Anderson: Lake of the Woods shows why it's alluring

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 18, 2013 - 11:29 PM

Crisp mornings and evenings — and muskies, and so much more — make Lake of the Woods inviting.

hide

At sunrise or sunset — this was sunrise Wednesday morning — Lake of the Woods is a magical place to be, certainly for walleye anglers and, as here, for muskie fishermen as well.

Photo: Photos by DENNIS ANDERSON • danderson@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Thursday morning, sunrise came early, and our boat was tied quietly at the dock wet with dew. We had fished until after dark the night before, landing one muskie, our second, and we thought we had it figured out. This was on a quiet evening when the lake lay like a mirror beneath a sky fading quickly to midnight blue.

Exactly how many bent props and lost lower units of outboard motors Lake of the Woods accounts for each summer is unknown. But it is a myth that the island-studded lake can’t be safely navigated, assuming ownership of proper maps and a good GPS. I had thought about this earlier as I made coffee in the half-light. Now my son Cole, 17, and his friend Dominic Schneider, 20, were in the boat with me. This was our last morning on the lake and Cole was turning the key. The outboard rumbled to life and we let it idle while an amber mist rose against the coming daylight. The water temperature was 67. We zipped up our coats. Cole put the boat on plane. We headed down the lake.

When I was a kid, I fished with my dad on Lake Michigan. The town where we lived was on a small bay and the fishing was just so-so. Our boat was 14 feet long and we had a 7½-horsepower Johnson. I was too young to have an absolute handle on what Dad was thinking. But my sense was he liked big fish more than small fish. We trolled for hours, and when a northern pike bit one of our plugs he boated the fish, opened its toothy mouth with a jaw spreader and removed the lure. Then he set the fish free. For this reason I think he would have been a muskie fisherman, had he lived long enough to find out.

On this morning, we saw no bears swimming in Lake of the Woods, as we had the night before, a young cub. But eagles were aloft already, in advance of the midday thermals, their eyes peeled for their next meal. By now Cole had leveled the boat at about 35 miles per hour, and we wound through watery passageways narrow and wide, trailing a wake that rolled neatly to opposite shorelines. Twenty minutes later, Cole throttled back, killing the engine. Dominic, a junior at the University of North Dakota, deployed the bow trolling motor, and we were casting again.

Like all fishing, muskie fishing is a mental game. But it’s also quite physical. The rods are heavy and the lures big, especially those with large spinning blades, which are a challenge to retrieve. Not the first 100 times or so. But the second 100 and the third and fourth will for sure keep you off the dance floor at night. Yet all is forgiven when a muskie comes in hot on a bait and bites at the boat with all the terror and violence it can muster. Then you decide whether to hold the fish fast, pitting your arms and shoulders and equipment against the muskie’s horrified strength. Or instead whether to give the fish some line and gamble that in time you can bring it to the net.

Fish. Fish.

This was Dominic, bent at the knees in the bow. His leader had been reeled nearly to his rod tip, with a thick-shouldered, fat-tailed muskie trailing his flashibou-skirted bait.

If the fish were sufficiently crazed with hunger, aggression or anger, in any combination, it would bite while Dominic maneuvered the lure in a large circle boatside. If not, it would become just another in a legion of muskie “follows’’ that quicken the heart rate. But produce little else.

Such was the case with this fish, which faded from view nearly as quickly as it had appeared.

•••

Dominic and Cole are excellent muskie fishermen. They fish metro waters intently and know the name of every bait and every bait maker. Or nearly so.

So the day before, when we had quit muskie fishing long enough to catch walleyes to eat, the boys were willing but not overly enthusiastic. They just couldn’t abide for long the relative inaction of jigging. So when we had our handful of walleyes in the live well, our dinner guaranteed, they soon again pressed their fingers to maps looking for underwater humps, rocky points and broad shallow flats, places that might hold muskies. Then we were off, the day brightening, white and red pines towering from islands we circled, skirted and cast to.

“Let’s try where we caught the fish last night,’’ I said.

The evening before, Cole had landed a muskie that inhaled his big double-bladed spinnerbait just as he had begun to swim it in a large circle alongside the boat, successfully enticing the fish to bite.

This was a 37-inch specimen, not big by big-fish standards. But multiple cold fronts last week had cooled the water and also, we believed, the willingness of muskies to take baits. But who really knew? Fish are a mystery, as is fishing, thus the attraction. And anyway, we had caught two, one a 40-incher, and were thankful for that.

At night, we tied up the boat at our friend Charlie Ehlen’s place. He had an extra cabin, and Cole in particular looked forward to returning to Charlie’s island because the fishing is good and because off his dock Cole has perfected the art of crawfish catching.

So Monday, our first evening in camp, a mess of the little devils were captured and dumped into a pot for a big boil in advance of dinner. This amused Charlie no end, and occurred amid the night’s gathering darkness while I prepared dinner in a cabin whose paned windows from a distance appeared yellow against the good night.

In a place like Lake of the Woods on peerless days and nights like those that enveloped the big border water last week, you don’t need much by way of media entertainment or information. We had what we had, and it didn’t include phone or Internet. And anyway, when I was a kid I liked fishing with my dad, and I like fishing with my kids and their buddies now. A friend once said his goal was never to end up in a fishing camp surrounded by cocktail-swigging orthodontists, and I took it as good advice.

  • related content

  • As fall hunts approach, diehards begin their preparation

    Saturday August 17, 2013

    Diehards already are checking sites, gear and even dogs.

  • Park Service and partners hook city kids on Mississippi River

    Friday August 23, 2013

    Teaching kids to fish, canoe and camp provides fun and confidence-building activities that can change lives.

