Travel conditions on area lakes are very favorable for snowmobiles and ATV’s. With light snow cover and continued cold temperatures travel by light truck is fast becoming an option too, but caution is advised.
Unfortunately, ice ridges and cracking are going to be of major concern on around the Itasca Region this weekend. The dramatic drop in temperatures that forced lakes into an instant transformation from open water to ice also caused the production of uneven, unstable ice sheets.
Over the past few days, I’ve seen ice ridges cropping up in many places and the more temperatures fluctuate, the more dramatic the shifting will be. In other words, even if there’s enough ice for driving, you may not be able to travel freely to your destination.
On Bowstring Lake, the pressure ridge that blocked the Northwest landing on Tuesday was knocked down by either a user, or by one of the rental operators on the lake. On Wednesday, there were some wheel houses on the lake and I saw the first pickup truck driving on the lakes mid-section too.
Crappie fishing reports on Bowstring have been good for most folks and we found decent action up there too. I can’t say that the action was outstanding, but for us, it was good enough.
We found fish in typical early winter locations, 23 to 26 feet deep along the breakline edges. The fish traveled in very small packs, even single fish. The interesting part was that they were active; typically any sighting resulted in a strike.
Larger fish apparently preferred spoons over small jigs. The Quiver Spoon, tipped with 3 wax worms that I was using attracted fewer fish, but the average size was better than the fish caught on a Tungsten Toad tipped with a single wax worm.
On Lake Winnie, Perch action has no boundary, but Perch size does. Small fish are biting like crazy and can be caught easily. Larger fish, let’s say anything over 9 inches are few and far between, at least for the moment.
Walleye fishermen are experiencing the typical early morning, late evening flurry of action. The average catch rate has been low, 4 to 8 fish per house is about what you can expect during the prime time bite. Daytime fishing for Walleye on Winnibigoshish is slow, catch rates of 1 to 2 fish per trip is a reasonable expectation for daytime anglers.
There are some decent Pike being taken by Darkhouse fishermen, numbers though are not high.
If your travel plans include a trip to Lake of the Woods this, it’s a good idea to double check your access to the areas you plan to fish.
Most Lake of the Woods rental operators were prepared for weekend traffic and most had already announced open travel for ½ ton trucks that were not trailering wheel houses. Some of them are backtracking though and roads that were already open may now be closed to light trucks for the upcoming weekend.
An announcement from Cyrus Resorts says; “Due to the fluctuating temperatures and the condition of our ice road, we have closed our road to all vehicles. We are NO LONGER allowing mid-size SUVs out and we have put back in place our restrictions on wheelhouse size.”
This announcement doesn’t mean that every operator on the lake has followed suit. I’m assuming that all of them are working like crazy to clear roads right now because since the storm, reports about current progress have slowed to a trickle. For me, that means that they are likely out on the lake working rather than checking their emails on the computer.
12-29-16 A note from Brian Spieker came over the Fishing Reports Minnesota page on Monday says; "Mille Lacs Lake, in selected bays has 6-8" ice houses already out shallow in bays mostly spearing, some angling... Caution advised. use of snowmobiles seen but... not yet recommended as there have been gaps in the ice as wide as 40+ inches was out yesterday to pull the house off due to rain but the bite is excellent bass panfish & pike limits an occasional walleye.
Have been on Big Pine also (Otter Tail County), it's insane; Pike taking just about anything, a couple of them were over 28". Crappie are steady but not real fantastic.
A brief update from Brian came in this morning; "Just saw Mille Lacs yesterday ATVs and small compact cars were on the ice. Steady pike and panfish at 10-15 ft some as big as 28", there were no fresh Walleye reports."
Lindy Land Feature Article "First-Ice Walleyes Now We're Talking!"
As cool weather finally cloaks lakes around the Midwest in a welcome sheet of ice, anglers eagerly gear up for their first hardwater forays of the season.
"Fishing has been very good in the Edge of the Wilderness area as of late. Crappies continue to cooperate with anglers fishing the smaller lakes. The ice on the big lakes can vary quite a bit. Ice thicknesses of anywhere from six to twelve inches have been reported along with a few cracks and pressure ridges, which although small in size right now, can still be dangerous. I’ve spotted a few cracks with a small amount of water on top of the ice on the big lake I usually fish. Caution is still advised but for the most part the ice is safe. There can be some slush found along the shorelines as well. This will be mainly where the strong winds of the past several days have piled up the snow. The Walleye bite has been fair. Pike fishing has been good with most anglers using tip-ups and a sucker minnow. Weather wise, this weekend is looking good as far as on the ice conditions go. Light winds and above zero temperatures should make this weekend a must go for ice anglers. The tackle department and Bait shop are fully stocked with everything you need for a successful outing. Be sure to drop by when you’re in the area and don’t forget the Sporting Goods and Gift Shop Sale on now. See you on the ice and Have a Great Weekend and a Happy New Year Everyone!"
