By now, I’m sure there are a few folks getting tired of hearing about poor ice conditions on small lakes in the Itasca Region. I’m sorry to bring it up again, but this could be really important news for weekend anglers who don’t see these reports every day.
On Thursday, I spotted a photo of an ATV that was stuck in slush on a lake. The machine belonged to an acquaintance, Justin Wiese so I sent a note asking for permission to share it with you.
He replied; “Hey Jeff, you sure can. I finally got the thing (ATV) off the lake late last night. My snowmobile is still out there but I'll get to it this week. Way too much slush on our lakes around the Longville and Remer area. (My) Snow machine is still stuck in a foot of slush. Going to block it up above the snow and wait for the snow to melt a bit.”
Stories like Justin's are getting to be way too common in these parts and like me, most folks have decided to play it safe and stay off of the ice on small lakes. I know that there are some exceptions, certain lucky anglers happen to have a snow plow, or maybe they have a neighbor who plows a road on their favorite little lake. That's fantastic, but for the rest of us, travel on small lakes that don’t have access via plowed roads isn't just a hassle, it's downright dangerous.
No matter how cold it gets, the deep snow we already have is enough to prevent slush from re-freezing. Remember, when the lake is not making ice, it is losing ice, so all of these slushy spots will continue to get worse before they get better. Even after we do receive a meltdown, re-frozen ice in these areas will not be uniform in either thickness or quality.
Curious about the likelihood of getting relief in the form of a meltdown, I looked up the average climate data for Grand Rapids, MN. WOW! Was I was surprised at how far below average our air temperatures already are! According to the US Climate Data Website, Grand Rapids' average high temperatures in February is supposed to be 26 degrees F. That is a temperature which we have not seen a single time so far this month, not once.
It’s bad enough that our February weather history already features below average temperatures for the region. But looking at the February outlook on the NOAA weather website didn’t make me feel any better. According to the NOAA February Climate Outlook, prospects for a significant warmup are not good. In fact, we might not see temperatures above the freezing mark until March.
Okay, so what's the plan? For me, it is to roll out the red carpert for every resort and rental operator who maintains plowed roads on a lake. Without these folks, none of us would be having much fun for the next few weeks.
I want to make it as easy as I can for anglers to find lakes with access to plowed roads, so if you're a rental operator, here's a chance for some free advertising. Just drop me a line and let me know where your roads are located and how much it costs to access them. I'll add them to the fishing updates as they become available.
A note from Erin Charlton, Trails End Resort on Bowstring said; “Lots of snow on Bowstring right now. There’s about 3 feet of snow across the lake, with drifts up to 4 feet in some places off the roads. Snow machines are the only way to go for anglers who want to hole hop.
The good news is that Bill is going to be on the ice plowing all weekend. He takes pride in making sure Bowstring remains fishable and we’ve got roads leading to reliable fishing areas. We’re seeing the makings of a better bite these days too; fishing action is starting to pick up.
We do have a handful of cabins available for folks who want to get on the ice, so give us a call 218-. Tight lines, Erin” - Bill & Erin Charlton, Trails End Resort
Last year, state anglers stayed well under the lake’s safe-harvest allocation for walleyes. With an improving walleye population, the Department of Natural Resources will allow some walleye harvest when the season opens Saturday, May 11, 2019.
The DNR will announce the Mille Lacs walleye regulations for the upcoming season in mid-March.
“We’re happy to announce that, with some very conservative fishing regulations over the past three years, walleye are now at a level where we can cautiously allow anglers to start keeping some fish during the open-water season,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen.
“This is good news for anglers, Mille Lacs area businesses and the resource,” Strommen added. “I want to thank the bands for their ongoing collaboration and the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee for its continued input and discussions with the DNR in managing the walleye fishery on Mille Lacs.”
Mille Lacs Band DNR Commissioner Bradley Harrington said, “The upward trend of the walleye population reflects the conservation efforts of both the state of Minnesota and the Ojibwe tribes with harvest rights in Mille Lacs Lake.
