The original report that you’re referring to is “Ice Fishing Lines; Which One Is the Best?” That report appeared on December 5, 2017 and it was about my effort to come up with a replacement for what had previously been my preferred copolymer fishing line after it had been discontinued.
The line that I selected was Gamma’s copolymer ice fishing line. I spooled up six reels with clear 3 pound test for panfish and perch. I also spooled up 3 reels with clear 6 pound test for walleye fishing.
Now that I’ve had a couple of months to test it, I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with it. It has very low memory and comes off of the spool smoothly. Any test of the line’s strength is subjective because I haven’t conducted any scientific study about that. But from what I’ve observed, it is definitely suited from my purposes and I haven’t suffered any undue worry about breaking my line. In fact, I’ve only broken the 3 pound test twice this winter and both times it was because I hoisted fish out of the hole without bending over to pick them up.
The clear line is really clear; especially the 3 pound test and I’ve had some difficulty seeing it during low light. Technically that’s good because if I can’t see it, the fish probably can’t see it either. That said, I recently picked up a fresh spool of Gamma’s high visibility yellow color line. The high-vis is a lot easier to see, but I honestly haven’t used it long enough to ascertain whether it deters fish from striking or not.
I will try to post an update about the line color after I’ve had more experience with it. In the meantime though, I can highly recommend the copolymer, it’s been both durable and very pleasant to fish with. It’s inexpensive too and for me, that makes it a real winner. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) On January 30, Joe Heinicke wrote; "I purchased a cabin on (withheld) 2 years ago and have had a hard time figuring out how to fish it. The lake is deep and clear with very little structure. I also have two young kids so I don't get a lot of time to actually fish and try new things.
I am headed up to do some ice fishing in a couple of weeks and will only get a few hours to actually fish. Any advice on getting crappies or sunfish in a deep clear lake through the ice?
A) Good morning Joe, I've never fished your lake, so I'm making strictly an educated guess. In clear water lakes, Crappie have a tendency to suspend over deep water, if there's adequate oxygen, they could even be smack dab over the deepest water in the lake. Sunfish tend to stay a little shallower and closer to structure. I looked at the map and see a couple of interesting structures that may give you a shot at both species.
Look at the long, banana shaped shallow bar on the northwest side of the lake, sunfish could be on top or near the edges, while crappies could be further out into that deep hole. I like the looks of the sharp point in the southwest corner too, the tip of the point that leads into the deep hole would be a decent starting spot and then I'd move both shallow and deep from there.
If you check with your regional fisheries office, they should be able to give you some basic info that will help. First, inquire about the likelihood that your lake is prone to Oxygen depletion during late winter. Strong Oxygen levels encourage fish to stay deep, while depleted levels will tend to push them toward shallower water.
Second, inquire about the substrate and if there are significant areas that contain marl, finding marl areas will be helpful in determining bluegill location and may also lead to locating perch and crappie too.
I looked at the population assessment and your lake appears to have an above average population of decent size pike. If I was entertaining kids, I'd set up a couple of tip-ups with larger sucker minnows along the steep drop-offs in 18 to 24 feet of water. An occasional flag going up will encourage the kids while you're searching for panfish.
Like I said, this is a very rudimentary guess at an unfamiliar lake, but it will help dial you in a little bit. Good luck out there, I hope the advice helps. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Resorts are primarily fishing 24-32' in the Long Point area fishing and a little deeper in the Rocky Point area. Anglers are finding good keepers near reefs. The shallow morning/evening bite continues to put some walleyes in buckets.
Some days jigging working best and others the dead stick or bobber is the better line. A rattle on jigging line helps coax fish in to bite. Electronics are helpful and the typical LOW colors of gold, pink, and other glow colors are working best.
Ice roads are maintained everyday by resorts so if issues arise they can be dealt with quickly.
If not fishing in a resort fish house, auger extension is very likely. Snowmobilers stay on marked trail, big ice chunks off of trail. Ice houses allowed to be left on LOW through March 31.
The Rainy River is pushing out some nice walleyes in the morning evening with an occasional sturgeon through the ice too. Local fish houses along the snowmobile trail from Wheeler's Point to Baudette Bay. Morning and evening bite most effective.
The NW Angle has great ice conditions where resorts have ice roads or trails and fishing is very good.
Walleyes are located in 18-21 feet of water with Sauger and perch in 25-28'. The trend is jigging fish into the area with a rattle lure, but triggering fish those with a dead stick much like south shore. Bright and gold ripping raps working well.
Anglers are still catching slab crappies in holes of 28-32' in Ontario waters. Once you catch your crappies, move on to walleyes or another species as mortality rate is high for released crappies in 25' or deeper.
Snowmobile trails on and around the lake are marked and groomed often." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We have made a 10 mile move and are now 12 miles North of Pine Island. We are seeing a mix of Walleye and Sauger and have the houses in 34-35 feet of water.
The lake is rough so it is slow going while traveling on the ice. The guides are continuing to scout the lake for schools of Walleye and the best bite. Our houses will be on the fish wherever they are.
Electronics still provide an edge to anglers, especially with the larger fish which tend to be a little suspended. Gold and glow red are still a staple to have in your tackle box, although this week we have heard jigging raps are working really well." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge .
To say that I’ve been working hard at finding a reliable fishing spot this week would be an epic understatement. The fish are fickle and the weather is changeable; we’re in that in-between period when hit and miss fishing becomes the norm, not the exception.
I don’t think it’s that unusual, every year there’s a lull in the action when early season patterns begin falling apart and late season patterns haven’t begun. I’ve got my theories about why this happens, but even on my best day, I don’t come close to having a handle on all of the nuances. Several factors influence fish behavior like changes in their food sources, declining Oxygen levels and early spawning instincts; they all add to confusion during mid-winter. Oh, and let’s not leave out fishing pressure, in a lot of areas, fish that were biting a month ago have already been exploited and are simply no longer available.
After reading this report, somebody is gonna say “Jeff Sundin says that the fish aren’t biting”. But that’s not what I’m saying at all, what I’m saying is that we need good timing right to get in on decent action. If you’re in the right place at the right time, fishing is good, but when the timing is off, it's really off.
Here’s an example; I was wrapping up my fishing trip on Saturday when my phone rang. A friend was calling to let me in on a secret, his son was on the lake at that very moment and he was catching Bluegills hand over fist. “Some are better than others, but there are some real nice fish mixed in and they’re biting as fast as he can get his lure in the water” my friend said.
I could hardly wait to get home and tell the Hippie Chick that we were going Bluegill fishing on Sunday. When I did, she was just as excited as I was and we were awake at the crack of dawn to be sure that we didn’t miss out on the action.
We arrived at the lake, located the young lad who’d been so lucky on Saturday and started preparing to have some fun. I drilled a half dozen holes and the Humminbird revealed fish under almost all of them. The fish I was seeing all had something in common; they were not feeding on anything. We fished for a couple of hours and couldn’t get them interested in striking a single thing we had to offer. Likewise, the youngster who caught fish like crazy on Saturday was sitting 50 feet way and having the same results.
A note I received from another friend last night reads; "If a guy could eat marks on the depth finder screen, there would be enough for a huge super bowl party. The crappies have been pretty finicky; they turn on for about 2 hours every few days and they don't stay in the same place very long. We constantly have to move to stay on them, but when we hit it right, the fishing is good. There are days when our guests find the right spot at the right time and when they do, they have a blast.”
Last night I did a recap of my week; I’ve fished 8 lakes and driven 598 miles. I’ve been chasing all over the countryside looking for some sort of a “hot bite” and still haven’t found it. Admittedly, there have been a few highlights during that time and I’m happy for that. But I certainly haven’t generated any news that will make the cover of the newspaper.
