Ice fishing was up and down this past week with the ever changing weather. Most houses were able to catch enough fish for a fish fry. The key is to really work those fish. Electronics help. Fishing each fish hard will put more in the bucket. A tough day for card players using two dead sticks not paying attention. Some ice roads are letting half-ton pick-ups pulling 20’ houses on the lake. 3/4 ton pick-ups are being let out with portables. Contact your resort for more specific information. Ice averages 15-19”. Fishing in 26-35’. Some houses in 10-19’ producing a few walleyes in the morning. Lots of saugers with a few slot walleyes mixed in. Glow orange and pink continues to be best. Jigging line should have a jig that makes a noise or rattles tipped with a full minnow or just the head. Plain hook or small jig on dead stick with a live minnow.
The Rainy River is iced over and being fished in spots but mainly by locals who know the ice. Evening bite in 16’ will producing a few fish. Sturgeon and eelpout mixed in with walleye. For safety, work through resorts. Safety first. Most anglers fishing the lake.
Up at the NW Angle, fishing is steady. Ice is 20-22” where resorts fish on the Minnesota side with about 8" of snow and 16” on the Ontario side. Guides are finding different species all over. Finding walleyes on or near reefs around 26’ and saugers in the mud around 32’. Jumbo perch, monster pike, and a few eelpout in the mix. Large crappies are being caught around the 33’ mark with guides on the Ontario side. Resort listings at www.LakeoftheWoodsMN.com/Lodging
Wow, what a difference a few days make. Now, instead of struggling to get anywhere to fish, we have the entire countryside at our disposal. The recent warm spell has created a “meltdown” and lake travel is excellent. Snow depth is down to nil and glare ice greets anglers wishing to get to their little hotspots by vehicle. I drove out Saturday and Sunday and never even had to use the four-wheel drive. Now that is sweet and the ice, by the way, was 24” thick.
Okay, I know you’ve heard it a million times or so but please remember that ice is never 100% safe so please use a little common sense and be careful out there. In my book, this is the best ice fishing of the season and we have about five weeks of it left, if we’re lucky, so get out there and enjoy it while you can.
I spent all of last weekend chasing bluegills and I do mean chasing, especially on Sunday.
Our plan of attack was to drill a dozen holes in the desired fishing area and set up with our shelters. Actually, we had to use shelters, as that howling wind made things downright cold out there. It was terrible.
The bluegills were on the move and you had to be ready for them. I had four rods with me that were all “locked and loaded” for gills. One had a “Mud Bug”, which turned out to be the best bait of the day, another a “Mimic Minnow Fry”, another was adorned with a “Gill Getter”, and the last had a small “hair jig” swinging from the end of it. I was ready, or so I thought.
As soon as they came in, it was fish as fast as you could before they left. At one point I had three rods laying at my feet and each one of them had a nice bluegill flopping on the end of it. By the time I straightened out the mess and unhooked the fish, they were gone. It was that kind of a bite.
A “snooze you lose” type of bite.
Oh, if you’re wondering what happened to my fourth rod during the fiasco (Uncle Jack used to call it a fiesta), it had a bait change that took it far away from catching any bluegills but it still played an important part in getting them there so you could catch them, if that makes any sense.
After several serious lulls in the action, I decided to try and “call” them in. Therefore, one of the baits was replaced with a large walleye-sized “Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon” with a custom “mylar” (tinsel) treble that I had put on during an experimental “I really need a walleye” stage.
This lure certainly didn’t belong in a pan-fishermen’s arsenal but what it was for me was an “attractor” bait, sort of a search lure.
There was a lot of baitfish going past us and most of it was small perch and shiner minnows. Rigged up with a small “Gill Getter” I managed to catch several of the 4” perch, along with a few 3” shiner minnows. You know your presentation should be able to catch a wary bluegill if it’s catching shiners.
It was a feeding frenzy down there and that’s the main reason the gills were quickly moving about and in the hunt. I figured the big, flashy lure would simulate some activity and it worked to perfection! For once, well maybe a few other times, my experimenting had worked. Whew!
Shortly after jigging the over-sized spoon, keeping it up high, about 5’ off bottom, I noticed large “bands” near bottom on my Vexilar. Was is bluegills looking to cash in on the buffet?
Dropping down a large, red “Mud Bug” answered my question in a hurry, as fish were rising up to eat it. I would have a small school of gills below me, feeding heavily, for about four minutes before they’d leave, looking for something else to eat.
Going back down with the “dinner bell” worked again and again, keeping me awfully busy in catching fish.
At day’s end, I had a bucket of fish and sore fingers and that’s a good thing. I always say if you’re ice fishing and you’re fingers aren’t hurting, you’re not catching many fish. It’s a good hurt I’m telling ya. Get out there and give it a whirl. Remember, we’ve only got about five weeks.