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Twenty–Sixth Annual Woman Lake Walleye
Spring Fishing Trip

Woman Lake Chronicles – Part VIII


Day One – Thursday, May 19, 2007

Prologue

Unfortunately, I, Jerry Peters, web designer extraordinaire, have to report the activities of the first day of fishing because our Nobel laureate nominee (if only in his own mind) couldn't find the time, make the time, arrange his schedule, or whatever his paltry excuse, to be here for the first day. You’re stuck with my prose.

For those of you who haven’t read the preview or forgot what you read, I no longer own the cabin on the Girl Lake (Woman lake is accessible to Girl from the famed "channel"). I sold it to my bother–in–law (Loel) last fall with the proviso that for the week after opening fishing, we can continue our spring fishing trip tradition on Woman Lake.

I moved 15 miles North and West to Leech Lake. Not because Woman Lake walleyes aren't plentyfull enough — the problem lies embedded in a mire of weeds. Let me explain.

Plain and simple: I like to drift — moreover, I like to Lindy Rig and drift as Juris so aptly pointed out in "Forty Feet and Mud". What I don’t like is trying to keep the boat near a specific area when the wind is blowing. I spend too much time controling the trolling motor and not enough time fishing. I prefer drifting.

Woman lake walleyes hide in the weeds during the summer months (June through mid-September) where Lindy Rigs won’t work. So I decided to fish for muskies during the summer months — except there are damn few on Woman lake. Leech is the premier muskie lake in Minnesota, has a healthly walleye population (or so I’ve been told) and is mostly rock, pebbles and sand bottom with few weeds. Therefore, I can fish walleye, using the Lindy Rig and drifting technique, and muskies — both with the expectation of actually catching one or the other. Hence I moved.

The first day.

Mary and I arrived at the Girl lake cabin mid morning to stock with food, drink and cooking utensiles. We then proceded to launch my new Tracker at the Longville dock. Mary just hates launching, nagging the whole time about my inability to back the car with a boat. I've only miscued once (OK- maybe more).

Kelly and Zieman arrived and were out on the lake already by the time Mary and I arrived back at the cabin. Mary abondoned me and I readied my new boat for it’s maiden voyage.

It wasn't long, and a giddy Zieman bragged that he caught a walleye already - on the cell phone no less. Just couldn't could he! After the taunting was over, the three of us returned to Lantern Bay in my boat. Two hours later while enduring a gale wind and dropping temperatures, we returned for brats, beans and sauerkraut. Yes Juris, your staple food. Oh! I forgot — onions.

Boettcher arrived shortly after dinner and we went fishing — again. Kelly and Zieman in Kelly’s boat and Boettcher and I in mine. After being in Florida for the past several months, not even my 5 layers of winter wear wouldn’t keep me warm. I would have to endure five more days of this?

Suprisingly, I did catch a walleye and Boettcher caught two! Lights out for day one.

Day two will begin with Juris at the helm.

Jerry

Here are the results for the first day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 1 1 16" 20"
Bruce Boettcher 2 1 17" 19"
Pat Kelly 0 2 18"
Rick Zieman 1 3 17 1/2" 28"

Day Two – Friday, May 20, 2007

There are numerous classic ways to mess up when launching and running a boat. Numerous. I have to report that I didn’t work all of them. However, I: (a) Neglected to release the front tie down when trying to get the boat off the trailer; (b) Neglected to put in the drain plug; (c) Neglected to take the minnow bucket out of the water when taking off; (d) Managed to find the only rock in the channel with my propeller. See the pictures.

My new Crestliner has less than 3 hours on it.  Sigh…

Alright, the good stuff. Jerry Peters, Bruce Boettcher, Rick Zieman and Pat Kelly arrived yesterday and fished at length. A sunny, windy day, sleepy walleyes, four total.

My son Chris and I arrived today at noon, see paragraph above. We fished a couple of hours today before a thunderstorm chased everybody off the lake, and Chris got a nice 19–inch walleye and I got a 30–inch Northern. Not bad given the limited time on the lake.

Overall the crowd has six walleyes and eleven northerns. All caught with our usual Lindy Rig/shiner setup, and at around 20–foot depth. (The shiners this year are $4.25 a dozen.)

