Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lake Oahe, Days 3 and 4

Mark with a nice northern pike
The tropical heat of Thursday gave way to a complete switch in the wind, now coming out of the north at a pretty good clip.  Our strategy had completely switched from sorting through the walleyes to accepting the fact that 90% of our fish were going to be under 15 inches.  Liberal limits were set to help reduce this specific population as the floods of 2012 washed a significant amount of bait fish out of the lake, leaving the predator to prey ratio way out of proportion.  It would be nice if the Minnesota DNR was so diligent!   With 2 days behind us we had some catching up to do and decided to again head down river to fish our new spot, Nodding Horse Bay and continue into the main portion of the river.  Although we didn't get much action in the bay, the mouth and areas to the south came alive.  One of the nicer catches was Mark's northern which went about 36 inches.  It's interesting fishing the river as you never know what's at the end of your line and this fish surprised us.  Maintaining a controlled drift with the wind the action was steady.  Slowly the live well began to fill up with fish, enough that I started the front live well to keep the fish as fresh as possible.  Our drift consisted of moving up and down a deeper edge, staying in the 22 - 28 feet range and moving around a point, maybe about a quarter mile of water to fish.  Mark noticed a fish had followed his bait up then decided to stay under the boat.  It was a nice smallmouth bass, one that was smart enough not to fall prey to our jigs.  Mark threw a leech within a few feet and it just inhaled it.  Smallies are excellent table fare and it joined the already growing cache of fish destined for the cleaning table.

A Success Day's Catch
 By 4:00 we were counting and double counting our fish, making sure we did not go over our boat limit of 24 walleyes plus our bonus fish.  An impressive catch for the day, we did have some nice walleyes but the majority were under 13 inches, they would still make a great meal.  As you see in the picture, the South Dakota Parks Department provide a very nice cleaning station at the boat landing area.  Complete with water, Teflon cleaning surfaces, and a huge fish grinder, its a perfect place to clean and dispose of what's left of your fish.  Heading back to the house we were staying in, it was time to vacuum pack the fish and get them in the freezer.  South Dakota does not require one to leave any skin on the fish for transport.  Their only stipulation is that a piece of filet counts as 1/2 a fish.  Cut a large filet in half and it counts as 1 fish.  Because the average fillet was small we put 4 in a bag and sealed it flat so they could be counted.  In the end this pretty good as the fish froze perfectly and would not require any further processing when we got home. Now that we had everything figured out, the last day should be a breeze.

25 inch walleye, best of the trip
On Saturday we woke up to a cool 55 degrees and an east wind blowing into a distant thunderstorm. Because our spot had been successful we decided to return to the area we learned was called Slide Hill.  Almost immediately we began to catch fish.  On Friday we depended entirely on the live wells to keep our fish fresh, this time we bought a bunch of ice to ice them down if the fish turned belly up.  It was a great idea.  Up to this point the largest walleye we caught was 23 inches, a few in the 18 inch range and the rest under 15.  I was jigging my 3/8 ounce VMC Neon Moon Eye (NME) with a Powerbait paddletail tipped with a half a crawler when something smashed my lure.  The fish hung to the bottom, shaking it's head just like a large catfish, it didn't want to come up.  Convinced it was Mr. Whiskers, there was no need to hurry with the net as catfish usually hook themselves pretty good in their fleshy mouth and require surgical techniques to remove.  A few minutes later I could pick out a light colored shape, yep, must be a catfish.   Just as it surfaced the white tip of the tail became evident and we landed the largest walleye of the trip, a fat 25 incher.  These fish remind me of lake trout as when you clean them the cavity has literally rolls of fat inside them.  It was a great addition to a pretty good week and a nice reward for the last day of some serious and hard fishing.  Again we ended the day with our limit of walleyes as we headed back to the landing to clean our catch.  Sunday we packed up and by 7:00 we were on our way.  Some final thoughts: Night crawlers worked as good as anything and offered the greatest variety of fish caught; The water is very hard as it has taken 3 days to get the white film off my boat; My jigging skills have improved significantly with back to back Canada and Lake Oahe trips; It's great to be with the people you care about.   I have a feeling this won't be my last trip to this fabulous fishery.

A sign from Eric
In the meantime I did get my tractor put back together, began to weed my infested garden, picked the last of my raspberries, and headed to Eleva for our annual Fagerland Family Reunion at Jim and Kristy's on Saturday.  An extra special surprise was seeing my great Aunt Florence Olson, sitting in a chair looking as good as ever.  She is 101 1/2 years old and I must have talked to her for over an hour.  My Dad's favorite aunt, he made her adopt him after his mother (Florence's sister) died back in 2002.  Amazing articulate, we talked about everything including her hearing, loss of sight, and memory things that I have started to experience!  I guess I have a long way to go to catch her.  We did stop at Blueberry Ridge and picked 4 ice cream buckets of blueberries which I am enjoying every night.  Feeling somewhat lazy I decided to give my friend Bill Lundeen some berries and drove my motorcycle to Mille Lacs on Sunday.  Returning home my neighbor Lory was picking choke cherries for wine so I grabbed my ladder and helped.  We picked about 17 pounds.  Wednesday evening I head up to Mille Lacs with my good friend Chuck Teasley, he joins me every year about this time.  Although the fish bite has slowed down, it will be a great day as always.  I will leave you with a pretty cool experience.  While trying to catch a fish on the third day at Lake Oahe, we had not even come close to filing our limits.  As we arrived at our fishing spot on Friday a dragonfly landed on Mark's sleeve.  His son Eric, who past away 12 years ago as a teenager often shows his presence in the form of a dragonfly.  I tried to get a picture on his sleeve but apparently it wasn't talking to me!  Giving Mark the camera, the dragonfly flew down and landed on the boat, just next to him, allowing it's picture to be taken.  Our success immediately changed as we took full advantage of the sign given to us.  All I can say is it worked.

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