Clear weather in forecast. Walleyes staging at various south shore locations in 20-29'. Jig and frozen shiner the ticket. Anchor up and jig with gold, glow red, or gold/orange. Fish are very active.
On the Rainy River... Strong walleye activity continues. Jig and frozen shiners continue to be go to method with some anglers also trolling crankbaits. Shiner run has slowed for the moment but good numbers of walleyes in river. Sturgeon have the feed bag on. The sturgeon catch and release season goes though April 23, 2019. The bite is on!
Up at the NW Angle... Fishing continues to be excellent. Limits of walleyes being caught in 14 - 25'. Jigging still producing. Look for areas of current in neck down areas and outside of bays.
Fall crappie bite continues strong. Big pike are making their presence felt, like it or not! Muskie trollers boating and releasing good numbers of fish. The best fall fishing is yet to come!" – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Chili Bowl #9 was a great time! Another year with a full tournament, and we had a wonderful chili dinner after a day on the water. We are still waiting on another good shiner run, it has been a bit quiet in the river for catching minnows. The Walleye action has improved in the river and seems to get better each day. There has been some great action on the lake when the wind allows.
Anchored and jigging with a Shiner minnow continues to be the go to. Gold, glow red, gold and yellow or gold and orange have been great colors.
Temps in the 20’s to 60’s are forecasted for the week ahead.
We are booking for winter, give us a call to lock in your dates!" - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
An email from Aaron Hamersma was timely because in it, he asks the same question that's been asked by every single one of my fishing cutomers over the past 2 weeks. Aaron srote; "First off thank you so much for all the great reports during the year! I was wondering when you will stop going fishing on the open water and shut it down until freeze up? I've been holding off as long as I can but not sure when it gets to a point it’s not worth it. We are on lake north of Talmoon. Thanks again for all you do!
A) Aaron Thanks for the note; I really appreciate hearing from you.
Your question isn't an easy one to answer because it's so subjective. For me, a day spent on the water is always "worth it" because no matter whether I catch fish or not, I always learn something. Phrasing it another way, even if I don’t figure out where the fish are or how to catch them, I come away with a fresh set of questions to ask and learning the answers often helps me do better the next time I fish.
For some, the only reason to go fishing is to catch fish and going home skunked is a fate worse than death. So to them, it wouldn’t matter if the weather was cold, hot or in-between, catching overrides fishing, no matter what.
Most of the “catchers” already put their boats away for the winter and you haven’t, so that tells me that you’re seeking knowledge, not just asking if I think the fishing will be good whenever you go out on your next trip.
At 41 degrees, the water on Sunday was almost the coldest I’ve ever fished. Despite a daytime high temperature of 31 degrees, my crew Phil Goettl and Tom Coen braved the elements, hunkered down and chipped away at the walleyes until they had their bag limits. After that, we bagged enough extra fish on my limit to get a fish fry at the Gosh Dam Place afterward.
Rewind to a text message sent to me by Phil last Tuesday; “Do you have any worries about our fishing trip (next Sunday) and the arctic conditions?” That was Phil’s way of asking me if it would be “worth it” to make the trip up and whether or not I thought we could pull off a decent day on the lake.
The truth is I didn’t know for sure that we’d catch fish; I only knew that I’ve faced similar conditions in the past and been lucky enough to catch fish. I knew too that if we didn’t at least try, then we certainly would not catch anything, by not going out at all, we would lock in our failure.
The turnover, defined technically in the article >> Fishing The Fall Turnover In Natural Lakes has likely occurred on every lake that does have a turnover. That means that the fish are already re-adjusting to their winter environments and fishing patterns will become more predictable by the day.
Look to your experiences as an ice fisherman to help you figure out how to approach this cold water period.
Walleyes, like they were yesterday, will be semi-active during the day when it’s cloudy and Grey. When the sun is shining, plan your trip to last until after sunset, that’s when the fish will exhibit the classic ice fishing pattern of short, but intense feeding runs at dusk.
Panfish and perch are located in winter areas too and the same “think like an ice angler” strategy will work for them too. In fact, this is an excellent time of the season to prepare for the ice season. Finding schools of fish and marking your spots now will save a lot of drilling in a few weeks, when the lakes are ice covered. No matter whether you catch fish or not, you will accomplish something; it will definitely be “worth it”.
I think a survey of my fishing customers who fished over the past 2 weeks would reveal that most of them were glad that they decided to fish. There have been lots of chilly fingers, some moments of slow fishing too. But overall, the experiences have been good and the stories they tell at home will be even better.
For me, the open water season is liable to be over at end of this week. But that’s because I haven’t been hunting for a few years and I’m planning to do some catching up this fall. Assuming that the lakes remain open and the access ramps are safe to use, then I would have a reasonable expectation to catch at least some fish and gain valuable knowledge right up until the first ice fishing shacks appear on the shoreline.
Looking ahead at the forecast, Mother Nature appears to be wrapping a gift for us. High temperatures in the 50’s, maybe even 60 on Thursday will make fishing a lot more fun next weekend. So as long as your boat is ready and your heart is in it, then I say fish as long as you want to.
OH, by the way, it’s a good idea to lay in a little reserve supply of bait now while most shops are still open. That way you won’t have to worry about showing up at your favorite shop and find out that the traffic has been too slow to justify them staying open.
