More and more anglers are turning their attention to trout fishing than ever before. Some impressive catches are coming out of the areas trout lakes. Small dark jigs tipped with a wax worm have been working well in the early morning hours, and as the day progresses, larger spoons such as VMC tingler and Tumbler spoons along with Kastmasters and Swedish Pimples are working well. Some folks are tipping the spoons with wax worms, salted minnows or in some cases the new soft plastics, with equal success. Staying mobile can really up your chances of connecting as these fish seem to roam over quite a large area instead of staging on structure. It has been best to start shallow and then move deeper as the day progresses. Lake trout have been fairly active, but many reports are of smaller fish in the three to six pound range. White tubes, spoons, Chubby Darters and Jigging Raps worked through the entire water column have been doing the trick some area lakes as well as ciscoes fished right near or on the bottom have been taking lakers up to ten pounds.
Spearing northern pike has been steadily making a comeback in the North Country lakes, and this winters ice conditions are ideal for taking these brutes. Large suckers or artificial decoys have been drawing these denizens to the hole like kids to a candy store. Any of the lakes surrounding the Ely area can produce some bragging size fish. Try the weed edges as most of the underwater plants remain green due to light snow and ice cover. As long as the plants stay green they will hold both the forage fish and the predators.
Crappie action remains good. Hole-hopping is still the best way to reach a limit of slabs. Mobile anglers appear to be taking the lion's share of the fish. Small spoons like Lindy Frostees, and Northland Forage minnows are tailor made for the run and gun fishermen. Buckshot flutter spoons are beginning to make their mark as a go-to bait for larger crappies, and can be fished alone, or tipped with a minnow head or a few wax worms hung from the trebles.
Ice conditions remain unstable for vehicular traffic other than sleds or four wheelers, and slush pockets are beginning to show up throughout the various lakes in the region. Some lakes have minimal ice roads, but use extreme caution when venturing off of them.
Trout action remains good throughout the area. Good numbers of rainbows and splake are turning up. We have also received reports of rainbows and brook trout dominating the scene with some exceeding twenty-two inches. Lake trout are still pleasing some anglers from local lakes, although some are on the small side of less than five pounds. This is a good indicator that trout are reproducing, but does little for the morale of anglers in search of trophy size fish.
People have still been spearing northern pike in the area. The limited ice thickness has prolonged the season and helped anglers connect on pike up to forty-two inches.
Walleye anglers are still struggling to find limits of keepers. Many small fish in the six to ten inch range are common, but weeding through them enables you to come home with at least a couple for dinner. Minnows fished under a bobber right on the bottom has produced the best results.
Some nice crappie catches have come in. It's still a good idea to drill as you go on local lakes as ice thickness has varied considerably.
Trout season opener was a success for many anglers on area lakes. Several local trout lakes had folks hooking up with lakers up to ten pounds. Some of the smaller stream trout lakes were producing good numbers of rainbows and splake as well. Some nice brook trout have responded to salted minnows and gold colored spoons. Rainbows were hitting small, dark jigs tipped with wax worms high up in the water column and the splake were smashing small bright spoons a bit deeper.
The ice thickness is somewhat variable. Most lakes have at least nine inches of ice, which is fine for four wheelers and snowmobiles, but it will take a bit more time for the ice to support full size vehicle traffic. Please note that although you may see permanent ice fishing shacks out on the lakes, they have been pulled out by means other than large trucks.
Walleye fishermen are still connecting with some decent size fish while using minnows in water from twelve to twenty feet. The exception to this is that anglers searching for lake trout have been connecting with some bigger walleyes while targeting lakers down to seventy feet.
Crappie and sunnies are co-operating to in relatively shallow water probably due to the weed growth still standing there. Light penetration has been excellent with the limited ice and lack of snow, so weeds should continue to thrive for some time yet. Northern pike are cruising these shallows too, and have been readily taking suckers fished under a tip-up.
With the onset of sub-zero temperatures, the anticipation is building all around northeast Minnesota for the stream and lake trout opener on the 16th. While ice thickness levels still vary widely, the continued cold spell should produce relatively good ice for travel by snowmobiles and ATVs, but may fall short for autos and trucks on the larger, deeper lakes. Check with local fishermen or bait shops for daily ice reports before heading out, and even then it is prudent to drill some test holes as you go just to be safe.
Walleye and pike fishermen are reporting decent catches on most area lakes, with the lion’s share of fish being taken during early morning and late afternoon. Walleyes are snapping up lively minnows on a dead stick as well as small spoons or jigs tipped with a minnow head. Consider changing your live bait often as the action of the bait triggers the best response. If your bobber is not dancing around the hole, it is time to change your bait. It's easy to become complacent when it's cold out. Packing up and moving around when it’s frigid gets to be a chore, but if you haven't been catching fish, it's time to move.
Some crappie and sunnie anglers are having success. The smaller lakes that hold good numbers of panfish are beginning to see more traffic as the ice builds. The crappies are responding well to live minnows, while sunnies are readily taking tiny jigs tipped with wax worms. Tungsten jigs are really producing well as they have a rapid sink rate compared to similar sized lead head jigs. They are slightly higher in price compared to lead, but for only a few cents more per jig the cost difference is negligible.
As always, consider no ice to be completely safe. Drill as you go and carry safety gear with you that include ice picks, a life jacket and a good length of rope. Never travel alone this early in the season.
More and more anglers are venturing out on the ice recently, but we recommend that anyone going out to drill as you go. Many lakes are sporting 9" of decent ice but it varies widely across any expanse. Deeper lakes such as our area trout lakes have only 4" of ice presently and with the onset of the cold spell this weekend we should see that number grow, provided we don't receive too much snow to insulate them.
Many anglers are having success chasing walleyes, pike, sunnies and crappies, and those numbers should increase as more fishermen head out over the next week or so.
As always, consider no ice to be safe. This is the time of year to take a life jacket, ice picks, and a good length of rope as standard equipment, and it's prudent to travel in pairs, keeping well apart from one another.
Smaller local lakes have been giving up decent numbers of sunnies and crappies and have near 9" of ice. Larger lakes are producing walleyes and pike but most travel is relegated to the bays, staying clear of any water inlets.
With the recent cold snap the ice has been building on area lakes. While most anglers have been concentrating on the smaller lakes which have been sporting five to six inches of ice, some of the larger lakes such as Shagawa and Fall Lake, are beginning to see much the same. Mid lake thickness still remains too thin to safely travel; however, the bays have decent ice on them. Walleyes, pike, and perch have been the target species, and have been coming through the holes in moderate numbers. Walleyes have responded well to Northland Buckshot Spoons tipped with a minnow head and the pike are taking suckers readily.
The continued cold temps should see some ice building over the next week or so as nighttime temps hover in the single digits. As always though, please do not consider any ice at this time "safe". Use the buddy system when venturing out and stay well apart from each other. Use a spud bar or chisel to check the ice as you go. It's always a good idea to carry ice picks, a life jacket, and a good length of rope in the event someone should break through. There are no fish out there worth risking your life over.
Anglers are having some success chasing sunnies and crappies in the smaller, shallow lakes in the area. Northern pike are on the menu for those willing to walk out on the frozen bays. Use caution with ice conditions, as some lakes may have five to six inches of ice on bays, but some parts of the lakes remain open. Some of the larger lakes are frozen across, but only have two inches of ice at the landings, which is not thick enough to walk on. Those who feel they must venture out are strongly advised to test the ice often as you proceed, and by all means wear a life jacket and carry a set of picks with you. There's no fish out there worth risking submersion in these frigid waters, it could be deadly.
Now is a good time to get all of your gear organized and in proper working order. Fire up the auger, charge the flasher and camera batteries and put some new line on the reels. More ice is on the way.
The ice fishing season is off to a slow start due to the lack of cold temperatures and ice cover. Some folks are still managing to venture out on shallow bays and smaller, shallower lakes though, and have been met with moderate success. Northern pike have been the primary targets, although some impressive catches of crappies and sunnies have been reported. Pike in the forty inch range have succumbed to large suckers fished under a tip-up, and the crappies are readily slurping down smaller minnows fished in and around existing weed beds. The fish will remain in these areas as long as the minimal snow cover allows enough light penetration to keep the weeds alive. Once the cover increases these fish will travel to deeper water where oxygen levels remain higher as the weeds begin to die off.
As always, consider no ice to be safe and check ice thickness regularly as you move about. A good ice chisel or spud bar is a must for poking at the ice as you move along. Four inches of ice is the recommended minimum for foot travel, so leave the four wheelers and sleds in the garage until a uniform six to eight inches of ice is present. Be cautious and never travel alone when on early ice.
Ice conditions remain less than desirable for this time of year, however there are still some folks pushing their luck and heading out on the smaller lakes and shallow bays. Those who have ventured out report moderate success with northern pike and panfish, so to them it's well worth the risk. We, however, do not recommend going out without a high level of awareness and all of the safety gear required for these conditions. There's safety in numbers, so it's best not to travel out alone, and even then, let someone know where you're heading and what time you expect to return. Safety cleats, ice picks, long spud bar or chisel, long length or rope and most importantly, a life jacket. The life jacket can be replaced these days with a couple of more comfortable options. Recently more and more anglers are using the inflatable suspenders that can be worn comfortably under your outer wear and automatically inflate when submerged, or can be inflated manually. Another great option is the flotation suit. Several manufacturers are entering the market which is bringing the cost of a good cold weather suit that has flotation built right in. Where just a few years ago these suits cost over a thousand dollars, now they're on the market for just a few hundred. A small price to pay for something that can and will save your life.
Keep these ideas in mind and apply them. It will not only make you feel secure and enjoy your trip, it can save your loved ones a lot of grief as well.
Some dedicated fishermen are still out taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and are having some success. Walleyes are scattered throughout the water column, but are catchable as attested by anglers on several local lakes. Larger minnows such as shiners, rainbow chubs and small suckers are doing the trick when teamed up with a floating jig head or spinner with float attached. Most fish are being taken from fifteen to thirty feet of water.
Crappies are beginning to bunch up, and usually when you find one there are more there for the taking. Small minnows on a jig or just a plain hook suspended under a bobber seem to be the preferred method, but many anglers are leaning toward the small soft baits fished on small jigs from one thirty-second to one sixteenth of an ounce. Safety pin spinners attached to a small jig head and tipped with either a soft bait tail or minnow can be very productive right now. These can either be casted or slow-trolled, to cover more water as you search for the schools. Once you catch one, stop and work the area over thoroughly. Fan cast all around, as there can be a bunch of friends nearby.
Pike and muskies have been hammering large suckers, crank baits, and spinners of the magnum size. These brutes tend to be in deeper water right now so it's best to work your baits in water from ten to twenty-five feet. Perch pattern hard baits have been working best and gold spinners working well on clearer waters.
Keep in mind that although the air temps are warm and comfortable, the water temperature is hovering around forty-five degrees right now and ending up in the water can sap your strength and could lead to a bad end to an otherwise great day afloat. With these cold temps it really is best to always wear a life jacket when out on the water especially when out alone.