PAUL NELSON FISHING: Cold and ‘booming’ time for ice fishing
It's hard to imagine the cold weather this past week as a good thing in most people's minds. After the tragically high number of lives lost on the frozen lakes already this year, an extended period of below zero temperatures was exactly what the ...
It’s hard to imagine the cold weather this past week as a good thing in most people’s minds.
After the tragically high number of lives lost on the frozen lakes already this year, an extended period of below zero temperatures was exactly what the ice on the lakes needed most.
There isn’t enough snow on the lakes to slow down the freezing process significantly, with any additional snow when it is this cold usually very light and fluffy, without much moisture content.
Anyone close enough to hear the lakes or actually on the lakes ice fishing can hear the ice “booming” when the temperatures get really cold. The ice expands as it gets colder, so the booming is actually the sound of the lakes making ice.
If the extended forecast is accurate, there could be a slight warm up later this week, which may give anglers that have been waiting for more ice an opportunity to get out on the lakes and do some ice fishing.
There are many resorts that are starting to allow anglers to access the lakes with their vehicles. Anglers should strongly consider going out of a resort access and stay on the maintained roads that have been checked for ice thickness on a regular basis.
Anytime anglers decide to go off of the roads on the ice, the chances for problems dramatically increase. The ice formed in different stages this year, so there can still be thin spots on the lakes in the places where the ice froze later.
The two biggest lakes for winter ice fishing in northern Minnesota as far as numbers of anglers are Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods. Both lakes are still producing good numbers of walleyes for most anglers, with many well maintained accesses to both lakes.
Lake of the Woods has bonus sauger in addition to walleyes, with an aggregate limit of eight walleyes and sauger, with no more than four walleyes per limit (under 19½ inches). Anglers are allowed to fill in their walleye limit with bonus sauger if they so choose.
The walleye limit on Upper Red Lake is four walleyes, with no more than one walleye longer than 17 inches allowed in a limit. Both Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake have special regulations on northern pike, so be sure to check the regulations if you plan to keep any pike.
Anglers can find good walleye fishing closer to Bemidji, but the water is clear on most lakes close to Bemidji. Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake are both stained lakes, which tend to have a better day bite for light sensitive species like walleyes.
Most good walleye lakes close to Bemidji have clear water, so the best bites for walleyes usually occurs during low light or after dark, especially during the full moon period.
This January has a blue moon, with two full moons, one on Jan. 1 and the other on Jan. 31. Night fishing is usually good for about one week, with several days before and after the actual full moon also good.
Most walleyes make a feeding movement toward structure when they get active and go back to deeper water when they are done feeding. Anglers with stationary fish houses usually try to position themselves where the fish should be located when they get active, which can make for a slow bite during the day.
This is when doing a little homework last fall out of a boat looking for ice fishing spots can start paying dividends. Anglers with fish houses located on the “spot on the spot” will usually have better success than anglers that just pick a specific depth or put their house in a random area close to other fish houses.
Anglers using stationary fish houses can use portable fish houses during the day fish for species that are more likely to be active during the day. Perch, northern pike, sauger and sunfish all tend to be better day biters than walleyes and crappies, especially in clear water.
Paul A. Nelson runs the “Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .