Fishrapper Fishing Reports From Greg Clusiau

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (December 29, 2015) - Ice Fishing Report

We’ve made it through another year and it’s hard to believe that it will be January this coming weekend.
Mother Nature has really been playing some nasty tricks on us as of late. Who would have thought that many smaller lakes are still somewhat dangerous to fish on? Well, they are, so still use extreme caution when venturing out onto the lakes.
We’ve been ice fishing from Upper Red Lake to local lakes in Itasca county, finding varying ice thickness and conditions. While some lakes have frozen up very nicely, there are others that have thinner ice, along with a generous helping of slush.
The slushy areas aren’t necessarily deep but whenever you near one of these spots be on high alert for thinner ice. Such was the case with our third lake of the day last Sunday. While one area had firm, good ice for traveling, another featured a lot of slush with what looked like an open hole.
A planned trip to Lake of the Woods last Saturday was aborted by making a stop at Upper Red Lake instead. It was just that “gut feeling”, as Lake of the Woods was just getting going and Upper Red was well established, sort of.
You still have to use caution on Red Lake, as the big body of water is still unsteady, making ice conditions uncertain. You may go out with a wheeler and come back to find an open crack so be sure to talk to the resorts before heading out. They watch ice conditions like a hawk and will give you the best advice possible. There were even a few trucks out there last Saturday.
Friends that did go up to Lake of the Woods last Saturday walked out from Graceton Beach and found slow fishing. Red Lake was pretty much the same on this day, from those I talked to, and offered slow fishing as well. However, put your time in and you can come home with a nice limit of fish.
An ice report from Monday morning stated Four Mile Bay had 5-6” of ice and the big lake 8-12”. By the time this article comes out, it should be going like gangbusters up there but again, check with the resorts for an accurate, up-to-date report on ice conditions as well as the fishing.
Recent conditions may have avid trout fishermen wondering about their favorite lakes, when the winter season opens up on January 16. Larger trout lakes generally have plenty of deep water and this is a reason of concern if you plan on going out on opening day, as the ice just may be plenty thin. That’s fine if you’re walking and testing ice as you go but I’d be more than cautious using a wheeler or snowmobile. However, the smaller, stocked stream trout lakes should be locked up pretty good by then The winter trout season gets underway in the BWCA this weekend and I would imagine ice conditions will vary according to the lake you plan on fishing. Good luck and be careful.
Lakewood Lodges and Fish House Rentals on Leech Lake reported (12-28-15) “the south end of Leech Lake was busy making ice the last week. We now have rentals out on the south end of the lake near Pipe Island and Olson’s Reef. Currently, the ice is a consistent 7-9 inches to north end of Pipe Island. We have plowed a road with atvs out of Trappers Landing to the north, and are allowing atv traffic and small wheel houses at this time. We will check ice conditions further out early this week but right now we are only allowing traffic to the end of the road. As always, we will keep you posted as we make progress!
Wheelers and sleds are making their presence known on Big Bowstring as well as Big Winnie. I’d have to think the only problem would be occasional slush pockets but for more information, contact Geiger’s Trails End Resort on Bowstring and High Banks Resort on Big Winnie.
Good luck, be safe, have fun, and Happy New Year!

image of ice fisherman holding walleye
Upper Red Lake continues to produce fair action for Walleye fishermen.

image of crack in ice at red lake
You still have to use caution on Red Lake, as the big body of water is still unsteady, making ice conditions uncertain.

image of fisherman with walleye on red lake

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (December 22, 2015) - Red Lake Walleye Action Improves

"Another trip to Upper Red Lake had us going home with a limit of nice walleye, which was significantly much better than my first outing there. The first trip resulted in only two fish topside for Justin Bailey and I, with him catching a plump 16” walleye and me a 40” northern pike. It was the only two fish caught during that murky water first-to-get-out-and-fish adventure.
Plans were made for another trip but that’s when all hell broke loose with ice conditions. Warmer weather had things turning around, making the ice soft and dangerous, and a few large, open cracks took place, stranding anglers on the ice to the point where a small rescue mission had to be done using a shuttle boat.
A week or two later, when ice was looking much better, anglers were enjoying themselves on the lake when the ice broke loose, causing them to go adrift. Once again, a rescue had to be made for several dozen stranded ice fishermen.
We let things subside for a few days and then ventured north for another try at Upper Red Lake walleye. It was windy, blowing into the east side, which gave us some comfort that the ice should stay in place. At least we wouldn’t be blown out to sea. It was also cold, which made it tough for taking photos. Fingers froze in minutes.
Going out of Beacon Harbor, in the northeast corner of the lake, we used snowmobiles and wheelers to reach our destination, about a mile out.
Talking it over with John, from Beacon Harbor, he went over things on a big map inside the office. He showed us where people were fishing and where not to go, as there were a few cracks here and there so venturing around the lake was definitely not an option. We were sticking close to home. There was also a lot of open water several miles out.
Following a trail marked with stakes, we made out to mile marker number one and set up. Things were looking pretty good, as we were sitting in 9’ of water and had a solid 8” of ice below us.
We used Northland Tackle’s new “Buck-Shot Flutter Spoons”, tipped with a minnow head. It features an S-Curve profile and high-pitched glass rattle, along with those great looking colors. Northland has themselves another winner here. But of course, wouldn’t you know it, a northern pike ate mine almost immediately.
Justin had the hot hand, catching several fish, clearly out-fishing me. However, I captured big fish honors with a northern pike approaching 40”. That’s two big pike in my first two trips there so far. The lake has plenty of trophy northern pike in it and it’s always a blast to get one on the end of your line.
Special regulations contribute highly to the big pike population. The daily bag limit, for those wishing to keep any, is three fish but all fish from 26” to 44” must be released. It’s no wonder Upper Red Lake is crawling with those monsters. That’s a great plan.
As far as walleye go, the daily bag limit is three fish with not more than one over 17”. For some, that might be a skimpy limit and keep them from fishing the walleye rich waters of Red Lake but for me it’s perfect. Bringing home three fat walleye for Marilyn and I is way more than enough. Besides, who doesn’t like to catch and release a bunch of fish in a day.
Our last trip there had fish biting but it wasn’t fast and furious by any means, except for the hot-handed Bailey. Lately though, things have really picked up and the bite is definitely on. You owe it to yourself to give it a try over Christmas vacation. It should be perfect.
For more information, contact John or Ann Westphall of Beacon Harbor Resort at (218) 647-8291 or go to their Facebook page Beacon Harbor Resort." - Good luck, stay safe, have fun, and Merry Christmas to all!

image of red lake ice fishermen with lots of Walleyes
"Upper Red Lake had us going home with a limit of nice walleye, an improvement from the first trip."

image of Greg Clusiau with bik Pike
Clusiau captured big fish honors with a northern pike approaching 40.

image of portable ice shelters on Red Lake

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (December 15, 2015) - Turned On To Tuned Up ...

Turned on to Tuned Up…It was about a month ago, when a last minute phone call from my son-in-law had me putting on the brakes. I was off and running, solo as usual, to another fall crappie lake and he wanted to join in on the fun. Nearing Cohasset, I could think of no better place to wait for him than Thousand Lake Sporting Goods.
Strolling around the store and with ice fishing just around the corner, a full rack of cool looking ice rods caught my eye. Checking out the selection, without even touching them, I knew right then and there I would be using those rods this winter. There was just something about them and I had that “gut feeling” that these were the best in the business. I was right.
Inspecting various models, mainly the panfish and walleye selections, it was obvious that Tuned Up Custom Rods would a key ingredient of my winter fishing arsenal.
My first chance to actually fish with a few of these high-end ice rods came a few weeks ago on an outing with TUCR pro staffer Justin Bailey. He had a nice assortment along and offered me the “Bull Whip” to try, which turned out to be the perfect rod for yanking nice crappie to the surface. I was right.
Since then, I am happy to say I am the proud owner of my first two TUCR rods, a “Quick Tip” and “Precision Noodle”, both being 32” and sensitive as all get out. They’ll be perfect for those light-biting sunfish, crappie, and perch if we ever get any decent ice.
Next on the list is the “Bull Whip” and then I’ll move into the walleye and lake trout categories.
Holding one of these rods, you almost have to look in your hand to see if it’s even there because they’re so light but don’t let that fool you, as they are strong as well.
Putting a good reel on these rods was a no-brainer for me, as I have been using Pflueger reels for years and the 6920X President (smallest available) would match up perfectly. Weighing in at 5.9 ounces, it too is lightweight and works very well with 2, 4, and 6 # test lines.
If you think about it, the lighter the rod/reel in your hand, the more sensitive it will be. That, in turn, allows you to feel many bites that you would otherwise not notice, which equals more fish on the ice.
Spooling up, I put 2# test Northland Tackle “Fluorosilk” on the PN (Precision Noodle) because of its super-sensitive tip and my plans to use it often as a dead stick and 3# test on the QT (Quick Tip).
Tiny tungsten jigs were tied onto the business end, with hooks large enough to use plastics, waxworms, or maggots. Trending are tungsten jigs and why not? They are small enough to encourage fish to bite no matter their disposition, come in a wide variety of colors, and are heavy for their size.
The weight of the jig makes it easy to get down to a hungry school of fish before they decide to leave and is also quite beneficial when dropping through a hole full of slush, like Justin and I encountered.
All we need now is solid and safe ice. Even though this current weather pattern seems so out of the ordinary, I can remember not too many years ago when boats were fishing on Swan Lake throughout most of the month of December.
There were a few boats on Trout Lake last weekend and I heard of poor results. Never-the-less, it’s always fun to get out there when you normally can’t.
Walleye are being caught on Upper Red Lake, going out of the east side (West Wind, Hillmans, etc.) but I heard the ice was getting “soft”. I have plans to get back up there to give it a go but am not pushing it like I used to.
Be safe my friends, have fun, and good luck!

image of Ryan Berzins with huge Crappies
Ryan Berzins displays some beautiful first ice slab Crappies.

image of Cody Pihlaja with a nice slab Crappie
Cody Pihlaja with a nice slab. While most lakes are wide open or skimmed over, there are a few small hidden gems that offer fishable ice and fish like this.

image of crappie on thin ice

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (December 8, 2015) - Waiting Out The Ice

Mother Nature is nothing but a big tease, when dealing with first ice fishing. I managed to get out three times so far and in all honesty the ice was good, hovering around the 5” thick range. My last day was when it was raining with a bunch of wet snow added to the equation. That made for a real mess and had me temporarily putting my ice gear aside until things get better, as the ice started heading in the other direction.
Not fishing, it was a whole lot easier to visit the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show, which I did last Friday. It’s always nice to go down to visit many of my ice fishing friends and to look over some of the latest and greatest products to hit the ice scene.
One of the booths lured me in like a magnet, with all of its small panfish plastics, and that’s just what it was called, “Panfish Plastics”. Although a wide variety of sizes and color to pick from, I opted to get five different colors of the “Chigger Fry”, which features four small legs and a longer, sensitive tail, perfect for fussy bluegill, crappie, and perch. They’re also scented. Stick on the end of a small tungsten jig and you’re in business. For more information, go to
A stop at Clam Headquarters had famed lure designer John Crane showing me new lures for this season and the one that took top honors, in my book, was the “Rattlin’ Blade Spoon.” I just love fishing spoons and can’t wait to get these out on Upper Red Lake, as the walleye are going to eat the up.
Declared the loudest lure you can drop through a ho
le, the combination of stainless steel bearings, clicking and clacking against a Pyrex-glass housing, will bring fish in from quite a distance. The super-hot glow colors don’t hurt either. Tip with a minnow head and hang on!
Offered in four sizes ranging from 1/16 oz. to 3/8 oz. they’re perfect for most anything that swims. For more information, go to
Northand Fishing Tackle proudly boasts of their new jigging spoon, the “Tungsten Sliver Spoon”, and rightly so. I caught a few crappie on this hot little lure during my fall fishing frenzy. It features the properties of slim profile heavy weight tungsten, which makes for ultra-fast drops, getting the lure down to the fish in a hurry. The “kicker” tail fin and holographic finish adds to its fish catching properties.

image of Grant Prokop on the ice
Grant Prokop, Thousand Lakes Sporting Goods, Cohasset, found time to get out for some early ice crappie.

image of Justin Bailey ice fishing
Fishing guide Justin Bailey, Keewatin, convincing fussy crappie into biting during a first-ice outing.

This will be another great one to start the season out with for Upper Red lake walleye or any panfish swimming in your favorite waters. This will be yet another proven winner. For more info, go to
The “Tuned Up Custom Rods” booth was on fire and practically sold out of their high-tech ice rods. Who let the cat out of the bag? These are the absolute best ice rods I’ve ever seen and I’m looking forward to working with TUCR this winter and will have more on them coming up in the near future. Check them out at
A trip upstairs had me bumping into old friend Daris Rosebear of Red Lake Outdoors. Offering ice trips on the Lower Red Lake trout waters, I made a trip with him several years ago and what fun it was. Wow. Can’t wait to get back there again. You absolutely owe it to yourself to line up a trip with him. For more info go to
Another familiar face was famed radio personality Curt Quesnell of KTRF radio (Thief River Falls). Curt spends most of the winter on the big waters of Lake of the Woods. He was in the HardWaterMarine booth, which was featuring the lastest and greatest hard sided, portable fishing shelter. This looks to be a proven winner. For more info go to
What about Vexilar? Well, for a one-on-one chat, regarding this top-of-the-line fishing flasher, stop by the L&M store Friday in Virginia. Justin Bailey and I will be on hand to give you our thoughts, from 3-7 pm. On Saturday we’ll be at the Cloquet store from 10-3 pm.
For the most recent, up-to-date reports on local ice conditions, along with fishing reports, go to my Facebook page at Greg Clusiau. Tight lines my friends, fish smart, have fun, and more importantly, be safe!

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (December 1, 2015) - Safety First For Early Ice

Through a little detective work, along with a few phone calls, we managed to find a couple lakes that offered ice good enough for safe walking, even though ice is never totally safe. However, going by the Minnesota DNR general ice thickness guidelines, 4” is considered safe for walking and that’s just what we did. Actually, the ice we found was measuring 5” or more, which is sufficient for ATVs and snowmobiles.
It takes a little searching. While a tiny, hidden gem may offer good walking ice, most nearby waters may be completely wide open or have a fresh skim layer, measuring only ¼”. Finding the right lake takes a little homework. Having fished on these waters for a half-century and guiding on ice for over twenty years, I’ve found a definite pattern relating to the freezing order of things and they pretty much hold true from year to year. Lake X usually freezes before Lake Y and so on.
Usually, it’s the smallest and shallowest bodies of water that become ice-capped first, with shallow taking precedence over small. Find a lake with both characteristics and it “should” be locked up but if the little lake has any current, it may be quite dangerous. Each lake is different and should be treated as such.
There are many factors to consider. If it’s been cold and reasonably calm with no snow during the ice making period, which we’ve had, lakes tend to freeze up very nicely. However, throw in some high winds when the middle of the lake is still wide open and you end up with some pretty sketchy conditions. Fortunately, most of the lakes we fish during first ice are small enough not to be affected by winds.
Snow is another matter, as it will really put a damper on the ice fishing, especially if totaling any accumulation right after freeze up. The insulating factor can keep ice a thinner than normal layer and this is where it can be more dangerous than normal. Extreme caution should be used during this period.
Snow can also help in the ice making process and that is when it falls into open waters, cooling it down a little faster than normal.
We’ve been fairly lucky so far, up here in the North Country, and things are shaping up pretty good.
The lakes we fished last weekend were already “tested” by fishermen from that immediate area so we knew going in just what to expect. That always helps.
When checking out a lake for the first time, I use an ice chisel or spud bar to make a hole close to shore. This will tell you a lot. Be aware, however, as most lakes have ice getting thinner the farther you walk out. Remember, the shoreline freezes first and the mid-lake areas last.
Once shore ice is determined to be safe to walk on, at least 4”, proceed with caution. I continue to use the chisel and thrust it down in front of me, very hard, with each and every step. The chisel is probably the most important tool for testing first ice. I’ve also used a 6” hand auger and measure the ice from time-to-time, making sure of its consistency. Under 4”, get off immediately and give it a few more days.
Much like the first time you take the boat out each spring, there is a learning curve somewhat comparable to walking and fishing on first ice. Things are forgotten from last winter and I have to sometimes be “retrained.”
First off, I forgot that my boots leaked. After pulling an auger up out of the first hole drilled, I had the “wet sock feeling.” My insulated rubber boots were weather-checked to the point of being totally useless. I hate when that happens! So there I was, trying to fish with my foot hanging over the heater, trying to dry out.
I also learned that I had forgotten my ice scoop. That was borrowed from Justin Bailey, who had two of them, along with a bunch of panfish plastics. I forgot them too.
A reminder that the 23rd Annual St. Paul Fishing & Winter Sports Show gets underway this weekend, Friday through Sunday, at the Xcel Energy Center. You may want to check it out. It’s a great time to do a little Christmas shopping.
Give the lakes time to freeze and please use common sense when approaching first ice fishing. Follow my up-to-date reports on Facebook. Let me do the work!

image of Blake Liend on early ice

image of Blake Liend with safety gear for ice fishing

image of safety tools for first ice

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (November 24, 2015)

I found it to be sort of an unusual deer season this year. For one thing, it seemed most hunters didn’t see a whole lot of deer but there were still quite a few big bucks taken. At last count, late in the season, Joel, my brother, had only seen seven deer and for him that’s pretty darn slow as he hunts hard and puts in a lot of time.
As for me, I only saw two but only gave it a half-hearted effort, not hunting very hard at all. I declare myself an average hunter, dedicating only two weeks out of the year towards Minnesota whitetail hunting. Fishing usually takes top priority, in some manner, for the other fifty weeks.
You can’t expect great results when not doing any pre-season scouting, checking trail cameras, etc.
I did, however, find a good looking spot that may reveal a big buck for next season but it’s up to me to take a few days away from fall fishing to go out there and clear some shooting lanes and put up my ladder stand. Will it happen? Although I have the best of intentions, that remains to be seen.
The two I did see were running together and spooked when I lifted my head up from monkeying with my cell phone. Yes, I was busted.
I was studying the Navionics satellite image map of my surroundings and took a photo of it for future reference, for next year’s hunt. Looking up, a big doe and I made eye contact. Snorting a short message to the big deer behind her, off they went, spooked. I couldn’t tell if it was a buck or not because of the heavy brush but it more-than-likely was. Next year will be different, as I’ll be sitting in my portable, next to this large, swampy, big buck holding area.
Brother Joel and I spent a half-day helping out a friend trying to locate a big buck that he had shot a day prior. Our first attempt had us both getting our feet wet, walking in bog water that went over our boots.
Regrouping, we drove back to Keewatin for a change of footwear. Joel sported dry socks and rubber knee-boots, while I changed everything from the waist down and headed back into the bog wearing hip waders. Yes, it was that bad out there. There were several times when I was in water over my knees. Definitely not fun.
The searching wasn’t that bad, once we finally found high ground again. It was the ½ mile walk through a cranberry bog that slowed us down. Walking abreast of one another, a grid search was done, over and over, with no results. It was a true test of this old-timers physical abilities. Needless-to-say, I was more than a little stiff and sore the next morning but off I went anyway, in search of a careless whitetail.
Then we had the constant two day rains. It was at this time that I had the brilliant idea to abandon deer hunting and head back up across the border for some Ontario duck hunting. Again, it was the curse of having a cell phone along.
Jeremy Taschuk of Ft. Frances was enjoying a good morning of duck hunting on Rainy Lake and sent me a photo of some large northern “greenheads”. He went on to say he was back at the cabin and was going back out around two o’clock.
I messaged him back saying “wait for me, I’ll be right there.” Now that might sound kind of funny because it’s at least a three hour drive but there I was, pulling into the cabin yard at 1:30 pm.
The rain continued but we headed back into the bay with high hopes. After sitting in a downpour for nearly three hours and bagging only one bird, we called it quits and headed back for a change of clothes and a hot supper.

image of Jeremy Taschuk and his dog Gemma
Jemery Taschuk and Gemma heading back out for another crack at late fall waterfowl.

image of Dave Genz at ice show
The legendary Dave Genz talks with show goers at the Hard Water Ice Fishing Expo in Blaine last weekend.

The next morning looked much the same, maybe even worse. Never-the-less, we headed back into the monsoon with hopes of a better shoot. Sitting for close to four hours, we realized it just wasn’t going to happen. All we did was get wet. I thought ducks liked wet weather?
A few more half-days of deer hunting had me ready to throw in the towel and that’s just what I did, attending the Hard Water Ice Fishing Expo in Blaine last Sunday.
I told fellow ice anglers at the show, if deer hunting was that important to me, I’d be in the woods on this last day.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (November 15, 2015) - “Memories of the 2015 Deer Hunt”

image of dave and andy arolas with bucks image of Steve Picht with giant buck image of Erin Duckett with nice buck deer
image of Brian Brosdahl with big buck image of mason graves with nice buck image of Mark Marinaro with big deer buck

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (November 5, 2015) - “Last Fishing Trip Of The Season”

It’s been a great fall for fishing and I had mixed feelings when putting the boat away for the winter, which occurred on a most beautiful day this month, November 4. Yes, there’s plenty of open water boat-time left but the deer season is now upon us and I’m relegated to spending a fair amount of time in the deer stand, hoping for a crack at that big buck.
Actually, I’ve spent so much time in that old Lund that I’m tired right out and looking for something different. I need a break, as do the fish. I’ll bet you never thought you’d hear that kind of talk. J
I’ll be staying up at the A-Frame “deer shack” on Little Bear Lake, with my brother Bruce and some of the younger hunting kin. It’s always a fun time getting together with friends and family during this time but this year will be extra-special in a sense and that is due to last summer’s untimely passing of annual deer hunting partner Richard Riipinen.
Richard, better known as “Griz” or “Rip” was a wondrous camp cook and could create some of the best meals I’ve ever seen or eaten.
Many years ago, when Terry Wickstrom and I used to host the “Minnesota Masters of Ice Fishing” events, somewhere in the backwoods of Itasca County, I used to hire Rip to cook for us when we stayed at the A-Frame. It was so nice to know that the cabin would be warm and a gourmet meal awaited us upon returning back to the cabin, cold and hungry.
One time, when we ran out of propane, Rip did all the cooking on the cabin’s main heat source, an old barrel stove. I was duly impressed with the hors d’oeuvres, main course, and peach cobbler for dessert. And all done on top of a barrel stove. I’ll never forget. I also won’t forget Rip. This one’s for you buddy.
How many enjoyed last week’s article, written by Kelli Patrick? When I first read it through, I had tears in my eyes by the time I was done. How powerful.
A little more on my friend Kelli is that she now resides in Grand Rapids, formerly of Brainerd, and she ties up those little panfish-catching hair jigs. I’ve used them with great results, summer and winter. I should mention that during the hard water season they really excel and seem to catch fish when nothing else does. For more info on Kelli and her ice fishing jigs, go to her Facebook page The Upland Huntress.

image of Terry with big Crappie
Wildlife artist Terry Maciej recently enjoyed great fall crappie fishing.

image of Rip and Bruce with two nice buck deer
A throwback deer hunting photo of Rip Riipinen and Bruce Clusiau with a couple of nice bucks.

My last fishing trip of the season was a great one, as I was honored to take out famed wildlife artist Terry Maciej. Terry was my art teacher, way back when, at the Nashwauk-Keewatin high school. I graduated in 1966 and the next year Terry was teaching in Hibbing. I guess he figured that as long as Greg isn’t there anymore I might as well go elsewhere. Yeah, right.
Terry has since retired from the Hibbing high school and went on to own and operate Maciej Art & Frame. He’s winding things down now and plans on doing a lot more fishing and hunting and that’s good news for me as he is such fun to be with on the water. What a guy. What a talented guy.
Of course, I had to put him in his place when in the boat, teaching him all the latest and greatest tactics and innovations. He picked up on things quickly and I really hate to say it but think he just may have out-fished me. Is that even possible?
Fishing for suspended crappie, you had to be precise in presenting your bait to this fish. Maciej used my ice fishing machine, a Vexilar FLX-28, and dropped his jig into the hungry school and did exceptionally well. It’s fun being the teacher some days.
A few dates you may want to remember or pencil in:
November 20-22, Hardwater Ice Expo at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
December 4-6, St Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show held at RiverCentre December 11, L&M in Bemidji (Matt Breuer) and Virginia (Greg Clusiau) for Vexilar, 3-7 pm December 12, L&M in Grand Rapids (Steve Mattson) and Cloquet (Greg Clusiau) for Vexilar, 10-3 pm
Good luck to all of the whitetail chasers out there. Be safe and have fun!

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (October 27, 2015) - “Hanger Rig Goes Deep”

Oh oh, deer season is right around the corner and I haven’t done a thing regarding preparation. I haven’t checked my stands, sighted in the rifle, or anything. I just fish too much and who can blame me with the excellent weather we’ve been having. Bundle up for the morning and remove a little clothing as the day progresses. It’s wonderful out on the lakes and the fish are biting too!
I’ve been doing a fair amount of deep water crappie fishing as of late, dropping baits down to the 35-55’ level. It’s great fishing, as the fish are stacked up pretty good and biting very well. However, fishing deep can present a problem if you’re not used to it.
Most anglers don’t fish this deep and if you’re not watching the boat’s graph, you would have no idea just where your lure is. I witnessed this firsthand a couple of times last week.
Running the boat and watching my Humminbird graph, I could see just exactly where my bait was. My partner, on the other hand, dropped down a lot of line and was jigging away in “no man’s land” or maybe we should call it “no fish land”.
I told him “Dave, I can see your bait. You’re at 40’. You have to let out another 15’ of line.” The fish were sticking closer to the bottom on this day and if you didn’t get down far enough, catching fish was almost impossible. Dropping down to the masses, he had one on immediately.
I even found myself there a time or two, when not looking at the graph. It’s very easy to do.
There are a few ways to overcome this slight problem and the obvious way would be to “go heavy”, using bigger jigs and/or sinkers.
An easy method in accomplishing this would be to slip on a ½ ounce egg sinker and then tie on a swivel to keep it in place. Then all that is needed is a short leader, length to your liking, with the lure of your choice. All is accomplished here. The sinker is heavy enough to get down in a hurry and a smaller bait is still being offered. This works well.
Although, there are times when the hook will tangle with the line above the sinker. If you drop it down at a slower pace, there generally isn’t a problem but if you let it free-fall as fast as possible, you may have a tangle and there you sit, wondering why the fish aren’t eating your bait.
I’ve gone this route and it works great but another way to accomplish this feat is to employ the use of a “hanger-rig.”

image of Claire Clusiau with giant Crappie
Claire Clusiau enjoyed a late fall day catching slab crappie with her father Kris and grandpa Greg.

image of Mike and Andy Walsh with big Crappies
Mike and Andy Walsh show off some Crappies from their weekend adventure.

I received a handful of hanger-rigs when guiding Tom Gruenwald and the late Paul Grahl of HT Enterprises on ice many years ago. Designed mainly for ice fishing, they sat in my arsenal untouched until this fall. It was the deep water fish that had me going in this direction.
The hanger-rig is basically a 10” rod with a snap-swivel at each end of it. Tie your main line on one end and a short leader with hook on the other. The key here is to make sure the leader is shorter than 10”. That way it will never tangle, as it won’t be long enough to get twisted around the main line.
Half again heavier than a coat-hanger wire, it drops like a rock, getting down there in a hurry. It’s really easy to see on the graph and shows up as three red marks, almost looking like a small school of fish.
I quickly learned that a super-soft rod tip is necessary when using the hanger-rig, as strikes are hard to detect with too stiff a rod. Once down there, in fish country, all I need to do is watch the rod tip for the slightest movement and sure enough a fish is on there. Add this little trick to your deep water fishing and you’ll be surprised at how well it works.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (October 19, 2015) - “Jig ‘em up”

Trending would be the word best describing one of the latest and greatest presentations used to catch open water fish. Call it a fad if you will. However, vertically jigging crankbaits has taken the fishing world by storm, at least across the Midwest.
While most anglers have the mindset that lures like the “Jiggin’ Rap” or “Puppet Minnow” are designed for winter ice fishing only, aggressive walleye anglers, most of which are tournament fishermen, have been using these hot baits for years and word is finally getting out.
I’d have to say my first serious attempt at using these baits through the ice came nine years ago on Lake Winnipeg, where practically everyone was using a “Live Target”. No live bait. Just snap on one of these baits and get to jigging.
Fishing basically shallow water and watching a Vexilar, you rarely saw the fish come into view. All that was recorded below you was the lure until a hungry, aggressive fish came screeching in for the kill. What fun! I’ve caught 10 pound walleye up there but then again that was through the ice.
Salmo “Chubby Darters” started producing a lot of fish on Lake Winnipeg so naturally I had to stock up on those as well and that’s what I was using, through the ice again, on Lake of the Woods, when I caught the biggest perch of my life.
Gaining confidence in a certain lure or technique is huge. If you don’t have that, it’s very difficult to use, for me anyway.
When Northland Tackle’s “Puppet Minnow” first came out, I was on Crooked Lake north of Nashwauk, again ice fishing. The bite was super-slow and everyone was having trouble in catching even one crappie. After trying all of my super-subtle finesse presentations, I thought I’d give the new lure a try, even though it was considerably larger. To my surprise, crappie jumped all over that bait. More confidence was born.
I never really got into the open-water presentations until this summer and it’s been quite a ride.
Pre-fishing the GRAHA Walleye Shootout on Pokegama had me doing a little jigging. Even though I may not have seen fish on the graph, as long as I had baitfish below me I was in good shape, as the fish would come out of nowhere and slam the bait. Many were missed and all I’d feel was the tell-tale “bump” of an aggressive fish. This technique has been good on Vermilion, Rainy Lake, and all other prime walleye factories.
I’ve been using the smallest size “Puppet Minnows” for crappie as of late and what fun it is. Even a few jumbo perch and bluegills have joined in on the fun.
While crappie fishing last weekend, Andy Walsh, Travis Sorokie, and I were jigging up some nice crappie when the boat drifted out to deeper water. Using a Vexilar, in winter mode with the transducer cable hanging over the side of the boat, I noticed a couple of fish down deep, right on the bottom.
Dropping down the Puppet and not over-working it, I saw one of the fish slowly rise up to take the bait and the fight was on. It had the feel of a big walleye and was just that. A quick photo and release and it was back to the crappie action, which by the way was phenomenal.
I know I promised a little info on the “hanger rig” but have run out of room and will try to touch on that next week but for now, if you get a chance to wet a line, make sure to give vertically jigged crankbaits a try.

image of Travis Sorokie with big Crappies
Travis Sorokie with a fine pair of fall Crappies caught by vertical jigging.

image of Crappie caught on jigging bait

image of Greg Clusiau with giant Walleye
Greg Clusiau, a believer in jigging baits shows off a nice Walleye that gobbled his Puppet Minnow.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (October 13, 2015) - Fall Patterns, Fall Colors

Fall outdoors is happening big time. Water temps have finally reached the “cooling point” to where most panfish are trickling off in the direction of their winter quarters. Most lakes I’ve been on last week had surface temps reading in the mid-to-high 50º mark and I’m loving it.
I recently tried one of my favorite winter panfish lakes and really didn’t know where to start, if you can believe that. Having tried it before in past years, during the fall, I came up empty-handed, as the fish weren’t relating to the two main deeper basins the lake had to offer.
This time, I would use a different plan of attack and troll small crank baits, as close to the weed line as possible. Using lead core line and a #5 Flicker Shad, I found myself trolling the 18-20’ depths, even though the weed line ended at 10’. The deeper trolling pattern was due to the weed line being too irregular, making it difficult to get in as close as I wanted.
It didn’t matter, as shortly into my first pass a small walleye latched onto the bait. A short while later, I had another strike. The walleye always come to the surface if they are small to medium in size. The big girls usually stay down.
This time, I saw a fish surface well behind the boat and although it appeared to be a walleye, the mouth looked larger and it just didn’t feel right. “Maybe a crappie” I hoped. Feeling heavy, the fish pulled off. Wondering if it could have been a crappie, my question was answered with the next fish, a 10” crappie.
Not many fish were spotted on the graph so my next thought was to abandon the trolling tactic and use the stealth mode of a slowly moved jig and minnow closer to shore. I was a good decision, as I went on to catch a limit of nice crappie, a few more walleye, and a couple of bonus jumbo perch.
Trying my hand at another walleye lake, a buddy calls to give me the panfish update of a lake we had fished a week prior. On this outing, fish were scattered across an 18’ flat, located between the shoreline and a deep hole. They were there and catchable but a finesse presentation had to be used.
On this day however, no fish were present in the mid-lake area, as all had moved on to a deeper wintering hole, which had no fish in it a week earlier. “They’re just stacked” he excitedly went on to say. He also stated that they were biting extremely well and no finesse was needed. So, yes, the fall fish migration is well on its way and things are happening.

image of Crappie caught on crankbait
This time, I would use a different plan of attack and troll small crank baits, as close to the weed line as possible. Using lead core line and a #5 Flicker Shad

image of walleye crappie and perch on fillet tableYes, the fall fish migration is well on its way and things are happening.

Grouse hunting has been happening as well, with some hunters bagging a quick limit of birds while others seem to struggle. Much like fishing, it all pretty much depends on where you are at.
A drive up north last week had a coyote cross the road in front of the truck and for me that’s always something kind of cool, as I haven’t seen all that many of them. Timberwolves? I’ve seen more of those than I could shake a stick at. I’ve always felt a coyote, aka brush wolf, is more wary and cunning than a timber.
How many got out an enjoyed the unseasonable weather of last Sunday? Checking the forecast, I knew it was going to get warm so I headed out to the lake in the morning.
I was surprised at how tough the crappie fishing was but managed to catch and release a bunch of them before heading back home. Actually, it was the 82º weather that chased me off the lake. Dressed in too warm of clothing, I couldn’t take it anymore.
Those ankle biting black flies weighed in heavily on my decision to leave as well. They haven’t bother me all season long and here it was October and they were on the bite, better than the crappie were. How they can get at you through a pair of socks is beyond me.
And more insects! It seems all came to life with the hot weather. Much like the black flies making a sudden appearance, the Lady Bugs were out in full force as well. I didn’t notice anything on the lake but when I opened my truck window a whole army of them had thought they found a new home for the winter. Miserable things.
I’ve been using a couple of different presentations lately for the deep water crappie and will touch on that next week. Just to get you thinking a bit, they are vertically jigged crank baits and “hanger rigs.” Hmm, what is that?
Have fun, be safe, and good luck!


image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (October 6, 2015) - Fall Patterns, Fall Colors

We’re well into October but it sure doesn’t seem like it, other than the fall colors are beginning to show off their brilliance. Take a ride down the Spider Lake Trail or Scenic Highway 38 and enjoy the sights. Wear sunglasses. They make the colors even more spectacular.
As far as fishing, well, it’s happening but not where the fish normally are at this time of the season. Waters temps last weekend still ranged in the 60º range, making me adjust a little in finding those fall crappie.
The lakes I prefer are smaller in size with an obvious depression or two that fish use throughout the winter months. This makes it quite easy in pinpointing panfish but for now I am finding them often located somewhere in between and that makes it hard.
Some anglers are still using the old tried and true summertime method of catching crappie by anchoring up near the weeds around sundown. This means that they are still shallow on many lakes. Odd.
I’ve had the best luck in fishing lakes that don’t have much depth to start with. If they’re not close to the weeds, just head out to the middle and drift along in 16-18’. You’ll find them. I prefer slowly boating around until a school of fish is spotted.
Best techniques have varied but you can’t go wrong by using small hair or feather jigs tipped with a wax worm for sunfish and a small minnow for crappie. Some big fish are being caught right now using this method.
I spent a little time in the Cut Foot area and was surprised at the lack of anglers out there. Evidently the fall walleye migration isn’t going yet. It could be a tad early yet, as past years have had it looking like a “bumper boat” parade. However, last year I was there during late fall and was the only vehicle at the Mosomo public access. How strange is that?
I made a trip to Lake Vermilion a few weeks back in an effort to catching some lead core walleye but they weren’t in their fall pattern yet. However, they are now.
This is always a fun bite. I’ll cruise around until fish are spotted on the graph in 25-35’ of water and then start trolling for them. I’ve had the best luck using smaller crankbaits in the #4, #5, and #7 size and you certainly can’t go wrong with Salmos or Rapalas. Keep switiching colors until you find that hot bait.
If there’s a problem with this bite it’s you will spend about as much travel time on the road as you will in the boat, as a limit of fish can come fairly fast.
Animals are getting into their fall mode and moving about. One has to be on high alert, especially if driving at night. A car/moose collision just recently happened on the highway near Keewatin. I haven’t heard any details but certainly hope the occupants are okay. That’s awful. I can’t imagine running into something like that.
My brother hit a big cow moose many years ago on highway 65, north of Buck Lake. Luckily he had a rack on his truck for construction purposes, as he came out unscathed. The cow wasn’t as fortunate and had to be disposed of. That’s bad enough but it had a calf with it and the poor thing hung around for quite a while before disappearing into the woods.
As a teenager, I encountered a large bull one time. Again, it was on highway 65 and on the Sherry Lake hill. Standing in the middle of the road, it wouldn’t budge.
Thinking I’d scare it out of the way, I hit the horn a few times but stopped as soon as it began pawing the pavement. My passenger was beside himself and scared to death.
It eventually sauntered off the highway and walked into the brush. I wonder what dad would have said if I brought his car home all beat up from an angry moose?

image of dave holmbeck with big Crappies
David Hombeck scored some nice crappies over the weekend.

image of immature Loon with weeds on back

image of fisherman in steamy water

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (September 28, 2015) - Bluebird Duck Opener, Perfect For Fishing

My, what beautiful weather we had last weekend but I think it was a little too nice for the Minnesota waterfowl opener. Fishing however? It was perfect!
I tried to pick waters that had limited duck hunters on them, if any at all, just out of a common sportsman’s courtesy. I’ve been there myself, set up early in the morning and waiting for a few ducks to come by, only to have an angler try his hand at fishing right in front of my spread.
A couple good fall lakes came to mind, when thinking of where to go. Big Sandy and Bowstring were on the list but quickly erased as I remembered the amount of duck hunting pressure they receive. Oh I suppose I could have gone and inadvertently kicked up a few ducks as I boated around but thought better of it. The hunters would have liked it, as high skies kept most birds out of harm’s way.
The first lake I selected had some very nice panfish and a lot of folks know it. Never-the-less, off I went in search of some slab crappie.
Yes, I was right. Eight other boats were already there trying their luck, pounding the best spot on the lake. Watching boats move about, one could tell that the bite was tough and they weren’t catching very many fish. Keeping my distance, I slowly checked over other fish producing areas but came up empty handed, until I switched presentations.
I started out using a small jig and minnow, trying to catch a crappie or ten. That was my goal anyway. When nothing happened, I grabbed another rod, affixed with a small orange jig and added a 1” piece of nightcrawler.
Slowly inching along in 16’ of water, it wasn’t long before I had a strike. Thinking it was a small northern pike, I was pleasantly surprised to see a big bluegill on the end of my line. It measured at 9 ½”, a nice fish anywhere.
A couple more passes had me catching four more fish from 9 to 9 ½”. The big fish were aggressive and biting well but not wanting the rest of the boats to see me, I put things away and left the lake in an effort to “preserve the herd.” They were too vulnerable on this day.
The next day had me trying a different lake for bluegills, big ones. Also a popular spot, there was already a dozen boats giving it their all in search of bluegill and crappie.
Poking around, here and there, I dragged that orange jig and crawler through several fish without getting a bite. Switching to a small jig and minnow had immediate results, as my first fish was a 14” crappie. Here too, like the day before, I thought I might possible have a small northern pike on. Again with the pleasant surprise.
These fish were extremely “speed sensitive”, not wanting anything stationary or moving too fast. I found the best speed to be .1 or .2 MPH. Any faster and nothing. People were struggling. Sometimes all it takes is a little experimenting, something I do all too often at times.
I went on to catch a fairly quick limit of nice crappie and made an early exit, much like the previous day.
It was odd, when comparing the last two days of fishing. On day one, I was in search of crappie and couldn’t catch one but landed on top of a school of big hungry bluegill. Day two was just the opposite, looking for bluegill but settling for crappie.
Similarities were that both lakes had an abundance of fall fishermen trying their hand and fishing was somewhat tough. Although the presentations were switched around from minnow to crawler and vice- versa, boat speed was critical, as both species preferred the bait to be slowly dragged on bottom.
For the bluegill, I used a small orange jig. It’s one of my favorites when it comes to sunfish. I don’t know what it is but orange sure gets them going. As far as crappie, it’s really hard to beat pink and that’s what I used.
Another oddity was that both schools of fish were located in 16’ of water, which is a transition depth at that time of the season. Another couple weeks and they’ll be much deeper.
Good luck in the Great Outdoors and remember a little courtesy for those duck hunters!

image of Greg Clusiau with giant Crappie


image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (September 22, 2015) - Cast "N" Blast Weekend On Rainy Lake

Another “cast & blast” outing is in the books, as last weekend was spent hunting and fishing in Ontario at Camp Taschuk.
Located in a somewhat secluded back bay on famed Rainy Lake, the cabin is situated only minutes away from a sometimes good duck and goose hunting spot. Slab crappie, on the other hand, are located right out in front and are fairly predictable. What’s not to like?

image of Jeremy Taschuk with Black Lab and Greenwing Teal

An evening run to scout out the area had us seeing more than enough waterfowl to get us pumped up for the next morning’s hunt and that’s always a judgement call. Do we set up in our usual spot, Bobcat Point, or do we head deeper into the rice fields?
The point is a proven spot that allows for easy setup and great concealment. Actually, it’s the best spot out there and is named after we pulled up to it last year and saw a big bobcat sitting on the end of it, watching us put out decoys.
Wild rice is plentiful this season, when compared to last year’s sparse crop, and generally, if there’s a lot of rice, there will be a lot of ducks and that was pretty much the case here. It would be up to us to pluck a few of them out of the sky, something often easier said than done.
Stepping outside the cabin, early the next morning to check the weather, I was greeted by a shooting star. Maybe an omen, I thought. The sky was absolutely brilliant and I found myself star gazing. A couple planes passing overhead reminded me I wasn’t all that far from civilization. It just felt that way.
Cloudless skies and warmer weather generally isn’t the best for waterfowl hunting but is forgivable during the early going, as most all are local ducks and geese anyway. Actually, it makes for very comfortable hunting, except for the mosquitos.
Five of us, in two boats, cruised across the water in total darkness, in order to get to the spot and be set up before legal shooting time started at 6:30 AM. It’s quite easy to get turned around a little when finding your way through small bulrush channels with only the aid of a good flashlight but numerous trips into this area for daytime crappie made it a breeze. Even 10 year old Bren Taschuk was seemingly an old hand.
We were perplexed, to say the least, because after a brief flurry of flying activity, everything seemed to quickly settle down into a lull. Even though a fair amount of shots were fired, only a few ducks were taken and it was this lull that has us thinking crappies. How nice to have an afternoon option.

image of crappies on dock

Back on the main bay, we found fish on one of our regular spots and they too were a little reluctant to cooperate. Never-the-less, fish were taken and it was a great way to spend the none-flying part of the day.
Toward evening, we were back at it, tossing out decoys with high hopes. It was a slightly different spot this time with the same results and that’s the way it went throughout the weekend, one duck here and another one there.
Actually, I prefer cooler, if not pushing cold, air temperatures for this trip as the northern flight of large, husky birds will be coming down, huge flocks of ducks and geese that can fly all day long if frigid weather pushes them south.
It’s also better for slab crappie fishing, as these big fish definitely put on the old feedbag when late fall is in full swing. But for now, let’s enjoy these wonderful warmer fall days, as we will be hunting whitetails and walking on hard water before you know it.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (September 15, 2015) - The Not So Great Crappie Chase

Andy Walsh just bought a new boat and invited me to help break it in last weekend. Crappie or walleye, he didn’t care, as long as he was able to put some hours on the new rig and catch a few fish along the way.
Purchased from Ray’s Sport & Marine in Grand Rapids, the boat is a 2025 Lund Impact and has all the bells and whistles. Sporting a full windshield, Humminbird ONIX10 SI graph, 112 pound thrust Minn Kota Ulterra bow mount trolling motor, and 200 HP Mercury outboard, it will be perfect for Walsh’s passion of fishing walleye tournaments.
We argued, good-naturedly of course, of the pros and cons of a “wheel” boat versus a “tiller” operated craft. Andy prefers a steering wheel and full windshield for running rough waters, as most tournaments are held on larger fisheries such as Leech Lake, Pokegama, Mille Lacs, etc. Run to the spot, drop down the Ulterra, and you’re in business.
Also, the windshield comes in very handy when it comes to ducking out of the wind, especially when it’s cold out, raining, or a cross-wind is blowing water at you when scooting across the lake at 50 MPH.
I’ve owned just about everything ever manufactured, wheels and tillers alike, but prefer a tiller boat at this stage of the game. I love the feature of running to a spot, finding fish, and just basically putting the motor in reverse to stay on top of them. It does get a little cold at times but tillers are so “fishable” in my opinion.
Getting back to last weekend, we started out on Pelican Lake near Orr, which is quite famous for its fall crappie bite. Maybe it’s a little too famous as there were over three dozen boats trying their hand at catching a few slab crappie. Fish were being caught but most were somewhat small in size and we caught our fair share, releasing all, before loading up and heading to another, hopefully better, lake.
Located just minutes away, we unloaded into Myrtle Lake and checked it out. Neither one of us had ever fished it before but fall crappie are fairly predictable and can be easily found if you know what to look for. We found fish almost immediately but here again they were running small in size. It was almost an exact repeat of Pelican.
While Saturdays outing had us fishing an hour to the east, Sunday’s game plan would find us traveling an hour west to check out waters in the Big Winnie area. That’s one of the great things about living where we do. There’s such a wonderful selection of lakes and rivers to play on. I sometimes fish as many as four in a day.
Starting out on Sand Lake, another fall favorite, we encountered extremely tough fishing and only gave it an hour before leaving the lake. Others boats were hopping around here and there so it wasn’t just us.
We both wanted to give Big Bowstring a shot, which was basically located just across the road, but strong winds suddenly became the theme of the day and made us change our minds. Sure, the boat was plenty big to withstand “high seas” but the technique of “hovering” over fish is so much easier when it’s a tad calmer. Cut Foot Sioux offered some protection and nice fish if we could find them The Minnesota DNR was on hand at the public access, in an effort to take control of invasive species. Boats are checked and questions asked. It’s basically a learning experience and they are there to teach you how to check for these intrusive trouble makers and keep them at bay. It’s a good program. Coming off the lake, they have a portable wash-down station if needed.
Cut Foot can offer some very good fishing but we couldn’t find it on this day. It was just flat out tough.
We had enough time left in the day to try at least one more lake, maybe two, if needed. This time we would switch gears and go to a little lake that offered a good population of crappie but size was a bit on the small side. However, it didn’t matter at this point, as we just wanted to “get bit.” We had been basically struggling all weekend, fishing four lakes. Maybe lake number five would be good to us.

image of Andy Walsh with nice Crappies
"Crappies were hungry, hanging on the end of almost everything we dropped down to them, but not take the baits far enough to reach the hook".

image of Crappie
"We switched to the smallest offering we had on board, a 1/80 oz. hair jig crafted by Grand Rapids’ Kelli Patrick, and proceeded to catch a fish on most every drop".

image of boat being pressure washed
"In an effort to take control of invasive species, boats are checked and questions asked. They are there to teach you how to check for these intrusive trouble makers".

Once there, it took some time to find the fish but we eventually stumbled across the mother lode. They were hungry, hanging on the end of almost everything we dropped down to them but not take the baits far enough to reach the hook. This usually means they are smallish fish but sometimes the weather has even larger fish in a “funk”, not wanting a real big meal, more-than-likely just wanting hors d’oeuvres.
With that in mind, we switched to the smallest offering we had on board, a 1/80 oz. hair jig crafted by Grand Rapids’ Kelli Patrick, and proceeded to catch a fish on most every drop. Fifty fish later, we were heading home, happy. The boat was broken in and fish were caught.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (September 4, 2015)

I just love going to new water, especially if it qualifies to be listed as a “back-in-the-bush” adventure, which usually employs the use of a small boat and sometimes an atv to get it there.
These trips are generally well thought out, leaving nothing to chance, because once you’re in there, you’re in there, there’s no turning back.
Normally, a good deal of pre-adventure preparation takes place and probably the most important item would be to consider if it’s worth going in the first place. What’s in this body of water? Are they big or is it just a numbers game? Hopefully it’s a combination of the two. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Most Minnesota lakes have a DNR report on them, which can pretty much make up your mind right there. However, if it’s an old report the fishery status could have completely changed. These are the ones that get my attention because lakes have a history of cycling every so many years. What was a poor fishery back then may have gone under the wire undetected long enough to become a shining star of sorts. Much like good lakes going bad, poor lakes can become great again.
Ontario, on the other hand, has so many hard-to-get-to bodies of water that an accurate lake report may be hard to come up with and that’s what makes it so much fun, as it’s a real adventure at times.
Fishing partner Tom Batiuk had one picked out recently and although we had reached it by using snowmobiles in the winter months, getting a boat into it during the open water season was another matter but we made it happen.
We knew the little lake had nice crappie and northern pike, which we caught through the ice last year but what about its smallmouth bass and walleye? We’d find out. We’d also scope out the lake with a Side Imaging 798 Humminbird graph that would be extremely handy in locating a few more ice fishing spots.
You’ve heard of “up the creek without a paddle” before. Well, we were up the creek but had paddles along and were able to use a 4-stroke 10 HP Suzuki outboard, which only hit submerged wood three or four times. We expected that but once on the lake we’d be a lot more careful, as Canadian Shield lakes are full of surprises, some of them unpleasant.
Tom’s old 14’ boat has a lot of character and I’d love to know the entire history of it. A 1947 Richline, fairly deep and roomy enough for two, it had war wounds up and down and all around but was perfect for what we needed. We couldn’t really hurt it much.
Naturally, the crappie spots were checked out right away and yes, they were there, big and hungry, engulfing our offerings with gusto. Tom used a Thumper Jig tipped with a green/orange “Rage Tail” crappie grub while I used one of my all-time fall favorites, a Glow-in-the-Dark Fire-Ball jig tipped with a chartreuse/green Impulse Swim’n Grub. The bright colors work very well, especially when fishing a stained lake with a heavy algae bloom taking place.
It was hard to leave superior crappie action but I reminded Tom the main purpose of the mission and that was to find new spots.
We went on to cast for pike and the first place tried gave up twin 7 pound fish, both coming on Sebile “Swingtail” crankbaits. Several other northern pike were caught by casting and trolling and the average size was nice, in the 5 pound range. We knew there were some big fish cruising the waters, evident by the bite marks on some of our crappies.
Then it was time to catch a few smallmouth bass. Here too, we used the Swingtail cranks and pulled in some very nice bass. Tom pulled in a fat walleye on one of the casts and I’m sure if we had the time we could’ve done very well on them, as we could see them on the graph, sitting on a sharp breakline. Live bait, which we usually never bring along, would have been lights out on those fish. Maybe next time.

image of Tom Batuik with big crappies
"Naturally, the crappie spots were checked out right away and yes, they were there, big and hungry, engulfing our offerings with gusto."

image of greg clusiau with big smallmouth bass
For Smallmouth Bass we used Swingtail cranks and pulled in some very nice ones along with the bonus Walleye that Tom pulled in on one of the casts.

image of big walleye caught by tom batuik

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" (September 1, 2015)

The lead core season is in full swing and I’ve been all across the country enjoying the heck out of this easy, carefree, and highly productive method of fishing. For those that have never tried it, hopefully you’ll learn the basics from this article and give it a whirl yourself.
I first started using lead core when my interest in lake trout peaked some 30 years ago. Not owning any down-rigger equipment, I figured lead core would work the same in getting my presentations down deep enough for the fish to see them, in the 40-50’ range. It did.
Not readily available in local bait or sporting goods shops, I had one of the hardware stores order some for me. Not having any knowledge of using lead core, I didn’t give them any specifics when ordering so when it came in, 27# test, I never gave it another thought. I just spooled it up and went fishing. One thing I did learn in a hurry was how quickly it filled the reel.
Therefore, if you want to get into this game, make sure you have a somewhat large capacity bait casting reel, something that will take a lot of line. Also, you don’t need heavy line like I used at first. Go with 15# test or so.

image of young man witrh walleye caught using lead core line

This is perfect for walleye. Most every sporting goods store carries it now so you have several options. If you’re going after big predators like northern pike and/or musky, you may want to go heavier.
I started out using 27# test Gudebrod and have used #15 Mason with great results. Nowadays, I find myself using 15# Sufix Performance Lead Core and while most all other lead core lines sink at a rate of 5’ per 10 yards let out, Sufix makes 832 Advanced, which sinks at an even better rate of 7-8’ per 10 yards.
When spooling up lead core, you’ll want to use some backing on the reel first. A heavier monofilament line works well.
Connecting the lines together, there is a myriad of special knots that can be used but me? All I do is tie a simple overhand knot in the lead core and use this slight bulge in the line to tie my backing or leader to, using an improved clinch knot. It’s quick, easy, and I have never had it fail, cranking in fish well over 20 pounds. It may look a little scary but it works.
When I first got going, I tried using a small swivel to connect the leader but had problems with it catching up on the rod tip guide or in the reel. Hence the knot connection.
For a leader, this is pretty wide open too. I’ve used them as long as 50’ in years past but have shortened it up to 10-20’, nothing special. I’ve had great success using 10# test braids and fluorocarbon lines. Both offer good sensitivity and sinking properties. If you’re fishing mainly gin clear waters you may want to go with the invisible fluorocarbon line.
For me, a preferred rod is “just about anything that is soft and forgiving.” I recently had one of the local guides call me, complaining about his high-tech rods that were too stiff and that he couldn’t see the “wiggle”, referring to the vibration of a crank bait.
He said “I know you use those old, soft rods that they don’t make anymore and that you’re catching a lot of walleyes.” I had to laugh, but he was right.
I told him one of my favorite rods was actually a rod designed for trolling, a 7’ medium action St. Croix. The others, however, are some of my old casting rods. Some are too forgiving for setting the hook on a big bass so they were relegated to the menial task of sitting in a rod holder with a big reel of lead core attached to them. You don’t have to get fancy. Trust me. I think another good rod for this application would be the famed Ugly Stick, tough as nails and soft enough to show vibration with the proper crank bait.
I also have a nice collection of those yellow 8 ½’ Eagle Claw trolling rods that work exceptionally well but prefer using somewhat shorter rods for the convenience of not getting in the way.
I was pretty much on my own, way back when, experimenting and piecing things together, but now you can purchase a lead core rod and reel, all set to go, at some of the local sporting goods shops. How sweet is that?
All you need to do now is to snap on a #5 Berkley Flicker Shad, or the lucky lure of your choice, and you’re in business, catching fish in 30’ of water. It’s that easy!

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (August 24) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines"

Well how about this weather? I know most don’t like it but for sportsmen it’s what we’ve been waiting for all summer. The cooling off period, mixed with wind and rain, seems to get fish and wildlife moving, a gentle reminder of sorts that winter is right around the corner and endless opportunities are shortly becoming available to the avid outdoorsman.
For me, I anxiously look forward to fall crappie fishing, which is probably my specialty, and it takes weather like this to put these fish in their pre-winter locations. It’s oh so easy and so much fun. And yes, guide trips are available.
I’ve been chasing fall crappie for nearly thirty years now and have learned a good deal. Sometimes fishing as many as three or four lakes a day, I try to add another body of water or two to the “good list” each year.
If I’m a little uncertain of the fall crappie migration in some of our many premier lakes, I’ll just run out to Balsam Lake and see where the fish are at, as it is one of the first lakes to undertake the fall change, which usually happens in late August. And while these crappie are a little on the small side, it’s always a lot of fun and a great indicator of what’s happening on other lakes. It’s usually to Balsam first and then I spread my wings.
Another predictable fall happening is for large northern pike on lakes that offer a strong cisco population. These big predators are almost non-existent throughout the summer months due to preferring the cooler temperatures of deep water and the fact that they are chasing around schools of ciscoes. However, get three or four days of cool, wet weather, again in late August, and the big gators usually get going. That’s exactly the weather pattern we had last week so dig out your musky tackle and sharpen those hooks.
Bird and deer hunting will happen soon and that’s always something to look forward to. I’ve been eye-balling my hunting gear as of late, wondering what else I will be needing. Well, I guess I don’t really “need” anything else but most hunters like to do a little pre-season shopping for one thing or another. I do have a duck boat to get ready and that’s a priority. Lower water has wild rice fields looking lush and ducks are all over. It’s going to be great!
As far as deer hunting, there should be plenty of deer to observe this season. I’ve seen several twin fawns with mama so far and have heard of a few triplets. They had a great winter and I expect the deer herd to bounce back quite quickly. Now if the wolves would just leave them alone but that’s not going to happen.
My brother Joel and I have been across the border three times recently and fishing was as good as it usually is. Two of the trips were with Tom Batiuk, one to Lower Manitou for lake trout and the other to Rainy Lake in a multi-species adventure. Joel and I also made a trip alone, pulling my boat up there for a long day of crappie fishing fun.
Fishing with Tom is nice, as all we have to do is drive up to Ft. Frances and hop in his truck and head to the water. Sometimes it’s a bit of a ride, as Manitou is, but Rainy Lake is only a half-hour or so and it’s all good fishing.
The trout trip had us boating sixteen miles to fish the main lake, as long as it was calm out. Windy conditions usually have us fishing “the stretch”, which is long, narrow, and for the most part protected.
If there’s a downside to the trip it’s the limit, which is one each for Joel and I. We knew that going in and didn’t care and at the time of this writing both trout are at Four Season’s Market in Coleraine getting smoked. That’s good stuff!
Likewise, a stingy Rainy Lake walleye limit is only at one but we had fun and did a little of everything, casting and catching smallmouth bass on Northland Thumper Jigs and Sebile top-waters, catching crappies in the trees on Thumpers, and trolling leadcore and Salmo Hornets for walleye and the odd monster crappie. All-in-all, it was yet another classic trip with Tom Batiuk, as we explored just a small portion of Rainy Lake’s 227,000 acres.
Our solo trip resulted in some great crappie fishing that followed a cold-front. Fish were laying low and wouldn’t rise up to hit small Hornets but really licked up Thumper jigs dragged on bottom.
Yes folks, it’s all starting to happen. Get out there and enjoy the Great Outdoors.

image of Joel Clusiau and Tom Batuik
Joel and I made two trips with Tom Batiuk, one to Lower Manitou for lake trout and the other to Rainy Lake in a multi-species adventure.

image of Joel Clusiau with big Crappie
Sometimes fishing as many as four lakes a day, Clusiau tries to add another body of water or two to the “good list” each year.

image of big smallmouth bass
On Rainy Lake, Smallmouth Bass will strike a variety of baits. This one took a Sebile top-water LURE.

image of Greg Clusiau with huge Largemouth Bass

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (August 17) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines"

Come twilight time, the mole re-surfaces. Being hot and steamy for the entire day usually has me laying low, avoiding heat, a bright sun, and staying indoors. Basking in the coolness of an air conditioned office, this is when a lot of computer time takes place, whether writing an article or just playing games. In any event, I’m just staying cool.
Finally, and it’s been a long impatient wait, the sun begins to dip and I’m quickly hooking up the boat. The air temps are now more tolerable and a fishing plan is in the works. Only three hours of daylight remain and I’m going to make the best of it.
A plan of attack is needed when time is short. First off, the selected body of water needs to be fairly close to home, with little time wasted on the highway. Secondly, all rods, reels, and tackle are pre-rigged and positioned at the ready and any unnecessary equipment is either stowed away or removed from the boat.
There is purpose to this well thought out fishing trip and that would be targeting largemouth bass first and panfish second. The old adage “find panfish and you’ve found the bass”, or vice-versa, certainly holds true.
Hot days have lunker largemouth ramped up and ready to eat at days end. Sure, they’ll usually bite all day long but I’m not sweltering in the sun and poking at the lily pads to catch them. It’s too hot, for me anyway. The bass, however, are comfortably positioned under the shade of lily pads, or other “slop”, as long as there is sufficient water for them to move about. Find two or three feet and you’ve found their home.

It’s at this time that I “go weedless”, tossing top-water frogs and spoons. That’s it. I’ve an arsenal of flipping jigs and plastics but prefer to leave them alone at this time, even though they can produce fish just as easily. Maybe it’s the “sploosh” of a big bass sucking in a top-water presentation? I don’t know. It’s just my preference after a hot day.
It has to be calm. Calm is huge. Imagine a big largemouth sitting in attack mode and it suddenly hears, or sees, a soft weedless frog go “plop.” It has a cool sound and to me is like ringing the dinner bell for these big pot-bellied fish. Slowly pull it off the pads into the smallest opening and you’ll hear the “sploosh effect.” Then it’s time to hang on.
Such was the case on my most recent outing. Hot all day, lay low, go fish, and the first bass was a beautiful 21” specimen that happened on my second cast.
image of bass lures

That’s one thing about living where we do. We are so blessed to have all of these lakes to pick from and most all of them have a healthy bass population. This disperses fishing pressure and in turn allows big fish to flourish. They’re all over the place. It’s up to you to find them, which isn’t very hard at all.
After playing with largemouth bass, it’s time for the crappie and bluegill to put on their show. They may bite well in the evening but late-evening has them feeding like there’s no tomorrow. This is when I like to slowly troll Northland Tackle “Thumper Crappie King” jigs or Salmo “Hornets”.
The Thumpers come with a split “double curled” tail and a little spinner attached to the belly. Hungry crappie eat it up, along with some pretty nice bluegills. That’s one thing about these baits, you have no need for live bait, another factor to speed up the process of putting a bunch of fish in the boat in a hurry. I prefer using the smallest available size, 1/32 oz.
I’ll play with the Thumper for a while and then try Salmo’s smallest Hornet, a #3 that features only one treble hook. Don’t worry, that’s all you’ll need, as the panfish jump all over this bait. Many times, the entire lure is inside their mouth and you’re thinking how lucky you are to deal with only one treble instead of two.
There are days when fish will prefer one of these baits over the other. Each day is different. It’s up to you to find the hot bait of the evening.
If the lake has larger panfish, you may want to step it up to a #4 Hornet, which features two trebles. It will dive a tad deeper than the #3 but slowly trolling these baits next to a weedline, not far off from the bass area, will give your entire family a lot of fun at catching a bunch of fish to take home.
Don’t be afraid to troll from next to the weeds in 10’ of water to as deep as 25’ or more, as the fish often ride high in the water column and are scattered across the lake surface. All it takes is a long cast behind the boat and to go slow, like 1 – ½ mph. - Good luck, be safe, and have fun!

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (July 28) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Pokegama Walleye Shootout, Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association

Mother Nature. She’s not easy to beat at times and last week was yet another prime example, as the 2nd annual GRAHA Walleye Shootout was held last Saturday on beautiful Pokegama Lake near Grand Rapids.
Better known as “the GRAHA” (Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association), over 100 two-person teams paid $350 to compete for the highly boasted first place prize of ... read >> Pokegama Lake Walleye Shootout

image of Jake Soland

image of Kevin Dahlke with big pike

Fishing, What It Means - Kevin Dahlke, HSM Outdoors

Kevin Dahlke has looked at fishing from all different angles and theories. Over his fishing career, there have been many people that have influenced where he fishes, which fish he pursues and how he chooses to catch them. Kevin wants to give you an idea of what fishing has meant to him and how it’s shaped him as an angler. Kevin Wrote; "Those were the days that were spent sitting on the shoreline casting a worm and bobber as far as you could, to try and beat your buddy with a ..." Read Article >> Fishing, What It Means

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (July 28) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines"

Once again, super-hot weather and high skies have me living almost nocturnally, with my only fishing trips taking place during the low-light periods of dusk and dawn. It’s widely known that the early bird gets the worm but it’s the night owl that gets some mighty nice fish.
My morning trips, which are mainly for walleye, have consisted of reaching the lake at first light and fishing until 10:00 am and then heading home for the rest of the day. If there’s any energy left I may head back out in the evening around 6:30 pm for some largemouth bass or crappie action.
My preferred presentation for bass is to “work the slop.” After a scalding, sunny day of no one pestering them, they really come alive when all of a sudden they hear the “plop” of a soft weedless frog or spoon hitting the top of a lily pad. This gets their attention in a big way and if they have a chance of eating that bait they will.
Another great presentation is to use a “jig & pig”, a weedless flippin’ jig with an oversized plastic trailer stuck on the end of it. Toss it out and let it sink into their kitchen. They’ll usually have it within seconds. Slop fishing can result in some of the largest fish in the lake so be prepared, use heavy line, and hang on!
If I’m not bassin’ in the evening I’m more-than-likely crappie fishing, as they come out in droves when daylight lessens. Hall of Fame angler Dave Genz pretty much summed it up by saying “everyone’s a better angler when the sun hits the trees.” How true.

image of Greg Clusiau with big Crappie

My crappie fishing usually consists of slowly trolling weedlines with small jigs and plastics. Sometimes, if a good concentration of fish are found, I’ll sit in one spot and cast to the weedline or drop the lure straight over the side of the boat and vertically jig them. It all works and very well at that.
But what about the wee hours of darkness? It’s nice and cool out at this time and if you have the tactics and gumption to stick it out throughout the night, you’ll generally do quite well on the fish. It is, however, a totally different game and you have to be well prepared.
I pre-plan these type of trips by cleaning up the boat and putting away everything that you will not be using. If there’s something to trip on or get in the way it’s going to surely happen at night. Trust me. Also, be sure to have plenty of lighting available for when it’s needed.
Most all fish species bite well at night but I have to admit that I haven’t caught a lot of northern pike during the darkness. Muskies? Yes. Pike? No. Also, there must be a good reason fishing regulations don’t allow trout fishing at night. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Just about the only fish I pursue at night are walleye and musky and I used to do a lot of this “back in the day” when younger and more adventurous. I did a good deal of musky fishing, and caught a lot of them, during the dark of night. This isn’t for the faint of heart, as some of the strikes take place right next to the boat and can scare you half to death.
We didn’t troll for them but opted to cast on top of shallow reefs, etc. and all of this was done prior GPS availability. Yard lights were used for landmarks and keeping a keen eye on your graph was so critical, especially when traveling across a lake full of rocky reefs. I can’t tell you how many times I casted up into the reeds, as depth perception is quite difficult at night.
If there is one important thing I could tell you about night fishing it’s to not set the hook until you feel the fish, no matter what the species. Set the hook when you hear a splash and you’ll stand a good chance at sticking those hooks into someone’s face. It’s also very important to wear safety glasses for this nighttime sport.
My midnight walleye fishing always consists of trolling crankbaits and again, most of this was done before a GPS unit was available to help you off the lake. I recall one time when I thought I was going to have to spend the night in the boat on Pokegama because I was unable to find the public access.
It’s easier nowadays, with GPS units available in many sizes and price ranges. Now you can escape the summer heat and enjoy a cool night on the water and along with that comes a chance at a true trophy fish. Go for it!

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (July 20) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Be Prepared

When it comes to angling, I honestly like to fish for just about anything that swims and therein lies the problem. There just isn’t enough room in my little Lund, 16 ½’, to accommodate all of the rods and tackle for specialized presentations for various species. I want to do it all and usually have all on hand to do so.
On a recent HSM Outdoors group get together on Trout Lake, I was joined by Tom Batiuk of Fort Frances, who is none better, if not worse than I. Between the two of us, we had close to thirty rods laying there at the ready. It was a mess but a somewhat organized one, if you can imagine that. I know the Invasive Species information worker at the landing was impressed, I think. He probably thought we were just nuts.
An old Boy Scout, I still stand by the motto “always be prepared.” If ever someone needs anything, summer or winter, they come running to me, the guy who has everything but the kitchen sink and sometimes that’s even along for the ride.
Batiuk, a tackle junkie, heeds the same advice and then some, as hundreds of back woods adventures in the Canadian wild still have him on this earth and anxiously searching out fish and game. If I’m ever in a serious situation back-in-the-bush, I want Tom to be there as well.
Even when going solo, which is almost a daily occurrence, I find myself launching and loading the boat at a record pace so no one catches a glimpse at all of that “junk” in the boat. Thinking about it, it’s no wonder I fish alone, as there’s not enough room for anyone else. I still am amazed at how Tom and I did it.
I’ve condensed it down as of late. For example, my most recent outings have me using spinners for walleye and panfish. Fairly proud of myself, I’ve limited the rods to a half dozen and the tackle boxes to four or five.
Sometimes I’ll throw the bass stuff in there, just in case the other fish are hard to come by and for those that like to bass fish you know just what this entails. I must have a dozen bass rods all rigged and ready to go and that’s not so bad. It’s the big bass tackle boxes that really get in the way. There’s barely room for my feet but you just never know.

image of Tom Batuik
Batiuk, a tackle junkie, heeds the advice "be prepared".

image of Bowfin Dogfish
Bowfin, AKA "Dogfish" is on Batuiks bucket list and therefore, Greg Clusiau's calendar.

I kind of go in spurts. First it was northern pike and walleye to start the season, which is kind of a tradition. Since then, the northern pike have taken a back seat to just about anything with fins.
I’ve continued on with aggressive attempts at walleye and panfish but the future has me scared, as I have a couple rough fish outings firmly penciled in on the calendar, one for sheephead and another for dogfish. Yes, I’m sick.
I can thank fishing partners Justin Bailey and Tom Batiuk for this, as these fish are on their bucket list. Bailey has caught them in limited fashion but Batiuk lives across the border and doesn’t have these creatures readily available. Oh the fun we’re going to have!
When it comes to sheep, I’ve caught a pile of them, mainly on Upper Red Lake, but this time we’re going “trophy” hunting with rough fish expert Patrick Olson so I’m warning you, stayed tuned for a weekly column on BIG sheephead. This will be fun.
As far as dogfish, well, I really don’t care for them as much but used to target them on a regular basis. I used to put in a hard day’s work and if it was hot and calm in the evening, a trip to Jay Gould, near Grand Rapids, was in order.
This was great fun, as I would patiently cast around bass lures until I saw one swimming with its head sticking out of the water. All it took was a cast in the general direction and it was FISH ON! It didn’t matter if I was tossing a plastic worm or spinner bait, as the fish would normally inhale and destroy my offering.
Olson, searching the web for dogfish info, came across my name as a line-class world record holder in the dogfish category. I had completely forgotten about that. It was back in 1987 and something that I liked to do. It was just flat out fun to do and I had several records under my belt back then.
We’ll see what the future holds. Another record? Probably not but I can guarantee we’ll have fun doing it.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (July 14) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Dabbling

I knew panfish of the large variety were snuggled deep in the lily pads so plans were made to yank a few of them out of there. This meant going to the local sporting goods store and looking over dabbling poles, something that was long enough to get away from the boat yet strong enough to hoist a nice sized fish out of heavy cover.
There they were, a limited selection but all that was needed and good enough to get the job done. A cane pole was my first thought. I picked one up and studied the crooked three-piece contraption. These things have been around for years and have accounted for millions of fish but the largest on hand was only a 12’er.
I wanted something more and found it in a 16’ telescoping rod, made by Shakespeare, called the “WonderPole.” The name was enough to sell me on the spot. I could hardly wait to get home and rig it up. Actually, two of these rods were purchased, one for me and another for my brother Joel who would be joining me in “the hunt for big fish.”
I had something of this nature in garage but had broken it. That one, also made by Shakespeare, was a 13’ telescoping rod called the “Crappie Pole.” Still usable, it now features a metal hose clamp that was used to tighten up the break. This one had a small reel that allowed line to be fed to the rod tip from inside the rod itself. The WonderPole, however, only allowed for a short line to be tied directly to the end of the rod tip, cane pole style.
I did have other “long rods” for crappie fishing but they weren’t designed for fishing heavy cover and/or lifting fish. One is a springtime favorite of mine, called the “Crappie Hunter”, also made by Shakespeare. Light action and 9’ long, it is used for making long casts and a lot of fun when a big fish jumps on the other end of it.
The other two are fly rods. One a 9’ Elkhorn and the other an 8 ½’ Pflueger. Both are great fun to use but definitely not designed for lifting.
Rigging up the WonderPole had me in the backyard practicing. Looking around the work bench, I picked out a wrench that felt about the same weight as a nice crappie, around one pound, and tied it onto the end of the line.
Lifting, pretending to pull a fish out of the weeds, the rod folded over beautifully but the line was too long and had to be shortened. Trimming the line to 10’ worked perfectly, as when I lifted the wrench off the ground it came swinging directly to me about chest high.
The final application was a Northland Tackle “Fire Fly” jig with a split shot sinker about a 1’ above. Both rods were rigged in this manner only with two different colors of the Fire Fly, pink/white and black/yellow, my two favorites.
Reaching the lake, we edged up close to the lily pads with the electric bow mount motor and saw the entire pad field start moving. There was a lot of fish in them but we had spooked the majority.
Dabbling away, picking out a small opening and dropping the jig in the water, Joel was the first to score with a nice crappie. It worked! We’d move, scare fish, catch a few, and then move again. I eventually began using a push-pole to maneuver the boat, as we were spooking way to many fish.
It’s a fun technique but I can’t begin to tell you how many times we snagged up and when this happened it took the both of us to free the line, one to hold the rod and the other to move the boat and grab the line. Imagine a 16’ rod inside a 16 ½’ boat. As Uncle Jack would say “what a fiesta.”
We did manage to go home with a nice catch of fish but looking back on it I think we’d be better off with a smaller boat and a set of oars, something more of a stealth mode. Get out there and enjoy the great outdoors. Try a little dabbling.

image of Jpel Clusiau with big Crappie
"Dabbling away, picking out a small opening and dropping the jig in the water, Joel was the first to score with a nice crappie. It worked!"

image of Greg Clusiau with Largemouth Bass
"Dabbling" in the Lily Pads is perfect for hoisting out fish that can't be reached with conventional spinning gear.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (6/29) Greg Clusiau - Back Woods Bassin' With Terry Wickstrom

Terry Wickstrom was back in town and whenever that happens he becomes a steady fishing partner until it’s time to head back to Colorado.
After more than twenty years of television broadcast fishing shows, some of which I co-hosted, he now has more free time on his hands, as his only outdoor obligation is a weekly ESPN radio show that airs every Saturday morning. When this happens, a fill-in takes over so Wickstrom can just be himself. Much like the old days, when we were kids, hunting and fishing all over the backwoods of Itasca County.
An accomplished angler, Terry’s favorite pastime would have to be bass fishing, something he’s been doing for nearly fifty years. No wonder he’s so darned good at it.
Whenever I make the comment to someone “we grew up together”, I wait for Terry’s predictable rebuttal “we didn’t grow up, we just got older.” I guess there’s a lot of truth to that.
Three long days of fishing gave us plenty of time to catch up on things, as well as an equal amount of time to catch plenty of fish. Mixed in between most every cast was a wisecrack or anecdote of some sort. It never ends.
Ever quick witted, he usually has a smart answer for everything, when he can get by with it. Take, for example, the discussion he had with an angler whom he was teaching how to catch bass by using a plastic worm. The novice basser asked “how do I know when I have a bite?” Terry responded by saying “there will be three taps, one when the fish sucks in the bait, two when it blows it out, and three when I tap you on the shoulder saying you had a bite.” Yes, that’s classic Wickstrom and I’m used to it.
Fishing seven lakes in three days, we started off with bass, of course, but the first lake was a bit stingy, allowing us to boat only a handful of fish. Much like my old guide days, I always have a plan, a bass milk-run if you will, so it was off to the next lake, located only fifteen minutes away.
That’s one thing about fishing in this area. There is no shortage of water and most all species are available. All you have to do is put together a plan and go for it.
The next lake acted like it was meant to be. Did all of the planets align? One would certainly think so, as big fish after big fish made their way to the boat. The lake was “on fire.”
Terry was using his old standby, a 7” “blue fleck” Berkley Power Worm and I a Northland Tackle “Jungle Jig” tipped with a plastic trailer along with a Matzuo “Kroaker” weed-less frog. I’d switch off whenever the “gut feeling” told me so while Terry kept on pitching the worm.
Seemingly taking turns, big largemouth bass kept biting and visiting the boat for a quick photo or two. We had to hit it just right, as these fish were on the bite. Many times the fish telegraphed their hungry presence by creating a huge wake toward our baits. This was especially evident when using the top-water frogs. How exciting. It’s something I’ll never tire of.
They were still biting when we reeled in and went to visit another lake for good walleye action and this lake too was ready for us to have fun. It ended up being a banner day for the both of us.
We went on to target crappie, bluegill, bass, walleye, and northern pike over the next two days. Fish were caught, and some nice ones at that, but it didn’t even come close to comparing to the first day. I don’t see how it could.
Our last outing was for big crappie and after finally finding them and catching only one, Mother Nature decided to put on an early fireworks, chasing us off the lake. Lightning was flashing off in the distance but still too close for the both of us. Packing it in and calling it a day, we were both content and looking forward to the next adventure. It was a good trip.

image of Greg Clusiay with giant Bass

image of Terry Wickstrom with Big Bass

image of Terry Wickstrom with huge Walleye

image links to fishing article Wired2Fish THMarine G Force Eliminator; "Hard to imagine that a weird conical shaped piece of billet aluminum could be so beneficial to an already very quiet trolling motor, but the T-H Marine G-Force Eliminator Trolling Motor Prop Nut does just that.
I have been using the Minn Kota Fortrex for the last few years, and didn’t notice it being noisy. Matter of fact, I hadn’t even noticed it made noise at all. The usual pro wash sound maybe but no rattles or clicking or rubbing noises were ever heard. To my old ears it seemed super quiet, but I was totally amazed when I ... read >> Review Wired2Fish THMarine G Force Eliminator

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (6/22) Greg Clusiau, Mid-Summer Slip-Bobber Walleye - (Justin Bailey, HSM)

Sometimes we just need to go back to our roots. When the water temps start to rise and the days grow longer, most anglers think deep water and spinners or rigs but that’s when I start to think just the opposite in thick cabbage and steep breaks.
I usually begin targeting these areas in late June, when water surface temps start hovering around the 63 degree mark and cabbage weeds began to tickle the surface.
A vital tool for any fisherman is a lake map. When first looking at a map, I search out land points or shallow bars where a steep break meets deep waters.
One of our local lakes is a prime example. Quietly anchoring my boat in the weeds, in 3’ of water, I will cast out into 30’ of water.
When I do anchor my boat, I always try to use two anchors, one in the front and one in the back, even on calm days. This will keep my boat in the proper position for as long as possible.
Once you find “the spot”, remember to remain as quiet as possible because the fish you are targeting are usually very close by and spook easily in the shallow waters.
Now you’re set. You have picked a spot on the lake where deep water meets shallow cabbage and the boat is positioned parallel to the weedline and everything has settled down. What’s next? Let’s take a look at our set-up.
I prefer a medium-light spinning rod, around 7’ long, with larger eyelets to prevent your slip-knot from hanging up during the cast or retrieve.
My main line is usually 6 to 8 pound test Berkley XL with a 6 pound test leader. The leader, attached by using a small swivel, ranges anywhere from 18 to 36”, depending on thickness of weed growth, and is used to prevent any possible twisting. When using slip bobbers, everything needs to be a smooth as possible for best results.
Slip bobbers come in a wide variety of sizes and styles but the one I like to use is a popular universal float and that’s a 1/8 oz. Thill “Splash Brite”. I prefer this one because of the brass opening on top that allows your bait to sink quickly, along with preventing line twist.
Another fish producing feature of the “Splash Brite” is it is a lighted bobber, which has an internal battery that is activated by water completing the circuit. No on/off switch is needed and that’s another key factor when fishing into the dark, where simpler and easier is always better.
Just above the barrel swivel, #7 in size, is a 1/16 or 1/8 oz. egg sinker, depending upon weather conditions and wave action. Leader line thickness depends on cabbage weed density. Extremely dense cabbage calls for a shorter leader in the 18 to 24” range to keep my bait from swimming too free and getting wrapped up in the weeds. When fishing more sparse weeds or weedline edges, I’ll go to a longer leader.
For hooks, experience and confidence is a huge factor. I like to use a red hook along with a red/glow bead but do change it up from time-to-time, depending on the bite. Just remember its key to match the hook to the size and type bait you’re using. For example, don’t use too small of a hook that may impede hook setting ability.
Next is my choice of bait. This can be the tricky part. I usually start by using a jumbo leech hooked right behind the “sucker” or a nightcrawler hooked twice through the “head”, allowing the rest of the body to dangle and move freely.
If these two baits do not produce, I usually start to look around. Am I seeing fish? Or better yet those elusive white tips of walleye fins lurking in the cabbage. If baitfish are seen, I try to “match the hatch” and switch to a minnow.
So now we have our set up and spot but what about depth at which the bobber is set? Let’s say we have found shallow cabbage adjacent to deep water. When I anchor my boat in 3’ of water and cast out into 30’, I try to split the difference or find the exact depth at which the weed edge is and position the bait 3’ off bottom.
Remember, weed walleyes are usually feeding fish, tending to be more aggressive, and they will chase bait so don’t be afraid to keep your offerings up and away from the bottom.
This is one of my favorite summertime tactics that has put a lot of walleye in the boat with some real quality fish so next time you feel those summertime blues, find some cabbage and give it a try. - (Written by HSM Outdoors Pro Justin Bailey)

image of Justin Baily with big Walleye
Author Justin Bailey targets big Walleye by anchoring shallow on points and bars. Using slip bobbers keeps the bait suspended in front of the fish.

image of walleye in net with slip bobber
Slip floats: Bailey likes to use a 1/8 oz. Thill Splash Brite; "I prefer this one because of the brass opening on top that allows your bait to sink quickly, along with preventing line twist."

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (6/16) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Upper Red Lake, Working Around The Weather

Last weekend’s trip to Upper Red Lake found us working around the forecast. We wanted to go there in the worst way but strong southern breezes were predicted for the day. Throwing caution to the wind (yes, pun intended), the boat was launched out of Roger’s Resort and Campground, located on the south shore. Hopefully the winds would be blowing over our heads and we’d be able to enjoy the day.Watching tree tops bending over on the way there, it was evident the weatherman was right. Putting in on the protected Shotley Brook access, located at the resort, a quick stop at Rogers’ headquarters was in order to pay our launch fee and to pick up minnows.
Walking out the door with a generous two scoops of chub minnows, I was told “go to the left and stay in 5’ of water” and that’s exactly what we did, fishing almost immediately after leaving the river. Where was everybody? It was odd that a late-morning departure would have us fishing almost alone out there.
The first fish came quickly. They were right. It’s so nice to get reliable information from a resort. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. It all depends on where you are.
Slowly back-trolling our way westward and staying in the 5-6’ depths had us catching, and losing, fish after fish. What a fishery.
Walleyes, for the most part, were a wee bit on the fussy side, as the bites were “softer” than normal and many times the minnow would be stolen if you set the hook too fast. Give them a little time to sample the goods, an extra split-second, and it was “fish on!”
Color did make a difference on this day and a light green/chartreuse jig proved to be the winning combination. We all ended up using Fire Ball jigs in “Parakeet” or “Glow Watermelon” colors. If you’re really stuck and are wondering just what to use, a standard chartreuse jig will usually do the trick out there.
Always experimenting, I switched over to a jig with a spinner on it, like a “Thumper Jig” or “Fire Ball Spin” but the fish seemed to prefer a more low-key presentation. Normally they really smack the spinner-type jigs.
Playing around with various plastics, I found 3” Impulse “Swim’n Grubs” to work but not as well as the live bait presentation of a jig and chub minnow. Best grub color was “Firetiger”.
We trolled crankbaits for a while but could tell the walleye weren’t in the mood for them. Again, normally it’s a no-brainer and you can crank in fish after fish but we only caught a couple using a Matzuo “IKARI” lipless crankbait. I thought this was going to be “the ticket” as it was brightly colored and made a lot of noise with its rattles.
As the day progressed, we noticed a lot more boats joining us, as the northern shore was getting quite bumpy with the strong winds. I figured that would happen. That’s one thing about fishing Upper Red Lake. Always check out the weather forecast for this body of water and have a game plan. Try fishing the calmer waters and it generally is worth the trip. It was for us, as three of us boated approximately 75 walleye and lost about 50 more (counting “soft” bites).
The limit is only two walleye under 17” per person and we definitely didn’t have a problem in getting a few fish to take home but for us it’s always a trip “just to have fun”. For those more concerned in bringing home enough fish for a family fish fry, remember that any (*Minnesota Resident) children under the age of 16 aren’t required to have a fishing license but can legally bring home a limit of their own. Just something to consider. Good luck, be safe, and be sure to have fun!

*editor's note: Minnesota residents uner the age of 16 are permitted to fish and posess a legal limit of fish without purchasing a fishing license. Nonresidents age 16 and older are required to have an appropriate fishing license while angling.
Non residents under age 16 do not need a license if the parent or guardian is licensed. Children of an adult who has a Minnesota Nonresident Family License may possess their own limit of fish. However, if the adult has an Individual License or if the parents have a Husband and Wife License, then the child’s fish are included in the adult’s limit. Nonresidents under age 16 may purchase a nonresident youth license and possess their own limit of fish. Printable PDF >> MN Statutes 97A.451 License Requirements - Exemptions Relating To Age .

image of greg clusiau with big walleye

image of blake liend with big walleye

image of big walleye with a crankbait

Early Bird… Up early, like normal, I was sitting in front of the computer, trying to wake up and pondering my fishing destination for the day when my cell phone rang. I thought “who in the world is calling me at this time of the morning?” It was 5 am and I had just started on my first cup of coffee.
A look at the caller ID revealed Keith Nelson, one of too many anglers that knows I am usually up and about at this time. He called to see if I wanted to go fishing, as someone else couldn’t make the trip and he was now going solo.
He pretty much made up my mind regarding where I was going to fish on this day. Living in Cloquet and wanting to try for crappie on Big Sandy Lake, he was an hour away. It was an hour drive for me as well. Twenty minutes later, I was on my way.
This year’s tricky spring weather played havoc with many excellent crappie fisheries and Big Sandy was one of them. However, if anyone could get fish out of that lake Keith could.
Starting out with the closest available spot, we begin our search and found extremely tough fishing right on down the line. We were encountering a lot of wild rice that wasn’t up a week earlier. Under normal situations, one can enjoy good shallow water panfishing in the spring, well in advance of the wild rice showing its presence.
Now, however, it was fouling almost every cast and a strong breeze didn’t help matters. If you didn’t cast directly with the wind to your back, into a maze of pencil weeds, an almost automatic snag-up with a weed was sure to happen.
Catching only a couple crappie and bluegill, nice in size, we decided to bunch it and head to another lake just down the road.
Here too, we ran into the same problem and the wind was even worse. A few nice fish were caught but we really had to work for what we got. It was time to call it a day.
This scenario has seemingly played out throughout the entire spring. If it wasn’t fluctuating water temperatures, it was an ever changing wind that would be just enough to throw a wrench into any shallow water panfishing efforts, especially if sight-fishing.
I’ve had some very good outing so far this year but I definitely have had some real stinkers too. I think it’s time to focus more on walleye and bass.
Turkey Time…Making my way south to fish with Keith, I was nearing Big Sandy when I had to slow down to let a turkey cross the road. It kind of surprised me but then I realized I was nearing turkey country and it’s beginning to be the norm. They seem to be spreading like wildfire.
However, a recent trip to Deer Lake, near Effie, had me taking the “Thistledew shortcut”, where I saw another turkey and a huge one at that. I couldn’t believe my eyes, as it walked along the tree line and disappeared. That was one big bird. Someone must have turkeys in that area?
Deer Lake, by the way, was awful for panfish, much like Big Sandy. When I left the house, it was dead calm and overcast and it remained the same as I traveled past Big Buck and O’Leary Lake. However, when reaching the lake, about an hour from my house, I was greeted to strong winds, which is terrible when fishing that lake. I even had trouble loading the boat.
And speaking of Buck Lake, this one too treated me terribly, mainly due to winds changing direction and swirling about. Of course it didn’t help to see my destination, Porky Bay, still sporting fishing and boating off limit signs this late in the season.

image of Greg Clusiau with big Crappie

Greg Clusiau with a nice catch and release crappie, caught while sight fishing. The fish was caught on a Northland Tackle “Fire Fly” jig.

image of bulrushes

Calm waters and sunny skies make for great shallow water sight fishing.

Having grown up on this lake, the bay was usually posted for the first couple weeks of the fishing season, mainly to protect spawning bass. The signs were always removed by the opening of bass season, which is two weeks into the fishing season.
I believe the more recent years had Porky Bay posted to protect spawning crappie and I think that’s a good thing but I also think it’s about time to put those signs away until next year.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (6/2) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Upper Red Lake always makes me smile!

It is a fishery full of fun and pleasant surprises and last Saturday was no different when HSM Outdoors Tom Batiuk, Justin Bailey, and I made the visit.
Oddly enough, Batiuk made the trip south from Ontario to try and catch a sheepshead, one of a few fish that still remain on his "bucket list". They must have really rolled their eyes at the border when he told them the purpose of his trip. Ha ha. Sadly, however, I must report that Tom never caught one of those hard fighting rough fish but I did and it was the only one of the day. It absolutely inhaled a trolled 4" jointed Sebile "Swing Tail Minnow" and I knew it was a sheepshead (aka freshwater drum) right from the start as they fight like the dickens. It's amazing how aggressive they are for a fish with a sucker-like mouth, meaning no “real” teeth.
Original plans were to keep one and try it for table fare and I had every intention of doing so but when Tom was holding it for a photo he said “it smells funny.” Well that was the end of that. Seriously, I still want to give them a try as they are quite popular for eating “down south” although it may be a slight variation from what we have here in the North Country.
Although the sheepshead snubbed us on this day, the walleye didn't. We probably caught fifty of them, which is sort of a slow day for Upper Red Lake. While we were waiting for Tom to show up at the public access on the Tamarac River, Justin cast out from the dock and popped a nice fat 19" walleye on the first cast using a jig and plastic. That will always give an angler great expectations for the day.
We like to try different presentations when visiting Red Lake as practically everything will work. We started out trolling cranks and caught walleye. Switching to jigs and minnows we caught walleye. Switching to jigs and plastics produced walleye. Trolling spinners produced walleye. And our last ditch effort at using bobbers in the weeds, looking for crappie, caught even more walleye. What a lake!
The lake's full of surprises and one of them was a big northern pike caught by Justin while using a jig tied on with 4 pound test line. It was a great battle and after a few quick pics the fish was released to fight again.
Fishing guide Tyler Brasel, Bear Paw Guide Service, clued us in on the crappie bite so we gave it an hour or so before going home and ended up catching a few nice slabs to end the trip.
Most of our walleye came from "fishing the break" that surrounds the lake. Just head toward shore until it quickly shallows up and take off trolling in the 5-6' area. Fish are definitely there and relating to this break line. Crappies were caught in the "pencil weeds" with bobbers set at 4', about 1' off bottom.
You really should get up there and have a little fun on the big lake. It usually never lets you down. One thing to keep in mind, however, is the wind direction. If it's blowing and gusting any direction from the east you're generally okay. However, from the west, you may want to go another day as the lake can get quite rough.
A Lost Spring of sorts has really put a damper on my normally successful spring crappie fishing. Always a part of my springtime panfish attack, I usually begin wade fishing for them when the water begins to warm but it didn’t happen for me this year. Fish were caught by using a boat but the shore fishing stunk, as fluctuating water temperatures had the fish moving in and out as well as up and down in the water column.
It was a cold day on Upper Red Lake with air temps registering at 37º on our way to the lake. Couple that with a strong northern breeze and it gets to be downright cold out. Here we are into June and my wife is still babysitting her outdoor plants, carrying them into the house or garage each night so they won’t freeze. Come on Ma Nature, give us a break, please.

image of Justin Bailey holding Walleye
Justin Bailey with a Upper Red Lake slot fish. All walleye from 17-26” must be released. The limit is two fish per person.

image of Walleye caught with crankbait
Sebile’s “Swing Tail Minnow” accounted for several fish while trolling on Upper Red Lake last weekend.

image of Upper Red Lake Sheephead
Tom Batiuk “admires” the first ever sheepshead he was able to hold.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (5/23) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - This weather is so messed up, I don’t know where to begin.

It was a cool morning in Keewatin, with the temperature hitting 27º. Getting up early and dressing for a day on the lake, three hours north of home, I made sure to slip on the long underwear. I couldn’t imagine how cool it would feel on the deep, northern waters of Kakagi Lake, aka as Crow Lake, especially on a windy day.
Imagine my surprise when nearing International Falls and the thermometer had risen to 47º in that short time span. Wow. Maybe I wouldn’t be needing the long-handles after all.
Meeting up with Tom Batiuk for a day of lake trout fishing is always fun. As a matter-of-fact, any kind of fishing with Tom is fun.
Batiuk usually heads in a different direction when going after lakers and that’s Lake Manitou. This time, however, we were going to give Crow Lake a try, which was about the same drive, only on a paved highway all the way to the lake. No gravel.
Having spent the most of six summers up there, I had fished the lake a lot and was looking forward to the visit. Batiuk had fished it a time or two himself and is always up for a lake trout outing. Actually, he’s been all over the Sunset Country area and lake trout are a specialty for him. There’s hardly a lake he hasn’t tried.
Putting the boat in at the government landing, Tom said “high skies, it’s going to be tough fishing. I always do better on the lake trout when it’s overcast.” Hmm, I didn’t like the sound of that.
Glancing over the lake, it’s very intimidating for a first-timer, as everything looks good, and during the early part of the season that’s pretty much true, as trout are cruising the shallows all over the big lake, which measures eight by twelve miles in size.
The first area we tried was a spot that Tom and his brother, Mike, did so well on a few years ago. They were struggling for quite a while when they decided to switch gears and troll a shallow reef, which resulted in a whopping seventeen fish in two hours. That’s pretty much the case with most fish species. You have to find them first before you can do any catching.
Today, however, was a different story, as nothing was happening. From Tom’s spots to mine, we gave it our best effort to no avail.
Checking out one of my favorite shore fishing spots, we slowly trolled near shore and although no fish were caught it was encouraging to at least see a few sitting tight to bottom, which usually means they’re not feeding very well at all. If you see fish on the graph and they are up off bottom it generally means they are more active and hungry. Not on this day.
As a last course of action, other than going to shore and dead-baiting, we decided to let the boat slowly drift over these fish while we vertically jigged for them. Almost immediately, one followed Tom’s bait to the boat but turned away in a flash. A short while later he tied into a nice one that looked to be in the eight pound range.
Not having his regular trout net in the boat, I had some difficulty in getting it in the net but eventually accomplished the feat.
This turned out to be the only fish that actually made it into the boat. Tom had a big smallmouth bass shake loose, while casting jigs and plastics on top of a shallow reef but that was it. We each had a couple light “bumps” and I never boated a fish. It’s not the first time I got skunked and it won’t be the last but you better believe I’ll be going back there with a vengeance. - I hope all enjoyed the Memorial Day Weekend. God bless America!

image of Tom Batuik with big lake trout
Fishing guide Tom Batiuk with a nice Crow Lake trout.

image of Rainy Lake
Canadian Shield lakes always offer breathtaking scenery

image of Greg Clusiau with big Largemouth Bass
Bass season gets underway this Saturday.

image of Jesse Clusiau Fishing

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (5/18) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Minnesota Fishing Report

This weather is so messed up, I don’t know where to begin. After a wonderful early spring ice-out, Mother Nature threw a curve-ball at us by doing a 180º and started cooling things off again.
Water temperatures have dropped as much as 10º on several lakes that I have been fishing and most of the time I have been chasing panfish, which have vacated the shallows and dropped back into deeper, more comfortable waters.
You can still catch these deep fish but it does take a little detective work and many times it’s not so easy to find them. I usually just wait until it warms up, making catching them a lot more predictable.
Using an electric bow mount trolling motor, I stand up and check out the shallow shorelines for any hint of panfish but lately they are few and far between. Most of the time it looks so barren that you’d almost expect to see a tumbleweed to go rolling past the boat. Deserted would be the best way to describe conditions, as minnows are rarely seen.
Some lakes, however, have had decent crappie bites taking place but for the most part it is next to nothing for most anglers. Each lake is different and sometimes conditions are such that a good bite will happen without fail, like it does each and every year. Other lakes? Well that’s another matter.
As for me, I’m really not disappointed, as I have all summer to fish and things will eventually get back to normal. I guess I’m more surprised than anything at the way this spring has taken place. It’s really strange and definitely another one for the books.
Bass are still up shallow and more than willing to bite. I’ve probably caught as many bass as I have panfish, which is okay with me. They’re always fun and I’m certainly glad of the new state regulation which allows us a catch and release season for bass until the regular season takes place this Saturday.
When we have weather like we’ve been experiencing, I can’t help but think of trout fishing, which usually is very good at this time of the year. As a matter-of-fact, as soon as I’m done with this article (Monday morning) I’m heading out to do a little shore fishing for them. Stream trout (rainbows, splake, and brook trout) will be the target.
There’s two huge factors involved with this decision. One – they are usually shallow and quite catchable during this time, even if it’s raining. They seem to like to come out and “play” in the rain. Two – it’s cold enough to keep the woodticks at bay (hopefully). Perfect!
Shore fishing for “streamers” is about as inexpensive a fishing trip as you’ll ever find. My wife and I used to fish for them a lot when first married and didn’t own a boat. I couldn’t count how many hours we spent on the shores of Kremer Lake.

<< Jesse Clusiau chasing super shallow panfish.

All that is needed is a rod/reel combo with long casting capabilities, a few egg sinkers, plain hooks, night crawlers, and a trout stamp. It’s a simple set-up that produces a lot of fish. Some say “the simpler the better” and in this case they’re right. It’s basically the same rig you’d use for fussy walleyes.
Other trout that are definitely on the list are lakers and that should be happening this week sometime when I run up north to fish with Tom Batiuk of Ft. Frances. We will be fishing Ontario’s Lake Manitou and/or Kakagi Lake, also known as Crow.
Again, at this time of the season, cool waters will have the lake trout “up high” in the water column making it fairly easy for anyone wanting to catch them, as down-riggers used for deeper waters aren’t required.
When first fishing for them, many years ago right after ice out, all we did was cast out our walleye rods with a floating Rapala tied on the end. Clear waters, we did, however, let out most of the spool to get the lure away from the boat. Here’s another inexpensive method to catch fish and have a lot of fun. - Have fun, be safe, and good luck!

image links to video about E-15 damaging outboards E-15 Will Ruin Your Outboard Engine! Not only is it bad for your boat's outboard motor, it could wreck your budget too! That's because running E-15 in your engine is liable to void your manufacturer warranty. View Video and find out >> What happens when you use E-15 in your outboard

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (5/12) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Minnesota Fishing Opener

This year’s Governor’s Fishing Opener had a small group of us spending the weekend in the backwoods of Itasca County. The A-frame, a family built cabin now owned by my brother Bruce, would be base camp for this long awaited Minnesota “holiday.”
Cool and windy weather kept me from doing any panfishing on Friday afternoon, which was fine with me. Instead, I lounged around, visited Bruce, touched up the cabin, and readied fishing rods for the next morning.
A part of this process was spooling on new line. I brought along a Berkley Line Spooling Station and several miles of fishing line to make sure all of us were re-spooled for the new season and ready to go. By the end of the evening, when all had finally trickled in, a dozen or more spools were filled with the line of their choice.
Cold temperatures kept us from being on the water at first light, like we used to always do. This time, however, we took our sweet time and arrived at the public access around 7:30 am. It was still cold and it was at this point that I realized some of my warm clothing was left at home. Bundling up with the best I had, which included wearing a rain suit to break the wind, we set out on the water.
Wanting to try out some new crankbaits, we started trolling the weedline to no avail. One lap around a small bay without a strike had us slowing down and using my favorite live bait presentation, Fire-Ball jigs tipped with minnows and the smaller the minnow the better. I didn’t think the fish would be too aggressive when it was in the low-30’s in the morning.
The “official” first fish of the new season was caught by me, a chunky little largemouth bass, which was promptly photo’d and released. Bruce put the first walleye in the boat. That one entered the live well for an evening fish fry. Picking away, we headed back to the cabin with 3 walleye and 3 northern pike and I must say that truck heater felt oh so good.
A quick lunch and back out onto the lake we went only this time it was a different body of water. Again the crankbaits were tried with no takers. Switching to jigs and minnows only produced one small northern pike so those rods were put away as well.
Casting the shallows for panfish produced fish after fish but they were all too small to keep. I think the cool weather system that blew in had all larger panfish sitting back and taking it all in, as not one quality fish was caught, which was the same scenario of the first lake of the day.
A mega-fish fry and oodles of good stories were enjoyed back at camp. Some of the gang had to leave (or probably just wanted to get out of there) but three of us remained to give Sunday a go.
Air temperatures the next morning were warmer but the wind was still howling. Never-the-less, off we went to yet another little sleeper lake.
This one, famed for big panfish, only offered fish of the smaller variety, like the other lakes that we fished. Small sunfish were covering the shallows with no large fish at all being present. And the crappies? Where were they? Only a couple of them were caught on Saturday and only one was seen on Sunday.
Thinking they were holding off and back out in a little deeper water we tried working the weedline and couldn’t keep the little northern pike off. They really like glow-in-the-dark Fire-Ball jigs. That’s for sure. I think I’ll have to place another order here soon.
Yes, another Minnesota Fishing Opener is in the books. For us, fishing was poor but it was still none-the-less a great weekend spent with friends and family.

image of Bruce Clusiau with big Walleye
Bruce Clusiau with an opening day walleye.

image of Amand Buer and Brett McComas with Largemouth Bass
Amanda Buer and Brett McComas took full advantage of the new catch and release bass season.

image of Walleyes on fillet table
Walleyes await being cleaned on a FilletMaker board.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (5/5) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Minnesota Fishing Opener

It’s finally here. The Minnesota general fishing opener gets underway this weekend, beginning midnight Friday night. Let the games begin!
At least the weather looks to be superb for this highly celebrated event, much better than years past, and thanks to an early spring I am predicting some very good fishing for those that are anxiously looking forward to a fresh fish dinner.
Panfish are just starting to get going in the North Country so look for them be up shallow and willing to bite. I’ve recently been trying some of my favorite shore fishing panfish spots and it just hasn’t happened. Even though water temperatures manage to reach the high 50’s by late afternoon, I believe the cold morning temps have kept crappies and sunfish from coming too close to shore due to such a short window of warm water, as it begins to cool off again as soon as the sun hits the trees.
This weekend, however, I’m forecasting some good crappie fishing, with a few bluegills mixed in. Rig up with a small jig tipped with a waxworm or plastic, hanging about 18” under a bobber, and you’ll be in business.
As I said, the shoreline panfish action has been slow for me around here but that doesn’t mean I didn’t catch any. A few trips south, where the water is considerably warmer, has led to some incredible fishing, with hundreds of nice crappie and bluegill being caught and released.
One of the trips happened last Sunday, when Andy Walsh and I traveled to the Alexandria area to fish with crappie expert Chad Peterson. Yes, the trip was fairly long, being 365 miles roundtrip, but we did manage to catch approximately 300 fish in 7 hours of fishing. I guess it was worth the drive.
The deadliest presentation this spring has been: a pink/white Northland Tackle “Fire Fly” jig, tipped with a wax worm or a white Impulse “Tadpole” plastic. We use plastics about 95% of the time and here’s the reasoning behind it. First off, it catches fish. Secondly, you don’t have to keep on refreshing your jig with live bait, as the little Tadpole will last through dozens of fish.
Impulse is scented and we always have that factor going for as well but the real deal I believe is by adding plastic to the little jig it slows down the sink rate, making it that much more alluring to neighboring fish.
Open continuously, you can fish for panfish year ‘round and the limit is 10 crappie, 20 sunfish, and 20 perch. Give them a try this opening weekend.
Lake levels are at a scary low and we certainly need some rain. Keep this in mind when venturing off to your favorite lake this weekend, as you might not be able to get your boat in due to a lack of water at the public access.
Big Bowstring would be one to consider, when it comes to low water. I’d go ahead of time just to check out the conditions. A couple fishing excursions on the Rainy River revealed it to be 3-4’ low. The same just might apply to many area lakes.
The Wolf Lake dam, north of Nashwauk, is a popular opening day fishing hole for many but, again, you might want to check it out before heading that direction Saturday morning. I was there last week and walked across the river, downside of the dam, wearing only knee-boots. Yes, it’s that shallow.
Regarding opening day, I will be getting back to my roots, staying at the cabin up north, fishing like we did when kids, and pulling spoons for northern pike. Joined by Chad Peterson from Alexandria and Tom Batiuk of Ft. Frances, we will also be doing a little casting for those toothy critters.
Casting will also be done for largemouth bass, now that the regulation has changed the first couple weeks of the season as a catch and release season for them.
Panfish, of course, will also be on the agenda, as well as a shot at a few walleye. We’re going to try and do it all and more-than-likely will. I do know that a fresh fish dinner will be taking place and fun will be had. Enjoy the Great Outdoors, be safe, and have fun. Good luck!

image of crappie splashing in water
Panfish action expected this weekend. Warm waters have panfish up shallow and ready to feed. (photo by Chad Peterson, HSM Outdoors)

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (4/24) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Spring Boat Prep

Courtesy of Mike Niedzielski, HSM Outdoors Contributor
Getting your boat ready for the first time on the water can save you a lot of headache. Everyone has either seen or been that person that launches their boat, only to find out they have a dead battery or it just will not start. Obviously it is quite frustrating for the boat owner but it’s just as big of a headache for other people waiting to load or unload behind you at the access. Taking a few minutes to complete these simple steps can save you a lot of time and money on repairs that could have been prevented.
I like to start with the most common issue, the batteries. Clean all corrosion from connections and terminals. Make sure all batteries hold a charge prior to the night before your first trip. It is good practice to keep them on a battery tender in the off season, or periodically charge them each month when not in use.
Check over your motor for any damaged wiring or rotted air and fuel lines. Even the smallest crack can cause big issues in the performance of your motor. Next, you will want to check your spark plugs for any damage or abnormal coloring on the firing ends. Not sure what you are looking for? What is considered to be acceptable in appearance is brown to light gray, otherwise replace.
Raise and lower your trim to make sure it is in proper working order. If it’s weak or not moving, the brushes may need to be replaced. Inspect the lower unit and prop for any cracks or other damage. If you didn't change your lower unit oil in the fall, make sure to do so now.
Next you’ll want to connect a motor flusher, also commonly known as “ear muffs”, to the garden hose. Slide the “ear muffs” over the water intake and turn on the water supply. Always add fresh gas if you can, even if you added fuel stabilizer in the fall. Even fuel stabilizer can break down over time so fresh gas is always recommended. Always try and use ethanol free gas. Ethanol can cause gaskets and rubber in the carburetor to rot over time, causing premature failure. Saving a few pennies at the pump can cost you much more over the long run.
Squeeze or prime the gas line. Choke and turn the key. Now remember, it may take a while to get it to fire off at first. It can take a few tries as the bowls on the carburetors need to fill up. Take care not to flood your motor. Once started, make sure the water pump is working and a strong stream of water is coming out. Let the engine warm up for 2-3 minutes. Then make sure it engages in both forward, and reverse. Once you’re certain that it is in good running condition, kill the motor. Again inspect the motor for any fuel leaks. If all is good, re-install the motor cover.
Afterward, check all gauges, navigation lights, and switches. Live wells and bilge pumps are often overlooked. Make sure your pumps all turn on and work. I had an incident last year while on the river. For some odd reason my boat was filling up with water and I had no idea where it was coming from. Thankfully the bilge pump worked and I was able to make it back to shore to inspect the boat immediately. To my surprise the live well pump somehow got a crack in the housing. This was causing the water to start siphoning into the hull below the floor. That was a first!
Don’t neglect your trailer, without it you’re not going anywhere. I see a lot of people driving with burnt out or broken lights. Inspect any burnt out bulbs or broken lenses and replace. If you are still having issues with trailer lights look at the connection, you may have corrosion that needs to be cleaned off. One other possibility is a short in the wiring. You have lights for a reason so make sure they work!
Inspect the tires for abnormal wear. Uneven wear can be caused by something as simple as tire pressure. Check your wheel bearings for any play by simply wiggling the wheel left to right and top to bottom. If you do not have “bearing buddies”, I suggest investing in some. This simple product will make greasing your hubs quick and painless.
Take a little time to go over your boat before you dip it in the water for the first time. Doing these few simple things will not only give you a peace of mind everything is operating correctly but can also ensure the safety of yourself and others. Don’t be “that guy” holding up the boat launch!

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (4/20) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Hot Springtime Crappie Bites

Tom called. He had the weekend off and wanted very much to get into some ice-out panfish. Living in Ontario, his fishing season had come to a close as far as ice fishing went and he wanted to get into some ice-out crappie or bluegill. “Sure” I responded, “let’s do it.”
Having spent a little time with me during last year’s ice-out period and catching a bunch of gills, Tom Batiuk wanted more, as sunfish aren’t very plentiful in “Sunset Country.”
He messaged me on a Friday night saying “I'll be on the road at 5am. Meeting at the A-Frame?” That message had me hurriedly messaging him back saying “We can meet there but you may want to leave a little later, like 7:00 am so the water has a chance to warm.” He was talking of the cabin on Little Bear Lake, in Minnesota’s Itasca County, where we have previously met for various fishing excursions.
Plans went accordingly and when I pulled into the cabin yard Tom was already giving the shoreline a good working over.
Walking down to see how he was doing, I checked the water temp and found it to be a cool 50º. Two days earlier, I was checking temps and found it to be over 52º.
In 10 minutes of casting, the only bite Tom had received was from a hungry northern pike, which bit him off.
Overcome by a bad feeling of fishing failure, I told him “the water’s too cold for the fish to be up close and active.” His quick response was “let’s go visit Chad.” I agreed. It was a good call. If there was anything wrong with that decision it was the fact that our good buddy Chad lived in Alexandria, some 250 miles away.
Never-the-less, there we were, back in Keewatin, piling all essential panfish gear into Tom’s new diesel truck and heading south, another 4 hours, where the water temps would be much warmer and panfish would be a whole lot more predictable. I’ve always said and stand by the fact that in order to stay on fish and enjoy a good bite one has to travel, something that I’ve been preaching and doing for decades.
Day trips of 500 miles or more are something that I’ve accepted when it comes to staying on fish. As a matter-of-fact, back in my guiding days I boasted of fishing a 1,500 square mile area in northern Minnesota, traveling to wherever the hot bite happened and that’s just what I did. I continue to use this method today.
We messaged Chad Peterson, aka “the crappie sniffer”, who when first receiving our text thought we were just playing with him. Who in the world says “we’re heading your way for some fishing” and it’s mid-morning and you are over 200 miles away? The answer: Greg Clusiau and Tom Batiuk.
Pulling into his driveway, Chad was standing outside next to his boat, looking a bit disgusted, because we were late, like it was just a drive across town. It was late, I’ll give him that. After all, here we were, arriving at his place, in southern Minnesota, at 2:00 pm and expecting to get in on some good fishing to complete the day.
Quickly throwing our gear in his truck, we sped off to the first lake, which proved to be a bust, with water temps being a little too cool for his liking. “Oh boy” I thought. Here we were over 2oo miles from home in the late afternoon and expecting to get in on a good bite. One, however, has to realize that Chad “is” the go-to guy when it comes to panfish. We didn’t drive that far for our health. We wanted fish!
The next lake proved to be the gem. Chad had five lakes lined up but we needed to go no further, as nearly every cast produced a sunfish or crappie. They were located in a shallow, weedy, back bay that received a lot of sunlight and the water temperature was measured at a scalding 58º. Imagine that. Drive over 200 miles south and find water temps 8º warmer. That’s “all” it took to find fish and hungry fish at that.
We didn’t keep track but an honest estimate of approximately 200 panfish were caught and released on this day. Yes, it does pay to travel to the next hot bite.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (4/15) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Rainy River Wrap Up

The last two fishing trips for me were both on the Rainy River and 2 ½ weeks apart. I normally never have that much “down time” between trips but after making two trips into Canada for crappie and one to the Rainy River for walleye in a span of five days I got a little tired out and came down with a terrible cold, which basically rendered me home bound for the entire time. I haven’t been that sick in years, if ever.
I can tell you this and that is my garage has never looked so organized, as that was about all I did during my sick leave. A couple of winter fishing rod racks were made too.
The big switcheroo was done last weekend, taking all of the summer stuff out of storage and putting all winter equipment in. How nice it is to have the boat sitting in the garage, waiting for me to get it water ready, which if in a hurry would only take a half hour or so.
All we have to do now is wait for open water and by the looks of it is not too far away. My brother called to say Little Bear Lake was ice free, which is really early for that lake. Usually, other lakes are opened up before that one.
As far as fishing goes, friends are already catching open water crappie in the Alexandria/St. Cloud/Brainerd areas. All we have to do is wait another week for our North Country lakes to shed their winter coats and we’ll be out there as well.
Driving up north, I went past the Buck Lake public access on highway 65 and spotted five deer standing on the ice, looking for a way off the lake. They were looking a little nervous, as the shoreline was wide open.
They can swim just fine but if they happened to fall through the rotting ice I’m not sure they would have made it. Finally, a large doe found a safe spot to jump to shore and the rest quickly followed behind. It was nice to see. At first, I thought I may be witnessing a tragedy, so I made sure to stay well away from them to prevent spooking.
The Rainy River walleye season has now closed but for those wishing to hop in the boat and get bit the sturgeon fishing is currently going well and you have until May 7 to get in on the fun. If you ever wanted to catch a truly big fish, this is your chance.
It is catch and release only through April 23 with a special harvest season from April 24 – May 7. Anyone planning on keeping one (only 1 per calendar year) must plan accordingly and have a sturgeon tag on hand, which must be validated and attached immediately upon catching the fish and registered within 48 hours. The sturgeon must be 45” – 50” inclusive or over 75” in length. Frankly, I have no desire to keep a big fish like that, preferring to let them go, but to each their own.
After the harvest season, catch and release is allowed from May 8 – 15 and no tag is required. The sturgeon season then remains closed from May 16 to June 30.
For those still wanting to feel a tug on the line but don’t have the time or means to fish the Rainy River, head over to the local river for a crack at a few suckers. This is fun and something I used to do every year, sort of like a spring ritual. Yes, I like to fish for practically everything that swims and suckers are on the list.
I found it a good way to get a few rods and reels ready for the general opener, as I would use a couple of my walleye rods, rigged up in live bait fashion with a slip sinker and leader with a plain hook. I’d always catch and release but they are good smoked and a lot of folks keep them for this application.
It’s happening now. Get out there and have some fun.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (4/7) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Sturgeon 101 Courtesy Andy Walsh

It’s that time of the year to get into the prehistoric giants that lurk the depths of Rainy River.
Water temp is roughly 37-38 degrees with this current cold front and water clarity is roughly at 3 feet. Facing a 10-12 mph NW wind all day, we managed to catch 11 sturgeon ranging from 60.5 inches down to 20 inch class.
Sturgeon fishing is a chance for family and friends to get together and fish for giants and grab some quality time away from the digital world. Here are some tips to help you get in on this exciting fishery.
First off, catch a photo- it'll last a lifetime.
When handling these fish don't put your hands in the gill plates or hold them vertically. I can admit when I first fished sturgeon I learned this was very harmful on these fish. Hold them with two hands at a horizontal position.
Here’s a countdown of top ten tips to catching a sturgeon on Rainy River:
10. Don't be cheap on crawlers- fill that number 5/0 circle hook with a generous gob.
9. No-roll weights need to be proportional to the current. Recently, 4oz no-rolls have been perfect.
8. Use about a foot of heavy braid line for a leader. Using more puts your hook at risk for not being on the bottom where it needs to be.
7. Use the clicker function on your bait caster to its fullest. Utilizing this will allow you to keep the reel in free-spool versus loosening your drag, so the fish can run with the bait. Make sure your drag is set for them to run. And let them run! Their mouths are strong but hooks can tear out pretty easily. Losing a fish because of poor drag can cost you a day without getting any sturgeon.
Keep an eye on the rod tip. With lower current or bigger fish, they may just suck the hook in and stay put. You will see your rod tip bounce pretty good in this case because the weight it picked up off the bottom.
6. As obvious as it sounds - keep your line in the water. Being patient is key here. Sturgeon are bottom roamers and will eventually find your gob of worms. Many boats around us were constantly reeling in and casting without much luck. Patience is key.
5. Boat position. When fishing current plus an opposite wind, it’s key to position your boat so you don't move or pose a risk of the anchor letting loose. Being and staying in the spot that you plan to be is essential. Floating around chances your big rig for instant rock snag. Staying in one spot also sets up everyone so the lines can stay spread out and tight.
4. Get a big rod with a back bone. I use my musky set up. (Makes it multifunctional and cheaper on the wallet to not go buy more rods.). I actually like to use my St.Croix for the strength and quicker retrieval. I also have an Ugly Stick which is fun because it feels like an "ultra light" for the fun fight. Something worth noting: bigger equipment to get these majestic lurkers of the deep is better on the fish in regards to their recovery. The longer the fight the more lactic acid build up which is harmful on any fish. These sturgeon fight current and need all the strength the can get after a good fight.
3. Electronics and mapping. This takes a lot of guessing away when picking a spot. Going on a gut feeling may not cut it. Finding holes are good spots to start because it seems they like the deepest parts of each segment of river. Don't always trust mapping. Water levels, sediment, and debris will fill prior spots. Using side imaging along with down imagining helps find the nooks and crevices that sturgeon like to stay in.
2. Don't fish alone if you don't have too. Sturgeon fishing is a team effort. One to catch. One to net. And really, one to pull anchor if needed. We find that three in the boat is a good number, plus it adds extra lines to explore different parts of the "hole" you are fishing. It also makes unloading and loading your boat very quick!
1. Homework and perseverance. If you go for the day or weekend, don't get down on yourself if it doesn't pan out right away. Give an area an hour or two and move if things aren't working out. Even if you come back a year later to your "spot". It will be different because rivers constantly change.
This year the water was way below last year’s level so be careful when navigating. Mapping systems in a river are very close and relative with their contour lines, but can't be relied upon solely. Take notes of temp, water clarity, water temp, and weather. It'll all add up in the end.
Putting these 10 tips together will give you a better chance and understanding from the get go. Putting time in will increase your numbers. Be comfortable! It's a waiting game. Stay warm and relaxed.
As always. Fish smarter... Be a Fish Head. Andy (article courtesy of Andy Walsh) .

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (3/31) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Rainy River Walleye Fishing

Ice fishing was still going strong when I jumped in the boat for the first time this spring and that happened a week and a half ago on the Rainy River. I’ll blame fishing partner Justin Bailey for that one. Well actually, I usually never need any arm twisting but certainly had my doubts of a fun trip when the thermometer read 32º while on our way up there. It was going to be cold, to say the least.
The river had supposedly opened up past the Birchdale public access. Again, I was doubting, as heading east toward the access, the river was covered with ice. I asked Justin “are you sure?” He just laughed. It was he who received the fishing report of good catches and an ice free landing. It was his gig. I had to trust him. Finally, ice floes and patches of open water greeted us about four miles from the boat launch.
Being midweek it wasn’t too busy, compared to what it can be. We were, however, there at first light and well ahead of most other early spring walleye hopefuls.
I heard reports of a shuttle service of sorts where, for a small fee, someone would drive to the end of the parking area and pick you up with a golf cart. That’s a great idea, as when things get going on the Rainy River, parking is at a premium and the walk back to the boat can be quite a distance. Early birds that we were, the mini transport wasn’t available.
The river was low and current somewhat slow, making for good fishing conditions. Most all snow had melted away and it was an entirely different scene than what I was accustomed to when it comes to spring fishing on the Rainy.
Normally, water is heavily stained and rushing past the ramp with a strong presence. One also had to be mindful of the Little Fork and Big Fork rivers, as when they “let go”, fishing could very possibly come to a halt due to a lot of extra ice and rising muddy water. Not this year. This would be a “walk in the park” as long as we didn’t hit any rocks.
Bundled up, more than we would for ice fishing, it didn’t take long to put a nice walleye in the boat. Looking to be somewhere in the 22” range and caught by the third angler in our group, Ben McInerney, it was quickly admired, photo’d and gently eased back into the river.
Special regulations apply to the Rainy River during this time and that means any walleye measuring 19 ½” or longer must be released. This means “pinching” the tail down to get as long a length as possible and the limit is two per person.
So if you want to load up on a bunch of fish to take home, the Rainy River isn’t for you. However, if you want to catch a bunch of walleye and have a chance at a big one, perhaps it’s just right. Most anglers, like us, just wanted to get out on the river for the first time this spring and catch an open water fish, no matter how good the ice season was. That first open water jig bite is something special indeed.
This early bite also gives one a chance to see how everything operates (outboard, trolling motor, graph, live well, etc.) in preparation for the Minnesota general fishing opener on May 9.
It took some time before the air temperature finally warmed up and by that I mean it may have hit 45º on this day. It certainly didn’t feel like it though.
For most of the day the water temperature, measured at 36º, was warmer than the air. I told the fellas to stick their hands in the river if they were cold. No takers.
Fishing wasn’t fast and furious by any means but remained steady enough to keep us interested. We ended up catching a couple dozen walleye, bringing home six.
Best baits were jigs and minnows or jigs and plastics. Justin was hot using a variety of presentations and usually caught a fish on the very first cast after tying on something new. It was kind of comical. Justin catching five small northern pike was funny as well.
Occasional sturgeon were accidently hooked. We watched an angler battle one for over fifteen minutes before it came unbuttoned near the boat. He never saw the fish but was leaning into it for all his eight pound test line could take.
There’s a lot of fun taking place on the Rainy River right now. The spring walleye season goes through April 14. Get up there and give it a whack.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (3/24) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Fast Forward >> Back To Winter

