the opening of fishing. If we have an early spring, then they get a head start and it allows them to stockpile bait before we show up at the stores to buy them.
But even if the lakes open up on schedule like they did this year, the water still needs to warm up before shiners will move in. In other words, just because we have access to the lakes, does not mean that we have access to the minnows, they need to shallow before they can be trapped.
In north central Minnesota, some of the very best lakes for trapping shiners have become clear because of the introduction of Zebra Mussels. Like I said, the clear water warms more slowly and the “shiner runs” occur later these days than they used to.
This year there’s more complications too; the water levels are high. Snow melt and runoff filled the lakes to full capacity this spring. I wouldn’t call it flood stage water, but there’s definitely more water this spring than there has been for quite a while. Obviously, the extra volume of water creates additional delays in warming.
The good news is that the supply chain is beginning to move a little bit. Most of the bait dealers I know are still getting whatever they can get from the trappers on Upper Red Lake, but at least they’re getting some.
Soon, Lake Winnie and other lakes in the north central region will warm up and shiner supplies will improve again. I’ll predict that by Memorial Weekend, bait dealers will have more shiners than they know what to do with.
If I may be allowed, I'll add that while certain anglers may be suffering the shortages now, there may well be a silver lining. As shiners do begin to spawn, they will continue to attract walleyes into shallow water. Folks like me who love the early season jig and minnow bite are likely to be rewarded with an extension of the period for using that presentation effectively this year. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL wn
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"Walleye fishing was excellent over fishing opener weekend. Anglers fishing in 20-28 feet of water during the day, then moving shallow (10 feet of water or less) in the evening, at night and early in the morning, caught piles of walleyes. Jig and minnow was the way to go when the walleyes were deep. As they moved shallow, minnow baits casted shallow was the top producers. Best colors were blue, purple, rainbow minnow and perch.
Northern Pike fishing was challenging for many as large live suckers were in short supply this opener. Anglers that simply changed over to dead smelt or large golden shiners reported excellent fishing. We even had one local angler reporting his family went through $200 worth of dead smelt over the weekend and landed over a dozen pike pushing 40”. Areas on the lake where water was coming into the lake or shallow muddy bays, were where the big pike were being found.
Panfish - Since we were finally were able to string together a couple of nice sunny, calm days the panfish moved up into the shallows. Anglers reported that after 1pm the panfish moved shallow and the fishing was fantastic! Jig and a minnow fished under a bobber was the way to go for hungry panfish. As water temps warm this week, small tubes and hair jigs will start to shine and the bite will happen all day.
Lake Trout - With the water temps ice cold, lake trout fishing was red hot! Lake trout were caught in water less then 10 feet to over 60 feet. White and clown colored crankbaits, trolled over deeper water, resulted in a more consistent bite then fishing shallow water for lakers. Having said that, some of the biggest lake trout caught over the weekend, were in shallow water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Upper Red Lake was no disappointment for my long time fishing customer and good friend Craig Anderson. Craig joined me for what I’d hoped would be an instant replay of the fabulous opener I and my family had there last Saturday.
Conditions on the lake were a lot different than they were last weekend, instead of wild and wooly whitecaps, the lake was flat as a pancake. The weather forecast led us to expect a fairly brisk south wind, but that never developed. However, the predicted warm air temperature did develop and the result was a beautiful, calm day. In fact it was so nice that calling what I did yesterday “work” sort of makes me feel guilty.
On a lot of lakes, smooth water conditions can be discouraging news for walleye anglers, but on Red Lake, it usually doesn’t hurt a thing. On Tuesday, I’d go so far as to say that it helped because the calm conditions allowed the water temperature to rise steadily throughout the day. As the water warmed, minnows began pushing toward the shoreline sand flats.
When that happens, the walleye are never too far behind them and yesterday was no exception. The later it got; the more of them stacked up along shallow shoreline breaks and while the action had been steady throughout the day, it wasn’t until the sunniest, calmest, warmest part of the afternoon that it really ramped up.
One notable difference between my two trips to Red was that the rocks we fished on Saturday hosted a smaller number of fish than before. There were still a few of those sperm spewing males out there, but many of the fish we caught didn’t do that this time. I’d say that added to the push toward the shoreline because the less those fish think about sex, the more they think about food.
Knowing that the fish will follow the shiners and knowing that the shiners are beginning to move shallow to spawn gives us one MASSIVE clue! If we figure out the best spawning territory for the shiners, we will also figure out the best feeding territory for walleye.
The beauty of this spring pattern is that it works on every lake with a significant population of shiners. Winnie, Leech, Bowstring, Bemidji, Cass, Mille Lacs … it doesn’t matter where you fish. Start thinking like a minnow and you’ll lead yourself to the best walleye fishing of the season.
Look for expansive, shallow sand flats that lay adjacent to pockets of deeper water with short weed stubble. To us, those 1 to 2 inch tall weeds don’t look like very good cover, but to the minnows they look great. The presence of newly emerging plants gives them some cover during periods of cold weather or overnight. When the sunshine warms the shallow water, the minnows will migrate out of the stubble and onto the sand to spawn.
Think back to experiences you’ve had in the past. Remember some of the areas where you’ve encountered heavy mats of Northern Milfoil, Coontail and other dense weed patches. Areas that become un-fishable during mid-summer are the exact areas where you’ll find these newly emerging patches right now.
Our standard presentation for most of the day was a 1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jig tipped with medium size fatheads. Later in the day, fish moved shallower and I did switch to a 1/16 ounce, but I’m not that was necessary.
During the last hour, I switched to a standard round head Lindy Jig and tipped that with a soft plastic paddle tail. That might not have been necessary either, but it was definitely fun. I can’t recall the name of the generic 4 inch plastic tail, but there are numerous similar versions of them available. Look at baits like YUM’s Pulse or Money Minnow these are both baits that I've had good luck with on Upper Red.
One more little trick we used yesterday was to cast our lures out and away from the boat instead of trolling them. In the shallow water, the fish were shy about being under the boat. They didn’t act panicked and they didn’t disappear from reach they just slid out and away from the boat a little bit. Pitching the jigs to them and working them back to the boat worked a lot better than passing through them with the trolling motor.
