** HLO 2013 Stories **

Merry Christmas- Last Weekend of Dec 2013

I was fortunate to sneak into the annual 'day after Christmas fishing trip' to the Maki cabin this year. Colt Anderson, Ben Olson, and Dylan Maki have been making this kind of a ritual the past few years. They rip up to Red Lake and Lake of the Woods from Maki’s cabin for a few days of walleye slamming.

I was pretty jacked up to finally see Maki’s cabin and hammer on some eyeballs for a few days. We all arrived at the cabin on Christmas night. With a warm fire crackling in the woodstove, we sipped great drinks, told stories, and had good laughs. You best bring your laughing face to the Maki cabin cause these boys know how to entertain.

Thursday morning we arrived at West Winds Resort on Upper Red Lake just as daylight began to break on the big pond. We walked into the bait shop to grab a lake pass and check out there supply of pike bait. Well, they didn’t have any suckers. What kind of bait shop doesn’t have hog suck face when forty-five plus inch pike roam their waters? You tell me! I asked the guy behind the counter, “Do you have any big dead bait.” This is what he responded with, “You won’t find anything like that this far up here.” “It dies before anyone buys it.” My foggy brain thought to myself, WHAT, as I looked over my shoulder at Dylan and Ben who both did all they could to hold back from laughing. I must have heard him right so I said again, “Pike bait like smelt”. “I might have some over there, (as he pointed at the restaurant) but its small and I’m not going to go get it”, he stated. All righty then, I guess we’re just another bunch of city slickers! I wasn’t really mad at him for not having any DEAD dead (not sure how it can die twice) bait as much as I was for treating us like garbage. If you want to run a successful resort, be kind to your customers: city slickers, locals, hardcores, old, young, everyone. Give me a break! Lets go for a rip, Bud!

Good trips always have good humor and the four of us didn’t let that one down the rest of the weekend. Thursday we slammed walleyes all throughout the day. We figured we caught well over 100 eyeballs up until we left in the afternoon. It was another Red Lake memory to add to the other hundred that have dotted my journal ever since the first crappie excursion with Godfrey and Shorty in 1998. I’m positive that first one will be hard to beat. Red Lake crappies were a huge influence on my high school years. None of us here at HLO can count how many 6th and 7th hours of classes we skipped to drive up to Red for the evening crappie bite. That doesn’t include how many 1st hours we never made due to lack of sleep from staying up late and cleaning pails full of slabs. Sorry, back to the walleye bite of 2013.

One-quarter ounce Reel Bait plane jane spoons in orange or green tipped with a minnow head were most effective Thursday on Red. These spoons amaze me the more I use them. I’m not saying they were the only lures that worked, but they continue to out fish other lures this winter. The rock structures 2.5-3 miles out of West Winds in 11-12 feet of water were by far the best. The bite was finest in the morning, but being mobile and moving every couple hours in the afternoon made the bite action packed throughout the whole day. Use your Lowrance GPS with Lakemaster chip to find these rock structures. A lot of people think of Red as a lake with no structure. There is plenty of walleye structure to focus on out to a couple miles from the shoreline.

Friday was one of the few nice days we've had in a long time so we hit Lake of the Woods. Our plan was to target hog pike for most of the day and then maybe slide out in the afternoon for a few walleyes. Pike action was kind of slow, although we caught and released a couple northerns in the mid 30's. Because we were missing two tip-ups out of the eight, Colt and Dylan jigged for walleyes as we sat and waited for flags to pop. They had some walleye action in 18 fow intermittently throughout the whole day. We ended up bringing a couple limits of walleyes back to the cabin that night and we didn't even have to move out to the deeper water.

Friday evening made another memory that will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Well, especially Ben and mine. As we sat and jigged for walleyes, a loud crack sent Ben and me tumbling off of our chairs in the Eskimo quickfish. It happened so fast. We thought we were going down. I ripped open the door of the ice house and Ben pushed me out like a rag doll. We sat scratching our heads outside as we realized we were still high and dry. A huge crack in the ice went directly thru our house. Water was soaking up the snow rather quickly.

We concluded it was time to start packing up anyways. We would have to hurry if we wanted to get going before dark. As I picked up the remaining tip ups, I noticed that traffic was backing up coming off the lake over on Adrians Road by Pine Island. The old thinker went off in my head. The tremor that sent us overboard in our houses must have screwed the road up or something. As we cruised back to the snowmobile trail it was obvious people weren't getting off the lake. A pressure ridge had exploded out in front of Pine Island. This ridge took out the bomber/snowmobile trail and Adrians Road. Traffic was backed way up and out into the lake (miles). Even with snowmobiles, it was tough to find a safe place to cross. We waited for Adrians to construct an ice bridge and talked with fishermen. The word was 28-30 fow offered an awesome walleye bite in the afternoon hours. An hour of chatting and we were able to get our sleds and wheelers over the bridge. It was gonna be a long wait for the peeps at the end of the line.

Saturday brought strong winds and cold temperatures back to the area so we decided to head back to Red for the morning. The bite slowed a little bit from Thursday, probably due to the big front moving thru. We still caught 50 walleyes before the wind and white out conditions blew us off the lake. The rocks were key again.

We had a little rough time finding our way off the lake again Saturday evening with our snowmobiles and wheelers due to the white out, but we ended up finding Dylan’s Duramax and trailer on the shore. Problems followed on our way back to Dylan’s cabin. Dylan just got his new snowmobile special delivered the day before so he rode it from the cabin to Red that morning. On his way back to the cabin from Red, he broke down. “So I went for a rip Bud, and broke down”. That turbo charged machine had a little too much power for ripping Dylan. Sorry Man, but it all adds to the memories. You’ll get it fixed!

Thank you Dylan Maki for the great hospitality and good times! Happy New Years!

Written by Brock

Third Weekend of Dec 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Everyone here at HLO wants to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the holidays everyone!

With many fishermen talking about ice and slush conditions, we better tell you what we are finding. We have reported the past three weeks on ice conditions so we’ll keep it short and to the point and then sneak in a fishing report.

First things first, more snow fell on Sunday which is going to either slow our ice/slush improvement or make it worse. I believe the forecast has some more on the way too. We can’t afford anymore snow for a long time. The slush has just started to freeze down on the larger lakes in the Grand Rapids area. With more snow as insulation, this is going to come to an abrupt stop.

Yes, our larger lakes witnessed improvement this past week. The slush started to harden on lakes such as Pokegama and Winnibigoshish. The wind helped out these big bodies of water by allowing the snow to seep through the slush and freeze down to the existing ice. Ice thickness varies from 6-11 inches. Not all the slush is gone from these larger lakes so you have to be careful and plan your travel accordingly. Try to stay away from the larger areas of snow cover! Well, expect things to probably get worse with the recent snow we received on Sunday.

As for our smaller lakes around the area, they have seen no improvement. There is just too much snow insulating the slush. The wind is not affecting them and no one is really accessing them to break things up. The majority of the small lakes are still a disaster. Seventy-five percent of the smaller lakes are slushy. Be careful and hopefully things will get better! Cross our fingers!

Colt and Dylan spent Saturday on Upper Red Lake. They reported a good bite in 11-12 feet of water out from Rogers. They took 4 wheelers out from the resort and set up away from the crowds. Ice thickness was right around a foot. White was the color for the day. They said the fish were pretty aggressive. That’s good news as we are heading back up the day after Christmas. We are also going to stop at Lake of the Woods before the New Year.

As for Pokegama Lake, pike spearing remains good. Not a lot of big fish have been appearing, but quite a few around that five to ten pound range have been ripping around. Look for the ten to twelve feet of water to be the most action packed. Stay on the edge of the weeds. Walleye fishing has been spotty this whole early ice season. We have been catching a lot of those 12-14” stocked walleyes. Please don’t keep these. The larger walleyes have been kinda missing, unless we are just fishing the wrong spots.

Topper and Brodie iced a beautiful walleye on Saturday evening (picture in upper right corner of blog). That was the only walleye they seen on the Vexilar that night. Colt and Ethan fished the center bars on Sunday evening and caught five nice eyeballs. All their fish were 16-23 inches. This is the best report I have heard of this year. We’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks. Keep bouncing around and hit a different spot each time you go out. Pokegama is an animal and it’s hard to do well in the same spot night after night. Good luck you all and stick to that 20-30 feet of water. Tip- Reel Bait plane janes in blue/white on Pokegama

Be careful and stay out of the slush! Merry Christmas!

Second Weekend of Dec 2013

Not a whole lot has significantly changed in regards to the weather and ice conditions here in the Grand Rapids area since last week. The temps are still cold and the lakes remain on the sloppy side. Early this week, it looks like we are going to have a few days in the teens before the bottom falls out again and we are faced with negative temperatures at the end of the week and into Christmas. Sick of the cold yet? Winter is here to stay!

Mixed reports are coming in from anglers around the area on the subject of ice conditions. The good word is, "things are slowly starting to improve". The slush is gradually beginning to freeze down. This frozen slush shouldn’t be measured and added on to the existing ice. White ice is bad ice. You all have to play it safe this year. It has been a dangerous start to this year’s early ice.

The smaller lakes in the area have anywhere from 6-9 inches of good ice. The areas where the water and slush on top has frozen, there is another 4-6 inches of white ice on top of that good clear ice. Remember, there are several lakes where the slush remains nasty and some where the slush has frozen (don’t ask me why; it’s been a bad year for predictions). I haven’t witnessed a lake yet that is more than 75% slush free. Fishermen be cautious please!

The larger lakes on the other hand are much worse off. They are improving, but are still weeping danger. It seems like they haven’t made any ice in more than two weeks. The ice they have made is in the form of frozen slush on top. If you run into 4 inches of good ice and 6 inches of unfrozen slush and water on top of that, you should be really careful! The larger lakes are far from being slush free. On Pokegama Lake this weekend, I witnessed a variety of ice thicknesses and conditions, some areas good and others terrible. I saw a handful of open water springs all over the lake. These springs ranged in size from 10-18 inches in diameter and had open water bubbling up from them. They were very noticeable, but with a little wind and snow they could be covered up in no time. The ice thicknesses around these springs were lucky to have 2 inches. These would swallow your wheeler or snowmobile right up.

Fishermen are definitely getting the itch to get out fishing. More and more people are driving snowmobiles and ATVs on the lakes as well as bringing permanent houses out. I have witnessed some not so smart individuals the past few days pull houses on ice that I have just checked and wouldn’t dare drive over myself. Be safe everyone. Just because someone else is way out on the lake, doesn’t mean everything is all safe. Check the ice and know what you’re dealing with!

I’m not trying to deter anyone from getting out and playing on our early ice, just making you all aware that some of our area lakes are not totally safe to just be ripping across them on a snowmobile or 4 wheeler. For the most part, you will probably be fine, but there are some dangerous spots around that need to be avoided. You don’t want to get stuck in the slush right now anyways. Some areas are wet, deep, and nasty. Things are slowly starting to improve, but please be cautious at all times and check the ice!

Good luck fishing everyone and remember; walking out on the ice will always get you on and off safely with no problems. Enjoy a bent rod and take in the holiday spirit.

Most of the HLO crew enjoyed the comfort of their spear houses this weekend. Knowing the ice conditions were a little rough and rugged to be bouncing around in search of slab crappies or fat walleyes, staying put in a warm house starring down a spear hole with feet on solid ice sounded like the right time. Most of us had some good action. Topper and his dad speared a few nice pike around 30 inches. Godfrey and Brock didn’t spear anything, but seen quite a few pike and lots of other species.

I will post ice conditions and fishing reports towards the end of the week. Hope things keep on improving!

Winter Storm 'Cleon' - First Weekend of Dec 2013

People in Northern Minnesota weren't prepared for this past week's weather that unexpectedly fell upon us. Winter storm 'Cleon' dumped large amounts of snow throughout the northland in a span of three days. The Grand Rapids area and to the north received anywhere from a foot to two plus feet of heavy white stuff. This storm was then followed by extremely cold temperatures. We have been below zero for quite a few days now and this week's forecast doesn't look anymore promising. Winter is here to stay.

The MN rifle season ended and most of us started pushing onto the early ice in the area. Well, early ice seemed like it lasted only one or two days for most of the Grand Rapids anglers. The lakes are now a complete disaster. Most lakes started off with a great layer of ice. This storm has currently ruined them. Anywhere from 12-24 plus inches of snow blankets 4-7 inches of ice around the area. Between the ice and snow lies a good layer of water, slush, mess (call it whatever you want). It is not pretty. It’s outright ugly. Some fishermen have reported 5 plus inches of water on the ice in some spots.

The extreme cold temperatures have not made ice nor froze this slushy mess at all this week. There is just too much snow blanketing the layer of water. Lots of people have reported getting their snowmobiles stuck and there have also been reports of a few ATVs falling through the ice on Pokegama Lake. Folks the ice is not safe on the area’s larger lakes. Please be careful. If you take a snowmobile out on the smaller lakes, prepare for the slush. Slush and water plus below zero temperatures equals frozen machines and a possibility of not making it off the ice. Use your best judgment. The safest means of ice fishing right now is walking out. Play it safe and good luck to the hardcore anglers around the area!

Red Lake and Lake of the Woods have reports of 8-12 inches of ice. Some roads are plowed out from the resorts. The walleye fishing on both bodies of water has been consistent. Give the resorts a call for ice conditions. If you’re heading up to Lake of the Woods contact Dave at Slims Resort (1-800-243-2412) to talk ice conditions, rent a beautiful cabin, or just enjoy a day on the ice.

Pictured in this blog post on the upper right corner is HLO pro staffer, Dan Neary, with two beautiful 13 plus inch crappies. Dan and Brock walked out on a small lake north of Grand Rapids during the middle of storm 'Cleon' and slammed slab crappies that day. Walking out is pretty much the only way, well safest method, onto some of the area lakes right now. Current fishing report = a lot of work in order to begin catching! Stay Warm!

written by Brock

First Ice and Last Weekend of Nov 2013

This weekend was spent in the woods for the opening of the 2013 muzzleloader deer season and also on the ice. No one let the smoke pole buck, but a few deer were seen by the crew. Gotta love this time of year when hunting and first ice over lap. It seems like there is no better time.

First ice started with a bang. It came fast and hard, but today it's not looking too healthy. Snow is falling at an alarming pace around the Grand Rapids area. With 5 inches on snow already on the ice, just today, and another half a foot or so predicted; our good ice might turn into a mess real quick. Let’s hope not. The smaller lakes around the area have 5-7 inches of good ice. Some folks are driving 4 wheelers on the very small lakes while others are choosing to walk out still. The larger lakes like Pokegama are currently on the unsafe side. The shorelines have anywhere from 3-5.5 inches. I haven't ventured too far into the middle of any larger lakes yet. With this snow, things are going to get sloppy and extremely unsafe. I have a feeling even the smaller lakes are going to turn into a slushy mess. Check the ice folks and be safe...

Colt ventured up to Upper Red Lake on Saturday with Derrick Hatfield. They walked out to 7 fow and caught quite a few walleyes throughout the day. The fish were on the finicky side, but once they found what they wanted, it didn't take long before their limits were on the ice and they were playing catch and release. Reel Bait chartreuse plane janes tipped with a minnow head worked well in the early morning hours. As the fish got finicky a plain hook tipped with a full chub on a bobber was the way to go. Although they walked out, lots of people were pulling otter sled houses behind 4 wheelers. They reported anywhere from 6-8 inches of ice.

On Sunday (before the snow started), Colt and Brock walked out on Pokegama. The ice varied from 3-5.5 inches about a quarter mile out from Mishawaka landing. They fished a small hump off the shoreline and caught 5 walleyes from 15-23 inches. Brock threw an array of spoons and buckshots at the fish and only iced one. Colt fished with a Reel Bait blue fire tiger plane jane and put 4 walleyes on the ice. And to say the least, that was with no flasher! (Better charge your Marcum next time Colt) Looks like the Reel Bait is going to be the ticket again this year. If you don't have any Reel Bait Tackle Company spoons, I have a feeling you are going to be missing out on a lot of bites this winter. Reel Bait plane jane and fergie spoons are fish catching machines. We have been using these lures for three winters now and we can say straight up, they work. These spoons attached to a Reel Bait clacker drive fish wild. Check them out online at www.reelbait.com...

Let’s hope this snow doesn’t ruin our early ice! BE SAFE!

written by Brock

Last Weekend of the 2013 MN Rifle Season

The last weekend of the 2013 MN Rifle Season brought cold weather, windy conditions (the whole season was windy), and success to the freezer. With a few remaining tags among the HLO crew, the motive was to put some meat on the ground. We can only wait for hog bucks for so long. This crew loves venison and the last weekend's game plan was all about good eats.

I entered my second rifle season this year without my favorite hunting partner, my father. It has been two years since he left us with all the awesome hunting memories that influence us to pursue our hobbies further and further as we grow older and more experienced. His memories will never leave us and his goto spots will never go un-hunted.

It only felt right for me to carry his old rifle along to his favorite hunting turf on the last Saturday of the rifle season. Dad loved deer hunting. He wasn't picky when it came to harvesting his yearly deer. He enjoyed the pursuit, being outdoors, and everything that went along with hunting. The most important scenario to his season was putting meat on the table. I wanted to follow suit. I had to shoot a good eater with his rifle. Well, that's just what happened on Saturday morning. After freezing my butt off for three hours in single digit temps and bone chilling wind, I finally got tangled into some action. Three does came cruising thru my funnel and his crosshairs found a medium sized good eater. A neck shot dropped her in her tracks and preserved the tender vitals. I missed you so much again this deer season Dad. I knew you were there with me when I slowly squeezed the trigger. Thank you so much. And thank you for introducing and teaching me about this wonderful sport. Love you...

As far as my action went on Saturday, the rest of the crew kinda struggled to see a deer. The Godfrey’s had a slow last four days at camp in the swamp. Mid week, Kevin shot a descent seven pointer and on Sunday, he filled his Dad’s tag with a doe. It was a pretty cold, windy, and slow last weekend. All in all, the 2013 rifle season was a success once again. Topper shot the nicest buck of the Crew and all of us put meat in the freezer. Good times were shared, laughs were heard, and traditions were carried on. It's all about the memories!

Get out the muzzleloaders. Muzz season opens up this coming Saturday. Good luck to all the late season deer hunters!

Ice is on its way and it won’t be long till we’re ice fishing. Be safe and check the ice!

written by Brock

Second Weekend of the 2013 MN Rifle Season

"I knocked some dust off of Poppa Toppers gear on Sunday for a long pack in after hog bucks. Although we didn't bag the giant, sometimes just the anticipation of the hunt and the struggle is all worth it. There are many more hunts that turn out unsuccessful than successful. The unsuccessful hunts make the ones you connect on all that much more unforgettable. That being said, are the unsuccessful hunts really unsuccessful? If you're passionate about the sport of hunting, and your two legs can get you there, then you need to be there. You owe it to the people that aren't so lucky. Heading into the second week of the MN rifle season and pushing towards the last weekend, it's this time that separates the soft from the hard. Get after it and let’s see some hogs everyone. Good luck and safe hunting!" Randy Topper

Well said Topps! Deer movement was much lower key late last week and throughout the weekend. A few of the HLO Crew members didn't even see a deer. Some saw one or two small bucks. It was slow. With the big moon high in the sky, the deer movement that did happen seemed to take place right around the beginning or ending of shooting light or during the noon hours.

The Godfreys and Brock took to the swamp Friday to Sunday. Kevin Godfrey who was at camp all week reported slow action during the middle of the week. That didn't turn our confidence levels one bit. With a big moon during the night, it only meant one thing; deer had to move during the mid day from 10AM to 2PM. And they did move at that time for some of us.

Brock saw two does and three fawns from his north stand on Friday from 9:30AM to 1:30PM. Kevin seen a doe and fawn around 10:30AM and Staci saw a buck chasing a doe around the 11 o'clock mark. Adam was unfortunate to see a deer on Friday.

Saturday, five of us returned to the big swamp with anticipation for a better day. No deer were sighted by 11AM. At 11:30AM, a descent buck cruised by Brock and he couldn't hold out any longer. His .270 let er buck and dropped the deer in its tracks. Deer down! Although, it wasn't a hog, it was a buck well worth it. Brock passed on a couple bucks this year similar in size. He had not shot a buck in three years due to the hog waiting game. His trigger finger was heavy and the freezer was close to empty. Sometimes trophy hunters have to feed themselves and more importantly feel the rush that we all hunt for.

We all want to shoot big mature bucks in Minnesota. Right? Does passing up descent bucks mean we will shoot trophies in the future? What is a MN trophy? All these questions are significant, but when it all comes down to hunting, it's the rush and anticipation, the struggle, the tradition, and more importantly the fun! Hunt to hunt! Good luck and be safe out there for the remainder of the season!

written by Brock

The MN Rifle Opener 2013

We hope you all had a fun and successful opening weekend. It was sure nice to have a fresh blanket of snow on the ground for opening day (tracking snow). The snow made things awesome, but the wind produced a bitter chill all weekend long. It was a bit cold sitting on stand all day long.

