The end of the fishing season comes at different times for different anglers. Some have already given up on ice fishing season, while others are hoping the ice goes out with just enough time to get the boat ready for the walleye opener in May.
April will arrive this week, so the end of the ice fishing season is close no matter how anglers look at the situation. With last year's triple crown of blizzards in April, anything is possible.
With the season closed for walleyes and other gamefish species, most anglers have been fishing for perch, crappies and sunfish. Anglers have been finding most of the perch on the edges of large shoreline flats, with a few perch moving on top of the bars, humps and shoreline flats.
Leech Lake has hot for perch, but anglers have to find the areas holding the fish. Anglers are also catching perch on lakes like Winnibigoshish, Cass, Pike's Bay, Bemidji, Plantagenet and Blackduck.
Most perch are being caught between 8 and 20 feet of water, depending on the lake. The perch have been feeding aggressively, so anglers should keep moving until they find active fish. If anglers find the right location, the perch will often race up toward the hole to meet the bait.
Most anglers use jigging spoons with part of a fathead minnow for perch, but there are many other presentations that will work for perch, especially when they are actively feeding.
Crappie anglers are finding most crappies suspended over deep water, close to areas they will move into before the ice goes out. The angle of the sun warms the north and west portion of the lakes first, so crappies will often be in those parts of the lake on late ice.
Crappies often move into the shallows right before the ice goes off the lakes, then move back into deeper water when the ice goes out, then move back into the shallows when the lakes start to warm up after ice out.
Most anglers are using small minnows, wax worms, eurolarve and plastics for crappies. Using sonar helps anglers get their baits at the right depth, which is important when most of the fish are suspended well off of the bottom.
Sunfish anglers are finding most of their fish on the edges of old weed beds or over areas with some rock or chara on the bottom. Sunfish also will move into the shallows late in the season similar to crappies and perch.
Sunfish are big insect eaters, so they like areas with shallow mud, where insects will begin to hatch as soon as the sun starts warming the dark bottom.
Sunfish have excellent eyesight, so anglers should go as light as possible, especially when you can see them on sonar looking at the baits without taking them.
Anglers can also fish the extended seasons for walleyes, sauger and northern pike on the border lakes with Canada like Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake.
Walleye fishing has been very good on late ice, with most of the fish moving into shoreline structure, getting ready to spawn soon after the ice is off of the lakes.
Northern pike start to spawn in backwater areas before the ice is all the way off of the lakes. Anglers fishing the extended seasons for pike have a chance to catch some of the largest pike of the season.
The spring walleye season is open on the Rainy River, but ice still covers most of the areas anglers like to fish in the spring. Most anglers fish between the Birchdale Access and the mouth of the Rainy River where it enters Lake of the Woods during the spring walleye season.
Anglers can check the progress of the ice on the Rainy River on the Clementson Resort Web site or on a number of other internet fishing sites.
The Mississippi River between the Twin Cities and Red Wing also has an extended season for walleyes and sauger, so anglers can also head south to fish open water if they are tired of ice fishing.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.