I just washed my lake, and I can’t do a thing with it! That’s what I kept thinking on Thursday, the first really “cold day” on the lake in about a month. For me, “cold” means that the outside air temperatures are low enough to cause numb fingers, watery eyes and other dumb stuff that give me problems doing my job.
If I can’t tie a not or bait a hook quickly, then my efficiency goes down and that’s bad enough. But when strong, gusty winds coming at me from the southwest slammed into the front, the sides, and the back of my boat, the ability to perform my coxswain duties effectively was seriously hampered and I don’t like that.
It’s not too often that I call a lake UN-fishable, but on Thursday, the northern 2/3 of Winnie, including Cutfoot, was as close as it gets. Close enough for me to bail out on the big water and head for the back bays of Cutfoot and Little Cutfoot in search of panfish, instead of walleyes.
I should mention that during the time I was attempting to keep my boat on track to catch some walleyes, I noted that surface water temperatures had fallen overnight. In most areas, 58 to 59 degrees was the common reading, but there were a few stubborn spots where 60-degree readings persisted. There may be a slight rebound in water temps after the weather settles down, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Right now, it’s 43 degrees outside my office and that’s only 2 degrees short of today’s forecast high temperature. With overnight lows predicted to drop into the mid 30’s, I’ll bet that this is the weekend when we can officially kiss 60+ water temperatures goodbye.
In terms of locating panfish, the sub 60 degree readings gave me some hope that Jeff Wilkening was right when he messaged me, commenting about the October 14, 2021 panfish article where I said that most panfish were still located in the weeds and not in classic, fall haunts. “We found panfish in deep water last week, you just have to keep looking”, Wilkening wrote.
Well, the term “keep looking” is subjective and can be interpreted differently from one situation to another. In terms of fishing for panfish on Cutfoot, or Little Cutfoot, 2 hours was long enough for me to “keep looking”. I covered as much water as I could and checked as many of the most likely spots I could think of and if there were any crappies or sunfish in deep water, I didn’t find them.
If my search had ended there, I would have been tempted to declare that either there were no panfish in those 2 lakes, or that any of them that were there, simply wouldn’t bite. Except what happened next would have totally dis-proven those comments. You see when I moved over to the weedline, stopped the boat and dropped my 1/8-ounce jig tipped with a fathead into the water, it was literally smashed by a 9-inch bluegill. Yes, I said 1/8-ounce jig, tipped with a fathead and I did use the term “smashed”.
I would not routinely use jigs and minnows for sunfish and despite catching the first one that way, I did make a lure change. My main panfish rod already had a brown/orange #6 Lindy Tungsten Fat Boy tied on. I added a waxworm, dropped it over the side and caught more fish immediately.
If you've read past reports, then you already know that I am a huge fan of using ice jigs to catch panfish in the fall. Tungsten has made life simpler because I rarely need to add any additional weight to get the lure into the strike zone fast. The rod, a 7 foot St. Croix Panfish Series PFX70 LXF is rigged with 4 pound test mono and the combination of light line and light action rod is extremely helpful in terms of "feeling" the bait and detecting light strikes. If you're thinking it's too expensive, think again, the panfish series rods are about $130, very reasonable compared to many of the other high end options.
Over an hour or so, 10 nice sunfish, some crappies, 2 of them big ones, 2 keeper walleyes and a few pike all joined in to re-enforce my “theory” about panfish being reluctant to move away from the shoreline weeds. Every one of those fish came from water depths of 9 feet or less and not one of them were messing around, they struck with authority and were not boat shy in the least.
Now I realize that this will all change as the water temperatures continue to drop. But if you’re fishing this weekend, trying to locate panfish and do not find them in your favorite fall locations, at least look at the weeds. That’s where the food is and until water in the shallows gets cold enough to force the baitfish out, the predators will stick around.
Personally, I would love it if all the panfish in these lakes would stay in the shallow weeds forever. Watching folks hunt down crappies in 35 to 40 feet of water has become painful for me. Knowing how many of the fish caught and “supposedly released” in deep water die because of barotrauma, it’s been a relief not to see the packs of boats hovering out there this fall. Maybe Mother Nature caught decided to intervene this fall and give those fish a break so that they can pull off another strong, rejuvenating year class next spring? One can only hope.
Yesterday’s experience combined with what happened when Tim Higgins was fishing with me on Wednesday reminded me about another past experience with Largemouth Bass. On Wednesday, Tim must have caught a dozen, maybe more of them, while we were fishing for walleyes. They weren’t very big, but they could have been if we’d been on a lake where bass were more prominent.
Not many of my customers let me take them bass fishing, but occasionally I do get the nod. One time, my long-lost friend David Chrz let me take him bass fishing in October and we had a blast! Wherever you’re fishing a good bass lake, can find the combination of green cabbage weeds adjacent to shallow flats with access to steep breaks into deeper water, you will find bass.
Casting spinnerbaits across the weeds and slow-rolling them back to the boat was our best presentation. At the time, I made spinnerbaits and had a “favorite” single bladed, white skirted, 3/8-ounce model. The blade was a #5 Colorado, hammered nickel that gave odd a lot of flash. These days, I’ve been using the Booyah spinnerbaits, their line ties have a closed loop for when we fish near too many pike and need to use steel leaders. They have ball bearing swivels too and I think that makes a big difference when you fish slowly; the easier the blades turn, the better “slow-rolling” works.
If you’re up for some action, this should be a great weekend to try the fall, green weed, spinnerbait bass pattern.
For me, headquarters central will be on either Winnie or Cutfoot today and tomorrow. That’s when my regularly scheduled guide trips come to an end. On Sunday, the Hippie Chick takes over the Admiral’s chair and who knows where we’ll go, it depends on the weather. Either way, there will be a few more reports coming your way, so stay tuned. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Wired2fish’s Mitch Anderson explains how he locates roaming crappies using live forward-looking sonar (Humminbird MEGA Live) and catches them with a finesse drop shot setup. Crappies are schooling panfish constantly on the move, but they’re also eager biters if you can get a bait in front of them. Sonar, whether the more common 2D or newer forward-looking varieties, is a huge aid in finding fish fast. Similarly, a drop shot is among the quickest rigging setups for putting bait on their snout in a natural manner.
Anderson shares his drop shot setup, catered around delivering micro soft baits to unsuspecting fish. While live bait generates bites, quality plastics are usually good for several fish per bait and can catch them just as well without time wasted spend re-baiting hooks. Using real-time sonar feedback to maintain contact with crappies is key to Anderson’s success in open water. With that in mind, he shares some boat control tips to ..." Learn More >> Drop Shotting Crappies in Open Water | New Methods
Curious about reports he’d heard from folks who have been fishing on Lake Winnibigoshish recently, a friend called and asked, “Is it true that the water is clearing up and the fishing is getting tougher on Winnie this week?”
Regarding water clarity, my answer is that yes, the water, at least in certain areas definitely is getting clearer, but with surface water temperatures still holding above 60 degrees, there are still places around the lake where I cannot see the bottom in let’s say 5 feet of water or deeper. So, by itself, water clarity isn’t stopping the fish from biting, especially when conditions are good, i.e., walleye chop, cloudy skies etc.
About the fishing, I would not say that it is getting “tougher”, but I would say that it is getting “different”. It’s becoming less practical to chase schools of fish and far more practical to chase good fishing conditions. Let’s say that yesterday you had great action on the east shore with a stiff south breeze and cloudy skies. Today though, the wind is calm, and the sunshine is breaking through the clouds; I’ll bet you a bag of fatheads that the fish will not be there.
When the seas are calm and conditions are bright, you’ll be better off fishing in deeper water. Either on the flats in water depths ranging between 12 and 16 feet, or along the steeper edges of the larger, main lake bars in water depths of 16 to 22 feet. Not every bar has schools of fish on them, but there are enough spots to provide anglers who search diligently with some good options.
The same thing is true for fish on the flats, every isolated patch of gravel and rock seems to hold a few fish, but none of them are jam packed, you will not catch limits of walleyes by sitting in one place. But if you keep moving and searching for small pods of fish, you will be rewarded with a creel that contains above average size walleyes. When we have fished these isolated areas, we have been able to set our voluntary minimum size at 15 (sometimes 14-3/4) inches and always wind up with a few fish in the 16 range too.
Going back to the original supposition where yesterday the east shore was hot with a brisk south wind. Today, the wind is brisk too, but it’s blowing hard from the northwest, where would you go this time? You could go back and try your “hotspot” along that east shoreline again, but I’ll bet you a box of night crawlers that fishing up in the northwest corner would be a better choice. Finding areas where there is a “workable” drift is a better idea and is the key to consistent success on the big lake.
The best way to say it is that I am chasing the best conditions rather than the best schools of fish. There are decent size schools of fish on all 4 sides of the lake right now and some in the middle as well. When the conditions turn favorable for any given territory, I simply move in that direction. So far, locating shoreline areas where the wind is quartering into the shoreline has been the winning strategy for me.
When there is wind blowing, especially if the sky is cloudy, then shallow water stiff offers the best action. Recently, 5 feet has been a key depth and my most common stating point for any “new” fishing spot. Sometimes, when there’s almost enough wind, but not enough to produce a good chop, the walleyes will slide out into the 8-to-10-foot range, so check that too.
Jig and minnow presentations are plenty reliable and, in my opinion, the best way to go right now. Lindy Live Bait Jigs (Photo Bottom) tipped with the largest fatheads I can find are doing the job nicely. If you can find 3- to 4-inch-long shiners, rainbows or “river mix” minnows, they will work too. Like I’ve said numerous times before, it is the size of the minnow that you should worry about, not the species.
We’ve been using the 1/16-ounce size in super shallow water, the 1/8-ounce size from about 6 to 10 feet deep and the ¼ ounce size for water depths of 12 to 22 feet. It’s important to change sizes, I think, to match the conditions at the time. We’ve had good luck using the Glow/Perch, Glow/Blue, Chartreuse Yellow and Bright Green colors. Personally, I’ve been infatuated with the orange color this fall, for some reason, I feel like it is producing larger size fish for me, but I realize this is a subjective opinion.
Perch, depending on your preferences are available in certain areas too. Shallow weeds still provide the best action and the fish we’ve caught have been packed full of ½ to 1-inch-long baby perch. We really haven’t had to go searching for perch, they hit the jigs and minnows while we fish for walleyes. When we don’t want to catch perch, I am forced to move into new territory.
By the way, moving into new territory is also the remedy for catching too high a ratio of small fish vs keeper fish. I know that it’s fun to keep catching fish when you’re on ‘em. But, if you’ve complained that there are too many little fish and not enough good ones, then it is because you didn’t move. Leaving a school of active fish is not easy, but when you keep searching, you WILL find other fish and more often than not, land at the spot where there are some larger walleyes.