People have different opinions when talking about deer movement and the best times that they are going to be on their feet. Some say deer bed down when it’s windy. Well, you can’t kill one when you’re not hunting. That’s what we say. Others strictly hunt the early morning and evening and are vacant from the woods during mid day.

We have written many magazine articles and blogs about mid day whitetail movements. This is that 10AM to 2 PM period. This is one of our favorite times to hunt during the rut. I won’t go into details about why, but it is a time when you want to be in the woods. If you want to read a great article, please click here and scroll down to our “Lunch Time is the Right Time" blog post ….. This article will convince you to pack a sandwich and sit all day!

Speaking of sitting all day, yep, all of us sat throughout the day on Saturday. Well, all of us besides Topper who got out of his stand just before 11AM. Why? Topps shot a beauty of a buck during that 10 o’clock hour. Mid day hogs is what I’m saying! Great buck Topper - Pictured in the upper right corner of this blog post.

For the rest of the HLO crew, things were pretty eventful all weekend long. Colt, Mom, and I seen quite a few deer on Saturday and Sunday. We shot a doe on Sunday around 11AM. We didn’t see any shooter bucks, but lots of spikes and forks. Deer were moving for us. The Godfreys reported a slow day on Saturday, but lots of action on Sunday. They passed a few descent bucks, but didn’t see any big shooters. The Wolf Brothers shot a doe and also reported great deer movement for them. Mama didn’t see a deer all weekend.

Things are going to get interesting late this week and into the weekend. The moon is going to be big and contribute more to deer movement in that 10AM-2PM time period. Good luck everyone and be safe. Sit all day if you can!

Written by Brock

First Weekend of November 2013

Is everybody ready for this weekend's Minnesota Rifle Opener? I can bet the answer is, "Oh Yeah". First off, let's have a safe hunt everyone. Carry on the traditions and bring on the excitement. Take the kids out and show them what hunting and the outdoors is all about. Make it fun. Good luck to all!!

Most of the HLO Crew was bowhunting or getting deer camp ready this coming weekend. Bowhunting was very slow. We all thought this weekend was going to be action packed, but Northern Minnesota can be an animal sometime. Success in this area is even greater once achieved. Brock will be out bowhunting all week so we will see if things start to heat up as we get closer to the rifle opener.

Deer sign has definitely improved in the past few days. Lots of rubs and scrapes litter the woods. Some areas are tore to pieces. It's only a matter of time till those big boys start cruising more during daylight hours and makes a wrong move. Hopefully that mistake is an arrow or bullet in the sweet spot. Good luck everyone!

The picture with this post is of the Godfrey deer camp we set up this weekend. We love the new wall tent. It sure was cozy this weekend!

Last Weekend of Oct 2013 - Beautiful Colorado

Well, the boys are back from their Colorado elk hunt. They didn't return empty handed. Earl lead the team to success mid week. Nice bull Earl.

From what I hear, the four of them had a blast and soaked up the beautiful scenery. Elk sightings were low, but hunting in breath taking places with great friends is what it's all about. Save me a steak or two guys!

For now..... It's all about bowhunting this week as we get closer to the MN Rifle Opener. "C'mon Whitetails", show your racks!

Third Weekend of September 2013 - In Elk Pursuit

Mama, Topps, Adam, Earl are still in pursuit of elk in Colorado. The weekend's hunt was slow and frustrating but the scenery and adventure has been top notch. Their season opened on Saturday. Friday's scouting turned up a few nice bulls, but it seems as if they have left the area. The boys are going to continue to move around the mountain in hopes of finding some action. The bulls are pretty much done bugling so it takes lots of foot work to find the elk. Always want to see what's over the next peak. "Wow is it beautiful out here," said Topps..... A few more days to put some bone on the ground.

Godfrey and Brock will be turning up the heat in the bowstand this week and into the weekend. The first good buck sign of the season has turned up in the last few days. Can we say the pre-rut is starting? YEP! Let's fling some arrows.

Colt and Ben are going to chase some more green heads in North Dakota this week. The cold weather is moving the ducks out of Canada. Look for things to get crazy in ND and MN this weekend...

Good luck boys in Colorado. Keep on working and you will find success!

Second Weekend of October 2013 - More ND Ducks

October 9th- 13th consisted of scouting, scouting, scouting and, you guessed it, more scouting. Ben and I had plans for our good buddy, Dylan Maki to come up from Grand Rapids to hunt a weekend with the hang loose boys in Nodak.

On Wednesday, Ben and I got out of class at 2 P.M. We pulled into our house just as we received a call from Dylan. He had just slid in with his 16' enclosed trailer. From there, Dylan and I went to Scheels, met with Ben, bought our shells, and snacks, in anticipation for the morning hunt. Scouting went less than anticipated for the next couple days. Birds were dumping into fields; however they seemed to come in only at night. We set up on several afternoon feeds which did not produce many duck the morning after.

Our best day came on the last morning Dylan was with us, Sunday. It had rained nearly an inch Saturday during the day and was predicted to rain another half inch on Sunday night. Nevertheless, the rain stopped on Sunday morning. We set out Saturday afternoon to scout again and to find the motherload feed. We ended up finding a field at almost 7 o'clock that night with almost 3,000 mallards and just about as many geese. The problem was, the field was flooded. We gained permission and with that, gained confidence by nightfall.

We went to that field in the morning. Good thing we arrived at 3:30 in the morning. We could only drive half way to where we wanted to set up. We walked ½ mile into the field carrying our decoys, gear, guns and blind bags to our destination. Several trips were made from the truck to our spread. We finally got set up a half hour before shooting time. Ducks dropped in all morning. We ended up sitting almost 2 hours in the morning, seeing hundreds of ducks. We were in between three sloughs. Ducks were coming and going the whole time. We ended up calling in a few dozen mallards that morning. We shot 15 green heads and two lesser cacklers. It was a successful trip especially considering the fact that we walked ½ mile through mud and water to get to our destination. I cannot wait till October 24th when Maki comes back to Forks to play with some more Green Heads!!

What a great weekend. The mallards are definitely getting more colorful! Look for more birds to enter North Dakota and Minnesota as the weather gets colder this week. Should be a great hunt from here on out.

Written by Colt

The second annual Jeremy Topper Memorial motorcycle ride was held on Saturday. Although the weather was cold and rainy, it was a great day. We all miss you JT. RIP...

Topper, Mama, Adam, and Earl are off to Colorado on Wednesday for a week of bugling elk action. Wish them luck. Can't wait for elk steaks and hog antlers. Shoot straight boys...

First Weekend of October 2013

The first weekend of October 2013 was not exactly what anyone wanted along the lines of weather. Well, maybe if you're a duck hunter. If so, conditions were top notch. The rain was soaking at times and the winds were fairly strong. I bet the mallards decoyed like a picture.

For most of the HLO crew, we stuck around and did what all men should do once in a while: chores! Yep, with the big game season is full swing and prime time closing in fast, we put the weather behind us and got some fall work done around the house. If work includes cleaning up the boat and changing fluids, washing hunting clothes, and scouting for whitetails, then yep, that was also included in our chores list. Once prime time rolls in, the woods will absorb us for a long period of time. It's always good to get the fall chores done around the house before that time comes.

On Sunday, Topper and Mama began packing for their upcoming Colorado Elk hunt. They leave on the 16th (I'm not 100% sure on the date, #kinda jealous, #wish I was going). They will be joined by Adam Hines and Earl. Pretty sure their fired up. Good luck guys. I can't wait for play by plays via text message!

As for the rest of us, we will be hitting the big buck woods hard for the next couple months. Colt and Ben, they will continue to paste ducks and geese with steel. I think those two might grow wings soon for the amount of waterfowl they consume. Love the videos and pics you guys are throwing down the last month or so. Keep blasting...

The fall colors are still in full force. Get up to Northern Minnesota this weekend and enjoy them. It looks like the weekend is going to be a good one. Stay away rain. Two weekends of you in a row has been enough...

Last Weekend of September 2013

Three words: 'Time to Hunt'! That's all any of us here at HLO can think about as we push into October. The fall colors are in full force in the Grand Rapids area. A lot has changed in the past few days. I'll just say, "It's beautiful". This weekend will be perfect timing for a trip to the North Country. Bring the family and the kids. There is so much to do right now: fall fishing; grouse, duck, and deer hunting; or just soaking up the great weather. Whatever it is that grasps your attention and excitement this time of year, make sure you fit it into your busy schedules. Get out and enjoy the outdoors!

We will be washing up our boats and getting them ready for possibly one or two more day trips and then that will be it for the open water season. Randy Topper's and Brock Anderson's Lund boats are currently for sale. Randy's (218-244-8810) is a 2012 Lund 1825 Pro Guide with a Mercury 90 Big Tiller. Brock's (218-259-5447) boat is a 2004 1800 Lund Explorer with a 2013 Mercury 90 Big Tiller. These boats will sell fully equipped. Call us and mention 'fall deal'.

From here on out, we will be focusing of ducks and deer. Let the patience hold and the arrows fly. Colt and Ben have been slamming the ducks in North Dakota. If anyone is heading out there this fall, I recommend you getting ahold of them. They scout religiously and only hunt fields with thousands of birds. They are what I would call, 'dialed in'!

Congratulations to Mr Joel and Mrs Katie Perrington on your marriage this weekend. It was a blast. Wishing you many happy years down the road!

'Sometimes You Just Have to go Fishing Regardless'
3rd Weekend of September

This weekend was one of those crazy hard to explain fishing outings. It's tough to even begin this story. Let's start with the initial plans first. I was joined by Dick and his lovely wife on Saturday. Dick wanted a chance at a hog walleye or anything big so it was an easy decision on my part to head to Pokegama on Saturday morning. Walleyes were easy to find, but catching them was more difficult. We had an array of bait and creek chubs gave us the best action. The day wasn't about quantity but quality. We caught a couple big walleyes, huge smallmouth, and a few nice northern pike. Big fish found the camera and made for an exciting day.

Sunday, our plan was to hit the moonlit night bite on Leech Lake. Yeah, that was our plan, but when Sunday afternoon's gale force winds were forecasted to keep on rolling into the night, my mind wandered. Thoughts of going somewhere else or even canceling crossed through my head over and over. I knew twenty to thirty mile an hour southeast winds on Leech Lake would make fishing almost impossible. Dick had joined me last year during this same moon on Leech and it was a slam fest. I wanted the same results this time. With the slow night bite everywhere else, I really didn't want to head to a different body of water. I contacted Dick early afternoon and we decided to just go fishing. Yep, we would follow through with the plan. Crazy? Well, we would find out.

We arrived at the landing around 5 P.M. Only a couple rigs were parked and I thought, "Their are a few just as nuts as us." The calm side of the lake was windy enough that I had to backtroll and use the driftsock. We trolled spinners with half crawlers along the weed edges that we could stay on. We plucked a few eater walleyes before dark. The wind was strong, but it seemed as if it might have been losing its energy just a little. The Bena forecast showed winds dying to fifteen mph where as Walker still indicated twenty-five plus mph.

I told Dick that we had to go to the spot. It was on the windy side of the lake. Off we went. We took our time getting there. The waves were pretty nasty, but something I could possibly deal with. The problem was, could we troll Salmo stings thru the rollers? We threw out and I instantly pounded a twenty-four inch fatty. It was on. Two more big walleyes found the Lund in the first pass. Oh yeah, we can do this. The second pass turned up a twenty-five and twenty-six inch. The third pass, a wave came right over the corner of the boat and went straight down my shirt. It was pitch black now and it was hard to see the waves. Dick mentioned during that third pass, "I think the wind is picking up." The fourth pass was very obvious that it was getting even stronger. The fifth pass, we found the reeds, and I seriously thought we were going to beach the boat. The bilge shot water like no other. On the sixth pass, waves rolled over the boat, and we were forced to head back to the calm side of the lake. The rollers didn't even hit the side of the boat. They rolled right over the side.

It took quite awhile to get back to the east side of the lake. I’m pretty sure the wind kept picking up intensity as we got closer. Things didn't look good. We dropped down on the shoreline and we began back trolling. It wasn't long and I told Dick to reel up because the back of the boat was full of water. The bilge bucked again. I'm not much of a front troller, but I had to give it a shot.

We front trolled till 1 A.M and put a whole bunch of big walleyes in the boat. Numbers of 23-27 inchers were caught photographed and released. We also kept a box full of eaters. The wind took a toll on us though. We were exhausted after getting back to the landing. I can say I've fished in a lot larger of waves, but never night fished in such. I was happy our crazy decision to follow through provided success. I was also glad the boat was on the trailer and not at the bottom of the lake. What a hardcore night? Was it over?

Dick and I were all smiles and talk on the way back to Hill City. That is, until, a deer sprinted right into the side of the truck , bounced off, and smacked into my boat. Oh no! I didn't even stop at first. Dick finally asked, "Are you going to stop and look." I knew my truck was dented in, but I didn't want to look at the boat. I saw the deer thud off the side of the boat pretty hard. We pulled over and were amazed to see no major damage to the boat. Oooooof, what a relief. I wasn't even mad about the truck. The incident just made the night even more crazy and memorable.

Thanks Dick for putting up with my crazy boat control and being a great sport. This night will go down in the books! My guide trips with you are my most favorite by far. It's amazing how much more you are a friend than a client. There's nothing better than fishing is there?

Location: Pokegama and Leech
Water Temp: 61-64
Depth: 20-28 & 7-9 fow
Presentation: Spinners, creek chubs, Salmo stings!

Cabelas Master Walleye Circuit on Cass Lake

The Cabelas Master Walleye Circuit (MWC) contains the best fishermen in the country. These teams can catch fish in any situation. They have seen each and every different fishing scenario before. They are veterans of the game and they are good at what they do.

After a half poor outing last year at the two day MWC on Cass Lake, we figured we better step it up this year. With my vacation availability fitting into the week before the tournament, I would be able to get lots of prefishing accomplished.

I arrived at beautiful Stony Point on Cass Lake Thursday afternoon. Yep, it was a week before the tournament (tournament- Friday 13th, Saturday 14th). I told Topper, if we had any shot at winning, we had to figure out where the largest fish in the whole Cass Lake chain were hiding and how to catch them. We had to be consistent and be able to weigh a weight in the teen’s everyday.

I won't go into prefishing detail, but things followed the norm of the Brock and Topps prefishing expeditions. The ups and downs, high fives, and frustrations followed everyday. The fun times and laughs were nothing short either. One thing was different, though. We found what we wanted, caught big fish, were consistent, and going into Friday morning; we had confidence that we had a shot at winning the whole tournament. We usually have a game plan each and every tournament, but to this day, we never have held a confidence like we had going into this tournament.

Thanks Mom for being my guinea pig fisherman the first two days and finding our ticket presentation!

written by Brock

Please read the tournament results from our interview with Keri Solis

From bearsolis.com
written by Keri Solis
Interviews from the top finishers at the MWC on Cass

***It’s a three-peat for Paul Steffens and Travor Diegel who weighed ten fish for 32-02lbs at the Cass Lake MWC over the weekend. It is also their second MWC win this year.

As they are known for, they bounced around all day looking for fish. It wasn’t until they hit three spots and then returned to their first that they started putting weight in the boat.

Fishing Pike Bay, and finding most of their fish in 25-30 feet of water, it was crucial to use their Lowrance to find them. “They weren’t on steep breaks or ledges like in the past. The Lowrance doesn’t lie. As soon as you mark one you stop and sit on it.”

With the fish puking up three inch and smaller perch in the livewell, they were using bottom bouncers, crawlers, half crawlers, leeches, and Gulp! 4” crawlers. The Gulp! Crawlers were crucial in both prefishing and tournament days when they were getting nipped by perch. “All it takes is two bites by a perch and your regular crawler is done.”

Coming in second with 27-11 are Darrell Peters and Chris Lewis. Day one was very good to them, with five fish in the box by 10am and the ability to upgrade all day. Today was more of a struggle, as the fish were more finicky. They started out catching smaller fish, and were finally able to start upgrading around noon.

Fishing the Stairsteps in Pike Bay pulling 2-3oz. weights with pink Phelps floaters and whole night crawlers on 6 foot leaders at .4-.5mph. In the morning the 24-26 foot range seemed to be holding the fish. Later in the day they slid out to 28-32 feet.

In prefishing they had tried spinners, but found the slower they went, the nicer the fish were, which is what made them switch to the Phelps presentation.

Randy Topper and Brock Anderson took third place honors with 27-10lbs. While day one was great, catching a 24 and a 27 on top of good unders in three or four spots, day two was more frustrating.

Their bite slowed considerably on their top spots and they had to do a lot of running around to find fish. They only had two in the box in the late afternoon before popping a 24 and filling up with a limit of 17’s.

Color was key, as they were trying to match the small perch the walleyes were feeding on with chartreuse and orange smiley blades being pulled at 1-1.3mph. It was also key to have the smallest leeches you could find for bait.

The team concentrated on deep structure and steep breaklines with inside hooks. Use of the Lowrance Downscan was crucial to find the fish glued to the bottom. While they would see some clustered on a break, it was the fish that were scattered that were in eat mode.

For the father and son team of Todd and Kyle Minke, one fish short and 26lbs would put them in fourth place. The team was also fishing in Pike Bay and had to vary their presentation throughout the tournament to get bites from active fish. According to Kyle, today was nothing like yesterday, as there was added pressure on the areas they were fishing. He noted that the fishing seemed to be better when the sun was out and that fish they were on were in loose schools.

Taking team of the year honors were Korey Sprengel and Derek Navis. It was the first time to Cass Lake for both of them, and they knew they had to take a top 25 to get the honor.

Navis fished started prefishing Tuesday and Sprengel joined him on Thursday, while they found a lot of unders and one key area with a few overs prefishing, they never did find a key under spot. They spent most of their time jigging, with Berkley Ripple Shad being a good producer. Their Lowrance was key to marking the fish. They would often graph an area, mark the fish, then go back and fish their waypoints.

They started day one in Pike Bay and missed three nice ones right away before running to Cass to get a limit hopping spots. At 12:30pm they found a steep windblown breakline that produced well. Today they started on Cass and it was on fire in the first half hour, then it fizzled and they were never able to get on a decent bite the rest of the day.

One of the highlights of the day was snap jigging for their two biggest fish right under the boat after they appeared on the graph. They finished in 17th. Special thanks to Kyle and Todd Minke, and Toby and Dean Kvalevog for their help to Derek and Korey at Cass Lake, along with Tom Hoinacki and Keith Davis at the other MWC events.***

Congratulations to all the Rays Sport and Marine teams and Grand Rapids teams that fished the MWC event. HLO pro staffers, Abe and Amos Wolf, struggled day 1 but pulled it together on day 2. There's always next year boys. Hats off to Ryan Nuerurer and Dave Nickel from Grand Rapids weighing in the largest walleye of the tournament. Sean Colter and Dave Hernesman had a frustrating day 1, but came back strong weighing a huge bag on day 2, popping them into the top 20 for the two day event. Nice work teams!

Im going to cry cause tournament season is over until next year!

Location: Cass Lake Chain
Water Temp: 69-73
Depth: 20-35fow
Presentation: Spinners with leeches & half crawlers pulled 1.1mph, Vertical jigging, Lindy rigging medium sized creek chubs

An Early Goose Season for the Books
First Weekend of September 2013

It was that time of year again, summer was winding to an end and I was packing my bags to head out west to the Waterfowl mecca, North Dakota. With mine and Colt’s last year of college at our fingertips, we knew we had to make this one count as it was time to enter the real world when we graduated. North Dakota Game and Fish had a 15 bird limit or as I say bounty on the geese and we made it our goal to top our record of 42 at least once during the year.

With the late winter, last year the farmers were way behind schedule which led to a very late wheat harvest. I personally was skeptical this season before getting out here as the temps were forecasted to be in the high 90s which is not ideal weather to be lying in a field. Our first scouting session was early September and we found very few cut fields and scattered birds everywhere. This early, the birds are still grouped up in family groups so they feed in small numbers. This is the time when scouting means EVERYTHING!! If you’re not putting on the miles you’re not killing geese. We usually are putting on 100-200 miles each day we scout depending how early we find a feed. I compare scouting to like fishing in a tournament, you can’t get discouraged if you’re not catching fish or finding geese because you never know when you’re going to get that one good bite or find the MOTHER FEED!!

