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North Dakota Fishing and Hunting Reports

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Snake, Get the Hoe!

You’d think it would be safe on the water, away from the slithering critters that give me the heebie geebies. Don’t be too sure.

Welcome to another glorious day on the water, brought to you by God Almighty. We had no idea of all that was coming our way but the awesome sunrise should have been a good indicator. 4 Bears Marina is one of those “got it all” places on the lake. Gas, bait, camping gear and most importantly stuff that goes in the cooler. Bring the RV or tents along and spend a week, as it will take a few days to get your fill of fishing the Badlands.

We throttled up to cruising altitude and after a quick run, brought her down just south of the Grain Bins along the bluffs. This area is the first outside bend of the old river channel south of 4 Bears. A quick check on Google Earth for New Town, ND will give you the big picture of the river tucking into the corner and making a straight run to Hunts Along Bay.

We marked plenty of smelt out deep in 30 to 50 feet but chose to stay shallow in 12. If I were to give my opinion, which I often do, it would be: “Start in 12, try something else if you have to, get it out of your system and then get back into 12 feet.” I don’t know why but 12 feet plus or minus a couple has been very good to me this year.

Reef Runner Rip Shads out 55 and Deep Little Rippers with 30 feet of line back was our best set up. Yesterday we used Blue/Chrome due to the clear water and no wind. Not an ideal walleye day but I have seen walleyes suspend on days like this. Sure enough we picked up several as we passed over deep water. Today with a south wind water was off color due to mudlines. A color switch to Firetiger was the answer.

Sakakawea Badlands meet the water right at your rod tip in this section of the lake. Primitive, pristine and rugged, not a sign of development anywhere. Trolling quietly south we would scan each new cedar draw with anticipation. I can’t get over how big the ears are on Mule Deer. Later, mid-morning we caught glimpses of a couple of coyote. We need more varmint hunters here. Where else in the world can you be staring at Mule Deer and reeling in fish?

As we passed another boat the cheerful greeting was, “Want to get a picture of a good fish?” Turns out Milton is having a pretty good day as he hauls out an 8.2 from the livewell. No doubt about it, there is a good bite going in 25 feet plus.

We can tend to over think walleyes and get too caught up in the depth rule. There is almost always more than one bite going on and at different depths. Walleyes are giving the smelt a workout in the deeper water and 25 feet is a good place to begin looking. Plenty of fishermen are proving the point with spinners or lindys and convincing limits, plus occasional big fish 8 and up.

I think many of those same fish end up in 12 feet and are looking for just one more snack. By staying shallow with cranks I can cover lots of water with short lines. A fast way to put fish in the boat. Are these shallow fish feeding on smelt? I think so; my livewell was totally plugged with regurgitated smelt at the end of the day.

The 2010 Walleye Cup is just a week away and with this kind of fishing my guess is big fish will be well over 8 lbs. Fact is in my opinion, told you this comes up often, more fish over 8 lbs are being taken from the 4 Bears area than all the rest of Sakakawea combined. I know my biggest fish so far is from south of the bridge. Geez, fish and money, maybe we don’t have to wait till we get to the other side.


Following paragraph contains graphic material that may give you the heebie geebies!

With our cranks out the back and the little kicker moving us along at 2.5 we had plenty of time to admire the Cliff Swallows and their neat little holes bored into the sandstone cliff. I asked Levi if he could see any little units poking their heads out. “Ya, I see a couple Dad.” I marvel at nature more each year, must be the growing old thing.

Another pass, I look up and there it is. The next several moments are spent screwing my eyeballs back into their sockets. SNAKE! EEEE GADS, what is a snake doing hanging vertically on a sandstone cliff? Eating little delicacies that’s what. Never be surprised by where you find a bull snake. Dumb advice, what am I saying? I’m always surprised whenever I encounter a snake. Who would think you need a net and a garden hoe for a properly rigged boat?


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Look for the smelt and you will find walleyes on Sakakawea. Often you can fish inside of the bait and pick up fish moving shallow as they chase the forage. Just because it's August tomorrow doesent mean deep is the only answer. I have spent more time in 12 feet this year than any other depth. In fact, tomorrow I'm out and I will start in 12 and move up from there.


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Hot Summer Eyes on Sakakawea

Join myth buster Greg Schoneck of ND Live in pursuit of Sakakawea summer walleyes. You do not need to go deep to make big catches. Find the smelt, primary forage on Sakakawea, and walleyes are close by.