Last year I did the same thing at about the same time and the results were similar. The harder I tried, the worse it got, I was chasing a bite that didn’t really exist, and I just hoped that it did.
So now I’m wondering what if my pursuit of a fresh, untapped resource is being shunned by bad timing? What if I’ve gone to 8 fabulous lakes and missed out on great fishing because I didn’t hit them at the precise moment that the fish were active? I could spend the rest of my life thinking that a lake stinks when it’s actually really great.
I’m going to try something different this week. I’m going to single out one lake, one that I know has the fish I’m looking for and fish it every day. That’s right; I’m going to abandon the Amerigo Vespucci approach and just keep banging away on the same lake, learning where every school of fish is located. Then I’m going to fish a rotation between all of the spots until my timing works out right.
For me, staying on the same lake all day every day goes against the grain. But maybe it’s like solving a math problem; the more variables we get rid of, the easier it is to solve the equation. Maybe all I really need to do is pick one good lake and stick to it. I’ll let you know if I’m on the right track. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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We were following some old tracks mostly covered with fresh snow, but still visible. They were the tracks of a single small sled, pulled by a single angler.
“OH Man, this is gonna be good, there hasn’t been anybody fishing this lake and we are going to crush monster Bluegills”. This is gonna be awesome, I thought.
Before leaving my office, I had called a DNR Fisheries official and he advised me to expect a locked gate and a ¼ mile walk into the lake. Everything was as we expected, we followed the public access sign to the locked gate, parked our trucks and prepared for the long walk.
We began the trek knowing that we were in the right area because we could see the lake through the woods. But the trail was like an Energizer Battery, it kept going and going and after 30 minutes of huffing and puffing, we knew something wasn’t right. The Google Map showed that we already traveled past the lake and now we were heading further away with every step. OH OH, what should we do now, we asked each other?
Well we did the only thing we could do; we walked back out the same way we came in. “Maybe we should have driven down that old logging road and checked it out before we started walking; Steve said.” Yes, you’re probably right, when we get back, we’ll do that and then figure out what to do next.
After 2 hours of walking, 3-3/4 miles according to Steve’s step counter, we were back at the trucks. We drove down that old logging road and guess what? Yup, it ended at the carry in landing for the little lake; we were fifty yards away from the ice and that long walk turned out to be nothing more than an impromptu stress test. So we loaded up our little sleds and started over again.
Our exploratory mission was shunted by losing 2-1/2 hours of fishing time. But we decided to go as far as we could as fast as we could and hopefully we could stumble into ‘em.
Long story short, we were able to drill about a ¼ mile of real estate, checking water depths from 11 feet to 38 feet. Except for a pair of Northern Pike, our effort was fruitless and those big sunnies are just gonna have to wait.
If nothing else, we learned a lesson about being sure we know where we’re going before we start going there. And believe it or not, it was still a fun day and a memorable one to boot. Like the man said; “That was sure fun, but let’s not do it again.” - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Floodwood area lakes are in good shape as far as slush and snow conditions are concerned. We can get around easy with a pickup truck. Fishing locally has been fair at best, so we tried Lake of the Woods on Monday thru Wednesday too and the fishing was fair at best for us up there too.
Ballard's provided us with our fishing spot for the first two days and we fished free lance one day ourselves. Actually, we had better luck free lancing after we traveled 15 miles out, using Adrian's plowed road, which is also in great shape. Off of the road, there's a lot of jagged ice so be careful moving around out there." - Tyler Decker
For a while, I figured that I was just picking the wrong lakes and that sooner or later I’d hit a spot where the majority of fish were larger. I thought too that if I just find the right lake, I might not catch a lot of fish, but at least I won’t have to mess around with so many 5 and 6 inch fish.
So far I haven’t found that “right” lake and it’s beginning to look like good news. You’re asking what’s so good about catching all those little fish; who wants those? The answer is that nobody wants ‘em right now, but if this trend represents what I think it does, then in a couple of years everybody will want ‘em.
Remember how good the Crappie fishing was a few winters ago? The very strong year class of 2010 did not occur only in one lake, not even just a handful of lakes. It was an area wide bubble of beautiful fish and it came on the heels of a couple seasons where there were tons of little ones. This reminds me of what I'm seeing this winter, these small fish seem to be everywhere I go, not just in isolated instances.
I realize that my account represents only a cute anecdotal story from the lake. But I did do a little homework and I’m becoming convinced that all of these small Crappies are going to add up to a couple more great seasons in both 2019 and 2020.
Growth rates vary a lot from one lake classification to another, but averaging them all out still gets us in the ball park. Most of the little fish we’re seeing this winter range between 5 and 7 inches, the majority are most likely 3 year old fish. By age 5, most of them will be 9 to 10 inch fish and by age 6, they will be 10 inch plus, keepers by most standards.
We’ll see how my prediction pans out, but I think I’m on the right track. If you want to dig a little deeper, here’s a link to an interesting study that compares Crappie growth rates around the state of Minnesota.
In the meantime, I’ll keep on gleaning the larger fish where and when I can. All the while, I’ll be smiling about the next big wave of Crappies that will mature in a couple of years, which will make the winter interesting.
Slushy areas can form along cracks in the ice, or thin spots that can’t support the weight of snow cover. When that happens, there isn’t a lot we can do about it except to watch for problem areas and steer clear. Some slush can be prevented though and I thought about that yesterday when my snowmobile track began slipping into the soup.
Many times, a lake’s natural tendency toward getting slushy is aggravated by ice fishing. As a group, we tend to drill more holes than we really need and sometimes we could be smarter about where we drill them too. I thought of one really simple thing that we can do to help each other out when it comes to drilling holes in the ice; drill in the low spots between snow drifts.
We all know that snow makes really good insulation and the deeper the snow cover is, the longer it will take for water trapped beneath it to re-freeze. So it stands to reason that the less water that’s trapped under there, the better off we’ll all be. Avoid drilling in the deeper snow drifts, space your holes further apart and try to drill in areas where the seeping water will be exposed to cold temperatures faster.
I know we can’t get rid of all the slush, but even if all we do is make a big problem smaller, we’ll still all be better off. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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"Fishing remains close in, we continue to work the shoreline of Pine Island in the 24 foot range. We are catching more Walleye than Sauger, about a 40-60 split. Many of the keeper Walleye have been in the 18 inch range. We continue to scout other locations and are still seeing the best bite in the close areas.
Electronics are a benefit, those anglers working their baits all day long are catching more fish. Gold and glow red are still the go to baits. Having a dead stick and an active jig stick also increase your chances.
The forecast for the week ahead looks like temps should stay above zero for the week with some cloud cover." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"South Shore. A good bite was reported for last week with the warmer temperatures in 24-32'. In addition to traditional daytime bite, some anglers getting into some good fish after dark on structure which is not typical. Morning evening bite in 15-17' for walleyes continues to be good.
Resorts and outfitters keeping ice roads in good shape as warm weather moving around ice.
One two punch of jigging line and dead stick effective as is the use of electronics to mark fish. Jigging spoons in gold, glow, glow red and pink UV. Small rippin raps in bright and gold colors. Auger extension could be necessary in spots where ice is layered. Snowmobilers stay on marked trail, big ice chunks off of trail.
Rainy River pushing out some nice walleyes with an occasional sturgeon through the ice. Fish houses along the snowmobile trail from Wheeler's Point to Baudette Bay. Morning, evening bite most effective.
The NW Angle has good ice conditions where resorts have ice roads or snowmobile trails and fishing has remained hot. Good walleyes in 18-28' with saugers and perch in deeper water. Set dead stick a bit higher than jigging line. Resorts guiding for crappies on the Ontario side of lake, best bite in 30' or deeper, morning best.
Crappie mortality rate high when releasing in 25' or deeper, thus move on to walleyes or another species when you have your fish.