Back to our first scout outing; we finally found a couple feeds next to each other. One field had about 150 birds the other had about 80. You can put together a great hunt on 100 bird fields as they are coming in family groups of 3-8 which is perfect because you can usually take out the whole flock and have a better chance of not getting seen by the other birds. We had our minds set that we were going to hunt the field with 150 in it and run traffic on the birds going into the other field. Just as we were going to head back to Grand forks and get packed up, we made the decision to stay tell dark and see where the birds were headed to roost for the night. This was by far the best choice I have made in my hunting career! We posted up between the two fields and started to notice a lot more activity in the 80 bird field. What I mean by this is there were a few more geese landing in the field and also some geese leaving the field from a low spot we could not see. This started playing head games with us and we were jumping out of our skin trying to decide which field we needed to hunt. Well as time played out we watch birds from the low spot in the field we could not see pour out of there and head back to the roost. I was glassing the field and was shouting out to Colt there goes 5, there goes 6, there goes 4, there goes 10, and then the field erupted and about 150 took off. Colt and I were like kids on Christmas high fiving and jumping all over the place. We knew we had found the mother feed and were in store for a heck of a hunt.

The ride back seemed like it took 3 hours as we were jamming out and freaking out about where we were going to sit in the field, whats the wind doing, how hot is it going to be, and so on and so forth. I made a few phone calls to a couple buddies who were going on the hunt with us and I’m not sure if they could even understand me because I was rambling so much. All I remember telling them is we got a bomb field and to bring a LOT of shells. Once we got back we got the trailer all packed up and ready to go as we were planning on taking off at 3:00 A.M.

With a restless and sleepless night under our belt we gathered our things and took off down the road west; the best feeling in the world. I looked out the window and noticed the Northern Lights were out which has been our little good luck charm for the past couple seasons. Every time we see them heading to the field we have had a lights out day. This got me all jacked up and now I knew we were going to have a hunt of a life time. Pulling into the field we now knew we had to blindly decide our spot to set up as we could not see where all these birds were sitting from the road. A quick recon mission to find goose droppings and feathers we on. We found the ideal spot to set up the battle station. We put out our full 10 dozen spread as we tried to imitate how many were in the field the night before. We all stacked the decoys heavy around the blind followed by numerous family groups spread out around us. It was a prefect wind coming out of the east which meant these geese were going to land looking straight into the blinding sun and we were essentially going to be invisible.

Our spread was finally set up, cameras (Go Pros) in place, and we were laying in our blinds wondering what was in store for us. About 10 minutes after shooting time we had our first flock of two come in. We watched and waited to see how these two would react and without hesitation we landed them right on our footbags of the blind. Once they got spooked and started to fly we popped up and sent them to goose heaven. As quick as we got reloaded we seen a string of 15 headed our way. Big groups are very hard to decoy because there are so many eyes trying to pick out any abnormality. It was a very calm day with no wind which makes the geese fly high. Just as they were getting to our spread they locked up and dropped straight down from the heavens. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as 15 big honkers were now 5 feet away and I had to snap out of it to call the shot. I screamed ‘KILL EM’ and we all popped out and put quite a dent in the flock. The rest of the morning it was string after string of the same thing, big flocks of honkers doing it right on our feet. The most memorable part of the hunt I thought was when we landed about 20 geese as another string of 40 were right behind them. They both committed and we popped up and geese were going everywhere!!! Landing big flocks of honkers gets me fired up more than anything I know!!! We all started shouting as that was one of the coolest things we had seen!! At one point in time we landed a flock so close that I shot one that was no farther then 3 yards away from the end of my gun barrel. That made for some AWESOME footage!!

With blood, feather, and dead geese scattered all throughout our field we knew we were close to the unthinkable. A 4 man 60 bird limit!!! We got done counting and we were two shy of our limit so we got back into our blinds and quickly solved that issue. I remember taking the Go Pro off my head to see how much time we had filmed and it was 39 minutes!! WOW!!! We killed 60 big honkers in around a half hour which is unheard of!! Fist bumps were given and hoots and hollers were let out as we were all on cloud 9. We sent a buddy Ryan back to get the truck and trailer so we could start to pick up. These geese wanted in this field so bad that as we picked up another 150 geese landed in the other side of the field.....all we could do was just laugh.

With the season now closed this week, I sit here as I write this and look back at it all. I may not have a season like this again. With only going on 4 hunts this early season we put down 160 geese!! We put down another 44 last Friday and 18 on Saturday. All I can say is this was a season for the books. We weren’t the only one killing geese though. Every buddy I know or talked to was killing them as well. The geese were everywhere out here this year. I walked into work one afternoon and a co-worker asked me how many we killed this morning. I stated we got 18 and he blurted out thats it? Thats IT??? It was almost expected that every hunt you were on this year you had to kill 30 to have a good hunt. It was pure insanity.

This year we were able to run a few cameras on our hunts so we got lots of footage in the process of getting edited. Stay tuned for the video and future duck reports as this weekend is duck opener. Also if you’re in the process of finding a new duck or goose call give C&S Custom Calls a look. They are HLO approved and Mike Stelzner, the call maker, is hands down one of the nicest guys I have met. Give him a shout or look his stuff up on cscustomcalls.com. He won’t let you down! Again, an early season for the books. Stay Tuned!

written by HLO Pro Staffer Ben Olson

Congratulations Mr and Mrs Topper

First off I want to congratulate Randy and Lindsey. You two mean the world to each other. I love you both and the future looks sweet for you guys.

Your wedding was definitely hanging loose outdoors. We are all so happy we could be a part of it. This was by far the best wedding I've ever attended. The day started off hot and ended wet. Yep, we just missed the rain seconds after the rings were exchanged. They say it's good luck when it rains on your wedding day. Wow, was the reception fun. Congrats Toppers!!!

Celebrating the Marriage of Randy Topper and Lindsey Swihart
Labor Day Weekend

Come celebrate with us all at the Golf Course Saturday night August 31st!

Im writing this blog early due to the crazy next couple weeks. Topper's wedding first and then we are off to Cass Lake to start prefishing for the Cabelas MWC walleye tournament on Sept 13 & 14. Weigh in will be at Stony Point around 3P.M both days. Stop by and wish us luck.

Randy Toppers Bachelor Party Weekend

Watching the clock……. can’t focus…….. anxiety is starting to kick in! All we can do is just watch the second hand, tick tick tick. When is the work day going to be over? The moment arrives; will all the talk and hype from the previous weeks leading up to the big event rein true? Randy’s big bachelor party weekend up on beautiful Lake Vermilion finally arrives! The hour and a half drive didn’t sound long, but it couldn’t pass fast enough. The plan was underway to launch the boats as soon as we could see the coffee stained water of the island paradise they call Vermilion.

Walking down to the docks of the cabin definitely set the mood. Two docks filled with five Lund boats. This could get dangerous! Topps had the plan to hit the water for a couple hours before dinner and cocktails to locate some marble eyes for the weekend. Topps decided to run spinners and crawlers on the secondary break of the lake while Abe and Amos hit up the mid lake structure also pulling spinners and crawlers. Craig scouted around mid-lake structures with crawlers. We were all successful catching numerous nice eater walleyes. Both mid lake and secondary shoreline breaks held large schools of walleyes in 16 to 18 feet of water. On the way into the cabin, Abe and Amos also tried pulling Salmo Hornets in the shallow rocks along the shoreline. The fish were a little scattered, but they caught some good eyes with cranks too.

First fishing outing, even though we weren’t out long, was very successful and we managed to get a good mess of fish for a huge fish fry we were planning for the following night. After fishing, we had a great night with an even better group of guys between drinks, pool, bags, washers, tip it, jokes, and trash talk. There was never a dull moment.

Day two, everyone hit the lake for a couple hours of fishing before breakfast. Another successful outing put more walleyes towards the fish fry. Spinners tipped with crawlers and Salmo hornets worked well again. Speed was key. The fish moved off of the mid lake humps, but they were still holding strong on the secondary breaks in 16 to 18 fow and also in 10 fow for those cranks. This held true for the rest of the weekend. We found that there were many age classes of fish all around the same structures. We caught walleyes from 9” all the way to 28.5”. The end of the trip came much too quickly, but we were left with many great memories and laughs. What more could you expect for Toppers Bach? You couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to have spent an eventful weekend with!

Much Love goes out to Randy and Lindsey. May your future be filled with big fish and giant bucks and your journey together be long, loving and prosperous! And keep Hanging Loose more and more everyday!

Location: Lake Vermilion
Water Temp: 71
Depth: 16-18 & 10 fow
Presentation: Spinners tipped with crawlers and Salmo Hornets

written by Amos

Third Weekend of Aug 2013 - Archery Talk

We are over the hill of the half-way point of August so we better start the hunting talk. Although, we are still very much involved in the fishing season, preparation must slowly and consistently begin for all you bowhunters out there. Yep, we are less than a month away from the Minnesota archery opener. Bowhunters who plan on hunting the opener should already be practicing.

Bowhunting is no easy sport, but with a lot of practice, confidence, and planning, anyone can be successful while having the most fun this fall. The best part about bowhunting is; it's a sport for anyone and everyone. Women and kids absolutely love this sport too. With the archery equipment on the market today, there are bows, arrows, clothes, and deer stands that fit each and every individual. Technology has come a long way in the field of archery and the improvements are there for us to grab by the horns.

Horns, antlers, velvet, venison, whatever you may be after this archery season; get that bow out now and start shooting. Put the arrows into the target, get your form back, build your strength, and get your confidence up. Get out in the woods and begin scouting. Hang your trail cameras and most importantly get pumped up for this year’s hunting season. Bowhunting is less than a month away and it’s all practice, practice, and more practice from now until then. Let me stress, you should keep on shooting your bow even during hunting season. Let the arrows rip and keep hitting the bullseye.

If you haven’t got that bow out of the closet yet and plan on hunting this year, you better get on it. If you’re thinking about buying a new bow or just need some fine tuning or new accessories; get up to Itasca Archery today and see Gary. Gary is the most knowledgeable archery dealer and kindest person in the business today. He will set you up with the best products for your budget while providing you with the necessary advice that fit your archery needs. Itasca Archery is your one stop archery pro stop. This shop has it all from new Hoyt bows, rests, sights, quivers, to arrows and broadheads, shooting targets, deer stands, clothing, calls, and by far the best 3-D outside shooting range in Northern Minnesota. Itasca Archery will outfit the novice hunter, women, and kids. Get up to Itasca Archery today, fine tune that bow, and start practicing. Hunting season is close!

Itasca Archery- www.itascaarchery.com / Phone- 218-326-3252 / Address- Itasca Archery Supply, 34953 North Shoal Lake Road, Grand Rapids, MN 55744

You will not believe the new 2013 Hoyt bows unless you shoot them. How good are they? After shooting them, Colt, Mama, and I all purchased one. Fast, smooth, and the most comfortable bow I've ever shot!

written by Brock

Second Weekend of Aug 2013

Mid August is usually characteristic of a hit and miss bite especially for walleyes. That is very true, but fishing can be outstanding too this time of year. Fish have to eat sometime. They won't go long without biting. Searching for active schools or pods of fish will lead to success right now. Using your electronics and moving from one structure to the next will eventually make your rods bend and heat up the action.

With this month’s weather, cool mornings and nights, the water temps have really started to drop. This decrease in surface temp has improved fishing on a lot of the Grand Rapids area lakes this past week. Fishermen are finding that walleyes and other species have been a lot more aggressive as of late. Bouncing from one school of fish or moving spots has been the absolute key in putting fish in the boat. Yes, some schools of fish have been finicky where others have been really chowing. The hit and miss bite is still there but with a little work, fishing has still been very good.

When you locate a pod of fish (walleyes) with your electonics, try working through them with a leech, crawler, or big minnow (redtail, creek chub) on a lindy rig. If you don't get a bite within the first couple passes, move on to the next school of fish or another structure. GPS those schools of fish or remember where they were. Those fish that weren't biting when you fished them might turn on in an hour or two. The windows have been short, but when you land on a group of fish that are eating, you will have a ton of fun with them. Moving around, searching, and looking deep and shallow will eventually turn up a couple active schools of fish. Fish are biting somewhere on the lake you are fishing. Put in a little work and search and you'll be putting fish in the livewell in no time.

Spinner rigs tipped with a half/full crawler and pulled 1.0-2.0 along the deep weed edges have provided the most consistent bite lately. Big minnows and a leech on a lindy rig have gotten the large schools of walleyes on the deep structures to bite. I always tell guys/girls; look to the deep mid lake bars and humps first and then go to the weeds or rocks if the deeps don't pan out. This method has been working great for us for the past two weeks. Remember, if a school of fish won't bite, move onto the next.

Pokegama continued to shine this week for both big walleyes and eaters. The early morning has been best. Look to the deep bars and humps for big fish and the weed edges for the eaters. This scenario has been about the same on Winnibigoshish, Leech, and Cass. Panfish are being caught around the deep weeds in the evening hours on a lot of lakes too. Drag a sucker minnow around for big pike or cast those big lures for muskies. Fish are biting somewhere, go out there and get em. A little bouncing around has led to good fishing again this week.

Pictured on the top right of this blog is Logan and his dad, Scott. Their four hour guide trip turned up a couple giant eyes this week.

Location: Pokegama
Water Temp: lakes- 64-70
Depth: 15-18 & 25-35 fow
Presentation: Big minnows on a lindy rig & spinners tipped with crawlers

First Weekend of August 2013- Big Minnows

Usually August can be described as hot, humid, and doggy. This first week of August 2013 has been far from that. Temperatures are hanging in the high 60s and low 70s during the day with very low humidity. The breeze is cool at night and a hint of fall is in the air even throughout the day. The weather has hunting season creeping into our minds.

Hold on! It's never too early for hunting talk, but we still have lots of fishing left ahead of us. We'll leave hunting talk for another couple weeks. For now, I want to just give our blog readers another fishing tip for this month of August. This tactic really came alive this week and will continue to be productive throughout August and into September. This tip or presentation is used by HLO to catch BIG fish, but also can mean the difference between going home with dinner or backing the boat into the garage livewell empty.

The big minnow presentation is that of what I talk about and it's extremely fun to fish. It's simple and very effective. All you need is a basic lindy rig set up with a larger hook, a bigger slip weight, and more importantly, stronger line for your lindy. These rigs can easily be constructed by you. Buy some fluorocarbon, preferably 12-14lb. If you're targeting pike, go like 20lb plus. If you are fishing for anything big that will bite, 14lb will work just fine. Make a simple lindy rig; swivel on one end, a colorful bead before the hook, and a size 1 or 2 hook(gamakatsu octopus is what I prefer). I like to fish big minnows with a larger slip sinker especially in deep water. Get a few 3/4 and 1/2 ouncers for 20-40 feet of water. Go lighter if you're pulling these rigs along the weeds. Let the bottom and the size of your minnow dictate the size of your weight.

Now, pick yourself up some big minnows (creek chubs, suckers, redtails). When I'm talking big, these can range from 5-14 inches and sometimes larger. Big baits catch big fish! Hook these minnows just slightly thru the top lip. This way they are free to swim around and wreck chaos, stir up the water, and coax fish into eating them. Work these rigs as slow as you want to no faster than .8 mph. You are trying to keep these minnows in front of fish so the minnow will make the fish mad enough to bite. Once you get a huge tug or a light chomp, feed line (off your bail) for 30 seconds to a minute. If your minnow is 14 inches, you might want to feed it a little longer. Some people then reel up and try to set the hook as hard as they can. Don't do that. We've found that once you’re done feeding the fish, just start reeling in a quick manner. Once your pole starts to bend and you feel the fish is on, give a light hook set just to get that barb planted better into the top of the fish's mouth. I guarantee you will hook more fish this way. Some guys like tail hooking their big minnows if they continue to lose fish with this presentation. Sometimes, it's worth a try, but I still like thru the upper lip. When your minnow begins to pulse and kick on the end of your line, get ready, a big fish is starring it down. Slow your boat speed and let that fish eat. Feed line, reel, give a light to moderate hook set, and hold on. Make sure you have a net on board and a camera.

This presentation will make the so called dog days of August a blast on the water. It will put a smile on your face, pictures on Facebook, and fresh fillets in your frying pan. Get a variety of sized big minnows and get out and try this during your next fishing outing. Enjoy and Good Luck.

P.S. This tactic is effective throughout the whole year, but shines most in the later part of summer to early fall. Why? During the fall, forage (minnows, perch, etc) in a lake have grown up so you're matching the hatch and the food that is available. And big fish like big meals!

written by Brock

Location: Pokegama & Sugar
Water Temp: lakes- 68-72
Depth: 22-36 fow
Presentation: BIG MINNOWS on a lindy rig

Last Weekend of July 2013- Canada Cold Front

Wind, rain, and temperatures in the low 40’s kindly greeted us as we pulled into Brown’s Clearwater West Resort on Friday afternoon. The weather didn’t really matter to Craig, Colt, and I. We were finally in Canada in front of a body of water that held huge lake trout. It was time to set up camp and then head out fishing.

Barry Brown’s employee informed us upon check in that the wind was really nasty and we probably shouldn’t venture out on the lake. She made the statement, “Barry lost a boat today”. We weren’t sure if she meant, he sunk a boat, or a boat floated away. The wind was pile driving right into the resort so there was really no way that one would float away. That statement hung in the air until later that evening.

We strategically set up camp after finding the right site. I had grabbed four tarps at the last minute before departing Grand Rapids and I’ll say; they might have saved the trip. Tarps were hung with Power Pro 100lb test fishing line for wind blocks and to also shed the rain from the tents. We made a little shelter above the picnic table with the last blue tarp. By the end of construction, it looked as if we might have down it a time or two before.

There was no hurry to get out on the lake as the white capped rollers pounded off the shoreline. Spray from the waves fell just short of our tents. It was windy! The rain added to the bitterness too. Finally around 5 P.M we couldn’t handle it anymore. We landed the Hang Loose Lund/Mercury.

The resort was correct about the nasty seas as we struggled to even get the boat off the trailer. Waves came over the back of the boat as if there were no splash guards or nothing in their way. It was a bit on the scary side. I hammered the Mercury down and finally crept on top of the waves. I spun the boat around, Craig and Colt jumped in, and we snow plowed waves over towards the west. It was evidently possible now that Barry had sunk a boat. Waves would come right over the front of my 18 foot Lund if I didn’t keep my bow up and into the wind. I wondered how we were even going to fish.

We hung in the waves till dark and picked up five beautiful lake trout, lost a few, and boated a couple big whitefish. For the wind, weather, and short evening outing, it was a success. The cold front had not completely turned the fish off. The wind had maybe died a little, but not much. We drank a few cold ones and grilled burgers that night anticipating the next day’s lake trout fishing.

The winds picked up excessively that night and early morning. No one really slept much. Our tents and tarps screamed in the wind and the rain blasted everything. At times, it sounded as if a tornado was going to rip the whole works apart into shambles. The weather was loud!

The three of us drank coffee all morning long as the wind and weather continued to crank. It was pretty much impossible to get out on the lake. The temps were also getting colder and colder. You could see your breath. I was getting a little nervous. We had to get out and fish. That’s what we came to do.

The wind might have slowed to 30 mph around 10 A.M so we gave it a go. I won’t even go into detail about getting the boat off the trailer or the trip across the lake. I’ve been in six to seven footers on Mille Lacs in my boat and I might have taken that over this. The waves weren’t that big, but they were coming from every direction and yeah; it wasn’t pretty getting over to the calm side of the lake. We’re just going to skip right over to Sunday because Saturday was darn right brutal cold and we only caught a handful of lake trout throughout the day. It was so cold, it could have snowed out. Snow would have been better than rain anyways. Saturday went down in the books as one of my coldest and windiest experiences ever in a boat (and it’s July); yep, colder than most spring Rainy River adventures.

The wind finally started to lie down on Sunday morning as the clouds parted and the sun began to peek out. Forty-five degrees and sun resembled ninety degrees. We portaged my boat over to White Otter Lake from Clearwater early that morning. Barry let us trailer over ourselves as he had to go rescue some canoers who were running a few days late due to the winds on Friday and Saturday. The portage went slow but smooth and Craig and I were pumped to at last get on this giant body of water in the boat and gps some spots on the Lowrance HDS for winter trout fishing.

Lake trout were spread out just like they were on Clearwater. We would graph one here and not another one for a hundred yards or so. They hugged bottom pretty tight too. It was rare to find two trout hanging together and if we did, one of us caught or missed one of them eighty percent of the time. Fishing would have been pretty frustrating without the help from my Lowrance HDSs. A good sonar was key to finding fish or a fish. We had to sit on top of them and make them eat. Our strategy went something like this: cruise around and look for a big arc a little off bottom, drop a waypoint, slam the Mercury in reverse, drop lures, vertical jig and hover over fish. If the fish didn’t bite within a minute, it was off to try to find another fish. It might sound difficult, but we caught a fair amount of lakers that way. It was pretty fun and we explored a lot of water doing so. We even stopped at the White Otter Castle which was built all by hand in 1915. It was a site to see (Canadian history). White Otter was a great portage. We marked quite a few spots for winter set ups, caught some trout, and saw lots of beautiful scenery. We hammered on big Smallmouth Bass for quite some time too. Let me add, the weather was also gorgeous in the afternoon. It was so nice we were able to take our jackets and bibs off.