Good luck out there and please send pictures! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I realize that I am speaking to a smaller audience every day, but I know that there are still some die-hard anglers out there. So for those of you who’d still like to get on the lake another time or two, here’s what I know and what I don’t know.
On Friday, Surface water temperatures ranged from 41 degrees to 44 degrees depending on the area and depth of water we searched. These were the coldest water temperatures I’ve seen this season and for me, the coldest I’ve fished in for a long time. It’s maybe been 20 years since the day we fished on Cutfoot and returned to Williams Narrows to find the back bay frozen over. I could see something like that happening again this year.
Our intention on Friday was to give the crappies a good run for their money. While we had some success early in the day, the fish eventually beat us into submission.
I spent an hour, maybe more looking for fish is shallow water, but no matter where I went, the screen of my Humminbird revealed nothing. When I cruised across the lakes deepest hole, fish were stacked up and they covered a fairly large swath of territory. Finding the fish was the easy part, getting them to strike took a lot of persistence.
After chipping away for a couple of hours, we had 6 or 7 “keepers” and I decided to look around some more. But I couldn’t find another spot, but I couldn’t, it appeared that every fish in the lake was holding tight in the same 40 foot hole.
Thinking that we might do better by switching lakes, I ran the idea up the flag pole. The problem was that we’d caught just enough fish to keep us interested; surely they would get active later in the afternoon, we reasoned. So instead of leaving to try another lake, we stuck it out in the hope that a late inning rally would save the day.
Long story short, we caught a few more, but there never was a rally at the end of the day. If we could have done better by switching lakes, we’ll never know.
So for the B-minus Guide Crew, it was the reverse of their 2017 fall trip. Last year we had no problem catching panfish and perch, but we struggled to bag walleyes. This year, the walleyes came easy on Thursday and panfish gave us the slip on Friday.
I didn’t fish on Saturday and I’m glad I didn’t, the wind blew hard and it looked like a crummy day to be on the lake. I do fish today though and I will have some fresh insights about water temperature and fish activity.
If you’re like me and still have a few days on the water planned, check in on Monday for an update. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
The boys from the infamous “B minus Guide Service” are back in town and chilly fingers aside, showed off their superior fishing skills on Thursday. It didn’t happen right away, Kevin Scott and Al Heimer ran me through my paces, but in the end, hard work and good luck prevailed.
Our first lake was a dud, even though I’d done well there just this past Monday, the walleyes in Lake Shoulddabeengood didn’t want anything to do with us.
Ranging between 46 and 47 degrees, the surface water temperature had dropped 5 degrees since Monday and maybe that was the catalyst for change. On the other hand, maybe I just didn’t give the lake enough time, maybe there was an active school of fish right around the corner and I didn’t stay long enough to find them. Anyway, noon felt like a good time to go for a warm up. We’d take a ride, re-group and try changing our luck.
When we arrived at Lake Muchmorebetter, the water was even colder. At 44 degrees, this reading set the new record low for me this fall and it worried me. I was afraid that we were heading into another episode of cold fingers and even colder action, but I was wrong.
For reasons known only to the fish, the walleye action here was good. In fact, I’d say that it was above average, especially compared to my most recent visit, when the crowded lake only gave up a few fish before forcing me to make a similar emergency escape.
Usually, I come up with a theory about the weather and how it is or isn’t affecting fish behavior, but this time I’m stumped. Conditions have changed so fast, that I can’t keep up with them. Water temperatures have fallen quickly too, so there’s no way to know which lake may or may not be at any particular stage of development.
My friend Arne Danielson says that I think about fish more than I need to. All you really need to do is go try one spot and if that doesn’t work, then pick up and move to another spot. This is one instance when his way is definitely the right way, as long as I keep trying, I wind up finding something. I just don’t have a good way of predicting ahead of time where I should be on any given day.
I can tell you this; the majority of walleyes that we are catching come from shallow water. On Thursday, 8 to 9 feet was the magic depth and a 1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jig tipped with a fathead is all we needed to catch them. Kevin used pink, Al used yellow and I had a glow/perch; each of us caught fish in roughly equal numbers.
I am up against the clock and need to run out the door. But I’ve got the B minus crew again today and with their walleyes already tucked away in the cooler, panfish will be getting some attention. There appears to be a welcome change of weather headed our way, so I’m optimistic about holding onto my official B minus guide service accreditation. Stay tuned to learn what happens! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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I've looked online and find no real description of cold weather info. Is it for Minnesota open ice fishing and is it durable? There are no reviews on line so I'm reaching out to a fisherman in the know; please advise. Thanks Bill
A) Good morning Bill, the timing of your note is interesting because I just ordered a new Arctic Armor suit on Wednesday and expect it to arrive in a few days.
Admittedly, the IDI Gear website could use a little freshening up, it isn't as streamlined as some of the larger operations on the internet. But their suits are very, very good and that's why I have a new on the way right now.
I started with my first one in the winter of 2011/2012 and wore it on ice fishing trips, as well as early and late season open water fishing trips. That suit was and still is lightweight, comfortable and a joy to wear, plus it still keeps me warm and toasty on the ice or in the boat.
It’s the light weight of the suit that I like best, I’ve used some of the others and they feel much heavier on my body. For me, the less weight I have to lug around on the ice, the better and fot that, I like these the best.
I liked the original one so much that I purchased a second Arctic Armor suit in 2015. I’ve been wearing that suit every day this week, so you’ve probably seen photos like the accompanying one in several recent reports. Equally warm and comfortable, the suit you see here is in fine condition and completely serviceable today.
Occasionally, I have customers who show up for their trips without enough cold weather gear to get them through days like the ones we’ve experienced this week. So as I am able, I will continue to add the occasional new one to the mix, that way I will have them on hand for these situations that pop up.
If you pressed me for a criticism about the suit, I’d have to say this; while the suit is advertised as waterproof, mine are not 100% waterproof. They are however water resistant and keep me dry for 3 to 5 hours during a moderate rainfall.
That point is moot though because I rarely find myself in a situation where I need to use these suits as a substitute for rain gear. If it’s cold enough to require an ice suit, then it doesn’t rain and if it rains enough to require a rain suit, then it doesn’t get that cold. That said, last Monday it was 40 degrees outside, cold enough to wear the ice suit and it did rain that day as well. We fished for about 4 hours in the afternoon and when we were finished, I was still dry. So in a pinch, it will hold the water at bay long enough to get out of the elements without being soaked.
By now you may be thinking; “I’ll bet that he’s getting that suit for free and it’s his job to tell me to buy one.” Nope, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and that’s why I’m willing to share my sales receipt for the suit I purchased last Wednesday. I paid the full retail price because I believe it’s worth it, I really do.
Oh and by the way, heaven forbid that any of us would ever need the suit for its intended purpose. But I do have a friend who has broken through the ice on Lake Mille Lacs and could easily have drowned. Luckily, he was wearing his Arctic Armor and it did save his life; he thinks that they’re worth having too! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Given the recent weather, it's understandable that my phone isn’t exactly ringing off the hook. It takes a hearty soul to make a day on the lake fun right now and folks, who aren’t already on my calendar haven’t been in a rush to get in on this cold snap.
Because I do still have a handful of trips on my schedule, I feel obliged to get out on the lakes and have a look around. The least I can do is to keep myself up to speed about lake conditions and hopefuly fish locations too. That way I have a fighting chance of making these next several dates fun for my customers.
Since I was heading out solo anyway, I decided to combine the search for places to catch fish this week with the search for places to catch them this winter too. My wife refers to this as feeding two birds with one stone; I’ve referred to it simply as multi-tasking.
One lake that we’ve fished over the past couple of winters has provided good action for Yellow Perch. I’ve visited the lake a couple of times during the summer and found panfish, pike and walleye there too. Since there’s no chart available for the small, 300 acre lake, I decided that this was the day to make my own map at the same time I was searched for fish.
I haven’t spent much time talking about the Auto Chart Live feature of my Humminbird. That’s because high definition charts are already available for most of the Itasca Area lakes that I fish. But now and then, I stumble into a nice little lake that has yet to be charted by anyone on the Humminbird crew. When I do, creating my own chart is easy, I just insert the Auto Chart SD card, open the menu, select Auto Chart Live and press the record button. That’s it; from then on every move I make is added to the recording.
The accompanying image reveals the chart in progress and as you can see, a large weedy flat has taken shape nicely. Later in the process, I discovered something special about that flat and it’s on the more fully completed version of that chart. I’m sure that you’ll read more about that spot later this winter when we catch some fish there. For now though, let’s talk about what I found that may be useful today.
At 46 degrees, this was the coldest surface reading I’ve seen to date and because of it, I expected to find panfish in the deepest portion of the lake, a 35 foot hole located in its center. There wasn’t anything out there though; panfish, perch, pike and walleye were nowhere to be found in deep water. Instead, they were located along the weed edges in 10 to 12 feet of water and if I wanted to get a strike, I needed to see weeds on my screen.
So apparently the fish in little Lake Gonnabegood are following the same pattern that fish in many other area lakes are adhering to. As long as the weeds remain green, the fish, particularly larger predators like pike, walleye and bass aren’t leaving, weed edges remain prime locations.
I think that the cold weather hit so hard and so fast that it makes us humans feel like winter is already here. According to the weather we’re experiencing, it feels like the fall bite should already be behind us and that we should be sharpening our auger blades. But for the fish, it’s still fall and except for the obvious few degrees colder water, they are in their classic fall feeding patterns.
It’s hard to know when the next major change will occur, especially if this wacky weather continues. But anybody willing to brave the cold can expect the fish to remain cooperative, at least for now.
Comfort is obviously a concern, but so is safety. It’s one thing to advise folks about wearing life jackets, but have you ever tried wearing one when you’re bundled up in snow gear? Over the past week or so, I’ve been multi-tasking in this regard too, I've been wearing my ice fishing suit.
The set I have is from Arctic Armor it not only keeps my body warm, but it floats. So in the event that I would somehow be separated from the interior of my boat, I will not sink.
I’ve watched the way some folks dress for cold weather and while some of the outfits may be warm, they are anything but safe. I doubt that I could swim more than a few yards in 46 degree water anyway, but if I was wearing a wet pair of farm overalls that weigh 100 pounds, I’d sink like a rock for sure.