Finally, I mentioned that the shiners were beginning to run on Red Lake. I know that they've been really hard to come by, but I think this is about to change. I'll get some updates about that for the report tomorrow morning. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Water temps around the county are hovering around that 52-54 degree mark. Still a little cold for the shiners to be up shallow so best walleye action is still yet to come as temps start to climb and the shiners move shallow.
Anglers are catching fish pitching shiners on jigs or rigging them. Another great option this time of year is casting a small rig with a worm weight, #6 Octopus hook, and short leader. This rig can be worked through new weed growth with ease and be casted up shallow or drug around the edge of the dropoff.
Panfish action has been fantastic shallow when we have a warm sunny day. When we get a front the fish push out deeper. Adapting to the day at hand has really been the key. On warm days look to old bulrush stands on the main lake as well as back bays with mud bottoms that absorb the sun. Any wood cover sticking out of the water is also a place to spend some time.
I like to use a Rocket Bobber with a Northland Fire Fly jig tipped with an Impulse Plastics Mini Smelt. This rig can be cast a long ways and allows me to ambush fish in shallow water from afar. We've actually been doing far better with plastics than with live bait lately. Keep the trolling motor moving for best results and if you're not finding fish shallow be ready to switch gears and search a little deeper.
Bass fishing has been nothing short of amazing as of late. The early catch and release season for largemouth is something you should definitely take advantage of if you haven't already.
We've been doing the best slowly dragging swim jigs tipped with beaver style trailers through available cover whether it be old bulrush stands, tree limbs or lilly pads in back bays. As the water temps start to warm small square bill crankbaits will dominate but for now we've been getting far more bites with a slow moving jig.
Lots of fun fishing available in Ottertail Lakes Country right now! See you on the lake." —Garett Svir, Slab Seeker Fishing Guide Service 320-428-5174
Q) Phil Tompkins wrote; "Jeff, I know that you always have run a tiller boat, but in your article about Red Lake you talk about spot-lock to catch your fish. Why would you need a bow mount trolling motor on a tiller boat, or did you switch to a steering wheel?
A) Phil, I’m still a dyed in the wool tiller operator. Even though I could probably fish in a “wheel boat” 80% of the time, there are still days when circumstances dictate using the tiller. As long as I continue to make my living primarily by guiding, I’m planning on using the tiller engine to control my boat.
That said the advancements in trolling motors, charting and electronics make using the bow mount an absolute necessity these days.
In the scenario I wrote about yesterday, we found the fish by slipping along the edge of a shallow rock spine in a cross wind. For that, I used my Riptide transom mount trolling motor to control the drift speed. When I back up into the waves, the force against my transom gives the boat resistance and acts almost like a brake. I can use that force to help keep the boat pinned on the precise depth that I want to fish and because I’m pulling backward with the Riptide, it allows all of the crew to be fishing out and away from the boat, free from tangling on the prop.
If I would have tried trolling forward, it would have been much more difficult to move slowly enough (about .6 MPH) for a good jig and minnow presentation. Additionally, it would have been nearly impossible to keep 4 lines running free and clear from props, transducers and the like.
In the “good old days”, once I found a school of fish, I could hover, holding steady positions using the transom mount. That worked fine except I could never take my hand off of the tiller without losing control of my position. If I wanted to tie a knot, unhook a fish or help customers net their fish, I would really have to hustle.
On Saturday, I deployed the Ulterra, but did not engage the prop. As we slipped along the rock bar, I waited until we came to a better than average school of fish. As soon as we contacted fish, I pushed the spot-lock feature and voila, the boat stayed right where I wanted it and my hands were free to do anything I wanted; it’s like being on vacation compared to the way I used to do it.
What's even better is that I can save that spot, so if I leave to check other areas and don't find more fish, I can come back and set back up exactly over my original location.
There are other reasons why using a bow mount on a tiller boat is a good idea and I’m sure they’ll come up this summer. But for me, I will always install the bow mount from now on, even if the spot-lock is the only feature I ever use; it really is that much better. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"On the south end, walleye season opened with great success. Limits of walleyes and saugers plus some big walleyes were found in the river, Four Mile Bay, main basin of the lake. The go to presentation was a jig and minnow. Reports of fish in varying depths, but 18-25' was best. Most reported limits, some in a couple of hours.
On the Rainy River, the focus shifted Saturday from sturgeon to walleyes. As predicted, good numbers of walleyes still in the river and the bite was good. Best action was between Baudette and the Wheeler's Point area. Good numbers of walleyes also reported in Four Mile Bay.
A brightly colored jig and frozen shiner hard to beat. Strong current in river, thus anglers up-sized jigs. Sturgeon are active and catch and release season remains open through May 15th. May 16 - June 30, the season closes and opens again July 1st.
Up at the NW Angle, anglers boated around a few lingering ice chunks to find walleyes. The best bite was a jig and minnow adjacent to shoreline structure, points and neck down areas. Evening bite was best. Saugers, pike and perch were also in the mix." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Excellent fishing for Opening Day! The weather was great and the bite is on! Many big Walleye and nice eaters throughout the day. There were also a number of large Sturgeon caught this past week including yesterday.
There were many anglers fishing up river, in Four Mile Bay or on the lake. There was a strong South wind so on the lake most were inside 20’ of water. Success was reported everywhere.
We are looking forward to a great season. We continue to clean up and get the yard ready for summer. Our new charter boat should be here soon. This keeps Border View Lodge with the newest equipment on the lake.
The forecast looks normal for this time of year. Highs in the 60’s and lows into 40’s overnight. A chance of rain everyday is completely predictable forecast, if it actually happens or not is yet to come." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
Dad, what did you mean when you said that we’d be “among friends” when we arrived at Red Lake? That was the question Annalee; my oldest child asked me late in the day on or family fishing trip to Upper Red Lake yesterday.
The answer is next, but first let me explain why the question even came up at all.
I think the weather forecast changed about every 6 hours all week long. We’d been watching the predictions while we hemmed and hawed about where we’d go and what we’d do under each new scenario.
We’d already ruled out our original idea, Upper Red Lake a few days ago because of the strong west/northwest winds NOAA was predicting. Opening day is not a work day for me, it’s supposed to be a relaxing family day and Red Lake is the last place to go for relaxation with a strong west wind. In fact I mentioned my disappointment about that on the radio last Thursday morning.
Every time the weather forecast changed, an alternate plan was formed and by Friday night, we’d settled on a small lake near Bemidji where we could stay out of the wind. When I woke up to a new forecast on Saturday morning, this one still calling for strong winds, but now predicted to be from the south; my game plan changed.
I called the kids and told them about the updated forecast and that when I said; “If you’re willing to drive a little extra, I think I have a plan. On a south wind, we can pull off going to Red Lake and when we get there, we’ll be among friends.” So now the old original plan became the new alternate plan and the meeting was set for high noon at Mort’s Dock.
Mort’s Dock on Upper Red Lake has been one of my “go to” spots for quite a while. I’ve always liked the way it was tucked into the southwest corner of the lake where I and my customers can stay away from the hubbub at the more crowded accesses. I always liked the way Mort and Georgieann set the tone, laid back and easy going.
This year my old friend Chad Benson became part of the reason to visit Mort’s. Benson, along with co-owner Bill Lundy signed on the dotted line to buy the place. The only problem I have with Chad is that I don’t get to see him enough; that’s why, I explained to Annalee that I knew we’d be “among friends.”
By the time we arrived at Mort’s it was 12:20 PM and there were already 5 or 6 boats loaded and leaving the resort along with another 5 or 6 boats waiting in line to load out. The reason they were leaving so early? They all had their limits and were heading back home.
Fishing the opener on Red Lake is almost always good and this year was no exception. In fact, I’d say that it was one of my better early season experiences up there.
Everybody on the lake seemed to have their own trick for finding and catching fish yesterday. One of the guides up there found a school of fish in some scattered weed in about 11 feet of water, he and his crew filled their limits right there in that single weed patch.
Other folks were fishing the relatively deep breakline from 10 to 12 feet of water. Lundy; “11 feet seemed to be the best depth for everyone we’ve talked to. There was one group of 4 that fished out there and caught lots of spawned out females, each of them left with their limits, including the allowed 1 walleye over 20 inches apiece.”
The spawning run may have been over for female walleyes, but for the boys it wasn’t. For me, spawned out female walleyes were nowhere to be found, in fact the pattern I stumbled into was the complete opposite of that. Male fish still inhabiting a shallow rock bar, kept us plenty busy, but we never caught a single female walleye all day long.
You could be thinking; “seriously Jeff Sundin, how do you know for a fact that nobody in your boat caught a single female walleye all day long?”
Well we made a lot of jokes about that yesterday and I’d really love to tell you some of them, but this is “G” rated content. So let’s just say the answer is that every single fish we handled did what boys do best when they’re spawning; my boat is a mess! In fact the walleyes were so hot-to-trot that on numerous occasions, we would see aggresive walleyes chasing other walleyes that we hooked and were reeling toward the boat.
Our key depth was about 4 feet, but there were some fish as deep as 6 feet. At first, we caught fish by drifting along the breakline, encountering small clusters of rock as we moved along. After a couple of drifts, it was clear that we only caught fish whenever we were on the rocks. We were moving a little too fast too, a lot of the strikes we got were tentative and we missed fish because we didn’t have time to let them fully engulf the bait.
That’s when we started using the Ulterra to our advantage.
I’d slip the boat along the rock edges until we encountered fish, then engage the “spot-lock” and let the trolling motor hold us in position. That gave us all the time we needed to let the fish “eat” or baits and that really improved our hook setting.
We pitched 1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs tipped with fathead minnows over the rocks. In calmer weather, I’d use 1/16 ounce instead, but we lost some of our sense of feel to the wind. We got hung up on the rocks a little, but it was worth it to have a better sense of connection with our lures.
The shallow rock pattern was fun, but judging by what we saw at the fish cleaning shack, it was hardly the only game in town. I think most folks caught plenty of fish and anyone who didn’t bag “a limit” still came close.
My son in law, Austin Jones had never fished on Red Lake before and was impressed by the average size of these spawning male fish; I was too. There were numerous fish in the 18 to 19 inch range, they were fat and sassy and thanks to the regulations for 2019, they were all “keepers”. Learn More >> Upper Red Lake Special Regulations.
I wish I could keep Mort’s Dock and their cozy corner of Red Lake a secret. But I really want to help my pal Chad, his family and his friends gain a little traction in their new business venture.
Chad’s been around the block more than a few times. As a guide, he provided great fishing experiences for customers and parlayed that into a top notch ice fishing rental business serving both Upper Red and Cass Lakes. Nowadays, he’s a minnow trapper too, tracking down shiners to supply anglers with their preferred early season minnows. You see the trend, customer service, customer service, customer service. You get the idea, if there’s anyone better suited to running a resort, who would it be?
Okay, it doesn’t matter if its summer or winter, they’ll be there. The next time you’re thinking about heading toward Red Lake, keep Mort’s Dock in mind; you can thank me when you see me at their landing, okay? — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"After a very long winter, the time finally came. Guests were weary of winter, and ready for some open water fishing. The weather forecast was for rain and high winds. Well, the winds came, but the sun was out all day long.
The buzz around camp was "did you find any shiners?". No, we didn't have shiners. But the fish bit on leeches, the fish bit on fatheads, and the fish bit on small sucker minnows!
It was one of our better openers in many years. Every boat that I talked to caught fish. Most of the fish were in the protected 18-23"
slot. But there were many reports of double digit catches per angler.
Not per boat, but per angler. There was no magic spot, either. The fish were reported being caught from Little Stony Point on the south end of the lake, all the way to the north end. The boats that were tough enough to brave the waves on the north end were rewarded with the most keeper size walleyes.
In addition to the walleyes, there were some nice northerns over 26"
caught. No report of a perch bite came in.
All in all, we had great weather and great fishing. A rare combination on Opening Day!
The fishing looks to be above average this spring.
We have openings for the coming weekends including Memorial Weekend. Make plans now to get in on the action...."Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
Paul Plinske wrote; “Q) as open water season approaches, and everyone is excited about the opener, I had a question about Bowstring Lake. It seems the lake has been in a downward trend the last couple of years (at least for us). Lakes seem to be cyclical in nature, and I was wondering if you have a gut feeling and or if you have any information from the DNR as to the numbers of fish in the lake based on past spawns?
Is there anything to support the idea that the lake may now start an uptick in action and quality of fish?
