Smiley Sakakawea Walleye – Fishing a Canyon Reservoir

Captain Jeremy Olsen shares secrets for fast walleye fun on Lake Sakakawea in early July.

  • SLOW-TROLL Tricks are Deadly on Walleye Waters
  • Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota, offers Hands-On Learning
  • Bring a Camera: Canyon Colors and Walleye Go Good Together
Delicious, tasty walleye are a top goal for anglers fishing everywhere, but on Lake Sakakawea, the pristine clean water is chilly all year long and the walleye taste better than most anywhere. Forrest Fisher Photo.

By Forrest Fisher

Wanna catch walleye?  Know the two rules that apply everywhere.  Rule #1: Catching fish is fun.  Rule #2: Fishing with a professional guide that understands fish movement helps to make Rule #1 possible.  You can do it on your own later.

No matter where you go, catching quality walleye as a target species fish is the primary objective for many anglers.  This story is proof that Rule #2 is a good money-saving idea.

Coincidentally, my wife and I were vacationing in North Dakota near Teddy Roosevelt National Park and my better half whispered in my ear, “You should go fishing at least one day while we are here – Lake Sakakawea is just up the road, I’ll go souvenir shopping.” Such a deal.  I could not say no.

So I asked Kelly Sorge what people fish for.  The “always cheerful” proprietor at Indian Hills Resort (http://www.fishindianhills.com/) said, “Crappie, northern pike, bass, trout and walleye – we have all those species here, but most folks fish for walleye.  They like to eat them cooked over a campfire here.  The walleye are so pure and so tasty from Sakakawea.”  That settled it.

I rushed for my cellphone to make the call to Liebel’s Guide Service.  Capt. Jeremy Olsen called me back a short while later to set up time and departure to fish this beautiful Little Missouri River reservoir – it is pristine, with millions of years of erosion providing colorful rocky backdrops on the canyon walls.

Capt. Jeremy Olsen is a top fishing guide that will teach you how to have fun catching fish. Imagine catching 17 walleye in less than 90 minutes! Forrest Fisher Photo

Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota was created for flood control on the Missouri River by the Garrison Dam.  The average width of the lake is 2-3 miles, but it is about 14 miles wide at the widest point, heavy with clean, deep water, shallow water, many undulating bay backwaters, drop-offs, flats, and a beautiful view of colorful mountain walls – hundreds of millions of years old, that form the gorge that creates this waterway.  In short, it is breathtaking!

We met at 7 a.m. and when I saw his new boat, I was thrilled, motivated and EAGER to set foot on the 21-foot Lund, 219-Pro-V, with a 350 horsepower Mercury Verado.  Cost: $81,000, I asked.  Cost of my Charter: $350.  A win-win for any angler.  The new Lund Pro-V fishing boats are special: quiet, safe, powerful, live well, many other features.  It’s all there on this boat.

We left the dock at 7:15 a.m., took 15 minutes to motor 10 miles to a chosen fishing spot (it didn’t take long at 62 mph), set up our lines on lightweight Phenix casting rods (http://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Phenix_Rods/catpage-PHENIX.html).  At 7:40 a.m., Capt. Jeremy had the fish figured out and we landed our first walleye.   By 9:15 a.m., we had landed 17 walleye!  Could we call this a great day?  No way, it was an insurmountable day!

It will be a day that I would never forget as a walleye angler.  Indeed, vacations and special fishing moments are about making special memories.   I have no doubt that Capt. Jeremy could do this again.

While I’ll admit, my standards are higher than the average – I expect to catch lots of walleye and often, to beat the usual catch rate, but who would have ever guessed this catch rate of walleye could even occur in wild waters in the middle of summer?  Not me.

Capt. Jeremy is an expert.  He knows the secrets to understanding how fish move, when they move, forage location, wind and eddy current effects, and how to attract fish to invoke a strike.  For this day, he choose Smiley Blade attractors and worms.  The Smiley Blades offer slow rotating action when tied in front of a 3-foot fluorocarbon leader that has two to four beads in front of a single 1/0 hook.  In actual use, this action is death to walleye on Lake Sakakawea.  I discovered after getting home to Lake Erie, it is deadly anywhere else that walleye swim too.  The blades turn with as little as 0.4 mph forward speed because they are made from lightweight Mylar.  Capt. Jeremy buys the blades separate and custom-makes the Smiley Blade rigs with his kids, adding a dash of special magic, I’m sure.

We attached the Smiley Rig leaders to a 1-1/4 ounce wire/bottom-bouncer and set the MinnKota Ulterra bow motor to troll at about 0.6 mph.  Three or four minutes later, presto!  Fish on!  Walleye after walleye came into the boat.  We released all the smaller fish as they were caught.

If you’re out that way, you can contact Capt. Jeremy through Lieber’s Guide Service at http://www.liebelsguideservice.com/.  He will travel to many other waters too, including Montana.

Of course, understanding where to drop lines (location), why to drop where we did (bait movement and water clarity), and how fast to go, are among reasons why we ask a charter captain to take us fishing when we go to a new lake.  A charter captain fishes many more times than we do and it is always a learning experience.

This was new water for me, I’m a Lake Erie walleye fisherman, fishing Lake Sakakawea was quite different.  To do it again, I think I’d contact Capt. Jeremy again and leave my boat home.  The trip was safe, fast, affordable and fun.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

To learn more about Smiley Blades, a video with details about rigging, design, styles and colors is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoO7MxmD-rA.

Accommodations: You can camp at Indian Hills for just $20/night.  There is a boat launch, convenience store, fish-cleaning station and running potable water at several spots.  If regular tenting is too primitive for you, there is one cabin there called “Peacepipe” that accommodates 6 people with bunks, A/C, sink and kitchen for $90/night.  At Peacepipe, you and your family can camp in comfort, and while this style camping cabin has no shower or toilet inside of it, the conveniences are an easy 200’ walk to the shower house.  There is a built-in, sit-down table that seats four, the kitchen counter includes a 2-burner hot plate, small refrigerator and wash basin (potable water is just outside) with drain.  You only need to provide your own sleeping bag or bedding.  Outside you’ll find a picnic table and fire ring, and exterior electrical outlets.  We stayed here and it was great.  Above that, they offer condo’s and lodge rooms too.  Choices are what life in the outdoor lane is all about.  The degree of “outdoorism” that you choose is available here.  My kind of place (http://www.fishindianhills.com/).

For additional general information on Lake Sakakawea and other North Dakota sites to see, visit http://www.ndtourism.com/blog/lesson-about-lake-sakakawea.

This may have been one of the most fun, most learning trips I have ever had the pleasure to experience. One last word, I love North Dakota!  My sweetheart of 48 years and I will be back soon.

2015 LUND Impact 1850 XS Review

LUND 1850 Impact XS

Real world boat tests are always the best. They answer the questions of how will this boat run, ride, fish and perform after purchase. The test of this 2015 LUND 1850 Impact XS was very real. We had scheduled an on the water testing with its new owner prior to participation in a fishing competition on Lake Minnetonka near Minneapolis Minnesota. Boat test date was September 27, 2015.

The staff and team of Share-the-Outdoors are not professional marine test personnel.    We are passionate anglers with heavy experience using many boats. We write product and boat reviews from a user point of view.   We may not include some technical specifications like the grade of rivets used but we do include what the boat will do for its owner.   We think what the boat will do, how it runs, performs and fishes is the information we all need to know.

Getting information about a boat from a sales person in a dealership is always helpful. Our boat tests information comes from a slightly different perspective.   Let us know if you like the way we do our boat testing.

Performance of the LUND 1850 Impact XS

The lake conditions were challenging! A windy day combined with a sunny warm weekend created heavy wind waves blending with heavy boat traffic to provide a mix-master of quartering waves in every conceivable size coming from every direction. Experienced boat operators can adjust a boat for optimum ride using a combination of throttle, motor trim, and angle of boat direction. Not so easy to set up for a cauldron of waves crashing into each other from boat waves and wind, but the LUND Impact XS handled this well.

Like all aluminum LUND’s this 1850 Impact XS was solid. Let me repeat that this boat was SOLID.   Despite extreme wave conditions the 1850 Impact XS exhibited the strength and structural integrity LUND is famous for. Pounding thru the waves this boat felt like it was made out of solid metal. We have to give it 5 Stars for rough water strength and hull rigidity.

A stable platform for fishing is important for all fishing boats. Some Deep V boats do not excel as a stable fishing platform but the 1850 Impact XS was stable and exceeded our expectations.

We put the boat thru moderate and high speed turns in waves from every direction and the boat handled the turns like a pro.   No bucking or jumping between the waves.   The 1850 Impact XS tracked well thru the turns.

The 1850 Impact XS was powered with a Mercury 150HP four stroke outboard engine. The motor and boat matched up well and the boat jumped on plane with 3 people aboard using 75% throttle.   We were greatly impressed with the Mercury 150 four- stroke.   It was quiet, very responsive to throttle change, and delivered exceptional smooth power.   The very rough water conditions prevented us from performing wide open throttle high speed runs but the boat achieved 46 MPH in considerable wave conditions with the throttle at approximately 75 to 80%. The motor was equipped with a 3 blade stainless steel prop.

The fit, finish and workmanship were exceptional.   Credit goes to the LUND manufacturing brand.   If you are in the market for a quality Deep V in the 18 to 19 feet range that will serve you fishing and taking the family for a boat ride or ski run then the LUND 1850 Impact XS is a good choice.

Specifications of boat tested: LUND 1850 Impact XS
Length: 18.7 ft.
Beam:   94 in.
HP: 150 Four Stroke Mercury equipped with 3 blade stainless steel prop.
Hull: IPS-Integrated Power Strake with double plated bow.
Chine width: 79.5 in.
Fuel capacity: 32 gallon.

Lund Boats website:     www.lundboats.com