The state of fishing on Lake of the Woods

It was a quieter week in the neighborhood for me this past week following the week of the KBI, but I still managed to get out in the boat for a few days to do some guide trips I had booked.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent a bunch of time on Lake of the Woods, fishing all over on it for several different species of fish, so I wanted to share a few of my observations on the lake and the fishing this summer.
The annual KBI tournament held Aug. 10-12 showed the bass fishery on Lake of the Woods is in good shape as we saw some of the highest weights ever in the 30-year history of the event.
The weather for the tournament was excellent, which surely helped the fishing, but the bass fishing on the lake has been very good all summer.
The other interesting thing at the KBI was that top 10 finishes came from all areas of the lake–from the mouth of the Rainy River to the Sioux Narrows area to Clearwater Bay, with many nice fish being caught right around Kenora.
It’s good to see fish being caught all over the lake, which will help keep the event healthy for years to come.
While the largemouth population seems to be down significantly from several years ago, there were some big limits of largemouths brought in each day of the KBI and the big fish each day was a largemouth, including a 6.49-pound monster on Day 2.
They are still out there, but I think they are suffering some from the loss of weeds throughout the lake because of the rusty crayfish.
These crayfish are an invasive species and they have changed the landscape of the lake significantly because they seem to wipe out large patches of weeds, which offer cover for young fish and clean the water up.
The upside is that there are a lot of crayfish so bass, walleye, and pike–everything really–seems to be eating them.
While I haven’t been musky fishing a bunch, I did catch a few while I was pre-fishing for the KBI in the southern part of the lake. A couple of my friends who spend a lot of time musky fishing have been telling me that the fishing has been really good the past few weeks since the weather has been really nice.
When the weather is nice, muskies (much like bass) move shallow and hang around whatever cover they can find, including docks, trees, or weed patches. Casting with bucktails spinners, large spinnerbaits, and topwater baits are great ways to catch one.
While there are a lot of big fish in the north end of the lake around Kenora, the numbers of muskies are much higher in the south end of the lake, particularly around the Nestor Falls and Morson areas. So if you’re simply looking to catch a musky, you may want to try that part of the lake.
Over the past week, I had a few guide trips for walleyes and fished the north end of the lake. Fishing was great for numbers of fish but we were not catching a lot of big ones.
It’s funny because earlier in the summer on a few trips, it was hard to catch eating-sized fish under 18 inches while over the past week, we caught only a few over 20 inches.
It was fine because we were more interested in fish to eat; the bigger ones evidently were doing something a little different.
Leeches are pretty much impossible to find right now around Kenora. They have been my favourite bait this summer, for sure, but we did fine fishing with jigs and minnows last week.
And when we got around biting schools of walleyes, I caught a bunch on jigs tipped with soft plastic minnows, specifically the Northland Impulse 3 inch Smelt Minnow. Jig colour did not seem to matter.
I’m running out of room to get to all of the great fish species that we have here in Lake of the Woods, but I can tell you that lake trout and pike fishing has been good, as well. We dabbled with both species last week and caught them.
Crappie fishing, meanwhile, will start to heat up in about a month when they start showing up in their wintering spots.
We still have at least a few more weeks of great weather here in Sunset Country so if you get the chance to get out on the water, take it because we have another long winter coming up before we know it!