Watch in HD at HSO: http://hsoshow.com/video/211/Hot-Summer-Eyes

More videos at HSOshow.com™

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Hot Tub Walleyes

I’m blown away every trip. It has far exceeded my expectations. Don’t seem possible, this much change in one year.

ND hospitality is what makes a resort a community. A place you can walk in a stranger and feel at ease. When we stopped, the lake store was closed. I was busy noting the hours of operation and didn’t notice Cal leaving his lawnmower to come over and see how he could help. Told you, ND hospitality, you’re gonna like it here. Brendles Bay is dead center of the hottest bite on Sakakawea.

You will also like the fishing. Limits are normal right now. What is not normal is fish measuring just a bit less than 20 inches and weighing 3.4 pounds. What have these gals been eating? Other day I was out with some clients. It was suggested the small fish we just landed was only around 14-15 inches. I suggested more so we measured it. 17, and that was the smallest. Ya, Sakakawea has turned around.

It ain’t all a bed of roses yet. We need more fish to make it a little easier to locate fish and expect consistency. Also we have thousands of acres of flooded vegetation that is all but unfishable. But, thousands of acres of nursery habitat ain’t all bad. I so underestimated the turnaround for this season.

Dog Days be gone, this is Sakakawea! I have been fishing in 12 feet for several weeks. Now that we have a week of hot August weather on us water is up to the high 70’s. Conventional thinking has us out in deep water. Not! Ya, I know, go deep is the wisdom from the tackle and bait shops. It’s tradition! Too much of what we have come to understand about walleyes didn’t come from walleyes.

Let the fish do the talking. If they are talking in 9 feet then listen. For several years we have had low water on Sak and while there is always a deep bite in August there is also a shallow bite. Move back into the creek arms where water is high 70’s and the green is floating on top. Sometimes the water has that not too pleasant smell of rotting vegetation. Now just a little bit further in and put in the lines.

You can live bait, spinner, and lindy this stuff till arthritis locks your sockets. If you want action get out the jointed shad baits. Next, put on the speed. I normally give it 3 mph to start. Often I only have 20 feet of line out. Right now I’m in 9-10 but have done this as shallow as 5. You will want the drags set light or you will haul the fish right to the top before you get’r slowed down.

So what are walleyes doing in the hot tub? My guess is enjoying an evening meal. White Bass, Perch, Spottail Shiner are all on the menu. I have noticed several Perch in my livewell from seasick Walleyes. Ya, I know, listen to the walleyes. I did, that’s why I have 2 of the 4 cranks out in Perch. The other two are Firetiger. Water color is off back in the goo so I use bright colors.

If a creek arm happens to have a discernable creek channel left, it may be good to try and mark it out. I don’t necessarily fish the channel but running across it and having the cranks break free at the edge seems to trigger strikes. Past years I have fished directly in the channel when water out of the channel was only 3-4 feet deep. The 8 foot channel seemed to hold the fish. It’s tuff staying in a 20 foot wide channel but the effort is well worth the loaded livewell.

Numbers of fish may be better in other areas but year class seems to always be older in the hot tub. Most are 20 inches with a normal day causing your conscience to refuse to drop the bigger ones in the livewell. Writing this reminded me of a big northern we caught a couple of years ago. Remember that 20 feet of line at 3 mph. It was spectacular. A questionable bonus is the Norwegian Browns’. Caught two so far this season. Ya know you gotta fish when you have to dig down for grit just to hold ’em up for a picture.

When this bite ends I will have to re-learn walleye fishing. I do the same thing every day. 9-10 feet, jointed shad baits, 3 mph, smile ear to ear. Fishing this easy makes me look good. Maybe that’s why I keep coming back. Join me if you can and do your part in helping these eager walleyes fulfill their purpose in life. The frying pan.


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There has to be something to this. All of the fish caught this way are hooked deep in the mouth and every one has been over 20 lbs. What is up! Do they turn to eating plastic once they reach a certian size?


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Exactly, 20 feet of line and no it don't bother them at all. There goes another myth. Much of what we have learned about walleyes didn't come from walleyes.

Often I'm better off just going fishing and doing what seems right as opposed to what I'm suppose to do.

