Walleye are unlike any other fish - a true icon of the Northern wilds of the United States. And to pursue walleye on Lake of the Woods is more than just a fishing trip. It's an experience.
I was invited by Gregg and Diana Hennum, owners of Sportsman's Lodges to bring my family up for some Northern Minnesota fun. Sportsman's, one of the oldest resorts on Lake of the Woods, sits on the Rainy River not too far from where is pours into the Walleye Capital of the World — Lake of the Woods, Minnesota. And there is no better place on earth to give your kids and family a true walleye experience. This is ours…
After checking in to our brand new state-of-the-art villas looking out over the Rainy River, my 8 and 10 year old and their mom and I had a nice meal and enjoyed a few rounds of pool in the game room at the Sand Bar Lounge in the main lodge. After a good nights rest, we had a quick breakfast and hit the docks where anxious anglers buzzed around looking for their charter boat captains. We found ours- Captain Ralph- and after introductions we jumped on the 28-foot cruiser and headed north in pursuit of walters.
We were trolling crank baits on down riggers in about 28 feet of water, and it wasn't long before we hooked up a fish. My son Nate jumped up like he was sitting on springs and proceeded to reel in his first Minnesota toothy critter- a nice sauger. Rachel was up next and she cranked in her first walleye. We continued to catch fish throughout the morning, and by 11 am headed to nearby Garden Island to enjoy a shore lunch. Shore lunches are a trademark of Northwoods fishing, and it's basically just what it sounds like. You catch some fish, pull up on shore, build a fire and cook your fresh walleye. The guides at Sportsman’s Lodges have a beautiful location on Garden Island where their guests can easily get off the boat to stretch their legs, use the port-a-john and get ready to enjoy one of the best lunches on the planet. While I started preparing the food, Captain Ralph filleted some fresh walleye while the kids played on the shore and collected shells. We proceeded to cook potatoes and onions in a giant skillet. When those were done we put some oil in the skillet and cooked bacon, followed by our breaded walleye. A side of beans put this meal off the charts. I can honestly say there is nothing better than bacon and fresh walleye. We jumped back on the boat, caught a few more fish then headed back to the lodge so the kids could jump in the pool. Then my son Nate wanted to throw a line off the dock. He did and I couldn't believe it as he started pulling two-pound slab crappies onto the dock with a crank-bait. Not a bad first day.
Day two was icing on the cake. We headed north with Captain Mike where we proceeded to boat another 30 or so walleye. The charter boats are perfect for kids or even inexperienced anglers. The captain has all of the equipment and bait and he know where the fish are. Catching a 4-man limit of walleye tends to make kids hungry, so we headed to Sportsman's northern outpost at Oak Island. The Oak Island Lodge They have a handful of condos and cabins that sit a stone's throw from the Canada border. This "adventure" package is perfect for anglers that want to buy a one day license and fish Canadian water without the hassle of going through customs. Guests simply buy a license online the night before, and the next day they’re fishing north of the border. The Oak Island Lodge is a little quieter due to its remoteness, but it also has a restaurant and bar for the guests and excellent sleeping accommodations for families or groups. After a delicious lunch, we hopped on the boat and headed back to the main Lodge with full bellies and a full cooler.
There's a reason Lake of the Woods is called the Walleye Capital of the World. It's one of the few lakes in existence that doesn't allow commercial netting or spearing in the United States. This has enabled better fishery management tactics resulting in a body of water that has become an incredible fishery. And the limits reflect that. Out-of-state anglers can keep four walleye under 19 inches and two sauger of any size. And the chances are pretty good that you'll get your limit. Prime time for walleye runs from June all the way through August. Lake of the Woods is also home to plenty of smallmouth and is world-renowned for it's giant muskies. Since walleye are low-light predators, they prefer to feed in dark water. And unlike many other walleye lakes, the water there is stained with tannin, which means that the walleye bite is always good, even on sunny days.
From the shore lunch, lodge amenities, catching limits of walleye and enjoying the company of some of the friendliest people on earth it's easy to see how this kind of adventure is truly a walleye experience for the whole family. The Hennums run a first-class operation, one of the oldest on the Lake. They work hard to give every guest — first time anglers, kids, or seasoned fishermen — an experience they won't forget. I couldn't have asked for a better place to bring my family to catch their first walleye. If this sounds like your kind of adventure, contact Sportsman's Lodges at the website at SportsmansLodges.com.
Take a look at the photos below, then book your walleye experience!