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image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin March 14, 2024 "MN Walleye Regulations Changing the Change-Able"

image of walleye looking into the camera On Wednesday, MN DNR fisheries announced new summer regulations for both Upper Red Lake and Lake Mille Lacs. Long story short, Red Lake Anglers will be allowed to harvest 3 walleyes from May 11 to June 14, 2024, then beginning June 15, Red Lake anglers will be allowed to harvest 4 walleyes. During either period, only one walleye may be 17.0 inches or longer, all others must be 16.99 inches or less.

Mille Lacs anglers will not be allowed to harvest any walleyes from May 11, through August 15, 2024. Beginning on August 16, 2024, Mille walleye anglers may or may not be allowed to harvest one walleye, presumably that will be announced later. If the DNR deems that harvesting a walleye is acceptable, it’s length will need to be between 21.0 and 22.99 inches.

You can read the full press releases for either, or both, by following these links >> Upper Red LakeLake Mille LacsFull MN Regulation Book

Understand this, I’m all for regulations that are aimed at improving or maintaining the best possible fishing and hunting opportunities that Minnesota has to offer. As far as regulations go, these new ones are what they are and I’m in no position to know if they’re good for fishing, or not. I must admit though that this morning, I’m scratching my head, trying to figure out just which messages I’m receiving, and from whom.

I thought I heard that in 2022-2023, Mille Lacs Lake experienced a population explosion of perch. According to anecdotal reports, anglers were catching tons of little perch out there. But this year the DNR Fisheries Chief Brad Parsons cites a shortage of forage, perch in particular, for producing an exceptionally good walleye bite.

Parsons, “Despite poor ice conditions, anglers caught a lot of walleyes this past fall and winter because those fish weren’t finding enough to eat,” said Brad Parsons, DNR Fisheries Section Manager. “We need to adjust the open water season regulations to account for the active bite and for the likelihood of higher water temperatures this summer. Even with catch-and-release regulations, many fish die when water temperatures get too warm.”

If I’m reading this right, the 2024 regulation is based on the notion that the fish will be too hungry, and then we’ll catch them too easily and then they’ll die because the water will be too warm. If that’s true, then why are we allowing fishing for them at all? Won’t the so-called “catch and release” anglers be killing just as many fish, if not more, than we would by harvesting a few of them?
Last year, at Upper Red Lake, anglers were allowed an increased harvest limit from 4 to 5 walleyes during the 2023 open water fishing season. I scratched my head at the time because I couldn’t square the notion that in the face of a statewide push to reduce Minnesota’s walleye possession limit to 4 fish, the DNR was raising the limit of walleyes for Upper Red.

At the time, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor Edie Evarts said, “This summer (2023) we are able to have a more generous bag limit as the 2019 class is super abundant. These fish are around 15 inches and are now becoming mature, “We hope anglers will enjoy this extra opportunity, which will also meet our goal of managing spawning walleye stock at a level that produces future strong year classes.”

This year, Evarts reports; “This fishing regulation is a reflection of the lake’s popularity, especially when fishing is good,” said Edie Evarts, DNR area fisheries supervisor for Bemidji. “We’ve opted for a slightly more conservative bag limit for the early part of the summer to maintain the long-term health of the fishery and keep Upper Red Lake a premier angling destination.”

I’m not sure what the term “slightly” means to you, but the change from 5 fish down to 3 is a 40% reduction. To me, that signals that there was a problem that a 4-walleye limit can’t fix. I think you may see where I’m going with this, but in the interest of time, we’ll save the discussion about rationing walleyes for a later time.

On balance, I think my take on most fishing regulations tends to lean toward being supportive of the DNR, rather than in opposition to it. But I’m concerned that I’m detecting trends toward stories that change all the time. These days, I have a hard time understanding whether I’m hearing actual facts, or carefully crafted talking points.

I don’t envy folks who work for the DNR, I know lots of them, and they deal with variables that make decisions hard to make. Like I said, regulations are what they are, and I know we need them. So, let me emphasize, I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, I’m not. I just want to understand what’s going on, and to me, it’s getting harder all the time. Is there any way that we anglers can we all just have the facts? fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin March 13, 2024 "Turning Onto The Acceleration Lane Into Spring"

image of panfish in the livewell of fishing boat Well friends, this winter has not been one of the better news cycles in my Cub Reporter, Staff #003-IHBFBB career. Except for the handful of now obvious destinations, most folks already gave up on ice fishing a while back. Even as you read the current ice fishing reports sent over by folks in Ely and Lake of the Woods, many anglers know that there is more open water available than there is ice.

On Tuesday morning, my nephew Chris Andresen sent a text from the Mankato region. “Happy Spring” it said, and the accompanying photo of panfish in the livewell of his Alaskan revealed proof that he’s already been out on one of his favorites of southern Minnesota lakes.

On Monday, I got a note from a friend letting me know that he’d spied on open water further north, near Mora. I took a short drive around Pokegama and found both ice and open water. The sunshine was working its magic on shallow bays, Kings Bay, image right, was open and there were swans and ducks swimming along the ice-line. Necked down areas where there’s current flow was opening up too and the ice covering the Wendigo Arm was dark and appeared ready to open soon.

Note the report from Lake of the Woods that further north still, the main channel of the Rainy River is already open from Nelson’s Park eastward. Add it all up and it appears that we are moving rapidly toward the start of the open water fishing season in Minnesota. Sunfish, crappie, and perch anglers, you might as well follow my nephew’s lead and get your boats ready.

Speaking of boats, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of action in the parking lot of Ray’s Marine Grand Rapids location. Yesterday, the hubbub reminded me more of the week before fishing opener than the middle of March. If the warm weather keeps up, boat dealers might be looking at a busy spring. If you want to find out for yourself, plan on stopping by Ray’s open house on Friday-Saturday April 5 and 6, 2024. I’ll be there on Saturday, so will Ted Takasaki, and Donnie Obert who will be doing fishing seminars. There will be many more top fishing pros on hand to talk fishing, boats, and electronics.

There’s another event you might be interested in too. The Minnesota Fishing Museum and Hall of Fame “Night with the Pros” event is scheduled for Friday April 5th, 2024, at the Rice Creek Hunting and Convention Center near Little Falls Minnesota. I’ll be on hand for that event and so will a lot of the other top fishing pros from around the state.

Okay, so we know that you can find places to fish in south central Minnesota already. We’re on the verge of seeing open water and getting busy again up here too, but as we prepare for the upcoming open water season, you might notice something of a slowdown in the fishing reports. That is not by design, I just don’t think the conditions are good enough to risk inviting you onto to the ice. As the lakes open, I’ll be watching for opportunities to fish.

Also, in the works are a few “social issues” that I’ll be following. The DNR has a fisheries roundtable scheduled for early April, on the agenda will be discussion about reducing the state’s walleye limits. Also open for discussion will be advanced fishing electronics, barotrauma and more. April is shaping up to be a busy month.

Every year, I get more folks asking about my plans, most want to know if I plan to retire any time soon. For me, there is absolutely no reason to retire, I love what I do, and you know what they say about that; “if you love your job, it is not work.” So, I plan to be around for a while.

That said, if the day came and I did retire, I’d still want something to do and yesterday, I heard about the sort of thing that would interest me. Maybe you retired recently and have thought about occupying your time doing something outside. Maybe you retired recently and discovered that you were more of a social person than you thought, and wish you were spending more time with, and around people. Maybe you retired recently and planned to do a lot more fishing, but it’s not panning out the way you expected.

Well, I heard about an opportunity to combine all those things, not just for an individual, but ideally, for a couple. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself because my friends are still shaping their plans. But I will say this, there is going to be an opportunity at one of the region’s best resorts for a couple who would join forces to spend a little time in the lodge, a little time around the grounds and a little time taking customers fishing. If something like that interests you, let me know and maybe I can share a few more details.

As always, field updates are appreciated. So, if you can help your fellow anglers by giving a heads up about lakes opening up, you know what to do! fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

image links to Ely Area, Arrowhead Outdoors Ice Fishing Report March 13, 2024

image of ice fisherman holding big bluegill caught near Ely MN Ice Report • Ice conditions are quickly deteriorating in the Ely area. Shoreline ice is beginning to pull away from the shorelines, cracks are opening up out on area lakes and open water is being reported on many area lakes. 4 wheeler and side by side travel, over ice, is no longer recommended. Foot travel only now. Anglers looking to still ice fish should look to smaller lakes, to get out on. The smaller the better your odds are to get out on them and fish.

Fishing Report • Lake Trout - Not many anglers fished for lakers this weekend so reported are limited. The few anglers that went out generally reported slow fishing for lakers this weekend. Anglers continued to find lakers out over deep 60-80 feet of water. Small silver and blue, lipless crankbaits or tubes fished about 20 feet under the ice.

