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image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin December 28, 2023 "Questioning the Question-Able"

image reader comments Before I get into the meat and potatoes of today’s report, let me share an advisory that arrived in my inbox from Jeffery Fredrick overnight. “Hi Jeff. Thanks for all your reports. I live on the northeast side of Mille Lacs and maybe you could send a message out. The ice is gone. Even the bays are toast. We had 3 inches of rain and wind which did in the ice. We lost 7 inches in 3 days crazy. Anyway, thought I'd let you know. I think most lakes in (and) around Mille Lacs are not safe and will be awhile now.”

Thank you for the update, Jeff, I, along with many of our fellow anglers appreciate your guidance! This morning is the first time in over a week that I’ve seen an overnight low that was below freezing. At 30 degrees, there probably wasn’t much improvement, but the needle is moving in the right direction. Please let us know when conditions turn around and the ice returns.

image links to fishrapper home page Okay now let’s dive back into a deep, pun intended, subject, barotrauma. I’ll warn you right now, this report, along with reactions to it, are bound to be controversial. The topic is important though, and in the interest of preserving the free exchange of information, I think you should look at it.

Yesterday, Uncut Angling’s Aaron Wiebe published a video titled “Crappie Barotrauma: BAD SCIENCE EXPOSED Truths & Tips For Release (Livescope is the Hero, NOT the Villain)"

Image links to video about deep water crappie barotrauma An email from Mike Lehrer called my attention to the video and asked if I’d watch it, then share my impressions, so here goes.

When I first started watching the video I thought “oh boy, this is gonna be bad”. My first reaction was that Wiebe was doing a simple hit piece aimed at slamming DNR biologists and angling industry “experts” who have published recent informational videos and articles on the subject. To be sure, there is an element of distrust woven into the video. Luckily for me though, I stuck with the video long enough to understand his broader points because there’s a lot more to it than that.

Wiebe connects some dots that will make some folks uncomfortable. For instance, using barotrauma as an excuse for limiting the rights of anglers to use advanced technology, or to prohibit where they fish, or to further restrict bag limits, and the like. He cautions that knee jerk reactions to unsettled science can, and usually does, lead to limitations on freedom.

I don’t need to put words in Wiebe’s mouth, you can watch the video for that. But Wiebe’s broader message, I think, is that the “science” about barotrauma is far from settled. And that we owe it to ourselves to learn everything we can before making judgements about should happen next.

No doubt, there will be more to talk about later, but right now, I want to watch the video a couple more times and let it sink in. Let us know what you think. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAILLink to video "Crappie Barotrauma: BAD SCIENCE Truths & Tips For Release"

image links to wired2fish Wired2Fish December 27, 2023 "Infamous Walleye Cheater Sentenced in Separate Forgery Case"

image links to fishing article about walleye torunament cheaters"Chase Cominsky, one of the two now world famous walleye tournament cheaters on Lake Erie, just can’t seem to stay out of the headlines for breaking the law. Last week he was sentenced to up to 12 months in jail as well as 4 months of probation in a forgery case in Mercer County District Court. Cominsky was caught and charged in February of 2023 for attempting to pass off counterfit $100 bills at a bowling alley in Hermitage, Pa. His 18 year old son was also involved and also charged.

The phony bills were the kind you find on movie sets with Not Legal Tender and For Motion Picture Purposes printed on the bills. This was on top of his infamous walleye scandal where he and his tournament partner frauded tournament competitors and organizations by placing weights in fish to win the big cash prizes. After that it was found he was also charged with ..." Learn More >> Infamous Walleye Cheater Sentenced in Separate Forgery Case

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin December 27, 2023 "Grand Rapids Ice Update"

The rain continued to fall on Monday, but at a slower rate. According to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, Grand Rapids got another quarter inch, about the same amount as Bemidji, Kelliher, and Baudette received. This morning, it’s still misty, but the rain appears to be fizzled out. Now, the weather forecast for north central Minnesota warns of a potential “wintery mix” of rain, sleet, and snow today. Then the forecast promises that we’re on the verge of receiving cooler, drier weather later this week and through the weekend.

No doubt the incoming cold snap will be welcomed by folks who want to get out on the ice to fish. However, I DO NOT SEE ANY WAY that there will be widespread or significant improvements in ice conditions before this weekend.

One comment from Tuesday’s Fishing Reports Minnesota Facebook post says, “(There was) a mass exodus of houses this weekend on Jay Gould. The spear holes were enlarging, and I saw many houses that were starting to slant as blocking was sinking.”

image links to banner of Minnesota DNR ice safety guidelines. Curious, I took a short drive around Grand Rapids and noticed that most of the ice fishing shelters, dark houses mainly, had indeed been removed from the ice on local lakes. In fact, there were a couple folks still working on removing ice shelters from Pokegama when I stopped there. What I saw elsewhere in the neighborhood was a lot of water standing on the ice. The mirror-like surface water covered up any clues about how much, or how solid, the underlying ice might have been.

I noticed yesterday that the MN DNR updated their familiar ice thickness chart. They’ve spruced up the image and added a new category for wheelhouses. I know that the advisories about ice safety can tend to be a little “preachy” sounding but let me ask. Have you ever broken through the ice before? No? Well, I have; it’s not a lot of fun and I’m not planning on doing it again. The incoming cold snap will help a lot, and ice conditions will improve quickly after winter returns. Until then, there’s too much uncertainty about ice conditions for me, so I’ll wait until after the weekend before getting excited about venturing out.

I know that some folks are going to fish no matter what I suggest, and if you’re one of them, here’s my advice for the upcoming weekend. Limit yourself to traveling on well-known trails and follow the guidance of professionals who have already done the exploration. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the ice thickness is uniform, it’s not! fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to fishrapper home page December 27, 2023 "Lake Trout In The Nisswa Area?"

Jacob Synnott wrote;

Q) "I have business in Brainerd, and I've decided to turn it into a business/pleasure vacation. With that, I booked a stay in the Nisswa area from January 3rd-7th. I know that conditions aren't favorable at the moment for ice, but I was wondering if I could pick your brain on a couple questions?

I would really like to get into some lake trout while up there, and the lake-finder website says that there are lakers in Lower Hay, Big Trout, and Roosevelt Lakes. Can you confirm if there are lakers in those lakes, and any tips on fishing them? Assuming that the larger lakes, and the three mentioned above, don't have safe ice, are there any smaller lakes in that area that you would recommend targeting? Outside of the lakers, I'm not looking to target a single species, so any recommendations would be appreciated.

If you're not sure on either of these questions, a nudge in the right direction would also be appreciated. Thank you! - Jacob Synnott

A) Jacob, I wish I wasn't the bearer of bad news, but I'm afraid that the Lake Trout season won't be open until January 13, 2024. So, I’m afraid that the season won't be open during your trip. Even though you won’t get a chance to try for them on this trip, your question piqued my interest, and I did a bit of research. It might be useful in case you visit again later, or maybe some of our readers are interested as well.

Lake Trout, to the best of my knowledge, is no longer part of the management plan for Roosevelt Lake. Like you, I’ve heard before that there were some in the lake, but checking the fisheries survey, I see no evidence that there are many in there now, and I don’t think there are enough to plan a fishing trip to target them there.

Lower Hay Lake has Whitefish in it, and they require a similar habitat as the Lake Trout. But if there are any lakers in Lower Hay, it can’t be proven by the fisheries survey on the MN DNR website. Minimally, the lake is not actively being managed for them.

Big Trout, by default, would be the obvious choice. This lake is actively managed for Lake Trout, and they are stocked frequently. I imagine that capturing them in the DNR test nets is not an easy task, but according to the fisheries survey, they do capture some. I see that there are some fish of quality size, 25 to 29 inches, showing up in test nets. To me, this is the one lake in the immediate are that you would want to try when and if, you get a chance.

As far as other good “multi-species” lakes in the Nisswa are concerned, you will have many choices. Near Nisswa, there are at least a dozen lakes that offer good ice fishing for everything from northern pike to sunfish. Which one you choose will depend on how you plan to travel. If you’re on your own, and hoofing it, then I’d use the recreation compass to single out some of the smaller lakes. A short tour of the area will reveal places where access is available.

