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Lake of the Woods Fishing: Vast, Beautiful and Productive By Gary Howey

  As we made our way out of Zippel Bay on the Resorts thirty-foot charter boat, the lighthouse marker appeared on the rock jetty with Lake of the Woods looming out before us.

  Nick Painovich captained the boat with Captain Mitch Cole who had 40-years as a charter captain on the lake.

  As the charter, one of five the resort has came out of the bay into the main lake; the vastness of the lake became obvious with the lakes stretching out before us.

  On the hour run to one area Nick had taken fish on a previous trip, we talked about the resort and all it offers. We were staying in one of the many log cabins on the resort, each with three bedrooms, two baths, television, fireplace and well-equipped kitchen. These as well as smaller cabins, their lounge, swimming pool, hot tub, shoreline equipment for the kids and rental boats makes Zippel Bay Resort the only lake on the south shoreline near Williams, MN. it’s an ideal place for a family outing, fishing trip or corporate retreat.

  Lake of the Woods is the sixth largest freshwater lake located-partially in the United States; it’s 70 miles long and wide with more than 14,552 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline.

  Our destination would be twenty-two miles out, where, we were able to see the shoreline of Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Angle the only U.S. territory lying in of Canada.

  Nick and His wife Deanna have owned the Resort since the late 70’s, with major improvements coming to the resort each year, making it one of the premier resorts on the big lake.

  On our first stop we’d be drifting, using 3-hook spinners and Wingit Quick Change bottom bouncers tipped with a crawler.

  It didn’t take long to realize Nick had the right plan as we put several fish in the boat, including keeper walleyes and sauger for our supper that evening.  Team Member Larry Myhre would even add a big perch to the menu. [Read more…]

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Best fishing of year is right now By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

We are currently on the threshold of the best fishing of the year.

I love the fall months, September, October, November. No, I could care less about the football season, even hunting plays second fiddle. Fishing is where it is at for me, and the catching just gets better right up until the lakes freeze over and the mighty Missouri begins running ice.

It never ceases to amaze me how popular fishing has become and how much money the average angler throws into his sport in the purchase of boats, electronics, tow vehicles and gear. Yet come September, only the die-hard anglers remain on the water.

That’s another reason why I like fall fishing. It can get lonely out there. And that’s just the way I like it. And so, too, do trophy walleyes and bass.

Launch off any of the most popular boat ramps on the Missouri River reservoirs in the middle of any week all summer long and you have to ask yourself, “Doesn’t anybody work any more?”

On the popular walleye spots you can count 20 to 30 boats in view at any time. And don’t even think of the weekends.

But from now until freeze up you’ll find plenty of room to park your trailer.

There are a couple of reasons fishing for any species is so much better in the fall. One is that water temperatures are cooling and approaching the fish’s comfort level. Temperatures above a fish’s preferred temperature put them under stress. Stressed fish are less active and not as aggressive. Colder temperatures than their preference does not put them under stress. Being cold-blooded creatures, their activity slows, but they are not stressed.

Females of all game species begin developing eggs in the fall. They instinctively know they must eat a lot to store fat to see them through the less active periods of cold water. So, they are willing to bite your lures. [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…]

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This system catches summer panfish By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

Late summer and early fall find crappies and bluegills heading for deep water.

For many anglers, this is the time for the slip bobber set-up, but over the past several years I have been using a method that just about everyone knows about but almost no one is using.

That would be drop shotting.

The method first burst upon the professional bass tournament trail probably around 20 years ago. Perfected in tough, clear fishing waters of Japan, the bass pros soon learned that it was a dynamite system over here as well. It was a closely guarded secret for years. But, eventually the word leaked out.

I don’t remember the year, but I was introduced to the technique by one of the pros at the Berkely Company. We fished West Okoboji and caught smallmouth, walleye, perch and crappie using the technique.

I could recognize the potential this system had for any of a large number of gamefish. In those days we simply used long shanked Aberdeen hooks and large split shots for weights. Although I rigged up a small plastic box just for drop shotting, I seldom used the system. That was a mistake. Over the years, special weights and hooks designed for this system were developed and are widely available today.

In case you are not familiar with the system, let’s go over it. It is your basic hook, line and sinker setup. You tie a hook on the line using a Palomar knot, which will cause the hook to sit out parallel to the line. You leave a long tag on the line and slip it through the eye of the hook and, let’s say 12 inches below the hook you attach a sinker such as a large split shot or two.

