Ice-fishing season appears promising

What better time to get the ice-fishing season started than during the Christmas holidays?
Ice has been in place on most waters for several weeks now. And though the big, deep lake trout waters may not be quite ready yet, they should be fine for snowmobile travel for opening day on Jan. 1.
On the shallower walleye and crappie waters, where most anglers are focusing their attention right now, ice travel seems to be pretty good—again on snowmobiles and ATVs at this point.
I got out on the ice for the first time earlier this week with my buddy, Scott Dingwall, in search of a new crappie spot. Although we did not hit the jackpot this time, we did catch a few fish so we know we were close.
It is a body of water where we have never seen anyone else fish, so it’s likely these crappies have never seen a lure before.
Over the next few weeks, we plan to go back and drill more holes in search of a large school of fish.
The one thing about crappies in the winter is that they school up in big numbers so if you find one, you usually can count on finding more close by. We just ran out of time, so my approach the next time we get out is to continue drilling holes in all directions around the last place we caught fish in an attempt to locate bigger numbers.
I marked a waypoint on my hand-held GPS unit so I know the exact spot where we caught the fish this week in case snow covers up my holes.
Meanwhile, reports of anglers heading out on Lake of the Woods over the past week have been good, with ice amounts ranging from six-12 inches in most places—plenty safe for snowmobile travel.
Kenora angler and guide John Monteith has been running out on the big lake out of Kenora and said the walleye fishing was phenomenal.
Across the lake on the U.S. side, fishing reports have been really good, as well. My friend, John Peterson, president of Northland Fishing Tackle, fished there a few days ago and sent me a report to mention he experienced the best fishing he has had there in 25 years.
Not only did they catch good numbers of eating-size fish, he caught two of the biggest walleyes he has ever iced at 29 and 31 inches, respectively.
He also mentioned he caught the fish on a new lure Northland has released this winter called the Live Forage Fish-Fry Minnow Trap. It’s a realistic jigging lure that has a lot of vibration that will call fish in from long distances.
Anglers should keep in mind that ice conditions early in the season can be unpredictable, so use some caution when you head out. It’s a good idea to travel with other people, as well.
A misconception people might have is that the small bodies of water will have more ice than the large waters because they freeze over earlier. The problem is these waters also receive more snow on top of the ice, which helps to insulate the ice and prevents it from growing thicker.
Most of our big waters missed the first couple rounds of snow because they were not frozen over yet, so the ice conditions I’ve seen on these bigger waters have been good.
Caution should be used on any of the small waters, especially near shore where snow may have drifted in earlier in the season.
If you must travel on these waters, it might be a good idea to walk over them with snowshoes a few days before you snowmobile over them to pack down the snow so it loses it’s insulating ability and the ice will freeze much better.
Have a great Christmas holiday, and good fishing to all!

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