Bitter Lake + Waubay

Gander Mountain

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After a good nights sleep, we were ready to hit it bright and early.  This time my wife, Pam, was up before I was because she wanted to get onto Bitter and catch a plethora of walleye.  The folks at Sportsman Cove had told us we would catch a lot of fish before we caught a keeper for us.  Apparently the state of South Dakota had removed the minimum on the lake and you can keep what you catch.  That is good and bad.  Anything smaller that 15 inches in our minds is not worth keeping.  You just don’t get much meat out of fish that small.

 We were at Casey’s quick stop by 6:30 a.m. for coffee and a breakfast sandwich, the next stop was Bitter Lake.  We used the access at the southeast end of the lake which is a fine ramp and dock the state has put in. The bad news according to the people at Sportsman Cove, was the lake was low and of course the state does not mark the boulders and partially submerged reefs.  Get a good topo map if you are going to fish this lake is imperative.  I do not have one.

There are two levels parking and when we got there, the bottom level was already full by 7:30 a.m.  So after launching the boat I had to park on the upper level.  People are so excited about having to wait a little as if they will miss out on something really big.  We took the advice of Sportsman Cove and started working down the south shore in 15+ feet of water pulling spinners as we trolled along.  Getting to an area of a sunken point, there must have been 30 boats in an area about twice the size of a football field.  This must be the place.  As I glassed the area, periodically I would see someone pick up a fish that was hardly worth bringing into the boat.  I had been told the state had stocked nine million fingerling a couple of years ago.  At the rate I saw people hauling in puny little fish, it won’t take long for this lake to be fished out.  There is a certain amount of natural kill that will take place, plus the small fish are subject to bigger predators. 

I have added a couple of X’s on the map to see where we went.  A number of years a go I had fished the northeast corner of the lake and had picked up some really nice northern.  The water is really clear and if the lake doesn’t get fished out this will be a real producer.

Pam was periodically getting her wish and would score a little fish which was promptly thrown back. With the boat traffic, I basically spent most of my time watching out for other boats and never caught a fish.  This was not fun for either of us.  The next thing we knew, the lake went flat and there was not a breath of fresh air.  A sun beating down on a flat body of water is not good walleye water and we weaved our way back to the boat ramp.  We still had to wait in line to get the boat out and wait our turn to get it on the trailer.  Pam said, “Let’s go back to Waubay.  We do not have all this kind of competition on that lake.”

In northern South Dakota the sky is a brilliant blue and the fluffy clouds just look whiter.  There is very low humidity.  The lake was flatter than a pancake.  We still launched at Kanago and moved to the south end of the lake.  Along some points that stick out from the shore in years past, we have had good luck. Not today.  We boated over to the first island off of Kanago access and worked all around it.  We did pick up a small perch.  We stayed close to the area, but that must have been an orphan.  All around the island, we caught nothing and did not have a strike.  The sun was getting a little hot and I had forgotten to put sunscreen in the boat.

Moving the boat again, we headed to duck island and worked it for an hour.  Nothing happened.  Next stop was school bus point.  The bus has been gone for years, but I can remember when there would be 15 to 20 boats working the area and all catching nice size fish.  We stayed for 45 minutes, then called it quits.

The next stop was straight out of the Grenville access.  There is a U shaped area with a reserve on the south of the U.  There are usually fish inside the U between 10 to 20 feet and I have always picked up a walleye.  Sure enough, I caught two, and they were keepers.  It was 5 p.m. and we were both burned up from the sun and the flat lake.  It was time to throw it in.

Now I have fished this lake for 20 years.  Boating back to Kanago access, we went by way of duck island and Breski bay.  That would put me at the north side of the access. If you stay along the edge of the south shore you can miss all the reefs.  I should have gone south and then using the houses as landmarks on the shore turn west, then northwest to the landing.  This time I went down the north shoreline.  I thought we were deep enough.  Bang!!. I hit a sunken reef with the motor and we were in about 1 foot of water.  Taking a gaff, I pushed the boat off the reef where we could get the motor down. Fortunately, I was going somewhat slowly.  Out of the lake we could see as we spun the prop, and the prop shaft was bent and the prop was all chewed up.

Insurance will cover it, and I have an appointment with a dealer to check it all out and see the extent of the damage, and get it fixed.  My friends, there are rocks around Kanago access.  If I had been going at a good rate of speed, I could have done some real damage.  Just the same it was four numbers worth of damage.  I may have said some discouraging words, but mainly thought them to myself.  I do not have a stainless steel prop, so that saves some money.

Good hunting, good fishing and good luck.  Be sure to stay off the rocks.  Hank


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