Minnesota Fishing Reports Archive for Mid Winter 2006

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Jeff Sundin Minnesota Fishing Reports and Articles Section

Grand Rapids Area Fishing Report Archives Section.

Congratulations! If you're snooping around in the fishing report archives, you are one of those dedicated anglers who spends the extra time it takes to become an expert at your craft!

     I respect folks who do their homework and that's why I have these reports archived. You can glean a lot of information about seasonal trends and movements of the fish in the Northern Minnesota, 1000 Grand Lakes Area. The archives are organized by quarters; 1- (January, February, March) 2- (April, May, June) 3- (July, August, September), 4- (October, November, December). When you study the fishing patterns and fish movements through these seasons, you might just see some interesting trends that will help you organize your strategy for your next fishing trip.

     I hope you find plenty here that will help and if you think it does you some good, let me know. I'd appreciate questions and comments that will in turn help me provide more meaningful reports for everyone. If you have a question Click Here.

 April 2006

Ice Report: Stick A fork In It! It's Done. Alternatives? How About Sturgeon,

Minnesota's Most Unique Fishing Opportunity? 4-6-06 Jeff Sundin


Here's the landing at Little Ball Club, one of the smaller Deer River area lakes. Not much left to work with here.

Tamarack Bay on Lake Winnie. Ice is out in the bay and receding out into the main lake fast!

The ice fishing conditions in the Grand Rapids and Deer River area are changing faster than you can keep track of right now. I took a little tour of the area and while there were still a few places to get on the ice and fish (as of 4-6-06), I think the odds of finding safe ice this weekend are poor and I canít recommend heading out anywhere. I think itís time to turn your attention to the opportunity to get out and fish open water instead.

For us, the Rainy River is handy and while the rising water and muddy conditions have made Walleye fishing tough, the Sturgeon fishing has been unaffected by the rapidly changing conditions. If youíve never tried this before, itís simple enough to do and youíll never believe the fight thatís packed into one of these critters. Right now, itís entirely catch and release, so keep in mind that it canít be a meat trip.

To get started a heavier than average spinning rod, heavy casting rod or even a Musky pole will work. We used a 1-1/2 ounce bell sinker and a short leader (one to two feet long) with a 2/0 hook. Night crawlers are the preferred bait and you simply gob it on the hook. To locate fish, find a deep hole on an outside bend, near a dam or behind an eddy. Anchor the boat, drop your sinker to the bottom and youíre in business, they donít always locate in the hole itself, but theyíll be near it. Youíll get clues to location if you watch the surface of the river because these fish come right to the top, splashing and rolling as they try to attract spawning partners. Where you see surface activity, try several anchor positions until you connect with fish.

It looks like this recent weather system may have passed us by and itís possible that receding river water could possibly make the Walleye fishing manageable again next week. It will take a bit of luck, but it could happen and we have until April 14th to get back up there. So check after the weekend for an update on river flow and Walleye opportunities.

Closer to home, remember that the panfish will move into shallow bays and inlets almost immediately as the ice goes out and this is a prime opportunity to catch some Bluegills and Crappies. Watch the isolated shallow areas and try them as soon as they open up, especially on a sunny, warm day. Check the fishing articles section for some more information.



Rainy River Sturgeon Arne Danielson

Sturgeon Danielson and Dorholt Rainy River

Rainy River Sturgeon Sundin


March 2006

Spring Fishing Opportunities Offer the Cure for Cabin Fever. If You Act Now! 3-30-06

     Well folks, if you can find a free day in your schedule this week, you might just be able to find one last opportunity to get out and do some fishing. The window of opportunity is open, but not for long.