Monday morning was our last morning to fish so we hit Clearwater early. The wind was dead calm (imagine that) and there was not a cloud in the sky. We were sure the trout were going to slam. Well, it was the complete opposite of slam. We only succeeded in catching one lake trout in four hours. We graphed a few more than the previous days, but they didn’t show any interest in eating or even chasing our offerings. That weather front definitely numbed the fish. The water on Clearwater fluctuated from the north to the south side from 52-63 degrees. We went to our whitefish spot before noon and they were absolutely loaded on my gps points from last year. I bet there were over 300 whitefish cruising along the bottom and they too wouldn’t even bite. Yes, we tried everything. Colt got so frustrated he dropped the underwater camera to verify they were fish. Hahaha. Yep. Hundreds of non biting whitefish with an occasional lake trout roamed the break. It was time to go home even though none of us wanted to leave.

Although the fishing was tough due to the cold front that blew through on Friday and Saturday, we still managed to have an awesome time. I’m sure we would have caught a lot more fish if the weather would have held off for a couple more days. We always catch fish, always have fun, and always learn on each and every trip. Yes, and we always eat well too. See you next time Canada. We miss you already. It’s going to be hard to return to walleye fishing after doing battle with some of those hog trout!

written by Brock

Location: Clearwater West & White Otter- Canada Lake Trout
Water Temp: lakes- 52-63
Depth: 55-80 fow
Presentation: River2Sea baits and Reel Bait flasher jigs tipped with zooms

Third Weekend of July 2013

The big July full moon shined bright all weekend long. This full moon is usually my favorite one of the year. With night fishing being on the slower side for most of the season last year, I was pretty excited for this moon. Lots of walleyes still hung close to the shallows on lots of the Grand Rapids area lakes so hopes of the night bite being excellent was not far fetched.

Thursday night we trolled Salmo stings and hornets on Pokegama from dark till about midnight. The bite was pretty slow. We picked up a few eater walleyes but couldn’t really throw a pattern together. Most fish on the Lowrance were glued to bottom on the bottom edge of the breaks. It looked to me like they were full from the day bite. They never began to slide up the break. Regardless, it was a beautiful night on the lake with the moon glistening off the water. Lightning from a storm to the north provided a spectacular light show also.

Godfrey, Dan, and I fished Pokegama during the day for a few hours here and there on Friday and Saturday. The walleyes have really schooled up now and can be found anywhere from 14-40 fow. The larger schools of eyes in deep water have been very stubborn this last week. They don’t want to open up their mouths. Spinners tipped with crawlers have been picking off some of the shallower walleyes throughout the day and evening. It’s a matter of bouncing from one pod of fish to the next. Pokegama definitely slowed down this week. I would guess, judging by the deep walleye pattern right now, they should start eating fairly descent in the afternoon and evenings in that deep water. Look for the majority of your eaters still next to the weeds with spinner rigs.

Abe, Amos, and I hit Deer Lake on Friday night. The moon was bright and everything was set for a great crank bite. Well, it wasn’t excellent, but we caught a bunch of eater walleyes. For the amount of spots we hit, we should have caught a lot more. What’s going on with the moon bite? I’m not sure myself right now either. Maybe this cooler weather had a lot of fish biting during the day. Possibly they were only feeding on bug hatches during the night (definitely case on Deer for all the walleyes were coughing up flies in the livewell. Abe and Amos did descent on Sunday night on Pokegama but nothing in the ballpark of slamming. Their best luck came in 5-8 fow with Salmo stings. I guess for now, we will have to wait for the August full moon to see if thats going to be lights out. That doesn’t mean we won’t be night trolling before that. I like the waning moon and new moon too. Oooooof and that September full moon on Leech, won't talk about that quite yet.

Being Pokegama was hit and miss, I decided to take a guide trip to Trout on Sunday mid day. Walleyes were loaded on the bars in 16-24 fow. Working through these huge pods of fish almost made me sick. Why weren’t they eating? It was like that almost every spot we fished. Wow, what an off weekend on the fishes’ part? We did catch plenty of fish to keep things interesting though. The big smallies liked a crawler and big minnow on a lindy rig. What a blast it was to pull these fish out of 20-30 fow. Fighters? You bet! Big minnows also caught the four walleyes we put in the boat and two nice big pike. For four hours of fishing, it was a pretty good day on the water. We enjoyed lots of laughs and caught up on good times. Hope you got a great work out from all those big smallies you reeled in Tasha!

Mama, Colt, Dan, and I are off to Canada this coming weekend to chase lake trout! PUMPED UP!

written by Brock

Location: Pokegama, Deer, Trout
Water Temp: main lake- 73-75
Depth: 15-40fow
Presentation: a little of everything on 8ft lindy rigs, Salmo stings and hornets

Lindy Rigs - Second Weekend of July 2013

Leave the jigs at home and bring the rigs. With water temperatures well into the 70’s here in northern Minnesota, if you aren’t lindy rigging or spinning with speed, as a walleye fisherman you might not be adequately devoting your time on the water. Walleyes want a crawler or leech more than anything else this time of year. I’m not saying you won’t catch walleyes any other way, but these presentations must be on the top of your list.

There are plenty of lindy or roach rigs at your local bait shops for sale. Buy a variety of them in the 6-10 foot lengths. Remember to grab a few with spinners on them also. When you’re there, pick up a crawler blower too, and don’t forget a couple dozen crawlers and leeches.

If you enjoy tying your own rigs like I do, buy single components in a variety of colors and sizes. First, grab a spool of fluorocarbon. I like tying my own rigs with 10-12lb Berkley fluorocarbon. Twelve pound gives me the needed strength to rip through cabbage weeds and bob and weave over rocks. It also is strong enough to hold up to huge headshakes from giant walleyes and toothy creatures like pike all while keeping from twisting.

The single components you’ll need to tie your rigs are as follows: crane swivels, beads, floaters, spinners, clevis, hooks(#6), and a tackle tamer for when your rigs are complete. I like to use Northland fishing tackle and Reel Bait Tackle Company components. I also like to experiment with new blades, beads, and other interesting components that catch my attention in the fishing world. The fun thing to tying your own rigs is, you can make them however you want, as colorful as you want, or as dull as a single red hook. The power is in your finger tips.

Personally, I don’t like tying up a ton of rigs at once. This is why I started tying my own rigs so long ago and why I don’t buy them pre made in the package. I absolutely hate when I have a coiled lindy or spinner rig on the end of my fishing rod. If you tie too many and put them on a tackle tamer, they are bound to accumulate memory and coil up over time. Don’t get me wrong, a coiled rig is still better than a jig this time of year. I like to keep my rigs fresh and straight. Call me precise, call me what you want. The reason you’re rigging this time of year is to provide walleyes with a natural presentation, not a twisting and turning ball of worms.

Are you sure about that? Sometimes twisting and turning or a little added speed is what you want. Do I have you confused yet? For starts on any given walleye outing (and early in the rigging season), I like to use a true lindy or roach rig 5-8 feet long tipped with a crawler or leech and pulled 0.5-1.0 mph. This rig has a single bead or two and is naturally presenting itself to the fish. If I don’t get bit while working over a couple different schools of fish, my next move is to try to get a reaction bite. This is where the blades, spinners, and all the crazy rigs of mine come into effect. If the fish won’t eat a natural presentation, maybe a quickly moving crawler past their face will trigger them to snap. Possibly a thump of a spinner or the vibration and rattle of my top secret presentation will seduce them into a fierce trance.

As the summer progresses, getting reaction bites is the number one way to putting a large number of fish in the boat in a quick hurry. A good example of getting a reaction bite goes something like this. We all have those days when we don’t know what to make for dinner or we don’t know what to order while looking over a huge menu at a restaurant. Nothing sounds good or we would just be content on ordering an appetizer. Fish are like this too. When they have time to think, do I want to eat that passing leech or not, sluggish fish will usually wait for the next menu to come by. If you were on a desert island with no menu and all of a sudden a T bone steak happened to fly by eye level, odds are I bet you would jump out and grab it (I know I would). Your reaction was to get that steak because you might not see a menu for quite some time. Added speed with a mix of flash and vibration resembles the steak to fish. Instead of a fish having time to decide to eat a slowly moving crawler or leech, when it flies by, it only has a split second to open up a chow.

Walleyes are predators and they live to eat. Spinner rigs pulled 1.0-2.5 mph will usually get that reaction bite from a few walleyes out of a school. Sometimes, speed is everything. I’ve witnessed spinners and speed out fish a regular lindy rig ten to one on certain days when the walleyes are sluggish or the waters are calm and windless. If they are being picky, give them something they only have an eyeball's time to decide. Reaction bites will put fish in your boat on days you would never think you could catch a walleye.

This time of year, walleye fishing is filled with ups and downs and good and bad days. Rigging and spinning should be on the top of your agenda when targeting walleyes. There are so many ways to rig and so many different speeds that might make all the difference on the water on one given day. You will learn more to walleye fishing during the summer months than any other time period on the water. Experiment with lindy rigs and blades this next month and I guarantee you will put fresh fillets in the frying pan and have fun doing so. You will also tangle with some of the biggest walleyes of the season. For now, leave the jigs at home, tie some rigs, and get out on the water!

For further information or questions please contact me:
Brock Anderson

Location: Pokegama Lake
Water Temp: main lake- 75-78
Depth: 16-30fow
Presentation: spinner rigs tipped with full/half crawler, 1.0-1.5 mph

Fourth of July Weekend 2013

Happy Independence Day everyone. The 4th of July was spent on Lake Pokegama with family and friends. Most of us enjoyed the water and sun, but a few of us also wet a line on Independence Day and throughout the weekend. The walleye fishing was excellent despite all the boat traffic. The hog walleyes continue to bite out on Pokegs. We were catching giant eyes at noon the last few days! This past week has been outstanding on the water. The big walleyes (26-30") are lights out and the eater walleyes have really started showing up this week. This means if you're looking for a big walleye to take a picture with and a mess of eaters for the frying pan, Pokegs is the place to be. Call Brock 218-259-5447 or Randy 218-244-8810 to book a guided fishing trip on Pokegama or any other of our local lakes.

Break out the lindy rigs and spinners because this is the tactic for the next month or so during daylight hours. Leeches and crawlers on rigs have been putting all of the walleyes in the the boat. Look for the crank bite to pick up with the upcoming full moon. Ooooof we can't wait for the night bite!

Leech Lake continues to be productive for walleyes in Portage Bay, Goose Islands, and the Hardwoods as well as the deep structures in Walker Bay. Winnibigoshish is kicking out lots of walleyes on the humps and bars but the majority are slot fish. When the wind blows, the best eaters can still be found in the weeds and rocks on the shorelines of Winni. Island, Jesse, Bowstring, and Sand have also reported consistent to good walleye action.

With the water temperatures pushing into the mid 70s look for the muskies to finally hit the shallows and go into a feeding frenzy. The weed growth on all our lakes is still behind schedule and is probably the reason for the slow muskie action the past several weeks. It's finally time now for them to get wild and slam! Get casting!

Location: Pokegama Lake
Water Temp: main lake- 74-75
Depth: 16-23fow
Presentation: crawlers and leeches on 6-8 ft lindy rigs, .8-1.2mph

Last Weekend of June 2013

"These walleyes are unbelievably big and fight like no other walleye around," a client of mine said as he giggled this past weekend after doing battle with yet another twenty seven inch walleye on Pokegama. When you set the hook into a Pokegama Lake walleye you don't know what's going to happen. You might think you're snagged up on bottom for a couple seconds before huge headshakes throw you into a speechless "fish on" vocabulary. Or you set the hook and your drag buzzes as fast as it possibly can go for a fair time before the fish finally realizes it is dragging something behind them. In the drag buzzing scenario, a lot of people say, "Oh its got to be a big northern pike". I just smile and reel my line up and relax for a bit, cause it's going to be awhile! Either or, the guy/girl on the other end of the line has their work cut out for them. A twenty five to thirty inch walleye on Pokegama will make your forearms and wrists sore. They bulldog you on bottom, scream drag, take you around the boat from one side to the other, and plain out don't give up. These walleyes on Pokegama Lake are truly giants and we can't get enough of the action. Pictures have said a thousand words the last couple weeks...

I guess with that, I'll just say Pokegama is good great and still is excellent. The only thing that has changed in the last week to ten days is fish are starting to slowly show up on mid lake structures. They are transitioning to secondary structures and mid lake humps and bars. If a bar or hump tops out in less than twenty feet, fish are beginning to set up shop. When the wind blows, shoreline structure is still the best in 16-20 feet of water. One day, the early morning is by far the best and the next day, ten to 2PM is best. Just get out there and fish. Use you Lowrance HDS electronics to find the fish (very visible right now). Crawlers and leeches have been the best this week. 6-8 ft snells with a 1/8 ounce sinker is what we're using! Good luck...

Mayflies are starting on local lakes. This will definitely trigger the walleyes into deeper water and onto mid lake structures. This is how it works: the water warms, bug hatches occur, bait fish follow the bug hatches, and the walleyes follow the bait and bugs... Lakes are finally starting to slowly get into their summer patterns. Live bait rigs (leeches, crawlers, big minnows) are the ticket right now. Add a spinner and increase your speed (1.0-1.5mph) if your having trouble getting fish on your sonar to bite. With that said, I gotta get back on the water!

Pictured in the upper right corner of this blog is Joel Reed with a 30" Pokegs giant!

Location: Pokegama Lake
Water Temp: main lake- 72-73
Depth: 16-23fow
Presentation: crawlers and leeches on 6-8 ft lindy rigs, .6-1mph

Angler Young Angler 2013

It’s that time of year that all of us here at Hang Loose Outdoors look forward to. The water temperatures are finally on the rise and the big fish bite is in full force on our favorite clear deep lakes in Northern Minnesota. Pokegama Lake has been our home for the past couple weeks and we probably won’t be venturing too far away from it until the huge walleyes slow their feeding frenzy. This past week has been an unbelievable hog walleye bite.

The majority of the walleyes and other species are still relating to shoreline structures on the clear deep lakes here in northern Minnesota. The water temps have just reached seventy degrees so it should just be a matter of a few days or a week before they make the jump out to secondary and mid lake structure. We have been seeing bug hatches on our Lowrance graphs in the morning and evening hours. In the last day or so, we have noticed those little fish flies on the water. This will definitely start the transition from the shallows to the deeps by our favorite, the walleye.

The past couple days, this transition has been very obvious. We rely on our Lowrance HDS to find us walleyes before we drop our lines. When we have found a pod of fish and worked through them catching a couple in each pass, all of a sudden they are gone. The walleyes are on the move and not hanging in one spot for more than a little while. Off to the next pod of fish we go.

Each school of fish has been so much different than the other lately. One pod is very active giving up multiple hog walleyes to us and our clients and the next is tight lipped. It’s almost like the walleyes are confused in what they want to eat, where they want to go, and what they want to do. The transition period is here. No matter what, the last couple weeks on Pokegama and on one or two other deep clear lakes, Hang Loose Guide Service has put some giant walleyes in the boat. It’s the transition period and it’s the big walleye bite all in one. Look for these monsters to keep biting as they move away from the shoreline and get established on the secondary and mid lake structures in the next week or so. Use your Lowrance HDS to find the fish and work them with a variety of bait (leeches, crawlers, big minnows). Experiment with different speeds (.5-1.5 mph) and keep moving form one pod of fish to the next. Enjoy this time of year for it’s full of huge walleyes, heavy hook sets, and screaming drag.

The Angler Young Angler (AYA) on Pokegama Lake was this past weekend. In this tournament, one adult angler fishes with two youth, seventeen years or younger. They can weigh six walleyes which only two can be over twenty inches. The huge walleyes are in the middle of their feeding frenzy this time of year on Pokegama so having the AYA this weekend makes it a great opportunity for the kids to catch five to ten plus pound marble eyes. What more can you ask for when getting a kid hooked on fishing?

Well, the tournament was another great success. The kids had a blast as well as the adults and the volunteers who made the tournament possible. There were lots of huge walleyes caught. Kids showed up to the weigh in with big smiles on their faces and many stories to tell. That’s what it’s all about. Thank you to Rays Sport and Marine and all the other sponsors and people who made this tournament happen again this year. We look forward to next year already. Pictured at the top right of the blog is the Hang Loose Outdoors team of Randy Topper, Brodie Topper, and Matt King who finished in 7th place with five fish weighing 17.68 pounds. Great work guys.

We have been having some very fun and exciting guide trips the past couple weeks. The big walleyes are biting and we have been sharing the action with our clients. We just wanted to give a shout out to Jay and the South Dakota group which we had this past Monday. Wow, was that an awesome day or what? The hog walleyes were plentiful and I believe everyone caught one over 26 or 27 inches. Great day guys. Enjoy the rest of your vacation here in MN. See you next year. And we’ll see you all on the water. Remember the sunscreen. Things are getting hot here in N MN!

Location: Pokegama Lake
Water Temp: main lake- 68-71
Depth: 14-20fow
Presentation: crawlers on 5-7 ft lindy rig, .6-1mph

written by BRock

Pokegama Lake Walleye Tournament

Beautiful Lake Pokegama, what a perfect place for a catch, record, photo, and release tournament. With its GIANT walleyes, this format is perfect for sustaining the trophy fishery and really showing off how unmatched Pokegama Lake really is. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce along with Ray’s Sport and Marine, and there many other sponsors put together another great tournament this year. We (Abe and Amos Wolf- HLO pro staffers) finished 5th with 7 walleyes and a combined weight of 49.49 pounds.

Like most lakes in northern Minnesota, the late spring had some effect on where the fish were and how we had to fish them. The smelt die off two summers ago altered the walleyes main forage and has also added a little change to Pokegama’s ecosystem. We started prefishing mid week. We began looking in shallower water then we normally would this time of year. Fish were located in 4-11ft of water, where jigs and rigs both worked well.

Tournament Day started off a little rough for us. Our number one spot didn’t pan out. The big fish disappeared so we headed to our second spot. We pulled rigs at .6mph, one tipped with a minnow and the other with a leech. We started fishing in shallow where we had caught them prefishing, but they weren’t there. Many teams did well tournament day in shallow water, but it didn’t happen for us. With the morning slowly starting to come to an end, we knew we had to change up our tactics quickly! We decided to slide off the break into 20ft and see what was happening out there. Our electronics marked a school of big walleyes and our confidence grew. We made short passes through them all day waiting for them to decide to open their mouths. Patience was key. Picking one off here and there, we caught 14 walleyes in that spot with the smallest being 21.5in and the biggest 28.5in.

The last hour we were in desperation mode trying to replace our 23” and 24” eyeballs with larger fish; knowing our weight wasn’t going to hold up with those two fish in it. I know what you’re thinking, “Those are your smallest fish and you need to cull them out?” The thing with the Pokegama Lake Walleye Tournament is, don’t get comfortable until you have all 7 fish 26in and up, because one of these years this fishery is going to put out a 60-70lb bag! Congratulations to Ryan Davis and Adam Rabey who weighed 7 fish for 56 plus pounds and took first place this year! Oh, and congrats to Brock and Topps who weighed the largest walleye of the tourney, 10.74 lbs. Does Pokegama have giants or does it have hogs with shoulders? We think both. Wow.

If you’re headed out on Pokegama look for the smaller schools of bait fish. Usually those big eyes are close by. With the water warming quickly, don’t be afraid to start looking for fish in deeper water (15-30) as the transition from shallow to deep should start soon. Check those mid lake structures also. If you can’t locate the fish with your electronics get into the shallow wind blown inside corners and weed beds. Good Luck to all anglers and kids fishing the Angler Young Angler tournament this weekend on Pokegama. It should be a great day of fishing with some impressive weights being brought to the scale!

As for the rest of the HLO teams that fished the Pokegama Lake Classic; things didn’t go as planned. Godfrey and Skelly had a good bag of seven fish, but they lacked one or two giants. Jigging shiners and working crawlers on a lindy rig worked best for them. Topps and Brock weighed in the biggest walleye of the tournament: 29.5 inches and 10.74 pounds! That paid the tournament and then some. They weighed 6 big walleyes. Where was their seventh? With only six walleyes, a lot of weight is left behind. Colt and Ben struggled to get on fish and only weighed in five. When you think you have Pokegama dialed in, guess again. When you catch a handful of walleyes in a day and the smallest is five pounds and the biggest is ten pounds, Pokegema Lake will keep pulling you back. It will stay in your dreams forever. What an unbelievable fishery. If you want to learn Pokegama Lake, give Brock 218-259-5447 or Randy 218-244-8810 a call to book a trip. One day on the water with them, you’ll have enough knowledge to boat giants on your own.

Location: Pokegama Lake
Water Temp: main lake- 62-64
Depth: 4-20fow
Presentation: jig/minnows; crawlers, leeches, and big minnows on 5 ft lindy rigs

Written by the Wolf Brothers

Krause Anderson Walleye Classic weekend

Prefishing began on Wednesday for the Krause Anderson Walleye Tournament on Lake Bemidji. With colder than normal water temperatures, we already had an array of spots picked out on the map that we wanted to check out before even arriving at Lake Bemidji State Park. Our game plan was directed more towards shallow water and possibly a couple secondary shoreline breaks. We figured there wouldn’t be much for fish out on the many humps, bumps, and bars that Bemidji offered due to the late spring and mid fifty degree water temps.

