Enjoyed two great days of fishing walleyes and incidental northern pike on Lake of the Woods late last week. Rainy River is running low, and that means some prime walleye forage, the emerald shiners, haven’t moved up into the river yet. No forage means relatively little movement of walleyes upriver, but that didn’t prevent flotillas of anglers from hitting the watershed this past week.
We headed north across Traverse Bay to the Garden Island (and other islands) of the massive lake. Glorious autumn temperatures and relatively clear skies greeted walleye anglers who must’ve found some good fishing in the gap. We passed no fewer than 70 boats fishing that popular area where the Rainy enters Lake of the Woods.
Working 3/8-ounce jigs with frozen shiners produced steady action for me and “Tackle” Terry Tuma for two days in about 23 feet of water. White, pink, and gold jigs performed best on walleyes and more than a few prowling pike. The lake has a 191/2- to 28-inch protected slot for walleyes that appears to be performing well, because we caught fish all day, especially in the morning. Fish hit us in bunches… 10 to 15 minutes of relatively steady action, then breaks when we’d get random bites.
Tuma and I released a bunch of slot fish, but also brought home a few 17-inchers for dinner. Tuma hooked the best photo fish, a 25-incher that quickly went back in the lake.
Truly a remarkable watershed, Lake of the Woods covers 1,679 square miles across parts of Minnesota and two Canadian provinces. It’s fed by the Rainy River, Shoal Lake, Kakagi Lake and other smaller rivers, so there’s a steady supply of forage and healthy gamefish rejuvenating its waters. The Canadian side doesn’t see as much action, and I think that low pressure probably helps maintain good fishing for the entire lake.
Friend and sometime Outdoor News contributor Brad Dokken covers outdoors for the Grand Forks Herald and lives much closer to Lake of the Woods than we Twin Cites dwellers. He fishes Lake of the Woods frequently and places the lake near the top of his fishing list not only for the fine walleye angling but for the wonderful diversity of species it offers.
Guide Jon Geurkink said the massive lake creates its own weather patterns, and I wouldn’t argue after our experience. We saw surprisingly different wind and temperature conditions from the Rainy River to the Garden Island area 25 miles north. On Friday, in particular, it was colder, and we had bigger waves. But great fishing.
Many resorts, including our host Border View Lodge, will be gearing up in coming days and weeks for the ice-fishing season, which usually is running full tilt by early December. Many run bombers (short for Bombardiers, heated tracked vehicles used to transport fishing groups) out to the same areas we fished over open water.
Remember, the ice season runs through April 14 on this border water, and judging from our fall fishing experience, it should be a great winter on Lake of the Woods.