image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Ice Fishing Report March 15, 2016 - The Contrast Between Changing Seasons

The power of an image amazes me; a single picture of open water could make it appear that spring has sprung. An angler could be tempted to roll the garage door open, hook up the boat and high tail it for the landing.
A photo of an ice fishing shelter set up over a productive Crappie hole could be equally convincing, giving the appearance that the ice season is still going strong. Someone could say "grab your cleats and get the waxworms, we're heading for the ice".
On Monday, I enjoyed a firsthand look at both of those images and the contrast between.
Rivers and streams are opening up fast, outside my back door, waterfowl are whistling over the pond and there's not enough snow on the ground to make a decent snowball. Not far up the road, an early flight of Walleye anglers are already fishing the Rainy River, their news is spreading like wildfire.
Meanwhile, ice fishermen report good Crappie, Sunfish and Perch catches from within the past 48 hours. There are lots of lakes in the Itasca area that still have relatively good ice and continue to provide opportunity for anglers who are cautious enough to avoid the obvious problem areas.
An ice fishing shelter set up over one of my favorite Crappie spots even had me second guessing my own decision to end the ice season. By the time I wrapped my tour, I was considering a re-match with some of those Crappies myself. I thought that with minimal encouragement, I could argue myself into fishing today; until I looked at the weather forecast.
Today there’s a 100% chance of rain, followed by a winter storm warning tomorrow, followed by a return to winter temperatures on Thursday. Yuk, I’m not that mad at the fish!
I never did believe that Mother Nature was gonna let us sail into spring as easily as it appeared. Now that Mother is finally laying her cards on the table, I think the next few days will be a great time to prepare the preparable and organize the organizable.
I'll keep tabs on the ice conditions, because it is possible, albeit unlikely that a really cold, cold snap could trigger a re-birth of ice fishing. I'm guessing though that the inbound rain and snow are liable to be the proverbial final nail in the coffin of the ice fishing season.

image of the deer riverRivers and streams are opening up fast and outside my back door, waterfowl are whistling overhead; spring appears to have sprung.

Meanwhile, just a few miles down the road ...

image of ice fishing shelter on the ice
An ice fishing shelter set up over one of my favorite Crappie spots even had me second guessing my own decision to end the ice season.

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image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Ice Fishing Report March 11, 2016 - Long Walk On A Short Ice Fishing Season?

It's hard to walk away from the ice fishing season when the weather is gorgeous, the fish are biting and there's still plenty of good ice. But duty calls and for me, today is the day that my attention offically turns toward fishing on open water.
Unclear, our target destination was unclear, our target presentation; also unclear. In fact the only thing clear about our fishing trip was the bright blue, sun filled sky.
We followed the usual decision making process, bantering about where we would go and who would be leading whom. We agreed on one thing for sure, we didn’t care where we went, we just wanted to go someplace different.
After setting set a course for a small lake that neither one of us spends much time on during the winter, our drive was interrupted by random conversation.
As we drove past a small lake, hidden by swamps and hills, Danny asked; “have you ever finished the little lake that’s over there? My answer was that I'd love to fish it but I didn't know how to get on it. His reply all there is a little trail that goes through the woods right there.
I'll be darned, 30 years of driving past that little lake, never realizing how to get on it and a single sentence revealed the solution; I'm guessing that by now, You Know where we decided to fish.
The walk into the small, 30 acre lake was soggy. Drainage from melted snow and warm sunshine had loosened the surface, making it feel slushy underfoot. It didn't present us with many problems, but there were some really eerie looking soft spots, mostly small in size, one of them though, was large enough to give an unsuspecting angler a fast plunge into the water. Luckily, we were able to see all of this, making it easy to avoid trouble.
In a very short time, we had walked practically the entire surface of the lake, drilling holes as we walked. One by one, we checked, fished and reported our findings. We discovered Perch, Perch and more Perch; not a keeper in the bunch.
After a couple of hours on the lake, we had no evidence to go on, we'd seen hundreds of fish on our graphs, but the only biters were tiny Perch. We had to decide; would waiting for the possible sunset bite make us feel like heroes, or would another 2 hours of catching 4 inch long Perch make us feel like zeros?
We decided to hoof it and head for another small lake where Danny's had better luck lately. By the time we drove over there, got set up and began fishing, we expected an early evening run of Panfish to start. Instead though, we picked up where we'd left of, now we were catching baby Perch, just like before. There were friends on the lake who advised patience, they said that when the Perch quit, the Panfish will start and eventually they did.
A short, but welcome run of Sunfish and Crappies started at about 6:00 PM and lasted for almost an hour. The water depth was shallow, 10 to 12 feet and the fish were moving in small packs, giving us spurts of action.

