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Twenty–Fourth Annual Woman Lake Walleye
Spring Fishing Trip

Woman Lake Chronicles – Part VI


Day One – Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hey, awesome fishing here, our first day of the 2005 Woman Lake trip. We can vouch for ten walleyes, three northern pike, four perch, one dogfish, and — ready for this? — one 41” Muskie! After all the very slow years recently, fish few and far between, finally, a great start! More on that in just a bit, but here’s how the day began.

My friend and fishing buddy of thirty years, Jerry Peters was already at his beautiful Woman Lake cabin when I arrived after the four hour drive from the Twin Cities. Rick Zieman and Pat Kelly were also already here, and we couldn’t wait to enjoy the beautiful fishing weather – cloudy and warm and only a very slight “walleye chop.”

Of course, we immediately headed out for the lake.

Or at least Jerry and I did – Pat discovered his battery had died over the winter and so instead he headed into Longville for a new one. Once they got that straightened out, Pat and Rick also got in a couple of hours fishing. But things were slow – a total of one perch and one northern for the afternoon. So much for walleye chop.

A quick trip back to the cabin for Sloppy Joes (Jerry will start with the usual grandiose meals tomorrow), pick up Bruce Boettcher who finally showed up, and then back out. And the immediate “big catch” by Jerry, really a big one. No, not the Muskie. In a display of amazing incompetence, Jerry snagged me in the thumb with his Lindy Rig, burying the hook past the barb. [Editor's Note: Here's what really happened.As is not uncommon when Lindy rigging, Juris's and my lines tangled. Since I forgot my reading glasses, Juris tackled the undaunting task of untangling them. several minutes and throwing caution to the wind, he handed me the hook with the dead minnow still attached. I removed the minnow, and seeing a nearby Tern, threw the minnow up into the air for the Tern. Unfortunately for Juris as I threw the minnow, the line caught my sleeve and the dangling hook lodged in he thumb, because he still had my line fouled around his pole. Who’s incompetent?] That’s a first for our 24 years fishing together.

Viewing tonight’s pictures , you’ll find out the courageous way I dealt with that.

But it didn’t stop me. I caught the biggest fish I’ve gotten here in many years. No, not the Muskie. I got a dogfish, also known as an eelpout. [Editor's Note: I’m sure tired of Juris misnaming the two distinct species of fish, Bowfin and Burbot by calling them all dogfish. The only dog, fishing here, shall remain nameless.] But a big one, a really big one. I did a water release, so we didn’t measure it, but I’ve also got a picture of that.

On our boat, Bruce got a nice 21–inch walleye. And except for snagging me, Jerry was skunked.

Very Large Eelpout or Burbot

We got back to the cabin at 9:30, still beautiful weather, and Rick and Pat were in already. They got nine admittedly small walleyes and miscellaneous other fish.

I suppose you want to know about the Muskie. Well, like I said above, we can vouch for it. Rick and Pat saw two guys who were trolling lindy rigs and smoking cigars bring it in. They hand landed it, measured it, and released it. They claimed it was 41–inches. Rick and Pat claim it didn’t look like a northern. So there you are.

Running late and long, so one more thing — the Loon report for you, Cindy, as usual.

The loons are back on the nest — spectacular!

Next report tomorrow night.

Juris

(By the way. let me comment, for the benefit of the newcomers to the WLR list, that we practice total "Catch and Release" with our Walleyes. We've been doing that for a dozen years or so. They all go back in the water, 100%. Why do we do that, you may ask? Because it's the right thing to do, and we're setting an example. And I'm proud of that.)

 

Here are the results for the first day
Fisherperson # of Northerns # of Walleye Biggest Walleye
Peters 0 0 0
Ozols 0 1 16 1/2"
Kelly 4 0 0
Zieman 1 0 0
Boettcher 0 1 21 "

Day Two – Friday, May 20, 2005

The fishing stayed hot! Well, actually the catching. The fishing was okay too - the weather this morning stayed cloudy, cleared up by noon, cloudy again later, windy, and then calm in the evening, not bad.

We got a late start and didn’t get out until after nine for a few hours, and then back in at noon. Four out of the five of us even took naps (I won’t say who didn't [Editor's Note: I guess that leaves me ]), as the weather turned clear and sunny, which isn’t good for walleyes of course. Then back out late afternoon until dark.

And the walleyes kept biting — ten yesterday, eleven today, (and even two more dogfish). Last year we had twenty walleyes total for the trip and the year before seven, so you can see how much better it is this year. To be sure, half of them

Pat Kelly got two nineteen inchers. Rick claims it was the same one twice, but how could he know? The rest of the fish were mostly 10 — 12–inchers, which are second year fish. But that just means a strong year class and bigger ones out there in upcoming years.

Not a lot of excitement today, just hard, dirty work, which somebody has to do. Pat and I both got the big dogfish again, and that did raise a bit of discussion. [Editor's Note: AArrrrggggg. There is only confusion in the mind of Juris. Although he already wears glasses, apparently he needs stronger ones, for the markings between the fish is clearly visable. I explained this difference and the correct nomenclature several years ago.] We seem to have quite a difference of opinion on the difference between eelpout which is what I think I got yesterday. Then the two today may have been bowfin? Or burbot? Or Fresh water cod? Or Ling? Or all they all dogfish? Or what. Ugly, to be sure, but what?

One of the subscribers to our list, Steve Pallo, is a fisheries biologist, and Steve, if you could enlighten on this piscatorial nomenclature issue, we would appreciate it.

Actually I should mention one bit of non–excitement. For the first time in two days, Jerry didn’t snag me with a hook. That was good too. My thumb still hurts.

An email from yesterday: Rachel Salter, a comely young lass from England who has been a faithful subscriber ever since the first year of our reports, wrote in:

‘I am hoping you are going to do FAQs this year as I would like to start off with one... I’ve always wondered this but never got around to looking it up....What is a Sloppy Joe?  Should they be introduced to the British or would we just get in a terrible mess?”

Rachel, we debated amongst ourselves how to answer you. Unfortunately, ours is a family newsletter kind of thing, so the most interesting responses have to remain unreported. Suffice it to say, a Sloppy Joe is a bun piled high with a slippery concoction built around hamburger and sauces and spices, including catchup, mustard, vinegar, onions, pepper, salt, chili powder, Tabasco sauce, chopped celery, Worcester sauce, garlic and diced dogfish.

Sloppy Joes probably wouldn’t go too well with British Bitter beer. But it could be done.

I’ve saved the best for last. When we came in tonight, there on the dock stood Peter Hunt, a long time colleague and fishing companion. Peter flew up from Texas to join us for the weekend, without letting us know. A wonderful surprise. We all hope Peter gets a ton of walleyes the next couple of days, and we hope we do too.

Today’s pictures

Next report tomorrow night.

Juris



Here are the results for the second day
Fisherperson # of Northerns # of Walleye Biggest Walleye
Peters 0 2 20"
Ozols 1 1 16 1/2"
Kelly 6 1 16"
Zieman 1 1 20"
Boettcher 0 1 14 1/2"

Day Three – Saturday, May 21, 2005

Saturday — third day of the 2005 fishing trip. Unless I’m mistaken, the shower has yet to be used by anybody. Whatsoever.

Okay the fishing — some great news!

After 24 years of working Woman Lake we finally found the all–time great secret hotspot. We fished it today, and Rick got an 18” Largemouth bass and a 28” Northern on a little crank bait, Peter got a huge Crappie, and they also got a whole bunch of other miscellaneous fish of various species.

But no walleyes.

Rick Holding a Smallmouth Bass

Of course, what can you expect when you fish off the dock in a weedy bay – walleyes don’t live here — but man were the other species hot. Who would have guessed – Jerry’s dock is an awesome fishing spot.

But let me back up a bit. We had a storm coming in today, cloudy and windy weather. By all the standard clichés they should have been jumping in the boat. Well, they were, by the dock. But the Woman Lake walleyes didn’t cooperate much, early on. We got four during the day, biggest at 15–inches, and odds and ends of Northerns. We did snag a dozen or so modest to small sized perch. But slow fishing overall.

The storm finally arrived and we got driven off the lake by the lightning. You don’t mess with that. Then as soon as we got back to the cabin, it calmed down. But Jerry and Bruce made “giant shrimp” appetizers so that was fine, and we also got some nap time. Back out into a beautiful sunset – see those pictures too — and the small walleyes got frisky. We got ten of those little 12–inch two–year olds on the evening bite, and also some great photos.

So twenty–four walleyes thus far. Biggest 21–inches, 3/4 of them 12–inches. Wait til next year.

Okay, I got a couple of FAQ questions submitted.

From Karen Kelly, wife of Pat:

  • Question 16. Karen writes:
    “Why do you catch and release rough fish [Karen is referring to the dogfish we threw back in the last couple of days]? Wasn't there a DNR notification of some sort that said if rough fish were caught to not release them back into the lakes since they were becoming too prevalent.”

Then Dave VanDoorn, one of our Muskie Inc. friends writes:

  • Question 17.“ I see you folks are catching fish — what are some of your favorite recipes for walleye?”

Finally, Jim Roerig, another Muskie Inc’er (and a fine photographer in his own right) has some info on those rough fish that we’re catching and releasing. Jim says:

“Eelpout, burbot, ling, cod are all the same fish. Go see:

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/education/wns/burbot.pdf

Dogfish and bowfin are the same. Go see:

http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/conn.river/bowfin.html

Okay, I ran long again today, apologize for that, but it really is grand to be here and we’re all having a ton of fun. (Especially in the afternoons when the storm blows and we can take a nap.)

Saturday's pictures

Next report tomorrow night. [Editor's Note: Spare us]

Juris

Here are the results for the third day
Fisherperson # of Northerns # of Walleye Biggest Walleye
Peters 5 5 20"
Ozols 1 1 16 1/2 "
Kelly 7 2 16 "
Zieman 1 0 20"
Boettcher 5 0 16 "
Hunt 0 0 0

Day Four – Sunday, May 22, 2005

The day of a full moon, which has all kinds of magical influences on fish, as every fisherman knows. And it sure did today. It shut them down tighter than a drum. Four walleyes, and only a dribble of a northern or perch or two to go with them.

But maybe I’m too harsh on the moon. The weather might have had something to do with it too. I’m talking about the 30 (or 40?) MPH winds we had today. The waves on Woman Lake? Well, you remember that tsunami a while ago? Close.

We went out this morning for a couple of hours, but it was hopeless. Very difficult to work a lindy rig “drifting” at 10 MPH in three foot waves. The trolling motor is useless, too, so fishing is essentially hopeless. By some fluke, Bruce got one of those standard 12-inchers in the most sheltered spot we could find. But nobody else got a bite.

Back at the cabin at noon, Rick and I tried our luck at that secret hotspot, the dock. But the moon’s influence must have extended to the dock too, because only one modest sized bass took the bait for Rick today and all I got was a snag.

And then the by-now regular naps. It’s amazing how peaceful that same fierce wind sounds as it whistles through the pines when one is falling asleep on a couch. We had early dinner, too. Jerry and Bruce made an awesome prime rib (see the pictures). We probably should have used that for bait instead of minnows.

Then duty called once again and back out on the lake at 7 pm. The wind had slacked off a bit so now it was marginally possible to fish. And indeed Pat got two little ones and Bruce one more too, but skunk for everybody else. A bad day catching, and unlike almost always, the fishing was rotten too.

A positive note: the boat traffic on the lake today was essentially nonexistent. We always see a lot of boats Friday afternoon and Saturday, but by Sunday afternoon they disappear. Last night Government Point had some two dozen boats. Tonight on the point we were alone, and hardly anybody else was on the lake during the day. I’m sure the weather helped send people home early, but it’s nice to have an uncrowded lake. Uncrowded in terms of boats, anyway. We could stand to have a bigger crowd of walleyes.

Speaking of Government Point, I’ve got a “marked map” for you at

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2005/womanweb.htm

that shows our favorite fishing spots on Woman Lake. Should you visit up here that’ll give you a start on places to avoid. We fish those spots out of sheer habit and laziness, but there are obviously many other great places to catch walleyes on Woman Lake. If you find some, please let us know.

The weather forecast for tomorrow calls for “light and variable” winds. (Sounds like a walleye bite, doesn’t it – light and variable.) So the fishing will be way better tomorrow, and hopefully the catching too. You might have noticed I’m not publishing the daily statistics this year. You might also have noticed I don’t talk a lot about the number of walleyes I’ve caught so far. If it gets better for me tomorrow, I’ll have the stats.

Finally, my thumb is fine. Actually once I yanked the hook out on Thursday, it quit hurting almost right away. But I’m still wary around Jerry when he’s fooling around with hooks. A bloke can never be too careful, you know.

Sunday's pictures

Next report tomorrow night.

Here are the results for the fourth day
Fisherperson # of Northerns # of Walleye Biggest Walleye
Peters 5 8 20"
Ozols 2 1 16 1/2"
Kelly 10 3 20"
Zieman 2 3 20"
Boettcher 0 5 16"
Hunt 1 0 -

Day Five – Monday, May 23, 2005

Monday – fifth day. A grand day today, even though we didn’t make it to 30 walleyes. But hey, 29 of the elusive critters isn’t bad either!

After the storm yesterday, the weather turned great, just as predicted: lots of sun and the winds light and variable. A perfect day for drifting and dreaming, which is what we did in the morning. Only one modest northern, and nary a bite otherwise.

We had to come in at noon to get Peter Hunt back on the airplane for Texas, and Bruce also left early to take care of family matters. So they both missed the evening’s fishing, the best we’ve seen in many a year. The walleyes went on a rampage for the “evening bite.” We got a total of 29, all released, which brings us up to 68 for the trip, not bad at all, given the recent bad years. (And we’ve gotten some 16 Northern Pike too. They’re actually more fun to catch, but somehow just don’t get respect.)

The walleyes are still running small, with the 2–year old fish, the 12–inchers, amounting to 3/4 of the fish we catch. But Jerry got a 22–incher and a 17–incher today, and we got a couple of 15–inchers. Things are looking up for next year.

Leaving aside the catching, a beautiful evening for fishing, calm, quiet, no other boats, full moon on the horizon, loons calling… Speaking of which, Jerry recorded the loons. Go download his audio file in either mp3 format at

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/sounds/looncalls.mp3

or WMA format at

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/sounds/looncalls.wma

For those of you who may not have heard loons in the night, this will give you a taste. Those of you who have been out there and experienced it – well, you know what I’m talking about. One of the best parts of fishing – loon calls.

Here’s another great part of fishing – finally getting back to the cabin. Close call tonight:

10 pm, time to go home. Jerry turns the key and gets a “thunk” from the Merc outboard, followed by silence. Key again, “Thunk.” Key one more time, nothing. The blasted starting battery on Jerry’s boat is dead. His boat flashlight is also dead. It is pitch black, but mercifully calm.

We are 3 miles from the cabin. There are no other boats in sight. The motor doesn’t start, we spend the night on the lake.

After much fumbling in the dark Jerry manages to connect the starting motor to one of the trolling motor batteries. And that has enough juice left to get the Mercury going.

We got back only a half hour late.

I was kind of sorry. It would have been a fine story to tell if we had to spend the night drifting around. But duty calls, the daily WL Report needs to go out, and it’s probably better that we made it back.

Lots more to write about but midnight already, and the excitement of the day has me worn down. One quick FAQ in response to Rachel, our English friend, who asks another “food” question:

“Have just been reading Jerry's divine “Garlic and Spice” recipes and history of cooking on the Woman Lake trips and I have just GOT to ask:  What the blazes is Miracle Whip?  It appears that you can combine it with bacon so that blows my theory that it is 'cream in a can' out the water! Please tell me it isn't 'cream in a can'. That would be too gross!”

Answer: Rachel – here are the ingredients in “Miracle Whip” – Vinegar, corn syrup, mustard, soybean oil, eggs, sugar, food starch, paprika, garlic, water, plus preservative chemicals. It comes in a squeezable plastic bottle. It’s really just a variant of mayonnaise, except spicier. Jerry uses it a lot.

Okay, enough for today, and almost for the trip. We’ll fish a bit in the morning and then go home tomorrow. I’ll have a 2005 wrapup for you tomorrow night.

Today’s pictures at:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2005/monday.htm

Juris

Woman Lake Spring Trip 2005 – Wrapup

Tuesday – sixth day, Apple Valley, Minnesota.

I’m writing this at 5 pm at home, rather than at midnight at Jerry’s dining room table in the cabin. Woman Lake has faded back into Brigadoonish mists. It will slumber there for another year, not to emerge again until next spring.

Life comes back to reality, doesn’t it? I won’t be watching the full moon come up over the lakeshore tonight. I won’t be drifting on the boat, rod in hand, listening to Loon calls. I won’t be feeling the twitch of a walleye bite, letting out line, setting the hook. I won’t be seeing a shiny–eyed fish come up through the water.

I’ll be checking the mail, paying bills, watering the plants, doing laundry, all that home stuff. I’ll be getting ready for work tomorrow. That’s tonight and tomorrow.

But just wait a year, until next spring. Woman Lake again, and it’ll be great! The moon will be full again. The loon calls will be just as magical as ever. The walleyes will jump in the boat. I know I’ll get that 30–incher that’s eluded me over the decades.

And my friends won’t be another year older, nor will I. Just wait!

But I have to finish out this year first. Rick and Pat left early Tuesday, and Jerry and I went out one last time for a couple of hours this morning. We fished the same spot on the “Gold Coast” where the walleyes were so frisky last night. No need for details. I got one 5” Perch. That’s it.

So overall we got the 68 walleyes I reported yesterday, with Jerry’a 22–incher the biggest. But just check out the other different species we also snagged this year:

-        Fish: Walleye, Northern Pike, Perch, Rock Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Bluegill, Crappie, Eelpout, and Bowfin.

-        We saw a Muskie caught, but can’t claim it.

-        Bruce brought in a live fresh-water clam, but didn't eat it.

-        We caught and landed several sticks of various sizes.

-        We caught many rocks and weeds.

-        And Peters caught me on Thursday.

 

Next year will be our “Silver Anniversary” of Woman Lake trips, the 25th year. I’m going to put together a “25–year Highlights Review” this winter, and Jerry will post it on his web site. Then for next year’s trip we’ll try to do some special things too. For sure, we’ll do some “podcasts” so you can get sounds, like the Loon calls, as well as the images. We might even try to do some live video. That’s next year.

One last picture from this year – see attached. As I left for home at noon, Jerry remained behind, digging out dandelions and doing yardwork.

Hey, I sure hope you enjoyed this year’s nonsense. Let me know what we might do different next year to make it better.

Juris

Here are the final results for the 2005 opener
Fisherperson # of Northerns # of Walleye Biggest Walleye
Peters 6 9 20"
Ozols 2 1 16 1/2"
Kelly 10 3 20"
Zieman 2 3 20"
Boettcher 0 5 16"
Hunt 0 5 16"

Also, go take a look at Walleye Catching Composite for a couple of charts that Jerry put together showing the number of walleyes and their average length for our fishing trips since 1992. Note the precipitous drop since 1999, our best year. For all those years, it's been the same crowd fishing pretty much the same way, even the same spots. Clearly, something has happened to Woman Lake. If any of you would like to hear my theories on all that, drop me a line. I do have some thoughts, but won't get into it here.

P.S. ­ In rereading this, it strikes me that my references to "Brigadoon" might be a bit obscure. Go see http://www.durham.net/~neilmac/brigdoon.htm for the story.

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Date Created: June 6, 2005
Last Modified: May 24, 2013
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