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Hot Tub Walleyes

Forget what you have learned about Dog Days. Join ND Live's Greg Schoneck in hot pursuit of back bay walleyes on Sakakawea. August water temps reach into the 80's but walleyes forget comfort in exchange for an easy meal.

To view in HD please go to: http://hsoshow.com/video/212/Hot-Tub-Walleyes

More videos at HSOshow.com™

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This ain’t fighting like any walleye I ever caught.

If you’re like me it’s get’r in the water, big engine fired up and what is taking him so long. Geez, all he had to do was park the rig. I have a solution that don’t include valium. Forget the big motor, drop the electric and grab a jig’n pole. Concrete boat ramps may be the most overlooked and under fished structure on the lake. Not just walleyes either. This morning it was Smallies.

They come in all sizes from short little 5 footers down in 20 and 30 feet to 50 footers that still have the tops budding leaves. It amazes me how many trees a crank can run through. It also amazes me when all of the sudden the bite is on and it ain’t walleyes doing the biting. With my best lures I keep 3-5 in the plano box and another 5 in the rod locker just in case. Whataya mean we don’t have anymore?

South of Parshall Bay for 10 miles is some of the sweetest fishing on earth. That was until 20 million trees decided to put down roots right in the middle of my cranking area. This section is the biggest flat I know about on Sakakawea and when we can get to it again it will be 4 on at a time. Till then it’s pick a thin spot and hope for the best.

Leadcore is something that intimidated me and I put it off way too long. I was forced to use it in a tournament if I wanted to catch fish and every since I have regretted not getting on board sooner. I don’t like the “take it slow” style leadcore demands of me but I like the results. If you haven’t yet, consider giving it a try, the learning curve is easy.

We found fish in 23-25 feet and they were a bit on the negative side. They would have nothing to do with my bigger deep diving cranks. The solution was drop down little baits on lead. I use a 10 foot fireline leader tied to 18 lb leadcore. A good starting point is 100 feet of line-2 mph-20 feet of water. For each foot deeper let out another 10 ft. This is not a formula but will get you started in the right direction.

I have 10 foot rods out the sides and some little 5 footers I made for going straight out the back. This keeps some separation and allows me to run 4 lines. If a line fouls get it in right away as you ain’t seen twist till you run lead. It might be a good idea to keep an extra spool in the boat. I have needed it more than once.

I use lures I normally run in shallow water. The idea is to get smaller lures down deep and entice a bite. Speed is critical and you will see why on turns. Too tight a turn and the inside line slows, drops and can snag. It can also trigger a bite. I pull around 2 mph and if I need a little more depth I often drop my speed to 1.8. You can also simply let out more line. This is a bit of an art but not nearly as difficult as this sounds.

Today is a Reef Runner Rip Shad Wonder Bread Red day. I went through the tackle box and can’t find another color or style that will catch a fish. Yesterday I could not catch a fish on Wonderbread Red. Ya, color does make a difference. Yesterday with the same conditions it was Blue/Chrome all the way. Most days it is a mix of colors and types.

The fish we are catching are staying close to some small trees or bushes. Yesterday I didn’t lose a single crank. Today I more than made up for it. I stayed pretty cool till the hungry bushes bit down hard and 3 at a time was too much. I moved away from the snags and found some flat sand that made for better pulling but the lure of catching fish drew me back to the structure.

The heart always seems to speak so quietly that I often don’t pay attention. Today the whisper was; “Take it in shallow Schoneck.” After 30 minutes of no fish out deep the message got through. I’m amazed by fish movement. This morning there was not a fish in 10 feet. The answer was to move out deeper on the flat. This afternoon those same fish vacated the deep and went in shallow. We finished the day with a burst of excitement. Both walleyes and smallmouth in 10 feet.

Boat ramps, why not, you’re just sitting there waiting. Leadcore, way easier than it sounds. Listening to the heart, now that will take some effort, but it could make a real difference.

Teen Challenge of Mandan is a spiritually based addiction center. ND Fishing Challenge is teaming up to take the guys currently in the program fishing on Sept 11. The event will be in Devils Lake at Lakewood Bible Camp. After the fishing we will have an outdoor fish fry. Several of us plan to make it a weekend. I’m looking for volunteers with boats who will help by taking a couple of the guys out for the day. Let me know if you can join us. It will take some effort but it could make a real difference.

Remember fishing is a learned sport. More you fish the better you get so better get fishing.


