Anderson: Minnesotans have fishing rods, will travel far – and farther
As difficult as it is to prove, it’s likely that Minnesotans travel farther and more frequently to fish than anglers in any other state.
Five of these Minnesota adventurers are featured here. With fishing rods in hand, they’ve either just returned from a distant fishing trip or are out on distant waters as you read this.
• Terry Arnesen, Alaska
Terry, from Stillwater, was last mentioned in this column in May, when he joined our band for the walleye opener on Winnibigoshish.
Terry caught the angling bug a few years ago while fishing for salmon with his cousin off the coast of British Columbia.
Subsequently, Terry purchased a 2018 26ft Duckworth boat fitted with twin outboard motors so he could undertake similar trips himself – and venture even further up the Canadian coast to Alaska. .
That’s where he and his brother, Pete, are right now, in Petersburg, Alaska, after launching Terry’s boat in Blaine, Washington on July 3.
After the Inside Passage, their northernmost destination is Juneau. In addition to fishing, they visit glaciers and watch whales. Some nights they sleep on the boat. Other nights they dock and stay in hotels.
“The fishing has been good,” Terry said by phone Thursday. “On the way back, we’ll save a few fish to take home. Now we only keep what we can eat that day because we don’t have a lot of refrigeration space.”
• Marc Gagliono, Quebec
A resident of Twin Cities, Mark travels to fish or plans to travel to fish. Occasionally, he uses a guide or outfitter at a given destination. But above all, he likes to figure things out for himself.
So far it has worked well. He holds 22 world angling records. His most recent trip was to Quebec for Atlantic salmon.
“It was my second time going,” Mark said. “This first time I caught an Atlantic salmon in a week of fishing. This time I was alone, fishing the Restigouche River for two weeks. The water was really high. I didn’t catch of salmon, but I caught a few sea trout.”
His favorite fishing destination is Alaska, where he will be coho salmon in September with a Twin Cities buddy, Mark Johnson.
“Next summer I’m going to Norway to fish for Atlantic salmon,” he said. “I’ve never fished there before. Most of the time I go fishing myself. The guides are OK, but I like to do things myself.”
• Jeff Anderson, Cory Villaume, Lake of the Woods
Thursday night, these two guys from Twin Cities arrived at the Harris Hill Resort on the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods. By text message on Friday, they reported that the water level in the lake was high.
“It’s so high that the station doesn’t have platforms,” Jeff said.
Jeff and Cory chose Harris Hill this year because it sits between many islands to the north and near the large lake basin to the west and south. The location is ideal because in good weather they can fish in the big water, dragging lures over bumps for big fish. If the wind picks up, they can fish around the islands in more protected waters.
“I started fishing at Lake of the Woods in the 1970s,” Jeff said. “I was fishing mostly around the northwest corner then. In the years that followed, I moved all over the place.”
Jeff added, “The resort is half full, which the owner says is about standard for this summer. We encountered good sized walleyes straight away on Friday morning.”
• John Weyrauch, Lake Michigan
John, of Stillwater, fished with Bill Gartner and Ron Ambrose, also of Stillwater, and Michigander Gary Dawson, on Lake Michigan in Algoma, Wis., June 23-24.
Lake Michigan is Wisconsin’s most popular fishing destination, though it typically doesn’t offer the back-to-back lake trout and salmon action that it did years ago.
For a time in the 1980s, fishing in Lake Michigan was so fast that thousands of Minnesotans – many with their own specially equipped boats – took to the big lake.
A few decades earlier, by the mid-1950s, lake trout had all but disappeared from the lake – an incredible development considering that by the mid-1940s the annual commercial lake trout harvest from the lake was over 6 million pounds.
The predatory sea lamprey caused the downfall, and it wasn’t until a chemical was developed to control the lamprey that the rehabilitation of Lake Michigan’s sportfishing began. This included repeated stockings of chinook (king) salmon, beginning in the 1960s.
The abundance of lake trout and salmon in Lake Michigan has varied over the years. But both, as John and his party have learned firsthand, still deliver good action.
“We fished with Bay Lake Charters out of Algoma for two days, leaving the dock every morning at 3:30 a.m.,” John said. “We were fishing at 4 a.m. and the first morning we caught a 22-pound king salmon in five minutes. We also caught three lake trout that morning, and the next morning we caught six more lakers, all in the 18- to 22- pound range.”
• Charlie Phelps, Russia
Charlie grew up fishing with his dad for smallmouth bass on St. Croix and muskellunge in the Hayward, Wisconsin area. But he didn’t really like fishing, he said, until he discovered fly fishing for trout about five years ago in the Driftless area of southeast Minnesota.
His passion for angling renewed, in 2019 he joined childhood friend Guido Rahr, executive director of the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, Oregon, to fish Russia’s Tugur River for taimen, the largest of the salmonids of the world – or salmon and trout.
To get to the river, you first had to fly to Seoul, South Korea, then to Khabarovsk, Russia, and from there in a helicopter to Konin Lodge via Komsomolsk, Russia. “The Russians we met couldn’t have been nicer,” Charlie said. “I made a video of the trip.”
The world record taimen is 115 pounds. Using a 13-foot, 10-weight Spey rod, Charlie caught two taimen in his six days of fishing, with the largest coming in at 64 pounds.
“It was amazing,” he said. “I love Minnesota and I love the house my wife and I live in. But after I got back, I woke up at night and was disappointed that I wasn’t at that fishing camp anymore.”
Next on Charlie’s – and his wife’s – itinerary is Mongolia. The Taimen are smaller there, he says, but the fishing for arctic grayling and lenok (Asian trout) is excellent.
“I can’t afford to do this all the time,” he said. “But I’m 63 and I’m not going to stay here forever. I want to do it while I can.”