image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Grand Rapids Fishing Report July 17, 2016 - Lake Pokegama, Grand Rapids Walleye Shootout

Would you call the Walleye fishing on Pokegama Lake a tough bite? I think you could say so, especially when 52 out of 100 really good Walleye fishing teams wind up with zeros in their weight columns.
Winning the Grand Rapids Walleye Shootout wasn’t easy for Tim Bymark and Chris Marinucci, of Grand Rapids, MN. Win it they did though and with a respectable, albeit lower than average weight of 19.79 pounds. That proves the point that no matter how tough fishing is, there’s always somebody who figures out how to catch them.
While the Walleye fishermen gritted their teeth, hoping for the next bite, we cruised around the lake, checking out conditions and watching the Humminbird for signs of what was happening under the water.
Surface temperatures on the lake ranged between 66 and 69 degrees. That’s probably one of the key reasons that fish in the deep waters of Pokegama haven’t fully reached summertime feeding patterns.
As we scanned the lakes deep water structures, the Humminbird revealed only scattered singles and pairs of fish. Most of them were holding in water depths of 30 feet or more and most of them were suspended well above the bottom. Fishing for these high-hovering Walleyes is tricky; fish that are suspended above the bottom makes it hard for “structure fishermen” to figure out where to place their baits in relation to the bar that they’re fishing over.
The idea that looked best to me, were the competitors who were fishing with slip floats and live baits. It makes a lot of sense to hunt down and single out randomly located fish and if I’d been out there to fish in the tournament, I would have probably approached it that way myself.
Whether or not Bymark and Marinucci used this strategy is unknown to me, but maybe by tomorrow, I can share a few details about their presentation.
Until then, I have to hustle, it’s day 1 of the Daiken Fisharoo and I’m gonna have my hands full! As I mentioned late last week, 10 guides and 30 fishermen are going to generate a lot of fishing news this week, so keep the page open and check back often.

image links to tounament results
Tim Bymark and Chris Marinucci along with other top finishers in the Grand Rapids Walleye Shootout worked hard to win, but win they did.

image of dave hernesman and sean colter
A moment of Glory for Sean Colter who struggled with the Walleye on Pokegama this Saturday. More proof that if you keep after 'em, you're gonna win, at least a little bit.

image of dave and jim carpenter
Dave and Jim Carpenter, 19 place were all smiles when they landed this whopper.

image of bob carlson with big Walleye
Affirmed lunker hunter Bob Carlson, AKA "Mr. C" showing off one of our better efforts. Lindy Rigging a night crawler on a shoreline point at 26 feet produced this dandy.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Grand Rapids Fishing Report June 25, 2016 - Summer Peak Walleye Fishing

Knowing the weather forecast of sunshine and calm seas, I'm not sure that I would have planned the past two days of fishing for myself. But my trips aren't always planned around what I think is best, sometimes folks wanna do what they wanna do. Luckily, the fish do occasionally help out, at least a little bit.
You already know that searching for Mr. Big is a passion of mine and since I’ve been lucky enough to share that passion with lots of people, some of them have been bitten by the “Big Fish Bug” too. That’s why I spent my last two days probing the waters of Grand Rapids’ 2 big fish lakes, Pokegama and Trout.
I want to be clear, neither one of them produced tons of fish, nor were they expected to. But the results of careful searching and methodical presentation did pay off in terms of catching a few of “Mr. Big’s” cousins.
Walleyes in both lakes were holding on deep water points, most of the best spots were connected to the shorelines. The Humminbird revealed fish holding in depths of 18 to 30 feet, there were probably fish deeper than that too, but I don’t even want to know if there are. I set the lower depth range at 30 feet, and focus only on fish that are shallower than that.

There are two reasons for ignoring deep water fish. First, catching fish in water deeper than 30 feet is destructive; there is no such thing as catch and release fishing at these depths. Unless you intend to bag a big fish for your freezer, I’d encourage you to follow my lead and leave the deep water fish alone.
The second reason for targeting fish at the shallow end of the deep water spectrum is that these are the fish most likely to be feeding. A good rule of thumb is that the shallower they are, the more likely they are to be feeding. I always start by working the shallowest fish first, moving deeper as needed.
Lindy rigging with live bait produced all of the Walleyes that we caught on both lakes. Large Creek Chubs and Redtails accounted for a few fish, Leeches accounted for a few more, but night crawlers accounted for the lion’s share of our Walleyes. Pitching jig and minnow combos into the weeds fooled some Northern Pike and slip-floating leeches in the cabbage patches tricked some nice Bass.
I believe that it was our effort to stay out of the “goo” that made the night crawlers better than the rest of the baits. By injecting them with a bubble of air using the worm blower, we were able to make these baits run clean longer than we could with the others.
I could be mistaken, but I think that this mossy stuff is more prevalent this year than it has been in recent times and as usual, I always wind up with more questions than answers. So here’s one that have for you today; “can anybody tell me what is causing the extra heavy buildup of slippery, green, moss-like substance that is clinging to every weed and rock? What is it called and where does it come from?”

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Grand Rapids Fishing Report June 17, 2016 - Cabbage Patch Crappies

Yesterday I wrote; "I'm hoping for a lucky break that will lead me to some Crappies. It's been a couple of weeks since I've entertained any Crappie fishermen, so it could be interesting."
Well, it turned out that for me, stopping into the old reliable “Cabbage Patch” delivered the lucky break that we needed. The Crappies did show up and they did cooperate, but as usual, knowing the answer to one question doesn’t solve much; it just leads to another question.
If I know that the fish are going to show up in one particular weedbed, then take my crew straight to the spot where I know they will show up, then why aren’t the fish already there, why do we have to sit and wait for them, where are they coming from?

image of larry lashley and Tim Fischbach holding big Crappies
Crappies cooperated for Tim Fischbach (left) and Larry Lashley on Thursday. Today, jig and minnow combos suspended below floats was the best presentation.

Crappies are interesting critters, they move around a lot. They travel in and out of shallow water feeding areas and when it comes to catching them, timing is probably 10 times more important than skill. In fact, when fish are present and when they’re biting, skill is the last thing you need, just tie on a jig and minnow, clip on a bobber and throw out it into the weeds; the fish do the rest.
I may not have the timing down perfectly, but I do think that I’m beginning to understand more about how certain key elements must converge before you have the makings of a good, summertime Crappie spot.
It wasn’t until I joined the DNR Panfish Workgroup last year that I learned that these fish move around a lot more than I ever realized before. It’s their nomadic behavior that sometimes makes summertime Crappie fishing a hit or miss proposition. It also helps to explain why anglers can be catching Crappies hand over fist for 45 minutes, only to watch the feeding frenzy stop dead in its tracks.
For Crappie anglers, the trick is to figure out one place where the fish are gonna show up for sure and then be there at the right time.
In the Grand Rapids area, early summer, post spawn Crappies love Cabbage Weeds. But we know that they also love deep water and absolutely know that they love food!
During the fall, Crappies are easy to find and catch in deep water, they are tightly schooled, stacked up and very cooperative. But I believe that during summer, they don’t feed in deep water, I think they use the deep water as a sanctuary and migrate into the weeds when it’s time to put on the feed bag.
If you think about it, the theory makes lots of sense because during summer, most of the food is located in the weeds. The heavy cover provides sanctuary for everything that swims and they produce the Oxygen that all fish need to survive. But if the Crappies stay in the weeds, they become vulnerable especially in Pike infested water. I think that it’s in the Crappies nature to get into the weeds, feed until they’re full and then get the heck out of there before they become the next meal.
Later, I’ll explain why the feeding pattern changes during the fall, but for now, I’m up against the clock and want to give you this important clue. Every good Crappie spot that I know has 3 key ingredients; A large weed flat, an inside corner and a deep water hole. Wherever the 3 elements converge is usually the travel route that the Crappies use to move between feeding and resting areas.
Tomorrow, I’ll get a map or two that illustrate this type of location, but for now, I have to get to work. Do me a favor and check back tomorrow for the rest of this report.


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image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Ice Fishing Report March 15, 2016 - The Contrast Between Changing Seasons

The power of an image amazes me; a single picture of open water could make it appear that spring has sprung. An angler could be tempted to roll the garage door open, hook up the boat and high tail it for the landing.
A photo of an ice fishing shelter set up over a productive Crappie hole could be equally convincing, giving the appearance that the ice season is still going strong. Someone could say "grab your cleats and get the waxworms, we're heading for the ice".
On Monday, I enjoyed a firsthand look at both of those images and the contrast between.
Rivers and streams are opening up fast, outside my back door, waterfowl are whistling over the pond and there's not enough snow on the ground to make a decent snowball. Not far up the road, an early flight of Walleye anglers are already fishing the Rainy River, their news is spreading like wildfire.
Meanwhile, ice fishermen report good Crappie, Sunfish and Perch catches from within the past 48 hours. There are lots of lakes in the Itasca area that still have relatively good ice and continue to provide opportunity for anglers who are cautious enough to avoid the obvious problem areas.
An ice fishing shelter set up over one of my favorite Crappie spots even had me second guessing my own decision to end the ice season. By the time I wrapped my tour, I was considering a re-match with some of those Crappies myself. I thought that with minimal encouragement, I could argue myself into fishing today; until I looked at the weather forecast.
Today there’s a 100% chance of rain, followed by a winter storm warning tomorrow, followed by a return to winter temperatures on Thursday. Yuk, I’m not that mad at the fish!
I never did believe that Mother Nature was gonna let us sail into spring as easily as it appeared. Now that Mother is finally laying her cards on the table, I think the next few days will be a great time to prepare the preparable and organize the organizable.
I'll keep tabs on the ice conditions, because it is possible, albeit unlikely that a really cold, cold snap could trigger a re-birth of ice fishing. I'm guessing though that the inbound rain and snow are liable to be the proverbial final nail in the coffin of the ice fishing season.

image of the deer riverRivers and streams are opening up fast and outside my back door, waterfowl are whistling overhead; spring appears to have sprung.

Meanwhile, just a few miles down the road ...

image of ice fishing shelter on the ice
An ice fishing shelter set up over one of my favorite Crappie spots even had me second guessing my own decision to end the ice season.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Ice Fishing Report March 11, 2016 - Long Walk On A Short Ice Fishing Season?

It's hard to walk away from the ice fishing season when the weather is gorgeous, the fish are biting and there's still plenty of good ice. But duty calls and for me, today is the day that my attention offically turns toward fishing on open water.
Unclear, our target destination was unclear, our target presentation; also unclear. In fact the only thing clear about our fishing trip was the bright blue, sun filled sky.
We followed the usual decision making process, bantering about where we would go and who would be leading whom. We agreed on one thing for sure, we didn’t care where we went, we just wanted to go someplace different.
After setting set a course for a small lake that neither one of us spends much time on during the winter, our drive was interrupted by random conversation.
As we drove past a small lake, hidden by swamps and hills, Danny asked; “have you ever finished the little lake that’s over there? My answer was that I'd love to fish it but I didn't know how to get on it. His reply all there is a little trail that goes through the woods right there.
I'll be darned, 30 years of driving past that little lake, never realizing how to get on it and a single sentence revealed the solution; I'm guessing that by now, You Know where we decided to fish.
The walk into the small, 30 acre lake was soggy. Drainage from melted snow and warm sunshine had loosened the surface, making it feel slushy underfoot. It didn't present us with many problems, but there were some really eerie looking soft spots, mostly small in size, one of them though, was large enough to give an unsuspecting angler a fast plunge into the water. Luckily, we were able to see all of this, making it easy to avoid trouble.
In a very short time, we had walked practically the entire surface of the lake, drilling holes as we walked. One by one, we checked, fished and reported our findings. We discovered Perch, Perch and more Perch; not a keeper in the bunch.
After a couple of hours on the lake, we had no evidence to go on, we'd seen hundreds of fish on our graphs, but the only biters were tiny Perch. We had to decide; would waiting for the possible sunset bite make us feel like heroes, or would another 2 hours of catching 4 inch long Perch make us feel like zeros?
We decided to hoof it and head for another small lake where Danny's had better luck lately. By the time we drove over there, got set up and began fishing, we expected an early evening run of Panfish to start. Instead though, we picked up where we'd left of, now we were catching baby Perch, just like before. There were friends on the lake who advised patience, they said that when the Perch quit, the Panfish will start and eventually they did.
A short, but welcome run of Sunfish and Crappies started at about 6:00 PM and lasted for almost an hour. The water depth was shallow, 10 to 12 feet and the fish were moving in small packs, giving us spurts of action.

image of chunky looking ice
Eerie looking soft spots like this one were scattered around the surface. Most were small, but one was large enough to give an unsuspecting angler a fast plunge into deep water.

image of crumbly ice
Inspection of the ice in one of these soft spots reveled how easily this could have presented problems.

Nobody on the lake kept any fish, but if we had wanted too, I think we all could have gathered enough for a meal.
I happened to be using my old standby, a Frostee Jigging Spoon tipped with waxworms. That produced a 50/50 mix of Sunfish and Crappies. Some of the others were using spoons tipped with minnows and some were using artificial baits, once the fish began moving, they all produced action.
I guess that the bluebird sky probably worked against our earlier exploration and I'm wondering what would have happened if we waited until sunset. At this point, it doesn't matter because I had a delightful day. I spent time with a wonderful young man, under a gorgeous blue sky; we caught some fish and who could ever ask to be that lucky.
I couldn't think of a better way to do a soft close on the hard water fishing season.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Ice Fishing Report February 1, 2016 - Busy Weekend at the "Sunny Hole"

I guess that this was the first weekend of the winter that nice weather combined with the absence of a football game, gave ice anglers a really good excuse to get outside and fish. From my vantage point, it appeared that many of them were rewarded with good fishing to boot.
The Bluegill fishing around the Grand Rapids area has been reliable for a couple of weeks now and I wondered if heavier weekend fishing pressure might be the trigger that could slow the action down. The fish shrugged off the heavy traffic though and remained active despite the commotion.
Sunfish straddling the drop off between deep water and the shoreline break gave my crew more than ample reason to smile.
I prefer to fish in shallow water during the winter, so I haven't been "Poking Around" (pun intended) in deeper water for Crappies. I could see though that other fishermen were and because they keep heading back to the same spots repeatedly, I'm guessing that they are enjoying some success.
For us, an occasional Crappie has been drifting into our territory, but at 14 feet, we have clearly been too far inside of the deep water to get in on the main schools of them.
Sunfish on the other hand have been more than willing to roam the shallower breaks and randomly scattered packs of fish roamed in and out of the area below our portable ice shelter.
Not every school of fish was feeding aggressively. We could predict the behavior of each school as they appeared on the screen of my Humminbird. Inactive fish would rise toward the bait, pause momentarily and then drift back toward the bottom. Active fish roared right up to the bait, stopped first to think it over and then snapped up the bait.
That tendency to pause before striking the bait is one of the irksome habits that Sunfish have. For anglers who don't spend a lot of time ice fishing for Sunfish, it can be confusing. It's hard to wrap your head around the notion that you have to jig the bait to attract fish into your territory, but you have to stop jigging to entice the fish into striking.
One trick that helps is to use heavy baits because the extra weight makes it easier for anglers to hold it steady, without allowing it to drift around too much.
Lindy's largest Tungsten Toad, size #10, tipped with a couple of waxworms helped my inexperienced crew, especially the clear headed ones to catch on to the system. They attracted fish to the baits by twitching the rod tip; you could describe it as flicking the tip. When a fish appeared nearby, I asked them to stop and watch the rod tip. That's because of the other irksome habit that Sunfish have; the ability to inhale the bait and spit it back out before being detected.
The Tungsten Toads help with that too because the heavy weight helps tighten the line above the jig. Detecting the strike by sight is actually easier than trying to do it by feel. As soon as they saw the slightest movement on the rod tip, they set the hook.
If I'd been ice fishing for the first time ever and came home with a feast of Bluegills, then I'd feel like I had a darn nice entry into the world of ice fishing. I'm pretty sure that's how my crew felt, especially after making it back to high ground without getting wet. It's always nice to have good luck and we did and I'm glad!

image of steph torgeson holding sunfish
Steph Torgeson shows off her first ice fishing catch, a solid Bluegill.

imaage of Sunfish on Humminbird screen
Randomly scattered, small packs of Sunfish roamed in and out of the shallower breaks in about 14 feet of water.

image of joelle bellamyu holding nice bluegill
First time ice angler Jo Bellamy; captured during a post battle discussion with her quarry.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin 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 towing snowmobiles and/or ATV's just in case we show up at a lake that isn't accessible by vehicle.
You've probably already seen the advisory about Bowstring; deeper snow has caused problems for the ice on that lake and although you will see folks driving out there, it's risky; exercise extreme caution.
On Saturday, we also noticed areas of moving water that had re-opened after having been apparently frozen solid.
I keep reminding myself about how high the water levels were this fall and early winter. I suppose that we need to consider this and make the assumption that there's more current than usual in those areas.  There are likely to be numerous areas where river current could transform ice into open water over the course of any single day. So take extra care on lakes fed by rivers and larger creeks, avoid narrows and necked down areas too.
Fishing action is typical of mid-winter now. Some of the anglers on some of the spots are doing very well. Some areas on the popular lakes have been pressured heavily though and on Saturday we saw lots of people moving and drilling in search of fresh territory.
For me, the solution was to fold my cards on the first lake and move to a different lake. After spending a slow morning, listening to the steady purr of other people’s augers, we re-grouped and made a move.
At the second lake, Panfish, primarily Bluegills with a secondary mix of Crappies were much more cooperative. In fact, this was one of those afternoons when catching fish that didn’t take all that much skill. They were on the move and whenever they appeared on the screen, they struck.
That made presentation easier too and I was able to concentrate on aggressive baits that have a lot of attracting power. I used a small Perch Talker, Pink/Glow color and tipped the treble hook with several waxworms. I think the extra noise that the Perch Talker puts out helped call extra fish into the area.
We’ll be back on the ice this morning, this time in hot pursuit of a good Perch bite; we hope.

image links to bluegill fishing report
When Panfish are moving and active, use aggressive baits that have a lot of attracting power. I used a small Perch Talker, Pink/Glow color and tipped the treble hook with several waxworms.

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