Yesterday, I and the Hippie Chick did take a drive over to Virginia, MN and we did take a look at some of the lakes in that region. What we saw, for the most part, was the same as we've seen everywhere else in the region. The ice along shorelines is softening, there are a few open spots and cracks forming. The ice looked darker on Thursday, than it did on Wednesday, but I'd guess it's fairly solid. I wasn't really interested in getting more photos of ice, so I didn't take any pictures over there.
Instead, I borrowed the image you see here from my friend Gail Heig at Bowen Lodge. They have a fabulous view overlooking Bowens Flats on Lake Winnie. What drew my attention to this picture is how dark looking the ice appears. There was another photo from Richards Townsite floating around yesterday and in it, the ice was dark looking too. I travelled around Winnie on Wednesday, and the difference between the images was dramatic. What I'm saying is that the ice might be softer than I thought and closer to breaking up than yesterday's report may have suggested.
I mentioned the other day that I felt like spring has been sneaking up on me. Looking out the window and seeing wintery images made me forget that we were only a few weeks from the fishing opener. Well now, 15 days is all that's left of the countdown and the question most folks are asking me is whether our lakes will be open, or not. So, in response to folk’s inquiries about whether lakes in north central Minnesota will be ready for the fishing opener, I do think the answer is yes.
In terms of predicting ice-out and what opening day conditions on north central Minnesota lakes will be, this has been tricky spring. Figuring out what will happen and when, has been subject to more variables than usual. But this week, the situation is becoming clearer and clearer by the day.
When you compare ice conditions today, with conditions that persisted at the same time last year, the trajectory looks about the same. Look at the report from May 2, 2022, and then scroll up that page to peruse some of the other reports from early May. We still have a few days left before the timing of the comparison will be identical, but it does look like the timing of ice out this spring will be very close to the timing in 2022.
What won’t be ready for the fishing opener is the shiner supply; at least not fully. Somebody always finds a few shiners before the opener, but for most of us, it won’t be likely to get our hands on them. Fatheads, rainbows, and other minnows will work just fine, but it’s too soon to know whether the alternatives will be in good supply or not. Next week, minnow supplies are one of the key agenda items for the MN FISH annual spring summit meetings. I expect that there will be a lot of firsthand information exchanged at that meeting. So, I’ll plan on making next Thursday, May 4, 2023, the date for a major update about bait supplies in the state.
The MN DNR “Walleye Egg Take” operation at Little Cutfoot typically happens at about this time. This year, Little Cutfoot was still ice covered on Wednesday and so far, none of the traps, docks or hatchery gear has been put in place. Yesterday, I spoke briefly with Grand Rapids area fisheries supervisor Dave Weitzel and for now, they still plan on doing the egg take. Weitzel, “We’re planning on conducting the egg take, but it depends on the timing of the ice out. Our plan is to check the lake ice conditions again on Monday (May 1). We already know that oxygen levels were depressed during the winter, so even after ice out, we’ll need to wait several days before for oxygen levels to increase before setting traps.”
Weitzel mentioned too that DNR Fisheries staff in some of the other regions have a head start and are getting traps set already. So, if one or more of the other regional operations are able to produce a surplus number of eggs, Grand Rapids may simply obtain fertilized eggs from them and bring them to life at the Grand Rapids hatchery. “We’re also looking at some alternative sites for conducting an egg take,” Weitzel added. Weitzel believes that there are viable alternative sites near Grand Rapids and if they don’t need to fill an entire quota, it could be more cost effective to use one of them.
So, I guess the upshot of today’s report is that there’s a lot of information in the pipeline. Within a few days, lots of it will be spilling out at my end and updates will come regularly.
Later today, I will have the EXTREMELY RARE treat of transporting my daughter Katie to visit my other daughter Annalee. This trip will give us a chance to check out some of the waters to the western edge of our territory like Cass, Bemidji, and others. Armed with fresh photos, I’ll have an update about conditions over that way sometime this weekend. In the meantime, polish your fishing boat and sharpen your fishhooks! If the weather forecast proves accurate, Mother Nature appears to be preparing beautiful weather for the opener. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"The best fishing line should ensure that when you hook that fish of a lifetime that you have a fighting chance to land it. It should also give you the least amount of hassle and headache with your fishing reels and fishing rods. While nothing works flawlessly 100 percent of the time in all types of weather and conditions, some are definitely better than others when it comes to fishing lines.
Yes you can certainly get by for a time on a cheap fishing line, and we’ve certainly landed a few fish on lesser fishing lines. I think for us it’s about convenience and less hassle in the precious small amount of relative time we get to spend fishing. I want my line to be the best connection I can have to the fish and put as much advantage in my favor as possible when on the water. I don’t like leaving the opportunity to catch a big fish completely to chance and luck.
So I take care to make sure my gear is in good working condition and that I have fresh line swapped out periodically. Here’s a quick rundown of what we think are some of the best braided fishing lines, monofilament fishing lines, fluorocarbon fishing lines and where we think each of them will ..." Learn More >> Best Fishing Lines for 2023
Sundin 5-1 • Grand Rapids 4-28 • Lake Winnie Region 4-27 • Grand Rapids 4-25 • Lake of the Woods 4-25 • Lake Winnie 4-24 • Upper Red Lake Walleye Limit Increased • Grand Rapids 04-17 • Walleye Stamp 3-3 • Forward Sonar • Panfish Workgroup • Follow on Facebook
After my story (4-25-23) about seeing the large patch of open water at Pokegama on Monday, I was excited to take another tour of the region on Wednesday. So, without writing a report, I grabbed my cameras, our dog and my keys and bolted out the door heading west to see what the Deer River region looked like.
My first stop, the Trappers Landing at the west side of Lake Winnibigoshish, where the Mississippi River enters the lake, was encouraging. There was a wide patch of open water flowing well out into the lake, I suppose about ½ mile. Swans, ducks and pelicans were all over the place; the open patch was the largest I’ve seen anywhere so far this spring. My “flowing water ice-out theory” appeared to be solid, but as it happens, this would be the only encouragement I’d get on this trip.
At the Richard’s Townsite landing, the ice still looked solid and except for a few feet of open water at the ramp, appeared to be tight to the shoreline. The image was the same at the east side of Winnie, the ice at the Birches Landing appeared solid too. By the time I reached the Winnie Dam, I figured out why my flowing water theory appeared to be falling apart; there wasn’t any water flowing.
As you can see in the accompanying image, the Mississippi River flowing downstream was not at an all time low, but the flow was much lower than I expected. Part of the reason for that, I suppose, is to alleviate flooding downstream. But maintaining a higher water level on the lake has also been part of a joint plan to encourage more reliable spawning conditions for walleye.
A few years ago, studies suggested that larger year classes of hatched walleye correlated with higher water during the spring spawning seasons. In response to that information, the MN DNR and the US Corps of Engineers agreed to hold water levels higher during spring. Anecdotally, it appears to be helping, but there will be more detailed reports about that as the information becomes available. So, let’s get back to reporting about the ice conditions.
Heading north on HWY 46, I stopped at the summer homes landing at Little Cutfoot Sioux. The image of that landing explains why I was somewhat discouraged; still ice covered, the Little Cutfoot Egg Take operation, already delayed, would be an abbreviated session at the least and could even be cancelled altogether. Anglers who fish Little Cutfoot on the fishing opener will probably be affected too. It is common for the DNR to restrict access during late spawning seasons. I would expect to see an announcement about that before long.
By the time I left Little Cutfoot, my camera was already put away. I didn’t expect to see many more patches of open water and I was right. Sand Lake, Bowstring, Jessie, Deer, Moose, Bass … all of them remain, more-or-less, frozen solid.
At home, doing my obligatory 5-minute run through of the “social” media pages, I found a new reason to be encouraged. My friends at Eagle Nest Lodge had posted photos of the family ice fishing on Tuesday. A captioned photo of their ice scoop said that the ice was 13 to 15 inches thick. That is not all that much ice, and provided we have some more sunshine, could deteriorate quickly.
Secondhand reports coming in from the Brainerd area suggest that ice-out is progressing better in that region. I haven’t heard of any lakes that are completely ice free, but there are some getting close. My thinking is that there will be images of ice-free lakes floating around (pun intended) during the upcoming weekend.
In the metro region, crappie fishing is under way already. I’ve heard from quite a few anglers who have found their way onto the lakes. So, despite the icy looking conditions up north, anglers should not have much trouble finding a fishing spot for the opener.
Today, the Hippie Chick is off work and we’re planning another excursion, this time heading east from Grand Rapids. Tomorrow morning, I’ll have a report about what we find today, so stay tuned for that. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
In Grand Rapids, the winter-like weather has diverted our attention from realizing that spring is on its way. Daytime air temperatures have been just warm enough to melt a little snow every day. We don’t see a lot of it because it’s seeping into the ground, but some of the water has made its way into creeks, feeder streams and rivers. Those raging waters now provide evidence of how fortunate we are that the snow is not melting faster, because flooding could easily become a serious issue in the region.
Yesterday, I was standing in my yard when I heard the call of a Loon in flight. I spotted the bird over the trees and soon, another one passed overhead too. After looking at nothing but ice-covered lakes for a week, I was curious about where they might be headed. So, I took a short drive to check out some of the obvious possibilities. Most of the small lakes I looked at were still locked up and while the Mississippi River was wide open, I couldn’t see evidence that the Loons were on it.
I knew there were some small spots of open beaches on Pokegama, but I hadn’t believed that Pokegama had enough open water to attract Loons. I was surprised bigtime when I arrived at the Tioga Beach Park. Not only was there open water, but there was also a lot of it and floating in it, a half dozen Loons. They appeared to be worry free, swimming and diving in the water as if it had already been summer for weeks.
The current flow from the channel between Little Jay Gould and Tioga Bay explains why the bay was open, even while most of the lake is still ice-covered, water flowing at a brisk pace was enough to open most of the bay. There’s an awful lot of high and flowing water in the region already and more on the way. So, scenes like that could be more common than I’ve realized.
How much water is there? Well, check out the photo that my friend Angie Forconi gave permission to share. The Prairie River, northeast of Grand Rapids was raging this weekend. Rapids flowing out from the south end of Prairie Lake are common during spring, but these rapids raise the bar to a whole new level this year. I’d guess that most locals would agree, the raging water and high levels are most uncommon.
Obviously, I can’t be everywhere to observe the conditions. But I suspect that if I could, I’d see that most lakes with medium to larger size feeder creeks and rivers have similar large patches of open water. I can even imagine that larger flowages in our region could easily be wide open already. Lakes like Lawrence, Prairie, Round and Little Cutfoot Sioux have plenty of current during an average spring. But this year, we have so much water that some of it may already be flooded.
I took advantage of the Williams Narrows webcam to check out the ice situation at Cutfoot Sioux. As you can see, there’s nowhere near as much open water as there is at Pokegama in Tioga Bay. But to put today’s talk in perspective, there is almost as much open water there now, as there was on the famously late ice-out opener that we experienced back in 2013. Folks that have expressed concern about how soon the ice will go out on Cutfoot Sioux and Lake Winnie should be encouraged by that. We are on a better trajectory now than we were then.
That said, anglers looking for fishing spots on the opener could be facing other problems. Flooding, especially on the flowages and lakes with multiple sources of inflow could be significant. Super high water causes lots of trouble at the landings because reaching the drop off into deeper water gets tricky. Floating debris causes trouble too. I recall the 1999 Governors Fishing Opener on Pokegama. We had to steer around sections of dock, along with branches and other objects that floated off the beaches and out of people’s yards. I recall too, a situation where my boat was totaled out because the water was so high at Birches Landing. For me, high water poses a larger threat than a late ice-out.
With the countdown to fishing opening at 17 days, it doesn’t seem likely that all the ice will be gone. But I’ve seen stranger things happen and with all the water in our region, an ice-free fishing opener still cannot be ruled out. In any case, now that we’re down to the wire, the updates will accelerate. So, stay tuned for more information daily. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"The image map shows open water at the Lighthouse Gap, Morris Point Gap and various backwater bays. Big Traverse Bay, the big basin on the south end of Lake of the Woods, is still ice covered. Mother Nature is chipping away at the thickness and durability of the ice, but as is normally the case this time of year, ice still covers the vast majority of the basin.
This time of year, pike are running toward spawning areas. They are less dependent on open water than most species, so in some cases, pike are in the shallows spawning before the lakes are ice free. Shallow water inlets and bays, often in ditches flowing into the bays and backwater areas of the bays themselves. Open water is expanding in Four Mile Bay, Bostic Bay and Zippel Bay.
Pike season is open year round. Now to ice out is a great opportunity to get in the back bays for some great pike action. Baits for pike this time of year... a live minnow under a bobber, dead minnows laying on the bottom, slow moving spoons, spinner baits and crankbaits.
The Rainy River is completely opened up into Lake of the Woods. The Little Fork River let loose early last week and the Big Fork followed about two days later. The majority of ice and debris from these tributaries letting loose has flushed through the Rainy River.
Sturgeon fishing has been good overall. The cold spell didn't seem to help, but anglers are still catching plenty of fish. Four Mile Bay at the mouth of the Rainy River is producing good numbers of fish, with various spots along the river producing as well. Warmer weather will fire up the bite even more.
The sturgeon harvest season runs from April 24, 2023 through May 7, 2023 and again from July 1, through September 30, 2023.
The catch and release season runs May 8th – May 15th and Oct. 1 – April 23rd. If you fish during the harvest season, purchase a sturgeon tag ahead of time for $5. One sturgeon per calendar year 45 - 50 inches or over 75 inches may be kept per angler during the harvest season. The sturgeon must be tagged immediately and registered within 48 hours.
Birchdale, Frontier, Vidas and Wheeler's Point boat ramps are all open.
As mentioned, pike season is open. There are various tributaries and backwater areas of the river to target pike with some big fish around.
Up at the NW Angle, open water is expanding amongst the island areas of the NW Angle. Current areas show up well on aerial maps this time of year as that is where the open water shows up. Anywhere there is current will break first with other areas to soon follow. Water flows into Lake of the Woods from the Rainy River and other tributaries, flowing north through the dam at Kenora, through Lake Winnipeg, and eventually reaching Hudson Bay.
The MN Fishing Opener for walleyes is May 13, 2023 and traditionally this is a jig bite and fishing should be excellent.
To travel to the Angle, drive 40 miles through Canada and re-enter back into MN at the NW Angle, or, the Lake of the Woods Passenger (charter boat) Service transports you across the lake to your favorite Angle resort and keeps you in Minnesota." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Big Traverse Bay, the big basin on the south end of Lake of the Woods, is still ice covered. Some anglers traveled using snowmobiles this past week to fish for big northern pike and reported doing well. While there are still opportunities to fish on hard water, bear in mind that safety should be your first concern this time of year. Resorts and outfitters are no longer plowing or monitoring ice roads so experience, having others with you and exercising great caution is vital.
The open water mark has reached the Lighthouse Gap area of Big Traverse Bay. The flow of water from the Rainy River is pushing against the ice pack. The current, sun, wind and rain are all taking a toll on the lake ice. This is a great time of the year to fish back bays which host large numbers of pike during the spawning season. Shallow, protected waters are perfect for smaller boats, so almost anyone can participate. Open water is starting to show up in popular areas like Four Mile Bay, Bostic Bay and Zippel Bay.
The Rainy River is now completely opened into Lake of the Woods. The Little Fork River let loose into the Rainy Monday. Ice on the Big Fork is also about to break free any day now. Thankfully, sturgeon will continue feeding, even in muddy water conditions until the river has a chance to flush itself out. Sturgeon fishing is going very well with many big sturgeon being caught. Most anglers are targeting deeper holes, the mouth of feeder streams and rivers, flat areas adjacent to a deep hole or Four Mile Bay on the edge of the channel.
The sturgeon harvest season runs from April 24th through May 7, 2023, and again from July 1 through September 30, 2023. The catch and release season runs May 8, through May 15, 2023, and again from October 1, 2023 through April 23, 2024. If you fish during the harvest season, purchase a sturgeon tag ahead of time for $5. One sturgeon per calendar year 45 - 50 inches or over 75 inches may be kept per angler during the harvest season. The sturgeon must be tagged immediately and registered within 48 hours.
The walleye season finished up April 14th. Fishing was very good for most, until we received the 70-degree weather. The almost instantaneous hot temps quickly melted the snowpack along the river, pouring muddy water over the ice into the Rainy. The last couple of days of the season were tough. Before that, some 100 fish days and big walleyes were caught.
Up at the Northwest Angle, most ice fishing is finished for the year. A few locals with knowledge of ice conditions and the right equipment such as a good snowmobile are still getting out catching walleyes and pike. Reports have been good. Most of us will have to wait until May 13th, the MN Fishing Opener.
Open water is naturally appearing more and more. Anywhere there is current will break first with other areas to soon follow.
To travel to the Angle, one can drive 40 miles through Canada and re-enter back into MN at the NW Angle, or, for those looking to access the NW Angle this summer and avoid customs, the Lake of the Woods Passenger (charter boat) Service transports you across the lake to your favorite Angle resort and keeps you in Minnesota. — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
In Grand Rapids, the deepest snow in my front yard had diminished from 54 inches, down to 38 inches. In some areas, there were large patches of grass showing up. NOAA had already forecast daytime high temperatures above 45 degrees every day for the balance of April.
The small rivers and streams east of Grand Rapids were flooded, over-flowing their banks. The St. Louis River at the Hwy 33 bridge was raging, the ice had broken free and Friday morning at Cloquet, we saw gigantic ice chunks clogging the flow downstream. Every lake we passed was virtually snow-free, some of them still hosted standing water, others had already drained and were mostly dry. Almost everyone was convinced that winter was well behind us, and the meltdown was progressing fast.
On Saturday, slow-but-steady rain fell all day long. It didn’t amount to much, but it was wet enough to stop most folks, including us, from exploring the ice fishing conditions. We were hoping the rain was the only precipitation we would receive. But enter Mother Nature with her quirky sense of humor on Sunday. “Let’s give everybody one more blizzard before spring; something to talk about over the weekend,” I could imagine her saying.
Mother is not a talker, she’s a doer and yesterday, the wind and snow formed blizzard-like conditions all over north central Minnesota. The wind was the worst part, snowfall depths were not too deep though. I think we have maybe 3 to 5 inches of standing snow in my yard, with a few deeper drifts. This morning the snow stopped, but for now, the wind is still blowing strong, albeit not blizzard-like as before.
Later today, and again tomorrow, I’m expecting to see a lot of runoff water and I see that flood advisories have been issued. After that, the forecast if you can believe it this time, calls for colder and blusterier. Lows in the 20s, highs in the 30s, patchy snowfall, along with rain showers and plenty of wind to drill the precipitation into our cheeks. It’s hard to imagine that conditions on the ice will be much fun, but I’m still hopeful that there will be a window of opportunity; we’ll see.
Because of the unsettled weather conditions, I’ve spent a lot more time inside recently. Cleaning out the closets and organizing the garage, I’ve stumbled into boxes containing odds and ends that I’m planning to sell. If you’re interested in fishhooks, spinner blades, unpainted jigs and the like, I may have something you’re interested in.
Today I’ll start with these, REAL Gold-plated spinner blades. Pictured here is a #7 Fluted Willow Leaf Blade and I have about 300 of them available. There are some smaller ones too, #3 Colorado, #2 Willow Leaf and who knows what else? I’ll let you know as I stumble into them.
In the meantime, let me know if there are items you’ve been looking for and I’ll let you know if there’s any chance that I have a shoebox containing some. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Pro bass angler Ott DeFoe explores the world of weightless soft plastics for targeting prespawn bass on the verge of spawning. In this video, he dives deep into the when, why, and how to fish a weightless wacky rig and Texas-rigged stick worm when water temperatures reach the upper 50s. *Featured product listing at the bottom.
As Ott explains, a few degrees can make all the difference in bass behavior during spring, shifting their focus to spawning activities. When this happens, hard baits like squarebill crankbaits take a backseat to weightless soft plastics, which hover in the strike zone longer and temp spooky bass in shallow water.
Big Traverse Bay, the large, main basin area of the south end of Lake of the Woods, is still ice covered. Taking advantage of the good ice conditions, there are some ice anglers using snowmobiles to access good, late season ice fishing action. Resorts and outfitters are no longer plowing or monitoring ice roads so experience, travelling with others, and exercising great caution is the name of the game.
Most of the ice anglers who are out have been targeting big pike and a lot of big fish continue to be iced. The vast majority of pike are returned to the water after a few pics. The season for pike on LOW is year round. Three pike are allowed in posession, but for harvest, must be under 30 inches in length. Lake of the Woods Pike regulations do allow for the harvest and posession of 1 trophy fish over 40 inches. All fish between 30 and 40 inches must be released.
Spring is a great time of the year to fish back bays which are perfect for smaller boats. Those wanting to fish the open waters of the south shore will get their chance once the ice on the bays melts. This is also the time when the big pike slide into the shallows to spawn. There is a very large population of big pike in Lake of the Woods and these bays will be full of them very soon.
Open water spring fishing is going strong on the Rainy River now too. There are now three boat ramps open between Baudette and Birchdale. The Nelson Park boat ramp in Birchdale, Frontier boat ramp and Vidas boat ramp just east of Clementson are open to all boats.
Most anglers are targeting walleyes and sturgeon. Both species have been very cooperative. Walleye anglers are primarily jigging with a plastic or with a minnow. Bright colored jigs and larger plastics with a twister tail or paddle tail this time of year are effective. Some anglers spot lock or anchor up and vertically jig. Others pitch the jig out and drag it back slowly to the boat, letting the lure sweep in the current. Slow trolling crankbaits is also effective. Use a crankbait matching the depth fishing or use a three way rig and cover various depths.
Releasing fish in this ice cold, relatively shallow water, is very successful. As responsible anglers, we ask everyone to plan ahead and take good care of the fish. Have a camera, needle nose, etc ready to go. Be quick on taking pics. Handle fish with care and release quickly.
Four Mile Bay and the Rainy River is catch and release only for walleyes and saugers through April 14, 2023. The big lake is still open for harvesting walleyes and saugers through April 14, 2023. The MN Fishing Opener when the walleye season re-opens for both the lake and river is May 13, 2023.
Sturgeon fishing is going very well. Lots of sturgeon being caught. Most anglers are targeting deeper holes in the stretch of river they are fishing. Sturgeon often will lay in these holes, which enables them to use less energy vs fighting the current and provides a plethora of bait sweeping downstream.
The sturgeon harvest season runs from April 24, 2023 through May 7, 2023. Again from July 1, 2023 through Septeber 30, 2023. The catch and release season runs from May 8, 2023 through May 15, 2023 and again from October 1, 2023 through April 23, 2023.
If you fish during the harvest season, purchase a sturgeon tag ahead of time for $5. One sturgeon per calendar year 45 to 50 inches or over 75 inches may be kept per angler during the harvest season. The sturgeon must be tagged immediately and registered within 48 hours.
Up at the Northwest Angle, most ice fishing is finished for the year. Locals with knowledge of ice conditions and the right equipment such as a good snowmobile are still getting out catching walleyes and pike. Safety first.
Most are looking forward to the open water, which is starting to show itself in neck down areas between islands where there is current. Mother Nature has some work to do, but normally will come through. Things happen in a hurry.
To drive to the Angle, one must travel 40 miles through Canada and re-enter back into MN at the NW Angle. Post COVID, things are back to normal for crossing the border. For those looking to access the NW Angle this summer and avoiding customs, the Lake of the Woods Passenger (charter boat) Service transports you across the lake to your favorite Angle resort and keeps you in Minnesota. — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
The water flowing down my driveway gave me the idea that creeks and small rivers would be swollen with run off. But on Easter Sunday, the scenery along eastbound U.S. Hwy 2 didn’t look much different from recent ones.
The trip from Grand Rapids to Twig MN takes us past several lakes, feeder creeks and small rivers. The first in line, the Prairie River, was open, the water level was high, and we thought this scene would be repeated several times along the route. Further east, the St. Louis River was open too, but water levels didn’t look very high yet.
Almost all the rest of the lakes and rivers we saw were still covered with snow, free from flowing water. Little Sand Lake near Warba, sported a layer of sloppy looking wet snow. The slate grey under layer revealed that it was saturated with water. My assumption was that the underlying ice prevented drainage for the standing water, so was likely still in good, solid condition.
With my interest piqued by the Easter Sunday trip, I took off early this morning to get a closer look at some lakes in Grand Rapids. Pokegama, at the Tioga landing (pictured) was nearly snow free and there were numerous shiny spots which appeared to be ice, not water. The landing was still intact and solid, if anyone wanted to take an ATV out there, nothing would stop them. Bass Lake still had heavier snow cover, it looked this morning like travel out there could get sloppy, especially later today when temperatures are predicted to reach 60 degrees. The same was true on the city lakes, they still had some taller drifts and a 6-to-10-inch blanket of un-melted snow.
In my travels, I did encounter what appeared to be a family who were ice fishing. I couldn’t say whether they were catching any fish, but walking conditions on the small lake they were fishing on looked excellent. The snow was almost completely gone, and the surface was dry, they were moving freely from spot to spot.
I’m speculating, but confident that the deep snow cover probably prevented heavy ground frost from forming this winter. With all the melting that occurred yesterday, evidence of flowing water is minimal. So, I think that a lot of the water is draining into the soil and that’s good because it will help mitigate some of the flooding. That said, there is still A LOT of snow covering the region and it’s hard to imagine how flooding can be escaped.
Yesterday the Hippie Chick was looking at the long-range weather forecast for the Grand Rapids area. If the forecast turns out to be accurate, there will not be any more daytime highs below freezing. In fact, the coldest daytime high was predicted to be 45 degrees. At this rate, it won’t be long before we see images of shoreline ice breaking up. If you’re thinking about doing some late season ice fishing, I’d plan it sooner, not later.
I’ll leave you with the comments that Tom Dunham emailed this weekend. Referring to my report posted on April 6, 2023, regarding the potential for another late ice-out, Dunham wrote,” Not to worry my friend! If my reliable rule of 3 weeks from my weather to yours holds up, this year will stun everyone how fast the snow and ice leaves. April 9th or 10th was the day I circled for you a couple weeks ago. It was winter here too, right up until it wasn't. One of the fastest warmups and thaws I can remember. Looking at your forecast, there's a huge string of overnights above freezing, even the biggest blocks of ice can't live in a refrigerator! Enjoy the melt, ice out should be on time or early. Happy Easter, TD.” — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
I feel like I should have more fishing to talk about right now, but conditions on the lakes just aren’t encouraging. For weeks, I’ve been looking forward to late ice and hoofing it to some of my favorite perch and panfish spots. I still am, but I can see that it isn’t going to happen this week. That’s because I think we’re on the verge of experiencing some major league flooding.
Some readers have suggested that ice conditions should remain favorable for at least a couple of weeks. They’ve said that even if we do have a super melt-down next week, the ice will still be good. I agree, the ice won’t melt overnight, and conditions on many lakes will be fine for a time. But when the warm air arrives and starts melting the snow, I fear that pools of standing water in the region will deteriorate the ice at accesses.
We have one more day to speculate and then the warm air should start drifting in. From here on out, daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s dominate the forecasts. This time next week the landscape in north central Minnesota is going to look a lot different. In the meantime, I don’t see many reasons to get fired up about ice fishing, and since sold my boat last weekend, can’t be enthused about the Rainy River either. So, I plan on having a nice Easter weekend with my family and will keep tabs on the changing conditions going into next week. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Resorts and shelter rental outfitters have pulled ice fishing houses off of Lake of the Woods for the season. Even so, there is still good ice in most areas of the basin and there are still ice anglers getting out ice fishing. Safety first as ice roads and trails are not being monitored.
There are a few still fishing walleyes, but the attention of many ice anglers this time of year is big pike. Even though it still feels like winter, the longer days and Mother Nature have the pike gearing up for the spawn. That means fish are being found in pre-spawn areas and are putting on the feed bag. A lot of big pike have been iced this week and it should only get better. Most fish are returned to the water after a few pics.
The possession limit for northern pike is 3 fish and all pike between 30 to 40 inches must be released. Anglers are allowed to posess one "trophy" fish over 40 inches. This slot limit, combined with the right gene pool and strong forage base make LOW a trophy pike lake.
Most pike anglers are setting up in 5 to 15 feet of water. A quick strike rig with a live sucker, dead smelt, tullibee, herring or fatty hot dog has been catching pike. On Lake of the Woods, the pike season never closes and this provides opportunity even after the walleye season ends on April 14, 2023. Perch, eelpout, tullibees and crappies are also in season, also providing opportunity for late season ice fishing.
On the Rainy River, open water fishing is going strong. The Nelson Park boat ramp in Birchdale and the Frontier boat ramp are open to all boats. Open water on the river extends close to Clementson. Walleye, sauger, pike, sturgeon, lake trout, muskie, suckers and maybe other species were caught on the river this week.
For walleyes, jigging with a plastic or with a minnow is the "go-to" technique for catching spring walleyes. Bright colored jigs and larger plastics with twister tail or paddle tail this time of year are effective. Please take good care of the walleyes. Have a camera, needle nose, etc ready to go. Be quick on taking pics. Handle walleyes with care and release quickly.
Four Mile Bay and all of the Rainy River are catch and release only for walleye and sauger through April 14, 2023. The big lake is still open for harvesting walleyes and saugers through April 14, 2023. The Minnesota Fishing Opener is Saturday, May 13, 2023 and Lake of the Woods walleye and sauger limits resume and apply to both the lake and river. With a late spring, the prediction is for good numbers of walleyes in the river on the opener.
Lots of sturgeon have being caught and released this week. Many are caught by walleye anglers hooking up with sturgeon unintentionally. Spring is a great time to catch sturgeon, and fishing for them is best now through May 15, 2023. The sturgeon harvest season runs from April 24, 2023 through May 7, 2023 and again between July 1 and September 30, 2023. The catch and release season runs May 8 through May 15, 2023 and again October 1, 2023 through April 23, 202
Up at the Northwest Angle, resorts have removed fish houses from the ice for the season. Anglers getting out ice fishing on their own are catching good numbers and some big fish. It looks like winter is still up at the Angle but warm weather is in the forecast. Safety first for those ice fishing on their own.
For those looking to access the NW Angle this summer while avoiding customs, the Lake of the Woods Passenger (charter boat) Service transports you to your favorite Angle resort and keeps you in Minnesota." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
Do you keep a logbook for recording details about your fishing experiences? I do, and on days like these it comes in really handy.
On my obligatory 5-minute daily perusal of the “social” media pages yesterday, I saw commentary about how much ice we still have. I didn’t see anything that I’d call panic, but it was clear that some folks believe that Minnesota’s walleye opener could be in jeopardy in the north central region. We all know that ice-out dates occurring after the fishing opener do happen. But in nearly 20 years of guiding, I’ve only seen it happen a couple of times. Knowing that, combined with my natural tendency toward optimism, I began looking for reasons to be hopeful.
So today, I’m using my logs to compare notes about the ice conditions on this date last year (2022), to the conditions we have in north central Minnesota today (April 4, 2023). I think we can agree that north central Minnesota lakes won’t be ice-free any earlier than usual this spring. But what I’m learning is that the timing for ice-out this spring might not be as late as it feels. There’s not much difference between ice condition reports in Itasca County today, compared to this time last spring. In fact, some anecdotal accounts have us a little bit ahead ow where we were at this time last year.
On the Rainy River for example, anglers last spring were applauding Koochiching County public works staff for having the boat access at Birchdale open on April 3, 2022.
This spring, similar accolades by Rainy River walleye anglers, launching boats at that same location, appeared on March 27, 2023. I realize this is only a snapshot, singling out conditions at one location. But given the high priority status of opening the Birchdale boat ramp every spring, noting that it was open a week earlier this season than last, seems fair to me.
Yesterday, I saw a video of my friend Reed Ylitalo drilling a hole through the ice on Lake Winnie. He revealed yesterday that there was 30 inches of ice. Last year, a similar video by my friends at Bowen Lodge revealing 26 inches of ice hit the internet on April 20, 2022. By May 9th, they were putting their docks into open water at their marina. I know, another anecdotal snapshot, but again, a reasonable comparison, I think.
Today, NOAA has issued a winter storm warning for north central and northeast Minnesota. While they’re still calling for more snow, the total amounts were downgraded from forecasts issued yesterday. Instead of 12 to 18 inches, they’re suggesting possible totals ranging from 5 to 10 inches over the next 48 hours. That’s good news because we still have a ton of snow laying on the ground in the region. If it melts too fast, flooding is already going to be a problem. So, the less new snow we receive this week, the better it will be. This is especially true if the weekend forecast is accurate. Good Friday temperatures of 40 degrees and Easter weekend temperatures approaching 50 degrees would put a dent in our snow banks.
Pouring over my logs from last spring reminds me too that the best ice fishing of the year may be yet to come. Yes, that’s right, last year I enjoyed the best ice fishing of the entire 2022 season between April 5th and April 20th. During that time, I and the Hippie Chick, along with some of my friends, enjoyed fabulous fishing for crappies, sunfish and especially perch!
There was a part of me that was getting anxious for open water. But I sold my boat last weekend and now, although my new one is here, it is not rigged up yet. So, while I’m between rigs, the sense of urgency about open water fishing is diminished. I might just as well enjoy hoofing it to the honey hole to see if they’re biting.
I started my report today with the question, “Do you keep a logbook for recording details about your fishing experiences?” If you do, that’s great, I think studying the history of past experiences and applying the knowledge to current situations is immensely helpful. That’s one of the reasons I share my logs with my fellow anglers for free. There are hundreds of archived fishing reports and articles from past seasons and no matter where you are on the learning curve, they contain something that you will find useful.
You may be saying “I already do that too; I share my experiences on the pages of social media”. You might believe that’s the best way to help your fellow anglers, and at times, it could be. But once your post has been read by your friends, it disappears, and your helpful advice becomes useless. Why not put that information someplace where your friends can find it when they need it?
When I get up in the morning and write these reports, I do it for free. The website archives where they’re published are free too, anybody who wants to learn from them can do it. While I don’t ask you for money, I would ask that you be generous with your fishing logs too. You don’t need to reveal your secret fishing spots, or reveal your top secret presentations to be helpful. It’s amazing how helpful a few words about conditions on the lakes, trending fishing patterns or even news about new gear can be. The next time you’re ready to press the button on “social” media, I wish you’d consider sharing your fishing news here, where folks can always find it. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Helping your fellow fishermen and women stay abreast of fishing conditions in your area is good for everybody and it's easier than you think! You don't have to write a book, you don't have to share your secret fishing spots and you don't even have to mention your lake. But even a few words about general trends, seasonal patterns and local weather conditions can really help.
Be like me, become a duly deputized "Cub Reporter", it's good for fishing! Contact Us or if you prefer to be "social", Fishing Reports Minnesota, the Facebook counterpart to this page is open to the public, so you can post your own fishing update or just share a photo of a nice catch.