By Garett Svir, Slab Seeker Fishing Guide Service
It’s been a crazy winter this year. Some weeks it won’t stop snowing and other weeks we hit temps touching the forty degree mark. Ice conditions vary greatly around the county and for the majority of lakes in Otter Tail Lakes Country, I’d advise only traveling via four wheeler or snowmobile. Some lakes have more ice and truck travel is ok but I’d recommend checking the ice in regular intervals before proceeding with extreme caution. The problem we are running into is the white garbage ice on top of the good ice has little to no strength and the good clear ice below that can be as little as seven inches on some lakes. This past weekend I hit a spot where my snowmobile was sinking through the garbage top layer before hitting the good ice below. The warm temps this past weekend actually helped the slush and I seem to be finding less of it now which is great. As for the good news fishing has been really good!
I guided big bluegills this past weekend and did the best fishing shallow weeds in ten feet of water. My group had an absolute blast watching the fish come in and inhale their jigs. Sight fishing is a great way to keep the kids interested and both kids and adults alike will learn a lot about whats actually happening below the ice when you see those big red marks on your Vexilar flasher. We’d regularly have bluegills come in and grab the opposite end of our jigs and you’d see the wax worm hanging out of their mouth. When sight fishing you can see this and give them a little slack so they can inhale the end with the hook before setting. Other times they’d spit it out with a small puff of air and keep moving along. Some big weary bluegills would inhale and exhale our jigs quickly several times before we could hardly react.
We witnessed lots of bass, northerns and even a big walleye moving through remaining green weeds. The key was to use a small jig something in that 3-4 mm size. A single wax worm really seemed to out produce eurolarva and plastics the past few days as well. Sometimes these small details can make all the difference when it comes to scratching out a limit on the tougher days.
The crappie bite also remains strong on area lakes but the bite has shifted to a morning and evening thing on most lakes versus the strong day time bite we had previously.
We’ve been finding crappies in basin areas near structure like main lake points and inside turns. I’ve been fishing rattle baits like the Northland Tackle Rippin Shad, Rapala Ultra Light Rippin Rap and Eurotackle Z-Viber. Fishing these baits 4-5 feet off bottom fairly aggressively seems to call crappies in from a distance. Once you have a fish on the Vexilar coming up to the bait using little pops with pauses in between has been sealing the deal. Northern pike are active on weed edges now in 7-12 feet of water. A tip up with a small sucker minnow will pick up bass and pike while your fishing panfish and can really help fill the void while setting up for an evening crappie bite.
I am starting to book alot of trips for summer panfish so if you’d like to hop in the boat for a day this summer, I’d recommend giving me a call soon to get on the calendar. Weekends are filling up quickly already. Good luck and be safe out there.
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