Some people believe there are no coincidences, but rather that things are meant to be. Regardless of your beliefs, this particular day on a charter boat on the big water of Lake of the Woods turned out to be magical. My intent was to jump on a charter with the purpose of getting some good photography of walleye fishing, maybe make a video and certainly, to feel that oh so special feeling of setting the hook on a nice walleye myself. It seems good things typically happen on a charter, and let me tell you,  this day was no different.

Lake of the Woods is one of the few lakes you can jump on a 27-30’ charter boat and fish walleyes. A Coast Guard licensed charter captain takes away all of the worry regarding navigation, lunch, bait, tackle, getting on the fish and even the fish cleaning after the trip. Most resorts in these parts offer charter fishing, and it makes life easy. 

Charter captains have a license that allows them to guide up to 6 customers at a time, which makes this type of boat ideal for the size of the crew. With a cuddy cabin below, a small restroom if needed and big enough to handle the big water this lake is known for are all nice benefits.

If you don’t have a crew of six, which many don’t, many resorts will work with you to combine groups so you only pay your fair share. Whether you are by yourself or in a small group, jumping on a charter boat is certainly doable. Fishing with people you don’t know can end up being a nice bonus as I was about to find out. 

I was on board with four other people. One couple, John and Sonja and a father son team of Tom and Brent. We had never fished together, but we were all excited to hit the water for a great day of fishing.

Our destination was some structure on the south end of Garden Island which is located on the north end of Big Traverse Bay, a good boat ride from the mouth of the Rainy River where we departed from. 

Once to our destination, we anchored up and started jigging with jigs and frozen shiners. The emerald shiner is a main forage for Lake of the Woods walleyes. In addition, they provide a nice flash and a lot of scent. Walleyes love them. It didn’t take long and we started to catch a combination of walleyes, saugers and jumbo perch, with an occasional pike thrown in for good measure.

Initially, Sonja had the hot stick. Sonja is a fun person with a good sense of humor and she enjoys good conversation.  I think she would be the first to tell you, between her and her husband John, she is definitely the chattier of the two. We had some fun with her very unique, yet effective method of jigging. You need to have an apple in one hand and your fishing rod in the other. While holding a conversation with the rest of the boat and eating an apple, she would lift her jig way off the bottom, and then drop it erratically back down to the bottom. This was not pre planned or by design, but on this day, the walleyes wanted it! She was on fire and taught us all a lesson for the first part of the trip hauling in a good number of nice walleyes.

John held his own though and throughout the day caught up nicely, just without the flare of his wife. He did it old school, without an apple or the conversation or the patent lift and drop technique of his wife.

Enjoying the camaraderie of good people on a charter boat is a gratifying experience. It really adds to the overall experience of catching walleyes, relaxing on the water, breathing in the fresh northern air, and making the trip mean that much more. 

The other two anglers on the boat were the father/son duo of Tom and Brent.  Wanting to spend some quality time together, they thought a fishing vacation would be spot on. The thought was to spend some quality father/son time together while staying at a nice resort, eating some good food and doing some fishing on the big pond. And fishing they did.

Side by side reeling in walleyes, listening to the water lap against the side of the boat, soaking in the sun, talking about old times while hanging out with a loved one is a nice gig. It was evident, these guys were enjoying every moment. Both Tom and Brent are good anglers and caught good numbers of walleyes and saugers. Although Brent enjoyed the day, he really wanted a bit more. He had always heard about the trophy walleyes in this lake and wanted to catch a monster. 

As the day went on, we all caught good fish and a lot of them, slowly filling the icy cooler for the evening fish fry. As time slipped away into the afternoon, we were sitting just fine as far as numbers of fish. Our captain decided to make a move to an area that was holding some larger fish. We pulled into the spot, he dropped the anchor and we began to fish. After about 15 minutes, we started hooking up with some nice walleyes. Although we caught fish up to 25”, we never did get that true trophy Brent was hoping for. 

Brent would be the first one to tell you, not catching a trophy walleye this day really wasn’t the end of the world.  We had a great day in so many ways. It was a day of incredible day of fishing, new friendships and great memories to never be forgotten. Was it that Brent knew something about the rest of the trip we didn’t? I don’t think so, but trophy walleye luck for Brent was about to change.

My four new friends enjoyed a second day of fishing without me as I had to depart. And wouldn’t you know it, later the next day I received a message. He did it! Brent caught the fish of his dreams, a 31 inch monster walleye with his Dad by his side. As some might say, this was simply the icing on the cake to a fishing trip for the books. 

This day on a Lake of the Woods charter boat was special. I was very touched to have shared the father/son experience of Brent and his Dad fishing together. I couldn’t believe it when Brent reached out to let me know he caught his monster. Unbelievable! 

I was also touched meeting a couple spending quality time together on the water. When I am in a booth or giving a seminar at a sports show in the twin cities area, I look forward to seeing John and Sonja as they always make sure they come by and say hello. 

My four new friends who had just met on that charter have actually booked other charter trips together since then.  From perfect strangers to a tradition of an annual walleye trip. Magical things can happen on a charter boat in the middle of Lake of the Woods. 

About The Author

Joe Henry

As a long time guide, licensed charter captain, and tournament angler, Joe Henry has made fishing a part of his everyday life. Joe “cut his teeth” on MN lakes and rivers and has guided and fished walleyes throughout the nation. Joe’s home water is now Lake of the Woods, which he has fished for over 25 years. Professionally, Joe is an outdoor communicator and a media member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW). His professional background combined with his many fishing credentials lead him to his current role, Executive Director of Tourism for Lake of the Woods.