“While it is critical that combined harvest limits should continue to allow for the recovery of walleye, we join the state in cautious optimism about the trend in increasing spawning biomass. Within our teachings it is stated that accepting the gifts from the lake while respecting the manidoo by avoiding taking too much is the best way to honor our gifts from the creator.”
The DNR is considering allowing the walleye harvest during the cool-water periods in the spring and fall. The agency is exploring a variety of regulation options, and will be discussing the alternatives with the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee, a group of local businesses, fishing experts and community leaders that help advise the agency on Mille Lacs fishing regulations and other issues.
The state and the bands recently agreed on a safe harvest level of 150,000 pounds of walleye, which provides a state allocation of 87,800 pounds. Under the catch-and-release only regulation last year, walleye angler kill totaled just over 47,000 pounds.
“While the walleye population is on a positive trajectory, we need to strike a careful balance between expanding harvest opportunities and conserving the fishery for future angling opportunities,” said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries chief.
The walleye safe harvest level for Lake Mille Lacs is determined annually. It is based on population status and predictions of how harvest will affect the walleye population in the future. State anglers share the safe harvest level with eight bands of Chippewa that have fishing rights under an 1837 treaty. By agreement, the bands and the state are required to monitor harvest according to their respective allocations.
There continues to be good news about the walleye population. The improving Mille Lacs walleye population is bolstered by a 2013 year class of fish that has been protected by regulations and is just starting to produce young fish that appear to be surviving.
The DNR encourages all Minnesotans to visit Lake Mille Lacs to fish the other abundant species that the lake has to offer. The lake is widely recognized as one of the nation’s top smallmouth bass and muskellunge fisheries. In 2017, Mille Lacs was named the number one bass fishing lake in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine. The lake hosted the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship in 2016 and 2017.
More information about Lake Mille Lacs can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.
Unfortunately, with deep snow and slush hampering travel on smaller lakes, it’s questionable how much those of us in north central Minnesota will really get to enjoy our remaining time. We still have a couple months of ice season left, but we’re in serious need of a meltdown to improve conditions before the masses can get back on the ice.
It’s not punishment; it’s just Mother Nature’s sense of humor. She will fix us up with better conditions sooner or later; it’s just a question of how impatient she wants to see us become first.
While we’re waiting for small lake conditions to improve, Walleye fishing continues to be my sport of choice. For me, the best choices include heading south toward Mille Lacs or heading north toward Lake of the Woods. Until recently, neither of them was hit with the heavy snow that fell over the north central region. There may be snow on the ice now, but conditions under the snow are still better. Travel by snowmobile is good and there are numerous plowed roads that lead to good fishing territory.
Where we go depends on what we want to do. We’ve been alternating between Mille Lacs and LOW all winter and we’ve caught good fish on both lakes. When we need a few eaters, LOW gets the nod, but when we want to CPR some big walleye, then Mille Lacs is all the further we need to drive.
If I was going to fish perch or panfish this weekend, I’d have no choice but to head for lakes with plowed roads on them. Bowstring, Winnie or Leech Lake all have good access roads that lead to potentially good fishing spots. Whether or not the fish will be biting is another question though, reports about really good fishing on any of them have been few and far between.
That could all change this weekend because it appears that more stable weather is on its way. After a turbulent day today, clear skies, moderate temperatures and calm winds could make this a fun weekend to be on the lake.
Mid-February isn’t exactly the time to be talking about early fall panfish presentations. But I because there are several “ice fishing lures" that I love to fish with during the fall, I thought I better give you a heads up now, while they’re still available on the store shelves.
That’s right, in case you haven’t noticed; sporting goods sections at many stores are already switching over to summer merchandise. Soon, you can forget finding many of the best ice fishing lures; they will either be sold out or put away until next November. If we don’t stock up now, it will be tricky to find some of these baits In September, when we really need them.
For fishing suspended fall crappies, I like to have a supply of Lindy Tungsten Ice Worms and Fat Boys on hand. I use the #6 size; they are compact, but fish heavy and allow excellent depth control even on windy days. Pink/Glow, Pink/Yellow, Green/Black are my favorites, but I try to have a few other colors available as well.
