"Anglers fishing Lake Vermilion this summer may be asked to participate in the lake’s first creel survey since 2015.
Beginning with the walleye opener on Saturday, May 15, 2021 and through the end of September, creel clerks from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be traveling the lake by boat to interview anglers about their harvest.
During the interviews, the creel clerks will ask anglers a few questions about their fishing trip for that day and record information on the fish species caught. Creel clerks may ask to record measurements of fish that anglers keep. Additionally, DNR pilots and a local contractor will conduct aerial boat counts to obtain information on angling effort.
Fisheries managers rely on creel surveys to collect information on fishing pressure, catch, harvest, and size distribution of several important fish species in Lake Vermilion. This information, when combined with scientific data collected during standard fisheries population assessments, is used to make informed fisheries management decisions.
Angler participation is an essential part of this study, so the DNR is asking anglers to be patient with the creel clerks and provide information that is as accurate as possible. Since 1984, 12 creel surveys have been conducted on Lake Vermilion.
For additional information or questions contact Matt Hennen at the DNR Tower area fisheries office: 218-300-7810 or firstname.lastname@example.org."
Have you taken a drive to a public boat ramp at any of your favorite lakes this spring? If so, chances are good that you noticed some signs notifying anglers about changing panfish regulations this spring. These new regulations combined with other, already existing “special regulations” for other species on many lakes means that keeping track of what we’re fishing for and where we do it will be more important than ever this season.
If you have a law degree, or you are an editor for a publishing company, then reading the Minnesota fishing regulations booklet will allow you to track most of the regulations from one lake to the next. But if you’re like me and your eyes glaze over after the first 15 minutes of reading, then skip the booklet and do this instead. Use the MN DNR Recreation Compass to make finding the rules for your favorite lakes easier.
Check this out, just touch the image at right and it will open the “Recreation Compass” which is really just a map of the state of Minnesota. The cool part is that the map is interactive so when you touch or click on any lake, you’ll be redirected to the lake finder page for that lake. The popup reveals everything you want to know about the lake, fisheries reports, stocking information, water clarity and whether or not the lake has any “special” fishing regulations.
Using the recreation compass has saved me lots of trouble when I’m on a lake and realize that I had forgotten to check the signs at the boat ramp. I just open it up on my phone, jump straight to the lake I’m on and voila, my questions are answered in seconds. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be familiar with all of the regulations in the booklet, but when you only need the answer to a question about one lake, this is the way to go.
And speaking of regulations, here is a question that came from a reader, Mike Zinns who wrote; Q) "Jeff, I was looking through some of your archived fishing reports and noticed something. Apparently, you’ve been a supporter of the reduced bag limit on sunfish. But in several articles, you appear to oppose the reduced bag limit on walleyes. I’m curious how you can be in favor of one “conservation oriented” regulation, but be opposed to another one?”
A) Mike, thank you not only for the question, but also for taking the time to read articles from the archives. It’s been frustrating at times, knowing that there is so much information available in the free archives, but few readers actually take the time to access it. Education is the best tool for helping anglers make informed decisions about their sport and I’m glad to see someone taking advantage of it.
My direct answer to your question is that I am not opposed to regulations, I am only opposed to regulations that will not work.
The reduced bag limit on sunfish is based entirely on biology. Fisheries biologists know from research that if we anglers want to catch larger sunfish, we need to protect the larger males from over-harvest. Reducing the bag limit to 5 sunfish has been proven to repair populations in lakes where sunfish have been heavily pursued. Reducing bag limits to 10 sunfish will help maintain the average size of sunfish in lakes that still have quality size fish; statistics provide proof that these rules of thumb actually work in the real world.
Walleye bag limits are an entirely different subject. There is absolutely no biological proof that reducing the statewide possession limit to 4 fish will do anything to preserve, enhance or otherwise improve the state of walleye fishing in Minnesota. Even the staunchest supporters of bag limit reductions admit that there is no biological reason for decreasing the bag limit to 4 fish and that is not intended to improve walleye fishing. Rather, they site “social issues” as the reason for supporting the reductions.
In the most recent MN-Fish newsletter, Ron Schara wrote; "Your MNFISH board voted to support this (Walleye Bag Limit Reduction) 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."
During my time serving as a volunteer on Minnesota’s walleye advisory committee, biologists, year after year, pounded it into our heads that if you want to regulate walleye populations by rationing, the bag limit would need to be reduced to a level far below the proposed 4 fish bag limit. It’s been said by many biologists that the bag limit would need to be reduced to a maximum of 2 fish in order to realize any benefit. Regulators realize that the 2 fish maximum would be too dramatic for most anglers, so they see the 4 fish bag as a more palatable compromise, even if it won’t actually do anything.
You don’t have to go very far to find hard evidence. Case in point, the walleye bag limit on Upper Red Lake has been 4 fish for several years. But this year it is being reduced to a 3 fish bag limit, why? If rationing is the answer and limiting anglers to the “socially acceptable” 4 walleyes in your livewell is the magic number, then leave it there and let it work.
The truth is the 4 fish rationing plan isn’t the answer. It will hold folks over for a while, but soon they will realize that it doesn’t fix anything and then they’ll come back with another idea. By then, the bubble of pandemic anglers will have burst, more tourists will have abandoned Minnesota as a fishing destination and the DNR will be worrying again about reduced participation in fishing.
Like I’ve said before, you can limit me all you want, I could live with a 1 fish limit. But like many of the anglers who support this bill, I have access to good fishing lakes and I have time to fish them. There is no reason for me to stress out about rationing because I will always wind up with enough fish to eat. If I had a 7-hour drive and paid thousands of dollars to stay at a resort, I’d feel different.
I realize that many of those “elite” walleye anglers would be even happier if tourists actually did stop coming to fish in Minnesota, that would leave them with more territory to fish. But anybody who cares about the economic impact on our state’s outdoor related businesses, should probably take a closer look at what happens when you substitute the word “social” for “biological” when making fisheries related decisions.
Summing it up, if there was a walleye regualtions change on the table that was based on sound biological evidence, I'd be more likely to support it. If DNR Fisheries biologists supported such a bill because they believed it would produce an improvement in Minnesota's walleye fishing, then I probably would support it. If DNR biologists approved of such a bill and it was likely to not only provide us with better walleye fishing and it would also encourage more fishing tourism to our state, then I would definitely, whole-heartedly, support it. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
If this were a “normal” spring, we’d still be speculating about the DNR walleye egg take operations in Grand Rapids and around the state. But thanks to the early ice out, operations at 9 locations are already mostly completed. Last Friday, Dave Weitzel, Grand Rapids Area Fisheries Manager wrote, “We expect to reach full state-wide quota for Mississippi Strain Walleyes today (4-23-2021), so it went very well. We will have taken about 850 quarts from Cutfoot over 8 days and are very happy with that, considering that we had fewer staff so that we could practice social distancing.”
The photo left, courtesy MN DNR, shows the Windom-area fisheries egg take in progress at Murray County’s Lake Sarah. I’m waiting for confirmation that the operation is completed there too but will post updates if it is not.
The operation at Pine River got off to a bumpy start this year. High water washed out the nets and traps, so Brainerd area fisheries staff were forced to pull all of their gear, take a five-day break and then start the operation over again. Last week things began running more smoothly, area fisheries manager Marc Bacigalupi reported. At the time, Bacigalupi anticipated reaching their 700-quart quota before the end of the week and again, I’m waiting for confirmation that they did.
For me, the past few days have been spent doing everything except fishing. My semi-weekly ECG visit to mom’s assisted living apartment consumed Saturday and between Sunday’s preparation and Monday’s implementation of my 5-year colonoscopy pretty much consumed the past two days. Lucky for me that the weather was crummy the whole time and I never felt like I was missing out on anything outside. Apparently, the weather will take a turn for the better this week and that will play into my hand in terms of getting back into the swing of things.
With only 17 days left before the fishing opener, weather and water conditions become the focal point. My friend Chad Benson, expert fishing guide and springtime trapper of Spottail Shiners told me last week that his wholesale customers will begin accepting delivery of shiners as they become available. He’ll be putting his traps into the water this week and as the sunshine warms shoreline waters, there should be a trickle of minnows moving into them.
Another weather-related concern will have to do with timing of the hatching walleye eggs, now incubating in DNR hatchery tanks around the state. As those tiny Zygotes begin to emerge, they’ll need food, so a warming trend would be welcome. The warmer the water, the more plankton there will be and the more plankton there is, the faster tiny walleye fry can grow. Good growth rates are essential for producing a year class that will survive next winter, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for an early spring heat wave.
Another item on my checklist for "getting into the swing" of things will be playing catch up in the office today. I'll be looking into some of the smaller details in my life, like, among other things, whether or not I’ll have a new boat in time for the fishing opener. One can only hope, .. more on that later. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Every spring, there are a couple of weeks when pan fishing from the metro region and south is much better than it is in the northland. To date, I’ve seen more fish photos and heard more good reports from anglers who fish in southern Minnesota and Iowa than I have from folks in my home territory.
The accompanying photo (left), provided by Chris Andresen, reveals a nice mixed catch of crappies and sunfish he caught last week. Chris fishes up in my home territory a lot, but not during spring, his exploits in southern Minnesota always get me fired up about fishing in the lower 1/3 of our state. If I were smart, I’d move in with him for a couple of weeks every spring while I wait for the water to warm up at home.
Another pal of mine, an up-and-coming fishing guide Shane Boeshart (right) does a lot of fishing in Iowa. He too offers great images and fishing reports from his home region and seeing what he has been doing for the past couple of weeks has piqued my interest about fishing “south of the border.
The great north-south divide was accentuated by my experiences yesterday. If our fishing trip on Thursday proved anything, it’s that I probably would have been better off taking my crew fishing on Lake Minnetonka or some other south metro region lake instead of staying in my home territory. For an idea about how my day went, check this.
We had spent 7 hours covering every drop of water we could think of, locating small packs of fish on the Humminbird and dropping lures that were stubbornly ignored by them. By now, the idea of finding out if they would stage an evening feeding run at sunset held some appeal, but not enough to spend another 3 hours to find out.
I know, that is not much information to go on for anglers in my region the weekend, but it’s the way our day played out.
Anybody who spends much time ice fishing knows that panfish often wait until the sun goes down before making a move. Water temperatures are marginally warmer than they would be under the ice, but at 44-45 degrees, they are far from attractive to fish waiting to make shallow water feeding and spawning runs.
This is my ECG weekend, so I’ll be looking after my mom rather than fishing. But if I was planning to fish again today, I’d wait until 3:30 PM before leaving the house and I’d be prepared to fish until dark. If I were planning to fish tomorrow, then I’d be prepared to leave home early enough to be on the lake for sunrise. Those are the only two plans that would help rule in, or out, the crepuscular feeding theory.
I know that this is the time when lots of cabin owners head north to open their properties in preparation for summer. Lots of them plan to wet a line while they’re here and if I was going to be here anyway, I’d still giving fishing a try. But if I lived in the metro region and fishing was my only weekend goal, I would likely stay close to home and catch some fish while I wait for warmer water to arrive up north.
Whatever you decide to do, good luck and let me know how it goes! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
After a week of cold, blustery weather, today’s forecast looks good enough to conduct an experiment, an early start to my guiding season. That’s right, I have a guide trip scheduled for April 22, a date which in many years, we could easily still be looking at ice covered lakes.
Even though lakes in north central Minnesota have been ice free for weeks, the water hasn’t warmed very much, 43-44 degrees is the going reading these days. So, except for the first day or two after ice-out, shallow water locations have yet to become attractive for panfish. I anticipate that we’ll find fish in deeper water, near mid-lake breaklines today, whether they’ll bite or not is an open question.
During the ice fishing season, both crappie and sunfish are highly prone to be active during the crepuscular periods. I think that was still true last week when I and The Hippie Chick tried our luck on a small panfish lake. Finding fish wasn’t the problem, I saw several small packs on the Humminbird. But most of those fish did not strike and the ones that did, were short-striking, making them difficult to hook.
Still, that experience gave me confidence that I have a decent idea about where to find them. So for today, I’ll be ready for them, in addition to a bucket of crappie minnows, I’ll have all of my ice fishing lures and a box of waxworms ready. Those tasty treats should help trigger a few extra strikes from lethargic fish. If it doesn’t, we might have to fish later into the evening to find out if my theory about an "ice-fishing-type" late feeding run is correct.
Because all the fish we found last week were in deep water, I’ve purposely selected a few shallower lakes for today. The first one, a 300 acre, moderately fertile lake has a max depth of 30 feet, on it, I I can usually find fish along the steep breaks in the 22-to-26-foot range. If that one doesn’t pan out, I’ll try another small lake with a max depth of 14 feet, panfish tend to scatter horizontally there and are likely to be travelling. Even if the schools are smaller, moving fish may be easier to catch.
If neither of those lakes are good, my last try will be another small lake that in the past, has offered a fairly reliable evening crappie bite. Historically, the fish have moved out of deep water to feed along the edges of a large, rocky flat. If we don’t have fish by then, it will be too late to try any other ideas.
Whichever way any of it turns out, I’ll let you know tomorrow. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
For Grand Rapids DNR Fisheries Staff, the early ice-out has not necessarily translated into an accelerated pace for the walleye egg take at Cutfoot Sioux. As of Monday (4-19-21), area manager Dave Weitzel reported that they are about 5 days into gathering and fertilizing walleye eggs so far.
“So far, so good with about 375 quarts of eggs taken and should be near 450 quarts by days end. The cold snap will slow the run down a little bit. Water temps are still cold at 43 to 45 degrees F, so we could still see an uptick in catches after a few warmer days. We often get smaller catches over a longer time with early ice out dates, so things are progressing as expected.” Weitzel wrote.
I asked about the quota for this spring, but apparently that number will depend on how fast eggs are collected from other DNR egg take sites around the state. Weitzel, “Our quota will largely depend on how other runs do, so we will keep at it until we are told to stop or until the run ends.”
Because the DNR is operating with a smaller, socially distanced field staff, Weitzel sees the slower pace of this year’s walleye spawning run as an advantage.
Out of curiosity, I asked whether they’ve observed many fish from either the 2018- or 2019-year classes. Weitzel, “We do not expect to see a lot of fish from the 2018- and 2019-year classes because they generally don’t spawn until they are 4 years old, although a few males have already matured. As expected, we are not seeing a lot of fish that would be from the 2016- and 2017-year classes but are seeing decent numbers of larger, older fish.”
After the DNR cancelled the egg take and subsequently fry stocking operations last spring, I wrote that it would be nice if they doubled down on fry stocking this spring. I’m paraphrasing his response, but I recall that at the time, Weitzel replied that “doubling down” would likely not be an option because increasing the rate of stocking was unlikely to improve the walleye population in any given lake(s).
Yes, I understand that increasing the number of fry stocked into any given lake might not be the best answer. But I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the lakes that were supposed to be stocked in 2020 and got skipped, added to the list of lakes that are scheduled to be stocked this spring. In other words, not doubling down on the rate of stocking, but simply using a longer list than usual this year. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Weightless soft plastics are highly efficient lures in super shallow water. They stay up near the surface and closely mimic bass forage seeking shallow, warmer water in spring. At this time, bass are looking to bulk up but are not yet expending a great deal of energy. Targeting these lethargic bass with a buoyant soft plastic tube fits the bill.
As a kid, Wired2fish's McKeon Roberts would wade the shallows of local lakes armed with only a bag of brightly colored tubes and a package of EWG hooks. Years late, he still falls back on this time-tested technique when the conditions are right.
Akin to a weightless fluke, weightless tubes ..." View Video to Learn More >> How to Bass Fish with Weightless Tubes | Deadly Spring Trick‼
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
"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
"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 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