Artic Tundra on Lake of the Woods
This weekend, Alie and I ventured North to Lake of the woods. We planned a couples weekend with a few other couples and rented sleepers out of Sportsmans. I have been to Lake of the woods several times, but this was certainly a new experience, not only for myself, but most of us.
Weeks of planning and gathering of gear for this trip was an adventure. Being 10-12 miles out on the middle of the lake, will make you think twice of the gear you pack. So with the pickup truck all packed up with a cooler, fishing gear, cold weather gear for emergency purposes, food, and of course some liquid libations. It's tradition, right?
We arrived at the lodge around 10 am where Sherry greeted us and set us up with our "Bomber" driver/guide. Now if you haven't seen a Bomber, then you are missing out. These classic track machines are a winter staple at these resorts up here. While they look somewhat like an old-time race car, they function more like a tank.
Long tracks drive these haulers while the 2 front skis steer. Most of these relics are powered by a common Chevy 350 motor because parts are common and readily available. The cabs of the Bombadiers host a U-shaped bench, with space to pile gear in. They are built to haul people and gear, and they do it well.
As we all piled into the bomber, our driver welcomed us and quickly hit the trail. Leaving the lodge, we approached the ice of the Rainy River where our adventure began. A 10-12-mile trek in the Bombadier lasted about 20-25 minutes.
Once we arrived to our sleeper houses, our guide was quick to help us get our gear into the house and make sure we were comfortable. Some may think -30 degrees would be impossible to get comfortable in, but indeed we were.
I was very impressed by the houses. 12x18 structures that had 2 beds on each side. A sink and counter top with a cupboard full of essentials to cook with. A new propane stove, propane lanterns, a solid heater and a fan to help circulate.
The fishing was also new to me. You fish from a "trough". A space cut from end to end that runs parallel in front of each set of beds. Plenty of room to fish. Holes drilled to your preference. The houses are very spacious, so you can put your gear away and keep it organized. I need to mention that all the fish houses are always on a new fresh spot.
You will never fish in the previous party’s area. Once settled in, we all set our rods up to catch the famous walleye. Each of us had a deadstick, then jigged with a different rod. We all used a hodgepodge of different lures.
28" Medium to medium action light rods are my preference. I pair the rod with a Pflueger President Series 20 reel. I have them spoiled with 6-pound Clam Frost braid. I then tie a size 10-barrel swivel on and tie on a 3-foot 6-pound mono leader.
Finish the mono leader off with a small snap. I find that when I set my line up like this, I get no line twist. I can jig spoons and blades aggressively. It also allows for ripping chubby darters and Rapalas. The walleyes and saugers this weekend certainly preferred the deadstick presentation.
What is a deadstick presentation? Exactly what it sounds like. Set it up with a simple plain hook and minnow or a vertical jig and a minnow, drop it down to your targeted depth and let it be. Watch the rod tip. (A little tip) if you have a Vexilar...there is no need to use bobbers! Save your money, and probably catch more fish! There is no need for them.
That's why those awesome lines show up on your screen. My jig of choice this weekend ended up being a red Gemini jig and a glow red Clam Outdoors Pro Tackle Blade jig. My jigging rod was most productive with a Northland UV Buckshot Spoon and the red glow Blade Spoon tipped with a minnow head.
After a few hours of fishing, the guides swing through and check on us. They are all very personable and friendly. They provide more bait, and other essentials if needed. All the sleeper houses are equipped with a 12volt system which is charged by a solar panel. We brought a little Honda 2000 generator to charge our phones and Vexilars.
The fishing was very consistent in waves. Lots of Saugers in the 14-16" range were taken. Mixed in were a few slot Walleyes. The fishing tends to pretty much shut down after the sun falls over the horizon. The fishing slows, and dinner gets started. Followed by dinner, we play cards and other games to occupy the evening hours.
The early morning hours as the sun comes up provides a fun bite. Lots of fish roamed the 28-foot flat. We hooked into quite a few fish during the morning hours. Early afternoon provided a couple healthy 27-inch Walleyes for Alie and I.
Tied for my personal best, and the biggest I've ever caught on Lake of the woods. Certainly, the highlight of the trip for me. That beauty also fetched me the big fish pot too!
The final chapter of the weekend, the Bombadier arrives for the pickup. We are required of course to clean up after ourselves and leave the shanty like we found it. We load up the bomber and make the trek back to reality.
I have been Ice fishing for years. I have been blessed to have fish with the best and most popular fisherman in the ice industry and to call them good friends. This was totally new to me. We will be going back again. It is an adjustment from the hole hopping run and gun habits I have, but once settled in and the fish are biting, that mentality leaves quickly as I remind myself I am in sweatpants and slippers.