A) Paul, I didn’t think I could do justice to your question without first scheduling an appointment with the Fisheries Supervisor, Dave Weitzel at Grand Rapids. During that discussion, Weitzel shared the management plan for Bowstring, along with the most recent information they have on file.
Unfortunately, the most recent population assessment conducted on Bowstring occurred in 2014. That means the available data is pretty much obsolete by now.
Weitzel; “I really wish Bowstring could be surveyed more often. But lakes that do not have special regulations and/or lakes that are not stocked, receive lower priority than lakes that do have stocking and special regulations. Since Bowstring is not stocked and there are no special regulations for walleye, it isn’t assessed as frequently as we’d like. There is a population assessment scheduled for the summer of 2020 though and that’s when we’ll get our next batch of up-to-date information.”
Without hard facts to work with, I’m in the same boat as you Paul, (pun intended). Any information that I have to share is strictly anecdotal and not backed by scientific information. Knowing that, take my observations for what they are, snapshots taken from a handful of fishing trips at random intervals.
From my viewpoint, fishing pressure on Bowstring has been intense over the past 8 to 10 years. It isn't casual pressure from visitors who don't know what to do, the lake is fished by hundreds of anglers who have all the right gear and know exactly what to do with it. Every spring I’ve wondered if this would finally be the year that she’s had enough, the year that she just couldn’t deliver one more good season.
Somehow though, I'm always wrong, the lake has been resilient enough to keep up with the angling pressure. In fact, Bowstring hasn't been stocked since 1991 and in those 25+ years, the lake has managed to keep pace with whatever anglers can dish out. Every season, there are crowds and every season the crowds catch fish.
Now that doesn’t mean that the fishing on Bowstring is always at 100%, there have been certain years when the fishing is good, some when it’s better and others when it’s been best. I do agree with you that 2018 wasn't one of Bowstring's best. I'd call it a year when the fishing was "less good" than usual and that appears to align with your observations. But while the fishing wasn't fabulous, it was still "okay" and we did have some really fun days out there.
Weitzel; “That’s what often happens when a lake is managed for a high population of smaller, keeper size fish. Anglers remove lots of fish, Mother Nature senses that there’s a gap to fill and the walleyes instinct to fill that gap takes over. Lakes managed in this way often produce large year classes and as they reach keeper size, anglers harvest them and the cycle starts over. But even if a lake is known for producing consistent year classes of walleye, it’s only a matter of time before it will miss a season and leave a gap in the population. Natural recruitment will bring it back, maybe it already has and we just don’t know it yet.”
It’s hard for anyone to sort out all of the variables; there could be an imbalance between walleyes and baitfish populations. Maybe the clearer than usual water conditions were a factor and maybe I just had bad timing and didn’t hit the lake on very many “great days”.
Lacking hard data to back up my theory means that all you’re really getting from me is an opinion. But that said, I’m pointing my finger at a couple of years where the water level on Bowstring was really low. I don’t have any way of estimating how many more fish could have been produced if there had been an extra foot of water on the shoreline during those low water years, but I’ll bet it would have been a lot.
Low water forces fish out of shallow cover too, they wind up out on the shoreline breaks prematurely and they’re much more vulnerable to anglers. When that happens, I think the percentage of fish harvested goes up and widens the gap between year classes even more.
Anecdotally, I've seen this happen on other lakes in the past. While the water is low, fishing is really good and there are lots of fish harvested. Later though, when water levels return to normal, fish that remain is the system have a lot more territory and tend to scatter. They still bite when I find them, but finding them becomes the trick. That's how I felt about Bowstring last year, I could catch fish when I knew where they were, but they were in smaller schools and more widely scattered so I didn't always "know" where they were.
In 2018, I noticed that the average “keeper size” for most folks on Bowstring was smaller than usual. I took that as a sign that there was a gap and that there was a year class coming up to fill it. By this season, those fish will have reached a more desirable size and it’s possible that you’ll find some of them yourselves. We'll also see
I won’t go so far as to say everything’s fine, don’t worry about a thing. But I will say that bowstring is an unbelievable resilient fishery and it would not surprise me to see rebound again soon. Who knows, it could be a great season this year, we'll compare notes again as the season unfolds. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"If the weather prediction holds true, then there will be more than a little “Walleye Chop” on Lake Winnie tomorrow morning. That means there will be lots of traffic at the boat ramps on Cutfoot and Little Cutfoot Sioux from folks who plan to avoid the big waves.
That’s why we’re refreshing our annual invitation to you, come on over to Bowen’s and put your boat on and off the water here.
It’s not free, but for the price of our landing pass, you’ll have help at the ramp, easy access to parking and a fish cleaning station for packing up your catch. Best of all, you’ll have comradery; you’ll find folks at Bowen’s cheerful and happy to see you.
A few years back, Jeff Sundin came here on the opener and made a little video about being optimistic for the fishing opener. We can’t help but feel that same sense of ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Fishing Report May 10, 2019
"Rainbow minnows are king up here in the Ely area and as usual this time of year, supplies are limited. Once the water warms up a little, we expect our local trappers to start catching more, but for now we currently have a limited supply of nice big, fat and colorful rainbows. Anglers also use their fair share of shiners and they also work great. We are well stocked with golden shiners and they are in great shape! We even have some big golden shiners for the trophy walleye, pike and lake trout anglers. Last but not lease, leeches. We are very well stocked with leeches right now and don’t expect to run out anytime soon.
The only bait that we are expecting to have very few of to zero is the pike suckers. Suppliers of pike suckers have had issues growing them and they will not be ready for opener.
Anglers heading out for walleye’s should focus in and around current areas or shallow bays for walleye’s. Walleye’s have pretty much wrapped up all spawning last week and should now be looking to put on the feedbag. Smelt, Rainbow minnows, shiners and chubs have yet to finish up their spawning or even start spawning, so expect the hungry walleye’s to be up shallow, chasing them during low light periods.
We are expecting the big northerns to still be in the shallow bays also. They should be very active and hungry as water temps are in the low 40’s.
Panfish reports have been limited, mainly do to the up and down weather we have had as of late. Crappies have yet to move shallow and stay shallow, so anglers should look for the in deep water near the shallow muddy bays. Once we get two or three calm and sunny days, they will move up into the shallow bays.
