Challenging as it is to prove, it’s likely that Minnesotans travel farther and more frequently to fish than do anglers from any other state.
Five of these adventuresome Minnesotans are profiled here. With fishing rods in hand, they have either just come back from a far-flung fishing trip or are on distant waters as you read this.
• Terry Arnesen, Alaska
Terry, of Stillwater, was most recently mentioned in this column in May, when he joined our group for the walleye opener on Winnibigoshish.
Terry caught the wanderlust angling bug a few years ago while fishing with his cousin for salmon off the British Columbia coast.
Subsequently, Terry bought a 2018 26-foot Duckworth boat outfitted with twin outboards so he could undertake similar trips himself — and venture even farther up the Canadian coast to Alaska.
Which is where he and his brother, Pete, are right now, in Petersburg, Alaska, after having launched Terry’s boat in Blaine, Wash., July 3.
Following the inland passage, their northernmost destination is Juneau. In addition to fishing, they’re touring glaciers and watching whales. Some nights they sleep on the boat. Other nights they dock and stay in hotels.
“The fishing’s been good,” Terry said by phone Thursday. “On our way back, we’ll keep a few fish to take home. Now we keep only what we can eat that day because we don’t have a lot of refrigeration space.”
• Mark Gagliono, Quebec
A Twin Cities resident, Mark is either traveling to fish or planning to travel to fish. On occasion he uses a guide or outfitter at a given destination. But mostly he likes to figure things out for himself.
So far, it’s worked well. He holds 22 world line-class fly-fishing records. His most recent trip was to Quebec for Atlantic salmon.
“This was my second time going there,” Mark said. “That first time, I got one Atlantic salmon in a week of fishing. This time I was by myself, fishing the Restigouche River for two weeks. The water was really high. I didn’t get any salmon, but caught a couple of sea trout.”
His favorite fishing destination is Alaska, where he will be in September for silver salmon with a Twin Cities buddy, Mark Johnson.
“Next summer I’m going to Norway to fish Atlantic salmon,” he said. “I’ve never fished there before. Mostly I’ll fish on my own. Guides are OK, but I like to do things myself.”
• Jeff Anderson, Cory Villaume, Lake of the Woods
On Thursday evening these two Twin Cities guys arrived at Harris Hill Resort on the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods. By text on Friday they reported the lake’s water level is high.
“It’s so high the resort has no docks,” Jeff said.
Jeff and Cory chose Harris Hill this year because it sits between numerous islands to the north and near the lake’s large basin to its west and south. The location is ideal because in good weather they can fish the larger water, dragging crankbaits over humps for big fish. If the wind comes up, they can fish around the islands in more protected waters.
“I started fishing Lake of the Woods in the 1970s,” Jeff said. “I fished then mostly around the Northwest Angle. In the years since, I’ve moved all around.”
Added Jeff: “The resort is about half-full, which the owner said is about standard for this summer. We got into good-sized walleyes right away Friday morning.”
• John Weyrauch, Lake Michigan
John, of Stillwater, fished with Bill Gartner and Ron Ambrose, also of Stillwater, and Michigander Gary Dawson, on Lake Michigan out of Algoma, Wis., June 23-24.
Lake Michigan is Wisconsin’s most popular fishing destination, though it generally doesn’t offer the one-after-another lake trout and salmon action it did years ago.
For a time in the 1980s, Lake Michigan fishing was so fast that thousands of Minnesotans — many with their own specially outfitted boats — traveled to the big lake.
A few decades earlier, in the mid-1950s, lake trout had gone virtually extinct from the lake — an unbelievable development given that in the mid-1940s the lake’s annual commercial lake trout harvest was more than 6 million pounds.
Predatory sea lamprey caused the downfall, and not until a chemical was developed to control lamprey was rehabilitation of Lake Michigan’s sport fishery begun. This included repeated stockings of chinook (king) salmon, beginning in the 1960s.
Lake Michigan’s abundance of lake trout and salmon has varied in the years since. But both, as John and his party learned first-hand, still offer good action.
“We fished with Bay Lake Charters out of Algoma for two days, leaving the dock each morning at 3:30,” John said. “We were fishing by 4 a.m. and the first morning we hooked a 22-pound king salmon within five minutes. We also landed three lake trout that morning, and the next morning we caught six more lakers, all in the 18- to 22-pound range.”
• Charlie Phelps, Russia
Charlie grew up fishing with his dad for smallmouth bass on the St. Croix and for muskies in the Hayward, Wis., area. But he didn’t truly love fishing, he said, until he discovered fly fishing for trout about five years ago in southeast Minnesota’s Driftless Area.
His passion for angling renewed, in 2019 he joined a childhood friend, Guido Rahr, executive director of the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, Ore., to fish the Tugur River in Russia for taimen, the largest of the world’s salmonidae — or salmon and trout.
Getting to the river first required flying to Seoul, South Korea, then on to Khabarovsk, Russia, and from there in a helicopter to Konin Lodge by way of Komsomolsk, Russia. “The Russian people we met couldn’t have been nicer,” Charlie said. “I made a video of the trip.”
The world record taimen is 115 pounds. Using a 13-foot, 10-weight spey rod, Charlie caught two taimen during his six days of fishing, the biggest touching 64 pounds.
“It was incredible,” he said. “I love Minnesota and I love the home my wife and I live in. But after I got back, I’d wake up at night and be disappointed I wasn’t still in that fishing camp.”
“I can’t afford to do this all the time,” he said. “But I’m 63 and I’m not going to be around forever. I want to do it while I can.”