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With the nasty storm the night before I decided to go with leadcore thinking the walleyes might be a little off. They seem more responsive to small baits and slow speeds after a night of lightning, rain, wind and hail. The wind was strong enough to leave a debris trail and it did a number on the kids tent and camping supplies. It wasn’t however strong enough to kill the great bite on Sakakawea.


To view in HD go to: http://hsoshow.com/video/213/Way-Down-Walleyes

More videos at HSOshow.com™

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Just curious, but do you hop out onto the ice at all in the winter?

Thanks for the great reports and equally as great video....it makes me homesick. I'd like to see Sakakawea at the level it's at now.......I've experienced the low point and it'd be nice to see what it's become. I've skipped the DWC the past few years because of the water level and quality of fish, but I may have to give it a whirl soon now that it's on the rebound.

Thanks again!

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I gave up ice fishing for work. I know it sounds like I need t get my priorities straight but I need to work sometime and I just hate the thought of wasting a summer day working. Acutally my kids love to get out and I have put them off for a couple of years. Lake Darling just north of Minot is also on the come back and it should be hot for average perch this winter (10 inches) with a few really good (14’s) so I may make it out.

My wife and I used to fish the DWC for several years. Another thing I gave up. Geez, maybe I do need to get the picture.

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Doctor Schoneck you’re needed in emergency

Last week I left Sakakawea with water temps in the mid to high 70’s. The reception from Devils Lake was a bit chilly. We arrived with low dark clouds and lightning, not what I expected to see due to the decent forecast. The real shocker was water temps at 68, na can’t be, must be broke. I prepared myself mentally for some tuff fishing.

First on our list was 6 Mile Bay and we gave it our best. Two in a row just that fast. No, not fish. Here is how I suggest you prepare for the Devils Lake Crank bite. By everything in 6 packs, I’m sure you know how to do that. Then on the drive over sort through your cranks and find the ones you absolutely love. Now, take the six pack, roll down your window and give ’em a toss. It’s warm up exercises for what’s coming.

Next up was Doc Hagens in 15 feet. Lots of action but short on size. We stuck in 16 feet thinking there would be a decent fish somewhere in the mix. NOT. A quick move to a road bed NE of Grahams Island put the first limit in the boat. In fact I was more than surprised by both the fact we were catching fish and the size. It’s still mid-morning and my hands are looking for any place they can find to warm up.

We had a pizza waiting at 6 Mile Bait so the idea of a hot noon lunch was welcome. Plans were made for a move to the Grahams Island ramp and a trip over to Pelican. I suspect you, like me have heard the rumors that Pelican holds bigger fish. It’s way true, more than I even hoped. It far-far exceeded my expectations.

We started in 15-16 feet using leadcore. The lead was out because I used it in the morning and it worked. I never pull lead in 15 feet. Just don’t need to, the little cranks will easily get that deep. Today it was a good move. We picked up several fish in the 20 to25 range and by late afternoon made our way to Westbay Resort, our overnight location. Westbay cabins are furnished for the outdoorsman. Complete with kitchen, fridge, gas grill, even a chest freezer! It’s also the closest resort to Pelican.

Morning winds were up to 20 out of the SE so we had a ruff ride from Grahams Island to the bridge under Hwy 19. Once in Pelican everything smoothed out and we were back to where we left off. It’s not often that where you left off is going to be what you remembered. Sure enough it wasn’t. It was at least twice as good. There are only so many days allotted when it all comes your way. Be sure to be on the water on those days.

We stared with Fireline and big cranks, no special reason except it is both easier and faster than lead. Our first fish was impressive and so was everything after. Our next limit came on lead, no reason just decided to try something different. Keep in mind this has nothing to do with exceptional ability or deep thinking. God is handing me a couple of great days fishing and all I have to do is let it come to me.

We are fishing what I think is the shoreline of old Pelican Lake before it came up. It is characterized by big rock and a drop into deeper water. Right at the edge, just before the drop there is a couple foot rise made up of rock. If I knew I could find other structure like this I would gladly spend 3 days of just looking, scanning and hoping.

Sakakawea has a place similar and when it is good it is tournament winning good. Big fish for whatever reason relate to this. Sakakawea doesn’t have the rock but it does have the edge that comes up quickly just before the drop into deep water. If you have a lake with something similar you may want to check it out, or give me a call, I will be happy to help in any way I can. Just get the coordinates and email me.