     This weekís warm weather has really hustled the spring meltdown along and snow cover is disappearing almost before your eyes. Ice cover on area lakes is still generally good, especially on lakes that havenít been heavily traveled. Even though some folks are still driving, I donít think you can count on driving vehicles on the ice anywhere from here on out, but ATVís are going to be okay for a while. I have all but given up on ice fishing for the season, especially now that weíve made it out on the inaugural spring Walleye trip to the Rainy River. But, there are some friends hinting around about fishing Tulibees and Bluegills. Those are both prospects that could get me back out on the ice at least once more before the ice leaves us for another season. Another hot tip that just came my way this morning was that folks are also catching limits of nice Crappie after dark. There have been several times this winter where the bite was really "time sensitive" and if history is repeating itself, this after dark bite will probably last another week or so.

     By now, most everyone who follows the reports has heard that the Rainy River is open. As always, the window of opportunity is small, but we did manage to get up there on Wednesday and had a look at conditions. The landing at Birchdale is wide open and the landings at both Frontier and Vidas are within a day or two of being open as well. There were folks sliding boats down the ice banks and into the river at both of those landings on Wednesday, but the bigger rigs were heading for Birchdale. The current is very manageable and none of the creeks or rivers had begun running so far. Traffic is heavy, but well organized and if you have a little patience, the experience should be worth it.

     As we checked favorite spots in our usual territory, fishing for us was kind of sluggish until late afternoon when we finally found a better school of fish. Apparently we either moved far enough to find them or the fish had just began feeding better on their own. Either way, from about 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM the action was much steadier and there were quite a few boats catching fish in the surrounding area. If there was such a thing as a "hot bait", it might have been a ľ ounce round jig head yellow & orange two tone. We caught fish on several other colors as well and the biggest fish of the day came on a 1/8-ounce glow & blue two-tone bugeye. We used Rainbows, Spot Tail Shiners and Fatheads. All of them worked fine and while itís probably a good idea to have a little variety just in case you need something special on a certain day, you probably canít go wrong with either the rainbows or shiners.

     Weíll be keeping tabs on things this weekend and weíre hoping to get back up there before the flood waters start flowing, so check back in a few days for an update.

Rainy River Boat Landing At Birchdale 3-28-06

The crowd is large, but well organized, If you have a little patience the trip will be worth it.

Walleye Rainy River At Birchdale

Rainy River Fishing Anglers Netting Walleye


Ice Fishing Report 3-12-06 Winter Losing Itís Grip On Lake Northern Minnesota!

Weíre at the doorstep of a new season and I canít tell you how happy that makes me. Ice fishing this winter has been a lot like watching your favorite baseball player go into a batting slump. You still love the game and youíre routing for the slump to end, but it gets hard to stay focused on the positives. Weíve had a lot of snow and wind during the past couple of weeks and that, along with reports of sluggish fishing, have put a damper on folks enthusiasm. Enjoying what Iíd call quality fishing has been possible, but perfect timing has been the only way to get it. Now that a couple of super warm days and a fairly heavy rain on Saturday have taken the edge off of the snow piles, travel conditions are fairly favorable again for folks heading into Deer River for some early spring ice fishing.

One of the highlights of this season has been the above average Lake Trout fishing on our Grand Rapids area "local" lakes. With only a few more days left before the March 15 ending, this could be a good time to give them one last shot. Drilling lots of holes and moving between them frequently will help you locate a Trout. Water depths from about 60 feet on in to the main drop off in 30 to 35 feet will get you in the ballpark. Jigging with Northlandís Airplane Jig or a 3/8-ounce jig and white tube has been reliable. Tip them with a shiner, frozen Smelt or Cisco and jig in varying water depths.

With the passage of the Walleye and Pike season, the remaining fishermen are concentrating on Perch, Bluegills and Crappie. According to reports from most of my friends, of the three, Bluegills are probably your best bet for the time being. Most area lakes that have decent Bluegill populations are producing good numbers of fish. Size quality is largely dependent on what the individual lakes have to offer, so there are lots of lakes producing small to medium size Ďgills with a handful of the better lakes producing some slabs.

 Weedy areas along the main shoreline breaks are prime locations. Drill some holes into shallower water and work your way toward the deeper outside edges of weed cover. When you locate green weeds, work the area by drilling plenty of holes and moving frequently. Wax Worms, Euro Larvae and most other small grubs will do a good job. Early evening, 4:30 to 5:30 seems to be about the peak time.

Perch fishing is going a little better than it has been, but they too are in about a three-day rotation. You can literally have a fantastic day with good numbers of decent fish and then return to the same area the next day and find nothing. The fish are well fed and selective. Perch are starting to make the move into shallower water and this should tend to concentrate them. Typically, late ice triggers a good Perch run, so it all boils down to how long we continue to have decent ice conditions.

Crappie fishing, has been a roller coaster ride all winter. Fish are still located out deep in water depths of 25 to 35 feet. Itís fairly easy to locate them, but you need to be there at the prime times to get in on good action. My timing has been horrible this winter and Iím credited with several cases of arriving too late or leaving too early. From here on out, Iíll probably use whatever fishing time I have to chase Perch and hopefully some Tulibee. According to the DNR, Tulibee numbers are down statewide, but there are still lakes with good populations. With a little luck, Iíll have a report in the next week or so.

The Early Bird, Jeff Sundin Fishing Reports For Northern Minnesota

February 2006 Archived Fishing Reports

Ice Fishing Report 2/17/06 Winter Returns with a Vengeance!

link to Lake Trout picture

Ironically, now that weíve spent most of the winter trying to reassure folks that the ice conditions have survived the warm weather, winter has decided to dish out a sample of a good old-fashioned Alberta Clipper. As I write this report, itís 20 degrees below zero with a wind from the Northwest at about 20 MPH. I did head out on the lake today and lasted about an hour before returning home to plan a re-match for later in the week. It crossed my mind that weíre only 12 weeks away from the open-water fishing season, so itís going to feel like a short winter no matter what happens for the next few weeks.

Somehow, snow that has hit other areas of the state has continually missed our area and ice conditions continue to improve. When this cold front passes, we should be looking at excellent travel conditions for folks who want to travel up for some late season panfishing. The DNR announced yesterday (2-17) that the Northern Pike and Walleye Season has been extended until February 26, 2006. So if you read your regulations and thought it ended this weekend, you have a bonus week that you might want to take advantage of.

Iíve been trying to get a great fishing report together all week long. Frankly itís been tough to get really fired up because the fish are in what Iíd call a three-day cycle right now. They feed fairly well one day, not at all on the second and maybe thereís a decent run of action for an hour or so on the third day. If you are able to fish a three-day stint, youíll certainly have good fishing on one of the three.

The consensus among everyone Iíve talked to has been that the fish are enjoying the huge supply of baitfish from the fantastic 2004 year class. If you can be where theyíre feeding on the right day, youíll do well. If you find them after the binge is over, you will see lots of fish on your electronics, but youíll have to really tease them to get a bite. There are always exceptions and the folks, who explore new water and locate lakes that havenít been fished hard, continue to have better than average fishing. This has been particularly true for Crappie and Bluegill anglers.

Walleyes are already in the early stages of moving toward spring locations and Walleye fishing on mid-lake structures is showing signs of winding down. If you want to take advantage of the last week of fishing, Iíd suggest fishing shallower points that extend out from the main shoreline. The presence of baitfish is the key. If your screen is blank during the day, move on until you find a location where you see minnows on your Vexilar. The fish will run again late in the afternoon and early evening.

If you can locate any green weeds at all, youíll be able to locate Bluegills working just on the outside edges of the cover. They have been sticking tight to the weeds during the day, but run fairly steadily for an hour or so every afternoon just before dark. A 1/16-ounce glow-bug or similar jig tipped with a wax worm will do great.

