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Twenty–Ninth Annual Woman Lake Walleye
Spring Fishing Trip

Woman Lake Chronicles – Part X


Day One – Monday, May 17, 2010

Greetings from Woman Lake to all our faithful “Report” readers from previous years.  This is our 29th annual spring walleye trip, and I believe the 12th year I’ve been doing these nightly reports.  Once again hope springs eternal that we’ll have fabulous luck and many fish stories to report.   But alas, it hasn’t started out that way. 

I arrived at Jerry and Mary’s cabin on the shore of Leech Lake yesterday afternoon with my Crestliner in tow.  Jerry met me at the south boat launch and into the water it went.  Although the boat was a bit balky in starting, it finally got going, and I took off for Jerry’s cabin in the boat while he drove my car and trailer there.

Let me say that getting out on the water for the first time of the year is a wonderful feeling, especially on a beautiful day like it was - blue sky, calm water, wind in the face as the boat goes on plane, peace, tranquility…  Punctuated only by the shrill, piercing alarm whistle from the bowels of the boat indicating some form of mechanical trouble.  The whistle did not stop until I got to Jerry’s dock and turned the boat off.

Well, I’m no dummy.  That whistle along with the puddle of oil under the motor that I noticed when I took the boat out of my garage in the morning got my attention.

We did not fish yesterday evening.  Today we took the boat out of the water (I had to drive it back to the launch with the whistle going full blast again) and I took it in to Musky House Marine in the nearby town of Longville.  Later in the afternoon they called me to tell me that they had fixed the leak in the lower unit of my Mercruiser I/O, refilled it, and the boat was good to go.  They did not tell me how much.  I don’t want to know.  I’ll get it back tomorrow.

But, don’t let small setbacks like that mess up a fishing trip.  We fixed up Jerry’s boat in the afternoon and took it to Woman Lake for a few hours in the evening.  Still fond hopes for lots of walleyes, especially as we hit the “evening bite.”   But the catch for the day was eight perch and one rock bass.  No walleyes, no northern pike.

But the perch were active and of very decent size, with a couple going perhaps 12 inches, so that’s encouraging.  It says there are fish in the lake willing to be caught.  We haven’t seen that the last few years.  But we really should have gotten a walleye or two.  That’s not a good sign.

Spring came early this year to all of Minnesota and the ice has been out of the lake for over a month. The walleyes are long past spawn and into their “summer patterns” different from their usual spring locations that we fish.  Some adjustments will have to be made.

Tomorrow we’ll get my boat, put it into Woman Lake, and try again.  The rest of the crowd – Rick Zieman, Pat Kelly, and Bruce Boettcher will be here on Wednesday and then the serious fishing will begin.

The pictures for today are at:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2010/monday.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 – Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Okay, second day and a lot to talk about, including even one (1) walleye.  But first:

We stayed overnight on Monday at Jerry’s Leech Lake house and got up quite early on Tuesday – 9:30 or so – to pick up my Crestliner and head for Woman Lake.  The fine folks at Musky House did a fine job – the alarm was gone, the oil leak fixed, the boat ran fine.  So that crisis is over.

We put the boat into Woman Lake at the launch in Longville right by the bait shop.  I got three dozen shiner minnows at $5 a dozen for our bait.  There’s lots to be written about minnows, how a “dozen” varies in count at different bait shops, how some minnows last better than others, etc., but I’ll save that for a slower day.

Jerry drove the trailer back to the WL cabin and I took the boat there. It’s amazing how much better driving a boat can be when the alarm whistle is gone.

At the cabin’s dock, a very interesting thing going on.  There’s a 13 or 14 inch largemouth bass guarding a nest of eggs in a couple of feet of water just out from shore, between the docks – see the pictues.  We’ve never seen that before.

It roams around continuously, shooing away the lurking minnows and small perch and bluegills that are trying to make a meal out of the eggs.  Very conscientious about that.  Then, as we watched, a larger bass perhaps 15 or 16 inches also came by.  Well, our dock bass took after that intruder with a vengeance, and chased it away too!  I got quite a dramatic shot of that.  The big bass did not come back.

It’s well documented that the bass will stay with the nest until the fry hatch and grow big enough to take off on their own.  At that point they become bass food and are in danger of being eaten by their parents.  Go figure.

You may have figured out from all this bass talk that I don’t have much in the way of walleye stories.  You’re right.

But we did finally get out on the lake and spent several hours fishing some of our favorite spots – see the Woman Lake map at

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

We started out at “Clay Banks” (C) in 30 feet of water, moved to “Lantern Bay (G), and then back to old faithful “Gold Coast” (D).  And we did get some fish – 4 perch of various sizes and 3 Northern Pike at 21 inches. The day was too nice – warm, calm, no clouds.  The fish were off doing other fishy things, were not interested in being caught, and that was it.

We went back the Leech Lake house, had an early steak dinner graciously prepared by Mrs. Peters, and after a debate as to whether take naps or go fishing, we went back to Woman for the fabled “evening bite” as the sun sets and the fish go on a feeding frenzy

Well, the frenzy was exceedingly modest, the fish didn’t bite much but then neither did the clouds of mosquitoes that were out.  Catch for the evening – 4 perch, 1 Northern Pike, and – ready for this – I actually caught a 12” walleye.  I got so excited that I released the fish before we got a picture.  But then a picture of a foot-long fish isn’t a big deal so you’re not missing much.

Finally – on the way home the “battery light” came on in my Explorer and the needle showing battery charge started dropping.  I don’t know what to do.

Pictures for the day are at

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2010/tuesday.htm

The attached one shows the WL cabin dock at nine in the evening.  You may notice what looks like a “dead pixel” at the upper left of the photo. Well, no, that’s actually the planet Venus in the evening sky.  It’s been know to shine over the heads of fishermen whose batteries, boats and cars are behaving very badly.  As you hang your head down and mutter about your fate, look up in the sky, and the bright shine of Venus – the goddess of love, after all – will make you feel better.

Juris

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 1 2 11" 18"
Juris Ozols 1 2 12" 21 1/2"
Bruce Boettcher - - - -
Pat Kelly - - - -
Rick Zieman - - - -

Day Three – Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Great news!  My car is fixed and only one new crisis on Wednesday.  Plus we got fish.  A good day on Woman Lake.

First the car.  You may recall from yesterday that the charging light came on and the battery level indicator was dropping.  Well, the battery level went down to zero, although the charge light went off.  Conclusion?  Bad battery.  After some cogitation, we decided the thing to do was drive to the Ford dealer in Pine River, some 30 miles away and get a new battery.

I dropped Jerry off at the WL cabin and set off.  The car died halfway there.  The battery was dead.  I didn’t need the Wizard of Oz coroner to examine it and aver it was dead. Gone.  And the car doesn’t work without at least a bit of battery.

I called up Jerry on the cell phone.  By that time Rick Zieman and Pat Kelly had arrived. They took the battery out of my boat, drove out to where I was parked by the roadside, and replaced the battery.  The car started and ran fine.  I drove to Pine River and got a new battery.

I was going to list all the dumb things I did in this exercise, but that would be too long. Just go look at the picture.

Back at the cabin we took both boats (you remember that mine was fixed on Monday) out for the afternoon. Rick came with me and Pat with Jerry.  Pat caught an 18 1/2” walleye within the first hour.  The rest of us were skunked.  Again, a pretty bluebird day, no wind, and walleyes asleep except for that one who probably had drunk too much coffee and was hyper.  Few of that kind of fish.

Back to the cabin and Jerry had to go home to take care of some business, which turned into the “Crisis of the Day.”  He has a slip rented in a small marina near his house where he has kept his boat in a boat lift for many years.  On Wednesday the crew came out to put his lift in the water, and lo and behold, somebody else had already put their own lift in Jerry’s spot.  The boat lift crew called and asked for instructions.  Without going into details, the intruder’s lift is now on shore and Jerry’s is in its rightful place.  Perhaps a small crisis, not to compare with a car stuck in the countryside and a dead battery, but an irritation anyway.

Okay, after all that, out for the evening bite on the Gold Coast.  We got three walleyes plus a couple of Northerns.  But not a single perch, amazingly enough.  You recall that a couple of days ago fishing the same spot at the same time of day, we had perch jumping in the boat.  Today, not a one to be seen.  Explain that.

Anyway, 13, 14, and 17 1/2” walleyes, which are 3 or 4 year-old fish.  No eleven inch two-year olds, which is a bad sign.  That suggests a year class is missing and that fishing in future years will be hurt.  Come back next year and we’ll see.

Loon report:  No loons nesting in the channel to Woman Lake.  Other years we’ve seen up to three pairs there.  Given the very early spring, have the eggs hatched already and they’re off the nest?  Or did they not do it this year?  Whichever, it’s too bad.  We enjoy seeing those wonderful birds and especially listening to them out on the water.

Eagle report:  However, the two eagles on their nest on Government Point are home.  I’ll get some pictures.

Bass report:  Business as usual on the nest I reported yesterday.  But we also discovered another smaller bass on a nest on the other side of the dock.  This one has more serious problems – a dogfish quite a bit larger than the bass is causing trouble.  Either it has its own nest in the weeds or it’s looking for snacks, and I don’t think the bass can fend it off.  Will try to get a picture of that too.

Finally, I’ve got a number of responses to my previous reports, but you might understand that all the crises have driven my energy down to a level approaching that of a noon-day walleye on a hot day.  Will have to hold off for a bit but do promise to respond.

Pictures for the day at

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2010/wednesday.htm

Here are the results through the third day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 2 17 1/2" 21"
Juris Ozols 2 2 14" 21 1/2"
Bruce Boettcher - - - -
Pat Kelly 1 - 18 1/2" -
Rick Zieman 1 1 13" 13"

Day Four – Thursday, May 20, 2010

We’ll do something a bit different to start out today’s report.  Let me present an email from Rachel Stevens, an English lass, former colleague of mine going back to 1998 when I spent a year in England, and a charter subscriber to Woman Lake Reports. 

Rachel writes:

 Hi Juris,

Gosh, what a mixed bag of fortunes you are being dealt this year – very sweet and sour. Sounds like you are all enjoying yourselves at Woman Lake though and that is the most important thing!

I still love to read about your adventures at the lake; over the years I feel like I have got to know Government Point, the loons and walleyes as if I were there with you.  But no loons this year?  How sad.  I hope they have just nested early and already flown the coop; or they are waiting for you guys to turn up and tell them it's nesting time!

Can't wait to see the photos of the eagles - they are stunning.  In fact, you have some amazing wildlife in your corner of the world.  The most exciting bird-life in our garden is the odd mangy pigeon and a suicidal sparrow that taunts my three cats.  You have orioles, bald-headed eagles and I bet you get the odd racoon as well.  Actually, that's a point - we often hear about the birds and fish (obviously) but we rarely hear about the mammals at the lake (though I have a vague recollection of bears a few years ago).  Do you have things like deer, coyotes and racoons around your cabin?  [Oh crikey, I am beginning to imagine Stephen King's 'Dreamcatcher' - beware of Mr Gray!]

Talking of mammals...what's on the menu this year?  So far we have only heard about Mrs Peters' steaks - normally we get the full run-down of your four course banquets and you make my mouth water.  Please, more teasing us with tales of garlic-encrusted things and half a tonne of dead cow!!

Well, I hope your batteries are now all fully recharged and you guys can focus fully on the Great Walleye Hunt.  May the Goddess of the Lake grant you a fantastic catch!

Hope you are well and enjoying your retirement.  Any plans to return to the UK for a visit?

Best wishes and happy fishing!

Rachel

Well, what a delightful email!  As we talked about what Rachel had written we were motivated to come up with a list of non-avian / non-fish “critters” that are found in Minnesota.  To wit:

 Squirrel, Chipmunk, Rabbit, Muskrat, Beaver, Possum, Raccoon, Skunks, Porcupine, Otter, Turtle, Rats and mice, Gophers and Moles, Rattle snake, Coyote, Timberwolf, Fox, Bobcat, White tailed Deer, Black Bear, Cougar, Moose,

The ones in bold type are commonly found in the vicinity of Woman Lake and have been spotted by us on occasion.

We also started a list of critters that are extremely rare in Minnesota.  This includes:

Alligator
Sasquatch
Platypus

Plus others.  We haven’t seen those. We did finally find the Loons – see the pictures.

Then Rachel asked about dinner.  Last night Bruce Boettcher was the head chef and dished up the following:

Bovine Morte Roaste Beefe Rachele Rustic
Potatoes Garlica, Northwoods Style
Romaine Spring Salad
18 yearl old Balsamic Vinegar Dressing
Boiled shrimp from the gulf, pre-oil
Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream

See the layout in the pictures.  Jerry is normally the master chef but got the day off.

Okay, this has run long.  Fishing:  We went out several times during the day, hot, calm, all that, no walleyes.  The evening bite on the Gold Coast produced one 13 inch walleye (Pat) and a moderately sized Northern Pike (27 inches, Bruce) plus miscellaneous other fish.  No excitement.

Here’s the pictures for today, featuring birds and scenics.

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2010/thursday.htm

Due to various pressing engagements I’m heading home on Friday, the others are staying a couple of days longer.  Will keep the WLR’s going one way or the other.

Picture below is a candid shot of the Blues Brothers on the lake.

Juris   

 

Here are the results through the fourth day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 3 17 1/2" 21"
Juris Ozols 2 2 14" 21 1/2"
Bruce Boettcher 2 2 16" 27"
Pat Kelly 3 1 18 1/2" 15"
Rick Zieman 1 1 13" 13"

Day Five – Friday, May 21, 2010

Short report for Friday - this is being written from my Apple Valley home Saturday morning.  I left the Woman Lake cabin yesterday afternoon.  More car trouble, too painful to talk about.  Anyway, the car is now finally fixed and I drove home in peace.

The other four fellows helped me take the Crestliner out of the lake and we got our regular “group shot,”.  From left – Rick Zieman, Bruce Boettcher, Jerry Peters, Pat Kelly, Juris Ozols.  Picture taken on self-timer by Rick’s camera propped up in my car because it was raining. They went back and spent the day fishing.  

2010 Group Picture

The weather turned yesterday, with clouds and showers coming in, wind up a bit, and that normally helps get the fish going.  The walleyes like that kind of thing for reasons not comprehensible to humans.  The fishing magazines will expound at length with all kinds of explanations but it’s nonsense.  Only the fish know.

And indeed they did get three walleyes plus assorted other species. Nothing very big though.  One was 9 inches which is encouragement that there is at least a bit of a year class from 2008 or 2009.  But we really should be catching lots of 11-inchers, the fish of years to come, like in the old days.  Not there.

Excitement for the day?  Well, four walleye fishermen in a boat dragging Lindy Rigs behind them makes for perilous situations with entanglement.  Especially with a frisky Northern Pike on the line.  Jerry hooked a moderate size Northern, it ran around the boat as they like to do, and the second attached picture shows the result:  all four lines in a wonderful mess.  They had to cut the lines and the Northern escaped.

Bass report:  When I left the one bass was still on nest, no fry to be seen, but the other one seems to have disappeared.  Did the dogfish mess things up?  Don’t know.  I left instructions for the other guys to keep an eye on the bass and report any developments.

Dinner - Juris missed: Pork tenderloin stuffed with spices and Parmesan cheese, baked then topped with slices of provolone cheese until just melted. Fabulous! Boiled red potatoes, quartered, and seaoned with spices and broiled until browned. Caesar salad

Okay, that’s all the pictures and news for now.  Let’s see what my buddies can come up with today and I’ll wrap it up with the next report.

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2010/friday.htm

 

Here are the results through the fifth day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 4 17 1/2" 21" *
Juris Ozols 2 2 14" 21 1/2"
Bruce Boettcher 2 2 16" 27"
Pat Kelly 5 2 18 1/2" 15"
Rick Zieman 2 1 13" 13"

*[Editor's Note:Juris caught another Northern that was never landed because Zieman
started cutting tangled lines to untangle the mess - estimated length 22"]

Day Six – Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday morning started with with rain combined with 15 to 20 MPH winds from the southeast with gusts to 30 - just plain butt ugly, but we must do what we must - fish. The waves at Government Point averaged 2 to 3 ft - basicaly unfishable so we slowly motored over to the south shore in an area known to us as "The Blue Boat" and caught nothing. Suddenly the winds shifted from the southeast to the northeast and the wind gusts reached 30 to 40 MPH on our way to the Clay Banks against what seemed to be ocean sized waves. Nearly as soon the the NE wind began it abated and resumed from the southeast. The only fish, a Perch, was caught by Rick.

We arrived back at the cabin only to find that one dead 100ft poplar broke in half and landed on top of the propane tank, the very top of which punctured an eve on the garage. Another poplar broke in half behind the metal storage garage narrowly missing the structure. My brother-in-law, Loel, is going to have some major cleanup.

Dinner consisted of a shrimp coctail, charcoal grilled Rib Eye steak, left over Friday's potatoes and Caesar salad.

After dinner we fished the Gold Coast until Rick Zieman caught a Rock Bass, which we all know, signals the end of walleye fishing for the day.


Here are the results through the sixth day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 6 17 1/2" 22"
Juris Ozols 2 2 14" 21 1/2"
Bruce Boettcher 2 2 16" 27"
Pat Kelly 5 3 18 1/2" 25"
Rick Zieman 2 1 13" 13"

 

Day Seven – Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday morning we fished the southwest tip of Horsehoe island with a clear blue sky, no wind and humid to the point of being stifling. With Bruce at the helm we motored around in twenty feet of water, until Bruce missed a turn and ended up on a 10 foot flat where Pat caught a 22-inch northern. The fish had part of it's mouth missing. With that we went back to the cabin to eat lunch (brats), pack, clean and left around 2pm.

northern with missing lip

 

The Final Results

Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 6 17 1/2" 22"
Juris Ozols 2 2 14" 21 1/2"
Bruce Boettcher 2 2 16" 27"
Pat Kelly 5 4 18 1/2" 25"
Rick Zieman 2 1 13" 13"

 


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