Back to the Angle
By Steve Weisman
When my son, Curt asked me this year if I wanted to join him on a trip to the Lake of the Woods for a late August fishing trip for a Father’s Day present, you can bet it didn’t take long for me to say, “Yes!” Of course, there are lots of places for people to go fishing, and they all have their own special appeal.
For me, however, the Northwest Angle, which is the northern most point of our lower 48 states, has always held special intrigue. Maybe it’s that to get there, you must first travel from Minnesota into Canada and then back into the United States-the Northwest Angle. Maybe it’s because it is so isolated and laid back. Maybe it’s because of its incredible beauty. Maybe it’s because it is such a world-class fishery. Actually, the answer is yes to all of the above!
Although I have ice fished the Angle several times with Curt, I’ve never before had the opportunity to experience open water, summer fishing. As always, we stayed at Jake’s Northwest Angle, a four-generation family resort. Currently owned by Paul and Karen Colson, it is truly a family destination with recently renovated cabins, a marina with slip availability, boat rentals and guide options.
Over the 20 times my son has experienced Jake’s, he has developed a close friendship with guide Big Mike Jenison, who has guided for Jake’s for the past 20 years. At the same time, he has also become friends with Bobbie Switzer from Kansas City. So, our recent trip included joining Bob and Big Mike for three days of fishing the Angle. However, instead of fishing the Minnesota portion of the Lake of the Woods, Big Mike told us the bite was north into Canadian waters, so we each purchased the a Canadian Sport Fishing license.
Was it worth it? Oh my, yes. Over the three days, we boated 150 walleyes/sauger, several perch, three smallmouth bass and a northern pike. Most of the walleyes ran in the 14-18 inch size with our largest just under 23 inches. We were able to eat two meals of fish, along with each of us taking home our four-fish possession limit. The perch were 13-14 inchers.
We never fished the same area, so one thing I will say: I have no idea where we fished. After a 45 minute boat ride each day with island after island after island…thank goodness Big Mike knew the way. Along the way and at times during our trip, he also shared history tidbits, such as showing us Fort St. Charles, which was built in 1732 as a trading post for voyageurs and still exists today. He also showed us the remnants of ancient native petroglyphs still visible on the rocky shorelines. Then, of course, there was the majesty of all kinds of bald eagles and the haunting sound of the loon and the beauty of the rocky tree-laden islands on which we had our daily noon lunches.
Normally, Big Mike’s go-to presentation is jigging a 1/4 to 3/8 inch jig tipped either with a white Berkley 3” Power Minnow or dead-in-salt spottail shiners. I asked why not live shiners, and he told me that when you fish Canadian waters, you must get your live bait, in this case minnows, from a Canadian bait dealer. However, they can only be used that day and must then be disposed of. So they go with the preserved bait.
However, going into the three days, Big Mike also had us bring up a trolling rod in case we had to resort to pulling spinners and bottom bouncers. Well, wouldn’t you know it, that presentation became our go-to presentation. I would guess we caught 80 percent of our fish pulling spinners. Using 1-ounce bottom bouncers for two of us and ounce and a half to 2-ounce for the other two, the four of us were able to keep from getting fouled with each other.
With all of the rocky areas, would you believe that the transition sand to muck in 20-27 feet of water worked the best? We’d keep the bouncers in contact with the bottom as much as we could as we moved up and down the water column. I still don’t know how Big Mike was able to find those different spots each day, but I guess 20 years of fishing those waters can do that! Still, we never really worked over an area. Instead, we caught fish for a while, and then we moved on to other spots.
With two evening fish fries, along with a steak night and an Iowa chop night, I certainly didn’t lose any weight. Plus, it was kind of cool. Big Mike and I sat back and Bobbie and Curt fixed the meals and cleaned up after the meals. Now that’s living like a king, I would say!
Steve Weisman is an outdoor writer from Spirit Lake, IA. This article was published on the NW Iowa Outdoors website, http://nwiowaoutdoors.com/2016/09/01/back-to-the-angle/