We finally did move to a new location but stayed in the 15-17 foot depth. We finished the day with a 20 inch fish and started packing it in. That is when the most exciting part of the day occurred.

Doctor Schoneck you’re needed in emergency!

Jesse was putting away cranks and to his amazement sank a hook right to the bend in his hand. He was blown away by how easy it went in. Ya, been there, 5 times! Fireline is good for more than catching fish. WARNING This process works better if it is done on someone besides yourself. Anyway, a few wraps around the hook, few wraps around the pliers and snap. Oh ya I forgot one thing, if you’re the surgeon performing the procedure, best have hearing protection.


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i got the chance to fish sak this week while we were out in garrison working wow all fish are in the 18 20 inch range nothing smaller and i was warned when i get one on it will feel like you have a 7lber on that was very true i have never had a eye in the 18inch range fight as hard as they do, so now when ever we go out to work out there i will make it a point to make dave take me fishing

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I hear ya, I have had several this year I'm just posivtive are northern from the way they are fighting. It's not often anyone brags about the fight from a walleye.

Glad you had a good time. Hope you get to give it another try soon.

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I was talking with Peg, boss of the Tobacco Garden spread. “I don’t know what it is about this place but it gets me every time. Maybe it’s the unexpected, the surprise. After miles of badlands country you arrive and are taken back a bit by the oasis at the end of the road. I like it here.”

Walleye Quest

7am The bell rings and round one begins with breakfast at Tobacco Gardens with Peg in center ring. Jesse gives the bacon and eggs a terrible bashing and Trapper is putting the hammer on what looks like Fruit Loops. He is none too happy with me for interrupting.

7:48 Radio is minutes away with Max from KEYZ Country am 660. We talk about get’n reservations for Labor Day before it’s too late. Tobacco Gardens is such an inviting place with shoreline right at your lawn.

8:15 KFYR am 550 on the PH Factor with Phil and Jason. These guys make me look good, which by the way can only be done on radio. We hit the ANS topic and remind everyone to take a walk around the boat and clean’r up. I mention I plan to start the day right at the ramp since that is where Doug released an 8.38 the day before.

8: 40 I have only one thing on my mind, straight to Hofflunds on the outside edge in 27-30 feet with leadcore. Yesterday I marked several fish, caught a couple of small walleyes and made a promise to myself to get back today and see if the fish were in a different mood. They weren’t, one White Bass.

9:15 Don, 31 year Tobacco Garden veteran resident and local fishing expert suggested we take’r in so we move inside the tree line straight north of our deep water venture. Down with Rip Shads, Jointed 5, and a couple of RS4’s in 10 feet. South wind blowing into shore, lightly stained water, perfect set up. You can almost feel the expectancy.

9:48 The feeling of expectancy passes and we move to a roadbed with a sharp drop on the outside edge. 18-20 feet down is two Reef Runners dressed in Mud Minnow and Firetiger. Their companions, the Bomber brothers are suited up in Firetiger and Wonderbread Black.

10: 40 Don informs us that Billings Bay is named after a guy who drowned here. Tuff price to pay for that dubious distinction. Years ago it was a great location for Indian artifacts. Knives, arrow heads, buffalo teeth and bones. We make a pull in shallow with Fireline and I slow it down to 2 mph thinking maybe I’m moving too fast.

11:20 Shallow shoreline is calling me as we fish past some broken scoria. Gotta be a fish in these rocks. We are just east of 3 Sisters, giant bluffs sliced in half by Sakakawea’s hungry waves. To my surprise I didn’t lose a single crank to the angry looking rocks. I didn’t catch a single fish either.

11:57 Don makes another suggestion and off we go to Sorenson Bay. Don and I think alike as waves are pushing in making a walleye perfect mud line in shallow. Rip Shads and RS5’s are in tow. Don informs us that a Mt Lion was shot a mile south of here last deer season.

12:20 I make a decision to go deeper and we get the lead out into 21-23 feet and fish our way to the Beacon. 120 feet back plus 10 feet of leader is a white Flicker Shad, our hope for this pull. It does connect but again, small Northern, not the Sauger I was hoping for.

12:55 Phil Parker from KFYR am 550 checks in and I give a summary of the morning. We end the broadcast with a pep talk. If this happens to you don’t give up. Change locations, change depths, change cranks, keep looking.