Snowmobile trails on and around the lake are marked and groomed." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Helping your fellow fishermen and women stay abreast of fishing conditions in your area is good for everybody and it's easier than you think!
You don't have to write a book, you don't have to share your secret fishing spots and you don't even have to mention your lake. But even a few words about general trends, seasonal patterns and local weather conditions can really help.
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I mentioned last week that family obligations were going to keep me off the ice for a few days and they did. So reports from friends and family represent everything I’ve learned about fishing in the area this weekend.
The common thread running through all of the reports is the on again, off again nature of the fishing action.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that you definitely found a good fishing spot. If your timing was good and you fished that spot on Saturday, then you probably think that the fishing was great this weekend. If your timing wasn’t so good and you fished the same spot on Sunday, the odds are your day didn’t go as well.
Understandably, comments like “we saw fish, but they wouldn’t chew” and “they were on the screen, but wouldn’t move” could apply to almost any day on any lake. But anecdotes like “we caught them right here yesterday and saw even more today, but we couldn’t get ‘em to bite” make me wonder. Maybe the fish knew something about the weather that we didn’t.
A comment from my neighbor, Mike Silvis may be useful for you, he said; “when I figured out to quit working suspended fish and concentrate on hugging the bottom, we ended up having a productive day.” Mike added that in his situation, the crappies showed a strong preference for the color green and a hook tipped with 2 waxworms.
Mike's comment caught my attention because most anglers, me included would spend the majority of our time working on those suspended fish. Whenever we see nice looking marks on the electronics and they don’t bite, we usually just move and drill some new holes hoping to find more active fish. Next time I’m in that situation, I’ll remember Mike’s advice and try working the bottom more thoroughly, just in case it is the remedy for my own situation.
Slush, the payback for enjoyably warm weather has become a problem on many area lakes. It was mentioned in the report from Bowstring last Friday and again in Greg Clusiau’s report today. We saw evidence of slush ourselves on a family drive around the neighborhood this Saturday. Snowmobile tracks on some of the small lakes south of Grand Rapids were filled with water; never a good sign.
The presence of slush complicates travel, but it’s not the end of the world. We’ll just have to get busy and figure out where travel conditions are good and where they are not. With a little more time on my hands this week, I’ll be able to get back on the ice and gather first hand reports. But in the meantime, I could use any help I can get. A few words about conditions in your area will go a long way. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Our ice fishing wall of fame is beginning to fill up with images of nice fish and reports from our guests share a common theme. Fishing action on Bowstring has been a little slower this winter when compared to the past couple of seasons. But the lake is making up for a slower pace by providing anglers with fish of quality size.
The Crappie population, prone to being cyclic, is in a re-building mode right now. Fish from the very strong 2010 year class that remain in the lake are now ranging between 12 and 13 inches. Fish in that size range are typically less abundant, but certainly are well worth a little extra effort.
Most crappie fishermen know that these fish can be located over deep water during winter. But structure oriented by nature, crappie tend to hold near prominent features that lay near the deeper water holes. Focus on steep breaks and mid-lake bars, especially those that contain rocks. Key water depths are 24 to 26 feet for mid-lake fish.
Jumbo Perch are coming from a wider variety of locations this winter. Some anglers are finding them in shallow water ranging between 4 and 8 feet. Fishing areas adjacent to large weed flats has been best for shallow water perch. Deep water produces fish too and soft bottom areas near the lakes deepest holes will produce fish. As the season progresses, the soft bottom areas that contain marl become increasingly important. It’s these marl areas that produce bloodworms, a very important food source for Jumbo Perch. Click here to learn more about >> Perch and Bloodworms.
Walleye have been on the move and locations have been somewhat inconsistent this winter. Usually, the best areas to fish are located along the slow tapering main lake breaklines in water depths of 12 to 16 feet. Inside corners and tips of points are good, so are the small weed beds found on main lake flats.
This year, there have also been more “phantom” catches of large walleye that roam deep water. These fish have been caught by panfish anglers who see large marks that appear higher in the water column. It’s not unusual for these fish to swim 6 to 10 feet above the bottom. So if you’re fishing crappies and see one of these high swimmers, try dropping in a jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head.
The warm weather has caused some shifting and cracking of the ice. Slush pockets have begun forming in certain areas, so travelling off road is becoming more complicated. Exercise caution when you wander away from our plowed roads.
All indicators are positive for a great weekend on the ice; warm weather should encourage better fishing action. Our access is open and we hope to see you. Oh and don’t forget, we deliver pizza on the ice so you don’t have to miss a minute of fishing! - Bill & Erin Charlton, Trails End Reosrt
"With the cold weather we’ve recently experienced there was a noted absence of anglers out on the lakes. That has changed as of Tuesday. Warmer temperatures have made a big difference in the number of folks heading out onto the ice.
The ice is now in the sixteen to twenty inch range in thickness and that’s a good thing. Most of the larger lakes have quite a few springs that may or may not be safe so caution is always a good idea.
With the many light snow falls we’ve had its surprising how little snow is on some of the larger lakes with maybe 4 to5 inches at the most, while the smaller more protected lakes have a healthy snow pack making travel a little harder but still doable. In areas where the wind has been howling for several days the snow is packed and far less than 5 inches, another good thing.
Half tons are venturing out on the ice now. Fishing has been very good on the small lakes with Crappies and Perch the main target. The larger and more popular lakes have kicked out some Walleyes and especially Pike. Pike fishing has been very good.
Trout season opened last Saturday and I’ve had reports of limits and even some nice Lakers taken from the area lakes. This weekend’s mild weather should rev everything up a notch so don’t miss out.
I’ll be out Sunday afternoon and then back at five o’clock. Don’t want to miss the big game! SKOL!!! Have a Great Weekend Everyone!" - Paul Larson, Frontier Sports 218-832-3901
"They say seeing is believing, so that’s the approach we took in this video. Jeff “Kolo” Kolodzinski pins the boat over a mega school of bass to compare his sonar readout to real-time underwater video of the bass below.
The goal of this video is to acquaint those new to, or building their LCD fish finder knowledge; understanding how gamefish mark is a major step in getting the most out of your time on the water by eliminating unproductive areas.
This video focuses on 2D CHIRP Sonar technology, which is widely available across the price spectrum. It’s important to dial in the correct sonar sensitivity (i.e. power) setting to produce the clearest readout. Check out Jeff’s comprehensive Sonar Interpretation Video for a long-form look for a breakdown on all of the major fishfinder technologies, and when to use them.
Sit back and enjoy looking at a MEGA school of smallmouth on sonar and an underwater camera at the same time." View Video >> Comparing Bass on Fishfinder Sonar to Real-Time Underwater Video
I just had my first reminder of the season that you can get stuck trying to drive a pickup truck though a snow drift.
Yes, of course I know that you’re supposed to drive around the deep drifts. But when there’s no way around and you have to choose between going through and going home, sometimes we take a chance.
The problem isn’t that there’s too much snow on the ice, if you can get on it and you’re careful, you can probably travel fairly freely. The snow that blocks access to the lake is what makes getting onto the ice the trick.
In my case, the snow covering the ¼ mile access road is what started my wheels spinning. On some of the more popular lakes, the plowed roads are fully developed and in one way it’s good, providing anglers access to part of the lake. On the other hand, plowing a road traps folks within the confines of the road itself.
On Wednesday, I showed up at the lake and was surprised to find a new, user developed plowed road. I followed it to the end and found myself in what’s become the community fishing hole. There was probably still room for one more setup, but I decided against trying to squeeze into that space.
Instead, I back-tracked a half mile, parked the truck and started walking. I drilled and checked enough holes to eventually locate some fish. But by the time I was finished, I had walked more than I wanted to and now have my mind set on using the snowmobile. That will allow me the mobility I need to check out fishing areas that haven’t been as heavily pressured and I won’t have to worry about getting stuck.
