they take their walleye fishing significantly right here as you drive into Baudette, Minnesota. There sits an enormous statue of a walleye. A layer of snow covers the highest of the walleye as a result of it’s winter. Behind it, blanketed in ice, is the Wet River which flows into Lake of the Woods the place ice fishing is famous. Lake of the Woods is renown for having among the finest ice fishing within the Midwest.
It’s late January and 4 of us are sitting in an ice home on Lake of the Woods.
It’s a grey day with maybe the promise of snow. Winds drift the sunshine snow throughout the ice. Apart from the wind there doesn’t appear to be a lot sound. As you look outdoors the expanse of ice disappears into the horizon the place some many miles later Lake of the Woods reaches Canada. Lake of the Woods straddles the USA border with Minnesota to the south and Canada with Ontario to the north. We’re sitting on nearly three ft of ice and fishing in about twenty eight ft of water.
Mike Hallas of Woodbury, Gerry Fuzzey of Eden Prairie and Damien Aguilar of Minnetonka all calling Minnesota dwelling and I from Hudson, Wisconsin, drove throughout the frozen land of Minnesota. We headed via Baudette persevering with to Arnesen’s Rocky Level Resort on the southern finish of the lake. We’re staying at a cabin on the resort and now, the following morning, are bumping throughout the ice on Lake of the Woods in a bombardier which takes us to our ice home.
The bombardier is a truck mounted on a monitor, not in contrast to that of a tank, which hauls fishermen and their gear to their ice homes on the lake. Ice homes are easy, rustic wooden huts with a propane heater, folding chairs and holes within the ground the place the ice has been drilled out making ice holes which we drop our traces via.
Mild was beginning to push the night time away as we bought to our ice home.
Jackets are held on nails on the aspect of the ice home as we every rigged two ice rods to fish with. We begin one rig with an ice jig and the opposite a easy hook and cut up shot sinker underneath a slip bobber. Inside minutes the primary slip bobber begins to sink underneath the water. We catch a few walleyes and sauger too small to maintain, however it’s a begin.
As rustic as our ice home is it’s heat and cozy as we sit in simply shirt sleeves. I’ve fished Lake of the Woods when temperatures dipped to twenty levels under zero and colder and have been completely snug in a light-weight shirt whereas fishing in an ice home. One of many good issues about fishing with a resort like Arnesen’s is regardless of how chilly it will get you stroll from a heated cabin to a heated bombardier to a heated ice home. It’s a very snug solution to ice fish.
The fish we’re focusing on are walleye and its cousin the sauger.
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Each fish are enjoyable to catch and nice to eat. Yearly we decide up just a few yellow perch. These perch are massive, working as much as a foot in size, and as one other cousin to the walleye additionally good tasting and a welcome addition to the fish bucket. The opposite fish we see most frequently caught through the winter are eelpout, a contemporary water cod, and the tullibee each of that are thought of a nuisance fish and are launched again down the ice gap. No matter their lowly standing they each put up an ideal battle on gentle deal with and are enjoyable to catch.
Damien pulls up on his gentle ice rod and it’s bowed over. The rod begins to plunge as he cranks on the spinning reel. “It’s a good fish,” he tells us. Slightly pleasure goes a great distance in an ice home and we’re all watching him. I’m on my knees subsequent to the ice gap, ready to see the fish. I see it cross beneath the ice gap and yell that it appears like a keeper walleye. A minute later, Damien is main the fish via the ice gap and because the head splashes on the floor of the water, I attain over and seize it, pulling it out of the outlet and dropping it on the ground.
Damien scoops it up, pulls out the hook and slaps it up in opposition to a ruler on the aspect of the ice home. It’s a seventeen-inch walleye and is the primary fish to enter the bucket. We’re on our solution to our finish of the journey barbeque.
Lake of the Woods has very beneficiant limits.
If everybody in your group catches a restrict of fish, a few of these fish should be eaten that night time so you’ll be able to go fishing the following day. As tasty as walleye and sauger are that is definitely a nice downside to have.
An hour later Mike yells he has a fish after which yells it’s a massive fish. The fish takes off and is pulling line off the reel because the drag grudgingly offers out line. Mike stops the fish and turns it, getting it arising towards the ice gap when the fish runs off once more. This seesaw battle goes on for just a few moments though Mike continues to realize again extra line than he’s dropping.
This time Damien is kneeling subsequent to Mike to assist him land his fish. The fish fills up the ice gap and Damien grabs the fish. It’s massive walleye and after we measure it we discover it’s twenty inches lengthy. After a fast picture it’s slid again into the ice gap and disappears underneath the ice. Mike has the large fish and on the finish of our fishing journey the following day Mike’s fish remains to be massive fish.
On this present day we’re catching most of our fish on hooks and sinkers underneath a slip bobber so we pull out the ice rods with jigs, switching each rods over to slide bobbers.
Though the ice jigs haven’t labored this present day there have been days after we caught plenty of fish with ice jigs so it’s all the time worthwhile beginning the day with each baits. Though I’ve a deal with field filled with ice jigs there are a handful of jigs which appear to all the time work effectively and are the necessities to anybody fishing Lake of the Woods.
