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Anglers catching great panfish

Anglers spending time on the ice in the Park Rapids area are experiencing some great panfish activity in addition to walleyes and northern pike. Most lakes offer 8-12" of ice which has given opportunity to travel by snowmobile, ATV and in some cases, vehicles for access. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Ice conditions in the Park Rapids area have improved dramatically in the past few weeks.

Rain that soaked the area two weeks ago contributed to standing water on the ice, but sub-zero temperatures solidified the topical layer.

With little insulating snow atop the ice, any day, night or hour below the freezing point makes ice.

Many lakes in the area are sporting 8-12" of good ice. Some anglers are actually beginning to venture out with vehicles. Full-sized trucks with large wheel-style fish houses in tow have been reported driving out onto some of the lakes. Despite seeing a vehicle on the ice, use absolute caution. Checking the ice thickness is still mandatory, even if someone else has a vehicle out on the lake.

The panfish bite has been good, though anglers are experiencing better success in the early morning and evening hours. This deviates from last season where the bluegills were on the feed after dark.

Currently, most successful panfish anglers have drilled, drilled, and drilled. The shallow water lakes have had good activity but mobility is a plus. Drop the Vexilar transducer, look for fish and spend less than two minutes in a hole; moving and constantly looking. That is, of course, if panfish are on your palette.

If walleye are your function, concentrate on the early morning and evening action.

You see, walleye are primarily crepuscular, feeding during the low-light hours; sun-up and sun-down.

This is due to their ability to see better than their prey in low-light conditions.

Walleye have keen eyesight, rods (to interpret light) and cones (to see color). Their eyesight coordinates with their lateral line (nerve's spanning along the length of their body), and olfactory sense.

Most freshwater fish have the same abilities.

Ultimately, we simply try to catch a fish; pike, walleye, perch, bluegill or other species.

Our goal is to encourage fish to approach our presentation. Getting any species of fish to come close to our hook is sometimes tricky to accomplish.

Right now, many anglers are succeeding with a multi-faceted approach. A smaller jig for panfish tipped with a waxworm, spike, Euro-Larvae or soft plastic tail is perfect for getting bluegills, crappie or perch to bite.

Simultaneously targeting northern pike or walleye using a tip-up can potentially earn a trophy while merely keeping one eye watching toward the possibility of a blaze orange flag standing at attention.

Those seeking panfish are seeing good action in 8-12' of water, using their electronics to show where the panfish inhabit; or not.

It's advantageous to constantly view of the water column shown top to bottom. In other words, while using a Vexilar, you can watch, in real time, any motion taking place between the bottom of the ice and the bottom of the lake.

Yet the most important factor in catching fish is to actually go fishing. Though weekend afternoon football games are enticing, listening to the game on the radio while in the fish house while simultaneously catching fish is pure heaven.