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Put In The Work & You’ll Find The Fish!

Hot and Cold.  That is the best way to describe the weather and the fishing in Otter Tail Lakes Country lately.  The good news is, if you put in the work, you can find the fish!

crappie 2High temperatures have had an effect on our ice conditions.  We were on a small lake this past Saturday, and found 20 inches of ice.  However, every body of water is different and the weather got awfully warm on Sunday & Monday.  So if you do consider venturing out, please use EXTREME caution.  Travel light and bring safety equipment such as; life jackets, rope, ice picks, etc. Treat it like you would first ice.  A good rule to use is “When in doubt, don’t go out.”

Our trip on Saturday was all about trying to find BIG PANFISH.  We were targeting bluegills, but were hoping for a few crappies as well.  Our day started early, first light was 6:23 am and we were drilling holes by 6:30 am.  We had a large group of anglers, many of whom were making their first trip to Otter Tail County, or what we like to call “Panfish Paradise”.  The game plan was to split up and punch a lot of holes.  Once a group found fish – and it didn’t take long – the others would move to that area.  Small tungsten jigs (1/16 oz & 1/32 oz)  tipped with euro larva (colored if you can find them) was the best producing presentation.  Most of the fish were in 9-11 feet of water.

crappie 1

The key to turning a good day into a great day is being willing to move.  Once we found fish, and the group descended on the spot, the fish would come fast and furious.  But then, it would get slow.  So one member of our crew would grab an auger & start drilling.  Another would follow behind with a flasher & look for fish.  The hardest part was figuring out which direction the fish went, but once we found the school again, we were back to catching fish.

We were lucky enough to be on a hidden gem that day.  I’m not going to tell you which lake it was, you have to find your own inner otter! 🙂 We caught multiple crappies between 12 and 14 inches and the had a dozen bluegills over 10 inches.  We like to use a self imposed slot when targeting big bluegills.  Any gill over 9 inches goes back, it helps maintain the quality of the fishery and those 7-8 inch gills are perfect for a fish fry.  

For those of you visiting Otter Tail Lakes Country this week, here’s our advice:  1.  Proceed with EXTREME caution.  2.  Being mobile will increase your odds.  3.  Please use selective harvesting to protect the resources.


Erik Osberg

Otter Tail Lakes Country Association

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