Limitless Opportunity, North Dakota
Limitless Opportunity, North Dakota
Last week was family style mini van vacation pursuing Devils Lake’s giant northern and countless white bass. Monday, off to the incredible high water walleyes in Sakakawea for two limits. The past 3 days here in Washburn on a fantastic river walleye bite that even thunderstorms and cold fronts can’t shut down. Limitless opportunity for everyone from the lawn chair bank fisherman to the high end, gadget prone walleye fanatics. North Dakota!
Tuesday morning: The bell rang for the first round here in Washburn. I was about to meet Bill, a boat ramp permanent fixture, with his lower unit molded into the cooler lid at the end of the dock. He was hauling in a walleye while I launched the boat so conversation began about the fishing. Two successive mornings later I realized I’m not going to beat Bill to the river no matter how early I get up. Bill has a heart problem that won’t let him sleep when walleyes are swimming in his boat ramp hole. Tuesday ends early afternoon with 3 limits of 16-20 inch fish.
Wednesday morning: Just a ½ mile upstream is what has become the community hole and while many fishermen avoid these locations I suggest you break the social rule about fishing with others and stop in to see what the commotion is all about. We had our 3 limits before noon with John first up followed by Dalles, who just happened to bring along the boat food. Dalles owns the Super Values in Garrison, Hazen and here in Washburn but more importantly he developed Krause’s Smokehouse brand of homemade style meats, what I call boat food. Last to fill the livewell was Kevin with another example of why a trip to the river is in order.
Thursday morning: Remember Bill? I managed to pry him loose from the dock side cooler lid and get him in the boat. Geremy has joined me today as well. He is the superb talent behind the ND Forest Service “Fire Safety” video tips. Lots of good stuff on campfires. Anyway we are off to the community hole which by the way is community for a lot more than fishermen. Walleyes need social activity as well and they are packed in here like a bunch of Lutherans at the monthly pot luck. By 10 am Bill cranks in the last of his 5 fish limit so it’s back to the dock to say good byes and exchange Bill for two new faces, Peter, Geremy’s 7 year old son and Dave, also from the ND Forest Service.
Bomber 24a’s are 45 feet back followed by a variety of lures ranging from Reef Runner Rip Shads to #9 Shad Raps. Everything catches fish but the Bombers are winning round one today. If fish are not going in the deeper water I move up shallow and change out Bombers for plain old #5 and #7 Shad Raps. Fish move constantly in the river making a transition from resting in current breaks to active feeding up in the shallow water. Speed does not seem to be a big deal as I fished as slow as .55 and as fast as 3.5 mph. Something you can get away with in the community hole is pulling cranks down stream. Never lost a crank but trust me on this one. Downstream with a crank is a good way to make Cabelas smile!
Time for change so we make a run upriver to a place all to ourselves. I gave away the GPS numbers to this secret little hole earlier this year. Nothing has changed, still a GPS Hot Spot. Location was not the only change. We also switched over to jigs and ½ a crawler for vertical drift fishing. Good decision, as first drift wins 7 year old Peter a slot in the photo section of ND Live, just ahead of his Dad, Geremy. We are drifting a current break in 9 feet with ¼ and 3/8 oz jigs. Bigger than needed and bigger than I like to use but I try not to argue with walleyes attracted to bigger than I like jigs.
Vertical jigging is a bit of an art that does take some time to learn. If you are new at this don’t be intimidated as the rewards far outweigh the learning curve. The foundation of this technique is the electric which is used to match current speed. Even a light breeze will push you off vertical and the electric is what compensates for wind drift. By vertical I mean your line needs to be straight up and down. No angles allowed and the walleyes will tell you why this is important as the gold goes to the most vertical presentation possible. One inch off the bottom is also key as these walleyes are holding tight to the bottom in little depressions and current breaks. To understand how difficult holding one inch is, practice this with your 6 foot rod on the driveway. It takes concentration to touch the concrete and lift just one little inch. Which by the way is how I stay in touch with bottom, constantly lowering the jig to touch bottom and lifting just one little inch. Speaking of getting the gold, yours truly even got into the action with a dandy 26 incher we were able to release. Dave, who is new to the vertical technique was a quick study and put his share into the live well.
GPS Hot Spot today is for the community hole which is not that busy, at least not during the week. There are numerous other locations both up and downstream. A word of caution on the river. Be Careful! Submerged logs, stumps, rocks and sand bars can ruin a lower unit. I have not had any trouble, just take your time and stay alert and have the time of your life. As for me, I’m thinking about gettn’ me one a dem coolers Bill has so when I retire it will already be broken in with my lower unit form fitted to the lid.
Google Earth GPS locations and audio reports go to : www.ndlive.com
Greg is a ND Fishing Guide and can be contacted at: 701-720-0447 or www.gregisfishing.com