With the introduction of Abe and Amos Wolf to the Hang Loose Outdoors crew, Topper and I were pumped up to exchange some findings after prefishing. No, just cause we are teammates doesn’t mean we share specific top secret spots and tactics. Yes, there still is a little competition amongst us. Sharing believable information can help towards ruling certain depths, presentations, or bait effective or ineffective. General procedures that work or don’t work make a huge difference when it comes to tournament fishing. Talking with other competitor teams is not what you want to do while on the tournament trail. We’ve found out, you can’t trust anyone before the special day. Well, with teammates like the Wolf brothers, we can bounce ideas back and forth. Every little thing helps while trying to break down the white tips and marble eyes on a giant body of water. At the end of prefishing, it’s all about what methods work best for your boat. Finding your own fish and your own way to catch them is most important. Confidence is what you need leading into that big day.

Prefishing was really slow for all of us and most of the field of boats that we talked to. The majority of fishermen were concentrating on the shoreline structures. Topper and I turned our focus to the shoreline cabbage weeds, well what little that could be found. The shoreline of Lake Bemidji is usually one large cabbage bed with transitions to reeds, rocks, and sand thrown in here and there. With the cool water temperatures this year, weeds were almost nowhere to be found. Topps and I used our Lowrance structure scan to locate new growth cabbage weeds. The little patches that we did find were filled with bait and we knew sooner or later that the walleyes would be there. Talking with the Wolf’s, it seemed they were trying to locate bait and weeds as well, but in different areas of the lake as us. At least, weeds were holding fish on a consistent basis. Other areas that had been good to us in past years held a few walleyes at certain times of the day or were total dead seas.

The days leading up to the tournament were frustrating, but we kept plucking away. We eliminated a lot of spots and labeled some as a possibility. On Friday, Topps and I fished our spots that were marked as maybes and shortened our list to just a handful. By noon on Friday, we had a game plan going. Were we confident? I wouldn’t say we figured we were going to win or possibly be in the top ten, but we knew where we were going on Saturday morning. Topps and I have fished quite a few tournaments together and we read each other pretty well. We don’t argue with the plan, we just go out and give her. We know lots can change from prefishing to tourney day.

Saturday (Tourney Day) was a beautiful day on the water. Topper and I followed our game plan of putting five fish in the boat as best we could. We put five in the boat by 10 o’clock then tried to upgrade a few fish in the same spot before going after the big ones. I lost a walleye we figured was between 23-25 inches a foot away from the net before noon. We did upgrade one or two of our smaller fish before deciding to head out to a few hog spots.

Topper’s big minnow wasn’t in the water for more than five minutes when he said bite. The wind was bucking pretty good at this time so I dropped a point on the Lowrance and ripped the Vantage up a couple notches holding us over the bite. A minute of feeding, Topps finally set the hook. The fish stayed down and right under the boat. I couldn’t see anything and for a few seconds I thought my heart was going to explode. A huge eye popped up right by the boat and I swung the net under it. Wooooooo! One more hog to go. We didn’t even measure the fish. We put it in the box and immediately dropped our lines back into the water.

Three hours later and no more hogs on the end of our lines, we headed back to weigh in. We kind of held our heads a little down until the weigh judge zip tied our basket of fish and held us back in the tent. What? We didn’t think we had a good bag, but obviously someone thought we did. Was he wrong or did no one do very good? Being in the first flight we knew other boats had big bags. We weighed in with about twenty boats remaining to weigh. We weighed the largest walleye and sat in seventh place.

After everything was said and done, we lost the biggest fish award by one and ended up in sixteenth place. The Krause Anderson Walleye Classic has 100 boats every year and those 100 boats have a majority of the best walleye fisherman in Minnesota. If you can land in the top 20 every year, you did well. We were happy with 16th and 2nd biggest fish, but we knew we could have done better.

The Wolf’s ended up in the top half of the field again this year. They are learning lots about the lake and are going to be a force to reckon with next year. Congrats to Sean Colter and Dave Hernesman on their 4th place finish. The Grand Rapids teams really did great on Bemidji water this year. We all can’t wait for next year. Thank you Krause Anderson for another excellent tournament.

Location: Lake Bemidji
Water Temp: main lake- 54-56
Depth: 4-10fow
Presentation: jig/minnows; crawlers, leeches, and big minnows on 5 ft lindy rigs

Written by Brock

First Weekend of June 2013

June makes my head spin more and more every year. June means tournament season here at Hang Loose Outdoors. I don’t know about you, but this month is one of my favorites. The anticipation, planning, decision making, and ups and downs strap us on an emotional roller coaster throughout the whole month. June is insanely busy and the only thing on our minds is competitive fishing.

What’s worked in the past, yearly notes, water temperature, wind direction, weed growth, gps coordinates and many other factors burn through our heads like a million piece puzzle all thrown down at our feet. The brain is working non stop. If we could think like a walleye during the month of June, we would pay top dollar. Tournaments are fun, exciting, nerve racking, and most importantly: a huge learning experience year in and year out.

The terms: head buried in the Lowrance, overs, unders, big mins, shallows, deeps, huge bags, presentations, boat control, and top secret spots is pretty much our vocabulary during this time of year. Walleyes dominate the top of our list. Our boats and gear are second and then comes work. Scratch work! Our family and friends are third. Yeah. When you’re fishing tournaments, you need a cheering section no matter how good or bad you did. A whole month dedicated to a fish deserves some love. Right? Nah, our family and friends are always first! Without them, we couldn’t do what we do. Love you all!

This week we will be in Bemidji prefishing for the Krause Anderson Walleye Classic which takes place on Saturday June 8. New HLO pro staffers Abe and Amos will also be competing in this one day tournament. Wish us luck. We will need it. Two hundred of the top state’s anglers will be competing for the top prize of $13,000. Weigh in starts at 3PM at the park on the south side of the lake. See you there.

Saturday, June 15 is the Pokegama Lake Walleye Classic in Grand Rapids, MN. This tournament follows the AIM rules. It’s a catch, record, and release tournament. Why? Pokegama boosts absolute giant walleyes. A fifty to sixty pound bag limit (scorecard) of seven fish is usually what is needed to win this tournament. Pokegama is known for its hog walleyes and there is no better time to fish this lake then mid June. Catching and releasing these hog walleyes guarantees these fish for future fishermen. It’s an excellent run tournament and one of the most exciting in the area. The entry fee is $250 dollars. There are still spots open. Register online at www.grandrapidschamberwalleyeclassic.com/ or stop into the Chamber of Commerce in Grand Rapids.

Friday, Godfrey, Topper, Dan, and I all got out onto Pokegama for a few hours in the evening. Water temperatures were 52-54 degrees on the main lake. The wind was bucking, but Dan and I managed to catch a few walleyes. Dan had the hog of the day, a 28” beauty. After catching a few eyes, we sampled some back bays for panfish. We caught a few smaller crappies and bluegills. Topper, on the other hand, found a mess of crappies in a different back bay. Topper and Brodie caught twenty crappies from 12-14.5 inches. Wow. Pokegama is shining already. Water temps in some of the back bays were in the low sixties. Get into the shallows today and catch those big slabs. Crappies are spawning on most of our area lakes. Look for Pokegama to find its consistent hog walleye groove in the next couple days as that water on the main lake warms into the upper 50s. Tournament day is going to be hog heaven once again.

Topper guided on Pokegama Saturday evening. They got into the crappies once again and tussled with a few largemouth bass. It was a successful short trip regardless of the cold and wet weather. A fish fry was in order. Abe and I prefished Lake Bemidji on Saturday. It didn’t feel like June one bit. It was cold and brutal windy all day. The wind gusted to 30 mph and the temperature never really got above 50 degrees. The south end of Bemidji provided four plus foot rollers. We landed on the north end and sampled some spots out of the wind. Fishing was actually pretty good despite our numb hands and shivering bodies. We brought home a livewell full of walleyes. Look for things to start changing on Lake Bemidji as water temps rise. Look for the HLO teams on stage this coming Saturday too. The anticipation is building hour by hour. Hopefully, we can put a solid game plan together, stop our minds from spinning, follow though, catch a huge bag, and then you’ll see us on stage!

Location: Lake Bemidji & Pokegama
Water Temp: main lake- 52-55
Depth: Crappies: 2-5fow; Walleye: its tourney time, sorry
Presentation: plastics, minnows

Written by Brock

Memorial Weekend 2013

We can all say summer is in full swing now. Ice is a thing of the past even though it’s only been gone for a few short weeks. Campfires are burning, children are playing, the grass is growing, and the fish are biting. Fishing is one of the only things on our minds as of late. Oh, did I mention, tournament season is ever so close?

Fishing tournaments already? Slow down summer. Everything seems like it is moving way to fast. The saying goes, ‘time flies when we’re having fun’. Summer means ‘fun’. Recreation, friends, family, good food, and laughs all wrapped up under warm weather is the name of the game this season.

Memorial Weekend was full of fun. All the above, plus lots of great fishing was packed into this past weekend. The HLO Crew was spread out across Northern Minnesota. Topper, Mama, and the clan camped on Upper Red Lake. Brock, Godfrey, and the Wolf Pack visited Federal Dam on Leech Lake. Colt and Ben kicked off the weekend on Lake Vermilion. Good times seemed like they would never come to an end that is until Monday evening rolled around. Most our bellies were full of fish and everyone was ready to relax before the back to reality hit.

I’m sure you’re all wondering some details on the fishing. Well, the walleye bite was excellent on Upper Red and Leech Lake. Topper and Mama found the most active mother load of walleyes just north of Rogers Resort on the east shore of Red in 3-7 feet of water. The bait fish were there and the walleyes were hungry. A 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a minnow put more than enough walleyes in the boat. Topper reported catching 50-100 eyes per day. Rock structures were great as well as that first break on the big pond.

The water temperatures on Leech hung around 54 degrees this weekend. The shiners finally started showing up in the shallows and not far behind them were the walleyes. Locating shiner schools with the Lowrance HDS was the key to finding active fish. Once on a school of hungry predators, it wasn’t too difficult to pull them from the water to the livewell. They were hungry! A 1/8 ounce Reel Bait flasher jig (red flasher) tipped with a shiner and rip jigged at .8-1.1mph triggered strong bites. The west shore of Portage Bay offered excellent fishing. Two Points was good as well as the other rocky points located in Portage Bay. Being aggressive, moving fast, and jumping from spot to spot was key to catching numbers of fish. One spot gave up plenty of eaters while another area gave up slot fish with a few boxers.

Colt and Ben put the smackdown on slab Vermilion Lake crappies on Saturday evening. Many 12-14.5 inch hogs were caught. With water temperatures in the high 50s, crappies are starting their prespawn behavior. Look for these fish to hit the shallow mucky bays on lakes nearest you. Concentrate on the warmest water and use those electric trolling motors so you don’t spook the fish. Water inlets and outlets in these warmer bays are excellent starting points. Put on the polarized glasses and keep an eye out for fish movement and jumping minnows.

As most minnows move to the shorelines to spawn, look for the walleye bite to heat up even more in the shallows and stay consistent for the next couple weeks. Focus on windy shorelines, inside corners, rocky structures, and new growth weeds that attract walleyes and baitfish. Pay attention to your electronics. A cluttered screen full of bait and yellow bellies is a good screen. When the rods are bent and the laughs are loud, we’re all having fun. Enjoy the summer for it will move fast!

Location: Leech Lake & Upper Red
Water Temp: 54
Depth- 3-9
Presentation: Jig/ minnow

First Morel Mushrooms picked by the crew: 5/28/13

Written by Brock

Third Weekend of May 2013

Ice sheets were still visible as I drove across the Pokegama Lake bridge on Wednesday morning. It was the middle of the week and the 2013 MN fishing opener was just five days old. The Hang Loose Lund and Mercury followed behind as I headed towards open water. This was my 2013 opener as I had worked throughout the weekend. I was jacked. It didn’t matter to me if the fish were biting. If the St Croix was in my hand, I would be happy!

Dan, Colt, and I first tested the waters of the mighty Mississippi River. The Wolf Brothers (HLO Pro Staffers) had fished this stretch on Sunday and caught some hog eyeballs (couple dirty 30 inchers; oooooooof). The Lowrance read 54 degree water temps. The river had warmed up a whole lot in four days. The warmer water must had pushed the walleyes back out to the lakes because my boat only caught a handful of walleyes in about three hours. The Lowrance HDS didn’t graph much so we decided to head to new waters.

The next stop was Big Cut Foot. As my Mercury steered me in the right direction, I pondered where to start out. Jeff Sundin (excellent local guide), wasn’t too far from the landing where we launched from. There was a group of boats honed in on him so we pushed past with a friendly wave.

My Lowrance HDS touch sat my Lund down on a pinch point leading out of a huge spawning area. There had to be fish here, I told Dan and Colt. We cruised the turf with structure scan and saw enough to start fishing. The rest is pretty much history from here. The fish were loaded just off the edge of the reeds all the way out to twenty feet. Colt caught twelve walleyes in consistent casts before I had even cast my line out. It was a slaughter. Colt, Dan, and I kicked up the heat and the good times and boated about 75 walleyes in a few short hours.

Action was so hot, Topper got word on Facebook and him and Rollz burned over after work in Topper’s Lund to join the action. They only fished for an hour or so and boated plenty of walleyes to make the four dollar gas prices worth the trip. Fishing was priceless and the fish fry afterwards at the Gosh Dam Place was even better. Overly full stomachs made the drive back to Rapids quite difficult. The only thing that kept me awake was the following day’s plan.

Thursday morning came quick as Gary, Dan, and I headed up to Upper Red Lake. I hadn’t heard a report, but it didn’t matter. I knew the ice was off and that meant the fish would be slammin. The Tamarack River was closed to fishing because so many walleyes remained spawning. The channel outside the river was packed with boats. As we made our way through the boats, it was obvious some fish were biting. A few poles were bent over and nets were out. Sitting and fishing in a ten yard wide channel with bumper boats isn’t my style so we made our way out onto the first main lake break (usually lights out first of the year).

A half hour later, those twenty boats jammed in the channel seemed like a better idea. Not one bite was recorded on the first break. Dan and Gary gave me that expression like, ‘we suck’. It was time to move or get out of dodge. It was obvious that most of the fish were still way up in the river spawning. The water temps varied from 40-47 degrees. Even a thin sheet of ice was still traceable on the north shore of Red.

I like challenges so I dug into my Lowrance and into my head. “We’re going to the rocks”, I told Dan. He didn’t seem very convinced but went along anyways. I knew we had to find warmer water and a different bottom structure. Upper Red doesn’t really have many options so rocks were a big change.

We showed up on the rocks all alone. I could read Dan’s mind now. They must not be biting here if no boats are here. Wouldn’t you know it; Dan laced into the first eye of the day no sooner than his line went out. My Reel Bait flasher jig ripped into three eyes in consecutive casts just after that. Were we onto something?

Yep, the rest of the day went down in history as another exciting and memorable Red Lake trip. We pounded walleyes for the next four hours. A Reel Bait flasher jig tipped with a rainbow chub rip jigged at 1.0mph was best. Salmo hornets pulled 1.7mph also coughed up many walleyes. The beautiful sunny day became even better as we shared something we’ve never experienced before. Gary netted a fish for me and two walleyes were obtained in the net. Another walleye followed the walleye I had hooked right into the bag. If that’s not a two for one, I don’t know what is. We exited the lake with our limit of walleyes and two bonus tip ups we found floating in the lake. What an awesome day…

I got out fishing on Saturday evening with my good buddy, Cory Hakala. With limited time, we decided to head to Cut Foot. The weather had cooled off a tid bit and the area where we had pounded them two days before was fishless. We grinded out a few eyes here and there, but nothing jumped in the boat. The gap leading onto Big Winnie was jammed with what I estimated to be close to one hundred boats. Again, I didn’t want to play bumper boats. Knowing fish were in the rocks, I headed back into McCavity Bay and sat down on a small rock point. There we caught about 30 walleyes in a little over an hour. We kept eight perfect eaters. Can I say another very successful trip? Rip jigging at 1.0-1.4 was what the fish ordered.

The Wolfs fished Leech Lake on Saturday and Sunday and reported an excellent bite there too. Portage Bay in 8-10 feet of water was the best. Plenty of walleyes were caught by the Wolf Pack including both eaters and slot fish. The water temp in Portage Bay was 46-49 degrees.

Topper guided on Bowstring on Sunday and also reported a fantastic shallow water bite in the rocks. They kept their limit of walleyes. A 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a shiner and slowly worked through the rocks gave up the most consistent action. Topper pointed out that most of their fish on Bowstring were still spawning too.

Overall, it was one of the best opening weeks along the lines of catching that we have ever experienced. Look for the walleyes to stay shallow for the next couple weeks, but be on the move from day to day. Focus on rocks, new growth weeds, windy shorelines, inside shoreline corners, and warmer water. Everyone raise your rods and let’s welcome in the 2013 open water season. Good luck to all and be safe.


The MN Fishing Opener 2013

The bickering that led up to the Minnesota fishing opener could have been enough to refreeze the Grand Rapids areas’ limited amounts of open water. With most of the popular lakes (Leech, Winnibigoshish, Red, Pokegama) still very much ice covered, fishermen seemed lost in their opening weekend endeavors. The majority of fishing groups cancelled their reservations at campgrounds and resorts. Many threw fishing opener out to the birds.

Does Saint Nicholas cancel Christmas because there’s no snow? Would they move the Fourth of July to the Fifth if it rained on the fireworks? Nope! My point is; the weather doesn’t postpone a calendar holiday. The Minnesota fishing opener is tradition and is treated like a holiday by most. Just because the town’s old and wise said they’ve never saw ice on the lakes on opening day, doesn’t mean we should unpack our gear and scratch the holiday.

Motivated fishermen know that Minnesota offers many rivers that provide excellent fishing and usually are ice free way before; well, openers like these. And many people understand conditions like these narrow down fish locations and hot spots. Others don’t care where they wet their boat, they just want to celebrate the holiday and tradition, and be with family and friends.

Well, some followed through with the celebration and many went absent. For those of you who didn’t show; you missed out, but please come up soon. Why? I’ll tell you before I conclude my rambling.

The Hang Loose Crew took part in the outdoor tradition. Topper brought the whole family up to the Rainy River for the weekend. The Rainy has been ice free since early April and it holds enough water for more than all the boats that didn’t go to Winnibigoshish, Leech, and Mille Lacs times one hundred or so. My math is probably wrong but please don’t say there was no open water to fish.

No, Topper did not hammer the walleyes. Walleyes were actually not their targeted species. Sturgeon were what they were after. Yep, they caught plenty of sturg to keep them warm on Saturday and a few special ones on Sunday to provide Mother’s Day excitement. (Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers!) Opening weekend was all smiles in Topper’s Lund.

Although Godfrey’s boat did not tussle with any prehistoric sturgeon Saturday on the Rainy River, they enjoyed the windy and cold opener also. They caught a few walleyes and suckers which kept things interesting. The snow also provided excitement but they didn’t break tradition.

Sunday, the Wolf pack (Abraham and Amos) dominated the walleyes on the local Mississippi River. They reported boating fifty walters. They kept three limits of eaters between 15-19 inches. They released the rest including a 32”, not one, not two, but three 30”, and many other hogs around 27 inches. Did I say on the Mississippi River near Grand Rapids? Our rivers provide quality fishing too. Dan Neary and his step daughter also hammered some marble eyes on the Miss R this weekend.

I’m sure you’re all wondering what I did this weekend? I don’t really want to talk about it but I broke tradition. I had to work all weekend. Awesome! No, I was freaking out a little as I received pictures and reports via text messages. I will make it out on Wednesday. I haven’t decided if I’m going to go to the Miss R, Red, Cut Foot, Winni, Mille Lacs, or Bowstring yet.

Am I rambling again? How is Winnibigoshish going to be open by Wednesday? I was going to tell you all to come up soon because your favorite area lakes will be open by this next weekend. Saturday’s gale force winds opened up most of the smaller lakes by late afternoon. Most of the ice on the larger lakes blew half off. The lakes will be open and the fish will be biting.

I’m sure everyone will remember the 2013 opener as the year the lakes were covered with ice. Yes, but we will remember it as another very enjoying holiday, good times, and another exceptional learning experience on the water. For all the talk of frozen lakes this past week, let’s change the word and welcome in the 2013 open water season. Good luck everyone and have a safe and successful year. See you on the water!

written by Brock

A Week Before the MN Opener

Keep your boat on the water with these early season maintenance tips:

1. Check/change oil in motor
2. Change lower unit oil
3. Put new grease in trailer bearing buddies
4. Air up tires with proper air pressure and don’t forget that spare
5. Make sure trailer lights are fully functioning
6. Charge starter and marine batteries/ replace if they are more than a couple years old
7. Check to see if onboard charger is fully charging batteries
8. Clean corrosion from battery cables, on board charger, and any other wires or connectors in boat
9. Test to see if bilge pump, lights, accessories, live wells work, etc- check fuses if they don’t
10. Check over your personal floatation devices and make sure you have enough on board
11. Clean your storage compartments, wash inside/outside of boat
12. MOST IMPORTANT! Test your boat on the nearest open water before opening day… Put a half hour run time on that motor. Dial your electronics in. Test your trolling motors. Maybe wet a line for some panfish or sturg…

Will the ice be off by opening day here in Northern Minnesota? I believe some of the area’s smaller bodies of water will be ice free by Saturday. There will be places to fish here in the Northland. Look to the rivers for the best walleye action. Try to find the warmest water you can with those Lowrance electronics and fish slow. Walleyes are going to be pretty sluggish. Get out those slow presentations and work at it if you find a pod of fish. A 1/8 or 1/16 ounce jig tipped with a small chub and vertical jigged might be a great tactic. One of my favorites that will put finicky walleyes in the boat is a one foot lindy rig, single red hook tipped with a rainbow chub, and pulled along at 0.2-.4 mph. It might be a great time to fish some crappies and bluegills also. Good luck and be safe on the water!

More Dinosaurs- Last Weekend of April 2013

Plans were set and we were off to Slim’s Resort again last weekend. I think we are all starting to feel more comfortable at Slims than our own homes. The Hangloose Crew had a couple new comers to hang out with this weekend. Grant and Gene were both filled with excitement and had high expectations as we laughed our way to Baudette. We figured we would stop in at the river for a Friday evening fish. After we anchored up, my worst nightmare started to come true. Two “tilt” weekends in a row were starting to shape out. Friday night left us fishless as we headed to Slims to soak up some good food and great drinks. No worries, we had all day tomorrow and we were sure to find something.

On the water bright and early Saturday morning, we were all smiles as we looked forward to a whole day of sturge chasing. Now, I’m just going to skip right over the rest of the day because I don’t want to break the keys on this key board typing “TILT” anymore. I’ll just tell you it was a long windy frustrating and sturgless day.

Sunday the clouds pulled back and the waters parted for some real hog success! As we drank our cup of coffee we decided, new day new slate. The new slate was a great one. We decided to find a new spot where there was no one else so I could put that Lowrance HDS to work. Within an hour, I located a good pod of sturgeon and we anchored up. Fifteen minutes later, Grants clicker was ripping and he set the hook. After a good old fashion battle we had a 53 inch sturgeon in the Lund. Let me tell you, we were some pumped up cats jumping around and screaming like school girls.

We had a remarkable day even though we had to cut it short. We fished for six hours and landed a 43, 47, 51, 58, 53, 62, 53, 46, 48, 54, 50, 44, and a 65 inch giant. So my Rainy River curse was lifted and we all couldn’t be happier. What a difference it makes when you can use all of your tools. It was another great trip, with some great people. I strongly suggest calling Slims Resort and getting a cabin booked to chase some of these dinosaurs. It is a true riot.

Location: Rainy River
Water temp: 42 F
Water depth: 18’

Documented by Randy Topper

Third Weekend of April 2013

Last weekend Ben and I met up with our buddy Ethan from Bemidji State University for a sturgeon trip to the Rainy River. We arrived at Ethan's house Friday afternoon. The evening was spent rigging up our sturgeon rods and packing lunches for the next day. We bounced ideas off each other and had a few drinks before hitting the sack.

The morning came quick, getting up at 3:30 we gathered our things, coffee, lunches, and rods and headed out the door to grab the boat. Once everything was hooked up and gassed up we were off to the north. Arriving to Vidas landing around 5:45 we dumped the boat in and motored to our first spot. The weather was sunny and cold, the thermometer read 12 degrees. Lines were baited with a buffet of crawlers and stanky minnows.

We fished each spot for about an hour, once realizing the sturg we’re not on the move we headed to a deeper hole that was usually promising. Upon arrival we noticed 3 boats were hooked up and fighting dinosaurs already. We tossed out and it wasn't long before I hooked up! I fought my first sturg for about 10 minutes before Ben and Ethan wrestled it into the boat. It measured 54 inches, not bad.

It was hours before any of us saw another fish get boated. Ben found a walleye and a few suckers on the end of his line. We decided to head out around 5 o'clock if the fishing didn't pick up. It was just about 5 when I got a nibble and tied into another dino. This one came to the surface right away but then dove to the bottom and bossed me around for quite some time. Once boated, it was shorter than the previous one, measuring 52 inches. However, this one was much fatter, a good battle.

Our trip was ended after that fish. We headed back to Bemidji for the night. Talking on the phone with a few other boats that stayed out till dark reported a huge turn around in the fishing once 6:30 arrived. Boats reported catching 8-10 sturg from 6:30 till dark. If you are planning a trip up to the river for these prehistoric beasts, plan to stay till dark, you never know when they will start to eat. Be careful when motoring around, watch for dead heads and floating ice chunks. Good Luck!

Godfrey and Topps chased a few crappies and bluegills around this weekend on different small back lakes. Both reported plenty of ice and a descent bite. For those ice anglers who aren’t sick of the snow and ice, this next week should be lights out panfish action. Four wheelers are the best method of travel right now. Please be careful around the shorelines. Yes, things are melting!

Looking at this weekend’s weather, highs in the ******. I won’t mention it. Don’t want to jinx it. Big change for the better and now only three weeks till opener… Will the ice be gone?

Written by Colt

Tilt- Second Weekend of April 2013

What I’d like to talk about first may not seem like it has anything to do with fishing or the outdoors, but I think by the end of this comparison a lot of people should be able to relate. For a period of time I really enjoyed playing poker. During my tour in Iraq I spent most of my spare time finding games where ever I was stationed. I read a few books and tried to learn everything I could about Texas hold ‘em. One thing that stuck with me is a term called “Tilt”. Tilt is when everything can be going great and something simple happens to throw your whole game off. Maybe it’s a phone call you didn’t want or you remember something you forgot to do at home. Suddenly every choice you make is wrong, you fold when you should have played, and you stayed when you should have folded. Keep this term in mind, ‘Tilt’. I realize it takes place in almost everything you do.

That being said, we were in full TILT this weekend!! Our expectations were high going into the trip. We were after the trifecta, a walleye over 30 inches, sturgeon over 60 inches and a pike over 40 inches. The conditions were right to make this happen. The rainy river was open to get a boat landed and if you’ve been to the rainy during pre spawn you know the first two goals are very possible. There was still plenty of ice so if there’s ever a time to bag a 40 inch pike, it’s now.

Lindsey, Amos, Jess, and myself arrived at Slims Resort about eight o’clock with smiles on our faces. Paula greeted us with her famous cocktails which are second to none and our weekend started. Some laughs and games of dice brought bedtime and before we knew it we were up and ready to slam some fish. Vidas and Frontier landings were packed to the gills so we figured we’d head up to Birchdale and start there. For some reason the second I started to search for fish I felt like we made a mistake for landing that far up river, and “Tilt” began.

I didn’t want to ask Amos to walk all the way back to the truck so we could head back down and land, but he knew what I was thinking every time I’d look up from the HDS with a blank look. We said heck with it we will make the journey by boat. We started down the river stopping at every pod of boats, past marked spots, and new spots that had potential. Minutes turned to hours but we just couldn’t find what we were looking for. There were a few small fish being caught but nothing big being landed or seen on the graph. We weren’t after small fish, but finally three o’clock came and we figured we better at least catch a fish or the girls were going to strangle us. Amos and I could do nothing but laugh as we missed our bites and moved when we should have been staying. It just wasn’t our day. The day came to an end without a fish and we vowed to never speak of this day. Oops.

At Slims Saturday night, Dave filled us in on ice conditions and that truck travel would be impossible to where we wanted to go, so now our pike was out of reach. Sunday morning we went back to the river for redemption. Big problem, we were still on Tilt and making the wrong decisions. It seemed like we would walleye fish for a little bit and people would be catching sturgeon so we’d switch. Then we’d get all set up for sturgeon and people would start catching walleyes and the sturge would stop. Finally, we decided this just isn’t our weekend and headed for home to stay ahead of the storm.

That’s why they call it fishing and not catching I guess. I believe everyone needs one of these unproductive fishing trips every once in a while to make the good times all that much better. No matter what, it’s always fun with good friends and having the anticipation that any second all the wrong things can go right. So is “Tilt” a blessing or a curse, hmmm?

Written by Topper

April Overtime Hog Pike- First Weekend of April 2013

March has jumped into April with little transition here in Northern Minnesota. The lakes are still very much snow and ice covered and it doesn’t look like it is going to change anytime soon. I hate to say it, but we might be ice fishing on opener (May 11) this year. Please cross your fingers. Lake of the Woods has thirty-six inches of rock solid ice and on top of that lies six to twelve inches of snow. This is just an example of what our spring has been like.

Lake of the Woods was our destination again this weekend. No, we were not hitting the Rainy River walleyes like we usually would do this time of year. We were pike fishing on the main lake like the previous four weekends. A slow Rainy River fishing report was not enough to pull us away from the excellent prespawn pike action we were having.

Saturday, Topper, Lindsey, Kristi, and Shawn hit up the US side of LOtW and had some pretty good pike action despite some gloomy weather. Their bite was consistent but not hot and heavy like we were expecting. They iced quite a few pike in the 30-35” range with a couple hogs around 37 and 38 inches. Between flags flying and cribbage games under the pop up house, it was a very enjoyable day.

Saturday, Mama, Godfrey, and I headed into Canada to our new pike area from the weekend before. We were all so pumped to set out flags in this dynamite spot. Well, many hours without a flag plummeted our hopes further and further. Was it the weather? Were the pike there? What was going on we thought as we waited for the action that never happened. What would we do on Sunday? Saturday brought only two mid 30 inch pike for us so we headed back to Slims well before dark. Before heading down the river to Slims, we stopped by Topper’s group and chatted about the bite. Yep, their luck was much better than ours, but was still on the slow side. Hopefully it was the weather we all thought.

Slims Bar and Grill was the happening spot that evening as we enjoyed great food and fine beverages once again. Topper’s crew was not fishing in the morning so we had many spots to choose from to fish on Sunday morning. Things were up in the air as we crashed out in the cabin that night.

Sunday morning led to a slow start as Mama, Godfrey, and I took our time getting to our tip-up spot. The previous day’s slow action had our confidence on the down side. Mama sat on the snowmobile with very little anticipation as Godfrey and I set out the six tip-ups. To our surprise, it didn’t take long and I had a hog 39” on the ice. Pictures were taken and she was released back into her waters.

Godfrey caught a really small rat pike then Mama capitalized on a fat 37”. Things started off good. One flag later, and I jacked a 40”. I was tickled; since it was my first 40 of the year. I saw a lot of 40 plus inch fish this year amongst the group, but the turns didn’t pan out in my direction. At this point, we had no idea what the next three hours had in store for the Hang Loose Crew.

The action got hot and I can’t remember how everything played out after this but it was pretty crazy. We did not go fifteen minutes without a flag. I do remember the three hog monsters we all caught pretty vividly. These three fish came all within an hour’s time. I can’t say how happy I was that we all caught giants back to back.

‘Black Betty’ popped and Godfrey had a battle on his hands. As he fought the fish, Mama and I looked at each other in awe. It was big. Minutes later, we were hoot n hollering all across Canada. Godfrey had just caught his personal best pike on line; a 43 by 20.5” hog beast. Ten minutes after, ‘Black Betty’ pinned again. This time Mama was in the background fighting a hog. Mama pulled his personal best pike on hook and line out of the shallow waters of Lake of the Woods. A 43.5 by 21.5” monster lie in front of us on the ice. None of us said a word for nearly thirty seconds. We were so amazed by the size and weight of this fish. While taking pictures, Craig had to drop the fish back into the hole multiple times because his arms got so sore from holding the giant. We estimated this fish close to 25lbs.

I followed Mama’s fish up by losing a giant of my own. I hooked into a fish for a second as one head shake was enough to straighten the hooks. Wow. Was that my shot at my personal best? It didn’t matter; we all had pike over 40 inches on the day. How could anything get any better?

The next flag made everything pretty intense as I fought a fish like I’ve never experienced before on a tip-up. The weight was amazing and the head shakes incomparable. I struggled to get the fishes head up the hole as the nerves in my body began to tighten up. Finally, the head came up and Godfrey grabbed the gator. TRIFECTA!!! Three absolute giants! My fish roughly measured 43 by 21”. I don’t even remember taking pictures of this fish. I couldn’t believe what had happened. We had just caught three pike pushing 25lbs in less than an hour.

The rest of the day didn’t slow down much either. We iced two more 40 inch pike and a few between 35-39 inches. It was a day we will never forget. We caught six over 40 and many more quality gators all in six hours of flagging. A blizzard of a snow storm sent us riding back heads hung high to Slims Resort around 5PM.

Did the storm trigger the fish? Was it just the different location? Or was it the reward for the amount of time we put in? We’ll never know, but it’s the reason why we go to Lake of the Woods. Lake of the Woods is home to trophy class fish. Be it April Overtime, May, June, October, January, or any month; give Slims Resort a call. Slims will wine and dine you to those trophy class pike, walleye, sturgeon, and all the excitement in-between.

written by Brock

Happy Easter- Slims Resort LOtW

What is the best month of the year to catch a sun tan in Northern Minnesota? I am going to go with March! You might disagree, but I will tell you how to get that lovely tan this time of year. Drive up to Lake of the Woods (LOtW) and sit or lay out on the ice for ten hours straight on a bright and sunny March day. If the weather permits, (say 50 degrees F) take off your shirt periodically throughout the day. Don’t forget to take those tip-ups with you too. Most importantly, remember the SPF 50 sunscreen.

Sunscreen is the first thing I threw in the back of my snowmobile Thursday morning as I loaded my gear into my truck. With sunny skies and warm temperatures predicted, the last thing I wanted to do each night was cry my burning face into my pillow after a long day of tip-up fishing on LOtW. Let me tell you, it’s happened too many times. Next came the ten inch Strikemaster and then all the tip-ups with hang loose snagger rigs on the end. After my sled was loaded, I stopped at Topper’s house and grabbed him and Mama’s snowmobiles. Game time; off to Kelliher to steal them from the woods and free them from work.

We arrived at Slims Resort well before dark as we were kindly met by the owner, Dave Bathel. We enjoyed a delicious beverage and the best homemade pizza ever at Slims Bar and Grill as Dave filled us in with ice, snow, and slush conditions out on the big lake. Dave has got to be the nicest and most respectable owner on Wheelers Point. He’s not going to tell you everything you want to hear. By this I mean; he’s going to tell you the truth. Most fishermen want to hear that the walleyes are slamming or the bite is very good. Dave is going to tell you the honest truth about how the bite is on Lake of the Woods when you call or when you book a trip. To me, this is important. Most resorts always say the fishing is good or great. Why, because they want your business? Well, I like the truth and I like kind owners who try to know their clients and guests personally, like Dave does. I guarantee, you won’t find better food, comfort, hospitality, friendliness, and fishing on Wheelers Point/Rainy River that compares to Slims Resort.

Enough about our new favorite resort, lets talk about the fishing trip. Things started off a little on the problematic side right away on Friday morning. I melted my slides right to the track on my snowmobile in the first two miles out of Slims. Warm days with cold nights made the snow pack very hard and I couldn’t get any snow in my track. Topps and Mama helped me pound my track out and we were good to go. After I got off the snowmobile trail and crossed into Canada, things went a little smoother. The eighteen mile ride didn’t take long and we had our six flags in the water before 8:30AM.

Pike action started off slow. Mama finally broke the ice with a 32 incher around 10AM. I believe we applied the second application of sunscreen around 10:30AM. Topps followed that up with a mid 30s. A couple minutes after that, I landed a giant 38 incher. Things began to kick into high gear the later it got. The heat and sun grew more vibrant as the day went on. The weather was hot! We caught and released fourteen pike throughout the day: 29, 30, 30, 32, 34, 34, 35, 37, 37, 38, 38, 38, 39, 43 in inches. It was a fun and successful day. Most importantly, we locked another new hog pike spot down on LOtW.

The next day was like no other tip-up day we’ve ever experienced before. We fished the same general area in Canada. Again, the morning started slow, but as the day got older the flags began to pop more frequent. There was only one problem; the fish didn’t come up the hole. We had tons of dropped baits, misses, and stolen bait. How does a descent sized pike hit an eight inch herring and not get one of two treble hooks somewhere in its mouth? We thought they were small pike messing with us, but after we caught a few good fish with the same type of bites and spin of the t-handle on the flag, we began wondering. We tried hooking the trebles in the head, tail, and sides on the dead baits, but the same results took place. We fed the fish as they laughed at us from three feet under the ice. Frustration began to settle in on Mama, Topps, and I.

Topper got so upset; he picked his two flags up and moved a half mile down the shoreline to try a new spot by his lonesome. Haha, that didn’t pan out either. In that time, Mama and I caught the two nicest hogs of the day: a 41 and 38 in. Of course, Mama caught the 41. Topper moved back to join us in midst of the action and things fell apart again. The flags were popping every couple minutes now, t-handles turning faster than the line could rip off the spools, and yet we still couldn’t get hooks to connect with jaws. We decided that it just wasn’t our day of fishing. If you fish a lot, we all know, bad days come too. We ended the day with over 40 flags and only eight pike caught and released: 28, 29, 32, 34, 35, 37, 38, 41.

We met up with Jake Beckle (Mr. Pike on LOtW) at Slims Bar and Grill. Our heads were hung low as we ordered our first drinks. Jake informed us that his group had a bad day also. The same thing happened to them. The flags would pop and the hogs would drop or steal the bait or there would be nothing on the other end of the line on the hookset. Wow, we thought; the pike surely beat us today. We’ll take this as a learning experience once again. It was still a great day. We iced some giant pike, took some great pictures, and most importantly, had a ton of fun.

Easter Sunday called for cool temps, lots of wind, and snow so we enjoyed Slims Bar well into the night and decided to get a jump on the drive that morning. We can’t say enough good things about Slims Resort on the Rainy River. If you’re looking for hog pike, Rainy River spring walleyes or sturgeon, a summer walleye charter, next years ice bite, or just a relaxing weekend at a friendly and beautiful resort; contact Dave or Brandi at 800-243-2412. Maybe we’ll see you there! Bring your sunscreen cause things get hot on Lake of the Woods!

Written by Brock

March Madness Round 3

Usually this time of year we are running, slipping, sliding, and falling down on the ice as we make our way to screaming t-handles on tip ups. The ice conditions typically are honey combed and slick with no snow present. The water that remains on the ice is spiraling down the holes faster than the word “Flag” can fly out of the first person’s mouth as a tip up springs. Pike are slamming hang loose snagger rigs and packing on the pounds preparing themselves for their spawn.

This March has been a little different than previous years. It seems like spring will never come, the present snow pack will only accumulate not dissipate, and the pike are far from their spawning areas. For Hang Loose Outdoors, March Madness has been slow, but still consistent. Any day now, we could be running from tip-up to tip-up to tip-up all day long maybe with a little break in the action if we’re lucky.

Friday, thirty degrees was forecasted for a high with light and variable winds. I had to hit it. Pike were calling my name even though the spring conditions were still very much winter like.

Mom, Gary, and I headed up to the big lake early that morning. I had a new spot in mind so we drilled numerous holes trying to find the ideal set up. The five foot flat continued much further than my lake chip indicated. An hour of intense hole drilling, we finally located the gradual break into ten feet of water.

We didn’t even have the third flag in the water when the first one popped. I yelled at Gary and Mom to get over to it. They got there and argued for a couple seconds to who was going to take it. Gary got down and set the hook into a log. The fish didn’t move for a second or two and I seen Gary’s eyes bulge as the weight began to quickly move. He wasn’t ready for the intense head shakes that followed as he battled the fish and thought he had lost it once or twice. I kept telling him to keep pulling. When a hog pike head shakes then turns and starts swimming straight at the hole, slack line makes one think it got off. Gary pulled line up only to have it fly back through his finger tips. It put one or two good runs down and shot up the hole after the second burn. I grabbed the pike and Gary looked in amazement as I pulled the hog 41 inch out of the hole. We took pictures and Gary let his personal best go back into the seas. Nice work Man!

Minutes later, Mom caught a 28 inch out of the same hole. I thought things were going to get crazy. Well, that was far fetched because we strategically placed the rest of the tip-ups out and waited many hours without a single flag. We waited so long, I couldn’t handle it anymore. We had to move spots.

A six flag pickup and move at 2:30PM was for the best as I caught and released a 38 inch before 3PM. We lost a few big gators and caught another 38, a 37, 30, and 37 before sunset. It was a good day; would have been a great day if we could have iced the pigs we lost; but it still wasn’t the crazy action I was used to for this time of year.