An exception right now would be fishing on Lakes like Winnie or Lake of the Woods. There are enough roads leading to enough places that an angler can expect to find some action. That’s especially true when visiting one of the better rental operators.
Now that we’re entering the second half of winter, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that folks are turning their attention to Perch fishing. When the early season Walleye and Crappie bites fade out, the Perch are just starting.
"The report I got yesterday from Tyler at Nodak Lodge echoes reports that I’ve received from most folks who have been fishing on Winnie. Tyler wrote; “We have had a good perch bite on right now in areas like the Snaghole Bar and up on Horseshoe Bar too. Most of our guests are fishing in to 20 to 24 feet of water, but on the sunny days, some have been finding nice perch on the flats in 13 to 15 feet.
Some of our guests are still getting a few Walleyes on the big island and Southeast Island straight out of our resort. But the walleye bite has been slowing down recently. The majority of the walleyes have been coming as a bonus to the Perch fishermen.” - Nodak Lodge, Lake Winnibigoshish, 1-800-752-2758
For me, there are a few family matters to look after, so I don't expect to be on the ice for a couple of days. But I'm optimistic that this warmer weather will affect fish the same way that the last one did. The best fishing that I've seen this winter came during that period and hopefully we can get out this weekend for a re-run.
If you're heading up for the weekend, good luck and remember to send pictures! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Out on Winnie we have 26 inches or so of ice. There was some more snowfall this weekend, but our guests are getting around, travel is still good just watch for the bigger drifts and avoid them.
Fishing stayed good right from last week’s 32 degrees then over the weekend with the -27 and colder. There have been a lot of nice big Northern Pike taken and a lot of nice ones seen as well.
Panfish are moving into our area and guests are having steady perch action. The more finicky crappies are hitting later in the day and the sunnies just show up to watch the show.
Walleyes don’t hit all that often in our area; folks are catching just a few here and there. But the ones that do strike are huge and seem to like wax warms. People have reported catching some big ones while they fish for panfish." - Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. Reservations 218-659-4612
"On Sunday, we ran into Kyle Nesset at Highbanks and I invited him to share a few words about Lake Winnie.
Kyle wrote; “We were fishing in about 20 feet of water around a prominent bar on Winnie’s north side. We concentrated our fishing along the steepest edge of the bar with a fast transition into deeper water.
We were targeting walleyes, but the morning bite wasn’t super productive for them, we did catch a few of them and one was a dandy 25-1/2 inch fish.
Making up for the slower walleye action was a hungry and active school of large perch. All together we probably caught around 50 perch and sorted out 20 larger ones to bring home.
The go to bait on Sunday was a Rapala gold chrome ultralight ripping rap. We did not tip the lure with any live bait.
One key factor was keeping the bait moving and making noise and they would hit it aggressively. And the other key factor was jigging it off bottom I would keep the bait 2-3 feet off bottom and keep it moving fish would come up for it and smack it.
I was also using a simple dead stick setup and caught some of the better sized perch using that dead stick.
I rig it with a plain glow hook with a couple of split shot sinkers about 10 inches above the hook. That allowed the small shiner to swim around freely so great combo with the ripping rap because it allowed us to target the highly active fish and the slightly less active at the same time." - Kyle Nesset, MaXXed Out Guides
"A nice bite continues with anglers catching all sizes of walleyes and saugers. Most of the action on the south shore is in 24-30' of water. Daytime bite continues thanks to stained waters of LOW. There has been a good morning evening bite in 15-17' as well. Resorts and outfitters keeping ice roads in good shape.
One two punch of jigging line and dead stick (hook/jig with live minnow under bobber) effective as is the use of electronics to mark fish. Jigging spoons in gold, glow, glow red and pink uv. Small rippin raps also good. If not fishing in a resort fish house, auger extension could be necessary in spots where ice is layered. Snowmobilers stay on marked trail, big ice chunks off of trail.
Rainy River pushing out some nice walleyes with an occasional sturgeon through the ice. Fish houses along the snowmobile trail from Wheeler's Point to Baudette Bay. Morning, evening bite most effective.
The NW Angle also has good ice conditions where resorts have ice roads / trails and fishing has remained great. Ice road goes to Flag and Oak Island from Young's Bay. Good walleyes in 22-28' with saugers and perch in water deeper than 26'. Combo of jigging spoons and dead sticks with a jig and minnow effective. Resorts are guiding anglers to slab crappies on the Ontario side of lake.
Preserve the resource, catch your crappies, move on to walleyes or another species as mortality rate is high for released crappies in 25' or deeper. Snowmobile trails on and around the lake are marked and groomed." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We remain in the 24-27 feet of water off of Pine Island. This area has been providing a great bite since we got on the lake December 10th. We have been scouting other areas and planning possible moves but have not found a stronger bite in any of those other areas.
This past week anglers continue to take home limits and have great action with many throw backs mixed in with slot size and larger Walleye. It has been a stead mix of Walleye and Sauger.
Electronics still provide an edge to anglers, especially with the larger fish which tend to be a little suspended. Gold and glow red are still a staple to have in your tackle box, although this week we have heard jigging raps are working really well.
It looks like we are in for a mix of weather this week, we are starting off with some snow today with wind predicted for tonight and tomorrow. It is supposed to then clear up and provide sunshine the rest of the week with temps from -25 to 25." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge .
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like straying off-course in the fog, I don’t much like getting stuck in the snow either and I’m really not a big fan of slipping into the ditch on an icy road. Maybe that’s why I worried too much about the weather forecast yesterday and missed out on some good, late morning and early afternoon fishing.
We’d spent the morning hemming and hawing about the chances of wind-blown snow and blizzard like conditions on the lake. Although the predicted snowfall did arrive on schedule yesterday, the blustery winds that were forecast didn’t seem to be arriving. So at the last minute, we decided to go ahead and drive up to Lake Winnie and try it for a few hours.
Without having any intention of playing Amerigo Vespucci, I drove straight to Highbanks Resort where we’d take advantage of their plowed roads to access the lake. At Highbanks, not only were we graciously received, but we were also greeted by friends who delivered reports of good fishing.
“Perch mainly, along with some pike and a few walleye have been cooperative”; they said. Nobody seemed to believe that we would have to find a pinpoint spot on a spot or barge in on somebody’s secret honey hole. The consensus was that if we located 21 feet of water on the breakline, then we’d catch some fish.
Visibility was poor on the lake, the grey skies and falling snow didn’t allow us to see much further than the outskirts of the plowed roads. The low visibility combined with the shortage of time made formulating a plan easy; we would drive along the plowed road until we could find a fishable location and take our chances.
We found an area away from the main road where we could park the truck and also where the Lakemaster chart showed a sharp inside corner along the edge of the breakline. I drilled 3 test holes, one of them was in 23 feet of water and the other two both pegged the meter at 21 feet.
I dropped in a Foo Flyer tipped with a small fathead, caught a keeper Perch and set up the portable shelter. Once we had the heat on, the Hippie Chick continued to fish there while I tested the other 21 foot hole. This time I dropped in a Frostee tipped with a small fathead and had the first strike before my lure ever reached the bottom. For a while, I got one strike after another and had 4 keepers on the ice in a short time. So we picked up the portable and moved it over to that spot instead.
Long story short, the abundance of perch in that location was not a good indicator about the presence of walleyes. We camped out there until almost 6:00 PM without seeing anything on the graph that looked like a walleye. For all I know we were only a few yards away from the right spot, but our day was destined to end without knowing. We do know that if we had arrived earlier, picking and choosing perch for a meal would have been an easy task.
I know, that wasn’t a very scientific report, but that’s the way it played out. As it turned out, the fishing trip turned out to be the least of our reasons for making the drive.
By the time we packed up and drove up the road to Highway 46, it was already 6:30. Looking at the Gosh Dam Place, I said “what you think honey, you want to get a burger?” That sounded like a good idea to her, so we parked the truck and walked into the bar where we were once again greeted graciously.
Most folks in the bar were preoccupied with the football game and it didn’t take long for us to get involved too. I don’t have to tell you what happened, you already know that. But I do have to tell you something about the Hippie Chick and what it’s like to hang around with her.
With about 10 seconds left in the football game, it’s fair to say that “daubers down” was a good description of most folks at the bar. That’s about the time I said; “if you believe in miracles, this would be a good time to …” but she interrupted me before I finished. “They happen all the time, just watch”; she said.
Needless to say, the next half hour at the Gosh Dam Place was a lot of fun! It was a fun crowd at a fun place with good service and great food. It sort of made me think that this was the real reason for leaving the house and that the fishing was just one stop along the way.
Oh and by the way, we never did order burgers, we got the special instead. It was good and I’d love to tell you what the special was, but then I’d run the risk of you getting there before us next time and eating it all up; we can’t take that chance! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Mother Nature helped make up for Saturday’s sub-zero temperatures by delivering lots of sunshine and a light breeze. So even though the cold weather may have kept a few folks at home, it didn’t stop lots of folks from having fun on the ice.
Travel conditions on the ice weren’t too bad. We traveled by truck and did not get stuck and I didn’t see evidence of anyone else having big problems either. However, if you’re planning to travel off road in a pickup, you can forget about a smooth ride. The strong winds that accompanied Thursday’s snow storm produced tightly packed drifts that will definitely rattle your cage.
It was Saturday, so there were more anglers on the lake than usual, I’m not sure that extra traffic on the lake was actually all that heavy. The super cold temperatures made it seem like it though; the super-chilled ice and snow produced lots of those squeaky, crunchy, rumbling sounds that make the traffic feel more intense. The thunderous sound of cracking ice accompanied each vehicle that passed within a couple hundred yards. Even though there was plenty of ice to support the traffic, it was still somewhat un-settling.
Every cold snap we’ve received has produced a slowdown in fishing action. The fishing action doesn’t die completely, but we have to work harder and for fewer strikes. Yesterday was no exception, we saw fish frequently, we got them to strike fairly often and occasionally, we actually got a hook set and landed a fish.
Last week I wrote about using larger baits to help trigger strikes from larger fish and ward off attacks by smaller ones. Our experience yesterday was the complete opposite; only the smallest lures could be relied on to produce strikes repeatedly. The Tungsten Toad produced most of our action along with the Tungsten Bug that came in a close second. Tipping the lures with Eurolarvae worked better than using waxworms on this outing. I think this was mainly because the fish were in the mood for smaller portions and the smaller size of the Eurolarvae vs. the larger waxies was a benefit.
So there you have it, we made it onto the lake and had a nice afternoon. I guess we could have kept enough fish for a meal, but we didn’t. The combination of both our intentional and unintentional “releases” meant that the lake would suffer no ill consequences from our visit.
This morning, the air temperature is already 15 degrees warmer than it was when we went to bed last night. The price we usually pay for warmer air is more snow and it appears to be on its way. There’s a 100% chance of snow today and the wind is gonna blow according to NOAA.
Fishing for walleyes on Winnie was scheduled for today and I’d really like to see my wife pull a nice one up through the ice. I have my fingers crossed that the weather doesn’t force us to re-think our plan, but we’ll see how the day unfolds.
Last night we stayed on the ice until after dark and I re-learned a lesson about how easy it is to get turned around on the ice. In that case, we were only a half mile off of our intended course and we got back on track quickly. But the problem could easily be magnified with some wind-blown snow adding to the complication.
If you’re already on the lake, or if you’re planning on heading out later today, keep an eye on changing conditions and travel safely. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
There are Northern Pike lakes and then there are NORTHERN PIKE LAKES. The lakes that produce big pike have the magic combination of cool water, good cover and plenty of food for fish in every size range.
Learn more about what a lake needs to grow big pike and where you can find them. Read Article >> Northern Pike, The Quest For Quality
On Friday I took a tour of the Scenic Lakes Area located northeast of Grand Rapids. The swath of territory I covered was about 10 miles wide and 20 miles long, a reasonable representation of conditions on the backroads.
Conditions on the surfaced roads were slippery, but for the most part, better than I expected. Traveling on gravel roads was actually better, because they did not have the heavy ice buildup from traffic.
I was not comfortable attempting to travel on minimum maintenance or US Forestry Roads. Over the top of the original snow lay another 6 inches of fresh snow; just deep enough to make me cautious. An adventurous driver with a good 4X4 could drive on them, but while I’m driving alone in the woods, -10 degree air temperatures are not the time to be adventurous.
Most of the lakes, even the most popular ones were quiet; there wasn’t any vehicle traffic on any of them. I think it was too soon after the storm for many anglers to start fishing again and I only spied one shelter that had a snowmobile parked alongside.
The image you see here shows where somebody tested the snow cover at one of the public landings. The first track goes out 100 yards and stops and the driver took the second track out further, maybe 200 yards before stopping.
The driver was either satisfied that conditions would all returning with fishing gear or was convinced that there was too much snow cover to travel out onto the main lake. To me, it looked like getting stuck in a snow drift was more than a slight probability and I’d bring my snowmobile back to that landing instead of risking the trip with my pickup.
I and the Hippie Chick are planning out fishing strategy for the next 3 days right now. One of the days will be on Winnie, where I’ll try to keep my promise of finding her a walleye to hoist through the ice. After that, it will depend on what mood we’re in, but with luck, there will be some nice photos coming along soon. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Today’s report won’t take very long to read.
On Thursday, snowfall in the Grand Rapids area stacked up to about 6 inches in areas protected from the blustery winds. Frankly, I never made it out of my own yard yesterday, so I’m behind the curve about how much drifting occurred both on the lakes and on the back country roads.
At the moment (8:00 AM), its -25 degrees at my house and the predicted high could reach -1 degree, if we’re lucky. So for me, fishing is going to be an afternoon pursuit, if it happens at all today.
After I finish shoveling snow, I definitely will take a spin around the neighborhood to see what travel conditions look like. In the meantime, if you’re planning on heading up to go fishing this weekend, it is a good idea to assume that you’ll need a snow machine to move around on smaller waters. On Lake Winnie and Bowstring, plowed roads will be cleaned up today and should be accessible for the weekend.
Check back at mid-day today and I’ll add notes and updates as they become available. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
In fairness, I have to be perfectly clear; she never actually spoke the words. But when I mentioned that I was going Walleye fishing yesterday, the look I got from the Hippie Chick conjured up a familiar phrase; “Jeffrey!, you’re not going to have fun without me, are you?”
Naturally, my thought was to say of course not honey, I can hold definitely off on the Walleyes until this weekend and then we can go catch them together. So I re-scheduled the scheduled walleye run and substituted a quick trip to the bluegill hole instead.
Maybe it was the dark Grey sky; maybe the warm weather caused it or perhaps the effects of the approaching storm brought it on. Whatever the reason, the Bluegills were on the move yesterday afternoon.
Notice that I said “on the move”, that’s because I can’t say that they were all biting. Sometimes a group of fish would appear on the screen of my Humminbird, take a look at my lure and swim away. But there were other times that a small group of fish would appear, take a look and … WHAM! There were enough active fish to make a good afternoon, even if they weren’t all biting.
Initially, I offered the fish a Tungsten Bug tipped with waxworms as the main entre’ and that worked fine. In fact I could have just kept on using that single lure all afternoon, but the speed at which those small schools appeared and disappeared reminded me about something. The reminder was about the importance of capitalizing on as many of those small schools of fish as possible.
I’ve written about it before, the idea is to do whatever you can to keep a lure in front of those fish so they stay interested and don’t swim away. Typically, I do that by drilling 3 holes, close to each other in a triangle. The center hole is devoted to the transducer and the other 2 holes are for fishing. That way I can see both lures on the screen together and I never have to interrupt the action by moving the transducer in or out of the hole.
The close proximity of the holes is one reason why I use a 6 inch drill instead of a larger one. I don’t need as much space for the transducer and the side benefit of using the smaller auger is the ease of drilling, the 6 inch bit goes through the ice is like a hot knife in butter.
Once I was set, I paired my Tungsten Bug with an even heavier lure, the Tungsten Fat Boy. Everybody remembers that the original premise of the Fat Boy was to have a compact size lure that was heavy enough to get down to the fish fast. The original Fat Boy still has one of the fastest drop rates of all panfish lures, but now the tungsten version has even more weight packed into the small package, allowing the bait to drop at warp speed.
The setup worked as expected and for an hour or so, I was about as busy as an ice fisherman can be.
Like I said before, maybe it was the dark sky; maybe the warm weather or the effects of the approaching storm. But whatever caused it, the bite was earlier than usual and it peaked well before sunset. In fact there wasn’t any reason to linger on the lake past 4:00pm, but the weather was nice and I did it anyway.
I left the lake a little after 5:00pm and I still had a little daylight to aid my departure. For me, this was the first noticeable evidence that we’ve gained a little extra daylight. In one way, I like the extra daylight because it means we’re moving toward spring. But I have to admit that I like being able to fish until dark and still get back to town in time to stop at the hardware store too.
By now you're probably thinking; "yeah, a lot of good this does me now". You're right, I apologize for tempting you with this report today because accurate as it is, Mother Nature has forced the timeliness into question.
If ever there was a clear transition between early ice and mid-winter ice, it’s going on outside my office window right now. There’s 4 to 5 inches of fresh snow on the ground and it hasn’t stopped yet. The wind is howling too, so that means we’ll be facing deep snow drifts in some areas, especially the southeast portions of most lakes. I think I see the passing of easy driving onto the smaller lakes and an increasing dependence on snowmobiles, tracked ATVs and plowed roads.
I doubt that I’ll do any fishing today, but after the storm passes, I’ll take a spin around the area to let you know how conditions have changed. For all of you aspiring Cub Reporters out there, now would be an excellent time to drop me a line with a quick note about how the storm is affecting conditions in your area. Travel safe and stay warm out there! Cub Reporter, Staff #003, Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"After several weeks of very cold weather, the warm- up we are now experiencing has brought more anglers out on the ice to try their luck.
Ice thicknesses of 12 to 16 inches are most certainly a product of the bitter cold we’ve endured lately.
Reports of a good walleye bite on several of the area lakes have been coming in since Sunday and it has only been getting better. Most of the fish were being caught in the 20 to 26 foot depth range.
Crappies have been a bit casual when it comes to catching a limit but still enough fish made it to the topside of the ice to make for a good meal. Pike fishing has been fairly good as well.
The main excitement in the area has been the opening of Trout season this Saturday. Itasca County has 11 designated Trout lakes and several Lake Trout lakes. Many anglers have been waiting all winter for the Trout opener and now that it’s almost here the weather’s about to take a turn or the worst.
No matter, when you’ve waited this long it doesn’t matter what the weather has in store, you still have to go out and give it a shot. With Lake trout you just never know. Have a Great Weekend everyone!" - Paul Larson, Frontier Sports 218-832-3901
"Black bass are the most popular freshwater gamefish in the world, largely due to their voracious appetites and outstanding pound-for-pound fighting power. It's important to understand, however, that there are many more black bass species than what many anglers might think.
There are actually 9 recognized species including Alabama bass, Florida bass, Guadalupe bass ..." Learn >> How to Identify All 9 Species of Black Bass
Walleyes, during winter, seldom get as much attention from me as Panfish do. That’s partly because I spend so much time fishing Walleyes during summer that I like a change of pace during winter. But it’s also partly because I like the faster pace that Crappie, Bluegill and Perch provide; usually.
But when the Panfish are lethargic, an action oriented ice fisherman like me sometimes has to re-think my thinking. That’s especially true when I start receiving text messages like the one I got from my friend Bob Cass yesterday.
“We were out fishing on the big lake this weekend and the Walleye action was great, particularly from 8:30 to 10:00am and again between 3:00 and 6:00pm. We caught 20 Walleyes on Saturday afternoon fishing the breaklines on mid lake humps in 20 to 22 feet of water. We were using Foo Flyers tipped with minnows cut in half and the Walleyes hit them very aggressively. Most fish were in the protected slot, but we did catch 5 keepers; really fun!”
I know, that’s only one report, but it’s not the only one I’ve received directly and if you count the second hand conversations I’ve overheard on the social pages, then the evidence is getting pretty convincing. Walleye fishing might actually be providing more action right now than is the Crappie fishing.
I’m thinking that with similar reports coming in from several of the Itasca area’s better known Walleye waters, it might be a good time for me to grab some heavier rods and buy some larger minnows.
By the way, I don’t mean to say that there aren’t any Panfish to catch; there are. But if somebody asked me to point them in the direction of a dazzling action bite, I’d be hard pressed to do it. For me, Crappies, Bluegills and Perch are coming in one by one, with long gaps between strikes. I’ve seen other reports using language like “it was a grind, but we got some” or “after we put in our time, they finally bit.” You get the idea, we are catching some, but only if we work at it.
Pushing me further in the direction of Walleyes for today is that I can still take advantage of the absolutely ideal travel conditions. With solid ice ranging between 16 and 24 inches and only a few inches of snow cover, we can go just about anywhere we want, at least for today.
If you're not as lucky as I am and you can't get out on the ice today, then hold tight for a little while. The forecast for the weekend is not the most optimistic one; it’s going to get cold, that’s for sure. But the amount of snow that’s forecast to precede the cold snap isn’t as easily predicable, so we can cross our fingers that the snow doesn’t pile up too high.
I’ll be out there keeping an eye on conditions, so be sure to check back for an update on Thursday before finalizing your weekend fishing plans. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
The Foo Flyer also happens to be one of the lures that produce best results when the operator knows the “trick” to making it perform at its peak. So a few years ago, we produced a video in which the Foo Flyer was the featured presentation. It provides an excellent tutorial about how to trigger Walleye strikes at time when they might resist other presentation.
Even if you’ve seen it before, it is definitely worth your time to revisit the video >> Foo Flyer Presentation for Walleyes.
"The arctic temperatures have moved on for now; fishing is good and fish cleaning houses are busy! Rental operators and resorts are permitting trucks and sleepers on the lake via their plowed ice roads.
Walleyes continue to spread out and resorts and guides are making the push to deeper water. Dead sticks still hot in most areas with Sauger but Walleye still preferring jigging. Spoons or lures with a rattles always a good bet in gold, glow, and pink.
The bite for walleyes continues to be very good in 15-18 feet during morning and evening while 25-31 is better for midday Sauger and walleyes. If not fishing in a resort fish house, auger extension could be necessary in spots where ice is layered.
The NW Angle also has good ice conditions where resorts have ice roads and trails and fishing has remained great. Snowmobile trails across the lake are marked and groomed. Ice depth around the 20-26 inches in places where resorts are fishing. Good walleyes in 22-28' with Sauger and perch in water deeper than 26'.
Jigging spoons working well in the mornings and evenings while dead sticks with a jig and minnow taking over in the afternoons.
Resorts are guiding anglers to slab crappies in 30' holes on the Ontario side of lake. When done catching your crappies, move on to walleyes or another species as mortality rate is high for released crappies in 25' or deeper." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We were anticipating a move to the deeper water this past week but the shallows have proved to be the best bite. We have been in the 24-27 foot of water range with a great number of fish being caught. Additionally, there have been many big Walleye caught in these depths this past week.
We continue to scout deeper and other locations on the lake and will be on the move if necessary. One thought is that fish are still coming out of the river and providing a great shallow bite.
As for tactics, anglers are staying with the go to Lake of the Woods equipment. Gold, glow red, plain hooks are always a good presentation.
Mild temps for the week ahead, the forecast shows temps above zero all week." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge .
I can’t say that I’ve been very anxious to leave the office during the mornings this week and Thursday was no exception. But by 1:00 PM the sun was shining, the wind was calm and at -3 degrees, the air was warm enough to be manageable. If I wouldn’t have gone fishing, I would have felt guilty for letting that gorgeous afternoon go to waste. So I did the responsible thing, I packed up the truck and headed for the lake.
This time, I decided to test another lake from my list of waters that I haven’t fished before.
Like many of the lakes you’ve seen me describe in recent years, it’s fairly small, less than 300 acres and shallow, featuring a maximum depth of less than 25 feet. I like fishing shallower water because fish I catch are less traumatized than fish caught in deeper and that makes releasing fish easier. Releasing fish would be especially important today because the lake I selected was reported to have high numbers of low quality fish.
On this particular day, I was hungry for some fish to eat, so I executed a back-handed, double reverse, polar opposite strategy. Instead of pouring through report after report, searching for a lake with modest numbers of “big fish”, I decided to purposely avoid searching for quality and select one that’s known for high densities of smaller fish.
When I arrived, there wasn’t anybody on the lake, but there were a few sets of tire tracks leading onto the ice from the landing. I drove out a short distance, drilled a hole and found 16 inches of solid ice. There was about 2 inches of snow on the surface and a calm wind; I couldn’t imagine better conditions for experimenting.
I looked at the chart and selected a small inside turn located along the breakline adjacent to the lakes deepest water. I drove to that spot, drilled a hole and dropped the transducer into the water. The water depth was 23 feet and the screen of my Humminbird lit up like a Christmas tree with a band of fish ranging between 16 and 21 feet. I dropped in my Tungsten Fat Boy tipped with a couple of wax worms and watched several fish rushing up to greet the lure. Within seconds I hooked a small Crappie, then another and another. The action was fast and furious, but there wasn’t a keeper in the bunch, not even an 8 incher.
Maybe if I go shallower I can find some Sunfish instead; I thought. So I looked at the chart again, drove away from the deepest water and stopped my truck over the flat, but still near the deep hole. I drilled a line of 6 or 7 holes and started testing them one by one.
The results were different, but so far they weren’t much better, I caught a few more small Crappies and now Perch showed up in the mix as well. Like the Crappies, the perch were well below average and at this rate, it appeared that I’d be going home with nothing but could fingers and a runny nose.
But I wasn’t going to leave until leave until I tried one more trick. I decided to rig up a ¼ ounce Quiver Spoon and then gob on as many grubs as it would hold. I figured that the big spoon would scare away the small fish and if there were some larger fish nearby, maybe they’d be hungry enough to attack; it’s nice when a plan works.
The next 4 fish I caught were keeper size Crappies, not monsters but solid 10 to 11 inch fish, definitely good enough for dinner. Those 4 fish were the only ones that I pulled out of that hole, but once I started hole-hopping, I picked up a few more decent fish.
Now that I had some fish for dinner, I decided to test my theory and switched back to using smaller lures. No sooner than I dropped the lure in the water, I was rushed by another pack of little fish. My theory appeared to be correct; the large Quiver Spoon did seem to scare away the small fish, allowing the larger, more cautious ones time to focus on gathering their meal.
For my purposes, the trip was a success; I got some fish for a meal and learned some new territory too. Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t try going to a lake like this one for filming a TV show or fishing with a big fish connoisseur. On the other hand, it would be perfect for somebody who likes action and wants to get a family fish fry.
Luckily, I know some people like that and I’ll probably visit that lake again sometime. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) Last week Kevin Scott emailed; "Hello Jeff ! Hope all is great and you're keeping warm! Say, you mentioned you were gonna be either in a magazine or on TV in January! Can you update me? Thanks!
A) Kevin, sorry for the tardy reply, but it's been a busy year and I had to strain my brain to remember it all myself. Your question is a good one because it helps me deliver an answer to one of the most common questions folks ask me all year long which is; "What do you do during the off-season?"
I think that evidence of what I did with my “free time” is going to be pretty easy to find this year.
Let’s start with TV because the new season of Lindy’s Fish ED TV show begins this weekend. Occasionally, Jon has me tag along as his sidekick and this season I’ll be with him on 3 or 4 shows. I can’t say which segments air on which dates, so you’ll have to watch every week to see which ones I’m in. The shows air on Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Wisconsin, Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Detroit and Wild TV. The air times Fox Sports North - Saturdays at 12:30, Fox Sports Wisconsin - Saturdays at 12:30 p.m., Fox Sports Midwest - Saturdays at 8 a.m., Fox Sports Detroit - Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.; Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and Wild TV - Saturdays at 12:30 p.m.
There’s a promotional video running on Facebook right now, click here to view >> Lindy’s Fish ED TV Season Opener
The current issue (Dec/Jan/Feb 2018) of In-Fisherman magazine includes a feature article, "Less Is More" by Dan Johnson and I along with several of the top ice fishermen from the midwest share insights about panfish presentations. The article is quite extensive and well worth taking time to read.
Another In-Fisherman feature by Matt Straw will appear in the upcoming 2018 Walleye Guide. I'm not sure how many anglers Matt Straw included in the article, but I do know that he's including tips and tricks from me about my "wiggle worming" techniques. The Walleye will hit the newstands soon, but I'm not sure exactly when. Find out the publishing dates by visiting their website >> In-Fisherman Magazine.COM
There are also a bunch of new ice videos out on youtube too. I'll update this page with links to most of them as they become available.
The cold weather may not be a lot of fun, but it has played into the hands of anglers who prefer to access their favorite lakes with vehicles. While it’s true that no ice is completely “safe” ice, the travel conditions on most Itasca Area lakes are very good right now.
On Wednesday, I had a couple of hours to fish, so I headed west, thinking that I would drive to one of the lakes that already had significant vehicle traffic. I stopped at Cohasset and walked into 1000 Lakes Sports to check up on what’s been good lately. After first getting some ribbing about falling behind on fishing reports over the Christmas holidays, I was rewarded with an alternate suggestion.
What made that last minute change of plan possible is the ease of travel. With little snow cover, I’d be able to drive through the access road, get onto the lake and drive straight to a spot. Without a lot of time to work with, knowing that I could get onto the ice easily is what made the plan plausible. Since where I would go or what I would fish for wasn’t really an issue any, I decided to take the advice and go for a ride.
On the lake, there was roughly 5 inches of snow covering 14 inches of solid ice. I drilled a few holes, found a school of fish and since it was cold, set up the hub immediately. That would turn out to be a mistake, but I didn’t know that yet because at first, everything seemed to be coming together fabulously.
The fish I marked were Crappies and they were active, so it only took a few minutes to catch a few. The problem is that they were only about 8 inches long; just big enough to look good on the screen, but not large enough for photos or for a meal.
By switching to the 1/8 ounce gold Quiver Spoon I was able to discourage the small fish from striking. The larger size spoon did allow me to catch a couple of larger Crappies too and now I had a solid game plan. But as soon as I started feeling good about the plan, the fish disappeared from my screen.
