F-M Walleyes Unlimited, Inc. vice president Brenton Hell, like most anglers, has limited time on the ice or water, typically one or two days a week. Recently, I caught up with Hell upon his return from a fishing trip to Flagg Island Resort on Lake of the Woods, an outing he shared with other Fargo-Moorhead Walleyes members. The group found weather conditions less than favorable for human or fish. Thirty-five to 40-below wind chills and gusty winds greeted the eager fisherman.
Prime forage, found in our area lakes, has produced a flourishing crappie population. Crappie topping 14 to 15 inches in length are not uncommon. Ice fishing experts, like Tim Schmid, fish for a number of species all winter, but like so many anglers focuses a majority of their time chasing crappies.
Sport fisherman enjoyed a pretty good 2017 fishing season in the Park Rapids area. Walleyes, elusive then at other times, showed a willingness to engage with anglers. Bass anglers enjoyed an excellent season. Panfish, sunfish and crappies were abundant in supply and size.
I have kept up with the pike regulations development debate. Close to home, some lakes in Park Rapids area are seemingly overrun with small, hammer-handled pike, 18 to 24 inches in length. The DNR first started talking about pike issues, knowing the problems of too many pike was not the case in all lakes. For example, good-sized structure exists in lakes found in the northeast portion of the state. Pike that were lower in abundance grew faster, as found in some south waters. A one-size-fits-all regulation would not work in all lakes.
Is the hype to get out on early ice senselessly putting lives in danger? This question was posted on a popular fishing web site recently, the tragic loss of a couple lives on Red Lake still fresh in the minds of ice fisherman. The thread received over 2,500 hits with varied opinions.
The open water season came to a close this past week. As many Minnesotans sat on the deer stand, last-minute, die-hard anglers experienced success fishing for walleyes and crappies. By mid-week, small lakes and ponds froze completely; larger bodies of water followed. Ice fishing is already starting on lower Red Lake, with four inches of ice in some areas close to shore.
Here is what I know about fall fishing: Weather is miserable and unpredictable at times. Rain and fall winds have plagued anglers. Breezy conditions and the drop in water temperatures caused a mixing of temperatures and oxygen. Fish species now have the whole lake water column to exist; baitfish scatter. Finding walleyes after turnover is like finding a needle in the haystack. Post-turnover water clarity increases, so on bright days, fish will go deep.
Don't stop fishing at dark. The night action on area lakes might be better than you've seen all day. Putting aside the romance of fishing sundown and after, it's a known fact that fishing tends to be better once the sun goes down any time of the year. Walleyes feed better under a cover of darkness. Action is better due to prime walleye forage. Bait fish move shallow; walleyes lurk in the dark to ambush them.
The Hubbard County Environmental Services Department provides a free service: watercraft decontamination. Anyone concerned about the potential of carrying aquatic invasive species (AIS) on their watercraft — boats, motors, trailers, anchors and ropes — can use this service. The station is located at 812 Henrietta Ave. S, between the Detail Shop and transfer station. BillDonCarlos, Hubbard County AIS Program Coordinator, encourages it use. "We had over 100 use the station in 2016 and are on track to the same in 2017. We would like to do more," he said.
Northern Bait of Park Rapids has a long history of supplying bait and tackle for fishermen. Harold Condiff built the current building and started Northern Bait in 1946. Bob Franzmeier purchased the business from Condiff, then sold it to Jim and Dave May in 1992. Greg May, a Park Rapids High School graduate, became a partner in 1998. The late Tony Dean, nationally known radio and TV fishing host had this to say: "Northern Bait, Park Rapids, Minnesota, one of the best bait outlets in America."