The walleye season on Minnesota’s inland lakes closed yesterday and you know what that means right?
Yes, it is time to start the countdown to the walleye fishing opener. In just 75 days walleye anglers will be backing our boats down the ramps at many of Minnesota’s best lakes. I don’t know about you, but this is one open water fishing season that I’ll really be looking forward to!
For anglers who can’t wait another 75 days, there are still some options.
Minnesota lakes that border Canada remain open for walleye fishing through April 14, 2020. Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake are well known late winter destinations, but there are upwards of 50 Minnesota/Canada border lakes that remain open until the April 14 deadline.
The St. Louis, and St. Croix Rivers that border Wisconsin remain open through March 1, 2020. The Mississippi River, including Lake Pepin remains open continuously and has no closed season for walleye fishing.
Continuous fishing for walleye is also allowed on all Minnesota waters that border both North Dakota and Iowa.
Waters that border South Dakota remain open for walleye fishing through March 1, 2020.
The complete list of all border water lakes open for walleye fishing starts at page 56 of the >> 2019 Minnesota Fishing Regulations.
Hard water anglers still have plenty of time to enjoy ice fishing and in many areas, the best fishing of the entire season is yet to come. Perch, crappies and sunfish get active during late winter and so tullibee and burbot, so there’s still plenty of opportunity.
On Sunday, Brad Zdroik wrote; “As always, nice job on keeping us updated with your reports! I have a couple questions for you.
1. What are the current conditions on top of the ice sheet on the larger lakes like Winnie right now? Even though ice thickness may not warrant auger extensions, does the slush/secondary layer of ice above the slush require an extension to actually get down to the main ice sheet? Or has that gone away with some of the warmer temps?
2. Our target species when we come up in mid-March is perch. What triggers their movement from deeper flats/basins to more shallow water? I assume it's not strictly based on time of year, but more dependent on what weather conditions are in any particular season. For instance, if we have an early spring, I assume they move in sooner.
But what's causing that? Can you just attribute it to the weather warming up? I assume they're following a food supply, but I'm not 100% certain how that ties into their spawning schedule.
Thanks again and keep up the good reporting! Brad Zdroik"
A) Brad, Surface conditions have really improved on many lakes in the Itasca Region, especially on the larger, shallower waters, Winnibigoshish included. But I don’t think that the ice has gained a lot of thickness, especially in areas that haven’t been fished much this winter.
Most commonly, anglers and rental operators are reporting that they find a top layer of ice that’s about 6 to 8 inches thick. Under that, there’s a layer of slushy, soft ice covering the main sheet of ice. Reports about the thickness of those main ice sheets are all over the map.
Last week, Craig Brown at McCardle’s Resort on Winnie told me that they were finding very thin ice in areas that haven’t been fished throughout the winter. He said 10 to 12 inches of ice was common, but that there were areas with even less ice than that.
Over in Tamarack Bay, Chad Mertz reported better ice conditions. They have 24 to 30 inches of ice in areas where anglers have been fishing. The hard crust covering the surface is thick enough to allow off road transportation by ATV and snowmobile, but it is not thick enough to allow vehicle traffic.
I haven’t heard anybody mention the need for auger extensions on gas augers yet. But Bill Powell at Fred’s Bait did say that he needed an extension for his K-Drill late last week. I would have an extension available, just to be safe.
The answer to your question about the late winter movement of perch depends a lot on the type of lake that they live in and the food sources that they must choose from.
In deep water lakes, dissolved oxygen levels can be a driving factor, especially in triggering the earliest migrations.
Oxygen levels decrease from the bottom up, forcing fish of all species to either move toward shallower water, or suspend higher in the water column. In my experience, perch don’t suspend very often, so I think this is one reason that we see them move toward shallow water.
Obviously, food sources always influence fish location, but realistically, there is food everywhere. For the most part, perch aren’t too fussy about what they eat, but if there’s an area where they can find bloodworms, they will migrate toward it. I’d offer this article to learn more about >> Bloodworms, Marl and Perch.
As their eggs mature, female perch are influenced by their spawning instincts too. I suspect, that those instincts don’t kick in until ice out, but I’ll need to do some fact checking about how soon spawning instincts begin to affect perch location.
Watch for an update with added information about this, as well as updates about ice conditions later this week. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
The bite can often become tough this time of year, but certainly not impossible. Fishing in the high opportunity windows can still produce satisfying results even in the pits of February, especially since we are now in the final weekend of the Inland Walleye Season, season closes this Sunday 02/23/2020.
Ice Conditions are extremely good right now, and probably the best we have seen yet this season as the snow has settled and the slush has firmed
up on most of the area lakes. Which has led to more fish house and vehicle traffic, but as always use extreme caution and call area resorts and shops to check conditions prior to making your trip. It is also always good practice to periodically check ice conditions while you are venturing out there.
Bluegills and Crappies can be found cruising the weed edges, but there is not much for "green weeds" left this time of year on our local lakes, so any standing weeds or structure would be the area to target over the next couple weeks.
