Hugh’s Fishing Tips
Quick Tips for Tackle
Small tackle box with Jigs, silver number 13 floating Rapalas and Len Thompson number 2 Five of Diamonds
Use a spinning reel. I prefer a Mitchell with 12 pound Test line and a 6.5 to 7 foot medium heavy action rod.
Be sure to tie the line directly to your jig or Rapala and a small black swivel for your spoons.
If you use my advice you will likely catch more fish than you did previously- It is important that you release them quickly and uninjured. When you take a fish out of the water hold your breath, return it to the water before you need to take another breathe.
Philosophy of a Man's Tackle Box
I always tell people who will give me the courtesy of listening that if our civilization as we know it ceases to exist and archeologists are digging in our ruins several million years after we become extinct they will come to some quick conclusions. They will determine that during our time on earth the finest two fishing lures during our era were the lead head jig and the silver number 13 floating Rapala. In my tackle box which is 12”x 16” and 2 inches thick you will find a number of ¼ oz. jigs, six silver no. 13 floating Rapalas and a few Len Thompson 5 of Diamonds no. 2. Many people arrive with a tackle box that is large enough to start a tackle store at your outpost. My experience has been the larger your tackle box, the fewer fish you will catch. Instead of fishing with the proven traditional lure, you are constantly tying new bait resulting in less time in the water.
The jig has been the best lure for more than fifty years. The first one we saw in the Red Lake area in the early 50’s was called the barracuda Super Dude. It was painted and had nylon tail feathers and was used in Florida. I remembered when it arrived. It soon surpassed the June Bug spinner as the best walleye catcher. The jig can be used with minnows, crawlers and leeches as well as the popular mister twister and other plastics. The jig allows the fisherman to have direct contact with his lure and can set the hook at the first hint of a bite. The jig usually hooks the fish in the lip and causes little injury and facilitates easy live release. Spinners and hooks trail a sinker by a foot to 18 inches and often the fish ingests the hook into its gill area causing substantially higher mortality in release. The jig should always be tied directly to the line as leaders and snap swivels compromise the natural appearance.
I remember the arrival of the first Rapalas; they were called the Finnish minnow and their successes can be attributed to the fact they closely resemble the lake herring or cisco that are a common natural food found in our lakes. I like the original floating Rapala number 13 in a silver color.
I always use floating Rapalas as you can always make one sink by adding sinkers but you can never make a sinking Rapala float. I have used the floating Rapala on the surface like floating fly and have caught many walleye during the mayfly hatch (which happens around the end of June or early July in the Red Lake area). The Rapala is a very lethal lure with lots of sharp hooks. I am sure there are more fishermen caught on a Rapala than any other lure. I recommend that you pinch the barbs to make it easier to release both fishermen and fish. The use of a Rapala requires a very skilled angler. There can be a high mortality rate for released fish if you are not skilled at handling and hook removal. The Rapala fishing rules are simple. Always tie the line directly to the lure, make sure the knot is tight and slide it to the lower third of the eye. Make sure the knot is straight forward. Rapalas require a fast troll so it’s impossible for your partner to fish with a different lure unless he is casting to shore while you troll. When you think you’re trolling your Rapala too fast, speed up more. The last rule: Never use a landing net when fishing with a Rapala – Rapalas are made of Balsa wood and will be bent or broken when a fish twists in a net when hooks are hooked in the mesh. In both of these lures you will note that I advise tying your line directly the lure. Two things are important. First you must have a good knot that does not weaken your line and secondly, you should use a stronger line minimum of 10 pound but preferably 12. I always retie my Jig after 3 or 4 walleye and after every northern. The 12 pound line of today casts as well and is as thin as 8 pound of 40 years ago. We have all put new line on a reel incorrectly and had it badly twisted. Just cut off all your lures and hang the line out behind the boat at ½ speed with a 9.9 for 10 minutes and wind it in under tension. All twist will be gone.
Len Thompson Five of Diamonds number 2
The third type of lure in my tackle box is my favorite spoon – I consider most spoons equal however I find that is the most effective in catching lake trout when they are gathering on shallow boulder shorelines in preparation for spawning. The Epinger and Len Thompson 5 of Diamonds look identical but the trout will attack Len Thompson 3 to 1 when using a spoon I use a black snap swivel with a ball bearing to stop line twist. The Len Thompson Lure was designed by a Canadian and is still made by the original family for fishing in northen Canada. It can be hard to find in the USA but easy to find in Canada or by shopping online at the Len Thompson website.
When it comes to rods and reels, I prefer spinning reels and 6.5 to 7 feet medium heavy action rods. The world of fishing has been insensitive to left handers – outboards are designed for right handed fishermen and a spinning reel puts the motor handle in the same area so you can easily move your left hand between the tiller hand and your reel, rather than with spin cast or bait cast where you must put the rod in your left hand to wind with your right and then change again to steer. I often said a bait casting reel for a right handed person is like putting your shoe on the third step for easy tying and then tying the shoe on the floor – many parents started their kids on a spin cast for easy learning. My kids always had to learn on a Mitchell spinning reel and started in the right direction.
Hugh’s Catching Advice
The time of season and the type of lake are major factors in determining your fishing methods.
In the early spring, right after the ice leaves the lake, walleye are typically gathered near
their spawning area. In some lakes that is near the mouth of a river; in other areas on a
rocky shore. After a few days, walleye start to migrate to other parts of the lake. I find early walleye fishing to be a challenge; the fish are scattered and are at various depths. In these conditions I would begin by trolling a Rapala; my fishing partner fishing either deeper or shallower than me. I would make a note of where we caught some walleyes and then would try jig fishing in that area. Trolling allows you to fish a larger area in a shorter time and locate the fish. My favorite time of the year to fish all species is from early July until September. Walleye at this time of the year are predictable; you will find them schooled on underwater rock piles 6 to 10 feet down. By late September, these walleyes are on the same structure but deeper down to 35 feet. Walleye seem to go deeper about 10 feet per month.
In the early part of the season, northern are found in shallow bays near the area that they spawned. Like walleye, a week after the ice goes out, they start their migration to other parts of the lake. During summer, i.e. July to September, northern are similar to walleye. They become predictable; smaller northern tend to locate themselves in areas that are home to minnows. Any beaver house or tree fallen in the lake and mature perch weeds offer shelter for the bait fish and will attract the northern pike. In my 50 years of fishing, I have caught a number of 40 inch northern and most I caught while fishing on a rock pile for walleye. Small walleye are a major source of food for larger northern and many fishermen have had a larger northern grab a walleye they were bringing to the boat.
Lake trout fishing, I feel, was the most misunderstood and many lessons were hard to learn. As kids, we were always told trout are in the deepest hole in the lake and short rods with metal lines and heavy weight were the standard equipment in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Many times we would be fishing deep with no success and decide to wind in and try fishing for some other species. Halfway to the boat we would get a strike and bring in a trout. We always assumed the trout followed the lure up and decided to strike but the actual truth (later confirmed by fish locators) was the trout were suspended 40 feet down in 100 ft of water and struck the lure as it passed through their area. Early spring trout fishing can be very productive; simply trolling a floating number 13 Rapala and 150 to 200 feet of line will produce many trout. The trout in early spring have stomachs full of flying ants. I have always wanted to try a fly rod at this time of the year for surface trout but am always too busy getting all the camps ready for the season. My favorite time of the year for trout fishing is just prior to spawn in the last week of September. Trout are on rocky shores and casting a number 2 Len Thompson 5 of Diamonds on the surface produces many trout. They seem to strike with a vengeance and fight like a fish three times their size. My record is 8 trout in 8 casts.
I hope that my experiences help you and that my fishing tips are as productive for you
as they have been for me.