Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Last Day of the 2011 Walleye Season

Sunday was the official end of the inland waters walleye season here in Minnesota.  Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to fish my favorite lake for walleyes, it was either this weekend or wait till May 19th.  Luckily my good friend and fellow Team Walleye member, Mark Mayerich was planning on going back out on Saturday and he graciously allowed me to join him.  Mark and his son Adam fished out of the Red Door Resort on the north side of the lake the week before and did really well. The bite on the southern part of the lake had slowed considerably however the north end was still going strong.  Accessing the lake out of the Red Door was about as far north on the lake as you can get, but the advantage is there are a large number of offshore flats that are relatively close to shore.  My last 2 trips were out of Dewey's, just south of Indian Point and it's a good 8 miles to the nearest flat.   After loading up with a scoop of minnows at Bill's, I proceeded to head north to Garrison then up around the top of the lake.  As I drove through Garrison there was a huge event happening on the ice, Stud Races.  I just had to call Mark and tell him that I was going to be delayed as I just had to enter, it was a sure bet to win.......he didn't think that was too funny!  Arriving at the Red Door Resort the first order of business was to get our road pass for the day.  $10 is not a bad price when you consider they put a nice bridge over the big heave in the ice allowing one to basically drive anywhere on the lake.  Loaded up we crossed the bridge and headed south towards Resort Flat, a structure about 2 miles offshore.  To be honest, I have never fished this flat before but with my GPS and Lakemaster chip, it was an easy find.  Arriving at the northeast tip I asked Mark if he had a favorite spot from last week.  While his GPS was acquiring the satellites he thought we should be on the other end.  When it locked on his way point showed we were within 200 yards of where they were before.  Mark swore they were more south but upon further investigation his GPS was set on Track Up instead of North Up.  This would give the opposite view of what my GPS was showing, we reset it and agreed, we were close.  Unfortunately someone was set up at the point so I decided to move down the break by 300 yards, looking for an inside turn along the way.  Finally settling in on a promising spot I drilled a number of holes from 30 feet to the top of the flat at 24 feet.  While Mark set up on the deep side I continued drilling a number of holes along the top and bottom edge, probably at least 20 or so.  Time to fish! 

The temperature was almost warm enough to fish outside but cold enough to freeze the holes pretty fast.  I elected to try my hand at searching for fish while Mark fished inside his portable house.  Mark's favorite bait has got to be the Chubby Darter by Salmo.  Although I have fished them many times, I have never had the success that he has.  As I stuck my head through the door of the portable, he showed me a signal on his Vexilar FL22 that indicated a fish starting to come off the bottom.  Just then a big red mark appeared 5 feet about the bottom and as he pulled the bait up the fish came down to slam it.  We landed a nice 23 inch walleye, a great start.  Mark had been seeing fish all along yet I was drawing a blank.  Within 30 minutes he nailed another smaller fish, big enough to keep, a good start to our trip.  It went pretty dead after that.  As I moved around from hole to hole, Mark stayed in his warm abode, still marking fish but no biters.  I finally caught a 16 incher on the deep side.  Eventually I got cold enough to set up my house at the same depth level as he was.  Drilling 3 holes, one for jigging, one for a dead stick, and one for my camera, I was nice and warm.  Unfortunately nothing seemed to come through so I put the camera pointed towards my suspending minnow and resumed hole jumping.  15 minutes of that brought me right back into my shack and as I glanced at the display on the camera, there was walleye smack dab in the middle of the screen.  Glancing at my bobber it was 18 inches down the hole.  I set the hook, the walleye shot off the screen as I started reeling it up.  6 cranks of the handle and the weight disappeared.  Quickly rebaiting I dropped it back down the hole and just as the minnow appeared on the screen another walleye showed up.  Staring at the minnow for about 3 seconds it sucked it in as the bobber sank.  I could see the minnow was completely in its mouth, set the hook and landed a nice 16 inch fish, we had 3 in the pail.  Another 30 minutes and nothing so I moved back outside.  Moving back to the 24 foot hole and dropping a Rattlin' Flyer a large mark met it at 22 feet and slammed it.  As it came through the hole the knot failed.  This was rare occurrence with braided line as the estimated 24 inch swam back down the hole.   Rather than retie I grabbed another rod, put a new Flyer on the snap and within 5 minutes had my third walleye.  As the old saying goes......all hell broke loose as I was landing a keeper walleye every 5 minutes.  On one occasion I dropped the lure, a fish came up but would not hit.  If you stare at your flasher long enough you can tell if the minnow head on your lure was still there.  It looked wrong, felt wrong so I reeled back up and found the lure was bare.  Hooking another minnow to the treble hook my hands were so cold I could not snap the minnow in half and with a fish hovering above the bottom there was no choice but to bite it in half, which I did!  Dropping it down the fish about grabbed the rod out of my hands and it was a dandy.  Measuring 27 inches, it was the nicest walleye I have caught in over 2 years.  I had Mark snap a picture as I told him his 23 incher just moved to second billing for this weeks post.  Within another 30 minutes we both had our limits of nice fish, packed up and headed out.

This year was the best I have ever had for walleye fishing through the ice on Lake Mille Lacs.  It started slow but really picked up in the month of February.  With all the bad ice, reports of record low fish populations, its been a lot of fun.   I did get a tullibee on Saturday as this and perch will be the main targets for the month of March.  Walleye fishing is still legal at Lake of the Woods till April 15th and is always open on the Mississippi River.  My friend Kevin bought a Jason Mitchell Meat Stick for pan fishing and my hope is to meet him on Saturday to see if I can match his performance of a few weeks ago.  We finally got some precipitation today, about an inch, the most since August of last year.  Driving to La Crosse earlier this week the river (other than Lake Pepin) was completely open.  Maybe an early trip in the boat for walleyes is in the cards. 


Duane said...

That's one nice fish Mr. Anderson however it sure smells up that deer hunting jacket....

Johnny said...

You weren't kidding...that is one nice fish!