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On the south end... The lake is still ice covered with big stretches of open water which is expanding daily.  Anglers fishing the lake are fishing in front of the Lighthouse Gap where the Rainy River enters LOW.  Anglers are allowed a limit of walleyes and saugers on the lake, but catch and release only on Four Mile Bay and the Rainy River during the spring walleye season which lasts through April 14.  The walleye season opens again on May 15th.

Pike Fishing.  Open water is available in the back bays such as various Four Mile Bay, Bostic Creek, Zippel Bay and backwaters on the Rainy River where pike spawn.  Some nice pike being caught in shallow water areas.  These areas are off of the main lake and perfect for small boats.  The pike season is open year round on LOW and the Rainy River.  3 fish per day, 30-40 inches must be released, one over 40" allowed. 

On the Rainy River...   This past week was nothing short of incredible for walleye fishing on the Rainy River.  Large numbers of big walleyes were caught and released.  Many fish 30 - 33+ inches in the mix.  Exactly why anglers love the Rainy River in the spring. 

Good reports up and down the river including Four Mile Bay.

A 3/8 - 1/2 ounce jig is working nicely tipped with a minnow or a plastic.  Bright plastics and frozen shiners working best on jigs.  Some anglers trolling crankbaits with success to cover water. 

Sturgeon fishing continues to be good with good numbers of sturgeon being caught.  Most anglers targeting holes in the river.  Some sturgeon being caught on rolling sand dunes with fish laying in the depressions. Wherever there is food and a bit of slacker water!

With lower current, a 3 ounce no-roll sinker combined with a sturgeon rig (18" snell of 60 lb test with a 4/0 or 5/0 circle hook) with a glob of crawlers, frozen emerald shiners or both is the ticket.  Local bait shops have rigs and bait available.

Up at the NW Angle...  Locals are able to get their boats from the mainland (Angle Inlet) to most areas of the islands.  Looking ahead to open water, there are various ways to travel to the NW Angle this summer without crossing the border.  If you have the right boat and expertise, boating across is an option.  There is also the Lake of the Woods Passenger Service (charter boat shuttle to Angle).  And finally, Lake Country Air flying service, a float plane service out of Baudette and other locations.  A complete list of lodging and fishing packages available on the Rainy River, around Lake of the Woods and up at the NW Angle at www.LakeoftheWoodsMN.com/Lodging
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ICE OUT CRAPPIES






By: Joel Nelson

Itís been an odd spring, and for that matter, and even more peculiar winter. Open water in the southern part of the state has been around for a few weeks, while in the north, thereís still ice, albeit a poor version of it, clinging to memories of a winter that wasnít. Early season panfish bites are a rite of spring, typically happening in mid-late April for most lakes in the state as a precursor to the May opener. This year due to the unseasonably warm weather, Iím happy to say, weíll probably have some bonus time, with crappies already snapping in the shallows of Southern MN. Hereís a few things to keep in mind when tracking down a good spring crappie bite.

Water temperature is a key contributing factor to everything crappies in the spring. Cold nights below freezing, cool-water runoff from melting snow, and heavy cloud cover can all contribute to the death of a seemingly un-killable bite. As black-bottom bays and rock-laden shorelines store what solar energy they can, crappies flood to the shallows as water temps hit 45 degrees and above. In most of the lakes I fish, this seems to be as close to a ďmagic numberĒ as I can find in helping to predict not only locations, but mood of the crappies Iím after. Anything south of that value, and shallow water crappies become much more rare and hard to find. Even after locating them, you just donít see the large congregations of fish that are willing to eat like you do in the 45-50 degree range and above. That said, spring is a rollercoaster of conditions, full of false-starts, short intense feeding periods during warm weather, and then eventually spawn and post-spawn behavior. Your best bet is multiple trips that allow you to track changes in water temperatures, such that you donít hit before the front end, or after the spawn.

Regarding location, when warm water is scarcer in the early season, those shorelines that are even a few degrees warmer can be full of fish. This is true even when they lack good cover, provided youíre fishing the warmest water in the lake and itís still early. Black bays on the north side of a lake are a good start, and donít hesitate to fish shallower than 5 feet, especially in systems with poor clarity. Even as water temps rise into the 50ís, fish remain shallow, feeding on baitfish drawn to the warm water and emerging life thatís brought upon by warm afternoons and an even more aggressive sun angle.

Cover is king for pre-spawn crappies, and while any wood or timber is good for finding them, brush is better. An isolated log or stump may hold a few fish, but large concentrations of fish will be found where they can bury themselves within and along brush piles. Unfortunately, most anglers miss the bonanza by fishing only around the edges, rather than within the heavy cover. Occasional fish are to be had this way, but to do well in these situations, youíll need to be prepared to fearlessly fish inside of the heavy stuff, not just around the edges. In northern natural lakes with broad and shallow shorelines, timber can be hard to find, so crappies focus on bulrush and pencil-reeds for cover. Whether wood or vegetation, getting in the middle of it seems to pay dividends.

What to use is an important factor during this time of year, with water temps again dictating presentation and lure selection. Especially early, the temptation is to fish fast and cover water to find larger schools. Just coming out of winter, locations can be a mystery, and bobber-fishing shallows is simply too slow for most anglers. That said, especially during the early season, crappies will rarely chase to eat moving baits presented on the edges. Fish with floats, and use meat. Crappies can savagely strike a minnow offered on a jig with hair, tinsel, marabou, or flashabou. This larger profile requires some aggression, and hookups seem much more sure as crappies are required to fully inhale such a presentation. Keep in mind however, that bluegills which can be found in the same areas this time of year, are less likely to be able to eat such baits. I have been pleasantly surprised by large perch, especially when fishing backwaters bites, that will be more than happy to eat a 1/32oz jig with a minnow.

† † †Plastics bites are still to come, but typically require warmer conditions yet. Itís unfortunate that minnows are best fished when your freezing fingers would otherwise want you to use artificials-only, but it seems like warm weather and glove-less hands are about the best predictor on when to start looking to retrieved plastic presentations. For this reason, bring bait until moving presentations readily out-perform more stationary live-bait options.

Itís a great time of year to be on the water. Wait till a warm afternoon, and pick apart the shallows until you find some fish. Keep it simple, have fun with it, and save the ultra-serious stuff for later.

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