With anticipation being off the charts all of last week, when my truck finally headed North late Thursday morning I was giddy to get up to Leech for the chance to see old friends, make new ones, and put some fish on the ice! Having never fished Leech in the winter it wasn’t just a chance to get to know new people, but I was also very excited to attack and learn a new body of water with the luxury of having enough people to really cover most if not all of our options.
Arriving Thursday afternoon I headed straight to the water with expectations that the cold weather on the horizon would have the fish virtually begging to be caught and boy was I mistaken. It was clear that round one was a win for the walleyes.
Waking up on Friday we were greeted with heavy winds and deep freeze temps as we welcomed our first polar vortex of 2016. All throughout breakfast it was hard to avoid the feeling that round 2 could easily go to the walleyes as well. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it” so after 6 weeks of wishing for cold weather we sure did get it.
Unwilling to let the weather dictate our plans Cal Svihel, myself, and the Tuned-Up Custom Rods team joined up with Josh Bullivant from Trappers Landing and headed out to the areas in the middle of the lake that had not seen a fisherman since last Fall during open water season. Armed only with the knowledge that orange had been a hot color, a GPS, and Josh’s memories the previous year we started our search on a mid-lake rock structure. After hitting several spots and covering depths from 6′ to 20’+ we had nothing to show for our efforts except a mid-sized pike that had gotten off at the hole.
At this point we had gone through all of Josh’s waypoints and were down to simply using the GPS to identify likely spots. The 10-15 mph winds and plummeting temps were quickly draining our ambition to continue searching but we decided we decided to make a 1/2 mile move to a sand flat that topped out at 15-16′ with a more gradual transition to deeper water than the structure that we had been fishing. Our hope was that since they weren’t in feeding actively in prime areas we could find some mid-day fish roaming on secondary structure that may not be as active but by having enough people to really narrow down what it was they wanted we could convince them to eat.
Josh was first on the board with a little 10-12″ eye on an orange fluttering spoon. Soon he missed another and put a perch on the ice. More holes were drilled in the area Josh had seen fish and soon we were all marking a few but not catching much… As we cycled through different types and colors of baits we slowly each got on the board and began to form a tighter circle around the area where semi-active fish were showing themselves.
Pretty soon we were all fishing orange and sitting so close that we could pretty much count down from when a fish would move from one house to the next and the bite started to heat up. It was at this point that we started realizing that what started out as an attempt to simply avoid being shut out was going to end with our limits on the ice and sure enough with just 5 minutes before we had to leave to get back in time for dinner our final keeper hit the ice. The only thing we hadn’t done was to catch a big fish but then less than a minute later my set line went down resulting in a chunky 25″ hitting the ice. Hot bait for the day turned out to be orange fluttering spoons such as the Golden Shiner colored 3/16 VMC Tingler spoon that turned my afternoon around. Round 2 turned out to be a resounding win for the anglers and after an extremely cold ride home we were greeted back at the resort with friendly faces and an awesome dinner.
Although the high pressure and extreme cold on Saturday made the close to 20 mile round trip less than fun, we headed back out and this time were joined in the area by a couple of groups we had talked with the night before. Fishing was much tougher but we did still catch a nice batch of fish. only later to find out that the others in the area were doing even better.
While round 3 may have been a push it sure was a rewarding feeling to figure out and have success on a new lake it but it was made it even better to be able to do it at the get-together where we were able to share info with other members and then watch them go out and improve their catch the next day.
Thanks to everyone at Trappers for the awesome hospitality and all of the IDO members who took time to come up and fish with us! It was one awesome weekend of fishing and camaraderie… I already can’t wait to do it all again next year!