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Big pan fish abundant just below the ice, often only a few feet as the snow and ice begin melting.  Keep your bait high in the water column to catch more and bigger fish during springs thaw. (Jason Durham / Enterprise)
Big pan fish abundant just below the ice, often only a few feet as the snow and ice begin melting. Keep your bait high in the water column to catch more and bigger fish during springs thaw. (Jason Durham / Enterprise)

Melting snow = good pan fishing

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outdoors Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

By Jason Durham - 

I love snowmobiles. And I hate them too. I love how they can skim across a heavy blanket of snow, ice auger mounted to the nose of the machine, fish house strapped against the rear rack, guest rider holding tight to the one-up seat and the hand warmers blasting heat through our damp gloves. This time of year and under the current conditions, snowmobiles are the best bet for travel onto the lakes within the Park Rapids area. Access is available with vehicles on plowed roads, but those easy access points are sparse. Yet I despise snowmobiles. I get frustrated by the fact that I can’t always, every time, start the machine with the turn of a key or the pull of a cord. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t own new machines. My truck that’s several years old still starts every time. It seems to be a give and take. When I want the sleds to run, we don’t have enough snow to run a ditch or even drive the Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo or other model up onto the dual-wide snowmobile trailer’s platform. Ever tried to haul one up on that slanted, wooden platform? Now don’t misunderstand me, I love snowmobiles. When they do start and run smoothly, it’s difficult not to smile. A growling engine, the scent of gas and oil combining into your garment’s material and a hint of that wonderful experience every time you slip your arms through the sleeves for the next several days. As a teen the 1972 Moto-Ski 338 cc. super-solid all terrain (at least if that included snow) snowmobile pulled numerous ice-houses onto the lakes. Blaze orange hood I remember the time I drove across Lake Belle Taine and didn’t find any slush with my snowmobile until I was miles from home. No shovel. No partner to assist; just a pair of mittens and some good ‘ol fashioned back muscles. Unfortunately, my back muscles were sore the next day, the reality of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere when cell phones weren’t the norm and a snowmobile, buried in snow-laden slush, literally sapped the energy from me during the rescue. The only situation that could be worse – is being buried up to the bottom – with your truck. I may have done that. Sometimes we use a tow-rope, otherwise known as a “jerk-strap” to go back and forth, getting stuck and unsttuck using two vehicles, to get to the perfect fishing grounds. Yet keep in mind that even a back-up plan, shovels, and tow straps are only effective in certain situations. If the snow’s too deep, it’s too deep. Fortunately, we know during the melting process, water will run into the pre-drilled holes left sitting on the ice and the fish will move upward in the water column. That flowing water creates current, produces warmer water since it’s exposed directly to the sun versus beneath the sheet of ice, provides a food delivery system with the micro-organisms that are transported into the water and makes for great fishing.

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