image of chunky looking ice
Eerie looking soft spots like this one were scattered around the surface. Most were small, but one was large enough to give an unsuspecting angler a fast plunge into deep water.

image of crumbly ice
Inspection of the ice in one of these soft spots reveled how easily this could have presented problems.

Nobody on the lake kept any fish, but if we had wanted too, I think we all could have gathered enough for a meal.
I happened to be using my old standby, a Frostee Jigging Spoon tipped with waxworms. That produced a 50/50 mix of Sunfish and Crappies. Some of the others were using spoons tipped with minnows and some were using artificial baits, once the fish began moving, they all produced action.
I guess that the bluebird sky probably worked against our earlier exploration and I'm wondering what would have happened if we waited until sunset. At this point, it doesn't matter because I had a delightful day. I spent time with a wonderful young man, under a gorgeous blue sky; we caught some fish and who could ever ask to be that lucky.
I couldn't think of a better way to do a soft close on the hard water fishing season.
image of fish smiley In just a few hours, I'll be standing smack dab in the middle of 30 boats, but I won't be fishing. Just in case you don't already know where I'll be, click here for all of the details.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Ice Fishing Report February 1, 2016 - Busy Weekend at the "Sunny Hole"

I guess that this was the first weekend of the winter that nice weather combined with the absence of a football game, gave ice anglers a really good excuse to get outside and fish. From my vantage point, it appeared that many of them were rewarded with good fishing to boot.
The Bluegill fishing around the Grand Rapids area has been reliable for a couple of weeks now and I wondered if heavier weekend fishing pressure might be the trigger that could slow the action down. The fish shrugged off the heavy traffic though and remained active despite the commotion.
Sunfish straddling the drop off between deep water and the shoreline break gave my crew more than ample reason to smile.
I prefer to fish in shallow water during the winter, so I haven't been "Poking Around" (pun intended) in deeper water for Crappies. I could see though that other fishermen were and because they keep heading back to the same spots repeatedly, I'm guessing that they are enjoying some success.
For us, an occasional Crappie has been drifting into our territory, but at 14 feet, we have clearly been too far inside of the deep water to get in on the main schools of them.
Sunfish on the other hand have been more than willing to roam the shallower breaks and randomly scattered packs of fish roamed in and out of the area below our portable ice shelter.
Not every school of fish was feeding aggressively. We could predict the behavior of each school as they appeared on the screen of my Humminbird. Inactive fish would rise toward the bait, pause momentarily and then drift back toward the bottom. Active fish roared right up to the bait, stopped first to think it over and then snapped up the bait.
That tendency to pause before striking the bait is one of the irksome habits that Sunfish have. For anglers who don't spend a lot of time ice fishing for Sunfish, it can be confusing. It's hard to wrap your head around the notion that you have to jig the bait to attract fish into your territory, but you have to stop jigging to entice the fish into striking.
One trick that helps is to use heavy baits because the extra weight makes it easier for anglers to hold it steady, without allowing it to drift around too much.
Lindy's largest Tungsten Toad, size #10, tipped with a couple of waxworms helped my inexperienced crew, especially the clear headed ones to catch on to the system. They attracted fish to the baits by twitching the rod tip; you could describe it as flicking the tip. When a fish appeared nearby, I asked them to stop and watch the rod tip. That's because of the other irksome habit that Sunfish have; the ability to inhale the bait and spit it back out before being detected.
The Tungsten Toads help with that too because the heavy weight helps tighten the line above the jig. Detecting the strike by sight is actually easier than trying to do it by feel. As soon as they saw the slightest movement on the rod tip, they set the hook.
If I'd been ice fishing for the first time ever and came home with a feast of Bluegills, then I'd feel like I had a darn nice entry into the world of ice fishing. I'm pretty sure that's how my crew felt, especially after making it back to high ground without getting wet. It's always nice to have good luck and we did and I'm glad!

