Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bruce Wiley's Theory and Leech Lake

Beautiful Leech Lake Sunset
As I write this post it will more than likely trigger a call from my friend Bruce Wiley, not to congratulate me rather to restate his theory about Minnesota fishing.  More on that later.  With July 4th landing on a Friday and my wife having an all day event on Saturday, my brother Steve and I decided to try our luck on Leech Lake.  The weather was suppose to be nice, the walleye population on Leech is at an all time high, and vowing to try Leech sometime after our traditional opener there, it came together.  Steve lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin and is about 3 hours from the house, we decided to meet at 10:30 on Friday.  The plan would be to  fish the late afternoon bite and again in the morning before leaving around 2:00 on Saturday.  He's very punctual, and arrived right on time.  I had looked for hotel rooms in the Walker area for Friday night with little luck finding anything.  Getting on Brindley's site they had a 1 bedroom cabin duplex open for Friday and although they normally don't do single nights they would make an exception for us as we were good customers.  Couple the room with a harbor slip for the night and it would be perfect as we could simply get up and leave, no driving back and forth, relaunching the boat, and the extra expense and time of it all.  We arrived to a pretty strong south wind and the remnants of a huge mayfly hatch, the kind that can put fishing on hold for a while.  And on hold it was. Fishing Leech in the summer isn't too much different than on opener.  The same areas hold fish yet they tend to be on the deeper flats, along the transition areas, or located on offshore structures.  With a 20+ mph wind, it limited where I wanted
Mayfly hatch
to fish.  Mike from the resort had some idea's and using our knowledge formulated a strategy.  Unfortunately it wasn't a very good one.  Staying to the north behind the larger points, we mitigated the effects of the 4 foot rollers building on the main lake and fished Grand View Flats, The Snake Pit, Goose Island Flat's, the transition areas around Ottertail point.  Leeches, crawlers, minnows, we did get a few small perch and the most exciting thing was Steve's crawler had a pretty good hit and as he reeled it up it seemed to get off the line.  A moment later it was back on, maybe it simply ran towards the boat as it seemed like a nice fish.  With net in hand  the fish was in sight.....damn, a northern.  It wasn't too bad sized and as I readied the net to land the fish it simply disappeared leaving a 5 inch perch attached to the hook.  Apparently the perch was on the line before the northern hit it and while reeling the fish in, it had let go but quickly attacked the perch again, holding on to it good.  I suppose when it finally saw the boat and net it decided that he's had enough.  The northern was large enough to cause some serious damage to the perch so we let it go, maybe the northern would finish the job.   Beside that brief moment of excitement, we did not catch one walleye.  With the hope of bringing home some fish, the only thing we caught worth looking at was the beautiful sunset.

Mayfly Hatch on Radar Near La Crosse, WI
Mayfly hatches occur in many areas of the country and here in the Midwest they can really have an effect on fishing.  Literally billions of mayflies and fishflies can hatch at once causing havoc on both the fishing and man made things like bridges and roads.  Mayflies can be a good thing as they often are a sign that the lake or river is in great shape.  In La Crosse, where Steve lives, sometimes the hatch is so huge that it shows up on weather radar as a storm would!  Notice the red, purple, and white colors over the river indicating a huge amount of insects hatching from the Mississippi.  So much that the city has to deploy their snow plows to clear the roads and bridge decks of all the dead carcasses. Mayflies spend most of their lives underwater as nymphs and as they mature make their way to the surface where they molt then take off to breed, lay their eggs then die withing 24 to 48 hours.  These hatching occur on Mille Lacs as well and have the same effect on the walleye bite.  Of course the larval stage makes for an easy meal as the fish gorge themselves on mayflies.   I tend to fish with nightcrawlers when the hatch is on as it seems like it would most duplicate what the fish are feeding on.  The hatch at Leech last week was pretty big, enough to have the guys at Brindley's get out the bobcat to clear some of the areas around their lights they forgot to turn off.  Usually there is evidence of a strong hatch through the amount of mayfly carcasses on the water yet we saw little on Friday night.  The last place we fished, north of Ottertail Point told a different story.  I don't think I ever saw so many carcasses in the water as we did there.  I swear we could have stepped out of the boat on a huge raft of them floating, it was obvious why the bite was tough.  Oh well, it should be over with by the time I get to Mille Lacs this weekend.

So, back to Bruce's theory.  As  you know, I've had the pleasure to fish with his group at Lac Seul a couple of times.  As a favor, and because he has a place close to Mille Lacs, I have offered to take him fishing on Mille Lacs any time he would like.  His answer is simple, there is no fish in Minnesota, I don't buy a license.  OK........I guess when you have access to fishing Lac Seul once a month, it's pretty hard to argue.  The problem is both Pete and Bruce read this and the last report of no fish prompted a call to reinforce his theory and I am just another avenue of proof to that thought.  My last 3 trips within the state have not been very productive yet time is on my side.  Therefore I figured if I addressed his theory up front, I might avoid another "I told you so" phone call, but I doubt it.  The fish will be biting somewhere, sometime, I'll find them.  In the meantime he can either continue to harass my feeble attempts to catch a fish in Minnesota, or maybe he'll just feel sorry for me.  We'll see!

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