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LAKE OF THE WOODS, MN


Lake of the Woods, fed by the Rainy River and other tributaries, is a magnificent destination for sportfishermen and nature-lovers alike. At 1,680 square miles in area, the huge lake occupies parts of Minnesota as well as Ontario and Manitoba, Canada.

Despite its expanse, and its many square miles of deep, featureless mud flats, veteran fishing guide and Team Northland Pro Jon Newburgh of Baudette, Minn., says Lake of the Woods is one of the easiest walleye lakes to fish. Jigs, live bait rigs and crawler harnesses cover all the hardware an angler needs.

Vast areas of Lake of the Woods lie within Minnesota, and a general fishing license is all that’s required if you remain within the boundaries. For 2016 the daily bag limit in Minnesota is 6 walleyes and saugers in combination, with no more than 4 being walleyes. There’s also a protected slot limit of 19½ to 28 inches, though one walleye within the legal bag may measure more than 28 inches. If you intend to fish Canadian waters, you’ll need an Ontario and/or Manitoba fishing license, as well as your Passport and a Remote Area Border Crossing permit. You must follow reporting procedures, and observe all provincial fishing regulations regarding bag limits and tackle restrictions.

1. According to Newburgh, who guides out of Wheelers Point Resort & Lodge, Lighthouse Gap, between Sable Island and Pine Island in Fourmile Bay is a productive—and popular—spot for walleyes from late May through early June. Fish the gap as well as the sandbar that extends into the lake. He recommends vertical jigging a Fire-Ball® Jig or Swivel-Head Jig tipped with a frozen shiner or white Impulse® Paddle Minnow in 13 to 19 feet of water. The gap gets a lot of boat traffic, as well as numbers of anglers; it’s best to anchor and jig below the boat rather than drifting or trolling,” he says, “and stay on the Pine Island side as the borderline runs down the middle of the gap.” Current strength varies with the flow from an upstream dam on the Rainy River, so necessary jig weights range from 3/8 to 1 ounce. In the lake’s tannic-stained water, Gold is a go-to jig color, but Bubblegum is hot as well. “I’ve done very well with the Bublegum Fire-Ball® Jig and white Impulse® Paddle Minnow,” he says.

2. Later in June many walleyes have moved over lake’s the vast mudflats. Anglers must search for fish on sonar or by making long drifts with a live bait rig, Baitfish Spinner Rig or Baitfish Spinner Harness behind a ¾-ounce Roach Walker Sinker or Rock-Runner® Bottom Bouncer, according to Newburgh. Spice the hooks with Impulse® Nightcrawlers, Rig’n Leeches, live bait or frozen shiners. In addition, the guide suggests fishing the structure-rich reefs and shoals near Knight Island. “Anchor off edges of rockpiles and humps and vertical jig ¼- to 3/8-ounce RZ Jigs using the baits already mentioned,” he says.

3. Through July and August look for walleyes and on the flats as well, especially in the great expanse between Garden Island to the north and Long Point on the south shoreline, as well as the zone out from Pine Island. “They are big areas,” says Newburg, “but you’ll find walleyes there in the summer.” If you choose to bypass the Pine Island Flats, the guide suggests starting your search closer to Long Point as the bottom falls faster, and drift or troll the baits, ‘crawler harnesses and spinner rigs already mentioned behind a 1-ounce bottom bouncer. “Gold is a standard color, and when I’m fishing ‘crawlers, I like some gold in the blade—Gold Perch or Gold Shiner. With leeches, bright blade colors work better. Dace Pink is a great option,” he says.

4. Walleyes start moving back toward Rainy River in September and October. Among the early-fall hotspots is the area off Zippel Bay. Newburgh recommends vertical jigging or drifting Fire-Ball® Jig, RZ Jig or Swivel-Head Jigs, starting at the 20-foot contour, and moving shallower or deeper until you connect with fish. A white or emerald shiner Impulse® Paddle Minnow is a good bait option, as are frozen or live shiners. Lighthouse Gap is another good spot this time of year as shiners are beginning to move upriver now, and walleyes stage there to intercept them.

Lake maps courtesy of Navionics. For more information, visit: Navionics.com

 

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LIMBER LEECH WALLEYES



By Eric Brandriet

There is no doubt walleyes, or for that matter all fish, prefer leeches on their menus at least sometime during the open water season.  For some anglers, leeches are rarely used and unfortunately they can provide some of the hottest angling of the year no matter the species being chased.  Leech availability usually starts the beginning of May and often will run through the end of summer.

Plastics have earned a solid place in my and other angler’s presentations for good reason.  Action, color and scent have literally been produced in products matching that of live bait.  Plastics create an advantage as little care compared to livebait is required while they can be used with a variety of jig weights and styles.

