Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Walleye Opener Success- Leech Lake

It's been a great start to the walleye season, awesome weather and a darn-good bite.

Nice fish are scattered in loose schools in 5-10 f.o.w. If you have side imaging, you can locate these concentrations a bit quicker. 

The fish are biting in windows, so you may have to grind a bit until the bites come. 

 Avoiding crowds and getting the bait away from the boat seems to help. 

Jigs and 4" plastics are getting hard bites when the standard minnows get denied. 

I'm looking forward to putting more of these golden fish in the net in the weeks to come. 

Cheers and hook-sets! 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Jig Fishing for Leech Lake Walleyes- FAQ's

A jig is a jig right? Well, I'm fortunate enough to be able to do a lot of experimentation when it comes to jig size, color and what we hook onto the back of a jig. Everyone has their own tweaks and favorites. I'll share a few of mine, along with the thought process that goes along with choosing the right jig for the conditions and fish mood. I field a lot of questions from clients about jig choice, here are some of the most frequently asked questions from my outings on Leech Lake. 

Q:"What's your favorite color for jigging up Leech Lake walleyes? 

Me: "I don't really have a favorite...the one that is getting bit that day. I feel like half of the time, jig color makes no difference at all. The other half of the time, it can be the difference between a so-so day of fishing, and a very productive and memorable day."

The truth is, I typically approach color as a new experiment each day. When fish are aggressive, I do however like a jig color that stands out. Chartreuse, orange, and U.V. combos get the fishes attention, and allow feeding fish to find your bait the quickest. Conversely, if we are getting short-strike after short-strike, or fish are negative or spooky, then a less aggressive color gets the nod. Here is a tip: colors that match the bait are often most productive for finicky fish. Gold or silver jigs blend-in with minnows, and fish don't know where the minnow ends, and the jig begins (see above photo). When fishing Leeches and the bites are short, a black or brown jig will match the bait, and can make a huge difference in the number of hooked fish during a tough day of fishing. Of course, an abundance of available forage like crayfish, shiners or mayflies can also effect what colors might work best in a given situation, so experimentation is almost always a good idea. 

Q: "What size jig-heads do you like for Leech Lake walleyes?" 

Me: "A simple 1/8 oz ball-head is the standard, but I like jig-heads from 1/16 oz to 3/16 oz for most live bait situations, and 1/4 oz to 3/4 oz when fishing plastics."

I'll typically start with 1/8 oz, and will move up to 3/16 oz if the wind is really howling. Down-sizing to 1/16 is sometimes beneficial for spooky shallow fish, when we are missing a lot of strikes. I do all my jig fishing in 2-12 feet of water, when we are looking for walleyes that are holding deeper than twelve feet, i'll typically switch to a heavier live-bait-rig. I just don't think these fish like a lot of lead near the bait. Of course, we utilize spinner rigs and crankbaits for fish holding in 12-25 feet of water as well. 

Q: "Do you ever fish with plastics for Leech Lake walleyes?"

Me: "I love fishing with plastics...aggressive bites will often cue me to make the switch to plastics. You do have to be willing to experiment with jigging cadence, color and jig weight however. It really helps if you have multiple anglers on-board to experiment with plastics."

Anytime we are catching walleyes with a fast, aggressive jig-stroke (aka snap-jigging), I feel like those fish will eat plastics. At this point, the fish don't have time to examine the offering..it's a reaction bite. We save a lot of time (and bait) when we make the switch to plastics, and the bites will often be harder and more frequent once we get dialed-in on color, profile, jig weight, jig stroke etc. I almost always fish with a heavier head with plastics though, this will force you to fish a bit faster and more aggressively. Putting a plastic trailer on an 1/8 oz jig and fishing it just like live bait almost never works for Leech Lake walleyes. 

Another situation I like plastics is when we are specifically targeting big fish with something like a swimbait. Hungry post-spawn female walleyes smash 4"-6" swimbaits fan-casted over cabbage weeds and boulders in May and June. This is a pattern I look forward to each year. It isn't always a numbers game, but the size of the fish caught will typically be very impressive. Many big walleyes are caught by muskie fisherman during this time, which is further evidence that these females may be targeting larger meals in shallower water. 