I should have known that the so-called “first day of spring” would send us right back into winter mode, which is just fine for me, as the ice fishing season has been extended another week or two.
Looking for stronger and perhaps even safer ice, Blake Liend and I made a couple recent trips across the border to join fishing guide Tom Batiuk of Ft. Frances. Tom is all over the place up there and usually has the fish wired. Being a pilot and flying frequently, the observant Batiuk notices where people have been fishing and better yet where they haven’t. This is where we come in.
Crappies were our target and find them we did. We used atvs, even though trucks were still driving around on areas of Rainy Lake last weekend. I don’t know about that. It scares me. Yes, there is still about 36” of ice but it is late March and nearing the end of a season. Also, many of these Canadian Shield lakes have a good amount of current running through them. This is always something to be concerned about, especially when traveling or fishing near “pinched down” bottleneck areas.
Crappies were doing their thing, moving about and heavily feeding. Coming and going, they’d appear below you and aggressively bite if you were quick enough to get your lure in front of them. I believe there are a couple factors that have these fish on the move. One, they are chasing bait and two, they themselves are bait to northern pike.
Everyone has their own special baits and Northland Tackle’s “Forage Minnow” spoon is one of mine, all winter long. It just so happened, on the first trip, that one of these little spoons in “Glo Chub” color was the hot bait of the day and I was the only one who had one. Imagine that.
Oh what fun it was, razzing my fishing companions with each big crappie pulled through the hole. Hey, I’ve been there, on both sides of this dilemma, so when you get your chance to put on the dog, go for it.
On the way out to our second outing, I told my comrades that I was just going to set up shop in my Fish Trap, back to the wind and sun, take photos and cook.
Stopping on the fishing grounds, a hole was courteously drilled right in front of the “cook shack.” These guys really take care of me. However, when I spotted fish below me I just had to drop a line and after catching four quick slab crappie, the good-natured banter began. At this point, I dug out the tinfoil and brats and got to cooking lunch.
In between cooking, I walked around taking a few photos, catching a fish or two. It was a good bite, real good. Blake reeled in an oversized slab that coughed up a small crappie. Yes, they do eat their own, like most all fish, as long as the size is right. It’s a tough, cruel world down there.
This got me to thinking “I wonder if I could catch a monster slab on a lure replicating a small crappie?” Digging through my tackle bag, I pulled out a Clam “Psycho Shad” and dropped it down. “Chartreuse/Shiner” in color, it was a nice and bright for the stained water we were fishing and of the perfect size, ideally “matching the hatch.”
The lure was quickly intercepted on its descent by a big crappie. It was working.
After catching several nice fish with the bait, I wondered what else would work and once again sorted through the tackle bag, coming away with a small Northland Tackle “Rippin’ Shad” in “crappie” pattern. An exact replica of the little crappie, in both size and color, I was excited to see how it would perform.
However, this one too was greeted on the first drop but this time it was a northern pike. Needless-to-say, the lure was gone in four seconds and it was time to re-tie.
The next selection was one of my favorite lures for monster Lake Winnipeg walleye, an orange and glow Salmo “Chubby Darter.” I fished for an hour or two with this bait and caught several fish until once again being bitten off by a northern. Switching back to a Forage Minnow, I finished the day.
Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to experiment, especially when the fish are biting. You just might find a new technique or two. - Good luck, be safe, and have fun.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (3/16) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Soft Ice Says Goodbye to Ice Fishing, Almost

Another ice fishing season is fast coming to an end and it’s hard to believe, actually frightening, that trucks were driving on the ice up until last weekend. Actually, some of them broke through on various lakes across the state, as well as in the North Country. 
Oh sure, there was plenty of ice, up to 3’ or more, but when my auger cranks out a hole in a matter of seconds, with near dull blades mind you, it’s time to start using other modes of transportation.
The speedy hole drilling is a result of soft ice. Having the same blades on my auger since new, two years ago, means they definitely aren’t as sharp as they used to be. I noticed a difference during late winter when the ice was still solid. I could cut a hole alright but it just wasn’t the same, which means I’ll be sporting new blades next November.
I will say one thing and that is I am quite satisfied with my Clam Edge auger, as it starts on the second or third pull in the morning and on the first pull thereafter throughout the day. It also cuts like a mad chicken, if you can imagine that??!
I’ve seen a lot of “rotten” honeycombed ice in my day but the large chunks coming out of the hole last Sunday were amazing and to see vehicles driving on top of this stuff even more so.
Walking, I pulled my Fish Trap packed full of gear, actually more than I really needed, and even though it was a half mile or so the sled pulled with ease as there wasn’t any snow to slow me down. All glare ice made for easy walking but you had to wear ice cleats.
Many of the holes were wide open from the day before so searching for fish was made easy too. Using my Vexilar, all I had to do was walk around and drop the transducer in several of the many holes until fish were spotted. Then it was time to get to work.
The fish were really on the move on this day, which more than likely meant they were heavily feeding. Many times, I wasn’t quick enough in getting the lure down to them and they would vanish before I had a chance to catch one. However, if fortunate enough to reach them before they left, a bite was immediate, as several fish at a time were on the screen.
Extreme caution is advised, even if walking. I plan on going a few more times but not too much in this area. I might make a trip or two to visit friends in Ontario, where the ice is in slightly better shape.
Looking at my fishing log, I have been ice fishing 88 times this season and while that may seem an incredible number I don’t think the ice will last long enough for me to reach 100, which I did a few years ago and I was working a fulltime job back then. How was that even possible? I remember fishing 100 days on open water and 100 days on the ice that year. I must be slowing down.
I had to laugh, last Saturday, as I made my regular morning stop at the Keewatin Sinclair convenience store. It was here that I bumped into two of my nephews, who were going fishing. What else? They were heading up north to fish with one of my brothers.
Another brother was thinking of going to a different lake and my son and another nephew were on their way to Lake of the Woods. Also, my son-in-law invited me to fish with him in the Big Winnibigoshish/Bowstring area. I guess we love the outdoors, as this close-knit family does a lot of hunting as well. Pretty cool.
What do they say? A family that fishes together sticks together? Or something like that. Get out there and enjoy the outdoors. It’s happening NOW.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (3/9) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Ice Fishing Lake Winnipeg Walleye

Another Lake Winnipeg walleye trip is in the books and what a trip it was. It did, however, start out slow but steadily picked up steam with each new day. The weather also continued to improve, which more than likely had something to do with our success in catching portly Lake Winnipeg walleye.
Based out of Gimli, on the west side of the massive lake, we stopped to fish on our first of four days before driving further north to register at Lakeview Resort. Gaining access through the Chalet Beach area, we parked on the lake and used snowmobiles to reach our destination, several miles away.
Lake travel was extremely rough and rarely could a top speed of 15 mph be reached without destroying fishing equipment stored in our portable Clam shelters.
Sub-zero temperatures had me wishing I had a heated face shield on my snowmobile helmet, as by the time we arrived at the fishing grounds, some thirty minutes later, I had frost and icicles on my eye lashes. It was bitter out and gusting winds didn’t help matters.
Only seven fish were caught by seven anglers for our first half-day on the lake. It was slow, to say the least. On the plus side, due to a lack of snow, truck traffic seemed to be the preferred mode of transportation and snowmobiles wouldn’t be needed for the next three days. This would make for easier and much warmer travel.
When planning for the trip, we always check lake conditions just to make sure we’re doing it right. I would hesitate in driving that far without an optional mode of transportation. You have to be ready for most anything. Even though the snowmobiles were left at the resort, if an unexpected snowstorm came to visit we would still be able to do our thing.
Each morning started with a pit stop at the local gas station, where travel mugs were filled with steaming hot coffee and containers of frozen minnows were purchased. Evidently it was the place to be as anglers stood in line for each.
Truck travel was sweet but not any smoother. It was terribly rough out there and I was glad the ride wasn’t any further. Traveling in convoy style, the lead vehicle would break trail while the rest followed. If stuck, which only happened a couple of times, tow straps were used to continue on.
Pressure ridges were encountered from time-to-time and crossing them meant slowly following a rutty trail already there. Some were obstacles in the form of rough and bumpy ice which required a slow speed. Sometimes you had to “give it” because of a rutty, deep snow trail. Other than that, travel went smooth and we could fish anywhere we cared to.
Day two was better but still somewhat slow in numbers of fish caught. Size, however, was there and several “Masters” were achieved, which meant the fish measured at least 28”. First time Winnipeg angler Andy Walsh bagged two of them, measuring 28” and 30”. The largest weighed in at 11 pounds 12 ounces and made its way to Chris Kunze Taxidermy in Keewatin. Andy’s brother, Mike, another Lake Winnipeg first-timer, followed up with a 30” of his own on the very next day. That one too will be hung on the wall.
Mike Walsh, Executive Chef at Streetcar Kitchen & Pub in Carlton, MN prepared lunch for us out on the lake in a large Clam hub shelter. Imagine piping hot walleye chowder and fish tacos out on the ice. That sure hit the spot on those cold days.
I may have started out slow in the catching category but ended up with four of our groups twenty Master fish, with three 28” and a 29”. These fish are just incredible and even though I have made eight trips to this big walleye wonderland, I find myself duly impressed with each outing. Words can’t explain, much like the world class channel catfish fishing in the Red River that flows into Lake Winnipeg. Amazing.
Best baits pretty much depended on what you used the greater percentage of the time but top producers for us were “Rippin’ Raps”, “Clackin’ Raps”, “Rippin’ Shads”, “Psycho Shads”, and “Slender Spoons”.
It’s all happening right now and you owe it to yourself to give these fish a try. It’s truly an amazing fishery.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (3/3) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Bigger and better would appropriately describe the annual “No Child Left Inside” program put on by the Nashwauk-Keewatin schools where all students from 4th to 6th grades are allowed to head to the lake for a day of outdoor fun.
Brainchild of elementary teacher Chris Lysaker, last year’s event was canceled due to poor lake/weather conditions but this year was a smashing success with even more to offer the students, some of which have never had a chance to enjoy the great outdoors before in this capacity.
An avid angler, it is quite obvious that Lysaker would involve a little ice fishing to the program. Actually, there is a whole lot of ice fishing along with many other outdoor activities available the students like snowshoeing, sled dog rides, snowmobile sled rides, and just plain playing on the lake.
Local law enforcement agencies and fire departments were on hand, along with the Life Link helicopter, allowing students to understand and appreciate just how much effort goes into protecting our communities.
One new addition to this year’s outing was the Iron Range Chapter of the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association. An exciting winter pastime, students could go inside a portable shelter and experience what it looks like to spear or sight-fish in a large hole that offered a great view of the lake bottom.
Angling was slow on this day but it was apparent that all children had their fair share of fun in trying to catch a fish. One young girl exclaimed “I want to catch a fish through the ice, I’ve never done that before.” She did.
Crappie Action Heating Up…Crappies, and some nice ones at that, have been more than willing to bite as of late with several area lakes producing some very nice fish and lake travel with vehicles continues to be a great option for getting to your favorite fishing hole. Yes, it’s been quite a winter.
Remember, a new Minnesota angling license is required and walleye and northern pike seasons have closed until opening day. You can, however, continue to catch stream and lake trout through the end of March.
Keep in mind the ice house removal date of March 16, when all shelters have to be off the lake each night unless attended. This applies to the areas north of highways 10, 34, 200, and 2.
Area Fishing Guides Offer Good Fishing…Grand Rapids area fishing guides Zach Dagel of Grand Rapids Guide Service and Reed Ylitalo of Wings and Walleyes Guide Service have been doing very well on the panfish. March is a great month for catching these fish and it will only get better as the season progresses. Anyone interested in spending a quality day on the ice learning and catching should really consider contacting one of these gentlemen.
For those wishing to catch a lake trout, consider lining up a trip with Ely fishing guide Steve Foss or Effie’s Lee Lane. These guys catch fish and March can be “prime time” for lake trout fun on Burntside Lake. It’s also a little warmer out and lake travel mush easier.
Still Want Pike and Walleye?...Well if that’s the case, you may want to head north and fish Lake of the Woods, where the walleye season runs through April 14 and the northern pike season never closes. Many anglers try their hand at a big northern pike during this period and many are caught. If you’re looking for a trophy, now is the time. Good luck, be safe, and have fun.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (2/23) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" Fishing With Vets On Lake Winnibigoshish Part 2 - They came from far and wide, veterans all, from different walks of service life. Some active, some fresh off a tour to Afghanistan or Iraq, or both. Others experienced Viet Nam. It didn’t matter because this time they were gathered together for a different cause, to experience the flavor of ice fishing in northern Minnesota.
The newly founded organization “Fishing with Vets” honors all veterans and is proud to take them fishing, whether open water or on the ice, which it was three weeks ago on Big Winnibigoshish, based out of High Banks Resort.
“Fishing with Vets” is the brainchild of Justin Grecco and Justin Bailey. Grecco, president of the organization, never served in the Armed Forces but puts his heart and soul into the project, honoring his grandfather who served in Viet Nam along with his great-grandfather who was in World War II.
Bailey, vice president, still has lingering effects from being wounded in Iraq but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves, fishing and helping out his fellow veterans. A humble Bailey said “it’s not about me. It’s about the veterans. Helping them out and having some fun.”
The Big Winnie outing entertained nineteen veterans in all. Some camped out on the big lake in wheel houses for the weekend, trying their hand at walleye and perch, while others ventured off to nearby waters in search of crappie.
A huge thank you goes out to local fishing guide Reed Yiltalo of “Wings & Walleyes” guide service for helping out and putting us “on fish.”
Not even two months old, “Fishing with Vets” is taking off in a big way and donations are rolling in. Clam Outdoors stepped up big time, like they usually do, along with Mills Fleet Farm and Hardees. Other sponsors were High Banks Resort and HSM Outdoors.
Several fishing guides have also donated trips for the upcoming summer season and they range from walleyes with Reed Yiltalo, bass with Brett McComas, lake trout with Tom Batiuk, and musky and sturgeon with Lee Lane. Any veterans interested in spending a day in the boat and joining in on the fun should go to the “Fishing with Vets” Facebook page for more info.
Thanks to all of the volunteers and sponsors who have made this possible.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (2/16) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" Fishing With Vets On Lake Winnibigoshish - Just off the ice and writing this article on a Sunday evening, as early Monday morning will find me back in the Big Winnie area for the “Fishing with Vets” outing. Based out of High Banks Resort, two dozen veterans will be sampling the waters of Big Winnie, Cut Foot, Round Lake, and then some. It all depends on just where the best bite is happening and a full report will be given next week.
Lake travel varies from lake to lake since our most recent snowfall. A prime example is Burntside Lake, where we drove pickup trucks all over in search of lake trout, is almost to the point where truck travel will be no more until it melts down sometime in March. Snow is fairly deep and drifted on this fun fishery.
Big Winnibigoshish, on the other hand, is just wonderful, with most all of the snow blown off the lake and pushed up along the shorelines. Cut Foot Sioux is rated somewhere in between.
I can tell you without looking back through my fishing log that the past week has been quite tough for me. Maybe I wasn’t fishing the best waters but never-the-less it was poor as far as production goes. I expected to do better.
Five different lakes each gave up a few fish and one of them even handed me a shutout. Of course, not much time was spent on the shutout lake, as I only fished for an hour before getting that gut feeling to pack up and get out of there. I could tell it just wasn’t going to happen and moved on to another body of water. Thank goodness for Itasca County and its 1,000 or more lakes.
The very last tight-lipped lake was Cut Foot Sioux, where panfish expert Crappie Keith Nelson and I threw everything in the book at lock-jawed crappie. Set up in a Clam “Jason Mitchell” 5000 Thermal hub shelter, we stayed warm on this blustery day and waited for fish to come through.
They were slowly coming and going and giving us the ultimate challenge with each and every visit. It wasn’t easy by any means and here we were teaching some of the Armed Services veterans the fine art of catching fussy fish through the ice.
I told one of the students “this is general as tough as it gets and if you can catch fish today you’ll be able to catch them anytime.”
Our presentation was to offer a small jig, with a dash of color, tipped with a wax worm or maggot. Keith and I both started out using Clam’s Maki plastics and Northland’s Impulse with nary a taker. Normally this is all one needs but this day was different, way different. They wanted “meat.”
Lines were light, in the 2-4 pound test and rods with a super-light wimpy tips or spring bobbers were used. They had to be.
Several times, a rod was placed into position and left on the ice, while other chores like rigging up other rods were tended to and more than once a fish was hanging on the end of the line when we picked up the rod. The fish were biting that light.
A tough, super fussy bite doesn’t bother me, as I love the challenge but when you have folks driving up from the Twin Cities or farther it would be nice if they could catch a bunch of fish. Maybe Monday. The weather’s forecasted to be in the teens and that might be just enough to get these dieting panfish to eat. Hopefully, after a week of fasting they’ll fall off the wagon and go on a real binge. We’ll see. It sure would be nice.
I should mention that I like to use wax worms or maggots when it comes to live bait for panfish but finding maggots on the Iron Range isn’t easy and the only place I have found them so far is at Thousand Lake’s Sporting Goods in Cohasset.
Maggots are more durable and have a tendency to stay on the hook better. They also come in a variety of colors! Stick two or three, or more, on the end of your hooks, impaling the “blunt” end and get to catching fish.

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (2/9) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" Clear Lake Iowa Yellow Bass - Every once in a while, curiosity peaks and something has to be done about it, especially when having to do with fishing. This latest peaking involved a feisty, aggressive little fish that goes by the name of yellow bass. Although small in size, I wanted to catch one through the ice. I wanted to physically hold and study it. A brilliant yellow color with black off-set bars, they just looked so darned cool. 
Following fellow Clam Outdoors pro staffer Kevan Paul and speaking with him at various functions, I was well aware of the 2015 YBB Yellow Bass Bonanza that was going to take place on his home waters of Clear Lake, Iowa and I wanted to be there to witness the annual event.
In an effort to control the population of this prolific fish, Kevan and guide partner Chris Scholl of Kevan Paul’s Guide Service started the event three years ago and its fast growing popularity has been nothing short of astounding. Dragging our feet, we almost didn’t get a hotel room. A huge thank you goes to Kevan for bailing us out.
Clear Lake was hopping, much like the good old days at the historic Surf Ballroom, where famed musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson aka “the Big Bopper” played their last gig in February of 1959.
Flying out of Mason City for the next nights show in Fargo, the plane went down minutes later killing all aboard including Clear Lake pilot Roger Peterson. The Surf Ballroom, however, still thrives and was the site of the pre-tournament banquet.
Arriving two days early, we had plenty of time to explore the 3,684 acre lake and my first yellow bass came within seconds of dropping a line. Not really knowing the average size of these fish, I quickly measured it at 9 ½” and tossed it back into the hole. Little did I know that it would be the largest I would catch over the next three days.
“Yellows”, an invasive species, taste great, and there is no limit. Think about it. If you’ve got a hankering for a fresh fish dinner and live fairly close to Clear Lake there’s absolutely no reason not to have one, as these voracious little eating machines seem to always be on the bite. They’re easy to find. All you have to do is drill a hole.
The yellow bass population was getting out of hand and this created a stunting effect of sorts. Due to the Yellow Bass Bonanza, the size of yellow bass is on the rise, climbing to where it once was but they still have a way to go. Crappie and perch size has also been increasing.
I have to mention muskies when talking about Clear Lake as there are plenty of them in this body of water and HSM Outdoors Justin Bailey is proof of this. Justin had a real beast on for over 10 minutes before it broke him off. Visible below the ice, it was just too much to turn it’s snout into the hole. It’s surprising how much abuse 4# test monofilament line can take.
Another travel partner and HSM member, Tom Batiuk, caught a real nice white bass. One never knows what’s on the end of your line when fishing Clear Lake. We were hoping for one of the catfish too but that didn’t happen. 
What’s it take to win? It’s easier than you think. All you need is a little luck, as thousands of dollars of cash and prizes are spread out over the entire field. For example, one team finished in 175th place out of 254 teams, weighing in 3 fish for 0.85 pounds and won a FL-12 Vexilar. Another example is 150th place winning a Clam Outdoors “Kenai Pro” ice fishing shelter. You just never know.
The first place team of Schuttler and Lauber weighed in the maximum of 50 yellow bass that tipped the scales at 15.14 pounds and won $500 cash and a $1,000 package from Cabela’s.
A total of 5,429 yellow bass were weighed in, beating last year’s mark of 4,100 fish.
The YBB is an extremely well run event that went as smooth as any I’ve ever seen. Think about it for next year and while you are there check out the historic Surf Ballroom. There’s plenty of fun to be had in Clear Lake, Iowa. For more information, visit the website >> Kevan Paul’s - 641-529-2359.
Question and Answer - On (2/9) Noah Johnson wrote; "Hello, fairly regular reader here, and appreciate what you do.  Forgive me if there's good reasons for lack of updates on Bill Charleston here, but I think they'd be welcomed and helpful for the family. 
They always did such a nice job with fishing updates I think it'd be nice to maybe recognize their strife here and put a link to the fund set up for Bill.  Again, if there's things going on behind the scenes, great, but I felt I had to send a word, they seem like good folks and could all the support possible in this tough time."
A) YES, we agree. Bill Charlton and his family can use all of the support that they can get right now. Unfortunately, except for some 2nd hand conversation, we haven't received an update recently. We will look 'em up today and get the most recent news.
*Here's the link to the "You Caring" fundraiser that Noah mentioned; click >> Bill Charlton Medical Expenses Fundraiser

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (2/2) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" Flowing North For Burntside Lake Trout - Traveling across Burntside Lake, one of Minnesota’s better inland lake trout fisheries, I was excited to get out there and give it a whirl with someone who specializes in this activity. In this case it was Lee Lane and Caleb Babcock of Flow North Outdoors guide service.
Based out of the Effie-Bigfork area, the duo makes several trips each winter to this 7,139 acre Canadian Shield fishery located near Ely and seem to have it “wired.”
Burntside, like most trout lakes, offers plenty of deep, clear water and unless you actually study a map and try to eliminate water, it can all look good when lake trout are concerned. Luckily the Flow North guys had a good pattern going for us to enjoy.
Driving trucks, fishing partner Justin Bailey and I followed our guides. Lake travel with a vehicle was good for late January and only once in a while would we encounter drifting that would pile up a temporary road block. We felt comfortable with ice conditions as Babcock and Lane had been out there before and knew just what they were dealing with.
One thing I can say about driving on lakes of this nature is do not take things for granted and drive all over the lake, especially too close to the “pinched down” areas that more-than-likely have current flowing through them. Off on our own, we did find only 12” of ice in such a spot so please use extreme caution. Actually, if we get any more snow vehicles will be useless and snowmobiles will be required.
Winds howled for the entire day but that didn’t stop us from fishing from first light to dark without the protection of a shelter. It’s nice to use a shelter but when the “running and gunning” approach is applied you’re better off without one. This brings back a memory of Dave Genz saying (referring to Clam’s blue ice fishing suit) “you’re wearing your shelter.” With that in mind, we kept our eyes on the Vexilar and our backs to the wind.
Lane prefers a big fish pattern that basically eliminates smaller trout, also known as “shakers.” We started at the first available spot and worked it for twenty minutes before Justin reeled in a real dandy. Photos were quickly taken before the big fish was released to fight again. Forty minutes later, it was time to move on to the next of several others of the Flow North trout milk-run.
Arriving at the next destination, several holes were punched at the preferred depths with each of us picking a spot. Normal circumstances had us fishing each hole for twenty minutes or so before moving on to the next fresh hole, sort of like “winter trolling.” Moving from spot to spot allowed me the luxury of catching and releasing two more nice trout.
I never get tired of having a fish come on the screen of my Vexilar and chase my bait up and down in a hurry to inspect it. There are times when you have to really work them into committing but then again there are times when the seemingly come out of nowhere and wham! Such fun.
When drilling holes, a 10” auger is preferred with two holes drilled together, over-lapping each other. This is done mainly to aid in turning the head of a big fish, making it easier to slide up to the surface.
The best bait was a custom-made tube jig designed by Lane to imitate a smelt, a main lake trout forage in Burntside Lake. Basically, it’s a “rule of thumb” that find smelt and trout won’t be too far away. It worked for us.
Living in the Effie and Bigfork area, Babcock and Lane guide for nearly everything that swims, winter and summer, and the backwoods waters of their location offers a chance at some very nice fish. Lane has guided for muskies for twelve years and has done well in professional tournaments. His biggest musky to date is a whopping 56” fish. Babcock, who has a 54 ½” to his credit, will team up with Lane this summer for some of the tournament trail events.
Speaking of big fish, I must mention that Caleb’s largest crappie to date measured at 17”. Now that’s a beauty! All-in-all, these guys fish hard and big fish seem to be a specialty.
For more information on Flow North Outdoors guide service you can call Lee at 218-360-1159 or Caleb at 218-244-1664. You can also contact them by going to Lee’s Facebook page or Flow North Outdoors guide service on Facebook.
(2/2) Ice Fishing For Big River Panfish, Lakes aren’t the only bodies of water that carry safe, fishable ice in the winter. Big rivers like the Mississippi, Niagara, and Rainy also get safe ice, and produce some of the best catches of panfish you’ll see anywhere in the country. “There are a lot of places where you can go catch big perch through the ice, big bluegills through the ice, or big crappies through the ice,” Weber said. “I’ve never seen any place other than the Mississippi where you routinely catch all three through the same hole on the same day. I’ve caught numerous perch measuring more than 13 inches, crappies up to 2 pounds, and bluegills that easily hit ... read >> Ice Fishing For Big River Panfish

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (1/26) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Slippery Slopes

I’ve been doing a little trout fishing since the opener and have been on three lakes thus far. Two of them, Erskine and Kremer, have accesses that can be quite difficult at times.
Erskine’s access, which is like an overly rough cobblestone street, is glazed over from atv traffic to the point where you can’t even walk on it for fear of slipping. I guess it’s not a real big deal but if you only have a snowmobile like myself it can be.
When time to leave, I “hit the slope” a little too slow, trying not to shake everything loose in my Fish Trap, and spun out halfway up the hill. One of my fishing buddies who was still out on the ice saw my plight and drove over to help.
As good luck would have it, two conservation officers showed up at this time and each one of them grabbed a ski and pulled me the rest of the way up the hill. That was pretty darn good of these guys. Thank you!
Kremer’s access is as slippery as one could get and the “trench” running down the middle of it doesn’t help matters. I’m glad I didn’t bring the snowmobile for this one because it couldn’t even be used. The trench is deep enough that the old Bearcat would likely tip over. I wondered about this access. Do they ever fill in that hole? It would be greatly appreciated if a load of gravel could be dumped in there next summer.
Anglers are going around and off to the side to make things a little easier. I should point out that anyone planning on fishing Kremer Lake should bring along their ice cleats so they can make the hill. It’s bad.
Easy Rider – On the plus side, vehicle traffic on most all lakes is at its finest. I’ve been all over the place and only occasionally need 4-wheel drive for some of the accesses. What smooth sailing we now have, especially when compared to last year.
This newfound freedom to roam has me doing more exploring than normal. I’ve been on as many as three lakes a day, checking them over and looking for new spots. That’s a big part of the game for me. I just love to experiment and explore. Get out there and do it while you can.
Multi Specie Fun – Driving on all of these lakes has me fishing for several different species. Most of the trips have focused on panfish but it’s gotten to the point where I’ll go to this lake for portly perch, another for slab crappie, and yet another for big bluegills. Even though all three could be caught on the same lake I prefer to target the largest possible species and this involves a little driving around. Again with the excellent driving opportunities, along with lower gas prices.
I haven’t been walleye fishing in some time and thought of running up to Red Lake, seeing how it’s still kicking out fish. The reduced limit of two walleye wouldn’t stop me from spending a full day there, catching oodles of fish and taking photos.
I even targeted some northern pike the other day, after I couldn’t find the crappie. Pulling up to a weedline that would normally be a good spot for tip-ups, I drilled a few holes and commenced to jigging a flashy “silver shiner” color Moxie Minnow spoon. The gators were there in full force and were they ever hungry. What fun. I’m going to have to head back for some more of that.
Kiss Your Auger Good Morning – Justin Bailey was fishing with some friends last week when this happened. While looking the other way, he heard the auger shut off unusually quick. Knowing a hole couldn’t have been drilled that fast he turned to see what was going on and found his fishing partner’s head stuck tight to the auger. He then discovered that the auger operator’s hoodie string got all wrapped up around the auger shaft, so tight, in fact, that he wasn’t able to breathe. Luckily a knife was close at hand and the string was cut. Justin said it looked like he was kissing the gas tank! (I wonder if he laughed when things were all straightened away?) LOL

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (1/19) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" -

Each new fish and game season brings with it highly anticipated expectations. No matter the quarry. It could be whitetail, small game, or Minnesota’s general fishing opener. Such is the case with the first day of our winter trout season.
Several of my fishing friends headed to their favorite trout waters last Saturday morning for this annual ritual. Planned partner, Chad Peterson, had something come up at the last minute and couldn’t make it so I would be going solo. It didn’t matter, as I would be joining friends and relatives out on the ice.
Leaving home a little after 5:00 am assured me of getting to the lake well before the sun came up. Most serious trouters like to get there plenty early, as parking spaces are at a premium as well as prime fishing spots.
Pitch black, moving right along, and pulling a snowmobile trailer, I drove right on past the access road and by the time I got stopped it was just too far to back up down the highway. Nervously driving the other direction, it seemed like five miles before I found a turnaround but in reality was only about ¼ mile.
Backing that little jack-knifing snowmobile trailer around can be a real challenge but this time all went perfect and in no time I was heading back to where I should have turned in the first place.
Fresh snow revealed truck traffic that had beat me to the punch but it didn’t appear there were too many in front of me. That thought disappeared in a hurry as I neared the lake. Wow. I couldn’t believe it. Doesn’t anybody ever sleep in? I’ve never seen such a madhouse. You’d swear those fish were twenty pounds apiece.
Headlights were shining and people were quickly moving about, readying their gear. Parking spaces were just about all gone. I was glad I left home when I did.
Most had atvs but I had the trusty Bearcat snowmobile. Quickly unloading, I headed past several anxious anglers and out onto the lake. Again with the lights. They were everywhere.
My cousin Jim told me where he was going to be and my original plan was to fish alongside him. Well again another good thought went out the window. After driving up to the wrong party three times in the total darkness I figured on just finding a spot of my own.
Anglers protect their spots, especially ice fishing trouters. You should have seen the glares I got when driving up to some of these “sportsmen”, invading their turf. I didn’t hear it but a verbal altercation took place along one of the shorelines. Obviously, it must have been a good spot and someone got a little too close. I was all by myself, pretty much as far away from other anglers as possible.
Fishing in 7’ of water, small fish were active and moving about during the early going. Two of them, both splake, found their way into my fish box. I did lose another, see a big one, and have several little “bumps” before deciding to head to deeper water.
Once there, I put two more splake on the ice in no time. One thing I’ve learned from winter trout fishing is to not get too locked in to fishing shallow, as trout seem to always be on the move. You may feel comfortable sight fishing when you can see the bottom in these usually gin-clear lakes but this style of fishing can be done in very deep water too. I have successfully sight fished for trout of all species in water as deep as 80 or more, as they are famous for cruising right below the ice. It’s your job to keep your eyes open and be ready to present a lure that is of interest to them. You have to be on your toes.
I didn’t catch any more but was happy with the four I landed. Regarding presentations, the first fish came on a pink colored hook tipped with a whole salted minnow. The next came on a Slender Spoon tipped with a minnow head. Both deep water fish came on Northland Tackle’s “Puppet Minnow”, one tipped with a small salted minnow and the last one tipped with nothing.
There’s plenty of lakes to choose from. Get out there and give it a try. Have fun, be safe, good luck, and oh yeah, be courteous. It’s not life or death.

image of Chad Peterson holding Crappie
Chad Peterson with one of many catch and release fish caught last Saturday.

image of rocket bobbers rigged up
Rocket Bobbers are a key ingredient for successful early season crappie fishing. Heavy yet sensitive, they allow you to cast long distances, covering a lot of water.

image of Tom Batuik with Rainy River Walleyes
Fishing guide Tom Batiuk poses with one of several “doubles” before releasing them back into the Rainy River.

image of deer on iceThree young deer wondering how to get off the lake

Andy Walsh holding big Rainy River Sturgeon
The author, Andy Walsh with a big Rainy River Sturgeon.

image of Colby Calhager with large sturgeon
Colby Gallagher displays a big sturgeon from a recent trip to the Rainy River.

image of Walleyes caught on Rainy River
Rainy River Walleyes

image of crappies on the ice
Blake Liend playfully poses with some slab crappie.

image of crappies caught on a chubby darter
Jigging larger walleye-style baits produced several nice crappie. Pictured is a Salmo “Chubby Darter”

image of pyshyco shad
“Match the Hatch”...A Clam “Psycho Shad” closely resembles a small crappie that larger crappie were feeding on.

image of ice conditions on march 15 2015
Large chunks of honeycombed ice signals the beginning of the end of another ice fishing season.

Andy and Bruce Clusiaua holding crappies
Andy Clusiau teamed up with his father Bruce last weekend for some late ice crappie fishing.

image of Greg Clusiau holding giant Lake Winnipeg Walleye
Greg Clusiau; "I may have started out slow in the catching category but ended up with four of our groups twenty Master fish, with three 28” and a 29 incher."

image of Mike Walsh holding monster Lake Winnipeg Walleye
Mike Walsh fished Lake Winnipeg for the first time and landed this 30” walleye.

image of Andy Walsh with Lake Winnipeg Walleye
Andy Walsh with a Lake Winnipeg walleye pushing twelve pounds.

image of Tyler Mohr with big Crappie
Score! HSM Outdoor’s Tyler Mohr volunteered his time for the “Fishing with Vets” outing and caught some beautiful crappie.

image of Crappie Keith Nelson
Crappie Coach...Crappie Keith Nelson explains proper use of a Vexilar to one of the veterans.

image of Yellow Bass with ice jig in its mouth
Clusiau calls the Yellow Bass "A feisty, aggressive little fish that just looks so darned cool."

image of Yellow Bass on the ice“Yellows”, an invasive species, taste great, and there is no limit. Think about it. If you’ve got a hankering for a fresh fish dinner and live fairly close to Clear Lake there’s absolutely no reason not to have one.

image of Schuttler and Lauber display winning catch of yellow bassSchuttler and Lauber display their winning catch of 50 yellow bass weighing 15.14 pounds.

Lee Lane Lake Trout
Lee Lane shows off a great, Burntside Lake Trout

image of ice fishermen with Lake Trout
Flow North Outdoors; Based out of the Effie-Bigfork area, the duo makes several trips each winter to this 7,139 acre Canadian Shield fishery located near Ely and seem to have it “wired.”

image of Greg Clusiau holding big Lake Trout
Greg Clusiau showign off another great Laker taken on Burntside Lake.

image of ice fisherman with bluegill
Raymond Jensen, Chisholm, enjoyed a great day of panfishing last week, catching bluegill, crappie, and jumbo perch.

image of ice fisherman with pike
Seth Weber, Taconite, caught this nice northern pike while trying for the big one he saw the day before.

image 4 rainbow trout on the ice
Happy with his catch of Rainbow Trout on the Minnesota Trout Fishing Opener, Greg Clusiau says; "It’s your job to keep your eyes open and be ready to present a lure that is of interest to them. You have to be on your toes."

image rainbow trout caught on puppet minnow

image denotes fishing article by Greg Clusiau (1/19) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - "Thanks to a lack of snow cover and the recent cold snap, lake ice has thickened to comfortable conditions and most anglers are now driving all over the place, myself included. This certainly makes things a whole lot easier when moving around, trying new spots.
If you haven’t ever experienced driving on ice and watching a gps unit with a lake map now is the time to try it. It’s amazing, much like running a boat and watching the graph. It makes things so much easier in finding those little known hotspots or even community holes for that matter.
I also use the Navionics app in my smart phone and the detail on some of those maps has really opened my eyes. I’m now finding a few spots that I never knew existed. Running this app non-stop does however eat up batteries so you’re best to leave it plugged in while scouting around.
Last week’s fishing action found bluegills preferring somewhat large spoons over finesse rigs which tells me conditions were right and the fish were on the bite, hungry and wanting something substantial to feed on.
The best baits were Northland Tackle’s “Forage Minnow” or “Macho Minnow” spoons” tipped with a wax worm or two and as for color it seems they really preferred something with a little orange on it. The same for crappie. Much like summer fishing, you can’t go wrong with orange for panfish.
I thought the “Macho Minnow” may be a tad large for sunfish because of its “flipper tail” but Justin Bailey proved me wrong by reeling in several nice fish with it.
A perch outing had us pulling in some very nice jumbos with Clam’s “Bomb Spoon” coming away with top fish catching honors. Designed by Dave Genz, it’s all about speed fishing and pounding out the cadence. Dave says “it covers water and fishes fast” because of its heavy physical characteristics and “it’s easy to see on flashers.” Again it was Bailey catching a number of nice fish with the larger presentation.
Trophy hunter Jim Nordmark used walleye size jigging spoons and caught several true jumbo perch. Yes, it was a week of oversized lures for oversized panfish. Could it get any better?
My Red Lake Nation trout trip was postponed but we are still planning on making it happen. There will be a report when we finally make it there but for now I’m in preparation for this weekend’s Minnesota trout opener. Are you going? The weather is supposed to be nice and fish should be snapping!
As stated in an earlier column, I have been using and liking Kahtoola Ice Spikes and with most lakes having glare ice on at least half the lake this is a part of your fishing gear you don’t want to leave at home. Ice cleats are definitely needed out there if you plan on doing any walking or even drilling a hole.
The Kahtoolas feature “spikes” that really dig in, leaving a trail of small holes wherever you walk and are definitely not for wearing inside a house or resort, even if accidently.
A fishing buddy of mine was wearing a different brand of ice grippers on a recent trip to Lake of the Woods and walked into a resort with them. Featuring a heavy duty spring design, all was fine when he was on carpet but once he hit the tile floor it was like a new dance providing some pretty serious footwork until he went down, spilling a full bucket of minnows in the process.
He laughed, along with other anglers who witnessed the demonstration but the woman working behind the counter didn’t think it was funny one bit. Not even asking if he was hurt she hollered “you’re going to pick those up!” Now that would make it even funnier. Wish I was there!"

Jim Nordmark and Justin Bailey display a nice afternoon’s catch of perch and walleye. Large lures were used.

Big gills were loving large spoons last week like Northland Tackle’s “Macho Minnow”

image of Crappie held above the ice hole "It looks like we jumped from the balmy winter of 2014 right into the frigid jaws of 2015 and I’m certainly glad I got my licks in before it got this cold. Frankly, I’m not used to this and it will take a little conditioning before I’m back up to full speed in dealing with Mother Nature.
I spent the last decent day, Saturday, fishing out of my truck and do this especially when searching for fish. It’s just a whole lot easier, slowly driving around from spot to spot with all essential gear placed on or near the tailgate of my truck, only now I won’t be driving down the highway, forgetting to close things up.
The auger is easy to get at and usually only one hole is drilled and explored before moving on. Also sitting at the ready is a snow shovel, ice scoop, and the all-important Vexilar. Live bait sits warmly inside the truck, along with an assortment of pre-rigged panfish rods and tackle. Occasionally the Vexilar is placed inside for a while to thaw out.
I did learn the hard way to place the transducer in a position that doesn’t allow it to freeze to anything as if the best welder in the country tacked it in place.
By keeping a keen eye on my gps unit, I started out my quest by checking over typical deep water crappie haunts of a lake that I am very familiar with. Nothing was happening and although it has a reputation for kicking out fish when the sun goes down, I’ve usually done well enough during the day, preferring not to fish at night if I absolutely don’t have to.
Inspecting each and every spot that I had ever caught a crappie, I came up empty-handed. To me, this was a real puzzler. I knew a storm was blowing in but didn’t think it would have this much of an immediate impact in shutting down fish.
Not caring to leave the lake in this manner, I decided to do an about face and check out a shallow water flat that always had my curiosity. If the fish weren’t spotted in 30’ of water, maybe, just maybe they’d be up shallow in 15’.
The usual one hole was drilled and the truck was positioned with a now much colder wind blowing against the passenger door. I placed my Vexilar in the hole and sat there with the driver’s door wide open. It was somewhat cold but the heater was blasting away, along with the radio. Could it get any better?
Nothing was on the screen when I first looked so I took my time and selected a rod with a somewhat large “glow demon” on the business end of it. Actually, the lure was one of my favorite walleye baits but I opted to use it because I was searching for fish and it possessed two top qualities for this endeavor, being larger and extremely colorful, boasting a glow/green color. The hook was actually too large for the wax worms that were threaded onto it.
Dropping it half-way down and aggressively jigging it, trying to call attention to the bait, a fish came in out of nowhere and gobbled it up. Thinking it was a small northern pike I was more than surprised when a nice crappie showed itself. The fish was admired for a few seconds and dropped back down the hole. Hmm, that was fun.
Now the screen was “lit up” and I was excited to catch another but this time it was a nice bluegill. Seeing how active they were, I went with a typical smaller jigging spoon and had trouble in catching fish. They didn’t care about it at all. I went back to the “too large” spoon and it was “game on” once again.
Several fish were caught and some nice ones at that. With my curiosity getting the best of me I switched back to another smaller jigging spoon of the same color and saw my catch rate go downhill in a hurry. Going back to the big bait got them in the mood to eat again. I was amazed.
Just when you think you have everything figured out, along comes Mother Nature to teach yet another hard learned lesson. Even though I never spotted any fish in deep water, who would have thought fishing shallow and using big lures was the way to go, especially with a severe cold-front heading our way? You just never know. That’s what I love about this sport.
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