** HLO 2014 Stories **
With another annual Red Lake trip in the books, more awesome memories have been added to the camp log at the Maki Cabin. Every year, our bags are packed by Christmas Eve and we’re all super pumped to leave as soon as the holiday festivities are over. We arrived to the cabin late on Christmas day, grabbed a cold beer, plugged in the fish finders, and told jokes and stories. The next morning came early as we pulled into Shook’s Corner Bait for our free scoop of fat heads.
The first day we wheeled into West Winds Resort to head out to the lake. I was actually pretty surprised to see that we were the only set of four-wheelers in sight! Main travel is by trucks hooked up to ice castles. We wanted to stay as mobile as possible, so we unloaded and began our 4.1 mile trek out to the end of one of the rock fingers. The First spot had fish on it, but they were mostly lookers. One fish within a half an hour wasn’t going to cut it from our expectations of the 100 fish days that we had last year. We moved out probably a quarter mile and set up again. We had our limits before we even had enough time to get our dead sticks down! Fourteen feet of water produced limits by 9:30AM. It is always a great time having a 4 man house loaded with 8 rods, boys reeling in fish one after another, and the level of excitement stronger with every fish! Every time the sound of a drag went out, a big YAAAA came from everyone else!
The next two days we decided to go fish the mud. We landed at Jr’s Corner Access. It again took us a couple moves to land on the fish on day 2 and day 3. The cold front and bright blue skies made the fish a little timid, but we still managed to steadily catch fish throughout the day. When their weren't active fish under us, we moved. One move here and there throughout the day kept the action hot. One of the things that I enjoy the most about Red is the non-typical all day walleye bite, rather than the one hour window that we’re used to in the Grand Rapids area during the winter months. We used plain hooks with a full minnow on our dead sticks, and either a Reel Bait Flasher Jig (with a whole minnow) or a Reel Bait Clacker (with a minnow head). We figured we had the best of both worlds with this set up because we had some noise and some flash; perfect for enticing the fish our way to hone in on our baits in the dirty water. For us, it seemed the 13-15 FOW range was the best!
We all love going to Red Lake. It is an amazing fishery with tons of fish and it always seems to have a good bite no matter what the weather is doing. At certain times, it’s definitely harder than others, but when you have 100 fish days, there’s nothing better. This is a great lake for people who don’t have all the right gear, don’t get out as much as others, or just looking to take the family out for a day or two to have fun and catch fish. This is your go to walleye lake right now!
Written by Dylan Maki
Mild December temperatures found most of the Crew out on the ice either spearing or doing a little puddle jumping for crappies. With no snow on the ice, getting around has been an easy task for this first month or so of ice fishing. There is a little water on the ice, but look for this to freeze as soon as we get a couple days of cold weather. I'm sure it's coming! And snow, well, I don't see much of any in the near future.
Fishing around the Grand Rapids area was just 'OK' this past weekend. The walleye window (hour) bite was slow for most on lakes such as Pokegama, Wabana, Deer, and Moose. A few better reports came from Winnibigoshish. Anglers are catching mixed bags of walleyes and jumbo perch out on the humps in 20-28 feet of water. Upper Red Lake remains the goto place for anglers in search of those marble eyes. The whole lake has been good. If you're not catching, move, move, and move again, and you will eventually have active walleyes pounding your jigging spoons and dead sticks. Lake of the Woods is starting to improve as the water clears on the south shore. Give Slims Resort a call for a fishing report and to book an awesome walleye outing this winter (800) 243-2412.
Crappie fishing has been good on Bowstring, Big and Little Splithand, Hill, Cut Foot, and a ton of small lakes around the area. Get out there exploring some of our small lakes tucked back in the woods. With no snow and no slush, these hidden gems are easy to get to and will produce. When you find a secret little lake, keep it on the hush hush. Keeping it secret will keep it producing for many years.
Dark house spearing has been good around the area. Pictured in the upper right corner of this blog is Brittanie Topper (Topps niece) with a giant speared this past weekend. Way to go Brit!! Can I say....... fatty!
Our Hang Loose Outdoors Christmas Party was held this past Saturday. The Crew and loved ones shared good food, drinks, and many laughs. Thanks everyone for coming. Someone please get practiced up on their Wii tennis. Lexi's gotta get beat one of these days!
This weekend I lost track of what month it really was. If I was a bear, I would of woke up from hibernation. The weather represented the months of spring. Forty degree temperatures brought April showers. Saturday and Sunday were so foggy and wet, visibility at times was no more than fifty yards during the middle of the day. It was crazy weird especially on the ice.
Sunday, Dylan, Colt, and I loaded up the wheelers and headed into the boonies in search of back lake panfish. A number of us here at Hang Loose Outdoors absolutely love searching for new lakes which might turn up our next top secret slab crappies or bull gills. Many times, we come up empty handed and sore bodied. We drill so many holes on some lakes during these days that a gas up is needed on the way to the next lake. It's a mystery every time we set foot on a pond that has had zero human tracks on it. We laugh at one another when we make a pick of what lake to go to next. To whom ever makes a successful pick is always the one with the biggest smile or the larger head. It doesn't matter the outcome, its the work, excitement, and good times that go along with days like these. For our equipment, we can't say the same. Our ice fishing equipment takes a beating on days like this. Some lakes have no roads or trails leading to them. We still make it in!
The foggy weather Sunday morning found us on one of our favorite classic back ponds during first light. We figured we would see how active the fish were gonna be before we went pond jumping to new waters. To our surprise, we didn't even need to drill a hole on the lake to graph fish. There was enough water on the ice and the ice was clear enough to all you had to do is keep your transducer on top of the ice and began walking. Our flashers showed bottom without even drilling a hole through the ice. It was almost like ice trolling; and that's what we called it the rest of the day. We ice trolled for a minute before locating a couple suspended fish. We drilled holes and started fishing. The fish were kinda stubborn. We would catch one here and one there although they were pretty nice sized (10-12"). Bouncing holes for an hour or two was the best method to making these neutral fish bite. After we had enough action and a couple on the ice for a fish fry, we loaded back up and headed out.
Lake two on the day found us ice trolling without even getting off our wheelers. You could seriously just hang your transducer over the foot rest and slowly drive along graphing the bottom in all the deep holes we searched. It was like we were cheating or in our boats on top of the ice. We only drilled a couple holes when we marked some activity. Lake two concluded with a big goose egg. The waters were dead except for a few non biting, what we figured were tulibees, in sixty-five feet of water. On to lake three we went.
Lake three had a few holes drilled on it from previous fishermen so we ice trolled that area for a while. We caught some small gills before searching the rest of the lake. I found a deep forty foot flat where I located a whole bunch of activity. I called the boys over and we swiss-cheesed that area. We fished this ten foot band of fish for a while. We caught crappies, gills, and a whole bunch of rock bass. The fish were really inactive so it's hard to say if we got a good sample out of it. We didn't catch anything super impressive from this lake, but I added it to the, have to hit again list.
It began raining fairly hard on the way back to the trucks so we decided to call it a day after lake three. It was a good idea because the back roads were so icy it took us a great deal of time to make it back to tar roads. The day was very successful despite being a little wet and hungry. We managed to fish three lakes in one day. One of our classic back lakes combined with a few fish from lake three gave us just enough for a good evening's fish fry. We scratched one lake off the list and added another to the 'hit again' list. We shared a ton of laughs and our augers had plenty of gas at the end of the day. 'Ice trolling' was possible on wheelers which saved us a ton of time, auger ware, and proved extremely fast and effective.
The water on the ice had already formed a few natural springs on a couple of the lakes we were on. Folks be careful! This weather is not going to decrease ice thickness but its going to make some dangerous spots in the ice. We already witnessed some very dangerous natural holes letting water through on Sunday. These holes will only get larger in size. It won't be good when a tire finds one of these on any lake. Be careful and cautious. I won't be driving my truck out on lakes for quite some time now.
Today as I write this, it still looks like April out. I believe we have four months left of winter first?
written by Brock
Ice fishing here in the Northland is in full swing as we push into the first half of December. Early ice is pretty much behind us now, for those of us who have been out a couple times so far that is. The ice is the best we have seen in many years. Cold temperatures and no snow have made for excellent ice conditions. Most lakes have around a foot of ice. Small lakes are already seeing some truck travel (I wouldn't attempt it, but they are). Larger lakes have a foot of ice in most areas, but far less in those spots that receive some current flow or are just known for having less ice throughout the year. Upper Red Lake has 15 plus inches and trucks are driving out safely. Here in the Grand Rapids area, four wheelers are a safe bet for ice travel on any lake. Be safe and use caution!
The walleye bite around the Grand Rapids area is slow, but a few good reports are coming in on a hit and miss basis. Anglers are graphing and catching a couple walleyes during that one hour evening bite (4:30-5:30pm) on lakes such as Winnibigoshish, Pokegama, Moose, Trout, and Wabana. Twenty-five to 35 feet of water has been best. Reel Bait Tackle Company's plane jane and fergie spoons in 1/4 and 1/2 ounce tipped with a minnow head have been working best for us. Check them out at www.reelbait.com.
The panfish bite has been strong on most area lakes. With no snow on the ice, it's easy to drill a bunch of holes and move around with the flasher. Bring the kids out and get them in on the action. This weekend is supposed to be gorgeous! Good luck and be safe!
Contact Slims Resort for ice/fishing reports on Lake of the Woods! (800) 243-2412 Book a trip with them this winter and discover the excellent fishing and hospitality.
We will be spearing, angling, and muzz hunting this week and into the weekend.
Everyone is getting fired up for ice fishing and darkhouse spearing as we speak. If they haven't been out yet, they will be soon. The ice in the Grand Rapids area is growing healthy this year. Be safe everyone. Early ice means caution! The HLO Crew was up at Red Lake this past weekend and reported a good bite. The rocks on the east side offered the best bite. Anglers and spear fishermen will be pulling some smaller houses out on Grand Rapids area lakes by this weekend.
Enjoy this piece of writing from Brittanie Topper! It sounds to me like she's getting pumped to sit in the spearhouse!
'My First Hog Out of the Dark House'
I personally feel bad for the people who haven’t had the chance to experience the wonders of hunting and fishing. They have no idea what they are missing. Whether it’s reeling in a hug fish or shooting a ten point deer in Northern Minnesota during the coldest of winters. It really takes a lot of dedication and heart, and my Uncle Randy has the most love for the outdoors over anyone I know. This is a story I will never forget.
When you live in Northern Minnesota and attend High School, one thing every kid looks forward to are snow days. I personally loved those days because I could spend all day in my warm spear house. Normally during the week I didn’t get out there much because it was too dark after school. So when we got that call that school was cancelled due to the weather I was exceptionally excited to be able to go out that next day.
My Uncle Randy is so in love with the outdoors, it’s amazing. I look up to him so much for it because he knows everything. Kids in school loved talking to me about him because he is so good at what he does. He even has his own guiding service for fishing. I just love when I get the chance to go hunting or fishing with him; its an honor.
I texted my Uncle Randy right after we got the cancelation call that night to ask if he wanted to go spearing for the day. I was so happy when he said yes. We decided we should be out there by 7:30 a.m. so we would be in the house before the sun peaked out over the trees.
That next day I ended up leaving my house at 7:00 a.m. so I could be at my Grandma’s house on time. It was really nice that my grandma lives right on the lake. I just remember walking outside and the crisp winter wind about blew me off the deck. It was possibly the coldest day that winter. Randy and I got all of our stuff together so fast because we were both so excited to get out there. The snowmobile ride out there was so cold. I thought it was never going to end.
We finally got there and I remember I could barely move because I was so frozen. Each time you go spearing you have to chisel the newly formed ice (I could go without this part). I know it makes me sound lazy, but honestly I just wanted to get in there so I didn’t miss anything going on underneath the ice. Once we finally finished that task, the hole was just as I remembered it; like a portal overlooking another world, and a peaceful one at that.
The hole was in the middle of the ice house, and Randy sat on one side and I sat on the other. I was so happy when he got the heater started because my fingers were so cold. We could still see our breath because the heater takes a little while to heat the dark house. Randy and I were so quiet and focused on the hole. It really was beautiful down there. You see all the weeds at the bottom of the lake and little perch swimming on through avoiding the big fish. I definitely could sit out there all day and just watch this different world.
People always told me how they hated slow days because they just sit there and wait for something to happen. Well I was the total opposite. I loved the wait because I knew that at any moment in time a world record fish could slither through my hole. Once 10 o’clock rolled around we saw two little rats, nothing worth spearing. Finally a descent eater came in nice and slow… BAM! I stuck my spear right in the back of that northern pike. You wouldn’t think getting a small northern would make my adrenaline go insane, but it definitely did. My heart was pumping, and I was completely awake and ready for more.
As time went on we speared two more northerns, a 26” and a 28”. I remember thinking how great that day was. We already had three good size eaters and it was only 11 o’clock. My Uncle and I sat there making jokes, he could always make me laugh so hard; it seemed like everything he said was hilarious.
My eyes were glued on the hole waiting, waiting… About ten minutes passed, and then it happened. I saw him coming in right underneath my Uncle. He was slower than any other fish I have seen coming in on its prey. His eyes were so big; they were staring straight up at me. I froze. My Uncle finally saw it, and went completely still.
“Brittanie, this is yours. Stab that thing,” he said uneasy. I was so scared to miss it. I have never missed before, but that didn’t matter. I was hoping the monster didn’t hear me shaking so much and disappear.
“Are you sure you don’t want this one” I whispered.
“You’ve got it,” he said shakily. Slowly I stuck the tip of my spear into the cold water. The fish didn’t even seem fazed when it hit him. I was wrong when I said this fish was slow, because he moved so fast that it almost felt like he was never there. I honestly thought I missed him, but then I noticed my spear was gone. The rope was connected to my chair so I started to pull on it with my shaky hands, and it was so heavy. I felt as if I was pulling on a fresh water shark. I got him back to the hole and my uncle had to help me lift it out of the hole and put it outside. I just stared. I have never caught a fish this big before. I felt so overwhelmed. Once I came back to reality I noticed that my Uncle was shaking me and screaming, “WOO HOO! That’s how it’s done!” I joined him in the screaming.
I remember thinking that this was the day I would finally take on the Topper name, and it felt amazing. This ended up being the day I would never forget. I thank my Uncle Randy for letting me spear my first hog.
Written by Brittanie Topper
The weather didn't improve much during the second half of the MN rifle season. The cold and wind continued all the way up until the last two days of the season. The third weekend of the season offered more comfortable weather. The wind ran calm and the temps hung in the 30's. This weekend was the one to sit all day.
A large percentage of hunters had either filled their tags by this weekend or hung er up. Cold weather, strong winds, and low deer numbers had taken their toll on almost everyone. One can only sit so long and freeze their toes day after day without seeing a deer. I wish everyone who put in their time could find success. Well, with a little luck, a lot of time, and the right decisions; hunters do get rewarded sometimes. Your season can go from slow to the best one ever in a matter of seconds. It only takes a split second for that hog buck to walk over the ridge.
Pro Staffer Craig King proved time in the woods leads to success this last weekend. Congrats Craig on that giant MN 8 Pt. (pictured in the upper right corner of this blog)
For those of us who still have a tag left from the archery and rifle seasons, we will be cleaning our muzzloaders this week. Muzz season starts next week! It's time to put meat in the freezer. Tag soup doesn't provide winter weight!
Good luck to those muzz hunting!
Cold......Wind.....Wind.......Wind......Cold........Wind......Where the deer?
I'm pretty sure that first line sums up the first week and second weekend of the MN rifle season for most hunters. This season has been much colder than average. Low deer numbers are not adding to the excitement and chill either. Slow hunting has been the norm this past week. A few lucky hunters are finding success. If you put your time in, good things happen. It only takes one second for your worst season to turn into your best! If you hunt Northern Minnesota with this train of thought, you're always in the game.
Small bucks have accounted for the majority of deer registered as of late. The best part of the rut seemed to take place a few days before rifle season for us, but there are still many bucks chasing and searching. The strong winds are not helping daytime movement. The first hour of light, high noon, and last hour of light have been the best. So to give you a tip to shoot a buck: HUNT ALL DAY!
Good luck hunters and stay with it. Stay warm! Be patient! Shoot straight! Enjoy the little things that go along with the deer season. Bring a kid hunting if you can. Keep the traditions rocking and this great sport rolling.
Pictured in the upper right corner of this blog is HLO pro staffer Dylan Maki with a beautiful Northern Minnesota buck.
Opening weekend of one of the most celebrated holidays in Minnesota was again a success for many and an enjoyment for others. Lots of hunters reported absence of deer, but there is lots of time left to hunt. Most importantly, traditions were carried on, the kids got in on the action, and the successes ended with fist bumps, hugs, or fresh tenderloins in the fry pan. It's hard to beat the opening weekend of the MN rifle season in Northern Minnesota. As for the predicted forecast this week; dress warm hunters. It looks like it's going to get cold!
