Sunday, March 22, 2015

3/21/15 Fishing Memoirs

To say that being an avid fisherman in Minnesota requires patience may be a bit of an understatement. Living in the land of 10,000 lakes certainly has its benefits, but our seasonal patterns can make things challenging to say the least. Ironically some of the best fishing occurs when getting on the water is the most challenging.

Exhibit A:
Spring fishing in MN.
After 60-70 deg temperatures a week ago, many of our southern and western lakes have lost most of their vehicle travel potential. Cracks and ridges on many of the bigger lakes become impassable and navigation in general becomes less than ideal. Yet hundreds of fisherman push on. Yearning to catch some of the biggest fish of the year via tip ups on Lake Of The Woods, giant crappie on Red, or Jumbo perch on Lake Winni or Leech Lake.  The persistence will be rewarded for those who do their homework.

We forget that along with more than 10,000 lakes we also have some tremendous river fishing. Rivers are opening with lightening speed across the state, and border water rivers remain open to fishing. The Red River, Rainy River, and Mississippi River all provide tremendous opportunities this time of year. In pool 4 of the Mississippi, the opportunity is available 24/7, 12 months a year. Catching our first open water fish in Minnesota after grueling months of sub zero temperatures is nothing less a revitalizing breath of fresh air.

Because of the seasonal habits of a walleye, this time of year has them hungry and fattening up for the spawn that is soon to come. The biggest fish of the entire season are usually caught this time of the year. As with ice fishing, usually easier said than done.

Access to a boat, or at least one that that is not winterized this time of year, is about as easy as finding a launch site without a 30 minute waiting line. Not very common. And if you are that lucky, a few hours travel to get there may be in order. The rivers themselves usually are not the most gracious of hosts this time of year. Their rising muddy waters, increased flows, and constant debris fields can make for difficult fishing conditions. Yet anglers emerge, hook sets occur, and fish of a lifetime are photographed and released.

The Report:

Mississippi River  

Headed back down to the Mississippi River Pool 2 Saturday with good friend and fellow teacher Jeremiah Piepkorn, and one of his friends from New Zealand, Dean Kelley.
The report from the week was that the flow had increased from 9 days prior and the water had dirtied. How much was yet to be seen. A steady back flow (current) at the Hidden Valley boat ramp dictated that indeed the flow was up. Water was somewhat colored, but the fact that I could still see my boots while wading out to the boat was a promising sign of things to come.

First we headed south to the area that was so good to us the previous week. Upon arrival, there were several boats already making the 1/4 mile drift throughout the area. No rods bending, No nets moving, and definitely no flashes flashing.  Not the story I had sold to my team of fishing partners on the way down. As most do, we dug into the tackle boxes, then deeper, and deeper until the white flag came out and with tails tucked we ventured north to the Dam. Being that this would only be my second time on the river here, there was zero confidence in being able to find a spot up there that would salvage the day.
At the dam, boats were scattered. Some in the current and some out of it. All were sheltered nicely from the wind and the giant concrete wall blocking the NW wind. We decided to start up at the lock and make our way back toward the current.
By no means do I consider myself to be a river rat, but I've fished enough rivers and learned enough to know that current seams are where the action is at. It's a fine line of precision fishing for sure. It was here that we found our spot.
Below the dam we found a slack water area below the lock and to the west of a sand bar / island. An obvious fishing spot that was a stopping grounds for over a dozen anglers. A few fish were boated sporadically, but no single boat more than the next. Fellow angler Tim (willow cat) Chick taught me years ago the importance of using the right size weight in the river. Allowing the current to sweep your offering at just the right speed is the absolute most important element of river fishing once you've located them. Today, it was a 1/8th oz Gold jig tipped with a rainbow minnow. With the boat being held just inside the current seam, the presentation was to pitch the jig out into the river current and allow the jig to sweep down current and below the boat while maintaining a tight line. The first decent fish of the day was caught at about 2pm. This technique yielded over 20 some fish in just a few hours. Many fish in the 20 inch class with a couple close to 24. No giants, but tons of fun NO DOUBT.
It really is about getting bit this time of year. Mother Nature has a tendency to make it challenging on us, but with common sense and a little intestinal fortitude, the die hard anglers of spring will be rewarded.

Lake of the Woods
Pike fisherman are having success. Tip up fishing with Big Tooth Tackle quick strike rigs are icing several fish in the 38-44 inch range. Lake access remains stable this week with falling temps but main lake ridges and cracks need to be traversed with extreme caution. Look for the shallow bays with feeder creeks to continue to get better into last ice.
Ben Olson with an impressive LOTW Pike caught this week

Rainy River
Anglers are getting small boats onto the river that can be pulled over shore ice. Clementson Resort is reporting that the County may clear the Birchdale access on Monday, allowing for bigger boat travel. Anglers who have made it out are reporting a good bite, several keepable fish, and some bigger fish, but not the numbers that will show up soon. With the lack of snow and runoff this year, the Rainy bite should be a good one and last the entire season.
Birchdale Access Photo via

Toby Kvalevog is a long time fishing guide and tournament angler in MN. For more information about booking a guided fishing trip with Toby or another member or the LOA Pro Team, visit Leisure Outdoor Adventures website or call 855-LOA HOOK.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Early open water opportunities are here now and walleyes are biting.


River fishing is open and the walleye are biting. The action should continue to get better over the next several weeks. The Mississippi river to the south and Rainy river to the north are VERY popular stops. Both rivers have OPEN walleye fishing seasons right now. The Mississippi river below the St. Croix doesn't close to walleye fishing as its because its considered "Border Waters", where all of our inland lakes are currently closed. This makes for fantastic fishing as the water warms. With our early warm up and lack of snow, these rivers will open early and should stay at moderate to low flow, which should result in an extended spring fishing season unless mother nature drops a bunch of precipitation on us.

I just made a run south over the weekend while making stops on Pool 2 and 5, as well as checking out the various accesses on Pool 4. The water temps were 34-37 degrees and the fish cooperated but were definitely in a neutral mood for most of the weekend. The best bite for sure happened Friday morning when I made a stop on Pool 2, very near downtown St Paul. Here, I met up with Brian Berle of Whitecap Splash Guards, and good friend and master angler Brian Morris. Brian and Brian both know their way around the river within the BIG CITY limits.The report was good from earlier in the week and the excitement levels were through the roof. I couldn't wait to get on the water and and get my first opportunity to get a hook set in Lund.  Brian's recap of the day pretty much NAILS it!

Brian Morris -

The sights and smells of spring are best experienced next to or on a river, preferably a river with pre-spawn walleyes occupying the areas near our jigs.  Always amazing to me is the quality of fish located in such an urban environment, success story for catch and release.  After learning that Toby was making the trip out of the North woods, and into the concrete jungle for his first March experience on this stretch of river, I had that honored feeling of being there with him.  The man at the tiller I had not met before, but was equally qualified on this pool as myself.  I knew that before catching the first fish, I knew that by watching his actions while graphing spots I have caught giants on in the past, while making the run to where we both knew it was going to happen.  Let us just say the team had been assembled in last minute fashion, but confidence was high.  Arriving at the area where fish are staging up and seeing them on the electronics, it was crystal clear they were in a good mood.  Many fish were called out before actually eating our jigs.  We had a very respectable average size fish for the day with many 23-24” walleyes.  Brian Berle put himself on a classic 27” pre-spawn beauty, after I went back to back on 5 pounders, and Toby was on a steady grind of 24-26” fish, all in the first 2 hours.  I have fished this stretch of river for many years. It is one of those highly volatile areas involving swift current, high water, excessive debris and city style angling pressure.  Some years by the time we can get a boat in, the river is 24 hours from blowing its banks and is actually quite dangerous.  Thankfully, we do not have that situation this year and the fishing was nice and relaxing.  Always a great day to meet a new friend, share the great river with an old friend and catch a pile of hard hitting/strong river walleye.  Starting the season on a perfect scenario and now it’s time to ride the madness of Spring addictions!!

 Mississippi River Pool 2 and 5a  Fishing Report:

Jigs and fathead minnows produced fish throughout the river system . Dragging or holding jigs just off the bottom while drifting with the current at .7mph worked well with bright colors. With clear water conditions and low flow, keeping the jigs away from the boat boosted our success. 1/8th oz jigs in 13-17ft worked well on Pool 2, while 1/4 oz seemed to be better in pool 5a where fish were scattered in depths between 22-25ft on the edges of the River Channel outside the Wing Dams.

Snap jigging up river provided action when the bite slowed. 3/8ths oz Ken Katch Long Shank jig with an extra wide gap allows for better hook ups
when snap jigging. The longer shank will let you hook your bait out the gill and up through the       belly pinning the minnow on the jig with plenty of barb left out the back. Without a doubt, one of the biggest factors in finding fish on the rivers this year will be finding fresh fish that aren't pressured. Popular areas below the dams are obvious fish spots that hold fish, but these are also the areas that draw the most pressure. Try fishing at low light or at night to get a leg up on all of the competition. With the clear waters, this will continue to be a fantastic time to be on the water. 

Mississippi Pool 4 and Lake Pepin

Pool 4 is by far the busiest of the open water pools. As of today, there were several accesses open in this pool. Colvill Park and Everts Resort landings are open. Colvill Park on the South End of Redwing has two accesses and lots of parking.
Fishing reports were that fishing during the daylight hours was pretty slow over the weekend. Lots of boats on the water. Those who stayed late (after dark) had the best luck. Bigger fish are being caught on sand and clam beds after dark with a dragging jig being the best technique.

Click on the above link for the daily fishing and access report from Clementson Resort.

The river is currently open 8 miles from Birchdale access. In two-three days we will start to see smaller boats being launched over the shore ice. Hopefully in a week or two the counties will have some of the accesses cleared for larger boats.
-Clemenetson Resort

Spring river fishing is a great opportunity to get on the water for some world class walleye fishing. Some of the biggest walleyes of the year will be caught during these times. The big girls really put the feedbag on before spawn. It's very important that we use great care when handling these special fish. Make sure to leave the fish in the water as much as possible. Have your camera ready before bringing the fish out of the water. 
By all means take a few home for dinner if allowed by law, but be selective please.

Good Luck and Be Safe and Patient on the water.