(12/30/2013) From The Iron Range, Greg Clusiau; Finally Crappies!
How unusual it was for me to latch onto my first crappies through the ice this season on a lake that is nearly a hundred times the size I’m accustomed to. That just doesn’t happen.
Normally, my first-to-freeze lakes are smallish 50-100 acre lakes that quickly seize up with the onset of Minnesota’s winter. This year, however, I would be pulling golden slab crappies from the depths of Big Bowstring Lake, which boasts well over 9,000 acres but that’s okay. I’ll take it.
Geiger’s Trails End Resort was base camp for HSM Outdoors and the HMG (Here’s My Gear) crew, where we teamed up to take plenty of video, photos, and catch a nice variety of fish.
Owners of the popular lodge, Bill and Erin Charlton, have a plowed access onto the lake but at this time only a large parking lot on ice was available. They were awaiting colder temps that would thicken the ice to the point where a plow truck would be able to do it’s job. Better to be safe than sorry, especially in the ice road business.
Once thick enough, Bill plows trail to some of the more popular “community holes”, making easy access to some pretty darn good fishing, whether it’s jumbo perch, slab crappie, or walleye.
Our plan of attack was to saddle up on the snowmobiles and make our way to a proven crappie hole, located a mile and a half away.
Having guided on this magnificent water, I knew more than enough fishing spots for our crew but sketchy lake travel kept us fairly close to “home.” The snow had some depth to it but was no challenge to a snowmobile. It was frequent deep slush pockets that kept us from straying too far.
In the “perfect ice fishing world”, where everyone would have their own snowmobile, it wouldn’t have been a problem in scooting around the lake but when most of us were “doubled up” you just can’t run willy-nilly across the lake. Doing so would be just asking for problems. Not only are you just begging to get stuck, it’s hard on equipment.
Out on the ice, we found an oasis of sorts. Surrounded by slush, we were camped on a frozen, hard surface that made fishing and walking around fairly easy, evidence that someone had been fishing there before, disrupting the slush to the point where it was easy to freeze up. After our two days of travel back and forth from the lodge, it should be frozen to the point where even wheelers should have no trouble. Personally, I’m going to wait until the roads are plowed so I can use the truck.
Fishing wasn’t fast and furious by any means and I believe the weather system had a lot to do with this. I’ve fished “the string” enough to get a feel for things and know what to expect. One could tell it was going to be a fussy bite, which is okay. A situation like this forces an angler to hold his ground and wait them out.
If you get antsy and figure they may be biting better in another spot you’re pretty much dead wrong when conditions are such. The bite you are experiencing will be much the same over the entire lake, along with neighboring bodies of water. It’s just the way it is. The next day or two? Well that’s a totally different story.
Think about it. If the fish have been hard to catch for a number of days, it generally means they aren’t feeding that heavily. However, when they get over the crash-diet syndrome, hang on, as they will be competing for food and fishing is about as good as it gets.
For the most part, best baits were small jigs and spoons tipped with plastics or live bait (wax worms and maggots).
Popular fish catching jigs were Clam Outdoors “Dingle Drop” and “Drop Jig”, along with Northland Tackle’s famed “Mud Bug” and new “Fire-Ball Tungsten Jig.” Northland’s “Forage Minnow” spoon also did well, especially the new 1/32 oz size.
Top producing plastics were Clam’s “Maki Plastics”, along with a wide assortment of Northland Tackle’s “Impulse” baits. As a matter of fact, the spot we fished is marked “Impulse 1" on my handheld gps, a nice reminder of where I did so well with these baits last year.
Basically, small baits were used due to the tough bite. As the fish put on more of an appetite, larger baits and minnows will do the trick.
For more information on fishing Big Bowstring, contact Geiger’s Trails End Resort .
(12/23) From The Iron Range, Greg Clusiau; Whatcha Gonna Do? - Merry Christmas to All
At the time of this writing, Monday morning, I have only been ice fishing two times so far this season and that was our Thanksgiving weekend outing on Upper Red Lake. How sad.
The ice was great at this time and a lack of snow cover allowed us to move around at will and best of all the fish were biting.
However, shortly after this inaugural outing, 16" of fresh snowfall came to visit, hampering lake travel on all bodies of water. Then the sub-zero temps came a calling. It was getting worse.
Frigid temps kept me off the lake, as I couldn’t see using the snowmobile and risking getting stuck in slush “just because.” Back in my younger years, I would have been out there somewhere, regardless of the conditions. Oh, don’t tell me I didn’t think about it.
A better plan was made. That being a Saturday trip to the St Paul Ice Fishing Show. Sunday was no better so I basically never left the house.
The next weekend had me working the Arrowhead Ice Fishing Show in Duluth, which turned out to be a good call, as we were dealing with temps nearing -30º. Here we were, about a month into the ice season and I had yet to catch a crappie, which is usually the first fish I go after.
Our HSM Outdoors group had an outing planned for last Saturday but I came down with the flu on Friday, my last day at work. Of all the luck. I stayed holed up in the house while the rest of them put on a big panfish catching clinic.
We have another outing planned for this Friday and Saturday but the way I’m feeling right now I just don’t see myself healing up in time to join in on the fun. Actually, I’m more than surprised that I’m able to type anything. Yeah, it’s that bad.
I’ll have to lay low, bundle up, and live vicariously through my buddies fishing reports, like this one written by Jeremy Taschuk of Ft. Frances.
Rainy Lake Black Gold - Jeremy Taschuk, HSM Outdoors
I ventured out in search of some Rainy Lake black gold today. As I got to my launching spot I unloaded my snowmobile and headed out on the ice, checking conditions. Upon reaching my first test location I drilled a hole and to my amazement I was cutting thru more ice than I expected. I checked what I had drilled thru "so far" and I had 12 1/4" of ice with all being blue ice but the top 2" which was frozen slush and still had ice remaining. I continued on to my fishing location, finding similar results.
Upon reaching my fishing location I turned around and headed back to get my fishing partner and fish house, and set off to the spot. Once I had reached the spot I drilled about 20 holes in spots that I knew were of various depths. I put my graph in and searched for signs of fish, starting in 22' of water and ended up finding the most activity in 43'.
We chose to set up my Clam Outdoors X2 as it was rather windy and cold. I wanted to have a safe place to be able to take pictures of any fish that we had to release so they would not freeze and potentially die. Finding that the weather was just to unbearable, we chose to fish in the comfort of a warm thermal house with a buddy heater, which provides more than enough warmth.
The best presentations we found were to dead-stick a Northland Fishing Tackle 1/4oz “GumBall” jig tipped with a minnow and wait for a fish to show up on the graph. Then, we had to dance the minnow ever so lightly to coax the fish into biting. The same presentation worked for the “Jiggin Rap” I was using. If I jigged to aggressively the fish would spook. It was just a light dance just to get a twitch in the lure that worked.
We ended up icing about 30 fish with only 4 being in the legal slot of 13 3/4"-17 3/4", with all but one being just shy of the slot. That one however was a nice 25" fish. We snapped a few pictures and got it back in the water.
Please remember that when you are fishing in extreme weather use caution and take your picture fish in a warm shack for a quick photo or keep your fish in the water until your camera guy is ready and get one pic and release that fish before it freezes and potentially dies. (Jeremy Taschuk, HSM Outdoors)
Thanks Jer’, save a few of those beautiful, golden walleye for me! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and remember, be safe, have fun, and good luck!
(12/15) From The Iron Range, Greg Clusiau; Winter Preparedness - "As outdoorsmen and women we frequent the pristine back woods at different intervals in the changing seasons. Myself, in this wild outdoor world, have spent many, many days and nights in the hands of mother nature.
Are you ever truly ready to fight for survival in the woods if things go wrong for you? I'd like you to think about those words as you read the following:
My winter survival
I grew up in an outdoor family. Spending days on end outside was something that I have done since before I could walk. The basic fundamentals of survival have been instilled in me since that time. Never in my life would I have thought that those skills would be put to the test.
Fast forward to the ice season of 2012/2013. We had the most snow and the worst conditions for slush on the ice that I can ever remember in recent years. On one ice adventure during this time my survival instincts/preparedness were put to the test in a way that I hadn't expected.
On my outing this spring I chose to fish alone as I often do in the winter. I knew the conditions were bad for slush on Rainy Lake and as such I chose to go the day before to "make trail" to the spot and see just how bad it really was.
I made it without incident to the spot I wanted to fish. Along the way I noted several deep slush pockets that would hang me up if I slowed down or stopped in them. I chose to put the pin to my Bearcat and run over top of them back to the truck. With my trail made I would wait for it to freeze overnight and then head to my spot on the next day.
I went out and had a stellar afternoon of fishing like I often do on the pristine water of Rainy Lake. As such I chose to stay until dusk to return to my truck and then the short ride back home. After packing up I got underway. During the heat of the day some of my trail that I had made the day before had softened to the point where it was actually dangerous to travel rather than make new trail on top. I was about 6 miles from my truck when the sled got stuck.
It was 8 pm and I was alone....
Being prepared - I carry a fair amount of gear with me when on the ice by myself as one never can tell when bad things are going to happen. I will talk about my basic kit at the end of my story. My first impression was oh boy I don't want to walk 6 miles in snow and slush to my knees in order to be in a warm bed for the night. I then broke out my snowshoes and started to pack the slush. Getting out of these situations while are bothersome; can be done as long as you are prepared.
To get out I packed a trail in the snow by tramping the slush down on snowshoes till it packed for about 100 yards in front of my sled. I unhooked my sleigh and got it on my packed trail. To get my sled out I packed all the way around it.
By this time it was 9 pm. - I waited....
At about 9:45 pm I was ready to attempt to get out of my predicament. During this time I weighed my options and decided that if I couldn't get out I was spending the night as it would be too dangerous to attempt to walk out that late. With that thought I started up my Bearcat and let it warm up really well before attempting to move it. Once warm I tried. I grabbed the rack and heaved while pushing the throttle gently to get the sled moving. Much to my surprise it crawled out of the pocket and onto my packed ice trail. Man I was thankful!!! After getting hooked up to my sleigh I never ran in my same trail and went as quickly as I could back to my truck. When I made it there it was 10:30 pm.
As you read these words consider the following:
1) Are you prepared to spend the night?
2) Can you make reliable and fast fire and keep it going?
3) Do your loved ones know where to look for you?
4) Do you have the resources to get back to your truck?
5) Are you mentally prepared?
I never go in the woods alone in winter without the following close at hand.
1) 2 reliable ways to make fire (I use a firesteel and carry a bic lighter as back up.)
2) Axe or chainsaw
3) enough calories for at least 2 days. ( pack stuff you like to eat as you will use it and then replenish as necessary)
5) To aid in the fire making process I will pack an altoid tin with cotton balls and petroleum jelly. This burns really well and will get even damp wood lit and going.
6) basic first aid kit
7) a small tarp bright in color ( if you have to signal a search aircraft bright colors are better)
a mess tin for heating water
9) water bottle
10) 100’ of paracord
While the ultimate goal spending time in the woods fishing and enjoying the outdoors is what everyone strives for. There are times when if you push the limit you could be put in a bad predicament and have to spend the night. It will be a whole lot easier with some basic survival items. Never once was I panicked or concerned in my situation stuck in the slush because I knew my daypack carried these items and that I would be alright if I had to spend the night. Take the time to consider your winter survival plan and ask yourself “are you truly prepared?” (Courtesy of Tom Batiuk, HSM Outdoors, Ft. Frances, Ontario)
(12/08) From The Iron Range, Greg Clusiau; Whatcha Gonna Do? - I was looking forward to another great ice fishing trip on Upper Red Lake last weekend but the weather turned a bit too chilly for my liking. Hmmm, what to do?
Most lakes, Upper Red included, had sufficient ice for light travel, meaning wheelers, snowmobiles, and walking, but all had a goodly amount of snow cover. A process of elimination had it pretty much whittled down to snowmobiles only, as there was too much for an atv to handle and who wants to be pulling a fishing shelter through all of that snow?
Dragging a shelter a mile or more through deep snow, in order to get to the spot, was a fairly common occurrence for me when younger. It was, however, my only option, as I didn’t own a snowmobile and I was in good physical shape. My how times have changed.
I now own a Bearcat snowmobile that is only used for fishing trips so I actually could have gone fishing if so desired and would have if not for the sub-zero temperatures. It was even too cold for a snowmobile-pulling-a-shelter outing. No, I wasn’t going. That was it. I’d have to find something else “outdoorsy” to do on this weekend day off.
I had a plan (surprise, surprise). I’d travel south, not far enough where the weather would be much warmer but the atmosphere certainly would be. I’d head to the St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show that was being held at River Centre. An annual event, it’s always a good time bumping into old friends, along with making a few new ones and that I did.
It was -24º when Blake Liend and I left home early Saturday morning and even St. Paul was bitter on this day. Not going fishing turned out to be a good call. The place was packed and close parking was just about maxed out.
Entering the building, I recognized the voice of old friend Tom Zenanko, who was doing a live broadcast radio show with “The Ticket” 105 fm sports radio. Tom, an expert on using Vexilar electronics, was discussing the “ins and outs” of using good electronics for ice fishing.
Had Blake and I had been a bit earlier, we would have heard one of our HSM Outdoors pro staffers, Tom Batiuk, talking about ice fishing safety, when traveling with snowmobiles back in the bush. Tom was doing the show from his home in Ontario and always is prepared and plays it safe when venturing into the back country.
The Clam Outdoors booth was more than busy, with nearly all of the twenty or more pro staffs answering questions from the crowd. Blake and I had the weekend off but will be working at the inaugural Arrowhead Ice Fishing & Winter Show in Duluth show this coming weekend. Hours are Friday 12-8, Saturday 9-7, and Sunday 9-5. Please stop by and talk fishing with us!
Held at the Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center, it gets underway on Friday and runs through Sunday. A line-up of seminars on Saturday includes: (seminars given all three days)
* 10:00 - Jason Durham, “Hyper Speed Panfish”
* 11:00 - Chris Granrud, “Big Fish from Big Water”
* 12:00 - Jeff Anderson - “The Triggering Factor”
* 1:00 - Jason Mitchell - “Trophy Walleye Tactics”
* 2:00 - Bill Hesselgrave - “Fish Filleting”
* 3:00 - Chris Granrud, “Big Fish from Big Water”
* 4:00 - Jason Durham, “Hyper Speed Panfish”
* 5:00 - Jeff Anderson, “The Triggering Factor”
* 6:00 - Jason Mitchell, “Trophy Walleye Tactics”
This looks to be a great show. Be sure to stop in and say hello.
On the fishing front, Upper Red Lake was hot last weekend in spite of the sub zero temperatures. Talking with Bear Paw Guide Service last Sunday night, Steve Brasel said there’s 12" of ice and they will be moving rental shelters out onto the lake during the week. The best depth for catching fish last weekend was still close to shore in 9' of water. - Good luck on the ice, play it safe, and have fun.
(12/02) From The Iron Range, Greg Clusiau; Upper Red Lake a First Ice Trip - I finally have a first ice fishing trip under my belt and oddly enough it wasn’t for crappies. Normally I am on smallish, first-to-freeze panfish lakes first and do the walleye thing a little later but when I heard folks were walking out and catching limits of hungry fish on Upper Red Lake, a trip had to be made. The crappies would have to wait.
Always on the safe side of ice fishing, I was in close contact with Bear Paw Guide Service prior my trip. Fishing guide Tyler Brasel is always one of the first on the ice and if anyone would know the conditions, he would.
Lodging was lined up at Bear Paw as well, with most of the HSM Outdoors crew staying in two of their “camping cabins”, which are situated across the road from West Wind.
We arrived around noon on Friday and quickly headed out onto the lake with atvs, following Tyler. The spot had been “lights out” in the early morning hours so we knew fish were present and we had a pretty good chance of catching some of them.
Actually, we “had” to catch fish, as West Winds was closed until the following weekend. Original plans had us eating a fine supper at West Winds after a Friday afternoon of fishing. We didn’t bring much for groceries but planned on a Saturday night fish fry so we ended up cooking a bunch of nice walleye the first night there.
The fishing was a little on the slow side but every once in a while a chunky walleye made it’s way to the surface. These fish are extremely healthy and with a limit of four fish under 20" it makes for very nice bunch of fish to take home.
The ice measured at 8" and we fished about a mile out from shore. When traveling from one spot to another, we ran a trail closer to shore to be safe. It’s freezing well but the ice did thin out some as we went further out. Always be careful and if there’s a well used trail available, use it.
Saturday was a full day on the ice and close to a hundred fish were caught by our group alone. I didn’t get too many myself but one of our guys, Travis DeWitt, put on a real clinic. He must have caught at least thirty fish himself.
He did, however, have sort of an unfair advantage and that was Northland Tackle’s new UV Buck-Shot Spoon, “purple tiger” in color. It’s described in the online catalog as “the UV Buck-Shot Spoon incorporates a highly visible, UV enhanced, optical-brightened finish with the ticking, thumping and clicking Buck-Shot rattle to lure fish in from a wide radius.” And that it did.
Travis absolutely hammered the fish with that spoon and even though I’m on Northland Tackle’s pro staff, I never had one. You can bet I’ll be putting in my order before the next outing.
Walleye expert Ray Welle did well using Clam’s new Blade Spoon. It’s described as “Cover a swath of horizontal territory with the water slicing, random fluttering Blade Spoon. The secret is the flat rhombic triangle front – slices through the water on the upward snap, then contributes to an incredibly realistic, dying baitfish flutter as you let it free-fall on slack line. No way to keep it in the cone angle until it settles back. Call fish in, then yo-yo it in their face to finish the job.”
These are both new-to-the-market lures for this season and it looks like they’re both winners. I don’t have any of these either but will very shortly.
Most of our fishing took place in 7' of water. We did try other depths and caught fish there too but 7' seemed to be the lucky depth for us. Another thing about Upper Red Lake is if you go there and are not doing that well by all means move. Try larger jumps like 100 yards or so and once fish are found, make shorter moves to stay on top of active fish. This is critical for basin type lakes like Upper Red.
On a final note, I should mention that Bear Paw has increased their fleet of ice fishing rental houses to thirteen now, with seven sleepers and six day houses. Tell ‘em Greg sent ya!
(11/17) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; A Most Memorable Hunt.
Last Saturday found me heading up north with dad. I was coming off a two weekend deer hunt in Ontario and never bothered to purchase a Minnesota license. I was just plain hunted out. Besides, hunting had been sub-par for most and the weather, being warm and windy, wasn’t the best for deer hunting. Dad, however, at 85 years of age, did and was still in the hunt.
We were basically just riding around, with me driving his truck. If we saw a deer that offered a shot, it would be up to him to do so. He has trouble in seeing out of his right and dominant eye so he would be using my rifle, as the scope was a little better than the one on his gun.
Our first stop was at my son’s house. Denise, his wife, said he was out on the stand and hunting alone. His two oldest daughters, Celia and Lexi, had each shot a deer and were done for the season. His hunting partners, Aaron and Jason Clusiau, also found success in bagging 8 point bucks and weren’t in camp yet.
Traveling further north, down highway 65, was a trip down memory lane for dad and several of his stories had me laughing to the point where tears were streaming down my face. Oh my.
Pointing to an open field, where my grandparents once lived, he said “there’s where (name withheld) shot dad’s horse.” Apparently a local poacher mistook my grandfather’s colt for a deer and shot it while “headlighting.”
That was followed up by a tale of some game wardens from Ely that once came to the house, hoping to purchase some deer. There’s more to this story, trust me.
Then there was the time when dad found a monstrous deer rack, as the result of a wolf kill. He dropped it off, hiding it, at the local dump and waited for the rats to clean up the skull. Upon returning, to pick it up, he found that someone else had beat him to it. This things had to be big because dad and the crew had shot a lot of big deer and this was one of the best.
Driving past Prarie River, he mentioned of the time when he and my uncle Alan were fishing when a stray cast left a “Finlander spoon” dangling through the skin between his eyes. They had to drive back to Nashwauk to get it removed, all the way with dad holding the big spoon up in front of his face.
Wamp Lake had the springtime story of my uncle Jack getting caught shooting fish (northerns) in the a little spawning creek. Needless to say, he had to go to court and buy back the rifle that he borrowed from the Souja brothers.
Then there was the time he returned home with three little orphaned bear cubs, two black and one brown. We took care of them, feeding them with a baby bottle while wearing welding gloves. Later in the summer they were delivered to a trading post near Two Harbors. Dad went back a year later and was able to get into their cage and walk right up to the black cubs, who remembered him, but the brown one, who always had a really bad attitude, just looked at him and growled.
Rounding a curve on county road 52, dad mentioned “this is where Marilyn helped me load a big 8 point buck that time.” Marilyn, my wife, was heading up to the deer camp to see how everyone was doing and came across my dad trying to load a big buck into the back of his pickup truck. Naturally, she had to stop and lend a hand and knowing her she didn’t like touching that thing one bit. I wish I could have seen that.
One of his most memorable deer came when he was using a bolt-action 30-30 with a clip. He shot until running out of shells and had to pursue the animal without any ammo. Carrying the gun along so he wouldn’t lose it, he eventually caught up to it and had to take care of it with his knife. The deer was standing when he finally tackled it. That story made the local paper.
Our biggest buck, well almost our biggest, came when we had wounded a huge deer that we tracked into another hunters camp, a ½ mile away. Following a large blood trail, we heard “the shot.” Someone else had finished it off and normally that wouldn’t be such a big deal but it turned out to be the largest deer taken in Minnesota that year, dressing out at well over 300 pounds.
The stories went on and on and got even deeper as we stopped at a couple more camps. Returning home, dad said “that was fun. I didn’t want a deer anyway.” I agreed saying “yeah, it’s all fun until you pull the trigger.” It turned out to be one of my best hunting days ever and I wasn’t even hunting. Thanks dad.
(11/6) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; Ontario Hunt Over - "That’s it! My Ontario deer hunting experience is over, for this year. It turned out to be an extremely tough hunt but was well worth the time and money spent and it was an odd feeling, hunting whitetails on the Minnesota deer opener but not being in Minnesota.
Having done countless fishing trips in Ontario, this was my first time ever crossing the border with a gun.
All it takes is a little paper work, $25, and your good to go. Only my deer rifle was registered but after seeing dozens of birds (spruce hens, ruffed grouse, and sharptail) in the four days hunted, I think I’ll be bringing along a shotgun next year as well. I’ve never seen so many “sharpies.” I even saw flocks of them fly past me, while sitting on a stump, waiting for deer.
Actually, I just may go earlier next year and try a “cast and blast.” Imagine doing a little duck or goose hunting before heading out on the lake for walleye and crappie. Sounds like a plan to me.
Ontario has it’s boundaries and permit areas, much like Minnesota. My hunting partner, Jeremy Taschuk, could only take a buck in some areas and anything (bucks, does, yearlings, fawns) in another. He also had a moose license, which only allowed him to take a calf, which he said was hard to do, as mama protected them quite well. I, on the other hand, could only shoot an antlered buck and believe me, I tried.
Wolves. There’s plenty of them. Actually, the area I hunted had more than it’s fair share and I think this contributed to the problem of not seeing too many deer. We had a lobo run across the road, in front of us, on our last day and one of Jeremy’s trail cameras showed four of them enjoying a corn pile. Yes, wolves like corn too.
The scarcity of deer was reportedly blamed on last year’s severe winter, along with a healthy population of wolves. Some had it figured that the deer herd was down 60%. I believe it, as “shooter bucks” were hard to come by.
We only had one buck that we could have shot and that was a curious little spiker that we let walk. I wasn’t up there for that. I was there for a chance at a real trophy and judging by the occasional big tracks, they are around and we were hunting in the right place. It was one of those “right place at the right time” type of deals. It reminded me of musky fishing, going for the big one, all or nothing. I like that.
I thought I had a good buck on the last day, when a huge doe paused at the top of a hillside. Bringing up the scope, I was expecting to see some sort of a rack but didn’t see any headgear at all. Cranking up my variable scope to the max, while the deer watched, I put it back on her head for a better look and watched until she ran off. It was as big a doe as one could ever hope for. Holding my position, I waited, hoping a nice buck would be close behind. Nothing.
An hour later, while making my way up and down throughout the cuts, I noticed extremely large tracks walking on top of my partner’s trail. Was it a big buck that I anticipated to be following the big doe? I’m guessing yes. They don’t get that big by being stupid. The only time they seem to let their guard down is when the rut makes them more than careless and now was the time. Maybe I should’ve waited a bit longer.
Talking to a local outfiitter on the first weekend, we were assured that it was a tough hunt. He had five hunters leave camp, heading back home, having gone “0 for 5". They did pass on a small 6 point and a spiker but those were the only bucks they had seen. They just weren’t moving. Such is hunting. Like fishing, you don’t always get the big ones.
Talking to the same deer guide last Saturday, he reported his group to be “1 for 12", which is terrible. Later in the day, we heard him on the radio saying they had another nice buck and needing help in getting it out. That made it “2 for 12.” Still not good.
Hunting two hours north of the border, I cut my Sunday’s hunt a little short and left at 2 pm. That left me two hours to the border and another two to get home. So here I sit, writing this column at 8 pm on a Sunday night. It’s do that or get up extra early and write it before going to work at 6 am. I just can’t win. :)
This weekend? I have tentative plans to deer hunt with a buddy in the Togo area but if there’s any safe ice on Upper Red Lake, forget it! Good luck, be safe, and have fun. Enjoy the great outdoors!
(11/6) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; Border Buck Elusive - The thought came to me during last year’s deer hunting season. I would abandon my annual Minnesota deer hunting ritual and make a trip across the border into Ontario instead. Tired of the “same old thing”, this would be a fresh new adventure for me. Having fished in Canada at least a couple hundred times, I had never hunted there before and it was time to do so.
Dates were lined up with fishing buddy and soon to be hunting partner Jeremy Taschuk who resides just across the border in Ft. Frances. Taschuk, along with his wife Mindy, both had guide licenses and I would be hunting with them, a non-resident requirement when hunting areas that are basically “closer to town.” We ended up hunting an hour or so north, which really isn’t too close at all.
Head way up north and you can go on your own, which doesn’t sound like good thing to do, especially when going for the first time. Getting lost up in that neck of the woods could very well be a life threatening ordeal and even though I was with others, I made darn sure to mark the vehicle location on my gps before heading into the bush.
The first spot was a classic. Jeremy walked me in and placed me in a great looking area. There was plenty of shooting space and a corn pile was strategically placed about 70 yards away. This was new to me, as baiting isn’t allowed in Minnesota but in Ontario, yes.
They even allow the use of dogs but we didn’t go that far. Pushing deer with dogs works well when hunting islands, as the dogs can’t stray off and deer are more easily taken. It’s been said that serious “doggers” don’t get too attached to their animals as you may have to put one down while back in the bush, which can happen every once in a while. A prime example is when a cornered buck gored a dog to the point where it couldn’t be saved and it had to be disposed of. Sad? Yes, but such is the game when using canines to aid in the hunt.
Sitting there in a folding camp chair, I was as comfortable as the weather and looking forward to seeing my first deer when I heard the harmonious chorus of wolves off in the distance. I like that sound and always enjoy hearing it. However, the next rendition, five minutes later, was considerably closer and made me take note.
I recalled a conversation about too many wolves in some of these areas, with one pack reported to be some thirty strong. I wasn’t sure how many wolves I was hearing but it sounded like goodly sum.
Five more minutes resulted in another howling, directly behind me and off to each side, which was unsettling to say the least. I sat there for a while, hoping a deer would be pushed my way. Then the mind games started.
If the wolves are there, deer must be present but it does get to the point where there are no deer at all. That was normally the case when hunting back home. Too many wolves usually meant poor hunting. With all of this howling, and so close, would I even have a chance at seeing a deer? Which was it?
Folding up the chair, I made my way back to the road and looked for a different spot to sit. It was at this time that I realized there wasn’t a whole lot of fresh deer tracks on the road. They seemed to be few and fairly old.
Meeting up with the rest of the crew, who did see one deer, we traveled to a totally different location and found a good looking spot that contained plenty of deer tracks and of all sizes.
Hunting here allowed us to see a few deer but all were does and the guides could only take bucks in this area. Moving to another area would allow them to take anything. I, on the other hand, was relegated to taking only a buck, which is why I was hunting up there in the first place.
The best opportunity I had to fill my license came toward the end of the second day, when we jumped a big buck. I had my rifle up but couldn’t make out a rack, as it bounded across a meadow and disappeared into the thick woods. Even if I would have seen antlers, which Jeremy did, it would have been a chancy shot at best and there was no snow to aid in tracking. The right call was made. This same spot found Jeremy passing on a spike buck.
The weather was comfortable, which often has the deer not moving well during the day. The rut was just beginning and with forecasted colder temps, next weekend should be better. In any event, it’s been a great experience thus far and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
(10/28) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; Rounding the Corner - Seasons are fast changing and I’m trying my best to keep up with all. A four day weekend, due to a couple of requested days off from work, had me attending the “Pro Day” festivities at Clam’s new headquarters on Thursday.
Stationed in Rogers, Minnesota, it boosts 150,000 square feet and is filled with everything Clam has to offer. What a place.
This was a precursor to an expected exciting ice season and it will be all of that. Clam Outdoors is bulging at the seams with ice fishing products, old and new, and Pro Day was an excellent way to showcase all products to a very large staff.
Just to name a few of the heavy hitters present on this day, Jason Mitchell was there representing his television show “Jason Mitchell Outdoors”, as well as the likes of Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz of “The Next Bite TV”. I even saw famed Minnesota Viking running back Jim Kleinsasser sitting there, taking it all in. And who could forget “the father of ice fishing” and Hall of Fame angler Mr. Dave Genz. Without this fella, ice fishing certainly wouldn’t be at the progressed level it is today. Thanks Dave.
Friday was a fishing day and the last one spent this season in a boat. Blake Liend and I ran up north and tried a lake in the Marcell area and couldn’t find the fish. It was, however, windy as all get out. Just awful. We were both happy to get out of there.
From there we headed back toward home and tried a lake north of Nashwauk that produced a very nice catch of crappies. Here too, the wind made it difficult to fish from a boat and staying on top of them was a real challenge. Even with the 50 hp Honda in reverse, we were being pushed forward at a rate of 2 mph.
The best bait was a 1/8 oz. Northland Tackle “FireBall Jig” tipped with a chartreuse Impulse “Paddle Bug”. I was using minnows at first but had to dig into cold water after every fish so I went with plastic and solved that problem. I don’t know why I didn’t do that sooner??
After Friday’s chilling, wet, and wild day on the water, I figured that’s enough. The boat’s going into storage and Saturday was spent doing just that.
Bringing it up north to a storage facility, I was greeted by a blustery, mini snowstorm. “Just in the nick of time” I thought to myself.
While there, I figured I may as well check on my little 14' aluminum boat and get that one tucked away for winter too. My worst fears were realized when I drove down the hill to take a look. There it sat, high and dry out of the lake but filled to the brim with rainwater. Luckily a local trapper left a plastic backpack there for me to use as a bailer. Within minutes, it was emptied out and upside down, ready for the cold months ahead. The oars, anchor, and outboard were loaded up, hauled away, and put to bed.
Early Sunday morning had me looking at the forecast and realizing that Saturday night’s plan was going to happen. I was heading up to the Rainy River for a little shore fishing for walleye. I knew it was a hit-or-miss deal, when anchored down on shore, but I had done well there before and figured the timing to be right.
Parking on top of the hill, near the Manitou Rapids, I carried two rods, a bucket of minnows, long-handled landing net, and travel bag full of other necessities. It was heavy but once there, I would be all set. The trip down the trail was another thing, being very slippery mud and I’m a little surprised I didn’t wipe out going down the hill.
Anxious to give it a cast, I didn’t bother to stick on a minnow. A 3" chartreuse Impulse “Swim’n Grub” already graced the end of my line and looked perfect for the task at hand. Five or six cast later had me latching onto a 21" walleye. Nice and chunky, it was in the slot and had to be released. Fish had to be under 19 ½" in order to be kept.
An hour later, I still only had one walleye to my credit. Switching to a large chub minnow and casting out as far as possible found another 21" fish and then it stopped. That was the end of it. The wind was howling, it was cold, and I was ready to head back home after only four hours of fishing. I didn’t care. It was fun and I made it happen.
(10/21) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; Open Water Fishing Winding Down - I put in a couple good days in the boat, last Friday and Saturday, but hunkered down in the house on Sunday, mainly because of a chest cold that refuses to leave. An industrial application of Vicks VapoRub had my eyes watering, while writing this article, but I could still see well enough to type and the light snowfall coming down in the backyard. I was glad to be indoors.
Maybe if I’d taken better precaution, like not fishing on those days, I’d be feeling better but what could a guy do? The open water is season is fast winding down and I wanted to get in a couple more licks on those crappies and boy did I ever.
One of my favorite lakes finally cooled down enough to push them into their winter haunts. Although it does at times take a good deal of searching, once found it’s a slam dunk. The kicker here is that I had no one to share this action with, as all regular fishing partners had something else going on, more than likely related to the upcoming deer season.
Friday’s outing had me searching. The crappies weren’t where they were last fall. I like it when this change of location takes place, as it keeps the fish more protected. Being holed up in the same spot each and every year would have the population quickly depleted. I don’t mind looking for fish and find this almost as much fun as catching them.
The first school I found consisted of smaller crappie, not what I made the trip for. Moving about the lake, I came across various schools of fish and settled on a huge mass that looked like it was “busy.” By this I mean that the fish were bunched up in sort of a gang, like thugs, but were up off the bottom, which usually means they are competing for food.
Lowering my offering into the mass resulted in a quick crappie, although small in size. Several more were caught before I remembered how I found the larger fish last year.
With that in mind, I dropped my lure, a 1/4 oz “Fire-Ball Spin”, Glow Watermelon in color, tipped with a minnow, down to the fish but held it a foot above the school. Almost immediately, a 12" crappie shot out of the mass and took my offering. Ah hah! It was working again. Using this presentation allowed me to put together a very nice limit of fish in a short amount of time.
I should mention that normally a 1/4 oz jig may be too much for crappies but when vertically fishing in deep water a heavier jig is required and when they are on the bite it doesn’t seem to matter one bit. They are competing for food and quite aggressive.
I like to use the “Fire-Ball Spin” because of the little spinner that’s attached to the underside of the jig. This really calls attention to your bait, especially when it’s slowly nearing the fish. They can see it coming and are positioning themselves to strike.
Now if it’s a tough bite, this presentation may not work. There are times when you do have to reduce down in size to get them to go, much like ice fishing and actually this is just like ice fishing only in a boat. Another month from now could have us cautiously walking on ice out to this same spot. Will the fish be there? I’m hoping so.
Last weekend’s outings just may be my last of the open water season but I’ll keep the boat in the garage, ready to go, and see how all plays out. There will be a few nice days coming our way but remember the Minnesota firearms deer season gets underway November 9 and that’s just around the corner.
Most avid deer hunters have their trails cut and stands in place. Not me. I’m a self-declared average hunter who hasn’t done a thing yet. Too much good fishing was in the way for me.
Another thing I should mention is I am going to try my hand at hunting whitetails in Ontario this year. This should be an exciting experience. I’ll keep you all posted. Good luck, have fun, and be safe.
(10/14) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; Day Trips Usually Worth the Effort.
If you’re a regular reader of my weekly outdoor adventures, you should know by now that I’m really big on doing “day trips” and last Sunday we, Blake Liend and I, did just that. It wasn’t one of those long jaunts, like the 450 miler we did a while back but just a little guy, around 250 miles or so. That’s like a walk in the park, especially when Blake does all of the driving.
I learned a long time ago that in order to maintain a successful record of putting fish in the boat, one had to travel. This logic even applies to local lakes. Why beat your head against the wall and try your best at catching fish in a nearby lake that isn’t currently producing when a 30 minute travel down the road can turn things around dramatically.
I did a solo trip last Saturday, fishing one of my regular fall crappie lakes. Remember how windy it was? It was terrible but I gave this particular lake my best shot, mainly because it was somewhat protected from the 20-30 mph winds.
The weather had these fish in a real funk and I only caught three small crappies, even though I spotted hundreds of them hugging bottom. If the fish are up high, it generally means they are more aggressive and feeding. However, finding them spread out and scattered across the lake, holding tight to bottom, usually means that you are going to be in for a long day and I was. The next day had to be different and a total change in location was needed.
All it took was a couple of phone calls, one to Ontario angler Tom Batiuk and another to my fishing partner Blake Liend.
With Tom, I asked what he thought about crappie fishing in his neck of the woods, as long as it wasn’t happening here. He stated that Saturday was terrible, weather-wise, but Sunday looked good, being sunny and a whole lot less windy. He did have concerns about the barometric pressure hampering our success but offered to give it a try.
With Blake, all I had to do is say “want to go to Ontario tomorrow and fish with Tom?” “Okay” he responded. I was expecting that.
Leaving town at 5 am, we crossed the border and found ourselves fishing before 8 am. It was cool, pushing cold, and steam was rising off the lake.
Each of us put on our warmest ice fishing garb and set out across the lake. I tried looking forward but that old “ice cream headache” had me turning around and keeping the wind to my back until we reached our destination.
Once there, Northland “Thumper Jigs”, tipped with Impulse plastics, were tossed out behind the boat and a slow trolling presentation was offered. Within minutes, the first slab made it’s way to the boat. It was small but at least gave us hope that a good day would ensue.
A few more smaller fish had us moving to a different location and it was here where we found the larger slabs, averaging 11-13 inches. Good eaters.
Two hours later, we were pushing our limit, which was 10 each for me and Blake and 15 for Canadian resident Batiuk. The next to hours were spent “just catching” and tossing everything back.
It payed to travel. Even though there was a bit of a gas cost, it was well worth the trip. Here it was 1:00 pm and Blake and I were on the way back home.
One might think “why drive that far to only fish for a couple of hours?” I look at it this way. Why fish all day long, close to home, and go home with nothing. Fish fry at my house!
(10/7) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; A Nip in the Air - Cooler nights have me in the fall fishing mode and I’ve been having a lot of fun with the crappie as of late. Sure, walleye have been biting very well too but I pretty much have most of the fall fishing season reserved for ol’ papermouth. It’s what I do.
I like to move around and check out different lakes, just to see if it’s happening like it did in years past. Usually things go like clockwork, with crappie being located in the exact same spot as they were the year before. However, sometimes not and I’m always intrigued by this phenomena. Their movement could be caused by a number of factors but I”m sure forage is the main ingredient here.
Normally, all it takes is a little moving around and fish are found in the same general area, being 50-60 yards or so from the original spot. Thank goodness for gps units, as this is the way to go when in search mode.
I’ll keep moving around in a pattern they call “mowing the grass”, which is basically just that. Picture yourself in a well-planned grass cutting task. You normally never cut over something that is already cut. Riding in a boat, looking at the gps, is very much the same plan of attack.
By watching your navigation track, you can cover a huge area to determine if it’s even worth fishing. I’ll do this by idling around an area before I even think of dropping a line. However, if fish are seen, even if sporadic at best, I’ll slow down and work it over to see what’s happening down there.
Some lakes I just can’t figure out and this really bugs me. As a personal challenge, I hit one or two of these tight-lipped lakes each fall and find myself heading back to the public access with the results being the same as they were last year, nothing.
One lake has very nice crappies but it does have a good deal of deep, dense cabbage weeds and I’m guessing that they may be in there someplace. The problem is that there are just too many weeds for me to search. I’ve tried. I know they’re not in the basin areas, as I’ve scoured the entire lake more than once.
Even though the weather left a lot to be desired, I managed to fish four lakes last weekend, from Friday through Sunday. Fishing was slow but that didn’t bother me one bit. I like to see just where the fish are located and how active they are. I am also curious to see if they’ve grown any. By the way, all of that boat time resulted in a few nice crappie meals but all were released. Again, I am so curious. I think if I was a cat I’d be dead in a week, with all of those nine lives being used up.
One plus regarding cool, fall fishing is if I use any minnows they are so much easier to take care of when returning home. All I need to do is freshen up the water and put the bubbler on. Lately, I’ve been using mostly plastics, like Northland Tackle’s “Impulse” baits and minnows aren’t used at all. How nice is that?
Another bonus to fall fishing is that fact that I can leave all of my beverages, even some food on occasion, in the boat and it’s ready to go in the morning. No need for ice. The Gatorade is cold enough to give you an instant “ice cream headache.”
Sometimes, when it’s cold out, I’ll put the plug in the livewell to prevent any water from entering and use it like a basic cooler. Crappies to be kept are tossed inside and at day’s end you don’t have to put your hand in ice-cold water to pull the plug.
I always say, especially when ice fishing or late fall, if your hands aren’t cold you’re not catching any fish. If your fingers are burning from the chill, it usually means that you’ve been handling fish. Here’s another of my fall, foul-weather tips to warm your hands up if you really need to. You notice that stream of water coming out of the back of your outboard? Test it sometime. Put your fingers in the flow and see how warm it is. Ahhh. Back in the game.
(9/30) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; Calling All Crappies - I love catching crappies year ‘round but have to admit fall is a favorite and special time for me.
Most of the waters I visit in the fall have crappies, bluegills too, down in the basin areas that we commonly fish throughout the winter months. So basically, I am getting out there in a boat and catching them in popular ice fishing areas. Some of these spots are regular, so-called community fishing holes and others are back-in-the-bush little hot spots that rarely see an angler.
This is a time of year when it’s just beginning to happen, with some lakes having fish already frequenting winter spots, while others aren’t quite there yet. It all depends on the lake and there are no two exactly alike.
Recently, I have been doing well on the crappies by fishing a shallow lake that has fish scattered across a huge 12' flat. Come winter, these fish just may seek out deeper water but for now they are totally content with their skinny water digs. Having not ice fished this body of water yet, I guess I’ll have to wait and see where they hole up when ice puts a lid on the lake.
This particular body of water has a somewhat unusual stain to it. It’s not the classic, dark, root beer colored bog stain but sort of a mix between a light bog, tinted with greenish algae. Regardless, it definitely has some color to it and this calls for a presentation that practically shouts out to the fish “here I am, come and get it.”
The perfect lure for this presentation has been Northland Tackle’s “Thumper Jig”, along with the “Thumper Crappie King.” Both jigs offer a belly blade spinner that emits a lot of flash and noise, which is a great benefit when fishing stained waters.
The smaller “Thumper Crappie King” features a lifelike minnow head and comes pre-rigged with a scented “DoubleCurl” (split) screwtail. The scent, along with the flash, can call fish in from quite a distance. It definitely gets their attention. Especially in dirty water.
The “Thumper Jig” is designed with a sleek, almost skinny, minnow head, which allows the bait to easily sink to the desired depth. We’ve been tipping the Thumper with Impulse plastics, especially the chartreuse and limetreuse “Paddle Bug”. Both of these bright colors really shine when it comes to getting noticed in stained waters.
Minnows were tried, when first starting out, but they had to be often repositioned after casting and reeling. Plastics proved to be the way to go, especially when the fish were biting as well as they were. If it’s a tough, reluctant bite, minnows may be needed but then again I’ve seen Impulse plastics out-fish live bait again and again. You just never know.
We presented these baits by back-trolling with my 50 hp Honda, which goes 1 ½ mph in reverse. This may sound a bit fast for panfish but if they want it, they’ll take it. I think it’s more of a reflex bite and it happens quite easily when there’s a large school of fish competing for food.
We experimented with various jig sizes until one was found that ran a couple feet off the bottom, as this is where most of the fish were at. Too light of a jig ran high in the water column and rarely received a strike.
The best producing combination ended up being a brightly colored (Firetiger or Watermelon) “Thumper Jig”, 1/8 oz in size, tipped with a brightly colored (Chartreuse or Limetreuse) Impulse “Paddle Tail”.
The magic formula goes something like this: “Color + Flash/Sound + Scent = Crappies”, especially when fishing stained water.
(9/25) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; The Washer - I guess it all started a couple weeks after the opening day of this year’s fishing season, back in late May. Having just picked up my boat, the recipient of a new outboard motor, I was idling across a portion of Ely Lake and was rudely introduced to a rocky, mid-lake reef.
Focusing 100% of my attention on the graph’s menu features, trying to re-learn myself after a long winter, I didn’t take notice of the fast climb in depth and came to a bumpy, embarrassing halt out in the middle of nowhere.
Slowly raising the motor, I peeked over the stern and found the prop to be still operable but beat up none-the-less.Normally, it wouldn’t be such a big deal but here I was with a brand new outboard that wasn’t even broke in yet and I had the prop and skeg all dinged up within a week. It’s just wasn’t right.
Fast forward to the present. I ran that knuckled-over propeller all summer long and finally had a chance to replace it, last week, with a new one. It was one of those rare days that I wasn’t out on the water so a trip was made to Aronson Boat Works, near Tower, to pick it up.
It’s an easy task and about as simple a job as it can get when it comes to working on a fishing rig.
The first order of things was to raise the motor as high as I could. This allowed me to work on it at a comfortable level. There would be no bending over, or so I thought.
The split pin was straightened out so it could be removed. The castle nut was next. Sliding the old prop up and off the shaft, I noticed a washer, which I didn’t remove, slipping it’s way through the prop and disappearing somewhere.
I never heard it hit the floor but my hearing isn’t the best and I did have some carpeting in the garage. Maybe it just hit the rug and rolled into a corner somewhere. Whatever the case, it had to be found if I was to be doing any fishing on Saturday.
The first spots checked over were of the obvious, under the boat, along the garage wall, and next to some tackle boxes that were neatly stacked on the floor. Nothing.
Hooking up the trailer and pulling the rig outside gave me a clear view of all but it still wasn’t found.
