Oops, Bad Call

The fishing was so good the week before that I followed the weather intently for a week, then picked three days to go up to Webster, SD and fish Waubay.  Three days was all I would need, and that included driving time.  Brimming with confidence, I started asking around to see who would like to go catch some walleye.  I could not believe what happened.  No one wanted to go.  We have had some unseasonably hot weather in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area with extremely hot and humid days and nights.  The weather I saw up north had 80s in the day and 60s at night.  A little different. 

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  I just planned to go by myself and catch fish.  I had not looked at eastern South Dakota temps for 4 days.  All I did was follow the frontal patterns and it was positive.  They had some really hot days before I left. 

I got up early, drove hard, and arrived in Webster, SD around noon.  I had a quick lunch, checked in at the motel, got the cover off the boat, and headed to the bait store.  Their recommendation was a little different than before.  There had been some hot weather, and the fish had gone deep.  It was recommended to work in the 15 to 20 foot range.  That was ok with me.  They also recommended minnows and or leeches if I was going to fish with live bait.  Stay off the south shore as no one was having any luck in that area.  That was different than before.  The one consistent item was not to go to Grenville.  That end of the lake is my favorite and I have two spots that I have always had luck. 

I headed to the Kanago access and was on the lake by 2 PM.  A brisk wind out of the northwest was creating some good waves which should help provide some good walleye fishing.  Not liking the recommendation of not going to the south shore, I headed there anyway.  That was a waste of time. I worked the point back and forth from ten feet to twenty and not one smack on the lure.  Staying there one hour was enough as I did not have a strike.  The second part of the downside was the graph showed very little fish.  Compared to my previous trip this was just the opposite.  Full of fire, I headed to Bresky Bay.

Fishing the entrance and staying deep, very few fish were graphed.  No hits and I was the only boat in the area.  Last time here, by 10 AM it was like Grand Central Station.  The DNR should have provided traffic control.  Having good winds to provide some wave action, there was no action at all.  Moving east out of the bay along the north bank as recommended, I graphed a lot of fish, but no hits or even gentle taps.  The fish were not feeding, or I was using the wrong type of bait.  Switching from minnows to leeches made no difference.  As recommended, I moved farther east along the north bank.  No luck.  It was now past 7 PM and up north you get a little more daylight, so I started working my way back to where I had started.  Changing colors of the spinner, changing to jigs, pulling plugs, working deep then into the shallow, made no difference.  I could plainly see that I was not going to catch a thing this day, and I quit by 9 PM.

Next morning I was up really early, and was on the lake just at first light.  I headed to the south shore again just to try it out.  A gentle southwest breeze was creating a nice ripple effect on the lake, and I really felt good that today was the day.  Fishing there for an hour produced nothing, and I headed to Bresky Bay.
At the mouth of the bay I stopped to work the point that stuck out into the lake.  I caught nothing.  Moving into the bay and working the ridge, I caught nothing.  I was not even getting strikes.  A boat came by out about 200 yards and I could see they were pulling plugs.  Now here comes a secret.  I watched them for a short period of time with binoculars to see if they were catching anything.  I have seen happier fishermen and these two guys were not looking too happy. In fact they were a little glum.  I have now been on the water about three hours and then the lake went calm.  The wind totally died.  There was not one breath of air moving.  There were no clouds in the sky.  The sun was beating down on me and it was getting hot. I decided to go have some lunch.  At the boat ramp a couple of other boats came in and no one had caught anything.

Back on the lake by 1:30 pm, there was no wind and not a ripple of movement on the lake.  The algae always present this time of the year in the lake was in full bloom.  Heading to the entrance to Bresky Bay and working down the north bank, I graphed fish, but no takers.  No wind and no waves and not a cloud in the sky was the condition.  It was hot. I moved all the way to school bus point, and then decided to go to my old haunts and give it a try.   As I plowed through the dead calm waters there were large bands of milky white streaks on top of the water.  It looked like the gulf oil spill I had seen on TV.  As I plowed through it, there was a very strong oily odor and great big globs of algae mixed in.  The area I wanted to fish was covered with this milky appearance. 

By now it was 6 PM, and I was burned to a crisp.  Having caught nothing, it was time to throw in the towel and head for the barn.  Pulling the boat out of the water, the underneath side was covered with a light brown foam.  I immediately headed to a car wash and sprayed it all off.  The next morning I headed for home. 

I had several calls on Sunday from the people who had remorse for not going on the trip.  Everyone was glad to hear they missed nothing.  It is called fishing, not catching.

Good fishing, good hunting, good luck  Hank

Waubay Again

The weather looked great in eastern South Dakota, so I loaded up myself and my wife and we headed north to Webster for a couple more days of fishing.  The fishing was good the week before and the weather had settled down where the wind was not a factor.  I wanted to be on the lake early in the morning fish till noon, take a break and a short nap, then hit it again in the evening till almost dark.  I generally do not fish in the dark.  You always see great pictures of people that have been night fishing, and their catches are outstanding.  It is not for me.

After a nice evening drive up to Webster, the early morning hours brought high overcast, and light winds from the south to southwest.  Perfect for early morning fishing.  I had called the local bait shop and they told me to stay to the west end of Waubay Lake, and put in at Kanago boat access.  I like to fish the other end of the lake, just east of school bus point and put in at Grenville, but he was emphatic.  Do not go to Grenville.  With that type of a recommendation, the decision was made.

We headed straight south out of Kanago and it was just starting to get light.  On the south shore there is a rocky point that sticks out into 10 to 12 feet of water that gradually drops down to 20 feet.  I was told to fish in 8 to 10 feet of water.  That would put us pretty close to the shore.  Using a red and white spinner and tipped with a minnow, I wanted to back troll into the point starting at 15 feet and then letting the boat drift back out again.  I also wanted to keep the spinner about 2 to 3 feet off the bottom.  Years ago a guide told me suspended fish are feeding fish.  My wife has a favorite jig that is a killer for her.  She began by dropping it to the bottom, reeling it up about two feet and then bouncing it up and down.  Works for her, and she has the proof with some outstanding catches. 

It took 15 minutes, but we both were getting some soft hits.  Nothing really strong, just the usual walleye peck and mouthing the bait.  The start of the action was in about 8 feet of water.  Moving a little deeper we started really getting some nice hits, and were picking up small fish 13 to 14 inches in length. At this time I bent down the barbs.  I have never lost a fish doing this.  It makes it easier to get the small fish off the hook and back into the water without damaging the fish or holding it in your hand.  Many times, when I see what is there, I just let the line go slack and then tighten it up and shake them off.

We stayed in this area about one hour and picked up three nice walleye in the 16 inch range.  These will fillet out nicely.  Other boats were heading our way, so we picked up and left as I felt we had milked the area enough and we headed toward Bresky Bay.  This is where the people at the bait house had told us to go initially. 

We started about 1/4 mile from the entrance on the west side of the lake.  There is a point that sticks out into the water several hundred yards and I wanted to work along the deep side of the ridge.  Finding it is easy.  If you stay out about 100 yards, all of a sudden the lake bottom rises quickly to about 6 feet.  You are there.  From here we worked in the 10 to 15 foot zone, back trolling into the shallow water and drifting back out again in to the deeper sections of the lake.  We picked up a couple of nice fish, had a lot of hits and they were solid.  That is always a good sign.  If the lure is getting smacked periodically, sooner or later you will catch something.  We worked out to 15 feet of water and back into the starting point of around 6 feet.  We were somewhat sheltered out of the wind as the high bank to the west southwest of us kept the water calm.  I would prefer to have more ripple.  We picked up a couple more fish in the 16 inch range again.  These will make great fillets.  More boat traffic was showing up so we knew this was the hot spot on the lake. 

There is a ridge that runs north and south and I consider this the dividing line to entering the bay.  Also just a couple of hundred feet from the ridge is a big tree in the water sticking up and this is the starting point for me.  I back trolled down the inside of the ridge in 8 to 10 feet of water.  To the north end there was standing weed and lots of moss.  I wanted to be on the edge of this and not in it.  We worked south with the trolling motor and drifted back north using the motor to keep us on the edge of the ridge. My wife continued to pick up the balance of our daily limit with her favorite jig tipped with a minnow.  By noon, we were limited out for the day with four really nice walleye apiece. 

The sun was starting to appear from behind the clouds and the wind was picking up.  With this in mind we headed in to clean the fish, and rest up for an evening of fun catching fish and pitching them back. 

The next morning the wind had really picked up out of the northwest and we headed over to the point.  This time we started in the 20 foot range of water and let the wind carry us into the shallows.  With the wind blowing us into the shore, I felt the walleye would be stacked up along the area that dipped into the deep water waiting for bait fish to be swept into them.  Nothing.  We did not get a hit.  The wind was really beginning to whip itself into a frenzy and we moved to Bresky Bay.

We started at the south end of the ridge we had worked along yesterday and back trolled against the wind trying to stay in about 8 to 10 feet of water.  Mid lake we got nothing, but up close to the weeds we both picked up some keeper fish.   Letting the wind drift us back to the south shore was more like a race than a drift.  I threw a drift sock out of the boat, but we were still moving along at a good clip.  This was still faster than I wanted to move.  My wife was getting the hits, as I was too busy running the boat.  She picked up a couple of nice walleye, and I got nothing.  We had been at it for 4 fours and decided with the wind starting to pick up even more we would throw in the towel. 

Off the lake by 11, we headed back to the motel, cleaned the fish, and picked up the eight caught the day before.  This was a really good day and a half with 10 decent size walleye.  We headed for home.

Good fishing, good hunting, good luck  Hank

Cooking Fish

The highlight of any trip is cooking and eating the catch. I generally do not keep fish in the freezer very long. I have friends that do keep fish up to nine months, by freezing them in an empty milk container that is filled with a brine solution. But only fresh fish will taste sweet. A well preserved piece will never taste fishy. The trout family and especially lake trout will have the tendency to taste fishy if not correctly preserved. This fishy taste is caused by oxidation of the natural oils when subjected to warm temperatures. Black bass, walleye, perch rarely have this problem. I have had bass and walleye not taste up to par when caught in muddy waters, and so I generally avoid this type of lake, or if I catch a few, they are released. Deep, clean, cold and clear lakes produce the best tasting fish.

When cooking a fish we want to bring out its fine natural flavor and firm up the flesh. Cooking fish in oil that is too hot is the enemy and it will make it tough, dry, and tasteless. I like to warm up the oil gradually and the pan also and just drop a touch of water in the oil. If it jumps and pops it is ready. If it starts to smoke it is way to hot. Too hot of an oil will cause a fillet to develop an unappetizingly strong flavor. Badly cooked fish will turn more people off than for any other reason.

Testing the fish to see if it is ready for dinning is simple. Just use the tines of an ordinary kitchen fork and see if the fish will flake. When it flakes, it is ready and should show some moistness to it. I use a variety of recipes as shown on the recipe section and have tried every one of them out. The kitchen implement that I always use is a heavy cast iron skillet. This type of pan holds the heat after it is heated up and provides a better all around skillet if you are frying.

As I indicated, pan frying is my favorite method of cooking fish and there are so many commercial dips and batters on the market. I like to try them all. I try not to crowd the filets, but give them plenty of room when pan frying. I also like a mixture of one fourth to one half stick of butter to two to four parts vegetable oil. This yields excellent flavor and good nutrition. I do not use a lid even though spattering may become a problem. This is a sign of unwanted water. You can invert a colander over the pan. This will let the steam escape and continue frying the fish. It helps to prevent some of the splatter.

I rarely deep fry, but have many friends that do. They recommend heating the oil to at least 360 degrees, but not over 380. You have to guard against burned oil, and should be avoided at all costs. After the fish are dipped in your favorite batter, frying for about three to six minutes should complete the task. Draining on a paper towel and then serving immediately will provide an excellent meal.

The only fish I bake are the ones caught, or I should say bought at the super market. This would be fresh or fresh frozen salmon, halibut, or tilapia. A very hot oven for a short time is what I recommend.

We do broil some of our fish, but again this is the store bought kind. Salmon, halibut, trout, and tilapia are the ones we will broil.

For me the best part of fishing comes at the dinner table with family or friends and enjoying freshly caught fish.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck Hank.

Keep Them Fresh

You have been fishing for two to three days and one of the most important items in you basket of knowledge is to bring them back fresh. After all, when you figure in the cost of going on a trip two to three hundred miles from home, you want to get the cost per pound down to a reasonable amount. This amount will vary for everyone. I know for a fact that I may be asked this question, “Would it have been cheaper to buy them at the store.” It is just not the same as bringing back your catch to share.

Fresh fish is one of my favorite foods, and unfortunately it is one of the most perishable. From the moment you catch it, it may start to deteriorate due to the sudden change of moving from a cold environment into a warmer one. The enzymes in its digestive system work harder attacking the muscular tissue by penetrating the alimentary canal. Deterioration starts from within. Keeping it alive while you are fishing is imperative during the day. I constantly keep changing the water in the live wells, and keep the mix of big and small fish in each well relatively the same. If the weather was warm and I was catching fish, I would sometimes add a bag of ice to each live well to cool down the water. One of the best methods I have ever seen was used by a guide in Canada for keeping fish fresh during the day. He kept a gunny sack (burlap bag) in the boat and put the fish in it tying the bag over the side. The bag was kept deeply submerged except when traversing to another spot, or was brought up at the end of the day. When the fish were out of the water, the bag helped keep them cool and moist. When using a stringer, I always hook the fish through the lower and upper lips. This allows the gills to work rather than holding the mouth open, and causing drowning. Then I lower the fish into the water making sure I let out all the line available on the stringer. I want the fish to be below the bottom of the boat and move into cooler water the shade offers. I never lift them out unless I am adding one, or moving the boat.

Now to get them home. If I am on a trip where I am spending the night and there is a freezer available, this solves a lot of issues. The fish are immediately filleted, dried, and sharp frozen. Hard as steel and well packed in ice or dry ice upon the trip home, I keep the cooler inside the vehicle to keep it out of the sun. I also make sure the cooler has been washed well inside with a hot soda water solution and air dried in the sun. I want nothing inside that could spoil the fish.

If I am driving home in the evening after catching some fish, I gut and gill them making sure to remove all of the insides. Every piece of the inside is removed and I run my thumb down the bottom side of the back bone and remove the blood and tissue deposited there. All the guts must be removed. At this point I wash the fish completely and then make sure it is completely dry. Water will hasten deterioration of the meat. Drying is very important. Placing the gut, gilled, and completely dried fish in a plastic bag, then making sure it is sealed with the air out of the bag and you are almost done. I then pack the bagged fish in ice with chunks or cubes at the bottom of the cooler and crushed ice around the fish and cubes on top. This will get it home it great condition where they can be filleted out or sharp frozen. Again, my cooler has been washed and air dried in the sun before using it.

Life is good, and it is better when we sit down to dine with family and friends on some fresh fish you have just caught and brought home for everyone to enjoy.

Good fishing, Good hunting, and Good luck. Hank

P.S. Have a tip, a picture or a great story, e-mail it to me, and we will get it published.

Crappie, Northern, & Walleye

What a trip. It happens a couple of times a year if you go often enough, and this was one of those times. Checking the weather for Webster, SD high pressure was prevailing with winds from the west to southwest not over 15 mph. This was perfect.

I left Wednesday evening with my wife and we had a really strong south wind blowing us north. Arriving at Webster the wind was really stiff and the lakes we drove by on our way in were really rocking and rolling.

Up early Thursday, we grabbed some minnows and crawlers and headed to Waubay Lake. The wind was not a factor at this time, but it switched to the northwest and really began kicking up the waves. By noon, I was done fighting with boat control and we headed in for lunch and paid a visit to Sportsman Cove. The forecast had changed and was for stronger winds in the afternoon. So with that in mind we headed to Pickerel Lake.

Pickerel Lake is a beautiful body of water. It is long and narrow running north and south so we could hug the west bank and be out of the wind. Immediately we started picking up crappie, and they were really nice slabs about ten to twelve inches. The walleye we picked up were really small, less than fifteen inches and we threw them back. To my amazement, we were getting smacked by small northern and this went on all afternoon. When this started to happen, I took a pair of pliers and bent down the barb on the hook. I wanted to get them off as easily as possible. I have never lost fish doing this. We were pulling red and white spinners with a minnow attached. The northern were really aggressive. The walleye would just mouth the bait and you would just feel a slight tug on the line. The crappie took hold like food was going to be rationed the next day. We picked up a nice limit of crappie and one northern was kept that was a decent size.

Friday looked like it was going to be a good day. A little ripple was on the lake. At the boat ramp I met two gentlemen from Aberdeen, and they told me where their favorite spot was on the lake. So we followed them over. I had never fished the south shore much. We found some outstanding structure and graphed lots of fish. Immediately we started catching small walleye in about eight to ten feet of water. This was shallow for this time of the year. I moved out deeper and worked back and forth into the bank in eight feet and back out to fifteen. We were getting some action. Then it just plain shut off. The lake went totally flat, and there was not a breath of breeze. This is unusual for this part of South Dakota. The temperature rose into the 90s and there was not a cloud in the sky. We broke for lunch and headed back to the motel for a short nap. The rest of the afternoon, we stayed off the lake. However, several of the guests staying at the motel came in with some nice fish. You don’t catch anything unless you go.

Saturday morning the wind was brisk out of the south, so we headed for a location near the boat ramp. I had never fished there before, but the people at Sportsman Cove gave it a strong recommendation. What a call. The wind was around 15 to 20 mph. We drifted into about six feet of water and back out to 15. Then we started the process over and over again. We started fishing around 7:30 AM and were done with a day’s limit of walleye each by 10 AM. All the fish caught were sixteen to eighteen inches in length and made really nice filets.

We folded up and headed for home.

Good fishing, good hunting. Hank

Websites

When I am not fishing, hunting, going to sport shows or scouting out a new area or lake, I like to review websites posted by the various states. My three favorites are Iowa, as I am a native. I fish and hunt along the Missouri River bottoms. I review South Dakota because I fish the glacial lakes. Nebraska is referenced a lot as I hunt waterfowl, upland game and deer in the state. These are not listed by rating. I like them all equally well. The site I am looking at a lot depends on my interests at the time.

Iowa has an excellent article about aquatic hitchhikers and I always follow their suggestion in keeping my boat and live wells clean. The article below is reprinted from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Website http://www.iowadnr.gov/.

Zebra mussels and Eurasian water milfoil are two aquatic invasive species that have spread across Iowa by hitchhiking on boats, in bait buckets and on other equipment used in the water. Bighead and silver carp are two other aquatic invasive species that have been spreading their own throughout Iowa Rivers. With recent flooding, these nuisance species have been able to swim around dams that otherwise blocked their movement.

“Public action is the key to preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species,” said Kim Bogenschutz, DNR aquatic invasive species program coordinator. “Boaters and anglers can unintentionally transport aquatic hitchhikers if they do not take the proper precautions to prevent their spread – inspect, clean, drain.”

Inspect your boat, trailer, and equipment and clean them of any visible plants, animals or mud before leaving a water body.

Drain water from the live well, bilge, transom, motor and bait buckets before leaving a water body.

Clean and dry boats, trailers and equipment. Before transporting to another water body.

Spray/wash your boat, trailer and equipment with high-pressure and/or hot water; or dry your boat and equipment for at least 5 days.

Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. Never release plants, fish or animals into a water body unless they came out of that water body.

It is illegal to possess or transport prohibited aquatic invasive species in Iowa. The fine for violating the law is $500. Signs are posted at public accesses to remind boaters to stop aquatic hitchhikers and to identify infested waters. More information about aquatic invasive species and a list of infested waters can be found in the 2010 Iowa Fishing Regulations booklet.

I just got back from a three day fishing adventure. There will be more on that trip next week.

Good fishing, good hunting and good luck. Hank

SKUNKED

My friend and long time fishing companion, Les from Council Bluffs, called me and said the weather in Webster SD was good for Friday and Saturday. He studies the weather, so I just took him at his word.

Driving up to South Dakota was anything but good on Thursday. The wind was howling out of the south and we were making excellent gas mileage with all the wind on our tail. I was assured that by morning it would breezy, but nothing like we had blowing us north.

We were up early and headed to Sportsman’s Cove to get some bait and information about what was taking place on the local lakes. These people do more than sell fishing and hunting products. They provide great information on where to fish, how deep, and what baits have been hot. The wind was more that just a little brisk. It was getting really windy. The good news was that it was out of the west. That was a good sign. The decision was made to launch at Kango Access boat ramp on the west side of Lake Waubay. The lakes are surrounded by hills in this area. That would provide protection from the blast that was building up. From the boat ramp, we moved southeast along the shore line and started working in 10 to 15 feet of water. Not so much as a tap. We moved out deeper, but then we were getting into the high winds and boat control was really difficult. It was not impossible, but almost.

Straight east of the boat ramp was an island, and we headed to the east side of it. The lake was really starting to rock and roll and the wind was really gusty. Moving to the east side of the island we were protected from the blast. We worked again in 10 to 20 feet of water. Not so much of a tap. Jigs and spinners were worked tipped with a minnow, crawler, or a leech. No luck. As the wind had really worked up the lake, it was decided to head back closer to the west bank and work it again. We traveled 300 miles and did not want to be defeated so early in the game.

By noon, we decided to throw in the towel, grab some lunch, and take a nap. We hoped the wind would blow itself out. We could then work more of the lake than just two spots. We also stopped at Sportsman’s Cove and there were no reports of anything being caught or many boats out. There were no other vehicles at Kango Access. That made us the only boat on that end of the lake.

Late afternoon, we headed up to the Grenville Access on the northeast section of the lake. It was decided not to put in there as it was really windy, and the lake was rocking and rolling. The decision was made to go south to Antelope Lake.

Antelope has horrible access, but there have been some really nice fish caught there, and mostly in the evening. Wind should be a minor factor as long as we did not try to get out on the main body of water. This is a small lake, and I have never seen another boat on it before. Several years ago I visited with a gentleman and his wife from northern Iowa, and this was their favorite lake. I have done well there at times in the past, but it is not always hot.

The lake has a long finger that leads from the main body to the boat ramp. Close to the ramp is fallen timber. We wanted to stay out of the timber and fish along the opposite side of the finger. The water drops right off to about 10 feet. It was too windy on the main part of the lake, but this was the best spot. We worked out from the boat ramp to the main body, back and forth. We trolled out to the main lake and then back along the finger. We worked this spot for about three hours and then folded. We did not get one strike.

Back to Waubay Lake, we put in at Kango Access again. We repeated the process we had done early in the morning. I did not have one strike. Les claimed he had several. We quit for the day and decided to go to Pickerel in the morning.

Pickerel runs north and south and it is an outstanding crappie lake. I have caught a few walleye on it, but I go there mainly for crappie. The lake is deep and clear. It is surrounded by beautiful homes. A good access is available at the north end and we would fish the west side and somewhat out of the wind.

We started out and worked the boat into the shore and back out into the lake about 200 yards. Depth ran round 5 to 10 and 15 to 20 feet. We kept our lures off the bottom and looked for suspended fish on the graph. We wanted our lures in the zone where the fish were suspended. For four hours we fished away, changing lures, changing colors, changing baits, and did not catch a thing. By noon we both were done, and beat from the wind.

I do not catch fish every time I go, but we still had a great time on the lake enjoying nature. There is always another day.

Good fishing, good hunting, and good luck. Hank

Lake Rathbun

The weather check was on the first part of the week. None of it looked very good, and then on Tuesday the forecasts started to change in my favor. I was looking at Webster, South Dakota and fishing Waubay. I also looked west to Nebraska and thought of Lake McConaughy northwest of Ogallala, Nebraska. The one goal I have this year is to fish that big reservoir. My wife is from Sidney, Nebraska and every time we go out, I always remark that we need to get on that lake. It holds a lot of big walleye.

The plans started to unravel as the week moved along. By Wednesday, The forecast for Webster was turning against me with high winds starting Thursday evening and through the weekend. Lake Rathbun turned positive with the forecasts. This will then be the lake of choice based on the weather starting on Friday.

My wife and I drove over Thursday night and were on the lake by 6:30 AM on Friday morning. The wind was out of the southwest and was a bit brisk, but not strong enough to effect boat control. I headed to the southwest corner of the dam and started out in 5 to 10 feet of water. Nothing happened, so I moved out to 10 to 20 feet and S turned all the time. I tried to maintain a slow troll and just wanted the spinner blade to turn over gently. Nothing happened. I pulled in the bait and sprayed it with some walleye attractant. My wife sprayed hers with some crappie spray. We continued to work up along the bank. The wind picked up, but boat control was not a problem yet. We had been working now for 3 hours and just a few soft hits. The wind was not a factor yet, but it was getting a bit brisk.

I need to change the subject. I just hate big reservoirs. I know you can catch big fish on big reservoirs, but that does not change my attitude. The problem is the wind. Maybe it is because I fish in South Dakota a lot where there are big bodies of water. I have never been caught out on one of those lakes when the wind became so strong that only a battle ship could hold its own, but I have heard the stories. Plus, it always seems like I have to go so far to find the right area across an open expanse of water. When I was younger I was bolder. Smaller lakes and reservoirs are my cup of tea, and it is easier to find the structure. The disadvantage is the smaller bodies of water have a lot of pressure.

Now we will go back to the original story. We needed a break so headed back to the boat ramp to re-think our strategy. Plus the coffee had gotten cold, and I was hoping to meet some of the local fishermen. There’s always a local person by himself needing a hand with his boat. I always stop, help out, and get some facts about the lake. It just so happened there was a gentleman coming in with a nice stringer of walleye and a few crappies. He shared his experience, where to fish and how to fish. Our how was fine, but not the where.

After re-stocking our coffee, we headed to the new where. It was opposite on the lake where we had been fishing. Moving into 15 feet and back trolling against the wind, we had a nice slow speed on the outbound leg. We then let the boat drift on the in bound leg towards the shore. Back and forth, I tried to stay in 10 to 20 feet of water. We worked the area until 2 PM and picked up some nice size crappie and one walleye.

There is one important item when fishing Rathbun. You are required to call the hatchery and report any tagged walleye. The number is 641-647-2406.

We took the rest of the day off and went over to the new Honey creek Resort to scout things out and have dinner in the evening. It is an outstanding resort and is geared for the whole family.

Next morning, we were out early just as it was getting light. We went immediately to the spot where we had some action the day before. I stayed with a crawler and a spinner while my wife switched to a red and white jig tipped with a minnow. We worked starting in 5 feet of water and S turned out to 20 feet working our way up along the bank. It did not take long. We started picking up some pan sized fish that were keepers. By 11 AM we had our daily limit of walleye, plus a few crappies. Then it just plain shut down. The wind was light and variable at first, but picked up to 10 to 15 out of the west as the morning moved on. This was about the time we helped the local fisherman with his boat. He knew when to quit.

Rathbun is a really big body of water which is clean and fresh. We will certainly come back.

Good fishing, good hunting and good luck. Hank.

Working with the Weather

I studied the weather maps all week. (Is there anyone out there that can direct me to a decent website that has good or at least somewhat good forecasts?) I planned the weekend around the weather as I wanted to go up to my favorite walleye spot at Webster, South Dakota. The name is Lake Waubay. I think there are about 30 lakes within a 30 mile radius of Webster. Regardless of the wind, and it is usually windy, you can find a body of water that is workable. My plans were to leave Thursday evening and be on the lakes first thing Friday morning.

We need to talk a little bit about fishing at Webster. It is beautiful country. Moderate temps prevail and there is no humidity. But there is one thing that can ruin a fishing trip to Webster, and that is the wind. It is unpredictable, and it can get really windy there. I have seen it so bad that not one boat would get out on Waubay Lake. I would rate the lake as a five star lake, but you are only going to be successful about 50% of the time. I have gone up there in the past, fished with a close friend or my wife, and each of us caught 100 walleyes a day a piece. None of them were big, but we caught a lot of fish. The other 50% of the time, I got skunked or just caught a couple for 3 days that were keepers. The lake is totally unpredictable, and in my opinion is it 100% weather dependent. Back to the old saying, wind from the east, fishing is least, wind from the west, fishing is best. The other part of fishing the area is the weather is totally unpredictable. I left on a trip last year with my wife, and she only likes to fish in really nice weather, and it rained for 2 ½ days. God bless her, she stayed right out in it and got skunked right along with me. After it cleared, she hammered the walleyes, thank goodness.

So it was with great hope that I checked the weather Thursday evening, and it had changed from 3 beautiful days to 2 days from hell, and one not so bad. I cancelled the trip before I got going.

My next choice was over to Lake Rathbun in southeast Iowa. Lake Rathbun is a crappie and walleye factory, and I have not been over there for several years. Checking the weather, it looked good, and so I decided to go early Saturday morning, fish for two days and come home with my limits of crappie and walleye. (The best laid plans of mice and men.) Friday night, Council Bluffs was smacked with heavy thunderstorms, and when I got up and looked at the forecasts, the Rathbun area was going to have the same thing. Trip cancelled.

Sunday morning was beautiful. After lunch, my wife and I headed over to Lake Manawa. I generally do not fish this lake in the summer during the day due to heavy pleasure boat traffic, but the wind was from the west. We headed to the west bank, and with a red and silver spinner, I attached a leech and back trolled out to where the no wake zone ends. Around the entire lake is a no wake zone of 80 to 100 yards, and that is where we fish. I boated small fish, had a lot of hits, but put nothing in the live well. Still for four hours, it was fun and the weather was outstanding. I am going back Wednesday evening providing the wind is from the west. This time it will be serious business. Check out the photo section, I have put some pictures of Lake Manawa on it taken today.

Wednesday evening the wind was from the northwest and the forecast was calling for rain in the evening and wind shifting to the northeast. Right after dinner, I hooked up the boat and headed over to Manawa. On the lake by 7 PM, I headed to the southeast corner and along the area that used to be tin can dike. It was a bunch of old wrecked cars, but has now silted in. Just off the bank the water drops quickly down to about 5 feet and that is where I fished. I picked up two 16 inch walleyes, and had some good hits, but then it shut off.

I immediately headed over to the west bank and fished right along the buoy line, and then S turned into the shore. It was getting dark and so I moved closed to the bank. The water temperature was a little on the warm side. I picked up another fish around 9 PM, and then called it quits. The wind shifted to the northeast and I knew it was over.

This lake will shut down with the warmer lake temperatures, and I will have to head over to Rathbun or up to Waubay.

Good fishing, good hunting and good luck. Hank

Its Fishing Not Catching

Good success generally brings more success. With that in mind, I planned to go back to Lake Manawa and hammer some more Walleyes. The ones I caught the previous week were not big, but nice size in the 16 to 18 inch range. Those filet out to be a nice eating fish. I reviewed the report from the Iowa DNR, and they talked about pulling shad raps along the west bank. I have never had much luck pulling plugs, but for many it works and they catch a lot of fish. You cover a large area and I always feel like I am bypassing a lot of fish, not that they would hit, but it feels that way. The bait shop told me to fish after 7 PM. Now the week before I had fished really early in the morning and was successful, but I thought it over and decided to follow their advice.

Next evening the wind was from the northwest. That’s ok, a little strong, but that’s ok. I had no idea what the situation was with the moon. Keep in mind, my goal is to fish high pressures when the wind is gentle and southwesterly. I also want a full to almost full moon. I have no idea if this makes any difference, but it really sounds good. There was a low overcast, but the weather maps did not show any frontal movement. As I got to the lake and launched the boat the wind picked up in velocity, but I would be along the west bank and S turning from 2 to 5 feet of water pulling spinners.

After I reached the area I intended to fish, the wind really picked up and was blowing right out of the north. The lake was starting to white cap, and the boats that were there were heading to the boat ramp. Now I must tell a story about a good friend. He and I went on several trips over several years fishing the Canadian side of the BWCA. When it got windy, he got excited. He loved the windy weather and the more so the better. Born and raised in the Iron Range of northern Minnesota, this man was a really hard core walleye fisherman. He grew up fishing walleyes. He fished with an open face reel, kept the bail open, and laid the line over his index finger. The minute there was a tap, he let go of the line, waited a couple of seconds, closed the bail, and set the hook. To this day, my son fishes just like him. e set the hook He He would set the hook on a lot of snags, but he set the hook on a lot of soft biting fish. He would stay and hammer an area even if we got one hit. The boat would be pitching while he stood back trolling into the wind. We ran the bilge pump a lot.

I began to back troll up the west bank of Lake Manawa using a spinner and crawler. Last week I used minnows, but today I put on a crawler. The wind picked up some more, and it was spitting a little rain now and then. The drops stung the face, but I was determined to catch fish. Boat control was getting a little difficult, and the ability to S turn into the bank and back out was not working so well. It seemed the wind had moved more northeasterly. This was a really bad sign and was totally against my basic principle. Wind from the east, fishing is least. Wind from the west, fishing is best. I stuck it out.

Now for another story that is totally unrelated. When I was a young man, my son and I would go up to northern Manitoba and fish every other year. We fished with a native guide. He ran a boat either wide open or at a snail’s pace. When we were at the snail’s pace, it was time to fish. Wide open, forget it. He would not stay in an area very long. He would arrive at a spot wide open, throttle back and say, “ Fish here.” If we did not get a hit within 15 minutes, it was reel up and wide open again to another spot. When we were on top of the walleye, he worked the area back and forth until it was exhausted or we had limited out. He had guided for some of the TV fishermen and told me it would take 4 to 5 days to film the 20 minutes we saw on TV. They wanted the smaller fish as that provided more rod action. They got skunked on several days.

Anyway, I was not having any luck. I was halfway up the west side of the lake, and not one hit. This was a bad idea, and it was getting worse. The wind moved more to the northeast and I had to put on a rain suit. It was time to face the facts. This was a bad idea, and I was not going to catch a thing. There is always another day, so I folded up and headed for home. It was 9 PM. If you have an interesting story to share or pictures, e-mail them to me, and I will post them on the site.

Good fishing, good hunting, and good luck,

Hank