I want to rewind real quick to the couple days leading up to the opening weekend. The rut seemed to land primo on the three days before the opener. The first initial chase phase was witnessed by the few of us here at Hang Loose that were out in the woods bowhunting!
If you are familiar with this first chase phase, you should understand what I'm talking about. If not, let me explain. The first initial chase phase is when the first estrus scents start floating around in the woods. It happens when Whitetail bucks get the first whiff of doe estrus up their nostrils. Once they do; it's game on. Bucks have been pre-gamming or tailgating until that smell hits them. Now, once a buck sets eyes on any doe, they will chase them. It doesn't matter if that doe is in heat or not. They will chase them until they lose interest or find another doe to chase. The bucks chase until they find a doe in estrus. Bucks don't stop running wild during this phase. This all out chase phase only really lasts two to three days. Why? More and more does start entering their estrus cycle and bucks start following these does till they give in. As more does get smelly, there is less chasing. Many other factors of the rut influence chasing, but this initial chase phase is well documented and observed!
Well, we witnessed this phase first hand starting Tuesday before the opener. Colt called me on Tuesday night and asked me what I was doing Wednesday morning. Hunting obviously! Tuesday, Topper and I, hunting separate areas, witnessed multiple different bucks chasing and pestering does. Wednesday would offer the same action hopefully, I told Colt. Colt told me to point him in a direction of a spot to sit that next morning.
Wednesday morning came and I sent Colt to the exact tree that I had sat all day in on Tuesday. The area was riddled with rubs and scrapes. I went to a new spot about a half mile from him. My morning started out rough. I couldn't find a small enough tree for my lone wolf climber. The red pines in this area were huge. I finally found one and began climbing. Half way up, I noticed a deer in the cut. I stopped climbing as a doe meandered her way away from me. I must have scared her out of a bed or something racketing around in my climber. I finally got set in about half hour after shooting light.
An hour later things got real serious. I looked out a couple hundred yards and noticed two deer zipping around in the clear cut. Yep, it was a buck chasing a doe. I couldn't tell how big the buck was, but judging by what was taking place, that buck was really dogging the doe. They ran off to the south as I snuggled in and grabbed my can call. I was just about to turn that call over when I looked to my left and noticed a deer working the edge of the cut about a hundred yards out. A single doe worked her way towards me. She got about 60 yards away and then disappeared behind me. Fifteen minutes later, I looked over to where I first noticed the doe, and low and behold, baaaam, there came a rack. I slowly stood up and watched the buck work its way down the same path the doe took.
I figured the buck was going to stay on the does trail so I picked up my can call and tipped it over twice. The buck paused for maybe a second and then kept going. It heard me. I then grabbed my grunt call and let out a couple loud grunts. The buck stopped and looked my direction for a couple seconds this time before trotting away. He was almost out of view when I took that same grunt call and let out a long drawn out, snort-n-wheeze. The buck came to a halting stop about 100 yards out, hooked a 180, and aggressively started my way. I got him now I thought. I watched him close the distance as he laid down a couple scrapes and rubbed trees in a fiery of rage. He was clearly not happy that another buck was trailing his doe. He got to 40 yards and stopped. He scanned the woods beyond me, didn't see anything, lost interested and turned back around. He trotted back towards his doe trail. I let him get to 100 yards and snort-n-wheezed as loud as I could. He once again came to a halt, turned a 180, and started back at me. My nervous shakes were all gone at this point so I figured I could make a shot no problem. It took him a good couple minutes to come from 100 to 25 yards. He took his time this round as he checked the air and looked over every step he took. He couldn't figure out where that other buck was.
He held up at 25 yards facing straight on with me. If only he was broadside! I held my ground for what seemed to be an eternity. All of a sudden he jerked his head up towards me 20 feet up in the stand and took off. BUSTED! Yep, that wasn't the tree I wanted to be in in the first place. Why couldn't he just of stopped broadside? He was a brute and I had just lost a chance. Well, I was pretty pumped I had called him in, though. Watching him work towards me rubbing trees and laying down scrapes made my day!
Being only 9:30AM, I decided to make a move towards the edge the doe and buck had initially worked. I could see some better cover trees over about 70 yards. I made the move only to find myself climbing up and down the tree I had picked out. Don't ask! Everything that I could have dropped, I did. Up and down and up and down I went. I wasted an hour. I couldn't help but laugh at myself.
It was 11:20AM as I settled in to see what the mid-day had to offer. I checked my phone and seen three missed calls from Colt. Oh Oh! I called Colt back and he was all pumped up. Colt had arrowed what he thought to be a good one. Now, I was fired up. I told him to sit till 1PM and I would head over. We both seen two more bucks chasing does between the time when he had shot to the time we climbed outta our stands. Bucks were going nuts, but we had one down.
Stories flew as I met Colt back at the truck. To make a long story short, Colt's buck had only went 60 yards. It was a morning hunt that we will never forget. Topper also had a pretty crazy morning. We all had shooter bucks in range that morning. One of us had made the shot and one buck was down. Congrats Colt! You owe me one now!
It goes to show how action packed the week before rifle season can be. Being an archery hunter gives you the advantage of being in the woods when the chase phase takes place!
Good luck this week rifle hunters!
Written by Brock
The MN rifle opener is a week away. Are your guns sighted in? Are your clothes washed or hanging on the line? Do you have your stands hung? Is the cabin ready to rock? What is your opening weekend tradition?
This coming weekend is so much about tradition. We hunt this weekend because our Father introduced us to this great sport. Our Grandpa introduced our Dad to it and so on. Hunting stories have been passed from generation to generation. Deer season is in our blood. We hunt this weekend to enjoy time with our family and friends and to create more stories for our kids.
Bring the kids hunting this weekend. Kids are the future of this wonderful sport. It's important we introduce our children, or someone else's, to deer hunting just like our family did. Keep this sport ticking! Carry on the traditions!
We have been hitting the bowstands hard this past weekend and will be all week. The good word is; bucks are chasing does and some big boys have been sighted recently from the stand. There is lots of sign in the woods too. This weekend should prove to be a great opener. The rut is set and the weather looks right.
Good Luck Deer Hunting from all of us here at Hang Loose Outdoors!
Finally the day had come, it’s time to chase the elusive Rocky Mountain Elk. The lists have been gone over and everything packed. The boys met at my place at 8:30 Wednesday night and we were off. The anticipation eats at you as the miles tick away. Like most long trips, there’s always a hiccup and we found ourselves held up in Nebraska with one truck down due to bad ball joints. Luckily, a couple of us in the crew had enough mechanical skills to get her rippin’ again. Don’t think he got out of his truck breaking down without taking a lot of crap. If you hang around this crew you better have thick skin because it is nonstop slashing on each other. Trust me, it’s a lot of laughs, but you have to be ready to defend yourself.
Our plan was to make the trip nonstop and have camp set up by dark the following day. We adjusted fire and stayed in a small town at the base of the mountain. We checked in at about 10 o’clock Thursday night and we were out like a light when our heads hit the pillows. It seemed like we blinked our eyes and we were up at 5 am ready to rock. If you have never been to the Rocky’s, put it on your list. The mountains are breath taking and so humbling every time you see them. It makes you feel so small and realize what a tiny piece of this world you actually are. Although, when I get my rifle in my hand, I feel like a little dog trying to tear a new ass in a Bear. If you let it intimidate you, you’ll never see what’s over the next ridge.
It’s always fingers crossed as we roll up to our campsite, in hopes that no one beat us there. Our hopes were met as we pulled up, our campsite is all ours. Our spot is beautiful, a large meadow with a stream filled with brook trout running through it. Everyone is jacked to get to work after the long ride. When you start the work, you notice your next humbling experience, thin air. The smallest chores when you’re not acclimated, takes your breath away. Throughout the day, we chip away at camp and before we know it, we are all set up. Home sweet home is accomplished. It’s so rewarding when you step back and see the tents set up and the smoke rolling from the stove pipe.
Finally, the long awaited opening morning is here. Everyone is up with a fresh cup of mountain stove top coffee in there belly. Time to attack these mountains! As you start to climb you realize with every step how thin the air is. Huffing and puffing, hour after hour, you realize your next humbling experience, Elk are ELUSIVE. When you’re waiting for a year to drag by and get back hunting you somehow trick yourself into thinking you have it all figured out. No, it’s challenging, grueling work to get an opportunity at one of these creatures.
After three days of busting butt your mind starts to wear and wonder if it’s ever going to happen. Earl and Adam both stumbled on to a few elk in the thicker stuff and we decided that’s what we needed to concentrate on. On Sunday night, I studied some aerial photos and decided to change my strategy a little bit. Instead of glassing large areas trying to spot an animal, I was going to get into the thick timber.
Monday morning I started up the mountain and reached the area I was checking out the night before. Immediately I started seeing more sign than ever before. I knew I was in ‘em. I stopped, sprayed down with scent killer and changed my style of walk into a very slow stalk. I watched every step placing my step where I would avoid making a sound. The sign was getting better and better. Suddenly, I looked up and my breath was gone. I saw that cream unmistaken blob. I wasn’t 100 percent that the blob was an Elk, but I was pretty certain. The animal was only about 75 yards away, but in the thick blow down. I looked through my scope as the big bull got up from his bed. As it became a reality that this was my shot, I began to lose my marbles. I was doing my best to try and calm down as I worked to find a good shot. No matter what I did, there just wasn’t a vital shot. As fast as my opportunity came, it slipped away and the bull turned and ran straight away leaving me without a shot. I wanted to scream after all that hard work, I blew it.
That night at camp of course everyone had all the answers and I went to bed with shoulda, woulda, couldas! I woke up with a clear mind and realized I needed to get back on the horse and get back after it. I was going to give that area a break and head to another area I looked at on the air photos. I called it, the wagon wheel. There was a center area with four fingers of thick timber coming together. The spot was a monster of a hike. When I reached the area, it was just how I imagined, elk poop everywhere, rubs, beds, trails and everything I wanted to see. I backed out off a steep edge and regrouped knowing this was it. I took an hour break getting my head right before I went into the elk bedrooms. I retied my boots, had a snack, put on my MTO50 coveralls, face mask, sprayed down and headed in.
The area was similar to the day before and sign became crazy as I walked. As I crept around the timber, I made the decision that this was it. I knew I was in a highly used area so instead of continuing the stalk I decided to post up. I found a great natural ground blind and settled in. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t be long, it was just too perfect. I set up the blind, so everything I needed to do when the time came would be flawless. About a half hour passed and I looked over my shoulder. When I looked back to the front I froze. “Holy crap I just looked at an Elk and it didn’t even register until I turned away”. I slowly looked back and there he was as big as life feeding at 50 yards. I reached up and turned the GoPro on to capture the hunt. I was freaking out! He was looking straight my way as I squinted my eyes, making sure he wouldn’t bust me. “Now’s my chance.” He began to eat again and I raised my gun. He took one more step and BAAAAM I placed my bullet right behind the front shoulder. The elk stumbled a bit as I jacked another shell in. I held the cross hairs on him as he began to wobble. Finally, he hit his knees and tipped over.
I was trying to get it together and realize what just happen but it was a task. It was like I had hypothermia! I was shaking out of control and couldn’t breathe. Finally, I took the GoPro off for some narrative on what just happened. “NO WAY”, I turned it on but it didn’t start rolling. What a bummer! At least I had a Bull lying on the ground so who really cares.
Now the work begins. I called Adam with my shaky voice. I don’t think he could understand my jibberish so he just hung up the first time. Finally, I got him dialed in on where I was and the boys headed my way. After what seemed like an eternity, I could see them at the bottom of the mountain and they looked like little orange ants. It was about an hour and a half from the time I spotted them until the time they reached me out of breath. They were excited for me but not that they still had more of the mountain to climb. Finally, we reached my bull. After some pics and some samari style butchering, we were on our way back down with full meat packs, and antlers of course. Navigating a nearly vertical slope in the dark is a real chore, but we reached camp at 11:30 and crashed.
Everyone was shot the next day. We all planned on sleeping in and taking a break in the morning, but five o’clock hit and we were all up loafing around. Adam said “heck with it I’m heading back up, I’ll take my break at home”. The clock struck nine while we were drinking a pot of coffee and gunshots filled the valley. I called Adam and he was shaken up telling me he dropped a giant but it got up and disappeared. All of a sudden the call dropped and I hear BANG! BANG!..........BANG! A little while later he called back and the bull was down.
Another Bull down means it was time to grab the knives and the meat packs, time to dig deep. We were all shot but big smiles never left our faces. Adam gave us his location and we were there in a couple hours, whacking and stacking. The next day, Adam and I set up the meat shop and got all of our homework done.
The next few days were filled with hard work for Nels and Earl. They gave it their all but came up short in the end. Knowing the feeling of tag soup I can say is bitter, but the experience is rich. Taking a bull or not; I love the experience! The mountains are full of challenges and rewards. The harvest is just a bonus. In 2014, our group of four, found the rewards in the form of two big bull elk!
written by Randy Topper
As I sit here on another beautiful fall Sunday watching my beloved Green Bay Packers I can’t help but take my eyes off the T.V. screen and stare out my living room window that over looks the great Leech Lake. The lake is filled with mesmerizing whitecaps today, boats passing through in seek of those plump fall walleyes, and leaves falling one by one to their final resting spot. I can’t help but think to myself, “how did I get so lucky?”. I find myself paying more attention to what is happening outside then what is happening on the T.V. , or as most of our wise elders would say, “Appreciating the little things...”.
That phrase right there has been the story of my first fall back in northern Minnesota in five years. This past spring I graduated from the University of North Dakota (Go Sioux!!!) where I had spent the five previous years there attending classes, and hunting waterfowl every chance I could get. (I think my Mom believes I did more hunting then I did attending classes.... I plead the 5th) For those of you that don’t know me I live for waterfowl hunting and having the option to attend school in the Mecca of waterfowl hunting for 5 years had my college choice sealed, where do I sign up?
Those last five years were an absolute blast in North Dakota. We chased ducks and geese every chance we got and put easy over 1000 birds on the ground and met a ton of great people while we did it. Now as I sit here this fall I am thinking wow what I would give to be back in college. ( In some ways more then others). This fall I can sadly count on one hand how many times I have chased ducks and geese and can also count on two hands how many I have harvested. I ask myself everyday what the heck i’m doing back in Minnesota but I can’t complain where I have landed.
If you have ever had the chance to share any hunting or fishing adventure with the older of our generation I’m positive you have heard them say “I’m just here to watch the sunrise”. Now as youngsters we all thought in our heads that they were crazy! I’m here to put some animals on the ground or fish in the boat!! Well I think this is the first fall where I myself am starting to go out to enjoy those things as well. Some of my greatest memories and stories usually are up at the hunting camp or things that happened on the hunt when we were not shooting or catching anything. The thing they I miss the most about being out in North Dakota was driving the endless dirt roads and putting thousands of miles on the trucks looking for that “mother of all feeds”. Let me tell you seeing a tornado of late fall greenheads from miles away dropping into a corn field gets my heart racing just about as much as when I see a buck out in the woods. It’s those little things that we outdoorsman seem to remember the most!! Looking back at all my hunts I can only identify each every hunt or fishing outing by something funny or special that happened, not how many birds we shot or fish we caught.
As I sit here and talk about appreciating the little things there is one hunt that stands out to me over any other hunt that I have had. It happened to be early December and the last day of Duck season out in ND. I got the call from a buddy late at night saying he had a field on the edge of Devils Lake that was absolutely loaded with mallards that were still holding in some open water on the lake. Well you know me I can’t say no to ducks so on me and Colt went at midnight out to Devils Lake to kill some ducks in the morning. When morning hit I guess I didn’t know what to expect. Cold, windy, and snow flurries we were set up and waiting for the birds to arrive. We just had gotten the truck and trailer out of the field and the birds started to poor in. Thousands upon thousands of mallards were tornadoing right into our spread. The tornado at times stretched from birds right in our spread to above us looking like a spec in the sky. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. We happened to be filming this day and I vividly remember looking back at the footage and Colt saying “I don’t even care if I shoot my gun today”. That statement right there is what it is all about!! We had so many ducks in the sky and walking around our decoys we couldn’t shoot. We just sat there for minutes watching the ducks come in and out of the decoys. I remember texting buddies after the hunt that I will never see anything like it again, and I haven’t!!
I wrote this article because I think often times us outdoorsman get too caught up with the numbers of animals they have harvested or number of fish they caught. Next time you get outdoors on another adventure take the time to sit back and take it all in. To many times we are worried about doing things right that we don’t appreciate how blessed we are to live in the great Midwest. We often get too wrapped up in outdoor shows on T.V. or all these fancy new gadgets that will guarantee better success that we don’t take the time to just sit back and take it all in. Next time you get the chance ask your grandparent or one of the older guys at camp some questions about hunting or fishing, they have some serious knowledge stored away in that brain of theirs and its because they have experienced it all. I know after this fall I look forward to just getting out and spending time with the guys in the blind or the boat. I think it’s time we all sit back and start “appreciating the little things”.
