Kayak angling for sturgeon brings new sport to the Northwoods

Barb Carey, founder of WI Women Fish shows off the day’s first sturgeon, caught from a Hobie Pro Angler.

By Mike Pehanich

Sturgeon ancestry dates back to the dinosaurs. But catching these giants from a kayak, is a fresh new sport!

For us outdoor folks, Northwoods travel comes with great expectations. Anticipation grows feverish when the destination is a renowned fishery.

My destination this August was the Rainy River, fabled for its seasonal runs of walleye, cherished as the fertile connecting water to the diverse fisheries of Rainy Lake, its source to the east, and Lake of the Woods, the million-acre drainage to the west.

I arrived at River Bend’s Resort (www.riverbendsresorts.com)on the Rainy River, a short boat ride from the river’s mouth at the southeast corner of Lake of the Woods. My imagination waxed rosy with visions of walleye gobbling jigs, cartwheeling smallmouth bass, and lightning-quick attacks from northern pike and musky.

However, my hosts from Hobie Cat, the resort and Lake of the Woods Tourism had added a new wrinkle. They had relegated the game species the area is noted for to back-up roles. First we would challenge lake sturgeon, known more as a fish of mystery and an evolutionary survivor than as a target for sport fishermen.

My hosts had added another twist to the hunt. We would take the ancient brutes on from Hobie kayaks.

A sturgeon relies on the complex set of sensory and feeding organs in its nose including barbels to locate desirable forage and a highly functional snout made to stir up lake bottom and suck in food like a vacuum.

Anatomy of a sturgeon

One look at even an artist’s rendering of a sturgeon is enough to tell you that its family roots reach deep into the geological past. Credit its gift for survival to crude yet efficient characteristics acquired early in its evolution — a streamlined body built on bone and cartilage; a tail strangely fashioned for speed and maneuvering; an oddly tapered snout; an armor-like exoskeleton highlighted in younger specimens by a jutting serrated backbone; a complex set of sensory and feeding organs in its nose including barbels to locate desirable forage; and a highly functional snout made to stir up lake bottom and suck in food like a vacuum.

Sturgeon grow BIG, too, a trait that makes any species more desirable. Paul Johnson, the resort owner who served as both our guide and host, has witnessed catches of sturgeon up to 62 inches in length and 75 pounds. The river’s hook and line record, caught just this past May (2018), measured 75 inches in length and weighed well over 100 pounds.

Our Rainy River sturgeon had a comeback story to tell as well. Before the middle of the 20thcentury, overharvest and pulp mill pollution had endangered sturgeon populations in the region. Common sense initiatives set the stage for a mighty comeback. Environmental regulations led to improved water quality, and enlightened conservation measures and catch-and-release practice ushered in the robust, invigorated population found in the Rainy River and adjacent waters today.

It is a species more than worthy of protection. Sturgeon can live to a ripe old age, with some able to live 150 years or more and reach weights in excess of 200 pounds.

Pursuit

A sturgeon breached 50 yards offshore within minutes of my arrival at River Bend’s Resort, leaving no doubt that this was sturgeon country.

“In peak season in April, it’s boat-to-boat across the river along the Minnesota portion of the Rainy River,” explained Paul Johnson, who with wife Brandi owns River Bend’s and Walleye Inn resorts in Baudette, Minn.

Minnesota opens limited “keep” seasons for sturgeon in spring and summer, but most fishermen are content to release their quarry after doing battle. “A lot of sturgeon fishing’s popularity has to do with the size of the fish,” continued Johnson. “Most anglers aren’t targeting sturgeon to keep them. They just want the opportunity to catch these prehistoric monsters.”

Despite the clear presence of sturgeon in the area, local guides opined that we would find bigger numbers upstream near the town of Birchdale.

Catching sturgeon from Hobie kayaks offered a new challenge to anglers.