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The outdated standby Swedish Pimple has been round for over half a century and remains to be a dependable ice jig and must be in any Lake of the Woods ice fisherman’s deal with field.
My different favorites are the Buckshot Spoon by Northland and the Jigging Shad Rap and Jigging Rap by Rapala.
1 / 4-ounce jig is the appropriate measurement, and colour could make a distinction on Lake of the Woods. Gold is all the time my first selection adopted by something with chartreuse. Minnows must be used on all of the jigs. Some Lake of the Woods ice fishermen simply use the minnow head.
Let the jig drop and hit backside, then raise it six or eight inches.
Jig it up and down for a second or two earlier than dropping it again to the underside once more. Typically because the bait hit’s the underside it sends up a spot of sand or silt. This attracts recreation fish as they take that as an indication of lively feeding bait.
The slip bobber is a straightforward rig.
I exploit a measurement six or eight hook with a small cut up shot about six inches from the underside. The cut up shot must be heavy sufficient to get and preserve the bait close to the underside. There are any variety of slip bobbers which work effectively however the one I want is the quantity 4 Stealth float by Thill.
The important thing to successfully utilizing a minnow underneath a slip bobber is retaining the minnow close to the underside. Walleyes, sauger and perch feed on the underside at Lake of the Woods. I usually rig my slip bobber line with the minnow being from two to 6 inches from the underside. It’s the best depth.
It’s mid afternoon.
The 4 of us are catching fish—some go into the fish bucket and people too small are launched again via the ice gap. My float drifts throughout the floor of the ice gap and begins to descend underneath the water. Reaching for my ice rod I maintain it, watching the bobber slowly drop additional down the ice gap. As soon as it reaches a couple of foot under the water I pull as much as set the hook. My ice rod is bent in half because the fish takes off. The fish retains attempting to run as I’m cranking on the spinning rod and I really feel it slowly start to rise via the water. The fish fills the ice gap as I drag it out of the water, flipping it on the ground of the ice home.
It’s a fifteen-inch sauger and can go into the fish bucket however earlier than I’ve the prospect to tug the hook out I look over at my different rod.
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I don’t see the float. Leaning over I see the float disappearing down the ice gap.
Dropping the primary rod I rapidly seize the opposite ice rod, set the hook and begin cranking. This fish didn’t really feel as heavy as the primary one and a second later as it’s clearing the ice gap I see it’s a smaller fish which I rapidly launched. Though the second fish was too small to maintain it’s thrilling anytime you get two fish nearly on the similar time.
Ice fishing has modified a lot since I first began ice fishing as a child within the Sixties. I don’t consider there may be any sport which has seen such an explosion in know-how as ice fishing has. A number of the know-how may be intimidating, leaving you with the sensation when you don’t have all newest and biggest devices you received’t achieve success. At Lake of the Woods that isn’t the case. Now if in case you have all of the devices that’s positive however when you don’t you don’t have to fret. You’ll nonetheless achieve success. The key to catching fish via the ice on Lake of the Woods is retaining your bait near the underside. It’s simply that straightforward. A few ice rods, a handful of jigs, some hooks, sinkers and a few floats is all you want.
Going via a resort comparable to Arnesen’s takes a lot of the concern out of an ice fishing journey. They supply transportation, usually with the bombardier, to a cushty ice home the place the holes are already drilled or they are going to drill holes for you while you’re getting settled. The bombardier journey is a part of the journey. They may examine on you a pair occasions through the day and when you aren’t catching fish they are going to provide to maneuver you to a different ice home. Can’t ask for a greater deal.
On the finish of the day when the bombardier returns to take us again to the resort now we have eleven fish within the fish bucket. We’ve got greater than we’d like for our barbeque. We additionally launched one other dozen and a half fish which have been too small and Mike’s massive walleye which was too massive to maintain.
Later, on our final night time at Lake of the Woods, it’s darkish outdoors with the wind blowing throughout the lake—black with an occasional gentle off within the distance. Fish have been cleaned and I’ve a pot of oil effervescent on the range. A pan has potatoes and onions frying in butter. There’s a pile of fish fillets, breaded and able to be cooked. One other couple of plastic luggage have extra fillets to take again dwelling for 2 individuals in our group. The cabin fills with the odor of cooking fish and in a couple of minutes we can be sitting right down to a meal of freshly caught walleyes and sauger.
It has been an ideal journey and that’s the reason ice fishing at Lake of the Woods is so legendary.
– written by Mike Yurk
IF YOU GO: There are quite a few resorts alongside Lake of the Woods catering to ice fishermen. A Google seek for Lake of the Wooden resorts will present you a variety of choices. In Baudette you may get groceries, gasoline, fishing deal with, winter clothes and boots and the rest you would possibly want or that you simply forgot to pack. In case you want a fishing license you must plan on getting it at one of many sport outlets or bait outlets in Baudette as resorts might or might not have the aptitude to promote fishing licenses.
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