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Twenty–Eigth Annual Woman Lake Walleye
Spring Fishing Trip

Woman Lake Chronicles – Part X


Day One – Wednesday, May 12, 2009

Spring in Minnesota, the ice is gone from the lakes (a little late this year), the trees are just turning a tinge of green, soft, but cold, breezes blow, and it’s fishing time!

Our fishing crowd started coming up here in 1982, and I started these nightly email reports in 2000, making this year twenty–eight of our Woman Lake Walleye trips, and year ten of my Woman Lake Reports. We must be close to some kind of records.

Okay, here’s the start of this year: I came up by myself on Sunday to stay with my fishing buddy Jerry Peters at his Leech Lake cabin (see below). I was scheduled to do a photo shoot of the Minnesota DNR doing Muskie netting and DNA sampling on Leech Lake, which turned out spectacular — lots of great photos, some of which are posted in today’s photo section. The DNR got seven Muskies, with the biggest at 51–inches. (Their "trap nets" also contained lots of other fish, all of which they put back in the lake, including a huge Walleye!)

Then, Jerry and I have been fishing walleyes on Leech, awaiting the arrival of the rest of our crowd. The Leech Lake walleyes have not cooperated — one 13–incher — so it will be a relief to move over to Woman Lake tomorrow when we congregate there.

However, Jerry and I did sneak over to Woman this evening and fished one of our favorite spots, Government Point, for an hour or so. Jerry got an 11–incher before a storm chased us off the lake, so that’s a very modest but positive sign that better things may come this year.

Miscellaneous notes —

Loons: one of the high points of our trips. We saw two pairs of Loons in the channel where they make nests most years, so hopefully we’ll get some pictures of them on the nest.

Rocks: I haven’t hit any rocks yet this year with the propeller on my boat. And I fervently wish that it stays that way.

Jerry's old cabin
Cabins: The Woman Lake cabin no longer has internet access left), so we have to come back in the evenings to Jerry’s Leech Lake cabin (right) to post the Woman Lake reports.
Jerry's new cabin

I may be a bit tardy on some of those, perhaps delaying until the next morning, but I promise to make it happen.

Chicken Wings: Every year Marie makes us a big pot of her awesome chicken wings for snacks. The’re a big hit with the fishing crowd. I brought them up this year. And I ate very many of them already. We might have to get two pots next year.

The pictures for today are at—

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2009/wednesday.htm

 

Here are the results for the first day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 1 0 11"  
Juris Ozols 0 0    

Day Two – Thursday, May 13, 2009

Thursday evening, 9:40 PM, and I’m at the Woman Lake cabin working on today’s Woman Lake Report. My four fishing companions are out there on the lake in Jerry’s boat, undoubtedly fighting off the walleyes that are jumping into it.

But I’m not totally alone. My own boat is sitting out behind the cabin, waiting to be taken in to the dealer tomorrow morning for service…

But let me hold off on that for just a moment and I’ll fill you in on the events of the day

Jerry and I left the Leech Lake cabin at noon today. I drove my boat to a nearby boat launch on Leech through some mountainous waves while Jerry pulled my trailer around on dry land with no waves. Anyway, we took the boat out of the water and brought it around some ten miles to Woman Lake. When I started the boat I noticed that the "audio alarm" on the motor went on a couple of times, but it quickly stopped so I didn’t pay much attention.

We put my boat into Woman at Longville and I bought 3 dozen "Shiner" minnows at the Longville Bait Shop, at $5 a dozen. Expensive bait, the walleyes better like them!

I then drove my boat to the cabin, with a few more alarms. When I got there Rick Zieman and Pat Kelly, decades–long members of our spring crew were already arrived and Bruce Boettcher showed up shortly. So, time to go fishing.

We divided up with Bruce going out in Jerry’s boat and Pat and Rick with me. It had turned into a pretty, sunny day and we expected some great fishing, but encountered a small problem — my boat wouldn’t start. In fact the motor (I’ve got a 135 HP Mercury I/O on my 18–foot Crestliner) turned over once, clanked, and that was it.

