Catching A Whiff Of "The Good Air" March 31, 2015
Oh Man! I Know that You already Know, but I just have to remind you that after a week of standing on cement, it sure is nice to be home, where I can sneak outside and catch a lingering whiff of "The Good Air".
Don't get me wrong, seeing friends, old and new at the Northwest Sportshow was a blast too. Thanks for stopping at the Lindy booth to hear about new developments with Fish ED and the Lindy Tackle lineup.
I'm especially grateful for all of the friends who showed up last Friday to sit in on my seminars. For me, it feels good to have a strong turnout for something like that and I loved having a crowd. I really hope that you walked away feeling excited for the opener too, maybe even armed with a few tidbits of fresh knowledge as a reward for coming down to listen.
So, here I AM back home and frankly, I was hoping to see more open water along the path to get here. For the first 60 or 70 miles of the trip, virtually every small pond and many of the smaller lakes were already open. But the further north I drove, the more ice I saw and by the time I arrived home, it looked almost the same as it did before I drove away last week.
Along US Hwy 2 there were still numerous vehicles towing small trailers filled with ATV's and portable ice fishing shelters travelling east, heading home from their weekend ice fishing trips.
On my way out for an afternoon tour of the area, I spotted Bill Powell who was returning from a mission to pull his minnow traps out of the lake where he's been gathering bait. His assessment of the situation was that most ice fishermen enjoyed good travel conditions on Friday and Saturday, Powell cautioned though that ice conditions were deteriorating rapidly and that's what fueled his decision to get his traps before it was too late to get out on the ice to remove them.
Powell offered an encouraging update about conditions on the Rainy River. Open water had already reached downstream of the Frontier landing and as of Monday afternoon; it was expected to be open to the Vidas landing within hours. Current conditions remain very slow because of the low water.
Reports about the Walleye fishing were mixed though, some anglers are doing "okay", but nobody has been bragging about catching fish in large numbers.
Unlike most springs, when we hope that flood stage water won't ruin the fishing conditions, this would be a good time for some rain on the Rainy. A slowly rising water level along with an increase in the speed of the river current would encourage fish to move upstream faster, triggering better fishing action.
My tour of Deer River area lakes revealed that there are still lots of lakes where anglers could get one more ice fishing trip in if they want to.
On Monday, there were a few fishermen on every lake I visited. Based on the appearance of the ice at each landing, ATV travel may still be feasable. But all of the ice fishermen that I spotted on Cutfoot, Lake Winnie, Little Cutfoot, Bowstring and others, were travelling on foot.
It was way too early in the afternoon to observe any of them engaged in a "hot bite" and watching from shore was uneventful. That said, there is probably some action on all of these lakes during the early morning and evening. For me, it was lucky that I didn't see anyone catching a lot of fish because I'm better off focusing on the open water season, which by the way, begins very very soon. Thanks to the abundance of open water on the Rainy, it may begin for me as early as tomorrow. Today I'll move the boat out into the sunshine and we'll see how long it takes to shine her up a little bit.
(3/31) Greg Clusiau, "Greg's Guidlines" - Rainy River Fishing Update
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 ... read >> Rainy River Report .
(3/31) From Lake of the Woods, Mike Kinsela, Border View Lodge; "Lots of people fishing the river! Landings up to Frontier are open and accessible. Vidas landing should be opening soon as well.
Guests are saying plenty of fish to stay busy. Some have caught and released some nice sturgeon as well.
We should see much more of the river open this next week as temperatures are forecasted in the 50’s and even hitting 60 by the end of the week." Try the spring river fishing! Call and book your cabin today!" - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge .
Fast Forward Back To Winter - Greg Clusiau's Rainy Lake Crappie Adventure 3/24
"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 . ... >> Ice Fishing Rainy Lake For Crappies
Ice Fishing Report March 23, 2015
Ice fishing in the Itasca Area may continue to go strong for another week, but anglers bent on finding something different to do, don't have to go very far to do it. In fact, there's more open water than you know what to do with and it's just a little over an hour away.
That's right, open water fishermen were out in force this weekend along the shores of lake Superior and the action looked fairly good. I was on the wrong side of the camera to wet a line, but it was still a blast to see some nice size Cohoes coming in.
Some of the fishermen that I talked to reported that there have been decent numbers of Kamloops running too, but there wasn't anybody landing one during the time I was working with my camera.
As a newcommer to shore fishing for Salmon and Trout, I don't qualify to comment on the how-tos of the system. But even a novice has to wonder; with barley a trickle of water in the rivers and virtually all of the snow cover already gone, will the fish ever make an intense run toward the river mouths, or are they more likely to spread out horizontally along the shoreline?
On this occasion, the water was calm and the temperatures were warm. So it appeared to me, that a
boat would have been a big advantage.
I can't believe that it took all of these years for me to get around to seeing what the spring fishing is all about. But I will definitely make a point of learning more about how to do it. In fact, I think I'm going to move the boat out of the shed and get it ready today, then just in case I see another opportunity like this one, I'll be able to find out for myself.
Oh I Know, I could wind up falling flat on my face in the fishing department. But I would never be disappointed by the trip no matter what the fish do. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and just the idea of taking a ride on the breathtakingly beautiful big lake would be well worth the effort.
Ice Fishing Report March 20, 2015 - Ice Access Updates For Friday March 20, 2015
Okay, I'm fresh in from my morning tour of the ice access conditions around Lake Winnibigoshish and for the most part, it's good news for weekend ice fishermen. I started the tour by heading toward the West side of Winnie and here's what I found.
At the trappers landing on Winnie's west side, near the Mississippi River mouth, traffic was already heavy at 7:45 AM and as I drove away from the landing there were even more vehicles approaching. I would expect that vehicle traffic on the weekend will be heavy and conditions at the landing will get muddy and wet. Parking my well become an issue too, so depending on your determination to use this landing, some of the following alternatives may be more attractive.
That said, fishing reports from anglers heading onto the lake were generally good. It sounds like the best area is the shoreline break between the north side of Mississippi River mouth and sugar point along the west side.
Typically, the best depths range between 6 and 12 feet, but there is also handy access to the deeper flats in this area as well.
At Richards townsite, there is much less traffic and the landing is also in better condition. At 8:15 there were only two rigs in the parking lot. I could see the anglers from both of them fishing the shoreline weed flat that breaks into 10 to 12 feet of water, just north of the landing .
Fishing for perch in that area has been good throughout the entire winter, so it may be worth taking note and utilizing the better travel conditions there.
On the East side of Winnie, traffic at the birches landing was moderate. When I arrived, there were a half dozen rigs in the parking lot. Just then, there was a group of anglers heading onto the lake, some on 4 wheelers and also a handful of anglers who were hoofin' it out onto the ice.
Conditions at the ramp were very good and it's likely that this ramp will hold up very well to traffic throughout the entire weekend.
For what it's worth, Perch fishing generally picks up during late season along the large weed flat off of Tamarack point. So with light traffic in that area, this may be a good destination for the weekend.
Fishing the weeds in 8 to 12 feet of water all the way from Tamarack point to the Mississippi river channel just before Bowens Flats would likely produce some good perch action.
By the way, the landing at the birches provides easy access to deep water where Tulibee fishing is likely to be good at this time of the season too.
For Tulibees, focus on water depths of 30 feet or more in the trough between the shoreline break and the north end of the Bena Bar known as the mudhole.
From Bowens Road on the north side of Tamarack Bay, traffic was virtually nonexistent and that surprised me.
Typically, fishing action in Tamarack bay is good during the late season and a group of ice fishermen who wanted to have the bay to themselves could easily have done it at 9 o'clock on Friday morning.
The landing that leads from Bowens Road onto Cutfoot Sioux was also in very good condition and there was no traffic visible at the time although there were some old tracks that had gone out recently.
In the interest of time, I cut my tour short after I left Bowen's Flats. But judging by the condition of the ice at the Bowens landing onto Cutfoot, I would guess that the other landings at McAvity Bay and Williams Narrows would also be in fairly good condition for ice fishermen who choose Panfish over Perch this weekend.
A parting thought, another sure sign of spring that I spied along the way, were the bags of Maple sap hanging from Maple trees along the road.
The collection so far may fall short of giving Mrs. Butterworth a run for her money, but the delicious pure maple syrup will be well worth the effort.
On Lake Winnibigoshish (3/20) John Seekon, The Pines Resort; "There are still some accesses around the lake open for ATV travel, but vehicle travel is done for the year. The best perch bite we are seeing is in 6 to 12 feet of water as the perch are moving in to spawning and staging areas. You have to move around as one hole will produce fish, and another hole 10 feet away will not produce at all." Contact The Pines Resort on Lake Winnibigoshish .
Ice Fishing Report March 19, 2015 - Suspended Sunfish, Bet Ya Can't Catch Just One!
Folks who have fished with me already Know that it's hard to go all day without being treated to some of my pearls of fishing wisdom. I can't help myself, sometimes I just have to share and as a result, there are a few fishing phrases that have become etched into memories forever. M... M... M.., how lucky can you get?
Well on Wednesday, my friend Robby Ott had more than a few chances to hear me repeat one of my top 5 testimonials of all time; "Catching a fish doesn't solve anything, it just makes you want to catch another one". To me, it felt like being a little kid saying just one more bite, just one more. Really, it was hard to leave, the weather was gorgeous, the fish were cooperative, the conversation was good and there aren't many days like this left.
Fishing guides like Robby don't come along every day, he's not the flashy sort, you won't find him all dressed up at the watering hole pontificating about his latest conquests. No, he just shows up, lays out the plan and then goes out and does a good job. I like that and on Wednesday, I really liked it because I was the one who got treated to one of his fishing adventures.
Growing up hunting and fishing in this area, Robby knows his way around the back roads and on this day, the road led to a nice, quiet Panfish lake. I wouldn't call it the secret of the century, but it is a little bit off the beaten path and making it the perfect setting for a very nice morning.
With the snow cover melted away, it was easy to see that the small lake, inhabited mainly by Crappies and Sunfish has been fished on and off all winter long. There were lots of holes scattered all around the lake, but today Robby chose to drill ours in about 10 feet of water.
The first sighting didn't take long, maybe 5 minutes and it was a Crappie that swam in just below the ice hole. After a little teasing using a Toad & Waxworm, that Crappie struck, posed for the camera and swam away happy.
Soon there were some more fish, this time Sunfish and they too were swimming just below the ice. A few of them were CPR'd and then there were a couple more Crappies, all of them riding high in the water column too. The pattern was set for the day; random schools of fish, appearing just below the ice at regular intervals throughout the morning.
The mood for the day was set too, the Panfish weren’t really aggressive, but they were tease-able. So that meant that even though this was to be a casual fishing trip to get some pictures and chat about life. The fish didn’t see it that way, they weren’t about to make it too easy; so they forced us to work a little bit. We could easily get the fish to look at our baits, but we had to do some head scratching about which lures they would actually strike.
I was using a #10 Pink/Yellow Tungsten Toad and early on, it definitely got the lion’s share of the action. We couldn't decide if it was the color or the lure that made the difference so somewhere along the line, we decided to test the theory. I handed that rod to Robby and started fiddling around in my tackle, trying different lures. While I did, the Pink/Yellow Toad continued to produce fish for Robby. Trial and error eventually led me to a #10 Fat Boy and you guessed it, Pink/Yellow.
We spent some time talking about colors and agreed that it wasn't completely the color, some of the others produced fish too. But this occasion, the color definitely did influence the results and produced better action than the alternatives that we tried.
So that's how the day went, a fish arrived a few at a time
and almost every time we saw some, we could get a strike. We didn't keep any, so I'm not sure what our count would have been for sure; a couple of dozen each I'd say. I Do Know this, at 11:00 AM I was saying; "just one more" and at 1:30 PM I was still saying "just one more". It was just one of those beautiful days and after that, all I want is just one more ... at a time ... :)!!
Robby Ott provides guided fishing trips on Lake Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake and many more Itasca Area Lakes. For more information, contact him using his website; www.fishingtripsinminnesota.com
Ice Fishing Report March 17, 2015 - Ice Conditions, Perch Patterns and Rays of Light!
A rainy Monday morning encouraged the disappearance of another layer of ice from Itasca area lakes. On my evening tour of the area, I stopped in at White Oak Lake and found a landing that has softened at the edges, but remains in fairly good condition. I'm sure that the ice would easily support a 4 wheeler, except at the very edges where the ice broke under my feet as I walked out.
On the ice, snow cover is completely gone and the ice has grooves and fissures caused by runoff. The surface was also extremely slippery and that explains why I landed smack dab on my ... well, You Know ... :)!!
This morning, there's a thin layer of ice on small ponds and puddles close to home and the ground is solid again, not muddy. By midafternoon, it will melt away again, but ice fishermen will enjoy decent travel conditions for the early part of this day. Cold overnight temps combined with dry conditions will slow the deterioration of the ice for the next few days, making it easy to see another ice fishing trip in the near future. For me, it will be on foot, wearing my cleats.
The crisp overnight air gave me another thrill early this morning, a fairly nice display of Northern Lights lingered over the farm long enough to allow me to capture a couple of photos. There isn't very much light from the moon right now, so the stars were a lot brighter too. If you're a night owl or and early riser like me, then it might be worth spending time outside watching the sky again tonight for another display.
Fishermen love to keep secrets and one of my friends shared one with me yesterday, it was about Perch fishing. He made me promise not to disclose too much information about his specific location, but I can share something about the pattern with you.
He had started out fishing on the deeper breaklines where there several other groups of ice fishermen. After getting off to a slow start, he started wondering if the fish might be found in shallower water. Long story short, he wound up fishing in 3 to 4 feet of water and enjoyed very fast action for Perch. In a short time, he and his fishing partner gathered enough fish for a family fish fry.
If you're out on the ice today and seem to be bogged down, think about areas where large, shallow weed flats provide cover for baitfish. The weeds don't need to be standing, they just need to be scattered around on the bottom. If there are clam shells, snails and woody debris, that will make the spot even better.
I know what you're thinking, where can I find that? But don't feel like you're looking for a needle in a haystack, I know the exact spot where he was fishing and I can promise you that there are at least a dozen lakes in the area that provide identical opportunities. In fact, in my opinion, he wasn't even fishing on one of the better spots; you might do even better by discovering your own territory.
Ice Fishing Report March 16, 2015 - Itasca Lakes Ice Conditions Update
They say that you can tell who your friends are and they're right; at least I Know that I can. I am so grateful for my friends who stopped by this weekend at the boat show to chat about fishing, boats and ... well, You Know the rest ... :)!!
Rain until mid-afternoon is cutting into traffic on the ice this morning and it's going to make this a much easier day for being cooped up inside. That means catching up on paperwork will almost be fun and my tax man is going to love me for focusing on that little project.
Ice fishermen, many of them on their last fishing trips of the season reported mixed results this weekend. Crappie and Sunfish on Grand Rapids area lakes provided the most consistent action. Pokegama lead the way, producing nice catches of Crappie for anglers who were in the know about where to go. Smaller waters between Grand Rapids and Deer River provided good fishing too, mainly for Sunfish.
Patterns are shifting away from mid-lake, deep water holes in favor of inside corners that are located closer to the shoreline. As Panfish begin to migrate toward shallow water, many of them will hold in these deeper pockets where they'll have handy access to shallow bays where they can feed when the ice goes out. I think that many of these fish move in and out of the shallow water, even while the lakes are ice covered.
This is my own theory, so take it with a grain of salt, but I think that it helps explain why anglers find so many fish roaming just a few feet below their ice holes during late winter. Panfish move into the shallows on a feeding run, roaming around weed flats and clam beds, they becoming acclimated to the shallow water. As they move away from the shallows, moving back toward their deep water sanctuary, they are still acclimated to the slower pressure of shallow water. In my mind, this would encourage the fish to move horizontally, but not vertically. Their depth position in the water column doesn't change until after they arrive back at "the hole". Once they’re home, they may remain suspended or slowly sink toward the bottom, depending on how the weather influences their mood.
Over the years, I've observed that when they’re on the move, fish tend to feed aggressively and it doesn't seem to matter which direction they're moving. So this theory could go a long way toward explaining why one group of anglers discovers hot action in shallow water, while another group discovers one of these great suspended water bites on the same day.
I would love to know your thoughts, even if you think I’m silly. So if you want to weigh in with your 2 cents worth, please shoot me an email.
Ice Fishing Report March 15, 2015 - Itasca Lakes Ice Conditions Update
Note of Correction: I apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused, but we apparently get some incorrect information this morning. The Highbanks Resort access is not closed today as earlier reported. For updates about the status of the Highbanks access and road system, please contact the resort directly.
On Saturday, ice fishermen were still driving on Itasca area lakes, reports of ice thicknesses in the 30 inch range are common and if you can still find a way onto the lake, you probably have at nearly a week of good ice out there.
The problem is that shoreline areas are getting soft, landings are closing and it's warming so fast that we can't keep up with the changes.
What I do know is that since resorters were already facing today's deadline to remove ice shelters from the lakes anyway, many of them were already pulling ice shacks off and shutting down their access ramps over the weekend.
On Lake Winnibigoshish, The Pines Resort, Nodak Lodge and Becker’s Resort have all closed their access roads as of today. I think that it's also safe to assume that without a major weather change, ATV's and foot travel will be the name of the game for the rest of this ice fishing season.
If you happen to know about lakes where you feel safe driving your vehicle onto the ice, more power to you. But for me, the official recommendation from here on out is "Don't Risk It".
Remember the original question on (3/12) from Jesse Aultman about locating Sunfish in small lakes? Well here's a follow up that came in yesterday. "Hey Jeff, great info again. With your location-selection guidance, except the marl part, I would pick out on a map (if it existed) the spot that I actually fished the other day.
Concerning marl-y bottom, can you find any indicators on the shoreline of such a bottom composition? Like certain trees/other vegetation?
A) Jesse, while I was doing my homework, I found a 2010 study that provides way more information than we need, but their description of what Marl is was written so succinctly that I borrowed it from their report. To view the entire report follow this link to A SIMPLE METHOD TO IDENTIFY MARL SOILS this says;
"The term marl has been used in the regional area to designate carbonate-rich, light gray to almost white silts and clays formed by precipitation of calcite at the bottom of lakes or swamps. The marl soils sometimes contain noticeable amounts of fine sand. Marl deposits are encountered often below highly organic soil or peat deposits and contain shell fragments".
You already know what it is; whenever you drop your anchor to fish a prime Panfish spot, it's that fine, semi-hard stuff that sticks to it when you pull it out of the water. It's sort of hard, it feels like clay, but with a lot of fine sand mixed in and there are usually small snail shells and bits of other shell-like looking stuff. Sometimes there are county maps, not fishing maps, that identify soil content and if you're really on a mission, a trip to the courthouse might be in your future.
There are two hands-on ways that I can think of identifying bottom content under the ice.
1) Using an AquaVu would be the simplest, I know that you said the water is dark, but in this region that usually means "Clear Dark" like a bog stained root beer color. The AquaVu should provide a good peek at the bottom content, even if it's too dark to show you the fish.
2) Using my electronics, I would position myself over the deepest water, where the bottom content is soft. Then I'd set the down imaging sensitivity of my Humminbird so low that I could barely get a bottom reading. Now as I move from hole to hole, the graph will reproduce a strong bottom signal whenever I find a harder bottom. On the "Bird", that means I'll see a brighter yellow return that looks sort of like a shiny spot on the bottom.
By the way, this is the same technique that allows you to locate those transitions from hard to soft bottom that are written about by so many Walleye Pros. Once you know how to do this, it is gonna be one of your favorite tricks for finding fish on deep mud flats.
Ice Fishing Report March 14, 2015 - Itasca Lakes Ice Conditions Update
For many ice fishermen, this is likely to be the weekend for staging their Grand Finale' on Grand Rapids area lakes. Oh I know, there's still going to be plenty of ice to keep the "die-hards" happy, but for the casual anglers, once the landings get sloppy, it's pretty much over.
Conditions hadn't changed all that much since Thursday, but comparing notes with friends at the boat show this Friday, we agreed that the small lakes appear to be degrading faster than the large ones.
I've observed dark, honeycombed ice on several of the smaller area lakes already. The problem is that while it currently supports plenty of weight, there's no good way to know for sure when it will become too weak to support vehicle travel. The best advice I can give you is to be extremely cautious about travelling on any lake where you see dark ice.
For many, ATV's will soon be the only game in town, but if you're like me, this time of the season offers up one last chance to walk into some of the small lakes. I love the solitude that that season ice fishing offers and if I can find the time to go, my last trip or two will lead me to someplace that's very quiet, very private.
For all of you Rainy River fans, the word from Clementson is that there was open water 13 miles upstream from Birchdale as of Friday. That means you're looking at a potential opportunity to fish the river before the end of March. That would be good news for anglers who don't like traffic because an extended season allows folks to spread out their visits instead of being forced to all show up for one big weekend.
Nature has a way of putting things back into balance, so I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I see the forecast and it says that warm temperatures will persist for at least the next 5 days, You Know that you can get rid of a lot of ice in 5 days, so I can't see any reason not to be optimistic.
First though, I'm looking forward to a couple more days the boat show. Today, you can eat free fish, listen to free seminars and gather free advice from nearly a dozen fishing pros. The show opens at 10:00 AM and runs until 7:00 PM. So don't be waiting for a Gold Engraved Invitation, just swing in and say hello.
Ice Fishing Report March 13, 2015 - Travel Good On Winnibigoshish, Ball Club, Itasca Lakes
Well, I've got some good news and some bad news; first the good. Travel conditions on Deer River area lakes that I visited on Thursday remain good. Lake Winnibigoshish, Ball Club and several of the area's smaller lakes all had moderate ice fishing activity and all of the fishermen were travelling by vehicle.
There was standing water in areas that haven't been fished, but whenever I got close to the "popular spots", the ice was dry. That gives me a clue; the ice sheet is still strong and holding high above the water allowing surface water to drain into the open ice fishing holes. So once you're on the lake, you'll likely be in for easy travel by vehicle.
The bad news is that for the moment, the landings were only in "okay" condition. I'm afraid that it won't take long for them to deteriorate, especially in heavily traveled areas. I was particularly disappointed by travel conditions on the access roads that lead toward the lakes. Several of them are muddy and filled with ruts already. It's not that much fun driving in the mud, so if I was heading for the ice this weekend, I'd be thinking about locations that feature the shortest drives.
Fishing reports are all over the map right now. Some ice fishermen are enjoying very good Perch fishing on Lake Winnie's mid-depth flats. Key areas are shore related flats that feature small fingers and inside corners lay adjacent to the drop into the mid-lake basin. Fishing in depths of 16 to 24 feet has been the most productive according to reports, but I'd expect to find fish moving shallow too.
Crappie and Sunfish anglers are still finding some fish too, but it's the creative fishermen who report good results. If I was on my way out to find Panfish, I'd make a point of locating water that hasn't been fished much this winter. Some of the popular areas have received so much pressure that the only way you’re gonna have a good day is by stumbling into ideal fishing conditions.
With ice conditions this good and very little snow cover, this could be the perfect time for taking a hike into some of the more remote lakes, or ones that are hard to get to by vehicle.
While I'm on the subject of walking, this would also be a perfect time for hoofin' it into the designated Trout lakes. Easy walking conditions will allow you to move into fresh territory on these little lakes, making it easier to stumble into a school of fish that's been unaware of fishing pressure this winter.
For me, ice fishing is not on the schedule this weekend. I'll be at the IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids for the Ray's Marine Boat Show, scheduled for today, Friday March 13, thru Sunday March 15, 2015.
Show hours are Noon to 8:00 PM today, 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Saturday and 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Sunday. There's gonna be a bunch of really smart guys on hand to answer questions that will help you make the best decisions about choosing the right boat.
The reason they have us come down there is because sometimes it's really nice to talk with fishermen who already know how all of this stuff works. I think you should come on down and take advantage of what we've all learned.
I'll be there for the whole 3 days
doing my best to help you with questions about Lund Boats, Mercury Outboards and Humminbird Electronics. There will be other experts on hand to answer questionsa about the other popular brands too, so please do me a favor; stop in any time for a chat, (it will help make it look like I'm working ... :)!!
Ice Fishing Report March 12, 2015 - Where Have All The Sunfish Gone?
Whenever I get a thoughtful question from a reader, I do my best to answer it. Most of the time, all that's required is to gather a few facts, jot down a few notes and fire off a succinct reply. Today though, if I really want to do a good job answering, I might be better off writing a book; but here goes.
(3/12) from Jesse Aultman; "I was out fishing last night, perplexed about the lack of sunfish, and thought "This seems like a good topic to ask Jeff Sundin about."
I fished the little lake in question only one other time, about 3 years ago. Although the entire lake is less than 40 acres, the water gets almost 40 feet deep in just one small area. The lake is so dark that it pretty much only holds Lilly pads around the edges in summer and submergent veg out to MAYBE 10 ft, but I think that's all dead now.
On my original visit, there were sunfish EVERYWHERE near bottom from 15 to 25 ft. Literally everywhere I checked, the bottom was littered with Sunnies back then. Some keepers, some almost keepers and lots of dinks. I didn't think the lake had crappies - just Sunnies and bass.
The water is dark, so I worried that the evening bite wouldn't exist, but I wanted to try anyway, So last night I buzzed out there after work.
I drilled enough holes to cover the deep hole, a line of shallow holes into about 7 feet and holes over the mid-depth mud flat that "I just knew" would be packed with Sunnies.
For a half hour I couldn't find a SINGLE fish; couldn't even graph one. After making two laps around my holes, I was about to pack it up, when (I saw) a pack of fish come through very high in the water column.
I was sitting on 10 ft and the fish were 3 to 5 feet below the ice. I finally caught one tiny perch, then a few more perch, then a crappie. I ended up catching about 8 or 9 crappies, but they were all too small to keep except for one 10 incher and one nice sunny.
All the action was just at the witching hour of sunset in those shallow holes (7 to 12 ft), so I didn't do much exploring at other depths at that time.
The question is where are all the Sunnies? I admit that I couldn't drill up the WHOLE lake for lack of time. So I chose one third of it that had the deepest water, a flatter mid-depth area, and then I pressed up shallow on one shoreline. If I really, really wanted to find the Sunnies, what would I do?
A) Jesse, I hope you'll understand that without knowing which lake we're talking about, everything I say is speculative, but I’ll give this a good effort. Here are a few scenarios that represent my best educated guesses.
First, you'll never find 'em if they're not there, so knowing for sure that there are still fish in the lake needs to be your first priority. The first homework assignment I will give you is a 2 question, open book test aimed at ruling out the 2 biggest "doomsday scenarios".
1) Has the lake suffered a winter kill since your original visit?
2) Is it possible that the tiny lake has already been discovered and "loved to death" by somebody else who found the same fish you did and could not resist the temptation to over harvest the supply?
The DNR Region 2 Fisheries Office in Grand Rapids can help you with the winter kill question. Even if they don't have specific data for the past couple of winters, they will still know if the lake is prone to suffer Oxygen depletion during rough winters. If it has that reputation, then the sever winter of 2014 could easily be the culprit.
The over harvest of Panfish on small lakes is very common these days and it doesn't take an army of ice fishermen to accomplish driving down a population of Panfish.
