The word “humbling” comes to mind when I think back to my
first week of fishing from Manotak Lodge in 2001. I now rate myself as a fairly
skilled fisherman on Perrault Lake in terms of self-confidence and fish brought
into the boat. I recently thought about the changes that I made that allowed me
to move up my learning curve. In some respects, I reinvented myself as a
fisherman. I present and discuss five of these changes as a way for other
fishermen and fisherwomen to accelerate advancement along their learning curve.
Please note that I have now fished Perrault Lake for twenty
four weeks, entirely during the months of August and September. Your experiences
during other times of the open-water fishing season may be the same, or possibly
Canada Shield Lakes
I assumed during my first years of fishing on Perrault Lake
that this body of water was the same as the lakes that I fish in my home state
of Wisconsin. I now realize that there are subtle differences between lakes in
the Canada shield (i.e. terrain that was scoured by glaciers eons ago; typified
by a rocks, trees and water landscape) and lakes that I fish near my home. These
differences can profoundly influence how one successfully fishes these waters.
Recognizing these differences and knowing what to do about them is definitely a
key to fishing success at Manotak Lodge. The waters of Canada shield lakes are
typically less fertile than the lakes that I fish at home. Lakes in the Canada
shield typically have fewer weeds than lakes in the mid-western United States,
such that structure plays a greater role in fishing than most fishermen are
accustomed. Even though weeds typically have less presence in shield lakes, they
can profoundly influence fishing. Peak water temperatures are lower than the
lakes that I fish at home.
I mentioned above “knowing what to do” about the differences
between lakes in the Canada shield versus in your home state. An appreciation of
the concepts of “slow” and “light” in presenting my bait to the fish was
critically important to my moving up the learning curve. By “slow” I mean
keeping my bait in the strike zone as long as possible.
The structure that fish relate to changes throughout the
calendar year. The fish that I am targeting in August/September typically relate
to a specific depth of water associated with a piece of structure that is often
off-shore. This preferred depth of water may be quite narrow – for example, the
width of a boat. “Slow” can be as simple as casting in the direction that keeps
my bait in the strike zone as long as possible, rather than in a direction that
results in my bait quickly passing through the strike zone. “Slow” can also
apply to boat control. Boat movement must be carefully controlled when vertical
jigging to ensure that the bait is kept in the strike zone. I carefully consider
whether I should be drifting, back-trolling or anchored in order to keep my bait
in the strike zone as long as possible.
I am amazed when I consider how “light” my preferred fishing
equipment has become. I long ago abandoned medium action rods, ¼ ounce jigs and
10 lb. fishing line when targeting walleyes. Now it’s light action rods, 1/16
ounce jigs and 6 lb. monofilament fishing line to ensure that I can feel the
walleye bite at the bottom in thirty feet of water. I leave my big stick baits
at home when targeting musky in favor of small to medium size bucktails and six
or seven inch twitch baits. I offer additional thoughts on equipment later in
A huge mistake that I made early on Perrault Lake was focusing
on learning “spots”. I should have been focusing on presentation. “Spots” are
easy to learn from Dave or fellow fishermen at the dock. Mastering presentation
is like learning to ride a bicycle. Once mastered for the different species of
fish, presentation can be applied to any “spot” on the lake. Countless fishermen
have approached me to learn my “spots”. These fishermen go to these spots, use
their “tried and true” presentations from back home and usually continue to
struggle. They are simply pounding square pegs in round holes.
I strongly encourage newcomers to Manotak Lodge to hire a
guide early in the week. This is money well spent. Forget about the “spots” and
focus on what the guide is teaching in terms of presentation! Ask about how the
reef is laid out. Why anchor and cast on one reef and then vertical jig the next
reef? How deep are the fish? Are the fish holding on the upwind or downwind side
of the structure? Does the preferred presentation change with time of day? If
nothing else, enjoy the shore lunch.
Guests are given a document entitled “Manotak Lodge Fishing
Tips” in the packet they receive when their vacation is booked. Many decades of
experience fishing on Perrault Lake went into the preparation of this document.
A mistake that I made was bringing my favored equipment that was “close” to the
equipment recommended in the fishing tips. My medium action rod was “close” to
the recommended light action rod. My preferred 10 lb. test line was “close” to
the recommended 6 lb. test line. My 3/8 ounce jigs were “close” to the
recommended 1/8 ounce jigs. Pretty soon, the “closes” added up to me being close
to almost catching fish.
Tackle that fits in a milk-crate and four fishing rods easily cover 90+% of my
fishing on Perrault Lake. Fishermen will minimize their expenditure of money and
get in the game quicker by closely following the suggestions in “Manotak Lodge
Fishing Tips”. The best money I ever spent to fish on Perrault Lake was the
purchase of St. Croix Avid Spinning
Light action Fast tip one-piece fishing
rods (St. Croix AS66LF). St. Croix’s Premier fishing rods are similar in quality
and performance to their Avid fishing rods line and are more budget-friendly.
Continue to Learn
I find that I have to adapt my fishing as things change on the
lake from day-to-day, week-to-week and year-to-year. I learn something new every
week that I fish from Manotak Lodge. Sometimes my learning comes from things
that I uncover on my own. On the other hand, I am always receptive to new
information from Dave and other knowledgeable fishermen at the dock.
A few years ago, a fisherman mentioned to me late in his
vacation that he wasn’t catching walleyes. He listened to Dave’s suggestions on
the first day at the lodge, yet told me that he was targeting suspended
walleyes, as that is the way he fished on his home waters of Lake Winnebago in
Wisconsin. This fellow never had a chance as he wasn’t open to change.
the reason that people travel to Manotak Lodge is to catch fish – big fish and
lots of them! The reality of life is that the species that I might want to catch
may not be biting when I want to catch them. For example, a cold front might
come through and slow down the bite. Another situation is having high winds and
waves preventing me from fishing places that I want to fish.
I’ve learned that Perrault Lake is always showing a species of
fish at any given time. I now go with the flow! If the species that I am
targeting isn’t biting, I then fish for another species that is biting. I focus
on walleyes in the early morning and late evening when they tend to bite. I pass
on the walleyes during the middle part of the day and focus on perch, northern
pike or bass as they tend to bite at this time of the day.
Fishermen and fisherwomen can put a great deal of pressure on
themselves to catch fish, especially when they aren’t doing as well as they are
accustomed to or expect of themselves. This happens to me as well. I’ve learned
to deal with this by taking time to admire the beauty of everything around me.
It’s amazing how much fishing improves when I am relaxed. “Kodak moments” such
as these put fishing, and many other things in my life, in proper perspective.
I welcome your comments and suggestions. Dave and Linda Becker
have my contact information.