By Scott Rall, Outdoors Columnist
The fishing opener is underway and the reports of the past two weeks have been better than I can remember for the past five years or so. As always, there are certain lakes that do better than others and your location and how much time you have to fish often dictates where and how long you can stay.
I am getting ready for my annual pilgrimage to Upper Red Lake next week with my son and son-in-law and just a few others. This is a tradition that I have carried on for about 15 years and even though my son missed a few while being deployed, I always saved his spot and now he is in for the long haul.
We go the same time every year and in those 15 years we have never had weather conditions that wrecked the whole trip. Sure, we fished in the rain a day here and a day there and the wind sometimes limited where we could go, but it has always been nice enough to be on the water each day.
Upper Red Lake is a large shallow lake that never gets more than about 14 feet deep with most of it in the 10-12-foot range. Only a small portion of the lake is open to the public as the balance of the lake, about 70%, is in the Red Lake Reservation.
Upper Red Lake is a walleye factory. This lake produces tons of fish every year and has angle pressure unlike any other water you might have ever spent time on. We snagged a small boat anchor in my larger navy style boat anchor and hauled it into the boat. It had only about a foot of rope tied to the anchor but the rope contained 26 broken-off fishing lines snagged in it. How much pressure must there be to have one spot with a 12-inch rope connected on 26 lines? We often catch over 100 fish per day and we always bet $10 per guy and whoever catches the 100th fish gets to keep the money. If you are the guy who caught number 98 or 99 you are surely out of luck. There is no way to get the fish off the hook and your line back in the water before your partner catches number 100.
I only fish this lake on weekdays and there is still plenty of company. When we leave at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning to head for home, it is not hard to see 50 boats in the launch waiting to load or unload. Nor is it difficult to count 75 boats in a mile or two of shore line. They change the limits and lengths every year based on the overall harvest.
The lake puts out numbers of really large pike and occasionally the crappies or perch will cooperate too. If it gets too windy to be on the big lake, we trailer my boat to one of about 100 other little lakes that allow you to get out of the wind. Bluegills are usually biting around the first part of June which is when I go. My bluegill lakes are secret, not because I don’t want to share my spots, but as we all know, there will be those who will go there 2-3 times each day and double and triple dip and these small lakes can not take that type or amount of game hog pressure.
We stay at West Winds Resort in Waskish, Minn., and they have a campground and cabins and a restaurant and bar right on the spot. You can bring your fish there after you clean them and they will prepare them for you. Bait and tackle can be found there as well. The Big Bog State Park is also right in the neighborhood with great accommodations but if you’re camping be ready for a killer bunch of mosquitoes.
Be ready to be checked by the conservation officers as this place is very well patrolled. I have had many interactions with these professionals and every one of them was pleasurable. Don’t break the rules and you find they are not at all hard to get along with. Make a trip to Upper Red Lake and you will turn into an annual visitor. I can almost guarantee it.
Dogs and guns now take priority in my outdoor world but this trip is one that always gets me excited. Check it out.