Spring Tournaments Highlight Early Fishing Opportunities
Lake of the Woods is a unique area for many reasons. A couple of those reasons are certainly the fact there are big fish swimming in these waters. On top of that, the season for these fish is open when most of the state’s season is closed for anything other than panfish. There are a couple of spring tournaments that really highlight the spring fishing opportunities.
Recently, Zippel Bay Resort held it’s annual Northern Pike Ice Out Tournament and Sportsman’s Lodge held it’s annual Sturgeon Tournament. Both spring tournaments highlighted the big fish and early fishing opportunities the lake and Rainy River offer anglers.
Zippel Bay Pike Tournament. The annual pike tournament was held out of Zippel Bay Resort again this year. This is a fun tournament that takes place in Zippel Bay as the ice goes out and makes it very accessible to small boats. This year, the tournament was pushed one week later than originally scheduled this year due to some lingering ice in Zippel Bay. The tournament took place May 4th and 5th and anglers were greeted to a lot of pike.
Anglers take different approaches to catching the pike. Some use dead bait such as ciscos as they have good scent and are an easy meal for cold water pike. Others will cast spinners, spoons and crankbaits into the shallows while yet others troll and cover water.
As is tradition, many big pike were caught again this year. Pike head into Zippel Bay as part of their spawning ritual and many of these pike are big females. Lake of the Woods is known for it’s good number of trophy pike over 40 inches.
The pike season on Lake of the Woods never closes. Anglers are allowed three pike per day. All pike 30 – 40 inches must be released. One fish over 40 inches is allowed per day.
Sportsman’s Lodge 13th Annual Sturgeon Tournament. A little ways over to the east of Zippel Bay on the Rainy River, Sportsman’s Lodge was putting on another tournament also targeting big fish. The Sportsman’s Lodge Annual Sturgeon Tournament had a full field of 60 boats and 179 anglers that battled it out over two days on Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 for over $10,000 in cash and prizes. The 13th annual catch and release tournament was headquartered at the beautiful Sportsman’s Lodge and the fishing area was focused on 1.2 mile area right in front of the lodge on the Rainy River.
Day one, the participants were rewarded with a beautiful calm morning. As the day progressed the weather turned a little more challenging as the clouds and rain moved in. The anglers stuck it out and finished day one with plenty of smiles. Day two started out with more Lake of The Woods sunshine and as the day went on the wind picked up and mother nature made the conditions a little tougher on the anglers. In true fishing tournament action the anglers braved the conditions and finished the day strong.
In 2018 for the first time in the history of the tournament, the participants that were involved in the Sturgeon Tournament raised over $2,500 for the Lake of the Woods Take a Kid Fishing Program (TAKF). This year the Sturgeon Tournament and the generous participants raised over $4,000 for the TAKF event. Along, with the money raised, Two lifetime fishing licenses were donated for the upcoming TAKF event for two lucky youth. “We are very deeply appreciative of the support the participants put forth to raise this money for such a great local program,” Gregg Hennum, Owner of Sportsman’s Lodge said. Lake of the Woods TAKF board members Ralph Christofferson, Jaime LaValla, Reed McFarlane and Diana Hennum were on hand to accept the donation. “This is amazing,” he said.
The sturgeon season on Lake of the Woods closes from Mid May through June, but then opens up again July 1st for some epic summer fishing.
There is a lot happening before the MN Fishing Opener on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River. If you want to be a bit un-traditional, these big fish eat all year long and most anglers who target them have the waters pretty much to themselves.