Next was to vacuum the carpet, in hopes of hearing that awful, but good in this case, sound of something that doesn’t belong in a vacuum cleaner. You know the sound. Again nothing?
As long as I was at it, the entire garage floor was cleaned, with everything being moved. The place was looking pretty good but still no washer.
Back inside the house, my little dog, Lily, was awaiting me. Figuring it was time for a potty break, I asked “do you have to go outside?” Opening the door, she ran directly across the backyard and inside the garage, which is something she never does, and was scanning the area, walking around, peering in all the corners and little spots that I had. Looking at her, I laughingly said “Lily, you don’t even know what you’re looking for.” She even stood in one spot and thoroughly scoured the entire carpeted area, along with other parts of the garage floor.
I don’t know if that was just a coincidence or something else due to our very close relationship but it was comical and strange at the same time. I’ll never forget it.
A drive to a couple local boat repair outfits resulted in a big fat zero. This was Thursday night and the clock was ticking.
On the next and final day of locating a washer, a call was placed to Ray’s in Grand Rapids. Yes, they had one and one only! I happily told the lady on the other end to save it for me and that I’d be there shortly after work to pick it up.
Working until 2 pm and hustling twenty miles to Grand Rapids, I was a little more than disappointed when a package bearing the wrong part was handed to me. Now what? Ready to head home, she said “check with the guys in back, maybe they have one.”
Heading to the repair area, I explained my problem and was told that they didn’t have one. Oh sure, one could have been ordered but I wanted to go fishing in the morning.
As I was leaving, the repair man said “maybe it fell into the housing.” Hmm. That got me to thinking and the closer I got to home the more I thought it just may be there.
Walking into the house, I asked Marilyn to grab a flashlight and follow me to the garage. After all, she helped in the search and if it was there, I wanted her to find it.
Pointing to the prop-less housing area, I said “see if you can see anything in there.” Within a second, she responded “yes, there it is.” It was one of those Homer Simpson moments. Doh!
It turned out to be a story with a happy ending. My outboard was sporting a new prop, I would be able to go fishing the next morning, and probably best of all, the garage was cleaned! Good luck, be careful, and have fun!
(9/16) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; A Fork in the Road - The air temps flirted with freezing last weekend, keeping us all reminded that fall is officially here and winter fast approaching but that’s a good thing, except for the fact that I had to turn the furnace on.
Getting ready for last Saturday’s fishing session, I was sure to put on the long underwear, as the temp was measured at 38º when I left the house. My destination? The Gunn Lake Chain.
My ride “up to Gunn” is always by route of the Spider Lake Trail, which is spectacular when the leaves finally decide to don their fall colors. This time, however, they were mostly green, with only a slight hint of the changes to come. I was a little early.
Like many, if not most, of my fishing trips, nothing is ever set in stone. Once I get behind the wheel, I have the opportunity to change my mind several times before reaching a preplanned fishing destination. This too, is a good thing. Thank you northern Minnesota.
Leaving my house in Keewatin, the first thoughts of putting the boat in elsewhere came to me only three miles down the road, as I slowed but passed the turnoff to O’Brien Reservoir. Thoughts of largemouth bass, northern pike, and walleye rushed through my head, as I glanced at the flooded reservoir. One story that stuck in my head was a young boy who caught his first ever walleye, while fishing the reservoir. It measured 32" and with a little coaxing from his fishing partner, another youngster, he released the monster. Now that’s pretty darn good and I doubt he’ll ever get another like it.
I took a photo of the lake, when empty, before the flooding process got underway, some 25 years ago, or more, figuring it would aid me in fishing various structure. It’s interesting.
Almost simultaneously, the same thought process involved Blue Lake, located across the highway from O’Brien. This too is a flooded reservoir. I recall fishing some of the lakes, like Blue, Red, and Paradise, before they were all joined together as one. To sum this lake up, it has trophy fish of most all species but the there’s just too many trees in this one for me.
I recall casting a spinnerbait for bass, when a 7 pound walleye latched onto it. You never know what you’re going to get in this lake. It’s almost always a surprise. Some of my largest panfish have come from this reservoir, with crappies up to 2 pounds and bluegills up to 1 1/4 pounds.
Further down the road, I thought about Swan Lake northern pike and walleye, along with Oxhide’s largemouth bass, before hesitantly making the right-hand turn on highway 65. Back in my guiding days, I had northern pike in the 42-43" range make their way into my boat while fishing on Swan Lake. Clients were scared to death. One time, three Illinois anglers all ran to the front of the boat to get as far away as possible from a 15 pound northern pike that lay thrashing around on the floor of the boat. You would have thought it was an alligator! They wouldn’t even hold it for a picture.
Heading cross-country on highway 8, I thought about abandoning Gunn Lake and giving Moose Lake a try for bass, pike, and panfish. Having passed that lake by, naturally Crooked and Lawrence lakes would come to mind. I used to fish these two before any electronics were available. All we did was fish weedlines with spinners and minnows and walleye came easy. We lost a monster northern on Crooked Lake on one of my guide trips, when it came up and grabbed a smaller one. The fish was easily in the 20 pound plus range.
Continuing on, I had to drive right next to the Snaptail public access, if you can call it that. I used to fish this lake a lot, when my mother-in-law had a cabin on it. Hundreds of crappies were caught here, along with some very nice largemouth, a few northerns, and the occasional walleye up to 9 pounds. It’s another that I just don’t fish enough.
Then there was that gravel road leading to Balsam Lake. I haven’t been on this one all year but used to fish it a lot, mainly for crappies. Balsam was an annual stop for one of our bass tournaments, when I was a member of the BucketMouth Club. Oh the memories.
I had trouble in bypassing Trout Lake, where I’ve caught lake trout up to 14 pounds, along with oodles of bass. I had a line-class record splake (brook trout/lake trout cross) caught out of there many years ago. I heard the trout numbers are way down here so I’ll try to avoid that one for a while.
Spider and Ruby had me putting on the blinders and just looking and going straight ahead. These lakes can be excellent at times but with Gunn Lake located just up the road, I had to keep on going. Gunn’s is a fall favorite of mine and the colorful ride there is worth the trip alone.
Fishing on Gunn turned out to be sub-par on this day but I’ll blame that on spending too much time exploring some of the little, deep, 40 acre lakes that make up the chain. For me, they are difficult to master and I usually do better by fishing the main lake, which is where I ended up catching a bunch of bluegills and bass.
Would I have done any better on any of my other options? Who knows? It’s all fun and maybe next time I won’t follow through with the original plan and take that other turn at the fork in the road. Good luck, have fun, and be safe. Greg Clusiau
(9/9) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; Fall Approaches - First off, I should mention that fall colors are slowly making an appearance and however beautiful, I have mixed feelings about this phenomenon. Yes, it’s a special time of the year but it also signals the coming of colder weather. Sure, I love to ice fish and deer hunt but fall fishing in a boat is something very special indeed and I wish it could last more than the approximate two months. It’s just that good.
I saw some turn color maples, while on my way to a seldom fished bass lake last Saturday. I haven’t fished this body of water in years and wondered if it still had the quality bass that I used to catch, both largemouth and smallmouth.
It turned out to be a somewhat slow bite but I did manage to boat some very nice largemouth. I started out using my usual 4" jigworm but it wasn’t producing. Going to a jig and pig combo didn’t fare any better. Next was the famed double-buzzer. Nothing.
A spinnerbait got things going with a good bass, about 3 ½ pounds, along with a few small northern pike. Looking over the “lay of the land”, which was a large flat with submerged vegetation, it looked to be perfect for a large, noisy, lipless crankbait like Rapala’s “Clackin’ Rap”.
Casting away, I had one come up and slam the bait but the fight was short-lived, as it pulled off in a second or two. The next fish took the whole bait and the fight was on. It felt good and was, being a largemouth in the 4 pound range.
While taking a “self portrait” with the fish, I noticed a man standing on his dock watching me. I waved and he returned the favor saying “you write for the paper. I read your column every week.” With the picture taking complete, I motored over to him and struck up a very nice conversation. It was nice talking to you Wally. Let’s keep this little lake a secret, shall we? :)
A few more casts were made, resulting in another hard-hitting fish that got off, and even though things were looking up, I put things away and headed back to the access. It was getting just too darn hot for my liking. Besides, plans had to be made for the next day.
Sunday found Blake Liend and I heading into Canada for a day of fishing with Ft. Frances resident Tom Batiuk. This guy’s on the water all of the time and usually has a good bite going somewhere.
On Friday, Batiuk and good friend Jeremy Taschuk dragged a small boat “back in the bush” for a day of non-stop smallmouth bass action. These two guys are avid anglers that usually refuse to quit but this day had them packing it in when their arms got tired from reeling in a fish on nearly every cast. Top-water crankbaits were the ticket.
Batiuk and his wife trolled leadcore for walleyes on Saturday and had another banner day on the water, boating 28 fish up to 27" long. As with leadcore fishing with crankbaits, a number of them came unbuttoned before reaching the boat. The best bait? A “Walleye Bandit” crankbait.
Blake and I would be fishing crappies on Batiuk’s third day. Man, is this guy versatile or what? It didn’t matter that Tom last fished this body of water in 2012, as we were on fish in a heartbeat.
The technique was to slowly troll small jigs and/or crankbaits, midway through the water column. The fish, suspended half-way down in 10' of water, were targeted via his vast knowledge of a “side imaging” Humminbird graph.
Fish were pinpointed, marked, and caught. Some boats saw us catching these nice slabs and pretty much just scratched their heads, wondering how we were doing it.
The best baits? Northland Tackle’s Impulse plastics came through with flying colors. Tom used a jig and twister-type tail, Blake a jig and Impulse “Water Bug”, and me a “Crappie Thumper Jig” tipped with an Impulse “Paddle Tail”.
It’s all taking place. The colors are turning and the fish are biting. Get out there and make it happen!
(9/4) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; Favorite Open Water Baits - Looking at the huge pile of multi-specie fishing rods, lying at the ready on top of my rod-locker, I got to thinking, “hmm, I wonder what my favorite lures are for each species?” I’ll now make an attempt to answer that question and it won’t be easy.
This personal favorite selection is heavily swayed by some of my best bites, which take place during various times of the year but here goes. Let’s start with the little guys and work our way up.
*Bluegills - Northland Tackle’s “Fire Fly” jig tops the list for early season fishing. Usually fished “naked” it is sometimes tipped with a waxworm or tiny piece of crawler. Another early season favorite would be Crappie Keith’s famed “Hair Jig.”
Moving into the mid-summer months, I find myself using a basic 1/32 or 1/16 oz. leadhead jig, usually orange, tipped with a small piece of crawler. The fish are in deeper weed areas and the added weight gets your bait down into their living quarters.
Fall has me using more artificial baits like Northland’s Impulse plastics. The “Stone Fly” is a favorite. These baits are usually fished in deeper, basin waters under a float.
*Crappies - The “Fire Fly” once again tops the list for early season slabs, with favorite colors being “bumblebee” and “glow.”
A lot of mid-summer weedline trolling is done and here a small jig, tipped with plastic, is my “go to” bait. Orange is a favorite jig color and on the business end of things is usually a 1" chartreuse or pinkish twister-tail type of plastic.
Fall has me beefing it up a bit and using larger baits. A popular lure for me would be a 1/8 oz. jig tipped with an Impulse “Water Bug.” Another great bait would be Berkley’s “Atomic Teaser”. The fish are deep now and using a larger than normal jig is required. I recall using a 1/4 oz. jig tipped with a 3" twister-tail one time in Ontario. The limit back then was 30 fish per angler and two of us caught 60 big slabs in two hours using this technique.
*Largemouth Bass - Number one for me would be a “Lip Stick” jig-worm jig, tipped with a 4" worm. A finesse presentation, this bait will put a lot of fish in the boat for you. It’s more of a quantity than quality bait but I have caught my fair share of 4-5 pound fish with it.
Back in “the slop”, a weedless spoon like a “Moss Boss” ranks right up there as a favorite. Throw in weedless frogs like a “Super Frog” as well.
A fun lure to use is a “double buzzer”. Making a real racket, this surface bait seems to work the best for me when it’s drizzling out. I’ve caught some real hawgs using this one.
*Walleye - For me, nothing beats a “FireBall” jig tipped with a minnow. Just love to feel the “thump” of a bite.
Running bottom bouncers and spinners ranks right up there too. Use a 3 oz. bouncer with a “Baitfish Image” crawler harness and you’re in business.
Also, I can’t forget trolling leadcore with a small, #5 or #7, Shad Rap. When this bite is happening, you can’t beat it.
*Northern Pike - Spoons! Who hasn’t used one? The trolling spoons technique has livened up many a guide trip, when walleye fishing gets a little too slow. These folks are out there to get bit and trolling a spoon is an excellent way to do it.
Pulling cranks along a weedline can get your string stretched as well. For this, I like to use lipless rattle baits like “Rattle Traps”, “Rattlin’ Raps”, and “Rippin’ Shads.”
Large lures, especially in the fall, are great when it comes to boating a big northern pike. Musky-size lures are now preferred and a couple of my best are “Bionic Bucktail” spinnerbaits and jerkbaits like Suicks and other glide baits. Don’t be afraid to customize them a little, adding large plastic twister-tails to the bucktails or painting your wooden jerkbaits. I can’t begin to tell you how many monster fish have fallen for a silver, hand-painted Suick. - Good luck, be careful, and have fun. (Greg Clusiau, HSM Outdoors) .
(8/31) From Wired2Fish; "We are always playing with fishing knots in our bass fishing. Good line and a good knot are the most critical components in how you fish for bass. You can often get away with cheaper lures, rods and reels. But cheap line and bad knots will mean a lot more lost fish and a lot more frustration in your fishing.Don’t skimp and take your... Click To View Video >> Seaguar Knot Great For Leaders .
(8/26) On The Iron Range, From Greg Clusiau; "Last weekend found me jumping around from lake to lake, which has pretty much become a normal pattern for me.
On Saturday, Tim Ranta and I teamed up for an outing on Lake Kabetogama, a lake that we have done exceptionally well on in the past.
On the way there, Tim mentioned that the winds were supposed to be as high as 25 mph and while that’s certainly not good, one can usually find calmer fishing waters on the leeward side of the big lake. Also, it was going to be hot but I was prepared. Already lathered up with sun-block and wearing my favorite full-brimmed hat, I was ready for Mother Nature’s oven and knew that Tim’s boat was equipped with a top if shade was needed.
Heading north, I said “maybe we should try Vermilion.” Tim agreed saying “let’s fish Vermilion. I haven’t been there all year.” The decision was made a few miles before the turn.
We’d be using the same walleye tactics, which consisted of trolling crankbaits with down-riggers or leadcore, and if that wasn’t panning out a complete arsenal of bottom-bouncers and spinners would be applied. We were set.
Once there and out on the lake, Tim realized we weren’t as equipped for fishing Lake Vermilion as we thought, as he didn’t have the gps mapping chip for the lake. That was sitting back home in the garage.
When original plans called for “Kab”, he put in a special Lake Kabetogam/Namakan chip, leaving the other on a work bench and off we went.
The chip was crucial to our walleye presentations, as we would be “skimming” the edges of structure, off to the side as well as directly below the boat. Trailing lines a football field or more behind the boat requires pre-planned routes and without a good map chip it would be quite difficult. After two hours of fruitless fishing, we gave up and headed to our original destination.
Kabatogama was fairly calm but it was already hot out. Setting up with one down-rigger and one leadcore, we started trolling, and trolling, and trolling. It was slow, to say the least.
Trying some of our better spots, we eventually found fish but only caught four fish and lost another at boat side. That was enough. The fishing was too slow and the sun was too hot. Back home we went.
I didn’t plan on fishing Sunday but woke to comfortable air temps, which immediately changed my mind. I’d get out there and fish a couple of hours before it got too warm, which was coming fast.
Only 10 miles from home, I ran into dark blue-gray clouds and lightning, which had me making a u-turn and heading back.
An hour later, the bad weather had passed, and once again things looked pretty darn good out there. Off I went again.
By now, the cloud cover had vanished so I abandoned my original plan of fishing a more distant walleye lake and headed to a small multi-specie lake fairly close to town.
High skies, sunny, hot and calm, I looked for deep panfish and found them close to a large weedbed in 15' of water. The lake was clear but crappies and sunfish were being caught, nestled in the deep weeds, and some of them were of nice size.
Throw in a couple largemouth bass and a northern pike bite-off and it was turning out to be a pretty good call. It got even better when a maverick walleye, about four pounds, latched onto my little panfish bait, a 1 ½" Impulse “Paddle Bug.”
Don’t give up when Mother Nature throws you a curve-ball. Adapt a new plan. Be relentless."
(8/19) Switching Gears for Rainy Lake Walleye - Another solo trip to Canada was made last weekend, with Rainy Lake walleye being the main focus.
Once again I would be teaming up with Tom Batiuk of Fort Frances. A phone conversation with Batiuk the night before revealed that walleye fishing was somewhat slow. His morning pre-fishing efforts, the day before my arrival, only resulted in two fish. They were both, however, of nice size, being 25 and 27".
Tom went on to say that conditions weren’t favoring the angler on this day, with sunny high-skies and flat-calm water, adding that he was only using artificial baits. Plans were made to bring along an assortment of live bait for our outing. The weather looked to be the same, if not hotter.
We started off by jigging one of his favorite humps. Tom was sticking with his favorite plastics, an Impulse “Smelt Minnow”, while I went with a chub minnow.
Almost immediately, Tom had a hard bite but missed it. Then it was my turn, losing a minnow. I told him “they’re probably small fish. A big fish would have engulfed the entire bait.” “Not necessarily” Batiuk replied. This was a hump that had rewarded him many a time with trophy sized walleye.
Shortly after, Batiuk reeled in a smallish keeper walleye in the 16" range. It took another hump or two before another fish made it’s way topside. This too was a keeper. Tom was impressed, as the smaller “eater fish” are usually at a premium for him. Normally, most all fish are too big to keep, the reason I made the trip in the first place.
Too slow for our liking, we switched presentations and went with bottom-bouncers and crawler- harnesses. This was working a little better and fish were now finally making a more frequent appearance. Pulling spinners along the edges in 25-35' of water was working.
Our jigging efforts had us painstakingly hovering over fish, trying to make them bite. It was frustrating. The slow-trolling bottom-bouncer technique allowed us to cover more water, passing by more fish. By doing this, eventually, one might be triggered into biting. Never-the-less, this too was still too slow for us. We wanted action!
We made the decision to put the bottom-bouncers away and go with lead-core trolling rods. This presentation would allow us to cover even more water, passing by even more fish. While the bottom-bouncers were slowly trolled at a rate of 1-1 ½ mph, the lead-core crankbaits would be going 2 1/2-3 mph. What a great decision this turned out to be.
We abandoned our current fishing grounds, filled with humps and bumps, and searched out something a bit more conducive to long-line trolling, meaning it had long stretches of similar-like breaklines in the 25-35' depths.
Almost immediately, Tom had a strike and reeled in a nice walleye. Then it was my turn, a nice northern pike. Back to Tom, another nice walleye showed it’s face. Then me, another northern pike. Batiuk laughed over this happening but I didn’t care, as they were nice fish and certainly not the so-called “hammer-handles” they typically weigh in at 2 pounds or so. These were nice fish in the 6-7 pound range.
Our search for a big “photo fish” wasn’t happening but we did manage walleyes up to 5-6 pounds and also filled out Tom’s limit of eaters. He was thrilled with that. I thought we did pretty good considering the weather conditions.
My last fish was yet another nice northern pike, around 8 pounds or more. Again, Batiuk laughed. Well, I had the last laugh when he nailed one of his own, shortly before calling it a day and what a day it was. I can’t wait to get back up there when conditions are “right”.
Moral of the story? Don’t sit on fish and hope they bite every once in a while. Step it up a notch and put your bait in front of as many fish as you can. It works. It’s the law of averages. Good luck, be safe, and have fun.
(8/6) Wrapping up a Vacation - "I ended a week’s vacation by revving up and fishing four lakes in the last three days. Normally that’s not such a big deal but the first trip was a solo trek of over 300 miles to Ontario and back, which usually wipes me out pretty good for the next day or so. (I’m only talking of the first two trips because it would be too lengthy.)
To make a long story short, the Canadian trip had me leaving Keewatin at 5 am and exactly twelve hours later I was enjoying a terrific lake trout shore lunch on Lake Manitou, the “Manitou Stretch” to be exact.
I drove up to Ft. Frances and met up with “the Manitou expert”, Tom Batiuk, who fished the big water as many as 26 times one season. This time, however, it was his first trip there since I went with him last year, as he spends nearly every available moment on Rainy Lake, which is located only a few minutes away from his house.
Batiuk ’s season of 26 trips to Manitou resulted in 177 trout. Tom said the fish averaged 6-8 pounds and over the years he has caught three 17 pound fish, much like the one I lost on this trip. We didn’t see it but it was BIG and not wanting to come off the bottom. Eventually it got wrapped around the down-rigger cable and pulled free, which more-than-likely wouldn’t have happened if I had left the boat in gear. Oops. My bad!
I made it back home by 9:30 pm and slept in the next day. However, shortly after awaking, I called Bruce, my brother, and plans were made to fish a small lake located back-in-the-bush. Having never fished it before, we didn ’t even know if it had any fish in it to start with. Maybe it was just a minnow pond? Maybe it was filled with BIG fish? We’d find out.
This is one of those hard to get into lakes that requires a little work like using a small boat, Bruce ’s 15' Grumman sport boat, my old 6 hp Johnson, a set of oars, and me wearing waders in water up to my waist, pushing the boat through a sloppy beaver-run bog area in order to reach the shoreline, which was nothing more than a floating bog itself.
We started off trolling spoons, looking for the easy-biting northern pike but it wasn ’t happening. Maybe there were no fish in it, as it was no deeper than 7'.
Switching to panfish tackle, we back-trolled the weed-lines and eventually picked up a couple very tiny perch. At least something lived there!
Going on, we caught a few more and then I had “the bite.” It was a heavy fish that fought quite well and I was more than happy to see a 7-8 pound northern pike make it’s way into the net. It was a beautiful, husky fish that was quickly released.
We switched back to pike fishing and caught a few small ones and then “it” happened. While releasing a hammer-handle from a spinnerbait the fish shook free and sent the lure toward my hand. The next thing I knew a spinnerbait hook was impaled past the barb into my palm area.
Trying to pull the barb out backwards just wasn ’t going to work. I’m surprised at how tough skin is. Mine is anyway. Maybe I’m “thick-skinned!” :)
I knew I had to do it but didn ’t really want to. I pushed the hook in a little further until I made another hole and the hook point and barb made an appearance. From here, I snipped off the hook end with my Leatherman, slid the hook back out and called it a day.
REMINDER! - The Coleraine Fire Relief Association will host the 11th Annual Fish-A-Rama on beautiful Trout Lake this Saturday. Contest hours are from 11 am - 3 pm and there are prizes galore: top three fish in each of four categories (walleye, northern, bass, crappie), door prizes drawn every hour, and a Grand Prize drawing for a 14' boat and trailer. Maybe I ’ll see you there. - Good luck everybody!"