Topper stayed in touch with me throughout Friday via text and Facebook. Craig, Brit, David, and he planned to hit the same area on Saturday. I informed them that they should probably set up in the spot that we had all our action. They concurred.

Saturday brought slow action to the crew on LOtW. Topper and I text back and forth all morning. They kept flip flopping tip-ups in search of getting pike to eat, but nothing happened. We thought that maybe it would be an afternoon bite like I had experienced the day before. I mean, we didn’t have much action until about 3PM. Well, that was the story. From 4PM to sunset, they had some wild flags. Brit caught two 39 inchers to lead the score board. The group caught a handful of other hog pike from 32-38 inches. It was a short but sweet window. The trip was a huge success.

I know I’ve said this for three weeks in a row, but look for the pike action to heat up as the temps warm and we get some run off soaking through the ice. I hope I’m not cursing myself, but spring is on its way. We will be chasing more hog pike this coming weekend. When you’re hooked, you’re hooked!

written by Brock

March Madness 2013- March 16 Weekend

Talk of spring break locations were floating all around campus at UND this past week; South Padre, Myrtle Beach, Arizona. I would just smile knowing everyone would think we were crazy for packing up and heading even further north. Well, maybe we are a little crazy but here at Hang Loose, March means HOG pike in shallow waters on Lake of the Woods!

Ben, Jake Beckle, and I headed up north Saturday evening after work. We arrived late that night in small town Baudette. Sunday was a day to collect our Canadian licenses, remote border water crossing permits, and pack up the gear. Monday was the first day on the water. After meeting up with Dave Bathel, owner of Slims Resort, for breakfast and fishing reports, we took off to Canada.

Ben, Jake, Andrew Kraft, Stephen Slick and I set flags anywhere from 5.5 to 7.5 feet of water. Our hangloose snagger rigs were tipped with dead herring. These baits are key in shallow murky water because they give off a lot scent. In the shallow dark water, pike use their sense of smell over any other sense. Once we had our flags set, the wait was on. Not long into the day we realized this was going to be a slow cold day. Temperatures were hanging around the low 20's and wind chills made it feel like it was in the teens. We compared these temperatures with the temps from last year at this time and laughed at the difference. Last year there was no snow on the ice and temps skyrocketed reaching into the low 60's. We sat and waited for flags in jeans and a t-shirts. Things were different now!

Needless to say, that first day was spent reminiscing about last March Madness and hoping the pike would start feeding as the week went on. Ben landed the big one for the day right at sunset, a fatty of a 37.5 was pulled through the ice after a ten minute struggle at the bottom of the hole.

As the weather took another turn for the worst, the next day was spent in the comfort of a Slims Resort 6 man house. Between the 5 of us we caught a mixed bag of walleyes and saugers, the big one of the day being a 22 inch walleye. I'll tell you what, if you’re heading to LOtW check out Slims Resort. Dave Bathel is one of the nicest, down to earth guys I've met. He will make sure you have a clean comfortable stay and do his best to put you on the hot bite. Slims is now the old Schusters Resort.

After a long day walleye fishing we went to bed quite early as Brock was all set to meet us early the next morning. After a good nights sleep, Brock pulled into Jake's around 7:30AM. We loaded the gear and set out on the sleds to Canada. The weather was looking up as the sun was getting warmer by the minute. We had decided to move further out into the bay to set flags. The weather was cold for this time of year and we didn't have confidence that the large females were as far up into the spawning areas as they should be.

Holes were drilled and I began to set out our flags. I was in the middle of the setting the second one down when I heard “FLAG!!!” I was confused because I had only set out one other tip up, thinking I may have gotten a false flag. I looked back only to see Jake sprinting to the flag I just walked away from. As I approached I saw what you want to see at every flag, the T handle was spinning almost fast enough to make the whole tip up levitate. I set the hook and pulled up a fat 37 inch pike, not bad for having two flags in the water! After the quick flag, our spirits were high as we waited for what the day had in store for us. Despite the quick catch, once again, the pike continued to be lethargic, hitting our baits, running, and then dropping them moments later.

We got quite a few flags, only to find that most of the fish were small males. Brock was up when his favorite flag named Black Betty tripped. The black flag shot up and the run was on. As we approached, the T handle went crazy, Brock set the hook and we could all tell it was a heavy fish. Moments later a huge 38'' fatty was pulled through the ice. Pictures were taken and the fish was released shortly after. A pike like that will make the trip up to LOtW worth it.

Flags popped off and on all day, resulting in a few more small males. It was now Ben's turn and after 3 false flags, he finally set the hook into a true giant. After a short struggle with the beast, Ben pulled his personal best through the ice, a hog of a 42 inch! This pumped us up even more. We now had four respectable fish for the day; a 37, 35, 38 and a 42. As the day came to a close, we cooked some more brats on the grill and waited for the sun to set. Within the last 5 minutes of fishing time, the flag that had not popped all week finally sprung. This was the rod tip up! We all jumped with excitement and high stepped through the deep snow toward the rod. This fish was tearing line from the Shimano spool. Brock fed it for a short time, closed the bail, and laced into what looked like a good pike. After 5 minutes of drag screaming action, a 37.5 inch pike was pulled up. The rod had done its job!

Not a bad day, we landed five huge fish, ate well, and ended the night with a few drinks back at the Beckle's. As we drifted off to sleep we hoped the coming day would bring aggressive fish and warmer temperatures... Well, the next morning started off slow; real slow. The day was well past half over when we decided to make a giant snow woman for good pike JU JU. Sure enough, half way through the build a flag popped. It was my turn. I sprinted over to the flag only to see the T handle not moving at all. I figured it was another small male for sure. Upon grabbing the line and slowly pulling it up, I was reassured that it was a much larger fish. I set the hook and battled a heavy chevy to the bottom of the ice. Finally, I got the head up and a fat 40 inch pike appeared. I was pumped and day was made right then and there.

We waited out the last half hour of fishing time and began picking up the flags as the wind came up all at once. Over the whine of the snowmobile and all the commotion of us picking up the tip-ups, I faintly heard Jake yell, “FLAG!!” I looked around and didn't see a flag; however the only one that was left in the water was hidden behind our otter sleds. It was in fact Black Betty! Jake got there first and set the hook, as Ben, Brock and I scrambled to get in on the action. I could see it was a good fish. Minutes later, Jake pulled out a HOG!! Last day, last flag, and last chance; Jake capitalized on a 41” giant, breaking his week long cold streak. Great fish to end the day on! What a great trip!

Hang Loose will return to LOW next weekend in search of more aggressive pike. When that snow starts melting through the ice, the runoff triggers big pike to start feeding. The large females will get aggressive and began to put the feed bag on in anticipation of their coming spawn. Look for shallow water flats in front of feeder creeks entering the lake and small bays. Pike will stage in the shallow flats from early March till the ice goes out. Grab your tip-ups and a group of friends and get up to LOtW or Rainy Lake and target these big girls for yourself. Need a place to stay? Check out Slims Resort on LOtW and get ready for a memory filled stay!

written by Colt Anderson

Godfrey is currently chasing monster lake trout on Lake Nipigon in Ontario, Canada. Please bring us some good stories bro!

Hog Pike and Grand Rapids Boat Show
Second Weekend of March Madness 2013

Colt and Ben started their college spring break this weekend. They headed straight north to Baudette for the beginning of the pre spawn pike bite on Lake Of the Woods. Tip up action was on the slower side but they still put some giants on the ice. Look for March Madness to improve as temperatures rise (hopefully sometime soon) and runoff triggers those large females to head closer to their spawning staging areas.

Below is an outline of the fishing seminar Topper and Brock presented at the Grand Rapids Boat Show this past weekend. The seminar was called "Locating Walleyes on New Bodies of Water". A majority of anglers visit their same familiar water bodies over and over throughout the open water season because they know them inside out. Become a versatile fisherman and learn as many water bodies as you can. It will increase your knowledge, technique, and provide you with more successful trips in the future. You will add many lakes to your arsenal and have added options to fish throughout the year when some of your familiar lakes are slow. Look through this outline and it might provide you with some great tips while exploring a new lake.

Locating Walleyes on New Bodies of Water

A. Brock Anderson/Randy Topper – Hang Loose Outdoors

B. Modern Open Water Equipment to Help Locate Walleyes, Bait, and Structure

1. Lowrance HDS and graph importance
-Yellow bellied walleyes, Water temp, Breaks, Points, Humps, Rocks, Weeds, schools of baitfish, Hard/soft bottom
2. Structure Scan – Down Scan and Side Scan
- People are always looking for this modern technology that’s going to show them fish 80 feet out on both sides of their boat. Structure Scan is what its name indicates. It’s used to find structure and transitions (mud, rocks, sand, weeds, trees, man made features)
- Use the new Structure Map to combine Side Scan to locate fish!
3. Lakemaster Maps and Navionics (phone app)
4. Talk to locals who have fished the lake or Bait shops to get general information and insight. Locals might not give you exact locations but they will give you starting points and then from there, you can use your tools to find similar spots and perfect your own bite.
5. DNR Lake Finder for maps, stocking reports, and forage base…

C. Spring Locations and Presentations

1. Locations in the Spring
- Wind blown shorelines (direction of wind the last couple days), inside corners, warmer water, rivers, adjacent flats to moving water, gradual flats or breaks, new weed growth, first main break, FISH more this time of year in the shallows but keep on the move! Keep your eyes open and constantly be looking in the water for bait or walleyes. Window shopping and POLARIZED sun glasses!

2. Spring Presentations
- Jig/shiner – start out with an 1/8 ounce in the shallows and then go bigger as you go deeper
- One foot lindy rig with a single bead and single red hook tipped with shiner or rainbow chub
- Long lining and dragging jigs on bottom (ex.girls on Red)
- Snap Jigging 1.0-1.4mph
- Fan Casting/Pitching and retrieve to cover water or catch fish REALLY shallow
- Always have a dozen or two leeches or crawlers this time of year (ex. Hill, Splithand, Round)
- Cranks can be effective in finding fish. Catch one or two then start jigging!

D. Summer Locations and Presentations

1. Locations in the Summer (Sonar Game)
- Secondary breaks, CABBAGE, deep humps, deep flats, mud flats, deep transitions, rocks, suspended walleyes, night lakes

2. Summer Presentations - Jig/minnow might still be effective depending on body of water
- Crawler/leech single hook (or double) single bead 4-6 ft lindy
- Increase leader length depending on fish on graph or weed growth
- Increase speed with traditional lindy rigs and add spinners 1.0-2.0
- Experiment with different color and style blades and speed, reaction bites, sometimes faster is better to trigger bites,Half CRAWLER
- Big Minnows for big fish and forage is big in a lake so match the hatch, lindy rigs single hook, big redtails and creek chubs
- Fishing the thermocline layer
- Cranks/ leadcore/ downriggers
- Night fishing!

E. Fall Locations and Presentations

1. Locations in the Fall
- Fish began to migrate from mid lake back to shoreline, Steep structures, rocks, weeds, wind blown points and shorelines, RIVERS, You pretty much want to search deep with electronics and fish shallows, Keep scanning with sonar, fishing, and moving

2. Presentations in the Fall
- Spinners crawlers/ half crawler
- Jig/leech
- Jig/shiner, rainbow
- One foot lindy rainbow, shiner
- Lindy and Big Minnow
- Start to slow down your speed in the Fall once the water temps began to drop, especially in the early morning
- Vertical jigging
- Cranks to cover shoreline water

E. Conclusion and Questions
1. Learning new lakes will improve your fishing skills, add more lakes to your arsenal, and provide you with more success and opportunity when other lakes are slow during certain times of the year.
2. Lowrance HDS and Structure Scan, Lake Maps, Research, Fish, Learn

Wow, were their ever some great Lund Boats from Rays Sport and Marine at the show. Check them out on the web or give them a call 1(800)223-0621...

Annual Vermillion Lake Snowmobile Trip-
First Weekend of March 2013

The HLO Crew along with our close friends hit up the Vermillion area for a weekend of snowmobiling and fun. The trails were exceptional and the cabin we stayed in was unbelievable. If you’re looking for a fun and relaxing weekend, look into the private rentable homes/cabins on Lake Vermillion. It is very affordable and there are many things to enjoy while up in this area: fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, golfing, swimming, boating, canoeing, hiking, and everything else outdoors. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is right there also. It was a great weekend with friends. Good Times.. Great Memories!

March Madness is Right Around the Corner

Who’s ready for March Madness? No, I’m not referring to college basketball. I’m talking about hog pike during the month of March. Northern pike put the feed bag on throughout the month preparing themselves for their annual spawn. Pike spawn in spring as soon as the shoreline ice begins to break. Northern pike prefer water temperatures over 36 degrees Fahrenheit to adequately spawn. There is no better time to be a pike angler than in March.

The northern pike season is closed on Minnesota inland lakes by the end of February, but Canadian border waters remain open. These border waters which I speak of where hog pike can be found and targeted are on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. These water bodies offer anglers the greatest opportunity all year long for those twenty plus pound giants more so than other lakes in the state. In the month of March, those opportunities significantly rise. Pike fishing can be absolute madness on the right days.

The story behind March madness can be described as pike pretty much eating anything and everything in their path. Huge female gators put on the weight before they hit their familiar area to spawn. Going on an eating frenzy prepares pike for the weight loss they will experience when they expend all their energy venturing to their spawning destination and carrying out their reproduction process. Extra calories also help them survive for their weight loss when they drop their eggs. Eating and stalking up before spawn is necessary for survival.

Few anglers understand the challenges and torments a pike endures during its spawning period. The majority of northern pike spawn in very shallow water. Sometimes so shallow, their backs are emerged out of the water and their bellies stuck in the mud. We are talking only inches to a foot of water. Take into account, the ice is just starting to break up on the main lake so pike are trying to swerve ice chunks and debris on their journey to the shallows.

Most pike spawn away from the main lake. Their spawning run might be many miles from the core basin of the lake. On Lake of the Woods, pike have been found spawning ten plus miles up road ditches. These ditches only have water in them for a week or two out of the whole year. For the pike, this is prime spawning habitat. Imagine the rugged journey up a drainage ditch? How many obstacles do you think the pike encounters? How much energy do those hog gators lose in an adventure like this? Reproduction is an amazing story.

Besides drainage ditches, pike like to spawn in feeder creeks, small streams, flooded marshes, and many other ecosystems that are seasonally flooded or contain backwater runoff. These areas should be researched and located on a lake map by pike anglers. When sited, look further out for pike staging areas. These staging spots are where you target your hog gators during the month of March. This is where they will feast before they make their run to their spawning turf.

Staging areas might be closely adjacent to spawning areas or a mile or two away. What you are looking for is the first main flat of deeper water that lies outside the spawning area. For example, locate a small inlet or outlet creek in a bay off the main basin of water on a lake map. Find the mouth of that creek where it meets up with the shoreline. It might be a foot deep here or six feet deep. On a gradual structure oriented lake like Lake of the Woods, it’s more than likely a foot or two deep. Next, locate the first major or more than gradual break perpendicular to that creek. It might possibly be three or four feet deep a mile plus out then drop from four to seven or eight feet. This would be the first break. You have just found a potential March Madness setup!

Now, get yourself a couple dozen suckers (8-12 inches) and an array of dead bait (ciscoes, herring). If you’re on your way through Grand Rapids or Cohasset stop at River Rat Bait. They’ve got hog bait and everything else you’ll need. Buy some double-treble hook harness rigs for your tip-ups and your good to go. You can also make some rigs yourself. We make our own Hang Loose Snagger Rigs. Contact us and we can make you some up for cheaper than you can buy them or give you some ideas. Plus, ours are custom and have more jewelry to attract larger toothy creatures. You are ready. Drill your holes. Place your tip ups at varying depths on that first break and up onto the flat and hold your breathe.

It won’t be long and you’ll be yelling, “FLAG”, sprinting to the tip-up, and feeling enormous headshakes. Then you’ll be holding a hog pike as the camera flashes. Next she’ll kick her tail back into the hole so she can continue her journey to make more hogs for the future. Hopefully, your legs will be sore from running and you’ll be screaming, “FLAG” and “We got Hogz” all day long. Good Luck!

written by Brock

Third Weekend of Feb 2013- Rainy Lake and LOTW and Snow

Godfrey and I ventured north once again this weekend. Our destination was Rainy Lake and our goal was those huge slab Canadian Rainy Lake crappies. On no sleep and a twelve hour night shift behind me, I met Adam, Gordon and his son, Easton, at 5:15AM on Saturday morning. We threw my fishing things in the truck and started the trek up north.

The weather was calling for mild cloudy conditions for most of the weekend. We were all pumped to explore the Canadian side of Rainy for hog crappies and just plain out be on beautiful Rainy Lake. Well, to sum up this trip in a nutshell, I'll just start out and say; the weather was opposite of mild. The first day was on the reasonable side, and then things got bad. The second and third days were absolutely brutal. Snow and wind made for white out conditions and added to the already excessive snow on the lake. Snowmobile travel was tough at best out on the lake and visibility at times was less than a quarter mile. It was a great weekend to spend in the cabin.

The cabin was warm (thank you Sorenson’s for your awesome cabin), but the fishing was horrid. As hard as we fought to drill numerous holes and find slab crappies, things just didn't go as planned. The first day we didn't even make it to our destination we wanted to fish. The snow was so deep, our snowmobiles burned the gas and we turned around just over half way. We probably wouldn't have even made it to the crappie bay on a full tank. Our snowmobiles were pinned in the near three feet of powder. So we set up tip ups and fished pike. We didn't have a single flag.

Day two, the weather was so vicious, Adam and I stayed close to the cabin and searched for crappies in the morning on the MN side. We worked our tails off, but didn't have a bite. In the evening, we hit a hump out in the main basin of the lake. Here, we hoped for a few walleyes or even a couple pout. Again, not even a bite. I can't believe we made it back to the cabin that night. I don't remember ever seeing a white out like that before. I held onto the GPS as Adam held the throttle to the grip. He watched the GPS as I kept clearing the snow from it. The drifts were crazy and we nearly flipped the sled multiple times. Somehow, through the white stuff, we finally met the front lights to the cabin.

We woke up on Day three to even more snow. The snowmobiles were covered in about six inches. The winds were calm, though. Adam, Gordon, and I headed to Canada again in search of slabs. This time we made the powder run northeast. The three of us made it to our destination and pounded the area for a few hours. I'm not certain how many holes we drilled, but it was miserable walking through snow almost up to my waist drilling hole after hole. I took a lot of breaks as Adam followed behind checking each hole with the Vexilar.

A couple hours into our crappie expedition, the wind started and more snow began falling. An hour later, conditions got worse. Adam and I looked at each other and thoughts from the day before ran through our heads. We didn't even have to say a word; time to go. We loaded our gear on the snowmobile and baaam; no sooner said it was another white out blizzard. We cruised through the bay and tried to locate Gordon. Somehow we picked the right route out and through the white stuff he came into focus. “Yep, time to go”, he said. We were off. Thanks to our Lowrance HDS, we followed the track through the drifts back to the snowmobile trail. The snowmobile trail wasn’t as kind as the journey in. It was drifted over to the extent of non existence. Our gas gauges quickly dropped and we once again prayed we would have enough fuel to make it back to the truck.

Covered like Abominable Snowmen, we arrived back to the cabin, gathered our belongings and otter houses, and cut the deep powder back to the truck. The gasoline gods must have been good to us as we made it to the truck on fumes to spare. We packed the sleds and houses on the trailers and left white out Rainy Lake in a cloud of white stuff. Although we were soaked to the bone, it was a good feeling to be back on the road to Grand Rapids.

Somewhere between the intense snowmobile ride back from Canada and packing the truck up, Gordon asked us if we had ever been on a fishing trip where we had never caught a fish before. We stopped and thought. Adam and I couldn’t remember a time when neither of us, nor a single angler on the trip, had not caught a single fish; not even a perch. We had gone to Rainy Lake for three days and got SKUNKED. I guess it happens to the best. I can’t say we didn’t try. I still believe this trip made all of us better outdoorsmen and was truly an adventure I’ll never forget. I had a blast!

Tip of the week! Good things come to those that put their time in (I’m pretty sure the fish will be slamming next trip). Every trip is a learning experience. I definitely increased my knowledge of Rainy Lake through this adventure. I proved once again not to trust the weather forecast. All you can do is try, and try is what we did. When you’re on an excursion like this, remember one thing, make the most of it and have fun. Here at HLO we are all about having fun and enjoying the outdoors with family and friends. We had tons of fun and I will never look down on us for not catching a single fish. LOL

written by Brock

Second Weekend of Feb 2013- Ontario Canada

Our quest for the forty pound lake trout started three years ago around this same time. I have no clue why we set our goal so high in the first place, but that’s how we hang. I believe it was originally Topper’s idea to visit Clearwater West. Most of Hang Loose Outdoors’ crazy adventures start out with Topper. In four previous trips to Clearwater West, Ontario, Canada we still had yet to hook a twenty pound lake trout.

Well, the adventure wasn’t so much a foolish idea three years ago and still isn’t today. A fishing trip to Clearwater West in Ontario is no bat of an eye. This was the lake where the hard water angling world record lake trout was caught. A forty pound lake trout had been iced exactly where we were to be going. Twenty and thirty pounders were weighed every ice season at Barry Browns’ Resort on Clearwater West (BCWW). This would be our fourth ice fishing trip to BCWW in three years (fished it once last summer also).

Dan, Mama, Topps, and I arrived at BCWW Friday afternoon. We hit the lake just before three our time. To our surprise, we found very deep snow on the lakes and slush pockets scattered about. Our snowmobiles struggled to plow through the deep powder while pulling the Otter sleds. Our senses told us it might possibly be a workout to jump spot to spot and chase these big angry lakers. We had tons of new spots marked on the Lowrance HDS that we wanted to hit. The summer’s fishing trip in July coughed up many secret areas and the HDS was jammed with waypoints.

On this trip, we caught lakers in most of the spots we fished. Due to the excessive deep snow and more and more accumulating slush everyday, we didn’t fish nearly as many areas as we usually do. The new spots from the summer proved solid though. The trout that we caught ranged from a couple pounds to a few in the teens. Mama caught the largest laker of the weekend, a hog 33 inch. And there is a good story that I must not leave out on this fish.

We fish in groups of two when we venture around on the Clearwater West/White Otter chain. The weather was on the cold and windy side all weekend so we set up portable houses on most of the structures we fished. Throwing up houses about 80 yards apart on a hump, flat, breakline gave us a general idea in a quick matter of time to what the action would hold on this spot. If it was fishless for both, we would move on. If one person was seeing fish, the other would bounce around them. If someone hooked a fish and needed help, they would yell for the other to come over.

Mama doesn’t normally yell unless it’s big. Topper just moved his Otter house to a different depth on what we call the World Record hump, when Mama began yelling, “Fish On”. Topps scurried to secure his fishing rod between the top bars on his house, grab his camera, and whatever else a kid named Topps does. He jumped on the snowmobile and put the throttle to the grip. He arrived at Mama’s pop up fish house in seconds as drag peeled. Just then he looked back and realized he forgot to pull the pin on the hitch of his Otter. From Mama’s house to where Topps’ Otter recently was set up, it looked like a yard sale. Topper had pulled his set up Otter sled house throttle to the grip through the deep powder all the way to Mama. Fishing poles, tackle, his sunflower heater, bait, and clothes were scattered all over the snow in the fishing sale path.

Whatever; laughing; Topps jumped in and helped Mama ice the biggest lake trout of the trip. Pictures were taken as Mama proceeded to rip on Topper about his mishap on the way over. Topps, you never fail to add great excitement to whatever we do. Topper reported nothing being busted in his full throttle set up fish house run.

Fishing was not hot and heavy this trip but consistent. The first half and first full day of fishing offered great action until the weather turned on us on our third day (second full day). The wind picked up and the pressure dropped like a rock. Heavy snow rolled in with intense winds. It was not a pleasant time to be an ice angler. We pretty much picked a spot and batted down the hatched on our Otter fish houses. Moving spots or hole hopping was a little out of the question. The snow and slush made for wreckful traveling conditions on the lakes also. The only thing that mattered was our lines were in the water and the forty pound laker was down there somewhere.

We still caught a couple trout here and there our last afternoon and last morning but not like the previous two days. Dan actually caught four trout all pushing ten pounds on that last morning. All in all we iced 31 lake trout for the trip. It was another spectacular trip to Browns Clearwater West. The twenty to forty pound lakers continued to elude us, but we can guarantee you all; they can’t hide! We will be back soon!

Tip of the week! The Fergie prototype spoon in 3/4 and 1 ounce was our goto lure this trip. This lure is made by Reel Bait Tackle Company. We can tell you exclusively that trout ask for Fergies by name. Their flutter, action, reel look, and clacker is everything you can want in a jigging spoon. These lures outfished our tackle box two to one. I won't ever go lake trout fishing without a box full of Fergies. Look them up at www.reelbait.com and give them a try today. They catch trout, walleyes, pike, bass and pretty much any other species you put them in front of. We love em and quarantee you will too. Check out Reel Bait's plane janes, flasher jigs, and lytle's secret also.

written by Brock

First Weekend of Feb 2013

I previously had an excellent blog wrote up for this week. Somehow while working on a blog for a following week, this page became corrupted and my stories were lost. I spent a whole night sleepless. If I was flexible enough, I might have tried kicking myself in the chin. Yep, I was pretty upset with myself. Well, I sent out a few emails to the geek squad where our website is through and baaaam; done deal. This is the only blog that I couldn't restore. Next time I'm going to backup every week. Thanks guys for the quick help!

So where am I? Oh yeah.... I believe Cory, a good friend of mine, and I hit a few of our back country panfish lakes this weekend. Fishing was on the slower side, but we caught some dandy crappies and a few hog gills. Cory was happy with the bag of fish he brought home. Thanks man for joining me. We definitely had some catching up to do!

Topps and Brittanie sat in the darkhouse on Saturday morning. Britt speared a hog Pokegama mid thirty inch pike. If it was up to her, they would have sat all day. Too bad your uncle had different ideas. C’mon man?? Way to go Brittanie. You only have a few more weeks to enjoy the underwater television set. Take advantage!

Tip of the week! When chasing mid winter crappies, their is no better presentation than a rat finke from Custom Jigs n Spins tipped with a waxworm. This will catch you aggressive fish as well as stubborn neutral ones. It is also a magnet for big bull bluegills. A rat finke is my goto hardwater panfish lure. Try em out!

Fourth Weekend of Jan 2013

Wow, hopefully the below zero temperatures and insane wind chills are over for a little while. The last week has been brutal cold. It affected the fishermen and I truly believe it had an impact on the fish too. Fishing has definitely been on the slower side for the past week. Here at HLO that means nothing, though. Why? Well, we give her it our all no matter what Mother Nature throws at us. Slow action is still better than work and combined with good friends and family; it's hard to beat a day on the ice.

This past weekend Craig and Brock ventured north to one of HLO's slab crappie lakes. We had not fished this particular lake in a few years so we were a little excited to see what the bite would hold. Years ago, this lake provided very good crappie action in the 12-14 inch category. Well, that evening wasn't the case. We didn't even catch a crappie. Weather? Luck? The crappies didn't even show themselves on the Vexilars. This one's going to tickle my brain until next time....

A couple evenings later Dan and Brock hit up a lake south of Hill City. Gary and Mike joined us in the windy and cold environments. It didn't take long to find suspended crappies and set up the houses. There was no hole hopping this afternoon. Wind chills were excessive. The crappies stayed underneath us the whole time out. We threw the whole tackle box at them and only caught a few. Tight lipped crappies were the name of the game. Wow, another tough outing.

We have been spending most of our time chasing lake trout the last couple weeks. Our walleye fishing has been very limited. Ely lakes are kicking out the best trout action for us at this time. Grand Rapids area trout fishermen are having some luck. As far as trout fishermen go, good luck getting information out of them. Some secrets are better left untold. We hit Pokegama two mornings in a row for lake trout and our outcome was a big skunk on the trout end of things. We did catch a few good pike and some smelt. Yes, the smelt are back in full force in the deeper regions of Pokegs.

The best reported walleye bite is happening on Leech Lake right now. Walleyes are biting fairly consistent on the south end of the lake. Look to the Walker Bay humps, Goose Flats, and Stony Point for a good bite. Some nights and mornings are more action packed than others, but that's expected this time of year. Winni, Red, and Lake of the Woods are also giving up a few marble eyes, but even these have slowed down a fair amount. Be mobile and keep at it and you will ice a few marble eyes. Pokegama has been very hit and miss for the past two weeks. Some are picking up one or two a night and others are struggling. Those staying well into the night have been catching one here and one there to add to their meal (that big moon will give you more opportunities). Still, the best bite on Poke is from 430PM to just a little after dark.

Tip of the week! If you are looking to catch fish and have an action packed day; I got two words for you: BACK LAKES… Now is the time to snowmobile or 4-wheeler into those smaller back country lakes and start drilling holes and scanning with the Vexilars. Small panfish lakes will provide anglers with the best opportunities right now. If you have some lakes in mind, great, if not, do some research and go exploring. Use the ‘MN DNR lake finder’ website (just google those words and it will pop up) and read the netting results. This website also offers lake contour maps. For those of you with smart phones, download the Navionics app. It’s 10 bucks and it’s by far an investment that can’t be beat. Drill your first few holes in the deeper areas of the lake first. Most panfish should be suspended off bottom. Your flasher will pick them up clearly. Drop a wax worm or a crappie minnow down and see what kind of hog panfish you are dealing with. Exploring small back lakes one after another will be a fun adventure, provide fillets for the fry pan, and it will end up rewarding you in the long run. You never know where those slabs are living. This will unravel your secret slab lake. And just remember……. Keep it to yourself. Hush Hush. You don’t want anyone else to know about your secrets. Choose your partners wisely next time you plan on hitting your topppa secret. GOOD LUCK!!!

Third Weekend of Jan 2013- Lake Trout in the BWCAW

The forecast for the following day called for temperatures to plummet and the wind to increase by the hour. It was probably not the best day to be making a long walk into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but plans had previously been set in stone earlier in the week. There was no backing out as hungry lake trout were waiting for us to feed them.

Dan and I made our way to Ely to visit Kevin Godfrey who had already been tussling with lake trout in the boundary waters and on local lakes for the past couple weeks. We had not wet a line for LTs so we were fired up as usual. The temperatures hung in the mid 20s as we drove down Highway 169 that evening. The weather forecast got worse and worse for the next day each time we checked.

We arrived at Kevin’s shortly after 8PM. Jen and Kevin had spaghetti awaiting us as we walked in the door. First things first; we cracked a couple cold ones and starred at the map for the morning’s adventure. Kevin’s so called walk into the BWCAW now seemed longer than it had over the phone. With the predicted weather forecast, there was absolutely no way we could leave the Clam fish houses behind. We would have to pull them the whole five miles. Five miles? Ooooof! It was going to be a calf burner. Glad there wasn’t any snow on the ice.

We woke at 5AM to almost two inches of fresh snow on the ground. That’s not good, we all thought. As we jumped in my chevy, the temp read 23 degrees. This was going to be the warmest it would be all day. That temp was supposed to drop quickly as the day opened up.

We arrived at the portage to the BWCAW around 7AM. It was time to unload and start pulling. Things went smoothly as the darkness broke and the beautiful BWCAW was unrevealed. Layers of clothes were peeled off step by step and thrown over our sled houses. The first mile was nothing. The second got tougher. On the third mile, the wind began to pick up and our jackets went on. We took a break and stretched our burning legs as we looked up towards the main basin of the lake and bickered at the almost white out conditions. The wind was bucking out there. The fourth mile proved the day was going to be down right nasty as we put our heads into the wind and pulled some more. The wind was definitely horrible and the temperatures were certainly dropping. Mile five was somewhat easier as Kevin pointed out the location we would fish.

Kevin took his hand auger out and drilled the first hole on top of the hump. We were there. We scanned through the ice with our Vexilars and searched for the perfect depths off the edges of the hump that topped out around thirty feet. After we found our ideal depths, we drilled some holes for our houses and a few for tip-ups. Dan and I set up in fifty-five feet as Kevin chose the mid forties. We set up about eighty yards apart.

It took nearly a half hour to set up our houses. The wind gusted to what we thought was thirty miles an hour. Thanks to Kevin’s ice anchors, we secured the houses as best we could. Dan cranked the heater as I excessively banked the apron with snow. It was well into the 9AM hour when we finally started fishing.

I dropped my Fergie from Reel Bait Tackle Company and it wasn’t long before a wild LT showed up on my Vexilar. It was not exceptionally aggressive, but it followed me around curiously. After it lost interest, it sprung over to Dan. A second laker appeared on me and started chasing my gold Fergie like a hog whitetail buck on a hot doe. I knew this one would eat. When it started to sink to bottom, I began ripping my Fergie like there was no tomorrow. The clacker on the lure did its job because that laker got pissed and came storming back up. FISH ON! I fought the first laker to the warm house. We were pumped. The first laker was right around five pounds.

A few minutes later, my gold Fergie proved again why I love these lures so much; fish number two smoked it like a freight train. This fish was just a couple pounds, but it would be a good eater. It wasn’t long, and Dan was digging through my T box looking for a Fergie for himself. He found one and down it went.

I lost a big laker and missed two more in the next hour or so. Dan also missed a laker on a Fergie. Kevin ran over and reported no takers yet. The action slowed as the noon hour came and went. We discussed how the weather and extreme pressure change must have been adversely affecting the fish.

Dan dug through my box looking for a different lure after a long stretch on our blank Vexilars. He tied on a River 2 Sea vertical crank. This lure had some vibration. Hopefully, it would attract something. Ten minutes later, a laker appeared on Dan and inhaled his lure. Dan was hooked up with a good LT as his drag buzzed. He iced the 8-10lb laker which ended up being the nicest fish of the day.

Minutes later, Kevin screamed from across the snow blown ice, “FISH ON”. Kevin wrestled the second biggest laker of the day to the ice. Wooooooo. Maybe the fish were turning back on? Fifteen minutes after things calmed down, Kevin yelled, “Tip Up”. We sprinted out into the frozen conditions and noticed it was Dan’s tip-up that was up. We huddled around the snow drifted hole as Dan picked up the flag. The spool was bare. The fish had burned all the line off the spool. He set the hook and hand over handed in a fat 6-8 lb LT. When the fish was in my hands, we immediately took off towards the warm house. Dan carried the tip-up and I bear hugged the fish. Kevin ran in the direction of his warm shanty. The conditions were way too brutal to deal with unhooking and taking pictures of this fish outside. Our hands were frozen stiff.

Our little flurry was too good to be true as we spent another hour in the houses without anymore action. It was like the fish had died. Those last three fish must have been the last of the extreme high pressure front. We fished till about 4PM until we all agreed it was time to pack up and get our walk on.

The walk back was nothing like the walk in. Our bodies hurt and our pace slowed with each and every step. The wind took it all out of us. The last mile seemed like ten. Once we arrived at my truck, a loud Woooooho was heard all across the BWCAW. This is, if the wind and cold didn’t dampen it five feet from my mouth.

We all agreed that next time into this lake, the weather would have to be mild and the houses would have to be left back in Ely. Our walk into this lake was five miles, but five miles only took us to the south shore. The north shore would be an insane trek. Wait till March; HLO might be back feeding the BWCAW lakers once again.

Although the weather was nasty, the experience was well worth it. The scenery and adventure into the BWCAW is always breath taking. Being out in the wilderness alone with great friends and good laughs is by far one of a kind. The sights and sounds of the northwoods makes the trip every time. The fishing adds to this wonderful excursion. If you haven’t been to the BWCAW in the winter, I highly advice you do so.

Written by Brock Anderson

Second Weekend of Jan 2013

What an awesome group of guys Brock and Colt guided prior to the weekend. Thanks Gary, Chucky, Roy, Graham, and Glen. We had a blast. Good Fishing. We can't wait for next year.

Day 1 we fished Winnibigoshish. Perch were the focus in the morning. A bunch of jumbos were found on the south shore, but slower action took us to the humps around mid day. The humps were even slower. Perch and walleyes appeared on our flashers, but chose not to be very aggressive. In the last half hour of light, we iced a handful of walleyes and a few more jumbos. Although fishing was slow, this group of guys made the day very fun. There was not a second where laughs were not heard.

Day 2 was spent on a local crappie lake. The action was steady all day long. This day was an absolute blast and ended in a tail gate full of crappies.

First Weekend of Jan 2013- Ely Darkhouse Spearing

Godfrey and Staci visited Kevin Godfrey in Ely this past weekend. Kevin had been seeing some giant pike in his darkhouse for several weeks. He had already speared a 42 inch pike earlier in the year. Godfrey and Staci wanted in on the action. Staci hadn't speared a hog before so a high opportunity chance lie in front of her.

To make the story short, Staci got her hog and numerous other big pike were seen that first morning in the house. The first few hours starring into the colorful waters was very action packed. Hog pike were coming in like freight trains. Staci's spear met its mark on a beautiful 39 incher. Adam followed that up with a 38" himself. Those weren't the largest pike they saw that morning. A bigger one got away between the action. That's fine. You can't get them all.

How amazing is Ely? To answer that question is easy. Ely is beautiful, remote, and offers a paradise to the outdoorsman/outdoorswoman. There is so much to do in Ely and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is only minutes away. If you haven't experiences Ely or the BWCAW, plan your trip today. Contact us or any of the great resorts for more information.

After spearing, Godfrey, Kevin, and Staci walked into a little crappie lake on the edge of the BWCAW and caught lots of crappies. All in all it was a great weekend in Ely.

Lake Trout Opener in the BWCAW

When my fishing partners, Adam and Rick pulled up at 6:30 AM, I said, “You’re late!” It was trout opener and the sun would be on its way up in an hour. We had to load up and get going as soon as possible. The roads had a couple inches of fresh powder on them as we took off from Ely. The drive took longer than expected. We were anxious to set hooks into big lips. There was no wind which was a plus and the snow was still coming down at 8:03 as we headed down the portage taking in the untouched beauty of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We hit the ice after a breath taking walk and we all thought, almost fishin’.

Another half hour of walking, we rounded a corner and could see a couple specs of fish houses across the lake. Others had made the journey also. That was where the deep water started. Another 30 minutes hike, we could now see the large, steep point on the map that we had picked out to fish that morning. Our spot was taken by a group fishing tip-ups. The three of us pulled the map back out and did some studying. We picked a shallow hump off an island that had 90’ of water on two sides and a 50’ flat on the adjacent side.

Tack on another half an hour walk and we finally started spinning the hand auger, checking depths as we broke water. We had landed right on the hump. After popping another 15 holes, we had a good range of depths to try from 39-65’. I decided to rig my newly built trout rod as a dead stick in the shallowest hole, dropping a big cisco down to bottom. We were fishing!

I picked a deeper hole in 48 feet for my jigging action. Down the hole went my blade bait to see if I could make some noise in the water column. I almost couldn’t believe it, when from the bottom, up came a nice mark on my Vexilar and it chased my lure!! He didn’t eat, but that was not a bad sign to see in the first ten minutes. Another mark showed up a couple minutes later. Number two looked really aggressive. Bang! I set the hook and felt the fish for a second before my line went slack… Dang it all!

She never left the hole as I ran to get more bait. Down went my bucktail jig tipped with a sucker minnow. As I jigged like my life depended on it, the fish slowly sank down to the bottom, but up raced another! I hardly had time to get ready when she slammed my favorite jig. This time, my hook buried into meat. After a few minute fight and some drag-pulling, I had a 28” lake trout laying on the ice! It was an awesome start to my lake trout ice season especially after being skunked on the open water multiple times this past summer.

After pictures and high fives, I grabbed another lucky sucker and headed back to my hole. Half way there, I looked over at my dead stick and saw there was no flag on my line. I wasn’t sure if it was a fish or a false trip because I had never set a dead stick before. As I approached, I knew it was a trout since my line was peeling off the reel! I closed the bail and set my hand-built rod into fish number two. It didn’t fight as hard as the first, but it was still a good fish, 27”. Holy cows!! I was giggling as we set up for pictures. That’s when one of Adam’s flags popped. His dad got there very quickly and set the hook. There was nothing there. Not ten minutes later, Adam’s dad hollered from the flip-over, “FISH ON”. By the time we got over there he had a 25” laker flopping around on the ice. Wow, that was some crazy action that we had only dreamed about.

We iced a couple of smaller fish in the next three hours all around 18” long. We then worked for that last one to make up our three limits. Light was getting short and we had almost two hours of walk time ahead of us. Both of my lines were set as dead sticks as I jumped in the house to warm up. Adam handed me his jigging stick and started messing about with a frozen beer. I watched him try to get beer from an icicle as my rod was almost ripped from my hand! I set the hook and fought up the nicest trout of the day, a hog 29”.

What a day we had in the wilderness! I think I had a smile from the time we hit the lake until the time I closed my eyes. We had caught trout on a new lake for us and we had caught them with everything! Jigs, spoons, tip-ups and dead sticks using suckers, rainbows and ciscos were our presentations. I would highly recommend planning a trip into any BWACW lake in search of fish. These lakes are untouched compared to most and they hold big fish of almost any species you want to catch. The BWACW is one of the most beautiful adventures out there. I would also suggest taking long walks to prepare yourself. I could hardly get off the couch last night! We had pulled our gear ten miles, but it paid off big time, and it was an experience I will never forget. It won’t be the last time I make an adventure like this into the Boundary Water Canoe Area!

Written by Kevin Godfrey

*Click here to read HLO stories from 2012*
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