Stocked trout

Early sea­son ice fish­ing at it’s best

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - OUTDOORS - JEFF GUSTAFSON Dale Stroschein with a nice early ice wall­eye.

While we haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of su­per cold weather so far it has been cold in gen­eral for well over a month so all of the smaller bod­ies of wa­ter across the Sun­set Coun­try Re­gion are cov­ered up with ice. The min­i­mal amount of snow has also helped the ice to form nice and strong be­cause there is no layer of in­su­la­tion, which is al­ways nice early in the win­ter sea­son. This all means there are some great ice fish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties out there for an­glers ea­ger to get a new sea­son started.

As I men­tioned, most of the smaller, shal­lower wa­ters across the re­gion have good ice for walk­ing or ATV use. On the lakes that I have been on, there has been eight to ten inches of good, clear ice. Some friends have re­ported that the north­ern part of Lake of the Woods has six inches pretty con­sis­tently.

The deep, clear, lake trout wa­ters are a dif­fer­ent story how­ever. We needed one or two more re­ally cold nights to freeze these up and it just didn’t hap­pen so most of the big “trout” wa­ter is not frozen yet. Places like Clear­wa­ter and White­fish Bay on Lake of the Woods and Crow Lake are all still wide open and likely need one good cold, calm night to cover them up. Stay off of these types of wa­ters un­til af­ter Christ­mas at least.

If you’re go­ing to go fish­ing this time of year, stick to the smaller lakes and you can go have some fun. Stocked trout, crap­pie and wall­eye fish­ing can be phe­nom­e­nal at this time of year so your fo­cus should be on these fish.

We are for­tu­nate to have quite a few lakes around Kenora and Fort Frances that are stocked with brook trout, rain­bow trout and splake and the early ice sea­son is the best time of the whole year to fish for these tasty fish. For a list of which lakes are stocked with these trout, visit the Nat­u­ral Re­sources FishON-line web­site, which shows where the lakes are and how many trout have been stocked in re­cent years. It’s a great tool for ex­plor­ing wa­ters around the re­gion.

When it comes to fish­ing for these stocked trout, you want to fish sur­pris­ingly shal­low. This means four to six feet of wa­ter, close to shore­line cover like beaver huts, logs, or rock out­crop­pings. They cruise along the bank and find what­ever lit­tle crit­ters they can to eat. It could be small bugs, crus­taceans or min­nows. For bait I like to use small jigs tipped with a live min­now on a still line, then jig a small spoon tipped with some shrimp meat on a sec­ond line. Feel free to keep a few of these fish as well be­cause they don’t spawn and are de­li­cious.

Crap­pie fish­ing is usu­ally re­ally good early in the sea­son pri­mar­ily be­cause on many of the tra­di­tional hot spots these fish have not been pres­sured a lot. Crap­pies typ­i­cally use the same win­ter­ing lo­ca­tions year af­ter year so when you get on some of these good spots be­fore other an­glers, there are usu­ally a bunch of fresh crap­pies ready to bite. Small spoons and jigs with small soft plas­tics are all you need to catch crap­pies un­der the ice.

Early ice wall­eye fish­ing is some of my favourite of the win­ter but one thing I have learned is that they bite a lot bet­ter late in the day than they do dur­ing the mid­dle of the day. I love head­ing out on the ice about two or three hours be­fore dark so I can get all set up and then take ad­van­tage of the that last hour of day­light, which we call “prime time”.

My wall­eye set-up is sim­ple and I sel­dom use any­thing else. I use a 1/4 ounce North­land Buck-Shot Rat­tle Spoon tipped with a min­now head. On dark coloured wa­ter I like orange or gold colours and in clear wa­ter I like white, glow coloured spoons.

Take ad­van­tage of the great con­di­tions we have on our smaller, shal­lower lakes right now and go have some fun on the ice, just re­mem­ber to be care­ful out there and don’t take any chances.

JEFF GUSTAFSON/THE LIVEWELL

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