The NOAA forecast predicted Thursday to be the first dry day in over a week. That gave my buddy Jon Thelen, who like me, was suffering from an ailment called coopedupedness, a reason to give me a call. “The weather looks good for Thursday and I got a heads up from a friend who caught some crappies; you want to go give it a try?” he said.
Asking me that question was like walking up to a kennel and asking a hunting dog if she wanted to go out in the field for a walk. “Yes, of course I do, I’ll be ready to go on Thursday morning,” I said.
The lake could have been any one of a hundred north central Minnesota waters. A moderately deep, 300-acre lake managed primarily for bass, crappie, and sunfish. When I looked at a map of it, I saw many of the things I look for when I’m researching new panfish lakes. One deep hole, a couple of shoreline points and lots of shallow flats that have both submerged and emergent vegetation.
At 40 feet deep, the main basin was beyond what I’d ordinarily look for. But if all I want is a meal of fish and I’m not planning on releasing any, an occasional exception can be made.
Other than familiarizing myself with the lake, I didn’t have to do much work. Jon had already scanned most of it, in fact he had the entire center section recorded on his Humminbird Auto Chart and had even marked a few schools of fish. They were holding near the bottom edges of the breakline adjacent to the deepest hole. I’d say the key depth was about 36 feet and the fish were suspended, some of them as high as 28 feet.
The setup was simple, we each had one rod rigged for tight-lining. Mine had a glow-perch color, ¼ ounce Lindy Live Bait Jig, Jon’s was rigged with a 1/8-ounce Live Bait Jig, yellow color I think. We each had 2nd rods set up with slip-floats too, Jon started with that rig and I started with the tight-line.
My jig tipped with a small fathead was on fire at the start, the fish were hungry and struck hard. After a while though, Jon’s slip bobber rig began working better. There’s a few ways that I could attempt to explain that, but it doesn’t really matter as long as you know that it’s a good idea to have one rod rigged each way and try them both at every stop.
By the time we were finished fishing, we’d concluded that the lake we were on offered good numbers of smaller fish, but likely wasn’t going to produce many trophy sizes of panfish. There were enough “good ones” to provide a meal, and anytime I can be on the lake during mid-April, that’s good enough for me!
Getting outside and catching a few fish seriously whetted my appetite to find some more, so I and the Hippie Chick are considering an afternoon run to a small lake somewhere this afternoon. I can’t fish on Saturday, but the weather forecast looks good for it! So, if you are like me and have been suffering a cased of coopedupedness, maybe a trip to a small panfish lake would help solve that.
If you’re not interested in getting the boat out yet, don’t forget that inland trout streams will be open for stream trout fishing tomorrow too. If you didn’t see the report yesterday (April 15, 2021), check out the new DNR Stream Finder Tool. It already helped me find some trout that I never even knew were trout streams and they are in my own back yard. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Minnesota’s popular warm weather stream trout season opens Saturday, April 17, 2021 with quality fishing opportunities in every region of the state. Brook trout and splake fishing also open April 17, 2021 on Lake Superior and its tributary streams.
Minnesota has some excellent trout fishing, and anglers help pay for trout habitat and access improvements with their fishing licenses and trout stamps. Anglers fishing on designated trout waters must have a trout stamp validation in addition to an angling license."
When I read that press release from the MN DNR, my first thought was yeah, that's great, but I wish I knew how to find out about good trout streams in my region. As I continued to read, the idea of stream trout fishing this weekend became more exciting when I saw that the DNR added a new StreamFinder tool to ..." Learn More >> Use new DNR StreamFinder to find places to fish
"If you fish, you always have a need for a cooler. Most of us have multiple and we are always looking for the cooler functions to follow the creative design in those purchases. They have to work well at a minimum but most of us want them to look great too.
For carrying cold drinks, up to 36 cans, sandwiches or even tackle the 25 quart rolling cooler from Evolution Outdoors is perfect.
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The 2.5-inch lid insulation holds ice longer and ..." Learn More and Enter >> Evolution 25qt EVO Premium Rolling Cooler Giveaway
"On the south end of Lake of the Woods, the lake is still ice covered with big stretches of open water which is expanding daily. Some anglers have been fishing the lake and are fishing in front of the Lighthouse Gap where the Rainy River enters LOW.
Until today (April 14, 2021) anglers have been allowed a limit of walleyes and saugers on the lake, but catch and release only on Four Mile Bay and the Rainy River. Today marks the conclusion of the spring walleye season which will idle all walleye fishing until the Minnesota walleye season opens again on May 15th, 2021.
Pike Fishing. Open water is available in the back bays such as various Four Mile Bay, Bostic Creek, Zippel Bay and backwaters on the Rainy River where pike spawn. Some nice pike being caught in shallow water areas. These areas are off of the main lake and perfect for small boats. The pike season is open year round on LOW and the Rainy River. 3 fish per day, 30-40 inches must be released, one over 40" allowed.
On the Rainy River, this final week of walleye fishing was nothing short of incredible for anglers on the Rainy River. Large numbers of big walleyes were caught and released. Many fish 30 to 33 inch fish showed up in the mix and that's exactly why anglers love the Rainy River in the spring. There have been good reports up and down the river including Four Mile Bay.
A 3/8 to 1/2 ounce jig has worked nicely when tipped with a minnow or a plastic. Bright plastics and frozen shiners working best on jigs. Some anglers trolling crankbaits with success to cover water.
Sturgeon fishing continues to be good with good numbers of sturgeon being caught. Most anglers targeting holes in the river. Some sturgeon being caught on rolling sand dunes with fish laying in the depressions. Wherever there is food and a bit of slacker water!
With lower current, a 3 ounce no-roll sinker combined with a sturgeon rig (18" snell of 60 lb test with a 4/0 or 5/0 circle hook) with a glob of crawlers, frozen emerald shiners or both is the ticket. Local bait shops have rigs and bait available.
Up at the NW Angle, locals are able to get their boats from the mainland (Angle Inlet) to most areas of the islands. Looking ahead to open water, there are various ways to travel to the NW Angle this summer without crossing the border. If you have the right boat and expertise, boating across is an option. There is also the Lake of the Woods Passenger Service (charter boat shuttle to Angle). And finally, Lake Country Air flying service, a float plane service out of Baudette and other locations." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"At the moment, only a few fishing-related bills have been introduced and/or discussed in the legislative committees. The most significant is a bill to change Minnesota’s walleye limit statewide from six to four fish, daily and in possession.
Your MN-FISH board voted to support this bill largely recognizing the impact of our advanced angling skills and how social media attracts angling crowds to hot walleyes lakes in a matter of hours. It should be noted a four-walleye limit is not likely to make walleye fishing better, but may reduce exploitation of walleye populations as angling pressure increases. If you have an opinion about walleye limits, please reach out to your legislators and email them your thoughts.
In February, DNR fisheries officials and MN-FISH met via Zoom. (See board member Tom Neustrom’s full report on ...) " Read >> Full MN-FISH Newsletter April 2021
It was not much more than a week ago that anglers visiting Wally Hunter’s Coffee Shop were speculating about low water levels in north central Minnesota. “Gonna have a heck of a time getting that big sparkle boat in at some of the landings”, one said.
Nine days ago, the sun was out, the temperature was 72 degrees, and I pulled my Pro V out of the garage. After washing and polishing, vacuuming, and tinkering, I had her hooked up to the truck and ready to go. A half hour later, I heard thunder, then I felt the first few rain drops, I put that pretty red boat back into the garage and it’s been raining here, in La Prairie ever since.
Yesterday, there was water everywhere, lots of it, I was heading toward Fred’s Bait when I noticed that the Deer River has now flooded out of its banks. Most of the smaller creeks in the region are filled beyond capacity too and there is a lot of standing water in field and boggy areas.
My plan was to visit Little Cutfoot Sioux because I’d heard that the DNR was planning to set the nets near the bridge. Before I got that far, a phone message from a friend let me know that my plans would have to change. The DNR was not setting up after all and their new plan includes setting the nets on Wednesday and beginning to strip eggs on Thursday.
