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"Fish houses can be left overnight on Lake of the Woods through March 31, 2023, and this year, ice is holding up nicely. A few of the ice roads are still open, but some have closed for the season. There is still some good ice fishing to be had if you have the bug but contact the resort or outfitter operating the ice road prior to travel.
The walleye and sauger season extend through April 14, 2023 and the pike season never closes. Perch, eelpout, tullibees and crappies are also in season.
Varied reports this week for walleyes. It seems the fish are on the move. For those who moved around and got on fish, they caught. Some good reports off Pine Island in shallower water, 14 to 20 feet deep. Also, there are good reports from the Rocky Point, Long Point, Zippel Bay and Morris Point areas.
Huge northern pike continue to be active with good reports still coming in this week. Setting up in 5 to 15 feet of water is the depth most anglers are targeting. Using a quick strike rig with a live sucker, dead smelt, tullibee, herring or fatty hot dog have been catching some big pike.
On the Rainy River, open water fishing has begun. The Nelson Park boat ramp in Birchdale is open to all boats. The next access downstream is Frontier, and as of Tuesday morning (3-28-23), the open water was almost there. A big thanks to Koochiching County for doing a nice job of clearing the accesses of snow and ice at the boat ramp. It extends the short window of spring fishing on the river and makes dropping a boat into the river safer.
Mainly three techniques being used to catch walleyes on the river. Jigging with a plastic, jigging with a minnow and trolling crankbaits slowly upstream. Bright colored jigs and larger plastics with twister tail or paddle tail. Best colors chartreuse, orange, pink and white.
Halfway across the river is Ontario. Boaters can navigate into Ontario waters for safety reasons, such as avoiding hazardous structures, a pack of boats, etc. If you plan to fish Ontario waters, many different rules apply. You’ll need to have an Ontario fishing license and possess no live, dead or frozen bait. Remember too that alcohol is NOT allowed on Canadian waters. Anglers can boat into Ontario waters without checking into Canada Border Services Agency provided they don't touch land, a dock, another boat, or exchange goods or services.
No walleyes or saugers from the Ontario side of the river are allowed to be transported across U.S. waters as it is a catch and release season only in the U.S. side. This is for informational purposes only, please check official regs.
Four Mile Bay and the Rainy River, catch and release only for walleyes and saugers through April 14, 2023. Please take good care of the walleyes. Have your camera ready, and be sure that your hook removal tools, needle nose pliers, hook outs and the like ready to go. Be quick on taking pics and handle walleyes with care as you release them quickly.
On Lake of the Woods proper, harvesting walleye and sauger is allowed and the season also continues through April 14, 2023.
Up at the Northwest Angle, ice fishing is winding down. The fish are biting and those who are still getting out are being rewarded. With fish houses having to be off the lake by March 31, 2023, some locals and those with their own equipment are taking advantage of the late season ice.
This is the time of year fish houses get put away for the year, bombardiers and other winter equipment get cleaned up for summer and put into storage. Most operating resorts take a well-deserved break and start gearing up for the MN Fishing Opener May 13, 2023.
For those looking to access the Northwest Angle while avoiding customs, the Lake of the Woods Passenger (charter boat) Service transports you to your favorite Angle resort and keeps you in Minnesota." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"The best fishing line should ensure that when you hook that fish of a lifetime that you have a fighting chance to land it. It should also give you the least amount of hassle and headache with your fishing reels and fishing rods. While nothing works flawlessly 100 percent of the time in all types of weather and conditions, some are definitely better than others when it comes to fishing lines.
Yes you can certainly get by for a time on a cheap fishing line, and we’ve certainly landed a few fish on lesser fishing lines. I think for us it’s about convenience and less hassle in the precious small amount of relative time we get to spend fishing. I want my line to be the best connection I can have to the fish and put as much advantage in my favor as possible when on the water. I don’t like leaving the opportunity to catch a big fish completely to chance and luck.
So I take care to make sure my gear is in good working condition and that I have fresh line swapped out periodically. Here’s a quick rundown of what we think are some of the best braided fishing lines, monofilament fishing lines, fluorocarbon fishing lines and where we think each of them will ..." Learn More >> Best Fishing Lines for 2023
"Crappie fishing continues to be slower then usual for this time of year. With 10” of snow or more, on the ice, it may be a few more weeks before things really heat up. Anglers results have been very mixed with some doing good while others struggle to find biters. Anglers finding biters stay on the move, looking for active crappies.
Soft plastics in white, pink and chartreuse has been very effective with catching active crappies. Less active crappies have been hitting crappie minnows and wax worms. Key locations have been in 20 to 30 feet of water, over mud flats." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
Here in the Grand Rapids area, there’s still a lot of standing snow, but sunshine has melted a little of it. Seepage from melting surface snow is causing slush on the ice surface and getting around on the lakes is tricky. But there are folks making their way out to some of their favorite ice fishing spots. Track equipped ATVs are the best, but they even have trouble in wet areas. Walking is do-able, but it’s a lot of work too and at this point, not a great option. I’d love a thorough meltdown to allow walking on the ice again, but for now I think the slower it melts, the happier we should be. I can only imagine the flooding we could have if warm weather hits too hard and too fast.
Maybe it doesn’t look that way, but the open water fishing season is headed our way. Folks were busy sharing the news yesterday that the ramp at Birchdale on the Rainy River is open. Cold weather will make the ramp sketchy for a few days, but weekend forecasts promise warmer daytime air temperatures and that should help keep the roads ice free.