There is undoubtedly no one in the WLR readership who doesn’t recognize this immediately as the unmistakable symptoms of a dead battery. And certainly I knew it. Battery out of the boat, drive the car into Longville, new battery, back to the boat, and install battery, for an hour and $85 shot. But the boat then started instantly, as did the audio alarms again

Ignore them. Rick and Pat and I headed out to try some of our favorite spots from decades past. We didn’t see any nesting Loons on the way out, but a pair of eagles had built a nest on Government point and were perched nearby, so we’ll keep an eye out on them and try to get some good pictures.

The waves had calmed down quite a bit, and the lake actually went flat by late afternoon. I’m not sure if the Walleyes calmed down too, or if they hadn’t been frisky at all today, but our boat didn’t have a bite of any kind by any species this afternoon. The other boat didn’t do much better, although Bruce caught a 23–inch Northern and a Perch.

But look at the bright side of things. Since the fish weren’t bothering us, it gave me a chance to peruse my owner’s manual which fortunately was in the boat. Useful intelligence. It stated that the motor’s audio alarm would go off if the temperature got too high, or if the oil pressure got low, or if the lower unit lubricant level was too low.

Juris changing oil in lower unit

That third one did it — indeed: it explained the oil puddle under the propeller when I took my boat out of my garage last Saturday. After some consultation, we decided to buy some gear lube and try to fill up the lower unit. So I drove the boat to Longville, audio alarm going off and on, and took it out of the water.

I won’t go into the details, but that proved to be a highly messy and highly fruitless operation. It didn’t fix anything.

I’m taking the boat in to town tomorrow to see if they can fill up the lower unit at the marina. If that works, I hope to limp along until I get home and take it in to the dealer there. I’m sure the seals on the lower unit are gone. Otherwise, I may just take the boat out into the middle of Woman Lake, pull the drain plug, and sink it.

Okay, the crowd just came back at 10:15 from the evening’s fishing.

— Rick, one 11–inch Walleye.
— Jerry, according to some reports, a 12–inch Walleye although there is a difference of opinion as to whether he actually boated it or not. Plus a huge Rock Bass, the biggest ever seen on the lake. (A Rock Bass is a worthless, scorned fish. Real men don’t admit they catch them, but Jerry was caught red–handed.)
— Pat, a classic Woman Lake skunk, but did break his Lindy Rig off on a snag.
— Bruce, the same, but no snag.
— Myself, skunked.

One other minor note — Pat Kelly, a law–abiding man, bought his Minnesota fishing license as he does every year. Pat Kelly, also being a middle aged male, left his license on his kitchen table at home. Let’s hope the sheriff doesn’t conduct a water patrol on Woman Lake the next few days.

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2009/thursday.htm

More boat and fish stories tomorrow.

 

Here are the results through the second day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 0 12" 
Juris Ozols 0 0    
Bruce Boettcher 0 1   23"
Pat Kelly 0 0    
Rick Zieman 1 0 11"  

Day Three – Friday, May 14, 2009

Let’s get this over with – my boat thing. It came out great.

We took my Crestliner in to Musky House Marine in Longville this morning, and an hour later it was fixed. It turned out that my major fear — broken seals — was baseless. The problem was just plain low oil level probably due to a bad job of winterizing last fall by my dealer at home. So the Musky folks drained and replaced the lower unit oil, and the boat now works like a charm, no audio alarms or nothing.

Earlier I also got some excellent troubleshooting advice from faithful WLR reader Cam Mader who has a motor like mine and who is also a Woman Lake fisherman. As it turned out we had already tried some of the things that Cam suggested, but it was sure nice to get the input – appreciate that.

Okay, enough on the boat, and hopefully no more of that stuff. Let’s get on to fishing.

Well, on second thought, maybe boat things are more interesting…

The fishing was mean today and the walleyes non–existent. Rick, Pat and Bruce went out for the morning in Jerry’s boat while Jerry and I were working mine. They rocked and rolled, because the wind and waves were stupendous. Four hours on the water, only two Northern Pike to show for it, no Walleyes, no nothing.