1:15 You don’t need leadcore to fish 15 but why not try something different. Lot of trees on the screen but we are able to slide through without a hook up. We are also able to slide through without a fish.

Intermission: Two days into a south wind at 10-15 mph. Blue sky, no sneaky thunderstorms, second day of high pressure. As to weather, perfect.

2:03 Don tells me we are into Moose country. You can almost see the black shape outlined deep in the cool shadows of the Ash coulees. Don got the lucky draw for a “once in a lifetime” moose license. He also got a onetime elk tag. I’m thinking with a guy this lucky fish can only hold out so long.

2:22 We are miles west of Tobacco and across the lake from Chris Cove. Fireline in 15 with some new lures. We have run the gamut of cranks today but I find some 400 series Reef Runners in the bottom of the compartment.

3:10 Talk leads us to fall, Don’s favorite time of year. Starting now fishing improves every day as fish migrate into this area from downstream. Don suggests white jigs and white tails. Typical of fall, expect big fish. Start the search in 15 to 20 but be willing to move. Plan your time around mid Sept and fish till freeze up.

3:40 All that fall talk has us downshifting into low. Out comes the white jigs and tails and down into 30+ feet. Up comes first a northern by Jesse followed by Mr. Croaker. The only thing consistent today is size and numbers. Small, very small.

4:20 Don passes on more good info, particularly for the upcoming fall bite. The Guard Camp is one hot area that needs to be checked. So good in fact I asked permission to pass it on. Thanks Don. N-48-08-54-9 W-103-09-41-3

4:30 I raise the white flag, toss in the towel, slap the matt. I give, Uncle, no more please. If you’re gonna have a bad day have it at work, not when you’re fishing.

4:45 Todd from am 550 calls and we go over the day and talk of things to come. I’m so looking forward to the fall bite.

Confessions of a Fishing Guide anonymous

I have had 3 times in my years of guiding for walleyes that the day was totally unproductive. Unproductive is code for—shush—read this quietly. (no fish). Clients realizing that it’s still fishing even with a guide, and also realizing it’s a long swim back have always been cordial. In fact they have always sincerely stated, “We know it’s fishing. We will still hire you again; not your fault the fish won’t bite.”

But they never have!


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Leadcore Leader

Today we caught walleye, white bass, drum, catfish, northern and sauger.Leadcore is good for everything. All it takes is a simple overhand knot in the sheath, a palomar in the fireline, tie on a snap and you're good to go.

Watch in HD at HSO: http://hsoshow.com/video/223/Leadcore-Leader

More videos at HSOshow.com™

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34 hours 1 fish

It’s not all glory. Life of a fisherman I mean. I hear it all the time. Best job on the planet. You call that work? Bad day fishing is still better than a good day at work. Ya, it is good, but. . .

I still remember, not so long ago, wondering if I would ever figure out how to fish. One tuff day and I would be all over myself with negative self talk. Next would come the “Why do you do this anyway? You ain’t never gonna learn how to fish.” “You should have. . .” would chase me around for the next week as I analyzed the day from the dubious advantage of hindsight.

Peace would finally come in the form of planning the next trip. Short lived however unless I performed better than my potential which meant better than everyone else. What a way to live. I would have quit but for the passion in my heart to keep at it. How do you give up on passion?

What brings all this up is, you guessed it, bad day. Not just one bad day however, 4 in a row. This all started up at the western end of Sakakawea. I had two perfect days on the water, short only one thing, fish. Wind was south at 15 with high pressure, no clouds and miles of water to myself. Ya, we caught fish but they were either small or not considered of value. I’m a walleye man, can’t help it.

This week I added the second half of 4 bad days in a row. Thursday kicked it off with the Super Bowl of cold fronts. Temps dropped from last week’s 95 to lows in the high 40’s. Add wind pushing mid 30’s with gusts into the 40’s and it totaled up to zero, fish that is. Ya, we caught a small northern and a few very small bass but that was basically it.

Some days you just hate calling it but Thursday was not one of those days. It was pure comfort to close the truck door, shut out the wind and head home. I didn’t expect to do well but I didn’t think I would do that bad.

You know the saying, “If you get bucked off best thing to do is get right back on.” Friday was a no excuse day. Ya, day after a cold front can be hard. Keep your expectations in check and do your best. I had no idea my best would turn out to be one fish. My thanks to Nathan and Eldon. Great guys who never once reminded me I was a guide and was being paid to “Catch Fish.”

What I don’t like about all this technology in the boat is marking fish that refuse to go home with me. I give it my best. Speed changes. Lure changes. Color changes. Depth changes. Location changes. Change the direction of approach. I even tried to change my attitude but - NO FISH.

I added it up. 32 hours of fishing and one walleye. How is that for a fishing guide resume? I’ve come to the conclusion that a bad day fishing is just that. A bad day. Not a reflection on character, effort, ability or seasoned skill. I’m getting older and with age is coming some balance.

The world needs more Eldon’s and Nathan’s who can take a bad day with grace. Shrug it off and look forward to tomorrow. Maybe I should follow their lead and try that with myself.

I get to go to Devils Lake next week. I can’t wait, it’s gonna be so fun!

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  • 2 weeks later...

24 inch Fish Were Released With a Similar Sized Smile

It seems it takes a bulldozer to push me into trying new locations. I get comfortable with places I’ve fished before. There is a long list of ND lakes with reports of big walleyes and no fishing pressure. We have so much to offer, so much to discover.

Lake Irving is connected by a series of flooded roads and bridges to Pelican which is located on the NW corner of Devils Lake. Not a big lake in size or depth but it is big in fish quality and quantity. If Devils Lake has it, Irving has it. Northern, Perch, White Bass and Walleye.

Jesse and I pushed off mid-morning from the ramp and idled out to the main lake. Anticipation of new water and the opportunity to explore kept me on edge. Fall has already had its effect on water temps. Three weeks ago we were pushing mid 70’s. I’m still waiting to see 58 degrees this morning. The drastic temperature change has me thinking we are wasting our time.

We do a drive around getting acquainted with Irving and find plenty of weeds, cattails, flats, sunken roads, and submerged bridges, but no structure. In a dish pan lake structure is rare. More often than not structure is going to be weeds, cattails, flats, and roads. By now I have two hours of cruising time in with no promising locations in mind.

I finally see a point that catches my eye. Scattered rock, wind blowing in and deep water next door. Keep in mind deep is relative. Deep in Irving is 12-13 feet. We drop down Rip Shads and RS-4’s for a pass in 10 feet. Next pass we crank up some line and give it a go in 7 feet. Fish long enough and it’s gonna happen.

Keep in mind I have never fished here before. New lake, no map and no secret GPS locations to get started. Just a drive around to get the big picture and then drop‘em down and see what happens. I need to do this more often. Doubles were the norm. 17 inch fish were released with ease. 24 inch fish were released with a similar sized smile. What a lake.

The pattern was distilled down to jointed lures in 7 feet. I kept the speed down around 1.5. Firetiger colors were all I used due to the extremely dirty water. So dirty in fact I had to drain the livewell to count fish. My preconceived notions of cold dirty water = no fish was long forgotten.

We spent the night in Devils Lake at the Holiday. I’m surprised they let a redneck like me stay in such a nice place. They have a complimentary breakfast made just for me. Sausage, eggs, and coffee. With a full thermos of hot coffee we are off for more excitement.

Forecast is for high winds, rain and thunderstorms. Today is a repeat of yesterday except weather is biting deep into the rain gear. Two good waves over the side on the trip across and I’m shivering wet from the git go. We head back to yesterday’s point and are not disappointed with the results.

Fishing is slower today but still good enough to keep my attention through high winds and heavy rain. Same pattern as yesterday with 7 feet at 1.5 working best. Hard as it is to believe water is even dirtier today. I drain down the livewell to about ¼ full and still have to move fish from one side to the other for a count. I would guess clarity is about 1 inch. How do these fish find a crank?

Irving is about 20 miles west of Devils Lake on HWY 2. Turn north at the sign for Churches Ferry and take the first right after the tracks. Don’t panic when you get to the sign (1 lane Traffic). Two lane traffic is just ahead and so is the ramp.

Irving has sunken roads and in many ways is just like Devils Lake only in miniature. Be Careful. Take your time. Maybe take a slow drive around and get the big picture. Then when you find that location that catches your eye I hope you have the same experience we had.

North Dakota has so much to offer. Fish still outnumber fishermen and many will be happy to go home with you. Been a while since you have fished a new lake? There is a long list of ND lakes with reports of big walleyes and no fishing pressure.

Fishing is a learned sport. More you practice, better you get, so better get fishing.


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