There’s something about walleye that gets me all pumped up. Maybe it’s the fact they’re symbolic of the Northwoods — an icon of the stained waters of northern wilds. Or it could be they’re just damn good to eat. Either way, I took my sons on a recent fishing trip to Lake of the Woods Minnesota in search of the toothy critters. To say it was a trip of a lifetime is an understatement. This is a story of family, fishing and friends.
I had never fished Lake of the Woods, and this was only the second time my two sons had ever fished for walleyes. My friend Joe Henry, Executive Director of Tourism for Lake of the Woods invited us to Northern Minnesota and promised an unforgettable experience. I soon found out how right he was. Our destination was Sportsman’s Lodges near Baudette, Minnesota. It’s settled on the Rainy River that flows into Big Traverse Bay, the main basin of Lake of the Woods. After a hearty breakfast, Joe,
myself, and my boys jumped on a charter boat and hit the water. It wasn’t long before we were on fish. We started out fishing rock reefs, drifting spinner rigs with crawlers, leeches and minnows. Within minutes we had our first hookup, a nice Lake of the Woods walleye. My son Logan had the hot stick, and caught the next four walleyes in a row. We all started hooking up fish and it was non-stop action. My other son Kyle set the hook on one bite and when the rod bent in half, we knew something big was on the other end. Ten minutes later he boated his first Northern Pike. Watching his reaction and the smile on his face, I doubt it’s going to be his last. We had caught and released close to 60 fish, with many of them over 23 inches. With plenty of fish for dinner, we headed to the Sportsman’s Lodge’s remote outpost lodge on Oak Island, at the Northwest Angle, a little slice of American fishing heaven located at the northernmost tip of Minnesota. The plan was to spend the night on Oak Island and hit the water again in the morning. The outpost lodge had all the amenities of the main resort. My boys played a few games of pool at the restaurant/bar while our hosts cooked up the walleyes we just caught and served it up with wild rice and taters. We laughed and shared stories and after enjoying a spectacular sunset, it was lights out.
Day two was more of the same, fantastic walleye action. We continued to boat keeper walleyes as well as some 25-plus-inchers. Watching my sons reel in walleyes while I took photos and videos, I noticed various storms across the lake. We could actually see the storms as they moved, yet we were in a spot with not a drop and pulling in walleyes about every 5 minutes. Life is pretty damn good. As we started to pack it up, a short rainshower caught up to us. But it didn’t matter. With a limit of walleyes and smiles on my boy’s faces, we headed back to the main Lodge for a hot meal and an evening of storytelling.
On our third day, Joe took us out in his 20-foot Crestliner off Long Point. We trolled crawler harnesses with spinners over rock reefs using 2-ounce bottom
bouncer rigs. We didn’t hit the water until about noon, and their wasn’t a cloud in the sky. With a bright sun overhead and fairly calm water, I wasn’t sure how we would do. But 5 minutes after our line was wet one of the rods bent in half — fish on! We used yet another great tactic that yielded the same results — a boat full of walleyes with keepers and giants. Joe, a tournament fisherman and one hell of a walleye angler, explained why. Even on bright sunny days the walleyes will continue to bite due to the tannin-stained water. On other lakes with clearer waters, the fish spook easier and can be tougher to catch. Works for me.
When the cooler was full and Lake of the Woods was in our rearview mirror, we had caught over 130 walleyes in a few days and made some great new friends— hands down one of the best walleye trips of my life. And I got to share that with my sons — creating a memory they will never forget, and one day bring their kids to Lake of the Woods.
If you’re looking for great fishing trip where you catch a lot, bring home fish, and meet incredible people, get up there and do it. Call or contact the Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau at 800-382-3474 or visit their website at LakeoftheWoodsMN.com.
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