OUTDOOR REPORT: Area fishing, hunting and recreation report
Lake of the Woods
The word from Lake of the Woods is "game on," and resorts along the south shore are beginning to move rental houses onto the ice. The area received nearly a foot of snow from the midweek storm, and the impact it has on ice conditions remains to be seen. As of early this week, Lake of the Woods Tourism reported 8 inches to 9 inches of ice in Four-Mile Bay, Zippel Bay, Bostic Bay and the Morris Point area. Trails are marked out to about three miles from shore or 20 feet of water. There's good walleye and sauger action in 15 to 19 feet of water. Fish are hitting pink- and gold-colored jigs tipped with a minnow, and anglers fishing 4 to 8 inches off the bottom are reporting the best results. There's 4 to 6 inches of ice on the Rainy River, with fish hitting in 10 to 13 feet of water, and there's 4 to 5 inches of ice at the Northwest Angle.
Fishing is just getting started on the west side of the lake. Izzy's Ice Fishing in Warroad, Minn., reported on its Twitter page that it will be taking the first anglers out for the season beginning Monday.
Travel on the lake remains limited to snowmobiles, ATVs and other light vehicles, and anglers should be especially cautious about venturing too far off the beaten path with the amount of snow that's on the ice. As always, check with area resorts and bait shops for the most up-to-date information because conditions can change rapidly.
Devils Lake is froze over with anywhere from 6 inches to 9 inches of ice, according to the Perch Patrol Guide Service. The area escaped the brunt of the snow, and the cold snap will continue to improve ice conditions. Fishing has been excellent, the Perch Patrol said, and guides have reported limits of both perch and walleyes.
Upper Red Lake
The area got upwards of a foot of snow during the midweek storm, and it's deep enough that getting around with an ATV is becoming difficult, West Wind Resort in Waskish, Minn., reported Wednesday. The lake had about 7 to 10 inches of ice before the snow hit, so there's not enough ice to begin plowing roads for vehicle access. A snowmobile is by far the best option for getting around, the resort said.
Walleye fishing has been great, and good reports continue to come from 6½ to 8 feet of water right off the last break where the lake deepens. Jigs or jigging spoons tipped with minnows and lipless crankbaits all are producing walleyes.
Red River/Lake Winnipeg
Ice conditions on the Red River near Selkirk, Man., and Lake Winnipeg continue to improve, reports fishing guide Jason Hamilton of Jason Hamilton Outdoors. As of early this week, Hamilton said the Red north of Selkirk had pockets of ice as thick as 10 inches, and the river had been giving up some quality walleyes, though not in numbers. Hamilton said anglers should watch their electronics for fish suspended halfway up the water column over 20 to 30 feet of water. Jigs and jigging spoons tipped with a minnow or minnow head have been producing fish. Ice conditions are not consistent, Hamilton said, and anglers should be sure to check the thickness at each location they fish.
Access to the west side of Lake Winnipeg out of Chalet Beach near Matlock, Man., has improved after a heavy equipment operator opened the access, which was blocked by ice, Hamilton said. There was 7 to 10 inches of ice out to the first pressure ridge about a half-mile from shore, Hamilton said, but ice past the ridge varied from 1½ inches to 3½ inches and was very inconsistent. Water clarity is poor, and Hamilton said finding fish with any consistency has been tough. That will improve as the water clears.
Ice depths vary from 4 to 6 inches, but this week's heavy snow will cause issues with travel and ice-making. The best option might be the area's small lakes that had more ice before the snow hit.
Early this week, 6 to 7 inches of ice was common, and fishing and spearing had started on a limited basis, mainly along the west side of the lake. The heavy snow that hit this week likely will complicate fishing and access, at least for this weekend.
Park Rapids area
Anglers will find 1 to 5 inches of ice on the big lakes and as much as 9 inches on many small lakes before the midweek snowstorm. Walleyes were hitting fathead minnows on Fish Hook Lake in 18 feet of water and Potato Lake in 14 to 16 feet. Straight Lake has been kicking out bluegills in 12 to 14 feet, and the Crow Wing Chain is a safe bet for crappies in 16 feet.
Anglers are finding 5 to 10 inches of ice, but it varies from lake to lake, and the midweek snowstorm will further complicate the freeze-up. Walleyes, panfish and pike have been hitting on the 15-foot weed and structure areas of Little Detroit Lake and Big Detroit Lake. On lakes Melissa, Pelican and Sallie, walleyes are being pulled from 18 to 20 feet. Pike are hitting in shallow water on Sour Lake, while Floyd Lake and Severson Lake are giving up sunfish in 12 to 16 feet.
Area skiing report
• Buena Vista Ski Area near Bemidji: 12- to 16-inch base, more than 18 inches of new natural snow in the past two days. The resort is still plowing out from the storm, and the number of runs that will be open this weekend is uncertain. Skiing and snowboarding hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Info: bvskiarea.com.
• Frostfire Ski Area near Walhalla, N.D.: 12- to 15-inch base on open runs, making snow, 4 inches of new snow as of Tuesday with additional accumulation since then; four runs and snow tubing area open. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Info: frostfireskiarea.com.