A WINTER FISHING TRIP WHERE IT’S WARM

 

By Larry Whiteley

Joe Henry with a couple of JUMBO PERCH caught while ice fishing in Lake-of-the-Woods, Minnesota.

We have been having high temperatures in the teens and single digit temperatures at night here in Missouri and that doesn’t count the wind chill index.

In my old age I don’t like being cold so I’ve been day dreaming a lot lately about going fishing some place where it’s nice and warm. But, I’m not thinking about warm beaches, blue oceans and saltwater fishing. I’m thinking about calling my friend Joe Henry, the Executive Director of Tourism at Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods, and booking an ice fishing trip to “The Walleye Capital of the World”.

Ice fishing huts in Minnesota are called a “Fish House” and are not just wind shelters, they are warm, cozy and comfortable for a several days without coming back to shore.

As I write this on a Sunday morning in southwest Missouri the temperature in Baudette, MN, is minus 29 and the high is going to be minus 18. Plus they have a wind chill warning. So you’re probably saying “You got to be crazy Whiteley because there is no way you can be warm fishing in temperatures like that.”

When someone who has never been ice fishing thinks about it they imagine sitting outside over a hole in the ice bundled up in so much clothing you can barely move and still being cold. At Lake of the Woods people from all over the country come to experience ice fishing because instead of fishing in the cold you fish in the warm.

Arnesen’s Sleeper fish house offers outdoor adventure in below zero cold with full comfort and lots of fish.

After you check-in to your toasty warm resort you get into heated track rig transportation. They take you across ice up to several feet thick to your personal ice fishing house that has been placed where the guides know the fish are. The ice fishing holes have already been drilled for you and your fishing equipment and bait are waiting. Once inside your insulated ice fishing house you will be taking off some of your clothes because the thermostat is set at a very comfortable 70 degrees.

Now the fun begins! You pull up your seat, grab your fishing rod and lower your bait into the hole. It usually doesn’t take very long before you feel a tug on your line and set the hook. Usually a delicious walleye comes up through the hole but it could also be an equally delicious sauger, yellow perch or crappie. You could even be surprised with a huge northern pike.

To reach your fish house in comfort, a full equipped, warm, Bombardier will transport you from the lodge to your destination, and back. Proprietors come out to check on you and call to be sure you don’t need anything. Fun times.

Joe tells me that you might hope that tug on your line is an eelpout. A member of the cod family and also called burbot, it is affectionately known as “Poor Man’s Lobster” because of its firm flesh, high fat content and mild, buttery taste. Take the backstrap and tail meat from the fish, boil it in either salt water or 7UP and then dip it in melted butter just like you would lobster. It’s an ugly fish with a large belly and eel-like tail but locals say their true beauty is in the eating.

Joe Henry is an expert at catching walleye and perch on Lake-of-the-woods, but the catch can also include crappie, yellow perch, eelpout and many other fish species.

Ice guides will come around and check on you and at the end of the day they will pick you up in the warm track rig and transport you and all your fish back to the warmth of the lodge.  They even clean your fish and the resort will cook them up for you if you would like.

You might want to even catch a transport back out on the ice to check out the famous Igloo Bar at Zippel Bay Resort. This popular spot offers a big screen TV, a full bar and limited hot food menu. For a small fee you can even ice fish in the bar.

For a really special experience consider staying in one of the sleeper fish houses with a furnace and cook stove fueled by propane as well as comfy bunk beds.  Joe says, “It’s like ice camping but in the warmth and with all of the amenities. Spending a few nights on the ice i

s cozy and good for the soul.  It is so neat stepping outside of the fish house on a clear night and seeing stars and the Milky Way like they have never been seen before.  The sky is absolutely awe inspiring and if you’re lucky, you might even see the northern lights.”

I think a sleeper fish house is what I want to do. Imagine with me catching fish all day, cooking them up on the stove, enjoying the night sky, getting a good warm night’s sleep out on the ice, and then getting up the next morning in my underwear and catching more fish. Now I am sure you don’t want to think about that last image so O.K., I’ll wear a bath robe.

The famous “Igloo Bar” on the ice is run by Zippel Bay Resort and is well known to many ice anglers that frequent Lake-of-the-Woods from Baudette, MN.

This beautiful area of Minnesota offers great fishing year round with anglers traveling thousands of miles to fish these waters. Besides the fish already mentioned you can also catch smallmouth bass, muskie, lake sturgeon, lake trout, lake whitefish, tulibee, as well as white suckers and redhorse which is another story for another time.

