Q) How do make an entire group of people “appear” to be pigs? A) By allowing a handful of them to act like pigs.
I’ve ice fished on a lot of popular lakes, Upper Red, Lake of the Woods, Mille Lacs, and others. In my experience, almost every spot we’ve fished has been relatively clean, and trash free. But I do occasionally stumble upon a spot where somebody, one of the pigs, didn’t care enough about their fellow anglers to pack out the garbage they produced while they were on the ice.
The image I borrowed from the Bemidji Pioneer came from an article by Maggi Fellerman on October 22, 2022. The article "Upper Red Lake Area Association advocates for keeping lakes clean during ice fishing season" offers a perfect illustration of what happens when other anglers find littered areas like this. When it happens, they tend to get agitated enough to forget all about the 99% of their fellow anglers who clean up after themselves. Instead, they get upset and judge us all by the behavior of the 1%, the one THAT ARE PIGS. Whenever that happens, it usually leads to angry posts on the so called “social” media, and eventually somebody calls for legislation aimed at solving the problem.
Well, legislation it is, yesterday, I swerved into the following article by the MN DNR. In it, they are announcing the news about a “new” trash law in effect for the 2023, 2024 ice fishing season.
From the MN DNR, “Big changes are coming for all ice anglers this winter! A new law is in effect related to storing garbage and other waste (in all its forms) left on the ice. While the impetus for the law was increased dumping of sewage from permanent fish houses, it will affect all ice anglers, regardless of the type of shelter they use. Specifically, people using an ice shelter, vehicle or other conveyance on the ice may not deposit “garbage, rubbish, cigarette filters, debris from fireworks, offal, the body of a dead animal, litter, sewage or any other waste outside the shelter, motor vehicle or conveyance, unless the material is placed in a container that is secured to the shelter, motor vehicle or conveyance, and not placed directly on the ice or in state waters.”
The law is aimed at ensuring everyone who uses the ice can do so without encountering garbage and other substances that are not only a potential environmental concern, but an eyesore that takes away from a quality experience for winter recreationists of all kinds. During the winter, complaints about litter left on the ice are among the most common that DNR conservation officers receive. They take these complaints seriously and work to locate violators. The penalty for a violation is a petty misdemeanor and carries a fine of $100.
Make a plan to store your garbage when you head out ice fishing. If you can’t store it inside your vehicle, bring colored garbage bags, a sturdy waste receptacle that won’t break in cold and the proper tools to secure them to your shelter, motor vehicle, snowmobile, trailer or other vehicles you drive out on the ice. Garbage and human/pet waste do not belong on the ice. Take off what you take on!”
Personally, I think none of this needed to happen in the first place, how hard is it to carry a trash bag and put the days trash in it? Apparently though, peer pressure isn’t enough for some folks, and so we wind up with more laws. If they were going to pass a law anyway, the legislature could have gone farther and made the fines a little steeper. That said, I guess anything that cuts into the 1% of pigs is good for everybody, so this is better than nothing.
Read the full statute on the Minnesota Legislative website >> "2023 Minnesota Statutes 97C.363 STORING GARBAGE AND OTHER WASTE ON ICE" — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) In an email, Linda Ullsperger wrote: “Can you tell me what lakes are considered Prairie Lakes Area? All I find is in southwest Minnesota?
A) Thank you for the note and the good question! In the report on October 28, 2023, my reference to the “prairie lakes” region means, to me, the lakes in the west, northwest, and west central regions of Minnesota. Based primarily on my own anecdotal accounts of the changes in terrain as I travel westward and view lakes in those regions. The areas that come to mind for me, are the groupings of lakes around the Erskine, Detroit Lakes, and Fergus Falls.
There are regions defined and mapped by various "state" agencies. The MN DNR offers a map called Ecological Land Classification Hierarchy. They map ecological and landscape classifications that are used to identify, describe, and map areas of land with uniform ecological features.
The University of Minnesota offers a map too, theirs is called Biomes of Minnesota. The U of M map is used to identify 4 major regions, the Laurentian Mixed Forest, Eastern Broadleaf Forest, Prairie Parkland, and the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands.
Both maps “sort of” support my way of thinking about Minnesota’s lake regions. I understand why this is confusing though because the geography is not mapped with grouping the lakes in mind. I don't think the state has any "officially" designated or named “lakes areas”. But often, tourism offices or chambers of commerce coin their own terms, and maybe I should learn more about them and start referencing some of those instead.
Truthfully, the easy way to do this would be to simply name the lakes. But folks who share information with me in confidence often expect that their information will remain private. So, unless my reports are the result of firsthand observations by me, I tend to be deliberately vague about specific locations. Often, we don’t really need specific information anyway. A simple heads up about trends or regional weather patterns provides a jumping off point for us to do our own research. — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Ice is forming nicely on most areas of Lake of the Woods. That said, it is going to take some time before it is safe doe Travel. Outfitters, resort guides and various rental operators are ready to start marking trails on the ice. Once they feel conditions are right, they will get out on the ice to check areas that offer the safest passage. As always, we encourage working through resorts and outfitters and staying on marked trails for safety.
Back bays have locked up first as they are out of the wind. Despite some good wind this past week, the lake is still covered with ice for miles, but open water still appears, which is common during ice formation. This is a good start and Mother Nature will determine when it is ready. That time is not yet, but it is coming.
The Rainy River is ice covered now too but until ice up, there had been a few hardcore anglers jigging with emerald shiners from about 12 to 24 feet of water, catching some nice walleyes. Cold temperatures this past week locked it up with ice and the hopes are to build upon what has started. For those who ice fish the river, anticipation for a good ice fishing season is high.
The ice is not walkable yetand extreme caution is always needed on ice, especially on a river with current. When the ice is thick enough, the snowmobile trail from Baudette to Wheeler's Point will be staked. When that trail is marked and ready, we encourage staying on the trail for safety. Some resorts will set fish houses out in areas of the Rainy River they check and monitor for safe ice. Work through a resort or outfitter for safety.
Up at the Northwest Angle, fall fishing was strong this year and ice anglers are optimistic about the coming ice fishing season. The waters around the angle's many islands are now ice-covered. The entire area remains dotted with patches of open water from wind, neck down areas, and current. Ice is forming nicely and resorts are ready to get out. It is always safety first and when they feel it is right, ice guides from area resorts will get out and check ice thickness and eventually start marking trails. When that time is here that ice fishing has begun, we will get the word out. That time is not yet.
Swing by the Lake of the Woods Tourism booth at the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show Dec 1 thru 3, 2023 and say hello. Pick up the latest visitor guide, sign up to win an ice fishing trip and let's talk LOW ice fishing!" — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Today we’re going to discus the pros and cons of braid vs. monofilament fishing lines. We recently delved into a similar conversation concerning the nuances of fluorocarbon and monofilament lines. In doing so, we laid out some of the differences and similarities of those two line types, so that you could make a better-informed decision on which line to go with in a given situation. That’s the goal again today, only this time centering the conversation on braided line versus monofilament.
Monofilament fishing line, often referred to as “mono”, is typically made of a single strand of nylon. Braided line, or “braid”, is predominately made from tightly woven strands of synthetic fiber. You’ll notice there is one common quality listed as both a pro and a con for both of these line types— the fact both lines ..." Read Article to Learn More >> Braid vs Monofilament Fishing Lines and When To Use Each
Grand Rapids area residents are likely to recognize the image of Splithand Lake’s public boat ramp. From there, it looked like the lake was frozen solid on Monday, and it was getting close. On the other side of the lake though, a couple of small open spots persisted over the deeper water. Down the road, Little Splithand was almost entirely frozen too, but several narrow cracks and wet spots revealed that the ice is not safe there either, not yet anyway.
Around the Itasca region, there were widespread reports about larger lakes getting close to locking up. Leech Lake’s shallow eastern bays skimmed over Monday morning. On Winnie, Third River had 4 to 5 inches of ice, and as soon as the trail controlled by Chippewa National Forest officials opens, there will be a rush of spear houses on the flowage. It's 1 degree above zero outside my office right now, and that probably means that soon, we’ll be talking about some of the region’s larger lakes too.
Further west, folks in the prairie lakes region (See Q&A 11-29-2023) are not issuing reports about ice conditions. Nope, they are issuing reports about ice fishing. Results vary, some panfish anglers are offering photos of near limits, others simply report having fun on the ice. Either way, ice depths range from 6 to 8 inches already, and by this weekend, ice fishing reports will be widespread.
For me, a day without wheels has me grounded at the office today, so I don’t anticipate having firsthand observations tomorrow. I’m not sure that it matters much, the forecast calls for more cold weather, and without snow cover to worry about, ice will be forming fast. So, whether I see it for myself or not, you can be confident about making plans for ice fishing soon. If you’re in north central, or northwest Minnesota and like walking and travelling light, stick with the formula and search for shallow water, small acreage lakes and you’ll be able to fish this weekend. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Our goal on Sunday wasn’t to visit the maximum number of lakes, it was more of a road hunt, lunch stop, campground exploration and date day all rolled into one. Visibility wasn’t the greatest anyway, light snow driven by gusty winds prevented us from getting any great images. If you look closely at the accompanying image of Itasca County’s Round Lake though, you’ll see a couple of open water patches. There was a lot more ice than there were open spots, so I expect to see that lake frozen over whenever the wind stops blowing.
Some of the other small lakes we spied along our way north were frozen over, but all the larger ones were still wide open. I was surprised to see so much open water at Little Cutfoot, shallow and protected from wind, I’d expected to see at least a partially ice-covered lake, but it was almost wide open too.
Anglers champing at the bit to be among the first wave of hole drillers on Upper Red Lake are busy on the “social” pages. As usual, outfitters and guides in the Upper Red Lake neighborhood are doing their best to post photo updates of the ice formation up there. They’re struggling with wind and diminished visibility too, but it does appear that the lake is freezing fast, but it’s not done yet. A satellite image from 11-24-2023 gave the impression that the “fishable” portion of Upper Red was almost fully ice covered. But an image from 11-25-2023 shows a large, broken swath running east and west through the upper portion of the lake.
Yesterday was cloudy, so there isn’t any satellite image to compare. It’s cold enough to expect the lake will finish freezing fast, but the winds are predicted to keep on coming, so it will be rough going up there for a while. You probably won’t need me to keep you informed, but I’ll mention it whenever I can.
The hubub about ice fishing caught the attenion of somebody with the MN DNR. I saw a post from them on Sunday advising folks not to get too anxious about getting out onto the ice too soon. Four inches, they advised is enough ice for walking, and on a few small, shallow lakes, we probably have that already. For the most part though, full ice cover on any of the larger, deeper lakes is still a ways off. So, I agree with the DNR Advisory, there's no harm in giving the lakes a little extra time, better safe than sorry, right?
Today, I’m going to take another road trip, mostly to look for a spot to hunt with my muzzleloader, but whenever I get close to a lake, I’ll swing in for a closer look and let you know what I see. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
If you want to, you can start your ice fishing season this week. You’ll have to walk, and you’ll have to limit your travels to one of north central Minnesota’s smaller, shallower lakes, but you can do it.
On Saturday, Susan and I found several lakes in the Grand Rapids area already frozen over. The one you see pictured here is a 125 acre, moderately clear panfish lake with a maximum depth of about 16 feet. This fits my early season, first ice profile to a T, and I’m thinking that I’ll take a walk out there really soon.
Around the region, there were reports of some larger, deeper water lakes that skimmed over yesterday morning too. Dixon Lake, northern Itasca County was locked up, so were the shallow water bays on Winnie, but not the main lake, most of it was still ice-free.
As usual, folks are champing at the bit to get out on Upper Red Lake, and that lake is trying to freeze, but can’t because it has been hampered by strong winds. West northwest winds are in the forecast again today, and predicted to blow at speeds up to 25 MPH. At this point, the less ice there is, the better off folks will be. With single digit low temperatures in the forecast, one or two calm nights is all it will take to lock up the surface over most of it.
Over the years, I’ve developed a distrust of ice that forms on the lakes before we get our first big snowstorm. Anxious ice anglers feel good when they see frozen lakes, and for a while, they have fun. Then the snow comes, lays on top of the ice and shunts the freezing process. Before long, slush forms and transportation turn problematic. The ice is coming either way, and now that it’s here, let’s hope that the snow doesn’t, at least not for a while!
Eating fish has been a topic of conversation in my family lately. If you’ve seen any recent pictures of our family on social media, you can imagine why. With 4 grandkids here already, and at least one more on the way, speculation about who can eat fish, what kind of fish, and how many of them, has been a recurring theme.
Personally, I don’t feel that we, I mean my family, eat enough fresh caught fish to pose a problem. Especially considering where the fish we eat are caught, and how they are prepared. But I also realize, not everybody is lucky enough to get almost all their fish from northern Minnesota’s cleanest freshwater lakes. Wanting to offer guidance, but realizing I’m not an authority on the subject, I looked up Minnesota’s official recommendations to see what they have to say.
I was heartened by the language on in their website’s opening paragraph, “Eating fish is good for you - benefits outweigh risks when eating fish low in mercury and other contaminants.” After that, the information starts getting somewhat more confusing, but they do provide a lot of it. You can read the rest of the articles yourself and make your own judgements about how many fish, and which ones you should be eating; I just wanted to offer this link in the hope that it makes locating information easier. Click here for >> Minnesota's Fish Consumption Guidelines
Before I wrap up, I want to share a bit of ancient history about sourcing information. During my formative years as a fishing guide, I worked at a lot of outdoor shows during the winter, one of the big ones for me was the Indianapolis boat, sport, and travel show. In the late 1980’s, there was a group of anti-fishing and hunting activists doing their best to convince attendees of that show that eating fish wasn’t going to kill them. If you eat fish, they argued, you’d get mercury and lead poisoning, glow in the dark, grow 2 heads and all sorts of other horrible things.
Now I’m not saying that ignoring reasonable guidelines is a good idea, but those folks took “reasonable” guidelines, twisted them around, amplifying them into scare tactics. I'm not pointing fingers at anybody right now, I just believe that in this day and age, we should do more of our own thinking, and rely less on unsolicited opining by folks who we don’t even know. Of course, that just my opinion. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"There have been very few anglers out on Lake of the Woods this past week. A combination of the blanket of snow, along with the draw of Minnesota's deer hunting tradition has most anglers waiting for ice to form on the lake.
At last report, there were good numbers of walleyes and saugers chasing schools of shiners in various spots across the south shore. The ideal depth was 22 to 26 feet of water. Typically, these fish will hold till early ice conditions allow anglers access. Early ice fishing could be good.
Back bays are iced up. The lake and larger bays are still wide open. The 10 day forecast shows above freezing temps, which is normal this time of year. Mother Nature determines, but traditionally, day houses start going out around December 10th, give or take. Are you ready?
Resorts and outfitters are working hard making sure fish houses, light ice rigs, bombers, plows, augers, stakes for ice roads and trails, signs and other necessary equipment are ready to roll when it's time. We encourage working through resorts and outfitters and staying on marked trails for safety only when they give the green light, which will be a while.
The Rainy River is still open and free of ice, and shiners continue to run in good numbers. Some nice walleyes are the reward for the few anglers willing to brave the weather.
Jigging with emerald shiners has also been catching the majority of fish in the river. Target depths range from 8 to 24 feet of water. Anglers who are targeting sturgeon are having good action as the fish are active.
Up at the Northwest Angle, much like the south end of the lake, fishing for most is pretty much wrapped up. Back bays and harbors have a skim of ice and most boats are pulled." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"DNR sets winter walleye fishing regulations for Upper Red, Mille Lacs lakes"
The walleye limit for Upper Red Lake will decrease from the five, currently allowed during the open water fishing season, down to four this winter while the Mille Lacs Lake walleye limit will remain at one.
“Fall netting assessments on both lakes suggest these harvest levels will keep walleye populations sustainable and healthy,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We’re pleased to offer anglers harvest opportunities on both lakes.” The DNR sets winter regulations for these lakes after completion of annual fall population assessments.
Results from Upper Red showed an optimal level of walleye spawning stock and a high overall net catch rate, especially of nearly mature walleye. Effective Wednesday, November 1, 2023 anglers fishing on the state waters of Upper Red Lake can keep up to four walleye with no more than one longer than 17 inches.
Mille Lacs’ Lake results found slightly lower walleye numbers than in 2022. But the continued strong presence of walleye born in 2013 and 2017 and acceptable numbers of walleye born in 2021 and 2022 suggest there are adequate numbers of younger fish to keep the population sustainable as they mature and reproduce to replace fish caught by anglers. Beginning Friday, December 1, 2023 Mille Lacs Lake anglers can keep one walleye 21 to 23 inches long or one walleye longer than 28 inches.
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.