Minnesota Statewide Fishing Report 12-15-17

Minnesota Statewide Fishing Reports
INFO AS OF 12-15-17

Northeast Minnesota

International Falls – Rainy Lake & the Rainy River

As of Tuesday, Dec. 12, staff at Voyageurs National Park state that there is not enough ice to start staking trails. All park snowmobile and ski trails remain closed due to the lack of safe load-bearing ice. For the most up-to-date information on Voyageurs’ ice and trail conditions check Voyageurs National Park’s website. 800-325-5766; www.rainylake.org


Ice conditions have been improving daily. Fortunately, the last snowstorm fell apart, allowing the ice to form rapidly without a blanket of snow. Portable fish houses are starting to appear near the Kabetogama Visitor Center area and in areas southeast towards Sphunge Island and Duck Bay. Anglers are reporting lots of success with jumbo perch and walleye. Foot travel and light machines are the best modes of travel at this time. Always check with the Park Service (Facebook and website page) for the most up-to-date ice conditions. Anglers are asked to only travel in areas that have been checked. Spear fishing has been exceptional, some say the best in years! Tom Cod Bay is producing numerous pike, along with many trophies. No one is going home disappointed. Anyone planning to fish the Tom Cod Bay area should give Sandy Point Resort a call for the most current reports. 800-524-9085; www.kabetogama.com

Duluth – Lake Superior, St. Louis River and inland waters

Ice is beginning to stabilize. There are some decent ice conditions for walking and even a few areas where snowmobiles and ATVs can access the ice. As always, extreme caution must be taken when heading out. At this time, the ice cannot support vehicles. Ice on area lakes averages 5 to 12 inches thick depending on size of the lake and other factors. Most of the small to mid-size inland lakes have the thickest ice for ice fishing — the deeper lakes that hold a larger volume of water are lagging behind. The smaller lakes can be the most productive fishing lakes for fast action, whether it’s chasing tip-ups for northern pike, bass or the occasional walleye, or jigging for panfish. Anglers are having the most success when fishing the vegetation. Use small 1/32–ounce jigs tipped with a couple spikes or a wax worm for panfish and an occasional predatory fish. A nice set-up is a dead stick hole with a crappie minnow under a float about one-quarter off the bottom, and a jig stick hole nearby. Crappies seem to be most active at dusk, but a few are being taken throughout the day. Tip-ups are working well near shorelines in shallower waters. Northern pike and bass are fun to fish for during the day, with walleyes are showing up in the late afternoons and past dark. The ice on the St. Louis River is dangerous in many locations. While some anglers are starting to venture out onto the Duluth Harbor, the ice ranged from 1.5 to 4 inches at the time of the report. Just because you witness somebody walking on areas that look “sketchy” doesn’t mean that you should. For those that fish the river system, it is important to have the proper safety equipment and always check the ice often! No ice reports are available for Lake Superior. 800-438-5884; www.visitduluth.com

Grand Rapids

While all of the Grand Rapids area lakes have frozen over, many still do not have enough ice for vehicle travel. Fortunately, ice is building daily. Crappies and bluegills are active on several area lakes and panfishing will remain good throughout most of the winter. Walleye anglers are starting to move away from the breaklines near shore, venturing out to off shore locations and points – the sunken islands are generally the best bet. Early and late in the day are usually best for walleye, especially at the edges of the structure where walleye travel to feed. Sometimes the window of opportunity is an hour or so or just a few minutes can make a difference. Cloudy days can extend the period of time the walleye will feed. Having 2 to 3 rods rigged and ready to go can be key to getting bite. A ripping rapala, which is a slow falling bait with action and sound can be a stellar presentation when trying to attract a school of nearby walleye. Once visible on the electronics, drop a spoon tipped with a minnow head to get a hit — just a slight jiggling often does the trick. The best depths are anywhere from 8 to 20 feet depending on the lake. Big Cutfoot, Sand, Ruby, Long, Moose and Bowstring lakes are all good early season lakes. Most importantly, please use caution while enjoying the early season walleye bite. www.visitgrandrapids.com

