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Twenty–Seventh Annual Woman Lake Walleye
Spring Fishing Trip

Woman Lake Chronicles – Part VIII


Day One – Thursday, May 15, 2008

The routine every spring is usually the same: Clean last years garbage out of the boat, charge the batteries, check rods, reels, line for knots and abrasions, minnow buckets, ropes, life vests, and, it is very important to insure the drain plug in installed. But the most important part of the spring routine is updating your selection of gadgets designed to catch the eye of the fisherman, not the fish. But this year was different. A hitherto unknown force, convinced me to get the boat ready for spring last fall, so all I had to do was plug in the onboard battery charger.

Boettcher and I arrived separately to the cabin around mid afternoon. After a sparing match between myself and my spouse (Mary) about how to launch a boat, she finally drove the trailer to Loel's cabin and I to the dock. Boettcher and I headed to the Gold Coast for the evening bite, Mary drove back to our Leech Lake home, muttering to herself.

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 0 1 - 20"
Bruce Boettcher 1 1 17" 19"

Day Two – Friday, May 16, 2008

Hey,we’ve actually been catching fish, some fifteen of them of four different species so far. Which isn’t bad. Consider: the ice went out from the lake only a little over a week ago, the wind blasted from several directions all day, and the water temperature is only 16–degrees above freezing.

For those of you readers from out of state, that’s actually great weather for northern Minnesota in the spring. The ice was in fact gone and it didn’t snow.

And we were out on the water instead of in the office. Life couldn’t be better.

To recap: Jerry Peters and Bruce Boettcher got here yesterday (Thursday) and went out for a couple of hours of evening fishing. One nice smallmouth and a modest Northern Pike.

Pat Kelly and Rick Zieman came up earlier today and spent the afternoon and evening on Woman. A total of six fish including a 22–inch walleye by Rick.

And after I got here this afternoon Bruce and I went out on Jerry’s boat. A 14–inch walleye for Bruce, a 30–inch Northern for Jerry, and some other smaller Northerns and a couple of perch.

Not bad, all without any real troubles unlike some other years. When Jerry got his line caught in the trolling motor it only took him a half hour to disassemble it to get the line off — see the pictures. Plus he didn’t drop any tools or the propeller into the lake. And he probably wouldn’t have caught any walleyes during that time. So that was fine too.

Bruce and Jerry made one of their typical dinners for this first night — a 20–pound roast beef, garlic mashed potatoes, shrimp with cocktail sauce, and some other stuff. So we’ve settled into our usual spring patterns.

We have yet to determine what patterns the walleyes are in. But two walleyes the second day? That’s a start. We’re not skunked.

Okay, it’s late as usual, and I need to get these emails out. The forecast for tomorrow is cooler but not as windy. We’ll see if the walleyes care.

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

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2008/friday.htm

And I’ve got some loon news for you tomorrow too.

Next report tomorrow night.

 

Here are the results through the second day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 0 3   30"
Juris Ozols - 2   22"
Bruce Boettcher 1 1 17" 19"
Pat Kelly - 1   20"
Rick Zieman 1 2 22" 24"

Day Three – Saturday, May 17, 2008

The onions started it. We got moving late to begin with, and then Jerry and Bruce started to prep for tonight’s dinner. This included, of course, garlic and onions. They cut the onions. We all cried. We had to comment and laugh about crying. That took time. Somehow or another that also led to discussions of disk storage technologies, solar power conversion efficiency, the corruption of Mohammed’s messages, navigable river channel between Leech Lake and Woman Lake, plus much other fascinating stuff.

We didn’t get started fishing until midmorning.

That was a mistake.

We should have stayed in the cabin and debated other interesting topics. The morning temperature of 58 degrees didn’t get any warmer, the blue sky turned cloudy and the wind blew us off the lake. That takes care of the good weather for today. In the afternoon it turned mean with rain and more wind of thirty mph with perhaps forty mph gusts.

The fishing suffered, as did we. Recap for the day: Ozols–Skunk; Peters–1 Perch; Boettcher–1 Northern, 1 Perch; Kelly–Skunk; Zieman–1 Perch. That was today.

But the good news part of this: Since we didn’t fish much, Jerry and Bruce put heart and soul into “The Dinner,” perhaps his best ever during the 27 years of Woman Lake Trips.

Tonight we had: Shrimp Cocktail, Standing Prime Rib Roast ala Peters, Garlic Sauce with Capers ala Boettcher, Caeser Salad ala Peters, Tomato Basil with Fresh Mozzarella Cheese ala Boettcher. And I drank some skim milk.

Go see the “Dinner Pictures” link below. Jerry is now considering hiring himself out as a chef for special occasions at very modest rates. I urge you to investigate that.

The Loon report: There’s one nesting pair in the channel leading to Woman Lake. Another pair seems to be looking to nest but we’ve only seen them in the water. If you can’t have walleyes, then Loons are the next best thing. I’ll get pictures for you.

Comment: There are very few boats on the lake this year other than our two. Spring was late, the ice out very late, and the walleye catching on Woman Lake marginal the last few years. The fishermen seem to have moved on to other waters.

As have the birds. We used to have flocks of seagulls and terns follow the boat, diving for discarded minnows. No more. We’ve seen one seagull and a handful of terns. They seem to have moved on too. What do they know?

Picture link for today’s photos:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2008/saturday.htm

Juris

 

Here are the results through the third day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 0 3   30"
Juris Ozols - 2   22"
Bruce Boettcher 1 2 17" 23"
Pat Kelly - 1   20"
Rick Zieman 1 2 22" 24"


Day Four – Sunday, May 18, 2008

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/2008/sunday.htm

Juris

Here are the results through the fourth day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 3 3 19" 30"
Juris Ozols 1 4 11" 26"
Bruce Boettcher 1 2 17" 23"
Pat Kelly - 1   20"
Rick Zieman 2 2 22" 24"

Day Five – Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday, the last full day of the trip. Rick and Pat headed home and I’ll be on my way tomorrow.

The air temperature this morning stood at 45° F, and stayed there the whole day. But the water was a balmy 49°. I’m not sure how the temperature of the drizzly morning rain compared to all this, but at least the wind was calm. Normally the walleyes would be highly active given the clouds and rain, but apparently they need training in order to act properly.

Jerry and I fished for a couple of hours in the rain with nothing resembling a bite. Pat and Rick also were out there for several hours with a 27–inch Northern Pike and three perch to show for it. They went home.

Rick ended the trip with two walleyes, a 13–incher and the big fish this year, a 22–incher. Pat was skunked as far as walleyes went. As it happens, Pat holds the record for most walleyes caught on the trip, a total of 38 in 1994. Although he may be a bit older now, his fishing skills are at least as good. It’s the fish that have changed.

Anyway, Jerry and I took a bit of time off and then went back out for the afternoon and early evening on our usual Gold Coast spot. The weather had changed to sunny skies with puffy cold front clouds, still no wind and still 45 degrees. Within five minutes of getting our lines in the water Jerry had a 15–inch walleye and I got a 20–incher. Hey, the fishing has changed!

Three hours later We had a total of one 15–incher and one 20–inch walleye. The fishing gods are capricious and arbitrary.

Toward the end of our outing another bloke motored up and started fishing close by. He turned out to be a talkative gentleman and let us know he had caught 50 walleyes in the last three days, all 12–inches or smaller. And he asked us how we had done. I told him we had caught one 11–incher, which is not a lie.

Somewhere in there Jerry had me drive the boat from up front, running the trolling motor. As you recall, a couple of days ago, while driving the boat, Jerry wrapped his line in the electric. He had to take the propeller off to get it clear.

To show you what caliber of man I am, I did nothing of the sort. I ran over my own line and wrapped it around the big motor in back. And none of this disassembly nonsense for me. I just ripped the line loose, and the cut on my hand from line burn didn’t bleed hardly at all.

That’s how real men do things.

Photography report: I had Jerry drop me off on shore where there’s a 50 foot bank at water’s edge and had him drive the boat around while I took a bunch of photos. A couple of those came out nice – see tonight’s pictures.

As we were leaving the photoshoot we spotted another eagle in a pine tree. This one let us get close up, and posed for some photos. With my telephoto lens you’re almost in the tree with the eagle. It finally took off and I got a nice midair shot too.

That’s enough for tonight. We’re going to fish one more time tomorrow morning and then I’m heading home. I’ll have a wrapup for you in a few days with full statistics for this year. I’ll also fill you in on our fishing technique, depths, locations, what worked and what didn’t. You can guess which of those last two will get the most press.

Juris

Today’s pictures at

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2008/monday.htm



Juris

Here are the results through the fifth & final day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 4 5 19" 30"
Juris Ozols 2 4 20" 26"
Bruce Boettcher 1 2 17" 23"
Pat Kelly O'fer 2   27"
Rick Zieman 2 2 22" 24"

 

Woman Lake Spring Trip 2008 – Wrapup

Tuesday – sixth day, Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Another year is done and Woman Lake has faded into its Brigadoonish mists once again. Jerry and I fished Tuesday morning. Fortyfive degrees, strong winds, no fish. We conceded defeat, cleaned up the cabin. I headed home to start my retirement in earnest.

The five of us ended up with 9 Walleyes, 15 Northerns, 3 Smallmouths, and maybe a dozen Perch. Rick Zieman got the biggest Walleye, his 22‐incher on Friday, and Jerry got a 30‐inch Northern. Those are decent sized fish.

But the stats tell some other stories. We had approximately 22 person–days of fishing this year. So we averaged less than half a walleye per person per day. I’d guess we fished about 8 hours per day, so that’s one walleye every 16 hours or so. Ufda!

One of my retirement projects will be the “Woman Lake Chronicles” book, and I’ll have lots of stats from the past quarter century. We’ll see how this year stacks up against the “good” years. It will be way down.

Also, look at the Northern / Perch ratio – we actually caught more Northerns than Perch. That’s amazing. In some of our early years we would catch literally hundreds of Perch, and far fewer Northerns. The lake balance has certainly changed.

Here’s something else: A few years ago there was a “Rusty Crayfish” population explosion on Woman Lake. We would bring up some 5 or 10 crayfish a day, hanging onto our shiner minnows. And that year our walleye catching success plummeted and has stayed down since.

We did not snag a single crayfish this year, nor last year either if I recall correctly. So the crayfish have declined, but the walleyes are still down too. Not sure on the cause/effect here.

Lots of data for analysis, I’ll be doing that this year and will report to you on what comes out of it.

Some words on technique. We pretty much fish the same way and the same spots every year. We use “Lindy Rigs,” with shiner minnows dragged along the bottom using slip sinker. When a bite occurs, we let out some line, wait a bit, and set the hook. Most often, of course, it turns out to have been a rock or weeds.

We use spinning outfits with “open face” reels. I use 6 pound Fireline fishing line, Jerry uses 50 pound “super line” of some obscure brand. That doesn’t make a lot of difference. [Editor's Note: The line I use is called Ripcord and is only available at Cabella’s. I have never had a bite off using that line.]

We troll around various depths between 10 and 30 feet, and if we catch a fish at some particular depth we concentrate on that.

We fish mostly in a handful of spots – the “Gold Coast (D), Blue Boat (E), Clay Banks (C), Government Point (B), Lantern Bay (G).” The letters refer to the marked map at

http//www.walleyes.org/womanlake/images/lakewom2.jpg

Our cabin is just off the top right corner of that map in Girl Lake. We go through Broadwater Bay to get to Woman itself. The loons live in the channel to the NW of Government point and around the corner.

This year Jerry got hung up on the Gold Coast and we spent most of the time there. I don’t think that mattered a lot – the fish would have been just as uncatchable anywhere on the lake I would claim.

The one thing we really should do is use different techniques – lots of possible ways to catch walleyes: jigs, slip bobbering, trolling Shadraps, night fishing. But we don’t. Lindy Rigging is a very peaceful, low energy way of fishing. Jerry has been fixated on it for decades. So we Lindy Rig. And honestly, that’s fine with me.

In recent years, especially since I started doing things for Muskie Magazine, I’ve gotten into photography. So I spend much of my time catching snapshots instead of Walleyes. You can tell that from the pictures that come along with our nightly reports. Catching Walleyes would detract from my photography. And right now getting good photos is easier than getting good Walleyes.

An update from the preview — I think Jerry finally fixed the links to all the previous years WLR’s going back to year 2000, although it was a struggle. (He uses a Windows PC for that.) You can try them at:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/index.html

Things are different for me this year, given retirement. I’m going to go up north to fish Muskies on Leech with Jerry whenever the mood strikes. We just may give the Woman Lake Walleyes an opportunity to get caught too, especially in the fall. So I’ll have more to tell you about all that.

Until then, I appreciate you putting up with my ramblings. See you next year

Juris


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Date Created: May 26, 2008
Last Modified: June 5, 2013
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