It will be harsh when Mother Nature decides to go the other way and deliver the sort of weather that we are supposed to be having right now. But if you’re one of the lucky ones who hasn’t stored the boat away, then you might as well enjoy this glorious bonus fishing season before it’s too late!
I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts too, but I’ve been watching the pages fly off my calendar. As of today, I am down to my last 5 days of “work” for the season. Bowstring is on the agenda for today, Wednesday’s destination is temporarily unclear and for that matter, so are the remaining days afterward. I’ll keep posting updates while I can, so stay tuned. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Fish from that large year class have entered what we consider an “ideal size range”, 15 to 16 inches and are on the prowl in the big lake. As the accompanying photo shows, anglers who figure out where to look can gather a meal of fish from abundant supply of 2018 year class fish.
So, where do they look, you may be thinking? The simple answer is by staying away from the crowds and away from wherever the “bite chasers” have proclaimed as the “best” fishing spots.
Walleyes from the massive 2019-year class, and even some of the tiny 2020-year class fish now dominate the action in certain areas on Winnibigoshish. In some spots and when conditions are prime, catching doubles, even triples have been common, anglers have enjoyed a lot of action catching the 2019 class, 12-1/2 to 13-3/4 -inch fish. Some anglers are happily harvesting fish from the higher end of that year class already
While it is true that anglers will harvest some larger size fish amidst the legions of smaller ones, most of the fish will ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Report
Lake Winnie surface water temperatures rebounded over the past few days. Several days ago, 60 to 62 degrees was the most common temperature range. On Thursday, finding 65 degrees was easy, finding 66 degrees was possible in select areas of the lake.
With calm water and sunshine, walleye anglers found themselves working harder to get strikes, but still catching fish. Perch anglers have found “easy pickings” in shallow weeds and panfish anglers who know their way around the lake are picking up modest numbers of both crappie and sunfish.
Whether you’re after walleyes or perch or a mixed bag of both, staying close to the weeds is your best bet. Even sparse patches of low-lying grasses hold minnows and small gamefish that are attracting gamefish.
Under calm seas, expect to catch most of your fish by working slowly, using either jig and minnow combinations or Lindy Rigs tipped with lively minnows. Position your boat within casting distance of weed patches and/or small gravel and rock patches. Pitch your offering toward the structure and work back toward the boat at slow to moderate speeds. The element of surprise is on your side, when fish see the lure(s) before they see the boat, strikes will be much more aggressive, and fish will be easier to catch.
On breezy days, drifting the shoreline with jig and minnow presentations should really be all you’ll need to catch fish. The breeze stirs up bait and walleyes begin moving in small schools into the current. There are schools of fish present on all 4 shores of the lake but using the wind to your advantage is key. Whenever breezy conditions intensify, feeding activity in that area ramps up and when the wind blows, anglers would be smart to take advantage of it. Avoid fishing the calm side and take full advantage of any workable shoreline where there’s a “walleye chop” that you see developing.
Whether you’re fishing for walleye or perch, do not be afraid to fish shallow depths. Some of the better anglers on the lake are finding and catching fish in water depths of 2 to 5 feet. They can move deeper at times, but when they are actively feeding, the shallow water will produce not only more numbers of fish, but larger size fish as well. There are some anglers on the lake who now insist on a 15 inch minimum size fish (2018 year class) for harvesting and through diligent searching, finding enough of them to make life interesting.
A side note about water depths; we’ve noticed that anglers who focus on fishing deep water, let’s say 24 to 30 feet, do find fish, but they are almost always smaller than their shallow water counterparts. Fish from the 2019-year class, 12-/12 to 13-1/3 inches are gathered in large schools and when you find them, will dominate your catch. If you discover huge numbers of smaller fish, moving away from the spot is a great idea. Finding smaller, more isolated schools of fish will offer you more opportunity to catch “premium” grade keepers.
Panfish anglers are finding some fish, but not that many of them are in the classic, deeper water fall spots. There’s an interesting mixed bag of perch and crappies available for anglers who search the cabbage patches. If you don’t already know where to look, then trolling the weeds with spinners isn’t a bad way to seek out pods of fish. Once located though, working slowly with jig and minnow, or jigs and plastics will produce more fish. Whether you’re searching around the main lake, or in Cutfoot, cabbage patches are the key and water depths will range from 5 to 8 feet.
There have been some small schools of panfish moving into deeper water too. But these fish are heavily pursued, so expect the scenario for pursuing them to be “here today and gone tomorrow”. As water temperatures cool, more panfish will be forced out of the weeds and into deep water. These movements can occur overnight and at random intervals, so be flexible and search a variety of water depths and structures on every outing.
The intense pike action that we enjoyed a few weeks ago has quieted down, but there are still some fish in the shallows. Most of the pike being harvested right now are incidental catches by folks pursuing walleyes. But, if you’re interested in locating some of Winnie’s better pike, move your search away from the shallow weeds and toward deeper structure. Fishing the steep edges of mid-lake bars using large minnows will produce pike consistently and there are some nice 26 to 30 inch fish showing up in the system these days.
How you present the minnows is a matter of choice; slip-floats, Lindy Rigging or using large spinner harnesses will all work. Just make sure that you’re using minnows large enough to attract the size fish that you want to catch. Eater size pike could easily be caught using smaller minnows. Large fish will prefer bigger bait, minnows in the 10-to-12-inch range, even larger at times, will get the most attention from big fish.
The calendar says it’s getting late, but the weather does not. How much of an extension of the fall fishing period we get will depend on how long these above average temperatures persist. At the moment, it looks like fishing could stay good for a while, so stay tuned; this might be the season for an impromptu, last minute fishing trip up north. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
Surface water temperatures did not fall as much as we expected, even after the cold air that settled in after Monday’s heavy rain. In Cutfoot, 63 to 64 degrees was the range we observed and on the big lake, 62 to 63 degrees was more typical.
Water clarity was still fairly low, we could not see the bottom in 5 feet. We’re not sure if this is due to an “algae bloom” that’s hanging on, or residual cloudiness caused by the turbulent weather. Either way, the murky water conditions encouraged walleyes to ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Report September 22, 2021
On Saturday, surface water temperatures had fallen into the lower 60s, they ranged between 61.5 and 64 degrees, depending on the areas we fished.
The stretch of water between High Banks Resort and Nodak Lodge is well known for producing larger size walleyes, that is when conditions are right.
Saturday’s strong south winds, an incoming full moon and continued turbid water conditions combined forces to create a classic “east side, big fish bite.” There were numerous reports of anglers catching large walleyes that day, we released numerous fish that ..." Read >> Fishing Report September 20, 2021
Surface temperatures continue dropping on Lake Winnibigoshish. Last Thursday, they fell below 64 degrees for the first time since late spring. By Saturday morning, 61.5 was the new "lowest reading" of the fall to date. Throughout the day, temperatures creeped back up slowly, but did not exceed 63 degrees by late afternoon.
For many, these water temperatures are entering the ideal range and last Friday, in his fishing report, Jeff Sundin wrote, “I love it when the temperature falls in small increments like these, it’s really good for business. What I don’t like is when massive cold fronts blow in, causing the temperatures to drop dramatically; that always shakes things up too much. Looking at the forecast, my short-term fear of a “Polar Plunge” is minimal”.
Checking the forecast again this morning, we do see some turbulence in our future, but not so much as to start us worrying about dramatic shifts in fishing patterns over the next several days. With the first 2/3 of September behind us, we must expect some cooling of the local climate soon anyway.
Folks on the lake are reporting good to excellent fishing for walleye, decent fishing for northern pike and perch as well. Panfish are getting less attention than they do during a typical fall, but anglers who put in their time, have been reward with satisfactory catches. There are still more crappies and sunfish in the weeds than there are in open water. So, folks searching for them would be well advised to start shallow first and work deeper later.
Casting small jigs tipped with plastics, jig-spinners like road runners, beetle spins or lindy spinners are good search tools to locate panfish. Once you catch a few, you’ll be able to decide whether its better to keep moving or to hold in position and pursue the fish with more vertical presentations. In heavy cover like cabbage weeds, tree branches or along “the wall” of grass formed by northern milfoil, slip floats and jigs tipped with live bait are a good idea.
Sunfish like meat, so wax worms, angle worms or cut up night crawlers are best. Crappies prefer minnows under these circumstances, so small fatheads, crappie minnows or tiny golden shiners will work. Whenever there are gaps in the weed patches, casting jigs with plastic action tails is better, they love the swimming action and will almost always hit the swimming, wiggly plastics better than they will the minnows.
Walleye anglers are finding fish everywhere and most of them are doing the best in shallow water. How deep to fish depends on the structure and on weather conditions at the time you’re fishing. Throughout much of the lake, a good depth to focus on is 6 feet of water. Fish will move up or down from there when conditions warrant but using 6 feet as the default starting point will almost certainly help you get started. When you find rocky structure, go as shallow as the rocks will allow, 2 to 3 feet of water is not unreasonable. When you locate weed patches, fish them, no matter if they are shallow or deep. Weed growth is holding minnows and that in turn has set up a food chain, attracting walleye, perch and pike.
Spinners tipped with minnows are still working, but even the “die-hard” spinner guys are switching over to jig and minnows. Comparing notes with some of the guides this weekend gave us the impression that whatever you like best will work. If you like jigging better than trolling spinners, go that route and vice-versa.
If you don’t want to focus on pike, don’t worry, you’ll get some of them by simply fishing for walleyes and settling for the random pike that comes along. Northern pike anglers are still catching quite a few fish whether they choose to target them or not. There are a lot of fish in the 22-to-26-inch protected slot in Winnie right now, but there is also some fat 21 inch fish, along with a smattering of 27 inch fish to bring home for a fish fry.
There are some big ones out there and for the most part, it is “the casters” who are catching them. So, if you want to single them out, use large crankbaits, bucktail spinners or jerkbaits and cast the weedy patches, rock points and steep breaklines.
Perch are biting, so if you’re not catching them, you’ll need to broaden your search. Weed patches are by far the best locations right now, but there are some fish on rocky structures as well. Troll spinners until you encounter a school of fish and then switch to vertical, jigging or rigging presentations to zero in on the better fish. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
Angler’s fishing in the Lake Winnie region will be in for a treat this weekend. Not only are the fish biting, but the early stages of fall colors have set in too! We won’t see color everywhere, but shorelines that contain hardwood trees will be lit up with a blend of bright green, along with vivid reds and oranges. The sky is offering some fine viewing these days too, reflecting Mother Nature’s moods in colors that also seem to only occur during the fall.
The water in Lake Winnibigoshish still has some color too, summertime algae blooms are hanging on. But I’ve noticed that a lot of this color is related to sediments, stirred up on windy days. Mid-week last, after a couple of calm days, the water clarity increased significantly, I could easily see the bottom in 6 to 7 feet of water; it’s been windy ever since, so I doubt most folks have noticed. For now, there’s more wind in the forecast, so there shouldn’t be much trouble in terms of slower fishing action. But I’ll be keeping an eye on water clarity as conditions change.
Surface temperatures are dropping, albeit slowly. On Thursday, my Humminbird registered the lowest reading of this fall, 63.7 degrees f. That was at about 10:00 AM on the south shoreline, but by 5:00 PM, water in the same area was back up to 65 degrees. I love it when the temperature falls in small increments like these, it’s really good for business. What I don’t like is when massive cold fronts blow in, causing the temperatures to drop dramatically; that always shakes things up too much. Looking at the forecast, my short-term fear of a “Polar Plunge” is minimal.
To catch walleyes consistently on Winnie right now you’ll need 3 things. One rod rigged with a 1/8 ounce jig, Lindy Live Bait Jig is my preference. One rod rigged up with a 1/8 ounce bullet siker, followed by a spinner, the Little Joe #2/0 Aberdeen Hook, with a #3 Indiana blade is my preference. One bait cooler filled with decent size fathead minnows. As long as the minnows are not too small, they will work perfectly for both presentations.
My preference is fatheads on the larger side, 3 to 4 inches, but good luck finding them. Most of the minnows I’ve bought lately have been much smaller, ranging from maybe 3 inches, down to little ones that in Dick William’s words, “look more like crappie bait than walleye bait”. Dick was right, but at least so far, the smaller than average bait has not caused much suffering, both walleye and perch have eaten them, even on when we’ve used them for jigging.
Key water depths for walleye have ranged from 4 to 8 feet. Lately, 6 feet has been my “Go-To” depth. That said, on Thursday 5 feet was better in some areas, while 7 feet was better in others. Follow the structure and use it as your guide, if patches of weeds are found in deeper water, fish them, they will be holding fish. If rocks are found in shallower water, fish them, they will be holding fish too.
Jigging, for me, has been best whenever there’s a good breeze for drifting. If the whitecaps are clipping along the shoreline, we’ve used the drift bag to hold speeds in the .7 to .9 MPH range. When the speeds get too slow, I’ve been better off trolling spinners instead. When trolling spinners, 1.0 to 1.2 MPH has been the ideal speed range.
There are fish in so many areas that it would be silly to identify any single shoreline or structure. Use the wind as your guide, locate “workable” areas and keep moving until you encounter a school of fish. On Thursday, we found a new batch of fish every ½ mile or so, it just depending on locating the structures; weeds, rocks, steep breaklines etc.
Many of the fish we are catching have been from the 2019 year class and you will be tempted by those fish because they are about 13 inches long now. But if can hold out, there will be an adequate number of fish in the 14 to 15 inch range, those from the 2018 year class, to keep you in fish for dinner. The past few days, larger fish have been showing up too, 21, 22, 23, 24 inch size fish, we get a few of those every day as well.
Perch activity really increased this week, but I’m not sure whether it’s because I “stumbled into an area” or if they are just biting everywhere. As usual, I am up against the clock, trying to get out of the house without being “too late”, so, more on that later. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
It would certainly seem so, by all accounts, guests are returning to the marina with reports of good walleye fishing on the big lake. When we walk out to the fish cleaning station, we see even more evidence and hear more reports about good catches every evening.
One true test occurred on Thursday (9-09), after a long stretch of breezy weather, the sun came out and the lake went flat. Most anglers know that flat, sunny conditions typically stop a great walleye bite in its tracks, but this did not happen. In fact, there were lots of folks who actually caught more walleyes during this period of calm, than they did on previous days when conditions were windy.
Boat control, in many cases is likely the main reason for an improvement. On of the local guides fished out of the resort on Thursday and said, “I think it was easy to get strikes on the windy days, but not as easy to ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Report September 10, 2021
"With the passing of Labor Day, the weather on Lake Winnibigoshish turned much more fall-like. On Tuesday, a roaring wind out of the northwest churned the water down to a cool 66 degrees. On Wednesday, there was a slight dip down to 65 degrees, but by mid-afternoon, they had recovered back up to 66.
The big whitecaps made travel difficult not only for our guests, but really anyone who was staying anyplace on our side of the lake. For those who did make the journey west, walleye fishing remained “fairly good”, even in the face of the sudden weather disruption. “Fairly good” that is, in comparison to the fast and furious action that most anglers enjoyed over the course of the previous week.
Some of the more productive shoreline spots, like the north shore, Ravens Point and Stony Point had already been fished a lot. While there are still fish present, it now takes longer to get a strike and longer still to sift through the smaller fish, waiting for a “keeper”. At some point, cooler water temperatures will trigger more migrations and these areas will re-populate. In the meantime, folks who do their own exploring are likely to fare well compared to those who follow the crowds.
Fish are widely distributed around the lake, making the chore of locating them easier than usual. It is safe to say that following shoreline breaks along any side of the lake where you find favorable wind conditions will lead you to schools of fish. Some of the schools are untapped in comparison to the ones found in the areas that have been popularized recently. Key depths for your search will be 6 to 9 feet of water, sometimes a bit shallower or deeper, depending on the structure.
Fishing presentations are in transition these days too, die hard spinner fishermen are still catching fish. But while there are still folks catching fish using the popular spinner and minnow presentations, jig and minnow combinations are gaining in reliability. And some of the better guides on Winnie have switched almost entirely over to jigging as a mainstay. Where to use which presentation depends on the structure. Jig and minnow is best on rock structure and well-defined weed patches. Spinner presentations are best suited to long stretches of shoreline where fish are scattered.
You may choose to use the spinners as a search tool, cover more water faster by trolling spinner until you locate fish. Once you know where the ‘eyes are, slow down and switch over to jigging, this will improve your odds of getting the most strikes per acre of water.
Most folks are not searching specifically for pike or perch, but they are catching them just the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re jigging or spinning, either species will eventually interrupt your search for walleyes. The average size of pike has improved recently and gleaning a few chunky ones for a meal has been easy. Perch on the other hand, have been a little harder to come by. On any given day, a group might expect to pick up 12 to 20 decent, 9-to-11-inch keepers. The numbers should improve soon as weed growth dies off and more perch are forced out into open territory.
The first phase of early walleye migrations is fairly well complete, that was the uptick in action we saw over the past couple of weeks. Now that water temperatures have taken their first serious dip though, we are on the verge of a more stable and longer-lasting fall bite. Stick with us as we follow the fish around the lake!
Oh, and if you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and inquire about the upcoming ice fishing season. If last winter was any indication, lodging and rental shelters are going to book up fast, so making your plans now will ensure that you get a spot during the prime fishing periods this winter." — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
Fishing patterns on the big lake had been incredibly consistent. Surface water temperatures hovered around 67 degrees, many fish were stacked up along the shoreline breaks on all 4 sides of the lake, others were located on isolated rock structures and still others were holding on deep, mid-lake bars.
Variable wind conditions were the only consideration in deciding which direction to go each day. If proper speeds and depth could be maintained, trolling spinners was good as gold. Whenever trolling became problematic, We ..." Read >> Sundin's Lake Winnie Fishing Report September 7, 2021
"Eric Stone wrote; "This year, we once again limited out on our perch. We keep 8-1/2 inch or bigger and bagged 40 per man. We found the perch around any clumps of vegetation in the 4 to 8 foot depth range and used small jig and minnow combinations. Our biggest was 12inches, the average was around 9 inches.
There were plenty of 10 to 13 inch walleye, we must have caught over 150 'eyes in the 10 to 13 inch range. Like every other year, we hear from locals that we will get plenty of 15 inch 'eyes next year. This seems like a laughable excuse because we come at the same time every year and always find the same thing (mostly small fish); but fishing is still good.
This year, we all did get our limit of 'eyes, 4 fish in the 24 to 26 inch range and I believe the rest we kept were in the 14 to 17 inch range. Many of them were caught on little spinners tipped with gulp minnows to fend off the perch and catch a few bigger perch while doing that. We caught good numbers of 'eyes in the protected slot, fish in the 18 to 21 inch range.The bigger fish came mostly on an orange, number 7 flicker minnow with short leads, in the 8 to 12 foot depth range.
Pike: We don’t try for pike, some years we get annoyed by them. We caught a handful under the slot and in the slot as well, along with few in the 28 30 inch range.
Weather: We came in on a 72 to 75 degreee air temperature each day. The week before was in the upper 80s, touching 90 degrees some days. So we had a big change. The winds came from every direction each day we fished, Saturday through Thursday." Eric Stone, Reader Contribution
A few days ago, I wrote that we’d been doing our best work on Winnie Walleyes whenever we used jig and minnow combinations. It’s true, we are still catching plenty of fish using my favorite, 1/8-ounce Lindy Live bait Jig tipped with fatheads. But during the past few days, there have also been situations when the Little Joe Spinners have performed better. So, what’s the difference?
Weedline fish in shallow water have been spread out horizontally, making spinner presentations more efficient. On both Saturday and Sunday, we’ve located and caught fish that were spread out along long stretches of shoreline. There are significant gaps between the walleyes which have been travelling in small schools. Moving quickly along the breaks and cashing in on spurts of action has helped shorten the wait time between strikes, in turn, keeping my customers interested in fishing.
Rock piles and isolated weed patches are different, fish using these structures are more concentrated and jig fishing is a more efficient way of catching them. On Saturday, we were trolling spinners when I noticed that every time we passed by one isolated patch of weeds, somebody’s rod got bent. That’s when I said, “Hey boys, reel ‘em up for a minute, I want to try something.”
We put away the spinners, grabbed the jigging rods and I stopped the boat within casting distance of that weed patch. Pitching the jigs toward the structure, hopping them back toward the boat using a “hop-drop-hop-motion” allowed us to put a fast 8 or 10 walleyes into the livewell. Another side benefit of stopping on that spot happened to be that most, if not all of those fish were “keepers”, 14-to-16-inch size fish. That part was mostly coincidence, but I’ll take good luck whenever and however it comes along.
It’s possible that we would have caught just as many fish if we had continued fishing with spinners. BUT, it would have taken a lot longer because every time we passed that weed patch, I’d have to wiggle the boat back into position for the next pass, gobbling up precious time on every return trip.
The takeaway from today’s report, I hope, is that you will follow my lead and have 2 rods rigged up for each angler in your boat. One with spinners behind a 1/8-to-3/16-ounce bullet sinker and tipped with either a fathead minnow or ½ night crawler. Rig the other one with a 1/16-to-1/8-ounce Lindy Live Bait Jig, tip them with the largest fatheads you can get your hands on.
When you’re “exploring”, use the spinners to catch walleyes spread out lengthwise along the shoreline. If you stumble into any irregular feature that seems to hold a concentration of fish, stop the boat and use the jig and minnow presentation for a while.
