Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lake of the Woods Adventure

Well, I am back from Lake of the Woods (LOTW) reporting that the fishing was great however the catching was somewhat slow this year. Joining me on the trip this year was the LOTW master Mark Mayerich, my brother Steve, Eleva celebrity and friend Kevin Aiona with his son Ben, an Iron Ranger Ryan Sterle, as well my good friends Mark Applen and Bill Lundeen from Lundeen's Tackle Castle. Arriving at Linders Hideaway at 9:00 Wednesday night, we were surprised to see quite a bit of fresh snow. Having chose ATV's as the transportation of choice would limit our excursions to about 2 miles off shore. Thursday started by loading up the ATV's in true convoys. My Polaris 800 was the big boy so I pulled my own house, my brothers, and an 8 foot long sled which held our augers. Kevin's ATV only had rear wheel drive which proved difficult at best. Here's Mark Applen drilling a hole in the ice with his 10" Jiffy. He has a 12 inch extension and is using every bit of it! The ice was at least 42 inches thick. The excitement of fishing LOTW is in the aggressive way the fish hit the lures as well one never knows what will show up on the end of your line. Walleyes, saugers, perch, northern pike, eelpout, and tullibees are on the prowl this time of year. The first day's numbers were good with a couple of 17 inch walleyes and nice saugers caught. We were fishing in 31 feet of water during the day and a couple of us headed for a near shore reef for the evening bite were I ended up with a very nice 19 1/4" walleye. Brother Steve reported that his fish finder transducer keep moving in the hole which was very unusual. Looking down into the hole he saw a northern nudging his transducer as though it was going to eat it! He tried to entice it in striking his lure but no avail. Apparently northerns are known for cruising the very bottom of the ice in search of bait fish that hang in the upper water column.

The second day proved to be about the same as the first. The weather would be a repeat of the first day with the sky being overcast and a light snow fall occurring off and on. One of my goals was to catch a fish on a chubby darter, a swim bait that is supposed to work well. Here Mark has a dandy walleye hooked one one of those chubbies! I never was successful. Friday's catch proved good enough to have a fish fry for the Catholics in the crowd. Kevin did the honors and we had a fabulous meal of walleyes.

Saturday was the best day regarding weather however it was significantly worse on the catching front. Every day after lunch I would head another mile out into the lake and fish 33 foot depth. In years past it was a great place to catch some larger saugers and a few tullibee. This time my brother Steve decided to go with me. It was not long until he got into a mess of trophy walleye. Here he is holding on of those trophies he had caught just a few minutes after arriving. In the meantime I had hit the mother lode of tullibees. Being a member of the whitefish family and often known as cisco's, they are excellent smoked or pickled. I decided to keep a number of them and make a batch for our Leech Lake trip. As you see I am sitting next to a pile of nice fish. The sun was out making it nice and comfortable, even with the sleeves rolled up. Notice my ATV only has one chain on the back. Kevin was having such a tough time getting around in 2 wheel drive I gave him one of my tire chains. It worked great as soon as he figured out how to stop going in circles! I kept about 8 of these beautiful silvery fish and we headed back to the group. We nailed a few more before calling it a trip.
While cleaning the tullibee's they had the usual yellow looking cysts embedded in the flesh. They certainly don't look the greatest but I figured I could cut around enough of the fillets to secure a good batch for pickling. Ending up with about 5 pounds of cut fillets clean of these parasites I throw them in the freezer and decided to search the Internet as to the origins of those disgusting grub like entities. What if found was very interesting. We often catch tullibees on Mille Lacs Lake however they are very clean. In LOTW and many other Canadian lakes, the tullibees are infected with tape worms that only reproduce in the intestines of Northern Pike. The adult tapeworm is attached to the intestine and produces eggs which are released through it's vent. These eggs hatch quickly and find a host such as a snail or other small invertebrate. In turn these are ate by tullibees. The tapeworm larva can only last in it's stomach of the tullibee for a few hours and must bore through it's stomach wall, embedding itself into the flesh of the fish. The form rather large golden like cysts in the meat and wait for a northern to make a meal of it's host. Tullibee is an desired preyfish for northerns. Once ate by the pike the cysts are released and the worm will attach itself to the intestine, feeding on what the northern ate and passing eggs. Apparently during the norther spawning time it's hormones change causing the tapeworm to lose it's grip and is expelled out of the northern and dies. The various articles claim that they are harmless and one is in no danger if humans eat them. They suggest that most people remove them as they are disgusting however I had finished cleaning and sorting pieces prior to reading this. Pickled tullibee is about a close to herring as it gets and I am looking forward to finishing the batch. We have already made our reservations for next year going a week later to aim for a little better weather.

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