Since I didn’t need to make that trip, checking out the south landing at Bowstring was a good alternative, I thought. But when I arrived at the access road, County Road 153, the road was closed. Later, I talked with a friend who had heard from his friend who lives up there. Water flowing across the road was deep enough so that there were fish swimming in it, mainly northern pike destined for spawning. So, even if I didn’t see the lake, I think it’s safe to say that water levels are likely good at Bowstring.
I had a few errands to run on my way home and one of them took me east, across the Chase Lake Road, County Road 92. There aren’t many lakes along that route, but the few I saw, were all high. So were the small rivers and feeder creeks that I saw along that drive.
I had to drive south of Grand Rapids, so I decided to make one more stop at Splithand Lake. The accompanying image shows water at the landing that reaches all the way up to the top of the ramp. Not high to be called flood stage, but there will be plenty of water for launching boats of any shape or size.
That was the end of my Monday tour, but not the end of the rain. It continued through the night and turned to snow during the wee hours. It’s still snowing, and I’d estimate an inch standing in my yard right now.
There doesn’t appear to be much doubt that higher water levels, the ones some folks were hoping for to enhance walleye spawning, are likely to be a reality.
When you think of it, we’re lucky that the rate of rainfall has been low and slow. So far, there doesn’t appear to be any signs of serious flooding and that's a good thing. Now that we appear to be out of the woods in terms of low water levels, a sunny day or two would be a welcome sight. I still need an excuse to float that boat! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
On 4-7-2021, Gene Heise wrote; “Just seeking info and I know you are a guide so maybe you can help me or maybe not. Been fishing around Cass lake for many years, but last year upon taking a drive, my son and I discovered the beauty around the Wabana and trout lake area. Can you recommend any favorite resorts or walleye lakes in that area for my family?”
A) You're right Gene, many of the lakes in that region are beautiful, quiet and truly joyful to be on.
Most of them offer opportunities for mixed bag fishing. Panfish, bass, pike and rock bass dominate the populations of many lakes in that region. You mentioned Wabana specifically and that does indeed have both fishable numbers of walleyes and a good assortment of lodging. The adjoining lake you mentioned, Trout Lake does not have a fishable population of walleyes that I know of.
Some lakes in that region that offer the best opportunities for family lodging, like Spider, North Star and Prairie Lakes do all have some walleyes, but none of them, in my opinion, should be considered "pure plays" for walleye anglers. For me, the best approach would be to fish these lakes with the idea of catching several each of multiple species, but no large number of any one of them.
The best way to check new lakes is by using the Recreation Compass Map on the DNR website, zoom into any area of the state, click on any lake and you'll find reports about fish populations, stocking and water clarity.
Once you get interested in a particular lake, a google search will easily help find suitable lodging nearby. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"We have been asked by numerous anglers where the best places to crappie fish are, so we collected information from a panel of experts to build a bucket list of the best crappie fishing lakes and rivers in the U.S.
We provided input to the list as well but we wanted this to a be a verified and accurate list so we asked some of the most accomplished crappie anglers where the best fishing is around the country.
These anglers have fished, guided and competed all over the country for crappie and worked to provide a thoroughly-vetted crappie fishing bucket list for you.
The term “slow news cycle” was invented for times like these and for me, it is a weird feeling. There’s open water everywhere, but for the most part, there is nothing happening. That is, except for folks heading toward the Rainy River, which by now, is not news either.
Little Cutfoot has been ice free for nearly a week already, so I figured the least I could do would be to drive up for a progress report about the DNR walleye egg take operation. I didn’t figure on finding it fully staffed, but I did expect to see the docks set up in preparation. But no, there weren’t any people, no docks, no boats, no camper, nothing.
Even if the DNR staff would have been there, I wouldn’t have gotten any closer than I did anyway. DNR fisheries announced late last week that the public will not be allowed to visit any of the egg take operations this spring. But it would have been nice to see a sign that the fishing season was coming, I thought.
