More snow has not helped the ice conditions on lakes in the Bemidji area. The extended forecast does not offer much hope for melting, with no warm up predicted in the near future.
Anyone with a fish house on the lakes has probably had some flooding problems this winter. There are horror stories going around about people needing waders to get close to their fish houses.
Anglers would be well advised to get their houses off the lakes early this year and rely on portable fish houses or fish out of the truck door for the rest of the season.
There doesn't seem to be any lakes that are exempt from the slush. The best ice conditions in the area are probably on Lake of the Woods, but even there, there are slush pockets developing when people pull off the roads to drill holes to fish.
Cass Lake, Pike's Bay, Bemidji, Winnibigoshish, Cutfoot Sioux, Leech Lake and most other lakes have serious slush problems. Even vehicles with tracks and snowmobiles have been getting badly stuck in the slush, so there are not many good answers for people who want to ice fish.
Lake of the Woods seems to be the best bet, with anglers fishing in many different locations, depending on what access anglers are using. Many of the rental houses are either way out in the lake (some as far as 16 miles), while others are close to Pine Island for the morning and evening bite.
The snow cover and the stained water on Lake of the Woods makes it very dark near the bottom in deep water. The fish seem to bite best when the sun is shining and high in the sky, rather than biting best when the skies are overcast.
The midday action can be very good, but anglers have to watch for suspended fish and use glow baits to help the fish see your lures. I like the new spoons with the disposable glow sticks that fit into the spoons.
Charging lures with glow paint frequently with a flashlight helps and spoons with rattles seem to outfish lures with no rattles, so anglers can use glowing rattle baits to up their odds of getting more bites.
Gold, pink and red are good colors for Lake of the Woods, so anglers should experiment and change colors if they are getting fish that come in and look, but don't bite.
This is the last week of the walleye and other game fish season in MInnesota. The Eelpout festival is this weekend (Feb. 21-24) on Walker Bay of Leech Lake.
Those planning to participate should watch the official website (www.eelpoutfestival.com) for updates on the ice conditions and what restrictions they are planning for those wanting to put out a fish house on Walker Bay. The site says they will be updating their information the week before the festival.
Eelpout are members of the cod family and are an excellent eating fish despite their salamander-like appearance.
Anglers take the backstrap and the tail meat and can cut it into nuggets and coat and fry it or they can boil it in a sugar soda (such as 7-Up or Mountain Dew) and water for about a minute and then bake it for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees, season it and then dip it in melted butter.
Big glow spoons are good bait for eelpout tipped with several minnows. A big glow jig works well too. Anglers should pound the lures into the bottom and pause a lot inches from the bottom or let the lures lay on the bottom for a few seconds and pay attention for the bite.
Eelpout have poor sight, so they need rattles, glowing paint and the scent of live bait to help them find the lures. Eelpout usually feed close to the bottom.
Rattle reels with a lively minnow will also work for eelpout. Most eelpout stay tight to structures or steep breaklines with direct access to deep water.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2019 can be booked by texting or calling 218-760-7751 or by email at email@example.com.