Now that surface temperatures have fallen below 70 degrees (67.5 degrees on Sunday), jig and minnow presentations will become increasingly effective. In the meantime, though, this crossover period will continue, and we’ll be able to catch fish using either presentation, using the most efficient for each situation.
There’s a lot more to say about Winnie, the fishing patterns and the walleye population and I will. But right now, I have to get to work. Suffice to say that over the short term, I plan on spending a lot of time out there, it’s getting more interesting every day. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
A report by one of the local guides included this; “The windier and cloudier the conditions are, the better walleyes bite. Last Saturday was overcast, there were 2-to-3-foot waves in the northwest corner of Winnie and the walleye action was very good. Early in the day, the average size was smaller, 10-to-13-inch fish were most common, but as the waves rolled along the shallow breaks, larger fish began showing up. Limits of 14 to 16 fish were bagged for all 3 of my fishing customers.”
Last week, during the cool down brought in by strong northwest winds, fish activity surged. For many, walleye fishing, along with perch and pike was not only good in terms of numbers, but the average size of fish was above par when compared to the fish folks have bagged over the past few weeks.
Reminiscent of the “glory days” on Winnie, algae blooms clouded the water, fish moved onto the shallow breaklines. Presentations varied, spinners continued to produce, so did jig-minnow combinations, slip-boobers and trolling crankbaits. As long as anglers got bait into the shallow water strike zone, they produced fish.
On Sunday, strong winds from the south blew last week’s fishing patterns out of the water, pun intended. The water column, first mixed up by last week’s strong northwest winds, was now thoroughly homogenized and temperature readings held steady at about 71.5 degrees. That temperature, along with oxygen levels should now be uniform all the way down to the lake’s first main breakline from about 16 to 22 feet deep. These episodes of mixing up the shallow waters represent “miniature turnovers” and tend to scatter both bait and game fish.
For many, the north and west shorelines were the epicenter of fishing action last week. Historically though, late summer fish migrations ramp up on the east side of the big lake. The area from Tamarack Point, all the way down to Evinrude Bay and Duck Pass typically begin producing good catches during this period. The longer the wind blows from the south, the better fishing gets along shorelines in the furthermost southeast section of the lake.
The jury is out, but if the southerly winds, forecast to prevail all week long, do come about, the south and east sides of the big lake could easily be the new epicenter of fishing activity. Bear in mind too that we have a full moon coming up on August 22nd, 2021. It is not unusual to see an uptick in fish activity during this time frame. Not only does the action tend to improve, but the average size of fish increases too. Musky and pike anglers have long relied on the full moon to predict periods of increased activity, but walleye and perch anglers can take advantage of them too.
There are likely to be more patterns emerging, but assuming that strong winds will be the rule of the day, then focusing on shallow water is likely the best plan for this week. Thanks to warm weather and strong algae blooms, water clarity is still low. Kep depths have ranged between 3 and 6 feet on the big lake and somewhat deeper, 8 to 12 feet on the weedlines in Tamarack Bay.
A pivotal time on Winnie, changing late summer patterns will trigger a new round of fishing updates. Checking back frequently will be a good idea as new information will be coming in often. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
"On Friday, I mentioned that the Hippie Chick were planning to lay low for a few days while we celebrate our upcoming anniversary. We started our vacation yesterday, so instead of fishing, I spent part of the day cleaning, scrubbing and re-organizing the Alaskan, the rest of it was spent cleaning up the yard so we’ll have something pretty to look at on the security cameras while we’re on the lake.
I promised that I’d drop in a few notes this morning, cleaning up questions from readers that pertain to current fishing patterns.
Nathan Rusinack wrote; Q) “I'm heading up to Lake Winnie on Sunday morning for the week. Thought I'd ask you for any fishing advice or reporting. I'm hoping to target walleyes. I've been going to lake Winnie with my whole family for about 40 years now. I have a good feel for the lake but any advice ahead of time would be greatly appreciated!
A) Fishing reports from Winnie, especially daytime ones, are less than stellar right now. Elite anglers who are “in the know” are catching some walleyes during the day, but even they are struggling to get in on many of the lake’s 2018-year class of fish that are now 14 to 15 inches long. Every report I’ve heard recently is that fish from the 2019-year class, 11-to-13-inch size fish make up the bulk of the daytime action.
During the day, trolling spinners along shoreline related structures dominate the presentation. There are some folks trolling crankbaits as well and they are having some success catching a mix-bag of pike, perch and walleye. Before many of the lake’s weed beds disappeared, August was prime time for trolling crankbaits on the big lake, and if you can find the right patch of cabbage, still produces fish. Personally, I like Wally Divers for this presentation, but there are any number of shallow running crankbaits that will produce fish.
Don’t overlook trolling the lake’s numerous mid-depth flats either. There are fish spread out everywhere in water depths of 12 to 16 feet. An angler could spend days exploring the miles of sand flats that lay adjacent to the “main bars” like Center, Sugar, Bena and others. These flats may appear to be structureless water, but they contain all sorts of gravel stretches, dip and bumps, rock piles and even isolated weed beds. Fish strikes are not random, when your lure crosses paths with one of these structures, you’ll get bit.
Night fishing is going better. Some of the locals, along with adventurous tourists, are finding that they catch not just a wider range of sizes by fishing after dark, but that the action is better too. The downside of night fishing is that you must do it at night. Admittedly, there are a lot of folks who prefer spending their evenings in the cabin, where it’s warm and cozy, rather than out in the cool, clammy, night air.
Again, trolling shallow running crankbaits along shoreline related structure will produce the best action. This is one advantage of fishing the night-bite, fish are in shallow water and that makes releasing them easier. With no live bait being used to catch them, fishhooks are more easily removed too and that is another added benefit in terms of lowering mortality rates.
Sunfish are active, especially in Cutfoot Sioux, but they are most active during the crepuscular periods. Making folks get up early and stay out late is normal for crappies, but bluegills and pumpkinseeds have apparently learned the same trick. Earlier this week I fished with a couple of guys who stay on Cutfoot. They said that most of the fish, walleyes included, they were catching began biting after 6:00 PM.
Trolling spinners tipped with leeches and/or night crawlers along the weed edges was the best presentation. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
“Surface water temperatures on Cutfoot Sioux Lake are warm, ranging from 77 to 81 degrees, depending on the breeze. Algae blooms, triggered by weeks of warm, sunny weather are helping to darken the clear water and lush vegetation provides shade for fish in the shallows. When you combine these ingredients, along with shoreline trolling patterns, you can count on an action bite that leads to a mixed catch of walleye, crappie, sunfish, perch, and northern pike.
Die hard” anglers can still catch fish under the warm sunshine, but most folks can get all the action they need by making short morning and evening fishing excursions. For many, midday is a time better spent on the beach, or playing on the lake with family and friends.
The grass lines in Cutfoot are green and they are thick, mostly growing out to depths of 8 to 10 feet of water. Some vegetation, depending on which type, may grow a little deeper than that, coontail for example, can be found in water depths of 16 to 20 feet. Those deeper patches of coontail should be explored for crappies, while the shallower stands of grass will hold more variety. For walleye, sunfish and pike, cabbage patches should ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Report July 19, 2021
With the arrival of clear water caused by Zebra Mussels, fish, especially walleyes have become more “boat shy” than they used to be. They can still be caught, but sometimes driving the boat over them will force them to move before an anglers lure can get in front of them. Positioning your boat within casting distance, but not directly overhead will allow you to present a lure to the fish before they are alerted to your presence and therefore less prone to strike.
Locating structure is the key, cabbage patches, rock piles and sharp, well-defined points make good targets. Remember, you want your lure to ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Report July 8, 2021
Like us after eating a huge meal, walleyes that gorged on mayfly larvae act like they don’t need to go anywhere or do anything. It’s not unusual to have 1 big mayfly hatch, but this year there have been 2 of them and they were both big ones. Because they are so full, they show little interest in moving much, they have sat tight all week long. and
In one sense that is good, we have been able to predict that whenever we find walleyes, they will stay there for a while. Another benefit is that all those larvae help fuel the fish’ growth rates, Winnie walleyes, with an already fast growth rate, are plumping up fast and it is getting easier to find 14-to-15-inch fish every day. Chad has been on the water several times recently and says, “keeper fish”, are primarily what we’ve been catching lately.
Some of our guests are reporting more large fish showing up though. In fact, one group reported catching mostly fish in the protected slot on a recent trip. Once fish grow past the 23 inch, high end of that protection, anglers are allowed to harvest and possess 1 of them and we can see that many are doing so. We have seen an increase in the number of fish over 23 inches in the gut pails at our fish cleaning house recently.
Many of our guests have personal preferences about where and how they like to fish. Because fish sizes vary from spot-to-spot around the lake, it explains why some folks land on top of big fish, while others land on loads of “eaters”. Larger fish appear to mostly be coming from the lake’s larger deep-water bars, some of the mid-lake humps have begun producing fish too. Folk’s fishing “the humps” note that the smaller ones located closest to shore are producing better than the ones further out toward the center of the lake.
Most walleyes are shallower than they were earlier this summer. Key water depths for active fish on deep mid-lake structure runs from about 14 to 22 feet. On the flats, walleyes are holding steady at 15 feet deep. In fact, Chad noted that when he moves off of the 15-foot mark, finding walleyes has been difficult. Whenever he moves back onto the 15 foot break, there they are again; “they act like they just don’t want to move” Chad said.
Since the weather has been calm, moving around on the big lake has been easy and if that’s what you like to do, that’s great. But many of our guests have found no reason to leave Tamarack Bay. Some of them like the variety of fishing the weed beds and they catch mixed bags of pike, perch, walleye and rock bass. Walleye purists move away from the weeds and focus on the edges of the flats, again, 15 feet is the magic depth.
Surface temperatures are holding at about 73 degrees and rising. Algae blooms are on the rise too and with more warm weather predicted, will probably continue to intensify. These factors, combined with the fish’s natural tendency toward higher mid-summer metabolism rates mean that trolling is working better that slower, finesse type presentations. Chad has been catching his fish trolling spinners, some folks have begun using crankbaits too, particularly on the lakes larger, mid-depth flats.
Also notable, walleyes show changing preferences about live bait used to tip the spinners. Last week, walleyes showed a strong preference toward night crawlers and leeches. Just the other day, Chad reported that without minnows, he could not trigger a strike. Don’t load up too much on any one bait, carry a little bit of everything and experiment. Switching live bait types could make a huge difference on any given day.
Rolling into the Independence Day, holiday weekend, we have a full house, but we don’t expect everyone to be focused strictly on fishing, 4th of July is a big time for family get togethers. Still, there will be plenty of folks fishing too and we will learn enough about fish patterns and presentations to make the next report interesting, so stay in touch.
Reservations for the summer have been strong and for the most part, cabins are filled. There are a handful of random openings though, so don’t overlook us if you’re thinking about planning a fishing trip to Winnie, we still may be able to help. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
"The walleye fishing took a small hit this week. The cold front early in the week affected the bite and the mayfly hatch that followed did, as well. Fish were still being caught if you were persistent.
Using your electronics to locate the fish and having an arsenal of baits to entice them would eventually pay off. Most of the fish were coming from the deeper structure. Look for holes on top of flats or normal drop-offs focusing on turns in the structure.
Perch fishing was very good this week. Most of the fish were caught in the backwater areas in new weed growth. Some perch were caught on the main lake in deeper water using jigs and minnows.
Northerns have been very steady. Trolling, casting, or fishing for perch and walleyes on jigs and minnows have all worked for pike. I even heard a good report of a good northern bite up river. Will be a good thing to have in your back pocket on a windy day.
We are entering our vacation time where fishing sort of takes a back seat to family fun. But there are still great fishing opportunities in the coming weeks. The walleyes should get back on track after the mayflies are done. Perch are biting, and of course it is a couple weeks away from prime time for pike.
We have very few openings the next month, but if you have a family or small group we may have space for you. Make your fall plans now as September dates are filling up fast. It should be a great fall bite on Lake Winnie." — Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
"Most everyone agrees that the recent spell of hot weather was too hot for human comfort! But we do have to admit that the stability it provided was great for both Winnie and Cutfoot, not only in terms of fishing success, but also as it relates to fish growth over the long term.
In terms of fishing, massive hatches of Mayflies occurred as the water warmed and walleyes responded by moving toward expansive, semi-soft bottom flats. It’s not uncommon to hear about folks catching walleye in what appears to be “structureless” territory. Random schools of fish, some large and some small, roam the flats gobbling up Mayfly larvae before they can reach the lakes surface and emerge as adults.
On Winnie, the water depth in many of these areas runs from about 14 to 18 feet deep. But similar soft-bottom flats can be found both deeper and shallower, so be creative in your search. Finding fish and catching them during bug hatches on the flats is easier than many believe, but presentation methods do depart from typical early season walleye presentations. The best way to find walleyes on Winnie is to ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Report June 23, 2021
Fish love stability and the weather in the Deer River region has been as stable as it gets! With surface temperatures holding steady in the mid-70s, we have seen fish of all species get active. Last week our guests were catching everything from rock bass to walleyes.
Two trends for walleye anglers to watch have been walleyes moving shallower and changing their feeding preferences.
Many of the well-known, early season hot spots were located on steep breaklines in 28 to 32 feet of water. But insect hatches are in full swing now and the larvae, soon to emerge as adults are attracting fish. Most of those deep-water fish have moved away from the steep breaks in favor of slow tapering, shoreline related flats and bars adjacent to soft-bottom, mud flats. Reports of catching walleyes in water depths of 16 to 22 feet on the lakes “main bars”.
The Bena Bar typically provides action during mid-June and this season, it has not disappointed, but there are walleyes located closer to the resort as well. Some are still reporting good walleye catches right here in Tamarack Bay, the river break nears 3 sisters, the deep weeds near Plughat Point and the outside breakline out front of the satellite dishes have productive at times. The slow tapering breaklines to the west of Tamarack Point, leading down the shoreline in front of Highbanks hold fish now too and they move north and south, depending on the wind direction.
Feeding preferences have changed too, night crawlers and leeches have overtaken minnows at the bait of choice for walleyes. But there is an exception, folks fishing the rock and gravel bars who are still using jigs and minnows report good catches of both walleye and pike. Using minnows in the deeper water, 22 to 26 feet, will produce some nice perch too. So, it would be a good idea to carry a handful of large fatheads, just in case. Don’t overstock on shiners, if you can even get them, they will be very difficult to keep alive because of the warm water.
On the bars, plain Lindy Rigs with lively, healthy leeches and night crawlers will produce good results. Leader length is a matter of personal preference, but for convenience, snells trimmed to about 6 feet are adequate and easier to manage. Some experienced anglers like them longer than that and only trim their snells to about 8 feet, some even leave them at 10 feet long, the full stock, factory length. No matter how long the leader you use, small, #4 or #6 hook sizes are preferred, they help keep your live bait floating higher in the water column, that will help keep your offering in front of high riding, active walleye.
When using night crawlers, inject a little air bubble with a worm blower, that will help keep them off the bottom. When using leeches, add a float to the snell, just above the hook. Black floats are always a good choice in clear water, but on dark days, you may prefer something brighter to make your rig more attention grabbing.
Some of the more advanced anglers who are good with electronics have been catching fish by “power-corking”. They have slip floats set at 16 to 20 feet, depending on the water depths they are fishing. Below the floats, a #4 split shot sinker, along with a 1/16 ounce live bait jig holds a lively leech or ½ night crawler in position. Cruising slowly, they simultaneously spot a fish, drop their baits and kick the engine into neutral. Allow a few minutes for the fish to spot and grab your bait, then continue the cruise-drop-catch presentation.
Perch fishing has improved recently, and the deep 24–28-foot water depths seem to be the most popular right now. But weeds are attractive for perch too and so are rocks, so keep an eye on the deep weed patches found close to the resort in Tamarack Bay. Rock spots, located on the north side flats have produce intermittent catches of nice perch as well.
Pike, for most folks come along as a by-product of walleye and perch fishing. But if you want to target them specifically, casting spinnerbaits at the deep cabbage patches is a good approach right now. Trolling spinners tipped with minnows is not a bad choice either. Live bait rigging along the steeper portions of main lake bars is a good way to single out larger specimens, so if you’re devoted to big pike, start your search out there.
Some folks have targeted bass and panfish right her in the dam bay. Working the outer edges of bulrush patches and pockets in the deeper weeds have provided good entertainment. Rock Bass don’t get their fair share of respect, but some folks love them, and they are both aggressive and plentiful, many within sight of the resort. Entertain your kids by casting 1/8-ounce beetle spins near the bulrushes and shallow weed patches. Hold on tight, they fight like crazy, you’ll think you’re hooked into a pike or bass whenever they get ahold of your bait.
It’s been a busy early season for us, but as we move toward mid-summer, there are still a handful of cabin openings available. Walleye populations are excellent in Winnie right now and with a super-fast growth rate, mid-summer fishing may be even more rewarding for folks that the early bite was this year. If you’ve been thinking about checking out Winnibigoshish, now is definitely the time to do it, give us a call! — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
"Avid bank and boat anglers alike have long known that dam tailraces are excellent fishing spots. Wired2fish staffers McKeon "Keys" Roberts and Kyle Peterson take us on an intriguing underwater tour of a dam spillway (tailrace area), showing why angler efforts are well-spent. The camera reveals a wide variety of life ranging from popular gamefish and rough fish species, baitfish, aquatic invertebrates, and even reptiles looking to get in on the action.
If you like fishing or are interested in getting into it, chances are you're not too far from a dam that offers quality fishing opportunities. So why are these excellent places to fish? Aside from the obvious obstruction that stops or limits upstream fish migration (thus concentrating fish), the waters in tailraces are often cool, well-oxygenated, and loaded with ..." View Video and Learn More >> Why Dam Spillways are Excellent Fishing Spots | Underwater Tour
Walleyes, the most popular fish for Bowen Lodge guests have moved into 3 key areas. Shoreline related bars that extend out into the lakes deep water basin, sprawling mid-depth flats and shallow water structure like weed beds. In the past week alone, we have heard reports of walleyes being caught in depths ranging from 6 to 26 feet, depending on the type of structures where walleyes have been located.
On the bars, active walleyes ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Report June 14, 2021
"Walleye fishing has dominated the fishing scene at the resort this past week. Guests have found fish along the shoreline breaklines in 20 to 30 feet of water. Jigs and minnows, Lindy Rigs with leeches and worms have been the most productive presentation. Fishing with the jigs and minnows increases the chances of catching both northern pike and perch.
Northern fishing has picked up on artificial baits. You can troll, cast, or fish jigs and minnows. Look for the breaklines or fish the backwater areas that have new weed growth.
Perch have been biting on fathead minnows. Look for transition areas between hard and soft bottom locations. They are feeding on either bug larvae or crayfish.
Fishing has been very reliable this whole month. We have some openings for the next few weeks. If you want to make a trip to Winnie to get in on the action, give us a call." — Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
Anglers are finding fish in relatively shallow water compared to areas where they were being targeted earlier this season. Either fish have become happier in shallower water recently, or else anglers are just now finding fish that were overlooked earlier because the deep-water bite was getting all the attention.
There are a few theories, but it could be in part, that water clarity is beginning to decline. Water conditions are still clearer than they were in 2020, but as water temperatures have risen into the mid-70s, algae blooms have developed and that has added some color to the water in Winnibigoshish.
Another theory is that some of these fish have moved onto the lake’s expansive flats, feeding on minnows as they retreat from the shorelines. It seems that now, every weed bed, every rock pile and every dip on the sand flats have large schools of shiners milling around on them. As long as those minnows hold in place, walleye and pike are staying in the neighborhood.
If you watch your graph while scanning the flats in water depths of 12 to 16 feet, you will encounter small schools of fish. The species depends on the structure and food source. Here Tamarack Bay, guests are discovering anything from rock bass to muskies and included in the mix are both walleyes and perch. There are still a lot smaller, 2018- and 2019-year class fish. But anglers fishing in the bay are catching a wider range of sizes than the folks who are fishing the deep water. Not only are there more “keepers”, but there are quite a few larger fish in the 19-to-25-inch range as well.
Trolling spinners is probably the best formula for high level action because northern pike have been devouring the fast-moving baits. Better ways to zero in perch and walleye include jig and minnow, jig and night crawler and live bait rigs with leeches. Slip floats are becoming more popular on the lake too and a 1/16-ounce live bait jig tipped with a leech is awesome for finicky fish on calm days.
Venturing out of Tamarack Bay, folks are finding fish on the flats in water depths ranging between 10 and 16 feet deep. Areas containing gravel, small rock and emerging weeds are key, some of the soft tapering breaks into the 18-to-24-foot range are also holding fish. Many of the lakes large bars are filling up with fish too, The Bena Bar was good this week, Sugar Bar, Center Bar, and Horseshoe Bars were producing fish as well.
On mid lake structure, fish are still responding to jig and minnow combinations. But Lindy Rigs tipped with leeches and night crawlers are effective too. Key depths on the bars have ranged from 16 to 26 feet, with 22 feet being the sweet spot. You’ll hear a lot about fish in deeper water, but it seems that the shallower fish are both larger in size and more aggressive in striking. It makes a lot of sense to avoid the super deep areas and focus on fish riding higher on those structures.
Crappie activity in the shallows peaked about a week ago, so the focal point for finding them has been cabbage weeds. Any good patch of it has potential as a fishing spot. The fish stage early morning and late evening feeding runs, so working the cabbage patches should be either the first, or the last stop on your list each day.
Position your boat within casting distance of the cabbage, cast small jigs tipped with artificial tails into gaps and pockets. Retrieve using a slow and steady “swim-drop-swim-drop” motion, crappies will often hit as the lure is dropping. Beetle Spins, twirl tails, shad style swim baits will all work. Even small size spinnerbaits, like those that bass fishermen use, will catch crappies during the cabbage patch pattern. While you’re casting into the cabbage, you will also have random encounters wit bass, sunfish, rock bass and pike, lots of pike.
Targeting northern pike would be an excellent idea right now because they have been super aggressive. They are hitting jig and minnow combos while folks’ fish for walleye. Trolling spinners, casting spoons, and fishing live suckers under a slip-float will all produce pike right now. Weeds are always good, but do not overlook rocks, pike love them and will often be found there.
For guests checking in this Saturday, we see a slightly cooler, but still warm week on the horizon. Fish should be on the move and biting as fish settle into their summer patterns. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
"The walleye fishing has been very good despite the hot calm conditions. The fish are starting to migrate toward the summer haunts, with most of the fish being caught deeper than 20 feet of water.
Jigs and shiners continue to be the bait of choice. Other minnows are doing well, too. Fatheads and small suckers are starting to do the job as the shiners become more scarce. Leeches and crawlers are starting to do the job on jigs, live bait rigs, and spinners.
Some low level light conditions are seeing crankbaits catch some fish, as well. All in all, the 2018 year class is a welcome sight to the fishermen who toiled in the years where most of the fish had to be thrown back. Some of the fish in the 20-24" range are still biting our guests hooks, though.
Perch fishing has really picked up with the warmer temperatures. Lots of perch in the 9 to 12 inch range are coming in. Fathead minnows, any way you fish them are the best for the perch. Look for emergent weeds or areas that transition from hard bottom to softer bottom. They are on the prowl for crayfish.
Northern fishermen have been pleased with the number and size of the pike they are catching this spring. Along with the normal fish taken while walleye fishing, assorted plugs and spoons can bag some pike right now.
All in all, we are surviving the heat quite nicely. The fish are eager to bite, and the guests are all happy. If you would like to get in on the action, check our website for availability and give us a call." — Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
Over the past few days, surface water temperatures have been shooting up into the high 70- degree-range. In fact, on Saturday, the water on Winnie, out front of our resort reached above 79 degrees, nearly passing 80 during the late afternoon. Algae blooms are increasing, water clarity is decreasing and thanks to that, fish are finding their way into shallower water.
The benefit to our guests is that walleye are becoming easier to catch during bright conditions without having to ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Report June 6, 2021
We’re watching the weather forecast, and the water temperature closely, looking forward to a warming trend this week. After last week’s cold snap, the surface water on Winnibigoshish took a plunge. Over the Memorial Day weekend, surface readings below 60 degrees were common, some were as low as 58 degrees.
The cool water temperatures did not affect our guests’ catches, in fact most folks caught a lot of fish. But these days on Winnie, cool water is clear water, and that increased clarity has been affecting fish location, not in a good way. Weeding through small fish, caught in deep water is not the best recipe for maximizing protections for Winnie’s massive 2018- and 2019-year classes.
Warmer water, we hope, will lead to algae blooms which would encourage walleyes to move into shallower water. Weed patches, shoreline breaks, and shallow water rock structures came alive during 2020 when the lake’s algae blooms produced ideal conditions. In fact, last summer was like fishing Winnie back in the good old days when it was known for its 11 AM to 2:00 PM walleye bite. Everyone we know would love to see that happen again this summer!
There are a few of ways that folks could avoid putting so much pressure on the fish located in deep water and still have fun on the lake. For walleye purists, the best way is to pursue walleyes during the early morning and late evening when they have a natural tendency to move shallower for feeding. Some folks are even fishing “the night bite”, trolling plugs in shallower water and having high action.
For action-oriented anglers who like multi-species fishing, the lake is prime right now. There are northern pike, perch, crappies and bass setting up in shallow water weeds. For the most part, crappies have moved away from spawning habitat and can now be found in patches of cabbage weeds. Bass and panfish, may still be found in bedding areas, but can also be caught in other vegetation, including bulrushes, wild rice and coontail. Northern pike seem to be everywhere right now, they can be caught in the weeds, on the rocks and even along the steep, shoreline breaks.
Jig heads that feature safety pin style spinners, like the Lindy Spinner, Beetle Spin or Road Runners are good choices for exploring the weed patches. These jigs can be tipped with live bait, but often, plastic tails are equally effective and sometimes even better than live bait.
Position your boat within easy casting distance of weed patches, cast your lure into the vegetation, let it drop a little and then retrieve slowly. You will be amazed at the number of species that strike this presentation. Right here in Tamarack Bay, you could bag every species that swims in the lake from rock bass to muskies.
For folks who insist on fishing for walleyes in deep water, we suggest sticking with jig and minnow presentations. Granted, there are other ways to catch them, but we feel like the jigs are less destructive than some of the other live bait presentations. Until the time of season arrives when walleyes won’t strike jig and minnow combos anymore, stick with them.
As we roll into summer, walleye migrations will take them onto a wider variety of structures, and we’re already seeing the early phases of that. Over the weekend, walleyes of all shapes and sizes were moving along the breaklines on the east and south shorelines. What make that important is that these areas are the natural corridor that walleyes use when they move from shoreline areas, out onto mid-lake bars and humps.
Folks caught fish on the Bena Bar this weekend, especially where it comes closest to the south shore. Horseshoe, Sugar and Center Bars produced some fish too and even some of the lakes smaller, isolated humps began to produce small numbers of fish. As the migrations progress, we should see more fish using the upper edges of structures in shallower depths. On mid-lake bars, 16 to 24 feet are common depths, and this will present folks with a more realistic depth range for catch and release fishing.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed for warm water, solid algae blooms and fast growth rates. All will help make the good times on Winnie even better in the weeks and months ahead! — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
"Fishing has remained in a sort of holding pattern. The cold weather this week has kept the fish in the same areas as last week. Shoreline breaklines continue to hold the majority of the fish on Lake Winnie.
Walleye fishing remains steady although yesterday morning when it was 29 degrees did have an adverse affect on the walleye bite. But as the day wore on a fairly reliable bite took over. Jigs and shiner minnows remains the bait of choice for the walleyes.
Northern fishing has been very good. Most of the fish are caught while jigging for walleyes. Those using artificial lures are having success catching pike, as well.
The perch have been harder to pin down than the other species. They seem to be "on the move" more than the other fish. You find a school and catch some and then they are gone. As the forage for the perch stabilize, the pattern for perch will become clearer.
All in all, the fishing remains good to very good. No one is going hungry in camp. Most are going home with a nice bunch of fish, too.
We have some opening the next few weeks. Check our availability on the website, if we have an opening and you want to get in on the action, give us a call." — Joe Thompson >> Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
"After a weeklong warm up, a slightly cold, cold front interrupted progress toward early summer walleye patterns on Sunday. Walleyes that had already moved onto deep water structure stayed where they were, but there was not much change in numbers. According to incoming reports, small, scattered packs of larger, mostly female fish were all that could be turned up out there.
Surface water temperatures rebounded nicely afterward, hitting the 65-degree mark on Monday. Walleyes resumed their migration, in fact picked up their pace, we believe. By late in the day, larger schools of smaller male fish started showing up on some of the prominent bars and deep-water points. This is good news, because these migrating fish have been found in water depths of 15 to 22 feet.
Until now, many have relied on the most popular destinations for walleye action, the steep, shoreline breaks adjacent to ..." Read >> Cutfoot Sioux, Lake Winnibigoshish Fishing Report May 27, 2021
"Walleye fishing continues to dominate the fishing scene at the Four Seasons on Lake Winnie. Fishermen are finding good numbers of small walleyes on the west side of the lake.
Jigs and shiner minnows in 14-20' of water has been the ticket to catching a lot of fish. Whereas in the past few years it has been a challenge to catch any fish under the slot, this year it is a challenge to catch fish that are large enough to keep. It seems if you keep sorting through the smaller ones, you will eventually come up with a nice meal of fish. Some are even reporting limits. Most of the fish being kept are 13-16".
Perch have been sort of elusive this past week. Normally, the perch are mixed in with the walleyes. The schools of perch seem to be avoiding the large small walleye schools. The perch are catching are very nice size.
Northerns are mixed in with the walleyes. Some nice northerns are being caught on jigs while fishing for walleyes. The pike seem to be very healthy for this time of year. One fisherman, while reeling in a small walleye, actually caught a 38". The walleye was on a stinger hook and the northern got caught on the main hook of the jig.
The weather has been fantastic so far this season. The fishing has been as well. We have openings for the next few weeks. Now is the time to come to Winnie to fish. Give us a call and we can get you booked in for some great fishing." — Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
"All in all, this has been a classic opening week of walleye fishing at The Pines Resort. Our report about fishing patterns, and fish locations could have been written nearly anytime in Lake Winnie’s history. The one key exception is water depth, since the advent of Zebra Mussels, anglers have had to adjust their fishing depths downward. It's especially true right now becasue the water is much clearer than it was during the 2020 fishing season. That might change later, but not likely this weekend, so count on clear water conditions.
Over the past week, walleyes have been found in most of the popular east side locations. Our bay has been about as far as anybody needs to travel to find fish. There are good populations along the shoreline break from Plughat Point to Haubrich’s Bay. Traveling west from there, Bowen’s Flat has decent schools of fish and so does Tamarack Point, the Mississippi River Channel and the breakline at 3 Sisters.
Another similarity to Winnie’s history of providing great early season action is the crowds. Anglers have heard good reports about the 2018-year class of walleye that inhabit the lake and they are showing up in good numbers to pursue them.
Fish in the 13-to-14-inch range make up the bulk of that year class and that is what we see our guests bringing back to the fish cleaning shack. One exception has been a group of anglers who fished after dark, they did catch some larger fish, but reported that the 2018-year class still dominated their catch.
Probably your best strategy for selecting a fishing spot is to look at the crowds in each area and watch for places where the traffic is sparse by comparison. Having more room to work allows you to scan the structure with your electronics. It is amazing how much easier it is to locate a school of fish when you can search without interruption.
Presentations are typical of the early season; most folks are using jig and minnow combinations. Shiners are plentiful this year, so that has been the minnow of choice. Large fatheads, rainbow chubs or small pike suckers will all work, so don’t stress out if you want to spend less on minnows, the alternatives will still work.
There are more people fishing Lindy Rigs than usual this spring, especially when fish are located deeper. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have 2 rods rigged up and give both presentations a try at every spot. Using 1-4-to-3–8-ounce sinkers and fairly long, 6-to-8-foot snells should do the trick. Some folks like adding a float to the snell, it helps keep the hook out of low-lying weeds and Zebra Mussel shells laying on the bottom.
Perch action has been limited so far, there have been some mixed in with walleyes, but we don’t know of anybody who has targeted purely perch and been successful. Probably, perch will be less scattered and easier to find after the minnows finish their spawning runs and stack up in deeper water.
Crappies, at least a few, have turned up at the fish cleaning shack too. A couple of groups found them by fishing near bulrush patches. Winnie’s water temperature lags behind some of the smaller, dark water lakes that are already producing good catches of panfish. It won’t surprise us if panfish action picks up over the next several days, we’ll let you know if it does.
You might have guessed that we’re pretty busy at the resort right now and you would be correct in doing so. For the most part, we’re filled up for the next several weeks, but we do have a couple of un-expected, last-minute openings.
If you needed a large, 2-bedroom cabin between May 29 and June 5, 2021, we could help you out. Again, there is one, 2-bedroom cabin available between June 5 and June 12, 2021. So, that is it, 2 spots available during the prime-time walleye season. If you want one of them, let us know, we would love to see you!
Have a great weekend of fishing and check back next week for more updates. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
The accompanying photo of Lisa and Mike Lindholm was typical of what many anglers enjoyed this weekend as well. A healthy smattering of fish from the 2013-year class helped keep the cameras clicking while folks gathered some of the 13-to-14-inch 2018s for family fish fries back at camp.
On the south end, walleyes were stacked up along a steep shoreline break. To the west, they were straddling a slow tapering breakline between the shallow flats and deeper water. Up north, walleyes were holding in a trough formed by the tailwaters of Third River Flowage, the large flat between Stony and Mallard Points. To the east, folks found fish along the Mississippi River channel and on the weed flats in Tamarack Bay.One generalization about the 2021 season so far is that fish are located in ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Fishing Report May 18, 2021
"Opening Day, 2021, we had the trifecta of fishing! Great weather, great fishing, and for the first time in several years, keepable fish. There were smells of fresh walleye cooking all over the resort last night. Most every boat reported good catches of 13-15" walleyes today.
Fish were caught on jigs and shiner minnows all along the west side of the lake. Key depth was a little deeper due to the calm conditions. Most of the fish were caught from 16-20'. It was a stark contrast to the last few years where boats were reporting 30-50 fish days with no keepers. We are going to be in great shape on the walleye front for the next few years.
Some nice perch were also brought in. There were not as many as I expected, but that may be due to the fact that most of the perch were avoiding the schools of walleyes.
Northerns were caught while jigging for walleyes. I cleaned a few over 30". They were very healthy fish with solid bodies, a far cry from the skinny fish normally seen this time of year.
It was an extremely successful opening day. It looks like it will be a great year to fish Lake Winnie. We have limited openings for the remainder of the year. But there are opportunities to get up and stay at the resort and get in on the action. Give us a call and we can get you set up." — Joe Thompson, Four Seasons Resort 218-665-2231
I know this wasn’t the first time we’ve had beautiful weather for the fishing opener, but the 2021 opener has to rank right up there with the best of the best. Sunny skies, mid-70-degree air temperatures and calm seas combined to help make most everybody’s opening day experience an enjoyable one.
For me and my crew, Lake Winnibigoshish’ Four Seasons Resort on the west side was the target destination. Before we left the dock, Joe Thompson had already heard from one of his friends on the lake and pointed me in the direction of where the “hot bite” was happening. But me being me, I was obviously not going to start there, I had to at least take a swing at finding my own spot first.
As we crossed the large flat going out from the river mouth, surface water ranged from about 56 to 57 degrees. Water clarity was higher, in my opinion, than it was during the early part of the 2020 season. We could easily see the bottom in 6 to 7 feet of water. Without much wind blowing, it appeared that we’d be fishing deeper than most typical openers on the big lake. It didn’t take long for that observation to be proven correct.
Not far from the first major breakline I began marking fish. The hooks I saw on my Humminbird looked like good ones and they were holding along the break in about 15 to 17 feet of water. We were all rigged up with 1/8-ounce jigs, a little light for that depth, but I moved slowly enough to allow them to drop into the strike zone. The slow speed, combined with the fishes’ aggressive attitudes allowed us to get away with the mismatch for a while.
At first, the fish chased down the lures and strikes were easy to come by. Hooksets, sometimes not so much, the shiners we had were a little large and we missed or lost some of the fish because of it. Later, we learned to wait longer before trying to set the hook and that helped some, but we still missed some.
The fish we were catching were fun, but they were all slot-fish. After we’d taken enough pictures, our thoughts turned toward getting some smaller, eating size fish. Joining the crowd was the best way to do that, so moved further up the shoreline and carved out a little bit of territory.
The move worked, sort of, now we were catching smaller fish, but most of them were too small to keep. We crossed paths with Captain Mark and he said that his crew had caught a lot of keepers in that area, but we must have arrived too late to get in on the action.
As the day wore on, the fish moved deeper, most of the fish we marked were in 20 to 22 feet of water, with occasional sightings in 17 to 19 feet. We switched to ¼ ounce Lindy Live Bait Jigs to help maintain contact with the bottom and the heavier weights did help.
We caught a lot of fish on Saturday, many were too big, most were too small and a few were just right. There were quite few pike biting too and that was perfect for us. The small pike were added to our larder and by days end, there were plenty of fish in the livewell.
Back at the dock, I asked Joe if folks had been coming in with lots of fish, “some are, some aren’t, it’s a typical opener,” he said. Some caught more fish than others, but fish or no fish, there weren’t many folks on Winnie who didn’t have a good time.
I’m up against the clock right now, but you can count on more updates as the week unfolds. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Early data from MN DNR 2020 Fisheries surveys supports the widely held belief that walleyes from the 2018 year class now dominate the population of “catchable” size fish in the system. As the class of 2018 matures, the stage is set for our guests to enjoy good fishing walleyes this summer. And during 2021, we expect to see not only strong numbers of fish, but also improving size quality.
During the 2020 fall assessments, the arithmetic was favorable. In fact, DNR fisheries staff recorded the third highest walleye numbers observed in ..." Read >> Bowen Lodge Lake Winnie Outlook May 7, 2021
Q) Why is the water level so low and why did the Corp keep the Dam wide open all winter? (The last two winters!)
Why the last two springs has the water level been so low? Was there not an agreement between the Fisheries and Corp to maintain a higher water level in the “spawning” season?
Two and a half years ago our fisheries department determined that higher water levels in the spring translates to stronger year classes of Walleye. The next two springs in a row, low water. This Spring lower than I’ve personally ever seen the lake in August! With Winnie finally recovering after 8-9 (pretty) poor years, one would think everyone could get on the same page.
Thought maybe you could provide some insight on this. Thanks Jeff have a great day!
A) Ryan, you’re right, a few years back, Grand Rapids DNR Fisheries staff did discover what appeared to be a correlation between high water levels and stronger than average walleye year class success on Lake Winnibigoshish.
Like you, I was under the impression that at the time, Grand Rapids DNR Fisheries and the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) had consulted and subsequently reached an agreement. The agreement, according to DNR Fisheries would have been aimed at maintaining higher water levels during the spring walleye spawning season. Grand Rapids Fisheries Manager, Dave Weitzel was under the same impression, he confirmed that to me in an email on Thursday.
I checked in with Megan Severson at the Corps of Engineers office at the Pokegama Dam and by her account, if there was an agreement, it was an arm’s length understanding at best. There is not, nor has there ever been any formal understanding between ACE and DNR regarding maintaining any water levels on Winnie. Severson, “We are not required to consult with DNR about regulating the water levels anywhere in the region. Our management practices are dictated by standing legislation passed many years ago.”
Originally, according to Severson, controlling the inflow and outflow at dams along the Mississippi River was intended to maintain pre-determined water levels in river channels located closer to the Twin Cities. “Today, the emphasis is more on recreational usage, rather than industrial concerns”, Severson added.
Whether or not there is, or was any "formal agreement" may be moot. That is because ACE’s pre-determined target water levels already align with the DNR's preferred water elevation range for good walleye reproduction. Weitzel, “We (DNR) target 1298 feet and rising during the spawn. Water level is currently (4-9-2021) good at 1297.7 and I think this rain will get us close to ideal conditions by the time the fish really get going.”
At ACE, Severson confirmed that their target elevation is 1298.19 feet, smack dab in the middle of the range that DNR fisheries staff would like to see. Severson agrees that water levels are low right now but speculates that they aren’t likely to stay that way for very long.
Reasons for the current levels include lower than average snowfall this winter, an extremely early ice-out and then there's the human element of having to "guess" what the weather will do in the future. Secerson, "We try to anticipate what water levels will do based on a typical season. But getting it right isn't always that easy and we have to make adjustments."
But look at the “Annual Variability Chart 1", comparing today's water level to the same date, April 8, but in 2019 shows that they are almost identical and that, by the way, was the best walleye year class ever, according to DNR fisheries.
Now take a look at the water levels for April 26, 2019 Annual Variability Chart 2, when the walleye spawning run really started heating up. By then, water levels had risen to 198.76, higher than target levels, partly because of ACE controlling the Winnie Dam, but due also in part to above average spring runoff and rainfall.
I mentioned that chart to Severson and she confirmed my own observation that this is the week historically, when they begin bringing water levels up into the desired range. Severson, “We try not to make sudden changes, raising (or lowering) the water levels at a steady, gradual pace until they reach the desired elevation.”
This year, concerns about water levels are likely heightened because of the super-early ice out. Casual observers like me, are used to seeing everything appear to happen all at once. By the time walleye move toward spawning areas, sometimes almost immediately after ice out, most of the changes to water levels have already occurred. But this year, the ice left the lakes so early that we have to watch it all happen in slow motion.
Over the next several weeks, as walleye eggs begin maturing and the fish make their move, water levels should have already risen. So in a couple weeks, the situation should look a lot better to those of us cheering for another strong walleye spawning season.
Summing it up, everyone does appear to be on the same page, sort of. Even though there's no mandate, target elevations for water levels on Winnie do favor decent walleye spawning conditions in a "typical" season.
If, by some fluke, water levels were to raise above target levels and enter into "flood stage" territory like they did in 2019, that could produce another "bumper crop" and we might be even happier. But that would be a bonus and to happen, boils down to Mother Nature's timing. She still holds all the trump cards, so despite our planning, plotting and speculating, she can still change the whole scenario with few extra sunny days or another string of rainy ones; that's up to her.
Like I said yesterday, it would appear that all we can do now is hurry up and wait. Whatever will happen will happen when it happens. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
After contacting several resort and shelter rental operators on Sunday, it's evident that access to Lake Winnie will be restricted for the remainder of this year's ice fishing season. Here are updates about Lake Winnie Ice Accesses and travel conditions as of March 8, 2021.
Almost all of the lake's accesses remained open through Sunday March 7, 2021, but some of them were closed at the end of business Sunday. With air temperatures in the mid-50s and full sunshine, snow cover over the ice was practically fully melted and there was standing water everywhere.
Access ramps were heavily stressed by the meltdown, forcing resorts that remain open to limit the size and number of vehicles using their ramps. A few contoinue to provide limited access for travel by ATV or foot traffic and a couple still allow pickup trucks, but only for guests staying at their resorts.
Anglers using ATVs and light vehicles can still move around on the lake, but use caution. Snowmobiles are not recommended, but could be used in a pinch if necessary. Click on the accompanying map which identifies the access points around the lake and provides updates about their current condition.
It sure was fun while it lasted! I think the winter of 2020-2021 offered folks more fishing opportunity than any of us have experienced in a long time. Lake access were great, on-ice detours, like pressure ridges and slushy spots were minimal and for the most part, fish were biting.
There is still a good 20 inches of solid ice on most north central Minnesota lakes, more than enough for driving vehicles. But I think for many, ice fishing season will be over after this weekend. Despite more than adequate ice thicknesses on the lakes, conditions at the accesses will be greatly diminished after today. So, while I agree with folks when they say, “It Ain't Over, 'Till It's Over”, folks depending on travel by pickup truck will need in-depth, advance planning.
On Lake Winnie for example, we drove freely around the lake on Saturday; so did everybody else. But when it was time to leave, the access ramp, while still open, was getting sloppy. Deep ruts, some potholes and plenty of standing water made me wonder if that access would hold up to the off-loading of vehicles and fishing shelters throughout the day today.
Looking around the lake, it was obvious that there are a lot of others who share my concern. Wheelhouses and permanent rentals were everywhere a couple of weeks ago, but 95% of them were already gone yesterday. Even with a week remaining before the shelter removal deadline, there were very few willing to risk getting their gear off the lake if they’d waited.
From here on out, anglers using ATVs will still find reasonably good conditions at many ramps, and anglers who don’t mind hoofing it to their favorite panfish spots have plenty of time left too. That’s probably what I’ll do, walk out to a few of my favorite sunfish and crappie holes.
Luckily, it matters not how much ice time I have left, because first, I got to spend the past few days on the lake with some of my favorite people. Then, my daughter Annalee and son-in-law, Austin Jones were able to stick around to join I and Susan for the world famous Gosh Dam Places' bring in your own fish, fish fry. So last night, I rested well knowing that my ice fishing season is now complete.
The Hippie Chick and me are not planning to let the nice weather go to waste today, we’ll be outside doing something. Even if we don’t fish, I’ll make point of checking some of the more popular accesses and let you know how they look for the upcoming week. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Travel conditions are excellent. The network of plowed roads is in excellent shape, high, dry and wide. Off road snow cover is 2 to 4 inches over the top of a solid, 20 inches of clear ice. There are scattered snowbanks in areas that were plowed for parking wheelhouses throughout the winter, but these are easily avoidable. Anglers on the lake were were traveling by pickup truck, freely, to and from any spots they wanted to fish; that’s the good news.
The bad news is that we had to take full advantage of all that easy travel. Beginning our day at the McArdle’s and Becker’s road on the west side, we moved spot to spot all the way the west shore. After making a dozen or so stops, I wound up at Mallard Point before catching my first keeper perch. That led to a catch of about 15 nice size fish. Yes, that’s a lot of driving and a lot of drilling to find one school of perch, but that’s the way it worked out.
It’s possible that Arne and I were too dependent on “insider” information that we received before we started fishing. Word on the lake was that perch were being caught in water depths of 12 to 16 feet. But the fish I located were deeper, 18 to 24 feet on the breakline into a deep hole, adjacent to a large mid-depth, 14 to 18 foot flat.
For me, stopping at that deeper hole was one of those “what have I got to lose”? moments. In fact, by then it was about 3:00 PM and I figured it would be my last stop before heading home. We had never tried much deeper water along the trip north, so for all I know, we drove past several other good spots before “figuring it out”.
Once we knew where there were some fish, they were fairly willing to strike. They travelled in small packs, often appearing on the Humminbird in 2s or 3s at a time. Some fish were better than others, the largest keepers were about 11 inches, the smaller end of keeper range was in the 9-1/2-inch neighborhood.
A 1/8-ounce Pink/Glow Lindy Quiver Spoon tipped with a minnow head worked for me, so did a Red/Glow Frostee Jig tipped with a whole, live minnow. I tried waxworms too, but the minnows were clearly working better, at least on this day.
We had traveled so far up the lake that by the time we were ready to leave, Highbanks road was closer than the road we started on. So we drove over there and left the lake using their access on the east shoreline. The landing was still okay, but runoff from the parking lot and vehicle traffic was causing deterioration. I wouldn’t be surprised if continued warm weather forces them to close that landing after this weekend, so, I would call ahead before driving over there.
Today, my family is hoping that I learned enough yesterday to get them in on some action today. I hope so too, but either way, I’ll let you know how it goes in the next day or two.
If you're headed out today, enjoy the nice weather! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Snow and slush have not been much of factor on the bay this winter, but just in case, we were braced for complications from yesterday’s snowfall. It didn’t turn out to be much of a problem and the few inches of snow that did fall, are already cleaned off of our roads.
Our guests continue to report good fishing in Tamarack Bay. Walleye and perch are roaming the edges of large flats using a soft breakline at about 14 feet of water. Because of the lack of pin-pointed, well defined structures, they are not always easy to pin down. But folks who keep their lines in the water catch fish as the schools pass through the area.
Wonder Bread color lures are producing both perch and walleyes in the bay, experiment with shapes and sizes.
Traffic on the lake has been heavier than usual this winter, so creativity is becoming an important part of every fishing trip. If you’re mobile, then this is a good time to venture away from areas with established crowds. Snowmobiles and track machines can help you get out and away from the heavily populated areas. There is a lot of “fresh territory” at mid-lake right now and fish populations have been building on the sunken bars and humps.
Until recently, some of them were accessible by pickup trucks, but they’re predicting more wind today, and drifting snow could make off-road travel a little dicey, we’ll keep an eye on that for you.
Populations of pike, tullibee and eelpout are building on mid-lake structure too. Mid-winter is the time to straddle the steep breaklines using tip ups and large minnows for pike. Set a tip up in water depths of 12 to 18 feet along the edge of prominent structure. While you watch your tip up, fish deeper water ranging from 28 to 35 feet deep, tullibees move a lot, often suspending several feet about the bottom, so good electronics are extremely helpful.
To help get their attention, rig up a large, flashy spoon like a gold or silver ¼ ounce Quiver Spoon. Random jigging use long sweeping strokes and allow the spoon to flutter back down on a slack line. Once you see fish on your flasher, switch over to using small jigs tipped with wax worms to trigger strikes. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552
When it starts to feel like you're stuck in a rut, subtle changes in location, technique and fishing style can add up to big differences in your daily catch.
Follow Jon Thelen as he explains some key tips on finding and catching walleyes as they move to midwinter structure.
View Video and Learn More >> Find and Catch More Mid-Winter Walleye
Here are some updates about lake accesses and travel conditions on Lake Winnie as of January 7, 2021.
After talking with several resort and rental owners, it's evident that access to Lake Winnie will continue to be restricted for a short time. But as rental operators prepare to open plowed roads, options for anglers are beginning to improve.
Almost all of the lake's accesses have been opened, but only provide limited access to the better fishing areas. Snowmobiles, ATVs and light vehicles can move around on the lake, but use caution, there are areas of rough, broken ice that may be difficult to spot under the light blanket of snow.
The accompanying map with numbered descriptions identifies the access points around the lake.
#1 Dixon Lake Resort, Open, most recent update 1-14-2021. Access to the lake provided by a plowed road to ..." Read >> Lake Winnie Access Map
To say that it was a crazy weekend on Winnie, could be the fishing world’s understatement of 2021! At one point, we had ice fishing rigs lined up from our ramp, all the way out onto County Road 9 waiting for their turn to get on to the lake.
On Tamarack Bay, the scene, according to lifelong residents was reminiscent of the crowds of perch anglers from the 1970s and 1980s.
Some of the folks were here because they had heard the fishing is good in our bay. Others were here because our plowed roads are in excellent shape and afforded this season’s earliest access to Winnie via pickup trucks at a time when they could not drive out on many other area lakes. Still more anglers showed up midway into the weekend because they felt the action was too slow on the lake(s) where they began their New Year Weekend fishing trips last Thursday afternoon.
No matter the reason, all the conditions, including the weather, combined to create one of the busiest ice fishing weekends that the Deer River area has experienced in recent history.
On the lake, most folks reported good action, and agreed that the “hot bite” bite, wasn’t necessarily for any one species. Some of our guests and rental shelter customers caught good numbers of perch. Others caught more walleyes than perch, including one angler who iced one that was 28-1/2 inches long this weekend. When Chad checked up on one crew, they even had a pail filled with crappies. Pike were active too and this weekend, there were quite a few eelpout caught as well.
Key water depths ranged from 12 to 16 feet and for the most part, sand flats containing sparse, low lying vegetation were the most productive. It’s hard to say for sure, but it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that insect larvae, developing in marl, areas with a soft clay-mud mixture are causing the big attraction.
Presentations varied, so a good planner would have a supply of jigging spoons in the 1/8 to 1/4 ounce sizes, use these for vertical jigging active fish. Experiment too with some of the hybrid jigging baits, glow spoons and glow streaks for example.
Have some single hook blade baits like Frostee Spoons for “dead-sticking” or slower jigging using whole minnows to trigger neutral fish. Bring along some small tungsten jigs for perch and crappie, sometimes the tungsten, tipped with wax worms will trigger more fish when they are focused on insect larvae. For larger walleye and pike, it’s always a good idea to have a few larger minnows to fish on set lines or tip-ups.
Productive colors for walleye are red-glow, pink-glow, blue-glow, gold and orange. Perch are cannibalistic, so along with other the color choices, using lures with natural perch patterns can be super-effective for “Jumbos”.
Our plowed roads are in excellent condition and we have most of Tamarack Bay opened up, so finding a fishing spot won’t be difficult. Access to the lake at our landing is good for pickups or vehicles towing smaller, single axle fishing shelters. If you have a larger wheelhouse, call us and we’ll help you with an alternative landing more suitable for big rigs.
With all the hubbub on the lake, our short-range bookings are getting close to filled up. But we do still have a handful of rentals available for folks who want to fish this weekend. Give us a call for updates, or if you’re already in the area, stop by for up to the minute updates about the fishing action and conditions on the lake. — Chad & Melissa Mertz The Pines Resort 218-246-8546 or 1-800-342-1552