Other than the 7–incher that Pat Kelly somehow snagged by mistake, the other walleyes have all been 16–inches or better, with a 20–incher brought in by Bruce. Interesting on that — last year we got a bunch of 14–inchers, and those have apparently added 3 inches this year. Next year? We’ll see.

The eagerly awaited Loon Report: One nesting pair this year in the channel. ;Last year I believe we had three pairs, including the one nest right below a tree with an eagle’s nest. Don’t know if those little loonlings survived that. But this year’s nest is well out in the channel so that should be okay.

Not a lot of other boats out there today, which is fine. The usual Government Point flotilla was assembling this afternoon, but then a thunderstorm came by and drove us all off the lake. Which is too bad, I think the walleyes were starting to bite.

Also eagerly awaited — the Chef Peters Dinner Report:  Sirloin Tip Roast, a 12–pound slab, garlic (of course!) mashed potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, preceded by jumbo gulf shrimp with horseradish sauce. But wait til tomorrow, when we have prime rib. I’ll have pictures of that.

Speaking of pictures, here’s the link to today’s photos. Enjoy.

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2007/friday.htm

Next report tomorrow night.

 

Here are the results through the second day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 1 3 16" 26"
Juris Ozols - 1 - 30"
Bruce Boettcher 4 1 20" 19"
Chris Ozols 1 - 19"  
Pat Kelly 1 2 7" 18"
Rick Zieman 1 4 17 1/2" 28"

Day Three – Saturday, May 21, 2007

Man, these Woman Lake expeditions would be great if we didn't have to fish. We just got in from the lake tonight, 9:22 pm, dark, windy, 44°F. It didn't snow, although it wanted to. Of course, the weather was better tonight over what it was earlier in the day.

We went out three times, all three boats, morning, afternoon, evening. Grand totals —7 walleye, 12 northerns, some miscellaneous perch caught various ways (see the pictures and below). The walleyes, the few that deigned to be caught, were still running quite a bit larger than usual. Jerry got a 19 1/2–incher, a nice fish, and we also got a couple more over 17–inches.

Over the years, our previous statistics, the walleyes have consistently averaged 14 1/2–inches, So this isn't bad. If the weather improves (well, when it does, it can't get worse) we just might get some really nice ones.

Our biggest northern was a 27–incher that I caught on my six pound walleye line/lindy rig. Exceptional fight, a lot of strong runs. It stayed down for some ten minutes. The fish weighed something around five pounds according to the length/weight charts.

You know, it's funny how fish transform themselves in these situations. When I hooked into it, that first long run, that fish was easily over ten pounds, maybe fifteen. But as it got closer to the boat it shrank, and finally ended up at five. I sure wish fish would behave better and not lost weight during the fight.

Okay, I know you're itching to find out what I did to my boat today. Nothing. No rocks. It ran fine and smooth, a joy. I have on the same (new) propeller as yesterday. But then I was extraordinary careful too.

I cheerfully predict the same for tomorrow.

Nothing new on the loons. As soon as I get a sunny day so I can take some clean photos I'll have pictures for you.

Dinner — Jerry and Bruce made a prime rib dinner, fifteen pounds worth, for the six of us. Do the math. Nobody in the world can appreciate how hard it is to do these WL reports after something like that, enormously difficult. The only thing harder to do would be to go fishing.

Picture link for today's photos:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2007/saturday.htm

Let me comment on pictures 6 and 7. Bruce and I both caught a 3–inch perch by snagging it in the side. Pat caught a 10–inch walleye the same way.  Amazing. We can't get them to open their mouths for bait,

Enough for tonight, the saga continues tomorrow.

 

Here are the results through the third day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 3 3 19 1/2" 26"
Juris Ozols - 8 - 30"
Bruce Boettcher 6 3 20" 22"
Chris Ozols 1 2 19" 22"
Pat Kelly 2 3 17" 24"
Rick Zieman 3 5 19" 28"


Day Four – Sunday, May 22, 2007

A man can be wrong about many things, but if done in private, no big deal. However, when it’s published internationally, such as my prediction about it being impossible for the weather to get worse, a different matter.

This morning the temperature stood at 34°F when Rick and Pat ventured forth to chase the wily Walleye. The wind soon rose to 15 to 20 MPH, although that didn’t blow away the fog. We believe this might be the coldest morning ever on our 26 years of Woman Lake trips.

And any pro fisherman will tell you walleyes go dormant under these conditions and are uncatchable. Right. Rick Zieman got a 23–incher, the biggest for the trip and a 16–incher within minutes of being on the lake, see the pictures.

But that did end the walleye catching for the day. We did manage to bring in eight Northerns, with two of those at 28–inches. I shot some really nice photos of Jerry’s big one, which Bruce tried valiantly to knock off the hook with the net, but failed. See the pictures on that too.

And Jerry also fought and landed a very respectable log, which he estimates to be 15–pounds, the same as our prime rib last night.

A change of shifts today. Rick, Pat, Bruce and Chris reluctantly headed back to real life at home. They were replaced by our colleague Mark Grovak, a penultimate fishing rookie. I took Mark out this afternoon and he got three “almosts.” One got up to the boat before breaking loose, the other two got off somewhere between the hookset and the surface.

If I were better at predicting I would say he’s going to get something tomorrow better than an almost.

Speaking of which, I’m still O–fering on walleyes. Maybe the fishing gods are punishing me for my incompetent prognostications. Well, a couple of more days to go.

I’ve been saving the best news for last.; We encountered our second Muskie in two years today, the same hotspot as last year. You might recall that in 2006 we saw that very pretty Muskie just off our dock. Well, a second one this year, just off the dock. Now this one was only some 15–inches, and a vertically striped hybrid at that, but a real Muskie.

One of these years we might even catch one amidst the innumerable Northerns that we hook into. I’ll have a special flash edition of WL Reports when that happens.

Picture link for today’s photos:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2007/sunday.htm

Juris

Here are the results through the fourth day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 3 5 19 1/2" 28"
Juris Ozols 1 10 16" 30"
Bruce Boettcher 6 4 20" 28"
Chris Ozols 1 2 19" 22"
Pat Kelly 2 5 17" 24"
Rick Zieman 5 5 23" 28"

Day Five – Monday, May 23, 2007

The bad news is I messed up the link to yesterday’s pictures. The good news is you get two sets today, links at the end of the report. I checked them both out before sending this, they’re good.

To finish off yesterday. Jerry, Mark Grovak and I went out last night after the WLR was published. As I noted, Mark had never caught a fish in his life. Well, he did last night. In fact three of them so he’s now a three species man.

His first fish was historic, not just for him but also for us.; He caught a 22–inch “White Sucker.” A WS is an ugly, carp–like fish – see the picture – which is a bottom feeder and is not known to eat shiner minnows.

In all our 26 years on Woman Lake trips none of us had ever gotten one. But Mark did. Shortly thereafter he also got a 23–inch Northern and then a Perch, but those were anticlimactic. His White Sucker — the event of a quarter century.

Another thing from last night — I finally caught a walleye, a sixteen incher, so my O–fer the trip is also history.

This morning as got the boats ready, our foot–long “Dock Muskie” was hanging around again. We got a better look, and our considered opinion is that it’s a purebred and not a hybrid. We think the vertical stripes are characteristics of young Muskies, and change into other patterns as they get older. I tried to throw a shiner minnow in at the Muskie as an experiment, but it disappeared before I could do that.

Speaking of dock fish, you long time regular readers of WLR’s might remember that a few years ago we had a Bowfin (aka Dogfish in some quarters) making a nest in the weeds right off the dock. Last year it didn’t show up, but it’s back this year.; Same fish? Who knows, they all look alike, but interesting to see it again.

One last bit of animal lore. We got close enough to the Loon’s nest to get some nice photos.; Mommy Loon doesn’t like attention, and she was laying down trying to hide, but it doesn’t work. Loons are very fond of building their nests on little islands of weeds out a few yards from shore, presumably to keep predators at bay. And from the water side they stand out. Gorgeous animals, and really one of my favorite parts of our Woman Lake thing.

I’ve said this before, but if you’ve never heard a loon call in the darkness, out on the lake, well, you’ve missed a beautiful part of life.

Something different — technology. We went in to the town of Walker on Leech Lake today. At Reed’s Sporting Goods I got a “Lake Map Memory Chip” for my GPS/Depthfinder. This toy gives one enormously detailed lake maps with “real time” depth contours to display on the screen.

