The Great Lakes of Iowa

Pam with a nice white bass in South Dakota

I rarely fish any Iowa lakes.  There is the old axiom of the 50 mile expert is the one you should always contact for ideas and to give direction and meaning to what you need to do.  I hate to admit it but I have traveled over 300+ miles only to get skunked.  After all it is called fishing not catching.  The same saying applies to hunting.  That is why it is called hunting not shooting.

This photo of Spirit Lake is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This has been the summer for trying out new ideas and visiting new places.  Results have been acceptable considering you are just getting the feel of the place initially.  Every week the state of Iowa puts out a fishing report on lakes in the different areas of the state.  As a boy, I fished one of the lakes in the region and the results were very good, but that was 60+years ago.  This year I noticed that Spirit Lake in the Great Lakes Region of Northwest Iowa was getting good results for walleye catches and good catches of other fish.

After scoping the internet, I just didn’t have the feel I was getting good information about Big Spirit Lake.  With that in mind, I said to my wife Pam,”It is only a little over 3 hours up there, so let’s go up and check the area out.”  In this fashion, we will find places to stay that cater to fishermen and women.  We like to eat well and at our age, you never know if this will be your last chance at a great meal. So we check out all the places that will give us the opportunity to dine well.  The two most important items are the boat ramps and the fish cleaning stations.  We have put our boat into some places that I thought, good grief, how am I going to get this thing out?  An 18.5 foot Crestliner is not light, and I have one too many scratches and bumps on this boat.

To learn about the town of Spirit Lake, Iowa go to their website.

The first motel we spotted was the Northland Inn, just as we entered the town.  The motel had what we expected, but we needed to check out the rest of the facilities in the town.  Super 8, Ramada, and a couple of private motels were available, but we went back to the Northland to meet the owner. This lady was a peach and a plethora of information.  Yes, our catch of fish could be frozen at the motel.  Yes, they have an area to clean fish.  The next thing she said was, “Would you like to see a room?”  “Of course,” was our answer, and the room was perfect for us and really neat and clean.  I have to admit, that I have taken my wife to some places that I was not pleased with in South Dakota, but this room was excellent.

This is a resort area with Arnold’s Park and Lake Okoboji and the lady had many suggestions of basic to fine dining.  We now had our place to stay. A place to clean and freeze fish.  She suggested just to drop the boat on the grass in the front of the motel.  We could use our truck to get around and not have the problem of parking a trailer in a tight parking area of the eating establishments.

Next we scouted out a couple of bait stores and took a drive around the lake.  The people at the bait stores were very informative as they always are.  They want us to catch fish and buy bait. This lake is really big and based on the reports, is an excellent fishery.  We scouted it out in its entirety.  The lake is almost entirely surrounded by private housing and many of the areas are private.  Therefore, you cannot enter by car to check out the banks.  No need to do that as there are some excellent maps which the state of Iowa has supplied to obtain information about the lake.  At the south end of the lake is a state fish hatchery.  We did not stop to visit, but the next time up we will make it a must item on our list.  Walleye is stocked into the lake.

This photo of Spirit Lake is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The boat ramp and parking area is excellent and totally out of the wind.  That is nice as I like to get my boat on straight.  We did not find one fish cleaning station, however the motel will supply that item.  There are two things that concern us right now.  We think the lake is heavily fished and we might not have great success just due to the pressure.  There is a slot.  You must throw back live all walleye caught that are between 17 and 22 inches. The daily limit is 3 per license, and you can keep one fish over 22 inches.  I will take all the sixteen inch fish I can catch, and if I caught one 22 inches long, that would be a bonus.  Their requirements on the lake tell me the state is going to manage this fine fishery to give everyone good fishing.

The lake also has a good mix of other very eatable fish.  Perch, small mouth bass, and northern are also in the lake.  For a bonus you have the fish of 1000 casts, the musky.  We will take all the northern pike that are of decent size and filleted out with the Y bones removed.  They are excellent eating.  If we get a good break in the weather, and Pam and I will take a trip and try it out.

Click on the link to see how to take out the Y bones

This is the entrance to the boat ramp and if you go straight ahead you will be on private property.  Don’t do that. 
Good ramp and out of the wind.  Ample parking behind me.  
Here is the slot for walleyes.  Look at that musky requirement.  I want to catch a 40 inch musky just once. 

I marked on the map areas recommended by the bait shop to hammer the big fish.  I did not mark the east side north of the bay and there is a stand of cabbage weed.  That probably is a good place for the fish of 1000 casts, the Musky.  I am sure there are plenty of northern pike in the cabbage weed.  

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank
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The Great Lakes of Iowa

Pam with a nice white bass in South Dakota

I rarely fish any Iowa lakes.  There is the old axiom of the 50 mile expert is the one you should always contact for ideas and to give direction and meaning to what you need to do.  I hate to admit it but I have traveled over 300+ miles only to get skunked.  After all it is called fishing not catching.  The same saying applies to hunting.  That is why it is called hunting not shooting.

This photo of Spirit Lake is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This has been the summer for trying out new ideas and visiting new places.  Results have been acceptable considering you are just getting the feel of the place initially.  Every week the state of Iowa puts out a fishing report on lakes in the different areas of the state.  As a boy, I fished one of the lakes in the region and the results were very good, but that was 60+years ago.  This year I noticed that Spirit Lake in the Great Lakes Region of Northwest Iowa was getting good results for walleye catches and good catches of other fish.

After scoping the internet, I just didn’t have the feel I was getting good information about Big Spirit Lake.  With that in mind, I said to my wife Pam,”It is only a little over 3 hours up there, so let’s go up and check the area out.”  In this fashion, we will find places to stay that cater to fishermen and women.  We like to eat well and at our age, you never know if this will be your last chance at a great meal. So we check out all the places that will give us the opportunity to dine well.  The two most important items are the boat ramps and the fish cleaning stations.  We have put our boat into some places that I thought, good grief, how am I going to get this thing out?  An 18.5 foot Crestliner is not light, and I have one too many scratches and bumps on this boat.

To learn about the town of Spirit Lake, Iowa go to their website.

The first motel we spotted was the Northland Inn, just as we entered the town.  The motel had what we expected, but we needed to check out the rest of the facilities in the town.  Super 8, Ramada, and a couple of private motels were available, but we went back to the Northland to meet the owner. This lady was a peach and a plethora of information.  Yes, our catch of fish could be frozen at the motel.  Yes, they have an area to clean fish.  The next thing she said was, “Would you like to see a room?”  “Of course,” was our answer, and the room was perfect for us and really neat and clean.  I have to admit, that I have taken my wife to some places that I was not pleased with in South Dakota, but this room was excellent.

This is a resort area with Arnold’s Park and Lake Okoboji and the lady had many suggestions of basic to fine dining.  We now had our place to stay. A place to clean and freeze fish.  She suggested just to drop the boat on the grass in the front of the motel.  We could use our truck to get around and not have the problem of parking a trailer in a tight parking area of the eating establishments.

Next we scouted out a couple of bait stores and took a drive around the lake.  The people at the bait stores were very informative as they always are.  They want us to catch fish and buy bait. This lake is really big and based on the reports, is an excellent fishery.  We scouted it out in its entirety.  The lake is almost entirely surrounded by private housing and many of the areas are private.  Therefore, you cannot enter by car to check out the banks.  No need to do that as there are some excellent maps which the state of Iowa has supplied to obtain information about the lake.  At the south end of the lake is a state fish hatchery.  We did not stop to visit, but the next time up we will make it a must item on our list.  Walleye is stocked into the lake.

This photo of Spirit Lake is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

The boat ramp and parking area is excellent and totally out of the wind.  That is nice as I like to get my boat on straight.  We did not find one fish cleaning station, however the motel will supply that item.  There are two things that concern us right now.  We think the lake is heavily fished and we might not have great success just due to the pressure.  There is a slot.  You must throw back live all walleye caught that are between 17 and 22 inches. The daily limit is 3 per license, and you can keep one fish over 22 inches.  I will take all the sixteen inch fish I can catch, and if I caught one 22 inches long, that would be a bonus.  Their requirements on the lake tell me the state is going to manage this fine fishery to give everyone good fishing.

The lake also has a good mix of other very eatable fish.  Perch, small mouth bass, and northern are also in the lake.  For a bonus you have the fish of 1000 casts, the musky.  We will take all the northern pike that are of decent size and filleted out with the Y bones removed.  They are excellent eating.  If we get a good break in the weather, and Pam and I will take a trip and try it out.

 

Click on the link to see how to take out the Y bones

This is the entrance to the boat ramp and if you go straight ahead you will be on private property.  Don’t do that. 

Good ramp and out of the wind.  Ample parking behind me.  

Here is the slot for walleyes.  Look at that musky requirement.  I want to catch a 40 inch musky just once. 

 

I marked on the map areas recommended by the bait shop to hammer the big fish.  I did not mark the east side north of the bay and there is a stand of cabbage weed.  That probably is a good place for the fish of 1000 casts, the Musky.  I am sure there are plenty of northern pike in the cabbage weed.  

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Beautiful Morning on Lake Manawa

My wife feeds Hummingbirds and with fall approaching they are feeding heavily.  Fun to watch. 

Lake Manawa, an old oxbow lake, was an outstanding fishery when I was a boy and fished with my dad.  There were no outboard motors to push us around the lake so he would rent a wooden row boat from Campbell’s Marina and we would row or I would row the boat all over the lake.  It was work! Then my parents joined the Council Bluffs Fish and Game Club and they had aluminum boats.  We still rowed, but it was a lot easier than the old wooden boats.  What was really interesting was we did not wear life preservers and did not know that any existed at the time.  The other interesting item is that the boats would sink if they filled up with water.  There was no flotation built into the boats.

Later when I carried papers, I was able to save up enough money and bought a used 7.5 horse Scott at Water outboard motor.  It was a two cycle and the gas/oil mixture was built into the top of the motor.  For a 12 year old boy, I was in hog heaven just having that motor to push us around the lake.  We still did not have any life jackets and there was no regulation that required us to do so.

Where is all this going?  The lake silted in and over the years became more of a speed boat and recreational boating lake.  I always visited with the Park Rangers at sport shows and asked about the fishing.  It slowly came back and the boundary areas were generously made into no wake sections, but it was still shallow not being much over 6 feet deep with a few deeper holes.

Walleye were stocked in the lake and there were reports of catching them on the west side of the lake.  Some had luck, but most had little or no action.  Then came the big announcement.  The lake was to be dredged.  There is a God!  Everyone I knew hoped the whole lake or at least the west side would be dug deeper.

The dredge material was to be used by the Iowa Department of Transportation as fill where they were building highways and other structures needing fill dirt.  As the dredging took place, it was noticed that the dredge was in one general area and not moving around the lake.  The spot was on the point sticking out into the lake.  Material was taken out of that area and it made a big hole in the lake bottom.

When I talked with the Park Ranger one afternoon, he said to fish that hole as he knew of people that had picked up some nice fish.

Pam and I loaded up one morning and went out to find the hole.  The state has provided the fishermen and boaters with three really good boat ramps with good docks and ramps.  At my age, I will no longer struggle to get an 18.6 inch boat off a trailer and get it back on again.  We used the boat ramp on the west side of the lake.

Good dock with side rail padding  so you don’t bang your boat and a good concrete ramp with a gradual drop into about four feet of water.  
Pam is in charge of the boat.  Please note over Pam’s left shoulder in the background are restroom facilities provided by the state of Iowa.  This is one of those modern no flush toilets. 
You drive under the road to the main body of the lake.   The water here was about 3 to 4 feet deep and I kept the motor tilted up.  Closer to the tube the water went down to 2 feet, but once inside the tube it went down to 4 and to 5 on the outside.  If you use this boat ramp, just beware there is shallow water getting out of the bay right before the tube.  

Once onto the main body of the lake we headed over to the point sticking out into the lake.  This was the general area where the dredge was located.

Two years ago this was the location where the dredge was located.  It is not hard to find.  They pulled up the material all around the front of this peninsula and ran pipes on the bottom of the lake pumping water and material to an area south of the lake. 
That piece of equipment was anchored and pumped the material from the dredge through a series of pipes to the dirt pile south of the lake.  

Moving slowly we watched the graph and Wow! It went from 5 feet of water right down to 10 feet and gradually deeper. It was a vertical drop so this was the place.  Instantly, after clearing the drop off we started graphing fish in 8 to 10 feet of water.  The deeper we went the more fish we graphed.  The picture below shows a good place to start.  It is a no wake buoy just off the tip of the peninsula.

I am looking straight west and the buoy is in the background.  Notice the large white house off to one side.  If you see the buoy and the house you are in the right place.  Start fishing right at the buoy.  On the shore there is a large log about 6 foot long.  When you see the log you will be in 14 feet of water and will be about 10 yards from the shore.  
The water was greenish brown so I used a spinner with a crawler (we used to call them worms) and dropped it down to the bottom and pulled it up a foot or so, The spinner had a little brownish color on it moving to chartreuse.  It does not take long to make it across the hole.  You will know it when you reach the other side as the water goes up to about 5 to 6 feet. 
The buoy is on the east side of the hole and when you reach that spot you will run out of deep water.  

We worked the hole first with the multicolored spinner back and forth a few times and switched to a chartreuse spinner with crawler.  Each of us had a couple of smacks, but nothing took hold.  We then added bottom bouncers to make sure the bait was well down to the bottom and worked that setup.  We got nothing.