image of steph torgeson holding sunfish
Steph Torgeson shows off her first ice fishing catch, a solid Bluegill.

imaage of Sunfish on Humminbird screen
Randomly scattered, small packs of Sunfish roamed in and out of the shallower breaks in about 14 feet of water.

image of joelle bellamyu holding nice bluegill
First time ice angler Jo Bellamy; captured during a post battle discussion with her quarry.

image links to ice fishing artice

Should I Stay Or Should I Go? - By Nathaniel Myson with Jon Thelen and Jeff Sundin

"If you’re an ice-fisherman, you’ve almost certainly debated this question: Sit tight and wait for the fish to come to you or pick up and start drilling holes to go to the fish? Staying put may result in a day spent just out of the fish’s range. Go mobile and you might leave just before the fish arrive.
If this indecision is bugging you, here are a couple guys who know a thing about staying or going, and their advice can help you make better fishing decisions on the ice. Each approach offers advantages and disadvantages, and each situation is ..." Read >> Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Ice Fishing Report January 24, 2016 - Panfish Action ReliableIce Access Remains Good

Despite gusty winds, anglers were out in force on Grand Rapids area lakes this Saturday. Luckily, the snow cover is light and there’s good, solid ice good on most lakes. So even though there was some drifting of snow during this breezy day, it wasn't enough to cause any major setbacks and overall, ice remains good.
It has become common to see vehicles on most lakes now, even deep water, slow freezing ones like Pokegama in Grand Rapids. There are a number of anglers like me, still towing snowmobiles and/or ATV's just in case we show up at a lake that isn't accessible by vehicle.
You've probably already seen the advisory about Bowstring; deeper snow has caused problems for the ice on that lake and although you will see folks driving out there, it's risky; exercise extreme caution.
On Saturday, we also noticed areas of moving water that had re-opened after having been apparently frozen solid.
I keep reminding myself about how high the water levels were this fall and early winter. I suppose that we need to consider this and make the assumption that there's more current than usual in those areas.  There are likely to be numerous areas where river current could transform ice into open water over the course of any single day. So take extra care on lakes fed by rivers and larger creeks, avoid narrows and necked down areas too.
Fishing action is typical of mid-winter now. Some of the anglers on some of the spots are doing very well. Some areas on the popular lakes have been pressured heavily though and on Saturday we saw lots of people moving and drilling in search of fresh territory.
For me, the solution was to fold my cards on the first lake and move to a different lake. After spending a slow morning, listening to the steady purr of other people’s augers, we re-grouped and made a move.
At the second lake, Panfish, primarily Bluegills with a secondary mix of Crappies were much more cooperative. In fact, this was one of those afternoons when catching fish that didn’t take all that much skill. They were on the move and whenever they appeared on the screen, they struck.
That made presentation easier too and I was able to concentrate on aggressive baits that have a lot of attracting power. I used a small Perch Talker, Pink/Glow color and tipped the treble hook with several waxworms. I think the extra noise that the Perch Talker puts out helped call extra fish into the area.
We’ll be back on the ice this morning, this time in hot pursuit of a good Perch bite; we hope.

image links to bluegill fishing report
When Panfish are moving and active, use aggressive baits that have a lot of attracting power. I used a small Perch Talker, Pink/Glow color and tipped the treble hook with several waxworms.

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