Warmer weather would help get boat rigging moving faster too. I stopped by Ray’s Marine yesterday and the crew was hard at it, getting rigs put together for their new owners, I was there asking if the buyer of my 2022 Alaskan could meet me there to pick it up. The plan was to connect the water hose and fire up the motor for a function test. The answer was “maybe”, but they’re doing everything possible to avoid running the engines right now. There are too many hours of below freezing air temperatures every day, freezing damage could easily become a threat. So, unless you absolutely have to start your outboard, don’t do it. If you do hook up the water hose to fire it up, make sure that you allow it to drain completely before driving or storing it.
While I was there, I asked the rigging crew how the supply chain has been this spring. It is a lot better they said, every order is delivered more quickly and arrives more complete than they did last spring. That’s good news for me because I’ve been dragging my feet to order electronics. Now that the old boat is sold, I’ll be getting that project into high gear. If you were on the fence about picking up a new graph, trolling motor or accessories, now might be a good time to move forward.
I know that the news cycle has been a bit slow lately. Between family illnesses, poor travel conditions and a slow-to-arrive spring fishing season, I haven't had a lot to say lately. That said, there's been some progress in gathering information that I need to finish unanswered reader questions. And with only 45 days remaining until the fishing opener, "going withthe flow" is gonna flow faster every day! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
In Grand Rapids, we woke up to about 5 inches of wet snow on Wednesday. On ice travel conditions have deteriorated and many resorts are either closing their ice roads entirely, or limiting access to snowmobiles and track machines. Under the weight of the wet snow, slush has reared its ugly head again, so walking is temporarily out of the question on most lakes.
With a hopeful short term forecast of warm sunny days ahead, we could see improvement over the weekend. But I don’t want to bet too much on that, daytime highs in the upper 30s will be helpful, but 40+ would make me more optimistic. We’ll just have to watch the conditions and hope for warmer than expected temperatures.
The Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame hosts its annual “Night with the Pros” event this Friday March 24, 2023. Held at the Rice Creek Hunting & Recreation Event Center, 16543 Game Farm Rd, Little Falls, MN 56345. Doors will open at 4:00PM allowing folks time for gathering and chatting it up with the pros. The dinner begins at 6:30 PM. Among the couple dozen fishing pros and hall of fame legends slated to attend are Al Lindner, Gary Roach, Perry Good and this year, for the first time, yours truly.
I know, you don’t impress that easily and spending an evening with a bunch of fishing pros probably isn’t gonna make your priority list. Frankly, I get it and I know that not many of you are gonna hop in the car and head over just to see us guys. But even if you’re not coming, please don’t miss out on learning more about the Minnesota Fishing Museum, it is a very cool place.
The fishing museum is especially valuable to me because in my self-appointed role as a “club historian”, I learn something on every visit about what went on in the world of fishing before I came along. I find that learning the history of how fishing has progressed from the past helps provide me clues about where it’s going in the future. Even if all you do is peruse the old photos and check out the fishing lures on display, you will enjoy your visit.
Both before and after the banquet, we’ll be looking at conditions on the ice on north central Minnesota lakes. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Ice fishing is still going strong on the south side of Lake of the Woods. The walleye and sauger season extends through April 14, 2023 and the pike season never closes. Perch, eelpout, tullibees and crappies are also in season. Both day houses and sleeper houses are out and can be through March 31, 2023. The forecast ahead has high temperatures in the 30 degree range during the day and teens at night.
Ice trails and ice roads are doing well. Some anglers report slush when going off of the roads and creating their own trails. So, it's a good idea to work through your favorite resort and outfitter this time of year. Ice fishing is still readily available if you want to get out.
A good week of fishing for some, mixed for others. Walleyes seem to be moving this time of year. If you are on them, it is normally good. The combo of the jigging line and deadstick is working well. One day they want it moving, the other, the deadstick is the ticket.
Huge pike continue to be active with good reports this week. Setting up in 5 to 15 feet of water is the depth most anglers are targeting.
On the Rainy River, the morning and evening bite has been best for walleye anglers. This time of year, extra caution is needed if fishing around moving water. No open water fishing to report as of yet. On the Rainy River, ice can go out quickly, only Mother Nature knows. We will keep you posted.
Remember, on Four Mile Bay and the Rainy River, catch and release only for walleyes and saugers through April 14, 2023. The big lake is still open for harvesting walleyes and saugers through April 14, 2023.
Good walleye and pike fishing being reported by anglers this week up at the Northwest Angle this week. Like the south end, a plain hook or small glow jig with a live minnow has been working well. Walleyes, saugers, jumbo perch, big pike and eelpout in the mix.
Crappies continue being caught on the Ontario side of the lake amongst the islands. We recommend using a guide as ice conditions amongst the islands with current and neck down areas, etc.
For those looking to access the NW Angle while avoiding customs, snowmobiling across the lake on the marked trails are in good shape or utilizing the Lake of the Woods Passenger (bombardier) Service keeps you in Minnesota. During the open water months, boating across or charter boat service is available keeps you out of Canada." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
"Lake trout fishing generally improved this last week for many anglers. While tip ups fished with a dead or live minnow on the bottom continues to be you best bet for a trout, anglers reported having good success with bucktails and jigging spoons. 30 to 50 feet of water, around sunken islands and mud flats continues to be the areas to focus on when targeting lakers.
