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Please Proceed With Caution

Please Proceed With Caution

We’ve reached a transition period on the calendar…

The good news is – the recent cold weather may have extended the ice fishing season a bit!  The not-so-good-news is we know of at least one lake that went from 20 inches of ice to 12 inches of ice last week.  If your favorite lake didn’t have good ice two weeks ago, chances are, it doesn’t have good ice now.  If you are trying to squeeze in another ice adventure, please use EXTREME CAUTION.  Let’s be careful out there.

A group of us have a trip planned this weekend in Otter Tail Lakes Country.  We are going to be targeting bluegills.  This will be our first time fishing this particular body of water.  It’s not too big, a little over 300 acres.  And it’s not too deep, max depth is 40 feet.

The first part of the game plan: research.  We’ve looked at the data on the Minnesota DNR Lake Finder,( http://dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html ) and have found a place to begin.  Bluegill should be starting to stage near their spawning areas.  If not now, soon.  Look for shallow areas with gradual drop-offs and lots of weeds.  Preferably on the North side of lakes.  The theory is that with the angle of the sunlight, these areas should be the first to see green weeds.  (Green weeds mean oxygen, and oxygen means life.  And little lifeforms get eaten by big lifeforms.) We will start our search as deep as 15 feet of water and work our way shallower.  It’s not uncommon to find panfish in as shallow as 4 feet of water late in the season.  On some bodies of water, you can sight fish for bluegills and crappies.  We’ve even caught fish in 18 inches of water.  Sounds crazy, I know! But we’ve witnessed it first hand through drilling holes right in the reeds, dropping a camera down, or just looking down the hole and seeing fish hanging out.

Light gear, 1/16 oz, 1/32 oz jigs, tipped with plastics or larva is the go-to presentation.  If the gills can’t be found, the crappies may be schooled up in 30 feet of water, or deeper.  As always, finding them is the hardest part.  Drill & look, drill & look.  If you aren’t marking fish, no sense fishing there.  Pods of fish can be suspended, so treat any flash as a possibility.

Of course all of this may be a moot point if the ice conditions aren’t right.  In that case, you can use your time to gear up for open water.  Get new line on your reels, charge your batteries (if you haven’t already).  Give your boat a good dry land walk-thru.  Dream of those warm summer days, sun on your shoulders, loons calling, the gentle slapping of the waves on the beach.  Ahhhhh…. won’t that be grand?

Erik Osberg

Otter Tail Lakes Country Association

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