Northland Tackle realizes the importance of plastics and leeches and just introduced (in the Mimic Minnow Family) a new member called the Limber Leech!  It’s unique lifelike and segmented flat body provides a gliding/swimming movement that fish simply can’t resist.  The Mimic Minnow Limber Leech comes pre-rigged in 5 convenient jig sizes and 8 different colors to compliment different depths and water conditions,

After a few hours of casting the Limber Leech on emerging weedlines, I wished that this would have been available years before.  Walleyes didn’t merely bite this new jig, they chomped it!  The unmatched action was surely irresistible and unseen as many fish bit what seemed like as soon as the jig hit the water (on the fall).   A jig and fall casting cadence produced the most fish most likely due to how lifelike it really is.  It’s versatility and fondness by many species will allow this jig to be cast just about anywhere (lakes and rivers), shorelines to mid-lake structure.

For anglers not accustomed to using leeches, the Mimic Minnow Limber Leech will give them a new option that can be fished very easy.   For others that use leeches on a regular basis, this jig will become a “Go-To” jig starting in May and will become a major player in their arsenals.   A bait like the Mimic Minnow Leech, which simply replicates the real thing, that can be caste to pinpoint locations will play a role in walleye success throughout the whole summer!

 

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WHAT JIG TO FISH AND WHEN


We are programmed to understand that not all lure types are created equal, with different baits serving different needs seasonally for varying species.  What about baits in the same class however?  While we grasp the thought that a jerkbait is not the same as a spinnerbait, we tend not to distinguish characteristics in-class, with jigs being no exception.  That said, there is a huge number of jig-styles, sizes, shapes, and colors, with all sorts of hardware and appendages molded-in or otherwise attached.

I have my favorites, but I thought I would call in the advice of successful Dakotas guide and Northland Tackle Pro Cody Roswick.  Cody knows his way around both North and South Dakota, often using jigs to guide his clients to quality fish no matter where the bite takes him, or what technique the day calls for.  Like with most guides and pro’s I have fished with, small details frequently reap huge dividends, so it pays to pair the right jig to the scenarios you fish.  Here is a quick run-down of some popular styles, and how to go about choosing which variety to use, and when.

Jigs For Minnows – These two are an original pairing that have stood the test of time, and Cody fishes them primarily during the early season.  With designs like the Fire-Ball that offer a secondary-eye to attach stinger hooks being extremely successful.  Having the option to attach that extra treble for short-striking fish can really be handy, even if you start the day without.  For larger minnows like shiners, consider this option or other jig types with a long shank that places the business end of the hook further back on the minnow.

Jigs For Crawlers/Leeches – For the most part, you have quite a few options here, especially with leeches as provided you hook them in the sucker or just underneath, you will not have to worry too much about the hook holding your bait.  With crawlers however, you will want a keeper at the base of the jig ball itself to retain the bait and prevent it from sliding down the hook shank un-naturally.

Jigs For Plastics – As water temperatures warm, live-bait options for walleyes lose favor to plastic imitations, but you will want some different jig designs for fishing them.  Cody says, “Wire barbs for keepers will prevent everything from bluegills to bass pulling at the tail end of the plastic all the way down to the hook bend.”  Roswick continues, “Not only does this rip your plastics option of choice, it frequently causes the bait to run un-true.”  Premium models that do the best job of avoiding this issue will have dual-barbs or wire-keepers that truly lock the plastic to the base of the jighead.

Stand Up Jigs – Use this type of jig style in river areas when trying to drag bottom, or lakes when again trying to trace as close to the substrate as possible.  Often, bottom contact can be a crucial part of the presentation, and that is when stand-ups are worth their weight.  “These jigs shine in helping fish suck that bait off of bottom, as the hook points up and back at a 45 degree angle in their face,” mentions Cody.

Jig/Spinner Combinations – This group encompasses a number of jigheads from thumper-style models with a swivel and blade beneath them, to a whistler-style jig with an in-line twin-rotating blade.  Both perform similar tasks in creating flash and vibration to attract fish from distance.  “This can be important in river systems or natural lakes with limited visibility,” says Cody.  “I use them a lot with live-bait when fishing vertically, especially deep river systems.”

Current Cutter – Pill-Shaped Jigheads – Speaking of rivers, current-cutter style jigheads have made some strides in recent years, as the pill-shaped and more elongated design simply offers less drag in current.  “That allows you to fish lighter, while still getting down to the fish,” says Roswick, a key component to many river situations where current can keep a jig higher in the water column than you want it.

Floating Jigs – Of course, one of the best ways to stay near bottom is to rely on another weighting system other than the jig to keep you pinned there.  That makes floating jig head options a mainstay in many anglers’ boxes.  Present livebait in any manner with confidence, knowing your bait will float just above the snags.  Add some current to the mix, and many designs like the Gumdrop or Phelps-Floater will jog side to side like a crankbait for added action.

Hair Jigs –  Whether animal hair like bucktail, marabou, or other synthetic materials, these skirted jigs are often tipped with bait and presented both vertically or casted.  You will need different weights to satisfy the various depths, but hair is a great way to add bulk, color, and life to an otherwise plain offering.  In lakes and rivers, hair jigs do not get as much press as they deserve.

Weedless Jigs – Designs like the Weed Weasel and others with plastic deflectors in front of the hook point are classic heavy cover options.  Roswick who fishes the trees of North Dakota’s Devil’s Lake says, “They’re a mainstay for me anywhere near weeds or timber, and they have a heavy hook if you need to horse them out of nasty cover.”  Tip them with your live bait of choice, and consider them anytime you are afraid to throw other jig styles into the thick stuff.

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SIDE-IMAGE FOR THE WALLEYE CROWD


Walleye-anglers are a traditional bunch in-general.  New techniques and technologies are directly compared to known commodities, and rightly so.  There’s no use making things more difficult than they need to be, yet sometimes along the way what’s learned is in and of itself valuable.  I find that to be especially true in the case of side-imaging electronics for walleye fishing.

So often, structural anglers are used to locating a spot of interest via high definition contours, then picking those locations apart with traditional down-sonar in an effort to locate fish, catch them, and store location (GPS) information in order to return to that spot someday down the road.  Lest we forget, at one time this technology was also new, though its adoption was rapid amongst the ranks of professionals and casual anglers alike.  Still, I’ve heard it mentioned in even upper echelons of walleye nerdery, that Side-Imaging is only for “bass-guys.”

A staple amongst tournament bass anglers these days is Side-Imaging runs that map both structural elements, and individual fish to target.  At last year’s Bassmaster Angler-of-the-Year tournament on Mille Lacs, dozens of complete strangers to the fishery pulled 60lb. bags of smallmouth bass during the 3-day competition, most of them leaning heavily on using their Side-Imaging to locate large boulders and individual bass off them.  This very application while being a classic use of the technology, is not a reason to classify it as a “bass-only” benefit.

Shallow water walleyes can be found throughout the warm-water months during big wind events, even in clear water.  That same clarity provides a solid reason to consider Side-Imaging on your next electronics purchase, as walleyes rarely tolerate overhead boat traffic in clear-water shallows.  The imaging becomes your eyes up shallow, allowing you to stay back off of the fish, and put a multitude of presentations to them without pushing them around and killing the bite.  Shallow fish are typically feeding, so these are the fish you’re looking to target anyway.

While Side-Imaging proves very valuable for any species relating to shallow structural elements, the same also holds over the depths.  It’s a common misconception that side-imaging isn’t useful at the same depths we’re typically targeting walleyes.  On a recent trip to Grand Rapids, MN, I used my Lowrance Carbon-12 to image an underwater point I’ve fished often, both during open-water and through the ice.  While I knew there was an 8-foot rock-pile along the shallow lip of it, I didn’t give credit to that rockpile and how it affected walleye movements out and away from it.  All of our bites came off the pile some distance in 14-18FOW, as fish staged there before dark awaiting the low-light evening assault on those shallow rocks.  Not surprisingly, immediately out from the pile was a hard-bottom, rock-free shelf.  It was noticeably different from the surrounding break, and drew the majority of those fish.  Once I knew what I was looking for, I could find it on the down-sonar, but it literally jumped out at me on the side-imaging.

An even deeper application can be found on the famed mud flats of Mille Lacs, where savy anglers for many years have known that not all parts of all flats are mud.  There is a surprising amount of rock and gravel in certain locations, though most are in small out of the way places along the edge of the flats.  With a good chop, and the resultant screen display of your sonar showing a “wavy” bottom, it’s difficult to detect the tell-tale signs of rough or un-even rock bottom.  These locations, being different from surrounding substrate for at times, miles, almost always have fish on them or nearby.

Perhaps the best way to introduce yourself to the technology is to image an area you already know, preferably if you know it holds fish.  So often as walleye anglers we stumble onto a mere piece of the puzzle.  We catch fish on one side of a reef for a short period of time in late afternoon, without realizing that we only intercepted fish in a 30 minute window making their way out of the depths and up to structure to feed.  Even if we know fish are likely to be up top and actively eating, we know not what locations have the largest boulders, the most pronounced feeding shelves, or what areas are too weed-choked to effectively fish in low-light.  All of those answers can be gleaned from a quick pass or two around the structure of interest.

Take this technology for a spin on a few locations you’ve fished for years, and be amazed at the depth and level of information it offers you.  Consider it the best real-time map that’s offered today, and get used to seeing and interpreting what information in the plan direction really means to your fishing, rather than just the profile depth direction we’re so used to seeing in the sonar of old.

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Spring crappie locations:

Understanding three

key slab movements