The Minnesota Monster
by Thomas Spezzaferro
It all started with a few emails and a trip was born. A few friends and I decided we needed a little fishing adventure. The border lakes of Minnesota on a houseboat for a few days definitely fit the bill. Being from Jersey, I've always wanted to go to a place where one could feel secluded, free of noise, traffic, and bright lights. Northern Minnesota did not disappoint, with beautiful landscapes and serenity we definitely found what we were looking for.
The journey from Jersey started early in the morning at Newark airport. We landed at St.Paul International and after chowing down on some prime mid-west butter burgers we headed north. The five hour ride went by in a flash and before we knew it we were loading gear into a beautiful houseboat on Rainy lake. Everyone was just itching to get underway, with the gear stowed, we were all set. Houseboats are not very difficult to operate; however there is a forty five minute instructional, take notes and pay attention. After a good lesson in house-boating we set off with just enough time to make the first cove about a half hour from the dock. We set up shop for the night, cut some wood and got some chow going. The first rule of house-boating on Rainy lake, "never drive at night", rule number two, see rule number one.
Houseboats are literally just that, a floating house, the boat we rented slept eight people comfortably. There is a long list of amenities, It had a decent sized fridge, stove, microwave, toaster, you name it's probably got it. We even towed two 16' Lunds behind the boat with 10hp motors. The first day didn't allow enough time for any real fishing, we had just enough time to chop some wood before dark to get a good campfire burning. After dinner and a few beers, a day of travel took it's toll and we sacked out.
The next day we woke bright and early and were just finishing up breakfast when the guide we hired showed up. He boarded our boat, introduced himself, pointed to a little spot on the map and said "see you in two hours". We followed buoy after buoy and the two hours seemed to just fly by. The scenery along the way was nothing short of incredible, true wilderness. Crystal clear water, dense forest and few people. We met our guide in the little cove that was just a spec on a map and he helped us tie up the houseboat. We loaded our gear and coolers into the Lunds and off we went. We started catching walleye as soon as we started fishing, the lucky guys who were on the guide boat were having much more luck, as the guide would just hover over a hole with the trolling motor picking fish with ease. The Lunds didn't have very good anchors and we would just drift pass them and every time we did they would hold up a nice walleye and say "got one of these". We only had the guide for four hours just to kind of show us were we could spend the next few days fishing. So at lunch time we headed back to the houseboat, our guide cleaned our catch and bid us good luck. After lunch we headed back out to where the guide had taken us and continued fishing. After motoring around a bit we decided we would split up to cover more ground. As luck would have it we found a nice cove, it was kind of narrow but long and the wind was blowing us straight back into it. When we were almost at the end there was a huge expanse of grass, I cast my mepps spinner (stolen from my buddies tackle box) to the edge of it and took two cranks on the reel when something took hold. I set the hook fish on! The fish came right at the boat, I couldn't tell if it was big or small. My buddies kept asking, "any size" but the fish continued to come right at the boat. The water was only about five feet deep but crystal clear. As the fish swam underneath the boat my eyes opened as big as silver dollars, Monster! When the fish passed the boat he got angry and peeled line off my reel with ease. After what felt like eternity the beast was finally along side the boat, of course we had no net or cradle. After a few failed attempts by my buddy, I handed him the rod and reached down, I slid my hand into his gills and with a kung fu grip latched on and flipped the monster into the boat. Everyone took cover as the beast thrased around the bottom of the boat, sprayng beer cans everywhere. The first day of fishing was over but what a day, what a trip..
As we sat around the campfire chowing down on the best fried walleye I've ever eaten, I reflected back. Airfare to Minnesota $350, houseboat rental per man $400 including the lunds, gas, beer and food $100 per man, pulling up to your buddies and hoisting up a 43 1/2'' 22 pound trophy Northern pike and asking "got one of these", priceless. Whether your going with friends or family, if you want a sense of adventure and some really exceptional fishing I would highly recommend the border lakes of northern Minnesota.