I’ll try to explain how to make this rig in more detail. You want the hook point to ride up, so begin the Palomar knot by passing the line from the top side down through the hook eye, and then bring it back through from the bottom, leaving a loop under the hook. Then, using the loop, tie an overhand knot and slip the hook through the loop it creates. Pull the knot tight. Next, pass the tag end of the line through the hook eye from the top side down, tighten it and attach a drop shot sinker or large split shot. [Read more…]

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Summer walleye bite on Bitter going strong By Larry Myhre

WEBSTER, S.D. | Bitter Lake appeared to be a sleeping, gentle giant as I peered across the big lake from the east shore boat ramp. Its waters were flat calm, a very unusual thing in this year of constant wind.

Cory Ewing backed his big Lund into the water and Austin Creamer, Hartington, Neb., and I jumped in while Gary Howey, Hartington, parked the trailer.

Soon the three of us were motoring over the flat water and the slight chill in the air made me glad I had the pull over windbreaker on.

It wasn’t long before Cory cut the RPMs and we glided into a saddle between the shoreline and a sunken island. The water here ranged from 6 to 9 feet deep and the weeds on either side of us gave away the shallower structure.

“Walleyes were in here thick yesterday,” he said as we idled through with our eyes glued to the graph. Soon the familiar arches of fish showed up. “They’re still here.”

We dropped down one-eighth-ounce jigs tipped with minnows and began to jig vertically while Corey moved us slowly with the electric motor.

Austin, an intern with Gary’s Outdoorsman Adventures, had never caught a walleye, but the high school senior was a quick learner. He landed the first fish, a 15-inch walleye. That was a fine start and we worked the area for about an hour, landing several more walleyes from 14 to 17 inches.

And then we moved.

This time Corey selected a saddle between two sunken islands. Again weeds gave away the shallow water on either side of the 6- to 9-foot deep area we were fishing. I had retied with a 1/16-ounce, chartreuse lead head, a size I am much more comfortable with in this shallow water.

Again, the depth finder told us there were fish present and again we proved it right by catching them.

It was good, steady action and we caught what looked to me like three separate year classes. They are just good eating-size walleyes. And then the big fish hit. [Read more…]

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Oahe, Walleye & Bass Enter Summer Pattern By Larry Myhre

GETTYSBURG, S.D. | We were early and already the Sutton Bay boat ramp was filling up with big rigs and empty trailers.

It was a beautiful morning. Sun splashed across the rugged Missouri River bluffs, throwing long shadows across the deep ravines and gullies. We had seen two deer lying in tall spring wheat on the way down from the South Whitlock Bay area, their thin necks stretching up with big ears splayed as they watched us cruise down the blacktop.

Chuck Krause fired up his big, 300-horse outboard and pointed the bow of the boat out of the bay toward the main river channel. Once there, he put the hammer down and we were flying across the calm water at 60 miles an hour.

It didn’t take long to reach the long point extending out from Willow Creek Bay. The point runs out a long ways and eventually drops into the old river channel.

“I found the walleyes here yesterday,” Chuck said. “It was fast fishing and we limited out in no time.”

But nothing brings out the fishermen like a landing net extending over the side of the boat and before Chuck left he had been joined by half a dozen boats and he learned later over a dozen were working the hotspot.

There was already one boat there when we arrived and one of the anglers had a fish on. His rod was bent nearly double and soon a big smallmouth erupted from the water in a shower of spray.

“I forgot to mention there are smallmouth here, too,” Chuck said.

Gary Howey dropped down his 2-ounce bottom bouncer pulling a 6-foot snell and a red hook sporting a piece of night crawler. It didn’t take the Hartington, Neb., angler long to connect with our first walleye.

It was a 16-incher and was promptly tossed into the live well. Fresh walleye was on our menu tonight at Chuck’s Whitlock Bay Supper Club, but we had to catch them first.

Chuck has been a full-time fishing guide in this area since the early 1980s. Both he and Gary are originally from Watertown, S.D., and knew each other as kids.

Chuck has accommodations for his fishing and hunting clients. We were staying in a recently built, 5 bedroom modular unit with an enclosed deck which overlooks the big lake and the Highway 212 bridge which crosses the reservoir at this point.

As we eased around the bar with the electric motor, we added a couple more walleyes and bass.

“I think the spot got hit pretty hard yesterday,” Chuck mused. I counted eight boats around us now on that bar. It was getting hit pretty hard today, too.

And the weather had changed.