This is where having a quality underwater camera like a Vexilar Fish-Scout really has it benefits. The inside turns of weed flats or along the steep weed points have been good for active fish anywhere from 7'-22' depending on body of water and clarity.
Don’t forget the basin fish either as February into March is a great time of year to chase those deep roaming schools. We generally fish basins from 18'-35' of water. However, use caution when fishing anything deeper than 25' if you do not plan on keeping the fish. Many people do not realize but panfish are not able to rapidly adapt to depth change, unfortunately there is no trick in the book that can prevent this, and a majority of fish will die after being caught in those depths even if they appear to swim off.
A small tipped jigging spoon has been working phenomenal for both weed and basin fish. Somedays the waxies have been far outperforming the plastics, other days it has been the opposite, a minnow head has worked well also.
As mentioned, we are heading into our final days of the Minnesota Inland Walleye/Pike season. But there is still fun to be had! Along with Panfish and Trout some of our favorite species to target would include Whitefish, Tullibee, and of course Burbot. Eelpout will begin starting to stage for spawning soon, and there is no limit to the action that can be had!
Our area has a lot to offer for those who are wanting to experience something different. With the beautiful ice conditions and some gorgeous temps in this weekend’s forecast, now is the time to get out there!
Our books are now open for our open water season! Next Up… Rainy River!! Come enjoy the extended walleye season with Captain Justin Wiese on one of the most renowned walleye fisheries in the world." — Justin & Alice Wiese, Wheezy Guide Service 218-275-7525
All the new Lund and Crestliner Boat models will be on display. And now that many of the Ray's Marine Pro Staff have had their chance to run the new ProXS line of Mercury Outboards, you'll have a chance to hear firsthand reports about their performance and learn more about Mercury's 2020 special event "Refresh • Repower • Rebate."
Whether your question is about electronics, trolling motors, how to tie fishing knots, whatever. I, along with many of Minnesota's top fishing pros will be there to help answer questions and talk about the upcoming open water season.
This is your opportunity to learn from folks who really know what they're doing. They're eager to help set you up for a great 2020 fishing season, so be sure to join us at Ray's Grand Rapids Boat Show. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"As the end of walleye season on Mille Lacs Lake nears this weekend, you might want to think of where the fish have been known to spawn during early spring. I noticed this around Mille Lacs on Sunday evening when a few friends and I pulled up on the break of a gravel bar for an evening bite.
The temperature was chilly and we were running and gunning to find fish before dusk. The barometric pressure was sitting around 30 in of Hg most of the weekend, so pressure had been stable for 24 hours and I figured they wouldn’t be far off the bar. Ten minutes into drilling and checking holes, we hooked up on some walleye just off the bar in 31 foot of water.
My method to locating these fish was thinking of the spring and how fish migrate across the lake. This particular gravel bar had been known to hold plenty of post spawn fish over the last few seasons during Minnesota opener, so I thought it would be a good starting place. As we drilled holes and dropped the Aqua Vu down, I noticed plenty of tullibee and perch in the area; a perfect combination for an evening walleye bite.
I opted to start with an 1/16th ounce fire tiger Lindy Frostee Jigging Spoon tipped with a minnow head. I like to bring in bait fish and get them excited. I believe this gets the predatory fish curious. A minute into the aggressive lifts of the spoon, I had several perch below the hole. It didn’t take long before a walleye made its appearance and took the bait. A nice plump 20-1/2” fish. This is a system I’ve been using for a few years. It works well using spikes, catching a few perch, and then switching to a larger profile bait or putting a minnow head on the same lure I was catching the perch on. It has really increased my catch rate on colder days when walleye are less active.
As evening approached, we made the switch over to 1/8th oz. Lindy Quiver Spoons. Chartreuse Glow and Pink Glow with a aggressive jigging approaches lured walleye in for the group. Low light conditions turned the fish onto these larger baits as the began to feed and the glow of the spoon helped get their attention from a distance.
If you’re headed out for the final weekend of walleye fishing, look to those areas you’d target in May when opener comes. It paid off for our group and we had a blast!
The tullibee action was also pretty good between walleye bites. If you’re not familiar with these, they are a blast to catch, but can frustrate an angler when they fly onto the flasher/graph and sit there by the bait and not smash it like expected! When they come to your bait, try raising it above them. As they approach it, drop it quickly below them and back up again. This tends to trigger their interest in your bait, in my opinion! They are open after walleye season closes, and they’re pretty decent off the smoker, too!
Don’t forget, panfish and perch is open, so there is plenty of time to get out there the next couple months, as the best bite is generally later in the ice season!
The pike season on Mille Lacs runs until March 31st. Check DNR regulations for possession regulations. As always, be safe and use the buddy system!" Shane Boeshart, 641-529-0270
"Lake Trout - Lake trout fishing remains excellent for many anglers this last week. A few really lucky anglers reported back to back days of putting more the 10 lakers on the ice, while at lease two anglers landed a laker over 15 lbs! Wicked Tinsel jigs accounted for the high numbers of lakers caught, while spoons accounted for the biggest lakers landed this week. Key depth was 30-50 feet of water. Larger sucker minnows tipped on a jig or fished on the bottom, under a tip up accounted for many of the trout caught.
