Picture yourself biking across a frozen lake with sled filled with ice fishing gear in tow - destined for near untouched trout waters.
A year ago it would have been impossible on most area lakes. Or at least illegal.
Thanks to changes in DNR regulations, a couple dozen trout fishing waters in our region, are now open to ice fishing and spearing. Those fisheries include several mine pit lakes in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area.
Thanks to warm weather and no snow, those lakes are easily accessible.
Patrick Zerwas, an avid angler and kayak fishing guide in the area, made tracks for the mine pits last Monday to drill a hole and hope for the best in waters that have not been open to ice fishing since the 1960s, according to a release from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Unlike most ice anglers, Zerwas travels the lakes on bike, carrying his gear in a sled behind his bike.
"In the winter time, you might as well put the two together," Zerwas said of fishing and biking.
He used to do the same when he lived in Bemidji. Now, the Brainerd native takes the opportunity to do so several times a week when the weather is as mild as it has been this winter.
"I have been bike fishing with a fly rod for three years and ice fishing with the bike for two years," he said. "I just didn't do much with the bike last winter due to the weather.
"I like to fish for trout early summer, but now that they opened the pits in Cuyuna for hard water fishing, it opened something new for me to ice fish for."
Zerwas said it makes sense to travel by bike on the lakes because he can travel quickly but without the weight of an automobile. That's especially important as the mine lakes tend to freeze later and have uneven ice depths, Zerwas said.
Many anglers have been trying out some fishing for trout with mixed results. Zerwas happened to catch his biggest trout on his first try. A 29-inch rainbow trout grabbed on to a plastic minnow he presented in about 40 feet of water.
Other anglers at the pits have been sticking more to the shallows where the trout seem to be feeding. Plastics are also common, as live bait is not allowed.
The big trout he caught was returned to the water for a younger angler to catch, Zerwas, 26, said.
The new fishing area may become even more popular when the walleye season closes, Zerwas proposed
"It's going to bring a whole other opportunity," he said.
If you go
Remember that trout fishing requires a trout stamp and fishing license.
Trout fishing on the open lakes, which contain stream trout, will be open from Saturday, Jan. 17, through Tuesday, March 31. Stream trout are rainbow, brook and brown trout, and a hybrid of lake trout and brook trout called splake, according to the DNR.
Additionally, the same lakes will be open for northern pike spearing and angling through Feb. 22, 2015.
Designated trout lakes open for the winter stream trout and northern pike season include:
· Huntington Mine Lake (including Feigh and Martin mine lakes).
· Mallen Mine Lake.
· Manuel Mine Lake.
· Margaret Lake (near Outing).
· Marion Lake (near Outing).
· Pennington Mine Lake (including Alstead, Arco and Mahnomen mine lakes).
· Portsmouth Mine Lake.
· Sagamore Mine Lake.
· Snoshoe Mine Lake.
· Section 6 Mine Lake.
· Strawberry Lake.
· Yawkey Mine Lake.
Designated trout lakes that remain closed to winter fishing include:
· Allen Lake (near Outing).
· Little Andrus (aka: Snowshoe, near Outing).
· Pleasant Lake (near Crosslake).