"The Grand Rapids Area Lakes seem to be holding up quite well given the unusually warm, but much appreciated above average temperatures. Most lakes have enough snow on the ice that driving a vehicle would be difficult if there wasn’t a road system established on the lake. Snowmobiles and tracked vehicles should have no problem getting around and most people are reporting very little slush on the lakes.
Monday, I decided to check out one of my favorite crappie lakes to see what was going on there. I pulled the Otter fish house out with the snowmobile to one of the deep holes in the lake that I was familiar with. I drilled quite a few holes through 18 inches of ice and checked each with my electronics. I found small schools of crappies, usually in groups of 1 to 5 fish. I dropped down a wax worm on a tungsten jig in each hole where I marked fish; usually finding at least 1 fish in the group that would slowly rise to the lure. Unfortunately, when they got to the bait, they would not bite.
If I gave the lure a jig, they would quickly swim off - definitely negative fish and typical for late January. So, rather than jigging the presentation, I let the bait sit still in the water column and slowly raised or lowered it. By slow, I mean slow, like half an inch per second slow.
The first crappie that I fooled was a nice 13.5-inch slab, pictured left. It was a solid hit and put up a great fight on my ultra-light rod. The next fish didn't come until I switched holes and dropped it slowly above its location. Up came a 12-inch crappie and a pattern was beginning to take shape. The most exciting catch was another 13-inch slab that came from 6 feet away to meet my lure as it descended. That fish met the lure 5 feet off the bottom with a ferocious (for a crappie) strike.
That was the key on this day, find a spot where I marked fish, fish slowly and not jig the lure. By doing that, I was able to ice about a half dozen respectable crappies in the couple of hours that I was out on my catch and release mission. Not bad for a late January, midday excursion.
The next morning, before I left for the lake, I texted my good friend Jim to see what he was up to. He was on Pokegama Lake working on a mixed bag of fish.
Jim was fishing the shallows in 7 feet of crystal-clear water. Sight fishing is what he calls it, fishing over the top of wilted coontail weeds laying on the bottom. After spearing a 25-1/2 inch northern pike earlier in the morning, he started fishing a custom 1/16 ounce J.E. Jig tipped with a small fathead minnow.
This jig never lets him down, but before you try to find these jigs on the internet, I should tell you that Jim makes his own jigs and J.E. Jigs are what I call them, it is an inside joke!. He caught enough dinner sized perch for supper along with a couple of dogfish and the 20-inch largemouth pictured here. For those of you who have never caught a bass through the ice, let me tell you, bass fishing through the ice is a whole lot of fun!
If you get a chance to get out midweek, do it. It sounds like we will be seeing much colder temps by this upcoming weekend so fishing outside of a shelter is for the tough guys. Not me; I'll be using the Otter as a shelter instead of just a sled to carry my gear. I may even get the hard sided fish-house out, that one fishes exceptionally nice in the cold weather. Stay safe and God Bless those about to fish!" — Dave Buxengard
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" It is ice fishing season and people are out on the ice at the south end of lake of the woods, enjoying everything that goes along with it.
Resorts are working hard moving houses, strategically trying to figure out where the best fishing areas will be for walleyes and saugers. The most active depths for fishing this past week continued to be 30 to 36 feet of water. In addition to the walleyes and saugers, eelpout (burbot), pike, jumbo perch, tullibees and a few crappies and sturgeon have been in the mix.
Much like last week, there are numbers of smaller walleyes and saugers, mixed with eater size (under 19.5 inches) fish being caught and sorted through. Anglers are also catching and releasing some slot fish (19.5 to 28 inches) and the occasional trophy walleye (28 inches and over).
When you see a lot of lookers and not biters, try downsizing your presentation. Using a small lure with a small piece of minnow on the jigging line can be productive. Another technique is using a lipless crankbait with rattles to not only pull fish in, but to induce some reaction bites.
On your second line, use a live minnow set anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet off the bottom. A plain colored hook with a sinker just above the minnow has been working well.
Please keep speeds low on the ice roads. Driving fast creates a wave under the ice that ultimately damages the ice. Please remember to Keep It Clean and remove all trash and waste from the ice. Have a plan.
The morning and evening bite is best for those ice fishing for walleyes and saugers on the Rainy River. Mainly locals this time of year fish in the river as it is close to their home, and they know the safer ice. As conditions can vary greatly between spots, anglers who are unfamiliar with the Rainy River ice conditions are advised to work through a resort or outfitter for safety.
Some good fish are being reported caught up at the Northwest Angle. Resorts are fishing structure, as well as targeting deeper mud for a nice mix of various sized walleyes including some big fish over 28 inches. Big northern pike are showing up, often surprising walleye anglers and there are some jumbo perch in the mix too. Use the one two punch, jigging line combined with a deadstick.
