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|Thursday May 21st Lake Sakakawea|
If I had today to start over it would be here.
The west ramp has been the only ramp for several years now so this is a welcome change. In fact, haven’t launched out of the old marina at Ft. Stevenson in 8 years. Low water among all the other challenges put the damper on many things including the lake store. How times have changed here on Sakakawea. Garrison Marina is now open. This includes not just the ramp but the slips and store as well. Offering everything from spinners to live bait, licorice to char-broiled steaks, bring on the good news. Sakakawea is up over 15 feet from last season’s high!
Today’s challenge, 20 feet of new elevation from this time last year. Some days you just go fishing and that’s the plan today. Water temps on the main lake are 46 this morning; we later discovered 55 degrees in a back bay. The strategy was to vertical jig the rocky areas that should be holding spawning walleyes. Most of these locations are choked with vegetation leaving me doing more looking than fishing but we did find some sweet looking locations. Move, move, move, that seemed to be the order of the day. Each location is checked with a vertical jig presentation combined with pitching an 1/8 oz jig and minnow up into 2 feet. Each location proved to be a disappointment.
Noon is fast approaching and with light winds and sunshine I expected walleyes to be up shallow by now. I finally get it out of my head that shallow is the key and start working deeper. The challenge here is finding fishable water. Every time I work out to 15 feet the screen tangles with a jungle of 5 to 8 year old cottonwoods. Eventually some clean bottom is found on the humps east at the embankment. If I had today to start over it would be here.
It’s past noon and not a single missed bite or fish to show for the 5 hours of effort. The focus now is on 10 to 15 feet. It is easy fishing with the light winds. I’m still trying to use the vertical jig presentation that is what I consider the number 1, go to, technique for spring walleyes on Sakakawea. If you run both front and back locators, consider turning off the back unit when you’re up front with the electric. The screen can darken with irritating interference, but more importantly, it will often deaden sensitivity and prevent you from marking fish. With the constant lift-drop, lift-drop, to stay in contact with bottom I’m going to need to install a grease zerk on my elbow before I wear out the bearings.
By now my mind is navigating through the data base of excuses I can use on the radio broadcast coming up as to how a Sakakawea fishing guide can go 7 straight hours without a bite. God, it sure would be nice to have you bail me out of this jam, please, just one little fish? I’m more than a little intimidated by this new lake. The plus side is we have the 3rd largest concentration of walleyes ever in Sakakawea right now. Combine that with a great spring spawn and the fish hatchery conditions due to rising water. The future is looking fishy.
“Ohh-- I just missed him Dad!” exclaimed Jesse. Reel, reel, reel, you still have him on, keep the line tight. First fish of the day! Jesse is doing dad proud and I’m not sure who is shining brighter as I take a picture of a hard won victory. If the fish talk I listen and 12 feet it is for the next couple of hours. Moving from hump to hump the search continues and just as if someone was listening up comes number 2 for yours truly.
Even after 9 hours of unproductive, frustrating fishing it is still hard to call it quits. Sakakawea can be so enticing with so much left unexplored. New water, sunken islands, flooded cottonwoods, tangled clover, submerged willows. I can’t wait!