In combination with the GPS you not only know where you are on the lake, you know the water depth, and how the bottom goes up and down around you. Exceptionally handy for walleye fishing, where “dropoffs” and “humps” are critical elements. Great for fishing, but as best I can tell from experience with it today, worthless for catching.

No walleye catching today, with or without a memory chip. A bunch of Northerns up to 22–inches, a bunch of perch, but no walleyes, and for that matter no White Suckers either.

Okay, we’re closing up tomorrow, and I’ll have a wrapup for you tomorrow night or more likely over the weekend when I recover from all the excitement.

Hope you’ve enjoyed all this stuff. And I hope that you “out of town” WLR readers might someday have a chance to visit us here and see some of these things for yourself. You’d be more than welcome


Here are the results through the fifth & final day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 3 7 19 1/2" 28"
Juris Ozols 1 13 16" 30"
Bruce Boettcher 6 4 20" 28"
Chris Ozols 1 2 19" 22"
Pat Kelly 2 5 17" 24"
Rick Zieman 5 5 23" 28"

 

Day Six – Tuesday, May 24, 2007

Woman Lake Spring Trip 2005 – Wrapup

Tuesday – sixth day, Apple Valley, Minnesota.

I quote my friend and former Muskie magazine editor, Bernie Barringer, who guides in the Woman Lake area. Bernie emailed us:

Help me out here… you keep the stumps but release the Walleyes?

Well, Bernie, yes indeed. Who would want to read about blokes keeping Walleyes and releasing stumps? The Woman Lake Reports would be very humdrum if that’s what we did. Eccentricity adds charm and interest to life, fishing, and our chronicles.

But humdrum or not, all things come to an end. Jerry and I were the last two left today. We didn’t fish. No stumps, Walleyes, or white suckers today. We cleaned up the cabin, took both our boats out of the waters of Woman Lake, closed up and departed.

Should we have fished a bit? Well, the temperature hit 74 degrees, which is only 40° warmer than Saturday. But the wind also blew at gale strength, so it wouldn’t have been fun. Time to go home.

Totals for the year – 16 walleyes, innumerable Northerns, and that one historic sucker. Rick Zieman got the biggest Walleye, 23 inches, and Pat Kelly the smallest at 7 inches. Average for the year was 17.2–inches, which is amazing. That’s an inch and half longer than the previous best year, 2000, when we averaged 15.7–inches for 62 Walleyes.

The next year, 2001, it dropped to 13.8–inches as the bigger fish were taken and a new year class came in.

The year class thing is not good. We didn’t get any of the 11 and 12 inchers which are two-year old fish. That means next year the 14 and 15–inch fish won’t be present. There are cycles to the lake, and we see them because we keep statistics.

Speaking of statistics, I apologize for attaching a picture to this email but I wanted to show you something and Jerry already put the other pictures out on his website. Too late to get it into those.

The photo shows our two record books and a compilation I put together in 2001. That yellow book has the daily records for each trip going back to 1982, and the tan one picks up in 1998. In 1986 we started keeping track of the number of fish caught by each angler, and then in 1992 we started recording the length of each Walleye and Northern. That has continued to this day.

I think those statistics must be unique in the walleye fishing world. And Jerry and I are going to take those stats, add our Woman Lake Reports for the last eight years, and write a book: “The Woman Lake Chronicles.”

Books of Spting Trip Stats

The reason I bring this up is that we need to find a market for our book, and you Woman Lake Report readers are prime candidates for customers. We’ll keep you posted. The cost will be very nominal.

Okay, I have to report one final indignity for this year. I have at home a little two–wheel “trolley” kind of thing that I put under the tongue of the trailer and use to move the boat around as I position it in the garage. It makes the job much easier. But when I got home and hooked it up to the trailer, I discovered it had a flat tire. It did not work and I had to wrestle the boat into the garage by hand. Major strain.

Man, am I glad this trip is over!

But you know what, I’m already looking forward to next year. It would take far more than few dings in a propeller and flat tire to spoil Woman Lake for me. Next year: that big Walleye is still out there, our dock Muskie will be a foot bigger, we’ll have our Loons, and I now know where that channel rock lurks. What could be better?

Talk to you next year.

Juris

Picture links for today’s photos:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2007/tuesday.htm


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