After several days of howling wind, a light front had come through early that morning dropping some much-needed rain. The wind, although it pounded the fishermen hard, might have been the key to faster fishing. [Read more…]

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Kramper Lake offers great fishing promise By Larry Myhre

 

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

HUBBARD, Neb. | The tiny red and white bobber tipped over on its side and then zoomed under the water as yet another bluegill inhaled my 1/64th-ounce jig.

“I just love the way bluegills fight,” I told my boat partner, Gary Howey of Hartington, Neb., “If they weighed six pounds I don’t think you would ever land one.”

This little guy was exhibiting the trademark fight of his kind. Bluegills turn their broad sides to the pressure of the line and somehow swim in tight circles which can test the mettle of your 4-pound-test line.

We were fishing Kramper Lake, the centerpiece of the new Danish Alps State Recreation Area just a mile or so southeast of Hubbard, Neb.

The lake opened to fishing last July after heavy rains the previous year filled the 226-acre reservoir. The lake was first stocked in 2012 and has had two more stockings since then.

Well-stocked with bass, bluegill, crappie, walleye and channel catfish, the lake is tucked into over 500 acres of parkland featuring more than 70 gravel pads for RVs and 22 tent-camping sites. Camp sites are complete with 30 and 50 amp electricity hookups, water, shower houses and equestrian facilities. A picnic table and fire ring is located at each campsite.

Our boat was tied up to one of the many trees which line the now submerged Jones Creek. Although many of the trees are in over 30 feet of water, we were taking bluegills within a foot or two of the surface. Sunken trees attract most gamefish, including walleyes. We were told that a 17-inch walleye had been caught on a crankbait in the trees the week before.

The trees are only part of the ample structure built into the lake. Before it filled, several brush piles, shoals, rock piles, reefs and other structures were installed. Coordinates are provided in a brochure which will enable anglers to find them with their GPS units.

All things considered, this could be one of the best small-reservoir fishing sites anywhere.

We had begun the day working the weedline looking for bluegills, largemouth and crappies. [Read more…]

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Current Facts How current affects fish By Gary Howey

  When I was growing up in Watertown, S.D., where we fished, we did not worry about the current and the way it affected the fish. Why, well we did not know a thing about it, secondly, we were fishing in the Sioux River and lakes where current was not a big factor.

  After moving down to the area I live now, Hartington, NE. where I would be doing the most of my fishing the Missouri River, understanding current became very important.

  Anglers, especially those who fish down river from a one of the four Missouri Reservoir dams, need to pay close attention to what is happening at the dam, especially the amount of water being released or decreased, as a change in water velocity and levels drastically affect the location and mood of the fish. 

  I’ve heard it dozens of times where anglers have clobbered the fish one day and then the next not have a clue why fishing the following day will not be good at all.

  In many cases, the reason things have changed is that the discharge from the dams has changed either raising or lowering the water levels and changing the current flows.

In many of the newspapers including the Yankton Press and Dakotan, they give a report on Gavin’s Point Dam, showing the water temperature of the lake, the amount of discharge as well as other information.

  The water temperature on the lake, gives anglers and idea as to when the spawn will happen and the bite will begin to improve, while the information on the discharge is important, as the movement in the water causes all species of fish to change their patterns.

  The best fishing is going to happen when there’s an increase in water flow as this means there will be injured baitfish coming through the dam, signaling to fish down river that it’s lunch time, causing them to move up stream to feast on what’s being washed through the turbines or over the spillway.

With the increase in water flow, there is an increase in current.  It forces fish to relocate, with some moving to the deeper holes, into current breaks or to the inside bend along the shore line to avoid the swift current while others, the more aggressive fish will move up to the head of the hole to be the first to the feed on what’s washing down to them.

  The exception to the rule is channel catfish, since they seem to enjoy current and will eat about anything, they will move to the outside bend where the current is stronger, taking advantage of what is being carried downstream by the current to feed. [Read more…]

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It’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to fishing. By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

Take walleyes, for instance. If your springtime presentation is limited to a quarter-ounce jig tipped with a chartreuse curly tail grub and later in the year you switch to a bottom bouncer in front of a chartreuse spinner and nightcrawler, you should probably widen your thinking to try some other baits.

When it comes to largemouth bass, or smallmouth for that matter, if your presentations are limited to a 6-inch, Texas rigged worm behind a pegged quarter-ounce cone sinker or just tossing a big spinnerbait, you definitely need to expand your horizons.

