Fishrapper Ice Fishing Reports For December 2015

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 30, 2015 - Minnesota Ice Conditions, The Plot Is Thickening

Recently, a friend of mine asked; "Doesn't anybody around here work?" My answer was; "Yes, they do, but I guess not today". Let's just say that there were lots of folks making time for fishing on Tuesday". And with the full cooperation of the ice, I might add.
At many of the Itasca Area's larger, more popular lakes, the scene has changed, no more is there an occasional sighting of a fishing shelter. Now there are ice fishermen, in numbers populating the lakes and filling the parking spaces at accesses.
It's still not universal; there are lakes that remain behind the curve. But every day that passes brings us closer to having full access to most lakes that lay North of Minnesota Hwy 200, in Minnesota's North Central Region.
Lake Winnibigoshish, in the remote corners where the water is shallow has been supporting ice fishermen for a few weeks now. But on Tuesday, I could see ice fishing shelters popping up around the shoreline in Tamarack Bay. The rental operators are not putting their houses out there yet, but it can't be more than a few days before they will.
On Cutfoot Sioux, nobody was adventurous enough to park their trucks on the ice yet. But the landing at William's Narrows campground was nearly filled and there were several ice fishermen who off loaded ATVs and snowmobiles to transport portable shelters to the fishing spots. Ice thickness on Cutfoot now ranges between 7 and 9 inches, light slush appears in areas, but overall travel conditions are good.
On Round Lake, it's no surprise that the traffic is building fast. After last winter, I'm sure that there are more than a few ice fishermen hoping to stage repeat performances of the good fishing that they enjoyed last winter.
While I was visiting the south landing, there was barely enough room to park another rig, and there were still more anglers arriving on the scene. Most folks were using ATVs and Snowmobiles to get to their fishing shelters, but I saw one fellow in a small truck experimenting with shoreline ice. I guess that once the ice thickness approaches a foot, this lake is going to become very busy again, at least temporarily.
On Bowstring Lake, Darv Oehlke at Bowstring Shores Resortreported that they have 9 inches of good ice. They placed on of their wheel houses on the lake yesterday and plan to add a couple more to the fleet sometime today. Oehlke reported that there are rumors about some Crappies biting and said; "Fishermen start coming tomorrow, we will see what this week brings us".
From Upper Red Lake, Ryan Klein weighed in too, Klein says; "Fishing has been great on upper red lake, going on the south shore out of J.R’s corner access. I have all the houses out in 14 foot of water. We are now driving out to the houses with vehicles. Ice is 11 plus inches. Morning evening and night has been best lately".
On Lake of the Woods, resorts and rental operators continue to get ice fishing shelters out onto the ice. Most of the larger operators have day houses on the lake already and sleeper houses are being put out right now.
Travel by vehicle is not yet available, but there are marked trails for snowmobiles and ATV travel Rental operators are providing shuttle service to their fishing shacks via lightweight ice vehicles.
Anglers who use "wheel houses" are chomping at the bit to get started. Hearing that the game is on now at LOW has encouraged fishermen to head north. On Tuesday, traffic was brisk on Hwy 46. Vehicles towing wheel houses heading toward both Red Lake and Lake of the Woods in the hope of finding a good parking spot for the weekend.
Thanks to the colder weather and access to fresh ice, small lakes in the Itasca area will be getting a break. They've been the only game in town until now, so naturally they've received the most pressure. It's better for everyone as the list of options grows.
The balance of travel conditions vs good fishing action will dictate where we go from here. For me, there's a fresh tone of optimism for the arrival of our new year, this could turn out to be a better season than some folks were expecting, I hope so.

image of ice fishermen on round lake
The scene has changed from an occasional sighting of a fishing shelter, to one of Ice fishermen, in numbers populating area lakes.

image of ice fishermen lined up at landing
It's no surprise that traffic is building fast at Round Lake. There are more than a few ice fishermen hoping for repeat performances of the good fishing that they enjoyed last winter.