Crappie - Crappie fishing has remained largely hit or miss. Seems the majority of anglers are able to catch crappies, but size and numbers remains the main challenge. Anglers catching crappies have been with purple, white and pink jigs tipped with crappie minnows. More active crappies have been hitting soft plastics in red or white. Panfish are starting to school up in 15-25 feet of water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358

image links to wired2fish Wired2Fish March 2024 "Why Hook Size Matters when Rigging Soft Plastics"

image links to bass fishing video about choosing the correct hook sizes for various soft plastic lures"Bassmaster Classic champion Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson sits down to talk about not only lure selection but why choosing the right sized and shape hook for the soft plastic you choose matters. Things like bite, wire gauge, size and more can matter when it comes to hooking fish, making your bait look very lifelike and landing bigger fish.

Gussy has had a ton of success with rigging plastics on jigheads and weightless hooks as well. He’s probably made more money on a Z-Man Jerk ShadZ and a Northland Smeltinator Head than any other combination and he talks about why having super sharp Gamakatsu hooks matters to him.

But then also the right size for the bait for the most realistic look and action on the bait. And then also having the right ..." View Video to Learn More >> Why Hook Size Matters when Rigging Soft Plastics

image links to Lake of the Woods, LOW Tourism March 7, 2024

image of woman holding monster walleye caught on Lake of the Woods at Arneson's Rocky Point Resort "After recent air temperatures in the negative 15 degree range, single digit temps feel like a "warm up" but clearly, it's still winter on Lake of the Woods. Ice fishing is in full swing on Lake of the Woods and it has been excellent. Lodging, fish house rentals, ice fishing, and meal packages are all still available this week. Resorts are monitoring ice conditions multiple times per day and fishing continues to be excellent.

Every ice road operator makes their own decisions based conditions in their "home area" and many continue to allow pickup trucks with wheelhouses to drive out and fish on the south end of the lake. You can't assume that they aere all open, so please check with each individual ice road operator about their specific limits. It is tempting to go off on your own as there isn't much snow, but that is a risky move as some areas have less ice, cracks or ice upheavals. Resorts and outfitters keep their roads marked on the best ice and monitor it numerous times per day. This has been a different, and confusing year with temps up and down. It is more important than ever to stay on the staked ice roads.

Once you're on the lake, the majority of ice fishing for walleyes and saugers is still taking place in 24 to 32 feet of water. Jigging with one line and using a live minnow on a second line is the way to go. Gold, glow red, glow white, and pink are still good colors. Small jigging spoons tipped with a piece of minnow and a lipless crankbait such as a Rippin Rap are working well for walleyes and saugers.

Pike activity has been increasing. Fish the shoreline breaks near spawning grounds in 8 to 14 feet of water. Setting tip ups in various depths until you figure out where most of the pike are traveling is a good strategy. Once you figure out a pattern, you can set tip ups accordingly. Alewife, smelt, herring, numerous sizes of live suckers, or even large shiners work well.

The Rainy River has small patches of open water opening up near the Nelson Park boat ramp in Birchdale. The river opened up a bit last week but froze over again with cold temps. Once it goes with the thinner ice conditions on the river, it should open up quickly. Watch social media for updates.

Up at the Northwest Angle, it was also another good week of ice fishing. Walleyes, saugers, jumbo perch, eelpout, pike and some big crappies in the mix again this week. Jigging one line and deadsticking the second line is the way to go. The morning and evening bites have been very productive as water clarity is better than most years. Anglers are still picking up fish during the day as well.

Reminder, a new MN fishing license for 2024 is required as of March 1st. Fish houses are allowed on the ice through March 31st, the walleye, sauger season goes through April 14, 2024 and the northern pike season never ends."  Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH

image links to Ely Area, Arrowhead Outdoors Ice Fishing Report March 6, 2024

Ice Report • Ice conditions are slowly starting to swing the other way now and start to deteriorate. Several days of well above average temperatures have burned off all the snow area lakes. High winds have caused pressure ridges to form and large cracks to open up on a few Ely area lakes.

Ice thickness on lake trout lakes ranges from 7 to 11 inches now. Other area lakes are being reported to be 11 to 15 inches. Side by sides are no longer recommended. 4 wheelers with chains and foot travel, with ice cleats, has become the safest way to travel across lakes. Ice along north shorelines is really starting to melt and open up, so be careful!

Fishing Report • Lake trout fishing picked up this last weekend for many anglers. Several reports of lakers being caught out over deep water were reported this last weekend. Anglers found them out over 50 to 80 feet of water about 20 to 30 ft under the ice. Tube in red/white, pink/white and chartreuse were hot colors.

Stream Trout - Rainbow trout continue to be active and easy to catch for ice anglers. Anglers have been finding them a little deeper than usual. 20 to 40 feet of water over mud has been the best area to target an active rainbow. Seems the bugs are getting active in the mud. Small jigs or jigging spoons, tipped with wax worms or dead minnows have been effective.

Panfish - Crappies continue to be challenging for ice anglers. Small handful of anglers are able to put together a limit, but most anglers are struggling to find or stay on active crappies. Crappies continue to be found tight to the bottom. Crappie minnows have been the best bait for these inactive crappies. Anglers have been finding crappies in 16 to 25 feet of water." — Arrowhead Outdoors, 218-365-5358

image links to wired2fish Wired2Fish March 1, 2024 "When Not to Use Forward Facing Sonar"

image links to article about the advantages and disadvantages of forward facing sonar"Forward facing sonar has undoubtably taken over the world of bass fishing. There has been lots of talk over the last several months about whether or not this technology should be allowed in tournaments due to its effectiveness. While there are many benefits that come with understanding this technology, it can hurt you just as much as it helps you. Knowing when and how to use forward facing sonar is key to finding success with this new equipment. While there are tons of instances where this technology can help you, sometimes it’s better to turn off the screen and get back to the roots of why you love to fish. So I wanted to highlight when to not use forward facing sonar.

IT CAN SPOOK FISH All transducers whether it be a side scan, down scan or live imaging transducer make sound. These transducers all send out sonar pings which ..." Learn More >> When Not to Use Forward Facing Sonar

image denotes commentary by Jeff Sundin Jeff Sundin March 1, 2024 "MN Anglers Get More Chances For State Record Fish"

I’ve always wondered if one day, I’d drop my lure into the water and catch a fish big enough to register as a state record. Most days, it doesn’t seem likely, but you never know, one of my customers came close one time, but missed the mark by just a few ounces. As a matter of fact, if this program had been in place last year, my fishing buddy Bryce Demuth may well have had a shot at a record. Bryce's would-be record might have come for catching and releasing the pictured Bigmouth Buffalo. His fish was massive and is one of the fish species being added to the list starting today, March 1, 2024.

MN DNR “Starting March 1, anglers can earn catch-and-release records for 18 species beyond the four current species that are recognized, a change the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is making in response to the increasing popularity of catch-and-release fishing and to raise the profile of native rough fish.

“Angler stories and photos of the huge fish caught from Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams generate major excitement,” said Mandy Erickson, fisheries program consultant. “We also hope the buzz around some of these records brings more attention to native rough fish, which, besides being fun to catch, are important to aquatic ecosystems.”

Records established prior to requiring weight to be documented on a certified scale will continued to be recognized as historical records. After March 1, the Minnesota DNR will recognize three categories of record fish: historical weight records, catch-and-release documented by photos, and certified weight documented by keeping a fish and weighing it on a state-certified scale.

Anglers can also apply for a certified weight record for yellow bass, added to the category because the species has dramatically increased in both presence and popularity, particularly in south-central Minnesota. 

Species being added to the catch-and-release category are blue sucker, bigmouth buffalo, bowfin, brook trout, brown trout, channel catfish, freshwater drum, lake trout, largemouth bass, longnose gar, rainbow trout, sauger, short nose gar, shovelnose sturgeon, smallmouth bass, smallmouth buffalo, tiger muskellunge and walleye. The category will continue to include muskellunge, northern pike, lake sturgeon and flathead catfish. There will be a minimum fish length requirement for new submissions, which will prevent an abundance of record applications for commonly caught sizes.

Certified weight records will be available for black crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead, channel catfish, common carp, flathead catfish, lake trout, northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch. For each species, anglers will be required to meet a minimum weight to apply for a record, which will prevent an abundance of record applications for commonly caught weights.  

“Before making these changes we discussed possible approaches with angling organizations and tribal interests and sought input via fishing-related Facebook pages and DNR email lists. Overall, we received very positive feedback,” Erickson said. 

The record fish program has been managed by the state’s fisheries resource agency in various forms for nearly 100 years. More information, including minimum fish length and weight requirements for new submissions, is available here, on the >> Minnesota DNR Record Fish webpage

Nobody ever knows when Mr. Big sill strike, but there’s always hope, and this year, being hopeful about catching a state record fish will be easier than ever. Good luck to everybody who participates in Minnesota's increasingly popular catch and release category. fish smiley image — Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

You Are Invited To Become A Duly Deputized Fishrapper Cub Reporter

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.