Minnesota Outdoorsman - Minnesota Fishing and Hunting Reports
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Build a DIY Ice Fishing Shelter on a Budget

The Best $150 Ice Shanty Ever

Written by Joe Overlock

Keeping warm while ice fishing is next to impossible on some days, unless you have a good shelter. Many "pop-up" tent style shelters are available on the market, all of which have hefty price tags, but none equal the comfort of a home-built wooden shelter. The keys to keeping warm on the ice are getting your feet off the ice, getting out of the wind on sunny days, and using a portable heater on cold, windy, overcast days.

In this article, we'll show you how to build a light wooden shelter that will comfortably hold 2-3 anglers, that can function as a lean-to on sunny days, and that can close up tight on bitter cold days. This shelter uses an exoskeleton-style frame to give you more room on the inside and provide a smooth, snag-free interior for winter clothing.

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Top ice angling tip: Remember late-season tip-ups for walleyes

Minnesota's ice fishing season for walleyes on inland waters already is down to its last four weeks. Why and when should we use tip-ups for our state fish? We're entering that part of the season when walleyes begin moving out of the deep water and onto the flats during the witching hour, so use tip-ups now.

How many times have you and a buddy caught a couple of nice walleyes around 5 p.m./dusk, then the bite mysteriously switches off? You're encountering deep fish moving up to their nighttime food shelf during low-light conditions. Here's how you should approach this opportunity:

First, drill your holes early along that structure. Start on the deep edge with jigging lures and set your second line via tip-up in the mid-depth range. You'll catch fish with your active rod, but watch those tip-ups close. As soon as those flags flare, reel in, but don't reset them, land your fish and let that tip-up lay on the ice.

Now move shallower with your jigging rods. You're following that pattern into shallow water, almost like casting.

As for your walleye tip-up setup, attach a black barrel swivel, then make a leader or livebait rig of four feet of mono line with 8-pound-test. Add a colored hook and a bead with opposing colors. On the mono end, attach a clip, then take and store these (pre-make them at home and use a snell holder) just like you would for open-water fishing.

Rig the setup with different beads and hooks, and try experimenting with blades sizes 0 or 00. That size won't spin but if you're using healthy, live bait they'll move a bit. The blade simply adds a splash of color and vibration.

This technique works with suckers, shiners, and fatheads. Generally speaking, I'm using 3- to 4-inch shiners. Once you land fish, continue jigging with your flutter spoons and minnow heads. As that bite moves shallow, move your jigging setup, too, to take advantage of feeding movement.

Finally, don't forget to add a splitshot 14 to 16 inches above the hook. You want top action out of that minnow, and the splitshot becomes a pivot point to keep the minnow local.

Expect a short, dusky bite window when walleyes move shallow under the ice, but you can extend it by moving with the fish.

Fishing Spoons Under the Ice

Article Written By; Bob Jensen


Most bodies of water across the Midwest now have a coat of ice, and it looks like the fish have been eagerly awaiting the ice. Many anglers are reporting outstanding fishing when the weather is right. Fish are kind of like most fishermen. They don't like the extreme cold weather too much, but when the weather is warm and stable, they want something to eat. Unlike fishermen, fish of many species like to eat spoons, not eat with them. If you want to catch fish under the ice, you really should try using spoons.


Spoons come in a variety of shapes and colors and styles, and most of these shapes and styles have unique characteristics, and these unique characteristics will appeal to the fish in different ways. Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting a spoon.

Many spoons are made of lead. These spoons fall quickly and pretty much straight down. They do a great job in many situations. One of those situations is when "pounding" is a preferred tactic. "Pounding" is when you drop your spoon to the bottom and let it fall right onto the bottom. You then lift it a couple of feet off the bottom and let it fall again right onto the bottom. When your spoon hits the bottom, or "pounds" the bottom, it disrupts the bottom content and you get a little cloud of sand or marl or whatever the bottom is made of. This gets the attention of the fish, and hopefully they come over to investigate, see your spoon, and eat it. "Pounding" is a great technique and works often, but there are times when the fish prefer something else.

When "pounding" isn't working, consider going to a different style of spoon. Tie on a spoon that has some bend in it. The new Flutter Spoon is a good example of that. It's made with a material called Z-ALLOY. It's lead-free and wobbles as it falls. This wobbling slows down the fall, and, in many situations, will be more appealing to the fish. The Flutter Spoon is new and the fish haven't seen anything like it before, and they're really going for it. It's just a different action: It doesn't work all the time, but so far it's been working way more often than not.

As with any type of lure, color and size are a consideration when it comes to appealing to the fish. Keep an eye on your sonar. If you see fish looking but not eating, try a different color or size or action.

We're usually attaching a piece of Impulse plastic or a piece of minnow or several spikes or waxworms to the spoon. That added color and taste make the fish more likely to eat the spoon most of the time.

One last very important consideration: Spoons can twist your line. Tie a swivel up the line a bit and attach the spoon to your line with just a snap, or tie a snap/swivel to your line and attach the spoon directly to the snap/swivel. This should eliminate most line twist.

Spoons are an outstanding lure-style during any season, but are something you should try right now if you want to experience more ice-fishing success.

Brian Brosdahl

by Dave Csanda

Once crappies move deep to their usual winter haunts—down the edges of dropoffs, and out across soft basin areas of 30-odd feet in depth—tiny jigs tipped with softbaits become increasingly difficult to fish effectively in deeper water.

Deep is a relative thing, however. Crappies don't like cavernous deep basins; in lakes where 70 to 100 feet of water is available, they typically ignore these sections in favor of lake areas where the basin is considerably shallower. Thus, the portions of the lake bottoming out at 30 or 40 feet tend to hold the most crappies. Leave the deeper stuff to walleye fishermen.

In shallow soupbowl lakes with little structure, crappies routinely roam and prowl their way across the open basin of the lake, settling temporarily in areas with the best combination of food. On an extremely shallow lake, a small, deep hole of the proper depth might draw most of the crappies in the lake into a very limited area. Each lake is different, so you need to evaluate what they offer to the fish, and plan your fishing accordingly.

In early winter, crappies are often very bottom-oriented. By midwinter, however, oxygen depletion begins taking place in the deepest portions of the basins. Rather than leaving these areas completely, the fish usually respond by rising higher in the water column, perhaps suspending 20 feet down over 30 feet of water, where oxygen is still suitable. Crappies now patrol these levels in search of minnows, which likewise roam, occasionally moving into the area beneath your hole.

As they do, these fish become clearly visible on your electronics, indicating not only where to fish, but how deep to fish. You never want to dangle your lures below the level of the fish, where they won't see them. Rather, position your lures or baits at or slightly above the fishes' eye level, where they can visually detect them, become interested as they rise to examine your offering.

Crappie anglers fish for these suspended fish in several ways. The first, and perhaps easiest method, is with a slip bobber rig, suspending a live minnow at the fishes' level. Nick the minnow lightly below the dorsal fin on a small #6 hook, and send it down. As the minnow dangles and struggles, it tempts crappies to move in for the kill.


When a crappie inhales it, the resulting quiver imparted to the bobber may be so subtle that you barely see it. At the slightest suspicious motion of the bobber, set the hook!

VMC Rattle Spoon

Northland Forage Minnow
Next up are various forms of jigging, which allow you to be far more mobile and aggressive, covering water in search of active biters.

For sheer effectiveness, use slightly heavier baits than you'd use for shallower bluegills; in effect, it's just too darned hard to fish tiny softbaits on featherweight 1/64- or 1/80-ounce jigs in deep water. Better choices are small spoons tipped with a minnow, minnow head or live waxworm; compact jigging lures like a VMC Tungsten Chandelier; 1/32-ounce jigs tipped with live minnows; or #5 Jigging Rapalas, based on the crappies' modestly deep location and aggressiveness.VMC Tungsten Chandelier#5 Jigging Rapala
The idea is to drop your lure down to the fish, then let it settle. Jiggle it a bit, then let it settle again. The jiggle attracts them in for a look, while the pause entices them to move in even closer, hopefully to bite. With Jigging Raps, use a firmer upward stroke to pop the lure upward, and then let it swim and settle below the hole. But the principle is the same.

Using a good portable depth finder like a Humminbird ICE 45 or 55, your lure appears on the screen as a small, brightly colored mark, and the crappie a larger one. When the big mark moves up toward the smaller one, and the two merge, you know the fish is barely inches away, eyeballing your lure. Shortly thereafter, if the rod tip suddenly dips, indicating a strike, set the hook.

If the fish doesn't strike within a few seconds, however, don't just let the bait continue to dangle—especially if you see the fish begin to lose interest and start dropping toward bottom. Instead, reel the bait up a foot or two, jiggle it, and then pause again. Many times, the fish will become re-interested and rise to follow. Sometimes, you need to do this a few times to convince fish to bite. You'll notice that every time you can get them to rise, they tend to become more active and interested. The same trick works for bluegills, perch—even walleyes!

Ice fishing

A beginner's guide to ice fishing

I was recently out on the ice chasing some feisty lake trout, and I started thinking back to when I first began ice fishing. Heading out on the ice is a fun and inexpensive way to get into the sport of fishing, and it provides a great opportunity to socialize with family and friends during the winter months. If you're wondering where to start, these tips should point you in the right direction.

Get the right gear
One of the best things about ice fishing, especially if you're getting into the sport for the first time, is that you don't need a lot of equipment to get started. You can also find most of the gear at your local Canadian Tire or bait shop.

After you apply for a fishing license within your province, you're going to need an auger, which is your key to getting through the ice to the fish below. Augers come in a number of different sizes, and although power augers are more efficient if you're drilling a number of holes, you really only need an inexpensive hand auger in the 6-to-8-inch range to get started.

When you're choosing a rod-and-reel combo for ice fishing, a simple setup with a fairly stiff rod and an eight-pound fishing line will cover the bases for lake trout, walleye, perch, and plenty of other species. Ontario laws allow up to two lines per angler for ice fishing, so having a second line as a tip-up will increase your chances of a catch. A tip-up is a simple trap that you set with just a sinker and minnow; when a fish takes the bait, a flag rises to alert you. (Learn more about the top three tip-up tactics for ice fishing.)

Once you've sorted out your rod, reel, and auger, other items you'll want to check off your list include an ice scooper, minnows, rod holders, a bucket, a portable barbecue, food, and drinks.

Ice fishing Choose your bait
 When it comes to picking the "magic" lure in the ice-fishing section of your local Canadian Tire or tackle shop, the decision might seem more complicated than a teenage relationship. Truth be told, many lures work, but these days most are designed to catch fishermen rather than fish. If I could use only one method for the rest of my ice-fishing days, it would be live bait. And live bait is especially great for beginners, because fish naturally eat minnows!

That said, if you're set on using lures, worthwhile options include tube jigs and Williams ice jigs.

Dress for the elements

Clothing is one of the most important parts of an enjoyable ice-fishing trip, and the great news is, you probably already own most of what you'll need. Regular winter gear like insulated snow pants and heavy winter parkas are musts. Good gloves, a toque, and a pair of insulated waterproof boots round out the ice fisherman's most important attire on the ice. You might also want to bring some extra gloves, a balaclava, and a scarf.

Take shelter
Although shelters aren't a necessity when you're ice fishing, they make the trip much more enjoyable—especially if there's any bit of a breeze. There are a few different kinds of portable shelters on the market, including flip overs, hub style, and cabin style. But if it's your first time out, your best option might be to rent a hut. These permanent structures come with heat and all the necessities, and they're usually placed on productive fishing water.

Test the ice
Once you have all your gear, you're ready to hit the ice—or are you? It's extremely important to make sure the ice is at least four inches thick before you go out. To find out if the ice is safe or not, you can check with your local tackle shop, or check to see if other people are already on the ice. For safety's sake, make sure you auger a hole as soon as you get on the ice, just to double check its thickness.
When you're looking for an ice-fishing "spot," your best bet for finding productive areas is to look for large cities of huts. A collection of other huts will be a sure sign that there are fish in the area. But don't get too close—it's important to stay a respectful distance from other huts.

Drill your holes
Now that you've picked a spot, it's time to drill your holes and get set up. Remove the cover from your auger blades, and be very carful—they're extremely sharp. Place the blades on the ice and add an ample amount of pressure as you start to crank the auger. If you're doing it right, the auger will make a grinding noise and will slowly start to sink into the ice until it's all the way through.

Time to fish
After drilling all of your holes, you can set up your lines with your minnows or lures. Let them descend all the way to the bottom, and then reel them up two feet. This will place you in prime fish habitat and give you an excellent chance at a catch.

The most important thing to remember about ice fishing is that it's not all about catching fish. It's about getting out and enjoying the great outdoors with friends and family, sharing laughs and good times on the ice, and experiencing moments you'll never forget.

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