Recently I had a chance to take a trip with my brother and four of our friends up to Lake or the Woods, located in the northwest angle of Minnesota and Ontario. We had all played college sports together, but had gone our own separate ways after graduating. It was good to be together again and there was not a better place to be then on Lake of the Woods.

My brother and I have been going to the “Lake of Islands” for over ten years now and are starting to get a good grasp on the lake. This summer has been very inconsistent when it comes to weather patterns, resulting in much slower fishing than usual. We stuck with bottom bouncing for a greater portion of the trip, which allowed us to cover more ground in a shorter period of time. The bottom bouncer out fished the jig, with crawlers being our bait of choice, along with artificial minnows. This trip was not exceptional, but a slow day on Lake of the Woods definitely beats any day on the job.

During the first day of fishing, afternoon temperatures only reached the low sixties for a high, which is very cool for this time of year. The water temp stayed just below 70 degrees for the majority of the trip and was consistent on most of the water we fished. We started off fishing our usual spots, which typically produce an abundance of 18”-20” walleye (reefs and points bordering deep water). We were able to get a couple of 16” fish and one nice 25” fish in the first hour and a half of fishing, but nothing to write home about. After hopping from spot to spot, in on/off rain showers mixed with strong winds, and covering every type of structure Lake of the Woods has to offer, we decided it was time to try something different.

We moved to shore lines, where we saw many guided fishing boats. We still fished next to deep water, which is typically in the 16-18 foot range, and started locating some walleyes. We caught fish all along these shore lines, in depths ranging from 12 to 25 feet, often catching them on the steep breaks. The size of the fish though was pretty disappointing, as we struggled to get our 8 fish limit for the day. We knew it was pretty slow when we were netting 14 inch fish that felt like 18 inchers on a good day.

Day two came and we didn’t see any progress. We started out the day close to Oak Island, trying to locate and catch some larger fish. Our strategy paid off, as we caught about 10 walleyes in the first two and a half hours, but only one fish outside of the slot limit found the live well. The wind and rain encouraged us to head further into the islands, where we could find calmer water. We located a lot of baitfish in a couple of the deep water bays and with the baitfish came the walleyes. The fishing picked up, but once again size was an issue. The biggest fish we caught the second day was 18 inches and can honestly say nobody missed a larger fish. We came into shore that evening hanging our heads, until we got in the cleaning house and found that we had an average day.

We prayed the third and final day would bring good weather, which as advertised held true. Fishing early in the morning didn’t pay off early, so we got caught up on some sleep, which seemed to drown out any pessimism that was looming over from the previous days. As soon as we got back out on the water, we got into some fish in the back bay of a larger bay. What a difference a few hours can make. The weather was sunny and reached 70 degrees, which seemed to turn the fish on. We pulled in a half dozen 17”-19” fish in the first hour, and lost two 25” plus fish. We then moved back to areas we had success the day before and found the walleyes had moved onto some adjacent points and reefs. We continued to catch a number of fish between 18” and 22”, including a 27” trophy that was released.

Even though fishing didn’t live up to our expectations, we were blessed with safety, good friendship, and lots of good food. It was still hard to leave.