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    2.24.2020  On the south end...  A great week of ice fishing with lots of fish frys.  Good fishing reports, most fishing in 27 - 33' of water.  Ice conditions on LOW remain excellent at around 30 inches where most are fishing.  Use combo of jigging line and deadstick.  Try spoons or lipless crankbaits with rattles to pull fish in.  Pink hook with a minnow on deadstick effective this week.  Some good colors overall, gold, glow, pink, green, orange and chartreuse.  Don't be afraid to downsize presentation on a tough bite day.  Small spoon with a minnow head, wax worm or euro larvae can catch extra fish.  Electronics will catch more fish.  Some nice walleyes showing up suspended.  Pike fishing continues to heat up.  Tip ups and big baits on quick strike rigs  the ticket. 

    On the Rainy River...   Local anglers catching some walleyes in the river.  Most anglers fishing the lake.  Extra caution is always needed on the river, especially with higher current this year.  Thin ice around the International Bridge in Baudette.  Work through resort or know ice conditions if ice fishing the river as ice thickness varies.

    Up at the NW Angle...  Ice fishing reports good up at the Angle.  Resorts in 26 - 32' of water.  A mix of walleyes and saugers with big jumbo perch and pike in the mix.  The snowmobile trails both across the lake and in the woods are in great shape.  Jigging with a bait with rattles has helped to pull in walleyes.  Fish houses on the ice through March 31st, walleyes and saugers open through April 14.  A complete list of lodging and ice fishing options available at www.LakeoftheWoodsMN.com/Lodging
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    HAND TO FIN COMBAT

    A proven pattern for hooking gargantuan pike during early ice

    Northland Bionic Bucktail Jig
    Yet another tape-measure pike falls to aNorthland Bionic Bucktail Jigand live sucker minnow. This jaw-dropping specimen was caught by Northland Pro Staffer Scott Glorvigen.

    Up above, I tiptoe across the frozen shallows maintaining a low profile. Stealth is a big part of the game. Down below, however, itís more like lions in the Coliseum tearing and tossing-down everything with blood running through its veins. Thatís what itís like in early winter when northern pike slash through the shallows with hearty appetites and an equal amount of recklessness.

    These apex predators spent most of late autumn roaming the basin, tracking along offshore humps and deeper secondary breaks. With the flip of a switch, though, they head straight for the shallows Ė 4 to 12 feet of water Ė when the surface water solidifies. And thereís no secret to the gravitational pull. Itís about gorging on the bounty of available forage.

    Panfish are standard fare. Bluegills, crappies, and perch are already making use of whatever green weeds are left. There, they find food, and, allegedly, sanctuary from threats. Pike disrupt the peace, however, ferreting through cuts and openings, as well as cruising along the edge picking off the careless. Ultimately, panfish only find safety in numbers, some brethren sacrificed for the whole.

    On certain lakes and reservoirs the summons comes in the form of whitefish and or tullibee (ciscoes). Their reproductive ritual begins in the late fall and finalizes sometime after first ice. Perfect timing for pike.

    So the foodstuffs are up in the shallows, but located randomly. Weeds have already been noted. But make sure your focusing on the greenest and thickest vegetation available. That could mean a lush garden grove. In other situations itís a thick spot amongst an acre of spindly brown weeds. The most reliable weeds are found in shallow bays that are adjacent to the main lake.

    River mouths are another natural draw. Pike are suckers for moving water. Suckers, the actual fleshy baitfish, are common there. Take heed that ice quality on and around river mouths is several notches thinner than what the main lake offers.

    Although pike activity is at its seasonal peak, there are good, better, and best times to fish. Morning and evening are no-brainers. With that said, historically, Iíve nailed the majority of my larger fish Ė 10-pounds plus Ė during mid to late morning, say from 8 to 11 am. The last hour and a half of the day is next in importance, but a distant second.

    Weather is a factor as well. Invariably, I pound more pike on cloudy days than those marked with sunshine. Pike roam more freely. They loosen their range and donít stick as tightly to cover. In response, I spread the field, which means running Frabill tip-ups while maintaining a rigorous jigging schedule. Depending on the stateís legal allotment of lines and how many partners Iím sharing the ice with, it can be half-dozen tip-ups sprinkled about a 200 foot radius.

    The only thing that bests cloud cover is cloud cover on the leading edge of imminent precipitation, either snow or one of those bothersome early winter mists. Pike go bonkers before a front.

    Now about that tiptoeing and black-ops stealth I mentioned earlierÖ Yes, early winter pike are ferocious feeders. Thatís to your advantage. But on the flipside, youíre operating in shallow water with only a thin veil of early ice. The ice, in fact, is often transparent. To the fish, youíre silhouette is as apparent as the old tire and boulder on the bottom you just walked over. Complicating matters, my preferred technique positions me directly over their heads.

    Jigging really scratches their itch, though. When pike are on the move an energetic jig is irresistible.

    Pre-drilling puts the angler in position to operate stealthily. Drill your holes 15 minutes to a half hour before show time. To really take advantage of the morning bite, pre-drill in the darkness, before pike take their morning swim.

    Northland Bionic Bucktail Jig
    Bro says the White Cisco flavoredNorthlandBionic Bucktail Jigaccurately mimics foodstuffs such as whitefish, ciscoes, suckers and lake shiners. Photo courtesy of Northland Fishing Tackle (www.northlandtackle.com)

    Finally, itís fishing time. Lurched over a hole, I ready the rig, which was tied-up the night before. Thereís no finer opening act than an oversized jig fitted with a live sucker minnow, either. My preference is theBionic Bucktail Jigfrom Northland Fishing Tackle. Hand-tied with genuine bucktail, the Bionic Bucktail creates a full-figured and vibrant target. In clear water, I opt for White Cisco, as it mimics most native baitfish. In darker conditions, Yellow Perch is a better choice.

    Next comes a 4-inch sucker minnows or chub Ė they are the ideal length and shape for jigging pike. Lip-hook the minnow with the forged single hook. The rear of the jig features a ďstingírĒ hook, a treble tethered by teeth-resistant steel. Donít stick the treble in the baitís posterior. Itís a common practice, but Iíve stung more pike with it floating freely alongside the minnow. My theory is that the lightest part of the rig Ė the stingír in this case Ė is the first to find a pikeís jaw.

    The action is more of a swimming and dumbed-down-darting than classic jigging. Donít snap it. Instead, smoothly but confidently pump the jig in 1 to 2-foot motions. Iíll operate from top to bottom in clear conditions. Pike arenít bashful about rising to the underside of the ice. In darker water, Iíve found most fish operate within 4-feet of the bottom.

    Not just any old rod will do, either. Put away the panfish stuff. Remember, youíre tangling with muscle-bound fish in a relatively small space. Itís fist to fin combat.

    Ice Fishing - Northland Fishing Tackle
    Bro opts for the Yellow Perch patternedNorthland Bionic Bucktail Jigwhen fishing stained water or the forage-base is known to consist of perch and or sunfish. Photo courtesy of Northland Fishing Tackle (www.northlandtackle.com)

    A guiding buddy of mine and northern pike nemesis, Paul Nelson, developed a pike-specific rod for Frabill. Itís quite the fish tamer. Found in the Ice Hunter series, the 32-inch, medium-heavy stick yields the perfect balance of a firm but playful tip with the backbone of a brontosaurus.

    For battling in tight-quarters I recommend spooling with a superline, not monofilament or fluorocarbon. Youíll appreciate the toughness and resistance to shredding. I look forward to testing the new Performance Fuse from Sufix.

    It takes angler skill to bring down fish of this magnitude as well. Expect violent runs and very dynamic directional changes. To win, you must wear the fish out, no horsing it in. Pulling back too hard nearly insures that the jig will tear free. Maintain pressure, letting the drag do what itís designed to do. As a failsafe, I back-reel with the drag-system covering my behind. If the fish runs exceptionally fast, lock down on the handle and the drag takes over Ė beautiful 2-part harmony.

    Icing a submarine-sized pike in the shallows isnít like walking and chewing gum. Plan that the fish will appear horizontally Ė wide head in the hole and numerous inches of body tucked beneath ice. Keep the rod loaded, applying constant pressure while turning the fish. Obviously, itís nice having a ďnet manĒ. As the snout rises, prepare for the snatch and grab. Know that youíre going to get wet. In fact, to reduce the risk of breaking off, I take the fish while itís vertical, its movement restricted in the hole. As a bonus, the fish is less likely to flip-out and injure itself.

    Once on the ice, itís a quick photo Ė titans only Ė and the head goes back from where it came. Hold and pump the fish a few times until itís self-powered. High-five your partner, or do that faddish knocking fists move, and itís on to another screensaver quality pike.

    About the author: Brian ďBroĒ Brosdahl (Max, Minnesota) is a professional fishing guide and renowned ice fishing expert. For nearly two decades heís been sharing his insights and innovations with the fishing public. He can be reached atbbro@paulbunyan.net.

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    The river (Sharpe) below the dam in Pierre is open and local fishermen that are going out are catching real nice fish all the way down to stony point on jigs minnows primarily. Guide Bob Propst Jr has been getting some nice limits of walleye about every time out. Ice fishing up on Oahe Is spotty but more numbers of bigger fish are being caught.

    I WILL BE DOING THE BACK HILLS EXPO AND SPORTS SHOW THIS FRIDAY THE 14TH THRU SUNDAY THE 16TH IN RAPID CITY. I WILL ALSO BE DOING A SEMINAR ON FISHING THE PIERRE AREA (OAHE/SHARPE) ON SAT THE 15th IF YOU ARE IN THE AREA I WILL HAVE MY BOOTH THERE SO STOP BY AND VISIT OR COME BY THE SEMINAR FOR UPDATED INFORMATION ON THE FISHERY THIS YEAR.

    Another piece of local information for those planning trips to Pierre:

    SPRING CREEK MARINA HAS BEEN PURCHASED BY THE STATE SO BOOKING CABINS THERE WILL REQUIRE GOING THRU THE GF&PARKS WEB SITE. THEY ARE TRYING TO LEASE OUT THE BAIT/CAFE/BAR BUT IF THEY DON'T IT WILL BE CABINS ONLY. YOU WILL HAVE TO CHECK WITH THE STATE TO FIND OUT WHAT IS AVAILABLE.

    I WILL LOOK FORWARD TO VISITING WITH ANY ONE COMING TO THE BLACK HILLS SHOW. IT IS ALWAYS A GREAT ONE.

    HUTCH'S GUIDE SERVICE

    Hutch
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