Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Red Lake, Red Hot!

A fiesty 36 inch northern pike
The much anticipated time between Christmas and New Years meant only one thing, ice fishing.  In the past it has always been a time for something special with special friends, yet as always things change.  Based on our success at Lake of the Woods a year ago, my good friend Mark Applen was planning our third holiday adventure.  Mark has a nice wheel house (not as nice as it could be however that's another story) equipped with a furnace, 2 bunks, table, sink, and a substantial flat screen television for those slow moments.  This is my third year of taking advantage of the holiday season with Mark and each one has provided a special memory of an exciting trip.  In 2010 we joined Mark's friends for a few days on Lake Winnibigosh, 3 hours from home.  This was my first trip fishing Winnie and we did alright as we were on an underwater break which gave me an opportunity to move around somewhat.  The trip was highlighted by a substantial snowstorm that stranded us 6 miles out on the lake.  Although our efforts were valiant, it really took the resort plow to come out and rescue us.  2011 saw us at Lake of the Woods and Mark landing a 50 inch sturgeon, something neither one of us will forget.  This years trip found us at Red Lake, 4 1/2 hours north of home. 

Rattle Reels
Mark had been there the week before and knowing we were going to start there left his house at JR's Corner Access. At a $1.00/day storage fee it made no sense to spend 4 times that much on gas to pull it home then back again.  The plan was to arrive Wednesday night, fish through the night into Thursday.  If fishing was good, we'd stay and if not, Lake of the Woods was simply another hour north.  Arriving at 8:30 Wednesday evening we hooked up the house, paid the access fee of $15 for multiple days, had a beer and headed out on the lake.  JR had just opened up a bridge across a major break in the ice some 3 miles out which opened a vast area of unfished waters.  Taking about 2 hours to find a spot to drop the house, drill holes, and get set up, we were fishing by 10:30.  The walleyes started immediately as we caught a few on the jig poles before setting up the rattle reels to attempt to get some sleep.  Rattle reels are special made wheels that have steel rattles inside them.  Line is wrapped around the spool and are mounted to the ice house wall directly above each hole.  In Minnesota you can fish 2 lines each so before the lights are out you lower your lines into the water and if a fish takes the bait, the turning of the spool will cause a loud rattle with hopes of waking you up and catching the fish.  Well rattle they did, pretty much all night, finally stopping at 3:30 in the morning.  I am not complaining as it's easy to stop this, simply don't set them yet hearing those reels go off is music to my ears, regardless of the time.  So much for a good nights rest!

Mark with a dandy walleye
Thursday brought with it a steady parade of walleye's hitting everything from sucker minnows, Rattlin Flyer's, Slender Spoons, Jigging Raps, Lindy Darters, and a bait we dubbed the tuna spoon, which Mark did extremely well on.  Not unlike Lake of the Woods, Red Lake walleyes would come in small schools of fish roaming the vast featureless basin.  Action would consist of catching 2 or 3 fish in a flurry then waiting 15 or 20 minutes for the next group of fish.  Red Lake has an interesting history as in the late 90's the Native Americans, whom control 80% of the lake, netted everything out.  During the early 2000's crappies filled the biomass void with an explosion of 15" fish.  Gradually the restrictions on netting, the restocking of walleyes has brought the lake back to the hottest bite in Minnesota.  Along with walleyes, a population of respectable northern pike exist in the lake, as my first picture shows the feisty 36 inch fish that hit my jigging rap.  The walleyes were fat and sassy, nothing like the ones I caught on Mille Lacs last week.  My largest was a 23 inch fish, caught on a Lindy Darter.  Similar to a Chubby Darter, my friend Mark Mayerich's favorite LOTW bait, I express scepticism as I hook it on my line.  Experimenting with lures, I pumped the darter about 10 times when the fish hit, proving my initial comments completely off base.

Fresh fried walleye!

By the time we left on Saturday morning the tally of walleyes caught was well over 70 fish.  with only a few fish under 14 inches, the majority were between 16 and 19.  This year the limit on Red Lake had been increased to 4 fish under 20" which guaranteed we would bring fish home.  One nice thing about JR's was the indoor fish cleaning facilities and the great way they would cook your fish.  Bring your fish in, clean them, cut them into pieces, and for $5.00 per person will deep fry them, add some french fries, for a meal of fresh walleyes that was fit for a king!  I love the simplicity of it all, served in a shallow cardboard box, some tarter sauce and ketchup, finger food at its finest.  We cleaned 7 walleyes on Thursday, cooked and ate 4 of them, with 3 in the box.  On Friday we brought in another 5 (can only have 8 in possession), cleaned them and ate 2 with 6 in the box.  Saturday we only needed 2 more to fill our limit which was pretty easy.  Although we brought steaks, pork chops, and a cooler full of food, the daily walleye feast was enough to satisfy our needs as we bought most of it back home.  I don't think you could have asked for anything better than this as the walleyes were fried to perfection. 

Avenue of the Pines

Another successful trip, our backup plan never materialized.  This was my first trip to Red Lake and I'm sure it will not be my last.  In the grand scheme of things the drive seems to go fast as the roads to Red are very good.  The part I love the best is the stretch between Deer River, MN and Northome, on Minnesota Highway 46.  Labeled The Avenue of the Pines, the highway winds though the Chippewa National Forest and it's majestic pines.  The newly fallen snow provided a perfect scene as we drove back through the walled route, contemplating our great 3 days together.   Mark is the perfect host as we have the same interests and passions.  He still won't let me take the top bunk, did I say he can be stubborn!  This week brings me licking my wounds from Sunday's Viking win yet hopefully there is redemption next Saturday night as the Pack will host Minnesota at Lambeau field.  The below zero weather keeps adding to the ice and by Sunday we should be driving to our hot spots on Mille Lacs or exploring the panfish bite closer to home, we'll see.  Happy New Year everyone and may 2013 bring a you success.  Keep those lines tight!


Anonymous said...

Great report. Back in the 70's my dad use to take us to Eddy's for a weekend of ice fishing. Nothing quite like the sound of rattle reels going off all night. I'm not going to LOTW before the sport show so call me if you want company on Mille Lacs.


Shipping Jon said...


Jeff King said...

Dave, have you noticed that blogger has changed the add pictures feature. I can't just take them off the computer like I used to...?