With the ice gone and a freezer full of crappies, many anglers are looking for something to scratch their itch in anticipation of the walleye opener. More and more of them are discovering the thrill of catching giant sturgeon on the Rainy River near Baudette, MN.
When my good friend Steve Pennaz offered to take me with him to film an episode of Lake Commandos I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The plan was to make the 5.5 hour drive on Wednesday afternoon and fish Thursday and Friday. It’s a pretty sweet deal because Steve has all the gear; all i have to do is show up. It’s funny how I dread a 30 minute commute in the Twin Cities but a 6 hr ride to the Canadian border is no problem! Other than great conversation, one of the highlights of the trip was seeing my first moose in MN. We all agreed this was a good sign there may be good luck on this trip.
Joining us for the trip is Sam Henderson from Delano. Sam works for Everfire Group in Plymouth and will be filming our adventure. We arrived at the Borderview Lodge on Wheeler’s Point near the mouth of the Rainy River around 8 PM. After a quick gear check and a fast 6 hours of sleep, we were ready to hit the water.
We put in at the Vidas public landing just upstream from the mouth of the Rapid River outlet and cruised 3-4 miles downstream towards Baudette. The river is pretty low and holds a few hazards along the way. It’s best to travel on the Canadian side but you can’t fish there. We set out our lines; I used 3-4 nightcrawlers on a 5/O circle hook with a 4 oz flat sinker. Steve started out with dead minnows on the same tackle. The format of his show is to have two anglers with different strategies compete to see who has the best pattern.
The morning started out slow with each of us catching a mixed bag of redhorse, smallies and a pike. It took about 4 hours to hook into our first sturgeon. Steve landed a 24” fish…a baby and not what we were looking for but a good sign that the sturgeon were starting to feed.
We were fishing a deep hole that produced a couple other small sturgeon when we hooked into our first giant. When using a circle hook you don’t do a traditional hook set. You watch the end of the rod and if it starts moving you pick up rod, remove any slack and if you feel fish you start reeling fast to set the hook. I picked up the rod and felt a fish so I started cranking. I knew right away this fish was bigger than anything we had seen all day. Within a few seconds the fish jumped and then dove to the bottom where she would stay for the next 25 minutes.
I was expecting the battle with a dinosaur to be similar to fighting a big muskie. It wasn’t. This fish owned me for well over 20 minutes. I couldn’t move it, gain line, turn it or really do anything other than hold on and apply consistent pressure. We were using 50 lb test line and 10’ 6” rods and needed every inch of it.
Eventually she tired out and we got her in the net. She measured 65” with a 27” girth and weighed between 70-80 lbs. Truly a fish of a lifetime.
After catching a couple other small sturgeon we moved downstream to a spot that Steve felt looked promising. His instincts were quickly confirmed on the Garmin and within a few minutes, history repeated itself. I hooked into my second giant of the day and half way through another 25 minute battle I couldn’t believe it was happening again. This fish ended up being about an inch shorter than my first but was still and amazing fish. And it was shy. It too jumped when hooked but dove the bottom and refused to give me an inch. Fortunately it tired just before I did and we got it in the net.
Steve finished out the day with a fish in the 55” range which brought our total for the day to nine sturgeon.
Our trip went so well we ended up only fishing one day but what a day it was. It’s truly a community fishery and we were supported by the crew at Borderview Lodge and by local guide Darrell Hoag. Darrell knows where the fish are so if you want to have this experience give him a call!
This adventure will air on Lake Commandos on Sportsman’s Channel in a few short weeks so be sure to tune in!
For more information:
www.borderviewlodge.com / 800-PRO-FISH
Fishing Guide Darrell Hoag / Cell: 419-707-7318
Local charity, Fishing for Life, will host its annual ice fishing contest Holes for Heroes. The contest is open to the public but supports veterans of our armed services and families of current military deployed overseas.
One of the more unique elements of the event is the Hole of Honor where a live broadcast via Internet brings overseas service member and their family together in our special "Hole of Honor" tent. Last year 35 military families connected to a parent, son or daughter live, via this internet stream.
All proceeds from this event serve the JROTC Cadets in Minneapolis. This great organization directly helps kids in inner-city who are making decisions to participate in the inner city Military and straighten out their lives. With over 1300 attendees in its 3rd year in 2014, this event is well on its way to being one of the best ice events in the upper Midwest. Great food, great prizes and a great way to say thanks to our military!
To register follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2015-holes-for-heroes-ice-fishing-tournament-tickets-12918243815
A few years ago I shot a deer and tied it to my trailer hitch rack for the ride home from deer camp. I snapped a picture and posted it to Facebook where one of my friends, a decorated Special Forces soldier, made the comment, "If you don't know knots, tie lots". He was right; I was busted. I still tie knots with the skill and finesse of a pre-schooler. It's embarrassing to admit as a guy who spends most of his free time hunting or fishing, my knowledge of knots doesn't go far beyond the Fisherman Knot and Palomar Knot.
To make matters worse, one of my good friends is a local guy named Steve Pennaz. Steve was the host of North American Fisherman TV and the creator of the popular segment, "Knot Wars". Not only does Steve know how to tie knots, he knows what knots work with different baits, lines, presentations, barometric pressure patterns etc...you get the idea. Last year we were trolling for walleye and Steve suggested I change baits. Not problem as I cut off my Rapala and grabbed a new color. In my defense, it was cold, windy, and rainy and the pressure to perform in front of the "Knot War" guy was on... about 5 minutes later Steve asked, "Is everything alright over there?". He showed me a new knot that's like the Fisherman Knot but instead of wrapping the line from the eyelet out you actually start about an inch from the eyelet and wrap it towards the hook. It's easy to tie and strong. Steve can almost tie it no handed he's so good!