The MN Fishing Opener is just days away and hopefully these simple tips can help you put a few more of those delicious state fishes top-side.

Cheers and hook-sets!
Capt.Phil Bauerly- Leech Lake

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Mid Winter Ice Fishing Update - Leech Lake


Leech Lake ice conditions have set-up nicely for vehicle travel in most areas. 12"-26" of ice is typical throughout the bays and main lake. As usual, caution should be used near the narrows (Walker, Agency, Kabekona etc.) and channels between the bays. Please, make no assumptions or educated guesses about ice. Check with a resort, bait shop, or set out on foot and check ice often when ice thickness is unknown. 

Perch activity has been low, likely due to the early cold fronts we have had. The best bet for active perch right now would be some of the deeper (12'-25') walleye spots. Covering water is key to contacting the larger specimens.

The Walleye bite has been a productive one, especially from 7:00 am to 9:00 am, and again from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Typical structures on the main-lake and bays in 12-25 f.o.w. have been the best. Burbot (aka Eelpout) have been starting to show up in these same areas, usually just after dark. Live Rainbow minnows or shiners on a weighted green-glow hook or 1/8-1/4 oz jigging spoons will work for both species.

Whitefish and Tullibees are another fun option during daytime hours. Soft-bottom depressions where bug hatches occur have been best for these scrappy fish. Small gold or silver flutter spoons tipped with waxworms, and worked up-and-down the water column are great for catching these fish. 

We have been utilizing snow machines to get away from the crowds and have been getting on some quality fish.

Crappie and bluegills continue to put smiles on our faces. I have been on several different area lakes, some for better action, and some for quality fish. 

Quality bluegills and crappies are to be had in the area. We have been putting most of the larger fish back to help sustain these fisheries.

These gentleman caught their limit and released many more, and that was all before 9:00 am!

On my "days off" I'm still out there looking for the best bites that Leech Lake can offer.

Cheers and hook-sets!
Captain Phil Bauerly- Leech Lake

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

12/20 Ice Report

Everywhere I have checked in Walker bay I have found 5"-9" of ice, but it's a little too variable to be confident, so we are checking as we go. There are a few active cracks, one from First Point over to the city park, and one from Sand Point heading south to about 2nd Point. The bite has been good on the humps in 20-28 f.o.w.

The main lake really varies too. The southeast corner of the lake near Whipholt and Trapper's Landing Lodge probably has the best ice on the lake with a fairly consistent 10"-12". I have noted some thinner ice between Pine Point and Goose Island (3"-5") and off of Stony Point access. I have also heard reports of thinner ice to watch out for between Battle Point and Bear Island. Fishing has been slow for me on the main lake, but we haven't come close to exploring all of our options out there.

Smaller lakes appear to be about where they have been for the past few weeks. Most lakes have 6"-10" but much thinner ice is scattered throughout the region, so extreme caution should be used when venturing out.

Cheers and hook-sets!
Captain Phil Bauerly- Leech Lake

Saturday, November 18, 2017

2017 Open Water Fishing- Outright Angling

I had hoped to put together a short 2 minute video highlighting the great open water season we had this year, unfortunately, there are just too many great moments to edit down. Here is a 5 minute slide-show featuring just some of the highlights from 2017 open water. 

I would also like to offer a big thank you to all of the guest anglers who fished with me this year, I would love to have you all aboard again sometime in the near future!

Cheers and hook-sets! 
Captain Phil Bauerly- Leech Lake

Monday, October 2, 2017

Flyrod Fiddy

I have had some huge fish in my boat, there are so many "fish-of-a-lifetime" in this lake it gives me chills.
This was one of the most rewarding for sure. Congrats to Kramer Jackson of Wyoming on landing a beauty on his fly rod.

Cheers and hook-sets,
Captain Phil Bauerly- Leech Lake