image of ATV and snowmobile travel on Cutfoot
ATVs and snowmobiles are being used to transport portable shelters to fishing spots on Cutfoot Sioux.

image of ice fishermen at Cutfoot Sioux
So far, portable shelters outnumber permanent shacks. Ice is making fast though and soon there will be something for everybody.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 29, 2015 - Northern Minnesota Ice Conditions

On Monday, I toured the East side of town, looking at small lakes as far east as Warba. I purposely avoided stopping at either Pokegama or Trout Lake because even if there are anglers out there, I don't want to give anybody the impression that I'm advising travel on those deeper water lakes.
That's because I can still remember last winter when there were people driving trucks all over Pokegama on what appeared to be really good ice. You might recall that despite the apparently good conditions, there were still vehicles that broke through the ice and sunk. So I'll wait until the cold weather has had a few days to work on the deeper waters and then I'll give you a report.
In the meantime, I can tell you that the surfaces of smaller lakes in and around Grand Rapids are fast becoming populated with fishing shelters. In fact, there were ice fishermen and/or spearing shacks on virtually every accessible lake that I could locate yesterday.
It's amazing how fast Mother Nature moves when she wants to. It was only a week ago when the most common question was whether or not there would be enough ice to fish on before the New Year. Now after one cold front there are ATV's or snowmobiles pulling fishing shacks across lakes all over the greater Grand Rapids area.
I've talked with friends who are now reporting ice thickness of 10 inches on some of the shallow water lakes. Ice thickness ranging between 7 and 9 inches is common now and with single digit low temperatures, it's conceivable that some lakes are gaining as much as an inch of ice each day.
With most of the holiday travelling behind me now, I'll be able to wet a line myself either today or tomorrow, maybe both. Who knows where I'll wind up, but you already know that as soon as I know, you'll know too!

image of fishing shelters and ATV on ice
ATV's or snowmobiles are now pulling fishing shacks across small lakes all over the greater Grand Rapids area.

image of atv on ice

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 24, 2015 - Ice Fishing Report

Wednesday morning found me out and about, checking the ice on another small Crappie fishing lake. The results were roughly about the same as everywhere else I've fished during the week.
The small 200 acre lake has a maximum depth of about 26 feet and the ice probably formed early compared to other lakes in the area. The ice was about 6 inches thick and there were already ATV tracks from someone who had fished there before me. It wasn't much of trick to walk out to where the previous group had been fishing. Likewise, it wasn't much of a trick to drill a few holes, find a few fish and start catching them.
Crappie's were roaming the bottom of the lakes deepest hole and were near the bottom, suspended about 1 to 2 feet above it.
On this particular day, the fish didn't seem to have a strong preference in baits. I caught some of them them using a Tungsten Toad tipped with the wax worms. I caught several on a Candy Cane colored Perch Talker tipped with wax worms too. When push came to shove, the wax worms started to fail me and that's when the old reliable Frostee Jig tipped with a whole crappie minnow allowed me to put the finishing touch on my limit.
During my last few minutes on the ice, I was snapping some pictures and thinking about how to make an interesting story out of the trip. Just then a couple of other ice fishermen showed up; Jeff and Chris were their names. During a brief chat, they confided that they were "playing hooky" from work, a decision that I highly praise!
The duo had been fishing the lake on Tuesday and was back for a re-match.
They reported that using artificial tails had been producing fish too and they allowed me to interrupt their busy schedule to allow a few quick photos of their attempt to drum up some action. It turned out not to be much of an interruption because within about 2 minutes they were already reeling in a double header, proving that they has chosen their plastic tails wisely.

image of Chris and Jeff reeling in crappie
Within about 2 minutes, Jeff and Chris were already reeling in a double header, proving that they has chosen their plastic tails wisely.

image of Chris holding Crappie
Not a bad way to spend a day; good weather, good friends, good fun!

For me, that was it for this week, 10 Crappies in the bag and a busy Christmas schedule meant that it was time to head for the Twigs. So for the next few days, I'll be like you, enjoying Christmas with loved ones and staying filled up with food and treats.
By the way, if you didn't get the Christmas card I sent you, it’s not too late, it's because you aren't signed up yet for the insider's list. If you want to, click here and sign sp for the Early Bird Insider List. Merry Christmas, see you in a few days!!

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 22, 2015 - Hoofing It To The Crappie Hole

Early ice plays into the hands of folks who enjoy the peace and quiet of early season Crappie fishing. If you’re in that camp, like me, then now is your chance.
On Monday, we ventured out onto another one of the Itasca Area's smaller Crappie lakes. We were greeted by a solid 6 inches of ice that was covered by a thin blanket of fluffy snow. The surface had been made rough by the snow that frozen into the wet surface last week. That made walking conditions very good, but also gave us the idea that it won't be long before we'd be seeing ATV's out there too.
The fishing was okay, this small lake offered up just enough action to make the walk worthwhile, but not a lot more. The fish were fairly active; the problem was that they were scattered and nomadic. They'd appear on the screen for a minute or two, allowing us to pluck out the aggressive ones. After that, we'd be forced to move over to a fresh hole where the process would repeat itself.
Satisfied with what we'd done, but not ready to quit for the day, we headed back to the deeper lake where we'd fished on Sunday. Weather conditions hadn't changed much since the day before, but we hoped that our timing would put us on the lake when the fish would be bit more active.
When we arrived, the slush along shore had begun to freeze and our holes from the previous day could not be kicked open. That's a good sign; the lake was making ice fast enough to put it into the 5 inch range. That's just enough of a cushion to make me feel better while I'm walking, but not good enough to fire up the snowmobile.
This time the fish were somewhat more aggressive than before, but still not on a rampage. They were less flighty too, remaining stationary long enough to allow us to pick a few fish out of each freshly drilled hole.
I had a nice run of luck using a small Candy Cane Glow Perch Talker tipped with as many wax worms as I could fit onto the hook. That's a great color for the clear water where Crappies can see from a long distance. I can rattle it to give the fish a sound to focus on, but once they show up, I can stop moving it and fish silently, giving the live bait on the dropper time to work its own magic.
By days end, we had accomplished the goal of gathering Christmas dinner and we’d settled our urge to get out onto the ice. With that behind us, we’re gonna be more particular, it's time to start exploring for some fresh options. Walleyes are gonna get onto the agenda, Bluegills too and then Perch, maybe some Pike and after that …
It won't be long before "safe ice" becomes more readily available, and as it does, be prepared to share. I'm sure that there's a pent up demand for something to do outside and it won't surprise me to see the crowds build quickly.

image of Steve Kusske ice fishing Crappies

image Lindy Perch Talker
I had a nice run of luck using a small Pink/Glow Perch Talker tipped with as many wax worms as I could fit onto the hook.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 21, 2015 - Just In Time For Spring!

A few quick words about our fishing trip on Sunday. As anticipated, we did hoof it to the Crappie hole and we found ice ranging in thickness from 4-1/2 to 5 inches. Walking didn't feel dangerous, but there was little doubt that ATV's or Snowmobiles would be out of the question.
The water was clear, maybe too clear and that made the fish nervous. Every time we found a small school, we could catch one or two, then they'd disappear from the screen. We caught enough for a fabulous fish fry, but each of us was short of a limit by 2 or 3 fish. We're back on the ice early this morning, so I'll cut this one short and make the report a more complete for tomorrow.

OH and by the way, don't foraget about the special proclamation made by the Mayor of Garage Locic;
"So long as the sun sets at 9:03 p.m. on June 21, thus creating the longest day of the year, and that the same sun sets at 4:31 p.m. on Dec. 5, making for the shortest day of the year, but sets later by four minutes upon the arrival of the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, we, the members of the Royal Order of the 21sters, do solemnly swear to celebrate the arrival of spring on Dec. 22.
In acknowledgement, be it remembered that we have surrendered our membership in the world of the so-called Normal People, and that among our other quirks and foibles is the realization that autumn is a long and lingering season between June 22 and about Nov. 1, that winter is assigned to the dark months only, November and December, and that on our ascendancy, Dec. 22, spring has arrived and that, furthermore, by the time of the Super Bowl, it might as well be summer.
Members in the Royal Order understand and accept that this is merely psychoogical delusion, but that it works for us to minimize the long barren months that so chill and despair the Normal People. >> Join the Royal Order Of The 21sters

image of crappies caught on a tungsten toad
Thin ice, gin clear water; Crappies were flighty, but catachable.

image of Royal Order of 21sters logo
From The Official Royal Order of the 21sters; "In acknowledgement, be it remembered that we have surrendered our membership in the world of the so-called Normal People, and that among our other quirks and foibles is the realization that ... Click to learn about >> The Royal Order Of The 21sters .

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 20, 2015 - "Freezing The Freezable"

On Saturday, the lion's share of ice fishermen had their sights set on Upper Red Lake. That made for a peaceful day in the Itasca Area, allowing local lakes a little more time to prpare for an ice fishing season of their own.
On our tour, we drilled holes on a few lakes that haven't seen any foot trafic at all this season and we found out that ice conditions are fast becoming acceptable. On one popular lake we found 4-1/2 inches of good clear ice over 40 feet of water. Snow cover light and walking was easy. Where there is slush, it's limited to areas along the shoreline.
That signalled the Green Light for our fishing trip today, so we're on our way to the lake right now. With luck, you'll be seeing images of a happy day on the ice by this time tomorrow.

image of ice forming on the deer river
The plot is thickening on deeper waters too. We found 4-1/2 to 5 inches of ice over 40 feet of water on Saturday.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 19, 2015 - Ice Conditions Improving, Opportunities Expanding

For anxious ice fishermen who have been chomping at the bit to get out onto the ice, this cold snap didn't arrive a minute too soon.
It's understandable why, the experience of getting out on early ice is exhilarating and the fishing is typically very good.
Although we still can't just go out and fish anywhere, the list of options is expanding and now we can start spending more time talking about fishing, and less time talking about ice.
On Friday, there were fresh reports coming in from Leech Lake, numerous small lakes in northern Minnesota and from anglers exploiting the shallow shoreline areas on Lake Winnie. The consensus is that ice ranging in thickness from 5 to 7 inches has become common.
As you move further south, the situation is dicey and most lakes remain unsafe; many are not even iced over yet. But on a road trip to Onamia yesterday, I literally watched the ice forming on Lake Mille Lacs. On the drive down, I could see a thin layer of fresh, shiny ice forming on the surface near shore.
By the time I drove home on Friday evening, the layer of ice had expanded well out into Wigwam, St. Albans and Garrison Bays. It was 8°F then and in all likelihood the single digit overnight temperature turned the shoreline into a skating rink.
Upper Red Lake has had its ups and downs, but despite reports about erratic conditions, anglers are flocking to there in hopes of gathering Walleyes. According to first hand reports, Walleye fishing is good, but not fantastic. Early morning and late afternoon are the best.
On Red Lake, it has become common to see fishermen using ATV's; whether that's smart or not is your judgement to make. If you decide to venture out, exercise extreme caution and for your own safety, don't gather around the large crowds. The ice isn't ready to support that much weight, at least for this weekend.
As I mentioned yesterday, we’ve got plans to be on the ice tomorrow and I’m on my way out the door right now to be sure that conditions are favorable. You will be in the loop about whatever I learn.
OH, by the way, bundle up, it’s chilly out there!

image of ice forming on the deer river
Ice is getting a grip on moving water now too, I'll bet that this one froze overnight too.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 18, 2015 - "Honey, I Got The Ice Machine Working"

