Ice conditions are less than desirable on most area lakes. Seven to ten inches of good solid ice is covered by a few inches of watery slush, topped off with frozen slush and a blanket of snow. Vehicular traffic consists of atv’s and snowmobiles and even these are having a tough time getting around, so most folks are moving around on foot. Walleyes are cooperating in spite of such conditions. Best tactics seem to be either jigging with Buckshot spoons and Rattlin' Flyers tipped with either a minnow head or bunch of wax worms and as always a minnow under a bobber suspended just off the bottom in ten to twenty feet of water. Some adventurous types are trekking into the Boundary Waters and landing some bragging size northern pike. They have been jigging large buck tails and live suckers or frozen ciscoes fished under a bobber or tip-up.
Local lakes are building ice, but it's coming along slowly due to the heavy snow blanket. Slush pockets are scattered throughout the main bodies of water, but some folks are trudging through the snow and making some nice catches of walleyes in the bays. For the most part there is five to seven inches of ice, but it's better to be on the safe side and drill as you go. Chubby Darters and Jiggin Raps are accounting for a good number of fish, but many anglers are sticking to minnows fished under a slip bobber just off the bottom in eight to twenty-one feet of water. Some sunnies are coming off the smaller lakes hitting wax worm tipped jigs. Some large pike are being caught in the shallows near weed beds and drop-offs. Sucker minnows are the way to go for these early ice toothy critters.
Another ice season is upon us and anglers are chomping at the bit to get out on the hard water. We cannot stress enough to exercise caution at this time of year. There isn't a fish out there worth risking your life for. Every year we hear the reports of how many guys have died in pursuit of a bucket of fish. So, with that in mind, we are hearing folks here locally that are having some success. Right now there have been guys fishing a couple of area lakes with some moderate catches in very shallow bays. Remember thickness of ice in shallow bays varies depending on wind effect, vegetation, and the much feared, moving water or springs. So please be careful out there if you absolutely must get the jump on the season. Always carry a life jacket, and spud bar or chisel to check the ice as you go, and a good pair of ice picks should the unthinkable happen and you break through. Remember, there is a lot of winter ahead of us and there will be plenty of time and much thicker ice in the future.
Lakes are beginning to approach turnover. Water temps right at 54 degrees right now. Crappies have been active. Minnows and slip bobber works best, but more anglers are starting to fish more jigs and soft baits as they allow you to cover more water faster. Small spinner baits like Beetle Spins also a good bait to try at this time of year.
Walleye fishing has slowed a bit, perhaps due to the rapid fluctuations in the barometric pressures, along with the turnover. Slow trolling spinner and minnow/crawler combos working as well as anything.
Big pike are falling for large crank baits and suckers fished in six to fifteen feet of water.
Walleye fishing remains good on most local lakes with decent catches in the fourteen to eighteen inch range. Spinner rigs tipped with either a minnow or crawler seems to be the preferred method, although some anglers are doing well trolling crank baits down to twenty feet of water. Crappie fishing also remains steady with some slabs approaching the sixteen inch mark. Small minnows under a bobber seem to be the winning ticket although many anglers are using the new jig and tube or other soft bait combos with great success. Pike fishing has been heating up in the past couple of weeks. Large suckers under a float or big crank baits are taking these toothy critters up to forty eight inches. Many of these pike are being caught by fishermen trolling cranks for walleyes.
Walleye fishing continues to be good, and with fewer people on the lakes you can manage to fill a stringer without jockeying for the prime fishing spots. Minnows and crawlers on a spinner rig are capturing the most fish, with trolling crank baits a close second. Most anglers are concentrating their efforts in ten to sixteen feet of water. One might have to wade through a good number of small walleyes to produce a good mess for eating, but the effort seems to be well worth it. Crappies are starting to bunch up so where you find one you'll find more. Most are suspended from five to eight feet from the bottom in water twelve to twenty feet of water. Small tube jigs and minnows are working best.
The kids are back in school, the weather has cooled and the traffic on area lakes has thinned considerably; now, it's time to go fishing. Walleyes, which tend to be at the top of the list as a desirable species, are responding well to slow trolled minnows and crawlers. Whether with a spinner rig, or by themselves, these staples of a walleye hunter’s arsenal are bringing the fish to the boat. Larger fish are tending to hang out in the deeper holes, but the eater size walleyes are scattered throughout the water column. It is not unusual to find them in water as shallow as six feet. Many smaller bait fish are hugging the shorelines, and this rings the dinner bell for medium size walleyes and they are cashing in on this near shore bounty. Pike, voracious as ever, are slamming spinners and spoons. One group out for the weekend, boated over sixty pike while trolling wire spinner rigs tipped with a small sucker. Fishing a sucker or other large minnow under a bobber can be very effective too, whether fishing from a boat or off shore or dock. Crappies are beginning to bunch up nicely at dusk and are particularly vulnerable to small minnows under a bobber or attached to a small jig. Small jigs tipped with a tiny plastic tail can be a very effective searching tool for the slabs amongst the weeds or suspended off points extending from shore. Lake trout fishing has slowed considerably, but this doesn't mean they have stopped feeding. Try trolling a spoon or Rapala style baits in fifty to sixty-five feet of water for the larger fish, but some anglers are catching a few while angling for walleyes in the twenty foot range of water depth.
Grab a dozen crawlers and a scoop of fatheads and head to the lake. Walleyes continue to please anglers working ten to twenty-five feet of water with spinner rigs tipped with either a crawler or minnow. Trolling remains the best method to take advantage of the continued walleye bite. Covering more ground allows you to find the structure that's holding the fish right now. Once you've located the fish, continue to work over the area as where there's one fish there surely will be more. Rock piles submerged in ten feet of water or more has been the most productive.
Crappies on the other hand continue to roam suspended in the water column from five to twelve feet from the bottom in water at least twenty feet deep. Jigs with soft bait tails are working well when searching for the schools. Once located you can slip on a bobber and work them over.
Pike are hanging out on submerged islands and points leading to deeper water. Trolled or casted spoons and spinner baits are doing the trick, but the pike find a sucker under a bobber irresistible.
The weather has turned hot, and the fishing seems to be unaffected by it. Anglers are still managing to capture some nice stringers of fish on most area lakes. Although good quality leeches are a thing of the past, most walleye fishermen are taking it in stride and getting their share of the action on crawlers and minnows. Action seems to be at its peak near and just after sunset. Pike fishermen are getting in on the action with big chunky baits fished near rocky points and sunken islands. Some also are doing it the easy way by fishing suckers under a bobber. Either way, hang on as there are many of these toothy critters coming in pushing the 40" mark. Crappies too have been making a comeback in 5-15' of water. Minnows are working best, but some folks are using beetle spins and other soft baits and trolling the along weed edges near sunset.
This season has been turning out more fish and bigger fish in good numbers than in several years past. Leeches have been doing an excellent job for catching both walleyes and smallmouth bass, but now with the availability of leeches falling off as is typical at this time of year, more folks are turning their attention to minnows and crawlers once again. The fish don't seem to mind, as they are readily gobbling up these offerings, whether fished on a spinner rig or slip bobber. Big pike are still chasing down spinner baits and spoons, but they will not turn away from a strategically placed sucker or ciscoe fished under a bobber. Crappies too are slurping up minnows while remaining suspended 3-5' from the bottom in deeper water, but then coming up into the shallower weed lines at 3-6' as the evening progresses.