By Steve Carney
Following a successful winter fishing trip to Upper Red Lake this past ice-fishing season, I recently returned from an open-water trip there with modest results.
Pulling into the access by the Tamarack River, I noticed a parade of boats coming off the lake, anglers streaming by the access by the scores. Looking toward the main basin, I saw countless boats working the areas just off the entrance to the river mouth.
This was on a Wednesday, by the way, and I stopped counting boats when I reached 80. I couldn’t believe the number boats for a midweek day.
My group started with a jig and minnow combination, which worked OK, but not great. After boating a few fish, I decided to get away from the crowded east side and head south to seek some privacy.
The average depth of Upper Red is about 8 feet, so I surmised that the human activity had to blow those walleyes out of the shallows. I re-rigged with shallow-running crankbaits that ran about 6 feet deep. This turned out to be the perfect setup. We caught sheepshead, big northern pike, walleyes, and perch.
On Upper Red, it doesn’t take long to get a hookup when you’re covering water by trolling. With the shallow water, you bump into the fish almost accidentally. There is little structure or bottom change, so you just troll until you make contact.
The sheepshead were absolutely ferocious. A 3- to 4-pound sheepshead is a battle on a crankbait, and these were the fish most common. Most of the walleyes were in the 14- to 16-inch size range – perfect for eating.
It was great to reconnect with this amazing fishery. It’s hard to believe it continues to put out walleyes given all the winter pressure and now the open-water pressure.
It’s a very impressive body of water!