Upper Red Lake strikes againWORTHINGTON — My son-in-law said that when it comes to fishing, he would rather be lucky than good. He sure had a lot of both this past weekend.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — My son-in-law said that when it comes to fishing, he would rather be lucky than good. He sure had a lot of both this past weekend.
I made my seventh trip to Upper Red Lake last week and for the second time my son-in-law Mark Remme and his dad, Dave Remme, went along. I also took Scott Roemhildt from Janesville, who serves as the Information Officer for the southern region of the Department of Natural Resources.
I am on record as holding the position that Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota is the best walleye fishery in the state, if numbers are your highest priority. I have had five great trips and only two that were so-so. This trip was one that makes the average angler just give up fishing for the rest of the season when they get back home.
We arrived at about noon and checked and unloaded all the food and gear. We hit the water at about 1 p.m. We checked in at the bait shop and bought $40 worth of minnows and leaches. The authority at the shop said to head south to the well-known reef in about 4-7 feet of water and keep moving.
Normally we anchor and cast jigs with minnows or leaches. He indicated that slow moving with the electric motor towing bottom bouncers or lindy rigs was the ticket. Both of these methods are ways to present live bait in a natural manner and the angler can cover ground looking for active fish. There are always other boats in close proximity and when we got to the spot we looked around to see if any other boats were netting walleyes.
By the looks of the other boats, fishing action was only fair. Fair was not good enough for me. If you want to catch more fish than the average angler, you have to do everything you can to identify just what the fish want and are willing to bite on. I do this by having every fisherman in the boat do something different.
The first angler attached a jig and a minnow, the second a jig and a leach, the third a live bait rig. I attached a number 5 deep diving shad rap of a random color.
I dropped the trolling motor and we moved as slowly as we could along the edge of a reef that rose to about four feet and dropped to nine feet deep out about 100 yards. It was only seconds and I contacted a walleye. Upper Red Lake has a maximum size limit of 17 inches. All fish over 17 inches must be released. You can keep one over 28 inches or something like that, but I have never caught one that big in the lake. It is known for big numbers and not big size.
The first walleye was about 14 inches long. This is keeper for most anglers. We normally try to keep our daily limit of 4 walleye each in the 15-17 inch range. In the next 10 minutes the shad rap had caught three more fish and no other angler in the boat had caught a fish. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that on this day, the walleyes wanted the crank baits.
We fished for four hours and, at the end of the short afternoon, we had caught 65 walleyes. Many were pretty small, but they averaged about 14 inches in length. There were boats all around us and they saw what we were using, but none of them changed to our tactic.
The cabin next to us was on the water all day and caught only eight fish using other common methods. I showed Mark (I nicknamed him Hank, that’s another story) and his dad, Dave, how to use an electric knife to clean fish. Last year I did all of the cleaning and Scott Roemhildt said the only way to get good at cleaning fish is to clean a lot of them. This was Hank and Dave’s opportunity to get their hands dirty.
For the fun of it, we timed a fish cleaning that I did. With sharp blades and a medium-sized walleye, I can go from start to finish in 22 seconds. I was able to turn a whole fish into two boneless fillets in record time. Fish cleaning is a chore for some, but for me it is part of the whole outdoor experience.
The difference between an experienced fish cleaner and a newbie is how much meat gets left on the fish. A few fish into the deal and Hank was doing a more-than-adequate job, as was his dad.
We had a fish fry and spent the rest of the night retelling the stories of the day. The second day started out much different. In the first three hours, we had boated only 10 fish. We were trolling crank baits instead of casting them. This is basically the same presentation, but a different delivery method. We figured for how well they bit the day before, this less energetic method would still produce and it did not.
We dropped the trolling motor and in the next three hours of casting we netted 103 more fish. The other boats still wouldn’t take up casting and their results were much, much lower. Two times that afternoon, all four anglers in my boat had a fish on at the same time and five other times, three of the four had a fish on all at the same time. Other than on Upper Red Lake, there is no other place in Minnesota or Canada, for that matter, that this has ever happened to me.
For my other boat mates, it had never happened before in their entire fishing lives. In my seven trips to Upper Red, it has happened frequently.
The third day, the wind came up and blew us off the lake. We traveled to a smaller lake in the area and managed a few sunfish and some smaller pike that we kept and cleaned. The inability to fish our target lake the third day was almost inconsequential. The two prior days were more than enough to qualify this trip a total success. Our success over the other boats is a testament to trying many different presentations until you find the one the fish want.
In Minnesota the daily limit and the possession limit are the same. The daily limit on Red is four walleyes per person per day and so the possession limit is also four per person. This allowed us to bring back four walleyes each. I gave two of those to my dad and that left two for my sweetie.
Dave Remme was pictured in my column as a result of our trip to the Missouri River in March. He had calls from all over the Upper Midwest. Now, he and his son Mark get another photo op. With all of their notoriety, I asked them when they were going to get their own fishing show. Just imagine a Remme-Remme “Fishing across America” fishing show. Only time will tell.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe’s outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.
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