Eelpout continue to be active this last week as they rap up their spawning. Heavy jigs, tipped with minnows and pounded on the bottom, around river mouths or sunken islands has been very effective on eelpout. Key depths vary night to night, so be sure to look for active eelpout before setting up. 15 to 35 feet of water is generally the best depth for them.
Panfish activity has slowly been increasing as days get longer and warmer. Recent snow events haven’t helped the bite, but anglers adventuring out did manage to catch some crappies and sunnies. Classic deep mud flats are the areas to target panfish. Small crappie minnows were very effective on both crappies and sunnies this last week." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"Ice fishing is still going strong on the south end of Lake of the Woods. Ice trails and ice roads are doing well. Both day houses and sleeper houses are allowed to remain on the ice through March 31, 2023. The forecast ahead has freezing temps and ice should hold nicely. Work through a resort or outfitter as they monitor conditions closely on their ice roads.
The walleye and sauger season extends through April 14, 2023 and the pike season never closes. Perch, eelpout, tullibees and crappies are also in season.
A good week of fishing. In a nutshell, fish every fish. Electronics are helpful. Most fish are near the bottom but some of the larger walleyes are suspended. Use a combo of the jigging line and deadstick. On the deadstick, using a plain hook with a minnow 6" to one foot off of the bottom has been successful. Plain hooks in reglow, pink or orange have been working well.
Huge pike continue to be active with good reports this week. Setting up in 8 to 15 feet of water is the depth most anglers are targeting these hungry predators.
On the Rainy River, the golden hours of morning and evening continue to be the best on the river for walleye anglers. Great safety is always needed on the river, especially with longer days, stronger sun, and melting. Not a lot happening yet with open water for boats. When it happens, it can happen fast. We will keep you posted. Most are guessing the end of March.
Remember, on Four Mile Bay and the Rainy River, catch and release only for walleyes and saugers through April 14th. The big lake is still open for harvesting walleyes and saugers through April 14th, 2023
Up at the Northwest Angle, there were great walleye reports by anglers this week. A small to medium jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head or a lipless crankbait with rattles has been effective jigging. Like the south end, a plain hook or small glow jig with a live minnow has been working well. Walleyes, saugers, jumbo perch, big pike and eelpout in the mix.
Crappies being caught on the Ontario side of the lake amongst the islands. We recommend using a guide as ice conditions amongst the islands with current and neck down areas, etc.
For those looking to access the NW Angle while avoiding customs, snowmobiling across the lake on the marked trails are in good shape or utilizing the Lake of the Woods Passenger (bombardier) Service keeps you in Minnesota." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
My Thursday morning isn’t going the way I was hoping. I have a stack of unanswered reader emails referencing my recent articles about the state walleye stamp. Questions vary, but generally involve official data about stocking costs, funding sources and the like. To answer them, I needed some hard statistics, so last Monday, I reached out to some industry experts for guidance. By now, I figured I’d be up to my armpits in statistics, data and hard facts from sources at the MN DNR and a couple of Minnesota legislators too. The problem is that so far, I don’t have single reply from anybody, regarding any of my inquiries.
For me, it feels like being stuck at an intersection waiting for a slow moving train to pass by. I hate to make you sit here with me, but some of these questions deserve more than me “shooting from the hip” to answer them. So, if you’re one of those readers checking in to see responses to your questions, I apologize for making you wait. I strive to gather facts before I start writing and this time, gathering are taking longer than usual; thank you for your patience.
If you’re thinking about ice fishing this weekend, conditions in north central Minnesota are very good. Snow cover is minimal, ice has not begun to erode and traffic has diminished. Spotty, is the term folks are using to describe fishing action. The perch bite offers hits and misses, certain folks catch very few, others have done well. Crappies are in transition, anglers are still finding small packs of fish over mid-lake holes, but the fish are nomadic and prone to short feeding spurts during the crepuscular periods.
If you’re into the off-beat fishing options or want to try something new, the timing is good for Tulibee fishing. They roam, moving constantly over deep water and can be caught almost anywhere over the main basin area of a lake. Small, flashy lures tipped with wax worms work well. Last spring, I fished for Tulibee with my friend Reed Ylitalo. The accounting of that trip offers some strong guidance about how to catch them. To learn more, read >> Ice Fishing Report March 21, 2022
Most of the tulibees I’ve harvested were used for smoking. Some friends use them for canning too and a few folks pickle them. We’ve fried a few, but I’d rather not use them that way, they’re a bit too soft for my taste.
Fishing for burbot, also known as eelpout is getting good now too and will keep getting better over the next few weeks. I love both of these fish, but I think the burbot is more versatile in terms of table fare. When filleting one, you’ll find a thick, fleshy top half, with very thin strips surrounding the heavy bones of the rib cage. Most folks take the “back strap”, top section and don’t fiddle around with the rib section.
The sky is the limit for cooking burbot. We’ve fried them, boiled them, baked, broiled and used them to make scampi like you see in the accompany image. Follow the link to Mr. Food’s Fish Scampi recipe and note the recipe calls for fresh Cod. This is exactly what you have when you harvest a burbot, a fresh water variety of the popular Cod fish.
Burbot spawn right now, under the ice and between now and ice out, there will be some fast action. The trick to finding them is to focus on hard bottom, mid-lake structure on the shallower end of the depth range. A 12 to 15 foot sunken island with scattered gravel, rock and sand will be more attractive than deeper, softer bottom structures. Eelpout can be caught during daytime, especially during the spawning period. That said, they are well known for being more active at twilight and after dark.
Their primary forage is small perch, walleye and other tiny gamefish and minnows. Virtually any of your favorite walleye tackle will double for burbot fishing. Small spoons or jigging lures tipped with a minnow head are standard. Dead stick rigs with live bait will work too; use a plain hook or small blade lure to present the minnow. Most burbot range between 2 to 5 pounds, but there are larger examples available, so don’t use a rod and reel combo that’s too light. A 30 inch, medium or medium-light action rod and a spinning reel with 6 to 8 pound test line is perfect. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Lake Trout - Lake trout anglers reported having a good weekend of trout fishing finally. Anglers found active trout up on classic lake trout spots such as sunken islands, main lake points and neck down areas between islands. 30-50 feet of water was the depth to be in. Spoons, bucktails around 3” in size continues to be the best size to get bites. Dead or alive suckers laying on the bottom has accounted for almost half of the lakers caught this winter, so be sure to tip ups out with a minnow on the bottom.
Stream Trout - Stream trout were active this last week, with some very big splake caught some of the less pressured lakes in the area. Large splake were found in 20-40 feet of water, with spoons tipped with minnow heads. Rainbows and brookies were found in shallower water near downed trees. Here tungstens tipped with waxies was very effective on them. Early morning hours were the best time to fish for them.
Panfish - With warm temperatures, anglers were out looking for crappies and sunnies. Seemed only a few anglers went home disappointed. Crappies and sunnies continue to be found out in 20-30 feet of water, over deep mud flats. Crappies and sunnies have simply been cruising around the mud flats looking for bugs and minnows. Small tungsten jigs tipped with soft plastics, wax worm or crappie minnows has been very effective." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
In this informative video, pro bass angler Cody Huff takes us on a tour of his Garmin LiveScope Plus fish finder while scanning a school of bass in a brush pile. He shows his go-to settings for finding and catching bass in brush piles and most situations in general, including his deep water sharpshooting technique with Rapala Jigging Raps and heavy Jigs.
Huff starts by emphasizing the importance of doing a factory reset to get the device back to its default settings before making adjustments. This helps to get you close to the ideal setup for fishing.
Huff then goes on to explain his personal Livescope Plus settings, which include keeping his ..." View Video and Learn More >> Garmin LiveScope Plus Settings | Cody Huff 2023
Q) Gordy Wallace wrote; “Jeff, I read your update yesterday and you mentioned a walleye tournament on the Mississippi River. My question is where on the River did that tournament happen? Is the fishing any good this time of year?
A) Gordy, the tournament is called the “Freeze Your Butt Off” and the event takes place on the Mississippi at Redwing, MN. There were over 50 teams at this one, among the contestants, Max Wilson, who graciously agreed to let me share the accompanying image with you.
The simple answer to your question about the quality of fishing at this time of the season is YES. Walleyes in the pre-spawn period are typically cooperative and looking at the leader board, they were fairly cooperative last weekend. One thing that gets my attention is that every single team in the event weighed in at least a few pounds of walleye. Some teams did better than others, the 1st place team weighed in just over 21 pounds and the last place team weighed just short of 4 pounds.
Now these guys are all great anglers, so I suppose they should be expected to catch fish. But it’s not always that easy and you’d be amazed at how often the bottom 1/3 of a given field of entrants does not weigh in any fish. So, in my mind, the fishing must have been decent, at least.
Still living in the twin cities during my formative years of guiding, we fished the Mississippi fairly often. In those days, March 1st was informally considered the walleye fishing opener for us. In those days, Redwing was usually busy at this time of year because that stretch of river is well known for producing large walleyes. We were more interested in action vs quality size, so even though the fish were typically smaller, we fished the next stretch south, near Alma Wisconsin.
There’s still time to get in on the action, but I wouldn’t wait around too long. The trick to catching walleyes during early spring is to get there during the “pre-spawn” period. On the river, walleye will and do travel many miles to spawn and that behavior temporarily concentrate them in relatively small areas. Once the water warms and fish begin spawning in earnest, the productivity really drops off.
While smaller, male walleyes will stick around near spawning structure for a while after the spawn, female walleye typically do not. Females, the larger fish, seem more interested in getting the spawn finished and then migrating back to wherever they came from, which could be dozens of miles in some cases.
I know that there are plenty of ways to learn about fishing on the river. But in my case, reading books written by Dan D. Gapen Sr. really helped. Looking through the pages of my copy of Gapen’s “Big River Fishin’” just now reminds me that he not only influenced my fishing, but my writing style too. If you’re like me and love a view into the history of river fishing, Gapen’s accounts offer insight that you won’t find on “social” media sights. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Rigged and ready to use, 2022 Lund Alaskan, Mercury ProXS 115 Tiller, Shoreland'r Trailer complete 2022 package is available now. The rig, along with all of the accessories are almost identical to last year's rig, so you may already be familiar with the description.
I’ve been running Lund Alaskans for a long time now; in fact I picked up my first one something like 16 years ago. Right from the beginning, I’ve loved the balance of utility and comfort that the Alaskan provides for me and my fishing customers.
As far as I’m concerned, these boats are the fisherman’s equivalent of having a 4X4 pickup truck for the water. They have allowed me to go anywhere and do anything without sacrificing comfort. Throughout the years, I’ve watched the folks at Lund steadily ..." Learn More >> 2022 Lund Alaskan Model 2000 Tiller Boat Package SOLD
"Thanks to cold overnight air temperatures, the ice is in good shape on the south end of lake of the Woods. Ice roads remain open and well maintained and fishing is still going strong. On LOTW, ice fishing shelters are allowed to remain out through March 31st, 2023 and the walleye and sauger season runs through April 14, 2023. It looks like the ice might last long enough for angler to fish right up until the end.
On the ice, success varies from fish house to fish house, but there were some very good fishing reports coming in this week. In fact maybe the best we have heard in several weeks. Anglers are reporting catching both good numbers and plenty of eater fish for an evening fish fry.
Electronics were helpful this week as a lot of suspended walleyes are being caught. If you see a suspended fish come through on your electronics, reel up quickly but as you get within a couple of feet below the fish, slowly bring your lure to the fish so as not to spook it. Jig one line, deadstick the second with a live minnow 6 inches to 1 foot off of the bottom. Plain hooks in glow, pink or orange have been working well.
With a pike season that never closes, following huge, pre-spawn pike into shallow water has become a popular passtime on Lake of the Woods. The big pike have been active this winter and continued to be active this week. We've heard very good reports from folks who pursue them. Everyone does it a bit differently, but tip ups with a quick strike rig and a live sucker, dead bait such as smelt, herring, alewife or a hot dog have been the go to. (Yep, hot dog, the cheaper the better!)
Even though the big lake is still open for harvesting walleyes and saugers through April 14, 2023. The "harvest season" for walleye and sauger on the Rainy River has closed. From now through April 14, 2023, anglers may coninue to fish for walleye and sauger on the Rainy, including Four Mile Bay, providing that the fish they catch are released immediately.
Morning and evening continue to be the best bet for good action on the river for walleye anglers. Pounding a jig with a minnow on the bottom combined with a deadstick set just off of the bottom working well.
There were some nice walleyes caught this week up at the Northwest Angle too. Jigging a small jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head or being more aggressive with a lipless crankbait with rattles has been effective jigging. A plain hook or small glow or glow red deadstick jig with a minnow has been working well.
A mixed bag being caught in addition to the walleyes including saugers, jumbo perch, big pike and eelpout in the mix.
Some anglers fishing the Ontario side for crappies reporting nice catches. We recommend using a guide as ice conditions amongst the islands vary greatly with current, etc.
For those looking to access the NW Angle while avoiding customs, snowmobiling across the lake on the marked trails are in good shape or utilizing the Lake of the Woods Passenger (bombardier) Service keeps you in Minnesota." — Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
The first week in March is always a time when I start watching “mile markers” along the road to spring. And right on cue this weekend, snow and ice began disappearing from our roof; I think the air temps hit 40 degrees on Saturday. It definitely was making me excited for late season ice fishing. But on the other hand, following stories about walleye anglers starting their tournament season on the Mississippi River got me going about the open water season too. What slowed me down is the snow that still looks white and deep piled up in our yard. Even though the warming trend is a step in the direction of spring, it’s too soon to call a full scale “meltdown” at this point.
The ice fishing season is far from over, most of the resorts and ice shelter rentals in our north central region are still open and road conditions on the large lakes remain good. While most of the plowed roads remain open and continue being maintained, I noticed that a few of the resorts are discontinuing their plowing services as of today. So, if you’re trailering a wheelhouse over the next couple of weeks, plan ahead to be sure your favorite operators still have an open spot for you.
Folks who have ATVs and snowmobiles have less to worry about, ice conditions on most lakes are good. There is not much deep snow left and in most areas, slush problems cleared up a few weeks ago. The ice is not as thick as usual, but for now, still in good condition and ranging from 24 to 30 inches. At the landings, degradation from melting water hasn’t become severe yet. The overnight air temps have been cold enough to re-freeze puddles that do form at midday, so there are some wet spots, but mostly small and manageable.
This week marks the beginning of the Northwest Sportshow in Minneapolis. The show, another milestone on the road to spring opens this Thursday March 9, 2023 and runs through Sunday March 12, 2023.
I won’t be working at the show this year, and it’s gonna feel odd not being there. This has historically been a time for me to catch up with folks who I don’t get to see very often. So, you never know, I might get lonesome and decide to drive down to visit the show as a spectator.
The article I wrote last week about Minnesota's Walleye Stamp continues generating thoughtful comments from readers. I’ve pulled a few of the better ones from my in box and I’ll have an update this week. Some of the comments call for facts and statistics that I once knew off the top of my head. But the passage of time makes my information outdated and in order to get up-do-date facts, I’ve reached out to some high ranking industry professionals for updates. Once the facts are in, you’ll be the first to know. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
In a cautiously optimistic news release, the MN DNR announced late last week that Mille Lacs Lake walleye anglers will enjoy a modest relaxation of walleye regulations for the 2023 summer season. The DNR plans to allow the harvest of 1 walleye per angler for the entire open water walleye season. The liberalization of walleye regulations also removes the ban on anglers using live bait. For 2023, live bait will be allowed throughout the entire open water fishing season. The announced possession limit of 1 fish between 21 and 23 inches, or 1 fish over 28 inches in length is subject to change if conditions warrant.
“We are pleased to see improvements in both the growth of adult walleye and survival of young walleye in Mille Lacs,” said Brad Parsons, fisheries section manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Those factors create the opportunity for anglers to have a continuous harvest season in 2023.” “As always, we will monitor the factors that determine the state’s walleye take throughout the open water season,” Parsons said. “If conditions warrant, we will adjust regulations, either to allow additional opportunity or to tighten regulations if ..." Read >> Mille Lacs Anglers To Enjoy Modest Relaxation of Walleye Regulations
Alex Campbell wrote; “Jeff, I read your reminder about renewing our Minnesota fishing licenses and took note of your “sales pitch” about buying the walleye stamp. Ordinarily, I find agreement with most of your opinions, but I have to say that you’re off base on this one. If you ask me, this is just another government money grab that the DNR came up with to drag a few more bucks out of our wallets. I’ll buy my fishing license, because I have to. But you can keep your walleye stamp; I’m not wasting my money on that one.”
Alex) Thank you for your comments and also for the opportunity to offer readers a history lesson. I do appreciate all points of view and understand why you feel the way you do. Surprising as it may be, you’re not the first person to express a robust distrust of how the DNR manages “resources” in Minnesota. But in this case, some of the information you, and others, need to make an informed decision appears to have been overlooked.
Your belief that the voluntary walleye stamp is, in your words, a “government money grab” is understandable. The trouble with this opinion though is that the walleye stamp was not conceived by the MN DNR or for that matter, by any government agency. That’s right, the concept of offering a voluntary walleye stamp was developed by the original walleye advisory group. Follow the link for more information about the group if you like. It leads to an article giving an accurate, historic account of how the original "walleye advisory committe" was formed. In short, private citizens, committed to the improvement of walleye fishing in Minnesota formed the advisory committee as a way of holding MN DNR Fisheries officials’ feet to the fire.
At that time, walleye stocking efforts had been cut dramatically in Minnesota. Some of the cuts were for good reason; walleyes were being stocked into certain waters that had no chance to ever become great walleye fisheries. But some of the cuts occurred on lakes where walleye stocking was proven to be effective. In my home territory alone, some of the previously popular walleye lakes were in decline. Lakes like Pokegama, Turtle, Deer and others, ones that had previously provided anglers with great walleye fishing. So, among several goals adopted by the group, identifying a list of Minnesota lakes where walleye stocking had been proven to be effective was a high priority.
Know this, most DNR biologists that I've known have expressed a personal bias against walleye stocking. I'd go so far as to say that some are even died-in-the-wool “anti-stockers”; stocking just goes against their grain. But not long after the walleye advisory group’s formation, MN DNR Fisheries officials did concede that there were instances when walleye stocking was shown to improve walleye fishing in some of Minnesota’s most popular lakes. This led to the implementation of the so-called “accelerated walleye stocking” program.
The term 'accelerated" was an oxymoron because the program actually only restotred a portion of stocking activities that had already been cut. The program was never intended to restore stocking to original levels and it didn’t. To my knowledge, even now there are still fewer walleyes stocked in Minnesota than there were in the 1970s and early 1980s. That issue aside, the DNR's decision to increase stocking at all represented improvement and the walleye group wanted to assist the effort in any way possible.
The idea of a voluntary walleye stamp was first mentioned by one of this group’s founding members. I was at the meeting, but can’t recall specifically who came up with it, Ron Lindner maybe, or possibly Dick Sternberg. Anyway, the stamp’s intended purpose was to provide some additional, dedicated funding that would help ensure walleyes were stocked. The intent was that these funds would provide stocking over and above whatever the “routine goals” that had been set by regional fisheries staff. The idea was that anglers could choose to throw a few extra bucks into a “kitty” knowing that their money would be devoted primarily to additional, supplemental walleye stocking. There's an historic account of the walleye stamp too, so if you want more information follow this link. >> Minnesota's Voluntary Walleye Stamp
However good the idea works is debatable, but the information I’m sharing with you is not. The walleye stamp was conceived, implemented and promoted by private citizens, concerned about the quality of walleye fishing in Minnesota. To the extent that the DNR was involved, it was to push back against the idea.
Admittedly Alex, we wouldn’t have to search very long to find one of your so-called “government money grabs”. But, in my opinion this program is not one of them.
Luckily, the walleye stamp is voluntary, so nobody needs to buy one unless they personally believe in it. From my viewpoint, giving up the cost of a glass of beer is a small price to pay for the feeling of good will I get from buying them. OH, and by the way, I spend the extra .75 cents to receive the physical stamp. I’m building a nice little collection, and I'm proud of it. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
“Well Mr. Jeff I have to say that I'm a huge follower on your site, I love reading up on past exploits of yours and learning from the knowledge you have and share.
Now I'm from Wisconsin, and you might as well say our state is terrible at managing wildlife. I’m seeing Minnesota do the same thing and luckily there's someone like yourself stepping up and hopefully they'll listen to you. I have a “Go-To” lake that I visit regularly go too and years back the lake association started limiting the (overall) amount of panfish species we can harvest. (On this lake), they went to a 5 sunfish, 5crappie, 5 perch system during the spring spawn”
Apparently Ruzic obviously agrees with this approach because he goes continues with; “I'm constantly telling them to keep that all year long. Even start putting out size limits on panfish, some folks, maybe the majority of people think I'm nuts. But guess what its working, panfish sizes are up and the (number) of them is up too.
With today's technology and today's word of mouth, I've seen lakes being decimated in short order. As soon as the fish are gone people start crying, but hey, it's not their fault. They believe that the 8 buckets full of fish that they took out had nothing to do with it.
Hell, you’re gonna have too protect what you love. In my eyes, 25 panfish is just too damn many and I'd like to see it topped off at 10 with only 5 of any one species and with a size limits. I've seen Lake Winnie be absolutely pounded for crappies in the spring; it nearly made me sick in that slaughter house. I was in that picture with them too, but no more. I will I continue to fish for them because I absolutely love catching fish, especially bigger ones. But now if I catch 8 great sized panfish I'm done.”
Ruzic offers his personal suggestion for what his ideal fishing regulations would be. He’s go with a 10 total panfish limit, with only 5 of any one species allowed. Size limits on panfish, in his view, should be Crappies 10 inches, minimum, Perch 9 inches, minimum and Bluegill 8 inches, minimum. All of these subjects to change based on individual lake requirements.
A) Loren, I'm not sure that we'll ever see size restrictions placed on panfish. But even if the "regulation" doesn't exist, making the choice to voluntarily limit the number and size of fish you harvest is a respectable goal. To the extent that we can, influencing our fellow anglers is a worthy goal too. Peer pressure may be the long way around, but given time, it does work. I appreciate not only that you're open minded, but also that you've shared your thoughts with us all. Thank You! — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Don’t think of this as a lecture, or even as a reminder, it’s not that. I think of my annual sales pitch about renewing Minnesota fishing licenses more as “fatherly advice” and for good reason. During summer, I watch folks trying to renew their fishing licenses at the last minute, when they’re in a hurry. Most of the time, transactions go reasonably well, but when there’s a glitch, it’s usually a bad one. I’ve even witnessed a few folks get turned away without their fishing license because they didn’t have all of the necessary documentation on hand at the time.
I’ve learned through past experience that glitches occur more often during busy times. What I mean is that 7:00 AM on June 2nd when systems are overloaded is not an efficient time for buying a license over the couter. During the off season, or in the wee hours of morning, computer systems are less likely to be overloaded and transactions almost always go more smoothly. And if there is a problem, working it out now, when I have free time is way easier. That’s one of the best reasons for getting licenses online, I control the timing.
I like being able to print multiple copies of my fishing license too, that’s another great reason for doing it online. Admittedly, I’m a little over cautious, but it would look really bad for me to get checked by a C.O. at a time when I couldn’t produce my fishing license. So, I save the downloaded license as a PDF, then I print several copies of it. I put one in the boat, one on the snowmobile, one in the glove box, one on my phone and more … anyplace where I might ever need one. I do actually get checked fairly frequently and this practice has proven to be a great strategy over time.
Save yourself some time and avoid hassles by going online right now, and buying your license while it’s convenient. I bought mine this morning and the whole process took less than 5 minutes. To be sure that your transaction goes as smoothly as mine, just have your driver license, social security number and credit card handy before you log in. Below are the links that will help you get started.
OH, and By the Way, I’d love it if you’ll add the walleye stamp to your license too. They are not required, but the voluntary purchase does help contribute to walleye stocking in Minnesota. For most of us, the $5.00 cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the value of a stocked walleye, the budgetary hardship is a small to say the least.
Now, let’s get back to the questions asked yesterday by Dan Wilm about where to focus ice fishing efforts this weekend.
After looking over the article about oxygen levels during late winter and their impact on fish location, I was thinking about other trends that influence fish behavior during this mid-to-late winter period. Perch, and their relationship to bloodworms as a food source was the topic of an article, I published a while back.
While the article focuses on perch locations, the information contained within it is also useful for anglers who want to locate and catch good numbers of sunfish. I'd suggest perusing this article too, Read >> Finding Perch and Panfish By Locating Bloodworms. I think this will be helpful as another precursor to your upcoming weekend fishing trip. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Yesterday, (March 1, 2023) Bob Magnuson wrote, "Hi Jeff, I’m a Long time reader of your blog and enjoy every article. Question; is Fish Ed no longer being televised? I’ve enjoyed your outings with Jon Thelen. I’m a desert rat in Las Vegas and your articles and series with Jon keep me going during the off season. We head to Ten Mile lake in Dalton for the summer. Thanks again for all the great articles.
A) Thank you for the note and your vote of confidence Bob. Yes, I'm afraid that the Fish ED TV program has been discontinued, the final productions aired a couple of seasons ago. So, there are currently no new episodes or "webisodes" being produced at this time. My guess is that much of the orignal content produced prior to its discontinuation will remain available on the internet, at least for the foreseeable future.
Historically, I've provided links to some of those videos whenever they were timely or provided seasonally usefull information. As long as they remain available, I do expect to continue recycling links to those original videos whenever they may be helpful. — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
On Tuesday, Dan Wilm wrote; Q) "Hey Jeff, Interesting winter! It seems (to me) that you haven't spent as much time on the ice as usual. I'm sure you have legitimate reasons!
The reason I'm writing you today is that we'll be pan fishing this weekend, staying at a friend’s cabin on Sand Lake. We'll be fishing on lakes large and small to very small, and I am wondering what advice you may have on what to look for on habitat (weeds etc.) depths, baits, the whole works. None of us are expert pan fisherman, we've caught crappies over the years, but this time of year, pan fishing has been nonproductive. By the way, trout and perch are all species we may target.
Lastly, I've read no reports of crappie fishing on Bowstring. Perhaps the lake is still recovering from the previous hot bite. Thanks, Dan Wilm"
A) Dan, you’re right, I haven’t spent a lot of time on the ice so far this winter, and the reasons for that vary. Family obligations, poor on-ice travel conditions and high transportation costs took one chunk out of my ice fishing schedule. So did the end of the “Fish ED TV Show”, I spent many hours every week in my support role for that program and knowing it was coming to an end, I saw the opportunity to slow the pace of my winter business. So, this winter, some of my guitars and music gear have seen the light of day for the first time in over 15 years.
All of that said, there’s still one reason for reducing my ice time that looms larger than all of the rest and it’s purely personal. Over the years, I’ve learned that I derived 90% of my joy during late winter and early spring. Travel conditions are easier, the weather is nicer and often, the fish bite better than they do during mid-winter. So, while you haven’t seen as many pictures of me so far this winter, I anticipate that you will, soon.
Offering thoughtful answers to your questions about where to go and what to do this weekend will take a little time. But for me, the most insightful single article about late season ice fishing came about as an answer to a reader question back in 2019. Oxygen depletion on Bowstring Lake was the specific subject of that article. In researching the answers to that question, I realized how important oxygen levels are in terms of driving fish location during late winter. I’d like you to read this article >> ("Is Bowstring Affected By Oxygen Depletion?") first, and while you digest that information, I’ll be working on updates from around the area. On Thursday, I’ll offer up a few more ideas that should help your group when you all hit the ice this weekend. — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"Lake Trout - Anglers continue to see a slow but steady improvement in lake trout activity on area lake trout lakes. Smaller then normal baits have definitely been more productive than your typical large lake trout lures. Swedish Pimples and small airplane jigs, tipped with a minnow continues to be the most effective technique for catching lakers. That being said anglers continue to catch lakers on more popular bait like bucktails and tubes.
Key depth continues to be a little deeper then normal, fish in 40 to 60 feet of water. Deep mud flats have been best, but anglers should also look too sharpe drop offs, deep points and neck down areas for active trout.
Stream Trout - Anglers willing to venture in a little future then most, experienced good stream trout fishing this last week. Brookies and Splake were very active and were generally found shallow near downed trees, points and near areas where water was entering the lakes. Small tungsten jigs tipped with wax worms or fresh dead minnows has been very effective for trout anglers.
Eelpout - As we come into another full moon cycle, eelpout activity is increasing and so is interest from anglers. Anglers have been focusing on sunken islands and close to river mouths to find eelpout after dark. Heavy, bright glowing jigs, pounded on sand bottoms has been very effective. Every night seems to be a different depth so anglers will need to work out what is the magic depth, but when you do success dramatically increases. Angler have been locating eelpout in 15-35 feet of water after dark." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358
"Although it can be done year-round, jumbo perch seem to gain massive popularity late in the ice season. While perch can be found just about anywhere you look, the truly large ones that provide excellent fun and tableware are often elusive. Professional guide Brian “Bro” Brosdahl shares a few tips on locating and triggering jumbo perch using a handful of his favorite lures.
Jumbo perch are notoriously known to roam shallow flats late in the ice season. This can make hunting them down a bit difficult. Brosdahl likes to use his mapping to target depressions spread out across 3- to 6-foot flats. Within the depressions, he uses MEGA 360 to look for any irregularities (deadheads, weed patches, etc.) that jumbo perch might be relating to. Brosdahl gets a ..." View Video and Learn More >> How to Find and Catch Late Ice Jumbo Perch
My heart goes out to folks who struggled to find creative fishing spots to park their ice shelters this winter. It took forever, or so it seemed, for ice conditions to offer reasonably safe travel conditions. Then finally, travel conditions improved so that resorts and rental operators could offer abglers a place get set up, and now the end of the walleye season has already arrived. Panfish anglers still have a little time, but for them, ice shelter removal dates are just around the corner.
Some folks have more time than others, but it’s never too early for an early reminder about when the ice shelter removal dates are coming. These days, large shelters are the norm, not the exception and the bigger they are, the more prone to “surprises” they can be. There’s nothing worse than waiting until the last minute only to learn that your home-away-from-home is trapped in ice and can’t be moved without a struggle.
You probably don’t need to be reminded, but we all seem to have that certain “absent minded friend” who never thinks of anything until the last minute. So, I thought maybe this reminder might trigger you to let them know that it’s time to start thinking about it.
Folks who plan to keep ice fishing for a while may still need to plan moving their shelters. While many resorts and rental operators plan to keep their roads open, there are a few that will close now that the walleye and pike season is over. A few of the rental operators in my home territory plan to technically be open, but will stop maintaining ice roads soon. We'll get some updates from operators this week, so if you're planning to come and go with your wheelhouse, check in for updates. — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
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.
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Jeff Sundin is a full time fishing guide, outdoor writer, photographer and developer of custom web content. Sundin currently serves as a volunteer on the Panfish Workgroup, an advisory committee of the Minnesota DNR. Learn about guided fishing trips and more, click here "About Jeff Sundin".
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