Walleyes on the rocks: Good fishing and good laughs with Lake of the Woods guide Scott EdmanA more persistent breeze would have been welcome — that’s not something you say every day on Lake of the Woods — and we could have used a few more clouds to provide relief from the relentless sun. But those are minor quibbles when the prospect of a day on the big lake unfolds on a watery horizon that extends like a giant mirror in every direction.
By: Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald
LAKE OF THE WOODS, Ont. — If you could place an order for a perfect day, it would have resembled this Monday morning in early July on the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods just across the Minnesota border.
A more persistent breeze would have been welcome — that’s not something you say every day on Lake of the Woods — and we could have used a few more clouds to provide relief from the relentless sun. But those are minor quibbles when the prospect of a day on the big lake unfolds on a watery horizon that extends like a giant mirror in every direction.
The walleyes were snapping, and it was time to get to work.
That was the scenario facing Scott Edman on Monday morning as he steered his 20-foot Tuffy fishing boat from the dock at Angle Outpost Resort on the Northwest Angle. The route to the walleyes would take him through Angle Inlet, past Young’s Bay, Flag Island and Oak Island and south and east toward the vast expanse of Little Traverse Bay in Canadian waters.
It’s a course he’s taken hundreds of times.
A technology education teacher at South Middle School in Grand Forks, Edman, 38, grew up on the Northwest Angle, where his parents owned Angle Outpost Resort from 1979 to 1998. He and his brother, Allen, 37, a life science teacher at Central Middle School in East Grand Forks, own Angling Adventures Guiding Service and spend their summers plying the waters of the big lake.
It’s been that way since the brothers were 12 and 13, exploring the lake in 16-foot boats with 25-horse outboard motors.
“Allen and I figure it’s our 25th year of guiding,” Edman said. “We’re old-timers on the lake, but we’re still young guys.”
According to Edman, guiding offers the opportunity to keep in touch with the big lake during summer vacation. Teaching is probably the tougher job mentally, he says, while guiding requires more physical stamina.
“I enjoy them both,” Edman said. “At the end of the summer, I’m ready for school, and at the end of the school year, I’m kind of looking forward to that next fishing trip.”
Prime walleye time
While much of Ontario’s portion of Lake of the Woods is studded with islands, “the Little Traverse” — as most people up here call it — is big water. Best of all, it’s loaded with deep reefs and humps that attract midsummer walleyes to gorge on the crayfish that converge in the rocky depths this time year.
It happens every July, Edman says, right after the mayfly hatch winds down. No time of year offers a better shot at a big walleye.
That’s why we’re here.
“Pretty much everywhere you stop, there’s fish ready to go,” Edman said, describing what happens when walleyes hit the reefs en masse. “That should be coming up in the next week or so. The mayfly hatch should be just about done.”
We’re barely across the border into Ontario when Edman stops at a small reef that offers a hint of what’s to come. We lower lead-head jigs tipped with frozen minnows into the rocky depths some 20 feet below, and just about as fast as you can say “Fish on!” three walleyes and a sauger are in the boat.
Now that’s the way to start a morning.
There’s more water to explore, though, and bigger fish to catch, so Edman doesn’t linger. In the distance, his brother, Allen, and two “follow boats” are testing the waters on a different reef.
Growing up in an area without many playmates, the brothers always have been close. Even when it comes to fishing, Scott says, there’s not much sibling rivalry.
Some, perhaps, but nothing too extreme.
“We always help each other out,” he said. “You want to do better than your brother, but at the end of the day, you’re on the same team.”
After our fast start, the walleyes develop a temporary case of the hard-to-gets, and the next four reefs yield nothing more than marks on the screen of Edman’s depth finder.
“We’re marking them,” he said. “Now, we’ve just got to get them to open their faces.”
Then it happens: We strike gold — in the form of walleye after walleye after walleye. We’re still within a mile of a large island that dominates this part of the Little Traverse, but for whatever reason, the walleyes find this piece of rock to their liking.
By the time we break for a shore lunch of fresh walleye — which Edman fries to perfection — we’ve easily landed 50 fish. Most of the walleyes are in the 15- to 18-inch range, but a few surpass 20 inches, and Edman lands a 26-incher.
The flurry comes within about 40 feet of the buoy he tosses to mark the top of the reef.
Makes you wonder: Just how many fish are down there?
Even after all these years, Edman says, the steady pull of a walleye at the end of the line never gets old. And if anglers want a change of pace, muskies, smallmouth bass, northern pike, perch and lake trout are available within an hour of the dock.
Few lakes can match that kind of diversity and the guiding options help to keep him fresh, Edman says.
“I still like to fish,” he said. “I like the whole process. As long as everyone’s in the water, that’s where I want to be, too. You never know what you’re going to run into next.”
That definitely was the case after lunch, when Edman puts on a clinic with a soft plastic bait called the Gary Yamamoto “Little Crayfish.” He bought several bags of the grape-and-brown colored baits, which resemble a cross between a crawler and a crayfish, a few years ago at a clearance sale.
“Crab claws,” we dub them, and the walleyes absolutely inhale the plastic snacks.
Even in the heat, it’s hard to reel up and head for shore as the afternoon winds down. Not every reef produced fish, but the ones that did resulted in fast action. Throw in good company and lots of laughs — “the crab claw strikes again!” — and it was the kind of day that keeps guide and fisherman alike coming back.
Chalk it up to years of experience on the water.
“The action we had was typical of the peak period in July and August when the crayfish bite happens on the reefs,” Edman said later. “It’s just going to get better and better over the next few weeks.”
Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1148; or send email to email@example.com.