WILTZ: My countdown of great fishing experiences
If everyone the world over was as blessed as I with fishing experiences, all the world would be in love with fishing. There would be no fighting or animosity. We could go to a fishing website where anglers swap fishing adventures. I could take Anwar or Boris fishing in South Dakota for a week in exchange for a week’s fishing for Nile perch in Egypt or some fishing in the Ukraine.
It’s not a bad idea. A good friend has been trading his South Dakota pheasants for Colorado elk for the past 25 years. I think both parties believe they are getting the best end of the deal. It began with an ad in the newspaper.
What rod and reel adventures do I cherish the most? I’ll attempt to put together my top 10. Of course, there are ”honorable mentions” that include our South Dakota northeast lakes, Costa Rica, Lake Michigan trout/salmon and the camaraderie at Ontario’s Kwinigans Lake with good friends. While half of my locations are in South Dakota, it becomes readily apparent that my favorite direction is north.
No. 10: In 1985, Lake Andes was flooded for some time, and conditions were just right for a perch-largemouth bass explosion. I liked to slip my little boat into the timber along the south side of the middle lake and toss floating Rapalas for bass. What a circus! The perch? The lake crawled with 12-14 inch perch built like footballs. It was ice fishing’s mission control. One of the finest trophies on the wall of my man cave is an Andes perch.
No. 9: Five years of my life were spent in Burke. With all the stock dams, I think I fished well over 100 days a year. How does one beat stalking along the bank of a prairie dam when the wind goes down in the evening? You watch for a splash and a swirl where a bucket-mouth bass has just walloped a hapless victim. You bend over and tip-toe to within 10 yards of the ambush site. You toss a Rapala No. 11 floater with three treble hooks to the spot, let the rings in the water fade away and twitch the lure. It’s almost nuclear. Using this technique, I once took a lunker largemouth that had a black bird in its mouth.
No. 8: Two years ago last March, some good friends invited Betsy and me to spend five days in their Arizona timeshare condominium. On the way home, Dave and I fished Lake Powell for a day out of Page, Ariz. We enjoyed an awesome adventure catching hybrid striped bass on light tackle. What a setting — the Grand Canyon. We fished with Bill McBurney of www.ambassadorguides.com. Stripers provide awesome eating with no limit. You could take home a year’s supply of striper fillets.
No. 7: Lake Besnard Saskatchewan is about 900 miles from Wagner via Aberdeen, Jamestown, Minot, Regina, Prince Albert and a final 60 miles of gravel road. It offers fly-in quality fishing in a lake you can tow your boat to. Why is the fishing so good? All the walleyes in the 30 mile-long lake spawn in the Mercer River, and the Mercer is protected. Besnard is also full of big pike. The lake offers a provincial campground as well as two lodges. Most of the locals believe they’ll sail over the side of the world if they venture more than 3 miles from the campground … another reason it’s so good.
No. 6: Last summer’s Lake Oahe adventure with Art Jones and Jerry Opbroek was special. The tent camp was part of it, as was my first experience at the mouth of the Cheyenne, but the biggest thing was the constant action with walleyes (walleyes beyond 25 inches were frequent), big pike, smallmouth bass, white bass and catfish. The current big pike population is receiving some notoriety. As you read today’s column, I’ll be back on Oahe with Art for round two. You’ll probably hear about that next week.
No. 5: What I call the “fast water” is the Fort Randall Dam tailrace that is 12 miles west of Wagner. It’s motor up and drift down. The trick is keeping one’s line straight down near the bottom without the line washing to the side. While many use a floating stick-bait such as a Rapala or Rogue with a sinker in place 2 feet above it, a white quarter-ounce jig with pearly white Gulp is very popular. I like to use a shrimp on my jig. Catfish love shrimp, but so do walleyes. I hit this area hard beginning in late June and through July. Lots of gulls are a very good sign. Big cats in the fast water is as good as it gets.
No. 4: Fishing the tailrace at Fort Thompson from shore isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still good. Paddlefish tags are limited, and the large numbers of 3-pound walleyes are gone. But what a time we had heading to Fort Thompson after school in May during the late 1960s through the mid-1970s. We had a regular routine. First get your spoonbill, and take your limit of eight walleyes with all the white bass you wanted.
No. 3: The Amazon is a fishing paradise. We were in the village of Leticia, about 3000 miles west of the Amazon’s mouth. Imagine fishing the Amazon from a dugout canoe. Our guide, Joel Mendoza, bought 2-pound baitfish at the local fish market. We finally landed a big red-tailed catfish after much of my heavy tackle had been rendered inoperable. Joel thought I was playing a big ray. Then he changed his mind to bull shark. Laurie, our oldest daughter, and I also caught red piranha in backwater lagoons on chunks of meat while Betsy remained in our village hotel with a bad case of dysentery.
No. 2: While at the Denver outdoor show helping Oakley Eide, of Burke, sell pheasant hunts for his Outback operation, Oak made a trade with an outfitter friend. It was a pheasant hunt for a fishing trip, but Oakley doesn’t fish. He gave me the trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands off the British Columbia coast. Friends Doug Koupal and Jerry Hnetynka joined me as we drove my blue Dodge Dakota to Vancouver. Not the slightest of amenities was overlooked as we piloted our own radar and GPS equipped boats to spectacular angling for salmon, halibut, ling cod, yellow eye and rock fish.
No. 1: I’ve saved the best for last. I’m talking Saskatchewan’s Lake Kamatsi, a Lawrence Bay Lodge outpost camp owned by North Dakotan Randy Engen and family. There’s only one cabin on Kamatsi, a very large lake, and it’s only fished in June and July. It is pristine. Fly out of Randy’s float plane base at South End, a small village on the southern tip of Reindeer Lake, to Kamatsi. This lake teems with big pike, lake trout and walleyes. You’ll see moose, bears and caribou.
Randy’s entire operation, boats included, are first class. Google Lawrence Bay Lodge or call Randy at 701-262-4560. Fishing doesn’t get any better. Money a problem? Save aluminum cans. Quit drinking pop. Drop back to minimum cable TV service. This place is worth it. As always, I have no ”deal” going with Randy.
I’m one very lucky guy. See you next week.