I would not rely on the DNR Lake finder website for this kind of up to date information, they simply don't have the resources to survey these small lakes often enough to keep a finger on the pulse on fish populations. Instead, talking with folks who live on or nearby the lake can tell you if they've seen an uptick in pressure since your last visit. If there's nobody to talk with, then you're gonna have to be more creative and figure out a way to learn for yourself.
Assuming that you've become convinced that the fish are still in there; THEN the next step is to develop a plan that allows you to concentrate your effort on spots that offer the highest likelihood of success.
An educated guess about calculating where to find those spots will be the focus of part 2 of my answer and I will post that on Friday morning.
(March 13) A note from Jesse Aultman on Thursday reads; "It's pretty likely the Sunnies are just as abundant as ever, but I just didn't happen upon the school(s) of them".
Okay Jesse then now that you have ruled in favor of the fish still being present, I'm gonna have to make a few assumptions. Remember, I still have the blindfold on, so I'm giving you my best guesses, based on general knowledge about the fish, not the lake.
One key factor in tracking Sunfish location is to take advantage of their propensity for eating insect larvae. It's not that Sunfish won't feed on minnows, they do. But when they're feeding on bugs, they tend to stay in an area much longer and that's an advantage to you.
Areas of the lake that provide a Marl bottom composition are very reliable because they provide breeding territory for small crustaceans and insect larvae.
Finding this type of bottom content doesn't rely completely on depth. Marl can be found in very shallow water, within patches of submerged vegetation or further out on deeper flats, located near the lake basin. Typically, it is not found at the deepest portion of the lake basin.
The deepest holes, in this case 40+ feet, are generally filled with silt and are often too soft to provide a breeding ground for insect larvae and small crustaceans. Typically, these deep holes will hold Panfish during the early ice season, but lose their holding power as Oxygen levels become depleted during late winter.
Visually, areas that are covered with small snails, clam shell and bits of wood debris are a tip off that you're in the right territory.
Knowing that you're fishing over a Marl bottom gives you a good head start, but strategically, your odds increase exponentially whenever you can locate Marl combined with another structure. A clam bed, rock pile or patches of weeds provide cover where Panfish can hold in-between feeding sessions. Naturally, the more diversity that an area provides, the more likely it is that Panfish will be present.
Again, without knowing the lake, I can only assume that there must be some structure somewhere. So if I was out there by myself, my strategy would be to locate any area that provides a link between shallow cover, mid-depth flats and that lays adjacent to the mid lake basin. Once I find that, I would begin exploration by drilling the shallow holes first, moving toward the deeper flats and leaving the deep basin completely out of my equation.
If there is a map available, I’d do my best to isolate a short list of ideas. Points, inside corners, small humps, you get the idea.
Finally, Sunfish can be fickle during the late winter and as you already pointed out, most of the action will occur during the prime time morning/evening feeding periods. Use your time during the day to explore the structures and single out one or two key places that you believe in. Be on those spots at prime time and the odds are good that you will catch at least some fish. Over time, your own fine-tuning will allow you to become more effective.
Now with a starting point in mind, follow up questions would help us zero in on some more details. So, you’re all invited to get in on the discussion, just use this link to email a question or add your 2 cents worth to the discussion. >> Comments about “The Mystery of the Disappearing Sunfish”.
Ice Fishing Report March 11, 2015 - Travel Advisories For Spring Ice Fisherman
Warm temperatures and sunshine combined to melt away most of the snow cover in the Grand Rapids region this Tuesday. Because of the fast pace of the meltdown, there was lots of standing water on the ice this Tuesday. Runoff from the accelerated meltdown has caused rapid deterioration of some of the heavily used access ramps and there are already some closures.
Landing ramps may still be accessible in flat areas or on lakes where vehicle traffic
has been light. But with warm temperatures persisting, run off from melting snow will continue to force the shut down of accesses for vehicle travel. Ice fishermen using ATV's will have a little extra time, but even their days will be numbered.
If you find an access where can still get onto the lake, then you will find very good ice conditions. With 3 feet of solid ice, it's going to take a long time to get rid of
the main ice sheet. Remember though, anyplace where there is current will deteriorate really fast.
From his first ever ice fishing trip trip to Lake Superior, Brian Castellano says; "3 of us were the 1st ones at the Brighton Beach parking lot this morning. This area is just north of the Lester River on Hwy 61, as you are going up the North Shore out of Duluth.
We set up in about 45' of water and had to use our headlamps from the get go, yes we were that early. LOL
We graphed LOTS of schools of fish coming through right from the get go, but could only put 2 coho's and a lake herring on the ice. As the morning went on we saw less and less on the graphs. Some of the schools were 20' thick!!!
Around 9:30 am my buddy and I headed out to 80+ feet and tried for about 2 hours for lakers. We had a few that would chase from bottom up to about 10' off the bottom and then cruise back down. Frustrating.
We pulled the plug about 2:30 pm. A silver Slender Spoon with a green sticker and a piece of minnow put 2 coho's on the ice for me.
It was a very fun, yet nerve racking experience. I think I spent more time watching the open water, ice, and shoreline than I did watching my Vexilar. I was VERY happy when we made it back to shore w/o the Coast Guard's help.
I wouldn't send anyone out there right now, it's warming up too fast and I won't be going back until next winter myself; iF we get ice out there again.
IF a person was determined to go, please take ALL of the necessary precautions, Life jackets, rope, and even a small boat would be wise". - Brian
Ice Fishing Report March 9, 2015 - Make Time For Spring Ice Fishing
Talk about mood swings, sheesh, I looked at the weather forecast and can't hardly believe my own eyes. Just a few days ago it was 20 below zero and now we're looking at high temperatures snuggling with the over 50 crowd; that's a 70 degree shift, wow! I Know, winter just started a few days ago right, where did that time go anyway?
Luckily, the timing is good, the frigid weather passed along just in time to put us all in the mood for the open water fishing season which by the way, begins in 60 days. Don't worry, I'm not wishing away these gorgeous early spring ice fishing trips; if I can squeeze 'em in.
For me, the week ahead promises an agenda centered around boats, motors and electronics. That's right; it's time for me to get dressed up in my gas station shirt and head for the boat shows.
The Ray's Marine Boat Show is scheduled for this Friday March 13, thru Sunday March 15, 2015 at the IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids, MN. Show hours are Noon to 8:00 PM on Friday, 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Saturday and 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Sunday. There's gonna be a bunch of really smart guys on hand to answer questions that will help you make the best decisions about choosing the right boat.
Sometimes it's nice to talk with somebody who already knows about how all of this stuff works. That's why I'll be there for the whole 3 days doing my best to help you with questions about Lund Boats, Mercury Outboards and Humminbird Electronics. So please do me a favor; stop in any time for a chat, it will help make it look like I'm working ... :)!!
Ice Fishing Report March 7, 2015
Cub Reporter, Staff #003-IHBFBB signing in and happy to report that I AM back at my real desk, with my real computer and an actual internet connection again. Whew, this is a lot better; now all that I have to do is drum up some new news. Thankfully, the cold front has passed and I see that traffic at the bait shops and gas stations is picking up again, so it won't take too long.
An email question about Ice conditions on Lake Winnibigoshish has prompted me to fire up the Jalopy so I can run over there for a firsthand look. But folks who are watching the calendar and are accustomed to ice conditions deteriorating during March, don't be concerned about that right now. Ice conditions not only on Winnie, but on all of the area lakes remain very good. Ice thicknesses ranging from 36 to 42 inches can be found all over the Itasca Area. Snow cover varies from lake to lake, but generally, travel by vehicle is feasible almost everywhere.
At present, there are some areas of drifted snow, mainly limited to the South and Eastern shorelines. Once you navigate these areas, main liake travel conditions remain good with the exception of some scattered drifts.
Traffic at Fred's Bait in Deer River has been brisk for the past couple of days according to the owner, Bill Powell. This weekend the lion's share of anglers are heading for Winnie, Bowstring and Lake of the Woods, Powell said.
On my own tour of the area this morning, I spotted
numerous ice fishermen on the area's small lakes too. Access roads remain open, snow conditions are light and trucks appeared to moving freely on the small waters.
Perch fishing is probably the best game in town right now, especially on Winnibigoshish. But in spite of a slow down, Panfish action continues to be fair for some anglers. At the moment, focusing on early morning is better than waiting for an evening bite.
|Buckeye Lures Giveaway (3/7) Buckeye Lures has been building a top notch assortment of jigs for flipping, casting and fishing offshore in deep water for years. Awesome head shapes, great colors and skirt materials that catch a lot of nice bass for anglers around the country. We asked Buckeye Lures owner Jeremy Altman to put together a kit of his best selling jigs and colors in a unique kit just for this latest Wired2Fish giveaway. Enter >> Buckeye Lures Giveaway
Ice Fishing Report March 4, 2015
Lake of the Woods (3/4) On Tuesday, the big lake was in another one of her moods, dishing out blizzard-like conditions and cold temperatures. But we'd been watching the weather, so that wasn't any big surprise we were prepared to hunker down in a nice warm rental shelter.
We already knew that we were in for a tough bite; we’d gone through all of that with the area guides and rental operators before we ever even showed up. Nope, the tough weather and fishing conditions weren't gonna throw us any curve balls; if we were gonna get surprised by something, it would have to be something more offbeat, something like hmm.. Maybe a snowmobile fire, yeah that would be perfect! Not just any old fire either, one that claims the whole machine, lock stock and barrel. You don’t get to see one of those every day.
We were lucky though, nobody got hurt and there was plenty of extra transportation to make up for the loss of the machine. So after the ceremonial Wienie roast, we got back on track and got to work fishing.
Once we were in the shelter, getting the large crew set to fish took a little while, but eventually everyone had lines in the water and the fishing began.
We fished a few miles East of Rocky Point and the water depth was about 29 feet. The fishing in that area has been up and down, but generally there have been fish taken each day of the past week.
The cold front delivered the expected results, there were random catches of Sauger and Walleye throughout the day, but I'd estimate that we converted about 1/10 of the fish sightings into actual fish catches.
We had anglers fishing in 3 different locations and comparing notes, we agreed that jigging was working better than set lines. Rattl'n Flyer Spoons turned in the 2 best performances, one of the top producers was using a 1/8 ounce Purple Smelt color tipped with a minnow head. The other used a 1/4 ounce size Clown Color tipped with a whole minnow. Both presentations were about equal, both fishermen agreed that persistence was the primary factor in catching anything. The fish needed lots of coaxing and at times, they could be seen on the screen for several minutes at a time before they could be triggered to strike.
OH, by the way, remember this is the only day of the year that gives a command. And we're definitely following orders, we get one more chance to try our luck on the ice today and we're on our way out the door.
Whatever happens, You will be the first to Know!
Ice Fishing Report March 3, 2015
(3/3) Leech Lake Tulibee Fishing
- A question from Scott Welshinger; "I was wondering about the tullibees on Leech lake; when and where in the spring do you go to ice fish them?
A) Scott, your timing is good because you can probably get out there and catch them right now, today. Tulibee spend most of their time over deep water where they will suspend at virtually any depth. We've seen them roaming anywhere from a few inches under the ice, all of the way down to the bottom. Unlike most other game fish in Leech Lake, Tulibee are fall spawning fish, so there isn't any spawning event to influence their behavior during spring.
Tulibee prefer small baits, but in open water, it can be hard to get their attention unless you have a lure that produces lots of flash and makes some noise. For me, a good approach for attracting them is to use a 3/8 ounce Rattl'in Flyer Spoon
in a flashy color like the Silver Shiner or Tulibee pattern to attract their attention.
You won't need bait on it because it would be rare to catch one of the small mouthed fish on this lure and also because you don't want to do anything that's too attractive to Walleye and Pike during their closed season.
Jig the flashy spoon like crazy, covering lots of water, until you start seeing fish on your graph. Then trigger the fish to strike by using a small bait tipped with a wax worm or two.
Deep water and flighty fish make it important to get your lure into the strike zone fast, so a #10 Tungsten Toad
is ideal. The presentation is similar to Crappie fishing, hold the lure a foot above the fish and be prepared to move higher or lower in the water column. No matter where you see fish on your screen, move with them and you almost certainly will enjoy good action.
(3/2) From The Crookston, MN Region, Fishing Report Monday March 2, 2015
- Austin Jones was on the water in Nortwestern Minnesota this weekend and found Panfish in 21 feet of water over a horse shoe basin. Jones said : "We located the fish and there was a mixture of catching fish on bottom as well as suspended.
The fish were schooling around and they consisted of nice sunfish and small crappies. Approximately every 45 minutes we would mark a big red line on the hummingbird.
We could coax them into biting with a pink and white Frostee jigging spoon tipped with wax worms and also a glow in the dark perch talker did the trick. We ended up keeping four 13-14” crappies. Between right after dark and 9 pm."
March 31, 2015
Northern Minnesota's inland waters remain ice covered and die-hard anglers are catching the last wave of good ice before flipping the boat over becomes a necessity.
ATV travel may still be feasable on some lakes. But on Monday, all of the ice fishermen that I spotted on Cutfoot, Lake Winnie, Little Cutfoot, Bowstring and others, were travelling on foot.
Read Greg Clusiau >> Rainy River Fishing Report March 31
March 24. 2015
Greg Clusiau wrote; "Crappies were our target and find them we did! Read Report >> Rainy Lake Crappie Fishing
March 23, 2015
Portable ice shelters on one of the few remaining ice covered harbors at Lake Superior.
Shoreline fishing action on Lake Superior wasn't fast and furious, but some
anglers did occasionally hook into a decent size Coho.
I usually shy away from this sort of thing, but I can't help myself this time. That's because I captured an image of the most gorgeous pair of hooters this weekend! If you really want to see
'em, click the image.
March 20, 2015
At the trappers landing on Winnie's west side, near the Mississippi River mouth, traffic was already heavy at 7:45 AM and as I drove away from the landing there were even more vehicles approaching.
At Richards townsite, there is much less traffic and the landing is also in better condition. At 8:15 there were only two rigs in the parking lot
Conditions at the ramp were very good and it's likely that this ramp will hold up very well to traffic throughout the entire weekend.
From Bowens Road on the north side of Tamarack Bay, traffic was virtually nonexistent. A group of ice fishermen who wanted to have the bay to themselves could easily manage it.
March 19, 2015
Robby Ott, Otter's Guide Service with a nice late season Sunfish caught using the Pink/Yellow
Fishing over 10 feet of water with Panfish riding even higher in the water column made this the ideal scenario for CPR fishing.
Dr. Jason Halfen shares tactics for using side imaging to produce "Pre-Spawn Walleyes" on rivers.
March 17, 2015
It pays to wake up in the wee hours. A reasonably nice display of Northern Lights lingered over the back of my farm this morning, allowing me to capture this Happy St. Patricks Day image.
March 16, 2015
Photo Greg Clusiau: Large chunks of honeycombed ice signals the beginning of the end of another ice fishing season. Read >> Greg's Guidelines for 3/16
March 15, 2015
I think that it's also safe to assume that without a major weather change, ATV's and foot travel will be the name of the game for the rest of this ice fishing season.
One trick I use for locating Marl is to use my down imaging. As I move from spot to spot, I'll see areas with brighter yellow return that looks sort of like a shiny spot on the bottom, that's the solid stuff.
March 14, 2015
The appearance of honeycombed ice
gives anglers the signal that water is draining into the small fissures or fractures in the ice. Soon, predicting the safety will become very difficult.
Free Fish Fry, Seminars and Sage advice are yours for the taking at the Grand Rapids Boat Show.
March 13, 2015
There was standing water in areas that haven't been fished, but whenever I got close to the "popular spots", the ice was dry. That gives me a clue; the ice sheet is still strong and holding high above the water allowing surface water to drain into the open ice fishing holes.
Some Itasca Area landings were only in "okay" condition. I'm afraid that it won't take long for them to deteriorate, especially in heavily traveled areas.
March 12, 2015
March 11, 2015
The question is where are all the Sunnies? If I really, really wanted to find the Sunnies, what would I do?
Photo: Brian Castellano with Coho Salmon on Lake Superior. Castellano; "A silver Slender Spoon with a green sticker and a piece of minnow put 2 coho's on the ice for me".
Castellano spent more time watching the open water, ice, and shoreline than his Vexilar and said; "I was VERY happy when we made it back to shore w/o the Coast Guard's help".
March 4, 2015
"Handyman Special" Needs minor repairs and a good cleaning. Free to good home. Don't call us, we'll call you.
March 3, 2015
Johnny 6 and Geno 4 were up on Lake of the Woods over the weekend with Grandma and Grampa and had some fun! read >> Lake of the Woods Fishing Report