While I was sorting through ice fishing reports on Tuesday, I stumbled into some comments from conservation officers in the greater Grand Rapids area. Slush, and problems related to it, was mentioned several times in their reports.
Ordinarily, I’d have my sights set on fishing small waters for panfish right now. But those same conservation officers reported that the majority of slushy areas were related primarily to the deeper water panfish lakes.
Because of the timing of this year’s “freeze up”, it might actually make more sense for anglers in the Grand Rapids area to focus on larger, shallower lakes.
For example, I’ve fielded several reports from Winnibigoshish and over there; the wind blew most of the first snowfall off of the ice. There's more snow out there now because we didn’t have as much wind with the second snowstorm, but overall, there’s less snow there than there is on the small lakes. There’s been mention of some snow drifts and also some pressure ridges, but for the most part, anglers seem to be getting around okay with ATVs.
I don’t have as much info from Leech Lake to work with, but there are a few reports trickling in. I’ll be looking for updates from that area throughout the day and will add them as they become available.
Whether you plan to pursue panfish or walleyes this weekend, I’d suggest focusing on the shallowest lakes, with the most surface area exposed to wind. I’d shy away from the tiny lakes, especially if they have deep water. They froze late and don’t have enough ice to support the snow loads right now.
Let’s hope that the cold weather is enough to help. Whatever you decide to do this weekend, be safe and don’t take unnecessary risks. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Ice conditions have varied extremely across the Northland. Conditions range from smaller lakes laden with slush and heavy snow having roughly 6”-9” of ice, to larger lakes having scant snow cover and moderately fishable ice in upwards of 5 inches.
Although ice conditions have room for improvement, the fishing has been rather exceptional. The early season Walleye bite is never disappointing to say the least. We are finding them in 6’-12’ of water and also in 17’-28’ on area lakes, working edges of the breaks off of flats or shoreline points.
Small Spoons tipped with a minnow head or jigging raps have been the best. Also, try using set-lines with a simple set up, plain hook and a Shiner or Sucker Minnow.
Crappies and Bluegills have been good on smaller bodies of water over the basins and along the weedlines. Look to the inside turns or weed points, most productive baits have been tiny spoons or tungsten jigs tipped with Clam Maki Plastics or a Waxworm.
As it always is, mobility has been key to staying on active fish. “Hole-Hopping” and moving around following the school has led to the best results. As I write this report the outside temp is currently -9° and with the continuing weather it is safe to say we are going to be making some serious ice this week.
So, we are looking forward to the week ahead of us, as ice conditions will continue to improve and become more traversable. Of course, we still advise you to take all necessary precautions, and remember No Ice is Ever Safe Ice." — Justin & Alice Wiese, Wheezy Guide Service 218-275-7525
"On Winnie we have 9 to 10 inches of good ice. Obviously temps are negative now, so there's more ice in the making as we speak. Spearing has been productive with clear water, however slowed with this cold snap. Lots of jumbo perch being seen thru the spear houses." - Tom & Jessica, Becker's Resort 218-665-2268
"Ice is at 13" straight out and 10" out and to the left. We are parking on the ice and driving straight out. We did get 6" or so of snow in the last few days. Getting around on the ice is pretty good, no signs of slush yet and with this cold, I don't think we will.
Spearing waters are not the best with visibility at about 6ft on most days. Getting some nice northers with a 16 lber speared on Saturday along with a few smaller ones. Nice Jumbo perch and a few crappie and sunnies in the mix too." — Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. Reservations 218-659-4612
"Ice Conditions - Ice conditions continue to improve slowly this last week. Anglers are reporting 8-12 inches of good ice on many of the area lakes. Slush remains a non issue despite several inches of snow this last week. Permanent houses have begun popping up on many area lakes.
Walleye - Walleye anglers have been enjoying steady fishing during the evening hours and after dark in 18-23 feet of water. Anglers have been reporting that the majority of bites have been on dead sticks. Walleyes are being attracted to jigging spoons or jigging raps, but have been reluctant to hit them. Instead they choose to hit the minnow hanging under the dead stick.
Panfish - Panfisherman continue to locate crappies and sunnies in and around weedbeds in 10 feet of water and less. Small tungsten jigs or small jigging spoons tipped with wax worms has been the go to presentation for many anglers. Anglers have been checking classic basins locations for panfish in deeper water but success has been limited for them.
Pike - Pike anglers took advantage of warm temps to pepper bays with tip ups. They have been rewarded with some nice fish. Big lively sucker minnows have been the top producing bait this last week. Spear fisherman too have been spearing some nice pike too." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Many resorts already have some ice fishing houses on the lake. There are others watching ice conditions in the areas they fish to decide the right time to begin moving their shelters out. There's very little snow on the ice right now and below zero temperatures this week will help speed up the process.
There are some ice roads opening up to ATV and snowmobile traffic. Check with your favorite resort or outfitter about access prior to coming up.
As expected, the ice fishing action has been excellent to start out the season. There are good numbers of eater size fish being caught and there are some trophies mixed in as well. Anglers will also catch some pout, perch, tullibee and an occasional pike or sturgeon.
Most anglers are finding walleyes and sauger in 21 to 26 feet of water. There’s also a shallow bite happening in 18 to 20 feet of water during morning and evening.
Standard presentation for many anglers on LOW is fishing with one jigging rod and dead sticking a 2nd line and this system is working well right now.
Most of the Rainy River is frozen over now, with a few random spots still showing open water. There is no traffic on the river at this time while ice is forming. Extra caution is always needed with current and this year the current is stronger than most years.
Some resorts up at the Northwest Angle have a few fish houses out and initial fishing reports for walleyes are excellent.
Some areas still need time to develop safe ice, with high current this year that will take longer than usual.
Forecast is favorable, with subzero temperatures during the week. The majority of ice traffic is snowmobiles thus far. It's a must to stick to resort marked trails or know the area you are traveling. " — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"There were several groups of ice fishermen out on Bowstring this weekend. Except for 1 plywood fish-house, everyone else was using portable shelters.
There have been no cars out on the ice yet and folks will have to find their way around some snow drifts and a pressure ridge that is growing if they plan to travel by ATV.
The weekend offered great weather to be out fishing, there were no houses required. The fishing was OK, but certainly not great." — David Wanner, Northern Acres Resort 218-659-2845
I made it home from the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show just in time to move the piles of snow that fell overnight Sunday and early Monday. The Grand Rapids area got hit a little harder this week than we did by the first winter storm that occured on Thanksgiving weekend. I guess there's about 8 inches of fresh snow on top of the 6 to 7 inches that was already there.
With snow removal behind me, I can spend the day today getting caught up on fishing reports. Please tune in again, there will be additional reports posted as they become available. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL 1211
For me, the quote of the day at the December 3, 2019 meeting of Minnesota’s Panfish Workgroup was; “I’m not happy, but I’m less unhappy than I was last winter.” And as far as I’m concerned, Dave Thompson, owner of Fisherman’s Village Resort does have good reason to be less unhappy these days.
MN DNR fisheries staff rolled out the timeline for a plan that moves one of Thompson’s longtime goals, helping preserve quality sunfish populations in Minnesota is moving a few steps forward.
Minnesota’s “Quality Bluegill Initiative” came about after the MN DNR tabled any movement toward adopting new statewide sunfish regulations late in 2018. The new QBI strategy; creating a statewide list of lakes where sunfish would likely benefit from special regulations was rolled out early last summer.
A presentation at Tuesday’s meeting by Grand Rapids Area Fisheries Manager; Dave Weitzel who co-chairs the panfish workgroup brought us up to speed on where we’ve been and where we’re heading.
At the MN Fisheries Supervisor Conference last summer, fisheries staff was presented with a review of data from 20 lakes that already have special regulations. Of those 20, 9 lakes with a special 10 sunfish regulation were shown to have “maintained” their current average size sunfish.
Sunfish size structure in the other 11 lakes, those with a special 5 sunfish regulation, actually increased by an average of .7 inches. Additionally, the average ages of sunfish in those 11 lakes also increased by 1 year.
It’s likely that the data helped move the QBI into the fast lane. Fisheries supervisors approved the plan and began working on building a list of suggestions compiled by staff from all regions of the state. The list of lakes that they believed to be good candidates now stands at upwards of 150 lakes.
Public sentiment for QBI has been favorable, but there will still be a variety of surveys and/or polls to assess public opinion about specific lakes on list. Each one of those lakes will be further reviewed by fisheries staff and during that time, the list will be streamlined. Weitzel; “Highly controversial lakes will be removed prior to delivery of any final list for approval.”
Jon Hansen, MN DNR program consultant doesn’t foresee any new roadblocks along the way and anticipates that a large number of lakes on the final list will be approved. Hansen; “We expect about 125 lakes will be approved to receive special regulations during the 2021 season.
Below, you'll find links to previous artilces that will help you learn more about both the Quality Bluegill Initiative and the panfish workgroup. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Bringing Back Big Sunfish (July 2019) • The Sunfish Myth (June 2019) • The Quest For Quality Sunfish; An Uphill Battle (December 2018) • Minnesota's Quality Bluegill Initiative (October 2019) • What’s The Value of a Sunfish? •
Anyone interested in the health and welfare of Lake Winnie’s walleye population is encouraged to attend a public meeting today, Wednesday December 4, 2019 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM.
Grand Rapids area fisheries staff will discuss current population trends and present an outlook for the upcoming 2020 fishing season.
The meeting location will be at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids, 402 SE 11th St, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (218) 327-4436 For more information contact Grand Rapids Area Fisheries 218-328-8836
"On the south end of Lake of the Woods, the majority of the big lake is iced over. The area was missed by heavy snowfall from last weekend's snow storm and that will help ice creation.
The forecast looks optimistic with the daily low temps forecasted in the teens and single digits. Resorts are monitoring ice conditions closely. Resorts have been out checking ice and in some cases starting to mark trails.
No ice fishing by resorts is taking place on the main lake at this time, but there is some Northern Pike spearing taking place on shallow, back bays.
On the Rainy River there is still areas of open water in the main channel. The edges and calm bays have iced up.
There is no traffic on the river at this time while ice is forming. Extra caution is always needed with current and this year the current is stronger than most years.
Up at the NW Angle, ice is forming nicely. With that being said, there is higher than normal current this year so working through a resort or outfitter is always a good idea as they will keep you away from areas that are suspect.
With the many islands in the Angle, there are necked down or shallow areas causing unsafe ice conditions throughout the entire winter. Knowledge of the area is important.
There is no ice fishing in the NW Angle as of yet, but resorts will communicate when ice fishing begins." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We are looking forward to the upcoming ice fishing season. We have started to make some ice but haven’t begun fishing yet. We will be checking the ice on the bay in a few days as we watch for open spots. We are anxious to get out fishing and to see all of you but safety must come first.
We will be at the St. Paul Ice Show December 6th – 8th. Stop by the Border View Lodge booth to see Mike and Lisa and say Hi.
We still have some availability this year at Border View Lodge and if you are looking for space for groups from 4-18 people this winter, check out Settlers Point. We have some availability for groups that want to be close to all the action, but have their own quiet place to stay overnight." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
Making your bait easier for fish to see definitely increases the number that will come over to look at your offering.
We all know that “lighting up” an ice fishing lure can make a tremendous difference in terms of visibility. But we know too that just lighting up the lure isn’t the only thing that triggers fish to strike. The combination of colors, patterns and natural appearance provide convincing detail that give fish a reason to strike.
Jeff Sundin shares his thoughts about how combining light with subtle changes in colors and patterns helps him put more walleyes on the ice.
View Video and Learn More >> Subtle Glowing Colors Catch More and Bigger Fish Through The Ice
"We will be opening on January 3, 2020 for the ice fishing season with our plowed access open to the public. We have not had any atv or snowmobile traffic to date. Feel free to call for current conditions, 218-246-2560. Thanks!" Rick and Kim Leonhardt Highbanks Resort
"We’ve got ice out in front of Trappers Landing Lodge and the whole main body of Leech is frozen. Currently there is 6 to 8 inches of ice out to Olson's reef (300 yards off shore).
There has been no pressure on the lake in terms of fisherman right now so very limited reports on fish catching around the area. Usually this time of year you do not need to venture out very far to find a walleye, maybe 50 to 60 yards off shore will get us in the right neighborhood.
We will be waiting for some cooler temps and hopefully some thicker ice in the upcoming weeks." — Josh Bullivant, Trappers Landing Lodge (218) 836-2500
"We have our houses out on the ice at Third River of Lake Winnie.
Ice thickness straight out from the landing is at 10 inches, but further east, down at the Clay Banks the ice is only 6 inches thick.
We did get that snow storm over the weekend and our area received got about 5 inches or something like that. Todd has the access road plowed down to the ice and to the pull out shelters. With colder overnight temperatures tonight and into the early part of this week, we should be parking on the ice in a few days.
The water clarity is nice, right now you can make out the bottom out front of the landing in the flowage and visibility seems even a little better down at the clay banks.
The guys that were out this weekend got some fish including 3 that was 11, 8 and 7 pounds along with a few smaller end fish as well. They reported seeing a lot of northern, including one very big one and a couple that they guessed at about 10 pounds.
We have been seeing some panfish too; a mixture of perch, crappie and even some sunnies.
We currently have openings both here at the lodge and in our rentals spear houses. So give us a call if you need a place to stay or just want to try out spearing." — Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. Reservations 218-659-4612
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