We launched our kayaks — a couple of Hobie Pro Angler 14s and i11S inflatable models along with several of the new Hobie Compass kayaks —  above Birchdale. Two sets of rapids made for a scenic and modestly adventurous start. From there, we eased our way toward prime sturgeon haunts, catching smallmouth bass, walleye, sauger and northern pike along the way.

Breaching sturgeon gave our party of eight a fair hint of where to anchor, though we wished we had had sonar units to pinpoint holes and other key feeding areas. We spread out along the river, and settled in for the game of patience known as sturgeon fishing.

Tackle and technique

We geared up with tackle tailored to a big fish brawl – mostly medium heavy to heavy rods and reels spooled with 50- to 65-pound braid.

Terminal tackle consisted of a swivel, short monofilament or fluorocarbon leader of no less than 20-pound test, a #2 to #4 circle hook and adjustable bell sinkers from one to four ounces in weight.

Our bait selection was an unglamorous mix of two to three nightcrawlers and recently thawed emerald shiners, the latter added “extra scent for the sturgeon to find the bait,” in Johnson’s words.

Jody Rae shows off her prize catch, a lake sturgeon, a throwback to prehistory.

The art of anchoring

We learned quickly that anchoring a kayak for sturgeon fishing in a moderately swift stream like the Rainy River is damn near an art form all its own.

“We use a breakaway buoy anchor and an anchor trolley system,” explained Kevin Nakada, the Hobie pro who guided us through the paces of this new skill. “With the system, you can position the kayak to fish comfortably in the current yet detach the kayak quickly from the anchor to fight the fish.”

The buoy anchor consisted of a 3.5-pound anchor and several feet of heavy anchor chain that more than doubled the anchoring weight. Sixty feet of anchor rope ran from the chain to the buoy, a conventional bumper buoy generally used to protect moored boats from banging into a dock. A 7-foot tagline, terminated with a bowline loop, ran from the buoy to the anchor trolley, a pulley system positioned on the starboard sides of our kayaks. The trolley allowed us to position the anchor tagline at the starboard stern of the kayak. Anchored thus, we could fish comfortably downstream without our kayaks struggling sideways in the current.

Fish on!

Barb Carey, founder of WI Women Fish, a Wisconsin-based organization dedicated to teaching women to fish with skill and confidence, earned the first hook-up. Sturgeon on, she freed her kayak from the buoy anchor and took off on a summer sleigh ride.

All of us within earshot rallied to her shout, detaching, too, from our anchor tethers and pedaling the Mirage Drives to close the quarter mile or more distances between us. The sturgeon made sure we had time to witness Barb’s battle and photograph the prehistoric fish.

Sturgeon are bulldogs in battle. They dive deep, pull drag and put serious strain on tackle. The highlight of many sturgeon battles, however, is a surprising aerial display.

Barb’s fish obliged with a writhing perpendicular leap. The sturgeon’s hang time drew cries of excitement from the convergence of kayakers. The fish’s size and profile doubled the excitement.

For anglers like Barb Carey, sturgeon fishing is all about the catch…and safe release!

Even a modestly proportioned sturgeon possesses considerable strength, evidenced in the tugboat rides it took the kayaks upstream and down. Interestingly, the drag of the kayak allows the angler to battle these big fish even with limited line capacity.

Paul slugged it out with another sturgeon an hour later. Then action lagged for the rest of the afternoon.

Evening was closing in when writer Jody Rae’s rod bent into a throbbing arc. Whoops and hollers signaled a special fish, and we all converged on the day’s closing action. When the fish finally tired after a long battle, Kevin Nakada snared it with a tail noose. He carefully led the subdued fish the short distance to shore where Jody and fish posed for photos.

It was a fitting end to a fabulous adventure, a meeting with a fish from prehistory on legendary water during the dawn of a new sport.