So armed with my new knot (I don't remember the name) I headed to the St Croix River with a couple friends to chase smallies. I used the knot to tie on a Rapala Skitter Prop and proceeded to catch 20-25 smallies. About 3 hours into the day I hooked into a nice muskie in the 42" range. I did a decent job fighting the fish with light tackle and had it close to the boat and next to the net when she broke off. I looked at the line and there was evidence that it didn't break off but my knot had slipped.
To this day, I still suck at knots! So, in 2015 when most people will resolve to lose weight or drink less, I'm committing to learning how to tie knots!
If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments below.
If you miss Steve Pennaz and his Knot Wars, check out his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MANvsLAKE or visit his website http://www.lakecommandos.com/. He has new shows of his hit series Lake Commandos, airing on Pursuit Channel starting in January.
An armada of modern kayaks built for fishing slipped silently into the moving waters of the Mississippi River north of Clearwater early Saturday morning, as some 40 members of the Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association gathered to compete in a friendly competition based on the successful hooking and releasing of Smallmouth Bass.
Anglers worked shorelines, riffles, pools and island edges as their kayaks enabled them to deftly ply the moving and sometimes very shallow waters.
Born out of sealskin-covered craft first used for hunting and subsistence living by Aleut, Inuit, and Yupik peoples of the sub-Arctic and other northern regions, modern fishing kayaks are no longer the very tippy craft of yesteryear.
Todays kayak are built from modern polymers and other space-age materials and are designed like small fishing battleships, ready to take on any river, lake or ocean. New designs and improvements have allowed even wary skeptics the chance to counter the popularity of the motorized fishing boat in an affordable fashion.
Affordability has been the key to the success of these boats and the crowds have joined in on fishing tournaments and and kayak fishing clubs around the country.
The Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association is no different. It boasts nearly 500 hundred active members that gather for weekly outings and tournaments. Members meet to share ideas on fishing, rigging kayaks, and learn the latest innovations in rod holders, depth finders, trolling motors, downriggers and more.
Dan Meer, owner of Clearawters Outfitting Company, host of this years’ Bronzeback Classic Fishing Tournament said, “I’ve seen a rise in sales and rentals of fishing kayaks this year. Kayaking allows everyone to get into the sport at affordable prices compared to traditional fishing boats and motors. It’s a very quiet and gentle sport that has no boundaries. We have first-timers that get so addicted to kayaks that they enthusiastically talk the sport up, getting friends and family involved.”
This tournaments’ anglers, who traveled to the Mississippi from all over the Midwest, cast their lures in hopes to cash in on a host of prizes that included rods, reels, kayak gear and cash prizes. Two new kayaks were given away to winning anglers.
Tournament anglers met early Saturday morning at Clearwater Outfitting Company in Clearwater, loading kayaks onto the shuttle trailers under dim street lights. They were then transported to a starting point upstream to float the 9 miles down river in search of their three biggest fish of the day. Each fish was carefully measured, then photographed on cell phones. Images were e-mailed to the contest headquarters after the fish were released back into the river.
Tournament Recap by Paul M Hansen
Pictures by Mitch Kezar, www.kezarphoto.com
Article by Mitch Petrie, SPECIAL TO STARTRIBUNE.COM :
Wild coach Mike Yeo, backed by players Erik Haula, Keith Ballard, Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine, took to the waters of Lake Minnetonka in the first “Mike Yeo Classic” bass tournament. The event, put on by the Minnesota Wild Foundation and Sponsored by Gander Mountain, is a fundraiser for the Angel Foundation and the Miracles of Mitch Foundation. Both organizations assist individuals and families in need of financial support as they fight cancer.
Teammates and Alumni from the MN Wild regroup after a day on Lake Minnetonka
Fans had the opportunity to bid online to be in one of seven boats. Others were drawn from a pool of season-ticket holders who submitted trophy shots of their fish while wearing Wild gear.
“The event came together quickly as part of our commitment to the community.” Explained Coach Yeo. “We’ve supported The Angel Foundation and Miracles of Mitch Foundation in the past and this is a great opportunity help raise awareness and money for both these great charities.” he continued. When asked about his support of cancer charities Coach Yeo explained, “Most of us have been effected by cancer in our lives and supporting families in this struggle is very important for me.” .
Anglers were competing for the best combined bag of five fish. “Our boat had lots of action and we caught tons of fish but couldn't find the big ones.” Said Yeo.
Wild Alumni Darby Hendrickson fished with Coach Yeo, season ticket holder Kurt Casby and his daughter Nicole. “It was a great experience to bring everyone together to talk hockey, fish, and raise money for some great charities.” said Hendrickson. “We caught our limit of bass but won’t be in the money.” He continued.
Both Yeo and Hendrickson expect the event to grow. “We started with six boats and a great sponsor in Gander Mountain and next year hope to grow the event to 25 boats”. Said Yeo.
Team leader Jason Zucker and guests Scott and Nancy Bonnema and from Zimmerman, MN. show off two bass over 3.5 lbs each. The fish on the left was the biggest fish of the day. Nancy won the opportunity to fish by submitted a picture of her in a Wild jersy holding a trophy bass.
Results for the event were as follows (All boats caught a 5-fish limit):
1. Team Justin Fontaine : 13.42 lbs
2. Team Matt Cooke : 12.92 lbs
3. Team Jason Zucker : 12.84 lbs
4. Team Erik Haula : 10.14 lbs
5. Team Keith Ballard : 8.04 lbs
6. Team Mike Yeo : 6.14 lbs
Biggest fish of the day honors went to Team Zucker with a 3.70 lbs bass.