AIM Return Trip: North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea
Jun 27th, 2019 by Keith Worrall
Modified Jun 27th, 2019 at 12:09 PM
Return Trip: North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea
Hosts Next AIM State Qualifier Sunday At East End
Presented by Yamaha Motor Corp USA and Warrior Boats LLC.
Contact: Denny Fox, 920-505-0122
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™)
First it was the western end in May, and now, Sunday’s AIM Weekend Walleye Series Warrior Boats/Pure Powersports Open tests the eastern half of North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea, where the question is, will it be won in those new weeds and newly water-covered vegetation in this lake swollen by mountain runoff, or in the clearer water closer to the event’s western boundary, about mid-lake? Either way, big fish are on the feed, and big bags are predicted.
“One thing is certain, our teams are looking to boat some big fish on Sak, which has been on fire for walleye,” said Denny Fox, AIM national tournament director. “Some predictions are this thing will be won with 40 pounds or more,” he added.
Scot Swain, of Minot, ND, will be out there come Sunday at the tiller of his Mercury 250 ProXS four-stroke when teams punch the throttle from Garrison’s Fort Stevenson State Park launch.
He’s reporting that Lake Sak, which is a dammed portion of the Missouri River, is “as high as it’s ever been. It’s almost at flood stage because we’re holding the water back to prevent flooding in states down river.” And, with snowmelt now entering from the lake’s major western feeder rivers like the Yellowstone, it could go higher. Much of it is still on the cool side, too, especially towards this tourney’s western boundary.
“There’s a lot of new vegetation under water and all the deep humps are deeper than usual,” Swain said. On top of that, new weed growth has appeared, which could be good, and bad. Good, because it provides cover for bait fish like smelt, and those big, toothy ambush specialists teams are looking for, bad because it might change up presentations for some NoDak anglers used to fishing those lake points, humps, and other spots with less cover.
“It’s a little tougher out there because of the weeds, so this could be won in the deep humps in the lake. I think a lot of boats will also be concentrating on spots like Douglas Bay and Garrison Bay,” Swain said.
East of there, the lake has become weedy, and some, including Swain, speculate that recreational boaters from other states are bringing it in. Because the word’s out about Sak’s booming walleye population and its average 20-inch size, it’s drawn literally thousands of recreational anglers from all over, Swain said.
“The water’s been so high and the fishing’s been so good, on one weekend, in a five square mile area there were 1,200 boats, and they were all fishing,” he said.
“We’ve also got storms incoming Friday and Saturday and the wind will change directions probably three different times, so we’ll just go out and try what we find. I’ll try to focus on rock points, and the deep humps,” he said.
Changing lake temps also may prove a factor, he heard. “Water temperature went up 10 degrees out west, so the shallow bite went away, and a south wind for three weeks blew all the cold water into our bays.”
Swain’s predicting that Sunday will be a live bait bite, rigging or pitching. “The lake is weedy starting at 16 feet, but if you can get behind that weed line and if fish are hiding in there…. Because of the high water flooding the land out, the fish are getting the worms, and it’s easier to fish that type of structure with bait. There’s also some good flats, but most concentrate on those lake points.
“A lot also will fish out in the humps called the seven sisters, and Wolf Creek area,” he added. “Minnows are still going good out west, but here it may be leeches and minnows.”
Clifton Kyle, of Minnewaukan, ND, who guides the lake’s western end and Devils Lake, was busy with clients at the western end at midweek. With more guiding to do east, his pre-fishing will be limited to Saturday, but he’s got his fish eye on those flats, and his crank baits ready, and is also bringing gear for the shallows.
“There’s a lot of deep breaks and points. You’ll see the big flats pulled with crank baits and bottom bouncers, but it can be a real shallow, pitching plastics or minnows and jigs” bite too.
“Generally it (the east end) has some really nice fish if you can get to them. The times we’ve fished it, you do run into some really big fish, but the numbers can also be spotty. We’ve definitely pulled 35 to 40 pounds for five fish there,” Kyle said.
“The water’s still pretty cool. If you get the water to warm up, and it’s a good shallow bite, that could turn on the fish. You could go through a lot of fish in a hurry. It’s all timing out here.”
Kyle is an old hand at fishing AIM’s North Dakota events, fishing them since the series began here. He loves the format. “I like hanging out with the other anglers at the rules meeting and awards, and the Catch-Record-Release™ format. We like to see those big fish go back,” he said.
This third state qualifier begins Saturday evening with team registration and rules meeting starting at 5 p.m. at the Garrison Ice Rink, 257 Third Avenue NE, in Garrison. Teams, your boat inspection begins at 5 a.m. at the Fort Stevenson State Park Boat Launch, 1252A 41st Ave NW, in Garrison. Boats get the “Go!” starting at 7 a.m., and must return to the launch starting at 3 p.m. Awards begin at 5 p.m. at the park.
Fan Nation, follow all the action on the lake Sunday via Garmin Fish & Hunt, and to see how your fave fares, go to our Facebook page starting at 5 p.m. Sunday. NoDak anglers, there’s plenty of time to still sign up for the final state qualifier on another part of the Missouri south of Garrison, Lake Oahe at Hazelton, coming up July 14. The state championship will be at Devils Lake, Aug. 2-3, which apparently is doing its disappearing act again.
Visit our website for information on all AIM tournaments and how to register for all AIM events.
Anglers Insight Marketing LLC (AIM™) is a unique tournament organization created and owned by many of the most accomplished and recognizable professional walleye anglers, along with others who share the mission of advancing competitive walleye fishing and making it sustainable into the future.
AIM is committed to marketing excellence on behalf of its tournament competitors, the tournament host communities, and the brands that partner with it. AIM is also committed to maintaining healthy fisheries across the nation by the development of the exclusive AIM Catch-Record-Release™ format which is integral to its dynamic events and unparalleled consumer engagement. For more information about AIM™, AIM Pro Walleye Series™, AIM Weekend Walleye Series, AIM sponsors and AIM anglers, visit www.aimfishing.com.
AIM Presenting Sponsors: Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A. and Warrior Boats, LLC.
AIM Supporting Sponsors: Mercury Marine, Nitro Boats, Garmin, Navionics, Power Pole, Worldwide Marine Insurance, AirWave Pedestals, Off Shore Tackle, Bismarck Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Marinette WI, Pro Chattrr, Missouri Secrets Tackle, Gemini Sport Marketing, Anglers Avenue pro shop, Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, JT Outdoors Products, Fox River Lures and Rods.