Northwest Minnesota

Baudette – Lake of the Woods & the Rainy River

Ice fishing is excellent on Lake of the Woods, however, ice conditions vary throughout the lake so anglers are asked to please work through a resort and use their ice roads which are checked daily. Lake trails are being staked by the resorts. Auger extensions may be necessary in some areas. Walleye and sauger are active, hitting almost anything with a shiner attached. Color does not seem to be a factor. Northern pike action remains great in back bays. On the Rainy River, ice stretches from shore to shore but it is unsafe for travel. At the Northwest Angle, the lake is frozen over with good ice in most areas, however, there are some areas with weak spots. ATV and snowmobile travel should only occur on designated and marked trails. The resorts are checking ice conditions often, marking trails, and now placing houses. There are 10 to 15 inches of ice where resorts are taking their guests, and fishing is reported to be excellent. 800-382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com


A week of cold temperatures has allowed good ice to develop. While most area lakes have 10 to 12 inches of solid ice, it is still extremely important to check conditions before venturing out. Walleye and perch are biting on Lake Bemidji, especially on the south end of the lake. Nice numbers of perch and a few walleye are being pulled from Lake Irving. Some nice bluegills are coming from Midge and Gull lakes. Grace Lake is kicking out some crappies, along with a few walleye. 800-458-2223; www.visitbemidji.com

Hackensack Area Lakes

Many anglers are accessing the ice on the small to medium-sized lakes. Some of the larger lakes also have fishable ice, but pockets of open water have just frozen over on Pine Mountain, Pleasant, Birch and Baby lakes. Anglers must be extremely careful on all area lakes due to inconsistent ice thickness from lake to lake, and often from one area to another on the same lake. Panfish action has been very good on the smaller area lakes. Crappies are hitting hard in the evening and sometimes during the day in depths of 14 to 18 feet of water. Sunfish have been active early in the day until early afternoon along the significant weed edges in 6 to 16 feet of water. Walleye reports are picking up now that more anglers are heading out. The best reports are coming from Birch, Baby and Leech lakes. Anglers having the most success are using rainbows and shiners on the deep weed edges. 800-279-6932; www.hackensackchamber.com

Detroit Lakes

The Detroit Lakes area had a good week of ice-making with consistent cold temperatures and very little snow. Ice on most pf the shallow basin lakes ranges from 9 to 14 inches thick. Most anglers continue to walk out, but some are using ATVs/UTVs. It will probably be another week to 10 days before vehicle traffic is an option. All fish species have been relating to the outside weed edges. Use small jigs tipped with plastics or wax worms for the panfish. For walleye, try vertical jigging baits tipped with a minnow head or half a minnow. Little Detroit Lake is producing some nice crappies and bluegills off the weed edges in 10 to 12 feet of water. The best technique is a small jig tipped with wax worms or spikes. Big Floyd Lake is giving up bluegills off the green weeds in 10 to 14 foot depths. Walleyes are active early and late in the day, hitting Swedish pimples with minnow heads in 12 to 17 feet of water on Melissa and Sallie lakes. Northern pike are active on many area lakes. As always, please check with a resort or bait shop for the most current ice conditions for the lake you intend to fish. 800-542-3992; www.visitdetroitlakes.com

Central Region

Otter Tail Area Lakes

While there is some good ice for ice fishing, there is also a lot of open water. Anglers are asked to use extreme caution, and plan ahead before heading out. Traveling by foot is very peaceful. Walleye anglers will want to head for areas that are best in late-May and early-June. Use a jigging spoon on one line, and hang a nice sucker or shiner on a set line for the most success. Northern pike should be near the walleye on many lakes this time of year. A sucker on a tip up or rattle reel can work wonders. They’re a lot of fun to catch on “hand” lines. For panfish, check out the mid-depth weed flats and holes in the lake’s basin. Keep an eye on the weather and shifting ice conditions if you’re going to head out on a lake this week. 800-423-4571; www.ottertailcountry.com

Alexandria Area Lakes

As of late last week, the ice on Alexandria area lakes was very inconsistent, ranging from 1 to 10 inches thick. It was so variable that while some anglers were already using wheel houses in some areas, there were lakes that had just frozen over. Overall, fishable ice could be found around the edges of most small- to medium-sized bodies of water. 800-245-2539; www.explorealex.com

Isle/Onamia – Lake Mille Lacs

There is 4 to 8 inches of ice in Isle Bay on Lake Mille Lacs, with nice numbers of northern pike and walleye being taken. Last weekend, three northern pike measured between 41 and 42 inches. Anglers will want to brush up on specific Lake Mille Lacs regulations for both species. Learn more at the DNR’s Mille Lacs Lake fishing regulations web page. 888-350-2692; www.millelacs.com

Northern Minnesota Early Ice Fishing: Early ice is not safe, wear life jackets!

November 30, 2017

thin ice sign

With daytime temperatures still climbing above freezing even in the northern parts of the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reminding outdoor enthusiasts to stay clear of early ice and use extreme caution when recreating on dangerously cold water. 

Although some locations in the northern and western regions of the state were reporting ice formation at the end of November, the recent fluctuations in weather have led to degraded ice conditions and warnings from public safety officials to stay off the ice until at least 4 inches of new, clear ice is present.

“No fish is worth the risk of going through thin ice,” said DNR conservation officer Lt. Adam Block. “At this point, it is going to take several consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures before enough solid ice has formed to support foot traffic, and even longer before ATVs  and snowmobiles should be on the ice.”

A recent tragedy occurred in northern Minnesota when two anglers lost their lives after breaking through thin ice on their ATV. Several emergency ice rescues have also taken place over the last few weeks. Last winter, two people died after breaking through the ice.

Block stressed that once ice formation picks up again, it will be important to stay vigilant about safety on the ice, since conditions can be unpredictable and vary greatly even on the same body of water.

“In addition to checking conditions locally and being prepared with an ice safety kit, anyone recreating on hard water should be wearing a life jacket,” Block said. “A life jacket is the one piece of equipment that exponentially increases your odds of not drowning from cold water shock, hypothermia or exhaustion should you fall through the ice.”

General ice safety guidelines:

No ice can ever be considered “safe ice,” but following these guidelines can help minimize the risk:

  • Carry ice picks, rope, an ice chisel and tape measure
  • Check ice thickness at regular intervals – conditions can change  quickly.
  • Bring a cell phone or personal locator beacon.
  • Don’t go out alone; let someone know the plan and expected return time.
  • Always wear a life jacket on the ice (except when in a vehicle).
  • Before heading out, inquire about conditions and known hazards with local experts.

The minimum ice thickness guidelines for new, clear ice are:

  • 4 inches for ice fishing or other activities on foot.
  • 5-7 inches for a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.
  • 8-12 inches for a car or small pickup.
  • 12-15 inches for a medium truck.
  • Double these minimums for white or snow-covered ice.

Open water danger
The lack of ice cover means many bodies of water in the state still have open water accessible to boaters. However, late season anglers, boaters and paddlers are cautioned that a life jacket is an absolute must on cold water.

“A fall into extremely cold water can incapacitate you within seconds,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “Air temperatures have been relatively mild, but don’t let that deceive you. Water temperatures are dangerously cold across the entire state, which means it’s more important than ever to wear that life jacket.”

State statistics show that one-third of boating fatalities typically occur during the “cold water season,” and that in the vast majority of cases the cause of death is drowning due to not wearing a life jacket.

So far in 2017, three boaters have died on cold water, and 12 total boating fatalities have been reported.

“The last three years boaters have enjoyed extended seasons with mild fall temperatures and early ice out in the spring,” Dugan said. “With increased days on the water came higher fatality numbers and a dangerous trend, which should not be ignored. Ten of the 12 deaths involved male boaters who sadly drowned while not wearing a life jacket. This is a continuing and troubling trend that will only plateau or reverse if boaters in that high-risk demographic choose to put safety first by putting on their life jacket.”

For more information, visit mndnr.gov/icesafety and mndnr.gov/boatingsafety.

Minnesota fishing report

Minnesota fishing report from White Birch Resort. Check out the great deals from White Birch Resort for your next ice fishing adventure. Offering luxury cabin rentals for the winter with private hot tubs built into the decks.

All of the homes are located on Blackduck Lake which is a well known walleye and perch fishing lake.