To be sure, Pat got a nice Northern, 31 1/2‐incher but nobody gets excited about that. Jerry and I also fished for a couple of hour early afternoon, no bites, but I did pull in a fine 3‐foot piece of wood. Back to the cabin.

Then the wind calmed down, so out on the lake again later in the afternoon. Well, the wind apparently realized it was shirking its duty, and quickly went back to its normal gale. Plus the rain started. The rain isn’t that big of a deal, any more, except for those of us who forget their raincoat in the cabin. Rain is wet, you know.

But not all bad news — no walleyes and indeed no bites. That makes it honorable to go on back to the cabin, wet pants and jacket and all. Dinner called.

I haven’t talked about dinner yet, and I’m sure you long time WLR readers are waiting for that. We traditionally have magnificent dinners prepared by our Chefs Boettcher and Peters. Okay I must report that yesterday it was hamburgers. But, from the chefs today —

A fourteen pound Prime Rib Roast,
Yukon Garlic mashed potatoes,
Steamed broccoli drizzled with butter,
Caesar salad with Secret Dressing ala Peters,
French Popovers per an old family recipe.

OOoopps, I forgot the appetizer: Black Tiger Prawns with Nose–clearing Horseradish Sauce.

prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes

Thawing for tomorrow, also at fourteen pounds, is Beef Round Top. Sunday? Left over hamburgers? Well no, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Okay, it’s now 9:20 PM and time for me to go to sleep. The temperature is under 40 and the wind is over that, so forget the Walleyes for tonight. We’re not total idiots, you know. We can not catch them tomorrow just as well as we can not catch them tonight.

Picture link for today’s photos:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2009/friday.htm

A fishless but warm and dry and sleepy Juris

 

Here are the results through the third day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 1 12" 14"
Juris Ozols 0 0  
Bruce Boettcher 0 1   13"
Pat Kelly 0 1   31 1/2"
Rick Zieman 1 0 11"  


Day Four – Saturday, May 15, 2009

Well, it turned out to be just a bit less than a total disaster today. Rick Zieman got a couple of fish last thing in the evening, so that helped save it. And then a nice surprise from Bruce Boettcher — more on that below. But agony otherwise. Here’s how it went.

Waves beating against shore The wind howled all last night continuing into the morning, hitting gusts up to 40 MPH. The temperature started out at 34° in the morning and didn’t warm up much during the day. [Editor's Note: The actual air temperature in Walker (20 miles NW) was 28°. The high was 48°.]These are classic "cold front" conditions, and by law all fish on a lake are required to head to the deepest part of the lake, burrow into the mud, and fold their fins over their eyes. Which they did. Fishing and catching both suffered.

Jerry and I went to his new cabin late in the morning to post the Friday Woman Lake Report, and the rest of the crowd didn’t stir from the cabin. We passed the time debating various weighty and not-so-weighty matters and playing cards ("Hearts," a great game). But the lake didn’t see us until mid-afternoon when the wind backed off just a bit. We all went out, we all came back, and we all failed to interact with a fish.

Dinner followed, and I direct your attention to my description of last night’s dinner. Chef Jerry served us exquisitely once again, featuring top round roast beef with all the trimmings. But then, we’re used to it.

We got back out on the lake later in the evening at sunset, and Rick pulled in a 23–inch Northern Pike and a 15–inch Walleye. The rest of us didn’t get a bite. I haven’t had a bite yet.

Let me give you some details on how we fish. We go after the Walleyes with "Lindy Rigs," a live bait setup that involves dragging shiner minnows around on the lake bottom using a medium weight rod, spinning reel, and 6 or 8 pound line. We fish at depths from 10 to perhaps 30–feet, and "dropoffs," rockpiles, reefs, and points are classic spots where we find fish.

This is all traditional Minnesota fishing and can be very effective (but only if there are fish in the lake, which is an issue right now).

We have lots of favorite places on the lake that we fish regularly. Their underwater topology and lake bottom composition are very familiar to us from fishing them over the years.

This year the fish aren’t here. The weather hasn’t helped, to be sure. But we’ve tried our favorite spots, worked various depths, done all the same things we’ve done other years when we caught Walleyes and Northern Pike by the dozens.

But the fish aren’t biting, and I think Woman Lake has a serious problem with its fishery. I’ll get into that some more when I give you the wrapup on the trip in a few days, but the situation is not good

Okay, here’s a couple of things that are good. We got some nice shots of one of the eagles on the nest, and the loons are out there on the channel. Need to get some shots of them tomorrow.

And when we got back from the evening’s fishing futility, Bruce made us crepes with vanilla ice cream and strawberries. A really nice finish to a day when the weather and the fishing were both rotten.

The forecast for tomorrow is much better, Rick did manage to get a couple today, and hopefully things will change and our luck will improve. Stay tuned.

Picture link for today’s photos:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2009/saturday.htm

Juris

 

Here are the results through the fourth day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 1 12" 14"
Juris Ozols 0 0    
Bruce Boettcher 0 1   13"
Pat Kelly 0 1   31 1/2"
Rick Zieman 2 1 15" 23"

Day Five – Sunday, May 16, 2009

Hey, I’m delighted to report that the fishing turned great on our last day of our 2009 Woman Lake trip. Not only that, but the catching finally got going in the evening too. Here’s the story —

After all the wind / waves / rain fierceness of the last few days, rosy–fingered dawn arrived today mild and pleasant. The temperature rose into the 70’s, the wind behaved, and fishing was a joy out on the lake.

The catching didn’t shape up quite as well at first though. We went out mid–morning and then again in the afternoon to no avail. No fish, no bites.

So an early dinner and back out in the evening, the breeze still soft and warm and the waves gentle. We fished the Gold Coast.

And then: Sixteen fish of four different species in a couple of hours with six of those Walleyes, the two biggest at 18–inches. Nice Walleyes. All released.

On the list of the great mysteries of the world — Stonehenge, women, the travels of Jesus from age 12 to 30, where’s Elvis, where’s D.B. Cooper, who really killed JFK all come to mind — why fish bite and don’t bite has to be near the top. For four and a half days they didn’t bite. Last night they did.

I can offer the fact that the water temperature yesterday evening was about 56° compared to the 52 or so it had been running previously. Was that enough to turn them on? Did they finally get hungry after not eating the other days? The moon phase? Or – by far the most likely – did the Walleye gods finally decide to smile on us for reasons best known to themselves? Who knows.

Okay, as I write this we’re cleaning up the cabin getting ready go home, have to finish it off.

A few quick notes:

Loons — the loons are at work in the channel, building their nest.

Eagles — Finally got a shot of both of them in their own nest which they built upon from the year before.

Other birds — Canadian geese with goslings (hidden in the grass) and a Great Blue Heron.

The bird population around Woman Lake seems to do better than the fish population.

eagles nesting,great blue heron,canada geese, loon

Jigs — I caught a 21–inch northern pike last night that had two green and white 1/16 oz. jigs embedded in its throat, biteoffs from some previous fishermen. Had never seen that before.[Editor's Note:That's nothing! In the early Woman Lake days I was linding rigging of Government Point, had a bite, set the hook, reeled it in and found TWO minnows on the hook. I defy anyone to duplicate that feat!]

I’ll be home tonight and will get a wrapup with final statistics published in a couple of days. Meanwhile I appreciate you putting up with our annual nonsense and hope to be able to get back to you again next year.

Juris

Today’s pictures at:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2009/sunday.htm

 

Here are the results through the fifth & final day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 5 4 18" 23"
Juris Ozols 1 1 14" 21"
Bruce Boettcher 1 1 18" 23"
Pat Kelly 1 1 16" 31 1/2"
Rick Zieman 2 1 15" 23"


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Last Modified: May 24, 2013
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