Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018 Leech Lake Opener, In the Books

Biggest Fish Award!
Along with a lot of things going on in my life, the late spring has set back my schedule something fierce!  The ice finally went off of Leech Lake on Wednesday, May 9th, just in time for our 45th Annual Leech Lake Fishing Tournament.  This year was again a full house with 22 of us fishing the Minnesota Fishing Opener.  Without a doubt we struggled this year with almost bluebird conditions all 3 days and no wind, our group caught only 90 walleyes for the entire 3 days.  Last year we caught the same however we did manage to keep 42 fish that met the slot we impose, 12 inches to 20 inches.  This years keeper count was about half that, with only 22 fish kept.  Enough for a fish fry and only a few guys brought home fish.  Because of late ice out in most of the large lakes where shiner minnows are trapped for bait, essentially they were either not available and if they were, they became very expensive whereas one bait shop between Mille Lac Lake and Milaca, MN was selling them for $14.99/dozen.....uffda.  We loaded up on Fatheads this year yet most of our guys prefer shiners and bought them where they could. Saturday morning was our first session and it was pretty slow.  Only a few fish we caught between all of us, quite disappointing.  One group came into the resort with 3 limits of keepers, supposedly caught in Steamboat Bay, a shallow weedy bay, pitching jigs in 4 feet of water.  We knew that the fish would be shallow but pitching jigs in the weeds, it would have been better if one knew exactly where.  My boat actually tried Steamboat but with little luck.  There are channels where walleyes congregate, but apparently not this year. With evening quickly approaching, we went in and had supper before going out again.  The evening wasn't much better yet the thought of trolling number 5 shad raps in less than 6 feet of water seemed intriguing.  Some of our guys were catching a few walleyes on Ottertail Point,  yet this is a great area for evening trolling.  Setting up my crew we started trolling the east shoreline, long lining our Shad Raps till the bumped the bottom.  Just as it got dark something nice hit my lure and after reeling it in, the walleye measured 26.25 inches, a pretty nice fish.  We got another nice fish over 20 but they were the only 2 for the day.  Adam Mayerich was at Ottertail when the lunker was caught, while we headed back to the cabin he stopped at Pine Point on the way back and also caught a 26.25 inch walleye.  Because mine was caught first, my name was entered as in first place while he took second with the same sized fish.  Surprisingly that fish held till we were done on Monday night and I once again took the big fish honors for the trip! 

Beautiful Sunset on Ottertail Point.
 The weather was extremely nice for all three days of the Team Walleye event.  One has to love the Leech Lake sunsets and Saturday night was no exception.  With the sky on fire, you can see in the picture the tip of Ottertail Point on the right, the sunset is on fire with its reflection on the calm water.  There even appears to be a face looking down on us, maybe it's the Good Lord making sure all of us were safe!  Either way they are beautiful and definitely worth seeing.  Sunday was a bust as well as we tried everything, even Sucker Bay!  By Monday night and the only thing going for me was the largest fish prize, Jay and Henry, a couple of guys older than me asked to go with me.  It was great to have them in my boat as my strategy was changing.  For the last night we would fish Stoney Point and end the evening trolling Shad raps along the shoreline across from Brindley's Harbor, our host for the weekend.  We did get a few bites drifting Stoney Point but failed to capitalize on any of them.  When a boat with 4 guys chose to anchor right where we were drifting through, it was time to go to plan B, troll the shoreline.  Neither Jay or Henry had adequate trolling rods or Shad Raps, yet I was ready and rigged them up each with a good baitcaster with heavy pound line (15 lb test) so as not to lose my baits if we got snagged, that worked pretty good as no baits were lost!  We trolled at least a half mile before we hit Little Stoney Point, went around the corner and bang, a walleye hit!  After netting the walleye, it was under 20 inches and eligible for keeping.  5 minutes later we hit another walleye...25.5 inches, another  nice one.  We finally found our sweet spot trolling the west side of Little Stoney, ended up with 4 walleyes, 2 keepers, and had 3 additional fish on before they got off, which was quite good. at 10:30 we stopped to go back and enjoy our final night at camp.  It started slow but ended with quite a bang!

Ben's nice Smallie
Fishing was definitely tough.  With the water so clear and the walleyes "up shallow" we probably don't have the technique needed to look beyond what makes sense.  One good thing that came out of this was finally getting to use my 9.9 hp kicker motor effectively.  It really had been a pain during the past 3 years, didn't run right and steering was connected to the main motor which had to be running to take advantage of the power steering.  I finally had Frankie's install an I Troll Speed Controller for the Kicker as well as a Panther wireless steering unit.  They cleaned the carburetor  and did something to the jets, and this year it started right up and it took about 5 minutes to become proficient in operating the kicker motor such that it was very effective.  We had our moments but for the first time since I have had the boat that it felt as though the trolling function was in full control and worked beautifully.  Admittedly I am anxious to try this on Mille Lacs.  Sunday afternoon Ben Taylor was with me as it was decided to go out to Submarine Island to check it out.  While I threw a crankbait, Ben threw a plastic swim bait and did quite well on it.  Here he's holding an 18 inch smallie, a very nice fish, especially on Leech, which to be honest, I do not recall ever catching a smallmouth bass there.  Friday morning is our time to leave for Lac Seul and fishing opener there.  Apparently all the ice is out however the Rags, a shallow area that cuts off about 3 miles is still too shallow to get through so we'll have to go around.  It's quite easy to fish shallow on Lac Seul as the water is quite stained and about 18 inches is the max one can see down.  Here's hoping the Canadian Opener will be much more successful in the catching department, I remain optimistic!

1 comment:

Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service said...

Wow, I haven’t heard of smallmouth being in Leech Lake. Maybe it will become Mille Lacs north if they ever catch on.