  • Dominic Schneider, 20, of Maplewood, a student at the University of North Dakota, conducted a cast-ending figure-8 with his muskie bait Wednesday at sunset on Lake of the Woods.

  • Big, bigger and biggest are sizes of muskies Lake of the Woods anglers can expect to see — assuming such a fish is hooked. Last week’s cold fronts cooled muskie action on the big lake, though this 40-incher was fooled by Cole Anderson.

  • Evening lights in an island cabin provided a warm return for Lake of the Woods muskie anglers.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 4 Bottom 8th Inning
Detroit 3
Philadelphia 1 Top 9th Inning
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 1 Top 9th Inning
Tampa Bay 1
NY Yankees 2 Top 8th Inning
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 0 Top 2nd Inning
San Francisco 0
Los Angeles 1 Top 4th Inning
Chicago WSox 0
San Diego 0 Top 3rd Inning
Seattle 1
Cleveland 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Cincinnati 1
Milwaukee 0 Top 3rd Inning
LA Angels 0
Oakland 0 Top 3rd Inning
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 0 Top 1st Inning
Kansas City 0
Colorado 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Arizona 1
NY Mets 4:05 PM
Washington
Boston 6:05 PM
Minnesota
Toronto 6:05 PM
Baltimore
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 9:30 PM
Portland
Calgary 6:00 PM
Boston
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Washington
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Dallas 6:30 PM
Florida
NY Islanders 7:00 PM
Nashville
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Arizona
Montreal 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Morgan State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Niagara 4:00 PM
Siena
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Navy 6:00 PM
Colgate
Temple 6:00 PM
East Carolina
UAB 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
Boston Univ 6:00 PM
Lafayette
American Univ 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Wisconsin 6:00 PM
Minnesota
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Saint Peters
Arkansas 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Morehead State 6:00 PM
UT Martin
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
North Florida
Southern Ill 6:05 PM
Missouri State
Texas State 6:30 PM
Appalachian St
SC State 6:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 6:30 PM
Coppin State
Middle Tennessee 6:30 PM
FIU
Texas-Arlington 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Norfolk State 6:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 7:00 PM
Florida A&M
Southern Miss 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Georgia State 7:00 PM
ULM
Marshall 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Rice 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Ark-Little Rock 7:15 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 7:30 PM
Arkansas State
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Grambling St
Alabama A&M 7:30 PM
Jackson State
Sam Houston St 7:30 PM
Lamar
Central Arkansas 7:30 PM
Nicholls
Portland State 7:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Southern U 7:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Houston Baptist 7:30 PM
TX A&M-CC
SE Louisiana 7:45 PM
New Orleans
California 8:00 PM
Arizona
Eastern Ill 8:00 PM
Belmont
Memphis 8:00 PM
Connecticut
VA Commonwealth 8:00 PM
Davidson
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Marist 8:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Northwestern St 8:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
North Texas 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 8:00 PM
Washington
Idaho 8:00 PM
Weber State
Abilene Christian 8:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Eastern Wash 8:05 PM
Idaho State
Bradley 8:35 PM
Drake
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Long Beach State
UC Riverside 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Stanford 10:00 PM
Arizona State
Utah 10:00 PM
Washington St
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Massachusetts 61 2nd Half 0:20
Richmond 64
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Campbell 46 2nd Half 10:24
Winthrop 37
Oregon 44 2nd Half 15:59
Washington St 41
Indiana 28 2nd Half
(23) Rutgers 37
Pepperdine 27 2nd Half
Loyola Marymount 34
Auburn 8 1st Half 11:55
(18) Texas A&M 13
Morehead St 3:00 PM
Tennessee St
George Mason 3:30 PM
Saint Josephs
Western Carolina 3:30 PM
East Tenn St
Arizona 4:00 PM
UCLA
Texas State 4:00 PM
Appalachian St
TX-Arlington 4:00 PM
Georgia Southern
SC State 4:30 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Delaware State 4:30 PM
Coppin State
Portland 4:30 PM
Santa Clara
Norfolk State 4:30 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 4:30 PM
NC Central
Savannah State 5:00 PM
Florida A&M
Virginia Tech 5:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Central Arkansas 5:00 PM
Nicholls
Houston Baptist 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Radford
Georgia 5:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 5:00 PM
Marshall
Ark-Little Rock 5:00 PM
Louisiana
South Alabama 5:05 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 5:15 PM
ULM
Sam Houston St 5:30 PM
Lamar
SE Louisiana 5:30 PM
New Orleans
Northwestern St 5:30 PM
Stephen F Austin
Alabama A&M 5:30 PM
Jackson State
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Grambling
Southern U 5:30 PM
Prairie View
Alcorn State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 5:45 PM
Mercer
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Incarnate Word
La Salle 6:00 PM
Rhode Island
Illinois 6:00 PM
Nebraska
TX-San Antonio 6:00 PM
Rice
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
Oakland
Missouri State 6:05 PM
Indiana State
Georgia Tech 7:00 PM
(15) North Carolina
Presbyterian 7:00 PM
High Point
Charlotte 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
UAB
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
North Texas
Wichita State 7:00 PM
Evansville
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Bradley 7:05 PM
Drake
Vanderbilt 7:30 PM
(12) Kentucky
Colorado 8:00 PM
USC
San Francisco 8:00 PM
Pacific
FIU 8:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Idaho State 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
Weber State 8:00 PM
Idaho
Purdue 8:25 PM
Minnesota
Cal-Irvine 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Long Beach St 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Hawaii 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis 9:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Northern Ariz 9:00 PM
Portland State
Southern Utah 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Utah 10:30 PM
Washington
BYU 10:30 PM
St Marys-CA
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close