This and that on the ice

The cold weather that’s been around for the past few days, uncomfortable as it is, has done wonders to fix the ice conditions on lakes across Sunset Country.
After a mild December, most of the lakes across the region had very poor ice conditions heading into the new year.
Heavy slush was common on all of the smaller lakes that froze before the last big snowfall while the bigger waters only had been frozen for barely a week.
Over the past weekend, my friends and I consistently found eight-10 inches of ice everywhere we checked, making for safe snowmobile travel. Much of the slush on our lakes finally is starting to freeze up, as well, which is going to speed the ice growth.
As for fishing across the region, people finally started to get out this past weekend and some good reports trickled in. The best lake trout fishing I heard about came from Matt Rydberg, owner of Crawford’s Camp.
He had a few groups staying with him and they caught a bunch of nice lake trout on Whitefish Bay over the weekend despite the cold weather. Rydberg said a small, white tube jig was the hot bait and that they caught fish up to around 15 pounds.
Another one of my fishing friends, Jamie Bruce, has been catching walleyes pretty good over the past week on Lake of the Woods. Fishing traditional winter humps, “Brucey” has been catching walleye throughout the day but noted the evening bite (that last hour before dark) produced the best fishing by far.
They were catching their fish on a quarter-ounce jigging spoon tipped with a minnow head while 28-32 feet of water was the hot depth.
For me, the crappie fishing only has been okay so far. I’ve been out a couple of times, and caught some fish each time, but it was a grind to catch enough for dinner.
They just seemed to be inactive and most took some coaxing to get to bite.
I did notice quite a few photos of nice crappies being caught that people had posted to social media over the weekend, so they are biting in some places.
The lakes I fished are good lakes with little angler pressure, so I don’t think fishing pressure or lack of fish had anything to do with my mediocre catches. It was simply the day—and probably a little change in weather.
Crappie fishing can be good throughout the ice season, with a little bump up in the action later in March.
I haven’t heard any reports of anglers catching any whitefish yet but many of those big, deep waters that have good numbers of them are just getting safe for travel now.
Same with pike, but they always bite better later in the winter as they prepare to move shallow and spawn.
Earlier in the season, the stocked trout were snapping on quite a few of the lakes around the Kenora area. They always bite the best early in the ice season, when you can first walk out on them, but you can catch fish all winter long in these lakes.
If you do fish for stocked rainbow or brook trout, don’t be afraid to fish in shallow water. These fish stay shallow year-round and can be caught in as little as a couple of feet of water.
Remember, you can look on the Ministry of Natural Resources’ FISH-ONLINE website for a complete listing of stocked lakes across the province, so you know which lakes presently have the best populations of fish to catch.
Although it’ll probably be at least another week or so before the ice roads start to show up on area lakes, most places are now safe for snowmobile travel. The snow conditions are good, with enough to get around comfortably on a machine but not so much that you’re going to get stuck and be fighting slush out on the lakes.
Just be sure to stay safe on the ice!

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