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Thirtysecond Annual Woman Lake Walleye
Spring Fishing Trip

Woman Lake Chronicles – Part XIV


Day One – Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Where to start, this our 32nd spring walleye trip to Woman Lake, and our 14th annual Woman Lake Report?

Well, the weather this year dominates the story. This has been a record late spring in Minnesota, with lakes in the northern part of the state still not iced out. Woman Lake itself was touch and go, and we weren’t sure it would be ice free.  But it did open up Tuesday, the day before our Wednesday arrival. See the pictures for more on this.

I had contemplated bringing up an ice auger, but it turned out not needed – the water is liquid and not solid.

Bruce Boettcher, Jerry Peters, and I arrived yesterday. I have to confess my trip up from Apple Valley took a bit longer than usual – about an hour after leaving home it struck me that I had forgotten the depth finder for my boat. Fishing walleyes without a depth finder is not a good idea. So instead of continuing north on State 169 I had to turn south and retrieve the unit.

But I also have to report that Pat Kelly forgot his toothbrush and had to turn around, Bruce forgot his sleeping bag and had to stop at Target, and Rick can’t remember if he forgot anything except he thinks he forgot his flashlight but isn’t sure. As males age… Sigh.

Anyway, we launched my Crestliner and Jerry’s Lund in Longville as usual. We also got minnows there. No Spottail Shiners this year. Those have been our traditional walleye bait for years, but the bait stores don’t have them because the rearing ponds have been frozen over. We did get four dozen “Golden Shiners” at $5.50 / dozen. Last year shiners were $5.00. And when we started our trips in 1982 they were $0.75. Another sigh.

Bruce and I fished for a few hours Wednesday during the classic “Evening Bite.” Absolutely no fish, no bites, no nothing. Major question about the spawning situation with the walleyes: The spawn is triggered by warming water and wave action, and walleyes are largely uncatchable during that period.

 

Here are the results through the first day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 0 0    
Juris Ozols 0 0    
Bruce Boettcher 0 0    
Pat Kelly 0 0    
Rick Zieman 0 0   


Day Two – Thursday, May 16, 2013

Essentially all our trips have been well after ice out when the walleyes are in a “post–spawn” state. But this year? Are they still in a “pre–spawn” state and more interested in each other than in eating our minnows? Or are they actively engaged in spawning and thus also not eating minnows? Or is it just our incompetence in catching them under unusual circumstances? Will be interesting to see how the rest of the trip develops.

Pat Kelly and Rick Zieman arrived around noon and after an interminable time spent discussing various medical conditions and carping about various politicians, we finally got out again. Rick Zieman fished with me in my boat and the other blokes went with Jerry. Rick and I headed to the mouth of the Boy River, a classic walleye spawning area. And indeed, after an hour or so I got a nice fish on the line, which managed to get off somehow, and then right away Rick brought in a superb 24–incher. Both of those were in some ten feet of water, indicating that the fish were shallow.

The water temperature there was also surprisingly warm at about 55 degrees F. Other parts of the lake that we tried later on were pretty much in the mid or high 40’s. In any case, we did try some other spots to no avail.

So back to the cabin for an excellent lasagna dinner by chef Pat Kelly and then out at 6 for the evening bite. And there was indeed a bit of a one, as Jerry caught a 13–inch and a 14–inch walleye on the “Gold Coast”, one of our standard spots.

So not a bad day — three walleyes, a warming trend in the weather, and perhaps more to be expected in the next couple of days.

A couple of weather pictures. The first one is what Leech Lake, not far from Woman, looked like in April. And Woman was the same then. The second picture shows Rick Zieman’s snowman that he built today from a snow pile across the road from the cabin.

 

The web pictures for Thursday are at:

 http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2013/thursday.htm

Here are the results through the second day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 1 14" 19"
Juris Ozols 0 0    
Bruce Boettcher 0 0    
Pat Kelly 1 0 17"  
Rick Zieman 2 0 24"  


Day Three – Friday, May 17, 2013

 

A slow start to fishing yesterday. We all went out for three or four hours from ten am to early afternoon and then back to the cabin for naps, dinner preparation, and generally just to take it easy. Thankfully, no medical or political discussions today.

Total catch for the morning outing – one 17‐inch smallmouth bass and a handful of perch. No sign of walleyes.

Also, no sign of loon nests. There are a fair number of loons around the lake. But given that the ice has been out only for a couple of days, they undoubtedly have yet to start nesting. So a very late season for the loons too.

For that matter, no sign of marker buoys on the lake yet either, which could be quite dangerous for anybody fishing Woman for the first time. In particular, the buoy that marks the rock bar off Government Point is a critical item. The rocks come out some two hundred feet from shore and rise to a couple of feet from the surface. But they are invisible until your boat is right on the bar and your lower unit informs you of that.

We fish quite often around the Government Point rock bar and indeed our biggest Woman Lake walleye came from there. But we swing wide around the buoy marker at the tip otherwise. If you’re new to the lake and don’t know about the rocks, and no buoy?

Several years ago we watched a boat go between the bouy and the shore – needless to say his motor was toast and belching smoke. Ouch! And this we couldn't believe, he turned around and went back through the rocks again. Double Ouch…

We stayed in for the afternoon as Master Chef Bruce Boettcher spent some four hours preparing his signature prime rib dinner with a superb sauce, whose base was butter saute'ed mushrooms, garlic mashed potatoes, cheese bread, and a special salad. Jerry also contributed popovers, which had to be seen to be believed. Other years we’ve made up fancy French names for all this, but that really doesn’t do the dinner justice so let me just say it was awesome as usual. Check out the picture in the link.

The evening bite from 7 to 9 The weather turned cloudy, windy and cold. Walleyes were not hot either. Although Pat got a 17–incher and Rick managed to get a 14–incher, both very pretty fish, the rest of us were skunked except for a handful of perch.

The fish seem to be around 12 to 15 feet deep and I’m sure these are scattered males, probably non-spawners. So where are the big females and what’s the spawning situation? Still don’t really have a clue.

But other things: In addition to our usual photographic content today, a special audio feature. The link here is sounds of springtime Minnesota — a recording of bullfrogs and male red–wing blackbirds at lakeside by our cabin. Those of you who don’t have those critters – and I’m thinking here of my English friends – are missing out. Come visit us next spring, fish walleyes with us, and enjoy our Minnesota ambience.

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2013/Bullfrogs.wav

Today, Saturday, is supposed to stay cool but thunderstorms. If so, no fishing with lightning around. We’ll fish in pretty much any conditions except that. Might not be a lot of fun today.

One final thought though – the late spring and cold weather: No mosquitos!

Picture link for yesterday’s photos:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2013/friday.htm

 

Here are the results through the third day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 2 1 14"  
Juris Ozols 0 0    
Bruce Boettcher 1 0 11"  
Pat Kelly 1 0 17"  
Rick Zieman 2 0 24"  


Day Four – Saturday, May 18, 2013

 

Well today the only thing moving slower than the fish in the lake was us, the fishermen.

Friday night Jerry and I had all kinds of flails putting together Friday’s Report, and that continued into Saturday morning when it finally got published. So we didn’t get back to the Girl Lake cabin until about 11 am. We found the other three fellows sitting around the table in an apparent stupor. After about an hour – I can’t remember what we discussed but it wasn’t medical conditions of aging men – we finally got out on the lake.

The weather had changed to a rainy, foggy, but calm. In other years this would have been ideal fishing conditions, but obviously not this year. We stayed out for a couple of hours for a grand total of two perch. Back to the cabin and Rick and Pat went to the local golf course for a round. Jerry and Bruce went to the Anchorage Inn for lunch. I took a nap.

They came back around 4 pm and then they took a nap. Pat and Bruce also returned and Pat tried to take a nap but the couch and chair were full of other bodies so he sat at the kitchen table and nodded off. Rick had to make dinner for tonight so he had to scurry around but kept muttering about he would rather be sleeping too. I worked on the pictures for tonight’s Report. No fish photos, but a bird and a deer.

Later on, after the naps and while Rick was making his exquisite salmon dinner, the discussion ranged over many fascinating topics. The Minnesota Twins game was on TV and so of course baseball was discussed at length. A debate arose over how many different ways a batter could reach first base. We finally had to ask Siri. I won’t spoil it here, but the answer is astonishing.

For lack of fish to talk about, how about snacks? I always bring along Marie’s superb chicken wings marinated in her special teriyaki sauce. Those are generally lunch or afternoon snacks and go fast.  Marie also sent hardboiled eggs along with me and those are breakfast. Pat’s mother Sara sent along her own special chocolate chip cookies and those disappeared fast too. Rick’s wife Kathy also favored us with Macadamia Nut and Triple Chocolate Fudge (!) and I don’t need to tell how those went. Bruce didn’t bring any snacks because his car was so loaded with the makings for his Friday prime rib dinner he didn’t have room.

So out for the evening bite after dinner. It was a pretty, calm, and very foggy evening as the photo illustrates that was taken within 500ft of Horseshoe Island and shows you what the visibility was like. When Rick and I motored back to the cabin just at dark, we had to go dead slow for fear of running into another boat. Furthermore, we navigated by GPS, a saving technology under the circumstances. Visually we were in a bowl of fog and would have been totally lost without the electronic aid.

Web pictures at:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2013/saturday.htm

 

Here are the results through the fourth day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 3 1 14" 19"
Juris Ozols 0 0    
Bruce Boettcher 2 0 11"  
Pat Kelly 2 0 17"  
Rick Zieman 2 0 24"  


Day five – Sunday, 19, 2013

 

Sunday, our fifth and last day of the trip. Eight walleyes so far, which might exceed expectations given the ice situation and the cold water.

We fished the morning under the threat of severe weather all around the state but it actually turned out quite nice. And the fish? Well, Bruce got an 11” walleye for his first and only one of the trip and the rest of us got a handful of various size perch. Rick and I got tired of all that and decided to do something different.

We motored over to Lantern bay, a very shallow and weedy part of Woman Lake, maximum depth of 6 feet. It holds no walleyes at all but it does hold modest size northern pike. Rick cast a small Rapala minnow and got an 18–incher and 22–incher within five minutes. A bit later I also got a 22–incher casting with a chartreuse spinner bait, and then Rick got a quite nice 30–incher with the same bait. So in a half hour we caught and released four northerns. Contrast that with the solitary 19–inch northern we had caught up to that point lindy rigging for walleyes.

Why, may you ask, don’t we fish Lantern Bay more often, given the northerns are there? Interesting question, and it stems from the inherent snobbery of fishermen. Witness the condescension of trout fishermen relative to other forms of fishing, etc. (And we won’t even get into the attitudes of muskie fishermen!)

You see, we’re walleye fishermen!  Northerns are an inferior species to be tolerated as inadvertent catches while fishing for walleyes. To actually fish intentionally for northerns? You might end up doing it when the deadening boredom of not catching walleyes for days on end finally overwhelms you. But you’re not proud of it and admit it only reluctantly. Even if it is fun.

Okay, we gave up on all that, back to the cabin to bid farewell to Bruce who had to leave for home, and to watch the Twins game. The weather forecast also sounded worse, so we decided to go out for one more time before the rains hit and then to take the boats out of the water. Back to Gold Coast under the assumption that’s the most likely spot to get a walleye, but no such luck. Jerry did catch 17 and 27– inchers Northerns, which messes up some points I was going to make. More on that later. But only four perch for the rest of us, no walleyes.

But then the rain started and we scurried back to the cabin to drop off Rick and Pat who drove the trailers around to the Longville boat launch while Jerry and I drove the boats there. Getting a boat on a trailer can be tricky, depending on wind, current, and especially the competence of the boat driver. Jerry is much better at that than I am, except this time.

Rick and I got my boat on the trailer in short fashion, but then the team of Pat and Jerry struggled. I actually recorded the floundering in a 6–minute video on my iPhone.

YouTube - Video of Woman Lake Snippets - Featuring how to NOT to trailer a boat.

 

Here are the results through the fifth & final day
Angler # of Walleye # of Northerns Largest Walleye Largest Northern
Jerry Peters 3 3 14" 27"
Juris Ozols 0 0    
Bruce Boettcher 2 0 11"  
Pat Kelly 2 0 17"  
Rick Zieman 2 0 24"  

Web photos at:

http://www.walleyes.org/wolakechron/2013/sunday.htm

 

Woman Lake Chronicles – Part XIV
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Last Modified: May 24, 2013
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