I was at an Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers conference at Sportsman’s Lodge in Baudette, MN back in September of last year and all of us writers and even our wives caught lots of walleye, sauger and even lake sturgeon while fishing the Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River that runs by the lodge.

The warm winter ice fishing though sounds like something really special that needs to be added to my “bucket list” so I am going to call Joe at (800) 382-FISH (3474) as soon as I finish this article and book a warm ice fishing trip to Lake of the Woods, Minnesota.

After looking at all the pictures Joe sent me of him with fish it is obvious he has a really tough job. I might just have to ask him if he needs a good Lake of the Woods Assistant Director of Tourism to help him out with all those fish.

If you want to try warm ice fishing or the great fishing at other times of the year you can go to their web site at www.LakeoftheWoodsMN.com for more information.

 

 

 

Bacon Butter Potatoes – from the Walleye Capital of the World

Ingredients:
2 bottles (12 oz. each) medium-bodied ale (3 cups)
4 pounds red-skinned potatoes
8 slices thick-cut bacon
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt

Directions:
1. Bring beer to a boil in a 5- to 6-qt. pot that can hold a steamer basket snugly. Meanwhile, cut potatoes into bite-size pieces and put them in a steamer basket. When beer boils, put steamer basket of potatoes in pot, cover, reduce heat to low, and steam until potatoes are tender when they are pierced with a fork (about 15 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, chop, and set aside. Pour off fat in pan, but don’t wipe out or rinse. Return pan to medium heat and add butter and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to brown (about 10 minutes).
3. Meanwhile, put potatoes in a serving dish, reserving beer in bottom of pot. Add 3/4 cup beer and reserved bacon to onions, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of frying pan.
4. Pour bacon mixture over potatoes, add pepper, and stir gently to coat. Add salt to taste. Serve hot or warm.

Recipe is courtesy of Lake of the Woods Tourism: https://lakeofthewoodsmn.com/bacon-butter-potatoes/; Phone: 1-800-382-FISH (3474); Email: info@lakeofthewoodsmn.com.

 

Where is the Guide?

  • Lake of the Woods: Walleye Capital of the World
  • Anchor, Relax, Catch Fish All Day…Seriously
  • Simple Jig-Minnow Fishing

By David Gray

Captain Cassy Geurkink makes happy anglers when they come to fish Lake of the Woods near Baudette, Mn.  Dave Gray Photo

“Where is the guide?” was my second question.  My first question was, “Which boat is mine?” 

The boat was one of many 27-foot long Sportcraft walleye charter boats neatly tied-up to the Border View Lodge docks on Lake of the Woods, Baudette, Minnesota.

This was my first experience going out on a walleye charter.   I really was not excited, a walleye charter never did sound like my kind of fun fishing.   

I was attending a conference at Lake of the Woods in Minnesota and fishing buddy, Dave Barus, a skilled Lake Erie angler, had arranged this Walleye Charter.  Going out in a big boat on big water with six anglers and a guide did not appeal to me.  By the end of the day, I found out it was not only productive, it was great fun!  It was a very enjoyable way to spend a day on water…in the rain!  

I enjoyed every minute of our fishing trip on Lake of the Woods, catching walleye and sauger at an unbelievable rate. Forrest Fisher Photo

Tom at Border View Lodge answered my first question, “Your boat is the one in that slip.”  “The one with the girl in it?” I asked.  “Yes, that is your boat.”

The girl, Cassy, answered my other question.  “Good morning, I am your guide.  Get in and we’ll get going.”  My first thought was this local trip has been engineered as a tourism publicity moment with a lady guide.  Preconceived notions are not good things, but one crept into my brain that Cassy did not look like an experienced or hardened north woods woman.  Of course, I really can’t describe what an experienced north woods woman should look like.

Cassy had a very serious look on her face as she readied six anglers and their gear, nosed the boat out into the river current and headed for the open water on Lake of the Woods.  I would come to understand this serious look latter in the day, it was pure focus.

The new Kamooki Lure is spreading like wildfire across the fishing world. They’re a unique vertical jerkbait that will invoke a strike even when fish are not hungry.  Forrest Fisher Photo

My thoughts turned back to Border View Lodge.   Part of the charm of fishing in the North Country is visiting a new lodge.   All have a charm of their own.   Border View Lodge had a special charm that makes any angler feel at home the minute you walk in the door.   Wood paneling, fish mounts on the wall, dining area overlooking the docks and river and friendly people saying welcome.   

Border View Lodge is a family owned and run business.  The original lodge was a commercial fish operation when burbot was harvested to make cod liver oil.  Around 1962, Border View became a fishing lodge serving anglers.  In 1981 the current family purchased the resort.  Today, Mike and Lisa Kinsella run the resort, oversee nine guides and 10 launch boats.  In the winter they have 60 Ice Houses on the lake.  Border View is a full service resort for people that like to fish and the resort has amenities all anglers like.  Mike has a variety of packages to fit the needs of any group.   Call Mike at 1-800-ProFish, tell him what you want and he will take care of you.

Another glance at our guide, Cassy, and the same serious look was locked on her face as she stopped, put out the anchor and baited up six rods with a jig and minnow. 

Charter Captain Cassy Geurkink at the helm, showed us a fun time on a rainy day when nearly no other boats dared to leave the dock due to the weather.  With the best country and western music playing from Sirius, we knocked the socks off the fish!  David Gray Photo

It wasn’t long before the first walleye hooked up.  A nice walleye and as Cassy skillfully netted it I noticed the serious look was replaced by a huge smile.  That was it, serious look when getting clients loaded and handling the boat, but all smiles when the bite starts.  That is my kind of guide!  

The rest of the day made me smile.  I went from never wanting to do a walleye charter to, “Can’t wait to do this again.”   We hooked more than 75 walleye and sauger, some to 28 inches long, and we put six fish apiece in the cooler.  Cassy kept minnows on the jigs – baiting every one with her secret hook-up method, netted every single fish, and kept everyone fishing and in conversation. Quite a feat. 

So much for pre-conceived ideas! 

Share the Outdoors editor Dave Barus says, “We learned that walleye and sauger, big and small, live and thrive here thanks to a good fisheries management program and plentiful baitfish supply.  David Gray Photo

Cassy Geurkink is currently the only lady guide in the area, we found this out when we returned to shore, AND, she is considered one of the best guides on this part of the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods.  Cassy grew up fishing and hunting with her dad Tom who is also a guide.  Before becoming a guide, Cassy worked at a Chevy Dealer in the Minneapolis, St Paul area. Cassy eventually worked her way up to the Sales Manager position.  She would visit Dad on the weekends and started not wanting to go home.  Cassy left the car dealership and for a season worked in the lodge office.  But, as she says, “I am an outdoor girl and wanted to be outdoors.”  To be a guide on a waterway that borders another country, you have to have a Charter Captain’s license which involves study and a lengthy Coast Guard test.   So I started studying and passed the tests.

Cassy now guides four to seven days a week.  On days off, she takes her 7-year old son Finley out jig fishing.  Cassy said the best part of guiding is meeting different people.  She says, “Guiding teaches you even more about fishing.”  She learned how to be patient and how to help people catch fish.   When Cassy first started guiding, a lot of guys looked and said, “Oh boy a girl guide.”   Now many of those have become regular repeat customers and ask for Cassy.  I can understand why.  Pure dedication, highly skilled, not afraid to try new things and focus with a smile.

Cassy puts you on the fish and makes a happy boat.  If you can book her, say, “Oh Boy,” because you are going to have a great fishing day.   

Catching fish with Cassy explaining the details, the options, the reasoning behind using chosen jig colors, that was pure fun.  It was an education in fishing.  We pay for the fishing, the fun and instruction is free.  Can’t wait to do it again. 

For more info, here is the link: http://www.borderviewlodge.com/.

A Special CASE for “Border Water Walleye and PERFECT Boneless Fillets”

  • Expert Guides DO Simplify Catching Fish – with simple JIGS
  • Rainy Day BLESSINGS on the Rainy River  
  • One BEST Fillet Tool CAN SIMPLIFY Cleaning Walleye by the Dozen

By Forrest Fisher

Nature and the peaceful wilderness to be found near Sportsman’s Lodge in Baudette, Minnesota, will create NEVER-FORGET memories for all that visit. Forrest Fisher Photo

We arrived in the front lobby of Sportsman’s Lodge on the Rainy River in Baudette, MN,   The weather was cold and nasty, and VERY rainy.  We were in a momentary downpour.  I looked disappointed, my better half smiled at me and joked, “It’s ok, it’s gonna be good luck, it’s raining and we’re on the Rainy River!  I couldn’t help, but smile back.

Hungry Lake-of-the-Woods walleye are asking anglers, “What’s for Dinner?”  Forrest Fisher Photo

We were one step closer to the fishing the Walleye Capital of the World that we had read about so often, not to mention a few decades of dreams.

What I didn’t know was that the number of fish to catch in the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods was beyond the normal angler’s day of fantasy fishing.  We discovered a brand new REALITY here, an iconic, never-forget celebration of most-ever-walleye-caught memories.

Not long after we arrived, we were fishing with Captain Ralph Christofferson (218-634-1342) aboard his 27-foot Sportcraft, a beautiful, fully-equipped, big water vessel.  Lake of the Woods offers about 1,700 square miles of fishing with more than 14,500 islands and 65,000 miles of shoreline.  Impressive fishery numbers and with plenty of forage in the form of emerald shiners, tulibees and various crustaceans.

We boated out to the lake and anchored, only a 10-minute ride with that giant 454 Chrysler engine humming us into competition with throngs of honking Canada Geese that were nearby.

Captain Ralph provided everyone his hand-made, 6-foot 2-inch, personally customized, St. Croix fishing rods to use.  The rods were light .and beautiful, a pleasure to hold.  Perfect balance.

Captain Ralph Christofferson provided the expertise that enabled us to catch walleye and sauger at the unbelievable rate of more than 20 fish per hour.  Forrest Fisher Photo

The rods were geared up with an open-face spinning reel, 6-pound test monofilament (P-line) and gold-plated 3/8 ounce jigs tipped with a salted emerald shiner minnow.  The minnows were “slid” onto the hook with Captain Ralph’s “secret twist.”

It didn’t take long to discover active fish at our anchored spot.  In less than 3 hours, we landed more than 50 walleye and sauger. Captain Ralph said, “It’s sort of a slow day.”  In the words of our young friends and millennials, OMG!  Except, he wasn’t kidding!

We kept our daily limit of 4 walleye and 2 sauger each, and there was five of us.  Yes, we had a cooler filled with 30 fish and ice, ready for the pan or the freezer.  We arrived at the dock, it was a short walk to the Sportsman’s Lodge state-of-the-art fish-cleaning house.  There were plastic bags, foam trays for holding the clean fillets, saran wrap, ice and lots of bright lighting.  I could see the light.  Indeed, in more ways than one.

While some anglers use an electric knife to clean fish, most old-timers know there is about 15 percent waste with that method.  I’m an old timer and I had a brand new fillet knife that I received on my birthday.

A manual fillet knife job will yield the most meat for the plate.  If you consider some of the catches for the week – and we ate most of the fish right on site the day we caught them – you might think that manual filleting the fish was a tough task, but not so.

My 6-inch W.R.Case fillet knife is unequalled as an angler tool and doubles as my favorite kitchen tool.

It’s not work if you a knife like mine, a new 6-inch Case, fixed-blade, fillet knife (Model BR12-6 SS).  My Case fillet knife is so sharp and rigid, but also provides some bend in the blade if you press a bit, to be flexible, making it so simple to use.  It seems to never lose its really sharp edge and we cleaned so many fish with it.

Every now and then, I touch up the edge with a very gentle stroke on a carbide diamond wedge, then a final stroke or two using a very smooth Arkansas super-fine stone and water.

One other thing about this knife, it is ergonomically perfect to fit my hand. It feels just right, you know, comfortable and solid.  The steel blade and formed poly-handle are melded as one, permitting full control, and it works like a hot poker through butter.  Even with potatoes, onions, carrots and sausage, you get the idea.  It’s my favorite all-around cutting tool.

Many things we buy in the USA are now manufactured elsewhere, but W.R.Case knives are made in the USA (http://www.wrcase.com/knives/), one more of many reasons why I like them.

The bottom line for a good knife: can it hold an edge?  Indeed.  This thing holds an edge like no other fillet knife I have ever used, and I have used most of them.  I’m not sure what kind of steel alloy this Case knife uses, but whatever it is, please tell them to never change it.

My grandkids will want one of these 20 years from now and, of course, my Case will be here ready and waiting.

Last, this knife is an easily affordable investment at about $25-$30 cost.  Check google for the best price or go direct to W.R.Case.

Love this knife, the expert guides and this deluxe accommodation where we caught all these fish just a short boat ride and simple drop-jig cast away.  Dreams are made of this.

We’ll be back soon (http://sportsmanslodges.com/).