Paul and Brandi Johnson, owners of River Bend’s and Walleye Inn (www.riverbendsresorts.com)resorts in Baudette, MN, run guided fishing trips for sturgeon as well as for other Lake of the Woods and Rainy River sport fish (walleye, northern pike, sauger, perch, smallmouth bass and crappie). Hobie kayak rentals are available as well. Contact Lake of the Woods Tourism (www.LakeoftheWoodsMN.com ; 1-800-382-FISH ) for additional information on sport fishing, lodging and area activities.

 

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.

 

 

 

Boundary Waters Wilderness Ecosystems UNDER NEW THREAT of TOXIC COPPER MINING

  • Sulfide-Ore Copper Mining can be Toxic to Watersheds
  • Mineral Leases Have Been Granted, Industrial Proposals are Underway
  • Ecosystems, Streams, Lakes, Forests, Fish, Wildlife and PEOPLE will be Threatened
  • Conservation Group is ASKING FOR YOUR HELP

By Forrest Fisher

Sulfide-ore mining on the edge of America’s most visited wilderness will threatens undisturbed ecosystems, clean air and water, and the local economy of thousands of people. Brian O’Keefe Photo

Did you know that the Boundary Waters Wilderness is America’s most-visited wilderness?  It is, yet this pristine area of more than one million acres located in northeast Minnesota in under threat.  While it includes a watershed of backwoods streams, lakes and lush forests, the watershed and habitat is under imminent, toxic threat of Sulfide-ore copper mining.  Sulfide-ore copper mining has never before been permitted in this pristine Minnesota watershed, yet it appears that mining is imminent.  Mineral leases have been granted.  Industrial proposals are underway.  Locals are asking for help, asking for others in the outdoor media and worldwide conservation media to let the public to know.  Many say we need an immediate public outcry.

According to experts, the short science to understand is this: sulfide-ore copper mining threatens aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of the South Kawishiwi River area, Mining Protection Area, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and other parts of the Superior National Forest including the Withdrawal Study Area, Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Water Region of Quetico Provincial Park.           

Partners to protect the border waters area include the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation, American Sportfishing Association and many others. Brian O’Keefe Photo

Local protection and conservation groups are no longer local and have formed a nationwide coalition. “Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters” is a coalition of hunters and anglers joined by campers, hikers and conservationists from Minnesota communities and America, working together to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).  The coalition was formed in 2015 to speak up and has grown to include major conservation, outdoors and sporting partners, all committed to the common goal of permanently protecting the habitat for fish and game, nature, and people, in the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and protecting the stable economies of the wilderness edge communities that reside nearby.

Opposition to copper mining partners include American Fly Fishing Trade Association AFTA, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, International Federation of Fly Fishers – Upper Midwest Council, Izaak Walton League of America, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association, National Wildlife Federation, Orion – the Hunter’s Institution, Pope and Young Club and Wildlife Forever, American Sportfishing Association, Bear Trust International and others.  Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters also has a growing list of business supporters, including the world’s largest fishing lure company, Rapala.

CLICK TO JOIN the petition and activities to protect this region.

How can you help? Take Action Right Now. 

Sulfide-ore mining on the edge of America’s most visited Wilderness threatens clean air and water, and the local economy of thousands of people.  As hunters, anglers and conservationists, it seems common sense and vital to take a stand to oppose the practice of mining that can alter the future and change undisturbed nature so much.  This is a national issue that requires congressional action.  Let your elected officials know, wherever you live, that you oppose sulfide-ore mining near the Boundary Waters Wilderness.  Get educated and spread the word. Let your friends and family know about the issue, then please follow us on social media.

Visit SportsmenfortheBoundaryWaters.org.  How much support is there to oppose this mining action?  Visit us Facebook to learn that and so much more, and know that we need you and all of your friends too.  Please pass the word.

Where Fishing is King

  • Walleye Capital of the World – Lake of the Woods
  • Sportsman’s Lodge, Oak Island Resort, Eagle Ridge Lodge
  • Catch a Sturgeon here too!

