I’m not sure why anybody would wish away the fall, but some social media pages already feature images of shallow lakes and their first inches of ice. Some folks, along with the icy images they post, offer guidance about how soon the ice, in their opinions, will be ready to support ice anglers and their gear.
It is 13 degrees outside my office right now and if I really wanted to, I bet that I could find a couple of shallow lakes that skimmed over last night. I could make it appear as if the ice fishing season starts tomorrow if I wanted to. But I’m not ready for that, I’m ready for one little stretch of warmer weather before it’s too late.
I love ice fishing alright, but I am not gonna do that, I am going to hold onto every last hope that Mother Nature might have a surprise for us in November. Maybe since she blew October right off the calendar, she intends to show us her warmer side for the deer hunting season?
I know, I AM a dreamer, but what’s wrong with dreaming about something warm and relaxing? It wouldn’t be that bad to have a few nice fall days before winter sets in for good, would it?
The short-term weather forecast appears to be on my side, by this weekend, we could see daytime highs in the 40s again. That could mean that there’s still a boat ride in my future!
Still, I do realize that the ice season is around the corner and I am preparing for it. I’ve been gathering the gear, organizing the ice shelters and charging depth finder batteries. Last week, I moved the snowmobile into position for its trial run just in case we get some more snow.
Yesterday, I checked out one of the local sporting goods stores to fill in a few gaps in my ice fishing tackle. I grabbed a few of my favorite lures, Tungsten Toads, Fat Boys and Ice Worms. But they were still waiting for more of the items that I’ll be stocking up on.
The good news was that the shelves are filling with ice gear, the bad news is that they were already talking about shipping delays and in some instances, supply shortages. Apparently, the heavy demand for outdoor gear that persisted throughout the entire summer will be carrying over into the winter as well.
In case you hadn’t already heard, the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show has been cancelled for this winter. I know that a lot of you attend that show for the purpose of getting stocked up on ice fishing supplies. Shoppers that can’t attend that show are going to go somewhere and with traffic already intensifying, I’d suggest getting an early jump on your winter, ice gear shopping.
So, here I AM, waiting to see which path Mother Nature plans to travel. With one foot in the boat and the other one in the ice shelter, I guess I better get a little bit of hunting out of my system right now, while there’s a gap in the fishing schedule.
Reports may be a little erratic for a few days, but don't worry, I won't be far away. So as soon as conditions undergo any major changes, you will be the first to know. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Some even bring their Mr. Heater in the boat. High temps this week in the low 40's. The water temps are in the 30's and the walleyes are staged in many early ice areas. Good reports on the lake with a mix of small fish, eaters and some big fish.
Consider areas on the lake such as the Lighthouse Gap, Morris Point Gap, Zippel Bay and Long Point. Good reports in all of those areas.
Walleyes in 7 - 26' of water. Most anglers anchored up and jigging with an emerald shiner. Pink, gold, glow and green jigs working well. Pike are active in bays and along shorelines. Trolling crankbaits for some anglers is still effective, but jigging by far the chosen technique this time of year.
On the Rainy River, anglers seeing good numbers of walleyes on electronics as well as a lot of bait. With so many shiners in the river, catching walleyes has been tougher than normal. The river is still low, current slow.
Best depths anywhere from 7-24'. Most anglers are jigging with live or frozen shiners. Pink, glow and gold combo effective. Trolling crankbaits over flats where fish are spread still pulling some fish. Walleyes in Four Mile Bay 10-15'. Sturgeon anglers focusing on deeper holes with current. A sturgeon rig with crawlers and shiners.
Up at the NW Angle, nice walleyes being caught up at the Angle for anglers braving some colder than normal temps. Jig and a minnow on points and areas with current all good places to start in 13'-26'. Gold, pink, and glow colors great choices. Some big pike being caught by walleye anglers as well as those trolling shorelines. Pike and muskies in bays and off of rock points." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"We are wrapping up another great season! Thank you, from all of us, to all of you who made it such a great summer! There are still some hearty Anglers getting in the last bit of fall fishing. We pulled our charter boats this past week and continue to get ready for winter. The floater docks at the public access have been pulled and currently there is a rolling temporary dock in.
The forecast for the week ahead looks better than it once did. There are still different apps and tools showing different possible weather. The week ahead looks like we may have some overnight teens and also may have 40 as a high on some days.
The best bite is still just outside the Lighthouse Gap. Anchored with a jig and Shiner minnow is the best approach.
We continue to work on new bathrooms for the lake and new sleeper houses are getting nearer to completion. Also, the Sleeper Shack is getting closer to being complete." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
Gary Dunn wrote, “How do you filet a walleye?". I have been using an electric knife for 20 plus years and am pleased with the results. What confuses me is that some folks obsess over taking out the "pin bones" and the "mud line". I don't keep a walleye over 18 inches, so it's never been a problem for me (I think). I would appreciate your thoughts, Tight lines.”
A) Gary, I have used several electric knives in the past and I agree with you, they do a nice job of filleting a fish.
There is one and only one objection that I have about using an electric is that they force me to cut through the rib bones and often, the stomach and its contents. Personally, I prefer to avoid the mess and contamination on the cleaning table that results from opening the insides of the fish.
These days, I use a regular fillet knife and cut around the rib bones, instead of ripping through them. Not only does this save me the step of going back to remove the ribs separately, but also allows me to keep the fillet board quite clean along the way. I regret not having a video to share with you, but will make a point of revisiting the subjecect as soon as I can get my hands on a fresh walleye.
Whether or not to remove the lateral line, or the “mud-line” is subjective. Like you, it doesn’t bother me to cook the fish without removing the laterals. However, I do see a trend toward folks becoming more sensitive about finding even a single bone in a fish fillet.
Some years back, I wrote about one great way to remove the lateral lines and it really is simple to do. If you’re planning to treat some guests to a fish dinner and want them to be totally bone-free, then I would suggest learning how to >> Un-Zip the Lateral Bones In A Walleye
Every day this week, I’ve looked for any good reason to hook up the Alaskan and head out of the driveway. So far, the only one I can think of is to take her down to the car wash and get her cleaned up for a long winter rest.
The weather forecast just won’t cooperate, daytime highs in the low-30s have been the norm, but temperatures are trending even colder now. Friday night will be cold, 15 degrees at the low and Saturday, supposedly the date of my last scheduled fishing trip, is forecast to be 29 degrees for a daytime high.
You would think a guy could enjoy having some time off, but after I spent a few days getting rested up, all I could think about was getting back to work. Unfortunately, the forecast calls for another week of this exact same weather. It’s beginning to look like the party is over and the next work I will have to look forward to is going to occur on the ice.
These unexpected days off have given me time to re-kindle an interest in grouse hunting. Way back when, I walked the trails a lot, but for the past couple decades, haven’t had the time. Today, I’ll combine a walk in the woods a tour of some area lakes.
You never know, it could still warm back up again and knowing the condition of boat ramps and landing access roads could come in handy again. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I figured that when I put my Alaskan in the garage last Friday, it was just to keep her high and dry while a few days of cold, snowy weather passed through the Itasca Region. Unfortunately, though, this little cold snap situation of ours is getting more serious by the day. The snow that fell last Saturday is still on the ground and they say that that there's more on the way.
I’ve checked the weather forecast 3 and 4 times every day, hoping to spot a window of “decent” fishing weather to pounce on. Every time I do, the forecasted lows get lower, while the highs get frostier and the predicted snowfalls get heavier. In fact, daytime highs are now predicted to remain below freezing for at least another full week.
If this trend keeps up, we’ll be looking at ice formation on some of the shallower lakes before the end of October.
For some ice fishing enthusiasts, this could sound like good news. But I will step out on a limb and predict that if freeze up arrives too early, the results will be disastrous later. We saw it last winter, 10 to 12 inches of clear, solid ice formed on some of the shallower lakes.
Ice anglers got off to an early start, began catching fish and posting photos someplace on the internet, by all accounts, it would be a great ice season.
Then the snow began falling, it piled up on top of the ice and insulated it from freezing. Slush began to build up under the snow and travel conditions became nearly impossible. By the end of the winter, some of the area resorts were lobbying for emergency relief to help offset lost revenues.
I don’t pretend to have it all figured out, but if I could have anything I want, it would be to get the first big snowstorm of the season out of the way before the lakes freeze. It seems like whenever that happens, there is a lull, a period of stable, dry weather before the rest of our winter storms arrive.
I think that gives lakes a better chance at freezing solid before they must begin supporting the weight of heavy snow.
We’ll see how this all works out, but in the meantime, it looks more and more like the open water season may be behind me. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"It's fall in Minnesota and on the south end of Lake of the Woods it means dress warm and catch walleyes! That was the theme with good fall fishing this past week. The colder weather has walleyes snapping.
Most anglers anchored up and jigging with an emerald shiner. Walleyes are relating to bait in anywhere from 15' - 23' of water. Structure, areas of the lake adjacent rivers / streams and areas in front of bays holding good numbers of fish. Pike continue to be active in bays and along shorelines. Trolling crankbaits continues to catch anglers a mixed bag.
On the Rainy River... Some commenting this is one of the best runs of emerald shiners up the river in years. The river is still low, current slow. More and more walleyes are coming into the river each day. Best depths anywhere from 7-24'. Most anglers are jigging with live or frozen shiners. Pink, glow and gold combo effective.
The fish are moving often, try different current seams, flats or holes until you find them. When you find them, action can be fast. Don't be afraid to pull crankbaits over flats where fish are spread out and you can cover water. Four Mile Bay holding walleyes in 10-15'. Sturgeon anglers focusing on deeper holes with current. Nice smallmouth bass being caught by walleye anglers.
Up at the NW Angle... Until the US / Canada border opens, guests can travel across the lake staying and fishing in MN waters. There are boat shuttle / passenger services available to the Angle. Check with your favorite NW Angle resort for options.
A nice walleye bite this week up at the Angle. Jig and a minnow on points and areas with current all good places to start in 13'-26'. Gold, pink, and glow colors great choices. Some big pike caught by walleye anglers jigging. Pike and muskies in bays and off of rock points." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"The river conditions keep improving. Colder temperatures certainly make a difference. There is still a strong bite outside the Lighthouse Gap with many small ones, but spending a day sorting through the small ones creates some slot fish and larger Walleye being caught and good 18 inch keeping size Walleye too.
We have begun building new bathrooms for the lake and new sleeper houses are getting nearer to completion. " — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
Most folks who hunt and fish know at least one "certain somebody" who always catches the most fish, finds the most birds or bags the biggest bucks. I have a friend like that, not only does he almost always get a big buck, but he also lets of smaller ones walk past his stand while he’s waiting.
The secret to success, he says, isn’t what happens during the hunting season, it’s what he does to prepare for the hunt during the off season. Scouting fresh territory, learning about local populations, and checking trails during a variety of weather patterns is his key.
Yes, it does sound like a lot of extra work, but the work he does during the off-season is what adds up to having a golden horseshoe up his sleeve when the hunting season arrives.
For me, the scouting season started yesterday, but not for deer, for winter panfish lakes. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that there’s no better time to learn fresh panfish territory than late fall.
The lakes are typically small, so staying out of the wind is fairly easy and panfish, for the most part are already located in, or near their early ice season habitats. All I need to do is scout the likely areas to find out if there are fish there and if so, decide if they are the right size.
The lake I selected to fish on Wednesday looked decent on paper, MN DNR Fisheries surveys indicate that there are good numbers of crappie and that some of them are above average in size. At 700 acres, it is a little larger than I typically look for and with a maximum depth of just over 30 feet, a little too deep for me too. But I can’t always get everything I want, and I reasoned that the depth might be manageable as long as I didn’t find too many small fish that would tempt me to try catch and release on deep water fish.
Having several sections, each with its own “mid-lake-basin”, it took longer to scope out than usual. Typically, I motor along the steepest and deepest shoreline breaks first. Then I make a track through the middle of the hole, checking for suspended fish and those not related to structures.
I spent about 2 solid hours cruising the holes, watching my side imaging for schools of fish before I had covered most of the better looking places. There were small, scattered packs of fish here and there, but nothing persuaded me stop and wet a line until I arrived at the section you see pictured above. A deep hole that was adjacent to both a steep shoreline break, and a couple of shallow, weedy flats.
Located close to the deepest water, but not over it, I found crappies that were relating to structure. The small point on the west side was my favorite spot because the fish were both shallower and more tightly grouped. Fish located along the breakline on the east side were holding in 30 to 31 feet, a little deep for my taste. I didn't find many fish suspended over the middle of the hole, but that could change between now and ice up.
It was cold, so I wasn’t interested in getting my hands any wetter than they already were, putting on minnows didn’t strike me as fun. A Lindy Ice Worm tipped with a generic 1-1/2 inch lime green plastic tail was the only lure I used and it worked fine.
A few years back, I wrote that the odds of searching a new lake and finding a real gem are about 1 in 3. Usually, 1 of the 3 is a bust, another 1 is so-so and the 3rd one is awesome. This lake fell into category 2, the fishing was okay and the size quality wasn’t bad in terms of catching some eater fish.
Yesterday, I didn’t see evidence that convinced me that I’d catch many really nice photo fish, but if I don’t find something more interesting, the lake might get a 2nd look later on.
Even if this lake doesn’t make the list for later this winter, it will surely make my list for next summer. When those fish move into shallower, summertime habitat, they will be fun for somebody on one of my fishing trips.
I do still have some work on the calendar, so scouting is on my mind, and so is the idea of drumming up a couple more last-minute guide trips. But the air temperature is 30 degrees right now and the wind is supposed to blow again today. The weekend forecast looks to be even colder, so I guess I’ll hold off, waiting to see if there’s a warm up in sight for next week.
If there is a mid-week warmup, and you’re interested in spending one last day in the boat, maybe we can work it out. Otherwise, it might be time for me to grab my shotgun and go for a walk. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
It takes someone special to get excited about fishing with high temperatures in the mid-40s, especially when that is combined with rain and breezy conditions. So, it is understandable why my fishing trip, scheduled for today, is cancelled. I do not blame these folks for wanting to be comfortable.
Unfortunately, the folks who cancelled their MEA Weekend fishing trip, ARE cut from that special cloth that allows them to fish in the cold weather and still enjoy themselves, in fact they have done many times. But covid-concerns are still popping up, even at this late stage of the fishing season and for them, forced a tough decision to sit this trip out.
I don’t blame folks for wanting to play it safe with their health, that is totally understandable. But it is another added element of disappointment.
The weather that Mother dished out over the past few days hasn't helped either. Winds gusting to 30 MPH has taken the creativity out of fishing for me. Instead of going where the best fishing spots are, I've been hunkering down in areas where I can control the boat. We've caught some fish, but the bite has been slow compared to the non-stop action we've enjoyed recently.
Now, I’m looking at the weather forecast and wondering; will the incoming cold front be the icing on the cake, is the end of our open water fishing season upon us?
I hope it’s not, but when I see forecasts of daytime high temperatures in the 30s, even I have to prepare for the possibility of a freeze up. So despite my unwillingness to say goodbye to the fishing season, I guess I’ll start getting the boats and gear cleaned up and ready to put way for the winter. After that, I can always take advantage of warmer weather, if and when it arrives.
I doubt that many of you plan to fish this weekend, but just in case you do, here a few thoughts.
Rainy River walleyes are on the move now and the colder it gets, the more of them will move upstream. Anyone with high hopes of getting in on a big time walleye bite should think about the Rainy as a destination.
The Mississippi River has offered anglers above average walleye fishing this fall too. Many of the fish are small, 13 to 15 inches, which is a departure from a typical fall season, but it could be a more comfortable way to catch a few eaters for one last fish fry.
Perch, located in shallow water have become active. The cold water has forced small fish and minnows out of shallow water vegetation and the perch are gobbling them up as fast as they can. The action occurs on expansive, shallow water flats in depths of 2 to 5 feet.
Pockets and gaps between heavy weed growth are ideal locations for dropping in a 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a fathead. Artificial tails will work too and at times, actually out-perform live minnows. I like small, 2-inch shad type bodies, especially when I can find ones with a perch pattern painted or embossed on them. The cannibalistic perch hit them aggressively.
Panfish, both crappies and sunfish have moved into open water now. Many of the small lakes that go un-noticed during the summer can be productive and easy to explore. If you have a list of small lakes that you’ve always wanted to try, these could offer some opportunity to catch fish, while still being somewhat comfortable.
Today looks like it might be the best chance I have, so I plan to check out one new panfish before the weather turns too crummy. So I think I’ll do that and when I’m out there, I’ll make peace with the idea that it could be my last chance, at least for a while. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye fishing showed good signs of improvement as several anglers reported good bites with quality walleyes being caught.
Key was to fish large baits, deep. Anglers trolling large minnow baits in 25-30 feet of water, along sharpe breaks had the best reports of catching big walleyes.
Live bait anglers also reported catching walleyes along sharpe shoreline breaks. Here vertical jigging or lindy rigging large minnows up and down the break, proved to be very effective on hungry fall walleyes. 20-35 feet of water is where anglers reported catching walleyes with minnows.
Northern Pike fishing remains steady with some bigger pike being caught. Pike are now largely being located on shallow, rocky, shoreline flats and around river mouths. Pike are simply staging here looking for spawning whitefish and ciscos. These pike are looking for large meals, so large suckers, spoons and large minnow have been very effective on them right now.
Stream Trout fishing has remained good to excellent for many anglers targeting them. As water temps continue to fall the bite will only get better. Shore anglers are catching good numbers of trout fishing night crawlers under a bobber and throwing small spoons. Anglers fishing from a boat have been having good luck trolling small minnow baits and small spoons, just 5-10 feet down over deep water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"Time is going by too fast, I forgot to do a fishing report last week! I have skipped weeks during November and part of the spring when the seasons are in-between, but I have never totally let a week go by without an update. Sorry.
The river is improving every day. There are Shiner minnows being caught all along the river banks with numbers increasing every day. There is still a great bite out on the lake just about everywhere, and the school of Walleye outside the Lighthouse Gap is not practicing social distancing.
Anchor and Jig is our regular go to tactic, some Anglers are still preferring trolling with plastic baits, this seems to have become a preferred tactic by some for all of the soft water season.
We are still working on many projects. We have added a new webcam to our website, check out the >> Borderview Lodge Webcam Here.
The Highway 172 road resurfacing and culvert project should be done by Tuesday. Although, there are no longer any detours. For Border View Lodge we continue to have guides busy with charter trips and working on other projects.
As you may not know, Guiding on Lake of the Woods both winter and summer requires a number of skills and abilities, along with it are things needing to be done between the seasons. We will be working on new bathrooms for the ice, new bridges for the ice, new facility for sleeper houses. We continue to maintain and do some dock repairs before winter. There is a ton of yard clean up and preparing for winter on each of the buildings.
We are also working on new signs for each of our facilities and a new map to provide convenience while travel in the area. We have added another cabin into our rental pool at Settlers Point and have changed the name to, The Point by Border View Lodge.
The new Sleeper facility, The Sleepers by Border View Lodge is also going through major remodeling and updates. We are adding shower houses and a small retail area for our guests doing sleepers or using our road for their wheelhouses. As soon as we get the map complete and solid information, we will be updating our website." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"Great fall fishing this past week on the south end of Lake of the Woods. This time of year, it's no surprise that walleyes are relating to baitfish, which can be found in anywhere from 9 to 27 feet of water.
Structure and current areas are holding good numbers of fish and there have been good reports from several areas around the lake. Particularly good walleye reports have come from Four Mile Bay, where anglers are fishing in 10 to 15 feet of water.
Most anglers are anchored up and jigging with a minnow.
Pike continue to be active in bays and along shorelines. Trolling crankbaits will catch you a mixed bag.
There was a strong run of emerald shiners into the Rainy River this past week and that brought more walleyes into the river. The river level remains low and the is low and the current is slow.
Anglers report finding groups of fish from Wheeler's Point to Birchdale. Try moving from one hole to another until you find fish.
Most anglers are jigging with live or frozen shiners. Pink, glow and gold combo effective. Change the angle of your jigging using different weight jigs. Pull the jig forward against current, let it fall back and bang bottom.
Trolling crankbaits over flats where fish are spread out also effective. Sturgeon anglers focusing on deeper holes with current. Good reports of smallmouth bass again this week.
Walleyes were active this week up at the Northwest Angle. Jig and a minnow on points, areas with current, and bay mouths where there is bait all good places to start in 8'-24'. With the many islands, lots of spots to fish. Gold, pink, chartreuse and glow colors great choices.
Crappies in the mix, fish in water depths of 15 30 feet, in areas adjacent to structure. Pike are active. Muskie anglers reporting action trolling cranks or casting jerkbaits in cabbage weed bays." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
This comprehensive seasonal progression video breaks the fall period into distinct water temperature ranges; Feider then tells us what baits work best during each window based on years of hunting big bass on Minnesota's famed Mille Lacs and other productive Great Lakes region fisheries.
His lure selection is narrowed down to the following categories:" View Video and Learn More >> 10 Fishing Tricks to Find Loads of Fall Walleyes on Snap Jigs
Most days, my answer to that question would be that I don’t know. I would probably suggest waiting until the last possible minute to decide. Before making the final call, I’d be checking the weather and wind forecast to be sure that we went somewhere with a reasonable chance of success.
My propensity for taking last minute decisions has probably irked more than a few of my customers. But it isn’t because I can’t decide, or that I want to keep secrets. It is because when it comes to fishing, there are just a lot of things that one simply cannot plan.
Let’s check my personal, Sundin’s stack of fishing for more about how this works. OH YES, here it is, Murphy’s Law, corollary 101120C; “The more planning you do in preparation for a fishing trip, the less likely it will be that weather conditions favor the implementation of that plan.
For me, yesterday was a perfect example of that. My only pre-trip instructions from Chris Andresen arrived via text last week and were simple; “Let’s fish for some big fish next week.” Before I said okay, I should have remembered Murphy’s Law, but it slipped my mind.
For a week, I worried over the fine details about where to search for Mr. Big. Sorting through my short list of lakes that might provide a few big fish, I compared old reports and fishing photos and by Saturday evening, had it whittled down to 2 choices.
Sunday morning arrived and so did Chris, after he stopped at Fred’s Bait to replace the creek chubs that died on his way up. The special minnows that he caught just for this trip never made it to their destination; another clue that corollary 101120C was in effect.
Not long after we arrived at the lake, it became clear that we were never gonna pull it off. The wind was so strong, and the waves were so tall that finesse fishing with big minnows became nearly impossible. Even if we could have pulled it off, the fun meter, on a scale of 1-10 would have registered a -2. We hung in there for a couple of hours, mostly because I was using the time to think up some sort of Plan B.
Plan B started coming together after the Hippie Chick texted, saying that she was ready to join us for the afternoon. Even after she drove over and met us at the landing, I wasn’t sure what we’d do next. As we loaded up the boat, I dropped a few hints to Chris, about our options, making sure to include crappie fishing in the list.
“I like catching crappies”, he said. That was all I needed to hear.
Long story short, we drove to a small lake that I visit infrequently. Even on the tiny lake, the wind was still nasty, but at least here I could hold the boat in position. After motoring around a little, we found a school of fish and began working on them.
The fish were in 31 feet of water, gathered in small schools along the edge of the lake’s deepest breakline. My Humminbird reveled some other fish that were in deeper water as well, but 31 feet is already deeper than I like, so we did not try fishing anything deeper than that.
Under calmer conditions, the job would have been easier, but even zig-zagging in the wind, we were able to pluck fish, one-by-one out of the small packs.
The presentations varied, each of us used our personal favorite lures. For Chris, a 1/8-ounce Lindy Live Bait Jig tipped with a red plastic tail worked well. For me, a #6 Lindy Tungsten Toad tipped with a plastic worked well too. The Hippie Chick, having a little trouble feeling the lighter weight jigs, did better when she switched to a ¼ ounce Live Bait Jig tipped with a minnow.
I mentioned that I don’t visit this small lake very often, in fact, this was only my 2nd trip over there this year. On the first visit, the fish were shallower, ranging in depth from 24 to 26 feet. The trend toward the lakes deepest water was anticipated and appeared to be on schedule when compared to past seasons. If you’re thinking about checking out crappies later this week, fish in your lake are likely migrating toward the deepest water as well.
The cyclic nature of crappie populations has been well known for decades. As soon as a great year class comes along, anglers figure out where they are and then fish them hard. The population get depleted and the anglers move to wherever the next good bite happens to be.
The cycle itself hasn’t changed, but the timeline has. These days, more anglers are more proficient at both finding and catching crappies, so the boom-bust cycle is accelerated. What that means is that no matter how great the crappie action on your favorite lake was last year, there’s no guarantee that it will produce again this year.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard comments from a number of folks on popular crappie lakes who believe that they’re waiting for crappies to show up in traditional fall locations. Based on what I learned last fall, combined with the information I have at hand now, I’d say that if you haven’t found crappies in your favorite spots by now, then it’s time to move on and find fresh territory.
Extending the longevity of good crappie populations in popular lakes depends on how we treat them. The best any of us can do is to try not going overboard on how many trips we make to the lakes and how many fish we consume when we get there.
During the fall and winter seasons, when crappies are in deep water, part of not going overboard includes leaving the fish alone once you’ve harvested your quota. Limits on consumption, self-imposed or otherwise can be thrown out the window whenever anglers believe that they can safely catch and release fish in deep water.
I am all for eating fish, in fact I’d go so far as to say that I love eating them. That’s why I want to try and help ensure that we can all catch more fish later on.
I’ve said in the past that there is no such thing as catch and release fishing in deep water. Whenever I do, I get emails from people wanting to share their tips and tricks for getting the fish to swim away after they get yanked up from the depths.
Yes, I know, there are some tricks that will help some of the fish we release survive. But even if you see them swim away, they are not out of the woods, a remarkably high percentage of those released fish will still perish. If you really want to do some good, then harvest the fish you catch, even if they’re smaller than you prefer and when you reach your limit, go fish for something else.
More on that later, after I figure out what I’m gonna do today. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleyes have turned the corner into the last phase of the open water fishing season. Responding to colder water temperatures, 52 to 53 degrees on the surface, feeding periods have become shorter, less intense, and are more dependent on the current climate.
When the wind blows, walleyes are active, they will move into shallow water to feed. Key depths have been 6 to 10 feet, depending on the structure. Fish move the shallowest wherever the current over windblown rocks offer feeding opportunities.
Shoreline areas that do not feature rocky structure can produce fish too, but they will generally run a little deeper. Focus on 8 to 10 foot depths and ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Fishing Report October 11, 2020
I do have a question for you, (but) let me paraphrase for a moment. Regarding lake Winnie, I thought I understood from one of your previous blogs that you felt one of the reasons the walleye bite was so good on Winnie was that there might be a shortage of forage in the lake.
I found this interesting because since the beginning when good graphs and displays became available it seemed Winnie has never suffered from a lack of forage. In any case, I just returned from 12 days of really good fishing on Winnie (and) my only regret was not crossing paths with your boat and giving you a wave.
Your previous blog was etched into my thinking these past 12 days. My conclusion was this, the forage at least in my experience seemed to be in the normal range. I found massive clouds of bait with forage clutter almost everywhere I fished.
Question: Have you changed your previous opinion? or what conclusions have you made for this year?
A) Rand, the report you're referencing is from >> September 10, 2020. In it, I mentioned that the walleyes on Winnie had been feeding so actively and were biting so intensely that it did not appear to matter if weather conditions for fishing were good, bad, or even downright brutal. During that time, hiccups that would have typically forced walleyes negative moods, never slowed down the action at all. Shrugging off bright sunshine, calm seas and even post cold front conditions, the fish appeared to be more interested in keeping their calorie counts high.
During that time, hiccups that would have typically forced walleyes into negative moods, never slowed down the fishing action at all. Shrugging off bright sunshine, calm seas and even post cold front conditions, the fish appeared to be interested in nothing else except keeping their calorie counts high.
Rather than re-hashing the whole article here, I will encourage you to review the original report.
Worth noting is an important distinction that your note pointed out to me. The difference between the word “shortage” and the word “imbalance” is huge. In fact, I made a pact with myself not to use the term shortage again and edited it out of my original report.
Because I don’t have access to information that provides a baseline about the amount of forage that is supposed to be in the lake, there’s no way for me to know whether there is less forage or more forage than “normal”. For all I know, there could be more forage this year than there was in years past.
However, what I do know for sure is that there are more walleyes, a lot more walleyes, in Winnibigoshish now than there has been in a long time. There are hundreds of thousands of hungry mouths to feed and sooner or later, something’s gotta give.
I believe that those two enormous year classes, 2018 and 2019, are causing intense competition between small walleyes for food. And it is that which keeps those fish biting, even on days when they aren’t supposed to. For now, there are so many walleyes crowded into that lake that they feed more often and with more intensity than usual.
Since the original report, I’ve noticed something else that appears to support my claim. Fish that we catch from the 2018- and 2019-year classes are skinny, but larger fish are fat.
I think you can see it in the accompanying photos of fish caught by my customers yesterday. The 14-1/2-inch fish is slender and reminds me of the hungry fish we would catch in other lakes with super high walleye populations. On the other hand, the pot-bellied 22-inch fish that Brent is holding looks much bigger than it actually is.
Fewer in number and with different feeding habits, the larger fish are not scrounging for the same forage that the small fish are. They appear to have a much easier time finding food and staying fat too because this is the way 95% of those 2013 year class fish look this fall, fat and sassy!
That probably also explains why there were relatively few large fish caught in the shallows, during the time when Winnie’s late-summer, early fall bite was the most intense. They were out on the flats, eating whatever it is they were eating at the time.
As angler harvest, along with natural predation reduces the walleye population in the lake, the balance will begin to shift back. The food supply, in relation to the walleye population will return to more typical levels and when that happens, we will notice a shift back toward more typical walleye behavior.
If harvest pressure on the walleyes is really intense, and baitfish populations rise quickly, the balance will reverse and there will be a surplus of forage in relation to walleyes. When the ratio of baitfish to walleyes reaches higher levels, walleyes will find more food, feed more easily and become more difficult for anglers to catch.
So, since the time of that report, my experiences on the lake have given me no reason me to change my mind. In fact, today I’ll go so far as to double down and say it again; I still believe that the ratio between walleyes and their forage is out of balance and for us anglers, it is a gift.
Sooner or later, the situation will change and we’ll have to go back to working harder for a bite, but the meantime, let’s just enjoy the great fishing! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I decided to take a chance on fishing a smaller lake, typically decent for walleye fishing in the fall.
The fishing wasn’t bad, but it was what I’d call an “experts bite.” For folks who sit at the edge of their seat, waiting to sense every little vibration at the tip of their fishing rods, it is productive. But for folks who’d rather sit back, relax and let the fish bite, results are less appealing.
By the end of the day, we had about a half dozen keepers and we’d released another dozen fish that were either in the protected slot or were too small to meet our needs. So as fishing trips go, it wasn’t a bad day, but it wasn’t a great day either.
Remembering that, I may have out-thought myself again on Tuesday when I reasoned that this time, poundage would outweigh comfort for me and my crew. Knowing that we stood a better chance of catching larger numbers of fish on Lake Winnibigosh, I took a chance that the waves over there would be manageable.
What I hoped I could do was to take advantage of the information that came from Chad Mertz’ report about the good mixed-bag fishing they enjoyed at The Pines Resort, in Tamarack Bay over the past weekend.
For a time, it looked like my decision was a good one. The morning wind was barely a concern, there was just enough for a drift. As you can see in the photo, the fish that Chad reported were definitely there too, just like he said they were. We already had a nice keeper walleye; some nice perch and Joe had released a couple of bonus slot-fish before the wind got ripping.
Eventually, the waves became too big to allow us to continue with that plan. A late inning rally would be needed, but where would we go? I gave the boys two choices, experimental walleye fishing or experimental crappie fishing. Either choice would lead them to places that I thought might be productive, but neither would lead to places that I’ve fished this fall.
Walleyes got the nod from the crew, and for that, I couldn’t think of a calmer, more peaceful and handier place than the Mississippi River. We took a short hop across the bridge, dumped the boat into the river at the Winnie Dam and were back in business in short order.
The rest of the story was Déjà vu all over again.
The fishing wasn’t bad, but it was what I’d call an “experts bite.” For folks who sit at the edge of their seat, waiting to sense every little vibration at the tip of their fishing rods, it is productive. But for folks who’d rather sit back, relax and let the fish bite, results are less appealing.
I wouldn’t send you over there with intent of hauling in a ton of fish. But like us, you’d probably catch enough walleyes to legitimize the idea and make the experience interesting. Combine that with the serenity of floating along on the quiet and colorful river and the idea could turn out to be a fairly good one.
No matter where I’ve been over the past few days, the surface water temperature has ranged between 52 and 54 degrees. Uniformly cold and uniformly homogenized, the water column is filled with every sort of critter from tiny, young minnows to scattered schools of small perch, panfish and who knows what else? There has been so much data displayed on the screen of my Humminbird that I scarcely know where to stop and we a line.
From here on out, fish will recover from the big shake up and late fall patterns will become more reliable. I’ll report more about it in coming days, but check the October archives from past seasons to learn more about what to expect over the next couple of weeks.
For today, I get to figure out a battle plan to avoid even more blustery winds. I’m leaning toward the calm side of Winnie but wouldn’t mind taking a break from walleyes to search for some panfish instead. The crew will decide that in a little while and I’ll report back in tomorrow morning. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Walleye - Walleye fishing remained slow as cold temps and rain made it challenging just to get out. The few anglers that went out reported still finding walleyes out around sunken islands or up on large shallow, wind blown flats. Larger minnows fished on lindy rigs seemed to be key to anglers success. Water temps are now holding in the mid 50’s, so the best fishing is still to come.
Pike - Anglers continue to find pike easy to catch, but lacking in size. Large sucker minnows fished under a bobber around river mouths, weedlines or shallow rocky points, has been very effective. As water temps continue to drop, rocky points will only become more important to anglers success.
Stream Trout - Shore angler fishing for stream trout are reporting good to excellent fishing right now. Night crawlers fished 5-15ft under a bobber has been the most popular and maybe most effective. Small spoons and spinners have also effective on trout. Anglers should be looking for trout around sharpe drop offs, large rocky flats or around downed trees." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"The traditional fall pattern of a jig bite for walleyes continues on the south end of Lake of the Woods. There are various schools of walleyes located across the south shore all the way from Rocky Point to the gap. Anglers reporting going through high numbers of small walleyes and saugers to catch nicer eater siz fish. Pike are active in bays and along shorelines.
A good place to start is 9 to 15 feet of water or 22 to 29 feet of water adjacent to rivers, creeks and bays. Decent walleye reports also from Four Mile Bay in 10 tp 15 feet of water.
Anchor up and vertical jig over the side of the boat using a frozen shiner or fathead.
Anglers are catching some nice size walleyes in the Rainy River, not the big numbers yet. Current on the river and the river itself is low. Most anglers are jigging with frozen shiners, although trolling crankbaits to find fish still effective for some. Sturgeon anglers focusing on deeper holes with current. Good reports of smallmouth bass this week.
Up at the Northwest Angle, jigging with a minnow on structure wherever there is some current is your best bet. Fishing in 8 to 24 feet has been effective for walleyes. Gold, pink, chartreuse and glow colors great choices.
There are some crappies found in 15 to 30 feet of water adjacent to structure. Muskie anglers reporting action trolling cranks or casting jerkbaits in cabbage weed bays. Water temps in the mid 50's." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
The nearly 2 month long “HOT BITE” on Lake Winnibigoshish had to end sooner or later, there never was any doubt about that. The only question was when, and apparently, the answer was Sunday October 4, 2020. But it shouldn’t have been much surprise as there were signs of its passing as early as last Thursday.
Anglers who had become accustomed to drifting or trolling along the shoreline, gathering easy limits of small-but-tasty “eater size” walleyes, found themselves working harder and smarter to get some keepers for a meal.
Ironically, larger fish, mos tly fish in the protected slot began biting better as the pee-wee bite faded. On Friday, the last day of a 3-day stint with Larry Lashley and Mike Cooley, my trip began with Larry’s pledge. “I’m not hanging around, waiting for any fish cleaning today. All I want today is to ..." Read >> Winnie Walleye Report October 3, 2020
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