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Well people, we're back from Pipestone. Here's the report.
We stayed at Pipestone Lodge again this year and we'll continue to stay there every time we go back. The accomidations are outstanding. The food was top notch. The staff is awesome. And the fishing is GREAT!
Six of us made the trip up this time. Myself, nephew Steve (Buzz), Steve S, Art, Jimmy and Fred. Everyone caught trophy sized smallies all week with some bonus big walleyes, Largemouth bass, pike and even a muskie or two thrown in.
The water temps currently are in the 72-74 range. We had stable weather most of the week with only one minor cold front that went thru early in the week and slowed things down a bit for a few hours. Other than that the fishing was basically non stop with too many doubles to count and even a couple quadruple smallies on at the same time when Buzz and I fished with Fred and Jimmy. The average size of the smallies we caught was in the 15-16" range with a ton around 18" and even a bunch at 19". I caught a 20", Steve and Art caught a couple in that size range as did Fred and Jimmy. Buzz took home the trophy again with a huge 21.5" smallie. The baits that were working best were darker color tube jigs, darker colored Senkos on 1/8 oz. Slider Head Jigs, Wave Worm Tiki Sticks on Slider Head Jigs, Yum Worms on a single hook with a split shot ( sorta carolina style...holy crap did those things catch the smallies! Thanks to Luke who works at Pipestone Lodge for that tip!), Rapala Husky Jerks and X-Raps in black/silver and black/gold. Mepps #4 in silver or brass with white. black or natural squirrel tails, Heddon Crazy Crawlers ( We had 30-40" northerns hitting that bait on bright sunny days in flat calm waters. Great forgoten bait!), Chug bugs in perch pattern, Zara Puppies in black or white, Buzzbaits in white, the Salmo Perch ( ofcourse) and last but not least...a simple crawler or a leech on a small cirlce hook and a split shot ( it was IMPOSSIBLE to NOT get hit throwing crawlers or leeches).
The depths that the smallies were in were 1-15'. Same with the northerns and muskies. The walleyes were in the 10-20' range. The areas targeted were rocky shores with basketball size rocks, cabbage beds that ended in 12', and reefs with rocks and/ or weeds. Stay away from the big shield rock, fast dropping shoreline spots...there's nothing there. Oh, and forget all that stuff you learned about smallies being a rock only oriented fish. We caught just as many in cabbage weeds where the pike and muskies were.
A tip on the Yum plastic worms. They are naturally colored with about 1/2" of one end in chartruese. They would NOT hit it with that chartruese. BUT.. you cut off that chartrues section and the smallies, pike and largemouth wouldn't leave it alone. They'd even pick it up off the bottom if you just let it sit there while rigging up another rod or taking a sip of a drink.
We STRONGLY suggest you use a small thin leader of some sort if you feel the presence of pike or muskies in the area...which, by the way is just about everywhere on the Pipestone Chain.
Regarding muskies, Buzz and I fished for them for maybe 2 hours a day. Usually at first and last light ( 5am and 10pm). The magic bait was a black topwater Creeper. We tried other baits like bucktails, Hawg Wobblers, etc. but the black Creeper was the one to use with a white buzzbait coming in a close second. We only caught two but had 17 follows and or blow-ups on baits in the very short time we actually targeted muskies. I'll put up a picture of one that hit cast #5 of muskie fishing on the first day. Key areas were cabbage weeds next to deeper water. Find that and you'll find the easier-to-catch muskies on Pipestone. If you want the bigger ones, I'd suggest going deeper and go after the ones following around the lake trout or schools of suspended baitfish...basically, hire one of the Pipestone Lodge guides for that kind of stuff.
Speaking of the guides... If you go up, I strongly recommend that you hire Luke or James immediately for day #1. They'll show you the patterns to use as well as put you on some great spots that hold a ton of big fish.
A great tchnigue that Buzz and I perfected up there was the throw back bait for smallies. When a smallie is hooked and fighting, every other smallie in the area wants in on the action. So, in the clear waters of Pipestone you could actually see a couple other smallies following the one that was hooked at which point the 2nd guy in the boat could throw out just about any bait and it would get nailed. At one point Buzz and I had 5 smallies following one hooked fish as it was brought to the boat...then there were 4..then 3...then 2...then 1. We caught 6 smallies in the 16-19" range in 3 minutes. Around here I have a hard time doing that in an entire day!
Another great technique was invented by us on this trip. The Buzz Troll. Simple to do and extremely effective. Find a cabbage bed after you're tired of catching smallies and pike while casting all day. Put on a buzzbait ( use a leader). Put the motor on idle and make a couple passes over the weedbed while eating a sandwich or having a cigar. Hold on as pike and smallies make sure you dont get too many bites off of that sandwich. And yes it really is that easy. We even had a muskie try to take a buzzbait off the line as we kicked back and just lazily trolled around while taking a break.
Waters we fished during the week were Pipestone ( 3 stars), Shistose (4 stars), Stonedam (3 stars), Darrow ( 4 stars!!), Weld ( 1 star..but we hit it while basically taking thursday off to go exploring), Slender Lake ( 1 star..but again..that isn't fair because we were just putzin' around). We also took a portable depth finder into Lake Darrow and charted it out for the first time in history. That was pretty cool to be the first ones to actually know how deep it was and what the underlying structure is. Kinda felt all Lewis & Clark.
Pike fishing was WAY easy on the Pipestone chain. Find the smallies and you just found the pike. A couple of times we were even able to pick them out with our polarized glasses and catch them by sight ( we did that with smallies for 6 days straight). The biggest pike netted was a 40"+ pike that hit a Rapala Husky Jerk in a room sized cove that has two small weed beds, 8' of water at the edge, a few rocks and a scholl of suckers milling about just outside of it. We got 3 big pike out of that tiny spot. The smallest one was about 32". Ok..now let me be truthful here. The 40"+ monster from my favorite portage lake was netted. So that counts, right? But..while trying to lift the net into the boat she went into the death-roll thus hooking the Husky Jerk on the side of the net and making it a much smaller net. She did that twice quickly before we could lift her in thereby straightening out 2 hooks and rolling over the side of the net. Buzz and I didn't say a thing for a couple minutes and we just kinda stared at the water while watching her swim away. Wait...I did say something actually. I think it started with the letter "F". But, as I said to Buzz once we could speak again " you can't get them all in the boat. That's why it's called fishing."
Other things we did involved hiking to new lakes, and boating thru smaller creeks and rivers to find newer spots. We never made it all the way in any small river or creek due to beaver dams. We also tried our hand at rock climbing ( see picture of rock faced wall below) but after getting about a quarter os the way up this rock wall/slide of a couple hundred feet we decided that rock climbing on car-sized boulders while wearing sandals was probably a bad idea. We also had the pleasure of going for a ride on james' bass boat one evening. let me tell you... a bass boat with a 300 HP engine is one hell of a toy. I don't know of many other vehicles that can hit 70MPH while fully rigged with gear and 4 guys sitting in it. What a friggin blast!
So...lets sum this all up. We caught somewhere in the range of 500+ smallies ( that was just Buzz and I...you could put that number at well over a grand for all 6 of us). probably something like 50-100 northerns, a few walleyes ( accidentally, mind you...we never targeted tham once.) a couple muskies on topwater lures with 17 more that missed baits or followed. We ate great meals. Had great service. Enjoyed great company. And were treated like royalty by Art, Jenny and the rest of the staff.
Again..just like last year's report, let me stress that I do NOT get paid by Pipestone to write. I go on alot of trips and fish alot of places and I can HONESTLY say that this is the best I have personally experienced as far as service and the quality of fishing. You guys know me. I'm a no-B.S. kind of guy who calls it like I see it. So you can take this report to the bank.
To contact Art at Pipestone Lodge just hit this link. You'll be happy that you did.
The following are some of the 100+ pictures we took. If you want to see more just drop me a line. Oh..and the new haircut...probably a bad idea when trying to cross the border. Buzz and I were detained going into Canada and coming out. Buzz said it's the "look". I say it was the fishing knife he had in his packet that they took away. Go figure.
P.S..Art, don't give my Darrow Map to just anyone. heh heh!!
Enjoy the pics as I put them up.
Buy a hat. Your bald spot is getting sunburned! Click that.
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