Written by Ben Olson
The second weekend of October 2014 was spent on Leech Lake. The October full moon was Thursday so most of the HLO crew decided to wrap up the 2014 open water fishing season trolling crankbaits under the moonlight. Colt, Ben, and Dylan camped at Federal Dam on Leech Lake Thursday night to Sunday. Amos got into the action Friday night too and Brock guided the last Hang Loose Guide Service trip of the year Saturday night on Leech (Thank you Dick and Dave; another fun trip with you two!).
Fishing wasn't lights out, but it was good. The jig and minnow bite was consistent during the day. Lots of eater walleyes were caught and a few giants. The Salmo crankbait bite was really good from sunset to an hour after dark. The bite then slowed after that, but fish were still picked off here and there.
Water temps sat in the mid 40's most of the weekend. We assume the fishing would have been a little better if the water wasn't so cold. Usually the Fall bite is best around 50 degrees. Portage Bay was best in 6-8 feet of water. The action was plenty enough to wrap up the open water season.
It was an awesome open water fishing season for us here at Hang Loose Outdoors. We guided a lot of clients to the biggest walleye of their lives once again this year. We had amazing clients and we look forward to seeing all of you again next year. Pokegama Lake was our goto lake and will continue to be next year. That lake continues to amaze us and everyone in the fishing world year after year. Tournament season was awesome for our tournament teams. We had a few second places and numerous top 10s. Thank you so much to all our sponsors: Mercury, Lund, Paul Bunyan Communications, Excel Outdoors, Rays Sport and Marine, Reel Bait Tackle Company, Slims Resort, UPM Blandin, Lowrance, St Croix Rods, Itasca Archery, Jerrys Warehouse Liquor, Tikes Trophy Sausage, River Rat Bait, Thousand Lakes Sporting Goods, and all I missed listing here! We couldn't do it without you guys.
We are turning our attention to hunting now as mid October rolls in! Good Luck hunting everyone. Get those kids out into the woods!
It's hunting season here in Northern Minnesota. If you're a bowhunter, duck hunter, or bird hunter; what better time of year it is to get in the woods or be on the water? Fishing is still on our minds here at Hang Loose Outdoors, but the intensity is slipping away. Hunting season only comes around for a few months out of the year so now is the time for us to get into the shooting thrills and spills.
As most of you know, the deer hunting in Northern Minnesota doesn't compare much to other states like Kansas or Iowa, or the duck hunting might not be as action packed as the timber shoots in Arkansas, and the grouse hunting isn't as easy as some of you have experienced in Canada; but we have it all HERE. Success can be that of other quality states if you put your time in. The variety of hunting here in Northern Minnesota can't really be compared to other states. We have so much here and we can do it all. We have public land, we have lakes and rivers, woods so vast and expansive, swamps so wet you could get lost forever, fields, everything. Our landscape is diverse and our wildlife that lives in it even more.
We have only a couple months to hunt so much. The Fall is a season of hurry and adventure. Our prostaff at Hang Loose Outdoors is one that specializes in the varying subjects to hunt. Each prostaff member specializes in his own favorite prey to hunt and tactic to do so. Hunting can be frustrating at times and the defeat can be more depressing than anything else the outdoors has to offer. You've patterned that huge whitetail buck only to send an arrow over his back days before rifle season. It happens. It's called hunting, not slaying. Hunting is the thrill of being in the woods and getting game to commit. It's setting up a perfect decoy spread or maybe taking a quick nap in your tree climber. Hunting is being out there. Success is just an added bonus. We have lots of success in Northern Minnesota because we are out in the woods a lot. We have the slow days, the frustrating times, the set ups we wonder why we even set up, but most importantly, every outing, we have fun. Hunting is what we live for this time of year.
Our advice to you: get out hunting as much as you can and introduce your kids or any kids to this wonderful sport. Teach them like you once were taught. Carry on the traditions of the whole hunt. Their is no better tradition then hunting. Keep it going and try to grow this sport here in Northern Minnesota. Be ethical and most importantly; BE SAFE! Enjoy all our hunting options here in this great state because once again, we can hunt so much; we have it all right at our finger tips. Good luck this year!
Duck hunting around the Grand Rapids area has been good. Look to the rivers for the best action. Scout!
Deer are starting to move more during the day and a little pre-rut sign is starting to show up.
Good luck again.
written by Brock
With the changing leaves, and the colder temps, everyone had duck hunting on their minds. We all dream of that overcast day to keep the ducks flying low. Well, our luck ran out before opening day this year, as we had a front move in bringing 80 degrees and blue skies for opening weekend. Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, ducks were still shot. My shoulder got a little sore from shooting 3” shells in my t-shirt. Good problem to have though, right!
Saturday was the best for most groups because it didn’t take too long for the local ducks to educate themselves. Smaller bodies of water seemed to produce the best shoots, while big water, like Winnie, had less ducks than average. The Bigfork River, beaver ponds, and smaller lakes with abundant wild rice is something to look for right now. Groups that have spent some pre-season time scouting have done the best. It’s a lot easier to scout in the Dakotas, but jump in the duck boat and go for a cruise until you find the X where the birds want to be!
This opener has surprised me more than ever. The mixed bag was incredible. In my boat we had a Red Head, Pintail, Teal, Woody, Mallard, Blue Bill, and Ring Bill. The same species of birds were shot on both days! Get out and be a part of the good Teal and Wood Duck shoot before they start their migration south, as they are the first ones to start their journey. Also, I am very surprised to how many geese we have in the area. If you can get your hands on a field with birds in it, it should be a hunt to remember as the geese are still fairly easy to pattern.
The ten day weather shows fairly cold, under 55 degrees for highs. Look for a new batch of birds to start sliding through when we get the next North or North West wind over 15 miles an hour. When the two week motorized decoy law gets lifted next weekend, as well as hunting after 4pm, mallard spots should be on fire. Remember to stay safe on the water, especially when wearing waders, and we will see you out there! Shoot straight!!
Written by Dylan Maki
Fall is here as so is the fall fishing bite. We have been blessed with some beautiful weather as of late and it's pushing lake temperatures down the right path. Fishing should be awesome from now until the end of October. The Fall colors here in Itasca County and the surrounding areas are also awesome. Now is the time to get up to the Grand Rapids area and get out fishing, hunting, or just enjoy the great outdoors. The scenery is brilliant and it will only improve in the next week or so. Don't miss out on a wonderful fall that's right at our finger tips!
Water temps are hanging at that 60 degree mark. The fishing has been great as of late and it should just get better from here on out. Walleye, crappie, and northern pike action has been good on shoreline structures this week. There are still some walleyes out on secondary breaks in deeper water, but look for them to find the shoreline weeds and rocks real soon too. Crappies have been beginning to stage in their winter areas or close to so stay vertical on them and have some fun. Big northern pike have been chomping on the deep weed lines in many of our lakes.
Minnows are what the fish wanted this past week so bring out a variety of sizes. Walleyes have preferred creek chubs and redtails on a lindy rig but have also fell for a smaller rainbow chub on a spinner and also on a jig. The jig and minnow bite should be your first presentation of choice when you locate those fish in shallower water. Pro Staffers Colt and Dylan put on a jigging clinic the other day on an area walleye lake with Reel Bait flasher jigs tipped with Berkely gulp. The jig/minnow bite is back folks. A jig with a larger minnow is what the hog pike have wanted this week too. Crappies are eating smaller minnows and twister tails in deeper water.
The Muskie action has also been good in the Bemidji and Grand Rapids areas. Leech Lake has offered a great muskie bite lately. Get your cast on! Stay tuned to fall tactics as the water temps drop and things slowly start to change over the next couple weeks. Stay on the bite and what to use with Hang Loose Outdoors....
Check out Rays Sport and Marine for their Fall deals or visit them in Grand Rapids, MN.
Good luck to all you hunters out there. Duck season opens this weekend! There are plenty of ducks around for you all to have a great shoot this weekend. Bird hunters are reporting spotty grouse action; some birds here, none there, and a bunch over there. Keep trying different areas and you will find those wood chickens! We will be hitting the bow stands real soon. C'mon hog bucks!
Location: Pokegama, Splithand, Hill, Mississippi River, Spider
It has been a very busy September for all of us here at Hang Loose Outdoors. Most of us spent the second week of September at beautiful Stony Point Resort on Cass Lake prefishing for the Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit. Dylan Maki and I partnered up to try our luck against some the best sticks in the walleye fishing business.
HLO had three teams entered in this tournament, Amos and Abe, Brock and Randy and Dylan and myself. Most of us arrived early in the week, greeted by howling winds, rain and highs in the 30's and low 40's. You guessed it, fishing was brutal to say the least. We struggled to find active fish. Spending the first couple days on Pike Bay was fruitless, fish were there, but we could not put together any type of pattern.
Brock and Randy had decent luck pre fishing in Pike, some of the same spots that awarded them 3rd last year gave up good unders and solid over fish. (Unders and walleyes under 20 inches and overs are over 20 inch fish) They too however could not find any type of pattern for where these fish were holding. Catching one on their favorite shoreline and another on the opposite side of the lake was not the ideal situation. The duo decided come tourney time they were going to stick with what was working and grind it out in Pike Bay. They had big fish locked down, they just needed them to start biting more consistently.
The last two days of pre fishing Dylan and I spent on Cass, the big lake was a monster; so much water to fish and so many different types of structure to cover. We began to break it down into smaller sections. We fished everything within these areas and didn’t miss a thing.
The Wolf brothers seemed to be looking at some of the same pieces of structure as we were. Between the two boats, we covered most of the north end of the big lake. Meeting up on different spots we learned that the bite was tough for them too. Lots of little fish and only a few good ones to be had. This tactic proved to work for us on one of the toughest days we had on the water. Wind was gusting to 30mph from the North and the rain was coming down in sheets. “If we can catch fish in this weather, we can catch fish on tourny day” Dylan said to me half was through the day. I agreed, we were feeling confident going into Friday, the kick off of the tourney.
Alarms buzzed at 5 o'clock Friday morning. A few last rods were rigged and we made our way down to the boat docks. We had drawn boat 60, Brock and Randy boat 67 and the Wolf brothers 65. I couldn't help but laugh while making our way through the gauntlet of 21 foot Rangers and 300HP Mercury motors in our 17 foot Lund and 70HP outboard.
As the sounds of the National Anthem rang through the crisp morning air, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up with anticipation. We were PUMPED UP!! As we made our way out of the channel I told Dylan to try and ditch the nerves and concentrate on having fun and fishing how we would on a normal day out. The weather was gorgeous compared to the last week of fishing. We had our spot to our self all day, boating 30 walleyes during the day helped with the nerves however we had two small fish to complete our 5 fish limit. This limit came around 11:30 so we had plenty of time to upgrade. However we were never able to upgrade, our overs from the previous days seemed to be completely gone.
At the end of the day, we returned to the weigh in stage with our 5 fish and feeling accomplished for filling our daily limit. We weighed 8.10 pounds, this put us in 35th place after day one. Randy and Brock were only able to weigh 3 fish but one of them being a solid over. They weighed 8.13 pounds and the Wolf's filled their limit with a respectable 11.14 pounds putting them in the top 20 for the first day.
Saturday was more of a struggle for all of us. We all stuck to the same basic game plan as the day before. We were all just one good bag away from the top 10. Dylan and I found fish again but they were small, 14 inchers were all we could muster up. We abandoned our first spot and headed to the big lake in search of big fish. When the wind picked up and the fish seemed to disappear, we headed back to our fist spot. In that area we scratched together 4 fish with the biggest being 20 inches. We felt a little disappointed that we could't get a big fish for the second day, nevertheless we did our best and fished hard.
Arriving at the docks we bagged up our fish and headed to the stage. We weighed in 6.07 pounds, having one dead fish was a 8oz penalty putting us at 5.15 pounds. Brock and Randy scratched up another three fish bag for 5.11 pounds and the Wolf brothers weighed in at 9.09 pounds. This wasn't the outcome we had hoped for but what do you do? FISH HARD AND HAVE FUN!
Each one of these tournaments is such a huge learning experience. Fishing against the best in the business forces you to look at things differently and take in absolutely every detail about every aspect of the game. We cannot wait to get back at it next tournament season and better ourselves from this past year.
Huge congratulations to Jay Braaten and Dan Swenson (locals from Deer River, MN) on their win! Also, Sean Colter and Dave Hernesmen on their 5th place finish! Top finishing Hang Loose team was Abe and Amos Wolf rounding out the top 20! Awesome job guys! Thanks to Stony Point Resort on Cass Lake as well! The accommodations, food, and atmosphere at Stony makes it an amazing experience. What a wonderful location for this tournament!
written by Colt Anderson
We arrived to Stony Point on Cass Lake early Sunday morning. Although the tournament was five days away, we had lots of work to do. Prefishing I mean. We set up camp and pretty much headed out fishing. Fishing will be the name of the game for the next week. Early to bed and early mornings. We got a tourney to win. Last years top finishing HLO boat (Randy and Brock) was third place. We all want to do better this year. We need a win.
The weather predicted for mid week looks nasty. Cold front conditions will be moving in on Tuesday evening. That will change fishing! Good luck to everyone prefishing!
Location: Cass Lake, Pike Bay, Andrusia
Most of the HLO crew spent the weekend camping up on Cass Lake. Labor Day is a weekend for camping and relaxing and thats just what we did. Good times were had with family and friends. Oh, and yes, we did get out fishing of course. With the Cabelas Master Walleye Circuit on Cass Lake just two weeks away, we did a little prefishing and some catching too. What's camping without a fish fry?
We met up at Dave Hernesman's cabin Saturday evening and had a giant fish fry! It was top notch with pretty much everything you could ask for. With bellies stuffed at the end of the night, we shared many laughs and maybe a little fishing Bs....
The weather was predicted to be nasty all weekend long. We only witnessed a few rain drops the whole time so we couldn't have asked for anything more. The girls might have outfished us too!
Location: Cass Lake
Water temps are starting to cool down as we push towards September. To walleye fishermen and every other species, this means change is on the horizon. Look for fish to be hit and miss for a little while as they began seeking out a transition back to the shorelines in the next couple weeks. This change will take time, but you have to look high and low for fish in order to be successful. One day you might get them deep and the next day in the weeds. Weather will play a critical role in daily fish locations.
Play with aggressive presentations still for the next couple weeks: spinners tipped with leeches and crawlers, jigging raps, plane jane jigging spoons from Reel Bait Tackle, trolling crankbaits with leadcore, and maybe even start to toss a jig/minnow around again! Good luck and be mobile!
We are heading to Cass Lake for the Cabelas MWC Walleye Tournament on Sept 12 and 13. We will be staying there for the next two weeks so blogs and reports will be limited until mid September. Sorry! Stay up to date with daily fishing reports on our facebook page and twitter (HangLooseOD). See you on the Cass chain! Have a great Labor Day Weekend this coming weekend! Be safe!
Location: Pokegama, Wabana, Leech
The first annual GRAHA Walleye Shootout on beautiful Pokegama Lake was held this past Saturday. Leading up to the event, things couldn’t get much better, well possibly. The only thing that was holding back the tournament anglers excitement a little was the fishing over the past week. From June 6 to about August 4, those Pokegama Lake giant walleyes were making fishermen in the Grand Rapids area feel like they were in hog heaven. Big walleyes were easily catch able throughout the summer, but in the week prior to the tournament, those huge walleyes got shy, maybe they were getting stage fright for the big Catch Photo Release tournament.
The GRAHA staff and tournament committee had all their ducks in a line leading up to the special day. The arena was decorated. The trophy was glimmering. The band was set to blast the night away after the champs were crowned! Things were looking great. I have to say, from the rules meeting on Friday, to the night party on Saturday, everything flowed smoothly. The staff did an unbelievable job. For the first GRAHA Walleye Shootout, the energy was electric and the fun and excitement was carried through.
Let’s get down to the tournament. A good boat number draw of 10 by Topper sealed the decision to which was going to be our first spot. We knew it was going to get a little crowded, but being first to the spot gave us the rights to claim the fish on it. That’s pretty much the story of our tournament. We owned our first spot. After losing four fish in about five minutes, my net curled around a giant 29.75 inch walleye on the end of Topps’ line. Our first fish on our scorecard was an absolute giant. Fish came in a regularly quick fashion for the first two hours of the tournament. Our scorecard, in our minds, was good, but not great.
Too many excellent anglers were on the water and we knew with all the hog walleyes on Pokegama, someone was going to have a stacked card or have seven fish that might be larger and heavier than ours. That is exactly why we kept on fishing and upgrading fish throughout the day although fishing seemed to get slower and slower as the day went on.
Toppers and my heads were hanging high as we headed into Tioga Beach to turn in our score sheets and SD card. Our scorecard had a healthy twelve fish on it so we checked off our seven longest fish and tallied our weight. To our surprise, we calculated 53.18 lbs. Wow! Our excitement grew with this calculation and with words of light score sheets from other anglers as we chatted and waited to hand all our day’s work into the AIM officials.
“We might have this”, Topps and I thought. We landed the boat and headed back to his house to shine up the Lund/Mercury for the top 5 weigh-in entrance into the arena that evening.
We arrived at the arena a little before 6PM. Anglers and friends were shaking our hands and congratulating us. Topper and I knew we had a good weight, but things aren’t final until they’re final. This is a picture tournament and you have to have all your pictures perfect and all your ducks in a line.
Knowing this, reality hit as we were called into the AIM directors trailer just moments after grabbing a nice cold beverage that we had longed waited for. Jim Miller, AIM Official, raised his voice and stated what we had never ever wanted to hear, “I have some bad news for you.” One of your fish pictures is of the wrong side of the fish on the ruler. Instead of having the fish with its’ left side up on the ruler when taking the measurement picture, we had the right side up. “I’m going to have to disqualify that fish boys”, Jim said. Our hearts sunk! We picked our seven fish off of our twelve fish scorecard and didn’t once go through the pictures. Those seven we chose were our seven fish to weigh. Our disqualified fish couldn’t be replaced with another on our scorecard. Topper and I had just lost first place and got kicked into second for our own mistake. We should have viewed the pictures before we turned in our seven official fish to weigh. A rule is a rule and we had just f***** up! We didn’t complain we didn’t storm out; we just kind of walked out of Jim’s trailer in our own disgusting manner. It was our own fault and we had just handed the Pokegama Walleye Shootout cup over to another team.
Topper and I got back on our cold beverages we had been waiting for. Then we got stormed by everyone asking what that was all about. We told them and said to carry on. Nothing we could do about it now.
We still were able to drive the Chevy Silverado and Lund/Mercury into the arena as the crowd cheered and weigh in for the top 5 teams got underway. The hair on the back of my neck rose up as we drove in first. The arena was thumping with tunes and the energy level from the audience was unbelievable. We sat on stage as the remaining top 5 drove in all with Lund boats.
The top five teams sat in random order on stage as Joe Silko took over as MC. He read the weights of fifth place through first place. He carried the energy level right up to the crowning of the champs: Walsh and Gallagher for ten thousand dollars. Topper and Anderson took home second place, biggest fish, and the top finishing Lund/Mercury team. Kvalevog/Dorwall third place, Olson/Nagel fourth place, and Sean Colter and Dave Hernesman stole fifth place.
I can’t say enough great things about this tournament. Congrats to all the anglers and to the champs! Thank you so much to the GRAHA staff and all the sponsors of this event. You just participated and helped put on an outstanding tournament. We can’t wait for next year (August 8, 2015)…
Big Fish- Randy Topper/Brock Anderson
written by Brock Anderson
Prefishing for the GRAHA Walleye Shootout on Pokegama Lake and Guiding
Wow, it's almost August? Are you kidding me? Where have June and July went? Fishing with Hang Loose Outdoors has been awesome this summer and with great fishing and good times; time flies. That is excatly what the story has been.
Again, the GRAHA Walleye Shootout is only weeks away. Get your entry fee in. Go to www.grahawalleyeshootout.com and register today. The fishing on Pokegama remains hot!
This past week, the HLO crew has been getting some much needed work done. Yes, we have also been on the water a little. Look to Pokegama, Trout, Wabana, Bowstring, and Upper Red Lake for the best walleye bites. Check out last weeks blog below for a few fishing tips. Things haven't changed much since last week. The bite is still strong!
Location: Pokegama, Trout, Deer, Wabana
Things are looking great for the first annual GRAHA Walleye Shootout on Pokegama Lake. Fishing has been awesome. It's time you start thinking about fishing the GRAHA Walleye Tournament on August 16. Go to www.grahawalleyeshootout.com and register today. We can't really give out any secrets about Pokegama so close to the tournament, but it's been lights out. The walleye and smallmouth fishing has been top notch. We have been guiding a lot as of late and our clients have been catching the biggest walleyes of their lives. There has been plenty of fish for the fry pan at the end of the day too. To book a trip and try for the biggest walleye of your life, give Randy 218-244-8810 or Brock 218-259-5447 a call today!
Walleyes are just getting comfortable in their summer patterns as water temps sit just over 70 degrees on most area lakes. Look for walleyes with your electronics on the deeper humps and bars on Leech, Trout, Pokegama, and Deer. If you can't find them there, head to the weeds or rocks. Fish have been biting when you find them. Figuring out what they want has been key as of late. One hour they want a leech and the next a crawler, then a creek chub. It's that time of year when you need an array of bait in the boat. Lindy rigs and spinners have been the dominate presentations the last couple weeks. Speed is key. Troll those spinners 1.0-1.5 mph. Work those lindy rigs on the fast side also, 0.8-1.0. Find out what those walleyes want! This is the time of year when learning different techniques comes into play. Good luck and see you on the water...
Pictured in the upper right corner of this blog is just another hog walleye (one of MANY) that Topper guided his clients to this weekend.
Location: Pokegama Lake
Sunday morning was deceiving. It was cool and calm with hardly a ripple on the water. That was about to change soon to white caps and 20 mph plus winds. This weather would make things difficult for the field of boats (fishing the AIM Walleye Tournament on Leech Lake) to stay on top of the finicky walleyes. Last week there was a huge mayfly hatch which caused those elusive walleyes to be pretty tight lipped during the past couple days of pre-fishing. Abe and I (Amos) had a bad boat number draw, 75, so we ended up in the second flight giving most of the field a head start on us getting to spot number 1. As we were waiting to be released, the butterflies were shaking; minds were turning, wishing and hoping our first spot wasn’t going to be loaded with boats. Luckily we were in luck. Only one other boat was on our first spot. It was a deep water point which held big fish during yesterday’s pre-fishing. We quickly caught our first two fish, a 24.5” and a 13.5”. I know what you’re thinking, a 13.5” (weighing 0.8 lbs) walleye, that’s small especially for a catch, photo, release tournament; well stay tuned!
There were still a lot of walleyes in our first spot, but they became stubborn so we decided we would give them a little break and head to spot number two, a deep mid lake hump in Walker Bay. Once again, our next spot only had one other boat. There were some walleyes scattered on the top of this hump that topped out at 33 feet of water. It took us a while to get one of these fish to eat, but when one decided to, it was a good one, a 26.5”. As noon approached, we decided to head to another deep point that we had in our game plan. As we went to fire up the motor, NOTHING happened! Our hearts sank! Is this how our day is going to end? We did everything we could do to try to get the motor going, but couldn’t figure out the problem.
We made the decision to cut cross wind with our bow mount to our last spot. The waves were rolling so this made the jaunt with the trolling motor quite difficult. From what we noticed during pre-fishing, there was a thermocline at 40 feet with bait fish just above it. We decided since we were stuck with navigating to our last spot with the trolling motor, we would troll cranks above the thermocline. We put out both a D20 and D30 tail dancer as we were approaching our last spot. In matter of a minute, over 65fow, we were hooked up! A 24.75” walleye suspended 20 feet down in 65fow. Another one for the scorecard!
After we recorded this fish we checked our battery life to see if we had enough juice to get back to the docks. All we had was one bar, just enough to make one pass over our school of fish we had marked pre-fishing and then it was time to head back towards weigh in! The one pass pulled through for us, our last fish, another 26.5”. We still had two hours left to upgrade our little 13.5” but we had no motor or battery life to do so. The heart breaking decision was made. We had to call it quits or not make it back to weigh in.
We battled the waves and wind and returned with just rations of battery life left and 45min remaining of the tournament. We were bummed out thinking about the fact that we came in with a little walleye in our 5 fish limit, doubting that we would even make the top 10. Abe and I sat there wondering what could have been if we could have fished the remaining two hours of the tournament?
To our surprise we had a better bag then we thought! As we were at the weigh in the MC started announcing the places. Our nerves were going crazy! As they hit 10th place we were excited. Yes! We made the top ten! When they hit 5th place without our names being called, we were a wreck. Are you kidding us, we made the top 5? Then 4, then 3, and then we heard it: In second place with 27.86lbs Abraham and Amos Wolf! Remember that 13.5” walleye? Well, it’s proof that every fish counts. The weight of that fish is what separated us from 3rd! What lesson was learned? Sometimes your worst day on the water can turn out to be one of your BEST!
Congratulations to our tournament partners, the HLO team of Randy Topper and Colt Anderson on 12th place. Also, congrats to the Grand Rapids, MN teams of; Swenson and Braaten in 6th place, and Colter and Hernesman in10th place. Grand Rapids teams proved to be exceptional fishermen once again at this weekends AIM Walleye Tournament on Leech Lake. The tournament field of 85 boats from all over the Upper Midwest participated in this weekends AIM tournament. Yes, lots of professional fishermen showed their skills on one of the best fisheries around. Our Grand Rapids teams battled the wind and showed everyone how we rank beside the top pros this weekend. We can fish right with them. Let’s keep it going boys!
written by Amos Wolf
Location: Leech Lake
We hope you all had a great 4th of July weekend. HLO had an awesome weekend overall. Most of our time was spent guiding, relaxing with friends and family, and camping. We always like this time of year. There's constantly something going on. As far as fishing goes this past week, things seemed to slow down just a little bit from the slam fest the previous couple weeks.
Water temps are finally creeping into the 70s on most of the Grand Rapids/Bemidji area lakes. In the past three weeks, water temps have seemed to be set at a stand still. They warm up a few degrees and then it rains and the winds kick up and they settle back in the mid to upper 60s. This process has repeated itself for literally three weeks. The fishing has been lights out the past few weeks. This week we witnessed a tougher bite starting Friday. This somewhat tougher bite held through the weekend.
The walleyes on Pokegama have been crushing as of late. This weekend these large schools of fish decided to take a little break. It's not that they stopped biting; they just got a little stubborn. If you landed on them when they were eating, fishing was great. If they weren't eating, they weren't eating. They wouldn't touch anything. The fishing on Pokeg was a little frustrating at times, but it also was awesome on short stints. We caught and released many hogs between 25-29.5 inches again. Now, I guess we shouldn't say it was slow, but it was slower than the previous few weeks. You can't go wrong out there. Get a hold of us to book a fishing trip. Now is the time to catch the walleye of a lifetime. More of our clients this week caught the biggest walleyes of their lives. Brock-218-259-5447 or Randy-218-244-8810.
We also made trips to Leech Lake and the Cass Lake chain this weekend. Large schools of walleyes were found on both bodies of water, but again, these fish seemed to be quite picky. We caught plenty of walleyes, but for how many were down there, catching should of been fast and furious. These lakes should offer great fishing in a couple of days. This little lull has been more than likely due to bug hatches and the fish starting to transition into their summer patterns. The migration from shoreline structure to main lake bars, humps, or reefs has been documented to be stressful on a walleye. Their eating patterns will take a little time to get back into the swing of things. Look to the shallower humps and bars for the best bites real soon as the water temps push into the 70s.
Spinners and bottom bouncers with crawlers trolled 1.2-1.5 mph put the most fish in our Lund boats this weekend. The reaction style bite was one of only two methods we were able to make stubborn walleyes eat. What was the other? Look for spinners and crawls/leeches to be the best presentation for many weeks now. Experiment with length of leaders, spinner styles and sizes, and varying speeds. Its hard to beat these color options for spinners: hammered gold perch, parrot, purple, and silver/chartruese!
The Muskie action is finally heating up in the Bemidji area and in the Grand Rapids area. Trolling cranks is putting larger skies in the boat. Casting is turning up more action. Look to crappies in 8-12 fow on the edge of the weed lines in the evening hours. Stay tuned to summer tactics as the water temps rise and things slowly start to change over the next couple weeks. Stay on the bite and what to use with Hang Loose Outdoors....
Topper and Colt and the Wolf Brothers will be fishing the AIM Walleye Tournament on Leech Lake this coming weekend. Good Luck Boys!
Location: Pokegama, Leech, Cass
Friday started off with a bang, literally. We hadn’t even wet a line yet and things already weren’t looking good. I swung into Kings Boat landing and my trailer tire exploded. With a little investigating, we found the culprit. A sign post was cut off a couple inches too high when the landing was reconstructed last year. We put a few rocks over the tire muncher and got down to bottle jacking. Thanks to Sean Colter for helping me out, we only plugged up the landing for a few long minutes.
Sean informed us that the bite was going pretty good that morning so my clients were pretty jacked up now. After catching a few eater walleyes here and there, we finally found a large school of giants. Both Tim and his son caught the biggest walleyes of their lives in that spot. I also caught my biggest of the year, a 29.5”. Things were looking really good now. The afternoon kept getting better and better. Lots of laughs and good times were had on this father and son guide trip. We caught and released a bunch of big walleyes and kept a mess of good eaters. I hope to see you guys again. Great times and thank you!
Saturday was the Angler Young Angler Walleye Tournament on Lake Pokegama. Three Hang Loose teams fished the tournament: Abe, Randy, and I. The day started off fairly breezy and the winds got stronger and stronger as the day went on. Some of the spots I had good fish going the day before were way too windy to fish with a seven and ten year old. My two boys were dedicated, but not so much to get a grasp on lindy rigging and the windy conditions. All I wanted to do is have them catch a few giant walleyes to bring on stage. Finding fish in calm waters was a little difficult because the whole lake was rolling.
We didn’t boat our first walleye until 11 A.M (almost 3 hours into the tourney). Our next big one came at 12:30P.M but we decided to let that one go (24.5”). Having one 26” in the livewell, we agreed on only keeping another like that or bigger as its friend. A team can only have two fish over 20” and there is no culling. Our calm spots in Sherry’s Arm weren’t showing me what I wanted to see so I decided to head to the islands and try to find a few fish on the back sides where the wind would be calmer. It didn’t take long and I found a good school on the Lowrance HDS. We caught a couple good unders and got our last big one, a 25.5”. We needed two more unders and I would have been the happiest camper ever. Well, those fish bit, but we just couldn’t get them hooked.
The wind was pounding into Tioga Beach as we arrived to weigh in. With my brand new Lund, I didn’t want to risk beauty marks in my boat or someone else’s so I dropped the kids off with our fish and headed to the landing. The main lake WAS RIPPIN like four footers as I pounded thru them like no ones business all the way to the Hwy 17 boat landing. I was really impressed with the 1825 Pro Guides ride. It was the first time I had such waves in front of me this year and I ate them up full throttle. I smiled the whole way back. It was a long day of wind, thousands of line tangles, an overwhelming amount of questions from the kids, weeds, snags, and a whole bunch of squished chips and snacks on the bottom of the boat. That didn’t take away from the fun we had. I was happy with the four fish we brought to stage. All that mattered was the kids had fun. I had fun too, but could have had a more pleasant time without the wind.
As I arrived to Tioga Beach, I was greeted by my beautiful girlfriend who informed me that Topper had just got kicked out of first place by Brad Rassmussen and his kids. Ooooooof! I thought I was gonna have to do some back flips. The whole way over, I thought to myself, I wonder if Topper has a good bag. Well, he did. He got kicked out of first place by just a couple ounces. Lexi also educated me that Noah, Landon, and I weighed 15.5 lbs. That surprised me a little in a good way. I found the boys and gave them a fist bump for the fun day on the water. Great fishing boys! Thanks for the day and we’ll go get em next year.
Congratulations to Randy Topper, Brodie, and Matt on their second place finish (pictured in upper right corner of blog). Congrats to Brad Rassmussen and kids on first place. Oh, and congrats to Noah, Landon and I on our eight place finish (I did a b-flip for that). A huge congratulations to all the kids who fished the tournament. Hope you had a blast. This tournament is for you… Thanks to Steve and Brenda Picht, Lindsey Topper, Scott Glorvigan, and Rays Sport and Marine for putting on another outstanding AYA tournament. Good luck to Brad and kids as you go to Kenora for the AYA championship. Bring the title back to Grand Rapids!
written by Brock
Our guide season has officially kicked into high gear here at HLO. Topper and I have been pursuing giant walleyes on Pokegama Lake for the last week or so and fishing has been great. This weekend was not as lights out spectacular as the week before, but it was still really good. The summertime hog walleyes are biting and our clients can't get enough of it.
This weekend had its ups and downs regarding the 'action or bite'. We had to do a little more searching to stay on active fish. There were times when certain schools of fish didn't want to eat anything in your tackle box. There were also times when we couldn't find a fish. Where did they all go? And there were times when we landed on a school of fish and proceeded to put 6-10 hog walleyes in the boat all over 25 inches. Our biggest eye for the weekend was 29 inches. When you see someone your guiding catch the biggest walleye of their lives; you wonder if your smile is bigger than theirs. We took a ton of pictures this weekend and safely released a bunch of huge Pokegama Lake walleyes. We also had a fair share go into the livewell.
The Angler Young Angler Walleye Tournament is this coming Saturday on Pokegama Lake. Interested teams should call Dave at Rays Marine for more details 218-326-0353. You can also just show up with a kid or two (under 16) to Tioga Beach at 7 AM on Saturday and register. The tournament begins at 8 AM. Call me too with any questions 218-259-5447. Its going to be a great day. All of us here at HLO and our kids are looking forward to it. The kids are going to have a blast with these hog eyeballs! See you on the water!
We are going to start a promotion here in July and August called "Ladies on the Lake". This is a special deal thru Hang Loose Guide Service encouraging you ladies to get out fishing. Our prices for a guided trip if you fill our boats with 'fishing ladies' will be slashed. This is a great opportunity for business meetings, get togethers, or just to bring home a picture of a walleye bigger than anything your husband has ever caught! Get your girlfriends together! Call us for more details. Brock 218-259-5447 or Randy 218-244-8810
written by Brock
The summer is shaping up just like it is supposed to. Don't you love when things go as planned? Fresh off of two major walleye tournaments, we transition straight into the big fish bite that we love so much. There was no waiting game this year. The water temperatures jumped up to where they needed to be. The aquatic plants grew where they needed to grow. The bait found its niche and the big fish strolled on in. The stars aligned just in time for our return back to home waters to find the giant walleyes hungry and willing to play. It's almost like we were waiting for this since last year.
What’s more enjoying than a slow and heavy pumping of your rod tip, a hook set that stops you dead, a drag that takes you straight down to bottom time and time again, and sore forearms and a huge smile once that huge marble eye lies in the net? This time of year, there is absolutely nothing better. When the big walleyes are eating in the Grand Rapids area, everyone here at Hang Loose Outdoors as well as our clients, are all happy.
This week started the giant walleye bite off with a ‘bang’ and we look for it to continue till late August/September again this year. My Lund boat alone in three half day trips and one full day, seen 40 plus fish from 25-28 inches. That doesn’t include the smaller walleyes less than 25 inches and the eaters that fell victim to the fry pan. It was an amazing week. Although, we didn’t catch any fish in that 29-32 inch category, don’t worry, they are there!
If anyone out there is looking for a chance to catch the biggest walleye of their lifetime; now is your time. Call Brock (218-259-5447) or Randy (218-244-8810) to book a fishing trip with Hang Loose Guide Service. We will provide you with a wonderful fishing trip full of rod bending action, giant walleyes, and lots of excitement. We do accommodate large groups and business trips. We are running an awesome special now too called: Ladies on the Lake! Get the ladies together for a day of fishing and give us a call for more details!
Until next week…… We’ll be out on the water chasing those hog walleyes!
Tournament time is so busy sometimes there is no time for sleep. Yep, that was the situation for me as I got off night shift from Blandin at 5 A.M Thursday morning. I arrived at Lake Bemidji State Park around 6:30 A.M just in time to jump into Topper's Lund for another day of prefishing for the Krause Anderson Walleye Tournament on Saturday.
With eyes quarter open, we had to get to work. Topper eliminated a lot of lake on Wednesday so Thursday was spent sifting through a bunch of spots from years past. The rain and cold breeze kept me awake and on my toes most of the day. My brain didn’t work, but I could still work a jig/shiner like the best of them. Thursday didn’t increase our confidence much, but it gave us a fish fry.
Thursday evening the Grand Rapids crew put together a huge fish fry at Lake Bemidji State Park. Sean Colter took the reins and cooked the fish over open fire. Everyone else contributed dishes and deserts. It was absolutely delicious. After this huge meal, I found myself brain dead and in bed. The ‘no sleep’ finally caught up to me.
Friday morning Topper and I found ourselves on the water really early. We had to find some good fish or figure something out. We didn’t have much to go on at that point. This is where past tournament experience really pays off. Topper and I have been fishing tournaments together for many years and we have learned to stay calm. It doesn’t matter what happens during prefishing. It matters on tournament day. I couldn’t ask for a better tournament partner. Topper and I know our roles, don’t argue, listen, discuss, and most importantly: have fun!
Friday was tough prefishing too! Friday’s fishing eliminated a whole bunch of spots and almost half the lake. We etched a rough plan together for tournament day. Knowing things would be a grind; that’s what we planned to do. A little luck could help too, but we knew what we had to do. We would have to bring our ‘A Game’ and we couldn’t miss the ‘right bites’. We had a few good areas where we knew we could put together a descent bag. We just couldn’t miss the right bites because we would only get a few all day!
Friday evening’s rules meeting and boat parade was top notch once again. We look forward to this tournament every year. It is the best run tournament in Minnesota and it keeps getting better every year. Thank you to Krause Anderson. You guys know how to put on a tourney!
Tourney Time! Saturday brought great weather as we listened to an unbelievable National Anthem before we turned the throttle up on the Mercury Verado. The tournament was underway as we pounded waves and flew past quite a few boats on our way to spot number one. To our surprise, we had a good chunk of our area to ourselves. After putting a few walleyes in the box in the first hour, we started to think our plan might come together.
Topper caught a fat 25 inch walleye around 10 A.M and things really heated up. A new life hit us like a train and both of us kicked it up a notch. Not long after, I caught a 24 inch eye that almost gave us a heat attack. It was at this point, where we thought, ‘we might have a chance to win this’. Knowing how critical a pound can be in a tournament, we knew we had to replace our fifth fish in the box with a better one. You can weigh your best five fish but only two can be over 20 inches. We had a 25, 24, 19, 19, and a 16. We had to upgrade that 16. From how prefishing went for us and most groups we talked to, we figured we had a shot at the top three if we could get another 19 inch.
That 19 inch was the hardest fish we’ve ever fished for to this day. Hours into trying, it felt like we were fishing for a 30 incher. How hard could it be? Well, it was stressful. We caught plenty of 14-16 inchers, but a good one eluded us the rest of the day. Topper and I were happy with ourselves as we cruised back to weigh in. There wasn’t much else we could have done. Our plan came together.
Topper and I weighed in 14.03 lbs and sat in third place for a majority of the time before the big bags poured in towards the end. 16.33 lbs grabbed first place and we were pushed into 8th place after everything was said and done. We were still happy with 8th. Anytime you make the top ten at this tournament, ‘You better celebrate’. These 100 boats are the best of the best in Minnesota. But, we could have used another 19 incher. LOL
Lake Bemidji continues to impress us each and every year. It doesn’t matter how prefishing goes, there is always a few guys who find 16 plus pounds for 5 fish. This lake is an amazing fishery. It takes a lot of pressure in the winter and summer, but reproduces like the best of them. The natural reproduction in Lake Bemidji is astonishing.
And we can’t say enough good things about this tournament. It’s by far the best run tournament in the state! Just ask anyone. Great job Krause Anderson! See you next year.
Location: Lake Bemidji
written by Brock
It's Tourney Time: One of our favorite times of year! There's something about fishing tournaments that gets our blood flowing, our hearts racing, and our game faces on. For me, I believe the excitement in tournaments is dissecting a lake. It's figuring out a new body of water. It's learning! Tournaments add so much more information, tactics, spots, and knowledge to my bag of tricks each and every year. That is the second reason why I love them! The first: Fun! Tournaments are fun and there is no better way to describe it.
This was the first year any of the HLO tournament teams have fished the Leech Lake Tourney. Our expectations were high! Topper and I looked to this as a huge learning experience and a time to really break down Leech Lake. We are familiar with the North end of Leech, but the South end, not so much. Tournaments will get you familiar with a lake and it will be added to your arsenal of lake options. That is what we were looking for. A top twenty finish or first place would be all the better!
Prefishing was good but not great for all the HLO teams. Abe and Amos seemed like they had a good plan going into day one. Godfrey and Craig had some good spots dialed in. Topper and I were pretty confident with our under game (walleyes under the slot- 20-26”), but didn’t have much going for overs (26+”). We figured we could put a great bag together in the morning then go big fish hunting later in the day.
Well, things don’t usually go as planned when it comes to tournaments. If they do, you’ve done everything right and the money sometimes speaks at the end of the tourney. For Topper and I, we caught tons of fish on day 1, but our 19 inch fish turned into 16 inchers and we couldn’t buy a big one towards the end of the day. We sat in 36th place out of 157 boats after day 1. Abe and Amos were just a couple boats back and Godfrey and Craig just a few back from them.
Day 2 brought excellent fishing again. Topper and I pounded walleyes all morning long. Our 19 inch eyes came back to spot 1 and we put together a good morning bag before going after a big one later in the day. We didn’t get that big one, but surely caught some dandy Leech Lake walleyes. This fishery is absolutely amazing right now! You can catch fish with jigs, rigs, spinners, cranks, boards, you name it.
Topper and I didn’t hang our heads too low after day 2. We did everything we wanted to do. (Wow, did we catch a LOT of fish in 2 days!) We just didn’t catch our big one either day. Usually we always have big fish luck. It wasn’t the case for this tournament. We finished in 31st place out of 157 boats. Abe and Amos went after their big one early in the morning on day 2. They pounded eyes from 24-25.75 inches most of the morning. That 26+ incher just didn’t want to show itself. They put a small bag of unders together later in the day. They finished in the middle of the field. Godfrey and Craig followed up day 1 with a good bag on day 2 to finish in the middle of the field too. It was an unbelievable two days of fishing.
Congrats to the winners of the LLWT and to the top finishing Grand Rapids teams: Gordy and Brad, Trombley and Green, Hopkins and Hopkins, and Nikkel and Neururer!
Leech Lake is the best walleye fishery in Minnesota right now. Fishing was lights out the past five days. Get out there and get on those walleyes. Fishing is just going to get better and better! Bring the kids out too.. Give us a call for a guided trip. We still have openings!
Location: Leech Lake
written by Brock
First and foremost, we all hope you had a wonderful Memorial weekend. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It looked pretty busy on the lakes and in the campgrounds this past weekend.
As far as busy goes, we are pushing into the tournament fishing season here at Hang Loose Outdoors. This coming Saturday and Sunday is the Leech Lake Walleye tournament out of Walker, MN. We have three teams fishing the two day tournament. Our time has been spent on Leech for the past week. Prefishing has been the name of the game. Come check out the weigh in on Sunday at the Walker Park.
The Krause Anderson Walleye tournament on Lake Bemidji is the following weekend (June 7). After the Krause, our guide season kicks into full swing. We still have dates available throughout the summer so please give us a jingle and let’s go fishing. Those hog Pokegama Lake walleyes are going to be ready to snap come the first part of June.
Red Lake offered the best bite again this past weekend. Lots of fishermen reported catching 50 walleyes in one day. The shoreline south of the Tamarack was great in 5-8 fow. Winnibigoshish provided fishermen with steady action when the wind blew outside the gap and down the north shore in 6-10 fow. Leech Lake is ready to come unglued any day now. Leech was good this weekend. Some did well on the south end early morning on Pine Point and Stony and others reported a great bite in Portage Bay all weekend long. Water temps are hanging in the mid to upper 50s after this beautiful weather we've had. Walleyes are going to be where the shiners are. Keep an eye on your graph for bait. The walleyes will be where the bait is. Look to Bowstring, Jesse, Sand, and Splithand for good action too.
With water temps climbing into the 50's, slab crappies are in their shallow spawning areas right now. We all have our honey hole spots. Get in there and get on em. Remember to keep it on the down low and only keep enough for a meal. Enjoy the action and bring the kids out. Good luck this weekend.
PS- Pokegama Lake is going to start kicking out the giant walleyes real soon! Yep, that's a Pokegs eye in the upper right corner of this blog; caught just the other day by Colt!
Around the Grand Rapids area, water temperatures have been holding in the mid to upper 40s with some lakes pushing into the 50 degree range with the warm weather the past few days. This means the walleye spawn is in full swing or just pushing into the post spawn period.
Fishing the spawn can be one of the hottest bites of the year if the correct approach is carried out. However, you must understand how walleyes behave during this time of year in order to target them effectively. With water temperatures in the 40's, these fish are in spawn mode and are locating areas that are rocky and shallow to lay their eggs. Walleyes, both male and female will relate to this rocky and gravely bottom. Now, in most cases, these areas are located right off the shoreline. Using your naked eye (polarized glasses) to locate underwater rocky shorelines or using your electronics to unravel rocks off shore in shallow water are effective ways to find these shallow walleye spots.
With that being said, walleyes will also spawn on mid lake structure if those humps or bars top out at 3 feet or less, and hold the right rocks and gravel needed for a successful spawn. Some of our favorite spots are large rocky shorelines that are close to secondary breaks falling off into 8-12 feet of water. If these areas happen to be on the windward side of the lake, this is just an added bonus as shiner minnows and other baitfish get pushed up onto these flats.
Targeting these walleyes can prove to be tricky at times. Slow back trolling, drifting, and my favorite: pitching jigs are three great tactics to targeting shallow water walleyes. When the water is cold you will want to downsize your presentation, this means selecting 1/8th and 1/16th oz jig heads such as Northland's fireball and gumball jigs or Realbait tackle’s flasher jig. Tip these jigs with a small chub, shiner, or soft plastic
When these walleyes are up in water as shallow as 2 feet, they are easily spooked by your big motor or even the shadow of your boat. A good wind helps in this situation, breaking up your outline and making it possible to drift these shallow flats in 4-6 feet of water. I tend to use a good length of line when drifting through these areas. This technique is referred to as “long lining.” If you find the most active fish in a little deeper water such as 6-10 feet, back trolling at .06 mph can be highly effective. Keeping your jig in the strike zone and slowly bouncing it off bottom is key. The last tactic I mentioned is pitching jigs. Position your boat at the maximum distance away from the shore as you can while still being able to make an effective cast up into 2 foot of water. Use your 1/8th or 1/16th oz jig tipped with a small minnow and toss it up as close to shore as possible. You will want to jig your presentation back to the boat with long upward sweeping motions, holding your rod tip high at the peak of your jig. This motion slows your retrieve as your bait will lift off bottom a foot or two and fall back down just inches in front of its previous position. The tactic leaves your bait in the strike zone for a longer period of time, giving a lethargic walleye more time to make the decision to eat. If the bite is soft and you seem to be missing fish just grabbing the tail of your minnow, don't be afraid to give it a second or two before setting the hook. These fish will more often than not slurp up your bait while it falls to the bottom.
Pitching can be done with plastics as well as live bait, and to tell you the truth it can be done just as successfully. My go-to plastics are Northland's impulse series, as well as B fish N's pulse-R plastics. Both of these baits have thumper tails that give off great vibration. Using plastics gives you the chance to really rip jig through the rocks and create a reaction bite even if fish aren't hungry. You have to be on your game with this tactic as fish often won't hang on to your bait as long as live bait.
As the water warms up look for the secondary breaks to become hot as well as the new weed growth. Walleyes will become more active as the water pushes into the mid 50's. For now, try pitching jigs for these early season walleyes next time you are on the water. Some might look at you a little weird, thinking you’re bass fishing or something, until you start pulling walleyes into the boat one after another. When waters are calm, it’s hard to beat the pitching presentation for shallow water walleyes. Get on the water today and be safe!
Written by Colt
The MN walleye and northern pike opener offered nice weather and good fishing around the Grand Rapids area. Fishing wasn't hands down excellent, but it wasn't terrible either. A lot of mixed reports came from here and there. The weather was awesome so spirits were high on the water this weekend..... We all hope you spent the opener soaking up good times with your family and friends as well. Keep those opening weekend traditions going and bring the kids out fishing when you can.
Hang Loose Outdoors spent the weekend spread out from Lake of the Woods all the way south to Leech Lake. We fished a number of bodies of water this opener. Some of our boats had great fishing and others just OK. It all depended on which lake you were on at what time. With water temperatures ever so cold things were kind of in slow mo. Walleyes are in spawn mode or just entering post-spawn in most of the area lakes right now. Last year offered the same late ice scenario so we were all prepared for the same results.
Topper and family fished sturgeon Saturday on the Rainy River. They caught and released numerous prehistoric hog giants from 50-65 inches. It was a great day for them. Sunday they hit Upper Red Lake and plain out slammed the walleyes. Red Lake offered the best opening weekend walleye bite by far. It usually always does. The rocks out of West Wind Resort in 3-7 fow were best. A jig and minnow worked as well as Salmo hornets. Look for Red to carry on the best area bite for another week or two. Get up there!
Colt and Ben and Amos and Abe both fished Leech Lake's Portage Bay on Saturday and Sunday. They reported good fishing in 7-11 fow. They caught a lot of slot fish, but also kept enough for a fish fry on Saturday night. Remember the slot on Leech this year is 20-26 inches. Sunday provided better fishing on Leech Lake as Abe and Amos found the fish a little deeper in 12-14 fow and reported catching quite a few. A jig tipped with a minnow was best there too.
Dan Neary fished Big Splithand on Saturday morning. He and his brother caught a number of nice eater walleyes in 11-13 fow. Saturday evening, Brock, Dan, and Lexi stopped at Splithand for just a few hours. Fishing changed a little from the morning. Fish were no longer hanging off the break. They pushed up into the shallows and were being stubborn. They boated only a few walleyes in a couple hours. Sunday, Dan and Brock's Lund boats split up on Bowstring Lake. The fish were biting pretty well on the NE shore in 3-6 fow right in the rocks. Both boats did well on eater walleyes. The morning bite was definitely better than the evening bite out there.
Monday, Brock and Colt, fished the South end of Leech Lake. Fishing was just OK. The cold weather had the fish glued to bottom and picky as could be. You caught one or two here, one there, and one over there. Pitching jigs up onto rock shorelines worked good or vertical jigging in 12-14 fow was what worked for them. Topper, Amos, Jake, and Gene all piled in Topps boat after work on Monday and headed to Red for a short slam session. Yep, it was lights out again and they made quick work of catching their limits.
Godfrey reported catching a handful of walleyes on our deep clear area lakes this weekend. The fish were still in peak spawn mode, but certain schools had a few fish that wanted a meal. If you're looking to stay away from the crowds of boats, the Grand Rapids area lakes, will give up walleyes even though their depth is deep and cold this time of year. A little help from Lowrance electronics makes all the difference.
Topper and Brock used their Excel Clearwater Bait Buckets to legally transport minnows this weekend. "Wow, they sure make things easy", Topps stated" "I love em." Fishermen, you need to visit their *website* Fishing gear transportation systems are what they specialize in and they make our jobs here at Hang Loose Outdoors easier! -Picture of Excel system attached to boat trailer in upper right corner of this blog-
Location: Leech Lake & Upper Red
The MN fishing opener is just days away! Whoop Whoooop. We hope everyone is pumped up to get out on the open water this year. We are ready! For those of you, who thought we would be using ice augers for opener, guess again. The majority of the lakes in the Grand Rapids area are ice free as of today. All smaller bodies of water opened up early last week. Bowstring opened up today. Upper Red lake has been free for about a week. Winnibigoshish and Leech still have reports of ice on them. It is raining pretty hard as I write this so I would guess by Saturday, everything should be ice free.
A lot of people have been asking us where the best walleye fishing will take place this weekend. I guarantee Red Lake will offer the best bite. Look to the first break in 3-7 fow, up and down the shoreline in front of the Tamarack River. Fish the rocks out in front of West Wind Resort too in 4-8 fow. It's going to be lights out on Red! Little Cut Foot is closed again this year to Williams Narrows. Big Cut Foot would be my second option for great walleye fishing. Stay away from the crowds and fish the shallows. Pitch a jig and minnow to the shoreline or along the reeds. You shouldn't have any trouble finding large schools of walleyes all over Big Cut Foot. Leech Lake should be good also and is my third option. Look to Portage Bay, Sucker Bay, and the Goose Island flats for the best bite in 4-8 fow. Those are my top three lakes to hit on opener. Fish shallow and if you aren't finding the walleyes, go even shallower. A jig and chub/shiner will be your goto for opening weekend.
My head is spinning with additional opening day lake options as I post this. I believe everywhere is going to be good to great this weekend. Big Splithand, Bowstring, Round, Jesse, Mille Lacs, Bemidji, Cass, oh my. Fish shallow and stick to gravel and rocky shorelines. The rivers around the Grand Rapids area should also offer great bites. Good luck everyone and remember to be safe on the water and going/coming. Opening weekend is busy and it's important to remain safe!
Sturgeon fishing and good walleye fishing will take place on the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods this weekend/summer. Get a hold of Slims Resort if you are looking for an awesome place to stay up at Lake of the Woods!
If you still need fine tuning on your boat or wondering about a new rig get in contact with Rays Sport and Marine in Grand Rapids, MN. They will get you on the water and keep you fishing and boating all summer long……
Congratulations to Mrs. Rach and Josh Bork on your marriage last Saturday! We all wish you a bright future to your life together. Most of the HLO crew attended and celebrated their wedding this past weekend!
Other than that, all of us got our last minute boat things prepared for this coming weekend. We're ready to rock. Bring on the quide and tournament season!
What better is there to do in late April then fish for sturgeon? Here at Hang Loose Outdoors, our answer is a clear “nothing”. Your chance of catching the biggest fish of your life is right at your fingertips. Lake Sturgeon is the largest fish you will find to target in Minnesota. They will give you a fight like most have never experienced before. You have a legit chance to catch a hundred plus pound fish.
Where? Get up to the Rainy River in April - June and your odds at pulling such off are very good. All you need to do is bring a stout rod spooled with some heavy line (60 lb Power Pro) and a 3-5 ounce weight in front of a foot long leader and big plain hook balled full of nightcrawlers. Find a deeper hole or pinch point in the river, anchor, and drop that presentation down to bottom. Kick back, set your reel clicker, or just watch your rod tip. When you get a bite, reel up, and set the hook like you mean it. Then, hold on! Expect your arms to get sore. Bring a muskie net with or a set of neoprene gloves so you can get that monster in the boat for some pictures.
The whole HLO crew was up at the Rainy River this past weekend. Topper, the Grell brothers, Adam and Stacey, and myself, stayed at Slims Resort and fished 4 Mile Bay. We can’t say enough good things about Slims Resort. This is where you want to stay while you chase hog sturgeon or whenever you are up at Lake of the Woods. The Wolf brothers, Craig, and Colt fished the whole weekend down by Clementson on the river.
Although the weather was pretty unpleasant, all of our boats boated a fair share of monster prehistoric beasts. Abe Wolf caught the biggest fish between us Hang Loosers, a 62 inch giant. Stacey caught her first sturgeon ever, 56 inches. I think she is hooked now. Yep, her arms were pretty sore after the ten plus minute battle. Nice hog Stac!
The 18th Annual SturgeSlam was Saturday up at Sportsmans Resort. Topps and the Grell brothers paid their entry fee along with Adam, Stacey, and I Friday night. The top three biggest fish based on length paid out. You had to catch a fish and take a picture of it on a tape measure and then one holding it. The only rules were teams had to be back to the resort by 6:05 PM. Teams could fish the lake, 4 Mile Bay, or the River.
Having won this event a couple years ago, we didn’t waste anytime trying to put a giant in the boat. Stacey caught a 48 inch right off the bat and then our luck went down hill. Topps and the Grells didn’t mess around. They stuck a pig of a 61 inch around noon with a bunch of other mid 50 inchers. That 61 inch was enough to give them second place! Good job boys. HLO 2nd Place at the 18th Annual SturgeSlam!
The weekend didn’t end there. We continued to battle the weather all weekend long catching a few hogs here and there and soaked up the night life. Great times and many laughs were enjoyed! If you haven’t been sturgeon fishing before, get up to the Rainy River and get yourself a hog. Give Slims Resort a call for the most enjoyable stay.
Written by Brock
We hope you all had a great Easter! With only a few short weeks remaining before the MN fishing opener, it’s now time for you all to put your positive game faces on. Why? Well, too much talk has been floating around the area about ice fishing on opening weekend. We can honestly say that probably isn't going to happen this year. The ice is deteriorating rather quickly and the ice is pulling away from the shorelines. Will the lakes still have ice on opener? We don't think so. Positive attitude now folks!
The Grand Rapids area lakes have turned dark in color and some shorelines are open a ways out into the lake. Pokegama had a few shoreline stretches that looked to be open 50 plus yards out into the lake. We can say ice conditions probably aren't safe to be going ice fishing anymore. That's positive because it means we all have time to get our boats ready for the opener. Change those fluids in the motor, start your motor and let it run, test your electronics, or install those new gadgets you recently bought. This time of year is perfect to begin your preparation. Put new line on your rods and sort those tackle boxes. Opener is just around the corner.
For those of you planning on going to the Rainy River soon to chase sturgeon; here is a little river report. The River is now open up to Wheelers Point. Four Mile Bay is about 50% ice free. Reports are the public landing at Wheelers should e open to big boats tomorrow. It's time for hog prehistoric sturgeon. Whoop Whoooooop! And yes; they are biting! I believe a few of us here at HLO will be up there this weekend.
Enjoy the nice weather and wish away the ice! Looks like some rain is moving into the area towards the later part of the week. Be safe and have a great one!
The last couple weeks the weather in the Grand Rapids area has provided many options for us to enjoy in the outdoors. The mid 50's and even 60 degree temperatures have opened up the Rainy River and melted most of the snow around the area. These recent temperatures have made it extremely enjoyable to sit on the ice in search of panfish, which have become increasingly active.
Most of the crew has been spending their weekends near the border targeting pre spawn pike on Lake of the Woods. However, the pike have been pretty uncooperative the past two weeks. Why? Sometimes fishing throws us a lot of curve balls. The pre spawn pike bite during April as been such. The last couple trips provided a few big pike (including last Wednesday- blog pic), but the action was uncharacteristically slow. Our plans were set to head back up this weekend in hopes of a better bite. We decided to head to the Rainy River for the pre spawn walleye bite after talking to a few different groups including Scottie Thomas and Randy Topper who both had reports of very sluggish tip up action.
I had heard of good reports on the Rainy as early as Wednesday which was the first day Birchdale landing was open to big boats. This action continued through Thursday, but as you may know, river conditions in the spring can change in just a few hours. By Friday, many people reported a much slower bite than the previous days due to decreasing water clarity and a faster current. We arrived on Saturday morning to 8 inches of water clarity, not an ideal situation when targeting river walleyes. As we had assumed, the bite was slow at best, we tried large bright presentations such as Trigger X thumper tail plastics on a Reel Bait flasher jigs, and nevertheless the bite seemed hopeless. In those conditions, your best bet lies with the prehistoric sturgeon. Sturgeon are bottom feeders who rely on a heightened sense of smell teamed with barbell type whiskers to find prey. This means the dark, murky water does not effect their feeding like it does a walleye. The sturgeon bite proved to be better than the walleye. Between Ben Olson’s boat and ours, we landed 6 sturgeon, the largest being 55 inches. With walleye season closing on the 14th , sturgeon will be the main target on the Rainy up until the MN opening season on May 10th.
Until then, there is still fishable ice in and around the Grand Rapids area. Most lakes still have 24+ inches of ice. There is a layer of soft, slushy ice on top with good ice remaining 6-10 inches down. Four wheelers are the main source of travel on most of these area lakes. However, the ice on some smaller bodies of water is starting to recede from shore making foot travel the most convenient. As we push further towards open water, panfish are in preparation for spawning. Staging areas include large flat basins near the mouths of cricks and streams, bottle neck areas adjacent to large shallow basins, and weed beds in between deep wintering holes and large spawning basins. Target these staging fish by drilling many holes and being mobile. Remember to check ice conditions consistently as the warm windy weather can soften ice drastically day to day. Good luck and be safe!
Written by Colt
Wow! A lot has changed since last week. Our spring is finally here and I believe we all can say, "It sure is beautiful outside". These temperatures and warmer ones (no one will argue) need to stick around if we want to be in the boats for the Minnesota fishing opener on May 10th. A lot of ice has to melt for that to happen, though. There's hope!
The lakes around the Grand Rapids area still have 30+ inches of ice on them. Ice conditions are changing fast. Lake accesses are deteriorating with shoreline runoff. Truck travel should not be attempted for the rest of our hard water season. Snowmobiles and 4-wheelers should be used for ice travel right now. All in all, be careful no matter what. Things are melting fast and auger holes are staying open and increasing in size from one day to the next.
As for fishing, it has been good this past week. Panfish are getting more aggressive as oxygen levels increase and the days get longer. Look for crappies, bluegills, and perch to move shallower on most area lakes. Also, this is the time to get to your back country honey hole lakes. These smaller bog stained lakes are kicking out good action again. This weather turns everything on!
The prespawn pike bite on Lake of the Woods is improving everyday too. Angler reports are good in both Baudette and Warroad areas. Dead bait on tip ups in 6-12 fow has been best. Don't forget your sunscreen! If you’re looking for a place to stay while chasing giant pike, give Slims Resort a call for your best stay, great food, comfortable cabins, awesome people, and excellent fishing! They will be open for sturgeon fishing too!
The Rainy River report is small boats are pushing over shore ice today (April 8th) at Birchdale landing! I would think big boats should be putting in by this weekend.. Walleye season closes on April 14th.
Look to Hill Lake, Big and Little Splithand, Bass, Bowstring, and Pokegama for the best panfish action around the Grand Rapids area right now.
Mom pictured with two slab crappies caught this week on a Grand Rapids area lake. Panfish have been very active the past couple days. Mobility is key.
The weather cooperated this weekend and it found some of the HLO boys up on Lake of the Woods chasing hog pike. Usually we are up at the 'big pond' in search of giant pike for the whole month of March and into the first part of April. Well, with the never existing spring weather, we found it to be a waiting game until the weather improved.
With forty degree temperatures predicted, sunny skies, and reports of 45-55 inches of ice on Lake of the Woods, we had to find out if those big slimers were on the move to their prespawn staging areas. Colt and Dylan headed out to new turf on Saturday while Topper, Greniger, Shawn, and their wives, ventured out from Slims Resort to one of our favorite spots. I, on the other hand, sat at work, anticipating a report and some pictures on my phone as soon as possible.
The first reports I received were 'things are pretty slow'. Then I got a picture of a big walleye and a hog 39 inch gator from Colt. A while later, Topper sent me a picture of Katie Greniger with a giant 42 inch slime. Now that's a pike, I thought. Woooooo! A fish like that makes the trip in a heartbeat. Saturday was on the slower side, but a couple quality fish were caught and released by both groups.
Sunday was one of the nicer days we've witnessed in months. Colt and Dylan fished out from Pine Island in a traditionally good spot that usually gives up a couple fine hogs. It didn't provide much of anything, but good times and laughs. The guys and wives went back out from Slims Resort to the same spot as Saturday. Sunday provided another giant 41 inch pike to Lindsey and a couple other smaller pike. All in all it was a great weekend on the ice. Slims Resort was again, top notch; full of fun, good food, great drinks, awesome hospitality, and a lot of laughs.
Look for the prespawn pike bite on Lake of the Woods to improve each day as our spring weather turns around. Focus on that 5-10 feet of water out in front of feeder creeks, ditches, marshy areas, large shallow bays, and the flats leading into anything that holds pike spawning ground. Bring an array of big dead bait and big suckers. Let spring begin!
Lowrance announced last summer the cooperative development of MotorGuide PinpointConnect, which is a new interface that seamlessly integrates Lowrance HDS Gen2 and Gen2 Touch fishfinder/chartplotters with MotorGuide’s new Xi5 Wireless Trolling Motor featuring Pinpoint GPS navigation.
FAQ for Lowrance/MotorGuide Xi5 Wireless Trolling Motor Integration
When will the new MotorGuide wireless trolling motor system be available?
What are the expected street prices?
What are the key features expected with the Lowrance/MotorGuide Xi5 Wireless Trolling Motor Integration?
To what level will Lowrance HDS and MotorGuide Xi5 products be compatible?
Reference- ‘Lowrance Partners With MotorGuide to Launch PinpointConnect’ - "http://www.lowrance.com/en-US/News/Lowrance-Partners-With-MotorGuide-to-Launch-PinpointConnect/"
We here at Hang Loose Outdoors, we are very excited to use this system on our new Lund Boats this open water season. Go online or to You Tube and watch some of the videos and seminars on Pinpoint Connect. Great work Lowrance and Motorguide!
A common question I get this time of year is, ‘where do I find the crappies or sunfish on Lake X’? The most honest answer I give to everyone is, ‘keep drilling holes’. This time of year is all about being mobile and covering water to find fish. When you find them, the majority of the time, they are aggressive and will bite.
I’m not sure if people question themselves to where to first begin drilling holes because the lakes are empty of permanent houses or totally vacant of fishermen. Small back lakes are a good example of this. On most days, you will find the smaller back country lakes around Grand Rapids empty. A good starting place, yes, is to start drilling holes where there once were signs of fishing activity. If nothing shows up on the electronics, it’s time to do what we call ‘swiss cheesing’. Keep pumping the ice full of holes. Move shallow, move left, go right, and go wherever the fish appear. Your electronics will find suspended fish for you this time of year. Once you find them, catch em, and stay with them.
Depending on what panfish are eating this time of year determines where they will be. It’s hard to find that out when you’re standing on the ice. What I’m saying is, it’s all about food this time of year. If the food is not there, the fish won’t be either. Crappies might be here one day and gone the next. One thing that will slowly change though and should be taken into consideration is the depth you find the fish. Stay on a depth pattern once you find active fish. If you find them in 25 feet of water, focus your swiss cheesing in and around those same depths.
Well, that same depth pattern will hold strong on certain lakes, but not others. On lakes that have low light (early morning, evening) bites, the fish might be sliding up shallower to eat. You must drill holes up and down the break as the light dwindles or increases. On lakes that have good weed beds close to deep water, the fish might be right in the shallow weeds. They might be hard to see on your electronics unless you drop a jig. Wow, so they might be anywhere?
Concentrate your ‘swiss cheesing’ in the deeper basin of a lake and then work yourself in shallower. The more holes you drill, the better your chances of finding those slabs. Grab yourself a map from the MN DNR lake finder website or download the Navionics App on your phone. Gather all the information you can on a lake and then gas up your auger. Panfishing is as good as it gets this time of year. Take advantage of all the lakes around the area and the action packed bite that can take place. Have fun and good luck!
written by Brock
Finally! Shout, scream, yell, do whatever you would like. It’s time to bust out some positive attitude around these parts. Spring might have, after the coldest winter ever, finally be here, or at least be showing signs that it might appear in the near future. This weekend was a beauty and the northland witnesses our first trickle of water. Yes, Mother Nature started to thaw things out. Let’s all kick this cabin fever. It’s time to think spring, late ice fishing, Lake of the Woods tips ups, Rainy River sturgeon, and open water!
Pro Staffer Colt Anderson has been hitting the ice as of late and he said even the fish welcomed in the beautiful weather this past weekend. He reported a more aggressive bite around the Grand Rapids area. The walleye and pike season is closed here so his mission was targeting panfish. He fished a number of larger area lakes and a few smaller back country bog stained lakes. The larger lakes produced a better bite probably due to more oxygen available. There is still three feet of ice on the lakes and lots of snow. The larger lakes will continue to produce the best bite until this thaw kicks into high gear. Once the runoff and melt really begins then those smaller bog stained lakes will start heating up. Look for the smaller lakes to produce the best action then. It might be a couple more weeks till that happens, but you never know. The weather will predict that.
As of now, crappies and gills still remain suspended on the edge of the deep basins on the area’s larger lakes. Look for them in that 20-40 feet of water on the rims going into deeper water. On lakes that are more gradual, cover lots of water by staying mobile and drilling plenty of holes on the flats in 25-30 feet of water or around the deeper parts of the lake. This time of year is all about staying mobile and using your electronics. If you find them, they should be hungry for a wax worm or a minnow. In the evening hours push a touch shallower and get a little closer to those weed beds. Keep pluckin away and good luck fishing!
Stop into the Grand Rapids Boat Show at the IRA Civic Center this weekend. Let’s talk open water!!
March rolled into the Northland like a lion again this year. It wasn’t much of a shock, though, considering the winter has been a fierce lion in itself all season long. We have maybe caught a few breaks (count them on one hand) between the brutal cold temperatures and snow storms dating back into late November. And that is no lie. This winter has been far from awesome.
For those of you who burn firewood, I hope you’re finding enough to keep your toes warm. Everyone who pipes up the conversation of running out of firewood this year makes me appreciate more and more the woodshed at my house. It’s still got wood in it. Like Dad used to say, “You can never have enough”. Keeping warm has been the story this winter.
Cabin fever has set in as we push into March and I think everyone is waiting for a long break in the weather. I know we here at HLO are. Our motivation usually remains pretty strong throughout the winter, but not this winter. I think we are all waiting for open water now. Can’t wait to hit er like a pike!
PIKE? Oh yeah! It is March Madness and you all know what that means. Right? Hog prespawn pike on Lake of the Woods. I guess as we wait for nice weather and open water, we’ll get our tip ups ready and sharpen our snagger rigs. You can’t miss out on a little pike action. Oooooof! It’s time to get serious boys and girls. If you're looking to fish Lake of the Woods for walleyes or pike this month, get ahold of Slims Resort. They will hook you up...
The warm weather is on its way and we still have plenty of ice fishing left. Yep, the best ice fishing of the year is right at our finger tips. Things are going to happen fast. It’s time to kick cabin fever and hit er like a pike!!
Pictured in the upper right corner of this blog is pro staffer Colt Anderson after a morning of work. I feel sorry for some of the HLO boys who are working their tails off cruising timber in the cold and snow depths this winter. You guys are a little too hardcore for me!
We impatiently waited for the plane to be deiced before takeoff to leave the frozen tundra we call Minnesota. Destination: the fertile waters teaming with life off the shores of Cabo San Lucas to celebrate Lindsey and Randy’s Honeymoon (‘Buddy moon’) with a great group of friends. The plane ride couldn’t pass soon enough as our excitement was overwhelming! Finally with the glimpse of the ocean out of the plane window, anxiety kicked in. Soon we would be creating great memories, stories, and maybe a few fish tales. You can’t take a vacation without wetting a line?
After landing we had a twenty minute bus ride to our hotel which was tucked in a beautiful location along the Sea of Cortez. On our first day we just soaked it all in. We lounged around the pool forgetting about winter, work, and reality awaiting us when we get back home. Day 2, priorities were set. We needed to get to the marina to find a boat! All us guys hopped on a public bus and headed into town to set up a fishing trip. Making our way into the marina we were overwhelmed with the number of boats to choose from, not knowing if we were going to choose the one that would put us on the fish. After a local drove us around in a water taxi to look at all the boats, we made a decision and booked a boat for the next day.
Thursday morning arrived and Randy, Craig, Osten and I jumped on the bus once again and headed into the marina to board our boat for the day. As the boat was leaving the harbor we were all hoping the boat would head west and make the 35 mile cruise out to the Pacific where the faster action was. However, that wasn’t our luck. It headed east to the cool waters of the Sea of Cortez which are known for its great fishing in the fall. The lines were put out immediately and hopes were high. With a quick and intense tournament of rock paper scissors, the order was set. I was to fight the first fish. As minutes and hours passed, our hopes were fading due to no hookups. It started to feel like we were on a whale watching tour with whales breaching all around us, dolphins swimming everywhere, and sharks swimming next to us checking out the boat. That made the day regardless of the fishing.
On the final hour of our whale watching/fishing trip our eyes finally lit up as a Striped Marlin launched out of the water. We were HOOKED up! My heart was pounding and nerves were trying to take over by every acrobatic move by the ocean beast. Minutes upon minutes passed! There was no letting up by the fish or by myself. I was not going to be defeated. As the 40min mark approached, I finally came on top gliding the marlin to the boat putting another notch in my belt on my goal to catch every species of bill fish.
We were all hooked and knew we had to go out again before our trip was over so on Friday Randy, Lindsey, Craig and Amanda booked a different boat for Saturday, and Jess and I booked a small boat for that day as well. As Randy and the crew started to head out to sea on the second trip, he made sure to tell the captain they wanted to make the long 35 mile journey out to the Pacific. As they arrived to their destination, it was looking bright as they made it all the way through the lineup boating skipjack tuna in short order. After the fast action, everything ended quickly and it seemed as the boats luck had ran dry as they were watching boat after boat around them boating Marlin after Marlin after Marlin. It seemed every boat on the bank was hooked up. The roll of the dice to head to the Pacific was a good call, but yet again, the luck of the sea gods didn’t land in the favor of the Honeymoon Crew…
Saturday morning marked Jess and I two year anniversary! Yes, she loves me that much that she was willing to spend the day out in a small 23ft boat in the middle of the ocean knowing she’s had trouble in the past with sea sickness. What more could a guy ask for on his anniversary, spending a day with an amazing women and fishing the great blue? This time we also fished the Sea of Cortez, just booking a boat off of the beach of our resort. We had an action packed day but not much to show for it! We had a Marlin strike one of the baits but failed to hook up. Our captain worked very hard changing speeds and presentation throughout the day but it just seemed like the fishing gods again weren’t on our sides this trip. Once again, the final hour prevailed with an exciting first fish out of the ocean for Jess, a beautiful Mahi Mahi!
We had a fun, relaxing, and exciting trip with great friends! Congratulations to Lindsey and Randy Topper on their marriage. A late honeymoon must mean you’re in it for the long run! We would highly recommend Cabo as a destination for your next vacation! Cabo is known as the Marlin Capital of the world. It was evident all around the area. Even though we weren’t there during the peak fishing season, there were still boats coming into the marina boating up to fourteen marlin in a day. I recommend spending a day at the marina watching the boats come in and looking at the flags they have flying of their catches before you book a boat. All around the marina are many restaurants that will cook your catch for you from $8 to $20 a person and its well worth it! The scenery and of Cabo will also blow your mind!
Written by Amos Wolf
A touch of nice weather finally moved into the Northland this week. Amazing? About time? Much needed? Oh yeah… It felt like it was summer time. There was even a springy smell in the air. A temperature swing of sixty degrees can make everything feel right…
For the first time in a long and cold month or so, area anglers finally got that ‘let’s do it’ itch to get out on the ice and soak up some rays, catch some fish, and breathe the fresh air. For us, well some of us (the other half of the crew is in Mexico for Toppers honeymoon), we too got the motivational itch to hit the ice a little harder. I gotta say, beautiful weather gets my blood flowing.
Most of the crew chased crappies this weekend and into the beginning of the week. Was it good? I wouldn’t call it great by any means, but yes, we caught some quality fish. In my mind, quality is much more exciting and rewarding then quantity as we push towards the month of March. March means, ‘Late-Ice Slabs’ here in northern Minnesota. March also means we can hit our back lake honey holes and stay mobile as much as possible with the nice weather.
I could go on and on about what March means to Hang Loose Outdoors. March Madness is what we call it! Hog pre-spawn pike on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake, the Grand Rapids Boat Show at the IRA Civic Center on March 14, 15, 16, and getting prepared for the upcoming open water season are just a few things that is packed into March Madness. It can surely be a busy and exciting month. That’s why we love it!
Oh my……. It’s been a long winter? I hope it’s not just me! Bring on the beautiful weather and March Madness! We’re ready…
Pictured in the upper right corner of this blog is pro staffer, Dan Neary, holding a giant 14.5 inch crappie. Drilling multiple holes, staying mobile, and fishing our favorite honey holes, led us to some quality slabs this week!
The HLO crew has been spending the past couple weeks of this cold winter chasing lake trout around northern Minnesota and in Canada. As you all know, lake trout can be a tricky species to put on the ice. Many trips the past couple weeks in Minnesota have resulted in very small trout or nothing at all. We are surely missing our Canisteo Pit fishery here in Grand Rapids. Yep, it was closed due to a mining operation this fall. This was our goto lake in the area for winter lake trout.
We have been fishing Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids and Ely, MN area lakes. They have been pretty slow this winter. This past weekend, some of the HLO crew found some lake trout success. Kevin Godfrey hiked into his favorite BWCAW laker lake and put some beauties on the ice Sunday. The long walk in cold temps was well worth the action.
As for Topper and the Grell brothers, they went on a new lake excursion to Canada Friday thru Monday. Their fishing trip turned up some real nice lake trout and walleyes and another couple lakes in Canada were quickly added to our arsenal. Topper reported very active lake trout. He said they didn't see a ton of fish on their flashers, but when one came in, 'It was on'! He even stated that they lost a couple lakers at the hole after fighting them for a couple minutes, and then caught them again. Wow, now those are hungry LTs. We can't wait to go back. Canada offers unbelievable lake trout fishing. I wish we could go up there every weekend.
The past two weeks or so have been COLD! The fishing has been rather slow around the Grand Rapids area as far as walleye angling goes. Still look for the first and last 2 hours of light for your best chance at icing a few marble eyes. Walleyes on Pokegama have been slow, with most active fish being small, 10-13 inches long. Look for the deeper, more gradual sides of mid lake structure for the best action, 36-40 feet of water is a good place to start. Walker Bay on Leech Lake has been kicking out some nice walleyes in 30 feet of water around the humps and deep points.
The crappie bite has been consistent on area lakes. Many anglers have been successful going out of their way to fish back lakes and low traffic areas rather than larger lakes such as Pokegama. As we push further into February, look for the panfish to suspend over deep basins ranging from 25-40 feet of water. Be mobile and drill lots of holes, those suspending panfish will show up easily using your flasher. Look to Bowstring in 23-28 fow, Big and Little Splithand in 20-25 fow, and Bass Lake for the best panfish bites this weekend.
Walleye action on Red Lake and Lake of the Woods has been hit or miss. Some anglers on Red are finding success by being mobile, catching few fish on each spot before continuing the search. Deeper water from 12-13 feet in and around the rocks and cobble has been the best areas to investigate. The bite has been good during the mid day hours until sunset. There has also been word of a middle of the night bite from midnight till 5 am. If you are planning an over night visit don't forget to put down your rattle reels with a red glow jigs! Lake of the Woods has been best in the mud from 30-33 feet. Houses are spread out and anglers are finding a mix of walleyes and saugers with the small saugers being more aggressive. Pink and gold jigs as well as jiggin' raps have been icing the most fish. If you’re planning on making an overnight trip to Lake of the Woods, check out Slim's Resort! Your stay will be comfortable and affordable, keeping you ready for an all day fishing excersion. Remember, be safe and good luck!
Topps is off to Canada to fish new trout waters this coming weekend. We hope he finds some beasts. Stay tuned for next weekends blog.
written by Colt
After a great Holiday break from college, I was back in Grand Forks, ND set to finish off the rest of my college career. With a very minimal class schedule and a break in the work schedule, cabin fever was beginning to set in. One thing you have to realize about Grand Forks is that this is not the area like back home where you can throw the gear in the truck and drive 5 minutes and your out fishing on a lake nearby. The closest lakes are either Devils Lake or Lake of the Woods round here. I couldn’t help but to think that this was the perfect time to head up north to the big pond (LOTW) and get after some walleyes.
I called up a good buddy, Jake Beckel, who also is currently graduated and living in Grand Forks as well. With no schooling and just a few days of work he needed to get switched with someone and we had the plans made. We both were scheduled to work at Scheels on Wednesday night and we would head up to LOTW to his place and take to fishing for the next week. We were both pumped up as we hit the road after work and talks of Canadian walleyes filled our minds as we were planning to make it to the Canadian side at least one day maybe more depending on fishing.
If you plan on fishing miles out on Lake of the Woods off the beaten path snowmobiles or track vehicles are the only possible transportation. We spent all of Thursday getting two snowmobiles in proper running condition. The first one we did the basic change of plugs, fuel filter, and putting in some fresh gas and she was ready to rock. The second one was a bit more of a challenge. Jake called his Uncle up asking to use one of his sleds and of course he said yes, but we had to come help put the suspension back in. Well there goes the rest of the day as the three of us wrestled and fought that suspension in the track and got it all bolted back in. We were now set for our planned trip into Canada on Saturday.
With the plans of Canada made, we knew Colt was also headed up with another one of our good buddies, Andrew Kraft. We gave them a jingle to see if they wanted in and without hesitation they were down for the adventure as well. We made the plans to leave at light as we didn’t know the ice conditions where we were fishing, as it is a well known spot for ice heaves and pressure ridges. Safety is the first thing on our mind when we are traveling off the beaten path as no fish is worth risking lives. We set off on the snowmobiles from Jakes house to our Canadian fishing destination. It is about 20 miles from Jakes house to where we were going. We arrived with no complications and targeted a rock reef that has been known for HOG walleyes as well as good numbers too. GPS mapping gets a little shaky when you hit the Canadian waters so drilling lots of holes was in order to get an idea of how the reef was structured. We set up off the end of it in about 30 feet and knew we were still on the rocks as we would get snagged up when banging our lures on the bottom. Fishing was nothing spectacular as we caught around 45 fish that were mostly small walleyes and saugers. We spent the full day out there which entailed a delicious lunch. This consisted of frying hot ham and cheese sandwiches on the ice scoop over the buddy heater!!! SMART!!
The wind picked up progressively through out the day and soon it was blowing around 15-20mph. A little wind and blowing snow added to the mix and we were experiencing some white out conditions. Time to pull the plug!! Jake pulled out the GPS which was now found to be dead! It was up to us to find our way back. We knew heading straight west would bump us into the trail that runs across the lake to Oak Island and we found it pretty easily. Back home it was time to make the game plan for the rest of the week.
With sub-par fishing for us in Canada we figured it was time to stop out at Slim’s Resort and have a chat with owner, Dave Bathel. If you are making plans to go fishing up on LOTW give a look at Slim’s Resort. Dave is hands down the nicest guy I have met and is always going to give you the honest fishing report and help you with anything you need. Dave gave us the rundown and fishing seemed to be about the same on the American side but at least one of his houses were catching a fish over 27” each day. If there is one thing we like here at HLO it is HOOOGGG Walleyes. We made the decision to go the easy route and fish off the Adrian’s road the next day. Right now it seems the farther you go out on the lake the better the bite is. We were fishing in 32ft of water in the mud the rest of the week. Fishing was on the slow side and the weather progressively was getting worse and worse.
It was now Tuesday, and our last day to fish before me and Jake both had to head back to Grand Forks to get back to work and school. We took a look at the weather and there were temps of -15 to -20 forecasted with winds blowing about 15. With that we took a drive out to Slim’s to have a chat with Dave again and he was nice enough to let us fish in one of his houses the next day.
Fishing started off pretty slow and only a few keepers were in the bucket. It was about noon and time for lunch. Lucky enough for us Dave has hot lunch delivered out to the fish houses for all his clients and we had him put us down for a couple. It was minutes after I got done devouring my Pulled BBQ pork sandwich, bowl of soup, and cookies fresh out of the oven,(WOW what a meal when you are out on the ice!!) the fishing picked up. Jake and I were both picking up good eater walleyes at a steady rate but they seemed to only be hitting on a full shiner and a Lindy Slick Jig. I had put down my ultra light crappie rod as fighting these eater size walleyes is a blast on it. Next thing I know I look down and my flasher lights up with a huge red line screaming off bottom. A few aggressive jigs and my bait got smashed!!! With my light rod I gave ‘a jump out of the chair style hook set’ to make sure it sunk it. It felt as if I had just hooked into a log!! With screaming drag runs and heavy head shakes I knew I had a nice walleye on but was not quite sure how big it was. Finally, I was able to move it up to the ice and we were able to get a look at her. I looked down the hole to my left and the head was poking out that hole, and then I looked down the hole I was fighting it in and the tail was sticking past that!! We now knew I had a GIANT walleye on and it was going to take some finessing to get it turned up the hole with my ultra light rod and 4 pound test. The mouth of the fish just started to get turned up the hole and Jake made the smart decision to reach down to the bottom and grab the fish by the head and pull him up!! A huge high fist pound and hoots and hollers were given as we had a beast of a walleye landed. We took a couple quick measurements on two different tapes and they both came up to be 31” !!! A new personal best walleye for me!!! With a certificate for a free mount at a shop back in Grand Forks that I had won, I decided to keep the fish and put her on the wall. I knew this may be the biggest walleye I will ever catch so I would be kicking myself if I had thrown her back.
A big thanks goes out to Slim’s Resort for letting us use their fish house for the day and putting me on the biggest walleye of my life!!! Once again if you’re looking for an outstanding resort to stay while up on LOTW give Dave a call at Slim’s Resort and I promise you will not be disappointed!! Slims Resort - (800) 243-2412 or http://slimsresort.com/
Written by Ben Olson
This past weekend was the Minnesota trout opener. With descent temps, there were quite a few anglers pursuing their trout species of choice. Some went chasing lake trout and others hit the stocked stream trout lakes. A mixed report was heard from the number of fishermen we talked to. With the closing of Canisteo Pit in Grand Rapids/Coleraine MN, there were definitely fewer lake trout anglers out and about. Yep, this is a shame for us laker fishermen!!!
The Godfreys fished Burntside in Ely, MN on Saturday. Lake trout fishing was on the slower side, but they managed to put a real nice 29" laker on the ice. They lost one or two more and reported only seeing a few fish on their flashers between a handful of spots. Adam tried his luck on Sunday morning chasing lakers on Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids. He didn't do battle with any lakers.
Colt and Crew reported a slower bite on Lake of the Woods this weekend. They fished everywhere from the Rainy River, out in front of Pine Island, and all the way up by Oak Island. They reported catching fish, but the majority of them were small saugers and walleyes. Maybe the bigger ones will start eating again as the week pushes on. Look for the 30-33 fow for the best bite. The resorts are beginning to push out to Garden Island. Hitch up the snowmobiles and otter sleds and keep bouncing around. Mobility is the key this time of year! The mud and reefs will start kicking out the best bites!
Red Lake currently has the most consistent walleye bite taking place. We are finding numbers of active walleyes on the end of the rock structures out of West Wind Resort in 12-14 feet of water. People are pushing out further and further as the roads get plowed. Stay away from the crowds and off the roads and you will find good fishing in 12-14 fow. If you don’t find any active fish, keep on the move. Be mobile and you will eventually start whacking em. The morning bite has been the best, but again, mobility will buy you an all day bite. Reports from anglers in sleeper houses have informed us that the night bite has been very consistent too. Get up to Red Lake this weekend. Truck travel is good out from most of the resorts and there is plenty of ice.
The best panfish action has been taking place on Big and Little Splithand, Cut Foot, Bowstring, and a number of smaller area lakes. Looks like some colder weather coming in again this week and into the weekend!
Good luck fishing! Truck travel is improving on all area lakes. Please be careful depending on the body of water you are traveling on. There are still some pockets of slush to be aware of. Snowmobiles and four wheelers are still the best method of transportation!
Devils Lake Fishing Report this past weekend from Ben Olson
Well after 4 years of going to school out in North Dakota I was finally able to make the venture over to Devils Lake to chase after those famous JUMBO perch. I tagged along with a good buddy and fellow guide on the big lake to get in on some action and help him out!
We targeted off shore rock piles that topped out at 18ft and dropped down into 30 plus foot mud flats. In the low light hours, early morning and right at sunset, we found our best action on top of the rock piles. Small buck shots with dropper rigs on them and forage minnow spoons tipped with a minnow head were the best presentation both days. When the bite slowed down we moved off of the rock piles and found the perch on the bottom edge of the flats. One thing I can say is, if you are wanting to get after these jumbo perch make sure you got plenty of gas in the auger and sharp blades. We punched around 200 holes each day to stay on the fish jumping hole to hole. Being mobile is your best option when you are fishing these huge perch.
The walleye bite was reportedly very slow from other guides we knew that were out so we did not target them. However, the best bite on eyes was located in 15-20 feet near the trees or shallow structures. They move up in the early morning and evening to feed on the baitfish in and around the crazy shoreline structures of Devils Lake. It was a small window for the bite so we chose to stay on the big perch feed and iced over 200 perch for the weekend. The biggest perch were right around 15 inches. These are big, but they do get bigger. Want Perch? Get to Devils Lake!
Written by Ben Olson
Have you always wanted the freshwater fight of your life on a rod and reel? If you have, I advise you to try targeting Lake Trout in Canada during the winter months. Pristine Canada offers a lake trout angler with excessive opportunities along with unlimited bodies of water to ice that trophy trout of a lifetime.
Many people are successful fishing lake trout in the summer, but struggle or don’t totally understand the concept in the winter months. It’s not anymore complicated, it just takes a little knowledge and practice and anyone can find themselves standing over an ice hole, rod bent in half, and drag buzzing. Yes, summer consists of trolling and using downriggers, but this doesn’t give you the full feeling of what kind of strength these fish really have. In the winter, a stouter rod, larger reel, and a screaming line on your electronic flasher will hook you once you lace into a hog laker. There is really nothing better during the ice covered winter months.
The HLO crew has been chasing lake trout for a number of years in Canada and around a decade in Northern Minnesota. It is the one thing we look forward to each and every year once the ice starts to cover the lakes. It’s the fight and the pure power of these fish that have sent us back to the beautiful and desolate areas of Canada every winter. Each trip we learn additional tactics and a little more of the pieces of the lake trout puzzle. We now want to take the time to share with you a few tips and tactics that have led us to successfully ice really nice lake trout year after year in Canada and a number of bodies of water around Minnesota.
Structure and location is the number one scenario that you must research on a body of water before you begin your pursuit. When we first started targeting lake trout: we always looked to rock ledges, humps, points, and other steep structures for active fish. This is kind of what other anglers had informed us to fish. Well, over the past couple years we have totally changed our game plan around. Steep areas do hold lake trout, but they are more difficult to target in these places during the winter months. During the summer, one can troll along these breaks and pick off active fish because they are covering more ground. When you have a vertical presentation in the winter, the water column you are covering is very small. You must be visible from a distance in the winter. Lake trout are aggressive and have a huge home area. If your lure is visible in the whole water column, you will be seen and your success will greatly improve.
Imagine being a lake trout and trying to pick out a few bait fish amongst a shear rock ledge or a steep drop. Your eyes are constantly going up and down scanning for food. Baitfish can hide and camouflage themselves against steep slopes more easily than in more open or flat areas. Now imagine swimming up on a sand flat or flat of any kind adjacent to steep structure. You can see further and you can see almost everything. You can just chill out cruise around and wait till a school of minnows swims over the flat. Once that occurs, your dinner has been put on your plate. It’s time to eat.
Sand flats, gradual points that stick far out into the main lake, rock to soft bottom transitions, saddles, and inside hooks are where we target giant lake trout today. We have greatly increased the amount of fish we catch each trip out. When looking for spots like these, concentrate on areas close to deep water and near steep structure. If there is 120 feet of water close to a point that is relatively steep, then veer around that point and find where the shoreline begins to get gradual or where the steep rocks turn into the shoreline structure again. This is a good area to drill a bunch of holes and start to bee pop around.
Saddles are another one of our favorites. If you are familiar with Canada then you know where a few rock humps or where rocks emerge just slightly out of the water away from land. Are these humps close to shore or an island? If they are then there is probably a saddle or a run way between here that lakers use to push bait thru. If it’s on the gradual side and deeper than 40 feet, you have just found a good target spot. Drill some holes and get busy jigging.
Lake trout are unpredictable, so you can’t rule out any area of a lake especially Canadian waters. But if you concentrate on flats and gradual bottoms adjacent to deep water and steep structures your odds are better. We call these areas dinner tables. Trout hunt and are more active on these structures during the winter months. They are more likely to see your presentation and there is greater possibility of you hooking up with the fish.
Now, people ask, what is the best way to fish them in the winter? The best way to fish lakers in the winter is to be mobile and cover the whole water column. If you are in 60 feet of water, keep your lure moving from bottom to 10 feet under the ice and then back down. Never leave your jig in one spot too long. Lakers can come in 5 feet under the ice, half way down, or close to bottom. You never know. These fish are unpredictable, but they are also the most curious fish in the lake. Pay attention to your flasher. They won’t stay around long. Make sure they see your bait and then make them chase it: up, down, and all around until they hit. Set the hook hard and hold on!
What is the best depth to target lakers? Now this one is the tricky question. I personally like fishing 40-80 feet of water. A lot of good trout anglers we have talked to fish shallower and some deeper. If you are just starting out keep in that 40-80 foot range. Depth isn’t as important as being mobile. If you are not seeing fish on your flasher, it’s time to move. Mobility is what lake trout fishing is all about. Keep on the move and you will eventually land on a dinner table. Also, keep in mind, these dinner tables change daily, or hourly some days. Keep jumping from spot to spot and cover the whole water column.
What are the best baits to use? This is my favorite topic. If I could pick three baits they would be: 1.Reel Bait Fergie ¾ ounce (www.reelbait.com), 2.glow Slurpie tube over a ½ ounce rattle jig, and 3.River 2 Sea diver vibe in 1 ounce. These three lures cover all concepts of the trout program and each offers a little different presentation while covering the whole water column. Each is different. The fergie is a jigging spoon so it can be ripped, fluttered, bounced off the bottom, or buzzed through the water column. Don’t forget the clacker on that fergie. Be aggressive with the fergie and find the prototype color that triggers the most hits on the body of water you are fishing. The slurpie is a well known trout magnet. It imitates a smelt or minnow with extra flutter. The slurpie can be used with aggressive fish or at slow times when lakers are on the finicky side. The diver vibe is my lure of choice when searching for active fish and bee popping from hole to hole. The vibe sinks like a rock and vibrates like no other. If there are active fish in the area, they will appear in a matter of seconds. This lure covers the whole water column in a quick manner with long vibrating sweeps of the rod tip. All three lures can be tipped with a minnow, minnow head, or scent. Some days you will need to tip lures with live bait and on other days it won’t be necessary. Let the trout’s body language on your flasher tell you what they want. These fish are curious predators so if they are in the area, you will see them on your flasher. If you don't, it's time to jump spots!
With that being said; get on the internet and do some research on trout lakes in Canada. You don’t have to drive too far across the border to find excellent trout waters. Plan your trip and print some maps out. Come up with a plan and bring plenty of extra gas for the auger. Be mobile all day long and keep searching for that dinner table. Cover the whole water column with aggressive jigging and sweeping motions with an array of lures. If you don’t see any large fast moving bars on your flasher darting and screaming around, take off to the next spot. It won’t take long before you’re hooked on one of the strongest and most beautiful freshwater fish the North has to offer. I guarantee the pristine and gorgeous landscape along with the battle of a hog lake trout will keep you going back to the frozen Canadian waters year after year!
Randy Topper, Gene Grell, and I returned to Browns Clearwater West in Canada this past weekend. Yep, our pursuit was targeting big lake trout on the Clearwater/White Otter chain of lakes. These waters hold 40 pound lake trout. The ice world record laker was taken from these waters and last year the record was broken on these waters. Although we have never done battle with a fish of this caliper, the challenge of hooking up with a lake trout this size keeps us coming back every year. We have developed our trout skills on these waters and have caught lots of fish here. It’s only a matter of time before that fish of a lifetime peels our drags to the bitter end of the spool.
We fished for two and a half days and the three of us iced 38 lake trout, two big walleyes, and a few giant whitefish. We did not catch that 40 pound laker, nor a 20 pound, but our average fish was probably 7 pounds. Our biggest for the trip was 12 pounds. A 12 pound lake trout will give you a fight like no other. The power of a fish like this, pound for pound, doesn’t compare to any other freshwater fish.
Lake travel conditions in Canada are good right now so get a group together and plan your weekend. If you live for the fight on the end of your rod, it’s time to explore Canada!
written by Brock Anderson
This week goes in the books as the coldest week of 2014. Ummmm, Well I hope it is the coldest week of the New Year. 2014 has kicked off with absolutely brutal cold temperatures. Twenty and thirty below temps have been the norm of this opening week. The wind chill is absent from those digits so you can shiver if you want. Hopefully, we all can break some records this year. We are already working on a few as we speak. Happy New Year everyone!
The good news of the past deep freeze is this weekend’s forecast. It looks as if average temperatures are on their way back to the northland. We can all come out of hibernation and return to the outdoors. Let’s keep our fingers crossed though. It’s been a rough beginning to this winter.
The story goes like this: First came the cold, then came the snow, then more snow, and more, then the slush kind of destroyed the lakes, and then we had a little taste of an Ice Age. Maybe Ice Age is a little extreme, but it’s been way too cold. This winter has been very unpleasant. I know the ‘old timers’ are saying, “This is nothing.” I know you walked uphill both ways in snow up to your waist. Well, you might have! All I can say is average temperatures might be shirtless ones for me out on the ice if there isn’t a negative in front of a number this weekend.
Speaking of hot on cold, I had the excitement of a free guided trip this past weekend. I normally don’t get the opportunity of a ‘bring only yourself to the lake fishing trip’ so I jumped on it rather promptly. A very bright and beautiful woman (can’t give out the info of this top secret guide) brought me out fishing in the bone chilling elements on Saturday afternoon. She supplied everything even the nice warm fish house. I’m not sure if I should say it was nice and warm or way out of control hot. She had that house cooking like Crisco. It had to be 100 degrees in there. I wasn’t sure if it was more pleasant inside or outside (-25 F). All that matters is we caught crappies and had a blast of a time. Thanks for the trip girl. Next time tell me to bring my shorts and t-shirt!
As far as fishing goes around here, most have been hunkering down inside. There have still been some hardcores out as of late. A permanent house or dark house is about the only thing people have been hitting lately. Reports have been sporadic. Ice/slush conditions have greatly improved in the past week. Fishermen are finding travel way easier on both small and larger lakes around the Grand Rapids area. You can still find some slush pockets on the lakes, but most has frozen down pretty solid. Please remain careful when breaking a new trail.
Red Lake currently has the most consistent walleye bite taking place. We are finding numbers of active walleyes on the end of the rock structures out of West Wind Resort in 12 feet of water. People are pushing out further and further as the roads get plowed. Stay away from the crowds and off the roads and you will find good fishing in 12-14 fow. If you don’t find any active fish, keep on the move. Be mobile and you will eventually start whacking em. The morning bite has been the best, but again, mobility will buy you an all day bite. Reports from anglers in sleeper houses have informed us that the night bite has been very consistent too. Get up to Red Lake this weekend. Truck travel is good out from most of the resorts and there is plenty of ice.
Lake of the Woods was slowed down a bit this week probably due to this front, but fishermen are still finding good action in 28-30 fow. It looks to us like the best success is moving out deeper and deeper everyday for the day bite and then moving in shallower in the later evening. White glow and red glow has been the ticket… Truck travel is great on the big lake.
Anglers are having no problem getting out on Pokegama, Winnibigoshish, Leech, and other area lakes with wheelers and snowmobiles right now. There is little truck travel going on, but please call the resorts before you plan your trip to some of these bodies of water if you plan on driving full sized rigs. Walleye fishing has been fair in the evening hours. Pokegama has been hit or miss for walleyes. Some evenings are really slow and others OK. Look to 30 fow for your best action in the last half hour of light. Pike spearing has been very good on Poke in 10-12 fow. Look to the weed lines and inside corners for a fun filled day.
The best panfish action has been taking place on Big and Little Splithand, Cut Foot, and a number of smaller area lakes. Looks like its going to be a great weekend to hit the ice.
I believe we are off to Canada this weekend for a short lake trout adventure. Wish us luck. Good luck fishing everyone and be safe!
Written by Brock