The sun was beginning to set, it was approaching 8:30 p.m. and the sky was turning the amazing color that gave this lake its name: Vermilion. I was trolling a deep weed line with a nightcrawler harness, looking for some eating-size walleyes. The first week, as much fun as I had catching big three- to six-pound walleyes, they were all in the slot and not legal. I was really hoping for some smaller 14- to 16-inch, eating-size keepers.
To keep a long fish-story short, in the two weeks I fished this great lake, I could not catch a small walleye. Maybe next year the year classes will be better, and the Department of National Resources will raise the slot limit to 20 inches.
My son had been bugging me to try to fish for some large Northern Pike, the ones in the 11- to 18-pound size group. He had a really nice one on the line last year and lost him at the boat when his line snapped, and ever since, he had been like a Captain Ahab in search of his fish.
So every morning last week we got up early to be on the lake fishing (actually, he was fishing — I was guiding). I took us to a different spot each morning and worked a number of different lures, hoping to land that big Northern. My son really worked hard, casting time and again, but we never caught one over the 40-inch mark. To his credit, he did catch a number of sizeable pike, some largemouth bass and a couple of really nice smallmouth bass. It will not be long before this student is fishing as well as, or better than, his teacher — and I could not be prouder or happier about it.
We did take a day off from fishing and went over to Ely, Minn., to see the International Wolf Institute, an amazing place that has a wolf pack in residence. It attempts to de-mystify and correct a lot of misconceptions about wolves. Then we drove through a portion of the Boundary Waters canoe area to Orr, Minn., and the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, where the black bears are free to wander in and out of the meadow in search of food while we humans are kept in a restricted area to observe. I would need pages to describe both of these places; for anyone with a chance to venture north to this part of the country, these two spots are mandatory viewing.
We are already looking forward to next year on Lake Vermilion. But next week, back to local fishing reports. … Till then, keep a tight line.