Nice crappies are being targeted and caught on the Ontario side of the lake amongst the islands. When fishing Canada, remember that credentials are needed, the ice is considered to be land by customs definitions. It is also wise to be aware of varying ice conditions due to neck down areas, current, etc. Angle resorts can assist with that special trip.
Driving through Canada to the Angle no longer requires COVID vaccinations or the use of the ArriveCan App. For those looking to access the Angle while avoiding customs, snowmobiling across the lake on the marked trails, utilizing the Lake of the Woods Passenger (bombardier) Service or flying up via Lake Country Air are all good options." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Lake Trout - As unusually warm temps continue, unusually slow lake trout fishing also continues. While anglers continue to see good numbers of trout, they have been reporting that lakers have been very uninterested in their presentation.
Anglers seeing the best numbers have been fishing close to very sharpe dropoffs, in 40 to 60 feet of water. Small bucktails in the 1/2oz or smaller and small spoons have been accounting for the majority of fish caught.
Stream trout - Rainbows continue to be active and continue to be caught on shallow flats. Dead minnows layed on the bottom has been very effective, but small spoons and jigs tipped with wax worms has also been effective. While not the easiest thing to do, deadsticking your waxies or dead minnow has been the best technique for catching trout.
Panfish - While these unusually warm temps have been bad for trout, it seems to have panfish thinking it’s spring and fishing for crappies and sunnies has been unusually good for this time of the year. Anglers have been finding both in there deep wintering holes. Waxies or minnows, tipped on a jig has been very effective on them. Shallow weedlines have also been productive, but for best results look to deeper water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Hey Jeff, “(I) Was up fishing the Grand Rapids area last week and pulled this "cabbage weed" out of a lake. I was shocked by the green color.
Could it still be alive at this time of year? I was under the impression that these die in the fall, lay down, decompose, and are replaced by new plants in the spring. Maybe not?” Craig Bowron, St Paul, Minnesota
Good question Craig, thank you! Your understanding of submerged plant life in Minnesota lakes is not actually that far off. You’re right, many varieties of vegetation in our lakes do mature during late summer and then fade away as cool water temperatures set in during fall. Some varieties virtually disappear during the cold-water period, while others simply “thin” out significantly.
Some of the broad leaf plant varieties, ones that most anglers call “Cabbage” are heartier than the rest. While they may not always survive during winter, often, they can and do. All that is required for these plants to stay green throughout winter is enough light penetration to generate photosynthesis. The water depths they thrive in are typically shallow enough to allow that, provided the local snow cover is not too deep and there is at least some sunshine making it through the ice.
I’m not the foremost authority on freshwater vegetation, but from the images you provided, I’m fairly confident that what you found on your trip was Large Leaf Pondweed. This plant, along with Clasping Leaf Pondweed, are the ones I encounter most often during the ice fishing season. In some waters, they seem to always stay green under the ice and I think that relates to water clarity. Obviously, sunlight gets through to the plants more easily in clear water, and this impacts wintertime survival too. For me, finding green plants in clear water lakes is more common than it is in dark or stained water.
During summer, I’d expect to find crappies there, and sometimes walleyes too. But during winter, I associate cabbage plants like you’ve shown here, with sunfish, largemouth bass, and northern pike. In fact, one of my favorite multi-species ice fishing lakes has cabbage patches like these and Whenever I fish there, I work along the edges very thoroughly.
The photo right, taken about 10 years ago, when I was entertaining my then "boss" from Pradco Outdoor Brands. This was one of those trips where we fished a cabbage patch, like yours, in the Grand Rapids area. We caught perch, sunfish pike and bass along that cabbage patch, all on the same lures. As you can see in the photos, Melinda was using on of my all-time favorite lures, a Lindy Frostee tipped with waxworms.
That afternoon, we were supposed to leave the lake and head for Winnie to catch some walleyes. The problem was that Melinda, an Arkansas resident, was having so much fun that she wouldn’t let me pack up the gear to leave. We never did fish for walleyes, we stayed near the edge of the cabbage patch right up until sunset and caught fish the whole time.
In my mind, that story, while not necessarily pertinent to your exact question, does illustrate how important your discovery might be for you. It’s hard to say without seeing it firsthand, but if the cabbage patch you located is large enough, it is entirely possible that you have discovered a mixed bag honey hole of your own.
By the way, some species, pike and perch for example, might prefer to set up shop in the heart of vegetation like this. Sunfish and bass often prefer to roam along the outer edges. Crappies and occasionally walleyes move along clean marl and gravel stretches, well outside of the cabbage edges.
You can learn more about which specific varieties of plants you’ll encounter in most Minnesota lakes by using one of my “little tricks” for researching new water. Look up your lake on the MN DNR Lake finder website and click on the tab “Aquatic Plant Survey”. I use these reports to prepare presentations that are most likely to be productive at the time I’ll be visiting the lake. I can’t overstate what a time saver this is, in certain situations.
Thanks again for the great question, maybe you don’t know it, but you just helped your fellow anglers by bringing up an important subject that often gets overlooked during the ice fish season. I hope your cabbage patch turns out to be a great find for you! — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Ice fishing for bass is something that is often overlooked throughout the north country. These largely targeted open-water fish seem to escape the minds of most anglers when lakes harden up for the winter. Wired2fish’s Nick Dumke doesn’t forget about his little green friends, though. In this video, Dumke shows us how to ice fish for bass with some sound location advice and a handful of proven tactics and techniques. *Featured product listing at the bottom.
Like most fish species, largemouth bass congregate and head toward deeper water when temperatures start to cool off. Deep basins provide warmer water and, as a result of that, food. In his search for largemouth, Dumke focuses his efforts on the edges of basins.
Although largemouth are much more lethargic under the ice, they rarely stop moving. While examining forward-facing sonar, Dumke noticed that largemouth bass often ..." View Video and Learn More >> Ice Fishing for Bass | Locations and Top Tactics
I and the Hippie Chick already knew that a “family ice fishing trip” was on the schedule for a short, Sunday afternoon on the lake. So that prompted a mid-week exploratory search for lakes that were close to home and where we could easily access the ice by vehicle. Fishing was a consideration, but infrastructure, in this instance, was the key to making this outing a successful one.
The list of lakes that fit this description near Grand Rapids isn’t that long, but there are a few. The one we settled on was Big Splithand, about 15 minutes south of town. The Mobergs, Brian and Megan own and operate the Big Splithand Bar and Grill, and there, we could all get together, have lunch, and then access the lake using their plowed roads. The plan was to drive out, take our best guess at picking a spot close to the road where we could park vehicles and then hoof it off-road to set up fishing headquarters.
Depending on luck isn’t the best way to plan a high-level fishing trip, but sometimes, it is all we really have to work with. There were some panfish moving and we caught a mix of sunfish and crappies. The size of the fish didn’t rank well with Big Splithand’s reputation for producing quality panfish, but they were entertaining. Especially entertaining to our Grand Daughter Charlotte, aka “Charli” Ray, who had her first adventure on the ice. She loved the sunfish, pictured left, almost as much as she loved the ice scooper, word to the wise, don’t try to take it away!
We caught a few fish on every lure we dropped down, but we also watched tons of fish swim into range, look at the offerings and then swim away. So, I can’t offer breaking news about a hot pattern, but for what it’s worth, we didn’t catch any fish on minnows, only on waxworms.
So, on Sunday, our fishing “luck” wasn’t great, but the plan still turned out to be a good one. Grabbing lunch at the lodge before going out on the lake was a great idea, and their plowed roads worked out great for us too. They cover enough territory to offer folks some room to work, but not so much as to allow travel to all 4 corners of the lake. Maybe anglers are punching out trails off the main roads, or maybe somebody is out there doing some of their own plowing. Either way, vehicle traffic at Splithand is more spread out than I've seen in past years. Using the plowed roads, a group of more serious anglers could spread out and cover enough ice to eventually find some active fish, I think.
There were enough snow drifts out there to make me think that off-road driving wouldn’t be a good idea. I do think that a snowmobile or track machine would take you anywhere you want to go. Word around town is that those conditions are prevalent around the Grand Rapids area. During my exploration last week, I spied several lakes where “user developed roads” led to the more popular fishing spots. Snowmobiles appear to be moving freely, but caution is advised because there are still some persistent slushy spots out there.
We have some more fishing planned for later this week, and before that, more exploration. To the extent that it might be helpful, I’ll share whatever I learn.
OH and by the way, folks that love adventure can find some interesting things to do right now too. Snowmobiling out of Nestor Falls, one friend had some good luck catching walleyes this last week, and again this Saturday. The same crew took a day trip, snowmobiling onto Kabetogama and had what he called a “decent afternoon” yesterday (Sunday 1-22).
Our daughter Joelle’s fiancé Patrick, has been sneaking out somewhere around Grand Marais and fishing for trout. We got the report yesterday while we were fishing and he had iced a couple of decent trout and lost another larger one. The trout, pictured above left, are typical of what they usually catch, but occasionally, they do hook into lunkers too. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Lake Trout - 2023 Lake Trout opener was a slow one for the majority anglers. Despite excellent travel conditions out on the ice and anglers able to fish great spots normally off limits to everyone but snowmobilers, lakers failed to show up. There were however a few groups that found active trout and really had a amazing day lake trout fishing. These groups found active trout on classic trout spots. Main lake points with sharpe drop offs were the areas these lucky group fished. Aggressively jigged tubes and spoons were the ticket for them, as well as setting out dead suckers, under a tip up. 30 to 50 feet of water was the best depth to find trout.
Stream Trout fishing was also unusually slow for opening weekend also. Anglers did catch plenty of trout but many anglers struggled to get a limit of streamers for dinner. Anglers found trout near timber or weedbeds in 10 ft of water or less. Jigging spoons or small tungsten jigs, tipped with wax worms or dead minnow was the ticket for anglers.
Walleye anglers have been locating walleyes in really shallow water for this time of the year. 10-15 feet of water at the mouths of shallow bays has been best. Best times has been during the evening hours. Deadsticking a lively minnow on a orange hook has been the best technique.
Northern Pike, with the above average temps anglers continue to throw out tip ups for pike and continue to have good results. Active pike continue to be found is shallow bays with either a river coming into it or a weedbed in the bay. Dead suckers has been best, but live suckers have also been catching plenty of big pike." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
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"Resorts, Ice Shelter Rental Operators, and anglers are in the heart of the ice fishing season up on Lake of the Woods. Resorts continue to move houses with a goal of staying on the walleyes and saugers. The most active depths for fishing this past week was 30 to 36 feet of water.
Numbers of smaller walleyes and sauger are being caught. Anglers are sorting through the mix, caputuring some nice eaters, under 19.5 inches, and releasing some slot fish 19.5 to 28 inches, after a photo like the one you see here. Trophy walleyes, 28 inches and over, come along at random intervals too.
Jigging with small jigging spoons tipped with a piece of minnow has been effective. Try glow, lighted lure colors on cloudy days and during twilight periods. Try gold or even silver on sunny days. "The Wonder Bread" color, (white with colored spots), chartreuse, glow red and gold have all been good colors.
To increase the odds of action, rig up a deadstick rod using a slip float, plaing hook or larger size blade lure and tip it with a lively minnow. Often, tentative fish, attratced but not striking the jigging lures, will take the live minnow instead.
Posession limits anywhere on the Minnesota side of LOW is a combined total limit of 6 fish. Of the 6, a total of 4 walleye may be in posession, the remaining 2 could be sauger. Any other combination of sauger and walleye is allowed as long as you do not have more than 4 walleyes. Trophy walleye, 28 inches or longer may be harvested, provided that an angler posesses no more than 1 fish over 28 inches.
Watching electronics will help you understand the mood of the fish, see where they are in the water column and tip you off on when they are swimming through.
In addition to the walleyes and saugers, eelpout (burbot), pike, jumbo perch, tullibees and a few crappies and sturgeon have been in the mix.
Please remember to Keep It Clean and remove all trash and waste from the ice. Have a plan.
As border waters, LOW has extended ice fishing regulations. Fish houses can be overnight through March 31st, walleye and saugers open through April 14th on the lake, pike never close.
The report from Rainy River similar is similar to the report of last week. There's a mixed bag of walleyes and saugers with the morning and evening bite being the best. Using a jig and minnow in one hole and deadsticking with a minnow just off of the bottom on the second hole working the best. Ice conditions vary on the river as there is current, work through a resort or outfitter for safety.
It's been a great week of ice fishing up at the Northwest Angle too. Resorts are fishing many different areas of the Angle, many with with good results. Lots of fish in a lot of different areas which is good. There's a nice mix of small fish, eaters, slots and trophies. Some big pike showing up for walleye anglers. Some anglers like this, some, not so much! They are big, put up a heck of a fight and while they are around your house, there is a good chance the walleyes and saugers are not. Some nice crappies being caught on the Ontario side of the lake amongst the islands. Some Angle resorts can assist with that special trip.
Driving through Canada to the Angle no longer requires COVID vaccinations or the use of the ArriveCan App. For those looking to access the Angle while avoiding customs, snowmobiling across the lake on the marked trails, utilizing the Lake of the Woods Passenger (bombardier) Service or flying up via Lake Country Air are all good options." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Only a week ago, I was offering advice suggesting that Mille Lakes might be a better destination than the snowy, slushy lakes of north central Minnesota. But the snowfall that dropped over Mille Lacs last week brought equally tough travel conditions to the big lake. Reports like these are now the rule, not the exception on Lake Mille Lacs.
Brandt’s Ice Fishing on Lake Mille Lacs “We are giving it our all, but this is what we’re encountering. Some areas are great, then we run into areas with a lot of slush. It’s taken 3 plow trucks, 3 full days to attempt to make a road from 1 1/4 to Sloppy’s (3 miles out). We will get there, it’s just quite a process this year."
"We hope to start pulling private shelters this weekend, will have more info come later Thursday. You will need to have your roof shoveled off and the front pulls of fish houses shoveled out. If you’re unable to do this, we’ve gathered a crew that will work on Thursday, $50 per roof. It’s a new concept for us too, but with the amount of ice that we have 13 to 16 inches where we’ve plowed, it can’t withstand the weight of the snow on the house without flooding. Day by day for now, as always, we’ll keep you posted!”
Steve Johnson, Johnson’s Portside summed it up in a video saying succinctly, “Ice conditions are great, and they suck.” His point was that there are places on the lake that offer good access, others that are slush filled and treacherous and everything in between. There are no resorts that can offer ice anglers a clear path to all the territory they’d ordinarily have access to.
The map, published by Garrison Bait and Sports illustrates what the Hippie Chick and saw last weekend while we were driving to Minneapolis along US Hwy. 169. We noticed that all the traffic from the northeast, down to the southeast side of the lake was limited to about 1 mile or less of the shoreline.
Garrison Sports, Bait & Tackle, "Plan for the weekend are as follows: We will be letting trucks and wheelhouses out the the break line starting tomorrow. We have spots plowed from 13 to about 20 feet of water. When those spots are full, then we are full for the weekend. To get to the reef and the mud, it will still require ATVs, SxS and snowmobiles. We have still have our 5x8 day houses out on the mud and our 10x20 sleepers on the break give us a call at 320-692-4477 to make reservations!"
Backtracking to Johnson’s video, he reports that 90% of the lake has not yet been fished this winter. Where you can get out, weight and size restrictions may be imposed. Small trucks are being allowed out on some roads, side by side and ATVs are the only vehicles allowed out at others.
Most of the better resorts and rental operators are updating their “social” pages. But if you’re thinking about fishing Mille Lacs this weekend, you may receive better information, faster by logging on here to the >> Lake Mille Lacs Webpage. Of course, we’ll post updates here too, whenever they’re available. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Even if travel conditions on the ice are tough and fishing hasn’t been my highest priority, it’s still been an interesting winter so far. Some of my new news is pretty exciting, but hasn’t been made public yet, so I can’t disclose it this morning. But once there’s a public announcement, you’ll be the first one I share it with!
Here’s one bit of info I can share though, it’s this message that popped up in my email inbox earlier this week.
“Congratulations! On behalf of the Fisheries Section Manager, Brad Parsons, and the DNR’s Panfish Technical Team, I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected to serve on the Panfish Workgroup. In this role, you will advise the Department of Natural Resources on its fisheries management through discussion, input, and planning.”
You may recall hearing about the panfish workgroup before, this is not my first term, it’s a renewal. The most important reason for serving, for me, is the accessibility of real knowledge. That’s why I applied for a 2nd term, to maintain access to biologists, field staff, experienced anglers, and other industry experts that know why and how fish do what they do. I can’t overstate the importance of being allowed to ask questions and learn from the answers that these folks can and do provide.
How you can benefit is by having access to me. Yes, that’s right, I, along with other members, can offer you a direct link to share your thoughts, express your concerns, or ask technical questions of your own. When we, the members of the panfish workgroup sign on, we all agree to make our contact information public. Now you already know that my email address and phone number are added to every post and fishing article I write. So, getting in touch with me is easy.
DNR fisheries message to members says, “Members represent a variety of viewpoints and work together with DNR Fisheries staff to address topics such as recreation, water quality, fish habitat, fish management, and effects on local economies. Your contributions will help guide policy and improve the state’s responsiveness to issues.”
Folks occasionally, because of reading something on “fuse block” or seeing a video on “trash smack”, believe that they have knowledge. What I’ve noticed though is how often that so called “knowledge” is really nothing more than opinion. Sometimes those opinions are close to reality, sometimes not so close and sometimes, have nothing to do with any factual information at all. If you’ve noticed that too and want to stay a step ahead of the rest by getting your answers from actual experts, then take me up on my offer and get in touch. OR Use this to for more information about all of the >> MN DNR Fisheries Workgroups. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Whether at a fishing show or on the ice or through his popular daily fishing reports, Jeff Sundin commonly gets asked about the gear he uses for ice fishing. We’re excited to be able to share his answer to that question.
Anglers sometimes ask about the rods, reels and lines I use for ice fishing. Like with any tool, the trick is to correctly match fishing rods and reels with the task that they’ll be required to perform. Having the “latest and greatest” (typical translation: most expensive) gear isn’t always the best solution.
High-end, specialized gear can offer certain tactical advantages, but sometimes there are trade-offs that ..." Learn More >> Select The Best Ice Rods, Reels and Lures January 11, 2023
"Boundary Waters Canoe Area Lake Trout - Lake Trout bite improved in the BWCA as more seasonal temps returned to the area. Active lakers were caught in 40-60 feet of water with red/white tubes. Large deep flats, a long shorelines were great areas to find active trout looking for food. Dead baits layed on the bottom, with a tip up or set line we’re less effective this last week.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Stream Trout - Brook trout anglers found active brookies up in shallow water, in 5 feet or less. Downed trees seemed to be the best structure to fish for brookies. Jigging spoons tipped with wax worms or minnow heads was very effective on them. White and chartreuse were very effective colors last week.
Walleye - Walleye anglers reported a improvement in the bite and some big walleyes, close to 30 in mark, were caught this last week. Key areas has been where sand transitions to mud in a little deeper water 20-25 feet of water. Deadsticking a shiner has been the most effective technique this last week. After dark has also been the best time to for catching walleyes.
Northern Pike - Trophy pike were active this last week as several in the 40” range were landed this last week. A few pike were caught by lake trout anglers looking for trout. These pike were caught 10-15 feet under the ice, over 40-60 feet of water. These pike must be looking for ciscos or trout when they are found out that deep. Angler targeting pike found them working weedlines and river mouths, in 10 feet of water or less. Dead suckers or smelt were the baits of choice for these anglers." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"If you’re going to get serious about Ice Fishing, then you need to get serious about an ice auger. Drilling the holes is one of the biggest parts of ice fishing. And a good ice auger is worth its weight in gold.
Anglers today have an abundance of ice fishing augers to choose from, including electric, gas and propane power options, cordless drill and auger assembly configurations, as well as manual hand ice augers. Yet, wading through the various ice auger brands, models and features to find the best ice fishing auger for your needs can be a tad bit daunting, particularly for beginners.
"Overall, it's been a good week of fishing on the south side of Lake of the Woods. With road systems well established, resorts are now busy working on staying on top of the walleyes and saugers. As a rule, fish are moving deeper as the winter progresses. There has been some good activity this past week in 30 to 34 feet of water.
Most anglers report having to sort through a number of smaller fish to find keepers with the occasional larger slot or trophy walleye in the mix. Jigging with a small to medium jigging spoon tipped with a piece of minnow on your jigging line. On your second line, a deadstick with a fathead, rainbow, sucker or live emerald shiner has been effective.
Some effective colors this week have been pink, glow red, yellow and gold.
A number of nice sized eelpout (burbot) being caught this year. Most anglers fishing for walleyes targeting the bottom will catch the pout as they swim through. Normally a minnow head on a jigging spoon or live minnow on a deadstick will entice them to eat. Delicious table fare.
Ice conditions are very good overall with larger trucks and fish houses being allowed on many ice roads. Weight limits are potentially different on every ice road. Check with resorts and ice rental outfitters for the most current info. Please remember to Keep It Clean and remove all trash and waste from the ice. Have a plan.
As happens most years as ice thickens, some cracks at various locations have popped up. It is important to work through a resort or rental shelter outfitter as they monitor conditions, re-route roads and utilize ice bridges as needed.
On the Rainy River, ice anglers report catching a mixed bag of walleyes and sauger, with the morning and evening bite being the best. Use a jig and minnow in one hole, deadstick with a minnow just off of the bottom on the second hole. Ice conditions vary on the river as there is current, work through a resort or outfitter for safety.
They say it's been a great week of fishing up at the Northwest Angle, with good numbers of walleyes being caught. In addition to walleyes which make up most of the catch, jumbo perch, saugers, eelpout and some big pike are showing up as well.
The ice road from Angle Inlet at Young's Bay to the island resorts is open and ice fishing is in full gear.
Driving through Canada to the Angle no longer requires COVID vaccinations or the use of the ArriveCan App.
For those looking to access the Angle while avoiding customs, snowmobiling across the lake on the marked trails, utilizing the Lake of the Woods Passenger (bombardier) Service or flying up via Lake Country Air are all good options.
As these waters share a border with Canada, ice fishing houses are allowed to remain on the ice through March 31, 2023. Walleye and sauger seasons remain open through April 14, 2023 and the northern pike season never closes." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
The ideal world of ice fishing, for me, would be a simple one. A 200-acre lake, a decent population of panfish or good size pike, a path to walk on, a comfortable place to sit and I AM ALL SET. Nowadays this concept makes me a dreamer at best, a dinosaur at worst. Unless we’re talking about ice fishing for trout on many of Minnesota’s inland trout waters. Especially when fishing designated trout lakes that lay within non-motorized areas. On lakes like these, peace and quiet is the name of that game.
The inland water trout season opens on January 14, 2023, and a recent DNR News Release reminded me about the opportunities we have right here, in the Grand Rapids region. I’m not sure why the DNR release singled out the Grand Rapids area, I know that there are trout lakes sprinkled around the entire state. I didn’t figure that finding a place to go trout fishing would be hard, but after doing a little checking, discovered that it is even easier than I thought.
For folks who just want a quick visual of where the trout lakes are, the interactive map of Minnesota’s trout lakes is the easiest. Click on the accompanying image or follow this link to >> “MN Trout Fishing Streams-Lakes MAP”.
If you already have a lake or county in mind, and want a sortable, interactive table containing detailed information, follow this link to >> “Table of MN Trout Lakes and Streams”.
Folks who travel with wheelhouses and prefer plowed roads and parking chutes have reason to be optimistic this weekend too. Numerous announcements from resorts and rental operators on Leech Lake, Lake Mille Lacs, Bowstring Lake, Lake of the Woods, and Lake Winnie have all indicated expansions of travel by pickup trucks and towable shelters on their road systems.
All the roads, and ice conditions on all these lakes are not equal. Some operators continue to ban large trucks like diesels and 1 ton, towing big wheelhouses. Most, while allowing ½ and ¾ tons towing wheelhouses have issued advisories about where and how to navigate their systems of roads.
From Trapper’s Landing on Leech Lake for example, “Please bring some 2x4 or 4x4s to help with flooding. Also try to set your tip-ups at least 60 ft from road banks and your ice houses. Another tip is to block and bank your icehouse before drilling. We will still be allowing 1/2-ton traffic pulling tandems up to 22 ft long and 3/4 ton gas pulling single axels. No Diesel trucks at this time.”
From Mille Lacs, Brandt’s Rentals offers, "The guys have been working hard at clearing roads, but they’re dealing with a lot of slush. It’s a slow process. Where they have plowed, we are gaining ice, only an inch or two, but it’s a start! 2nd Positive note, they made a few passes over to the point yesterday and that went well! So, they’ve plowed passes(roads) out as far as 1 1/4 reef and the point thus far. the Ice thickness on average is still around 12 to 13 inches, a little more in areas that have been plowed."
While Denny’s Resort on Lake Winnie’s south end expands their access offering, “We are finding a consistent 17”, with some areas up to 19”. Our access is open to trucks and wheelhouses. ONLY RESTRICTION: No 1-ton diesels this weekend. We just don’t have enough consistent areas for that much weight. The folks at Becker’s Resort advise, “We are not gaining ice still around 12”, ice heave at access. And some small cracks around reeds. No truck travel advised. ATV and snowmobile travel recommended.”
Travel on small lakes in the Itasca region has been dicey, but it is improving. Settling snow, warmer temperatures and “wicking” have helped to re-freeze slushy spots on lakes that have been well traveled. Popular places that get fishing pressure every winter will likely provide an opportunity this weekend. Snow cover on untraveled lakes remains deep, especially in areas that are heavily drifted. Travel by any vehicles, including snowmobiles, cannot be trusted in these areas. Until we have a full-scale meltdown, avoiding exploring “new territory” would be my best advice. If you do insist on venturing into unfished territory, all of the safety gear, including a floating ice suit is strongly advised.
I and the Hippie Chick have a tour scheduled tomorrow, and we’re likely to get more firsthand info along the way. Watch for a rare, Saturday morning update with late breaking news. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"BWCA Lake Trout - Lake Trout anglers reported a slower then normal start to the lake trout season. Still those kamikaze trout showed up to save several trips from being skunked. Chartreuse and white tube jigs took the lions share of lakers over the weekend. Humps, sharpe breaks and points in 30-50 feet of water was the areas to look for trout.
BWCA Stream Trout - Brook trout anglers found active brookies up in shallow water, in 10 feet or less. Downed trees seemed to be the best structure to fish for brookies. Jigging spoons tipped with wax worms or minnow heads was very effective on them.
Walleye - Walleye anglers reported a slow but steady bite this last week. Active walleyes are largely being found out around rock piles where the rock meets the mud. There has been a decent morning bite on some lakes, but most reports are the the evening and overnight bites have been best. Deadsticking a shiner or pike sucker has been the best technique for these neutral to negative fish.
Pike - While most anglers have moved on from pike fishing, there are still some out there targeting pike. Big suckers and frozen smelt have been very effective for pike as of late. Anglers have been fishing then under a tip up. Shallow weedbeds and river mouths have been the best areas to find pike." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"The holidays have presented anglers with a mixed bag of fish caught on the south side of Lake of the Woods. Many routine fishing trips included groups sorting through an array of small fish, plus some "slot-walleyes", (fish in the 19-1/2 to 28.0 inch range), and a few trophy fish allowed folks to pick away at some eaters for the fish pail.
Saugers of all sizes are being caught. There are a nice number of eater sized fish in the lake providing nice action and good fish frys, but also sorting through the future keepers is part of the day.
Other fish being caught are big eelpout, jumbo perch, pike, tulibees and an occasional sturgeon. As the saying goes, "you never know what you will catch on Lake of the Woods".
Most fishing is taking place in 25 to 32 feet of water. As is common this time of year, fish are moving deeper.
Jig with your favorite jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head or tail. In many cases, smaller presentations, such as 1/8 ounce lures are working the best. On cloudy days, the glow colors have been working the best. On sunny or brighter days, the shinier colors such as gold and sliver have been working well. A combo of colors is also effective. On the deadstick, a live minnow on a small jig or plain hook 1 to 2 feet off of the bottom has been effective. Fish will rise up off of the bottom typically to grab the minnow.
Ice conditions are very good overall. In many cases, larger pickups and wheelhouses are being allowed out. It is important to work through a resort or outfitter and adhere to their current weight limits, stay on the marked path and drive slow.
Ice conditions on the Rainy River vary depending on local current. Anglers should work through a resort or outfitter for safety. For anglers on the river, there have been a mixed bag of walleyes and saugers caught by anglers. A jig and a minnow still is the top producer in catching fish. A few anglers targeting sturgeon with larger holes, heavier rods and equipment. It is a waiting game but some good fish being iced.
Ice fishing is in full gear up at the Northwest Angle. The ice road from Angle Inlet at Young's Bay to the island resorts is open.
A nice mixed bag of fish with walleyes in good numbers. Saugers, jumbo perch, eelpout and pike in the mix also.
Some resorts are fishing on structure, some just off of the edge. Depending upon the spot and depth of water typically determines when walleyes will be in good numbers. Some spots are more conducive to mornings and evenings, with some sporadic daytime activity.
Most anglers reporting nice catches of fish with the occasional trophy mixed in jigging one line, deadsticking the second.
Driving through Canada to the Angle no longer requires COVID vaccinations or the use of the ArriveCan App. For those looking to access the Angle while avoiding customs, there are few options.
" — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"After a long wait, the brutal sub-zero temps subsided, and we were finally able to get out on the ice again. We fished three panfish lakes over the course of two days this week and found the lake conditions better than we expected. The snow has drifted and there is slush in spots, but not as much as one would think after the heavy snow falls we received. The accesses are tougher than usual due to the deep snow.
The wind appears to have blown a fair amount of snow off the lakes as well as into drifts. For those of you thinking about driving a truck on the area lakes, I would advise against that, the drifts are large and deep. Tracked vehicles (snowmobiles and ATVs with tracks) would be the best way to get around on these smaller lakes. We found about 12 to 14 inches of ice in most locations. Check the ice before venturing out on new water. When drilling holes, expect a certain amount of flooding.
As for fishing, it seems to be a typical December panfish bite. You should be able to find panfish in the normal areas you have found them in years past. We were fishing just before a mild cold front and had no problem getting the fish to bite once we found them. Good electronics are a must in locating these fish.
Once found, light rods, light line, and small jigs tipped with wax worms worked well for our guys. Crappie minnows should also be brought along. Today I was fishing a spot where the crappies were aggressive enough that a #4 Rippin Rap in a red-chrome color provided some exciting hits. It’s a lot of fun when a 12 inch crappie thinks he is a 24 inch pike and you find the lure sideways 2 inches down his throat! Needless to say, that one could not be released.
We did not see too many others fishing on these small lakes, granted we were fishing mid-week when most people were working. But the solitude and peacefulness of a Grand Rapids area lake was refreshing. Sometimes we take what we have around us for granted and it takes some quiet time on a panfish lake to appreciate what we have nearby.
For a different style of fishing, the Grand Rapids Highway 2 icehouse parade has been underway all week long. Fish house after fish house are being pulled northward towards Upper Red Lake & Lake of the Woods for New Year’s weekend. Who can blame them, the weather is expected to be in the high 20s through next Tuesday. Ideal temperatures for camping and fishing on the ice.
For those of you whose kids have been in the house for most of their Christmas vacation, get those kids out this weekend. This is going to be the best weather we will see until next March. A small panfish lake is a perfect place for the young ones to fish and run around on. Stay safe and God Bless those about to fish!" — Dave Buxengard
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