On the south end… Ice fishing is in full swing for most resorts and outfitters on Lake of the Woods. Fish houses are out and the bite is excellent in most areas. Consistent limits of walleyes and saugers along with some perch, pike, eelpout, crappies and even some sturgeon in the mix.
There are still areas of thin ice and areas to stay away from. It is very important to work through a resort or outfitter who has marked, and is constantly maintaining, a trail. Follow the guidelines and weight limits of each individual ice road. Most offer round trip heated shuttle service to their heated fish houses that are set up and ready to fish.
Some are allowing travel using your own ice transportation (snowmobile, ATV, side by side) with collapsible fish houses on their staked trails. Again, it is very important to adhere to weight restrictions, stay on the marked trails and do not venture off course. Do not travel past the end of the trail as there is still some very sketchy ice in areas.
17 – 23 feet of water is where most fish houses are set up.
Big Eelpout inside Fish House
A combo of a jigging line in one hole and a deadstick in the second hole with a live minnow 6 inches – a foot off of the bottom is working well. Some days, the walleyes and saugers want it moving (jigging line). Other days, they are in a more neutral mood and the deadstick (bobber line) works best. Two lines are allowed per person ice fishing in Minnesota.
Rippin Raps (a lipless crankbait with vibration and rattles) and other aggressive presentations work well at times, but also help to draw fish to your fishing area.
Jigging spoons tipped with a piece of minnow head or tail is the goto for consistency on a jigging rod. Jig it a few times and hold it in the strike zone. Try dropping it on the bottom of the lake to attract fish and raise it into the strike zone (about a foot off the bottom).
Watching your ice fishing electronics will help you understand where the fish are and how they are reacting to your presentation. If they aren’t taking your offering, change color, size, noise, bait or presentation. Popular colors, gold, glow red, chartreuse, glow white, pink or a combo. If you don’t have electronics and want to give them a try, many local resorts and local bait shops rent them.
Anglers fishing LOW MN are allowed a combined limit of walleyes and saugers of six. Up to four of the six can be walleyes. All walleyes 19.5 – 28.0 inches must be released. One walleye over 28 inches is allowed. The MN possession limit is one limit of fish.
On the Rainy River… The Rainy River is ice covered with some local resorts offering ice fishing. Great reports for walleyes, saugers and sturgeon.
Ice conditions can vary during the heart of the winter, let alone during the early part of the season, especially on a river with current. Ice conditions vary greatly. Again, work through a resort for safety and do not venture out on your own.
Up at the NW Angle... Ice fishing has begun for most resorts up at the NW Angle. Fishing has started well with reports of walleyes and saugers with some jumbo perch, eelpout and some nice pike mixed in.
Jig one line with a jigging spoon tipped with a piece of minnow. Rotate colors until you figure out what they want, but a combo of gold, pink, chartreuse, orange, glow red and glow white is consistent.
Use a live minnow on a plain hook or bright ice fishing jig on the deadstick line 6 inches to a foot off of the bottom.