(8/6) From Wired2Fish; "Some anglers never really get the chance to really “know” their boat. They think they do because they know how to operate it but some of the smallest details can turn into the biggest nightmares.
Because so much is internal to the boat, under the deck and out of sight, unless it breaks there is no reason to look under the hood. One of the best ways to truly know all of the important details of your new boat is to rig it yourself. We recently had the opportunity to rig the new ... >> Learn More Click For Rigging Your Own Boat .
Field Report July 31, 2013 - " A Trip to KAB." Greg Clusiau - Plans for last Saturday’s trip to Lake Kabetogama were dashed when the weather turned sour. Friday showcased the next day’s weather and had us changing our minds late that night. Still wanting to make the trip, we rescheduled for Sunday, even though we were fresh on the heels of a cold front.
I don’t get over that way nearly enough but consider it to be one of the gems of Minnesota’s thousands of fisheries.
“Kab”, a classic Canadian shield lake, offers over 25,000 acres to enjoy, whether fishing, hunting, or just plain boating, riding around and taking in the scenery and there’s plenty of it to be had.
Pulling up to our first fishing spot, a beautiful velvet-clad buck watched for a bit before disappearing into the island’s dense foliage. Sporting a nice, wide rack, it looked to be an eight to ten pointer.
We, my buddy Tim and I, had the total walleye arsenal with us and were ready for most anything, even though the last few years had us using mainly “bouncers and blades” (3 oz. bottom bouncing sinkers and crawler harness spinners) and leadcore crankbait trolling rods. Generally, that’s about all we would need to catch a good number of fish and go home with a nice limit.
Starting out with the bouncers, we trolled for a good while before a 15" walleye finally fell for the offering. Fish were present, plenty of them, but getting them to bite wasn’t easy. The next fish was a nice sauger, in the 14" range. That too, made it’s way to the livewell.
It was super-slow and the bouncer presentations were changed a number of times in trying to come up with that magical combination. We tried color changes, bait changes, going from real nightcrawlers to artificial crawlers, and live leeches on a single hook. It was determined that an extra-long spinner was preferred and the best color was chartreuse and silver. However, coming up with a preferred color, etc. is hard to do when so few fish are caught.
The best walleye of the day was a very fat, almost disproportional, 16 ½" fish. A few other “too small” walleyes were tossed back, along with a couple of northern pike.
We gave the lead core a try and came up empty. I did manage a three pound northern that crushed a #5 Rapala Shad Rap. This came when I was reeling back in so I am assuming the fish was suspended somewhere out there in the 30' abyss. Tim and I were both smiling when the fish shook free in the landing net and all he had to do was flip it over and set the slimy bugger free.
One spot, a favorite deep-water area good for sauger and an occasional walleye, was swarming with wasps. Fishing 100 yards from an island, we couldn’t even enjoy oursleves, as we were too busy swatting. It got so bad that I mentioned to Tim that he just may have a hornet’s nest in the boat somewhere. Reeling in and heading to another spot remedied the problem. I’ve never had that happen before. Strange.
Kab is famed for it’s leech-rig walleye bite and that too was offered in desperation before we bunched it for the day. It was just “one of those days.”
I learned that a number of small muskies, in the 4 pound range, have been caught recently on Kabetogama. How interesting. Were they secretly stocked or have they made their way from Rainy Lake? Hmm, I don’t like the sounds of this.
Field Report July 22, 2013 - Getting Jiggy! Greg Clusiau - The recent hot weather has helped to create one of my favorite fishing patterns of the open water season and that my friends is “weed-line jig-worming.”
This pattern, which will last all summer long, can offer fishing as good as it gets, even if you’re new to the sport. Grab a spinning rod and reel, preferably spooled with 6 to 8 pound test, tie on a jig tipped with plastic, and you’re in business.
I prefer using Northland Tackle’s “Lip-Stick Jig” for this presentation. Available in sizes 3/32, 1/8, and 3/16 oz, and five fish-attracting colors, it is the ultimate tool for finesse jig-worm fishing. The long hook shank stabilizes the worm and places the hook about mid-section in a 4" worm. All of a sudden you have a fish getting hooked when taking the bait half-way and not stealing your plastic. Not that it could.
A “Barb-Wire” worm and grub-holding collar makes it almost impossible to lose your soft plastic baits.
Thread it on, sliding it tight up against the back of the jig-head and it’s there to stay. The only time I remove my plastic is when it’s just too beat up to work the way it should. Several fish can be caught on the presentation before it’s time to change.
The jig-head, described as a rockin’ “HalfBall”, also boasts of a weedless “in-set” tie eye, which makes it a great bait for pitching and casting up near dense cover. You will pick up weeds every once in a while but for the most part it’s ready to cast back upon each and every retrieve. Unless, of course, there’s a fish on the end of your line and that happens quite often.
I’ll use the “Lip-Stick Jig” for 3" grubs and 4" plastic worms. At least that’s how my tackle boxes are set up. I’ve got so many variations of plastics in those boxes, I have trouble in shutting the lids.
The grubs I use practically cover the entire color spectrum. I have several that are spruced up with “fleck”, making them glitter like a shiner minnow. Others are basic black, white, yellow, etc. One of the hottest combinations I have ever used was a “black-on-black”, being a black jighead tipped with a 3" black twister-type tail.
Many of my grubs are of the scented variety (Impulse, Power Bait, Exude, etc.) and there times when one out-fishes all others. Then again, there are days when the fish seem to jump on anything that is tossed in their direction. You have to experiment until you come up with the hot combination and that’s half the fun of it.
My preference in 4" worms has been, and I use 4" quite loosely, the Northland Tackle Impulse “Jig Crawler”, Power Baits, and Renegade brands.
The “Jig Crawler” is actually 3 ½", which makes it great for fussy fish. I also have a nice selection of the old, no-longer-made 4" Northland Slurpie! Worms. The Power Baits are 4" as are the Renegade (WalMart) worms.
No 6" worms make their way into my boat for this presentation. I prefer using small plastics because it offers you a very good chance at practically everything that swims, northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and panfish. Yes, panfish. This is an excellent way to find a nice school of deep-water bluegills. Once found, reduce down to a more favorable panfish presentation and go to town.
I’ll stay out away from the weeds, at times, and cast to the weed-line. Let it fall and watch your line as it does so. Once you see the “twitch”, set the hook.
I normally use a 7' spinning rod for this application, as I can cast a long distance and this is critical when it’s a clear water lake.
Imagine, if you will. The fish are sitting at the base of a weed-line and all of a sudden “splash!” This makes them aware that’s something’s going on. Looking up, they spot a slow sinking food source and the rest is history.
That’s another thing. Experiment with jig size/weight, until you find the proper “sink speed”. This is huge.
Also, don’t rule out trolling, either by bow-mount electric or outboard, as a way of presenting your jig-worm. The back-trolling outboard is a preferred style of mine and I’ve put so many fish in the boat by doing this that it would scare you. - Get out there and give it a whack. It’s happening NOW.
Field Report July 8, 2013 - Plan of Attack.
The hot, muggy weather has me “doing my thing” once again. That being to fish the wee hours of the morning, when it’s cooler out, and then to regroup for the evening bite somewhere, when the sun isn’t quite as high. For me, it makes for a comfortable time on the lake, by fishing both ends of a hot day.
Also, very rarely it will be the same lake. I don’t operate like that. No matter how good the fishing is. I just can’t see going back time and time again.
One of my early morning trips, last weekend, had me geared up for walleye. There were better walleye fisheries in the vicinity but this lake also gave me a shot at some very nice panfish. For me, it would be the best of both worlds.
This lake offered small-to-medium size walleye and that’s really not all that exciting but the bluegills more than make up for it.
One of my favorite presentations would be used, a crawler-harness trolled along shallow weedlines. Fish love the weeds, especially on this body of water.
Actually, weedline spinner trolling is the way I started out walleye fishing way back when, before any electronics were available and guess what? It’s still a deadly approach to this day.
Back-trolling, my boat goes 1.6 mph, which may be pushing the limits for panfish. I could, however, toss out a drift-sock to slow me down but really hate messing with that thing, especially when I don’t have to. A powerful bow-mount trolling motor sits on the front of my boat but that too receives very little use.
That’s the reason I run a tiller motor (4-stroke 50 hp Honda), for boat handling capabilities.
A brightly colored spinner is used because of the stained water. I want fish to “see me coming.” A nightcrawler is impaled onto the double-hook rig and severed just behind the last hook. If you don’t do this, you be losing a lot of bait, needlessly. Some lakes are worse than others. By the way, the other half crawler can be used for the next baiting session so you’re not wasting anything.
I found a small-to medium split-shot sinker, placed on top of the leader swivel, to be just enough weight to get this presentation down to the “fish holding zone.” It also aids in casting the rig back behind the boat. One long cast is all it takes. Vary sinker sizes when fishing the method until you have it “dialed in.” Once you reach this point, it’s all too easy.
Trolling along, it didn’t take very long to catch my first walleye of the morning. A small fish, it was released. It was turning out to be a slow walleye catching day but after that first bluegill jumped onto my bait, I could care less. From then on, it was pretty much one after another.
This is a great search method, when looking for panfish. Once found, one can anchor and cast to the fish, which I did. I caught a number of them using a jig and bobber but boredom set in and I was back to trolling, which seemed to work better in the first place. Every day is different.
It ended up being a great morning of fishing and when evening rolled around, I headed back out to a different lake. Again, it was weedline walleye with the occasional panfish making an appearance. This time they were crappies, which really put on the feedbag as the sun hit the trees. - Get out there and give it a try. The fish are waiting for you.
Field Report July 1, 2013 - Drifting For Crappies .
It's that time of year. The crappies have spawned and have made the transition to their summer- time patterns. But the question that is often asked, "where do they go for the late spring and summer months? How can I find the crappies?" The answer is - they don't move far from their spawning grounds.
In the spring, they move in shallow for not only warm water but to feed until they are ready to drop their eggs. Now once this is done they will transition out where the deep basin begins.
They move to the edges of the breaklines where they will filter through the weedlines and the most common weeds they hold in is cabbage. Find cabbage and you will find the crappies.
During the summer months they will hold in the 8-15' of water, up until the fall, when it starts to cool down. So,the question is - how do you target crappies during the summer? Answer - drifting.
The drift pattern is sometimes overlooked but can be the most rewarding. You can cover more water and zero in on those schools of crappies or where they have moved for the summer.
First, what you want to do is to have 6-12 lakes that hold good crappie numbers, but also finding those stretches of weedlines that can work when the wind is right. For example: when the wind is coming from the south I’ll pick one of the lakes that the fish are going on.
Then, set your boat on the the southern part of the weedline and drift. The ideal wind speed is 5-15 mph and if it is stronger a drift sock is needed to slow yourself down. The lakes that I fish have driftable stretches of 100 to 200 yards.
So, what's next? Your setup for fishing is a Northland Tackle 1/32 oz. "FireFly" tipped with an Impulse plastic. No live bait bait is needed because the type of bite your going to get is reactive, a reflex action, if you will. They just can't help themselves and that's a good thing.
Then, from your jig, 12 inches above, use a split shot just heavy enough to help keep that jig in place. This is when the fun begins.
Crappies will normally run 2-3 feet off the bottom during the day so split that water column when you first start drifting. If you start in 12 feet, get your line down in the 6-7 feet range. Flirt with the weeds and wait for the bite, which may be heavy and then again you just may not feel it so it's important that you watch you rod tip, as well as your line. They will tell you when you have a bite.
You will not only catch crappies but you will catch all species of fish and that is what makes drifting so much fun, especially when you can get the kids involved.
So, when there's a west,east,south, or north wind during the summer months, the crappies can always be targeted. You'll have more success with this style of fishing and I recommend giving it a try.
For more information and fishing tips, follow us on HSM Outdoors on facebook and Lake-Link.com. Until next time, be safe and we will see you on the water. (Courtesy of Chad Peterson, HookSet Media Outdoors)
*Chad Peterson, aka "Crappie Sniffer", is a panfish expert and HSM pro staffer from Alexandria, Minnesota.
Field Report June 24, 2013 - Ready for Anything .
Fishing alone last weekend, I had to chuckle at my plan of attack. A half dozen rods laid at my side, ready for whatever came along. It went something like this.
First off, I should tell you that I slept in on this morning and was bored out of my mind until a hard rain stopped just long enough, turning into a mild drizzle. Within minutes, I was heading down the road to a lake that I passed by on the day before, noting that the water was way down and that usually made for good fishing on this particular body of water.
I stopped for a bucket of minnows, planning on giving the walleyes a try but had hard and soft tackle rigged and ready for most any occasion.
The lake, stained and oft described as a “fickle hellcat” because of it’s “good one day and not the next” status, has dealt me a healthy portion of each and I was due to see what it would be this time, as it was the first trip there this season.
Backing down to the public access, one could tell the lake was low, as most of the cement ramp slabs were exposed, with only a few remaining under the water. Hmm, that reminded me of a trip there last year, when the steep incline had me getting my truck stuck in park. I hoped that wouldn’t be the case this time.
Sliding the boat off, all was going smooth and looking to be a good day until I saw the dead snapping turtle laying next to the dock. It’s shell had been bludgeoned to the point where it had cracked open. Even though it smelled to high-heaven, I had to feel sorry for the innocent creature, which appeared to have been killed while trying to lay it’s eggs. Senseless, heartless people. What’s the matter with them?
I headed straight to one of my favorite walleye spots and grabbed one of the first rods designated for the task at hand. Last used, successfully on Upper Red Lake, it had a 1/4 oz. “Thumper Jig”, tipped with an Impulse “Swim’n Grub” on the end of it and although a substantial offering by itself, a chub minnow was added for good measure.
This lake was heavily stained so a larger profile bait is usually preferred. The portly combination offered color - in the chartreuse jig head, flash and vibration - in the attached spinner, and scent - in the Impulse plastic, along with the live minnow. How could I lose?
Two methodical back-trolls, up and back at different depths, resulted in nary a bite. I thought I may have had a “bump” at one time but it was so subtle it couldn’t be counted.
During this trolling session, at the end of each pass a bass-style “double buzzer” was cast out, over and through the weeds. These are incredible baits and can take BIG fish, especially when it’s raining, which it started to do. I’ve caught some nice bass in this lake but it was the monstrous northern pike that had me pumped up. I was just waiting for the big splash of a fish taking that hapless surface swimmer but it didn’t happen.
I switched down in size to a 1/8 oz. “Thumper Jig”and left off the plastic. Thinking “maybe the fish are just a little fussy today” all that was added was a smallish minnow. Two more passes, with the buzzer at both ends, and nothing. It was time to relocate.
Off to the next spot, a spoon was cast out so I could troll my way there. This presentation allowed me to catch a couple of small northerns, which were quickly slipped back into the water. Man those things stink!
The next walleye spot had me catching a few more small northern pike on the little “Thumper Jig” and they were biting so light that I wasn’t a bit worried about getting bit off. All they would do was grab the end of the minnow and hang on, much like the walleyes I was looking for.
This area was a popular panfish spot so on each turn-around, a feathered “Fire-Fly” jig, set about 12" below a bobber, was cast into normal fish holding areas. Waiting for the float to go down was in vain. It was just one of those days.
Hey, you can’t catch ‘em every time out and you certainly can’t say I wasn’t prepared. Sometimes, however, even that doesn’t help. For an updated report of my fishing trips and a lot a great photos and video, go to HookSet Media Outdoors on Facebook.
Field Report June 17, 2013 - Getting There Half the Fun !
Thank God for small lakes, especially when they’re tucked away, back in the bush, and getting a boat into them isn’t easy one bit. These little gems receive little pressure because of that and can often produce trophy fish from time-to-time.
That was my journey last weekend, coming fast on the heels of yet another productive walleye outing on Upper Red Lake. How odd, I thought. Fishing one of the largest lakes in Minnesota one day and then one of it’s smaller bodies of water on the next. But hey, whatever works. As long as I’m fishing. Right?
The toughest part of the whole trip was getting myself regrouped early in the morning, after getting home late from Upper Red Lake the day before, a 250 mile round-trip.
Running late, a couple northern pike rods, one a musky outfit, and a panfish rod were tossed into the back of my truck, along with the appropriate tackle, and off I went. I’d be meeting up with Donnie Newman and his son, Gabe, for a backwoods adventure, one they had done many times before.
Having it “down pat” makes things a whole lot easier, as there were no surprises and they knew from experience exactly what to expect and precisely what to do. I didn’t so it was indeed a pleasure to watch them perform this task with true backwoods savvy.
First off, Donnie used an old beater 4x4 pickup, one that he kept just for this purpose. You couldn’t hurt it much and it rode high, which was perfect for the rutty, muddy, bad spots in the trail. I won’t call it a road. All you had to do was fold the mirrors in and go for it.
In the back was a seasoned, old 14' aluminum boat and a 10 hp Johnson outboard. Both rugged and dependable for trips like this one, much like Donnie and Gabe themselves.
Making it to the lake, Donnie worked the truck around so it was facing the other direction. This made going home a whole lot easier and, more importantly, the boat could be slid out toward the lake, which was situated at the bottom of a steep hill.
Going down was easy, as it usually is. All equipment was tossed into the boat and the motor clamped into place before Donnie pulled it one-handedly down to the water. Now this is where it got interesting.
A boggy, narrow, sometimes deep beaver-run was our access to fish heaven and to get there all Donnie and I had to do was sit in the boat while Gabe waded in chest-high water to push us to the lake. Amazing.
Once there, he hopped in to join us, soaked and smelling of muskeg bog. It was no wonder not many had fished this lake before. Getting in wasn’t easy and I don’t know of too many dedicated anglers that would jump in and push a boat full of men and equipment over high and dry bogs, where paddling or motoring wasn’t an option.
Once fishing, I had the feeling of being on some of the remote Canadian lakes I had fished and was thinking just that when Donnie said “just like being up in Canada isn’t it Greg?” How right he was.
It looked like it and the fishing felt like it. Smaller northerns were the norm, with one coming on every other cast, until Gabe garnered bragging rights with a husky 17 pound fish. Photos were taken, before releasing the big fish back into it’s boggy backwoods home.
Several breaks in the pike action took place so we could play around with the many bluegills and crappies that were on the bite. They were of good quality, as one would expect. Donnie told of the time when he caught a 2 ½ pound crappie, while casting a pike spoon. And the bass. Another incredible story.
It was a great trip and the loading up process was just as impressive, when a chain was fastened to the anchor rope so the boat could be pulled back up the hill. Within minutes, we were on our way out of the woods with enough panfish for dinner and memories to last a lifetime.
Get out there and make it happen. Good luck, be careful, and have fun.
Field Report June 10, 2013 - Red Alert!
Coming off a week’s vacation, I was fortunate enough to have spent two of my daily outings on Upper Red Lake.
The first one involved my brother Bruce and I. This day found the Tamarack public access filled to the brim with vehicles of hopeful fishermen and the waters of the big lake as smooth as glass. That’s always nice for boat travel but it sometimes makes for tough fishing and this day was no different.
We struggled at first, receiving light bites, where finicky walleyes would just hang onto the end of the minnow and then let go before ever getting hooked. The fish were there but they certainly didn’t care for our presentations.
Bruce grabbed his crappie rod, which was brought along “just in case”, and impaled a chub minnow on the business end of a Lindy “Little Nipper” panfish jig. I watched, amused, but a short while later he was reeling in a nice little walleye.
At first, I thought it was just a rare incident but after the next three or four fish had changed my mind. It was working. I was still fascinated that he was able to hook a fish with the hook gap nearly completely filled with the body of a chub minnow.
I stuck it out with a green 1/16 oz. “FireBall” jig and chipped away, catching a few fish but it was Bruce who had done the most damage. I guess one never knows. In any event, we went home with a nice limit of fish. Thanks Bruce!
The next trip involved the HookSet Media Outdoors gang, consisting of Jamie Dietman, Chad Peterson, Blake Liend, and me.
Blake and I arrived at the lake first and started working the 5' area that Bruce and I had done so well on. Almost instantly, Blake had a 25 ½" walleye in the boat, victim to Northland’s new “Fire-Ball Jig Spin”, tipped with a minnow.
Moving down the shoreline, very few bites were experienced, so we moved to the north end of the lake, where a good breeze was pushing into the shallows.
Working jigs and minnows, walleyes came easy and by the time Jamie and Chad found us, we had caught 17 fish.
Our teammates decided to try the trolling tactic and set out working the 5' breakline, pulling #5 Shad Raps and in less than a half-hour later, 16 fish had been swung over the gunnels. The bite was on!
Blake and I had abandoned our minnow pail and were both using Impulse plastics, with the 3" “Smelt Minnow” and “Swim’n Grub” leading the way. How nice it was not to dig in the minnow pail anymore.
Trying to get some video work done, we anchored up alongside one another in 4' of water. It was a little breezy and photography is never easy when you’re bouncing in the waves but the close proximity made things a little better.
The move certainly didn’t hurt the fishing, as we seemed to get even more fish. Sitting next each other, another 40 or so fish were reeled in, all caught on Impulse plastics. It went on to be a 100 fish day, which isn’t too bad for starting at noon.
*A note to the fishermen out there - Don’t worry about getting there at first light. Go late morning or around noon and fish til dusk. It’s at this time when the winds lay down and the walleyes go wild!
It’s happening my friends. Get up there, fish shallow and bring crankbaits, minnows, and plastics. Good luck, be safe, and have fun.
Field Report June 4, 2013 - Blame Game .
If anyone’s complaining about the poor weather this week, you can blame me, as I took a week of vacation, which is sure to put a damper on things.
It sure is taking it’s sweet time in warming up and I blame this on the seesaw temperatures, being fairly pleasant during the day and nearing the freeze mark at night.
My wife complains of the cool night air, moving all of her plants inside in the evening and then bringing them back outdoors again in the late-morning. I could really care less about plants but the cool temps are having a similar affect with my panfishing efforts and that bothers me to no end.
They too are “doing the seesaw”, dropping back into deeper, apparently more comfortable water, at night and then visiting the shallows later in the day, when it’s had a chance to heat up a bit.
Saturday evening, while attending my grandson’s graduation party, I chatted with one of my brothers. He had just come off one of my favorite lakes, where a banner afternoon of crappie fishing was enjoyed. “Finally”, I thought, “they’re in”.
The next day, I headed there in the morning, only to find they had moved out into deeper water but where? Once found, they would be willing biters but the key word here is “found.” You can’t catch them if you can’t find them and when you’re poking around a large weed flat, trying different depths, and fishing slow, it can be quite frustrating.
Many of the lakes that I fish are like this. Cool water seems to push them back out away from shore, making them tough to find and catch. I always find it better to go later in the day, after it’s warmed up. Not so, however, with a lot of lakes. Maybe it’s just the makeup of each individual lake? I don’t know.