At first glance, outfitting yourself with the Arctic Armor might seem expensive, but I have two sets, one of them is something like 8 or 9 years old and is still in good shape. Not only do they wear like iron, they are lightweight and comfortable, plus they will save your life in an accident. Ask your spouse; “Honey, how much is it worth to save my life?” You can base your decision on whatever answer you get. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Yes apparently the Walleye are more comfortable with this crummy weather than we are. In fact, I’d go further than to use the term comfortable, I’d say that when I can find them, they’re active. Knowing that is what’s helped get me through days like yesterday.
At 51.7 degrees, surface water temperatures haven’t moved very much since late last week. That stability, combined with dark grey skies and moderate winds have encouraged walleye to follow their instinct to feed heavily before winter sets in.
As proof of my theory, I’d offer the accompanying photo into evidence; the walleye you see pictured here was not hunted down or outsmarted by my superior intellect. No, she just came along and grabbed my Lindy Live Bait Jig and minnow while I was fiddling around with my gloves or something like that. In fact there wasn’t any sort of specialized training or alent required to catch a fish yesterday. All that was necessary was a willingness to keep covering territory and keep a line in the water; the fish took care of the rest.
Some of the territory I covered was deep water points, bars and other mid-lake structure. I expected to fish in some of these areas, but I really didn’t, the fish that I found yesterday were still relating to weeds. Anyplace where deep water lay adjacent to large weedy flats, there were fish present.
Walleye, along with perch and pike were holding outside of the weed edges in 13 to 16 feet of water. They held tight to the bottom, so slower jigging approaches worked better than highly aggressive ones. A methodical and slow lift-drop-lift-drop worked, so did slowly wiggling the rod tip as I swam the jig just above the bottom.
More aggressive presentations like snap jigging attracted more pike and on this day, re-tying jigs snipped off by the scissor bills was the last thing I needed. Toning down the presentation did help reduce the number of pike attacks.
Another positive side note is that we were surprised by the quality size of a few perch that we caught yesterday. Recently, I’ve been accustomed to catching perch that were marginally large enough to be called keepers. But every fall there’s a time when the better ones become active and maybe the time for that has arrived. It’s hard to say for sure, because we didn’t focus on trying to catch them, but the first time my fingers are warm enough to warrant the increased time of handling fish, I will.
For today, the search for walleye will continue, I just don’t know where or how I’ll go about it. The weather will dictate that and I guess that there’s potential for more wind today. If it’s still wet and the wind blows too, then I’m not sure how hard core the fishing effort will be. More on that tomorrow. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Finding and camping on a big school of fish is your best chance at awesome ice fishing. As Wired2Fish’s Ryan DeChaine demonstrates, the best way to accomplish this is locating gamefish from the boat using an LCD fish finder before the lake freezes.
Ryan scans a small, rudimentarily mapped lake using Humminbird’s MEGA Side and Down Imaging and 2D sonar to find panfish while simultaneously building a high-resolution custom map using Humminbird's AutoChart Live.
While finding fish using sonar is useful, it’s much more powerful when combined with accurate mapping; correlating fish location to the lake map provides powerful insights that can be applied throughout the body of water." View Video to Learn More >> How Finding Fish in Open Water Leads to Better Ice Fishing
Lake of the Woods, LOW Tourism October 9, 2018
"On the main basin... Good fall walleye fishing continues. Water a bit stirred up on south shore this past week starting to settle. Walleyes and shiners are staging out front in 20-29'. Various spots along south shore of lake producing, fall pattern kicking in. Jigs and frozen shiners working best. Anchor up and jig with gold, glow red, or gold/orange. Nice numbers of fish coming in.
On the Rainy River... Walleye activity strong with some big fish showing up in the river. Anglers reporting success jigging with a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig and frozen shiner. More walleyes continue to enter river from lake. Four Mile Bay had good bite, best in morning. Sturgeon have the feed bag on. Strong activity continues with some 60"+ fish boated. The bite is on!
Up at the NW Angle... Fishing continues to be excellent. Limits of walleyes being caught on rocky bays and adjacent reefs. 17 - 25'. Jigging still producing. Look for pinch points and areas of current and outside of bays.
Crappie activity strong, suspended over mud bottom in 24-28'. Muskie trolling off to a great start and only getting better as water temps reach high 40's." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"There have been many different weather changes last week, it was mostly windy and wet. Those winds stirred up the lake off of Pine Island and out for about 8 miles. There are nice schools of fish and many shiner minnows in the muddy area, although it’s tough to get them to bite. The Bay has provided a good morning bite and in the evenings the river has been better. Hopefully we will have less wind this week and the water will clean up. Warm clothes and good rain gear are great ideas when packing to come up.
Anchored and jigging with a Shiner minnow continues to be the go to. Gold, glow red, gold and yellow or gold and orange have been great colors.
Temps in the 30’s to 40’s are forecasted for the week ahead.
We are booking for winter, give us a call to lock in your dates." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
Because of a last minute cancellation, I had an unexpected day off to work with on Saturday. That allowed me time to catch up on paperwork, outside chores and warm up some of my frozen muscles. It also gave me an opportunity to prepare one of the Hippie Chick’s all-time favorite meals, Coconut Pike Delight.
Listening to my wife’s comments about how good it was gave me the idea to share some observations about Northern Pike as table fare.
The recipe for Coconut Pike Delight originated during the summer of 2017 when we were experimenting with recipes for barbequing fish on the grill. At that time, possessing a pike in the 23 to 26 inch range was legal and for most of our cooking, those were the preferred size for eating.
With the 2018 implementation of the new “protected slot size regulation” for pike in our area, we’ve been forced to adjust our ideas about the size range of fish and how they match for each of our favorite recipes. Over the summer, I’ve prepared several Coconut Pike using fish that were around 21 inches, typically the largest size available to me under the new regulation. In my judgement, the smaller size fish have tasted good, but I’ve thought that the slightly larger fish we ate last summer tasted better.
On Thursday, my crew caught a pike that measured 27 inches and since they didn’t want it, I brought it home. Cooking that fish last night was proof positive that using a larger pike for the Coconut recipe is the best way to go. The 27 inch fish was excellent, the texture was firm, the color was perfect and its taste ranks right up there with any of the best seafood dishes we’ve ever eaten.
Just because the larger fish taste better for this recipe doesn’t mean that I won’t utilize any of the smaller fish. It just means that I have a new rule of thumb for which fish I’ll use for a given recipe. Fish that are below the 22 inch legal threshold will now be used to prepare blackened pike, fried pike and for pickling. The smaller fish will be excellent when prepared in those ways.
When I want to treat somebody to a super-special meal of pike, then I’ll hold out for a slightly larger fish. Fish in the 26 to 28 inch range are not only excellent for the Coconut recipe, but they are also perfect for baking and for the ever-popular fish boil.
I’m not sure about the future of fishing for large pike, that depends on how well the new slot regulations work out. But one thing I do know is that small pike will remain plentiful in the Itasca Region for a good long time. I can’t imagine anybody wanting for a meal of fish unless they just plain refuse to try preparing a pike for dinner.
Encouraging anglers to be proud of these smaller fish isn’t always easy, but you’d be surprised how many of my customers are taking advantage of the liberal 10 fish bag limit of pike under 22 inches. When the occasional 27 inch fish happens along, folks can take advantage of it if they choose to; that is one nice thing about the new size regulation.
Many of my friends have heard me say the northern pike are ideal for cooking because there are so many recipes for which pike are perfectly suited. I’m not making it up, these fish are good, really good and this won’t be the last time I share tips about a good pike recipe.
Oh and by the way guys, I’m lucky, I can bring home a pike any time I want and my reward will be hugs and kisses. It wouldn’t surprise me if it works for you too, all you’d have to do is cook one up and find out! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Weather, one of Mother Nature’s most powerful tools has a short in its wiring I think. This fall, the weather reminds me of my old power drill that would turn on, but then cut out and quit working. If I wiggled the wire, it would work again until whatever loose connection came un-snuggled again.
It wouldn't my feelings if she'd dish out two nice days in a row, but for some reason, the best she can muster this fall is the occasional single nice day like the one we enjoyed on Thursday. Oh I know, you're right, it might have been cold in the morning, but I am here to tell you that it definitely turned out to be a beautiful day; Mother Nature’s wiring was working!
On Friday, Mother’s wiring was shorted out again. The snow was pretty to look at, but caused all sorts of trouble for folks in rural Itasca County, including us.
For me and my crew, it meant waiting in line to gain passage through the tangle of fallen trees along the Williams Narrows Road near Cutfoot Sioux. The wet, sticky snow had collapsed numerous trees that could not support its weight. Fortunately, the crew from Lake County Power was on the road to investigate power outages and helped clear a path for us. By 10:00 AM the wheels of my Shoreland’r were finally touching the ramp at Williams Narrows Resort.
The 51 degree surface water on Cutfoot Sioux was steaming and the dark Grey sky was eerie. The whitecaps churned up by a stiff southeast breeze were pretty uninviting too; it didn’t look like a day that would be much fun on the lake.
Thankfully it was, at least for us. The walleyes were cooperative enough to keep the search interesting and the conditions were manageable, albeit just barely.
For most folks, Cutfoot Sioux was far enough to go yesterday, not many wanted to venture onto the big lake. On our way to the resort, Evan Nelson reported that for many WNR guests, the fishing has been good there and that they had “a lot of happy campers” on Thursday. Knowing that, I almost decided to stay on Cutfoot myself, but the crowds were a little too large for me, so I opted for areas on the big lake where I’d have more room to work.
Working my way along the north shore, I eventually wound up at Stony Point. We checked a couple of shallow water spots that in the good old days would have been great for this weather. But the clear water was too much to overcome. In 8 feet of water, we could see every clam shell and blade of grass along the bottom. If there would have been fish there, we would have seen them, but we didn’t.
Moving out deeper worked better though, there was a lot of life along the soft drop off from 13 to 15 feet. There was so much activity on the screen of my Humminbird that it was tough to know when to get excited. Minnows, small fish, plankton, floating debris and occasionally, a larger looking mark on the screen were all mixed together. Some of those larger marks on the screen were walleyes and they turned out to be cooperative.
The southeast wind wasn’t ideal for the spot; the whitecaps were rolling in at a 45 degree angle. But my Alaskan did manage them well, we were able to back troll down the breakline and then drift back. At 13 feet, with a brisk wind, ¼ ounce jigs were better than 1/8 ounce ones. But we had to keep the jigs hopping and keep our lines short enough to prevent the moss from gathering on the hooks; dragging the bottom was not an option.
That breakline kept us busy for about 3 hours, but the action did fizzle out eventually. Moving from spot to spot in the area, I landed on more perch than anything, but there was a token walleye at most of the spots we tried. Some of the perch were “good enough” for a fish fry at the Gosh Dam Place, which 8 of them did become. The average size was small though, anybody who wanted to bag a limit of 10 inch fish would have some serious sorting to do.
Overall, the day was a good one, the weather was cold, but didn’t make us cry uncle. The fish allowed each of us some action; I’d estimate that we each caught a half dozen walleye or so. Most of the fish were slot-fish, we only bagged 4 keepers. But the average fish was heavy and they all put up a great fight, even the keepers were quality fish, ranging from 16-1/2 to 17-1/2 inches.
At 49 degrees, the water temperature on the big lake makes me wonder how long the action will last. But for right now, if you’re willing to do some exploring and check a variety of spots, I do think that you will be allowed to catch some fish. That is if Mother Nature keeps wiggling the wire to turn on a decent day occasionally.
For me, it appears that an un-expected cancellation will keep me in dry dock today. That’s okay I guess, I’ve got chores to catch up on and who knows, I might even figure out a way to take my dog for a walk in the woods. Since I’ll be away from the lake, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you, good luck out there and let me know how your day goes today. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
At 28 degrees, it seemed at first glance that re-scheduling the date might be a good idea, but I’m glad we didn’t. Randy and Bev Swenson decided that they might as well take a chance that we might be able to drum up enough action to make the day fun.
Our target would be crappies, at least for the early part of our day. We reasoned that it would be more fun to put around on a small lake rather than taking a 5 mile run out onto Big Winnie. If they didn’t bite, then at least we wouldn’t be frozen solid and if they did, well then we’d have some fun.
Surprisingly, the surface water temperature held steady despite the frosty overnight temperatures. At 52.5 degrees, it was only a half degree colder than it was on my most recent visit to the crappie hole.
Finding the fish was not a challenge, they were huddled together along the outer edges of a mid-lake hole. The lion’s share of fish was located at about 20 feet, but there were some scattered fish at 22 feet, over the center of the deepest portion of the hole.
The horizontal drifting/trolling approach that I wrote about in the Fishing Report September 30, 2018 worked well. In fact I’m not too sure that it didn’t work even better yesterday than it did on the weekend when the idea originated. The fish responded well to 1/8 ounce lindy Jigs tipped with 3 inch shad imitators. The larger baits definitely did help us catch larger fish; they were especially helpful for Randy who figured out an extra little twitch that triggered more strikes. He gave the lure a lighter hop by gently popping the rod tip; it was a lift-drop-lift-drop action using gentle, short strokes.
We stuck with the Crappies until we filled our legal bag limit and by then it was getting nice outside. The sky was blue and the breeze was light. Reports from Winnibigoshish and Cutfoot Sioux were not good; the clear weather had disrupted the walleye bite. So after we cleaned up the boat, we headed for another small lake where we hoped walleyes might be active despite the clear conditions.
Long story short, we caught some, but not a ton of them. This time Bev had the magic touch; she caught 2 or 3 slot-fish, a nice keeper and some pike. I added a keeper to the larder and released a slot fish myself. Randy provided the Hippie Chick with a nice pike which will soon become Coconut Pike Delight.
All of the fish were related to weed edges, but not tightly. The weedline ended at about 10 feet of water, while the fish held along the outer edges at 12 to 14 feet. Our jigs, 1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs were tipped with large fatheads worked well. I attempted to single out walleyes by wiggle worming, but the night crawler didn’t get struck.
Later, I noticed that the stomachs of both keeper walleyes were packed full of minnows. In my opinion, the fish were feeding and wanted to strike, but were held back by the calm seas and sunshine. I think that a light chop and broken sky would have produced a reliable bite out there.
For me that’s good news because I think it shows that the fish are recovering from the flash cold snap that disrupted everything last week. The fish still have to eat and now that they’ve adjusted to the changes, feeding patterns should become more predictable.
We’ll find out soon, I’m on my way out onto the snowy, yes I said snowy, lake right now. Whatever happens, you will be the first to know. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
During late fall and winter there are several species of fish that migrate into deep water. Crappies, one of the most popular deep water inhabitants, are particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure during this cold water period.
For some anglers, locating and catching fish in mid-lake deep water basins is easier than finding them in shallow water cover. The good news is that once located, crappies are willing biters and for most anglers, fairly easy to catch. The fish’s willingness to strike allows an angler to make quick work out of catching “a limit” of fish. The fast action makes it tempting to lock into a position, catch lots of fish and sort out the best ones to take home for dinner.
The problem is that catching fish in deep water is extremely hard on them. The truth is that many of these fish, even the ones that swim away, apparently un-harmed will eventually perish. And the deeper they are, the worse the problem gets; finding fish in 20 feet of water is much better than finding them in 25 feet of water. Once they go deeper than 30 feet, reeling them to the surface is very risky, but in water depths of over 1 atmosphere, that’s 33 feet, catching a fish equals almost certain death.
For me, the most workable strategy has been to develop a list of lakes that have decent populations of panfish, but don’t have any water deeper than about 25 feet. It’s a lot easier than you may think; there are a couple of dozen lakes like this right here in the Itasca area. In fact, there are some lakes where the water is even shallower, ones where the water doesn’t even reach 20 feet. Fishing where the water doesn’t get deep helps me avoid the temptation to fish over a school of that I shouldn’t.
If your plan is to eat crappies and you don’t care about high grading the size, then there’s no problem. Just bag the first 5 or 10, whichever is the limit on your lake and then go fish for some other species that lives in shallow water. But if your plan is to catch and release fish either for fun or to sort out the largest ones, then it would be a better idea to avoid fishing in deep water.
Here’s a link to a good article about the effects of Barotrauma and I hope you’ll read it. We all want to catch fish next year, I’m sure of that. The fish we save by being smarter today, just might be the fish we catch next season.
What is barotrauma? Simply stated barotrauma is “injury caused to the body by changing air or water pressure.” In humans we know this as “The Bends”- a dangerous condition that divers experience when they come up too fast from deep water. Believe it or not, something similar happens in fish.
For example: When an angler angles walleye at the bottom of the lake, those walleye are experiencing a certain amount of pressure (air & water).
When the angler yanks them up to the surface, that pressure is drastically reduced. This means that their gas filled cavities rapidly expand. This is particularly a problem for fish due to the presence of their ..." Learn More >> BAROTRAUMA AWARENESS Rebecca Eberts
Lake Winnibigoshish Walleyes appear to be on the move. Migrations from mid-lake structure into Cutfoot Sioux, along other shallow water fall feeding areas on the main lake are underway.
Helpful advice from my friend Reed Ylitalo led me and my crew to some decent walleye fishing on Winnie yesterday. That particular batch of walleyes are following one of the traditional pathways along the north shore, leading them toward the gap and eventually into Cutfoot Sioux. Luckily for me, Reed gave me the heads up because based on what I’ve seen at other lakes, I probably would not have gone there.
At 50-51 degrees, the surface temperature on Winnie is just as cold as I’ve seen on the other lakes I’ve fished. According to “the rules”, the fish should be all discombobulated just like they are in a lot of other areas. But I’d forgotten something, walleye migrations, from deep water to shallow water on food driven than anything else.
As fall spawning Tulibee move toward the shoreline they set up an entire new food chain. At the same time, there are also minnows and small fish being forced out of shallow water weeds, adding more fuel to the fire.
After my confidence was bolstered by the solid fishing tip, I did some exploring and wherever we went, we found a little something to do. Perch were active in a lot of places, there were more walleyes in the mix too and as always, northern pike were present almost everywhere.
Key depths ranged from 11 to 16 feet, but 12-13 seemed to be ideal. Jig and minnow was the only presentation we used and the fish showed a strong preference for Blue/Glow 1/8 ounce Lindy Live Bait Jig. We had both Rainbows and Fatheads, but the fish didn’t show a strong preference for one over the other.
I’m grateful for the helpful advice I got yesterday, but now I have another decision to make. After a week of blustery, grey weather, will those fish bite today when it's sunny and calm outside, or not?
I'm short on time and have to run, but I’ll pick up tomorrow where I left off. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
On Tuesday, I, along with my friend Craig Anderson sampled 2 lakes; the first was a return trip to the “crappie hole” where surface water temperatures dialed in at 52-53 degrees. The second lake was a clear, deep water lake where the water held at 55.2 degrees. Both lakes gave us moments of optimism and each was interesting in its own way. Neither of them provided us with high action or super-sized fish.
At the crappie hole, action had fallen off noticeably since we fished there on Saturday. The fish were still there and they were in a semi-active state of mind. They were spread out horizontally across the bottom rather than stacked up vertically, but were susceptible to both trolling and jigging presentations.
The presentation that I wrote about on Sunday, using big, aggressive baits to trigger strikes from larger fish did help us sort out a handful of 10-1/2 to 11-1/2 inch fish. But the size structure was still weighted heavily in favor of small fish. For us, most fish were less than 10 inches, smaller than what we considered to be “keepers”. We fell short of bagging our 2 person limit, but had a respectable catch, all things considered.
After we were satisfied with crappie fishing, I reasoned that trying a deeper water lake might help us beat the effects of the cold water syndrome that has set in on shallower waters this week. At first, it appeared that the strategy was clever, almost immediately; we marked fish in the 28-32 foot depth range. Craig managed to catch one keeper, release a smaller walleye and boat a slot-size northern.
Despite finding more fish at other spots, those first few encounters were the only fish that struck. Those early strikes came on Craig’s 3/8 ounce jig tipped with minnows. I experimented with other presentations using night crawlers and some jigging baits, but unless you count the shirt that I pulled up from the bottom of the lake, my attempts to be creative with presentations failed.
Judging by traffic on the lake and the fact that we marked fish at almost every stop, I’d say that we were on the right track. But some combination of the effects of weather and fishing pressure made this a losing battle. There were a half dozen boats on the lake, all of us knew “the hot spots” and we were all driving around playing musical trolling motors. Throughout the afternoon, most every fish on the lake's half dozen better fishing spots had already seen each angler’s favorite presentation. I speculated that we may have done better if we'd been there early in the day rather than later. We did not stay long enough to observe whether or not the fish were inclined to stage an evening feeding run.
I’m still looking for something interesting to do and debating my strategy for today. Should I go deep, go shallow or bury my head in the sand? I haven’t quite decided which way I’ll go. But no matter what I decide, you will be the first to know! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
“Spotty, when you think of it, is the ideal word for describing fishing at any time of the year. It could be the go to answer for anybody who owns a bait shop, resort or in my case, guide service. Whenever somebody asks; “how’s the fishin’?” we could easily all just say “it’s been spotty, folks who are in the right spot at the right time have report awesome fishing.”
The flip side of the coin for folks who have been in the wrong spot at the wrong time means suffering through some long, slow fishing sessions. Unfortunately, fishing for walleye over the past week has been especially “spotty”, some folks really caught ‘em and some folks didn’t. For folks like me who were in the wrong spot at the wrong time yesterday, water temperature may well be to blame.
"What a difference a day makes, the fish we found on Sunday were gone without a trace on Monday. Other fish we marked on our electronics would not bite, we just couldn't catch them." Those words, spoken during a phone conversation with a friend last night reminded me of articles I've written in the past about how an angler can tell when a lake has "turned over". How one day you can do no wrong, every fish in the lake seems to be biting and the next day ... your bite crashes and burns.
The photo comparing the surface temperature readings of my Humminbird vs my pool thermometer was taken on October 6th, 2017 (See Fishing Report October 7, 2017).
At that time, we’d already been enjoying good walleye fishing in 58 to 60 degree water for several days. Later, as water temperatures fell, the walleye action declined, but slowly, not all at once.
Just one week ago, on September 26, 2018 I wrote that surface temperatures were in the ideal range for walleye anglers. At 60 degrees, the stage was set for an excellent fall run of hungry walleye. Yesterday, on Leech Lake, I recorded a surface temperature reading of 48.7 degrees in Waboose Bay and 52.5 on the main lake. That's right, in one week Mother Nature took us from ideal water temperatures to ones that make me shiver in my boots.
It's possible that the tough bite that I, along with others experienced yesterday was an anomaly; maybe they will bite better today. But I am definitely hedging my bets by planning to fish on lakes that have something else to offer beside walleyes.
The silver lining is that if we have indeed entered the post turnover period, then the recovery will occur in time for folks to enjoy it. After a week or so, feeding activity usually begins to recover as walleye become acclimated to the colder temperatures.
If you're like me and were in the wrong place at the wrong time yesterday, don't worry, just follow the guidance that I received from the hippie Chick this morning. "Quit worrying, the fish will let you know when they're good and ready, they will bite when they're supposed to bite."
Okay sweetie, thank you, I will do my best. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"On the main basin... Good fall walleye fishing continues. Jigs and frozen shiners working well in 20-29' during the day and a morning/evening bite happening in 10-15'. Anchor up and jig with gold, glow red, or gold/orange. Good numbers of walleyes stacking up in front Pine Island, both Lighthouse Gap and Morris Point gap, Zippel Bay, and Long Point areas. Shiners continue to run up the Rainy River.
On the Rainy River... Shiners are running and walleye activity picked up greatly this week. Good limits being caught. Anglers reporting success jigging with a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig and frozen shiner. Increased sturgeon activity continues with some 60"+ fish boated. The bite is on!
Up at the NW Angle... Fishing continues to be excellent. Limits of walleyes being caught on rocky bays and adjacent reefs. 15 - 22'. Jigging still producing. Walleyes starting to move towards structure and outside mouths of bays. Crappie activity strong, guides helpful for crappies." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"River action has been picking up! Our guides have spent a couple of days in the river this past week. The best bite has been outside the Lighthouse Gap on the lake in 29 feet, right along the border.
Anchored and jigging with a Shiner minnow continues to be the go to. Gold, glow red, gold and yellow or gold and orange have been great colors. We anticipate the action in the river to continually get better.
Temperatures from the 30’s to 50’s are forecasted for the week ahead.
We are booking for winter, give us a call to lock in your dates!" - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"Water temperatures have dropped significantly over the past week and over the weekend; they were hovering at about 55 degrees.Drizzly dark days featuring enough wind to stir up a healthy “walleye chop” get credit for the fast falling temperatures. But hearty anglers, who braved the chilly weather, get credit for producing stories about a week of excellent walleye action.
On the lake with our friend Gerry Albert, we got in on some of the great action ourselves on Saturday. Conditions for walleye fishing were perfect and for us, the action was fast and furious.
Knowing that the fish are active gives anglers a boost of confidence, but cashing in on the information might require a bit of creativity. That’s because as active as they are, walleyes have ..." Read >> Lake Winnie Cutfoot Sioux Walleye Report October 1, 2018
There have been a lot of calls and emails lately from readers asking for one sort of advice or another. I’m doing my best to keep up and at the same time, prioritize the list so that I get to the really pressing issues first.
Since the “busy season” is in full swing, my office time is really limited. So if you’ve dropped me a line and haven’t received a reply, I apologize, I will get the stack cleared up eventually, so please bear with me.
I’m usually checking messages during the wee hours of early morning, so my schedule tends to favor emails rather than phone calls. Also, I do offer The Early Bird Insider’s News List, an “opt-in” email list that I routinely use for announcing last minute openings, special announcement and fishing events. List membership is free and it only takes a few seconds to register. I can’t sign you up; you need to do this yourself by clicking the link to the news list.
One final thought, every fishing question that I’ve received for the past week has been about lakes and situations that I have already written about. The fishing archives are jam packed with information about the specific lakes and situations that you’ve been asking about. So if you want a jump start on your next fishing trip, go to Fishing Report Archives, select the month that you plan to fish and peruse the past reports. I promise that you will find the information you’re looking for, plus a lot more. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL