"The past week has been nothing but gloomy, cloudy, days across Minnesota. While it makes for a long day at work, it provides some good angling opportunities after you leave the site, especially when the temperatures have been stable!
Lakes across Wright and Sherburne counties have 16 to 20 inches of ice and are beginning to see plenty of traffic. A lot of families were out, which is great to see! Bluegills and crappies were the name of the game on some of these lakes.
When I checked in with a few anglers, they all had identical answers; fish were suspended where the basin met a weedline. Their tip for bait: medium sized tungsten jigs tipped with a minnow head were attracting crappies, while the bluegills preferred a smaller sized jig tipped with two to three red spikes.
If you venture out this coming weekend, start there and move around, as panfish are very mobile especially when some start to find their way in your bucket!
Lake Mille Lacs has had plenty of traffic on it as of late. Most resorts have lifted restrictions on vehicle travel and wheelhouses, but to get off of their plowed road, you will want to call ahead and have them plow you a spot, or bring your own plow.
Snow cover isn’t a major issue, but I did see a few vehicles digging themselves out, and I assisted in pushing one back onto the main resort road as I made my way off the lake. Your best bet is to call ahead to the resort closest to the area you want to target and get their road map so you can plan accordingly.
Fishing remains steady on the lake. I was out on Saturday evening and caught over thirty walleyes within a two-hour period. It won’t be like that for everyone as I was at the right spot at the right time.
The key is to find an area not pressured that is holding fish, which is where a wheeler or snowmobile will come in handy. Find structure and drill holes on the outer edges and up on top. Fish were in the 27 to 30-foot depth where I was on the northwest side of the lake. Find the baitfish and you’ll find the walleye nearby. An Aqua-Vu can be your best tool during your search in locating areas holding fish.
Spoons, such as the Lindy Quiver Spoon shown in the accompanying photo, were working well. A majority of the fish were caught on a chartreuse glow with gold back tipped with a minnow head.
Finding the right cadence paved the way to success this weekend. Give the fish the wrong pumping action, and they would turn the other way. I always like to tell the anglers that are fishing with me that if they have “lookers and not takers” to try changing the cadence. Most of the time it will trigger a curious fish into biting.
The temperatures going into this weekend are warmer than average for this time of year. This can be good in triggering the bite once again. My advice to everyone planning on hitting the ice this weekend would be grab a map of the lake and do your homework prior to venturing out.
Have a few spots marked up to try in case someone else is on one or more of your target areas. Once you get to your spot, start to drill around and move until you find some active fish willing to bite. It won’t take long to before you reap the benefits of this method.
As always, be safe and use the buddy system!" — Shane Boeshart, 641-529-0270
There’s been a lot going on in my family lately and it’s really put a dent in my personal fishing time this winter. In fact, except for keeping up with incoming reports, I’ve scarcely had time to think about fishing. But a man can only wait so long before he just must get out onto the ice and catch something, and my time finally came.
Close to home, travel conditions on the ice make finding places to fish difficult right now. So, the search for a lake where we could catch some panfish led away from Grand Rapids and closer to the metro region, where friends had reported good action over the weekend.
They live and fish about an 1-1/2 hours north of the Twin Cities. So, the lake they took us to isn’t exactly part of the metro area, but it’s also not a remote lake either.
I’ve wondered it before, but I never even bothered to look it up. It is literally right on the highway; we watched a steady stream of traffic passing by all day long. Maybe that’s why I haven’t fished there before, I’ve driven right past it hundreds of times thinking that anyplace this handy has to be fished out.
One thing the small has going for it is better ice conditions. I guess there was about 6 to 8 inches of snow on top of 16 to 20 inches of ice. There was very little slush on the lake and that made travel by ATV, Snowmobile and on foot very easy. The county plows had blocked the access with snow, so there was no vehicle traffic on the lake, but there could have been had the ramp been cleared.
I can’t say that we caught any trophy size sunfish, but the small fishery is holding its own. There were lots of sunfish and they were easy to catch, but we had to sort through a lot of little ones. It reminded me of some of the metro area lakes that I fished during my formative years. In those days, the expectation was always that we’d catch a lot of fish, but we knew that only a handful would be nice size.
Even though I was out of my home territory, I think I might have turned my buddies on to a trick. Shortly after seeing the mix of sizes, I abandoned the small Tungsten Toad that I was using and tied on a Rattl’n Flyer Spoon instead. At first glance, it looks too big to be a great sunfish lure, but the size did offer an advantage. It was just large enough to discourage the smallest fish, but not too large for the better size fish to strike.
I added even more bulk by loading it with live bait, making sure that all 3 treble hooks were always full. I tried both waxworms and euro larvae and decided that the red euros worked a little better. Even the bulked-up presentation didn’t shoo away all the little fish, but there was a noticeable difference in the number of larger fish that struck.
If you’re looking for someplace to fish this weekend, consider some of the lakes closer to the metro region. The travel conditions are actually pretty good and there are plenty of fish, especially panfish in a lot of them. If you don’t love the idea of catching smaller size fish, then bring your kids along. They won’t care how big the fish are, they’ll just be happy catching them and that will make your trip a lot more fun.
If you are looking for big game, then Mille Lacs is worth thinking about. Travel conditions have really improved there, and the fish have been active too. I reached out to some of my friends for reports and they gave me tons of fresh info, so be sure to click on the Mille Lacs and Central Minnesota reports below. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Shallow spots to target include transition areas of hard/soft bottom such as rock and sand, or sand and mud in 10-16ft of water during low light conditions and 28 to 32 feet of water on mud flat points or inside turns.
I've been finding Walleyes schooled up in most locations, so if you're not finding fish in a short amount of time, dont be afraid to move and continue to hole hop until you connect with fish.
Northern pike continue to be found in 'shallow' water along bay edges, weed edges, rocky points and steep breaks (10-16ft).