Stream trout should be very active and aggressive as water temps are ideal for them. Shore anglers should do just as good as anglers fishing from a boat as trout will be shallow cruising the shoreline. Small spoons, jig and twister, spinners and a night crawler floated off the bottom or fished under a bobber are all excellent choices to catch trout on opening weekend.
Lake trout will likely be found shallow. Anglers fishing lakes with smelt, should look for lakers where the smelt are just now starting to wrap up their spawn. Anglers fishing for lakers in lake with ciscos, should also look for lakers in shallow water or mouths of shallow bays. Lakers will likely be chasing ciscos in shallow water or feeding on bugs on deeper mud flats." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
At a certain point, even the most mild-mannered bait shop manager reaches their limit of how many calls they can handle, especially after a full day of answering the same question over and over. It doesn't much matter whether the calls are from a tourist in Owatonna or from your favorite Cub Reporter; Staff #003, inquiries about shiner supplies have not been well received.
I get it, they're working their tails off trying to get ready for the opener and they're frazzled, the last thing they need is more phone calls. I’ve been in their position before and that commotion gets old fast! That's why I'm going to give these folks a break, at least from me.
With less than 2 days to go before the opener, I feel like we already know what we needed to know. There will be shiners available, they'll be in short supply and they'll be expensive. There’s really no point in making more phone calls to folks who really don’t have time to talk. So I’m offering up the last updates that came in on Wednesday and after this, we’ll call it good.
I’m not saying that I wouldn’t hear from bait shops who want to provide updates, but I’m not going to pester them for a few days. From here to the opener, lets focus on where to go and what to do instead.
Ethan Rogers, Northwoods Bait in Bemidji; “We’ve already had some spottails on hand and we got another batch delivered on Wednesday. We got in a shipment of emerald shiners too and some very nice fatheads, so we're feeling better about the weekend. We're not sure that the shiners will last through the entire weekend, but we're not going to ration them; they'll be sold on a first come-first served basis. We have plenty of golden shiners, rainbows and fatheads and plenty of leeches of all sizes. We're in pretty good shape overall with plenty of good bait on hand for the opener.” — Northwoods Bait, Bemidji 218-444-2248
John Ferris, Full Stringer Bait & Tackle, Longville MN; "We've already had about 100 calls today from anglers asking for shiners. If all the ones who said they were coming in early actually do it, our supply of spottails may not last through the day on Friday. They were starting to trickle into traps, but this cold weather is a setback and they probably won’t get running again until the weather warms up.
We won’t be selling shiners by the pints or quarts this weekend, only by the dozen. But anglers won’t be limited; they can buy as many dozens as they want.” — Full Stringer Bait & Tackle, Longville 218-363-2031
Bill Powell, Fred’s Bait, Deer River MN; “If most bait store owners had the amount of shiners we have on hand, they’d think they had a lot. But I don’t think we’ve got enough to make it through the weekend. The water is cold and they’re just not moving into the shallows yet. I’ve had the traps in the water for 4 or 5 days and so far, most of my time has bent spent cleaning out the weeds and debris; I wonder why I even bothered putting them in.
I’ve been on the water every day since I found open water and have gathered up some nice stuff, but without a lot of shiners. But when the water is cold, good fatheads worked slowly are nothing to scoff at.” Fred’s Bait, Deer River MN, 218-246-8710
I agree with Bill, in fact if I can find nice size fatheads, I’ll skip right past the shiner tanks and grab them instead.
Yesterday, Kent Keeler's report echoed Powel's sentiment; “It’s more important to have the right size than it is to have a particular species of minnow. Minnows from 3 to 4 inches are good and the closer to 4 the better.” I agree with Kent too, if we choose a good lake and go to the right spot, we’re all gonna catch fish, even if we don’t have the coveted spottails. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
We’ve still got a little work to do, but the groceries are in, the liquor store is getting stocked today and we’re keeping an eye open for the rest of our live bait deliveries too.
We’re expecting the fishing opener to be fairly typical, but the water temperatures may be a little bit colder than average. Most walleyes are already finished spawning, but there may still be a few in the finishing stages of their run.
Anglers should expect most of the walleyes to ..." Read More >> KAB Outdoors Report May 8, 2019
Personally, fretting about the shiner supply is hardly worth the hassle because I already know that supplies of alternative minnows like fatheads and rainbows are good this spring. As long as I can get any minnow in the 3 to 4 inch range, I’ll feel confident that I can catch fish, no matter what type of minnow it is. This is especially true during the opening week of fishing because this is the period when fish are hungry and baitfish supplies are close to the lowest levels of the year.
I know too that many of you don’t share my faith in alternatives; for you it’s gotta be shiners or nothing. I don't blame you, they are a great choice, so that’s why I’ve spent the past couple of days asking bait shop owners the perennial question; “how is your supply of Spottail Shiners stacking up for the fishing opener?”
The range of answers was surprising, anything from “There ain’t gonna be no (expletive deleted) shiners” to “We’re fully stocked and ready to rock”. These answers, along with every reply in between reminded me of talking with any large group of fishermen at the end of a long fishing trip; some folks caught ‘em and some folks didn’t.
Generally speaking, most of the bait shop owners and managers I’ve talked with already have “at least some” shiners coming in for the opener. Most have been hopeful that the supply of shiners will improve over the next few days, but there weren’t a lot who expected to have as many shiners as they want.
In most cases, bait shop owners depend on a handful of minnow trappers to keep the supply chain going. Most shops have open ended orders, requesting that their “bait guy” get them as many as possible. As of Tuesday, not many could pin down their volume because the actual supply of minnows hadn’t arrived at the stores yet.
Tutt’s Bait & Tackle in Garrison, MN is expecting their first delivery of shiners today; “we’ll know a lot more about our supply when we see what comes in on Wednesday”, they said.
Ethan Rogers at Northwoods Bait in Bemidji was waiting to hear from his “bait guy” when we talked. Rogers; “We’ve already got some spottails on hand and we have plenty of golden shiners, rainbows and fatheads too. We’re hopeful that he (our bait guy) does come through with a big load of shiners, but no matter what, we definitely have good bait on hand for the opener.”
