Fishing over all has been mirroring the weather. As the temps fluctuate so does the fishing activity. Daytime water temps may rise six to eight degrees during the course of the day, so late afternoons till after dark are becoming the "prime time" to be out on the water. A stable barometer over several days can be a good indicator of how the fish react to bait presentations. If you fish the morning hours you might just have to fish a bit deeper as fish will seek that warmer, more comfortable temperature. Remember that these are cold blooded creatures that only a few degrees of temperature change can really affect them.
Walleye bite seems to be primarily on leeches and crawlers, whether on a spinner rig or under a slip bobber. Many more anglers are turning to soft plastic trailers on their spinner rigs and jigs as opposed to live bait. These are more durable, and the scent that they're impregnated with actually will trigger a bite.
Bass anglers have figured this out years ago and the popularity is spreading to the walleye anglers.
Pike anglers too have gotten aboard the soft bait wagon. Adding a soft bait tail to spinner baits and spoons adds more enticing action to the offering.
We've been whacking these massive lake trout for years on a simple white tube jig. (A little hint, I add a minnow to the tube or insert a bait scented piece of sponge or cotton ball inside the tube to up my chances for a strike.) Scents by Berkley Gulp, Power Bait, and Dr. Juice all work in this department.
So, there you have it. If you haven't been using the scents and soft bait presentations before, now may be the right time to give them a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
The walleye bite has been steadily improving and some anglers are taking full advantage of it. Fish are beginning to relate to structure more these days, so it pays to work near reefs and sunken structure in depths from nine to eighteen feet. The best way to locate fish is to stay on the move trolling spinners until you trigger a bite, and then work that area over diligently.
Small mouth bass have been very active as well, and are readily taking soft baits and cranks worked near the drop offs at the mouths of shallow bays. Some anglers have begun using top water baits such as Jitterbugs and Hula Poppers and are enjoying the explosive strikes right on the surface. Floater/diver crank baits work well, and strikes can occur as you pause the retrieve and let the bait float back to the surface.
Pike are hitting spinner baits and spoons, casted or trolled anywhere from three to fifteen feet of water. Vary your speed when hauling these lures back as some fish tend to be more active than others. At times ripping the bait across the surface layer can be irresistible for these toothy denizens.
Crappies are schooling up and will readily hit a minnow or soft plastic bait. Watch your fish locator to detect the position of the fish in the water column and adjust your presentation accordingly.
Walleye fishing remains sporadic as mayflies continue their hatch. Folks who are being persistent are still managing to put fish on the stringer, and covering more water seems to be the way to do it. Trolling spinner baits and float rigs tipped with either a crawler or leech allows you to put the bait in front of more fish as schools of walleyes have dispersed. The evening bite near shorelines and docks can be productive as well. Try live bait rigging under a lighted slip bobber near and after sunset.
Pike fishing still has been rewarding for those who are targeting these toothy critters. Spoons and spinner baits worked along weed edges and near drop-offs in the 5-15' foot range should put you in the target zones for fish to 18 pounds with a few up to 40". An alternate method is to suspend a sucker under a bobber early and late in the day.
Crappies are wrapping up their spawning ritual and will readily take a live minnow or small soft bait tipped jigs at daybreak and just before sunset. Some nice ones have been caught while targeting walleyes using live minnows slow trolled near shallow water.
Lake trout are hitting spoons and larger crank baits trolled in water from 40 - 55'. Some also coming to shore fishermen using ciscoes fished right on the bottom. Rainbow trout are being caught using either crawlers or small spinners fished ten to twenty feet below the surface.
Walleye action has been sporadic lately therefore no one seems to be able to define a good bite pattern. Those having some success are working shallow to deep and everything in between. Crawlers and leeches on a spinner have been accounting for the lion’s share of those taken, with moderate success on a jig. Crank bait fishermen are catching their share using Shad Raps along the drop-offs late in the day.
Smallmouth bass are terrorizing the shallows as they wrap up their spawning rituals, with many reported in the 20" range. Small crank baits, crawfish imitation soft baits and jig and tubes working really well. The easiest method, and one that's great for kids due to the action, has been to suspend a leech just a couple feet under a bobber and work the shorelines.
Some big pike are still active in ten to twenty feet of water and are responding to spinner baits and large cranks fished at the mouths of bays and off the points. Large suckers fished near forming weed beds are a hot ticket too.
Several lake trout in the eight to ten pound range have feeding on ciscoes and other large minnows fished right on the bottom. Some are having success trolling spoons down in the forty to fifty foot range.
Action has slowed pretty much across the board. We speculate on reasons why, but what makes most sense seems to be the fluctuating barometer and temperatures. Water temps have been varied from 56-66 degrees all over the Ely area and this has definitely put a damper on spawning crappies and bass.
Best advice would be to work over the shallows as this is where the water temps are highest and most activity is taking place. Walleyes are beginning to scatter out all over the lakes and are now showing more interest in crawlers and leeches. A spinner rig tipped with either of these can allow you to cover more water and place bait in front of more fish.
Lake trout have begun to sink lower in the water column and now are more active in the 45-55' depths. Many have fallen for ciscoes placed right on the bottom, or long-lined silver, white, or green spoons trolled well behind the boat.
Several 40+ inch northern pike have been reported and suckers are the go to bait. Large suckers fished along the breaks in the transition areas from shallow flats down to fifteen feet of water or so.
Walleye action remains steady. The fish haven't bunched up as they were just a week or so ago. Anglers on the move seem to be doing quite well, either by dragging spinners tipped with minnows, leeches, or crawlers and crank baits. Best action has been along the breaks near shallow water flats. Try working up and down the slopes until locating the depth the fish are holding, and then work along that contour line.
Pike fishermen are finding the fish are beginning to show summer patterns with them seeking deeper water than normal at this time of year. Perhaps, they are following other forage that is schooling just off the drops. Suspended suckers always seem to work. Also, try casting or trolling spinner baits and spoons or large profile crank baits in depths down to twenty feet.
Crappie action is heating up as the water warms. They are located adjacent to the shallower spawning flats. Minnows under a bobber work well, but more and more anglers are using soft baits like Gitzit Little Tough guys, Beetle spins, and Northland's Slurpies. Any of these baits can be tipped with a wax worm to sweeten up the offering and make them even more attractive to a hungry slab.
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.