Looking good on Lake of the Woods

The excellent fishing anglers have enjoyed on Lake of the Woods in recent years should continue for the foreseeable future.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently wrapped up its fall population survey on the big lake, and there’s plenty of cause for optimism.

Tom Heinrich, the DNR’s Lake of the Woods fisheries biologist in Baudette, told me walleye populations have bounced back nicely from a low point about three years ago brought on by a series of not-so-strong hatches.

This year, he said, the survey produced about 20 walleyes per net, double the number seen three years ago and higher than the long-term average of 15. Saugers, which are the bread and butter of the big lake’s booming winter fishery, also are in “really good shape,” Heinrich said, with lots of catchable-size fish.

Heinrich said the survey also produced high numbers of so-called “young-of-the-year” walleyes, suggesting there was a strong hatch this past spring. Those fish now are about 8 inches long, he said.

Meantime, anglers who haven’t hung up their fishing rods for the season are enjoying excellent action just outside of Lighthouse Gap in 21 to 25 feet of water. “Nothing short of fantastic,” is how a Baudette fisherman described the fishing in a recent email. “Everybody is catching fish. There are a bunch of very nice sauger in the mix, too.”

A strong run of shiner minnows also is taking place in the Rainy River, which should mean good fall walleye fishing once water temperatures cool down a bit more. While fishing has remained strong on the lake right up until freezeup in recent years, it’s been awhile since the river has produced great fall walleye fishing, so hopefully this will be the year.

I’ll have a closer look at the recent Lake of the Woods survey in Sunday’s Grand Forks Herald Outdoors pages, which you’ll find online here.

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