If you’re open to the idea of rental shelters or ice outfitters, your search can be expanded. If you’re thinking along these lines, I would be happy to offer some ideas and referrals to better outfitters in the region. fish smiley image — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to Ely Area, Arrowhead Outdoors Ice Fishing Report December 27, 2023

"Ice conditions continue to deteriorate on Ely Area lakes, as temps in the 40's and heavy rain came to the area. Reports of 4 wheelers and side by sides breaking through the ice, were reported last week. Anglers who placed permanent houses out last week, spent Christmas Eve pulling them back to shore as heavy rain came to the area. Ice thickness varies wildly from lakes opening up, to 8" of clear ice. Anglers are strongly encouraged to travel only by foot with spud bar, ice picks and check as you go.

The walleye bite has been consistent on a handful of popular area lakes. Best reports have been coming from 12-16 feet of water, over mud flats and weedlines, during the evening hours. Jigging spoons tipped with a minnow head has been very effective. Deadsticking larger minnows like pike suckers has been the best way to get those walleyes that are a little less aggressive and won't hit a jigging spoon.

Northern Pike anglers have been reporting that the pike fishing has been very good this last week. Anglers continue to find large pike active in shallow bays with green weeds. Large sucker minnows or frozen smelt have been very effective when fished under a tip up." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358

image links to Lake of the Woods, LOW Tourism December 27, 2023

image of woman holding a large eelpout caught on lake of the woods"For most resorts and outfitters, ice fishing is in full-swing on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Fish houses are placed near shore, out to about 17 to 23 feet of water. In most areas, the early season walleye bite is excellent. Consistent limits of walleyes and saugers along with some perch, pike, eelpout, crappies and even some sturgeon in the mix.

There are still areas of thin ice and areas to stay away from. It is very important to work through a resort or outfitter who has marked, and is constantly maintaining, a trail. Follow the guidelines and weight limits of each individual ice road. Most offer round trip heated shuttle service to their heated fish houses that are set up and ready to fish.

Some are allowing travel using your own ice transportation (snowmobile, ATV, side by side) with collapsible fish houses on their staked trails. Again, it is very important to adhere to weight restrictions, stay on the marked trails and do not venture off course. Do not travel past the end of the trail as there is still some very sketchy ice in areas.

A combo of a jigging line in one hole and a deadstick in the second hole with a live minnow 6 inches - a foot off of the bottom is working well. Some days, the walleyes and saugers want it moving (jigging line). Other days, they are in a more neutral mood and the deadstick (bobber line) works best. Two lines are allowed per person ice fishing in Minnesota.

Rippin Raps (a lipless crankbait with vibration and rattles) and other aggressive presentations work well at times, but also help to draw fish to your fishing area. Jigging spoons tipped with a piece of minnow head or tail is the goto for consistency on a jigging rod. Jig it a few times and hold it in the strike zone. Try dropping it on the bottom of the lake to attract fish and raise it into the strike zone (about a foot off the bottom).

Watching your ice fishing electronics will help you understand where the fish are and how they are reacting to your presentation. If they aren't taking your offering, change color, size, noise, bait or presentation. Popular colors, gold, glow red, chartreuse, glow white, pink or a combo. If you don't have electronics and want to give them a try, many local resorts and local bait shops rent them.

Anglers fishing the Minnesota waters Lake of the Woods are allowed a posession limit of up to 4 walleye. Additional saugers can be harvested, provided that the total bag, including walleyes, does not exceed 6 fish. Size restrictions also apply, none of the 4 walleyes may be between 19.5 to 28.0 inches, all walleyes from 19.5 inches to 28.0 inches must be released immediately. Minnesota does allow anglers to possess 1 trophy walleye over 28 inches. Minnesota allows anglers to possess no more than 1 limit of each fish species; double dipping in not permitted.

There are some great reports for walleyes, saugers and sturgeon on the Rainy River. The river is ice covered, and there are some some local resorts offering ice fishing. Be advised that on the river, current causes ice conditions to vary greatly. That's true even during the heart of the winter, let alone during the early part of the season. So, again, work through a resort for safety and do not venture out on your own.

Up at the Northwest Angle, ice fishing has begun for most resorts. Fishing has started well with reports of walleyes and saugers with some jumbo perch, eelpout and some nice pike mixed in.

Jig one line with a jigging spoon tipped with a piece of minnow. Rotate colors until you figure out what they want, but a combo of gold, pink, chartreuse, orange, glow red and glow white is consistent. Use a live minnow on a plain hook or bright ice fishing jig on the deadstick line 6 inches to a foot off of the bottom."  Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin December 26, 2023 "Ice Conditions Deteriorate, Safety Concerns Abound"

image of Leech Lake at Stony Point Absent today from the stretch of US Highway 2 from Duluth, through Grand Rapid, Bemidji and Fosston will be the typical winter scene, lines of ice anglers towing fishing shelters, ATVs, and related ice gear.

That stretch of the highway has been rain soaked and wet for at least 2 full days now. Day and night, rainfall has been slow-but-steady, amounting to a couple of inches in most areas. At the same time, air temperatures have been consistently above freezing too. That’s been good news for folks like us who managed to travel safely to be with our families for Christmas and back home again.  

Ice fishing enthusiasts don’t necessarily see that as good news though. Except for Lake of the Woods, most lakes in Minnesota’s north central region are losing ice, not gaining it. The combination of rain and warm temperatures is forecast for at least one more day, maybe longer. In Grand Rapids, some lakes remain ice free, others started winter with decent ice cover, the quality has declined steadily. Leech Lake has numerous cracks and open holes, Winnibigoshish is reportedly still frozen, but resorts and rental operators have temporarily closed their accesses to ice anglers while they assess the situation.

Upper Red has suffered declines in the quality of ice cover, although there, many access sites do remain open for ATV travel on staked trails. Rental operators on Lake of the Woods, while not open for “mass transportation”, are open. Most insist that anglers rely on private transport to and from rental shelters. There are a handful of operators allowing anglers with lightweight ATVs to follow behind their guides as they move customers to and from their rentals.

Long story short, folks who really want to ice fish can find places to go and when they do, all reports indicate that the fishing will be good. That said, there’s no doubt that access will be restricted, travel will be limited, and any ‘off-road” exploration will be extremely risky!

Most folks who rely on winter tourism have been patiently waiting for the ice season to begin in earnest. In many cases things don’t really get busy until after Christmas anyway, but that is past, and this should have been a busy week. Bait shop owners, ice shelter rental providers and resorters are taking a serious hit now and wonder when, if at all, conditions will improve?

My answer is, I honestly don’t know, but as usual, I do see a potential “silver lining” in an otherwise gloomy situation. Snow is the enemy of ice anglers, especially the folks who travel using snowmobiles and ATVs. And according to NOAA, on average, 1 inch of rain amounts to about 13 inches of snow. That means Mother Nature just gave us a free pass on receiving what might have amounted to be 15 to 20 inches of it, maybe more depending on the rainfall today.  

Beginning on Wednesday, overnight temperatures in the north central region will get colder, and some new ice will begin forming again. How much ice and how fast it happens is an open question. Theoretically though, good ice conditions during the late ice season could help offset some losses resulting from the slow early season start.

Companies that sell fishing gear, tackle and small parts won’t be so lucky. Most folks stock up on fishing products during the earliest portion of the ice season and by now, sales will already be dropping off. Large retailers preparing to lay in supplies of springtime, open water fishing items may soon begin discounting ice fishing gear. How deep the discounts are and how quickly they happen will reveal how bad the late start hit them, we’ll know soon enough.

I’ve received several emails from folks who have reservations in the region for later this week. Some seeking information about ice conditions for their trips have asked what I know about lakes that are specific to their travel plans. Honestly, conditions have changed so fast lately that I can’t keep up with individual situations. As the weather stabilizes, I’ll get caught up, but for now, the best advice is to be extremely cautious and if in doubt, reschedule your trip for a later time. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to Ely Area, Arrowhead Outdoors Ice Fishing Report December 20, 2023

image of youngster holding big northern pike "Rain this last week did little to improve our ice conditions, but thankfully the last two days have been below freezing and have helped improve our ice conditions. 10-12" of solid clear ice is now being reported on area lakes. 4 wheelers and side by side are becoming a common sight on area lakes.

Walleye - Walleye bite has switched to the last hour of light now, on area lakes. Walleyes have seemed to of slide out a little deeper, in 20-23 feet of water now. Jigging spoons, tipped with a minnow head has been very effective. Pike suckers fished on a dead stick has also been very effective, if the jigging spoon doesn't do the trick.

Northern Pike anglers continue to have good success tip up fishing back in shallow weedy bays and around river mouths. Large suckers and frozen smelt have been very effective, under a tip up. Anglers should focus for pike in 10 feet of water or less.

Panfish anglers have been reporting that they are having good luck on shallow area lakes. Anglers have been focusing on fishing the deepest water they can find, in these shallow lakes. Soft plastics and crappie minnows, fished under a bobber has been effective for them." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358

image links to Lake of the Woods, LOW Tourism December 19, 2023

image of ice anglers with walleye limits from Lake of the Woods "For a number of resorts and outfitters across the south end of Lake of the Woods, the ice fishing season has begun. They report that the bite is excellent, with widespread reports of limits in most areas.

Some are allowing travel using your own ice transportation (snowmobile, ATV, side by side) with collapsible fish houses on their staked trails. There are still areas of thin ice and areas to stay away from though and some resorts continue to offer only "shuttle" servicers to day rental shelters. It is super important to work through a resort or outfitter who has marked, and is constantly maintaining, a trail. Follow their guidelines. Most offer heated shuttle service to their heated fish houses that are set up and ready to fish. Again, it is very important to adhere to weight restrictions, stay on the marked trails and do not venture off course. Do not travel past the end of the trail as there is still some very sketchy ice in areas.

Anglers are catching a mixed bag of walleye and sauger, with jumbo perch, pike, eelpout, and even an occasional crappie or sturgeon in the mix. Most common fishing depths are 17 to 23 feet of water, where operators are most comfortable with the safety of their setups.

Multicolor jigging spoons tipped with a piece of minnow, emerald shiner or fathead, have been hot. Popular colors, gold, glow red, chartreuse, glow white, pink or a combo. Rippin Raps and other aggressive presentations working at times also. Using the one-two punch, a combo of a jigging line in one hole and a deadstick in the second hole with a live minnow 6 inches, to one foot off of the bottom. Two lines are allowed per person ice fishing in Minnesota.

Anglers fishing LOW MN are allowed a combined limit of walleyes and saugers of six. Up to four of the six can be walleyes. All walleyes 19.5 to 28.0 inches must be released. In Minnesota, only one walleye over 28 inches is allowed in possession.

The Rainy River is ice covered with some local resorts offering ice fishing. Great reports for walleyes, saugers and sturgeon. Varying ice conditions on the river that can change quickly due to current. What ice conditions are in one area can be very different right next door. Again, work through a resort for safety and do not venture out on your own.

Ice fishing has already begun for some resorts up at the Northwest Angle too, and initial reports are very good. Walleyes, saugers, jumbo perch and pike in the mix.

Much like the south shore, use one jigging line, one deadstick and rotate colors until you figure out what they want, but certain colors mentioned in this report are great in stained water.

Many resorts on both ends of the lake and on the river have immediate openings. The bite is definitely on!"  Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin December 18, 2023 "Dreaming of a Wet Christmas?"

image of rain soaked christmas tree Angling traffic was minimal in the Grand Rapids area over the past weekend. Steady rainfall and warm temperatures persisted, and not many were interested in fishing in the puddles. Some folks did though, and they report that while wet conditions prevented new ice from forming, they didn’t kill the ice on lakes where it had already formed. Lakes that have “good” ice are small, shallower ones and because of that crappies, sunfish and perch got the lion’s share of attention locally. On shallow shorelines and back bays of larger lakes, Darkhouse spearing for northern pike is getting some attention too.  

At Lake of the Woods, overnight temperatures had been getting just cold enough to make some new ice. On the south shore, some of the rental operators are transporting anglers to and from their day house rentals. Most of their landings have been closed to general traffic though. As of this morning, there are still numerous advisories about sketchy travel conditions. Any off-road exploration of ice conditions should be left to the experts.

Conditions for forming ice took a turn for the better overnight. Outside my office, the temperature is 9 degrees right now, so lakes that already had good ice will be dry again today. Locally, daytime temperatures are forecast to warm up again throughout the week but will be cold enough overnight to form a little bit of new ice.

Further north, temperatures might not be ideal for a fast freeze, but will be slightly colder. Overnight temps in the teens, daytime highs in the low 30s should be good news for rental operators. Without wild fluctuations in air temperatures, the ice will be somewhat less prone to cracking and heaving, that should make developing trails easier.

Personally, I think we should be happy that it rained this weekend and did not turn to snow. That warm spell delayed some folks from getting out on the ice, but less snow cover means that we could have better ice conditions later this winter. There isn’t much precipitation in the week’s forecast, so by Christmas, I think we’ll be seeing some good reports. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin December 14, 2023 "Best Ice Fishing Suits For 2023"

image links to ice fishing article that ranks the best ice fishing suits When I read the article about the Maine man drowning after breaking through the ice, I realized it’s been a while since we talked about float suits for ice fishing. I realized too that with Christmas coming, a float suit could be a great idea for gifting someone you care about.

Believing I had a decent handle on what was available on the market, I ran a quick search to get updates about the most common brands. Instead of the expected re-hash of info about 3 or 4 suits, I was surprised by how the market has expanded. Finding a dozen or more alternatives, it appeared that my job would be bigger than expected. So, when I found an article by Jim Edlund in Outdoor Life, I was relieved, they’ve already done the research. In the article, Edlund discusses a variety of suits for a wide range of ice fishing styles. Performance, quality, and price range are all taken into consideration.

Just so you know, I have no affiliation with Outdoor Life, nor am I associated with any of the brands mentioned in their article. For me, it’s a matter of public service, sharing information that might save you, or your loved ones, from a tragic ending to an otherwise happy day on the ice. Read Full Story and Learn More >> The Best Ice Fishing Suits of 2023

image links to Ely Area, Arrowhead Outdoors Ice Fishing Report December 14, 2023

image of walleyes laying on the ice "Little has changed with ice conditions on area lakes. Temps as high as 50 degrees knocked ice thickness down to 3-4", but with recent cold temps we have climbed back up to about 7" of good clear ice on area lakes.

Walleye - Walleye fishing was nice and consistent this last weekend. Anglers catching walleyes have been catching them in classic 18-22 feet of water, over mud flats, but a handful of anglers have been having great success in 4-6 feet of water, in weeds.

Both anglers have been having best success after dark, dead sticking a nice lively minnow. Jigging spoons and rattle baits has also been effective for the more aggressive walleyes.

Pike - Pike fishing continues to be very good for many anglers on area lakes. River mouths and shallow, weedy bays, in 10 feet of water and less has been very good for pike anglers. Large suckers or frozen smelt, fished under a tip up has been very effective for anglers." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358

image links to fishrapper home page December 12, 2023 "Ice Rentals For The Weekend on Lake of the Woods?"

image of map showing lake of the woods On Sunday, Gary Kelly wrote, Q) “Hi Jeff, I need an honest take on the ice conditions on Lake of the Woods for next weekend. Do you think the resorts will have ice houses out by next weekend, 12-16-2023? Just trying to save eight of us a long car ride for nothing. Thanks.”

A) Gary, the simple answer is that I honestly don’t think there will be any rental shelters on the main lake before next weekend.

There are some rentals, primarily dark houses for spearing, on Zippel Bay, and other “back-channel” areas off the main lake. To my knowledge, access to those rentals is limited to shuttles provided by the rental operators.

There are a also a handful of areas where local anglers, familiar with the terrain, are finding enough ice for light travel and there are a few stakes being placed on the ice. The formation of ice has been a slow process, in many ways. Air temperatures have been just cold enough to make ice overnight, but warm daytime temps shunt the development of new ice, especially when the sun shines. Daytime temperatures are predicted to be warm again this week, and if that’s not bad enough, there are more strong winds headed that way too.

The outlook for next week is also uncertain, long-term forecasts predict similarly tentative conditions for forming quality ice. If they’re accurate, overnight temperatures in the mid to high teens, with daytime temps in the low 30s could persist beyond Christmas.

Thank you, Gary, for your comment about getting an “honest take” on the situation from me. Like many, I spend a few minutes each day perusing the so-called social media. My search always starts with a search for legitimate information, and then gets bogged down by the sheer volume lot "silly", uninformed, and sometimes downright nasty posts out there. Usually, I close the book on my search without too many honest facts.

You already know that I don’t spend a lot of time on Lake of the Woods. I do have friends up there though and have reached out to them for firsthand information. Swamped with phone calls, their time is quickly consumed, and they can be slow to respond. I’ll be persistent about getting updates though, and keep you posted about new information as it becomes available. fish smiley image — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin December 11, 2023 "Ice Fishing Update"

One benefit of entering the so called “golden age” is the heightened awareness of history. In school, I didn’t like history much, but today, I love it. Thinking of myself as a “club historian” has always been appealing, and these days, I especially love sharing with you, anecdotes drawn from my own pool of firsthand experiences. Sometimes, when I’m lucky though, I get to share stories from friends and family too, and that’s even more rewarding.

I’m not sure if I’ve said it loud before, but in recent years, I’ve noticed a stark contrast in the culture of ice fishing. When I started doing it, the overriding concern was whether the ice was thick enough to walk on. Whenever it was 7 or 8 inches think, popular lakes would begin filling up with anglers toting pails containing a few jiggle sticks, bobbers, an array of fishhooks and a hand auger or ice chisel. The “hard core” anglers might have had a sled that contained a lantern and a few more goodies but not much that wasn’t necessary.

Folks who wanted to fish in luxurious comfort constructed homemade fishing shelters out of plywood, or whatever else they had laying around. Mine was a ¼ inch plywood, 4x8 foot shack that fit in the bed of a pickup truck. Equipped with skis, containing only a small wood stove, and a couple of stools, all we had to do was get it to the shoreline, and then we could still move it onto the ice by hand.  

There are a variety of lakes in my region that have plenty of ice for walking right now, but there aren’t many folks toting fish pails toward their respective “honey holes”. Instead, the modern ice anglers are waiting for enough ice to drive heavier trucks towing larger shelters. These days the term “portable” means driving ATVs, side-by-sides, or snowmobiles towing sleds filled with gear.

image of pat everson ice fishing in northeastern minnesotaI like comfort as much as anybody, and I don’t have any problem ice fishing in a wheelhouse, or in a large rental shelter but I still have a soft spot for old technology. It’s a sentimental connection, I know, but for me, the appreciation of catching a fish through the ice is elevated when I do a certain amount of suffering for my sport. Maybe it explains too why I credit folks who embrace the “old ways” of ice fishing with a greater love for the sport.

Take our daughter Joelle and her fiancé’ Patrick for example, they have that love for fishing. If there’s enough ice to walk on, and they have a free day, then they will be out there. They were this weekend, on a lake in the Grand Marais area, and it looks like they had a blast.

They found an area in 18 to 25 feet of water where they caught a dozen yellow perch, some of them in the 12-inch range, along with 6 northern pike. Most pike were smaller, but Patrick did have a larger one on the line that eventually cut itself free.

For them, the morning was better than the afternoon, on the ice by 9:00 AM, they caught most of the fish between 10:00 and Noon. After a break for lunch, they returned to their spot, but the action was slower. Even when they were most active, the fish were not concentrated, showing up at random intervals on the graph. When they did show up, they struck Rattl’n’ Flyer Spoons tipped with minnow heads. The orange tiger pattern was Jo’s ticket for catching perch, the yellow-orange combo was Pat’s.  They had tip ups set too, and caught 1 of the perch on them, but didn’t break down how many of the pike hit which presentation.

Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing pictures of fish, and the ones they send are nice. The photo of Pat Everson sitting on the ice with the idyllic scenery is my favorite. In fact, I secured permission to use it as the cover photo on the fishing reports page at facebook. Now that the muzzleloader season has ended and the deer have officially won, the image is one I’m liable to enjoy myself soon. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin December 6, 2023 "A Nice Day For A Walk"

I’ve never called myself a great deer hunter, but usually, if I’m determined enough, I can find one or at least have a chance at one. This fall, no matter how stubborn I get, they just keep being stubborn-er. It would probably be a relief if I just gave up, and headed to the lake to drill some holes, but I can’t!

I have been keeping tabs on ice conditions though, and the opportunities are more widespread every day. Locally, small lakes, particularly the shallower ones, have enough ice for walking, and folks have begun fishing on some of them. The larger and deeper lakes are struggling against the mild temperatures to gain ice thickness. On Winnie for example, shallow bays and shorelines are ice covered and folks have begun fishing on 6 to 8 inches of decent ice. There is currently not enough ice over the lake’s mid-section though, and there’s no traffic out there. There are several larger, deep-water lakes in the Grand Rapids that still have no ice at all.

By now, you’re aware that Upper Red Lake already has a lot of traffic on it. Until Monday, most of the ice access was limited to walking only. Today, there are several operators allowing partial access for anglers using 4 wheelers, but not the larger side-by-side ATVs. If the weather forecast proves accurate, I can’t see this changing before the weekend.

On Lake Mille Lacs, there are a handful of operators promising to open ice accesses this weekend. None that I know of have actually opened their accesses to date. How the incoming “heat wave” will impact Mille Lacs is something to be considered, let's see how it looks later this week.

The overnight air temperatures have been just cold enough to make a little bit of new ice each day. Daytime highs have been mild, but not warm, and not sunny, so melting hasn't been an issue. That said, the clock is ticking and while I’m not making a prediction, I am getting nervous. Not about short term opportunities to fish, but about how ice conditions will stack up later this winter. It’s just a matter of time before we get hit with a heavy snowfall. If we don’t see a sharp drop in air temperatures soon, that snow will land on ice that isn’t thick enough to support the weight. Hopefully, my fears are un-warranted and that scenario won’t play out. Then we can maybe enjoy easier travel conditions on the ice than we did last winter.

Today, I’m heading out to do some combo deer hunting, ice checking. Tomorrow, I'll let you know what I stumble into out there.

OH and by the way, my pockets filling of with un-filled deer tags reminds me of the Grand Rapids City Archery hunt. I obtained a permit earlier this fall, and then discovered that finding a "legal" hunting spot was harder than I'd known. If you happen to know somebody who owns such a property, in the Grand Rapids city limits, and they have more deer in they need, I'd love to chat with them about using that archery permit. It never hurts to ask, right? fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to Lake of the Woods, LOW Tourism December 6, 2023

image of staked ice trail on lake of the woods "Ice continues to form and make progress on the south end of Lake of the Woods. But with that being said, it is going to take some time before it is safe enough for ice fishing houses. Resort ice guides have been out checking ice thickness, flying drones over the ice and basically staying on top of current conditions.

Back bays are locked up and there is some spearing for pike that has been happening. Ice conditions even in back bays vary, so for safety, please work through resorts and outfitters.

Most of Big Traverse Bay is ice covered. There are still patches of open water, some cracks that have opened up, etc. This is typical for this time of year and it will be a bit yet before most can give the green light.

Lake of the Woods is big and there are many areas of the lake resorts and outfitters go out on. Each business will be monitoring ice conditions in their area and make informed decisions when it is allowed to access the ice through their ice access and what weight limits will be allowed.

image of ice block being measured for thickness Resorts and outfitters have started marking trails on the ice in bays and close to shore. When it is time to get out on the ice, we encourage working through resorts and outfitters and staying on marked trails for safety.

The Rainy River is ice covered. Local resorts and ice guides are monitoring ice conditions in areas of the river they offer ice fishing. As you have read in this report previously, work through a resort or outfitter for safety reasons.

Up at the Northwest Angle, most of the lake is ice covered. Outfitters and ice guides have been marking ice trails. The ice roads and trails are not open yet, but much of the ice has frozen smooth and is coming along very nicely.

There are always areas throughout the winter where there is current up at the Angle so it is important to stay on the marked trails, both when they open up and throughout the ice fishing season, which goes through March, Mother Nature dependent on course."  Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH

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image links to fishrapper facebook page If you've been waiting for a gold engraved invitation to participate in the daily reports, then stop waiting and consider this your own personal invitation.

Helping your fellow fishermen and women stay abreast of fishing conditions in your area is good for everybody and it's easier than you think! You don't have to write a book, you don't have to share your secret fishing spots and you don't even have to mention your lake. But even a few words about general trends, seasonal patterns and local weather conditions can really help.

Be like me, become a duly deputized "Cub Reporter", it's good for fishing! Contact Us or if you prefer to be "social", Fishing Reports Minnesota, the Facebook counterpart to this page is open to the public, so you can post your own fishing update or just share a photo of a nice catch.