When deer hunting ends, the wait for ice fishing begins
Once deer hunting is over, the wait for ice fishing begins.
The lakes are ready to freeze as soon as the daily high temperatures stay below freezing.
The weather could also take a turn in the other direction, with a brief warm spell allowing anglers to take one more open-water fishing trip.
Muskie anglers are "hardy" almost by definition, and will usually be the last anglers left on the lakes in the fall.
Most muskie anglers will cast baits for short periods of time in key locations late in the season. When their hands get cold, most muskie anglers will use rod holders to troll big crankbaits near tulibee spawning sites.
Walleye anglers can also have success late in the season, but it usually occurs in flurries during favorable conditions.
Anchoring on contact points and waiting for walleyes to come through is often the best approach late in the season.
Panfish anglers know how good fishing can be on early ice. Many of those same locations are holding schools of crappies and sunfish right now.
Anglers can use ice fishing tactics to hold over schools of suspended panfish, trying to get small baits at or slightly above the eye level of the fish.
There are a number of tricks for getting small baits into the right zone to catch suspended panfish.
The most efficient way is to use flasher sonar to hover over the panfish and watch your bait on sonar, just like ice fishing.
Anglers can also anchor on the fish and see what depth the fish are running and then use one of several possible methods to get their bait into the right zone.
Anglers can let out line in 10-foot intervals (estimated) and get the bait close to the fish, but still above them. Then anglers can let out another foot or two of line at a time until they find the right depth.
There are a number of ways to mark the line at the right depth, which includes using a permanent marker or rubber band.
If ice forms quickly on the lakes, then anglers can use the time between seasons to switch over rods, check equipment, organize tackle and patch any holes in canvas fish houses to be ready for the ice fishing season.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service and can be contacted by calling 218-759-2235.