For bluegills, I prefer the smaller profile of the Tungsten Bug or the Tungsten Toad. The Toad is available in size #10 which gives me the fastest drop rate and provides excellent control of my presentation. The Tungsten Bug has a flatter profile so they show up really well on my electronics. Both lures feature offset line ties on their hooks, the offset allows either lure to swim horizontally and provide a very natural appearance. I like Orange/Brown, Green/Black and Pink/Yellow for sunfish. For crossing over to crappies, I keep some Red/Glow and Pink/Glow on hand as well.
I've never spent so much time ice fishing for walleyes as I have this winter. But with poor access to panfish, it's actually been easier to find decent walleye fishing than anything else. Lake Mille Lacs will be my destination again this weekend. With only 10 days of inland walleye season remaining, this will likely be my last chance to get a photo of that big Mille Lacs Walleye that we all dream about.
After that, we'll probably schedule some more time at lake of the Woods and after that, hopefully we'll get some relief and we can get panfish back on the agenda! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Most fishing 12-15 miles out, 30-32' of water the norm. Other nice pods of fish found in closer to shore away from traffic. Some good reports during the day in 15-20'. Ice thickness pushing over 30" in most areas being fished, bring your extensions for augers if not with resort. Some nice walleyes again suspended this week. Your favorite ice fishing electronics to mark fish is very helpful. Jig one line, try teasing fish up. Deadstick the second with a live minnow on a ice jig or plain hook under bobber.
Fish houses on ice through March 31, walleyes open through April 14, pike never close.
On the Rainy River... Some reports of morning/evening walleye action on river and Four Mile Bay. Area around International Bridge in Baudette not safe due to construction of new bridge. Lots of current, thus thinner ice than normal for Feb. Snowmobile trail on river is open and marked from Baudette (downstream from bridge) to lake. Stay on trail for safety.
Up at the NW Angle... Great ice fishing with mixed bag of walleyes, saugers, perch, pike, tulibees and eelpout. Most fish coming from 24-30'. Pink/white, gold, glow strong colors. Big crappies coming in from Canada side. Snowmobile trails from south shore across lake to Angle are marked with fresh snow. The ice road from Young's Bay to Flag and Oak Island resorts is open." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We continue to stay around the 12 miles past Pine Island spot. There has been a consistent bite.
There are many suspended fish so electronics are useful to improve your catch. We are in 31-32 feet of water. Glow red and gold are still great colors, although this week plain hooks on the dead stick have been very effective.
The temperatures will be much warmer this week than last week. We have highs close to 10 above and lows -0. There is a possibility for some snow this week, with little wind.
Our summer rates are out and now is the time to get your reservation in before the best dates are booked. We still have some availability in February and March for a winter getaway." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
I’m the first to admit that I do not like travelling by snowmobile when there’s a chance of getting stuck on the ice. My wife likes the idea even less than I do and that explains why we didn’t try to be more creative in our approach to fishing this Sunday.
Before we left the landing, we looked at the Humminbird and selected a single GPS coordinate. Based on past experience, there would be some fish in that area, at least there always has been in the past.
I lined up the straightest path I could, hit the throttle and told the Hippie Chick to hold on tight. We made it to the spot and didn’t get stuck, but I can’t say that snowmobiling 2-up with an ice fishing shelter in tow was a lot of fun either.
I’m guessing that snow depth on the lake was about 16 inches and the underlying ice thickness was about 24 inches. There were patches of slush under the snow; I could feel the back of my snowmobile track sinking. But thankfully the snow was deep enough to protect the track from digging down far enough to actually reach the slush. Later though, we could see the telltale streaks of wet, grey snow in path we had followed.
By the time we had the holes drilled and the shelter set up, my boots were already full of snow. I got the heater running and sat down next to my wife, set her up with a graph and watched her fish. I reasoned that anything she caught would make me happy, I didn’t care if I caught a fish or not. In fact she said; “I don’t think your heart is in this, you’re not making much effort to catch a fish.” For me, catching a fish was the least of my concerns, it seemed like the less confusion I added to the scenario, the better life was.
Long story short, she hooked 3 fish, 2 of them escaped and the 1 that we captured was a pike. The other 2 were likely pike too; at least they were too large to be perch, our target species. We saw numerous fish on the screen of her Humminbird, but perch that were in that area were not active enough to strike.
Spitting snow and darkening skies encouraged us to move off the lake earlier than usual and by 5:00 PM we were loaded up and rolling back toward home.
Unless we get a meltdown of significant magnitude, I’m planning to become a lover of plowed roads for a while. While it’s possible to travel off road, moving from spot to spot will be tedious. Unless somebody points out a safe path of travel beforehand, it could be dangerous too, especially if you’re like me and travel alone a lot.
Today, research about where we can all travel on plowed roads is on my agenda and I’d like to call on you for help. If you’re on the ice, or know someone who is, please drop us a line about plowed access roads and travel conditions on the ice. It’s not just a nice thing to do; it could save someone from getting into unexpected trouble!
I’ll post updates as soon as they become available. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
It was -25 degrees when we woke up on Saturday and I have to be honest; we were in no big hurry to get out on the ice to fish. We were interested though in seeing what the lakes looked like after the big snowstorm and with that in mind, took off around noon on a driving tour to see Lake Winnie and Leech Lake.
“It wasn’t fun, but we made it through the snow and have roads plowed out as far as our rental houses”, Chad Mertz, Pines Resort said.
“So far, we haven’t seen the return of slush, but the snow is deep and unless you’re using a snowmobile or track machine, you won’t be going far off of the plowed roads on Winnie;” Mertz added.
Grand Rapids fishing guide Reed Ylitalo advises; “Even track vehicles won’t assure safe travels on the big lake. I’ve heard from friends that were stuck in slush using a jeep with tracks too.”
Kevin Zimser, Reed’s Sporting Goods; “Trapper’s Landing, Leech Lake, had 4 plow trucks on the ice until midnight last night (Friday) and finally got their roads open again. As of Saturday, anglers travelling out of Trappers Landing can reach as far north as Mokey Reef , or they can follow one of the spurs leading east off of the main road.
Off road travel is not advised on Leech Lake; “I don’t think folks realize how much snow is on the ice; Corey, Reed Sporting Goods added. “I get call after call from anglers wondering if they can move their wheel houses from one place to another on Leech, but I have to say that in most cases, I don’t think they can.”
We stopped in at Trapper’s Landing for a firsthand look. Traffic was moving easily along a nice, wide plowed road. Every vehicle and every wheel house we saw was either on that system of roads, or located very nearby.
The accompanying image reveals that their fishing report board hadn’t been updated for a few days, probably because conditions on the lake have taken precedence over talking about fish and how to catch them.
No matter which lake you’re fishing the rule of thumb will be the same. If you’re not fishing out of a rental shelter, or haven’t hired someone to plow a spot open for your wheelhouse, then your best bet right now is to use portable shelters, follow plowed roads while and watch for interesting fishing structure on your chart. Park someplace safe where you have the ability to hoof it from the main roads to fishing structure.
Unless you enjoy being cussed out by somebody running a snow plow, remember not to drill holes too close to any plowed road and never, ever drill on the road itself.
When you have people working day and night to keep roads open, the last thing any of us needs is to encounter slush and flooded roads. It’s especially not fun when flooded areas are caused by folks carelessly drilling holes in the wrong territory.
Hole-hopping, fun as it might be, causes problems too. When heavy snow forces the ice to sag, every hole we drill allows more water to reach the surface of the ice. The more water on the ice, the more slush we get and the more slush we have, the less fishing we can do. So instead of drilling 50 holes to find a fish, I use my Lakemaster Chart to locate key spots on a structure.
You’d be amazed at how often you’ll only need to drill one or two holes to find fish. In fact, on our recent trip Lake of the Woods, we only drilled about a dozen holes on the entire trip. Save the hole hopping for later, after we get a meltdown and ice conditions improve.
As of today, there are 14 days of Walleye fishing season remaining on Minnesota’s inland lakes. While the action is not fast and furious in north central Minnesota, you will catch a few if you can find them. Whether from Winnie, Leech or Mille Lacs, reports are similar; the best walleye fishing has occurred after dark and before dawn.
Perch and panfish reports stopped coming in a few days ago. Access to smaller lakes has become especially problematic. It’s hard to imagine how slush could have gotten any worse than it already was. But another fresh layer of snow has intensified travel problems on small waters.
O Saturday, we drove to one of Grand Rapids’ most popular panfish lakes and for the first time in my memory, there was nobody out there. Well, almost nobody; there was one permanent shelter occupied by a couple of anglers who travelled by snowmobile to reach it. Other than those 2 machines, we did not see a single vehicle anyplace on the lake. That scene, played out on a Saturday morning told me that there wasn’t any way to get onto the ice at that lake.
A note from Bowstring Lake, Trails End Resort came on Saturday afternoon. It said; “Got the plow fixed and we are back up and running.” I guess that means that if their plow doesn’t get broken again, their roads will be opened up again very soon.
We’re going to take another ride around the area today, but this time we hope that it will end on a lake where we can try to catch a few fish. However it works out will be the subject of tomorrow’s report. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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On February 8, 2019 I received multiple inquiries about the fishing action on Lake winnibigoshish. Reports are trickling in now as the resorts and rental operators dig out from the snowstorm that dumped upwards of 15 inches on the lake. Hopefully, my answer to this question from Jake Kuchenmeister will get you pointed in the right direction.
Q) Big fan of your reports. Been following you for a while. Seen you had posted a new blog and used one of our pics from Flag Island; pretty cool.
I am heading up to Winnie the 21st-24th. Never fished it in the winter. We are staying at Beckers. Planning on renting a shack Friday and hole hopping Thurs and Sat (maybe). All we have his wheelers - no tracks.
Are we going to be able to get around or should we plan on renting shacks the other days? If we are looking for walleyes, what should I be looking for? I don't want spots, just what to look for on a map. I love breaking a lake down. Finally, What are the go to colors on Winnie?
A) Thanks for getting in touch and for the kind words.
We just got hit with a bunch of new snow, so I'm guessing that travel by vehicle will be tricky at best, maybe not even possible.
I just got an update from Jessica at Becker's Resort that says; "Becker’s ice roads are poor traveling this am, however plowing happening now and hopefully we can maintained depending on wind! Tom states by this late morning/noon things should be better. If you can also state “do not block or drill holes on the ice roads we plow” it would help us 100% to keep these roads open for YOUR use!!" - Becker's Resort 218-665-2268
I've heard good reports about the perch fishing on the west side of Winnie, but nobody is talking about any great walleye bite except for a possible lead on the east side, in Tamarack Bay. Mid lake structure is usually where guys find walleyes during winter, but it sounds like shoreline breaks are better right now. If you can get to it, I'd focus on the breakline along the edges of the River Bar and or Sugar Bar.
I've heard that the key depth is about 18 feet, but I have not yet checked it out for myself. There's a chance that I will fish Winnie this Sunday and if I do, there will be firsthand reports on Monday morning.
Winnie's clear water lends itself to natural, more subdued colors. I really like blue, perch and orange/brown combinations.
I know this isn't a lot of info to go on, but we're in a state of transition right now. Watch for updates, I'll do the best I can. Good luck on your trip and thanks again for reaching out. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
It seemed like it snowed almost every day which ended up dumping well over a foot of snow on the area lakes. The wind has been blowing the snow down the lakes making drifts on the downwind shores.
Few people were fishing in all this but we have had reports of both Crappie and Pike have been on the bite at times. Things should be better this weekend as a slight warm-up will take place starting this Saturday.
Speaking of Saturday, the Snowshoe Fourteenth Annual Ice Fishing Contest held on Rainier Lake in Marcell, MN will be held this Saturday the nineth.
The contest starts at twelve noon and ends at three pm. Lots of prizes and fun await. Only 150 people can enter. You must buy a button to participate. They still have a few buttons left and you must be in person to purchase one, so come on up and share the fun.
All in all, it should be a great time out on the ice, so don’t miss it!" - Paul Larson, Frontier Sports 218-832-3901
On Thursday I wrote; "I’ve got some theories about how the fishing pattern worked on Lake of the Woods... I promise that I’ll pick the subject back up tomorrow morning." I always keep my promises, so here you go.
The average Lake of the Woods Crappie is nice, really nice. Catching fish in the 12 to 14 inch range is common and for those who fish persistently, fish over 15 inches are available in good numbers.
Crappie fishing on Lake of the Woods occurs primarily on the Canadian side of the lake and much of it is in remote territory. We travel by snowmobile and use portable ice fishing shelters because it allows us to strike out on our own to fish in quiet territory. But you don’t necessarily need to be geared up with snow machines and portables to fish for crappies. The easy way to get in on some great crappie fishing is to ..." Read >> Crappie Fishing Patterns For Lake of the Woods February 8, 2019
"Wow!" That was the one word report that I got from Erin at Trails End Resort yesterday. At that time, there was already 16 inches of snow and they were still receiving more.
On Friday morning I asked for an update and received another advisory; "We have 3 feet of ice, maybe more, but we've also had 20 inches of new snow this week. Bill has been working all week long, fighting to keep the roads open, so it's nice to see the sunshine today.
We wish that there were some hot tips about fishing that we could share, but the truth is that between cold snaps and snowfalls, it's been hard to gauge whether the fish are biting or not.
We do know that the few anglers who have reported back to us say that the fish have been tight-lipped this week. We're hoping for a period of stability to allow fish to begin moving and feeding better again.
Anglers with wheel houses who need spots plowed should get in touch. We can help work out finding decent areas for your rigs." Good Luck and Tight Lines - Bill & Erin Charlton, Trails End Resort
"On Wednesday morning I wrote; “After re-grouping, re-charging and re-locating, we’re back at it again today. With luck, we’ll be able to drum up a little better action and the story tomorrow will be a little happier one; you’ll be the first to know.” As promised, here’s the update.
After the slow day of walleye fishing, we experienced on Tuesday, we decided to shift gears. We reasoned that a move further into the Canadian side to fish for crappies might give us a more rewarding outcome. Overall, that decision was a good one because the crappies we caught were super high-quality fish. So even though the action was not hot and heavy, the hunt for “trophy” size fish was worth the effort.
Forgive my feeble attempt at taking a selfie, my arm was not long enough to get both me and the fish in the snapshot. But I wanted to try and give you an idea of the fish that are available and didn’t have anyone nearby to snap the photo. Crappies in the 12 to 14-inch range are common and for those who fish persistently, fish over 15 inches are still available.
I’ve got some theories about how the fishing pattern worked yesterday and some ideas about location and presentation too. The problem is that we’re headed out the door again shortly, so I must ask you wait one more day for the details. I promise that I’ll pick the subject back up tomorrow morning." - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Lake of the Woods was less hospitable yesterday than it was on our last trip. After receiving 6 to 8 inches of snow early Monday, a cold, high pressure system blew in behind it and churned up deep snow drifts.
Resorts and shelter rental operators were getting the plowed roads under control throughout the day on Tuesday and by Tuesday evening, good travel conditions on the plowed roads had been restored, but going off road is another story.
Travelling by snowmobile allows us to reach areas that receive little if any pressure during winter and that’s usually good, but there’s a down side. Deep snow drifts combined with a high snow bank formed by plow trucks set up a trap that we fell into. When we tried crossing the snowbank, our sleds plowed face first into the fresh drifts; that gave us a nice work out.
Once we were back on track, travel by snowmobile wasn’t all that bad. The deep snow made for a soft ride, but at the same time slowed down our travel speed. Slush, as of Tuesday, wasn’t bad either, we found a couple of small isolated patches that were easily managed.
For us, the whole scenario made catching fish tricky. It took longer to get set up, it took longer to move around, the fish we found weren’t very aggressive and little things just kept going wrong all day. Between the workout we received while getting our sleds un-stuck and the effort we put into setting and moving fishing shelters, we were ringing with sweat by the time we arrived back at the cabin for supper.
At dinner, we spent time talking about our fishing luck throughout the winter and mostly, it’s been really good. Lots of other anglers have had good luck up on Lake of the Woods too and I guess Tuesday was just our time for a slowdown. Everybody needs an occasional lesson to help keep it real, one that reminds us we can’t have a great day every time we go fishing.
After re-grouping, re-charging and re-locating, we’re back at it again today. With luck, we’ll be able to drum up a little better action and the story tomorrow will be a little happier one; you’ll be the first to know. ..." - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Lake Trout - Lake trout fishing slowed for many, but was excellent for some. Blade baits and glow in the dark tubes worked best. Small pike suckers fished half way down, under a tip up, also took their fair share of trout. Key depths remain 35 to 50 feet of water.
Stream Trout - Stream trout have been hitting small rippin raps, and black hair jigs in 15 feet of water or less. Anglers should key in on down trees, beaver houses and weedbeds for active trout.
Walleye - Walleye fished remains slow for many anglers. The few good report of walleyes being caught have been on medium to large rippin raps or blade baits. Main lake structure in 20-40 feet of water, like humps and neck down areas have been producing the best. Some fish were also caught on rattle reels during the over night. Chubs or small pike suckers has been the bait of choice.
Panfish - There have been a few anglers targeting crappies and sunnies. Crappies remain in their wintering holes, in 25-35 feet of water. Small tungsten jigs tipped with waxies has been the best approach. Some sunfish have been mixed in with the crappies, but for numbers of them anglers should focus on the shallow bays with any kind of green weeds.
Eelpout - Eelpout fishing has been hit or miss for anglers who target them. One night really good, then the next night on the same spot, nothing. Bright glowing eelpout jigs tipped with minnow or smelt heads has been working best. Eelpout have yet to school up on the deep humps, but have been found on deep flats, mid lake humps, and shallow bays." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
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Good ice fishing action continues with a nice mix of walleyes and saugers. Most anglers are fishing 12-15 miles out, 30-32' of water the norm. Other nice pods of fish found in closer to shore away from traffic.
Some nice walleyes again suspended this week. Your favorite ice fishing electronics to mark fish is very helpful. Jig one line, deadstick the second with a live minnow under bobber. Jig deadstick periodically to keep minnow moving and get attention of fish.
On the Rainy River... Some reports of morning/evening walleye action on river and Four Mile Bay. Area around International Bridge in Baudette not safe due to construction of new bridge. Snowmobile trail on river is open and marked from Baudette (downstream from bridge) to lake. Stay on trail for safety.
Up at the NW Angle... Great week of ice fishing with mixed bag of walleyes, saugers, perch, pike, tulibees and eelpout mixed in. Most fish coming from 24-30'. Pink/white, gold, glow strong colors. Rattle baits to pull fish in proving successful.
Nice crappies being caught. Remember, mortality rate is high for released crappies in 25' or deeper, catch fish, keep a few and move on. Snowmobile trails from south shore across lake to Angle are marked and are open. The ice road from Young's Bay to Flag and Oak Island resorts is open. ..." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We are still hovering around the 12 miles past Pine Island mark. Any further or going in any other direction is not improving the bite any, we are in a good spot with very little traffic around us.
Steady this past week, the cold weather and major changes have not had much of an impact on the bite. Electronics are still an advantage and we continue to stick with the gold and glow colors.
More reasonable weather is forecasted this week. We do have some -0 temps overnight and daytime above 0’s. It is making a person start thinking about having enough snow and ice for a long season.
Our summer rates are out and now is the time to get your reservation in before the best dates are booked. We still have some availability in February and March for a winter getaway." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
One would think that all of those -30 degree days would have frozen the slush and made it easier to move around on small lakes in the Grand Rapids area. That’s why I left the snowmobile at home this weekend; I figured that we would be at least somewhat mobile.
I was wrong though, once we got to the end of a plowed road opened by a local rental operator, we were stuck. There were still a lot of tall, fluffy snow drifts and I could see slush filled ruts in the snow where others had tried to go off road. For me, it wasn’t worth the trouble, so I looked at the chart on my Humminbird and picked out a little corner within walking distance and drilled some holes.
There were fish at spot I’d chosen, a corner that lies along the outer edge of the lakes deepest hole. We could see them appear on the screen, check out our bait and then casually swim away. It seemed certain that the fish would feed better toward sundown, so we set up the hub and decided to wait them out.
Long story short, they did eventually begin to feed, but it was far from a great bite.
Like me, every other angler on the lake has been stuck in that same area for the past 3 weeks. The most aggressive fish in that area are already gone, caught within the first week or so of the ‘wheelhouse” season. The rest of the fish in that area have been pressured, even during prime time, they were finicky and cautious about striking.
I always learn something, especially on days when the bite is tough and this was no exception. The Glow Spoon trick that Austin Jones revealed the weekend before worked here in Grand Rapids just as it did in northwestern Minnesota last week. As the sun went down, crappies began to single out the Glow Spoon. That reinforced the notion that I should always have at least one rod glowed up for the last half hour of a fishing trip.
While I was on the lake scouting, I had a conversation with a man who’d stayed in his wheel house overnight. “The fish bit good last night, from 9:00 PM until midnight we didn’t have much trouble catching them and they were good size keepers;” he said.
I don’t plan on spending the night out there to test his theory, but if you’re on the ice overnight in your sleeper, it might be worth knowing.
No matter whether the bite was a great one or not, it was nice to get outside again. After hunkering down during the cold blast last week, 20 degrees above zero felt like a tropical vacation.
For this week, it’s time to hook up my snowmobile trailer again. For the moment, mobility is going to be the secret to finding fish that haven’t been pressured and until we get a full scale meltdown, it’s hard to see how driving my pickup will afford enough flexibility.
If you depend on travel by pickup truck, then I think it’s a good idea to focus on the large lakes right now. Winnie, Leech, Cass Lake, they all have plowed roads that provide access to reasonably good perch fishing. That’s not a bad way to go while we wait for travel conditions to improve. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) Tim Roche wrote; “NEVER MET YOU BUT YOU SEEM LIKE A REAL NICE FELLAH, I AM A 40+ YEAR VETERAN OF FISHING WALLEYES ON RAINY LAKE AND OTHERS, QUESTION: IN THE WIGGLE WORM ARTICLE YOU SAY (that you use) 4 LB. MONO, NEVER EVER Braid. DO YOU MEAN YOU USE MONO FOR ALL FISHING? BEST REGARDS AND I USE LINDY TACKLE TOO.” TIM ROCHE
A) Tim, there are many times that I do use braided fishing lines. My Musky & Pike rods are spooled with braid, so are some of my Bass rods and I do occasionally use braid for Walleye, deep water jigging for example. But 90% of my walleye fishing gear is spooled with monofilament line.
For wiggle worming and most other shallow water jig fishing I use 4 pound test mono exclusively.
In the wiggle worming application, the stretch of mono is actually an advantage because it allows an angler an extra second to think about what’s going on under the water. When you’re wiggling a night crawler in and around cover like weeds and rocks, you want the bait to settle softly, without snagging. That little bit of stretch in the line provides a safety cushion between me and the fish. There’s a split second when I wonder if I’ve had a walleye pick up or if my lure just snuggled up against some structure. During that moment, it’s crucial that the fish doesn’t “feel me” and drop the lure.
Fishing light lures on a breezy day isn’t much fun when I’m using braided line either. The breeze catches the braid and makes controlling my lure more difficult as well.
I know that you probably fish a fair amount of deep water on Rainy Lake and if you like braided line for deep water applications, I think that’s okay. But if you’re thinking about giving wiggle worming a try, give yourself the advantage of replicating my setup. I use a 6-1/2 to 7 foot light action rod with a soft tip, 4 pound mono and a 1/16 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jig; that combination is a long time, proven winner. ..." Read >> Why Not Use Braided Line For Walleye Fishing?
"We all go through it, after serving reliably for years, our favorite computers begin aging. Syncing the Syncable and filing the fileable becomes more and more tedious until eventually, we just have to break down and buy a new one.
I hope you'll bear with me while I figure out which new buttons I'm supposed to push and which ones I'm not supposed to touch.
Don't worry if the reports seem to come a little slower than usual; it will only last a little while. Soon, I will be churning out the fishing news with blinding speed and lazer focused accuracy! ..." - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL