A bad day on the lake is better than...
Angling action over the past week in the Park Rapids area has been good, bad, and everything in between.
You hear the quips in passing while walking down main street and at the bait shop counter. "That's why they call it fishing and not catching" or "The fishing's great, the catching's not as good", and the oft uttered, "Still beats a day at the office".
More than anything, the fishing has seen inconsistencies in productive patterns. Those patterns are essentially the angler's approach; certain water depth, specific habitat (rocks, weeds, sand, etc.), presentation (the bait and technique you utilize) and time of day are some of the measuring marks to figure out a fishing pattern.
Once you've successfully established a fishing pattern, it's usually replicable in other areas of the lake that have the same depth and habitat while using the same presentation. Additionally, the pattern often remains productive for several days, especially if the weather is somewhat stable.
Recent weather has definitely influenced fishing, yet it's something anglers must contend with and accept. However, a slow fishing day on the lake is sometimes, not always, repairable.
If the fish aren't biting, change is necessary. By adjusting the variables that make up a pattern, at least the ones we can actually influence, anglers give themselves the greatest opportunity for success.
It's easy to move the boat to a different water depth if the fish aren't biting and finding different types of habit to cast toward is simple. Having a quality sonar aids in the process, but doesn't necessarily mean you're guaranteed to catch a fish.
Changing your presentation doesn't take much effort and it doesn't even require you to tie on a new lure. Retrieving the bait faster, slower or twitching or jigging it in a certain way is sometimes all that's needed to trigger a strike from a Minnesota walleye, northern pike or the numerous other freshwater fish species available in our lakes.
If the angler changes these basic angling elements repeatedly over the course of a fishing trip, they've done everything possible to catch a fish.
Yet for my guide clients David and Gerra Gentry, who were staying at Mantrap Lodge this past week, changing the presentation meant something entirely different.
Gerra, in a valiant attempt to catch a walleye, resorted to giving her leech some words of encouragement before dropping it into the water. When that didn't work, she threatened it. Finally, she decided to take a nurturing approach and gave the leech a kiss before she dropped it in. It worked and Gerra landed a walleye.
David, on the other hand, wasn't ready to pucker up to the slimy black leech on his hook, but he made a valuable observation; Every time I started eating something, we'd catch fish.
On several occasions David suggested that I should consider taking another sandwich out from the cooler.
At the end of the day, the Gentry's had a pile of nice fish. I on the other hand, simply had heartburn.