Since I was already in the neighborhood, I figured the best way to justify the cost of driving up there would be to check out the ice conditions on a few more lakes. So, I drove over to the Eagle Nest landing on Cutfoot Sioux and found that lake wide open too, without as much as an ice cube floating around.
The water on Cutfoot Sioux is low and that is not a good sign for the walleye class of 2021. There were more than a few of us hoping to learn whether the recently discovered correlation between high water and above average year class strength might play out again this spring. I know, water levels on Cutfoot do not tell the whole story, so I checked out the US Army Corps of Engineers website to check water levels on Winnibigoshish.
I am not an expert, and I’ll need to talk to one before I will fully understand this diagram of the water levels and flow at the Winnie Dam. But at first glance, I think it shows that levels on Winnie are somewhat low for this time of the season as well. The water flowing out of the dam is low, and I don’t know if the inflow from the Mississippi River may be enough to raise water levels significantly before walleyes begin spawning in earnest. Learning more about that will be my project for today. Click here or on image to view US Army Corps of Engineers Website
Finally, I’ve received several comments and updates about the proposed walleye bag limit reductions. I’m not a big fan of stories from anonymous sources, so I always try to get permission before publishing comments from readers and recently, that’s been tough because of a trend toward privacy. Most folks want to tell me what they know, but they don’t want me, to tell you, what it is.
The update, for the most part, is that nothing about the story has changed. The bill to reduce Minnesota’s walleye bag limit from 6 to 4 fish continues moving forward in the senate. The only action taken in the past month occurred on March 8, 2021 when Senator Justin Eichorn requested that his name be stricken from the record as an author of the bill. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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Savage Gear has a stellar line-up of rods in their portfolio that is ever-increasing, and for this giveaway, we are giving five lucky Wired2fish followers a chance to win a 7'3" MH Battletek casting rod. Made from 30-ton high modulus carbon blanks, these rods are lightweight but will also stand up to the most challenging demands of even the hardest hook setters.
"Open water is expanding daily, but except for large, open patches of water adjacent to inflowing tributaries such as the Lighthouse Gap (Rainy River) and Morris Point Gap (Bostic Creek) areas, most of the south side of Lake of the Woods is still ice covered.
Anglers are allowed a limit of walleyes and saugers on the lake but catch and release only on Four Mile Bay and the Rainy River through April 14.
Open water is becoming available in many of the back bays around the lake where pike spawn. The pike season is open year-round on LOW and the Rainy River. 3 fish per day, 30 to 40 inches must be released, one over 40 inches allowed.
Fishing on the Rainy River started out strong, then slowed down with cold weather and the inflow of icy water from both the Big Fork and Little Fork Rivers. Now that the water is clearing and water temps are on the rise, the action is picking up again.
A 3/8-to-1/2-ounce jig is working nicely tipped with a either a minnow or a plastic tail. Bright plastics and frozen shiners working best on jigs. Walleyes caught in various depths down to 35 feet.
Some anglers trolling crankbaits with success to cover water. Walleye season is catch and release only on Rainy River and Four Mile Bay through April 14th.
Sturgeon fishing continues to be good with good numbers of sturgeon being caught. Sturgeon are not affected by dirty water as much as are walleyes, mainly because they feed by scent, not sight.
With lower current, a 3 ounce no-roll sinker combined with a sturgeon rig (18" snell of 60 pound test with a 4/0 or 5/0 circle hook) with a glob of crawlers, frozen emerald shiners or both is the ticket. Local bait shops have rigs and bait available.
Anglers must release any Sturgeon caught between now and 4/23/21. The keep season begins on 4/24/21 and runs through 5/7/21. During that period, anglers may harvest 1 sturgeon between 45 and 50 inches, or over 75 inches. Catch and release resumes on 5/8/21 and runs through 5/15/21. The sturgeon season is closed from 5/16/21 thru 6/30/21.
Up at the NW Angle, various areas are starting to open. Looking ahead to open water, there are various ways to travel to the Northwest Angle this summer without crossing the border. If you have the right boat and expertise, boating across is an option. There is also the Lake of the Woods Passenger Service (charter boat shuttle to Angle). And finally, Lake Country Air flying service, a float plane service out of Baudette and other locations." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
On Saturday, I and the Hippie Chick took a short drive around the Grand Rapids area. Under calm water, sunny skies, dark, soft looking ice was the norm on larger portions of most big lakes in the Itasca Region.
There was open water in virtually all of the shallow, back bays that we observed. We saw a few anglers testing their luck from shore, but if they were catching fish, we didn't stay long enough to see that.
I'm guessing that you've already seen enough open water to pique your interest and I'm sure we'll see more lakes open soon to fuel your interest in boating even more.
I'll tell you all about it, but today we're taking some time off to celebrate Easter. So, Happy Easter Everybody, see you soon. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I was curious to learn if the early ice-out conditions that I observed in the McGregor area earlier this week had advanced further north. So, I drove west from Grand Rapids to check out some of the popular lakes near Deer River. To say that I was surprised by what I saw is an understatement!
Moving north on Hwy. 46 from Deer River, Little Ball Club is the first lake I saw, and it was wide open, there was no visible sign of ice anywhere. My next stop was at the Winnie Dam, as you see in the accompanying photo, The Dam Bay was wide open. Tamarack Bay was still ice covered, but from my vantage point, I could not assess the quality of that ice.
Further up Hwy. 46, I turned into the landing at the south end of Little Cutfoot, near the summer homes. From there, I could see what amounted to about the last 10% of ice left on the small lake. The sheet of soft ice covered only the south bay. Viewing from the north end of Little Cutfoot, at the Hwy. 46 bridge, there was no sign of any ice remaining anywhere on the lake. Looking to the west, the first river was open to the entrance of East Bay, but I could see that the bay itself was still at least partially ice-covered.
I turned east at Co. Rd. 35 to check out Bowstring Lake. There, the stiff northwest wind had blown the ice clear from the eastern shoreline, but by the time I reached the north landing, ice cover was still tight to the shoreline. Looking out, across the lake, I could see areas of open water inter-twined with the ice, so it won’t be long before the wind switches and the soft ice breaks up. By the way, I spotted my first Robin of the spring at the north landing at Bowstring.
As I continued east, toward home, I saw more lakes and the ice cover on them varied. At the County Road 19 passage between Moose and Deer Lakes, ice was pretty much all I could see. But I saw other small lakes that ranged anywhere between 25 and 50% open water. Every creek, small river and back bay was open, despite the sub-freezing air temperatures.
Yesterday, I wrote; “If you’ve thought about catching your first open water panfish, but believed that it was too early, take a drive past your favorite early ice-out lakes. You might find out that some of them are ready for prime time this weekend!” Ditto That. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Early-season walleye anglers on Mille Lacs Lake will be able to keep one walleye 21-23 inches long or one longer than 28 inches. Summer will bring catch-and-release walleye fishing, with a mid-season closure, before the potential for a one-fish limit returns in the fall.
“Lower walleye harvest this winter is allowing us to ..." Read >> Early and late season walleye harvest to be allowed on Mille Lacs in 2021
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"I've been a bass boat owner for the majority of my life. I've restored older fiberglass boats because of my limited budget and I've also been able to save to buy a shiny, 21-foot fiberglass rig that made me feel like a total hotshot.
I got to thinking the other day and for whatever reason, I grew up thinking that you had to have a fiberglass bass boat to be a "real" bass fisherman. It's what I saw on television and in the magazines, so it's really all I knew to be honest.
But man, there's a trend happening in recent years that we can't really ignore much longer. A bunch of anglers, whether they're weekend guys or full-time touring professionals, are flocking to aluminum bass boats. The number of newer tin boats I'm seeing on my local fisheries is absolutely blowing my mind. I've talked to boat dealers and they're having to drive thousands of miles to other states just to ..." Learn More >> The Aluminum Bass Fishing Boat Trend: There Just Might Be Something to It