By David Gray

Thanks to the fisheries management program for Lake of the Woods, happy angler and book author, Bob Holzhei, caught many healthy and plentiful walleye like this one, while fishing with guides from Sportsman’s Lodge.  Forrest Fisher Photo

It goes without saying that Sportsman’s Lodge on Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, is one of those iconic destinations where everybody with a fishing rod meets to catch fish. If you are a walleye angler and live in the north or mid-west, you have probably visited (or heard of) The Sportsman’s Lodge. It’s a bucket list destination for every honest angler.
If you have never been to Sportsman’s Lodge, you need to go. You WILL enjoy the lodge, the staff and most of all, the fishing. Anglers can target walleye, sauger, northern pike, musky, sturgeon, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, yellow perch or crappie. Choices. A good thing. I’m drooling again! On each of three trips there, my friends and I caught more than 50 walleye and sauger per trip, simply jigging with a minnow, the old-fashioned fun way. Hard to beat the fun. So many fish.
Located right on the Rainy River, Sportsman’s Lodge offers long-standing fishing success story traditions with a proven heritage. The service of hosting outdoor guests started here in the 1940’s (Jesmes Resort) and has continued to grow since. For the last decade, Gregg and Diana Hennum have expanded services with modernization and new comforts for guests.

Walleye and sauger during September and October can fill the sonar screen just a half-mile from the outlet of the Rainy River.  Forrest Fisher Photo

For 46 years Sportsman’s Lodge has been a family owned and operated resort. Family-owned means the guests are treated like family and that is evident the minute you walk thru the door.
The staff are hard-working, friendly folks, dedicated to assuring that your stay is nothing but the best. Sportsman’s Lodge can handle groups from 2 to 200. They host weddings, family reunions, corporate groups, meetings and father-son fishing trips. The Lodge is full service. They provide anything and everything you need.
The great restaurant selections are offered in two large dining rooms: the Dockside and Riverside. At the end of the day, the “Sandbar” will accommodate your fish catching tales and provide refreshments for relaxation, the bar is over 70 feet long! A choice of hotel rooms, cabins, villas, ice houses and, of course, fishing guide services are at your option and are available. You only need to bring your clothes, a camera, yourself and be ready to put some fish in the boat.
In 2003, Sportsman’s Lodge expanded with the addition of Oak Island Resort, 34 miles up the lake by water. Oak Island is smaller, but a full service operation for multi-species fishing. Favorite fishing targets from this location include musky, walleye and smallmouth.
Not far from Oak Island Resort is Eagle Ridge Lodge, a beautiful and ultra-private vacation home resort with all the allure of the wilderness and all the comforts of home. Eagle Ridge provides the best of both worlds not often found on an island located in one of the worlds best sport fisheries.

Gregg and Diana Hennum have provided coordinated programs for fishing, food and accommodations at the Sportsman’s Lodge.  David Gray Photo

In any location, you have choice of meals and guides, or if you are an accomplished angler, bring your own boat and guide yourself.
Gregg shared that a new “Adventure Package” is becoming popular. You leave Sportsman’s Lodge main location in Baudette on a Charter Boat, then fish your way up the 34 miles to Oak Island, stay overnight, then fish your way back. A no-hassle fun fishing outing, though customized trip packages are also available.

The new villa accommodations offer brand new rustic seating that is accompanied with a view of the Rainy River and a beautiful sunset each evening.

Fishing is king at Sportsman’s Lodge and Oak Island Resort. Winter Ice fishing is very popular and Gregg added, “More people are coming in the summer to get some relief from the heat of farther south, but winter fishing is also a tradition here for hundreds of families.”
Sportsman’s Lodge is a large, family-owned resort that has not forgotten its roots of treating guests like family. Fishing is king at Sportsman’s Lodge. This location on the Rainy River area of Lake of the Woods is noted to be the Walleye Capitol of the World. I asked Gregg Hennum why, he answered, “Because we have 10 Million of them!” After just spending three great days at Sportsman’s Lodge, I think it may be more than 10 Million!
My buddies and I can’t wait to go back next year.

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/).

 

 

Lake of the Woods Muskie Season Opens Saturday

  • Musky Season Opens Saturday, June 17, 2017
  • Minnesota and Ontario Seasons Open Together
  • Helpful Links for More Info
Jean-Paul-Tessier with a nice musky from Lake of the Woods.

Musky fishing exciting!  There is always one place where you can almost always find cooperative fish that will provide an exciting trip.

Any muskie hunter knows that Lake of the Woods is one of the best fisheries of muskie.  Anglers come for miles around to fish our trophy waters.  So make your plans as the 2017 muskie opener on Lake of the Woods for both the Minnesota and Ontario sides of the lake begins this weekend, Saturday, June 17th.

Lake of the Woods is a world class muskie fishery with over 65,000 miles of shoreline and 14,552 islands.

The majority of muskie anglers are catch and release.  Many resorts, especially at the NW Angle specialize in muskie guides.  These muskie nuts keep a good handle on fish movement, lure preference, colors and areas muskies are prevalent.  It is also a great way to save time really learning the nuances of becoming a better muskie angler.  Check out a list of NW Angle Resorts who can set you up with some of the best guides in the business.

For those that just love the sport, here are some tips on safely practicing catch and release:

Careful Handling Makes Catch & Release Successful

A big muskie is an old muskie.  Females require 14 to 17 years to reach 30 pounds.  Northern pike grow even more slowly.  Once taken out of the water and hung on a wall or carved into fillets, a trophy is not soon replaced by another fish of its size.  So, the key to creating trophy northern pike and muskie fishing is catch-and-release angling.  Unfortunately, some fish are mortally injured by improper handling and cannot be successfully released.

All northern pike and muskie are difficult to handle because of their slippery hides, lack of good handles and sharp teeth.  Big fish are particularly troublesome because of their great size and power.

The first step to successfully releasing fish is to use artificials rather than live bait.  The second step is to keep the fish in the water if at all possible.

Caught on artificials and handled carefully, nearly all fish can be returned with no permanent injury.  Here are some effective methods, courtesy of Muskie Canada, for handling large northern pike and muskie:

·         Hand Release.  Grip the fish over the back, right behind the gills (never by the eye sockets!) and hold it without squeezing it. With the other hand, use a pliers to remove the hooks, while leaving all but the head of the fish in the water.  Sometimes hooks can be removed with the pliers only; the fish need never be touched.

·         Landing Net.  Hooks can be removed from some fish even as they remain in the net in the water. If that’s not possible, lift the fish aboard and remove the hooks while the fish is held behind the head and around the tail. To better restrain large fish, stretch a piece of cloth or plastic over the fish and pin it down as if it were in a straight jacket.

·         Stretcher.  A stretcher is made of net or porous cloth about 2 to 3 feet wide stretched between two poles. As you draw the fish into the cradle and lift, the fold of the mesh supports and restrains the fish. This method requires two anglers.

·         Tailer.  Developed by Atlantic salmon anglers, a tailer is a handle with a loop at one end that is slipped over the fish’s tail and tightened. The fish is thus securely held, though the head must be further restrained before the hooks are removed.

If you must lift a big fish from the water, support as much of its body as possible to avoid injuring its internal organs.

Never grip a fish by the eye sockets if you intend to release it.  By doing so you abrade its eyes, injure the surrounding tissue and may cause blindness.

Muskie anglers are a very passionate breed, often fishing from dawn to dusk.  They also have the deepest respect for muskies and overall do an excellent job of making sure these ultimate predators return to the water unharmed.

Best of luck to all muskie anglers not only this weekend but this year.  The muskies have been active this spring, are in good numbers and should be active.

For lots more info on where to fish, guides and lodging:

  1.  Web: https://lakeofthewoodsmn.com/
  2. Phone: 1-800-382-FISH (3474)
  3. Email: info@lakeofthewoodsmn.com
  4. US Mail: Lake of the Woods Tourism, PO Box 518, Baudette, MN, 56623

All photographs and information: Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau.