The season for Northern Pike is open all year long and reports from pike anglers are excellent. Back bays on the lake and river are open and full of pike. A combo of big dead baits or slow rolling a spinnerbait, spoon or crankbait are the go to methods. Numerous trophy class pike being caught. All pike 30-40" must be returned with a 3 fish limit and one over 40".
The "keep" season for sturgeon is open now and continues through May 7th, 2019. Fishing for the bottom feeding sturgeon has been excellent. The go to presentation a 3-6 ounce no roll sinker, sturgeon rig and a few nightcrawlers or combo crawlers and frozen emerald shiners. After the keep season closes on May 7th, there will be one week of catch and release season from May 8th thru 15th, 2019. On May 16th sturgeon season closes until June 30, 2019.
Up at the NW Angle, open water areas increasing rapidly. Open water in the Angle Inlet and between islands. Basin ice deteriorating quickly. Resorts getting ready for May 11th opener." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Sturgeon Anglers are having great success! Northern Anglers are having great success! The weather has cooperated nicely! Win, win, win!
We have had a great spring for projects and being outdoors! There have been so many opportunities in the area, if you ever felt the need to move North, now is a great time. There are many businesses hiring and spring time is a great time to house hunt!
The Corn Hole tournament on the deck yesterday was a blast! There is still a large sheet of ice on the lake, but you can see the gaps around Pine Island have opened up and the Warroad area is also breaking apart. There have been huge flocks of ducks on Four Mile Bay, thousands of them.
This week shows a couple of evenings dropping below freezing and possible snow. It is still that time of year and the shovel is still close at hand. Temps for the week ahead show upper twenties to the mid- fifties. A little cooler than last week.
We still have openings for 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
So you’ve already rigged up your boat and you’re watching your calendar, counting down the days until walleye season. You might be thinking; “I wish there was someplace I could fish this weekend.” Well there is, if you want to.
Big Pike don’t wait around for warm water to spawn. In fact, they’re the first fish into shallow water as the ice melt occurs. They move into shallow, backwater bays and swim upstream into small feeder creeks to spawn while main lake areas are still frozen.
For most Minnesotan’s, knowing that doesn’t necessarily mean much because the statewide season for pike fishing is closed while the fish are spawning.
But on certain border water lakes, fishing for Northern Pike is an option, even during the spring spawning runs.
While there are other places to go during the spring spawning runs, Lake of the Woods really is the first place you should think about. The giant lake offers fish plenty of room to grow and because of that, provides anglers with some of the best opportunities to catch a trophy. It is not uncommon for anglers to catch fish over 40 inches; there’s always a chance that your next fish will ..." Read >> Ice-Out Trophy Pike at Zippel Bay Lake of the Woods
"Few things in Minnesota match the spectacle of the walleye spawn.
Every spring, the MN DNR sets nets in a bottleneck of Little Cutfoot Sioux Lake to collect and fertilize eggs from the thousands of males and females making their yearly journey to their spawning beds.
The goal of this practice is to meet statewide needs for stocking fish in small lakes that otherwise would not have a self-sustaining walleye population, and the amount of eggs collected varies from year to year. In 2019, roughly 80 quarts of walleye eggs ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Fishing Report April 30, 2019
On January 16, 2019 I asked website readers a question. “If you could personally influence Minnesota’s DNR Commissioner to take action on one issue, what would it be?”
The overwhelming majority of email responses I received concerned panfish regulations, sunfish in particular. On this topic, 100% of the suggestions and comments were aimed at addressing their declining size. Suggestions for regulations aimed at improving and preserving size quality varied, but there were some common threads.
Discussion about walleye regulations were the next most widely discussed topic and there was a clear division between 2 groups; tourists who visit walleye waters infrequently vs “elite” walleye anglers who fish Minnesota lakes often.
The “elite” anglers demonstrated nearly unanimous support for a statewide regulation that would reduce the walleye limit from the current 6 fish bag, down to a statewide 4 walleye limit. Many believe that a 6 fish limit is overly generous. Some argued that anglers "don't need that many fish" and reasoned that reduced bag limits will not impact tourism. Some cited robust traffic on lakes that already have 4 fish limits to support their beliefs.
Tourist anglers on the other hand, argue that the limit should remain at the current 6 fish level. Travel distances, cost of licenses and the high cost of lodging were all cited as reasons why. Most acknowledged that they rarely, if ever, actually catch their full bag limits; but value the opportunity to take home 6 fish when the chance comes along. Some said that they would no longer travel to Minnesota if limits were reduced.
On Sunday, I received a text from Heidi Holtan, co-host of the KAXE/KBXE Morning Show who asked; “I’m taping an interview with the new DNR Commissioner tomorrow. Do you have anything you’d like me to ask her?” My reply; "Yes, as a matter of fact I do."
I’ve taken all of your comments and questions, sorted them down to a "short list" and sent them over to Holtan. The interview will be taped today and I will be sure to let you know when the broadcast will air. Who knows? You may hear Strommen's response to your own question firsthand during the interview; more on that later.
For today, I’m headed out the door to visit with DNR Fisheries Staff at Little Cutfoot. Walleyes, I expect will have shrugged off the snowy weather and should be waiting patiently in the trap net. If so, the report about this year’s walleye egg harvest will be forthcoming.
With less than two weeks remaining before the walleye opener, the action around town is heating up. Watch for updates about who's planning what for the opener. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I promised an update about scheduling of the walleye egg harvest at Little Cutfoot Sioux Friday and I got word from DNR Fisheries Staff on Saturday evening that the trap nets did not go into the water yesterday. The traps will be set up later today, Sunday April 28th, so the first walleyes should show up in the trap overnight tonight and be observable on Monday.
The harvest is going to be fast this season because the quota has been set at only 100 quarts of fertilized eggs. In a typical season, the Cutfoot operation would gather roughly 10 times that amount, usually somewhere between 800-1000 quarts.
Because of the “late” start and the risk of a possible shortfall, egg harvest quotas in other DNR Fisheries regions were raised. The lion’s share of the eggs needed for the Grand Rapids hatchery have already been gathered and the remainder will be gathered over the next few days.
If visiting the walleye traps at Little Cutfoot is part of your spring ritual, then Monday and possibly Tuesday will be your only window of opportunity for 2019. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Dale Schroeder wrote; “Hi Jeff. I was wondering if you had seen the article in Duluth's Sunday paper entitled "Catch, release and dead. How and how long you handle fish determines their fate" by John Myers?
Anyway, I found the article interesting and it plugs in to a number of things you have been saying about fish survival after being caught in deep water, etc. I know this is a busy time for you but I would be interested in your thoughts.”
Dale, John Myers definitely covered a lot of territory in this piece. In fact, I read the article once on Wednesday, again on Friday and once more just now, Saturday morning. I picked up something new every time I read it.
I found the article to be very informative and to the extent that I knew facts about some of the research; very accurate.
I was in particular agreement with his comments about the philosophy of catch and release fishing. This quote I borrowed from Myer’s article touches on the sentiment.
“But as one trout enthusiast raised the issue: If one angler catches three fish and keeps all of them to eat, and another catches 40 fish and releases them all, but 10 percent die anyhow, who has killed more trout? You do the math.”
It supported my own observations from the field; we anglers still have a lot to learn about the best practices of releasing fish. In fact, the article gave me a few pointers about how I can do a better job this season myself.
I would definitely recommend the article to anyone who wants to improve the survival rate of fish they release. Here’s a link to John Myer’s Duluth News Tribune article >> Catch, release and dead? How and how long you handle fish determines their fate.
"Join us today for another episode of Fish Ed! Host, Jon Thelen heads out right after a big storm rolls through the area he is fishing in.
See how he adapts to the conditions by using a Lindy Live Bait Jig and Wiggle Worming some great smallmouth bass.
Don’t let less than ideal conditions keep you off the water, just adapt to the conditions and have a great day on the water. Get professional tips and tactics on fishing tackle, Lindy Live Bait Jigs, and great Smallmouth Bass locations." View Video >> Wiggle Worming Smallmouth Bass
Q) Dave Allen wrote; "Hey Jeff, love your articles, very informative. New to Deer River 10 months ago and would like info on how to observe egg harvest at Cut Foot next week. Thanks in advance, Dave."
A) Thanks for the note Dave. Here's a link to an article I wrote about the Cutfoot Sioux Egg Harvest a couple of years back. In it, there's a map that shows you how exactly how to get there. Read >> Cutfoot Sioux Walleye Egg Harvest Location
While we're on the subject of the Walleye Egg Harvest at Little Cutfoot, here's an update I received yesterday.
Even though the ice is already out and the gear is being setup at Little Cutfoot, trapping of walleyes will be likely be delayed until at least Sunday.
That's because DNR Fisheries Staff tested the water in Little Cutfoot Sioux on Thursday 4-25, 2019. The tests revealed extremely low levels of dissolved oxygen, 4 to 5 parts per million. These levels are even lower than they were last spring when walleyes in Little Cutfoot began dying because they couldn't all get enough oxygen in the small lake.
As a precaution, DNR Fisheries Staff will wait until dissolved oxygen levels get closer to 10 parts per million, which is considered ideal. Oxygen levels increase naturally as wind and waves churn the surface water until it mixes with deeper water below. The more wind we receive, the faster the process will be.
According to Large Lake Specialist Gerry Albert, walleyes are already running up the rivers, so there’s a risk that delaying the start up could result in missing the prime, early stages of the walleye spawning run. “We could miss harvesting our quota if we wait too long. But we don’t want to take a chance on trapping walleyes until oxygen levels improve; Albert says.”
Luckily, other walleye egg harvest locations are ahead of schedule this spring. As a precaution, some of them are taking “extra eggs” to help mitigate any shortfall that could occur at the Cutfoot operation.
There will be updates about oxygen levels later today. I’ll let you know when the schedule for trapping walleyes is definite. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
If you’ve perused the reports recently, then you may already know that I hadn’t been too confident about hitting my target date April 24, 2019 for ice-out in the Lake Winnie region. On April 17th I wrote; “Earlier this winter, I marked April 24th on the calendar as my prediction for the ice-out date on or near Lake Winnibigoshish. Technically, I still have 7 days to be proven “right”, but it will have to be one heck of an interesting week for that to happen; I think.”
Despite the cold, gloomy weather that settled into the region a couple of weeks ago and forced my prediction off track, the past 7 days did turn out to be “one heck of a week!” In fact, conditions for melting ice have been so good that I actually did come darn close to picking the right date. How close depends on how you want to parse the information.
On February 28, 2019 I wrote; “I’ll say that the ice out date for Winnie will be Wednesday April 24th, 2019. I’ll add that other lakes in this region (and only) in this region will be ice free sooner than average too.”
It’s clear that I missed my mark on Lake Winnibigoshish, I went up there yesterday, April 24, 2019 and the lake is still about 2/3 ice covered. That said, the ice cover is black, slushy and disappearing fast; it won’t hang on much longer.
As for other lakes in the Winnie region being ice free sooner than average, I guess I do get a passing grade.
Just down the road from Winnie, Little Ball Club was completely ice free on the 24th and just up the road; Little Cutfoot was almost completely ice free by about 8:30 PM. Jay Gould and Little Jay Gould were both ice-free and while not yet wide open, Pokegama had huge expanses of open water, separated by patches of slushy ice candles. By the end of this day, there will be numerous other reports about small lakes that were open yesterday too.
Like agent Maxwell Smart, (TV series “Get Smart” circa 1965-1970) used to say; “Missed it by that much.”
As you may have expected, ice-out on Little Cutfoot Sioux means that the MN DNR Fisheries staff will be setting up shop for the 2019 walleye egg harvest. An email message from Large Lake Specialist Gerry Albert says; “The plan is to set up most of the dock tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday, then set the trap on Sunday with the first day of working fish on Monday. This all depends on oxygen levels in Cut Foot Sioux Lake but it is likely that we will be done by next weekend.”
The timing of the setup is typical, in my recollection; they always start moving in their gear as soon as the ice goes out on Little Cutfoot. But this year they’re delaying the actual trapping of fish for a couple extra days. My sense is that they’re being extra cautious about the oxygen levels because of the fish die off that occurred last spring.
I talked with Albert this morning and he said if there’s a lot of wind and oxygen levels ramp up fast, the timeline could move ahead one day. So if you’re someone who likes visiting the site, but only has weekends off, there might be an opportunity to view the operation on Sunday this weekend, but a Saturday startup appears unlikely. I’ll post an update if anything changes.
While I'm on the subject of spawning fish, the Sturgeon "keep season" on the Rainy River opened up yesterday April 24 and runs through May 7, 2019. Folks on the river are reporting slower than average, but there are some fish being caught. One fish between 45-50 inches or one fish over 75 inches can be harvested by anglers who posess a valid sturgeon harvest tag.
With lakes opening up, it's time for me to get the boat ready for action. With any luck at all, we'll be able to locate some panfish over the next several days. Here we go, open water action will be heating up soon and so will the reports! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Most notable were Little Pine (pictured left) and Hickory Lakes located just south of Aitkin. On Saturday, the ice on both of them was dark and crumbly looking and I told the Hippie Chick that it wouldn’t surprise me to see a lot of water there on our ride home. Well on Monday, both of these lakes were wide open, not even an ice cube floating in either.
Before that, we had already recorded open water on every lake south of Milaca, at least the ones we could see.
Between Onamia and Garrison, there were certain stretches of Lake Mille Lacs that still appeared to be fully ice covered. But there were also very large stretches of shoreline that were almost ice-free already. We stopped just north of Garrison and walked the beach; that’s where I snapped the pictures of ice candles floating in the water. From the highway, this still looks like ice cover, but when you get closer, you’ll see that there’s nothing left except these sheets of floating ice cubes. One windy day will blow most of it apart; I’d be surprised if Mille Lacs isn’t wide open by next weekend.
At Hill City, Hill Lake was about 1/3 open water and 2/3 covered with black, slushy looking ice. I don’t believe the ice will last another full day on that lake, especially if there’s a good breeze.
The closer we got to Grand Rapids, the easier it was to find ice. But even lakes with the most stubborn looking ice cover showed signs of deteriorating. At the Hwy. 169 Bridge across Pokegama, there was a large open hole on the east side heading into the Wendigo Arm. West of the bridge, there weren’t any open holes yet, but we could see several dark areas where water had been draining. The ice in those dark areas will be gone soon.
Pokegama was the last lake we saw before arriving home, so I tuned in just now to William’s Narrows webcams to see what ice at Cutfoot looks like. There’s still a lot of ice, but the hole on either side of the narrows is getting larger; I’ll get more updates about that tomorrow.
Today, I’m going to travel a path that I’ve never tried during the spring breakup. I’ll tour some of the lakes heading east and north across the iron range. I’ll some information about that tomorrow.
While those of us “Up North” are waiting for the ice to go out, folks in southern Minnesota are already catching fish. The photo at right came in via text from Chris Andresen on Saturday and simply says; “Southern Minnesota panfish are working the shallows.”
I guess it’s time to polish up the ultra-light gear and make sure I’ve got a good supply of Little Nippers; the open water season is upon us! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Finding open water in the Grand Rapids area got a lot easier on Friday! In fact it amazed me how much ice disappeared in a single day. It left me wondering how much more will melt over the next couple of days.
We will be watching and I promise to share whatever we learn. But like many of you, we first plan to enjoy some time celebrating Easter with our family. I hope your weekend is filled with love, warmth and compassion and in the meantime, Cub Reporter Staff #003-IHBBFBB is singing out for the weekend! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Cub Reporter Staff #003-IHBFBB is on the beat this morning, heading west to check out the progression of walleye spawning runs in the Brainerd area. That means I don’t have a lot of time to sit at the computer today, but I definitely will have the whole story about that on Friday morning.
On Wednesday, I drove a loop around the east side of Winnie and then east past Bowstring. Long story short, there’s still a lot of ice out there, but it is deteriorating.
As the accompanying photos reveal, areas of flowing water like the Bowstring River are all wide open. I’d even go so far as to say that areas around some of the smaller rivers and streams are flooding. Water from melting snow has pushed well over the banks and up into low lying swamps.
On the bridge at the Winnie Dam, I could see several areas of dark, mushy looking ice out in Tamarack Bay. I think that we’ll see some holes opening up out there this weekend. After that, the ice should begin loosening up and that will accelerate the melt.
Ice cover remains over 99% of both Little Cutfoot and Bowstring lakes. There’s some open water near the landings and a bit of separation at the shorelines. It will be interesting to see how much change occurs over the next few days, so I’ll probably run the same loop again on Friday or Saturday. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I don’t know why monitoring the progress of ice-out across north central Minnesota brings me such joy. Maybe it’s because I’m excited about the upcoming fishing opener, maybe because it feels good to watch winter melt away or maybe I’m just like all the other critters and get spring fever.
Last year, when I was driving around checking ice conditions, I made a special note to be sure that I’d remember to share something with you that I learned about human nature.
This is the time of the season when “seeing isn’t always believing”, ice conditions vary wildly from lake to lake. So if I wanted to, I could produce a dozen photos this morning that would all give you the impression that the ice is already almost gone; I’ll call them Exhibit A. On the other hand, I could produce a dozen more photos that all make it look like the ice won’t melt until Memorial Day; I’ll label them Exhibit B.
Optimists would see the first dozen photos, Exhibit A and be cheerful. Pessimists would look at the second dozen photos, Exhibit A and be equally cheerful. It all boils down to us choosing to believe the images that support our own pre-conceived ideas.
I am the first to admit that I fall squarely into the first group, the optimists. When I drive up to a lake, I am hoping to find evidence that the ice is almost gone. That may be why I’m a little anxious this morning, the ice isn’t going away as fast as I’d like it to.
Earlier this winter, I marked April 24th on the calendar as my prediction for the ice-out date on or near Lake Winnibigoshish. Technically, I still have 7 days to be proven “right”, but it will have to be one heck of an interesting week for that to happen; I think.
That said, conditions are moving in the right direction, so while I may miss my prediction by a few days, this year’s ice-out will definitely be anything but a late one.
I’ll be out and about over the next few days and believe me; I’ll be looking for signs of spring in every corner of every lake. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we start seeing signs of walleyes moving upstream to spawn and panfish moving toward shallow bays.
In the meantime, you might as well get ready for the walleye opener by watching some fishing videos; there’s a fresh one from Fish ED just below. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"This week, host Jon Thelen shows you how to actively find walleye with your electronics. Then Jon teaches you how to know exactly where to position your boat to be sure that you’ll place your offering in front of the fish, where they can find it.
The system is easy, Thill Pro Series Floats, paired with Lindy’s Live Bait Jig and tipped with a lively leech or night crawler is all you need.
Tune in for the tips and tactics about slip float fishing that will help you put more walleyes in the boat this season." View Video >> Aggressive Slip Float Tactics For Early Season Walleyes
2012 Lund Alaskan 2000 (20 Foot) Tiller, Camoflauge, 2012 90 HP Mercury OptiMax Tiller with Mercury's Big Tiller. 2012 Shoreland'r Trailer Single Axle With Brakes.
This rig isn't my boat, it's being sold by a private party, my nephew Chris Andresen. Still, I am very familiar with this boat and know that it's a good one.
You've probably already seen what I've had to say about my own Lund Alaskans and by now you know that I as far as I'm concerned, this is the ultimate "Working Angler's" fishing rig on the market anywhere.
The price for this one is $19,000.00 and you can find detailed descriptions and photos here ..." >> Lund Alaskan For Sale April 16, 2019
The target now are both Northern Pike and sturgeon. Pike are staging for the spawn and are open all year long. Back bays are just opening up and will be full of pike soon. A combo of big dead baits or slow rolling a spinnerbait, spoon or crankbait will be the go to methods. Lake of the Woods has a very strong population of trophy class pike over 40" long. All pike 30-40" must be returned with a 3 fish limit and one over 40".
On the Rainy River, both the Big Fork and Little Fork Rivers busted open mid week last week. That sent ice and muddy waters into the Rainy River. The walleye bite, which had been excellent until then, was sent into the tailspin and most left anglers with nothing but memories of the many trophy fish that struck during the previous week.
Sturgeon fishing remains good as they are bottom feeders and rely more on smell vs sight to feed. It's prime time for sturgeon. Catch and release for sturgeon through April 23rd with the keep season starting April 24th.
Up at the NW Angle, there were still a few anglers were on the ice this past week. But ice fishing now is basically over. Some open water appearing in neck down areas and current areas. Resorts getting ready for May 11th opener." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Walleye season comes to an end. There was much success until the major rush of ice and flow came down the river on Thursday. The river has been a bit cloudy and continues to be. Generally, it does not affect the Sturgeon fishing. Sturgeon action has been doing well and now with more open water there are people fishing all points in the river and to the Gap.
We continue our projects around the lodge to be ready for opener. We will have a couple of charter boats surveyed this week, yard clean up continues, carpet cleaning in progress along with many other projects.
It looks like we will stay above freezing this week with highs in the 50’s and sunshine with lows to 34.
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
Q) Mike Cotter wrote; “Hi Jeff, I'm coming up to Winnie for the 2nd week in June. I used to come up every year with my dad. He has passed and now I'm bringing my uncle up to show him some good walleye fishing. What we used to do is drift with Lindy rigs with a slip weight and a green or red hook with a bead. Is this still the preferred method in early June? Any help would be great. Thank you!”
A) Mike, Walleye fishing on Winnibigoshish was definitely good in 2018 and hopefully it will be again for your re-union this summer too.
Generally speaking the walleyes in Lake Winnie are and will still be susceptible to live bait presented using Lindy Rigs. The biology of lake itself has changed since your last visit and it may call for a few modifications to your former approach.
You’ll notice that since Zebra Mussels took hold in the lake, the water is much clearer these days. In clear water lakes, longer leaders tied on fluorocarbon line will be helpful. Fluorocarbon line is clearer than standard monofilament and gives you an advantage in clear water.
Lots of anglers like using longer leaders for fishing clear water too. I guess this is probably related to better visibility too. Since walleye can see better, they tend to be more shy about terminal tackle, sinkers and the like. Using a longer leader helps keep the bait out and away from any hardware you have tied on your line and gives the live bait a more natural appearance.
Another consequence of the Zebra Mussel population is the sharp edges of their shells. In the good old days on Winnie, an angler could simply drop their sinker to the bottom and drag it along the sandy bottom. These days, that practice will result in having your line scuffed and scraped by the sharp Zebra Mussel shells.
One adjustment that I’ve made is making a switch to using No Snagg sinkers and fishing more vertically than I used to. Using a ¾ ounce No Snagg sinker, I can easily maintain contact with the bottom without dragging my line across it. I lower my sinker until the line goes slack and then I “walk it over the bottom”. Find the bottom, lift your sinker up a few inches, then walk it ahead a foot or so and lower it to the bottom again. Repeat the process until a fish inhales your bait, then lower your rod tip to be sure that your line is slack and then allow the fish to take line through the slip sinker.
Some folks like to tie their own rigs, but you can get the custom touch without going to the trouble. That’s because 2018 was the original Lindy Rig’s 50th anniversary and in honor of the event, it was completely re-vamped. Now every Lindy Rig comes pre-tied to 10 feet using clear fluorocarbon line. A variety of colored hooks are available and beads are included with every rig. You can customize the length yourself, personally 6 to 7 feet long is my standard; make yours any length you like.
Depending on the weather and fishing patterns at the time, you may also find showing other preferences. If the water is cooler than average, in the low 60 degree range for example, then jig and minnow presentations may still be good. If the water is warmer, high 60’s to low 70 degree range, then “Wiggle Worming”, trolling spinners or Li’l Guys on bottom bouncers could already be in vogue.
Don’t worry too much about trying to prepare for every conceivable scenario ahead of time. As we approach the date of your trip, watch the reports for updates about weather trends and presentations. On your way up, everything you need to catch walleyes will be easily available within easy reach of Winnie.
Good luck on your trip! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
On Saturday, we took a quick tour of the bridge at Little Cutfoot Sioux. The accompanying photo shows that there’s open water from the bridge out to the pipes where the DNR will eventually set up the egg harvest station. You can also see that Little Cutfoot was still ice covered and since we didn’t drill holes to check ice conditions, it’s hard to say how long it will stay that way.
On the west side of the bridge, there was open water for about ¼ mile and the bay between Williams Narrows and Mosomo Point Campground was still frozen too. But, there is another significant patch of open water on either side of the Williams Narrows channel. With snow cover melting in earnest today, today, my guess is that increasing current and warmer temperatures will open up that entire stretch this week. You can monitor some of the progress yourself by checking William’s Narrows Live Webcams.
We drove over to the Winnie Dam too and the scene there was similar. A patch of open water on the north (Big Winnie) side of the bridge spanned about ¼ mile. The Mississippi River is wide open and filled with ducks, geese and swans, along with all sorts of other critters too. The water flow is very low and I believe that this is due in part to an agreement with the DNR to keep lake levels a little higher during the spring walleye spawning run.
You may have read the report from The Pines Resort on April 5, 2019; in it, the ice thickness was measured at about 24 inches. Since then, cold temperatures haven’t done much to encourage ice to melt and with the slow current, the ice is probably still fairly thick in that area. We’ll check it again at mid-week and post a note about how ice-out on Winnie is progressing. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) Do you think that walleyes that become part of (the) egg/milt collection process such as the Cutfoot or Lake Vermillion hatcheries go through a longer post spawn funk than natural spawned out fish on lakes or rivers? Does the extra stress put upon the trapped fish, i.e. the handling & stripping potentially put the fish into a longer post spawn timeframe or do you think there would be no difference?
A) Alan, over the years, I’ve heard others describe the post-spawn period as a time when fish go into a "funk". Supposedly, they become inactive and lethargic as they recover from the rigors of spawning.
Gaining a thorough, firsthand understanding about “post spawn” walleye behavior has been tricky for me because like most Minnesotan’s, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to experience walleye fishing during, or immediately after the time that they actually are spawning. I used the term “rarely” because on certain occasions, Mother Nature has delivered spring weather late enough to force walleye spawning to ..." Read >> Post Walleye Spawn Behavior April 2019
I dropped my truck off for service yesterday and had a low-level panic attack about not being able to get outside for a few days. But it looks like I was smarter than I thought, if I’m going to be trapped at home, this looks like a good day for it. The stormy weather hasn’t hit here yet, but I guess it will; we just don’t know about the severity of it until it finally arrives.
Sometimes Mother Nature has a heart and yesterday, she did walleye anglers on the Rainy River a favor by opening up the Littlefork River. With chunks of icebergs and debris floating down the muddy river channel, anglers have some incentive to stay inside and look at pictures from the past week. I’m sure there are a lot of them because during that time, the walleye and sturgeon fishing had been really good on the Rainy.
Walleye action always falls off dramatically when tributaries open up and send an influx of muddy water toward the Rainy. By the time the current flow slows down and the debris clears up, it will already be April 14th and the walleye season will be closed.
The cold front that came in ahead of the coming storm slowed down the melting of ice, so there haven’t been dramatic changes since my report on Tuesday. By the time this storm passes, I’ll be mobile again and I’ll be back on track to get more firsthand reports about the progression of ice-out on Itasca area lakes.
For those of you who are lucky enough to be near a good trout stream don’t forget that the stream trout season opens this Saturday.
We have now officially entered the 30 day countdown to the 2019 Walleye Season Opener. If you haven’t already, this is a good time to start polishing up the fishing gear and laying in supplies in preparation; I think I start on that myself today. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
By all appearances, most Minnesota lakes are on track for an earlier than average ice out. In fact, many lakes to the south of Lake Mille Lacs are already ice free and dozens more will be by the end of this week. The photo of lake Washington (top left) near Mankato came from Chris Andresen on Monday, he’s got the dock in and is already preparing to fish down there.
As we drove the passages between bays of Lake Minnetonka, we saw ice that’s soft, crumbling and ready to give up any day now. The photo of Lafayette Bay shows that 1/3 of the ice was already gone on Monday; the rest will probably disappear today.
Further north on Minnetonka, there was a boat on Smith Bay; the goal of its operator was apparently to hurry the ice out along. We observed him driving along the edges of the slushy ice, breaking it up into small chunks.
After we passed by the big lake, we made a quick stop in my old home territory at Long Lake and the ice was disappearing there too. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Long Lake is ice free by this Wednesday either.
By the time we were on the highway and headed for home, there weren’t many good stopping spots for taking pictures until we reached Lake Mille Lacs. But by the time we got that far, we had already passed by a handful of small lakes and ponds that were ice free. While the majority of larger lakes still had ice cover, they were dark and the edges along shore were cracked. Small pockets of open water near creeks and narrow areas were all filled with ducks, geese and swans. In fact even in the fields, every spot of standing water had some waterfowl sitting on it.
The ice cover on Mille Lacs was deteriorating fast too. I was surprised by that because there wasn’t a lot of slush on that lake this winter and while the ice wasn’t super thick, it was solid and clear. I thought maybe it would take a little longer to weaken, but at Garrison, there were already sizeable open spots along shore. Every creek and small river was flowing fast and the current had opened up sizeable pockets of water too. Unless the weather takes a nasty turn colder, I would give the ice on Mille Lacs more than another week to 10 days.
By the time we arrived at Aitkin, we were at the upper edge of the “snow free zone”. We hadn’t seen enough snow to make a good snowman between there and metro area, but from Aitkin to Grand Rapids, we could still see snow in the woods, piled up along roadways and in areas where there were deep drifts.
Lakes in the Grand Rapids area still have fairly thick ice cover, but it’s deteriorating here too. From what I can see, my prediction of an April 24th ice out in the Lake Winnie area is on track to be pretty close.
When I checked my emails this morning, I found one more update from Adam Zenzen who wrote; “Never made it out on Pokegama (this weekend). We headed west to Leech and caught perch in the morning and chased Tulibee in the afternoon. 4 of us kept 50 of our 80 perch; all being 9 - 10 inches.
We sight fished in 4-6 feet of water on the west side of the lake. If you weren't sight fishing, you were constantly taking off tiny fish. Sight fishing was a pleasant change of pace as i have done it in some time. (It was) a fun, simple way to fish. Even had a few walleyes visit my hole... amazing what a 16 inch walleye looks and feels like after catching perch all morning.
Tulibee proved challenging. We moved spots several times and only caught 6. We caught them in 26 feet of water out in the middle of the lake. Most fish (were) suspended 6-10 feet.
Each access we used was starting to get beat up. Ice was 2 feet everywhere we went, but we saw some sketchy looking "black holes" where the water had pooled then drained. Ice was thin there and I would not want to drive over one. After this rain, I'm calling it a season. Good luck guiding this year!” - Adam
I’m not sure how likely it is that I’m in the same boat as Adam. There’s a cold snap headed our way and that will slow the ice melt a little. At this point, walking would be my only mode of transportation if I decided to hit the ice one last time. I’ll have to see what the ice looks like today before I can decide; I will let you know tomorrow. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Ice conditions on Winnie were better than we expected on Thursday. The ice covering Tamarack Bay is still thick, probably 24 to 28 inches in most areas. Snow cover is almost entirely melted, the surface has drained dry and conditions for either walking or ATV travel are ideal.
Unfortunately, access at the landings is beginning to deteriorate, so we’re afraid that our ice fishing days are numbered.
From what we observed on Thursday, accessing the lake from anywhere in our bay near the dam will be tricky. We were already forced to close our road because of open water at the point, just up the shoreline from The Pines Resort. Mud and standing water prevented us from using the old dirt landing near Plughat point and a user developed trail located just east of the Plughat Landing was getting pretty sloppy.
For the weekend, our guests will likely be better off accessing Tamarack Bay using one of the sand landings coming out from Bowen’s Flats.
We expected the fishing action to be really good on Thursday because we’ve been hearing great reports from folks who have come into the resort over the past several days. In the end, we did pretty good, bagging enough fish for a meal. While we did catch good numbers of perch, sorting was required to good ones.
Maybe the weather change was partly responsible, after a few days of mostly sunny weather, the skies turned grey. Northern pike like this kind of weather and there were lots of them roaming the flats yesterday. We noticed that when pike were present, perch disappeared from the screens of our flashers. Whenever we caught a pike and cleared the area, perch would return fairly quickly.
Although many lures caught fish yesterday, there was one in particular that caught most of the largest fish. It’s an ice jig that looks identical in every way to Lindy’s #4 size Frostee jig (pictured right), but the color was different. Ours was solid pink and we can’t find that color in their current listings.
Tipped with a whole, small size fathead, this has been a winner for us all winter long. We don’t know for sure if these jigs were from a batch of “knock-off” lures or if it’s just a discontinued color. We do know that there are other variations of the original Frostee Jig still available and we’ll do some experimenting with other colors and let you know how that goes too.
By all accounts, we’re on pace for a fairly routine spring, ice out shouldn’t be more than a few weeks away. Even though we’ll be focused now on getting the resort ready for the open water season, we’ll still have some updates about conditions as we approach the walleye opener.
If you’re in the area to ice fish this weekend, be careful out there and have fun. Keep in mind too that we’d love to have you as a customer, so let us know how we might be able to help! — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
"It has unfortunately happened to all of us. No matter how experienced of an angler you are, every once in a while we all have a fish that gets hooked in the gill. Immediately we remove the hook and hope this doesn’t cause the fish any harm and that it doesn’t bleed. Fish bleeding tends to be a worst-case scenario for an angler and we thought we could answer a few questions about the best practices for an angler when they face a bleeding gill.
Wired2fish contacted me to learn more about a few things. First and foremost, they wanted to know the best practices to help a bleeding fish after being hooked in the gill. How long does it take a fish to recover? Finally, does pouring soda on a fish’s bleeding gills actually work?
Thanks for the note Adam; I live in Grand Rapids too, so I definitely wish that I knew a good quick walk-to spot on Pokegama. Friends and acquaintances who use dark houses on Pokegama have told me that they do have random Tulibee sightings on Pokegama. From everything I’ve learned though, populations of them are low and getting in on a “hot bite” will be tricky.
I did a quick check of the MN DNR Fisheries Survey that was conducted in July 2015 to learn their assessment of the tulibee population.
“Tulibees are difficult to sample with our standard summer nets because they frequently school in the open water where our nets are not effective. Catch rates on Pokegama Lake have ranged from 0 to 8.2 fish per gill net but have not been above 0.5/gill since 1984.
The lower catches in recent surveys correspond to the illegal introduction and expansion of Rainbow Smelt before 1984. Rainbow Smelt have been documented to have a negative effect on Tulibee populations. The catch of 0.1 in 2015 was low for lakes like Pokegama.”
As you’d expect, fish species with a low population density in any lake are typically above average size. The DNR report added; “The two sampled fish were 19.3 and 20.0 inches. Some Tulibees were noted in Walleye stomachs.”
In my mind, 19 to 20 inch Tulibees are whoppers, so I’d be pretty happy to catch even just a couple of them. But I know too that most folks expect more action out of fishing trip than that.
Instinctively, I feel like I should direct my attention toward the main basin of the lake and portions of Sherry’s Arm. But looking at the map, there are really only two areas that stand out in terms of walk-in fishing spots. The Golf Course Landing and the Tioga Bay Landing both offer short walks to deep water habitat, click here to enlarge the map. Both areas have potential, but both are unproven to me, I’m only taking an educated guess.
I have a lot of friends who fish Pokegama a lot and maybe one of them will be willing to share a tip or two, if so, I’ll post an update. Otherwise, if you decide to try it, let us know how it goes. Good Luck!
I wish I could tell you that we have a weekend filled with gorgeous fishing weather on tap. But the more often I check the weather forecast, the more boldly rainy weather is predicted.
Let’s just imagine that the forecast is wrong and the weather is dry this weekend. Then you can definitely spend a little more time on the ice. The current ice conditions remain good, colder daytime weather combined with below freezing overnight temperatures have delayed melting this week.
The surfaces of most lakes in north central region are drained dry now, conditions are excellent for walking and if you’re careful, ATV’s as well. But I have not heard of, or seen anyone driving a pickup truck on the ice anywhere this week.
Reports of good perch fishing have come in from Leech Lake, Pike Bay and Bowstring. Crappies and sunfish have been spotty by most accounts, but folks are finding fish. In fact, I received a call yesterday from a friend who says that there are crappies biting on his lake. We are headed there today to find out for ourselves and that will give me a chance for at least one more firsthand update about current ice conditions.
Anybody who cares already knows that folks have been fishing on the Rainy River all week. Even though I’ve seen some nice looking photos of big fish, the reports overall haven’t been all that great. Apparently, anglers are catching large females that have moved into the river early. But the vast majority of fish continue to hold outside of the gap on the big lake.
There are still quite a few folks ice fishing and as of a few days ago, they were reporting 36 inches of ice. Travel conditions are good for ATV’s and I’m told that there is still enough snow to allow for snowmobiles, if you’d choose to travel that way instead. The weather forecast for Baudette actually looks promising for Saturday, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there were robust crowds on the ice.
I'll post one more quick update about ice conditions on Friday morning and after that, I'll wait to see how the weather unfolds this weekend. It appears likely that this will be the last weekend that we can be assured of good ice conditions, but you never know, that could change if it stays dry.
"Crappie fishing remains good to excellent for many anglers targeting them. Early morning seems to be the best time of day to be targeting them, as many anglers report limiting out before 10am. Also anglers that are hole hopping are catching more then anglers that drill and sit. Crappie minnows account for many of the larger crappies, but small plastics and waxies are catching fish too. White, red and orange have been the best colors." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Q) "So, now that we're approaching ice out, when is the best time to fish crappies? I've heard "as soon as the ice goes out". To me that means the day after it goes out. And then I've heard water temps of 55 degrees, which could be a few weeks later. Would you help set the record straight?
A) Frank, the truth is that good crappie fishing can be found both at ice out and also later, as the water warms. The real secret to success lies in knowing where to find them during either of these periods, or any other time of the year for that matter.
The other truth is that for me, this period between ice out and spawning season is the time when I am least likely to succeed consistently at catching crappies. That’s because these nomadic fish come and go so often that it’s hard to always be in the right spot at the right time. That said, there are some rules of thumb that will give you a fighting chance at finding them.
At ice out, as the shallow bays and backwaters of a lake open up, fish will move into them very quickly. In some instances, they don’t even wait until the main body of water is ice free; they make their move into the open waters almost immediately. The problem is that these movements into shallow water don’t usually last very long.
Over the years, I’ve understood this early movement to be a feeding foray. But recently, I’ve been convinced that oxygen levels have as much or more to do with it than does food. As the ice goes out, freshly oxygen replenished water becomes rich with life; temporarily.
Once the entire lake becomes ice free and oxygen is replenished everywhere, then comfort becomes more important. Crappie location will now depend on discovering areas that provide the right combination of food, structure and comfortable water temperatures. Now the fish will move in and out of shallow water whenever conditions favor one location over another.
Warm, stable weather encourages crappies to move toward places like shallow bays, lagoons and boat harbors. On sunny days, woody structure that warms quickly will attract fish, so will dark bottom areas, shallow weed patches and man-made structure like piers and boat docks.
If my goal was to find and catch pre-spawn crappies, I would be very selective about the lake(s) that I choose to fish. They would be small, shallow, land-locked lakes that don’t connect to other lakes via rivers or streams. They would contain high populations of average size crappies; this increases the odds of finding fish.
On the lake, I would search deep water early in the morning and on cool, cloudy days. On sunny days, I’d begin checking shallow water during the warmest periods of the day. At evening, I’d work the breaklines where large, shallow flats lay adjacent to deep water. If I could find cabbage weeds on a flat, I would pay particular attention to them.
I know that still leaves you with an awful lot of variables, but that’s what pre-spawn crappies are; variable.
If you make sure you’re fishing a good lake, keep your search area to a minimum and move diligently between likely fishing territories, you definitely will become more consistent. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
On April 1, Joe Kerstetter wrote; “Good Morning Mr. Sundin. I’m looking at making one last run out ice fishing. My target area is Round Lake in squaw lake area and some of the surrounding lakes. You have given a report for that area in the past. Do you know how well the ice conditions are in that area and if it even worth the trip. I’d like to try to make it my final trip of the year. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated."
A) Joe, Ice thickness on area lakes now ranges between 20 & 26 inches, snow cover is almost completely melted and the surface of most lakes is now dry. So over the next few days, there will be plenty of ice out on the lakes. The only limitation will be whether or not the landings remain useable.
The accompanying photo was taken at the north landing on Round Lake on March 29, 2019. As you can see, the ramp had deteriorated a little, but it still wasn’t too bad. At that time, the parking lot was almost full, there might have been 8 or 9 rigs parked there. There were also several rigs parked at the south landing, but because of mud and traffic, I did not drive down to the landing to examine it.
There was nobody travelling on the lake using pickup trucks; they were all driving ATV’s. All of the fishing traffic was concentrated in a small area and anyone who was willing to walk, could have found numerous places to fish in complete privacy.
It’s been cold since then, temperatures have been below freezing much of the time, so conditions have not changed much.
At right, you'll see another photo taken at Splithand Lake near Grand Rapids yesterday, April 1, 2019. The two lakes are very similar in depth, water color and structures. Based on those similarities, I do think that you’ll be able to find ice that’s stable enough for fishing this weekend. But judging by the weather forecast for later this week, I’d say that conditions at the landings are gonna get sloppy this weekend.
High temperatures above 50 degrees on Friday and approaching 60 degrees on Saturday will surely soften the ice and make muddy conditions at landings. If I was planning a trip, I’d try to move it up so that I could arrive here before the weekend. If that isn’t possible, then I’d make walking, rather than ATV's part of my master plan for travel. I’m not saying that you shouldn't bring your 4-wheeler along, I’m just saying that you should have a "Plan B" to fish lakes where travel on foot is a good option.
I’ll be posting a weekend outlook on Thursday, and maybe I can include the Squaw Lake area in my loop, so stay tuned. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"On the south end, good walleye and pike reports for the last week of March. The last day to leave fish houses on the lake overnight unattended was March 31. Some anglers still ice fishing with collapsible houses.
Pike action still hot and pre-spawn fish have the feedbag on. 12' hot depth with live sucker minnows or deadbait on quick strike rigs. Walleyes open through April 14, pike season open continuous. Auger extensions needed.
On the Rainy River, it's game on for open water walleye and sturgeon fishing. Boat ramps at Birchdale and Frontier open. More open water on river daily. Big fish being caught. Jigging with a minnow or plastic working well. Some trolling crankbaits with success. Lots of sturgeon. Remember, catch and release only for walleyes through April 14.
Catch and release for sturgeon through April 23rd with the keep season starting April 24th.
Up at the NW Angle, a few anglers still ice fishing. Walleyes coming from 14-22'. Saugers and jumbo perch mixed in. Some big pike being caught as well. This time of year, call ahead to resort for daily info and ice conditions." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Western reservoirs offer great walleye fishing and April is a great time to get started. That makes this a great time to join Fish Ed host Jon Thelen as he heads to the Missouri River system to fish with guest Jim Klages for early season walleye.
Jon and Jim detail how to fish a Lindy Rig in a non-traditional way. Most anglers think of moving slow, .5-.8 miles per hour when Lindy Rigging, but today Jon shows you how to ..." View Video >> Missouri River, Early Season Lindy Rigging For Walleyes
On Saturday, we drove over to the Fosston area where we met up with my friend Bob Bohland and his father in law, Ron Rupp. Crappie fishing was the plan and based on Bob’s past experiences, the timing should have been perfect. But on this trip, crappies were tough to come by. Instead, it was bluegills that commanded our attention on this trip.
As you see in the photos, the ice conditions were perfect for either walking or for driving an ATV. Almost all of the snow cover was gone and the surface was dry. Except for a very small patch of shallow water located at the access ramp, there was no sign of standing water anywhere on the lake.
I and Austin jones arrived first and decided to start walking toward the fishing spot rather than wait for Bob to arrive with his ATV. Walking was about as easy as it gets, the surface of the ice was coarse and crunchy and our footing was secure. Both of us had cleats on and they helped prevent slipping when we walked across the shiny spots.
By the time we drilled our first holes, we found about 24 inches of ice. But it was not solid ice, in most areas where we drilled; it was already saturated with water. My auger delivered fairly large chunks of ice mixed with water to the surface. In some areas, there was a thin top layer of re-frozen ice over the top of a slush covered “main” ice sheet.
In Bohland’s judgement, that’s why there weren’t any anglers on the lake. “As soon as they roads go bad and folks can’t drive out in pickup trucks, almost everybody quit fishing. That’s just the way it works out here”; he said. For me, it was odd to out on a beautiful Saturday and have nobody else around, but I guess it gave us lots of room to work.
During the morning, we struggled to find any consistent action. Most of the fish we marked were perch and most of them were small. Ron was picking up some decent bluegills, but only occasionally. It was hard to say if our timing was bad, or if we simply hadn’t found the fish yet.
If it had been colder outside, we may have done a lot better, a lot faster; let me explain.
All morning long we had been fishing outside under the bright sunshine. But by mid-afternoon, my daughter Annalee and the Hippie Chick were coming to join us. The girls “don’t do cold” and that meant it was time for me to set up the portable fishing shelter. Once ours was set up, Bob figured that he might as well set up his portable too and that’s what led to a discovery.
I heard Bob’s voice from inside the dark shelter; “you’ve gotta come see this, it’s crazy! There are dozens of fish right under the ice, they’re only a foot down and they’re everywhere.”
We couldn’t see those fish under the bright sunshine, but inside the dark shelters it was easy. Most of them were sunfish, but sometimes a school of crappies moved in too. The Hippie Chick; “I was so mesmerized by watching those pretty black and gold crappies come up to look at my bait, that setting the hook slipped my mind. Sometimes I watched them take the whole lure into their mouth and spit it back out before I remembered that I was supposed to try and catch them.”
Knowing where the fish were helped, but the bright conditions made triggering strikes difficult. I’d say that we had to see a dozen fish before one of them would strike. But even if they didn’t all bite, seeing them constantly made the trip really fun and we did catch enough fish to provide Bob’s family with a nice fish fry.
Whether or not the fish in your favorite lake will be riding this high in the water column depends on oxygen levels. Not all lakes suffer from oxygen depletion during late winter. But if you believe that the lake you fish does, then remember to check for high riding fish. As snow melts and the water drains, oxygen is replenished in the area just below the surface; that’s why the fish show up there.
I’m looking at the weather forecast for the week and it looks like you should be able to fish if you want to. I’ll be out and about, checking conditions and maybe fishing a little bit more myself, so watch for updates. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Oh, and if you’d like a more detailed explanation about the affects of oxygen depletion during late winter, refer to the report I wrote earlier this winter. >> Is Bowstring Lake Affected By Oxygen Depletion?