Good or bad (but especially good), I always enjoy hearing from readers about stories or columns I've written.

OK, maybe not always; but most of the time.

Such was the case this week, when I received several emails about last week's column on Lake of the Woods and the perception some anglers have that the big lake is out of balance, despite Minnesota Department of Natural Resources surveys that suggest otherwise.

No one took me to task, but some readers remain convinced fishing on Lake of the Woods has gone downhill, while others believe walleye action is better than ever.

Personally, I tend to lean toward believing the science, in this case DNR surveys that show not only an abundance of bigger walleyes -- the result of a regulation that requires anglers to release all walleyes from 19½ inches to 28 inches in length -- but a good population of walleyes in the eater-size range, as well.

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When it comes to fishing, though, everyone's expectations and experiences are different, so the disparity in perceptions toward fishing on the big lake comes as no surprise.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share some of those views.

Herald file map
Herald file map

"Launches are heading up as far as Little Oak (Island) from the South Shore just to put clients on fish," one reader writes. "Also the launches and other anglers are heading out to the Garden (Island) area much earlier than they ever used to because the catch rate is too low closer to the South Shore. (The) lake's huge and full of anglers so of course every day someone is going to get in the fish and have a fantastic day, but generally it's slow."

Different story on the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods, he writes, where he's been fishing the last five or six years (except this year, of course) and the walleye limit is two.

"More than enough to eat," he adds. "It's nothing to catch 70-100 fish a day. Limit should be reduced to 3 with only 2 allowed to be walleyes."

I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

Another reader from Rochester, Minn., who grew up in Lake of the Woods County and lived there until recently, recalled a 1972 ice fishing trip when he and a childhood friend took snowmobiles up to Knight Island, some 20 miles, give or take, north of Pine Island.

"When we crossed Pine Island I believe we passed three icehouses, (we knew all three local fishermen)," he writes. "We had the whole lake to ourselves for the day."

Compare that with this past winter, when a DNR creel survey documented nearly 2.8 million hours of ice fishing pressure on Lake of the Woods. Times sure have changed.

A Grand Forks reader who has a camper up at the Northwest Angle and describes both he and his wife as "mediocre" anglers, says the ongoing border closure to nonessential travel has forced him adapt.

Instead of driving to the Angle, he's crossing by boat in a 20-foot Ranger powered by a 225-horse outboard. He's made three trips across the lake from Warroad, Minn., to the Angle this summer, traveling late and early in the day to avoid the worst of the winds. The 40-plus-mile trek typically takes a couple of hours, he says, but calm conditions allowed him to make it back to Warroad in an hour during a recent excursion.

Not being able to cross into Ontario waters to fish has meant finding new spots on the Minnesota side of the lake near Oak and Little Oak Islands. A recent evening excursion trolling Rapalas around weedbeds -- a new technique for him -- produced walleyes.

"COVID-19 has forced new places and methods which is good," he writes. "There has been some netting in Canada by Monument Bay (and we had) to go over or around them last year. Anyway we're still catching enough fish."

The last word comes from TJ Harig, the Campbell, Minn., fisherman I wrote about last month after he shared the story of catching some 60 walleyes that were 25 inches or larger during a two-day trip to Lake of the Woods.

By any measure, that's a fishing trip of a lifetime, but the story didn't sit well with some readers, who lamented catching walleyes too big to keep but few small enough to eat.

"What I found when I was out on the lake is wherever I went out there, I marked fish," Harig writes, adding he relies heavily on his electronics to catch fish, which in some cases are suspended far off the bottom. "I caught A LOT of keeper fish in those days I was there. Once I found the right presentation, I caught fish every place I tried. The amount of fish I was marking on the lake was incredible."

Some anglers, he believes, get "stuck in their ways" and fish memories, places that might have produced walleyes in the past.

"I have been going to Lake of the Woods for many years and I feel the fishing is better now than it's ever been," he writes. "And I am completely blown away that people would be disappointed in catching trophy fish rather than fish to eat, but I guess that's just me."

So there you have it, just a few examples of the passion and feelings anglers have about Lake of the Woods. No doubt it's a special body of water.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken