Ice Fishing Report January 28, 2016 - Perch Patterns; Transition To Mid-Winter
The last thing I could say about ice fishing conditions on Wednesday was that they were hospitable.
A stiff wind combined with just enough snow to hamper visibility complicated travel on the ice. Digging in your heels and leaning backward to brace your portable fishing shelter from blowing over isn’t all that much fun either. But I’m still glad that I went fishing.
I’m glad because even if it was a little more complicated than usual, it was my first really good mid-winter Perch trip of the season.
It did take 5 stops before I figured out a good spot and even then I didn’t find huge numbers of fish. What I did find though was a nice school of quality size fish; the kind you get when you’re the first one on a fresh spot.
The location was typical of what you’ve probably fished before. It was a mid-lake bar that topped off at about 18 feet and was surrounded by deeper water, 25-30 feet, with a soft silt/mud bottom.
On Wednesday, the fish were located smack dab on top, but that doesn’t mean that you’d find ‘em there again today. I believe that these fish probably spend more of their time deep than they do shallow. I think that they move out over the mud as they forage on insect larvae, making brief runs onto the top of structure for minnows.
The action was what I’d describe as slow but steady. The fish appeared in small groups that each provided a short burst of action. After catching a few, the screen of my Humminbird would go blank for 5 to 10 minutes. Just as I’d start thinking about making a move, another small school would show up.
This stop and start cycle lasted for 3 hours before I left the lake and likely would have continued if I’d stayed out there.
I tried several baits and each of them produced some fish, but my favorite of the day was an 1/8 ounce Perfect Perch color Rattl'n Flyer Spoon tipped with a minnow head. I jigged aggressively until I saw fish on the screen and then slowed down to a wiggle; they liked that.
I mentioned that it took me several stops before I found the right spot. I fished from 8:30 AM to 11:30 before I ever caught a single fish worth capturing. Once I arrived at this bar, I started picking and choosing which fish I wanted until I reached my self-imposed limit of 10 fish. That happened
at about 2:30, so you can do the math to prove that this was far from a feeding frenzy. It was good enough for me though and I'm glad that I chose to stay out there despite the wind storm.
I'd like to think that this is a signal that we're on the verge of a good mid-lake Perch bite. Today I'll find out whether or not this was the real deal or if I just got lucky and stumbled into a good spot. As always, you know that whenever I know, you'll be the first to know
Typical mid-winter Perch location features small to medium size mid-lake bars that drop into deep water over a soft bottom. Perch feed on insect larvae in transition areas between the soft and the harder sand/gravel bottom found on top of the structures.
Several baits produced fish but on Wednesday, the Perfect Perch color Rattl'n Flyer Spoon tipped with a minnow head was the hands down favorite.
Ice Fishing Report January 24, 2016 - Panfish Action ReliableIce Access Remains Good
Despite gusty winds, anglers were out in force on Grand Rapids area lakes this Saturday. Luckily, the snow cover is light and there’s good, solid ice good on most lakes. So even though there was some drifting of snow during this breezy day, it wasn't enough to cause any major setbacks and overall, ice remains good.
It has become common to see vehicles on most lakes now, even deep water, slow freezing ones like Pokegama in Grand Rapids. There are a number of anglers like me, still ... Read >> Ice Fishing Report January 24, 2016
Ice Fishing Report January 22, 2016 - "The Earth Needs Plastic"
Those words were originally spoken by comedian George Carlin during one of his stand up rants. This one was about the human search for "the meaning of life" and in it, he speculated that the only reason humans inhabit this planet is because "the earth needs plastic".
It's amazing how much information I can glean from something silly like that, but those words have been repeated countless times in my boat and yesterday, turned out to be true again.
On Thursday, all I was trying to do was make a quick afternoon trip to the “Sunny Hole”. My hope was to learn something about where the fish were located and whether they were active, if I was lucky, maybe I’d even catch a few fish for dinner.
As I was driving down the road toward the lake, the buzzer sounded in my head, Oh Oh, I left my supply of live bait sitting on my kitchen counter. I thought about doing a U-turn and running back to town for a fresh supply, but as usual I was pressed for time. I didn’t want to fall any further behind, but I was nervous about not having live bait too.
While I thought the situation over, I remembered a drive to the lake with my friend Tony Boshold who apparently couldn’t care less about live bait. As I drove, Tony assembled his own concoction of Panfish baits. Starting as a pile of little plastic tails on his knee, he talked me through the process; cut the head off of this one, take the tail off that one, fuse ‘em together with a lighter and voila, instant secret weapon.
According to Tony, you should never need live bait when you're fishing for Panfish and on that particular occasion, I watched him prove it.
I reasoned that I'd rather use my precious fishing time on the ice, instead of on the highway driving back to the bait shop. Even if I didn't catch fish it wouldn't matter because all I really wanted to do was to learn if they were fish there anyway. For me, that all added up to make my choice simple; my mind was made up to try and be more like Tony.
The best lure was a Tungsten Toad tipped with a little red wiggly tail that I made up. Glow/Red and Yellow/Red were both good.
Despite believing that I could have done better if I'd had live bait in my pocket, I was pleased that I could piece together a doodad that actually produced some fish.
Once I arrived at the spot and drilled one hole, I saw a few fish on my graph right away. I didn't waste any time, I got my fishing shelter set up and went to work sifting through my tackle bag to see what I could conjure up in the way of an offering for the fish.
I pieced together
a variety of little white things, green things, pink and red things. There was a lot of trial and error and I have to admit, most of the little doodads and gizmos that I pasted together didn't catch any fish. Luckily though, I didn't have the choice to quit trying and eventually I stumbled onto the right combination. The best lure was a Tungsten Toad and there were two colors that worked best; Red/Glow and Yellow/Red. I added a little red wiggly tail that I made by using the skinny part of a tail from a package of Lindy ice jigs, along with the midsection of a small, generic red twirl tail. It worked, size and colors in balance, the combination started helping me trick some fish.
I have to be honest; there were times when the fish looked, but didn’t eat. Even after my dinner was assured, I still believed that a good old fashion jar of wax worms would have worked better. But the little red wiggly tail on the tungsten toad did allow me to ice five nice bluegills and three good size Crappie's; Plenty for a good meal.
By now you’re thinking so what's the big deal? I use artificial baits for Panfish all the time. I know, so do I but this time was different. Most of the time, I have the security of knowing that there’s live bait in my pocket.
Most of the time, I’m using artificial tails for fun and experimentation, not because my fishing trip depends on it. Despite believing that I could have done better if I'd had live bait in my pocket, I was pleased that I could piece together a doodad that actually produced some fish.
The experiment moved me a step closer to believing that I actually could leave the house without live bait and still have confidence that I'd catch fish.
I'll be heading for the lake again today and when I do, I'll still have my supply of wax worms happily stashed in my pocket. But at the same time I'll feel better knowing that if I ever have the same misstep again it won't be the end of my fishing trip.
It makes me wonder too if maybe George and Tony were both on to something, what if that's why we're here, because the earth needs plastic?
Before I wrap up, I should mention an observation about the fish too. Once again, the lion’s share of the Panfish that I found was located in shallow water rather than Deep water.
This has been a reoccurring theme for me throughout this winter. For the past several weeks, almost all of the Panfish, Crappie’s and Sunfish alike have come from water depths of less than 20 feet. Even if there was deeper water available, the fish have shown a preference for shallower water.
If you were following the reports last winter, then you know that this plays right into my game plan of a self-imposed prohibition on fishing for Panfish over deep water. I know that I probably can’t have it this way forever, but for now, I’ll take it. It’s been fun knowing that I can release some fish without wondering if I’ve damaged their inner workings.
(1/21) Q&A From Tim Bates; Ice Access On Lake Winnibigoshish
Q) "I have a good friend coming up to fish on Winnie this weekend and he is wondering if he is going to be able to tow his fish house out on to the ice with his truck. Is there a place you recommend he put in given he wants to fish Winnie?
A) Yes, generally speaking, access to the ice on Lake Winnibigoshish is fantastic right now. As of this week, there are several resorts and rental operators that have roads plowed. Which access is best for him depends on the area he would prefer to fish.
The list of numbered spots on the map shows most of the popular points of entry onto Winnie. Of the 9 that are listed, there are 4 key accesses, each of which provide plowed roads and good access for pickup trucks towing larger ice fishing shelters.
- #1 Dixon Lake Resort provides a plowed road into the Third River Landing. Access from this landing is typically limited to waters within the Third River Flowage. Ice ridges frequently form near Stony Point and run accross the lake westward toward Mallard Point. The ridges, when they occur, will block travel onto the main lake.This access is open to the public, provided for a free will donation at a pay box on the ice. I'd suggest $12.00 which is the going rate at other resorts.
- #2 The Poacher's Landing is a user developed site which allows access to the lake's north side and is most commonly used by ice fishermen who want to fish along Bowen's Flats. This landing is always suitable for snowmobiles and ATV's. At times, the access is good enough for pickup trucks too. It's rarely suitable for vehicles towing large shelters, but it's worth a drive by to check it out. Don't be disappointed if it won't work for your wheel house, it's not a sure thing.
- #3 Sunset View Resort - At the time of this writing, this landing is unavailable because the resort owner decided to close for this winter. I left it on the list because historically, there has been access to the ice here and it may be available again in the future. For the 2016 season though, there is no access available at this site.
- #4 The Pines
Resort and Campground has a "semi-private" plowed road that provides access to Pines Resort guests and ice shelter rental customers. It provides access mainly to the northeastern section of the lake. Typically, this area, Tamarack Bay is best known for good Perch and Pike fishing. There are occasional spurts of good Walleye action too, especially along the steep Mississippi River Channel breakline. Their ramp is not available for anglers towing large shelters. For Lodging and shelter rental >> The Pines
Resort and Campground
Highbanks Resort has an excellent network of plowed roads that provide coverage to the entire east side, most of lakes mid-section, and access to the deep water structure on the north and west sides of the lake. Their road is open to the public for an access pass fee of $12.00 and this is one of the lake's most convenient drive on locations. For Lodging and shelter rental >> Highbanks Resort 218-246-2560
- #6 The Birches Public Landing allows access to the lake's east and north sides along with access to most of the lakes mid-section. It is most commonly used by ice fishermen who want to fish "the humps" and mid lake bars. This landing is always suitable for snowmobiles and ATV's. This access is frequently good enough for pickup trucks too, sometimes even vehicles towing large shelters. It's worth a drive by to check it out, but it's not a sure thing for folks towing larger shelters.
- #7 Denny's Resort has a very good network of plowed roads that provide coverage to the south end, most of lakes mid-section, and the entire east side of the lake. Their road is open to the public for an access pass fee of $12.00 and is also one of the lakes most convenient drive on locations.
- #8 Nodak Resort has a system of plowed roads that provides access mainly to the south and west sides of the lake, along with mid lake bars and humps. When snow is light, ice fishermen can reach the northwest corner of the lake as well. Their ramp is open to the public and it is currently available for anglers towing large shelters. Daily road access fees are $12.00 for a single pickup truck, $20.00 for pickups towing wheel houses and $35.00 for a full weekend pass.
- #9 The Richards Townsite public landing is most commonly used by ice fishermen who want to fish along the southwest shorline and the lake's southwestern mid-section. This landing is always suitable for snowmobiles and ATV's. At times, the access is good enough for pickup trucks too. But at the time of this writing, there is a pressure ridge blocking access for vehicles.
- #10 Two Resorts, Beckers and McArdles work together to maintain a system of plowed roads that provide access to the west side of the lake. Ice ridges frequently prevent vehicle passage from shoreline structure out onto the lakes mid section. But coverage of the western shoerline is very good and occasionally, anglers can reach out into the mid lake as well. This access is open to the public, provided for a free will donation at a pay box on the ice. I'd suggest $12.00 which is the going rate at other resorts. Accessed via the Trappers Drive NW just south of McArdles Resort, this is an excellent landing for vehicles towing wheel houses.
(1/20) Q&A From Robert; Finding Good Fishing In A Sleeper House For Rent?
Q) "Hi Jeff, we've never met but I've been following your fishing reports for quite a while. I have a cabin on (withheld) lake, the one with the awesome fishing.
I am new to ice fishing, and have an abnormal fear of the ice. Anyways, I have a strong desire to catch walleye through the ice. I don't need to fill a cooler, but would like a nice meal worth of walleye. BTW, I like perch as much if not more than walleye.
I would really like to line up a trip for me and a buddy of mine, a younger guy who does some work for me at my cabin; we’ve become friends. He loves his family of 6 and will do anything for them. So I really want to have an overnight experience in a sleeper house; something I've never done and I'd like to be put on some serious fishing with my pal too. What do you suggest?
BTW, thank you for all the great fishing reports. I think it's great how you network with the various sources to give a regional report." - Robert
Great question Robert!
In my opinion, every fisherman should experience ice fishing from multiple points of view. It's fun to fish out in the open, on the ice. But it's equally fun using a portable shelter, a toasty warm wheel house or an overnight sleeper. Each of them allows you to experience ice fishing in their own way and each of them have their advantages.
Your idea about renting a sleeper is a good one because they provide a comfortable place to stay and also allow you lots of time to look around at other aspects of ice fishing that might intrigue you. Sleeper houses will definitely be a great way to spend lots of quality time with your pal, you'll be together a lot! Also, if I was trying to maximize safety, and have a relatively good assurance that I'd catch at least some fish, then a rental shelter on one of the "Big Lakes" would be the clear winner.
Lake of the Woods, Red Lake, Leech Lake, Winnibigoshish and Lake Mille Lacs all have sleeper rentals that are easily accessed via professionally plowed roads. These are probably the safest option because the path has been well traveled and the likelihood of surprises is minimal.
The only trouble with using a sleeper house is that most of the ingenuity will depend on you two. Rental operators will expect you to have your own fishing gear and tackle, maybe live bait too. They might give you a few tips about what to do, but it will be up to you to figure out how to catch the fish. This means that if you're lacking experience, or don't have the essential ice gear, you could come up empty handed in the fish department.
An excellent alternative would be to hire a guide for the day, somebody who provides most of the gear and provides hands on lessons about how to catch fish through the ice. Sometimes, the two can be combined, a few of the better "Ice Fishing Guides" also have a sleeper house available for their customers.
I'd be happy to suggest some names, but first, there are some aspects about your fishing trip that you should consider. Ask yourself how much can I afford to spend on this trip? How serious am I about learning techniques and will I acquire the essential equipment to use my knowledge to go ice fishing again on my own? Do I have other friends that ice fish a lot? Inviting another friend with more ice fishing experience could help bridge the gap on the learning curve and minimize how much "guidance" you'll need on your fishing trip.
After you've nailed down an understanding about what you want to take away from the trip, I can help lead you toward the details that will allow you some extra bang for your buck.
Ice Fishing Report January 19, 2016 - North Central Minnesota Ice Conditions
The last few days have been extra lucky for me. That's because coping with our first real cold blast of 2016 has been made a lot easier by the availability of plowed roads, good ice and decent fishing action.
During the past 3 days on Lake Winnibigoshish, a combination of plowed roads and light snow cover allowed us to travel freely around most of the lake. We have encountered a handful of snow drifts that were deep enough to harbor slush beneath them. But for the most part, these have been easy to work around and in most areas the snow depth is less than 6 inches.
The snow, hard packed because of the sub-zero temperatures is covering a sheet of good, clear ice that now ranges in thickness between 16 and 20 inches. Ice ridges have popped up in several areas, most of them occur along the freeze line where later freezing, deep water meets shallower shoreline flats. The most complicated series of ridges occurs on the west side of the lake. There are compound fractures that blocked my passage heading north toward the Raven's Point area. I'm gonna have to go back over there and take a second look, so I'll try to get a more accurate assessment.
I can't say that there are many "super-hot bites" going on there, but for us, the action has been good enough to provide fish for a meal after each outing.
Overall, I think that the Walleye fishing has been the feature activity on Winnie. What had been great Walleye activity, slowed as a result of the temperatures plummeting, but there's been something of a rebound since temperatures stabilized. The daytime fishing has been slow, but evening producers the customary twilight run, producing decent action most days.
On Monday, Brian Castellano and his fishing partner concentrated their efforts on shoreline beaks and reported catching 11 Walleyes; 9 keepers and 2 Slot-Fish between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. There were also a couple of bonus Pike and Perch to round out the action.
Perch have been slow to show up for the party this season, but now that anglers can travel more freely, I'd guess that the reports will be improving.
Ice Fishing Report January 13, 2015 - Lake Winnibigoshish Ice Fishing Report
If you've been holding out for more convenient access to the ice before you venture out, then this first hand report should be happy news for you.
Access to Lake Winnibigoshish is excellent, ice conditions are good and travel by pickup truck has become widespread across the entire lake.
Ice thickness currently ranges between 14 and 16 inches, snow cover is minimal and the surface is free of slush. Except for areas of rough ice and a couple of pressure ridges, anglers can travel most of the lake freely.
On Tuesday, I accessed the lake at Highbanks Resort. Intending to fish structure near Third River, my trip was cut short by a pressure ridge. This ridge begins at the north shore near “The Rock Pile” and heads west to the shoreline somewhere near Mallard Point. From what I could see, it appears to be uninterrupted and if there’s a way to cross it, I didn’t see it.
That forced a change of plan, but there was still plenty of accessible territory on “my side” of the ridge. In fact I'd estimate that 75% of the lake is accessible from the south side of that ridge.
Typically, these pressure ridges follow the deep breakline where the
lakes deepest water meets the shallower flats about a mile out from shore. Although I haven't seen them, ice ridges along the west and south sides of the lake are likely too.
Numerous reports about good fishing had been coming in prior to the cold snap. But Pat O'Reilly at Highbanks believes that the massive low pressure system that barged into the region on Monday was responsible for a slowdown in the fishing action.
For me, exploration was the priority and fishing was secondary. So I poked around, checking for signs of life on my electronics.
The fishing trip was hardly a waste of time though; I left the lake with my dinner, one good Walleye and a nice Pike which will be served blackened in the near future. So from my own point of view, it was a successful mission.
I was optimistic about future prospects because I had lots of "lookers" on my screen. I think that as the weather moderates,
fishing action will pick up again. That's when I'll head back out there for a re-match.
On Winnibigoshish ice ranges from 14-16 inches and snow cover is minimal.
Anglers are now traveling most of the lake using pickup trucks.
Ice Fishing Report January 12, 2015 - Ice Fishing Flighty Bluegills, "No Waiting On Line 2"
You would think that by now, I'd have this fishing thing fairly well dialed in, but I don't. I still learn something new every time I go out, like this little trick I just picked up while I was fishing for Bluegills.
It started while I was fishing near the weedline in about 12 feet of water, over a slight depression where Panfish gather in the winter.
I knew that there were fish there because I could see 'em, not just on my depth finder but with my eyes too. The clear water made it easy for me to see the fish and that boosted my confidence about the location. The problem was that it was easy for the fish to see too. That made them flighty and meant that they wouldn't linger very long in one spot. Most of the time, they'd show up for less than a minute and then disappear.
For me, that meant that if I was lucky, I might have enough time to catch a fish or two before the rest of the school skipped off down the shoreline.
With the can of Waxies on one knee and rod #2 alongside the other knee, I only reloaded my 1/8 ounce Glow/Blue Frostee Jigging Spoon after I dropped its counterpart into the school of fish.
Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that these fish were also very picky about what they were willing to eat. A half hour of trial and error led me to conclude that these Sunnies had a sweet tooth for larger spoons tipped with as many wax worms as I could pack onto the hooks. Apparently these fish were too hungry to be interested in tiny baits; the ones I tried got the cold shoulder.
There is a tradeoff though when you fish with larger baits for Panfish. They have an uncanny knack for picking the wax worms off of the hooks in a hurry, sometimes before you can get the hook set. Even when you do catch one, the hooks almost always need to be reloaded and that takes time, today it took too much time. By the time I could get the hooks reloaded, the fish were often gone.
I wouldn't be surprised if you're saying; "What's so hard about that? Just leave another rod rigged up in the second hole". Right, I know, but when I did that, they robbed me clean while I was attending to the other fishing rod and now I was running like a one armed paper hanger trying to keep up with 2 lures.
After a few frustrating episodes of being beaten by the fish, it dawned on me that the problem was simple, it was all about timing.
What I did to correct my problem was to rig 2 rods with the identical lure, a 1/8 ounce Glow/Blue Lindy Frostee Jigging Spoon. I put the can of Waxies on one knee and laid fishing rod #2 alongside the other knee. Now, while fishing with one rod, watching my electronics for the first sign of a fish, I used my spare time to load the hooks on the second rod with fresh bait.
My productivity improved instantly because now as soon as I reeled in a fish, I could drop the second lure while the fish was still flopping on the ice. That gave the fish something to focus on and encouraged them to hang around a little bit longer. It gave me time to fiddle around with bait while I watched my electronics for the next fish.
Now instead of getting one or two fish from a school, I started getting three or four. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but when you think about it, it is one heck of an improvement. On some days it could even mean the difference between gathering a fish fry or not.
So I guess you actually can teach a dog a new trick, especially if he wants to learn it. Luckily, you don't have to wait, you can learn it right now. If you ever find yourself in this predicament, I think this little tip will be easy to remember too. Just recall the words that everyone loves to hear; "No Waiting On Line 2".
News Release - January 12, 2016 Lake Vermilion Fisheries Input Group; Citizens Can Apply
Citizens interested in discussing Lake Vermilion fish and habitat can nominate themselves as volunteers on a newly forming Lake Vermilion Fisheries Input Group. Applications must be completed by Sunday, Jan. 24, and are available at www.mndnr.gov/lakevermilion.
“We will use the input from the group as we update the Lake Vermilion Fisheries Management Plan,” said Edie Evarts, Tower area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“We reserved some seats to be filled by volunteers who apply though the self-nomination process, and some members will be invited from groups interested in Lake Vermilion issues.”
Group members will meet six or seven times between March and October to cover topics including management of walleye, northern pike, muskie and bass; double-crested cormorant control; the Pike River walleye hatchery; habitat, water quality and aquatic invasive species.
“The new input group will be part of a more public and structured process than we have used in the past on Lake Vermilion,” Evarts said. “We expect to tap into group members’ valuable insight on the wide range of issues and interests on the lake.”
Lake Vermilion is a destination walleye lake but also offers great opportunities to catch other fish. Maintaining a healthy fishery and preserving lake habitat is important to the local communities of Tower, Cook and Bois Forte as well as statewide. Invitations to participate on the input group will be extended to local lake groups, business groups, statewide fish species groups, and tribal interests, along with volunteers chosen from the application process.
For more information on the Lake Vermilion Fisheries Input Group and the application process, call the DNR Tower area fisheries office at 218-753-2580 or Click Here To Learn More >> Lake Vermilion Fisheries Input Group
Ice Fishing Report January 11, 2015 - Northern Minnesota Ice Fishing Report
Today, Sunrise in Deer River is scheduled for 8:00 AM. I'll be on the ice to see it pop up, so I can't spend a lot of time on the computer this morning, but here's a quick update.
Over the weekend, sub-zero temperatures had an instant effect on stubborn patches of open water and slushy spots that persisted during the past week. At -22°F, the current temperature, ice conditions are continually improving throughout the area this morning.
On Sunday afternoon, I parked my pickup truck on the ice for the first time this winter. The area we were fishing had almost 12 inches of solid, clear ice and I'd be surprised if it doesn't reach 15 inches or more by the end of the week.
That's good news for folks who have waited patiently to get their wheel houses onto some of the area lakes. This is good news too for anglers who have to rely on driving vehicles over plowed roads; roads which haven't been available anywhere so far.
For me, fishing has been quirky this winter. I can find and catch Crappies almost everywhere I go. That's good news but the problem is that I don't really need to find Crappies right now. It's not very hard to amass a limit of 10 and I've done that, so I've been hoping to round out the menu with some Perch, Sunfish or Walleye.
Both Walleye and Perch graced us with their presence on Sunday evening. That could have been great news if the fish hadn't been too small do do us any good. Almost everything we caught was released because they were still in their infancy.
That's why I'm cutting the report short this morning; there are a few promising developments developing and I want to get on the ice early to check them out. You already know that whatever I learn, You Will Be The First To Know!
Ice Fishing Report January 8, 2015 - The Plot is "Thickening" For Ice Fishermen In Minnesota
Reports about ice thickness vary; some folks say they've found 10 inches, some say 12, some have found even a little bit more.
No matter how much ice your favorite lake has today, we know for sure is that over the next few days, it's definitely gonna get thicker. Overnight lows below zero and single digit daytime highs will combine to force our lakes to succumb to winter in a hurry.
Curious about how much ice a lake can make in a few days? Well the only true answer is; "it depends".
If the only consideration was the outside air temperature, then calculations based on how many Freezing Degree Days would get you into the ballpark.
Knowing that your eyes might instantly glaze over if I even try to explain it, I have taken the liberty of linking to an article that explains the entire process in detail. So for anybody who really wants to learn, click this link to the article >> Lake Ice from a recreational perspective.
For folks who are satisfied with an over-simplified version, look at the chart on the right. At a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit, a lake could conceivably grow as much as 10 inches of ice over a 1 week period.
The problem is that even a little snow cover can slow things down a lot, so can calm weather. In reality we shouldn't expect maximum results, but the point may be moot anyway. That's because if you have already have 10 inches of ice today and pick up another 4 inches next week, then we'll soon be talking about the widespread use of vehicles on the ice.
In the meantime, access to most of the lakes in Minnesota's north central region is already available for anglers with ATV's and snowmobiles.
On my way home from Upper Red Lake today, I made a quick stop at a small lake. There were 2 ice fishermen sitting out on the ice jigging. I noticed that they had parked their pickup truck on the ice, near the shore. I've been seeing more of this lately and it makes me all the more confident about the prediction I just made.
Under ideal conditions and at a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit, a lake could conceivably grow as much as 10 inches of ice over a 1 week period.
Perch fishing has begun hit the radar screen for anglers in the Itasca region. These two were fishing in shallow weed cover. Perch were plentiful, but only semi-agressive.
On Upper Red Lake, we found the Walleyes to be fickle today. In the end, we were able to get enough fish to satisfy ourselves, but it was a far cry from being a "hot bite".
Unlike the fish that barged into our holes and smashed our jigging baits yesterday, today's fish needed time to think it over. Most of the fish we coaxed into range did eventually strike our lures, but only after we sweet talked them a bit.
Low pressure, fresh snow cover and slate Grey skies may have been the cause of sluggish action. Or it could have just been a good old fashioned case of overstaying our welcome in the area where we were treated kindly yesterday.
Either way, today's excursion wrapped up our trip to the big lake and it will be a while before the next re-match.
Now that the ice in my own back yard is getting safer, I'll be searching for fresh territory right here.
If you’ve been on the fence about heading up to do some ice fishing, the snapshot view of conditions today is; if you’re waiting until you can drive on the ice, then wait one more week. If you have an ATV or snowmobile, then you will be able to find numerous places to fish.
Q&A Steve Sykes (Jan. 8, 2016) "I was reading your report and I clicked on the link you posted from Wired2Fish that talked about freezing fish and preparing fish.
I am guessing that you fish enough so freezing fish doesn’t happen that often, but when you do, how do you freeze yours?
I usually freeze mine water in a ziplock bag, but like they stated in the video they can get a little mushy. Also they were using grill mats to cook the fish on the BBQ, have you ever used these grill mats for cooking fish? It looked like a good idea."
A) Steve, on one level you're right; I don't put very many fish in the freezer at home these days. But during my days as a licensed fish packer, I literally packaged and froze thousands of fish for customers.
The single most important factor in maintaining the freshness of frozen fish is to protect the fillets from contact with public enemy number 1; AIR! It is contact with air that allows the outer edges of fish, or most any other food to become "freezer burned". Keeping that in mind, there are several ways that you can protect your fillets, including your method of using a Ziploc with water to isolate the fish from the air. The Ziploc + water method is a very good one and I have used it with great results. The only problem is that frozen water takes up space and if your freezer is already crammed, a space saving alternative might be better.
Using a vacuum sealer, in my opinion is the absolute best way to freeze fish. If you don't have a high end pressure sealer, the process may take a little bit longer, but this process is bullet proof. Once you're finished, the packages consume very little space and the pressure sealed bags provide the best protection for your valuable fillets.
Another fantastic alternative that provides excellent protection is to use an inner plastic bag wrapped with freezer paper. When it was still legal, this is the way that I prepared most of the fillets for my customers. I placed the fillets inside of a 9 x 12, 3 mil bag, rolled them up to squeeze out the air and then wrapped them with freezer paper. Sealed with a sticker for identification, the packages are easy to keep track of in the freezer. Customers were typically very satisfied with this method. One caveat about the freezer paper; it is no longer legal to transport fish in this type of packaging. This means that you'll have to wait until you return home from your fishing trip before freezing the fish in this manner.
Stackable, plastic storage containers filled with water work well too. One of my fishing customers uses this method with good results and if you have plenty of freezer space, then this is very handy.
As long as you can keep air away from your food,
there's no reason not to be creative. Follow this simple rule of thumb; if air can get in, freshness can get out.
About the grilling mat, my brother introduced me to one last fall. We used it for cooking fish on his grill at home and for me, it was love at first sight. I can assure you that I'll be buying and using one in the very near future.
Fishing Report January 6, 2015 - Lake Winnie, Upper Red Lake, Ice Fishing Report
On Lake Winnibigoshish, ice conditions have vastly improved during the past week. It's not quite ready for travel by pickup trucks, but travel conditions are good for ATV and Snowmobile traffic.
Ice thickness on the main lake is around 10 inches, smaller bays and areas close to shore are thicker, 12 to 13 inches. Rental shelters have popped up along the shoreline break at Highbanks, in Tamarack Bay and along the south and west shores.
On Tuesday, there were 8 or 9 vehicles equipped with ATV trailers at the Birches Landing. Driving in, the road and the launch access are in very good shape right now and it didn't look like there were any major ice ridges on the lake.
This group of anglers was likely fishing for Walleye along the main lake bars and humps toward the center of the lake. I was only in range to see one rig close to the shoreline break, the rest of them were too far out for me to view.
Reports have been trickling in about good Walleye fishing on the humps. Without firsthand experience out there, it's hard to be sure, but I'd guess that most of these anglers are doing well enough to make it worth their effort.
One day earlier on Upper Red Lake, the Walleyes were semi-active for us. The morning run was quite good, providing each of us with steady action until about noon. From noon until 4:30, the fish were scarce, giving us only an occasional chance in the batter's box. That was unfortunate for us, because believing that we'd have ample opportunity to gather fish to eat, we released every fish we caught during the morning. At the end of the day, we drove home without any fish in our creels. That's no big deal, we'll get more, but I wouldn't have turned up my nose at a meal of freshly caught Walleye either.
We suspected that clear skies that were blown in by a brisk wind were responsible for the abrupt slowdown and we're going to have a chance to prove that theory today. We're on our way back up there right now for a re-match and with luck; you'll be able to smell 'em frying later on.
On Upper Red Lake, the morning run of Walleyes was quite good. Blue skies driven in by a brisk wind caused an abpupt slowdown at midday.
On Lake Winnibigoshish, rental shelters and permanent ice shacks are opping up on the east side of the lake. Ice thickness on the main lake is about 10 inches and access to the ice is good.
On Lake Winnibigoshish, John Seekon, The Pines Resort (Jan. 6, 2016); "The walleye bite has been strong on the main lake bars in 20 to 30 feet, with morning and evening being the best times. The perch are biting around the lake with 12 to 20 feet being the best depth.The ice thickness is currently 10 to 12 inches thick in tamarack bay and 10 to 11 inches on the main lake. Snow depth is 2 to 3 inches on top of the ice." Contact The Pines Resort for lodging and ice shelter rentals on Lake Winnibigoshish .
"... aftering thawing out a big gallon bag of fish, frying it up and then storing pounds of excess fish in Gladware tub only to be thrown out days later. I knew there had to be a better way to store and prepare fish as part of a new healthy lifestyle that actually has me eating many times a day but eating lighter and cleaner at each meal. So that started my journey to ... Read >> Better Way To Freeze and Prepare Fresh Fish for Quicker Cooking
Fishing Report January 3, 2015 - Northern Minnesota Ice Fishing Report
For ice fishermen, all leading indicators are positive as we enter the first week of the New Year.
Lakes continue to make ice as overnight temperatures linger in the 15 to 20 degree range. Daytime highs in the mid 20's allow anglers to fish in comfort and by most accounts; the fish have been cooperative too.
Travel conditions, while not ideal are good and getting better. Ice thickness now ranges between 8 to 12 inches depending on the lake you visit. Shallow water lakes are providing the best conditions while deeper waters are still lagging behind.
Driving to the hot spot on an ATV or snowmobile has become common, allowing anglers to reach further into fresh territory. Snow cover of 3 to 6 inches has provided just enough insulation to encourage the formation of slushy pockets like the ones we encountered this weekend.
The pockets of slush occurred wherever there had been previous fishing activity and water had seeped into surrounding snow. In the area we fished, I was able to drive through the slush pockets, but they got my attention.
Semi-cooperative fish wandered in and out of view; a Frostee and minnow combo tricked 'em.
There were enough patches of high ground to provide adequate parking for the snowmobile. So for me, the slush was a concern, but it wasn't bad enough to limit me from fishing where I wanted to go.
Once we dropped a line, Crappies were semi-cooperative. Small packs of fish wandered in and out of view on the screen of my depth finder and some of them struck and some didn't.
Tungsten Toads tipped with Waxworms fooled some of them. A #6 Frostee Jig tipped with a small crappie minnow tricked even more of them. The trick was to not move the bait too much; if there was a fish looking, we had to hold the rod tip still to encourage a strike. If I gave my jig too much action, I could watch the fish dart away.
Reports from Lake Winnibigoshish were somewhat encouraging; 9 to 11 inches of ice are allowing folks to travel on the big pond. The broken ice has given anglers a rough surface to travel on though and unless you want to jiggle your teeth out, it's slow going out there.
Most of the travel has been limited to the first couple of miles away from the accesses. Steep shoreline breaks and structure that's located nearby are providing action for Walleye and Pike fishermen. Perch, if they're active, haven't showed up on the radar screen so far.
News about travel conditions from most of the larger lakes has been consistent. If you want to reach fishable territory, you can.
There's a lot of ice fishing in my future over the next 5 days, so more first hand reports
are on the way. Remember though, nobody can be everywhere and I'll take all of the help I can get!
Fishing Report January 1, 2016 - Happy New Year!!
I'm joing forces today with everyone who has New Years Day off. Just for fun, I'm going fishing.
See you in the morning
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