On Lake Winnie, some of the ice in our bay near the dam is too thin to allow even ATV traffic on to the lake, so we’ve closed our landing. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still get on the lake to fish.
We’ve directed our customers how to access the lake using alternate routes that allow them to fish on Tamarack Bay.
We know that there has been a lot of ATV traffic on the big lake, but to the best of our knowledge, nobody is driving pickup trucks out there.
Perch action had been good before the big meltdown forced us off the lake for a while. In fact one of the last groups that were here went home with limits of good size perch. We know that those fish are still out there and as ice conditions turn favorable this weekend, we will get our chance to get back on them.
Following up on reports about good crappie fishing, we drove up to Cutfoot on Thursday to check out the ice conditions. At the public landing near Williams Narrows, there was standing water in the deeply rutted ice on the shoreline. But there were ATV tracks that indicated anglers had been steering around the slush and traveling across the hard packed surface.
As you see in the photo, a group of anglers was assessing the situation to decide if they would unload the ATV’s or not. If you look close, you’ll see that there was an angler travelling across the lake at the time. That ATV was moving freely, so we do believe that this group of anglers went ahead and fished the lake.
There were also good reports about panfish coming in from Little Cutfoot. But when we checked, we found deeply rutted snow and slush on the county road leading to the landing. It was clear that some folks have driven through it, but we decided not to try it. Because of the limited parking, we’ll wait to re-check that landing until conditions improve, probably sometime next week.
We know that generally speaking, the perch and panfish action around the area has been good. Based on what we know right now, it looks like anglers will have another week of decent conditions for fishing. What happens after that depends on the weather, so there may even be a few good days during the 2nd week of April. We’re not holding our breath for that, but the way this winter has gone, anything could happen!
Watch for more updates as they come in. In the meantime, we do have lodging available right now, so if you’ve been feeling cooped up and want to make one last trip, give us a call. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
"As big bass vacate their offshore haunts and begin flooding the shallows in preparation for their annual spawn, anglers are afforded a special opportunity. These fish are hungry and territorial which means lots of bites and lots of size. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a pile of money to catch these fish.
These fishing lures will catch plenty of bass without emptying your bank account.
Whether you fish it on a traditional Texas rig, a weightless Texas rig or a wacky rig, this stick worm will flat-out catch bass. Although it works throughout much of the year, the Dinger shines brightest in the ..." Learn More >> 5 Inexpensive Lures that Catch Spring Bass Anywhere
It’s beginning to look more like spring at the Rainy River. Water is flowing past the landing at Birchdale and the county has had a crew working on opening up the boat ramp. There were already some anglers pushing small boats across the ice and on to the river this Wednesday. The probability is very high that it’s going to be open for all boats by this weekend.
It will be interesting to see what affect, if any, the new catch and release only walleye regulation will have on traffic this spring.
According to the MN DNR, traffic on the Rainy River should not change much compared to previous years. That’s if you believe angler surveys taken before the new regulation was implemented. Those surveys indicated that less than 2% of anglers cited harvesting fish as their primary reason for fishing the river. In fact, the DNR News Release dated December 10, 2018, says; “95 percent of anglers who participated in the spring fishery do so for the opportunity to catch big walleyes, catch a lot of walleye and just get the boat in the water.”
Hmm ... the same news release cites this as the reason for the new regulation; “The changes on the river are a response to increasing fishing pressure and longer periods of open water that has led to higher harvest of walleye, particularly male walleye in the spring.”
So if 95% of the anglers don’t care about harvesting walleye and only 2% of the anglers were actually targeting walleyes for harvest, why is the regulation even necessary? The numbers don’t seem to add up, but I guess I must just be missing the point.
I can’t honestly say that I’m advocating for the harvest of more walleyes, that’s not my point at all. I am only trying to understand what actually happened here.
The real problem, it seems to me, was that they wanted to reduce harvest levels on Lake of the Woods, particularly during the ice fishing season. They dropped the limit from 8 sauger/walleye down to 6 sauger/walleye with no more than 4 walleye allowed in the mix. That amounts to a significant reduction, especially on a lake where folks will drop limits of fish into their pails all day long.
Somewhere along the line, somebody had the idea to make sure that fish in the river got particular attention. They wanted to make sure that nobody who fishes the Rainy River during spring should ever be allowed even a single a meal of fish.
Okay, fair enough, we’ll survive even if nobody gets fish to eat. But if you trust the numbers being published, then the amount of fish harvested on the river during the spring should be miniscule. Let’s say for example that there are 10,000 anglers fishing the river this spring and 5% of them wanted to each harvest 2 fish. The total harvest would have added up to 1000 fish, a drop in the bucket compared to the harvest of those same fish during the ice fishing season on the lake.
In return for saving those 1000 fish, there are now a certain percentage of anglers who are upset because their opportunity to harvest a couple of fish has been taken away.
If the goal was to save 1000 fish, then the problem is solved because presumably those 5% of anglers will refuse to fish the river if can’t keep any fish. The problem is that you now have 500 anglers who will do something else instead; they will complain. They will bitch at anyone who will listen because for them, the DNR will never be able to do anything right, not ever.
That’s why I am scratching my head about this regulation, the numbers aren’t adding up. According to the published statistics, this regulation shouldn’t be necessary, so why burn up valuable political capital?
When people are presented with actual science based facts, they will believe in them and accept regulations; whatever they are. But when committees and workgroups and polls come into the picture, we wind up with “feel good” regulations that don’t actually accomplish stated goals and that’s dangerous.
I believe that when regulations are implemented, folks expect to see them lead toward an improvement. When we have to give something up, but nothing seems to improve, we feel cheated.
Facts are facts and when they’re accurate, people will believe them; I just hope that we get the hang of using "actual facts" more often. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I could hardly wait to get home from the Northwest Sportshow and find out if the entire hubbub about great perch fishing was true. With the help of a new friend, I’m happy to say that it is, at least it was on Leech Lake yesterday; here’s how it started.
“I’ve got Tuesday and Wednesday off and I have to fish” Josh Bullivant said. “The reports I’m getting are just too good and I don’t want to miss out on the best perch fishing of the year!”
When somebody tells you something like that, it’s only natural to drop a few hints that might encourage an invitation to tag along. So that’s what I did, I dropped a hint; I said “Can I come along?” Happily Josh said ..." Read >> Late Ice Perch Fishing Leech Lake March 27, 2019
"Ice - 30 to 34 inches of good ice is being reported on many of the area lakes. There is 4-6 inches of ice on top that can turn soft or slushy on warm sunny day stretches, but rock hard on days that stay below freezing. Travel is very easy overall and air temps will determine if it a truck, 4 wheeler or by foot is the best way to travel.
Lake Trout - Lake trout fishing remains excellent for many anglers. Trout have been very aggressive chasing Tube EEZ (with or without a tube) and larger then normal bucktails. Best locations have been near shallow bays, in 30-50 feet of water.
Stream Trout - Interest in stream trout has been low, but for the few anglers still fishing them, are reporting some nice catches. All species of trout have been located in shallow water near downed trees, beaver houses, shallow flats and near any creeks flowing into the lake. Flashy spoons, hair jigs and soft plastics have been producing the majority of trout.
Crappies - Interest in crappies has risen as spring like temps have come to the area. Reports have been hit or miss for many, but anglers that have stayed on the move and were able to locate crappies have reported some nice catches with some real slabs mixed in.
20-25 feet of water near shallow bays has been the best area to find crappies. Small jigs tipped with plastic baits, waxies or crappie minnows have been producing slabs." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
On March 25, 2019 Mark Novara wrote; Q) Hi, looking at coming towards Winnibigoshish this next weekend. We live in upper michigan, are ice conditions ok? We are thinking of hitting Round Lake, or Pike Bay. Any information would be greatly appreciate. Thank you!
A) Mark, we are compiling fresh reports right now and based on what we’re hearing, you should expect to travel by ATV or on foot. But provided that you do not depend on a pickup truck to travel on the ice, you can expect to find good perch fishing when you get here. In fact, when I stopped at Fred's Bait in Deer River yesterday, they told me that the perch fishing has been great on all of the lakes you mentioned.
By all accounts, ATV’s are now the most popular mode of travel. Tim from Spirit of the North Resort on Leech Lake said; "People are running all over the lake with 4 wheelers and they're doing great perch fishing." Reports from virtually every one of the more popular perch fishing lakes echo that sentiment.
One caveat, the ice thickness varies wildly from lake to lake. Most main lake areas range between 20 to 30 inches of ice. But as I wrote yesterday, there are areas where slush has deteriorated the ice, leaving "time bombs" of thin, slushy areas of honeycombed ice. No matter whether you're on foot or 4 wheeler, beware of suspicious patches of dark looking ice.
You'll never hear me say that the ice is "safe", it never is. But if you travel light, use caution and excercise good judgement, I believe you can find some good fishing. Oh and make sure you bring cleats for walking on slippery, wet ice. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Our access has been closed, as of February. We will not be allowing people to use our access, as we feel the conditions where we are, are not safe." — The Management, Horseshoe Bay Lodge (218)
"The snow is melting fast out on the lake and travel conditions are good for ATV and Snowmobiles across the lake. The access is closed at Trappers but the public accesses are usable and anglers can reach the tullibee spots and perch spots. Look shallow less than 10 ft for perch and out in the basins for the tullibee and white fish." — Josh Bullivant, Trappers Landing Lodge (218) 836-2500
"Had a lot of people out on the ice this weekend. Third River ice is in good shape. The gate is closed but you can drive around the gate with 4wheelers side by sides can get around just a little tight. The landing road is getting muddy but the frost is not out of the way yet. There is the road embargo on for four wheelers on all roads, but the landing road is exempt. So have to drive truck and trailer down fishermans road and park in upper parking or along 2171. Fisherman's is tight with nowhere to push the snow and slush anymore. Be safe.
Fishing was slow but good with nice crappies a few sunnies, and some nice perch.
Dixon Lake is good for 4wheelers and tracks. Getting some nice sized perch not getting a a lot of crappies but seeing them on the camera.
Dixon Lake Resort is still open. Can get you set up with cabin for you and the guys." — Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. Reservations 218-659-4612
"West side of Bowstring is accessible only with snowmobile or 4 wheeler. Still 30” of ice (covered with lots of water). Roads in are getting terrible." — David, Northern Acres Resort 218-659-2845
Gold, glow red and glow colors best. Mix up presentations, try rattle baits, minnow baits. Deadsticking plain hook with live minnow consistent.
Pike action had been excellent with many fish over 40" caught again this week. Some big walleyes continue to be caught on tip ups by pike anglers! Fish houses on ice through March 31, walleyes open through April 14, pike season open continuous. Auger extensions needed. Call ahead to resort for ice transportation info this time of year.
The Rainy River is opening up just to the east of Birchdale. It is happening quick. Open water fishing will be here very soon. Strong current helping to eat up ice.
Up at the NW Angle, there are still some good reports, but traffic has slowed and several resorts are closing for the season. Walleyes coming from 14-22'. Saugers and jumbo perch mixed in. Jig one line, second line dead stick with plain hook with live minnow. Some big pike being caught. This time of year, call ahead to resort for daily info." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Snowmobiling to and from the lake has been the way to go but 4 wheelers are becoming very effective modes of transportation. We have lost most of the snow, there are still some rough spots, but there is plenty of Four Mile Bay and the lake where travel is good.
The river has also lost most of its snow. It seems there is more snow near the Birchdale access then there is between it and Baudette. It still appears that once the river starts losing ice it will go quickly. It does not appear that the new bridge construction equipment will have any impact on the river opening. There are only a couple of small houses still out on the river on the Canadian side.
The forecast shows most nights still getting just below freezing and some days with highs in the 50’s. It looks like another great week of fishing opportunities ahead.
We have openings for lodging this spring. The office is open from 8AM to 6PM daily and the Restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday 6:30AM to 10PM." - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
I’m home from the Northwest Sportshow at which several of you stopped by to inquire about whether or not you’d be able to make one final ice fishing trip into the area over the next week. I promised to gather some updates this week and I will, but generally speaking, I think you will be able to come.
I already learned during the trip home that the snow cover in north central Minnesota isn’t gone like it was in the Twin Cities. But it has been greatly reduced and friends report travel conditions on the ice are improving daily.
Some anglers are moving around Lake Winnibigoshish, Cutfoot Sioux and others using ATV’s. Others are parking close to shore and walking out to their fishing spots. Nobody that I’ve heard of has attempted travel by pickup truck and personally, I would strongly advise against it. There were just too many flooded areas this winter and the ice under those slushy spots is already dangerously thin.
A note from my friend Matt Mattson says; “Just an FYI, I talked to some friends today (Saturday) that ran across some scary ice conditions. They were on a smaller lake and found 2 feet of ice covering most of it. But there were also areas of soft, honeycombed ice that were only 6 inches thick.”
With the snow cover subsiding, there’s going to be a clamor about “good ice” conditions. And good fishing reports already cropping up from a number of north central Minnesota Lakes it will be tempting to try and get out there. Just remember that all lakes are not equal and conditions will vary wildly.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that lakes that had widespread slush problems this winter will be the riskiest places to travel. The slush not only prevented new ice from forming, it actually encouraged the degradation of existing ice. Even though I was chastised earlier this winter for saying it, I stand by my comments that under those circumstances, when a lake is not making ice, it is losing it.
Lakes that lay outside of the “slush zone” will be in much better condition. Lake of the Woods for example missed out on some the earlier snow storms and the ice became much thicker than it did in the north central region. Although many of the resorts were forced to close their plowed roads during the meltdown, anglers who travel by ATV or track machines continue to have both great ice and great fishing.
I talked with Tim “Wingnut” Hill at the show this weekend and he told me that Arneson’s Resort still has 140 rental shelters on the ice. The bombers they use to transport customers to and from the rental shelters are traveling over 36 inches of good ice. “The walleyes are still biting and now they’re catching some big pike mixed in too, that usually happen this time of the season”; Hill said.
"At Trails End Resort, Erin Charlton says; “It’s messy out on Bowstring Lake. There is very little snow cover left on the ice, but it is still very wet. I do see ATV’s and snowmobiles travelling around, but I think that ATV riders definitely still need chains. Track machines are moving freely from what we can see.
The lake was freezing again overnight, making all kinds of noises, so conditions will be rough this morning. With daytime highs reaching only the high 30 degree range, the meltdown should now be slow, increasing the number of fishing days available to anglers.
For most folks, fishing was slow over the weekend, but that’s the way this entire season has gone. One day the fishing seems slow and the next day the action is on fire. There’s no way to predict which day will be the ‘good one”, so we suggest planning multiple day trips if possible, that will help ensure that one day of your trip is a good one.
Access at our landing is determined on a day by day basis, so please call ahead about availability. Our plowed roads continue to be damaged because of slush problems that developed earlier this winter. Whether you enter the lake here, or if you’re entering the lake via one of the public landings, we strongly suggest that you avoid travelling on our plowed roads; travel over open ice is likely to be safer.
As always, safe travel on the ice can never be guaranteed, travel at your own risk." — Bill & Erin Charlton, Trails End Resort 218-832-3231
That’s why I circled back around in the aisle when I spotted Gary Leaf working a booth, under the banner that said "Leading The Way To Minnesota's Fishing Future" at the Northwest Sportshow. Under that banner, appears the logo for MN-FISH Sportfishing Foundation-Coalition.
Leaf is respected as an advocate for outdoors issues in Minnesota. His group Sportsmen for Change was formed over a decade ago to tackle outdoor issues in Minnesota.
In his August 2010 Star Tribune blog, Kirk Schnitker referenced the term “outdoor militant” to describe Leaf. One quote from that blog says;
“Just why is going Minnesota outdoor militant good for the outdoors? Because Minnesota nice has gotten 90 plus percent of all our wetlands drained. Because it allows for bad politics and special interests to trump proper legislative stewardship of our lands. Because it permits politicians and bureaucrats to lull us to sleep, side-step issues and do exactly what we don't want them to do.” Read Full Article >> Outdoors Militants, August 5, 2010
Okay, it’s one thing to stop and talk with one man who’s involved himself in angler issues. But when I started asking questions, the project began sounding more and more vital. That’s because the list of founders who share the notion that we need to a deliver a more uniform, more organized and more powerful message to the powers that be is an impressive one.
Al Lindner, Dick Sternberg, Ron Schara, Gary Leaf … the list goes on and everyone on it could bring lots more attention to issues that are important to anglers.
On their tri-fold flyer, a quote from MN-FISH Sportfishing Foundation-Coalition President Ron Schara says; “For too long, Minnesota anglers have not had a strong voice in the legislature or DNR to promote good fishing programs and policies. Our goal is to further the sport of fishing, and improve fishing opportunities to shorten the time between bites.”
Now I’ve been around the block a few times myself, and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a group of fishing advocates get together. Typically, a couple of issues get a couple of people fired up and they form a coalition that takes a good run at their problem, then for one reason or another, they disappear.
This group, this time will be different, I think. These folks are coming out of the gate with an alliance that is broader. I could feel it, their level of devotion is high, their values are good, and I really believe for Minnesota anglers, this is a shot at forming a coalition strong enough that it can take our messages to the folks that need to hear them.
When I signed up for my life membership, I asked John Peterson to estimate just how long that "life" might be. He turned the table on me when he looked over and said; “Judging by your appearance, I’d say probably about another 30 years.” I hope he’s right!
When you think about, every other critter has an organization. Ducks have the unlimited, Grouse have the society and Pheasants have forever. Don’t you think it’s about time for fish to have a brighter future too? I think they do and that’s why I hope you’ll follow my lead and join MN-FISH too.
Don't worry, if you can come down to the show, you can still join. Just follow this link the the official MN-FISH website.
It’s true that I’ll spend the next 4 days talking with folks about fishing lures and presentations for the upcoming open water season. But during that time, I’ll secretly be hoping that when I return home, ice conditions will be good enough to allow me a couple more “hard-water” panfish trips. Reports of improving ice conditions and decent fishing action are adding fuel to the fire.
First, I better pay attention to business and make sure that the 2019 version of the Northwest Sportshow is successful. You can help with that by coming down to the show and stopping by the Lindy Fishing Tackle booth #835. We’ll chat about some fishing strategies that will help you catch more fish this summer.
By the end of the day, I’ll have some ideas about new gizmos and gadgets that catch my eye at the show and I’ll include them in the report tomorrow morning.
The show location is at the Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Ave. So., MPLS. 55403. Show Hours are Thursday 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM, Friday Noon – 9:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM and Sunday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. For more information go to the official site >> Northwest Sportshow
I’ve only run into one small area of slush and that was on south end of Bowstring where in last half mile close to shore the snow hasn’t settled yet but out on the main basin there isn’t much snow left and it’s beautiful conditions. The south landing road might become a issue quickly because of all the snow it has quite a base on it and is hardly plowed wide enough to meet in some places.
The other lake was a small one but that also had settled down and frozen hard I could snowmobile or walk on top very nice.
Snowmobile or tracked atv are going to be best for a few more days because of the snow around edges of the lakes getting soft in afternoon.
We have good lively waxies and euros that are ordered every week “for some reason our phone is ringing off the hook wondering if we do”. — Bill Powell, Fred's Bait 218-246-8710
On the south end... Good reports for those still ice fishing in 24-31'. Gold, glow red and glow colors best. Try downsizing presentation. Deadsticking plain hook with live minnow consistent. Morning and evening bite continues in 15-20'. Pike action strong with many fish over 40" caught again this week.
Some resort fish houses still available, many of the resorts are done ice fishing for the year. Lots of snow on lake, slush in spots, best to stay on resort roads or trails. Fish houses on ice through March 31, walleyes open through April 14, pike season open continuous. Auger extensions needed.
On the Rainy River... Strong current in river. River opening up way to the east. Open water fishing will be here soon.
Up at the NW Angle... Some good reports from Angle. Best reports are morning and evening. Walleyes coming from 14-22'. Saugers and jumbo perch mixed in. Jig one line, second line dead stick with plain hook with live minnow. Some resorts open with fish houses available, some closed. This time of year, call ahead to resort for daily info. If snowmobiling, lots of slush off of the trail, stay on trails.
Our houses are off the lake. We are open through spring, if anglers want to come up with their own gear and head out there is plenty of snow and ice still on the lake. We have nightly cabin rental available and the bar and restaurant are open Thursday through Sunday.
It looks like we may see some warmer temps this week, each day has a forecasted high above freezing. Saturday says 52 degrees right now. That should definitely get rid of the snow on the ice and maybe more.
No report on the river opening up yet, with the forecast shows it should be starting to open soon. We will keep our Facebook page updated with info.
Our summer rates are out, it’s time to get your reservation in before the best dates are booked.
While I was storing the snowmobile and pull behind ice fishing shelter on Thursday, I ran mental images of the post season play-by-play highlights. We did have to do some extra travelling this winter to get away from north central Minnesota’s slush and deep snow. But thankfully, we were rewarded for driving all of those extra miles with lots of good fishing.
The pursuit of walleyes made up 80% of my ice fishing season this year and that’s highly unusual. But when many of the best local panfish waters were in-accessible, Lake of the Woods, Devils Lake and Lake Winnipeg were open for business. It only made sense that if we were going to travel long distances, we might as well head for these popular walleye destinations.
Checking my messages yesterday, I found one from Alan Duit who wrote;
Q) “Good morning. When you were fishing at Lake of the Woods for walleye, were you fishing just off the bottom or were you seeing the fish suspended 4-5 feet off the bottom?
We'll be at Arneson’s resort this weekend, we don’t want to take any chances with the water/slush and their bombers will get us to the houses so we'll have a chance to fish.
By the way, I did buy 2 of the Lindy Glow lures that you said you had been using. We'll try them out & see what happens.”
A) Alan, we stayed at Zippel Bay Resort and rode snowmobiles on the trail over to the Rocky Point area to fish. You're right about the bombers, they will definitely get you out to a fishing spot. Arneson's bombers were travelling back and forth constantly this week and conditions on their trails were very good.
We were fishing reefs not far from Arneson's and we saw tons of fish on our Humminbirds each day. Tuesday was the better day for aggressive fish. As the weather turned cloudy and the barometer moved downward, fish were trickier to convince on Wednesday. Still, there were a lot of fish in the area, so we caught a respectable number, even if it was more work to catch them.
On Tuesday, I tried fishing close to the top of the reef at about 22 feet. There were few fish there at the time, but drilling in deeper water paid off. The transition from hard to soft bottom was the secret and 26 feet of water turned out to be the key depth for us.
Unlike past trips, there were very few suspended fish showing up, we caught almost all of the fish within a few feet of the bottom. In fact, most of the strikes I recall came from fish that moved up from the bottom as I teased them with my lure.
I’m glad you decided to try the Glow Spoons; I know you’ll have fun with them. On this trip, I caught some fish on the Orange Tiger that you mentioned, but the fish really liked the porchlight color, that was the current “hot color”.
At Zippel, Nick told me that they plan on keeping roads open another week at least, maybe two if the water drains. It was getting wet out there yesterday, but they have a lot of equipment and are staying on top of it.
Here’s a note that they posted on their page last night; “Roads are in good shape, with a little slush on them from the rain turning into snow. The guys will clean them up today so they don't freeze up rough.
“Wheel House Road 1” is new, they cut 60 spots out there for wheel houses and there are spots available “Hot Spot” road as well. For the Pike Hunters, there are some spots in tight too.
We have bait at the resort, over a hundred wheel house spots and our road is open. Cabins, day and sleeper houses are open, so we’re ready for some last minute calls.
This will be the last weekend for the Igloo and we remind you that no wheel houses are to be left unattended on the lake or on the bay after March 15th.
Closer to home, water and slush on the ice continues to be problematic. There was an incredible amount of melting over the past few days though and it's still possible that we'll see improving ice conditions before the season is over.
So while I am putting away the snowmobile, I am not putting away my ice cleats, I have a feeling that I'll still be hoofing it to the crappie hole before the ice begins to break up. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
This morning on KAXE Radio's Morning Show, I mentioned that now is a good time to stock up on ice fishing lures that will come in handy later, during the open water season.
One of the lures I mentioned, Lindy's Tungsten Fat Boy, piqued the interest of co-host, John Bauer. In response to his comments, I promised folks who were listening to the show that I would put up a photo of the lure, so here it is.
While I’m at it, I’ll share the condensed version of my comments about ice fishing lures and why you should be stocking up on them now, while the ice fishing season is almost behind us.
Fishing for suspended fish, especially panfish, calls for heavy lures, they are much easier to control and allow anglers to keep the bait in front of the fish more easily. The problem is that most of the heavier summertime fishing lures are also large and bulky and are often too big for panfish.
Over time, ice anglers have perfected fishing lures that are small-but-heavy. With the advent of tungsten lures the smaller profile baits are being made even heavier and easier to control during open water conditions.
With sporting goods sections converting over to summer stock, ice lures will be long gone by the time we need them during late summer and fall. Combine that with the “end of season specials” that are being offered and it makes this the ideal time to stock up for next fall. Learn More About >> Lindy's Tungsten Fat Boy
Austin Jones has been catching everything from walleye to sunfish on Lindy Glow Spoons this winter. Yesterday evening, he sent me this photo, along with a note that says; “Here’s the supply at L&M Supply in Bemidji, MN. I had to get a couple more with them now being 25% off.”
I know that we’re closer to the end of the season than we are to the beginning, but like Austin, I too stock up on ice gear at the end of the season. In fact, I just rounded out my own selection of these “ice lures” that I’ll need during the upcoming open water season.
There’s nothing more disappointing than finding a nice school of suspended panfish during the summer, without having a good supply of tungsten jigs to help me take advantage of the situation. More often than not, I'll use ice lures like the Ice Worm, Fat Boy, Tungsten Bug or Tungsten Toad when I fish for suspended panfish in open water.
That’s why I grab ‘em now, before they close down the ice sections at sporting goods stores. Later this summer, I’ll be glad that I remembered to stock up before it was too late.
For walleye anglers, Lake of the Woods is one of the few destinations available until open water fishing seasons begin to open. That combined with the fact that the south side of Lake of the Woods has escaped the huge problems with slush that have plagued lakes in many areas this winter, means that everyone who wants a walleye dinner has been fishing there.
We’re just like everybody else, so when we wanted to gather some walleyes for a meal, we headed up there too.
Friendly, is the best term to describe fishing conditions on Lake of the Woods this Tuesday and it was the first time in a long while that I’d use it. The sun was warm, the breeze was moderate and … I’d say it’s about time! Finally, a day spent outside, on the lake instead of being hunkered down inside a portable fishing shelter.
We traveled by snowmobile and that helped us find some semi-quiet territory to fish. But we could see plenty of vehicle traffic on the plowed roads leading out from Zippel Bay Resort. Further west, bombers were active too, moving fishing shelters and shuttling guests from one spot to another.
Word on the street is that most of them were finding fish to catch and if their experiences were anything like ours, I’d say that the rumors are true.
Typical of Lake of the Woods, we caught a lot of small fish, but there are enough “keepers” in the mix to make life interesting. Walleyes in the 14 to 17-inch range made up half of our creel and a couple of nice sauger made up the rest. The average size sauger have been good on Lake of the Woods this winter; it’s not that hard to catch 14 to 16-inch fish along with the typical little guys.
We fished of the edge of a reef in water depths of 22 to 27 feet; 25 to 26 was the best. We assumed that shallow water was offering poor action because there were bombers on the ice and they were moving rental shelters away from shallow water and out deeper, toward us, where the rocks transitioned to soft bottom.
My "go-to bait" this winter has been the Lindy Glow Spoon and yesterday was no exception. For me, the ¼ ounce size is preferred for walleyes, but I saw my partner catch numerous walleyes using the 1/8-ounce size as well. We tipped the treble hooks with minnow heads, fathead minnows in this case. I had good results on the orange tiger, he had good luck using the porchlight color.
Our days may be numbered, but for now, conditions on the ice are good, most of the accesses maintained the larger resorts remain open, snowmobile trails are in great shape and the fish are still biting!
From what we heard at the resort last night, anglers can expect to find most of the resorts open this weekend. Some may be open still another week after that, but it’s obviously a good idea to call ahead for advisories about changing conditions and availabilities. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Lake Trout - Lake trout anglers have become few and far between as snow continues to pile up this winter. For many anglers heading out, they are limited to where they can fish, by where the road is plowed. Best reports have been coming from anglers fishing with snowmobiles. Main lake points, humps and saddles in 30-50 feet of water, have been producing lakers. Blade bait, bucktails and tubes have all been catching fish, but blade baits have really shined this last week.
Stream Trout - Rainbows and Splake are showing up more in 15 feet of water or less. Some anglers have reported catching rainbows as shallow a 3 feet on one lake. Waxies, spawn bags or rippin raps have accounted for the majority of trout being caught.
Eelpout - Eelpout bite seems to of picked up as of late. Anglers are even reporting catching a few during the day while lake trout fishing and good numbers at night. Tops of humps surrounded by deep water, shallow sandy main lake points and areas around river mouths are the key areas to check. Heavy eelpout jigs pounded on the bottom and loaded with fresh dead shiner, smelt or chubs has been the way to go.
Crappies - While interest in crappies jumped this last week, very few anglers are fishing for them. There hasn’t been any good reports worth reporting just yet, but with warm temps and rain in the forecast, things are sure to change quickly this week and hopefully we will have some reports next week." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
The houses are nearer Pine Island from 6 miles out and closer. We’re seeing steady action, many little ones. Sometimes Walleye and other times Sauger. Houses are ranging for 20-30 feet of water. Many are still suspended.
Another weekend of heavy snow fall. We have been maintaining the roads well and keeping Pine Island clear so the drifting isn’t hindering our roads. As March nears the end, the fish should be coming in, improving the bite.
It looks like we are in for a warm up! The forecast ahead shows an increase in temps. This should help get some of the snow off the ice.
Our summer rates are out, it’s time to get your reservation in before the best dates are booked. 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"On the south end... Great reports continue to come in for walleyes and saugers. Many of the resorts have moved closer and are within 5 -6 miles of shore. Lots of snow on lake, best to stay on resort roads or trails. Morning / evening bite continues in 15-20'. Pike action has heated up with many fish over 40" caught this week. Should only get better. Fish houses on ice through March 31, walleyes open through April 14, pike season open continuous. Thick ice, extensions needed. Resort houses available with good ice. Ice roads open.
On the Rainy River... Strong current in river this year and a lot of snow. Snowmobile trail on river is open and marked from Baudette (downstream from bridge) to lake. Stay on trail for safety.
Up at the NW Angle... Excellent reports continue from the Angle. Walleyes coming from 22-30'. Saugers and jumbo perch mixed in. Jig one line, second line dead stick with plain hook with live minnow. If snowmobiling, lots of slush off of the trail, stay on trails."
"Lake trout fishing has slowed on area lakes. Anglers are reporting that they are marking good numbers of fish, but are struggling to get the fish to bite. Blade baits, bucktails, red and white tubes with or without Tube EEZ have been accounting for the majority of fish caught. 35-60 feet of water remains the best depth to fish for active fish.
Stream trout fishing has heated up this last week with many anglers reporting that they are catching their limit of nice trout. Aggressive rainbows are being found 10-15 feet under the ice. Trout eggs, jigs tipped with waxies or rippin raps have been the best baits, this last week.
Eelpout has heated up this last week with the full moon and spawn in full swing. Anglers have been fishing eelpout jigs, tipped with minnow heads. Sandy humps, sandy main lake points and area around river mouths have been the areas to check for spawning eelpout. Depths to check range from 15-40 feet of water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
MN DNR Enforcement said that they sympathized with us about having such tough conditions on the ice this winter. But they have no plans to extend the March 18th ice shelter removal deadline in the northern zone.
The way we look at it, we had to get it done sooner, not later because the job was only going to get harder if we waited. So we chipped away at clearing the slush and snow from our plowed roads and removed the last of our rental shelters this past Friday.
Pulling the shelters early wasn’t much fun because history tells us that these early spring days often provide the best perch fishing of the ice season. It’s ironic that just last week, some of our guests got into a really nice school of Jumbo Perch. The group had to trudge through the slush to get to the right spot, but once they were there, they filled their bag limits easily.
The slush has been a big problem this winter, but it isn’t everywhere. Our roads are still good; the ice is close to 40 inches thick where we’ve been plowing. Travel off road is still not possible, but the coming meltdown could still open up an opportunity for anglers who want to make one last trip to Winnie before spring breakup.
We know the areas where you can go and the areas where you cannot go. We know where those fish are too and we’d like to get after ‘them another time or two, so let’s play it by ear, if conditions improve, we’ll let you know. Please check back for updates as they become available. — Chad & Melissa Mertz, The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
There’s no way that anybody can fish on a new lake without the experience being interesting. There’s always a unique twist to fishing traditions, fish movement and fishing patterns and Lake Winnipeg was no exception.
Compared to travel conditions on lakes close to home, Lake Winnipeg is fantastic right now. There’s about a foot of hard packed snow on top of 4 feet of ice and we never saw any slush anywhere. Drilling holes was time consuming because of the thick ice, even with extensions, our auger handles we’re touching the snow before the drills finally punched through.
Travel on the hard-packed snow was a bit rough because strong winds have formed so many moguls. But the track machines that’s folks use out there handle them with ease. Snowmobiles track equipped ATV’s and Sno Bears like the one we travelled in were the primary modes of transportation. It’s obvious that folks who fish the giant lake have learned to be prepared for rough travel conditions.
Most of the fishing pressure is focused on an area covering a few miles either side of the mouth of the Red River. Unless an angler has fished the lake before and know spots with proven track records, deciding where to fish within that grid is based entirely on instinct.
There are no charts available for GPS units and the lakes structure is flat, shallow and apparently structureless. That means the “run and gun” approach to fishing is the norm on Lake Winnipeg, not the exception. Anglers stop in a spot that feels good, drill some holes and fish for a half hour. The number of fish spotted on the sonar determines what happens next.
If we saw fish but didn’t catch them, then the distance to our next spot would be short, maybe 50 yards or so. But if we saw nothing, then the distance would to the next spot would be much longer, maybe a half mile, maybe even more. The idea is to first find a general territory that holds fish, then fine tune the location until fish sightings are numerous.
The timing of our trip was okay, but not ideal. We caught enough fish to get a glimpse of what Lake Winnipeg has to offer, including a couple of monster walleyes ranging between 10 and 11 pounds. Personally, I didn’t catch any giants, but I left the lake knowing that it’s only a matter of time before I will. Every time you drop your lure into the water, you have a chance of catching a trophy.
Most of us fish for years to catch a single 30-inch fish, but on Lake Winnipeg, this could happen every day.
I borrowed a photo of this big “Greenback” from my friend Darrin Rothstein, who was fishing the lake at the same time, but with a different fishing party. Rothstein’s trip was a very good one, he caught 3 fish over 30 inches in a 3-day period.
There’s more to learn about Lake Winnipeg and I promise you that I will be learning it. Until then, the story is on pause while I move into the next adventure.
"Lake Trout - Lake trout fishing has been good for anglers this last week, with many reporting multiple fish days. Bucktail jigs, Tube EEZ, and blade baits being the top baits. 35-50 feet of water have been the best depth to fish, but there are a few reports of people catching lakers in 15 feet of water and less. Lakers that shallow are likely chasing perch, so keep that in mind if you try shallow for lakers.
Stream Trout - Stream trout fishing remains good with a few anglers reporting catching their limit of stream trout. Rainbows continue to be found 10-15 feet under the ice. Brook trout and Splake are being caught in 15 feet of water or less. Fresh trout eggs, jigs tipped with waxies and small rippin raps have been producing the majority of trout." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"Jeff,Things are good. We have been going about things business as normal, that is to say, with a lot of snow on 30-36" of ice.
Last Sunday we were not able to have people go out to fish. We had some people who chose to stay overnight Saturday on the lake, they were able to depart the lake with only a couple hour delay Sunday morning.
There is a lot of snow on the lake and it is creating areas of slush. Some areas are worse than others, those who have not maintained banks or drifts on their roads are having problems with frozen in or slushed out equipment and houses. We did not allow ourselves or our guests to be in that situation.
We have kept our road open, although some of the other operators have closed for periods of time. I am not sure how many and/or which ones may have reopened yet.
We have removed our sleeper houses from the lake, they are too large and heavy and create flooding issues with the excessive snow.
We are spread out from 24 to 31 feet of water. From close in to Pine Island to 6 miles out. We started moving on Monday after the 8-foot drifts were going to soon take over the ice in the area. As predicted, we were able to get our houses to new locations before having any slush or freezing in issues.
There has been a good bite going, many big Walleye and plenty of keepers this past week. We are seeing day to day changes, one day morning bite the next an afternoon bite. Actively working the water column is important and having a strong minnow on a plain hook for the dead stick has been the best practice. Pink and red hooks are good.
Roller coaster of temperatures coming up this week. Below zero overnights and teens during the days. Daylight hours are increasing and we are 1 week away from daylight savings time.
We still have some availability in March, both at Border View Lodge and Settlers Point for cabin packages that include day house fishing with our road access, bait and fish cleaning. We also have Wheelhouse access by reservation only, for $15.00 per day, per house, we provide a plowed spot, access to and from with dumpster access for dumping their garbage before departing the area." — Mike, - 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"On the south end... Great reports continue to come in for walleyes and saugers. Fish being caught in a variety of depths from 24-34' of water. Morning / evening bite in 15-20'. Some suspended fish. Keep jigging lines moving. Gold, glow red and other glow colors effective. Try rattles to draw fish in. Deadstick with plain hook and live minnow.
Fish houses on ice through March 31, walleyes open through April 14, pike season open continuous. Thick ice, extensions needed. Resort houses available with good ice. Ice roads open.
On the Rainy River... Strong current in river this year and a lot of snow. Snowmobile trail on river is open and marked from Baudette (downstream from bridge) to lake. Stay on trail for safety.
Up at the NW Angle... Excellent reports across the Angle. Walleyes coming from 22-30'. Saugers and jumbo perch mixed in. Jig one line, second line dead stick with plain hook with live minnow. Snowmobile trails from south shore across lake to Angle are marked with fresh snow. Lots of slush off of the trail."
"Update: Bill and I assessed the roads this morning. Our advice is to call before you come out with a wheelhouse. We are allowing a limited number of wheel houses. We would encourage everybody who wants to come with a wheelhouse to call before they make the drive.
The best form of travel out there continues to be snow machines or tracked vehicles with Portables. After the disaster of last weekend's snow blizzard, we are optimistic that we can continue are March fishing season.
Our roads are open, but may be shut down on a moment's notice. Please be respectful of our road systems and do not drill within 50 feet of our roads!" - Bill & Erin Charlton, Trails End Resort 218-832-3231
On Friday "TR" wrote taking me to task about my comments regarding ice out on February 28, 2019 .
“Ice decay is influenced by a whole host of climatic variables and physical attributes, including the angle of incidence of the sun, how much reflectivity is on the surface of the lake (snow vs ice), the amount of infrared waves that are absorbed by the ice that can be converted to heat, how much sun vs cloud cover, air temperatures, presence of currents, and a number of other variables.
The temperature of the water underneath the ice is a minor variable, as that water is at or very near 32 degrees. The 39 degree water that you describe is the deep layer, because it is most dense at that temp, and therefore not available to aid in melting from below.
Although freshwater ice formation and decay processes are influenced by numerous physical and climatic factors, it has been determined that the timing of break-up and freeze-up correlates best with air temperature during the preceding weeks to months of the event. And just because the lake is not making ice does not mean that it is losing ice.
I just wanted to share some information with you that might help with your calculations. Below is an article from Squarespace that does a pretty good job of describing ice decay." Read >> How Ice Decays
Sheldon Mack wrote back again on Friday too and said; "Thank you Jeff for all your great fishing information. I am an avid reader of your reports. Great job! Just a follow up note: I'm sure you have probably read this before. I (found) this Minnesota DNR publication "How Lake Ice Melts" very interesting.
Gentlemen, Thank you both very much for your comments and contributions. It does my heart good to know that there are folks like you who help encourage the spread of accurate information! For those of you who didn't look at the original article, my prediction for ice out on Lake Winnie and some others in our region is Wednesday April 24, 2019.
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"After the hellacious weekend last weekend, the last of our people made it off the ice on Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, none of their equipment came off with them.
We waited to let things freeze up and then went back out last night. We have finally got a path opened up that gets close to wheel houses.
Best form of travel on the lake is snowmobile and track machines. We do have the access open, but our fishing areas are limited. Bill is on the ice, working on opening more roads today.
The office is closed, but there is a drop box for road pass fees and a number to call for assistance. Bill will be on the ice for most of the weekend." - Bill & Erin Charlton, Trails End Resort 218-832-3231
"Hi all, we are good to go on the 3rd. Road is back in, slush is all froze down. We have plenty of parking down at the banks. Have a great weekend." — Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. Reservations 218-659-4612
On Thursday, Sheldon Mack wrote; “Hello Jeff, I appreciate your positivity regarding a more "normal" ice out date for our area.
I share your thoughts (Read Report February 28, 2019) regarding a relatively shallow ice sheet under our current snow pack. But I wonder if you are giving too much credit to the shallow ice and the warmth under the ice while not giving enough credit to the importance of sunlight in regards to ice out dates.
(The) long term forecasts for the Itasca County area show very few melting days in the next two or three weeks. I am not convinced that significant ice deterioration can begin until the snow is substantially reduced.
Here's hoping for a significant snow melt soon (without problematic flooding) to allow the sun to work its magic on the ice! I hope your prediction is correct!”
Sheldon, There's no doubt that more sunshine and warmer weather would make the ice melt faster; that goes without saying. But let's not lose sight of an important consideration; if the lake is not making ice, then it is losing ice. So even while we’re looking at the cold, snowy surface, the underlying ice is already deteriorating. Even if there are fewer "melting days" in the forecast, there are also fewer inches of ice that need to be melted.
Admittedly, there are a couple of things that could throw my prediction off. As you point out, the longer that snow cover remains on the ice, the rate of melting will be slow. At a certain point, we would lose any advantage from having the “head start” provided by thinner, slushier ice.
Another scenario that would work against my prediction is one that we’ve seen happen before. Occasionally we get a sudden meltdown that’s followed by a cold front. When warm weather lasts just long enough to melt the snow, but not long enough to put a dent in the ice. Late winter re-freezes like that have been known to extend the ice fishing season into mid-April.
Nobody can predict with certainty how the scenario will play out. But based on what we already know, I used my best appraisal to calculate an estimate based on the educated guess about Mother Nature's future plans; and that gets us in the ball park.
You know what they say though, “it all depends on the weather.” - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Large areas of slush have formed and continue to grow on the Ontario side due to all of the snow on the lake. Recent high winds caused massive drifting and travel is difficult at best. We have had many people stuck on rangers, track vehicles and even snowmobiles.
We have decided to cease transporting guests to fish houses in Canada at this time. If you choose to transport yourself, you do so at your own risk. At this time we will not risk our staff’s safety or damage to our vehicles to assist in getting you out.
At this time travel on the Minnesota side is rough but no signs of slush. Feel free to give us a call for any questions and concerns." — Flag Island Resort, 218-223-8011