Oh Boy!! It is 10 degrees outside my window right now and by tonight it's going to be close to ZERO. These are the kind of temperatures that can help fix things for ice fishermen.
Frankly, I expected to find poor ice conditions on Thursday, but from what I could see, the snowfall didn't impact Itasca area lakes as badly as anticipated. That doesn't mean that there weren't some pitfalls out there, but generally speaking, if there was decent ice before the snow, then it is still decent ice.
The good news about that snow is that areas to be avoided are now easier to see. Wherever the snow has been discolored by surface water like stream mouths, narrow passages and slushy spots are fairly easy to see from a distance. Obviously open water has become easier to see against the white backdrop too, but there was even less of that than I expected to find too.
My guess is that even though many of the deeper lakes were struggling to ice over, air temperatures were still cold enough to move them close to the brink. Now that we have some seriously cold air temperatures, even the more stubborn waters are finally gonna succumb to winter’s grip.
As tempting as it is to signal “Green for Go”, I'm still not quite ready to rush out and get on the ice today and I'm certainly not prepared to call for re-enforcements. But I will say that we do have a fishing trip planned for this Sunday and given these conditions, I don’t see any reason why we won't be able to get out onto the ice.
There’s more good news from up north too and you’ll see it in the next report. Lake of the Woods is giving in to Mother Nature too and soon, we’ll be looking at ice everywhere we go.
I'm sure that you have been doing your own research too and you're probably penciling in a list of prospective lakes. If you're on your way up, then do me a favor and be careful, wear your Arctic Armor and stay in the track where the snow is white!

image ice fishing shelter on Jessie Lake
Snow accumulations of 4 to 6 inches weren't disasterous and generally speaking, if there was decent ice before the snow, then it is still decent ice.

image of slush hole on Bowstring Lake
Be cautious out there, avoid snow that's been discolored by surface water. Stream mouths, narrow pasages and slushy spots should all be avoided.

image denotes link to fish rapper article (12/18) From Lake of the Woods, Sportsman's Lodge Baudette; "What a difference a day makes! Yesterday we had only shore ice and after last night (only getting down to 17 degrees) we now have ice as far as the eye can see on the main lake from the south shore view. The forecast is calling for below zero temps the next two days so we should make even more progress in the next two days!
Four Mile Bay, the bay near Wheeler's Point we use to access the lake has also made significant progress.
The water is cold and freezing! We should start building ice fairly quickly now. The extended forecast is calling for lows in the teens and highs in the lower twenties. Cold enough to make some ice! Gregg, the owner will be going up to fly over the lake on Saturday to see how everything seals looks. Stay tuned! We will post a report and pictures as soon as he gets back.
When will we start ice fishing? After this weekend we will be able to make a much better prediction, but at this point based on the information we are setting our sights on sometime between December 26 - January 1. Safety is always our first concern. We will start our season as soon as we have 8-12 inches of safe ice." For reservations call 800-862-8602 and let the fun begin!


image of ice conditions at Lake of the Woods
Photo courtesy Sportmans Lodge, Baudette. Lake of the Woods at Long Point 12/17 iced over as far as the eye can see.

image of darkhouse fishing

Darkhouse Spearing For Pike On Mille Lacs, DNR Issues Corrections On Party Fishing Regulations

Anglers and dark-house spearers are advised to closely read the regulations regarding party fishing on Mille Lacs Lake. A previous Department of Natural Resources news release and online material describing this regulation was inaccurate. Regulations became effective Dec.1 that set the northern pike bag limit at five. Each angler or spearer can keep one pike longer than 30 inches only by first harvesting and possessing two pike under 30 inches from Mille Lacs Lake on the same day and by keeping them in immediate possession.

Anglers wishing to harvest a pike longer than 30 inches may not accept a pike shorter than 30 inches from another angler in order to fulfill the two-fish-under-30 requirement. However, anglers not harvesting pike larger than 30 inches may party fish for pike shorter than 30 inches.
“The bottom line is you need to take two northern pike shorter than 30 inches yourself before harvesting a pike longer than 30 inches,” said Brad Parsons, central region fisheries manager with the DNR.
Consistent with statewide regulations, dark-house spearers are not allowed to party fish, which means each fish a spearer harvests counts only toward that person’s bag limit. Because dark-house spearers are not allowed to party fish, spearers are not allowed to accept pike from another person to fulfill the two-fish-under-30 requirement.
For more information on Mille Lacs Lake management, see For Mille Lacs fishing and spearing regulations, see or contact the DNR Information Center at or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 10, 2015 - Backpedaling or Back Paddling?

On Wednesday afternoon I did what I said I was going to do. Somehow I got one step ahead of the paperwork and managed to get the door in time to squeeze in my maiden voyage onto the ice.
That's the good news; the bad news is it didn't work out quite the way I was planning. I should have been smart enough to go home when I realized the calamity that I had brewing, but I couldn’t, I had to try anyway.
It began when I arrived at the landing and gazed over standing water that ran out about 100 yards from the shoreline, that took a little of the wind out of my sails. But I figured that I already come this far, I might as well at least walk out and have a look.
Everything seemed to be in order as I loaded sled. Auger, fishing rods, tackle, bait, graph … oops, I realized that in my rush to escape certain boredom, I had left my graph at home. Now I almost decided to bag it and wait until tomorrow, but since I was there, I figured the least I could do was to drill a couple holes you never know, I could get lucky and stumble into ‘em.
In all honesty, the ice felt just fine under my feet. The standing water didn’t seem to be bothering anything, there wasn’t any cracking or groaning and I didn't feel like I was risking my life to be out there. But when I drilled my first hole and put the tape measure in, it revealed that I was standing on 3-1/2 inches of ice, I have to admit that took some more wind out of my sails. It wasn’t that I couldn’t fish, but under the circumstances, what was the point?
Long story short, I poked around for a little while and did my best to lure in a fish, but having no idea about how deep or where I was in relation to the mother lode, all I was really doing was waiting to see a nice sunset.
I'm all for experiencing the experiencable, but this was getting silly. So after capturing a couple of photographs, I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and that my time would be better spent running up the road to check out another lake before I went home.
I did that and this time I found better ice, 5-1/2 inches that had already been dotted by somebody who was more anxious than me. Some of the holes were still open, but most of them were frozen shut and the ice was too thick to kick out with my boot. That means that despite the tardiness of winter, there is ice making and we are on the verge of having an enjoyable ice fishing season.
Whether or not the fish were biting on the second lake is anybody’s guess, I was simply too late to find out. But as soon as I wrap up the radio program this morning, I’m on my way to find out and whenever I learn, you’ll be the first to KNOW!

image of ruler showing ice thickness
Barely enough ice for walking, but it's a step in the right direction.

image of ice with standing water on top
Standing water now, smooth, solid ice later.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 9, 2015 - Ice Fishing Season Starts Today, For Me

If you were playing hooky from work yesterday to go ice fishing and it felt like somebody was spying on you, it was me. Don’t worry though; your secret is safe, just between us guys.
I really didn’t mean to be spying, it just wound up that way because when I arrived at the lake, you had already beaten me to the spot and I didn’t want to spoil your fun. Besides, that gave me a good chance to keep on the move, checking out ice conditions on more lakes.
The upshot of my tour of Itasca Area Lakes on Tuesday was that if you want to ice fish right now, you can. Obviously I’m not the first one to know either, because like Monday’s adventure, there were tracks everywhere I stopped. This time the difference was that the tracks were on the ice instead of the shoreline and this time, the tracks led to holes that had been drilled for ice fishing. Each time I stopped there were more tracks and more holes, and sometimes they were in current use by ice fishermen.
There are a few rumors about people using 4 wheelers on some of the small lakes. It may be true, but I did not see anybody using an ATV or any other sort of vehicle on the ice. Everybody that I saw was on foot and except for one “HUB” style fishing shelter; nobody was using fishing shelters either, they were carrying minimal gear, all standing on the ice.
I walked onto a few of the smallest lakes and found dry, solid ice ranging in thickness from 5 to 7 inches. Any evidence of slush or snow from last week’s storm had vanished except for some tracks that were now frozen into the surface. I felt comfortable, the ice was stable and quiet, and there wasn’t any significant cracking or open holes.
For me, the evidence was convincing enough that I’m making the news official this morning. By special proclamation of the Chancellor of the University of Sunny Side Up, my ice fishing season begins today.
For now though, I’m only sticking with shallow water lakes that are less than 200 acres. Deeper waters and larger, windswept lakes are still too unreadable for me and I’m willing to wait a while before trekking out too far from dry ground.
That said; I did see ice fishermen set up about a half mile from shore on one of the area’s larger lakes this Tuesday. They appeared to be comfortable, moving freely and drilling lots of holes. I’d rather not say which lake because I don’t want to get a phone call from your widow next week, asking why I told you to go there. But if you’re the adventurous type, I’m positive that you can find this one without my assistance.
Information that I’ve gleaned from other reports is that Crappie fishing is going well for these early arrivers. Most of these guys know their way around the area and the lakes that they’re fishing have proven track records as early season producers. This means that there’s no surprise hearing about guys catching their bag limits and it won’t surprise me if the good news continues right up until Christmas.
Okay, so don’t get left out in the cold, it’s time for you to get your tackle tray stocked up and put fresh gas into your ice auger. By this weekend, temperatures are going to dip just cold enough to put area lakes fully into ice making mode. Barring any severe weather, your options for good ice and safe fishing will be improving daily.

image of an ice fishing shelter on the iceNumerous lakes in the Grand Rapids area now provide dry, solid ice ranging in thickness from 5 to 7 inches.

image of ice conditions in grand rapids on december 8Any evidence of slush or snow from last week’s storm had vanished except for some tracks that were now frozen into the surface.

image of ice fishermen on the ice december 8If you were playing hooky from work yesterday to go ice fishing and it felt like somebody was spying on you, it was me. Don’t worry though; your secret is safe, just between us guys.

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 8, 2015 - Making Ice Slowly, But Steadily

On a tour of Itasca Area Lakes on Monday, I could see that there are more than a few ice fishermen standing on shore with their hands in their pockets. Everywhere I went, there were already foot prints in what used to be snow, before it melted and then became re-frozen slush. I'll bet that they're thinking about the old saying "anything that's good is worth waiting for"; I Know that I hope it's true!
The good news about Grand Rapids area lakes is that they are definitely making ice and even if it's not happening as fast as we'd like, the ice season is under way.
I can’t recommend being too anxious about getting onto the larger lakes in the region because there are still lots of lakes with open water. But I do see that even some of the larger waters are giving in to the slow freeze and ice is beginning to cover even the stubborn ones.
Small lakes that were already frozen on Thanksgiving weekend suffered only minor setbacks from the wet, slushy snowfall that preceded this warm weather. The snow is nearly entirely melted now and the surface of these small waters has re-frozen.
Overnight temperatures have continued to be just cold enough to produce ice and during the day, it takes too long for the air temperatures to warm into ice melting range. By the time they do, it turns dark and cold; then the process starts over. So that means that despite the warm weather, there’s been a modest net gain of ice on most lakes.
For the few adventurous souls who haven't been willing to wait for “good ice”, fishing has been fair to good.
Panfish reports are trickling in from around the area and while some have struggled, others are reporting good catches and fast action. Nobody’s mentioning the names of their favorite Panfish lakes and I wouldn’t expect them to, but it does tell me that if I spend some time looking, I’ll be able to find some fishable lakes today.
Reports about ice fishing for Walleye are centered mainly on Upper Red Lake where more and more fishermen are showing up for the race to win a position over their favorite fishing territory. Despite warnings from resorters, some of them are using 4 wheelers to move around on ice ranging in thickness from 4 to 7 inches.
From what I've heard, Walleyes are active enough to provide most fishermen with their 3 fish bag limit, but so far the action is limited to brief feeding forays during early morning and late afternoon. Cloudy water is credited for causing the sluggish action and that's as good of an explanation as any.
I'm sure that you'll be hearing plenty of news from Upper Red over the next few days, so let’s just leave it that if you want to get out there, you can.
I'm on my way out the door to view the viewable and test the testable. By this time tomorrow, I'll be able to give you a pretty good idea about ice thicknesses and maybe I'll even have a chance to wet a line.
OH, by the way, I have taken a few precautions to help assure my safe arrival back home this evening. A sparkling bright Arctic Armor Float Suit comes out of its plastic bag today. That means that if I do break through, I may look silly floating there, but I'll still be alive!
I'm opening a fresh pair of ice picks too and even though I don't want to need them, having them available to help me get a grip could also save my life in an emergency.

image of Bowstring River covered with ice
Tamarack Bay at Lake Winnie was frozen over on Monday. From shore to the slush line was walkable.

image of Arctic Armor ice suit
OH, by the way, I have taken a few precautions to help assure my safe arrival back home this evening. A sparkling bright Arctic Armor Float Suit comes out of its plastic bag today.

image of DNR safe Ice Chart
Be Safe, Check Ice Thickness First!

image denotes fishing report submitted by Jeff Sundin Fishing Report December 3, 2015 - Ice Conditions Report

The axiom about the changeability of Minnesota's weather couldn't be truer than it has been this season. After the super early start to the 2014 ice season, it's understandable why ice fishermen were chomping at the bit to be the first ones onto the ice last weekend.
Some of them actually did venture out, finding a handful of spots where they could hoof it across ice ranging in thickness from 4 to 7 inches. But that was then and this is now and conditions have changed. In fact, if I have any influence on you at all, then instead of trying to find safe ice this weekend, you will just hop on the bus and come pay me a visit at the St. Paul Ice Show.
Yes, I KNOW, it would be a blast to get out onto the ice and catch some fish, I'd love to do that too. But the snowfall that arrived on Monday and Tuesday, combined with unseasonably warm temperatures has complicated everything. There's just too much uncertainty about the few spots that were good enough to support anglers last weekend.
I've heard a lot of 2nd hand stories about places that I haven't seen with my own eyes; so I'm cautious about putting words in other people’s mouths. But what I do know is that most of the chatter about Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods has been geared toward taking the weekend off too. I understand that many of the rental operators are advising folks to stay off of the ice, some have closed their accesses until conditions improve.
It was my own tour of the Deer River area on Wednesday that convinced me to be so cautious. I saw open water, slushy ice, and black ice, everything except good, clear ice that would be safe to walk on.
Lakes that were covered with apparently solid ice a week ago, now appear fragile and on the verge of opening up again. In some cases, the appearance is probably an optical illusion caused by water on top of the ice, but who wants to be the one to find out? Not me.
The good news is this means we'll be getting a "Do Over", the waterlogged snow is so wet and has melted into the ice so well that after the re-freeze, we shouldn't be dealing with slush, at least not because of this storm. With several more days of warm weather predicted, the meltdown will be even more complete and barring another heavy snowfall, our 2nd chance at early ice won't be too far into the future, it's just a matter of time.
In case I haven't convinced you, then at least do me a favor and be careful, wear a float suit like the Arctic Armor outfit that I use and take Greg Clusiau's Advice about safety gear too. Hopefully you won't need it, but if you do, it will be more than worth the investment!

image of Bowstring River covered with ice

image of ice conditions on Cutfoot Sioux

image of White Oak Lake ice conditions

image of safety tools for first ice

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