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Return to Zippel Bay Gary Howey

  With the onset of fall, the colors on Lake of the Woods and Zippel Bay begin to    change to take on their beautiful fall colors. (Gary Howey Photo)

   As I walked from the log cabin, the calm waters of Zippel Bay mirrored the colors of the Northwood’s trees lining the far shore line.

   In the distance, the beckoning call of Canada geese resonated throughout the bay as the flock made their way out to feed.

  We had traveled north on I-29 through northeastern South Dakota and Watertown, my old stomping grounds on our way to the annual Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers conference on Lake of the Woods and had headquartered out of good friend s Nick and Deanna Painovich Zippel Bay Resort.

  While we were there, Nick had invited us to do some walleye fishing with him him and Jase Lamberson one of the charter boat captains for the resort.

  That afternoon as we made our way through the bay out into Lake of the Woods, and we could hear the gulls chattering on Lighthouse Point as Lake of the Woods opened up before us.

   Moving out onto Lake of the Woods, it was obvious that this was “big water” the sixth largest freshwater lake in the United States, which created the border between Minnesota, the United States, Manitoba and Ontario Canada.

  The Lake is enormous, 68 miles long, 59 miles wide covering 1,679 miles with 65,000 miles of shoreline with more than 14,552 islands found throughout the lake.

  We passed several groups of anglers as we worked our out to where Nick and his other charter boat captains had been fishing. Just outside of the bay, we could see all modes of fishing craft, charter boats, big fishing boats as well as a few kayakers working the rock piles in search of walleyes.

  Moving from our old lacation into an area not too far from several other Zippel Bay Charters who were busy landing fish out of the 29-foot depths.

  We rigged up, using one quarter-ounce jigs tipped with frozen shiners starting to work our jigs in and among the rocks for walleye.

  It was not long before Jase indicated that he had a bite, he set the hook on our first fish of the trip, one of those nice walleyes that would make for some good eating.

  Then it was my turn as I connected with another fish, a close cousin to the walleye, one of the hundreds of thousands sauger that call Lake of the Woods home.

  As my fish came into the boat, Nick set the hook on another nice walleye, one in the 17-inch range

  The bite continued as we boated some good fish, with the larger ones we released back into the lake to fight another day.

  Jase had the hot rod and continued to pull walleye and sauger up from the depth, but Nick and I were not far behind.

  When the bite slowed, Nick heard from other charters on the lake that there was a good bite not too far from where we were, we pulled the anchor and moved in that direction.

  Once we arrived we could see several boats and charters anchored in the thirty-foot water over the rock piles that were scattered across the bottom.

  As before, we would be jigging among the rock piles our jigs tipped with frozen shiners and no sooner than our jigs hit the bottom, Nick set the hook on the first big walleye, a healthy 18-incher with Jase and I each landing good size walleyes in between sauger.

  On this day, all of the boats and charters around us were into the fish, with nets coming out of the boats continually bringing fish into the boat.

   It did not take our crew long to put the fish we were looking for in the boat, with several healthy 15 to 17-inch walleyes as well as our limit of sauger.

   With the onset of fall, the colors of Zippel Bay will become brighter and more beautiful with the fall walleye and sauger bite going strong. [Read more…]

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Spring Walleye Fishing By Gary Howey

     Well it’s finally starting to look and feel like spring and to be honest with you, I’m ready for the warmer weather!

  Each day gets a little longer, the sun is warmer and everything is starting to green up.

  It’s what we outdoorsmen and women have been waiting for, as they’re anxious to hit the water and see what’s biting this time of the year.

  With the water temperatures, starting to raise the walleyes below the dams on the river and in the lakes will start feeding more heavily.

  Spawning in some areas is ending as the water temperatures have or will soon reach 50, which in the upper Midwest is generally in the month of May.

  If you’ve fished the post spawn, you know that the smaller more aggressive males make up the majority of the fish taken during this time of the year.

  After the spawning and recuperation period, walleyes will go on a feeding binge because eating during the spawn wasn’t real high on their “To Do.”

  This feeding binge can last throughout the month and at times may even run into early June.

  On sunny days the best fishing, will be in the morning or towards evening, because in the middle of the day the sun is beating down on the shallows which forces walleye and sauger to move deeper as they’re not big fans of a lot of light.

  If you’re fishing on cloudy day or times when the sunlight is subdued, chances are the walleye and sauger may spend the better part of the day cruising in and out of the shallows looking for a meal.

  It’s during those low-light periods when walleyes are on the prowl in the shallower water, usually 10 foot or less.

  Remember just because the walleyes are on a feeding binge it doesn’t mean they’ll be dashing and darting here and there attacking everything in sight.

  Walleyes like all fish are cold blooded and their metabolism is in direct relation to the water temperature, so they won’t be in high gear, as the water temperature isn’t warm enough.  [Read more…]

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Figuring Out Spring Fishing By Gary Howey

  To me, it seems like this has been one long winter and unfortunately, there’s a lot of it left! It hasn’t been overly cold, but the wind has been blowing a lot. I like winter to a point, for ice fishing and predator calling, but each year, it seems like I like winter less.

  When the weather has been decent, anglers have been on the water below the Missouri River dams hard.

  Like any other area we fish, the more boats you have out, the better your chances are that someone will locate a concentration of fish. Once people hear that fish are being caught, there are going to be numerous boats on the water during the nice days.

  The majority of the walleyes, sauger and bass caught during the early spring are probably going to be those smaller aggressive males.

  Catching small fish isn’t all-bad because those smaller fish are a good sign for the fishing in the future, indicating that previous spawns were successful and at least there’s something jerking on the line.

  It won’t be long before these smaller fish will be legal size and the fishing down the road should be good.

  The walleyes that they’re catching below the dams now are fish, which started their movement upstream last fall and wintered over below the dam in preparation for this spring’s spawn.

  The larger females will be the last to come up and they’ll set up in the deeper water, waiting for water temperatures to warm up enough for the spawning to begin.

  The walleye & sauger begin spawning when water temperatures hit around 48 degrees, which, during most years is around the first part of May.

  However, who knows, with the temperatures changing the way they do, it could happen earlier than that!

  You’ll find that the smaller males will bite throughout the spawning period, as they are traveling around looking for receptive females and will exert more energy than the females that are in a holding pattern.

  Fishing for the females can be slow up to, through the spawn, and as much as two weeks after the spawn, as the spawn is harder on the females and they will require more time to recuperate.

  After recuperating, the females will go on a feeding binge, as the spawning ritual has taken a lot out of them. This feeding binge, where they’ll feed heavily could last as long as a month.

  After the spawn, with water temperatures warming, all fish will become more active and begin to feed heavily.

  As the water warms, you’ll find the walleyes prowling the shallower water looking for their next meal, generally cruising in 15 foot of water or less.

  Remember just because the walleyes are on the bite, doesn’t mean they’ll be dashing and darting here and there grabbing everything in sight.

  Walleyes like all fish are cold blooded and their metabolism is directly related to the water temperature, so they’ll still be in their slow mode until summer temperatures arrive.  [Read more…]

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Walleyes biting well on Lake of the Woods By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

WILLIAMS, Minn. — Nick Painovich, owner of Zippel Bay Resort, guided the big, 30-foot charter boat around the corner and through the mouth of the bay. Lake of the Woods lay before us. Nothing but water could be seen along the northern reaches. The view of the south shoreline was tree-lined until it, too, faded into the dancing heat waves and melded into the lake’s surface.

To the east you could see a couple of faraway islands, two of the over 14,000 found on this giant inland sea.

Our destination was 23 miles to the north just outside “the Northwest Angle.” The Northwest Angle is the farthest north portion of the contiguous United States. Its existence is thanks to a mapmaker’s error in the late 1700s.

It was an hour’s run to a reef where one of Nick’s charters had picked up some nice walleyes the day before.

Our plan was to troll bottom bouncers and spinners with nightcrawlers impaled on three-hook rigs. And, it was a good one.

We soon were pulling eating-size walleyes and saugers over the side of the big boat. The best ones were put in the live well for supper back at camp that night.

Gary Howey, of Hartington, Nebraska, and I had arrived at Zippel Bay the day before. Nick put us up in one of their big log homes available for guests. There are three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a jacuzzi, kitchen with stainless steel appliances, fireplace, flat-screen TV and a large deck.

We met Nick for breakfast in the lodge and then boarded the charter, where we were joined by Mitch Cole, a veteran charter boat captain with 40 years of service on the water.

All walleyes between 19.5 and 28 inches must be released at Lake of the Woods. The walleye/sauger aggregate limit is six, but not more than four can be walleyes. From Dec. 1 through April 14, the limit is increased to eight, but only four can be walleyes.

We were catching a lot of fish, nice 18- to 19-inch “eaters,” but none topped the 19.5 mark. We were hoping to get a “picture” fish, which, of course, would be released. Last year I released an eight-pounder. So we made a change of location to another reef about five miles to the southwest. A charter captain there told Mitch via marine band radio that he was trolling plugs behind downriggers and was catching some nice fish.

We pulled in, put down our spinners and began boating fish. But once again the larger fish were eluding us. [Read more…]