But overnight, Mother Nature has gotten more serious about making ice. As I write this report, the air temperature outside my office window is 11 degrees f and with the forecast high of 25 degrees, I expect to see a lot more lakes around the Itasca Region skimmed over with ice this morning.
The numerous shallow-water lakes that were already frozen, will be making ice all day long today and again overnight tonight. Temperatures may moderate again later this week, but by then, most lakes should have enough ice to withstand a few daytime hours of above freezing weather.
As expected, Upper Red Lake got most of the attention this weekend. There were several resorts and rental operators offering onshore parking for anglers who were willing to hoof it out to their fishing spots and a lot of them were. As you can see by the weekend Photo of Upper Red Lake, dozens of anglers walked out to test their skills. The most adventurous of them were stopped by the open water that was shown on the map in last Friday’s report.
This morning, I was thinking that I might hear from somebody that certain portions of the ice might be damaged by the strong northwest wind that blew on Sunday, but so far, I have not. Assuming, that the ice held together yesterday, then Red Lake will be packed with anglers tugging portable shelters behind ATVs by the end of this week.
Today, I’ll drive a loop around the region and see how conditions are shaping up on some of the more popular lakes. Watch for an update tomorrow morning. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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Most of the men and women in my family love fishing. Naturally, that means that they love fishing gear too, so Whenever somebody mentions picking up stocking stuffers for Christmas, I start checking around for special sales on fishing tackle.
A couple of days ago, an email from Lurenet got my attention. It contained an announcement about a big flash sale on fishing lures and a lot of the lures they listed, are the same ones I use every day for both open water and ice fishing.
When they use the term “Flash Sales”, they mean it. Both the lures that are on sale and the times at which they're offered are moving targets. So you have to check in every day to see which ones they running at the moment. The deals are running at random times and usually last only if the supplies do.
So whether you have anglers on your Christmas list or just want a great deal on lures for your own tackle trays, save some money and have some fun checking out >> Lurenet's Black Friday Flash Sales. I'm on their website, checking for bargains myself, right now. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"As we approach Thanksgiving, thin ice covers some of the back bays and a portion of Big Traverse Bay at the south end of Lake of the Woods. For a closer look, enlarge the satellite image, roughly half of the lake is covered with thin ice with the rest open water.
Ice anglers are hoping for cold nights combined with low wind and no snow to create a good early sheet of ice. Every year is different based on Mother Nature of course, but normally resorts will be able to get their smaller fish houses, called day houses, out around December 10th. When the ice thickens, resorts will begin marking trails where there is the best ice.
The Rainy River, in most areas, is now covered with a layer of thin ice too. Most ice fishing is done on the main lake during the ice season where there isn't current. With current in the river, most visitors will work through a resort for safety.
There’s a mix of iced over areas, along with open water in necked down areas at the Northwest Angle. The ice is forming nicely, and the hopes are for colder weather to keep things moving along positively. Resorts are ready for ice fishing!" — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Rainbows in the sky and 45 degrees are hardly the recipe that puts us on the fast track toward the ice fishing season. For hard core ice anglers, looking at all of this open water is a little un-settling.
It is true, you can forget about finding ice on any of the Itasca Region’s deep-water lakes today. But despite this week’s short term warm up, shallow water lakes are doing okay at holding on to the thin layers of their ice that formed last week. I don’t think there are places to fish safely yet, but it is coming.
Below, the photo provided by Russ Jaeger, shows a school of minnows swimming below a sheet of clear, solid looking ice over about 1 foot of water. Jaeger said there was roughly 3 inches of ice on the un-disclosed Grand Rapids area lake and that is the thickest ice I’ve heard about so far.
Personally, that is better than any firsthand observations at the lakes I’ve looked at this week. Driving the back roads from Emily to Marcell, I have not seen a single one that had ice thick enough to support my weight, even the ice adjacent to the shallowest shoreline areas cracks under the first few footsteps.
I mentioned the other day that this is going to be one of those ice fishing seasons that sneaks up on us from behind. For me, in one respect, it already has. On a return trip from the Twin Cities last Wednesday, I stopped at Cabela’s in Rogers to shore up some of my ice fishing supplies and was surprised to see how low they were on some of my favorite ice fishing lures.
Luckily, they had a reasonably good supply of Lindy Glow Streaks and Glow Spoons. Those, along with some extra glow sticks will come in handy for first ice walleye fishing. Supplies of tungsten didn’t look as good though, there were already some holes in the assortments, and I had to leave the store without some of the lures that I intended to purchase.
With some of the popular re-stocking venues, like the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show being closed this winter, pressure on supplies at the retailers will be greater than usual. This, combined with the typical supply chain problems caused by the virus, could make it more difficult to find some of your favorite lures at first ice this year.
A word to the wise, if you’re out and about this weekend, make a supply stop at your favorite ice fishing tackle dealer and get a head start before the crowds realize that the ice season is almost here.
One day soon, we will begin seeing images of folks who find good ice to fish on. In fact, I won’t be surprised if some anglers are on the ice by December 1st. For weeks already, many lakes have been teetering back and forth between freeze up and open water. Many of them have frozen, opened back up and frozen again repeatedly. If we don’t get too much snow, it will only take a few days of cold weather to produce a lot of ice.
I’ll let you know how things look after the weekend. In the meantime, get your ice cleats out, sharpen your auger blades and stock up on supplies, the ice season is nearly upon us! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
We really didn’t have much fear of catching any virus while we would have been there, especially playing outside on the beaches. What had us second guessing ourselves were the hours we would have spent in airports, waiting to catch the 3 connecting flights to get us there.
So, since we didn’t spend Sunday evening gazing at the ocean sunset, we decided to see what we could see here, in our own neighborhood instead.
Ice has begun to form along the shoreline of shallow lakes again, and many of the shallow ponds in the woods have re-frozen too. But, there is virtually no ice on any of the Itasca region’s larger, deeper water lakes.
With overnight temperatures forecast to fall below freezing every night, the water that has frozen already will likely remain that way. I doubt though that we’ll see much new ice formation on larger lakes this week, especially if we receive the warm daytime temps that I see forecast for Tuesday thru Friday.
Neither of us wants to wreck our vacation by doing too much work. But since we’re home anyway, we will probably take a drive through the woods every day and I’ll post a few quick updates about conditions as they develop.
It feels like this is going to the winter that sneaks up and arrives with little warning. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, the ice fishing season will be upon us. So, I’ve got the snowmobile in position, batteries charging up and tackle boxes laid out. It won’t be long before it all comes in handy. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Within the first 2 hours, I'd seen at least a half dozen bucks and at one time or another, had my rifle pointed at 3 of them. Not believing in taking unnecessary risks with marginal shots, I chose not to pull the trigger and that's okay. I'll just have to wait and see if I can get a better angle sometime during the rest of the season.
How much time I’ll actually have to hunt is debatable? Ice had already taken hold of several of lakes in my region a couple of weeks ago. Although this recent warm spell temporarily opened them all back up, I don’t think the surface water temperatures would have risen very much in those few days.
If we can believe the longer-range weather forecast, I think it likely that many of the shallow lakes and ponds will be quick to re-freeze. The cold front that moved in last night marks the beginning of an extended period with overnight lows in the 20s and daytime highs in the 30s.
With air temperatures straddling the freezing mark, deep water lakes will be slower to freeze up. It appears that we are likely headed for one of those ice fishing seasons where shallow water lakes get lots of attention. Meanwhile, lots of anglers will watch and wait for deep water lakes to gain enough ice for safe fishing.
It will take a few days for the cold air to bring ice back to northwoods ponds and shallow lakes. But I'll keep an eye open for developments and let you know how the next freeze up progresses. In the meantime, maybe I'll stumble into Mr. Big somewhere alomg the path.
If you've already bagged your deer, congratulations and if you're like me, still hunting for one, good luck. While you're out there, I hope you'll take a minute to enjoy the view! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
To say that there are significant gaps in my knowledge about how to fish in 35-degree water temperatures is an understatement. That’s pretty much what I told Paul Kuznik when he called about a fishing trip for he, his father Tony, and father-in-law, Ivan.
Kuznik, along with both of his dads shrugged off my words after I said; “I know the weather will be nice, I'm sure we’ll have a nice day on the lake and I’ll definitely give it everything I’ve got. But it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve been on the water and I can’t promise that I’ll figure out where the walleyes are or how to catch them.”
The trio almost always makes 1 or 2 trips to Canada every summer. Just like everybody else who planned to fish north of the border last summer, they were never allowed across to complete the trip. So, for them, Wednesday’s trip was more of an excuse to get together and spend a day on the water. Fish, if we caught any, would be the icing on the cake, not the main entre’.
Cutfoot Sioux would be as good a choice as any, I thought, so we began heading toward the Mosomo Landing, at the Cutfoot bridge to launch the boat.
Surprised to see ice fully covering Forest Lake in Grand Rapids and partially covering the Mississippi River near Cohasset, I began wondering if we’d be able to launch the boat when we got up there. Little Ball Club Lake, also fully ice covered, caused more concern; I started thinking about backup plans, but as it turned out, none were needed.
At the bridge, we found ice covering Little Cutfoot entirely and covering most of the bay from the bridge to Williams Narrows. But we also found a half dozen rigs parked at the ramp and the anglers who owned them had already launched boats and broken the ice ahead of us. By the time we were on the water, there was a nice trail of open water leading toward Big Cutfoot.
Surface water in the bay was 34 degrees, but through the narrows, the water temperature jumped up to 37 degrees. That would turn out to be the warmest reading I’d see for the day.
I had intended to take a look at McAvity Bay, but that, along with the water surrounding the island was covered with thin ice too. We skipped past that and headed for the most popular fall fishing spot, Bob’s Bar. One pike, a couple of perch and a skinned minnow were the highlights of that stop. Subsequent stops around Cutfoot yielded similar results, so I decided to try a few spots on Big Winnie.
Heading toward Tamarack Bay, we discovered more ice, it covered the surface from the satellite dishes all the way down to Plughat Point. So we crossed the flats at Tamarack Point and headed for Highbanks where I scanned the deep breakline. There were some fish, scattered singles and doubles along there and they were holding in 28 to 30 feet of water.
We tied on ¼ ounce live Bait Jigs, tipped them with minnows and dropped them in. We got a few bites, but again, skinned minnows was all we had to show for the trouble. I might have been on the right track, but the action was slow and I was hurrying to try as many spots as I could. Maybe we could find some fish on the rocks, I thought, so we left the deep breakline and headed for the flats.
Moving across scattered patches of gravel in 12 to 14 feet of water, the crew started picking up perch. Some were better than others, but they were mostly all acceptable, especially under the circumstances. So, we stuck with them for most of the afternoon. Late in the day, we speculated that walleyes could easily be in their winter-feeding pattern and were likely to make their appearance at sunset.
We speculated too that if we stayed long enough to find out if there was a sunset bite, it would mean a ½ hour boat ride home, after dark. Nobody felt much like doing that, so we headed back to Cutfoot for one last try at the walleyes before dark.
In Cutfoot, Paul hooked one walleye, but it came off the hook and I missed one. After that, the most impressive thing that happened was the sunset. We’d used up the whole day and despite coming close a few times, never bagged a walleye.
At the fish cleaning station, we chatted about the day. As I parceled out bags of perch to produce each of them a meal, Tony mentioned that he had purchased a 1-day fishing license for the trip. “Why did you need a I day license?” I asked. “Because this was the first day, I’ve fished all year,” he replied. To that, I said; “WOW, I guess that means this was your best fishing trip of the whole year!” “With a grin, he said yes, I guess it was.”
I learned yesterday that I need more than 8 hours to figure out where the walleyes are at this time of the season. I learned too that if you just keep fishing, sooner or later you’ll find something to eat, even if it’s perch instead of walleye. Finally, the trip re-enforced something else that I already knew, but bears repeating, there are some days when it really doesn’t matter; catching a boat load of fish is fun, but it is not the only way to measure success.
So, there you go, our day was filled with sunshine, comradery, enough fish for a meal and to top it all off, this gorgeous sunset. It was, apparently good enough for those guys and for me, a better way to end the season than the one I had before. Tempting as it is to try and fish one more day, I don’t think I will. Today seems like a good day to get the boat cleaned up, dried out and put away for the winter.
In other words, today seems like a really good day to quit while I’m ahead! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Loren Bosmans wrote; “Jeff, I do a great deal of fall crappie fishing in north central Minnesota. I have had good fishing this fall, getting the crappies suspended over deeper holes, pretty much same areas I ice fish.
I fished the past 2 days for the first time in about 3 weeks, the surface water temperature ranged from 36 to 40 degrees, I even had to break ice with the boat in one bay.
What surprised me was that I marked almost no fish and when I did find crappie, they bit reluctantly and were much smaller than fish I caught a few weeks ago.
I have always been under the impression that the fall crappie fishing stayed good right up to ice formation and that the fish were in similar location to the early ice locations, but I have never fished water this close to ice formation.
Q) Is there a period just before ice formation during super late fall when the crappie bite slows prior to the good “first ice” bite we typically see?”
A) Loren, I suspect that the fall turnover is the wild card that interrupted your good crappie fishing this fall.
The unusual timing of this warm spell, coming on the heels of that huge and long-lived blast of arctic air is giving some of us an opportunity to fish during the ‘post-turnover” period. It will likely allow us to move up a notch on the learning curve about how it affects fish location.
Most anglers, me included, never actually fish during the period when the true thermal turnover occurs. Typically, by the time our lakes begin to freeze-up, most of us have already put our boats away for winter and are hard at work, off deer hunting, or doing whatever else it is we do. So, my answer is somewhat speculative, and I would consider it a work in progress, but here’s my best shot.
The turnover, as described in previous reports occurs when the surface water falls to about 42 degrees or so. While most of us seldom fish during this event, we can compare it in some ways to other, smaller turnover events that occur during times that we are on the lakes, fishing.
We do know that with rare exception, most lakes undergo some sort of physical “turnover” during every fishing season. Sometimes caused by wind and waves or sometimes caused by weather cold enough to have more localized impact these mini turnovers do impact both fish location and activity.
In my experience, the typical short-term effect on fish is that they become scattered and hard to pin down. To an extent, their feeding activity may be reduced too, but when I can’t find ‘em, I don’t know if they’re biting or not, it’s hard to prove.
The scattering effect, in my opinion, impacts crappie anglers more so than it does those who fish for other species. That’s because after the turnover, the entire water column is well oxygenated and practically equal in temperature. There’s nothing stopping crappies from going wherever they want and at times like these, they have an irksome habit of spreading out horizontally.
They may spread out along the soft bottom on deep water flats, making them extremely hard to see on our electronics. What appear to be slight smudges, located tight to the bottom are the tip off. The example you see in the accompanying photo is not the most glaring example I can think of, but this, actual image of crappies caught earlier this fall does give you the idea of what they might look like on your graph.
Less likely, but also possible is that will spread out horizontally just below the surface of the water. At times, I have caught fish that were higher in the water column than was the transducer for my Humminbird. Unless they cruise along the surface or do something else that allows me to see them, I can drive right past them without ever knowing that they were there.
I don’t know how long it takes for the fish to reassemble after the turnover, exactly. But like you mentioned, we already have a good idea about where they’ll be during early ice. My guess is that the closer we get to ice-up, the more re-grouping of these fish we’ll see. Structure, like steep breaklines, rocky points and tight inside corners are likely to be where we’ll find them first.
