Another walleye and pike season has come to an end, but that doesn't mean we need to hang up the tackle just yet. Some great fishing for trout, sunfish and crappies still remain, and this can be some of the best action of the winter season. The fishing pressure has been greatly reduced and this minimal traffic allows fish to settle down and resume their normal feeding patterns without being pushed around by noise from above.
Area stream trout lakes hold very good numbers of trout and the access to these waters is for the most part easy. Try fishing the first couple hours of daylight with diminutive baits like ice flies tipped with a wax worm and a subtle approach, then, as light develops, get more aggressive with small spoons.
Crappie action will begin to build and continue to get better up till ice out. A couple of area lakes have already begun to turn out some crappies approaching fourteen inches, which indicates a good supply of fish ahead.
A reminder to anglers, Northern Pike and Walleyes season closes on February 22nd this year, so time is limited to put a few fillets in the freezer for the remainder of winter.
Although walleye fishing has slowed a bit, and lake trout are eluding some anglers, stream trout fishing has been holding its own since opener and the catch rates have remained good. One angler caught an eight pound rainbow trout while using a Jigging Rap.
Crappie fishing is beginning to shape up with near limits currently being caught. The action should continue to build until ice-out.
Ice conditions are exceptional this year with most lakes sporting twenty to twenty four inches of ice with eight inches of snow on top. This makes travel relatively easy for most four wheel drive vehicles.
The topic of the day around Ely has been of the trout fishing. Whether it be lake trout or stream trout, Ely has what it takes. Our area trout lakes have been experiencing some of the best action in recent years. Ciscoes, Airplane Jigs, Soft White Tubes in the 3-5" range and live rainbows or suckers have been the most productive.
Anglers have been getting some nice limits of stream trout. Tiny dark colored jigs tipped with a wax worm right at daybreak, the change to a lighter color as the sun rises higher. By mid-day, small spoons become productive. One reason for this increase of action could be the light fishing pressure of the past two winter seasons, due in most part by the limited travel due to the heavy snow and slush covering them. This is definitely not the case this season, as you can move around with ease whether by sled, four wheeler, or your run of the mill four wheel drive truck. Hint: Carry a shovel so you may cut an access through the berms of the plowed roads. Mobile anglers are in most part the most successful. If you're on a spot more than a half hour or so, and you haven't caught or worse, marked a fish, then it's time to move on. There are active fish out there, and you need to be flexible to find them.
Trout still lead the way in the fish of interest in the Ely area. Good numbers of rainbow trout and splake have been taken from area trout lakes. Times to target these fish have been at sunrise and just before dusk. Small dark jigs and the new dark colored preserved wax worms have been a deadly combination. No active jigging is required as strikes come just as readily when using them on a "dead" stick. Small jigging spoons then turn them on during mid-day hours when tipped with either waxies or salted minnows.
Lake trout too have been pleasing some anglers. Best lure choices to jig with have been Chubby Darters or Zippers and the Airplane jigs and Bionic Bucktails, some tipped with all or part of a ciscoe.
Northern pike action has remained fairly steady as they begin to drop into deeper water in search of the forage base. Live suckers or frozen ciscoes seem to work equally well when fished in eight to twenty feet of water.
It's time to get out and enjoy what nature has to offer in the winter season, so make the most of it while avoiding cabin fever.
Trout season rolled out with a bang this week. Ciscoes fished on the bottom coupled with active jigging of white tube jigs and Chubby and Lindy Darters brought most folks the success that was anticipated. Trout up to twelve pounds were reported, with many in the three to seven pound range brought through the holes.
Rainbow, brook, brown trout and splake also responded well to small spoons and ice flies tipped with either a salted minnow or wax worms.
Northern pike were also being taken using sucker minnows both as decoys for spearing, and live bait rigs suspended under a dead stick or tip up.
Crappies too were being targeted. These fish responded to live minnows, as well as tiny jigs tipped with minnows, wax worms, and artificial soft bait tails.
With weather being as moderate as it is of late, there should be no reason not to get out and enjoy this cold weather activity, and put some fresh fish on the table.
The walleye bite continues to be erratic, but crappies have begun to pick up the slack. Crappies there have been suspended a few feet off the bottom and are responding well to both live bait and small jigs as well as soft artificials tipping the jigs and tiny spoons.
Northern pike action remains steady with fish to fifteen pounds being reported. Live suckers lead the way, but some folks using rattle baits and spoons tipped with a minnow are also working well.
It's time to get the lake trout gear ready. With the excellent ice conditions, we should have a banner year as anglers will be able to travel just about everywhere with little concern over ice thickness. Season has already opened in the Boundary Waters January 1st, and will open outside the Boundary Waters on January 17th.
Walleye fishing has leveled out a bit, and it’s totally doable to put at least a few fish in the bucket. Dead stick with a minnow aboard is the primary tool for connecting, but a new breed of anglers is finding the reward of run and gun fishing with small spoons and rattle baits. This is probably the most productive way to catch walleyes if you're not opposed to drilling a bunch of holes. This season’s ice is tailor made for staying on the move.
Crappie fishing is heating up and definitely worth a look for these silver sided tasty morsels. Not only is the Boundary Waters area producing, but anglers are finding that the scattered weed beds of lakes outside the BWCAW prime area too.
Pike fishing still remains productive. Try fishing a live sucker about half way to the bottom in twelve feet of water, or a ciscoe dropped right on the lake bed.
While ice is never truly "safe", we are finding at least twelve inches of ice and in many cases more than that which is definitely safe enough. Still, drill several test holes before venturing out on the ice.
The walleye bite has been slow lately and that's clearly evident with the low numbers of anglers out on the lakes. However, if you take a more aggressive approach, there's still plenty of fish to be caught. Conditions for travel on the lakes couldn't be better, with twelve to fourteen inches of clear ice topped with a few inches of snow. Drilling plenty of holes can be very productive, as it allows us to work a variety of depths and structure, as opposed to sitting in one spot waiting for fish to happen by.
Crappie action has begun to heat up and area lakes are turning out some decent numbers coupled with some dandy sunnies to boot. Set a dead stick with a live minnow in one hole while actively jigging the hole next to it. Quite often you'll draw the interest with the jigged bait and they'll turn and strike the minnow.
A few pike over forty inches have been taken with live suckers being the preferred bait.
Some walleyes continue to bite and the community of followers continue to set and adjust position of their shacks to intersect the movement of eyes in both of their quests for a meal. Most anglers are using a dead stick, suspending a minnow just off the bottom. This works very well for most folks, but the bigger fish seem to be attacking jigged baits such as Buckshot spoons and Chubby Darters further up in the water column.
Crappie action has been slow to start, but some anglers are managing to catch at least a half dozen or so, and top that off with a half dozen sunnies, you have the basic ingredients for a great dinner.
Northern pike are taking live suckers or frozen ciscoes from strategically placed tip-ups near old weed lines and submerged bars or points. Spearers too have taken a few fish up to forty-six inches in less than six feet of water. And while on the subject of shallow water, a few of the same guys spearing pike, noted a good number of walleyes stopping to investigate the decoys.
Over the weekend the lakes became a bit sloppy due to the warm temps, and rain, but there still remains a good solid foot of ice on most lakes.
***As always, check the ice as you go as no ice should be considered safe everywhere.***