Lindy Quiver Spoons(gold and perch) and the Lindy Glow Streak in perch patterns (both natural and viral perch have been producing) numbers of fish including quality! Sucker minnows and set lines are also great to have out when you find a school of walleyes in an area.
Ice has been around 20-26" on much of the lake but snow drifting can make some travel difficult with a vehicle unless you're using an ATV with chains, snowmobile, or plowed road from a resort." — Dustin Monson, 320-293-2442
In the evening in low light times, I tend to move on top of the flats for the most active feeding fish. During the day, I'll get into that 30 to 34 foot of water range and fish the deep side of the breaks. Don’t be afraid to try 50-100 yards off the flats during the day for those roaming walleyes.
Use one dead stick using either an iFish Pro or tip up rigged with a live shiner or sucker minnow. Setting your bait so it rests a couple feet off the bottom is a presentation that can put fish on the ice.
Hole hopping along the deep edge of the break with a jigging style bait has been good as well. I have had better luck using a minnow head in conjunction with this presentation.
My favorite this year has been the pink Lindy Glow Streak. Normally chrome blue is my go to but pink has been hot this year. Spoons are also a good choice. Fire Tiger rattlin flyer tipped with a minnow head has worked best this year for spoons.
If you’re in the flats and see multiple marks that chase fast but won’t commit, they’re usually Tullibee. Catching them has been fun as a time filler whenever there's a lull in walleye action. The the tulibees don't mind biting during mid day, they provide good action and they're tasty too.
I keep a panfish rod rigged with a green and black tungsten toad tipped with a white plastic next to me. Whenever I see a suspended school of tullibees move into range, I get the panfish rig into the water right away. Tullibees tend to love this presentation and can really be fun for kids when you have them along." — Chris Messerschmidt
"The lake trout bite slowed for many this last week, but for a few the bite was excellent! Successful anglers downsized their baits to turn lookers into biters. Small rattling jigging spoons, small jigging raps and small bucktails tipped with a minnow was key to catching Lakers.
Anglers also noted that Lakers were being found shallower, in 15-25 feet of water.
Stream trout fishing continues to be good to excellent for many anglers. Small tungsten jigs or flashy spoons tipped with wax worms or minnow, remains very effective on trout.
Anglers targeting rainbows have been finding them in the first 10 feet of water column or in 10 feet of water or less. Anglers targeting brookies are finding them in 10 feet of water or less.
Early morning or later in the evening remains the best time to be on the ice for stream trout.
Walleye anglers continue to be few and far between, but the few walleye anglers out there are reporting excellent fishing. These anglers have been fishing out around the base of sunken islands in 20 to 25 feet of water during the evening hours.
Dead sticking a shiner on a glowing jig remains very effective.
Eelpout - Eelpout have been showing up in many anglers catches this last week. Few of these eelpouts even stretched the tape to 30+ inches! Anglers that were targeting them, are finding them in 20-30 feet of water. Pout Bouncer loaded with chunks of minnows and bounced on the bottom during the evening hours has been very effective." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Warmer weather turned the bite on for many anglers, resulting in a good week of fishing. There were good numbers of big fish caught this week.
Resort houses continue to move constantly following the fish. The ice roads now extend 7 to 12 miles or more. Most anglers are fishing 27 to 36 feet of water.
Both jigging line and deadstick with a live minnow producing based on mood of walleyes. Downsize offering or get aggressive if bite is slow. Rattles and vibration help in stained water. Gold, glow and firetiger good colors. Electronics will increase results.
The Rainy River is frozen over and there's snowmobile traffic on marked trail. Current has dropped some and river continues to build ice. Extra caution is always needed on the river. Thin ice around the International Bridge in Baudette. Work through resort if ice fishing the river as ice thickness varies.
They had a good week of ice fishing up at the Northwest Angle too, with houses in 23 to 32 feet of water. Some houses on structure, others in mud on edge of reefs.
Jigging spoons with rattles tipped with a minnow head or tail on jigging line, plain red hook with live minnow on deadstick. Snowmobile trails from south end to Angle groomed and in good shape. Fish houses on the ice through March 31st, walleyes and saugers open through April 14, 2020." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"The temperatures have leveled off this week, resulting in a better bite! We’ve seen increased activity in the bigger walleyes, we have some pics of beautiful 27” plus fish to share this week. Captain Mike even gets on the board with a 29 plus. People are catching some nice eaters too, with enough to have a fish fry and still take some home. It’s been mild with a couple of beautiful sunny days. Today is gray and foggy.
We’ve been on the move north. This week we’re out about 12 miles past Pine Island and progressing further north and still in the 32’ of water area. We can’t remember being this far north this early in the season. We can basically say, we are in the middle of the lake. Bring your Lake of the Woods tackle staples (gold and glow) and make sure you have a good noise maker; you will need to be actively jigging. For a dead stick presentation, a plain hook will do.
Another mild week ahead with a high of 33 forecasted for Saturday. Lows in the teens and single digits with very low chances of precipitation. The high humidity predicted all week will likely keep the fog going." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
Many of north central Minnesota’s businesses that depend on tourism from ice fishing and other related outdoor sports have had a hard winter to say the least. In fact, finding good news about ice conditions in north central Minnesota has been all but impossible during the 2019-2020 ice fishing season.
Thin ice, deep snow and moderate temperatures have combined to produce treacherous, slushy conditions that have effectively scared away the lion’s share of would-be ice anglers from our region. The scene has been eerily quiet as I’ve traveled from lake to lake in search of fishing news to report. Many of the area’s most popular fishing areas have had little or no traffic. Bait suppliers and tackle dealers report dismal sales of ice gear as well.
The folks at High Banks Resort on Lake Winnie have organized a meeting with Sen. Justin Eichorn to discuss emergency relief for area businesses affected by poor conditions.
Kim Leonhardt, High Banks wrote; "Hello!
We are asking everyone to attend the meeting with Senator Justin Eichorn at High Banks on Wednesday, January 29, 2pm to present our campaign for state winter disaster relief funds.
PLEASE BRING PHOTOS of poor ice, slush, and any adversities that you are experiencing. Statistics of your losses stated in percentages would be helpful as well. (not looking for dollar amounts)
Any testimonials, facts, experiences that you can type up would also be useful in our presentation. Length of ownership and signed with your name and title would be appropriate as well. PLEASE ATTEND!! VERY IMPORTANT TO EACH OF US!! Thanks!"
Contact Kim — HIGH BANKS RESORT, 17645 N Highbanks Rd NE, Deer River, MN 56636, 218-246-2560
Stream trout were active, and the action was, well … good for Joelle. Bellamy; “I got 4 rainbow trout and 1 lake trout; Justin got 1 rainbow trout and pat was skunked.”
The most bites and activity on the graph came in the morning. “We got out by like 8:45 AM and the first bite was at 9:15 AM. We hardly saw anything after 12, except there was one caught at 3:00 and one more at 5:00 PM, as we were trying to pack up.
We were fishing in 12 to 20 feet of water and they’d show up at 10 feet and chase you all the way up to 4 feet before hitting the bait.
We were using Slender Spoons and mine was like a grayish gold color with sparkles. Pat’s was like orange tiger and he also used Rattl’n Flyer spoons tipped with minnow heads. There was one trout that went for a dead stick rig as well.
We didn’t measure the fish, but they all seemed to be between 13 and 17 inches." Joelle Bellamy, with Pat and Justin
"Dixon Lake Resort still has good plowed roads on the Third River Flowage of Lake Winnie. Big wide area with plenty of pullouts for your wheel houses as well as parking areas for you to wander into the snow with your portables.
Fishing has been pretty good here of late. Plenty of panfish and the northen pike have been in a frenzy here lately. We're getting a lot of nice northerns in the spear houses as well as on tip-ups; water clarity is perfect.
Click on the image to enlarge map to the access loaction and please remember, there is a donation box just as you get onto the ice.
We realy appreciate your help in defraying the costs of keeping the roads open. A $10 per vehicle goes a long way toward assuring you that the roads will still be available on your next trip up to the flowage.
Thank you very much and have fun Fishing!" — Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. For last minute updates about ice conditions, use the “Ice Hotline” 218-659-4002. For reservations, Dixon Lake Resort 218-659-4612.
"Fish lake has a nice trail off of the dam. good crappie action, also tim at hi banks has plowed roads off of hi banks. Most lakes have 10 inches of clear ice or more, w. 10 inches of frozen slush on top.
Not much reports of much snow or slush anywhere. thanks for getting those reports out there!" Scott, Fisherman's Corner, 218-729-5369
"Last Friday’s snow brought about 5 to 6 inches to the Central Minnesota area, but thankfully, it happened after the ice was able to thicken up from the cold temps during that week and previous week. We are seeing about 14+ inches of good ice in the area now.
I’ve been seeing smaller cars and trucks on the lakes around Big Lake, Elk River, Zimmerman, and Buffalo. This is allowing anglers to get to some of the deeper breaks on lakes. Walleye are hanging around these break lines and off humps during the daylight hours, sliding up as the light deteriorates.
They have been a little bit pickier this week wanting smaller baits with less aggressive approaches. The best luck has been a fathead minnow below a bobber rig, or a deadstick set-up. Look for fish in the 12’ to 20’ regions and slide out from there. It’s best to have a few friends and check multiple depths until active fish have been found.
Panfish have been the opposite this week in the area. Many good hauls of crappie have been taken around Zimmerman in Sherburne County and Buffalo in Wright County. They have moved out to the basin areas in these lakes and are suspended looking for food. Evening hours seem to produce the best bite just as the sun reaches the tree lines.
A 1/16th oz. Lindy Flyer Spoon in Scarlet Ice or Emerald Shiner tipped with a combination of wax worms and spikes will call fish in. I like the rattle and vibrations they give off mixed with the “sparkle”, it really seems to get the crappie’s attention. If they come in and aren’t taking the spoon, I like to switch over to a smaller tungsten bait tipped with a single spike. This allows for a smaller profile and a slower fall, triggering the fish to hit your bait.
Lake Mille Lacs has been doing extremely well despite the weather. Most resorts are reporting anywhere from 14 to 21 inches of ice across the lake. This weekend will see many anglers in single and dual axle wheelhouses with ½ ton trucks hit the lake. Resorts have roads plowed to many popular mud flats and rock reefs. As always, call ahead and make sure you can get on the lake and to the location you are wanting to target.
Fish are still being caught at all depths across the lake. Look for those hard bottom (rock/sand) to mud transitions. Inside corners, steep drop-offs, and shelfs seem to be holding fish nearby. The snow and drifting have limited the four-wheeler traffic to the mid-lake mudflats, so a snowmobile could give you a “leg up” on others to target some larger fish out in those areas.
Spoons in Chartreuse, Gold, or Pink seem to be working well tipped with a minnow head. Fish tend to hit these baits higher off the bottom as they are falling, so don’t be afraid to do some good ripping with them.
The new Lindy Glow Streak has also been producing some nice fish across the lake. I have been impressed with the glow, rattle, and fall of this bait. Walleyes have been latching onto it in the evening hours just off the breaklines, with an occasional pike here and there. If you haven’t given one a try, and you like ripping and jigging baits, tie one on and give them a try.
If you’re looking for something new and different to target, try fishing for tullibee. They can be found in the same areas the walleye are roaming. Small spoons or panfish jigs tipped with spikes or wax worms using the same walleye tactics will get a few topside for your smoker, plus they’re fun to catch!
As always, be safe and use the buddy system!" Shane Boeshart, 641-529-0270
Fishing in the bays has been good most days and has been very good at night. A few people have been going out to the flats and they also have reported good fishing." — Terry Thurmer, Terry's Boat Harbor – 320-692-4430
"Lake Trout - Lake trout anglers were greeted by excellent ice conditions and active lakers. Lakers as big as 15lbs were landed over the weekend. Anglers reported having the best luck in 20-40 feet of water with bucktails, wicked tinsel jigs and white/red core tubes. Multiple groups reported that lakers would fly in and crush the bait before even marking them.
Stream Trout - Stream trout anglers too we’re greeted with very active trout. Many groups reported having them limit of trout by 9am. These anglers were fishing with small tungsten jigs, tipped with wax worms. Flashy spoons and rippin raps also proved to be very effective and accounted for their fair share of trout also. Trout anglers targeted trout in 10 feet of water or less.
Walleye - Walleye anglers continue to catch nicer then average walleyes on many area lakes. Key has been to get away from the crowds as much and you can and be set up before the bite windows open. Anglers have been catching walleyes deadsticking a lively shiner minnow on a pink or blue glow demon. Bottom transition areas in 18-23 feet of water has been key for finding the best bites." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"On the south end of Lake of the Woods, ice conditions are excellent. Resorts are reporting 24 to 30 inches of ice most places being fished.
There are good numbers of walleyes and saugers being caught, and many of them are small, so anglers are having fun sorting through fish to get eaters and occasional trophy walleye.
Most anglers are fishing in 27 to 36 feet of water, gaining accdess via plowed roads. Resort rental houses continue to be moved constantly as operators follow the fish. Some of the ice roads now extend 10 miles or more.
Both jigging line and deadstick with a live minnow producing based on mood of walleyes. Gold, glow, pink and white good colors. Electronics will increase results. Adapt to the mood of fish. Switch jigging cadence until they bite. Watch for suspended walleyes. Jigging spoons with rattles and vibrating lures having good results.
The Rainy River is frozen over with some snowmobile traffic on marked trail. Current has dropped off some and river is starting to build ice. Extra caution is always needed on the river. Thin ice around the International Bridge in Baudette. Work through resort if ice fishing the river as ice thickness varies.
Great ice fishing continues up at the Northwest Angle. Anglers are catching a healthy mix of walleyes, saugers, jumbo perch, pike and eelpout. Resorts shifting houses to stay productive.
Snowmobile trails from south end to Angle groomed and in good shape. Stay on trails as there are ice chunks on lake. Fish houses on the ice through March 31st, walleyes and saugers open through April 14." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Mixed bags have been the common theme. The bite has been somewhat in spurts, those aggressively working the water column are having more success. We are having a mix of sizes, but are still having a large number of small ones, bring them up slow.
We progress North and are past the 10 miles from Pine Island mark. 32 feet area. Bring the normal Lake of the Woods tools in the tackle box, but make certain you have a good one for making noise and can aggressively jig the water column with it. Noise has been a good attractant to the dead stick bite.
Mild forecast for the week ahead. Looks like we should have the temps above zero all week. South wind for a few days. Strange for January." — 1-800-776-3474 Border View Lodge
"Variable conditions seems to be the trend this season.
This past weekend we had yet another snow storm which dumped approximately 10-12 inches in the Remer, Longville, Outing, and Walker area. Travel has been best still with sleds or track machines. Colder temps the past few weeks have firmed things up on some bodies of water which were once heavy laden with slush, however there are still several lakes that unfortunately we would not advise to travel on until things improve, and with the "January thaw" approaching that might be a while.
If you are planning on traveling to the area, call the area resorts or bait shops to get current conditions prior.
This past weekend was the Winter Inland Trout Opener. Stories of success were across the board. As some people had great success, others struggled. We ourselves definitely had noticed more lookers than takers on the Vexilar, but managed to get a few topside. Fighting the cold front that hit mid Saturday morning, being on the right body of water, and having the right presentation all factored in.
Lake Trout: Lakers are hitting tipped tubes and spoons in 35'-70' of water. Look to the inside turns, points, and shelves. And the best advice I can give any fisherman targeting trout is STAY MOBILE. Keep moving until you get one on the graph, never spending more than 5-10 minutes in an inactive hole. And not only should you stay on the move, but keep that lure moving consistently, working the entire water column.
Stream Trout: Try searching around 4'-9' of water on the stocked trout lakes. Small spoons like the Clam Speed Spoon tipped with a Maki Plastic or waxie have produced the best.
Panfish: Hit the shallow weedlines for those big Gills, and drill out over the deep basins in 22'-35' feet of water to catch the Crappies. Tungsten jigs tipped with waxies have worked well. Again, the key to success is staying mobile.
Walleye: Still can be found on the shoreline points anywhere from 11'-26' feet of water and on the sunken humps. Jigging using spoons tipped with a minnow head have been best when they have been aggressive. If your noticing them coming in yet seemingly shy of the jig, slow down your movement, and try a simpler presentation. Toss down a set-line with a plain hook tipped with a medium Shiner or small Sucker Minnow." — Justin & Alice Wiese, Wheezy Guide Service 218-275-7525
"We're on Stony Point in the central part of Leech Lake. The snowstorm over the weekend only made the ice conditions worse. We snowshoed the shore line on Saturday afternoon at Stony Point campground. The snow cover is 12-20" with 6-8" of slush under it. There's 10-14" of ice from shore out ~1/2 mile. No signs of any vehicles along the common access places; walk out fishing only."
"Dixon Lake Resort still have our roads open on the Third River Flowage of Lake Winnie.