I may have a chance to elaborate on some of these comments later this week. The warm weather has gotten the attention of other anglers too and my phone has been ringing. So, like you, I will be getting a little firsthand experience with both post-turnover crappies and walleyes over the next few days.
Whatever I learn, I will be sure to share later this week. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"It's been an interesting fall on the Rainy River. There has been a good shiner run but low current. Some anglers say slow fishing compared to past falls. Others report excellent fishing but you have to work for them.
Move around to different spots or even trailer to different sections of the river until you find fish. Best depths range from 7 to 24 feet of water.
Jigging with shiners on current breaks and in holes or trolling crankbaits over flats where fish are spread still pulling some fish. A sturgeon rig with crawlers and shiners in deep holes still catching lake sturgeon.
Good walleye reports from a variety of different areas on the south end of lake of the Woods. Most anglers report sorting through walleyes in a variety of sizes to catch eaters and big fish.
Anchoring up and jigging with a minnow in 7 to 26 feet of water has been the go to presentation. Pink, gold, glow and orange jigs working well.
Lighthouse gap, Morris Point Gap, Zippel Bay, Long Point and Knight and Bridges Islands are some areas reporting nice walleyes. Pike being caught by walleye anglers but also active in bays and shallow shorelines for those targeting them.
Parts of the Northwest Angle are icing up. For those still fishing on the open water, a jig and a minnow on points and areas with current in 13'-26' has fared well. Gold, pink, and glow colors great choices. Reports of some big predators (pike and muskies) being caught as ice up is close." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"November 1 and we continue on with projects for this winter! We keep working hard on many things. New sleeper fish houses and facility for sleepers, repairs to our existing houses and scrubbing and painting, new bathrooms for on the ice.
We are working on new signs for our 3 properties and a map to highlight our locations and make check in and check out easier. Cleaning vehicles and maintenance to trailers as well as finishing parking lot areas and winter access.
The forecast for the week ahead is looking to warm up. Possible highs in the 50’s. It will give us a last chance to make sure we have everything in place before freezing." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
I am just back from Minnesota’s western border with North Dakota, where my son-in-law, Austin Jones and I hunted for Pheasants. While I can’t say that we saw the most birds ever, we did enjoy some nice walks and on each one of them, saw at least a few birds.
It had been a long time since I’d hunted on the Minnesota side of the border, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. For me, it was heartening to see that in one respect, Minnesota has it all over North Dakota; the availability of huntable public habitat.
As good as North Dakota may be, it just keeps getting harder and harder to find access to decent hunting land. Sure, if you know somebody that can get you onto private ground, you’ll do great, but that’s true in Minnesota too. And in recent years, North Dakota’s public hunting grounds have suffered because of the degradation of habitat on private ground.
Burning cattail sloughs, cutting down tree rows and tiling marginally plow-able fields may be good for growing corn, but it doesn’t do anything for wildlife. The loss of habitat combined with modern farming practices that leave nothing behind except for sifted, black dirt has turned many of our most cherished North Dakota hunting spots into barren wastelands.
So, even if we saw fewer birds overall, hunting public ground in Minnesota did lead us to some satisfying results. Like I said, most of the spots we tried did offer opportunity. Some were better than others, but it was rare to walk a spot without seeing anything. So I am pretty sure that we’ll give Minnesota pheasant hunting another try one of these days.
But first, it looks like I might need to pull the boat out again. The forecast calls for a week of September-like weather and predicted high temperatures in the 50s already prompted one group to inquire about a fishing trip this week. The idea is intriguing, but obviously, I haven’t been on the water for a couple of weeks. We’ll see if they’re interested in watching me feel my way through a day on the lake or if they prefer more of a guarantee.
Today, catching up on paperwork gets top priority, after that, I’ll take a look at some of the area lakes and check the availability of bait. Tomorrow morning, I have a couple of couple of reader questions to work on, so check in for an update. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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