One of my outings, last weekend, had me missing a lot of fish. A typical scenario would be bobber down or moving, set the hook and nothing. Many times, I blame this on super-small fish that are just hanging onto a piece of the jig “dressing”, whether it be feathers, hair, or plastic. Sometimes it’s been a fish scale that has ever so slightly impaled itself on the hook point, preventing it from going in.
When this happens, I almost always trim the dressing as short as possible and open up the hook “gap”, giving me the outmost opportunity to hook these fish, no matter how small.
I haven’t been doing as many solo fishing trips as I used to and I’m putting all the blame on the oil companies on this one. High gas prices have kept me a lot closer to home and those spur-of-the-moment solo trips to Red Lake or the Ely area have almost fallen to the wayside but seeing how I’m on vacation, maybe I’ll just treat myself!
I blame myself for a little incident last weekend. Slowly traveling across a “sleeper” big walleye lake, I was too focused on the settings of my 998C side-imaging Humminbird graph. Playing around with the settings, I forgot all about a little rock pile, until I heard my new Honda outboard propeller banging on the rocks. Wow. That’ll wake you up in a hurry. Luckily I was at idle speed and the only damage is a nicked up prop. Stupid me.
In closing, you all know what an avid Minnesota Twins fan I am and how disgusted I can get with their often poor play. During their recent 10 game losing streak, I felt like moving to another state but the Brewers were just as bad or worse. What really surprises me is that they are still only 4 ½ games back out of first place. Thank goodness for a weak division. Good luck out on the water, be safe, and have fun! Greg Clusiau .
Field Report May 24, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; Vested Interest In Fishing.
Lining up all of my shore-fishing gear for a day of filming, I forgot how important my old fishing vest is when it comes to catching a bunch of nice panfish. Actually, it’s a very critical piece of equipment and perhaps the most important of all.
The old vest, sporting over a dozen little Velcro’d and zippered pockets, was a relatively inexpensive purchase, many years ago, but is oh so valuable, especially when you’re 100 yards down the shoreline, catching fish, and you happen to break off.
No time is wasted in walking back to the truck for more tackle, as it’s all right out there with you, along with practically everything else.
I try to fill the pockets with the most absolute of necessities but sometimes wonder if I really need all of that stuff. However, like I said, you’re 100 yards downstream. “Always be prepared”, the old Boy Scout in me rises to the top.
Let’s see, in one of the main pockets is a mini tackle box full of some of my best fish-catching baits. The Plano “Prolatch Stowaway” only measures 2 ½" x 4 ½" but has six fixed compartments and each one is home to “stuff that catches fish.”
One is filled to the top with Northland Tackle “Fire-Fly” jigs, a personal spring fish-catching favorite of mine. Their neighbors are a colorful variety of Crappie Keith Nelson’s little hand-tied hair jigs. Another is topped off with tinsel-tailed “Gypsi Jigs”. Dropping down is a full bin of dark-colored “Bloodworms” and “Slug Bugs”. Next to them are the lighter-colored versions, and finishing it off are the new Impulse 1" Tubes.
I should mention that all of these baits have the jig “eye” cleared of any paint so you don’t have to fiddle around out on the water. Thinking ahead and being prepared on the water allows you the luxury of more fishing time, which, in turn, equals more fish.
One pocket, right on top and easy to get at, contains a small assortment of casting bobbers. There are two types, the ones with a weighted ring around them and the famed “Rocket Bobber”. These floats can really get out there when needed. I normally never use slip-bobber rigs when fishing early-season panfish, as I am usually only fishing water that is 3' or less. Therefore, a clip-on stationary float works much better.
Flies are stored in another, for when I’m in the fly rod mode and that just may happen on this upcoming trip.
Some are hand-tied flies by shore-fishing crappie aficionado David Kuusisto of Hibbing. Not looking like anything special, David absolutely clobbers the fish with these 1" green and white creations.
A heavier duty pouch is home to one of those old-fashioned chain stringers. You know the type. The kind that have trophy size fish twist them open from time-to-time. Mine, however, is designed just for crappies and a couple extra clips have been installed so it holds exactly ten of them, a Minnesota limit, for those days when I’m having a fish dinner. They’re easy to count this way. Most often, however, the fish are released.
Other pockets, and I’m glad there are so many, hold a variety of Impulse plastic baits and a good assortment of small jigheads, flat-out stuff that fools fish.
Several fishing tools, ranging from a digital thermometer to a tape measure, are stowed away in another, while a few pockets remain empty, which is quite surprising for me. Given enough time, I’ll be sure to fill them all.
Tools at hand hang on the outside of the vest for immediate accessability. They consist of just the basics, being a pair of clipped-on forceps (hook removal) and a retractable line-cutter. A little white patch of wool-like material lies over the left side of my chest. So near to my heart, this is for storing hooks and although it is clean right now, it normally looks quite full of chewed up tackle by day’s end.
Yes, I know, the walleyes are practically jumping into the boat, all across the North Country, but I figure I’ll have plenty of time to catch a few of them. For now, it’ll be slab crappies and perhaps a few big bonus bluegills. - Take care, have fun, and good luck. Greg Clusiau
Field Report May 20, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; Easing Into Spring Fishing .
Well it’s not really going gangbusters but at least it’s happening across the North Country and by that I mean the panfish are biting from shore. Now that might not mean much to many but for me it’s the official way to start spring fishing.
I made a run “up north” on Saturday for just that reason and six lakes were investigated. The first one, a prime little shore-fishing honey hole, found me catching a nice crappie on the very first cast.
Actually, I was a little surprised because the ice had just gone out a week prior. I didn’t think the water would be warm enough but when I dropped my thermometer in the water it read 53.4 º.
Expecting more crappie action, I cast several more times, out deep, with no response. Hmm. I got to thinking. Maybe the sunfish were up tight to shore like they had been in other years.
A cast down the shoreline revealed a fast-striking little sunfish. Then another. And again. Finally, a 9"er latched onto my little jig but that was the last of the big fish. All of the rest were small.
Casting back out to the deeper water, where a beaver’s brush pile had deteriorated, smaller crappies were found and several were caught before I gave up and headed for lake number two.
The second lake was famous for big bluegills and numerous largemouth bass. Making my way back into the little lake, I fan-cast the area for fifteen minutes with nary a bite. Normally, if fish are present, they will bite.
Packing it in, I headed further down the road to lake number three. This one was a recent discovery and I had no idea what was in it but you know the feeling...it just looked good and was far enough off the beaten trail that it should be.
Donning my new Frogg Togg chest waders, I cautiously made my way out toward the shoreline. I could tell, just by the lay-of-the-land (water), that it would be a somewhat hairy situation and I was right. I would be trying to walk in a beaver “run”, which can often times reveal a deep spot, in a hurry.
Finally making it on top of a floating bog, I found myself sinking with every step. I thought “what if I slip right on through and drown?” With that though in mind, I made a dozen casts and got out of there. No bites but I’ll be back with a boat. I like gumption.
Lake four was only approachable where weeds flourished. Casting a bobber and jig out there was asking for trouble. Off to the next lake, which was walk-able distance from the same area.
Lake five looked like too much trouble when fishing alone. I know there’s big panfish in there so I will be back...guaranteed. Pics to follow!
Lake six was tried only because I was going past it. It was handy and I thought “why not?” This lake surprised me, when I all of a sudden begin reeling in sunfish and crappies at a pretty good rate. Wow. A couple of the crappies were of keeping size, hovering around ten inches, but were released. I guess I just didn’t feel like cleaning fish on this day.
Yes folks, spring is finally here, albeit two or three weeks late but at least it’s here. Grab your panfish poles and head to a shallow fish holding area and give it a try. It’s some of the best action of the season.
Field Report May 13, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; The Opener That Almost Wasn't .
Back in the day, when full of vigor, I would have been out on the water at first light, even under the adverse conditions of last Saturday. It would take more than that to stop me. After all, it was the Minnesota Opener. It was sort of a mission and I’d be there come hell or high water.
This year, however, I didn’t even plan on fishing at all, from a boat anyway. I did go through some of my shore-fishing tackle, which was readied and tossed into the back of my truck the night before. One never knows. With no definite plans, I slept in.
When morning reared it’s ugly head, I laid there, listening to the wind and was happy with my decision to just “forget it.” It was really rocking outside and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in a boat. Well I guess I could imagine, as I’ve been there too many times. It takes the fun right out of it, especially when it’s cold.
I couldn’t help thinking of my buddy Jason Durham, who would be guiding Governor Dayton on this fine day. Checking Facebook, I saw that he was successful in getting Dayton a walleye at 12:30 at night, a half-hour into the season.
There would be no fishing for me on this glorious opener but a trip up north was still in order. I’d make the rounds to see who was where and take a few photos. This meant checking out regular opening day shore-fishing spots and the first one was just north of Nashwauk, the Wolf Lake bridge.
A quick stop was made at Black Jack Bait, in Nashwauk, for minnows and crawlers that would probably never be used. One never knows.
Heading north, I could feel the truck getting tossed around by the wind. The radio said “gusts to 40 mph.” There was sporadic light snow as well.
Reaching the bridge, I was surprised to see several brave souls trying their luck. It wasn’t fast and furious but fish were being caught.
I phoned Bruce, my brother, and plans were made to check out “Little American Falls” on the Big Fork River. We’d meet at the Effie Cafe, where breakfast was served.
Campers at the falls where just coming up the hill when we arrived. Nary a fish. The water, high and raging, didn’t help matters. From here, Bruce went back home, while I made my way to Upper Red Lake. I figured “why not? I’m already half way there.”
Checking out the Tamarac River public access, I was surprised to see not one rig parked there. That’s how bad it was. There was just too much ice. The only open water was a small “pool” located at the mouth of the river, where four boats were trying their luck.
Stopping in at the Brasel’s, headquarters for “Bear Paw Guide Service”, I was welcomed to join them for the trial run of Tyler Brasel’s new fishing boat, a new 20' YarCraft. How lucky I was to still have my ice fishing clothes in the truck, as I needed them.
Anchoring next to the other boats, there were five now, jigs were tossed out and fish were pulled in. It was that easy. We fished an area no larger than 100', boxed in by lake ice to the west and “off limit” signs to the east, posted at the mouth of the river. The river is currently closed off for spawning and is supposed to open up this Saturday but with this late of a spring, it wouldn’t surprise me if it stays closed for another week. Call before going.
In a couple hours time, approximately fifty beautiful walleyes were caught by our boat alone but we weren’t the only ones. Almost every time I glanced at the other boats, I’d see at least 2-3 rods folded over from the weight of nice walleyes.
All-in-all, it just may go down as one of my best fishing openers ever. After all, I didn’t plan on fishing and ended up hopping into a brand new boat, with one of the best guides on the
lake, and catching a bunch a very nice walleyes.
You know, there’s a lot to that old adage “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
Field Report May 6, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; Opening Day Here We Come. - I finally purchased my new fishing license, in preparation for this weekend, but still have a ton of other things to take care of before the long awaited Opening Day.
One thing, and this is of major importance, as I write this, my boat is still at Aronson’s Boat Works, near Tower, where I’m having a new 50 hp 4-stroke Honda installed. Actually, I’m not too concerned about it, as most area lakes still have a good deal of ice on them.
I traveled the back-roads of Itasca county last weekend, scouting out several of the local fisheries, and was surprised to find that most all of them were still locked up pretty good. Very few had any open water near the shorelines and that really surprised me. Also, as I said before, even the little “minnow ponds” sported an icy lid.
I did find water levels to be quite high, especially in the Crooked Lake/Lawrence Lake area, where some of the roads are closed as well.. The Lawrence Lake public access had water reaching out across the parking lot and the same was with Crooked Lake.
Crooked Lake’s “twin bridges”, a popular sucker fishing spot, has water running through the woods and all over the place. No one was sucker fishing either but that will change in the very near future.
Winding my way toward Wolf Lake, I found the water gushing just inches below the bridge. This spot, by the way, is a popular opening day fishing hole and I’d expect a few anglers here for the new season. Some surprisingly nice fish have been caught here, walleye and northern.
Basically, if you plan on doing a little fishing on Opening Day, I’d look for a river, one that has a proven record of kicking out fish, as I think most lakes will give you fits in trying to use a boat.
I made a few phone calls and have received similar reports from across the country. Here are a few of them.
* Upper Red Lake...Steve Brasel of Bear Paw Guide Service said “as I’m talking to you, I can see 200 yards of open water, very dark because of it being so shallow. I wouldn’t be surprised if it recedes out to the break by this weekend, as long as we don’t get a west wind. If that happens the ice will really pile up.” Steve went on to say that the Tamarac River is closed and off limits for the first week of the season but will open up for angling the following weekend. For more information, give Steve a call at (218) 368-3755.
* Grand Rapids Area....Fishing guide Jason Green said “it’s not looking good at this point.” Green has traveled around and looked things over, finding ice on just about everything except rivers. Jason was ice fishing right up until last weekend and had great jumbo perch fishing but when coming off the lake described the ice “like a roller coaster” because of it’s soft and wavy action. That’s a little too late to be on the ice if you ask me!
* Alexandria Area...Fishing guide Chad Peterson said “panfish will be just fine” as some of the small lakes have opened up and there can be good panfish action while fishing right from shore. For walleye, Peterson said to fish the smaller lakes and river systems. Hmmm, I just may have to make a trip to the Alex area. For more info, Chad can be contacted at (320) 223-0630.
I didn’t check with any resorts in the Lake of the Woods area but would have to think the river fishing for walleye would be pretty darn good, as long as it’s not all muddied up and ice floes aren’t interfering with you. Be sure to call ahead for full details before making this trip.
For the most part, ALL big lakes (Winnie, Leech, Vermilion, Rainy, etc.) have plenty of rotten ice on them right now but will they open up enough to be fishable by the weekend? I really doubt it.
One thing you should be aware of is the fact that ice floes can seriously damage your boat and even rip a huge hole in it so be careful if you’re bound and determined to fish these types of waters. Just remember, we have a whole season ahead of us. - Good luck, have fun, and be safe!
Field Report April 29, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; Spring Reminded
It’s been one long winter and even though dozens of big panfish were still being pulled to the top of the ice last weekend, I refused to go. I’ve had enough and am in the process of cleaning up the winter stuff and putting it away until the next ice season, which is only about six months away. Isn’t that sad?
A pit stop, at one of the local outdoors stores, refreshed my mind and got me into thinking of spring open-water fishing. This is the time of year when all ice fishing equipment magically disappears from the shelves and is replaced by a totally new open-water arsenal. It’s seems to happen overnight but I’m sure the folks that pull off this stunt would beg to differ.
Strolling down the aisle, the first thing to catch my eye was a portable land rod-holder and although I never used this particular style, it brought back a flood of cat-fishing memories on the St. Louis River.
Drive it into the soft bank, cast your line out, place the rod into the holder and set back, waiting for the telltale nibble of a fish on the other end. Sometimes a little clip-on bell, also in the same aisle, is placed on the rod tip. This practice is normally used for night fishing, when vision is poor and rod-tips are hard to see. I quickly learned to put the bell on when done casting, after hearing it falling through tree limbs and brush. Don’t bother looking. You won’t find it. This little rod-holder is great for sucker fishing too, which is just around the corner…I think.
The long, white fishing rods were hard to miss. Eight feet long and of medium-heavy action, both the Ugly Stik “Catfish” and Berkley “Big Game” rods are inexpensive and built for punishment. We use these rods when sturgeon fishing on the Rainy River or for those monster catfish residing in the Red River. Big fish, big time fun.
A boot and wader hanger, of which I don’t have but should, was offered at a fair price. I’ve got to get a couple of these, as wade-fishing activites are quick to come. I usually just drape them over the side of the boat, when done, but a hanger designed for this purpose would be so much better.
Fly rod fishing kits are offered at super-low prices, if you ever thought about getting into the sport. They offer everything that you’ll need. It’s all in the package. I was a little intimidated at first but once you get a feel for this type of fishing, you’ll absolutely love it. Oh yeah, I’ve hooked myself a time or two and have been stuck in the trees a few times but that’s how you learn. Hey, I was fishing close to shore! J
The crappie fishing tackle always gets my attention and although I already have more than I could possibly use, I did a quick study of some new crappie crankbaits. Off-brand but looking pretty darn good, they seemed a little large for the crappies I catch, unlike the fish of Mississippi and some of the southern states, but I’m sure they’ll end up in a box next to my 1/8 oz “Rattletraps”, #3 Rapala “floaters” and 1/8 oz Northland Tackle “Rippin’ Shads.”
A full shelf of panfish tube-jig baits had me standing there for some time. I have plenty of them already because they do work. No question. However, if I buy any more it’ll be Northland’s new Impulse 1” tube. I can’t imagine how well these are going to work because the one’s without scent work very well to start with. I’m excited about these baits, which will be great from early spring right on through the summer months. Think about it. A plastic tube placed “over” the tube-jig means that it will never fall off. It can’t. That means a whole lot of extra fish being caught.
I could go on and on of my browsing the spring fishing aisle but hey, what about this weather? I did a little road-trip last Sunday and found minnow ponds that were still locked up tight! What in the world. I really wonder how the opener is going to play out.
A trip up north of Nashwauk, to visit my brother, Bruce, had me walking on the lake, Little Bear. I went up there with the intentions of taking photos of waterfowl but the lake had no open water whatsoever.
Another oddity was the fact that the old van in the Swampsiders Snowmobiling Club’s “Can-The-Van-Contest” is still sitting high and dry on top of the ice. I wonder how many times this old ride’s gone down in May??
Field Report April 23, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; Enough Already!
Well, as much as I truly love ice fishing, I honestly think I’ve finally had my fill. Come on Mother Nature. Enough of your high-jinx already. Give us a break!
The Governor’s Fishing Opener is only three weeks away and by the time you read this, it’ll be closer to two weeks. And to think I was just recently fishing on over two feet of ice.
Last weekend, a small army of us ice fishing enthusiasts gathered together for yet one more trip “back in the bush.” Using two snowmobiles, four atvs, and one side-by-side, eight of us made our way some ten miles back in the woods to visit a trophy panfish lake.
Not really knowing what to expect, after the recent snowstorm, I figured we had it covered, using a diversity of travel to reach this little gem.
Going in, Blake and I did the best using snowmobiles, as the snow was a tad too deep for good atv travel. We followed the crew until about a third of the way in, when it was determined that it might be better if we went first so we could “pack a trail.” It helped but they still struggled.
The trip in to the lake took 1 ½ hours and it was a real test for our equipment. Nearing the lake, several deep water holes were encountered, which were fine for the atvs, except for one. Poor Chad. He got stranded in the middle of one of them and got nice and wet. J The snowmobiles, however, had to be driven “on the edge” and it was indeed a tricky situation.
Finally reaching the lake, we were greeted with yet another challenge…slush. Well, what can you do when you’ve already spent so much time and effort in reaching our goal? Off we went, avoiding the wet-looking areas and setting up camp in a past fish-producing spot.
After all of that work to get in there, we found fishing to be on the slow side. Never-the-less, we hung in there and worked these fish. They didn’t bite all that easy and a lot of coaxing had to be done.
A midday cookout was held, with the “kitchen” being on the back of a Ranger 4x4. This is always a good time to meet new friends and enjoy competitive banter. At one point, a snowball fight ensued. This kind of tells you how slow the fish were biting. It also was a quick reminder as to how many years it’s been since I played softball. I sure can’t throw a snowball very far.
The weather, sunny and warm, had some of us applying our sun-block and me donning one of my famous “sun hats.” Last ice weather can give you a real scorching, if you’re not prepared.
The ride out had me a little concerned, because of all the melting, but it turned out well, except for a couple of the water holes. The snowy, upper edge of some of them had melted away, making snowmobile travel next to impossible so we drove head-long into the puddles and some of them were quite deep, with water running up and onto the hoods.
The entire crew traveled light but Blake and I insisted on pulling our Otter shelters in and back for a total of 20 miles. I just hate to go back in that far and leave something of importance back in the truck and another thing…they float!
Heading back home, you could tell Mother Nature was throwing a wrench into other mammals plans as well. The first was a large porcupine walking on top of the hardened snow, seemingly wondering where spring was. Next was a raccoon that was too busy digging in the snow to even look up at us. I hope this isn’t going be like “the summer that didn’t happen.” It’s sure heading in that direction. - Hang in there, it’s only going to get better…I hope.
Field Report April 15, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; Late Ice Not Nice - Not wanting to do any traveling last weekend, I stayed home, fairly close anyway, and struggled in my panfishing efforts.
Saturday found three of us checking out two small, shallow “back-in-the-bush” lakes for bluegills.
The first was a short snowmobile ride to a seldom fished little honey-hole. Once on the lake, holes were drilled in a spot that provided more action than one could handle on previous trips. Actually, back then, using two rods was out of the question, as big bluegills and numbers of largemouth bass were on the bite and one rod was more than enough.
This day, however, found us drilling and looking more than we intended and all was for naught. No fish were caught. No fish were seen. Hmm. I wondered “did this little hidden gem experience a winter kill?”
The last time it was visited was about two months ago. Now, with all of this snow, along with the super-late spring, I questioned it’s survival. Seeing how the lake is only approximately 40 acres and no deeper than 15’, I feared the worst. Drilling holes and fishing anywhere from 6 to 15’, I felt we gave it an honest effort before packing up and heading “down the road” to another little sleeper.
On the way there, I got to thinking and commented to Blake “this next lake is just like the one we left, small and shallow.” I hoped we weren’t in for a repeat performance.
Riding snowmobiles down the backwoods trails turned out to be the highlight of the day, as the next little lake offered a similar experience. Where were the fish? We tested the waters from 4-16’ on this one and never saw a fish on our electronics? Another winter kill or just poor fishermen? I’d rather be a poor fisherman, instead of finding the shorelines littered with dead fish when the ice finally decides to leave. I guess I’ll have to wait until it ice melts to find out.
After looking over Sunday’s weather report, I decided to stay home and not fish at all, even though my good buddies from across the border in Ft. Frances were knocking the daylights out of the BIG crappies on Rainy Lake. I had no fishing partner on this day and didn’t want to make the trip alone. However, after looking over their Facebook reports, I wish I had gone, as they hammered them.
(4/15) Courtesy Jeremy Taschuk; "Had another great day on the ice today despite the Gail force winds. We had to drill about 200 holes to find active fish. Between Tom Batiuk and I we caught and released at least 100 crappies in the 5-10" range. We managed to keep 18 fish. We couldn't have done it without the Strikemaster augers and the Humminbird flashers. I also was glad I had my RDGS (Chris Granrud) performance shirt on under my sweatshirt cuz it kept me warm in that wind."
Well, sleeping in and staying home for a part of the morning had me a little restless, especially when the sun popped out and it looked to be a great fishing day. I had a plan! I’d run to Bass Lake, by Cohasset, and play with the BIG bluegills and jumbo perch for a few hours and try to make it home in time to watch the Twins game. What a plan! Yeah, I know, I like to watch the Twins. I’m sick.
Snowmobiling across Bass Lake, I found that I was the only one out there and after fishing it for two hours I knew why. I had the same success as I had on Saturday. Zero! Wow, I couldn’t believe it. Here too, the waters were fished from 3-13’.
Making it home in time for the Twins game, I was informed that the contest, if you could call it that, was postponed, due to inclement weather and would be played sometime in August. With the way we’re going, it might be warm by then, maybe. Needless-to-say, I watched a fair amount of television over the weekend, which included the Bass Master Classic and The Masters, both of which are warm-weather sports. How nice.
Looking over my fishing blog, I checked out last year’s spring info for comparison and found that my last day ice fishing was on Big Winnie on March 31. Remember that? I was in a Wilcraft all-terrain vehicle on the big lake and the next day the ice was gone! That was a little scary.
Another date that jumped out at me was April 16, when we had the BIG snowstorm, so I guess snow isn’t so uncommon at this time of the season. The thick ice, however, is.
Bass Lake had over 24” of solid ice and it really makes me wonder what’s going to happen when the Minnesota 2013 Governor’s Fishing Opener takes place in the Park Rapids Lakes Area in three weeks, May 11. I’ll bet they didn’t plan on ice fishing?? That would be a first!
Field Report April 8, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; It's Go Time For Ice Fishermen - Yes, it’s “go time” for a couple of reasons. One, the deep snow and slush have settled to the point where it’s now time get out on the ice and go fishing, without too much worry of having problems. Travel was extremely easy last weekend, with both snowmobiles and atvs alike. Also, a few vehicles were spotted on the ice as well but just to be safe, please don’t chance it. Walk if you have to, as your sleds and shelters should slide with ease.
Another reason, and probably the best one, is that fact that the fish are “going.” Now is the time to cash in on those hungry panfish and that’s just what we did.
Last Sunday’s excursion found six Northland Tackle Pro Staff members gathering together in the Park Rapids area for some fishing and filming, along with a little good old fashioned ribbing and teasing. It’s always fun when we team up for the day. Forces joining together were Chad Peterson, Alexandria, Jamie Dietman, Brainerd, Jason Durham, Park Rapids, Chip Leer, Walker, and Blake Liend and I from Keewatin.
While crappies and bluegills were high on the list of fish to catch, we also managed to ice a number of jumbo perch, largemouth bass, and northern pike as well. Occasional sight-fishing, also allowed us to see a few very big walleyes and one monster pike.
Fishing shallow, 10’ or less, we were able to look down the hole and see fish bite. Sometimes we’d see rather large panfish turn down our offerings, which is probably the downside to sight-fishing. If you didn’t see the fish in the first place, it wouldn’t matter at all.
The best bait, and I knew this going in, was Northland Tackle’s new Impulse plastic, in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and once again it paid huge dividends to switch colors until that hot combination was found. Mine ended up being a very small, green “Gill Getter” jig, tipped with a black Impulse “May Fly”. I started out using the hot combo from two week’s ago, a green jig, tipped with a brown Impulse “Tadpole” but it wasn’t doing it. One just never knows.
The ice conditions were excellent, with melted-down snow and slush making for easy travel and there was plenty of ice to play on, at least 24”. However, every once in a while, if a hole was drilled a little too close to a “wet-looking area”, you’d run into some “layered” ice and water, making for some tough drilling. Keeping your eyes open and staying away from these areas made drilling just fine.
Think about it. We’re still ice fishing and have plenty of ice, which means a late spring, which means a cold water fishing opener with walleyes still “up the creek.” I’m sure Red Lake’s Tamarac River will be closed off, like it was a few years ago, in order to protect thousands of spawning walleyes and I so wanted to open up there. Well, maybe not now.
How many remember the most recent late spring when there were ice floes on Cut Foot Sioux and Big Winnie and all of those big walleyes were being caught. It wouldn’t be so bad to catch and release them but when it seemed the majority of anglers were legally keeping all of those big fish, over 26”, it’s just not a good situation. I’m sure there will be some postings and closings in that area as well. We’ll see.
We talked of the Rainy River today, while out ice fishing. The most recent reports have been poor and worse yet are the extremely long lines of vehicles, waiting to put their boats in. I heard one line was two miles long! This certainly creates a lot of friction and hot tempers. Trust me. I’ve been up there at this time and have seen it happen. Imagine driving 3-4 hours to fish and getting so disappointed that you just turn around and head back home without ever putting the boat in the water. It’s happened. Don’t let it be you.
In my opinion, you’re better off going ice fishing in Four Mile Bay. The walleyes are there and there’s certainly a lot more room to fish.
A good buddy, Brad Dokken, an outdoor writer for the Grand Forks Herald, had this plan of attack for Opening Day, many years ago, during an extreme late-ice spring. He would fish ½ day on the ice and spend the other ½ day fishing in a boat on the Rainy River. Sounds good, right?
Well guess what? Fishing was so darn good on the ice that he never even considered jumping into the boat when the first half day came to an end. He had caught so many walleyes that he just couldn’t leave the ice. Hmm, makes one think doesn’t it? - Good luck, be safe, and have fun. Oh yeah, don’t forget the sun block or ice cleats!
Field Report April 1, 2013 - Greg Clusiau; Has Been Having Slush Fun!
Plans were made to visit the Brainerd area for some late-ice fishing with guide Jamie Dietman but when “my partner in slime”, Blake Liend, pulled up in the driveway, early last Saturday morning, we both had our doubts. I could tell by his demeanor, along with the look on his face, that he wasn‘t real excited about it.
It was raining, coming down pretty good, and the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark. I’m sure we were both thinking the same thing, which would be something along the lines of “should we go, why even bother?”
Well, being the fishermen that we are, off we went. We had a commitment in meeting others on this trip and didn’t want to disappoint. Therefore, the first half of the two-hour trip was somewhat somber, as we headed south in the rain.
However, the mood picked up considerably when the rain slowly trickled away. Suddenly things were looking a whole lot better.
Meeting the rest of the crew, Dietman and Jim Eide of Brainerd and Alexandria’s Chad Peterson, had us displaying various means of conquering any questionable lake travel. Blake and I brought along long-track snowmobiles, which I figured to “be the ticket” while Brainerd boys sported atvs, one with chains and the other with studded tires. There was no stopping us now!
Chad was going to bring his wheeler, as well, but just to make things easier, or so I thought, I told him to leave it home. He could jump on the back of my Bearcat.
That decision was questioned, as I made my way out to the fishing hole, leaving a slush trail over a mile long. “Hmm, I wondered. If it’s this tough getting out on the lake, what’s it going to be like getting off, after a half-day of melting temperatures?” That thought stuck in my mind throughout the day as we fished.
Fishing was good, with crappies and tullibees providing sporadic action. It wasn’t fast but it was good. The crappies were of nice quality and the tullibees, average size, would be going home with me for a trip to the smoker.
My second trip to this area found fish biting exactly as they did before, which meant not over-jigging the baits, Impulse plastics. Once you attracted their attention, a stealth approach was required to get them to bite and it wasn‘t really a bite. It was more or less just a “suck it in” lazy feeding technique and exactly like last time, I found a spring bobber to be key in catching these light biters.
I was struggling a little, at first, until I disciplined myself into leaving the rod alone. This meant attracting fish, getting the lure close to them, and then laying the rod on the ice and waiting for the telltale sign of a “nibble.”
Color was key here as well. Chad Peterson, who quickly caught a limit of crappies, told me to try a green “Mud Bug” jig tipped with a brown Impulse “Tadpole”. First drop, bang! My, what a difference color can make at times. I went on to do quite well with that presentation.
Wrapping up our outing, we slowly packed up and readied for the ride back. Blake laughingly shouted “I’m following you” because of my snowmobile having the wider track, knowing it was going to be a real challenge.
The ride was as expected, if not worse. I didn’t want to keep it at full throttle but knew if I let up we’d be knee-deep in slush and more-then-likely stuck. While the snowmobiles struggled, the atvs had no problem at all and at one point Jamie even passed me. One just never knows.
Now, with the warmer temps, lake travel should be much more doable, with most any type of lightweight transportation, even a snowmobile. The ice season has been prolonged a tad. Be sure to take advantage of it. Get out there, be safe, have fun, and good luck! - Greg Clusiau
Field Report March 25, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Gear Up Right to Make it Happen
Lake conditions, last weekend, were such that your best bet was to use a snowmobile and that’s just what Blake and I did on a fishing trip to Big Sandy Lake near McGregor.
Arriving at the public access, we were a bit concerned in not seeing anyone on the lake, fishing the “community hole”, especially since it was “tullie time”. Were conditions so bad that nobody was willing to test the waters (or slush)? We’d soon find out.
You could see where truck traffic had met it’s match with deep snow only 50 yards out. We drove past this spot and headed out across the lake, each towing an Otter “Cottage” fishing shelter.
These little shelters have worked exceptionally well for us for years. The “Cottage”, Otter’s smallest, is described as an ultra-wide 1-man and although small in stature, it fishes big, meaning it is made as rough and tough as they come.
No matter the size, all Otters come with molded-in hitch pockets for attaching an optional tow hitch. Fish enough back-in-the-bush portage lakes, along with other rough conditions (broken ice, pressure ridges, steep hills, etc.) and you’ll find out in a hurry why a rigid tow hitch is so important.
A good reason to use a small shelter during poor lake conditions is that fact that they are much lighter to pull around and don’t act like an anchor when meeting those extreme slushy spots. Otter describes the front end of their sleds as “optimum attack angle for conquering snow, slush, and challenging terrain”, going on to say “Otter Pro Sleds are designed for high mileage use in extreme conditions.”
That statement brings to mind an Otter shelter once owned by good friend Tim Ranta. Tim, an avid lake trout fisherman, pulled his Otter all over Ontario, making many, many trips in search of these hard fighting fish.
At one point, his snowmobile odometer read 4,000. Well, consider this. Tim NEVER rode snowmobile trails. The only time he was riding his machine, an Otter sled was in tow, meaning he had pulled that Otter for over 4,000 miles and although a little worn, it was still in pretty fair shape when he sold it a few years ago. I believe he received a fair price for it as well! To say they’re rugged is an understatement.
Pulling a shelter across poor lake conditions requires a snowmobile or “track vehicle” of some sort and as much as Blake and I ice fish, we don’t have the latter…yet.
Long-track snowmobiles with reverse are just the ticket when venturing across deep snow and slush and probably more key than anything else is to not go it alone. Always go with a partner or two and bring along tow straps, etc. just in case. We bring that stuff along but haven’t had to use it so far this year.
We found travel on Big Sandy to be excellent but once we stopped and started walking about, the snow was up to our knees. I was surprised the snowmobiles were able to ride on top of the snow as much as they did. I think the warm temps hardened the surface just enough to keep us afloat. Walking around was another matter.
We found fishing to be slow but a number of crappie and perch were caught. Not up to our expectations, we decided to bunch it and took a three mile ride up the river into Aitkin Lake. The travel was good, as long as you stayed off to the north side of the river. Fishing, however, was poor.
It didn’t matter. We got out and made a good day of it. Get out there and give it a try yourself. We have some of the best ice fishing of the year coming up and it’s going to be a whole lot easier if the forecasted warm temps hold true. You should be able to use wheelers this coming weekend. Have fun and be safe.
Field Report March 15, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Wasted Weekend? - Well, maybe it wasn’t wasted but if you only fished on weekends it probably was, as snow and slush conditions have kept many an angler off the lakes. Even the old reliable, never fail snowmobile is in question right now. I’d say the only way to really enjoy a day on the lake would be to use some type of track vehicle. To prove my point, here are a few reports from across the North Country:
*Lake of the Woods - (March 17). Good Sunday Morning. Fishing the past few days has been fairly good, with some getting limits and others reporting some nice slot fish with plenty of eaters. With the pending snow storm this evening and tomorrow, we will be pulling our houses back over the heave today and only be running them near Pine Island for the rest of the season. It's that time of year and the fish are thinking about spawning and moving towards shallow water already. We will not be opening the road up beyond the bridge after the storm. (Courtesy of Wheelers Point Resort & Lodge)
*Rainy Lake - (March 17) Conditions are horrible. Actually dangerous. 2 plus feet of fluff snow and 20 inches plus of slush beneath. Pockets of deep depressions in the lake are making sled travel nearly impossible if pulling a portable house. Staying on packed sled trails is really the only safe means of travel until winter loosens it's grip. (Courtesy of Chris Granrud, “RainyDaze Guide Service” 218-286-3159)
*Big Winnibigoshish - (March 13) CURRENT ICE CONDITIONS!!!! 36+ inches of snow with 12-18" of slush and 24" of ice. Snowmobile and track 4-wheeler access only!! Our access is closed to all vehicle traffic. Please call with any questions. 218 246-2560. The lodge will be open until March 17, 2013. (Courtesy of High Banks Resort)
This column was written prior our most recently predicted snowstorm so we’ll all have to wait and see just what happens here. What we need is a good old fashioned melt-down, which shouldn’t be that far down the road and once that snow settles, watch out, as fishing should be “on fire”. Actually, it would be good right now but getting out there is a problem.
Last weekend was the first, all winter, for me to stay home and off the ice. Sure, I have a snowmobile but even those critters can create huge problems when dealing with deep snow and slush. Trust me. I’ve been there a time or two and I don‘t want to go through that again.
What does a person look for, when it comes to finding a place to fish?
First off, I’d check some of our little, local hotspots that receive a fair amount of traffic. Believe me, if the fishing is any good at all, there will be a trail to use and normally the more it’s used the better it will become. The sub-zero temps will have frozen the trail good enough to get out on the lake but just make sure not to back off the road because the insulating properties of snow is quite remarkable and slush will be waiting for you. Guarantee it.
Just have to get out there? Don’t go alone. That’s probably the best tip of all. I’ve been there too.
The large area walleye lakes, which offer resort plowed ice roads, have started winding down their season mainly because of the walleye season being now closed. Even though these lakes have hoards of jumbo perch waiting to be caught, it’s pretty much a snowmobile or atv that’ll get you out on the lake, as the ice roads could be off limits to vehicle traffic.
Still want walleyes? If that’s the case, as it is with me, head to Rainy Lake or Lake of the Woods, as the walleye season is still open and going strong.
When I last checked, Rainy had one plowed road available with waist-high snow banks. Lake of the Woods, which has dozens of resorts, has many more options when it comes to late ice walleye fishing. All you need to do is park your truck on shore and take a snowmobile or atv to your favorite fishing grounds.
Some resorts, like Long Point Resort, are situated closer to deep water and this allows us to reach good fishing without going all that far out onto the lake. A person could actually walk out to “fishable” grounds, as long as there is some sort of trail available. However, if you plan on doing this, be sure to call the resort beforehand. Otherwise you might be making that long drive for nothing!
Upper Red Lake’s “Bear Paw Guides”, Steve and Tyler Brasel, had their walleye season come to an end so they visited Lake of the Woods recently and did pretty darn good, catching a bunch of walleyes and tullibees. They also caught one of the largest jumbo perch they had ever seen and Steve‘s a taxidermist. Hmm, I might have to give that a try. - Be patient my friends. All we need is a little sun.
Field Report March 15, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Winnipeg Walleyes
Another trip to Lake Winnipeg is now in the books, as nine of us made our 5th annual trip to this walleye wonderland. Fishing wasn’t as good as previous outings, but it still goes down as a good trip and we‘re already planning for next year‘s adventure.
As in the past, we left home around 10:30 pm last Thursday, drove straight through the night, and arrived around first light, just in time to go fishing. That first day is a real bugger.
Fishing the Gimli area, on the western shore, we headed out to our hotspots from last year and really struggled in catching fish.
An adventurous lot, it didn’t bother us that we had to do a little searching but toward day’s end it was getting to be a little disappointing. We caught fish but not near the numbers expected.
Back at “base camp“, the Gimli Conference Centre, plans were made for the next morning and that was to fish the same general area but to spread out more and go in different directions. We knew the fish were here, as we caught over 200 nice walleyes there on our last trip.
However, by late morning, we had our doubts on finding them and went with “plan B”, which was to trailer our snowmobiles back toward the southern end of the lake, about 30 miles, so we could fish the so-called “community holes” where most everybody else was fishing and more importantly catching.
Lake Winnipeg is huge and measures 250 miles long so finding a feeding school of fish can sometimes be like looking for that proverbial “needle in a haystack”, especially when you are plying somewhat uncharted waters. Fishing the Gimli area last year, we never saw another angler. Going out of the Chalet Beach area, we expected to see hundreds of anglers, if not thousands and they would be there for a reason.
People drive for miles to get a crack at these beautiful fish. Get a little lucky and you just may be bringing a 14-15 pounder back home to the local taxidermist. Yes, some mighty big walleyes swim these waters.
Heading out to one of our past areas, about 6 miles out, we started catching fish instantly. It wasn’t fast and furious like we’ve experienced before but was a whole lot better than where we first started out. We were “saving” the trip, if you will.
That’s one thing about traveling any distance to fish. You’ll want to spend at least three days, or more, on the water, as it sometimes takes a little in finding fish. Big water can do this to you.
If you aren’t doing too much catching, by all means, relocate. This means moving at least ½ mile or more. Believe me, if you’re “over fish” you’ll know it, as they usually bite very well.
Day two had us bringing a bunch back to camp for a fish fry. We also released quite a few fish.
To make it count, the third and final day found us out on the ice before the sun came up, hoping that previous “so-so” areas would be “lights out” when fishing early. It didn’t happen. As a matter-of-fact, it was quite slow for most of us.
There were a few that put on a minor fish-catching clinic but for the most part it was painstakingly slow. It didn’t really matter. We had a good time on the lake and I was considering it to be another great trip overall until we tried making it home. That’s when trailer #1 malfunctioned.
Blake and I spotted one of our teams pulling over to the side of the road and went back to investigate. We were relieved to see it was just a flat trailer tire, or so we thought. We then discovered that the leaf-springs had broken on both sides and the axle had shifted. There was no way we could pull this one home.
Another member of the group came back to help out and we were considering using an empty spot on his trailer to help in getting things home until we noticed that he too was having problems. A trailer bearing had gone out on his and now we had two trailers down and out at the same time and place. How odd.
Our only option was to leave two trailers and three snowmobiles sitting in a friendly farmer’s yard. They would be retrieved the following day.
I see that we have received a little snow while we were gone. This will only prolong the ice fishing season a few more days. Get out and give it a whirl. Good luck, have fun, and be safe!
Field Report March 4, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Red Lake Rainbows.
I finally made a trip to fish the famed “hidden waters” of the Red Lake Nation. This is something that has been on the back-burner for a good while and after last Saturday’s outing, I really wonder what took me so long, as it was fantastic fishing.
Arrangements were made with Red Lake guide Darwin Sumner, who is also the Outfitters Manager for Seven Clans Casino and Hotel, which is where we met up at 10:00 am. A quick stop inside the casino had us filling out the required permit to fish these secret waters and off we went.
Following Darwin and fellow guide Daris Rosebear, we passed several very interesting, little lakes, coming to a stop “back in the bush” somewhere. The road was plowed and travel was good.
Excitement was building as we unloaded the snowmobiles, hooked up the Otters, and headed out across the lake. Normally, snowmobiles aren’t needed and they actually weren’t on this day, as fish were biting only 50 yards from the access.
However, as long as we had them, we had the means to easily set up on the other side of the lake.
Isn’t the grass always greener on the other side? Or the trout bigger? The main reason we brought snowmobiles, in the first place, was concern of possible deep snow but most of it has now settled to the point where walking is a breeze.
I should mention that all is provided on these guided trips, ranging from transportation, shelters, heaters, rods, reels, bait and “the works” but fishermen being fishermen, we opted to bring all of our own “stuff.” We did, however, take advantage of the nice lunch.
We would be fishing for rainbow trout on this day, the only fish available during the winter season, along with brook trout. Sumner said there are four trout lakes available for winter guide trips and that all other species are off limits until the open water season gets underway, around the first of May. Then you can fish for lake trout, walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, and crappie. Each species has trophy-class fish swimming these waters and I mean BIG. Heck, the lake trout average 8-14 pounds!
I caught the first fish of the morning and it took all of about a minute. Looking at my MarCum, I noticed a depth of 51’ along with a little “clutter” here and there, indicating forage of some sort. Quickly dropping down a small silver “Buck Shot Rattle Spoon” tipped with a waxworm, I let the bait free-fall as I tightened up the reel handle.
Upon finishing the minor task, I flipped the bail-spring shut and found a fish had already taken the bait. I never even knew it was on (and yeah, I fish a lot J ). A brief, hard-fought battle ended up with a two pound rainbow finding it’s way to the surface. What a great way to start.
It was a consistent bite, with all of us practically taking turns at reeling in fish. Seeing how all four of us (Chad Peterson, Jamie Dietman, Blake Liend, and I) are on Northland Tackle’s pro staff, we used nothing but and it was interesting to see what the hot bait was going to be.
Chad connected on a few fish right away with the “Puppet Minnow”, while the rest of us used small jigging spoons. Blake and Jamie began tipping their spoons with a small piece of Impulse plastic and did quite well. Eventually, Chad and I joined in, as the fish clearly preferred Impluse over live bait, like waxworms and night crawler pieces.
I finally found the HOT combination, which was a small glow/white jighead tipped with a pink/white Impluse “Stone Fly.” The fish were “high flyers” cruising just under the ice, around 7-8’ down. All I had to do was drop my bait down to that level and basically wait for them to show up. Jig it too much and they were gone. Leave it still, along with a slight quiver and they were on it. What fun!
Needless to say, we went home with our limit of 20 rainbow trout, 5 per person. The size stayed fairly consistent, with most fish in the two pound range, perfect for grilling, smoking, or whatever.
We did a half-day trip and found it to be perfect, as we caught plenty of fish. Chad drove from Alexandria, Jamie from Brainerd, and Blake and I from Keewatin. I just love it when a plan comes together.
A quote from the Red Lake Outdoors brochure says “This isn’t your typical over-fished, crowded, infected water. It’s protected. Private. And alive.”
For more information on fishing on the Red Lake Nation, contact Lois “Gina” Statton at 218-368-2205 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.redlakeoutdoors.net.
Questions for the guide? Call Darwin Sumner at 218-766-8406 or email Dsumner@sevenclanscasino.com.
Field Report February 25, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Things I’ve Learned - High Banks Highway - Making plans, or at least trying to, for Saturday morning’s fishing excursion had me succumbing to the easy traveling that ice roads had to offer. That’s it. I was going to drive…somewhere. Sorry Mr. Bearcat, I’m going to have to leave you home tomorrow. You’ll soon get your chance when I really need your services on the walleye-rich waters of expansive Lake Winnipeg.
Still not too concerned in where I was going to go fishing, I made sure to sleep in. Man, it was super-nice laying in bed until 4 am. Yes, that early. Even when I have no plans and nothing concrete in the works, I’m up early doing something.
I first thought of Upper Red Lake, which still had a hot walleye bite going on, which would come to season‘s end on Sunday. No. Been there, done that. I don’t care how good the bite was, I was going to do something “different.”
My brother, Joel, and his entourage would be leaving Kee-town at 6 am for Upper Red and seeing how I was more than wide awake at this time, I ran over to his place with a bag of sandwiches for the crew and to wish him good luck. (They did very well, by the way.)
Then it came to me! How about a trip to Big Winnie and High Banks Resort? I hadn’t been there all winter and was due for a trip. Also, I knew they had plowed roads. With that thought in mind, I packed up the truck and headed west.
An hour trip always allows one to think a bit and one thing that came to mind was the fact that I had no sun-block with me. This is the time of year when the sun can kind of sneak up on you. You don’t really notice it, until the ride home, when your face is red and burning. A lot of it is from the wind but the sun plays it’s fair share as well.
Stopping at a convenience store in Grand Rapids, I came up empty-handed. The next stop was in Deer River at another convenience store. Nothing. Next, a grocery store, which opened it’s doors at 9 am, while I waited in the parking lot. No. One last stop at another convenience store resulted in another big fat zero.
Do people think that sun-block is only used in the summer months? Think again. The worst sun-burning time of the year is late-ice in my opinion. Well, I went fishing without it but tried to keep my back to the sun as much as possible. It helped a little but I still felt the burn.
Stopping in at High Banks Resort I was greeted by the ever-pleasant Kim Leonhardt. I apologized for not being there since late-ice last year and chatted for a few minutes before anxiously heading out the door. Kim reminded me not to drill any holes closer than 100’ of the ice road.
This is some critical info folks. If you’re going to any resort with a plowed road, for goodness sakes don’t drill on or anywhere near the ice roads, as it will flood out with all of this snow and not only will the fishing opportunities come to a halt but the thoughtless act will cost the resort thousands of dollars in revenue.
At the base of “High Banks Hill” was a good-sized pressure ridge, which was carved open to allow traffic out to the many miles of clean, easy-traveling ice roads. The roads wind about the lake in several directions and even a two-wheel drive pick-up truck or car would have no trouble in getting about.
I ended up close to the Third River area and began my “search for perch.” Fishing shallow, I caught dozens of them but all were small. Fishing deeper allowed less action but better quality fish. Well, that was fun! Now I would go in search of tullibees or “tullies” as I like to call them, which was the purpose of my trip in the first place.
Heading back, with gps in hand, I stopped at the first likely looking spot, which was deep water next to a break-line. One hole, one drop, one fish. It was that simple. Going back down resulted in another quick fish. I was just starting to think “hey, this is easy” when the fish disappeared. I knew if I waited around long enough that they’d be back but Mr. No Patience went in search of another spot.
Using the same “formula” of deep water break-lines had me picking up a few more fish on the way back to the lodge. I lost a few as well.
All-in-all, it was another fun day on the ice and even though I really never “hammered” the fish, the ease of driving made all the difference in the world. Get out there and give it a whack. Some of the best fishing of the season is now upon us. Good luck, have fun, and be safe.
Field Report February 19, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Things I’ve Learned - Snow Halts Free Wheeling Truck Traffic .
I’m glad I got in a fair amount of easy truck travel on lakes across the North Country because it now has come to an abrupt end. The recent snowfall has put my ice fishing transportation into two modes, plowed roads and snowmobiles.
Regarding snowmobile use for ice fishing, this is usually just fine but snow levels are quite high, 15-16” in some places, and the deep snow can be a real problem, especially if you hit a slush pocket and trust me, there are plenty of them to be had.
My most recent snowmobile outing was last Saturday on a local lake “up north.” Traveling with my fishing partner, Blake Liend, it was determined that I go first to break trail, seeing how I now have a Bearcat with a wide track. It’s amazing how much more floatation a 20” track has over the standard 15”.
This is a great machine for ice fishing and it can go darn near anywhere. Just don’t get it stuck. I don’t care if it has reverse or not. With that in mind, I blasted over a snow bank and tried following the snowy camouflaged road that winds it’s way back into this sometimes great crappie lake. At one point, I felt the track nick a stump when I got too far off the road.
Lake travel wasn’t bad but I did feel the machine sink down a few times when slush was encountered.
Traveling in tandem is huge, especially when snow depths offer challenging lake conditions. Don’t go it alone or, for goodness sakes, using one lone overloaded sled for a chance at a few fish like I did one time in Ontario. That trip had me leaving everything on the lake, going home without any equipment at all.
I recall driving back to Canada a couple days later, early on Christmas Eve morning, to retrieve a broken down, slushed up snowmobile, auger, shelter, electronics, and all other ice fishing necessities. The smaller items were hidden away on an island but the weather was so cold that not a soul ventured out on the lake while we were gone.
Back to last Saturday…Blake followed my trail and kicked up water as he sped across the same slushy areas. Keeping the speed up is critical for iffy areas like this.
Once on the spot, we had to walk around in knee-deep snow, drill holes, and look for fish. This day has us struggling, as only crappies of the smaller variety were being caught. It may have been worth it, if we caught the big fish we sought but after that outing we opted to go for a ride the next day. We would be driving on a plowed road on the walleye rich waters of Upper Red Lake.
Going out of Hillman’s, we found a very nice plowed ice road, which all of the resorts offer. This makes fishing so much easier, until you want to travel off the road to find a place to fish. The absolute worst thing you can do is do get lazy and drill a couple of holes on or too close to the roads. This will cause flooding and shut the road off completely, possibly forcing you to flee for your life!
We did manage to drive a short distance off the main road but not very far at all. We had to drive along and look for a low spot in the snow bank and “go for it.“ Again, we were traveling in tandem with another truck. It’s always nice to have a little help, along with a tow strap, just in case you get stuck.
We had to bounce around a bit to find fish but did eventually make it happen, catching several nice Red Lake walleyes. The best bait, for my group this winter on Upper Red Lake, has been a small “silver shiner” colored “Buck Shot Rattle Spoon”, tipped with a minnow head. The fish really seem to show a preference for small baits lately and we’ll give them just what they want to be successful.
Going fishing this weekend? Call the resorts offering plowed roads to proven fish catching spots. A couple lakes that come to mind are Big Winnie, Upper Red Lake, and Lake of the Woods. Otherwise, you just may want to take a snowmobile.
Field Report February 11, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Things I’ve Learned - A person learns something new each and every day. All you have to do is pay attention. Take, for example, my weekend of fishing fun and if it’s not an actual lesson learned, it’s certainly a firm reminder. Here are a few of them:
* Never give up - On Saturday, Blake and I fished four different lakes, in search of a good bite, and while it certainly wasn’t stellar, the final body of water kicked out some real nice fish with bluegills reaching the 10 ½“ mark.
Sunday was much of the same, with me fishing three lakes and finally landing on the so-called “honey hole” where a limit of nice crappies was had.
Living in Itasca County and surrounded by it’s 1,000 lakes offers anglers more choices than you could shake a stick at. Be sure to take advantage of this situation and if you’re not doing all that well on your initial lake, pack up, drive down the road a mile or two, and try a different body of water.
* Half tracks - The snow was getting quite deep last weekend and I’m sure the recent snowfall will make lake travel with trucks nearly impossible. On Sunday, faced with deep snow, I tried following the tracks of another truck that had blazed a trail across the lake.
For whatever reason, it wasn’t working. I was having trouble until I tried using only one of the tracks and making my own with the other side of the truck. To my surprise, it worked like a charm . I’ve also had better luck at times by just avoiding other tracks and making my own.
* Slow down - I’ve done the best, the last two weekends, by practically “dead-sticking” my lure. Move it around a little too much and the fish seem to lose interest in a hurry. However, work it extremely slow and, at times, just lay the rod down, not touching it. This method was catching the majority of my fish.
* Don’t forget the liquid bandage - Being out on the ice all weekend can destroy your fingers, especially if you’re catching fish. As soon as I develop a crack or cut, out comes the “New Skin” for a patch job. It really saves the day but if the cut is fairly deep, wow, it almost makes you jump out of your shoes. Whenever a helping hand is needed, that sadistic bunch I fish with almost fight to see who gets to put it on. J
* Open the gap - Reducing down to super-small baits, when the bite gets tough, can also mean losing a few fish because the hook gap is so tiny. It just doesn’t get a “good grip”. To remedy this, bend the hook open a tad more and you’ll notice more hook-ups.
* Trim your plastics - You did well on the crappies the day before with a 1” piece of plastic but one this day you struggle to get a bite. Usually, all that is needed is a “shortening” of the bait. Cutting off ¼” of the bait will generally get them back into a biting mood.
Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with your plastics, cutting them to your own liking, making little legs, etc. Blake Liend is very good at this. He also catches quite a few fish. Coincidence?
* Put your stuff away stupid! - I’m talking about me here and I almost hate to tell anyone this but it needs to be told, at my expense. This is a BIG lesson learned, believe you me.
I like to lay stuff, like my auger, on the back of my tailgate when I’m slowly moving about the lake, drilling holes and searching for fish. This works well, as it’s always at the ready. Besides, I just creep along and don’t drive very fast at all.
Sticking out about a foot, I place it so the auger blades are visible from my rear-view mirror. When driving, I’m always going slow and keeping an eye on things.
However, last Sunday, after driving around lake number one, drilling holes and unsuccessfully finding fish, I finally gave up and took off for the next lake without putting my auger away. I still can’t believe I did this.
Making my way out of the access road, about a mile, I continued on down the highway until a stop sign was reached, about three miles away. It was at this point that I glanced in the mirror and almost fell over when I realized my new Strikemaster Honda auger was still sitting on the tailgate! A woman, who was following me, smiled as she went by. How embarrassing. - And with that, have fun, be safe, good luck, and “shut the tailgate!”
Field Report February 4, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Finagling Fussy Fish . Just in the door from yet another successful mini road trip, my fingers are aching and split open as I try to write this week’s column. I describe this uncomfortable feeling as a “good hurt” because it generally means that you were handling a lot of fish and that was just the case. Also, dashing into the living room to check on the Super Bowl from time to time doesn’t help matters either. This column is going to be tough to do.
Crow Wing County…I made a solo trip to fish with Brainerd fishing guide Jamie Dietman. There are pros and cons to this trip, which turned out to be a fantastic outing by the way.
The cons: Going solo. Blake, my regular fishing partner, couldn’t make this one so I had to do all of the driving myself. Granted, it’s not that long of a trip but coming home tired is never a good thing. The other downside is the cost of gas when driving alone.
The pros: Jamie called to say that he was on a good daytime crappie bite, which meant that I didn’t have to leave the house until 6 am. Well, me being me, I left around 5:30 am, just in case. That’s almost like sleeping in. Another positive was the fact that the fish were of very nice size.
Dietman warned me beforehand that the crappies were extremely fussy and sometimes hard to catch. However, he was using small plastics and getting the job done. Here’s how we went about catching these fish…
First off, small jigs were required, like Northland Tackle’s tungsten “Fire-Ball” and “Mooska”. Drop down anything too large and forget it. They wouldn’t touch it, except for the one time that I tricked one into hitting a “Forage Minnow Spoon.”
The little tungsten jigs worked well for a couple of reasons. One, the fish were preferring smallish baits and two, we were fishing deep water and the dense heavyweight tungsten drops like a rock, making it easier to get down to the fish. Using additional weight to get down, like split-shot sinkers, can damage light line so we tend to stay away from that method.
Key was to use some type of spring bobber, as fishing deep water with a small bait can sometimes make it hard to notice bites, especially when the fish are real fussy. Many times you’d notice the spring make a subtle bend, meaning a fish was on it, but if you waited a second too long it would spit it back out.
I don’t know how many misses we had but there were quite a few. We actually found it best to just lay the rod down and keep it as still as possible after we had enticed a fish within striking distance.
To lure the fish “into the strike zone” we would first lower the jig down to about 2-3’ above the fish and then give it the old “tremble”, making it quiver ever so gently. This was generally enough to get their attention, where they’d rise up to investigate. Shake it up a little too much and they’d leave.
Most jigs were tipped with plastic “pieces” like ¾ of an Impulse “Mini Smelt” or half of a “Bro’s Bloodworm.”
Another thing to keep an eye on when fishing deep water panfish is your fishing line. Use fresh line that doesn’t have any “curls” or you’ll never notice a bite. We used 3 and 4 pound Bionic Ice Fluorosilk, which has great “sink ability” and it usually “hangs straight”, with no curls. Invisible to fish, this line has an ultra slick coating making it easy to shed water and resist freezing and ice build-up. Put your plan into action. Go after those tight-lipped panfish and show them who’s boss.
Field Report January 28, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Heck of a Weekend! - I finally made the trip south to fish catfish through the ice. It worked out to be the perfect plan, as it was a balmy -21º on Saturday morning, when we left town and the forecast had it reaching -28º after the sun came up. I didn’t care. By then we’d be fishing on the Horseshoe Chain in the St. Cloud area, some 190 miles away. Yes, it was yet another mini road-trip for Blake and I. We really need to be sponsored by a gas company!
We arrived right on schedule, meeting Chad Peterson and friends out on the lake. Right from the “get go” I realized I made one minor mistake and that was leaving my ice cleats at home. I thought I was all done with those things until late-ice in northern Minnesota.
However, there is practically zero snow cover on the lakes in that area and it was as glare as glare ice could get. That means it was slippery, for the vehicle, as well as myself. I was walking pretty stiff-legged for most of the day and the truck was spinning right along. Stopping “on a dime” was certainly out of the question.
The ice thickness also surprised me, measuring in at 20” or better. They’ve got thicker ice in the St. Could area than we do up here on “da range.”
Fishing started off slow and didn’t get too much better. We did however, catch about a dozen small catfish, a bunch of crappies, and a half-dozen small walleyes. I was happy. I caught my first ever catfish through the ice! Man, the things we do for fun.
The best baits turned out to be a combination of “chicken livers”, on smallish glow-red jigs and “Forage Minnow Spoons” tipped with whatever. Yes, chicken livers! I didn’t even want to use the stuff, as it reminded me of the long ago summer days of fishing on the St. Louis River.
It was hot and we were told that it was best to use rotten, sitting-in-the-sun rotten, chicken livers for best results. Yuk! It brings back horrid memories. Not only did it stink to high-heaven but the flies were as thick as all get out. Awful, awful stuff but we did catch a few fish.
It was a fun day, until I returned home and found out that Jim Hudson had gone through the Chequamegon Bay ice with his snowmobile and died. Jim, an exceptional Lake Superior fishing guide, was running his snowmobile, looking for a better lake trout spot for his clients, when he encountered thin ice.
Jim and I talked every once in a while about getting together and doing a little fishing. He was a great fisherman and an even better guy. That water always scares me. As a matter-of-fact, my last trip there had two snowmobiles going through the ice the day before we got there to do some trout fishing.
The entire ice fishing industry is in a funk of sorts and something of this nature is never easy to accept or get over with. With that in mind, ice fishing plans were made for the next day. This trip would be a “walk in the park” consisting of only 60 miles or so.
We arrived at the big bluegill destination around first light, meeting, once again, Chad Peterson and company. It was our goal to do a little video work and we got on it right away, with Peterson catching a mammoth 10 ¾” fish.
It was somewhat slow fishing but well worth the wait. Blake pulled the next good fish to the surface, measuring 10” on the button. A little while later, it was my turn, icing a 10 3/8” fish.
The best baits of the day were most anything small, tipped with meat (waxworms or maggots). Our group did the best with the smallest “Gill Getters”, “Mud Bugs”, and “Hexi Flys”. The baits were also of the brightest variety, like charteuse, bright green, glow, etc. because of the heavily stained water we were fishing.
Nice gills and a few crappies were caught throughout the day before things finally shut off in a big way, around 2:00 pm. I didn’t mind bunching it and going home, as the long day-trip from the day before still had me a little tired out.
This is turning out to be quite a winter for catching fish. Ice conditions are fantastic. Get out there and give it a try. Good luck, have fun, and be safe.
Field Report January 21, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Forage Minnow Spoon a Classic Fish Catcher!
We all have our favorite fishing lures, mainly because we’ve enjoyed some success with them in the past. I’m no different.
Heading out onto the lake, ice fishing for crappies, I’ll have at least a half-dozen rods pre-rigged and ready to go and one of them is sure to have a “Forage Minnow Spoon” dangling on the end of it. The color may change every once in a while but the size remains the same, 1/16 oz., the smallest made by Northland Fishing Tackle.
This lure has been a proven winner since day one and even though it has been around for a good while, it still continues to catch fish and remains a favorite in fishing circles, especially mine.
Just last weekend, this little lure once again came to the rescue, when Blake and I broke trail and traveled “back-in-the-bush” to one of our crappie hotspots. The first trip of the ice season to this lake, we were thrilled that we were able to drive our truck out onto the ice. This made fishing a whole lot easier, as sometimes it takes a little searching to find them.
We drove right to the spot, an area that had them stacked up pretty good during one of our late-fall outings. They hadn’t moved very far at all and it only took a few holes before we found them.
Actually, Blake was busy making Swiss cheese of the place, while I checked holes with my MarCum LX-6 and the first fish, a nice one at that, didn’t take long in making an appearance. The lure? You guessed it, a little “Forage Minnow Spoon” tipped with a waxworm.
Blake quickly put the auger away and joined in on the fun. The fish were there but they didn’t want anything to do with his finesse presentations. Asking what I was using, he switched baits and immediately began catching fish. Sometimes it works like that.
Using it for a “search lure”, it is usually the first bait I’ll try, as it gets down quickly and really gets their attention.
Northland Tackle pro staffer Chad Peterson agrees saying “it’s my “go to” lure and the first thing I’ll use. Using this bait helps me in determining the mood of the fish. It gives me a starting point and I’ll go from there.”
Even when the bite is difficult, I’ve found the “Forage Minnow Spoon” to work when most others won’t. Why is this? For one thing, I think the fluttering, falling action created when dropped at the top of the hole resembles a small crappie minnow. It’s the same size. I honestly think that these fish are programmed to eat something of this size, even when they’re not real hungry. It’s a reflex thing and they see it from a long way off. By the time it gets down to them, it’s “go time.”
Peterson added “I like using the “Forage Minnow Spoon” when fishing in stained water, as it is easier for them to see, especially with all of the bright colors that are available.” He went on to say that he likes to tip the tiny treble hook with two maggots and leaves the third bare, saying “it’s just enough to smell like something to eat.”
He doesn’t always use bait though. I remember a filming outing a while back when he went “meatless” and caught just as many crappies, or more, than I did using waxworms. When I mentioned this, Chad said “just keep it swimming, pop it and keep it moving. Don’t let it sit there.”
As I mentioned, even during tough times, like the last two weekends, the “Forage Minnow Spoon” continued to catch fish, crappies and bluegills alike. Some of the gills were of the smaller variety while others were quite large. Looking back on it, I’ve caught a lot of large bluegills on this bait as well. Especially when it’s tipped with a waxworm or maggots.
Northland Tackle also offers the “Forage Minnow Jig”, which has the same body size and colors as the “Forage Minnow Spoon” only the jig has a single hook that works well for tipping with full crappie minnows, waxworms, or maggots.
Good luck fishing and don’t forget, if the fish aren’t wanting your tiny little finesse baits don’t hesitate to go with something larger. Be safe and have fun.
Field Report January 14, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Cold As Ice! Last weekend offered us a good old-fashioned “in your face” cold front, making successful angling for most species a true test. I knew going in that our quest for panfish might be a bit difficult and that perhaps we should focus on the Minnesota trout opener instead.
For whatever reason, it’s been my experience that trout action seems to easily outweigh other fish species when dealing with cold front conditions and that’s exactly what we had.
Never-the-less, Blake and I talked it over, for about three seconds, and both agreed that we’d much rather go in search of a good panfish bite.
The winds were blowing pretty good when we headed out, around daybreak. We’d be fishing a popular big bluegill lake “if” we were able to drive out with the truck.
Arriving at the public access, we could see day old tire tracks breaking through the first inch of soft, slushy ice. It looked scary but remember all of the rain we had last Friday? It froze up but not that solid. Not to worry. There was 14” of solid ice underneath all the mess.
We reached our destination and set up inside our Otters as quickly as possible. It was cold out but it wouldn’t have been bad at all if not for the wind, which seemed to pick up steam as the day went on.
Setting up shallow and looking down the hole, sight-fishing, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. Just the odd perch and hammer-handle. I did manage to catch one small sunfish and Blake lost a big walleye at the top of the hole.
Trying other spots didn’t work either. We could see nice sunfish but they had no interest at all. Some would slowly move toward the jig, stare at it for a while, and bump it with their nose before moving on. The rockbass, on the other hand, thought otherwise. They bit, well, like rockbass do.
We weathered the storm for a half-day before giving up and heading home defeated. Maybe the next day would be better?
Regrouping on a Sunday morning, we headed out without really knowing where we were going. Driving down a county road, I suggested trying a local lake. I heard they were driving on this lake and a few fish were being caught.
The first lake can offer “okay” fishing but it’s known more for quantity than quality, which was okay. After Saturday’s fiasco we were just looking to get bit and were going after crappies this time. I find them to be a little more predictable.
Lake one was slow, giving up a handful of crappies ranging from super-small to just under 11”. They were there but the action was so painstakingly slow we opted to move on. There was another lake just down the road.
The next lake was drivable as well, which most lakes finally are. We first tried our bluegill spot with no success, before giving up and moving to the crappie hole. Here, a couple smaller fish were caught but it was just too slow and the fish were running small, which happens most every time there’s a cold front.
It was noon and we were back on the road. As we neared an intersection and I said “turn here…to the left.” There was a split-second of question in Blake’s face before he realized what was going to take place. There was certainly no lake on the left but there was a nice little restaurant. A hot sandwich hit the spot on this cold day and shortly thereafter we were off to lake number three.
The third and final lake of the day offered fishing just as tough as the prior two. We knew that would pretty much be the case but we were out fishing. We were able to drive on the lakes and it was easy. Catching fish wasn’t but like I said, we were fishing.
Field Report January 8, 2013 Greg Clusiau; Truck Traffic: Big Lakes Good to Go, Small Waters Dicey
It’s been an odd year so far, regarding lake ice conditions. Most of the larger lakes are allowing “truck traffic”, while many of the smaller lakes have “iffy” ice conditions. It’s just the opposite of how things normally take place and it‘s due primarily to the snowfall that we received.
Although not a lot of snow, it was still just enough to insulate the small lakes that already had an ice covering. Couple that with unseasonably warm weather and you have many area lakes with ice in the 10” range, which is just too darn thin to drive on, even though there are a few daredevils out there, pushing their luck. Not good.
The large lakes were still wide open when the snow fell and all of that precipitation fell into the absorbing icy waters without doing any harm at all. Actually, it may have helped speed up the ice making process.
Upper Red Lake - One of the first in the northern Minnesota region to freeze up good enough for ice fishing was Upper Red Lake, which has bragging rights to this phenomena practically every year. Although huge in square miles, its shallow makeup allows it to be one of the first to freeze and that‘s precisely why I‘ve been up there a number of times already this season.
It’s happening up there. The walleyes are biting and lake conditions are excellent, to the point where truck travel is happening all over the lake. Oh, I like easy fishing. Who doesn’t?
Before this, we were using snowmobiles to fish many of the smaller panfish lakes. We were catching fish and having fun but there’s so much to be said for leaving that trailer behind. It’s just a lot easier without pulling one along all the time. It’s just “load up the truck and go.”
Lake of the Woods - My first trip to Lake of the Woods incorporated the use of snowmobiles but this was soon after very first fishable ice. As for now, they’re driving out there too.
Big Winnie - I haven’t been to Winnie yet but better pencil that in on my agenda. High Banks Resort says “January 5, 2013...Happy New Year!!! The fish are biting!!! 14-17" of ice with 5 inches of snow cover. Plowed roads in place. Wheel houses welcome!! Perch are being found in 12-16' of water with walleyes deeper in 22'. Fatheads have been
the choice bait. We look forward to seeing you on the lake!!
Rainy Lake - Last weekend offered me yet another big lake opportunity. Fishing buddy Jeremy Taschuk, Ft. Frances, called to say that they were driving on parts of Rainy Lake and there were some plowed roads available to us.
Tossing it over with my regular weekend fishing partner, Blake Liend, we decided that we’d do it another time. It wasn‘t the 250 mile round trip that had us thinking otherwise. It was the fact that we both would have to purchase a new Ontario fishing license, around $100, and mainly, we were looking for an “all-day bite”. Rainy, in the past, had us catching the majority of our fish during the morning and evening hours.
We opted to do another “mini day trip” instead, to the Mahnomen area, to fish with panfish guru Jim Uran. Heck, this was only 270 miles roundtrip. We could do this with our eyes closed. Well, maybe mine would be closed at times, seeing how Blake was doing the driving.
This trip had two important things going for it. One, it was an all-day panfish bite and two, we could drive our trucks out onto the ice. Does it get any better? - Be careful out there my friends. Good luck and have fun. Grg Clusiau .
Photo courtesy Chad Peterson:
Professional tournament angler John Mickish poses with a beautiful walleye before releasing it back into the busy waters of Upper Red lake.
The Gauntlet...The channel connecting the Tamarac River to Upper Red Lake was a busy one.
Stacked...is the best way to describe the crappie in Mike Raetz area. Greg Clusiau and Blake Liend traveled to central Minnesota last weekend to get in on fast biting ice out crappie action.
Ice Out Crappie; Walleye pro Ray Welle enjoyed early ice out crappie action “down south.”
Eyes Like a Hawk! A trip up north, looking for open ice-out panfish water was fruitless. The highlight of the day was this young eagle that refused to venture too far off from a fresh skunk carcass.
Border Walleye Action...Walleye expert Ray Welle recently enjoyed good fishing on the Minnesota/Dakotas border waters.
Late Ice Crappie...Chase Holmbeck had a great day recently, catching beautiful late ice crappie like this one.
Late Ice Sunfish...Nicholas Miskovich enjoyed an afternoon with his dad last Friday, catching late ice sunfish.
Late Ice Gill...Greg Clusiau posed just long enough for a quick photo before releasing this nice bluegill back in the hole.
Late Ice Crappie...Blake Liend with some late ice “supper” fish. Fishing has been good but the ice is quickly deteriorating. Please be careful.
Blake Liend caught and released tulibee (cisco) like this one on last Sunday’s outing. They fight like the dickens and smell to high heaven! They are, however, good to eat, especially smoked.
Photo Greg Clusiau: SLAB!..Blake Liend displays a 14” crappie that “got in the way” while perch fishing last weekend. >> Read Greg's Fishing Report .
Big Fish Honors...Brett McComas, Brainerd, a member of HSM Outdoors, took home top walleyes honors last weekend while fishing on Lake Winnipeg. Brett’s fish was “only” just shy of 29” but bottomed out an 11 pound electronic digital scale. How much further the scale would’ve went is anyone’s guess.
Deep Snow...Donny Newman wades through deep snow to reach one of his traps. Excessive snow saved Donny’s life, as an angry cow moose tried stomping him into the ground.
Trophy Gill...Blake Liend poses for a quick photo before releasing this 10” plus bluegill back to the depths.
"No corks or spring bobbers for me", said Michael Thompson as he sets the hooks on another nice panfish. A line watcher, MT sets the hook whenever he sees it straighten out or go limp.
“Fishing the String”...Travis DeWitt drove up from the Brainerd area and enjoyed a great day of crappie fishing on Big Bowstring Lake.
“Sue Wins”...Husband and wife, Jeff and Sue Ekholm, compare crappies. The Ekholms, from the Nashwauk area, drove over to Big Bowstring for a fun afternoon of fishing.
Vexilar Mini Tackle Box Ready...Greg Clusiau carries this deadly assortment of panfish tackle with him at all times. A small tackle box that fits under his Vexilar is always at the ready in case a lure change is needed.
Hammer Time with the Drop Jig...Blake Liend displays a 10” bluegill that fell for a new Clam Outdoors “Drop Jig".” Made out of tungsten, the jig “fishes heavy”, as it is small and heavier than lead. Glow red was the hot color.
Wings & Walleyes on Red Lake...Reed Ylitalo, “Wings & Walleyes Guide Service”, displays a nice Upper Red Lake walleye from a trip there last weekend.
Panfish Paradise; Day two had us catching a nice variety of bluegills and crappies. For a fun day on the ice, catching and learning, contact Reed Ylitalo (pictured).
Cozy, during the coldest that Mother Nature can dish out, even with the fierce winds. Banked up with a blanket of snow, permanent shelters offer the luxury of driving your vehicle right next to the door and stepping inside.
Photo courtesy Greg Clusiau: Slabber! Ray Welle displays one of the several nice crappies that were caught last weekend on our trip to Big Bowstring Lake out of Geiger’s Trails End Resort. >> Read Story Bowstring Lake Crappie Fishing .
Best Baits - A couple of the top producing crappie catchers from last weekend were Northland Tackle’s 1/32 oz “Forage Minnow Spoon” and "1/16 oz “Fire-Ball Tungsten Jig.” Both baits were tipped with wax worms and are smaller versions of the already popular lures.
Rainy Lake Black Gold...Jeremy Taschuk has those Rainy Lake walleyes wired. Make sure of safe ice conditions before venturing across any lakes.
Father of Ice Fishing...Hall of Fame Angler Dave Genz was on hand to talk fishing at the St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show, held last weekend.
Jim and Jason... Clam Outdoors pro staff members Jason Mitchell of “Jason Mitchell Outdoors Television” and former Minnesota Viking Jim Kleinsasser talk fishing.
"Blade Man" - Walleye expert Ray Welle poses with a nice Upper Red Lake walleye before easing it back down the hole. Welle caught several fish using Clam’s new “Blade Spoon”.
Walleyes Love the new UV Spoon. Northland Tackle’s new “UV Buck-Shot Spoon” has worked wonders already this year on Upper Red Lake.
If These Walls Could Talk...Just a few of the antlers gracing the wall of our hunting shack. Even if hunting is slow, a glance at the wall can conjure up enough memories to last a lifetime.
Deer Plaque...A deer plaque from 1985, created by Greg Clusiau, graces a wall of the Clusiau hunting cabin.
Opening Weekend Success...Celia Clusiau bagged this nice spike buck on Minnesota’s deer season opening weekend.
Ontario Deer Hunt - Jeremy Taschuk of Ft. Frances gets ready for another walk in the woods, in search of an Ontario whitetail.
Last Call for Crappies. Blake Liend spent a late fall day on the water, catching crappies and dealing with gusting cold winds.
Cold Weather on the Way...A view of Canada, while shore fishing on the Minnesota side of the Rainy River, show blustery, ominous clouds and a sunny tree line.
Fire-Ball Spin Slabs...It was a tad cool in the boat last weekend but hot crappie action kept Greg Clusiau on the water in search of nice slabs like these. The hot bait was a “Fire-Ball Spin” jig tipped with a crappie minnow.
Canadian Crappie Fun...Greg Clusiau (right) and Blake Liend did a day trip to Ontario last Sunday to fish with crappie expert Tom Batiuk (left).
Fall Colors Looking Good...Get out there and take it all in before the leaves fall. This is a shot from the Lost Lake Trail.
Great Fall Fishing. The leaves are gorgeous and so are the fish. It’s happening NOW! Blake Liend displays some nice crappie that were taken on Impulse plastics.
Get Their Attention...Great crappie fishing has been had lately by slow trolling Northland Tackle’s “Thumper Jig” tipped with Impulse plastics.
Back in the Game...A last minute propeller fix allowed writer Greg Clusiau to get out on a chilly Saturday morning and catch some fish.
Photo courtesy of Ray Welle: Good Goosin'! Goose hunting has gotten underway and the success rate has been high.
Fall Crappies. When the leaves turn color, head out to your favorite crappie ice fishing hole and give it a try with the boat. They more than likely will be there waiting for you.
Tom Batiuk and Blake Liend enjoyed a great day of trolling plastics for slab crappies. The suspended fish were found by Batiuk who was using a side imaging Humminbird graph.
Fall Bassin’...Nice fall bass can be taken on crankbaits.
Greg’s Go To Bass Baits...Favorite, fun to use bass baits for Greg Clusiau would be (left to right) weedless spoons, weedless frogs, jig worms, and surface buzzers.
Oops!...Greg Clusiau poses with a nice northern pike that was caught on Rainy Lake last weekend while trolling leadcore for walleyes.
Rainy Lake Walleye...Tom Batiuk displays a nice walleye from a trip to Rainy Lake last weekend. Batiuk fishes the big lake often and has caught many large fish there. His largest walleye this season has been a 32” fish.
Canadian fishing expert Tom Batiuk pauses for a quick photo before releasing one of several lake trout that we caught last Friday on the “Manitou Stretch”.
Good Net Job! Bruce Clusiau nets one of his brother Greg’s northern pike on a trip back-in-the-bush. Shortly after, Greg had a spinnerbait hook stuck in his hand.
“Bouncers & Blades” are always a good choice when fishing deep water walleyes. Experiment with colors until you come up with that winning combination. Greg Clusiau prefers a Northland Tackle “Baitfish Image” crawler harness tipped with a half-crawler. By cutting the crawler off 1/2” past the rear hook, you will catch almost every fish that tries to steal your bait.
Fourth of July Fishing Hot. An early morning outing for walleyes allowed Greg Clusiau to find a treasure trove of nice bluegills. Clusiau was slow trolling a Northland Tackle “Baitfish Spinner Harness” tipped with half a nightcrawler.
The crappies have spawned and have made the transition to their summertime patterns. But "where do they go"? Clusiau says; "They don't move far from their spawning grounds."
Gabe Newman poses for a quick photo before releasing this big northern back into the water. His father, Donnie, looks on.
Backwoods Bassin’...Casting for northern pike allowed Greg Clusiau to catch this nice largemouth bass in a backwoods Itasca county lake.
Chad Peterson of HookSet Media Outdoors sets the hook on another nice Upper Red Lake walleye.
Shallow crankin’...#5 Shad Raps worked well in 5’ of water, last weekend on Upper Red Lake, where Chad Peterson and Jamie Dietman caught 16 fish in 28 minutes!
Fishing guide Jamie Dietman displays a beautiful Upper Red Lake walleye, one of many caught last weekend on Impulse plastic baits.
Spring Panfish on the Bite...Spring panfish, crappie and bluegill alike, are finally frequenting the shorelines and willing to bite. Take advantage of this early spring phenomena. No boat required!
Walleyes are on the move! It took less than a day for the newly places nets to fill with fish at the Cutfoot sioux Egg Harvest station.
Maybe in July? The Swampsiders Snowmobile Club's "Can-The-VanContest" has this old van sitting on the ice of Long Lake. As of May 6th, the van remains High And Dry!
Another Nice Bird for Veteran turkey hunter, Marc Koprivec of Keewatin, with a 22 pound wild turkey shot on April 23rd near Caledonia, MN. The turkey had a 10 1/4" beard and 3/4" spurs.
Catch & Release...A nice crappie catch and release. Fish was caught and photo'd by Chad Peterson of "HookSet Media"
Off Shore Lunch...A midday burger-bash is always planned on full-day trips "back in the bush."
Courtesy Jeremy Taschuk; "Had another great day on the ice today. We caught and released at least 100 crappies in the 5-10" range. We managed to keep 18 fish.
Always Fun! Largemouth bass through the ice are always fun and Cole Coborn, Osage, had his hands full with this one last weekend while fishing in the Park Rapids area.
Late Ice Crappie...Blake Liend spent a productive day on late ice in the Park Rapids area last weekend. Panfish, like this 13" crappie, were loving the Impulse plastic baits.
Courtesy Greg Clusiau: Jim Eide displays a nice late-ice crappie he caught while ice fishing in the Brainerd area last Saturday.
Brainerd area fishing guide Jamie Dietman knows the waters well. Knows the Brainerd area waters well and led Clusiau's crew to the "honey hole".
Geared Up Right: Blake Liend was able to reach his little hot spots last weekend by using a long-track snowmobile and a small Otter "Cottage" shelter.
Woods Walleye; Steve Brasel of Upper Red Lake's "Bear Paw Guide Service" said walleye fishing was excellent on Lake of the Woods last week."
Crappies on Hold? Courtesy: Chris Granrud, "Rainy Daze Guide Service". Chris cautions; "Travel on Rainy Lake is temporarily horrible, actually dangerous".
Red Lake Rainbow. Greg Clusiau enjoyed a great day fishing rainbow trout on the Red Lake Nation last weekend.
To the Limit! Our group poses with a four man limit of 20 rainbows, caught last weekend on the Red Lake Nation. Front row - Blake Liend, guide Darius Rosebear, Jamie Dietman, and guide Darwin Sumner. Back row - Greg Clusiau (behind the lens - Chad Peterson)
Chad Peterson caught this nice rainbow trout on a Northland Tackle "Puppet Minnow".
On Lake Winnie, Highbanks Resort has opened a spot on one of the large pressure ridges that formed a few weekes ago. highbanks roads access the Center, North and Northwest sections of Winnibigoshish.
Stinkers...Tullibees are on the bite and a lot of fun to catch. They do, however, smell to high-heaven when handled fresh but taste absolutely wonderful when smoked. Give them a try, using small baits tipped with wax worms.
Reaching the Hot Spot. Snowmobiles will be the preferred mode of lake transportation until the deep snow settles. Otherwise you may have to seek out a lake offering plowed roads.
The Fisherman...Avid angler Dave Wallin fishes practically every waking moment. Wallin's favorite pastime is traveling into Canada for lake trout, where he has caught many trophy class fish.
This is How it's Done...Brainerd area fishing guide Jamie Dietman poses with a nice deep-water crappie. Dietman, an "Ice Force" pro staffer, operates rental shacks on Gull Lake, where walleyes and crappies can be caught.
Little Baits Mean Big Business...Small jigs like the tungsten "Fire-Ball" (left) and "Mooska" (right & center) can easily be presented in deep water without the aid of a sinker. They can also trick finicky fish into biting.
Cool Catfish...Greg Clusiau traveled to the Horseshoe Chain near Cold Spring, Minnesota last Saturday for some catfish action through the ice. The fish ran small but the excitement was huge!
Jim Hudson...Lake Superior fishing guide Jim Hudson died last weekend when his snowmobile broke through thin ice. Hudson was a highly regarded guide, summer and winter, and worked with several companies in the fishing industry.
Spoon Fed Slab. Greg Clusiau displays a big crappie that was caught last weekend, proof that fish love a "Forage Minnow Spoon", even under cold front conditions.
Little Fish Catchers...The "Forage Minnow Spoon" is a "go to" bait for many avid ice fishermen. Tip the tiny "sticky sharp" trebles with maggots or waxworms.
Out for Trout. Patty Marsh displays a couple nice trout that were caught with her husband, Jim, on the Minnesota winter trout opener.
Cold Front Crappie...Most of our tight-lipped panfish were caught by using small jigs, like this tungsten "Mooska" jig tipped with a maggot or waxworm.
Jim "Panfish" Uran...I made a mini day-trip last weekend to fish with panfish guru Jim Uran of Mahnomen. We were able to drive our truck out onto the lake and bluegills and crappies bit all day long.
Red Lake Eye...Devlin McCollor poses with a nice walleye before releasing it back into the waters of Upper Red Lake. Devlin's fish measured 24".
Red Lake Hot...Steve Emanuel, Keewatin, enjoyed a productive trip to Upper Red Lake last Sunday. The fish are biting and the roads are good.
Mode of Transportation...Snomobiles were used to reach one of the Sportsmans Lodge rental units. Truck traffic may be an option now. Call Sportmans for more info.
Happy Holidays...Wearing their Christsmas holiday attire, Ryan, Jason, and Austin Green pose with a couple walleyes taken from a Sportsmans Lodge rental on Lake of the Woods.
Bucket of Fun! Saugers and walleyes bit well in the early morning.
Artificial Results...Yes, artificial baits can catch fish of all sizes and species. In the photo, Blake Liend displays one of several nice crappies he caught on a small jig and Impulse bait, while Greg Clusiau shows a big walleye caught on a Northland Tackle "Rippin' Shad".
Walleyes are Biting...Greg Clusiau fished on one of the larger area lakes and found hungry walleyes but somewhat thin ice. Be careful and check the ice before planning on heading across any larger bodies of water.
Checking Ice...Blake Liend checks ice to see if we can go fishing. In this case, it was too thin and we had to make a change of plans. Remember, 2" or less - stay off, 4" for walking, 5" for atvs and snowmobiles, 8-12" small trucks and cars, and 12-15" for medium size trucks. These are merely guidelines, suggested by the Minnesota DNR.
Patty Marsh bagged this nice forkhorn last weekend, while hunting "up north."
Jay Liend, Keewatin, bagged this nice eight pointer last weekend. The bucks are moving!
Beautiful Buck! Jeremy Dasovich of Nashwauk, MN bagged this nice 11 point buck on "Opening Day"
Deer Season to Start This Weekend...Greg Clusiau poses with a nice little 8 point buck, taken three years ago. Good luck hunting, have fun, and be safe!
Fall Slab; Bruce Clusiau and his grandson, Preston, enjoyed a day on the water last Sunday. Preston shows off the first fish of the day.
Fall Crappies...Late fall crappies are on the bite. Get out there and take advantage of it NOW!
Crappie Sniffer...Fishing guide Chad Peterson, Alexandria, displays a beautiful fall crappie that was caught last weekend in the "Alex" area.
Baits Big and Small for Fall...Fall offers great fishing for all species. A snapshot of Greg Clusiau's rod storage reveals a small crappie bait (Northland Tackle "Stone Fly") and a large northern pike lure (Big Fork Lures) at the ready.
Great Fall Fishing...Greg Clusiau and Chip Leer teamed up recently and tricked some very nice panfish into eating Impulse plastics.
Nice Pike: Blake Liend holds a nice Northern Pike that hit a "Pikie Minnow" on Swan Lake last weekend. Fall patterns aren't quite in place yet but it won't be long.
Set the Hook!...David Holmbeck sets the hook on another Big Winnie walleye. Holmbeck and Clusiau were able to catch a nice limit of walleyes by using spinners and crawlers, in and next to the weeds in 9-10' of water.
Rippin' Shad Walleye...Greg Clusiau did well on deep-water walleye last weekend by trolling a perch-colored "Rippin' Shad" in 30' of water via leadcore line.
Using Trout Colors...The best producing colors for lake trout usually mimic natural forage available to them, like this "silver shiner" colored "Forage Minnow Spoon."
Nice One at Day's End...The largest fish of the day came as we were working our way back to Esox Landing. This one hit a blue and silver Yo-Zuri "Crystal Minnow" crankbait, trolled with leadcore. It was released.
Hot Lures...Northland Tackle's "Forage Minnow Spoons" were the hot trout lures last weekend on Lower Manitou Lake in Ontario, catching the majority of the fish.
Lake Superior Hot...Tim Ranta and Greg Clusiau pose with a nice king salmon, taken on Lake Superior last weekend. The fishing has been good. All you have to do is "play the weather" in making sure that it's going to be "fishable."
Fishing the "Big V"...Blake Liend and his youngest son, Brecken, pose with a big walleye that Blake caught on Lake Vermilion last Sunday. The duo also went home with a nice limit of fish.
Good with a Knife...Young Truman Croaker puts the knife to a northern pike in the fish cleaning house at Nodak Lodge on Big Winnie.
Match the Hatch...Rainy Lake walleyes were going wild for the 4" Impulse "smelt minnow", which was almost a carbon copy image of the big fisheries smelt. This little walleye took the Impulse bait shortly after grabbing this fresh smelt.
Winnie Walleye...Grand Rapids fishing guide Jason Green displays a nice Big Winnie walleye, taken last Saturday, while trolling spinners in 14' of water.
Crappies Love Spinners! Greg Clusiau displays a nice crappie that fell for a "Baitfish Image" crawler haness, tipped with a half nightcrawler, and trolled along the weedline.
Crankbait Expert...Travis Sorokie pays close attention to detail, especially when it comes to trolling crankbaits. Some of his favorites are Rapala "Shad Raps", "Minnow Raps", and the Salmo "Hornet". Sorokie changes colors quite often, until he comes up with the winning combination.
Digging Deep for Big Fish...Greg Clusiau displays a beautiful leadcore walleye that was caught in 30' of water.
Loving Leadcore...Travis Sorokie, Sauk Rapids, got into the walleye leadcore scene this spring and has already spent hundreds of hours experimenting with it and catching fish, a LOT of fish.
Good Fight! Greg Clusiau caught and released this large northern pike on Mille Lacs Lake last weekend by "pulling leadcore" with Travis Sorokie.
Side Imaging Graph...A photo of the screen of a Humminbird 998c SI Combo graph shows the bottom, along with left and right views, as the boat makes it's way underneath the Swan Lake bridge, near Pengilly. The "lines" on each side are bridge pilings. A few fish can be seen here as well.
Early Morning Walleye...Nic Caine and his son, Ruben, enjoyed an early morning walleye outing with Greg Clusiau last weekend. They caught their fish using bottom-bouncers and "Baitfish Image" crawler harnesses.
Walleye Wrestler...National collegiate wrestling champion Tim Hartung poses with a nice walleye from last week's visit to the Northland.
Tag-Team Walleyes...GNK wrestling coach Russ Smith and Wayzata's Tim Hartung teamed up for an evening of walleye fishing.
"Thumper Jig", tipped with an Impulse "Swim'n Grub" catches walleyes, either trolled or cast.
Birch Lake Crappies...A recent walleye outing on Birch Lake had Greg Clusiau and Blake Liend catching some very nice crappies, going home with a mixed bag.
Third Lake a Charm...Blake Liend displays a nice 20" walleye that was taken on a FireBall jig, tipped with a spot-tail shiner. It was the third lake of the day for Liend, who started the morning off bass fishing.