Walleye, Northern & Bass Seasons Close After This Weekend
This weekend marks the last few days that anglers can head out on the lakes to fish for walleye, northern pike and bass until the 2009 Fishing Opener on May 9. Following the Feb. 22 closure, it is no longer legal to intentionally fish for the aforementioned species, though other fish like bluegill, crappie and perch will keep anglers entertained until this spring's opener.
It seems like the end of the gamefish season came quickly this year, partially due to the overwhelming amount of slush and snow that inhibited everyone's ability to travel on the lakes. Yet in the past two weeks, ice conditions have changed dramatically and now vehicle, ATV and snowmobile travel is possible practically anywhere. Anglers no longer need to seek out a plowed road, since with very little snow on the solid lake surfaces, entire bodies of water are accessible.
Those wishing to put in some last-minute fishing time hoping for a walleye, northern or bass should have good success; those species have been active over the past week.
Area walleye anglers have seen good action in depths of 18-28 feet while using shiner or fathead minnows. Some simply allow the minnow to swim freely using a small hook with a split shot sinker attached a few inches above. Others have tipped Northland Buck-Shot Rattle Spoons with a minnow head, shaking the presentation vigorously to attract nice walleye from a distance.
Remember, summer length restrictions apply to ice fishing as well. Each angler may possess a total of six walleye with only one over 20 inches. This is an important reminder since ice anglers often allow their fish to freeze on the ice. And just because a walleye is frozen isn't a viable excuse for keeping too many fish over the length restriction, especially in the eyes of a state Conservation Officer.
Northern pike also have length requirements throughout the year. Anglers may keep a total of three northern pike with only one over the 30-inch mark. Angler reports indicate encountering pike larger than 30 inches has been a common occurrence this winter.
Your best bet for finding one of these lunker northern is to focus on weeds. These predators utilize the vegetation to ambush smaller fish, like bluegill, crappie, perch and naturally present minnows like shiners and ciscoes.
Tip-ups are a simple set up to catch pike, but be sure you're within 200 feet of each of your flags, since it's a Minnesota fishing regulation.
However, some anglers enjoy battling a big northern on a rod and reel. Jigging spoons, minnow shaped ice fishing lures and of course, a big sucker minnow, are all enticing presentations to a northern pike.
Bass season also comes to a close following this weekend, but unbeknownst to many anglers, the smallmouth bass season has been catch and release only since Sept. 8, 2008. The largemouth and smallmouth bass seasons will open again on May 23, 2009.
Anglers eager to catch a largemouth bass should look no further than a school of bluegills, since the two species often inhabit the same general areas. Medium sized minnows work well for largemouth, but don't be surprised if you encounter a largemouth bass while fishing for bluegill or crappie with a tiny jig. Sometimes that small meal is precisely what a bass is looking for.
Editor's Note: Local booksellers were inadvertently left off a list of vendors last week that sell Jason Durham's book, "Pro Tactics: Ice Fishing." The book can be found at Beagle Books and Sister Wolf Books. Book World doesn't currently stock the book but said it would order it for customers upon request.