For more information go to www.whitebirchresort.net

Preparing ice trails on Lake of the Woods; photo courtesy of www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com

Few anglers are venturing out now that ice is forming on bodies of water throughout the state — very little information on fishing activity is available at this time.

This is a good time for anglers to prepare their equipment and review the DNR’s Ice Safety Guidelines web page.

For rules, regulations and other helpful information on fishing in Minnesota, consult the DNR’s Fish Minnesotaweb page.

Consider attending the Hard Water Fishing Expo at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Nov. 17-19. Discover the latest ice fishing gear, and attend seminars and Q & A sessions with Ice Team professional.

Northeast Minnesota

Duluth – Lake Superior, St. Louis River and inland waters

Fishing has been very slow this last week which is not unusual for this time of year. Water surface temperatures are dropping into the 30s with ice covering most bodies of water. Please note that none of the ice in the Twin Ports area is thick enough for ice fishing. Local anglers expect some fishable ice by the end of the month. Please remember no ice is ever 100 percent safe. It is important to check with area bait shops, resorts or guides before venturing out. This is the time of year to properly clean, organize and prepare your boat for winter storage. It is also a great time to clean, organize and prepare for the upcoming ice fishing season. 800-438-5884www.visitduluth.com

Northwest Minnesota

Baudette – Lake of the Woods & the Rainy River

Ice stretches as far as the eye can see from the south shore of Lake of the Woods. All of the back bays are now frozen over. The Rainy River is covered in a skim of ice aside from a few areas with open water. The water temperature is roughly 33 degrees so the cold nights will help build ice. The spearing season began Nov. 15, and spearers are eager to head out onto Bostic Bay where measurements have shown 6 inches of ice in some areas. Walleye and sauger are staged along the south shore. They can be found at Pine Island, Zippel Bay, Long Point and Rocky Point. At the Northwest Angle, many areas have frozen over and some area residents who are very familiar with the lake are using snowmobiles to access the islands. Expectations are high since large schools of walleye were found in these areas just before ice-up. Before venturing out onto the ice, please check with a local resort or bait shop for the most up-to-date information on ice conditions. 800-382-FISH; www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com

Detroit Lakes

While ice has formed on most waters throughout the Detroit Lakes area, it is unsafe for travel. Most area lakes have roughly 3 inches of unstable ice at the shorelines, and a few remain entirely open. The recent pattern of cold days followed by a couple days in the high 30s will continue for a while so ice will probably not be accessible until after Thanksgiving. Please stay off the ice until there is a cold snap that lasts at least 5 to 7 days in a row. 800-542-3992www.visitdetroitlakes.com

Central Region

Isle/Onamia – Lake Mille Lacs

The DNR has announced that walleye fishing on Lake Mille Lacs will open on Friday, Dec. 1 with no bait restrictions. Anglers may keep 1 walleye measuring 20 to 22 inches, or one longer than 28 inches. For more information on Lake Mille Lacs regulations, check out the DNR news release from Nov. 3. 888-350-2692www.millelacs.com

Minneapolis-St. Paul Area

Stillwater – St. Croix River

As of Nov. 9, limits of walleye and sauger were being pulled from the St. Croix River.  Anglers were also taking some huge white bass – these fish are always fun to catch! Just some of the many techniques turning fish include jigging raps, spoons, rapalas, jigs with plastics, and rigged minnows, especially in 18-34 feet of water. www.discoverstillwater.com

Southern Minnesota

Lanesboro – Southeast Bluff Country trout streams

As of Thursday, Nov. 16, fisheries staff reported that most area streams and rivers were clear with a normal water flow. Please note that Whitewater State Park is closed for their firearms deer hunt this weekend, November 18 and 19. No one will be allowed in the park unless they are deer hunting and have the appropriate license. There were some amazing midge hatches on Sunday, Nov. 12, with fish being caught on midge adults, pupae and larvae patterns. Southeast stream trout maps are available under “Area Highlights” on the Lanesboro area fisheries web page800-944-2670www.lanesboro.com


Anglers may obtain fishing licenses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by dialing 1-888-665-4236, or accessing DNR License Sales.

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