Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winnibigoshish by Gosh!

My first trip to Lake Winnibigoshish (Winnie) turned into one of those trips not to be forgotten. My host, Mark Applen had planned the trip along with a few of his old neighbors and friends familiar with the lake and I was fortunate to ride shotgun. The plan was pretty straight forward, Mark was to pick me up at 7:30, drive to Mille Lacs and pick up his wheel house, head north up through Remer Mn, and be on the lake by 1:00. A stop along the way to pick up some groceries to fill the gaps, we made it pretty much on schedule. Heading out of Denny's Resort on the very south end of the lake, we made a beeline for the waypoint Mark's friend Russ had given us. The resort was expecting us and had plowed a road about 5 miles up the lake, creating a turnaround precisely at our destination. Lake Winnie has a very distinct drop off running along the south and southeast end of the lake. This drop off is pretty steep going from 15 feet to 30 feet in about a 60 foot span and runs pretty parallel to the shore for a good 6 - 7 miles. The waypoint put us directly on the drop, with little structure around us other than the drop itself. Pat the resort guy suggested we park at 21 to 25 feet. This structure reminds me of the pronounced edges of the flats on Mille Lacs where we fish either the top edge or the bottom edge, seldom in the middle of the drop. Well, never fishing the lake and subordinating the "spot on the spot" to my hosts, we set up in the middle of that break. Although I wasn't crazy about the location, my strategy was to drill a few holes on both the top side and the deep side, with a few in between to test their effectiveness. After helping get the house dropped on the ice it was show time. A typical pattern would be perch on the deep side, and occasional walleye passing through, finishing on the top side for that evening migration of walleyes to the shelf. Winnie is known for its perch however the walleyes were showing themselves the first day. By the evening I had 3 nice keeper walleyes and a few respectable perch. By 5:00 the bite had died and it was time for supper, smoked pork chops, salad, some munchies and a glass of cabernet. Jigging in the house proved to be purely wrist exercises.

By the evening we had 4 wheel houses in our group. They included Russ, his Brother Randy, and Mark's old neighbors Mike and Judy. Issues with Russ's generator force everyone to plug into Mark's Honda 2,000 watt power plant. Although expensive, these Honda's are extremely quiet and are barely noticeable. After an hour of inaction we headed over to Randy's mansion to play a little Farkle, a new dice game I was introduced to. Randy has a very nice wheel house and had no problem accommodating 6 of us around the table. A few beers and $2.00 poorer, we headed back to our house to set the rattle reels and retire for the evening. Mark's house is set up with Direct TV and the weather channel became our next focus.  Forecast for our area was a winter storm warning, due to arrive within the next 12 hours. Hitting the sack, the rattle reels were silent through the night. We awoke Thursday morning to a light drizzle, not enough to stop fishing outside but still enough to get us wet. By noon the rain started freezing on the reels and by after lunch the snow began to fall. Thursday morning was fairly productive with both Mark and I scoring well on the perch in the 30 foot depth. After we had lunch I suggested we move the house to the deep side, at least we were catching fish there. A half hour and a 50 foot move,  we were reset for the duration and none too soon. The wind and the snow got progressively worse and it looked like we weren't going anywhere for a while. By 6:00 the blizzard conditions were severe and there was no way we would repeat any visits as the night before. The move proved to be a good decision as we caught a number of perch before dark and finished the night with a couple of nice walleyes, one at midnight and the other at 4:30 in the morning. Here are a couple of those walleyes caught on the rattle reels.

Waking up to a clear cold morning on Friday, the first order of business was to get the door open. The blizzard raged through the night and had created a good 4 foot snow drift outside our door. Mark had wisely faced his truck into the wind which minimized any drifts around the vehicle. It worked pretty well. After eating breakfast the next priority was to get the house lifted off the ice. The weight of the house, the 2 pickup trucks parked outside, as well as the newly formed snow drifts caused the water to flood the ice through the holes we had in the house. With over 2 inches on the ice, it was imperative we get the house back up on the axle before it froze in. By 8:00 the group had the houses hooked up, ready to go absolutely nowhere! What was a situation where you could drive anywhere on the ice on Wednesday turned into the inability to move more than 50 feet from our original parked spot. 15 inches of snow had fallen and the ice was all but impassable with 3 foot drifts as far as the eye could see. Well, never say never to a bunch of guys. Knowing the resort would plow us out eventually, the weather had predicted another 6 - 9 inches later in the day. Plan A was hatched, take the biggest, baddest , 4 wheel drive we had (Randy's 3/4 ton GMC) and attempt to blaze a path to the resort's houses about 4 miles away. 2 hours later, getting stuck about 20 times, and 1 1/2 miles down the lake, Plan B was decided upon. Someone had called the resort and our rescue was imminent, provided we had the patience to wait. Even though we had a good path started, Plan B sounded pretty good and we headed back to hook up the houses. About an hour later you could see the cloud of snow being pushed ahead of the V plow headed our way. It seemed forever to get to us and what a welcome sight as he plowed by. Here is a picture of the plow as it blew by us, pretty impressive. A half hour later we were off the ice, heading south right into the next storm! We ended up with 3 nice walleyes, about 20 perch, and a pretty good story of my first trip to Lake Winnibigoshish. Further south had significant rains, clearing most of the snow from Mille Lacs. Sounds like a pretty good excuse to check it out on Sunday, if you ask me!


Anonymous said...

It's been a long time since I fished Winnie and your getting stuck in a storm story is one of the reasons. I fish Cutfoot Sioux because it's smaller and I always feel like I can escape when the weather turns bad. Heading to Lake of the Woods for 3 days before the St. Paul Sport Show. !Hope to visit the "Igloo" when I'm there.

AK Keith

Dave Anderson said...


I will look forward to seeing you next week and will have a gift for you. Are you staying downtown?

Anonymous said...


The vendors all stay at the Holiday Inn....can't get any closer to the RiverCentre. Let me know what day you'll be there and I'll leave tickets at the will call booth.

AK Keith