Frontier Sports features a complete and fully stocked Sporting Goods department and Bait Shop, Gas, Grocery, Deli and Gift Shop. Frontier Sports is an authorized LIVE TARGET and SAVAGE GEAR dealer. Frontier Sports 218-832-3901 or Email .
"Conditions on the lake are off to a good start. We have 12-13 inches of ice in front of the resort and a little more on the South end of the lake with only a couple of inches of snow on top. The news from the grapevine is that the North end of the lake has much less ice. In fact, about half the thickness of the South end. Use caution if you plan to fish the area.
We now have the Day Houses set for both spearing and angling. It is still very early to report consistent fishing trends. Over the weekend during the storm, marking fish was easy, but the biters were reluctant. Most fishermen reported in as slow to medium action. Perhaps the barometer had a negative effect.
About 20 years ago I frequented a bait shop that had a 100 gallon aquarium built into the front counter. The tank was stocked with small (no bigger than your hand) fresh water game fish. Large Mouth Bass, Crappie, Blue Gill and a couple of Suckers for good measure.
Now being a bait shop, the owner always had minnows in the tank and the fish fed at free will just as if they were in the wild. Occasionally I would go into pick up tackle or bait and notice that the inhabitance of the tank were resting on their belly’s on the bottom of the tank nearly motionless.
One time I asked the owner if the fish were sick or picked up a bug? The owner pointed to a barometer on the wall and said; when the barometer falls like this especially if it falls fast, the pressure change shocks the fish for a day or two until they can get air bladders fully adjusted.
When you think about how it might apply to ice fishing, the barometer is probably the most significant disruption under the ice that takes place. There are no waves and the temperature is fairly consistent. Beyond that there is just day light and night in the underworld.
I never forgot that experience and when I can, I try and pick my fishing days with a stable barometer or just before a low pressure system arrives. It’s ice fishing time...." - Gus Sheker, Gus' Place Resort 1-888-246-8520
I love Walleyes and fishing for them, so was really nice to spend a couple of days on Upper Red Lake in hot pursuit of them. But if there’s anything that lights up my Christmas tree, it is the sight of the first Crappie pushing its nose past 6 inches of clear, early season ice. On Thursday afternoon, we wrapped up our trip to Red Lake just early enough to head south and take a short walk onto a tiny Panfish lake.
"I KNOW what you're thinking, where has that boy been, what is he up to and how come we haven't seen any pictures from the ice? Well I've been on a top secret mission for the past few days and I hope you can understand; I've been a little bit out of the loop.
Get enlisted as an official, duly sworn Cub Reporter! Helping your fellow ice fishermen and women stay abreast of the ice conditions in your area is easy and it's good for fishing; that's good for everybody!
If there’s anything that will erase all doubt about the availability of good ice, I think that a week of single digit temperatures fits the bill. In fact, I think that this cold snap is about to change the outcome of the entire ice fishing season.
For a little while, freeze up was actually falling behind the pace of the 2015 ice season. But check last year’s ice report archives and you’ll see that Mother Nature is making up for lost time, gaining fast on the slow pace she set last year.
On Monday, there were numerous ice reports from anglers, most commonly agreeing that ice now ranges in thickness between 4 and 6 inches. With a week of single digit highs and subzero lows, we’ll easily be looking at 10 inches of ice or more by this time next week. For an excellent article about how fast ice forms, read the article >> Lake Ice from a recreational perspective
As usual, Upper Red Lake is getting the most attention from Walleye anglers, all of the accesses are open, ice thickness ranges between 7 and 11 inches and now anglers have begun to roam the lake using ATV’s. Walleye fishing reports are not fabulous though, most folks say that the water is murky and fishing is slow. Somebody always catches fish though and there are good reports from anglers who fish the right spots at the rights times.
On Lake of the Woods, some of the accesses are opening today, some will be delayed for a couple more days; all of them will be open for ATV and snowmobile travel this weekend.
Locally, anglers are just beginning to get the idea to sniff around on Panfish lakes. Larger lakes like Winnie and Leech are firming up and there were a handful of reports from ice fishermen sticking close to the shoreline on Leech Lake. The evening run of Walleyes along the southwest side of Leech was good on Monday, hopefully this sets the stage for a productive season.
Bowstring Lake, Geiger's Trails End Resort Christmas Gift Offer
Christmas is almost here and just for you, we’re offering a special Christmas gift this year.
Geiger's Trails End Gift Offer
Refer a friend for their first-time stay at Trails End Resort in 2017 and on your next stay, we’ll credit you 20% of the value of your friend’s reservation!
Ice Fishing Electronics - "Cleaning Up Your Fish Finders Image"
A lot of fishermen have anxiety when it comes to how to use electronics when fishing. Maybe anxiety is not the right word, but they are just overwhelmed with all the settings, so they end up doing nothing except turning the graphs on and off. Luckily for anglers, the technology ... Read Story >> CLEAN UP YOUR FISH FINDER'S IMAGE
Now that the weekend has passed and you’re back to work, conditions for hoofing it to the ice hole are shaping up to be almost ideal.
Photo Courtesy Chester Powell who made it out onto a Bemidji area lake this weekend.
This morning there are widespread reports of ice thicknesses ranging between 2 and 6 inches in north central Minnesota’s Itasca Region. Even some anglers are tip-toeing out to test their luck on select southern Minnesota lakes. Further north, on the Canadian side of the border there are already pictures of anglers driving on 12 inches of ice.
We’re a few days away from driving much of anything onto our lakes, but these single digit temperatures can make an inch of ice every day, maybe more. By next weekend, you’ll be able to fish almost anywhere with the exception of super deep lakes that resist freezing until after Christmas.
On Upper Red Lake, there were a few private accesses open on Saturday. Almost all of the rest are scheduled to be open today and it wouldn’t be any surprise to hear about ATV travel on the Mega Lake over the next couple of days.
Over the weekend, Chester Powell, Fred’s Bait wrote; “I made it out today on 4" of good ice. Took a lot of drilling but managed to find the crappies. They were a little touchy to get to bite but a great way to start the ice season. The Bemidji area has 2-6 inches of ice, check as you go for sure.” – Chester
On Lake of the Woods, rental operators are shooting for this Friday to begin their season. They have some rough ice to deal with up there; the snow that fell into the lake two weeks ago formed huge snowballs that froze semi-solid. They are working now on smoothing out pathways that lead into areas where travel on smoother ice is possible.
Many of you may not realize it, but that tradition almost came to a screeching halt this year and without serious intervention, this note could have been to lament the passing of an era for anglers on Winnibigoshish.
Luckily, that’s not the case and the folks at Dixon Lake Resort asked us all to pass on a note of thanks to the folks that helped keep the access road open.
They wrote; “A big thank you to all of you that stepped up to make this happen. An especially huge thank you to Jorden Miller, from Rick Nolan’s Office, Senators Tom Saxhaug, Tom Anzelc and everyone that put pen to paper, or made a few phone calls to spread the word. Thank you also to Karen Lessard and Darla Lenz form the Forestry Office for your help to get this road open to the public and to us as a resort.”
A note to anglers using the road, please do your best to cooperate with the forestry’s request that we park our vehicles out on the ice as soon as the ice allows. With the temps remaining in the single digits this should not take long.
Finally, Dixon Lake added a fishing report from the weekend; “We have 5 inches of ice out there and there’s a little snow on the ice. The water could be a little clearer, and we started a little later then we had hoped. All things considered, it’s been a great start to the fishing season. - Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. Reservations 218-659-4612
No, I wasn’t surprised that almost every shallow lake I looked at on Saturday was ice covered, that wasn’t any big news. I wasn’t even too surprised by seeing larger, deeper water lakes like Splithand, Shallow and Moose covered with ice either; but Pokegama, seriously?
There's no doubt that if you want to, you can find enough ice to fish on this weekend. However, most of it will not be available in the Grand Rapids area.
On Thursday, the list of ice covered lakes in my home area grew slightly, but so far I’ve only found one with enough ice to support my weight. The ice on the others looks pretty, but one step off of the shoreline and the thin ice collapses. I know, that was yesterday and the ice could already be an inch thicker this morning. Maybe so, but for the moment, let’s not get too excited about be the first ones to drill a hole, let’s play it safe.
Outside of the Grand Rapids area, where fast freezing prairie lakes and lakes with shallow basins are more abundant, ice is forming faster. Western Minnesota, Southern Minnesota, Upper Red Lake, everywhere that you find shallow water lakes, opportunity is growing. In fact, by Thursday evening, it was common to view home brewed video clips of eager anglers punching holes in 3 to 4 inches of fresh ice.
The theme most of them had in common was that they planned to fish this weekend. There were a handful of anglers who have already recorded their first ice trip into their log books.
The last thing that I would ever do is to send you out on the ice without knowing that it was relatively safe. I do not want to get a phone call from your widow's lawyer either, so I am not recommending foot travel on any of the Itasca area lakes this weekend.
That said, there are going to be people venturing out and if you’re chomping at the bit to be the first one on your favorite shallow lake, then you probably should schedule some time to drive over and check it out for yourself this weekend.
For the next few days, conditions will be changing faster than I can keep up with them. So it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you drop me a line with an occasional update; I’ll do the same for you.
"I have been looking for a new sonar for ice fishing that has GPS. I noticed you included the Hummingbird Ice Helix 7 on your fishing report on Thursday. If the GPS works just like the Hummingbird I have in my boat I know it will be good. One thing I had heard about the Helix 5 is it has a hard time picking fish up right on the bottom when compared to the traditional flashers. Would you be able to comment on this?
A) Steve, it’s ironic that you’re asking today about the Helix Ice 7 because as it happens, I just ordered one for myself from Cabela’s last night.
There’s more than one way to answer your specific question about the history of bottom separation using the Helix 5 and I hope that you won’t think that my answer is too over-simplified. But in a nutshell, I can’t honestly say that I’ve paid attention to this. I can’t say that I’ve noticed because it really doesn’t matter to me whether I can pick up an image that’s 2 inches off of the bottom or not.
If you’ve watched any of the videos that I’ve done with Fish Ed over the past few years, then you probably recall that I try to avoid going toe to toe with most bottom hugging fish. I don't target those flickering wads of nuisance targets that most often consist of tiny fish combined with lethargic, non-biting gamefish. For me, any fish worth catching can be coaxed upward and will gravitate well above the bottom where it can be easily viewed on virtually any decent ice machine.
What I will say is that you’re about to enter a whole new world of ice fishing. Yes, the GPS alone will be a real time saver and alone would make the purchase worthwhile. But once you try fishing with the Helix in graph mode, you will be giving yourself the V8 head slap; why I didn’t do this sooner, you’ll ask.
Several years ago, I wrote this article about rigging up a Humminbird model 788 for ice fishing and it was during that time that I convinced myself that for me, “flashers” had become obsolete. These days I run my ice units in graph mode virtually 100% of the time and I have never felt for a second that I’ve missed out on any action due to issues with target separation. Additionally, I feel like I can pick out individual fish, follow them on the screen and present my lures more efficiently that I ever could with any flasher.
Over the past several years I’ve used almost every ice unit that Humminbird has offered. They’ve all been good, easy to use and most importantly reliable. Each new offering has been better than the one that preceded it and I’ve never been disappointed. As I wait for my new Helix 7 to arrive, I anticipate that like all of the other Humminbird ice units that I’ve used, the 7 will take my ice fishing to another new, higher level.
Knowing that your new ice unit will also double as a dandy summertime portable, I don’t know why you’d want to delay. Go ahead, get it ordered before your lakes freeze up; you won’t be disappointed.
Zebra mussel larvae confirmed in Leech Lake December 9, 2016
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has confirmed zebra mussels in their larval stage in two locations in Leech Lake in Cass County. The DNR has found no adult zebra mussels in the lake, but the locations and numbers of zebra mussel larvae, called veligers (VEL-uh-jers), indicate a reproducing population may be present.
The DNR confirmed more than 30 veligers from a sample collected in deep water off the shore of Portage Bay, on the northeast side of the 110,000-acre lake, and more than 40 veligers from a sample collected in the center of Kabekona Bay, on Leech Lake’s western edge. No veligers were present in samples collected from three other sites between Portage and Kabekona bays. The two sites where veligers were confirmed are nearly 17 miles apart.
The DNR Fisheries section collected the samples as part of their Lake Survey Program, which proactively gathers and analyzes samples from the 11 largest lakes in Minnesota every year. Leech Lake is the third-largest lake in the state.
Portage Bay is within the Leech Lake Reservation; Kabekona Bay is not. The DNR will work with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the Leech Lake Association, property owners and local governments to conduct a broader search and discuss options.
People should contact an area DNR aquatic invasive species specialist if they think they’ve found zebra mussels or any other invasive species that has not already been confirmed in a lake.
Best Big Fish Catches of 2016
"Who doesn’t love stories and photos of big fish catches? Here are the most noteworthy of 2016. There’s something simply magical about huge ... Read >> Best Big Fish Catches of 2016
On Wednesday, persistent snow and strong winds helped me decide that safety was more important than driving on the icy the back roads of Itasca County. I’m sure that we didn’t miss much in the way of breaking news, but there were a few tidbits coming in via text.
The snow did begin adding body to the surface water of Lake Winnibigoshish. The photo, delivered courtesy of Bowen Lodge on Wednesday, shows the forming of the earliest ice pack on the big lake. Even though it’s not really ice yet, the mass of heavy slush that covers Bowen Flats will freeze easily over the next few days.
On Upper Red Lake, numerous reports of freeze up are making their rounds on the social networks. The gigantic lake probably hasn’t completely frozen from shore to shore, but observers did provide photos of ice cover from the south shore. From their vantage point, the ice is all that can be seen and there’s no sign of open water.
Advisories are popping up about allowing foot traffic this weekend on Red Lake. Without a firsthand look at the conditions, I can’t endorse the idea, but I’m sure that there will be some folks hoofing it to the breakline sooner, rather than later. I fully expect to see photos of somebody out there before days end this Saturday.
Closer to home, calmer, colder weather is on tap for the weekend and that’s all it will take to add dozens of Itasca area lakes to the “freeze up list”. Travel conditions look much better for today too and that means that I’ll have a better chance of getting on the road for a firsthand look at some more lakes.
Meantime, the scene in my own neighborhood was an optimistic one yesterday evening. The skating rink at the La Prairie City Park was being flooded and with the frozen base in place, there will soon be solid ice for neighborhood skaters.
Finally, a call to action for all of you “Cub Reporters” out there; if you’re near the water, snap a photo and let us see what the ice looks like in your neighborhood. >> EMAIL
The added waiting time for freeze up might well be worth the trouble this season. There’s been close to 20 inches of snowfall over the past two weeks and if that would have landed on thin ice, we’d have a real mess on our hands right now. Give me the choice between having early ice that turns wet and slushy under deep snow vs a late freeze up that yields stronger, clear ice and I can be the most patient man in the whole wide world.
For me, that tradeoff is simple, but I understand if you’re chomping at the bit for news about any fishable ice. That’s why despite my patience, I have been out and about looking for early signs of any opportunity to test the ice.
On Monday, I heard the first rumblings about ice fishermen who had supposedly found a spot to walk out and fish. Those second hand reports piqued my interest, so I spent extra time driving the back roads on Tuesday looking at some of the obvious places where they may have started. That road trip yielded no fresh information about “fishable” ice, but signs of freeze up are getting easier to find.
I did drive by two lakes that were frozen, and if they weren’t private, they may have provided an early opportunity for a walk. Without public access though, I will never really know. There were also a couple of smaller lakes on the east side of Grand Rapids that were almost frozen. Each of them was covered with pure white snow and each of them sported masses of grey, wet snow spanning the deepest portion of their deepest basins.
I’m sure that there are lots of other small, nearly frozen waters. But except for those small lakes, every other body of water I saw during my tour was still wide open.
Further north, there are numerous rumors about Upper Red Lake being ready for foot travel this weekend. It wouldn’t be any surprise and I’m guessing that chatter on the social media pages about Red Lake will begin in earnest this weekend.
Fresh in from the St. Paul Ice Show and settling back in to my humble abode in beautiful La Prairie, MN.
Greeted by a couple of inches of fresh snow, I’ll need to do some cleanup before I can take a tour of the area to check for developing ice. So the reconnaissance is slated for later this afternoon.
Before I do either of those things though, I want to say thank you to everyone who stopped by the Lindy Booth at the ice show. Naturally, it’s gratifying for me personally when I meet folks who share kind words about these reports. And I really like hearing from those of you who took note of my “cameo appearances” as Jon Thelen’s occasional sidekick on the Fish Ed programs too.
Beyond that though, it’s especially gratifying for me to overhear folks talking with Jon, sharing their support for the Fish ED program and for the Lindy Fishing Tackle brand. Lindy's newest ice fishing products, the Lindy Wally Talker and the Lindy Quiver Spoon literally flew off the retailers’ shelves at the show, many of them selling out before the end of the day on Saturday.
In my support role, I get an inside look at how hard everyone works to bring you top quality products and the information that allows you to become accomplished at using them. Your support of those efforts constitutes the highest compliment anyone could hope for. I am sure that everyone at Lindy would agree with me when I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for tuning in, stopping by and giving our lures a try!
Now that I’m home, this week’s focus will be driving the back roads looking for signs of freeze up and as soon as I see, you’ll be the first to know.
Before I hit the road for the St. Paul Ice Show, one quick note about ice conditions in the Grand Rapids area. There aren't many frozen lakes this morning, but I think that the ice is going to sneak up on us this year.
|And ... did you know that Jeff's Thursday Morning Program is available for two weeks after the air date? Yes, you'll never need to miss the show. Click the image and then select the 6:00 hour on Thursday. Scroll in to about 6:20 AM and you're in business!|