Stream Trout - Backcountry stream trout fishing was good for number, but excellent for size! Anglers were finding the trout just off shallow flats in 12 feet of water or up in the skinny water in as shallow as 3 feet of water. Small rippin raps, small jigs tipped with soft plastics or wax worms were the good to baits to have. Key colors were pink, white and silver.
Panfish - Sunfish and Crappie fishing was very consistent also. Crappies were very eager to rise up and hit a well presented minnow or a small jigging rap. Crappies continue to be found out in the main basin of lakes, over 20-40 feet of water. Sunfish were also active and responded very well to jigging raps, small jig tipped with soft plastics or tipped with a wax worm.
Eelpout - Eelpout activity has slowed some since the full moon phase has passed, but eelpout anglers, and a few unhappy lake trout anglers, continue to catch Eelpout in the evening and after dark. Anglers looking to target these hard fighting fish should be targeting sunken island or large shallow sand flats. Anglers should spread out tip ups and place a dead smelt on the bottom, up and down the humps or sand flats, in depths ranging between 15-40 feet of water.
As key depth for them changes day to day, anglers should wait until a Eelpout or two are caught. Once located, that is where you will want to setup for the night. Heavy pout bounce jigs loaded with smelt pieces and thumped on the bottom will call them in for a fun night." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"The Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee (MLFAC) will meet from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Appeldoorn’s Sunset Bay Resort, 45401 Mille Lacs Parkway, Isle.
The agenda will focus on this year’s safe harvest level, a fishing season update and DNR’s in-progress lake management planning process.
Members of the public may observe MLFAC meetings, but these meetings serve primarily as a way for the committee to hold group discussions. Fifteen minutes are reserved for public comments and questions. The committee has been active since October 2015. Its purpose is to advise the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on the State of Minnesota’s fisheries management program for Mille Lacs Lake."
Ice conditions on LOW remain excellent at around 30 inches where most are fishing.
Best colors vary but on sunny days gold has been consistent. On cloudy days, glow pink, green, orange and chartreuse good colors. Don't be afraid to downsize presentation if fish are not active. Small spoon with a minnow head. A plain hook with a small minnow can be very effective.
Electronics helping anglers catch suspended walleyes. Pike are getting more active and anglers reporting good success.
The Rainy River is frozen over with snowmobile traffic on marked trail. Some reports of local anglers catching a few walleyes in the river but most anglers hitting the lake. Extra caution is always needed on the river, especially with higher current this year. Thin ice around the International Bridge in Baudette. Work through resort or know ice conditions if ice fishing the river as ice thickness varies.
Up at the NW Angle... Ice fishing in full swing up at the Angle. Resorts in 26 - 32' of water. A mix of walleyes and saugers with some jumbo perch and pike in the mix. The snowmobile trails from south shore to Angle in great shape. Jigging with a bait with rattles has helped to pull in walleyes. Fish houses on the ice through March 31st, walleyes and saugers open through April 14." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"This past week we had some high winds accompanied by frigid temperatures. It will remain colder in the beginning of the week before warming into the 20’s and 30’s by the end of the week.
We are continuing to see some nice take home fish caught along with some bigger fish. We are about 18 miles out.
Fresh bait and making noise are still a must! White, pink or any glow hook remain the favorites.
We still have some availability at the end of February and March so give us a call to book your trip." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"For many years, I've constantly heard about Falcon fishing rods. I never got an opportunity to try one until this year and I must say that they're definitely living up to, if not exceeding the hype. I've been having a blast catching fish on 'em.
Most recently I've been playing with the Falcon Expert casting rods. I've used them for pitching, flipping and moving baits with outstanding success.
I wanted to quickly share my thoughts and explain to you what, in my opinion, makes this rod series so darn special.
I've tested a lot of lightweight rods throughout my career, but I've had serious durability issues with most of them. Whether I'm swinging fish or setting the hook, I've had my fair share of these ultra-lightweight rods shatter like glass and sound like a .22 rifle when they break.
With that being said, I'm quite impressed by the weightlessness and durability of ..." Learn More >> Falcon Expert Casting Rod Review
I have decided to try and take my panfish knowledge to another level. I would like to start keeping a fishing journal. What do you suggest are the important factors to be logging?
I was recently on an active crappie lake. The first time I stumbled on them they were like piranhas and the second time same thing. Third time, very slow. This was over the course of a week.
I think the full moon has something to do with it, but I don’t have enough data to make that assumption. Do you know of any apps, articles, podcasts or other reads that would be helpful?
Using your own crappie fishing story as an example, I can think of a few obvious observations that I’d want to track in a journal.
Water depth, water clarity, moon phase and time of day make the list for sure. So do weather conditions like air temperature, barometric pressure and lighting. During winter, ice thickness and snow cover should be tracked too. During summer, water temperature and weed growth and algae blooms should also be monitored.
Likely the most important single factor to record would be a checkbox for stable vs turbulent weather patterns. Fish like stability and they don’t seem to care about any one specific set of conditions as much as they care if those conditions change.
For example, fishing might be slow on the first day after a cold front. But the fish will typically become active again in a day or two, even if the cold weather persists. If the weather pattern stabilizes, the fish will adjust and become active again. Knowing if the weather pattern has been stable, or not, will help you be consistent in comparing some of the other variables.
Another thing I would try to track is an estimate of how many fish are in the area. This will help you figure out migration trends and patterns that occur throughout the year.
Again, using your crappie story as an example, tracking how many fish appeared on your electronics would be helpful. If the number of fish you spotted remained consistent on every visit, then the lack of action on your 3rd trip was probably caused by something environmental. But if the number of fish you’d been recording had steadily declined, then maybe it was a migration issue that caused the slow down.
There are a few ideas for your logbook, I’m sure that you’ll think of more on your own as well.
Regarding additional sources of information, the number of fishing videos, apps and magazines is incredible. For me, the best ones are those that contain the most information about basic fish behavior. I learned a lot by reading the books published by In-Fisherman in the 1980s, those books were packed with information about fish behavior. If you haven’t read them already, then doing it now is a must.
Look too at the list of short tutorial videos on Lindy Fishing Tackle’s You Tube site. Each one of them breaks down a given set of circumstances that occurred during the time of filming. So, you’ll pick up little tips and tricks that make adjusting to changing conditions easier.
Of course, perusing through the FishRapper Report Archives is also a great idea. When you think about it, those reports already make up a fishing journal of sorts. You can glean lots of solid fishing information by reading about individual fishing trips. Comparing reports from previous years allows you to pick up on recurring trends and patterns that happen every season.
As always, follow up questions and comments are welcome and if you ideas about more good fishing resources, just shoot me an email. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"It's obvious that knowing where fish will be during prime-time feeding runs is one key to success. Less obvious, but equally important is knowing where to be set up when fish are not in the midst of a major feeding period.
Subtle changes in bottom content located, near, but not on prime feeding reefs can often produce bonus daytime fish.
This week, Jeff Sundin shares his thoughts about locating subtle areas that walleyes use as travel corridors while they pass between prime time feeding, and daytime resting locations.
"Lake Trout - Lake trout fishing was good to excellent for many anglers last week, with some groups reporting double digit catches in one day. Just about every group reported marking a lot of lake trout all day.
Anglers with the best luck have been using Wicked Tinsel bucktail jigs or Venom tubes in white/pink or white/blue. Laying dead bait on the bottom was also effective, but many anglers complained about to many eelpout in the morning and evening. Anglers have been finding trout a little deeper in 40-60 feet of water.
Eelpout - With the eelpout spawn in full swing, eelpout fishing has been excellent on many area lakes. Anglers have been finding them anywhere between 20-60 feet of water. Anglers have reported that the depth they are catching fish, changes everyday. Once fish are located, they are easy pickings. Laying a frozen smelt on the bottom or hooking several pieces of smelt on a bout bounce jig, has proved very effective.
Stream Trout - Stream trout fishing has also picked up for many anglers. Rainbows have been the most active trout, with many anglers reporting that they are seeing a lot of trout. Rainbows are being found in 10 feet of water or less, near shore. Flashy spoons or small rippin raps in chrome, pink or white has been the go to baits." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
To get in on the better fishing, many resorts are traveling 16 to 22 miles out on the ice. Ice conditions on LOW remain excellent.
Jig one line and don't be afraid to use noise such as rattles or vibration to draw fish in. Have a dead stick with a live minnow in the second hole for neutral fish. Best colors vary but gold, glow, green, orange and pink good colors. Electronics tell you where fish are and how they are reacting to your bait and presentation.
There were a lot of big walleyes caught last week and pike anglers are already pulling in some trophy fish as well. Big fish action should only get better as the month progresses and fish begin the early stages of migrations toward the river.
The Rainy River remains frozen over with snowmobile traffic on marked trail. There are some reports of good fishing on the river as well.
Extra caution is always needed on the river, especially with higher current this year. Thin ice around the International Bridge in Baudette. Work through resort or know ice conditions if ice fishing the river as ice thickness varies.
Up at the Northwest Angle there some great reports from last week. Resorts have their guests fishing in 26 to 32 feet of water.
The snowmobile trails from south shore to Angle in great shape.
Jigging spoons and Rippin Raps in one hole. In second hole, plain red hook with live minnow working well. Fish houses on the ice through March 31st, walleyes and saugers open through April 14." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"This past week’s temps were colder than we expected, dipping in to 20 below for most of the week. We are continuing to see big fish caught along with some nice take home fish. We are still making our way North and are 16 miles out.
Hot colors this week have been pink and glow white. Keeping one line that rattles active is still a must! If your dead stick goes inactive make sure to put a fresh active minnow on, fresh bait is key on a dead stick line.
We start this next week with highs in the 20’s dropping down a bit by the end of the week.
We still have some availability at the end of February and March so give us a call to book your trip." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"Yesterday, we had someone driving a track machine bust through the surface crust of ice. Getting stuck in the slush trapped between the layers of ice left them in bad shape.
They weren't anywhere close to our plowed roads, but we do want to revise our previous statement about the crust being thicker.
If the track machine can't make it without breaking through, then no one should try. Travel off of the main, plowed roads is not advised at this time.
Our roads and the ice in our area is still good. Thanks!" — Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. For last minute updates about ice conditions, use the “Ice Hotline” 218-659-4002. For reservations, Dixon Lake Resort 218-659-4612.
Ice conditions on Tamarack Bay have greatly improved and we’ve been able to establish and maintain both our access to the lake and our plowed roads. Now, we have all our rental shelters on the lake and there’s space available for up to 20 more customer wheelhouses for the upcoming weekend.
Customers at the resort right now are catching perch in good numbers and there are fish of very good quality in the mix of sizes. It hasn’t been uncommon for our guests to catch upwards of 200 perch in a single outing.
Whenever you catch that many fish, there are bound to be a lot of smaller fish. But anglers have routinely sorted through the numbers and come in with fish ranging in size between 10 and 12 inches. There have even been a few monster perch in the mix, this winter we’ve already seen a few 14 to 15-inch fish headed toward the taxidermist shop!
In Tamarack Bay, fish location is easy because there are miles of weed flats in 12 to 14 feet of water. Perch, nomadic feeders, roam the flats chasing of schools of minnows. That feeding behavior means that the action comes in waves. Depending on the timing, the action can be fast and furious; but expect occasional lulls in the action too.
Fish presentation depends on weather conditions, with a stable barometer, large flashy lures attract the best fish. Blade baits with bright colors or metallic finishes and tipped with minnows perform best. On Thursday, customers reported that the fish responded best to gold color lures. So, if you’re headed this way, make sure you have a few extra gold jigs in your arsenal.
After a cold front, or when the barometric pressure is falling, switch to smaller lures. Perch Talkers are a good choice in situations like that and so are small tungsten jigs tipped with waxworms or spikes.
With all the gloomy news about ice conditions on Lake Winnibigoshish, it’s easy to understand why folks could get the impression that there’s no way to get out on the lake to catch some fish. The unintended consequences of the negative press have really put a damper on traffic, even in areas where access and fishing is good.
For us, the goal is to salvage whatever is left of the ice fishing season, so we think it’s important that you all know that there is still some good news coming from Winnie.
Anybody who fished Tamarack Bay earlier this winter already knows that the perch fishing started off like gangbusters. Historically, perch fishing in the bay only gets better during the late winter and early spring. So, if you’re interested in an untapped perch fishing location that provides good action, with a shot at some big fish, we think you can do that right now.
We have day rental shelters available, lodging too and access is available to the public for $15.00. Wheelhouse owners can get a road pass and parking spot for the full weekend at just $100.00.
Give us a call for up to the minute updates or for help with any questions. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
I finally had the chance to fish in my own county! That’s right, there actually are some lakes in the Itasca Region where ice conditions have improved enough to allow anglers access to some, albeit not all of their better fishing areas.
It may be that warmer air temperatures helped saturate snow cover, facilitating a re-freeze. Or it may be that water in certain high traffic areas found a way to drain into ice holes drilled by anglers. It doesn’t matter, the fact that we can get out and fish is good news.
I might still be in the dark about the improvements if we’d carried out our original plan to head for Canada.
As we were leaving from Deer River, we got a last-minute phone call advising us that the fish at our destination were not biting. That combined with reports about slushy conditions up there was enough to convince us that the last-minute cancellation was the smart thing to do.
Luckily, we’d already received another call from my buddy Reed Ylitalo. He told us that he’d fished a couple of spots close to home that have become more easily accessible. Earlier, he’d found a school of active crappies and offered us the chance to go spend some time on the ice with him. Without a better plan, Reed’s offer sounded great, so we took him up on it.
The fishing action was typical of any mid-winter fishing trip. Crappies were active enough to keep us interested, but there was never any sort of super-hot bite. After two days of fishing, we’d gathered enough fish to send home limits with 3 of the 4 anglers in our group. I probably could have gotten a limit for myself, but I really didn’t need any fish, so I opted not to bring any home.
The fishing pattern was also typical of mid-winter crappie fishing. Small schools of fish straddled the outer edges of a shoreline break into deep water. There were fish located in deep water, 30 to 33 feet. But better size fish, it seemed to me, were located shallower, closer the edge of the steep break. The larger fish appeared to be more fixated on the structure.
The mood of the fish was neutral, but they could be coaxed into biting; using a slow, almost still presentation worked better than any aggressive jigging action. After getting the clue from one of the guys, I tried slowing my presentation way down and it really did make a difference.
In the beginning we were all using either Tungsten Toads or Tungsten Bugs, some tipped with waxworms, others with plastics. They were working fine, but if you recall, the Fat Boy was the jig that really put the whole idea of fishing heavy, but compact lures on the map. And when Lindy came out with the tungsten version of the Fat Boy a couple years ago, it made the slow, methodical “heavy but compact” principal even easier than it was before.
When I switched to a #6 Green-Black Tungsten Fat Boy tipped with red euros and fished it super-slow, my productivity went up. I would certainly tuck that trick in your back pocket and if you encounter a school of neutral-negative fish.
I reached out to friends for updates yesterday too and around the area, others also report improving conditions.
Tamarack Lodge on Lake Winnie reported; "We have a road out available to people staying here but not to the public. We do have ice houses. We plowed more today and got some nice progress now we just have to wait for them to freeze and by next weekend we should be good to go."
"Delaney's Sporting Goods at Park Rapids wrote; "Fishing has been great with the low amount of pressure this winter. Most lakes in the Park Rapids area have 7 to 10 inches of good clear ice and 5 to 8 inches of white ice. Alot of the water and slush as froze but there are still areas of slush and water. Some area lakes now have plowed road but for venturing out a tracked vehicle is the best way to go." Delaney's Sporting Goods, 218-732-4281
"We finally have good ice on leech. We are open to all sized rigs this weekend. Fishing has been slow but there are still fish coming topside. Moving is the name of the game for daytime fishing and sitting still with setlines is working at night." — Josh Bullivant, Trappers Landing Lodge (218) 836-2500
"Ice conditions on Mille Lacs have improved we have plowed roads to the following Mud Flats Seguchie, Shermans,Curly's, Busters, Rockpile, Banana and Byrons Rocks. Trucks and wheel houses are welcome." — Terry Thurmer, Terry's Boat Harbor 320-692-4430
"It sounds like things are curing up out there. I am hearing some reports of truck traffic on local lakes, but the main thing is the slush is back down to manageable levels on most area lakes. Snow machines, side by sides, and ATV's have been getting around with pretty good success. It sounds like the bite has been pretty darn worth the effort as well!" Andy Walls, 1000 Lakes Sports 218-999-5992
"We are currently sitting out 1.5 miles in 13ft of water. Our road was 4 miles until we had a crack open down the road so as of today we are only 2 miles of road with little room too work with. We are not allowing private wheel house out as of today either. Just rentals!
No water no slush just so much snow too move it’s a day to day process on the next move!!!
We have select houses available as well for the next two weekends
Many great houses available for lake of the woods- February 27 thru March 14th, we run out of adrains road." — Northwoods Fish Houses, Shane and Samantha Youngbauer 218-308-0766
"Dixon Lake Reports that the Slush is freezing up for the most part. The crust on top of the slush is only 8 to 10 inches thick less in some places with about 5" of snow on top. So be very careful if traveling out past our road system. 4 wheeler, Track machines and snowmobiles seam to be doing fine now, but still can find those pockets to get stuck in.
Our roads consist of a nice net work at the clay banks with plenty of parking for wheel houses, and your portables. We do ask that you please get off the road by at least 10ft or more before drilling any holes. You can back into the snow in most places and still be up on solid ice.
Fishing has been a little slow, still marking fish and seeing them on cameras, but getting a little finicky and you have to find just the right bait and jig.
Plenty of northern moving through to hit tip ups and under the spear houses.
The Third River Rd. is not plowed, so stay on 46 to co. 33 turn left. In about 10 miles take another left just before the bridge. This is Fishermen rd. We 4 1/2 miles long plowed, but narrow with pull outs for passing. Not advised to head down on weekends between 4 and 6 as every one is heading off the lake." — Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. For last minute updates about ice conditions, use the “Ice Hotline” 218-659-4002. For reservations, Dixon Lake Resort 218-659-4612.
Okay, so that's some good news. Unfortunately, there are still persitent trouble spots around the region. Here's a couple of spots to temporarily avoid while we wait for improvements in ice conditions.
"High Banks will be closing on February 23, 2020 for the ice fishing season due to poor ice conditions." Rick and Kim Leonhardt 218-246-2560
"Northwest access mostly impassable. No car/truck access at all. People try ever week and spend the day getting unstuck even with snowmobiles and ATVs. Yesterday saw open water at bridges and moving water areas! Never seen anything like it. " — David Wanner, Northern Acres Resort 218-659-2845
That gets us caught up for this morning, but reports are still coming in. There will be additional updates coming throughout the day; check back in this afternoon for any late breaking developments. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"This past weekend was filled with warm weather across the state of Minnesota. There were lots of anglers out on Saturday, but not so many on Sunday, my guess was the big game kept most on their couches with snacks and beverages.
Many reports of people struggling for fish came across my social media feeds Saturday and Sunday, so, this week I decided to add a little education in my report for everyone reading. The following is my interpretation of (barometric) pressure on fish and how it changed the bite over the course of the weekend.
The (barometric) pressure was low this weekend, but it hadn’t been stable long enough for most fish to adapt. I always look at it this way, if someone was pushing on your belly (high pressure) you don’t want to eat or consume anything, your belly “aches”. High AND low pressure both have that similar effect on fish and their swim bladders.
Fish tend to be active if the pressure has been stabilized for more than 24 hours. I always check the weather during the week and keep track of the pressure and the weather changes leading up to my outing. If I see the pressure has been stable for a couple of day but falling pressure is predicted for a day or so after my outing, I get excited! The fish can sense this in their swim bladders and know that when the low pressure comes, it expands their bladder, causing them to be uncomfortable by pressing into other organs in their body, thus, limiting the active feeding times for them.
High (barometric) pressure can also cause the same effect, but in reverse. They tend to have more water “pressing” into them causing lethargic motions. They don’t want to move, so you see more fish, say walleye, stuck at the bottom. These fish might “breathe” on your lure, but they don’t want to eat unless they have to.
During these lull times, I move to deeper water off the same structures I would fish if it were stable pressure. I drill a lot of holes and am mobile. I don’t necessarily downsize my lure, I just change the presentation to them using small jiggles instead of rips. I also try to use a dropper chain with spikes. This can get walleyes and perch to bite during these times. Bang it on the bottom and get their attention as they start to show up on your flasher/graph, raise up a little and most times, they’ll suck the bait in out of curiosity.
The same can be said during open water. I move deeper and vertical jig from the back of my boat by my transducer. I watch the action of the fish and let them tell me what they want. In this case, over the weekend I put a pile of jumbo perch on the ice on Sunday at Mille Lacs with my nephews when the barometric pressure was at 27.4 inches HG. We even plucked 12 walleyes during the process.
Before you plan your next fishing trip, take a look at the weather during the week and keep a small journal. Make some notes on the water of what’s working and what isn’t. Depths of active fish, depths of no fish, and type of water you’re working with. You’ll find that keeping a small journal will help you on future outings.
I hope this will help everyone a little on their future outings the remainder of the ice season and into the open water season.
As always, be safe and use the buddy system!" Shane Boeshart, 641-529-0270
Editors Note: To learn more about the effects of barometric pressure changes on fish behavior, see also.
The Effect of Barometric Pressure on Feeding Activity of Yellow Perch - Daniel VanderWeyst, Aquatic Biology, Bemidji State University
Science Spotlight: Fish, Swim Bladders and Boyle’s Law, KQED Science, By Adrienne Calo
"The conditions of the ice have improved across the area significantly over the past few weeks. The smaller bodies of water which were just a mess of slush not too long ago have healed up for the most part and attracting anglers back out. The snow has settled; however, travel is still best using sleds or track machines since many lakes still have no plowed roads. You can still find a few pockets of slush on larger bodies of water such as Leech Lake, but there are plowed and maintained roads on Walker Bay and out of Pine Point and Trappers Landing Lodge.
FISHING HAS PICKED UP!
Panfish: The bluegills have been biting great along the weed lines Tungsten jigs and small spoons tipped with waxies have been the ticket. The Venom Outdoors tungsten jigs have been producing the numbers, where as the Pinhead Minnow by Clam has been enticing the larger gills in the 9” and over range, which has been helpful when you have a mixed school of sizes. Having the opportunity to sight fish is also a benefit, pulling the lure away from smaller ones coming in while playing out the larger ones.
The Crappies are in the basins during the day (depth will vary depending on body of water) and look to the edges of those basins towards dusk. Weed line points or inside turns are a key area for those night dwellers. During the day we are using the Clam Pinhead Minnow and Venom Inferno spoons tipped with plastics. Drilling out the basins and hole hopping, staying mobile has produced great results. The night bite has been best with a JT Snare rod setline and a Crappie Minnow, or catch the biggest Crappies in the school by tossing down a glow jigging spoon tipped with a whole Crappie Minnow.
Walleye: The bite has slowed slightly as we are within our final weeks of our inland Walleye season, but we have managed to get more than a few topside. Walleye can be found on a late bite in 24-32 feet of water over structure like rock bars and sunken humps, an underwater camera like a Vexilar Fish-Scout can help greatly in finding the structure. Aggressive walleye have been hitting spoons like a Northland Buckshot tipped with a minnow, where as a setline might attract the ones that are a little reluctant to strike.
Trout: The Lake Trout bite slowed down a tad which tends to happen around this time every year, but we suspect it to pick up soon. Your best luck is going to be in finding areas that have received low to no angling pressure in 25’-70’ of water. Spoons, Tubes and Rattle Baits have been best. Look to structure like points, inside turns, sunken humps, and steep shelves. Stream Trout are being caught in our local lakes still in 4’-10’ on small jigging spoons and jigs tipped with Clam Plastics.
Our books are now open for our open water season! Next Up, The Rainy River!! Come enjoy the extended walleye season with Captain Justin Wiese on one of the most renowned walleye fisheries in the world. Give us a call to inquire about bookings." — Justin & Alice Wiese, Wheezy Guide Service 218-275-7525
"On the south end of Lake of the Woods, it was a great week of ice fishing with good numbers and some very quality fish.
Ice conditions on LOW remain excellent. Resorts working hard to keep fish houses on walleyes and saugers. Most anglers fishing 27' - 36' with ice roads 7 - 20 miles long. Resorts traveled farther out which improved fishing.
Jig one line to draw fish in and get them excited. Have a deadstick with a live minnow in the second hole for neutral fish. Rattles and vibration can help in the stained waters of LOW. Gold, glow, wonder bread and pink good colors. Electronics a big plus and can be rented from some resorts, bait shops.
The Rainy River is frozen over with snowmobile traffic on marked trail. Some reports of good fish in the river. Extra caution is always needed on the river, especially with higher current this year. Thin ice around the International Bridge in Baudette. Work through resort or know ice conditions if ice fishing the river as ice thickness varies.
Up at the NW Angle, warmer weather made for some good fishing at the Angle. Resorts in 23 - 32' of water. Some houses on structure, others in mud on edge of reefs. Jig one hole with spoons and rattle baits, plain red hook with live minnow on deadstick. Snowmobile trails from south end to Angle and around the area groomed and in good shape. Fish houses on the ice through March 31st, walleyes and saugers open through April 14." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We have had guests catch and release some bigger Walleye this past week. We continue the trek North and are 14 miles past Pine Island. We have crossed one major pressure ridge and it now looks like we have a large clear sheet of ice ahead us.
Being aggressive while jigging a noise maker is still the best method. Having a lively minnow on the dead stick pairs your presentation as a team. Plain hook or something like a Gem-n-Eye on the dead stick is good. Having a Rippin Rap or something else that will make noise is a good pick for lures.
Slightly lower temps are forecasted for the week ahead. High’s in the 20’s and lows just below zero." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"Lake Trout - The lake trout bite continues to be slow for many anglers. Anglers continue to find biters in somewhat shallow water. 20-30 feet remains the best depth to find biters. Anglers catching fish are down sizing their baits down to 1/8 or 1/4oz, to get fish to bite. Dead baits laying on the bottom has also been effective for catching trout and should not be over looked.
Stream Trout - Stream trout fishing has improved this last week, but many anglers are reporting watching many trout come in to inspect their baits, but turn away. Again anglers watching that, simply down size their bait and have been able to turn some lookers into biters. Single wax worm tipped on a small jigs has been very effective on trout. Anglers looking for Brookies or Rainbows should be targeting them in less then 10 feet of water on large flats, weedbeds or around downed trees. Sight fishing trout in these depths can be very exciting and effective.
Walleye - Walleye fishing continues to be very consistent for this late in the winter. Anglers have been reporting that they have been catching walleyes on top of sunken islands in as little as 9 feet of water, during the evening hours. Jigging raps or spoons have been effective for the walleyes right on top, but for walleye’s hanging out on the edge, deadsticking a glow demon and minnow has been a little more effective.
Panfish - Crappies are being found in the deeper basin areas. They have been active and easy pickings for anglers putting in the time to locate them. Crappie minnows or soft plastic baits have been very effective. Sunfish have been mixed in with the crappies, but anglers are still locating them in shallow water along weedlines or in weedbeds. Here small jigs tipped with wax worms or soft plastics is all a angler needs to catch fish." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
It may be that warmer air temperatures helped to saturate the snow cover, facilitating a re-freeze. Or it may be that water in certain high traffic areas found a way to drain into holes drilled by anglers and allowed the surface to dry out. Either way, the list of lake that feature “decent” travel conditions is growing.
In the Grand Rapids area, Pokegama Lake offers good travel conditions and so do some similar large size, late freezing lakes. Small waters, especially ones that haven’t had much pressure continue to be problematic.
From northwestern Minnesota, Austin Jones reported; “Caught some nice 'gills tonight in 21 foot of water on a mud flat basin. They were hugging bottom and we were able to pry them off bottom but not much.
I was able to put a few big Bluegills back into the lake and Caught some nice crappie too. The crappies came through higher in the water column, about 2-3 foot off bottom.
We went on foot, but it would be okay for a 4-wheeler or a snowmobile once you get 50 yards off of shore; snowmobile would be the best.
The walking wasn't too bad, but there was 6 inches of crusty soft snow on the surface. That made our footing tricky, sometimes we could take a few un-interrupted steps, but breaking through the hardpack was common.
Sounds like my friend Bob was on Lake Bemidji and found some slush with his 4-wheeler. He didn't have very much fun with that and called it his not so fun adventure.”
Last winter, Austin taught me a trick about using Glow Spoons to catch panfish and I see by the photos that he’s still using it. When we were on a good daytime panfish bite, we could catch fish using a wide variety of lures. During evening though, the bite faded for everyone except Austin. He was using the glow/blue Glow Spoon and the fish kept biting after our lines went flat. The darker it got, the more noticeable the effect was.
It looks like he was using that same approach again yesterday, so you might want to keep his little secret tucked away for future reference.
Depending on how much melting occurred during the past couple of warm days, ice conditions may have improved again. Today, we have another cold snap headed our way and with luck, the list of lakes with improving conditions will grow longer.
This wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve seen terrible travel conditions turn good. So, don’t write off the rest of the ice fishing season too fast. Despite Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring, we still have potential for a good late winter panfish run; all we need is a little good luck.
A Canadian fishing adventure is on the schedule for me and I’m headed into new territory. I’ll have my computer packed along, but whether we have internet at the resort is uncertain. Having a Wi-Fi connection will determine how well I can stay in touch with you for the next couple days.
Don’t worry, even if I get behind by a couple days, I will definitely get you caught up when I return. — Jeff Sundin EMAIL
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