Target Walleye/Ice email

‘Bago winning deets, Sunken boats everywhere, Aerated lake walleyes

Today’s Top 5

Zach Axtman “corks” his way to Lake Winnebago NWT win.   

We talk a lot about adding artificials to your walleye fishin’ arsenal, but of course there’s still a time and place for live bait…. That time and place was at the Lake Winnebago NWT where brutal conditions = majority of the top 10 getting it done with…wait for it: slip-bobbers!

Zach Axtman sacked up 27.40 lbs over 2 days (10 fish) to take home the ‘dubyah’ and an $84,614 [!] payday. Was the first boat back at the docks each day — seriously impressive, dude!

> “I’m from ND…[slip-bobbering] is just what we do when the bite gets tough. When the water temp starts to drop, that’s the first bite that gets going. I wanted to make sure I had the bait in front of them for the longest period of time possible.”

Zach’s bobber setup was a plain #4 red hook with schmedium-sized leeches hung 6″ off bottom — any higher and they wouldn’t touch it.

Used the old-school “blaze orange” color 14-lb Berkley Fireline with a 6-lb Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon leader. Said the orange mainline was key for watching what direction the fish were swimming with the bait, so he could set the hook on the fish and not just on the bobber.

Caught everything off one rockpile — on the northwest side of the main lake — that topped off at 5.5′ and was covered in medium-sized rock and gravel…the sides dropped off to 7-10′. Was about 200 yards off the bank and served as a rest area for post-spawners returning from the river.

> “They were stopping there and feeding on leeches after dumping out of the river. The spot just reloaded — the next school would just come in. It was a matter of waiting for the right-sized school to come through…having enough confidence in the spot to sit there and go through the fish.

> “I only caught 2 fish off it in practice…honestly didn’t think I could pull more than 3 fish off it per day. The area was so small…was definitely a spot-on-the-spot deal. The more I fished, the more I realized what was on there.”

Chuckled at this quote by Zach, talking to his girlfriend:

> Throughout pre-fishing I would tell her I’m still looking for fish. Which she would respond with, “I don’t date a fish-looker…I date a fish-catcher.”

Lol! Love it.

> “To be honest with you, it hasn’t sunk in yet…I can’t believe it happened. My dad basically stopped being my partner in the MWC as a way to make me do this. To win the biggest tournament in NWT history — and beat out 165 anglers of this caliber — it’s a great feeling.”

Well-deserved, man!

More ‘Bago deets. 

2nd: Tim Euting

Local guide Tim Euting’s (Get ’em Hooked Guide Service) 25.17 lbs cashed in $28,840 worth of #ChaChing.

> Tim: “I came in at 12:45 pm yesterday with my 7 fish. Today, I had no fish in the box at 12:45. I hit the spots that I normally catch them on, but they weren’t eating…had to keep hopping around and grinding it out. I fished the same area of the lake, they just came on different spots today.”

He targeted shallow 6-7′ rock on the west shore of the main lake. He estimated he hit 15 different piles and nearly 30 spots altogether. #RunAndGun

> “They come up to the rocks for food and for warmer water. I caught them mainly on a 1/8-oz jig with a fathead. I did catch 2 on crawlers, but it was mainly fatheads. I would give it a slow lift, and if I felt a bite, I’d give them time to suck it in and then set the hook.

> “You can feel everything with [Berkley FireLine Crystal]. Plus, you can visually see if it hits bottom, and can see your bites.”

3rd: Randy Gaines

Mr. Nibble This Charters dialed ’em in to the tune of $22,613 with a 1-2 punch of trolling cranks and slip-bobbering:

> Randy: “We were fishing shallow-water humps. I never weighed a fish in water that was over 4′. I think my whole program, at least for the bigger fish, was based on really nasty weather.”

Wanted his cranks crashing into bottom. Top producers: #5 Berkley Flicker Shads, #4 Salmo Hornets, and #3 Phantom Lures Banshees. Not sure which exact colors he was running, but here’s a look at the baits:

His bobber setup was a standard slip rig with a bare hook and leeches:

> “I tried to get the bait low and close to the bottom. I was continually putting action into it by jigging the bobber.

> “I’m absolutely thrilled with 3rd. Things came together really well.”

Big congrats to all for keeping their heads in the game during nasty conditions!

Troy Lindner might be the first person EVER [?] to…

…catch a zander in both Europe (last fall) and North America? If he isn’t, it’s a pretty short list lol. Guess he got fed up with seeing all the ND zander coming through in the Target Walleye emails and had to go get him one:

> Troy: “Not a single bite in 8 hours of fishing (including 6 in a small not-made-for-fishing kayak battling wind and rain). I was packed up and ready to drive home. Disappointed. My body was aching, hands and feet pretty much numb. Decided to make a couple casts at 2 different shore spots. Got bit on my second cast, fish came off. Then the next one was this zander!”

Caught that slab o’ finned-out goodness on a VMC Neon Moon Eye Jig with a swimbait on 8-lb Sufix Advance Mono = universal fish-catcher.

Gotta love it when a plan actually works out! Doesn’t usually seem to happen that way, which sorta reminds me of this:


Btw how ’bout aother look at a couple of Troy’s European catches while fishing his way ‘cross the Netherlands last fall. Here’s one of the “average” zander he caught yo-yoing a Rapala Rippin’ Rap:

Also got himself a big-ol’ European perch [!] throwing a 1/4-oz VMC Neon Moon Eye Jig with a swimbait:

Think they already have some of those in Devils Lake, ND. 😉

WTHeck is up with all the sunken boats? 

Are there really that many rigs out there sitting at the bottom of the lake?! Feel like I see a new post floating ’round social media each week:

The only thing not surprising to me is that The Technological Angler found this newest one — dude has spent countless hours dialing in his ‘Birds:

> “First trip out close to home…first sunken boat of the year. No hiding from MEGA!”

Really can only think of 4 different reasons so many boats end up sinking:

Most of those ^ would be pretty tough to come by in the Midwest, but it’s a whole different world on the Great Lakes — Fish Hawk Electronics shot:

Ever see a Rapala with a chrome bumper? 

Heard it adds 5 hp. From Instagram user @gonzalogalanpesca — in Europe?


1. Is “fishing opener” MN’s biggest holiday?

Sure feels like it! Few interesting stats from this write-up:

> Fishing contributes $2.4 billion to the state’s economy in direct retail sales, ranking MN 3rd in the nation for angler expenditures, according to this 2011 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service national survey.

And that was 8 years ago, imagine what that number is now?

> Out of the 1.4 mil licensed anglers…about half a million will take part in the tradition of fishing opener.

Good luck this weekend if you’re one of those 500K hitting the water.

2. MN: What to expect this “opener.”

Will be interesting to see how the late ice-out and high water levels impact where and how people catch ’em. Some cool info in Brad Dokken’s write-up on Northland Outdoors on the conditions and what to expect.

3. MB: Reg changes coming 2020 for Lake Winnipeg.

> …walleye or sauger from Lake Winnipeg must be a minimum length of 35 cm (about 13.78″) if they’re to be kept. The changes, the province hopes, will allow more of the smaller fish to grow to spawning size and naturally increase the population quantities on the lake.

Would be surprised if that many fish under 14″ were being kept in the first place.

They’ll also be introducing new minimum mesh sizes for commercial fishermen’s nets, as well as the province buying back almost $5.5 mil in quotas from commercial folks.

4. IA walleye hatcheries are filled to capacity.

Good problem to have! DNR beat their egg collection goal by 22%.

5. ND: Bunch of lakes suffered total winterkill.

Full list here.

6. MN’s “whooshhing” carp outta Long Lake.

> The Whooshh System was originally developed to move salmon safely around barriers such as dams in the western U.S., and is now being adapted for removal of carp. Once carp enter the front chamber of the Whooshh System, they are pneumatically pushed through a flexible plastic tube and into a holding pen for removal.

7. IA has new ways to buy licenses.

Including the GoOutdoorsIowa mobile app which will “be a legal means of carrying your licenses in the field.”

8. Merc owner Brunswick now focusing on marine.

Sold off its fitness bidness for $490 mil.

9. American Baitworks Co. buys 50% stake in Freedom Tackle.

> Through the deal, American Baitworks Co. will invest heavily in new product design and development, brand awareness, marketing and sales.

10. Canada removed boat import tariffs.

Which is a big deal because Canada:

> “…accounts for the largest share of U.S. boat exports at nearly 35%….”

11. Boating industry guy talks about Irwin Jacobs.

Interesting info….

Headline of the Day

Improving water clarity in Mille Lacs means less habitat for walleye.

I agree with parts of it, but are you buyin’ ALL of this?

> “A new study from the U of M links the decline of walleye in Mille Lacs Lake to a loss of habitat that has resulted from clearer water.

> “Walleye prefer low light and cooler water. But in recent decades, Mille Lacs’ water clarity has increased, most likey thanks to septic system improvements around the lake and the invasion of zebra mussels…filter feeders that strain out microscopic algae.

> “As the water has gotten clearer, more light can penetrate into the water…and walleye, being low-light specialists, don’t really like that.

> “Mille Lacs is also fairly shallow, with a consistent depth throughout the lake. That means if conditions get too bright for walleye, they can’t simply take refuge in a deeper, darker part of the lake.”

So what’s that supposed to mean? That walleyes just die then since they don’t own sunglasses??

Or maaaaybe increased water clarity changes where fish are at on the lake…and I’ve heard that survey gillnets are placed in the same spots every year…. So my thinking is survey numbers can easily look “down” if the nets are put in the same dang spots as they were 30 years ago, ‘cuz that’s not where the fish are hanging anymore?

Only thing I do know for sure is it’s gotta be one of the best worst lakes ever lol:

Ding, ding, ding!

Tip of the Day

Interesting Tim Lesmeister write-up about some of the overlooked aerated lakes in southern MN. Super fertile, shallow water where walleyes thrive…so long as they’re given man-made oxygen. Full write-up here, few excerpts below:

> Everybody thinks all the lakes down here are full of bullheads…. They used to be, but that was a long time ago, before we got the “aeration”…a system that’s installed in a lake to provide oxygen to the water during the winter periods when the heavy snow depletes the life-giving gas and causes most of the fish in a lake to die [aka winterkill].

> [Before] the aeration systems winterkill was prevalent on many bodies of water in southern MN due to the shallow nature of the lakes. The gamefish populations would be devastated during the hard winters and the bullhead and carp would prosper. None of the lakes developed a reputation for anything more than the trophy bullheads. Things have changed.

> …walleyes do extremely well in the turbid water of the pothole lakes in the southern region. In many of the lakes there is ample natural reproduction and because of the high fertility of the water the growth rates for walleyes is phenomenal.

> A lot of these lakes actually have shorelines that are rock and rubble substrate and the walleyes seem to be able to do a good job of spawning on this. Conditions aren’t always conducive to a good hatch, but many of the lakes are showing real good natural reproduction.

> One big difference between the northern and southern lakes is the water clarity. Many of the lakes in the ten-county area might only average a 1′ secchi disk reading [visibility]. This lack of water clarity can make a real difference in the amount of vegetation that grows in these lakes. We don’t have much vegetation in these lakes unless you count the algae blooms that occur when it gets hot. Mostly we just fish structure.

> …these southern lakes are usually at a peak on opener (the spawn is well over). The walleyes have already moved to the transition areas and if the weather doesn’t screw things up…can be biting real good.

Talks a little more about how they target the fish here.

Quote and Shot of the Day

“I wish a 12.8-lber would look at me the same way.”

– That’s Spenser Samplawski (@spenser_samplawski_) gettin’ his heart-eyes emoji on:

Now this creepy guy won’t stop following Spenser around:

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