The spring days keep coming and we haven't lost much ice in the past week. Most of the shorelines have actually frozen - again - and the ice on most lakes is still around 20 inches or so. And as any angler knows, this is the time for big slab crappies and big bull gills. This year is no exception, we have been doing pretty good in 5- 9-feet in and right around the weeds. Small forage minnows tipped with waxies have been my go-to this year. Even though this is about the time I like to use white puddle jumpers they haven't worked as well.
The late ice panfish bite is pretty hot right now, but even so, the urge to catch some bigger fish got the best of me. This time of year when walleye and northern seasons are closed that means one thing, heading to the Red Lake Nation for some trout fishing. As I haven't made the trip yet this season, it was due. And as usual the fishing was a step above unbelievable. We arrived on Sunday morning and were looking forward to ice fishing in 70 degree temps, and maybe getting a little tan.
Most people on spring break go south and go island-hopping. But for the fisherman that can't get enough fish, you go north to Ontario's sunset country and go island-hopping on the amazing lakes of Ontario. That was the plan for last week. We traveled to Nestor Falls for some lake trout fishing and maybe some other species. On the first morning we awoke to temperatures of 40 degrees below zero and dead vehicles. After a few hours, we got things to start and salvaged the day by catching some trout on a lake close to town.
The walleye season has come and gone, so now what? Maybe just hit the same old panfish hole like always? Nope, not this year, this year we decided to do some traveling and chase those "other" species. First, we headed south to chase some channel cats. Catfishing is usually overlooked in the summer and unheard of in the winter. They are quite the fish, they school like crappies and fight like trout. When you do finally find the school there will be fish on your locator 10-15' thick.
Last week I was asked to go on a road trip to film the sturgeon spearing opener and the World Ice and Snow Sailing Championship (WISSA). Myself and Bret Amundson from the Minnesota Sporting Journal made the trip to Fond Du Lac, Wis., to check it out. On the first day we got to see the fishermen cut in their holes and get their shanties set up for the opening day. There were tons of events going on to add to the festivities.
When I was asked if I would like to go on a winter camping trip, right away I was intrigued as it was something that I had never done. Well, it would be an adventure that will not soon be forgotten. The group would consist of myself, Bret Amundson from the Minnesota Sporting Journal, Matt Degraef from Jasper Companies and Bill Sherck and Aaron Achtenberg from Schara Productions.
In the years I have been helping out at the Extravaganza, I have never seen a more beautiful day. I never thought it was possible to break the tournament curse that mother nature put on it years ago. I was busy at the Ice Force booth and helping out at the kids on ice Olympics all day. I didn't even have to wear a jacket. As far as the anglers that attended the event, they were all in a little better mood at the end of the day. Sitting on the ice and not catching a fish seems a little more tolerable when you aren't shaking from the cold and 30 mph winds that usually plague the tournament.
For the first time many anglers got to experience winter trout fishing on lakes that had never been ice fished. Lakes throughout the state had plenty of fisherman on them. Most anglers targeted rainbows but I did hear of some lake trout and brookies. We traveled north to go after some rainbows. We knew it was going to be a good trip when I pulled the first fish through the ice before my lure hit the bottom. Although Saturday was definitely better than Sunday, both days were amazing as far as trout fishing goes. We only had to move a few times and managed to catch over 100 fish.
As I have been planning a trout fishing trip to northern Minnesota for the last month, it turns out we will be able to fish for them right here. It was released last fall that certain trout lakes in Minnesota would be accessible to winter trout fishing, and then earlier last week it was released that many of the Crosby mine pits would also be open. This will be a great opportunity for fishermen to take a break from the usual and try their luck at some rainbow trout fishing. Although many of these stocked lakes have lots of 12 inch fish, you will occasionally catch fish 20 inches or bigger.
Are you sick of sitting around the house waiting for the cold weather to go away? Also, if you are thinking of going to the Extravaganza, here are a few pointers to staying warm head to toe. As far as stocking caps go they are not all created equal. There are actually hats with thinsulate that are at the top of the list. Also, a double layered fleece hat holds heat very well. Top it off with a facemask and you will actually be able to talk without your face hurting. You always hear people talk about layering, but layering what, is the question.