This has been a weird year for early ice fishing to be sure. Leech lake and area lakes just got going on some early ice building when we got seriously snowed on. As much as we have been complaining about the lack of safe ice, it isn't even Christmas yet. Pulling a sled over and through slush and deep snow paid off a little as I iced my first few quality Leech Lake Crappies of the season. Small spoons and tungsten jigs did not tempt the fish. It took a lively minnow on a plain hook to get any action at all on these post-cold front fish.
I captured one such capture (and release) on video.
Snow and cold may give us a little more time to dream about our flashers getting lit up like a Christmas tree. Look to get tree'd up this month on break-lines near green weeds where Crappies or Bluegills may still be hanging out.
Though the rain, sleet, snow and wind were humbling, our three days of fishing on a late October full moon yielded walleye limits, lake sturgeon, sauger, pike and smallmouth. A second wave of shiner minnows is imminent and so is a wave of trophy walleyes for the immensely hardy.
I have had some stellar encounters with Bass, Pike, Muskies, Walleyes and Perch the past few weeks. I have also had the pleasure of fishing with some great anglers. A special thanks to Al, Waylon, Brian, Morten, Chiel and Bjarke for wetting a line with me.
Stop by Rusty's Up North Realty in Longville, MN if you are looking for a lake home in Muskie country. Or just stop in and visit with this long time guide and Muskie legend and drool at his mount of a 59" post-spawn fish caught in 1973 that tipped the scales at over 50#.
The very mention of fishing with kids instantly conjures up images of bluegills and crappies but at times, I find these species quite finicky. I know, you can put your kids on piles of 4"-7" bluegills and 1/4 pound crappies but where is the fun in that? Often it can take a real deft stick and the patience of Jobe to seal the deal on quality panfish. Bass and Pike require heavier tackle and more casting and retrieving then most kids can deal with. For me, the ultimate family friendly fish is the walleye. No, not jigging and live bait rigging although, I'm sure a ten or twelve year old could figure this out. Trolling or slip bobbering is where it's at for the sprats! Think about trolling for 'eyes...extra lines and treble hooks=fish. Yes, be careful netting and handling fish. Get the boat going in the right direction, clip on the crankbaits, let out the lines, put them in rod holders. When a fish bites, let the kids reel them in with the rod in the holder, believe me, they will think it is fun to reel in even a 20" walleye. For slip bobbering it's the same routine except you cast it out, and then set the hook when a fish bites. Take turns reeling them in. The best part is, you will never know when a big mean fish will take the bait and the look on their face will be priceless.
If you are headed out for a days fishing, do yourself and the lake a favor and drop a few minnow traps loaded with some fresh cut sucker on a 6'-10' flat with scattered weed growth and pick up your pots on the way in in the evening. Make sure that you have some lemons, baby red potatoes, an onion, garlic, corn on the cobb, Old Bay seasoning and some pale ale and you will figure the rest out. Rusty crayfish are an invasive and delicious species so do the right thing people!
The Red River Of The North is a world class cat fishery to be sure. Great channel cat fishing can be had from Fargo north and the further north the bigger the fish. Me and mi esposa recently made a quick recon to the Drayton ND area. Though we didn't hook the giants we were after on this trip, the remoteness and average size of the cats left us wanting more.
This year has been really slow to get started in the muskie fishing word. After a late ice out, very few follows and hookup opportunities have presented themselves. Water temps are back down around the 70 degree mark on Leech lake and surrounding waters but an increase of just five degrees could turn on the light switch and put the great esox in to search and destroy mode. This warmer-upper fish fell to a down sized crankbait worked through 15 f.o.w.
What do shallow woman and leech lake walleyes have in common?
They both LOVE shiny things.
With the lake full of forage options right now, get a walleyes attention with flash and bling.
Here are some of my best patterns from the past few weeks. Mostly silver combos with a little gold here and there. 1.7-2 mph is a good speed to start out at right now. I use planer boards for fish shallower then 20' or when fishing multiple lines. For breaklines, try sending a shallow diver behind a planer board up-top and run a deeper model straight behind, keeping the boat in 15-25 f.o.w. Run Husky Jerks or Bomber Long A's with a short lead (40'-60') behind the board when fishing over weeds.
I was south of the 218 this week and decided to wet a line for a flattie on the MN river. I located some nice water with rafts of timber on an outside corner bend on Google Earth before hand. I was fishing from shore so access is also a major consideration in this type of planning. A 9" Sucker on a 8/0 hook did the trick. The 30 second video that my p&s camera took captured the best part.
I had several other fish run line off of the reel with the bait clicker sounding like my boyhood playing card in the bicycle spoke routine but they were only brief encounters. I hope to try it again sometime soon.
I'm finding plenty of eater sized Walleyes most trips out with a few anchor fish between 25"-27" each time to keep things interesting. Wind swept shoreline structures are still holding fish in 5-10 f.o.w. with some fish starting to scatter to the mid-depth flats. We had a strong night bite last night with fish slamming raps trolled at 1.5mph. A jig and shiner is best for daytime shoreline stuff. However, I have been switching out the shiner for plastics when the fish are really banging and the strikes come even harder, you just have to up your jig one size and rip it a little more.
My Muskie outings have been uneventful thus far with a few follows that were low and slow. We need some warm weather to get these monsters going. I did have one come after an 18" Walleye boatside with it's mouth open though. Always cool to see.