Ice is at 18" with frozen slush and some not frozen slush. Seems like anglers are getting around pretty good off the main roads, but there are still plenty of pockets of slush out there, so cautious travel is advised.
Fishing was great the last two weekends. There were a lot of nice Jumbo perch, some sunfish and even a few crappies. Folks could see crappies on their cameras, but crappie were a more finicky and not many were caught.
The water clarity is almost perfect you can see the bottom and watch the fish. That contributed to some great spearing with a lot of northern pike fish taken; the largest pike measured 37 inches. Anglers reported that there were good numbers of pike spotted, everybody was seeing fish.
Since the cold front moved in, it seems the fishing is not what it should be. Anglers have had to work harder to catch the interest of the fish.
Dixon Lake Resort (Todd) Maintains Fishermen’s Rd to the spear houses on the ice. There is a box on the ice road for maintenance. $10 per vehicle is greatly appreciated.
The Third River road is not plowed; so, use the alternate route. From MN HWY 46 to County RD 33 west AKA Dixon Lake, South Round Lake Road. About 10 miles in, look for Fishermen’s Rd. off to the left. This is about 4 and a half miles long. At stop sign turn Left again. About a mile turn Right. This is the 3rd River Spearing Access Road #2794 and this takes you to the ice.
We do still have cabins available also here at the resort. Also, our sleeper house is out on a great pan fish spot. The spear houses are all ready to go for your spearing vacation."
Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. For last minute updates about ice conditions, use the “Ice Hotline” 218-659-4002. For reservations, Dixon Lake Resort 218-659-4612.
Wired2Fish's Ryan DeChaine faces such a situation on a small lake and walks through how to map an offshore hump using Humminbird's AutoChart Live and Zero Line SD Card.
Using Humminbird's AutoChart Zero Line SD Card, DeChaine uses a circular survey method instead of traditional transects to quickly and accurately map the structure. He then describes how to display and adjust bottom hardness data on top of the custom map; bottom hardness in conjunction with accurate 1-foot contour intervals reveals previously hidden spots on the ..." Learn More >> Custom Mapping Tips For Humminbird Users
"The colder temps over the last week have really solidified the area lakes up in Central Minnesota. Most lakes around Mille Lacs, Sherburne, and Wright counties are seeing ATV traffic along with a few wheelhouses. Ice thicknesses were in the 10 to 14 inch range on many of the smaller lakes I checked on Sunday morning.
Panfish have been steady across the smaller lakes. You really have to be mobile to find the pods of larger fish. Fish are still being found near structure such as weeds, timber, and rock piles holding larger boulders. Look for fish around the outer edges of these structures. Drill plenty of holes, because the fish won’t stay long.
Upsizing lure profile to small spoons tipped with spikes is working for those larger fish along the weed breaks. Fish are suspended, so you should use a higher presentation around these areas. Smaller tungsten jigs, such as the Lindy Tungsten Toad or Lindy Tungsten Bug, tipped with spikes or plastics have been working out around the deeper structures. Banging these on the bottom then bringing them up a few inches has triggered the bite in murkier waters.
In Sherburne and Wright Counties, walleyes have started to bite just off the breaklines in about 20’ of water using spoons tipped with a minnow head. Find the inside turns and points with the steepest contours to find fish. You may need to experiment with the color to find the right combination, but so far, chartreuse, orange, and gold have done fairly well in the area using aggressive rises and slow falls.
Mille Lacs has also benefitted from the recent cold temperatures. I was seeing many ½ ton trucks with wheelhouses out around the resorts and even some off the public launches (I would check thicknesses before venturing out on your own in those areas). Ice thickness on the west end was between 12 and 16 inches. On the east end the ice is also in the 12 to 16 inch range. If you’re wanting to pull a wheelhouse out, please give the local resorts a call to see what they’re allowing, as a few resorts are still not comfortable letting out certain sized vehicle and wheelhouses on their ice roads.
Walleyes are on the munch across the lake. Spoons, rattle baits, and dead-sticks have all been producing fish. Key depths seem to be between that 12 to 25 foot range with some being found in 30+ feet around the mud during daylight hours. I have been marking a majority of fish on the steep breaks on inside turns around rock and weed edge transitions. Keep an open mind, sometimes these fish are feeding on bugs around the sand and mud areas, so don’t be afraid to tip your lure with spikes or wax worms.
The weather forecast for this weekend is looking pretty “fluffy”. Central Minnesota could see anywhere between 3 to 14 inches in areas. If you do venture out, be safe and don’t push the limits, especially if the wind picks up. The fishing may be good, but use your best judgment and be safe! As always, use the buddy system!" Shane Boeshart, 641-529-0270
"Ice conditions have improved dramatically this last week. Slush conditions too, have improved dramatically and is largely a non issue on the majority of lakes in the area.
Double ice is being reported on some lakes, but with only a 2-4 inch pocket of water between the two layers of ice, one more cold snap will lock up the double ice issue. Ice thickness ranges between 12-20 inches.
Walleye anglers again have become hard to find, despite excellent fishing being reported. Anglers fishing on the transitions from mud to rock have been reporting they are struggling to catch walleyes small enough to keep for dinner. Key depth for them has been 18-23 feet of water. Key bait has been pink glow demons, tipped with either a shiner or rainbow.
Crappie fishing was slow this last week. Anglers had to drill lots of holes to find fish and hole hop to find biters. Anglers are finding them very high in the water column, 5-10 feet under the ice in 20-30 feet of water. Small tungsten jigs tipped with wax worms or soft plastics in pink, white or blue is key to catching fish.
Stream Trout - Diehard stream trout anglers have been hiking into stream trout lakes in the BWCA and have found very cooperative trout. Anglers have been mainly targeting brook trout in 10 feet of water or less. These anglers have been using small rippin raps, spoons or small jig tipped with wax worms, soft plastic or dead minnow" — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Fishing has been up and down with the changeable weather. The toughest period was during one cold front that brought -31° air temperatures. Overall though, there were some great walleyes and saugers caught this week. Anglers have had plenty of fish for fish frys and they've caught some trophy walleye, big sturgeon and jumbo perch. There's been an occasional pike, crappie or tulibee in the mix as well.
Most anglers are fishing 25 to 30 feet deep if they're on structure. They're fishing deeper over the mud flats, focusing on 30 to 36 feet of water out there. over mud. Resorts and rental operators continue to follow fish and are moving their fishing shelters constantly.
Best colors gold, pink, glow red and UV glow colors. Both jigging line and deadstick with a live minnow producing based on mood of walleyes. Electronics very helpful. Watch for suspended walleyes. Rattles and noise effective.
The Rainy River is frozen over with some snowmobile traffic on marked trail. Current has dropped some, but still strong. Extra caution is always needed on the river. Thin ice near International Bridge in Baudette and thinner ice on stretches of the river. Work through resort if ice fishing for safety.
Up at the NW Angle, good fishing continues with a mix of walleyes, saugers, jumbo perch, pike and eelpout. Cold fronts can affect bite from day to day, adjust to mood of fish. Downsize if finicky, keep minnow active on deadstick. Snowmobile trails from south end to Angle groomed and in good shape. Stay on trails as there are ice chunks on lake. Fish houses on LOW on the ice through March." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
During the weekend, Minnesota residents age 16 or older can fish or dark-house spear without an angling or spearing license if they take a child younger than 16 fishing or spearing.
“Ice fishing is a fun way to get outdoors during Minnesota winters,” said Jeff Ledermann, education and skills team supervisor with the Department of Natural Resources. “Ice conditions are highly variable this year. If you want to start, try asking someone familiar with ice fishing and ice conditions to take you out or check out an organized activity.”
Events happening during the weekend include:
Lake Bemidji State Park, 1-3 p.m., kids 8-15 can come out for an afternoon of ice fishing on Lake Bemidji.
Halfmoon Landing near Kellogg, 1-3 p.m., equipment and bait provided and space is limited.
Fishing events during the rest of the season can be found on the DNR’s state parks and trails events calendar and the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, which also has events for families.
Ice conditions vary greatly this season and can be deceiving. There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. Always check local ice conditions before heading out to a lake or river. Visit mndnr.gov/icesafety for ice safety guidelines and the DNR’s learn to ice fish page for more information about ice fishing."
"Conditions seem to be improving in the last week. I’ve been on three smaller lakes minnow trapping and they are now frozen up good with no slush.
Billy and I walked out on a lake Saturday that on Tuesday had six inches of slush and it was healed up good and didn’t see any issues while we were fishing. I even got lucky and caught a couple dandy’s for supper.
We are getting lots of calls about where people can drive there trucks out with wheel houses and we don’t have many opportunities yet . But if you have track machines I don’t believe you will have to many problems now getting to spots that haven’t been fished yet this winter." — Bill Powell, Fred's Bait, 218-246-8710
"Seaguar, the originators of fluorocarbon fishing line, announces its partnership with the Student Angler Federation in support of the National High School Fishing Program for 2020. By connecting avid student anglers with the best 100% fluorocarbon lines and leaders and braided main lines available, Seaguar will help them to meet their lofty goals in the boat, in the classroom, and in the community.
Kelly Gohman, the Student Angler Federation VP for Sales and Marketing, notes that, "The High School Fishing Program is the best-kept secret in the entire world of competitive fishing. We pride ourselves in providing the best tournament experiences possible, from the pre-event meetings to the final weigh-ins, so that we can attract and retain enthusiastic young anglers and provide them with the opportunity to enjoy the sport of fishing throughout their lives."
"We are excited to ..." Learn More >> Seaguar Expanding High School Angler Team Support
"The Department of Natural Resources is looking for passionate and dedicated college students interested in learning more about possible careers with the DNR through paid summer internship opportunities.
DNR summer interns will not only gain valuable experience and training, but will also help the agency create a healthy, sustainable, and livable Minnesota for future generations.
The internship opportunities, located throughout the state, run the gamut of agency operations — from accounting to wildlife management. Interns work 20 to 40 hours per week, and receive a competitive salary of $15 an hour. As part of their internships, students must also fulfill an academic requirement or receive academic credit from their educational institution.
To apply, visit the state of Minnesota careers website and enter “intern” into the keywords field on the job search page. Select “Natural Resources Dept” in the “Agency” column on the left side of the page. Choose the internship(s) of interest and click the apply button to submit an application.
Applications will be open until Jan. 31. Positions will start in May and June.
The DNR is an equal opportunity and veteran-friendly employer. We celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion. To request an accommodation or alternative format of the applications, please contact us at: ADAdiversity.DNR@state.mn.us; 651-259-5016; or call using a preferred telecommunications relay provider."
"Ice Report - Slush has been becoming more and more of a issue for every lake in the area. While it was mainly limited to bays, it has now spread to just about everywhere on the lake and every lake in the area. Amount of shush varies from 3” to more then a foot. Snow conditions also varies from as little as a foot, to almost much as 3’ near shore. Ice conditions have remained largely unchanged with 8-15” of ice is being reported. Track vehicles or snowmobiles are the best way to travel if you want to get off plowed ice roads.
Walleye - Walleye anglers have been very limited as to where they can fish, but anglers continue to report catching good quality walleyes. Anglers willing to break away from the crowds have been having the best luck. Walleyes are being caught in 20-28 feet of water off main lake points and around sunken islands. Deadsticking a minnow remains the most effective way to catch walleyes.
Pike - Pike anglers have been catching good quality pike and in good numbers this last week. A few anglers have shifted to rocky sunken islands that top out in less then 10 feet of water. These anglers have been suspending a large sucker about half way down, under a tip up.
Crappie - Crappie anglers continue to find crappies easy pickings. Crappies are now largely being located suspended over deep basins. Successful anglers have been swiss cheesing a area and not fishing until they mark fish. Small rippin raps or glow jigs tipped with wax worm or crappie minnow continue to be very effective on crappies." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
When the ice gets thick and the snow stacks up, crappie location begins to shift. Heavy snow cover prevents sunlight from penetrating the ice, robbing oxygen from many early season, deep water crappie spots.
Crappies become more nomadic, moving shallower and hunting for food over soft bottom flats. Keeping your bait in front of feeding fish becomes one of the secrets to success during this period.
Jon Thelen shares some of his favorite tactics for catching crappies under thick ice and heavy snowpack. Learn More >> View Video Snow Covered Crappies
"Weather, for the most part, was stable this past week and into the weekend. Many anglers were out on the ice across the West Metro and Central Minnesota area. I am seeing more hardened snow packed lakes in Wright and Sherburne counties this week, so it appears the dreaded slush has frozen with the below freezing temps at night. Ice thicknesses are in the 6 to 10 inch range and lakes are seeing some spear houses appear.
Panfish are biting well right now along the weed lines and up inside your oxygen rich areas, such as bays with inlets, which attracts their food sources. Crappies can be found roaming right up against the weed lines as well as off into the deep basins. Use a slow falling spoon tipped with wax worms or spikes right at the weed transitions to call them in during the daylight hours. Evening bite seems to turn to a tungsten jig tipped with a plastic or a plain hair jig.
Tungsten jigs tipped with two to three spikes are working well for blue gills. Hovering them right above the weeds and dropping them as they come to investigate has been the most productive. If they don’t bite right away, a short pulsing action usually entices the strike. If you’re getting smaller fish, try upsizing your jig profile and/or use a plastic – an Aqua-Vu will help you determine the quality of fish in the area.
As for walleyes, Lake Mille Lacs has been doing well. You can get around most of the lake with a snowmobile or four-wheeler with the packed, hardened snow on top. Ice thickness is between 8 and 14 inches, but there are some areas with 3 to 6 inches farther out in the deeper mud flat areas.
Look for those inside turns where you find the steepest drop-off contours. These areas are holding bait. The same can be said for most metro lakes right now. I’ve been finding the fish in rocky areas that transition off into the mud. Target those inside turns, and the fish should show up.
Evening hours seem to be most productive using Lindy Quiver Spoons and Glow Streaks. Aggressive high lifts with slow falls are calling the fish in; and they are aggressive! Most fish are darting from the bottom on the fall to snatch the lure. If you are the house/portable type, set up just off the break and have a deadstick tipped with a shiner in one hole, or a tip up with the same set up.
There is still plenty of time left in the season to make it out. Ice conditions should improve here in the next week or two. As always, be safe and use the buddy system!" Shane Boeshart, 641-529-0270
"On the south end of Lake of the Woods, there's been lots of ice fishing happening this week. Overall, good reports with a mix of saugers and walleyes. Some very small fish, lots of eaters, some huge fish.
Most common depths 28-31 feet of water. Best colors gold, pink, glow red and UV glow colors. Use combo jigging line and deadstick with a live minnow. Electronics very helpful. Watch for suspended walleyes. Rattles and noise within lures can be effective.
The Rainy River is frozen over, but there's been little traffic overall. Current has dropped some, but still strong and we encourage working through a resort on the river if you plan on ice fishing it.
The snowmobile trail on the river was marked this week for snowmobiles, nothing heavier. Stay on trail, still areas of thinner ice on parts of the river; extra caution is always needed on the river!
Up at the Northwest Angle, fishing remains excellent with a mix of walleyes, saugers, jumbo perch, pike and eelpout. Snowmobile trails from south end to Angle are being groomed and in good shape. Stay on trails as current is high and there are still some areas needing more inches of ice.
Permanent ice fishing houses are allowed to remain on Lake of the Woods through March, so there's still plenty of time to plan a fishing trip this winter." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Q) On January 7, 2020 Brian Asked; "Have you been out on trout lake fishing? Or have you heard of anything about it. Also where is a good place to go if your walking out? Thanks Brian
A) Trout Lake was barely frozen, if at all, prior to the first snowstorm. I would be extremely cautious about moving very far from the shoreline in most areas of the lake.
Folks do walk out and fish the breakline from the public landing on the north end and also from the city park in the northwest corner near the school. It's a much longer walk, but some folks also access the lake from the east side, off of the dirt road by the old farm house.
I would be extremely hesitant to venture out into mid-lake structure and limit my travels to the first breakline off shore.
For now, snowmobiles are really the only means of transport that can be considered reliable. But we plan to do some plowing today in the hope that getting some water to flow will allow re-freezing in whichever areas that we can open up.
Bob Cass, a friend, spent the weekend at his cabin on Cutfoot Sioux and passed along some observations about his fishing trip.
Cass; “I have been here fishing since last Friday and using my snowmobile, I have been able to get around a bit; it is a wade track which helps.
Right now, travel conditions on McCavity bay are very poor and too bad because prior to the storm, crappie fishing there had been very good. Now there are lots of old ice holes causing flooding and that’s produced a lot of slush.
The clam beds are completely flooded from the spear holes as well. But I have gone out of the landing near Eagle Nest and that west side of the bay is pretty good, with relatively few slushy spots. As I traveled from there to the Tabletop bar in Bowen Bay, it was very slushy around Battle point but otherwise, the rest of the trip across was okay. While we fished there, we caught multiple walleye, but they were all small.
The best fishing and conditions we found in this area were in Tamarack bay. If you stay away from the ice houses out there, conditions are not that bad. Except for deep snow which is starting to compact, we were able to travel fairly well.
Fishing in Tamarack Bay was good, we caught 80 perch and 15 of them were larger than 11 inches. Of those, there were a couple of real nice ones in the 13-inch class.
I compared notes with Gunnar Harris from Eagle Nest Resort. He attempted to access the bay from Bowens Road and said that it was not passible, heavily drifted snow and lots of slush forced him to turn back. Harris agreed that the best access to Tamarack Bay right now is through the Pines Resort.”
We're a little short on photos right now, but we're on the ice today and will try to get some fresh images. For up to the minute updates, give us a call. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
"I'm hearing there is plenty of slush, but decent ice: 7-12" most local lakes. The bite has been good too, sounds like its worth the effort right now!" - Andy Walls, 1000 Lakes Sports 218-999-5992
Wade Alto wrote; "I will save you a trip and some time to Splithand Lake. Ice is roughly 12-14" in most spots I checked, but slush is everywhere. Some areas it is manageable, other areas are 10" deep with slush.
Getting around was possible with snowmobile and I did see some using ATV's. Fishing for crappies was good with very small bite windows, usually 45 minutes. Walleyes have been small but catchable.
Hopefully a little cold weather will freeze up that slush that has been exposed and make things a little better to get around." - Wade Alto
"The snow is causing lots of fun out on Winnie as it probably is on all area lakes.
Todd's been plowing and has gotten the ice road put back in this week. We had Fishermen's road plowed by a county truck so it's way better. The landing road is in great shape, but the Third River road is not plowed. The best access is to come in off of MN Higway 46 onto County Road 33 and then head down Fishermen's Road. Left at the Stop sign 3/4 mile to the right.
Out on the ice, Todd has a good road down to the Clay Banks. There is slush in most places, but there is still 15" of ice out there. We have open roads by the spear houses and a loop of sorts. People are driving trucks out and we do have many big wheel houses out there. No pressure ridge this year, but getting to it is difficult.
Water clarity is better and at times you can make out the bottom. Jumbo perch, sunfish and crappies have kept the anglers happy and speqaring for pike has been good at times.
We do still have spear houses out and cabins for rent if needed." — Dixon Lake Resort has shelter rentals, including sleepers. Reservations 218-659-4612
"On the east side of Lake Winnie, there's 11 inches of ice with 20 inches of snow cover. No truck travel. No wheel houses. No ATV's. No ice roads. Snowmobile traffic only. All of High Banks guests for the weekend starting Jan 3, 2020 will be shuttled to their rental houses." High Banks Resort, Rick and Kim Leonhardt 218-246-2560
"The only way you are getting around on Leech Lake is with snowmobile or tracked vehicle. You have to have something that will keep you on top of the snow.
I tried to blow an ice road with my small tractor and blower and broke through the ice. There's about 8" of slush and 3" of crusted snow on top of the slush/water. Even where there is 12" of ice the weight of the snow has made the ice weak. It will be a miracle if we will be able to get a road plowed all winter.
I don't see very many houses on the lake and if there are, they are portable. We have 2 groups here right now. One has snowmobiles and struggled pulling light weight trailers until they made a path to pull them on. The other group is walking out and staying close to the resort.
In 13 years of owning a resort I have never see it this bad. Ice fishing will not be good this year." Lee Nupson, Oak Point Resort 218-335-2993
"I was able to make it out a couple of days over the past week. Slushy conditions seem to be the norm across most of the Central Minnesota and Metro areas.
The recent rain took off a few inches of the old snow, but Monday's heavy snow put it right back on the ice. Foot traffic is still advised, and you should always check conditions yourself with a bar and never go alone.
Ice is in the 4 to 8 inch range around the West Metro area with about 3 inches of slush on top. Wear insulated rubber boots with cleats if venturing out, it is slick!
Panfish lakes will be your best bet, as I have found most hanging around the remaining weeds and the deep edges. Lindy Tungsten Bugs tipped with a single wax worm were working well hovered above the weeds.
I also made it to Mille Lacs for a day of fishing out of Wahkon Bay, which was pretty successful. I managed to catch a few walleyes using Lindy Quiver Spoons in Chartreuse Glow, Gold and Pink Glow or all Gold tipped with a minnow head. Best fishing depths were in 16 to 20 foot of water off weedline transitions.
Other anglers have been making it farther out using snowmobiles with ice conditions in the 8 to 12 inch range in most of the bay areas. As always, call resorts ahead of time to get their ice conditions, as they vary across the lake (some are allowing wheelhouses now).
As always, be safe out there! Happy New Year!" Shane Boeshart, 641-529-0270
"Lots of slush and water on most of the lakes. Travel is possible where people have packed down the snow and made trails. Positive is fishing has been excellent! Deeper flats in the 25' to 30' have been producing some good numbers and size of crappies as well." Delaney's Sporting Goods, 218-732-4281
The news about ice fishing conditions has been grim so far this week. I've been behind the snowblower myself a half dozen times since we returned from Mexico on Monday and it's snowing again right now.
The heaviest part of the "snow belt" runs on an east-west line covering about 50 to 75 miles either side of US Highway 2, all the way from Duluth to Crookston, MN. As far as I know this morning, almost all the lakes in that swath of territory are affected.
If you're thinking about fishing this weekend and haven't already made plans, consider either the northeast region, or Lake of the Woods. While those areas did receive snow over the weekend, they didn't have as much snow piled up before the recent storm.
I’ve put out the word to my contacts in the north central region asking for fresh updates for the weekend and will post them as they come in. Also, I’ll take a tour of the Grand Rapids area later today for a firsthand look at local conditions.
Don’t wait for an invitation, you can drop me a line with comments about ice conditions and ice fishing action any time you like. You can Email if you like, or if it’s easier for you, follow us on Facebook and post your comments there. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL or on Facebook >> Fishing Reports Minnesota