Panfish are another matter. A jig and bobber just about covers the presentation scene for most anglers for bluegills and crappies. A good choice most of the time, but why not mix it up some.

Want some examples of change-up presentations for walleye, bass and panfish? Here are two for each.bass and panfish? Here are two for each.

For the past several years, I have been experimenting with a jig and 4-inch ringworm in a lot of my walleye fishing, both during the cold water months and in the springtime. The jig and twister is the preferred choice of most anglers at this time, or, perhaps, just a plain jig and minnow.

But throwing a 4-inch ringworm on the right-sized jig head often out fishes either rig. Conditions, however, have to be right. By that I mean you have to slow down. Pitching jigs to the shoreline is often a very productive method on our Missouri River reservoirs and some lakes both in the springtime and the fall. But typically the boat is moving too fast to use the ringworm effectively.

The presentation of the worm is critical. You cannot “jig” it like you do with a curly tail. It has to “swim” along the bottom. It is a lift and drop retrieve with no embellishments on your part. It is really effective in light current where you can cast across and upstream and swim it back with that rolling retrieve on a tight line just over the bottom.

It’s a presentation that was perfected on the Mississippi River and parts east, but just hasn’t caught on anywhere on the Great Plains.Pic-Klages-Panfish

Here’s another option. It’s becoming more and more well-known now that just a piece of nightcrawler can be more effective for walleyes than the whole bait. This technique had its beginnings on the Missouri River.

Only rarely now, do I ever fish with a whole night crawler. The key, I think, is to put a small bead on your line above the hook. I suspect that color can make a difference most days, but I usually just put a fluorescent red or orange bead on the line and let it go at that. But, I have also tried chartreuse, white and green and caught fish as well. Most days the bead, regardless of color, is important to your success.

I hook the crawler through the nose and then pinch off the tail about four inches below the head. The theory is that the pinched crawler releases more scent into the water and that might be the case. It works, and that is all I really care about.

Some of the lakes where I fish largemouth bass are hammered so hard throughout the open water season that I firmly believe the bass become conditioned to some baits and just won’t hit them. Do you know a bass fisherman who doesn’t throw spinnerbaits? I don’t, either. In fact, I’d say largemouth bass see more spinnerbaits in a season than any other lure.

I love spinnerbait fishing. Cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. That’s about all there is to it. And It catches fish. It covers water fast. It’s effective in shallow water where active largemouths spend a great deal of time.
 
 But is there another bait that these fish hardly ever see that is just as effective and just as easy to fish as the spinnerbait? Yes, there is.

It’s called a “chatterbait.”

This bait is like a spinnerbait without the overhead wire arm. It’s a jig with a rubber skirt. The jig is attached to a short wire upon which sits a “flat” piece of metal which causes the jig to jiggle, chatter and just act crazy as you pull it through the water.

It’s been very effective on every body of water I have fished. Try it and see what you think

What about panfish. Here’s a couple of ideas.

I remember when “Beetle Spins” first came out. I really didn’t think much of them. It was simply a “safety pin” type spinner hooked up to a small jig with a plastic grub body that culminated in a split tail. The body had no action

But when I tried it for the first time, I became a firm believer in the effectiveness of this lure. I fished it on both sides of the Highway 71 bridge that separates East and West Okoboji. It is a very popular fishing spot to this day, and for good reason. Lots of fish hang around there.

I caught perch, bluegill, crappie and bass right there on that little jig-spinner fishing from shore. Later, in the fall, I cast it there after dark and caught walleyes. I even hooked something one night that peeled 110 yards of brand new, four-pound-test, monofilament line off of my Mitchell 308 reel and finally broke me off as it continued its way into East Lake.

It’s a great crappie bait when fished slowly around crappie cover.

Another panfish bait well worth throwing is the Road Runner jig. It consists of a “horse head” shaped lead head at the bottom of which is attached a small willow leaf spinner. The body is made with either marabou or plastic, your choice.

Like the Bettle Spin, it is a simple, cast and retrieve bait. The best tip I can give you for fishing either bait for crappies is, fish them slowly. Crappies are not chasers so the presentation has to be slow. If fishing over deeper water, you don’t have to worry about being on the bottom; crappies will rise up to take a lure but it has to be moving very slowly.

If you haven’t already, try out these options for your favorite fish this year. It’s tempting to quote a couple of cliches here to make my point. Don’t be a “one-method Pete,” and “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Whatever.

More outdoors information is available at http://siouxcityjournal.com/sports/recreation/outdoors