Next we switched to one of my favorite lures, the Berkley Flicker Shad.  This lure is better known as the “Finger Shad” by my wife and I. The reason for renaming it to the Finger Shad is because its many little hooks tend to hook fingers easily.  We have learned from experience! We tried to move closer to the edge of the hole and circled around allowing the lure to do its magic.  Nothing.

By now the sun was up high and it was time for lunch, and we folded our tent.

Heading back into the tube under the road.

Inside the tube.

There is a large dead tree close to the tip of the peninsula and at the top was an eagle.   Sorry this picture is so bad, but we took it with our I-phone and there was a lot of distance.  We forgot to take our good camera that would have brought it in really close.   The I-phone just doesn’t do well with distances.  
Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

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Beautiful Morning on Lake Manawa

My wife feeds Hummingbirds and with fall approaching they are feeding heavily.  Fun to watch. 

 

Lake Manawa, an old oxbow lake, was an outstanding fishery when I was a boy and fished with my dad.  There were no outboard motors to push us around the lake so he would rent a wooden row boat from Campbell’s Marina and we would row or I would row the boat all over the lake.  It was work! Then my parents joined the Council Bluffs Fish and Game Club and they had aluminum boats.  We still rowed, but it was a lot easier than the old wooden boats.  What was really interesting was we did not wear life preservers and did not know that any existed at the time.  The other interesting item is that the boats would sink if they filled up with water.  There was no flotation built into the boats.

Later when I carried papers, I was able to save up enough money and bought a used 7.5 horse Scott at Water outboard motor.  It was a two cycle and the gas/oil mixture was built into the top of the motor.  For a 12 year old boy, I was in hog heaven just having that motor to push us around the lake.  We still did not have any life jackets and there was no regulation that required us to do so.

Where is all this going?  The lake silted in and over the years became more of a speed boat and recreational boating lake.  I always visited with the Park Rangers at sport shows and asked about the fishing.  It slowly came back and the boundary areas were generously made into no wake sections, but it was still shallow not being much over 6 feet deep with a few deeper holes.

Walleye were stocked in the lake and there were reports of catching them on the west side of the lake.  Some had luck, but most had little or no action.  Then came the big announcement.  The lake was to be dredged.  There is a God!  Everyone I knew hoped the whole lake or at least the west side would be dug deeper.

The dredge material was to be used by the Iowa Department of Transportation as fill where they were building highways and other structures needing fill dirt.  As the dredging took place, it was noticed that the dredge was in one general area and not moving around the lake.  The spot was on the point sticking out into the lake.  Material was taken out of that area and it made a big hole in the lake bottom.

When I talked with the Park Ranger one afternoon, he said to fish that hole as he knew of people that had picked up some nice fish.

Pam and I loaded up one morning and went out to find the hole.  The state has provided the fishermen and boaters with three really good boat ramps with good docks and ramps.  At my age, I will no longer struggle to get an 18.6 inch boat off a trailer and get it back on again.  We used the boat ramp on the west side of the lake.

Good dock with side rail padding  so you don’t bang your boat and a good concrete ramp with a gradual drop into about four feet of water.  

 

Pam is in charge of the boat.  Please note over Pam’s left shoulder in the background are restroom facilities provided by the state of Iowa.  This is one of those modern no flush toilets. 

 

You drive under the road to the main body of the lake.   The water here was about 3 to 4 feet deep and I kept the motor tilted up.  Closer to the tube the water went down to 2 feet, but once inside the tube it went down to 4 and to 5 on the outside.  If you use this boat ramp, just beware there is shallow water getting out of the bay right before the tube.  

 

Once onto the main body of the lake we headed over to the point sticking out into the lake.  This was the general area where the dredge was located.

Two years ago this was the location where the dredge was located.  It is not hard to find.  They pulled up the material all around the front of this peninsula and ran pipes on the bottom of the lake pumping water and material to an area south of the lake. 

That piece of equipment was anchored and pumped the material from the dredge through a series of pipes to the dirt pile south of the lake.  

 

Moving slowly we watched the graph and Wow! It went from 5 feet of water right down to 10 feet and gradually deeper. It was a vertical drop so this was the place.  Instantly, after clearing the drop off we started graphing fish in 8 to 10 feet of water.  The deeper we went the more fish we graphed.  The picture below shows a good place to start.  It is a no wake buoy just off the tip of the peninsula.

I am looking straight west and the buoy is in the background.  Notice the large white house off to one side.  If you see the buoy and the house you are in the right place.  Start fishing right at the buoy.  On the shore there is a large log about 6 foot long.  When you see the log you will be in 14 feet of water and will be about 10 yards from the shore.  

The water was greenish brown so I used a spinner with a crawler (we used to call them worms) and dropped it down to the bottom and pulled it up a foot or so, The spinner had a little brownish color on it moving to chartreuse.  It does not take long to make it across the hole.  You will know it when you reach the other side as the water goes up to about 5 to 6 feet. 

The buoy is on the east side of the hole and when you reach that spot you will run out of deep water.  

 

We worked the hole first with the multicolored spinner back and forth a few times and switched to a chartreuse spinner with crawler.  Each of us had a couple of smacks, but nothing took hold.  We then added bottom bouncers to make sure the bait was well down to the bottom and worked that setup.  We got nothing.

Next we switched to one of my favorite lures, the Berkley Flicker Shad.  This lure is better known as the “Finger Shad” by my wife and I. The reason for renaming it to the Finger Shad is because its many little hooks tend to hook fingers easily.  We have learned from experience! We tried to move closer to the edge of the hole and circled around allowing the lure to do its magic.  Nothing.

By now the sun was up high and it was time for lunch, and we folded our tent.

Heading back into the tube under the road.

Inside the tube.

There is a large dead tree close to the tip of the peninsula and at the top was an eagle.   Sorry this picture is so bad, but we took it with our I-phone and there was a lot of distance.  We forgot to take our good camera that would have brought it in really close.   The I-phone just doesn’t do well with distances.  

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Click on the banner and buy my book, “How to Hunt Like a Gentleman.”

 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

An Old Missouri River Oxbow Lake

A short drive north of Council Bluffs is a beautiful Lewis and Clark State Park.  The park holds Blue Lake, a really old oxbow lake that has been there since I was a little boy.  A couple of decades ago I  fished it with my son when he was young.  The lake was the typical narrow body of water that ran north and south and then curved to the west to form the oxbow.

You would think that this type of lake would have a mud bottom, but back then the water was relatively clear, so the soil under the water must have been sandy.  The second thing about the lake that was interesting was it contained an unusual of weed covering almost half of the surface.  Looking through pictures of lake weed, it appeared to be Milfoil weed.

This is what you would see if you looked straight down into the lake.  This is good fish habitat especially along the edges and it would give the bait fish great places to hide and avoid being a meal for a larger fish. 
The strategy was to work along the edges of the weed and weave around through the various patches.  It would go from the shore almost to the middle of the lake in bands.  We would pick up some nice size Northern Pike which after taking out the Y bones made for an excellent fillet. 

Click on the link above to watch an excellent demonstration of taking out Y bones. 
The other specie of fish caught was Large Mouth Bass.  The bass were good size and were really meaty.  Bass was the common fish caught back then along with crappie and this lake produced good catches early in the season.  As it got hotter the fishing slowed way down and by the end of July it was hardly worth going. 
We had unusually hot weather this June and early July, and it totally turned off my wife from going.  Cooler weather is much more pleasant to be in a boat almost all day and especially when the sky is blue and the sun is at full fry. 
On our way to South Dakota we drove by Onawa, IA, the exit to the town and also Blue Lake.  We had a break in the weather for several days and decided to give it a try.  It is less than an hours drive from our home.  The sky had a high overcast and the temps had been cool for this time of the year.  Up we went to Blue Lake. 
I checked at the local bait shop in Council Bluffs and they told me there were some reports of good bass fishing, but the northern pike appeared to be all but gone due to the flood in 2011.  We will eat bass.  Up we went to the lake.  The State of Iowa has done an outstanding with this recreation area. 
 Lewis and Clark is a very popular area for family picnics. The park has more than 30 acres of picnic grounds with tables, fire grills, and drinking water. Two open picnic shelters are available for picnic use on a first come/first serve basis and may be rented through the park office.
While visiting Lewis and Clark, we took the opportunity to view the full-sized reproduction of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat/barge, “Best Friend,” which was constructed by Butch Bouvier of L&C Replicas. The keelboat display room offers visitors the ability to see all of the boats that were utilized on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  The replica boats on display are a keelboat, two pirogues, a dug-out canoe, The Iron Boat, and a bull boat.  Also on display are many informative pieces from the expedition.  Large groups may schedule an appointment to go on an exciting boat ride in a working keelboat. The keelboat display is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 4pm  from April 15 – October 1.  October 2 through April 14, you can visit by scheduling an appointment with park staff.  
This photo of Lewis and Clark State Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The lodge at Lewis and Clark is a fine place for group events such as wedding receptions and family reunions. The lodge was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The lodge may be reserved for a fee online through the park reservation system.
This photo of Lewis and Clark State Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor
The Lewis and Clark campground is a great place to spend a leisurely vacation in the outdoors with electrical hookups and full hook-ups that lie along the lakeshore. Modern rest rooms and showers are available, as is a trailer dump station. Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. One fourth of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The boat ramp is excellent and we came to fish.  First we headed to the south end of the lake and began throwing plastic worms along and among the Lilly pads  We would picked up some small bass and they were promptly thrown back.  
Good parking, paved surface and a ramp that drops right off into deep water.  That really helps in getting the boat off and back straight on the trailor. 
We fished these lilly pads first.  The water looked really good. 
Moving up the east shore we continued to work the weed line.  The water on the weed line was about 2.5 to 3 feet deep.  The water was not the super clear experience we had had before, but there could have been an algae bloom and it was a little cloudy.  We continued up the shoreline picking up periodically a small fish but nothing of any size. 
Notice the weed line in this picture.  We threw up to the weed line and reeled in.  
Moving over to the west bank and working the weed line produced the same results.  It is always fun to catch and pitch, but we want meat and this is what this exercise is all about. What was really interesting was when we moved out to about six feet of water, we began graphing fish and lots of fish.  Both graphs were pinging away and we had to shut the noise down.  The lake went down out to the middle in the eight to ten feet range and we failed to graph many fish in that depth.  
An old fisherman once told me let your graph be your eyes.  With that, we moved the boat to the more shallow side of the lake and threw the worms out to the lake.  The idea was to let them sink and then do a gradual retrieve.  That exercise produced nothing, but the idea made sense.  Put the bait where the fish are located. 
Next we switched to deep diving crank baits and threw them out toward the middle of the lake and pulled them back in.  That again was an exercise in futility. 
The next idea was to use the most favorite hard bait I had in the box and located all over the boat.  That is the Berkley Flicker Shad.  With this lure Pam and I have caught a plethora of walleye and northern pike.  Right now, we would settle for a carp.  Never never give up.  When the fishing gets tough, the fisherman should fish harder. 
We drove back toward the south end of the lake and following the graph, figured out about where the fish had been graphed.  After throwing the lures out, we drug them along the line that graphed fish.  With great hope we anticipated some strikes and hits, but nothing happened.  It was getting close to lunch time and we needed some action.  What happened next was a boat put in and headed up to the northeast end of the lake.  There was a sharp bank there and they began to fish, working along the bank slowly.
I used to fish with a hard core fisherman from northern Minnesota.  He always carried a really good set of binoculars with him to study the competition if he was not catching anything.  It was time to study the boat that was working along the opposite shoreline.  
We baited up a couple of jigs and just moved along the opposite bank working weed line and other obvious shore line structure.  At the same time, we studied our competitors to see if they were nailing anything.  We did not see them catch a fish.  Also, our activity had slowed considerably and we weren’t even getting a strike.  
Hunger overcame our desire to fish and we headed into town for lunch.  I will come back up here late fall and next spring for sure as the water looks good and the facilities are excellent.
Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck Hank
   

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An Old Missouri River Oxbow Lake

A short drive north of Council Bluffs is a beautiful Lewis and Clark State Park.  The park holds Blue Lake, a really old oxbow lake that has been there since I was a little boy.  A couple of decades ago I  fished it with my son when he was young.  The lake was the typical narrow body of water that ran north and south and then curved to the west to form the oxbow.

You would think that this type of lake would have a mud bottom, but back then the water was relatively clear, so the soil under the water must have been sandy.  The second thing about the lake that was interesting was it contained an unusual of weed covering almost half of the surface.  Looking through pictures of lake weed, it appeared to be Milfoil weed.

This is what you would see if you looked straight down into the lake.  This is good fish habitat especially along the edges and it would give the bait fish great places to hide and avoid being a meal for a larger fish. 

The strategy was to work along the edges of the weed and weave around through the various patches.  It would go from the shore almost to the middle of the lake in bands.  We would pick up some nice size Northern Pike which after taking out the Y bones made for an excellent fillet. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS_cHdKS-_A

Click on the link above to watch an excellent demonstration of taking out Y bones. 

The other specie of fish caught was Large Mouth Bass.  The bass were good size and were really meaty.  Bass was the common fish caught back then along with crappie and this lake produced good catches early in the season.  As it got hotter the fishing slowed way down and by the end of July it was hardly worth going. 

We had unusually hot weather this June and early July, and it totally turned off my wife from going.  Cooler weather is much more pleasant to be in a boat almost all day and especially when the sky is blue and the sun is at full fry. 

On our way to South Dakota we drove by Onawa, IA, the exit to the town and also Blue Lake.  We had a break in the weather for several days and decided to give it a try.  It is less than an hours drive from our home.  The sky had a high overcast and the temps had been cool for this time of the year.  Up we went to Blue Lake. 

I checked at the local bait shop in Council Bluffs and they told me there were some reports of good bass fishing, but the northern pike appeared to be all but gone due to the flood in 2011.  We will eat bass.  Up we went to the lake.  The State of Iowa has done an outstanding with this recreation area. 

 Lewis and Clark is a very popular area for family picnics. The park has more than 30 acres of picnic grounds with tables, fire grills, and drinking water. Two open picnic shelters are available for picnic use on a first come/first serve basis and may be rented through the park office.

While visiting Lewis and Clark, we took the opportunity to view the full-sized reproduction of Lewis and Clark’s keelboat/barge, “Best Friend,” which was constructed by Butch Bouvier of L&C Replicas. The keelboat display room offers visitors the ability to see all of the boats that were utilized on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  The replica boats on display are a keelboat, two pirogues, a dug-out canoe, The Iron Boat, and a bull boat.  Also on display are many informative pieces from the expedition.  Large groups may schedule an appointment to go on an exciting boat ride in a working keelboat. The keelboat display is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 4pm  from April 15 – October 1.  October 2 through April 14, you can visit by scheduling an appointment with park staff.  

This photo of Lewis and Clark State Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

The lodge at Lewis and Clark is a fine place for group events such as wedding receptions and family reunions. The lodge was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The lodge may be reserved for a fee online through the park reservation system.

This photo of Lewis and Clark State Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The Lewis and Clark campground is a great place to spend a leisurely vacation in the outdoors with electrical hookups and full hook-ups that lie along the lakeshore. Modern rest rooms and showers are available, as is a trailer dump station. Advance campsite reservations can be booked through the park reservation system. One fourth of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The boat ramp is excellent and we came to fish.  First we headed to the south end of the lake and began throwing plastic worms along and among the Lilly pads  We would picked up some small bass and they were promptly thrown back.  

Good parking, paved surface and a ramp that drops right off into deep water.  That really helps in getting the boat off and back straight on the trailor. 

We fished these lilly pads first.  The water looked really good. 

Moving up the east shore we continued to work the weed line.  The water on the weed line was about 2.5 to 3 feet deep.  The water was not the super clear experience we had had before, but there could have been an algae bloom and it was a little cloudy.  We continued up the shoreline picking up periodically a small fish but nothing of any size. 

Notice the weed line in this picture.  We threw up to the weed line and reeled in.  

Moving over to the west bank and working the weed line produced the same results.  It is always fun to catch and pitch, but we want meat and this is what this exercise is all about. What was really interesting was when we moved out to about six feet of water, we began graphing fish and lots of fish.  Both graphs were pinging away and we had to shut the noise down.  The lake went down out to the middle in the eight to ten feet range and we failed to graph many fish in that depth.  

Working the west shore

An old fisherman once told me let your graph be your eyes.  With that, we moved the boat to the more shallow side of the lake and threw the worms out to the lake.  The idea was to let them sink and then do a gradual retrieve.  That exercise produced nothing, but the idea made sense.  Put the bait where the fish are located. 

Next we switched to deep diving crank baits and threw them out toward the middle of the lake and pulled them back in.  That again was an exercise in futility. 

The next idea was to use the most favorite hard bait I had in the box and located all over the boat.  That is the Berkley Flicker Shad.  With this lure Pam and I have caught a plethora of walleye and northern pike.  Right now, we would settle for a carp.  Never never give up.  When the fishing gets tough, the fisherman should fish harder. 

Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait - 2-3/4'' - Slick Smelt
Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait – 2-3/4” – Slick Smelt

We drove back toward the south end of the lake and following the graph, figured out about where the fish had been graphed.  After throwing the lures out, we drug them along the line that graphed fish.  With great hope we anticipated some strikes and hits, but nothing happened.  It was getting close to lunch time and we needed some action.  What happened next was a boat put in and headed up to the northeast end of the lake.  There was a sharp bank there and they began to fish, working along the bank slowly.

I used to fish with a hard core fisherman from northern Minnesota.  He always carried a really good set of binoculars with him to study the competition if he was not catching anything.  It was time to study the boat that was working along the opposite shoreline.  

We baited up a couple of jigs and just moved along the opposite bank working weed line and other obvious shore line structure.  At the same time, we studied our competitors to see if they were nailing anything.  We did not see them catch a fish.  Also, our activity had slowed considerably and we weren’t even getting a strike.  

Hunger overcame our desire to fish and we headed into town for lunch.  I will come back up here late fall and next spring for sure as the water looks good and the facilities are excellent.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck Hank

   


Fishing Gear at Basspro.com

The Salmon of South Dakota


I have a close friend that I went to college with and we used to fish the trout streams of north central Nebraska with great success.  The years went by and jobs and family seemed to take up our free time and there was little opportunity to get together.  A couple of years ago he said to me, “Let’s you and I go fish Oahe for some walleye and whatever we can come up with.”  This was not only an opportunity to renew an old friendship but to catch some fish with an old friend.  While we always stayed in touch, this was the first opportunity we had to get together in decades.



He told me about exciting experiences he had fishing for salmon off the face of the Oahe dam in 70 to 100 feet of water.  He fishes for salmon with a gentleman that just loves to fish for salmon more than any other specie and he likes the lake.  So as we visited during the winter months, he assured me that we would go salmon fishing this year.



It is just amazing that an ocean fish exists in a reservoir on the plains of South Dakota, but there it is. I hope we can put this fishing trip together.  I have no gear for this experience, but was told not to worry about it as my friend would supply all I needed.  I was told we would wait until August first to the middle of August when the salmon migrate from warmer waters in the northern part of the lake to the cold water of the depths at the dam where the rainbow smelt would hang out.  This is so exciting. My friend has a source in Pierre, SD that keeps track when the migration takes place and I will be getting a phone call to saddle old paint and head to the prairies.  (That is South Dakota talk for driving)


Now to do some research about salmon in South Dakota.  I know how to cook and eat them.

In the 1950’s the federal government created a reservoir system on the Missouri River system that altered the aquatic habitats in and near the river.  The stretch of river that forms lake Oahe became a cold water lake that produced thermoclines through out the lake and especially down at the dam in the deep water.  The deeper cold water zone was not well used by native fish species, mainly
Walleye and Northern Pike along with other popular local game fish.  The state decided to introduce a new species that could tolerate the limiting factors created by the thermal stratification and add to the sport fishery.

In the 1970’s the state of South Dakota introduced the kokanee salmon and lake trout in Lake Oahe. Neither introduction was successful.

LOGO_234x60


At the same time the state of North Dakota ran experiments in Lake Sakakawea, also a reservoir on the Missouri River.  North Dakota focused on food chain based on rainbow smelt, a fish species used as food by other species.  The smelt reproduced, migrated downstream, and then became abundant in Lake Oahe by 1977.  Chinook salmon was introduced to feed on the smelt that appeared in Lake Oahe in 1979 and 1980.  Because of the success of these two species and the state’s commitment to providing quality sport fishing opportunities, South Dakota implemented its own chinook salmon program.



Chinook salmon are an anadromous species.  However, there are some strains that live their entire life cycle in fresh water.  One such strain, Lake Michigan Chinooks, provided the eggs for South Dakota’s initial efforts.  Like their ocean dwelling relative, these fish make an autumn spawning run up a fresh water stream just before the end of their lives.  Stream water quality and clarity are important in successful spawning locations.  Lake Oahe tributaries are turbid in the autumn, so there was not a good location for Lake Oahe salmon to spawn.  Thus, Whitlocks Bay Spawning and Imprinting Station was built.  It is located on the eastern shore of Lake Oahe, 18 miles west of Gettysburg.

South Dakota first stocked its own Chinooks in April 1982.  175 adult fish returned to Whitlocks Station.  In 1990, 1107 salmon returned, and approximately 787,000 eggs were collected.  The goal of the salmon program was to collect eggs and raise enough fish to stock size and to maintain the sport fishery in the lake.

The salmon would live their lives without human contact-unless they were caught by the angler.  At Whitlocks, eggs are removed from females between mid-September and the end of October every year.  The fertilized eggs are incubated at fish hatcheries around South Dakota, and the individual fish which live to 3 to 6 inch size, are held until late April or early May.  They are then returned to Whitlocks Station and kept in ponds during which time imprinting occurs. (Imprinting is an irreversible learning experience that provides the fish with the ability to return to a selected site). After release, the fish will spend 3-4 years maturing in the lake.  Adults ready to complete the life cycle return to Whitlocks and swim up a fish ladder and into a holding pond created for them.

Originally, fish were stocked when they reached 3.5 inches in length.  By keeping them at the hatcheries until they reach 5 inches, twice as many survive.

This information was take from “Publication of Hooks and Ladders funded by S.D. Project WILD, S.D. Dept. Game, Fish and Parks. 


 https://ift.tt/2AvWybN


Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank


text





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The Salmon of South Dakota

I have a close friend that I went to college with and we used to fish the trout streams of north central Nebraska with great success.  The years went by and jobs and family seemed to take up our free time and there was little opportunity to get together.  A couple of years ago he said to me, “Let’s you and I go fish Oahe for some walleye and whatever we can come up with.”  This was not only an opportunity to renew an old friendship but to catch some fish with an old friend.  While we always stayed in touch, this was the first opportunity we had to get together in decades.

He told me about exciting experiences he had fishing for salmon off the face of the Oahe dam in 70 to 100 feet of water.  He fishes for salmon with a gentleman that just loves to fish for salmon more than any other specie and he likes the lake.  So as we visited during the winter months, he assured me that we would go salmon fishing this year.

 


It is just amazing that an ocean fish exists in a reservoir on the plains of South Dakota, but there it is. I hope we can put this fishing trip together.  I have no gear for this experience, but was told not to worry about it as my friend would supply all I needed.  I was told we would wait until August first to the middle of August when the salmon migrate from warmer waters in the northern part of the lake to the cold water of the depths at the dam where the rainbow smelt would hang out.  This is so exciting. My friend has a source in Pierre, SD that keeps track when the migration takes place and I will be getting a phone call to saddle old paint and head to the prairies.  (That is South Dakota talk for driving)


Now to do some research about salmon in South Dakota.  I know how to cook and eat them.

In the 1950’s the federal government created a reservoir system on the Missouri River system that altered the aquatic habitats in and near the river.  The stretch of river that forms lake Oahe became a cold water lake that produced thermoclines through out the lake and especially down at the dam in the deep water.  The deeper cold water zone was not well used by native fish species, mainly
Walleye and Northern Pike along with other popular local game fish.  The state decided to introduce a new species that could tolerate the limiting factors created by the thermal stratification and add to the sport fishery. 

In the 1970’s the state of South Dakota introduced the kokanee salmon and lake trout in Lake Oahe. Neither introduction was successful.

LOGO_234x60
At the same time the state of North Dakota ran experiments in Lake Sakakawea, also a reservoir on the Missouri River.  North Dakota focused on food chain based on rainbow smelt, a fish species used as food by other species.  The smelt reproduced, migrated downstream, and then became abundant in Lake Oahe by 1977.  Chinook salmon was introduced to feed on the smelt that appeared in Lake Oahe in 1979 and 1980.  Because of the success of these two species and the state’s commitment to providing quality sport fishing opportunities, South Dakota implemented its own chinook salmon program.

 Chinook salmon are an anadromous species.  However, there are some strains that live their entire life cycle in fresh water.  One such strain, Lake Michigan Chinooks, provided the eggs for South Dakota’s initial efforts.  Like their ocean dwelling relative, these fish make an autumn spawning run up a fresh water stream just before the end of their lives.  Stream water quality and clarity are important in successful spawning locations.  Lake Oahe tributaries are turbid in the autumn, so there was not a good location for Lake Oahe salmon to spawn.  Thus, Whitlocks Bay Spawning and Imprinting Station was built.  It is located on the eastern shore of Lake Oahe, 18 miles west of Gettysburg.


South Dakota first stocked its own Chinooks in April 1982.  175 adult fish returned to Whitlocks Station.  In 1990, 1107 salmon returned, and approximately 787,000 eggs were collected.  The goal of the salmon program was to collect eggs and raise enough fish to stock size and to maintain the sport fishery in the lake.


The salmon would live their lives without human contact-unless they were caught by the angler.  At Whitlocks, eggs are removed from females between mid-September and the end of October every year.  The fertilized eggs are incubated at fish hatcheries around South Dakota, and the individual fish which live to 3 to 6 inch size, are held until late April or early May.  They are then returned to Whitlocks Station and kept in ponds during which time imprinting occurs. (Imprinting is an irreversible learning experience that provides the fish with the ability to return to a selected site). After release, the fish will spend 3-4 years maturing in the lake.  Adults ready to complete the life cycle return to Whitlocks and swim up a fish ladder and into a holding pond created for them. 

Originally, fish were stocked when they reached 3.5 inches in length.  By keeping them at the hatcheries until they reach 5 inches, twice as many survive. 

As of this writing, the fish never came to the dam according to my friend, and must wait till the fall of 2018.

 

This information was take from “Publication of Hooks and Ladders funded by S.D. Project WILD, S.D. Dept. Game, Fish and Parks. 

 https://www3.northern.edu/natsource/DAKOTA1/Hooksa1.htm

Orvis

 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

 

Scouting a New Fishing Opportunity

Fifteen years ago I visited with a gentleman from the Nebraska Game and Parks.  He was popular in the area and was on the local TV news giving reports about the outdoors in Nebraska.  He also had an early morning radio program on Saturdays.  Great show, and I had the opportunity to ask some questions.

When Pam and I fish this river, this is what it will be all about.  

One spring at the Omaha Sports Show, there he was in the booth with the Game and Parks people of Nebraska.  You had to stand in line to shake his hand and get a question answered.  What a dream job he had.  Well, getting back to business,  I was always interested in the Missouri River and fishing for sport and game fish that we eat, other than carp (better known as sewer trout) by some and catfish.  The catfish are muddy tasting if caught around here.  I know a lot of people who like the carp that are scored.  My old Indian recipe for Carp is listed below.

Hank Huntington’s Carp Recipe

  1. Build a large fire in your back yard made from oak wood.  (This will irritate the neighbors)
  2. Let the fire settle down to coals.
  3.  Attach the carp fillet to a pine board not any bigger than the fish.
  4. Roast over the coals turning frequently
  5. When carp begins to flake remove from coals and board.
  6. Throw away the carp and eat the board.  (If you have a better recipe send it to me.)

My question was simple.  Is the Missouri River in our area good fishing for walleye, sauger, northern pike walleye and small mouth bass?  The answer was profoundly yes and the place to go is up to the Ponca State Park.  Located west of Sioux City, Iowa on highway 20 and 12, the state park has camping, swimming, and other outdoor activities for the whole family. It is a destination for people that enjoy the outdoors.  With a boat ramp onto the Missouri River, the waters run clear as the bottom is sand and there are lots of islands and bars on the river that hold fish.  He said go there and good luck.

Fifteen years later my wife and I, on a really nice day, decided to make a trip up the river to Ponca.  We are only 90 miles from Sioux City and another 40 miles to Ponca.  This is primarily interstate for us so it is an easy drive.

The park is situated on top of the picturesque Missouri River bluffs in northeastern Nebraska. Ponca State Park is at the eastern gateway of the Missouri National Recreational River, a 59-mile section featuring the only non channelized section of the river along the border of Nebraska.

Towers of Time

 

Designated under the Scenic River Act in 1978, this section of river gives visitors a view of how the untamed river looked before the river was made into a channel for shipping purposes. 

The park is two miles from the town of Ponca. Both the park and the town are named for the proud Native American tribe that once inhabited the area. It was the famed Ponca Chief Standing Bear who fought and won the court battle to have the Indian declared a “person” under American law. His achievement won him a place not only in history but also the Nebraska Hall of Fame.

 Lewis and Clark passed through the area on their journey up the Missouri.The National Park Service has designated Ponca State Park as part of the Lewis and Clark Historical Trail.

 

The park is magnificent.  The overlook gives the viewer the opportunity to look way up and down the river.  It also gave us a good idea on how to attack this stream and find fish. 

 

The river is just beautiful as we look up stream. At home in Council Bluffs, the river is not nearly as wide and does not look as if it is moving as fast. 

Looking across from the look out you can see the width of the river.  As I stood and looked at this site, I was asking myself, “How am I going to fish this?”


Ponca State Park encompasses nearly 1,400 acres of heavily forested rolling hills and Missouri River bottomland. The superbly scenic area offers park visitors all the amenities of a modern state park. Established in 1934, the first 200 acres were donated by local citizens, sponsored by the Ponca American Legion Post.

Giant Oak trees cover the hills and the landscapes

 

The dense woodlands offer a haven for many types of woodland wildlife.  White-tailed deer and wild turkeys often are seen throughout the area. Toward evening, the howls of coyotes and “who-who-are-you” of the barred owl echo through the hills. Red foxes, gray foxes (an uncommon relative of the red fox), bobcats, raccoons, opossums and other small mammals also occasionally are seen by visitors.

In spring, the woodlands come alive with sounds and sights of migrant and resident songbirds. During peak migration (late April and early May), the park attracts both amateur and experienced bird watchers. Warblers, scarlet tanagers, northern orioles, red-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, and ruby-throated hummingbirds are just a few of the highlights.

On top of a ridge looking out over the forest. 

The woodlands and prairie ridgetops burst into bloom from late April to early June. Among the most common woodland flowers are Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, Canada violet, blue phlox, columbine, waterleaf and white cicely. Prairie plants include yucca, shell-leaf penstemon, prairie larkspur, purple coneflowers, pasque flower and purple prairie clover. Native shrubs include gooseberry, wild plum, chokecherry, Eastern Wahoo, and buffaloberry.

Bur oaks are the predominant tree species at the park, but they are liberally interspersed with walnut, elm, basswood, Kentucky coffeetree and hackberry. Almost at the heart of the park is the “Old Oak Tree.” In 1964, this ancient specimen was officially aged at 320 years old. It was a sapling 24 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock.

You walk down the steps to the left and there it is a really old oak tree. 

Pam in front of the Old Oak Tree.  The tree was enormous. 

On summer nights, the repetitious call of the whippoorwill and a chorus of tree frogs and crickets echo through the bluffs and canyons. Turkey vultures can be seen soaring overhead during warm summer days. In late June, snow-like showers of cotton from nearby cottonwood trees signify it is time to catch catfish in the nearby river.

In the visitor center hangs this magnificent picture of a bald eagle.  The eagles nest in the park. 

In fall, the skies are filled with migrating ducks, geese and other birds. In winter, the park is home to bald eagles, often seen roosting, soaring and now nesting along the river. Winter is also a great time to view a variety of hardy songbirds at the park’s bird feeders.

Boat ramp in the park is big.  We will be unloading into the current so there will have to be some finesse in getting the boat off the trailor and back on.  Hopefully, the live wells will be full of fish.  

 

Ponca State Park has 14 modern, two-bedroom, air-conditioned housekeeping cabins. Each has two double beds, bedding, towels for four, bathroom with shower, kitchenette and large screened porch. Kitchenettes are furnished with a range, refrigerator, cooking utensils, dinette, dishes and tableware for six. Lodging is normally available from late May through September, but dates are subject to change. Reservations are accepted up to one year in advance for two or more nights and will be confirmed with a deposit for two nights lodging.

Ponca State Park provides excellent camping. Paved electrical camp sites in two modern campgrounds with 30/50 amp electrical hookups. There are showers, picnic tables, fire pits, water spigots (not hookups); dump station, and playground. Modern facilities operate from April – October, weather permitting. Primitive camping is available year-round. To learn more about the park go to the following website. (http://outdoornebraska.gov/ponca/)

 
 

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank. 

Day Two on Beautiful Merritt Reservoir


We were learning the lake and how to maneuver around on it.  That is really important and eliminates wasted time fishing waters and areas that do not hold fish.  That information comes from the local bait shops.  We stopped at the bait shop in Valentine the evening before and visited with the owner.  He said stop back in the morning before you go to the lake as he had a friend that fishes the lake almost every day and comes in for coffee, rolls, and to shoot the bull.  We noticed that the locals live at a really nice pace and do a lot bull shooting.   They visit a lot talking about not much of anything.  This is known as shooting the bull or bull shooting depending on the circle you are in.

Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait - 2'' - Slick Firetiger


Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait – 2” – Slick Firetiger

Fisherman: This is the lure to use.  It has rarely let me down.  Click on the link or the pic and buy from Bass Pro.  Available in different colors. 

We were at the bait shop by 07:30 a.m. even though it opened up at 8:00.  The door was open and we went in.  The owner remembered us and sure enough there was the local fisherman drinking coffee, eating a roll, and you could tell these two gentleman were shooting the bull.  Wow, he was a fantastic source of information about the lake.  The previous week the fishing had been slow, but he was expecting a big pick up as a high pressure was to prevail.  All the weather had moved to the east.  He had poor luck the day before and gave us some good recommendations.
After pulling out of the boat ramp, we stayed to the right and headed to the face of the dam.  We were told to fish the dam face in the corner of the shore line and move back up the shore at least 200 yards to a boat dock in the water.  He said to stay in 5 to 10 feet of water.  He also stated that pulling spinners was okay, but if the wind was light he wanted us to use a slip bobber and float with the current in about 5 feet of water.  We worked the corner and up the shore line, but had no luck.

Looking straight towards the dam after coming out of the boat ramp.  Fish to the right and up the shoreline. 

The second spot was to the entrance of the long arm just off the dam.  Staying to the left side of the arm, the water moves into about 5 to 10 feet of depth.  We were to stay in that area as it has been productive on a regular basis. We scored nothing at this location.  Next, we moved along the shore down the lake to a point where three pieces of timber stood. Again we stayed in 5 to 10 feet of water.  We changed colors of spinners.  Pam pulled a red one and I pulled a shiny one.  We were thinking that maybe we just didn’t have the right color.  We stayed with leeches as the local fisherman said not to move off the leeches.  We did not have any action at this location.

Just off the left side of the entrance into the long arm is a group of small islands.  We fished those. 
Now, what was happening with the weather was not good.  We were to have overcast to broken clouds and there was not a cloud in the sky.  Also, there was to be westerly flow of 5 to 10 mph but there was hardly any wind at all.  In fact the lake in most areas was dead calm.  This is not good walleye weather, and we had been well toasted yesterday even with sunscreen.  There was an awful lot of light penetrating into the water and the walleye will not hang out in a high light situation.  We started to fish a little deeper, but the lake really drops off into very deep water once you move from the shore.  It was common to see a drop right down to 30 feet and deeper as you moved out.  We have the equipment to fish that, but the feeling was it might be premature.

 Across to the opposite shore was a point sticking out surrounded by a good stand of weeds out into the water.  That looked like good northern pike water and we motored over to give it a try by working the weed lines pulling the spinners.  If there was a northern lurking along the weed line, it did not come out and hit on our baits. Musky are also in this lake, but in all the years I have fished northern waters or waters with musky, I have never had the good fortune to catch one.

The weeds are next to the shoreline, and we worked back and forth, but no luck. 

With the temps rising and the lack of wind, this day was well on the way to giving us a skunking.  Decades ago when my son was young, we fished on Lac Lacroix in Ontario with a good friend from northern Minnesota.  The lake is in the northern part of the BWCA. (Boundary Waters Canoe America).  On days like this one, he would not fish, but went to the tent, read, and generally relaxed.  He loved it when the weather was windy with a good overcast making it a dark day.  We caught a lot of fish in that kind of weather.

There are no fish here. However, look at the beautiful lilac bush along the shoreline.  This particular area was full of these beautiful bushes. 

Not giving up, we shifted gears considering that the fish may be a little deeper.  This was an opportunity to use my true and well tested method of pulling plugs.  The plug is the Berkley Flicker Shad.  It is a sinking lure that has a steady wobble and a little rattle.  A close friend and old walleye killer said this lure made the fish mad.  That was what we wanted, a mad walleye smacking the daylights out of the lure.  I might also add, when using this bait, have a good set of pliers on board with a wire cutter.  My wife said this lure should be called “finger shad” because those little hooks are really sharp.  On two occasions I have had to push the hook through and clip it off after I got it into my finger. With a little neosporin and a band aid, you can continue fishing.

Back to the dam we went and started pulling plugs in 10 to 15 feet of water.  We did not have one hit. This is the first time I have ever had this happen with this plug.

It was time to find Hidden Lake on Merritt Reservoir.  This was the last location the local fisherman told us to hit.  He said it was full of Northern Pike and there would also be some walleye if the pike had not cleaned them all out.  Refer on your map to the Powder Horn Area on the north side of the lake just to the left of the dam.  There is an unimproved boat ramp there and opposite is an arm off the lake.  Getting into it is a little daunting as all of a sudden the bottom comes up to about three feet of water.  Motor slowly for about five yards and it goes back down and opens up into a long narrow channel.  I would recommend stopping at the bait shop in Valentine and getting their free map.

The entrance to hidden lake.  The bait shop in town will give you directions to this arm off the lake.  The waters really looked good. 

Once in, we worked our spinners and plugs along each side of the arm all the way down to the end of the arm.  This was great looking water with plenty of standing weeds and timber with logs into the water.  It was a really fine opportunity to catch a nice fish and also get snagged.  At the end of the lake we followed the recommendation and dropped a single small jig with a leech and hooked up a bobber.  We were in about 5 feet of water and the bait was down about 3.5 feet.  At this location there was no wind and we just drifted slowly to the shore.

The shoreline goes from timber along the side to open banks and underground weeds.  This was a really rough day. 

We were running out of time and we were being cooked off the lake.  We went back to the Flicker Shad and slowly working our way out of the finger. We each had some luck.   Pam hit a keeper walleye and we were in business.

Not bad and it is a legal fish.  Pam caught another one on a Flicker Shad or Finger Shad as she like to call the lure. 
We continued to work the bank moving out toward the middle of the lake arm, but always staying in 10 to 15 feet of water.  I was skunked up to this point until I had the good fortune of picking up a keeper Northern Pike.  He will fillet out and once the Y bones are removed make some great fillets. 
Not a big northern, but one we can get some excellent eating out of once the Y bones are removed. 

Orvis

Good hunting, good fishing and good luck.  Hank
Almond Crusted Walleye

  • 1 or more walleye or northern fillet
  • ½ cup almond meal (ground almonds
  • panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 fresh peach or pear, sliced
  • splash of dry white wine ( chardonnay, etc.)

Mix the almond meal with a little panko and the salt and pepper. Place fish fillet in egg wash then roll in almond meal/panko mixture. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons canola oil in a pan over medium low heat, then add fish and sauté about 4 minutes per side (depending on thickness). Remove the fish to paper towels, turn heat to medium high and add the sliced fruit. Stir and fry for a minute then add 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and cook until butter browns. Add wine & reduce. Place fish fillet on plate surrounded by fruit and drizzled with sauce.  Drink the wine and if available have yourself a couple of bottles of Tusker Beer. Makes 2 servings.

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