Opening day fishing was just awesome for many anglers with some of them back at the dock cleaning fish by 8:30 am. The majority of anglers targeting walleyes were using jig and minnows in the shallows, and spinner rigs tipped with crawlers in deeper water. The largest walleye registered was 27 1/2". With the cold front moving through lakes have slowed slightly. Once the weather stabilizes action should improve.
Northern pike anglers were doing well over the weekend with fish to 44" caught. Sucker minnows under a bobber, in less than ten feet of water, were very productive.
A few nice lake trout up to ten pounds were brought to the dock. Most lakers were coming up from forty feet of water.
The crappie bite has not yet kicked into gear as the water temperature hovers in the low fifties. Once the temperature rises above sixty degrees, this should make them more eager to bite.
Smallmouth bass have been active too with some fish weighing in around five pounds. This season the DNR relaxed the regulations to allow anglers to keep bass in the Northeast portion of the state to coincide with walleye opener.
The Minnesota fishing opener is about to get underway! Some new tactics are making the scene and should prove to be quite interesting. The latest has been the addition of the Jigging Rap to the springtime arsenal. This bait has been out on the market place for several years now primarily for ice fishing, but folks are beginning to use them more frequently for open water. There’s not a lot of action, just a slow spiral on descent, but the aggressive nature of walleyes in the spring makes it a go to bait for many. Rippin Raps and Rattlin Raps are coming into popularity, too, not only for bass as previously thought, but walleyes will inhale them too.
By far, though, most anglers will go to the tried and true jig and minnow. This has been by far the meat and potatoes of early spring walleye fishing. A lively rainbow chub affixed to a ¼ to 5/8 ounce jig have been producing fish for a lot of years now and there’s undoubtedly no end in sight. Leeches on a jig will produce as well, but this usually kicks in around Memorial weekend and this year should be no exception.
Pike anglers are spooling up with some of the new braided lines and casting spinner baits and large crank baits for these toothy critters. A lot of folks will take the easy way out and just soak some magnum size suckers just under a bobber as this happens to be one of the easiest ways to land some of these giants of the shallows. We’re fortunate this year in that the DNR has relaxed the regulations on a smallmouth bass by moving the opener for these in the Northeast part of the state to coincide with walleye opener. Try slow scooting jig and crawfish trailer around shallow areas that will soon see some fast action as water warms into the spawning mood.
Lake trout are still roaming shallower water now and can be had by trolling spoons and large profile crank baits in as little as twenty-five feet of water. This will change as water gradually warms and the trout will seek the cooler temps of the deepest parts of the lake.
Another hard water trout season is behind us, and this year has been productive right to the end. Hopefully this will be a good indicator of future success for those so inclined on open water.
Focus now is on crappies and sunfish up here on the edge of the Boundary Waters. Ice conditions are beginning to deteriorate, but still remain viable for the next week or so as there's still approximately 20-24" on most lakes where moving water is not an issue. Play it safe if you do decide to go out again for one last trip. Always carry life jacket, a good length of rope, and some ice picks or at least a screwdriver in your pocket, and really, don't do it alone. There's a lot of truth to the saying, "safety in numbers".
If instead you decide to hang up the ice gear for another season, perhaps you can turn your attention to getting your gear ready for the upcoming opener. One of the most important and often overlooked chores is to replace the line on all of your reels. It's also time to weed out those rusty hooks and unproductive lures from your tackle box. It's often better to have less gear that actually produces, than to clutter up the box with junk that will most likely never get used.
Entering the home stretch for trout fishing, as it ends on the 31st of this month, and that will be a big let down for a good many anglers in the North Country. From lake trout to splake, to rainbows and brookies all have been doing their share to fill in the gap of a closed walleye season. Some very impressive catches have been coming in from area lakes. This weekend will be the last opportunity to land some of these beautiful fish until season reopens on May 10th.
The success rate for crappie fishing is still building, although many anglers have been doing well enough. The action should continue to build through ice out. The crappies are still holding rather deep, down in twenty to thirty feet of water.
Some nice sunnies are providing some action on area lakes by fishing old weed edges and rock piles.
Ice conditions vary on each lake as well as lake to lake. Use caution. Just recently, a vehicle went through the ice. Fortunately, the driver was ok, but it doesn’t always end that way. Check often while crossing lakes to determine ice thickness. Also, check with someone familiar with the lake you venture out on. The locals often know the areas that are never safe.
The lakes are getting a bit sloppy due to the warm temps and melting snow, but as long as the entry points hold up, you can still travel on the ice. Many folks are out there every day and they are hauling home some nice fish. There's still plenty of trout to be caught, but not much time left to catch them. Trout season closes March 31st.
Area trout lakes are still producing lake trout in excess of ten pounds. Active jigging is very effective, but some are still being caught on ciscoes fished right on the bottom. Other trout lakes are giving up some nice rainbows, splake, and brook trout. Small salted minnows and small jigging spoon and wax worm presentations are the best bet there.
Crappie fishing is getting into high gear right now as well. The amount of holes you tend to drill is related to your success rate. Anglers that remain mobile have a great advantage as a fish or two will come through each hole before it goes "cold". Artificial baits are beginning to overtake live baits as being the most productive. Small Chubby Darters, Jiggin Raps, Lindy Darters and other jigging lures are good to start with as their bulk tend to draw the larger, more aggressive fish on the initial drops. The extra weight allows you to drop down quickly, and when you're hole hopping this is a plus.
Crappie action is heating up on area lakes and anglers are taking full advantage of it. Over the weekend, fishermen and women searched for the slabs in twelve to twenty-four feet of water and taking some crappies up to fourteen inches. Most anglers were using dead sticks with a minnow, but more and more anglers are finding that artificials are working very well in capturing the most aggressive fish in the schools. From tiny jig and soft bait combos such as Gitzit micros, up to small Chubby Darters and Jiggin Raps are working well for anglers on the move.
Rainbow trout are continuing to bite on area lakes. Early mornings are best, but some folks are managing limits throughout the day.
Lake trout are still active, and some of them are being caught in as little as twenty feet of water. This migration to shallow areas usually coincides with ice out, but this season finds them staging shallow earlier than past years. A ciscoe on the bottom works well and allows you to use another rod that you can actively jig with. Small spoons such as Little Cleos and VMC Tinglers are doing the job. Chubby Darters and Salmo Zippers are also a good bet to take lakers by working the entire water column with fairly aggressive jigging.
Traffic on local lakes has receded with the closing of walleye and pike season, however, those who have adapted by pursuing pan fish and trout are managing to catch a few fish.
Stream trout fishing is currently the most productive. A few local trout lakes have been giving up some nice rainbows, with a few browns thrown in for good measure. The most effective method has been using small salted minnows either alone or attached to a small spoon. It pays to work the entire water column as the fish have been working various depths.
A few lake trout are still being caught on with small heavy bodied spoons such as Kastmasters and Little Cleos. Some are tipping them with either a minnow tail or strip of ciscoe to add flavor and scent.
Crappies to fourteen inches are starting to appear on the menu, but it's been a bit slow and the bite should continue to build up until ice out.
Don't hang up the ice gear just yet as there's still some fine fishing to be had.
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.