So now it’s -9 degrees, almost dark, my heater is sputtering on the last fumes of an empty propane can and the death cloud is beginning to appear on my screen. The next idea I came up with was to drive home and get some warm food.
I know that doesn’t sound like a very high level fishing experience, but if you think about it, it wasn’t bad. In just a couple of hours I drove to a lake, got set up, caught a few fish and made it back home again safely. The takeaway, I hope is how really easy it was to get out on the ice to give it try.
I think we can all agree that the double digits below zero deep freezes haven’t been a lot of fun. But somehow we’ve been surviving and in the meantime travel conditions just keep getting better. The weekend forecast looks promising, we may see temperatures in the teens and that will feel pretty good. After next week, weather forecasters are hinting at the prospect of a real January thaw, possibly including highs near 30 degrees; let’s hope that they’re right.
Lake El Dorado probably isn’t on your top ten list of ice fishing destinations, but my friend Mike Nolan spied a couple ice fishermen on the reservoir near his home in El Dorado Kansas.
Mike messaged me that he’d asked the anglers about ice conditions and they said there was 5 inches under them. Now I’m thinking that they don’t see a lot of ice on Lake El Dorado and that’s why impressed that those two fishermen are so well set up.
It’s one thing to be rigged up for ice fishing in northern Minnesota, but getting geared up for something that you’ll only get to do every few; that’s dedication! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"It happens every winter, just when you think that cold weather shuts down the panfish action, the “January Thaw” sweeps in to deliver another hot bite for Bluegills.
The action won’t last forever, but while the bite is on, it’s a blast! This week on Fish ED, Jon Thelen shows why knowing when to get out on the ice can help you get in on super mid-winter panfish action." View Video >> January Thaw Bluegill Action
Ice conditions are just about as good as they can get in the Itasca Region. Snow cover is minimal and sub-zero temperatures have been making ice fast. Now ranging between 14 and 24 inches, ice thickness has become a concern secondary to the exploration of areas that hold suitable fish populations.
With nearly all of the back country roads and public landings remaining accessible, travel by pickup truck is fast becoming the primary mode of transportation. That said; anglers who prefer travel by snow machine have just enough snow cover to make that enjoyable too and conditions are reasonably good for anglers who’d rather walk into remote lakes.
My experience in the Grand Rapids area is limited to panfish, and the action has been okay, but definitely has its ups and downs. Both Crappie and Sunfish are catchable during low light periods, but daytime fishing has not been easy.
Super cold conditions have added to confusion about where to go and when to be there because we’ve had trouble getting all of our machines started during the wee hours of morning. That’s limited us to focusing on the afternoon bite; waiting for air temperatures to warm before heading onto the ice.
During early winter, the obvious answer to locating a “hot bite” would be to locate fresh territory and taking advantage of untapped fishing areas. The idea sounds good on paper, but when you only have a 2 hour window to work with, knowing whether you’ve found a good lake isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Besides, I’ve spent lots of time researching unfamiliar waters in recent years and what I’ve really learned is that everybody else is researching them too. In fact, over the past few winters it has been extremely rare for me to be the first one to drill fresh holes on any of the lakes that I’ve “discovered”. No matter how much research I do, it’s all but impossible to be the first one to know anything. In fact I would go so far as to say that by the time we read fisheries surveys for most lakes, the information contained within them is already obsolete.
So my attitude is changing, I’m becoming more convinced that the best way to approach ice fishing is to go with the flow. Since everybody knows everything about everyplace anyway, maybe it’s better to form alliances with anglers at large. Share what we know and agree amongst ourselves to be protective about how we use the information.
Think about it, by spending more time on education, doing our best to preserve quality fishing, we could have our fish and eat them too! The idea of spending my time in the pursuit of knowledge about fishing is certainly preferable to spending my time in a race to beat you to the next fishing spot.
So if you see me on the lake, don’t feel threatened; I’m not going to empty out your favorite lake. Sure, I’ll take home a few fish for a meal with the Hippie Chick, but the rest of them will have their pictures taken and then be sent home. That’s my New Year’s promise to you, I’m gonna lead by example.
You wanna give it a try? - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Sub zero temps making great ice. In the Pine Island, Bostic Bay, and Morris Point area there is an average of 18 inches of ice and are letting out most all vehicles and houses. In other areas, ice thickness varies more so it is good to call ahead. Most resorts update Facebook pages as info changes.
Overall for the south shore fish have spread out as is traditional this time of year yet with all the cold temperatures anglers are still managing to pick through different sized fish to find limits of keeper walleyes and saugers. The cold temperatures have made dead sticks the go to fishing tactic. Smaller presentations are working when compared to larger spoons. Gold, glow, and pink are good colors to start with. The bite is good in 15-18 feet during morning and evening while 24-30 feet is producing more in the afternoons. If not fishing in a resort fish house, auger extension could be necessary in spots where ice is layered.
The Rainy River is ice covered with a few local fish houses here and there, but overall, with current of the river, we suggest working through resorts for safety. The majority of the resorts fish the lake.
The NW Angle has good ice conditions where resorts have ice roads / trails and fishing has remained good. Reports of ice depth around the 18-24 inch mark in places where resorts are fishing. Good walleyes in 22-28' with saugers and perch in water deeper than 26'.
Jigging spoons working well in the mornings while dead sticks with a jig and minnow taking over in the afternoons. Resorts are guiding anglers to 14"+ crappies on the Ontario side of lake. Snowmobile trail from Wheeler's Point on south shore to NW Angle is marked." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We continue to have an excellent bite! We are still just off of Pine Island in 24-27 feet of water. The ice has been getting thicker, we have guests with ¾ ton vehicles able to drive themselves to the houses now.
We have been scouting deeper locations and have found the best bite to be in close to Pine Island, we anticipate that to change soon, maybe even this week. We will be ready to move when that happens.
Gold and glow red are the go to colors, with plain hooks working very well also. Having a plain hook on a dead stick can be very effective when using a lively minnow. Put on a couple small split shot weights just above the hook, or get one of our drop shot rigs and let the minnow do the work. Actively jigging a second rod is best when using something which will make some noise and become a good presentation for the suspended fish.
It appears the subzero temps are going to stay around for the week ahead. It is suggested to bring a cord and plug your vehicles in overnight." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"The ice is at 22 inches now and we do have about 3 to 5 inches of snow on it. There are heavier drifts scattered here and there. Fishing action is picking back up again after the super cold weather has passed.
We’ve been seeing some nice northern pike and getting quite a few pan fish. Some of our guests are catching sunfish and crappies along with the perch. The Third River road is open, but it is not plowed during the winter, but there have been enough people traveling on it so it’s packed down pretty good.
On Tuesday, there were also reports of good walleye fishing on Lake Winnie. Mid lake bars and some of the smaller humps are producing good numbers of fish. " - Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. Reservations 218-659-4612
What is barotrauma? Simply stated barotrauma is “injury caused to the body by changing air or water pressure.” In humans we know this as “The Bends”- a dangerous condition that divers experience when they come up too fast from deep water. Believe it or not, something similar happens in fish.
For example: When an angler angles walleye at the bottom of the lake, those walleye are experiencing a certain amount of pressure (air & water). When the angler yanks them up to the surface, that pressure is drastically reduced. This means that their gas filled cavities rapidly expand. This is particularly a problem for fish due to the presence of their ..." Read >> BAROTRAUMA AWARENESS
"There's no question that fishing makes lifelong memories. Whether it's your buddy's tall tale that you never quite believed or the day when your child caught their first fish, this sport brings people together and puts a smile on millions of faces. That's the most special thing about fishing, in our opinion.
As 2017 came to a close, we asked our Facebook followers to share their favorite fishing stories of the year. With nearly 600 entries, we had our work cut out for us! The following stories were our favorites; we feel as if they perfectly encompass what fishing is all about.