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Last day to catch the big fish is Sunday, Feb. 27

Live forage

Once again the season for larger fish species comes to an end.

Walleye, sauger, northern pike and bass all become off-limit angling targets after Sunday, Feb. 27 until their respective season openers in May 2011.

Of course there are certain destinations, specifically border waters that are reachable within a few hours that entertain anglers over a greater time frame.

Take for instance the draw of the Rainy River, which not only offers wonderful walleye fishing, but has more recently become renowned for its potential to cough up sturgeon too. Anglers fishing for walleye often tangle with the prehistoric fish, yet the number of boats specifically using gear centered toward sturgeon has dramatically increased over the past several seasons.

And of course the late-ice tip-up fishing for monster northern pike on bodies of water like Lake of the Woods is a draw for area anglers looking to land more than a bluegill, crappie or perch over the next few weeks. Fish that breach the 20-pound mark aren't uncommon as they scour the shallow flats before their ascent toward spawning grounds.

There's still a chance to land a gamefish of a lifetime this weekend. Just don't plan to fish for those larger species after Sunday, Feb. 27.

If you're looking for a walleye, the bigger bodies of water are typically your best bet.

Of course this isn't always the case since each lake goes through cyclical changes. It can be like the up and down of a rollercoaster over the course of decades.

Sometimes the less pressured "pothole" lakes offer bountiful harvests.

Yet understand that the size of a lake dictates the number of fish it can sustain.

Forage base, competition for food, predation, natural reproduction, stocking and disease all play roles in the overall availability of fish in our lakes.

Yet it's still a balancing act for the angler as well. If you head to a larger body of water, particularly if it's unfamiliar, there is much more area to understand for both fish location and safe navigation.

Yet when you do find schooling species such as walleye, the chance to catch multiple fish from the concentration is usually higher since the schools have greater potential to be larger simply due to higher overall populations.

For this weekend, I'd suggest spending some time on one of the larger lakes in the area if you're looking for a whopper walleye or big toothy pike.

Lakes like Potato, Long, Fish Hook, Itasca or even Leech Lake are all known for good action in the late ice season.

Traditional offerings will most likely land the most walleyes or northerns this weekend, with a good share of those catches directly related to live bait or at least "used-to-be live bait".

You see, northern pike sometimes scavenge and love grabbing a large, frozen minnow from the lake bottom.

Walleyes typically like something a bit more lively, though a favorite presentation is a Northland Buck-Shot rattle spoon tipped with only the head of a minnow.