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.

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