We done a little more Trout fishing and the action appears to be holding up. Reports around the area are better than average in both size and numbers. They have moved significantly deeper than we found them earlier this winter and we wasted several hours looking for fish in the 40 to 50 foot range without even a sighting. Moving out to about 65 feet in a small hole produced many more sightings and another nice Trout. In my opinion, if weíd found that spot a couple of hours earlier, weíd have picked up another fish or two. I know that doesnít sound like a lot of action, but the surroundings are terrific and the time goes by fast when your chewing the fat with friends. Having a few fish close to home is kind of a nice option to have in your bag of tricks. The best Trout bait weíve seen so far this winter has been the Perch Pattern Airplane Jig by Northland Tackle. A shiner added to the hook (where itís legal) has caught at least one fish each time out.

Perch fishing reports are coming in spotty with some folks finding good schools of fish and others missing the boat. The early morning bite still produces more reliably than later in the day, so a good strategy would be to fish Perch until Lunchtime, take a break and get set up for panfish or Walleyes in the late afternoon.

As soon as the weather settles back down, weíll get back out there and take a look at some of the spring spots and see if the move is on.




Good Luck! Check Back For Updates!

The Early Bird, Jeff Sundin Fishing Reports For Northern Minnesota

Ice Report 2/1/06 A Lesson In Timing!

I donít know how conditions for ice fishing could get much better than they are now in the Itasca county region. We continue to get night temperatures just cold enough to keep the ice that weíve already got, but warm enough during the day to make conditions pleasant for fishing. Last weeks meltdown means that snow cover is practically non-existent on area lakes and this has helped to keep the surface ice solid with no slush to worry about. There are quite a few lakes where folks are driving trucks without problems, but if you have a ATV, conditions are perfect for using them right now. The down side, there is very little if any new ice forming. So, youíll still need to be cautious about choosing a lake and avoid areas where ice can deteriorate. Current areas, springs and places where vegetation above the ice could cause melting should all be avoided.

Snow cover is all but gone, driving conditions are good with ice thickness of about 20 inches.

Fishing this week has been a lesson in timing and humility for me. It seems like everywhere Iíve gone, the fish were nearby but rarely biting. I should have been there earlier, later or on a different day altogether. Itís been common to get good reports from some folks, while others are struggling. Itís also been common to see lots of fish on the Vexilar, but have to work really hard to get a bite. For reasons known only to the fish, the better fishing reports have been coming in the mornings lately and my normal advice about fishing the evening run doesnít appear to be a good game plan right now. Your best bet is probably to get out on the ice earlier in the morning than usual and fish until early afternoon.

Perch reports are varied with some fish coming from water in the 22-foot range and some from deeper water, out to about 30 feet is producing well for some folks right now.

 There are still some shallow fish too, but these are generally smaller fish. Folks fishing the shallow water are sorting through many small fish to get a few keepers. Finding newer schools of fish is easier said than done, but is a key and if possible, try splitting up your group to locate fish and then compare notes and regroup whenever someone finds a better school. Perch eye jigs, jigging Rapala and the larger blade baits like the Demon are producing some fish. On Monday, my best bait was a 1/16-ounce Perch Eye jig with a tail hooked minnow. I usually like to jig a little, but right now, Iíve been better off leaning the pole on a bucket and standing back to watch.

Crappie fishing is still going fairly well, but they too are running better in the morning hours. Locations havenít changed much. Theyíre still following the steeper edges of shoreline breaks and using deep main lake holes. They do seem to be making bigger moves lately and once fish move through an area, they seem less likely to come back. There have been a couple of excellent reports from friends who have gone back into the off beat lakes and found fish that havenít been pressured. This sounds hard, but there are a lot more of these little lakes than you think and with travel conditions this nice, it would be a great time to branch out and try some lakes you wouldnít ordinarily be able to reach.

The Northern Pike dished out a bit of the same sluggish treatment this week. Seeing some fish and catching a few of the smaller ones, the minnow tycoon, Bill Powell did have a close encounter with a big Pike this week, but couldn'tí quite get the fish to eat. He drilled a few holes together and covered up in his nice black portable fish house so he could watch the fish. It seems like the fish have so much food to choose from already that your timing just has to be perfect to get to a spot while the fish are moving on their own. After that big Pike made several appearances without taking the baits, it came back and aggressively hit a small Bluegill that Bill was releasing. Apparently, she could afford to be choosy.

The Early Bird, Jeff Sundin Fishing Reports For Northern Minnesota

January 2006

Ice Report 1/19/06 Ice Conditions Stable Fishing Is Good!

Listening to the radio and television weather reports lately can give you the impression that thereís not enough ice in Minnesota to float a boat. But ice conditions in the Itasca Area, (generally North of a line from Aitkin to Walker in the North/Central Portion of Minnesota) are good and improving daily. Even though the temperatures have been moderate for this time of year, it hasnít been so warm as to allow the ice to deteriorate. Now, thanks to a cold snap during the past few days, weíre seeing new ice forming again. In fact, the temperatures at night have been ranging from 0 to 10 degrees so itís actually improving fast. Snow cover is still really light on our area lakes and even though there was a bit of drifting due to Tuesdayís cold, Northwest wind, it hasnít hampered travel on our lakes at all. Weíve seen a range of ice thickness depending on the depth of water, Iíd say we have about a foot of good clear ice on the deeper lakes and up to 20 inches of good ice on the ones that froze earlier. The atmosphere has improved as well. Sunny afternoons seem to intensify the afternoon runs of Walleye and Crappie making it easier to make a quick trip out for "the evening bite".

Fishing this week has been interesting for me. Although Iíd be hard pressed to characterize Minnesota Lake Trout Fishing in our area as fantastic, anglers who want to give it a go, should take note that there are opportunities that offer folks a reasonable chance of catching a nice Trout. We were blessed on the Lake Trout Opener this past weekend with a nice catch of three Trout, a couple of lost fish and another half dozen Vexilar sightings. All things considered, thatís not bad. Best of all, we didnít have to get a passport to do it!

Matt Mattson with a nice Northern Minnesota Lake Trout

My good friend Matt Mattson outdoes me again! Here's a nice Minnesota Lake Trout caught on an Airplane Jig tipped with a 4 inch Shiner.

We had our best action on Northland Airplane Jigs and also on jigs n rigs ľ ounce tube jigs with long, heavy hooks stuffed into a 3 inch white Berkley Power Tube. Jigging spoons that work well at times didnít fire them up too much this week, but Iíd carry a small assortment of spoons like a Castmaster or other heavy blade spoons. Donít get yourself over-quipped to fish the Trout. The same rod youíd use for Walleye or Pike with an upgrade to 8 to 12 pound test line will do fine and youíll get more hits than if you fish with the heavy stuff. My favorite rod is about three feet, medium/light with 6-pound line. If you hook a Laker, use the "back reel" instead of the "drag" and take your time. You will get them in on light line!

Perch action can still be found in shallower water of 6 to 12 feet. This is probably still the preferred location for lots of Perch that continue to chase the huge schools of minnows inhabiting the shallow drop off areas. Winnibigoshish in particular has had a better shallow water bite right now.

Bill Powell Northern Minnesota Perch Fishing Expert

Sunshine during the day seems to improve the quality of the Perch action and intensifies the late afternoon bite for Walleye and Crappie. Bill Powell shows off a nice Perch that came from 23 feet of water.

Ice fishing for Walleyes in the Itasca area is usually best on the deeper main lake structures. Although main lake humps are still prime locations, weed edges in shallower water are producing some late afternoon fish and it could be a better bet right now. We located a clear spot on the edge of a large weed bed consisting of mixed Coontail and Northern Milfoil. During the day, we had several sightings but not many hits. At about 4:15 the first Walleye hit and the action was good until about 5:25. Even though I usually like the deeper structures in winter, my next trip for Walleye will be back into the shallows.

Itís been a while since Iíve done any serious Pike fishing, but there are some rumors floating around. It sounds like some of the smaller lakes are producing decent catches of better than average size Pike. Iím going to try and work this into the schedule this week and I hope I can give you a report on that next week.

Crappie fishing has still been yielding reports of good action and the system is just what youíd expect. Find the deeper holes adjacent to steeper shoreline breaks and watch your electronics for suspended fish. There were some reports this week of early morning action for Crappies. Iíve missed out on it because we havenít been getting started very early. But thereís no doubt that the afternoon run is still a good option. Yesterday we fished a lake where both Crappies and Perch were present in deeper water. There were large schools of minnows coming and going and The daytime bite consisted entirely of Perch but at about 3:00PM one phantom Crappie hit my demon. We had to leave before the evening run, but Iím sure that had we stayed, the Crappie run would have started in an hour or so.

The Early Bird, Jeff Sundin Fishing Reports For Northern Minnesota

Ice Report 1/5/06 Explorers Finding the Best Action!

Ice conditions are stable and even though the weather has been unseasonably warm, ice quality is holding itís own in the Deer River region. We had an inch or two of new snow this week, but not enough to slow anyone down. In fact itís an ideal time to hike back into some of the areaís more offbeat lakes. Folks are driving pickup trucks on several lakes and plowed roads are showing up on the bigger lakes. Thanks to the warm weather, ice ridges are minimal and so far, itís been easy to get around.

The atmosphere has been gloomy, with barely a peek at the sun in the past ten days. The "perma-grey" seems to have affected movements of fish, especially in areas where thereís been a little pressure. Instead of the expected hot bite for an hour or so at sunset, weíve seen more of a slow-but-steady bite that comes and goes throughout the day. Almost every time I get ready to make a big move, weíll have small bit of action that gets us interested and sucks us back into staying in the old spot for 15 more minutes. The notable exception to this rule has been whenever someone finds a new school of fish that hasnít been pressured. Even folks, who find these new and active schools of fish, wear out their welcome after a few sessions in the area, so the best bet is to keep actively searching while travel conditions are good.

Perch and Walleye fishing is steady if you keep searching

Crappie fishing has been yielding the most consistent reports of good action and the system is just what youíd expect. Find the deeper holes adjacent to steeper shoreline breaks and watch your electronics for suspended fish. For my money the small blade baits like a Demon or Frosty are plenty good. Tail hooking the minnows and keeping them fresh will help trigger some extra bites. When the Crappies seem to be totally inactive, a tiny #10 plain hook, light line (4 pound test maximum) and a tail hooked minnow will get you a few bites. The Crappies are still staging something of an evening bite, but youíll find that it starts and finishes earlier than usual.

Bluegills are cooperating during the day and also stage an early evening bite. Theyíve been a bit shallower than the Crappies and ideally, youíd want to find an area thatís adjacent to some green Coontail or mixed cabbage weeds. The small size jiggle bug or what we used to call "glow Bug" with a wax worm is a good bait for Bluegills right now.


Hey dad, look at this Walleye!


Perch action is improving as folks figure out where the better schools of fish are located. The better action is still found in shallower water of 6 to 10 feet. It forces you to keep moving because the small schools are traveling constantly while they chase large schools of baitfish. Youíll have a hot hole for a while and then notice that someone further on down the line starts catching Perch when your spot gets quiet. I think the better size fish bite almost immediately when you find a new school and staying too long will result in the average size diminishing.

Ice fishing for Walleyes in the Itasca area is best on the main lake structures right now. Deeper edges of humps or deeper points are better for daytime fishing. Moving toward shallower water on top of the humps or even in to the weed edges on shoreline drops. These areas are better bets for the evening run. My favorite for Walleyes is the jigging spoon tipped with the head of a minnow. I like spoons with some copper or dark orange on one side and glow paint on the other. In a pinch, Iíll go with a Copper plated spoon like the Swedish Pimple. Any given day, I will at least catch a couple Walleye if I use this color. One great approach is to rig a second rod that can be watched in a nearby hole while you jig. Simple rigging using a plain hook, split shot and bobber with a tail hooked minnow will trigger a few fish that come in to look at your spoon, but donít hit. This is a great way to pick those couple of extra fish that "make the trip". - Good luck, check back for updates.





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