The Pokegama Lake Store near Grand Rapids expects the delivery of “some” shiners today. I didn’t get to speak with the owner, but employees at the store believed that the supply won’t last through the weekend unless they ration their supply. The current plan is to limit each angler to a couple of dozen shiners. That plan may be subject to change, we’ll let you know.
Andy Walls, 1000 Lakes Sporting Goods, Grand Rapids wrote; “Bait is looking pretty good for opener. Fatheads and shiners both will be available and paired with 1/16 or 1/8 ounce jig, the bite should be lining up pretty well for most anglers. We will have leeches and crawlers available too and as another option, jigs and plastics.
If the weather doesn't hold, we always have good gear and clothing to help keep everyone on the water a little bit longer! Have a great opener!”
Delaney’s Sporting Goods, Park Rapids wrote; “Bait is tough to get but we should be fully stocked with both spottails and golden shiners which are the (angler) preferred bait this time of year. We will also have a sucker minnows, rainbows, fatheads, and crappie minnows, as well as leeches and crawlers. We’re expecting that our supplies will be adequate to last through the entire opening weekend.”
At Upper Red Lake, Chad Benson co-owner at Mort’s Dock says; “The shiners have started to run, but they’re not in full swing yet. We’ve got a trickle moving into the traps right now and our tanks at the resort are stocked, so we’re sure that we’ll have plenty of spottails to last through the weekend. By next week, the shiner run will hit full stride and we’ll be in great shape.”
Okay, so you can see that if you want them, you’ll be able to find shiners for the weekend. Typically, I only update the fishing reports in the morning, but since there will be more reports coming in throughout the day, I’ll post new updates as they become available.
In the meantime, I could use a little help. If you’ve been in touch with your favorite bait shop and are willing to share some facts about their bait supplies, I will send you a “thank you” in the form of some Lindy Live Bait Jigs right out of my own personal stash. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Steve, this is a question that I still struggle with when I rig my own boats. That's because a big part of my answer to you depends on your budget. If I assume that you have an unlimited budget, then I’d answer the question one way. But if you’re like me and you’re watching every nickel that goes into getting a boat from the dealer to the lake, then there’s a second answer.
AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) Batteries are reported to hold their charge better than typical wet cell batteries do. For folks who don’t fish every week, this could be important. Let’s say for example that you keep your boat at the lake, maybe on your dock, on a lift. It would be really nice to know that when you get in, there’s a good solid charge on your batteries. Under circumstances like these, the extra expense of an AGM type battery could be well worth it to you.
The brand name of AGM that pops into everyone’s head is the Optima and for marine use, the “Blue Top” model. I have 2 of these that were original equipment in my 2016 Lund 208 Pro V and they are still taking a full charge. These 2 AGM batteries are doing all of the heavy lifting in that boat. They run all of the electronics and also serve as the starting power for the engine; that’s why they’re important and worth the extra expense to me.
On a side note, nobody in the industry has asserted that these batteries hold up better over the winter. Anecdotally though, mine have and the fact that they’re still good today, entering into their 3rd season has made a big impression on me.
Cabela’s offers some AGM type marine batteries too and they provide a better warranty, their AGM 24 is covered for 2 years vs. 1 year on the Optima. I don’t have personal experience with them, but if I was looking for new batteries today, I’d check them out.
The rub for me is that my Pro V has 5 batteries on board and I’m not willing to shell out the extra cash to run my trolling motors on the superior, but more expensive AGM batteries.
When you consider how efficient trolling motors have become, there’s no real argument for using the AGMs. The way I look at it, if my 112 pound thrust MinnKota runs hard 10 to 12 hours every single day using “ordinary” lead-acid batteries. Then most folks can count on the same batteries for more routine fishing scenarios.
For me, the 3 batteries I need for the 36 volt trolling motor system are easily obtained at Walmart. Their Everstart Marine Batteries have served me well, in fact I just bought some new ones there and they cost $81.67 each. These batteries have performed as well or better than any of the other brands I’ve tried.
The caveat is that you have to pay attention to them; they need to be fully charged every time you use your boat. They need to be disconnected and take inside for the winter, I’ve learned the hard way that if I leave them in the boat over winter, there’s a good chance that they will discharge and freeze before spring arrives.
No matter which way you go, I highly recommend using an on-board charging system. I always have MinnKota’s Digital On-Board Chargers installed in every boat I rig up. There’s nothing more convenient, just plug in one extension cord and tomorrow every battery is fully charged up. I can’t even guess at how much time that’s saved me over the years, but it’s been plenty!
So for me, charging batteries daily and storing over winter is no problem. That means I can use the standard batteries without giving up much in terms of day to day performance. If my boat was stored in a remote location, of keeping up with daily maintance was difficult, I'd have to re-think my requirements.
You’ll have to make the judgement for yourself, but if your boat spends a lot of time unattended or if keeping the batteries charged up daily is problematic, then you probably need the AGM type batteries. So too is the case if those batteries are expected to perform critical tasks or if your system using them to run more devices than just the trolling motor.
If you’re able to stay on top of the daily maintenance and the batteries are used only for delivering power to your trolling motor, then I suggest the less expensive Everstart batteries, they will perform just fine.
Who suggested the lake? She did. Who caught the first fish? She did. Who caught the biggest, the most, the prettiest? She did and all I have to say is that’s what made Sunday the perfect first day on the lake day for me.
I can’t say that the conditions were perfect, the air temperature was about 50 degrees, the water temperature was 46 degrees and the strong north wind was churning whitecaps on the lake. But even under those circumstances the fish were hungry and whenever I could stay with them, they struck.
The ice had been off the lake for a couple of weeks already, so we missed out on any sort of “post ice-out migration” into shallow water. On Sunday, the fish didn’t show any interest in shallow water. They were located in about 18 feet of water, on a sharp breakline adjacent to the lakes deepest water.
They showed a definite preference for structure, if we moved onto the shallow flat, the screen of my Humminbird showed no fish. The same thing happened if I moved deeper, over the center of the mid-lake basin; my screen showed no fish. As long as I straddled the breakline, we encountered schools of fish.
Every school of fish had a slightly different attitude, some were located high in the water column; 6 to 8 feet above the bottom. Other schools of fish hugged tighter to the bottom and there were typically less than 2 feet above it. The variations in depth didn’t seem to impact their feeding behavior though, as long as we knew where they were and kept our lures close to them, they bit.
Because of the variations in depth, I opted not to rig up slip floats this time. Instead, we started by tight lining 1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs tipped with small fatheads. That vertical presentation worked fine as long as I could stay on top of the fish, but the whitecaps made hovering over them problematic.
At times, I was able to use the spot-lock feature to hold us as close at it could and then fan casted our jigs; that worked a little bit too. Still, the fish always seemed to disappear after we got a strike or two.
Finally, I moved the boat upwind to the northern edge of the hole and then drifted back along the edge of the breakline. We cast out our jigs and hopped them along horizontally whenever I spotted fish on the graph; one of us got a strike.
I never did get it straight in my head why staying on top of the fish was so tricky. Was it that the fish were flighty and constantly on the move? Or was it that I was a little out of practice and didn’t get a good handle on my boat control?
I could have figured that out if I’d remembered to bring a marker buoy. Then I could have dropped it into the water when I found fish and held steady to see how long they stuck around. Like Susan said; “Note to self, remember marker buoy.” Don’t worry sweetie, I already went out this morning and got a new one, it’s in there right now!
Some of you are going to arrive in the area ahead of the walleye opener next Saturday. If you decide to take a swing at panfish this week, I think I think the daytime strategy is to look at the deep water first. If you don’t find suspended fish near the mid-lake basin, then start checking shallower water.
During the evening, crappies will make feeding runs along the shoreline breaks too. This is the time of year when I start hearing from folks who are at the cabin, standing on the dock and catching crappies as the sun goes down. That’s what I would do too, if I had a cabin on a good crappie lake; dock fishing is a blast! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
We’re watching for signs of an early minnow run into the shallows, but so far we’ve been in the only living things in the water. Until today, it’s been wet and grey outside and that doesn’t get them moving very well. There are shiner traps showing up around the shoreline today and there’s been some sunshine too, maybe that will get the bait supply flowing.
Early this week Chad visited the DNR crew up at Little Cutfoot to see the walleye traps. It was an impressive sight, there were lots of fish in the net and a lot of them were good looking eater size fish. There were some big ones too, but it looks like our guests should have a good chance at getting some eaters this spring.
Since the ice went out, the lake water has been moderately clear. It doesn’t have that swimming pool clean look that it sometimes has had. The water levels are high right now too, so the extra runoff from smaller feeder streams is helping add some color also.
From what we can see, conditions should be good for the fishing opener.
After the past couple months of cleaning cabins, fixing docks and sprucing up the grounds, we’re looking forward to it. We plan to have some fun with everybody as they begin checking into the resort next week.
We have a few notes to share about the resort. We’ve brought back the bar; it’s already installed, so we’ll have tap beer available in the lodge again this season. We’re running a couple of specials too and we’d sure like you to help us spread the word.
May 25 thru 31, 2019 Memorial Week Special – All active and retired military will receive 15% off of any rental.
July 13 thru 19, 2019 Law Enforcement Appreciation Week - All active and retired Law Enforcement will receive 15% off of any rental.
The opener is approaching fast, we’ll get you updates on lake conditions and fishing reports as they become available. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
Q) Todd Olson wrote; really enjoy your site and fishing information you share - GOOD STUFF!! I would like to try wiggle worming when my dad & I come to the lake in June. What rod(s) do you and John Thelen suggest for wiggle worming?
Rereading one of your past articles, you had suggested TFO's model number GTS DSS 632-1. Any info on rod selection would be much appreciated.
A) Todd, choosing a great rod for wiggle worming is actually really easy, but there are a few key features that I insist on when I’m shopping for new ones.
To begin with, I use 1/16 ounce jigs for Wiggle Worming almost exclusively and I have every reel spooled up with 4 pound test line. Occasionally, I will use heavier jigs, but rarely use heavier line.
That’s why I like light action rods that range between 6’ 6” and 7’ long. I make sure that they are rated for 4 pound test monofilament line and support lure weights ranging from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce. Physical weight is important too, I know that my customers will be wiggling those worms for hours at a time and I want them to be comfortable.
Not only will a lighter rod be more comfortable to use, it will also be more “sensitive”. In my formative years, Gary Loomis taught me that light weight and sensitivity go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. The problem is that the lighter and more sensitive a rod is, the more expensive they tend to be.
You can spend a lot of money on fishing rods if you want to; that’s what I used to do. But a while back, I started seeing really good rods coming onto the market and many of them were much less expensive than the ones I was buying. That’s when I set a new rule for myself; I vowed I would never spend more than $150 for a fishing rod. For 10 years or more, I was able to find great rods, like the TFO’s you referenced and most of the time I found them in the $99 to $129 price range.
Last year, I broke my rule one time by buying an expensive custom rod; I was disappointed. I unpacked my brand new $300 rod, tipped my jig with a minnow and casted it into the water. I got a strike, then I set the hook, and then the rod broke. It doesn’t matter what rod that was, I’m just saying that the price doesn’t necessarily guarantee performance.
That’s why you’ll see that most of my suggestions are rods that fall within my self-imposed price range. You may feel differently and if you want to spend a little extra, that’s okay; use the formula I outlined and you’ll find tons of offerings.
TFO rods always make me happy, I still have a couple of those that you referenced, that have survived the rigors of guiding and I still love them. They’re not available these days, but TFO offers a new model that you would like. The TFG PSS 702-1 is a 7 foot, light action rod that fishes 4 to 8 pound test line and supports 1/16 to ¼ ounce lures for $99.95.
St. Croix’s Eyecon Series Rods are an affordable option too; check out their Eyecon ECS70LF. This is also a 7 foot, light action rod that fishes 4 to 8 pound test line and supports 1/16 to ¼ ounce lures for $129.95. They classify this as a “finesse rod” and when you think of it, that’s what Wiggle Worming is.
13 Fishing offers some rod models that I’ve really liked as well. They discontinued my all-time favorite and their current lineup only offers one rod, the Muse Gold - MGS63ML that’s close to filling the bill. I wouldn’t necessarily mention this one; except for the fact that this rod is an exceptionally good jig and minnow rod and it happens to work fine for wiggle worming too. Its bit shorter than I prefer, but at 6’ 3”, it is serviceable and it is super light weight. In my opinion, everybody should take a close look at this one.
The list price is $175 but I find that these are usually discounted somewhere. Last summer I was able to buy 4 of them at $129 each, well within my self-imposed price limit.
The 3 rod models that I’ve listed here represent the inventory you’d find in my boat right now. But I’m sure that there are other fabulous offerings out there. If I was thinking about expanding my horizons into more brand names, I’d walk into the tackle shop and begin looking for other brands that offer similar models and in the right price range.
I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention that my good friend and nephew Chris Andresen makes custom rods. In fact he just made this brand new one for the Hippie Chick and she’s been chomping at the bit for a chance to use it.
Custom rods can be a good choice because they allow you design a tool that created specifically to perform certain duties. They can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. The price is controlled by the blank and components that you choose to have the rod built with.
If you’re the type of person who wants absolute precision, then I’d recommend getting in touch and we can ask for his thoughts about designing one rod to your own exact specifications.
Hopefully, these ideas give you a starting point, but for anybody who wants to drill deeper into the subject, shoot me an email with any follow up questions. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL • Related Articles >> Wiggle Worming 101 • Live Bait Jigs For Walleye • Video Wiggle Worming Walleye Fish ED
One really encouraging signal was the number of “keeper size” fish we saw at the DNR walleye egg harvest this spring. There were lots of fish in the 13 to 17 inch range in the trap and while there were lots of larger fish too, it appeared that ratio of small fish to large ones has increased.
Encouraging us to exercise caution, DNR large Lake Specialist Gerry Albert reminds that it isn’t practical to form an opinion based on a one time sighting at the traps. Still, we’ve been there numerous times over the years and anecdotally, the fish we saw there this spring left us itching to ..." Read >> Lake Winnibigoshish Cutfoot Sioux 2019 Fishing Season Outlook May 2, 2019
In preparation, it’s time to share the fishing outlook the 2019 fishing season on Kabetogama.
If there was ever a time to use the term “typical ice-out”, it would be now. The median ice-out date for Kabetogama is April 29th and according to the MN DNR Official ice-out map, "KAB" joined the list of ice-free lakes on, you guessed it, April 29, 2019.
Walleye spawning for the most part will be wrapped up before the opener and typical migrations will be occurring. Anglers should expect to find fish in ..." Read More >> Lake Kabetogama 2019 Fishing Season Outlook
Q) Jerry Kray wrote; “Hi Jeff. I was hoping to visit the walleye run at Cutfoot this spring so I've been checking your reports. On Tuesday, I followed the link from your page and read Bowen’s Walleye Stripping at Cutfoot report about already being all wrapped up.
From watching your reports, I saw there were other egg harvests going around the state over a week ago. I wonder why the operation at Cutfoot started so late and ended so soon this year. What are your thoughts?"
A) Jerry, there’s no doubt that this year’s scheduling of the walleye egg harvest at Cutfoot was a departure from the norm. The overriding concern that drove the decision making process was making sure that there was plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water. The reasoning behind that concern and its influence on this year’s scheduling relates to a combination of factors including fish biology, weather and public perception.
Recall the circumstances surrounding the egg harvest in spring of 2018. The ice was really late going out; some folks were even speculating whether Winnibigoshish would be free of ice for the May 12 fishing opener. It was May 2nd by the time the First River and Little Cutfoot were completely ice free and by now, walleyes were primed and ready to go into full-scale spawning mode, I mean they were hot to trot.
By May 4, Thursday afternoon, I watched DNR Fisheries Staff setting up the trap gear at Little Cutfoot Sioux. I fiddled around the area for a couple of hours and then drove home. By the time I got there, folks were already posting pictures of walleyes filling up the trap. The fish were in such a hurry to spawn that there was no stopping them.
That’s right, the trap nets were only set on Thursday, but the fish were lined up and waiting to get in. DNR Fisheries Staff harvested 300 quarts of eggs on Friday, racked up another 360 quart harvest on Saturday and now have only about …” Read More >> Archived Fishing Report May 6, 2018.
While all of that was going on, the combination of late ice-out and calm weather were slowing down the replenishing of oxygen levels in the small lake. With all of those fish moving in so fast, they were becoming stressed out by a shortage of oxygen.
For DNR Fisheries Staff, making sure that oxygen levels were good became the #1 priority this 2019 season. So despite Little Cutfoot being ice free on April 24, 2019, the trap net wasn’t even placed into the water until Sunday April 28, giving the water 4 days to develop adequate oxygen reserves.
During that time, there was a risk of missing the spawning run, or at least missing enough of it to result in not gathering the full quota of eggs. That’s why some of the other DNR egg harvest stations around the state chipped in and gathered “extra” eggs as a contingency against any shortfall at the Cutfoot operation.
By the time I arrived on the scene last Monday morning, the re-calculated quota for 2019 was down to less than 100 quarts. The trap contained upwards of a couple thousand walleyes and they were beyond ready for action. All it took was a single day for DNR Fisheries to gather the quota and pull the trap out of the water.
That was sort of a long answer to a short question Jerry, but believe it or not, I actually spared you from re-hashing a lot of information. For those of you who’d like to learn more, here are some links to related articles about the walleye egg harvest, past and present. Walleye Egg Harvest Cutfoot Sioux April 2017 • Walleye Egg Harvest Report May 6, 2019 • Walleye Kill Linked To Low Oxygen Levels • — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
There have been a lot of calls and emails lately from readers asking for one sort of advice or another. I’m doing my best to keep up and at the same time, prioritize the list so that I get to the really pressing issues first.
Since the “busy season” is in full swing, my office time is really limited. So if you’ve dropped me a line and haven’t received a reply, I apologize, I will get the stack cleared up eventually, so please bear with me.
I’m usually checking messages during the wee hours of early morning, so my schedule tends to favor emails rather than phone calls. Also, I do offer The Early Bird Insider’s News List, an “opt-in” email list that I routinely use for announcing last minute openings, special announcement and fishing events.
One final thought, A lot of fishing questions that I receive are about lakes and situations that I have already written about. The fishing archives are jam packed with information about the specific lakes and situations that many have been asking about.
So if you want a jump start on your next fishing trip, go to Fishing Report Archives, select the month that you plan to fish and peruse the past reports. I promise that you will find the information you’re looking for, plus a lot more. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL