After 30 years of fishing, I finally had the chance to fish Lake of the Woods. No not Canada, but Minnesota. The cool part is that my teenage sons were with me. My friend Joe Henry, Director of Tourism for Lake of the Woods promised an unforgettable experience. I soon found out how right he was.
Our destination was Sportsman’s Lodge in Baudette, Minnesota. And they lived up to their name. Day one started out with beautiful, sunny skies and a little chop on the water. We took a charter boat out of the Rainy River and hit the main lake, and it wasn't' long before we were on fish. We started out fishing rock reefs, drifting spinner rigs with crawlers, leeches and minnows. Within minutes we had our first toothy critter, a nice Lake of the Woods walleye. My son Logan had the hot stick, and popped the next four walleye in a row. We also caught an occasional sauger (the walleye's cousin, just not as big). We continued to catch both keepers (under 19.5 inches) as well as some dandy 24 to 26-inch walleye that we released. When my other son Kyle set the hook and the rod bent in half, we know something big was on the other end. Ten minutes later he boated his first Northern Pike. Based on his reaction, I doubt it will be his last.
We had plenty of fish for dinner, so we headed to the Sportsman’s Lodge's remote outpost lodge on Oak Island, at the Northwest Angle, a little slice of American fishing heaven located at the northernmost tip of Minnesota. We were greeted at the dock by a friendly boat hand that wheeled our cooler of walleye away to be filleted and packaged. And as far as outposts go, this one was pretty sweet. My boys played a few games of pool at the restaurant/bar while they cooked up the walleye we just caught and served it up with wild rice and taters. We threw our overnight bag in our lakeside villa and after enjoying a spectacular sunset it was lights out.
Day two was more of the same, fantastic walleye action. We continued to boat keeper walleye as well as some 25-plus-inchers. Watching my sons reel in walleye while I took photos and videos, I noticed various storms across the lake. We could actually see the storms as they moved, yet we were in a spot with not a drop and pulling in walleye about every 5 minutes. Life is pretty damn good. As we started to pack it up, a short rainshower caught up to us. But it didn’t matter. With a full cooler and smiles on my boys faces, we booked back to the main Lodge for a hot meal and an evening of story-telling.
If you love to catch (and eat) walleye, then I suggest you start planning a trip to Lake of the Woods Minnesota for 3 reasons:
1. The take-home limits are some of the best in the Midwest. You can keep 6 fish per person and 4 of those can be walleyes up to 19 1/2 inches. Of those four, one of them can be over 28 inches.
2. The diversity of species and fishing habitat is unmatched. You can choose to fish the open water of Big Traverse Bay for walleye, fish the islands of the Northwest Angle for giant smallmouth and musky, or fish the Rainy River for ancient giant sturgeon.
3. There are over 60 resorts to choose from. Many, like The Sportman’s Lodges, cater to everyone- hardcore fisherman, couples, and families looking to bring some walleye home. Sportsman’s tailor their plans to meet everyone's needs. Guests can choose packages that vary from 1-2 day guided trips, to the Adventure Package like we took to the Northwest Angle outpost. From there, if fishermen absolutely HAVE to fish in Canada, the guides can phone in a fishing license with Canadian officials so guests to continue north and fish some Canadian water.
Lake of the Woods is hands-down some of the best walleye action I have ever experienced. And it’s right here in the good old U.S. of A.