Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Bonanza of Walleye

 Gander Mountain

I watched the weather as usual and picked a three day period to make a trip to Webster, SD to fish the glacial lakes.  I checked in with Sportsman Cove.  They said that Waubay Lake was out, unless I wanted to catch white bass.  Walleye was on the schedule and the owner of the store had two excellent suggestions.  The first was Swan Lake to the south.  That has been fished before and is a good producer.  The boat ramp is on the east side of the lake and the wind was out of the northwest and starting to blow.  I would be fishing by myself so handling the boat on and off the trailer would be difficult for one person. 
Looking southeast from the dock.
The next suggestion was Optiz.  I have never been there.  The lake is actually three small lakes hooked together to make a really nice body of water.  The people at Sportsman Cove told me there would be a lot of sorting.  That means a fisherman would be catching a lot of walleye below 15 inches, the legal length.  The ramp was on the western shoreline and sat down low below the tops of the hills to the north and south.  I could handle the boat in these conditions.  They repeated again that I would catch a lot of fish.  That was the good news.
Looking west along the south shore of the first of the three lakes. The fish were not in the trees or the shallows on the outside.  It paid to get out in the middle of the lake where they were schooled up.
Paving all the way out of Webster to the lake, made for a good ride instead of the washboard roads and pink dust you get going to some lakes.  The boat ramp was a total afterthought.  South Dakota has some excellent facilities, but this one rates right at the bottom.  The ramp was 20 yards from the highway.  There was no parking except for backing your trailor up a grassy hill to the north.  Then there was only room for a limited number of boats.  You need to get there early to get a good space.  You enter in from the north, drive south next to the lake for about 75 feet.  Here you can get your boat ready for the launch.  Then when no one is in the launching lane, pull in and drop your boat off. The dock stinks and the boat ramp is putrid. There are some iron posts to tie the boat onto. The ramp itself consists of horizontal slabs on concrete, spaced 3 inches apart and dropped into the water.  I did launch ok, but if you decide to fish this lake, bring someone along.  One good thing is it is fairly deep at the end of the dock so you do not have to worry about hitting anything with the motor.  It is not all bad, but almost.
This access to the lake is terrible.  S.D. has not invested any money in this access.  I think it is worse than the access on Swan Lake south of Webster.  
I had no idea where to fish or how to work the lake. I met a fisherman that was obviously local and he gave me all the inside information I would need.  He had just come in for a drift sock and in the first two hours he had landed over 20 walleye.  That was the good news.  The bad news, none of them were legal length.

I started out following his advice.  I worked in 10 to 15 feet of water using a chartreuse spinner with an orange tip.  I got nothing.  The good news was both graphs were just singing as I graphed fish in all depths.
This picture does not show well how rough the lake became.  I used the kicker motor to keep the boat sideways to the waves.  Since I was by myself, I put on a life jacket.  Not that is not a bad idea to wear one anyway, now was the time to get it on.
I moved out to 20 feet and stayed parallel to the shore, but had no luck.  I only tried this for about 30 minutes.  Taking the field glasses, I scanned the lake, and much to my surprise the boats were out in deep water and drifting with the wind.  I changed the position  and placed the boat in the center of the lake.  The plan now was to drift with the wind from northwest to southeast. The wind had become very substantial.  Dropping the line down till it hit the bottom in about 22 feet of water, I would then lift it off the bottom and let it fall back down.  Bang, the hits began.  Six to ten fish and hour.  They were very healthy, but all in the 13 to 14 inch range.  A few were 14.5, and if I would have stood on them, they would have made 15 inches.  That is a bad idea, and the DNR would not appreciate it. The lake began to really rock and roll and so I moved to the next body of water to the southeast. 
I took this selfie to prove to my wife I had the life jacket on.
I wanted to see what was along the shoreline in this new section of the lake.  It was somewhat calm.  A Flicker Shad was tried for about 45 minutes with no luck and not even one hit.  I was told there were some white bass in the lake.  I will take them anytime.
Here is another farmstead taken over by mother nature.  The home to the left of the picture was a really nice big two story that had to be walked away from.  This is the result of the glacial lakes expanding and destroying someones dreams.

Moving back out to the deep water the same process was repeated.  All I needed were two walleye 15 inches or longer.  The same thing happened again.  All the fish were small and I was running out of worms.  Pinching the worms into two or three pieces and spraying on some Gulp Alive kept the fish pounding the line. 
Not a good picture, but there is a baby walleye that measured about 12 inches when I lifted it out of the water.  Most of the fish caught were in the 13 to 14.5 inch range. 

The wind began to really pound and the lake was really whipping up with big swells.  I put my life jacket on and as proof, took a selfie to show my wife that I had done it.

Around 3 PM I threw in the towel.  Fishing had started about 7:30 and I had wasted about 1.5 hours just figuring things out.  After that, there was nothing but solid catching at the rate of 6 to 10 per hour other than the 45 minutes spent with the Flicker Shad. 

I never kept a count, but it had to be in the range of 40 to 50 fish boated and tossed back.  This did not include the number of strikes that took place where no fish was landed.  It has been years since I have caught walleye that fast and furious.

In the next two to three years, this lake will be a big producer as the fish mature.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank.

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